Champions League Final – Liverpool’s Road to Kiev

Saturday night sees the Champions League final in Kiev’s between Liverpool and Real Madrid in what looks certain to be a classic in the making. The 63rd final sees Liverpool go in as the underdogs despite having knocked out the likes of Man City and Roma whilst playing some quality football along the way.

Liverpool started their journey back in August with a play off tie against German club 1899 Hoffenheim. A 2-1 in Germany and followed it up with a 4-2 win at Anfield,  the tie being over after 21 minutes when Liverpool cruised to a 5-1 aggregate lead.

The Reds found themselves in the Group stage in with the likes of Sevilla, Maribor Branik and Spartak Moscow. The Reds had a good chance of progression with the Spanish club Sevilla being the club most likely to cause some uncomfortable moments. Sevilla indeed deny Liverpool a win as they took two points off the Merseyside club over the two ties.

Apart from a third draw at Spartak, the Reds dominated the group sticking a total of 23 goals past their opponents, a total only bettered  by Paris Saint Germain who had netted 25.

The first knock out stage saw Liverpool drawn against Porto. A Liverpool team that waste now minus Brazilian playmaker Phillipe Coutinho. It was thought that the Reds might suffer without him, but it seemed not to be. The Reds stormed to a 5-0 win in Portugal. The dynamic trio of Mane (3) Salah and Firmino secured the result in Portugal.

Next up for the Anfield club was an all English tie as Liverpool were drawn against Premier League leaders Man City. It was one of the ties that stood out and one that could see either side go far.  The two clubs had already produced 13 goals in the two league ties including an outstanding Liverpool performance at Anfield. So when the two sides met at Anfield in the first leg, wow what a tie that would turn out to be. Klopp’s team crushed City and by half time it seemed game over. Not even the departure of Salah with a possible injury could hinder the reds. The tie was certainly looking like a Reds win but the  game was not over, but given this competition and these two teams, anything could happen.

A week later the Etihad was to host the second leg knowing that anything could happen. City needed a an early goal and they did, Jesus struck early and set the game up. The Reds were up against it in the first half and a second goal would have made things very interesting and shortly before half time City were denied a legitimate goal. It was 1-0 at half time. The second half began with Guardiola sent to the stands.

Liverpool needed something and in the 56th minute they got it. Mane looked like he was felled, but as everyone looked to the ref, that Egyptian wonder Mo Salah took hold of the ball, took it around Ederson and poked it over Otamendi. It was significant and it made it 4-1 on aggregate. After the Premier League game, anything was still possible. Liverpool had conceded goals from being 4-1 up and at the same time they hadn’t beaten an English club away from home in the European Cup.  The visitors had the edge and the tide had seemingly turned. In the 77th minute it was good night City as Firmino capitalised on a City defensive error to make it 2-1 and totally game over. The Five time winners were through and into the semi finals. The next opponents were going to be tough and the Reds found themselves paired with  AS Roma, the team that had come back shocked Barcelona. It was another Anfield first leg and 90 minutes of tantalising football.

Tantalising football was most certainly the case. Liverpool didn’t change a thing tactically against Roma. Having watched Barcelona overcome, Liverpool knew that they Roma weren’t to be taken lightly. For all the talk, it seemed that Roma were the rabbit in the Liverpool headlights. Klopp’s team were running rings around their Italian opponents and should have taken the lead much earlier than they did in the 36th minute. Mane had missed a couple of opportunities but they were forgotten when Mo Salah struck with the first of two quality goals. The Egyptian was facing his former club, but he was certainly not being kind to his former employers. Salah made it 2-0 on the stroke of half time.

The Italians of course were still not out of it even when the Reds went 3-0 up through Mane. The Senegal player finally hit the score sheet. If the home fans were ecstatic at 3-0, they were delirious five minutes later when Firmino scored the fourth. Anfield was rocking and Roma could have been almost 10 down but five it would be when Firmino added goal number two.

Could the first half missed opportunities cost Liverpool in the second leg as Roma stunned Anfield with two late goals one of which was dubious penalty. Things were looking interesting now going into the Rome second leg. Liverpool knew of the risks that Roma could spring but the visitors grabbed an early goal through Mane. Advantage Merseyside, the aggregate score was now 6-2. That soon became 6-3 when a Lovren clearance hit James Milner square in the head and went in.

Liverpool were still in charge of the tie and didn’t really need to do anything stupid.There was no need to worry as Liverpool were back in front on the night and 7-3 ahead on aggregate as Gini Wijnaldum bagged his first ever goal away from  home.  Roma hadn’t just received a bloody nose, but they were on the canvas. Could they recover. They hit shot after shot, but couldn’t break through in the rest of the first half. Roma needed one hell of a team talk, the best half time team talk they needed.

The comeback looked certain to start as Dzeko bagged a leveller to make it 2-2  an 7-4 on aggregate. Could Roma repeat their Barca comeback? Surely not. The Italians were doing their utmost to get back in but it seemed all in vain as time started to run out. Nainggolan though netted Roma’s third of the night and fifth of the tie. Could they do it, could they burst the Red’s bubble? They would come close as Nainggolan converted another fortuitous penalty, it came at the death and all too late, with the ball in the back of the net, the referee blew his whistle and brought the game to a close. A thirteen goal thriller and probably one of the best ties of the knockout stages.

Liverpool were heading to Kiev for a Champions League final, the second European final under Klopp. On 26th May will it be Champions League number 13 for Real or trophy number 6 for Liverpool. Which ever way it goes, we are in for an exciting final.

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FA Premier League Predictions – Week 35

It was rescheduled fixtures this week, so less fixtures although it seems that the BBC decided that the Burnley and Leicester midweek games would be week 35 and not 34, but hey ho. The four fixtures saw 1 correct result out of fout as Brighton and Spurs played out a 1-1 draw and not the 2-2 that I had predicted. United took all three points. Chelsea beat Burnley whilst Leicester and Southampton played out a draw. This week Im hoping normal service resumed.

  1.                   Arsenal 2-1 West Ham.         Arsenal closer to Europa League
  2.                   Everton 1-2 Newcastle Utd. Toon win eases pressurE
  3.                 Man City 3-0 Swansea City.    Man City post title win
  4.               Stoke City 1-2 Burnley.              Stoke City close to the drop
  5.                 Watford 2-0 Crystal Palace.    Palace lose, but should be safe
  6.            West Brom 1-3 Liverpool. Reds  Win ahead of Roma game

(Burnley and Leicester midweek fixtures were included in Week 34 but according to BBC Lawro predictions, were part of week 35)

Some key games taking place mostly affecting the teams at the bottom. Having beaten Man Utd at Old Trafford, West Brom host Liverpool, hoping that the Reds will be fully focused on the Champions League semi final at home to Roma. They will need another win to keep up the slim hope of survival. Unfortunately, the Reds will still be focused on the league and securing a win to ensure they stay in the top four. A temporary reprieve for the Baggies may in the fact that Swansea City travel to newly crowned champions Man City. The hosts should win this one and prolong West Brom’s woes even further.

Stoke City’s hope of survival look certain to take a hit as they will lose to Burnley who bounce back from defeat against Chelsea. Im not sure many Arsenal fans will be sad to see them go should they go down.

Palace travel to the unpredictable Watford and will find themselves up against it, but other results will mean that Palace should come the last game, be safe in the Premier League.

Enjoy the weekend and good luck to all

FA Premier League Predictions – Week 32

Welcome back Premier League, how we missed you what with VAR and all that. It’s back to normal this Easter Weekend as the Premier League moves closer to the finishing line and City adding another league title to the trophy as everyone else scraps for Champions League football or Premier League survival.

So as you will remember the weekend before the International break saw a 4 game Premier League week and what a weekend it was. I nailed 1 correct score and 2 correct results. The game that let me down was Huddersfield against Crystal Palace. I had expected the home side to win but the Eagles decided to spoil the 100% wins.

This week sees West Ham and Southampton battle it out in a relegation fight.  West Ham are two points above Southampton who are third from bottom. A Hammers win would make their stay in the Premier League a little more secure although that is not the only concern they have had having seen the fan trouble. A win for the Saints though could seem them move out of the bottom three depending on other results. Stoke City will go to the Emirates hoping they can grab a win and help strengthen the Wenger Out cause. Newcastle Utd take on Huddersfield. A win for the Toon should secure their Premier League status and put more pressure on Huddersfield. West Brom are virtually down barring any great escape miracle.

Crystal Palace host Liverpool in a game that has a bearing both at the bottom and top. A win for the Eagles will edge them closer to safety although given Liverpool’s recent goal spree, it doesn’t bode well for the Palace defence especially with Mo Salah able turn nothing into something. Second place Man Utd host Swansea City. Not so long ago you would have expected the Manchester side to pummel the Swans, but the manager change with Carlos Carvalhal, the Welsh club have only lost three in seventeen so the outcome could go either way especially with the way United seem to play every so often. it wouldnt be the first time that the Swans won at Old Trafford in recent times. Leaders Man City look certain to inch their way closer to glory with maximum points ahead of their Champions League visit to Anfield on Wednesday night.

Anyway time to lay down the predictions

  1.                                                       Arsenal 2-0  Stoke City        City’s woes continue
  2.                                                     Brighton 1-2  Leicester City  Important win for Foxes
  3.                                                      Chelsea  1-1 Tottenham        Honours even at the Bridge
  4.                                           Crystal Palace  1-3  Liverpool         Reds go for glory
  5.                                                      Everton  0-2  Man City           Visitors head towards title
  6.                                                     Man Utd  1-1  Swansea City  United held by Swansea
  7.                                          Newcastle Utd  2-0  Huddersfield   Toon head closer to safety
  8.                                                     Watford  2-1  Bournemouth  Hornets steal win
  9.                                                West Brom  0-2  Burnley             Clarets moving up
  10.                                               West Ham   1-1 Southampton   Draw cranks up pressure

 

Some big results this weekend for teams chasing European places and relegation survival as the games whittle down. Whilst the Premier League title might be done and dusted. It’s all very much to play for as we chomp on our Easter eggs.

 

FA Premier League Predictions – Week 25

The FA Cup weekend is over and its time for a midweek round of Premier League fixtures and the final round of January. Some teams will be looking forward to putting the FA Cup 4th round behind them as well as the previous Premier League weekend.

Talking of the previous Premier League weekend,  it wasn’t a great week only three correct results and one score. High flying league leaders Man City who beat Newcastle Utd whilst there were three correct results. Arsenal Chelsea and Stoke City providing some prediction joy the previous week

  1.                        Chelsea   2-0  Bournemouth    Blues add another to the win column
  2.                       Everton   1-2  Leicester City     Evertons woes continue
  3.              Huddersfield   0-3  Liverpool            Reds bounce back from defeats
  4.                      Man City   2-1  West Brom          City strengthen top spot
  5.            Newcastle Utd   2-1  Burnley               Toon pull off needed win
  6.              Southampton  3-1   Brighton             Saints win South Coast clash
  7.                     Stoke City  2-1   Watford              City moving up
  8.              Swansea City   1-3   Arsenal               Gunners stroll to three points
  9.                  Tottenham   2-2   Man Utd              Spurs and United battle for a point
  10.                   West Ham    2-1  Crystal Palace    Hammers nick three points

Expect the usual results as Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and a Liverpool recovering from a Cup exit scoring wins. Spurs and United to take a point each. Stoke City heading up with another win under recently appointed Paul Lambert. With it a seemingly tight relegation survival battle. even Everton arent safe with their six point cushion, every point earned will be vital. Talking of Everton, the blue half of Merseyside, after a reasonable December, a defeat against Bournemouth sent Everton on a so far winless January and should the prediction against Leicester be correct, then it will be definitely the Blues for the Toffees. City who had a bad December, have had quite a good January and could if they keep winning secure a place in Europe so long as they can keep on top of Burnley.

Southampton look to get out of their situation this week as they host Brighton and I would predict them to pull off a win with a 3-1 win. Rafa Benitez will look to finish the month with a crucial win as they host a tough Burnley side. Gloom for the Swans as Arsenal chalk up a crucial three points away from home.

It will be an interesting week so lets see how things pan out come full time Wednesday evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FA Premier League – Week 23 Predictions

The Premier League returns after its break from the FA Cup third round and a few key fixtures this week including the big game at Anfield between Liverpool and Man City. I think it’s safe to say that there wont be a repeat of the 5-0 result and it is even possible that Man City could draw or possibly lose, especially after Bristol City narrowily losing at the very end.

Some key ties taking place including Watford hosting Southampton, where both teams are struggling form wise. The same with West Brom who host Brighton. The Baggies currently sit in the bottom three level on points with bottom side Swansea and four behind Stoke City. Newcastle Utd host Swansea in another big game for both sides. Five points separate 18th place Stoke and 10th place Watford and no one will want to be dropping points.

  1.                         Bournemouth   0-2   Arsenal                Gunners continue unbeaten
  2.                                    Chelsea    2-1   Leicester City     Chelsea maintain top 3
  3.                         Crystal Palace   1-2    Burnley               Claret joy in London
  4.                          Huddersfield    0-2    West Ham          Safety closer for Hammers
  5.                                 Liverpool   3-2    Man City             Reds defeat City in thriller
  6.                                   Man Utd   4-0    Stoke City           Stoke misery continues
  7.                        Newcastle Utd    3-1   Swansea City      Magpies down Swans
  8.                                   Watford    2-0   Southampton     Watford earn vital win
  9.                              West Brom    1-1   Brighton              Point each, Baggies need more
  10.                              Tottenham    2-2   Everton                Tottenham held

 

Some interesting predictions for this week, one which could backfire spectacularly, but given Liverpool’s home form, defeat not likely to be on the cards. In fact a high scoring game with the reds being narrowily victors. In the chase for top four spots, its business as usual with Chelsea and Man Utd adding another win to their column.

The battle of catch up expect Spurs to drop points at home to Everton, who themselves continue to slowly move up the table. This is good news for Arsenal who should beat Bournemouth on the south coast. The weekend doesnt really bode well for most of the bottom few clubs. Swansea City look certain to beat Swansea, West Brom to draw at home to Brighton. The up and down Watford look certain to beat the struggling Southampton and keep it tight at the foot. Palace look certain to be heading for defeat against resilient Burnley. On the otherhand its good for West Ham who look certain to move up with a win against Huddersfield.

Come Monday evening at full time we will find out who will be where at the bottom of the table.

 

 

Premier League predictions – Week 18

As we hit another round of Premier League fixtures, the festive programme moves ever closer, not that too many managers will be enjoying the possible nightmare that is on the cards. After a poor Week 16, week 17 turned out marginally better with 2 correct scores and 2 correct results. Never know one week I might get a big number of correct scores..anyhow, this weekend should prove more fruitful in the predictions round I would like to think, but here goes.

  1.                                           Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle Utd  No let up for Rafa in London
  2.                                Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool          No repeat of last time for reds
  3.                                         Brighton  0-2 Burnley             The Burnley dream continues
  4.                                           Chelsea  2-1 Southampton   The Blues win again
  5.                                           Everton 3-0  Swansea City    Swans grounded again
  6.                                 Leicester City 2-1  Crystal Palace  Foxes deny Eagles
  7.                                         Man City 2-2  Tottenham        Spurs halt City win run
  8.                                       Stoke City  1-2  West Ham        Moyes lifting Hammers
  9.                                           Waford  3-1  Huddersfield   Hornets win at home
  10.                                    West Brom   1-2  Man Utd           United win at the Hawthorns

Not predicting good things for the Toon as defeat looms again albeit it down south in London. It’s win time for Liverpool after two draws. Clarets look certain to maintain their rise up the table. Sean Dyche has done well to take the team riding high and who is to say they wont still be up there come the end of the season. That said it may only take a couple of injuries to change things.

Man City host Tottenham in what could be an entertaining draw. Im going for a 2-2 draw as Harry Kane could end their winning run. It seems that West Ham might well be on the road to the Great Escape. Four points off London rivals leaves them not far from climbing out the relegation zone and a win at fellow struggles Stoke should make that happen.

Watford woeful run should end with a home win against Huddersfield whilst Man Utd should maintain the points gap between them and City with a win at West Brom.

FA Premier League Predictions – Week 15

The midweek round brought more personal joy as Liverpool won and Salah and Mane bagged the goals. What an attacking joy to be hold. When the attack is in full flow, god forbid you are the last defender inbetween what could only be seen as certain doom.

Prediction wise it wasn’t as good as a Saturday round, but still it could have been worse, although Spurs have decided that with Kane not able to bag a goal in August, it seems that they would follow it up with a token win in amongst their scheduled games.

Everton who have been predictable, decided to win in front of soon to be new boss Sam Allardyce. Saying that if they couldn’t beat West Ham then they really were in trouble.

This midweek round saw one exact score (Bournemouth v Burnley) and 3 results. Roll on Saturday…

So to this weeks predictions.

  1.                                                Arsenal 2-1 Man Utd            Gunners shoot down Devils
  2.                                    Bournemouth 1-2  Southampton   Saints win South coast derby
  3.                                              Brighton 0-3  Liverpool          Reds enjoy South coast win
  4.                                                Chelsea  2-1 Newcastle         Rafa misery again
  5.                                                Everton  1-1 Huddersfield   Town ruin Big Sam debut
  6.                                      Leicester City  1-2 Burnley             Clarets plodding along
  7.                                              Man City  4-0 West Ham        City cruise, Moyes regrets?
  8.                                              Stoke City 2-1 Swansea City   Stoke win, misery for Swans
  9.                                              Watford    2-2 Tottenham       Spurs without a win
  10.                                            West Brom  2-1 Crystal Palace  Baggies halt Eagles run

 

An interesting weekend featuring big games at the top and bottom. Some might think that I’d be made to predict Arsenal beating Man Utd, but if Arsenal are up for it, they can certainly give Jose something to whinge about. Man Utd have had a little fortune along the way in some games and they will find the Gunners a little more testing.

West Ham visit Man City, where the hosts should have no trouble taking all three points from their lacklustre guests. If Everton can stick three past the Hammers, then Guardiola’s team should have now issue whatsoever. A City win and United loss will see the gap increase ahead of the forthcoming Manchester derby at Old Trafford.  A United defeat would make things interesting in the chase for top four spots. Chelsea host Newcastle Utd and given the form of Benitez’s team, one would be unwise to put money on the Toon Army winning at the Bridge. A win for Chelsea would move them level with United on goal difference with Arsenal a point behind.

Liverpool travel down to Brighton and with their scoring run they are now joint third in the goalscoring charts with Arsenal on 28 goals. I expect Liverpool to put three past the Seagulls, as I feel the attacking dimensions will be too much for the hosts. Hot on their tails will be Burnley, who have been the surprise package of the season. They have already reached 25 points which is 15 points their overall total. They hadn’t previously reached 25 until the January of last season. They could be heading for a record points tally, based on a 38 league game season and only 19 from a club record.

At the other end it continues to look bleak for the bottom three who I predict all to lose their games. West Brom face Palace so can edge themselves away albeit opening a points gap as Stoke should also win. Everton will find themselves drawing at home to the unpredictable Huddersfield Town. One week beat United, next week thrashed by Liverpool. Bournemouth will find themselves languishing above the relegation zone having lost a second game in a row. Given the bottom three, I can’t see any of them dropping into the bottom three given the three clubs in the relegation zone. I guess though we will just have to wait and see as it only wants one or two clubs to go on a surprise run to blast the relegation trapdoor open.