Look out for smaller teams in the UCL!

Small vs Big

I always enjoyed supporting smaller teams against giants, and this season of the UEFA Champions League is really offering me this opportunity. I will focus on three teams in this article: Malaga CF, Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Malaga CF - was bought by a Quatari business man and billionaire in 2010 and I think we can see the results now. The team qualified from first place to the next phase of the competition, in a group with AC Milan, without losing. Although they did not have the same expensive transfers as Manchester City, they have a strong team with names like Julio Baptista, Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz, Toulalan and Demichelis.

Although they showed excellent football they will have a hard time getting close to the reputation Real Madrid and Barcelona have in Spain but according to many sports betting sites they are on a good road and Pellegrini will continue to move the team forward.

My prediction for the Champions League: they will knock-out at least another giant team.

Borussia Dortmund - this teams plays one of the most beautiful football I have seen in recent years, and they managed that under Jurgen Klopp, the man that single handedly managed to raise the quality of German football by creating a team that forced Bayern Munchen to invest more than they were used to.

With a young and creative team, they look like Arsenal from a few years back, but with a little more pragmatism. They won a group with Real Madrid and Manchester City, without loosing!!

My prediction for them: if the young and talented players that Borussia has can keep their calm in the later stages of the competition I think they can reach the semifinals quite easily.

Shakthtar Donetsk - are another team that plays beautiful football and that is the result of years of investing in young players, keeping them and having a manager that knows how to mold them into stars.

Coming second in a group won by Juventus, and with Chealsea in third place, they seem like a team that can beat anyone if they have a good day. One of the best things they have is the manager, Mircea Lucescu having so much experience in so many different leagues that I'm sure he still has some aces in his sleeve.

My prediction for them: knocking out another team.

Photo by becaro.

Arsene Wenger. Best manager of the last decade?

Arsene Wenger. Best manager of the last decade?

Well, according to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics he is, just ahead of Ferguson and Mourinho. I'm sure that the fluid attacking style he has defined at Arsenal are great for the entertainment of the crowd and of the persons watching football on the TV, but I find it a little strange that he is the winner without any important European success.

Molding so many talented young players into real world class players is one of his qualities, but is that enough? In my opinion, it is not in the pure sense of football, maybe just in the sense of achieving financial success but with glory still missing from the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger picture by Ronnie Macdonald.

Exciting Build-up to the new Premier League Season

The Premier League Trophy

With Euro 2012 cluttering up the brain matter reserved for the not-so-fond-memories of most of us, and the Olympics just around the corner, things are slowly heating up in the build-up to the 2012/13 English Premier League.

Champions and this season’s Premier League betting favourites Manchester City have had the purse-strings drawn tightly thus far, with Roberto Mancini maintaining he will not disrupt the team in any major way during this transfer window, but expect late action in the form of moves for RVP and at least two other big-name signings. He must clear some deadweight first, however.

Chelsea lead the way in the summer spending stakes so far, showing serious intent to build upon their epic Champions League success with some shrewd business in luring Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar to Stamford Bridge.

Last season’s narrowly-defeated big-guns, Manchester United aim to bolster their ageing midfield and have made some positive inroads with the signings of Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell. A reliable defensive midfielder and perhaps another centre-half should see them mount another strong challenge this time ‘round.

Arsenal, with the imminent departure of RVP should have some spare cash in the kitty to strengthen their squad and have already signed a couple of impressive attacking replacements in the form of Podolski and Giroud.

Expect reformed challenges from Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool and Andres Vila Boas’ Spurs as both new gaffers attempt to introduce a new style of football to their respective clubs. It’ll be interesting to see how this particular head-to-head unfolds and it’ll be fascinating to see who prevails when it comes to challenging for the coveted Champions League spots come next May.

There’s still plenty of time remaining in this transfer window, with late drama sure to unfold, as always. If you’re having a flutter, online bookies Paddy Power are offering some great odds on a wide range of football markets.

Why not let us know your thoughts on how you think the world’s most exciting league will pan out over the next eight months? There’s bound to be highs, there’s bound to be lows and one other constant remains – The Big Football will be following every punt, kick and tackle along the way!

Photo Courtesy of edwin.11

One of the Best of all Time! Pierluigi Collina

I'm sure we can all remember him

I was watching the opening game from Euro 2012 between Poland and Greece and I couldn't help but notice the determination every player had for their national team. Everybody has his own reasons for winning: patriotism, team spirit, recognition, fame, money and so on. But along the 22 men fighting for their team’s victory there is a single guy who’s stuck in between sides: the referee. This guy is running the entire football field having the biggest responsibility ever: making sure no one commits any mistake in order to assure a fair play. What can determine a referee in order to make him want to be the best in his field, to be a winner? Without any doubt, I thought of Pierluigi Collina as the best referee of his time and I tried to come up with an answer.

According to Collina’s statements, the referee’s role in the game is of maximum importance because he has to guarantee that everybody is playing by the rules. If someone should happen to break them, it is the referee who makes decisions to punish the outlaw and sometimes compensate the other team. Collina strongly believes that ‘The best referee is not the one who hides, but one who makes a decision when is needed.’ So we can agree that in order for this to happen, the referee must be fully prepared for the job. He has to be aware of how the teams usually play, the type of personality their football players have, how fast they run, the techniques the coaches apply and so on. Knowing the rules of the game and being physically fit for the job obviously isn’t enough. Collina also claims that a good referee should be able to control his emotions, to move on if he has made a mistake and always find his concentration and self-confidence in his own experience. He also underlines the importance of a critical post-match review in order to improve one’s performance.

A reporter asked Collina if he had fun during a game, Collina answered that most of the time his concentration was so strong that he could barely enjoy what he saw. Moreover, at the end of several matches he couldn’t remember who scored the goals, because he didn’t care. He claims that the most important thing for him was that everything turned out well and that he didn’t make any mistakes.

So, according to Collina, we can assume that a good referee makes sure that the game is played by the rules, no matter what. I do believe that this is the biggest motivation ever, knowing that every decision you make on the field turns out to be the right one. In fact, this has nothing to do with fame or recognition, it is all about the game and knowing that the referee has an important part of making it right for the fans, although we all know that this doesn't happen very often...

Random Match of the Week, Feyenoord Rotterdam – PSV Eindhoven [4 December 2011]

After watching this match I can see why dutch football is not where it was in the past. Although both teams tried to play and open game most of the time the ball was played around in the midfield and only on a few occasions, mostly on the counter, the ball reached a penalty box. Surely betting on such a match is not as easy as it seems.

Feyenoord won the game with two goals to zero, both scored in counterattack situations and one of them with a lot of help from a naive and very young PSV central defender.

It seemed that the whole match lacked in maturity and that is understandable if you know that both teams had a lot of 18-20 year old players on the pitch. It's not a bad thing to encourage very young players in the first eleven, but I think the dutch are pushing it to an extreme and that might be one of the reasons they don't get consistent results in Europe anymore.

The goals where scored by Cissé (41st minute) and Schaken (50th minute).

Random Match of the Week, Preview Feyenoord Rotterdam – PSV Eindhoven [4 December 2011]

One to watch - Georginio Wijnaldum (now playing for PSV after coming from Feyenoord)

I always thought of the Eredivisie as a league with very attractive football, always straightforward and with lots and lots of goals. Today I'm going to watch the match between Feyenoord and PSV, two of the giants in dutch football.

Although these teams have lost some of their former glory (both having won the Champions League once) they keep producing a lot of quality players, and I'm sure some are going to shine today.

Random Match of the Week, CFR Cluj – Dinamo Bucuresti [5 November 2011]

I saw a very nice match last night, a match that had almost everything in it, penalties, a very late goal and great comebacks.

CFR seemed the team that had the better players and controlled the first half, but in spite of their dominance the first goal was scored by Dinamo. 0-1 but nothing was even close to being decided.

After a penalty in the 38th minute for Cluj, everything was back to square one at half time. Continuing to dominate they also scored in the beginning of the second half and now it seemed that they could not lose this game as they held the possession for most of the remaining time.

In the final ten minutes everything changed again. A penalty that came out of nowhere brought an equalizer for Dinamo and they seemed pleased with getting a point and staying in the first place of the League, but that changed again in extra time when Marius Niculae scored another great goal and brought all the 3 point back to Bucharest.

This is one of the reasons I love football, a team that wants the points more can win against a team that has slightly better players.