Category Archives: The Mazy Run

Will Liverpool hang onto Suarez this summer? (video)

After Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Southampton last weekend, it appears increasingly unlikely that the Reds will qualify for the Champions League spot this season. In spite of a steady form book in 2013, Liverpool remain 9 points off 4th placed Tottenham with just 8 games remaining. 

Liverpool have undoubtedly impressed under Brendan Rodgers this season and certainly appear to making forward progress, however it remains to be seen whether star striker Luis Suarez believes that this progress is fast enough, who at the age of 26 is reaching the peak of his career. The January signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho already appear to have lightened the load on Luis Suarez, however will these additions be enough for Rodgers’ to keep his star striker at Anfield?

The Uruguayan forward, the Premier League’s current top scorer with 22 goals, has perhaps mystifyingly only ever featured in the Champions League for former side Ajax and surely wants to prove himself amongst Europe’s elite in the near future.

Suarez signed a long-term contract with Liverpool last summer which should keep him at the club until 2018 and in February of this year even suggested that he wanted to extend his contract further by signing a new deal either this summer or next. Despite the absence of Champions League football, Liverpool’s number 7 has repeatedly re-iterated his happiness with life on Merseyside and the progress that his team are making.

I’m very happy here and my family love the life here too. I want to enjoy being at this club where I, like all the kids, dreamed of playing and now I’m fulfilling that dream. I’m very pleased and very happy because Liverpool is growing.

Suarez appears to have taken Liverpool to his heart, just as the Kop have taken Suarez to theirs, however the Anfield faithful will still be nervous this summer that Suarez may be lured to pastures new.

Rumours continue to circulate that Bayern Munich will be at the head of the chasing pack for the Uruguayan’s services, with new manager Pep Guardiola supposedly earmarking Suarez as his number one target. Elsewhere, Paris Saint Germain persist to be linked for a move for Suarez, given their financial clout and ambition for success.

Suarez appears to be at the spearhead of Brendan Rodgers’ Anfield revolution, and the Liverpool boss and the club’s supporters can only hope that the progress made this season has been enough to convince Suarez to continue to lead the line for the Reds.

 

Michael Owen’s most memorable moments (video)

Like a ticking time-bomb, Michael Owen’s retirement was always in the post. However, in spite of its inevitability, the majority of English football supporters will have been gripped by an air of nostalgia and sadness by today’s news that one of England’s greatest ever strikers is to finally hang up his boots.

Throughout his career, Michael Owen has scored an impressive 163 goals in 360 club appearances, achieved 89 England caps and netted on 40 occasions, won the Premier League, FA Cup, 3 League Cups and one UEFA Cup and was named as the European Footballer of the Year in 2001.

Besides his accolades, Owen provided a generation of football fans with many iconic images as English football progressed from the nineties into the new millenium.

1) Michael Owen burst onto the scene in World Cup 1998 at the age of just 18, after an impressive debut season for Liverpool in which he earned his first England call up in a friendly against Chile just 4 months before the beginning of France 98. He oozed confidence beyond his years in the number 20 shirt and provided England fans with great hope of reaching the quarter finals after a memorable run and finish against Argentina.

2) When all seemed lost for Liverpool at the Millenium Stadium, Michael Owen struck twice in the last 10 minutes of the final to win the Reds the FA Cup against a shell-shocked Arsenal side, one of 5 trophies that Liverpool lifted in 2001.

3) In one of English football’s finest moments in recent living memory, Michael Owen scored a hat-trick to inflict a crushing 5-1 defeat on Germany in the Olympic Stadium in Munich. The defeat was so compelling, that the German FA opted to re-haul their entire national youth set-up after the result.

4) Another moment of hope was given to England fans in World Cup 2002 as Michael Owen raced through to pounce on a Brazilian defensive error and give his country a quarter-final lead. Unfortunately, a Rivaldo equaliser and Ronaldinho’s infamous lob over David Seaman cost England a place in the World Cup semis.

5) Owen’s finest moment in a Manchester United jersey came in the Manchester derby when the striker – often renowned as a fox in the box – pounced in the 96th minute to secure an incredible last-gasp victory over ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City.

It is easy to forget the contribution that Michael Owen has given to English football given his recent injuries and the stop-start nature of his career since World Cup 2006, however these moments alone help refresh the memory of English football supporters and should rightfully earn Owen the accolade as one of English football’s most prodigious ever talents.

