Posts Tagged PSG

Random Yarns from the Week – Moyes, Nadal and More


When Sir Alex Ferguson handed the reign over to a new man, one must recall vividly the advise he gave cheering spectators at Old Trafford that day, ‘to stand behind the new man’. Barely two months into his debut season, the fans have gone from standing behind to being on the new man’s neck.

David Moyes has somehow managed to hand Manchester United their worst league start in two decades and some, spectacularly losing the Manchester derby while at it, although four points from two games in the Champions League isn’t bad.

But as the saying about just disliking whatever good or bad someone you don’t like does, United fans continue to show discontent at the Scot who replaced their favourite Scot at the end of last season.

Going on holiday right after being named successor didn’t help, neither did the exit of Mike Phelan, Rene Meulesteen and co from the backroom. Their replacements are not considered experienced enough, then there’s Ed Woodward when the club’s transfer market futility is brought up.

In all, Moyes seems content to avoid defeat at the moment and hasn’t really let his ‘style’ transcend to the team, or maybe he has. Moyes was content with avoiding defeat while at Everton and it was evident in his comments after the 1-1 Champions League draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

So United fans will grumble some more through the course of this season till that mentality changes. And while they grumble, watching Arsenal be the next best team in blistering form in Europe (after Bayern) amounts to a bit of torture.

The Gunners eased past Napoli largely with a first half display reminiscent of their 3-0 win over AC Milan few seasons ago, leaving them top of the Premier League and their Champions League group… rare but welcome.

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger will reportedly be offered a three year contract extension by the club and if his players, especially new record signing Mesut Özil keep to form, there’s little doubt that the Frenchman will extend his reign at the Emirates.

At the Etihad however, the start of Manuel Pellegrini’s reign there has not been fair sailing, with spectacular wins over Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic and city rivals United among others underwhelmed by the loss at Everton along with more recent ones at Aston Villa in the league and the brush aside by European champions Bayern Munich.

Those losses revealed a poor work ethic at the Etihad as the Bayern players never really exerted themselves and tame efforts from Robbery (or you prefer Ribben? Of course not) either side of Thomas Müller’s amusing goal – amusing thanks to Gäel Clichy’s belief that Müller should have been flagged offside – summed up the lax attitude in the City camp and the fall in quality of Joe Hart.

It is becoming more and more apparent that no matter the quality of manager at the helm, if the players remain with their pompous attitude (especially in Europe, personified in Clichy’s moment of gory) then the billions of Sheikh Mansour would have been largely for nothing.

Monsieur Khalifa at Paris on the contrary has put together a very driven set of players, a bunch whose desire to win remains sustained unlike at City where it waned right after winning a first league title in half a century.

At PSG, the league title was won in Khalifa’s second season after Montpellier ‘rudely’ won in his first season there by a point. They then went on to reach the last eight of the Champions League, losing out on away goals to Barcelona.

Now, they’re unbeaten at second place in Ligue 1, a point behind new billionaire clubs’ club member Monaco and have won their two group matches in the Champions League with relative ease.

But all isn’t rosy in Paris, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez are the latest of unsatisfied players after the likes of Kevin Gameiro and Mamadou Sakho who have since left. Neither is all rosy at Dortmund, where manager Jurgen Klopp has been handed a further match ban from the touchline off his face of rage in Dortmund’s opening day loss at Napoli in the Champions League.

His absence didn’t stop the Bundesliga leaders from whipping Olympique Marseille 3-0 with want away striker Robert Lewandowski scoring a brace as he bids his time till he can at least sign for another club (thought to be Bayern, in Gö.. Gotze’s footsteps) when the January window opens.

Gotze has only featured intermittently so far no thanks to an injury from last season, reducing him to Xherdan Shaqiri levels at Bavaria from the high esteem he enjoyed at Ruhr.

