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Give It A Rest

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


It is at this point in the footballing season that there is suddenly a lot less relevent footballing literature to occupy the minds of those who live and breathe this glorious sport. The media and back-page tabloids everywhere begin to conjure up stories along the lines of "Eto'o to Fulham" or "Mourinho to switch jobs with Martin Jol" and so on. It all ends up being exceptionally confusing and hides the real transfer coups going on.

On the other side of events are these now incessant summer tours to far away continents such as Asia or North America to promote "soccer" as a worldwide brand and to hopefully sell some shirts. Mourinho himself recently described an approaching game against a Mexican side at Stanford College in Conneticut (a location that we assume can only have been chosen due to it's similarity in name to Stamford Bridge) as a "true" test for his side. This is a side who have recently ended a season by playing against the best sides in Europe, and beating most of them, and yet suddenly a US Tour is a good test for your players?

What exactly defines "pre-season"? Surely the idea of a pre-season is to bring your players back to fitness and ready for the struggles ahead. This was once the case, but any player playing 60 games a season for his club during a season, and then playing internationals and Far Eastern tours isn't really getting a rest. In that case, a tour of nations not exactly reknowned for their footballing prowess is just the ticket. It can allow you to play your lesser players, and send off your stars on a 5-star holiday with their kids, it also allows you to integrate your new players into your squad and make some cash on the side -- makes perfect sense really from the club's perspective.

It is in these pre-seasons that suddenly it emerges that the Club are more important the team. Real Madrid have been regularly criticised for their far-eastern tours, returning home to Spain jet-lagged and knackered, but having sold a few Beckham shirts to the kids in South-Korea. Manchester United too are guilty of such Tours, and Chelsea seem to think of nothing else (this club have recently denied their own supporters an open-bus celebration of the FA Cup triumph on the grounds that the Fulham council wouldn't help them out with the 250 grand required...). It seems that the business aspect of these situations take precedent, and that although the club feel it is their right to establish themselves as a brand, as a fan it just seems to take the piss.

Just give them a rest. Let Lampard go to Spain for a few weeks, or Defoe and Ledders to Magaluf, let them all have some time off and rejoice in the millions that you have earnt from being a Premiership side, from securing a European spot, from televising more games and expanding your stadiums. These players need a rest, if they don't, we're going to get more finals like the CL and FA Cup Finals, and nobody wants that.

posted by teedoubleyou
21:00

0 comments

Revenge Served Warm

Thursday, May 24, 2007


They say that revenge is a dish best served cold, but for Milan that wasn't to be. With the 2005 Final still fresh on the minds of both sides, it seemed that the time for the Italian side to reep revenge on the red's of Merseyside had come sooner than anyone could have hoped for.

As fans of the beautiful game, we could not have hoped for a better final. Sure, a few weeks back everyone got excited at the prospect of Manchester United and Chelsea battling out for glory on all three fronts in 3 momentous games, however, after watching the FA Cup Final, it was clear that the Champions League warranted something a bit more, something special, something with a bit of morbo as the Spanish say. With the Final being held in the lap of the Gods in Athens, the Gods came through and gave us AC Milan vs Liverpool - Part Deux.

The build up was always going to be the best part of this Final. There was never going to be a repeat of the legendary fightback where Milan appeared to lose 100% concentration for all of six minutes, there was no Dudek and no Shevechenko either. But this time we had an in form Kaka versus a determined Gerrard and a Liverpool side that had improved in every way over the team of 2005. This time, there was morbo.

Liverpool started well, demonstrating an attacking formation and a desire to take the game to the Italians. Gerrard played off Kuyt and was all over the place, Pennant ran Jankulovski up and down the wing and Mascherano was doing a great job of containing Kaka and Pirlo. Seedorf was AWOL, and Pippo was performing a tribute to terriers everywhere by snapping away at defenders and doing his utmost to get in the referee's ear. It was rivettting stuff, and it seemed that finally, a Cup Final was going to be decided in normal time.

The goal was harsh on Liverpool, although if you believe Inzaghi apparently it was intentional. "Every now and again we manage to pull it off. We rehearse it with the manager." Pure Pippo, and here at Heaven's 11 we believe him, after all, this man is famed for goals which are unlikely to feature in any goal of the season competition. 1-0 Milan, and half-time.

In the 2nd half the game had changed. Liverpool were aware that they needed to go for it, and Milan were quite content in giving a masterclass in defending. Milan's defending left a lot to be desired for, although Nesta had a good game and made a fair few essential tackles which otherwise would've allowed Liverpool to level the score.

Gerrard went through on goal, but his tame shot was easily held by Dida. In the meantime, Benitez threw on Crouch at the expense of Mascherano, the one player who seemed to be able to stop everything Kaka attempted in the centre of the park. Within 5 minutes of his replacement, Kaka slipped a throughball to Inzaghi who rounded Pepe Reina and slotted a very classy shot into the net. At 2-0, with 10 minutes to go it seemed that it was all over.

Kuyt had other ideas. Standing at the far post, the dutchman was able to header into the back of the net to bring the scoreline to 2-1. He was arguably offside, but there was a lot of movement in the box and the decision is contestable. Fans in the epic olympic stadium were overjoyed, sensing another comeback, but this time the Milanese weren't going to fall asleep. They kept their cool, and remained focused. Very few passes went astray in those final few nervous minutes, Liverpool rushed their game and Crouch gave away a foolish foul in the buildup to a potentially threatening play. The game was over, and Milan emerged victorious.

The scenes of celebration were fantastic. Inzaghi was mobbed by his team mates while Liverpool players look dejected, and this blog felt sympathy for the likes of Carragher and Kuyt who were interviewed while still in a state of despair.

Platini has decided that from now on, trophies awarded in European Cup Finals will be handed over "amongst the fans" rather than on a platform in the centre of the pitch, a detail which added a certain old-school element evoking victors of the past. Maldini has now lifted the trophy 6 times, a total equal to that of Liverpool's entire history. Incredible.

Benitez later complained about the referee only allowing 2:51 seconds for stoppages instead of the 3 minutes indicated by the board (incidentally, as the boards only show whole numbers, are we to assume that the ref rounds up or down to the nearest whole number at his discretion? If this is the case, then Benitez hardly has grounds for complaint). There were shouts for handball in the first goal, but overall the Liverpool players seemed to admit that Milan were worthy of their medals.

Gattuso rounded things off nicely by handing the trophy over to Berlusconi before finally adding, "The defeat two years ago will stay me for a lifetime, but this is a different story. It's our turn to celebrate now."

posted by teedoubleyou
08:45

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Best in Show

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


We suppose that with the imminence of tonight's CL Final that we owe it to the footballing world to pass comment on this game of games. We are all being treated to a rematch of perhaps the greatest CL Final of all time. At least according to Rafa who said; ""For me, 2005 was the best final in the history of the competition."

Quite.

This blog on the other hand, doesn't think that tonight will go the same way. And frankly, although we're looking forward to the encounter as any other CL Final, we prefer to comment on it with the aid of hindsight and without a hangover. Plus we don't want to do a Lawro and predict the scoreline.

posted by teedoubleyou
14:26

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Hair of the Drog

Monday, May 21, 2007


Here at Heaven's 11 we don't like to be seen to favour certain teams over others, and any bias other than that favouring Tottenham (as a result of our Swedish/North London correspondent) is purely coincidental.

Now that that is cleared up, we can safely say that Chelsea deserved to be the eventual winners at the new Wembley on Saturday past. Sure, it was a dire game of football with very little in the way of inspiration or creativity, but what was apparent was Mourinho's superior tactical nous.

Couple that with United's failure to beat Chelsea this season (along with defeats to Arsenal home and away, away defeats to Copenhagen, Roma and Milan), and it seems that the reds are not the invincible club they think they are.

No one is suggesting that Chelsea deserved the Premiership crown (only a fan blinded by blue could pronounce such blasphemous opinion), United were the better side over the course of the season, however, on Saturday they were beaten by a team who have only one aim; to win.

In Didier Drogba, Lampard, Terry and Cech, they have fighters. Alongside such valiant players are troops such as Mikel, Makalele, Bridge, Cole & Cole and the unstoppable Essien. Throughout the game, Rooney seemed to be the only real player trying to win the game for Manchester United, and his efforts were mostly poor. The two teams have played 126 games between them this season, and it was clear that there were a lot of tired legs out there, but for Drogba to still look fresh enough to lose his marker while playing a scintialing one-two with Lampard was a sign of the hunger that drives these Chelsea players.

Mourinho put up 6 fingers to signal the number of trophies he has won since arriving in London, and only a fool would bet against him adding to that number.

posted by teedoubleyou
13:50

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Premiership Royal Rumble: Nilsson’s verdict

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Which self confessed football fan has never thought about which premiership manager would come out top dog in a WWF (back when it was good) style royal rumble? The answer should be none.


The image of Chris Coleman strutting towards the ref after Fulham lost to … with a facial expression akin to a Viking who had misplaced his drinking horn at the annual Valhalla ‘Free Mead Fest’; Wenger itching for a fight with both Pards and Jol on the touchline; Warnock mimicking a leg breaking challenge to inspire his players against Reading… all these incidents lead us to believe that managers are not always the epitome of calm. No, they are just animals in suits who can scrap with the best of them.


Here is the run down of my Top 8 based on my sterling judgement.


1. Martin Jol – Strong as an ox and oft compared with the ‘Thing’ from the Fantastic Four. He could take a barrage of punches and probably not feel a thing… then bear hug his opponents into slow, suffocating sleep.


2. Stuart Pearce – Close second. His deadly look could probably kill a hippo from 200 yards. They don’t call him ‘Psycho’ for nothing and if you want to pick a fight with this man, make sure you have three or four stocky buddies with you.


3. ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce – Biggest face in football, he may be in his fifties but his massive frame can still generate a fair bit of power. Let him belly flop you and your time in the ring is numbered. If that fails he will moan at the lack of recognition he gets and probably bore you into submission.


4. David Moyes – Has the eyes of a ruthless (albino and ginger) assassin. Wouldn’t think twice about giving you a Glasgow kiss if you look at him the wrong way. Looks like he has survived in a closet for the last 4 years fed solely on bread and water.


5. Mark Hughes – Sparky has a great head of white hair and looks impeccable in a suit. However, aim a punch at that chin and you will have lost 2 or 3 knuckles. When this man gets angry, he does so with a measured calm that would earmark him as a potential successor to Putin as Premier of Russia.


6. Chris Coleman – I would not like to be in the receiving end of a stream of Welsh invective from this man. His youthfulness gives him an edge over a lot of these middle aged managers, stamina and general health would see him last thus far.


7. Neil Warnock – Old and relegated, but wily nonetheless. Warnock would probably have a crow bar in his briefs and a truncheon up his ar*e which would be used to good effect. However, the rest of the mangers would be incensed by his foul play, overpower him, and send him out of the ring… just like Paul Jewell did in the last day of the season.


8. Paul Jewell – Been through the lower leagues and has a large physique that would stand him in good stead in this Royal Rumble. His agility would let him down as well as his lack of tactical knowledge would see him outsmarted by managers with a better CV. Scouse heritage would stand him in good stead.

posted by teedoubleyou
14:20

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Seville Retain The Title

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Sevilla have become only the 2nd ever club to retain the UEFA Cup (we suspect that's because most winners of the UEFA Cup tend to be challenging for the CL the season after...), and they did it in style albeit with a few shaky moments.

The game itself was a fine demonstration of flowing attacking football, both sides battled to the end, a fact exemplified by Jonatas' dramatic equaliser in the 115th minute of the Final. The game was played in good spirit and the refereeing was spot on, with the ref allowing the game to play on on the several occasions when players went to ground too easily. They soon learnt.

Both 'keepers were exceptional, pulling off some incredible saves, not least Palop - who was later to become the hero of the match - from an audacious lop by Riera. Fantastic stuff.

Sevilla should've finished the game sooner, and no doubt Juande Ramos will have a few white hairs this morning (and a stonking hangover we hope). Although Valverde thought "it was real cruel final", and put it down to Palop's performance saying "They have a great goalkeeper. That was crucial", he overlooked the fact that had it not been for Gorka Iraizoz, they wouldn't have even have made it past 90 on the clock.

Still though, great performance and great ad for La Liga -- perhaps an indication of it's competitiveness and overall quality over the Premiership.

