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900 minutes of Gameweek 8 produced 30 goals (4 less than the last 2 gameweeks), 3 cleansheets, 6 home wins, 2 home losses and 2 home draws. Let’s have a look into the important happenings of this yet-another-awesome gameweek.

1. Everyone knows that Juan Mata was the man of the match in Tottenham Spurs versus Chelsea with 2 goals and an assist. But there are something much more exciting.

  • Out of the 8 league matches for Lilywhites this season, Brad Friedel played in 7 matches and kept no cleansheet. Hugo Lloris played only one match and secured a cleansheet. AVB can’t keep on with ignoring the 3 time consecutive French Ligue 1 goal keeper of the year at bench.
  • Out of the 4 goals against Spurs, 3 goals happened primarily due to defensive mistakes. 2 of them are due to poor clearance from William Gallas. These errors have to be avoided to help Spurs clench more cleansheets.
AVB trusts Brad more than Hugo

AVB trusts Brad more than Hugo

2. West Ham are proving that they are strong contenders for a position in the top half of the table (like they usually did three years back) with a 4-1 win against Southampton. Mark Noble opened his goal account for the season and added one more to it with a penalty kick against Southampton. The highlight of the match was the brilliant goal from Modibo Maiga leaving three defenders surrounding him in awe. More misery was added to Southampton as they have conceded an average of 3 goals in every game. Their manager Nigel Adkins couldn’t control the situation even after trying three different goalkeepers so far. His position seems to be unstable as he is helpless and took the blame himself after the defeat.

3. The third comeback victory for Manchester City came against West Bromwich Albion (1-2). This one is special for City as they did this with just 10 men on field for over an hour. Milner received a red card before 30 minutes because of Vincent Kompany‘s disastrous losing of ball to opponents. Edin Dzeko who has been instrumental in all these 3 comeback wins has started only 2 times in this season out of the 8 matches. This top scorer of Manchester City (Other strikers’ goals put together equals his 5 goals) deserves more starting games. His post-match words “I will never be supersub. I want to play.” reflects his eagerness and disappointment at not being given starting spot consistently.

4. Swansea’s 2-1 win against Wigan Athletic has just let them keep up in table’s top half position. Miguel Michu scored one goal putting his name alongside top scorers of the league, Van Persie and Demba Ba (6 goals).

5. Manchester United’s attack seems like the days when Ronaldo and Rooney used to play together. Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney shared 4 goals and 2 assists including a own goal against Stoke City in a 4-2 home win. United’s attack is one of the best in the league now, but defensively they have never been this worse.

"Rooney - Van Persie" Lethal Attacking Pair

“Rooney – Van Persie” Lethal Attacking Pair

6. Aston Villa lost the match against Fulham by 1-0. Fulham who have lost only against the 2nd (Manchester United), 3rd (Manchester City) and 7th (West Ham) ranked teams is in a better position in the league and will fight it out for the Europa league spot.

7. Liverpool won against a win-less Reading with a 1-0 win to move to 12th position (their best position so far this season in the table). They need to continue doing it to try and challenge the top 10 teams. So far Liverpool has had 2 cleansheets and both of them came from the last 2 matches. It is a good sign when they are climbing up the table.

8. First win for Norwich city came against Arsenal in the match which ended 1-0. Arsenal lost out on an opportunity to lead Everton and Tottenham at this early stage against an easy opponent. Norwich defended well till the end after they scored in the 20th minute. After the win, Norwich along with Sunderland and Aston Villa are the least scoring teams in the league with 6 goals. Out of the 6 goals to Norwich, 3 were scored by Holt.

Holt vs Arsenal

Holt vs Arsenal

9. Sunderland registered their 5th draw (Only Stoke city has that many draws) in 7 matches in a 1-1 match against Newcastle. One more goal from Demba Ba, but for a change it is a own goal. So far, he has scored 7 out of the 10 goals Newcastle has scored.

10. QPR were lucky to get 1 point against the in-form Everton. The final score is 1-1. Everton should have gone to overpower QPR who haven’t yet registered a single win in the league (along with Reading), but with 10 men on pitch it is a good result for them.

Peep into key matches of Gameweek 9:

1. Chelsea vs Manchester United: This match between teams ranked 1 and 2 will be the match to watch this weekend. Manchester United had problems defensively, but the news of Smalling’s comeback will be a moderate morale booster. A win for Red Devils will put them one point less than the Blues. A win for Blues will extend their lead to seven points and probably put Manchester United to trail behind Manchester City.

