January 12, 2015

Chelsea noses ahead of City

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Another week, another change at the top of the table.

With Manchester City looking toothless in attack against Everton and only mustering a draw, Chelsea surged ahead with a win over Newcastle.

The Citizens are a team in flux right now. With Yaya Toure gone for the African Cup of Nations and their bevy of strikers returning to fitness, expect to see some different looks for the next few weeks.

That sort of inconsistency doesn’t bode well for a team that seemed really well put together and on a hot run leading up to this game. With Arsenal on the horizon, it’s not like things are getting easier, either.

As for Chelsea, this team is rock solid when it’s on its game.

Even with Newcastle getting more chances than the title contenders, the Blues didn’t back down or fold up shop. Jose Mourinho was incredibly vocal on the sidelines and, while I’m sure he’s happy with the three points, he can’t be thrilled about how the game went about.

But it’s the results that matter and at the end of the season, it doesn’t matter how you won the games, it’s just that you did – or in City’s case, didn’t.

UNITED THEY FALL

With chance to move closer to second place after City’s stumble and an opportunity to bump Southampton down the table, Manchester United fell flat against the Saints.

There was some questionable management from Louis Van Gaal, who didn’t even put Radamel Falcao on the bench for the game, despite the fact that the Colombian goal-scorer is 100% fit.

LVG could’ve really used him too, with Robin van Persie going off with an ankle injury.

While there’s always rumours about the Red Devils going in for big-name players in the transfer window, perhaps it should look at some better physios and trainers to keep the current squad on the field.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Lazar Markovic is finally starting to look like a key piece for Liverpool. He scored against Sunderland and hit the bar with amazing volley attempt. With Adam Lallana out for a month, Markovic should see his playing time increase and maybe earn a spot in the starting XI to stay … Tony Pulis picked up his first win with West Brom thanks to the scorching-hot Saido Berahino. The least surprising part of the game was the Baggies keeping a clean sheet. If there’s one thing that Pulis will beat into that side, it’s defensive sturdiness … Arsenal is a different team when Laurent Koscielny plays. With the French centre back in the lineup, the Gunners keep a clean sheet more than 50% of the time. He’ll need to stay healthy with Mathieu Debuchy injured once again … Alexis Sanchez’s brace brings him up to 12 goals and seven assists this season. If he keeps playing like this, Barca might want to try to bring him back.

TRANSFER TALK

With the transfer window open, the rumour mill has spun into high gear. The European press is notorious for unfounded reports, but there is always a kernel or two of truth in the fog. Here’s some of the tidbits I’ve found interesting so far.

-Liverpool is losing out on some players it could really use, first with Victor Valdes heading to Manchester United and then Xherdan Shaqiri bound for Inter Milan. Both players were linked to the Reds, but can you blame them for picking greener pastures?

-Valdes is a pretty good insurance policy for David De Gea at Manchester United. If the current No. 1 decides to leave after his contract is out, Valdes could be an easy fill-in.

-Manchester City has created another logjam at striker after clearing out a bit of deadweight in the summer. The $50-million transfer of Wilfired Bony raises a couple of eyebrows, especially with Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic all getting close to 100%. You have to wonder if this means it’s the end of the line for Dzeko or if Jovetic could go out on loan.

-Let’s make one thing clear: Lionel Messi won’t leave Barcelona, especially not now. Barca would sooner fire its manager – is reportedly at loggerheads with Messi – before letting the global sensation walk. While there are a couple of clubs that could actually afford his enormous buyout, it wouldn’t make sense for Barca to sell him. Remember, the Spanish giants aren’t allowed to buy any players during this window or in the summer, so they couldn’t even cash in on the enormous fee Messi would command. So don’t expect this move of massive proportions to happen.

THE LAST WORD

This might not surprise you, but FIFA got something really wrong.

During their annual awards show, FIFA honours its team of the year, a starting XI of the best players from the past year.

Somehow, David Luiz got on this list.

This comes after Luiz fell out of favour at Chelsea and wasn’t seeing much playing time last season, was sold during the summer for a laughably large sum of money and is now with PSG atop Ligue 1 – which is a step below the EPL and La Liga. Oh, he was also part of that Brazil squad that lost 7-1 to Germany at the World Cup and didn’t even take bronze.

How was Luiz one of the four best defenders in the world, exactly?

Luiz stands alongside Phillip Lahm, Sergio Ramos and Thiago Silva – another Brazilian whose inclusion is a bit questionable.

It’s not like there were plenty of deserving candidates. Vincent Kompany, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, David Alaba, Diego Godin and even Marcelo could’ve gotten the call.

There were some other choices in the XI that raised a couple of eyebrows, like Andre Iniesta and Arjen Robben, but they were far more justified than Luiz.

Of course, this is an organization that did vote to host a World Cup in a place where you can barely go outside in the summer, so this shouldn’t be THAT surprising.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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