We’re not even one week into this year’s Asian Cup and use of the word “deflection” has tripled. This match was no different. The heavily fancied Koreans did enough to earn all three points off a disappointing Bahrain side.

In what was to be a overall poor performance from both sides it was Park Ji-Sung and the Koreans that started well. The Manchester United player was set up by Lee Chung-Yong but his shot failed to test Mahmood Mansoor. Apart from the early effort Park was not as influential as he would have liked.

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I have spent my afternoon watching the first half of the Total Larsson DVD. If it isn’t obvious it’s a DVD that shows you nearly every goal Henrik Larsson scored for Helsingborg, Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. It is an absolute pleasure to watch the man in his prime.

Something occurred to me while enjoying some of his best goals and I feel very very lucky. Although I had already been to Celtic Park on many an occasion I finally purchased my first season ticket in the same season that for a measly £650,000 Celtic secured the signature of Henrik Larsson from Dutch giants Feyenoord.

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The Third Round of the FA Cup was drawn on Sunday, and before 2nd round ties can be concluded the excitement has already begun to build around West Yorkshire as Leeds will travel south to take on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Matthew McKeith explains the history between the two clubs and reasons for the fans to be optimistic.

Leeds United have once again been drawn a mouth watering FA Cup 3rd round tie, away against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The Elland Road side famously beat Arsenal 1-0 in the Centenary FA Cup Final back in 1972 with Leeds legend Alan Clarke heading home a 53 minute winner. 100,000 fans packed into Wembley to witness Leeds win their only FA Cup to date.

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Rangers' forward Steven Naismith vies with Manchester United's Ryan Giggs -Champions League action in pictures

A disappointing night at Ibrox tonight, both teams not learning from the mistakes of the first game. For me Sir Alex got his team selection wrong, no width where it mattered, Rangers didn’t attack enough when in possession. Everything that went wrong can be found in my STV article that depicted the first game http://bit.ly/huQyL6

It took Manchester United 176 minutes to break down the Rangers defence and Walter can take credit from that, but he needs to find a way of playing with this tight defensive system and letting the players break forward when they have the ball. Scottish teams aren’t good enough to play tiki-taka passing up the field and play round the opponents.

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You’ve read BBC, consulted TeamTalk listened to the Journalists on twitter, but of course it’s the opinion of me “gibfootballshow” that you’ve been waiting for, Yeah I know this is the 107th Premier League preview you’ve read however where would I be as a blogger if I didn’t recognise one of the biggest leagues in the world starting it’s season, going to try and do it a little different so you don’t lose interest quickly, but I can’t promise miracles.

Instead of just picking the winners, I will list all 20 Premier League clubs and little reasons why as we go on, also at the end there will be 5 players to watch out for this season. So without further ado here we go English Premier League 2010/11 starts now.

 1.Chelsea
2.Manchester United
3.Manchester City

4.Arsenal

I have picked Chelsea as my eventual winners of the league, good manager a very strong squad, if Essien stays fit he is like a new signing for them, Ramires for me is a pivotal move, very strong energetic midfielder, loves to go box to box, great technique, workhorse engine, I think will take to the Premier League like a duck to water, Lampard and Drogba will score 20 goals each as always, Daniel Sturridge will have a good year, I don’t think any of the other teams in the league are as strong or have as much depth.

Manchester United will be strong, Hernandez looks like being the steal of the year, need to see whether he can play with Rooney first, Scholes, Giggs and Van der Sar are another year older, lots of expectation on Nani and Valencia, Sir Alex will need to summon all his managerial expertise to overcome Chelsea this season, not far behind them will be Manchester City, some excellent signings geared more towards building a team than just buying big name players, Kolarov will come to be a very important move, great left back, desire to get forward, cultured left foot, there is also not lots of pressure on him to perform, David Silva and Mario Balotelli are two fantastic signings “Super Mario” is the most exciting signing this summer for me, one of the best young players in the World, £24 million may sound like too much money however in two years he will be worth double, the move to the Premier League gets him away from the pressure of the Italian media that highlight everything he does simply because he is a black Italian man, in this country the things that he does are no different to any footballer, Bellamy, Cole and Terry make him look like an alter boy. Mancini will have a hard job keeping the 25 players picked for the squad happy; this could be City’s downfall.

