The Follow Up

How do you follow up last season will be something that most managers are thinking about at the start of the new Premier League campaign. For Brendan Rodgers, that means following up a season where Liverpool performed miracles. Finishing second when quite frankly nobody, not even their fans, thought they would get anywhere near that. Liverpool did so well that alot of people seem to think they ‘threw’ the title away at the end. Whereas I don’t agree with that totally, there was no doubt that for a period the title ending at Anfield was almost a done deal. This season, weighed with that expectation of that challenge plus the demands of Champions League football (for the first time in 5 years), how will Rodgers get Liverpool to handle the follow up?

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This season is a test for Rodgers as well as his side

How do you replace Luis Suarez? He scored 31 goals last season (despite being banned for 6 games) and was at the centre of everything Liverpool did. He never stopped. He never gave up and at times pulled everyone along with him. Answer? You don’t replace him with one man. You replace him with many. Its not a simple Dalglish for Keegan. Its more like Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge for Rush. Rodgers has bought plenty and I think bought well. Lambert, Lallana, Can, Lovern, Manquillo, Moreno, Origi (Loaned) and Markovic. These players strengthen the squad but its the players Suarez leaves behind that will make the side better.

For me, this season for Liverpool is about Sturridge, Sterling, Coutinho and Henderson. They were all there last season and know what it feels to challenge. As fans we need to hope they want the feeling again. If they improve this season, Liverpool will too. Sturridge is the main man now. People forget that he scored 21 goals last season too and was electric up front. He will lead Liverpool’s attack like he led England’s at the World Cup. Lets hope he gets better service. He is cocky, arrogant, selfish but its a goal scorer. If he can get 25 goals this season, Liverpool will do very well.

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Sturridge, Sterling and Henderson are hugely important

This season is also about Sterling and Coutinho. Both had some brilliant flashes last season. Sterling in the second half had become one of Liverpool’s main threats. I hope he can continue to torment defences but hope his World Cup experience shows that he needs to score more goals. End product is needed and he must set himself a target of 15 goals with Suarez gone. Coutinho for me needs a bigger step. Like him as a player but for me he isn’t the ‘sex on the field’ most fans think. Football is ultimately about results. Coutinho does some wonderful things on the field but this season they need to translate into goals. He needs to be stronger on the ball and score goals and more goals. His output isn’t good enough and he will admit it. He needs to find that killer touch this season.

Jordan Henderson is the most important player for me at the club right now. His energy and determination was harnessed last season by Rodgers and when he was sent off against City, I think we lost that spark in the middle of the park. Gerrard did well as a holding player but his use will diminish and he may well need more rest. Henderson is young, vibrant and I hope can continue to mature. If he does, I think he can be the leader of this team in years to come and can be one of the best midfielders in the country. I also expect him to score more goals this season. He is box to box and gets himself in good positions. With Suarez gone, Henderson will need to do his share and if he plays well, so will Liverpool.

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Henderson is the most important player this season for Liverpool

With Lallana and Lambert chipping in and maybe Markovic later in the season, Liverpool’s attack looks good. Pace and power, I think even without Suarez, they will cause plenty of headaches. How Rodgers manages to split them and keep them fresh between the league and the European nights will be vital but this side is growing up and so is Brenden as a manager. It will be a test for him as well. There is still talk of a new striker before the window ends and someone to partner Sturridge would make the side even more complete. However there are a lack of quality options available and I would caution against a panic buy if it comes to the last day. Better to wait for the right man. And no, he won’t replace Suarez either.

My worry for Liverpool this season continues to be the defence. Lovern for many has sorted out a number of problems. He has for me as well. Should be a solid buy and bring experience, strength and most importantly leadership to a defence that last season was as leaky as a house of hay. He needs to settle quickly and marshall that defence that still doesn’t convince me. Manquillo and Moreno should do well for us on the flanks but its that important three at the back (centre half and goalkeeper) that need to organise better and more importantly not panic. Rodgers too needs to grow as a manager in this area this season. Liverpool must show more composure and he needs to give his back four the confidence that they are the guys for the job. If Liverpool can concede 10–15 less than last season, the pressure on the guys up front is reduced hugely. Last season for a period Liverpool were the ‘doesn’t matter how many you score, we will score more’ team (and mostly they did) but with Suarez gone, the feeling is that won’t happen now. Thus defensive solidity is vital and with European games having the potential to either fortify or destroy confidence, it has to be a huge priority.

