Why Sacking Solskjaer Would Be Two Steps Back For Man Utd.

Manchester United’s start to the season has been poor at best. When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over Jose Mourinho at the tail end of last season, there was genuine optimism as he brought a sense of hope and positivity to the club. Something the former Chelsea manager failed to provide during the later stages of his reign. The first game of the Premier League season against Chelsea proved to be an anomaly as United struggled to win games. Managing only three wins in their first ten games. Although United currently sit 7th on the table, their turbulent start sees Solskjaer facing mounting pressure to turn things around. 

United’s fan base has been vocal with a portion of fans believing the job is too big for Solskjaer. While others believe he needs time and patience to rebuild, and shape the squad he wants. Solskjaer however, is under no illusion just how mammoth a task he has on his hands. Openly admitting that United’s rebuilding will not be an overnight success.

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Youth is a Priority for the Long Haul

While results aren’t going their way at the moment, Solskjaer does have a clear plan that he wants to implement. One that the Manchester United board are fully behind. That plan looks to rely on youth rather than on experienced superstar players to get results. It’s certainly a different direction from the last several seasons. But it is a welcome change from under-performing superstars. 

Simply put, the older and more experienced players United have at their disposal have just not been up to scratch. To his credit, Solskjaer has gotten rid of some of the “deadwood”. Alexis Sanchez was loaned out to Inter Milan and looks set to have a future elsewhere. Romelu Lukaku left for Inter Milan during the summer and although he wasn’t in poor form, he wanted out. Although that looks to be a mistake particularly with United’s poor goal scoring form this season. If a player doesn’t want to be at your club, there’s no point keeping him.

However, yes, the favouring of youth over superstars isn’t getting them the results fans are looking for right now. But this is a team that is being built to sustain success over the long run, not provide short term success. The hiring of a new manager can change that and take a different approach.

Mason Greenwood has been backed by Solskjaer to play a role in how United's season develops (Image from Tumblr)

Mason Greenwood has been backed by Solskjaer to play a role in how United’s season develops (Image from Tumblr)

Solskjaer needs Two or Three Transfer Windows to Build a Competitive Squad

For all the criticism of another poor transfer window by United where they failed to sign players in several key positions. Solskjaer’s three new additions have been performing well. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have both been solid additions to United’s backline, despite their ludicrous transfer fees from Crystal Palace and Leicester City. Daniel James has been a revelation and United’s most consistent performer this season since joining from Swansea.

We must also remember Solskjaer has only had one transfer window to shape the type of squad he wants. That simply is not enough time to build a team and despite United’s riches he just cannot buy a new starting eleven. The upcoming January transfer window should provide Solskjaer an opportunity to add depth to his squad, particularly in midfield and up front.

Few expected Daniel James to play such an important role this season (Image from Tumblr)

Few expected Daniel James to play such an important role this season (Image from Tumblr)

Too Many Managerial Changes will not move the Club Forward

There have been three managers in six years since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. David Moyes the so called “Chosen One” left just ten months into a 6-year contract. His successor Louis van Gaal, an experienced title winning coach was ushered out the door after two years. He made room for the “Special One”. Jose Mourinho had a somewhat successful spell in charge. But ultimately faced the sack as relationships fractured within the club. 

Sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not only seems harsh, but it would be two steps backwards for the club. The hiring of Solskjaer is meant to be a new beginning. A new way of going forward by promoting youth and buying players who are willing to play for the club.  Hiring a new manager means new philosophies, tactical changes, squad changes etc. That is of course if United can get a willing manager. After all, United’s managerial position has become one of high risk and could turn even the most experienced of managers away. Manchester United’s new plan on relying on youth is a plan that the United board are 100% committed behind. It would be quite the dagger in the back if they were to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with less than a season to show any progress.

Yes, the board and fans need to realize it will take time and patience. Yes, there will be ups and downs, with more downs than ups. But if United are to return to dominance, now is the time to rebuild. Constant managerial changes will not help the rebuild phase, it will only hinder the club and United will be stuck in a constant merry go round.

Post by Kevin Wong. Follow him here on Twitter.

