Are Bayern Munich focusing more on the Champions League than the Bundesliga?

Bayern Munich and winning the Bundesliga seemingly goes hand in hand but this has been a difficult season for the German champions who have sacked Niko Kovac this season after a slow start.

His replacement has been Hans-Dieter Flick who made an immediate improvement where the club climbed from 4th and are now in 2nd place and from his first 11 games, Flick has won 9 of them. His win rate is an astounding 81%, and that has proven fans and pundits alike in Germany wrong. Indeed when Flick was appointed there was a surprise because he hasn’t managed a club side since Hoffenheim back in 2005.

So what was Flick doing in that 14 year gap? Well he was the assistant for the German national team which of course included winning the World Cup in 2014, so he has hardly been on an extended holiday.

Currently Bayern are four points behind surprise league leaders RB Leipzig and it seems only a matter of time before Bayern eclipse them, or will they?

There have been quite a few stories circulating in the German media that Bayern much like Manchester City in the Premier League want to focus more this season on winning the Champions League. Bayern have not captured Europe’s greatest prize since 2013 and there is a feeling in doing so the club will reestablish themselves as one of Europe’s great teams. That they are is always questionable to an impressionable youth one that now has less and less attention spans. Perhaps they don’t see past Real Madrid and Barcelona and Bayern will want to remind everyone of their status.

The German giants have of course advanced to the knockout stages of the competition and in their two group stage matches put 10 goals past Tottenham who also managed to qualify for the last 16.

Bayern will play Chelsea in the knock out rounds which, of course, will be a repeat of the 2012 final when Chelsea scrapped through on penalties. The league of course will be important for the club but the situation as it stands is that Flick can’t really lose. He has come in to pick up the pieces and a deep run in cups and maintaining 2nd place even if they don’t win the league shouldn’t affect his job this year.

The rallying cry has been led by Philippe Coutinho who said: “We want to do our best, survive the next round and win the Champions League at the end of course. I think we have the quality.”

So if Bayern drop more points in the league which could happen once the Champions League starts up again in a months time, don’t be surprised, there is a focus and it is not on the league title this year.

 

 

Premier League Predictions: Week 23

It’s another round of the English Premier League with some exciting games as the top 4 is still up for grabs and so is relegation. Which teams will be able to make in roads and can Liverpool stretch their unbeaten run to 39 games when they face old rival Manchester United?

Watford v Tottenham

The weekend kicks off with this Saturday lunchtime game and what a game it looks to be. Watford have been in brilliant form and are unbeaten in their last five games. They have climbed out of the relegation zone. Tottenham have been in mixed form and are 9 points behind 4th place now. With Harry Kane out Jose Mourinho will be relying on Heung-Min Son to find some form.  Watford and Tottenham to draw

Arsenal v Sheffield United

Arsenal have been average even under Mikel Arteta with just one win in his 4 games so far. But last time they were at home they beat Manchester United 2-0. One would think they will have too much for the Blades here. Mesut Ozil looks like a new player, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang their potent striker will be missing after being sent off. A narrow win perhaps? Arsenal to beat Sheffield United

Brighton v Aston Villa

Both sides have shown a lack of form and Brighton have slipped to 14th place and have won just once in their last five games. Aston Villa lost 6-1 at home to Manchester City last weekend and are in 18th but a win here could move them out of the bottom three and they could join Brighton on the same points. Watch out for Jack Grealish who is using this year to try and get into England’s team for Euro 2020. Brighton and Aston Villa to draw

Manchester City v Crystal Palace

Last season Crystal Palace stunned Manchester City at the Etihad with a 3-2 win. But it was a one off stunning goal that won it for the Eagles. City are in rich form and scoring goals, with 10 in their last 3 games. A win here would take them to 50 points. Can Sergio Aguero score more goals this weekend after his fantastic hat trick? Manchester City to beat Crystal Palace