2. Everton vs Liverpool: The Merseyside derbies are always special. The timing of the match is also special this time when Liverpool is rising up the table and Everton is trying to hold on to its 4th position.

3. Aston Villa vs Norwich: The battle for the relegation will not begin late. Both these teams have been struggling very much this season. A win for any team would give the team hope for staying put in the league and the opponents fear of relegation.

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In the first 5 gameweeks, all the clubs had played 5 games except Reading and Sunderland (both clubs played 4 games so far). At the end of gameweek 5, let us analyze how the top 5 teams have played, their form, their strengths & weakness, key players and the way forward this season.

#1 Chelsea FC (Games Played:5, Points Scored:13):

Though Chelsea FC is in the top of the table with 4 wins and 1 draw, the opponents which it faced are currently in 10th, 13th, 15th, 19th and 20th positions. Hence, Chelsea so far hasn’t had any tough matches. Competing for the title, ideally Chelsea should have got all the 15 points. But 13 points is not bad either. In the goal scoring front, four teams have scored more than Chelsea. 4 goals came from defenders, 3 goals came from midfielders and 2 goals came from forwards. This is an area of concern and the Chelsea attack should start scoring much more. In the goals conceded, Chelsea has been one among the two teams (the other being Arsenal FC) with the lowest figure. Hence, defensively Chelsea has been better and Chelsea’s attacking line up and midfield should complement the defensive performance to hold on to the first position. The next five matches are very crucial as Chelsea plays Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United. With these tough fixtures, if Chelsea remains at the top at the end of Gameweek 10, the challenge for title is really on.

Gameweek Opponent Home/Away Result Goals Current Rank
1 Wigan Away Win 0-2 15
2 Reading Home Win 4-2 20
3 Newcastle Home Win 2-0 10
4 QPR Away Draw 0-0 19
5 Stoke Home Win 1-0 13

#2 Manchester United (Games Played: 5, Points Scored: 12):

Though ManU has played two tough matches against Everton and Liverpool, Liverpool’s current position at 18 and the controversies surrounding the match suggests otherwise. And a loss against Everton, doesn’t help ManU’s form either. On the goal scoring front, they are one of the top scoring sides with 12 goals. Forwards have scored 7 goals with Van Persie alone scoring 5 goals. His addition has helped them thwart the risk of Rooney’s injury. But conceding 6 goals in 5 matches is definitely an area of concern, that too with the presence of Vidic and Ferdinand. ManU should concentrate on defense to be present among the top consistently. The next five matches are very tough for ManU with Tottenham, Newcastle, Stoke City, Chelsea and Arsenal. If ManU accumulates more than 10 points in these matches, they will be the strong contenders for the title.

Gameweek Opponent Home/Away Result Goals Current Rank
1 Everton Away Loss 1-0 3
2 Fulham Home Win 3-2 6
3 Southampton Away Win 2-3 16
4 Wigan Home Win 4-0 15
5 Liverpool Away Win 1-2 18

#3 Everton (Games Played: 5, Points Scored: 10):

Playing 2 of the games against the top 5 teams, 2 of the games against the mid-table teams and the rest with 14th placed Aston Villa has given Everton a very good start to the season. Keeping up the momentum built should be their objective now in order to aim for a better position that the last season. 4 goals are scored by forwards and 4 goals are scored by midfielders which is a very good mix. Fellaini being in the current form will be crucial in keeping up with the current streak. In the next 5 matches, only Liverpool derby match will be a tough match. Hence Everton should try to get the maximum out of these matches to be among the lead.

Gameweek Opponent Home/Away Result Goals Current Rank
1 Man Utd Home Win 1-0 2
2 Aston Villa Away Win 1-3 14
3 West Brom Away Loss 2-0 4
4 Newcastle Home Draw 2-2 10
5 Swansea Away Win 0-3 11

#4 West Brom (Games Played: 5, Points Scored: 10):

West Brom has also played very well with seven points out of its three tough fixtures so far (Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton). The attack hasn’t been spectacular, but the defense has done well with 3 clean sheets (Only 4 teams have had 3 or more clean sheets). They have the lowest Goal Difference among the top 6 teams. Attack has to be worked upon. In the next 5 matches, the tougher matches will be against Man City and Newcastle. Hence in such a situation, West Brom should try to make the most out the fixture.

