This Weekend (06/02/16)

What a weekend we have on the cards; the Americans prepare for the Super Bowl, the grand finale of their version of football; but all the action is not reserved for the Americans alone. Germany is agog with three clashes that aim to unsettle the established order, France serves up another installment of Le Classique as well as a top of the table clash; in Holland two of their grand old clubs go head to head and in England, its first vs second with a dose of title decider from recent past.

Ajax v Feyenoord

Two of Holland’s most successful clubs go head to head this weekend; even though its a top of the table clash as second takes on third, but there exist a thirteen point gap between both teams at the summit of Eredivisie as both clubs continue their chase of champions and League leaders PSV.

Feyenoord under Giovanni Van Bronckhorst have been on their worst run of form of late as he seeks to find a winning formula to aid the team bounce back for five straight defeats which happens to be a club record; there is every likely hood that he may tinker with the side to enable the team compete against Ajax’s fluid and pacy front three.

Ajax haven’t been in great form of late as well which to them falling behind PSV in the title race with back to back draws against Hercules and Roda leaving them a point short at the top. In terms of head to heads; Ajax recent records against Feyenoord is quite solid with only two defeats in their last 25 games, coupled with Ajax current run which stands at one defeat from their last thirteen games with Feyenoord not faring any better; they are winless in their last six games; seems very bleak for the Rotterdam club.

My Verdict: Ajax to win

My Betting Punt: Ajax win or draw comes @ 1.17 

Hertha Berlin v Borussia Dortmund

Talk about an unlikely team fighting for a slot the Champions League, going toe to toe with more established and seasoned campaigners; when survival in the Bundesliga or the comforts of mid table sanity had been the resolve for the team in recent years; the team from the capital is having a season for the ages, its stuff of dreams. Hertha are a team of players looking for a second chance; which has been offered and duly received by these players; Salomon Kalou and Vedad Ibisevic are two of such players and what a season they are having with 16 goals between them this season.

Dortmund are the visitors this weekend looking to extend their ten point lead on Hertha, the gulf in class between both sides is not in doubt, but you cannot fault the drive, desire and the tenacity of this Hertha side to ensure that taken seriously by the established order. Hertha are currently undefeated in their last five games, so confidence is quite high for Pal Dardai’s side.

Thomas Tuchel’s side have the league’s top scorer in Aubameyang, expect their high intensity, pressing and pressure play to ensure they unsettle the home side and keep them on the back foot. Dortmund are also on a good run; with five wins from their last six matches; but Hertha’s strong home form of one defeat from their last ten home games should not be taken for granted.

My Verdict: Dortmund to win, but only just

My Betting Punt: A goals punt may just be right here, over 2.5 goals comes @ 1.65

 

Schalke 04 v Wolfsburg

Re-wine a couple of years back and this would be top of the table clash, but not this year, with both teams currently lying in sixth and seventh place. Their current position does not take away the sizes and effect these two teams have on the Bundesliga.

With both teams seeking to break into the top four, it is expected that this would keenly contested encounter with both teams going for the jugular. Schalke’s have found some form lately with three wins from their last five matches; whilst Wolfsburg continue to struggle without a win in their last six matches; also failing to win nine of their last ten away games with Schalke winning their last five home matches.

The head to head between both sides seems even within the six meetings of both sides.

My Verdict: Schalke to win, but only just

My Betting Punt: A goals punt may just be right here, both teams to score comes @ 1.63

 

Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich

Roger Schmidt’s reckless abandon attacking style may have earned rave reviews and truck loads of goals especially from Javier Hernandez, who seems to be in the form of his life. Bayer would have to be at their very best to get anything from this match up as Bayern Munich have just continued from where they stopped before the winter break.

News of Pep Guardiola’s departure  to Manchester City has been the big story of the last one week, so expect to knifes to be out as a number of observers would want to see the effect this news has on the team’s performance. With Bayern eight points ahead of Dortmund, there’s some leg room for the Bavarians, but they cannot afford to let their rivals make up any ground on them.

Bayer have been in steady form of late; three wins from four with their high octane style of attacking football makes for good reading and can be used to put pressure on Bayern who currently struggle with a number of injuries especially in defense. Despite the defensive concerns, Bayern remain favorites as they have won five of their last six meetings with Leverkusen.

