Friday, November 26, 2010

Jose steels himself for frosty reception

Jose Mourinho’s outspoken and often controversial style means he isn’t always universally popular among players, managers and fans.

This is especially evident in Spain at present where his former club, Barcelona, prepare to host his present employers and bitter rivals Real Madrid on Monday. To say it is worth keeping up to date with the latest scores on Monday is an understatement.

Mourinho began his career as a translator at the Catalan club for Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal in the mid 90s but quickly developed into a fine coach in his own right.

After winning the Champions League with Porto he went on to enjoy domestic success with Chelsea before winning the Champions League again with Inter Milan last season.

En route to last year’s European success the Italian club knocked Barcelona out of the competition, denying them the chance to win the Champions League on the ground of their bitter rivals Real.

This only increased Mourinho’s unpopularity among the Barca support, who still mockingly refer to him as Tradutor – ‘the translator’ – despite his success as a manager.

Now Mourinho is preparing to heap more misery on his old club by guiding Real to victory in his first Clasico as coach.

The build up to the game – Mourinho aside – is bound to be dominated by the club’s two star players - Cristano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Those studying the Spanish football live scores regularly will tell you that former Man United star Ronaldo is in superb from, hitting 18 goals in as many games to justify his £80million price tag. Messi meanwhile is in even better form, hitting 15 goals in his last nine appearances, with a strike against Panathanaikos in midweek his 150th for the club.

It seems likely one of those star players will be key in deciding whether ‘El Tradutor’s’ return to the Camp Nou is a happy one or frustrating one.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spartak look for silver lining

Spartak Moscow will go into their must win Group F match against Marseille this week, on the back of a demoralising 3-1 loss to city rivals CSKA despite leading 1-0 at half-time. The loss was made worse by the fact CSKA played the last 40 minutes with ten men.

Valeri Karpin will need to get his players in the right mindset for what he has described as his team’s “game of the season” at the Luzhniki Stadium. With Chelsea six points clear at the top of the group, the all important second spot is still very much up for grabs.

Champions league betting pundits note that Spartak’s better head-to-head record means any win for the Russians would be enough to progress, while Marseille need to win by more than 1-0 to secure their place.

Spartak were on the end of a resounding 4-1 defeat in their last Group F match, coming at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, while Marseille thumped Zilina 7-0. The French club are enjoying a decent season domestically, lying fifth in Ligue 1, just two points behind leaders Lille.

The hosts have a number of injury concerns heading into the match, with Alex, Ari and Martin Stranzl all doubtful. Sergei Parshivlyuk is still missing after his knee injury and will be joined on the sidelines by Andrei Ivanov, who is out with a thigh injury. Marseilles are only without Benoit Cheyrou who has a groin injury but otherwise Didier Deschamps is picking from a fit squad.

Even with their injury concerns, the Champions League odds suggest that Spartak should gain enough advantage from being the home side and take the points needed to progress to the next stage.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What does the future hold for Fabio Capello?

Since the start of the 2010 World Cup, we have watched our national team go from a free scoring, confident outfit; to a nervous, shaky looking team that doesn’t look comfortable in possession and one that isn’t living up to the countries expectations. Why is this?

For me; the finger is pointed firmly at the coach – Fabio Capello. Now, he hasn’t become a bad coach overnight that is for certain. During the start of his tenure we looked an unstoppable outfit; beating arch rivals Germany, thrashing a very good Croatian side, not once but twice and blasting in an incredible 34 goals during the qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup. Then it all went wrong.

It all seemed to start in the 3 warm up matches before the World Cup. Whilst winning all 3 games, England looked unconvincing on the pitch and it didn’t seem clear if Capello knew what his strongest side was and what tactics to employ. This was confirmed during the World Cup itself, when we struggled through the group stages; finishing 2nd in a group which we really should have dominated. We were then dismantled by a German side who had themselves not looked at there best in Group D, and what was the most promising England side we had had in years was on the plane home.

The biggest mistake we made was extending Capello’s contract before the World Cup had even begun. Since then, he has rested on his laurels and England have started off their Euro 2012 campaign in a nervous manner, albeit still undefeated. But after what can only be described as a disastrous stalemate at home to Montenegro and a disappointing defeat against France on Wednesday I, along with those over at footballboots.co.uk are starting to wonder is Capello really starting to lose the plot?

Take the game against France for example. Yes it was a friendly, so you can forgive the manager for wanting to try out some new faces; but at least choose some players that have the slightest chance of making the squad for the Euro 2012 finals. No disrespect to the likes of Jay Bothroyd & Jordan Henderson, but they just aren’t going to make that squad. When you then look at the likes of Scott Parker and Kevin Davies; two players who weren’t selected for the game against France, but are having sterling seasons for their clubs, you do start to wonder what goes through Capello’s mind.

Culminate the above with Capello’s team selection and the England set up is all wrong. Phil Jagielka was started in an unfamiliar right back role on Wednesday night; one which he doesn’t occupy for Everton and was subsequently given a torrid time by Flourent Malouda. Gareth Barry has been consistently poor for England since the World Cup, yet continues to start game after game, and the two players who looked the most threatening against Montenegro – Ashley Young and Adam Johnson, found themselves on the bench for the France game.

All basic things which Capello is not getting right at the moment, but in the long run will cost us dearly. We may be able to go through the group stages by beating average teams playing average football, but when it comes to a major tournament; with this man in charge we will get found out and the long wait for a major tournament win will continue.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Newcastle forward looking to emulate hero

Newcastle striker Andy Carroll could follow in the footsteps of his idol at Wembley on Wednesday night when he makes his England debut against France.

It was back in 1992 that a young striker from Gosforth made his England debut against France at Wembley. Alan Shearer started an illustrious international career with a debut goal that day and it saw him become a hero for all lads growing up around Newcastle.

Gateshead-born Carroll has followed in the footsteps of his hero by graduating into the famous Newcastle number nine shirt and will now be looking to copy Shearer's introduction into the England side after being included for the first time by Fabio Capello.

The 21-year-old forward has been in impressive form for Newcastle since their return to their Premier League and Capello recently stated he was impressed by "everything" Carroll did when he scored the winner for his side at the Emirates. The Premier League betting suggested Newcastle could struggle this season, but Carroll's goals have helped fire them up the table.

Despite all the plaudits there have also been questions about Carroll due to his high-profile off-the-field problems, but this is a real opportunity for the powerful striker to make a name for himself at international level and the football betting indicates he has every chance of finding the net tonight.

There is zero chance that Jay Bothroyd will be in the England squad by the time Capello names his squad for the next Euro 2012 qualifying game with Wales come March, but there is a real chance that Carroll could cement himself as a regular England squad member if he impresses on his debut.

If Capello really sees this game as an opportunity to test young players such as Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Keiran Gibbs then it looks good for England going forward.

But this has happened before when he took over, he used younger players then turned to the likes of Jamie Carragher and even Paul Scholes when the more important games came around.

Is he going to do the same this time and discard the youth in favour of more experience if we do qualifying for Euro 2012? The young players are really going to have to impress to ensure there is no chance he cannot keep them in future squads.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Henderson set to become mainstay with England team?

After the England squad was announced most of the attention focused rights and wrongs of calling up the talented but troubled Andy Carroll.

This meant the merits of Jordan Henderson's call-up to the squad were largely ignored. This is probably because Henderson is one of the genuinely decent guys in English football and one who does all his talking on the pitch for Sunderland, avoiding the off field issues that make the back pages.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce believes him to be the brightest young prospect in English football right now, and that includes the much hyped Jack Wilshere. Clearly Fabio Capello will be hoping that making the step up to the senior international team doesn't intimidate the man who helped his team upset the football odds and thrash Chelsea in stunning style at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Henderson said that although he'll "give players respect" on the international scene, he wants to "go out and prove to people" what he's capable of. With the England manager keen to blood new talent before the Euro 2012 qualifiers start up again, now could be the perfect time for the player to steal the limelight and fulfil his potential in front of the millions of observing England fans.

Sunderland fans will be hoping that if this does happen, Henderson doesn't end up leaving the club in the near future, as many fear he will. With Manchester City said to be interested in the player, and many players arriving at Eastlands finding themselves eventually surplus to requirement and earning a salary as a bench-warmer, fans of both Sunderland and the future of English football as a whole will be hoping that the 20-year-old midfielder's head isn't turned over the next few months.

Meanwhile, the Leicester betting tips suggest the side's season is back on track.

They had been sitting near the bottom of the table, but a recent run of four games unbeaten has seen them head in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Arsenal hold the key to England's future

Arsene Wenger has been highly criticised over the years for developing overseas players, potentially at the expense of English youth. Despite being remarkably astute with his purchases in the transfer market - buying Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera and Cesc Fabregas - he has both brought through a staggeringly high number of foreign players in comparison to those eligible for England's national side.

But it's not as though his cast-offs, who include Mathew Upson, Richard Wright, Steve Sidwell and David Bentley, have been lost to football. They were overlooked, yes, but then sold on to other clubs where they have been given their chance, and in the vast majority, made at least a slight impact at international level.

However, over the last few years, Wenger has started insisting that his club is now producing plenty of English talent through their academy and now we find ourselves in the position where Wenger's Arsenal look as though they may well be grooming this country's next golden generation in the shape of Jack Wilshere and Kieron Gibbs. The Arsenal betting suggests the pair can help push their club to glory, and they can do the same for England.

Gibbs is just 20 but has already made an appearance in a Champions League semi final. He looks calm under pressure and shows a level of maturity not seen since the emergence of his role model and former Arsenal player Ashley Cole. Cole has gone on to represent his country 85 times, if Gibbs manages even half that total then we owe Wenger at least a nod of appreciation. Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere's development at Arsenal has been incredible, taking even Wenger by surprise. His close ball-control and rasping left-foot have drawn comparisons with former Arsenal legend Liam Brady.

In short, when the current crop of England stars call time on their international careers, it will be a relief to know that players of such ability are waiting in the wings, and if they've been given the Wenger seal of approval, that's one heck of an endorsement.

Meanwhile, the Sunderland betting suggest the club could get one over on Arsenal's North London neighbours Spurs tonight.