Most importantly expectation needs to be managed. Last season put us in dream land. We put 5 past Arsenal, 9 past Spurs over two games, beat Everton 4–0 and walloped United 3–0 at Old Trafford. As great as those games were, its important to remember that its unlikely that will happen again (unlikely not impossible remember the two 4–3 games vs Newcastle?). Liverpool will need to learn new skills this season. I hope we can continue to be the great entertainers but hope that we also learn that games can be won by grim determination at the back too. With so many of our title rivals strengthening, we will need it. Our play when we don’t have the ball needs to be good. We need to press and protect and the back five needs to show that it can win games for Liverpool too.

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You can’t expect this every season!

Did I say title rivals? Yes, I do think Liverpool can win the league. Not sure they will but they certainly can. I think four sides can — Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool. United need to strengthen further if you ask me. They haven’t bought as well as I expected. Van Gaal is a good coach but he isn’t a miracle worker and the squad just isn’t that good at the moment. But they could jump into the mix if they make some shrewd buys before the window closes. Everton and Spurs will be there or there abouts as well but I don’t think they can win the title. They will cause the top four or five plenty of problems though. So will the other sides. The Premiership today is the most competitive league in the world and there are no sides that will be push over. The league is won over 38 games. Liverpool need to start well, be strong and replicate last seasons home form. It will be crucial and Anfield will be key in determining how the season goes at home and in Europe. If Liverpool can keep the Kop rocking like it did last season, teams will struggle. For that the players need to step up, overcome the shadow of Suarez and give the fans a new set of heroes to worship.

If I have to stick my neck out, I think we will finish third this season, probably have a good European run and win a cup. This is still a young side and Rodgers will be keen to show last season was no fluke. Consistency in the Champions League and regular title challenges are what Liverpool should be about. I think Brendan is about to make that happen once again.

6Liverpool Football Club, Brendan Rodgers, Football, Premier League, Sports,

The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron concept art released at Comic Con. The first trailer was screened too. Supposedly it was so awesome it blew the roof off! The film is shaping up to be exactly as we hope. Cannot wait till May 1st 2015!

6The Avengers, Marvel, Films, Posters, Age of Ultron,

Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross
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Marvel 75th Anniversary Covers by Alex Ross

(via brianmichaelbendis)

Source: westcoastavengers

6Marvel, Comics, 75 Years, Superheroes, Spiderman, Hulk, Xmen,

First look of Wonder Woman from Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice. Looks fantastic! 

6Wonder Woman, DC Comics, Warner Brothers, Comic Con, Superman v Batman, Dawn of Justice,

Remember reading this as a kid. Confusing when ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ came out.

Source: comicbookcovers

6Splinter of the Minds Eye, Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia,

Jon Stewart doing what he does best. Piss taking. With Putin.
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Jon Stewart doing what he does best. Piss taking. With Putin.
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Jon Stewart doing what he does best. Piss taking. With Putin.
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Jon Stewart doing what he does best. Piss taking. With Putin.
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Jon Stewart doing what he does best. Piss taking. With Putin.

(via teachingtoday)

Source: comedycentral

6The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, Funny, Putin,

The Justice League
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The Justice League
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The Justice League
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The Justice League
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The Justice League
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Madness at the back from Brazil.

6Brazil, Germany, World Cup, FIFA, Football, Sports,

How do Brazil line up without Neymar?

So what does Scolari do without Neymar? Tragic news about the Brazilian poster boy being out of the World Cup. A hammer blow for Brazil ahead of an already difficult semi final vs a wonderfully solid and fluid German side. 

The challenge that ended Neymar’s competition looked a bad one. FIFA will ban people for biting, but not for back-breaking it seems. Sure, Zuniga didn’t mean it but he did mean to clatter Neymar. He had done so the whole match. Not a Suarez defence, rather a plea for consistency. It was a shocking challenge and just because people throw around the ‘this happens in football’ line, doesn’t make it right.

Still leaves Scolari with plenty to do. If he wins the World Cup from here, he would seriously have earned it. You can question Brazil’s tactics against Colombia where they made the game very physical and committed alot of fouls but it worked. Colombia were frustrated and played abysmally in the first half. It cost them the match. Colombia were no saints either but more is expected of Brazil in terms of style and creativity.

Neymar had a quiet match up to when he was injured. Brazil’s problem this tournament has been they have run out of steam. Both against Chile and Colombia they pressed an hurried in the first half and played well only to fade badly in the second half. Inviting Germany onto them will spell disaster. Germany have the quality to hurt Brazil alot in the final third. And with no Thiago Silva (suspended) at the back and Neymar up front, Scolari has a huge dilemma. 

Personally, would bring Dante in to cover Silva at the back. So Cesar with Luiz and Dante. In front of them the returning Gustavo with Marcelo and Maicon at full back. The experienced Maicon did well last night in contrast the haphazard Alves. The midfield would Fernandinho (lucky not to be booked and suspended) and Paulinho (who was better last night) as the engine in the middle with Oscar now in a central role behind the striker. Oscar needs to step up. He has been awful for four games now. Big pressure on him to create with Neymar out. Would play Willian wide and drop Fred and play Hulk through the middle as a centre forward. Hulk can’t finish to save his life but he has come to life in the last two games and has the pace and power to trouble the German back four which lacks speed. Fred is just a giant mountain. Doesn’t move and a waste. 

This side for me has the best chance of beating Germany, however slim that chance is. Brazil will need to call on all their discipline which has been lacking so far if they are to realise their dream of winning the cup on home soil. In their way are now shattered vertebrae, yellow cards and 11 very focussed, very talented Germans.

Add to it the fervour of home support and you have all the ingredients for a classic if the hosts can raise their game.

Could be a cracker.

6World Cup 2014, Brazil, Germany, Neymar, Silva, Football, Sports,

"What a Start…" - Review of the Big Boys after the First Round

So we have seen every team play once. The first round of the group games is done and what a set of games its been so far. The first 17 games has produced 48 goals, 6 penalties and 3 red cards. Eventful. Its been the most enjoyable start to the World Cup in ages. Great games, great goals and plenty of surprises.

So what of the big boys who were expected to set the tournament on fire?

Brazil — Seen them twice now. Been a distinct disappointment. As expected Neymar has been their main man but the attack has been disjoint mostly and he has not inconsistent support. A win versus Croatia was marred by poor refereeing and a dreadful penalty award for the hosts. The hope for a better show vs Mexico quickly disappeared as the well organised Mexicans really caused Brazil problems. Yes, their goal-keeper made the save of the tournament and more to keep out Neymar and others but only off set pieces and by and large, Brazil’s attack has been turgid. The defence looks all over the place. Croatia and Mexico caused them huge problems and the fact that the full backs leave so much space means teams can quickly counter and get at that back three. 

Overall — Scolari has a problem. Fred is a passenger and Brazil look ordinary. The defence is a mess and bench quality is an issue. They will get out of the group but will be lucky to make the quarters on this form.

Spain — Have a defending champions ever started so badly? Holland’s 5-1 demolition of Spain shocked the world. The signs were there that the Spanish weren’t the same but a host of dreadful individual errors added to the Dutch delight. Spain’s World Cup and European success was based on intensity, especially when they didn’t have the ball. That is all gone now and Spain invited the Dutch to run into space and were punished for it. The issue for them also lies in attack. No front man to score goals and a midfield that lacks pace and penetration. Del Bosque would be well to play Navas as he at least provides cutting edge.

Overall — Have a real fight to survive the group. Chile a very real threat and Spain must show greater will to beat them. Should they do that, they could well recover at this tournment. You worry about where the goals will come from though.

Holland — Coming off a miserable European Championships, no one had talked alot of the Dutch at Brazil. They changed that on the second night against holders Spain. Despite going behind to a dubious penalty, Robben and RVP struck twice each to dismantle the Champions. The Dutch could have scored more. Incisive in attack and solid in defence, the Dutch looked like a team that can go very far in the tournament. They should now easily make the quarter finals but need to watch their discipline at the back. De Jong worries me. Looks like he could explode. Must match the intensity they displayed against Spain. Van Gaal has a massive part to play in that. RVP scored the goal of the first round and Holland were the best side too.

