Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Soccer Predictions

Having looked back at this blog's 2011 predictions we would say we had an 'ok' hit rate with notable successess' such as Blackpool's relegation, Roy Hodgson's sacking and Fernando Torres' move to Chelsea alongside the ending of the Cesc Fabregas saga.

There were however some howlers such as picking Fulham to be relegated and whilst Mark Hughes and Alex McLeish did party company with their employers, it was for reasons that were not predicted. Roberto Mancini did indeed keep his job but Carlo Ancelotti duly lost his.

AC Milan, Dortmund and Rangers duly collected their titles although several others didn't. Picking Real to pip Barca in Spain proved foolish but we recovered the situation slightly by picking Barca to win the Champions League again.

So to this year and firstly the Premiership, Manchester City have been sweeping all before them before coming unstuck twice in recent weeks. ManYoo have been coming in for a lot of flak recently and have lost captain Vidic for the remainder of the season. That being said we still feel they have the know how and whilst it will be a close run thing come May we take United's experience to carry the day. With City's financial firepower it is only a matter of time however and they will reign the following season.

The remaining Champions League spots will be taken up by Chelsea and Spurs leaving Arsenal and Liverpool disappointed but ultimately in their rightful place. Chelsea's recovery however will be dependant on much needed January transfer action or they could swap places with Arsenal. At the lower end of the table, Wigan will be joined in the Championship by Bolton and Wolves who have confounded this blogs' prediction of a decent season. Blackburn have the capacity to win games and despite the fans ire with their manager, a little more luck will see them stay up.

We pick West Ham to win the Championship and be joined in the elite next season by Southampton and Middlesborough.

Barcelona will retain their title in Spain although Real Madrid will push them close, the remaining El Classico at the Camp Nou will provide the decisive result.

Italy is providing the most fascinating Scuddeto race in years with four genuine contenders and a wounded Internazionale currently in the bottom half of the table. We pick Juventus to win their first title since the bribery scandal which will vex AC greatly due to the moving of Andrea Pirlo.

Bayern will take the the Bundesliga title yet again and moneybags PSG will win Ligue 1 for the first time in some years.

The Champions League looks to have a wide open door for Barcelona to simply walk through. Neither of the two remaining English teams are good enough and there is nothing from Italy to concern them. The threats come from Real and from a Bayern team that is much improved. We will pick Barca to win the competition again unless Bayern avoid them en route to the final in which case we pick Bayern to win on penalties - because that's what Germans do.

The coming Summer sees the European Championships being held in Poland and Ukraine and it should be a festival of football. Invariably however these days these tournaments are a parade of shattered and disinterested footballers other than those harking for a move to a big club - anyone remember seeing Andre Arshavin run around as much for Arsenal as he did for Russia four years ago?

As with Barca in the Champions League, Spain remain a class apart with a team that would compare to any of the great sides in European Championship history such as Holland in 1988 and the France teams of 1984 and 2000. The midfield of Busquets, the two Xavis and the peerless Andres Iniesta has a balance and craft that is unparalleled in football today. It says much that the best player in the Premiership David Silva and the previous best midfielder in the Premiership, Cesc Fabregas cannot even get in the starting eleven.

David Villa currently has a broken leg but Spain still have options a plenty up front and the only gripe the Spanish will have is that Lionel Messi carries an Argentinian passport.

This blog however is in line with the Eurozone taking on a decidedly Germanic feel. Germany impressed everyone at the last World Cup with not just the quality of their play but the style of of their fast breaking team. Players such as Mueller and Ozil will be better than last time around, Mario Gomez fills the David Villa role and in Bastian Schweinsteiger they have a genuine midfield general. Three tournament wins in a row is unheralded and for that reason we will take Germany to beat Spain to the title in the Summer, probably on penalties again.

As ever, 2012 will see much managerial upheavel. One of the big questions will again be the timing of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. In delaying it so much - probably in the quest for one last Champions League title - Fergie has run up against a very inconvenient problem in the shape of Manchester City. Ferguson would surely hate to bow out with City on top and therefore should ManYoo win the title this season we think he will finally call it a day but only then. There is no change in our stance that the quietly groomed Paul Scholes will take over the reigns.

Spain will provide much intrigue also with both Guardiola and Mourinho in interesting positions. Should Guardiola sweep all before him again this season there would seem little reason for a man holding openly no long term ambitions to carry on, his legend in Catalonia already assured.

Mourinho has established a position of power in Madrid greater than any manager has in many years at the Bernabeu. That being said he will have to either win either of the Champions League or La Liga or at the very least prove that he is closing the gap to Barca. There does seem to be a level of understanding from the Madrid hierarchy that this is a truly exceptional Catalan side but that being said, a team boasting Kaka, Ozil, Ronaldo, Higuain, Benzema, Xavi and Casillas is hardly a team of paupers and success is a prerequisite in the capital.

Mourinho will also have one eye on proceedings in Manchester and Ferguson's comments in a book that he sees much of himself in his younger days in Mourinho will do little to quash the Portuguezer's Mancunian ambition. The irony of course is that should Mancini fail to beat ManYoo to the title, that vacancy could also be available this Summer although it would be sad if it were so as Mancini seems to be steadily building a fantastic side.

In addition to this there is also the possibility that Wenger may retire his boots at Arsenal and that Chelsea may lose patience with AVB should Chelsea's season implode further. The top Italian clubs shuffle regularly and with the likes of Ancelotti newly placed at PSG, there is plenty of room for the merrygoround to turn.

We suspect that the ManYoo vacancy would only arise should they win the league and then it will be internally filled. Mourinho may be available should he fail to win the league yet again but unless Mancini is fired (we think this unlikely) he should also remain where he is. The Barcelona job may become available should Guardiola be successful and walk away and with their current team of geniuses that simply needs a conductor, that job could be tailor made for Wenger.

Of the second tier jobs, Redknapp could well fill the unwanted England role which could lead to a Spurs side that craves Europa League football looking for a new steward - No Nonsense.