The days of top four certainty are over for English clubs. The top four that was once Arsenal, Chelsea, LIverpool and Manchester United has disspated with the demise of Liverpool and United. This year we have seen the resurgence of both sides wanting to be included in Europes elite competition. This year deciding who will be in the top four will not be a formality, with even Arsenal in doubt having been there every year under Arsene Wenger. For me there are five teams in contention with Chelsea and City having already secured their position fighting it out for the league title. What makes the battle for Champions league even more interesting is that 5 points splits the teams. I’ll not go into definitive positions but who’s in and who’s not getting the much coverted Champions League football.
Arsenal and Liverpool for me will be the teams that find themselves in the top four come the end of the season. Unfortuantely that means Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham will miss out and I’ll tell you why. Manchester United have been performing poorly all season but, have found themslves in and amongst the race for European football. In my opinion their luck is about to run out and rightly so, no team deserves to be this high up the table having yet to turn up properly. As for Southampton they began the season fantasically but, have began to peter off now. Most likely due to the volume of games and players tiring as Southampton lack a depth in squad. Tottenham have been fortuante enough to find themselves a goal machine in Harry Kane who has been superb all year. Had they put him in the team earlier in the season perhaps, they would be far closer to securing a second stint in the Champions League.
Arsenal under Wenger have never failed to secure a top four finish and this experience will help them as the games are closing in on single figures. Wenger has come under a lot of scrutiny since the defeat to Monaco but, going out of the Champions League next week might help their league objective. Liverpool are the form side in the whole of Europe, yet to taste defeat since the turn of the year in the league. The change in formation implemented by Brendan Rodgers has rejuvenated this squad who are aiming towards the heights of last year.
If you feel like the top four will look any different to how I have suggested it will, comment down below the team that will, who they’re replacing and why.
Since Chelsea won the champions league which was only recently English teams have been seen to be struggling against the larger sides in Europe but why? For a large period of time English teams dominated the European stage on occasion hosting the four teams in the semi finals. The sudden deterioration of the top quality European sides has come as a shock to a large number of people yet the expectation to succeed has continued and is this perhaps an outdated opinion.
Having watched English teams truly struggle for the past few years I have wondered why have we taken steps back when we were once so dominant and struck fear into the hearts of the opposing teams. Some people may question the quality of teams as a whole having gone down. For me this point can not be argued because as a nation we are one of the biggest traders being involved in high valued transfers every market, so the quality does exist. This then makes us question the maturity and experience of English clubs. Manchester City have one of the oldest starting line ups on average in the competition at around 27 years of age so that shows significant playing experience. Despite the premier league being arguably the most exciting league to watch because of all the goals, we must ask why there is such a large amount of goals being scored every game.
As a nation we have lost appreciation and respect for the art of defending. Having grown up watching the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in their prime, I have become accustomed to that solid centre back who is dependable and will make game saving tackles or clearances. Looking at the sides in the champions league this year across Europe the defensive qualities of the top teams is exceedingly better than ours. Lets take each of our four teams as an example of defensive immaturity. Arsenal have a world cup winner in Mertesacker who is lacking pace and any form of coordination when running back to his own goal. We then look at Chelsea who undoubtedly have the best defence in the Barclays Premier League yet have had to play a youngster called Zouma in place of an experience centre back like Cahill who was superb last year but, has struggled this year. Liverpool this year have finally managed to resolve the defensive frailties from last year now that they no longer have a Champions league campaign that saw no real leadership or desire to defend. As for Manchester City supposedly there best player and captain Vincent Kompany has been a mere shadow of himself.
While the defensive frailties still exist English teams will not progress far into the tournaments being heavily dependent on the attacking prowess they possess because simply other teams beat them on that basis as well.
As it always is the first night of Champions League football is an exciting but, important time for clubs it helps them get underway with the competition and settles the nerves. It is an especially special occasion for any concerned with Liverpool because it’s the clubs return after a five year gap which can only make the atmosphere in Anfield tonight more intense. For Liverpool fans there is nothing like a european night at Anfield anywhere in the world, the stands will be rocking. What most fans including myself will be looking forward to is when we sing You’ll Never Walk Alone because as a Liverpool player if that doesn’t get you fired up nothing will.
Liverpool will be hoping to get off to a good start and set a fast tempo today because as we all saw last season they could win games in the first 20 minutes if the pressing and passing were on point. Mario Balotelli will obviously play a large role in the team today with the absence of Daniel Sturridge but, more so because of his european and international experience.
Ludogrets will face a harsh time tonight if they are sluggish to close down and stop Liverpool having most of the possession as it is becoming more important to break up the play and stop any rhythm and momentum they may have. Due to how unknown Ludogrets are Liverpool may be in for a surprise but who can tell as european nights do often throw up the odd anomaly of games.
Frankly, Liverpool should walk away with all 3 points and be topping the group on goal difference, as Madrid face a tough task in the form of Basel who have shown their resilience against the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.
My respect for Jose Mourinho has gone out of the window with that last performance against Liverpool. We all know Chelsea have an array of Attacking talents many teams would dream of having; Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Schurrle to name a few which is only part of the reason I do not understand Jose Mourinho. I have spoken to several Chelsea fans who have said recent performances against Atletico Madrid and Liverpool have been outstanidng? to which I responded “you enjoy watching your team be completely outclassed by footballing talent and sitting in wait for the other team to attack”. Responses varied from “we won, didn’t we” and “The game panned out as we planned” responses such as these are one of many, many reasons I have a strong dislike for Chelsea and everything they are about.
