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Germany and Argentina look to end respective World Cup droughts in Rio de Janeiro

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Tonight sees the culmination of a month’s worth of hard work, drama and sheer excitement as the 2014 World Cup final takes place in Rio de Janeiro, however host nation Brazil are the notable absentees from their own showpiece event following their 10 minute capitulation against Germany in the 7-1 semi-final defeat. Instead, Brazil’s fiercest rivals Argentina will step into the cauldron of footballing history that is the Maracana and look to end a 28-year wait for World Cup success by overcoming Germany in a repeat of the 1986 final.Maracana-World-Cup-Schedule

Germany too have a World Cup drought of their own with the European giants having not lifted the famous trophy since 1990 despite reaching the 2002 final but coming up short against Brazil in Yokohama. Joachim Lowe’s side have looked irresistibly brilliant at times this tournament, but have also flattered to deceive, particularly in the Group Stage matches against Ghana and the United States.

The semi-final victory against Brazil, whilst a monumental surprise, looked a real turning point for Lowe’s team. Whilst the belief of success had always been there this was a true return to the nature of German teams from days gone by, the more successful teams.

In 2006 and 2010 respectively we have seen Germany try to play with rather more flamboyancy in order to make best use of the current crop of exciting attacking talent that have come through courtesy of the post-millennium restructuring of German football, however this has come at a cost. Gone was the admittedly stereotypical steel and organisation from the German team, mistakes were creeping into performances and players weren’t performing in the important matches.

Lowe has somehow managed to reintroduce these characteristics to the class of 2014 with the attacking flair still evident, there is the perfect balance. The way Germany simply relaxed, remained professional and managed to score seven goals in their semi-final against Brazil proved this and has the European side heading into tonight’s match with fantastic belief.

Argentina on the other hand have had a less than smooth run to the final with the Argentine media absolutely hammering coach Alejandro Sabella for what the perceived to be ‘poor tactics’ in the opening matches whilst others groups criticises the influence Lionel Messi appeared to have not just on his teammates but also his coach.

What cannot be ignored however is how Lionel Messi has dragged his side to the latter stages of the tournament. A lot is made of the mark Diego Maradona left on the 1986 World Cup winning side and many suggest Messi will never be able to have that impact however the Barcelona forward has been outstanding in Brazil.

His last minute winning goal against Iran, his influential second-half performance in the tournament opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina which changed the tide of the match and a orchestrating display against Switzerland in the second round where he provided an inch perfect assist for Angel di Maria’s extra-time winning goal are all moments where Messi has led Argentina from the front.

These are the moments that are remembered for years to come, especially if Messi lifts the trophy in Rio this evening.

There have however been concerns about Messi’s overall fitness heading into tonight’s match with his father being particularly vocal in his concern for his son who he claims is ‘exhausted’. This showed in the semi-final against the Netherlands with the 27-year-old failing to register a touch inside the Dutch penalty area throughout the entire match.

From a tactical perspective this match is so difficult to predict due to the similarities in playing style between the two teams, particularly when not in possession. Both Germany and Argentina love to press an opposing team high up the pitch with Sabella and Lowe both encouraging their forwards to put real pressure on defenders, particularly when a team tries to play out from the back.

In this respect the Dutch played right into Argentina’s hands in the semi-final with the South American’s putting the Dutch defence under pressure early and cutting out the easy build-up pass to one of Nigel de Jong or Georginio Wijnaldum. Even without the epitome of Argentinean energy in Angel di Maria’s absence the team still managed to press effectively.

Germany look to press in a similar manner and tonight’s match may see players having less time on the ball than in previous rounds. This could make for a rather ‘harem scarem’ match with both teams being rushed into making decisions on the ball which makes mistakes more likely or, and we certainly hope this isn’t the case from the view of neutral, we see a rather timid affair with both teams aware of the other’s strengths and on guard against making a mistake.