My Verdict: Bayern Munich to win

My Betting Punt: A Bayern Munich win comes @ 1.66

Olympique Marseille v Paris Saint Germain

In France this weekend, there is a small matter of the Le Classique, unfortunately with little or no consequence in the general scheme of things this season as both teams lie in eighth and first respectively. PSG are running away with the Ligue 1 title and the rest have to scramble for the other European places, Marseille have had a Yo-Yo season, but have their best work away from home.

Michel Marseille

Under Michel, Marseille have seemed to be more comfortable playing away from home with only two wins at home compared to six wins away from the Velodrome.  Belief is very high at the Velodrome as Marseille seek to break PSG’s current unbeaten record in the league this season and with an eleven match unbeaten run of their own, they really look up to the task.

Nantes long standing unbeaten record from the Nineties has finally come to an end as this PSG side continue to look quite unbeatable, but would be wary of Marseille even though they haven’t lost at the Velodrome for almost three years with two wins in their last two visits.  Marseille did give PSG a lot to consider in the first encounter, but it was not enough to stop the Parisians from extending their run to eight straight wins against the Seasiders.

My Verdict: PSG to win

My Betting Punt: A PSG win comes @ 1.71

 

Monaco v Nice

This clash is greatly aided by the fact that it comes up as an early Saturday afternoon kick off, away from all the attention of Le Classique; this is a top of the table clash with the fight for European places heating up; its second v third and its also a derby.

Claude Puel would be glad with the progress Nice has made this season, especially with the play of Hatem Ben Arfa; who has been simply irresistible thus far, driving Nice to the top three positions. Both sides are chasing Champions League football and with a Derby, you know anything can happen and may well be one of the most intense and entertaining in a long time. Watch out for the influence of Moutinho, Bernando Silva and of course Hatem Ben Arfa.

My Verdict: Game will be an intense and competitive draw

My Betting Punt: A both teams to score comes @ 2.00

 

Manchester City v Leicester City

Who would ever have thought that we would be discussing Leicester City in a title push and not in a relegation dog fight; a lot of credit must go Claudio Ranieri and his team for breathing fresh air into the English Premier League. The least ball possessing side in the league, with pace to burn; this style has ridiculed all assertions on why it is important to possess the ball; currently Leicester have the best away record in the league and that’s something to worry about for Manchester City.

Manchester City kept in close touch with the leaders even though the performance at Sunderland was quite underwhelming. The Citizens have to up their game; keep concentration as this Leicester side are always looking to spring a surprise with the quick counter attacking play, with balls played into the channels for the likes of Vardy and Mahrez to latch on to the pass.

The scenario presents us with a solid home record and a solid away record;if you ask me I would go for the away team to get the better of the home side as they play the same way either home or away, they always willing to relinquish the ball to the opponent; having him control and boss the game; but sense to keep their shape all through in two banks of fours with the raw energy of N’Kolo Kante driving and knocking on the ankles of the opponents midfielders.

Leicester are undefeated in 14 of their last 15 away games; now that’s an impressive record with five clean sheets from their last six matches; but we must note that Manchester City are on a nine game unbeaten run against Leicester City.

My Verdict: Something tells me this is a draw

My Betting Punt: A both teams to score comes @ 1.71

 

Chelsea v Manchester United

Two teams who have had different degrees of turmoil this season; who would have believed that these two teams would be this far away from the title equations; it is the remarkable nature of this season’s Premier League.

Chelsea are yet to lose under the tutelage of Gus Hiddink, but have only won twice since he took over, but you can see the apparent improvements, even though they look more and more like they have adopted a more pragmatic style under him to stem the tide.

Anthony-Martial-606644

Manchester United on the other hand seem like freed from slavery, playing with a lot more verve, vigor and drive; its like the shackles have been taken off and the players have been told to go out and enjoy their football. Chelsea remain the one team Manchester United do not have a better head to head record against and in recent memory; the Blues are yet to lose in nine meetings against the red devils.

Chelsea have kept clean sheets in five of their last seven matches against Manchester United and have drawn their last three matches at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea may be considered favorites to win this one, but if the Red Devils play they way they have in the last two games you cannot write them off completely.

