Friday, November 30, 2007

Transfer Rumour Round-up

Well its a transfer of sorts - The Independant is reporting Mourhino has asked the FA to 'make a concrete offer'. They also report his agent alleging contact from the FA through middlemen hours after McLaren's sacking. No doubt the whole thing will descend into farce as Brian Barwick bumbles along from one candidate to another until he reaches his 'first' (& last) choice of Sammy Lee!

Michael Owen is yet again being linked with a move away from Newcastle this time to anchester City or Wigan. For me that really would signal the downward trend for a top quality player. Two years ago he was choosing between Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle. Now its Man City and Wigan. I really cant believe he would leave Newcastle for Wigan! Seems the constant injuries mean the amount of managers willing to take a chance on him is rapidly dwindling. If anyone can come back from this and relaunch his career its Michael Owen and I seriously hope he does!

Chelsea are hoping to tie up a deal which would bring Valencia defender, Miguel to Stamford Bridge and Paulo Ferreira leave for the Mestalla according to the Mirror.

The wanderer that calls himself Nicholas Anelka is hoping to jump ship again. This time Manchester City are hoping he wont notice they're not in the Champions League and pack his bags for the short trip.

Elsewhere Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea are keeping tabs on Steven Taylor's impasse in contract talks at Newcastle. The Chronicle is reporting he's been offered a double your money deal that still leaves him as one of the clubs low earners.

Fergie is preparing to spend big with other peoples money again. One or both of Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutino of Sporting Lisbon are in his sights with a reported 30 mill for the both being mooted.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Champions League Round Up

Chelsea joined Man Utd and Arsenal in the next round with a great 4-0 win at Rosenberg while Celtic are still in the hunt with a late 2-1 win at home to Shakhtar Donetsk. Milan also qualified with a 1-1 draw at Benfica.

Elsewhere there were shocks for Madrid going down 3-2 at Werder Bremen and Lazio losing 2-1 at home to Olympiakos.

Liverpool kept their hopes alive with an eventual easy win home to group leaders Porto 4-1.

Liverpool 4-1 Porto - Liverpool Ease To Victory

Liverpool ultimately had too much for Porto and won with ease by the games end. It was not all Liverpool's way though with Lofrinda Lopez equalising Fernando Torres headed opener and a resolute Porto side often comfortably holding on until the 78th minute.

Porto's equaliser dented Liverpool's confidence and they rapidly lost their way with the game descending into a stale frustrating affair. Benayoun, Torres and Gerrard were catching the eye for Liverpool while Voronin and Babel looked neat in their play but weren't creating anything of note. Babel in particular was simply not going past people and looked short on confidence at times.

The second half began like the first ended with an increasingly anxious Liverpool running out of ideas. The introduction of Crouch and Kewell ultimately won Liverpool the match with the Portuguese holding out until the 78th minute. Kewell picked the ball up in his own half, ran at the Porto backline and threaded the ball through to Torres who turned his man, held off a challenge and finished superbly into the far corner.

After that Liverpool ran out easy winners with a handball from Stepanov giving Steven Gerrard the chance to seal the win from the spot. Peter Crouch added a late late fourth from a Gerrard corner.

Benitez will be feeling a relieved and happy man after Liverpool flirted with disaster for long periods of this game. He will also have been buoyed by the 5,000 strong protest before the game by fans angry at speculation the clubs American owners were to sack him.

The group is now incredibly tight with Besikta's victory meaning that all four teams have a chance of going through.

Fifa And Uefa have a pop at the Premiership

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have being having a pop at the Premiership. Platini has been complaining there is not enough English players or coaches in England's top division. He's quoted as saying: "I don't like the fact that it is too open [in allowing in foreign players]." Well theres' not much love for Mr Platini in England since he's entered football politics. His recent attempt to give the cup-winners a Champions league place bit the dust and before that he had his eye on reducing the number of entrants from England too. I suspect the Premier League clubs will be doing all they can to undermine him given his hare-brained ideas. He neglects to mention what playing in England did for French players that ultimately won the 2000 European Championship and that got to the World Cup Final in 2006. Henry, Pires, Gallas, Petit, and Viera, to name but a few came of age in the Premiership.

