Posts Tagged ‘Ribery’

World Cup Roundup

14/07/2010

So suggesting a bet on Holland in the final meant the bet of the day running total ended 0.77 units down, which isn’t awful considering two-thirds of the group stage were missed. In better punditry many of the pre-tournament tips came off. Of the more impressive ideas, I suggested Germany to reach the semi-finals @ 12/5, Argentina to get nine points in their group @ 12/5, Uruguay and Mexico to go through in group A @ 13/1 and Uruguay as an each way bet @ 66/1.

I wrote that England could well suffer a second round knock-out, while tipping Holland @ 9/1 almost came off. The goalscorer tips were a touch unlucky too with each way suggestions Klose (33/1) and Suarez (100/1) just missing out on the top four.  Enough gloating (there were plenty of dud tips too after all) and time for a few highlights and lowlights.

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Best Game: England vs Germany had controversy, some great football, good goals and it dispelled the hype surrounding so many of England’s stars.

Worst Game: Most of the ones in the first week.

Best Goal: Tshabalala’s in the opening match was great for the moment and Van Bronckhorst in the semi-final was great for the pureness of the strike but I think Villa’s first against Honduras tops both.

Worst Miss: Yakubu vs South Korea. Dear oh dear.

Most Dramatic 5 Minutes: Spain vs Paraguay gave it a good try, with three penalties in the space of a few minutes, but you can’t beat the end of extra-time in the Uruguay vs Ghana match. Goalmouth scramble, handball on the line and red card, missed penalty with a semi-final place up for grabs, undignified celebrations by the man sent off and then a penalty shoot-out shortly after. Wow.

Best Pundit: Clarence Seedorf. There weren’t many to choose from but he was insightful and refreshing. Some good features too.

Hero: Paul the psychic octopus.

Villain: Take your pick from Suarez, the Jabulani ball or the French team going on strike. Oh and James Corden too.

Best XI Of The Tournament: Casillas; Lahm, Puyol, Lugano, Coentrao; Schweinsteiger, Xavi, Sneijder; Mueller, Forlan, Villa.

Worst XI Of The Tournament: Green; Otamendi, Terry, Cannavaro, Evra; Melo, Kaka, Ribery; Anelka, Rooney, Torres.

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T.

World Cup Bet Of The Day – Day 1

11/06/2010

A feature I’m going to try and do every day, at least until I go on holiday. I’ll keep a running total and see how it ends up at the end of the tournament.

Today’s pick is Uruguay to beat France in the evening game. I wrote earlier about how I thought France were a decent shout to get knocked out in the group stages and thus I think the price on Uruguay is far too high.

The French have been experimenting with a new formation and a 1-0 warm-up defeat to China suggests it’s not quite settled.

Uruguay have a great strike partnership in Forlan and Suarez (almost 80 goals between them this season) and I think the two of them can cause some serious problems for the French defence.

Bet of the day:
Uruguay to beat France @ 14/5.

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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.

Seven To Replace Number Seven

18/06/2009

Right, there was only so long I could keep the Spurs badge as the first thing you see when reach the blog – time for some new posts. Since we last wrote, it seems the great primadonna himself is on his way to Real Madrid for the princely sum of £80 million.

Ronaldo practices his amateur theatrics...

Ronaldo practices his amateur theatrics...

Just who will Man Utd buy to replace the tantrums, the diving, the stepovers and the occasional 40 goal seasons? Let’s take a look at some potential replacements.

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1. Antonio Valencia – Wigan – £14-18million

Valencia

Valencia

Last season: League – 31 games/3 goals.

This is the most likely deal to go through just due to who the selling club are. Valencia has impressed at the JJB though perhaps doesn’t yet score enough (or indeed assist with only five last season). It appears some move have already been made to sign him but if I’m honest I’m not sure he’s good enough for a team like Man Utd. He is only 23 so has plenty of time to improve but Wigan will have done very good business if they get £18m for him.

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2. Karim Benzema – Lyon – £30million+

Benzema

Benzema

Last season: League – 36 games/17 goals. Champions League – 8 games/5 goals.

The highest rated French player still playing in Ligue 1. Benzema has scored 54 goals in the past two years and would be a great addition up front. Pacy, strong, good with both left and right foot as well as decent in the air, he could add the pace that has been lacking from Utd’s forward line in the past few years. He’s still only 21 so has yet to completely fulfil his potential. I could see him forming a terrific partnership with Rooney or indeed Berbatov and he could well follow in the footsteps of Utd’s last great French number 7. Needless to say, Lyon chairman Aulas would drive a hard bargain as usual.

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3. Sergio Aguero – Atletico Madrid – £40million+

Aguero

Aguero

Last season: League – 37 games/17 goals. Champions League – 8 games/3 goals.

The youngest player to ever play in the Argentinian league, Aguero has starred for Atletico in the past two years. Maradona’s son in law has formed a great partnership with ex-Utd striker Diego Forlan and is capable of plenty of assists to go with his goals. At 5’7″ he probably lacks the power that Ronaldo brought to the side and he make take time to adapt to English football but he has the ability to produce the unexpected. Still only 21, his age couple with his buy out clause means it would take big money to prize him from the Vicente Calderon.

