Is a draw at home against the 2nd place team good enough? In what was the most watched game in the world this weekend, two teams played a great match right up until the end. No, I am not talking about the Super Bowl, I am talking about Manchester City at Chelsea. Chelsea took the early lead through a brilliant series of passes leading to Remy side-footing the ball into the net. Then 4 minutes later, the ball is placed in from the right hand side and Courtois misplays it. The ball falls to Aguero, whose shot takes a deflection off Silva’s foot and goes into the goal. From that moment on, City continued to attack while Chelsea seemed content with the point. I get a point is a fine result for them and that this point could be crucial in deciding the title, but I was not a fan of Mourinho’s tactics and changes that he made. If this game was in the Etihad Stadium I would be singing a different tune, but at home. in front of your own fans, and you “park the bus” per se. Chelsea are most likely going to win the Premier League title and could have it wrapped up well before the end of the season, but to not have the faith that your team can come out in the second half and go for the win or at the least play some attacking football is mind-blowing to me.
The way they played the game and the changes they made on both benches showed me that one team wanted 3 points, and the other was fine with just one. Pellegrini brought on Lampard, Dzeko, and Jovetic for Fernando, Aguero, and Silva respectively. Mourinho, on the other hand, brought on Drogba and Cahill for a Willian and Remy. Willian was hurt so that is probably why he brought on Drogba, thinking that in a couple minutes he would be taking off Remy. The second change was the one that really did it for me. Why take off a striker when there are still 3 minutes to play plus stoppage time? His last change was Loftus-Cheek for Oscar in the 92nd minute, which was just to get some fresh legs on the pitch. Now you talk about Chelsea’s bench and the team that Mourinho sent out there, but there were some options. I know that Salah and Schurrle are on their way out, but one of the two could have been used. For a team that has spent a ton of money, where is there attacking depth? You lose Cesc and Costa and now have no depth what so ever? Manchester City had 57% of the ball this weekend. Manchester City had 9 shots to Chelsea’s 3. Chelsea’s 3 shots were the fewest by a home team in the Premier league since 2003-04. I will make the statement that Pellegrini didn’t make after the match, Chelsea were playing for a draw in the second half. For me, a 5 point lead is not something that a team should count on, especially looking at the history of the title chase and how teams can quickly make up ground. An 8 point lead, however, is a different story. This will take multiple weekends of slip up from a team to be caught. City have experience coming from behind in terms of the league table, and if Chelsea continue to play this way it could catch up to them.
Australia are the champions of Asia! Well that sounds a little weird to say. Australia defeated South Korea 2-1 after extra time. South Korea scored the vital equalizer in second half stoppage time to send the game into extra time. Then Troisi scored the winner in the 105th minute to give Australia their first Asian Cup victory. Australia is the first nation to win two continental titles. Australia won the Oceania crown in 1980, 1996, 2000 and 2004 and now are champions of Asia. In 2006, Australia applied and was granted entrance into the Asia Federation for soccer. This move was done to help them qualify for the World Cup. Oceania is only given .5 of a spot in the world cup. This means that they need to play the 5th best team in South America just to qualify. In Asia, there are four World Cup spots. The move made sense for Australia, but with them now winning the Asian Cup and an Australia A-League team, the champions of the Asian Champions League, you start wonder does it make sense for the actual Asia countries.
The African Cup of Nations is really getting down to business end of the competition. Over the weekend, the quarter-finals took place. In the first matchup, the DR Congo beat Congo 4-2. Then hosts Equatorial Guinea beat Tunisia 2-1 after extra time. On Sunday, the big matchup was Cote D’Ivoire against Algeria. Cote D’Ivoire won 3-1 with goals from Bony (2) and Gervinho. Ghana beat Guinea 3-0 behind two goals from Chelsea man Atsu, and one from Appiah. This week we will see the semi-finals. Both matchups feature teams that are making Cinderella-esque runs and perennial powers in Africa. DR Congo will look to make their first final since they won in the tournament in 1974. They have not gotten past the quarter finals since 1998. Cote D’Ivoire will look to make it back to back finals appearances. The DR Congo and Cote D’Ivoire will play on February 4th. Ghana will look to make their 8th appearance in the final of the Cup of Nations and look to win their 5th title if they get there. The last semi-final team is the host nation Equatorial Guinea. They are in only their second ever Cup of Nations and in both times they have reached the quarter-finals. This year, they will look to make it to their first ever final having already made it to their first ever semi-final. It might be one step too far for them, but it is big progress for the small country. They will host Ghana on February 5th. The final is set for next Sunday. Will we see two African powerhouses or will the two surprise teams make it? I am hoping that the hosts can win it all, but my money would be a Cote D’Ivoire against Ghana final.
In Serie A, Roma continued to struggle with a 1-1 draw at Empoli. Since the start of the New Year, Roma has only picked up 10 points out of a possible 18. Juventus in the same time frame has picked up 17 points from a possible 21. This 7 point difference is the difference at the top of the table. It could have been worse had Juve found the back of the net on Sunday as they drew 0-0 at Udinese. The biggest winners of the weekend were Napoli, as they came away from Chievo with 3 points and their rivals, Lazio and Sampdoria, both suffered defeats on the road. This means that Napoli now has a 5 point lead on the two teams below them and is in the lead position for the final Champions League spot. Cesena got a huge 3 points against Lazio, as they look to climb out of the bottom three but still sit 4 points from safety.
The German Bundesliga returned with a shocker as Bayern Munich conceded goals 4 times and lost 4-1 in the first game of the weekend to second place Wolfsburg. Wolfsburg are now only 7 points behind Munich. Borussia Dortmund’s campaign to get off the bottom of the table started with a 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen. While it does not take them off the bottom, they are now only 2 points from safety.
In France, the gap at the top has been closed as PSG started the weekend with a 1-0 win over Rennes. Then Marseille beat Evian 1-0. Lastly, on Sunday, Monaco held Lyon to a 0-0 draw. This closed the gap at the top to 2 points. St. Etienne has struggle in the New Year and have seen their title/Champions League place challenge stumble again as they lost 1-0 to Caen. They now sit 7 points behind PSG and Marseille, who are level on points in 3rd and 2nd respectively.
In Spain, it was as it seems to always be. On Saturday, Real Madrid conceded very early but were able to come back and win going away with a score of 4-1 over Real Sociedad. It was the first of a two game ban for Ronaldo but did not seem to set them back. Ateltico de Madrid also won 3-1 over Eibar on Saturday. They jumped out to an early lead thanks to a 7thminute goal from Griezmann and a 2 minute brace from Mandzukic. He scored in the 23rd and 25th minutes. That was all the scoring until the 89th minute when Eibar got a consolation prize in a goal from Piovaccari. Sunday was not as smooth sailing for Barcelona. They fell behind twice in the match before a brilliant strike from Messi gave them a 3-2 win over Villarreal.
In England, Chelsea maintained their 5 point lead as previously discussed. Arsenal are seemingly putting on a show as they scored 5 past Aston Villa in a 5-0 win. Shelvey scored the only goal to give Swansea a huge win over Southampton. Tottenham continue to get massive production from Harry Kane and Cristian Eriksen as they won 3-0 over West Brom. United got goals from Van Persie and Falcao, plus an own goal from Morgan en route to a 3-1 win over Leicester. Daniel Sturridge made his return for Liveprool and only took 12 minutes before he scored to give Liverpool a 2-0 lead. Raheem Sterling continues his great form with the win. With the results, Manchester United jumps up to third place, a point ahead of Southampton, who are now level with Arsenal. Tottenham sit 2 points behind them with Liverpool now just 4 points from 4th place.
This week we will see some FA Cup replays, Coupe de la Ligue, and some Coppa Italia matches. The FA Cup replays feature some big teams, as Manchester United will host Cambridge United on Tuesday. Liverpool travel to Bolton on Wednesday. Both teams would be among the favorites to win the cup should they advance. The Coupe de la Ligue is the second major cup competition in France and is currently in the semi-finals stage. This week we will see Lille host PSG and Monaco host Bastia. The winners will advance to the final. In the Coppa Italia, Roma host Fiorentina and Napoli host Intern in the last two quarter-final matchups. These four teams will look to join Lazio and Juventus in the semi-finals.
Transfer Deadline Day
This might have been the most boring transfer deadline day ever. Will update this with any news if it breaks, but sources saying only big moves will be Schurrle out at Chelsea and Cuadrado in at Chelsea. They are looking to sign Cuadrado for 26 million pounds and selling Schurrle for 24 million pounds. This would be a good piece of business, but seeing as Salah has gone out on loan and depth was an issue this weekend, getting rid of two and only bringing in one gives me some questions. The only big deals that I see causing some drama are which defender will Manchester United make a run at. I don’t think they can not buy a single defender this window if they are serious about a run at the top 4. Whether it is Mats Hummels of Borsussia Dortmund or Marquinhos of PSG, I think they need to make a move. This will be updated as the day goes on…
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