Author Archives: Timothy Masters

Community Shield preview, 2/8/15

Arsenal v Chelsea, 15:00

It’s that time of the year again, where the season is only days away and we need a quick match to remind us what football in England looks like. We don’t want the fully-serious, pressure-laden kind of action that the Champions League or end of the season might provide, but by the same token we’re bored of meaningless pre-season games against Asian and American teams too, so it is extremely convenient to have the FA Community Shield as a buffer to ease us back into the swing of things.

Just as in the normal season, the summer has contained moans, groans, and yawns in Chelsea press conferences from the members of the media not still feeding from the rear end of Jose Mourinho like some kind of human centipede of football bullshit. Arsenal and Chelsea are the protagonists set to contest the most important match of the day (probably), and so far neither club has made any really significant moves to suggest this will look different to their meetings last season, so this will be a game of new kits but maybe old looks at these two sides.

There is Petr Cech of course, relegated to the Chelsea bench last season but now set to start for Arsenal, who have finally admitted they need to improve that position, and he might make a difference in a really close game. 2010 is the last time the winners of this game went on to take a major title at the end of the year, so by extrapolating backwards we should therefore assume that Arsenal are going to win the Community Shield as Chelsea are favourites for the league title. Oh, and Wenger has never won a game vs Mourinho either.

Raheem Sterling: where do you stand?

The transfer drama has already been considerable this summer, and as with last year it is Liverpool in the headlines again, trying to hold on to a star attacker. Luis Suarez may or may not have actually had his transfer to Barcelona agreed in January of the season he left, but in the case of Raheem Sterling it seems there are still a few possible outcomes, and this emotional potential transfer has totally divided the fans. We thought we’d take a look at the two opposing viewpoints in the situation, and maybe try to sum up just what the future holds for Europe’s ‘Golden Boy’.

Pro-Raheem

In this camp you tend to find people who are fond of blue-sky thinking (or should that be sky-blue thinking?), and the prevailing opinion is that Liverpool have worked to create this situation themselves. By leaving Sterling earing roughly half or less of what far less talented players were on for an entire season, the club were always taking a risk, and it seems like it hasn’t paid off with the player admitting he would have re-signed last summer if given the chance. Add to that the failure of Brendan Rodgers to stay in the Champions League and a long-term lack of trophies at Anfield, and it’s not hard to see why Sterling might want to move onward and upwards.

Now, the ‘calling in sick’ tactic and his general association with Aidy Ward won’t be defended anywhere really, even in this camp, but a fair few neutrals agree with the devout Citizens keen to see Raheem in light blue, and understand his frustration and motives, if not his actions. Were someone like Sergio Aguero to act in this way to force a move to Real Madrid the tone might be different, but the same can be said of the way Liverpool recruited players from Southampton last season, and Sterling is considered by many to have a great chance of being more of a factor than occasional bench-warmer Adam Lallana was after his move.

In terms of his transfer to City specifically, you don’t find a lot of the bench-warmer comments in this camp either, with the fans comparing him to Nasri and Navas and finding in Sterling favour, making this transfer a logical one all around. As one of the best young talents in Europe, alongside the likes of Pogba, De Bruyne and others, Sterling is desperate to play at the top level and deserves to, and when you put it in that perspective the only thing to recommend Liverpool to him is playing time, which he will back himself to also get at Man City.

Anti-Raheem

As a player and a person Sterling pretty-much sums up what is wrong with the modern game, overrating himself and putting money before all else. When he moved to Anfield from QPR his main motivation was money, of which Liverpool offered more than anyone else, and when he signed the £35k-a-week deal there was even talk about value then, when he became the highest-paid player of his age in Britain. Refusing to honour that contract only bodes poorly for City too, especially if Sterling gets bored of the north after a couple of years.

Added onto this you also have the much greater issue of the sense in paying £50m for a player who has had one truly outstanding season, and that season being one where he played with the best team attacker in the world. Even Lionel Messi and Neymar have had special seasons playing alongside Luis Suarez, so the Uruguayan lifting Sterling and Sturridge beyond their potential ceilings would not be such an outlandish thing after all, and it’s certainly true that Raheem failed to stand out in the season immediately following Suarez’s exit.

A lot of the anti-Raheem stuff has come from Liverpool fans of course, but outside of that group there is a general feeling that Sterling is overprice by a long way, with many saying he is worth about half of the £50m tag Liverpool have put on him. Set up to fail by an agent who only went solo seven months or so ago, Sterling is a symbol of the sickness in modern football and only cares about the money, and in the long term his forcing a move at this point will see him fail to achieve his overall potential too.

Overall, Raheem Sterling is not the first talented youngster to act in this way, and certainly won’t be the last. In fact, his team-mate Daniel Sturridge did the same thing in his time at City before moving to Chelsea and eventually Liverpool, with mixed results overall, and some would argue it may have made him a tougher player, while others would point to the stalling that occurred at Stamford Bridge as proof Sterling is making a mistake. Only time will tell if this move is worth fighting for, but here at FFT it still seems obvious that by the start of next season Sterling will be playing his home games at the Etihad, simply due to the determination he’s shown to get out, and the bridges he’s burned in the process.

Chile v Argentina Preview

Chile came into the 2015 Copa America as third favourites for two reasons, in the main. The first was the fact they were hosting the competition, and could expect all the benefits that usually brings, while the second was the biting problem Luis Suarez still had last summer. With the Uruguayan master banned, the consensus was that only Brazil or Argentina could stop Chile, and the first had already shot themselves in the foot before they got the chance to try.

With Neymar and co nowhere to be seen, these two has a slightly more simple route to the final than might otherwise have been expected, but arguably the best player in the English league and the best player in history is more-than a substitute for Brazil. The odds for this match favour Argentina, but a final at home, and the refereeing and support that might bring, is a big factor in Chile’s favour.

If Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal can inspire their team to an unexpected victory, it will be an incredible end to a competition that sort-of began with the latter crashing his Ferrari whilst drunk, but fate is a funny thing. Messi, Mascherano and Di Maria will look to say otherwise and finish off an incredible season for the Barcelona man, and this should be a great contest.

Our Prediction

Away Win @ 11/10
Sergio Aguero to score anytime @ 7/4

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Peru v Paraguay Preview

This might be a bit before the Lord Mayor’s show, but for Peru and Paraguay it is also a rare chance to place themselves third overall on the continent, and ahead of teams like Colombia and Uruguay as well as Brazil. While they are guaranteed to be ranked above their more illustrious neighbours the match for the bronze medal is a big deal in its own right for these two, and they’ll want to give a good performance as they close out their campaigns.

Peru are underdogs in this game but they were never supposed to make it this far in the first place, so the odds won’t bother them at all, and in many ways Paraguay are more beatable opponents than they’ve faced recently. At this stage a few knocks may have been taken and we might see a couple of squad players given a chance, but that shouldn’t devalue the match for the fans or teams.

Some of this competition has been marred with slightly shifty officiating, especially the games featuring the home nation, so this match is important in terms of giving a good account of what has been an entertaining, if not well-seen Copa America. Hopefully these two can put a good show on and provide us with a tasty entrée before the main course later on.

Our Prediction

Home Win @ 7/5
Under 2.5 Total Goals @ 6/5

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Argentina v Paraguay Preview

Even before Brazil went crashing out of the Copa America like a drunken uncle playing musical chairs, they knew that Neymar would not feature regardless of how far they went. Instead of Comobia, Uruguay or one of the other big teams, Argentina will face Paraguay tonight, formerly managed by Gerardo Martino, the current Argentine boss, and it will be interesting to see how he sets up versus his old team.

There have been rumblings of dissent from the dressing room over the actual ability of Martino to manage the team, according to some reports at least, and that is interesting when you consider that Messi allegedly recommended Martino before Barcelona hired him. It will need all eleven players to be on the same page if little Leo and his mates are to progress along the route most of us expect, as Paraguay will be committed and believe they have what it takes to cause a shock.

The bookies all have Argentina as strong favourites now, with only really Chile expected to stand in their way. That is not to devalue or degrade Paraguay, but they will know they are underdogs tonight, and most likely revel in the chance to prove the entire footballing world wrong.

Our Predictions

Argentina – Argentina @ 11/10
Sergio Aguero to score anytime @ 13/10

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Chile v Peru Preview

The final four in the Copa America looks about half right, if truth be told, but for Peru and Chile the equation remains pretty much as it has been since Brazil cocked up the seeding, with Argentina the final boss. If the home side get through the penultimate level and face Messi and so we will be in for an ugly, beautiful battle, and the ugliness will probably only be exacerbated if Peru come through instead.

There is no doubt the home side will be favourites, although the neutral may haved mixed feeling after the peculiar and loathsome antics of Gonzalo Jara versus Uruguay, and Cavani. They also have the better team on paper with Alexis Sanchez, Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal, and must feel fate is on their side after the latter escaped his drink-driving incident unharmed and unpunished.

The extra day of rest that these two enjoy over Argentina and Uruguay will only go so far, and if they can’t get this one over and done with in ninety minutes that advantage will be reduced further still. If what you want from your football is passion, desire and pride in a jersey though, this is going to be one of the greatest ever displays of patriotic sporting excellence, or possibly patriotic cheating. Either way it’ll be ace.

