The world is watching. A huge weekend for…
Relegation, prize money and a Portuguese record breaker
Whilst Blackpool have undoubtedly been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League, should his side be relegated at Old Trafford on Sunday then there will be questions asked of Ian Holloway’s ethos.
Because quite simply when a promoted club has the sixth top scorer in the division, they should stay up. The performances of DJ Campbell should have been the icing on an impressive cake of achievement (and apologies for the lame analogy).
Holloway’s philosophy has been gung ho, but if he had shored up his defence in January (or allowed to if this was the choice of the club), then Blackpool would not be in the situation they are in. The Tangerines have let in two or more goals in 22 of their 37 games so far this season.
It was admirable attitude whilst Blackpool were winning games. Go down and it may seem just a little naïve.
Sunderland (and others)
One of the blessings of a distinctly average Premier League season is that it is not simply at the bottom of the league that it is tight. In fact, there are just two points separating 14th and 9th.
So whilst an away game at already relegated West Ham may seem like an end of season stroll, it should be treated like anything but. Steve Bruce in unlikely to be given the tens of millions he has previously spent in the close season, but with the prize money increasing by £800,000 for each position, a good win in East London could be worth as much as £4million.
With this in mind, Everton v Chelsea should be the only game this weekend where players could be forgiven for taking their eyes off the prize.
Whilst the Sky-produced phrases make me feel physically sick, it could genuinely be ‘Survival Sunday’ for Big Eck.
In truth, Birmingham City have not been a terrific advert for Sky’s self-style ‘wonderful league of ours’. Over their last 75 games in the Premier League they have scored just 74 goals. They have a squad that contains a mix of players who are slightly over the hill (Phillips, Ferguson, Bowyer, Carr), infuriatingly inconsistent (Jerome, Davies, Zigic) or just downright Championship standard (Derbyshire, Parnaby, Murphy).
The problem for McLeish is that he took over in November 2007. This is his squad.
If Birmingham are relegated, then McLeish will surely be relieved of his duties. There may be some Blues fans who won’t be shedding a tear.
I do worry for Wigan if they go down, in a sort of semi-patronising way you view a puppy with a limp.
They play in front of a half-empty stadium in a city that has seven other Premier League clubs less than 25 miles away. They have players that you think should be enough for a mid-table side, but then constantly flatter to deceive. One almost feels as if the Premier League will forget that they were ever there should they be relegated, and yet have been here for six years.
And what of Roberto Martinez? He has been told that his job is safe this week, but at a club that generally looks for bargains, he has spent approximately £22million in two years and may only deliver relegation.
And so a victory at Bolton will mean that City have automatic entry into the highest-profile tournament in club football.
But in a season where Mancini has achieved all he set out to (and all that was asked of him, more pertinently), today we had the sour note of Carlos Tevez announcing that he wishes to leave Manchester City. Yes it was only to an Argentine radio station, but you guess that there is more truth in statement than the one from Mancini saying he would stay.
But the club is bigger than the man, especially when the man is bleating about the hardships of a footballer paid over 200 grand a week. With City in the Champions League, there is nothing to say that they cannot replace superstar with superstar. Personally I would love to see David Villa at Eastlands (potentially in a sway with Tevez?), but if not then Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the man. So a striker that has won eight league titles in a row and has a penchant for kicking team mates playing with Mario Balotelli? Bring. It. On.
He may be very much the understudy to Lionel Messi in the Football’s Shining Light stakes, but it has been one hell of a season for Ronaldo, and this weekend could provide the pinnacle.
Because if Cristiano scores against Almeria on Saturday night, and you suspect that he will, he will overtake Hugo Sanchez and Telmo Zarra and set the highest total for the number of goals in a La Liga season.
Let’s put this in perspective. In his 62 league games for Real he has scored 64 goals, an unbelievable achievement. With eight assists, he has been directly responsible for 49% of his side’s goals.
With those stats in mind, talk of him moving to City seem fairly wide of the mark.