Catch Seventy7

Sports news and views, and other stuff in life…

Roberto Mancini and Rafa Benitez locked in a battle for survival only one can win

Two years ago, Benitez’s tactical superiority directly led to Roberto Mancini’s departure from Inter Milan. Now working on these shores, the Italian has the opportunity to settle a score — as it is quickly becoming evident the two talented managers are fighting for just one job-saving Champions League spot…

Battleground: The first meeting between the two was explosive an explosive appetiser. Now fans look set to be treated to an enthralling saga

Roberto Mancini: Roman gladiator or Renaissance man?

English fans are yet to discover whether the new Manchester City manager is more of the former or the latter. Robinho might be doing his best to test the waters, but so far the scarf-wearing Italian has been a picture of placidity since arriving at Eastlands.

But if the 45-year-old does have a combative side, it might be Rafa Benitez, rather than the mercurial Brazilian, who should be sweating about his future.

It was the Spaniard’s Liverpool side, after all, that knocked Mancini’s Inter out of the Champions League in first knockout round that year.

In the first leg of their tie, Fernando Torres tortured Materrazzi in front of the Anfield faithful, eventually engineering the defender’s sending off and enabling the Reds to grab a late 2-0 win (Kuyt and Gerrard) that the Spanish striker added to in the Guiseppe Meazza to earn a comfortable 3-0 aggregate success.

That defeat, especially the manner of it, effectively spelt the end of Mancini’s rain at the Nerazzurri, despite having successfully steered the club to three Serie A titles (one handed to them in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal) in his four years in charge.

Such success (which also included two Coppa Italia triumphs) meant little when what chairman Massimo Moratti craved above all was Champions League success.

Using an emotional outburst from Mancini in the aftermath of the Liverpool defeat (where he announced his intention to resign at the end of the season, before retracting it a day later) as a reason for dismissal, at the end of the season Moratti engineered Mancini’s exit and oversaw the arrival of Jose Mourinho—a man with experience of winning the European game’s biggest prize (with Porto in 2004). Continue reading

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten predictions for the next ten years in English football…

Financial meltdown, a Welsh invasion and gay footballers are all on the agenda as CatchSeventy7 takes a look at what might happen to English football during the next ten years…

England expects: Fans are hoping David Beckham can (almost single-handedly) land the 2018 World Cup

The Noughties was a good decade for English football — indeed, some would say it was a great one.

The Premier League established itself as the most popular and lucrative competition on the planet, attracting star players and increasing the quality of football on display to an ever growing audience.

The next decade — is it the Teenies, the Tennies, or something else? — has the potential to be equally groundbreaking, with England likely to host a World Cup and many respected officials in the sport widely predicting the emergence of a European Super League.

Below I will take a brief look at just ten changes I believe will come into effect by the time 2019 draws to a close:

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January 2, 2010 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

Bungling foreign owners serve up more competitive Premier League — at either end of the table

How many words does it take to point out that foreign owners at the top and bottom of the Premier League have given hope to the rest of the competition? Err… quite a few apparently. Nevertheless, the likes of Tom Hicks and George Gillett have somehow managed to make the league far more interesting this season…

George Gillett and Tom Hicks: Hampering Liverpool's ambitions since 2007?

When the influx first looked like coming, foreign ownership of clubs was rallied against as the beginning of the end for English football — with dire warnings that fans would lose the connection with their local club as the sport became more about making money than providing entertainment.

The same was said of foreign players, of course, when they suddenly began descending on their Premier League around 15 years earlier.

The likes of Eric Cantona and Dennis Bergkamp would obstruct English talent from shining, it was widely believed. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true, as the many others who followed those legendary players to English shores have helped improved the native technique and ability beyond almost all recognition.

Few predicted the Premier League would get stronger with foreign players but, having contributed Champions League finalists in each of the last five seasons, that has proven to be the case.

Few predicted foreign ownership would lead to a more competitive league but, perhaps belatedly, even unexpectedly, that is suddenly becoming the case.

After all, some of the traditional powerhouses of English football have seemingly been handicapped by their foreign owners in recent times, while others from the middle of the English pack have been able to burst forward under the ambitious direction of new men in charge.

