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 29

A full week of Premier League fixtures this week (weather permitting) and hopefully will turn out better than last week when I could only muster one correct score and two correct results. Thanks to Tottenham and Liverpool victories, I got two correct results and whilst a 1-1 draw between Leicester and Stoke gave me an exact scoreline.

This week should hopefully provide a few more correct results if not scorelines but Ive said that before haven’t I. So here goes.

  1. Brighton 1-3 Arsenal Gunners get much needed win
  2. Burnley 2-1 Everton Clarets strengthen top 10
  3. Crystal Palace 0-2 Man Utd United keep edge on second
  4. Leicester City 2-1 Bournemouth Foxes bit the cherries
  5. Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle Utd Reds too strong for Toon
  6. Man City 2-0 Chelsea Chelsea lose again
  7. Southampton 1-1 Stoke City Saints take a point
  8. Swansea City 2-1 West Ham Swans marching to safety
  9. Tottenham 3-0 Huddersfield Spurs keep top four hopes
  10. Watford 2-1 West Brom Hornets take another win

Some crucial fixtures for teams both chasing top four and teams battling for Premier League survival. City of course barring a repeat of Newcastle blowing the title, they have one hand securely holding the Premier League title. The battle is for Champions League places and with the top four all going to the group stages of the competition it means that one from Man Utd, Liverpool,Chelsea and Tottenham will find their european competition played on a Thursday night. Six points separate second place Man Utd and fifth place Chelsea with Liverpool and Tottenham in third and fourth respectively.

Liverpool, Man Utd and Tottenham should all record wins whilst Chelsea look certain to face not only a second league defeat in a row but back to back defeats to Manchester opposition, should the other three win and Chelsea lose as predicted then there will be a five point gap between Spurs and Chelsea.

At the other end it continues to be more gloom for West Brom as a predicted defeat sees the Baggies see the gap extend further as Stoke take a point against Southampton, which does neither club any good. Taking advantage of other teams struggles is Swansea City who will move further up the table although the points difference wont be much.

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

So the Premier League kick is getting closer and this season I will be providing weekly predictions for the 2017/18. The new season is certainly going to be an interesting one especially with the transfer window still open until the end of August. With players being bought and sold during the summer, it will be interesting to see how things move along the coming weeks.

It will be entertaining to see how my predictions turn out each week, but you can only predict what’s ahead. The Premier League season kicks off on Friday night at the Emirates where Arsenal entertain Leicester City, Watford host Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime, whilst newly promoted Brighton host Manchester City on the Saturday tea time. The Sunday fixtures see a visit to Newcastle United who host a  Tottenham side not only looking to go one step further this season by winning the league. The only down side is playing away from the Lane. The opening weekend is completed when West Ham travel to Manchester United. West Ham travel to Old Trafford with the likes of Joe Hart and former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez.

Week One

  1. Arsenal      3-1 Leicester City
  2. Watford     0-3 Liverpool
  3. Chelsea      2-1 Burnley
  4. C.Palace     1-1 Huddersfield Town
  5. Everton      2-2 Stoke City
  6. Soton          3-1 Swansea City
  7. WBA           1-1 AFC Bournemouth
  8. Brighton    0-4 Manchester City
  9. Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham
  10. Man Utd    2-2 West Ham United.

Im sure there will be differing opinions and thoughts on the opening weekend but be free to share your predictions. Come Tuesday will I be wishing I had put money on or be looking like the least likeliest person to do your lottery numbers.

 

Football Fixtures release review

It doesn’t seem so long ago that the domestic football season came to an end, but here we are yet again with the release of the Premier League fixtures. No doubt some will be happy with the opening few games whilst others will be looking towards the run ins their respective clubs will have to get through to either stay in the league, qualify for Champions League/Europa League and the grand prize of the Premier League title.

The opening set of fixtures sees Premier League Champions Chelsea kick off their defence with a home game against Burnley. It’s a repeat of last seasons opener and the blues will be hoping to have a repeat the same which saw a 3-0 win. The Blues find themselves though with a mix of the top six thrown in. Following Burnley it’s a trip to Wembley in the London derby at Spurs. By the end of September, they would have hosted four of last seasons top seven. Chelsea have a relatively good Christmas period as they have back to back home games where they face Brighton & Stoke City with the return trip to Everton just before Christmas. If Chelsea are in the hunt for the title come April, it will be a good run seeing how tricky March is. Trips to the Etihad and Turf Moor are mixed in with games at home against Palace and Tottenham. April brings West Ham and Huddersfield to the Bridge alongside trips to Southampton and Swansea. The final two games see a visit from Liverpool and a trip to Newcastle Utd.  Liverpool have started are currently unbeaten in the league against Chelsea since 2014. Results between Conte’s men and Newcastle have been even with a mix of wins and losses although United fans will be keen to forget their last visit to the Bridge.

Staying with Newcastle Utd, their return to Premier League football sees them host runners up Tottenham. It will be interesting to see how Spurs line up in the coming season, will players join or even leave, one thing is for sure is that the Magpies wont be fussed and will be looking to open their return with three points and Premier League security under the managerial guidance of Rafa Bentez. they follow that up with a trip to fellow promoted club Huddersfield Town. The Magpies will be looking to repeat the victory that they managed in the Championship last season. Newcastle Utd see a mixed bag affair for the Christmas fixtures. Pre Christmas Eve fixture sees a trip to West Ham, where the visitors will be hoping that they grab three points at the London stadium. Boxing Day and the final fixture of the year sees two home games in the shape of Manchester City and last seasons Championship runners up Brighton. A couple of juicy fixtures no doubt as many enjoy the festive period. Their  New Years Day fixture sees a trip to Stoke, possibly not the best journey for anyone with sore heads.