Gameweek Opponent Home/Away Result Goals Current Rank
1 Liverpool Home Win 3-0 18
2 Tottenham Away Draw 1-1 8
3 Everton Home Win 2-0 3
4 Fulham Away Loss 3-0 6
5 Reading Home Win 1-0 20

#5 Arsenal (Games Played: 5, Points Scored: 9):

Many players shall come, grow, shine and leave! But Arsenal has always maintained its status of `above all its ‘made in arsenal fc’ star players`! I have started admiring Arsenal for its running for the title, season after season even after the loss of so many of its key players. Tough the story of them not able to clinch the title is there, any other club with such a situation would have never managed to keep their champions league spot over the years. Arsenal have so far played 5 matches and are in #5 because of its higher goal difference than Fulham and Man City. Their tough matches include Liverpool, Man City and Stoke (Stoke’s physical game has always proved to be tougher for Arsenal). One change to this Arsenal team is that the defensive line up is much better than the previous seasons. With three clean sheets and the way they remained solid without conceding to Man City towards the end (Conceding at the end has been a defining characteristics of Arsenal over the years) is a testimony for the same. Attack was neither spectacular nor pathetic. In the next 5 games, the Gunners have to face the first ranked Blues and the second ranked Red Devils. They should gather a minimum of 9 points in these 5 games to further their position.

Gameweek Opponent Home/Away Result Goals Current Rank
1 Sunderland Home Draw 0-0 12
2 Stoke Away Draw 0-0 13
3 Liverpool Away Win 0-2 18
4 Southampton Home Win 6-1 16
5 Man City Away Draw 1-1 7

Among these 5 teams, at the least 3 teams will retain their top 5 spot at the end of 10th gameweek. Let’s wait to see the positions then.

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The world sees Chelsea FC as a Football Club, whereas the owner Roman Abramovich sees Chelsea FC as his new costly toy. In particular, the managers of Chelsea FC. When he gets bored of a manager, he throws him out. Almost everyone who follows Football knows this by now. As a fan of Chelsea FC, I see Manchester United, Arsenal, and Everton with envy. How it works for these clubs to have a consistent manager even though the managers of these clubs don’t add trophy to the club every year? Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson are almost synonymous. But to create such a legacy is not what Chelsea needs now. A stint of three reasonable years isn’t asking for much. Also the fans of Chelsea FC needs to understand that even Fergie was very close under the axe four years into his tenure. Had they not won the FA cup third round against Nottingham Forest, thanks to the goal from Mark Robins, their history over the past 22 years would have been altogether different for Manchester United. And Manchester United finished thirteenth that season (1989-90). It took a long seven years for even the mighty Fergie to win the league title. Persistence with the same manager is the key to set up a world class football club. Injecting the cash from oil well into the club might win trophies in the short term but it is not a sustainable mechanism.

Arsene Wenger’s story is more than just a case of Football Management. He is one manager who earns profits to the management rather than spending millions freely. Not many football coaches will be ready to carry the financial debt stress due to building a stadium on his shoulders. After their Emirates stadium project, the period saw very less but futuristic signings from the `professor` which helped Arsenal to post a 56 million pounds profit before tax during the year 2010-11. Though this resulted in Arsenal not being in a position to compete for the league title, they always qualified for the Champions League. Support from the board and the fans are crucial as winning trophies alone does not define the success of a club. Sustainable presence, pride and growth does.

Everton’s manager David Moyes is another commendable manager who has had a tenure of more than ten years now with the club. Before he took charge of the club, the club hasn’t finished in the top 10 of the league table for six years. And after he took over, the club has finished below top 10 only in 3 of the 10 years. They qualified for UEFA champions league once and qualified for UEFA cup thrice. A manager with a record of just over 40% wins has made a statement on sustainable presence and development in the premier league. This is not possible without the support of the owner and the fans. 

It is very much a possibility of building a club by dropping into the mid table in the early years. The owner just needs some patience to give the manager a minimum of three year spell to form a stable squad when the dressing room is so powerful with experienced players. These experienced players are stuck in some system they have followed over years. In my honorable opinion, Andre Villas Boas is not a manager who should have been sacked but who should have been given full support. Had the owner supported the manager instead of the aging players, he would have turned the club’s fortune in two or three years. Finally, I envy Inter for the support shown by Moratti on Ranieri even after the Champions League exit. I am hoping that the mentality of Roman and the Chelsea fans change.

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Once again, Barcelona outclassed Manchester United in the finals of UEFA Champions League on Saturday with a 3-1 victory! F.C.Barcelona join Ajax with four Champions League trophies to their name. The match was held at Wembley with an attendance of around 87000 fans.

