Tag Archives: Liverpool

The Crystal Ball for the upcoming season

This is what I sent to one of my buddies on June 5 as a first look at the CH12 crystal ball:

Ronaldo to Madrid by end of month.
Ibra to Barca.
Ribery stays at Bayern or winds up in EPL at Chelsea or Manchester – either City or United
Eto’o to City or Inter
Indians or Kuwaitis own Liverpool before season starts.

So the first one happened – much to my dismay as a United fan. 

It seems like #2 and #4 are about to happen with a swap between Ibra and Eto’o

#3 is looks like its going to be Ribery staying at Bayern or going to Chelsea as Real won’t have the money once they buy Xabi.

That leaves the last one.  Don’t think that’s going to happen.

4 out of 5 is not bad, but was relatively easy.  The things I didn’t see coming – you couldn’t have made me believe that Terry would even be contemplating joining City; Michael Owen joining United; Juve would have the best transfer season in terms of addressing almost all their squad needs while maintaining the base continuity (more on this in a second); Real buying Benzema on top of Kaka and Ronaldo; Newcastle still not sold; Liverpool potentially losing their midfield core.

Further predictions right now:

Regardless of what United says, I think they will buy one big name player before the transfer season closes.  It will happen once the Ibra, Eto’o and Ribery moves are done.  Don’t quite know who else might be left, but I have to believe they are going to bring in someone like Ashley Young or a striker from the Bundesliga or Brazil.

Can’t see David Villa, David Silva and Mata all staying put at Valencia – I think Silva’s gone.  If I had to put my money on the Liga’s best young players to go after, they are Mata, Negredo, Capel and then Silva.  Love Lopez, the goalie from Villareal, too.

Adebayor will fold and sign for the money at City.  Forlan is going to wind up in the EPL.

Juve will win Serie A.  They have had hands down the best transfer season.  Diego at playmaker, with Melo now joining Momo Sissoko to provide the cover in midfield with the other four from Diego, Amauri, Trez (who will probably be gone), Giovinco, Del Piero, Iaquinta and Camoranesi.  If they get Grosso at left back, they are complete.  Chiellini and Cannavaro (yes, he’s a bit suspect but will probably do better in Italy that at Real as he has Momo and Felipe in front of him as opposed to Lass at Real) with Zambrotta at right back.  And of course, Buffon in goal.  That is as solid a squad as you are going to get.  They are my second favorite to win the Champions League as of today.

Ibra will be better for Barca than Eto’o.  He is big, can hold the ball up better and has a better long range shot than Eto’o.  And he is way craftier.  Watch him blossom on a squad where he isn’t the man.

IF Rooney doesn’t get hurt and IF he doesn’t get frustrated like he used to, he will be the best player in the world next season.  Hands down.

Ronaldo will do well in La Liga.  But not as well as people think.  And Real will not win either the Liga or Champions League.  Count on it.  They are better in the back with Albiol and Pepe, and Xabi is the key to the team being able to create from midfield, but Pellegrini’s teams are built on more grit than this team has.  Frankly, they have no chance if they don’t sign Xabi or a strong central midfielder.  Look at the success of Pellegrini’s teams – Riquelme and Senna/Cazorla were keys.  You have to have that and Sneijder is not it.

More later…

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Chelsea vs Barcelona: Semi final 2nd Leg Pre game prediction

I know what Barca did to Real Madrid on the weekend.  I know Messi is supposed to be the player of this generation.  I know Iniesta and Xavi are incredibly talented midfielders and Eto’o is one of the best strikers in the world.  But the only things that are matter are these:

Barca has the away goals shut out of Chelsea in its favor.  If Barca scores at least one goal, Chelsea needs to win the game.

Messi is going to be determined to show he is the best in the world after the performance Ronaldo put on today.

The game is being played at Stamford Bridge where the pitch feels smaller than the Nou Camp which means less room for Messi and company to play their football.

No Marquez and no Puyol in the middle.  That means Pique, who for all his game is a relative rookie, and Caceres in the middle with the mercurial Valdes behind them.

Eric Abidal got skinned by first Robben and then Ramos for the first goal.  Hiddink, if I were you, I’d start Kalou on the right.  Dani Alves on the right is at best an average defender.

Henry might not play due to a knee injury.