That wily old coot Sepp Blatter has also been having a go at the Premiership, claiming its coverage stifles local leagues citing South Africas afternoon coverage of the EPL as a case in point. He admits that there is little he can do. You're damn right Sepp. This is the world we live in - you can watch what you want, when you want all over the world. If he thinks its bad now wait 5 years until we are all watching internet TV via super-fast broadband!! Leagues around the world will just have to adapt cause nothing is stopping the telecommunication juggernaut!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rafa Benitez latest

Its been a another busy day on the Rafa Benitez front. Reports from such luminary writers as the Mirror report half the team will walk out if Rafa is pushed. Others suggest the whole row has built up out of nothing more than Rafa's paranoia (Tribal Football & the Daily Mail).

Slightly worrying are the reports that the Javier Mascherano deal is now on hold due to the uncertainty. If this is the case then this really needs to be sorted as soon as possible. Letting him go to another club when all he wants to do to Liverpool would be criminal. The Liverpool Echo is reporting that he is now happy to bide his time and see how the Rafa situation pans out before committing.

Meanwhile Arsene Wenger has backed Rafa and given a thinly veiled attack on the American owners all but accusing them of not knowing enough about what it takes to get success in football.

Seems to me the whole situation is delicately balanced and the Lord only knows how it will pan out. Given Benitez's continued public carping the odds would seem to be in favour of him getting the boot, however this must be counterbalanced by his peace offering, the payoff required, the rebuilding that would be required and the massive discontent from players and fans if he goes.

I have a gut feel that he will be there until the end of the season with an uneasy peace settling on Anfield. As for after that I suspect Rafa could be out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rafa facing battle to save his job - Reports

The Liverpool Daily Post is reporting that Rafa Benitez is facing a battle to save his job with a 'growing belief [inside Anfield] his tenure is drawing to a close". When the mucks flying round like this I tend to dismiss most of it but when it comes from the Liverpool local papers I tend to listen.

Not sure he's for the chop just yet as theres lots of posturing on both sides and interestingly they report Rafa's relationship with Rick Parry is at a low ebb. Given this he is looking increasingly isolated in the Board Room and theres only one outcome when that happens.

This really is so frustrating and sad. It will put the club back another two years if someone else comes in and surprise surprise asks for money and time!

Anfield in Crisis - Rafa on the brink??

What is going on at Anfield? I really thought (& hoped) this would die down but then Rafa goes and sticks the boot in again. It really was unwise to continue carping in public. Surely the better thing to do would be to just let things calm down and try to rebuild the relationship with Hicks and Gillett. That he hasn't is very worrying - it indicates he either thinks he is in a strong position to challenge them (not sure you are Rafa!) or that he can no longer work with them and is out to make life very difficult for them. Either way all very worrying for a Liverpool fan!

Seems to me what Rafa wants is a bit unreasonable - to have command over all transfers without reference to the board etc is unrealistic. No board in the land would give unfettered control on transfers to the manager. There will always be a limit on what the board want to spend and it is invariably less than what the manager wants. Even Fergie has disagreements with the Glasers in the early days

It is all pointing to an exit for Rafa though there is one saving grace. Rafas describing the row as not serious and due to a misunderstanding of the European transfer market which suggests he wants to build bridges. I hope he can!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Debacle at the Toon as Reds stroll to win

The pressures building on Big Sam as the Gallowgate watch all their expectations implode yet again. Newcastle in this game were simply woeful. They lacked fight, organisation and any semblance of an attack. Liverpool strolled round St James Park without really getting out of second gear. That said Liverpool just don't quite convince as title chasers. They just don't have the fluency of either Manchester United or Arsenal and Rafa Benitez has still to find the right blend from the wealth of talent available.

Liverpool were well marshalled at the back with Carragher and Hypia easily dealing with anything Newcastle could produce.
Momo Sissoko had an edgy start but gradually came into form while Lucas, Gerrard and Kewell also caught the eye as Liverpool's midfield completely dominated. Up front Fernando Torres scuffed chance after chance. Its something I've noticed about him - he scores a few but scuffs a lot and in this game he really should have scored three while Dirk Kuyt worked as hard as ever linking the play well.

Liverpool took the lead through a Gerrard thunderbolt then added a second a minute into the second half with Kuyt scoring off the knee from Hypia's flick on. Substitute Ryan Babel added the third combining well with Gerrard to finish off a flowing move.

Newcastle on this form look relegation material. Considering the quality even this depleted side had they showed little heart or belief. They really should take a long hard look at themselves or for that matter Wigan. I watched Arsenal/ Wigan as well and Wigan for eighty odd minutes matched Arsenal through sheer grit, determination and organisation. Emile Heskey showed aggression that may have saved his Anfield career, unfortunately accidentally injuring Theo Walcott in the process.

A bad week for Big Sam just got a whole lot worse while Liverpool will be feeling a lot better after a traumatic week behind the scenes

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Premiership Round-up

Chelsea are set to be with John Terry again but Didier Drogba is set to miss out with a knee injury. Cech, Ferreria and Carvalho are all still out. Shouldnt make too much difference against Derby!!!

Arsenal are waiting on the fitness of Alex Hleb after he took a knock while playing for Belarus.

Villa are hopingGabriel Agbonlahor will be fit to face Middlesbrough though he faces a late fitness test.

Robbie Savage has told the world he is fully fit and ready to return for Fulham this weekend. He got a knee injury against Tottenham three weeks ago and it was thought he was going to be out for six weeks.

Manchester City striker Rolando Bianchi is out after he suffered an ankle injury in training on Thursday while Sunderland midfielder Dwight Yorke is likely to return after a calf injury. Also Dean Whitehead and Andy Cole are pushing for starts after long spells out.

Newcastle vs Liverpool - Testing Times for Sam & Rafa

Its a big big game on Tyneside for these two managers.

Sam Allardyce is under a bit of pressure at Newcastle with underwhelming results and football , criticism from the chairman, rumours of disquiet amongst the players and a yet to be convinced Gallowgate. I really think that this job is a make or break one for Big Sam. Crack this and he's a freeman of the city of Newcastle and even bigger clubs may come calling. Go the way of all the others and he's back to managing the Bolton's of this world.

Rafa Benitez meanwhile has had a very public spat with Liverpool's new owners. The Liverpool Echo (widely held on Merseyside as being the voice of the club) has an interesting angle. They are saying that Rafa has "asked to be given the freedom to operate in the transfer market without restrictions, to be allowed to sell players no longer deemed of any great value to fund the acquisition of players whom he feels can make a real difference." They also say the Americans are wanting harmony restored however I think this has a long way to play out and I wouldn't bet against it all ending in tears for those Reds fans amongst us.

As for the teams Newcastle have Michael Owen, Abdoulaye Faye, Stephen Carr, Claudio Cacapa, Celestine Babayaro and Damien Duff all out but Shay Given is fit and Nicky Butt is back from suspension. Liverpool meanwhile have Harry Kewell pushing for a start with Daniel Agger a maybe to come back. Fernando Torres is also back to start for the first time in four weeks.

My gut feel - Liverpool to win and pile on more misery for Big Sam!!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Latest Transfer Rumours

The rumour mill is working overtime as ever. Here are the latest from around the traps:

The Daily Star is reporting Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp has joined the £10m chase for Liverpool striker Peter Crouch.

Meanwhile Julio Baptista, who having underwhelmed at Arsenal, has set his sights a little lower (sorry Tottenham!) and is hoping Real Madrid will let him try out the view from the bench at White Hart Lane. That one by The Sun.

Over at the Holte End Gabriel Agbonlahor has been linked with a move from Villa to Arsenal but says he wants to stay where he his. Does he know something we don't??!! (Various sources)

The old cunning fox Fergie will cast a beady eye over the midfielder Miguel Veloso when Sporting Lisbon arrive in town next week for Champions League with a bid possible. (The Guardian)

The managerial merry-go-round continues apace with the Mail alleging that the Ian Holloway move to Leicester is a done deal and that Plymouth will be plying current Swindon boss Paul Sturrock with all manner of drink, and gods know what else to move down south.

The Mail are also reporting Newcastle are apparently interested in Rangers full-back Alan Hutton after his impressive recent form for Rangers and Scotland.

Another one from the Mirror - apparently Reading boss Steve Coppell is interested in a move for Bolton's right midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos. Beet he wishes his onetime Liverpool move had come off!

According to the Mirror Real Madrid are aiming to land Chelsea striker Didier Drogba next summer for $30m and with the Chavs going for Bolton's Nicolas Anelka as replacement.

Where to now England??

As the nation wakes up this morning to the fact that what seemed a comfortable group to ease past has proved to be too much for the Premier League's finest, with a catastrophic 3-2 home defeat by Croatia leaving the country stunned the recriminations are beginning in earnest.

McLaren has already been sacked and after admitting there could be 'no excuses', there was never going to be any other outcome. It is noticeable that Gus Hiddink who last month criticised McClaren's "schoolboy tactics" following Russia's win over England added to his words indirectly pointing out the obvious outcome: "If you have a plan and the coach makes obvious repetitive mistakes, it's different [than if people are happy and there is a good vision]" .

Already the names of the next manager are being thrown around. Names in the frame include Hiddink, Jose Mourhino, Felipe Scolari, Arsene Wenger, Martin O'Neill and would you believe it Sam Allardyce!

I think the FA will be pulling out all the stops to appoint a glamour foreign name after the McLaren disaster. McLaren's reign has made it all but impossible for a domestic name to be appointed.

England Sack McLaren

Sky News are reporting that the FA have sacked McLaren. The first report we've seen of the expected outcome after last nights shocking performance and result. The FA is to shortly hold a press conference

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Goings on at Liverpool

Over at Liverpool there seems to be plenty going on at the moment. Crouch, Riise and Sissoko are the subject of yet more speculation that they are for the axe so Rafa the Gaffer can raise money for Garay and Mascherano. Seems to me at least one will go - my thought is that it is Crouch. He's probably the most expendable - get an injury to Mascherano and Sissokos back in, while Riise is always likely to get a go at full back.

I see Dirk Kuyt has been burgled - yet another one! Number five by all accounts - reckon those Porsches stand out a bit in Liverpool! Seriously though its an appalling state of affairs when players have to consider their personal security so much.

Meanwhile Rafa has dismissed rumours of a Bayern Munich move. I should think so too! He's got higher ambitions than them when/ if he leaves Liverpool. The German league is a poor relation to its English, and Spanish cousins so they have no chance of getting him if only for his own career ambitions.

England on the brink

Steve McLaren certainly has a few posers to think of before tomorrow night & it says much of Englands form that he has. His first big decision is who to have in goal. Scott Carson is seriously knocking on the door, not least because of the unconvincing form of Paul Robinson. Personally I think he should be big and brave and go for Carson. Robinson has never convinced at the best of times

In midfield he has even more pondering to do. Surely he has to pick one of Barry or Hargreaves. Barry should get the nod - he's looked outstanding in his last few games. Keeps it simple and holds England together very well while shielding the back four. Beckham and Gerrard are musts so that leaves on spot. Reports are coming in of a revolution in tactics for this game - more like have no left sided option so will play 4-1-3-2 with Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham the three. Either way he's got to have some caution and ensure a clean sheet.

Upfront should be more simple - there's not much to choose from! I cant see past Crouch and either a five man midfield with Cole or possibly Darren Bent. This for me is where England could come unstuck. They don't have many options if it goes pear-shaped in the hunt for goals and the longer we don't score the more nervous we'll become and the more confident the Croats will be.

