Arsenal win Christmas……

With all the top 5 teams dropping points today, it was #Arsenal that made the most of the packed holiday schedule with another win, this time against #BigSam’s #WestHam with a nervy 2-1 away game, thanks to a #Cazorla penalty and a rare #Welbeck tap in. It isn’t often that one gets to see a smiling #ArseneWenger, is it?

#ManchesterUnited peppered the #Tottenham goal all of the first half with no luck and then ran out of steam in the second as they played out a 0-0 draw at White Hart lane, while #Chelsea dropped points away at #Southampton after a brilliant #Hazard strike helped them level out a #Mane opener for the hosts. #Mourinho’s post match whine included the penalty that #Cesc could have got but in the end it wasn’t terribly costly because #ManCity inexplicably gave up 2 points and a 2 goal lead at home to lowly #Burnley in what might be the game that #Pellegrini will look back on as the one that lost them the title, perhaps.

#Everton continued their slide down the table with a well deserved 2-3 loss away at #Newcastle and have now lost 5 in their last 7 and already 8 this season, the entire number of games they lost last season, highlighting just how hard the #EPL is. Bottom of the rung #Leicester had much to cheer about with a 1-0 away win at fellow strugglers #Hull but remain rooted to the bottom of the table.

As fun as it is for the spectators, there is no doubt that there is genuine point to #LVG’s moan about this busy Christmas schedule – the quality of the games today all seemed to suffer from the short 48 hour break that all the teams had and there is some sense to why the #LaLiga #SerieA and #Bundesliga all have a winter break.

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Big Boys Box…….

Boxing day games have traditionally been good for the big teams and today was no different with #Chelsea (2-0 over #WestHam thanks to #Terry and #Costa goals) #ManchesterCity (3-1 away to #WestBrom with #Fernando #Yaya and the fabulous #Silva) #ManchesterUnited (3-1 against #Newcastle with #Rooney scoring 2 and #RVP with one). Those trailing closely also had a good day with #Southampton winning 3-1 at #CrystalPalace, #Spurs stealing all 3 with a late 2-1 win at bottom #Leicester thanks to a cheeky free-kick by #Eriksen and #Liverpool finally getting a win with a hard fought 1-0 away at lowly #Burnley. It was a disappointing day for #Everton though going down 0-1 at Goodison against a plucky #Stoke thanks to a #Bojan penalty and finally, #Arsenal made it ridiculously hard for themselves creaking their way to a 2-1 win in what should have been a rout against #QPR at home, thanks to a moment of absolute madness by #OlivierGiroud who was sent off for a senseless headbutt. Had it not been for the brilliance of #Sanchez (one goal, one assist and one penalty miss) a penalty not awarded to QPR and a little better quality at their disposal, this would have been points lost for the Gunners.

United looked the most impressive of today’s teams, with #Falcao Rooney RVP and #Mata all working very well together and look good for their 3rd place behind Chelsea and City. This still remains a 2-horse title race with the brilliant #Aguero still to come back for the blue half of Manchester!

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City’s CL struggle; Arsenal have it easy…

The draw for the #ChampionsLeague last 16 is out and it’s a nightmare for both #ManchesterCity and #Barcelona, while #Arsenal come away the luckier of the two between them and their group winners #Dortmund as they get a #James and #Falcao – less #Monaco and the black and yellows from Germany get Italian Champions #Juventus. City has the ability to spring a surprise on the catalans but with #Messi #Neymar and #Suarez firing, it could well be another 4-1 aggregate exit for the Blue half of Manchester. If #Arsenal cannot get past #Wenger’s old side easily, it will be a surprise, while #Chelsea will have their top 4 credentials severely tested by #PSG and the #Zlatan. Last year’s beaten finalist #AtleticoMadrid take on #Leverkusen, a contest they should edge easily with the quality they have, especially in the middle and the back. Reigning Champions and standout favorites #RealMadrid will likely destroy #Schalke home and away, in equal measure, as they continue their amazing run towards the first consecutive CL title by any team.

Fun times await. Predictions?

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6 in a row for United; 20 for Real!

In a week where the top 3 (#Chelsea coasted to a 2-0 over #Hull, #ManCity held on for a 1-0 at #Leicester and #ManchesterUnited beat #Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford)  have started to pull further away from the chasing pack, last season’s high-flyers Liverpool seem to be sliding further from #ChampionsLeague spots and might see themselves in yet another long period of CL absence, unless #Rodgers can now pull a rabbit out of his hat really soon. To be fair, Liverpool weren’t hopeless. They even dominated big parts of the game and if it weren’t for #Sterling’s profligacy in front of and #DeGea’s absolute genius in goal, this scoreline could have been a lot different. The young Spaniard now makes more saves per game than #Neuer and #Courtois together. #Southampton, who started the season oh-so-well are now in a bit of free-fall after a 1-0 loss to lowly #Burnley, ending the week in 5th, after spending a good 8 weeks in 2nd! This might end poorly for them, which is a real pity for this otherwise wonderful side.

#Wenger had some relief from his detractors after #OlivierGiroud and #SantiCazorla hit a brace each to give them a big 4-1 win over #Newcastle and fellow Londoners #Spurs earned a 2-1 away win at #Swansea thanks to yet another late #Eriksen goal, bringing them to 7th!

#RealMadrid won their 20th straight game, reinforcing their status as the best current side in all of Europe with a 4-1 thrashing of #Almeria with 2 more #CristianoRonaldo goals, while a dogged #Getafe held #Barcelona 0-0 to create a 4 point gap between them and Real.

Over in the #Bundesliga, #Bayern’s non-stop assault on the title with a 4-0 win at #Augsberg and #Dortmund’s non-stop assault at relegation spots with a 1-0 loss at #Hertha continued unabated, while over in the #SerieA the 2 horse race just got even closer after #Roma took full points in a 1-0 away to #Genoa while #Juventus surprisingly dropped points at home in a 1-1 draw with #Sampdoria, leaving them just 1 point clear of the chasing Romans!

#LouisVanGaal has won 6 on the trot now, which feels like the number of games #DavidMoyes won in all of his time at United. And #Falcao #DiMaria #Shaw and #Blind aren’t even fit yet. It is amazing what a difference a Manager makes…..

 

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United’s rise; Liverpool’s fall and City’s big night…

3 seasons ago, a 2-1 win for #ManchesterUnited over #Southampton would have been as regular as a #Balotelli bust-up or a #RVP goal or #ArseneWenger’s malfunctioning zipper (you get the picture) but the post #SAF, post #Moyesed United have been a slow and often comical work-in-progress for #LVG, what with 50% of his first team now occupying 100% of his medical staff’s time. But they have won 5 in a row now and this win against Southampton was probably the most definitive of all – not because they played well (they played rubbish), nor because they had most of the possession (they absolutely didn’t) and certainly not because Southampton deserved to lose (they most certainly didn’t) but because of all these reasons put together, with a shambolic back 4 left after all the injuries. It’s a pretty telling sign when a team like United can do all these things so terribly wrong and still hold out for a win against a good side, away and riddled with 1st team injuries. They are only going to get better from here (and they’ve won 5 on the trot and now sit just 5 behind #ManCity and 8 behind #Chelsea) – they will get #DiMaria #Shaw #Rafael #Blind and #Falcao back soon enough, they will likely buy a defender (or 2) in the summer and most importantly, #RobinVanPersie is scoring. There is an old Chinese saying – ‘When VanPersie score much, United win much’ and if he can continue doing this regularly, with #DeGea getting insanely better by the day, seeing them finish 3rd shouldn’t be out of the question.

#Liverpool on the hand, faltering in the #EPL and now out in the first round of the #ChampionsLeague have a mountain to climb, because on current form (and trends) will not see CL action for a very very long time unless something dramatic and miraculous happens to them in the 2nd half of the domestic season (like Balotelli scoring a goal or learning to wear a bib). After the promise of last season, this trough must really hurt the Kop faithful.

#Arsenal must rue their silliness against #Anderlecht because their easy win at #Galatasaray combined with #Dortmund’s labored draw at home meant that the Gunners lost out on top spot to the Germans by goal difference and will now face one of the heavyweights in the next knock-out round. If they get #Real or #Bayern or #PSG/#Barca or #Atletico, it’s buh-bye again for them.

The biggest test however, will be for ManCity as they go to Rome to take on #Roma in the decider for 2nd spot behind Bayern in a game that both must win, with #CSKA also tied on 5 points with them with an away game against an already qualified, already 1st placed Bayern Munich. This will not only define City’s much talked about CL credentials but might decide #Pellegrini’s future at the club. It’s their biggest test in a long time and they will need to come through it without their 2 best players, #Silva and #Aguero. It doesn’t help that one Senõr #Totti with his merry men have serious CL ambitions of their own. A recently launched €200 million training complex will do little to help tonight!

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The title-race heats up and then fizzles out?

#NewcastleUnited and their once beleaguered manager #AlanPardew, who couldn’t do anything right till 5 weeks ago, can’t seem to put a foot wrong now as they felled unbeaten #Chelsea 2-1 at home with 2 goals from #PapissCisse. Cisse, like his team, has gone from zero to hero this season and if they can continue this trend, will finish the season in European qualification slots. For Chelsea this came at a bad time – title chasing #ManCity had a home game against #Everton that they won 1-0 thanks to a #Yaya penalty and some inspired goal-keeping by #JoeHart, leaving #Mourinho’s boys just 3 points clear of the Citizens, a lead that is almost irrelevant at this stage of the season. Title race on? Possibly but not quite because the main man behind City’s resurgence, the brilliant little #SergioAguero left the field in the opening minutes with a knee-injury that will likely rule him out for a month, at a time when the packed Christmas schedule brings games hard and fast. Without his goals, City might struggle to get the results they need to keep pace with a Chelsea that will bounce back rapidly from the setbacks of the last 2 games.

The kudos for the week though go to #BigSam and his #WestHam side that have steadily made their way up to 3rd on the table with a typically battling 3-1 come-from-behind win against #Swansea with 2 goals from the head of the battering ram masquerading as #AndyCarroll! With #Arsenal suffering yet another reverse, this time against their bogey-team (to be fair, you could say this about United, Chelsea, City et al who consistently take 3-points of this soft Arsenal side) after #Crouch #Walters and #Bojan put 3 1st half goals past a defense that makes United’s make-shift 4 look oh-so-solid! The final 3-2 scoreline couldn’t hide the growing problems #Wenger has now and the murmurs are now turning to controlled screams for the Gooners demanding his exit. Every season you stay #Arsene, you tarnish your wonderful legacy at this once powerful club.

Can #ManchesterUnited make it 5 wins on the trot and take 3rd when they travel to a faltering #Southampton? If it happens, it sure won’t be easy.

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Men from another planet….

Another set of hat-tricks, another set of records broken – for messrs #Ronaldo and #Messi this sounds like just another week. That these two are head and shoulders above the next best players in the world has been known for some time now, but to see them score with the frequency, volume and consistency that they do, is just other-worldly – men from another planet. #Cristiano and his record-breaking #Madrid men have now won 18 successive games on the trot (most rather handsomely) after a 3-0 home win against #Celta with CR7 scoring his 28th hat-trick for #Real. Shortly thereafter, Messi’s 29th hat-trick took @Barcelona to a 5-1 home win in the Catalan derby against #Espanyol, leaving them just 2 points adrift of leaders Real and 2 ahead of holders #Atletico.

This season is only going to get crazier for these 2. Respect!

Over in the #Bundesliga, whilst mighty #Bayern continued their unabated assault on the title with a hard-fought 1-0 over closest rivals #Leverkusen, it was *gasp* last placed #Dortmund who finally found some cheer in a 1-0 win over #Hoffenheim to lift them out of the drop zone. Hopefully, for this wonderful team, this signals the change of course for this season.

In Italy, the 2-horse race for the #Scudetto between #Juventus and #Roma maintained it’s status-quo with both teams drawing their respective games 0-0 at #Fiorentina for Juve and 2-2 at home against #Sassuolo for the Romans. #Mancini’s return to #Inter seems to have little impact on the once dominant club, after another loss, this time a 1-2 at home to #Udinese leaves the former title winner with no wins since his return.

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