Posts Tagged ‘Reina’

Weekly Photoshop – Liverpool’s Woes

12/10/2010

Every week sees something ever more ridiculous happen at Anfield; it feels right they should be the theme this week. I can understand Hicks and Gillett desperately trying to hold on to the club given they stand to lose the best part of £140m but sometimes you have just cut your losses and let go. Tomorrow’s high court decision should be interesting to say the least…

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The Conservative child benefit cuts certainly affected some clubs more than others...

 

(Underwater scenes are quite hard, sorry)

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Fantasy Premier League Preview 09/10 – Goalkeepers

28/07/2009

The new season is only a few weeks away, it’s time to start drafting those fantasy football teams. Once again the competition of choice will be Fantasy Premier League, free to use and with the best features. As with the last three years, Sportboy T (that’s me), Sportboy P (he does exist), the Football Guy (the reigning champ) and a few others will be having a mini-league which we’ll keep you updated on over the course of the season. Needless to say it’s about time someone else won it. This is the first of the previews which focuses on that weird guy at the back – the goalkeeper. We’ll follow with looks at defence, midfield and attack in the next few days…

Dedication, but a bit of luck too.

Dedication, but a bit of luck too.

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Pricey keepers always seem like a waste of money. I’m more of the school of thought that you’re better off spending your budget elsewhere. A cheap goalkeeper for a poor team is likely to get more points for making saves due to him being busy and the relative money you save will make up for lack of clean sheets. You always get a surprise team that’s solid too, let’s not forget Schwarzer was top scoring goalkeeper last year and he was a bargain £4m to begin with. Jaaskelainen and Sorenson were both top 10 too.

Number one last season.

Number one last season.

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Expensive (£5.5m-£6.5m)

Having said the above, you could also view this area as a cheap way of getting a top four defender in your side for less than it would cost to have a top four defender (if you follow). What do I mean by this? Well take Chelsea’s defence for example. All of their likely starting defenders cost £7m+, whereas Petr Cech can be had for just £6.5m. He’ll be getting the same 6 points for a clean sheet and you’ll have £0.5m in the bank. Looking at the rest of the guys in this price range it’s hard to see any value. I suppose Reina offers a similar strategy to Cech and is also at £6.5m – Liverpool should be solid again. I don’t expect Man Utd and Van der Sar to be as tight defensively this year (indeed I don’t expect VDS to be first choice by the season’s end) so I would avoid him. Almunia is overpriced at £6.5m while Howard, Friedel and Given don’t represent good enough value. Everton, Villa and Man City will keep clean sheets but probably in spells rather than consistently over the season. Lots of people will pick Schwarzer based on last year (175 points) at £5.5m. Lots of people will be disappointed.

Cheap for a Chelsea player.

Cheap for a Chelsea player.

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Mid-range (£4.5m-£5m)

Unlike other positions where it may make sense to have some cheap options, some mid-price and a few big guns, it makes no sense with goalkeepers I’d say. Either go for top of range or go for the cheapest. I would tend to avoid this price range if possible. I aim it more at the £5m guys than the £4.5m ones but even then I’d probably be looking to save that extra half a million. Looking at who costs £5m, it’s all reserve top four guys like Fabianski and Cavalieri (not going to play) or top half clubs who aren’t especially solid like Spurs (Gomes) and West Ham (Green). Avoid. There are some tempting choices at £4.5m like the aforementioned Jaaskelainen and maybe Craig Gordon at Sunderland too, who under Steve Bruce should have a good defensive record.

Just say no.

Just say no.

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Cheap (£4m)

This is where I’m likely to make my two choices from. It goes without saying that your sub keeper should cost £4m as he’s only likely to play about four times over the course of the season. Why not your main guy too? It appears that Thomas Sorenson has been deemed as this season’s Schwarzer with 37% of people picking him so far. Stoke kept plenty of clean sheets last season (at home a least) and he scored a solid 143. Joe Hart is a good shout and you’ve got a few other guys there who are going to play every week.

This year's Schwarzer. Probably.

This year's Schwarzer. Probably.

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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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