When it seemed as if my dear ol’ Nigeria was going to get another unfortunate draw that would knock them out of the African Cup of Nations, it took Chelsea’s Victor Moses to come up with the goods twice from two spot kicks he created…and scored, unlike his Chelsea teammate and compatriot, John Mikel Obi.
Nigeria’s victory coupled with Zambia’s stalemate against Burkina Faso ensured that the defending African champions followed the same route with Chelsea in this season’s Champions League. But unlike Chelsea that had the luxury of going to the Europa League, Zambia will take a short trip back home.
For failing to win the group, Nigeria will play Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinals. *gulp*
With all the upsets of the FA Cup taking center stage during the weekend, Premier League football returned to our TV screens last night with the defending champions, Manchester City, going to London to take on the struggling QPR. Twitchy Ol’ ‘Arry Red Nakpin literally “parked the bus” and Roberto Mancini’s goons dropped points yet again.
This also means that a Manchester United victory tonight will extend their lead at the top to seven points.
Alan Pardew and his French Army also went to Villa Park to break the appalling record of being the only Premier League team without an away victory this season and he had his French contingent to thank, as newbie, Moussa Sissoko provided the ammunition for Papiss Cisse’s opener. Shortly afterwards, Yohan Cabaye’s sweetly struck effort turned out to be the match winner with a goal worthy of settling any contest.
Tonight, Arsenal will hope to continue their good run of form against a Liverpool side fresh from an FA Cup embarrassment in the hands of Oldham. Liverpool boss, Brendan Rodgers, is confident that his team will bounce back (via Sporting Life) and former Liverpool star, John Aldridge, believes that his team can get all three points against a vulnerable Arsenal (via Fox Sports).
Despite their recent misfortunes, Liverpool is just three points below Arsenal in the league and will hope to secure a priceless victory against their illustrious London rivals. Their last visit to the Emirates was fruitful with Luis Suarez and Raul Meireles scoring the goals that put the game beyond doubt.
Despite the fact that Arsenal has lost two of their last five matches, they will be more than a match for a Liverpool side that have struggled on the road this season. The Gunners have lost just once in their last 11 meetings with today’s opponents, but six of those games have ended as draws.
In 11 games at the Emirates so far, the Gunners have amassed six wins and three defeats while Liverpool has won only three away games, conceding 18 goals in the process.
To team news, the Gunners are set to welcome back the likes of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott to the first team. Arsenal’s skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, is also back in contention for a possible start, but the game will be too soon for Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin, that are still a bit short.
In goal, I’d expect Wojciech Szczesny to be the custodian between the sticks. The goalie came under the spotlight for the wrong reasons last weekend when he failed to deal with a set piece that went into his net. To be fair to the big Pole, the defense was ball watching as well and Szczesny has come out to say that Arsenal’s defense is not to blame for the club’s recent woes at the back (via Fox Sports).
In Szczesny’s words,
Over a long time I’ve honestly had enough of people saying Arsenal’s defence is not good enough. People judge defence on the back of goals conceded but you have to have a look at the defending in general. If my back four are completely exposed against Chelsea – most of the time in the first half there it was four of my defenders against six Chelsea players – they were disadvantaged all the time.
With this game coming too soon for Vermaelen, I expect Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to keep their places in the squad. Many Gooners will be happy to see Kieran Gibbs back in the side after Andre Santos’ torrid outing last time out, while Bacary Sagna will come in Carl Jenkinson’s stead.
In midfield, Arsene Wenger will be odds on to deploy Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere back to the starting lineup but judging from Abou Diaby’s performance against Liverpool in Anfield as well as Wenger’s undying faith in the Frenchman, he might get the nod ahead of Aaron Ramsey for the final midfield slot.
In attack, Wenger will unleash the devastating trio of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott on Liverpool’s rearguard. While many have sang Giroud’s praises in recent times, some skeptics feel that he hasn’t stamped his authority in the big games and a stellar performance tonight will go a long way in making those folks eat their words.
Elsewhere, the world famous David Beckham has been training with the Gunners to keep fit in his bid to take a final bow from football with probably one more football club. Beckham, 37, has enjoyed a glittering career that has seen him play in the upper echelons of world football in the form of football juggernauts like Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy.
He also served his nation from 1996 to 2009 making 115 appearances, scoring 17 goals for the Three Lions.
After seeing out his contract with the MLS side last season, Beckham has been a subject of constant speculation and the media Vultures did their bit to link the superstar with a host of clubs with QPR and West Ham heavily linked with a short term move for the midfielder. At some point, PSG were also linked with Beckham but nothing came into fruition.
With the star attraction keeping himself fit with the Gunners, many feel that Wenger could go a la Henry on the lad but the manager has cleared the air, stating that he’s only training at Arsenal and there are no plans to sign the player (via Arsenal.com).
Wenger also commended Beckham’s influence, stating that he comes very early for training, unlike that Brazilian bloke that was speeding like a Grand Theft Auto driver because he was late for training.
Beckham will probably be on the stands when the Gunners take on Liverpool tonight and I’m sure that he’ll have a smile or two when the Gunners score, despite the fact that he has Manchester United written all over him.
Here’s to a great game of football tonight.
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