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FA Cup Heartbreak For Gerrard As Villa Seal Final Appearance

Heartbreak for Gerrard (Image from Getty)It was meant to be the fairytale send off for Steven Gerrard but Tim Sherwood had other ideas. Yesterday’s dramatic FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Aston Villa saw Sherwood’s side upset the apple cart and book their place at Wembley. For Gerrard, who is set to leave Liverpool at the end of the season it was heartbreaking. One last chance at silverware with his beloved Liverpool cruelly snatched away. Goals from Christian Benteke and Fabien Delph were enough to cancel out Phillippe Coutinho’s early strike and send Villa to their first FA final since 2000. Liverpool did have a Mario Balotelli goal wrongly ruled offside in the 88th minute but to be fair to Villa the result was what their performance deserved. Credit must be given to Tim Sherwood who has transformed this Aston Villa side since replacing Paul Lambert as manager only 11 games ago. His first game as manager was the nail biting 2-1 last 16 victory over Leicester in the FA Cup. Although not officially in charge for the game, Sherwood did give a rousing half time talk to the team with the game evenly balanced at 0-0. His words spurred them on to victory as they did again against West Brom in the quarters so yesterdays win seemed only fitting for the effort he has applied so far.

The defeat has heaped further pressure on Sherwood’s opposite number for the day, Brendan Rodgers who must be anxiously looking over his shoulder for the galloping Jurgen Klopp riding in to rescue the club. Rodgers had high hopes for this campaign after a close conclusion to last season which saw them finish second behind eventual winners Manchester City. But it has all gone terribly wrong for the Northern Irishman who has failed miserably in his attempts to replace Luis Suarez. Never an easy task, Rodgers fumbled in the transfer market like a kid in a candy store unsure what to spend his vast wealth on. A range of players arrived like Rickie Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Mario Balotelli and Adam Lallana but all have struggled to fit into Rodgers apparent system. To be fair, it is hard to adjust when the system used keeps changing, a notion that has perplexed the usually reliable Gerrard all season. Deployed as a Regista (a deep lying playmaker who sits just in front of the back four), Gerrard’s inability to remain in a withdrawn position and not venture forward was ultimately his downfall. Rodgers adapted the system to push Gerrard further forward but in doing so disrupted various other players including the highly effective Raheem Sterling who was operating in the hole behind the central striker. Gerrard’s form dipped, unsure of the role he was meant to play and was subsequently benched by Rodgers in a move that only frustrated the former England midfielder more. Their relationship has deteriorated over the past few months despite the pair denying the rumours. Gerrard it seems will leave the club under a cloud with five meaningless games left in the regular season with only Champions League qualification to play for. As for Rodgers, who became the first Liverpool manager since Phil Taylor (1956 to 1959) to go three seasons without lifting any silverware, he must wait to see how Chairman Tom Werner reacts to yet another disappointing Liverpool campaign, with Klopp waiting patiently in the wings.

Villa meanwhile go on to Wembley to face current holders Arsenal, who are looking to replicate their 2001 and 2002 successes by winning back to back FA cups. Arsene Wenger’s side progressed to the final thanks in part to a horrific error by Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici who fumbled a weak effort by Alexis Sanchez in extra time, only to see it squirm into the net. The Australian stopper who had played well up until that point was inconsolable at the end of the match with teammates and Reading staff quick to offer him support. It was a painful blow to manager Steve Clarke who watched his Championship side push Arsenal all the way into extra time. Struggling in the league, Reading have relied heavily on Federici to perform miracles and in several cases keep them in games. Without him in goal, Reading would be staring down the barrel of relegation. Instead seven points clear of the bottom three with four games left, Reading should survive hence why they could comfortably focus on Saturday’s FA Cup semi final. They gave it their all but in a cruel twist of fate, it was all snatched away from them. No one can really know how that feels except for perhaps one man – Steven Gerrard who is going through the same pain today after realizing that his Wembley dream fairytale was now officially over.

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Arsenal Draw First Blood In New Season With Win In Community Shield

Arsenal lift the FA Community Shield (Image from Getty)

Arsenal grabbed the first silverware of the new season with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Manchester City in the FA Community Shield but what does it really say about both of their chances over the forthcoming season. To be honest very little but try telling that to the Gunners faithful. After years of starvation, last season’s FA Cup success gave a much needed confidence boost to Arsene Wenger and potentially handed him a reprieve from the sack. Yesterdays emphatic win, that saw Ramsey, Cazorla and Grioud hit the target will further strengthen the calls for Wenger to stay. And it seems as though Wenger himself is starting to realize how close he came to unemployment. Criticized for his lack of spending in past windows, the French coach has wasted little time (or money) this summer rebuilding his squad. In comes Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, English defender Calum Chambers from Southampton, French defender Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle and Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina from Nice for a combined xmillion. And the spending is unlikely to end there with Thomas Vermelan leaving for Barcelona, a central defender is now top of the list for Wenger.

