Tag Archives: Rafa Benitez

Champions League back in action

2 Nov

Rafa Benitez makes his return to England as Inter takes on Tottenham. (Of course, he couldn’t come to England without mouthing off about Roy Hodgson and what’s happening at Liverpool. Seriously, it’s irrelevant to your Champions League game, not necessary to talk about your former club.) Meanwhile, Rangers and Valencia will battle it out for a win that could see either squad go top if Manchester United falters. Barcelona will have its hands full with Copenhagen. The 2008 champs are only one point ahead of the Denmark outfit.

Rubin vs. Panathinaikos
Tottenham vs. Inter – 3:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)
Benfica vs. Lyon
Valencia vs. Rangers – 3:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer Plus (Live)
Copenhagen vs. Barcelona – 6 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Delayed)
Werder Bremen vs. Twente
Hapoel Tel-Aviv vs. Schalke
Bursapor vs. Manchester United – 8 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Delayed)

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Benitez out at Liverpool

3 Jun

After six years at the helm of Liverpool, Rafael Benitez has left the club in a mutual decision after a disappointing 2009-10 campaign. He’ll receive a pay-off worth a little less than $9 million, which is a lot less than the severance his contract stipulated since the club can’t afford that fee (sigh). Rumour has it that Inter is interested in obtaining the services of Benitez after Jose Mourinho departed for Real Madrid.

Benitez etched his place in Liverpool history with the miracle Champions League final win in Istanbul in his first season in charge. He also won the FA Cup the next season and reached the Champions League final in 2006-07. The team posted a league runner-up finish last year.  He achieved some wonderful things in his tenure and recorded some memorable victories.

He was a good manager, but never crossed over into great territory. It was hoped that he would bring a Premier League title to Anfield, but that never materialized. His rifts with the owners and the board over the last couple years became too played out in the media and caused too much distraction. It’s time for a change.

His transfer actions were questionable a lot of the time, but he did bring in Fernando Torres, which was an excellent signing as he has scored 56 goals in 79 appearances.  Not too shabby.  However, players like Robbie Keane, Alberto Aquilani, Andrey Voronin and Craig Bellamy have failed to make much of an impression and with the exception of Aquilani, left the club after short tenures.

It became apparent this season that the players weren’t playing with the same passion that they did even a season ago. Is that entirely Rafa’s fault? Of course not, but the manager’s got to inspire the players at least a little bit. A manager’s also got to command respect and I think Rafa lost that with the team this season.

Who’s going to replace Benitez at Liverpool?  The names I’ve heard include Martin O’Neill, Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson.  Whoever it may be has a large task ahead: win over the players and help keep players like Gerrard and Torres at Anfield and of course, get the squad back to the top four (where it belongs) and contend for a title.  But right now, I’ll settle for a little bit of stability and less drama (new owners that don’t suck would help this goal a lot).

Disappointing season for Liverpool

10 May

How fitting, a disappointing season came to a disappointing end for Liverpool with a 0-0 draw with relegated Hull City. The Reds finished seventh, which was bitter to swallow after a runner-up finish in 2008-09. Random fact: Chelsea won the league this year with 86 points. Last year, Liverpool was second with, you guessed it, 86 points.

There has been so much off the field drama at Liverpool this season that it’s overshadowed what needed to be done on the pitch. Hopefully, the club will get sold to someone who actually wants to improve it and will work towards getting Liverpool back to the top four. Of course, there’s the issues with Rafa and whether or not he’ll be leaving the club. There’s still many, many issues to be resolved, but now that the season is over, the focus can turn towards the future.

There were a few bright spots for Liverpool this season, mainly on the defensive side. The Reds only allowed 35 goals, third fewest in the league behind United (28) and Chelsea (32). Pepe Reina ended up with 22 clean sheets (18 in Premier League play), including shutouts of top four sides Manchester United and Tottenham. On the offensive side, despite only playing 22 league games, Fernando Torres notched 18 goals to finish tied for sixth overall.

Of course, there were some struggles as well. Steven Gerrard was not nearly the dominant force he was the previous season and only notched nine goals (I attribute this to missing Torres, his partner in crime/lover.) Offensively, the team struggled to put the ball in the back of the net when Torres was injured (which was more often than not). As a whole, the squad was not nearly as disciplined. After a red card free 2008-09, Liverpool picked up five this year, including two by Javier Mascherano. And as much as I hate to come back to it, the team never adequately replaced Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Because of that, the Reds were not able to control the middle of the field on a consistent basis.

Who knows what the coming months will bring, but hopefully it will be some modicum of sanity to Anfield.

And I’m back…

6 Jan

Howdy everyone!  Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!  I’m back at the computer now so here’s a quick rundown of things that have happened recently…

  • Liverpool managed to win two Premier League games in a row…but then were held to a 1-1 draw with Reading in third round of the FA Cup.  If the Reds can win the replay, they will play Burnley in the next round.  Amazingly enough, Liverpool is only four points out of the top four, so if they can actually put together a string of wins, they will be back in the hunt.
  • Manchester United was bounced from the FA Cup after a 1-0 loss to Leeds.  That just makes me smile.
  • The transfer window is open again, which means more rumours and heart palpitations.  There haven’t been any big signings as of yet, but there’s clearly still time.  As far as Liverpool goes, Rafa Benitez has supposedly been restricted to loan signings.  Defender Andrea Dossena is said to be signing with Italian side Napoli and Andriy Vororin is also likely on the way out.
  • Snow has been making a mess of things over in England.  Today’s Arsenal/Bolton game has been postponed due to the white stuff and several other contests have also had to be rescheduled. (Meanwhile, there’s two feet of snow on the ground here and somehow life continues as normal.  But I digress..)
  • Landon Donovan has made his way across the pond for a two and a half month loan with Everton.  It seems like just enough time for him not to accomplish anything, but hopefully he’ll get some time and be able to make an impact.
  • In other US soccer news, former wunderkind Freddy Adu has just signed an 18-month loan deal with Greek club Aris.  Here’s hoping he can make a lasting impression, something he’s failed to do just about everywhere else he’s played.
  • It’s official: it’s a World Cup year.  Only 155 days to go.

Aquilani still two weeks away from fitness

7 Oct

Liverpool’s new signing Alberto Aquilani is still at least two weeks away from fitness according to Rafa Benitez. Apparently Aquilani has been doing very well in his rehab workouts, but has yet to kick a ball, a rather vital act in the life of a footballer me thinks.

At this rate, Aquilani won’t make an appearance for Liverpool until November.  When Liverpool originally signed him, the thought was that he would be out an additional 4-8 weeks.  We’re approaching the back end of that number and with the Reds struggling, hopefully Aquilani will be able to assert himself in the lineup decently soon.  I realize it will take a while for him to be able to play a full 90 minutes, but we’ve got to have someone more reliable in the midfield if we’re even going to compete for a top four spot.  I’m not even sure Aquilani is the answer, but it’s worth a shot.

Premier League TV Schedule – Sept. 19-20

18 Sep

The big game this weekend is the Manchester derby.  Manchester United sits second in the table, while potential top four threat Manchester City is currently third.  However, Manchester City will be without the services of striker Emmanuel Adebayor since he earned himself a three-game ban after stomping on Arsenal’s Robin van Persie in last weekend’s match.  City will also be missing Robinho, Roque Santa Cruz and possibly former United man Carlos Tevez to injury, so goal scoring could be an issue for them.

The derby isn’t the only good matchup of the weekend though, as league leader Chelsea plays host to Tottenham.  United handed Spurts their first loss last weekend, so a win at Chelsea would go a long way towards validating their solid start to the season.

Liverpool is finally getting production from players other than Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, namely Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun.    It shouldn’t be an issue, but Rafa Benitez needs to find a place in the lineup for Benayoun.  The Reds also get a boost with Javier Mascherano returning after missing out on last week’s action due to injury.   The defense needs to continue to improve and that aspect of the game should be helped with Daniel Agger’s return to training (although it will probably be a while before he is game ready).  The Reds need to continue to put together whole team efforts to get a crucial win on the road at West Ham.

Portsmouth is still looking for its first point of the 2009/10 campaign.  They will need to put on a good performance if they want that point to come against a streaking Aston Villa on Saturday.

Saturday’s Games
Burnley vs. Sunderland – 7:30 a.m. ET/ESPN2 (Live)
Arsenal vs. Wigan – 9:30 a.m. ET/Setanta (Live)
Aston Villa vs. Portsmouth – 10 a.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)
Bolton vs. Stoke City – 5:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Delayed)
Hull vs. Birmingham – 6:45 p.m. ET/Setanta (Delayed)
West Ham vs. Liverpool – 12:30 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)

Sunday’s Games
Manchester United vs. Manchester City – 8:25 a.m. ET/Setanta (Live)
Wolves vs. Fulham – 1 p.m. ET/Setanta (Delayed)
Everton vs. Blackburn – 7 p.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Delayed)
Chelsea vs. Tottenham – 11 a.m. ET/Fox Soccer (Live)

Weekend Thoughts & Observations

13 Sep
  • There was no shortage of goals this weekend as three different teams (Liverpool, Manchester City, Sunderland) put on four score performances.
  • Liverpool put on a good performance from start to finish (finally).  Yossi Benayoun was a stud.  Not only did he have a hat trick, but he was an offensive spark that the team desperately needed.  He needs to be on the field from the beginning every game if he is going to put on performances like that.  I certainly hope Rafa Benitez keeps him in the lineup.  Even Lucas (my least favorite Red) put on a solid performance.  It’s going to take complete team efforts like that if Liverpool wants to stay in the title hunt.
  • Emmanuel Adebayor’s goal celebration against his former team was completely classless and unnecessary.  I can understand being excited about scoring on your former team, but running the length of the pitch to do it in from of the Arsenal fans was just ridiculous.
  • Clint Dempsey plays harder for Fulham than he does for the United States.  That pisses me off.  Playing for your country should deserve at least equal effort, if not more.
  • Chelsea and Manchester City are now the only unbeaten teams in the Premier League.  Chelsea left it late against Stoke on Saturday, but they got the job done.  Manchester City has looked quite dominant in their performances thus far.  It looks like that spending spree is paying off.
  • Props to Bolton for earning their first points of the year with a 3-2 win over Portsmouth.  Pompey is now the only team in the league without a point.
  • The Champions League group stages begin on Tuesday, Sept. 15.  Yay for more football!