Norwich v Bournemouth

Norwich look doomed for relegation. They are bottom of the league and 8 points from safety. They have earned 2 points from their past 15. Bournemouth are in 19th but are six points ahead of the Canaries. This is Norwich’s biggest game of the season, they need to win and need a player like Teemu Pukki to show his early season form. Norwich to beat Bournemouth 

Southampton v Wolves

Along with Watford, Southampton have been the team of the moment. They beat Leicester away from home after losing to the same team 9-0 a couple of months ago. Their recovery looks complete. Wolves have quality but had to play in midweek in the FA Cup and lost to Manchester United. The Saints are at home and the fresher team. Southampton to beat Wolves

West Ham v Everton

David Moyes will face his former team who he spent 11 years at. Moyes’ 2nd stint with the Hammers started well but they lost to Sheffield United last week. Carlo Ancelotti has won 3 of his first five games with Everton. We expect to see a very entertaining game with the away side getting all three points. Richarlison looks fired up since Ancelotti took charge. Everton to beat West Ham

Newcastle v Chelsea

Newcastle have only lost 3 games at home and Chelsea usually don’t travel so well up here. The Blues have gone their last three matches unbeaten, but this will be a tough game for them. The Magpies have not won in 4 games but this record won’t keep up. Jonjo Shelvey just needs to show some of his brilliant form before Christmas. Newcastle to beat Chelsea

Burnley v Leicester

Burnley have lost 4 games in a row coming into this match and that includes losing 4 of their last five home games and now they are up against the 3rd best team in England right now. Leicester’s form has dipped but they can get back on track with a win here. Leicester to beat Burnley

Liverpool v Manchester United

One of the all time great fixtures of football. Liverpool are still unbeaten and have a  100% record at Anfield. They have no major injuries and no distractions. Manchester United are missing Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford could be touch and go. Liverpool are light years ahead of United even though it was the Red Devils who have taken the only points from Liverpool so far. Liverpool to beat Manchester United

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The 10 best Premier League teams of the decade

In England the Premier League’s best teams have, for a time, been described as the big six and below we look at how these big six teams have compared points wise, which team has garnered the most points since January, 2010- December 31st, 2019?

If one was to say who has been the most successful Premier League team of the decade, do you say Manchester City or Chelsea? Both clubs have won 7 titles between them and of course it is City who have won the most titles this decade winning 7. That would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the decade where City had just been taken over and injected with money.

This table is based on points earned in the Premier League only:

6th- Arsenal  702pts

The great Arsenal side have really had a down turn this decade and winning a few FA Cups aside this has been a disappointing 10 years for the club who finally saw the end of the Arsene Wenger era when he left the club after 22 years. His first half reign had been supreme but after the club moved stadium success did not follow. Arsenal are certainly a team in transition.

5th – Tottenham Hotspur  703pts

Tottenham forever in Arsenal’s shadow it seemed stepped out of it this decade even if they had a lack of trophies to show for it. The club surpassed Arsenal and started qualifying for the Champions League on a regular basis instead of their north London rivals. They even made a Champions League final in 2019 but lost to Liverpool. Now the club has one of the most successful managers in charge of them in Jose Mourinho as they try to continue to build on former boss Mauricio Pochettino’s hard work.

4th-  Liverpool  710pts

It may be a surprise to see Liverpool only 4th in the decade standings and that is in large part because of some of the poor seasons the club had endured. This included finishing below Everton their rivals for a few seasons. Brendan Rodgers did almost win the league for the club in 2014, but they have only looked like the Liverpool of old under Jurgen Klopp. When the German was appointed manager he struggled at first but now he looks like the best coach in the world. Liverpool are the European and World club champions and are after their first league title since 1990 which they look like they will wrap up in style this season. They have not lost in the Premier League for 1 year.

3rd-  Chelsea  740pts

Continuing on from a very successful 2000s, Chelsea went a step further and won the Champions League in 2012 and this decade they have won 3 league titles, with 3 different managers. They are a superb team when they want to be, but surely would have taken 2nd place here after they had two poor seasons this decade.

