categories: Podcast, Site Info

Wanted to say “Thank You” to everyone who has visited the site recently, although the last 6 were me hitting F5 the site has reached 30,000 hits. For me that’s amazing! Only been going a year it’s been such a learning experience and a great thing to do.

I would hopefully like to hit 50,000 by the time I get married in March, so that’s the new goal. Got loads of good things coming to the site soon, Interviews, more tactical analysis, player profiles.

Of course don’t forget about the brilliant podcasts with Chris, Brent, Ethan, Charlie and Gav which I hope continue to get better and better.

My new solo pod focusing on Ligue 1 football.

Got some more work for STV lined up, such an honour to be featured on such a high profile website.

And finally more work on other sites World Football Columns, 90 Minutes Plus Injury Time, Scotzine and anyone else that wants me.


Spanish magazine Don Balon has announced is eagerly anticipated Top 100 Young Players List for 2010. All players listed must be born after January 1st 1989 and they are also shown listed at their current club irrespective if they are on loan or not.

A dream for FM players looking forward to this years game, or just for football enthusiasts like myself who enjoy lists.

Let me know what you think, have Don Balon missed anyone off the list, add your suggestions.

read more »


The coldness of winter descended into West Yorkshire this evening and it wasn’t just the 19,000 Leeds United fans that will need some warming up before taking on their next 90 minutes, with only one win in five matches and two defeats in a row at Elland Road maybe the last team Simon Grayson would have wanted to face on a cold Monday night would have been Dave Jones red hot Cardiff City, six games unbeaten four wins in a row, a win would take them level on points with pace setters Queens Park Rangers a top the Championship table.

Leeds made three changes from the side that won 2-1 at Middlesbrough, Bradley Johnson replacing Sanchez Watt on the left of midfield and Richard Naylor losing his place to Alex Bruce, Naylor’s form has been questionable as of late but manager Simon Grayson was quick to point out the club captain was injured. Leeds fans also welcomed the return of Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Cardiff team remained the same after the 2-1 win at Coventry.

Grayson set up his side in a 4-4-2 formation. George McCartney on loan from Sunderland at Left Back, Paul Connolly on the right with the Centre Back pairing of Alex Bruce and Neill Collins. Johnny Howson and Amdy Faye in the midfield flanked by Johnson on the left and Robert Snodgrass on the right. Luciano Becchio partnered the inform Davide Somma upfront, Somma has six goals already this season.

Cardiff also lined up in 4-4-2. Tom Heaton in goal, Kevin McNaughton, Mark Hudson, Gabor Gyepes and Lee Naylor made up the back line. Seyi Olofinjana and Peter Whittingham played centrally, Chris Burke on the right and Craig Bellamy on the left. Michael Chopra partnered 7 goal striker Jay Bothroyd upfront.

It was a very scrappy opening ten minutes, both teams struggling to get their foot on the ball and as a result there was no rhythm to the match. Cardiff began to take the upper hand the good play of Chris Burke down the right causing Leeds problems his appetite for taking on defenders was evident to see.

Against the run of play Leeds had the first clear chance when Alex Bruce headed just wide from a corner, this seemed to spur Leeds on and they began to control more of the game, feeding the ball wide Johnson and Snodgrass fed balls into the box however Hudson and Gyepes had the measure of the Leeds attack and won most aerial battles comfortably. Captain Jonny Howson should have tested Heaton when the ball broke kindly on the edge of the box; the skipper struck the ball well but also wide.

Much comment was made about centre back Bruce playing in front of Schmeichel in net, a reference to the old Manchester United team of the past, this was a different United however. A long punt up field from Heaton, Bruce let the ball bounce, Schmeichel lost sight of the ball and Bothroyd nipped in to sneak the ball past both and into the net. The image of Steve Bruce in the stands said plenty about the quality of defending.

Cardiff turned the screw and with an obvious pace advantage the Leeds back four struggled at times to keep up, Bellamy causing problems down the left, Burke impressive on the right, Chopra at time went missing but Bothroyd’s work rate more than made up for it.

One talking point in the first half was Jay Bothroyds tackle on Becchio his studs were high and he made contact with the Leeds strikers ankle, nine times out of ten the striker would have saw red, at game speed the tackle looked reckless. In slow motion you could clearly see the contact made, the referee can be forgiven for not seeing the incident as at the moment of contact Robert Snodgrass clearly impeded his view of the incident, Bothroyd lucky to stay on the pitch.

When not in possession the Cardiff midfield worked very hard to win the ball back, harrying every Leeds player who touched the ball, the home sides midfield lacked the pace and ability on the ball to make a difference, Cardiff were worthy leaders going into the half time break. A chance for Grayson to regain his team’s composure and figure a way to combat the Cardiff attack.

Unfortunately whatever teamtalk Grayson gave his side it was the away team that emerged all guns blazing, within six minutes Cardiff increased their lead. Hudson caught Somma in possession his pass found Chopra in what looked like an offside position; the striker didn’t hesitate though firing across Schmeichel and into the corner. Leeds defence were slow to react once the pass was made, Chopra was sharply onto the ball and for a striker with no goals so far this season the finish was deadly.

Leeds looked bereft of ideas the formation with two upfront did not work, Somma and Becchio are good players, however they are two similar in styles and instead of striking up a partnership they looked lost, a more effective strategy would be to play 4-2-3-1 and have a more mobile forward or midfielder play behind Somma or Becchio. The Beckford/Becchio partnership worked because of the contrasting styles of both players.

Grayson must have had similar thoughts as Somma was replaced not long after the goal and Honduran International Ramon Nunez made his debut, small but stocky he looked comfortable in possession seems to have a yard of pace, the kind of player that could link up well with a target man in front of him.

Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Leeds United v Cardiff City - Elland RoadBothroyd put the game beyond Leeds before the substitute had chance to make an impact, terrific work from Bothroyd saw him advance down the right, his pass to Burke led the Scotsman to the by-line, the striker had continued his run into the box, Burke found him with the cut back and in this form he wasn’t going to miss, 3-0 to Cardiff and the game was all but over.

Four minutes later and it was ex-Celtic fullback Lee Naylor who rubbed salt into the wounds, after strong forward play by Bothroyd the ball was worked through Bellamy to Naylor at the edge of the box, known for his ability with his left foot, he decided to surprise everyone and unleashed an unstoppable shot with his right, Schmeichel was rooted to the spot as the ball whistled past his right ear, the contest was over.

The introduction of Max Gradel on the left for Leeds gave them two players with Nunez able to hold onto the ball and take some of the pressure off their defence, Cardiff defended well, limiting Leeds to shots from range, they did have the ball in the net late on, Snodgrass weaving his way into some space on the right the left foot cross found Becchio unmarked, the header found the net, the linesman correctly raised his flag.

The only other shining light for the home fans was the play of midfielder Jonny Howson, unfortunately the only mention he ever gets on TV is his love of the club “Leeds born and bred” “No one feels the defeat more.” Behind this lies a talented player, good on the ball, quick feet that allow his to beat players, a cultured left foot that can spray passes and also find the target with a few goals. Four goals last season, there is ability in there to add more.

The night belonged to Cardiff; their system was much more fluid than Leeds. Bothroyd, Chopra and Bellamy all have the ability to go wide or come inside, Whittingham can wander all over the pitch and cause problems, and since his move down south Chris Burke looks like a player reborn. Some questions why Bellamy was out on the wing and not partnering Bothroyd, it seems he is far more dangerous from this wide starting position, able to drift inside and finish with accuracy or stay wide to use his still electric pace and cause full backs no end of troubles.

Dave Jones has built an impressive side, they will be hard to beat this season as most teams have already discovered, usually on the cusp of promotion via the playoffs, this year when it comes to May, Cardiff will more than likely by the hunted not the hunter at the top of the Championship table.


Over the next 24 hours you will hear all the stereotypical clichés in football “form goes out the window” “it’s a battle of who wants it more” etc etc. This is a very arcyic view of modern day football, with the lush playing surfaces and players in peak physical condition it is no longer a “battle of the fittest” it’s a tactical battle played under extreme pressure, and no match in Britain if not the world comes close to the pressure of an Old Firm derby.

In a way you can throw form out the window as both teams have 100% records. Rangers have a slight edge in the goals scored column, but Celtic even that up with fewer goals conceded. This will be manager Neil Lennon’s second Old Firm in charge although last season’s meant very little as the title was already gone. Lennon is likely to pick seven players for their Old Firm debuts this could put a little advantage the way of Walter Smith’s side, all of Walter’s predicted starting line-up have played in an Old Firm game before and of course Walter himself has an amazing record in this fixture.

Rangers will most likely line up with five in the midfield 4-5-1 would possibly be Smith’s preferred formation for this fixture, leaving Kenny Miller to run the line on his own preferring to pack the midfield and hit Celtic on the counter attack. Celtic’s formation of late has been a fluid 4-4-2 with Antony Stokes playing wide right his instincts push him far forward leaving Wilson exposed at times down the Celtic right. This game will be won in midfield, it would be very surprising if Lennon picked Ki Sung-Yung and Joe Ledley in the centre of midfield putting them against McCulloch, Davis and Edu would be a very tough ask. More likely the Mexican Efrain Juarez will return to the centre and his stamina and hard working ethics combined with his ability on the ball would give the Celtic midfield more dig and bite and someone who can put their foot on the ball and control the play.

Samaras as he always does will drop back into the midfield looking for the ball, this will occupy McCulloch, leaving Maloney, Stokes and Hooper to take on the Rangers back four. Leaving Samaras time to create chances could be lethal for Rangers, although he is a very frustrating player to watch and many chances go to waste the Greek has unquestionable talent and eventually he will make you pay, it will be Lee McCulloch’s job to keep him under wraps.

In recent weeks Rangers have shown great ability to break forward at pace, Naismith, Miller and either Lafferty or Weiss will again look to capitalise on any loose balls Celtic may gift them and charge forward look to expose the weaknesses of Loovens and Mastrojovic at the back, the duo are untouchable in the air but can be susceptible against pace. Miller will play on the shoulder of the last defender looking for any sniff of a chance and how would he love to score a goal back at Celtic Park, giving the form he is in the odds will be short to see his name on the scoresheet.

Don’t let the tabloids fool you, tactics matter in every game, this match will be full of interesting battles at both ends of the pitch, the team that wins the majority of these battles will win the match.

category: Bundesliga

During my analysis I mentioned how ineffective Mario Gomez was for the 84 or so minutes he played, well with help of my good friends Dan_Bu and 11tegen11 from the wonderful world of twitter I have some proof to back up Gomez performance.

This diagram shows all Mario Gomez completed passes last nigh, only one pass went forward and that was a high clearance from defence, everything else was sideways or backwards. Of course being the loan front man this will mostly be the case as the team should be joining you in attack feeding off Mario’s distrubution.

To only have 12 completed passes in 86 minutes shows how isolated he was upfront, not his fault but more the way Bayern played last night. You would hope to see more passes out wide to either the midfielders or full backs, or even through balls trying to find the central midfielders making runs.

None of this happened for Bayern last night, very rarely did anyone get past Gomez to give him any chance to link up.

It was a poor Bayern performance and when you compare it to Paolo Guerrero and Ruud van Nistlerooy’s passing diagram the contrast is striking.

What a difference having a partner and a team with a more forward thinking mentality, lots of little short passes, both players covering the whole width of the pitch, very rarely having to come back into their own half.

With Benjamin and Janssen making forward runs and the attacking play of Pitroipa you can see the

passes wide to the flank were a constant feature, playing with width created the space for Pitroipa and Ze Roberto to make those dangerous runs through the centre.

Hamburg were much the better team last night and they will feel unlucky not to have gained all three points.


Bayern Munich struggling in 10th travelled to the Imtech Arena to take on 5th place Hamburg. Louis van Gaal unable to pick Robben, van Bommel, Klose or Ribery stuck to his 4-2-3-1 formation, Ukrainian midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk continued in the centre of defence alongside Holger Badstuber. Danijel Pranjić at left back, Ottl and Altintop in midfield gave the team a patched up look.

