Source: Imago Images
Source: Imago Images

The game of chairs is now very real

Football OlyBet 23.02.2024

Most, if not all of us have played a variation of Musical chairs, or the Trip to Jerusalem, at some point in our lives. In a figurative sense, many play it every day in one version or another. For professional football coaches at the very highest level, a summer of change seems increasingly likely.

This season, just one of the ten best clubs in Europe (as per UEFA coefficients), has changed coaches. The tenth, AS Roma. And, well, that tends to happen when Jose Mourinho overstays his welcome; he is yet to keep a job for longer than the three years and three months he managed in his first stint at Chelsea almost twenty years ago. Of the very, very, very, top teams (sorry, Roma), not a single one has blinked so far.

This piece of writing was supposed to be about that, specifically, who would go first. There were two clear-cut candidates just moments ago: Chelsea, languishing tenth in the Premier League after spending more than one billion in just three transfer windows, and Bayern Munich, who have lost three games in a row and are on the verge of crashing out of the Champions League. This weekend seemed like a decisive moment for both (more on that later).

But on Wednesday morning, Bayern both flushed the idea and put themselves in a bit of a pickle by announcing Tuchel will leave … in the summer. What now for them?

If they lose to Leipzig on Saturday, they could find themselves more than ten points off Leverkusen in the Bundesliga. If they do not overturn the result (a 0-1 loss) against Lazio on March 5th, they are out of the Champions League. Why keep Tuchel beyond that? Or, should they turn things around and lift both trophies, why part ways?

Realistically, this was not a mutual agreement as advertised, but it will give Bayern some time and room to consider their options as it is difficult to lure a top coach in the middle of the season (their most realistic option would have been … Mourinho?). This is pretty much a job advertisement; most of the top coaches would be interested in Bayern.

They will not be the most attractive option this summer though, as Liverpool will be looking to replace Jürgen Klopp (leaving on his own terms), and despite their enormous financial woes, Barcelona remain one of the biggest clubs in the world too. The music will start once we reach summer, and every move will also change someone else’s game.

Until then, how will Bayern do, how should Chelsea act, and what other games to enjoy over the weekend?

All times listed below are in Eastern European Standard Time (GMT+2).

Bayern Munich – RB Leipzig

Saturday 19:30

The wheels are pretty much falling off. Before the game against Leverkusen on February 10th, everything seemed very Bayernish – they have been chasing, but surely Leverkusen can not keep it up? Surely Bayern will be dominant and turn the tide? But this time, Bayern lost 0-3. Then they lost to Lazio, and to top it off, to Bochum last weekend.

It might be too late for Tuchel, but they could do with an easy win to ease tension. Well, it will not be like that. Bayern has been in serious trouble with Leipzig recently: they lost the corresponding fixture 1-3 last season, lost the Super Cup 0-3, and walked away with a 2-2 draw from the last meeting after coming back from 0-2 down.

Arsenal – Newcastle

Saturday 22:00

Arsenal have been doing quite alright in the league recently, as they have a five-for-five record to start off 2024 with a 21-2 goal difference, but Wednesday’s 0-1 loss to Porto means their focus might be a little off for this one. They have already lost to Newcastle once this season and have not scored in three of their last four head-to-head Premier League games.

Now would be a good time to break that trend though, as Newcastle has conceded 16 goals in six games in 2024. In their last three games, they have allowed 4 (Luton), 2 (Nottingham), and 2 (Bournemouth) goals, but somehow not lost a single one of those three games.

Chelsea – Liverpool

Sunday 17:00

The end of February will be vital for Mauricio Pochettino. Realistically, Chelsea can not compete for a Champions League spot unless they win every single game between now and the end of the season. They can relieve some pressure by winning the League Cup – now – and then continue their quest in the FA Cup against Leeds on February 28th. Lose both …

Liverpool came from behind on Wednesday and got the three points against Luton, but times are difficult for Jürgen Klopp’s men. Five or six sure-fire starters are sidelined with injuries, meaning youngsters like Jarell Quansah, Bobby Clark, and Jayden Danns are being asked to contribute. It is not a good look for long. However, they are unbeaten against Chelsea in their last eight matches.

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Next game: Sunday 17:15 vs Athletic Bilbao

Two draws, both with a hint of defeat. They were not good enough vs Alaves (0-0) on the weekend, and despite a glimmer of hope in Zagreb when Cedric Bakambu leveled the scores in the 38th minute, not enough vs Dinamo Zagreb (1-1; 1-2 on aggregate).

Head coach Manuel Pellegrini was not happy with his choices, as he had just one fit center-back – again. “There is a lot of disappointment, we all wanted to continue in this competition. But I already said it in August. We did not have a squad to fight for what we fought for,” Pellegrini said.

They can now concentrate on the league, with a game against Athletic Bilbao coming up. Bilbao are fifth, ten points ahead; to catch them, a win is a must.


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