2nd-  Manchester United  747pts

This has been a very tough decade for Manchester United, their worst since the 1980s, and so this is all very new for a new generation to witness the fall of this great club. The decade started off well enough with 2 league titles and a Champions League final appearance. But once Sir Alex Ferguson left the club the wheels started to come off. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho couldn’t find the solution, though the club still picked up a league cup, an FA Cup and a Europa League in between, they have had a succession of very poor league results.

1st-  Manchester City  818pts

Way out in front is Manchester City who won 4 league titles this decade including their first ever back to back wins in 2018 and 2019. The club have been fantastic and really went up another level once Pep Guardiola came into the fold. He installed a winning only attitude and the club raised the bar so much that in one season they got 100 points, the other Liverpool got 97 points and that wasn’t enough either. In two seasons City earned 198 points, incredible stuff. And no club can come near them this decade.

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Inter Reinforcing Ahead Of Scudetto Push

Before the season started, many expected Inter to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto, but few foresaw the nerazzurri going toe-to-toe with the Italian champions like this. After seventeen match-days just eight goals and their head-to-head encounter separates the two at the top of the table. Since his arrival, Antonio Conte has already imprinted a clear identity at the San Siro, something that was lacking for years at the club.

Along with his trade-mark 3-5-2 and defensive solidity, the former Chelsea tactician has ensured his Inter side are among the toughest to break down in the peninsula. However, their lack of squad depth has been pegged as the defining factor in their title bid. As a result, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta appears to be dipping into their war-chest and taking to the January mercato aggressively.

Reports suggest that former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is on his way to the club, but Inter will reportedly not stop there. In recent times, they have also been linked with Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Marcos Alonso, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Acuna among many other names, highlighting clearly Inter’s intent. While their list of targets grows as the mercato is set to open, Inter’s needs are clear: Midfield depth, another wing-back to compete with Asamoah and Biraghi, and a striker to provide Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez with some much-needed rest. Alexis Sanchez is also expected to return to action shortly, giving Conte another weapon in the final third. Beyond bolstering the side in key areas, Inter’s reported winter activity highlights one thing clearly: The title is there for the taking this season and they’re going for it.

When Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi went down injured, Conte’s men struggled to create chances and Inter barely overcame their opponents in tight affairs. Recognizing this, Inter loosened their purse strings. That’s where the experience of Vidal comes into play. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Chilean remains one of football’s elite box-to-box midfielders and will add some valuable experience in the middle of the park, in what is a relatively young midfield trio.

Up front, Lukaku and Martinez deserve a break. Up until now, the former Manchester United man has featured in all of Inter’s 17 Serie A clashes while his Argentine counterpart has appeared in 16 of the nerazzurri’s domestic affairs. While Sanchez’s injury complicated things, Conte will be eager to add another forward to his offensive ranks. Given he’s already familiar with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman’s arrival makes perfect sense. The former Arsenal man still has plenty to offer as a link-up man in the final third and could form quite the partnership with any of the nerazzurri’s front-men.

While adding another fullback is a luxury more than a necessity given Inter’s depth out wide, it demonstrates Conte and Marotta won’t stop until they’ve built a comprehensive side capable of competing on multiple fronts. With the title race likely going down to the wire this season for the first time in years, Inter are reinforcing significantly and won’t go down without a fight. Brace yourselves, we’ve got a title race.

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Frank Lampard will feel he has managed 3 seasons in his first 4 months in charge at Chelsea

The Chelsea players may not have realised it yet but if their manager Frank Lampard’s hair goes grey before the end of the season they would have contributed to it.

In some ways Chelsea’s poor start to the league campaign which in fact only lasted one month made perfect sense. Lampard is young very inexperienced and the club had a summer transfer ban on players not to mention they had just lost Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. Let’s face it Chelsea could have finished 8th this season and the board would not have blinked, Lampard a club legend always had a pass in his debut manager season for the Blues.

