It has been a very bad week for every Liverpool fan. After two encouraging performances away to the Arsenal and defending league champions Manchester City, the Reds have put in two tame performances which were both marked by conceding two quick goals after missing a host of good chances early on. You could say it has been the proverbial one step forward, two steps backwards scenario.
Despite the similar manner of the team’s capitulation, the common denominator in the losses to West Bromwich Albion and Zenit St. Petersburg is that unlike the preceding two-all league draws, Brendan Rodgers was missing the services of striker Daniel Sturridge who has immediately made a huge difference to the team’s structure since he joined at the beginning of last month.
Of course, the biggest football attraction this week was the Uefa Champions League tie between Real Madrid and Manchester United in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu which ended in one-all draw. Ahead of the match, most of the talk was centred on the reunion between Cristiano Ronaldo and his former team and how the perennial second best player in the world would fare in the game.
Indeed, many people, including United fans felt the hosts were favourites in the tie generally and certainly at home. Having watched Los Bloncos on several occasions this season, however, I never saw it that way. Jose Mourinho’s side are a pale shadow of the team that ran away with the Primera Liga title last season. The draw on Wednesday night, therefore, was never going to be a surprise.
In fact, if truth be told, United should have returned to England with a win in the bag because after surviving an early onslaught in the game, they never looked in serious danger of being at the end of a hiding as many had feared. The Red Devils were organised in defence and goalkeeper David de Gea, who is yet to fully endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful, was particularly in good form.
Unless the All-Whites improve significantly, therefore, you have to fancy Sir Alex Ferguson and his charges to march to the quarter-finals which would have significant implications on Mourinho’s future given that the team is way off the pace in the league and have to get past rivals Barcelona to proceed to the final of the Copa del la Rey having drawn the first leg at home. It is not looking good, I have to say.
The focus now shifts to the Emirates in London, England where the Arsenal host high-flying German giants Bayern Munich on Tuesday night. Arsene Wenger’s men have put up some solid performances of late, but this could be their biggest test yet given the current form of last season’s losing finalists. Anything other than a big win will not serve the Gunners’ interests ahead of the second leg.
Back home, it seems it will take us some time to have clarity on the coaching situation for the national football team because of a failure to reconcile the paces of the Football Association of Malawi and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. While Walter Nyamilandu would want to move with speed to conclude the recruitment process of the caretaker panel, the ministry is bogged by government red tape.
Meanwhile, the next Flames fixture is only weeks away and chances are that by the time the situation is resolved, there may be very little time for the new coaches to thoroughly prepare the players. As I keep saying, you do not plan on somebody else’s pocket.