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ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP:War, as no love’s lost between Yak and Yobo

Posted by Ademola Olajire on 2005/11/07 | Views: 607 |

ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP:War, as no love’s lost between Yak and Yobo


Anyone who saw Middlesbrough destroy the famous Manchester United with such ease and clinical efficiency last weekend, would have an idea of what could happen tomorrow afternoon when Steve McLaren’s troops invade Everton’s Goodison Park looking for three points.

Anyone who saw Middlesbrough destroy the famous Manchester United with such ease and clinical efficiency last weekend, would have an idea of what could happen tomorrow afternoon when Steve McLaren’s troops invade Everton’s Goodison Park looking for three points.

The battle at Merseyside comes a week after bottom team, Everton themselves went up a gear by beating Steve Bruce’s Birmingham away at St Andrew’s, and whoever needs convincing about the ability of the Toffees to put up a good fight against the Red Devils’ maulers should think about the clash between international team-mates, Joseph Yobo and Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
The Super Eagles’ stand-in captain and the striker will come face-to-face for the first time since the two-time African champions failed to make it to the World Cup finals in Germany, hung on the rack by less illustrious Angola.
‘Yak’ was frozen out of the last game against Zimbabwe in Abuja while Yobo confirmed his new status as on-field captain, and having scored six goals in the current campaign, Aiyegbeni is being re-considered for a place in the attack of the West African giants, ahead of the African Nations Cup finals in Egypt in two-and-a-half months. He is aware that his performance is being monitored, and if he gets it right against his national team captain, ‘Yak’ would surely be on his way back into the team.
Yobo has been churning out solid performances for the Toffees this season, but no tree makes a forest, and his efforts have not shown in the results. Everton have won only two matches this term, and even with their win over Birmingham, it’s only if they win their postponed fixture that they can get out minimally from the drop zone.

With only seven points from 10 matches (less than one point per match; a dismal record), the Merseysiders are in a desperate situation even so early in the campaign and all hands are on deck to steer them away from trouble.
Now that they have been bowled out of the UEFA Champions League, Yobo and company can fully concentrate on the Premiership, and getting results in the next few weeks would be the objective as the Christmas break looms.
However, the club have witnessed a surge in form in the past fortnight, with their 1-1 draw against champions, Chelsea, breaking the Blues’ winning run and last weekend’s defeat of Birmingham away underlining a new strength.
If Everton retain the spirit that saw them beat Birmingham away last weekend, they could make life tough for the inconsistent Boro boys. Coached by England assistant coach, Steve McLaren, Middlesbrough hitched up to new and unaccustomed levels last weekend with the disgrace of Manchester United, but we all remember how they collapsed 3-0 in front of their fans at Tees-side to a club by the name Charlton Athletic.

The same Charlton Athletic, last Saturday, got pounded in the face by a certain club named Bolton Wanderers, definitely not one of the top performers in the campaign this term.

While most people are still talking about the massive bashing of United by Boro on Saturday, which Sir Alex Ferguson called an ‘embarrassment’, Everton would let it be known that they have returned to form and they would not be sitting on the field to be slain by any team, more so in front of their beloved Toffee fans.

Yobo and David Weir are expected to man the central line at the rear, with Phil Neville, who used to be at Manchester United, at the wing. Steve McFadden and Tim Cahill will search for the goals against a Boro side that have Australian ace, Mark Viduka back from injury.
The big marksman has been hampered for sometime now and he gets back with a rare opportunity to play against his compatriot, Tim Cahill, as both get set for next weekend’s World Cup 2006 play-off against Uruguay at the Sydney Football Stadium.

By FIFA’s allotment of the World Cup places, the winners of the Oceania region (Australia) play off against the fifth-placed team in the South American continent, which happens to be Uruguay for the second time running. Four years ago, it was also between Uruguay and Australia, and the Socceroos celebrated a 1-0 win in the first leg at home, but four days later, in Montevideo, they were hammered for three and the 1930 and 1950 winners were the ones at the Korea/Japan finals.
Apart from Viduka, Boro also have Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who scored an interesting goal against Manchester United last Saturday but also missed a couple of sitters.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni would be looking for his seventh goal of the term as Boro look to take their points tally to 18 in the campaign.

Spaniard flier, Gaizka was injured for a long spell but has returned to the Boro flow and his two goals against United, a rocket that Edwin van der Sar could only help into the net after only 100 seconds, underlined his form.
Boro will be determined to get into the top half of the table instead of remaining at the lower half, while Evertonians will seek a leap out of the drop zone. An afternoon of sparks and fireflies is guaranteed at Goodison Park.

Aston Villa are home to European champions, Liverpool, with both teams yet to impress this year. Great goals by Xabi Alonso and Boudewijn Zenden, and a generally commendable performance, marked Liverpool’s afternoon against West Ham on Saturday. Yet, it was a long time since they did that. And it shows in the fact that they are in 13th place on the Premiership table, with 13 points from nine matches.
Villa, who only two seasons ago missed a place in Europe by the skin of the teeth (they were piped to a UEFA Cup slot on goals difference by Newcastle), are even more disappointing. They have only managed to rake nine points from 10 matches and just two steps away from the drop zone.

Whatever is happening to David O’Leary and wards, they would have to chart a new course. O’Leary, one of the young and ambitious managers in the Premiership, has managed to keep the Villians in the top flight but it’s usually more than that. The home crowd wants something to celebrate in form of qualification for Europe.
During the week, O’Leary called on the talismanic Colombian striker, Juan Pablo Angel to lift his game and be Villa’s Guardian Angel once more as a difficult campaign plays out.