For once under performing was of no great concern, just get enough points on the board and some deep cup runs, and go with the flow. But this young Chelsea team didn’t read the script and instead went on a blazing run, winning games, beating teams and scoring lots of goals. They settled into 4th place very nicely and it was at that point that the club started to lose games. Chelsea have made keeping 4th place much harder work than it ever should have been. True they currently have a 4 point lead to 5th but at one point that was 9.

One of the biggest surprises for Chelsea is that they are actually performing better away from home, only just but it’s still a surprise. We can cast our minds back to when Lampard was a Chelsea player and the club had such a proud home record once going 4 years at Stamford Bridge without losing a game. Now the club seem fair game against anyone. If you lose to Liverpool here it can happen but getting beaten by Bournemouth and Southampton shouldn’t be an option at home for a top 4 side but that is what has happened this season.

It must seem odd to Lampard that his side can lose so many games at home to bottom half table teams and yet in the last few weeks record wins against Tottenham and Arsenal both away for added measure. For this Chelsea could be seen as the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde team.  You just don’t know what is going to happen next and what team will turn up.

So because Chelsea have shown the board what they can do there has ended being way more pressure on Lampard than there should be. This team has proven after 20 games that they are good enough for the top 4. Drop out of that now and whilst his job won’t be under threat there will be a sense of disappointment.

The likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and perhaps Sheffield United and Wolves will have their say and try to make life harder for the Blues. With the top 3 looking like it be wrapped up by Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester that leaves a mad dash for 4th, who will get it is anyone’s guess, but Lampard will be determined not to give it up now, even if his hair does go grey.

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Mikel Arteta has stepped into the storm at Arsenal can he prove his worth?

No wins in his first two games does not bode well for Mikel Arteta and one has to wonder if Arteta will be the right man to lead Arsenal forward?

Arteta’s first game in charge of Arsenal ended in a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth. The result was seen as acceptable given that Eddie Howe’s side had taken the lead but at the same time Bournemouth had been in very bad form and fallen in the league, this could have been an opportunity to beat them.

That match was followed up by the recent Chelsea game. A grudge London derby match was not what Arteta and Arsenal needed right now. But the club played good football and took the lead through the excellent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and everything seemed like it was going well. Even with five minutes remaining one could see Arsenal winning the game. Although there was the niggling thought that despite good play the Gunners had only had 2 shots on target and this was a home game.

And then it happened, Bernd Leno made a shocking error and Chelsea scored not one but two goals in the last few minutes to snatch the win. Perhaps a draw would have been the fair result as this was a game of two halves but Arsenal had lost again.

Arteta then has started with 1 draw and one loss and it is clearly too early to judge him yet. However the modern game has turned cruel at times and if Arsenal have not picked up and changed in a months time he will be judged by some.

Have the Arsenal board made the right decision and what is expected of Arteta this season? Well Arteta was one of the leading favourites to be appointed as Arsenal manager after Arsene Wenger had left the club after 22 years but instead the board chose Unai Emery, on paper that seemed like a fair choice. The board have now gone for Arteta, but again on what grounds?

Arteta has no top flight managerial experience however the one card he does have up his sleeve is that he has been Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City in the last few years and has stuck to the former Barcelona legend like glue. But surely management of your own team and making those decisions is quite a different job altogether? When one looks at the fact that Everton were able to lure Carlo Ancelotti one of the most decorated managers of the past 20 years and Arsenal make do with Arteta, one also wonders just how far the Gunners expectations have fallen.

Of course let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Arteta could well end up being a brilliant manager, but maybe Arsenal needed that experience and quality now and not to flourish slowly in the next few years. With the exception of Chelsea hiring Frank Lampard most big clubs go with experience. The other worrying aspect is that with new managers usually come the results. Look at Ancelotti at Everton and Nigel Pearson at Watford.

