Posts Tagged ‘Messi’

World Cup Bet Of The Day – Day 23

03/07/2010

Running Total: -4.8 units

New tactic if you want to win money. I suggest a bet, you bet on the opposite. You’ll soon find you’ll be quids in. Unfortunately there weren’t odds on Luis Suarez to cheat anytime and while playing well (in many respects…) he didn’t get a goal to win our bet.

I was gutted not to have put money on Holland. All week I’ve been thinking that their 7/2 price to beat Brazil was too high but never went through with it.

Spain should beat Paraguay if you fancy some free money but 1/2 is very skinny. Maybe go with David Villa scoring at evens instead.

The big game is the afternoon clash between Argentina and Germany. Argentina are favourites but this is very tough to call in my opinion. It’s tempting to place a small side bet on Germany if they’re as high as 5/2 but I think the value lies in looking at the goals market.

This should be quite an open, attacking game with both teams playing expansive, creative football. Ozil and Messi have been two of the best players so far this tournament and while the latter has yet to score, his all round play has been excellent. Germany have nine goals so far while Argentina have ten which gives hope to an entertaining game. I’m usually one to go for over 2.5 goals but let’s be ambitious and try over 3.5 goals.

Bet of the day:

Germany vs Argentina to have over 3.5 goals @ 13/5.

T.

The Big World Cup Betting Post

11/06/2010

This afternoon 32 teams begin the fight to be crowned World Cup winners on July 11th. Well, strictly speaking only four teams play today but let’s not be pedantic. There’s a wealth of potential bets to place and some potentially big winnings to be had. I’m sure everyone has their opinion on what will happen so here’s my pick.

Eyes on the prize.

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Favourites

The top three teams in the winner market are Spain at 4/1, Brazil at 5/1 and Argentina at 8/1. There’s not a great deal of value there but of the three I have Brazil as my favourite to win. They’re solid at the back with all the Inter defenders and also play two defensive midfielders to back them up. Up front Kaka is still a great player while Luis Fabiano is an effective striker.

If all three of those teams win their groups, Spain are scheduled to face Argentina in one semi-final which makes it trickier to back them over Brazil. You could go with naming the finalists – Brazil/Spain is about 10/1 while Brazil/Argentina is as high as a tempting 18/1.

Personally I think I’ll be going for all three teams to qualify from their groups with a maximum nine points. In that regard Brazil are 9/4, Spain 6/5 and Argentina 12/5. The risky treble is about 24/1.

Favourites to double up.

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If Things Go Their Way

Here we have the likes of England, Holland, Germany and Italy. All good sides but probably not a match for the three favourites. Betting on England is always a mug’s game in my eyes. The bookies have them down at 8/1 which is mainly to protect themselves from Dave the Daily Star reader who puts heart before head.

That said Capello and a fit Rooney is a far better prospect then the Eriksson and unfit Rooney of four years ago. In reality I think the semi’s (11/8) are the absolute limit for England but there’s a potentially tricky second round match against the group B runners-up which could see them knocked out early.

I like the look of Holland and they have some brilliant attacking options. Whether their defence holds up against top opposition is another story and whichever way they look at it they’re going to meet Spain or Brazil in a quarter-final. However, what’s betting without some fun risk involved so why not a cheeky pound on them to win the whole thing at 9/1? Thinking about it I think they’ll be a good team to bet on a match by match basis come the knock-out stages.  Personally I’ll be looking at Robin van Persie to do some goalscoring damage. More on that later.

Never write off Germany. 12/5 for the semi finals. I’ll have some of that.

Keep looking Wayne, you won't win it.

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Potential Flops

In my mind there are two teams who are ripe to flop completely and not qualify from their group – France and Portugal. I have different reasons for both. France are an ageing team and somehow still have Raymond Domenech as their coach. Some of his decisions are baffling. In fact no, most of his decisions are baffling. The senior players still have too much say and there’s talk of infighting within the squad.

Their group is on paper not too hard which is why this is an interesting bet. Uruguay should qualify and part of me thinks that South Africa will get a win in the opening game and somehow find a way to qualify in second. I’m sure Sepp will sort something out… The odds aren’t great – only 2/1 so maybe it’s better value to bet on the Uruguay and Mexico/South Africa forecast instead (13/1 or 21/1). On the other hand all the great players in their squad might have one last great hurrah.

Portugal in contrast are in the so-called group of death – Brazil, Ivory Coast and North Korea being their opponents. Brazil will top this group so I think it’s a straight fight for second between two of the biggest divas in the World Cup; Drogba and Ronaldo. I think the latter loses out, thus a Brazil/Ivory Coast forecast is a nice 11/4.

This will happen again. Though without Big Phil.

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Each Way Long Shots

Serbia and Uruguay seem to be getting a lot of love as teams who could go further than expected. They’re on the right side of the draw in terms of ‘only’ having Brazil instead of Spain and Argentina. At 40/1 and 66/1 respectively, they’re fantastic each-way bets. Both are technically good with differing strengths; Serbia having a top defence while Uruguay have Forlan and Suarez up front.

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Sharpshooters

Top goalscorer bets are always fun and if you consider that six goals was the winning total for six straight World Cups from 1978 to 1998 you only need a bit of luck to win on a high-priced each way bet. Germany’s Miroslav Klose won with five goals in 2006 and he again is fantastic each way value this time round at a general 33/1.

Holland have a group without any particularly defensive teams meaning Robin van Persie could fill his boots and be overall winner at 12/1. If you look at who’s facing the weakest teams (North Korea and New Zealand) then perhaps Luis Fabiano of Brazil at 10/1  or Italy’s Di Natale  at 50/1 could be worth a shout. Suarez of Uruguay can be found as high as 100/1 and if you think three goals was enough for second last time round it’s worth placing a pound or two on him.

Your top goalscorer. Maybe...

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T.

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Part Three

18/04/2010

A semi-regular feature (ok, just twice) has been an attempt to look into Signor Capello’s mind and try to make an educated guess on who might make the England squad for this summer’s World Cup. When first written in March last year the following conclusion was reached:

James, Foster, Kirkland.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Brown, Upson, Bridge.

Lampard, Gerrard, J.Cole, Young, Beckham, Hargreaves, Wright-Phillips, Barry.

Rooney, Walcott, Heskey, Crouch, Defoe.

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Another go was made in November and there weren’t too many changes to be honest:

James, Green, Foster.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Upson, Brown, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Milner, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, C. Cole, Walcott.

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So, what’s changed since then? Quite a lot since you ask. We’ll start with Goldenballs himself David Beckham. A shoo-in for the squad if fit, he injured his Achilles in the last-minute of a Milan league match and will not be fit in time. He’ll still be going to South Africa, but purely as a cheerleader. I think Fabio Capello would sooner pick his mum for England than Michael Owen but he’s been saved the hassle of having to explain to the press why it wasn’t going to happen as Owen is out injured too.

In my last preview I had doubts over Wayne Bridge going just to the low likelihood of needing a second left back but now he won’t be going due to John Terry’s assertion that the role of club and country captain allows you to shag your best mate’s fiance and then pay her to get rid of the consequences. Capello harbours hope that Bridge may change his mind but he won’t.

england squad

Capello's first squad. How things change.

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Goalkeepers:

Five months ago David James looked certain to be first choice but a succession of niggly injuries and a relegation battle with Portsmouth seems to have given a chance for Rob Green. There’s no doubt in my mind James is still better but it may come to whether he can play seven games in a month. Either way both go.

The third spot is now clearly Joe Hart‘s after a great season at Birmingham. He won’t play but I imagine it’s to give him experience ahead of him becoming the first choice for the Euro 2012 campaign. This is the least interesting position in terms of uncertainty; barring injury those three will 100% go to South Africa. Next in line would be Paul Robinson I reckon but the less we think about that the better.

