December 18, 2017

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

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.

 

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

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.

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.