We look forward to the FA Cup Final, hopefully both Chelsea and Man Utd will take something from this game and go on the attack at Wembley. Hopefully.

posted by teedoubleyou
09:00

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Seriously Silly

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Sam Allardyce's appointment as Newcastle's new manager has filled the Magpies with ideas too far above their station. This club haven't won a domestic trophy since 1955, which for a "big club" is truly awful everyway you look at it.

Allardyce is now expected to do wonders, buy players and instill a winning mentality in the dressing room -- it's all well within his limits as a manager, and although he's moved to a club who haven't performed at the heights of Bolton in recent years it seems like he's taking a step in the right direction.

Bolton fans have confessed themselves to be disappointed in Fat Sam, but he's taken Bolton as far as he can and it's time for someone else to take up the challenge. Conversely, no manager has taken Newcastle as far as they can go for many years, and it can only be seen as a step up for Allardyce, moving him ever closer to the England job he covets.

Pearce has been moved along by his employers, and cites poor funding as a major reason for his poor performance as City manager -- regardless of poor funding, silly money was spent on Corradi and Samaras, and seriously-silly money was paid for SWP. Is Pearce just a rubbish manager? We don't think so, however he still has a lot to prove and perhaps taking some time out with the under-21s could be the tonic.

With Pearce being sacked, Jewell moving on from Wigan and acts such as Louis "I talk about myself in the 3rd person" Van Gaal and Ronald Koeman, Heavens11 can confirm that silly season has started.

Chelsea are expected to confirm the signing of Sidwell later this week, who could either become best buddies with bench-mate SWP, or turn out to be an inspired (and more importantly English) purchase. Time will tell.

Finally, FIFA are investigating the Tevezgate scandal. We no longer care, and expect very little to come of it, especially with FIFA's involvment.

posted by teedoubleyou
12:12

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10 Cents and some change

Friday, May 11, 2007


It's that point on a Friday afternoon where after trowling the various blogs and footballing websites of repute and disrepute that this blog feels it's time to throw in it's 10 cents.

Anyone unlucky enough to watch the Chelsea v Man Utd match on Wednesday will know that the league is over. Neither team tried to win, and sympathy must be extended to the fans of both clubs who bought the tickets earlier in the season under the illusion that they were going to witness the title decider. All of those smug people with far too much money to burn weren't looking so smug on Wednesday night when Sinclair and Sahar appeared on one team sheet, and Eagles on the other.

Chelsea formed a guard of honour and clapped on the new Champions, instead however, they were greeted by a team captained by Heinze. This blog can only assume that the applause was directed at Heinze and his recent "Most Hilarious Footballing Moment Of 06/07" award.

Elsewhere, Fergie's love of wine has been brought into the limelight. It seems that every quote leaving the red-faced Scot's mouth has some mention of wine -- good for him, and as a result we finally have conclusive evidence that drinking has a positive effect on your job.

This weekend also sees the 2 games which will decide which team will be accompanying Watford and Charlton into the lower realms of the Championship. Personally we think it'll be Sheffield United or Wigan (for all their whining), but West Ham will have to pull something special out of the bag against Manchester United if they are to remain in the top flight. Tevez has apparently stopped learning English, which suggests that he doesn't fancy the Hammers' chances. Either that or his wages have been cut as a result of the £5.5 million fine.

It could also be the last weekend we are subjected to Poll's refereeing. This blog was unforutnate enough to witness a fine display of the man's officiating during a Fulham v Blackburn encounter. Aside from the dire football on display, there wasn't much to keep this blog entertained other than Poll's trigger happy attitude towards refereeing. Defend himself as he might, he hasn't a leg to stand on. Realistically, it won't be the end. Hackett has come out defending the disgraced Poll, and suddenly what had seemed too good to be true, has indeed turned out to be just that.

There wasn't too much to rub this blog up the wrong way this week, perhaps it will all change with the fast approaching C.L. Final and that other game, you know, the one involving those two giants of English football? No?

No, us neither.

posted by teedoubleyou
14:43

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Title Race Over

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


So it has come to pass that Manchester United are the champions and very deservedly so. This season was a battle of attrition, with United playing the silky and threatening attacking football that Arsenal think they play, and Chelsea sporting a more smash and grab method. One proved successful, entertaining and engaging, the other was just shite.

Chelsea never hit top gear throughout the entire season. Chelsea fans will have been surprised and more than a little annoyed at their failure to capitalise on United's recent slip-ups, and in many ways, the poor performances of Ballack and Shevchenko were much to blame. Mourinho's decision to play a side without any real wingers didn't end up dazzling or succeeding in any of the ways that Robben and Duff/Cole had destroyed various teams in the previous two seasons and they will have to clean out some of the bad and change their tactics.

Really though, Manchester United deserve it all -- Ronaldo and Rooney have been outstanding, and the two clubs have been far beyond anything that the other clubs have provided this season, particularly Arsenal and Liverpool who have suffered seasons of extreme mediocrity (aside from Liverpool's 2nd CL Final in 3 years under Beitez). It'd be nice for them to be involved in the race next season, but its far too soon to be thinking about that.

Elsewhere, Charlton were relegated, which many Charlton fans greeted with a small cheer safe in the knowlegde that they'll finally be the best team in the league for a season. They may even win the Championship next season, something that the fans deserve. Who will join them? This blog would like to see West Ham go the way they deserve, however a suspicious feeling suggests it'll be Wigan. They're also crap, so who cares.

Spurs seem to have sealed a UEFA spot along with Bolton and Everton, and once again Newcaste, Boro, Villa and even Blackburn (a very decent side who are often overlooked, although 10th isn't that great) have done very little. Roeder was shown the exit, Southgate learnt the hard way and Mark Hughes learnt that Fabregas is a twat. Frustrations for all, not least, the fans of the shockingly awful Manchester City. As mentioned in the previous post, they have failed to score at home since new year's day -- forget mid table mediocrity, that is just terrible, and the worst bit is that Pearce isn't the worst manager by a long way, he is poor at judging player ability as can be seen in Corradi and Samaras. Now being forced to sell Barton can't be the solution to their problems either.

All this talk of underperforming footballers and the depths of dispair experienced by Newcastle is depressing this blog. Coffee is in order for all.

posted by teedoubleyou
16:09

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United One Step Away

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Manchester United's tale of two penalites game against City has probably handed them the title. Although Vassel's attempt at a penalty was laughable, City fans will proabably be more focused by their failure to score at home since New Year's Day.

Laughable indeed. How City can even defend Pearce amidst claims of Allardyce's potential appointment as the new manager. With a recent bust up in traning between Dabo and Barton, and Barton repeatedly undermining everyone's authority, one can only assume that Pearce has also lost control of the dressing-room.

The evidence was there for all to see against a mediocre United. Mpenza was the only real threat to United throughout the game, and came close on a couple of attempts, not least an impressive half volley on the turn. Either way, it was not to be and Machester United once again demonstrated the desire and attitude to chase the game throughout, particularly the brilliant Ronaldo.

Ball's stamp on the player early in the first half was outrageous and deserved an instant red card, however he managed to get away with it only for Ronaldo to go down under a weak tackle in the box. Ball wasn't as lucky this time, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Ronaldo stood up and buried a very well taken penalty.

Vassel will rue his chance to take off some pressure, however, he failed and his manner of failure was exactly why Manchester City are in the predicament they are in.

..Oh, and apparently Sir Alex is going golfing tomorrow. He doesn't fancy watching the Arsenal v Chelsea game. A very rare sign of overconfidence from the United manager, and after today, who could blame him.

posted by teedoubleyou
16:22

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Tevezgate

Friday, May 04, 2007


While Gattuso is busy taunting Liverpool over their "dated" and rubbish "long ball" game (this blog certainly doesn't see any reasons to argue), we focus our attentions on the approaching Premiership weekend.

Title contenders aside, the battle to secure a stay in the top flight is what really gets exciting at this time of the season. Not least because it is the only time when average teams playing poor football are actually entertaining.

However, attention on the bottom of the table is being drawn to the "Tevezgate" scandal. This blog is part of the contigent that believe a £5.5 million fine is a bit of a let off compared the amount of money West Ham stand to lose should they drop. Recently, the value of promotion has been quoted as being as high as £60 million -- a reflection on the increased TV rights amongst other contributing factors.

A points deduction would've have been a much more just result especially bearing in mind Tevez's recent influence on West Ham's results. The 3-0 win at Wigan was down to man-of-the-match Tevez's creative play and passing, as was the win against Middlesborough earlier in the season. You get the drift.

The point is, that there are 6 points right there which would consign them to almost certain relegation, one which could now befall Wigan. Ask any Hammers fan to choose between a points deduction or £5.5 million fine and they will uniformly say "fine" -- their chairman has deep pockets, and if he can afford to shell out the green for Neill, Upson and Boa Morte then he will have no problems paying the fine. But points?

Once again the Premier League have shown themselves to be weak under pressure, and they all know that West Ham are a club who bring in viewings, full stadia and a chairman who will attract foreign interest. Wigan? Screw 'em. Watford? Them too...

Whelan is right to try and sue the lot of them, and with any luck something will come of it. Although this blog doubts that eventuality, its certainly more entertaining than the football any of these clubs bring to the pitch.

posted by teedoubleyou
08:12

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Domestic Glory Doesn't Pay

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Well well, is it a coincidence that both Chelsea and now Man Utd have faltered at the final hurdle of Europe's prestigious knock-out tournament?

I don't think so.

Obviously that doesn't excuse their performances. Heinze's hilarious backpass to Vidic which resulted in an equally hilarious clearance was only the second most hilarious moment of this year's competition. The winner of that accolade does belong to Heinze, but rather involves Evra's destruction derby impression during the 3-2 win at Old Trafford. That tumbling of bodies was reminiscent of some of the finer moments of the NFL and Kaka did well to avoid being taken out.

United just didn't turn up, and suddenly we get the fantastic sore loser comments from a more than usually red-faced Fergie regarding their fixture pile up. Apparently this pile up is the reason for their unusually poor performance.

"The television was happy to move the game to Sunday but the Premier League said the integrity of the competition had to be paramount", said Fergie in response to the fast approaching derby at Eastlands. Ironically he seems to have ignored all the other occasions this season where Chelsea have had to play before United most weekends. Support for Mourinho? You must be joking.

The integrity of this argument is compromised by the laughability of his narrowmindedness and naturally blinkered nature. The running joke about the F.A. Cup being the 3rd/4th place play-off for the CL has been doing the rounds today, and although does amuse this blog slightly, the authors of this joke are probably Liverpool fans who have forgotten that they are the club who have gone the longest in Europe without reclaiming their domestic title.

Ah well.

posted by teedoubleyou
16:14

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Liverpool Reina Continues

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


A few weeks back this blog asked if Chelsea had blown it?

The answer I think we can all agree, is yes.

In 3 days Chelsea went from being Premiership contenders (although the prospect cannot be officially ruled out, only a fool would bet on United throwing it away now) to also rans, and from being challengers to the throne of European football to sore losers.

Mourinho once again whipped out the ol' sulky face that sends those housewives crazy, and moaned about various aspects of the game. He seemed to be quite annoyed that the only team that was trying to win the game was his own. This comment was made regardless of Kuyt's extra time disallowed goal, his earlier header which smacked off the cross bar and Liverpool's legitimate goal in normal time. Indeed it does seem like Liverpool were trying to force the game into penalities. Shame on them.

In a match devoid of any entertainment other than that caused by tension, the highlight was seeing Benitez sitting down cross legged on the touchline awaiting penalites. He seemed calm, controlled and most of all comfortable. Perhaps he should give Sir Alex and Arsene the phone number for his yoga classes -- the premiership would be a happier place.

Elsewhere, Pepe Reina was burgled.

Yes, it seems that there is a ring of burglers out there who have been smart enough to make the connection that if a footballer is playing live on TV, then it follows that he is not at home. Bingo. Result? Jerzy Dudek was seen sporting a t-shirt with the logo "best goalkeeper in the world" printed onto the front -- we may have found our culprit.

Either way, the final few weeks of this season will decide Mourinho's legacy (for there is little chance he will be around next season to entertain us all). If Chelsea can beat United in the F.A. Cup Final then perhaps all will not be lost. After all, he hasn't won that trophy, and it would be a decent winner's medal to add to his collection, and could in fact persuade his owners not to terminate his employment.

posted by teedoubleyou
13:35

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