This Weekend (29/11/14)

The derby di Madoninna may have ended last weekend’s encounters, this weekend we take out preview team across europe starting with the game at the Olympico where Inter visit Rudi Garcia’s Roma and we then make the usual stops in France, England and Spain.

mancini

Roma v Inter

Inter have been boosted by the arrival of Roberto Mancini with morale high after avoiding defeat in his first two games in charge. Mancini is trying to instill his philosophy into this team quickly and some players are already fighting for their place, point of reference is Nemanja Vidic. Roma are the team expected to push Juventus all the way, but would be disappointed with their performance in their last Champions League game against CSKA where they let a lead slip and have to get a win in the final game against Manchester City. Roma have won six straight home games in Serie A, so an impeccable home record poses a huge problem for Mancini’s Inter. Although, morale is very high, Inter would have to improve in all areas to get anything from the Olympico.

Halftimeng Verdict : Roma win expected

Valencia v Barcelona

After breaking two records in the space of five days, you ask yourself what more can we expect from the Meastro thats Lionel Messi; well its simple more goals and breathe taking performances; note he has scored five goals in his last three matches against Valencia. Barcelona have sort of rediscovered their form and are playing some great football again, although they continue to worry me defensively as that continues to be an area where they flatter to deceive.

santo

Valencia under Nuno Espirito Santo are a different proposition this season, playing with a freedom reminicent of the Rafa Benitez glory days. Already, Valencia have put paid to Atletico Madrid, so will view this game as an opportunity to make a huge statement of intent this season and the signs are ominous as Valencia are undefeated in their last 7 games at the Mestalla, but then Barcelona are undefeated at the Mestalla in their last seven visits; game just reads both teams cancelling themselves out. Valencia would be looking to bounce back from derby defeat to Levante as Barcelona look to continue to good run of form; a victory for Los Che would throw the cat amongst the pidgins.

Halftimeng Verdict : Barcelona to win, but only just.

Southampton v Manchester City

This would normally not have appeared on any big game list at the start of the season; but then this is second v third in the English Premiership. Southampton are in this position because of the excellent work of Ronald Koeman, the Saints have had a great start to the season; but it gets really tough now as they face the big boys with Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton part of their next five games; their campaign starts now.

forsterHart

Manchester City will look back at their victory over Bayern Munich has a potentialstepping stone to getting their season back on track and with Sergio Aguero; you really cannot but see them clawing their back into contention. Two point seperate both sides with this clash providing so much to play for, both team wan to stay in touch with leaders Chelsea. The clash also provides the sub plot of two of England’s best Goalies going head to head; Southampton need to wake up from the lethagic performance at Villa Park to consolidate their position in second; whats to say it cannot be done with five straight home wins coupled with a clean sheet for the Saints makes this a tough ask for champions Manchster city.

Halftimeng Verdict : Tough call, but a score draw looks likely.

de bryune

Wolfsburg v Borussia Monchengladbach

Another second v third game just like in the Premiership as Wolfsburg look to bounce back from their defeat to Everton in the Europa League as well as defeat to Schalke in the Bundesliga especially after putting together a run of six straight wins before the back to back defeats. Gladbach like Wolfsburg have also lost back to back games; meaning this promises to be a very well contested match. Wolfsburg are quite strong at home in the Bundesliga and are on a current run of five straight wins with eight wins from their last ten home matches; Gladbach will definitely have it all to do.

Halftimeng Verdict : I expect Wolfsburg to bounce back with a win.

pouchettino

Worthy of mention

Bayern Munich will look to relieve good memories of their title victory ast Herta Berlin, whilst in France; St. Etienne host Lyon and Bordeaux look to bounce back against Lille. In England, Tottenham take on Everton, hopefully there would be no Europa League hangovers and there is the small matter of the Turin Derby as Juventus host Torino.

 

*****Stats courtsey www.whoscored.com

UCL Matchday 5 Review

A record that was going to be broken sooner rather than later, a club from Mersyside hanging on for dear life and the man from Uruguay who can’t stop scoring, here is a review of UEFA Champions league Match day 5 and my team of the week.

 allegri

Massimilliano Alegri must be one relieved man, he heads back to Turin with a victory in the bag knowing that a draw against Atletico Madrid in the final group game would see them banish the demons from last season. They played well in Malmo and got a deserved victory. Mario Mandzukic exited the Vicente Calderon to a standing ovation and boy did he deserve it, a hat trick on the night to go with his workaholic efforts. Olympiakos were no match for Diego Simeone’s men and last seasons runners-up make it to the knockout stage of the competiton with a game to spare. Olympiakos would need a favour from them in the final game if they are to overtake Juventus in second place. Malmo are out.

Jose

Vintage Chelsea on display, at least the Chelsea of this season. Much had been made of Roberto Di Matteo coming up against his former side but Schalke 04 were absolutely destroyed and torn apart. For Didier Drogba, he reaches 50 European goals in his career which is a record for an African player. Chelsea are through as group winners and Sporting Lisbon are in pole position to accompany them, except that they play Chelsea on the final day at the bridge. An inspiring performance from Manchester United outcast Nani at least gives them a fighting chance and keeps their destiny in their own hands.

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Liverpool seem to be a shadow of the team that almost won the league title last seasonand they give new meaning to the phrase “one player can make a football team” with each passing week. New signings benched in Bulgaria and a goalkeeper who seems to be racking up the errors by the numbers, Liverpool would live to fight another day as their final game against Basel is now a must win. Brendan Rogers needs to find the solutions and fast, if not he becomes the first name on the managerial casualty list. Cristiano Ronaldo would not have been happy Lionel Messi broke Raul’s all time Champions League record but least he didn’t sulk about it and actually got the decisive goal in the goal against Basel in Switzerland. He now stands on 71 goals, level with Raul and 3 behind Messi.

real v barca

Speaking of Lionel Messi, he sure does know how to impress. He needed a goal to surpass Raul’s Champions league all time haul and he said well why not give them 3. He now stand on his own atop the rankings of all time scorers in the Champions League but be guaranteed Cristiano Ronaldo would go down fighting and both players might just reach 100 goals by the time all is said and done with. Luis Suarez got off the mark as well with a quite sublime goal which is what Liverpool are missing and Barca would now be seeking top spot in the group ahead of Paris St Germain. Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his return to the competition after injury but its Edinson Cavani who cant stop scoring grabbing the opening goal to keep PSG top of the group.

Arsenal returned to winning ways at home after breezing past Borrussia Dortmund, goals from Yaya Sanogo, his first competitive for the club and the ever impressive Alexis Sanchez did the job. Their attention now turns to winning the group ahead of Dortmund as both teams have qualified. Anderlecht and Galatasaray are out despite Anderlecht’s two goals victory in Belgium. Galatasaray have now conceded in 20 straight away games in the Champions League.

Monaco pulled a shock result defeating Bayer Leverkusen in Germany with their first goal in the competition since Emmanuel Adebayor scored against Deportivo La Caruna in 2004, which means there all to play for on match day 6 while Zenit St Petersburg defeated Monaco by the lone goal scored by Danny. Monaco and Zenit can all still qualify while Benfica are out.

aguero

How else do you describe how important Sergio Aguero is to Manchester City, well FC Bayern found out. Totally outclassed for much of the game by a very focused Pep Guardiola side who also had Medi Bennatia sent off in the first half for a foul on Aguero, Manchester needed an inspiration from somewhere and it came all be it with help from Xabi Alonso and Jerome Boateng. Bayern played as though they had 11 players on the field, controlling and utilising the space beautifully to overpower City. Eliaquim Mangala had another torrid game alongside Vincent Kompany in defense and Bayern’s second goal proved it, Robert Lewandowski rising above two defenders to head home. In the 85th minute, Xabi Alonso feeling very generous on his birthday, misplaced a pass that was intercepted by Stefan Jovetic into Aguero’s path and he did the rest. Boating would make another error and Auero would net his hat trick in stoppage time. Guardiola sure had a right to be upset as his team had no business loosing this one. There is all to play for on the final match day as City travel to Roma with all to play for, CSKA Moskva equalised late against Roma to also give them hope.

FC Porto had already qualified and just for emphasis, a three goal victory over BATE Borisov cemented that. Shaktar Donetsk could not keep up their impressive form and were shocked by Atletic Club who produced perhaps their best performance of the competition so far. Porto and Shaktar are through to the knockout round.

Team of Matchday 5.

  1. Courtois (Chelsea)
  2. John Terry (Chelsea)
  3. Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
  4. Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
  5. Almeida (Benfica)
  6. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
  7. Oxlade Chamberlain (Arsenal)
  8. Paul Pogba (Juventus)
  9. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
  10. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
  11. Mario Mandzukic (Atletico Madrid)

Manager of Matchday 5 : Ernesto Valverde (Atletico Bilbao)

UEFA Champions League Matchday 5 Preview

The Uefa Champions league has reached its business end, and by the end of Match day 5 some big teams would bid farewell to the competition for good, at least the 2014/15 edition. Teams would be looking for favours from rivals as well as inspiration from their fans to give them the extra push. Here is a preview of the penultimate group stage match.

 

GROUP A.

Still a lot to play for in the group of champions, as Atletico Madrid host Olympiakos and Juventus travel to Malmo. There is much more on the line for the Old Lady of Turin than any other team in the group as they look to return to the top of the European echelon by qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition. Last seasons runners up Atletico would look to avenge the defeat suffered the last time they played Olympiakos in Greece. A victory for them would see them qualify and leave the remaining place in the group to be fought out by the three remaining teams. A shock looks on the cards in this group and it might well go down to the final game.

Rodgers

GROUP B.

Liverpool are suffering and have lost four games in a row in all competitions, two of those to Real Madrid in back to back games. Now they need a favour if they are to qualify from the group and avoid an embarrassing exit early on. They travel to Bulgaria to face Ludogorets Razgad as Real Madrid travel to Basel. Madrid have qualified but don’t tell that to Cristiano Ronaldo who along with Lionel Messi is on a mission to become the top scorer in Champions League history. That would favour Liverpool and they need it. A victory for Madrid coupled with a Liverpool victory leave it all to play for between Basel and Liverpool on the final day at Anfield. Expect fireworks in this group.

GROUP C.

A very balanced group with Leverkusen in the driving seat, the Germans host Monaco while Benfica travel to Zenit in Russia. Andre Villas Boas continues to do a good job at Zenit but all that could come crashing down if he fails to get them out of the group. A win for Bayer would see them qualify as group winners and Zenit would join them if they defeat Benfica, very straight forward.

wenger1

GROUP D.

Dortmund are through in this one and Arsenal should join them, but after the Gunners threw away a 3goal lead against Anderlecht and lost to Manchester United in the league at the weekend pressure in mounting on Arsene Wenger to turn things around. Enter Borrussia Dortmund who have all sorts of problems in the league but are riding high in the Champions League. Another injury to Marco Reus was not what they wanted going into one but would have to make do. Arsenal fans have called for Jurgen Klopp to be hired maybe he’ll give them another justified reason as his team go to the Emirates. Anderlecht and Galatasaray battle it out for a Europa League place although the Belgians still think they have an outside chance to qualify. Don’t expect any shocks.

GROUP E.

Perhaps of most concern to English fans, Champions of England Manchester city host Champions of Germany Bayern Munchen. In the reverse fixture, City put up a determined effort led by goalkeeper Joe Hart but a late goal from Jerome Boateng put paid to their efforts and once again they are left clinging on when it matters the most. A dismal performance against Roma at the Etihad Stadium and a two goal lead thrown away in Russia, this is a must win game for City if they are to eventual live up to their potential on the continent. For Bayern Munchen they have gotten better as the season as progressed, both at home and in Europe. Pep Guardiola seems to have gotten it right with his combination in attack and midfield despite having some key players missing. City would be missing talisman Yaya Toure and also Fernandinho, failure to defeat Bayern coupled with a victory for either Roma or CSKA Moskva and City exit the competition at the group stage for a third time in four seasons. For Roma the case is simple defeat CSKA Moskva and your destiny is in your own hands. Remember Roma host City on the final match day. CSKA Moskva is still in the hunt as well but they need a favour from Bayern at City. The odds are against Manchester City for sure and Roma are in full position to capitalize. Bayern have already qualified as group winners.

Messi on the pitch

GROUP F.

Barcelona fresh off Lionel Messi’s record breaking goal in La Liga, travel to APOEL in buoyant mood knowing they have already qualified and perhaps only playing for group winners status. For APOEL Uefa Europa league positions are still up for grabs and a decent performance is what they need. As for Messi he wants to break Raul’s Champions league record, at least before Cristiano Ronaldo does, so don’t expect him to take it easy. He needs just one goal. PSG host Ajax having already qualified and leading Barcelona by one point, Zlatan Ibrahimovic might return in this game for the Parisians against his former club; as Ajax look to get the Europa league place in the group to continue their foray in Europe. Not much to look forward to in this group, expect Messi to break Raul’s record and a few glasses to shattered in Madrid.

RDM

 

GROUP G.

There is still a lot to play for in this group at least on paper. Chelsea travel to Schalke 04 in the big game of the group, not least because Schalke are now managed by former Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea have their destiny in their own hands and a point in Germany would see them qualify for the knockout stages. Chelsea is unbeaten in all competitions this season. Sporting Lisbon still have a lot to play for as well and could capitalise on any slip ups from Schalke, they host Maribor in Portugal.

luis adriano

GROUP H.

This group is practically done and dusted as Porto travel to BATE Borisov and Shaktar Donesk host Athletic Bilbao. Luis Adriano is the top scorer in the competition so far and has a real chance of challenging Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for goals in a single season. An inspiring performance against Basque side Bilbao could move him a step closer. Bilbao have been very disappointing and would be glad they are already out of the competition. Porto is through already and Shaktar should join them easily.

THE MOVING TRAIN CALLED CHELSEA

Last season, Jose Mourhino stated categorically that his “ Chelsea” were not ready to win the premier league title. This season however, he has built a monster, a moving train that is ready to crush anyone or anything that stands in its way. This monster train was built because of certain factors which we will treat.

Diego Costa celebrates after scoring his first goal for Chelsea in a friendly v Olimpija Ljubljana.

Firstly, Chelsea have a very strong first 11 and a squad not lacking quality in every department. This is an upgrade on last season, as Chelsea could not boast of quality in every department especially the attack. The potency of Fabregas, Eden Harzard, Diego Coasta just to mention a few, would strike fear into anyone.

The level of attention to detail in the transfer market this season is another reason why Chelsea have started like a house on fire. As stated earlier, Chelsea ensured that they covered every department, corrected the mistakes of last season and avoided the temptation of luxury buys. These in my opinion are the perfect ways to carry out transfer dealings.