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Defenders:

The first choice back four pick themselves and they should all be relatively fresh given their various injuries this season. Yep Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand being fit are key to England’s hopes (along with Rooney of course) given how poor the back up is. The drop-off in each position is quite worrying and none of the backups really strike me as being international quality.

Matthew Upson is still the go-to centre back if one of the main two go down. Joining him will be Joleon Lescott who can provide cover at left back and probably Wes Brown who can provide cover at right back. It’s a scary thought if either of those two have to play full back – can you imagine them trying to stop a Ribery or a Messi *shudder*.

The more I think about it the more I believe it will be seven defenders only, especially when you can call on certain midfielders to provide cover too. Barry, Milner, Carrick and Gerrard have all played defensive positions adequately. Desperately hoping for an injury or two will be Phil Jagielka who is certainly next in line.

Should Capello go a bit cautious then Leighton Baines will now be the second left-back while shockingly, and mainly due to lack of any other alternatives, Gary Neville would go if Johnson was crocked. Ryan Shawcross has been looked at but the fallout over the Ramsey tackle has put paid to his hopes. Michael Dawson? Perhaps but I doubt it.

A couple of interesting wildcards would be Ledley King and Sol Campbell. When fully fit the former is probably better than Terry but he’s rarely fully fit. The latter meanwhile has been a revelation since rejoining Arsenal in January. As backups they wouldn’t have to play every three days but I guess the risk is that if Terry or Rio were badly injured then they would be needed more often than they could handle. Still though, it could be worth a gamble.

wayne bridge john terry veronica perroncel

No longer friends, no longer teammates.

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Midfielders:

Again we’ll deal with the first choice guys first. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry have been there and done that. All are super experienced and in the team. Beyond that it starts to depend on who the opposition is. James Milner has gone from nowhere to possibly challenging for a place in the first XI.

Aaron Lennon should regain fitness in time to take a right-wing spot against weaker sides, while the fact Owen Hargreaves still isn’t fully fit means Michael Carrick will be the nominal defensive midfielder. That’s the Michael Carrick who has been found out against every top side he’s faced this season.

If I had written this two months ago Theo Walcott would probably not have been going but he’s recovered form well in the preceding time. You still feel his one weapon is pace though. Stewart Downing seems to be the only left winger under consideration but I haven’t really been that impressed by him.

Joe Cole is desperately trying to find some form in Chelsea’s last few games – he’s under great risk of not going but at the same time he has skills which no other English midfielder has. It may well come down to a straight choice between him and Adam Johnson, who has been excellent in his three months at Man City.

The one thing against the latter is the he normally plays on the right (even though he’s left-footed) and there’s already Lennon and Walcott in the squad. That said Beckham would still have gone if fit so there’s no reason why Johnson can’t be a third option on the right as well as one on the left too. It could come down to the next friendly.

Shaun Wright-Phillips wasn’t in my squad last time I did this and he won’t be in this one either, despite Beckham’s injury opening a spot. Johnson has usurped him at club so no doubt he will at country. Plus it may also be that Wright-Phillips is a bit average. Sorry Ian.

People knocking on the door marked injury backups? Hmm, Tom Huddlestone has had a decent season at Spurs as a central midfielder with centre back skills but I think Jagielka would sooner go as a centre back with central midfielder skills. Ashley Young just doesn’t seem to be liked Capello as for my money he’s better than Downing but is very much on the fringes.

There’s a real dearth beyond that. Jack Rodwell? Scott Parker? Lee Cattermole? Your guess is as good as mine.

capello england

Johnson and Cole? Just one, not both.

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Strikers:

I think it’s still very much four strikers plus Walcott as a fifth forward. Wayne Rooney is so important it’s unbelievable. If he gets injured you’re probably looking at a second round knock-out. With him fit it’s at least the quarter finals woo! Anyway, he’s first name on the teamsheet.

