F.A. cup final preview

This may not represent success like winning the league or the Champions League but any trophy is important to pick up. Chelsea v Man Utd is always a big game and the recent history between the managers means that it’s a must not lose game. Both managers have had disappointing results throughout the season and haven’t reached their preseason expectations. For Conte this could be his last game so it would be great to end his two years with a league and domestic trophy.

How do you assess Man Utd’s season? Minimal progress. They finished second in the league compared to sixth last season and have more points. However they were never involved in the title race and the football has been painful to watch. The rest of the league has also been poor compared to City which has seen rivals fail to mount a challenge. The early exit in the Champions League and recent performances have left fans apathetic and questioning where the club is headed under Mourinho. Throughout all the wins there was always a underlying feeling that these wins were silencing the doubters for now. The losses however felt louder than the wins because of the style of play. Signing better players in the summer isn’t going to change the approach to games so it should be what happens on the training pitch which needs to be adjusted.

How about Chelsea then, as with the last couple of title winning seasons they disappoint the following season and appear to have problems in the changing room. It seems like that the culture of the club is short term which is fine because they have proven to be successful. Conte has looked depressed all season and like a lamb to the slaughter, the players have looked disinterested at times and it’s weird to explain why. It started in the summer when Conte didn’t get the players he wanted and ever since then it snowballed into more problems.

Key players

If Chelsea are to have a chance they need more creativity, they struggle to score goals and this Man Utd team can be solid at times. This burden will be on Hazard to deliver in a big game again. He has been inconsistent this season but on his day can be the best player in the league. He has spoken about maybe not extending his contract at the club if they don’t match his ambitions however he need to hold his side of the bargain and win games for his team.

There could be a lot of players seen as key on the United side however considering how they have performed recently the midfield has struggled a lot to find forward passes. The mix in midfield isn’t working or the players aren’t listening to instructions because there is no creativity. This is a game Pogba will be looking to make a name for himself in. He’s had a rollercoaster season and that has led to him being dropped in big games, he still hasn’t found his true role in the team and that is disappointing to see. Heading into the world cup it’s important that his confidence is built with a good performance and leave the Man Utd fans happy.

Prediction Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

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UCL – Semi final preview

After all the drama in the quarter final it’s great to see some new faces. The draw means that we will have a new face in the Champions League final alongside one of the regular finalists in recent years. Both ties look evenly matched and goals are expected on both sides if you look at the defending in the quarter finals. Here is the preview for both games.

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich

A rematch of the semi final last year where the scoreline didn’t tell the full story. Bayern were unlucky to not win the first leg and had Lewandowski sent off when they looked the better team. It’s impossible to write of Madrid however when they have Ronaldo however, he is Mr Champions League and one of the greatest big game players ever. Whenever the team needs him he delivers, and he has picked up form from the start of the season. They have an intimidation factor against teams because of him and their history in the tournament which has played a part in big games.

It’s hard to judge how good Bayern are at the moment. They have become so dominant in their own league and weakened their rivals to the point that it affects the quality of their own team. They won the league easily and have coasted through the knockout stages with minimal fuss. They have continuity and experience in the team which gives them an advantage over so many teams. Defensively they are solid which gives them an advantage over Madrid however Ronaldo is in such good form it’s impossible to stop him scoring.

Prediction- Madrid

Liverpool v Roma

This is definetly a game for the neutrals. It’s a once in a generation opportunity for both teams considering their recent history. Liverpool have been great to watch all season and breezed past Man City after a great 45 minutes in the first leg. When the front three is on form they can blow away any team and that is what they will try to do at home. It’s very cliche but the atmosphere at Anfield on Champions League nights definetly give them an advantage so Roma will have to stay strong in the first half. Roma are an underrated team with no world class players but a lot of very good players. They aren’t the typical Italian team, in the group stage they scored a lot of goals but aren’t the best defensively. Dzeko is a potential match winner for them if he can bully the Liverpool defence. He was great home and away against Barcelona and if they get an away goal they should feel like they can get a result at home.

Prediction- Liverpool

Who do you think will win both games? Who is the best player in the Champions League? Leave your thoughts and comments below …

How do the rest catch City?

After 8 months of brilliant football and questions about if they are the best team in the history of the Premier League, the Pep era has landed it’s first meaningful trophy (not league cup) and etched it’s name into history. The joint earliest Premier League title win and 3 wins away from the most points and victories. There are many records left to be broken which show how dominant they have been throughout the season. It’s conceivable that City dominate the league for the next couple years which hasn’t been seen since Man Utd team between 07-09. They have the resources and the best manager in the world so should be looking to at least defend the title for the first time in their history. For the rest of the league and title rivals their is a lot to learn and mistakes to be looked over in the summer. Here are a few things which the other teams need to compete with City next season.

