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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Blog by: Roh
The Championships - Wimbledon 2012: Day Two

If and when Lleyton Hewitt bids adieu to the world of tennis, his professional epitaph will read about his gutsiness, the unquenchable fire that he brings to every game and most of all about his never-say-die spirit. And amongst all the other qualities, perhaps it would be this last one that would be much discussed and opined about.

For, from the very first time that Lleyton Hewitt burst into the tennis scene, most of his acquired fandom is because of the last facet of his personality alongside his much lauded about talent. His first win at a major – at age 19, at the 2001 US Open – that hurtled the crowds towards him in droves was testimony to that fact. His victory at Wimbledon, the very next year resonated with even more fervour for him inspiring not just the Aussie fanatics but millions of tennis lovers across the world to join in on the ‘Rusty band-wagon.’

Fierceness with an edge that has insofar been incomparable – by any player – Lleyton Hewitt’s has been quite the trend-setter in all these years. Injuries and the resultant loss of form may have shaped his career in a different way than what it ideally should have been, but amidst these upheaving waves his fierceness has provided more than a speck of constancy. And it is for this particular reason that the legions of followers that the Australian commanded under his titular acclaim during his heydays still continue to linger about, as if nothing were changed; in spite of all the changes that are as visible as the word can amount to.

Speaking of words and their meanings, ferocity is quite a dicey concept. It can connote everything positive about a person when used in the right sense as it can flay a person’s verbal description, when employed in negative. Often used synonymously with aggression and even anger, ferocity is however has hidden implications more than these two synonymous usages. The word denotes passion, a propellant like none other and most of all is a quality that makes everyone want to believe in the person possessing it. As regards aggression and even anger, while these two may fade with age – as seen in several professional athletes – the latter never do die or get obliterated. On the contrary, they remain as intact as ever, undisturbed to age and all talks of maturity but undergoing a transition further enhancing the player’s inherent character trait.

In the ensuing years between the start of the new millennia – when Hewitt was at his peak – and now, it is this transition that has marked and shaped the Aussie. The fist pumps and the yells, the roars and the glares thus, as effervescent as they were in the years previously, yet contain unmistakable changes. His number in the rankings may have dropped, his form may have endured countless troubles and problems and his health may not have always been in the pink; but his ferocity continues to linger, moulded by the various adversities that he has had to face. But these changes today make Lleyton Rusty Hewitt as great a player as he was then without subtracting or taking anything away from him.

In the most realistic world, Lleyton Hewitt may have the slimmest chance of making it to a grand slam final, let alone win it; his rankings may slump further with very little possibility of resuscitation and his injuries may set him back when the world least expects it. But it isn’t winning or rankings that drive Rusty’s fans to egg him on more. They live for the moments when they can roar alongside their idol, stoked by the finesse of his game and his unique brand of ferocity – as he did against Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round of the 2013 US Open. It was an upset, in the truest sense of the word; a battle of champions past, that went the older player’s way paved with excitement and thrill that only a Lleyton Hewitt match can spring on the unsuspecting.

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Blog by: Anirudh
Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea - UEFA Super Cup

BAYERN MUNICH

Manuel Neuer – 6

Could not get near Torres’ eighth minute strike but helped create Bayern’s equaliser with quick throw out of defence. Culpable for allowing Hazard’s shot to go under him but then saved Lukaku’s penalty.

Rafinha – 5

Selected at right-back largely due to Bayern’s midfield injuries as Lahm pushed forward. Was turned by Hazard for Chelsea’s goal and offered limited support going forward to Robben.

Jerome Boateng – 6

A spectator for long periods but did then struggle whenever Chelsea poured forward on the counter-attack. Had particular difficulty picking up Hazard’s runs inside.

Dante – 6

Strong and imposing in the air but less convincing when Chelsea attacked quickly on the floor. Guilty of dropping too deep and providing Torres with too much space for his goal but scored his penalty.

David Alaba – 5

Generally provides one of Bayern’s main attacking options but was neutralised by the pace of Schurrle. Was beaten by him both for the goal and an excellent second-half chance for Chelsea.

Philipp Lahm – 8

Began in an unfamiliar holding midfield role. Went close with a first-half volley that was saved by Cech and improved after moving to full-back. Excellent penalty.

Arjen Robben – 6

Caused early problems for Cole with his pace and incisive passing. Bayern should really have scored when he brilliantly split the defence during the first-half for Muller.

Thomas Muller – 6

Was a persistent threat behind Mandzukic. Dissected Chelsea’s defence in the first-half for Ribery and had an excellent chance of his own that was blocked by Cahill.

Toni Kroos – 7

Asked to play a slightly deeper role than usual in the absence of both Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez but was disciplined in ensuring that Bayern were so dominant in possession and scored his penalty.

Franck Ribery – 8

Named European Player of the Year on Thursday night and was always Bayern’s main threat. Had five clear chances during the first-half but less wasteful at the start of the second-half to finish powerfully past Cech and also score in the shoot-out.

Mario Mandzukic – 6

Offered only an occasional threat himself but still so important for the way he links Bayern’s play. Frequently also dropped into wide positions and was denied by a series of Cech saves in extra time

SUBS

Javi Martinez (for Rafinha, 56 minutes) – 8

Provided Bayern with added balance and drive. Forced wonderful extra-time save from Cech before scoring dramatic equaliser.

Mario Gotze (for Thomas Muller, 71 minutes) – 5

Bayern’s star summer signing from Borussia Dortmund but was largely frustrated by Chelsea’s rearguard action.

Xherdan Shaqiri (for Arjen Robben, 95 minutes) – 7

Provided an injection of energy and quality. Was also calm and precise with his penalty Chelsea.

CHELSEA

Petr Cech – 9

Made a wonderful fingertip save from Ribery during the first-half and then produced a string of magnificent saves in extra time but was unable to stop any of Bayern’s five penalties.

Branislav Ivanovic – 6

Struggled defensively with the movement of Ribery, especially as Madzukic also regularly drifted to the right. Hit the bar with a powerful header from a second-half corner.

David Luiz – 7

Selected ahead of John Terry for the added defensive mobility that he provides. Made a series of important blocks and forced an excellent second-half save from Neuer. Also emphatic with his penalty.

Gary Cahill – 8

Continued his hugely impressive start to the season. Made a brilliant first-half intervention to deny Muller and was also largely responsible for negating the threat of Mandzukic for long periods.

Ashley Cole – 6

Had an especially difficult first-half against Robben but did improve and increasingly contain his former team-mate. Unable to get forward and offer any real attacking threat but scored his penalty.

Ramires – 5

Struggled to make any impact in possession but did work tirelessly in front of Chelsea four defenders to break up Bayern’s attacks before being sent off for a second yellow card.

Frank Lampard – 6

Also struggled to impose himself in central midfield as Chelsea spent most of the match chasing the ball and trying to restrict Bayern. Did break forward occasionally and was emphatic with his penalty.

Andre Schurrle – 7

Preferred to Juan Mata for his pace and vindicated that selection totally. Provided the cross for Torres’s goal and caused continuous problems down the left for Alaba as Chelsea played on the counter-attack.

Oscar – 8

Asked to play behind Torres but was most impressive for his workrate and willingness to track back. Wasted an excellent second-half chance, however, after dwelling excessively on the ball.

Fernando Torres – 7

Took just eight minutes to respond to the signing of Samuel Eto’o with a brilliant finish past Neuer. Worked hard and always dangerous but did struggle to link the play as Chelsea repeatedly lost possession.

SUBS

John-Obi Mikel (for Andre Schurrle, 87 minutes) – 5

Brought on following the dismissal of Ramires but was unable to relieve the pressure.

Romelu Lukaku (for Fernando Torres, 97 minutes) – 5

Blog by: Ani
Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea - UEFA Super Cup

Bayern Munich exacted their revenge on Chelsea for their 2012 Champions League finals defeat with a tense victory on penalties in the UEFA Super Cup in Prague.

In a repeat of their dramatic final in Munich 15 months ago, the two sides needed spot kicks to separate them but it wasn’t to be for the 10-man Blues on this occasion, despite leading twice, including in extra-time.

Substitute Romelu Lukaku was the only man to miss as his final penalty of the night in Prague was saved by Manuel Neuer.

Chelsea took an early lead through Fernando Torres before Franck Ribery equalised in the second half.

But despite seeing Ramires sent off just before the end of the 90 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s side went in front again in the opening stages of extra time with an Eden Hazard strike.

The Blues looked to have held on for a 2-1 victory but were pegged back at the death through Javi Martinez.

The European champions made the more positive start in the opening stages and Franck Ribery had a chance to test Petr Cech after seven minutes, but dragged his shot well wide of the Czech’s goal.

It was Mourinho’s side who drew first blood through none other than Torres – giving the perfect riposte to being omitted from the Spain squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers – who rifled home a superb finish a minute later.

Hazard made a powerful run through the midfield, feeding a wide pass to Andre Schurrle and the German’s pinpoint cross was met with a fearsome shot from Torres, leaving Neuer with little chance.

In a style not dissimilar to Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, Bayern enjoyed the bulk of possession but Chelsea, with the pace of Hazard and Oscar, always looked a threat on the break and nearly caught the Bundesliga champions out a second time, but Torres’ effort dipped over the crossbar.

A neat Bayern move drew a fine save from Cech, as Ribery angled a low shot towards the bottom corner, but Guardiola’s side continued to press in search of an equaliser.

But it was again Torres – exuding a much more confident figure up front – who had a chance to extend the Blues’ lead, after the Spaniard collected a Schurrle cross before firing a sharp shot on the turn over Neuer’s goal.

For all Bayern’s first-half possession, they were often limited to long-range efforts or half-chances by the hard working Chelsea defence, although Gary Cahill was called upon to make an impressive block to send Thomas Muller’s shot into the side-netting.

The match continued with the same pace after half-time – and it took just two minutes for Bayern to find the equaliser.

Ribery – who looked dangerous throughout – skipped inside Ramires before unleashing a thunderbolt to beat Cech from 20 yards, but the goalkeeper will feel as if he could have done better at his near post.

For all Bayern’s attacking threat, they were nearly masters of their own downfall when Schurrle stole the ball from Dante in the left-back position and squared to an unmarked Oscar, but Neuer was alert to save the Brazilian’s shot with his feet, before Frank Lampard fired narrowly over from distance.

But the chance seemed to spark Chelsea into life and, after a superbly timed tackle from Ashley Cole to deny Muller a shooting opportunity, the Blues pushed forward and had efforts from Hazard and Oscar as they took a stronger hold of the game.

Branislav Ivanovic, whose header sealed the Europa League title in May, rattled the crossbar as he towered above the Bayern defence from a corner.

David Luiz nearly won the game for Mourinho’s side, but Neuer’s outstretched hand kept the ball out at point-blank range.

Chelsea were reduced to 10 when Ramires was shown a red card, after referee Jonas Eriksson deemed his challenge on Mario Gotze worthy of a second yellow with five minutes remaining.

But Hazard put the Blues back in front within minutes of extra time getting underway, as he danced his way around the Bayern back-line before unleashing a shot which beat Neuer all too easily.

Cech was forced to make two saves in quick succession from Mario Mandzukic and Martinez in the second half of extra time, before Cahill again made a timely challenge in his own six-yard box to deny Shaqiri.

And the Chelsea stopper was again called into action as he beat away a Ribery free-kick, but just when it looked as though the Blues had done enough, Martinez found a way through with the last kick of extra time to take another European final between the two sides to penalties.

It was all-square until the final kick, despite Ashley Cole seeing his effort going in off the inside of the post and Cech getting a hand to Xherdan Shaqiri’s spot kick, but youngster Lukaku saw his effort comfortably saved by Neuer to hand the trophy to Guardiola’s Bayern.

Blog by: Rameez

I’m starting with a ‘get well soon’ to all Fantasy Football managers out there. I really hope you haven’t gone into severe depression after the disaster that game week 2 was.

The good news is that it can’t get any worse.

The bad news is it could, if you have Chelsea and Aston Villa players in your team.

Chelsea and Villa don’t play this weekend, so we have nine matches to make the most of and repair the damage game week 2 brought with itself.

1.  Manchester City vs. Hull City – Can’t possibly go wrong with this two weeks in a row. Someone has to face the backlash of beating a team brimming with millions, and it looks like it is Hull City. Hull beat Norwich 1-0 at home, with former Manchester United winger Robbie Brady scoring the winner.  But away at the Etihad, against the fire power City have, it looks highly unlikely that Hull will make anything out of it.

Picks:  Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, David Silva, Pablo Zabaleta
Misses: Hull defenders

2. Norwich vs. Southampton – Southampton have done well to get four points from their first two games, and will relish a visit to Norwich, who have looked out of sorts to an extent.  Ricky Lambert was one of the bargain picks of the season, and you could have him as a cheap temporary option to replace your Bentekes and your Torress.

New Norwich signing (LOAN) Johan Elmander is a Fantasy Football veteran.  Cheaply priced and with a wealth of Premier League experience behind, he has a fair amount of goals and assists in him.

Picks: Johan Elmander, Ricky Lambert, Steven Whittaker, Ricky van Wolfswinkel

3. Liverpool vs. Man United: One of the two big games for Super Sunday. Manchester United have lost just one of their last five clashes, but have won only once in their last five trips to Anfield.

Liverpool has been excellent this season, winning both their games. Daniel Sturridge will once again spearhead Liverpool’s attack.

United’s defense featuring Ferdinand and Vidic will be a hard nut to crack though. Mignolet and Liverpool’s defense have kept two clean sheets, with Enrique and Johnson racking up the points. Kolo Toure is out with a groin injury though.

The assurance that Wayne Rooney is going nowhere could play a huge part in United’s intent. Rooney behind a certain Dutch striker will be a headache for the Liverpool defense all night long.

We are picking Nani as the dark horse this week. Welbeck was wasteful on the left wing against Chelsea, and with quotes from the Juventus director general Giuseppe Marotta about Nani staying, this could very well be his breakthrough season.

Picks: Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Sturridge, Phil Jones
Misses: Kolo Toure
Dark Horse: Nani

4. Arsenal v Tottenham:  There is something about this fixture that excites you as a neutral and a Fantasy Football manager. While the Liverpool-United clash is expected to be a cautious affair, the North London derby is just the opposite.

Teams traditionally throw caution to the wind and go for broke. The North London derby has seen 26 goals in the last five Premier League clashes between the two teams. The fact that Tottenham have conceded five in their last two visits to the Emirates might not inspire confidence in them, but with their numerous summer signings, this side will not simple roll over and die.

Giroud and Walcott are must haves. Giroud has scored in both opening Premier League games and Walcott likes playing against Tottenham, having scored more goals against them than anyone else.

Vermaelen, Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all out due to injury. Aaron Ramsey has been in red hot form this season, and you’d do well to find a place for him in your team. Aaron Lennon is out with injury for Spurs.

Picks: Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla, Soldado
Dark Horse: Andros Townsend

There you have it. The Final Team that I’ll bet my house on this week.

Note : It would be advisable to keep at least one Chelsea midfielder/defender on the bench, rather than selling all of them and starting afresh. They will come back next week and it will be business as usual.

Final Team:

Joe Hart; Guy Demel, Phil Jones, Joleon Lescott; Theo Walcott, David Silva, Nolan Kasami; Sergio Aguero, Olivier Giroud, Robin Van Persie

Bench: Johan Elmander, Ross Barkley, Liam Ridgewell, Jussi  Jaaskelainen

Blog by: Sagar
The Champions League T20 is back in India! The tournament – where the top T20 teams from the world lock horns with each other – is less than a month away, with fans getting ready for another wave of frenetic slam-bang cricket. This season is expected to be especially interesting with a team from Pakistan, Faisalabad Wolves, playing for the first time in the tournament. Moreover, this season of CL T20 may well mark the end of the T20 careers of veterans like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, as they plan to say goodbye to the shortest format of the game. But who are going to be the five most important players to look forward to in the tournament? Have a look.

Shane Watson

Shane Watson

Shane Watson

The strongly built all-rounder from Australia has always been the most important player for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. In the Champions League this season, he will feature in the blue jersey, as he prioritized his IPL side over his home side Brisbane Heats, who were the winners of the KFC Big Bash League.

This will be the first Champions League season for Rajasthan Royals and the think tank would expect Watson to unleash his blistering power shots up the order and also contribute with his medium pace bowling. The recent Ashes loss to England might be lurking somewhere in the back of his mind, but he would be reasonably happy with the way he got his form back in time, as he put together an innings of 176 runs at the Oval.

Suresh Raina

Suresh Raina

Suresh Raina

Raina is one of the most successful T20 batsmen India has ever produced. The stylish left-hander is comfortably the leading run-scorer in the Indian Premier League, sitting on the top of the table ahead of batsmen like Chris Gayle, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma.

Raina was the first man to cross the 2,000-run mark in the IPL and with the way he is going, he might well be the first to break the 3,000 mark too. His run-making ability can be inferred from the fact that he has an average of 35.02 from 99 matches in the IPL and an average of 33.60 from 36 matches in international T20 matches.

Although Raina’s current form has been under some scrutiny, he would be expected to be one of the key players of the Chennai Super Kings outfit, who will try to regain the trophy this time.

AB De Villiers

AB De Villiers

AB de Villiers

Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is currently the most creative and crafty batsman in any form of cricket. He will be playing for the South African T20 giants Titans in this season of the CL T20.

De Villiers is certainly going to be a man to look forward to as he is superb performer in the shortest format of cricket. Playing for the Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, he has got 1662 runs from 66 innings, with a best score of 105*.

As far as current form is concerned, de Villiers is not going through his most productive patch; he could not contribute much on his national team’s tour to Sri Lanka, in which the Asian giants looked far better. However, a player of de Villiers’s calibre has the ability to turn a match on its head at any moment. It is going to be a challenge for the bowlers to stop him from scoring in the Indian conditions to which he is acquainted very well.

Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan

The Sunrisers Hyderabad would be ecstatic at the way their opening left-handed batsman has been performing since he got a chance in the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy. This man is in a purple patch of form as he has been marvellously successful in all formats of the game.

Dhawan smacked 248 runs against South Africa A in the recently concluded List A series, which is ample evidence of his ability. His IPL record also showcases his potential clearly: he has scored 1851 runs in the IPL from just 67 innings, with 16 fifties and a highest score of 95*.

Dhawan would eagerly be waiting for the CL T20 to arrive. When you are in the kind of form that Dhawan is in right now, the team always has a fabulous chance irrespective of the magnitude of the target to be chased down or the strength of the opposition.

Kumar Sangakkara

Kumar Sangakkara

Kumar Sangakkara

The Sri Lankan has been in sensational form the past couple of years. Runs have been raining from his bat and he is sweating boundaries. The recently concluded South African tour of Sri Lanka witnessed the dazzling form of this 35-year-old batsman.

In international T20 matches, Sangakkara is the fifth highest run-scorer in the world. He has 1178 runs to his name from 43 innings. In the IPL, he has a total of 1687 runs to his tally in 68 innings.

Though Sangakkara plays for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League, this time in the Champions League he will be rendering his services to the Kandurata Maroons who were the winners of the Sri Lankan domestic T20 competition. Undoubtedly, with all his experience, class and cricketing sense, Sangakkara is going to be the most integral part of the Maroons side.

Blog by: Naras
According to returning Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, six teams will vie for the Premier League title this season. Five of those six teams have managed Top 4 finishes in the last two seasons, with only Chelsea and Tottenham not present each time. The sixth team in Mourinho’s equation, Liverpool, have encountered a spectacularly underwhelming run in the last four seasons, finishing 7th, 6th, 8th, and 7th respectively in the last four years.

While it is difficult to ascertain whether Mourinho actually meant what he said, there is no doubt that the Champions League places for this season will be very tightly contested. With Tottenham looking stronger than ever despite the potential departure of Bale, the North Londoners are being tipped as dark horses for the Premier League title. The threat of Arsenal should also never be counted out, as the Gunners still possess a strong starting eleven.

Liverpool, on the other hand, are being tipped as the dark horses for the coveted 4th spot, having built an exciting, young team under Brendan Rodgers, while successfully retaining the services of Luis Suarez. But is a mere Champions League position all that Liverpool are capable of? Can the Reds of Merseyside upset the bigger favourites and actually manage to sneak in a Top 3 finish, thereby guaranteeing an automatic Champions League berth in 2014-15?

Here are some reasons why you can expect the unexpected from the Reds:

Youthful talent and potential

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League

Simon Mignolet of Liverpool

Simon Mignolet, Daniel Sturridge, Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson are some of the key players in this side, and continue to improve on a daily basis. All of these players are on the good side of 25, and there exist other exciting young talents such as Luis Alberto and Jordan Ibe, who are yet to display their skills to a large majority of the Anfield faithful, but have the talent to make a difference.

The controversial Suarez himself is only 26, and given that a footballer generally peaks around the age of 28, it is extremely possible that Suarez can become an even better player in the coming years, which would only serve to increase Liverpool’s chances of a brilliant finish this season.

Fabio Borini and Joe Allen are also under 25 years of age, and both players will have a point to prove this season, after the disappointments of last season. Both players have shown potential in the past, and there is reason to believe that they can end up as world-class players, provided they are able to grab their chances.

Sturridge – Suarez – Coutinho axis

Liverpool v Swansea City - Premier League

Talented trio holds key for Liverpool’s success

Liverpool’s very own ‘holy trinity’ is one of the best first choice attacking units that the Premier League can offer, and can stand up to the very best of defences. The trio will be largely responsible for Liverpool’s creativity, goals, and attacking outlet, and is undoubtedly Rodgers’ first choice attacking triumvirate, barring injuries and suspensions.

Coutinho’s movement, dribbling, and ability to pick out a key pass has made the young Brazilian the de facto creative head for Liverpool. His arrival greatly relieved the burden on Suarez, and coincided with Liverpool’s good run in the second half of the 2012-13 season. His partnership with Sturridge, another revelation at Anfield, has been Liverpool’s main threat in the first two league games and will be the main focus of United’s defence at Anfield on Sunday.

Sturridge’s transformation from Chelsea reserve to the best English striker on current form in the league has been delightful to watch. His pace, deadly eye for goal, and excellent movement with the ball, as demonstrated by his goal against Aston Villa, has greatly improved a previously one-dimensional Liverpool attack.

If Sturridge and Suarez can score 30-40 goals, in the league, between themselves, then the Reds of Merseyside have a genuine chance of a surprisingly high finish.

Ability to see out a game

Liverpool v Stoke City - Premier League

Agger will be crucial if Liverpool hope to contain opposition

The Reds possessed only one game plan last season, attack, attack and attack, and when that failed, it often resulted in a negative result for the side. The Merseysiders were also unable to see out games, often falling prey to single chances for the opposition, with both games against Manchester City last season an example of this phenomenon. When the Reds would have a bad game, it would undoubtedly end in defeat last season.

Against Villa, the Reds were able to stay in the game and continuously thwart a dangerous Villa side, and settled for a 1-0 win, after being overrun for most of the second half. More such hard-fought victories will be required for Liverpool’s progression to the upper echelons of the league table, and only need to look at hated rivals Manchester United’s excellent ability to win, when not playing well.

Reasonably better depth

Liverpool FC Training Session

Iago Aspas and others add to the depth

Except maybe Arsenal, all the other four major sides have better strength in depth than Liverpool, while Tottenham don’t necessarily have great quality in their depth. On the positive note, the Reds will not be crippled with the absence of a key player like Suarez, which was the case before January 2013. Iago Aspas, Fabio Borini, Raheem Sterling, Luis Alberto, and an untested Jordan Ibe can take up the attacking mantle, should a few key players fall prey to injury.

The defence was reinforced with Kolo Toure, but now three injuries threaten to cause a defensive crisis in the squad, and Rodgers is actively working on trying to secure a new centre-half.

With Shay Given rumoured to be heading to Anfield to be Mignolet’s understudy, he would be a huge improvement over the shaky Brad Jones, and his experience would be a great addition to the squad.

Confidence

Liverpool v Stoke City - Premier League

Wins add to the confidence

Given the squad additions over the summer, the strong finish to last season, and the continued presence of Suarez beyond August 2nd, there exists an air of confidence that hasn’t been seen at Anfield for quite a while now. The players believe, the fans believe and the manager believes as well, and a victory over Manchester United on Sunday will only increase the confidence further.

A good start will do wonders for any team, and it is imperative that Liverpool builds on their winning start to the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season, as just believing isn’t enough.

Blog by: Dhruv

Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti

It was back in the 2010-11 campaign that Juventus and Roma faced off at the Olympic Stadium in Turin for a place in the semi-finals of the much coveted Coppa Italia. That night, the Giallorossi came up trumps against a faltering Juve, coming out victorious courtesy Mirko Vucinic’s stunner and Rodrigo Taddei calm finish.

A stumbling empire stumbled further; since the Calciopolli rocked the core of football in the country in general and the club in particular, Juventus embarked upon a slump that culminated in the Club’s lowest league finish of recent times. On the other hand, the mood setting amongst the ranks at the Il Lupi radiated vibes of positivity and optimism of a bright future. Defiantly, the then president of the club,  banished any chances of the Old Lady tasting the sweetness of success in the near future

Two years down the line, the statement now seems a foregone conclusion

Roma’s ownership changed hands in the summer of 2010, when the Sensi family relinquished their stake in the club due to financial issues. Rosella Sensi oversaw the transition of the club into American hands in the summer of 2011. James Pallotta, a Boston based investor acquired the club of the city of Gladiators with an aim of taking the club places. Thomas DiBenedetto, part of the consortium buoyantly expressed his ambitions for the club –

” We want everyone at these academies wearing Roma jerseys, so they, their friends and their relatives become Roma fans. This is how we hope to spread the Roma brand around the world.”

The extravagant recruiting campaign that saw the likes of Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo and Bojan Krkic arrive also paved the way for the non-performers to leave, thereby rendering a completely new dimension to the playing squad. With the appointment of Barcelona legend Luis Enrique, the footballing brains at the helm of the Giallorossi diverted from the conventional philosophy of football in Italy, in hope of sustained success.

Two years down the line, not much seems to have changed for the club on the pitch. The ideologies of Enrique failed to make their mark on the club, and Zdenek Zeman’s haphazardly attacking approach to the game has ensured that the dream of multiple Scudetto’s and Champions League seems wishful thinking rather than practical feasibility till date. Drawing blanks in terms of Champions league qualification and any form of domestic honours has brought the words of DiBenedetto into the spotlight for critics. Failure to keep pace with eternal rivals Lazio has also brought the dagger of negativity and sour scrutiny out against the investors, the latest submission in the Coppa Italia final in the gallows of the Olimpico being the nadir of disappointment for the administration and fans alike.

The summer mercato has brought a further blanket of gloom for the Giallorossi. Despite making some astute signings in Kevin Strootman, Mehdi Benatia and Adem Ljajic, the Romanistis have been left to deal with the departure of a potential world class talent in Erik Lamela( one who was slowly edging his name alongside Fransesco  Totti in the cult of Rome)  Marquinhos and Pablo Osvaldo. A total re-coup of 80 Million sounds a good proposition economically but also de-rails the momentum of the club in the build-up to one of its most eagerly awaited seasons. Roma has always been a passion for its fans(just like any other club) and the mass protests by the people as they come to grips with the departures of three integral players to the team must hardly come as a surprise to Pallotta and DiBenedetto.

The bizarre transfer dealings of the club have left the team and the new manager resort to an increasingly frustrated Daniele De Rossi and the ageing legs of Fransesco Totti, who shocked everyone on the solemn occasion of the club’s kit launch by claiming that the new jersey would be his last for the Giallorossi.  Even off the field, things do not seem to be on the positive side for the red half of the eternal city. The proposed plans for the new stadium suggested by the hierarchy seem to have taken a backside given the inception of the ‘Legge Stadi’ which imposes restrictions on the planning of the establishment of new stadia, and the reality of moving away from the Olimpico do not seem to be coming into fruition any time soon.

The entry of foreign investment into the tropics of Italian football gave a new lease of hope to a Calcio suffering from the symptoms of an identity crisis. The radiance of sheer optimism from the bosses at the Olimpico was billed as the beginning of a new era at the city of Gladiators –

Only by being successful will we get a return on our investments. Our aim is to turn Roma into one of the biggest clubs in the world, a team that the city can be proud of, but naturally that will take a bit of time.”

Fast forward the reel to today, and the scheme of things seem to be on a downward spiral. The American dream has all but faded away for the Romanisti.