Arsenal are now 11 points from a top 4 position and it is quite clear that this season is a near write off in terms of the league. There are simply too many points and too many positions in between the clubs, and this league has been fiercely competitive this season.

Arteta’s objective is too surely get the club winning games again and make coming to the Emirates a fortress. The confidence factor has to be reversed. So forget league positions and cups, the priority has to be making Arsenal what Arsenal have been for the past 20 years, a very good attacking club.

On the little evidence that we have seen Arteta is in for a major job, and one has to wonder if he has been thrown in at the deep end? On New Year’s Day Arsenal will face Manchester United to begin their first game of a new decade, good luck Mikel, you will need it.

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Christmas Cracker: Remembering Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa, the best Boxing Day game ever

Boxing Day is a time for leftover turkey, sales at the shops and wild football matches. The wacky round of post-Christmas fixtures in 1963 has gone down in legend, with the division’s 20 teams sharing an astonishing 66 goals – a ludicrous tally which led to much questioning about just how many pigs in blankets the league’s defenders had demolished the day before.

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Jose Mourinho has already been exposed with new club Tottenham

It is early days in the Jose Mourinho story at Tottenham and there is no denying that the club have played some great football under him. However it is also true that his start has been slightly bumpy with the club losing 3 of their 8 games under Mourinho’s wing.

The clubs latest loss is the one that is going to hurt the most. Losing home league matches is pretty alien to Mourinho. He once went 150 home league games unbeaten and remained unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in his first term at the Blues. You could count on one hand how many home league games he has lost in his career but bang, it has already happened at Tottenham in under a month.

That loss was like rubbing salt in the wounds given that it came against one of his former employers in Chelsea and that the manager Frank Lampard used to play under Mourinho, what comes around, goes around and all that…. The defeat left Tottenham swinging to 7th place and they are now 6 points from a top 4 place.

Tottenham have also lost against Manchester United another former Mourinho team and they also lost in the Champions League away to Bayern Munich 3-1. This feels like a gung-ho Mourinho side and the last time we could say that about a Mourinho team was when he was in charge of Real Madrid in his first season in Spain. Once Madrid were slaughtered 5-0 by Barcelona he was determined to learn from those mistakes and finally turned it around, let’s just say Madrid stopped losing by those big score lines.

It will be fascinating to see what Mourinho does next at Tottenham because he has a team who like to attack, though they did look out of sorts and toothless against Chelsea. But in general this is a team who look like they can score coming forward but concede going backwards.

The clubs objective this season has to be playing Champions League football the next and Tottenham don’t seem to be up to speed enough to do this at this moment in time. Mourinho has bemoaned his lack of time with his players and the one thing he needs to sort out is the teams defence. In those 3 defeats the club have shipped 7 goals, and even when they win they have been conceding goals. Only the Burnley win which ended 5-0 has felt complete.

There is a long way to go for Mourinho at Tottenham and he has started like a speeding Ferrari that keeps hitting the curbs, can he steer the club in the right direction?

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The heat is on for Wobbling Chelsea who could give up 4th place

It wasn’t long ago that Chelsea had made a statement in the Premier League and risen into the top 4. The objective at that point was simple: Frank Lampard’s team were going to finish in a Champions League position. As the weeks rolled on Chelsea opened up an 8 point gap on 5th place and whilst finishing higher than 4th didn’t really look on the cards, 4th was the position the Blues would have accepted after a summer that saw a transfer ban, Eden Hazard sold to Real Madrid and Lampard stepping into his first top flight managerial position.

In fact Chelsea had not started the season well but that was to be expected as they kept dropping points to teams they would have usually beaten and of course it all started in nightmare fashion when the club conceded 4 goals on the opening weekend to Manchester United. Many who bet on sports, particularly football, would have not expected Chelsea to finish in the top 4 following that devastating loss to United. In fact, most sports betting sites would have had odds which hinted that Chelsea were not a side expected to finish inside the top 4 in England earlier in the season.

But bolstered by their form in the Champions League, Chelsea ventured on and started to put a nice run of winning games together. Headed by youth in the form of Tammy Abraham the club have looked irresistible. Look at some of the results Chelsea have already pulled off this season; beating Wolves 5-2, Burnley 4-2 and Southampton 4-1. Not only were Chelsea winning games they were scoring goals for fun. They did lose against Manchester City and Liverpool but both of those games were incredibly close and they lost by the same score line of 2-1 on both occasions.

The problem for Chelsea now is that they are in a blip of sorts. True they beat Lille in the Champions League just yesterday and have qualified for the knock out stages, that is a massive tick right there. However their recent form in the league has suffered where they have lost 3 of their last four games. Defeats against Everton, Manchester City and West Ham have not helped their cause and the club have seen their points gap greatly reduced. They are still 4th with 29 points but Manchester United’s form has really picked up and the Red Devils are just 5 points behind Lampard’s team.

Chelsea have some difficult games coming up including away matches to Tottenham and Arsenal and those London derbies could take their toll. It will be interesting to see Lampard come up against former mentor Jose Mourinho in the Tottenham game but it is clear that Lampard will have nothing but respect for the Portuguese man who carved out such a brilliant trophy laden career for him.

If Chelsea do crack and finish outside of the top 4 there will be disappointment no doubt in the Chelsea ranks but at the same time this was always going to be a season where Lampard would get a ‘pass’, and rightly so. Next season and beyond is where he will be judged. So far this season Chelsea are doing well under Lampard’s guidance and to be fair there isn’t really much to complain about, though one suspects the pressure is growing for Lampard himself as he sees the gap to 5th cut by every passing week. Chelsea will play at home to Bournemouth at the weekend and they should have enough in the tank to beat them. Slip up again and 4th will be in real danger.

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Everton finally playing with passion under Duncan Ferguson

Sure it’s only been one game but whose hearts didn’t melt at the sight of Duncan Ferguson, Everton’s caretaker manager running down the touchline and embracing not one but two ball boys as he saw his side score against Chelsea?

True Chelsea fans would have hated the spectacle as Everton went on to win the game 3-1 but anyone who simply loves the passion of the game which is seemingly buried deep under a mountain of business and investment but rose like a phoenix at Goodison Park must have loved what they saw.

The victory over Chelsea was Everton’s first in over a month and took the club out of the relegation zone and into 14th place. This was a match that at least on paper looked like it would be another loss for the club who have suffered greatly this season. Marco Silva was finally and inevitably sacked after a series of poor results ending in a 5-2 defeat to city rivals Liverpool. Enough was enough for the board, but with no manager yet ready to come step in the club had to turn to caretaker Duncan Ferguson to oversee the clubs fortunes for the next few weeks at least.

Ferguson’s appointment was great news for long standing fans. He is a club legend with Everton. But also he is an old school warrior so to speak. True he got himself in lots of trouble both on the pitch and off but he will always remain a club legend with fans, so to have him in charge of the club is, in a sense, a dream come true.

Of course one must remain with caution, Ferguson doesn’t have any first team experience and in the long term you would expect that to come back and haunt Everton. But for now there is sheer jubilation and it is clear that the players stepped up for Ferguson against a very good Chelsea side. Ferguson ticked every box in the dressing room and also believed to put Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front on his own with Richarlison sitting behind him as attacking midfielder. Whilst Silva was also prone to play Calvert-Lewin up front, he would also drop the player to the bench for no reason and his tactics seemed to be one of panic and shuffle.

Already some have suggested that Ferguson should be getting the job full time. This is a surprising thing to say after just one game. But what is refreshing is having someone in charge of a club that genuinely loves being there and sees it more than just a stepping stone and another job. Ferguson is part of Everton and Everton is part of Ferguson. How long the relationship will last is anyone’s idea, but right now having the Scotsman in charge feels like an early Christmas present for the fans.

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