Tuesday, 11 March 2008

The End is Nigh... enjoy it

Emerson Boyce not only has one humdinger of a name but he’s also become another one of those key cogs that made the Premier League, and indeed the end of this season as a whole, turn into the best we’ve witnessed in years. His steadfast defence, along with the rest of the Wigan side on Sunday means that Arsenal and United will now continue their scrap for the title for the next two months and that can’t be a bad thing.

Even though I generally hate the pair of them, like everyone else I want to be entertained by a title race and Liverpool’s annual late season surge to halt the mighty Everton just don’t cut it for me. I hope Chelsea piss their next few games and get involved too. The more the merrier.

Elsewhere, fuck romance in the FA Cup, it’s not romance it’s just old fashioned big clubs being shocked by smaller sides who outplay them or just plain well get lucky. It’s happened for generations; even back when TV companies didn’t need to rely on saccharine ideas to sell the competition, instead they just had simple entertaining football to edify the masses.

It is indeed entertaining so why be greedy and ask for magic and all that rubbish. BBC hang your head in shame. When Mick McCarthy is the most coherent voice on your panel of experts there is something very, very wrong.

Now the end of season barrage of football continues with the Champions League tonight and due to the fact that the tie is nearly dead, and papers need to sell, several tabloid hacks have concerned themselves with reports that Xabi Alonso is to leave Liverpool. Reason? Because he stayed away from Milan to be with his missus while she’s having a baby. Okay, Benitez seemed a tad peeved but hardly enough to throw the Spaniard, at last in good form after 18 months of injuries and misplaced passes, out of the club.

Maybe Alonso will go in the summer but it won’t be because he stayed to watch his nipper being born, how many times is this used as an excuse by footballers throughout the season? Plenty if memory serves correct. But rumours this morning that Alonso would be booted out of Anfield for such ‘insolence’ still covered plenty of the red tops’ back pages. Proof positive that even in a week when there’s plenty on the pitch to keep you entertained, these guys still look for a non story to fill a few more pages.

I can’t see Liverpool not scoring tonight, what with Inter missing both first choice centre backs and Torres playing with such confidence. The chances of Inter scoring four are remote but not impossible. They have a strong frontline and are certainly not “crap” as Eamonn Dunphy said during one of his increasingly regular rants after the first leg. Prediction – 2-1.

What does seem clear in the Champions league, and is something that Mark pointed out last week, is that an English side or Barcelona are commonly accepted as the eventual winners of this year’s competition. Not many would bet against that but it’s interesting that the English sides left in the Uefa Cup – Bolton, Spurs and Everton – all head into their second legs needing some special performances to get through.

It has been the case for some time that English sides without regular experience in Europe tend to struggle when they come up against any decent side who can keep the ball. In the Champions League, Liverpool and Chelsea have enough practice in bludgeoning defences and draining decent football from a match in order to beat classier opposition, but this trick still eludes sides like the three mentioned (though Spurs are heading in the right direction).

As these teams, though maybe not Bolton, get more experience in the coming seasons in Europe, be it Champions League or more Uefa Cup action, it may well be that another age of English dominance in Europe is upon us. Once Spurs and Everton’s players learn how to win, or grind out draws, in places like Florence or Eindhoven they will be dangerous opposition to anyone in Europe.

Whether it’s a good thing or not, European competitions may soon be a playground for English sides, with the odd rude interruption of past superpowers and proud clubs that could once compete on the same financial level as their English counterparts.
Later, JJ


Mark said...

i am kinda caught up in the FA cup now, there has been some great surprises. saying that though, it won't kill me if I miss the remaining ties...

JJ said...

yeah i think many will pass on the semi finals, but that's happened plenty of times in the last few years.

Final should provide a good opportunity for a piss up before the champions league final on the wednesday. cardiff v west brom, followed by schalke v fenerbache. Feast of football.

Mal said...

I don't think that I'll be too bothered with the final now. Don't really care who wins it.

Is Rooney the new Shearer? Really nasty tackle on Sat but he got away with it. Does he now have the untouchable status of England's golden boy?

Xabi's mrs is a bit of alright. I agree that all of the red top coverage is a storm in a teacup. But I did hear a few months back that he would be leaving in the summer to raise the child in Spain. Don't know how true that is.

Mal said...

On Inter, didn't Dunphy say that Ireland are better than Inter after the first leg?

Mark said...

he did indeed Mal. well, dunph is famous for his off the cuff comments, his complete love for spanish football clouds his judgement (Sevilla & Real knocked out already) and he underestimates the english teams while over hyping Man Utd, who look no closer to winning it now than any other year

Rushden fan said...

The best final-4 for years; surely this is what the FA Cup is all about!