Overall — Look like they can dream about finally breaking that World Cup jinx. Would be popular winners for me. Robben is key though and his form and fitness will determine how far they go. Good to see RVP scoring goals too. World class strikers are at a premium.

Italy — Played England in the best game of the tournament. Hot and humid in the Amazon but both sides delivered a game of great quality won by the Italians to their great credit. Pirlo still the master for them. Dictated everything and ruled the midfield. Brought class and experience to the side helped by some youthful exuberance from Darmian and Candreva who were very impressive. Solid at the back too as expected, the Italians will get better as they drained in the heat. As fitness improves so will they. Balotelli won them the match and so much depends on him you feel to score the goals. If he is in the mood, Italy have the side to deliver the goods. But can he keep his head? Disappointing in 2010, the Italians, off some mixed results, look like their 2006 vintage.

Overall — Still work to do. Tough game vs Uruguay and the surprising Costa Rica mean that Italy still need to focus. Prandelli though will keep them hugely committed and with Pirlo putting the strings, the quarters beckon for Italy. After that, who knows?

France — How poor were they in 2010? Disjoint and dumped out in round one. France have alot to prove in Brazil and when Ribery was ruled out of the tournament you feared the worst. To be honest, we don’t quite know what to make of them yet. They cruised to a 3-0 vs Hondurus in their opening game but were hardly stellar. They struggled in the first half and only made it count when the South Americans tired. They are in a fairly easy group but I worry about them against the better sides. Their clash with Switzerland will show more what they are made of. Benzema started well and that is a good sign but the jury is still out on Dechamps side.

Overall — Should get out of the group easily. But from there who knows. Defensively strong so can grind out results but do they have the class to go all the way? I doubt it but there were encouraging signs especially in the second half in their opener.

Argentina — My favourites for the tournament. Argentina started at the Maracana and the stage was set for Messi. Sadly he was mostly missing and they stuggled against a well marshalled Bosnia. But it takes one moment for a genius and in the second half it arrived. With a tricky run he sliced open the defence before striking a beautiful left foot drive home. It sealed the points for Argentina but honestly Messi won’t be happy. Neither will the fans. Top gear needs to be found which could be hard as the remaining group opponents aren’t great. Still the quality is there and although Aguero and the rest didn’t do brilliantly, they did enough. Di Maria was my star man and I think he could be the guy to take the pressure of Messi. Burrachaga to Messi’s Maradona.

Overall — Argentina remain my favourites despite a lukewarm opening. They will improve and should sail smoothly through to the quarter finals. A lack of real quality opposition is a worry but they can use that to get Messi, Aguero et al into top form.

Germany — The European favourites started with a potentially tough tie vs Portugal and C-Ron. At the end of 90 minutes, the Iberians were mauled and the German machine looked as efficient and ruthless as ever. In a mirror to the Spain — Holland game, the Germans and Mueller in particular cut apart Portugal, who were down to 10 men after a Pepe brain explosion. Perhaps could have got more but 4-0 was emphatic enough at this level. The lack of pace at the back still worries me and early on C-Ron caused them some problems. In a tighter game, that defence could be an achilles heel. But they looks so fluid in attack. Like a German automobile, the cruised through much of the game switching flanks and probing expertly. Real hope that they can improve on near misses in 2006 and 2010.

Overall — With Holland have been the most impressive side. Mueller already on 3 goals and more will come. Amazing to think he is still only 24. Should be good for a semi spot at least but the defence must work on its positional play to avoid being caught with pace.

Others of note? England were decent against Italy. Good to see them attack and give it a go. You think their defence isn’t up to it at this level and that their young attack will need another 2 years to challenge though. Chile looked good in beating Australia. Can hope to upset Group B and give Spain a real challenge for the second spot especially in the wake of the Iberians being thumped by the Dutch. Belgium, much hyped, huffed and puffed to a win over Algeria. They aren’t in a strong group and should improve quickly. 

Shocks? Costa Rica beating Uruguay is the shock of the tournament so far. Uruguay, highly fancied, now face a real struggle to make the knock out stages. USA also beating the rated Ghanians was a surprise but the US always play with heart and spirit and this time, it was good enough. Surely Holland and Germany’s wins go down as a suprise but for the margin if not the result. Brazil failing to overcome Mexico ranks as a disappointment if not a real shock.

