By Gareth Freeman
It was one of the longest and most drawn out transfer saga of last summer and in the end Benitez’s attempts to pries Gareth Barry away from Villa Park proved fruitless. He could get him at the second attempt though as Barry has come out and publicly said he would find it hard to stay at Villa if they did not achieve Champions League qualification.
Personally I think Villa have blown their chance to finish in the top-four, they face the daunting task of a visit to Old Trafford at the weekend and I don’t think they’ll get much joy there. The battering Liverpool gave Villa will undoubtedly have affected their confidence and I think it’s a fairly safe soccer bet that the current top-four will all qualify for next season’s Champions League.
There were many problems standing in the way of Benitez signing Barry last summer. The board refused to pay the asking price, Villa boss Martin O’Neill was adamant he would not leave for less than the £18million+ he wanted and Barry had over two years left on his deal. Now the Liverpool board have pledged their support to Rafa, the fee won’t be as high due to the fact he has just 15 months left on his deal and O’Neill seems to have softened his stance somewhat.
The one stumbling block could be Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is also a well known admirer of Villa’s England international but if I were Barry I’d probably opt for Liverpool. They’re perhaps more likely to mount a serious title challenge than the Gunners and Barry would get to partner Steven Gerrard in midfield – making it more likely he will truly cement his place in the England side.
I’m sure Barry would make an excellent addition to Rafa’s team. He has great vision, passing ability and an excellent work-rate. Xabi Alonso may be forced out by Barry’s move but as much as I admire Xabi I think Barry is a better player, just.
Right now though the most important thing for Liverpool fans is the current title race, and what a race it has become. Liverpool can go top on Saturday if they beat Fulham, at least until United play on Sunday anyway, but it won’t be an easy game. Fulham are good at home but in Liverpool’s current form I think they’ll see off the Cottagers and take three vital points. It could be a tight one though; perhaps a one or two nil victory for the Reds, my betting tip would be to go for under 2.5 goals or even the 1-0/2-0 Liverpool win.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
By Gareth Freeman