4. David Silva – Valencia – £20million

Silva

Silva

Last season: League – 19 games/4 goals. UEFA Cup – 3 games/1 goal.

Silva is a less obvious choice and may be someone to target if Valencia isn’t signed. A diminutive winger/number 10, he was an important player in Spain’s Euro 2008 win before ankle ligament damage meant a truncated 2008/09 season. Tricky and creative with a sweet left foot, aged 23 he can still improve. He is another who maybe too slight for the Premier League but at the same time if Rafa Benitez is after him, why shouldn’t Fergie try and gazump him. One of the cheaper potential targets too, given Valencia’s financial troubles.

5. David Villa – Valencia – £35 million

Villa

Villa

Last season: League – 33 games/28 goals. UEFA Cup – 5 games/1 goal.

The most coveted striker in Europe at the moment having had his best season yet for Valencia whilst also still basking in the glory of being top scorer in Euro 2008. Strong, powerful and pacy, Villa is a complete striker at a peak age (27). Competition will be fierce in the race to sign him and to be honest it would be a surprise if he went anywhere other than Real Madrid.

6. Arjen Robben – Real Madrid – £7-20million.

Robben

Robben

Last season: League – 29 games/7 goals. Champions League – 6 games/1 goal.

A bit of curveball this in light of his injury record but there’s no doubting Robben’s ability when he’s fit. A pacy, direct winger with the ability to go past a man, Robben has always been susceptible to injury but the plus side is that he has Premier League experience with Chelsea. For two years he was a key player in their title winning sides, before Mourinho got fed up with him missing games. Fergie wanted to sign him before he went to Chelsea so what price a cheeky bid now. Still young (25) even though he looks 35 and his price should be relatively cheap given Real’s clearout of all things Dutch.

7. Franck Ribery – Bayern Munich – £50million+

Ribery

Ribery

Last season: League  – 25 games/9 goals. Europe – 8 games/4 goals.

The best player in the Bundesliga and one of the best players in the world. This is the man I think would be able to replace Ronaldo most in terms of goals, determination and overall impact. He can play both left and right as well as behind a striker and has ferocious striking ability, not least from distance. With the fees that Kaka and Ronaldo have gone for his price tag will be big, though if reports are to be believed he already may be too old for United. To be honest I think he’s still worth pursuing, just as out of all the suggested targets he is the one most at his peak. A big game player for a club who have plenty of big games.

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T.

Champions League Quarter Final Preview – Barcelona vs Bayern Munich

08/04/2009

In the last of our rather late Champions League previews we focus on the tie between Barcelona and Bayern Munich. This is the only game without English interest but it could well be the most explosive quarter final given it features the two top scoring teams this year. Both have 24 from eight games, though half of Bayern’s total came against sorry Sporting Lisbon in the last round. Managers Guardiola and Klinsmann met as players for Barca and Bayern in the Uefa Cup semi finals back in 1995/96 (back when it was worth winning) and the Champions League group stages in 1998/99 – Bayern won both the Uefa semi and both CL group games but I think it may be a different story this time.

Pep and Papin

Pep and Papin

 

Super Barca

Under new manager Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have been transformed this season. Key signings like Daniel Alves were made in the summer and star strikers Eto’o and Henry decided to stay and decided to get fit respectively. The result has been dominance at home and abroad with a frankly ridiculous 122 goals in all competitions this season. They are averaging a shade under three goals a game in the league while building up a six point lead at the top with a +61 goal difference. +61! In Europe they strolled through the group stages before dispatching Lyon with a 5-2 destruction  in the second leg at the Camp Nou. They have failed to score just twice in the league and have scored six goals in a game four times. Their defence isn’t bad (24 conceded in 29 league games, but 11 in 8 in Europe) so it’s not a case of we’ll just score one more than you, but the focus as always with a Barcelona team is to keep attacking so if anything the strikers have compensated for any defensive frailties.

If he can do that with his lips, think what his feet are capable of...

If he can do that with his lips, think what his feet are capable of...

 

Not so super Bayern

In contrast to Barcelona’s dominating ways, Bayern have struggled in the Bundesliga currently lying fourth, though just three points behind the leaders Wolfsburg. Those leaders handed them a 5-1 spanking on Saturday so Bayern don’t come into this game in the best of form. Grafite scored a lovely backheel that made their defence look silly. Their attack is pretty good and led by Ribery. Bayern have scored more than two a game domestically with 54 but their defence can be leaky with 36 conceded. Just seven clean sheets have been kept while three or more have been let in five times. Europe has provided relative comfort away from their domestic issues. They went unbeaten in the group stages (which included Lyon) and we’ve mentioned the record win over Sporting. 

How to wrongfoot three players...

How to wrongfoot three players...

 

Key men

Eto’o and Henry have scored over between them but Barca’s key man these days is Leo Messi. Arguably the best player in the world right now, he has scored 30 times for Barca this year. He will look to attack the Bayern defence from the right wing but has to ability to be effective anywhere in the front third. He’ll be ably supported by Dani Alves who will run up and down the right touchline all night long and Xavi who will look to control things from the centre of midfield.