Emile Heskey is under a lot of pressure right now. Obviously the point of Heskey isn’t goals but how he enables others (like Rooney) to play better – the thing is though that there’s only so poor a season someone can have before you have to look at alternatives. He should be fine, I think. Jermain Defoe is an impact striker – not good enough for 90 minutes but capable of being a 25 minute nuisance.

Peter Crouch will need to make sure he performs well in the next squad get together as Bobby Zamora looks set for a call up ahead of the final friendly. Zamora perhaps is more of a replacement for Heskey in terms of skill set and what he’d give the team but Crouch should be concerned too. Carlton Cole would go if Defoe was injured, while Darren Bent would go if Cole and Defoe were unfit. Gabriel Agbonlahor doesn’t seem to be on the radar and rightly so.

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So where does that leave us? Well for my money these are the 23 going to South Africa:

James, Green, Hart.

Ferdinand, Terry, Johnson, Cole, Brown, Upson, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Milner, Carrick, Lennon, Walcott, Johnson, Downing.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, Crouch.

Even More Pickled…

07/09/2009

Back in March we had a look at which European teams were in a bit of a pickle in terms of World Cup qualifying. We talked about Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Sweden who are all good sides and first or second seeds when the draw was made. The main focus though was on France and Portugal, just as the expectations are so much higher and I would genuinely be surprised if they weren’t at the World Cup, something I can’t say for any other team (well perhaps my Polish brothers but that’s different).

Getting close now.

Getting close now.

So what’s changed? Well, France should be ok as they have moved up to 2nd but Domenech is being a bit of a mentalist again with his team selections. A tough away match in Belgrade looms on Wednesday but they’ll get through the playoffs. Bulgaria and Romania are out of it completely so the likes of Berbatov and Mutu will have extended summer holidays. Sweden are up to third in Group 1 while Poland are making it difficult for themselves with defeat to Northern Ireland. I hope they both get through but it looks like Slovakia are too far ahead in Group 3 sadly.

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This leaves us with Portugal who are in an even worse situation than before. Now fourth in Group 1 and seven points behind Denmark and three behind Hungary, there’s a very real possibility than Ronaldo won’t be playing on the biggest stage of all. I bet that will screw up any adverts Nike are currently planning. It comes down to this, they play Hungary twice before a gimme against Malta. The problem is, Sweden are ahead of them and play Albania, Denmark and Malta. Now of course the Denmark away game is tough but what chance we see a result both are happy with? Remember a mutually convenient 2-2 to knock out Italy in Euro 2004?

Messi and Ronaldo in a bit of pickle.

Messi and Ronaldo in a bit of pickle.

So while Nike are stressing over Ronaldo messing up their strategies, Adidas aren’t looking too clever with their main star either. Brazil swept aside Argentina 3-1 (the first time they’d ever lost in Rosario, a place they deliberately switched to for this match) leaving Maradona’s men in trouble. They’re still 4th but Colombia and Ecuador are just two points behind. Messi and co have only one home game of the three remaining and it could well go right to the wire. You can’t have a World Cup without Argentina though? Not since 1970 has that happened. As the Football Guy pointed out, it would be very odd without two of the three best players on the planet. Ronaldo in particular should be very worried…

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Champions League Final

04/06/2009

The theme this week is the Champions League final. Another chance to look back at a brilliant Barcelona team beating Man Utd but more specifically an opportunity to focus on the prima donna that is Cristiano Ronaldo. Well an opportunity for me at least:

 

"This will never work Cristiano" "Just shut up Titi and smuggle me to Spain before Fergie sees me,"

"This will never work C-Ron." "Just shut up Titi, and smuggle me to Spain before Fergie sees me."

 

Oh and as a bonus, have some playground humour too…

Admit it, you think the same.

Admit it, you think the same.

 

 

The rest of this week’s gallery can be found here.

 

T.

 

Past entries.