Gareth Bale is also dealing with an injury at Real Madrid from his Tottenham days, with the $100m Welshman on the sidelines till the end of October, ample time for Angel di Maria to keep sending him same message from the 4-0 win over FC Copenhagen where he got two goals and a rabona assist.

Being a World Cup year, Di Maria, Romelu Lukaku and other such players will do what’s needed to make the trip to Brazil. In a way, it’s what Özil did (by joining Arsenal). Writing of the World Cup, FIFA expects Brazil to deliver all stadia for next year’s mundial by December this year, around the same time draws for the group stage will be held.

It’s also about the same time, in 2022, that the World Cup could take place (from mid-January precisely) in Qatar, depending on what FIFA decides concerning that today. Whichever period is chosen, the Qataris will nonetheless live with nine years of criticism over scheduling and preparations.

Recently, it came to light that workers from Nepal at the World Cup sites don’t get paid and some, due to harsh working conditions, have died. The Supreme Committee (Qatar’s World Cup LOC) have expressed their shock at these revelations and promised to look into the matter.

Whether working conditions and weather conditions are made to the level that observers should find satisfactory, one just gets the feeling more will be heard, read and said in the eight more years before Qatar 2022, such that we’d have to remind ourselves that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup.

Still in the east of this world, Novak Djokovic kept up his resistance of Rafael Nadal’s surge at the world number one spot by making the last four of the ongoing China Open with victory over Sam Querrey today. Nadal however is in the semis too and inevitably on course for that number one spot, coming from a set down to beat Fabio Fognini earlier today as well.

All Nadal needs to do to become number one is reach the final; he plays Tomas Berdych in his semi-final. Djokovic however must win the Open while hoping Berdych stops his Spanish adversary in the last four. But in the form Nadal has been since returning from injury in February, he’s odds on to win the Open anyway.

Same sort of form Sebastien Vettel has been all season ahead of the Korean Grand Prix this weekend, where victory would see the Red Bull driver open a three race lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with five races left on the calendar.

Elsewhere this weekend, Manchester City will look to bounce back from successive losses when they welcome unbeaten Everton to the Etihad in the Premier League’s early kickoff on Saturday, with neighbours Man. United visiting Sunderland in the day’s evening kickoff while Liverpool host Crystal Palace in one of four 4 o’clock kickoffs on Saturday.

Leaders Dortmund visit Borussia Monchengladbach in one of six matches on Saturday in the Bundesliga, though the match to look out for is second placed Bayern Munich’s trip to third placed Bayer Leverkusen… Bayer being the last team to beat Bayern in the Bundesliga, the only league loss suffered by Bayern last season in fact. Turn up Kießling!

Saturday football is capped with Serie A pacesetters Roma visiting a rejuvenated Inter Milan in fourth place, four points behind the Romans. Then on Sunday in the Serie A, Juve host AC Milan, Lazio host Fiorentina and in France, PSG travel to Marseille in Le Classique.

That’s pretty much it for the week. Happy birthday to my beautiful cousin Bolanle and to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Many happy returns to them and others celebrating today.

Have a pleasant weekend ahead.

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During the Week of Comebacks and More


For the first time in 16 seasons, there will be no English club in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but Arsenal came mighty close to sustaining that record after a generally unexpected victory at Bayern Munich in a week seemingly impossible deficits were cancelled out though only two sides notably got the required results and made the next stage.

Malaga’s reverie debut season with the elite continues as the Andalucians out-thought FC Porto in a 2-0 home win, qualifying for the last eight with a 2-1 aggregate score and setting up a tantalising clash with enterprising Germans Borussia Dortmund.

Fellow Spaniards Barcelona had a 2-0 deficit to deal with and after only five minutes in the second leg, Lionel Messi scored his first goal from open play against Italian opposition in a most technical fashion, doing a one-two with Xavi before sending a curling effort into Abbiati’s top corner from the midst of four AC Milan players.

That goal for me shows just why the diminutive Argentine is easily loved by many as equally as he is easily despised and for the latter group, winning the World Cup should appease their grievances. But that’s another day’s discussion.

