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  • The knockout stages of the Champions League got underway in earnest over the past two weeks, with all the first-leg ties in the round of 16 being played across Europe. Among the teams in action were the four German teams, Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke. Bayern and Borussia faced visits to Arsenal and Zenit respectively, while Leverkusen and Schalke hosted Paris Saint-Germain and the mighty Real Madrid.

  • Despite the cockney bravado and jovial honesty, Tim Sherwood is an intelligent man. He would have known upon signing an 18-month contract to be André Villas-Boas’ successor, that he would have to encounter a great deal of luck, and success, in order to fulfil that agreement. Luck is mainly what has got Sherwood this far, but the imminent danger of a World Cup, a notorious graveyard for managers, renders Sherwood’s position unsustainable, and there is one man Tottenham are desperate to get their hands on.

  • It’s a question that has been asked almost every week on Match of the Day or any of the national papers: ‘Are Arsenal title contenders?’ Before the season began, the concept would have been almost universally dismissed. Indeed, the common perception regarding Arsenal in recent years is that instead of growing stronger and pushing past a top four place, holding that place had become an increasingly difficult prospect.

  • Over the last few days, one of the biggest stories in the media has been regarding Wayne Rooney’s bumper new contract, worth around £70m for the next four years. Equating to roughly £300,000 per week, Rooney would be the best paid player in the Premier League and would be up to the wage standards of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi. Biggest question is - is he worth it?

  • Felix Magath is a man with a reputation. Known throughout Germany for his often brutal training methods, the new Fulham manager has now brought his ideas to the Premier League. But can he keep the league’s bottom club in the division? Born in Aschaffenburg, West Germany in 1953, Magath’s managerial career began after a successful playing career, during which he won the European Cup with Hamburg in 1983 and finished as a runner-up at both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. After being forced to retire after the 1986 World Cup due to a knee injury, Magath moved into coaching, and in October 1995 was appointed manager at Hamburg.

  • When José Mourinho first galloped into London in 2004, unabashed arrogance and loyal entourage in tow, he was greeted by neutrals with a sense of guilty approval. Chelsea fans, of course, welcomed the acquisition of a manager who had guided FC Porto to Champions League glory not three weeks earlier. Following a five-year voyage into Europe, Mourinho has returned to the familiar green pastures of the country he called home way back when, a place he bitterly left behind in September 2007. This time, however, the welcome has been noticeably frostier.

  • So after a couple of months of hype, build up and silliness, Manchester City finally hosted Barcelona at the Etihad, and in the end, the script went the way of most Champions League nights on the blue side of Manchester; expectation followed by a humbling reality check. A 2-0 home defeat means that bar a minor miracle, the tie is over, and the Champions League is still looking very uncooperative towards City, a sturdier unmovable object than their supposedly unstoppable force.

  • When Jose Mourinho arrived at Stamford Bridge back in 2004 from Porto, the infinitely charismatic Portuguese coach brought with him so much more than a promising track record – he showed English fans a breed of manager they had never seen before. At his first press conference in England, he proclaimed himself as “the Special One” and did not look back, going on to provide press rooms around the UK, and the world, with aural gold to put on their pages and websites.

  • The FA Cup is often accused of being irrelevant for the Premier League sides. This didn’t apply to Arsenal’s clash with Liverpool on Sunday, as both teams had a lot to fight for. Arsenal not only had their reputation to save after their heavy defeat to Liverpool a few weeks earlier, but they had the chance to prove that they are capable of winning a trophy after eight years.  For Liverpool, a trophy could have been the icing on the cake after a successful season.

  • At long last, some variety has hit us in La Liga. Zero points and six goals is all what separates the top three teams in Spanish football's premier division; Atletico Madrid join the usual challengers of Barcelona and Real Madrid as this season's title contenders. Can they last the distance? Besides Valencia's couple of recent titles at the beginning of the 00's, the last team to win La Liga apart from Barca and Real was in fact Atletico Madrid, dating all the way back to 1996. Atletico's appearance towards the glory end of the season is like a full moon; they make an appearance out of nowhere every so often, and then disappear off again.

  • 1. Rematch At The Etihad

    Jose Mourinho’s expertly rendered stifling tactics nullified Manchester City’s attacking threat to nothing a couple of weeks ago. So with many of his key players still out, it will be interesting to see if Manuel Pellegrini has anything to serve up to Jose’s defensive unit that the Portuguese maverick can’t deal with. Rumour has it that both managers may rest first team players for this one, so don’t be surprised if it ends up a damp squib. Pellegrini really won’t want to lose three times to Mourinho in one season, though, for that would be chastening indeed.

  • Recently, a berth of upcoming young talent has revolved around Switzerland, leading to a very good squad making the trip to Brazil for the World Cup. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Yann Sommer and Fabian Frei have all graduated from the Basel academy team, with the former two going on to play for German clubs with a high reputation.But just recently, the largest transfer fee for a Basel player just went through, with winger Mohamed Salah moving from Switzerland to London club Chelsea FC for £11 million.

