Friday, January 3, 2014

Football Predictions For The Year

Oh look another year is here! This is not something I have always done but for some reason, I feel compelled to make some predictions for this year. As usual, I expect another glorious year of football with its usual surprising twists and turns but I am going to state some of what I expect will likely happen down the line. I will come back to see which of my predictions came to pass.

1. Lionel Messi is not likely to win the Ballon D'Or this time around. As anyone is aware, the man won the top prize of the World's best footballer 4 times in a row before this year. Unfortunately for him, he has been racked by injuries this time around and has not even played football competitively now for close to three months. In his absence, his closest contender Cristiano Ronaldo has thrown up some handsome stats. I think that this year Ronaldo will finally get a consolation Ballon D'Or—that is if he is not upset by Ribery. If Ronaldo does eventually win it, I wonder if people might not openly surmise that the reason why he won it was because his arch-nemesis Messi was out of contention.

2. Barcelona will win their opening La Liga match this year. Two days from now, Elche will play FCBarcelona and they will likely lose that match. Messi seems fit enough to play but it is doubtful that he might play in this match. It is reasonable to expect that the coaching staff might be preserving him for a far more crucial encounter coming up. For example, his fitness will determine whether they beat out Manchester City at the Champions' League.

3. On the 11th of January, Barcelona will meet their closest rival this year. Atletico de Madrid has simply been a revelation this year. As a matter of fact they are so good this year that it is quite possible that they may win the la Liga title this year, or else go all the way in the Champions League. Messi  likely to play for Barca in this crucial match however, I still see a LOSS from Barca when they go to meet Atletico. I certainly do not see Barca coming out of the Vicente Calderon with a win. The best they can do is tie with them there and thus each side keeps their position as joint league leaders.

4. The referees need to do more to protect attackers. Messi's injuries come to mind. Now, Neymar is also at the receiving end of very serious tackles in most of the matches he participates in. I am predicting that like Messi, before the world cup kicks off in June, Neymar will also sustain injuries for which he'll be sidelined for over 2 weeks. I certainly do not want this prediction to come to pass but unless more is done by referees to protect pointmen from the rough and sometimes vicious tackles of defending opponents, this prediction is an inescapable inevitability.

5. Real Madrid has been hunting for the Decima for a while now. A good part of the reason Mourinho was dumped as Real Madrid coach was because he failed to achieve that goal. I am now also going to predict that once again Real Madrid will fail to achieve the lofty dream of winning their 10th Champions League trophy. Neither will their closest and bitterest rival Barcelona win it either. There will be surprises this year.

6. Manchester City is currently second place on the EPL standings. They have been playing amazing football and realistically they have what it takes to snatch the top spot from Arsenal. I predict that this will happen, and that despite the fact that Arsenal has been at the top of the table for a while now, they will NOT eventually win the league title. The league title this year is going to either Manchester City or Chelsea and not Arsenal despite every reasonable calculation on the ground right now. I am predicting that something will change the trajectory of Arsenal's current and impressive league dominance and they will finish somewhat slightly disappointed judging by their realistic shot at winning the title this year.

7. Bayern Munich is in sparkling form under Pep Guardiola. I am predicting that Pep Guardiola is going to win the Bundesliga in this his first year as coach of Bayern Munich. This ought to silence all insinuations that Pep Guardiola would be ineffective when coaching another team.

8. The history books have revealed that no European nation has won a World Cup that was hosted by a South American nation. Brazil, on the other hand, is the only non-European nation to have won a World Cup hosted by a European nation. If we are to go by this stat, we would expect Brazil to win the World Cup in Brazil this year. In fact, a lot of people are clearly banking on this. But guess what? You heard this first from me—Brazil will NOT win the World Cup this year despite the fact that everything is lined up for them to win; despite the fact that every smart bet seems to be indicating that they will. If another South American country like Argentina does not win the World Cup, then I am inclined to say that this may be the year that a European country (Germany, Spain, Netherlands etc) wins a World Cup hosted by a South American country.

9. In the 2014 World Cup coming up, Nigeria is in a group with Argentina, Iran, and Bosnia &Herzegovina. Many Nigerians are hopeful and expect to get through to the 2nd round (the round of 16). This is probably because they fancy their chances against Iran and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Now, hear this O Nigerians: The dream of at least getting to the round of 16 will NOT come to pass! I am speaking 5 months from the onset of the event, and I can see now that the Super Eagles will not pass the first round. This will be because of frustrating and inadequate preparation for the event, disputes over how the players will be remunerated, and general technical bungling in player selection. Here, I am saying that by Nigeria will be eliminated through mistakes and errors that can be avoided—that they were not avoided is simply a testament about how inept football administration is in Nigeria.

10. Luis Suarez will find himself going to a new and bigger club especially if he keeps his present form. This will happen even though it seems that his club does not want to release him.

11. The stats reveal that no African country at the World Cup has gone on past the quarter final stage into the semi final stage. That trend will continue. Indeed, by the end of the group stages, only one or two of the 5 African countries in the tournament will remain.

12. I am going to predict that Barcelona will once again win the La Liga this year despite the fact that Atletico de Madrid is literally breathing down their necks. This is a very tough prediction to make because every faculty within me disagrees with the prediction. Barcelona has some worrisome issues or concerns, and I am afraid that the locker room politics at Barca is affecting their usual impeccably delightful form on the field. They also have defense line and goal-keeper issues apart from the usual injury concerns that bedevil them. So a smart choice for La Liga winner this year ought to be Atletico de Madrid. However, I am predicting that in the end, Barca will somehow manage to finish tops to win the La Liga crown. This will be their sole consolation prize this year for losing the Champions League title by falling to Manchester City and for losing the Copa Del Rey title to Atletico.

13. Looking at the 8 ties left in the Champions League, here is how I see it playing out. These teams will proceed to the next round:

            Manchester City          vs         Barcelona                    = Manchester City advances
            Olympiakos                 vs         Manchester United      = Manchester United advances
            AC Madrid                  vs        Atletico de Madrid      = Atletico advances
            Bayern Leverkusen      vs         Paris St. Germain        = Paris St. Germain advances
            Galatasaray                  vs         Chelsea                      = Chelsea advances
            Schalke                       vs         Real Madrid                = Real Madrid advances
            Zenit                           vs         Dortmund                    = Dortmund advances
            Arsenal                       vs         Bayern                         = Bayern advances

I will stop here for now but I'll probably add other predictions later on as they come to me. You heard them here first so come back often later to see which of them materialized just like I have said.

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