92 clubs favourite players – Fulham – Aaron Hughes

Fulham have not had the greatest start to the season but that does not mean they have a poor squad and I expect them to get better and Martin Jol to guide them to safety.

They have experienced players that have played at the highest level and a lot of talent in their squad including Dimitar Berbatov, Adel Taarabt, John Arne Riise and Scott Parker. But even though I do like these players and think they are brilliant footballers, the player I have decided to choose is central defender Aaron Hughes.
Aaron Hughes
This may seem like a strange choice at first but personally I do not think there has been a more consistent player in the Premier League. Over the years he has not grabbed any headlines but he has also not made many mistakes which a lot of the top defenders strive for. The 33 year old has had a good career and it has got even better since joining Fulham and having one of the most underrated central defender partnerships with Brede Hangeland. They are one of the main reasons why some believe they overachieved and under Roy Hodgson got to the final of the Europa League. Hughes helped the club have a great home record and even though in recent years it has not been the greatest they are usually very consistent at Craven Cottage and even the bigger teams struggled to get results there.

It is not surprising to me that when he is not in the starting 11 Fulham look shaky at the back and it was a similar story when he was younger at Newcastle United. While at Newcastle he played all across the back four and occasionally in midfield. He also played in a Uefa Cup semi final but unfortunately for him and the team they ran into Didier Drogba who was on top form and unstoppable. I was very surprised when they sold him because Newcastle are famous for having some pretty bad defenders that make a lot of mistakes and he was always the one that put in good performances. But for whatever reason he left the club and joined Aston Villa and it didn’t quite work out for him there but he was first choice in his first season at the club.

I do feel sorry for him on the international stage because Northern Ireland have never looked like qualifying for a tournament and even though he has over 50 caps he would have maybe hoped for more. However he has been involved in some historic wins for his country and will obviously be proud to have played so many times for his country.

In his career he has not scored many goals and only got seven club goals in his career and they include goals against Manchester United, Everton, West Ham United, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich City and Dnipro. Maybe for a centre half that went forward for a lot of corners he should have scored more however this is not what he will be remembered for and unfortunately for him he has never got the recognition his talents have deserved.

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Who will win the Champions League?

The Champions League has reached the quarter final stage and it is quite wide open at the minute and it is difficult to pick a winner.

Looking at the teams, the favourites are still Barcelona even though they may not have been as dominant as usual in recent weeks. However, they proved to the rest of Europe that they are not going to be easy to knock out. 2-0 down after the first leg, they managed to win the second leg 4-0 and put on a fantastic performance. I do think they can win it but must perform better away from home.

Spanish rivals Real Madrid are second favourite, and you can understand why. They may even be a little annoyed that they aren’t considered the favourites by the bookies but with Jose Mourinho in charge and Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch they look a force and will do everything they can to win the competition. For me I think they can win it because in Mourinho they have one of the best tacticians in world football and some may argue that this is his competition.

Third favourite are Bayern Munich and they probably would have been more fancied had they not limped over the line against Arsenal. After securing a 3-1 away win, it should have been comfortable, however they lost the second leg 2-0 and only went through on away goals. This has obviously caused some concern but it really shouldn’t because they have a fantastic team and they may have just been slightly too complacent. Plus there manager will want to leave the club on a high and win the big trophy.

Another team from Germany have also made it to the quarter finals and Dortmund could be the dark horses in this competition. In the last couple of years they have been a breath of fresh air and will certainly give anyone a game. Throughout the squad they have very good players that have been underrated and maybe don’t get the spotlight as much as they should. Players like Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze are just two that have finally caught the attention this season.

In the Champions League there are always fantastic teams and this year realistically anyone could win it. Italian giants Juventus will not want to be wrote out just yet and will feel that they will be picking up the trophy at the end of the season. Experience has been key and they have been very quiet for a number of years now and may have been fortunate with their last draw against Celtic but they still comfortably beat the determined Scottish side.

Even the sixth favourite team have a chance of winning the competition. PSG have the players, they have the manager and they have the experience to win games when they probably haven’t been at their best. Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have a big say in where the trophy goes, when he is on form he can be lethal but too often he isn’t quite at it. If he and the rest of their attacking talent like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore backing him up they should score goals against anyone but can they keep it tight enough at the back?

Galatasaray were probably just happy to get to this stage but with recent signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder they may have just set their sights a little higher and they could win the tournament. A lot of people will write them off but it isn’t always the most glamorous club that wins the trophy, just look at Porto when they won it. Also, going to Turkey is never easy and they may get a lot of joy at home in an intimidating atmosphere.

Finally, Malaga are also still in the tournament and for me they are the only team that I don’t believe could win it and that is unfortunate because they did very well getting through the group stages and then knocking out Porto. All the other teams will be hoping to draw Malaga but that could work in their advantage, being the underdog.

It is difficult to bet against Barcelona and they are the team I think will win it but it all depends on the draw, so if they don’t my second pick would be Bayern Munich.

Who do you think will win the Champions League?

Who will be the Premier League’s top scorer?

The Premier League season is nearly upon us and the fight for the title, European places and the relegation battles are always very interesting but what about top goal scorer, will it be a one horsed race or will it go right down to the last game of the season.

Last year’s winner Robin Van Persie is expected to join Manchester United and that will surely only help him to become the winner of the Golden Boot for the second season running. Unlike at Arsenal you know that Alex Ferguson’s team will be right up there come the end of the season and they have the players to create even more chances for the striker and if he can develop a good understanding with Wayne Rooney then it could be his best season yet.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero had a fantastic year last season capping it off with the Premier League title but this year he will want to score even more goals and now he has had a full season in England he will just keep getting better and better so he will definitely be up there come the end of the season. He didn’t have the best of times in the Community Shield but there is no doubt he will come good.

Fernando Torres may have been branded a flop by a lot of people but this could be his season as he is now definitely first choice and won’t have to worry that when he misses a chance he will be replaced in the line up by Didier Drogba. He is the main man and now is the time to prove that he was worth the £50 million price tag. With Spain, he finished top scorer at Euro 2012 so he will obviously be very confident and the way he took his goal against Manchester City in the Community Shield shows that he hasn’t lost his finishing ability.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has scored a lot of goals already in his career and even though he had quite a poor European Championships he will be back to his best in the coming season. He has proved over the years that he can score a wide range of goals from long rangers to scrappy goals in the six yard box and now has a knack of scoring a lot of goals with his head so he is always a massive threat.

Finally, maybe a little bit of an outsider as he may not always be first choice but Carlos Tevez owes the Manchester City fans this year I feel, because of the way he acted for a long period last season. He did come good at the end of the year but it was almost too late, however his performances were obviously good enough and he ended up lifting the title at the end. But, I am sure he doesn’t feel he deserved his medal and will be doing everything he can to make sure he deserves one this year if they win it and what better way to do that than score the most goals in the league.

Will Thomas Muller join a Premier League club this summer?

Thomas Muller scored in the Champions League final for Bayern Munich but he may be on his way out of the club this summer.

Muller also has 10 international goals for Germany

Last season he spent a lot of time on the bench and it would seem that the 22 year old wants to be guaranteed first team football. He did actually play 53 games last season which is the most in his career but a lot of them were from the bench and he does have the ability and the talent to be a regular in a lot of sides all around Europe. He did still however manage to score 11 goals and play a major part in Germany’s Euro 2012 campaign in particular the qualifiers where he started all 10 games and contributed seven assists. Muller’s versatility works for him and against him because he can play in any of the forward roles which means he is always there in case of injuries but whenever everyone if fit he is put back on the bench just in case someone isn’t having an effective game or is struggling with an injury. But his main strength is his composure as he never looks fazed and if he is given an opportunity to score he will usually take it.

So would he be interested in a move to the Premier League and which teams would he realistically sign for? Tottenham Hotspur are the first team that spring to mind as they are in desperate need of a striker with Jermain Defoe being the only experienced striker at the club and it is not clear whether he will stay either. Muller would fit perfectly into their side with him able to capitalise on the through balls from Rafael Van Der Vaart and the crosses of Gareth Bale, I am sure he would score plenty of goals in England.

Another team linked with a move is Manchester City who will be linked with any player that becomes available and has proved to be a good player for their club. But, I could see them going for the German international because it looks like they may lose out on Robin Van Persie. With them interest in him it suggests to me that they are in the market for a new striker and Muller would fit the bill as he can play in a front two or three and will do a job out wide for them. If Edin Dzeko leaves I think he would be a perfect replacement.

The team that he scored against in that Champions League final, Chelsea have also been linked with a move for him and even though they have spent a lot of money so far this summer they haven’t really invested in their strike force and after losing Didier Drogba they will need some reinforcements for the currently inconsistent Fernando Torres. Daniel Sturridge is still at the club but he probably didn’t play as much as he would have hoped after Roberto Di Matteo took over so he will be hoping for more starts this year. But the new manager may look elsewhere and Muller could be a good signing for them and with Romelu Lukaku joining West Brom on loan they definitely need a new striker at least for backup.

Chelsea’s best performance for years is enough to beat Barcelona

Chelsea beat Barcelona 1-0 to give them an excellent chance of qualifying for the Champions League final but it is still a tough task.

Di Matteo has now won 10 of his 13 games in charge of Chelsea

First things first, Barcelona were not at their best and even though they weren’t at their best they still dominated the game and possibly should have won the game. They had numerous chances to work Petr Cech who did pull off a few wonderful saves but on the whole they just missed chances, hitting the woodwork and missing guilt edged opportunities. In particular the Cesc Fabregas chance which was brilliantly cleared off the line by Ashley Cole, but in all honesty should have been a goal and Fabregas should never have given Cole the chance to hack it away.

Onto Chelsea and what has on a whole been quite disappointing, it was  a very good performance by them and the goal they now take to the Nou Camp should give them at least a lift and a bit of confidence. Roberto Di Matteo should be getting praised for what he has done because under Villas Boas the team from London were going out of the Champions League and may have not got as far as they have done in the FA Cup. His team selection turned out to be perfect, choosing Didier Drogba instead of Fernando Torres. This was a very big decision and in the end it made the difference with Drogba scoring the only goal of the game. He may have split opinion on his performance with him at times looking very strong and powerful with the Barcelona defence struggling to cope with him then at other times flopping to the floor at the slightest touch. With a lot of controversy about diving at the minute Drogba didn’t do anything to help the situation but in his defence the opposition players were doing very similar things and maybe it was just a little more embarrassing to watch him do it because of his size. However, I thought he had a decent game and held the ball up well and allowed his team to push out at times, he also took his goal brilliantly.

The defence deserves the most praise out of everyone and that includes John Obi Mikel who was fantastic and sat in the back four cutting out a lot of the little through balls that Barcelona like to play. He did give away a few free kicks in dangerous areas but he kept possession well when he had it and nullified the threat of the oppositions attacking players. In the centre of defence John Terry had arguably one of his best performances for a number of years but man of the match for me was Gary Cahill, for a player to play the way he did just a few months after being in a relegation threatened side was unbelievable. I think Cahill is good but I have said it before that he struggles when a striker has clever movement. He dealt with Lionel Messi better than most this season and even when his team were under pressure he bailed them out with a last ditch tackle or block.

It must have been a fantastic night for the Chelsea fans but they and the team know this tie is not over and it will be a lot more difficult in the away leg but at least they have something to hold onto. There is far more optimism that they will be in the final now than there was when the draw was made.

Have Chelsea moved on since Jose Mourinho left?

Chelsea have secured their place in the Champions League semi final after a hard fought victory against Benfica.

This victory sets up a game against the best team in the world and their players know that they will have to perform better than they did over these two legs. The away performance was very good for a European game, nicking an away goal and keeping a clean sheet, you cannot ask for anymore than that but the worrying thing was the home game. Chelsea took the lead after Ashley Cole was brought down in the box to win a penalty which Frank Lampard scored and this should have really allowed the English team to push on and win the game comfortably but somehow they let Benfica back into the game and maybe this was down to complacency as they may have felt, like most did, that the y were in the semi final. Even when Benfica were reduced to ten men they still didn’t really dominate the game like they should have done and allowed the Portuguese team back in the game as they conceded an equaliser on the night and possibly a crucial away goal.

The most worrying thing for Chelsea is that they were outplayed and outclassed for much of the game and no offence to Benfica but if they can do that then Barcelona will destroy them. Yes people will say the older more experienced players got them through but I also believe that they are part of the problem, most of these players played under Jose Mourinho where one goal was usually enough and they never tried to force the game after they took a lead. I think that the likes of Lampard and Terry are still in this mould of thinking and that’s why they sat deep and tried to soak up the pressure, but the team isn’t good enough to do that anymore and these players need to wake up as it has cost them multiple times this season especially at home. Stamford Bridge isn’t the fortress it used to be and teams have proven that if you attack Chelsea they will fold a lot easier than they did in the past.

Mourinho still in the heads of the Chelsea players

Looking forward to the semi final and I believe that everyone will expect Barcelona to win and this could play into Chelsea’s hands as they will be underdogs and AC Milan proved that if you remain solid and break quickly on the counter, you can cause the Barca defence problems. It took two penalties from Lionel Messi to effectively the end the contest at the Nou Camp and if Chelsea remain resilient and disciplined they do actually have a chance of beating them.

Didier Drogba has to be a starter for me as he could dominate the backline and will hold up the ball effectively which alleviate the pressure that will be on the defence for most of the game. However, Fernando Torres may start and this could be the opportunity he needs to live up to his price tag and make him a Chelsea hero.

Chelsea will face Benfica in the quarter final of the Champions League

After overcoming Napoli, Chelsea will face Benfica in the next round of the Champions League as they look to progress to the semi final.

Roberto Di Matteo will not be too disappointed with this draw as they know Benfica are a good side therefore they will not underestimate them and make sure his team prepare for the game properly but on the other hand he will also know that it could have been worse for his side. They came back fantastically against Napoli after a 3-1 defeat in the first leg but they managed to win 4-1 in extra time at Stamford Bridge and by doing this they have let everyone in Europe know that they are not finished yet and they still have enough quality left to win the whole competition.

Would they have progressed if Andre Villas Boas was still in charge? In my opinion no because the players looked happier and looked like they wanted to play for the man in charge. John Terry scored and had an all round fantastic game before going off injured, he wanted to get his head on every ball possible which he may not have done a few weeks ago. Frank Lampard scored a crucial penalty and he was also more influential in this game than I have seen him for quite a while and when he is on form you know he can get a goal or provide an assist. Didier Drogba opened the scoring and looked like a man possessed and someone that wanted to get Chelsea through all by himself and his performance reminded me of when Jose Mourinho was in charge and he destroyed opposition defences.

Lampard, Terry and Drogba celebrate a goal

These players may be a few years older now but they have proven when they want to, they can still put in match winning performances and on the night they all had to. The players showed a lot of togetherness and as soon as the first goal went in there was no doubt in my mind who would go through.

If Chelsea do progress, and they will be favourites to do so, they will face either Milan or Barcelona. Which will not be easy as Barcelona are clearly the best team in Europe right now and Milan showed everyone against Arsenal that if they are on form they can give a team a good beating, so it will not be easy for Chelsea but if they can get through the Benfica tie, they will grow more in confidence and they could spring a shock in the semi final.

The other quarter finals drew together APOEL from Cyprus and the European giants Real Madrid and in the other semi final they will face either Marseille or Bayern Munich. In my opinion even though APOEL  have done amazingly well Real Madrid will be the happiest of all the teams in the draw while Marseille and Bayern could be really close as they both possess real quality in their side.

It could be a fantastic quarter final this year with a lot of goals rather than the usual tactical battle so I for one cannot wait for the games to get underway.

Who will be the next Chelsea manager?

Chelsea have sacked their manager Andre Villas Boas and will try to find someone who can deal with Abramovich, Terry, Lampard and Drogba.

I do not who is worse because it is blatant that these players run Chelsea and if they don’t like a manager then he will not last very long. At least Abramovich owns the club and can do whatever he wants because it is his money that he is pumping into the club but the players have no excuse, it doesn’t matter who the manager is, he deserves respect and should have full control over the team and not be influenced by players. This is why I feel sorry for Villas Boas because he is only a young manager and would have had a great future at Chelsea if the old regime weren’t there. I blame Mourinho slightly for this because he gave the players the confidence and made them feel like they were the best in the world and now nobody can control them.

This is why Jose Mourinho should be a contender for the job and if Chelsea want to be real challengers for the title then they have to bring the man in at all costs. He is the ‘Special One’ and nobody can argue with his record, everywhere he has been he has won trophies, including the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan. In his first spell, he only lost 18 games out of 185, so why did he ever leave? Abramovich is the reason  and he needs to swallow his pride and do whatever is necessary to make sure that Mourinho manages Chelsea again because they desperately need him.

However, if the club don’t want to hire him then there are plenty of other candidates, Rafael Benitez has been linked with the job and he has also won the Champions League which is what Abramovich wants so that gives him a good chance. But when he was manager of Liverpool, he did a solid job but nothing more than that, he got them into the Champions League most years and had a decent win percentage. However, between him and Roy Hodgson they have left Liverpool in a position that they probably shouldn’t be in. Also, his last job at Inter Milan went horrifically even with some world class players like Wesley Sneijder, he could not get them to perform. He may get the respect of the players because of his achievements but this is not a certainty with the massive egos at the club.

Finally, Pep Guardiola is a huge name in the game and has won loads of trophies at Barcelona and therefore if he wants the job, he should probably be given it. Will he want the job though? He might want a new challenge especially if he wins the Champions League yet again and he might just want to test himself in a new environment. However, if he did come to England I think he would rather go to Manchester United or Arsenal because I think they would suit him more.

Mourinho and Guardiola

An outsider is David Moyes but this is very unlikely as he isn’t the biggest name and I think Abramovich cares about that and will take it into consideration. The next manager should be Mourinho and if they can patch up their differences then Chelsea will be a force yet again and the players will know who is boss. Player power cost Villas Boas his job but I don’t think that could happen to Mourinho because he has a bigger ego than all of them put together and this is the reason why he is so successful.