In the present, Messi scored another on the night, David Villa showed he still has it with a fine third before Jordi Alba showed great fitness (EPO induced like the rest of the team is suspected? Ah well) to put the tasty toppings on a sumptuous performance from the Catalans who now face glamour French side PSG in the last eight.

Arsenal needed similar performance against Bayern Munich and though it wasn’t pretty, it was efficient enough to draw level on aggregate. The Gunners’ 2-0 win however wasn’t enough as Bayern went through on away goals where Italian champions Juventus await.

It was the first time this season a team had kept Bayern from scoring at home, it also ended a run of 11 successive victories and 23 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Painfully for the Gunners and gooners, that win (‘gallant’ as the one over Milan last season) will likely mean the obvious need to make the club capable of actually competing for titles rather than the world’s sympathy will yet again be overlooked.

Over at the other north London club meanwhile, overlooking the importance of having a team capable of at least not falling apart without Gareth Bale as it did at the San Siro on Thursday night is what Andre Villas-Boas shouldn’t be doing on his part.

Tottenham Hotspurs’ manager was of the opinion that his side basically do not have to prove its worth without the Welsh talisman in the side, only to go 3-0 down at Inter after regulation time before losing 4-1 after extra time on the night but go through to the last eight of the Europa League thanks to the away goals rule.

With or without Bale, most definitely with Bale, the continued participation of Spurs, along with Newcastle United and Chelsea, in Europe’s second tier competition would be key in keeping England’s coefficients on the up.

The coefficients are points used by UEFA to grade every European league based on each league’s teams’ performances in the Champions and Europa League, so the farther a league’s representative(s) go on the continent, the more points gained in its coefficients.

And more teams from a league going farther is an added advantage for that league, which explains the fuss about no English side making the last eight of the Champions League. Thankfully for the Premier League, there are three teams in the Europa League’s last eight.

There, Spurs have been drawn against Swiss side FC Basel, Chelsea will have to overcome Russian side Rubin Kazan as they look to ‘replicate’ FC Porto that won the Champions League and old UEFA Cup in successive seasons, and Newcastle face Benfica of Portugal in perhaps the toughest draw of the last eight.

As a result, Newcastle’s priority now lies there, making Wigan Athletic favourite to come out winners when the Magpies visit the Latics in one of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures, especially as Wigan are involved in the relegation battle.

In the pick of this weekend’s programme, bottom of the table QPR’s quest to escape relegation continues in a daunting trip to fellow strugglers Aston Villa that lies just a place above the drop zone.

Without saying, a win for QPR, or even a draw for Harry Redknapp’s side is crucial, more so with Reading – in 19th place above QPR only by goal difference – away at league leaders Manchester United.

Elsewhere Arsenal visit Swansea as the Gunners continue their chase for a top four finish, while Everton host second placed Manchester City, Liverpool visit Southampton, Tottenham face Fulham and Chelsea host West Ham United in two London derbies.

Elsewhere in Europe, third placed Bayer Leverkusen host Bayern Munich on Saturday, looking to complete a double on the Bavarians in the Bundesliga and at least postpone the visitor’s inevitable title win.

Personally, looking forward to the start of the Formula One season this weekend in Australia. My favourite driver Jenson Button’s title chances are virtually non-existent with the likes of Lewis Hamilton – now with Mercedes – and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari at the fore to depose reigning champion Sebastien Vettel, a tough ask seeing as Vettel has won the last three championships.

Along with the tennis at Indian Wells, where Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer to reach the semis, along with preliminary stage matches in Africa’s Champions League and Confederations Cup, it is a loaded weekend, as always.

Have a good one.

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Over the Weekend: From Pistorius to Pantsil, Swans Claim Title & More


Following a crash course in Law coupled with a not so brief recap of the episodes of Oscar Pistorius’ bail hearing and other bits of ‘suspense’, the Magistrate eventually, ultimately, after all said, analysed and recapped… finally ruled in favour of the blade runner and granted him bail.

While the R1m (one million rand) he’ll post as bail; along with a number of conditions which include no alcohol, eats a bit into Pistorius’ R5m annual earning, it puts the blade runner ahead at half time of this murder case which has its trial now scheduled to commence in June.

Beyond all that the family of Reeva Steenkamp labelled as meaning ‘nothing’ the bouquet of flowers received from Pistorius’ family, while her bereaved father commented that if Pistorius was lying, he would have to live with his conscience but if indeed he mistook her for a burglar, he may one day come round to forgiving him.

Not all concerned were as diplomatic however, many observers across the continent believe the paralympian is a murderer while a father figure to Reeva flat out said Pistorius should go to hell.

It is easy to believe Pistorius is guilty when his wealth and ability in disability are pointed at as swinging justice’s bias towards him, but if any person(s) is/are to blame it would be the prosecution that seemingly didn’t consider every scenario possible from the incident along with flawed witness account and tainted image of the previous chief investigator.

By the end of the trial, unless the prosecution have new and concrete evidence to add spine to their case; such as her head being bashed in with a cricket bat, Pistorius can expect to get manslaughter as final judgement… and you just know that would outrightly piss many people off.

Once again, may Reeva Steenkamp rest in peace.

Not to be outdone per se, Ghanaian international John Pantsil reportedly stabbed his wife in the eye but thankfully, it wasn’t fatal but bizarrely… they are back together.

Apparently, it was all a misunderstanding and all grievances between both have been settled. Right! We’ll just ignore the need for anger management with the Pantsils and ‘respect their privacy’.

Speaking of respect, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini took a swipe at Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger after stating ahead of his side’s crucial league match against Chelsea that unlike the Frenchman at Arsenal, he wants to win (trophies).

A bit disrespectful from Mancini who was at the dusk of his active football days when Wenger was appointed manager at Arsenal. But do I blame him? No. It is Wenger that has put himself in a position to be ridiculed by younger managers.

Jose Mourinho has done so before and I expect Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas to give it a go ahead of this weekend’s north London derby; Arsenal’s ‘Race to Fourth’ title match.

That said, Mancini’s side ended up doing Wenger and Arsenal a favour by claiming a 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday in a match Sergio Agüero should’ve done much better and more importantly, a match in which Joe Hart saved Frank Lampard’s first half penalty.

That win leaves fifth placed Arsenal, on 47 points, just two points behind third placed Chelsea. And with Tottenham that is nicely tucked between the Blues and Gunners on 48 points set for a little London affair at West Ham United tonight, one need not say what side will have the most supporters in tonight’s match.

For all of Mancini’s talk, all gooners nonetheless were behind City to do exactly what was done, to the slight disappointment of fans of the Red Devils who were behind Chelsea though will remain happy to hold a dozen point advantage over their City rivals in the title race anyway.

Manchester United had earlier opened a 15-point gap on Saturday with a 2-0 win at destined for relegation Queens Park Rangers, but a fall-out from that win brought concern to the league leaders… Robin van Persie went off injured.

In unlikely manner, the Dutchman’s effort to keep the ball in meant he fell onto a camera at the near post of QPR and though he got Julio Cesar to make a good save minutes later, he was taken off for Danny Welbeck five minutes to half time as it became obvious he couldn’t manage the injury.

This brought much delight to many gooners who understandably haven’t moved on from the deal with the devil at the start of the season and hoped it was an injury that would keep him out for long.

Indeed some went about it in lighthearted manner, having no real intentions of seeing him put out for long, there were some who actually meant it and that is concerning. In the end, the van Persie situation can be likened to that of Barcelona whose scarce defeats get celebrated, it’s the cross of consistent performers. Besides, he’s only suffered a sore hip.

Anyway, Van Persie’s effort was not in vain however, as Rafael struck a bullet past Julio Cesar to put United in front moments after. A goal which a teammate nominated for goal of the season.

