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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chelsea vs Tottenham - Battle draws closer to an end...

If this game was played 2 months back Chelsea wouldn't have been given a chance to win with their distratous run and Tottenham would surely have been favourites to win this London derby with their fiery performances. But right now Chelsea are in hot form and on Manchester United's trail for the premier league title with 5 wins and 1 draw in their last 6 PL games. It's interesting to see who gains advantage as this derby could decide the fate of not only Chelsea and Tottenham but also ManU when they play Arsenal tomorrow as a win will get them closer to the title and virtually not give either Chelsea or Arsenal a sniff unless there will be some late drama.

Tottenham will be desperate for a win as dropped points will surely not help their cause for a fouth place finish and the lucrative Champions League qualifying spot. Dumped out of Champions league by Real Madrid, just 8 points from the available 18, surely point to the fact that Tottenham have to pull the rabbit out of the hat to win at Stamford Bridge. Ancelotti might start with Drogba and Torres upfront and with the later breaking his goal scoring duck against West Ham last week one can expect more to come from him.

 Will the Blues go a step ahead in achieving the impossible or will Spurs fulfill their dreams of playing one more Champions League. Ancelotti vs Redknapp - Who will have the last laugh ? To be decided in sometime.

Chelsea vs Tottenham: My Prediction : 2-1

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Clásico jousts set to begin..Bring it on!

Real Madrid, the team which is one of the richest, successful and influential club both in Spain and all over the world seemed to be in disarray till the beginning of this season. Their last league title coming 3 years back, not reaching the Champions League quarters for over 7 years and not able able to win the Copa del Rey for a long time were enough reasons for the Real Madrid management to bring one of the most shrewd and magical coaches in the world to the Spanish capital and it was none other than Jose Mourinho. And the turnaround is the reason why the El Clásico is going to take place not once but four times in the next 18 days and it surely is gonna get as exciting as one can expect.

April 16th 2011 - Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona - La Liga 2nd Leg
April 20th 2011 - FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid  - Copa del Rey Final
April 27th 2011 - Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona  - UEFA Champions League 1st Leg
May 3rd 2011 - FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League 2nd Leg

With the arrival of Mourinho the master tactician, Real Madrid have shown signs of the successful past even though they are some distance behind Barcelona in the league and were drubbed 5-0 when they travelled to the Nou Camp earlier in the season.  However Los Galacticos might want want to return the favour when Barcelona travel to the Spanish capital tonight. Four games in 18 days between the same teams might sound boring, but not for this one. The rivalry built between both these teams over the years is still alive and in recent times Barcelona have overshadowed Madrid a great deal which is why Real Madrid would like to get even.

Barcelona seem to be unstoppable with the likes of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta in their ranks and Madrid would need their very own Christiano Ronaldo to step up to the plate. Madrid recent loan signee Adebayor will surely play an important part along with Frenchman Karim Benzema if Madrid are to fulfill their dreams. Their recent destruction of Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League will boost their confidence a great deal. Mourinho might use the first two games as practice to fuel Madrid 's ambition of winning the Champions League which has become their Holy Grail in recent times. Though he might not take the pitch his influence will be forever felt in all the four games as he walks down the sidelines writing a script to destroy the mighty Catalans.
Neither team is particularly keen on defending, which means we're likely to see a glut of goals. That's sweet music to every fan's ears. And as former Barcelona full-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst puts it
"The whole world stops to watch this match; that shows just how huge it is."

Let the ''four game series" begin.....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Can CavaNapoli do it?

Edinson Cavani- What a revelation he has been! He hasn't just scored 25 goals in his first season at Napoli, but has also carried the San Paolo team on his shoulders and look where they are now, sitting second with just three points behind Milan. Naturally, all the neutrals want Napoli for the Scudetto. Just when SerieA was bored of seeing Inter win it year after year, add to that all the talk of serieA in decline having already lost the 4th Champions League spot to Bundesliga, this is a welcome change all the serieA followers were waiting for. Why not, Napoli is also one of the most attractive and attacking sides (unlike Lazio who are 4th at the moment and play very very boring football) in serieA. Another side equally entertaining to watch this season has been Udinese, driven by the goals of Di Natali and skills of Alexis Sanchez, who are 3 points behind Lazio at 5th. And thats what precisely I am trying to point out. A mouth watering clash- Napoli vs Udinese on Sunday night would definitely be the match of the week in serieA.

What is interesting about this match is that it puts two teams against each other, both of them who have seen a lot of success recently with their wing play. The credit to Napoli's rise in Italian football has a lot to do with their coach Walter Mazzari as well. His 3-4-1-2, or sometimes 3-4-2-1 depending on the opposition, has made good use of the wing backs Christian Maggio and Andrea Dossena. However, Hassan Yebda has been preferred recently instead of the wonderful Walter Gargano at the holding role for reasons unknown (On-field issues or Off-field??). It would be an exciting prospect to see this team play in the Champions League next year after they lit up the early stages of Europa League with the brilliance of Cavani. It is rather unfortunate that Italian teams still tend to take the Europa League lightly, as it showed in Napoli's game against Villarreal in the first knockout round. After having completely dominated the yellow submarines, both in possession and control in the first leg, they went to Spain and left Cavani on bench to rest him ahead of their match against Milan then. They lost in Spain after hitting the post 3 times and eventually lost the following weekend against Milan too. A bad case of not grasping the right opportunity when it knocks!

The success story of Udinese started with their formation
changing to 3-5-2. Their creative spark, Alexis Sanchez performed miracles once he was used as a classic NO.10. This made him use his pace and skills to beat the defence in the centre and supply more to their center forward Antonio Di Natali. It gave them the results and now Di Natali is the top scorer of the league with 26 goals.

So this match could be about whose wing backs are better and also set up a duel between Cavani and Sanchez. All the eyes of the big European clubs will be on Sanchez as he has already attracted a lot of attention from them. He has even expressed once of his love for the Premier League.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

End of Spur's Dream European Run?

Sadly this could be true for all London fans. But when the initial draw was called out did anyone imagine that Spurs would go so far. If someone did he would be a mighty genius.  But right now Tottenham's dream of playing in the European Championship seems to be over unless they pull off something extraordinary to overcome the 4 goal deficit when the face Real Madrid at White Hart Lane.

English football always had 4 regulars for Europe in Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool for quite a few years now. But with Liverpool's decline Spurs upped their game to clinch 4th spot and eventually qualify to the main stage with a win over Swiss minnows 'Young Boys'. It didn't look good when they drew their 1st game against Werder Bremen and then were 4 goals down against Inter Milan in the first 35 minutes. But one 'Superman' by the name Gareth Bale showed the world what he and his team could do by scoring 3 goals in the 2nd half and bring the deficit to one goal. A defeat ultimately, but was for the good as Inter didn't stand any chance against Spurs when they travelled to White Hart lane and eventually Spurs topped the group which was considered to be a tricky one. Round of 16 couldn't get more spicier with a draw against Inter's bitter rivals AC Milan. Harry Redknapp's men showed grit, courage and smartness to overcome 7 time European champions over the two legs to set up a tie with 9 times European Champions Real Madrid.

Spurs at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid were expected to show a great deal of character but were torn apart by Mourinho's men in white. At no point in time did Spurs show the persistance and commitment they displayed in the earlier games. Peter Crouch did no favours to himself and his team by getting sent off in just the 15th minute for a 2nd bookable offence leaving his team with no chance to fight. Real Madrid grew in confidence after reaching their first quarter final in 7 years. For a team of such great tradition to not be in reckoning at the decisive moments of the championship for so long has been a shame and they would have been relieved after scoring 4 on the night and denting Spurs' chance of progressing.

All is not lost for Tottenham if they can play out of their skins to overcome the 4 goal deficit. However it is easier said than done. Real Madrid wouldn't want to miss out an oppurtunity to meet their Spanish rivals in the semis and a chance to go on and win the title. Can Redknapp bring out the genius in him against a team of great players? Or will 'The Special One' have the last laugh. The answer isn't far away.

The mood at the Veltins-Arena, Schalke's homeground will be quite different compared to the one at the Benabeu. Schalke after going down a goal in the very 1st minute came back to score 5, catching the defending champions off beat. The 2nd leg is not going to get easy for Inter and if they have to be given a chance to defend their title they have to play out of their skins. Considering they have Etoo, Milito, Sneijder in their ranks they can still consider to be in the hunt but they surely have a mountain to climb. If they can do that it would be one of the most memorable comebacks in the history of the championship taking them ahead to a mouth watering clash against ManU. 90 minutes for Schalke to hold on and 90 minutes for Inter to force a comeback and defend their title. In the end it sure is gonna be happy 90 minutes only for one of them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Delight for Liverpool, Misery for Manchester City

Carroll brace helps Liverpool rout Manchester City

I sat down to write a post about Chelsea's game against Manchester United the next day and I realize, there's a game tonight. Liverpool vs Manchester City. And could I miss this one, definitely not.

As a neutral enjoying this one was so much fun. No pressure when a goal was scored and when a chance was missed. It was the Red's who broke their shackles eventually wrapping up the game by a 3 goals scored in the first half courtesy Andy Carroll and Dirk Kuyt and treating me to some fine display of football.

Considered to be the one of the fiercest strike partnerships in England following their move to Anfield this January, a lot is still being expected from Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez and neither one of them are ready to disappoint. Both of them are in their infancy at Liverpool playing their 4th and 6th game respectively and Suarez has already been among goals. And it was Carroll's turn to prove that he worth each penny paid by Liverpool, the most expensive British's footballer of all time. And it took just about 13 minutes for him to open his Liverpool account after Meireles strike was blocked by Kompany, a ripping low half volley went past Joe Hart who had no chance to stop it. What a sweet strike!! On the other hand Manchester City's problems compounded when Tevez left the field with what seems to be a hamstring which might keep him out of the FA cup semifinal clash against Manchester United.

Liverpool kept up the pace and were again rewarded when their persistence to keep the ball even in the crowded opposition box paid off when Kuyt slid in a low finish, despite several blocks by the City defenders off Liverpool players, making it 2-0. This would have delighted Dalglish and compounded Mancini's problems. And even before City could realize the poor state they were in, a left wing cross by Meireles was headed in by classic Carroll beyond Joe Hart. It took only 94 seconds for Liverpool to score their 3rd after they had scored their 2nd and by now Mancini must have been scratching his head, realizing that come May, he might be sacked.

2nd half was more of attack and defend for Man City while Liverpool kept moving forward in search of the 4th goal. It was only some alert goal keeping by Joe Hart which prevented Liverpool from scoring more goals. David Silva came in for James Milner on 58' and it was difficult to understand what purpose Mancini was serving by having Silva on the bench and substituting Milner who by far was a better player on the night. 90 minutes didn't come at a better time for Man City as they were defeated by only 3 goals.

Carroll was outstanding and so was the whole Liverpool team. They showed great character to comeback from last week's defeat against West Bromich Albion. The fans were seen backing the players each time they touched the ball especially young John Flanagan who made his first team debut playing at right back helping his team keep a clean sheet and was impressive throughout the game. On the other hand for Manchester City when the whole team tries to do their best there is one guy who can undo all the good work. Mario Balotelli, the 20 year old bad boy who is in a team which wants to win, and play at the highest level. His work ethics, his discipline are non-existent and he playing along with a player of Tevez's class who gives his 100% all the time is a shame. When at Inter Mourinho said that he didn't want this bloke around the sidelines too. The Special One also said: "The guy has incredible qualities, but sometimes does not know how to use his brain." Such comments can only make one realize that this guy is not gonna help any team unless he learns to use his talent in the right way.

Liverpool were rampant while the result could be damaging to Manchester City's European dreams. With Tottenham in sniffing distance the game against Spurs at the fag end of the season could be yet another 4th place decider just like last season where Spur's nicked City to play in the Europe where they have gone a long way. For under-pressure Mancini these seem to be the last two months in England and his exit seems inevitable following City's failure to meet the ambitious expectations of the club's Arab owners. Even a win over bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA cup semis doesn't seem to guarantee a safe haven in England. Time to pack your bags, Mr Mancini and time for Liverpool to reward Dalglish with a permanent deal. Shouldn't be far away!!!

Can Chelsea get rid of their Blues??

21 May 2008 somewhere around 22:00 BST : Terry line's up to take a penalty against Edwin van der Sar. The moment all Chelsea fans were praying a long time. The time when the European Championship was only one kick away from Stamford Bridge. Terry lost his footing when planting his standing foot by the ball, and, even though Edwin van der Sar was sent the wrong way, Terry's mis-hit effort hit the outside of the right post and went wide, sending the trophy from London to Manchester.

12 April 2011 at 19:45 BST : Chelsea are in no better position. The earlier one was a finale and this is a two leg affair and Chelsea are already one step behind courtesy Wayne Rooney ' The Wonder Kid'. And it's no easy job for Chelsea to go to Old Trafford and not only erase the deficit but also go one step ahead and win it if they are to fulfill their dream of winning an European Championship.
My Chelsea team for tomorrow's game

Chelsea, after having a horrendous mid season are looking like they are getting back on track. But to be fair and honest they are no where near the lightning form they showed at the beginning of the season. They struggled to find the back of the net in the 1st leg at Stamford Bridge and they need to work real hard if they are to score a goal against the likes of Vidic, Ferdianand and Evra. They have already done that by winning against Manchester United after going a goal down in the first half in the Premier League. And doing it would be sweet revenge for that loss in Moscow 3 years ago only if Chelsea can go ahead and win the final.

One step at a time though, it's a $50million question for Carlo Ancelloti. Should he start with Fernando Torres? And the answer should be NO. Torres hasn't been even close to the form he was when he left Liverpool and playing him would be no less than ending your dreams. Drogba's physical presence should be there right throughout the game as it lifts's the whole team and also gives the opposition jitters of having to stand against him. The rest of the squad select themselves, unless Carlo Ancelloti decides to surprise everyone.

