Belated Happy New Year to you. I was tempted to write about my hopes and fears for Liverpool in 2009 but I guess these, particularly one, are fairly obvious and, dare I say it, the same as yours so you will not be infected with them!
Of course the transfer window is now open and all the speculation appears to be over how much Manchester City are going to spend. Although it’s easy to mention the players they might go for, with their money it could be anyone, and it’s harder work out if there is actually any chance, at this stage of the season, of them actually agreeing to sign! The January window tends to be a rather uneventful affair. All the big moves tend to take place in the close season. Will City really be able to attract the type of players that have been mentioned when the majority of them are still involved in the Champions League? I suspect we’ll see some smaller domestic purchases with the big foreign names, should they manage to talk them round, coming over during the summer?
To us and the most mentioned deal has been one involving Jermaine Pennant who has been linked with Real Madrid and now Hull! The choice is not the “no brainer” as many would believe, as it is doubtful Pennant will get regular first team football at the Bernabéu? This seems to be the one deal that will go through as Pennant is out of contract at the end of this season and Rafa was trying to ship him out as long ago as last summer, nothing has changed since then.
The other major “out” seems to be Andrea Dossena. Although his form hasn’t been brilliant so far this season, even though he’s currently Italy’s first choice full back, I can’t believe Rafa would be so impatient as to ditch him, even if a replacement could be found or, because Insua has been impressive in the last couple of games. Major “ins” seem to be Emile Heskey and Aaron Lennon. I can’t see Wigan selling Heskey at this stage of the season, regardless of his contract and the Lennon deal presumably depends on whether we off load Pennant and who Spurs sign? I still can’t see why Rafa won’t take a punt on Michael Owen but for whatever reason, he appears to be adamant that this will not happen.
And so to what is still one of best days in the footballing calendar, the third round of the FA Cup. The chance for lesser teams to achieve glory against the big boys and a chance for ITV, who are now covering the competition, to dust down the old tapes and mug up on their history. Their first live game is ours against Preston and what will their opening montage consist of? Some through the decades nonsense about Wembley, the romance of the cup and giant killing?
I don’t know if defeat to Preston today will be classed as a major cup shock especially if Rafa rings the changes as he did against Barnsley last season. However, reports suggest that Torres may feature and Rafa has also said that Steven Gerrard will play as if he was ever going to keep him wrapped in cotton wool after “the incident”. Indeed probably the best thing Rafa could do for Gerrard is to play him rather than let him stew over the situation?
Prediction, it all depends on whether Rafa intends taking this seriously. With Champions League football not until February there is no reason why he shouldn’t, for now, and I take us to prevail 2-0.