Friday, 22 February 2013

sevilla 2-3 barcelona cesc goalBarça return to league action tomorrow night with the visit of Sevilla to Camp Nou (kick off 10 pm). After the horrible defeat at Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday it is good to have another game so quickly to think about something else. With the return Copa del Rey semi-final with Real Madrid coming up on Tuesday it seems very likely that there will be quite a few changes to the team that lost in Milan.
Our twelve-point advantage in La Liga over second placed Atlético Madrid should allow us to give total priority to the cup clásico. Personally I’d make ten changes, with the intention of having everybody fresh for Tuesday, leaving only Valdés from last Wednesday’s team. But team selection will depend on each player’s physical condition. Jordi Roura today explained that although he has medical clearance Eric Abidal will not play immediately, saying: ‘We have to see how he evolves physically and when he has the tone for competition.’ Adriano is still doubtful and it might be more prudent not to rush him given his record with muscular injuries, but David Villa has trained with the team over the last two days and should be ready to return to the starting line-up.
sevilla 2-3 barça villa goalEarlier in the season Barça overturned a 2-0 deficit at the Sanchez Pizjuan to win 2-3 thanks to two goals from Cesc Fabregas and an injury time winner from David Villa. Before that match Sevilla were fifth in the table but a string of bad results saw them fall to 14th at Christmas. Coach Michel was sacked in early January and was replaced by ex-Valencia coach Unai Emery, returning to Spanish football after his short unsuccessful stint at Spartak Moscow.
Since Emery’s appointment Sevilla have taken ten points from five games with the only defeat being their 4-1 defeat two weeks ago at the Bernabeu. The results have moved them back up to 10th place on 32 points while they have also reached the Copa del Rey semi-finals. However, despite the improvement Sevilla have continued to show poor form away from home and they haven’t won away in the league since a 0-2 win at Deportivo on September 24.
The fact that Sevilla meet Atlético Madrid in the cup on Wednesday, trying to overturn the 2-1 deficit from the first leg, will probably lead Emery to make rotations too. Central defender Spahic is suspended while Trochowski, Perotti, Cicinho and keeper Palop are all out injured. With Diego Lopez’s move this winter to Real Madrid, Sevilla have signed the Portuguese keeper Beto on loan from Sporting Braga and he should start tomorrow. Sevilla’s task has not been helped by the strike from Spanish airline Iberia which means they are making a six-hour train journey arriving in Barcelona around 10.30 pm this evening (Friday).
It’s going to be a cold night at Camp Nou tomorrow. Hopefully, the team can put on a performance to warm the brave souls who attend the game.
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Valdés; Montoya, Bartrá, Mascherano, Alba; Thiago, Song, Fabregas; Tello, Alexis, Villa.
Sevilla: Beto; Coke, Fazio, Botía, Navarro; Medel, Kongdogbia, Maduro; Navas, Negredo, Manu del Moral.
Prediction: Barça 2 Sevilla 1
Date: Saturday 23 February 2013. Kick off: 10 pm local time.

Jordi Roura will make changes to the Barcelona team for Sevilla tomorrow, but still expects them to react to the midweek disappointment.
Barca fell to a 2-0 loss in the first leg of their Champions League Last 16 clash at Milan, and now face Sevilla at home on Saturday night.
Inevitably in his pre-match Press conference, the first round of questions centred once more on what went wrong at San Siro.
“I always say that there is a difference between the major competitions. This is a new competition, the League is very important and is the competition that we are focused on,” countered Roura today.
“We need to recover our form. Xavi said we didn’t compete well? I will answer this but then we need to move on.
“Xavi said that and I respect it, during certain times we lacked consistency, but talking of this issue is over. Of Milan we will talk at the return leg. I do not want to talk now about the Milan game.
“Nor will I talk about the game against Real Madrid. I want to focus on tomorrow’s game. We intend to play against Sevilla with a few chances, but I am sure we will have a competitive team.
“What is certain is that from an unfavourable result you must compete better. Whatever the situation, we always go to the end with maximum intensity. So on Saturday there will be no exception.”
Roura was asked if the players were affected by the midweek defeat.
“It’s normal to be upset. They are sad, there has been an unfavourable outcome. There has been self-criticism of the club and it is done. It is logical and normal. In this sense, I still say what we have said before. We will lose more, but what is important is the reaction that the team has. This team always moves forward and has always responded well.
“Usually we do not lose two straight games. Usually after a bad result we always come out with maximum intensity. This is football. We are confident players. Hopefully we will be in good shape tomorrow.”
