Monday, 15 December 2008

It's Now or Never

Now is the time! Not next month, not next season, and by now I'm referring to Liverpool's title challenge this coming weekend. In recent fixtures the chasing pack have been rather kind to the team from the red half of Liverpool. And they must be kicking themselves for not taking advantage of Liverpool's failure to finish off the so called lesser teams at fortress Anfield. Just ask Arsene Wenger following last year's trophy-less season and he'll tell you over and over again, they drew too many games. The same applies to Chelsea as they pushed United all the way last season, but those seven draws at home cost them the title no doubt. Click here to see last season's review.

Liverpool must beat Arsenal this coming weekend

If Liverpool don't capitalize by beating yet another close rival it could be a very bleak Christmas for the current league leaders. Based on current performances Santa Claus won't be as forgiving and cheerful by granting them their wish to remain on top of the pile. Rafa Benitez needs to take a gamble with Fernando Torres. Does he rest his world-class match winner till after the festive season or does he risk him by playing the 'hamstrung' half-fit striker at the Emirates? Surely Gerrard can't pull his team out of the mire week in and week out.

Manchester United will struggle

I'll put my mortgage on it. After their return from the World Club Champs they will surely be exhausted which again could play into the hands of either Chelsea or Liverpool. Unfortunately for Arsenal their target this season has been re-adjusted and their sights are firmly set on fourth place. Evra has been banned for four matches, and luckily for them the cloud hanging over Rooney's head for stamping on a player recently, has been cleared by UEFA. I'm sure Fergie was sweating over this and his sleepless nights will surely see him clip those big ears of Rooney over his future conduct at the club, which in effect could have cost them a chance at defending their Champions League title. That's how important he is for them. Just look at how they failed to put the ball into the back of the net against a stubborn Tottenham Hotspurs over the past weekend.

Up against it

Christiano Ronaldo also gets off lightly for a silly lunge at Spur's Michael Dawson and again much to the relief of the Manchester United boss he's been cleared. To be honest there wasn't much in it. I might be wrong but based on some of his players actions they seem frustrated at times especially when the results are not going their way. But they need to get used to that part of the game, and quick. And Fergie also seems to be having an ongoing verbal with the media lately. His recent comments suggest that he thinks the media is out to get him.

“I am not going to discuss Wayne Rooney,” Ferguson said: “I think you press guys have created most of it and you are not getting anything from this club on Wayne Rooney. So that’s it, finished". Read the article in full here.

Chelsea will only get stronger

They have a few key injuries in Carvalho and Essien but they will be a different outfit once those two influential players are fit again. Felipe Scolari's team have also been struggling to punish the so called smaller teams at home, but then again you have to be on top of your game for each of the 38 games played over the season, as anyone can beat you on the day. Hull have proved their doubters wrong and see themselves in a for a chance to finish in the top six. Aston Villa will push United and Arsenal all the way for the last Champions' League place which will be interesting to watch.

Boo Boys

Boos at Anfield. Boos at the Emirates and Stamford Bridge. Since when? Liverpool were booed off by their loyal supporters after a goalless draw against West Ham. There was no doubt that the team from the east end of London parked their bus in front of their goals on the night. But all credit to them as Zola inspired them to yet another priceless draw against one of the top four.

A top sports journalist recently made the comment that we're entitled to do this because players are paid extra-ordinary wages, and are there to provide entertainment. I agree to a degree but it it doesn't sit nicely for those that understand that your team may have an off day now and again. Despite Liverpool remaining top of the table after the game they were still booed a by a section of the fans. It's sadly part of the modern game. Just ask Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal who was replaced by his manager after coming on as a second-half substitute. The Emirates faithful laid into the poor guy for taking the ball off a fellow player and then recklessly giving it to the opposition.

January signings

I can't see any significant or top signings for any of the big four teams. Only Manchester City, the worlds richest club, can boast a shortlist of players that even Roman Abramovich can only dream of. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the Man City owner with an estimated family fortune of $1trillion, is set to splash the cash and break the British transfer fee record once again, if not the world transfer fee record! This will surely make for some interesting reading come January 2009 when the transfer window opens again.

Early Days

There will never be a more suitable time for Rafa's team to bring back home the Premier League trophy where it rightfully belongs. See my season preview, which might require some re-thinking come the new year. But it's the only chance I believe they will have for a long time, because the other teams will surely re-shuffle and strengthen if they fail to leapfrog Liverpool from the summit of the Premier League this season. Roll on Sunday.