Oscar

 

In Jose Mourhino, Chelsea have a wonderful manager who is the envy of most, if not all teams, he is intelligent, tactically and technically righteous and he has a good command of the media. His critics are quick to castigate him for the ease at which he attracts controversy but even they cannot deny God’s honest truth-there is nothing Jose Mourhino hates in this world more than failure-this spurs his player to perform optimally.

The flexibility of Chelsea would be invaluable if they maintain it till the end of the season. They have used different approaches to games this season. In some games, Chelsea attacked their opponent as a wild beast would do its prey; totally devouring and destroying them. In other games, Chelsea got their results by using a more cautious approach; sitting deep and hitting their opponents on the counter.

One thing this moving train as which has always been in the D.N.A of Chelsea is the desire and hunger to win. However, this hunger has now become insatiable; needing every piece of meat (i.e. 3 points and a point) for survival. An attitude which boost their credentials as potential league winners.

Everything seems to be going well for Chelsea but time will be the biggest factor; as she will determine the duration of their invincibility and whether this train will reach her destination (the title).

By Oluwatobi Peter

@Joel Realities

Its the Derby della Madonnina Weekend (21/11/14)

Thank God, the international week is over and of course for the year as well; we can look forward to Club football uninterrupted till the end of the year and there is a lot to look forward to. This weekend part of our preview involves two match ups that really used to matter; this will take us to Italy and England; we would then head to Spain for the big games there with trips to Germany and France ending our preview tour for the weekend.

AC Milan v Internationale

Talk about two previously great teams that every season were always going neck a neck for a crack at the scudetto or at least were always in the title equation every season. Now, both teams are more on a transition, they are unable to spend big and attract the big superstars, with managers saddled with the responsibility of managing the team on a shoe string budget.

MILAN INTER

This season’s first Milan derby sees the return of Roberto Mancini, a club favouring favourite and one of the few managers in recent history that have had a successful period at the club with Multiple League titles under his belt and the success abroad. It will be interesting to see how well Mancini works with a show string budget at the new Inter, he definitely has his work cut out as the team lacks confidence, defensively it is a shadow of past great inter sides, coupled with the fact that he might have to change the system (3-5-2 formation) which Mancini has had very little success with in time past.

Pipo Inzaghi too has to worry about problems at the back still yet to settle on a central defensive pairing due to injuries, form and suspensions.  Going forward; Milan have looked electric at times with Stefan El- Sharawy finding some semblance of the form that made him the darling of  many Milanista. Creativity from central positions continues to be a problem for Inzaghi and he has opted for grit and steel in the middle with the use of Essien, De Jong and Muntari as his preferred midfield three with Bonaventura dropping in on few occasions. From a tactical stand point this may work fine combating the likes of Kovacic and Hernanes in the Inter Midfield, it would be an intriguing tactical battle between both managers. However, the game has a stalemate written all over it; but then Inter have a new manager and with such appointments comes the desire of the players to impress the new manager and lay claim to a position in the team.

Halftimeng Verdict: A score draw, too close to call.

Arsenal v Manchester United

A few seasons ago, this would be termed a potential title altering clash; but then both team’s have fallen from grace depending on what side of the divide you belong to. Manchester United have won 5 of the last 8 premier League titles and Arsenal haven’t won the league since 2004; this stat puts the battle between this teams in real context. If there is a game Manchester United fans would not want to lose, its the one against Arsenal and if there is any team Arsenal fans would want their team to defeat its Manchester United; this is taking into consideration that Arsenal have only won one of their last eleven games against United. United fans would point to the fact that the sole victory in question was as United were wrapping up another title triumph and also that despite United’s worst season in ages, the Red Devils still got four points off the gunners last season.

battle-of-ot

To the game proper, both teams have the worst injury and fitness record of this season, but Arsenal have more encouraging news on the injury front as United continue to struggle with its combinations in defence and of course the continued struggles of Radamel Falcao. Arsenal have the in form player of the Premier League in Alexis Sanchez, who has started life at the Emirates like a house on fire and he would be looking to continue his great vein of form which he also took to the international week.

There are a number of sub plots in this tie, even though both teams lie in 6th and 7th and look more likely to be content with a top four placing than actually competing for the title. Danny Welbeck faces his former side and a lot had been made about his treatment by Louis Van Gaal and that United had lost its soul by selling off one of its academy trained players; he goes into this game with a healthy goals tally, but then has not scored in five games for Arsenal, even though he scored during the international break; consistency continues to be the major problem and he needs to find it to be considered seriously. From the United side, a goal by Wayne Rooney, would give him a record of having scored the most goals against Arsenal in this era. Key battles to consider would be Alexis Sanchez running at whatever central defensive partnership United opt for and Angel Di Maria up against Calum Chambers, rewinding to the torrid time Chambers had against a fleet footed winger in the shape of Jefferson Montero, on Arsenal’s last game before the international break.

Halftimeng Verdict: A 1-1 draw in prospect.

Lazio v Juventus

Lazio seem to have bounced back from their early season struggles, building considerable form before the international break with a run of four wins from their last six games. Massimo Allegri has proved a number of his critics wrong (including me) steadying the Juve ship and giving them better defensive solidity, Juve also have an identical record to Lazio, but have been him solid goal scoring form adding defensive solidity to it with zero goals conceded in their last two matches; interestingly switching to a back four.

Juve have the mid week distraction of the trip to Malmo in the champions league to worry about, this may play into Lazio’s hands, but then the Bianconerri have the squad depth to ensure they are solid all through. Lazio would go into this game supremely confident with five wins in their last six home games, but would have it at the back of their minds that they have only defeated Juve once in their last six meetings.

Halftimeng Verdict: Another score draw in prospect

 

Barcelona v Sevilla

Barcelona bounced back from back to back defeats in La Liga with a hard fought victory away to Almeria just before the international break. If you ask me, I strongly believe Luis Enrique has not settled unto his preferred back four coupled with his handling of the much experienced guys in the team like Xavi and Iniesta; then there is the Messi issue. The quest to break the all time La Liga seems to be weighing on Lionel Messi and it seems to have started weighing on the team, so the sooner he breaks it the better.

Sevilla, have had a great start to the season and are only two points off Barcelona in fifth place, but have a dreadful record against the Catalan team with five straight losses and the last time they recorded a victory was in 2002; this is coupled with Unai Emery’s poor record against Barcelona, it basically has Barcelona as clear favourites. Ivan Rakitic faces his former club side with him yet to fully settle at the Nou Camp, but with a point to prove if given the nod to start against the Andalusia club.

Halftimeng Verdict: Barcelona win

 

LEVANTE VALENCIA

 

Levante v Valencia

The Valencia Derby provides us one of the derbies where both teams are more or less equal in their current form in the derby. Valencia are the more illustrious team of the two, multiple league titles, champions league final appearances, UEFA cup victory have been the hall mark of Valencia in the recent past, even though they may have fallen from grace recently as they continued to sell their best players every season. Levante on the other hand, until a couple of seasons ago were more suited to the lower leagues, building a reputation has a team that acts as spoilers to the more illustrious club in La Liga.

santo

Valencia have had a great start to the season under new manager, Nuno Espirito Santo; Valencia are undefeated in 11 of their last 12 games in La Liga with defeat coming away to Deportivo La Coruna with an impressive performance against Atletico Madrid. Levante have struggled this season with only one win from their last six games, so go into this game as clear under dogs, but as you know with the derby the form book is thrown out the window.

Halftimeng Verdict: Valencia win

 

Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim

Bayern remain undefeated so far in the Bundesliga, but have quite a growing list of injuries; but would be fine by virtue of the squad depth the Bavarians possess. Hoffenheim lost back to back games just before the international break after such a good start to the season.

Bayern are in immaculate form, conceding only three goals so far winning their eight home games and are undefeated in twelve games against Hoffenheim. You cannot look beyond Bayern to get the result here, their depth and strength in all positions, sets them apart from the other teams in the Bundesliga.

Halftimeng Verdict: Bayern comfortable win

 

Marseille v Bordeaux

Marseille have experienced a major slump from their earlier great start to the season where they went on to winning streak of eight games and looked immaculate at times, but two defeats in their last three games to two major title rivals must really hurt Marcelo Bielsa, but they need to snap out of it and ensure a victory against another potential title rival.

EL lOCO

Bordeaux have also had a great start to the season and led the league at the early stage of the season, but injuries have taken its toll ion the team, but Willy Sagnol has done a great job so far with the club and will expect to finish in the European places.

The tie promises to be a tactical spectacle as both sides play three at the back; although both teams have shown flexibility and ability to switch it around in game to a much more steady back four as the situation may arise. Marseille are undefeated in their last 7 meetings against Bordeaux and have won their last 5 home games; this makes Marseille clear favorites, but this is a key clash that L’OM cannot afford to drop points as PSG have gone two points clear at the top with their victory at Metz.

Halftimeng Verdict: Marseille win

Worthy of mention

This weekend signals the MLS Conference finals as New York Red Bulls take on the New England Revolution with the L.A. Galaxy also taking in Seattle Sounders. All these sides consist of top ex premier league players who have really lit up the league this season with the likes of Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry, Brandley Wright Phillips, Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey to name a few who have brought their experience and clout to elevate the league and make this years title chase quite intriguing.

Also, worthy of mention is David Moyes first game at Real Sociedad as they visit the Riazor to tackle Deportivo La Coruna.

Le Classic Weekend (07/11/14)

After all the mid week exhaustion, focus returns to the bread and butter of the domestic game; where teams who faltered in mid week will be seeking the safe haven of their domestic league as a means to bounce back into form or use as a spring board to improve overall team confidence.

The This weekend crew will be taking  trips to England, Russia, France and Germany; previewing the big games that we expect to light up our television screens this weekend.

Dinamo Moscow v CSKA Moscow

Fresh from their heroics at the Etihad stadium, CSKA go into the Moscow derby full of confidence and as clear favorites taking into consideration that Dinamo despite their huge transfer business during the summer with signings like Valbuena and Buttner expected to deliver Champions League football have flattered to deceive although, they have confirmed qualification to the knock out round of the Europa League early. However, with back to back defeats in the League to Rubin Kazan and Locomotiv Moscow, you begin to worry for Dinamo. CSKA on the other hand have the luxury of building on their impressive display in the Champions League despite their league defeat to Zenit last week, coupled with the return to goal scoring form of Seydou Doumbai in mid week gives them the platform to build for success in the near future.

Halftimeng Prediction: CSKA to win comfortably

Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Monchengladbach

This is only been considered a big game due to the pedigree and history of Dortmund, if we are to consider their current league position, this game would and should be over looked. Interestingly, Dortmund continued their good form in the Champions League and would hope they can finally bring that form to bear on their Bundesliga Position. A win here is beyond vital for Dortmund, after five consecutive defeats and are winless in six games in the league. Mochengladbach have the better head to head result in their last six encounters. Gladbach are having a good season so far, holding Bayern Munich at bay and getting a result against Hoffenheim, which ensured they consolidated their position in third place on the league table.

Both teams, go into the clash on the account of good wins in Europe, Gladbach go into this one as clear favorites and with the form book in their favour with back to back wins in the league coupled with doing the double over the Signal Iduna Park outfit last season  and we all know Dortmund have been on a poor run of form that has given them just 7 points from a possible 30 points.

Halftimeng Prediction: Score Draw in prospect.

Paris Saint Germain v Marseille

The early poor form of the Parisians seems to be a thing of the past as the team have started to put together winning streaks, also with qualification guaranteed for the knock out face of the Champions League; PSG seem to be back on course. However, they remain four points behind Marcelo Bielsa’s Olympic Marseille, who have no European distractions and seem like the most likely team ready and willing to go head to head with the team from the capital.

North v South; France’s biggest game; Le Classic; will present us with how far Marseille are willing to go to be top dogs in France; but PSG have had the better of their illustrious rivals lately winning five of their last six encounters. Irrespective of the outcome one thing is guaranteed Marseille will remain top and would go into the game in confident mood, this is despite the fact that they have already lost their first big clash of the season against Lyon.

Halftimeng Prediction: Score Draw (too close to call)

Liverpool v Chelsea

Last season it was all about the great season Liverpool were having; fast forward to this season the situation seems more like an absolute contrast as Saurez departed, so have the goals from Anfield. Chelsea visit Liverpool as usual in very high spirits and would look to the now infamous Gerrard slip(s) as a potential catalyst to continue to build their recent dominance over the Mersey side club.

Jose Mourinho has been hailed for some of the delightful stuff Chelsea have played this season, however; he remains as pragmatic as ever and may switch to the Jose we all love to hate by ‘parking the bus’ despite the array of attacking flair at his disposal; with Jose nothing will surprise many football observers.

Brendan Rodgers, learnt his trade under Jose Mourinho and he keeps going on about his philosophy; like he is in any way a creator of any football style or system. His transfer dealings since taking over at Anfield is a major cause of concern and of course recently, his team selection for the big game against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu; has left a sore taste in the mouth of many Liverpool fans.

Liverpool have been in poor form with only one win in five games, facing an undefeated Chelsea poses a daunting task, but if there was a time Liverpool needed a performance from the likes of Steven Gerrard, its now and it most be pivotal at that.

Halftimeng Prediction: Chelsea to win

Sampdoria v AC Milan

Sampdoria have started this season quite well, despite thoughts that the somewhat easy start to the season was to their advantage, they have handled the tougher games that have come their way lately; draws against Roma and Inter and victory against Fiorentina see them clinging on to the most sort after third position on the Serie A table.

Milan on the other hand, have gone off the boil and continue to have defensive worries; defeat to Palermo at home came as a huge surprise to many. Inzaghi continues to have personnel worries particularly in defense and also seems to be content on seeking creativity from the wide areas as the absence of Riccardo Montolivio continues to be more and more crucial as Milan continue to opt for a work man like midfield of the likes of Muntari, Essien and De Jong.

Inzaghi can take comfort in the reasonable away record Milan currently have with no defeats in their last five away fixtures and their clean sheets in their last three meetings with the Genoa team; Sampdoria are however undefeated in ten of last eleven matches in Serie A.

Halftimeng Prediction: Score Draw in prospect

Fiorentina v Napoli

Napoli will be keen to build on the impressive performance against Roma last weekend to climb its way back into Champions League qualification contention at least, but Napoli need to find consistency now to enable them lay any claims to those European Places.

Fiorentina have completely gone off the boil and Vincenzo Montella is definitely a man under immense pressure, but he has built his team to be solid defensively, but continue to suffer from the absence of the likes of Mario Gomez and Guiseppe Rossi; meaning he will continue with his make shift attack of Cuadrado and Babacar.