New boys Brighton kick off their top flight return with the hosting of Manchester City, not the easiest start for the club but as the old addage goes, everyone has to play each other at some point in the season. It’s a double dose on the road as they travel to Leicester City and Watford. These are certainly winnable games in the league. Christmas and New Year looks challenging as the Seagulls have the return  fixtures against Watford pre Christmas Eve, a trip to defending Champions Chelsea and a return against Newcastle Utd.

Their run in mind you is a bit trickier, they host Tottenham and Man Utd, before going to Anfield on the final game of the season. Certainly not the best run in if looking for Premier League survival.

Manchester City have a mixed start in terms of opponents. Having faced Brighton on the opening day, they find themselves facing Everton and Liverpool at home with Bournemouth sandwiched inbetween. Finishing wise Man City have a reasonable run in. Only Tottenham from the top five are in City’s possible title push. Finishing with newly promoted Huddersfield, who could be battling relegation or even securing mid table safety.

Liverpool kick off their campaign with a trip to Watford. Bogey team Crystal Palace are at Anfield next in back to back home games which sees Arsenal heading up next. It’s first of two games running which see top team clashes. Last season Liverpool came out top and unbeaten against Utd Chelsea Arsenal Spurs and City. This season they will look to repeat it once again. Pre Christmas sees a trip to Arsenal following home games against Swansea and Leicester City. Liverpool, hoping to be challengers once again for the title will see visits to Chelsea with home games against Stoke and a final game at home to Brighton. It will be interesting to see if  any summer signings make a huge impact during the season.

Manchester United will be hoping to go better than last season, where draws proved the end to United’s title and top four challenge. This season West Ham, Swansea, Leicester and Stoke are the opening opponents for the Europa League champions. Christmas looks certain to bring festive cheer, although a new look Everton might be a bit more tricky for United, who could be seeing the return of Ronaldo, if reports are to be believed. Whilst May might be easy, April could be tricky. Man City and Arsenal stand in the way together with Bournemouth and West Brom.

Tottenham will find themselves having to deal with a different stadium for their home games. With the renovation of White Hart Lane,  last seasons runners up will be hosting their games at Wembley.  Champions League is one thing, but 19 games might have an effect on their title aspirations. Chelsea, Burnley and Swansea are the first three visitors to Spurs temporary home. It’s natural to think that Spurs might struggle, but there is no guarantee that their opposition will necessarily have any advantage. Christmas for Spurs is Burnley, Southampton and West Ham. It will be interesting to see what presents they get.  Tottenham’s run in sees Watford, West Brom and Leicester in the run in.

Finally its Arsenal, who this season will be having Thursday night football. Having played Leicester and Stoke, it’s the tricky visit to Liverpool followed by a visit from Bournemouth and a trip to defending champions Chelsea. West Brom and Brighton are next. Christmas sees more return trips for the Gunners who will be hoping to have a happy Christmas. Arsenal’s run in, which could see them either challenging for the title or a top four place looks fairly easy as Man Utd look the strongest of the opponents Huddersfield and Stoke.

It is looking very interesting in the coming season, especially with the chase for Champions League football. There will be no worries about top four spots as they will all be automatically qualifying for the group stages.

Two into one – Chase for the Champions League

With both Arsenal and Manchester City both winning their games in hand, the chase for the final two Champions League spots looks like going from three into two to two into one. As it currently stands, Manchester City have all but  sealed their Champions League in third with on 78 points and a goal difference of plus 36, fourth place sees Liverpool on 73 and plus 33 together with Arsenal on 72 points and plus 31 goal difference.

After a roller coaster season for the three sides, City look odds on to finish third. Only Liverpool can overtake the Manchester club should City lose to away to Watford. Say a 1-0 defeat for Man City and a Liverpool win of 3-0 and its City drop down into fourth. It wouldn’t matter on the Arsenal result unless the Gunners give the home fans some joy and spank the toffees 4-0, which would then Arsenal would go into the Champions League and Man City finish fifth. How interesting would that be to see.

Realistically Manchester City should finish the game Sunday knowing that they can put their feet up with regards to Champions League football. The only thing they need to worry about is if they say for example 4-4 and Liverpool win 4-1. In these set of circumstances you would see a playoff match at a neutral ground.  The likelihood of that though is very slim. I imagine though should that happen, come Sunday evening there would be a large number of nervous Liverpool and City fans.

For Liverpool, it is Champions League playoff if they win. Should they draw or lose to Middlesbrough, not only will it be typical of the season, but all eyes will be on the Emirates hoping that their neighbours Everton can do them a favour. Should Liverpool lose and Arsenal draw, then that is when it becomes interesting. Should Liverpool lose 2-1 and Arsenal win 2-1 then both teams would have a record of 76-44 and plus 32. Under the Premier League rules, this would require a play off to distinguish who would finish in 4th and 5th place. Im sure neither team would want to go through a play off given their post season activities. As a Liverpool fan like others, I doubt there will be much hunger for 90 minutes at a neutral ground. I guess the same for Arsenal fans.

Not since 1989 when Arsenal won at Anfield to take the title, have either Liverpool or Arsenal gone to the wire in deciding league placings. Personally I dont want to relive that moment any time soon.