Apéritifs All Round

Where were we, good chaps?

The world stopped and justifiably took a backseat to international football as most continents locked in their Russia 2018 qualifiers. It was emotional to say the least. 

I’m knocking around here with a few tasty bites to drone on about before another delectable Premier League weekend kicks off. 

Watching the World Cup At Home Best XI

  • I realize there are still playoffs in multiple continents and one more match day in the African groups to go
  • I am working under the premise that Italy will beat whomever they are facing over two legs (they will come up against Ireland, Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland…just kidding, Greece or Sweden)
  • Pour yourself a large glass of calm down juice if your favorite country isn’t represented

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Slovenia, Atlético Madrid)

Right back: Antonio Valencia (Ecuador, Manchester United)

Centre back: Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands, Southampton)

Left back: David Alaba (Austria, Bayern Munich)

Right wing: Arjen Robben (Netherlands, Bayern Munich)

Centre mid: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia, Manchester United)

Centre mid: Arturo Vidal (Chile, Bayern Munich)

Left wing: Gareth Bale (Wales, Real Madrid)

Right forward: Alexis Sánchez (Chile, Arsenal)

Centre forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon, Borussia Dortmund)

Left forward: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria, Leicester City)

Substitute: Christian Pulisic (USA, Borussia Dortmund)

A stacked team in a 3-4-3 formation ahead of the consistently solid Oblak. The tournament next summer will be worse off without these superstars. The last time the World Cup will see such stalwarts as Robben and Vidal. Robben a legend who overcame a multitude of never ending injuries to dominate internationally and for his domestic clubs in England and Germany. Vidal an enforcer in the middle of the pitch who perfectly buffers the back line and attackers. A true winner playing with such a warrior spirit. Obviously, Gareth Bale is one of the best footballers breathing. I firmly believe if available and fit, Wales would have waltzed past Ireland and into at the very least the playoffs. Wales will surely have their World Cup day, but this was an opportunity wasted with the likes of Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen chomping at the bit. Gabon were so impressive in their campaign to qualify for Russia. The African setup is a tough crop to come out of as only the group winners go through. It is merciless and it is truly unfortunate that the globe will not have the chance to watch Aubameyang casually feast on defenders. #NOMNOMNOM Son is such an immense beast. The enormity and magnificence of the tournament’s stage befitted the type of elite quality he exudes. And lastly, I must mention how disappointing Algeria have been. Their catastrophic infrastructure and sheer blasé attitude at the highest levels have crippled the players. This is a team that boasts not only world class talent Mahrez but also Islam Slimani, Yacine Brahimi, Sofiane Feghouli and Nabil Bentaleb in the throbbing hearts of their peak performance years. They made it to the knockout rounds of Brazil 2014 before losing to eventual champions Germany in extra time. What followed was a farcical and utterly inept replacement managerial process that smacked of acute I Don’t Give A Fuckness by the men in charge. They ended the last group stage with one point from 5 matches to Nigeria’s benefit. Along with Chile, one of the great underachievers of these qualification years. 

The Derby

Now that players’ international worries are over it is due time to switch thoughts back to the Premier League. This weekend brings about one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in all of sports: Liverpool v. Manchester United. I won’t harp on the importance of this match (it’s the match of the season every single year based solely on history and the hatred). It is massive, and irrespective of circumstance, always is. This is a bigger match for United than the Manchester derby. Keep in mind that City spent decades canoodling with irrelevance whereas the Anfield/Old Trafford battle has ceaselessly raged on. This is Britain’s El Clásico, simply put. The first meeting of this season between these two giants brings with it table topping implications. United need to keep winning just to stay afloat at the summit with a ravenous Manchester City side. Liverpool have floundered of late and desperately need three points. Manager Jürgen Klopp is under the microscope a bit now with a recent spate of disappointing results, but I have no doubts that he is unequivocally the man for the job on Merseyside. Both squads are dealing with significant injuries. The home team will be without star striker Sadio Mané, who injured himself whilst away with Senegal. That is a monstrous blow for the Reds, but luckily for them, Phillipe Coutinho has refound his irrestible form that will have Barcelona salivating next open window. Their defensive four is still rather shambolic, but at their fortress, I expect major progress on Saturday. United are without Paul Pogba for the foreseeable future. They also lost in-the-form-of-his-life Marouane Fellaini to injury after he picked up a knock with Belgium. Romelu Lukaku is dinged up as well, but should start as he is scoring goals for straight up funsies right now. It will be a genuine clash of heavyweights that always promises fire and drama. I expect a nervy beginning and a tight defensive setup from Jose Mourinho (Nemanja Matić and Ander Herrera will hold in the midfield). Triumph for either team will send the most defiant of statements out to the rest of the Premiership clubs. Come on then!

Ballon d'(Sn)Or(e)

Let me be excruciatingly clear here: please stop with the Ballon d’Or shortlist of finalists. It is without question the highest form of comedy each and every single October. Firstly, THIRTY names is surely not a ruddy shortlist, bruv! I don’t even know thirty people and I’ve been around for decades inside of countless countries. I’m also REALLY AWESOME. Why just shout out a bunch of random names with less than a zero percent chance of winning the award being handed out??? I understand the accolade of being on the shortlist is one to honor and cherish for the individual. But, come on lads! It has to be embarrassing to celebrate this! IT HAS TO BE. Look at these names: Edinson Cavani? Edin Džeko?? Dries Mertens???? DRIES CHUFFING MERTENS?!?!? Was Nobody McNobodyson unavailable?? I am not discounting the magical talent these stars possess, but we are chatting about the most prestigious prize in all of football!! DRIES MERTENS?? Scoring 28 goals in a Serie A season is legitimately impressive. Scoring 34 goals in total for Napoli is also admirable. But stop it with Dries Mertens. He will not be attending the ceremony. 

The Ballon d’Or finalists should be cut to ten. The organization needs to stop trying to please all the major clubs and just name the best ten players of the calendar year. I know, that will require them doing some actual hard work, but it is essential so we don’t get bogged down with a random collection of people who happen to kick about a football. Personally, I would find it difficult to not have Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Gigi Buffon, Antoine Griezmann, N’Golo Kanté, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Ramos and Aubameyang as my finalists. You have to consider what the teams they play for won and how they performed individually in their respective leagues. Diligence and analysis are necessary. These awards need to be given to the correct players as a testament to the fans. But as we have come to find out endlessly, it is no longer about us fans. 

Well, there it is my jolly good fellows; revel in the delicious weekend of football ahead and see you soon!

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