Hiddink is a scarily successful coach no matter the squad he has – and he has a tough, experienced, motivated squad playing at home.

Based on these factors, while I still think its going to be tight, I think Chelsea goes through.

Guus, this is what you need to do to win.  As I said in the prior post, (1) water the pitch well to slow Messi down.  (2) Start Kalou on the right and Malouda on the left.  Lampard in the middle.  Drogba up front.  Essien and Mikel holding midfielders.  If you go one down, then bring on Anelka up front in the second half for Mikel.  For now, Ballack needs to start on the bench.  (3) Make sure Cole doesn’t give Messi the sideline – funnel him inside and then have Essien pick him up.  Not Mikel who gives away too many fouls on the edge of the box.  If Messi tries to go to the middle as he did against Real Madrid, even better for you.  That’s when you have Essien man mark him with Mikel sitting in a holding position behind him.  (4) If Henry doesn’t start, I believe Keita or Busquets will play in holding midfield along with Yaya Toure to help out the two kids at the center of defense.  Resist the temptation to play Ballack even with the reduced Barca team speed if Henry is out.  Yes, he may be good for headers off set pieces, but that’s a luxury you can’t afford in this game.  (5) Make sure Chelsea pumps more diagonal balls into the box.  See how Barca was all at sea during the Real game with crossed balls – they scored both goals on balls like that.  Cech was wasteful with his long clearances straight to Valdes.  (6) Keep possession better than you did at Barca.  Don’t be so nervous.  Barca isn’t that strong at pressing.  You play in the EPL.  You can hang with Liverpool and Man U.  Why be so concerned about Barca’s pressure up the pitch.  Pass your way out.  You always have Drogba to hold the ball up.

Pep, this is what you need to do.  (1) If Henry is out, then play Iniesta down the left and start Keita and Yaya at holding mid behind Xavi, Eto’o and Messi.  Hold Chelsea first, give cover and confidence to Pique and Caceres and wait for Messi to deliver.  If it’s tough going, then bring on Bojan for Keita and push Eto’o wide.  (2) Score a goal.  In fact, score two.  Because I think that’s what you are going to need to win with the defense you have for this game. (3) Shave and get a decent tie.  (4) Start Messi going up the middle to confuse the crap out of Chelsea’s backline and then move him back to the right.

Prediction:  Chelsea 2 Barcelona 1

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Post match wrap

My bad on getting the first leg score of Pana vs Villareal wrong.  Didn’t interfere with the result as Villareal won through.  Other than that, was right on with the other three results.  Bayern vs Sporting was a farce and shows Bayern as fool’s gold.

Best football of the day was absolutely played by Liverpool.   Brilliant first 20 minutes, especially by Torres.  It’s going to be interesting vs Man United this weekend.

Chelsea deserved to win, but it was a squeaker at certain points, especially after Del Piero scored the penalty.  How about that Iaquinta call!  Essien is a bull and Drogba is a beast (even if I’m not a big fan of his).

Tomorrow’s games are going to be better…

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Liverpool vs Real Madrid: Pre Match Prediction

Still sticking with Liverpool eliminates Real in the second leg with a goalless or 1-1 draw.
Keys: Will Arbeloa be available at right back. If so, then they will have Mascherano and Xabi to playing holding – maybe even bring in Lucas – with Gerrard, Kuyt and Babel or Ngog. Torres off the bench if required. Real are going to have be patient else they will be two goals down overall with Liverpool hitting them on the counter. Best best for a first half goal is off a set piece. Get Mascherano on a yellow early and it will reduce his aggression which is key to getting a foothold in midfield. Also, can Liverpool handle Robben on the wing? I think they will as they will double up with a midfielder and the left back (probably Aurelio) on Robben.
Potential surprise matchwinner: Out of favor Van der Vaart or Schneider.
Observation: For an English team vs a Spanish team, there sure are a lot of Spaniards on the English team and more Dutch players on the combined squads than any other contingent.

