Senin, 16 April 2012

Plain sailing in Madrid and Turin ...

As the season enters its crucial period, individuals can become heroes in key moments. That was the story in the Spanish capital on Wednesday night when Cristiano Ronaldo netted yet another hat-trick to guide Real Madrid past city rivals Atletico, and in Turin where Alessandro Del Piero came off the bench to seal a vital win for Juventus over Lazio to send his side to the top of the Serie A table.

However, in Germany it was a different state of affairs when Arjen Robben sunk his Bayern Munich side in the defeat at Borussia Dortmund. First the Dutchman played Robert Lewandowski onside for the only goal of the game, before he twice cost his team a point when he failed to convert a penalty and then missed from close range. It's sink-or-swim time for Bayern in the title race, but it looks like Arjen is doing both.

Pele set to unleash his jinx online

Brazilian football icon Pele caused a stir in the Twittersphere on Monday by becoming the latest high-profile figure within the game to join the micro-blogging site, instantly amassing over 145,000 followers. The 71-year-old launched his account by tweeting: "Hello world, thank you for welcoming me to Twitter. I am very excited to share my life with you. Love, Pele."

So far, so banal. While widely regarded as one of the greatest to have ever played the game, the 71-year-old has also earned a reputation for quirky sound bites and dubious predictions. It is only a matter of time before he refers to himself in the third person, calls out Diego Maradona and predicts the USA to be the next superpowers in world football - although the 140 character limit might prove to be a bit of a hindrance.

Selasa, 10 April 2012

Di Matteo forced into juggling act in Chelsea fixture circus

Victory would have seen Chelsea rise to fourth position in the league, taking a huge step towards qualification for next season's Champions League. However, the result meant that the west Londoners remain in sixth position, two points behind the vital cut-off spot for Europe's premier club competition.

With the team still competing on three fronts, the pressure on Chelsea is increasing by the week. It will need to be a fine balancing act if Di Matteo is to mastermind his side to success in the FA Cup and Champions League, as well as a top-four finish.

'Why always me?' Mancini ponders ...

Roberto Mancini was left asking: 'Why always me?' on Sunday, as his Manchester City side lost 1-0 at Arsenal to leave them eight points behind Manchester United in the race for the Premier League title.
A late Mikel Arteta goal sealed the three points for the Gunners, but it was the antics of Mario Balotelli that really grabbed the headlines after the Italian was sent off for two bookable offences, and was his usual petulant self throughout the game.

Having just dealt with the Carlos Tevez saga, Mancini must be wondering why he has to keep babysitting his players while fighting Sir Alex Ferguson for the Premier League crown.

Minggu, 08 April 2012

Conte snatches Scudetto shield from Allegri's grasp

After AC Milan suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Fiorentina on Saturday, Juventus took the initiative in the race for the Scudetto by reclaiming top spot with a 2-0 win over Palermo in the early evening fixture.

With just seven games left to play, the unbeaten Bianconeri now lead the sprint for the Serie A title, and coach Antonio Conte will be hoping his side can hold on to their advantage and see off Massimiliano Allegri's reigning champions.

Sabtu, 07 April 2012

Cisse at the double as Pardew hits the jackpot

This time last year, Newcastle United were struggling for goals in the wake of Andy Carroll's £35 million departure to Liverpool, but 2011-12 has been a different story. It was Demba Ba who won all the plaudits in the first part of the season, but January changed all that, as a certain Senegalese striker named Papiss Cisse arrived at St James' Park from Freiburg for a significantly lesser fee than was received for the much-derided England striker.

And Cisse hasn't looked back since, scoring the winner on his debut against Aston Villa. While Ba has struggled to replicate his early form following the Africa Cup of Nations, his countryman has continued to rake in the goals. His most recent double against Swansea meant he has now scored more than once a game - nine in eight matches - delighting manager Alan Pardew and leaving Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger to ponder what could have been ...

Jumat, 06 April 2012

Lost for ideas!

It has been a season to forget for Alexandre Pato. The AC Milan striker has scored just four times in nine starts this season, but for a moment it appeared his campaign had turned a corner after reportedly declining a big-money transfer to French giants Paris Saint-Germain, in what was hailed as a refreshing display of commitment to the Rossoneri cause.

However, a recurring muscle problem has thrown a spanner in the works and on Thursday, AC Milan announced Pato will miss the rest of the season following yet another knock, sustained during his brief cameo against Barcelona in the Champions League. Club doctor Jean-Pierre Meersseman admitted the forward's injuries have baffled him and his staff, but they now have a few more months to devise a new treatment!

Beat Barcelona, then we'll talk ...

When Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea went their separate ways, the Blues were on the brink of Champions League elimination. European domination has long been the dream of ambitious owner Roman Abramovich, who has dispensed with a host of coaches, including the Portuguese, for failing to deliver his most-coveted prize.

However, under the stewardship of Roberto Di Matteo, the Blues have had an upturn in fortunes, and edged ever closer to the Champions League final with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Benfica in the quarter-finals on Wednesday night. However, the Italian will have to win a few more games yet if he wants a permanent stay ...

Rabu, 04 April 2012

One for the history books!

Barcelona's 3-1 win over AC Milan on Tuesday night put the Catalans into the record books again as they became the first team to reach five straight Champions League semi-finals, while also equalling the mark set by the great Real Madrid side of the late 1950s, who did, however, win the European Cup five years in a row. Barca boss Pep Guardiola, who had claimed before the match that his team would "need a ladder" to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will now be desperate for his side to become the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era, and lift the title for the third time in four years.

Selasa, 03 April 2012

Ferguson's side sprint for the finish

Momentum swung the way of Sir Alex Ferguson as his Manchester United side earned a 2-0 win over a relegation-embroiled Blackburn Rovers, moving them a step closer to his 13th Premier League title.

They left it late, but after Antonio Valencia broke the deadlock in the 81st minute, Ashley Young added a second in a performance which Ferguson stated 'typfied the history' of Manchester United. The Red Devils stretched their lead at the summit of the league to five points as their arch-rivals Manchester City slipped up at home to Sunderland.

Since losing their first game of the calendar year to Newcastle United, Ferguson has led the reigning Premier League champions to 31 points from a possible 33, putting them in the lead of the race for the title.

Liverpool trip up after comedy of errors

It was a day to forget for Kenny Dalglish and his Liverpool side as they went down 2-0 to Champions League-chasing Newcastle at St. James' Park on Sunday.
In a comedy of errors that encapsulated the Mersysiders' entire campaign, Andy Carroll was booked early on for diving when he had already rounded Magpies keeper Tim Krul. Pepe Reina was then sent off late on for a headbutt on James Perch, which resulted in left-back Jose Enrique pulling on the gloves.

Dour Scot Dalglish was left exasperated at the final whistle, as his side look to have let Champions League football - much like Carroll - slip from under them for another year.

Senin, 02 April 2012

Mancini left tearing his hair out as City, Balotelli & Aguero self-destruct

Eight points clear at the top of the Premier League at one point earlier in the season, Manchester City now find themselves two points adrift of Manchester United after Saturday's 3-3 draw with Sunderland, having played a game more than their city rivals.
Sergio Aguero reportedly ruled himself out of action for two weeks by slipping down the steps of the team coach, while Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov had to be pulled apart by team-mates after squaring up over a free-kick during the Sunderland epic. Anything and everything seems to be going wrong for City at the moment. It's no wonder, then, that manager Roberto Mancini is currently tearing his hair out, while United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson laps it all up.