Tag Archives: Roberto Mancini

What Impact Will The Manchester Derby Have On The Title Race?

Manchester-Derby-Impact

It may be worth only three points, but Manchester United’s win on Sunday could be a huge blow to Manchester City and their hopes of defending their Premier League crown.

Last season, the first Manchester derby of the season saw City come away from Old Trafford with a shocking 6-1 win. The result this season tighter, but the effect on the title race could be equally huge.

Manchester United
United now sit six points clear of their bitter rivals at the top of the table. Their defence is weak without the injured Nemanja Vidic and they still don’t have a world class midfielder, but they do have the best strike force in the Premier League.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie won the game on Sunday, and everyone would expect them to keep doing the same thing all season. If they don’t, there is always Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck to do it. Their strength is their attacking play and it has led to United winning away at both of their title rivals – Chelsea and Manchester City.

Manchester City
For City, the result will be devastating, not only because of the manner in which it happened but because of their all round performance. Although the game was decided in stoppage time, they could have been 3-0 down if Ashley Young hadn’t been wrongly flagged offside. With this loss they lose their two year (37-match) unbeaten record at home, and also the good feeling they had got from their league wins over United last season.

It could get even worse for the reigning champions if their skipper – Vincent Kompany’s injury is severe, with Kolo Toure looking feeble as his replacement. Questions have to be asked about Roberto Mancini not putting Joleon Lescott on, and also about starting with out-of-form Mario Balotelli ahead of Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko.

It will be very interesting to see how City respond to the home derby loss to their fierce rivals on the back of their humiliating exit from Europe in the midweek. Mancini’s position will come under scrutiny, and if his side don’t return good results over Christmas and fall more behind in the title race then City could be set for a major change in the New Year.

Manchester City v Manchester United Preview

City-Utd

The first Manchester derby of the season is here as Manchester City and Manchester United resume their rivalry on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium which could provide vital momentum in the title race.

Roberto Mancini’s City emerged victorious in both the Premier League encounters last season, winning 6-1 at Old Trafford and 1-0 at home before winning the title in the most dramatic style on the final day of the season.

The reigning champions have made a decent start to the defence of their crown and remain unbeaten after 15 games, but it is United who have a three-point advantage at the top of the table ahead of Sunday’s meeting. There have been indications that it is already a two-horse race for the Premier League title, with others rivals – Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool – struggling for consistency.

City’s participation in the Champions League and even Europe came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Bundesliga champions – Borussia Dortmund in the midweek, while they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton last weekend after a less than impressive performance. United, on the other, were also beaten 1-0 (at home) by CFR Cluj but had already won the group so Sir Alex Ferguson was able to rotate his squad. The 19-time league champions overcame Reading 4-3 last weekend and have been in superb form going forward all season, but it was yet another match in which they fell behind and this time not once but twice.

Ferguson will surely be demanding greater concentration against a team that has the best defensive record in the league and haven’t lost a single game at home since December 2010. The Scot says it would be one of United’s best-ever results if they can win on Sunday.

TEAM NEWS

Manchester City

City’s influential playmaker David Silva will be given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Manchester derby at home. The Spanish international missed the Champions League loss to Dortmund with a hamstring injury but remains in contention and is batting to take part on Sunday. Aleksandar Kolarov has been ruled out with a groin problem and Micah Richards (knee) is still sidelined. Gael Clichy (ankle) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) both should be available for selection, while James Milner (hamstring) is likely to miss out.

Manchester United

Tom Cleverley is doubtful for Manchester United after limping out in the first half of the game against Cluj and will have a scan on his calf injury. Sir Alex Ferguson has also revealed that Shinji Kagawa and Nemanja Vidic (both) are struggling to be fit in time for the derby and may completely be ready for the Sunderland game. Antonio Valencia (thigh), Nani and Anderson (both hamstring) have been ruled out of the important clash, while the likes of Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra are set to return to the starting XI after being rested in midweek.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 164
Manchester City Wins – 46
Draw – 50
Manchester United Wins – 68

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

30-Apr-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
08-Jan-12 – FA Cup – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
23-Oct-11 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
07-Aug-12 – Community Shield – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
16-Apr-11 – FA Cup – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United

FORM GUIDE

Manchester City – LDWDD
The Citizens have been unbeaten in the league so far this season and are just three points behind leaders Manchester United in the standings. But they have won just once and drawn thrice in their last five games in all competitions, with the only win coming at Wigan. A win on Sunday will take them above United in the league table on goal difference.

