Downed by MK Dons (Micheal Awe)

Funny enough they were often the team that my pals and I used to use when trying to reference a team we thought were cupcakes or pushovers. Often we would say “ oh such and such team is going to get an easy draw, they’ll probably be slotted against MK Dons”

That’s why it was somewhat ironic when this same team laid absolute waste to my mighty Manchester United. The soccer world went absolute bonkers with the story of the Dons beating United 4-0 in their Capital one Cup matchup in front of just under 30,000 delirious fans.  The media had a field day, but what are they supposed to do? Its not every day you get a story of David vs Goliath with David not only beating Goliath but also doing a dance around the fallen corpse, so the media went on overkill.

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Of course a number of non-United fans tried to have a go at me over the defeat thinking that the loss would actually bother me, but as they sadly realised. It didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate losing. Doesn’t matter the team or the occasion. Losing grates at me, however I have followed sports for such a long time, analyzed so many games, seen so many wins and losses that I have learnt to look a bit deeper and often think big picture. Most people look at the headlines – MK Dons thrashes Manchester United 4-0 and say “ well United’s 3rd team squad should beat MK Dons a team in the 3rd tier of English Football, but if you ask them, how many of the players that Manchester United fielded that fateful day would they want their club to acquire and I bet you the room would go silent.  Some would say that many of the players were internationals, but that probably says more about the level of players in that nation rather than the player itself. Of all the players who played that day only 2 are seen as actual Manchester United regulars – goalie David DeGea and young Adnan Janujaz.  Danny Welbeck still young has reportedly been told that he is not up to United standards and is on the precipice of leaving. Chicharito Hernandez  going through a horrendous run of form has likewise been told he can leave and its still a shock that the likes of Anderson actually are still employed at Manchester United. Johnny Evans a veteran defender playing in his first game this season after recovering from (another) injury was extremely poor and can’t be relied on for consistency, once again a fact that anyone who watches Manchester United would know.  The rest of the lineup consisted of Michael Keane, Vermijl, Powell,  Saidy Janko and Kagawa (who was subbed off early and replaced by Adnan).

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So on one hand I have a lineup full of reported rejects and the other half players who had seen very little if any time playing senior team games, all  playing in a system that even the first team squad is still struggling to grasp.

I repeat I don’t like losing. Never have never will but if a team full of first team regulars had lost to MK Dons I would have been worried, not this group that will probably see few if any big game nights at  the Theatre of Dreams- Old Trafford.

Halftimeng UCL Mock Draw 2014/2015

Another season of the Uefa Champions League is upon us, last season was all about the La Decima obsession; now its about if Real Madrid can do the unthinkable to retain the Holy grail of club football. As is with us at halftimeng.com; we always put together a mock draw to prepare you for the real thing this evening; notable absentees would be past winners Ac Milan and Manchester United; who together have 10 Champions League/European Cup triumphs between them . It would be interesting to see what group the likes of Athletico Bilbao, Maribo, Ludogorets and Malmo fall into.

Agressive goalkeeping

Also there is the small matter of the second season of the UEFA Youth League as well as the selection of the 2013/14 UEFA Best Player in Europe award which Manuel Neuer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Adjen Robben are vying for.

Our Mock Draw selections are as follows:

S/N Group A Group B Group C Group D
1 Barcelona Bayern Munich Porto Chelsea
2 Schlake04 Juventus Manchester City PSG
3 Galatasaray Sporting Lisbon Bayer Leverkusen Atletico Bilbao
4 Anderlecht Apoel Monaco Maribo
S/N Group E Group F Group G Group H
1 Real Madrid Arsenal Benfica Atletico Madrid
2 Dortmund Basel Shakhtar Donesk Zenit St. Petersburg
3 Liverpool CSKA Moscow Olympiakos Ajax
4 AS Roma Ludogorets Bate Borisov Malmo

Some tasty looking pairings here, hopefully we will get some of the likely pairings right.

