Happy New Year – for some…..

#JoseMourinho is starting to make the #OldTrafford faithful sing again (especially today, on Sir Alex’s 75th birthday) – unbeaten in 10 and 6 wins on the trot, while playing some fantastic attacking football – more in the #SAF mould rather than than the traditional #Jose ‘Park the Bus’ mould. But none more so than today, as a much deserving #United came from 0-1 behind in the last minutes of the game to score 2 in 90 seconds to beat #Middlesborough 2-1 and keep the pressure on the top 4. The #RedDevils are starting to look very good – they are generally solid in defense, have very good midfield balance with #Herrera and #Carrick playing their terrier and calm pass-master roles respectively to a tee and #Pogba starting to show just why they paid top dollar for him – he is special and while it’s taken a while for him to get settled, he is going to be the midfield general for United for years to come. Upfront, #Ibra defies his age as his physical superiority, finish and personality are producing goals every game (he scored today as well but the goal was ridiculously disallowed – watch here to see how egregious the call was) and #Mhkitaryan and #Martial produce magic that the #TheatreOfDreams hasn’t seen since a certain Ballon D’Or winner left many years ago. Their slow start to the season will haunt them by the end of the season because this team should have been competing with the utterly brilliant #Chelsea for the title, who have now equalled #Arsenal’s winning streak of the #Invincibles of 13 wins by beating #Stoke in a very entertaining game at #StamfordBridge. The Blues led 1-0 and 2-1 as a brave Stoke kept coming back but at 2-2, they turned it on to end up 4-2 winners and now sit 6 points clear of #Liverpool, who beat #ManchesterCity 1-0 at #Anfield, thanks to a brilliant header from #Wijnaldum. In the battle of the star coaches, #Klopp came out on top over #PepGuardiola and his team now sit in 3rd on 39 points, 10 behind Chelsea and only 3 ahead of #Tottenham and United. The top 4 is still up for grabs amongst 6 teams, even though the Blues might well be out of sight in the title race!

#LeicesterCity managed a much needed 1-0 over #WestHam thanks to a #Slimani header; #Southampton lost their 2nd on the trot as #WestBrom beat them 1-2; #Burnley thrashed #Sunderland 4-1 thanks to a #Gray hat-trick and manager-less #Swansea lost again 0-3 to #Bournemouth.

The festive season continues over the next few days with #Arsenal and #Tottenham in action tomorrow.

Happy New Years everyone!

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Demolition of the pretenders…..

In so many ways, this was like the #Leicester story of last season – unknown small club punches way above their weight to give heavyweights a massive run for their money. And yet, it really isn’t, because #RBLeipzig, the club from the east, bankrolled by the owner of #RedBull, deftly jumping through #Bundesliga loopholes on ownership structure, branding (RasenBallsport as a way to use RB in their name) were joint top of the league with mighty #Bayern, much to chagrin of every else in Germany. Quite the opposite of the way most folk felt about tiny, innocent Leicester. And yet, they were going toe-to-toe with the Bavarians (if it had been any other team, most Germans would have welcomed the challenge to this boring monopoly that Bayern have had for so long).
Until now. Leipzig went to the #AllianceArena to show Bayern just how good they were. Instead, they were dealt a lesson by the Meisters. A brutal 3-0 thrashing with goals from the brilliant #Thiago, #Alonso and #Lewandowski, that could well have been 5 or 6 – 0. There is only one power in the Bundesliga and they showed it by demolishing the pretenders, especially with poor #Dortmund continuing their inconsistent league form with a disappointing 1-1 home draw against minnows #Augsburg.

Perhaps now everyone will hate poor Leipzig less.

Over in the #SerieA, #Inter continued the resurrection of their otherwise garbage 2016 campaign with a 3-0f thrashing of #Lazio – could this be the start of something meaningful for the #Nerazzurri ?

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Same old, same old….

It’s Christmas time, when fixtures come thick and fast, couple of away games to boot and lo and behold, #Arsenal come unstuck again, losing back-to-back games at#Everton and then today at #ManchesterCity. In both games it wasn’t that they thrashed or that they didn’t show up (infact they led 1-0 in both games only to lose 2-1 in the end) but they lost for the same reason that the #Gunners have lost the race for the title the last 12 years – their weak spine. They are brilliant in so many ways – #Ozil’s creativity, #Sanchez’ all-round genius, #Cech’s consistency between the sticks, #Koscielny’s defensive nous and yet, when it comes to the tough (often away) games, they just seem to whittle away physically and mentally, just enough to bottle a couple of games that end up costing them in the race for the title. #Wenger, like he does every season, blames everyone and everything (today it was the refereeing) but the end result is just the same. #Sane’s equalizer today for #City was borderline onside and the #Sterling goal to win it could have been construed as offside because of #DavidSilva’s position but neither were clear offsides. What was clear was that Arsenal played only one half at City today. And that’s just the same old, same old, isn’t it?

#Tottenham had a late #Rose goal to thank for their narrow 2-1 win against #Burnley, helping them come within 1 point of #Arsenal, who dropped to 4th after today’s defeat. #Southampton won at #Bournemouth 1-3 thanks to 2 #JayRodriguez goals, who’s return from non-stop injury is a massive boost to the Saints (and possibly #England).

In the #Bundesliga, a narrow 0-1 win at #Darmstadt means #Bayern are back at top of the table on goal difference from #RBLeipzig and in the #SerieA 4 goals by #Mertens gave #Napoli a 5-3 win against #JoeHart’s #Torino and moved them up to 3rd, within a point of #Roma. #Inter got a welcome 0-1 away win at #Sassuolo moving them into 7th and in the #Ligue1, another #Balotelli brace gave #Nice a 2-1 win against #Dijon to leave 4 points ahead of 2nd placed #Monaco (who play later today).

#CristianoRonaldo scored yet another hat-trick to give #RealMadrid the #ClubWorldClub capping off an absolutely incredible year for the 4-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner.

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Just Conte stop him!

19 teams in the #EPL currently feel like they just can’t find a way to stop #Conte’s brilliant #Chelsea side as they continue to grind out result after result, now getting to 11 wins in a row after a 0-1 win at #CrystalPalace thanks to yet another #Costa goal. 9 points clear at the top now and barring a dramatic collapse in the new year (perfectly timed with a huge winning run by someone in the group chasing them), the Blues will coast to their 2nd title in 3 years. #Zlatan seems just as unstoppable currently after scoring a brace in a comfortable 0-2 win at in-form #WestBrom, giving #ManchesterUnited their 3rd win on the trot and move them within 3 points of 4th placed #City and on equal 5th with #Spurs (both have a game to play tomorrow, though).  #United have looked the better team for about 2 months now but had struggled to convert their dominance into goals. Zlatan’s consistency in front of goal and the growing influence (and form) of #Pogba has helped change that. It also helps that #Mourinho seems to have found the 11-13 players he seems to rely on and the unlikely defensive pairing of #Rojo and #Jones has been fantastic for the last 4-5 games. With the reliability of #Carrick and the non-stop industry of the little terrier that is #AnderHerrera, the #RedDevils go into the festive season with a lot to aim for.
#WestHam seem to be getting better, slowly, with a narrow 1-0 win against #Hull; #Sunderland eked out a 1-0 #Watford; #Middlesborough sent #Swansea to the bottom with a 3-0 thrashing and 10-man #Leicester came from 0-2 behind to salvage a 2-2 draw at #Stoke.

Over in the #Bundesliga, #Dortmund needed a late comeback to draw 2-2 at high-flying #Hoffenheim while #RBLeipzig won, yet again, a 2-0 over #Hertha to go back top of the league, until #Bayern play tomorrow.

In the #LaLiga, #Atleti finally got their season back on track thanks to a #Saul rocket to beat #LasPalmas 1-0, while #Barcelona and @Espanyol play the Catalan derby tomorrow and #Real miss a game thanks to their final at the Club World Cup.

In the #SerieA, #Juve moved 9 points clear of #Roma after they beat them 1-0 thanks to a Higuain goal early in the 1st half, all but ending any Roman hope of a title challenge!