Olympiacos seal the deal early to clinch 40th Greek title (video)

Olympiacos achieved a 3-0 victory over AEK Athens on Sunday to earn the club their 40th top-division title – their 15th Greek League win in the last 17 years.

It was a day of double celebration for Greece’s most successful team and it’s supporters as their league clinching result fell on the date of the club’s 88th anniversary.

With just 5 games of the season remaining, Olympiacos are 16 points clear of nearest challengers Asteras Tripolis FC. Athens rivals and regular challengers Panathinaikos find themselves in 5th position of the 16 team league, a massive 31 points behind Olympiacos.

Panathinaikos are one of several Greek League teams to suffer financial hardship in recent times as a result of the country’s economic crisis. Furthermore, the club were deducted 3 points after violence between supporters and police forced the Athens derby with Olympiacos to be abandoned.

Algerian international striker Rafik Djebbour has been instrumental in Olympiacos’ charge to the Greek title this season with an incredible 20 goals in 21 games so far this year.

The fortunes of Erythrolefki have also greatly been aided by former Manchester United, Wigan and West Ham goalkeeper Roy Carroll. The Northern Ireland goalkeeper made the switch to Greece in 2011 and has since established himself as the number 1 goalkeeper at the Karaiskakis Stadium.

 

Liverpool legend co-managing Leverkusen to success (video)

We have heard very little of Champions League winner and former Liverpool captain Sami Hyppia since his departure from Anfield in 2009. Yet, after ending his playing career in 2011, the veteran Finnish defender now co-manages a Bayer Leverkusen side who are riding high in Germany.

Leverkusen currently occupy 3rd position in the Bundesliga – an automatic Champions League qualification spot – and are only 1 point behind highly revered Dortmund and 6 points clear of 4th place Schalke.

Since the dismissal of head coach Robin Dutt in April of last year, the Bayer Leverkusen management team has unusually consisted of two joint-managers, Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyppia. Where the successes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will trump those of Leverkusen in the headlines this season, the achievements of Hyppia and Lewandowski in their first full season of management should not go un-noticed.

Leverkusen’s fortunes have been helped this season by a trio of young German internationals – midfielder Lars Bender and strikers Andre Schürrle and Stefan Kießling, the latter of whom has notched 16 league goals this term.

Hyppia and his cohort Lewandowski will need to ensure Champions League qualification this season if Leverkusen are to have any chance of fending off interest for their hot-shot youngsters. Should the Champions League finalists of 2002 be able to maintain their recent league form, then they have every chance of competing with Europe’s elite once more.

The European Golden Shoe 2013 (video)

Philip Hosiner and Arturas Rimkevicius find their names amongst Europe’s elite in this season’s race for the European Golden Shoe, however unsurprisingly Lionel Messi looks set to retain his title having scored 40 La Liga goals already this season.

Messi has accrued 80 points at latest accounts this season, his 40 goals multiplied by a factor of 2.0 for competing in one of Europe’s major leagues. Cristiano Ronaldo occupies second spot with a score of 52 for his 26 goals in La Liga. Ronaldo is the Champions League leading scorer with 8 goals for Real Madrid however only domestic league goals count towards to the Golden Shoe award.

Luis Suarez, Robin Van Persie and Radamel Falcao are all unsurprising names in the top 10 of the leaderboard and they are joined by Porto’s Jackson Martinez who has netted 23 goals in the Primeira Liga this term and Wilfried Bony who has scored 24 goals for Vitesse Arnhem in Holland.

23-year-old Philipp Hosiner has scored only 1 domestic goal less than Cristiano Ronaldo this season, however Hosiner’s goals are only multiplied by a factor of 1.5 as he plays his football in the Austrian Bundesliga. Hosiner’s goalscoring exploits may earn him a transfer to a major European League this summer, and likewise Lithuanian Arturas Rimkevicius who has netted on 35 occasions for FK Siauliai this term and reportedly perked the interest of both Hearts and Swindon Town.


Euro Roundup: Scotland (video)

Celtic lead the Scottish Premier League by 15 points with only 8 games remaining in the absence of arch-rivals Rangers.

Motherwell currently occupy 2nd spot in the SPL with Highland sides Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County in close proximity with St.Johnstone who all look set for a top 6 finish when the league breaks off into two in just three games time.

Celtic will inevitably take the title and Scotland’s sole Champions League spot this season, with three Europa League places up for grabs for the Scottish Cup winners and the 2nd and 3rd placed teams in the SPL.

Hibernian, Kilmarnock, Dundee United and Aberdeen are all currently within 2 points of each other and will battle it out for the final top 6 position in the next three games.

Dundee are 14 points from safety at the bottom of the SPL however have recently mounted a comeback as they look to catch 11th placed St.Mirren.

Hibernian’s Leigh Griffiths and Motherwell’s Michael Higdon jointly share pole position in the Scottish scoring charts with 19 goals each so far this term.

Celtic’s Champions League exit at the hands of Juventus last week means that Scotland have no remaining representatives in European competition.


Euro Roundup: Holland (video)

With just 8 games remaining, we look set for one of the most dramatic finishes to the Eredivisie in recent memory. PSV’s 2-1 defeat to Heerenveen on Saturday means that four teams are separated by only 3 points at the top of the table.

Ajax occupy top spot on 54 points with PSV and Feyenoord on 53, followed by surprise package Vitesse Arnhem on 51 points in 4th place. Vitesse have never won the Eredivise before and look set to challenge the 3 famous Dutch giants until the end of the season for the title.

Important matches in April include PSV v Ajax in Eindhoven and Feyenoord against Vitesse at De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam.

NAC Breda in 12th and VVV-Venlo in 17th are separated by only 3 points whereas Willem II appear to be cut adrfit in last place, 9 points clear of safety.

Vitesse striker Wilfried Bony leads the scoring charts with 23 goals, closely pursued by Heerenveen’s Alfred Finnbogason who has netted on 19 occasions.

There are no Dutch representatives remaining in European competition following Ajax’s penalty shootout defeat to Steau Bucharest in the Europa League. PSV and Twente had previously been knocked out at the group stage of the same competition.

Life after Chelsea for Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez’ exit from Stamford Bridge was always inevitable, rant or no rant, but where will the Spanish boss find his next job once he vacates the Chelsea hot-seat?

Rafa Benitez may have brought forward his departure from West London this week with his explosive tirade at both the Chelsea supporters and the club’s hierarchy in what has been an incredibly turbulent marriage for the two parties which always looked set for divorce ever since Rafa uttered the words “I do” to Roman Abramovich.

Benitez had rejected Abramovich’s previous advances for his services prior to his ‘interim appointment’ in November of last year, citing his wishes to be at the helm of a long term project as opposed to becoming a stop gap measure in the Chelsea set-up. However, Benitez had remained out of employment for almost two years since his sacking from Inter Milan after only a little over six months at the San Siro.

It is alleged that Benitez also rejected overtures from Sampdoria, Schalke and a number of English Premier League sides believing them to be unable to match his ambitions of challenging with Europe’s elite before jumping at the opportunity to get back into management with Chelsea last November.

Benitez’ record at Stamford Bridge – the Spaniard shares the lowest win percentage of any Chelsea manager under Roman Abramovich with Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas – coupled with two of the highest profile defamatory outbursts in recent Premier League history may have somewhat tarnished his reputation in English football. Benitez bases himself and his family in England however it remains doubtful that his next employer will be in the English game.

Benitez is currently third favourite at 14/1 to become the next Real Madrid manager behind Carlo Ancelotti and Brian Laudrup and a return to La Liga appears to be the most likely option for the current Chelsea boss. Last month Benitez, a former Real Madrid player, claimed that the Spanish giants were his ‘first love’ sparking rumour that he will be the man to replace Jose Mourinho this summer who looks set for an inevitable exit from the Bernabeu.

However, Benitez may be wary about once again stepping into the shoes of ‘The Special One’ having done so before in Milan. The spine of that Inter team is believed to have remained loyal to Mourinho – the man who led them to a Champions League and Serie A double in the previous season – upon Benitez’ appointment, resulting in the fomer Liverpool boss’s failure to replicate the successes of his Portuguese counterpart in Italy.

It appears that Mourinho has been unable to create the same close-knit dressing room atmosphere in Madrid that he managed to at the San Siro however and the opportunity for Rafa Benitez to manage his boyhood heroes may be too tantalising for him to turn down.

Should Real Madrid opt to pursue an alternative target, it remains unclear where Benitez will end up. The man who guided Liverpool to their fifth European Cup victory in 2005 is believed to retain his ambition to manage an elite European club at the highest level, although a return to former club Valencia cannot be ruled out.

With the 2014 World Cup fast-approaching, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see Benitez try his hand on the international stage, perhaps with an African or Asian side in a bid to re-build his ailing stature within the game.

Rafa Benitez’ future employment may appear uncertain, but given his recent failings at Stamford Bridge, it would certainly be surprising to see Benitez take a seat in a Premier League dugout at the start of next season.