Armin Veh playing 4-4-2 with Trochowski in the hole behind the front pairing of Guerrero and van Nistlerooy, the manager was also boosted by the inclusion of Mladen Petric on the bench back from injury the home fans would have been confident in taking on the Munich giants.

After a very sluggish start to the game from both sides Hamburg began to put their foot on the ball. Bayern’s tactic was to play a high defensive line trying to squeeze the game and restrict the time Hamburg’s players had on the ball.

It worked well and they continually won the ball back with ease, the problem being there was no quality to any of Bayern’s passes so the ball was given away far too often and Hamburg continued to heap on the pressure.

Without the ball Bayern’s defence sat very narrow, Lahm and Pranjić tucking inside to protect the makeshift central partnership, Collin Benjamin and Marcell Jansen used this to their advantage, constantly finding plenty of space to get forward they both saw lots of the ball early on.

The first chance of the game inevitibley came from a Bayern defensive area, Tymoschuk got himself in a muddle and was caught underneath a cross, Lahm couldn’t react, the ball fell to Paolo Guerrero and luckily for the Ukrainian his shot fizzed wide of the post.

Seeing this close call seemed to wake up Bayern’s midfield and for the first time they got on the front foot and a few minutes of pressure followed, Thomas Müller going close with a powerful shot, deflected over the bar but no corner was given.

Hamburg then gave themselves a little break from pressuring the ball high up the pitch allowing Bayern more time on the ball, Schweinsteiger and Kroos trying to pull the strings, Pranjić and Lahm finding some space to advance up the pitch, unfortunately Schweinsteiger was receiving the ball far too deep in the midfield to cause any damage in Hamburg’s defence, Armin Veh’s men looked very comfortable.

Mario Gómez cast a lonely shadow upfront lacking any support or service it was a frustrating night for last weeks hat-trick hero, without the ball everyone but Gómez worked to bet behind the ball, once in possession the midfield couldn’t close the gap from the striker and most moves petered out.

Bayern’s best chance of the first half came from a fast break after a tidy move Toni Kroos really should have put Hamit Altintop in on goal, the man with the best cheekbones in football was furious with the young German when the shot sailed over the bar.

Very few clear cut chances in the first half, Bayern’s tactics limited Hamburg’s space Piotr Trochowski touches could have been counted on one hand, the most excitement was when Franck Rost had to come off after a Schweinsteiger challenge, Czech Jaroslav Drobny took his place in net just before the Half Time whistle.

Louis van Gaal must have had a stern word for his team at the interval as they came out in the Second Half was a full tank of gas, closing the ball down all over the pitch and not giving Hamburg any space at all, however it is not good enough to only limit your opponents you need to show some attacking ambition.

Glimpses of Thomas Müller’s talents and the driving runs of Schweinsteiger at times breathed life into the Bayern attack but it was ineffective as a Wayne Rooney apology and Hamburg had enough to resist the attacks.

Substitutions were made and Armin Veh choose to freshen up the front line, Mladen Petric and Maxim Choupo-Moting replaced Guerrero and van Nistlerooy, it made an instant impact, the more mobile Moting was able to close down the Bayern defence faster, his runs made space for Jonathan Pitroipa to ghost through the centre of Bayern’s defence.

The movement of Petric, Moting and Pitroipa upset a tired fragile Bayern defence and with Trochowski becoming more influential the smart money would have been on a Hamburg goal. Schweinsteiger tried another of his trademark runs but lost the ball cheaply, Petric had dropped into that space, with time and space on the ball he released Pitroipa with a perfectly weighted pass, clear through on goal the Burkina Faso midfielder’s shot beat Butt but couldn’t beat the post, wheeling away to celebrate Pitroipa could only watch his shot crash off the woodwork.

In the end both teams struggled to create many chances, Bayern fans may have questioned why van Gaal didn’t try something else, the like for like change Gómez for Olic didn’t add anything to the game, bringing Olic on for Kroos for the last 15 minutes could have helped Bayern’s cause, van Gaal’s hands were pretty much tied by the lack of options available to him.

