As this season’s Player of the Year awards approach at the end of this month, it is a straight battle between Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie.
For all the brilliance of Juan Mata, Leighton Baines and Michu, the three offensive stars stand out from the crowd.
But who should win?
Up until Christmas, Van Persie was the main man without any doubt. He had scored an endless amount of goals, with many of them either winners or moments of genius. His run of form and influence on the United team between August and December will turn out to be the reason they win the league. Over the last few months, however, the goals have stopped for the Dutchman, who has now not scored in 10 games. He is far from playing badly, but he has lost the edge that made him so amazing earlier on in the campaign.
Bale’s season has been the opposite of Van Persie’s. He had a solid, if unspectacular, first half of it, but he has been a phenomenon in 2013. Countless times he has picked Spurs up on his own and inspired them to victory, with unstoppable pace and memorable winning goals. The awesome solo goal against Norwich; the long-range strikes against West Brom and West Ham; the crucial finish in the derby against Arsenal. That’s just a few great moments from the flying Welshman this season. His current injury has only helped highlight his importance to the team.
Suarez has been sensational for Liverpool, and he is arguably the most unique, talented player in the Premier League right now. In comparison to Bale and Van Persie he has been the most consistent of the three- leading the scoring rankings with 22- but maybe hasn’t had an incredible spell of form like the other two. Where Liverpool might be without him is frightening, and his skill, work-rate and finishing are a joy to watch. His controversial personality will work against him when the winner of the prestigious award is announced, because it is voted for by their fellow professionals.
It’s certainly a difficult decision to choose between three such great players, and all of them would be worthy winners. For pure consistency and brilliance, however, Suarez should win it, but Bale will be the man who does.
The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off Week 2 on Tuesday, so let’s have some fun and try to predict the scores.
[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]
Feel free to join in down in the comments section, as I’m predicting another unbeaten week for all five Premier League teams in action.
[ MORE: Group stage predictions ]
Below you will find score predictions for all 16 UCL games across the next two days.
Sevilla 3-1 Maribor
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool
Man City 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli 3-1 Feyenoord
Besiktas 0-2 RB Leipzig
Monaco 2-1 FC Porto
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid
APOEL 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United
Basel 0-2 Benfica
Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Bayern Munich
Anderlecht 2-1 Celtic
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea
Qarabag 1-3 Roma
Sporting Lisbon 1-3 Barcelona
Juventus 2-1 Olympiacos
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Witnesses in Uruguay’s capital testified before a judge on Monday about an attack on two referees by spectators at a soccer match.
A male and a female referee were attacked on Saturday during a second division under-19 game between Basanez and Platense.
The next day, the Uruguay Football Association cancelled all organized football as referees protested the violence by refusing to officiate. Officials are expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if they will lift the stoppage.
Witnesses told Judge Julia Staricco it started after a kid threw rocks on the field with encouragement from his father. The female referee’s partner asked the kid to stop, leading to an argument with other spectators who punched and kicked the referees.
An attorney representing the country’s referees union, Fernando de Los Santos, says the officials suffered bruises to their bodies.
“There are several people responsible here: The players, especially who are all young in the under-19 category; their parents, and their families,” de Los Santos said.
“This is not new. We’ve seen this kind of violence in the lower divisions. But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The Basanez and Platense clubs have issued statements condemning the violence. Basanez also said it fired one of its players who was part of the attack.
The case is being handled by the same local judge who recently charged three people for violent acts during the Penarol-Nacional derby.
Alvaro Morata believes his fast start to life in the Premier League at Chelsea is only a taster of what is to come.
[ MORE: Who is the PL’s most complete striker? ]
After scoring a hat trick at Stoke City on Saturday in Chelsea’s 4-0 win, Morata spoke to reporters about the chances he missed and admitted he could have had five goals to his name.
The Spanish striker, 24, is clearly not content with simply replacing Diego Costa at Chelsea.
“I am happy with my start in the Premier League but I can do better,” Morata said. “I had two chances at the end of the game against Stoke [but didn’t take them]. I also need to improve my physical condition to be as good as possible.”
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Can do better. Six goals in your first six Premier League games is a pretty decent return, Alvaro.
Still, you can see what he’s saying. Morata has looked good in fits and starts so far this season but his undeniable quality is there for all to see. He scored three goals and added two assists with his head before Saturday’s breakout where he proved he can also score with his feet.
Morata struggled against Arsenal 10 days ago as he seemed isolated up top and the physicality of the Premier League seems to still surprise him at times.
It is still early days for the Spanish international who joined for $77.8 million (which could rise to $93.9 million) but the way in which he accelerated past Stoke’s defense on his first and second goals, then finished coolly reminded us all that of his schooling at Real Madrid and Juventus.
Morata is now undeniably a contender for the Golden Boot and looks like a more refined, agile replacement for Costa. His quickness of thought and elegance has replaced the brute force and desire of Costa and it seems like it will work out just fine.
Jose Mourinho has been speaking in Moscow ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.
[ MORE: UCL team news for PL clubs ]
The Man United boss has had a positive start to the new season with seven wins from nine games in all competitions as his side are second in the Premier League table only on goal difference.
[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]
That said, injuries are mounting up for the Red Devils, particularly in central midfield as Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Michael Carrick are all missing for United’s trip to CSKA.
“We don’t have Fellaini. We don’t have Pogba. We don’t have Carrick. All three midfield players that we lose for this match. The solutions are not many,” Mourinho said. “We are trying not to focus on individual battles in specific areas on the pitch. We are going to have a team with quality and balance to try to win the match. That’s our objective.”
What are Mourinho’s solutions to plug these gaps?
Ander Herrera will likely start in central midfield alongside Nemanja Matic which should be enough but given the extent of the injuries to both Pogba and Fellaini they will also have to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Fellaini was injured by Southampton’s Shane Long on Saturday and Mourinho confirmed the Belgian midfielder would not play again before the international break.
“Fellaini was lucky. It could be a much worse situation but in a moment where we don’t have Pogba and Carrick he becomes even more important than he always is. I expect Fellaini not to be out for a long time,” Mourinho added.
As for Mourinho, he was asked about the decision by the English Football Association to take no further action after he was sent to the stands late on in United’s 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.
“If I am not punished it is because there are no reasons for the sending off,” Mourinho said. “I am happy that it is recognized and I can do my work normally against Crystal Palace. That’s enough for me.”