Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

Good Weekend, Bad WeekendAnother breathless weekend of Premier League football packed with drama and incident and much of that was off the pitch. Besides the shenanigans involving Harry Redknapp, the past couple of days could well be remembered for when Liverpool finally became real title challengers.

Good Weekend

Liverpool

Rafa Benitez’s side produced an enormous result at Stamford Bridge. Defensively Liverpool were so tight and compact, and they took full advantage of Xabi Alonso’s deflected strike – the first Premier League goal the Merseyside club have scored at the Bridge under their Spanish manager.

Psychologically, it looks like Liverpool will provide a title challenge. They have now beaten Chelsea and Manchester United this season and also picked up impressive results at Goodison Park and at Eastlands. Since the disappointing draw with Stoke City, Liverpool have won all four of their league games and they now have the foundations from which to push on.

If they can see off Portsmouth and Spurs this week, Liverpool will be at least three points clear and will be genuine title contenders.

Harry Redknapp

Only ‘Arry seems capable of signing for a club late on a Saturday night, embark on seemingly endless interviews with almost anyone who would listen and then guide his new team to more points than they had gained in eight previous games. The tactical decision to play Luka Modric higher up the pitch seems so obvious but this could be the masterstroke that keeps Tottenham in the Premier League.

However, for all the plaudits that the former Pompey boss is now receiving, it is amazing how some aspects of his CV are neatly airbrushed out. It wasn’t that long ago that Redknapp arrived at Southampton and took them down to the Championship where they still remain. And for all the magic he worked at Fratton Park, his team were thumped 6-0 just over a month ago by Man City.

The euphoria of Spurs’ win and his new role will likely come crashing down at the Emirates on Wednesday when a well-run club take on their bitter rivals to continue their lofty aspirations. Tottenham next host Liverpool on Saturday – if Harry Hotspor/Houdini can get some points from either of these games then he really will be the Messiah.

Good Weekend, Bad WeekendSunderland

Keiran Richardson’s free-kick grabbed Sunderland’s first win over their great rivals in eight years. Newcastle may be one of the weakest teams in the league but Sunderland fans will not care one iota, and for the first time in years it looks like Roy Keane’s side are the strongest side in the North-East.

The confidence from a derby win cannot be underestimated and Sunderland have to take similar form into the away trips to Stoke and Chelsea this week. Judging by some of the teams at the bottom, the Black Cats have enough about them to stay up and results like the one on Saturday could become a regular feature at the Stadium of Light.

Robinho

The mercurial Brazilian may have publicly declared his wish to move to Chelsea but in actual fact the move to City could be the making of the player. Robinho seems to have taken the mantle of responsibility and appears to be enjoying being the biggest fish in a small pond. Six goals in eight games is a very impressive return.

Hull City

Another big win for Phil Brown’s side. If 40 points is the cut off level for staying in the Premier League, they are half way there. This week the Tigers face Chelsea at home followed by Manchester United away – we should learn a little more about them in the next six days.

AC Milan

With ten minutes to go of the Serie A Sunday afternoon matches, both Inter and AC were drawing 0-0. A classy finish from Kaka and now the Rossoneri are just a point behind their great rivals. Ronaldinho was the match winner last week, Kaka produced the goods at Atalanta, AC Milan are on a roll and Goldenballs arrives soon…

Udinese

Top of Serie A after a comfortable win over Roma, Udinese are Italy’s Hull or Hoffenheim.

Hoffenheim

The “Village team” are now clear at the top of the Bundesliga. They are epitomised by their two-goal hero against Hamburg – Chinedu Obasi.

The 22-year-old Nigerian is strong fast and physical and was picked up for cheap from Norwegian side Lyn Oslo. The front three of Obasi, Ba and Ibisevic can’t stop scoring and Hoffenheim are looking good for a Champions League place at the end of the season, at worst.

Barcelona

Another awesome first-half display from Pep Guardiola’s side. Ten goals in a week and eleven goals in their last two home games. Despite all their attacking brilliance, it should be pointed out that Real Madrid continue to pick up points too, albeit not in the same fashion as Barca – but that is how they won the last two La Liga titles.

Bad Weekend

Newcastle

Good Weekend, Bad WeekendThe two draws achieved by Joe Kinnear since his arrival at St James’ Park may have been undone by the derby defeat at the Stadium of Light. To be honest, this result was always on the cards as on paper Sunderland are going in the right direction whilst the Toon are stumbling along with seemingly no resolution coming for new ownership of the club.

On the bright side, Shola Ameobi is rediscovering some goalscoring form and if Joey Barton can stay out of trouble (a massive “if”!) he could be a crucial component in the fight against relegation. Three out of their next four games are against relegation rivals (WBA, Fulham and Wigan) – this is a crucial spell for the Toon.

Wigan

The Latics have been widely praised for their start to the season. The strike partnership of Emile Heskey and Amr Zaki has looked impressive but Wigan have just eight points and have now lost three in a row.

The problems against Aston Villa began with an unfortunate penalty given away by Titus Bramble, but the defending from Paul Scharner for the second goal was poor. Weaknesses such as these could really cost Steve Bruce’s side.

Portsmouth

It was a bad day for Pompey. Their manager deserted them (again) and during his numerous interviews cast aspersion about the financial well-being of the club. It seems likely that Pompey will sell more players in January and a return for Jermain Defoe to his former club can surely not be ruled out.

Hope remains whilst Defoe and Crouch are banging in the goals up front, but the Fulham equaliser yesterday was soft. Pompey can comfortably survive without Redknapp but the next managerial decision is a crucial one.

Juande Ramos

Spurs’ purposeful, dynamic display was a sad indictment on the Spaniard. The right man for the wrong job – how many times have we said that about a Tottenham manager.

Lyon

For those of us hoping that the perennial champions of France will come unstuck, it looks like this could be the season. Lyon are now on a run of three games without a win and coach Claude Puel has admitted: “The championship is going to very difficult.”

Hopefully, one of the other “big” clubs in France can take advantage.