By Peter Staunton
|Injuries make Bayern's run all the more incredible
Much was made of Borussia Dortmund's injury crisis ahead of their match against Bayern Munich a fortnight ago with plenty of first-team players on the sidelines. What was less apparent at the time, however, was the fact that Bayern themselves have been dealing with an injury epidemic since the start of the season.
Their incredible form therefrom - two draws and 24 wins since losing to BVB in the DFL Super Cup final - should be viewed as an even more startling achievement than it already is.
"The injuries are no excuse. I hate excuses," Guardiola told the press ahead of the Dortmund game. "They are a bit of a problem, but I'm especially sad for the players." They went out and hammered Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park without Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger in their ranks.
Since the start of the season they have been unable, even once, to pick from a full complement. To that extent Guardiola has redefined the concept of a first XI. He has picked players contingent on the opposition and mended and made do with the players available. He has, on various occasions, been without Ribery and Schweinsteiger as well as Mario Gotze, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez.
Not once has he been able to pick Holger Badstuber, while Philipp Lahm, Xherdan Shaqiri and Arjen Robben are recent admissions to the treatment room. Every position on the pitch has been affected by injury, save goalkeeper and full-back.
But, relentlessly, Bayern roll on. They remain on course for a treble and, despite being without so many top performers, they win match after match.
“We’re going to need to survive for two or three weeks,” Guardiola told AFP in late November. “But we have to make do, that’s why we have a second team.”
Counting the Club World Cup, Bayern are fighting on four fronts for titles this season. I wouldn't back against them winning them all and every squad member will have played a huge part.
|Suarez wasting his time at Liverpool
Liverpool were always going to be a stepping stone for Luis Suarez, who will go down as one of the greatest signings in the club's history. By the time he decided to leave Ajax, the Uruguayan was ready to move to a better club than the Reds, with all due respect. He needed a club who were ready to challenge for meaningful trophies immediately and not a club in the Europa League and playing moderately in the Premier League. He chose Liverpool though and has, to his credit, performed consistently on the field but that is not to whitewash his various indiscretions.
Those notwithstanding, Liverpool have on their hands one of the top three strikers in world football and, quite simply, he now deserves better. His four-goal salvo against Norwich in midweek was simply breathtaking; his finishes were diverse and unstoppable.
There comes a time in a player's career that he outgrows his surroundings and this week feels like that watershed for Suarez.
Liverpool are not going to win the title; he himself has not played in the Champions League since 2010. He will soon be 27 and the next contract he signs will carry him through his prime years as a forward. He owes it to himself and his talent to spend that time at a club who can match his ambitions and his hunger.
Real Madrid are calling and Suarez should find that lure very hard to resist.
|Fifa grand ignores World Cup failings
The stage will be gleaming, the lights bright and the cameras all focused on the perfectly rehearsed matters at hand. It is, of course, Fifa's version of the Eurovision Song Contest - the World Cup draw. Today's event in Costa do Sauipe, carefully stage managed as it is, is intended to present Fifa as a governing body capable and in control.
It is anything but. Barely a week on from the Itaquerao stadium tragedy, which claimed two lives, Fifa expects at least three of the World Cup stadiums to now be delivered late, leaving a doubt over the preparedness of the Brazil authorities to carry out the necessary infrastructure work ahead of the kick-off in June.
The stadiums in Cuiaba, Curitiba and Sao Paulo are already overdue and Jerome Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, admitted this week that he does not know when work will be completed. "We are confident they can deliver the stadium," he said of Itaquerao - the Corinthians Stadium. "Not by the end of the year, definitely not. Curitiba is facing the most problems and clearly won't be delivered before February 2014. It's something we will cope with."
The latest lines from Brazil suggest that the president Dilma Rousseff's Christmas holiday schedule was making exact delivery dates of the stadiums unstable. But no matter, despite the deaths, delays and question marks over safety of the grounds, Fifa's grand party will go ahead on Friday as planned. With seven teams in one pool and nine in another, Fifa is not even capable of getting that right.
But so long as it looks good, that's all that matters.
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