Viva Atletico! Forsa Juve! – Tola Ogunlewe

atleti1010374_627735560629183_7660133654566913385_nSo the league season in Italy and Spain concluded last weekend amidst different reactions from fans and hierarchy.

In Spain, jubilation abound as Atletico Madrid defied the odds to be crowned La Liga Champions for the first time since 1996 when now manager Diego Simeone was the star of the team and in Italy, Juventus did what was predicted and expected all season by winning the Scudetto, only that they did it in style, winning every single home game and breaking the 100 points mark in Serie A.

We turn our attention quickly to both teams as they get ready for next season and we also look at what is expected to transpire over the summer break.

juvenhi-res-168561609_crop_650x440For Juventus who have not won the European Cup since 1997 that’s where attention would be, Antonio Conte has done a remarkable job since taking charge of the team, he came in with a plan which was to culminate in winning the Scudetto this season however he has surpassed that by winning the Seria A three times in a row but Juventus were very disappointed by their inability to proceed from the group stages of the Champions League and then failure to make it to the Europa League final on home turf having lost to Benfica in the semi finals.

atle628x471For Atletico Madrid this is far from the case, no one expect Diego Simeone and his team to win La Liga not with the difference in spending power between themselves and the big two in Spain, but they did it even though the hard way. They could have won the title in the previous weekend had they defeated Malaga on home turf. However their loss was the fans gain as they witnessed high tension at the Nou Camp after Alexis Sanchez gave Barca the lead. The triumph is all the more amazing giving that the Colchoneros lost their best player in Radamel Falcao last season and then lost their most impressive players of the season in Diego Costa and Arda Turan in the first 25 minutes of the match at the Nou Camp.

at438143headerThis is what makes the future uncertain for both teams. Diego Costa has all but sealed a move to Chelsea even though he wont admit it yet and many others are sure to follow as agents look to cash in on their prized assets because quite frankly this sort of success might not happen again in a while most especially if you are not Diego Simeone. Borrusia Dortmund have not won the Bundesliga title since Bayern Munich re-established their dominance. Financially Atletico Madrid are in dire need of investments, Chief Executive Miguel Angel Gil informed Bloomberg that the clubs debt are now at 543 Milllion Euros and he has add to take out a mortgage on his own home to help out. After all they received more than 60 Million Euros for Falcao last season, revenue from this seasons Champions League will go to help offset tax arrears of 80 Million Euros. This shows how massive a job Simeone has done.

juvimagesFor Juventus, it’s a similar case but not in a desperate financial box like their Spanish counterparts and nothing but the Champions League would do next season which means they either have to strengthen massively or simply put Serie A on the back burner and concentrate fully on the Champions League like Lippi did during his time in charge of the old lady or like Milan did when Ancelloti was at the helm.

Fans however would have none of that and want the team to challenge on all fronts but Juve do not have the squad for that. Antonio Conte would have a lot to ponder over the next few weeks and decide if an agreement can be met with the club on future targets and where the club is headed.

2014/15 might well reveal more into the future of both teams but right now their respective successes must be enjoyed in full.

Viva Atletico! Forsa Juve!

madrisA look ahead to this weekend’s title showdown at the Nou Camp. Tomorrow night, Spain could be crowning champions that aren’t either Barcelona or Real Madrid for the first time in a decade. Valencia were the last team to break the duopoly of those sides, but it is Atletico Madrid who are threatening to break it again since 1995/96 campaign. Diego Simeone’s side need a draw at the Nou Camp to win the title, but Barcelona will retain their crown if they win at their home ground owing to what will be a better head-to-head record.

