Greetings and welcome to the first of two previews for the 2019 CM9798 Cup. Seeing as I opted out of playing this year I get to run the rule over everybody’s selections. If you need reminding of how we got to this stage, this post should help. Today I’ll be going through Groups A & B with C & D to follow on Sunday. Here’s a reminder of the draw:
It is of course very difficult to say how some of our new managers will perform but I have some good intel on some of the repeat competitors. Please note odds are offered purely in jest, there isn’t a real market for this.
FC Garrincha – @RonnieDogChris
I was going to say something nice about every competitor but it’s really difficult with Chris. His CM Cup campaigns so far have seen him manage Real Madrid to a first round loss in 2017 whilst his Argentina team were eliminated in the last 16 by Spain in the World Cup last summer. He failed to read the rules correctly this year but his squad may give him some hope of progression.
I would say it lacks star power at first glance but he’s one of the few teams able to put out a back four, with Sergi a particular standout. Robert Page and Christian Worns are both CM stalwarts whilst Laudrup, De Boer and Sibierski are all excellent. The team is perhaps a little light on strikers but Litmanen scored over a goal a game for my all conquering Ajax side and Boksic is a useful hand – this is pre-Boro.
I owe Chris a lot for his support over the years not just with this blog but the subsequent books and writing platforms he has given me. For that I give you one solid piece of advice – don’t play 4-4-2.
Verdict – This team is hamstrung by the manager. If Chris can have his Mike Bassett moment and take charge of this mob then he might not get his eyebrows shaved off for drawing 0-0 with Egypt. He has an outside chance of qualifying.
Selected Odds – Stuart Pearce to miss a pen – evens
Rostance Rovers – @TJRostance
By Tom’s own admission he hasn’t played the game for roughly 20 years but he’s clearly still got a good memory for some stars of the past.
There’s an obvious omission of a left back but with Davids as a DM he could play as a wingback. The AI clearly doesn’t fancy David Platt or Steve Potts but I think that’s more down to the club’s reputation being 20. Ian Wright is lethal in the first season so don’t underestimate him whilst Maurice, Salas and Pires are obvious stars. Add in Beckham and the always popular (on CM) Lamouchi and there’s a pretty solid side in there. Finding the right formation will be the difference between progressing and an early exit.
Tom has always been very supportive of the blog since I tagged him in one of the early Darlington live texts. He definitely live blogs a good game but can he play one on Champ?
Verdict – What I like about this squad is that it has the right mix of flair and graft. Blending them is easier said than done but if Tom can solve that puzzle then he’ll be in the running.
Selected Odds – Rostance Rovers to qualify for the knockouts – 7/2
Plumstead Common Rangers – @AshRoseUK
Ash played down his chances last summer but the host of Alive and Kicking 90s Podcast was always going to know a thing or two and took Holland to the semi-finals. His squad is stacked although maybe a little too much in the goalkeeper area.
Three top centre backs and one of the bets left backs on the game should provide good cover in front of presumably Nigel Martyn. There’s a myriad of attacking talent, the most exciting of which is probably Juninho but Davor Suker is at Real Madrid at the start of the game and is very good indeed. Bergkamp’s talent is no secret whilst Michael Owen is very young but capable of great things. Shevchenko – who has his name spelled incorrectly in the database – was a goal machine for my Aston Villa side when I was tactics testing the other year. The biggest problem Ash is going to have is figuring out the jigsaw that gets all of these players into the team.
Obviously Ash and I share a common interest so I was delighted when he asked me to be a guest on his show a few years ago, even if re-living Newcastle’s 95/96 meltdown was a tough one to take. My only advice here is not to expect miracles from Owen – this game came out before World Cup 98 so whilst his potential is very high, he’s very inconsistent.
Verdict – If Ash can find a formation that hides the right back frailty and gets the best out of his many attacking options I can see PCR sneaking through.
Selected Odds – Roberto Carlos to score a free kick – 4/1
AFC Supernova Dragons – @SupernovaDragon
Poor old Supernova came bottom of the draft phase and had most of his squad handed to him by the draft pack system. To make matters worse I ballsed up and gave him Paolo Maldini when he had been drafted elsewhere. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down…
Despite all of that, the squad is competitive. Any team that can pair Nesta and John Curtis at centre half should do fine, whilst McManaman and Fernando will provide the creativity. I’m just not sure where the goals will come from. Emile Heskey is extremely highly rated whilst Sutton and Negri have been proven goalscorers at this point in their careers. Nevland and Tomlinson have their best years ahead of them whilst Kanu is a bit of a maverick.
SD has done great blog work with the Man Utd youth team and three of that squad have made it here. I would say this is the weakest squad in the group but a solid defence will make him hard to beat.
Verdict – It doesn’t look the strongest but then again neither did Greece. A strong defence can get you everywhere.
Selected Odds – Neil Lennon to be red carded in any game – 1/3
Glipton Grasshoppers – @sid_lambert
If you haven’t read “Cashing In” by Sid then you are missing out. I’m not contractually obliged to plug Sid’s material but good work deserves to be recognised. Meanwhile, Sid is another who hasn’t played the game in 20 years but his squad is groin grabbingly good.
The defence is decidedly average, admittedly. But fundamentally he is able to name a conventional back four should he want to so it stands up well already. Martin Djetou is one of my favourite ever CM players, he will do a job in defence or midfield. Svindal Larsen speaks for himself and then any combination of Shearer, Batistuta, Romario and Scholes will get goals. This is one of the better balanced squads in the group and if he can nail that in a formation, he’ll go far in the competition.
Verdict – My favourite to win the group but at the very least should qualify for the knockouts.
Selected Odds – Gabriel Batistuta to win the golden boot – 8/1
Patrick Thistle – @90sFootball
Paddy was runner-up last season with France. Some people will claim he has not taken this entirely seriously, but at the end of the day he got his entire team without question.
So, genius or insanity? In Kluivert, Loko, Berger, Vieira and Andersson there’s the spine of a good team there. Whether Pat Nevin is entrusted alongside them remains to be seen. My main concern here is the goalkeeper. I think it’s the most important position on the game and I know nothing about Lodewijks. Pat Bonner is terrible. There are a lot of unknowns in this squad.
I’ll always be grateful to Paddy for giving me a re-tweet when I first got started, it may even be how some of you came to find the blog. I wish I could offer some constructive advice here but many of these players even I have never managed. Patrice Carteron played for Sunderland and scored in the Tyne-Wear derby once whilst Patrick Valery played for Blackburn. Good luck?
Verdict – With the attacking talent he has available I suspect he will be strong at home but may struggle away given the strength of some attacks they will be up against.
Selected Odds – Patrick Vieira to be booked three or more times – 2/1
The Rookies – @KingOfTheRooks
Andrew had such high hopes for his Norway side last summer but ran into an inspired Belgium side in the last 16 and that was that. A real connoisseur of the Scandinavian leagues, this side could be a force.
Two good goalkeepers and options at the back – this is not like most teams we have seen so far. Figo and Joao Pinto are rightly flagged as star players whilst Vieri always scores goals. Neset, Rushfeldt and Svensson are relative unknow quantities but they have been selected for a reason.
Andy knows this game inside out as shown by his blog posts for us. He will find a way and probably already has. He’s one of my favourites to progress from this group.
Verdict – I think he’ll get through. It’s not the flashiest of teams but it will be organised and the likes of Figo will unlock a door.
Selected Odds – Mihailjovic to score a free kick anytime – 3/1
Bayern Bru – @MarkCarruthers_
There’s been a lot of love for Mark’s squad on Twitter and it’s not hard to see why. Has he found the perfect mix? Mark was Brazil manager last summer but couldn’t convert a great start into the cup win. Will this year be any better?
Let’s focus on where it matters here. Zidane and Rivaldo in the same team? Crikey. Emmers is just as good as them, bizarrely, whilst Ronaldo could be partnered by any of his colleagues there and still be a hit. There’s barely a wasted spot in the squad. Bould, Ferdinand and Gravesen is a good pool of centre backs and even the AI often plays Gary Neville there.
Mark has shown great form in these competitions. He was runner up in the inaugural cup in 2017 and will have a re-match with Dan during the group phase. A strong favourite not only to progress but for the cup itself.
Verdict – I think he’d have won the World Cup last summer if Ronaldo had stayed fit. Assuming he remains fit here, I think Mark will be in the latter stages.
Selected Odds – Ronaldo to win the golden boot – 7/2
Boca Seniors – @winkveron
As mentioned, Dan won the inaugural cup in 2017 and provided one of my favourite moments in last summer’s World Cup. His much unfancied Chile side faced elimination unless they could pull off a high scoring win over Mexico and a 90th minute goal secured a 5-3 win and progression to the next round. What can he do here?
It’s a very strong attacking team but there’s a high risk of Jeff Kenna at the other end. That said, Phil Neville and Luis Fernandez should keep him away whilst Campbell and Roberto Rios is a good pairing. Barcelona pair Guardiola and De La Pena will do well in central midfield whilst Alfonso is a hero to us all. Japhet N’Doram and Kiko are both highly rated in game. There’s a lot to like here.
Verdict – Dan is basically the Bielsa of CM. His games will be entertaining but will he fall on his sword? For me he’ll be in the scrap for second. As we found out last summer, never write him off.
Selected Odds – Boca Seniors most goals scored in Group B – 5/1
Corinthian Collector – @CorinthianHead
This is a squad of great players but will they make a great team? Michael knows what he is doing and did well with Romania last summer but what will he do to get the most out of this squad?
With only two centre backs any injuries could be problematic. He has three right backs though so that’ll help. Robbie Fowler is a goal machine whilst Baggio, Zola, Signori and Henry is an embarrassment of riches. There’s not much balance to the centre of midfield though and I think that may be where he falls down compared to some other teams. He does however have a good CM pedigree and has probably already figured out how to get the most out of this squad.
Corinthian Collector has a book coming out about Corinthian Figures soon so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for that. The recipe for doing well here is probably not playing Maradona.
Verdict – Should score a lot of goals but might lose the edge in tight matches. Will be in the running but I think will just fall short.
Selected Odds – Diego Maradona to be sent home – evens
There we go then, the first two groups previewed. The thing is, all teams are stacked with top class players and it could even just take one of them to have a great day to win the game for his team. I think Group B is marginally stronger than Group A but it’s pure speculation, I’m really looking forward to seeing this play out.
I’ll be back on Sunday with the preview for groups C and D. See you then!