Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It is not easy to be in the position we are in Europe and that means a lot of credit for the players, a lot of very good memories for the club and a lot of money for the club. Thanks to this we can improve the squad and the club a little bit. I have my own ideas but maybe people don’t realise how well we have done in the Champions League. I think before an important game is not the time to talk about these teams but the big, big difference between these teams and us is money. We have to reduce the distance by staying in the Champions League each year but we have to improve in a lot of other areas.” – Rafa Benitez.
Runner-up: “If the Italian teams present themselves at 100 per cent of their potential â€“ technically, psychologically and athletically â€“ I think all three will advance to the semi-finals… Chelsea, Manchester, Arsenal and Liverpool are not an expression of English football. They’re an expression of globalised football in which the owners of the clubs, the coaches, and a great majority of the players are not English.” – Marcello Lippi.
Today’s overview: Chatter is gaining momentum before the return of the Champions League tonight with the focus centering on Liverpool and Chelsea.
On Real Madrid’s visit to Anfield, David Pleat forecasts the Reds’ counter-attacking tactics. “Liverpool will let Real come at them and pounce on any loss of possession by the Spaniards… Benitez, like Gerard Houllier before him on Merseyside, is a naturally cautious manager who rarely plays expansive football with wide players dashing down the flanks.”
Building up expectations, Oliver Kay is found salivating over “Liverpool focus[ing] on what they do best, which is to underline their status as one of the great powerhouses of European football.” Rory Smith follows the party line armed with the stat that “Liverpool have a better record in the Champions League than any other club since Benitez arrived at Anfield in 2004.”
Playing up to paranoia, Ian Herbert tries to identify why Rafa Benitez is less than happy at Anfield. “Spanish commentators with whom Benitez has a relationship say that he feels the lack of appreciation for what he has achieved and his indifferent press in Britain stem in part from the fact he is Spanish.”
Dominic Fifield tries to identify why Hiddink is succeeding where Scolari failed, concluding (cliche-esque) “Hiddink has offered simplicity where Scolari â€“ perhaps struggling to vault the language barrier but also labouring to adjust to the English game â€“ was prone to over-complicate.” But while Chelsea are experiencing an upturn, Glenn Moore is quick to insert some perspective pointing out that “Roman Abramovich, five years into his investment, expects to see ‘the cup with big ears’ on one of his mantelpieces. Progress tonight is just the next step.”
A far less enthusiastic critique of Chelsea is offered by Matt Lawton who contrasts “a time when Chelsea toured the continent convinced they could execute the perfect smash and grab” to now where “Chelsea adopt a much more cautious approach, their confidence dented by the fact that they have not won away in Europe since December 2007.”
Offering a more panoramic opinion ahead of tonight’s Champions League matches, Kevin McCarra grumbles over the lack of Englishman playing in the competition. “A continuing incapacity to produce outstanding performers despite the boom in club academies and a proliferation of modern facilities is a better cause for embarrassment… [while] the audience in this country is virtually indifferent to nationalities so long as it is supplied with a quality of football worthy of the price.”
Ian Wright wastes his column in the Sun speculating over, if Jose Mourinho were to receive the United job, whether he would be a success. “Iâ€™m not certain he would be right for United and Iâ€™m not sure the fans would really like him. When Fergie finally does go, someone like Martin Oâ€™Neill or David Moyes would be far more likely to take over. United may not suit a flamboyant manager.”
The financial chill is flagged up by Daily Mail linking Arsenal with Bayer Leverkusen’s Switzerland midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta.many as 20 clubs in the top two divisions are said to be chasing new shirt sponsors.” But despite shrinking wallets the papers still find room to peddle transfer stories with the
In other news, Ed Bottomley lists the top 50 Evertonians in The Times, Ian Ladyman picks his fantasy XI to take on Manchester United, and viewing figures for the FA Cup continue to decrease quicker than the value of your house.”
The Guardian roll out their standard Tuesday European review. Sid Lowe tackles the demise of Valencia noting “cutbacks and sales are guaranteed; payment for the players still are not forthcoming [and] far from hitting rock bottom last night, Valencia’s troubles might have only just begun.” Raphael Honigstein centres on how Bayern Munich are failing to convince as the Bundesliga title race continues its topsy-turvy course.
Ben Lyttleton rejoices over how Ligue 1 is now competitive again, while Leander Schaerlaeckens reviews another crazy week in Holland. “On Monday, De Graafschap’s left-back Purrel FrÃ¤nkel tested positive for marijuana use and was suspended for a month. ‘I didn’t know it was one of the banned substances,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry.'”