With Real Madrid playing at the Club World Cup, all eyes in La Liga turn to Atletico Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao this weekend. It could be brutal...
Plus Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks 'heart-breakingly well-suited to a Real Madrid shirt' according to one United fan. Plus, words from the good doctor and plenty more...
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We Shouldn't Be Ignoring City
As a City fan, I'm really confused by the opinions expressed by writers on this site and on others as to City's prospects for repeating the league triumph of last season. As Sarah Winterburn says on the predictions page "a lack of any real squad improvement - while others have spent", it doesn't make much sense to me. Thinking about each area of the team -
Goalkeeper - Joe Hart is a brilliant goalkeeper when he's not having one of his brain farts which he cut out in the second half of the season. Caballero is an obvious improvement on Pantilimon (not that I was too impressed with him in the community shield, mind)
Defence - Two glaring issues. No viable backup to Zabaleta, so we've got Sagna, can't complain about that in any way. Plus whenever Kompany is injured any replacement looks a mess. The idea is that Mangala will sort that problem out. Those two as first choice, then Demichelis as backup with Nastasic too, no problem with that.
Midfield - No issues here. I did like Garcia but he looked as limited as ever when needed so hopefully Fernando is an improvement as backup.
Attack - Most goals scored last season, with Jovetic back and looking good so far there should be no problems here either. If Serge is fit for half the games he still probably get 20 goals or so, the others can easily fill in around that as they did last season.
So I'm not saying we're better than anyone else and we'll definitely win the league, if you want to say you like Chelsea's squad better now they've added Fabregas and Costa then fair enough, but to say City haven't improved and at least attempted to sort out the issues of last season is just nonsense.
Blaming F365 For Palace. It's A Good Mail
I am not a Palace fan, but I really think F365 have to take some of the blame for Pulis' departure.
If rumours are to be believed it was due to Pulis pushing for more of a budget to give him options for the upcoming campaign. I think it's pretty clear where this notion came from, to quote yesterday's wishlist - 'A fedora, a boater, one of those straw things that boisterous bellends wear at festivals, a bowler, a Slash-style top hat.'
Five new hats! Palace are a club that have to live within their budget. At the end of the day you can only put one hat on a head at a time, so you need a squad of maybe 3 hats, 4 max and they already have the experienced baseball cap in place.
He had his head in the clouds after you filled his head with talk of hats, then he's lost his head during a head to head with the head honcho. Hang your heads in shame.
"However, there was a feeling at Palace that while he and his methods would be tolerated in the short term, the sort of stagnation that happened at Stoke would not be welcome."
Really, Ed Quoth the Raven?? The sort of stagnation that makes you a solid Premiership team?? You'd prefer to be back in the Championship than "stagnate". That'd gotta be a wind up
Weldoninhio (neither a Stoke, Palace or Pulis fan), Dublin
...If anyone out there - media, fan or otherwise - thinks that Crystal Palace should have given Tony Pulis whatever he asked for, in terms of money to spend, maybe they should ask Terry Venables if he remembers what happened to the Glaziers last time they allowed a manager that privilege. This is especially pertinent with Pulis's record on big money signings at Stoke.
Martin Kelly was quoted yesterday saying that Palace fans reminded him of Liverpool fans. I thought that was an exaggeration, but I've just had to stop myself from making a point about "net spend".
Ed Quoth the Raven
And The Candidates
Well that's not good. However regarding Tony's departure I think my fellow Palace fans are spot on. Pulis was/is massively respected at Selhurst Park but never totally loved. His exit, while undeniably a blow, hurts far less than Dougie Freedman's did. (We were top of the league, Dougie! Top!)
Between Crystal Pulis and Crystal Parish, there will only ever be one winner. Steve Parish is the lifelong fan, not Pulis. Parish is the one who saved us from liquidation. Parish's money is funding the signings. I wish Pulis had stayed but ultimately I'd rather he went than we broke the wage structure. I'd rather exist in the Championship than go bust in the Premier League.
So who now? Malky Mackay is early favourite and you can see why, given the Moody links and (whisper it) his slightly smalltime feel. I really hope he doesn't come. He did well at Cardiff but not spectacularly well. I don't think he would've kept them up. And he spent £8 million on Andreas Cornelius, which doesn't exactly scream 'prudent'.
Tim Sherwood? Actually wouldn't mind him too much on a purely managerial basis. His record at Tottenham was pretty decent. However after Holloway I'm not sure if I could bear another media 'personality', especially as Tim would be spouting off about Levy every five minutes. Suspect he thinks he's too good for us anyway.
Neil Lennon? Well he won the league at Celtic but so could my Gran. Our George Burley experiment has probably put Parish off hiring SPL managers and I can't really blame him. However he is a more exciting name than the others being touted so would just about be my preferred choice.
David Moyes? Quite short with bookies but I can't see it happening. If he really has been turning down jobs God knows why he would accept us. Seeing as he splurged £70 million on two players at United (one of whom was the Mediocre Afro) I imagine the budget constrains might sting a little. Still, if he wants the job I'd take Dave in a heartbeat.
Steve Clarke? Meh. But if 'meh' equates lower mid-table then sign that man up.
Hoddle or Fat Sam? That's like choosing between flooding or the plague.
Billy Davies? I'm off for a long walk in the car-park... (Not many woods in South London.)
Parish's record of appointing managers is mixed and we can't afford to get this one wrong. Then again we said that last season and look what happened. Hopefully we'll take our time and ensure we make the right appointment, not the quick one. (I'm looking at you Malky.) Pulis worked wonders last season but ultimately it was the players out there on the pitch. Second-season survival is the only target and there is no reason we shouldn't achieve it, Pulis or not.
