Friday, 6 June 2014

World Cup 2014: Group A preview

Group A is already being touted as a foregone conclusion in terms of first place and looking at the squads this seems like a fair prediction, the only real excitement will be looking at how well hosts Brazil start the tournament and the possibility of a fight for second place.

Here’s a look at each of the four teams and their chances of progressing from the group;

Going by each squad Brazil are far superior than their opponents in group A and will be expecting to breeze through the group without trouble.

The young squad have a lot of pressure on their shoulders being hosts of the tournament and starting the tournament as favourites but the quality of Neymar and his fellow teammates should be enough for this feeble group.

Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will be hoping for a repeat of last years confederations cup performance in which Brazil won every match destroying Spain in the final 3-0.

A very strong team technically and tactically, questions remain however over their defence.

Well known European based players Chicarito of Manchester United, Andreas Guardado and Giovani Dos Santos will be expected to play a big part and relatively unknown striker Oribe Peralta, Club America star, is expected to impress.

Despite the abundance of exciting players, Mexico do not look strong enough to progress through the group with their main rivals for second spot Croatia looking stronger.

Under an unexperienced coach, Niko Kovac, progressing past the group stages looks to be their only aim and it is certainly within reach with the quality individuals Croatia posses.

Despite a major unbalance in the squad with a lack of quality wide players and a weak defence, the midfield of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic both on the back of superb seasons with their clubs in Spain along with young Inter Milan man Mateo Kovacic looks to be enough to see them progress.

Mario Mandzukic up front is a proven world class striker and his performance could be the difference between a second or third place finish in the group for the Croats.

A relatively poor squad look set for a disappointing tournament in a group containing teams far superior to them.

With key player Samuel Eto’o past his peak Cameroon struggle to score goals and despite a relatively solid defence and in form keeper Charles Itandje, formally of Liverpool, they will struggle to pick up any points in the group.

Barcelona man Alex Song will be expecting a big tournament but competing in the group looks a step to far for the African side.

Group Prediction
1st: Brazil
2nd: Croatia
3rd: Mexico

4th: Cameroon

Monday, 12 May 2014

Manchester City worthy champions

After a long arduous campaign Manchester City were crowned champions of England for the second time in three years on Sunday and few people could say it wasn’t a deserved crown.

Finishing the season with a tally of 86 points, two ahead of runners-up Liverpool, Man City timed their run to perfection having seemingly handed the title to Liverpool when they lost there in early April.

This was despite popular belief not the deciding factor in the race for the title and upon Liverpool slipping up at Chelsea and Crystal Palace, City showed the ruthlessness required to be champions and capitalised winning their last five games.

City ended the season with the best attacking record in the league scoring 102 goals and conceding only 37, this resulted in an unrivalled goal difference of 65 making, far greater than any other team in the league.

In total, City mustered up 16 clean sheets for the season mainly thanks to a rejuvenated Joe Hart who had his struggles early on in the season but showed his quality in the run in to help City lift the title.

For all the neutrals it was important that the team that won the league played attractive attacking football and Manchester City certainly did that, despite his many injuries prolific striker Sergio Aguero still managed to accumulate 17 goals this season while main man Yaya Toure ended with a tally of 20.

City on their day were a force to be reckoned with brushing Arsenal and Spurs aside with ease when they visited the Etihad Stadium.

Manuel Pellegrini deserves a lot of credit for City’s triumph, his calmness in defeat and ability to not get carried away has rubbed off on the players as they calmly secured the title without ever looking in doubt.

Pellegrini’s ability to keep all the players in the dressing room happy despite many of them getting little playing time is also something to be admired about the Chileans style of management.

At the start of the season City were favourites and rightly so, their entire squad is full of international stars all capable of performing week in week out, when you look at the names in the squad you see the likes of Toure, Silva, Kompany, Aguero and many more, a group of players who would expect to get a place in any starting 11 in world football.

The leaders in Manchester City’s squad were undoubtedly the men who swung the title in their favour and there is no better leader from the back in the Premier League at the moment than Vincent Kompany, his willingness to win and sheer determination rubs off on all his teammates and it was fitting he scored the goal that really sealed the title.

Yaya Toure is the other main reason the title has ended up in the blue side of Manchester this season, his remarkable skill and athleticism has seen him rack up 20 goals this season, an amazing amount for any midfielder.

The stats don’t lie, Manchester City are worthy Premier League champions and with a big summer ahead for teams like Man Utd and Liverpool it will be interesting to see will City be crowned Champions of England again this time next year.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

In a season full of surprises could we see one more?

It has been, arguably, the most exciting Premier League season in the history of the competition, a season full of shocks and surprises at both ends of the table and as we come to the final day should we expect anything less than a thrilling and entertaining end.

With the relegation places all but sealed unless Norwich can score 17 goals and the top 4 finalised we are left only with the battle for the title between Manchester City and Liverpool.

After seemingly blowing their title chances Liverpool will be hoping for West Ham to do them a favour and go to the Etihad and win, something that even the most optimistic Liverpool fan would struggle to foresee.

However with rumours circulating that Sam Allardyce is destined to be sacked after the match it would be all the more motivation for him to go out with a bang. Comments made by Allardyce during the week stating “from a personal point of view I’d like to see Gerrard win it” are also sure to instil hope in the hearts of all of Liverpool.

Man City have been inconsistent and prone to shock results this season, Sunderland being an example of this, so with all the pressure in the world on their shoulders knowing anything but a defeat will see them crowned champions could they crumble.

Liverpool themselves are home to Newcastle and will expect a routine victory to keep any hopes of being crowned Premier League champions for the first time since its formation.

City go into the game with a fully fit squad according to Manuel Pellegrini and are massive favourites to secure the title for the second time in three years but in a season full of shocks and surprises could former Liverpool men Downing and Carroll have the final say and send the title to Merseyside?

Whatever happens Sunday is sure to be an exciting finish to the season and either team would undoubtedly be worthy winners of what has been a remarkable season.