NPFL Week 29 Preview

It’s been 28 weeks of pure drama in the Glo Professional Football League. And there are 10 more games to go.

Last week, two players from different clubs hit a hat-trick in their respective matches. Musa Najare scored three times for

Warri Wolves, while Victor Namo of Nasarawa United replicated the feat against Nasarawa United. In the penultimate week, Austin Ekpoma scored one of the fastest goals of the season in Port Harcourt, in the 15th second of the game. Going into this Week fixtures, we are expecting more of the same.

The Matchday 29 games will be played on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1, across 10 match venues in the country.
Saturday, August 31.

Dolphins FC vs Enyimba International
Coming on the heels of a 4-0 defeat in their last outing, Dolphins FC of Port Harcourt will be hosting Enyimba International FC at the Liberation Stadium in Rivers State. Unarguably, this duel is the match of the week, as Enyimba have been dethroned from the top of the league table by Bayelsa United, after a goaless game in their match with Sunshine Stars. The Aba Warriors will be looking for to pick up valuable points away from home. Dolphins on the other hand, wouldn’t want to be beaten twice on the bounce, so it’s going to be an interesting battle. Enyimba won the last meeting 2-0, courtesy of a goal from Super Eagle’s striker, Ifeanyi Ede and Ugo Nwanchukwu.

Bayelsa United vs Sharks FC
Table toppers Bayelsa United, will be welcoming the Blue Angels in Yenegoa at the Samson Siasia Stadium, as they seek to keep their hopes of winning silverware alive. Ladan Bosso Boys are currently topping the log with a one-point difference and a massive win for them on Saturday, will keep them at the top. Going by their present home form, one can beat his chest for the homers to come out victorious in this one. Sharks escaped a stalemate in the reverse game as they won 2-1.

Kano Pillars vs Rangers FC
The league champions who are third on the league standings, will be hosting The Flying Antelopes at the Sanni Abacha stadium in Kano State. Sai Masu Gida needs to win this game to enhance their title chase. Although, a win for them will not take up to the top, but it will brighten their chances. Enugu Rangers destroyed Pillars in the first leg by four goals to nothing, when Dada Bitrus, Alhaji Gero, Sanni Sanusi and Odukpe Oghogho hit target for the Enugu-based team.

El-Kanemi Warriors vs Kaduna United
Zachary Baraje and his boys have been impressive this season, after the Borno State team gained promotion to the elite from the lower league last season. The Warriors are 4th on the table with 44 points – two points behind the top teams. They will be slugging it out with The Crocodiles this Saturday, at the El-Kanemi stadium in Maiduguri. Kaduna United beat the Borno Warriors in their first encounter this season by a lone goal, when John Uch netted for the Kaduna outfit. The homers have not lost nor dropped points in their last five home games, while the visiting team is yet to pick a point on the road this season.

Kwara United vs Warri Wolves
As the only team in the Professional Football League with the highest number of away points from three wins on the road and four draws, Afonja Warriors are 5th on the log with 44 points, two points away from the top of the league. They will be entertaining The Seasiders in Ilorin, at the Kwara Township Stadium. The reverse game ended in a 2-1 winfor Wolves.

3SC vs ABS
These two teams are battling with relegation this season, The Oluyole Warriors are in 16th spot on the table, with the same points as ABS FC, but the Bukola Saraki Boys are placed in the 19th position, as result of better goal difference. It is a must-win game for the two sides, but the hosts have a better chance of winning this game, because they have whipped top GPFL teams at home in recent times at the Adamasingba Stadium in Ibadan. Ibrahim Abdulahi was the difference in the first encounter, as his strike earned his team the maximum points.

 

Sunday, September 1
Lobi Stars vs Nasarawa United
The Samuel Atongo Stadium and Lobi Stars fans, will witness a relegation battle as both teams fight their way out of the basement. Lobi Stars are in 20th spot with 35 points, while the Solid Miners are 18th on the table with 36 points. The hosts were able to hold Nasarawa United to a one-all draw in their last meeting in week 9, as Victor Namo scored opened the score sheet for the Miners before John Collins got an equaliser for Lobi. A victory for the Markudi-based side may push them up three places.

Gombe United vs Nembe City
Savannah Scorpions will continue their good run of form at home, when they host Nembe City on Sunday, at Pantami Stadium in Gombe. The homers maintain the 8th position on the table with 40 points, while City holds down the 13th position, two points adrift Gombe. Okiki Mosampa brace was what Nembe needed to win the reverse fixture.

Wikki Tourists vs Heartland
The Tourists and ‘Naze Millionaires’ are separated by a point on the league table. The host have gathered 36 points and are 17th, while Heartland are 14th on the log with 37 points from 28 games. Isah Akor, Esom Tochukwu and Happy Okuoka were the scorers for the Owerri-based team in their first game this season.

Akwa United vs Sunshine Stars
Akure Gunners pumelled Akwa United by three goals to nil, when they played the first leg in Matchday nine, as Dele Olorundare who is now playing for a Turkish side, scored twice while Ajani Ibrahim added one of the goals. Akwa United will want to come back at the visitors this time to revenge. Akwa United are 15th on log, while Sunshine Stars are placed 11th leading the hosts with a point.

Guardiola extends hoodoo over Mourinho as Bayern Munich win UEFA Super Cup

Bayern win SuperCup 2013Romelu Lukaku missed the decisive spot-kick, as European champions Bayern Munich defeated Chelsea on penalties, to win this year’s Super Cup.

Torres scored in the first goal in the 8th minute of the goal, sidefooting Schurlle’s neat cut-back past Neuer. The Bavarians tried to fight their way back into the match, but it was the Blues who missed clear scoring chances.

Shortly after half-time, Ribery equalised with a powerful run and drive, which beat Cech at his near post. Oscar failed to score with the net unguarded, after Dante gave away the ball and the game went into extra-time.

Although Ramires was sent off for a second bookable offence, it was Chelsea who took the lead in the first half of extra-time, after Hazard danced his way past Bayern defenders and smashed the ball past Neuer. It was almost a memorable victory for the Blues, before Javi Martinez popped up in the 121st minute to level scores again.

Alaba, Kroos, Lahm, Ribery and Shaqiri all converted their spot-kicks, while Luiz, Oscar, Lampard and Cole also scored from 12 yards, before Neuer kept out Lukaku’s weak effort.

GUNNERY: Champions League Draws – Bring it on!

Fenerbache-v-Arsenal-2203408The Champions League draws were made today in Monaco, with the usual fanfare and tense anticipation. The draws did not disappoint, as they threw up some tasty ties as always. My dear Arsenal, fell into a very tough group along with 1997 champions and last year’s beaten finalists, Borussia Dortmund, 1993 champions Olympic Marseille and Serie A runners up Napoli.

This is no doubt a very tough group, with worthy opponents. Each single game promises to be a feast of soccer and I can hardly wait. As expected, this has generated a lot of discussions as with all things Arsenal. Many people, fans and ‘pundits’ alike, have already written off Arsenal’s chances even before a ball has been kicked. I find this very amusing and surprising. Needless to say, I do not agree with the naysayers and I will show why I think Arsenal are in fact favorites to not only qualify from this group, but also top it.

First off, let’s look at the competition starting with Dortmund. For many Arsenal fans, Dortmund is a team we all wish we could emulate. They play attractive football, spend within their means, fill up their intimidating stadium, ‘modern’ young manager and win trophies on a regular basis. This is a team that until last season, broke the monopoly enjoyed by Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. They helped to raise the level of football played in Germany and were very impressive on their way to the Champions League finals.

Though they have sold Mario Goetze to Bayern, that money was reinvested into the squad and more importantly, they have retained the services of Robert Lewandowski, the deadly Polish striker whose form in front of goal is something Arsenal fans can only dream of. They are former champions and will be looking forward to going one better than their final appearance last season. Their games versus Arsenal and Napoli will be great to watch and they will most likely decide their fate. Their titanic battle for domestic superiority against Bayern Munich may be a disadvantage to them, if they are unable to get a good balance between the UCL and the Bundesliga.

Napoli has been experiencing resurgence in recent years. Much like the Levy business down the road from us, Napoli sold their best player Edson Cavani to the highest bidder PSG and splashed the money on big signings. Annoyingly, they snatched their biggest signing, one Gonzalo Higuain from under our noses. They got Albiol and Pepe Reina in goal from Liverpool, in addition to a sprinkling of other talents to add to a very good squad boasting of the deadly Marek Hamsik, the hard working Inler and the outstanding defender Paolo Cannavaro.

Their best signing of course, may turn out to be their manager, Champions League winner Rafa Benitez. The wily tactician knows the European scene very well, having also won the old UEFA Cup and most recently led Chelski to the Europa League. He also knows Arsenal inside out, having played us so many times over his two spells in England. They are a team that plays very high tempo counter attacking football. It remains to be seen how Rafa’s tactics play out. They will definitely be a hard test for all the teams if they are able to gel well and understand how Rafa wants them to play.

Olympic Marseille may not be the biggest team in France anymore with the arrival of the Arab money both in PSG and Monaco. They however pushed PSG all the way last season, with a combination of a very youthful squad led by the Ayews’ and great attacking football. They easily represent the weakest team on paper but can also be dangerous dark horses. They are after all former Champions from 1993 when they had their golden generation. I feel that any team that fails to beat Marseille home and away will not qualify.

Arsenal for me will not only qualify from this group (whether or not Wenger buys), but we would win it. We are one of the most consistent teams in the UCL in terms of qualifying from our groups. We are good travellers and often play better away from home. The experience of 16 straight seasons in the UCL, means we know exactly what is required to get past the group stage, by amassing the magic 10 points required. We have beaten Dortmund two seasons ago and our impressive victory at Bayern last season (the only loss suffered by the treble winners at home all season), will give the players belief that we can get a result at Dortmund. We will beat Marseille home and away, because apart from being the better team, Arsenal does normally beat French opposition quite comfortably. These matches should be no different.

Napoli away looks to be the toughest test on paper. Even there I think Arsenal can lean on our very good record in Italy, where the likes of Inter, A.C Milan (not the last visit) and Udinese have all been beaten. While we may have a small squad in terms of numbers (we will buy players, I hope), I am firmly with Wenger that we have enough quality to negotiate this group. In fact, it is the fans of Marseille, Dortmund and Napoli that should be afraid of meeting Arsenal. Gooners must not allow the negativity surrounding the club blind them from the fact that as far as Champions League group stakes are concerned, Arsenal are more experienced than any of their opponents and we have players to actually win these games.

As Arsene Wenger said, we have earned the right to play the best and this is what we want. We have been written off by the same pundits who said we won’t even make the Champions League back in March. When the draws were made for the qualifiers, we got a tough draw and they said there was no way we could beat Fernabache, especially with a wafer thin squad crying for new recruits, crises on the back of a thrashing by Villa on the opening day of the season at home. Yet we beat them 5-0 on aggregate. There is a reason why we were the only seeded team in the group. This group of players has great team spirit fostered in adversity. I have no doubt in my mind that when the group games are over, Arsenal will be on top of the table.

 

It’s Mourinho against his old nemesis, Guardiola – A preview of the Super Cup

Mourinho-GuardiolaIt’s rare for Jose Mourinho to be rattled in a press conference. However, when the not-too-pretty stats about his head-to-head record with Pep Guardiola, were read out, the Chelsea boss was not amused. In 15 games against the Spaniard, he won just three times.

“Your statistics are wrong, very wrong, but I don’t’ want to discuss that because it’s not relevant,” he bristled.

“Go there and see what happened with Inter, the league of the records in Spain, the King Cup in Spain, the Super Cup in Spain, so you are very wrong. But it’s not me against him, it’s club against club.

“It’s not about me and Pep, it’s about Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Pep is not European champion and I’m not Europa League champion. We just coach here now, so it’s not about us.”

It is what it is, Jose. Guardiola has always had the upper hand. And with this with his powerful Bayern Munich team, it might just be the same all over again.

Trying desperately to copy Pep’s false nine formation, Mourinho packed his team with Hazard, De Bruyne, Oscar and Schurrle against Manchester United on Monday. It didn’t work. Of course, it showed that the Portuguese tinker might not completely trust his strikers for the big games – let’s hope Eto’o’s arrival will help – but the system failed badly.

On the other hand, Guardiola has tweaked his methods a bit and learnt how to accomodate an out-and-out striker like Mario Mandzukic and once again, Mourinho has it all it to do on Friday evening, as he hopes to land his first silverware on his second return.

UCL draws: Arsenal draw Dortmund, Marseille & Napoli in Group of Death

FULL DRAWS

Group A
Manchester United
Shakhtar Donestsk
Bayer Leverkusen
Real Sociedad

Group B
Real Madrid
Juventus
Galatasaray
FC Copenhagen

Group C
Benfica
PSG
Olympiakos
Anderlecht

Group D
Bayern Munich
CSKA Moscow
Manchester City
Viktoria Plzen

Group E
Chelsea
Schalke
Basle
Steaua Bucharest

Group F
Arsenal
Marseille
Borussia Dortmund
Napoli

Group G
FC Porto
Atletico Madrid
Zenit
Austria Vienna

Group H
Barcelona
AC Milan
Ajax
Celtic

UCL draws: Barcelona, Juventus, Man. City & Napoli make up HalfTime’s Group of Death!

UCL drawsSo, we at HalfTimeNg, decided to have fun and conduct our draws for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.

Well, if we were in charge of it, Group B would have been the Group of Death, with La Liga champions Barcelona, Serie A champions Juventus, former EPL champions Manchester City and big spending Napoli.

Here’s the full fixture list – we might just be correct in the end. The real draws take place by 4.45pmm later today.

 

GROUP A

Bayern Munich
AC Milan
Basel
Celtic
Group B

Barcelona
Juventus
Manchester City
Napoli
Group C

Chelsea
Atletico Madrid
Bayer Leverkusen
Austria Vienna
Group D
Real Madrid
PSG
Zenit
FC Copenhagen
Group E
Manchester United
CSKA Moscow
Borussia Dortmund
Anderlecht
Group F
Arsenal
Marseille
Ajax
Steaua Bucharesti
Group G
FC Porto
Schalke
Olympiakos
Viktoria Plzen
Group H
Benfica
Shakhtar Donetsk
Galatasaray
Real Sociedad

 

Pot One: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, FC Porto, Benfica.

Pot Two: Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, AC Milan, Schalke, Marseille, CSKA Moscow, PSG, Juventus.

Pot Three: Zenit, Man City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Basel, Olympiakos, Galatasaray, Leverkusen.

Pot Four: FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic, Steaua Bucuresti, Viktoria Plzen, Real Sociedad, Austria Vienna

 

Napoli key to UEFA Champions League Group of Death – A preview

All the four seeding pots for Thursday’s Champions League draw, have now been confirmed, after all the qualifiers were concluded on Wednesday night.

Lyon’s inability to overcome Real Sociedad, has moved Italian champions Juventus, from Pot 3 to Pot 2. The Ligue 1 side were the only one of the five seeded teams in the non-champions route, who failed to progress to the group stage, losing 5-0 on aggregate to Sociedad.

Former Premier League champions Manchester City, have dropped into Pot 3, following their poor performance last season, when they failed to move past the group stages.

Napoli, who have spent big on players this summer, are in Pot 4, which indicates the possibility of another group of death this year – a scenario City will be keen to avoid. A possible group of death could contain Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain or Atletico Madrid and Napoli.

Seeding is calculated on performance in all European competitions over a five-year period.

 

Pot One: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, FC Porto, Benfica.

Pot Two: Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, AC Milan, Schalke, Marseille, CSKA Moscow, PSG, Juventus.

Pot Three: Zenit, Man City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Basel, Olympiakos, Galatasaray, Leverkusen.

Pot Four: FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic, Steaua Bucuresti, Viktoria Plzen, Real Sociedad, Austria Vienna

 

The draws will take place from 4.45pm on Thursday.

Capital One Cup 3rd round: United vs Liverpool, West Brom vs Arsenal [See complete fixtures]

Suarez-Utd-2012Manchester United will host Liverpool in the pick of the ties, after the Capital One Cup third round draws were made on Wednesday night.

There will be a repeat of last season’s FA Cup final, when Manchester City host Wigan, Chelsea will travel to Swindon Town, while Arsenal will visit the Hawthorns to play West Brom.

All matches will be played on September 24/25.

 

To be played week of September 23

Manchester United v Liverpool
Sunderland v Peterborough United
West Ham United v Cardiff City
Manchester City v Wigan Athletic
Burnley v Nottingham Forest
Newcastle United v Leeds United
Southampton v Bristol City
West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal
Swindon Town v Chelsea
Tranmere Rovers v Stoke City
Watford v Norwich City
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
Hull City v Huddersfield Town
Leicester City v Derby County
Birmingham City v Swansea City
Fulham v Everton

Willian completes £32m move to Chelsea

Willian joins ChelseaAnzhi midfielder Willian, has completed his £32m move to Chelsea, after he was granted a work permit.

He told the club’s official website: “I’m very happy to be here, it’s been a dream of mine to come and play here,” said the 25-year-old, who will wear the No22 shirt.

“Chelsea are one of the best clubs in the world, and now I’m going to play for one of the best managers in the world, so I’m very happy and looking forward to it.”

The Brazilian has signed a five-year deal.

Ozil determined to stay at Real Madrid

Ozil prezzerReal Madrid playmaker Mesu Ozil has made it clear that he is willing to fight for his future at the club, rather than move to England this summer.

Speaking at a packed press conference at the Bernabeu Stadium to mark Ozil’s new boot deal with adidas, he said: “I am happy to be a Real Madrid and proud to be part of this team. I have a contract until 2016.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be part of this team. I am flattered that great teams are interested in me. But I have a contract at Real Madrid and I will stay. There is no discussion.”