  • Manchester United's trip to Arsenal finished as a goalless draw, with neither team reaching their peak performance. It was a game that had the potential to be special, but disappointed in the end. Manchester United started in a 4-4-2 formation, as Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney started up front, Juan Mata played on the left wing with Valencia on the right, which meant that Adnan Januzaj started on the bench. Arsenal started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Arséne Wenger made two changes compared to the side that lost heavily to Liverpool; Rosicky came in for Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Kieran Gibbs started at left-back.

  • The answer to all of Manchester City’s defensive midfield woes (at least while Fernandinho is injured) was supposed to be on his way to north-west England this summer; rumours of an ‘informal agreement’ between City and Porto regarding the acquisition of Fernando Francisco Reges abounded this week, though Portuguese Sport Daily O Jogo is now claiming that the Brazilian has signed a contract extension, tying him to the Dragões until 2017.

  • If Carlsberg did horror movies, they could do worse than take Arsenal's defending in the first 20 minutes at Anfield as a reference. Equally, Liverpool's attacking quality may be worthy of a script of its own, after they demolished the league leaders 5-1 in a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash on Merseyside. The win sees the Reds pull five points clear of Everton in fourth, and reignite discussions about their potential title chances.

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  • 1. Crunch time for Arsenal and Liverpool

    Knowing their fixtures over the next two months, Arsenal might have wanted something more than a two-point cushion against their title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea, but that’s what they’ve got. And bearing in mind Manchester City’s fixtures over the same period, Arsenal can’t really afford to take nothing from Anfield on Saturday morning; by the same token, any notion of being in the title race would surely dissipate for Liverpool if they lose to Arsenal. They would be 11 points off first place, and Rodgers can be bullish, but if that’s the case, 4th place would be the most they could get out of this season. Big game for both sides and should be great for the neutral.

  • Now I didn’t read Philosophy during my three years at university, but had I done so, I think the kind of quotes that Jose Mourinho came out with on Monday would not have bemused me quite as much. Following his Chelsea team’s impressive 1-0 away win over the bookies’ title favourites Manchester City at The Etihad, the Blues boss was on top form in his post-match interview. “A victory is a victory, but a victory against a very good team is better than a victory against an ordinary team. More credit to my players,” he said after Branislav Ivanovic sealed the win with an edge-of-the-box strike.

  • For the past six months, David Beckham has been making headlines with the prospect of adding a MLS team in Miami. Yesterday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made the announcement that Beckham has exercised his expansion option, and it looks like Miami are going to be joining the league within the next couple of seasons. Beckham noted that it is an “exciting time for Miami and for himself personally.” This is the first time that an ex-athlete is joining MLS as a team manager.

  • Before the season started, this question would have been almost unthinkable. Flashback to the end of last season; Everton had just lost their manager of eleven years, David Moyes. Moyes had taken them from a beatable, lower mid-table to relegation team, and made them competitive. He instilled his philosophy of hard work and stubborn resolve. Goodison Park became a ground that teams feared to visit, because even if they didn’t win, Everton rarely lost on their home soil. With a shoestring budget, the squad was enriched. Savvy business like £2.5mil for Mikel Arteta and £1.5mil for Tim Cahill allowed Everton to continually push higher up the table.

  • After 18 years with Massimo Moratti at the helm of Inter, little was known about what lay ahead with Erick Thohir in the driving seat. Moratti, despite his deficiencies - most notably his impatience with managers, with a remarkable 20 coaching changes to his name - delivered a hoard of trophies to the nerazzurri faithful, making his tenure an undeniably difficult act to follow. As if this weight of expectations wasn’t enough of a burden on Thohir’s shoulders, he finds himself the owner of a club that has failed to move forward in the last two years.

  • Sometimes, all the comedy gold a person could need can be found in the world of football, so here, I list five of the funnier happenings in football over the last weekend.

  • It was a disastrous start: a 4-0 loss to Swansea. Sunderland were bottom: 8 games played, -15 goal difference, 1 point, 6 points from safety, no wins. New manager Gus Poyet had inherited a side who, at best, were bereft of confidence, at worst, simply not good enough for this league; a series of overpaid, gutless drunkards. In his first game, things got even worse; out from the cold came Sunderland fans' enemy number one, Phil Bardsley. After being dropped from the team under Paolo Di Canio, he spent the first game of the season (a defeat to Fulham) laughing at Sunderland on Instagram, but here he was lining up against Swansea.

  • Racism, affairs and misconduct; three words which I would use to describe John Terry’s footballing career. Whilst he’s been a solid and loyal servant for Chelsea, only leaving the club once to play at Nottingham Forest on loan, his career hasn’t exactly been as pretty as a Picasso painting. However, last night we witnessed him and fellow Englishman Gary Cahill shut out Manchester City – Europe’s top scoring side – in a 1-0 win for Jose’s Blues at the Etihad. It begs the question, should John Terry be amongst the contenders for England’s World Cup squad despite all the controversy that would undoubtedly surround his return to the England fold?

  • I’ve been a relatively long-standing advocate of Scott Parker. He’s been a bit unfortunate throughout his career, and has only really gained recognition after his time at West Ham, and so it’s nice to see that he has been made England captain. Regardless of your view on his lack of international caps or concerns that Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard is a much more qualified candidate, you can’t help but feel happy for the man.

    However, the matter won’t be left there, and I think I’ll address a few issues.

  • Brazil has a rich history of producing superstars. Here are five that I’d love to see in England.

    1. Hulk (Porto)

    Hulk plays predominantly as a right winger, but can also operate very well as a striker too. As you might guess from his name, he is a player with a great deal of strength, but also backs it up with blistering pace. He has a very impressive goalscoring record, considering he is a winger, with 141 goals in 266 career games. His potential was realised last season, as he played a massive part in Porto’s season, where they won the league, the Portuguese Cup and the Europa League, putting away 36 goals in 53 games.

  • by Farhat Raza The Carling Cup: a small but crucial step in Liverpool’s quest for glory February 25, 2012 in FA and Carling Cup by Farhat Raza If, as expected, Liverpool claim victory in Sunday’s Carling Cup final, you can rest assured that rival fans will be quick to rain on King Kenny’s parade. The lines are well rehearsed by now, with the winners told that “it doesn’t matter”. It was only the Carling Cup, the one that nobody cares about; easy to win, irrelevant, the cup almost embarrassingly slight. The League Cup is certainly nothing to shout about. Liverpool won’t be taking the silver cup on tour should they win (if they do, I will be all over it, as an avid Manchester United fan), nor should it be what defines their season, but it definitely matters. It matters a lot. Liverpool have won the League Cup a record 7 times. Dalglish won it as a player in 4 consecutive years, and winning it as a manager on Sunday could be just as crucial to Liverpool’s fortunes in the future as his former glories are to the club’s illustrious past. There are obvious reasons for the Scouse faithful to celebrate should they secure victory; winning is a good habit, silverware is what the game is played for and defeat can be torturous. Ask Arsene Wenger if the League Cup doesn’t matter – his side succumbed to a shock defeat to Birmingham City in last year’s final and while the trophy itself may not have been of massive value in the currency of history or financially (the winners take home just £100,000), that winning feeling is most definitely invaluable. Liverpool have been going through a tough time. Rafael Benitez’s reign saw Liverpool on the very brink of returning to the green, trophy-laden pastures of the past. His managerial demise and the burden placed upon the club by notoriously bad American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet led to a sharp downward spiral which culminated in Roy Hodgson’s short tenure. Dalglish returned to a hero’s welcome and that alone is crucial for Liverpool. The fans will be as patient as is possible with him and offer him every sinew of support their bodies can muster. To Liverpool fans, Dalglish really is King and they are his loyal servants. You have to wonder how they would respond to another man paying £35m for Andy Carroll before recording 8 home draws this term. Considering Liverpool’s outlay in the summer and the very steep and sudden deterioration in Arsenal and Chelsea’s form, you could have reasonably expected Liverpool to secure the crucial 4th place this season. That hasn’t transpired and currently Liverpool linger behind Newcastle in 7th position. Fourth place is still very much within their reach, but seeds of doubt have naturally begun to creep in. Can Dalglish really lead Liverpool to glory once more? Is he a true top level manager? It’s almost impossible to tell for now, but a win on Sunday means the jury are kept out of the court-room for a few months more. Liverpool fans will turn the volume up on the pro-Dalglish chants and regardless of the Cup’s relevance, Dalglish will have once more led Liverpool to success. For Dalglish and Liverpool however, a win on Sunday has to be regarded as a small step in the right direction rather than a significant landmark. A small step albeit, but an immensely vital one. Whilst Dalglish may lack tactical knowledge or the Midas touch in the transfer market, he possesses something of perhaps greater importance. An understanding of what it takes to be the best, the fibre than underpins all great clubs and all succesful sides. One he was taught by Liverpool’s great managers of the past. Bill Shankly once said, “If you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing”. Dalglish knows that better than most and it’s what he must instil into his players today if Liverpool are to return to the glories which for so long saw them sit at the summit of the English game uncontested. A relentless and insatiable thirst to be at the top of the tree is what Liverpool have been lacking. Whether he will be the man who lifts the trophies Liverpool fans so desperately crave, he is better placed than anybody to set that pursuit in motion. Winning is essential because the alternative is defeat. Defeat must be unacceptable, incomprehensible, impossible. Many Liverpool fans have been weighing up whether they would rather win Sunday’s final or secure 4th place come May. Most have gone with the latter. The conundrum made further difficult by bringing a potential FA Cup final into the picture. A cup double or 4th place? A tougher call. Liverpool, however, must aim for all three, casting the choice aside, a treble of sorts. Should it come, even that can not be enough. Whilst his players may celebrate, rightfully so, Dalglish must keep his eye on the real prize. Next season, the gauntlet must be laid down to the players once more, defend the crowns, secure new ones, climb the table, win the league, conquer Europe. It won’t all come at once. It can’t. Some players won’t make the cut, others may only last half the distance and few the whole way. But until Liverpool Football Club once again demand of themselves that winning it all must be the aim, the glory days of the past will remain distant memories. Never mind dreaming big, it’s time to demand big. It begins on Sunday.

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