Posts Tagged ‘Rafa Benitez’

Weekly Photoshop – Sam Allardyce

28/09/2010

You may have heard Sam Allardyce spouting lots of rubbish recently. Apparently he could win the double at Real Madrid or Inter every season, easy. In his saved game on Football Manager perhaps. Somehow in real life I don’t think lumping it forward to emergency striker Chris Samba is quite going to cut it at the Bernabeu. Naturally he was this week’s Photoshop them in the Guardian.

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Sam Allardyce is always going on about his use of the latest football trends and innovations. One has to assume he would start taking C-Ron's beachwear advice too...

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More here. An easy target really.

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T.

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Archive.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 34 Preview

09/04/2010

Quick one this week as there are plenty of other things I need to do.

After the shambles of week 32, this time it was a bit better in what was generally a low-scoring gameweek. I had the top-scoring player in Adam Johnson but my captain Torres was helpfully taken off after 64 minutes against Birmingham having yet to do anything. Liverpool then proceeded to have a quite a few good chances. Thanks for nothing Rafa. Eight points left on the bench too as I got my Birmingham defenders set the wrong way round.

My league lead was extended a little and is now back to 57 points which isn’t too bad. Frank Lampard is now back in my team so there is less fear of him scoring seven goals and being someone’s captain. An average week overall but in my league context not too bad at all. It’s quite exciting behind me as it’s a three-way battle for second with just three points separating them. The Football Guy has picked up recently but is still back in fifth.

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Gameweek 33 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

adam johnson man city

Maverick was annoyed at how hard it was to find a decent picture of Adam Johnson in a Man City shirt. This isn't even that good!

Yes Adam Johnson was the highest scorer with 14 this week, through three assists and a man of the match performance vs Burnley. Closely following were his Man City teammates Adebayor with 13 and Tevez with 12. Tottenham’s keeper Gomes was the only other player in double figures also earning 12, mainly through saving two Darren Bent penalties.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Lampard/Chelsea – Home game against Bolton, who he regularly scores against. Seems to have a second wind (digestive perhaps?!) which is leading to a strong finish to the season.

2. Torres/Liverpool – He was a bust last weekend but scored twice in midweek Europa League action. The visitors to Anfield are Fulham who also had midweek action, thus cancelling out tiredness issues. They’re cruising to the end of the league season so it should be a comfortable home win here.

3. A Man Utd player – Blackburn are good at home but I guarantee Fergie will get a favour from his mate Fat Sam Allardyce.

Frank Lampard Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick! And a portion of chips.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Bent/Sunderland – He’s chasing the golden boot and faces West Ham, Burnley and Hull next. My pre-season each way bet on him being top-scorer at something like 50-1 looks like coming in.

2. Bullard/Hull – Burnley this week and plays twice next week. Still cheap, still the heartbeat of Hull’s team.

3. Van Persie/Arsenal – Reported that he *may* be available against Spurs. Obviously he’s be lacking match practice, but remember how many goals Arsenal were scoring at the start of the year?

bent sunderland

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Tottenham players – Arsenal then Chelsea then Man Utd. In fact maybe pick Gomes as he’s going to busy!

2. Man City players – Face Birmingham and Man Utd at home then Arsenal away. Bring them back in week 37 where they play twice.

3. Arteta/Everton – Niggly groin injury. We need players that play at this stage.

gomes spurs

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Football vs the Big Freeze

12/01/2010

Greetings, greetings. I hope you’re all on your way to de-thawing. It’s been a bit cold in recent times. Britain’s big freeze was the theme of this week’s Photoshop gallery in the Guardian.

Just three Premier League games survived the weekend, as local councils did their best to ensure they couldn’t get sued for people falling over. In what now has become an almost weekly occurance, it’s another effort taking the piss out of Liverpool. That’s without even mentioning Tom Hicks Jr

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Rafa Benitez Liverpool transfer

As Britain's transport system ground to a halt, one man tried desperately to ensure that flights from Liverpool to Naples and Moscow still went ahead...

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More can be found here including lots of Drogba diving/tobaganning.

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T.

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Archive.

Weekly Photoshop – Liverpool’s Europa League Adventures

08/12/2009

What happens when you get knocked out of the Champions League group stages? Come third and you get to spend the spring travelling around far-flung places in the Europa League. Last season even the likes of Spurs and Aston Villa decided this was more hassle than it was worth so goodness knows how Liverpool will react when they have a go. Their future adventures forms this week’s Guardian Photoshop theme.

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Liverpool Europa League Anfield Gerrard Torres

In the land of submarines, Captain Benítez and his crew sets sail to places unknown. Full speed ahead!

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The rest of this week’s gallery is here.

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T.

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Archive.

Weekly Photoshop – Beachballgate

29/10/2009

After all the fuss and furore surrounding Darren Bent’s the beachball’s winner against Liverpool, it was inevitable that this would be the theme in this week’s Guardian Photoshop comp. As we all know, it shouldn’t have been given, which makes it all the more funnier that it was! Lots of different things you could do – I went for a slightly leftfield entry as you can see below.

Liverpool beach ball

Seeing as there's seemingly no problem with inflatables being on the pitch, Rafa's taken the opportunity to increase the much maligned squad depth at Liverpool with a few bargain signings.

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Plenty more entries can be found in the rest of the gallery here.

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T.

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Archive.

The Six Pointer – Strength in unity, transfer timing & more…

24/08/2009

1. Chelsea have been efficiently going about their business without overly impressing, but at this stage of the season you can’t ask for more than three wins out of three. Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t changed too much beyond the switch to a diamond midfield, and has just let the experience of the Chelsea players do the work needed.

There was a certain inevitability about the victory over Fulham yesterday, they were always in control and it was the archetypal professional performance of goal in each half while keeping it tight in between. Fulham were always going to struggle to penetrate without the injured Andy Johnson but Chelsea ensured that they scored the goals to avoid a repeat of last season’s draw.

I’m still not convinced entirely by either the formation or the partnership of Drogba and Anelka but for now the Blues will be happy to work it out as they go along. They should be getting nine points from their next three games against Burnley, Stoke, and Tottenham (they always beat Spurs at home) so they could have a nice little lead come the end of September.

No need to look at each other, it's all through telepathy.

No need to look at each other, it's all through telepathy.

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2. Tottenham have made their best start since 1960-61 when they last won the league. Now while we can safely say they won’t be winning the league this year it does look like they can go back to the position of a few years ago when they were pushing for a Champions League spot.

In terms of the results they’ve had, they’re no better off than last year having also beaten Liverpool at home and Hull and West Ham away. The difference has been the manner of victory in those three games, with the usual attacking intent now complemented by midfield steel in the shape of Wilson Palacios.

It will be interesting to see how they get on once Ledley King starts missing games more difficult than Hull, but at the moment their schedule will allow him to play the next three games of Birmingham (H), Man Utd (H) and Chelsea (A), injury permitting.

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3. After being written off after one defeat, Burnley have now won two games on the spin at Turf Moor, beating both Man Utd and Everton 1-0. Their home form was always going to be key to their chances of survival this season and they have continued in the manner of last season’s Carling Cup run by beating two top sides at home. Their difficult start continues with away games at Chelsea and Liverpool next but the fact they have some points on the board and lie in 7th place suggests they can go into those matches with nothing to lose.

After all, it won’t be the games against the big boys which ensure survival but more what they can do against the Hull’s, Bolton’s and Wolves’ of this world. Teamwork will get them a long way this season and as Owen Coyle said on Saturday, Burnley’s strength is their unity not their individuals.

There must be one ego in there surely?!

There must be one ego in there surely?!

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4. Everton are in a bit of a mess at the moment with a position at the bottom of the table with no points, one fit centre back and a £22 million hole burning in their pocket and just seven days to spend it. They will be pleased the Lescott saga is drawing to a close but they could have had it resolved a long time ago. While he is a good defender he is by no means the most irreplaceable player at Goodison Park (he’s not even the best centre back at the club), so the money they have received is more than adequate (another example of Man City having to buy  second best but with a top price tag).

As many people have pointed out though, they could have accepted £18m a month ago, bought a replacement or two and been settled in time for the new season. The problem now is the timeframe left to buy a replacement plus the fact that everyone knows Everton are desperate and cash rich.

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5. It’s far too early to make calls but at the same time Portsmouth already looked very good bet for relegation. They simply don’t have the players to survive I don’t think, either in quality or in number. The potential takeover drags on and on while on the pitch players like Kanu are just not going to win you games any more. If they can get to the end of transfer window without losing any further players they may have a fighting chance, but if Distin or James leave then it may be a long hard season ahead.

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6. An interesting result at Anfield this evening, where defeat by Aston Villa has left Liverpool with two losses in their opening three games. That’s as many as they lost in the whole of last season. It’s difficult to know what exactly is wrong at Anfield. Once again there wasn’t much midfield service as Xabi Alonso wasn’t there to provide it but the second goal brought up some issues with zonal marking.

I’m sure Rafa will have a moan about the circumstances of the second goal but a) it was definitely a corner and b) Reina kicking it away meant time was being wasted which meant time should have been added for the corner, which it was. Medium term, Benitez is out of money to spend so must hope that the more competitive league this year ensures Liverpool aren’t too far behind the pace once Aquilani is fit.

Much to ponder.

Much to ponder.

But with all the talk of someone new breaking into the top four what price Liverpool to be the ones to drop out? On a side note, was it coincidence that Aston Villa’s best performance in about six months was with Emile Heskey on the bench? I think not.

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T.

End of Season Reviews – Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Middlesbrough

09/06/2009

Liverpool

liverpool
Where they finished: 2nd

Season in five words: Home draws cost the title

Successful season? Yes, for the first time a serious title challenge to Man Utd was mounted. Consistent, difficult to beat and in Torres and Gerrard, a lethal front two. Ultimately there were too many draws against lower opposition and considering Liverpool did the double over United, they will be disappointed to have finished behind them.

Defining moment: Rafa’s rant perhaps? Whether or not he was right is besides the issue. The draws and poor form that followed are what cost Liverpool the league. I don’t think it was a coincidence.

Player of the year: Steven Gerrard is the obvious choice but credit must be given to Xabi Alonso too. Dirk Kuyt has suddenly turned into a key player with his best season since joining.

Goal of the season: Torres vs Blackburn.

Flop of the season: Dossena was another addition to the long list of left backs who have flopped at Anfield. A bit fat and a bit slow. He did score great goals against Man Utd and Real Madrid though. Ryan Babel hasn’t lived up to expectation, or even come close to doing so.

Highlight: The destruction of Real Madrid was impressive (if not surprising) and having a real go at Chelsea in the Champions quarter final second leg was entertaining (if ultimately doomed). They ended Chelsea’s long unbeaten home league record too. There can only be one choice though and that’s the 4-1 spanking of Man Utd at Old Trafford.

Summer homework: Keep Gerrard but specifically Torres fit and playing together. Don’t sell Alonso, buy a striker, a left winger and possibly a left back too.

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Man City

man-city
Where they finished: 10th

Season in five words: Big spending but poor results.

Successful season? Not really. Expectation was high after a summer takeover and there was enough time to splash a British record fee on Robinho from Real Madrid. Mark Hughes’ side were pretty poor however and for much of the season were towards the bottom of the table. Though recovery was made, via more big money January signings, City won’t be playing European football next year. Domestic cup exits were made to lower league opposition and most of the season was a case of win at home, lose away.

Defining moment: Towards the midnight deadline for summer signings, City announce the signing of Robinho for £32.5million. Having been rejected by Berbatov, with his signing the Abu Dhabi owners announced they meant business. The flip side of this was paying £17million for Nigel De Jong in January when he could have been bought for £2million this summer.

Player of the year: Stephen Ireland. The shaven headed maestro was one of the few highlights of a Jekyll and Hyde season at Eastlands. Robinho has shown enough in his debut season (at home at least) to suggest he could get 20 goals next year.

Goal of the season: Robinho’s lob vs Arsenal.

Flop of the season: Dunne and Richards. The former looked slow and prone to mistakes while the latter seems to care more about his physique (ironic given his fat arse) than his positional sense. Oh and Robinho away from home.

Highlight: A 3-0 win over Arsenal was quite impressive in November, as was an early 6-0 battering of Pompey.

Summer homework: Sign a good strike partner for Robinho, get Petrov, Dunne and Richards playing like they did in 2007/08, buy a left back better than Wayne Bridge. Quality not quantity (see strikers).

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Man Utd

man-utd

Where they finished: 1st, Champions League finalists and Carling Cup Winners.

Season in five words: Liverpool equalled, outclassed by Barcelona.

Successful season? Yes. Their record equalling 18th league title was won unconvincingly but at the same time without too much trouble. Liverpool tried hard but didn’t have the experience of closing it out. A record run of clean sheets built up enough of an advantage to concentrate on Europe. Though they reached the final again, Barcelona taught them a footballing lesson in Rome. They won the Carling Cup too.

Defining moment: Macheda against Aston Villa perhaps? The day before Liverpool had grabbed a vital last minute win over Fulham to go top so momentum was with them. United played poorly and were losing 2-1 before staging a comeback in the last 10 minutes. In the last minute 17 year old debutant Federico Macheda, controlled, turned and hit a great winner past Brad Friedel. Momentum restored to United, league title heads to Old Trafford.

Player of the year: Nemanja Vidic was great until the spring and undoubtedly lay the foundations for the record breaking defence. He got found out by some nimble strikers towards the end but overall was excellent. Wayne Rooney had a great season, and Fletcher has pretty much established himself as first choice central midfielder.

Goal of the season: Cristiano Ronaldo’s 40 yard toe punt against Porto.

Flop of the season: Flops in a title winning side? No one really. Berbatov gets another season to prove that he can fit into Utd’s style of play. He hasn’t flopped but he hasn’t impressed that much. Nani is beginning to look like a lost cause though. Van der Sar will be doing well to still be first choice come 2010.

Highlight: Equalling Liverpool’s title record is an overall highlight. Outclassing Arsenal at the Emirates in Europe and Macheda’s goal against Villa were particular highlights.

Summer homework: Make a decision on Carlos Tevez and sign a pacey replacement if he goes. Get Hargreaves fit and playing in the big games.

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Middlesbrough

middlesbrough

Where they finished: 19th

Season in five words: Lack of goals means relegation.

Successful season? No. Despite all the mocking of Schteve McLaren, he usually had Boro pushing the top half and in a cup final or two. Gareth Southgate has taken them further down the table with each passing season. Boro’s problem was selling their best players and not replacing them, and not having anyone capable of scoring on a consistent basis. England’s best left winger™Stewart Downing had a miserable season scoring zero goals, while the less said about Alves and Aliadiere the better.

Defining moment: Losing Mark Schwarzer to Fulham last summer. A big reason why Fulham went from 17th to 7th this year while Boro went down.

Player of the year: Erm, Tuncay was the one highlight suppose. He reminded me of Juninho a few years back where he was the only one trying to keep them up but no one else was good enough/cared enough to help.

Goal of the season: Not hard to choose given there have been so few. Tuncay’s bicycle kick late in the season against Villa wins it.

Flop of the season: When you pay £12 million for someone you exect more than six league goals in return this season. Southgate will be judged by his transfer deals and Alves will go down as one of his biggest errors. Playing Brad Jones over Ross Turnbull in key end of season games was a stupid idea too. Jones is incredibly useless. Terrible hair too.

Highlight: A 2-0 win over Liverpool of all people in February.

Summer homework: Get rid of players who don’t want to be there, sign someone who can score goals in the Championship. Try and get £15 million for Downing from Spurs even though he’s injured.

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T.

Mine’s Bigger Than Yours – Super Squads

29/03/2009

There was quite a big feature in the Observer today focusing on squad sizes (read it, it’s a very good article), with particular focus on Liverpool who have a massive 62 professionals on their books. Closely following are Arsenal with 59, Man Utd with 51 and Sunderland, Chelsea and Spurs all in the mid-forties. Now big clubs have always had big squads and to be fair a lot of those Liverpool 62 are youth players and reserves but it can’t be a good situation long term. Snapping up young players is nothing new but it seems to have reached the stage of just stockpiling players so other teams can’t have them. The clubs can’t lose – if the players develop to be world/international/Premier League class then they profit from playing them and then selling them on whereas if they don’t make the grade then all they’ve lost is the cost of wages which won’t be high at young age. It’s worth gambling £30K a year on a promising teenager just if it means he’ll be on your books rather than your rivals’.

Those sticker albums are only going to get harder to fill...

Those sticker albums are only going to get harder to fill...

One of the ways Man Utd became so rich was through selling players who didn’t make the grade at Old Trafford but were good enough for lesser teams. The number of guys Fergie would get a million or two for just because they had played once or twice for the United first team was huge. The likes of Chris Casper, Terry Cooke and John Curtis had never done anything whilst at Old Trafford, but Fergie would use his wily ways to persuade some lower league manager that they were worth having. I remember in the 90s when Milan in particular used to buy top players just so no one else could have them. This was back in the days of the three foreigner rule, yet they would buy guys like Papin, Savicevic, Boban (one of my favourite ever players) and Desailly even though they still had Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. Since then, the loosening of European borders has only made it easier for clubs to buy whoever they want from wherever they want.

 

Gullit, Rijkaard, Savicevic, Baresi, Van Basten, Papin, Boban - Awesome

Gullit, Rijkaard, Savicevic, Baresi, Van Basten, Papin, Boban - Awesome

 

Could there be some kind of squad limit introduced? Countries are forced to take just 23 to a World Cup or European Championship so why can’t there be a limit for clubs as well? The big four will know about the 25 man limit for the Champions League (though that doesn’t have to include home grown players who automatically get entered on the B list) so why can’t it be extended to the Premier League? How about using the US roster system? NBA teams are limited to 15 players (3 sets of starting line up), baseball teams have 40 while American football has 53 as a limit. With the latter two it gets a bit complicated as you have pitching/batting and offense/defence specialities but the basketball level seems about right.

You’d have to have the worst injury crisis known to man to get through three different starting line ups in a season.  A cursory glance show Man City have used the most players in the league this season with 32 followed by West Ham with 31 and Chelsea and Sunderland with 30. Villa have used the fewest with just 21. As if to prove our point, Liverpool have used only 24 of their 62 players in the league – not even half. Even accounting for the 14 out on loan, that’s still a lot of unsatisfied guys.

When you factor in the fact that most sides tend to be settled, with at least seven or eight players starting the majority of games, the argument for huge squads doesn’t really stand up. Even factoring in cup competitions doesn’t really change things. Man City haven’t used anyone in three cup competitions who hasn’t played in the league. Even Arsenal, notorious for young, understrength teams in Carling Cup and dead rubber European ties have still used just 33 in total.

The bigger the squad the further the camera.

The bigger the squad the further the camera.

Football is big business now so you don’t imagine the clubs doing anything to make themselves weaker but it would be great if some kind of limit was put in place. A bit more competition between clubs is always healthy and it would mean less young players on the scrapheap too. Somehow I doubt this will happen though and what are the odds that Liverpool increase their squad size this summer instead?

 

T.

Champions League Preview – Real Madrid vs Liverpool

24/02/2009

cl draw

Probably the tie of this round, Real Madrid against Liverpool pits two of the most successful teams in Europe against each other for the first time since the boys from Merseyside beat Los Merengues 1-0 in the 1981 European Cup final.

At the end of 2008 Liverpool were flying high at the top of the Premier League, while Real Madrid were miles behind Barcelona in La Liga and suffered two defeats at the hands of their European rivals Juventus  in the Champions League. Fast forward to 25 February 2009 and the stats tell you that the Reds now trail Manchester United by 7 points while Real Madrid have won 9 consecutive matches and have managed to close the gap to 7 points and put doubts in the minds of Barcelona fans that they will win the league so easily. After hitting 6 past Real Betis at the weekend, Real couldn’t feel more confident.

Nevertheless, let’s not forget that Rafa Benitez has got Liverpool to two Champions League finals, winning one with Djimi Traore in the team. He knows Real Madrid inside out from his time there as a youth coach. Rafa knows more about Spanish football than Real could possibly know about the English game. His analytical preparation and tactics make him the most fearsome of cup coaches. I may sound like I am talking up Rafa Benitez like Indiana Jones does for Marcus Brody in the Last Crusade. Therefore, I hope Rafa doesn’t mistakenly walk into the back of a Nazi truck (which metaphorically means tinker his team into a formation/line-up in hope that he can further boost his credentials as a super tactician).

My point is, Liverpool have beaten the best of Europe over the past few years and will feel confident taking on Real Madrid, especially now baby G has been confirmed in the match squad, even if only one of his legs is working.

 

Respected in Spain

Respected in Spain

Gerard Factor

This is not exactly the most ground-breaking insight into the way Liverpool play but I will repeat it anyway – Gerrard is crucial to Liverpool winning anything. He is their talisman, creator and scorer of important goals and alongside Fernando Torres, the best player in the team.  Having just returned from a short holiday in Spain where I talked with a few futbol fans, I can inform readers that Steven Gerard is a highly respected player over there. Undoubtedly his presence on the pitch for Liverpool will instill some fear into the Real team. If not then there is always Dirk Kuyt’s face.

 

Are you Raul in disguise?

Are you Raul in disguise?

The Legend of Raul

Raul could be referred to as the Steven Gerrard of Real Madrid but that would be tainting the reputation of the man that has recently become Los Merengues’ highest EVER goalscorer. He also happens to be the Champions League top goalscorer EVER with a phenomenal record of 64 goals in 127 matches, 4 more than his horse-headed team mate.

Raul has been back to his top form this season, his 19 goals in 23 games compensating for the loss of Ruud Van Nistelrooy to a freak show jumping accident. Being the only player to have scored in two different Champions League finals, this man knows what the competition is all about. If Real Madrid play well over the two legs, he will have made a crucial contribution.

My personal favourite of all Raul’s goals this season has to be this peach against Zenit St.Petersburg in the Champions’ League group stage.

Expected to break down every few months

Expected to break down every few months

Robben Reliant

Mentally and physically crushed under Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea regime, Arjen Robben has finally realised the quality at Real Madrid which I never doubted he possessed. He is now Los Merengues’ most potent attacking force, terrorising opposition defences down the left hand side or cutting in from the right, as he did to great effect with a recent winner against Villarreal. Liverpool’s full backs are the weakest area of their team and I fully expect Robben to give them a torrid time at the Bernabeu.

I hate to endorse anything that Alex Ferguson has to say but his criticism of Real Madrid being too slow is probably an accurate one. Van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder are not exactly slow but are not the type of players to inject some direct dribbling into a game. If Real go into the second leg playing on the counter, this could prove problematic. Especially considering my next point…

 

Lack of striking options

Raul is on form and Real have a plethora of scorers in their midfield, with the impressive Gonzalo Higuain providing a threat either from the right wing or up front. Nevertheless, with Van Nistelrooy being injured, Real Madrid’s coaching staff may rue the decision to not register Jan Klaas Huntelaar for the Champions League knock-out stages. In tight games such as those we will likely see between Real Madrid and Liverpool, a poacher can make the difference. Ramos, like his predecessor, doesn’t seem to fancy Javier Saviola (who has never been a poacher anyway) so I am not sure where the options lie.

On the other hand, Liverpool could be accused of suffering the same lack of strength in depth up front. Kuyt has scored some decisive goals in important matches this season but will Ngog and El Zhar be able to do the business should Torres get injured? I think not.

 

It didn't work at Spurs but he has solved the mystery at Real

It didn't work at Spurs but he has solved the mystery at Real

Defensive Assessments   – Ramos discipline and the new Makelele

Even the most ardent Real Madrid supporter will tell you that their team hasn’t been that impressive or convincing so far under Juande Ramos. But what he will tell you is that the former Spurs manager has brought discipline, organisation and stubbornness to the side which has allowed them to win nine La Liga games in a row, conceding only two along the way.

The back four of Sergio Ramos, Fabio Cannavaro, Pepe and Gabriel Heinze is finally looking as impressive as the names do on paper. As always, Iker Casillas will provide world class goal keeping and leadership. However, we know good defending depends on the rest of the team doing their part and in Lassana Diarra and Fernando Gago, Real have two midfielders who are able to protect their defence while possessing the highest technical qualities and ability to distribute ably. Comparisons with Liverpool’s Mascherano-Alonso duo are understandable but I think Real have the better two.

The decision to register Diarra for the Champions League over Huntelaar may well be justified should Real progress. I don’t like the dolphin-headed little bastard but he is a world-class player (better than Makelele) that will thrive on the big stage.

 

Shaky Liverpool

Renowned for their tightness under Rafa Benitez, Liverpool’s defensive record has been some-what surprising this season. They have only managed to keep one clean sheet in the past 7 games. The man named by the Football Guy as the Son of Rafa or old man/young man will be called upon and required to meet the high standards of his counterpart at the other end.

I nevertheless expect Liverpool to get ship shape for the ties against Real. There is certainly more pressure on them to come out in the league and Rafa knows the art of two-legged Champions League ties, especially when away from home first.

 

The Call

This is an extremely difficult tie to call, as I don’t think recent form will bear too much on how this encounter plays out. Both clubs have respect for each other but will also be quietly confident. Juande Ramos pitting his wits against Rafa Benitez will be an interesting tete-a-tete of tactical nous represented by funny hand signals.

The fact that the second leg is at Anfield could prove decisive and therefore I will predict that Liverpool will edge this one. A Torres away goal at the Bernabeu is so on the cards that I won’t even claim I said so when it happens.

Here is our 12th player

Here is our 12th player

 

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Other previews: Chelsea v Juve, Barca v Lyon, Arsenal v Roma, Inter v Man Utd.


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