This is it! Not since 1951 has La Liga been decided on the final day of the season between the top two teams fighting for it. This is, for all intents and purposes, a final like any other and it should not disappoint.
Atletico are going for an historic double this season, as they are also in the final of the Champions League. Barcelona are their last remaining obstacle to win the league and they definitely have the capacity to, at the very least, draw, even with the game being playing at Camp Nou. Just weeks ago in the quarter finals of the Champions League, Atletico went to the Ciudad Condal and secured a richly deserved draw. They just need to repeat that performance and La Liga will be theirs.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone is being tipped to name the same XI who drew with Barcelona at Camp Nou in the Champions League. This means that Diego Costa will be included, despite not being 100% fit. He is unlikely to last the whole game, but Simeone will not mind. He wants his strongest XI and will demand the maximum effort from his players, even with the Champions League final just a week away.

Barcelona must be pleasantly surprised by their situation. They seemingly had thrown in the towel after drawing with Getafe the week before last. Coach Tata Martino, Xavi and Sergio Busquests all were looking ahead to the future, rather than the present. Yet still, they now have the chance to win La Liga and can do so in front of their home fans. Barca, like Atletico, have not been in great form of late, but just like the visitors, expect them to lift their game for this ‘final’. Carles Puyol, who is certain to leave the club this summer, had a homage paid to him on Thursday for his years of service and another Barca stalwart, injured goalkeeper Victor Valdes, this week wrote an open letter to say goodbye to the only club he has ever played for.

FC Barcelona v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter FinalBarca, like always, will dominate possession, but they have lacked penetration in recent games and have failed to create clear-cut chances. This will suit Atletico perfectly, as they will be happy to sit back and be organised and discplined in defence and look to hurt the hosts in the counter attack. There will not be many goals in this game and, indeed, it will be the little details that count.

Team News
For Barcelona:
Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Neymar have not been training with the rest of the squad this week. Each has undergone a specific training regime. Pique looks unlikely to play and the same goes for Neymar, but Alba is expected to recover in time.

article-2630351-1DE77E9300000578-58_634x505For Atletico Madrid:
Diego Godin is again available after his ban and will likely return to partner Miranda in defence.
Doubts remain about the fitness of star striker Diego Costa, but the Hispano-Brazilian did partake in training with the squad on yesterday and he is expected to start.

Atletico madrid fans can celebrate their first La Liga title in 18 years.
Atletico madrid fans can celebrate their first La Liga title in 18 years.

Halftimeng Prediction: Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid 

DFB POKAL FINAL PREVIEW: BAYERN MUNICH VS BORUSSIA DORTMUND

404960hp2Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will contest the DFB-Pokal Final on Saturday. Borussia Dortmund won the last meeting between the two teams 3-0 at the Allianz Arena and Jurgen Klopp will expect a similar performance from his players here. Dortmund are unbeaten in their last 8 in all competitions, winning 7, and should be confident of securing glory. Bayern Munich struggled to a 1-0 win over Stuttgart on the final day of the season and it remains to be seen how motivated the players are having lumbered to the end of the campaign. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola will be expecting a much improved performance from his players against Dortmund as they aim to secure a domestic double. However, it must be said that both teams will be vying for the trophy to end the campaign on a high and it could result in an entertaining affair between the pairing that could go all the way.

Mario Mandžukić and Bastian Schweinsteiger will not help Bayern Munich in their quest for their tenth domestic double. Schweinsteiger was day-to-day with knee inflamation, while Mandzukic’s absence was a managerial decision. Sport Bild reported that the Croatian has departed Germany to meet up with his compatriots in preparation for the World Cup. Guardiola supposedly bid him a farewell beforehand, saying “I wish you well at your new club.” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge refused to comment, according to Sport Bild, but Guardiola revealed in his press conference that Mandžukić was “left out of the roster for disciplinary reasons.”

Team News
For Borussia Dortmund:
Jurgen Klopp will be without quintet Ilkay Gündogan, Sven Bender, Oliver Kirch, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Neven Subotic due to injury. Marco Reus is a doubt having limped out of the last game of the season against Hertha. Klopp must decide whether to field Robert Lewandowski, who is joining Bayern in the summer, or start Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front.
FC Bayern Muenchen - Training SessionFor Bayern Munich:
Mario Mandzukic will play no part in the DFB-Pokal final and has likely played his final game for the club.
Pep Guardiola is without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcántara, Tom Starke and Xherdan Shaqiri as the quartet are injured.
The Spaniard is expected to deploy Mario Götze in the false 9 role.