Arsenal take the lead through Cazorla  (Image from Getty)

Arsenal take the lead through Cazorla
(Image from Getty)

Arsenals new collection of players is already impressing. Debuchy is a known quantity after his time in the north so should add consistency and reliability to right back after Sagna’s departure for Manchester City whilst Chambers is a young talented player who shone in the Southampton team last year. David Ospina offers a selection headache for Wenger who has been searching for competition between the sticks ever since Jens Lehmann departed. But it’s the arrival of Sanchez that shows how serious Arsenal are about competing for the title this year. Dynamic, fast paced and deadly in front of goal, Sanchez is exactly the right catalysis for Giroud upfront. Often stranded and alone, the powerful French striker found opportunity stifled resulting in one too many games without a goal. Sanchez is not a direct replacement but will do the leg work and heavy lifting that Grioud needs to better himself. Arsenal chances will depend on how quickly Sanchez settles in England but based on yesterdays match, Arsenal should be in a good position come May.

Sanchez already looks like an impressive signing  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Sanchez already looks like an impressive signing
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

City have been relatively quiet this summer much to everyone’s surprise. Bacary Sagna, Wily Caballero and Fernando have been the only notable arrivals with a few other names on the cusp of a move to the club. However few people should be shocked at the limited activity in the transfer market that City have shown given what they already have at their disposal. They have kept all the fundamental components from last year’s title winning team including Yaya Toure who looked destined to leave after a ridiculously concocted scheme by his agent around a lack of birthday gift from the clubs wealthy owners, failed to bear fruits. Strengthening an already solid team would just be wasting money and with UEFA already breathing heavily down City’s neck on the financial fair play rules, Pellegrini has chosen to pull back on the purse strings. However the players he has added offer competition to areas where none existed before. Pellegrini knew Caballero well after coaching him at Malaga and sees the Argentine as an option instead of Joe Hart. Despite the England No.1 regaining his position at the tail end of last season, he did so unconvincingly spurring Pellegrini to go after Caballero. The arrivals of Sagna (on a free) and Fernando add cover to already strong areas for City. Last season Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure were sensational as Manchester City piped Liverpool to the title. But with little faith shown in Micah Richards and Javi Garcia, it forced Toure and Zabaleta to play in more games than most others in the squad did.

Can Caballero displace Hart?  (Image from PA)

Can Caballero displace Hart?
(Image from PA)

City’s showing in yesterday’s game suggests that they are not quite ready for the new season and further changes are needed. But in truth City are good to go and motivation was the only factor in the defeat to Arsenal. The Community Shield has been viewed as a pointless exercise or glorified friendly that tells us very little about how the new season will pan out. Last year Manchester United under David Moyes won the shield comfortably too but then went on to have a nightmare season that has seen whole scale changes this summer with Van Gaal and several new faces arriving. Whilst no one can take the victory away from Arsenal who simply wanted it more, the result itself should hold no barring on how the season will pan out.

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Messi Shines As Spain Implodes

Messi strikes to put Argentina in the driving seat (Image from AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)It was always going to be an explosive start but no one could have predicted this. In the opening 11 matches, we have seen 37 goals, 2 red cards, one use of the goal line technology and several uses of the new disappearing foam at free kicks. Added into this, the world’s best players have shown up with Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Arjen Robben, Mario Balotelli and Karim Benzema all getting on the score sheets in spectacular fashion. At present Brazil, Holland, France and Colombia all look like potential candidates for eventual winner but following yesterdays games they have a new threat to be worried about.

Balotelli breaks English Hearts  (Image from pa)

Balotelli breaks English Hearts
(Image from pa)

Argentina made their case for being considered as serious contenders with a 2-1 win over world cup newbie’s Bosnia. With the weight of an entire nation resting on the shoulders of Barcelona star Lionel Messi, the diminutive forward finally started to live up to expectations by scoring a quite stunning solo effort. Picking the ball up at the half way line, Messi drove forward with pace before playing a slick one two with Gonzalo Higuain. After retrieving the ball, Messi stepped up a gear leaving his shadow of the day Muhamed Besic and defender Ermin Bicakcic in his wake before cooling curling the ball past Amir Begovic in goal and in to the net off of the post. Although Argentina did concede a late goal, they never looked like letting Bosnia back into the match. Messi looks ready to finally show the world that he is the greatest player to have ever played the game by doing the one thing that has escaped him to date- lifting the World Cup. This is probably Messi’s best chance of winning it given the team he is playing in and the way they played against Bosnia. On the wing, Angel Di Maria looked unmarkable whilst upfront Sergio Aguero and Gonazlo Higuain were unlucky not to end up on the score sheet. Even at the back, an area identified as a potential problem by many, Argentina looked strong with Sergio Romero impressing despite limited playing time this season for Monaco. Argentina could go all the way and finally give Messi that last trophy that he has been craving.

Safe Hands - Romero  (Image from AFP)

Safe Hands – Romero
(Image from AFP)

Spain on the other hand looked less like champions and more like early exiters after a humiliating 5-1 thrashing by Holland in their opening game. In the repeat of the 2010 World Cup final game, Spain started strongly earning a penalty that was converted by Xavi Alonso with ease. But after Robin Van Persie scored a quite spectacular diving header equalizer and Arjen Robben scored with a cool finish to put Holland into the lead, Spain’s confidence disappeared. Their lack of confidence stemmed from the ineffectual performance of Iker Casillas in goal. Once the rock in which the Spanish side was built on, Casillas lack of game time this season for Real Madrid started to show as he helplessly flapped at crosses and punched rather than grabbed shots. His performance was so bad that head coach Del Bosque was considering dropping him for their next game against Chile until replacement David De Gea pulled out with a leg injury. He could still be dropped with third choice Pepe Reina an option. Either way Casillas will know that he needs to improve and will not be able to live on past glories any longer. Spain now faces a rampant Chile side who many are calling the underdogs of this tournament. Defeat would spell an early exit for Spain and surely end the international career of Casillas.

Casillas concedes his performance was unacceptable  (Image from Getty)

Casillas concedes his performance was unacceptable
(Image from Getty)

Another team fearful of an early exit is England who suffered a 2-1 defeat on Saturday at the hands of Italy. The Andrea Pirlo inspired Italian side took the lead through a wonderful 25 yard strike by Claudio Marchisio before Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney combined to set up Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge for a well executed equalizer. England erupted in celebration with the bench jumping from its seats to join in only for head physio Gary Lewen to comically slip on a water bottle and dislocate his right ankle and is now been forced out of the World Cup. But five minutes after the restart, Antonio Candreva doubled back on a run against Leighton Baines to deliver a perfect cross for Mario Balotelli to head Italy back into the lead. England looked shell-shocked and despite throwing on several creative players like Jack Wilshire, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana, they were unable to get back into the game and now face Uruguay in a must win game. There were several positives from England’s performance such as Raheem Sterling but once again Wayne Rooney looked out of sorts, something that manager Roy Hodgson needs to correct if they are to stay in the competition. If he can’t then England’s World Cup campaign will go the same way as Lewen’s – over before it began.

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England Hold Their Breath As The World Cup Draw Nears

Getting ready for the draw (Image from FIFA)With the World Cup draw happening tomorrow, nerves in the England camp are at an all time high.  England’s fate will be decided at 5pm (GMT) in Bahia, Brazil so in advance BOTN explores what could be England’s worst group.  Using the existing pools (England are in pot 4) and based on the various rules and regulations attached to the draw itself, here is the “Group of Death” for England. It features Spain from Pot 1, Chile from Pot 2 and Mexico form Pot 3 with England filling the final place from Pot 4.

Current World Cup holders, Spain  (Image from Getty)

Current World Cup holders, Spain
(Image from Getty)

The current World and European champions are amongst those in pot one that could pose a real threat to England’s chances. In fact all eight teams, with the possible exception of Switzerland will be a serious threat to England’s qualification hopes. Spain have talent in abundance and are incredibly hard to break down due to their intense passing game. Xavi and Iniesta are likely to dominate the play with Fabergas and Mata as support options. At the back, they have a solid backline with centre back pairing Barcelona’s Gerard Pique and Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos causing problems for opposition strikers, roaming just in front of Casillas, Reina or Valdes in goal. Upfront Spain’s rich talent pool continues with the likes of Fernando Torres, David Villa, Fernando Llorente and  Roberto Soldado to name a few offering options. Adding to this mix is newly converted Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa who has been in blistering form so far this season. The Brazilian born striker, who recently pledged his allegiance to Spain instead of his homeland, has forged a successful partnership with David Villa for Atletico. This surely gives Spanish head coach Vicente del Bosque food for thought on whether he should unleash the pair for Spain during next summer’s tournament.

Diego Costa and David Villa  (Image from AFP Getty Images)

Diego Costa and David Villa
(Image from AFP Getty Images)

Chile tested England in their last trip to Wembley just under a month ago as Alexis Sanchez backed up his talking off the pitch with a sublime performance. The Barcelona striker made a sly remark about England’s pathway system for future footballers stating how it was too easy for youngsters to join academies and automatically play for a club in the future. In Chile the academy system is nowhere near as advanced as it is in England but appears to be producing the goods. At Wembley they convincingly beat England 2-0, throwing Roy Hodgson’s plans into disarray. Although England chose to field an altered side for the match allowing them to test some new faces, it was a huge win for the South American’s who have shown with the emergence of star players like Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Felipe Gutiérrez and Gary Medal that they are a future force in world football.  Pot 3 may be considered to be the weakest pot but within them lies the stinging tail of Mexico who could relinquish all hope for England. With a squad made up of established stars and Olympic winning youthful exuberance, Mexico are considered to be one of the tournaments dark horses. Despite taking a rocky path in qualifying, Mexico’s strength is their desire to succeed which makes them a dangerous opponent.  Upfront, Mexico can call upon Manchester United’s  Javier Hernandez, Valencia’s Giovani Dos Santos or Santos Laguna’s Oribe Peralta to score the goals needed to progress.  In midfield, head coach Miguel Herrera mixes experience in the form of Andres Guardado (who is one game off his century for his country) with up and coming stars like Porto’s Héctor Herrera with some success. He could also spring a few surprises with his final squad selection if Erick Torres or Marco Fabian make the cut. Both players are good examples of the rich talent that Mexico is producing and that England needs to be aware of if they draw them in the World Cup.  

Chile ran out victors the last time they faced England  (Image from PA)

Chile ran out victors the last time they faced England
(Image from PA)

In the World Cup, there is no such thing as an easy team as England have found out in the past. There are various other teams who pose a threat to England’s chances of progression, most noticeably host’s Brazil, a Messi inspired Argentina and arch rivals, Germany. But some of the dark horses could also cause problems such as the Ivory Coast or Ecuador. Ivory Coast has plenty of talent including Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Roma’s Gervinho and CSKA Moscow’s Seydou Doumbia. They will be no pushovers, nor will Ecuador who are an improving side and will be a lot tougher than the last time England played them in 2006. Antonio Valencia and Vitesse’s Renato Ibarra are two talented wingers with lots of pace to burn plus with Felipe Caicedo up front, Ecuador could be a real threat. The country is still hurting from the death of legend Christian Benetiz so will be approaching the World Cup with a desire to do well for his memory. The USA are also amongst the group of teams who could be a potential danger as England found out in 2010 in South Africa. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann has spent the past few years experimenting with different players but now has established a nucleus of talent like Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley that he is building his team around. Added into this the emergence of Brek Shea, Terrance Boyd and Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore, Klinsmann has a strong group that is ready and prepared for the World Cup next year.

Hodgson will be hoping that he is still smiling after the draw  (Image from Getty)

Hodgson will be hoping that he is still smiling after the draw
(Image from Getty)

Hodgson and England will be hoping to avoid such a nightmare by drawing a generous group such as Switzerland, Algeria and Iran. Based on previous draws, England has had luck on their side but can it hold for Brazil? Interestingly one team in pot 4 will be moved into pot 2 just before the draw starts. This is to allow for 4 groups of eight and a somewhat easier drawing process. That said, it is still quite confusing as FIFA will not allow a group to have more than two European teams in it so adjustments will need to be made, ruling out the three European teams in Pot 1 being pulled.  If England were chosen for Pot 2, it could play in their favour or perhaps not. Either way, Hodgson is unlikely to get any sleep tonight as he worries about who his team will face next summer.

Blog by Richard Waterhouse

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Will Messi’s Latest Injury Hinder Barcelona’s Season?

Messi ruled out for 6-8 weeks (Image from PA)Despite winning 4-1 over the weekend against Real Betis, many Barcelona fans were left feeling bitter after their talisman Lionel Messi picked up a hamstring injury which has ruled him out for six to eight weeks. Can the Catalans keep up their hot form going into the New Year or is this a chance for Atletico Madrid or the Bale/Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid to catch up with the early pacemakers?

Bale and Ronaldo lead the chasing pack  (Image from AFP)

Bale and Ronaldo lead the chasing pack
(Image from AFP)

This is the fourth muscle injury the striker has suffered in the past eight months and there are concerns that if these injuries continue to reoccur that this could hinder his goal scoring record and possibly his team’s domestic ambitions. The Argentine limped off after eighteen minutes with the score at 0-0 as his team went on to win the game which kept them three points clear of Atletico Madrid. A double from Cesc Fabregas as well as goals from Pedro and Neymar secured the win. Just over a week ago many critics questioned Messi’s form after he went on a four game goal drought but this soon came to an end with a penalty scored in Milan. Now the striker has been ruled out for almost two months and now they are asking where the team’s the goals will come from.

Barca romped to a 4-1 win despite losing Messi  (Image from Getty)

Barca romped to a 4-1 win despite losing Messi
(Image from Getty)

Here is how vital Messi’s goals have been to Barcelona’s last few league campaigns:

2009-10 = Barcelona scored 98 goals (Messi = 34) = 37%

2010-11 = Barcelona scored 95 goals (Messi = 31) = 33%

2011-12 = Barcelona scored 114 goals (Messi = 50) = 44%

2012–13 = Barcelona scored 115 goals (Messi = 46) = 40%

Each of the past four seasons, Messi has contributed to at least a third of the team’s goals and in the 2011-12 season, he scored a half century yet the team came second to Real Madrid that year. No other player has come close to his total in these campaigns. Last year the second highest scorer was Cesc Fabregas with eleven. Although his scoring record is quite startling, his side haven’t suffered when he has been absent. The team have won all of their last nine games without the twenty six year old. Alexis Sanchez has been on clinical form for the side scoring seven already and Neymar also has four to his name. So Barcelona may have some firepower behind their star man but how long can they hold form for? Sanchez had a fairly quite season last year compared to his Argentine team mate scoring just eight in the league and although Neymar was prolific in Brazil, can he live up to his £48.6 million price tag?

Neymar can pick up the slack from Messi  (Image from Getty)

Neymar can pick up the slack from Messi
(Image from Getty)

For the Madrid sides, this latest injury woe could swing the title odds in their favour. Atletico Madrid (currently the better side in the capital), have only failed to win on two occasions from their first thirteen matches. Diego Costa has been red hot in front of goal for the side, netting an average of a goal per game. Real Madrid have obviously got the talent to take advantage of this situation. Cristiano Ronaldo already has sixteen goals and we’re only in November and Gareth Bale is adapting well to life in Madrid with three goals in fewer matches. Arguably the La Liga leaders should be able to hold steady until Messi returns but Gerardo Martino has revealed that he will need to talk to his star man:

He said: “We will have to talk to Messi and see if he is effected because of this. This is his third injury of the season. It is true that it did not take him long to overcome the first but this is the third one and could affect him mentally.”

Headache for Martino?  (Image from Getty)

Headache for Martino?
(Image from Getty)

Here are the next five fixtures in the league for the top three.

BARCELONA:

  • Granada CF (H)
  • Athletico Bilbao (A)
  • Villarreal (H)
  • Getafe (A)
  • Elche (H)

ATLETICO MADRID:

  • Getafe (H)
  • Elche (A)
  • Valencia (H)
  • Levante (H)
  • Malaga (A)

REAL MADRID:

  • Almeria (A)
  • Real Valladolid (H)
  • Osasuna (A)
  • Valencia (A)
  • Celta de Vigo (H)

Atletico have got a good run into Christmas whereas Barcelona have tough fixtures away at Bilbao and Getafe to come so it could be interesting to see if Los Rojiblancos can push their way to the top. With Messi likely missing until early January, the pressure will be on Barcelona to see if they can keep up the pace and hold on to top spot in La Liga without him.

Blog by Richard Waterhouse

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