Napoli have the best of the head to head with four wins in the last six meetings, coupled with a current run of remaining undefeated in their last six visits to the Viola as well as its current run of seven games without defeat.

Halftimeng Prediction: Napoli win looks more likely, but wont be surprised if it ends in a draw.

 

 

NPFL Week 37 Preview

As we approach the home stretch of this season’s Nigerian Professional Football League, we take a look at the fixtures of the penultimate weekend of 2014 season with a number of potential banana skins for a number of title chasing teams.

BAYELSA UNITED VS LOBI STARS

Two late goals from Terkai Melai and Audu Seriki condemned the team from Yenagoa to defeat in the first leg of this fixture. So, as Bayelsa United fight to beat the drop, expect them to come all out against the Domimnic Iorfa-led team and get all maximum points in their adopted home of Benin.

Week 17 Result; Lobi Stars 2-0 Bayelsa United (Terkaa Melai pk, Audu Seriki)

 

AKWA UNITED VS HEARTLAND

Just one point separate these two sides from themselves on the league table. Akwa united are 12th on the table with 51 points as their visitors from Owerri are 9th on the log with a point haul of 52. Even though the ‘Promise Keepers’ players are not really motivated for this match,as they are owed salaries of several months, they will still want to maintain their near perfect home record having not lost in Uyo this season. Heartland have not been too impressive in their last two outings because they were only able to pick two points from a possible six and they would want to leave the Uyo township Stadium with at least a point.

Week 17 Result; Heartland 1-0 Akwa united (Bright Ejike pk)

FC TARABA VS CROWN FC

FC Taraba are not totally safe from relegation worries and as such cannot shout hurray just yet. But playing an already relegated Crown fc at home, one should expect them to continue from where they stopped in Owerri last week as they picked a vital point on the road.

Week 17 Result; Crown FC 2-0 FC Taraba (Bode Daniel, Nedum Francis)

ABIA WARRIOIRS VS SHARKS FC

Ladan Bosso’s quest to get a continental slot hinges on this match as his team is four points away from that spot. After picking their third away victory in week 36. they will definitely come out guns-blazing as they seek all three points against the hapless Sharks FC from Port harcourt. The Gbenga Ogunbote tutored side are not really motivated for this trip as they threatened not to honour this tie as they demanded all outstanding fees to be paid before they would travel. The Ochendo Boys might just be warming themselves to another three points.

Week 17 Result; Sharks 2-1 Abia Warriors (Christian Pyagbara, Tayo Fabiyi; Peter Onyekachi)

WARRI WOLVES VS GOMBE UNITED

Another crunchy encounter in this week’s fixtures. Paul Aigbogun has done tremendously well for the Warri Sea-siders as they are also in contention for the title if results from other centres go their way in the remaining two fixtures. But they will have to settle out Gombe United who on their own part are also struggling to remain in the Elite league. Much will be expected from the Wolves of Warri as they continue to push for the title and the Desert Scorpions seek points that will guarantee their status in the premier league division.

Week 17 Result; Gombe United 1-1 Warri Wolves (Simon Timothy; Stanley Dimgba

RANGERS VS NASARAWA UNITED

Another crunchy encounter between these two sides. Nasarawa United still have a slim chance of picking the title and it will be a massive improvement for the side that struggled last season to beat the drop. Anyhow you look at it, it will be all gain for Mohammed Baba Ganaru side as they will fight well against the Coal City boys for the three maximum points.

Week 17 result; Nasarawa United 2-0 Rangers (Esosa Igbinoba, Tony Edjomariegwe)

SUNSHINE STARS VS KADUNA UNITED

Not much is in this fixture as Kaduna United are already confirmed to play their next season football in the second tier of Nigerian Football (NNL). For the Akure Gunners, it is more of picking up the three points and finishing as high as possible on the league table.

Week 17 Result; Kaduna United 2-0 Sunshine Stars (Isa Aminu pk, Anthony Michael)

GIWA FC VS ELKANEMI WARRIORS

After losing three valuable points against Nasarawa United on thursday (as they were walked over in Abuja), the league debutantes will want to make up for lost points against a team also struggling to stay up. A draw might not be too far from this fixture as both teams will want to maintain status quo in the premier league.

Week 17 Result; Elkanemi Warriors 2-0 Giwa Fc (Idris Aloma, Anayor Emmanuel pk)

KANO PILLARS VS NEMBE CITY

Top versus Bottom is the best way to describe this fixture. Nembe were confirmed for relegation some weeks ago and might want to play spoilers for Kano Pillars who are seeking their third consecutive title in the league. Kano pillars should brush aside the hapless team from Bayelsa as their fire power up front in the likes of Adamu Hassan and Rabiu Ali should dislodge them easily. Don’t be too surprised if it ends in a high scoring margin for the Sai Masu Gida side.