Juan Pablo was their real angel in the penultimate season, scoring 23 goals to lift the Villians within a place in Europe, but he has not been firing at the same rapid rate and is in fact, looking for his first goal of the current term, with 11 weeks gone. Villa have scored only nine goals and conceded 16.

On their part, Liverpool appears to be concentrating more on Europe, just as they did last year. Indeed, they paid so much attention on the continent that they finished outside the UEFA Champions League places, and then presented a problem for UEFA after winning the trophy in Istanbul. The union had to re-draft their rules, and it meant Liverpool had to start defending their title from the preliminary stage.

While Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia have taken off from where they left off last term, the other players appear to be taking their time waking up into another season after that fulfilling night, when they came back from 3-0 down at half-time to pull level with six-time champions, AC Milan and then win on penalties as the Italians rued a horrendous collapse.
Arsenal return from a lucky escape at neighbours', Tottenham to host bottom team, Sunderland at Highbury Park this afternoon.
The match comes days after manager, Arsene Wenger took a decision to no longer say anything about champions, Chelsea, after a stinging attack by Coach Jose Mourinho and chief executive, Peter Kenyon, who fired umbrage at the Frenchman for always talking about the Blues.

“There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea. I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur. He likes to watch other people”, Mourinho railed at Wenger after the latter was quoted as saying Chelsea’s big belief had been ‘chopped at’ after the 1-1 draw with Everton and the Carling Cup elimination by Charlton Athletic last week.

Peter Kenyon said: “It bothers me because the guy is speaking all the time. We never speak about them. You can do it when you are top and you have a big morale. We want to work within the system – we are far from rebels.”
Mourinho added: “I might be worried if my team made a defensive mistake. I shouldn’t be worried about what Arsenal did at Tottenham. They are always speaking about the other families.”

Wenger saw his boys flailing against their neighbours and were heading to their first defeat in six years against Spurs after Ledley King’s headed goal kept the homers in front but Robert Pires made up for his horrendous penalty kick against Manchester City the previous weekend by finding the net after goalkeeper, Paul Robinson, dropped a pull-out.

Sunderland have proved erratic even at the Stadium of Light. The newcomers were stuck at the bottom for long before exchanging places with Everton, but are now back at base and would be lucky to take something away from Highbury. The Gunners have been nudged into remembering they are in some trouble as Chelsea are 14 points above them in the campaign.
The club that set a 49-match unbeaten record can no longer be sure of winning a game even against Wigan, and Wenger is sure to tell his players some home truths before this particular game.

Newcastle were the team of last weekend, what with a 3-0 win away from home, and two classy goals that marked Michael Owen out as one of the greatest strikers on the Planet – in case we still need proof.
The Magpies are now playing with some pomp and with Celestine Babayaro back at left back, Coach Graeme Souness is breathing easier. They are still in 10th place, but the quality they put on show against West Brom at the Hawthorns reminded Geordie fans that without injuries, their team can indeed go very far in this campaign.

Emre Belozoglu, the Turk, as well as Kieron Dyer, Scott Parker, Steven Taylor and Alan Shearer have been outstanding.
Today, the Magpies are odds- on to take another three points as they host fumbling Birmingham City at St James Park.
Fulham, who sensationally shut out Liverpool in their last home game (2-0) would wish for another giant-killing act as they entertain Manchester City at the Craven Cottage.

Youthful coach, Chris Coleman was feeling frustrated last Saturday as newcomers, Wigan ran away with blue murder, winning a game that his Cottagers dominated to embarrassing dimension at the JJB Stadium. Today, he would instruct that his wards decide on the right positions of the goal-post and not waste so many chances again.
Fulham are only a step better than Aston Villa (handled by another youthful manager) on the table but in real terms, both teams have nine points each and the Villians even have a game on hand.

Nwankwo Kanu and West Bromwich Albion return to the road (some of the players say they feel more comfortable playing away) as they visit newcomers, West Ham at Upton Park, the latter much better on the table at 9th place and 15 points from 10 matches.

Charlton Athletic, who inexplicably lost to Bolton at The Valley, Saturday, are away to Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, and it remains to be seen if the Rovers will play it soft.

Portsmouth, who surprised even Alain Perrin last weekend by slamming four past Sunderland after going behind 1-0 at half-time, should be wary of Wigan Athletic. Both teams clash at Portsmouth Fratton Park looking for three precious points.
Certainly, the match of the weekend is the clash on Sunday between Manchester United and leaders, Chelsea, but on the evidence of last weekend’s annihilation of the Red Devils by common Middlesbrough, it is doubtful if the interest the game should have generated would match what actually falls on the scale.
Chelsea are ahead of the team expected to challenge them for the title by 13 points (31 to 18), and as if that is not enough, United are far back in 6th place, though with a match on hand.

Frank Lampard notched his 100th Premiership goal (who still remembers him as that average midfielder bought from West Ham a couple of years ago?) against unfortunate Blackburn Rovers last weekend and as usual, his partnership with Didier Drogba in the Chelsea fore would bear no good news for the opposition.
On Monday, Tottenham and Bolton Wanderers make it a date at the Reebok, with Trotters’ skipper, Jay-Jay Okocha likely to return to the team after recovering from a hamstring complaint.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.