FA Cup Semifinals Preview and reaction to European semi draws

Instant reaction to the draw for the Champions League and Europa league semi finals and Wasim also previews the FA Cup semi finals.

 

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Tuesday Football Medley Podcast

A busy midweek gets underway with some tasty fixtures on Tuesday. Wasim looks ahead to Hoffenheim vs Bayern, United vs Everton, the Rome Derby and other interesting games on the day.

 

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UCL and UEL Quarterfinal Draw Football Podcast with Wasim Parkar

New matchups in the Champions League and Europa League have Wasim excited about the quarterfinals, while it gets tricky picking a winner in Bayern vs Real and Juve vs Barcelona.

You can listen to the podcast through the player below or subscribe through iTunes here.

FA Cup Football Podcast with Wasim Parkar

The quarterfinals weren’t special, but Wasim believes we’ll see the magic of the FA Cup in the semis and the final as Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City duke it out for honours in the world’s oldest cup competition.

You can listen to the podcast through the player below or subscribe through iTunes here.

Football Podcast Europa League Preview

Wasim looks ahead to the round of 16 in the Europa League, where several interesting clashes take place including Lyon vs Roma, Olympiacos vs Besiktas and Schalke 04 vs Borussia Mönchengladbach.

You can listen to the podcast through the player below or subscribe through iTunes here.

The Football Podcast with Wasim Parkar Episode 4

On this episode of the podcast, Wasim analyzes the continuous twists and turns in the battle for Champions League qualification in the Premier League.

You can listen to the podcast through the player below or subscribe through iTunes here.

This Football Weekend

As we approach the halfway point of the season, the pressure is mounting at the top end of leagues all across Europe. Teams will be looking to finish 2016 on a high note, but to do so they will have to overcome tough opponents. There are plenty of exciting big games and unpredictable fixtures taking place all over the continent and here are my picks for the matches to follow this football weekend. 

Friday, December 16th

Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund (4th vs 6th in the Bundesliga)

Saturday, December 17th 

RB Leipzig vs Hertha Berlin (2nd vs 3rd in the Bundesliga)

Atletico Madrid vs Las Palmas (6th vs 10th in La Liga)

Guingamp vs Paris Saint-Germain (6th vs 3rd in Ligue 1. Guingamp manager Antoine Kombouaré will be looking to prove a point against his former employers)

AC Milan vs Atalanta (3rd vs 6th in Serie A)

Oostende vs Zulte-Waregem (4th vs 1st in a clash of Belgium’s most surprising teams)

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United (7th vs 6th in the Premier League)

Juventus vs Roma (1st vs 2nd in Serie A)

Sunday, December 18th

Bournemouth vs Southampton (10th vs 9th in the Premier League’s south coast derby)

Napoli vs Torino (4th vs 8th in a match between Serie A’s third-highest scoring teams)

Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven (2nd vs 3rd in the Eredivisie’s biggest rivalry)

Manchester City vs Arsenal (4th vs 3rd in the Premier League)

Barcelona vs Espanyol (2nd vs 9th in La Liga’s Catalan derby)

Lazio vs Fiorentina (5th vs 7th in Serie A)

Monaco vs Lyon (2nd vs 4th in Ligue 1)

Sporting Lisbon vs Braga (3rd vs 4th in the Primeira Liga)

Monday, December 19th

Everton vs Liverpool (8th vs 2nd in the Premier League’s Merseyside Derby)

This Football Weekend

European competition has concluded for 2016 and from now until February, the focus will be on domestic football on the continent. This weekend sees some heavyweight clashes across many different leagues. Here are my picks for the games to watch this weekend:

Friday, December 9th

Eintracht Frankfurt vs Hoffenheim (5th vs 4th in the Bundesliga)

Saturday, December 10th

Cologne vs Borussia Dortmund (7th vs 6th in the Bundesliga)

Bordeaux vs Monaco (7th vs 2nd in Ligue 1)

Leicester vs Manchester City (The Premier League Champions in 16th welcome 4th placed City)

Sunday, December 11th

Anderlecht vs Club Brugge (3rd vs 2nd in the Belgian Pro League)

Torino vs Juventus (7th vs 1st in Serie A’s Turin derby)

Manchester United vs Tottenham (6th vs 5th in the Premier League)

Schalke 04 vs Bayer Leverkusen (8th vs 9th, between two of Bundesliga’s European powers)

Benfica vs Sporting (1st vs 2nd in the Primeira Liga)

Paris Saint-Germain vs Nice (3rd vs 1st in Ligue 1)

Monday, December 12th

Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid (6th vs 4th in La Liga)

Roma vs AC Milan (2nd vs 3rd in Serie A)

Liverpool 0 Manchester United 0 Player Ratings

After weeks of build-up and hype, Liverpool and Manchester United delivered a fairly tepid stalemate at Anfield. A few players were excellent, but the majority were average and some were just below par. Here are the player ratings based on how I assessed the performances.