The assistant Coach is acting in Tito Vilanova’s continued absence during his treatment against illness.
“The absence of Tito is always noticeable. All I try to do is minimise it. We always note that he is not here. We would like him to be here when things are good and when he is well.”
The club can welcome back Eric Abidal into first-team consideration, after he was given a final green light to resume his playing career this week.
“The news of Abidal is extraordinary. For him, for the club, his return to playing is extraordinary. And at a sporting level it is great news.
“After what has happened the medical clearance is fantastic. Hopefully soon he will be at a competitive level. I believe that this process will be long as it is not a common injury he is returning from.”
Manchester United are reportedly preparing to make a mega-million euro move to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.
Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009, before a world record €80m transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Following on from reported delays in contract renewal talks and rumours on and off through the year that he might leave, the Daily Star allege today that United are piecing together a ‘complex financial package’ to return Ronaldo to them in the summer.
The British tabloid suggest that the Red Devils are looking to bring in new sponsorship partner Chevrolet to help provide a way around UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, and match the Portuguese’s current salary.
United would reportedly fund a £55m, €63.5m transfer to buy back the player and then agree a lower basic wage so as to remain within spending limits of their revenue streams. Then, Chevrolet would take on Ronaldo as a global ambassador as part of the transfer and cover the difference in his earnings.
Ronaldo’s agents are also speculated by the publication as exploring the commercial ventures possible for their client in the future and believe that they would tie in with a move back to the Premier League.
For the best part of two decades Manchester United have forged a fearsome reputation on their ability to stay calm under pressure and get those crucial results in the Barclay’s Premier League when they really matter most.
This cool, calm and collected demeanour has become the trademark of the dynasty that Sir Alex Ferguson has set up at the club, and as a direct result, it has led them to countless pieces of silverware—both in the league and outside of it—under the Scotsman’s leadership.
However, the footballing world was rocked last season when, with just six games left to play of the regular EPL season, Manchester United did something they have never done before: They threw away a healthy lead at the top of the table.
Despite sitting eight points clear of fierce rivals Manchester City, the Red Devils somehow failed to close out what had been a ragtag campaign and clinch their 20th English league crown.
Admittedly, if the season had ended just two-and-a-half minutes sooner we would all be singing a completely different tune right now. It was only late dramatics from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero(“oooo”) that saw the Citizens eventually snatch the title away from the red half of the city in the dying seconds at the Etihad against QPR.
In what was heralded as one of the greatest moments in the history of football (although maybe not so much if you’re a United fan), Manchester City claimed their first league title in over 40 years.
Hi-res-161853676_crop_exact I was going to put a video of the goal here, but I figured the heartache would be too much for most United fans to take
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
The victory not only broke the stronghold that United, Chelsea and Arsenal had had over the league for the past 15 years, but also for the first time in a very, very, long while posed questions about the mentality of United themselves.
How could Sir Alex and co. allow a lead like this to slip from their grasp when everyone in the country, including Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, seemed so certain of their success?
In truth, there is no real answer to that other than the simple fact that the tablecloth army “bottled it.”
Certainly Manchester City were for the most part considered the superior side in the league last season, but even with this being the case, the pressure was effectively off the then Champions of England as they catastrophically threw it away (ironically in a manner befitting City before their injection of funds from Sheikh Mansour).
The real question now is, are these demons of yesteryear well and truly put to bed?
From what has been evident on the pitch from United this season, one would have to assume that they are. The addition of Robin van Persie to the first XI has completely revitalised the Manchester United attack, with the team now averaging just under three goals a game in the league this year.
Hi-res-161367340_crop_exact RVP scores to make it 2-0 against Everton—the final score and a result which took United 12 points clear at the top
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
With 21 wins from 26 matches (consisting of a 100 percent record against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City so far this year) you would be hard-pressed to see United throwing it away once again.
However, as we learned last season, it’s foolish to simply assume that the Red Devils are going to be able to see this out without any sort of slip-ups. A team cannot enjoy a purple patch for the entirety of one campaign.
Sir Alex’s boys are undefeated in the league since November (when they lost 1-0 at Carrow Road to Norwich City). Despite this incredible run there have been several occasions when victory looked far from assured.
With home ties against City and Chelsea, as well as a tricky trip to face Arsenal at the Emirates still remaining this year, things are far from secure at the top.
However, currently United sit 12 points clear with just 12 games left to play. This is a gap that very few sides have had to play with other the years, and that bodes well for the would-be Champions.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if the Red Devils win at least eight of their remaining games they are effectively guaranteed—unless City win every game from now until the end of the year by a three-goal margin!—to snatch back their Premier League crown.
United’s remaining Premier League fixtures this season are as follows:
QPR (A)                                                        
Norwich (H)
Reading (H)
Sunderland (A)
Man City (H)
Stoke City (A)
Aston Villa (H)
Arsenal (A)
Chelsea (H)
Swansea (H)
West Brom (A)
It’s unlikely that United will go through all of these matches without losing a single game. There are some devilish away trips, not even taking into account the home fixtures against the current second- and third-placed sides in the table.
However, home ties against Reading, Aston Villa, Swansea and Norwich are all games that any fan of the beautiful game would have United down to win—especially when the results are as crucial as they are at this stage.
Even the away games at QPR and West Brom seem extremely winnable right now—taking the form of both sides into account in each case.
If those games do pan out as expected, then United will have won six of the eight games required to definitely hold City at bay.
And remember, all this is assuming that Manchester City end the season with 12 wins out of 12— something that would be incredibly unlikely for any team to pull of no matter what division they were playing in (especially with an away tie at Old Trafford thrown into the mix).
All of this cannot aid me to see anything other than United maintaining a solid margin between themselves and Man City this year, and in the process clinching their 20th league title.
It’s far too early to start popping the champagne just yet, but after what happened last season it would amaze anyone to see Fergie allow a lead like this to slip again—particularly with the (relatively) easy run in that his side faces.
Take away the games against Chelsea, Arsenal and the Champions, and United couldn’t really have asked for a much kinder end to the year.
City, on the other hand, still face a home tie against Chelsea, as well fierce battles away at United, Spurs and Everton before their year is done.
The title isn't won yet, but Fergie has one hand on that trophy…OK, half a hand!

These are the Top 10 EPL goals  since its inception in the year 1992-93. Brilliant solo and team efforts from the last 20 years. Have a look:


Leighton Baines
Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League
The English defender is one of the best left backs in Premier League. Baines, who previously made 145 appearances for Wigan Athletic moved to the Merseysiders Everton for 5 million euros in the year 2007. The left back is often involved in Everton goals and is in great demand. The Red Devils were also interested in the English defender but Everton reportedly rejected Man United’s offer in the summer transfer window.
Rafael Da Silva
Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League
The Brazilian international moved to Manchester United F.C in 2007 along with his twin brother Fabio Da Silva from the Brazilian club, Fluminense Football Club. He has been Alex Ferguson’s go-to guy for the rightback position in the recent years. The Brazilian international has scored few goals for Manchester United squad and has also assisted many. He is one of the best right backs in the Premier League.
Ashley Williams
Swansea City v Stoke City - Premier League
The Welsh defender moved from Stockport County to Swansea City and has successfully made 203 appearances for the Premier League club, netting 11 times. He was previously loaned to Swansea City but he later made his move permanent. He has played every minute of Swansea matches for the past 3 seasons. Due to his consistent good performances at the Welsh club he was subject to a bid from Queens Park Rangers, but it was rejected by Swansea.
Steven Caulker
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Premier League
The 21-year-old English footballer who was  loaned to Swansea City from Tottenham Hotspur has made impressive number of clearances in the past few seasons. He was previously loaned to Bristol City and Yeovil Town F.C. The Spurs defender has been on loan spells for the past few seasons. He has now returned to the Spurs side and has successfully made 14 appearances for the Whites and is one of the key defenders in the Spurs squad.
Ashley Cole
The English international who moved from Arsenal to Chelsea Football club in the year 2006 is one of the best defenders in the Chelsea squad. The ex gunner has won a Premier League, 4 FA Cups and a UEFA Champions League with Chelsea. He was a very important part of the Chelsea team that won their first-ever Champions League trophy. He has been a consistent player throughout his career.
Thomas Vermaelen
Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers - FA Cup Fifth Round
The Belgian footballer and captain of Arsene Wenger’s side Arsenal is one of the top rated defenders in English Premier League. He has made 89 appearances for the Gunners and has netted 13 goals. He has kept the opponents from scoring goals against the Gunners. Vermaelen has been very consistent for Arsenal.
Vincent Kompany
Manchester City v Fulham - Premier League
The Belgian footballer who captains the English defending champions Manchester City has been a wonderful player for the Citizens. He has been consistent and scored a winner against their rivals Manchester United in the derby match last season, which paved the path to their first Premier League win after 44 years. The Belgian defender made a move from the German team Hamburg to Manchester City in 2008.