Gut feel - we'll win with a bit to spare!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel win 2-1!, England now just need a draw, Scotland out

What a night for Steve McLaren & England. They're are still in Euro 2008 and its now back in their own hands. They just require a draw at home to Croatia and they're through. Surely Steve and the boys can manage that. Russia have been beaten by an injury time goal from Omar Golan. England now have a great chance and what a night it will be next Wednesday!

Poor old Scotland have tumbled out and missed out on qualifying for the first time in 10 years. A late late goal from Christian Pannuci broke Scottish hearts after Ferguson had equalised Luca Tonis early opener. Italy just had that bit too much quality for the Scots who now finish third with Italy and France qualifying.

Carson aiming to be Englands No 1

Scott Carson has set his stall out to be Englands No. 1. He comments in todays papers that he doesnt see a massive gap between him and the rest of the England keepers. I do - theres a massive gap. He's well better than most of them!! David James, Chris Kirkland and Paul Robinson are not as good as Carson now and definitely not what he will become.

Personally I really cant see why we persist with either of James or Robinson - Carson is a much better and more reliable keeper.

Friday, November 16, 2007

January Transfer window rumours

Its that time of year again and there are certainly some interesting rumours filtering through to the papers.

Not surprisingly Michael Owen is being reported as 'unsettled' at Newcastle. Maybe playing for a team that has yet to win a major trophy in 40 years, are showing no signs of recovery under Big Sam and that North East windy weather is making him regret not holding out for that move to Liverpool two years ago. His injury record is so bad none of the big four would touch him now. Also he's suffered from being a bit out of fashion - the tendency is for players with a bit of strength as well as power. These rumours will do nothing to enhance that fragile relationship with the Gallowgate!

Also of interest or boredom depending on your point of view is the Drogba to Madrid line. $29m for a 29 yrd old? Beyond me - hes a great player but seemed to me to let the success get to him. He's had two great seasons in his career and thinks he's the dogs proverbials! I used to think he was the biggest numpty going for 24m and I admit he proved me wrong! Still he's proved time and again with his comments in the papers he has head up his own a***e!

Talking of players who can see where mere mortals cant I see Djbril Cisse is talking up a move away from Marseille. Nothing to do with the fact he's not really done it there or that they are way down Ligue 1? He moans at warming the bench - well if you don't score as a striker thats were you tend to be. I watched him when he was at Liverpool and he was dreadfully unlucky with injury but he was given chance after chance to show he understood the offside rule and could pass to team-mates and he blew it every time!

Lehmann is making noises about leaving. Seems to me Wenger has never been totally convinced by him and frankly no one else has either. Let him go Arsene and get yourself a decent stopper! Staying on the 'Arse I see Fabegras has committed himself to the Gunners - what a surprise. Give it a few bad results and he'll change his tune. He's always seem a of a fair weather player to me (mind you theres plenty of them around!)

Crouch, Sissoko & Carson out, Garay in?

All the media reports seem to be pointing to these two on the way out. The usual pattern of unquoted reports are appearing in more than one source. They'll follow the usual trend of it being reported, denied, reported, 'oh maybe' etc until it becomes an open secret. Newcatle, Juventus and err Portsmouth are reportedly after Crouch with Eveton supposedly leading the chase for Sissoko.

One thing to note though is that it is not yet being mentioned on the Liverpool Echo website. They are widely known in Liverpool as being the voice of the club. If it goes on there you know its going to happen so its not cut & dried just yet. I think one or both will go in the summer but I would be surprised if both would be allow to go now unless Liverpool have a major deal lined up - not easy in the January window.

A more definite exit is Scott Carson for $8m with the funds being used to launch a bid for Racing Santander’s Argentinian defender Ezequiel Garay. Benitez is looking to bolster his backline and his happy with his goalkeeping cover of Itandje and Martin.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hargreaves out for England, Premiership Roundup

Reports are coming through of Owen Hargreaves being out injured for England. Seems to me its the old Fergie trick of minimising his players exposure to playing internationals. And why wouldnt he you might ask given the ridiculous ask of playing on a Friday night in Austria! Surprised theres not more 'long-standing' injuries that need a bit of rest.

Its really a bit of a boring week really - no Premiership and the chance of England being out of Euro 2008 by the end of the weekend. It'll be a long old week next week if that happens!

A quick round-up sees rumours of Liverpool and Man Utd battling it out for Ezequiel Garay at a reported $10m. The Guardian is reporting Liverpool will have to sell before they buy it they tumble out the Champions league. Elsewhere Arsenal are hoping to welcome back Van Persie for the visit of Wigan. Mark Hughes has been rewarded for his excellent job at Blackburn with reports of a new 12 month rolling deal.

Meanwhile Anton Ferdinand has been living upto the Ferdinand family name by allegedly being caught brawling by CCTV reports the BBC. Quality conduct!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Liverpool playing their way back to form??

I watched Liverpools win over the weekend & their previous game away to Blackburn. Seems to me they are gradually gaining in confidence, starting to create chances and are getting their big players back.

They really should have won at Blackburn with Kuyt especially missing some great chances and overall they controlled the game with relative ease. Against Fulham they again created a lot of chances and the more the game went on the more a goal seemed inevitable. Babel did more in his cameo role than in many other games this season while Torres made all the difference. Voronin was unlucky to be taken off given the game he had but Torres was excellent. His pace, touch and all round play makes him a massive threat whenever he plays - he may scuff a few but he causes all teams a hell of a lot of problems.

They're unbeaten in the league, still in touch with the top and with the injured big guns of Agger, Alonso, Kewell and Torres coming back. I can see Liverpool beginning to enter the title race over Christmas.

And so the spotlight turns to England.............

Dont know about you but I personally find England a total bore unless they are playing in the finals of a major competition. They invariably play beneath their talents against tedious opposition, often underwhelming their way to the finals. Remember Bobby Robson being shown live on telly as the Swedes did us a favour and got us to the Euro finals (where we promptly got walloped).

McLarens England have really not looked the part. From his late realisation that Gerrard and Lampard are a match made in football mismatch hell, to his continued sticking with the error strewn Robinson McLaren has struggled to give real confidence at any time in his reign. Now relying on the Israelis to do something against Russia at home and when they are without their best player and captain in Yossi Benayoun the sands of time could well be running out on his time in the hot seat.

Failure to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since 1994 would be a major setback for England and would lead to a boring summer 2008. No nights in the packed pub getting a lager shower while 'Vindaloo' and 'World in motion' is banged out! Come on England and Israel I dont want to miss those balmy weeknights in the boozer!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Premiership Round-up

After the Carling Cup attention turns back to the main game - the Premier League. Theres some massive games this weekend and personally I cant wait. See old Fergie has written off Chelsea and Liverpool. Not sure you can do that just yet but both have some sorting out to do whilst still holding onto the leaders. Chelsea need to settle down to the new manager which may take a while but at the end of the day they have such great players with a great will to win. Liverpool are suffering from too many injuries to key players and Rafa Benitez's dreaded rotations. The Blackburn game is a massive game for them even at this early stage. Lose and they'll be considered out the race in November.

Of the other games away to Boro looks a tough one for Ramos whilst Newcastle vs Portsmouth I think just might provide Big Sam with some more misery. Everton vs Birmingham doesnt exactly promise a mass of entertaining football whilst Derby look set for more misery at Villa.

Bring it on!!

Carling Cup round-up

All the big-guns went through last night with no real surprises. Chelsea had a scare against Leicester going through 4-3 thanks to a Frank Lampard hat-trick after trailing 3-2. Arsenal marched on winnning 3-0 at Sheffield United while Liverpool edged out Robbie Fowlers Cardiff 2-1 thanks to a Steven Gerrard winner.

Elsewhere Man City & Everton grabbed late winners to dump out Bolton & Luton respectively. Blackburn had a great win at Portsmouth to continue their great form while Tottenham got a home win against Blackpool 2-0.

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