Liverpool

Loris Karius 5

Karius didn’t have much to do thanks to United’s sporadic attacks. Parried an awkward cross from Ashley Young away from danger in the first half after dealing with some long range shots straight at him. Could have been embarrassed after a terrible pass in the second half but for Zlatan Ibrahimović being offside. Decision-making for Zlatan’s open header when he just stood on the line didn’t inspire confidence.

Nathaniel Clyne 7

Didn’t face much of a defensive challenge, but whenever he had to, he completely nullified Ashley Young. Made some excellent runs on the right flank in the first half, but was criminally ignored by Liverpool’s midfield.

Joel Matip 8

Continued a fine start to his career in the Premier League. Matip is the centre back that inspires confidence for Liverpool at the back. Comfortably dealt with Ibrahimović and Paul Pogba, both, on the ground and in the air. Almost 90% passing accuracy, the highlight being a confident run and pass that set up a chance for Emre Can to open the scoring.

Dejan Lovren 8

It’s safe to say we are finally seeing the Dejan Lovren that cost Liverpool 20 million in the summer of 2014. The Croatian was a colossus at the back with four interceptions and four clearances. In addition, there is growing evidence that he is one of the best passers from the back as he hit seven accurate long passes, one of which, a delightful ball that found Lallana in space on the left flank.

James Milner 7

Liverpool’s Mr. Consistent was at it again with a solid display. Linked up beautifully with Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana in the attacking third. His crosses would have yielded opportunities against most other defences. Didn’t hesitate to compete physically, though was troubled on a few occasions by Rashford on the flanks.

Emre Can 7

A decent first start of the league campaign for the young German. Like the rest of Liverpool’s midfield, was guilty of ceding possession too cheaply in the first twenty minutes. Once he got his bearings in order, Can displayed why he is more likely to be in the starting eleven than not. Held his own in a physical confrontation with Pogba. His ball-playing ability set up Liverpool’s transitions in the second half and almost scored after holding off three defenders, but was denied by David de Gea’s smart reflexes.

Jordan Henderson 6

The captain improved a lot in the second half, asking for the ball in tight spaces and finding his teammates with some excellent passes. The first half however, displayed some of his worst attributes, too rushed with his runs and careless in possession. By standards set in the past month, an average outing for Henderson.

Philippe Coutinho 7

Didn’t look comfortable in the first half an hour of the game when he was pinned in his own half, as the nuances of a deeper role didn’t appear to suit him. Got into his groove as he took more advanced positions and was clearly the most potent threat for the Reds. Could have scored another of his famous screamers but for de Gea’s brilliance, though curiously still indecisive with his shooting when actually inside the box.

Roberto Firmino 6

Anfield’s other magician tried his best. Firmino hustled and pressed like only he can, but wasn’t able to get much change from United’s tight defence. The Brazilian also contributed in the air, heading a cross at de Gea and won some crucial headers in the middle of the park. 

Sadio Mané 4

Easily the Senegalese attacker’s worst outing since joining Liverpool. Mane lost the ball too many times, tried too much with his dribbles and simply couldn’t contribute in a meaningful way. Completely neutralized by Daley Blind’s composure and game intelligence.

Daniel Sturridge 5

Virtually anonymous while on the pitch. A performance to reignite the debate over whether the striker really fits in Jurgen Klopp’s system. Had some nice touches of the ball and made some good runs in space, but nothing to suggest he would be decisive on the night.

Adam Lallana 6

Seemed to immediately bring a lift to Liverpool’s play when he came on in the second half. His introduction coincided with a 10-minute spell when Liverpool seemed most likely to score. Tried his best with some clever turns and sharp passes, but United’s defence was not to be breached.

Manchester United

David de Gea 9

The Spanish number one didn’t actually have much to do, but what he did was brilliant. As Jim Beglin said on the international feed, you can see why he has been United’s player of the year, three seasons in a row. Not only were his saves crucial, he made the two saves look routine when they were anything but. Coutinho’s reaction when denied said it all.

Antonio Valencia 7

Valencia hardly ventured forward except for a few forays early in the game. The Ecuadorian had a defend first remit and largely succeeded. At times struggled to cope with the triple threat of Coutinho, Firmino and Milner, but came to the fore in the really crucial moments, as proven with a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Firmino a clean shot at goal.

Eric Bailly 8

Another assured display by the summer signing from Villarreal. The Ivorian had seven clearances, six interceptions, two tackles and one blocked shot. Numbers don’t tell the whole tale, but when they are maintained with such consistency, they do contribute to a growing case for what is increasingly looking like a transfer market success story.

Chris Smalling 7

There are not quite Ferdinand and Vidic, but Bailly and Smalling has a nice ring for United’s fans. Smalling was unbeatable in the air and complemented Bailly perfectly with his intelligent positioning resulting in a match-leading 13 clearances.

Daley Blind 8

Another performance to suggest that it is no certainty that Luke Shaw will get his place back in the starting eleven. He was hardly troubled by Mané. How many left-backs has that been said about this season? Took United’s only corner and his outswinger almost led to Marouane Fellaini scoring.

Ander Herrera 8

A supreme performance in a defensive midfield position that is supposedly not his natural game. Herrera pressed superbly in the first half an hour as United looked to get Liverpool out of their rhythm. When Liverpool started playing on the front foot, Herrera seemed to be everywhere, tackling and intercepting at will. Easily the best midfielder on the park. 

Marouane Fellaini 5

It’s hard to figure out exactly what Fellaini’s role was in the game. Hardly contributed in midfield, except for some sideways passing. In contrast to Herrera, the game seemed to bypass him completely. A presentable chance of Blind’s corner was headed wide. For how much longer will he command a place in the starting eleven?

Paul Pogba 5

A slight of foot followed by a delicious cross that should have resulted in Ibrahimovic scoring. Other than that, was completely shackled. Supposed to play an advanced role in support of Ibrahimović, but simply couldn’t get past the double pivot of Henderson and Can.

Marcus Rashford 5

By recent standards, a fairly underwhelming display by one of United’s best players this season. That he still had the maturity to help defensively with two tackles and two interceptions is a testament to his continuing development and growing game intelligence.

Ashley Young 4

Exactly why did he get his first start in eons? Barely challenged Clyne and couldn’t link up with either Ibrahimovic or Pogba. Helped defensively, but for a man of his experience, picked up a petulant yet deserved yellow card for remonstrating with the referee.

Zlatan Ibrahimović 4

The Swede had a very poor outing. There was a lot of talk about Ibrahimović dominating in the air,  but he couldn’t win much against Matip and Lovren. His link-up play was substandard and then missed the best chance of the match with a bizarre header when he had the goal at his mercy. It’s now four games without a goal in the Premier League for United’s starting forward.

Chelsea 1 Manchester United 1

Lots of great post-match analysis all over the web on this match. An interesting point by Daniel Storey in his piece on Football365.

Game on, you’d have thought, yet there never seemed to be any tension brewing in the fixture. After the vibrancy of Leicester on Saturday came the grim realisation of a Chelsea vs Manchester United fixture. This used to be a glamour fixture.

My opinion is that amongst the big games in the Premier League, battles between these two have almost always been underwhelming. Even at the peak of Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho’s teams, matches between Manchester United and Chelsea have left a lot to be desired for the neutral. The Champions League final, though tense, was hardly inspiring, while several title deciders between these two have been affairs of grit and physicality rather than finesse and creativity. The two exceptions to this were during André Villas-Boas’ ill-fated reign at Stamford Bridge.

This match was hardly any different from the usual drudgery served up in this rivalry. Each team had phases of ascendancy, but the only players who stood out were the two goalkeepers. This of course is not to suggest that there were a non-stop barrage of shots.

In fact, the only memory of this game is most likely going to be a sad one. Kurt Zouma’s howls of pain after an unfortunate landing were very hard to hear and the replays were sickening to see. At the time of writing, there is no official diagnosis, but it is more than likely that the young Frenchman’s season is over, and along with it a chance to appear at Euro 2016 on home soil. Heart breaking indeed.

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