Gareth McAuley
Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
Gareth Gerrard McAuley is an the Irish footballer who previously played for Ipswich Town F.C and made a move to the Premier League club West Bromwich Albion in the year 2011. He signed a three year contract with the Baggies. His consistent attacking prowess and remarkable defensive records have lifted West Brom to one of the top positions in the Premier League table. His remarkable defending skills have made him one of the key players in the West Brom squad this season.

Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League
When Sir Alex called Evans “a real top defender” last week, praising his development into a cornerstone of United’s defense, it got me thinking about how topsy-turvy Evans’ relatively young career at Old Trafford has been. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the mere mention of his name in the starting XI made most United fans jittery.
During this period, most considered Evans a lost cause, and fans wanted him out of the club. He is yet to win over everyone and most of his brilliant performances continue to go unnoticed, as the memory of how bad he was still remains.
But the funny thing is, if one were to go back a year further; the very same fans would have been raving about Evans and his immense talent. His fall from the pedestal that the United fans had placed him on was almost as meteoric as his rise to the top. Within a period of 4-5 months, Evans was the scapegoat for everything that went wrong in a game. He could do nothing right and his performances seemed to get worse with each game. Unwanted by the fans, clearly lacking confidence, Evans was at a tipping point in his career, a precarious stage where one wrong step and we’d have seen him join the ranks of the ever burgeoning list of those who couldn’t live up to their talent.
Evans’ rise began right from his league debut against Chelsea, as he stepped in for a suspended Vidic and put in a solid performance against a formidable Chelsea team that was our main title challenger at the time. Following the game, he just improved with every game and with Rio Ferdinand struggling with back injuries, Evans stepped in and filled the void. His stock was rising fast, and by next season, he was being hailed as the “next big star” to emerge from the academy. Sir Alex had found a player who was showing that he was ready to step up when needed.
What could have taken a player from being the trusted deputy and future star of the team to the lowest point of his career?
For me, it all began almost exactly 3 years ago, when during a Champions League knockout round match at the San Siro against AC Milan, Sir Alex gave Jonny Evans a full blown hair dryer on the pitch after some disastrous defending  from the entire back four. Unluckily for Evans, as Sir Alex later revealed, he happened to be the closest to the gaffer at the time and Sir Alex let rip from the sidelines as Mike Phelan had intervene and hold back Sir Alex.
Here’s a clip of the incident:
And not surprisingly Evans’s confidence took a blow, and he was not the same player after that.
Evans ended that season with more indifferent performances and this poor run of form continued into the next season, as Rio Ferdinand continued to struggle with injuries and Evans was the cynosure of attention from the fans and the media. Unfortunately the lack of confidence was obvious to see as he made careless mistakes and looked a shadow of the talented youngster who was predicted to be United’s rock at the back.
His disastrous season reached a low point in our 4-0 defeat against West Ham in the Carling Cup where his performance was so bad that he had to be taken off after 70 minutes following a calamitous display at the back. From then on, it was damage control as Sir Alex took Evans away from the spotlight and Chris Smalling stepped in at the back.
It wasn’t almost till the end of that season that Evans returned to action, as Sir Alex eased him back into the 1st team. But the damage had been done, Evans was now labelled a one-hit wonder, and a flash in the pan. Many had already written him off, and he was a player who had failed to live up to his potential. Fans wanted him out, while the media had forgotten about his existence as they were busy writing about the next Manchester United ‘”legend-in-the-making”, Chris Smalling.
Manchester United v Liverpool - FA Cup 3rd Round
But Sir Alex kept his faith in Evans, and he, slowly but steadily, went about rebuilding his reputation and resurrecting a career that many believed was no longer destined for greatness. He returned a mentally stronger and vastly superior defender. I don’t think anyone will deny the fact that Evans has now become an integral part of our defense and is hardly the player who got pushed around by the likes of Samba, Cahill, Zat Knight and Hangeland. Evans still has a long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand but if his present performances are anything to go by, it’s all just a matter of time.
I think what happened with Evans is a perfect example of why you should not write anyone off, just because they made a few errors, especially when it’s a young player still learning his trade. Be it David de Gea, Alex Buttner or Anderson, a little patience and faith in the players and the manager from us can go a long way.
So the next time you see any young player make a mistake or have a poor game, I think it would be wiser to give them the benefit of doubt and trust Sir Alex’s judgement of the player.