This seemingly is the only game  among others where the final result is not yet decided. Can this game live up to the built up expectations? Can Chelsea go a step ahead in fulfilling their dream or will it be another sour season? Will we see Carlo Ancelloti as Chelsea's manager next season or will it be a new man incharge? Tomorrow's game might answer most of the unanswered questions.

Shaktar Donetsk have been the surprise package in Europe but surely their dream has to end here. Barcelona massacred them at Nou Camp by scoring 5 on the night and the lone 'away goal' may not be of any help to Shaktar. Barcelona have 90 minutes to ease their way in to the semis while Shaktar have 90 minutes to overcome a 5-1 deficit the chances of which are 'very small'. Guardiola must have been trying to be very modest when he said "the tie is not already won". It's a David vs Goliath situation but Barca are in no mood to do any favours to 'David'. How many more will Barcelona score or do we have a twist in the tale? I don't believe so. It's time waiting to proclaim the winners. Till then ENJOY RESPONSIBLY...

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Goes Around, Comes Back Around

30th March 2010
Its business end of the season , yes the squeaky bum time is on and Manchester United are roaring on all the fronts with gusto. Its a chilly night in the Allianz Arena as United are trying to close out the game to take a 1-1 scoreline with them to Old Trafford. Man of the moment Wayne Rooney has the ball, and he gets robbed off it, as he goes down in pain Bayern launch an attack which results in a winner, meanwhile Rooney rolls on the floor in agony as he badly damages his ankle, getting injured at possibly the worst part of the season, when his side needed him the most, a side that he had been carrying all along by himself for most of the season. The rest as we say is history as United lost to a wonder goal from Robben in the return leg and then an offside Didier Drogba goal won Chelsea the title at Old Trafford. Dreams were shattered as first United and then England folded up in the presence of a shadow of a player that Wayne had been before that fateful night.
2nd April 2011
Upton Park, a resurgent West Ham capitalize on the uncharacteristic errors of the United defence as they race into a 2 goal lead. Come second half, Sir Alex pulls of a master stroke, as he switches Giggs to left back, brings on Hernandez and the revival begins. Rooney starts seeing much more of the ball as he scores a hat-trick in 14 mins to drag back United into the title race and it proves crucial as Arsenal surrender meekly to Blackburn at the Emirates.
6th April 2011
United produce a masterful display at Stamford Bridge to beat Chelsea for the first time in 9 years with a Rooney goal. With the ball at his feet there were gasps in the crowd as they very well knew that the player that had been caged since 30 March 2010 had been unleashed. He was all over the park, tracking back to cover his full backs,defending corners, forming a midfield triangle with Carrick and Giggs when united did not have the ball, picking his teammates with pin point cross field trademark passes. He was instrumental in the win.

United have been nothing short of electric lately with as their talisman has roared back into form at precisely the right moment when his side need him the most. United were doing with the goals of the skillful Berbatov in the first half of the season, Hernanadez had been scoring the winners at crucial moments but a fit and firing Rooney is a completely different player altogether. And when he roars back into form and plays like this you really stand up and take notice. With a strong backline and now a resurgent midfield with Rooney playing in his favored position behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 things are looking quite bright. This side in this kind of form can stand up against any team right now, United have been steadily shifting gears and are in the top one right now as they chase their treble dream , Wembley awaits, quite how many finals they end up playing in, will define their season.


Daily mail is running a vociferous campaign against disgraceful behavior towards the referees and have played a pivotal role in awarding of the punishment to Wayne Rooney for his verbal f-word tirade in front of the camera. Then quite possibly how do they explain that they are not encouraging debating the decisions taken by a ref during a game by allowing Graham Poll to write a column in which he judges the correctness of the pivotal decisions that the refs take over the weekend is something very difficult to understand
This Barca side don't quite seem as invincible as the world makes them out to be, certainly not without influential skipper Puyol marshalling the defence line at the back. With him injured there is a wave of optimism sweeping through the Bernabeu as his Specialness eagerly awaits the upcoming ElClasico s with a scent of revenge.
The comparison between the on-field demeanors of Dhoni and Rooney is preposterous to say the least. The adrenalin rush that you get while playing football is unparalleled to one you get while playing cricket. Emotions running high, fans screaming, the abuses being hurled from the touchline, the immense pressure and it gets to you on a bad day and thats what led to the f-word outburst in front of the camera. The atmosphere that a derby game at Anfield generates when Manchester United come visiting is unparalleled to anything in this world.