Halftime Prediction:
Bayern Munich can’t go into this match content to play their brand of football and not respond to the threats of Jurgen Klopp’s side. Their ability to absorb pressure plays perfectly into dismantling possession based sides that commit large numbers of men to attack. Bayern might just secure a double by winning  the game on penalties.

BETTER COACHES, BETTER PLAYERS – TOLA OGUNLEWE

imagesLONDON, ENGLAND.

FA Chairman Greg Dyke came up according to him with a spectacular plan to regenerate the talent coming through the youth ranks in England in a bid to eventually win the World Cup in 2022. This has been a plan that has been contemplated since 2011. Quite frankly England has not produced a World Class player in decades.

Did someone mention Wayne Rooney? Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo started almost on the same level at Manchester United; Ronaldo has gone on to win the Ballon D’or twice and runner up four times to Lionel Messi. So if Rooney is World Class then Ronaldo and Messi have to be Galaxy Class.

Back to Greg Dyke’s plan for England, the four key proposals are:

• A new League Three to be introduced in 2016-17, combining the top half of the Conference and 10 Premier League B sides.

• A beefed-up home-grown players’ rule requiring 13 members of the 25-man squad to have been trained in England as youngsters by 2020-21.

• A more strictly enforced work permits system that would prevent Premier League sides from having more than two non-EU players.

• A new loan system that will allow Premier League clubs to loan up to eight players to a strategic partner below the Championship.

engu21_2643681kThis is very similar to the procedure that operates in Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands as majority of the top clubs have their B teams playing in a league on the league pyramid. In Spain the B teams play in the second tier while in Germany the B teams play in the third and fourth tier. It is important to note that the sole aim of this plan is to boost the number of quality talents coming through the youth ranks, home-grown players as they call it.

However this does not look like the plan to solve the problem. As Arsene Wenger said the problem with youth in England is that the youth players spend more time playing competitions than on the training pitch, which is a very valid statement. The introduction of a new league is exactly the point, another competition which the youth players have to compete in. The great Brazilian Player Ronaldinho once said “I don’t go to training to train, I go to training to learn”. The obvious truth is the more time you spend learning the higher the potential is for you to get better. An additional competition quite simply does not do that.

Let’s take a look at clubs that have one of the most successful youth set ups in the world such as Barcelona and Ajax, majority of the time is spent in the academy with elite coaches perfecting all aspects of their game which proves crucial in future developments of the player. It’s what they call the TIPS system. Improving the Technique, Intelligence, Personality and Speed of the players is considered as key. Upon this system is the success of the youth systems of Ajax. Many of the youth systems in England are not built on systems like this which ultimately affects the quality of players being produced.

youth-soccerAnother aspect that is often overlooked is the quality of coaching; this is where England needs to focus all of their attention. If the quality of the coaching is not world class then certainly the players cannot be. Even at the highest level there is only a handful of World Class British Managers and certainly none of them manage abroad.

In the Barclays Premier League there are 11 home-grown managers with 5 in the top ten while in Spain there are 13 home grown managers and 7 in the top ten. In terms of playing personnel, England has the second highest percentage of foreign players in Europe second only to Cyprus who have 60 percent of the players in their league as foreigners. Obviously the Barclays Premier league hierarchy is not in support of this new innovation because quite simply it has all the tools to destroy what the English themselves have termed the best league in the world.

Quite simply the influx of foreign talents in the Premier League is what has made the league what it is. The plain truth is if the English players were good enough or were developing as they should, the managers would not go abroad to get players who they believe can do the job and the same applies all over the World. At Real Madrid almost the entire first team are foreign players, this is fuelled by modern day football’s desire for immediate success. Managers quite simply do not have the luxury of time to groom younger players. There would be the exception of course but this is where the quality of the coaching at the youth level comes in. The English simply do not have elite coaches and that is where the focus should be.

Improve the quality of the coaches at youth level and the players would improve, otherwise we would have less Luis Suarez’ and Yaya Toures and more well……….

It is still to be seen whether this plan would be implemented but if it is, it certainly won’t solve the problem that England faces in terms of home-grown quality and it would almost certainly bring an end to the excitement that is in the Barclays Premier League.

Lagos Traders Cup Finals Preview

All is now set for the grand finale of the maiden edition of the Lagos Traders Cup competition, the competition is a Five a Side tournament which pitched major markets in Lagos state. It is organized by SNT SelSports Limited and supported by Telecommunication Giants, MTN. The competition began on the 20th of April, 2014 born out of the need to reward Traders who continue to be in the fore front of football followership and support for all Nigerian National teams; 32 teams started the competition from the group stage and all is now set for the Semi finals and Finals which would be played on the same day at the Campos Mini Stadium in Lagos Island.

The Four remaining Teams in the competition are Sandgrose Market, Obalende Market, Babalola Itire Market and Ilasamaja Zone 3 Market; all four teams have given a great account of themselves throughout the tournament and look poised to deliver excellent performances on the final day with the winning team expected to get an all expense paid trip to Brazil for their troubles and second and third prizes of N700,000 and N400,000 respectively.

At Halftimeng.com; we take a look at the four semi finalists, the star players from each team and the favourites going into the final day.

 

Sandgrose Market

Sandgrouse Market are without a shadow of a doubt the favorites going into the semi final stage, they have played the best football so far in the tournament. The team comprises of nibble, fleet footed, young, talented players with good football brains. They are firmly at home on the pitch, make very good intelligent runs off the ball and make good use of the ball, however as with every team there is a psychological weakness in this team, once they take a two goal lead, they automatically take their foot off the gas. In the five matches they have played so far, the margin of victory has not been more than two goals; this is despite their total control of proceedings.

Player to Watch

DSC_0453[2]DSC_0453[2]

Hakeem Wasiu

Low Centre of gravity, intelligent on and off the ball; all things good about the Sandgrouse Market team goes through him. For Sandgrouse to go all the way, he has to be at the peak of his powers.

 

Obalende Market

Obalende Market probably has the biggest team in this tournament in terms of the size and height of their players; they use their physical advantage to good effect, but also have a number of skillful and lethal players. If Sandgrouse plays to entertain; Obalende aims to get the job done with ruthless efficiency and with as less style as possible.

Player to watch

Emmanuel Kio

Talk about a tall, slim forward with a somewhat deceptive style and approach; Emmanuel is one of the main reasons Obalende are where they are today, accounting for over 50% of the teams goals.

 

Babalola Itire Market

Talk about a team that went through the group stages unnoticed, just getting bye with only a win; in the group stage they have however found their feet. Babalola Itire can be considered as dark horses in this tournament.

Player to watch

DSC_0850

Godwin Odiah

Left footed and deadly in front of goal, one of the top marksmen in this competition, the catalyst for Babalola finding their form in the knock out round.

 

Ilasamaja Zone 3

Talk about riding your luck, Ilasamaja Zone 3 qualified from a group where a toss of a coin was used to determine its fate. The team has grown in confidence as the competition progressed, out living its more illustrious neighbours Ilasamaja Zone 1. Ilasamaja 3 are ranked outsiders in this tournament.

Player to watch

Muri Salaudeen

Solid, competent and driven; Ilasamaja Zone 3 would be counting on him to drag the team to the promise land.

 

It promises to be a thrilling finale to a competition that has brought the best out of Lagos Traders coupled with the presence of some the big names in the Nigerian Entertainment scene expected to perform at the event; these include Kcee, Iyanya and Sean Tizzle. The spectators are not left out at all, with the best supporters expected to win the sum of N150,000 for backing their teams.

 

By Adeyemi Adesanya (@yemimanutd)