Barcelona vs Man Utd Thoughts

27/05/2009

Some thoughts from tonight’s Champions League final:  

 

Best team in Europe. Fact.

Best team in Europe. Fact.

 

This Barcelona side is a great one. They may have their flaws but their midfield in attack is so good it doesn’t matter. Congratulations on their treble.

The possession football of Messi, Xavi and especially Iniesta was a joy to watch. Both sides had weaknesses going into the game, Barcelona lacking their fullbacks, United their defensive midfielders (good ones at least). The difference in the match was Barcelona took advantage of United’s flaw whereas United failed to return the favour. 

After a dominant opening ten minutes by Man Utd, Barcelona scored out of nowhere and proceeded to then control the rest of the match. In the semi final second leg, Fergie’s side had done the exact same thing to Arsenal. 

Another final, another quiet Henry performance. His chance early in the second half was reminiscent of 2006 when he had an opportunity to wrap things up at 1-0. He missed now as he did then but this time the end result was different and he gets the one major trophy missing from his impressive CV.

Iniesta – excellent.

Ronaldo peaked with his free kick after two minutes.

Vidic, Rio and Van der Sar – not so much. Vidic was turned easily by Eto’o for the opener, while 6’3″ Rio was nowhere near 5’6″ Messi for the second. I thought Van der Sar could have done better with both to be honest.

Against a team so comfortable on the ball, will Fergie regret choosing old man Giggs over the hustling Tevez?

And should Rooney and Ronaldo have interchanged a bit more? You felt Ronaldo would be a more effective winger against Sylvinho, at least for some of the game. 

In his first season as Barca manager (and only the second year in his whole managerial career) Pep Guardiola wins the lot. He joins select list (read five others) to have won the European Cup as player and manager. And to think this team can still improve.

 

T.

Weekly Photoshop – Lionel Messi

30/04/2009

Some non Premier League action this week, as the theme is Barcelona star Lionel Messi. Another case of not really having the time to do an idea justice (I wanted to play around with the John Terry stopping Messi thought which was in the Barca v Chelsea preview) so for the second week running we didn’t get into the gallery. Here’s the attempt nonetheless…

 

Messi previews the latest skill he will have perfected come the Champions League semi...

Messi previews the latest skill he will have perfected come the Champions League semi...

 

Here are the entries that did get in.

 

T.

 

Previous entries: VidicCahillShearer and the rest.

Champions League Quarter Final Previews – Chelsea vs Liverpool & Bayern vs Barca

14/04/2009

ITV must be gutted that they’ve ended up with the two dead games tonight, with the real excitement likely to be at Porto and the Emirates tomorrow. I guess Chelsea against Liverpool could potentially still be open to Liverpool progressing but the 10/1 odds on the Scousers suggests it’s unlikely. Bayern against Barca will be a formality in that there’s no way the Germans can overcome the four goal deficit but Barca still have to go through the motions and complete the 90 minutes. I don’t have the time/inclination to do proper previews for these two games but here are a few thoughts.

 

Chelsea vs Liverpool

In contrast to the previous four years of boredom we’ve had to sit through, the first leg at Anfield was surprisingly open. The four goals we saw a week ago matched the combined total from the previous four battles at Anfield between the two clubs. Even though Liverpool took an early lead, Chelsea hit back with two goals from Ivanovic of all people and then a third from the Drog. He could have had a hat trick having earlier missed two very presentable chances.

Tonight’s game should be open even though the matches at Stamford Bridge have also been previously tight. Indeed last year’s five goal thriller was completely out of character (after one lousy goal in three previous games) but hopefully a sign of things to come. Liverpool need to attack from the off though despite all the rumours will do so without Steven Gerrard. Chelsea can afford to sit back and play on the break but will be wary of the three goals in eight minutes they conceded against Bolton at the weekend. I can see Liverpool getting two or three goals (especially with Terry out) but I can’t see them do it without conceding themselves. Chelsea will go through, but perhaps not without a scare.