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The Updated Crystal Ball

I was wrong on the Inter game, but the qualifier was that United wouldn’t have Evans or O’Shea. That said, here is a quick note with my predictions:

1. Liverpool eliminates Real in the second leg with a goalless or 1-1 draw.
2. Chelsea will squeak through against Juve on away goals as I believe they will lose 2-1 in the return leg.
3. Porto through over Atletico (after games with Barca and Real Madrid they are going to be spent), Bayern over Sporting (way out on a limb on that one!), Villareal over Pana (toughest one to pick but I just think Villareal will be better on the road in this one as they will be more solid at the back).
4. Arsenal is going to beat Roma in the second leg at the Olympic stadium. They are about to score a hatful of goals and I think some of it is going to happen in this match. At worst, they tie and go through.
5. While everyone thinks it will be Barca through to the next round, I feel like Lyon can cause an upset. If Barca’s lead is down to three or less in Liga by next weekend, I predict Lyon upsets Barca. If not, Barca wins through comfortably.
6. Finally United v Inter. This tie should have been over. I am shocked at how pedestrian Inter were at home. And I can’t believe Ronaldo didn’t score at least one of the six chances he had, not to mention Giggs’ one on goalie. That Cesar is awesome. However, United has to be worried about the away goal at OT. I still think United wins, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 2-0 United before Inter pulls one back and United has to sweat it out. I just don’t think Inter can keep United from scoring at home, so it’s only a question of whether Inter can score themselves. More importantly, it’s going to be based on who plays for United in the game and what the squad’s state is – go to my next thoughts before coming back to this.
7. If United beats Newcastle tomorrow, United will win the Premier League, no question. If United beats Fulham in the FA Cup on the weekend and if they don’t have to play one of the top 4 in the semis, then United will win the FA Cup. I personally think they will lose to Fulham or in the next round. More on that in a second. And if they beat Inter AND Newcastle and get knocked out before the finals of the FA Cup, they will win the Champions League. I think the Carling Cup OT is going to be a serious problem for United. It means Ronaldo and Scholes have to sit out the Newcastle game which begs the question of who starts at Fulham as the Inter game is coming up the following Wednesday. Also, with the disarray at right back, who is going to play Ibra when he floats to the left wing – O’Shea or Evans? I think SAF has to play Tevez with Welbeck at Fulham for the FA Cup along with the kids. Rest Giggs, Scholes, Carrick and Park. Play Fletch, Gibson, Tosic and Nani in midfield and Fabio, Evans, Vidic and Eckersley at the back. Forget the FA Cup if you want to progress in the Champions League.

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Stay or Go – What Should Cristiano Ronaldo Do?

I debated how to phrase the headline – as a definitive statement on what he should do or as a question. While it looks like a question, it is actually a rhetorical statement. The answer is so obvious that it doesn’t make any sense for me to drag out a pros and cons before coming down on one side. RONALDO – DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR MAMA: STAY WITH MANCHESTER UNITED. She’s right about Real Madrid being a dream – it’s a bad dream otherwise called a nightmare. He looks way better in red, doesn’t he?!

Why you should stay, you ask. Let me expound – in numbered, bulleted fashion no less.

