Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “When you concede three goals in a few minutes [as Chelsea did against Bolton] then clearly you will be a little bit nervous. It’s a good example that if we can score, then it can put Chelsea under a little bit of pressure. To score an early goal would help us play with more confidence and it would make Chelsea think, ‘We have to be careful; we cannot make any mistakes’. It’s important to know we are in a very bad position, but we have nothing to lose. We can approach the game without pressure and anything can happen.” – Rafa Benitez.
Runner-up: “Adebayor didnâ€™t impress me. At my age and with everything I have seen in football it is very difficult to find a player who impresses me. I have also seen better goals than Adebayorâ€™s but because of the importance of the competition, we are talking about the Champions League, it became a bigger thing. He is a good player but you cannot say he is a superstar yet. He still has a long way to go before he reaches what Henry did for Arsenal and across his whole career.” – Marcos Senna.
Today’s overview: Despite optimistic quotes emerging out of Liverpool, consensus opinion backs Chelsea to make light work of progressing through to the Champions League semi-final tonight. The other main topic of the day is City bashing, as once again the spotlight is shone in Mark Hughes’ face.
Balancing out all the noise from Anfield, Dominic Fifield plainly writes “Liverpool arrive in west London effectively confronted by the same deficit they faced against Milan at half-time in the final of this competition four years ago. The hosts will not countenance another miracle of Istanbul.” Kevin McCarra is also found singing to the Chelsea beat, the hack pointing out how the form of Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou stand as testament to Hiddink’s revolution.
Jeremy Wilson pulls out statistics to show how mammoth Liverpool’s task is tonight. “On the 25 previous occasions that an away team have won the first leg of a Champions League fixture, they have progressed to the next round 24 times. It is also 20 years since Liverpool last won at Stamford Bridge by the three-goal margin.”
HoweverChelsea hadnâ€™t played that well for a long time and I donâ€™t think they can repeat that performance tonight. Itâ€™ll take a lot for Liverpool to go through, but they can win this evening and produce a performance powerful enough to keep a few at Old Trafford biting their nails when the focus returns to the league.”
In the latest installment of speculation over who will manage Chelsea next season,hoever convinced Abramovich that he cannot poach Hiddink from the Russia national team on a permanent basis must be a very persuasive man, as the Dutchman again delivered a performance yesterday free from the ego or whinging that distinguished some of his predecessors.”
Heading to Eastlands, Tim Rich continues reading the riot act to Sparky pointing out that “Sheikh Mansour and his Abu Dhabi United Group did not buy Manchester City as an investment; it was bought for prestige. They most certainly did not buy it to be laughed at, or for a manager they have backed to receive the kind of abuse Hughes did for his decision to ‘rest’ Robinho against Fulham.”have lost half of their 32 league games this term – more than any team except Bolton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion – and it remains to be seen whether Hughes will be entrusted with another Â£100 million to spend in the summer.”
Chris Wheeler continues the City bashing focusing on Robinho’s rest against Fulham. “City fans would be justified in questioning whether a highly trained 25-year-old athlete needs to take a breather in mid-April, just seven months after his debut. So, too, would the club’s Arab owners, who are paying him Â£160,000 a week to kick a ball.” Neil Custis adds his two cents that “a decent offer could see Robinho and Elano sold in the summer.”
Daniel Taylor draws on statistics to prove how Rooney and Berbatov have failed to really gel as a partnership at Old Trafford this season. “Rooney has not set up one of Berbatov’s 13 goals; the Bulgarian has not been involved in 16 of Rooney’s 17. To put it into context, Berbatov and Keane linked up directly for eight goals in their first season at Tottenham.”
Acting like a spoiled child, Ian Wright uses his column in The Sun to cry over Arsenal’s league position. “Arsenal should be challenging for trophies, especially the Premier League title. Unfortunately the Gunners have not looked like winning anything for ages.”
There is worrying news for Pompey fans, Neil Ashton reporting how the South Coast club “are in talks with Manchester City over an early settlement for the striker Benjani… Portsmouth are prepared to accept a vastly reduced fee if cash-rich City are willing to pay the balance before the end of this season. ”
Guest journalist for the Guardian, Steve Cram, makes a gut-shot prediction that both Newcastle and Sunderland will survive the drop. “Hull are not treading water quickly enough to stop them sinking and Sam Allardyce may yet give the north-east a desperately needed lifeline in Blackburn.”
Today’s big transfer news, delivered by Rory Smith, is that “Barcelona are in pole position to land Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery this summer after the France international revealed he would turn down overtures from Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea to move to the Nou Camp.”
Following behind is Mark Ritson’s article in the Daily Express linking Fulham to “a double summer bid for Tottenham pair Tom Huddlestone and Gareth Bale.” While in the Mirror, Alan Nixon spuriously writes “Sunderland are ready to ask Alan Curbishley to become their emergency new manager â€“ once he settles his dispute with West Ham this week.”
Also appearing in the backpages, the Daily Mail claim “Hull City manager Phil Brown wants to raid United to sign Manucho on the cheap,” Gary Carter announces “Panathinaikos want to scupper Sunderland’s hopes of signing Djibril Cisse,” while the Mirror claim “Rafa Benitez is chasing Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez.”
The Guardian roll-out their usual Tuesday European round-up. On Spain, Sid Lowe observed David Villa’s return to Sporting Gijon, Raphael Honigstein notes how Hoffenheim are officially the worst autumn champions in the history of the Bundesliga, and Leander Schaerlaeckens traces the emerge of a new generation of Dutch wingers spearheaded by Heerenveen’s right-winger Roy Beerens and FC Twente’s left-winger Eljero Elia.