Another very busy weekend of international football is here. The qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup take place in various capitals around the world.
The one involving the Super Eagles of Nigeria takes place in Uyo, Nigeria, against the Desert Warriors of Algeria, is of particular interest.
That match promises to be explosive with the two teams parading some of the continent’s current best forwards playing in the English Premiership.
Both teams have great respect for each other and this might translate into a very highly tactical match.
Nigerians in particular have an opportunity to gauge and test the strength of their newly emerging national team against a very technical side that will come to play cautiously and frustrate the Eagles by packing the midfield!
I can wager that the Super Eagles will continue their tradition of not losing at home. The Desert Warriors, even with their very good record of playing away from home, will be happy to escape with a draw. That is what they will aim for this weekend.
That is a luxury the Super Eagles cannot affordbecause they need the win very badly to keep alive their dream of a place in Russia in two years time, and it would take more than an Algerian team that has not been in the best of forms in recent times and with a new foreign coach that has not yet settled down to impact the team very much to come to Nigeria’s hallowed ground where the national team has never lost a match and hope to defeat a resurgent Super Eagles with probably the most lethal frontline in the continent today. It will not happen.
So, as we settle down for a long boring night of tactical football, no matter how they do it, this is one match the Eagles must win!
Who Will Win The EPL?
The EPL that has left everyone breathless this season with a really pulsating start that has resulted in a fast separation of the boys from the men.
We can now finally start to glimpse the outlines of possible candidates for winner of the English Premiership this season. The regular teams are back again at the top even though the matches have had to be closely fought like never before for all of 10 weeks for the process of separation to be complete.
Last weekend some daylight appeared between the 5 teams at the top and the rest.
These are once again some of the usual teams that have the mental strength, the tradition, the finances, the quality players and the experience of once tasting victory in this marathon race.
I have been looking at the history books and doing some calculations and combinations.
Since the start of the Premiership in 1992, a period of 34 years, only six clubs have ever won the EPL – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Leicester City!
Of those teams, four have won it more than once.
Also, only six clubs have played in every season of the Premiership – Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. That is, they have never been relegated!
Of the 20 teams that started the Premier League 34 years ago, nine have never been relegated – the 6 above plus Swansea, Bournemouth and one other.
It makes sense that in line with a tradition that has been this established, and with the state of the league already this season, one must start to look towards one of the teams within the list above for the team that will win the league this season.
Leicester City FC’s win last season looks like a one-off thing as, already, they seem to be out of contention with lackluster performances that make last season now look like a distant dream.
Before this past week I was ready to put my last kobo on Liverpool FC to win the league. It now appears I was ahead of myself in not reckoning with Chelsea.
Last week Chelsea were masterful in their performance when they took Everton to the cleaners, in a match such as I have not seen in the Premiership for a very long time. It was a Chelsea master class display – cool, calm and organised in defense, efficient and compact in the midfield, and creative and riotous up front. It was a complete display that had ‘champion’ written all over it.
Chelsea, with Eden Hazard in full throttle, put every foot right – passed the ball around with such ease and poetry, pressed the opposition quickly without the ball, invented endless scoring chances, took their chances, kept their concentration for most of 90 minutes, with or without the ball, played with intensity, speed, darting movements and passes. Even the elements had no choice but to take sides and rewarded them with plenty of luck.
On that night they could have held their own against any team in Europe.
On the other hand, Liverpool have been more consistent, playing well since the start of the season, amassing difficult points and building up a goal haul that may give them the edge should any team keep pace with them. Baring any injuries to the core of the team (they do not seem to have the depth on the bench like Chelsea) they look already like the team that will win the league this season.
However, what Chelsea requires quickly is an encore of their last week’s performance to establish that tradition and style of play. I believe they can’t wait for the league to resume next weekend.
But so far, of the usual teams made of champion material, Manchester United may have reached their midnight at dawn. They do not look anything like a possible winner of the league this season. Jose Mourinho got it wrong with the players he bought. The January window to effect change may be too far away. Plus, he seems to have lost the special Midas touch that made him one of the most acclaimed coaches in the world only three seasons ago.
Pep Guardiola is going through his own baptism into the EPL. In one week, he went from convincingly defeating probably the best team in the world, to struggling against one of the weaker teams of the EPL! Manchester City are still amongst the possible contenders but as they continue to wobble between great and ordinary performances, their chances of clinching the EPL trophy diminish.
Arsenal have not changed their ways and character. Arsene Wenger is an old horse that does not have any new tricks. One can almost predict these days how Arsenal will play a match.
14 years of ‘failure’ under the same coach and doing things the same way, can only yield the same result. The team, having arrived at a plateau, has lost the art of ‘closing the deal’ and ‘finishing the job’.
Something drastic, something momentous has to happen to lift the team from the usual periphery of the top to the very top itself.
So, at the end of my permutation and computation all arrows point in the direction of either Chelsea or Liverpool for who will win the EPL next summer! Go place your bet on either!