 

 

Hey Louis, your season starts now.

even-david-moyes-yu7b0z

Wow! How do I start? I walk into the room into a chorus of laughter and mockery, yes Manchester United were roundly beaten, black and blue infact. By who? MK Dons, what a night; never thought this would ever happen, but then a certain David Moyes said there would be days like this. I check twitter and I see I have been bombarded by different tweets by notorious anti-United handles such @olywal, @larryeghosa, @olumose, @tolushotade etc; the hatred towards Manchester United is unprecedented, but then success can attract envy and I would say that is the case in this situation.

Van-Moyes

So, Louis Van Gaal has had a less than encouraging start to the season; as a seasoned manager I trust he would shoulder the blame entirely as well and in no way shape or form is Ed Woodward to blame for the defeats, as he is not in any way responsible for team selection and tactics, so please lets leave the guy out of this and leave him to concentrate on making this summer transfer window as successful as we expect.

Moving forward, the season starts now for Manchester United and its manager, a lot has been said about the poor starts he endured at Barcelona and Bayern; unfortunately the Premiership is quite unforgiving and ruthless to slow starts these days, but like the yorubas will say ”O ba ni, ko baje” (meaning: it is not yet broken). Players have to wake up, carry and shoulder the burden, you lot earn huge sums of money; you play for Manchester United for pete’s sake.

Next game is at Turf Moor to face newly promoted Burnley; unfortunately United do not have fond memories of the stadium as the Red devils were defeated in 2009 at their last visit. This stat doesn’t inspire confidence, but it is just the right game for United to bounce back and make a huge statement. Hopefully, United’s two Argentine signings would have gotten their work permits and be ready for their debuts at such a tough ground. There is light at the end of the tunnel for United and I say this for the following reasons:

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Louis Van Gaal remains a top manager

Some people have gone on social media, campaigning on the virtues of David Moyes; yes he defeated teams United have struggled against at the beginning of this season, but that’s where the David Moyes legend ends. There is absolutely no basis to compare both coaches, people (non United fans) need to get off Van Gaal’s back for sticking with the 3-5-2 formation, which he has not at anytime stated he would stick to through out the season.

Tha Manager has been here before, he has had bad starts at previous clubs (Barcelona and Bayern Munich); made changes and ended up winning the league; United fans aren’t even asking for a league triumph this season, all they ask for is to return to Europe’s elite which is been missed out from for the first time since 1995.

I particularly like the fact that, we haven’t seen him barking out instructions to the players on the touchline yet, but taking notes; this is a good sign more so there are 5days to the end of the transfer window with the club still linked to a number of talents that can plug the holes that have been noticed in the first three games.

So calm down, Van Gaal can do it.

United fans

 

The FANS remain faithful

I think I am right to say that modern football fans are very quick to judge and United fans are not left out of these especially the younger ones; for those that have supported the team for  a long period; I am sure there is still a lot of faith in this team and especially the manager. It is difficult coming off a period of imperious dominance to now stomach this current performance; Old Trafford will always be at capacity and the away contingent will continue to follow the team in large numbers, United had 6,000 fans at Milton Keynes last night; the only way is up.

A cheeky Stat

The last time Manchester United failed to win in its first two matches of the season was in 2007/2008 season and also previously in 1992/1993 and 1998/1999; the team went on to win the league; I am sure you will notice that in two of those years United were crowned European Champions (see why its a cheeky stat).

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There is no cause for Alarm, the Lord has sent us an Angel.

Halftimeng EPL Team of the Week (25/08/14)

Another weekend, some more Manchester United struggle. It was a weekend for players in the doldrums to find their feet to put up sterling performances. We learnt most importantly, that Manchester City won’t give up their crown easily, second season syndrome might be a good thing for some players and the 3-5-2 formation continues to struggle even though we at Halftimeng remain adamant that it will work with our Team of the Week lined up as follows: EPL-2014-8-25 In goal is Hull’s Allan McGregor with a string of super saves against Stoke City which ensured the game ended in a draw even though the Hull hierarchy felt aggrieved by throw in which was awarded wrongly to Stoke. Our three man defence is led by Spurs youngster, Eric Dier; who has been a breathe of fresh air to the Spurs defense; Branislav Ivanovic brings some power and brute force to the defence after a solid performance against Leicester City; Jan Vertonghen adds some much needed poise and panache to the defence from a sterling performance at home to QPR.

In midfield, Jack Rodwell is rediscovering some of his talent after his move from Manchester City with a good gritty performance against Manchester United, Mark Noble’s leadership qualities came in handy against Crystal Palace with Gareth Barry giving a master class in defensive midfield play and what a cross for Everton’s first goal. Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela provided the creative spark that Spurs needed, a combination of pace and elegance on the ball to ensure that Spurs got the better of QPR.

Upfront, talk about dragging your team from the clutches of defeat; Olivier Giroud was splendid as Arsenal drew Everton at Goodison Park; to complete the team is Stevan Jovetic with a man of the match performance in the Monday night game against Liverpool scoring two goals, detailing why he is still highly rated.

Our manager of the week, with two wins from two games; Mauricio Pochettino gets the nod after a dazzling display against QPR and returning manager; Harry Redknapp.

CHELSEA FC – THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY?

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The 2013/2014 season was more of a transitional phase for the London billionaires, as Jose Mourinho constantly reminded everyone, Chelsea were the little horses in a race that involved sides that had enjoyed better stability in the previous seasons either from a coaching or playing staff perspective. Chelsea on the other hand; had to endure frequent turnover of coaches (AVB – RDM – Rafa – JM) all within a space of two seasons.

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Nonetheless, Chelsea still had a respectable 3rd place finish in the League (though they had the chance to gazzump City in the final 6weeks but blew it), semi-finalist place in the UCL and a quarter-final place in the FA Cup also.

One is only left to wonder what would have been for Chelsea if they had a striker who could provide a minimum of 25goals a season and a proven/consistent playmaker who could supply the condiments for a goal. All of these were lacking in the Chelsea side of last season. However, it appears Jose Mourinho was quick to fix those frailties early in the summer.

Jose

SUCCESS DETERMINANTS

Fabregas’ arrival looks like the most brilliant piece of business Mourinho did in the summer. He is a proven Premier League player whose brief sojourn in Spain has also exposed him to a direct tutoring from the pass-master, Xavi Hernandez amongst other benefits. His showing in the pre-season matches also goes further to prove that when in his element, he has the ability to deliver those final balls that were lacking for Chelsea in the second half of last season especially. With all of Osacr and Willian’s energetic displays, they still come short in terms of matching Fab’s ability to pick out a pass in a crowded area as his pass/assist statistics in Europe last season shows.

To complement his arrival is the purchase of Diego Costa. Costa provides a balance of power, pace and precision – the 3 Ps required of a modern centre forward. Mourinho has always been known to build his team around power-play, hence, he requires a centre forward who is burly and well skilled at holding up play in order to bring his midfielders into the game. Costa has done this for Atletico with mastery in the past two seasons and the Chelsea set-up at the moment appears made for him to excel. Glimpses of what he can do as a hussler from the midfield and a predator around the 18-yard box were seen in pre-season especially against Real Sociedad against whom he had a well-taken brace.

Felipe Luis comes in to replace Ashley Cole who departed for AS Roma at left-back. Luis’ displays for Atletico over the past two seasons show that he offers an added goal threat for Chelsea at the other end aside sharing similar qualities with the departed Cole. He is not afraid of taking a well-aimed shot from a distance and also offers height in the box in dead-ball events.

jose frank john

EXPECTATIONS

Nothing short of the League title is expected from Jose Mourinho and his wards this season. On a personal note, I believe the team is very well equipped for the task. This present squad is far better than the one with which Mourinho won back-to-back League titles in 2004-2006. More so, he now has a squad that is very much in his mould (fighters and boundless energy in Matic, Ramires and Mikel; flair in Hazard, Willian and Oscar; directness in Schurlle & Salah; limitless creativity in Fabregas & Oscar; power in Costa, Ivanovic, Cahill) and ultimately, in Didier Drogba, he has an unrepentant winner and leader with the legendary presence of John Terry.