  1. You are the king at United. This is your team, no matter the love for Rooney or Scholes or Giggs or Rio. Your team. At Real, Raul is king. And after him, it will be Casillas – and he’s only 27 and a goalie, so he will be around a long time. Oh, and he also just captained Spain to their first title in 44 years.
  2. You can be a United legend. While you didn’t come up the ranks at United like Scholes or Giggs, you came here at 18. That’s almost the same thing. To be a true legend at the club, if you join them early and stay for a long time, you are a legend. It will not be the same if you join Real Madrid. Are Zidane or Figo or Roberto Carlos or any of the other galacticos a legend? Yes, you are younger than they were, but if you think you will play at Real for 10 years, you are crazy. You won’t last long enough there. Why, you ask? Next point…
  3. You are the flavor of the election. Today, Calderon wants you to win his election. Once you are in the team, don’t you think the next guy contesting election is going to want his own galactico – maybe Bojan Krkic or the next freakishly talented Brazilian? At United, you will always be on a pedestal, much as Giggs and Scholes still are. Real is notoriously unstable because of the shenanigans that go on around the elections (Barca too). That’s why they keep changing coaches as well. Who is going to be your coach once Schuster doesn’t win the Champions League next season?
  4. You play on the best team in England and in Europe. It is a young team too. Other than Arsenal, there is no other young, world class team like it in the world. And Arsenal hasn’t won squat in four years. This team is the best team in the best league in the world. So, you are the player of the year in the best team in the world (and United will prove that by winning the World Club Cup later this year – BTW, you won’t play in that or the European Super Cup this year if you leave United) in the best league in the world – and a team that is poised to challenge (if not dominate) for a few years to come. And you want to trade that for a dream? Talk to Kobe for some pointers, son.
  5. Let’s talk about the platform a bit. First, the club. At United, Rooney and Tevez and the rest of the guys will do the tracking back that you don’t always have to do. You take the penalties and free kicks. No egos from guys like Rooney or Tevez or Rio or whoever. You really think that happens at Real? From players like Raul and Guti and Ruud and Robben? Forget what they say now. Wait till you are there. Ruud is going to take penalty kicks (especially after your recent two high profile misses, it is not a foregone conclusion that you get to push him aside for those) and Wesley Sneijder is going to take a fair number of free kicks. Then, the same thing will happen to you that happened to Torres. Defenders will not let you beat them with your pace as they won’t play up as much, won’t give you as much space and the midfield will be more compact as well so it is going to be harder for you to do your usual damage. The leagues are just different. The slower pace of La Liga is going to be to your disadvantage. Also, at United, you interchange with total freedom. Rooney, Tevez and whoever is playing attacking mid or opposite wing (Giggs or Nani) move around freely and let you move around freely. You come inside, switch wings, go crossfield, drop back, whatever. At Real, you will play like you do at Portugal. Except Real have players with even more ego and reputation. You will play more on the wing and have to serve balls to Ruud and Raul. Your goals will drop and so will your reputation. Trust me – we got a precursor at Euro 2008.
  6. The fans love you at United. Yes, they will love you at Real as long as you are doing well. Can you imagine white hankies waving at United? United fans embraced you after World Cup 2006 even though you were mischievous in your contribution to getting Rooney and England booted. The country even forgave you – somehow I don’t see that happening with a Portugese man in Spain.
  7. The blame will be on you if Real don’t win the Champions League within the next two years.
  8. Messi plays in La Liga. You don’t want to play in the same league as him since he will now be the showpiece at Barca and will come out of it as the player of the year in La Liga. Stop with the “I am a competitor; that’s a challenge I would relish” line. I am not saying he is better than you – just that he will come off better given his team situation relative to yours.
  9. Quieroz is at United and will probably be the next coach of United.
  10. Spain has just won Euro 2008. Casillas, Xavi, Cesc and Torres are going to be ahead of you in Spanish minds for a while – and God help you if they win the World Cup too. It’s more likely they win than England.
  11. You signed a contract. You are just one year in. I bet you United gives you more money, but at the level you are, does some more money mean more than winning and being the best?
  12. Karma is a mother. Loyalty seems to be an ugly word and yes, United and Fergie have thrown players out (see Becks and Ruud) after they were loyal to him and the club. However, this is ridiculous. The man protected you. The club and the fans embraced you. And you repay them like this?
  13. You are 23 years old. In two or three years you will enter your prime. Most United fans will not begrudge you your desire to move if you do so at that point. It would also be perfect reasoning as you can say it is contemporaneous with Fergie leaving. IF, that is, you decide it makes sense to move then. It makes no sense to do so now. Can you imagine how much of a bigger deal you would get if you solidified your United fan base and then moved after you had won a couple of World Player of the Year awards. It would be a much bigger move than doing so now.
  14. You will be joining a league where the rest of the teams have no real stars. Even Barca would have lost Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto’o and Gio Dos Santos. Contrast that with all the good players coming to the Premier League at Spurs, Everton, Portsmouth, Liverpool and Arsenal.

To be fair, let’s talk about some reasons to go:

The weather is better. Your girlfriend is Spanish. Playing for Los Blancos is a bit mythical. Fergie’s going to quit soon. It’s not going to be easy to top, let alone match, this season – on a personal and team level. The competition in England for the Premier League is going to be even more fierce. You will probably make more money from the image rights deal in Spain. You probably speak Spanish better than English. It’s your dream. Your mama wants you to go there.

The only thing that I have left to say is – if it’s your dream that’s great. Who says you have to wake up today to realize it – “wait a couple of years and then figure out if you want to live the dream or simply dream the dream while living the life you already have” CH12, July 1, 2008…

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