In the former corner, unfortunately for their long-suffering fans, is Liverpool. Just this week Rafa Benitez, the club’s beleaguered manager, attempted to deflect attention away from his own troubles by admitting publicly what everyone already suspected about the way the club is now run:

“One of the priorities this year was to reduce the debt so the club is working very hard to do this and I think that our position will be much better,” the Spaniard said. Continue reading

December 16, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Great Gael Kakuta passes debut test as Chelsea start to dream of future glory

He has been one of the most talked-about young players in world football, for all the wrong reasons. But after an impressive 30-minute debut at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Gael Kakuta underlined exactly why Chelsea had sailed so close to the wind in order to obtain his signature…

We're flying: Kakuta soared at Stamford Bridge under intense pressure

No one can say they weren’t warned.

If anyone had missed the furore surrounding Gael Kakuta that overshadowed the early part Chelsea’s season, Carlo Ancelotti’s comments ahead of yesterday’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers added another reason why the Frenchman has become one of the most talked about young players in world football.

“He (Kakuta) is a very good talent. He is very young and he can be a player in the future of Chelsea with his quality,” Ancelotti said.

“His character is good, he is a quiet boy, and at that age I have never seen a player with this talent,” he revealed.

Coming from Ancelotti, that is some statement. The Italian has observed some fabulous players in his 30-year career in football.

The fact that Kakuta is the best 18-year-old he has ever seen — just last year he was working with another fabulous teenager, AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato — will only increase the expectation around the young winger.

But the France U19 international has already become used to that.

After all, in September he went from being just a highly regarded member of Chelsea’s reserve team to one of the most notorious players in the world.

With FIFA judging out of the blue that Chelsea had broken the rules in luring Kakuta from French club RC Lens as a 16-year-old, the west London club found themselves forbidden from making signings for two consecutive transfer windows.

Kakuta, portrayed in many places as one of the villains of the piece, was banned from competitive football for four months.

Mentally weaker players would have crumbled under the increased scrutiny. But after a brief period of panic, the club’s 2008 Scholar of the Year soon composed himself.

“I think Kakuta suffered for one or two weeks about the situation and then after that he was better,” Ancelotti said.

“He returned to being quiet and calm and stayed with us to train. Still now he is well.

“It was not so important to speak with him, it was important to train with him and he stayed with the first team in this period.” Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, Uncategorized, World Football | , , , | 1 Comment

Newcastle Fans Forced To Place Faith In Unreliable Players For Salvation

Last game, away from home, perhaps only a win will do. It’s down to Newcastle’s players to pull the club out of the mess they created…

Newcastle have the fans, but not the players...

Newcastle have the fans, but not the players...

It is said that pride comes before a fall.

For Newcastle fans, pride is perhaps the one commodity they possess in abundance.  Perhaps the most devout fans in the Premiership, they follow their team with great passion.

The other commodity they have is faith.

Over the years, tangible success for the North East club has been fleeting and rarely satisfying — they haven’t won a major trophy since the 1969 Fairs Cup. Managers have come and gone, chairman have failed to deliver on their promises, and big name players have, more often than not, failed to live up to expectations.

Yet despite historical evidence to the controversy, the “Toon Army” still believe. Without past success, it is perhaps all they can do.

This season, however, the faith of the fans has often been proven to be misplaced. Performances have ranged from the tepid to the downright abysmal, and as a result it is hardly surprising the club finds itself in its current predicament.

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May 22, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | 2 Comments

Manchester United’s Success Built on Craft of Carrick

It’s a cliche, but he really is the heartbeat of the side. Don’t overlook Michael Carrick’s importance to arguably the best side in world football…

Carrick: Pretty happy

Carrick: Pretty happy

When the decisive moment in the title race finally came, everyone knew it.

Patrice Evra certainly did.

Sprinting across the turf at the JJB Stadium to join his celebrating teammates, the Frenchman exuberantly crossed his arms in an obvious imitation of Rafa Benitez’s controversial gesture made a month earlier, when Liverpool beat Blackburn.

Back then at Anfield, the Spanish manager was reported to be indicating in the action that the game was over, Liverpool had won. This time Evra was indicating something more final — that the title race was over.

Manchester United had won.

Four days later, in a game that for the majority resembled the formality it ultimately was, Manchester United got the point they needed at home to Arsenal to clinch their eleventh Premier League title.

That Saturday afternoon, on the Old Trafford pitch in front of their adoring fans, was where the title victory was formally celebrated. But, to all intents and purposes, it was in the 86th minute of a turgid game in Wigan that the trophy’s destination was sealed, with a 20-yard drive from Michael Carrick that whistled past ‘keeper Richard Kingston.

Arguably, the scorer of that goal could not have been more fitting.

Continue reading

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment