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How James Milner went from being fringe player to focal point at Manchester City

Posted on August 24, 2015 by in English Premier League, Man City

In the summer of 2010, Manchester City spent around £150 million on reinforcing their squad and building a team to compete for the Premier League trophy. Of the eight signings purchased in that transfer window, five were in the region of £25m.
David Silva, Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko have all proved their worth since and are still integral to the success of the side today.
Mario Balotelli made a number of significant contributions; however, he ultimately failed to live up to his promise before Roberto Mancini cut his losses and sent him back to Serie A. Englishman James Milner was the other signing, as he followed in the footsteps of Gareth Barry by swapping Aston Villa for the Etihad.

The midfielder clearly isn’t as technically capable as the aforementioned names and has certainly had less of an impact in the last four seasons. Milner has never been a regular at City either under Mancini or his successor Manuel Pellegrini. He started 23 league games in his opening campaign, although that diminished to just 12 starts last term under Pellegrini.

“There are two ways to react, a right and a wrong way,” admits Milner. “You can mouth off or work harder and working harder is the only way I know. Maybe that does count against me at times. The manager knows I’ll just carry on training as hard as I can. It’s no good for the team if someone sulks or disrupts training.”
Milner is now in the final 12 months of his contract and it was widely anticipated he would be moving last summer. He didn’t start the first three league matches, but an injury to Samir Nasri changed everything. The former Leeds man has become a vital component and not just when the Frenchman is missing.

With David Silva and Nasri as wide players the team has a tendency to become very narrow, with both playmakers looking to laterally move between the lines. Pellegrini appears to have found more balance by utilising the more direct Milner on the opposite flank when Silva plays out wide.

The Chilean likes to adapt his structure and generally opts for a 4-­4­-2 or 4-­2­-3­-1. “The truth is that I don’t have a defined system,” he confessed to Champions League Weekly. “The players are capable of playing in different formations within our concept of football. I think that a team that tries to win each match relying solely on tactics for that game will never become a team with its own identity.”

In matches with Arsenal and Tottenham, Silva has been used as a number 10 with Milner and Jesus Navas either side of him. The 1-­1 draw with Chelsea saw Milner occupy the right­ wing and excel against City’s most likely main competitors for the title. He made 12 more final third passes than Silva and completed 8/8 tackles.

His all-­round ability rarely gets the full credit that it deserves but it’s his commitment that has seen him return to the fold. Milner completes more key passes per game than any other player in the squad, while at the same time only Gael Clichy makes more tackles per match.

This improvement means that the club hierarchy would be mad to let him leave next year for free and a new contract is close. “We’ve been in talks with the club, we’ve talked about it and hopefully it can get sorted some time soon,” confesses Milner.

His eagerness and raw energy compliments the greater skilled members of the roster. He displays a tireless work-­rate, while his tactical awareness sees him assist his grateful full­-back with defensive duties. Last weekend, Milner was left out and the champions were surprisingly defeated by West Ham. Four of City’s five losses this season happened when Milner started as a substitute.

When he does come off the bench, his enthusiasm to make an impression is evident. This can have a positive influence on his fellow team-mates as they look to follow suit and replicate his desire.

His second half performance against Roma in the Champions League did exactly that, as he helped limit Maicon’s attacking intent. This cameo saw him rewarded with a start in the next match­day in Moscow against CSKA and he subsequently scored his first goal of the campaign.

Milner played under 20 minutes in both wins over Manchester United last season, but in the derby this weekend you can almost guarantee he will be restored to the line-­up.
Man City vs Man United LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone

From: General

Atlético Madrid erased from time in Real Madrid love-in

Posted on October 29, 2014 by in Champions League

A bit of an exclusive news flash for all the readers who may have become as confused as those clueless, corporate lackey bozos who chose the prize winners for the Spanish League (LFP) 2013/14 awards.
Atlético Madrid won La Liga. Yes, it sounds completely mad but it happened, no matter how much it probably upset Florentino Pérez along the way.
The Real Madrid president is being seen as the dark hand behind the sham of Monday night which did not see a single player from Atlético picking up a gong.
All without proof of course, but that is never a problem when it comes to juicy conspiracies in La Liga. After all, who wants to see an obscure fella called Jorge Resurrección Merodio climbing up onto the stage when Cristiano Ronaldo looks so much shinier.
Naturally, the Real Madrid man was the biggest recipient of the night, picking up three prizes to celebrate not winning the league, nor being the best footballer of the year either. That didn’t stop him grabbing the gongs for best player, best striker and best goal, though, and claiming that “the prizes are fair.”
The enormous joke that were the LFP awards continued in the same tone with Sergio Ramos winning best defender. Just hold that thought for a moment as there is better to come.

Luka Modric was the best defensive midfielder apparently, while Andrés Iniesta ended up winning the best attacking midfielder award. All players that failed to win the league, something that might have been relevant in the decision-making process.
The breakthrough footballer of the year was Rafinha – now back at Barcelona after a loan spell at Celta Vigo – and Keylor Navas (now Real Madrid) won best keeper. Basically, any footballer that is not currently affiliated with the Big Two was excluded.
“Atlético Madrid fans are used to being upset,” wrote a sympathetic Alfredo Relaño in AS, bemoaning the fact that the voting is done in secret.
Probed after the event on the rather surprising (or unsurprising) turnout of events and Atlético Madrid president Enrique Cerezo did say that “I don’t think Florentino has anything to do with this.”
However, the Atlético man did point out that Thibaut Courtois, Diego Godín and Miranda were rather important figures for the Rojiblancos last year. Along with Koke and even plucky Diego Costa.
In LLL’s world, Cerezo should have been absolutely hopping mad about the event which ended up being a sort of sci-fi episode of La Liga with Atlético’s achievements being wiped from the timeline. But the Rojiblancos boss is now just like every fan. Used to being ignored, disrespected and completely forgotten.

From: General

Everything you need to know about… Marcos Rojo

Posted on August 19, 2014 by in English Premier League, Man United

The 60-second story

Marcos Rojo’s journey from Argentina to Manchester United has been neither simple nor smooth. Lured in December 2010 from hometown club Estudiantes to Spartak Moscow, the then 20-year-old struggled – and a summer 2012 switch to Sporting Lisbon began in similar style.

Rash tackling, suspect positioning and an over-belligerent approach made him a liability at centre-back in his initial displays. Although he looked far more comfortable on the few occasions he was used at left-back, he made a full contribution to literally the worst season in the club’s 106 years of existence.

But in 2013/14, a rejuvenated Sporting finished second, and the night-and-day transition from the previous season was perfectly reflected on an individual level by the Argentine defender. Without losing his bristling aggression, Rojo showed he was intelligent enough to learn from his mistakes and was the club’s most improved player.

He became a pillar and a leader at the centre of defence, utilising his lightning pace to make endless timely interventions. He also became a potent goal threat with his powerful aerial game and thunderous left-foot shot, scoring six goals during the season – before impressing again at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Why you need to know him
Because he’s signing for Manchester United. Marcos Rojo is a player perfectly suited to the unmatched physicality and pace of Premier League football. “I always liked English football. I’m sure I’ll adapt quickly to the style of play,” Rojo said yesterday.
His attributes back up that belief. Pacy and powerful, there is no doubt the Argentine will be up to the physical demands of English club football.
Strengths
Two of Rojo’s foremost assets are his speed and strength. He is also excellent in the air, posing a real threat in the opposition box at set pieces. He has a wonderful left foot which he uses to good effect, firing off thunderous shots and delivering dangerous crosses from the left flank. While the way he forced his move out of Sporting left an unpleasant taste, on the pitch there was never any doubting his commitment was absolute.

Weaknesses

Without being a malicious player, Rojo can be reckless in his efforts to get to the ball first, flying into tackles, as attested by 27 yellow cards and five reds in two seasons in Portugal. He has improved this facet of his game considerably, but there is still work to do: he managed to pick up a suspension after just four matches at the World Cup. When playing at centre-back, he has a tendency to be pulled out of position.
They said…
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone: “Rojo won the hearts of the Argentines at the World Cup. He was very good both attacking and defending. [Alejandro] Sabella put his trust in him and he responded really well. He had an excellent World Cup and was the best left-back among the four semi-finalists.”

Did you know?
Rojo was the only Argentine named in the Castrol Index Top 11 for the Brazil World Cup.

What happens next?
Opinion is very much split regarding whether or not Rojo’s move to Manchester United will be a success. The defender would appear to have the perfect assets to fit on the left of Louis van Gaal’s desired three-man defence: experience at both left-back and centre-back, pace to burn to cover for lack of numbers, accurate short and long-distance distribution, and unstinting energy and staying power.

He will have to work hard on his positioning and some growing pains are to be expected as he learns the new system, but just as at the World Cup, he could well prove the doubters wrong and do well at Old Trafford.

 

A young Cameroon striker courts Premier League scouts

Posted on June 3, 2014 by in FIFA World Cup

An interesting report about Vincent Aboubaker.  Cameroon are not a team to be underestimated going into the World Cup, with a recent drew again Germany in a friendly.  Samuel Eto scored the first goal for Cameroon, and Choupo-Moting later scored an equalizer to make it 2:2.  Eto is a seasoned player, and Aboubaker is definitely one to watch.  Cameroon’s first game is against Mexico 13th June at 13.00. 

The 60-second story
A fantastic season at FC Lorient has put Vincent Aboubakar well and truly on the European football radar, as he is set to play in his second World Cup at the tender age of 22. After an indifferent spell at relegation battling Valenciennes, Aboubakar has this season finally started to make the waves that many European football fans had been anticipating.

His career began at Cotonsport Garoua where he quickly became the star of his hometown side, scoring seven goals in 15 games during his breakthrough season at the age of 18. His performances didn’t escape the attention of Cameroon manager Paul Le Guen, who called up the youngster to Cameroon’s 2010 World Cup squad, where he made two appearances. With many clubs pursuing him, including Tottenham Hotspur, the powerful striker eventually earned himself a move to Ligue 1 side Valenciennes.

This is where his development as an emerging superstar somewhat stalled, as he was unable to find his feet in a team who were also struggling themselves. With only nine goals in three Ligue 1 seasons his composure in front of goal had deserted him, and Valenciennes chose not to renew his contract.

FC Lorient took a gamble on Aboubakar, and manager Christian Gourcuff’s decision to sign him on a free transfer is now looking like an inspired one. Finishing as Ligue 1’s joint second top scorer and contributing to nearly 50% of his team’s goals, be it through goals or assists, Aboubakar is certainly an emerging young talent, with his performances earning him a place in Cameroon’s World Cup squad.
Why you need to know him
Undoubtedly one of the stand out performers in Ligue 1 this season, Aboubakar’s goals led Lorient to an impressive eighth place finish. He has incredible athleticism, often overpowering defenders, but also has the technical ability to match. Intelligent hold up play and neat footwork compliment his natural strength, and he is more than capable in front of goal.

With the 22-year-old’s progress being closely monitored over the last few years, his impact this season is unlikely to go unnoticed, with a number of Premier League teams waiting in the wings and keen to lure this striker who is perfectly suited to the English league.

Strengths
Technical ability combined with his unquestionable athleticism and composure in front of goal, Aboubakar has all the attributes of a complete striker, and is a real handful for defenders. Despite his fairly diminutive stature at only 184cm, his power makes him appear far taller and his strength means that he is an intimidating presence. The young striker also boasts impressive footwork, often embarrassing opposition defenders with his close control and pacey dribbling. Despite having the capabilities to operate as a lone frontman, this season has seen him form a successful partnership with Jeremie Aliadiere, demonstrating clever link-up play and great awareness.
Weaknesses
Despite Aboubakar’s commanding presence and his natural power, his hold up play could be significantly improved. He brings other players into the game well through lay-offs and quick passes, but he is unable to hold onto the ball for too long. His work rate also leaves a lot to be desired, with him displaying very little in terms of defensive contribution this season. Whilst it would be unfair to call him lazy, it seems that once his team are no longer in possession he does not see it as his responsibility to track back and put challenges in.
They said…
“Confidence is important for Vincent, he’s someone who needs to feel that he’s supported,” said Lorient manager Christian Gourcuff. “I also think the Lorient style of play suits him because he’s an excellent footballer and he’s getting the right kind of service here.”
Did you know?
When Aboubakar was selected for Cameroon’s 2010 World Cup squad he was the only player to be playing his football in his home country. Manager Paul Le Guen had heard about this emerging superstar and travelled back to Cameroon to study his progress. Despite other Cameroonian strikers plying their trade in some of Europe’s biggest leagues, Le Guen selected a young Aboubakar who was playing for Cotonsport Garoua at the time.
What happens next?
There is likely to be a lot of interest this summer with a number of clubs on standby. A good performance at the World Cup could earn Aboubakar a big move, with Premier League trio Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City and Newcastle United having previously been linked to the striker.

Despite possible transfer rumours, Aboubakar still has two years remaining on his current contract at Lorient and he recently expressed his appreciation towards what the club and the manager Christian Gourcuff have done for him “I owe him an awful lot, and the team too”. Gourcuff’s departure could influence Aboubakar’s future however, and if a big team comes in it will be hard to turn down.
Talentspotter Ratings
Shooting 7 • Heading 6 • Passing 5 • Tackling 4 • Pace 7 • Dribbling 6 • Creativity 6 • Work-rate 6

From: General

Why Luis Enrique is the best man for the Barcelona hot seat

Posted on May 27, 2014 by in Champions League

A return ‘home’
Although Luis Enrique’s boyhood club was Sporting Gijón, it was at Barcelona that the 44-year-old not only experienced his best years as a player, but also enjoyed his first success as manager. Lucho played more than 300 times for Barça from 1996-2004, and in that period won seven major honours. A club like Barça, where the style and ideology is so important, needs someone who shares those values in the dugout. Enrique the player was a passionate, aggressive type who never relented in any challenge put at his door, and those were the values he took to Barça B when Guardiola personally referenced him for the role of manager.
With Barça B he gained promotion to the second division in the 2009/10 season, before leading the team to their record Segunda points haul (71) the next. Tata Martino’s inability to take on board the values preached in La Masia meant his battle to win hearts and minds was half lost before it had even begun, but Enrique just ‘gets it’ –wearing the captain’s armband from 2002-04 probably helped.
Management style
An article recently emerged in Spain dissecting what some Barça players had referred to as ancient methods used by Tata Martino. There should be no such problems with Enrique, who is a progressive coach, never willing to stagnate or settle for second best. His work on the fitness of the players could well be the most significant change he brings to the team, especially with Barça’s lethargic demeanour all too often negating their excellent footballing ability in the season just gone. Lucho is a believer in the physical and mental sides of the game leading to success, and he brings with him a coaching team that can revitalise even the most disbelieving of individuals.
Among them is Rafael Pol, a man who will work primarily on the fitness side of training. If those who have previously worked with him are to be believed, he could have startling results in a very short period of time. A leaner, meaner, tougher Barça will be the directive from day one.
Also noted by those who have worked with Enrique has been his ability to relate and identify with players, drawing on experiences from his own playing career, and building relationships steadily within a camp. Yet in terms of discipline Enrique is a hardliner, perhaps a nod to his time spent under the tough-to-please Louis van Gaal. He has shown a willingness to accept mistakes, but only if a desire to correct the error is evident.

Playing the right way
Enrique’s style borrows heavily from the Barça traditions, but he has also shown a desire to bring more variation and directness to his team’s play. With both Roma and Celta there were spells of easy-on-the-eye football, with slick combination play and fluid movement in attacking areas. Enrique has as much time for false nines as anyone, but he knows when to utilise a more direct style of play. Possession is of course key, and he’ll be looking to repeat the kind of figures he achieved with Barça B –an average 65.9% possession and 546 passes per match.
Rotations and innovation
With Celta, Enrique kept his squad on their toes and prevented his players from growing stale by picking a different XI nearly every week. It kept players fresh, and it also kept them hungry. His ability to judge games that aren’t going well and then offering a swift, decisive reaction also improved immeasurably over the course of the season with the Galicians. Barça need someone on the bench who can read the pattern of the game; they have a ridiculous amount of talent on the field but at times even the very best players need guidance. Enrique, the authoritarian, brings that to a team.
While operating with Celta’s smaller squad, there was little hesitance when it came to innovating, and several players found themselves progressing in a variety of roles they hadn’t previously encountered, let alone succeeded in. Levy Madinda, a central midfielder by trade, was used as an interior (the widest player in a narrow midfield). Rafinha meanwhile, blossomed in a wide right role, devastating opposition defences with his pace and willingness to carry the ball forward positively.
The Roma and Celta experiences
Roma is a stick regularly used to beat Enrique, but the truth is there were forces working against him from day one during his season with the Italian side. It was a case of the wrong man at the wrong time, and Roma needed stabilising rather than radicalising, as Enrique set out to do. At Celta we were reminded why Enrique was so highly rated in the first place. There he took a team that the previous season had only escaped relegation on the final day, to the verge of the European places.
After the club lost fan favourite and top scorer Iago Aspas to Liverpool, a state of depression hung over the club, but Enrique sought to bring in La Masia product Nolito to soften the blow. The 27-year-old former Benfica man did more than that, surpassing Aspas’s goal haul of the previous season.

Youth
The value of the cantera can never be overstated at Barça, and Enrique will most likely harness the youth academy better than most. When in Rome, Enrique made the decision to have the Giallorossi youth side train beside the first team on the same schedule and with the same system. This was done with the aim of promoting a better understanding between the youth side and first team, making the eventual jump a smoother process.
At Celta he was handed a squad of 24, with half produced in Madroa, Celta’s very own production line. Upon arrival he requested a dossier on Celta’s talent from top to bottom, and witnessed a slew of Juvenil A and B games before even taking charge of his first game with the full team. Enrique also handed out four debuts to players while at the club, and progressed Rafinha at a rapid rate that showcased the full level of his potential. The young Brazilian will be at Barça too next season, and his ambition could well propel him into the first team before long.

 

Stats Zone Premier League Striker of the Season 2013/14

Posted on May 27, 2014 by in English Premier League

Stats Zone Premier League Striker of 2013/14: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Well, you weren’t really expecting anyone else now were you? Put simply, the Liverpool striker enjoyed one of the greatest individual seasons in Premier League history. The Uruguayan’s 31 goals in 33 games levelled the haul achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United in the 2007/08 campaign– albeit having played one game fewer.
Suarez wasn’t quite the sole source of Liverpool’s impressive title bid last season, but his explosive goal getting more than compensanted for the Reds’ woes at the other end. He even missed the first five games of the season after chomping Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic the previous term, but was utterly brilliantupon his return.
The Uruguayan’s finest game of the season is debatable, of course, but just try arguing his four-goal haul against poor Norwich at Anfield. His quadruple accounted for all but one of Liverpool’s goals on Merseyside in a 5-1 victory, and produced the only instance of a player netting as many in a game last term. Unsurprisingly, he also recorded the most shots on target of any player in a game (6), crafted the other goal for Raheem Sterling and carved out another 3 opportunities on top of that.

It’s about this time that we’re supposed to reel off the men who ran him close for the Stats Zone Striker of the Year gong, but realistically nobody else stood a chance.Daniel Sturridge’s 20-goal haul was a superb achievement for the man cast aside by Chelsea in January 2012, whileSergio Aguerowould have almost certainly ran Suarez close had injury not curtailed his blistering start to the campaign.If you’re interested, Hull’sYannick Sagbo was the striker (25+ games) who boasted the best shooting accuracy (78%);Olivier Giroud trailed Suarez’s 181 shots with 112;Peter Crouch won the most aerial duels (247), but Christian Benteke and Wilfried Bonynetted the most headed goals (5).

Thanks to

fourfourtwo

Stats Zone Premier League Games of the Season 2013/14

Posted on May 27, 2014 by in English Premier League

Most passes in a game: 1192
Arsenal 2-0 Hull City, 4 Dec 2013
For those who love what Xavi calls the “pum, pum, pum, pum” of passing, the place to be was the Emirates, back when the advent calendars remained relatively pristine. The Gunners, who scored in the second minute of each half, piled up 803 passes (721 completed), the Tigers a hardly shabby 305 of 389.

Fewest passes in a game: 544

Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa, 21 Dec 2013
Less than a fortnight later, with the advent calendar a plundered shell and Christmas drunkenness all around, Stoke and Villa concocted the Premier League’s most pass-free game of the season. The Potters’ passing improved notably this season but they contributed just 186 completed passes (of 286) to this unseemly scrabble, while their guests were worse, with 158 out of 255. Might have been better to go Christmas shopping.

Most unblocked shots: 33
Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea, 3 Feb 2014
Shooooooot! The summit meeting at the Etihad, renowned in retrospect as a Mourinho masterclass in defence, actually provoked the highest total of unblocked shots, of which City had 19. The hosts’ problem was accuracy: of their 24 shots in total, only 3 were on target, whereas Chelsea got 6 of their 18 on target.

Most shots (inc. blocked): 44
Newcastle 0-3 Sunderland, 1 Feb 2014;
Sunderland 0-1 Everton, 12 Apr 2014
Heck of a season for the Mackems, who were also involved in the two matches with the most shots in total. Up the road at Newcastle, they won 3-0 despite only having 16 shots to their neighbours’ 28 (10 of which were saved by Stats Zone Awards Goalkeeper of the Season Vito Mannone). Just over two months later, they had their own barn-door day with 24 fruitless shots on Tim Howard’s goal; even Everton’s winner was an oggie off Wes Brown.

Fewest shots: 9
Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton, 19 Apr 2014
Strikers, look away. Southampton’s trip to Villa, which also produced the fewest unblocked shots (7), featured a home side who apparently couldn’t hit a cowshed with a brass band – looking at the Stats Zone screen, at least two of their six efforts may have produced throw-ins – and a Southampton side so timid that they restricted their three shots from an area the size of a tea towel.

Highest overall pass completion rate: 89.9%
Man United 3-1 Hull City, 6 May 2013
An evening of firsts (goalscoring debutant James Wilson) and lasts (final Old Trafford appearances for Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs) also produced a pleasingly high percentage of accurate passing – and, as in the game at Arsenal which produced the most passes overall, Hull played their part. The Tigers completed 449 of their 511 passes, while the hosts connected with 583 of their 637. Well done, everybody.

Lowest overall pass completion rate: 62.7%
Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa, 21 Dec 2013
You lot again?

Most fouls: 40
West Brom 0-1 Southampton, 17 Aug 2013
Maybe it was a refereeing directive that didn’t reach anyone but Kevin Friend. Or maybe this opening-day encounter was just as “scrappy” as almost every match report calls it. Whichever, when Mauricio Pochettino’s side turned up to face Steve Clarke’s Baggies, they acted like anything but Saints, committing 25 of the 40 fouls given by Friend. None of them mattered as much as one of the game’s last infractions – Youssouf Mulumbu’s 89th-minute foul on Luke Shaw which led to recent goalscoring England debutant Rickie Lambert striking from the spot.

Fewest fouls: 9
Manchester United 2-2 Fulham, 9 Feb 2013
One of the season’s most peculiar games, in which Rene Meulensteen returned to Old Trafford with a line-up best described as “solid” and Fulham escaped undefeated for only the second time in 51 years… somehow. The Cottagers produced as many fouls (6) as shots; at the other end, United used their 75.4% possession to rack up 31 shots and a startling 82 crosses… but still allowed Darren Bent to steal a point with an injury-time equaliser.

True cost of a Premier League season ticket in 2013/14

Posted on May 20, 2014 by in English Premier League

These comparison tables are a real eye opener. Man United are feeling the pain after so long at the top. Thanks for Vouchercode.co.uk for this.

The annual Football Value League Table examines how much season ticket holders paid per win and per goal on home turf over the 2013/14 season.
Rivals United have taken a hit since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. After coming second in the Value League last year they have plummeted seven places in the table to 8th in 2013/14; their supporters paying £79.22 per home win, £35.45 more per win at home than they did last year.
After a disappointing season all round, Fulham are not only facing up to relegation but have also suffered the ignominy of coming bottom of the Value League. The Cottagers won just five of their league games at home in 2013/14 (26 per cent), meaning Fulham’s season ticket holders will have paid a whopping £128 for each win at Craven Cottage – or £26.67 for each goal.
Read on for the full information – and check out theChampionshipprices, too…

INFOGRAPHIC The true cost of a Championship season ticket

From: General

How UEFA will dictate Man Citys summer transfers

Posted on May 20, 2014 by in Champions League, Man City

Manchester City’s summer transfer dealings look set to be complicated. Even without the club’s€60 million fine and trimming of next season’s Champions League squad to 21 playersfor breaching Financial Fair Play regulations, Manuel Pellegrini already had enough plates to keep spinning with his current squad.
Firstly, he will need to resolve the uncertain futures of Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri, Micah Richards, James Milner and Aleksander Kolarov, all of whom are all approaching the final 12 months of their current deals. Milner’s situation in particular could prove troublesome, after reports on Monday suggested that the England man could be keen to leave the Etihad this summer.
Dzeko is enjoying his most prosperous season for the club since joining from Wolfsburg for £27m in January 2011. He has compensated for the drastic loss of form experienced by Alvaro Negredo and there would be no shortage of takers should he become available. Samir Nasri, a £24m purchase, has also experienced a renaissance under Pellegrini after falling out of favour under Roberto Mancini. Both are believed to have commenced contract talks and the club will be keen to tie them down before the World Cup, where Nasri won’t be this summer.
Kolarov has provided stiff competition for Gael Clichy this term and Pellegrini appears to be a fan of the versatile Milner (which makes the 28-year-old’s unhappiness worrying). But Micah Richards has already stated his desire to leave for first-team football and resuscitate his international career. He has yet to feature under Roy Hodgson and, as things stand, is a long way from adding to his 13 England caps. Whether or not Richards will be allowed to leave depends on City’s ability to name eight English players in their next 25-man squad, which looks highly unlikely at present.

UEFA regulations state that all English clubs in European competition can name a maximum of 17 foreign players. City have space for one more and appear to have their heart set on Porto centre-back Eliaquim Mangala, who could well become a household name at the World Cup. Of their English contingent, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry (currently on loan at Everton) and Richard Wright (yes, he’s still there, look it up) are all set to depart when their contracts expire at the end of next month, Richards wants to leave, Milner too, while Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell remain on the periphery. That leaves Joe Hart.
So if you’re English or ‘home grown’, you know where to send your CV, because Manchester City will be forced to set their sights on players that spent at least three years over here during their formative years. It leaves Milner in a very strong position with regards to negotiating new terms on his £80,000-a-week deal, and may result in them holding on to Richards for another year before letting him leave for nothing in 2015. Now their Champions League squad has been cut, the need to sign players of a suitable standard is more pressing than padding out the squad with fringe players.
It also means they may have to part with some of their foreign players to make room for home grown players. Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley may tickle their fancy, but if they need to reinforce a different position and cannot identify a suitable candidate from these shores they will have to sell, buy a replacement for a player that does not require replacing, plus the player they actually require. So if they wanted to sign Bacary Sagna, who will see his Arsenal contract expire shortly and has been linked with a move to the Etihad, the move could involve a chain of four transfers to facilitate it; the Frenchman’s capture, the sale of Richards and one of their foreign players, then the signing of a home-grown replacement.
Their acclaimed academy may yet bail them out, but that would require fast tracking the likes of Marcos Lopes, Karim Rekik and Emyr Huws, and whether that would aid or hinder their development is another matter. However they decide to tackle the situation, they look set to endure a difficult summer. With no one to blame but themselves for the punishments and stipulations forced upon them, a lack of foresight would appear to be their toughest opponent in the near future.

From: General

Sat 30 Nov 2013 15:00 – Norwich v Crystal Palace (Carrow Road)

Posted on November 29, 2013 by in English Premier League

Sat 30 Nov 2013 15:00 – Norwich v Crystal Palace (Carrow Road)

Referee: Chris Foy

After five straight away defeats, Crystal Palace finally won a game on the road against Hull last weekend. They also scored only their third away goal of the season to secure a 1-0 victory against the Tigers. The Eagles will have new Manager Tony Pulis in the dugout this weekend and will be hoping for a positive “honeymoon” period under their new boss. Norwich have not had a great start to the season either and Chris Hughton’s men are just four points ahead of their relegation rivals ahead of this clash.

Both teams have been burdened with long injury lists for a while now and will enter this game with six absences apiece. Palace may have McCarthy available after a recent groin injury.

Norwich score an average of 1.2 goals per game at home and the same number against while Palace score an average of just 0.5 goals per game away from home yet concede an average of 1.8. Both teams have good disciplinary records and there is a very high possibility of fewer than 35.5 booking points in this game as 100% of Norwich’s home games, and 67% of Palace’s away games have produced this result.  Some great stats for online betting.

Initially this game looks like a home win when you take the away form of Crystal Palace into account; but the home draw against Everton and the away win at Hull, combined with the appointment of a new Manager, could give them the boost they need to get a result from this game. Norwich are by no means convincing at home but had their best result yet in their last home fixture against West Ham. This will be a tight game that could end in a no-score or low-score draw.

Match prediction: Norwich 1-1 Crystal Palace

Wembley prepares to welcome the Germans.

Posted on May 3, 2013 by in Champions League

And there we have it. While many may have correctly predicted Bayern Munich would reach the final given how close they came last year, and added to the fact that they strengthened considerably in the summer, few could have foreseen the impact Borussia Dortmund have made.

Cast your eyes back to the beginning of the season, and BVB had it all to do. They were drawn in the clichéd ‘Group of Death’ alongside Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax, and many predicted a third place finish at best. The Germans, led by their incredible fans had other ideas, finishing top of the group without losing a game.

Fellow dark-horses Shakhtar Donetsk were beaten in the last 32, before they beat Malaga 3-2 on aggregate in the most dramatic of circumstances, scoring twice in the last few minutes to book their place in the semi-finals. Real Madrid were up next, and despite not losing to them in the group stage, the Spanish were overwhelming favourites. Once again Dortmund didn’t read the script, and progressed by the odd goal in seven.

Bayern Munich finished top of their group, and after dismantling Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates, many thought their progression was a foregone conclusion. The Gunners had other ideas, winning 2-0 in Germany, meaning Bayern scraped through on goal difference. Juventus were up next, and it was an extremely comfortable two legs for the Germans, who progressed to the semis, where the mighty Barcelona lay in wait.

This is a Barcelona side labelled as one of the best club sides of all time, a side that have won everything there is to win in recent times, and in Lionel Messi have the player of our generation. All of this didn’t matter to Bayern, who crushed the boys from the Nou Camp 7-0 on aggregate, and leave the football world amazed at the spectacle. Yes Messi wasn’t fully fit, but the total football displayed by the Germans suggests there is a new powerhouse in European football.

This has set up a final that no-one can complain about. Yes an El Clasico may have been nice, but given the football the German sides have produced, we could be in for an absolute classic. Dortmund have perfectly demonstrated what a talented manager, and a unified team can produce, and reaching the final is worthy reward for what Jurgen Klopp is trying to do at the club.

Yes this is a team that contains some world-class talent, but they have been developed and grown over the last few years, culminating in winning the German league and now reaching the final of Europe’s biggest competition. Players like Subotic, Reus and Lewandowski will surely attract attention this summer, and ironically star man Mario Gotze has already been signed by a new club….Bayern Munich.

Jupp Heynckes is in the strange position of knowing that his job is up soon, with Pep Guardiola set to take over in the summer. What a job he has done though, with his Bayern side winning the league at a canter, with a goal difference in excess of plus 70. In addition his side haven’t lost domestically since October, and since the winter break they have won 21 of their 22 matches. Bayern contain a team of world class players, with the additions of Mandzukic and Martinez adding even more quality to a tremendously talented side.

Looking at the final and while it promises to be a great game, it’s hard to look past Bayern Munich. This will perfectly suit Borussia Dortmund, who have been underdogs throughout, and who actually have a great record against Munich, having won 4 out of the last 5 league matches they’ve played.

Munich though will want to finally end their run of near misses, having lost in the final twice in recent years. Will it be third time lucky? Perhaps it might, but here’s a word of warning for Bayern….the three previous instances of a team scoring seven or more goals in a European Cup semi-final, all saw that team go on to lose the final.

Whatever happens, we should be in for a great game, and if the two teams can produce the football we know they’re capable of, roared on by their fanatical fans, then it could be a classic.

Man United win the Premiership and QPR get kicked out

Posted on April 29, 2013 by in Man United

Manchester United secured their 20th Premier League title Monday night after defeating Aston Villa 3-0 on the strength of a first-half hat trick by Robin van Persie. The victory gave the Red Devils a 16 point lead over Manchester City with four games remaining and thus clinching the title.

Manchester United signed a EPL club sponsorship deal with bwin last year and used some of that money over the summer to secure Van Persie, a deal that has proved to be the difference maker this season for the club.

Van Persie wasted little time reminding fans of his importance to the club this season as he first home a goal just 81 seconds into the contest. He then fired home goals at the 13th and 33rd minute to secure the hat trick. The first goal proved to be enough as the club ran a clean sheet against Aston Villa, a team struggling to remain in the premier league.

This game was a contrast in teams with differing goals. The Red Devils were looking to add another title to their long and storied history while Aston Villa is looking just to retain their spot in the Premier League. The club is just three points above Wigan with four games remaining.

Wigan, Queens Park Rangers, and Reading where slated for relegation after the season based on their position. Aston Villa is three point ahead of Wigan with four games left but is not the only club flirting with relegation. Sunderland, Stoke City, and Newcastle United are only 6 points above Wigan and must keep losses to a minimal to stave off relegation. QPR will be relegated this season but, Harry Rednapp has will stay with the club and help them retrieve their rightful position in the English Premier League.

Liverpool’s hopes of getting European football are smashed for another season.

Posted on April 26, 2013 by in Champions League

With five titles of the European cup (now Champions league), Liverpool are the most successful English club in history, but Liverpool have not succeeded in the Champions league for quite some time. Instead of that, for the past couple of seasons Liverpool are regular in the Europa league. Europa league is a competition that has improved rapidly over the last seasons and has started to become a priority for many big clubs. Bigger teams tend to put Europa league aside and concentrate on the national championship. After Liverpool was eliminated from both domestic cups, their only hope of saving a season came in form of the Europa league.

That hope was extinguished in the early stages in the 2012 season, as Liverpool got eliminated from the Europa league too. After going 0-2 down in the first leg in St. Petersburg, a 3-1 victory at Anfield was not enough for the Reds to qualify to the last 16. Liverpool did not make Europa league a priority this season, but after a highly unsuccessful Premiership season, where a title race is out of the question and even a place in the European competitions next season is highly doubtful, fans where bitterly disappointed after the Europa league elimination. Liverpool clearly put 110% into the second leg victory but it was not enough.

After a disappointing season fans are focusing on the commitment of Luis Suarez. There was some clear disappointment after an early exit from the Europa league, especially after his contribution in the game was particularly marvelous.

Elimination from a tournament after being proved, in the view of fans, to be the better side this must be a trying time for players. Liverpool now face a tough battle with Arsenal and Everton for the Europa league place next season. Arsenal and Everton have their own problems, in our opinion there is everything to play for.

Elimination might increase their determination for the European spots nest season. There is no doubt that Liverpool posses the quality for that achievement. Fans hope they have the spirit to get there.

We will get a brighter look at current Liverpool situation at their upcoming Premiership game against Wigan. Liverpool usually have problems with this small club and it is a best possible game to show us Liverpool’s ambition for the remaining of the season. Liverpool state of mind will decide their form in the last rounds of the league. Liverpool never gave up on a season and as long as there is a possibility of reaching European competitions, we are sure that Liverpool will keep fighting for that place.

With Liverpool already eliminated from all competitions, it is expected to invest all they have in the Premier league. But that fact can also backfire as players might have low self-esteem and perform under expectations. First few games in March will probably be crucial for the rest of Liverpool’s season.

Champions League Final 2013 Predictions

Posted on February 12, 2013 by in Champions League, Man United

The UEFA Champions League matchups have been announced and football enthusiasts across the globe are busy speculating on which teams will make it through to the finals. Today, we’ll explore the Champions League Final 2013 predictions.

Notably, to the dismay of many football fans who would love to see a high-stakes encounter between longtime rivals Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, favourites Manchester United and Real Madrid will not be appearing in a 2013 Champions League matchup.

The reason? Both Real Madrid and Manchester United have been selected to play in the stand-out tie of the last 16 Champions League teams on 13th February 2013. Despite their incredible popularity, only one of the two teams will be eligible to play in the final.

Note; if any games in the tournament right up to the final Unibet will refund loosing bets on a generous range of Championship betting markets.  Live betting markets included if losing bets are on Correct Score, Halftime/Fulltime and First Goalscorer, and Last Goalscorer markets.  

A total of 16 teams have proceeded to the knock-out stage, which is comprised of 16 match ups. The most likely successors are Real Madrid and Barcelona, which will no doubt meet each other again in the final. Real Madrid hold the record for most Champions League finals, as they’ve won a total of 9.

Let’s have a look at the knock-out stage matches and the latest predictions. The first legs will be played on 12, 13, 19 and 20 February, with the second legs slated for 5, 6, 12 and 13 March 2013.

On 20 February, Milan and Barcelona will take to the pitch. This match is going to be one to watch, since many predictions have Barcelona coming out on top and proceeding to the finals. The second leg is scheduled for 12 March, 2013.

Valencia will take on Paris Saint-Germain on 12 February, with a second leg slated for 6 March. This match up will also be one to watch, as David Beckham will be playing for free. Predictions have Paris Saint-Germain knocking out Valencia.

Among the most anticipated match ups, Manchester United and Real Madrid will battle it out on the pitch on 13 February, with a second leg set for 5 March. Predictions have Real Madrid coming out on top.

Another match-up, set for 20 February, is between Galatasaray and Schalke 04, with a second leg set for 12 March, 2013. Predictions have Schalke 04 coming out on top for the win.

The second match-up is between Celtic and Juventus, with the first leg scheduled for 12 February and the second leg to take place on 6 March. Of this pairing, predictions have Juventus favoured for the win.

On 19 February, Arsenal and Bavern Munich will take to the pitch for the first leg; a second leg is slated for 13 March. Arsenal is the favourite and predictions have this team taking this knock-out match.

Shakhtar Donetsk will play Borussia Dortmund on 13 February. The second leg is set for 5 March. Of these two teams, it’s predicted that Shakhtar Donestsk will take the win.

And finally, Porto will take on Malaga on 19 February. The second leg is set for 13 March. If predictions are correct, Porto will be victorious.