Transfer business

One thing that always leads to a great start to the season is having all your key signings sorted before pre season begins. Pep addressed his fullback issues and added quality to midfield straight after the season finished. By the time the season started the players were well integrated and looked comfortable in playing for City. Sir Alex Ferguson always tried to do the same to help create chemistry and bonds on the pitch with new players. Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal all had major additions and losses to the squad in August which didn’t help with settling in on a starting 11. Considering how strong City started the season, for next season rivals need to make sure they don’t drop silly points and lose momentum before the Autumn season appears.

Belief that City can be beaten

For all the great managers that are in the Premier League at the moment it is disappointing to see that rival teams were so intimidated and frightened of attacking City even though they are prone to mistakes. Man Utd have similar resources and talent however you feel if the managers were swapped around, United would’ve been winning the title. Chelsea have had problems internally and didn’t do well in head to heads. The only team who who really had a go were successful domestically and in Europe against them. Liverpool look like they could really challenge next season as they have been consistent since the arrival of van Dijk. Chelsea played at the Etihad and looked content to lose 1-0 even though they made no effort to attack. If Liverpool and Man Utd proved anything recently it’s that if you are aggressive you can cause mistakes from this team.

Defensive structure

For all the world class attackers in the Premier League the quality of defending hasn’t improved to the level it should be. If there is an area that other teams could pass City, it’s as a defensive team. City have the best defensive record because of how much pressure they put on other teams. Other teams have better individual defenders so if they improve on the structure they could have an advantage on City next season

All of these reasons being said things happen in football which are impossible to predict. Injuries, disagreements between the board, fatigue, players egos are just examples of things that can stop City from dominating for years to come. Following some of the steps in this post are just some examples of how teams can get closer to competing, not winning it. That’s what is scary for the rest of league.

Who do you think is the team that will challenge City next season? Will City go back to back? Leave your thoughts and comments below..

Another post will be put up on Friday previewing the F.A. cup semi final so be on the look out for that

Twitter – faniel_t

Man City v Liverpool preview

Surely it’s over? Everything has gone perfectly for Liverpool in the last week and the opposite could be said for City. Taking a comfortable lead into the second leg whilst navigating through the Merseyside derby without any injuries will leave Klopp a relieved man. A quarter final berth for the first time in over 10 years is almost here.

If you are Pep how do you approach this game? In the second half of the Manchester derby, United further exposed the weaknesses which Liverpool have been brave enough to show in the previous 2 head to heads. All of a sudden they don’t look as invincible as they have been. However they are still the best team in the league and should’ve won on Saturday considering how dominant they were in the first half. Aguero’s injury is a big blow considering his record in big games however scoring goals won’t be the biggest problem they will have. At home they expect to score at least 2 goals a game with the firepower they have. But with the scoreline being so big it’s almost inevitable that Liverpool with counter attack and get at least 1 crucial away goal which will take the tie away from them.

With the situation City are in you can only hope Liverpool have their worst performance of the season which they have been capable of in the past. At the moment however Liverpool look more solid at the back and look confident as a team. Whatever happens City are going to go all out which will be great to watch and Liverpool are a great counter attacking team so there will definetly be goals.

To finish in the top 4 for a second consecutive season and advance to the quarter finals shows that Liverpool are on the right track to being a top team. Nobody will want to play a team with that much quality going forward, they can blow you away in 15 minutes and that can be the difference between advancing in the Champions League. With the addition of another defender and a holding midfielder Klopp should be looking to challenge for league and Champions League next season.

Prediction Man City 2 – 2 Liverpool

Liverpool advance

Will City advance past the last 16? Do Liverpool have a chance to win the UCL ?

Leave your thoughts and comments below..

Twitter – faniel_t

Manchester derby preview

It’s never low-key when City win the league. The first time they won it was the most dramatic ending to a season in recent memory, everybody remembers where they were when Aguero took the ball past Taye Taiwo and lashed it past Paddy Kenny. The second title wasn’t as dramatic but it did go to the last game after Liverpool let the title slip. This time however provides a unique opportunity for City to rub salt deep in Mourinho’s wound and embarrass their rivals.