The term parking the bus could never be more apparent, sitting in wait for 90 minutes is just a complete waste of Abramovich’s money, he would have found it a lot cheaper to spend the money he did on the players above on defenders, which they seem to be now. Understandable this was a good result for Chelsea but as a Liverpool fan, you would think they would show the respect to play against us toe to toe.
As a final word, I wish Mr Mourinho all the best in getting knocked out of the Champions League and coming third in the league.
The topic of football talk just lately has been largely around who will win the Barclay’s Premier League, up and down the country supporters have been debating who will eventually take the title. It’s time for you to have your say but first we need to evaluate the potential winners of the 13/14 season.
Arsenal were many people’s favorite before Christmas showing displays that could only be described as title winning. Throughout the team you could see a unity which has been lacking in previous years, this shows that the continuity within the club same staff, players and managers should be an ethos implemented by all clubs. In terms of the title challenge Arsenal have dropped off slightly; could this be due to pressure or the longevity of the season but, with no doubts in my mind will Arsenal still be pushing right to the last.
Chelsea under Mr Mourinho have been formidable winning at any cost, whether it be a scrappy 1-0 victory or just outclassing the opponents. Chelsea this season have been ruthless closing up shop after they managed to breech the opponents defenses usually resulting in a Eden Hazard goal. The young Belgian has been the bright spark for Chelsea who themselves have an array of attacking options. What has made them so successful this season is the partnership at the back between Terry and Cahill who have been superb stopping many of the leagues finest attackers.
Liverpool have been the the surprise package this season bearing in mind previous disappointments since the departure of Rafa Benitez. The allure of striking ability in the squad is unquestionable with possible the best strike partnership in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Liverpool have already surpassed their goals scored in one season with 7 games remaining which is proof of this seasons mantra “you score 4, we’ll score 5”.
City have been undeniable one of the most attractive teams to watch this season with captivating performances throughout exemplifying the importance of the league to the club. City easily have the most depth in their squad which is shown via 3 strikers all passing 20 goals in all competitions. City are in pole position with 2 games in hand over Chelsea and are 3 points behind meaning; if they win the games in hand they will go 3 points clear with all still to play.
Now it is time to cast your vote and let us see who you think will win the league.
Tonight Liverpool will be facing Sunderland at Anfield after a series of trips away from home for the reds which has seen them go on an unbeaten streak which has coincided with Daniel Sturridge’s rich vain of form and Luis Suarez’s return to his goal scoring ways after 5 games without a goal which is a drought for him.
Sunderland will be going to Anfield with a weakened side with the loss of Fabio Borini who is on loan from Liverpool which is unfortunate as he has been a good source of goals for the black cats who are in struggling times fighting it out towards the bottom of the table. Sunderland have had a difficult season with the loss of a manager who bought eleven new players who still seem not to have settled in the league yet, especially considering it takes a season or two to aclimatise to the pace of play in the premier league.
The game will be an intriguing encounter bearing in mind that both sides have their own motives for winning the game. Liverpool will want to extend their unbeaten run which will help them in the title challenge with a game in hand closing within one point of the league leaders if they get a win. Despite Liverpool’s intentions to win the league Sunderland will be looking to the spoil the party and wheel away with a point which will take them one step closer to securing their premier league status.
My prediction is a 4-0 home win for the reds putting them within a point of Chelsea at the top.
The question on many football supporters and pundits lips are can Liverpool really sustain a real title challenge with the remaining games they have to play. With the continuous denial of the 3 main contenders managers it is becoming a very frustrating time as a Football follower to make any real sense of the interviews that particular managers give. According to Jose who is as ever playing mind games with everyone Chelsea are not the favourites for the title despite the extensive wealth of title-winning experience in the team. Jose has on numerous situations shifted the attention of the media towards the other blues in the title race. Manchester City currently have 3 games in hand and have a much superior goal difference in comparison to Chelsea but also face a less so tolerable time when you look at the fixture list with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool still to play. Despite the games in hand Jose will still be a lot happier than City boss Pellegrini as he currently has the points on the board which only puts more pressure on the City players who are not strangers to such pressure winning their first ever Premier league title on the final day with a final flourish from Aguero.
In and amongst all of the back and forth claims between the two financial heavyweights of the league, Liverpool have been the dark horse going under the radar winning games and beating their total goals scored in a season already with 7 games still left to play. Liverpool on 17 occasions this season have scored 3 or more in 20 of their wins which is a ridiculous amount of goals for a team who last year didn’t lack creativity but the final part of the game hitting the back of the net. The obvious difference being this season that Liverpool have got the prolific strike force of Sturridge and Suarez who between them currently have 47 goals which has significantly contributed to the team. The two front men for Liverpool can go out and win games themselves which is a considerable difference between them City and Chelsea’s forwards they are consistently scoring and winning games for the side without needing the aid of goals from other areas of the field,
Are Liverpool real title contenders, I would say so but the pivotal games coming up like Spurs, City and Chelsea will probably decide who the champions are.