Category Archives: Football

Leicester City Snap Manchester United’s Unbeaten Away Streak

A ruthless Leicester City side has hammered a woeful Manchester United 4-2 at the King Power Stadium, to snap the Red Devils unbeaten away record that had stretched back to January 2020. 

The match was a microcosm of the past three seasons at United…

Some moments of brilliance, even more moments of incompetence, and a manager who clearly isn’t up to the job. 

However, United’s board seem intent on backing their man, and on current evidence can look forward to more days like this. 

As is the standard reply now, Solskjaer backed his players and said they need to learn and get better. 

One might wonder what some of the best players in the world, on eye-watering wages, still need to learn when it comes to representing United… 

When Patson Daka smashed in the fourth goal for a Leicester team who hadn’t won in the league since August, Solskjaer could only watch on motionless from the touchline, knowing that the 4-2 scoreline flattered his team, and that without their Man of the Match David de Gea, the scoreline would have been much worse. 

“The goals we conceded were disappointing, the timing of them and the way they were conceded,” Solskjaer said. “It says everything when your best player is probably David but still concede four goals.

“We didn’t deserve the points today. We gifted them the first goal. All the goals were disappointing, the way we conceded them. We were too easy to play through. It was the team as a whole. We need to be more compact and more aggressive. We didn’t defend well enough.

“We’ve been really good at showing our character when we’ve needed it. The attitude has always been good. We need to stick together and work hard. We need to perform better.

“You have to bounce back. You have to respond. We’ve had the international break to look at things.

“Everyone’s been away and maybe they came into this confident, because they’ve done well their international teams. But we need to sort this out.

“We have five games until the next break and we’ve got to stick together. There’s no other way to do it. You cannot lose focus; you’ve got to trust yourself, trust your teammates and make sure that we’re ready on Wednesday night because that will be a difficult game as well.”

We need to perform better, we need to work hard, we need to sort this out…

United fans are tired of hearing the same hollow words week in week out with nothing ever changing, and the man responsible for getting the team to perform better, work harder, and sort it out not doing those things. 

However, Solskjaer indicated he may finally be ready to ring the changes in terms of personnel and tactics ahead of the visit by Atalanta in the Champions League this week. 

“Over the international break, we have had a good look to see what has gone wrong lately,” he said. “But we need to look at the whole set-up and balance of the team and maybe something has to give. Lately, we have not been in great form, we’ve lost too many points and that is something we have to look at.

“We might have to change. Do we need more legs in there? What do we need?

“Every game is important in the league and the Champions League is hard.

“They’re big games, all of them. Leicester away is as big a test as Atalanta at home, for example. So, we’ve got to dust this off, maybe make sure that we come in again we have fresh minds, looking at themselves in the mirror. I look myself in the mirror, and make sure we perform again.”

With back to back games against Atalanta in the Champions League punctuated by league fixtures against Liverpool, Spurs, and Manchester City, things could get worse before they get better for United. 

The manager asked ‘What do we need?’ 

The answer is Zidane in the dugout. 

Chelsea Column: Werner rising as The Blues try not to sink

After another monotonous international break, and with another coming up, it’s time to look back at the last month of action for Chelsea.

For me, it was a very mixed month and one that has been very difficult to put into words. Under Tuchel, Chelsea fans have been able to enjoy very good football regardless of the opponent that they have come across.

This month feels very different, so, let’s get into it!

Unconvincing performances, but we’re still in the race.

Chelsea have been poor in almost every game I have seen over the last month. However, we have only dropped points in one Premier League game and lost one Champions League game.

Thiago Silva opened Chelsea’s account in their 3-0 win over Spurs

How has this happened?

Against Aston Villa at the start of September, we were being comfortably outplayed for much of the game, but Chelsea won 3-0. Against Spurs, we had no control of the ball in the first half, but Chelsea won 3-0.

Two games that the scoreline did not reflect the story of the game, but despite that, six goals, six points; and Chelsea are still in the top four despite a loss to Man City.

This Chelsea are not playing at their best. Far from it. Lukaku struggles to get into games and Werner is not the player that you usually want to turn to for goals.