04-Dec-12 – Champions League – Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Manchester City
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-1 Everton
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Wigan Athletic 0-2 Manchester City
25-Nov-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City
21-Nov-12 – Champions League – Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid

Manchester United – LWWWL
The Red Devils come into this match on the back of three consecutive wins in the Premier League and are sitting three points clear of their opponents at the top of the table. But they haven’t hit top gear and their defensive frailties have already been exposed. A win on Sunday will be massive one and will take them six points clear of City at the top.

05-Dec-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 0-1 CFR Cluj
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Reading 3-4 Manchester United
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United
24-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
20-Nov-12 – Champions League – Galatasaray 1-0 Manchester United

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
The Belgium international scored the only goal in last season’s 1-0 win over United at the Etihad stadium – which won them the title – and was also as solid as rock at the back. The club captain is an inspirational presence for Roberto Mancini, and his match-up against Robin van Persie will see arguably two of the best players in their respective positions battling in a mouth-watering clash. How he copes with the Dutchman and what he can offer going forward will be the key to the outcome of the game, but one thing is for sure – if Kompany is on form, City are a very hard team to beat.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
All eyes have been on Robin van Persie this season, and – even Javier Hernandez has gone past Wayne Rooney in the goal-scoring charts, but numbers alone do not tell the full influence of the 27-year-old on his side. With the Dutch forward being the target man of the strike force, Rooney will certainly drop deeper when United lose possession, and will try to create chances from further back in the final third. His work rate and distribution are very important in clashes like these, and with two strikes in his last league game at Reading, the England forward may be in line for a hot goal-scoring streak.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany (C), Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy; Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry; David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri; Sergio Aguero.

City XI

City manager Roberto Mancini is likely to recall Yaya Toure back to the squad after resting him for the Champions League game against Dortmund, while David Silva may well recover from his hamstring injury in time for the big game. Joe Hart continues in goal as Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic will play ahead of him in centre of the defence. Aleksandar Kolarov (groin) has been ruled out, which means Gael Clichy could be rushed back after recovering from his ankle injury, but should he not be ready Joleon Lescott could slot in or Pablo Zabaleta could switch sides win Maicon coming in on the right side. Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure are expected to shield the defence as Silva, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri could play in a more advance role. Sergio Aguero is likely to lead the line for the hosts, with both Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko coming off the bench at some point during the game.

Manchester United (4-3-3): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Ashley Young.

United XI

Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to continue with David De Gea in goal after the keeper made his return to first team action against CFR Cluj in the Champions League. Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra are all expected to be back in defence after being rested during the midweek defeat at home. With Valencia and Nani both out, United are expected to play with the same formation (4-3-3) that won at Reading. Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes will make the three-man midfield with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young further up the pitch, playing on either side of Robin van Persie. Shinji Kagawa is expected to make the bench, while the inform Javier Hernandez will be an option should the visitors need a goal at some stage of the game.

OPTA FACTS

  • 3 – Man Utd have won 1-0 against City three times in their last six Premier League games at the Etihad.
  • 5 – There have been just five goals scored in the last six league meetings between City and United at the Etihad Stadium and no more than one in any of those games.
  • 10 – Robin van Persie is joint-top scorer in the league, with 10 goals alongside Demba Ba, Michu and Luis Suarez – Man City’s top scorer is Carlos Tevez with seven.
  • 36 – City (15) and United (21) have come from behind to win a combined 36 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season.
  • 21 – Man City and Man Utd have been awarded more penalties than any other side in the Premier League since the start of 2010-11.

REFEREE

Name – Martin Atkinson
Based – Yorkshire
Age – 41
Games – 18
Yellow Cards – 71
Red Cards – 1

MATCH ODDS

Manchester City 13/10, Draw 12/5, Manchester United 21/10

PREDICTION

As both teams have pulled away from the rest at the top of the table, it could turn out to be a very close affair decided by a moment of brilliance or a mistake. City will be looking to attack at home and take full advantage of United’s weaknesses at the back, while the Red Devils will hope to avoid conceding the first goal again but have also shown the determination and character to win games from losing positions. With the winner taking the top spot in the league table, both teams will look to get the 3 points. United have the firepower, but City have a very solid defence, making the hosts slight favourites. Expect United to get something out of this one, maybe a high scoring draw.

Predicted Score: Manchester City 2-2 Manchester United

Top Ten Best-Paid Managers In The World

best-paid managers

Brazilian sports business consultants – Pluri Consultoria – have this week published online a list of the best-paid football managers in the world, by annual salary.