Argentina will be without Di Maria, which is a big blow, but the return of Sergio Aguero gives Sabella options up front. With Gonzalo Higuain’s shall we say, relaxed playing style, there have been times where Messi has had to kick the team into action. With Messi fatigue issues it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if Aguero is played through the middle as a centre-forward who can bring energy to that area, support Messi and put pressure on Mats Hummels who is still playing through the pain barrier having suffered a knee injury earlier in the tournament.

From a German perspective Toni Kroos has been one of the best players in the tournament. He has played in his naturally unassuming manner and influenced the outcome of every match he has played in. With a move to Real Madrid expected to go through following the World Cup, Kroos has done his worldwide stock no harm this summer and Argentina have to get to grips with him early on. He is almost at an Andrea Pirlo level of being able to dictate matches but rather more crucially he is mobile and can move further up the pitch and orchestrate attacks.

After a heroic performance from Javier Mascherano in the semi-final, with Kroos in full flow you would say the Barcelona midfielder has to put in a similar man marking job on Kroos to limit his effectiveness.

There is little left to do other than await tonight’s match. The World Cup final only comes around once every four years however there will be an iconic image. Be that Philipp Lahm lifting the trophy to signal the German approach to remodelling their footballing structure in 2000 was all worthwhile or Lionel Messi, launching himself into the pantheon of footballing gods alongside Diego Maradona, by lifting the famed trophy in Brazil.

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World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi strike saves Argentina’s blushes

Lionel Messi celebrates his injury time winning goal. (Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.)

Lionel Messi celebrates his injury time winning goal. (Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.)

Written by Chris Winterburn

Argentina survived a scare this evening with Lionel Messi’s 91st minute winning goal the difference between Alejandro Sabella’s side and Iran in a 1-0 victory for the South American giants.

The Iranians were once again well organised defensively as well as posing an efficient threat on the counter-attack and it wouldn’t have been too farfetched to suggest the underdogs deserved a victory, let alone the draw they so nearly earned.

The similarities between Italy’s performance against Costa Rica yesterday afternoon and Argentina’s against Iran were striking. Argentina had very little tempo when in possession of the ball however still squandered a number of chances in the first-half from set pieces with Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez both heading over the bar from close range.

Iran, as they were against Nigeria in the week, were defensively strong. Javad Nekounam performed well as a holding midfielder, often dropping in at centre-half whilst Alireza Haghighi looked confident when dealing with balls delivered into the penalty area.

Alejandro Sabella after staunch criticism for his use of a 5-3-2 formation at the beginning of the opening fixture against Bosnia and Herzegovina selected Gonzalo Higuain from the beginning however the Napoli forward was almost passenger throughout aside from one chance in the first-half, leaving Messi isolated when withdrawing into a deep midfield position to receive the ball.

Argentina in fairness did have the better of the opening 45 minutes with Iran looking to consolidate a strong defensive display. The aforementioned Higuain chance came just before the half hour with the Napoli forward firing straight into Haghighi’s midriff from close range. Iran’s confidence grew from there with the half closing with Carlos Queiroz’s side going close from a corner through central defender Jalal Hosseini.

The half-time break appeared to have refocused Argentina with Pablo Zabaleta, Marcos Rojo and Sergio Aguero all looking to create a chance in the opening five minutes. From this moment however Iran looked to take control.

Argentina in search of an opening goal left far too many gaps in defence and midfield and should have been punished in the 55th minute when Ashkan Dejagah was denied a penalty. Replays showed a mistimed Zabaleta challenge was in actual fact, a foul. Dejagah had Iran’s next big chance ten minutes later when the Fulham midfielder forced an excellent save out of Sergio Romero following a diving header.

Panic set in to the Argentine team with attacks becoming frenzied and first touches slack. Alejandro Sabella looked to respond by introducing Rodrigo Palacio and Ezequiel Lavezzi but both struggled.

Charlton’s Reza Ghoochannejhad had put in a lot in terms of closing the Argentinean defence down however luck deserted the frontman in the final third with Romero pulling off yet another fantastic stop four minutes from time after another counter attack.

Whilst not the most aesthetically pleasing of playing styles it was difficult not to admire the focus and determination of an Iranian side plagued by off the pitch troubles prior to the tournament. A side, who were reportedly told not to swap shirts at the end of matches due to a financial inability to replace them, looked set to secure their second point of the tournament until a largely quiet Lionel Messi weaved his wand of a left foot.

With just three minutes of added time remaining Messi produced the trademark cut inside onto his strong left foot from the right hand side of the penalty area, taking two Iranians out of the game before curling a shot into the top corner in just the manner he has done so many times before.

Initially the crowd in Belo Horizonte, made up mostly by Argentineans, erupted in a wave of audible delight however the full-time whistle was accompanied by a small amount of discontent from supporters who felt Iran deserved better.

The victory spares Argentina’s blushed on an evening when they really didn’t deserve one point, let alone all three however the passage to the knockout stage has been forged by Lionel Messi who looks to be in the goalscoring form to carry his team to the latter stages.

Domino’s Pizza are offering football fans a chance to change goals into prizes this summer courtesy of the brand new, free to download ‘Domigoals’ app.  To stand a chance of receiving great prizes such as:

·        1 goal = £5 off a £15 spend
·        2 goals (brace) = £10 off £20 spend
·        3 goals (hat-trick) = £20 off £30 spend
·        Consolation prize = 25% off £20

Then all you need to do is be ready to tap the app every time a goal is scored during a match and, if you’re one of the first 1000 off the mark each time, you’ll get one of these aforementioned prizes.

Try the app out for yourself, you can download on Android or iOS here: http://www.dominos.co.uk/blog/domigoals-app/

On the eve of another semi-final Jose Mourinho laments Chelsea’s past European misfortune

Written by Chris Winterburn

Ahead of tonight’s UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Diego Simeone’s outstanding Atletico Madrid team, Jose Mourinho has spoken of his bemusement at Chelsea’s misfortune in European competition over recent years.

The Portuguese coach is looking once more to become the first coach to win Europe’s top prize with three different teams however despite all his previous successes Mourinho has never been able to guide Chelsea to the final with the club falling at the semi-final stage in two of Mourinho’s three full seasons in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho has spoken of Chelsea's misfortune in Europe, particularly in semi-finals and feels Chelsea deserved to finally win the competition in 2012. (Photograph courtesy of AP)

Jose Mourinho has spoken of Chelsea’s misfortune in Europe, particularly in semi-finals and feels Chelsea deserved to finally win the competition in 2012. (Photograph courtesy of AP)

Mourinho will be hoping Chelsea’s bad luck in semi-finals does not strike again this evening with the Europa League holders holding a slender advantage over Atletico due to the fact the deciding fixture is played at Stamford Bridge. With the aggregate score at 0-0 there is no away goal for Chelsea to defend or indeed rely on so should Atletico score tonight the complexion of the tie will be completely different for Mourinho’s men.

Speaking to adidas to promote Gamedayplus, Jose Mourinho suggested that when Chelsea finally did win the Champions League in 2012 it was justice following all the disappointments of the previous decade,

“I think Chelsea winning the Champions League was like bringing justice to a team that was a very strong team in the Champions League for about a decade. Chelsea has had everything in the Champions League, we lost that semi final against Liverpool with a goal that was not a goal and the next year we lose the semi-final on penalties.”

It is a well known fact that is was Roman Abramovich’s great desire to see his Chelsea lift the European Cup. After years of lavish spending without continental success the Russian oligarch turned to the youthful Andre Villas-Boas, fresh off Europa League success with FC Porto, to guide Chelsea to the holy grail of the Champions League title.

Villas-Boas and Chelsea simply did not work, issues with individual players and confusing tactics left the club facing an ignominious exit for the Champions League at the hands of Napoli. Roman Abramovich dismissed Villas-Boas and brought in trusted first-team coach Roberto Di Matteo to guide the club at the very least until the end of the season. Di Matteo had the backing of the players and somehow through fantastically focused performances and a degree of luck guided Chelsea to the Munich showpiece.