The game against Spurs was a perfect example of what Chelsea have been like over the last month. All three goals came from defensive players: Thiago Silva, N’golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger. Those three players were probably a better front three than Mount, Havertz and Lukaku in that game.

Lukaku is a game-changing and in games where he hasn’t been able to get involved, it’s been very difficult for Chelsea to get a good result. Despite not getting a goal against Southampton, he was still able to make an impact which saw Chelsea win comfortably.

We are still in the early days of Lukaku and Werner up front and it’s had it’s ups and downs, but Chelsea need to make it work better.

The week from hell

Not winning in three games is a tough pill for Chelsea fans to swallow, especially when it happens in three separate competitions.

Chelsea fans were left worried after defeat to Juventus in the Champions League

It started with a Carabao Cup match against Aston Villa. Werner opened up the scoring, but it was cancelled out in a matter of minutes as Archer’s goal sent the game to a penalty shoot-out. Fortune favoured Chelsea as they won 4-3. Lucky escape.

Chelsea would not be so lucky when City rolled past Chelsea to get revenge for the Champions League final back in May.

Tuchel tried to play two up top with Werner and Lukaku, but behind was very defensive. Chelsea failed to register a single shot on target. When Tuchel finally reverted to the old system, it was too late as City were already a goal up. Pep was not going to give up this lead and he didn’t.

It was now time to end the way of misery with an away trip to Juventus in the Champions League.

This was going to be a tough test. After the disappointment against City, this game provided the perfect scenario for a bounce back. It never came as Chelsea suffered another 1-0 defeat.

Juventus had experience against Lukaku and kept him quiet. From there they resisted everything Chelsea tried to throw at them and struck hard when the opportunity came about.

That opportunity came 11 seconds into the second half. A long ball and a header was enough to break Chelsea’s defence and Chiesa thundered the ball past Mendy.

Questions were rightfully raised, and some were answered a few days later.

A Werner renaissance? Or a Loftus-Cheek masterclass?

Against Southampton, we started to see more of the Werner of old. He scored twice and I am very firm on the view that his first should have counted.

Timo Werner gets his first league goal of the season with an impressive display against Southampton

It was the softest of touches by Azpilicueta as Walker-Peters threw himself to the ground in a performance that was Oscar-worthy. But Timo did not give up. He had another chance, but it was excellently saved by McCarthy.

Southampton had levelled the game when James Ward-Prowse equalised through a penalty. But with six minutes to go the mighty German stepped up and scored the winner. This was further cemented through a third goal, this one scored by Ben Chilwell.

Werner played further up top than Lukaku in this game as Lukaku was paired up with Hudson-Odoi in attacking midfield.

Lukaku used his strength and speed to create great opportunities for Werner and we finally to got to see Werner play some great football.

But other than Werner, we saw the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the Chelsea starting XI. What an impact he made.

Loftus-Cheek has been a forgotten man at Chelsea since his injury a few seasons ago. He went on loan to Palace and Fulham and never made much of an impact.

In this game, he was quick. His work rate in both halves of the pitch was like his was a much taller N’golo Kante. He looked phenomenal and it was great to see.

I have often worried about his career and wondered if he needed to leave Chelsea permanently to forge a meaningful career. The fact that Tuchel has been willing to give him a chance in this team, must be a great showing of faith in what he can do, especially with Kante out with Covid.

Does anything need to change?

At the moment, I think that Tuchel is just trying new things, because performances haven’t been the best lately and something did need to change.

Gabriel Jesus scores the winning goal in Chelsea’s first league defeat this season

I think it was down to some players not being at their best yet rather than the system. Mason Mount is a player that I could point to and say that he has not been at his best. The same could be said for Havertz or Ziyech.

By introducing Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi and Barkley back into the team, we are seeing almost new life being put into the squad. These are players who are looking to make an impact to secure a place in the squad and the team.

The players have another international break to stop and go again in two weeks. October should be a very straight forward month for Chelsea with games against Brentford, Norwich and Newcastle in the Premier League.

If Chelsea hope to continue their title push, these games have to be wins. We shall see.

