Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

A fine weekend of football was kicked off on Saturday lunch time with one of the best performances seen at Old Trafford in recent seasons. Besides Liverpool’s 4-1 victory, these past couple of days may have seen some crucial results affecting fourth place and the relegation spots in England whilst France, Germany Italy and Spain were not without incident either.

Good Weekend

Liverpool Football Club

A quite unbeleivable week for Liverpool who put in two almost faultless performances against two of the best sides in Europe.

Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard have rightly received the majority of the plaudits for the 4-1 victory, in particular “El Nino” made Nemanja Vidic look like a Sunday league player.

But others have stepped up to the plate as well in the past week. On Saturday lunchtime Lucas and Mascherano wore down the United midfield, Hyypia and Skrtel were faultless, Fabio Aurelio scored a super free-kick and Andrea Dossena scored a fantastic fourth to claim two of the most unlikely goals in just four days.

Rafa Benitez has pinpointed nine wins from their remaining league games if they are to have any chance of overhauling Manchester United. After winning 4-1 at Old Trafford anything is possible but there are some tricky matches to come and a glance at United’s remaining fixtures means it is an uphill task.

Liverpool face Aston Villa and Arsenal in two of their next three games at Anfield which is where they have dropped a lot of points this season. The Merseyside giants were incredible on Saturday, somehow though a title challenge doesn’t seem possible. Perhaps if Rafa had not gone on his “rant” or Torres would have stayed fit for longer this season…

Despite the fact the title is unlikely to go anywhere else but Old Trafford at the end of this season, this result could have further consequences. United will no longer be quite so confident if they have to face Liverpool in the Champions League this season and perhaps now teams will attack what was previously considered an impregnable defence.

Current odds on who will win the Premier League title: Manchester United (1/8), Chelsea (8/1), Liverpool (10/1). Full odds here.

Andrei Arshavin

The Russian schemer had his best game in English football and confirmed his class with a brilliant dummy and finish for his goal. (Even Arshavin seemed to admit he didn’t score the first.) Forget the fact that Nicklas Bendtner had a shocker and that even Eboue scored two against a woeful Blackburn side, Arshavin will light up a lot more games at the Emirates in seasons to come.

Odds on who will finish in the top four can be seen here.

Michael Essien

We knew that Chelsea had missed Essien for his drive and determination in the middle, the Ghanaian reminded us that he can score goals too. Essien has claimed two in two starts now and was very impressive in a more advanced role against Manchester City.

Roy Hodgson

Fulham secured their first away win of the season and by reaching 37 points with nine to play have all but assured themselves of Premier League safety. This time last season they were in a real mess, Roy Hodgson has done a super job at Craven Cottage.

Steve Bruce

Like Hodgson, Bruce has done sterling work at the JJB Stadium. Not only improved on last season but the former Manchester United had to deal with losing two of his best players in January. With a fine run and finish who would bet against Charles N’Zogbia being the next player to revive his career at the Latics?

David Moyes

Everton have still got a sniff of fourth position and they marked David Moyes’ seventh year at the club with another victory. They have also been given some hope for their FA Cup semi-final by their great rivals from across Stanley Park.

Tottenham

Although not assured of safety yet, it seems that Harry Redknapp has instilled a structure and some beleif into the Spurs team which means they are very unlikely to go down now. Judging by last season’s 4-4, the clash with Chelsea next Saturday could be a real humdinger.

Celtic

It wasn’t pretty but Celtic’s domination of Scottish football continues.

Pippo Inzaghi

He may have, in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, been “born offside,” but he has now claimed 300 career goals which is a fine statistic to beat against his critics.

Athletico Madrid

Forget the fact that they were dumped out the Champions League by Porto, their league form has improved dramatically in recent weeks. Four points from games against Barcelona and Real Madrid and now a stunning comeback win against Villareal, new coach Abel Resino could take them into the Champions League again next season.

Wolfsburg & Hertha Berlin

The neutrals choice to take the Bundesliga this season. It is looking like a four horse race including Bayern Munich and Hamburg now. Every weekend seemingly has a match-up to savour, will Hertha hold their nerve at Stuttgart next week?

Bad Weekend

Sir Alex Ferguson

“It is a hard one to take because I thought we were the better team and the score does not reflect that.” Was how SAF saw the game. There is no doubting Ferguson’s managerial record but seriously, what game was he watching?

Aston Villa

Martin O’Neill’s side may have been undone by an early goal in each half but excuses aside Villa looked in need of a trip to Dubai and didn’t look like a team returning from one. With Arsenal full of momentum, Villa’s hopes for a top four spot now look distinctly remote.

Since winning at Blackburn on February 7, Villa have been dumped out the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup and picked up just one point in the league from a possible 12 and that draw came against Stoke who were 2-0 down with two minutes to go.

It seems somewhat easy to point to tired legs but all the statistics point in one direction. Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored one league goal since December whilst Ashley Young hasn’t scored in nine league games.

Of course, all is not lost, Villa are level on points with Arsenal but there now just seems a feeling of resignation around Villa Park. To make matters worse, Villa play their next three league games a day after Arsenal and these fixtures are: Liverpool (a), Manchester United (a) and Everton (h). 

Blackburn

Sam Allardyce named seven defenders in his side for the game at the Emirates and his defensive plans were undone within a minute when Arsenal scored. Expect Blackburn to bounce back against West Ham next week but their recent form suggested they might have played a little better against the Gunners.

Odds on which teams will be relegated can be seen here.

Sunderland

Ricky Sbragia’s side have had two successive games to put distance between themselves and the relegation zone. The Sunderland manager even went so far as to describe Saturday’s defeat to Wigan as the worst performance under his stewardship. For now, no game looks easy and tricky trips to Manchester City and West Ham could leave the Mackems in a perilous position going towards the final straight.

Middlesbrough

For all of Gareth Southgate’s straigh talking, Middlsebrough have been woeful this season and they were very lucky to claim a draw on Saturday after another below-par performance. They can still stay up, the next two, away at Stoke then Bolton, are MASSIVE.

Hoffenheim

Perhaps the first half of the season fooled us, or Hoffenheim are missing Bundesliga top goal scorer Vedad Ibisevic more than anyone could have imagined, but the fairytale for “The Village Team” is well and truly over.

Since their return after the winter break, Hoffenheim have won just one game in seven and have drawn their last four. Now in fifth, even a Champions League spot is looking unlikely.

Lyon

It was a bad weekend for Lyon after they were dumped out of Europe by Barcelona in midweek. Amazingly they are still top despite having now last their last two Ligue 1 games. It has been said before but the likes of Marseille, PSG and Bordeuax will never have a better chance than ending Lyon’s domination of French football than this season.