 

Bayern vs Barcelona

Rent a quote master of hyperbole Franz Beckenbauer branded Bayern’s performance in the first half of the first leg the worst in their history. Perhaps, but they were missing key defenders Lucio and Lahm as well as Klose up front. The former two will be back tonight to provide at least some semblance of a challenge for Messi and co but Barcelona won’t sit back, they’ll try and get their away goal early and put any lingering doubt to bed. If they do, you could see another spanking on the cards.  Barcelona go through, obviously. Bayern might actually score this time though, which would be nice for their fans.

 

T.

The Six Pointer: Europe-Wide Edition – Manc-heda Strikes Again, Fat Sam’s Samba Football & more…

12/04/2009

That was the weekend that was.

 

1. The title race – Liverpool make mincemeat of Blackburn in the early kick off beating them 4-0. This is surely the only time we will see Fat Sam let Samba inspire his side’s attacking prowess… oh yeah, and Chris Samba won’t be playing up front for them again. Poor puns aside, Blackburn were awful. Liverpool didn’t even need to call on Gerrard who rested on the bench, and the twentieth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster saw Anfield basked in sunshine. Fernando Torres scored two, including an awesome first from a route one Carragher pass.

Are you SERIOUS?

Are you SERIOUS?

So, the focus then turned to Man Utd and Chelsea for the 3pm kick offs. To the detriment of my fantasy football team (and chances of catching the Football Guy), Fergie decided to start with Cristiano on the bench and risked playing G Nevs again, who is about as useful as a crack addict with a bum fluff moustache. Scholes opened for United with a rare header but the inevitable Sunderland goal came through Kenwyne Jones. On came C-Ron to save United’s blushes but instead it was another substitute that did the business… yes him, the Italian that looks about 25 and disturbingly models himself on Cristiano – none other than Kiko Manc-eda. This one wasn’t as scintillating as his winner last week against Villa but it was the tonic that Fergie’s faltering side needed.

Meanwhile, at the Bridge Chelsea eased into a 4 goal lead against Bolton, with the inevitable Lampard goal (which Sportboy T failed miserably to jinx, much to the joy of the Football Guy) and Snoop Drog double. Hiddink then proceeded to understandably substitute the aforementioned duo, saving them for Liverpool’s trip to the Bridge on Tuesday. However, this seemed simply to send out the message to the rest of the Chelsea team that the match was over. Bolton, who seem to have turned into something of a goal machine in the second half of this season, duly took up the challenge and proceeded to score three in eight minutes, leaving a nervy finish in front of the Chelsea faithful.

"I said C-Ron and a mobile phone, not five blondes!"

"I said C-Ron and a mobile phone, not five blondes!"

 

2. The race for fourth place – A tale of two halves and a lucky red card escape for the Gunners. Having decided to watch this one on Arab TV in a sweaty pub full of yobs, I hoped we would see a confident performance, even if the Arsenal defence was depleted. What I got was an awful first 50 minutes in which I had to bear with Mido scoring (and very nearly two at that). To make matters worse, Gibbs should have been sent off as he brought down Valencia as the last man. Instead he got away with it and the penny dropped with Wenger that changes needed to be made. On came Adebayor and Van Persie allowing Cesc to drop into a much more effective deeper role. Arshavin’s persistence paid off as Walcott was played in for the equaliser. The Gunners played some sweet stuff, topped off by a goal from my beloved Arshavin and a sexy finish from Song. That left Aston Villa and Everton to fight it out on the Sunday to see which team could give Arsenal a run for their Champions League money.

Villa played out a thriller against United last week and didn’t fail to deliver against Everton at Villa Park. Although Martin O’Neill’s side allowed Everton to steam into a 3-1 lead, a James Milner peach of a free kick and a dodgy penalty decision against Joleon Lescott allowed Villa to snatch a point that keeps them ahead of Everton but eight behind Arsenal. Despite the Gunners’ remaining matches against Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool, I think the fourth spot has now been sealed. Villa have a slightly easier run in than Everton but it should be an interesting battle. Kudos must go to David Moyes who has assembled a good side packed with battlers, creators and goal scorers. Fellaini seems to be excelling in his advanced role behind a rejuvenated Jo.

 

3. Spirits raised in the North-East… slightly.

After Southgate called it a must-win game, Boro’s 3-1 defeat of Hull will certainly give them some belief that they can avoid relegation. Unfortunately for them, they remain in the zone, two points off Sunderland and behind Newcastle on goal difference.

As for the Magpies, a 1-1 draw against Stoke must constitute a well-earned and highly valued point for Shearer. It must have been the training bikes on the pitch at half time. Or perhaps it was the ability to withstand Rory Delap’s launches into the box, enabling Newcastle’s own Geordie brute, Andy Carroll, to steal the point. It will still be the home games that decide whether Big Al manages to stick a big two fingers at all the doubters out there. Please Al, anything to see you finish your BBC career… please.

Big Al gets to grips with the job of keeping New'astle up

Big Al gets to grips with the job of keeping Newcastle up

 

4. La Liga watch – Messi is shit.

Ok, we all pretty much knew that Barca would win the league, but their 2-0 win against Recreativo at the Nou Camp only brings that day closer. Messi even managed to miss a penalty… rubbish isn’t he.

On a sad but good note for the Gunners, Marcos Senna had to come off injured in Villarreal’s 2-0 defeat at home to Malaga and will now miss the quarter final, second leg at the Emirates on Wednesday (unless this is a cruel deception by Villarreal’s website). Senna was awesome in the first leg both defensively and offensively. That is probably an injury too far for Los Submarinos Amarillos.

 

5. Bundesliga watch – all up for grabs now.

The German league definitely has the most exciting title race of any league in Europe at the moment with four teams competing. Wolfsburg, who destroyed Bayern Munich last week, stay on top with a win away at Borussia Monchegladbach. Klinsmann’s men managed to pick themselves up from their spanking at Barcelona by beating Frankfurt 4-0 at the Allianz Arena. Martin Jol’s Hamburg suffered a last minute defeat away at Stuttgart, putting them in third place behind Bayern on goal difference. The standings are now: Wolfsburg, 54 points; Bayern Munich, 51 points; Hamburg, 51 points; Hertha Berlin, 49 points and Stuttgart, 48 points. Now that is what I call an open race. Let’s just hope the inevitable Bayern win doesn’t materialise.

 

6. Serie A – Forget the title race but look out for Genoa.

Inter managed to draw 2-2 at home to Palermo depsite leading 2-0 but luckily for them, Juve were beaten 3-2 by the ever-more-impressive Genoa side that now finds itself two points clear of Fiorentina in the fourth Champions League spot. Milan notched up another win 1-0 at Chievo thanks to Seedorf and could now overtake Juve in second (just two points behind). If the rumours are to be believed, that won’t prevent Carlo Ancelotti ending up at Chelsea. Any takers on Frank Rijkaard ending up at the San Siro? Lazio smacked up Roma in the derby of the eternal city with the usual flurry of red cards being shown. Roma’s hopes of Champions League football next season now look over as they lie in sixth place, eight points behind. I don’t think Spaletti will be round for much longer. Shame really…I quite liked Roma under the baldy one.

 

P.

Champions League Preview – Barcelona vs Olympique Lyonnais

29/01/2009

draw_1209300c

The Barca Show

20 games. 53 points. 63 goals. 12 points clear. Barcelona are smashing La Liga records and sweeping opposition aside with their tenacity, class and lethality in front of goal. Their latest victims were Numancia at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, Pep Guardiola once again getting the best from a group of truly world class players. Terry Henry, Sammy Eto’o and Leo Messi have formed the front three trident that Frank Riijkard couldn’t quite get to click last year. A goal return of 14, 22 and 23 goals respectively from 25 games is a phenomenal record. The Blaugranas are deservedly the favourites to win the Champions League this season, with most bookies giving odds of 3 to 1 for them to reclaim the title they last won in 2006.