There you have it. A run down of the first set of games. Been fun thus far. Much more fun still to come. What do you think?

6World Cup 2014, FIFA, Football, Soccer, Brazil, Sports,

Late Nights, No Sleep — who cares? Its the World Cup!

Yes the build up hasn’t been great with strikes, riots and a bunch of unfinished stadiums. Perhaps Brazil needs to focus on other development rather than paying for two expensive showpieces in two years. However I can’t help but think that football is coming home for this World Cup.

Like with India and cricket, you are unlikely to find a more football crazy country than Brazil. Much will depend as it does with any host country, on how well their side does, but you can reasonably expect that the party levels will be set to ‘massive’ for much of this World Cup. If Brazil do well or go all the way, the meter will probably need to be reset.

For us in India this World Cup is going to be killer. Matches at 9.30pm., 1.30am and 3.30am means that most fans will be walking zombies in the day time for almost a month — god knows how offices will survive the drop off in productivity. Luckily the June-July period is a bit sleepy anyway with holidays and the monsoon. It better not rain between 9.30pm and 5.30am for a month. My Tata Sky signal won’t take it and I will be fuming at absurd hours in the morning.

I have closely followed every World Cup since 1982. My favourite to date is Mexico 86. A hastily organised World Cup after FIFA pulled the tournament out of Columbia, Mexico proved that great football is what a World Cup is all about. So as long as there is plenty of that on the pitch, I think the authorities and the fans will handle any shortcomings off them.

So who will win? Feels pretty open to me. My bet is Argentina. How long will Messi under-perform on the world stage? This maybe his last chance and I think he knows it. They have a strong side with plenty of attacking intent. If they can handle the pressure (the bottled it famously last time vs Germany and were hammered), they can go all the way.

Spain will be there or there abouts as they shoot for history. After back-to-back Euro titles, back-to-back World Cup’s could make this Spainsh side the greatest ever (Brazil 1970 would disagree). They have goal scoring issues for me, but if someone finds his striking boots, they will be hard to stop. So much quality there.

Germany and Italy are touted. I don’t think they will win it. Germany don’t defend as well as they should and don’t play well in the heat generally. I see their ageing back four as a problem after about an hour. They will be fluid up front but will that be enough? Italy may disappoint. Haven’t had a great run in and are in a tough group. Should they slip up early vs England they may be in real trouble.

And what about Brazil? They are favourites according to many. Can they hack the pressure? Their media and fans will demand nothing else but a win on home soil to finally erase the memories of 1950 but do they have the players? I don’t think so. This side is stop start and requires a piece of magic. Neymar can provide it but can he really do it every match? Plus any defence that relies on David Luiz has problems. The Confederations Cup Final vs Spain last year showed that Brazil can win it. It also showed in games vs Uruguay why they probably won’t.

Players? I reckon Suarez will light up this World Cup. Uruguay will do decently I think. Hope his knee is fine. Neymar should do well too. Proved last year he can handle the pressure and deliver the samba magic. Others to look out for? Sterling has a crucial role for England if they are to do well. He can unlock defences and has real pace. Ronaldo will continue to carry whatever Portuguese challenge there is and will Klose break Ronaldo’s all time World Cup goal scoring record? Man of the tournament for me will be Messi. Time for him to show us how good he really is.

So it all begins at 1.30am on Friday morning for us. Brazil vs Croatia. Lets hope the Selecao can roll out the samba and announce what I hope will be a terrific World Cup. In my opinion, good World Cup’s are a function of how well Brazil play. This one, in the home of the Maracana, will be even more so.

Vamos!

6World Cup, Brazil, Football, Soccer, FIFA, Messi, Neymar, Suarez,

My #WorldCup2014 guide has arrived. They are backing Spain.

6worldcup2014,

I have the greatest wife in the world. #StarWars Cufflinks. Love you @meghnapuri

6starwars,

Awesome Guardians of the Galaxy - Star Wars poster mashups!
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Awesome Guardians of the Galaxy - Star Wars poster mashups!
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Awesome Guardians of the Galaxy - Star Wars poster mashups!

6Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel, Disney, Movies, Comics,

Amazing video on what the next iOS iteration should have. Probably won’t. But should.

Source: parislemon

6Apple, iPhone, iOS, Technology, Mobile,

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