Our Predictions

Chile – Chile @ 11/10
Arturo Vidal to score first @ 11/2

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Brazil v Paraguay Preview

After Chile and Uruguay brought the drama, the Copa America organisers will be honestly hoping for some more football-orientated headlines on Sunday morning to potentially ease the pressure a bit. Brazil have already got a fair amount of their crazy out of the system, which means we won’t see Neymar’s hair or football, and in the latter stages of this competition there is an interesting dynamic in the green and gold squad.

When their star was crippled in the World Cup, Brazil collapsed faster than a Greek Ponzi scheme at the hands of Germany, and following that awful day the rest of the team were roundly dismissed as useless without the kid. Against Paraguay and then possibly Argentina, the other 22 will have a chance to redeem their reputations and make it to the final of a major competition, and who knows, they might even win it for their absent friend.

New Liverpool signing Roberto Firmino has the press in England very excited indeed, and how he gets on along with the likes of Coutinho and Douglas Costa will be interesting to observe. As is so often the case, Paraguay are something of the second fiddles, but as always they will give everything they have for their nation, and leave nothing to doubt as they attempt to get an improbable win.

Our Predictions

Brazil – Brazil @ 8/5
Roberto Firmino to score anytime @ 13/8

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Argentina v Colombia Preview

Of all the quarter finals, the meeting of Argentina and Colombia looks like being the best on paper, with star names and no suspensions or off-pitch messes to worry about either, and the crowds will be keen to see how this unfolds. James Rodriguez and Lionel Messi are obviously the biggest names, but these are two great teams, with Colombia already having shown their teeth by defeating Brazil.

The little guy from Rosario, via Barcelona, is definitely in form right now, and if Argentina win this competition on the back of Messi winning the Spanish league, Champions League and Spanish Cup then it will be hard for anyone to dispute his place as the greatest of all time. This might not be a World Cup, but it means just as much to the South American teams and Messi is no different from his team mates in that respect.

The 1-0 win over Jamaica in the group stages did make the Argentine fans a bit nervous as they had obviously expected a more dominant performance, and tonight we’ll need to see more of the men in light-blue-and-white for them to progress. After Chile, there is an argument Colombia are the best-equipped team to challenge the big two, and tonight is their night if ever that is to happen.

Our Predictions

Home Win @ 10/11
Argentina – Argentina @ 15/8

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Peru v Bolivia Preview

Without meaning to sound in the least bit judgemental, the first quarter-final of the Copa America was something of a farce and featured some extremely unedifying behaviour by the home, Chilean team. There was also a horrific slow-motion replay of Arturo Vidal’s knee doing things it shouldn’t and even a bit of football, but when the dust had settled it was Chile who had booked a place in the semis, to face the winner of Bolivia and Peru.

Of the eight sides left in the competition when the quarter finals were drawn, these would probably have seemed like the least likely to make the final to the casual fan, with the smallest number of big stars from the major leagues, but Chile are beatable for sure. Tonight will be about who can handle the pressure better of the two, and which side takes the chances that will surely fall their way, and then they are one good game from a final and a 50/50 shot at making history.

Peru are strong favourites to come through at the expense of the Bolivians and their travelling fans, but men like Vargas and Pizarro still being in the squad speaks somewhat of a dearth of new talent in the Peruvian setup as a whole. On the other hand, only one of the Bolivian squad plies their trade in the top European leagues, and that is a youngster from the Milan academy, so both managers will need to deploy their resources intelligently this evening.

Our Predictions

Draw 1-1 @ 11/2
Marcelo Martins to score anytime @ 10/3

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Chile v Uruguay Preview

Uruguay aren’t quite crippled yet, but their best player is still suspended for an eating disorder involving Italian food and their other top striker is in some turmoil due to his old man being involved in a car accident. This evening they face the hosts Chile, who’ve had their own automotive issues in the last couple of weeks through Arturo Vidal, and this game could well be an extremely tight contest between two well-matched teams.

Chile are well-fancied in this competition, now second-favourites behind Argentina due to Neymar’s tantrum and the Colombia win over Brazil that it followed, and if they can claim a victory it will leave them one match from a home final in the Copa America. What’s more, they’d face the winner of Bolivia and Peru in the next stage, and that is a match-up most football fans would back the likes of Alexis, Vidal and the rest to come through.

It is not yet certain if Cavani will play tonight or if he’s unavailable due to the off-field death caused by his dad, but Vidal’s drunk-driving won’t make any difference as Chilean patriotism got the better of old-fashioned legality. With the environmental emergency also seeing Santiago covered in smog this match will be a bit odd all-around, but as we said at the top, it should be a cracking contest and the prize on the line is a probable Copa America final, which is massive for this pair.

Our Predictions

Draw @ 13/5
Arturo Vidal to score anytime @ 12/5

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