Uninspired Manchester United Slump To Home Draw With Everton

An uninspired Manchester United team have dropped more points at home, slumping to a 1-1 draw with an injury-ravaged side at Old Trafford. 

After a sublime piece of skill from Bruno Fernandes, United scored the opener on the stroke of halftime with a quality finish from goal-shy Anthony Martial, and spirits around Old Trafford were lifted at the sight of the Frenchman on the score sheet for the first time since March. 

However, United couldn’t find a second goal to kill off the game, and were hit on a superb counter-attack in the 65th minute, capped off with a goal by their nemesis, Andros Townsend. 

That much-maligned midfielder Fred had two opportunities to kill the counter and failed with both did him no favours with the Old Trafford faithful, and it seems his manager finally felt fed up, withdrawing him just five minutes later. 

What Solskjaer sees in the defensive midfielder who can’t defend, can’t pass, and has a woeful first touch is anyone’s guess…

After the equaliser Everton were much the better side, despite missing both Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and were unlucky not to go home with all three points after a tap in from Yerry Mina was correctly ruled out for offside just five minutes from time. 

Unlike in the Champions League fixture midweek, there were to be no stoppage time heroics as United have now taken just one point from their past two home Premier League fixtures. 

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was disappointed with his side’s result, saying “You’re disappointed you don’t get three points. That’s why we turn up. We turn up to get three points. We looked like we were on the way to a three-pointer with a good goal. Good first half, I thought. Pressed well. We created some good openings, good chances. Couple of good headers and crosses we could have done better with. Coming into half-time with a good goal Anthony scored was a good feeling. In the Premier League, being organised and focus is so important and to be organised behind the ball. Disappointed we conceded on our corner.”

“Last season against Everton we were 2-0 up and cruising and then they scored two in two minutes. They have players who can hurt you in moments, Gray, Townsend. The pace they have on the break… Unfortunately, for us they scored a great goal.”

“We’re well organised and we just don’t deal with a couple of those instances of the counter attack well enough. That’s something that happens in football.”

“Disappointed with the last two home games. Villa and Everton here, one point in those two is below our standard. We should be looking to win every game at home but you’re playing good teams as well. We have to keep on working, get better and then hopefully they’ll enjoy their international break, play some games and the rest who will stay here we’ll evaluate. We’re looking forward to Leicester.”

Football is a funny game. United are four points better off after the same number of games compared to last season, but the feeling this time around is that with the additions they made to the squad this team should be capable of getting home wins against teams such as Villa and Everton. 

If United’s lack of identity or system continues to see the club slip out of the title race, calls for Solskjaer to be replaced with Zinedine Zidane or Antonio Conte will only grow louder…

Late Ronaldo Strike Gives Manchester United Champions League Boost

It looked like being an awful night in what was becoming an awful run of outs for Manchester United. 

A goal down at home to Villareal, the same team who beat them in the Europa League final last season, and once again out of ideas, United were limping towards another defeat that would have seen them take zero points from their opening two group stage games. 

Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles were being tormented down the flanks, and if it wasn’t for goalkeeper David de Gea putting in a world-class performance, the yellow submarines would have sunk the red devils in the first half. 

However, as so often happened at Old Trafford during the Fergie years, United found something when they were off the boil, and grabbed an unlikely equaliser as Telles gained some form of redemption with a Scholes-esque volley on the hour mark. 

With Old Trafford brought to life, United pushed in search for a winner, and when it finally did come, it was who else but Ronaldo in the last minute of stoppage time, much to the delight of his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

“He’s done that so many times. You saw him against Ireland a month ago; he missed a penalty early, didn’t touch the ball more or less and scored two great headers in the last minutes.

“That’s what he’s done throughout his career. He stays in the game. I’ve seen him all day, the way he’s built up for this game, and when he gets that one chance, it’s a goal.

“He had a couple of half chances, but a true mark of a great finisher is that he keeps calm when the chance arrives.

“Thankfully, we had the best goalkeeper in the world tonight. David was fantastic. They deserved to lead.

“David has really come back [after the summer] with a determination and work rate I enjoy. Again, he got a deserved outcome. He saved us tonight. We have to be realistic and say that,” said Solskjaer. 