There is no surprise who heads the pack but there are some interesting names on the list. Here at IntoTheTopCorner, we have a look at the top ten managers from that rich list…

10. ROBERTO MANCINI (MANCHESTER CITY | €5.9 MILLION)

Roberto-Mancini

When you are managing a club owned by oil-rich owners you are expected to be earning a huge annual salary and it’s no surprise to see the current Manchester City manager on the list, perhaps that he is tenth on the list is a bit surprising. The former Inter and Lazio boss has won the FA Cup and the Premier League during his time at Eastlands and is at the helm of Europe’s few undefeated teams in the league this season.

9. JOSE CAMACHO (CHINA | €5.9 MILLION)

Jose-Camacho

In order to catch up with the Asian heavyweights like Japan and South Korea, the rich Chinese FA searched in many parts of Europe – mainly the Netherlands, Germany and Spain – for an experienced coach, and appointed Jose Camacho. The former Spain and Real Madrid coach was given the job with objective of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Despite his huge annual paycheck the Spaniard failed and is now preparing for next year’s Asian Cup.

8. TITO VILANOVA (BARCELONA | €7 MILLION)

Tito-Vilanova

Taking over at Barcelona is not an easy job especially from the club’s most successful manager in history – Pep Guardiola. However, the former assistant is justifying his millions in his first top-flight job and currently has a win rate of 86%, which is more than his predecessor. The Catalan giants are 11 points clear of Real Madrid in the league and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

7. FABIO CAPELLO (RUSSIA | €7.8 MILLION)

Fabio-Capello

A CV boasting of five Serie A titles, one Champions League and two La Liga titles, it’s no surprise that the Italian is the best-paid international manager in the world during his current tenure as Russia coach. His current salary is a slight increase than what he earned during his time as England coach, where his contributions were a bit disappointing. However, the Russians under Capello are undefeated with five win in seven games and are at the top of their World Cup qualifying group.

6. GUUS HIDDINK (ANZHI MAKHACHKALA | €8.3 MILLION)

Guus-Hiddink

Like Capello, the Dutchman has also enjoed a long and successful managerial career at club and international level. After failing to qualify for Euro 2012 in Poland & Ukraine with Turkey, Hiddink joined the Russian moneybags earlier this year. With Anzhi second in the Russian Premier League, the former Chelsea boss has announced that his current annual paycheck will be the last one as he will be retiring at the end of the season.

5. ARSENE WENGER (ARSENAL | €9.3 MILLION)

Arsene-Wenger

With his intelligent spending, innovative training techniques and brilliant ability to develop youngsters, the Frenchman might be the cleverest manager in the game and he gets very well paid for that. Wenger has delivered three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and 15 consecutive seasons of Champions League football since taking over at Arsenal in 1996. Yet his willingness to sell Arsenal’s best players has been identified as a major flaw by the fans. With the Gunners virtually out of the title race, Wenger’s days may be numbered if his team fails to finish in the top four.

4. SIR ALEX FERGUSON (MANCHESTER UNITED | €9.4 MILLION)

Sir-Alex-Ferguson

The Scot has been at the same job – Manchester United – for over 25 years, which makes his annual salary seem relatively modest compared to ones above him in the list. The Red Devils were in deep trouble when he took over and has made them one of most successful teams in the world by winning 12 league titles, two Champions Leagues, five FA Cups and four League Cups. This season, Sir Alex’s side remain on course for yet another league title and have also reached the last-16 of the Champions League.

3. MARCELLO LIPPI (GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE | €10 MILLION)

Marcello-Lippi

A manager whose resume boasts a World Cup, five Serie A titles and a Champions  League is expected to earn an annual salary in double figures. The former Italy coach joined the Chinese Super League champions in May this year on a two-and-a-half year contract worth up to €30 million. So far, Lippi has fulfilled the club’s expectations by guiding them to their second consecutive league title in October and also by winning the Chinese FA Cup in November for the first time evert in the club’s history.

2. CARLO ANCELOTTI (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN | €13.5 MILLION)

Carlo-Ancelotti

The Italian proved that getting sacked at Chelsea doesn’t put a dent to your managerial career when he signing a multi-million Euro deal to take over at Qatar-funded PSG last year. He took charge when the French side were at the top of the league, but failed to guide them to the title. Despite spending heavily during the transfer windows, he has yet to bring any silverware to the Paresians. However, the former Milan boss could turn things around this season, as PSG are third in the league – five points behind Lyon – and are through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

1, JOSE MOURINHO (REAL MADRID | €15.3 MILLION)

Jose-Mourinho

The Portuguese takes home the largest amount each year and it is hardly surprising given his extraordinary record since guiding Porto to an historic treble in 2003. The Special One has won league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain and has also won the Champions League with Porto and Inter. However, things aren’t going well for him in the current campaign, with Los Blancos 11 points behind leaders Barcelona. Such a margin is a bit too much in the La Liga and if Mou fails to bring the Champions League to the Bernabeu, he might get his marching orders at the end of the season.

Here are the remaining twenty managers from the 30-man rich list..

11. Frank Rijkaard (Saudi Arabia | €5.3 Million)
12. Jupp Heynckes (Bayern Munich | €5.2 Million)
13. Andre Villas-Boas (Tottenham Hotspur | €4.5 Million)
14. Harry Redknapp (Queens Park Rangers | €4 Million)
15. Jorge Jesus (Benfica | €4 Million)
16. David Moyes (Everton | €3.6 Million)
17. Manuel Pellegrini (Malaga | €3.6 Million)
18. Paulo Autuori (Qatar | €3.6 Million)
19. Abel Braga (Fluminense | €3.5 Million)
20. Luciano Spaletti (Zenit St Petersburg | €3.3 Million)
21. Antonio Conte (Juventus | €3 Million)
22. Cesare Prandelli (Italy | €3 Million)
23. Luxemburgo (Gremio | €3 Million)
24. Muricy (Santos | €3 Million)
25. Tite (Corinthians | €3 Million)
26. Ottmar Hitzfeld (Switzerland | €2.6 Million)
27. Joachim Low (Germany | €2.5 Million)
28. Marcelo Biesla (Athletic Bilbao | €2.5 Million)
29. Martin O’Neill (Sunderland | €2.5 Million)
30. Roy Hodgson (England | €2.5 Million)

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 14

Hernandez-Routledge-TOTW

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting fourteenth gameweek in the Premier League. Everton and Swansea City provide two players each, while there is one each from Aston Villa, Manchester City, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers, Stoke City, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur.

Simon Mignolet (Sunderland)

The Belgium shot-stopper put in a positive display – which showed he had recovered from error against West Brom at the weekend – to earn himself and his team a much needed clean-sheet. He was not regularly tested by the QPR forwards, but was more than ready when called upon and made total of six saves during the game on Tuesday.

Rafael (Manchester United)

Being a Manchester United fan, I am loving to see the progress the young Brazilian has made this season. He has come of age and was once again at his best, as he was alert to the early threat of Matt Jarvis, making a number of key interceptions. Going forward, he put in a couple of dangerous crosses and was a threat to deal with for the West Ham defence.

Ryan Nelsen (Queens Park Rangers)

QPR will need some strong characters in the dressing room and on the pitch to get them out of this tricky hole at the foot of the table, and the New Zealand international is one of those. Having signed him while at Tottenham in February, Harry Redknapp knows Nelsen has those qualities and the defender was rock solid in the heart of the defence  in their clean-sheet at Sunderland on Tuesday.

Matija Nastasic (Manchester City)

Many eyebrows were raised when Roberto Mancini decided to break up the successful partnership of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott at heart of the City defence. But the doubts have given way to nods of approval as the young Serbian once again impressed alongside the skipper and was solid at the back in the City’s 2-0 win at Wigan on Wednesday.

Leighton Baines (Everton)

The Everton left-back has been in the form of his life this season as he put in another superb display in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal at Goodison Park. The marauding full-back provided a constant outlet for his side on left and linked up with Steven Pienaar to devastating effects at times which caused the Gunners some trouble at the back.

Pablo Hernandez (Swansea City)

Pablo Hernandez has made his name as a right-winger for Valencia in the La Liga, but in Swansea’s impressive win over high-flying West Brom on Wednesday, the Spaniard did much of his best work on the left flank. Hernandez was a class apart during a first half performance that saw the Swans go 3-0 up within 40 minutes and he was involved in all the three goals.

Wayne Routledge (Swansea City)

Another player who has been impressive alongside Michu and Pablo Hernandez for the Swans this season has to be Wayne Routledge. The former Newcastle man was at his very best in the win over West Brom. He scored twice with two superb finishes and the midfielder popped up virtually in every attacking position as he caused havoc to the Baggies defence.

Marouane Fellaini (Everton)

The big Belgian returned from suspension and played a huge part in his side’s 1-1 draw at home on Wednesday. Fellaini epitomised all that was good about hard-working Everton, but also brought a significant amount of quality too. His curling effort in the first half brought the Toffees back on level terms after Theo Walcott had given Arsenal an early lead.

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

It takes something special to make it in the Team Of The Week after scoring such an own goal and that’s exactly what the Welshman did in the 2-1 win over Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Bale’s driving run and delicious delivery led to Aaron Lennon’s opener within ten minutes before he doubled the lead with a brilliant free-kick.

Cameron Jerome (Stoke City)

We have seen many super-subs this season and Jerome was the latest of the lot. He came on in the 68th minute against Newcastle and completely turned the game on it’s head. The former Birmingham man used his pace to trouble the full-backs and delivered a perfect cross for Jonathan Walters to equalise. Then the forward repaid the faith shown in him by Tony Pulis as he won the game with a late strike.

Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)

The Belgium striker has been keeping Darren Bent out of the team with his superb performances and on Tuesday night against Reading, he again showed why he deserves to start ahead of the England international. Benteke saw a superb chance denied by Adam Federici in the first half and was superb as a target-man throughout the game before scoring the late winner.

TOTW GW 14

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 12

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting eleventh weekend in the Premier League. Arsenal, Liverpool, Norwich City and Southampton provide two players each, while there is one each from Manchester City, Sunderland and West Brom Albion.

John Ruddy (Norwich City)

The England keeper was in instrumental form in his side’s shocking 1-0 win over Manchester United at Carrow Road on Saturday. He made a succession of crucial saves – especially from Ashley Young – and two right at the death, to frustrate United and keep them at bay.

Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton)

Southampton have conceded the most number of goals this season, but Clyne is one player to keep an eye for in the future. In the biggest game at the bottom of the table, he was rock solid in defence when his team needed him and going forward he chipped in with an assist as his team got the better of QPR at Loftus Road.

Carlos Cuellar (Sunderland)

The former Aston Villa defender has been rock solid at the back for the Black Cats this season and he was once again at his best against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday. He put in a very impressive defensive display and also scored his first goal for the club by heading home a corner.

Michael Turner (Norwich City)

Turner struggled at the start of the season but on Saturday he was at his very best. He was the heart and soul of the Canaries’ spirited defensive display and dealt brilliantly with both Javier Hernandez (later replaced by Danny Welbeck) and Robin van Persie. He put his body on the line and successfully got his head to numerous crosses to keep United’s attack at bay.

Jose Enrique (Liverpool)

This is the second consecutive time the Liverpool left-back has made our Team Of The Week and he completely deserves it. Played in an advance role in Saturday’s comfortable win over Wigan, the Spaniard put in his best performance of the season so far and ended the game with a goal and an assist.

Theo Walcott (Arsenal)

Arsenal fans and manager Arsene Wenger may be split on whether Theo Walcott is worth the money to keep at the club past this season. However, on Saturday in the North London derby at least Walcott put in a brilliant display. His contribution included an assist and an injury time goal.

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

The little Spainiard has been the Gunners’ best player this season and on Saturday he was at his creative best against Tottenham, making the most of Arsenal’s one-man advantage. He was involved in most of the hosts’ intricate build-up play, and topped off his performance with a goal and a brilliant assist in the 5-2 thrashing.

Jason Puncheon (Southampton)

He provided the impetus from the right side of midfield for Southampton, on his first return to Loftus Road, having played there on loan last season. His two assists and a sweet left-footed curling goal from the edge of the box was just the reward for his impressive performance.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Another weekend and its Suarez again. The Uruguayan international is in the form of his life and without him I really can’t see Liverpool being a serious threat. However, he now has ten goals this season and increased his tally over the weekend with two well taken finishes in the home win over Wigan.

Shane Long (West Brom Albion)

The former Reading man spent a good 60 minutes terrorising the Chelsea defence and David Luiz in particular on Saturday. His goal involved great movement and his assist for Peter Odemwingie was of the first order. He has adapted very well to the life in the Premier League and now can produce performances capable of dismantling top sides.

Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)

The Argentine striker ended his barren spell of just one goal in his last 12 appearances for City, with a brace in the 5-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. His first came from the penalty spot, while his second was a close-range tap-in. But, his performance will be the most pleasing thing for Roberto Mancini.

The Best Goal Ever?

Whether you are a fan of Marco van Basten, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney, everyone has their own favourite goal from football’s history.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stunning, long-range propeller-kick for his fourth goal against England in the midweek was the latest to enter the half of fame. But was it the best goal ever?

Here, IntoTheTopCorner takes a look back at some of football’s greatest goals..

Diego Maradona v England – 1986

Marco van Basten v USSR – 1988

Tony Yeboah v Liverpool – 1995

Roberto Carlos v France – 1997

Roberto Mancini v Parma – 2000

Paolo Di Canio v Wimbledon – 2000

David Beckham v Greece – 2001

Steven Gerrard v West Ham United – 2006

Paul Scholes v Aston Villa – 2006

Ronaldinho v Villarreal – 2007

Lionel Messi v Getafe – 2007

Wayne Rooney v Manchester City – 2011

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v England – 2012

Premier League 2012/13 Predictions

The wait is finally over as the new Premier League season kicks-off today and here my predictions for the 2012/13 campaign.

Champions?

Manchester City are the favourites for me to win the title again this season. They broke their duck last season and got the monkey of their back. They now know how to cope with certain situations and how to get through games. Roberto Mancini and City both will have learnt a lot from last season. I know they haven’t sign anybody – except for Jack Rodwell – but they already have a very strong squad which is more than capable of winning the league again.

At the same time, I expect the title race to be very close like last season and may again go down to the very last day. Manchester United have got Robin van Persie and they will surely be right up there. They have also go their skipper – Nemanja Vidic coming back from injury, and he would be like a completely new signing for the club.

Top Four?

The two Manchester clubs will occupy the top two places and it will be either Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham for the remaining two places. I will go with Chelsea and Arsenal.

The Blues will be a better team than what they were last season. They have bought some very good young players like Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar, that are going to attack a lot. With Didier Drogba moving to China, Fernando Torres will have a big season, as he will have to fill the big shoes of the Ivorian. If Torres could get his old Liverpool form back, which made him one of the most dangerous forwards in the world, then the Blues could even challenge for the title.

It’s going to be very tight between Arsenal and Tottenham for the final Champions League spot. I fill Arsenal will just sneak into fourth because of the great football they play. They may have lost Van Persie and might also lose Alex Song, but in Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud they have bought in some quality players. As for Tottenham, Andre Villas-Boas is a very talented manager but he needs to get the forward line sorted soon and also find a replacement for Luka Modric.

Bottom Three?

It’s really tough to call who will go down this season. Every year I feel Wigan will be relegated but they somehow stay up. This season again I am going to say Wigan. They have made two good signings in Ivan Ramis and Arouna Kone, but they could lose Victor Moses and should be down there again. Norwich had a very good season last term under Paul Lambert, but with him moving away to a bigger club they are going struggle along with Reading. I really hope the Royals stay up but they are a very attacking side. That will make them entertaining but also vulnerable.

Surprise Package?

With the expected arrival of Gaston Ramirez, it makes Southampton one of the entertaining teams in the Premier League. They have lots of exciting attacking players throughout the side and I can see them doing what Norwich or Swansea did last season. At the same time, I think Mark Hughes’ QPR side will be the overachievers this season. Hughes kept the R’s up on the final day last season and I am expecting a very good campaign from them this year. They have made some very good signings in Park Ji-Sung, Junior Hoilett and Jose Bosingwa. They will be very hard to beat and could even finish in the top half of the table.

Top Scorer?

We will be looking at a lot of the same names again this season. Van Persie and Wayne Rooney will form a deadly combo at United, while Luis Suarez – if he can control himself – will benifit a lot in Brendan Rodgers attack-minded Liverpool side and with Arsenal creating lot of chances Lukas Podolski will also be up there. But in the end Sergio Aguero will win the Golden Boot this season. He had a tremendous first season in England and I expect him to get even better this season. If City do go on to defend their Premier League crown, it will be because of his goals.

Player to Watch?

There are so many exciting players to watch in the Premier League this season. As a United fan I love watching Steven Gerrard play because he is a true inspiration to his team-mates and can single handedly win a game for Liverpool and I hope he stays fit for the whole season.

However, I feel Eden Hazard will be my player to watch this season. His transfer saga went on for months and in the end he revealed on Twitter that he had decided to join Chelsea. He is one of the top talents in world football and was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the second consecutive time last season. He will have a huge role to play for Chelsea this season and will also have to justify his big transfer fees. If he can star as he did for his previous club then the Blues could be in with a shout for the Premier League title.