Mourinho in the same interview goes onto state how it was destined to be dramatic when Chelsea did finally reach their goal of lifting Europe’s top prize,

“Finally Chelsea won the Champions League so I think it was to bring justice to a group of players that were there fighting season after season and reaching semis and reaching finals and being stopped to do more and finally Chelsea did it also in a dramatic way also with extra time and penalties.”

Chelsea’s victory in the final over Bayern Munich seemed to have given Roman Abramovich a new lease of life in terms of controlling Chelsea. It had appeared that the years of European disappointment and bad luck had seen the Russian’s desire to spend significant money on players wane however since Didier Drogba’s decisive spot kick in Munich, Chelsea have gone from strength to strength and are well placed to reach a third European Cup final.

Chelsea will need both Liverpool and Manchester City to drop points between now and the end of the season if Jose Mourinho’s team are to win the Premier League once more and it does seem as though the Champions League is the club’s best chance of silverware this season. After a defensive masterclass at Anfield on Sunday Chelsea are facing a similarly strong defensive unit in Atletico Madrid which could make for yet another, shall we say unappealing match for the neutrals.

Jose Mourinho won’t care, nor should he. His main goal is to reach the Champions League final and then win it. Whilst he recognises how Chelsea deserved their success in 2012, there is absolutely no doubt that the ‘Special One’ would love nothing more than to guide Chelsea to the trophy. It has been his ambition since he left Porto in the summer of 2004 and for one reason or another he was never able to achieve it.

With there little more than six hours before kick-off in tonight’s clash it is certain that European Cup semi-finals involving Chelsea rarely pass without drama and we can expect as such this evening.

“José Mourinho was speaking to promote adidas Gamedayplus, bringing together the best of the UEFA Champions League in one place. To find out more visit adidas.com/gamedayplus or join the twitter conversation @adidasfootball”

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Eriksen shines once more as Fulham miss opportunity to escape trouble

Younes Kaboul celebrates his goal which put Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 to the good this afternoon. (Photograph by GETTY IMAGES)

Younes Kaboul celebrates his goal which put Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 to the good this afternoon. (Photograph by GETTY IMAGES)

Written by Chris Winterburn

In the week where Tottenham Hotspur boss Tim Sherwood declared the club has lacked a world class player since the departure of Gareth Bale in August, Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen once again put in an eye catching performance which once again proved it won’t be too long before Spurs can once again claim they have a world class footballer on their books.

In what was an archetypal match of two contrast halves, Tottenham took the spoils in a 3-1 victory whilst a win for visiting Fulham would have taken the Cottagers out of the relegation zone for the first time since late January.

If Felix Magath was worried that his side’s poor performances in getting positive results in the last two Premier League outings against Aston Villa and Norwich would catch up with them at White Hart Lane, it certainly didn’t show with the German coach once again choosing to go with a back five system which incorporated wing-backs on either flank. The result was a significantly fluid, mobile system which Tottenham struggled to break down throughout the opening forty five minutes of play.

Eriksen was given the freedom to drift from his left sided starting position due to the lack of Fulham bodies on the right hand flank with Alexander Kacaniklic, a winger by trade, being utilised as a wing-back. It was rather surprising Spurs didn’t try and target that area more directly as the half progressed.

With Eriksen drifting into his coveted role as a number ten it was interesting to see Harry Kane sacrifice a chance of scoring a goal by moving across the line and try to exploit a bit of space on the left flank and this made for a very easy on the eye, chess like battle for the opening exchanges between the two sides this afternoon.

With Felix Magath having attributed luck to his team’s victory against Norwich last weekend it was expected that the team would have had it drilled into them during the week that a higher level of performance was needed and that is exactly what Fulham gave. With Kacaniklic becoming more and more adventurous as a wing-back as the first half wore on it was interested to see Johnny Heitinga shuffle across to the right hand side of defence and hold a position there whilst holding midfielder William Kvist dropping in at centre half.

It was almost identical to the system utilised by Jorge Jesus’ Benfica side at White Hart Lane in the Europa League not too long ago and once again Spurs struggled to break down an incredibly mobile defensive line. At the back Fulham were like a spring such was their mobility through the wing-back system. When the situation required it they could be compact and stop any moves at all breaking through the middle whilst at other times they could expand, move into wider areas as Heitinga looked to do and restrict the wide threat from Eriksen, Kane and Lennon. As Adebayor became increasingly isolated it looked as if Spurs were set for another poor result as happened against the Portuguese giants.

However the first glimpse of Christian Eriksen brilliance saw Spurs take the lead. A devilishly whipped in free-kick across the face of goal from the right hand side took both the Fulham defence and goalkeeper out of the game and Paulinho had a simple finish on the line into an open goal. It was no surprise that Spurs’ opening goal came through a set-piece with the hosts having struggled to break down Fulham’s defences in open play for the previous thirty four minutes.

There was widespread shock just two minutes later as Fulham were level. If ever a side epitomised the danger of not concentrating after having just scored then it was Tim Sherwood’s Tottenham in the thirty sixth minute. Not one Spurs player bothered to close down a fairly slow paced Steve Sidwell run towards the penalty area and when Hugo Rodallega managed to hold the ball up and flick it into the path of Sidwell the inexperience of defensive partnership of Kaboul and Fryers was highlighted as the two ran into each other giving Sidwell a one on one against Hugo Lloris.

The game was poised at half-time with another forty five minutes of Spurs attempting to break Fulham down expected, however Tottenham gave Fulham no time to work back into the earlier defensive rhythm with a headed goal from Harry Kane two minutes after the restart. It was a fairly simple goal with Fulham having not reached full concentration after the break and Aaron Lennon took full advantage by putting in an impressive cross which landed right on the head of Kane in the middle of the penalty area.

The game settled into a steady ebb and flow until the hour mark when Fulham’s frailties with regards defending set-pieces were highlighted once again. Another Eriksen delivery across the face of goal rendered Fulham helpless with Younes Kaboul on hand to knee the ball into an open goal from mere yards out.

This goal realistically killed the game off with Spurs now in control and not having to search for another goal whilst Fulham didn’t look to have either the stomach or the quality to mount an inspired fightback. A surprise penalty was awarded in Fulham’s favour fifteen minutes from time which could have given the Cottagers hope only for Steve Sidwell to fire the ball straight at the as ever, impressive Hugo Lloris.

Defeat is by no means a disaster for Fulham when you look at Norwich’s remaining four fixtures however you do feel as if today was a massive opportunity to build a bit of belief by climbing out of the relegation zone. Still Fulham were so impressive defensively today and the work of Hugo Rodallega up front showed the club do have an outlet for attack with the season approaching a climax and next weeks’ match at home to Hull City could be another chance for Fulham to pull off the great escape.

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Paris Saint-Germain prove they are more than just pretenders with victory over Chelsea

Written by Chris Winterburn

Paris Saint-Germain dispelled the belief that the perceived lack of competition in Ligue 1 would hinder their chances in the Champions League with a 3-1 victory over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at the Parc des Princes this evening, despite giving up a one goal lead inside the first half.

Much was made of the attacking qualities in the French Champions’ locker before the kick-off and it was no surprise when the hosts went one goal to the good inside three minutes after a very positive start on the front foot. Chelsea were caught cold by the pace of the Parisians’ attack and Ezequiel Lavezzi slammed the ball past Petr Cech when the ball finally fell into a shooting position after impressive work on the flank by Blaise Matuidi.

Javier Pastore sealed the 3-1 victory with a sensational individual goal in injury time. (Photograph courtesy of Reuters)

Javier Pastore sealed the 3-1 victory with a sensational individual goal in injury time. (Photograph courtesy of Reuters)

Jose Mourinho’s decision to play Andre Schurrle as a lone forward cum attacking midfielder this evening was pondered by the media prior to kick-off as possibly a message to owner Roman Abramovich with regards to the purchase of a striker in the summer, however it must be said that the German winger by trade put in a commendable shift. Schurrle consistently harried the defensive pairing of Alex and Thiago Silva and then had the energy to put Marco Verratti under pressure when the ball was moved onto the Italian.

Paris Saint-Germain seemed to have stunned themselves such was the early timing of their opening goal with Laurent Blanc’s side unsure whether or not to pile forward and try and take further advantage of Chelsea’s sluggish start. The home side did in fact show a hint of indecisiveness and elected to sit back on their one goal lead and it allowed Chelsea to compose themselves and gain a foothold in the contest. It was the sort of faux mercy that Europe’s elite tend not to show after taking a lead and that is something Paris Saint-Germain will have to learn from should they progress to the semi-final stage.

Chelsea’s equaliser came through a rare Thiago Silva mistake, the Brazilian defender seemed to get the timing of his challenge ever so slightly off and Oscar was felled by a trailing leg. Eden Hazard comfortably stepped up to wrong foot Salvatore Sirigu with his penalty finding the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Marco Verratti will come in for criticism tonight as the Italian gave the ball away a few times too many however the former Pescara midfielder was crucial to PSG’s ball retention throughout the match. Seldom did you see the French champions play an aerial ball from their own penalty area, the hosts much rather preferred to play the ball out from Sirigu and Verratti was often the recipient. As Marouane Fellaini found last night in a similar position, against a team who presses high up the pitch at pace it is a thankless task receiving the ball from the goalkeeper as you have to turn, often be faced with two or more men and try and slide an inch perfect pass through a miniscule opening.

Verratti did manage to retain possession more than people realise as well as running himself into the ground to create an opening for others to pass into. It was a rather sacrificial performance with Verratti giving up potential rave reviews for his own performance for the good of the team.

The match had slipped into a lull after the break with neither team looking particularly threatening going forward, Chelsea happy with their away goal and PSG rather puzzled with regards to how to regain their earlier tempo. PSG were given a significant helping hand by David Luiz just after the hour when the Brazilian gave away a sloppy free-kick wide on the left hand side in a position where PSG were looking unlikely to develop the move. The man of the match Lavezzi went on to deliver an almost perfect delivery into the gap between the goalkeeper and the line of defenders with David Luiz putting the ball into his own net.

An injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic not long after saw the introduction of Lucas Moura. The direct running of the former Sao Paulo starlet caused Chelsea real problems and Moura’s positivity proved to be infectious to the rest of the team.

Chelsea had lost their momentum courtesy of both the goal and the introduction of Fernando Torres in place of the hard working, if isolated, Andre Schurrle and PSG took full advantage of the newfound room in midfield, Thiago Motta orchestrated the tempo without so much as a second glace from Chelsea’s forward line. It seemed only a matter of time before another PSG goal came.

In truth it looked as if both teams had settled for the result as it stood heading into injury time, until €42million substitute Javier Pastore received the ball in the right hand corner of Chelsea’s half. The Argentinean playmaker seemed to flick a switch and turn on the style out of the blue with his nimble feet seeing him beat three Chelsea defenders before powering the ball past Petr Cech at his near post to send the Parc des Princes into an ecstatic frenzy just seconds before the full-time whistle.

Jose Mourinho was unsurprisingly disappointed with his team after conceding a late goal labelling the manner in Chelsea allowed Pastore to score as “ridiculous.” Mourinho continued on what appeared to be the words of a frustrated man by suggesting it would be “difficult” to overcome the 3-1 deficit with Chelsea “not a team full of talent to score a lot of goals.”

On the topic of PSG, Laurent Blanc’s men showed that they were far more than wealthy pretenders this evening with the widespread quality in the side showing them to be a class above Chelsea, despite a difficult period following the equalising goal. Thiago Silva was a rock at the back with the captain’s reading of the game cutting short Chelsea attacks before they had even had chance to develop, giving away the penalty was the only blotch on his copybook.

There are worries for Laurent Blanc ahead of Tuesday’s return leg at Stamford Bridge with Marco Verratti and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both being substituted through injury with Ibrahimovic appearing to have pulled a hamstring which will almost certainly see him miss the trip to London. Lucas Moura’s twenty minute cameo did however show that there are options from the bench to replace Ibrahimovic without too much of a decrease in production.

With the heavyweights in the competition all in a good position to progress to the semi-final you have to feel that PSG showed tonight that they have a good mentality as well as individual quality on the pitch. A year ago we saw a team which perhaps wasn’t ready for the pressures that come with latter stage Champions League football however this year they have taken that next step. Despite a set-back following their early opening goal the French side remained largely positive in the second half and with this added to their obvious footballing qualities, it is easy to see them being more than a match for any of the side’s left in the competition.

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

David Moyes remains defiant in face of the media

March 18, 2014 2 comments

Manchester United manager David Moyes faced the World’s media this afternoon as he and his side prepared for tomorrow’s huge Champions League tie with Olympiacos at Old Trafford. Manchester United hope to overturn a two goal deficit from the first leg in Piraeus just under three weeks’ ago and David Moyes was yet again defiant in his press conference that he felt his job was safe and that there is a long-term plan for the progression of Manchester United despite what various reports have claimed since Sunday’s dismal defeat to Liverpool.

David Moyes once again spoke of the confidence he has that he will be given time to turn Manchester United's fortunes around.

David Moyes once again spoke of the confidence he has that he will be given time to turn Manchester United’s fortunes around.

David Moyes began by addressing the good mood in training from earlier in the morning with MUTV’s cameras being given access to film the session due to tomorrow being a Champions League game. Patrice Evra would later allude to the fact that the match against Liverpool on Sunday had to be forgotten with full focus placed on putting on a significantly better performance against Olympiacos for the Old Trafford crowd.

It wasn’t long before the hard hitting questions were asked of the under fire Manchester United boss with the Scot having to assess just what impact the result of tomorrow’s match has on his job security,

“My future has not changed one bit, I’ve got a great job and I know the direction I want to go in. It hasn’t been the season we’d have hoped for at this present time however I’ve got ideas of what I want to do that I’m going to put in place when the time is right. The most important thing now is to get the Olympiacos game played and hopefully get through in that competition. If we can do that it would be a massive lift for us.”

Of course this sounds good in theory however some Manchester United supporters would question why ideas of progression aren’t being put into place right now with the club appearing to lurch from one on field disaster to another. Of course on the flip side of that David Moyes will argue he has had one fair crack of the whip in terms of transfer windows and during that period he managed to bring one of the better playmakers the Premier League has seen in recent times to the club and hopes to put more of those deals into place next summer.

Amidst the vast number of reports regarding David Moyes’ Old Trafford future penned since Sunday’s match with Liverpool there has been very little official word from the club with many simply suggesting the line from Old Trafford was still the same, “David Moyes will be backed.” Either David Moyes has a very, very good poker face or this is in fact one hundred percent true. The manager was asked what assurances he had been given by the club irrespective of what happens on the field between now and the summer and the former Everton boss’ answer was one of confidence,

“The biggest assurance is that they [Manchester United owners and directors] let me get on with the job, we never discuss it [job security], we talk about the future, we’re making big plans for years going forward, this is not a club that works on the short-term, Manchester United works on a long-term vision.”

The rest of the press conference was rather like many gone before with the manager pointing to the “phenomenal” support inside Old Trafford as well as the need to score the first goal against Olympiacos to give the place a real lift. Patrice Evra was also quizzed on his future with the club with his contract set to expire in the summer, despite having an additional year clause embedded within his current deal which was triggered once the Frenchman had played a certain number of matches in his final contracted season. Evra refused to comment on his own future only suggesting, “the important thing is Manchester United’s future, not mine” with many possibly taking that as a sign he may well leave the club this summer.

Whilst David Moyes once again quashed any rumours about his impending dismissal the press conference reached its close with one titbit from the manager particularly sticking out, “I think Manchester United are the biggest club in the world, it might not feel like it today, but it will rise again.” Whilst a very clichéd statement it is difficult to find fault with the final words. Manchester United historically do rise again, be that in a short-term period or over a longer term and at this moment it still very much looks as if the future rise of Manchester United is entrusted in the hands of David Moyes be that what some supporters desire or not.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Jose Mourinho reiterates belief that Chelsea squad is a work in progress

Ahead of this evening’s first knockout round clash with Turkish giants Galatasaray, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has once again reiterated that this current Chelsea squad is not quite ready to challenge for major honours but rather a work in progress for the coming seasons.

Jose Mourinho was speaking to Adidas to promote Adidas Gamedayplus and was abundantly clear on the direction he wants to take Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho was speaking to Adidas to promote Adidas Gamedayplus and was abundantly clear on the direction he wants to take Chelsea.

In one of the rather more surprising motifs of the current Premier League season the usually supremely confident Mourinho has played down his team’s title chances, even likening his Chelsea squad to a “little horse” who is not quite ready to race for the title despite being top of the Barclays Premier League table heading into late March as well as having a good chance of progressing to the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Champions League.

Many believe it to be a long running mind-game from Mourinho whilst others simply believe it to be his way of trying to downplay expectation and pressure within a squad where the majority have never been in a strong position to challenge for the Premier League crown.

In a recent interview to help promote Adidas Gamedayplus, Mourinho spoke yet again about how he is viewing the long-term rather than the upcoming months in terms of success with regards to the younger players in his team,

“We are trying to build this team for the future – obviously including these older guys because they are important to give some stability and some experience but I can guess this team in a couple of years with these guys below 25, in 2-3 years time they will be between 24 and27 which is a fantastic age for a high level football player. I think it can be a very good team.”

What Jose Mourinho says here is true, it is a complete turnaround from the ageing team he left behind at Stamford Bridge in September 2007, now it looks as if Jose Mourinho is planning on being at Chelsea for the long haul. Listening to him speak of the younger players, you do get the real sense he wants to be the manager to guide them through the development process and then take them into battle for all competitions in a couple of years time, when they reach their “fantastic” age as a footballer.

In terms of the Champions League Mourinho was yet again slightly coy in his verse. This is a coach who has won Europe’s top competition on two separate occasions with two different football clubs however bringing the title to Stamford Bridge is clearly still an important target. However Mourinho once again stated that this season’s continental adventure was going to be used as a learning tool for his younger players in the hope it will prepare them to perennially challenge for the trophy in the coming seasons.

“We have to use the competition and the difficulties of the competition to improve, to prepare ourselves for the future, I think. It is the kind of competition when you are in the last 16 you can clearly identify the 3, 4, 5 teams that are favourites for the competition but also depends about the draw and sometimes the draw can make things happen in a different way.”

One thing that Jose Mourinho is crystal clear on is his passion for Chelsea Football Club. If Chelsea supporters can take one thing from the repeated rhetoric from their boss about the team not being strong enough to challenge this season, it is that Jose Mourinho absolutely wants to be the man in charge when the young players are ready, and as we have seen throughout the Premier League’s history there is no better catalyst for success than continuity.

“Sometimes it is difficult to explain, maybe because it was my first experience abroad? Maybe because at the same time I had Chelsea and English football and because English football is something with a lot of appeal and when you like you really like… after that the relation lies with the fans since 2004 – you know, big deep relation we couldn’t hide even when I was coaching with other teams so I like it. The club likes me and here I am and happy to lead.”

Chelsea host Galatasaray this evening hoping to progress to the quarter-final stage with the score from the first leg in Turkey 1-1 with Fernando Torres giving Chelsea what could prove to be a vital away goal. There is also the secondary spectacle of Didier Drogba returning to Stamford Bridge with a lot of rumours this week suggesting he may well make a Chelsea return, as a player, this summer.

“Jose Mourinho was speaking to promote adidas Gamedayplus, bringing together the best of the UEFA Champions League in one place. To find out more visit adidas.com/gamedayplus or join the twitter conversation @adidasfootball”

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4