ETW likes Mauricio Pochettino and ETW doesn't like much. However, ETW likes Brendan Rodgers just a bit more but Pochettino has been involved with making our Brendan unhappy. Saturday's late kick-off may the dawn of a new era and end a pervasive feeling of powerlessness. This weekend skinny jeans must die or at least lose enough lustre so that wearing them would be akin to some form sarcasm. Or irony depending on your constitution and personal predilection.
Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton and Paul Lambert's Aston Villa have been thorns in the Brendan Rodgers Liverpool rejuvenation project. Projects need time, money, sensible leadership, a little bit of luck, and annoying opponents to just flee or be squashed. Liverpool's last two meetings with Southampton have produced a grand total of zero points with a side order of dashed hope. The 3-1 defeat almost a year ago included Stewart Downing and Liverpool's single PL home defeat featured four centre backs in tandem with a desperately disappointing Iago Aspas. Neither scenario will be offered to the Football Gods to feast upon. All we can do is wait and see what fate offers those who pledge allegiance to the Liverbird.
The Champions League needs a bit of Liverpool. The side is a pre-eminent English attacking force with historical pedigree and a stadium that provides a unique European atmosphere. The Europa League could do with a smidgen of Southampton. The Saints have the young players, the talented manager, and the footballing philosophy to make an impressive contribution. Moving swiftly on, there was quite a dollop of European action to go along with your clandestine bowl of cereal that covered lunch or dinner. Let's take a look at what accompanied such irresponsible behaviour at mealtimes.
The knock-out stages of the Champions League have been interesting as a Liverpool fan and ETW activist. Everything really is the worst when you're on the outside looking in and knowing with absolute certainty that lands overflowing with succulent milk and enchanting honey cry out for your return. Comforted by a probable return to such fruitful lands, ETW watched on as PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid, and Borussia Dortmund scored impressive away wins. All six have the advantage of playing at home, holding away goals, and possessing superior first teams than their opponents. All six should qualify for what looks to be an exciting (okay, not Olympiakos) line up for the last eight. The only game that did not end comfortably was the AC Milan-Atlético game but one can only envisage Koke and Diego Costa adding more slices to the humble pie Sulley Muntari will have to eat on Milan's bench.
Manchester United and Chelsea were also in action but they were the only away sides not to win their first legs against Olympiakos and Galatasary SK respectively. While Chelsea satisfactorily got the away goal and avoided defeat against a potentially tricky opponent, Manchester United continue to be wretched in numerous aspects of play. ETW's hobbies a numerous but one would sit proudly atop any curriculum vitae: reading articles about the sorrows of David Moyes and Manchester United. Robbie Savage went through only ten of Moyes' mistakes as Manchester United manager. ETW knew the former midfield scrapper had a heart. Considering the vessel that pumps blood around our bloated bodies, what motivates a human being more? Experiencing joy for the self or misery for one's enemy? March 15th promises to be a day when both can be sated for Liverpool fans across this accursed globe.
Real Madrid probably produced the performance of the first leg ties by thrashing Schalke 6-1 at the Stadion Gelsenkirchen. When a side sets up in a 433 formation and your three forwards each score a brace along with at least one assist...it's truly hell for the opposition. Interestingly, two former Tottenham stars were instrumental for Real and are key players. Luka Modric is having a fantastic season and his quality continues to shine. Cristiano Ronaldo clone Bale and latest Galactico has produced solid numbers in his debut season. Fascinating duels lie ahead in the quarter finals but ETW would jump uncoordinated jigs of joy at the prospect of egos being unceremoniously shattered if PSG met Real Madrid.
England and Wales is the narrow focus of this week's Europa League round-up even if there was a stupendous 3-3 draw between Eintracht Frankfurt and Porto in Germany that saw Porto progress on away goals. Five goals apiece over two legs is a mightily impressive show but there are a few bones of contention with the Europa League. The Champions League dropouts have to be squeezed in and that makes the round of 32 understandable to some token degree yet the competition feels far too long in the proverbial throat. Qualifying rounds, group stages that touch weird letters of the alphabet, rounds of 32, dropouts from a bigger European competition, and Thursday bloody nights. It's not the Europa League's fault but it suffers nonetheless. Reach the semi-finals and it's worth your time otherwise forget it.
Swansea lost but can go back to Wales with pride after being knocked out by Rafa Benitez’s Napoli. It’s unlikely the Swans will feature in the competition next season but they’re exactly the type of side the Premier League should have as a Europa League representative. Qualifying for European competition is something that is to be achieved not awarded but if there was such a thing as a sympathetic sensation in ETW’s body then it would probably be directed at Swansea continuing to be in Europe.
Tottenham managed to show some character in overcoming Dnipro under the titan of tactics known as Tim Sherwood whose spiritual footballing father could be Harry Redknapp. Emmanuel Adebayor was masterful and Christian Eriksen’s creative influence propelled Tottenham to victory. Whether this will help Tottenham finish in the top four is uncertain but winning games can never be rotten. Despite aforementioned criticisms of the competition, winning the Europa League is a fine achievement for any manager. It would be a fine one for Sherwood in his maiden managerial season but there are many games to come before Tottenham can countenance lifting a European trophy.
European trophies are something for Liverpool to think about in future seasons but beating Southampton would be a significant step in Liverpool's evolution.