Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The daunting mission to survive relegation beckons for Shearer as the Geordies pin their hopes on the messiah striking as ably in the managerial hotseat as in the famous black-and-white shirt. Shearer is the all-time leading goalscorer for Newcastle, where he scored 206 goals in 404 appearances.
Joe Kinnear was appointed as an interim manager after Kevin Keegan departed earlier in the season, but when Kinnear required heart surgery the pressure on the club has only mounted and escalated into a decline back into the bottom three. Can Shearer dispel the concerns and lift Newcastle to survival, or are expectations unrealistically too high in a job which so many managers before have failed? No easier opposition to salvage pride and Premiership status against than Chelsea this upcoming Saturday.
The Newcastle reaction can be found here.
Several leagues have not begun, such as the Swedish Allsvenskan, hence their exclusions from the list.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Join the Freedom faithful at Freedom Pub Night to watch the Inaugural Match on Fox Soccer Channel! Come to the Capitol Lounge in DC on March 29 at 5:30 p.m. and cheer on the Washington Freedom as they take on Marta and the LA Sol in the league's historic first match!
The Capitol Lounge is three blocks from Capitol South Metro station
Must be 18+ to attend.
Time: March 29, 2009 from 4pm to 8pm
Location: The Globe Pub
Organized By: Chicago Red Stars
Event Description:The Chicago Red Stars will be at the Globe Pub this Sunday at 4 pm for the WPS Inaugural Match, LA Sol vs. Washington Freedom.
Join Red Stars players, Coaches, Executives and Staff for a pregame celebration at 4 pm. Kickoff will be at 5 pm.
The Red Stars will be raffling off prizes throughout the game, as well giving away special Red Stars items and free t-shirts, courtesy of Chicago Soccer.
From the WPS press release:
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (March 25, 2009) - March 25 was the final day for teams to report their Opening Day rosters, which are a maximum of 18 players on each team’s roster + 4 developmental players. Several of the big names from the 1999 World Cup team made WPS squads, including Kristine Lilly (Boston Breakers), Briana Scurry (Washington Freedom), Brandi Chastain (FC Gold Pride) and Tiffeny Milbrett (FC Gold Pride). Not surprisingly, among colleges, the University of North Carolina led all schools with 12 former players landing a place on WPS rosters or developmental slots. Notre Dame placed nine players in the league for Opening Day.
A total of nine countries will be represented on WPS opening day rosters. Along with the Americans, players are coming from Brazil (9), Canada (6), Australia (5), England (5), Sweden (4), Japan (3), France (2) and China (1). Team-by-team rosters are listed by the links below:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The signs of a swift departure from Valencia have been in motion ever since he set foot in the Mestalla in the summer months of 2007 for €20 million. Unfortunately destiny never granted Zigic the colossal, potentially one-shot, opportunity to collect medals and honours in the colours of a famous name to coincide with the zenith years of his career. However, given the miniature duration of a profession in the sport, limiting the lifetime of a forward to around fifteen years at the most, and the fact his 29th birthday is fast-approaching this September means the decision to leave was initiated at exactly the correct time. With one season of frustration suffered as a peripheral figure having failed in his attempts to force his name into either Ronald Koeman or Unai Emery’s starting eleven strategy, doubt must have arisen in Zigic’s mind when no-one other than Racing arrived and left with all three points in a stunning 4-2 victory at the start of the season.
Racing Santander might not oust Valencia in the conquest for global reputation or trophies, but with the current financial meltdown there certain to see the sale of one star player if not more, Zigic will feel extremely satisfied to reacquaint himself with the pitch and embark on a fresh goalscoring frenzy for a club deemed stable.
Nicknamed ‘The Doctor’ or Eastern Europe’s own response to Peter Crouch, Zigic has surpassed initial expectations on his return to the Estadio El Sardinero and signified a character worth every penny that Valencia parted ways with. The six-month loan deal has proved valuable for both parties and no excuses of a required ‘settling-in’ period can be thrown in the direction of Zigic, who has acclimatized spontaneously and instinctively scored eight goals in ten appearances – seven more than in his entire 18-month Los Che stay.
The future remains uncertain for the immensely-figured frontman and while he will be concentrating on the season’s dwindling matches, breaking double figures so hastily could alert English clubs to his availability and leave Racing with a battle if Zigic is to extend his career on the northern coast of Spain. I for one would be surprised if he does not try and force through a permanent transfer, after all it appears he has settled and transformed from a desolate, bench-consigned individual to a rejuvenated, dexterous target-man who could return as an imperative ingredient in Serbia’s bid for qualification for the World Cup – exactly as he did in 2006.
An evaluation of a lengthy, illustrious career is not always based on the medal count – it would be foolish to conclude that winning domestic leagues and continental cups are the only attributes in distinguishing a talented footballer, of course it helps but surely the basic desires of first-team football and manufacturing an impact are far superior than racking up endless trophies from the bench. As Robbie Keane commented after leaving Liverpool, "It wouldn't mean a lot (to get a Premier League title winner's medal this season), and even if I was still there, in and out of the side, it probably wouldn't mean that much, either. As a player you always want to be part of it and involved.” Whether Zigic’s chance of stardom has been missed remains unclear, as a professional sports person his endurance at Valencia only brought disappointment and a Copa del Rey decoration that he contributed to minimally, re-discovering his feet so potently and maintaining this impressive form at Racing over the coming years would be far more outstanding and memorable.
As for all the frustrations at Valencia, the costly arrival of Zigic is verification of the failings of recent managers, who have lavishly undergone player reformations, and the consequences of them have left a gaping hole in the club’s financial wellbeing. The incoming of Zigic surely stands as the most noteworthy disappointment, especially as they will struggle to recoup the vast €20m, but others, such as Ever Banega [currently on-loan at Atletico Madrid after struggling in his €18m opening season, still only 20 mind], closely rival the Serb as capital invested defectively.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Soccer Legend Mia Hamm to Present Game Ball to Referees Prior to Game
Opening Match to Feature Historic Tweets from Participating Players and WPS Commissioner
SAN FRANCISCO (March 23, 2009) – With a week to go until the kick-off of the WPS Inaugural Match at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA on March 29, Women’s Professional Soccer announced a series of activities, appearances and special events to celebrate the return of women’s soccer to the professional sports landscape. Most notably, soccer legend Mia Hamm will be part of the festivities, while fans in attendance and around the world can also sign up to follow along with the immediate thoughts about the historic game from WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci, as well as select players with the Los Angeles Sol and the Washington Freedom via Twitter – the first-ever live Twitter account by participating players endorsed during a major U.S. sporting event.
“We are looking forward to including some special touches to make this game stand out and commemorate the official launch of Women’s Professional Soccer,” said Antonucci. “It’s important for everyone to come away with a sense of the history, gravitas and excitement of the moment.”
One way for fans to feel part of the history will be to follow along on Twitter by receiving real-time text messages during the game from a Sol and Freedom player and the Commissioner. Fans can find out who the two “tweeting” players will be by signing on to www.twitter.com/womensprosoccer and can sign up to receive the Commissioner’s “tweets” at www.twitter.com/wpscommissioner. The teams will announce their tweeting players later this week. The league is also considering endorsing in-game tweets throughout the season based on feedback from coaches and fans from the WPS Inaugural Match and with certain parameters set forth in advance.
“To give fans the special opportunity to hear right from players about their thoughts in real time via Twitter is a special way to recognize that everyone will have a part in helping to make history with this game: players, fans, viewers and television,” Antonucci added. “We want it to be interactive and fun. We are a grassroots league and we thought this would be a great way to commemorate our first game. We used Twitter to announce the results of our WPS Draft and we’ve built up a large following.”
- Defender Bakary Soumare (Mali): 90 minutes in win at FC Dallas
- Forward Patrick Nyarko (Ghana): 73 minutes, one assist, in victory at FC Dallas
- Defender Ugo Ihemelu (US, of Nigerian descent): 90 minutes, one shot on goal, at Chivas USA
- Midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo (Nigeria): 90 minutes played in tie at Houston
- Midfielder/Forward Thabiso Khumalo (South Africa): 18 minutes played in tie with L.A. Galaxy
New England Revolution
- Forward: Kheli Dube (Zimbabwe): 90 minutes and game-winning goal in victory at San Jose
- Midfielder: Sainey Nyassi (Gambia): 90 minutes played in victory at San Jose
- Midfielder/Forward: Kenny Mansally (Gambia): 90 minutes played in victory at San Jose
Red Bull New York
- Forward Macoumba Kandji (Senegal): 90 minutes played in loss at Seattle
- Midfielder Sanna Nyassi (Gambia): 68 minutes played with one shot on goal in win versus Red Bull New York
- Forward Steve Zakuani (Democratic Republic of the Congo): 22 minutes played with one shot on goal in victory over Red Bull New York
His goal helped the club capture a fifth straight league title.
Is the 22-year-old going to remain abroad?
From more English footballers plying their trade on the continent, check out Tom Mallow's recent article: An Englishman abroad.
England currently sits atop UEFA's Group 6 with 12 points, the maximum from four matches played.
SWP has 23 caps.
Last Friday there was the Q&A: Herculez Gomez and each week RSL's Will Johnson has a post known as "Growing up on the KOP"
Check out the latest edition... Growing Up On The Kop - #7
Friday, March 20, 2009
But one transfer that nearly slipped under the radar was arguably one of the most surprising of the whole summer.
English full back Tyrone Mears, whose Derby side had finished bottom of the Premier League the previous year, swapped the East Midlands for the French Riviera with a shock loan move to Marseille.
Not a bad swap I’m sure you will agree. Such was Mears’ desperation to complete the move that he skipped Derby training and flew to France for a trial without permission. His boss at the time, Paul Jewell, was understandably miffed and fined him six week's wages, claiming he had ‘insulted’ the club.
Insulted or not, it was a remarkable transfer for the former West Ham and Preston defender, especially when you consider Derby had amassed a record low points total in their 2007/08 Premier League campaign and had begun their Championship season with a home defeat to Doncaster.
A knee ligament injury had threatened to derail Mears' dream move and he only made his debut last weekend after an injury to defender, Laurent Bonnart. But things would get better for Mears in the following match, a UEFA Cup second leg tie against Ajax. The defender pounced in extra time to grab the vital goal which levelled things at 2-2 on the night and secured the French club a 4-3 victory on aggregate. Derby, meanwhile, are struggling in the bottom half of the Championship.
Whether Mears can go on and build on this start remains to be seen but it does raise the question as to why there aren’t more English players playing abroad. David Beckham apart, there have been very few players who have been successful on the continent. Michael Owen left Madrid after a year while Jonathan Woodgate spent more time on the treatment table than the Bernabeu pitch.
The Premier League is arguably the greatest league to play in, certainly financially, so why go anywhere else the players may ask. But if more players were to take the step, like Mears, the experience of different footballing cultures could only be of benefit to not only the player but the English national team.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The tag as favourites has acted only as a burden for which team is has occupied throughout the season and should Manchester City buckle under the pressure in unprecedented implosive fashion, Mark Hughes will be forced to answer an increasing number of uncomfortable questions regarding his future. On the flip side of the coin, the opportunity to dust away the cobwebs in the trophy cabinet has never materialised itself so convincingly as this season and while the UEFA Cup’s reputation continues to orbit around a point of inferiority, it is the precise catalyst for success in the coming years and absolutely imperative for their message of ambition to be spread so assertively through the continent.
Karim Zaza, Kasper Bøgelund, Michael Beauchamp, Lasse Nielsen, Michael Jakobsen, Kasper Risgård, Thomas Augustinussen, Caca, Andreas Johansson, Anders Due, Luton Shelton.
Shay Given, Micah Richards, Richard Dunne, Nedum Onuoha, Wayne Bridge, Pablo Zabaleta, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stephen Ireland, Vincent Kompany, Ched Evans, Robinho.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
As the draw for the Faroe Island Cup 2009 was unveiled, EB/Streymur learnt that their first adversary in protecting their crown will be VB/Sumba in the First Round expected to be contested on April 9. The most-prestigious tie will bring together HB Tórshavn, historically the competition’s leading club after prevailing as victors on 26 incredibly dominant occasions, and 2007 Premier League title holders NSÍ Runavík.
Faroe Island Cup 2009 - Qualifying Round
- Royn Hvalba - Undri FF Tórshavn
- MB Miðvágur - Skála
- TB Tvøroyri - NÍF Nolsoy
Faroe Island Cup 2009 - First Round
- Víkingur – Winner of Match 2
- AB Argir - B68 Toftir
- FC Hoyvík - Winner of Match 1
- Winner of Match 3 - B36 Tórshavn
- KÍ Klaksvík - 07 Vestur
- B71 Sandoy - ÍF Fuglafjørður
- HB Tórshavn - NSÍ Runavík
- VB/Sumba - EB/Streymur
Coverage for the upcoming domestic season in the Faroe Islands will begin with a preview of the 2009 Vodafonedeildin, which starts in the early days of April, and as we approach the start of the cup competition we will delve into the archives to find out the previous winners.
Siena will be cursing the newly-generated statistic which sees them on the receiving end of Filippo Inzaghi’s 300th career goal - cast your memories back to 1992 and any estimates who were the beneficiaries of “SuperPippo’s” very first professional goal?
Commencing his profession at local club Piacenza Calcio before undergoing a loan deal to Serie C1’s Leffe, it was here that Inzaghi struck his memorable opener [correct, against Siena] – the original goal which instigated the ever-budding list of goals that have braced Italy during the past two decades. Strike 299 and 300 came in the Rossoneri’s 5-1 victory at the weekend as Inzaghi served a fresh reminder of his eminent credentials and qualities by surpassing a figure pursued by many but fulfilled only by the few supreme greats of the game. The concluding tally promises not to seize up anytime in the near future either as A.C. Milan's 35-year-old striker vowed to prolong his career until the day he feels out-of-form.
"I'll try to carry on as long as I'm playing like this. Knowing myself, it will be a difficult day when I stop," Inzaghi told Sky Italia.
"Destiny is an incredible thing because my first goal was for Leffe and I also scored it away to Siena and today I've reached this 300 milestone again against Siena."
If Alberto Paloschi, the gifted 19-year-old eagerly earmarked to replace Inzaghi’s legacy, returns back to Milan from his co-ownership spell at Parma then he, by his own admittance, would step into the boots of his endowed hero.
“He is my idol because of the way he moves and is so aware of what is going on, sometimes it seems he isn’t on the pitch, but when it comes to it he is always there."
Serie A - Results (Matchday 28)
- Cagliari 0-1 Genoa
- Juventus 4-1 Bologna
- Udinese 1-1 Catania
- Lazio 0-3 Chievo
- Palermo 5-2 Lecce
- Siena 1-5 AC Milan
- Reggina 1-1 Napoli
- Sampdoria 2-2 Roma
- Atalanta 2-0 Torino
- Inter Milan 2-0 Fiorentina
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Barcelona, Villarreal, Bayern Munich, and F.C. Porto.
Glentoran FC has played 31, winning 20, drawing 7, and losing 4 for a total of 67 points.
Linfield FC has played 31, winning 19, drawing 6, and losing 6 for a total of 63 points.
39-year-old Glenn 'Spike' Ferguson paces Linfield with 14 goals scored.
Striker Gary Hamilton leads the attack at Glentoran with 13 goals, 10 of those coming as the club's first goal of the match.
Will Linfield close the gap or will Glentoran push the advantage to seven points on Monday?
*stats via SoccerWay
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Melbourne Knights will wave goodbye to one of their most gifted youngsters in the summer after Dinamo Zagreb agreed a transfer with the Australian club for a centre forward branded as George Wear’s successor. Melvin Becket will arrive in the Croatian capital during the summer months with the perfect opportunity to hone his technical skills in an environment renowned for nurturing talent. At 16 years old, Becket will step up a considerable level from Australia’s Victoria Premier League, one division beneath the A-League, to the Croatian First League which is currently ranked 27th in the UEFA League Coefficients.
Elsewhere, Stephen Murray is to be the first Irishman to play professional football in Croatia after joining second-division side NK Junak.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
When clubs lack the financial clout to even pay outstanding wages, it does little to create a blossoming reputation and this harrowing nightmare was much closer to truth than presumably many could have predicted. The threats posed by expenditure exceeding income materialised under the strenuous economic decline which has grappled the world dry - no wonder then that any scarce source of income remaining has been prioritised for soaking up the wreckage from past years. The approaching nine months will effectively determine the extent of the damage caused over the winter.
Some clubs have completely fallen by the way-side, with Cobh Ramblers failing to obtain the necessary license to even compete in the First Division, others have resorted back to semi-professional football and trimming down their wage list to more adequate sums. Cork City racked up escalating debts in the region of €800,000 and, along with 2007 champions Drogheda United, survived with 10 point deductions each last campaign but more brutal measures will be carried out by the FAI should there be any reoccurrences this season.
Defending champions Bohemians triumphed in 2008 with a record-winning margin over their closest rivals and rightfully preserve their status as favourites to extend the success into the new season. The acquisition of 2006 PFAI Player of the Year and former Cameroon international Joseph Ndo could prove to be the shrewdest transfer of the window, while the Dubliners astounding defensive stat of conceding no fewer than 13 goals in 33 fixtures should set the scene for a sturdy and robust back four. Derry City will be given the responsibility of hounding down the title aspirations of the Bohs as the second-favourites to taste championship glory have also reinforced their squad with several fine signings.
The popularity of the domestic league within the country itself is bound to be slightly disillusioned and disheartened by the struggles of late, especially as football fails to challenge Gaelic football and rugby on the same popularity magnitude. An immediate solution to revitalise morale would be to accomplish beyond the simple means of the League of Ireland and progress through to the Group Stages of one of Europe’s club competitions, either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Cup. Such a feat remains sheer fantasy and doesn’t seem a feasible target in the short-term because, as cutbacks are enforced to cut down the spending figures, investment is essential in expanding.
Hope can, however, be salvaged by the modifications implemented to both continental competitions as qualification should, in theory, present itself as a slightly less daunting task. BATE of Belarus, who created history as the first Belarusian club to qualify for the Champions League Group Stages, operate on a similar budget to League of Ireland outfits to add further confidence to the cause. The importance of spending within their means needs to be met, once a breach is made through these darker times then the undisputed potential will resurface. For the short-term though, a clean bill of health after this season of rehab would be a respectable outcome for all concerned.
While much of the attention in the English Premier League is focused on the race for the title, the relegation battle is proving just as exciting with up to ten teams still realistically involved. With just ten games left here is a run down of the teams involved and their chances of staying up:
Had a disappointing result at Stoke on Wednesday but I think it’s their home form that will be crucial to their survival hopes. Their run-in isn’t too bad either and with players like Johan Elmander and Matty Taylor I think they will have enough creativity to stay up. Hull The have been on a horror run of late but grabbed a vital three points away at Fulham on Wednesday which has put them five points clear of the drop zone. They made a fantastic start to the season and I think that will crucial as just three wins from their last ten games should be enough.
It still amazes me that such a talented squad, which held Manchester United for 120 minutes in the Carling Cup final last week, has under perform so badly in the league this season. Harry Redknapp has done a decent enough job to try and turn things around and although the team still looks unbalanced they should get enough points, especially at home, to secure safety.
A lot of money has been spent at the Stadium of Light in the two years they have been back in the Premier League. Roy Keane couldn’t get the best out of those players but new boss Ricky Sbragia has picked up a few decent results. In Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse they have a strike force good enough to get the goals they need to stay up.
They have shown tremendous spirit this season to get where they are. They perhaps don’t have as much quality in the side as most teams around them but they make up for that in determination, organisation and playing to their strengths. After a tough trip to Everton their next four games are all against teams around them, it will be those fixtures that will make or break their season.
Another team with big name, big money players who have underperformed massively this season. It has been one crisis after another at St James’ Park this year and a quick check down the fixture list suggests another one could be on the horizon. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa are all to play the North-East side and unless performances improve, they could be in real trouble.
It is amazing to think that just over a year ago Portsmouth were on their way to Wembley and a top 10 Premier League finish. But things have changed so dramatically at the south coast club the best they can hope for this year is a safety. Tony Adams’ reign proved to be a disaster and while temporary coach Paul Hart has got some results, they don’t look like a side who can string a few wins together. If sides around them start picking up results, they could be in trouble.
Paul Ince found success at MK Dons playing expansive passing football, but when he tried to implement that at Ewood Park he found he just didn’t’ have the players to do it successfully. Sam Allardyce has reverted to a more solid, direct approach but despite a decent set of results they still find themselves in the relegation zone. Home form will be crucial for Rovers, with West Brom, Wigan and Portsmouth yet to come to Ewood. I think this one could go down to the final game of the season.
Gareth Southgate’s side went an alarming three months without a league win, that’s relegation form in any division. They got a great result against Liverpool last weekend but followed that up with a thumping at Spurs. They will have to string several wins together, something they haven’t done all season, in order to stay up.
Once again The Baggies have won lots of friends for their style of play but not many points. They have managed to stay in touch with those above them for most of the campaign but in recent weeks as those teams have picked up results the Baggies soft centre has been repeatedly exposed and they now find themselves cut adrift. The Championship beckons for West Brom I fear.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Interestingly, the defeat prior to the streak as well as the defeat that snapped the streak came against rival La Liga side Atletico Madrid.
February 1957 - Real 2, Atletico 3
March 1965 - Real 0, Atletico 1
National Stadium – Located in Poland’s capital city of Warsaw, the 55,000 stadium is being built this year in time for the tournament. The opening match of the tournament along with other group matches will be held at the stadium. After the group stage is completed, Stadion Narodowy will host both a quaterfinal and semifinal match.
Municipal Stadium – First constructed in 1968, the Stadion Miejski is being renovated through 2010 in Poznań. The stadium will now hold over 40,000 people and all seats will be covered. The ground is home to Polish side Lech Poznań and will host matches from the group stages.
Stadium in Maślice – The stadium has not yet been formally named. Construction began in 2008 and should be completed by 2010. This 44,000 stadium is located in Wrocław and will host group matches.
Baltic Arena – Yet another stadium that Poland is building expressly for Euro 2012, construction began on the Arena Bałtycka in 2008. Construction should be completed by 2010 at the 44,000 stadium. Along with group matches, the Gdańsk stadium will host a quaterfinal.
Olympic Stadium – Kiev’s premier venue hosted components of the 1980 Summer Olympics. Major renovations are in store for the stadium with plans for a roof to be constructed and other amenities to be added. Over 83,000 supporters will pack the stadium for group matches, a quaterfinal, and the Euro 2012 final match.
Donbass Arena – Scheduled to open in the summer of 2009, the arena will hold 50,000 spectators. The world-class stadium has even wowed UEFA committee members. The organization’s David Taylor remarked, “Everything is perfectly designed – both technical details and other elements,” when he toured the stadium in the fall of 2008. The arena, which sits in the center of Donetsk surrounded by a recreational park, will host group matches, a quaterfinal, and a semifinal.
Ukraina Stadium – Located in Lviv, the stadium is undergoing major renovations by adding seating capacity and expanding the press and luxury boxes, as it will host group matches. With room for roughly 33,000, the 46-year-old structure is the second smallest venue in the tournament.
Dnipro Stadium – Built in 2005 for Ukrainian club FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, the stadium opened September of 2008. The venue will hold a capacity crowd of a little over 31,000 spectators, making it the smallest venue in the tournaments. Located in the city of Dnipropetrovsk, it is slated to host group matches.
Rafa Benitez may have ambitions to manage Real Madrid one day but before he can contemplate taking the reigns at the Bernabeu he first needs to plot their downfall with his present club, Liverpool.
The Reds Premier League title challenge may have faltered in recent weeks but under Benitez they have an excellent record in the Champions League. Winners in 2005 and finalists in 2007, the Spaniard gets his tactics spot on in Europe and it would be no surprise if they get a result here.
Former Portsmouth man Lassana Diarra, who has been a big hit in Spain since his big money move, will line-up for Real after he was chosen to be registered for the Champions League ahead of fellow January signing Klaas Huntelaar. Juande Ramos has had mixed reviews since returning to Spain following his sacking form Spurs. With the La Liga title surely beyond them they must see the Champions league as their best chance of a major honour this season.
Real Madrid: Arjen Robben
The former Chelsea man has been given more freedom by Ramos and it has paid off with the Dutchman turning in some superb performances. With the game at the Bernabeu expected to be tight, a brief flash of skill or burst of pace from the winger could be the difference.
Liverpool: Steven Gerrard
It was a toss up between Gerrard and Fernando Torres but the Liverpool skipper just edged it. Whenever Liverpool have been in trouble, especially in the Champions League (remember the 2005 final???) Gerrard has raised his game and almost single handily played Liverpool back into contention. He is crucial to Liverpool’s fortunes.