A moment of madness – and magic!

The biggest English rivalry in history (probably less so in today’s #EPL context) between #ManchesterUnited and #Liverpool did not let viewers down with a high energy, high intensity game with the storyline being writ large by 2 incidents – the moment of madness that substitute #StevenGerrard showed within seconds of coming on at half time as he stamped on #Herrera’s leg and was sent off with a direct red by ref #MartinAtkinson, who had a near perfect game in black and the absolutely magical 2nd goal scored by man-of-the-match #JuanMata, who’s sideways bicycle kick finished off a move he started to give United a 2-0 lead after his equally well finished first capped a very good performance by the Red Devils. #Sturridge got one back to inject a modicum of life into the game but United were fully deserving of their win and the 5 point gap between the two of them for 4th spot. The last 2 games (the win against Spurs and this one) have shown a lot of the United of old and if they can continue this momentum, they’ll be a challenger next season.

#Chelsea were exceedingly lucky to come away with all 3 points away at #Hull and had it not been for the absolute brilliance of goalkeeper #Courtois (after his rare rare gift for Hull’s 2nd goal) this game would have finished as a draw at the very least. Instead the 2-3 win for the Blue pushed them 6 clear of 2nd placed #ManchesterCity, who finally won their home game in a comfortable 3-0 victory against #WestBrom and 7 clear of 3rd placed #Arsenal, who were lucky to hold on to a 1-2 win away at #Newcastle.

England’s new golden-boy #HarryKane scored a wonderful hat-trick in #Tottenham’s 4-3 win against bottom-placed visitor #LeicesterCity and #Southampton put 2 unanswered goals past #Burnley to keep the battle for 7,6 and 5th spot alive and kicking.

The big upset of the week came from the one-horse-show in the #Bundesliga where that one horse #BayernMunich were upset 0-2 at home by visiting #Monchengladbach to keep them ONLY 10 points clear at the top. Over in the #SerieA the #Juventus show marched on towards the #Scudetto with a 1-0 home win against #Genoa thanks again to a #Tevez goal.

What will #ElClassico bring?

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The Italian job!

#Juventus slammed 3 goals past an absolutely toothless #Dortmund side at the normally intimidating #SignalIdunaPark giving them a convincing 5-1 aggregate win over the Germans and a place in the quarters they fully deserve. #Tevez set the ball rolling in the 3rd minute itself shocking the crowds and a slow lumbering #Weidenfeller with a quick release shot near the post that the keeper was actually close to (that’s how slow he was) and there was no looking back from there on as #Morata and a 2nd #Tevez goal sealed the win. Where Dortmund go from here is hard to see – they won’t make the #ChampionsLeague this season and will likely lose #Hummels and #Reus at the minimum.

The #EPL wipeout was completed as #Barcelona beat #ManchesterCity 1-0 at the #CampNou thanks to a beautiful assist from the in-form #Messi for #Rakitic to slot home and even the late penalty miss by #Aguero didn’t make this a close contest to be honest. Had it not been for an absolutely terrific performance by #Hart in the City goal, this game could easily have finished 5 goals to the good for the Catalan giants, who, yet again, move on to the quarter finals.

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‘Perhaps it would be better not to go out like this and make the Europa League, we would be more likely to win.’

When you hear quotes like this one from #ArseneWenger you realize just how far #Arsenal have fallen from the elite European side they used to be over 10 years ago as they went out, ONCE AGAIN, in the first knock-out stage, despite a fighting 0-2 win away to #Monaco in a second leg that had glimpses of great promise and industry but could only partially fill the hole they dug themselves in, in that wretched first leg at the #Emirates. #OlivierGiroud fluffed a zillion chances in London and even though he scored one in this return leg, he missed a couple that most top strikers would have put away, all of which would (and should) have taken the Gunners through to the next round. The truth is, until Wenger buys the kind of talent like the elite clubs buy, his team will always be just that little bit short of quality in certain areas of the pitch – upfront, in goal and for the most part, in defense. An #FACup win and a 2nd or 3rd place showing in the #EPL will again, just paper over those cracks.

It took some of the worst penalties taken in a #ChampionsLeague knock-out game (by both sides) to take last years beaten finalists #AtleticoMadrid through at the expense of a very impressive #Leverkusen who lost 1-0 on the day, after taking a 1-0 lead from the first leg in Germany thanks to a 27th minute #MarioSuarez goal that took the tie into extra time and eventually, penalties.

Can #ManchesterCity do the impossible and beat #Barcelona in Spain today or will they, like all the other 3 EPL teams likely exit the competition nice and early?

 

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40 minutes of Sir Alex Van Gaal?

For 40 odd minutes of the first half of their home game against #Tottenham, #ManchesterUnited played like the United of old – the pre-Moyes, pre-LVG team that played a high intensity of fast flowing football that made #SAF’s teams fun to watch – and it paid huge dividends as they hit 3 (#Fellaini #Carrick and #Rooney) against an admittedly poor Spurs side that did little to outline it’s credentials as a top 4 contender for the season. The 2nd half was nowhere near as nice by the #RedDevils but the game was done and dusted by then moving them just 1 point behind #Arsenal and 2 behind 2nd place #ManchesterCity. If the Blue half of Manchester do not halt their slide, they’ll be caught up in the scrap for 3rd and 4th sooner than their Sheikh can can say ‘You’re fired’ to #Pellegrini.

#Chelsea dropping points in a 1-1 draw at the Bridge against #Southampton was made irrelevant by City dropping points in that 1-0 defeat at #Burnley and has allowed #Mourinho’s men to live with the 2 poor results from this week with less pain than should have been the case – instead, they sit 6 points clear with a game in hand.

#RealMadrid (and #Bale in particular) hauled themselves back up into winning ways after a terrible couple of weeks with a 2-0 win against #Levante and staying within 1 point of league leaders #Barcelona while in France, #PSG’s incredible midweek heroics against Chelsea were brought crashing back down to earth in a 3-2 loss at #Bordeaux dropping them down to 2nd after #Lyon jumped back to top spot with a goal-less draw at #Marseille.

Oh. And #BayernMunich won again. By many goals. In the #Bundesliga. Ho hum.

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LVG was right about one thing…….

#LuisVanGaal claimed yesterday that his team intended to pip #ManchesterCity to 2nd in the #EPL. He was right about City being pipped to 2nd. It’s just not his team that will do it, it looks more and more like #Wenger and his #Arsenal squad have momentum going their way after a 3-0 win against #WestHam thanks to goals from #Giroud #Ramsey and #Flamini in a display that was deserving of their 1 point gap now from 2nd placed City after the Mancunians lost 1-0 at lowly #Burnley putting to bed any hope they had of catching #Chelsea in the defense of their title. Poor #Pellegrini might well have reached the end of the road as Manager of City after yet another shocker of a performance and result and a defeat at #Barcelona this week will put the final nail in that coffin it would seem.

Over in the #LaLiga #Barcelona’s 0-2 win at #Eibar sets them up perfectly at the top of the table as well as their #ChampionsLeague clash at home to the Citizens, with a first leg lead in the back of their pockets – this season is starting to rather swimmingly for them, while in Italy, #Juventus has all but sealed their title defense with a 0-1 away win at #Palermo thanks to a #Morata goal.

A super Sunday awaits with #ManchesterUnited vs #Tottenham; #Chelsea vs #Southampton and #Everton v #Newcastle!

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It’s PARIS!

An absolutely fantastic #PSG down to 10-men thanks to a direct red to #Zlatan for a foul that should have been a yellow at best, fought like lions to come from behind twice to go through on away goals (by old boy #DavidLuiz and the fabulous #ThiagoSilva) as they drew 2-2 at #Chelsea in a game they absolutely deserved to win – they were better than Chelsea throughout the game, even when (or rather especially when) down a man and had it not been for some terrible refereeing in the Blues favor (Chelsea should have been down to 10 men as well before their 2nd goal, with the dirty side of #Costa on display) PSG could well have won this game outright. #Courtois was the only shining light in an otherwise awful Chelsea performance.

Good money will tell you #Mourinho will still blame the referee, somehow. PSG were unfairly down to 10, outplayed Chelsea, who should have lost Costa to a red card and the Special One will talk about a conspiracy against the Blues. Go figure.

Over in Munich, the earliest red card ever shown in #ChampionsLeague (to #Shakhtar’s #Kucher), for what was in reality an apparent dive from #Götze set the game to it’s eventual result in a hurry – a 7-0 hammering of the Donetsk team by #BayernMunich. That Bayern would have beaten Shakhtar at the #AllianzArena was a given in any case. But that terrible penalty and red card decision just took any juice out of the game.

After the shock loss for #RealMadrid at home to visiting #Schalke 3-4, (they still progressed 5-4 on aggregate) other teams that might meet them in the next will not worry as much as they might have in 2014. Things seem to be going downhill in the ‘Blanco’ part of Madrid and #Carlo doesn’t seem to be able to stem the rot for some reason.

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The defense from hell!

As #ManchesterUnited’s season starts to fizzle into potential catastrophe, their shockingly poor – nay shockingly bumbling defense did them in once again as a gifted goal by #Valencia to #DannyWelbeck (he who needs gifted goals to score) saw #Arsenal dump United out of the #FACup 6th round after a 1-2 win at #OldTrafford, a feat this Arsenal side hasn’t achieved at the Theatre of Dreams since 2006 and have now done thanks to goals by Welbeck and #Monreal.

United had a lot of possession as #LVG seems to like, with little in terms of real chances and little in terms of genuine creativity. They were down to 10 men when #DiMaria capped off a series of unnecessary dives and an eventual yellow with a crazy grab at the referee to earn a nice fat red for his moment of madness. #Fellaini tried pretty darn hard to emulate his teammate and just about managed to stay on the pitch all game. As frustrating as United are to watch for their supporters and neutrals alike, Arsenal deserved this win – they made do with less of the ball with very incisive and sharp attacking with defended well for the most part, aside from the #Rooney goal where he was able to lose his marker too easily to meet #DiMaria’s pinpoint cross and it was only the brilliance of #DeGea that kept this from being a 1-4 win for them.

The inquest should begin for United and LVG. His tactics have seemed inexplicable at times and inflexible in general – when a game isn’t going their way, United have had little in terms of a plan B or C (#Mourinho is the master of switching the game in real time, isn’t he?) and the results of 2015 have shown just how much they are struggling. Their 200+ million of talent is ether misfiring, getting sent off or warming the bench and if this continues they will definitely miss out of #ChampionsLeague again, which would probably mean coach #3 in 3 years. #SirAlex has got to be turning in his metaphorical grave.

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The first of 3?

#Chelsea and #Mourinho have won the #CapitalOneCup 2-0 against #Tottenham thanks to 2 deflected goals from #Terry and #Costa giving them the first of a possible treble this season. That they’ll do a double is now a given – the title is theirs after #City dropped yet another 3 points in their earlier defeat to the excellent #Liverpool. If only Jose and his boys could now stop behaving like the whole world was somehow conspiring against them, they’d realize how special this season is about to be in the annals of their recent storied history.

Spurs gave it a good go much later on in the game but the intensity they showed was overshadowed by the pure experience and professionalism that this Chelsea side seem to have – they can turn it on when needed, hold down the fort at other times and are an extremely well-drilled side that will be deserving when they take the mantle as the best team in England come May. No one epitomizes this more than their brave-heart of a Captain, enjoying a phenomenal renaissance under his favorite manager.

Enjoy your day, you Blues.

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Familiarity at the top!

After #ManchesterUnited crawled their way (again) to a 2-0 win over visiting #Sunderland thanks to a rare #Rooney brace (to be fair to him, it’s the first time in a while he’s playing as a striker) and an equally rare defensive clean-sheet (not because they did well but because the Black Cats just didn’t have the quality to punish the mediocrity that is #Evans and co), #Southampton were upset 1-0 away to #WestBrom and with #Liverpool continuing their amazing turnaround to the season with a 2-1 upset over #ManchesterCity and #Arsenal’s gritty 2-0 win over #Everton thanks to goals by #Giroud and #Rosicky, the top 5 in the #EPL has a very familiar look about it – #Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool with just 1 point separating 3rd and 4th. This one is going to go down to the wire.

Current momentum and the upcoming fixture list would suggest a Liverpool jump into the top 4, with United possibly dropping out, unless #LVG can start getting this team playing to it’s players strengths as quickly as possible – they are still way to slow and lumbering and all that possession creates almost zero chances game after game. #BrendanRodgers has done an incredible job turning the form and the season around for the Reds – they are now winning games against teams they should beat and the ones they haven’t in the recent past, like this 2-1 against City, with goals from the superb #Coutinho and future-captain #Henderson. After the astonishing setback midweek against #Monaco in the #ChampionsLeague, Arsenal did well to pick themselves up and come away with a win that was achieved in a very non-Wenger way – gritty, hard-fought, not pretty and with far less possession than he’s used to, epitomized by the man powering their season – #SantiCazorla, who continues to orchestrate everything good that Arsenal seem to do this season. And City’s up and down form (every alternate game it seems) has likely already cost them the defense of their title and with Chelsea still to play their game in hand (as they play Spurs in the #CapitalOneCup) an 8 point gap seems likely soon, an end result that will cost #ManuelPellegrini his job.

It was a tough week for British clubs in Europe this week, after #Tottenham #Liverpool and #Celtic were all knocked out by #Fiorentina #Besiktas and #InterMilan respectively. On paper the first 2 might be considered upsets but on the field, there was little doubt that the Viola and the men from Istanbul were technically superior and way hungrier than the EPL sides. With Inter one gets the feeling that #Mancini has earmarked the #Europa as his main target for the year (and for the resurrection) of this illustrious Italian club, with the top 3 spots in the #SerieA almost impossible for them to make and based on their showing against a battling Celtic side, a realistic target for them to achieve. #Everton remain the only English side in the competition after they waltzed past #YoungBoys but it looks increasingly like a competition that will see the Italians win it with #Roma #Napoli Inter and Fiorentina all making it through.

Another #Dortmund win, this time a 3-0 thrashing of #Schalke and a routine 4-1 win for mighty #Bayern against #Cologne meant things seem entirely back to normal over in the #Bundesliga as #Pep’s men charge towards their customary title and #Klopp seems to have turned the tide of shocking form that had seen his BVB side plummet to the bottom of the table till a month ago. Now in 10th and moving north, things are starting to look a lot better with #Reus and #Aubameyang and #Gundogan all starting to find their feet.

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