Bayern meanwhile have their own genius winger in Franck Ribery. Him playing well is the key to Bayern getting anything from this game and the Frenchman will look to continue his good recent form in which he scored both times in France’s pair of 1-0 wins over Lithuania. Up front Podolski and Toni will look to aerially attack the Barca defence and test Victor Valdes, who let’s be honest is a bit rubbish.

King of the Bavarian castle.

King of the Bavarian castle.

 

Prediction

I simply can’t see anything other than a Barcelona win tonight. Going forward I think they’ll have too much for Bayern’s defence and it woudn’t surprise me to see them score three or even four goals. I think Bayern have enough going forward to score themselves and Toni and Podolski can certainly cause Marquez and Pique some problems. Ribery may well be better off starting on the right wing so he can attack Sylvinho rather than Daniel Alves but I imagine he will have licence to do as he pleases. If Bayern are still in it for the return leg at the Allianz Arena then it will be a job well done but I fear Barcelona could somewhat humiliate them this evening. I agree with the Football Guy, 4-1.

 

T.

Champions League Preview – Sporting Lisbon vs Bayern Munich

25/02/2009

A few years ago Bayern Munich were one of the most feared teams in Europe but more recently have struggled to convert their dominance in Germany into Champions League success. Since a run of finalists/semi-finalists/winners from 1999-2001, they have yet to go past the quarter finals since. Their decline has been so significant that last season they weren’t even in Europe’s premier competition at all, having finished 4th in the Bundesliga in 2006-07. Since then though they have spent big money on players like Franck Ribery and installed everyone’s favourite diver from the 1990’s Jurgen Klinsmann as manager in an attempt to get back to the glory days.

Yes! We've got a consolation.

Yes! We've got a consolation.

Sporting meanwhile haven’t won the Primeira Liga for eight years but have been runners up for the past three seasons thus comfortably qualifying for the Champions League. Such is the dominance of the big three clubs in Portugal, only two titles have ever been won by someone not named Porto, Benfica or Sporting. They have a talented young squad and players like Miguel Veloso and captain Joao Moutinho are coveted by many big clubs.

I think that's him celebrating

I think that's him celebrating

 

Form

Following a disastrous fourth place finish in 2007 (their lowest since 6th in 1994-95) Bayern set about rebuilding with a massive spending spree. Amongst the new signings were Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni and record buy Franck Ribery. They duly delivered the title last season but following the instalment of Klinsmann as manager in the summer they have once again struggled this year and currently find themselves in 4th place. Though they are only four points off the pace being set by Hamburg, they made their worst start in 30 years and have lost three of the last four. In contrast though the Champions League group stages saw them comfortably top Group F ahead of Lyon and go unbeaten in their six games. Either way it’s clear Klinsmann has yet to fully put his stamp on Bayern.

Sporting were in the same group as Barcelona and whilst they lost twice to the Catalans they comfortably won their other four games against Shakhtar and Basel. They lie in third place domestically and go into the match with average form despite having won their last two games. I think that having a big game against Benfica at the weekend will actually have helped them as they will have had the chance to adjust to a higher quality of opposition rather than going in cold against Bayern.

 

Key players

Bayern will look to star player Ribery to create openings for Toni and Klose upfront. Though he only has three assists in the league the league this season he has been fouled 66 times, by the far the most of any Bayern player. This would indicate the opposition try to take him out before he’s in a position to do any damage. This is perhaps only moderately successful as he has scored six times too. The two strikers have quite a formidable partnership, so much so that Lukas Podolski is leaving Bayern for Cologne this summer in order to get some first team football. In addition to both having nine league goals, Polish born Klose already has five Champions League goals to his name too. Sporting will have to be wary of his aerial presence as well as Toni’s physical style and come hither eyes.

He'll get booked for that...

He'll get booked for that...

Sporting will look to try and control central midfield through the aforementioned Veleso and Moutinho and then hope that Liedson can feed on the service provided by former Barcelona player Fabio Rochemback and Russian Marat Izmailov. If he can’t then they will be relying on Spurs flop Helder Postiga. The less said about that the better.

 

The call                                                                                        

I think this tie could be quite entertaining with a few goals in it. Sporting will look to try and get a lead at home to then defend at the Allianz Arena, and will be confident of scoring past a Bayern defence which has conceded 30 times in just 21 league games. Bayern’s saving grace is that they have several players capable of getting a goal out of nothing, none more so than Ribery.

Though Sporting have conceded only 14 in 19 games domestically, I suspect that is more a reflection on the weakness of the Portuguese league than the strength of their defence. Barcelona put five past them in Portugal and though Bayern are not on the same level they should provide a sterner test than most teams Sporting have faced so far this season. The Germans seem to play with more freedom in Europe as there isn’t the weight of expectation to win every game that comes in the Bundesliga. They only let in four goals in the group stage and beat Lyon away which is something Barcelona couldn’t manage last night. They may well lose 2-1 tonight but I back them to overturn any deficit in the second leg.

I hope they use energy saving lightbulbs...

I hope they use energy saving lightbulbs...

 

 

T.


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