Year after year we say “Arsenal need a goalkeeper, a centre back and a central midfielder” Well they signed a centre back, but he lacks experience I have no doubt Koscielny will be one of the top defenders in 3 or 4 years, but not this season, with an experienced goalkeeper behind a young defence they would concede fewer goals and have a chance at the title, the first team are Championship material, and on their day capable of beating any team in the league, however once the injuries and suspensions kick in, the players replacing them will struggle, I’m sure Bookies have suspended betting on a van Persie injury occurring at some point.

5.Liverpool
6.Tottenham
7.Everton
8.Aston Villa
9.Birmingham City

Anfield is buzzing again, Roy Hodgson has got some smiles back on the faces of Liverpool fans already, mostly because he has “convinced” Gerrard and Torres to stay at the Merseyside club, Joe Cole is a decent signing maybe not for £6 million signing on fee and £90,000 a week but that will all be forgotten once he scores the winner against a big club, Problems still exist however, the defence is not watertight, Carragher is aging and cracks are starting to appear, whether you can count on Agger and Skrtel together worries me, Glen Johnson proves times after time he can’t defend, and Fabio Aurelio is Liverpool’s best left back, the midfield is strong Christian Poulsen will be a success at Anfield, either along side Lucas or Gerrard with Jovanovic and Cole supporting, I can see Liverpool playing better football than last year but in the end coming up short.

There will not be much between Spurs, Everton and Villa, with O’Neill gone and Milner surely to follow Villa will struggle, there are still quality players there, Ashley Young and Agbonlahor are cornerstones to build the team around, if the new manager spends the Milner money wisely (if he gets any at all) then they could push for top six, Tottenham will need to find a way to balance the league matches with the Champions League, favourites to qualify over Young Boys, Arry Redknapp needs to strengthen his squad to have any chance of competing on two fronts, defensively there are problems, King and Woodgate will not play 20 games between them, Dawson needs a stable partner to be able to excel, Keane, Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko are all good players but lack that extra little touch of quality all the big teams have.

David Moyes has been quite quiet so far, Jermaine Beckford arrives with high hopes, able to score in League One for fun, questions over whether he can make the big step up, Pre-season form in promising, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill and Saha are important pieces of the Goodison Park jigsaw, Jagielka and Heitinga are the safety net keeping it all together, all the pieces there for a good season, depth could be an issue. Nikola Zigic and Ben Foster no doubtly make Birmingham a better team, I worry on how Zigic will adapt to the EPL style and the laws of averages would say it would take a miracle for the performances seen at St.Andrews to be repeated, there is time still left for Alex McLeish to strengthen the squad, does the club have that extra ambition though.

10. Wigan
11. West Ham
12. Fulham
13. Sunderland
14.Stoke City
15.Wolves
16.Blackburn Rovers

7 teams that could all either finish top half of the table or near the relegation battle, worse case scenario they could end up with both, the league is tight enough that a victory either way could mean 9th or 16th, which I suppose is the appeal of the EPL. Wigan and Martinez need to adapt and play a passing but defensively tough strategy, Boselli is an exciting signing, added to Rodallega, N’Zogbia, McCarthy and Alcaraz they are a young exciting team, with an equally exciting manager. West Ham have a chance to redeem themselves from an awful season last year, good signings in Winston Reid and Pablo Barrea, dealt a blow with Hitzlsperger’s injury, they have the tools to finish safely away from relegation.

Fulham are a bit of an unknown force with Mark Hughes in charge, not quite sure how they will line up, If they complete the deal for Moussa Dembele he will be an excellent recruit, as of right now I think the team is weak in parts, with Schwarzer, Hangeland, Murphy and Zamora it is a strong spine. I worry for Sunderland at times, they sign good players Riveros, Mensah and Wellbeck, but they suffer from players not being able to settle or injuries the North-East is a place where the fans are always expectant and this pressure sometimes becomes too much for players, they rely heavily on Bent’s goals and I’m not sure they have the players to be creative for him.

Stoke and Wolves are two similar teams, both now have a big money striker, Fletcher and Jones, both play a strong physical game, and both in their first season in the Premier punched way above their weight, this year will be another tough year, the worst thing a team can do is think they are “established” and rest on their laurels, which is why both teams have went out and spent money on making the team better, I’d prefer Tony Pulis to Mick McCarthy as a manager, not the prettiest football to watch but it produces results, another team under the same ilk are “Big” Same Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers, only one signing so far in Mame-Biram Diouf on loan from Manchester United, not the worst team but they are not going to strike much fear in the other teams, could get drawn into a relegation battle, but should have enough to survive.

17. Newcastle United
18.Bolton Wanderers
19.West Brom
20.Blackpool

So on to the bottom of the Premier League, I think everyone has Blackpool going down, it would be a massive shock if they stayed up, a bit like Arles of Ligue 1 in their story and their signings, lots of journeymen onboard, a good manager, but it will be a long old season for the seasiders. I see West Brom joining them in the drop zone, I like Roberto Di Matteo as a manager has done a great job however they just don’t have a strong enough team to stay up, another yo-yo year for the Baggies. The big battle for me will be the last relegation place, which will be between Newcastle United and Bolton, no offence to Owen Coyle but his team I think will struggle, Elmander has just not turned up in the EPL yet, Klasnic is good, the loss of Weiss and Wilshere will effect them, Petrov isn’t getting any younger, and they could lose some good players in January at the latest, Chris Houghton is probably the most inexperience manager in the league and with Newcastle not splashing the cash they could find it tough on their return to the top flight, Collocini and Gutierrez, Nolan and Steve Harper are of Premier League quality, and could be the little bit of class that keeps them up……just.

5 PLAYERS TO WATCH IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

#1 – RAMIRES – Chelsea

Just signed today for Ancelotti’s team, I have like the player since I first saw him in last years Confederations Cup, he started next to Kaka in midfield and was breathtaking to watch, Brazil played with a fast counter attacking style and Ramires was the catalyst being the pace and the power, a player that never stops running, will defend and attack all game, good on the ball, does the simple things well, just an all round good player and a very exciting signing for Chelsea fans to watch.

#2 – WINSTON REID – West Ham United

Signed from FC Midtyjland this New Zealand international was one of the brightest prospects in Scandinavian football, after a great World Cup for the only undefeated team at the tournament he looked very good, Strong, good in the air, seem to have a good positional sense, has pace to stay with the speed merchants, I think he will add an extra layer of protection in front of Robert Green, and could become the leader of the Upton Park backline.

#3 – JERMAINE BECKFORD – Everton

A free signing for David Moyes, everyone is questioning whether he can make the step up in class, there is no doubt Jermaine has the ability, his mentality might be under question, failed to turn up at times when Leeds needed him most, this could be the best situation for the striker, no pressure to score loads of goals, Everton don’t have a World Class forward in the squad so there could be plenty of chance for Beckford to step in, as a player he knows where the goal is, has pace to trouble defences, a true predator.

#4 – GIOVANNI DOS SANTOS – Tottenham Hotspur

Now by the time the transfer window closes, dos Santos could have left Spurs, I really hope he stays, he seems to have grown up a little, maybe even matured, after a fantastic World Cup where from the first minute he looked in the mood to terrorise defences, he was one of the reasons Mexico drew plaudits and made it through their group stage, I watched Spurs play in pre-season and again he looked in the mood, a lovely back heel to Bale for the only goal against Benfica, he seems to have played his way in Redknapp’s squad, I would love to see him given a chance at White Hart Lane, this could be the year he fulfils his potential.

#5 – STUART HOLDEN – Bolton Wanderers

If Coyle’s men are to stay up they will need to exciting play of the only Scotsman to play at the World Cup, born in Aberdeen, Stuart has been a star of the MLS and is due to break into the US Men’s National Team very soon, had his season disrupted by injury during a friendly in the Netherlands with the National Team, Bolton fans were just starting to appreciate his talents, a tricky winger who can play in a fantastic cross, he will be a star for his country leading up to the 2014 World Cup, and I expect him to be a star for the Lancashire club this season.

There we go, predictions done, teams put into order and players to watch, now tomorrow of course they will all either not play, get injured or lose.

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This morning I woke up with a smile on my face, for the first time in 7 years there are no English teams in the Champions League Semi-Finals, this means I don’t have to hear about how the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, far superior to any other league etc, Alex Ferguson blaming those “typical germans” for getting Rafael sent off, when it was Ribery a Frenchman and van Bommel a Dutchman who had approached the referee

Teams from Germany, Spain, Italy and France make up the 4 left in the competition, by English media standards surely this means now these 4 leagues are all better than the Premier League, of course it doesn’t, it is simply a great advert to how global the game of football has become. Personally I do enjoy the Premier League, but also in the same I Love La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, I just love football, and will watch any league available, of course in all these leagues, you will get games that bore you to death on the other hand games that will blow you away, there are people that I speak to on a regular basis who just decide that they don’t like a league and will never ever change their opinion of it, no matter what.

This type of opinion really gets to me, why be so narrow-minded, given the choice of watching Wigan v Burnley or Bayern Munich v Stuttgart, to me it would be the German match every time, and sometimes it could turn out to be a poor 1-1 draw or it could be a cracker, the same with every game you sit down to watch, I love watching top European football no matter what league or country it is from, this allows me to form opinions of players based over league, cup and international matches, not just 2 or 3 Champions League games against English opposition and then form a limited opinion.

The opinion that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, is one that English people love to spout off about, 1 point I always make is, “What players at the peak of their game have moved to the Premier League?” and “How English is the Premier League?”

From last year’s Champions League semi-finals 3 of the teams were English but only 8 different English players started in both Legs, not a great amount from 3 of the top teams in England’s top Division.

9 French players played, 7 Spanish, 3 Brazilian, 3 Ivoirians and 2 Argentineans, in total 21 different nationalities were represented, and who was in charge of these so called “English teams” a Scotsman, a Frenchman and a Dutchman, and only Arsenal were owned by an English company.

Without boring everyone with stats as far as I am aware, most other big leagues have a majority of home based players in their squads have home grown coaches and are owned by men or companies from their own country, this so call domination of the European game by “English” teams to me is very diluted, and there are very little English things remaining of these teams, except where they play.

I don’t want this post to seem like an attack of the English game, I watch the Premiership every week and there are some fantastic players playing for some great teams, however I could never limit myself to English or even British football, I’d be missing out on some fantastic players, La Liga with Messi, Xavi, Ronaldo, Higuain and David Villa, Bundesliga with Franck Ribery, Robben, Toni Kroos, Torsten Frings, Stefan Kiessling, Serie A with Sneijder, Milito, Pato, Ronaldinho, Totti, and Cavani, Ligue 1 with Gourcuff, Chamakh, Bastos, Lisandro, Gervinho, Jelen I could go on and on.

People often ask being Scottish why do I bother with the World Cup, and all the players mentioned above are why, I have long come to terms with the fact that Scotland don’t have the players to make it on the International or Club stage, that does not however make my want to watch football any less, because there are hundreds of wonderful players worldwide that make it a joy to watch the beautiful game.

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Really quick short post this morning.

Michael Owen it has been announced this morning is out for the rest of the season, after picking up another injury during the Carling Cup Final against Aston Villa, he pulled up in the first half and it was evident that he had pulled his hamstring. After the game Owen said that it didn’t feel that bad, and it shouldn’t keep him out for too long,  obviously now it has been diagnosed in a scan yesterday that the injury is bad enough to force him to miss the rest of the season.

My question is, does Michael call an end to his football career, he has been plagued by injuries most of his career:

2005
December 31 – Breaks metatarsal bone in defeat at Tottenham and is ruled out for ‘several months’.

2006
March 24 – Newcastle announce Owen requires surgery to tighten the screw inserted into his foot during the initial operation.  

April 29 – Makes Premiership return as a substitute against Birmingham but complains of pain afterwards and withdraws from the final game of the season.  

May 13 – Carried from the field suffering concussion after collision with team-mate Matty Pattison in game with Watford.  

June 20 – Injures knee in first minute of group game against Sweden in Cologne and is immediately replaced.  Ruled out for at least nine months and reports suggest he may miss the entire Premiership season to follow.  

2007
July 20 – After featuring in just the final three games of the previous campaign, Owen picks up a thigh injury in pre-season training which rules him out of the first game of the new season.  

September 17 – Owen is substituted early in the second half against Derby with a groin problem.  

September 23 – He is passed fit to line up against West Ham but again the same injury forces him off. Club confirm the striker will undergo further scans to determine extent of the problem.  

September 25 – Magpies boss Sam Allardyce reveals Owen has a 3cm tear in his abductor muscle which will sideline him for three weeks and rule him out of England’s two October Euro 2008 qualifiers. He adds Owen may also require a hernia operation.

November 16 – Suffers a thigh strain during the first half of his side’s 1-0 friendly win over Austria.

2009
January 28 – Ruled out for six weeks with a cracked ankle bone sustained in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.

March 5 – Ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury

In the last 6 years Owen has only managed to pay 125 games, now someone like Frank Lampard in the same timescale has played about 315 games, that’s Lampard playing 3 games for every 1 that Owen plays, also how many of those games has Michael been 100% fit, you need games to get match sharpness back and get up to full speed, you could probably take the number of games played when he has been fit to around 70-75.

Now at the age of 30 the body will not recover as fast as it used to, and I think this lastest injury could take it’s toll on the former European Player of the Year, and there is no guarentee that he will be able to return for preseason training, which for a player in Michael’s situation is crucial to get up to speed and get his sharpness back, it is very hard to get match sharpness back during a season if you have been out, you need that pre-season time to get ready.

Now on the top right hand side of my site you will see I have set up a new section, where you can Vote on whether you think this is the end for Owen, I really look forward to seeing what everyones views are, so please let you vote count, I will leave the poll open for 2 weeks.

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With most teams having about 10 or 11 games left, every point is crucial in the next few weeks, the title race in the Premier League has come down to 3 teams; Reigning Champions Manchester United, the early favourites Chelsea and Arsene Wenger’s underdogs Arsenal. Everyone of these teams since September has shown Championship credentials, Arsenal were ruled out at the start of the season by pretty much every pundit worth listening to, even talked down for 4th place, they have proved all the doubters wrong, and this without main forward Robin van Persie out through injury.

Chelsea were most people’s early favourites some strong early showings away from home at Sunderland, Burnley and Fulham. Then without 4 of their players off playing in the African Cup of Nations in Angola, Chelsea managed to win all 9 points and score 12 goals in the process, not bad for a team meant to struggle without their main striker Didier Drogba.

Man United have had a very stop/start season, just when you think they have turned a corner and about to kick on, they lose or draw a game you don’t expect them too, would be interesting to see where in the league they’d be if Rooney wasn’t playing the best football of his life, a lot of defensive issues have also not helped their season.

Despite the ups and downs all 3 remain in the title chase and will be battling it out for the chance to lift the Premier League trophy. 10 games remain  for each team, let’s have a look at the run ins.

CHELSEA

West Ham (Home), Blackburn (Away), Portsmouth (Away)
Aston Villa (Home), Man United (Away), Bolton (Home)
Tottenham (Away), Stoke (Home), Liverpool (Away)
Wigan (Home)

ARSENAL

Burnley (Home), Hull City (Away), West Ham (Away)
Birmingham (Away), Wolves (Home), Tottenham (Away)
Wigan (Away), Man City (Home), Blackburn (Away)
Fulham (Home),

MAN UNITED

Wolves (Away), Fulham (Home), Liverpool (Home)
Bolton (Away), Chelsea (Home), Blackburn (Away)
Man City (Away), Tottenham (Home), Sunderland (Away)
Stoke (Home)

On paper Arsenal’s run in looks easier, only Man City and Spurs to play from the higher placed teams, but they do have to play 3 teams fighting for survival and at this time of year those games can be harder than against the top teams, 4 home games out of the 10 games and trips to West Ham Birmingham and Blackburn won’t be easy, add to that the Derby match against Tottenham, I would predict that worst case scenario would see Arsenal pick up 22 more points.

Chelsea and Man United have a tougher run-in, Chelsea have trips to Old Trafford and Anfield which could see no points gained, tough trips to Portsmouth and Blackburn could provide slip ups, and Villa coming to Stamford Bridge could be a trick tie, again worst case Chelsea for me could pick up 22 points. For United away trips to Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland then the Derby match at Eastlands against Man City will prove tough, then Home stands against Fulham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs the toughest of the run-in’s for me, I do think Man United are capable of amassing at least 21 points from the 10 games.

If that all went as I have predicted the final table would be as follows

1. Chelsea – 82 points
2. Man United – 82 points
3. Arsenal – 80 points

Of course one of the best things about the Premiership is that anything can happen, so I’m sure my point predictions will be different to what happens, I am convinced though that this title race will go down to the wire, as I said before Wayne Rooney is playing to football of his life so he will be spurring his team forward, Arsenal now are determined to win the league for Aarom Ramsey after his unfortunate leg-break and Chelsea will want to win take the title back to Stamford Bridge for the first time since Mourinho left Chelsea, another factor which could decide the fate of the title will be how the 3 teams do in the Champions League, Arsenal could easily go out to Porto, 2-1 down after the game in the Dragao, Chelsea also behind with the same score, Man United could face a tricky tie with Milan at Old Trafford, surely a reduced fixture list would help each team out, however the 3 teams will be fighting hard on both fronts, however could a Champions League run hamper the League success.

Arsenal could go on and win all the remaining games, and that would be enough to win the title, with Chelsea and Man United, the games against each other, and of course Liverpool will go a long way to deciding the location of the Premier League trophy.

No matter what happens, it’s going to be an exciting few months of football in England.

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