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Liverpool’s Benitez Hits Back at Fergie, Bayern Munich’s Bus Trip Gone Awry in Dubai, FIFA’s 2009 Players to Watch, and more

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You know the Premier League title race is getting interesting when the mind games start, and when the mind games start, you know Sir Alex Ferguson is somewhere in them.

You’d think that Sunday was Manchester United-Liverpool, not Manchester United-Chelsea, as Rafa Benitez today unleashed a rant for the ages in response to Sir Fergie’s psychological jab at Liverpool. It’s obviously the topic of the day, because you can find it 1) here, 2) here, and 3) here, complete with reaction.

With the title race set for many twists and turns between now and May, and United set to take on Liverpool in March, this may be just the start of another Fergie vs. so-and-so war of words, which we’ve all grown accustomed to over the seasons.

On one hand, you have to applaud him for not only responding, but coming prepared and firing back with the comments that he did, and on another hand, you have to laugh, for not only responding, but coming prepared and firing back with the comments that he did.

I’m sure Fergie’s doing the latter. He probably got the reaction he was looking for, and if he’s around for a few more years, Rafa won’t be the last person whose skin he gets under, manager, referee, player, club official, or otherwise.

There is, believe it or not, a match to turn your attention to this weekend. You can catch perspectives and previews from the Manchester United and Chelsea sides, and you will also be able to follow our live match commentary on Sunday.

Of course, there are other quality leagues out there besides the Premier League, like Serie A and the Bundesliga, and thanks to Brad’s hard work, there’s a compilation of Serie A kits and Bundesliga kits over at the shirts blog.

Finally we can stop talking about Jermain Defoe until he takes the pitch for Tottenham, as his transfer from Portsmouth has finally been confirmed, which means he can be added back to the list of confirmed English Premier League transfers. That’s a list that may or may not include Roque Santa Cruz in the next few days, depending on if 500k ends up making a big difference to Blackburn.

Speaking of the Bundesliga, it seems that Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t the only world-class winger who had some issues behind the wheel yesterday. Stick to your day job, Franck.

Now I know many don’t take stock into anything that FIFA releases, but they’ve released their lucky 13 list of players to watch in 2009, and it’s not limited to young, rising stars. It’s quite the diverse list, both in league representation and age. Did any of those players score one of the best goals of 2008? Kudos to Tom for an excellent compilation of strikes.

I hope you all use the weekend to relax, stretch out, and catch up on your football. And if you do happen to include a bit of this in your weekend, hopefully it’s with someone as fetching as this.

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