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— Goal (@goal_intl) December 16, 2011
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League game day has delivered some big surprises. England’s top contenders, Manchester United and Manchester City, both got the boot. While City’s failure to reach the knock-out stages was almost sealed on game day five, United’s loss at FC Basel came as “the hammer” of the group stages. Under-performing during the entire campaign, it came down to the last game and a single point was needed out of the game against Basel. While in soccer everything is possible, it was hard to believe United will not gather that one single point out of a “one-game-competition” against the Swiss. Continue reading
It’s been a while since three of four English clubs playing the Champions League face elimination before the last game in the group stage. Manchester United’s tie at the “Theater of Dreams” against Benfica and Manchester City’s loss in Napoli might have just set the stage for a bad awakening.
With Chelsea facing a “deciding” match at Bayer Leverkusen, they might just join the club. What’s the situation? Manchester City is already in the terrible situation that they completely depend on help from others. In other words, besides of winning their own game against Bayern Munich, they also need a Villareal win, or at least a tie, against Napoli. Tall order. City looks like they continue in the Europa League for the rest of the season.
Manchester City has an advantage. They can manage moving on on their own. They just need to win in Basel in order to be sure to advance. There is a pretty high chance that United is going to do so. However, there is a real chance that they might continue in the Europa League as well. Basel already snatched 3 points from United, in the “Theater of Dreams”.
Chelsea is a group with Leverkusen, Valencia and Genk. A Valencia win against Genk tomorrow and a Leverkusen win against Chelsea will leave the English 1 point down of Leverkusen and tied with Valencia. The last game in that group is Valencia at Stamford Bridge. And there, “the grapes are not hanging that high anymore”.
There is a lot of theory in this “speculation”. However, in the past years, there weren’t many moments when the English clubs were subject to such discussion. This fact alone leaves a lot of space for discussion.
It is usually agreed on that the Barclay’s English Premier League is the strongest league in the world. It might be wise to start reconsider that and possibly, like in the business world, just downgrade a notch: The top four in England are top European contenders. It is certainly not more at this point, even if they still all advance.
59 million Euro and still no goal for Chelsea. While in Liverpool the supporters can’t hide their smiling faces, Chelsea fans and officials are wondering what is going on with Fernando Torres. Coming from Liverpool in January, he hasn’t scored in 11 games. Roman Abramovich’s face is getting longer and longer as the season goes on. Carlo Ancelotti even “admitted” a mistake in bringing Torres from the beginning in Chelsea’s Champions League game against Manchester United.
So, what is going on? Torres can’t play anymore? He lost his ability to play soccer? As it always is when players, coaches or teams are in crisis, there is quite a number of people who knew that (in this case) Torres is not as good as the press made him. Looking at his game at this time, if you wouldn’t know better, it almost looks like it. However, in my opinion, Torres is still a world class player. Yes, he is completely out of his game, nothing works. There are quite a few reasons for that. Some easy to understand, other’s need a little understanding and experience of the subject.
Let’s go back to the Euro 2008. Torres just made Spain European Champ with his goal against Germany in the final. He came back from the Euro 2008 and had a good season in Liverpool with awesome games, against Manchester United in March of 2009 for example. At one point, he caught an injury and Liverpool, including coach Benitez, a crisis. As it often is the case, Torres is not the first player that faces a problem to find form after injury and other issues, the dynamics take over and the entire “run” comes to a stop and all of the sudden nothing works. The pressure is increasing and one thing comes to the other and the problems mount. In between is the world cup, where Torres got injured again. While, like every other player, he was happy the world cup and the long (unsuccessful) season was over and he could rest, the new injury just put him back again. Injured, only a short break after the world cup, no real good preparation for the new season and a lot of pressure in Liverpool to do better than a year before. It didn’t look promising.
Playing Europa League wasn’t good enough for anyone at Anfield Road. Pressure, injury, only a short break after world cup and a team that is actually not a top class Premier League team is a recipe for disaster in an environment like Liverpool. By the way, Torres is not the only one that is suffering from loss of performance. As the best example you can use Bayern Munich and a few players of that team, including Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery.
To keep your cool in a situation like that is difficult. You want to perform, you can perform, but everything seems to be against the team and the player. Liverpool wasn’t able to stay in touch with the top five in order to play for Champions League glory in the next season. Torres, and a few others became nervous. While “the others” didn’t have offers, Torres had one, Chelsea! Was it the right thing to do? In my eyes not. It wasn’t good for both, club (Chelsea) and player. The only one that made good in that deal was Liverpool. With that, I want to bring your attention to my blog post from early January, “Liverpool and the p…”! In that post I talked about luck in soccer and that sometimes luck comes back for some incredible reason. In this case, Torres leaving the club served as a turning point for Liverpool. Deep inside, this freed the team and club of pressure and somehow things that already started to get better with Kenny Dalglish, turned the curve for good. Personally, I was hoping it would have been something else and it would have turned out good for both, Torres and Liverpool. I think he had a good platform at Anfield Road. All it took was the turn of the tide, somehow.
If you can blame Torres for anything, it is the bad advice he took. If he acted on his own, he made a wrong decision. This, however, can be made up very quick. Soccer is a fast pace business, what happened yesterday is worth nothing tomorrow. Liverpool is already out of the woods, Torres will score goals again, I am sure of that, and Chelsea will play Champions league again next year. If that is enough for the “ownership” of Chelsea, is a different story. There could be the next storm coming up for Fernando Torres. Back in January, I gave Liverpool the advice to stay cool and have a beer, the tide will turn. Now I am giving Torres advice: Forget about yourself for the rest of the season, rest mentally and just support the team. Try to shift your focus on something else. Go to the coach and ask him to only bring you after 60 minutes and start with the others until you get your game back. Your game is scoring goals, and once you hit again, many more will follow. Until then, you need to get out of the firing line. Small example, Wayne Rooney and his crisis after some “private matters” earlier this season.
Life has changed for Liverpool FC and Manchester United. While the Kops made it out of their crisis, Manchester United might just face one. Unbeaten for a long time, United now is facing strong headwinds and must increase speed again in order to hold off the hunters. Especially Arsenal, with a game on hand and United still have to visit the Gunners, is back in the race and in pure theory can win the Championship on its own power.
Compared to the last “Clash of the Giants” in January, the situation is a complete different one (read our report from January 10th, Liverpool and the p…”). Liverpool has found new strength while Manchester United in the meantime lost a few games and experienced a few other headwinds such as injury problems and suspensions (Vidic for today’s game).
Liverpool controlled the game for the entire first half and took advantage of Suarez’ outstanding presentation at Anfield Road. While The “Uru” didn’t score, he had direct influence on two of the three goals. Dirk Kuijt, in both cases, just had to tip the ball over the line and made the Liverpool supporters flying high after a long period of disappointment. It seemed United had given up on the game after 39 minutes. Only Jamie Carragher’s almost idiotic action against Nani two minutes before halftime, brought United back into the game. At the start of the second half, United displayed much more effort and was about to create chances for a turnaround. Only Kuijt’s third finally sealed United faith.
The new strength and confidence should help the Kops in their efforts to reach 5th place and qualification for the Europa League. Andy Carroll’s first appearance since his transfer to Anfield Road, further fuels Liverpool hopes. United now faces the challenge to calm the nerves and find composure for the next tasks. Further mistakes can lead to a loss of the Championship.
>Birmingham FC will play in Europe in the 2011/12 season. While lucky, the 2-1 win was deserved and earned with determination and passion. Martins’ 88th min. goal decided the Carling Cup final in favor of Birmingham City. For Birmingham it is the first titel since 1963 and will serve as a boost in their fight in the Barclay’s Premier League.
Arsenal’s titel drought goes on. While competing in all national and international competitions for 6 years and having another titel up for crab, the loss today leaves the Gunners starving. Arsenal has three more opportunities to end the drought, but today’s Carling Cup final seemed to be the easiest opportunity for a letterhead change.