Leo Messi

cescli

How much longer do I have to touch this guy for? Why is he touching my leg?

The man is quite simply the best player in the world at the moment, outclassing the World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, in terms of goals and impact. His superior dribbling and ability to make something out of nothing is combined with great teamwork. If he can stay injury-free, his taste for big game performances should see him excel in the knock-out phase of the Champions League.

According to Cesc Fabregas, Messi was “very shy and that complicated his integration” into the Barcelona youth team, and his team-mates “thought he was dumb. Until, being kids and thanks to Play Station, we discovered he could talk.” Now, I don’t know whether this means Messi is being controlled by some spotty teenager in his bedroom (me and the Football Guy used to imagine taking control of live football matches by ‘plugging in’ our control pads) but whoever the kid is, he has to be pretty special.

Daniel Alves

Bosingwa has a mono-brow but I still look like more of a freak!

Chelsea, you missed out! Bosingwa has a mono-brow but I still look like more of a freak!

Messi is not the only threat coming down Barca’s right-hand side. Dani Alves, the right back that Chelsea didn’t think was worth dishing out £25 million for, is arguably the most potent force in Barca’s armoury. His overlapping runs, pinpoint crossing and eye for a goal has led the Guardian’s man in Spain, Sid Lowe, to rate him as the second best player in the world at the moment (after Messi of course). Ten assists is a pretty sweet return from full back, even if the Quark look-alike does play like a right winger. On top of all that, the man can actually defend. Some people have it all eh?!

Unsung heroes

As always, Xavi’s contribution is taken for granted, but this season the addition of Seydou Keita and the emergence of both Yaya Toure and Sergi Busquets have given Barca a steely side to their game, without sacrificing technical ability and creativity. Even the milky-bar kid has had his career rejuvenated by Guardiola.


 

A Word for Lyon perhaps?

Well, I am not going to pretend that I have been following Ligue 1 at all whatsoever this season (or any season for that matter), thereby damaging my credentials as a lover of football from all corners of the world. Nevertheless, I did a bit of research and here are my three points on why Claude Puel’s team must be respected but will ultimately fail against Barca:

1) Seven Ligue 1 titles on the trot….but

A record breaking seven consecutive championship titles gives Lyon a perennial presence in the Champion’s League and confidence to take on the biggest and best. Nothing appears to have changed, as Lyon currently sit pretty at the top of Ligue 1. However, this season could be different, as Bourdeaux under the tutelage of Laurent Blanc, are playing some good football and are only one point behind. Marseille are in third place, four points behind Lyon. Will this finally be the year when Lyon give up the crown?

2) Yes they still have Karim Benzema…but

The Manchester United target is continuing his good run of form from last season, having scored 15 in 22 thus far. He proved himself on the Champion’s League stage last year against Manchester United, and has the ability to upset Barca. However, while Lyon may have the likes of Benzema and the highly rated Jean Makoun II, the also play Jean-Alain Boumsong at centre-half. A mental image of Barcelona versus Boumsong is a very Messi one.

3) Lack of strength in depth?

In years gone by Lyon had a strong squad with a good balance of attacking and defensive players. This season they look a little short of the quality they had two or three years ago, with the likes of Essien, Malouda (don’t laugh, he was pretty good there) and Ben Arfa. Judging by Lyon’s transfer window targets of Charles N’Zogbia and Julien Faubert, OL have set their sights a little lower in terms of the players they can attract (they still didn’t manage to buy those two). Fred also appears to be on his way out of the club.

PREDICTED OUTCOME

I may as well not have bothered with this bit, right? Even if Barca are ultimately the winners, I expect a good match of football between these two.  The two-legged affair should be more watchable than some of the typically stale meetings between Europe’s elite clubs.

 

P.


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