Sadio Mane becoming world-class for Liverpool

 

Sadio Mane

Ask Jurgen Klopp to list his biggest regrets from his time at Borussia Dortmund and not signing Sadio Mane is one of them. It was a mistake the German was keen to avoid at Liverpool.

When the Reds paid £36 million to secure him from Southampton, many eyebrows were raised. Some suggested Mane would be another example of the club paying over the odds for a Saint. Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana were examples of such errant spending. Klopp had no such doubts, though.

Three years on his faith that Mane would be worth the money is justified on a weekly basis. Ask Liverpool fans who watch on a regular basis and they are have not missed Mane’s excellence. Continue reading

Real Madrid fans are wrong to turn on Gareth Bale

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If any player deserves myth status at Real Madrid currently than you could do no more wrong in suggesting that accolade should go to Gareth Bale. But it seems that every time Bale makes an error it is this the fans are remembering him for and not his greatness as a player.

Let’s be blunt, Bale has become the best ever British import- he has joined Real Madrid, competed in a side with Cristiano Ronaldo, scored countless goals- most of them important ones and most of them awe inspiring and has won so many trophies that it is easy to lose count of them all. But for some reason that doesn’t matter diddly to Madrid fans.

Madrid’s fans have always been very hard to please. Especially if you are a player of flair- even Ronaldo has been booed at the club before, and if he can be then anyone can. But these are fans that probably wish the likes of Roy Keane had played for the club. The harder you are the more loyal you are etc etc.

It’s not that the fans do not like Bale, and any of them would have to admit he has been one of the best foreign players the club have had in their last 25 years, but they won’t let things lie down. So when Bale missed a sitter against Atletico Madrid that was brought to the forefront so much so that Spanish daily reported on it, is Bale in crisis at Madrid moment? What was bizarre is that Bale scored in that game and Madrid won 3-1, which has consequently brought them  back into the league.

But this is Madrid fans in a nutshell, they did the same to another British player-who scored important goals and won 2 Champions Leagues, Steve McManaman. Now the ex Liverpool player is welcomed back at the Bernabeu with open arms and you get the feeling that once Bale leaves the club and the years go on and retirement comes, Bale will be seen as a very important figure at the club. Surely that was cemented last summer when he came off the bench in the Champions League final and scored an incredible bicycle kick against Liverpool- and let’s be honest it was his involvement in the game that ended up winning Real Madrid their 3rd consecutive Champions League title.

Madrid fans will never change- but they need to show Bale a little bit more respect- after all he is the best player they have at the moment.

Defensive crisis drags down Liverpool title challenge

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As 2018 came to an end, Liverpool would have been very happy indeed. Champions League heartbreak aside they had enjoyed a very good year. Having matched Manchester City toe to toe across 2018 they entered 2019 top of the Premier League table and four points ahead of the champions.

Adding Virgil Van Dijk in the January transfer window and Alisson Becker in the summer had transformed the once weak Reds backline into a formidable outfit. 12 of their 21 games before the turn of the year had seen them keep clean sheets. They had conceded just ten goals in that period, the best in the league. Manchester City were their closest competitors with a tally of 17 conceded.

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Tottenham can still win the league with an almighty run

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So the scenario is that the Premier League is a two horse race between Liverpool and Manchester City, but perhaps Tottenham have a chance too. While the media pour column inches over the two teams nobody is really talking about Tottenham who are just five points behind Liverpool. Could they really have a chance?

If the form books go as they should it looks like the new champions will end up with anything between 90-94 points. No matter how good Liverpool and City have been they are going to drop more points this season.

Tottenham looked out of the league a few weeks back after falling almost 10 points behind Liverpool, but the Reds have dropped points through drawing games and City lost in between that and the teams look more bunched up and close than many people think.

So do Tottenham have a chance? There is the possibility of it. They have 39 points left on the table and have 57 in total. If they were to win every game they would end up with 96 points which should be enough to win the league. The problem is not many teams are capable of winning 13 games in a row, but if it is going to happen then it should towards the end of the season when your club are going for a title.

Of Tottenham’s 13 fixtures 7 are at home if we can imagine the club winning at least all of their home fixtures that would take them to 78 points alone. Of course Spurs have some difficult matches coming up where they will have to play the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool and only the Arsenal game will be at home. On top of that is the Champions League, and if Spurs are going to try to maintain a league challenge it’s difficult for them in their present state to also go full throttle for Europe.

Still Mauricio Pochettino’s side will feel that they can exert real pressure on the top two teams. Their next fixtures both look winnable at least on paper when they will entertain Leicester before an away match against Burnley. Having said that you never can quite tell what Leicester side will turn up and Burnley have really improved as a team.

At the very least Tottenham should be finishing 3rd this season and if Pochettino is given some cash injections in the summer they have to go for the title that has eluded them since 1961 next season.

 

February could be key to Liverpool winning the Premier League

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The league table doesn’t lie and as we have entered February Liverpool are still top of the standings. Their lead is just 2 points from current champions Manchester City but The Reds will play West Ham on Monday night and so they could have their 5 point lead restored.

But a 5 point lead isn’t going to quite cut it against a team like Pep Guardiola’s City side and Liverpool know they should be 7 points in front after dropping points at Anfield last week when they drew against Leicester- and in that game they were an early goal up.

This season has been all about Liverpool and the question remains, can they really win their first league title since 1990? There is also pressure on manager Jurgen Klopp who has done a terrific job, identifying which players Liverpool have needed and the team have played wonderful football since he has arrived, but awkwardly there has been no trophies as yet.

But February does seem to be the defining month for Liverpool and even though the title won’t be decided this month, it could take a large swing that way. Liverpool start the month of with a trip to West Ham. On paper this looks like 3 points and we must remember that The Reds have scored a whopping 16 goals against the Londoners in their past 4 meetings.

West Ham have been hit by a series of injuries and Liverpool will fancy their chances. However the game is in London where West Ham have already beaten Manchester United and drew with Chelsea. The month continues with a home match against Bournemouth who have been terrific at home but poor away- even an out of form Everton were able to beat Eddie Howe’s side, and this should be a good win for Liverpool.

Then comes the Champions League first leg tie again at Anfield but against a super European heavyweight in Bayern Munich. Liverpool with their fantastic atmosphere of a crowd will fancy their chances, but the feeling is that the league is more important this season- and this is another game that could take a lot out of Jurgen Klopp’s players.

The following weekend they will face the resurgent Manchester United at Old Trafford on what could prove to be a pivotal match. United do not want Liverpool to win the league- although they wouldn’t want City to win it either, but at the same time they are going for a top 4 spot, so that could well be the game of the season so far.

They then finish the month off with what could be another win, as they are back home against Watford. So there are some pressure cooker games for The Reds, then again there are for Manchester City too and even Tottenham are not that far behind. One thing for sure is that we will have a clearer picture of who will be Premier League champions at the end of the month.

Liverpool squeeze past Crystal Palace but they must recapture defensive solidity

When Andros Townsend fired the ball past Alisson at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, it was not just Crystal Palace fans who were celebrating. Supporters of Manchester City, who began the weekend four points behind leaders Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title, were also full of cheer as they contemplated a repeat of the upset which saw Roy Hodgson’s men win 3-2 at the Eithad Stadium last month.

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Five Players to sign in January for Fantasy League Success

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas leftovers are all gone, the decorations are back under the stairs for another year and lots of us are feeling our willpower beginning to weaken in the face of Dry January.

So what we need most of all is some kind of distraction to take our minds off the weather and the general gloom that brings in the start of the New Year. So what better to do than start fine tuning our fantasy football squad in preparation for the rest of the season?

It could be that your team’s already riding high in which case you may not need this advice. But if you really want to move up to a higher level then we’ve picked five players who could bring success whether you’re a relative fantasy football novice or a seasoned pro.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

When the captain of the Gabonese team signed for Arsenal just within last January’s transfer window it was for a record-breaking £56 million. Now, a year later, he’s certainly proved to be a good buy as he heads the list of Premier league scorers with a total of 14 goals to his name, many of them snatched from inside the box. With 10 goals scored last season no-one’s betting that he won’t double that total for this one.

Leroy Sané

For a 23 year old the winger and attacking midfielder Leroy Sané shows incredible maturity for his age and he has already gained experience in Germany as well as for Manchester City. His early days for the latter were beset with reported breathing difficulties but he seems to have put all that behind him now. As well as regularly assisting goals he also knows just when to score them with his 72nd winner against league challengers Liverpool being a case in point.

Eden Hazard

With Chelsea enjoying a very good season, secure near the top of the table, much of that has to be down to Hazard. Now in his sixth season at Stamford Bridge he’s part of the furniture, and what a valuable part too. Not only is he well up with the League’s leading goal scorers, he also tops the list of assists too with 10 to his name after 22 matches played.

Richarlison

The Brazilian stated his professional career in 2015 with Fluminense but a series of outstanding performances saw Watford’s Marco Silva snapping him up for £11.2 million.

A year later, Silva brought him into the Everton set-up where he’s continued to thrive, albeit with the occasional lapse of discipline. As an out and out forward, he’s never far from the action and there’s every reason to suppose that he’ll be adding to his 9 goal tally so far the season.

Alisson

No matter how many goals your fantasy league team may be scoring, it can all be undone without a safe pair of hands between the posts. And few are safer than the Brazilian Alisson. When Klopp paid the thick end of £70 million for him there were a few raised eyebrows but the number of clean sheets Liverpool have seen since his arrival is testament to his value. He won’t be cheap for you either, but he’ll almost certainly be worth it.

Of course, you may have your own favourites to add to your squad to see you through the rest o  the season so don’t take our selection as definitive. Just try to create as balanced a squad as possible and remember, past performance is never any guarantee of future performance. So you have been warned!

Are Liverpool imploding after surprise FA Cup exit?

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At the start of the year Liverpool had much to celebrate, 7 points clear at the top of the Premier League, with the FA Cup coming up and in the knockout stages of the Champions League. It seemed that this season would be Jurgen Klopp’s one to finally pick up a trophy with the Reds. But a loss to Manchester City in the league and now being knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves has put that dream into check.

Just one week into 2019 has seen two losses for Liverpool, who had gone 20 games unbeaten in the Premier League. There has been a body blow to the club of epic proportions. The City loss means that they have just a 4 point advantage at the top of the standings. But the cup defeat means that after starting the season with 4 possible chances of silverware, Liverpool now have 2.

Like Leicester before them one does have to wonder why Klopp decided to play a weakened team against Wolves,  a fellow Premier League opponent who also had home advantage.

His decision to rest some of his key players for the Premier League has heavily backfired and why rest them anyway, when Liverpool do not play their next game in the league for another 5 days, it is just makes no sense what Klopp has done. With Leicester who rested players when they lost to Newport County the decision seemed more bizarre given that they won’t come in the top four and won’t be relegated so why not fight on all fronts?

Alas with Liverpool, priorities might be different given that the one trophy they crave this season is the league title-something they haven’t won since 1990. And then there is the little matter of winning the Champions League and they will take on Bayern Munich in the two legged last 16 affair next month.

But then there is the matter of Klopp and how his Liverpool team have won zero trophies under him. He has spent hundreds of millions of pounds, and there have been some wonderful displays, great signings, great wins and two European finals both ending in defeat but nothing there to show for it in the end.

When the league resumes Liverpool will be under pressure to start winning games again, and of course Klopp will pick his strongest available team. His latest move feels like he is disrespecting the importance of the FA Cup, which becomes all the more apparent and bizarre given that Liverpool have not won a trophy since 2012.

How will Liverpool react to losing in the Premier League?

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For the first time this season it finally happened, Liverpool after 21 games lost a game in the Premier League.

It was a fantastic run which saw some fantastic results including only a week ago demolishing Arsenal 5-1. But the run came to an end when the Reds visited the Etihad the home of current champions Manchester City and lost 2-1 in a quite frenetic game of football.

Liverpool still have the advantage in the league and lead by 4 points as they try to win England’s top domestic competition for the first time since 1990. But now that they have lost how will Liverpool react? History has told us it is how you finally react to a loss that defines you as a champion. In the league we will have to wait another week given that cup matches take over England this weekend.

One wonders if that is a hindrance or actually a good thing for Liverpool. On one hand it’s frustrating as the team want to play their next league game, win it, and prove that the City loss was just a tiny blip. On the other hand if they can get a good FA Cup win then that could restore some confidence going into the next league match. So that remains interesting to see.

Liverpool will play Wolves and the game is away from home which could be a tricky 90 minutes for the club. The fact that they have been paired with a Premier League team at this stage of the cup is not to their advantage. But of course they will still be favourites to win. But if they did lose then a serious question will be asked, ‘are Liverpool losing their bottle?’ It has happened before and manager Jurgen Klopp will have to field a strong side and get the victory over Wolves- that match does not take place until Monday.

In the league Liverpool’s next games are against the likes of Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester and the last two games are at home. These are all winnable games for the club, but at the same time, you never quite know in regards to the Premier League.

It seems that February will be a big month for Liverpool where towards the end of it they will have to play Bayern Munich in the Champions League and then follow that up with an away match against Manchester United who have been in terrific form, and the Merseyside derby follows just a week after that.

There is all to play for and of course Manchester City and Tottenham will have to keep winning too, but Liverpool are under real pressure again to produce the goods when it matters. That is how hard it is to win the Premier League nowadays.

 

 

Mario Balotelli’s romance with Ligue 1 football is coming to an end

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The very talented and often misunderstood though egomaniac Mario Balotelli is set to leave Nice after spending almost 3 seasons with the club. It seems that there may have been a confrontation with new manager this season Patrick Vieira, although that has not been confirmed.

What we do know is that this season will very likely be Balotelli’s last in France and certainly last with Nice. The club are understood to want to sell the Italian player this month to cash in on him for small fee. Otherwise he will be free to leave in the summer for nothing.

Balotelli finally seemed to settle down in France where he had become a cult figure with Nice. The club had not only improved since his arrival in 2016 but he also scored goals. On his debut season in the league he scored 15 from just 23 games. In all competitions he has played 76 games and scored 43 goals which anyway you look at it is a terrific return. Balotelli proved that in Ligue 1 at least he still had the magic despite the usual baggage that comes with him.

Vieira and Nice have frozen the player out for much of this season where he has played just 10 games and has yet to score. Has there been a coming together between player and coach? One thing is for certain and that is the summer fiasco that Balotelli was involved in. Before the season started it looked like Marseille would buy Balotelli and he deal came very close but in the end never happened. The problem though was that as a result Balotelli missed most of pre season and training and did not come in fresh, this could be another reason that Vieira has been indifferent to the player.

So if Balotelli is to leave Nice and possibly France what could be next for a player who is 28 and still has a good 4-5 seasons ahead of him? A return to Italy could be out of the question, every time he has played their he has been sadly subjected to racist chants.

Perhaps he will come back to the Premier League He has divided a few fans since he has played for both Manchester City and Liverpool and getting a chance to play with some of the bigger teams will probably not be an option.

However a team near the bottom of the league could well do with Balotelli- as long as the coach strikes up a friendship with him, then Balotelli has proven that he can be a deadly striker and he could end up saving a team from relegation. If so a move could happen in the next few days. For now though it looks like au revoir to Balotelli’s career in France, which is slightly sad given that it seemed the French air and regime had indeed calmed the player down.