After their very disappointing performance in the Champions League this game provides the perfect opportunity to get the team back on track and secure the league. City didn’t play bad overall however at Anfield if you have a bad 20 minutes you could be blown away. Defensive errors cost them and Liverpool have the best attack in the league. Being realistic the tie looks over which is a bit anti climatic for a team who was competing for the treble to win the title this early. However you never know with Liverpool and they are capable of losing to anyone in their day.

If the game in midweek proved any thing it’s that City can be exploited if your brave enough to press them. Many teams have tried to defend deep and hope City have an off day which just doesn’t work. Liverpool at home and at the Etihad before Mane was sent off were aggressive and tried to go head to head with City and have been relatively successful. Man United under Mourinho have done the opposite which hasn’t worked. They had 35% possession at home and struggled to get out of their own half earlier this season which seems like the result that drove them off the rails. They don’t have the energy in midfield that Liverpool posses however upfront they have the quality and pace to cause some problems. Huge credit should be given to Lukaku who has overcome a difficult period to shine whilst over players have crumbled in big games. Whether he’s had good or bad games he has never gone missing and keeps putting himself in positions to lead the line even in defeats. Behind him there are still chemistry issues with fitting in Sanchez, Pogba and Lingard together which hasn’t helped the style of football.

Even though the title is over for United, this games provides an opportunity to ruin the party for a week and set the team up for next season. A win today would provide a confidence boost for a team who look nervous when they play against City. Next season Mourinho has to be in a title race and this game may provide more evidence on which players are ready to be part of that team.

Prediction- City have a big game in midweek but a win today would be the best way to set them up for a big performance. At home they will have the majority of possession and Man Utd’s defence isn’t the strongest. Man Utd have nothing to lose and should try to exploit City’s weaknesses, the fans would love to see them get a result against a team they haven’t beaten in a while and that would bring a lot of confidence ahead of the F.A. cup and a potential title race next season. This could be a high scoring game and hopefully for the fans both managers field full strength teams.

CITY 3 – UNITED 2

Will City win the league this weekend? Are they the greatest Premier League team? Are United the closest challengers next season?

Feel free to leave a comment and like the post.

Twitter- faniel_t

1 step forward, 2 steps back

When the draw for the last 16 was announced in December this was probably the team Mourinho had in mind. It was also a team that Mourinho hates playing against because all the pressure would be on United. Mourinho is an underdog manager, he revels in having a plan and not playing on the front foot. Honestly speaking they would’ve maybe performed better against a Juve or Bayern. In the two legs against Sevilla that was obvious to see, they had no set way of playing when they have more possession of the ball. On Friday Mourinho went on a 12 minute speech of nothingness like when your friend explains how he lost a fight which you witnessed for yourself. Man Utd were poor, the team looked hesitant and the team has no chemistry.

4 shots on target over 180 mins isn’t good enough for a team with players of the calibre such as Sanchez, Pogba and Lukaku. It would be crazy to say that these players go out there on the pitch to play in the manner they have played in. Missing chances is one thing but not attacking with purpose to get an away goal riles up fans. Sevilla players were probably surprised as to how poor the “biggest team in the world” were at keeping the ball. So when the return leg happened and Fellaini replaced Pogba and McTominay it must send a message to the whole stadium in regards to how the team is approaching the game. With these tactics you live very little room for error, losing with this approach opens yourself to more criticism than other teams.

When looking back on previous teams Mourinho has managed there are a few things which he has always made sure to achieve. A set starting 11 which had a clear identity, a solid defence and winning trophies. This has transcended from his Porto days with Costinha, Deco and Carvalho all the way through to his second spell at Chelsea with Terry, Matic, Hazard and Costa. He is ruthless with his ideas and always constructed a strong squad with players who knew their role in the team. Fast forward to now and it looks like he doesn’t exactly know his best starting 11 which has impacted chemistry in the team. They are second in the table however it’s hard to explain how good they really are, they rely on individual moments and counter attacking to win games which has gotten them to this point but to win the league they need more than that.

So if their isn’t a great football style the one thing Mourinho guarantees over managers who play better football is winning big trophies. 2 Champions Leagues and League titles in 4 different countries is a major achievement. He did well to win two trophies last season however this season they are miles away from competing for the biggest trophies with the investment made. Having Pep in the City provides a what if scenario for United fans when they are playing the best football in the country. If they don’t win a trophy this season and finish second after being knocked out by Sevilla, can this be considered a successful season ?

Through all this the fans have been mixed on Mourinho and his tactics. Some of his substitutions have been booed and tactics produced groans from the stands. This isn’t the life a United fan wants, winning two trophies should see you beloved by fans. But his ideals contradict the club’s, he either doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to. It’s only a matter of time before this experiment is over and a lot of fans are counting down the days already.

Will Mourinho be the manager next season? Can he survive with playing negative football? Are Man Utd a top team?

Leave your thoughts and comments below

Twitter – faniel_t

Man Utd v Liverpool preview

Between these two teams since the arrival of the managers there hasn’t been anything to remember. Thank Mourinho for the previous 3 results ending in draws. The games especially at Anfield have drawn a lot of criticism for United’s approach to the game. 1 shot on target doesn’t show a lot of ambition for a team which has the quality of players at their disposal. However at home they have had some good results against rivals.

While it seems like both teams were happy for the draw earlier this season the same won’t be said for this game. The race for the top 4 is still on and both teams have an opportunity to cement second place. Liverpool have so far become with the addition of van Dijk a much more solid, consistent team. That improvement makes them frightening to play against because the attack is so electric. It’s hard to remember a time where a marquee player has been sold and not missed at all. They had the advantage of winning the tie in the first leg so they could rest key players in the second leg. The maturity in the performance comes from the fact they kept a clean sheet at home in a meaningless game against Porto. Previous games would’ve seen a high scoring game even though the tie was finished. The form of the front three is hard to be matched by any team in Europe, the chemistry and movement is impossible to defend against at the moment and nobody will want to play against them in the Champions League. They can finish a game in 15 minutes and that is something which United have to think about after they went 2-0 down against Palace.

The positives to take for United fans from Monday, they showed a lot of heart and desire to make the comeback after a disappointing first half. Mourinho should be happy that his players have shown guts in recovering however they are having problems adapting to their new signing. Sanchez hasn’t looked good and on Monday was giving the ball away under no pressure. With due time he should be a very good addition however it seems they don’t have enough balance in the attack. Add to that the Pogba problem, it’s hard to explain whether it’s because of him and Mourinho. He has complained about playing in a two however when he plays in a midfield three he hasn’t had a lot of impact and influence. The truly great players usually work it out however after nearly two seasons he still hasn’t had a consistent run of top class performances. Can you remember a special Pogba moment in his United career. Behind him the defence is frightening United fans. The top scorer in the league against Smalling and Young just doesn’t seem fair. Shaw has to be picked, he is better than Young in every aspect and can deliver crosses consistently.

Key matchups

If United are to win Matic has to be at the top of his game. He has to help out the defenders who will be chasing the Liverpool front three’s shadows. His confidence should be high after scoring the winner and his first goal for the club. If they managed to limit the service to the Liverpool attack they have done about 60% of the job.

It would be easy to pick Salah out as the key player however in this game where the centre backs for the home team aren’t comfortable on the ball Firmino could have the opportunity to create havoc in their defence. Firmino has been great this season and should be in the running for team of the year. When Spurs played United last month Kane bullied the defence and continually caused mistakes from them which Firmino is more than capable of. If they perform the way they have against Chelsea and Palace Firmino will kill them.

Prediction – Even though United have played poorly they still have Mourinho’s winning mentality in them. At home they have a good record so they should feel like they can win and this is a game which fans won’t allow them to play defensively against. It’s hard to see United losing however Liverpool will definetly score.

Prediction 2-2

Who do you think will win the game? Has Mourinho improved Man Utd more than Klopp has Liverpool?

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

Twitter – faniel_t

Man City v Chelsea preview

The relinquishing of the crown. If you think Chelsea broke a lot of records last season City are probably going to break every single one possible. Both had different experiences last weekend and there seasons are contrasting from last year. Pep collected the first trophy of his career in England after a difficult debut season. It took a while however as all great managers do he has instilled the idea of tactics across and now they look like all the great teams he has previously coached.

It’s been an up and down season for the team in blue down in West London. They haven’t slumped like they have in previous post title winning seasons however it does look like the intensity isn’t in the team. One of the big differences which has become obvious is the quality upfront. Historically Chelsea have always been successful in the Premier League with physically dominant strikers. Just look at the seasons they won the title with Drogba or Costa upfront bullying defenders and being double teamed. Morata doesn’t play in that direct style but he needs to be stronger on the ball, his supporting cast played well at Old Trafford and created opportunities which he should’ve done better from. He hasn’t scored in a long stretch and his confidence seems low at the moment. Now that they are out of the top 4 it’s important that they don’t drop further points with Spurs and Liverpool becoming more consistent.

After a dominant performance on Thursday at the Emirates, it’s all about when and not if they lift the Premier League for the third time. Something which has become even more apparent in recent weeks for non City fans is how good Sane is. The balance and elegance he displayed for the first goal was incredible to watch. He looked like a gazelle with how he was turning at speed and avoiding contact from defenders. It also helps that you have De Bruyne and Silva with you to finish of moves and keep the ball. The goals they scored were wow moments, they carved Arsenal up and it didn’t look fair. As a football fan you don’t even want to hate on the style of play and found yourself happy to see them on the winning side.

Key matchups

Whoever decides to play at wingback for Chelsea will have a very long day. Bellerin was going around in circles trying to keep up with Sane. Along with physical ability his decision making has improved a lot and is playing with a lot of confidence. After an injury layoff he seems back to his recent form earlier in the season. If he performs like he has the previous 2 games he is a match winner and will need to be double teamed.

As previously mentioned Chelsea weren’t that bad at Old Trafford. Defensively they were solid and in midfield they were ok. City have been brilliant however they are capable of making a mistake at the back, if an opportunity is presented Morata assuming he plays must be ready to deliver. He has been poor recently and could have scored twice last week. It could be a better option to have Giroud upfront and try to be a physical presence against Otamendi who can struggle at times.

Prediction

City have been unstoppable at home and that won’t change on Sunday. They have a big lead on the Champions League so don’t have too many worries on that for a few weeks. They are out of the F.A. cup and have one trophy in the bag so can now focus on wrapping up the title early. If they do that they have a real chance of getting to the Champions League final.

City 3-1 win

Who do you think will win? Are City the best team in Europe? Is Sane the best young player in Europe?

Leave your thoughts and comments below …

Twitter – faniel_t

Man Utd v Chelsea preview

The return of the Premier League brings forward a grudge match between two managers who have been throwing indirects all season. Maybe with the title being over it’s given them more time to be petty, however when they meet up on Sunday they have a lot to play for. Both teams are now in race for the top 4 after stuttering recently whilst being in European fixtures during the week. Both teams drew in midweek however the performances were contrasting. United were lucky to get away with a draw in Spain. They got a draw but it wasn’t because they defended well, it was luck and that should be a concern for Mourinho. Chelsea produced an encouraging performance and should feel confident that they can score an away goal.

So a lot has been made about the poor performances and the fact that United haven’t contested with City. Over the course of the season one thing is clear about the team which explains the inconsistencies in their performance, they don’t have an identity. What is their style of play? What partnerships have been formed in the team? What is their strongest 11? The honest answer is nobody knows, not even Mourinho. The chemistry in the team isn’t there and that is reflected in their star signing looking lost on the pitch. Wins against Arsenal and Spurs this season have masked the fact that they have won big games by taking the few chances they create and relying on de Gea for big saves. They haven’t dominated the bigger games and there has been a breakdown with Pogba and the manager. This all comes down to Pogba either not knowing or feeling comfortable with what he is suppose to do in the team. The addition of Sanchez has unbalanced the team further and adds to the point that the team has no identity. Was his addition needed with all the deficiencies in midfield and defence?

On the other side it seems like everytime Chelsea have entered a crisis this season Conte has managed to get through it and the players seem to have his back. He has so far avoided the curse which previous managers have faced and if they manage to finish second this season Conte can say he has had a successful couple of seasons. Heading to Old Trafford they should feel confident that they can get a result. Giroud is a positive addition and Morata is getting back to full fitness which will bring their best player Hazard back to his best position. Willian has also been given more playing time which has provided some more flair to a team which has struggled to create openings.

Key Matchups

Whenever these two teams play each other Hazard is always the tall of the game. Mourinho as the United manager has usually given the task of man marking to Herrera. It’s not the most exciting thing to see but it has been successful at times. He is the best player in the pitch and playing his old manager has been a little motivation for him. The United defence right now is a mess and there is no way they can defend against him individually, they will need support from Matic and McTominay assuming they both start. McTominay has been solid in his debut season and given more confidence from the manager after the midweek game. Pogba failed in this role against Spurs last month which gave Eriksen space to run the game. If they give Hazard this space the results will be the same.

Prediction

This is an important game for United. The mood around the team isn’t good and losing to Conte won’t be a good look. Chelsea will be coming to Old Trafford with higher confidence and should be on the front foot from the start to add nerves to the crowds deflated atmosphere as of late. This game has draw written all over it, both teams are coming of tough games and don’t want to lose to the other.

Draw 0-0

Who do you think will win? Is De Gea the best keeper in the world? Who will last longer in their job between the two managers?

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Twitter- faniel_t

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