There seems to be a trend developing in football of late, of the retired manager making a comeback albeit on a cameo scale to save a club. Not many could have foreseen Neil Warnock at 74 coming out of retirement to manage Huddersfield, but it made sense once you found out that the contract was only until the end of the season. Warnock obviously loves football but can't commit himself to a two year contract for example, so why not jump in at the deep end, or shallow one given his experience and go for it over a few months? Though he is taking the job seriously he is also realistic and has his tongue firmly in cheek, in a sense he cannot lose even if Huddersfield continue to do so. In 8 games managed so far he has lost 4 and won just twice.
Roy Hodgson is following the same path and when the former England manager called it a day in 2021 aged 73 who could complain? And yet he was back at it just six months later as he signed a short term end of the season contract with Watford. With a win rate of just 11.1% the Hornets were relegated and Hodgson went on his way, with no damage to his reputation. And now Hodgson is back this time with Crystal Palace at age 75. Hodgson has history with Palace of course managing them between 2017 and 2021 but what does this say about the Eagles ambitions and the feelings of Patrick Vieira who was sacked last week? Vieira replacing Hodgson was supposed to evoke change within the game, a younger more modern tactician, have Palace not taken a step backwards in time by appointing Hodgson? In a way yes but in a way no as Hodgson knows Palace inside out unlike his torrid time at Watford and also knows the bulk of the players but you'd have to feel sorry for Vieira and it can't do anything for his confidence seeing that his replacement was the person he originally replaced. By and large there wasn't much between Vieira's record at Palace and Hodgson's one although Vieira was on course to have lost far fewer games his win percentage was just 29% compared to Hodgson's 33%. It did also seem that Palace were taking a few steps back and looked unrealistic that the Eagles, who are currently on 27 points, were going to match their 48 point marker from last season. The club owners have reacted because Palace's top flight status is under threat but have they made the right choice or was it simply made for sentimental reasons?
Antonio Conte has been all over the news again as he went into meltdown number 8765 this season as Tottenham let a 3-1 lead slip to bottom club Southampton to draw 3-3. We could be cynical and suggest to Conte that this is what Tottenham can do to you but it isn't going to help anyone for Conte to take what should be said privately in the dressing room to the world's media. It is entertaining though but you can't help but wonder how unprofessional Conte is coming across and he seemingly looks like he is doing everything to leave the club early. It's got to the point where you would be lucky to get odds of 1.00 to see Conte be the next manager to leave. David Moyes comes in at second place at 6.50 and Brendan Rodgers is 11.00.
International games are the order of the day with domestic club football taking a short break until the beginning of April. England will have two Euro 2024 qualifying games to navigate, one is against Ukraine but the other is a repeat of the last European Championships final as Gareth Southgate's side look to avenge that defeat when taking on Italy. That game will take place at Napoli's home ground on March 23rd and the Ukraine game is at home three days later. All eyes will be on Harry Kane who needs just one more goal to become England's all time leading goalscorer, currently he is tied on 53 with Wayne Rooney.
European competition will continue in mid April but the draws have been made. In the Champions League Manchester City who are trying to win their first trophy will take on Bayern Munich and that will be a difficult quarter final for Pep Guardiola's side. Win that and the reward will either be Chelsea or Real Madrid in the semi-finals. Graham Potter can turn the bad form around at Chelsea if his side were to knock out the champions, however on current form that seems unlikely. Two great sides especially of the 1960s will take on each other when Inter Milan face Benfica and there will be an all Italian clash when AC Milan face Napoli who have been very impressive this season and look set to win their first Serie A title in 33 years
To win the Champions League: Manchester City 3.25, Bayern Munich 4.00, Napoli 4.33, Real Madrid 8.00, Inter Milan 15.00
In the Europa League Manchester United have reached the quarter finals and they will fancy their chances to beat Sevilla. While Sevilla have a fantastic record in this competition they have been struggling in La Liga this season and just sacked their manager and with the form United have been showing many will expect them to make the next round. If they do then they could face Juventus who will take on Sporting, fresh from dumping out Arsenal. In the background is Roma and Jose Mourinho who have a good chance to get to the final. Could we see Mourinho matching up with Manchester United in the final? What a game that would be with no love lost between club and manager.
To win the Europa League: Manchester United 2.25, Juventus 6.00, Roma 7.00, Bayer Leverkusen 9.00, Sporting 11.00
Despite their struggles in the Premier League, West Ham are flying the flag for English football in the Europa Conference League and in the quarter finals they will take on Gent. Win that game and David Moyes' side will face either Anderlecht or AZ Alkmaar in the semi-finals. The Hammers have been installed as the favourites to win what could be their first trophy since 1980 although the likes of Nice and Fiorentina remain an obvious threat.
To win the Europa Conference League: West Ham 3.25, Fiorentina 5.00, Nice 5.00, AZ Alkmaar 5.00, Anderlecht 19.00