Rafa Benitez was not particularly enthralled with the idea of promoting a playoff between the fourth through seventh placed teams in the Premier League to determine the fourth spot in the Champions League. Benitez has been against the proposed “39th” game and has been rather outspoken in his criticism of the proposal. That said, he should probably all for it.
Considering that it would be good for him this year to have it, he should not be so inclined to dismiss the possibilities. As it stands right now, Liverpool are, while still securing points, not exactly out of the woods in terms of securing that fourth position. Even with a win this weekend (in a monster contest) Manchester City could still jump the Reds for fourth as they are ahead by a point with a game in hand. Arsenal finally won a victory for football by dropping the Reds at the Emirates, and a loss this weekend could conceivably do what a loss to Tottenham would have done earlier: put Liverpool out of the Champions League race.
14 of the 20 Premier League outfits would have to vote for the proposition, and even then it would be three more terms before the plan could be put into action (those pesky TV deals have already cemented everything between now and then) and start a mini tournament. However, the idea isn’t exactly forlorn here. Look at the rest of the F.A. leagues; each one has a tournament for the last spot to be promoted. Those teams play 46 league matches, compared to the 38 that the Premier League squads play. They have to start earlier in the cup competitions, and are involved in a third competition that the PL teams aren’t, the JPT. How many times do you hear them complain of fixture backlog?
One wouldn’t think that the proposal would go over well with the Big 4, but, in the same breath, they ought to be willing to consider it because, if, for some reason, they have a terrible year, they would still more than likely get a shot at getting in the Champions League, which is something that those teams often need for their own debt management.
Speaking of debts, Pompey turned in their SOA today, and, go figure, they owe more than £60 million to a whole bunch of people. The next court hearing is set for March 1st but whether or not it matters by then is still a relevant question. They are supposedly ready for their fifth takeover of the term but in all fairness, at this point, they better have the cash ready then and there if they are even going to have a remote chance of not facing some sort of administrative movements.
Off on the side, ironically, the second of the owners, Sulaiman al-Fahim, was issued a warrant for, wait for it…….
Not paying up debts.
And you wonder why this side has had issues this term.
Arsenal did football lovers the world over a favor in finally beating defensive mastermind Benitez and his Reds and the Emirates. It was quickly undone by Villa in their toothless post-goal attack against United, who, after going down a man, still looked the more likely to win the contest as O’Neill gave the Red Devils way to mush “respect” and had his side sit back and defend the tie. Maybe Wenger was right about Villa, and maybe O’Neill is right about Spurs, who will be thanked when Wolves stay up this term for the free 6 points they have offloaded to the West Midlands side. West ham got the win of the day, knocking off Birmingham 2-0, and making Zola happy with cause for once. Rovers beat Hull in the who cares battle of the day, though Boaz Myhill is making himself a fortune with the displays he’s putting in this year, even if the goal was credited to him. Everton were down early to Chelsea, only for Mr. Chelsea himself to grant Louis Saha two goals while Landon Donovan made a complete nuisance of himself (not to mention was involved in the challenge that crocked Ashley Cole) in a 2-1 Toffee win. The loss puts Chelsea only a point above United, while Everton are beginning to look menacing to the bottom of the top seven, only two points behind eighth place Birmingham and seven off Villa.
February 13 and 14
The F.A. Cup 5th round threw up few shocks, but some surprising contests. Of note, Avram Grant became the first man to lead Pompey to St. Mary’s and secure a win against Southampton. Birmingham shook off the last couple of weeks to drop Derby County, while Chelsea initially struggled with Cardiff City, only for Drogba to do his thing and roll the Blues past the Bluebirds. Fulham pasted Notts County to bring half the field into focus.
The other half require further review. Reading scored within 11 seconds against WBA, only to squander leads twice and will now have to go to the Hawthorns to take on the Championship leaders. Bolton looked more like Tottenham than Tottenham did for the first hour at the Reebok, only for Defoe to equal matters. Both sides missed monster opportunities to put the tie to bed (does any Spur know how to take a penalty?), something that was not necessarily shared at the City of Manchester Stadium where City and Stoke played to a drab 1-1 draw.
For all the shtick they get from Wenger, Villa are a fighting side, though they were fortunate to get a replay at Villa Park against Crystal Palace. Palace put in the performance of the weekend and were denied a deserved victory by a corner decision that Palace manager Warnock trashed for some time after the contest. Palace may be in the same boat as Pompey, and, as such, gave a very good account of themselves and will look to do the same in the replay.
…I swear I just saw City and Stoke do this before. I wonder why? Could it have anything to do with the fact that they have played each other three times since the start of the year and the last two have been drab 1-1 draws. Actually, none of the three contests have been that exciting. Maybe the fourth one will be of some note.
…Ah, who am I kidding?
The New Week
Wigan and Bolton play Wednesday. Not that you’d know, since the Champions League is kinda back in motion again, and with Beckham, United, and Arsenal all playing, who really cares about that contest? Relegation battles be damned, right? Not like a Bolton win would move them from 19th to 14th or anything, or a Wigan win would move them from 16th to 13th. It’s not congested down there at all.
The weekend really doesn’t offer up a whole lot, with Everton/United and City/Liverpool (see, I told you it was a big one, didn’t I?) the main draws. Fulham/Birmingham is a good mid table battle, while the rest of the contests really don’t strike to much of a chord. Of the remainder, West Ham/Hull has the most on the line, as both teams are in the positions perilous at the wrong end of the table. Blackburn/Bolton also fall in to that category, though Blackburn not as desperate as the two aforementioned squads.
Tags: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Premier League, Soccer, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers