French Underdog? Umm our soft underbelly Gunner take care of that!

#Arsenal finally had the luck of the draw and avoided the usual teams that have so convincingly knocked them out of the #ChampionsLeague in the past –  you know, #Bayern #Barcelona et al in getting an ‘easy’ opponent in a post #Falcao post #James #Monaco and then go and showcase their soft underbelly and their lack of top quality striking options by losing 1-3 to the tiny French Principality at home at the #Emirates stadium. 3 away goals will make the return leg in Monaco very very difficult to overturn. It’s not like the Gunners didn’t have chances – they had some goal-mouth tap ins that neither #Giroud (he had 2 he should have scored with his eyes closed) nor #Welbeck could tap in. The final nail in the coffin came in the last minute of injury time when the keeper should have done a lot better with the angled shot on goal by #Ferreira-Carrasco that went in. Knowing #Wenger, he’ll try and solve this problem Arsenal have in front and at the back with another midfielder.

Over in #Leverkusen the Germans took a slender 1-0 home lead against 10-man #AtleticoMadrid in a tie that remains wide open when the two return to Madrid in 2 weeks, a stadium that tends to be a fortress for #Simeone’s men.

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A Hart stopping moment Messiing with Barca progression?

While #Barcelona might well have one foot into the next round of the #ChampionsLeague after a 1-2 away win at #ManchesterCity thanks to 2 excellent #Suarez goals, #JoeHart’s last second penalty save on #Messi has prevented this tie from being done and dusted. At 1-3 away, there would have been no real road back for City, but now, they will hold hope when they visit the Catalans in 2 weeks. Winning at the #NouCamp is very very difficult but #Aguero (City’s goal scorer today) and company will believe they have a chance if they play out of their skins and that little glimmer of home is the cost of Lio’s penalty miss.

Over in Turin, #Juventus won 2-1 against #Dortmund but they will know well that this is a slender margin, especially with BVB’s away goal scored by #Reus sandwiched between  goals by #Tevez and #Peyrera (who came on for an injured #Pirlo) making the return as delicately balanced as possible. It will be hard for the Italians to keep the Germans from scoring at home in the crazy din that the #Westfalenstadion produces and their only hope will be to get a quick away goal.

The beauty of the Champions League continues to thrill!

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When young kids do the right thing!

This photo is of a team of U13 boys from a Club in Manhattan, NY named The Corinthians and one of the kids, Santi is a very close friend’s son. They are a talented young and diverse bunch of kids, who have been doing very well in their division and have even made it to State Cup finals. As it turns out, their coach was able to arrange a once in a lifetime trip to England and Scotland, where they will be competing in a tournament against Europe’s top Academy Clubs, including the #ManchesterUnited Academy.

Aside from the fact that there will be many talent scouts watching all these yung’uns ply their trade, there is no denying the impact an experience like this has on them, regardless of what they go on to do in life. Most of the kids come from families where the cost of the trip isn’t prohibitive except for 3 not-so-fortunate kids, who won’t be able to make the trip for financial reasons. Instead of feeling bad for their friends and leaving them behind, this band of loyal and enterprising hustlers decided to put together a raffle to collect enough money to finance the trip for those 3 team mates. Before I get into the details of the raffle, here is why I love this so much. At 12, to show this kind of team spirit, loyalty and finally, hustle, to find a way to make this all happen without just begging for money from their parents is just the kind of trait you want to see in the next generation.

They were also able to get a pretty fantastic raffle going – $10 per ticket with a prize that includes a four-day trip for two to the 2015 season home game of Manchester United vs #WestBromwich on the 2nd of May at #OldTrafford the home of United. The prize also includes 2 round trip flights to Manchester, 2 nights at the Willowbank Hotel in Manchester and 2 tickets to the game. Not too shabby, eh?

I’m buying a bunch – I love what they are doing. If anyone is interested, please DM me and I’ll add you in. The deadline is TOMORROW Feb 25th.

Onward and upward, you young heroes. As the famous #Liverpool chant goes – You’ll never Walk Alone!

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A bad week for referees…..

#Mourinho followed up his conspiracy theory (the world is against #Chelsea) with an amazing 20-odd minute rant on an Interview with ‘Goals on Sunday’ where he detailed the unfairness that this entire season has heaped on his team and his players – the Diego Costa Crimes, the penalties not given at Southampton and Spurs, the penalties given against them and the career-ending severity of the tackle by #Barnes on #Matic interspersed with how he isn’t really questioning the honesty or integrity of referees and in the end how he wants more video technology. The last part is entirely sensible and if it were the case in the #EPL, then #Southampton would have likely not lost 0-2 at home today to a resurgent #Liverpool with goals from the fantastic #Coutinho (his strike was outstanding) and #RaheemSterling because the reds would have been reduced to 10 men before half time after #Mignolet handled the ball just outside his allowed area and because the Saints had 2 other relatively clear penalty appeals turned down, all of which could have turned this game entirely. But here is the big difference, #Koeman in his post match interview said his side deserved to not lose and those 3 decisions were, in his opinion, wrong. He was respectful and right. He did not claim a conspiracy to undermine his team or target his players or in general wallow in the ‘siege mentality’ that Jose has created at Chelsea. He might be right about many of the decisions – they were bad refereeing calls alright but he’s doing this entirely the wrong way.

#HarryKane and #Tottenham continued their incredible series of comebacks after a last minute penalty earned them a 2-2 draw at the Lane against #WestHam, while #Everton did the same against bottom club #Leicester for a 2-2 draw at home, which should have felt more like a loss than the great fightback that #Martinez claimed it was.

Over in the #LaLiga #Moyes and his #Sociedad team pulled off another scalp with a 4-3 win at home against #Sevilla while #Roma dropped another 2 points with a 1-1 away draw at #HellasVerona further pushed the #Scudetto into #Juventus’ competent and waiting arms!

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Mourninho stung by a Bee; Lose Van Gaal felled (again) by a Monk!

On a Saturday full of upsets, league leaders #Chelsea suffered a similar fate to their midfield game in Paris as a routine 1-0 home game lead against minnows #Burnley turned into a nervous 1-1 draw after #Matic was sent off in a moment of madness when he charged and pushed down a player after he felt he was poorly tackled. The red was fully deserved and from that point on the Blues tried to hold on desperately to their slender lead with little success as Burnley scored via a #Bee header and a fantastic #Courtois save kept it from being worse in the end. As expected, #Mourinho continued that silly siege mentality syndrome that he’s created all around himself and at his club with his entire press conference addressing 4 refereeing decisions that went against them. If Chelsea bottle this title run, it’ll come down to this unnecessary victim ethos that he’s created. With #ManchesterCity cruising against #Newcastle, the gap at the top is now down to 5 points – and counting.

#ManchesterUnited suffered their 2nd loss in 19 games as they went down 2-1 away to #Swansea with #GaryMonk having completed the double against this expensive United side, who continue to look toothless and lost for ideas (reverting to the ‘punt to #Fellaini upfront’ mode) even though they continue to dominate possession most other times. Aside from the #Herrera goal, United quite literally had zero chances on goal, making guys like #RVP look like they are out of form and playing poorly, which might well not be the case if more service was on offer. As #VanGaal admitted in his presser ‘We played well but forgot to score’. It’s something they’ve forgotten for a couple of years now it would seem. With #Arsenal making hard work but eventually holding on to a 1-2 away win at #CrystalPalace thanks to goals by #Cazorla and #Giroud they now move to 3rd in the table, pushing the #RedDevils down a spot to 4th. #VanGaal’s men might yet hold on to one of the remaining 2 #ChampionsLeague positions by the end of the season (and that might well be their only aim) but the season will leave more questions than answers for an expensively assembled team, likely to make another £150 million in purchases come June/July.

Over in the #LaLiga upset-saturday continued as #Barcelona lost 0-1 at home to visiting #Malaga in a game that should have seen the catalans go top of the table – instead the 7th minute goal for Malaga sent them to their first loss in a while and a certain setback leading up to the big CL game against City coming up this week. There were no such issues when mighty #Bayern took on and destroyed poor 10-man #Paderborn 6-0 in the #Bundesliga, while the #Dortmund resurgence continued to gather steam as they traveled to #Stuttgart and beat them 2-3 to climb up to 10th – not a bad position from absolute bottom 3 weeks ago, especially with the likes of #Kagawa (he was the star of the show) #Gundogan and #Reus all starting to find their silky form again.

#PSG continued on from their excellent showing against Chelsea midweek to beat #Toulouse 3-1 and temporarily haul themselves to the top of the #Ligue1 with a brace from #Rabiot and one from their best defender #ThiagoSilva. And #Juventus cemented that hand on the #SerieA title with a come from behind 2-1 win over #Atalanta in Turin, thanks to another delicious strike from that incredibly classy phenomenon #Pirlo!

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Lucky escape from Paris….

#Chelsea went to #PSG in the 1st leg of their #ChampionsLeague clash and came away with an incredibly valuable and equally lucky away goal 1-1 draw after a superbly executed goal by their entire defense put them in the lead against the run of play. The cross from #Terry, flicked over by #Cahill and headed in by #Ivanović was probably the first time that an entire goal was created, assisted and finished by a back 3 in any CL encounter. If #Courtois had not been his fabulous self and made the 3-4 stops he did, PSG and #Zlatan would have had 2-3 more, instead they had to rely on an impressive #Cavani to head them back into this tie and hard as it will be at #StamfordBridge, the Parisiens will believe that they can do damage in London based on their showing today.

Anyone with even 20% of their eyesight intact, watching #DavidLuiz on show after his £50 million transfer from the Blue to PSG, the pure genius of Chelsea’s transfer team would have to stand out even more. At £5 million it would have been a fair sale. At 50 it’s beyond ludicrous!

Mighty #Bayern on the other hand, came back empty handed from their pseudo-visit to #Shakhtar (safety concerns means most of their games are played about 750 miles from Donetsk) after an #Alonso red-card reduced them to 10 men and as much possession as they had made for little in terms of goals. In most cases a 0-0 draw would be dangerous with the dreaded away goal rule when both teams play in Munich but it will take a minor miracle for this Ukrainian outfit to cause a semblance of an upset back at the Allianz Arena.

Over in the #FACup, another gritty yet yawn-inducing performance by #ManchesterUnited saw them come from a goal behind to beat #Preston 1-3 to advance to the quarter finals where they have been drawn to meet #Arsenal at #OldTrafford in what should be the game of the 6th round. To think that United looked toothless in attack until #Falcao was replaced by #Young, after which they score all 3 of their goals, makes one truly wonder if the fancy Colombian might have just convinced the powers-that-be not to convert his already expensive loan into a £43 million permanent deal come July.

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He wants his Ballon back!

After a lackluster season by his unbelievable standards, #LionelMessi (and #Barcelona) are back with some venom this season with yet another goal-fest, this time thrashing poor #Levante 5-0 with a Messi hat-trick sandwiched between an opening goal by #Neymar and an absolute stunner by #Suarez, leaving them just 1 point adrift of #RealMadrid and in significantly more ominous form. With all 3 of their big guns upfront starting to gel together, this team will go a  long way this season. #Atletico meanwhile were upset 2-0 away to #CeltaVigo leaving them 7 behind real and 6 behind Barca as the gap starts to widen for the defending champions and they now have #Valencia just 3 points behind after they beat #Getafe 1-0 at home.

Over in the #SerieA both #Juventus and #Roma played out 2-2 (against #Cesena) and 0-0 (against #Parma) draws to keep the table almost untouched, while Mancini’s new #Inter won easily at #Atalanta 1-4 to climb up to 10th. They need a few more consistent wins to start thinking about Europe again – but sporadic spells of progress are there to be seen.

And in the #FACup, #OlivierGiroud scored 2 goals within 3 minutes of each other to give #Arsenal a 2-0 win over #Middlesbrough and a spot in the quarters alongside a #TimSherwood powered #AstonVilla, who beat #Leicester 2-1 and giant slaying minnows #BradfordCity, who scalped yet another #EPL side in #Sunderland, beating the Black Cats 2-0.

Will #ManchesterUnited survive their banana peel encounter against #Preston tomorrow?

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Bayern Express motors on…..

The sheer domination mighty #Bayern are now able to exert this one-horse title race reached fever-pitch when they blanked poor #Hamburg 8-0 at the Allianz Arena with goals from, well, everyone. When they are playing as well as this, no #Bundesliga team has a hope (aside from the plucky #Wolfsburg who beat them a few weeks ago and then won an absolute humdinger today at #Leverkusen 4-5 in a see-saw battle that keeps them in distant second in the table) and most European competition will struggle as well, including next opponents, #ManchesterCity.

Over in the #LaLiga the form erosion that has plagued #RealMadrid continued as they struggled their way to a 2-0 home win against #Deportivo, which certainly keeps them clear at the top of the table but raised more questions than answers about the chemistry and frame of mind the players seem to be in – something isn’t quite right in the dressing room it would seem, aside from the sad fact that their once-superstar goalkeeper #Casillas seems to have lost all his goalkeeping abilities and confidence. #Sevilla beat #Cordoba 3-0 at home to move 4th, while both #Barcelona and #Atletico will now need to win their games to keep within touching distance of LosBlancos. #PSG dropped important points in Paris in a 2-2 draw with #Caen leaving them 3rd in the league, with leaders #Lyon 2 ahead with a game in hand.

Over in the #FACup #Liverpool needed to come from behind to beat #CrystalPalace 1-2 to make it to the quarters where they will be joined, thus far, by #WestBrom, who thrashed #WestHam 4-0; #BlackburnRovers who stunned EPL side #Stoke 4-1 and #Reading who beat #Derby 1-2. Palace got the go-ahead goal but seemed to stop playing after that and Liverpool’s win was well deserved with #Balotelli again coming on as a substitute to good effect. Could his almost-dead Merseyside career start seeing some signs of life? Perhaps. Until his next silly antic.

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The spine of champions!

For 88 minutes of an engrossing encounter between #Everton and #Chelsea at the bridge, it seemed like #Martinez’ men had done enough to leave with a point and possibly even more had ex-Chelsea boy #Lukaku taken his absolute goal-mouth chance (to be fair, surprise keeper #Cech made a great reflex save) but the constant grit and determination that the Blues showed to keep at it till a #Willian shot finally made it’s way through traffic to sneak in past a blinded #Howard, who until then had made the kind of saves one generally expects him to pull off game after game, is the kind of stuff that wins teams the title. And Chelsea look well on course for theirs!

2nd place #ManchesterCity kept within 7 points of the leaders with a 1-4 away win at #Stoke thanks to a double by #Aguero and a goal each for the excellent #Milner and #Nasri. While the scoreline looked emphatic, the game was even right until the 3rd City goal late into the game. The defending champions are going to have to do a lot more to their form if they have a hope in hell of catching #Mourinho’s men! #ManchesterUnited moved back into 3rd after yet another unconvincing win, this time a 3-1 over a #Burnley side that deserved a lot more from the game – they outplayed United for much of the first half highlighting just how poorly this United side is playing together. Sloppy and chaotic in defense, disjointed in midfield and starved for chances in attack, making #Falcao look increasingly like a shadow of his former self. That guys like #Evans finds himself on an #EPL team (let alone one as storied as United) is beyond baffling.

With #Southampton dropping points in a 0-0 draw at home to visiting 10-man #WestHam and both #Arsenal who got a nervy 2-1 win against #Leicester and #Liverpool who beat #Tottenham 3-2 in the game of the season with forgotten crackpot #Balotelli scoring the winner for the Reds right at the end after yet another goal for in-form striker #HarryKane, who now has 10 in 10, the fight for 3rd and 4th continues to be the real race to the finish for this season.

Over in the #CopaDelRey #Barcelona beat #Villareal 3-1 in the 1st leg to take a huge advantage in the tie as #Bilbao and #Espanyol battle in the other game, while in France, #PSG and #Monaco both record relatively easy wins to make progression closer.

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Blind faith?

#ManchesterUnited whimpered their way to a last minute 1-1 draw away at an impressive #WestHamUnited thanks to a 90+ minute goal by #DaleyBlind but their performance, especially in a very woeful 1st half, highlights just how little this star-studded team is able to gel together and play anywhere near the champagne football you’d expect from the likes of #DiMaria #Rooney #Falco #RVP #Mata #Januzaj and company, instead floundering between #LouisVanGaal’s 3-5-2 formation, slow possession play and then the eventual turn to long balls using the height and power of #Fellaini. It’s now 7 months into the season and LVG still doesn’t know his best 11, his most effective system and he isn’t getting the best out of both Falcao and RVP, who seem hamstrung by the way the team is setup. So much so that both missed chances in front of goal, showing just how low on confidence (and chances) those 2 are. This line up should be playing the #SAF way, 4-4-2 with rapid transitions using the speed of DiMaria, Januzaj, #Valencia and #Shaw creating myriad chances then for #RVP and #Falcao when they aren’t spending all their time with their backs to the opposition goal.

#Newcastle were wasteful with their chances and lucky to have goal-scorer #Colback on the field when he did score as a late #Crouch header gave visitors #StokeCity a 1-1 draw while #Burnley threw away a 2-0 lead to let visiting #WestBrom draw 2-2 keeping both of them just above the relegation zone.

Over in the #SerieA, it might be fair to call #Juventus Champions-elect as well as they surged to a 3-1 win over once-mighty #ACMilan leaving them 7 points clear of #Roma who beat #Cagliari away 1-2. Milan continue to languish in 9th.

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