While it wasn’t a performance that will strike fear into clubs across Europe, the fans went home happy, leaving the stadium to the tune of ‘Viva Ronaldo’ and Solskjaer proved that, once again, he can get a result when he needs one. 

Aston Villa Give Manchester United Nightmares At Theatre Of Dreams

Aston Villa have left Old Trafford with three points and a bag full of confidence after outwitting, outplaying and outsourcing Manchester United thanks to an 88th minute headed goal from defender Kortney Hause.

United were given an opportunity to spare their blushes in stoppage time, however, Bruno Fernandes smashed his penalty over the bar and into the Stretford End to cap a miserable afternoon for the men in red. 

The final 0-1 scoreline even flattered the home side, who should have found themselves two goals down at the half, but for some woeful finishing from the visitors. 

The second half picked up where the first finished, with United bereft of ideas to counter Villa’s high tempo and high press, as the Villains dominated all areas of the pitch.

United were hamstrung with injuries, losing Luke Shaw in the first half and Harry Maguire in the second, but once again manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed he has no Plan B when Plan A isn’t working, only bringing on Edinson Cavani in the 81st minute. 

The manager felt the teams cutting edge let them down, as they had 28 shots in the match, but never really threatened the Villa goal. 

“I thought we were very good in the transitions, defensively we won the ball in good positions and we attacked quickly. But when we got up there, the final decision, the final execution, the quality in the pass or the shot or decision wasn’t good enough to get goals. The game ebbed and flowed and was probably a good game for the neutrals but unfortunately, we didn’t get a goal.”

“Against us on the corner you see the inconsistencies again with VAR and decision making because [Ollie] Watkins is clearly standing on or is touching David [De Gea] as the header has gone so he is offside, or it is a foul. The linesman did well, he reported it or called it in to VAR, but they turned the decision down and it is a goal unfortunately so, bad decisions again.”

“We should have, could have, slowed the game down at times. But when you have attackers who are very good on transitions with speed and skill, sometimes the decision then was rushed. We didn’t have enough control even though we had 60 per cent possession, 30 shots or whatever. But we know Aston Villa are a good team on transition as well with Watkins, [John] McGinn and [Jacob] Ramsey running forward with the wing-backs. But that wasn’t what hurt us though. It was the corner kick at the end and unfortunately Bruno [Fernandes] with one of his very, very rare misses.”

After losing three of their past four matches, united are deservedly coming in for criticism, and now face a daunting week with Villareal in the Champions League before a home match with Everton next Saturday. 

“Every time you’re defeated, you have to stand up for yourselves, stand up for your team, fight for your team and we will. The boys will. It’s a big game, a Champions League night and we know we’ve started that group badly, but we’ll be ready.”

Anything less than two wins from two and talk of a crisis won’t be far away…

Manchester United Back On Track With Dramatic Win At West Ham

Jesse Lingard

Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard has gone from villain to hero in the space of a week, scoring in the 89th minute to give his side a 2-1 come from behind victory at West Ham. 

The Lingard late show wasn’t the final act in a dramatic day, as much-criticised keeper David de Gea saved a Mark Noble penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage time to ensure all three points would go back to Old Trafford. 

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was under fire after his teams Champions League loss in midweek, and the manager was delighted with the way his side responded today.

“We deserved three points [against West Ham]. It’s a hard place to come, here. Hopefully these points can make a difference. Let’s see [about the title] when we get towards April and May.”

“We have to defend better. We have to make it harder to break us down. For their goal the structure was wrong for whatever reason and we’ll have to work on it.”

“I’m so happy for him [Lingard] because you know it’s ups and downs in football. He was low on Tuesday, now high again, he scored against Newcastle, you’re up, you’re down, you’re up – but that’s football. You have to live with it and Jesse has learned how to deal with ups and downs in football. You know, if you play for Man United you have to live with it, be able to handle that scrutiny. Don’t worry about it because what we have to worry about is ourselves, what we do, what we say. We’re a group, we’re together, we work together, stick together through thick and thin. That’s never going to be any different. This is a family. It was a great goal. Of course, he had a tough evening on Tuesday but he’s knuckled down and worked hard again. He’s been the same bright, positive lad and what a goal. A great pass by Nemanja, a good turn by Jesse and a great goal.”