Sir Alex Ferguson started with the same line-up as in the semifinals second leg against Shalke 04. Van der sar as goal keeper, Patrice Evra as left back, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand as central defense, Fabio da silva as right back, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick as central midfielders, Valencia and Park-Ji-Sung as wingers, Wayne Rooney as attacking midfielder, and Javier Hernandez as center forward played a 4-4-1-1 formation. Pep Guardiola came up with one change in the line-up in the semifinals second leg against Real Madrid. As he is not 100% fit, Carlos Puyol was replaced by Eric Abidal. Victor Valdes as goal keeper, Eric Abidal as left back, Javier Mascherano and Gerrard Pique as central defense, Dani Alves as right back, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, and Xavi Hernandez as midfielders, and David Villa, Lionel Messi and Pedro as forward played a 4-3-3 formation.

Manchester United dominated the first ten minutes of the match. Valdes came front couple of times clearing the ball himself thwarting United’s efforts. For the next twenty minutes, it was a magnificent possession from the Barca players. Hardly did they give the ball to the United players. At the 27th minute, Xavi was in a position to supply all the three of his strikers, and he passed to Pedro, the toughest call among the three. The pass was very perfect that it released Pedro to face Van der sar alone. Pedro finished it with a clinical strike to put the Catalans on lead. United were aroused and the next five minutes, they were desperately trying to get back into the game. Hernandez was caught offside so frequently falling into the offside trap set by the Barca defense. At the 34th minute, Rooney did a one-two with Giggs and scored a stunning goal to put the Red Devils back into competition. In the remaining 10 minutes, it was again the domination of the catalans, but they were unable to put their team into lead again. Barcelona enjoyed 2/3rd of the possession in the first half of the game.

In the first ten minutes of the second half, the central defense of Barcelona made their way front to try changing the play. Their efforts were successfully thwarted by Edwin Vandersar, who ultimately succumbed to Messi at 54th minute. Lionel Messi took a short pass from Iniesta and took a shot, 2o yards away from the goal, which went past the outstretched Vandersar. That was a magnificent strike and an unstoppable one and an unexpected one too. Barcelona usually don’t score long range goals. Then the play goes bad with some tense moments in the midfield which ended with both Alves and Carrick picking up yellow cards. Again there was domination from Barcelona. Vandersar did all he can to prevent Barcelona finishing the game till Villa scored a screamer in the 70th minute to seal the victory. Messi dribbled four United players, leaving the ball to Busquets. Busquets short-passed to Villa, who slotted in the ball perfectly. The United backline wasn’t as effective as they were thought. The rest of the match didn’t have any impact on the match.

The result was not a surprise to many. But United could’ve done better to stop Barcelona from winning easily. Chicharito was seen nowhere in the majority of the game. In the first half, the Catalan’s offside trap worked well with him. Giggs and Carrick couldn’t stop Xavi and Iniesta from supplying the strikers with a lot of chances. The deadly midfield combo outpaced the United’s midfield. This is where it mattered the most. Unless you play well in the midfield against Barcelona, you can’t win. And to the dismay of the midfielders, the defense line of United was still worse. Vidic made a couple of good saves, but he wasn’t able to take control of the back line. Neither did Ferdinand. Van der sar and Rooney were the best players for United in this match. Van der sar decreased the Catalan goal count and Rooney increased the United goal count. If not for these players, the score line would’ve gone to 5-0 like Barcelona-Real Madrid match this year.

For Barcelona, the match was won on the midfield with a rigid support from the defense by Mascherano and Pique and a sharp attack line. Alves threatened the United defense then and there. Valdes supported the offside trap by Barca defense well with a couple of saves out of the penalty box. All the three attackers scored one goals each and sealed the game. Overall it was a wonderful finals.

This loss meant more to the United manager. He was made to admit that his team is not the best team. And its true! Just because all the premier league clubs are not on top form, United were seen as a great team. Now, with Van der sar leaving the club, Fergie should set things back right. Before other Premier League clubs wake up! And before he puts an end to his career!

The strategy of Barca to shoot from long range worked well. And the man behind this strategy, Pep Guariola won the second Champions League as a manager in his third season as a coach. No one would ask for anything better. He has done almost all that could be done to Barca, and it would be great if he moves on to a different country’s league for a new challenge.

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The finals of the Europe’s most prestigious football tournament will be played this Saturday at Wembley stadium in London. We shall witness the Champions of England, Manchester United, and the Champions of Spain, Barcelona, fight for the European Crown. Both the sides have previously met in the 2008-09 Champions League final and the Catalans have won it by 2-0. United will be eying to take revenge for that loss.