Pressure is building on Andre Villas Boas at Chelsea

Andre Villas Boas is the favourite to be sacked next in the Premier League after they have failed to live up to their pre season expectations.

It is not surprising that he is under pressure as the team are not certainties to qualify for the Champions League next season and are in danger of going out of the competition after a horrific defensive display away to Napoli. In this game they made Sunday League defenders look like professionals with poor positioning and poor decision making. Petr Cech kept them in the game for a while and when Juan Mata put them in front the fans must have been thinking finally our season is looking up. But they couldn’t even hang on until half time and went in at the break 2-1 down. AVB does not strike me as the type of manager that is going to rip into his players and throw things around the dressing room, this is a very bad thing at a football club because I believe players will play better if they have a slight ‘fear’ of the manager. They will want to perform better because they will not want to be screamed at by their manager, this is why Alex Ferguson has been one of the best managers ever along with Brian Clough, who have both been known to get their message across one way or another.

AVB has already admitted that player power can be a problem and because of his young age he must be struggling to gain the respect of the players. He has tried to drop players such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba so everyone knows who is the boss but it still does help the team get results. Against Birmingham City when Drogba came on at halftime he lifted the whole place and was even seen giving his teammates a pep talk in the tunnel which makes you wonder what AVB was doing.

If he gets given the time, he will probably turn Chelsea into a force again as he does seem to be a good manager and his record at Porto was amazing. You can see what he is trying to do as Chelsea have been criticised in recent seasons for having too many players the wrong side of 30 which means that he has tried to get rid of a few players, or at least fade them out. But this will take time as replacing a goal scoring midfielder like Lampard or a proven striker in Drogba will be difficult, especially when Fernando Torres has been dreadful and has not looked like he is going to get back into the groove of scoring goals anytime soon.

The Portuguese manager does have a 47% win record, which is actually quite good but the Chelsea board and fans were hoping it would be closer to the 88% win record he had when he was at Porto. I hope he keeps his job and gets to grips with the Premier League and also realises that in this country sometimes the players need the dreaded hairdryer treatment.

Cahill to Chelsea- Good move?

The Gary Cahill transfer has finally went through but is he the man to stabilise the Chelsea defence once again. Surely, he has to do a better job than David Luiz and Alex this season, however, his former side Bolton are struggling at the bottom of the table and although Cahill cannot be solely to blame he hasn’t helped his team and they have one of the worst defensive records in the division.

So will he be a success at Chelsea or not? Will he be able to establish a solid partnership with John Terry in the heart of the Chelsea defence?

A short answer in my opinion is probably not. This is because he is a very good defender but I don’t think he will be able to perform against the best strikers in the world when he plays in the Champions League, whenever Bolton played Chelsea he got outmuscled by Didier Drogba but in his defence on his day Drogba can do that to any defender. But it’s not this part of the game that worries me the most, it is his lack of pace and occasionally poor positioning which has cost Bolton many goals. He gets pulled around by strikers with the slightest bit of clever movement all the time and when they run at him, he doesn’t know what to do at all.

Why will he not succeed at Chelsea? Because he is a younger version of John Terry and this season in particular has shown his frailties and exactly the same as Cahill, one bit of movement or pace and he is in trouble. Terry is a very good leader and a good captain but other than this I do not understand why he has been at a top club all these years.

When Mourinho was the manager he knew that Terry was a good leader but probably doubted his defensive abilities and the reason they succeeded under him was because he had the experience of Ricardo Carvalho playing alongside him who was very quick to read the game and must have saved Terry on countless occasions. That’s why it is no surprise to me that when Carvalho left for Real Madrid, Chelsea began to struggle and did not look solid at the back anymore.

Chelsea have not replaced Carvalho and maybe he did his job so effectively that they took him for granted and did not realise how difficult it would be to replace him. Gary Cahill will just add to the list of players that were given the opportunity to replace him but will most likely fail. I like Cahill but not alongside Terry as they are too similar and will be exposed especially against their title rivals.

I think Chelsea should have spent their money on a different type of centre back, someone like Coloccini at Newcastle who is a very good reader of the game like Carvalho was and is having undoubtedly his best season in the Premier League.

Or maybe everyone is reading this wrong and Andre Villas Boas doesn’t rate John Terry and has brought in Gary Cahill to replace him. Especially if Terry is banned for his alleged racist remarks towards Anton Ferdinand. That would most definitely stir things up at the Bridge and make everyone realise that Villas Boas is in charge and nobody is irreplaceable and bigger than the club.