Week 17 Results; Nembe City 1-1 Kano Pillars (Collins Koute; Rabiu Ali)

DOLPHINS FC VS ENYIMBA INT’L

A fixture that pits two top goal scorers against each other, Emem Eduok vs Mfon Udoh. Both players are fighting to get the gong for the top scorer with their 20 goals each and also in line to break the record for most goals scored in a single season by a player in the premier league set by Jude Aneke in 2011 with 20goals for Kaduna United, but this fixture has been blighted by reports from Port Harcourt suggesting that the homers were not willing to play this match until all their outstanding debt has been paid.

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A rehearsal of some sort for the Federations cup Final as these two side lock horns on the 23rd of November. Enyimba will want to pick maximum points as they know anything short of this will shred their title hopes in tatters. Hopefully, we expect to see the best of football from both teams as they play enterprising and attacking brand of football.

Week 17 Result; Enyimba 1-0 Dolphins FC (Mfon Udoh)

This Weekend (01/11/14)

Ladies and Gentlemen, another weekend of brilliant football action awaits us from different centers in the world and as it is our practice on halftimeng.com, we look at the pick of the bunch and stand out fixtures as we take trips to England, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Manchester City v Manchester United

If there ever was a derby both teams need to win, it would be this one. Manchester City are coming off the back of back to back defeats in the League and Capital one Cup whilst Manchester United are coming off back to back draws in the League with the performance, attitude and application receiving its due commendation. However, this does not serve anyone well when it comes to the derby as the form book is thrown out the window. At home, Manchester City are quite formidable as they are undefeated in 21 of their last 23 matches, but United have gotten the better of them at the Etihad in times pass.

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It promises to be a very feisty affair, and United should do well to seek the opportunity of catching the citizens off guard with a result at the Etihad. Both teams have a number of injury concerns, but it seems that Manchester City have more walking wounded to worry about than United. This game promises a lot and has delivered over the years, City have won three straight derbies, Rooney is the top scorer in the derby, both teams have won the last last three premier league titles.

 

 

There have being one sided high scoring games; late goals, bicycle kicks and who would forget that kiss by Gary Neville on Paul Scholes to celebrate a famous win at the Etihad.

Halftimeng.com Prediction: Another draw with a number of goals

 

Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund

This is the tale of two cities, if I may say so; Bayern are in control of the affairs of the league; they do look like they will wrap it up very early. Borussia Dortmund have for the second season running left me with egg on my face as I had choosen them to break Bayern’s srangle hold on the Bundesliga, but instead have shown relegation form, losing four straight league matches, winless in six straight Bundesliga games  with a total of 7 points gained from a possible 27 points; that is not ideal for a title winning side. However, if there is any team that can not only trouble and get the result against Bayern, its Kloop’s Dortmund which is gradually getting back to full strength.

Bayern have been gloriously impeccable these last few weeks, scoring with reckless abandon with the exception of their visit to Gladbach who proved to be more than an adequate match defensively. We can expect a number of goals in this one, important thing to note is that Dortmund have kept three straight clean sheets in this encounter and defeated Bayern at the Allianz Arena last season even though the league title had been won by FC Hollywood.

Halftimeng.com Prediction: I am going to be bold here, to predict a Dortmund win.

 

Napoli v Roma

There were some unfortunate scenes that characterized this tie last season which eventually led to the death of a fan, the derby of the sun, promises to be another explosive encounter as consistently inconsistent Napoli try to give its fans something to cheer about, whilst Roma look to continue their recovery from the humiliation melted out to them by Bayern Munich before they face them again at the Allianz Arena.

Rafa Benitez seems like the draw specialist right now and can not seem to find the necessary consistently required to drive Napoli closer to its rivals; even though they are unbeaten in their last six games and may meet a team distracted by the thought of meeting Bayern Munich again.

Rudi Garcia, potentially has the best defense in the league and will be pleased with the way the Gillarossi have responded since the Bayern massacre; seven points from a possible nine and level on points with Juve is a welcome development owning to the their condition in the previous weeks. Hopefully, Roma would not be too distracted by the Champions league assertions and ensure that momentum remains in their favour as it concerns the league campaign.

Halftimeng.com Prediction: Promises to be a hugely entertaining game, a score draw looks very likely.

 

Villareal v Valencia

Ordinarily, we may have gone for Luis Enrique visiting his former side; Celta Vigo or Atletic Bilabao taking on Sevilla; however, this weekend’s big game has to be the meeting between 8th v 4th placed; Villareal v Valencia at the Madrigal. Both teams play good attacking enterprising football, but Villareal has sruggled against the big boys this season with Valencia obviously on their way back up especially with the new investments coming into the team.

Valencia have bounced back from the hiccups suffered against Deportivo weeks earlier and look like a team who have found the right blend and mix. Villareal are unbeaten in their last 8 matches in La Liga against Valencia at the Madrigal, so you may want to lean on the yellow submarines being the favorites for this one.

Halftimeng.com Prediction: Villareal to continue its great home form against Los Che.

 

So there we have it, four games that are quite unmissable and provide quality entertainment for us all over the course of the weekend.