I didn’t get the first two match predictions entirely right, but I don’t think I got them entirely wrong, either, except for when I said United would draw with Olympiakos – that was entirely wrong. Read lies about tomorrow, today! Here’s my Champions League preview for Betting Instinct.
Hey there. Wow, what a crazy few weeks. I wrote a preview of the Australian Open, then I went to the Australian Open, took this ace picture of Rafa Nadal fixing his eternal wedgie, and now I’m back, and I’ve written a preview of the men’s final. Get around it. [Alright, turns out I was wrong. Call me Pat.]
Manchester City v. Arsenal
To be fair to Manuel Pellegrini, I doubt anyone except journalists with hindsight knew that the Champions League group standings were decided on head-to-head rather than goal difference – it’s a stupid rule that makes it hard for people who can’t add up/remember stupid rules. That said, while the rest of us don’t really have to know these things, it’s part of Pellegrini’s job to understand exactly what kind of game he’s playing. Thankfully, the Premier League is a little easier: if his side scores more goals than Arsenal, they’ll win.
Manchester City are favourites – indeed, almost all the statistics seem to point in their favour. Pellegrini’s men have won their last seven home matches, scoring four goals or more against Newcastle, Manchester United, Norwich and Tottenham. Throw in an impressive win away in Munich midweek, consider that Arsenal didn’t get an impressive away win in Napoli, or Munich, or anywhere midweek, and you can start to make a solid case for a home win. Arsenal shouldn’t be written off – they have the best away attack and defence in the Premier League – but City’s form at the Etihad – they have the best home attack and defence in the Premier League – should be the difference.
Tottenham v. Liverpool
Tottenham have yet to make up their minds as to whether they want to be part of a title race, or part of an inelegant stumble towards fifth. For all the money spent, for all the new players with exotic names and nationalities, it’s not really working for AVB. They’ve ground out a few good results at home – Soldado (pen) – but Liverpool are arguably better than any of the other visitors to White Hart Lane in the league this season – Chelsea aside, perhaps. Spurs are struggling for goals here, but against a Liverpool side that place an emphasis on attack over defence, you’d expect them to score somehow. And what about Liverpool? Hey, they’ve got Luis Suarez.
I’m writing these preview things for bettinginstinct.com now, so get on it. We’ve got odds and stuff there, as well as previews for sports you’ve never even heard of, unless you’ve heard of American football and regular, soccer-football.
Congratulations to Kevin Muscat, who tomorrow will be named as the manager of Melbourne Victory, succeeding Ange Postecoglou who will take the Socceroos to the World Cup in 2014 and beyond. The Victory job is perhaps the most prestigious in Australian club football, and there’s no man who deserves it more. Well done Kevin, you reprehensible dickhead!
Whether you think of Muscat as "the most hated man in football," a "lowlife," a "nobody," or simply as a greasy, brown smear on the underpant of the sport, there’s no doubting that he’s the man to turn one of the most watchable teams in the A-League into one that I won’t be watching a second of until he’s gone.
Remember this tackle? Oh Kevin, you brave hard brave brave hard man of bravery. Alessandro Del Who? Kevin’s the face – and the arsehole – of the A-League now.
Among the first to qualify for the next World Cup and, on current form, likely to be among the first knocked out in Brazil, doing something before others is becoming something of a theme for Australia, if you can play along with the opening and ignore all the things in which Australia isn’t first.
Australia spent a lot of money a few years ago on a book, a badly animated kangaroo, and Elle Macpherson, which was meant to win them the rights to hold the 2022 World Cup in the Australia winter. Thanks to the rugby union, league, and Aussie rules football seasons all taking place during this time, the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) had to negotiate with the various codes over stadium use, and planned the construction of three new stadiums. There was a launch at Parliament House, and then an excruciating presentation in Zurich in which the badly animated kangaroo was shown to the rest of the world.
The Australian bid received one vote. Given Australia’s track record with hosting major international sporting events, this seemed a little strange. Given we’d spent $43m on it, the whole thing seemed a little pointless. And so it was that Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup in June or July of 2022.
A review of Liverpool at the Melbourne Cricket Ground follows. A lot of people – just over 95,000, including myself – turned up from all over Australia and New Zealand to watch a game that could not have meant less if it tried. Liverpool won 2-0, so make of that what you will.*
*Champions League champions, 2013-14
FFA Executives, a play by Max Grieve:
Interior: boardroom. Two FFA executives are talking to each other. We know that they are executives because they are smiling and have suits on. Maybe one of them has slightly white hair, even though he is quite young. They are executives.
Executive 1: “So the three biggest stars in the league won’t be playing in the game against Manchester United.”
Executive 2: ”Who are the three biggest stars in the league again?”
Executive 1: “That’d be Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey.”
Executive 2: “Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey? Wow, those are the three biggest stars in the league!”
Executive 1: “They are!”
Executive 2: ”What should we call the team we’ve put together then, given that the three biggest stars in the league won’t be playing?”
Executive 1: ”The A-League All Stars?”
Executive 2: ”YUP!”
Executive 1: “It’s a good joke.”
Executive 2: “It is.”
Executive 1: ”Should we tell everyone that the players they want to see won’t be playing?”
Executive 2: ”No, let’s hold that news until the stadium’s sold out.”
Executive 1: ”Don’t you think people might be angry that we knew this all along but didn’t tell them?”
Executive 2: ”People? Who cares what people think? We’re executives!”
Executive 1: ”Hooray for being executives!”
The two executives high-five, then begin to beat hessian sacks full of baby seals with cricket bats. To the distinctive sound of baby seals’ heads cracking against the floor of a boardroom, the lights fade to black.
It’s with great sadness that I must announce we have failed in our bid to Bring Harry Home to Anfield. With the expected departure of Luis Suarez, I had believed that the stars were aligned for Harry Kewell to walk – nay, MARCH – back to Liverpool, cheered on by thousands hanging out of their windows and sitting atop lamp posts, and take back his No. 7 jersey with a respect for the greats who have worn it before him – not least himself.
Alas, Harry signed for Australian club Melbourne Heart earlier today. I will not be returning the money you pledged as part of our campaign to Bring Harry Home, and will instead be using it to launch a bid to bring Florent Malouda back to public consciousness.