Manuel Pellegrini pleased with Manchester City’s improved form

niall 2/12/2014
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Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini looks ahead to his side's game at Sunderland on Wednesday - where they are without a win since 2008 and have suffered four consecutive defeats.


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#360Fans: Chelsea vs Spurs - Supporters Club preview

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Runaway leaders: Chelsea will be without their star man Diego Costa for Wednesday's home game against Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea will be bidding to maintain their unbeaten record at the top of the Barclays Premier League when they face seventh-place Tottenham Hotspurs at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Jose Mourinho’s team will be chasing their 11th victory this season, while a win for Spurs could see them move into fifth place.

-#360stats: Pick of the facts and figures ahead of the Premier League's midweek games

To gather an insight into the minds of the two sets of fans we asked members of the respective supporters clubs to share with us their predictions, likely line-ups and players to watch.

Do you agree or have they missed the mark? Use #360Fans to share with us your thoughts.

Toby Young – Chelsea Supporters Club UAE

Chelsea take on their North London rivals in what will be a keenly fought contest between the two teams. Spurs appear to be coming into good form just in time for this fixture, while Chelsea showed once again how difficult it is to break down a team playing with two solid banks of four versus Sunderland.

No doubt the Chelsea team will show little change as Jose Mourinho likes continuity, and just like his previous spell in charge at the club, he seems to have a number of untouchable players.

One change that will be enforced is the omission of Diego Costa who is suspended having picked up five yellow cards this season. This should see either Remy or Drogba move into the starting eleven, but on the balance of game time and age, Remy will probably get the nod.

Score prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Likely Chelsea line-up: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Oscar, Willian, Fabregas, Hazard, Remy.

Chelsea’s player to watch: Eden Hazard – The Belgian ace has come into a strong run of form of late scoring in the last three Premiership home games.

Where to watch: The Official UAE Chelsea Supporters Club will be watching the game live at Bar Loca in the Dubai Marine Beach Resort and Spa with the kick off at 11.45pm UAE time. If the game is on live television, we will be there.

Raad Jaboori Al-Shaikh – Tottenham Hotspur UAE Supporters' Club

This is simply the toughest game Spurs will have to play this season. It’s at Stamford Bridge – the home of the current Premier League leaders Chelsea. They are the only unbeaten team in the league after 13 matches.

For Spurs, it’s been an indifferent start to say the least. Unexpected home defeats by Newcastle, West Bromwich and Stoke have created doubts in the minds of the players and supporters as to the methods and ideas employed by the new Spurs head coach (not ‘manager’, as he has pointed out) Mauricio Pochettino. 

Overall, Spurs supporters should be positive going into this game. All the pressure will be on Chelsea as they will naturally be favourites to take maximum points. This will allow the Spurs team to approach the game in a relaxed yet determined manner. This is a London derby after all and anything can happen.

Score Prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Tottenham Hotspurs

Likely Tottenham Hotspur line-up: Lloris, Davies, Vertonghen, Fazio, Dier, Stambouli, Mason, Eriksen, Lennon, Kane, Soldado.

Tottenham Hotspur's player to watch: Christian Eriksen – He has scored a number of goals and continues to be a vital presence to the team after a difficult start to the season.

Where to watch: All Spurs supporters are welcome to join us to watch this game (as well as all other Spurs games) at our Dubai home: The Icon Bar & Lounge, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City.

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Backheels, bites and Barca: The story of Jordan's Tha’er Bawab

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Tha'er Bawab has been on a quite extraordinary football journey that has taken in Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Tha’er Bawab is back in the spotlight. He scored in his last two games for Universitatea Craiova, and on Thursday all eyes will be on him as the modest outfit face Romanian giants Steaua Bucharest in the cup quarter-finals. The Jordanian striker would dearly love to make his mark on the big occasion, to add another twist to what already is a truly extraordinary life story. From playing with some the best players of the current generation to becoming a YouTube sensation to being bitten on football pitch – Tha’er has experienced it all. And he didn’t even plan to be a footballer in the first place!

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Bawab was born in Amman, but moved to Catalonia as a child after his father, a very successful doctor, found a job there – he was even part of the medical staff at FC Barcelona. Tha’er liked to watch and play football, but was even more interested in medicine. He read a lot of books on the subject, and later went to study pharmacy. His dream was to assist his father in family business, but he also proved to be a very talented footballer, scoring at will for tiny Cornella in the suburbs of Barcelona.

That’s when the most unexpected event occurred. Real Madrid frequently use scouts in Catalonia, trying to poach talented youngsters before they go to La Masia academy and, in 2003 one of them reported, full of excitement, that he has spotted a brilliant prodigy whose movements reminded him of Zinedine Zidane. Naturally, that was enough for Los Blancos to offer Bawab a deal, and the Jordanian didn’t think twice. He might have supported Barca, but knew only too well that such an opportunity was too good to refuse.

Tha'er Bawab has scored five goals in 20 caps for the Jordan national team.

And so the 18-year-old lad made his way to the capital. He played so well for Real Madrid C in the fourth division that a move to the senior team was on cards just a year later. Mariano Garcia Remon, who was promoted to Real coach after Jose Antonio Camacho surprisingly resigned in September 2004, was very impressed with Bawab, and but for his own dismissal a couple of months later the striker might have found himself playing at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That didn’t work out, but reserve team players still trained with the stars twice a week, and so Bawab regularly shared the field with Raul, Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Luis Figo. Raul was the one who he tried to learn from the most, and that probably helped him to improve his game.

Indeed, in 2006 he did enough to convince Michel, the Real legend who worked with the B team at the time, to give him a chance. That’s where he met Juan Mata, Borja Valero, Javi Garcia, Alvaro Negredo, Jose Callejon, Esteban Granero and Ruben de la Red. However, Michel didn’t really believe in him after a few training sessions, leading Tha’er to become frustrated.

He took part in an exhibition game staged for Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy to play together, but left the club in January 2007. His destination was Barcelona B. First Real “stole” him from Barca, now the Catalans “stole” him back. Not many players leave Barcelona for Madrid, never mind return in the other direction.  

Barcelona B treated him as a star acquisition at first. Bawab got a locker next to Sergio Busquets and Giovani dos Santos in the dressing room and starred alongside Bojan Krkic in attack. He even played twice for the first team in Copa Catalunya, and some newspapers reported that Frank Rijkaard was considering using him in the league as well. Those rumours turned out to be wrong, and eventually even the opportunities at Barcelona B dried up. The club changed its attitude towards the Jordanian, and thus he chose to leave, playing for small teams in lower divisions.

That could probably have been the time for Bawab to turn back to pharmacy, but he loved football so much at this stage that starting a new adventure was always bound to attract him. In 2010, he went to compete with 40 below-average foreign players on trial at Romanian outfit Gloria Bistrita. He passed the tests with flying colours, and joined the first team – where coach Laurentiu Reghecampf didn’t rate him too highly.

A few months later the striker moved to the unusually named Gaz Metan Medias, and that’s where he exploded into life. At the age of 27, Bawab finally completed his first full campaign in the first division, and played some very good matches, scoring 10 goals in all competitions. One of them came on his debut in Europa League, where Gaz Metan sensationally threw Mainz out of the competition.

Those were big headlines, but much bigger fame awaited Tha’er. The goal scored against Dinamo Bucharest in October 2012, with an exquisite back-heel, made Bawab a global attraction for a few days. As Cristiano Ronaldo also scored a majestic back-heel goal against Rayo Vallecano at the time, the Jordanian was quickly nicknamed “Ronaldo from Medias” by Romanian press.

Bawab finished the 2012-13 season with 10 league goals to his name, but it ended in extremely bizarre fashion in the game against Petrolul Ploiesti. Goalkeeper Mircea Bornescu was enraged when assuming that the striker was feigning an injury and took a bite at his shoulder in a way that would make Luis Suarez proud. The Uruguayan had an opportunity to taste Bawab himself half a year later when playing Jordan in the World Cup playoffs, but chose not to do so, saving his appetite instead for Giorgio Chiellini.

Jordan were thrashed by the South Americans and overall, last term was much less eventful and successful for Bawab who was eventually released by Gaz Metan. Universitatea Craiova signed the striker just when everyone started to forget of his existence in September, and discovered that he is hungrier and better than ever.

His debut goal for the new club was an elegant chip over the keeper in a 3-2 win over Brasov. Last week, a much more brilliant effort, a strike reminiscent of Lionel Messi, against Rapid Bucharest delighted Craiova fans. It was followed by another goal against Ceahlaul that helped Universitatea to climb to fourth place and proved that the Jordanian is one of the most in-form players in the league.

It is logical to expect more interesting stories involving Bawab in the near future. Comparisons to Zidane and Ronaldo were certainly exaggerated in the extreme, but few players had a more unusual career than the Jordanian wizard. The pinnacle of his adventures might well be ahead of him. Watch this space.

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