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The Ballon goes to CR7, again!

Love him or hate him, he’s had quite the year.

#Euro2016 winner

#ChampionsLeague2015 winner

#Ballond’Or winner

In 54 Games he scored 51 goals at an average of 0.94 per game. That’s #WayneRooney’s average per year!

Here is the list of the top 10 for 2015-2016. When you look at the list and see the little #Leicester duo of #Mahrez and #Vardy in that list dominated by the 2 Spanish giants (with a little #Atletico thrown in for variety), you begin to realize what a fairy tale year the Foxes had last year. It also shows you why Ronaldo and Messi are so darn amazing – they’ve now produced these Ballon winning performances since 2007 non-stop. That is some feat!

️1. Ronaldo – Real Madrid (0.94 goals per game)
2. Messi – Barcelona (0.93 goals per game)
3. Griezmann – Atletico Madrid
4. Suarez – Barcelona
5. Neymar – Barcelona
6. Bale – Real Madrid
7. Mahrez – Leicester
8. Vardy – Leicester
9/10. Pepe – Real Madrid
9/10. Gianluigi Buffon – Juventus

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Oh Arsenal…..

The #Gunners can’t catch a break in the knock-out rounds of the #ChampionsLeague it seems. For years now, they’ve somehow found ways to finish 2nd in their group only to be drawn against one of the giants – #Barcelona or #BayernMunich and end up being knocked out after playing really poorly in one leg and then fighting like crazy in the 2nd but falling short. Again and again. They had a difficult group again and this time, on the last match day, largely due to #PSG’s doing, #Arsenal topped their group. Yay? Not quite. Bayern just happened to finish 2nd in their group, surprisingly, and in the draw that took place this morning, lo and behold, that’s who #Wenger’s men will face in the round of 16. Bayern haven’t been as devastating as they usually are and Wenger will believe that he has a chance this time. But cometh the hour, cometh the Bavarians. This could end in pain and tears again for the Arsenal faithful.

#PSG paid the price for their slip-up as well, as they drew #Barcelona – a clash that neither team would have liked to see this early in the knockouts. For the neutrals, these are the 2 matchups of the round of 16.

Predictions:
1. #ManchesterCity over #Monaco
2. #RealMadrid over #Napoli
3. #Dortmund to edge #Benfica but this one could go either way, especially with #BVB’s inconsistency.
4. Bayern over Arsenal (again)
5. #Juventus over #Porto but only just.
6. #AtleticoMadrid over #BayerLeverkusen
7. Barcelona over PSG but this might be closer than the Catalans would life.
8. #Sevilla over #Leicester, their demolition of manCity over the weekend notwithstanding, the Spanish side have far more guile and experience dealing with Europe.

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All class and one ass!

Post game interviews are always interesting, especially when the game/ result hasn’t gone well. The questions seem just that much harder or annoying to have to answer. Some Managers give detail and analyze meaningfully in their responses (#Klopp is the best example of this) and some answer in a relatively biased manner (#Wenger often comes to mind). But this season, if you look at the interviews of #Pep, Klopp and #Pochettino (all embedded below) the one thing that stands out is just how classy these guys are. Objective, loyal, respectful and often times thoughtful. They show respect for their opponents, appreciate good goals and objectively defend their players.

Then you have Arsene Wenger, who is fine if Arsenal win but gets tetchy and sarcastic when they don’t. He’s annoying but tolerable when that happens. At the absolute other spectrum is the self-styled ‘Special One’, who seems less special by the day and more annoying each time he comes out to speak to the press. Watch his post game interview after #Everton scored right in the end to make it 1-1 last week. He is such an annoying classless twat, isn’t he?

Pochettino:

Pep:

Klopp:

Mourinho:

 

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Magic Mhik….

