Got the January blues? Too much mulled wine and crisps? Forget those promises about taking a packed lunch to work every day, put down your temporary gym pass and cop for this – a few footballing reasons to be cheerful for the year ahead…
1. FIFA World Cup 2018 is coming soon
Don’t burden yourself with concerns about England having a central midfield partnership which wheezed and struggled against a lowly Lithuanian side, the greatest show on earth happens in only a matter of months. Besides, Harry Kane was statistically the best striker on the planet in 2017, so that man will pull us through. Plus, the colder weather in Russia is more suited to us than playing in the unbearable humidity of the Amazon Rainforest as we did in Manaus four years ago.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia brings together 32 countries across 5 confederations. With Vladimir Putin facing little opposition in March’s elections, the Russian government can continue with raising expectations for the tournament as they did for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a focused campaign heightened by the remarkable doping scandal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In other news, they’ve done a cracking job on the retro look of the World Cup 2018 official poster.
The equal favourites for the tournament are Brazil, France and Germany. Incidentally, 188Bet are still offering 20/1 on Italy to win the trophy, odds which seem a little harsh considering the Italians will be watching the tournament on TV like the rest of us. The smart money’s on a Germany triumph with Russia making a miraculous run to the semi-final thanks to some divine intervention. Of course, the smart money stays in your pocket, but then, when has that logic ever stopped you before?
2. The Premier League fixture list is brimming with enticing match-ups
Aside from Manchester City’s inevitable Premier League triumph coming in record fashion, there are plenty of places still to play for. We may even see another team of Invincibles if City remain unbeaten, although set your watch for a City defeat to Everton at Goodison Park on 31st March 2018. It would be the most Big Sam thing ever done to joyously ruin the party like that.
When factoring in European competitions, every single manager in the top 6 is under pressure, which is what makes the denouement to the season so exciting. At the time of writing, there is only nine points separating Manchester United in second place and Arsenal in sixth spot. The fight for a Champions League berth continues tonight as Arsenal take on Chelsea, a notoriously sticky fixture for Arsene Wenger’s men and the home of ‘Idiot-gate’.
Things are even more tight in the relegation fight – less than ten points separate the entire bottom half of the league table. Expect a lot of fluctuation at both ends of the table between now and May.
3. The Champions League is hotting up
A record five English teams are through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the history of the tournament. Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham have all progressed, making England the first country to have five teams in the competition’s last 16.
Chelsea were the last Premier League team to win the Champions League back in 2012. No English team has even been in the final since. Things are looking up this year though, English sides have been dominant in the group stages with a 70% total win percentage. In comparison, Spain and Italy came in second and third place with measly scores of 45.8% and 44.4% respectively. The Premier League is back.
The pick of the knockout matches sees a recently-wounded Real Madrid side take on the riches of PSG and the sparkling trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edison Cavani. A resurgent Barcelona host Chelsea in the first leg in March, another edition of a thrilling European rivalry over the past decade. This year’s tournament looks set to offer a few twists and turns in the closing stages.
So there’s a few reasons not be too disheartened about the Christmas football calendar coming to a close. In general what we’re driving at here is, don’t let the naysayers get you down. And who knows, you may even remember to take that packed lunch after all.