Armin Veh will see this as two points dropped, his team played well in patches, with the amount of possession Hamburg had they should have created many more chances, and that’s what will worry Veh the most.

 FINAL SCORE: Hamburg 0 Bayern Munich 0

Hamburg v Bayern Munich – Tactical Extra


Another amazing fantastic podcast from myself, Gav Stone, Charlie Anderson and Brent Atema.

We discuss the biggest topics in football this week, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale, Frank Rijkaard, Leon Knight. Then we have a catch up with what’s been going on in Serie A and La Liga, Charlie gives us the latest update from Scandanavia it’s a podcast choc full of Malmo goodness.

it also kicks off the start of the predictions game Check Here for all our predictions made and the guest predictions from Britski Belasi, if you want to make guest predictions please get in touch, also any questions you want answered by any of our esteemed panel and myself send us a line.

Thanks to Mirko Bolesan and malbennett29 for the Questions this week.

As Charlie mentioned in the Podcast the guys at twofootedtackle are trying to raise money for a great cause, Cardiac Risk in the Young, for more information and how to help please check out this link

I hope you all enjoy the PODCAST also subscribe on iTunes


This is the article I wrote for STV Sport before the match between Rangers and Valencia

After the dust settled on Rangers 4-1 win over Motherwell on Saturday, thoughts would have turned to this week’s opponents and early La Liga pace setters Valencia. A few hours after the full time whistle at Ibrox, Valencia were in action with the small task of taking on Catalan giants Barcelona in the Nou Camp and any fans who tuned in to cast their eye over their midweek opponents would have witnessed what truly was a “game of two halves”.

In a first half that consisted of Los Che taking the game to Pep Guardiola’s star studded side, dominating the play and deserving their half-time lead, Unai Emery’s team could have easily been held more than the slim one goal advantage. The second half was a much different story.

Pep Guardiola’s team talk worked a treat, with Barcelona pinning Valencia back in their own half for much of the half. A superb team goal finished by Iniesta gave them their equaliser, mimicking the movements of Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith earlier that day. Xavi’s pass sliced through four defenders and Iniesta applied the finish, making it 1-1 and later Carles Puyol left his defensive post unguarded to crash a powerful header into the net and give Barca a crucial home win.

The heroics of Cesar Sanchez in the Valencia net kept this game close, denying Villa and Messi countless times, but the defeat dropped Valencia down to third in the league after a bright start to the league campaign. There was, however, enough in the first half to show any Rangers fans watching that this is a team to be respected.

For many observers, this was supposed to be the season where Valencia fell away, the pressure to sell key players finally telling and seeing Valencia living in reduced circumstances, with results to match. David Villa and David Silva were the most notable departures from the Mestalla but Valencia also said goodbye to Nikola Zigic, Carlos Marchena, Alexis and Ruben Baraja. All six were regular starters last season, forcing Emery to utilise his squad to cover the gaps.

Predicting Valencia’s line-ups this season have been a job impossible for even Mystic Meg. In the league alone an astonishing 22 players have been used. Having two players in each position is a situation most clubs dream of, and for Emery to go on and use each player is a method seldom used in football these days.

In La Liga the manager has set his team up for the majority of games in a 4-4-1-1 formation, deviating slightly to 4-2-3-1 against Barcelona. It seems very likely he will use one of these formations for the trip to Ibrox.

Cesar Sanchez has been the only ever present so far. After spells at Real Madrid and Real Zaragoza, and the ill fated time at Tottenham Hotspur, the goalkeeper moved back to Spain at the tender age of 38 to make the number one jersey his own. Still playing at a very high level his performances have boosted the performances of the back four.

With Portuguese international Miguel out injured, Bruno will start at right back. He’s a tough tackling no frills full back, more defensive minded than Miguel although he sometimes gets caught out of position.

In the centre should be the pairing of David Navarro and Ricardo Costa. Navarro is more famous for the seven month ban he received after the much documented fight against Inter Milan, but he remains a no-nonsense, solid defender who is very strong and good in the air. His partner Ricardo Costa is one of Emery’s six new signings.

He spent half of last season on loan at Lille in France where he played at centre back and left back and has the ability to play anywhere along the back four. This positional knowledge helps out the defence no end, able to fill gaps left by the full backs he then has the pace to track attackers down the wing.

The choice of left-back on Wednesday could help determine not only how Valencia attack, but also could show a weakness that Rangers could exploit. Jeremy Mathieu and Jordi Alba have been fighting for the position so far this season. On Saturday against Barcelona both were picked to link up down the left hand side and though the original team sheet showed Mathieu at left back with Alba slightly further forward, throughout the game both swapped positions taking it in turns to defend and attack.

Emery’s decision to leave out Juan Mata made this selection possible but with Mata’s return on Wednesday almost guaranteed this leaves the kind of selection headache managers dream about.

Whether playing as a defender or a midfielder Mathieu is not scared to go forward and join the attack. Against Malaga and Bursaspor he was used in a defensive role but very often when the team on the attack it is no surprise to find him in line with Valencia’s forwards.

With only 11 minutes of the game gone against Barcelona, Mathieu (red) had already decided to break forward. Nearly on the shoulder of the last defender, with Alba (yellow) pushing up trying to release Mathieu down the wing, there is acres of space behind the full back which forwards and midfielders could easily use against them. In these situations the alertness of Ricardo Costa is hugely important.

Against Bursaspor, Mathieu did a fantastic job of controlling playmaker Volkan Sen though. Whenever the ball was played into his feet Mathieu was touch tight and he frustrated the Turkish international giving him very little time on the ball. When Valencia pushed forward looking for more goals though, Sen started to exploit the space Mathieu vacated.

A simple ball over the top caught Mathieu (red) out of position in one instance. Costa (yellow) had to come across quickly to close down Sen (blue) and stop the attack. In this situation Bursaspor didn’t do a good job in supporting the attack, as a darting run from any of the midfielders could have exploited the space left by Costa and easily have led to a great chance. Rangers’ midfielders will need to be alert when Costa covers Mathieu’s position, Steven Davis is wonderful at breaking from the midfield and as his thunderous shot against Motherwell proved he is also good enough to take advantage of any space given.

Unai Emery might decide to play Jordi Alba on Wednesday to keep things tight. Not picking Mathieu does however mean Valencia are without a player who has great aerial presence and is a very technically sound defender. The team would also miss his ability on the ball, his pacy breaks from the back and his aptitude for turning defence into attack very quickly.

Alba too has these abilities, although not to the extent of Mathieu. The young full back was extremely impressive while marking Lionel Messi on Saturday, showing he has the speed and the strength to keep up with one of the world’s best. His size could be his downfall though. Up against Lafferty, Broadfoot or Whittaker, Rangers would win the aerial battle giving them an effective out-ball. Mathieu at 6 foot 3 wouldn’t be as easily beaten.

Defensively, the full back area is one that Rangers could punish if worked properly, Valencia’s midfield worked very hard to close down Barcelona and win the ball back, with four midfielders (yellow) closely chasing the ball, and the defenders’ attention also trained on the ball.

This led to Bruno (pink), being caught in a central area, unaware of David Villa (red) pushing down the flank followed closely by Maxwell (blue). The majestic skills of Iniesta (green) beat the midfield and he was able to find Villa in acres of space supplying him with a chance to shoot on goal.

With Steven Naismith in good form recently, it is important he is wise to Bruno’s positioning and tries to use this to his and Rangers advantage. It is obvious Rangers don’t have the quality in midfield that Barcelona do, but the space is there to be exploited.

One of Valencia’s great strengths this season has been the pressure the midfield puts on the ball, turning this into countless fast break situations. Emery will likely play with a four in midfield, favouring a creative player to support the front man rather than playing forwards Aduriz and Soldado up front together. The latter, now fully fit after missing the start of the season will lead the line, the five players picked to play behind him will be the result of hours and hours of discussion and deliberation.

Nine players have occupied these positions so far this season, each bringing their own attributes to Valencia’s style and success on the counter attack. One of the first names on the team sheet will likely be Juan Mata, who was rested against Barca with the trip to Ibrox in mind.

Mata was let go by Real Madrid and signed for Valencia on a free in 2008 and for two years he has quietly been making a name for himself. Now out of the shadows of Villa and Silva this could be Mata’s breakout year. Undoubtedly talented on the ball, he has the ability to play off the front man in a creative role but seems to be more effective starting from the left and breaking into the box.

His excellent finishing abilities have led to 26 goals for the club so far and at only 22 it will not be long before the big club vultures are back at the Mestalla waving their chequebooks. Right now he is a Valencia player and one to be very wary of.

Whoever Emery picks to support Soldado and Mata, be it Pablo Hernandez, Manuel Fernandes, Ever Banega or Tino Costa, Rangers must not give the ball needlessly away in midfield or up front as many of Valencia’s goals this season have come from breathtaking fast breaks.


When Valencia go forward, regardless of their formation, there are always players in support. Against Malaga when it was 4-4-1-1 four players broke forward providing options left and right of the man in possession. Then, against Barcelona, while playing 4-2-3-1 a very similar break saw four players bombing forward giving the man on the ball choices and leading to the opening goal, Right midfielder Pablo (red) cut in from the right to get on the end of Mathieu’s cutback, Soldado’s run (blue) to the back post caught the attention of Puyol and Maxwell gave Pablo the space needed to apply the finish.

Another great example of Valencia’s strength in attack was the fourth goal against Bursaspor. With 14 minutes to go and already three goals to the good, Valencia won the ball back next to their own bye-line (red). Three passes and 10 seconds later, Soldado (yellow) found himself one on one with the goalkeeper and had an easy job to make it 4-0. It was a fine example of the counter-attacking style the Spanish team have shown so often this season.

Undoubtedly Wednesday night will be a very tough test for Walter Smith’s team, and if Rangers are to have a genuine hope of advancing from the Group Stage some kind of result will be needed. At home, the Rangers fans will want a victory and this pressure to go forward could fall straight into Valencia’s style and strengths. Rangers can’t afford to sit back and defend but caution must be taken when attacking in numbers.


Hey everyone.

The latest gibfootballshow podcast is up, featuring Chris Mayer of 6pointer, Gav Stone of Les Rosbifs and Charlie Anderson of The Carvalho Peninsula and In Bed With Maradona fame.

This week we round up the European Championship Qualifying groups after the latest match ups and then we dicuss questions from listeners and Liverpool’s future.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think.


categories: Euro 2012, Scotland

Last night in Prague Ivan Bebek put the whistle to his lips and signalled not just the end of Scotland’s match against the Czech Republic but with it could end any chance of the Tartan Army reaching the European Championships in 2012, a quick glance at the table and they look in not too bad a situation, and there are ways to spin it to make it sound much better than it is. If we fast forward to the last week of the qualifying games, taking for granted that Spain will win every game, Liechtenstein lose every game, by some kind of miracle Scotland then record victories against the Czech Republic and Lithuania at home, the last week would see Craig Levein’s men travel to Spain and Lithuania play host to the Czech Republic.

If everything went according to play and it usually doesn’t for Scotland, Spain would sit top of Group I on 21 points, Scotland 2nd on 13, with Lithuania and the Czech Republic level on 10 points each, Everyone would expect Scotland to suffer a defeat in Spain and that would leave the winner in Kaunas level on points with Scotland, so if you live in the optimistic world there is still plenty to play for and it will also probably mean you haven’t watched any of Scotland’s earlier games, the problem with this scenario is it requires Scotland to win 3 matches, and right now that scenario is as far fetched as they come.

The point away from home against Lithuania on paper doesn’t look like the worst result after Lithuania’s victory in Olomouc but anyone that watched the game will know it should have been three points to start the campaign off, Scotland have played against much better Lithuania sides and come away with more than a point, this Scotland team is just not up to the job, the midfield worked very hard the whole game but was devoid of any patience on the ball or the ability to break down a stubborn defence, no creative spark on the field, Kenny Miller isolated upfront, at times there was good width created by the full backs inevitably there was no one in the box able to convert or the quality of cross was just not there, the 0-0 score line did not describe a game full of excellent saves and great tackles it described two sides unable to create any clear cut chances.

Liechtenstein at home is a game most teams in Europe maybe apart from San Marino would expect to win, the archive results in the end will show a 2-1 victory to Scotland, the score line in no way reflects the match and how abysmal the team played that night, with McFadden returning and Kris Boyd added to the line-up the expectant 37,000 that turned up at Hampden Park wanted goals, a good three or four nil win to kick start the campaign and lift the spirits of a nation. This was not to be Boyd went missing, McFadden did not seem match sharp and the defence allow Liechtenstein to look like a decent team. Level at half time it surely couldn’t get any worse, it could. Mario Frick once of Siena in Serie A was allowed time and space to collect the ball outside the Scotland penalty area, and with a quick turn and flick of the right boot he sent the tiny amount of away fans in the crowd into jubilant celebration, not since October 2007 had Liechtenstein won a match Iceland the unlucky opponents that day surely Scotland couldn’t join that elite club.

It was not to be, the country with a smaller population than the attendance that night in Glasgow couldn’t hold on, Kenny Miller’s strike on 62 minutes followed by the 95th minute winning header by Stephen McManus meant Scotland’s blushes were spared and the hopes of a nation to qualify for a major tournament again were still alive, could this be the kick up the backside the team needed and a good performance and result again the Czech Republic in Prague would go a long way in making the country believe again.

Scotland wouldn’t be Scotland without shooting itself in the foot however, the rumours began days before the Czech Republic match that Levein was thinking of leaving out the SPL’s top goal scorer Kenny Miller for uncapped QPR forward Jamie Mackie, Mackie’s 8 goals this season is an impressive tally playing for a very exciting QPR side that lead the English Championship we will be full of confidence, to give him his Scotland debut in Prague in place of the inform Miller was indeed a idea straight out of left field. Reports continued to flood out of the Scotland camp, Mackie would not be the loan front man in Prague…there wouldn’t be one.

Confusion spread throughout the country the 4-6-0 is a brand new idea for the Scottish people, although used around the World and Europe throughout the last few years, to try and adapt a team to this new style the week before a massive qualification game was a bold idea from Levein, if successful he would be a genius, if it went wrong the daggers would be at his back and questions about his managerial ability would be raised.

A few years ago a 1-0 defeat to the Czech Republic would not seem that bad a result, however the days of Nedved, Koller, Galasek and Co. are long gone, Tomas Rosicky and Peter Cech remain in the side but as the 1-0 defeat to Lithuania showed they are a shadow of their former self, missed out on the 2010 World Cup and fighting with Scotland and Lithuania for a play-off place for 2012 is not where we are used to seeing the Czech side doing business. For the majority of the match Scotland’s striker less system worked, all eleven players working hard for the team, and when Scotland tried to get forward the same faults appeared as always, no patience on the ball a lack of creativity, at times there was an outlet pass then other times there was nothing, away from home I always feel you need someone who can hold the ball up for you and let the rest of the team advance forward, this is not a call for Kenny Miller to have started either as at times this is not a strong point of his game, he does however give an option down the channel and that can be very useful to get you out of a defensive situation.

The home side dominated the possession and controlled the game the breakthrough finally came in 69th minute Rosicky’s corner was flicked on by Bednar and Roman Hubnik was there to apply the crucial finish, people can blame the system till their blue in the face but you can lose a goal from a set piece regardless of how many strikers you have on the field, there are good and bad points to how Levein put out his team, at the end of day though Scotland have left Prague with no points and needing to win three games to finish 2nd in the Group.

It would be very surprising to see Levein try this system again, Scotland just nation does not have the players available to make this work. Levein has said this was a system to be used solely against the Czech Republic, so it would look most likely to see the 4-5-1 rolled out on Tuesday for the Spanish, a match were no one really holds out any hope of a Scotland point never mind a victory.

Defeat would still leave Scotland with a slim chance of qualifying, the home ties against Lithuania and the Czech Republic would be must wins, they can’t afford no more slip ups and judging by the previous performances confidence is not high.

Who knows Scotland being the unpredictable nation that it is, it might not be too crazy to have a little punt on a win this Tuesday at Hampden, it’s only the World and European Champions.