Another ‘Man of the Match’ display and a beautifully taken goal by #HenrikMhiktaryan combined with a surprising clean sheet gave #ManchesterUnited a 1-0 win against #Tottenham in a game that was part entertaining, part cagey and one where both keepers were called on to make a couple of excellent saves. Between the 2 teams, United needed this win a lot more, bringing them within 6 points now of 4th and finally holding on to the slender 1-0 advantage they’ve had for so much of this season, only to give it away in the dying minutes. The opposite of #FergieTime so to speak. Once again, it was the magic of Mhiktaryan that made United look good in attack and his finish won them the game. That #Mourinho chose to banish him for this long, continues to boggle the mind – he might have been injured for a few games but aside from that, he would have been the difference between where United are now and what might have been. He’s now picked up an injury at the end of today’s game, stretchered off after a tackle by #Rose and United faithful must be praying it’s minor and that he’ll be back for this busy festive season. For Spurs, not much went well to be honest. They didn’t play poorly but just didn’t create much and #Kane and company should have been a lot more effective against a backline that has #Rojo #Darmian and #Jones in it.

#Liverpool continue to drop points after they had to come from behind to hold #WestHam 2-2 at #Anfield after yet another sublime free-kick from #Payet. He’s been poor compared to the heights of last season but when he produces his magic, especially on set pieces, he’s an absolute delight to watch.

#Chelsea continued their race to the title under #Conte with their 9th consecutive win, a hard fought 1-0 against #WestBrom thanks to a brilliant #Costa goal, proving that Conte has this side winning big as well as grinding out the 1-0 wins – a definite sign of title-winning DNA! Over on the south coast, #Southampton eked out a 1-0 win against #Middlesborough to help ease the wounds of their exit from the #Europa midweek.

In the SerieA, champions #Juventus beat #Torino 1-3 in the derby thanks to a brace from #Higuain sending them 7 clear at the top. This title race might be well over this early – again. Ho hum!

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RIP – EPL Defenders

29 goals were scored in the 6 games that were played today in the #EPL. That’s almost an average of 5 goals per game. Incredible. For the neutral, this is fantastic and made for a very fun Saturday football viewing. This isn’t a one-off either. It is starting to become a trend, primarily in the EPL but also across Europe. Defenses have gone missing. Nay. They might be entirely extinct. The #Mourinho of old would have been chomping at the bits at this utterly woeful, disorganized defending with teams going hammer and tong at each other like an #NBA game.
The current Mourinho is too busy being overwhelmed by the ‘siege mentality’ he’s created for himself at #United now and another home draw (or worse still, a home loss) to #Tottenham tomorrow will send him further into the downward spiral he’s in. Today’s highlight however was the quick fire demolition of #ManchesterCity at the hands of #Leicester. #JamieVardy came back to life after an utterly rubbish season thus far with a hat-trick in the 4-2 win against #Pep’s visitors and he owed a lot of that to the ridiculous way City turned out tactically against a side that is known to do not much other than score on really fast counters. Pep set them up to be very open with the full backs often stuck in attack (not even in midfield) which made it rather easy for Leicester to scythe through them 4 times. It’s still early in the season to write City off but they look off the pace at this stage, certainly defensively, compared to #Chelsea, #Arsenal and #Spurs. The Gunners have temporarily gone top of the table after they came from behind to beat #Stoke 3-1; #Watford beat a struggling #Everton 3-2, the same score that #Burnley beat #Bournemouth; #HullCity and #Palace played a fascinating 3-3 draw (Is there a team more unpredictable than Crystal Palace right? They let in and score more goals than you can count on one hand game after game!) and #Swansea thrashed #Sunderland 3-0 (Imagine, the Swans were the only team today to keep a clean sheet. The Swans!)

Over in the #LaLiga the magical #Messi helped #Barcelona thrash #Osasuna 0-3 and #Zidane’s magic continued for #RealMadrid as they came from 1-2 behind to beat #Deportivo 3-2, thanks again to a last minute goal by the amazing #SergioRamos taking their unbeaten streak to 35 games!

In the #Bundesliga, world order was restored as mighty #Bayern went back to the top of the table after thrashing #Wolfsburg 5-0, while #Dortmund could only manage a late 1-1 draw at #Cologne and surprise leaders #Leipzig fell 1-0 to #Ingolstadt.

Chelsea, #Liverpool, #ManchesterUnited and Spurs are all in action tomorrow!

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