Manchester United V Liverpool FC Preview

Manchester United V Liverpool FC

Firstly, I won’t be making any actual predictions because this is nearly impossible to call . In saying that though, Manchester Utd are priced up at 15/8 to win this game at home against Liverpool and those are pretty tasty odds for a team in such good form as Utd are in the league.

This fixture usually always disappoints as a spectacle, mainly because if you were to ask each set of fans what’s the biggest game of the season it’s this one. Both clubs see it as much more important than local rivalries and it usually shows in how the teams set up and the way they approach the game.

That’s not to say their haven’t been some brilliant moments in this fixture in the last few years, but it’s been more of a war of attrition than the fast paced attacking football both teams now play. Their generally hasn’t been a lot riding on the result of this game as of late other than bragging rights as neither team have been close to winning the league in the last number of years.

This fixture though has turned that on it’s head as Manchester Utd set out to seriously damage Liverpool’s title charge on Sunday. It’s a case of role reversal for both teams though as they are usually in the opposite situation with Liverpool looking to secure a top four spot and Manchester Utd trying to win the League.

This game is going to be won or lost in midfield. Whoever can take control of the game and set the tone have a great chance of winning. Pogba and Herrera have been in brilliant form as of late with the latter doing some real damage going forward . This is the perfect kind of game for Herrera who loves a bit of shithousery ( it’s a word I promise ) as we know and I’ll he will be stuck in the thick of it from the off.

Who Klopp picks in the middle will be key to stopping Pogba and Co. Don’t be surprised to see a three of Henderson, Fabinho and Milner on Sunday with a focus on closing down space and looking for a fast ball in behind.

Up front Marcus Rashford is a man in form but may find it tough against Van Dijk and it will be intriguing to see if Solskjaer starts Lukaku up top as well to add a bit of muscle. For Liverpool the key man could again be Sadio Mane. He missed a couple of great chances last Tuesday night but is on a good run and is getting into a lot better positions than Mo Salah who has gone quiet as of late. Moving him back out wide hasn’t seen him regain his brilliant form just yet.

It’s a game with a lot riding on it for both managers. A win for Solskjaer would surely be enough for him to get the job full time, that is if he hasn’t done enough already. For Klopp, it would knock start his team’s final charge to finally winning the Premier League and this result could really make or break Liverpool’s season.

How do you think it will go Sunday? ( take the fan tinted glasses off first )

Comment below ⬇️

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Time not on Sarri’s side

Time is not a luxury that football managers are afforded a lot of, and in the case of Chelsea managers it is usually less than most.

Chelsea and it’s fans have come a custom to winning trophies in the last couple of decades and the least they expect is to be challenging for them.
Over the last number of years their managerial appointments have been of a certain type – managers that could deliver success in the short term over one or two seasons. Most of the managers that took the helm at Stamford Bridge had been successful elsewhere and had the trophies to show for it.

This summer though they decided to change that approach and handed the reigns to Maurizio Sarri. Sarri is a different breed of manager than that had come before him. A manager with a philosophy, a style of play that he swears by and rarely veers from. A manager with an unwavering belief in his method, who believes 100 % that his way is the right way.
To implement his style on this team was going to take time. New players would be needed to suit his system and he current players would need to time to learn it. His methods may seem alien at first and some changes may be seen as disruptive, the repositioning of Kante being the main bug bearer of fans and pundits alike, but necessary to accommodate new arrivals such as Jorginho in the eyes of Sarri.

This seems all a bit too much for Chelsea fans to take and the crowd has turned on the Italian as results and performances have dipped dramatically. Their demolition at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team and the result against Manchester Utd in the Cup turning the home crowd against him.
Sarri earned rave reviews from all over Europe for the job he did turning Napoli into one of the most exciting teams in Europe and won himself manager of the year in the 2016/17 season. This though is as much as he won with Napoli and any club he had managed before hand, and therein lies the problem. A manager needs credit in the bank and past trophies to point at when the going gets tough.

This is especially true at Chelsea who’s fans have become accustomed to winning. They are an impatient bunch and are not used to having to watch a manager try and build from the bottom up, not since the days of Jose Mourinho. This isn’t a knock at Chelsea fans it’s just the way it is.

He may not have won any major trophies at his previous clubs but he came close at Napoli and had to contend with a brilliant Juventus team as their main rivals. His methods may bear fruit in the future, but it won’t be at Chelsea FC.

Get out and get to a game !

The SSE Airtricity League of Ireland starts tonight and Emmet Malone of The Irish Times has a good club by club preview of the season ahead.

We don’t have a massive knowledge on the league here at tbpof and have only ever gone to a handful of games in the past.

This season though we have decided to at least try and go to a few. No matter what anyone says, their is nothing wrong with supporting an Engish team and travelling over to see them every season. That is the way a lot of people were brought up in Ireland, especially in parts with no big club only smaller local ones.

I would say to all those fans though that don’t go to domestic games to try to get to at least one game this season in Ireland, for whatever club it may be like we are going to try and do. At the end of the day their isn’t anything much better than going watching a game live and the best way to help the League improve and grow is bums on seats. ( not to get all preachy )

https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/soccer/national-league/league-of-ireland-2019-club-by-club-guide-to-the-season-1.3793933?mode=amp

TBPOF PREDICTS ⚽️🤔

The Champions League knockouts are finally upon us so we’ve gone and done the worst thing you can do and made some predictions❗

Manchester United v PSG – Paris Saint-Germain

A couple of months ago this tie was only going one way. We all know what has happened at Old Trafford though since the departure of Mourinho and with PSG having an injury crisis in the attacking department the odds have swung firmly in favour of Manchester Utd. It’s a season defining couple of games for both managers. Olé Gunnar Solksjaer will surely be given the Managers job full time if they were to progress.( reports are he is going to get it regardless ) While in Paris, Tomas Tuchels main goal for the season has always been too win the Champions League as the domestic league is seen as a gimme. Cavani and Neymar are a huge loss for the French side and Utd are in brilliant form with Pogba and Rashford playing some great stuff. They will have to try and get most of the heavy lifting done in the first leg.
Verdict : MANCHESTER UTD ( just )

Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund

Having met in the group stages in 2017 and 2018 and entertaining everyone in the process, these two finally meet in the knockout stages. Both teams are missing arguably their best player for the first leg anyway with Harry Kane and Marco Reus missing out. That’s not too say they won’t be short on firepower with Son and Jordan Sancho, two of the most exciting wide men in Europe on either team. This tie should have lots of goals and if Dortmund can come away with an away goal in the first leg then I can see them progressing.
Verdict : DORTMUND (on away goals)

Manchester City v FC Schalke 04

Schalke are 14th in the Bundesliga for a reason and City are really starting to move up the gears. Pep is desperate to win this competition with another team so expect this one to be done after the Man City to go through comfortably.
Verdict : MANCHESTER CITY

Juventus v Atletico Madrid

Juventus did the smart thing this summer and hired the man that put them to the sword in the knockout stages last year – Ronaldo, and lucky for Juve he just loves scoring against Atletico. He holds the record for most goals scored in the Madrid derby. Atletico are a good side but so are Juventus and with Ronaldo’s firepower in their ranks you have to tip them to go through.
Verdict : JUVENTUS

Lyon v FC Barcelona

Lyon were one of the standout teams in the group stages in terms of pure entertainment, taking 4 points off Man City and remaining unbeaten throughout. Their main strength is their attack with Nabil Fekir and Memphis Depay and they will need to be in top form because Lyon concede a lot of goals. Infact, they conceded in every game in the group stages. Barcelona were a lot of people’s favourites after the group stages to win the competition and you would imagine they will have to much firepower for this Lyon defence over the two legs. Also Messi …
Verdict : BARCELONA (plenty of goals)

Liverpool FC v FC Bayern München

Liverpool will have to try and win this tie at Anfield because their away form in Europe this year has been brutal, losing all three of their away games in the group stages. Virgil Van Dijk will be missing for the first leg which is a massive loss with Joe Gomez also out. Bayern cruised through their group unlike their domestic form which has been hit and miss all season. Munich are a side in transition this year and Niko Kovac is still trying to imprint his style on the team. They will have to go for away goals if they are to have a good chance of progressing. Liverpool love the European cup but with Van Dijk missing for the first leg and their away form so poor they are going to find it tough. Their front three might be too much for Bayern though.
Verdict : LIVERPOOL( but only just )

AFC Ajax v Real Madrid C.F.

Another team that went unbeaten in the group stages were Ajax but they won’t be going any further if Ramos and Co have their say. Real Madrid have pulled themselves together recently and this is their competition after all. Ajax will give it a good go but Madrid will be to strong for them over two legs.
Verdict : REAL MADRID ( Ramos to score at least once )

FC Porto v Roma

Last but not least it’s two teams I have seen very little of this year. Porto knocked up an impressive 16 points in the group stages and are top of their domestic league. Roma lost 3 games in the group stages, although 2 of those were to Real. They lie 6th in Serie A but only a point off 4th place.
Verdict: No idea. Let’s say PORTO!

Nothing to wild in those predictions, with most of the favourites tipped to go through. Who do you think is going through and will their be a big upset this round ?Comment below⬇️

Klopp needs to bring the noise… again

When Jurgen Klopp joined Anfield, people already had a good idea of what kind of manager he was from watching his exploits with Borussia Dortmund. Here was a manager that played high tempo attacking football and who’s teams never stopped running for their coach. They would leave everything out on the pitch for him. This combination made Dortmund one of the most exciting teams in Europe to watch and the term “ heavy metal football “ was born.

In his first two and a half seasons at Liverpool, Klopp took a similar approach to the way he set his team up. He recognised that Liverpool had all the tools to attack with absolute ruthlessness and built his team from the front. He realised fairly quickly that the defence he had inherited from Brendan Rodgers was not up to the standard of a top team and so focussed his energy on creating a team that could score at will , and blow teams out of the water in mere minutes. After all would the point be of trying to sit back and hold a lead when you had a much better chance of extending it. This isn’t to say Klopp had or has no interest in organising and coaching his defence. He just realised until he brought in the right type of players then it was going to be a very difficult task. It’s why he waited for a player like Virgil Van Dijk after they failed to sign him at the first attempt. Liverpool needed high quality defenders and not the type they had been buying for the previous few seasons. The same could be said with the goalkeeper position.
When Klopp did eventually get together a defence he was happy with at the start of this season, we saw him amend his approach to games. Liverpool were now able to hold on to

leads or be patient in breaking teams down. The fear of conceding every time the opposition took the ball forward that had been there the previous seasons had gone. He now had defenders and a goalkeeper that he could rely on. Liverpool could now move up and down the gears as they pleased and heavy metal football was turned to rock and roll. Mo Salah who had been lethal last season was moved into a centre forward position with Firmino dropping deeper than he ever used to play. Trent Alexander Arnold was now one of the main focal points of the attack and one of the main outlets for moves to start. Klopp had found more new ways to skin a cat and it made Liverpool slightly unpredictable for teams playing against them.

Up until a point this season , this approach has worked a charm. Lately though all is not well. Performances have dipped and injuries have piled up. Trent is a huge loss at the back , I would say a lot bigger than Gomez simply for the way he affects the attacking side of the game as well as the defensive side. Liverpool have looked lethargic in their build up play and are being frustrated a lot more by opposition defences. So what to do to get out of this mini slump they are having until the likes of Trent comes back ? Klopp should revert back to the style that helped Liverpool fans fall in love with him. Put Firmino back in the centre higher up the pitch where he does most.of his damage and stick Salah out wide right and let him drift in as he likes to do. Give opposition defenders headaches again and let him drag them around and find space as he is so good at doing. He seems to be a bit easier to mark at the moment when playing up the middle. We saw against West Ham Klopp did something like this when he put Origi on for the last few minutes. It’s time to revert back to the attacking style that helped hammer so many teams that came before them, until at least they have the tools to play a different way as they have been this season. If your worried about your defence not being up to it then focus on your attack, and Liverpool have one of the best front three’s in the world on their day.

Their are 13 games left to go this season and it’s Liverpool’s best chance in a long time to win the League and I reckon they can, but Klopp may have to take the handbrake off for a while to do so .

JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW MUSINGS 🤔🤔⬇️⬇️

It was a quiet enough January Transfer window all around this year with few big moves, especially in the Premier League. So why the lack of big signings?

Years ago it was managers who mainly called the shots when it came to most of the signings done at a club, but nowadays these decisions are made by a combination of a director of football / transfer comittee and the manager. This approach allows clubs to try and focus more on a long term approach and you can really see that this season. The focus of a lot of clubs was to bring in players as early as possible in the summer and to use the rest of the year and January to tie players down to new contracts.

Examples of this would be Liverpool who gave a whole host of their main players new contracts in the last few months and Chelsea who’s main signing Christian Pulisic is going to join in the summer even though a deal was agreed in January , a bit like the Naby Kieta deal last season.

🔹️Manchester Utd would have been reasonably happy with their window even though they didn’t sign anyone they managed to lock down Anthony Martial for a few more years while also moving on Fellaini and for a decent enough price aswell . If anything it shows the direction the club is looking at going now footballing wise – tieing down the exciting winger and letting go the battering ram. (not that Fellaini was a bad player for Utd)

🔹️Spurs fans have to be dissapointed now to see any sort of reinforcements not coming in for a second window in a row. They will have to be at their best to hang on too a top 4 spot for the remainder of the season and hope Ali and Kane can get back sooner rather than later.

🔹️Great to see Peter Crouch back in the Premier League again and no doubt he will pop up with a couple of important goals for Burnley at some stage in the next few months .

🔹️The weirdest signing has to be Kevin Prince Boetang to Barcelona. It’s a really strange fit and came out of nowhere. Their is a couple of good pieces on the Guardian website worth reading about it.

🔹️It was a quiet enough window for Irish players with Scott Hogan probably the biggest mover. Hopefully he can kick start his season again with Sheffield Utd. It was a shame not to see James McCarthy not go on loan anywhere. He might find minutes few and far between for the rest of the season at Goodison Park .

Who do you think had a good window and what was the best signing ?? Comment ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️

The disappearance of The Midfield General in today’s game

When tactics and formations change so to can the conventional roles of certain positions on the pitch along with extra duties being assigned or certain positions becoming more specialised. The holding midfielder, the 9 ½, sweeper keeper and attacking full backs are all roles that have come to prominence over the last number of years in the Premier League and have all evolved from what was required of them a number of years ago. Just as new roles are introduced, some roles become redundant as tactics become more advanced. Players these days are asked to behave more like cogs in a well oiled machine and more as a collective than ever before.

One of the main roles that was championed in the Premier League up until a few years ago was The Midfield General. This type of player was a representation of what the England’s top league marketed itself on. Speed, power and a swashbuckling style of play. The Midfield General was a leader that was expected to drive the team forward while also putting out fires at the back. Roy Keane, Patrick Veira and Steven Gerrard are all prime examples of this type of all action player. Every top team had one, a stand out midfielder who would do it all, or at least try.

This type of player has fallen out of favour with the newer generation of managers though as the game seems to become more intricate and more complex. We still hear pundits use the phrase though from time to time. Arsenal up until this season were always lacking a Midfield General according to some of the lazier voices of authority we see and read daily. Really they were just missing someone who could tackle at the base of their midfield that could add some much needed physicality. When Lucas Torreria put in a few good performances it wasn’t long before he was being compared to Roy Keane. Keane was much more than a player who could just tackle though as we know.

Players such as Steven Gerrard for example, were tactically very good and had great positional sense but would they have faired as well playing in today’s game. Gerrard isn’t that long finished at the top level but even in the short spell that has passed since his best years at Liverpool a lot has changed. Everything these days is measured to within an inch of its life while players are judged more and more on stats per game than individual moments of brilliance which can sometimes leave a distorted view of that player and his performance. Gerrard’s pass completion rate and XG ( expected goals ) stats would have made for interesting reading.

It’s probably one of the main reasons we see less of that type of player. Midfielders nowadays need to be functional and versatile while also able to play in a system were risks are calculated based on the movements and positions of the whole team and not just that individuals position. We still get all the skill, speed and power but it’s more planned and calculated than being totally off the cuff. Performing as part of a midfield three is more about the collective and facilitating the attack and defence together rather than the individual actions of one player. You rarely get a player now who’s job it is to break up play and make bursting runs into the box or score goals, it’s usually one or the other. It also raises the question of how much better could some of these older players have been if they played in today’s system under the more modern managers.

I mentioned Gerrard earlier and how his stats might not have looked as good in today’s game, but if he had been coached by someone like Guardiola then he would probably have operated solely an attacking midfielder and would have scored a lot more goals than he did and provide a lot more assists, ( not that he didn’t score and supply plenty ) a bit like when Benitez moved him out of the centre and on to the right wing were he had his best goalscoring season in the league . He freed him of all his other responsibilities and focused him on one role instead of the multiple ones he had been juggling in the middle as the General.

Trends come and go in football as we know and it won’t be long before a new breed of managers come and reshape the way our game is played. The days of two overly dominant midfielders squaring off against each other like Keane and Viera used too are a thing of the past for now. Midfield battles these days are more a game of cat and mouse rather than a clash of heavyweights.

GOOD WEEKEND / BAD WEEKEND

Good weekend 😀 / Bad Weekend 🙁

😀 Marcus Rashford – Another game and another goal which takes him to 8 in the league for the season , one more than he got in the whole of the last league campaign. He’s certainly stepping up to the mantel of No.1 striker at the club. Nice finish aswell 🔥

😀 Mattéo Guendouzi – Lucas Torreira has been the Arsenal midfielder getting most of the plaudits this season so far but they look to have a real talent on their hands in Guendouzi. A brilliant display against Chelsea full of running and with the discipline he has lacked in other games so far this season. Hard to believe he was playing for a mid table second division side in France last year.

😀 Rafa Benitez and Newcastle – They don’t win at home often and really needed to this weekend in a game against fellow strugglers Cardiff. They did comfortably and that result puts a bit of daylight between them and the bottom 3. Still a long way to go yet but it looks like Rafa could be pulling off another miracle this season and keep the toon up.

😀 Liverpool – I can’t decide if Liverpool are wobbling along just about getting results or are they doing what potential champions do and winning tight games – it’s probably both in fairness. James Milner got an awful doing all game by Zaha and they conceded 3 but still picked up a win against a bogey team so they go in the good column.

🙁 Maurico Sarri – Bit early in your career as Chelsea manager to go full crazy in a press conference and launch all your players under the bus for being mentally weak but he did it anyway, and in Italian so the words wouldn’t get lost in translation. This is Sarris 19th job according to his wiki page and he has never won a single trophy so you can imagine what double league winner world cup holder Kante thinks of that shite …

🙁 Fulham – Fulham have conceded 51 goals in the league so far this season . That’s the most out of anyone of the 92 league clubs. They are as good as relegated ….

🙁 Monaco – Lost 5-1 at home to Strasbourg. Thierry Henry as manager – It’s going great.

🙁 Martin O’Neill – Not the start he wanted as his Forest side lost 1 nil at home to Bristol in his 1st game as manager . Still at least Tony O’Donoughue wasn’t there to give him shit afterwards !

Anyone else have a good weekend or weekend to forget ? Comment below ⬇️ And if you haven’t already , don’t forget to like or follow the page 👍

POCHETTINO & MANCHESTER UTD – THE OBVIOUS CHOICE THATS ALSO THE BEST

The clouds have lifted over Old Trafford in the last few weeks and every win is followed by calls for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer to be made manager of the club on a permanent basis . While their is no doubt he has got this side playing some decent football again and with smiles on their faces, giving him the job on a full time basis would feel like a mistake. It’s easy to get swept up in a wave of good feeling when a new manager comes in and brings positive results with him, especially after the first half of the season being so bleak and uninspiring.

How do you not give it to somebody who keeps winning ? If Utd get top 4 this season then Solskjaer surely must get the job? It’s this kind of decision making that has got Utd into trouble in the past though when hiring managers – only looking a season or two in front of you and not down the road at the bigger picture. Are we to think that Solskjaer was brought in with a view to keeping him long term if he did well ? Mourinhos sacking was inevitable but still came as a bit of a shock when it happened so probably not .

So if not Solskjaer then who ? The best choice in this case is also the most obvious one – and that is to bring in Mauricio Pochettino. He has done a brilliant job at Tottenham since he joined them. It looks like the team he has put together has hit it’s ceiling though and it is time to take the next step in his career. With a new stadium to pay off over the next few years investment in players is going to be limited . They will have to more than likely sell a marquee player like Eriksson to fund reinvestment in the squad. He has punched above his weight for the last two seasons with the team he has had considering the wage structure and transfer budget being considerably lower than the teams around him . He has proven that on a tight budget he can get the best out of players he has while also bringing some young players through.

If he moves to Manchester his budget would be considerably higher than at Spurs and we would get to see just how good of a manager he can become with a bigger squad of players. His style of Football would also suit the Old Trafford crowd . His teams are solid at the back and hard running in midfield , but they can also be brilliant to watch going forward. How the Stretford End would love to see a player in the same veign as Son bursting down the wing. He would be able to get the best out of a player like Martial for instance , something Mourinho could never manage mainly because he didn’t want to . He would work with younger players like Rashford also to help improve them . This isn’t to say Solskjaer wouldn’t be able to do this either I just think he wouldn’t be able to do it as well as Pochettino, who has a track record in the league .

Pep Guardiola won’t be at City forever, Spurs will be busy paying off a stadium for the next few seasons and who knows what might happen at the other big sides? It’s very hard for any club to retain the premier league in back to back seasons. Now is the time to put a manager like Pochettino in place and give him a couple of seasons to build his team . The Utd squad is in decent shape and it wouldn’t take a complete overhaul to get them challenging for the league again . Utd fans will tell you that the main problem at the club is at the top level and with the decision makers . These aren’t football men capable of making the right decisions and they are probably right . One decision they seem to have made that is right though is to try and bring in a director of football to do the job Ed Woodward clearly cannot – player recruitment. Couple this with the appointment of a manager like Pochettino who is still young and hungry and a league title won’t be far away. It’s Time to start thinking long term at Old Trafford and Pochetino could be the best option for the future.

Some big games for these managers in the Premier League this weekend ⚠️⬇️⚽️

OLÉ GUNNAR SOLSKJAER
Since taking the reigns at his former club he has breathed new life into a Utd side that has won their last 4 league games. So far so good . Solskjaer has made it very clear that he wants to take the job on a full time basis and this is possibly his first big audition so far . Spurs are a good side and easily brushed Utd aside earlier in the season so it will be interesting to see how the Norwegian handles the challenge of stopping them from doing it again .

JURGEN KLOPP
Liverpool have lost their last two games ( 1 in the cup ) and with the gap now down to four points between them and City it’s really important they put in a good display aswell as getting three points this weekend. They really can’t afford to drop more points as City will be there to capitalise on any slip ups. Brighton are a decent side at home and won’t roll over as easy as last season . Klopp also has defensive injuries to contend with and may have to resort to putting Fabinho in the back line again .

DAVID WAGNER
Huddersfield have been rather shite all season only managing to pick up 10 points so far. Wagner was hot stuff last year as he kept his side up but this season it’s all gone wrong. They are 8 points from the team in 17th Cardiff who they play away at this weekend . It’s the first real 6 pointer of the season . 11 points is a big gap to close if they lose.

MARCO SILVA
Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri made it clear at the clubs AGM that while he gives Silva his full backing – results have not been good enough . You really don’t know what your getting with Everton this season, sometimes they have looked good and other times they have been brutal . Home to Bournmouth is a game they should be expected to get something out of and if Silva doesn’t pick up a few decent results soon then Moshiri’s support might not be as unwavering as he says.