Manchester United began the season at Wembley with a win over Chelsea in FA Community Shield. A win at Wembley to end the season would be dream-come-true season for United, after having outrun Liverpool in the race of the number of league titles conquered. Barcelona won their third consecutive league title winning a whooping 30 matches out of the possible 38, losing only 2 games. The Catalans will be poised to win their fourth champions league title.

It is going to be a duel between Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola. Fergie obviously has an edge over Guardiola, his wisdom from managing United for 24 years will not be paralleled by anyone. United squad is not so great this season. Still they managed to lift the title with the help of the master tactician at the bench. Though the lack of tough competing teams in English Premier League this season is attributed to United’s success, Fergie’s efforts shouldn’t be belittled. Pep, though a novice in managing a football club, is largely successful with winning 3 league titles and 1 champions league title. Pep, might not survive with other football clubs, but Pep plus Barca squad is a lethal combination.

The red devils might play with 4-5-1 formation tonight with their notable summer signing Javier Hernandez as a lone striker. Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Nani might occupy the front line of the midfield while Carrick and Park-Ji-Sung/Paul Scholes might stand behind the front liners. In the center of the defense will be the mighty Nemanja Vidic and Ferdinand combination with Rafael Da Silva and Evra in the wings. Van der sar, playing his last match for Manchester United, will be playing between the sticks. The catalans meanwhile might opt for their usual 4-3-3 formation. David Villa, Lionel Messi and Pedro will be in the three pronged attack line with Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets showering them with passes from the midfield. The wings of the back line might be taken by Dani Alves and Eric Abidal whereas the central defense will see Puyol and former United prodigy, Gerrard Pique in action. Valdes will be the goalkeeper.

As far the squad is concerned, Barcelona have a clear cut edge over Manchester United. Attacking line of Barca is one of the best in the world right now. Pedro, Messi and Villa have totally scored 95 goals in this season, whereas the entire Manchester United squad have scored only 110 goals. In midfield too, United can’t match Barca. But, if ManU are to win the match, they have to cut the Barca’s midfield-attack link as much as possible with its midfield. Defence of United is paralled by that of Barca. But, Van Der Sar between the sticks is a big advantage for United. His experience might come in handy to help thwart Barca’s attack.

If United were to go for an entirely attacking approach in this match, it will end up in a tragedy for them. The best way for them to play is to block the balls at Barca midfield and then attack whenever they get a chance. Barca will be playing their usual flair free-flowing attacking football. If they are to succeed in getting an early-goal, its difficult for United to come back into the game. Barcelona are the favorites for this match, but there is always a possibility for United to take revenge on Barca as anything can happen in football.

P.S. from Sudarsan: Arsenal F.C. is the only club to defeat both these champions league finalists in this season.

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El Clásico

Everyone might think that football rivalries are exaggerated, till they watch one. As we all know, Football is the most widespread game in the world. I believe that these intense rivalries are one of the strong reasons for that. Why am I talking about football rivalries now? The title is the answer! Yes, the master of all footballing rivalries, “El Clásico” is approaching. First “El Clásico” of this year will be on 29th of this month.

F.C.Barcelona and Real Madrid.F.C are the most successful clubs in Spain and in Europe. Any match played between these two clubs is generally called as “El Clásico”. These two clubs represent two different politics(Catalan and Spanish Nationalism), and two different cities(Barcelona and Madrid). These, added with the fact that they are the most successful and influential clubs in Spain, intensifies the rivalry. Due to the Catalan Elections, El Clásico is scheduled on Monday. Still, the anticipating crowd will not relent to watch this “Mother of all Footballing rivalry”.

In the recent years, the matches were lackluster. But this time, it is gaining intense momentum with the arrival of Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid.F.C. Like last year, F.C.Barcelona are stronger and solid with a team which had been forged together for several years. Whereas Real Madrid.F.C, even if they had most of the football superstars in their team, lacked the team play and spirit. With Mourinho injecting discipline, team play and fight-till-the-end attitude into the team, Real Madrid.F.C have been showing their fierce face to the footballing world remaining undefeated in all the games this season.

El Clásico is also intensified by the clash of the titans : Josep Guardiola i Sala, the manager of F.C.Barcelona, versus Jose Mourinho, the most highly reputed managers in Spain. The key battle of this clash, Messi versus Ronaldo, adds flavor to an already spicy encounter. It is because of all these that this match is anticipated even one month before the match. Well, I wanted to write about this match after it is over. But, I have been anticipating it for more than two weeks so that I couldn’t resist writing it now. I am on tiptoe, so does all the football aficionados.

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