My Verdict: I can only see a draw here

My Betting Punt: A Draw comes @ 3.20

 

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This Weekend (15/01/2016)

Happy New year folks; I pray that this year brings you all that your heart desires. This is my first post for the year and I am quite excited at the possibilities available for our exploration and exploitation this year. As usual, I would be giving my opinion, verdict and for those that engage in punting; I supply my ideal betting punts; so far I have a 75% accuracy ratio; so lets see what 2016 holds for us all. All the best guys.

Liverpool v Manchester United

This remains the biggest game in English football, like it or not and you can expect fireworks at Anfield on Sunday as the two most successful clubs in England go ahead to head. Interestingly, both teams were involved in six goals thrillers in mid week; so we can expect another goal fest;well I doubt that very much as I expect both teams to return to their shell, especially Manchester United who have been built to be much more cautious this season based on Louis Van Gaal’s so called Philosophy. Jurgen Klopp is still enjoying his honey moon period at Anfield as he continues to instill his style of play on the reds; Liverpool just like United have struggled with injuries; but theirs have been principally in defense and this continues to be a major worry for Klopp as he is unable to name a steady back line; he also has the erratic performances of Simon Mignolet in goal which adds to his worries as the back up goalie is equally not up to the standard expected at Anfield.

Klopp (L) and Louis van Gaal have history in the Bundesliga, but now they face off for the first time in England

Van Gaal has won his three encounters so far against Liverpool with United winning the last four in all competitions, however this is Jurgen Klopp he will be up against and if Liverpool’s performances in the big games against the top six clubs is anything to go by; United must be worried, with victories away at Chelsea, Manchester City and a thrilling six goal encounter against Arsenal will definitely raise concerns. The key to Liverpool’s triumphs has been their quick start to games, pressing,resilience and  determination in the early minutes of these games has been the key; which must worry United as a prior experience earlier in the season led to the Red Devils biggest defeat this season against Arsenal. Manchester United are slow starters as they seek to impose their imprint and style on the game, so a quick salvo or quick Blitz (like they say in American Football) will unsettle the Red Devils; although a number of changes have been made lately as United seem to be more direct these days, even though open at the back.

Carragher (second left) has plenty of memories of playing against rivals United during his time at Anfield

It was interesting to see Klopp go with the False Nine approach with Firmino at the fore front; the Liverpool manager has the better of the head to heads of both managers; with two wins in their last four meetings. Over the last three seasons this fixture has produced goals; in their last six meetings in all competitions the game has had more than two goals with the exception of one occassion; so if United’s new approach is anything to go by and Liverpool’s quick salvo and pressing game points to the fact that this trend may continue; however, I expect a much more calmer approach by both managers. Anthony Martial exploded to the scene in the game between both sides earlier in the season and over the years, a number of players have burst unto the season; expect a feisty encounter.

My Verdict:  A draw looks like the most likely outcome, but Liverpool have their tails up.

My Betting Punt: A Liverpool Double chance will be handy @ 1.31

AC Milan v Fiorentina

Fiorentina have been very good this season, but have stumbled when its mattered most; last week’s loss at home against Lazio was a huge surprise and largely disappointing. The Viola have been very organized and stable this season; playing some good stuff along the way; Milan on the other hand have blown hot and cold this season; at times they seem to have turned the corner; but just cannot find the consistency to save their manager’s job.

Sinisa Mihajlovic has to worry about the potential of losing his job with each match day, that is not a good position to be in for any Manager; which must affect the players collectively psychologically. Milan needs to find consistency after making the Coppa Italia Semi Final in mid week; that victory should form the spring board for more consistent performances for the Rossoneri and a push up the table to challenge for the European places.

Paulo Sousa needs his team to bounce back from the defeat at home to Lazio to ensure they stay in touch with Napoli, Juventus and Inter in the title push. A victory at the San Siro would be the minimum expectation for Fiorentina; the Viola have a decent recent record against Milan with three victories in their last six meetings. Both teams have identical records over the last couple of weeks with three wins each in their last six matches.

Fiorentina have been solid with their 3-4-2-1 system which has Bojan Valero providing the balance in the middle; the wing backs of Marcos Alonso and Jacob Blaszczykowski continue to provide an attacking outlet. The midfield battle will be interesting to watch as Milan have switched to a permanent 4-4-2 formation; so expect a potential 4 v 6 in the midfield. Expect Milan to look to break quickly, looking to exploit the gaps left by Fiorentina Wing backs.

