Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba

The race for UCL Qualification


It has been said that the Barclay’s Premier League is a marathon not a sprint. This is because it’s a nine month slog through late summer, fall, winter and spring with only the fittest surviving.

With less than ten matches to play the race for those valuable Champions League places has become a flat-out sprint. With Manchester United streets ahead and guaranteed qualification it has come down to the following six clubs, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Everton and possibly Liverpool to fight for the three remaining places, two of which go straight to the group stages while the fourth moves into the final qualifying round.

Manchester City: P29 Pts 59 – Two tough fixtures versus United and Spurs remain however the remaining matches are against bottom feeders. They should qualify with ease.

Chelsea: 29 Pts 55 – The Blues face United, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs in what is becoming a massively congested fixture list. A stumble is unthinkable but a very real possibility.

Spurs: P30 Pts 54 – Everton, Chelsea and City face the Londoners who have fate in their own hands however the Europa League is proving a distraction. The motivating factor has to be finishing ahead of Arsenal.

Arsenal: P29 Pts 50 – The Gunners only have to face United and that’ll be by the time the Red Devils have wrapped up the title. The win over Bayern in the Champions League could be just the boost they need to steal 4th from north London rivals, Spurs.

Everton: P29 Pts 48 – Everton have only qualified for the UCL once and then they got bounced in the qualifying round. They’ll need some help this time around but if they can raise their game to the levels they showed against City on Saturday, anything is possible. They’ve still to face Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Liverpool: P30 Pts 45 – The loss to the Saints has left Liverpool on the outside. realistically they need to win their last eight on the bounce.

The title race maybe over but the race for Europe will be compelling.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.