While former teammate Dimitar Berbatov’s well taken volley for Fulham at home to Stoke City; the only goal of that match, falls a tad short of Rafael’s, I think I enjoyed a few other goals more including Arouna Kone’s second in Wigan Athletic’s 3-0 win at Reading, gently lifting the ball over the Reading keeper and into the net off a glorious cross-field pass.

Another goal worth mentioning for goal of the weekend is Yaya Toure’s opener for Man. City, a low curling effort wickedly from Petr Cech’s blindside. Cech’s stretch to try keeping Yaya’s effort out made the goal all the more special for me… why punish yourself by trying to prevent that?

But the goal I enjoyed most has to be Papiss Demba Cisse’s bolt from range to put Newcastle United 2-1 up against Southampton. Much unlike last season’s second against Chelsea, this was a far less speculative effort yet almost as graceful and delightful.

In the end, Newcastle United won that match 4-2 to continue its recent renaissance inspired by its Francophone fellas that now sees the Magpies six points off the relegation zone. In this form, with a place in the Europa League some 10 points off, Newcastle truly can aspire.

Swansea meanwhile can play as freely as they want for the rest of the season in the league, after cruising to a 5-0 demolition of Bradford City to claim the Capital One Cup and qualify for next season’s Europa League.

And that feeling of no pressure on the back of the highs from Cup success can propel Michael Laudrup’s men to play some of its best football in the remaining 11 league matches. And when the Swans at their best, their tiki-taka acutely frustrates any opposition to the point of defeat.

One can say the last bit is a Nou Camp trademark but Barcelona in its last two matches have struggled, more so with Lionel Messi’s human side coming to fore though he got a goal, his 38th league goal this season, in a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday.

There will be no rest for the Ballon d’Or holder and the rest of the Barcelona team who face Real Madrid at home on Tuesday in the decisive second leg of their Copa Del Rey semifinal clash before facing them again on Saturday in La Liga at the Bernabeu… cruelly followed by the return leg of their round of 16 Champions League tie with AC Milan days after.

Milan on its part played out a 1-1 draw in its Madonnina derby ‘away’ to Inter, a result that suited the latter more than the former but which suits fifth placed Lazio the most, with the Rome side set to rise to third place if it defeats Pescara tonight.

Juventus continued its charge towards defending its Scudetto with a 3-0 win over Siena, the highlight moment being Andrea Pirlo’s lobbed effort at goal… it was audacious and unfortunately, went wide.

And in France, Paris Saint Germain took a major step towards the Ligue Un title with a perhaps undeserved but more importantly crucial 2-0 win over archrivals Olympique Marseille in Le Clasique.

Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was my man of the match, making a number of saves to keep l’OM at bay, but it was David Beckham that got most of the headlines as he made his PSG debut and somehow, some way, was involved in PSG’s second scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in stoppage time.

PSG’s win was the highlight of my football weekend which saw five of my six favourite European clubs play. Arsenal lifted the mood at the Emirates a bit with a nervous 2-1 win over Aston Villa. That was about it.

Deportivo La Coruña took the lead against Real Madrid but fell 2-1 at home, Hearts decided to lose 3-2 at home to Inverness after twice equalising while Werder Bremen was simply annihilated by Bayern Munich, going down to a 6-1 scoreline against a ‘second string’ Bayern side. Scary.

Lowest point of the weekend was the low profile the African Super Cup had, a match Champions League holders Al Ahly of Egypt won 2-1 against Confederations Cup holders AC Leopards of Republic of Congo.

A match to decide Africa’s representative at the Club World Championship later in the year should have had much more publicity than this one had, which was virtually non-existent.

On that note, it’s a wrap here. Napoli visit Udinese tonight in the Serie A, Lazio play Pescara tonight as well, just as Tottenham visit West Ham in the Premier League. That’s followed by an El Clasico in the Copa del Rey to make for a good start to the week for football.

Wishing you a great week ahead then.

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