Football for the couch potatoes

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Super Sunday!

This sunday brings about 2 of the biggest fixtures in European football - Manchester United host Liverpool and Real Madrid square off with Barcelona in el classico.

The rivalries between the teams are intensely fierce and the pressure is firmly on Rafa Benitez's side to come away with a positive result from Old Trafford to breathe new life into a championship challenge which is fading quickly - and it's only October!

A defeat will put them 11 points adrift of United and even the most ardent Liverpool fan might have to concede that they would be out of the title race, something terribly disappointing for a team tipped to be Chelsea's biggest challengers this season.

In many ways, this fixture is similar to that of Arsenal's visit to Old Trafford a couple of weeks back where pundits were predicting that a defeat would rule the Gunners out themselves. Arsenal of course produced a sparkling performance without Thierry Henry and won 1-0 - how Liverpool must be hoping they could kickstart their season with a similar result.

But can they? Do they have it in them to come to United and beat them? Potato Pundit feels that they definitely are capable of winning here based on their desperation and quality in the side but Manchester United are steadily improving and a certain Mr Rooney is back on form.

This is a tough match to call but the Potato Punt here is a 0-0 stalemate.

The 2nd blockbuster match on sunday is the clash of the Spanish champions Barcelona and a desperate Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

You could say that Real Madrid are in a similar need for a result as Liverpool following several shambolic performances this season, the latest being a 1-0 loss to Getafe where they managed zero shots on goal in the entire match.

The pressure is firmly on eminent Italian boss Fabio Capello who has hardly set the Real Madrid fans' pulses racing. The Italian has been accused of adopting negative, boring tactics and is heavily criticised for pairing Emerson and Diarra - 2 defensive midfielders - in the middle. Fans are crying out for more entertainment from the side but Capello is clearly in a no win situation. On one hand he has the produce instant results while on the other, he is expected to entertain as well.

Capello has been a champion in his managerial career with Roma, Juventus and AC Milan. In his past spell with Real, he won La Liga and seems to have the ability to transform good sides into great ones. This latest challenge is arguably his toughest but despite a few blips so far, there is potential in this Real Madrid team.

His greatest challenge is to coax the best out of his ageing stars. Raul, Ronaldo, Emerson, Beckham, Roberto Carlos and Cannavaro are all approaching the end of their careers and Capello needs them to perform once more if they are to succeed this term.

Barcelona themselves arrive in Madrid in far from ideal condition. Defeat to Chelsea in midweek coupled with poor performances from Ronaldinho and Puyol have raised doubts whether the side still has the same motivation this season after last season's all conquering exploits.

Barca have not been at their best this season so far but one does cast an eye back to the same time last season where they were hardly at their best too. They definitely have a bit to prove following the defeat to Chelsea but they do appear severely affected by the loss of top scorer Samuel Eto'o who is such a vital player for them. Ronaldinho, Messi and Deco create plenty and they do need Eto'o's lethal finishing to convert their pretty football into goals.

Real Madrid and Barcelona should be a very tight, tense affair with Capello's side in particular anxious to avoid a repeat of last season's humbling at the Bernabeu when Ronaldinho absolutely destroyed them. Potato Punt - 1-1.

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