Manchester City remain a genuine challenger with the reinforcements they have made though Pellegrini’s inability to finish off the race early enough last season, considering the weakness of his closest contenders, cast a shadow over his ability to repeat the feat this time; Arsenal are still a top defensive midfielder, central defender and an out-and-out striker from ending their pretenders tag; Liverpool require a top replacement for Suarez to partner Sturridge upfront and Man. United need more than 3 top signings to mount any challenge for a top-four finish.

In Europe, the team is equally well-poised for a genuine assault. The only obstacle that appears against their ambition to lift the big old ears again is the expensively assembled Real Madrid squad and the “wounded” Bayern Munich team that has managed to retain the core of its team with the exception of Toni Kroos. Nevertheless, another semi-final finish for Chelsea in Europe this term would not be a failure.

With all of these, it looks like the gods have their smiles delicately placed on Chelsea for a bright 2014/2015 season.

Anything short can only spell the end of Mourinho’s aspiration to build a blue dynasty. Roman never keeps his sword in the scabbard!

NPFL WEEK 24 PREVIEW

Action continues across the Nigerian Professional Football league this weekend as hostilities return to the field. We go through all the matches as the various clubs seek ways of grabbing the points at stake.

 

BAYELSA UNITED VS KADUNA UNITED

After  beating crown fc in the week 20 match-up in Benin City, Bayelsa United have gone on to lose their next three matches. This might be traced to the fact that the players of the club are not happy with their Management and threatened to go on strike last week Monday over unpaid wages. After coming into the fray in the second stanza of the league, Solomon Ogbeide has not found it rosy at the helm of affairs, the former Sharks fc Coach is finding it very difficult to pick up points both at home and away from home, this not unconnected to the demands of the players. Playing against a Kaduna United side that rely more on picking maximum points at home, this could be the encounter ‘the Restoration Boys’ might need to start to turn things around as they seek to move out of relegation zone.

Match day 4; Kaduna United 2-0 Bayelsa United (Isah Aminu {pk}, Isah Aminu)

 NPFL-spectators-celebrating

SUNSHINE STARS VS DOLPHINS

Beating Kano pillars was the sweetest thing that could have happened to the Akure Gunners as they are fondly called. But losing to the dark horse of the league Giwa fc in midweek must have brought the Akure Gunners back down to earth as they narrowly lost in Jos. Playing against a Dolphins side brimming with confidence who are yet to lose a match since the second half of the league started and have remained unbeaten in ten matches across all competition might be a herculean task as the Port Harcourt side led by Stanley Eguma will be confident of at least picking a point in Akure to boost their upward surge on the league

Match day 4; Dolphins 2-1 Sunshine Stars table. (Oduokpe Alex {og}, Emem Eduok; Oduokpe Alex)

 

CROWN FC VS SHARKS FC

Lawrence Akpokona should be back for this one after the mini crises in the club that has seen the Media officer of the club suspended. Much will be made of this match as the ‘Ajilete boys’ will want to start picking vital points that might just see them beat the drop as they have sunk heavily into the relegation waters, down to 19th position on the log and without a point since their 2-2 home draw against Bayelsa United in week 19. Gbenga Ogunbote will be wandering what actually is wrong with his team and might just want to make amends for not taking all three points at stake during their midweek match with Heartland. The former Sunshine Stars coach will have his work cut out as he tries to steer the club back to winning ways.

Match day 4; Sharks 3-0 Crown FC (Danladi Isah, Ifeanyi Inyam,Federick Obomate)

 NPFL action

FC TARABA VS NEMBE CITY

Fc Taraba relies heavily on their home form as the Ndubuisi Nduka led team tend to pick maximum points when hosting a premier league club. That confidence might still see them through a hapless Nembe City who are still blowing hot and cold at the same time. Beating Rangers International in midweek might not be enough for the visitors as John Aranka tries to salvage what has been a horrifying season for the club as they still languish in the 20th position on the league table.

Match day 4; Nembe City 1-0 FC Taraba (John Eze)

 

RANGERS INT’L VS GIWA FC

Losing narrowly to Kano pillars in midweek after going ahead twice in that match can be demoralising for the team, but it must be said that for a club that boast of never being relegated in league in their history, much will be expected. Rangers go into this match with the highest goal scorer in the league, Osaguona Ighodaro with 13 goals leading their attack. Placed 16th on the league table will not be a satisfying one for John Obuh and the entire management team of the club. Giwa fc will still believe that they can share the spoils at the Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium as they did when they went to Aba International Stadium to pick up one point.

Match day 4; Giwa FC 1-0 Rangers int’l (Ocheme Edo)

 

HEARTLAND VS GOMBE UNITED

Coach Kelechi Emeteole will not be very happy with the assistant referee that denied them maximum points against Sharks fc in Port Harcourt as his side played well enough to have carted home all three points at stake. But he will want to remedy that against Gombe united who are also on the rise since appointing former National team coach and player, Augustine Eguaveon as their Gaffer. Since coming on as coach of the Desert scorpions, Eguaveon has been able to muster three consecutive wins for the club and that has lifted them out of the relegation zone as they are now placed 15th on the log.

Match day 4; Gombe United 2-1 Heartland (Sulieman Usman, Adamu Mohammed; Bright Ejike)

 

AKWA UNITED VS ELKANEMI WARRIORS

Akwa united will want to make up for points dropped at home to Nassarawa united last week as they face another Northern rival in Elkanemi Warriors. Patrick Udoh will want his lads to pick all three points at stake against the Salisu Yusuf led team as that will be soothing for the Uyo fans. But the former Enyimba coach will definitely have other things in mind as he will array his team with the hope of picking points at the Uyo township stadium.

Match day 4; Elkanemi Warriors 1-1 Akwa United (Hassan Hissien; Emeka Akume)

 

LOBI STARS VS NASARAWA UNITED

Lobi stars have been very formidable at home and they will want to continue in that stride as they seek for the whole points at stake in this weekend’s encounter with their Northern Rival who are on a roller coaster. With just two points behind the league leaders, Mohammed Baba Ganaru and his gang will want to leave the Katsina-Ala stadium with at least a point to keep the pressure on his former side Kano pillars that are on top of the table. For Lobi Stars, their almost perfect home run might see them dispatch the second placed team as they continue to seek points that will push them further up the league table.

Match day 4; Nasarawa United 2-0 Lobi Stars (Seun Sogbeso {2})

 

ABIA WARRIORS VS ENYIMBA

These two sides meet in a local derby and arguably the star match of the week considering the positions of these teams on the table. They slug it out at the Umuahia township stadium seeking to outwit each other in this crunch tie. The first leg ended in defeat for the Aba landlords and revenge will be on their minds as a Cletus Itodo screamer gave the league debutants the maximum points that day. Ladan Bosso will not be counting on Itodo for this one as the midfielder has moved on to Sunshine Stars but he still has players like Bishop Onyeudo, Ogbonnaya Okemmiri and Osas Idehen who once played for Enyimba international. Kadiri Ikhana will be counting on the good form of Nzube Anaezmba, Mfon Udoh who currently is on eight goals to bring the goods home for his side as the city neighbours fight it out.

Match day 4; Enyimba 0-1 Abia Warriors (Cletus Itodo)

 NPFL4

WARRI WOLVES VS KANO PILLARS

Another mouth-watering encounter in the league this weekend as Kano Pillars, the league leaders’ journey down-south to face Paul Aigbogun’s team. This might be an exciting one after all as they seek to consolidate their position on the league table. After triumphing over Rangers in the mid-week clash that saw Rabiu Ali bag a hat trick, Coach Okey Emordi will want to maintain his top spot on the table. But the Warri seas-siders know how the defending champion capitulated in Akure last weekend and will be hoping that the Sai Mai Gida team forget their scoring boots in Kano as they go all out to get maximum points at home. Having lost to Enyimba international in midweek, much redemption will be demanded from the Azubike Egwuekwe led team as they seek to cause a dent to the title hopes of the three time league champions.

Match day 4; Kano Pillars 2-0 Warri Wolves (Theophilus Afelokhai {pk}, Rabiu Ali {pk})

Not a good day for the Masterchef

Disappointing look..
Disappointing look..

“Time to go shopping, not bought a player for 50 days, window shuts in 15 days, what are we waiting for?”

The most entertaining league football is back coupled with its high intensity and drama. And on its full swing, the 23rd Premier League season have started with a major headline already.

Bad day for the Masterchef (Louis Van Gaal) as his unbalanced personnel lost their opening game at home to Garry monk’s Swansea. The experience LVG was playing against Monk – who made his Swans debut ten years ago in League 2 against Nottingham Forest. One would have thought this would be a stroll in the park for the Reds but on seeing the line ups, one needs to have a rethink.

sigurddddalleryImage_epa04356358_Manchester_UnThe very organized swans were brilliant and very adventurous especially with Ashley williams – who was rightly judged as the MOTM following his brilliant display in the defense.

sportUnited’s new captain, Wayne Rooney scored a spectacular goal to level things up after Sung Yeung Ki had put the visitors ahead in the first half before Sigurdsson wrapped things up for the Swans with a little over a quarter of an hour left in the game after an unconvincing defensive display by the United personnel.

After losing it’s opening day game at home for the first time since 1972/73 season, manager LVG has agreed that quality additions are needed if they are to finish well come May 2015. Some players will leave before the transfer window is closed and i’m looking forward to seeing three players at least to bolster the squad:

Angel Di Maria –

In action against Manchester United
In action against Manchester United

who will help create more lively chances and can take advantage of long distance shots and set pieces.

Arturo Vidal – angrelc2e129c5a96_vid His offensive midfield brilliance was key to Juventus’ success last season and also helped his National side to qualify well for the World Cup that was held in Brazil. He can help win more balls, he can be creative and very skillful and that’s an added advantage that will leave your opponents scratching their heads.

Finally, established defenders – Marcos Rojo, Matt Hummels or Benatia – definitely, these established defenders can help the likes of Jones and Smalling mature well since the exit of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

After the loss, LVG has a message for all United faithfuls and football fans across the globe. He said – “We make steps and you have to learn from your steps. We are not the champions. Swansea are not champions because they have beaten us. At the end of the season, we will know who is champion and who has learned from the steps we’ve made.”

So the table is set by the chef, the meal is not user-friendly, everyone attached to Manchester United is wearing a long face, they have endured a torrid time last season, don’t want to experience it this time around, the chief takes a look at Ed Woodward with a strong message on his face – “Time to go shopping, not bought a player for 50 days, window shuts in 15 days, what are we waiting for?”

Who wins what?

city champs

A roller coaster season starts here; fans swap pies and pasties for Toffee apples and candy floss as the English Premier League and other Leagues kick off in major cities in Europe. Here in Nigeria and courtesy; halftimeng.com, we are in no way left out. Some guys have bought new state of the art TV sets, paid up the DSTV subscription and bought the Explorer just to ensure they don’t miss a second of the new season all in High definition.

For some, particularly the members of a Blackberry messenger group, tagged The Soccer Pub (TSP for short), it is an opportunity to gather at the home of one of the patrons and elder statesman of the group for uncountable rounds of alcohol (just hope I am able to hold my liquor); it is the beginning of Nine months of unending banter, abuse, insults and what is best termed as ”NUTS”. So to kick off the season, I wouldn’t put together any elaborate preview; I will just go to my crystal ball, tell you who wins what and who ends up with their faces covered in mud, then I will head online to fill my betting slip(s) either bet9ja or 1960bet and probably put a tenner on these predictions:

Who wins the English Premiership League:

Long story short; Chelsea. Why? Are you mad? You support Manchester United for Christ sake, so what? Well the reason is simple, this squad just looks the part, the transfer business has been excellent and professional. Now going back to my United, the transfer business has been comical and can write a book on how not to put together a transition process.

Champions: Chelsea (even though it gives me a stomach ache)

Top Four Finish

Now we are talking, I pity the scoursers; like Esau sold their birth right for #75Million (I hope this is not blasphemous) in the shape of Luis Saurez’s transfer to Barcelona. The arrival of Louis Van Gaal ensures Manchester United will compete, but then unlike his previous stints where he has won the league at the first time of asking he may fall short due to the snail like process of completing the club’s transfer dealings.

Top Four Verdict: Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal (fourth as usual)

Relegation dog fight:

The teams that came up haven’t done any really good pieces of business over the summer, but then you have got to say the likes of Sunderland, Aston Villa and Hull who struggled last season would also find it very tough this season, one of them may just be sucked into the equation.

Relegation verdict: swift return for Burnley and Leicester, joined by West Bromwich Albion 

Top Scorer

So Saurez has left with his 31goals, Daniel Sturridge remains with his 21goals; its would be a good year for a new comer to prevail to the top of the scorer’s chat; but then the old chaps just know the league to well and know how to put it in the Auld Onion Bag.

rooneyvanpersie

Top Scorer verdict: Robin van Persie (United need chop something too na)

PFA Player of the Year : Cesc Fabregas (no need to talk too much)

PFA Young player of the year: Ander Hererra 

Who wins Serie A:

With the arrival of Massimo Allegri, I tend to pity the old lady, because that just threw their fourth straight title out the window. So who then? I have got to say Roma or Napoli; however, there is a caveat. Roma must keep Strootman and Benatia to have any chance at all; Napoli just need a good run of luck. Moreso, these Roma team is a year older, mature and ripe for a title.

Champions: Roma (Rudi Garcia must deliver)

Top Three: Same as last season (Roma, Juventus and Napoli); Inter and Fiorentina need to be watched closely.

Relegation dog fight: Empoli, Cesena, Sassuolo (second season syndrome)

SSC Napoli's Argentine striker Gonzalo H

Capocannonieri (Top Scorer): Gonzalo Higuain

Who wins La Liga

Can you actually look beyond Real Madrid? No I can’t. Current Champions Atletico Madrid have replaced their departures quite well; Barcelona on the other hand have a new manager and also splashed the cash; but on the balance of their squads; its got to be Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.

Champions: Real Madrid’s Galacticos

Top four: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla

Relegation dog fight: Cordoba. Eibar and Almeria

Ronaldo-Villarreal-Sept2013

Pichichi (Top scorer): Cristano Ronaldo

Bundesliga:

Last season, Dortmund ensured I had my face covered in mud as I pitched for them considering the amount of changes Pep Guardiola was trying to implement. Irrespective of this Bayern prevailed quite comfortably, now we have had a repeat of the start of last season. Dortmund have won the Super Cup comfortably once again and Bayern look in disarray. The thing is both teams need to keep their top players to have a sustained charge for the title.

Champions: Dortmund again (Klopp no fall my hand again oooo)

Top four: Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, Schalke

Relegation dog fight: Paderborn, Augsburg, FC Cologne

Lewandowski-1

Top scorer: Robert Lewandowski

Ligue 1:

Really, do I need to waste my time here? Forget about the poor start, PSG are a juggernaut ready to sweep all in front of them quickly so as to concentrate on making an impression in the Champions League; but then Marseille will have a say in the equation. So lets just move on.

UEFA Champions League

It is always difficult to defend the UCL, just ask Milan how they did it back in 1989 and 1990. Real Madrid have it all to do, achieving La Decima is and will not be enough, creating a new piece of history is the next frontier, to be the first team to retain the UCL in the Champions League era.

FBL-EUR-C1-BAYERN MUNICH-TRAINING

Winners: All I see is English, but there’s a German feel good factor, so I am going Bayern Munich.

Europa League 

Sevilla and Benfica served up a really exciting final last time out, so expect some more fire works especially when the Champions League drop outs join the fold.

Winners: Fiorentina (this is straight out of the ball pack)

So that’s that, hopefully I will be right half of the time. Let the games begin.