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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Latest FIFA rankings out and as questionable as ever

The latest FIFA world rankings have been released and as per usual do not seem to reflect fully the quality of all the teams in world football, World Cup winners Germany are still on top despite their shaky form in the European qualifiers while Argentina and Colombia make up the top three.

Colombia somehow have managed to be placed 3rd in the world despite only making it to quarter final of the World Cup ahead of both losing semi finalists in the World Cup: the Netherland’s and Brazil. Similarly Belgium look ranked far above their realistic ability, they see themselves in 4th place, they are a very good side but they haven’t done anything special in the past few months and certainly don’t deserve to be ranked above the Dutch.

England find themselves in 13th place, a respectable position and probably a fair one, after a disappointing World Cup they have regained their form and currently stand top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group with four wins from four.

The Republic of Ireland will be disappointed with their standing, they find themselves down in 64th place after what was a solid start to their Euro campaign, the highlight being that draw away in Germany. The Irish somehow find themselves ranked below Albania, Panama and Congo DR. They are also behind all their neighbours with Northern Ireland, Wales and their group D rivals Scotland placed above them.

Scotland are up to 34th in the world going into the new year after a solid start in Group D of the Euro qualifying campaign seeing them on 7 points after four games, level with the Republic of Ireland and Poland who are ranked below them in 41st place.

Northern Ireland who have had their best start to a Euro campaign in a long time are now in 49th, down one place since the last ranking release but still ahead of the Republic. Wales who also have impressed in their qualifiers find themselves a few places ahead of Northern Ireland in 34th but are still far behind Belgium who despite being 4th in the world also lie 4th in Group D two places behind the Welsh.

The best mover in the recent rankings was Rwanda who have moved up twenty two places to 68th after some impressive results in their African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign, it is the highest ever ranking in Rwanda’s football history. Cuba were the biggest droppers falling thirty four places to 113th.

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Lallana stakes a claim

Raheem Sterling was awarded the man of the match tonight after a terrific performance that deserved recognition but he was not the only star performer in a Liverpool team that overcame Bournemouth 3-1.

Two goals from Sterling and Markovic’s first goal as a Liverpool player were enough to see off the Championship leaders Bournemouth for whom former Everton man Dan Gosling scored their only goal. After no win in three games this win comes at an important time and Liverpool will hope the win can carry on at the weekend when Arsenal come to visit Anfield.

Although he didn’t get on the score-sheet Adam Lallana was particularly impressive for Brendan Rodgers’ side assisting Sterling’s second goal and proving and all round nuisance for the Bournemouth defence, Lallana’s deft touch and quick feet saw him stand out as a star performer in what looked a revitalised Liverpool side.

Of course Bournemouth are no Arsenal but Lallana was key to almost every attack and caused them countless problems, his great vision was evident throughout as he ran things in the Liverpool attack while his composure on the ball helped calm things down as Bournemouth began to press and ask questions of the Liverpool defence. Lallana, who has been in and out of the starting line up this season, will be hoping that this performance will be enough for Rodgers to include him in the team for Sunday’s massive encounter.

Having signed in the summer from Southampton for around £20 million it is maybe about time Rodgers gave the Englishman a consistent role in the team to prove his worth, he has thus far started nine Premier League games scoring 2 goals in the process, a decent return compared to his other midfield compatriots.

It has been a major annoyance with the fans this season when Rodgers has opted not to play the attacking midfielder from the start of games and on some occasions he has decided against bringing Lallana on when the Merseysiders have been chasing a goal but tonight’s performance may have at the very least secured him a place in the team for the weekend.

Lallana and Sterling were not the only strong performers for Liverpool on the night, Markovic probably had his best game so far in a Liverpool shirt threatening down the left wing every time he was given the ball, while as a team their passing was incredibly precise with 39 passes leading up to Sterling’s opening goal, this may have been helped by the nature of the opposition but nonetheless Liverpool performed very well finishing the game with 56% possession.

Sterling up front now looks like a great option for Rodgers after his performance and the trio of Markovic, Couthino and Lallana worked very well and could be the key for Liverpool going forward. Unfortunately for Rodgers they managed to draw Chelsea in the semi-final’s but that will be the least of his concerns at the moment as Liverpool try to re-find their Premier League form starting this Sunday against Arsenal.

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Chance for Man City to prove themselves

For the second year running Manchester City have been drawn against Barcelona in the last 16 stage of the Champions League after getting through the group stage that saw them drawn with Cska and Bayern Munich for the second year running and they are no doubt cursing their luck.

Last season Pellegrini’s side were comfortably beaten at the hands of Barcelona losing 2-0 at the Etihad and then 2-1 at the Nou Camp, making it a 4-1 aggregate defeat and once again end their participation in the Champions League a lot earlier than they would have liked.

This year however, despite all the self pitying that will undoubtedly be happening amongst the City players and fans, this big fixture gives them a big chance to prove themselves in Europe, they made a statement in the group stages when they beat Bayern 3-2 and most recently knocked out Roma after beating them 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico but no result would make a bigger statement than knocking the Spanish giants out.

The challenge is made harder by the fact they must travel to the Nou Camp in the second leg because of their 2nd place finish in the group stages but it is doable. Who can forget when Chelsea knocked the Catalan giants out in the Semi-final back in 11/12 with Torres’ late goal securing the win that brought them to the final which they famously won under Roberto Di Matteo.

Liverpool and Manchester United have also been able to knock Barcelona sides in the past ten years, so although it’s a massive task English sides have proven that they are capable on their day of knocking Barcelona out.

Winning this tie will depend majorly on whether or not City will have a full strength team, injury-prone Sergio Aguero and current absentee Kompany will need to be fit for the game if City are to have any realistic hope of progressing.

Coming up against the front trio of Suarez, Neymar and of course Lionel Messi will be a huge test for the Manchester side but one they are  sure to relish, these are the ties that make European football worth being involved in and as they say if you want to win you have to beat the best teams.

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