The FA Cup is struggling somewhat, there are no enormous Cupsets like last season and the draw for the quarter-finals looks as drab as the previous round.
Away from English football, there were two high-profile derbies in Glasgow and Milan and some important results in Holland and Spain.
Having come in and identified the FA Cup as one of three remaining competitions Chelsea can still win, it would have been highly embarrassing for Guus Hiddink to have seen his new side lose at Vicarage Road. Despite dominating, Tamas Priskin’s goal came at just theÂ right time for a Cupset but there was a little of the Chelsea of old the way they responded.
There were some other positives besides the result. Didier Drogba looked more interested than he has done all season and Michael Mancienne continues to show real promise. Hiddink’s next two games are simply massive. Aston Villa away next Saturday lunch time followed by Juventus home on the following Wednesday hardly need building up, they will both go some way to deciding whether Hiddink does stay longer than the end of this season.
“The Special One” always seems to get it right. Mourinho got his tactics spot on against AC Milan with a midfield that harried, and a front two who looked dangerous all night against a somewhat fragile Rossoneri defence. Inter are now nine points clear of Juventus, eleven ahead of their city rivalsÂ and the Scudetto looks all but won.
And to confirm Mourinho’s brilliance, he has now gone 110 matches unbeaten at home in a record that stretches to 2002. His introduction of the impressive full back Davide Santon is yet another indication that he often makes the right decision and yesterday Mourinho got the better of Carlo Ancelotti.
Somehow, Jose’s links to English football never die out. On Saturday he claimed he could still return to Chelsea and the clash with Manchester United in the Champions League will be eagerly awaited by all. Inter will be underdogs in that tie but with Mourinho on the touchline anything can happen.
A win over Aston Villa is a rare achievement this season and one wonders if Everton have their “name on the cup.” A home tie against West Ham or Boro is certainly winnable.
David Moyes continues to get the most from his fringe players, yesterday it was Anichebe and Rodwell who impressed, following on from Dan Gosling in the last round.
The quest for the quadruple rumbles on and Sir Alex Ferguson was able to rest a number of regular starters ahead of the visit of Fulham on Wednesday.
Two surprising aspects of the game were that Derby scored and that United played four wingers, one of whom, Ryan Giggs was at his imperious best yet again.Â United continue to look ominous for everyone else in Europe, bar Barcelona.
Prior to the game, the bookies had Swansea as slight favourites against Premier League opposition and Roberto Martinez had been labelled the “new Arsene Wenger” in The Independent. Somehow, the Welsh side did not disappoint and played some lovely football against the Cottagers that on another day could have seen them comfortably win the game.
A second successive promotion would be an incredible feat for the Swans especially as they have been without Dutch midfielder Ferrie Bode, nicknamed the “Roy Keane of the Championship” for the majority of the season. They are just three points off the play-off positions and we are unlikely to have heard the last of Roberto Martinez.
In many ways the victory over Manchester City justified the sacking of Tony Adams. When you are on a losing run it can feel that there is no end in sight and, alas for Adams, we will never know if he could have overseen such a victory.
Mark Hughes’ side put in another horrible away performance but Pompey deserved all three points which pushed them up to 15th and will have infused belief throughout the club. Stoke away next week could be an altogether tougher clash and despite the continuing off-field rumblings, Sven Goran Eriksson could be in place in time for the visit of Chelsea on March 3, 2009.
Glorious as this Barcelona side is, Eto’o provides the ruthless finishing that every top class side needs. The Cameroonian striker now has 26 goals in 27 games this season and barring a miracle will surely finish as the top goal scorer in European football.
Since losing at Barcelona in his first league game in charge, Real Madrid have now won eight in a row and are “just” ten points behind the league leaders. Champions League success or failure will define Ramos’ reign, but its not bad going.
They may have given away a two-goal lead at PSV, but the 2-2 draw at last year’s champions means they haven’t lost sinceÂ September 2008.
His brace ensured Hertha Berlin saw off Bayern Munich and theÂ Ukranian striker could be another mistake thrown at Rafa Benitez if Liverpool fail to win the Premier League title. His new nickname in Germany is “Toronin.”
Four points clear now and its looking ominous again.
“You cannot win if you do not have the majority of your team playing well. We did not really deserve anything from the match. We did not have a determination and a willingness to chase lost causes.” Was Mark Hughes’ assessment after the game and it is becoming abundantly clear that he is not the man to get his highly-paid stars to put in the necessary effort away from home.
Most alarmingly for City’s owners is that Robinho was almost anonymous at Fratton Park. Even if Sparky claims the UEFA Cup this season,Â seventh appears to be theirÂ highest possible position in the Premier League, he will more than likely be out on his ear in the summer.
Celtic & Rangers
A horrible match of kick and rush football was about the worst possible advert for Scottish football. Rangers may be happier with the result and arguably did more to win the game but both sides proved that theÂ standards in Scottish footballÂ are poor.
Claudio Ranieri’s side are experiencing a dip in form with the Chelsea tie now just around the corner. Juve have now won just once in four league games and appear to have conceded the Scudetto to Inter.
Three league games into the winter break and Jurgen Klinsmann’s side have lost twice, to Hamburg and Hertha Berlin, two of their major title rivals. Somehow though it still feels like they will win the league, especially with Hoffenheim’s bubble bursting.
On Saturday night Massimiliano Saccani was knocked flat out by a fierce shotÂ from Lazio’s Aleksandar Kolarov. And on Sunday night Roberto Rosetti missed Adriano’s handball for Inter’s opener.
Yet another defeat for the club formerly the third best in Holland, leaves them 12th in the Eredivisie and relegation is still a possibility.