Unless he really did have a magic cap....
Max CPFC (Thanks for everything TP)
Because I enjoyed the official predictions this morning, I thought I'd contribute my own.
Winner: Chelsea - Diego Costa + Fabregas + the best defence and wingers in the league = champions.
Top Four: City - Jovetic to step up, they also have five quality centre backs, their apparent achilles heel; Arsenal - if they add a holding midfielder, and the star signing performs (I'm talking about Shad Forsythe of course); United - they perform best when they're scared and van Gaal will terrorise them, as well as give Mata his mojo back.
Relegated: Villa - because I expect Ron Vlaar will be sold; West Brom - they don't seem to care anymore; Leicester - they just seem so... rubbish. Sorry.
Best of the rest: Stoke - they should have goals in 'em, and really most of the league looks worse than mediocre, and Koeman might need a season before the Saints' resurgence.
Top scorer - Costa, because I just don't see Jose rotating him, and Fabregas will break a record for assists in a season.
Promoted trio: Leciester down, Burnley saved by Danny Ings and everyone else being crap (this is almost certainly wishful thinking), QPR will finish 15th and Neil Ashton will claim it's a triumph for the ages (and Hoddle will replace him in the summer).
Sack race: Big Sam, and the Whammers board will win back the hearts of the masses by going for Tony Pulis.
Best signing: Cesc. You can get 20/1 for him to be player of the year. Licence to print money.
Worst: Aston Villa signed Senderos, Joe Cole and Aly Cissokho. If there were an actual trophy for this category, they'd be allowed to keep it.
Managerial Schadenfreude: Mourinho, because he's a sh*thead.
Will O'Doherty (Ed - This is the only mailbox in which we will be publishing these)
...Champions: Chelsea, as much as it pains me to say it. Jose always asks to be judged on his second season; obviously not technically true, but true in that he's had a proper opportunity to address weaknesses in his squad. How they'll be praying Diego Costa stays fit for the season though.
Rest of the top four: City, Arsenal, impossible to call the last one. Liverpool have strengthened their squad, but no players they've signed stand out as being match winners; Man Utd are implementing a brand new system and quality lack squad depth in key areas (although safe to say they've got 10 covered), particularly defence; Spurs are Spurs so will endeavour to break my heart as usual, although with our settled squad with plenty of quality and a sensible manager who knows; Everton surely don't have the depth to cope with PL and Europa.
Relegation: West Brom, Crystal Palace and Leicester: West Brom will struggle under an inexperienced manager; Crystal Palace will suffer massively from starting the season in general disarray, and their squad is arguably in a worse state that when Pulis took over; can't see Leicester scoring enough goals to survive, in spite of the gamble they've taken on Ulloa.
Surprise package: Spurs. We seem to have responded well to Pochettino's methods, he's strengthened our perennially weak defence as a priority and, in spite of what everyone outside the club seems to think, we've actually got a pretty decent squad. Expecting a top four push but ultimately 5th; I'd be happy with that if Poch manages to make being a Spurs fan fun again. If he also manages to teach us to defend properly, I'll be in football utopia (and he should be awarded a manager of the century award).
First managerial casualty: Nigel Pearson. As has been widely observed, any club even flirting with relegation by Christmas will likely have an itchy trigger finger. Don't think Pearson is good enough to keep Leicester up.
Alex G, THFC and pretty excited
Most Liverpool Fans Are Sensible
As this is the last mailbox before the season starts, I think it is a good time to discuss what Liverpool fans' pre-season expectations actually are, rather than allowing rival fans to craft a straw-man argument about how deluded we are. The following expectations are all based on the Liverpool Echo's fan survey:
* Two thirds of Liverpool fans expect to finish 2nd through 4th. 10% expect 5th through 7th. 10% expect to win the title.
* Half expect Chelsea to win the league. A quarter expect City to win the league.
* 95% do not think Liverpool will reach the Champions League final.
* 95% do not think Liverpool have adequately replaced Luis Suarez
* Two thirds expect to finish with fewer points than last season.
So let's get this nonsense about Liverpool fans expecting to win the title this year right out of the way. Its simply not true of the overwhelming majority of us.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland
How rubbish are official club channels? I thought we were the only ones with a cringefest taking up airspace in the form of LFCTV but others are too. I work for a fairly reputable telecommunications company in Manchester and they're nice enough to let us have TVs around the office. Given how giddy everyone is for Van Gaal, I've seen a fair amount of MUTV this summer.
Jesus wept, it's terrible. Just like LFCTV it's so gaudy and low budget, like a cheerleader who's wrapped herself in glowsticks and fired herself out of a cannon at you TV screen. With all the production value of a 90s soap. Outside of match highlights, with an eerily disconnected commentary recorded in post, and goal compilations, which you could get on YouTube does anyone actually enjoy the content?
Kris, LFC, Manchester
Jan He Kick It?
It's time I put the football world straight regarding the pronunciation of the name of a certain Turkish German who has just signed for Liverpool. I'm sorry to p*ss on everyone's chips, but since a C is pronounced like a J in Turkish, his surname is prounced Jan, as in short for Janet (rather than as a Y, as in hulking ex-Czech giant Koller and pie-eating champion Molby).
My plea to F365 readers is to spread the word, in the meantime looking really smug as you put one over your other football-loving mates. If the tired puns continue based on a mispronunciation of Emre's surname I may just have to kill someone.
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire