Hallo and I welcome you to this maiden entry. It is always a challenging task to step into another person’s shoes. This is particularly so because the previous tenant was so good so much that over the years, I became his fan.
I share his passion for the beautiful game; hence, my inheriting of this column is an opportunity to express and share my passion with many of you who astutely enjoy watching European elite leagues and local football in general.
In fact, the only thing the previous tenant, Gracian Tukula, did not succeed in doing, in spite of his beautiful and infectious writing, was to convert me, a Manchester United fan, to become a Liverpool supporter.
I thought I should declare my interests at the onset to avoid any suspicion of bias. It is a difficult time for Man United, but considering the vicissitudes of last season, so far so good.
Of course, the statistics may not be as pleasing to the eye. On position six with 12 points after eight matches, we may be above Arsenal who have 11 points from a similar number of games, but we are 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea who have 22 points from eight matches.
But I am nonetheless satisfied with the work Luis Van Gaal has so far done in somewhat bringing back the self-belief that was lacking when David Moyes was in charge.
That is why I am entering this weekend with a blizzard of optimism that somehow Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea will sweat for their victory on Sunday at Old Trafford, if at all they get one. Chelsea are unbeaten, but they come to Old Trafford a bit bruised from a mid-week Champions League encounter. The fact that United are fresh and playing at home should count for something tomorrow.
Arsenal’s Champions League night on Wednesday was almost nightmarish until the dying minutes when they scored two goals to win 2-1. And this weekend, they play Sunderland who gifted eight goals to Southampton. I hope Sunderland have fixed themselves ahead of this clash. But no game is an easy one in the English Premier League (EPL).
It would appear our City rivals have not yet figured out the Champions League jigsaw puzzle. They were held to a 2 all-draw by CSKA Moscow on Tuesday. But in the EPL, West Ham should watch out as City may vent their Champions League frustrations on them.
Now coming to the gist of this entry, the game of the week is the El Clasico in Spain between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. This El Classico is very special in many ways.
It will be played in uncustomary time as the kick-off is at 18 hours. Most of us are used to watching La Liga matches from 10 pm straight into midnight.
However, the most important special part is the return of Luis Suarez to competitive football today. Suarez joins the attacking potency of Neymar and Lionel Messi. It is a dream combination for any other coach. And to come up against Real Madrid, one could not have asked for a bigger stage.
On the other hand, since stumbling twice in their opening matches, the Los Blancos have come out very strongly. They have won their last five league matches, scoring unassailable 25 goals in those matches, averaging five goals per match.
My money is, therefore, on Real Madrid. They need to win this match because if they lose, the gap against their rivals will be eight points and they cannot afford that at this stage.
No matter whoever exposes his rival’s weaknesses today, one fact remains, I love El Clasico nights, bring it on.