Cristiano Ronaldo continued his red-hot form since his return scoring his fourth goal in three matches, however, Solskjaer was left feeling aggrieved that his talisman was not awarded any of the three penalties he should have been given. 

“I’m going to be careful with what I’m saying, but you’ve got to be wondering what’s he’s got to do to get a penalty. The first [obstruction by Coufal] and the third [tackle by Ogbonna] is 100 per cent nailed on. The one where he gets pulled back [by Cresswell] is probably [not obvious], but it’s still a foul, he gets pulled down in the box. It’s frustrating but they’ve got to look at it. It’s two clear penalties. I think they’re stonewall. You can’t even argue against them. The first one, he puts his foot out and Ronaldo runs straight and is fouled. The last one, Paul had a foul against him on Zouma when he didn’t touch him but he went over him. Why is Cristiano’s not? Hopefully it won’t be that he’s never going to get a penalty.”

Despite some defensive failings, Solskjaer was happy with how his team played overall, and was grateful to come away from a tricky venue with another away win. 

“Very happy with the performances – 11 corners, a few big chances that we missed. First 10-15 minutes of the second half I thought we pressed them really well, made them give the ball away five or six times in their own box more or less, and it’s one of them, we can’t get a counter-attack every time we have a corner. There was a few having to sprint back a couple of times.”

“We have to work better defensively, no doubt. In the first half, we were too easy to play through. We will work on it because there is no respite when you play football. I’ve spoken about how you can’t take rests when you defend. We dropped into a back six [for the goal] and there were too many spaces. We were too late to charge the ball. We’ve already sorted that and spoke about that at half-time. It was better in the second half and a great response, that was a big thing for me – how do you react when you go 1-0 down? It was a very, very good five minutes for us.”

The match-winner Lingard, who spent the second half of last season on loan at the London Stadium with West Ham, is set to start as Solskjaer is expected to make a number of changes when the two teams meet this week in the Carabao Cup.

“Jesse was quite clear he wants to fight for his place and be part of a Man United team that is going places,” Solskjaer added.

“I can’t speak for Jesse now but he’s really contributing. He’ll play on Wednesday as I’ll make a few changes,” concluded Solskjaer.

Leeds United succumb to dominant Liverpool as Salah strikes his 100th league goal!

The mark of any great team is to rise from the depths of ordinary to reach the peaks of sublime.

Well, Liverpool are certainly in the league of the greatest Premier League teams ever, as they rose from a rather ordinary display against Chelsea in the 1-1 draw to a sublime 3-0 whitewash of Leeds United at Elland Road last evening.

A small number of Kopites who made the trip from Liverpool and millions more watching around the world were certainly more than satisfied as the three Reds’ stalwarts in Salah, Fabinho and Mane registered their names on the score sheet.

With this triumph, Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last 11 encounters against Leeds having won 8 and drawn 3 with their last loss coming more than two decades back in April 2001 as the Merseyside Maulers were conquered 2-1 at Anfield on that occasion.

Leeds United with this fourth successive loss since the inception of the season have piled up their most miserable campaign in any top-flight competition since 1958-59. Certainly not a good space to be in if you are a Peacocks’ fan.

So, without further ado lets dissect this rather pleasing performance The Reds showed in a game that also saw a red card:

Centurion Mohamed Salah, the difference maker in the first 45

Marcelo Bielsa’s team started this contest as the more assertive side creating their first opportunity on target in just the 4th minute as Rodrigo blasted a straight attempt at Reds’ keeper Alisson who was equal to the shot.

The visitors came back strong after the initial scare as Jota mounted a chance in the 14th minute when the Portuguese took down a Salah pass with his chest and hooked it on the volley to Leeds’ keeper Meslier who did well to take the sting out of the shot.

The momentum for The Reds would finally result in a hurrah in the 20th minute as the enigmatic Egyptian, Mohamed Salah put the visitors in front with a super strike to reach 100 goals in The Premier League after he was fed with a brilliant pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Credit – Reuters

Liverpool were up by a goal to nil early as the team gathered around the Egyptian to congratulate him on becoming the fifth fastest to reach the century landmark in this competition.

Minutes later Mane had a chance to put the visitors two to the good as his shot went above the post. Liverpool were certainly looking up for this one.

The Reds would continue to dominate the remainder of the first half albeit the second was not to be found much akin to a treasure hunter looking for the elusive treasure only to be disappointed in his excursion at least for the moment.

Fab Fabinho and Majestic Mane seal the deal

As the second 45 began, Liverpool continued their dominance as Mane and Salah both fired their shots wide.

Leeds were lucky not to concede and one could just feel the second goal was around the corner.

Well the goal came in a matter of moments as Fabinho did well to capitalize on a corner from Alexander-Arnold scoring on his second attempt as VAR did check on Sadio Mane being offside albeit the goal was given.

Credit – Official Liverpool FC Twitter Handle

The Brazilian midfielder had his first for The Reds in 15 months.

Seven minutes later Liverpool were dealt with a destructive blow as their teenage sensation Harvey Elliot was tackled rather roughly by Pascal Struijk who saw a red as the Liverpool midfielder was carried off the field on a stretcher.

Credit – Reuters

Jurgen Klopp was furious with this tackle and rightfully so!

In time we should know the magnitude of Elliot’s injury and wish him all the best on a speedy recovery.

In the 75th minute, Leeds had a chance to get one back as Bamford’s attempt was saved with much confidence by Alisson.

At the other end, Liverpool would continue their offensive onslaught as Sadio Mane came close to giving The Merseyside Maulers their third, only to be denied by the Leeds keeper.

Alisson again was up to the task in the 83rd minute, keeping a long-range effort out by Bamford jumping high to thwart the ball away.

Liverpool would finally have their third in injury time as Sadio Mane after numerous unsuccessful attempts on goal finally found fulfilment with a super strike on goal after he was fed with a fine pass by Thiago who did well to latch onto a long cross from captain Henderson.

As the referee called time, Liverpool were rightfully anointed as the 3-0 winners.

The winning momentum needs to continue for The Reds

With three wins and one draw so far in the season, The Reds are looking good and need to build on this momentum as the contests will most certainly get tougher in time.

Liverpool should continue to mount those offensive onslaughts and goals will surely become a regular feature in their play as we have seen this far.

The Champions League opener against AC Milan is upon The Reds next in a matter of a few days and nothing short of a win in the opener of Europe’s most prestigious club competition will suffice.

Having said this, make no mistake any Italian opposition is never a cake walk and The Merseyside Maulers will definitely have to bring their A game to the fore amid a 50,000 strong Anfield.

After all, when Kopites roar, Liverpool soar.

 ‘Unity is strength – Let’s Go Reds – You’ll Never Walk Alone!’

Ronaldo Marks Stunning Manchester United Return With Two Goal Haul 

As the Reds ran out 4-1 winners against Newcastle United on a glorious afternoon at Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo marked his return to Manchester United in the only way he knows how – by scoring goals.

As United struggled to break down Newcastle, Ronaldo’s goal on the stroke of half-time was exactly what they needed.

Mason Greenwood, who had scored three goals in his first three games, hit a right-foot shot that Freddie Woodman was unable to hold onto, which Ronaldo took advantage of to the delight of a bouncing Old Trafford crowd.

In the 56th minute, Javier Manquillo equalized for Newcastle after a breakaway, but the no.7 scored again six minutes later in front of a jubilant Stretford End.

Bruno Fernandes added a beautiful third 10 minutes from time, before Jesse Lingard rounded off the win with a brilliant finish in injury time.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted with the second debut of the talismanic Ronaldo, who he says has already given such a boost to everyone at the club. 

“Cristiano senses the big moments and is ruthless. He is clinical. He has lifted the team and everyone around us. It’s just perfect for him, you see what he’s about, sensing the moment and smelling the danger but he’s also evolved into a proper team player. He has developed into a fantastic goalscorer. He played a very good game, dropped in and linked the play well.”

“When you win a game you enjoy it. When you see fans being happy, you really enjoy it. There were loads of expectations today. They all delivered.”

“When it gets back to one each, you never know how it is going to go. But I thought we settled well. We played the ball and, when Luke [Shaw] put on the afterburners! When he really went for it there and Cristiano is so good at timing his runs. It was a fantastic goal by Bruno. You know Bruno and his quality from those areas. I am very, very happy.”

“I’ve got say well done to the club and everyone for bringing in players to challenge. We’re bringing competitors but they’re good people and we have got a good and strong squad.”

United now travel to Switzerland, where they will open their Champions League group stage matches with a fixture against Young Boys. 

Baptised in Brilliance, The Legend of CR7 Scales a New Peak

Last night, a few thousand supporters at the Estádio Algarve witnessed a miracle, possibly the greatest thing to ever happen to the beautiful country of Portugal.

The enigma called Cristiano Ronaldo, the G.O.A.T of world football surpassed Iran’s Ali Daei to become the highest goal scorer in the international game with his 110th strike against the Republic of Ireland

You read that right 110 goals, a figure which most international footballers don’t reach in appearances let alone goals.

Well, if this wasn’t reason enough to cheer, in a matter of moments as the clock struck the last minute of injury time, CR7 netted in a second to reach 111 and hand Portugal a well deserved 2-1 victory in this European Qualifier for Qatar 2022.

Surely, the Portuguese captain is like the best wine going around, getting better and hotter albeit in looks and performance with each passing year.

At 36, he gives a run for their money to every young footballer with his sheer brilliance in dribbling, mounting those magnificent runs and to top it all, putting the ball in the back of the opposition net with much ease.

Simply brilliant!

World’s Envy, Portugal’s Pride.

A five-time Ballon d’Or award winner and four-time European Golden Shoes conqueror, the most for any European player, this enigma par excellence was instrumental for Portugal winning the 2016 Euros in France.

While he sustained an injury in the 25th minute of the historic Euro 2016 final against hosts France, his sheer determination to get Portugal to the finals and his team winning the tournament to honour this bastion of the game was worthy of every praise.

Well if this wasn’t reason enough to celebrate this icon, one need not look further than the inaugural UEFA Nations League, which too was conquered by Portugal beating Netherlands in the final under his captaincy.

Add to this, his thirty title victories in Club Football including five Champions League hurrahs, does it get better for any footballer. Ever?

Surely not!

For me the greatest strength that this legend exuberates is despite being a number 7 in football which essentially is a winger and second striker role, he can put most number 9s, the main strikers to shame with his sheer ability to mount goal after goal.

The number 7 jersey in football received cult status when this man of God like ability put a new sheen on it, after legends of the past in Robert Pires, Luis Figo and Sir Kenny Dalglish had done their bit to honour this jersey.

Throughout his historic 18-year international career he has been the king pin of Portuguese football around whom multiple stars have revolved.

To be relevant for 18 long years is testament to the fitness of this man who till date can put models with the best chiseled physiques to shame.

Well, The Rock of Gibraltar in footballing terms would seem tiny in front of the Rock of Portugal.

A boon for Manchester United

Life comes a full circle, doesn’t it?

It was at Manchester United that Cristiano Ronaldo first wore the number 7 jersey under possibly the greatest manager that club football has ever seen in Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wearing the number 7 jersey became an extra source of motivation for Ronaldo to honour legends like David Beckham, George Best and Eric Cantona who had previously donned this number for the Red Devils.

And now the great man is back, having signed a new contract at Old Trafford and will again don the number 7 for Manchester United. Certainly, a boon if you’re a United supporter and more misery for fans like me who worship their fiercest rival, Liverpool.

The Premier League will surely be ready to get Ronaldoed again as goals will flow like wine from this legend.

And why not, to make the impossible possible is to be Cristiano Ronaldo!

Chelsea Column: Could this be the start of a Title winning season?

Football is back. The Premier League is back, which means that my monthly Chelsea columns are back.

Chelsea are the reigning European champions which means that expectations have never been higher and there will be a lot more pressure of Tuchel this season.

The Premier League seems to be the target set by the fans, and given how Chelsea have strengthened over the summer, it looks like it could be in reach.

