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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 08:10 GMT
Alan Hansen's 2006 preview

By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

The World Cup will be the highlight of 2006 - but so many other players and teams will play a part in what is a potentially fantastic year for football.

Ronaldinho can influence English football in 2006 - in the Champions League and the World Cup

If you ask me what I am particularly looking forward to next year, my answer would be anything involving Ronaldinho.

Watching Barcelona's brilliant Brazilian in action is one of the great pleasures of modern football - he is arguably the most exciting and skilful star to grace the game since Diego Maradona.

Plenty of players have had all the skills and flamboyant artistry over the years, but Ronaldinho does it on a consistent basis at the very highest level - and invariably with an end result.

As a former defender, the thought of trying to play against him and combat him is a nightmare. Thankfully that is someone else's job these days.

And bringing it a little closer to home, he is a man who will pose a massive danger to England when they try to win the World Cup for the first time in 40 years in Germany this summer.

It is because of Ronaldinho and vast array of other attacking options that Brazil will start the tournaments as favourites. They are the holders, have a great side and have the history that suggests this is their tournament.

History also tells us that Brazil have struggled to make their usual impact when the World Cup is held in Europe, but times have changed and most of their players ply their trade in that continent these days.

But there is no doubt the European teams are better placed to win the World Cup when it is held on their turf - and needless to say England will travel with high hopes.

The win against Argentina sends England into 2006 in good heart and with great confidence, and hoping nothing befalls Wayne Rooney between now and June.

Everyone must beware heaping too much expectation on Rooney before the World Cup

Brazil have a fantastic team with fantastic players, but England have got a real chance.

The Rooney factor will be huge, but we must be careful not to heap too much expectation on this brilliant young talent.

I was watching Manchester United's defeat against Benfica and found myself wondering why he wasn't going past seven or eight players or scoring goals.

It was ridiculous because he actually played well - and had to remind myself that this was a 20-year-old boy and not to expect too much in every game.

Hopefully everyone else will be the same and not pile too much pressure on him, although I must say he doesn't appear to feel pressure.

So as far as the 2006 World Cup is concerned, Brazil would be my favourites but do not discount England.

Domestically, I stand by Chelsea to retain their title. Liverpool are improving and you must never write off Manchester United, but I haven't seen anything to suggest the Premiership is going anywhere other than Stamford Bridge.

I hear a lot of rubbish talked about Chelsea, about how they are not great to watch, don't play in a great style - forget that because it really is nonsense.

Study the stats about goals scored and goals conceded and you get the picture. They are an outstanding side.

Chelsea are not going to win games by five or six goals every week, particularly because every team they play will want to claim their scalp.

Every game is like the cup final for their opponents. I know from my time at Liverpool that every side was really pumped up to beat us.

Michael Carrick can make a real impact in 2006 - and maybe even in time to sneak his way into the England side for the World Cup

Chelsea will also have a say in the Champions League, although again they will have to beware Ronaldinho after draw Barcelona in the last 16.

You often hear that the Premiership is the best league in the world as a spectacle for pace and goals, but the proof is how your teams fare in the Champions League.

There were two in the semi-final last season and Liverpool were the eventual winners. There could be three Premiership teams in the quarter-finals this year, so 2006 will provide a gauge to how strong the league is.

I don't see any major movers on the top three or four in the game, but I must say I think Martin Jol is doing a very good job at Spurs.

You could see them doing well in the FA Cup, but I think cementing a place in the top six in the league would be more satisfying - although I'm sure they wouldn't mind my suggestion they could easily be heading for Cardiff in May.

I just feel a top six finish would be confirmation that the foundations are in place for one of the game's great clubs to start on the road back towards the top.

I've said before that they have done very well in the transfer market, signing three players right down the spine of the side that have left other bigger clubs wondering why they didn't make a move.

Paul Robinson is a very good keeper, Michael Carrick is an outstanding midfielder and Jermain Defoe can develop into a high-class goalscorer.

Carrick can make a real impact in 2006 - and maybe even in time to sneak his way into the England side for the World Cup.

He was a real steal for Spurs because West Ham could barely give him away. He's a big lad with great technique and great feet. I'm a real fan.

So for many teams and many players, 2006 can be a massive year. It is certainly one to relish.


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