While I have been cynical on Chelsea’s chance, the last month has given me an insight on what could be a great season for Chelsea.

Have Chelsea already proven themselves championship worthy?

Chelsea have taken seven points from their first three games, breezing past Arsenal, and getting a crucial draw at Liverpool.

Kai Havertz got his first goal of the season against Liverpool. Credit: NBC

After going down to 10 men and conceding a penalty away to Liverpool, it did look as though Liverpool would run away with the game in the second half. However, Chelsea dug deep and held on.

Liverpool threw everything they had at Chelsea and a defiant defence stopped Liverpool getting a winner. Despite being a man down, it didn’t stop Chelsea getting forward and almost winning it themselves.

That result shows how far Tuchel has brought this Chelsea in the 8 months that he has been in charge. The Chelsea of old would have failed to keep Liverpool at bay, but the discipline in the defence is going to make it incredibly difficult for any team to score against Chelsea.

This goes to show that the result against Liverpool could be the result that defines them as Championship contenders this season, more so than the cruising victory over Arsenal.

Lukaku showed in that Arsenal game just how much of a difference he is going to make. Watching Werner linger offside and miss sitters was very painful last season. Lukaku kept himself onside and bullied the defence.

He did the same against Liverpool and if it wasn’t for some poor decisions in the final third, he could have scored a couple.

Chelsea have all the ingredients to do it, but there are still 35 games remaining and anything could happen.

Another fortunate Champions League draw

Next month, Chelsea will start their defence of their Champions League title. Considering the last time they failed to get out of the group stages, I’ll be hoping for better this time around.

Trevor Chalobah has burst into the Chelsea squad with two impressive games. Credit: Getty Images

Chelsea have been drawn against Juventus, just like in 2012, as well as Malmo FF and Zenit St. Petersburg. On paper, this should be a pretty simple group, and one that Chelsea will be expected to win.

Of course, PSG will be the favourite for the Champions League, but I wouldn’t rule out Chelsea going far in the competition again. Chelsea still have a very strong side and they are capable of beating each team in the competition.

I’m not expecting Chelsea to win the Champions League, far from it. I’ll be happy with the Quarterfinals and anything beyond that will be a bonus.

My expectation of Chelsea is just to compete in cup competitions and as long as we can do ourselves proud then I’ll be happy.

I am really looing forward to playing Juventus. It has been a long time since Chelsea have played Juve in a competitive game. With the Old Lady no longer having Ronaldo, I do believe that Chelsea have a better chance of topping the group.

I expect a big step up from English teams in the Champions League this season and I think it’s going to be very competitive, so if Chelsea can get into the quarterfinals then that will be an achievement.

What should be Chelsea’s goals for this season?

In terms of the Premier League, Chelsea have to compete for the title. People seem to think that Chelsea have to win it after the Champions League victory, but I don’t think that is the case.

Marcos Alonso kicked off Chelsea’s season with a fantastic goal against Crystal Palace. Credit: Getty.

City, United and Liverpool are all going to be very competitive this season. The battle for the league could be one of the closest amongst the top four that we have seen in a long time.

Chelsea are going to have to work hard if they want to come out on top spot, but whether or not it’s possible is still yet to be seen.

September is going to be a very tough test for Chelsea and their title hopes. First up after the international break is Aston Villa, followed by Manchester City and then Spurs. If Chelsea can go through that undefeated then their stamp on the title race will have been made.

As for domestic trophies, Tuchel will want to make up for the loss against Leicester in the FA Cup final last season. It feels like it’s been forever since Chelsea won a domestic trophy, despite being in a domestic final for the last seven seasons running.

It’s about time that someone ended City’s dominance in the EFL Cup, so that would be nice for Tuchel to get another one up on Pep.

With how good the top four in England are at the moment, it’s going to be very difficult to get any kind of double, so getting a domestic trophy will be a good season. However, I do expect Chelsea to go on a good cup run in both domestic competitions.

For Chelsea, competing for trophies has been the minimum requirement. Now that Tuchel has won the Champions League in his first season, though, winning trophies now have to become the minimum requirement

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