My Verdict:  A Draw, can’t separate both sides

My Betting Punt: A Fiorentina Double chance will be handy @ 1.51

Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao

Earlier in the season, both teams served up a thriller in the Spanish Super Cup over two legs, where Athletic tore Barcelona apart in the first leg at the San Mane, I do not think I have seen Barcelona that disjointed at any time. Barcelona have been in imperious form thus far season and are currently on a 21 game unbeaten run in all competitions; playing some scintillating football with newly crowned World player of the year, Lionel Messi at the peak of his powers. Lionel Messi has over time reserved his best performances for the visit to the Nou Camp of Athletic Bilbao; scoring some stunning goals.

Athletic Bilbao will be without Adruiz, their top scorer this season, but have the explosive talent of Inaki Williams to fill in up front; his pace will be a huge source of worry for the Barcelona back line. Athletic have been on a good run lately with only one defeat in their last five matches. With Atletico Madrid leading the way in La Liga; the Catalans cannot afford to slip up even though they have a game in hand against the league leaders.

My Verdict:  Barcelona Win

My Betting Punt: A combo is in order here; Barcelona win and over 3.5 goals @ 1.79

Saint Etienne v Olympique Lyon

Christophe Galtier’s Saint Etienne have played some quality football this year despite their continued long injury list and would go into this derby against OL, looking to get revenge for a heavy defeat in November at the Stade Gerland.

Lyon have surprisingly struggled this season, which is probably an indication of how young and naive their team is; but have lately experienced a change in fortune as the results have taken a turn for the better especially since Bruno Genesio took charge of the team since the dismissal of Hubert Fournier.

Recently, Saint Etienne have been poor; three defeats from their last five games does not make for good reading at all; if you then add their struggle to qualify on penalties in the Coupe de France, but last week’s victory over second placed Angers should enhance their confidence for the derby against Lyon.

For Lyon, their victory in the derby against Saint Etienne led to a poor run of form for the former champions with five losses from their next six games. Lyon would have it all to do as Saint Etienne have a solid record at home; undefeated in 34 of their last 38 games; Lyon would need a thoroughly solid performance to come away with the three points and their recent record shows they can, with seven wins from their last eight meting between both sides at Saint Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

My Verdict:  A draw

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.22

Feyenoord v PSV Eindhoven

The Eredivisie returns with a block buster fixture as second takes on third as the Dutch return to league action; with Ajax leading the line, so both teams would be keen to get all three points to either top the league or move closer to the teams at the top.

Feyenoord have won eight of their nine games at home; PSV also have an interesting run of form with no defeats in 11 games; so this promises to be an interesting encounter between both sides.

My Verdict:  A Draw

My Betting Punt: A draw comes @ 3.38

 

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The Best Eleven from the rest of Europe (Week 8)

After Europe’s blockbuster weekend; a number of the top clubs in the four other top European leagues asides England laid a marker as to what direction the title would be heading with the likes of Bayern and PSG setting the pace. There were a number of hiccups and surprises during the weekend as the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Milan and Ajax stumbled in their pursuit for honours; this is my team of the weekend in a 4-3-3 formation:

Keylor Navas (Real Madrid)

Madrid’s superman, Navas denied Martinez the winner for Athletico with a great save after earlier denying Griezmann the chance to equalize via a spot kick.

Tobias Levels (Ingolstadt)

Defensively solid and always willing to add an attacking outlet; part of the reason Ingolstadt have surprised many in their Bundesliga campaign.

Timothée Kolodziejczak (Sevilla)

A rock in the defense for Sevilla as they put Barcelona to the sword.

Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich)

He contained Aubameyang and created two goals.

Pedro Pereira (Sampdoria)

He made important clearances on numerous occasions and created Sampdoria’s only goal.

Vicente Ibbora (Sevilla)

Offered assured protection for his defence and crowned his performance with a goal which turned out to be the winner.

Lassana Diarra (Olympique Marseille)

He was an assured presence for an underwhelming OM side and provided leadership. He has made a remarkable comeback and earned a call up to the French National team; his talent was never in doubt.

Sami Khedira (Juventus)

He put in a commanding performance for Juventus and his goal is a testament to that fact

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

He grabbed a brace against his former club to take his tally to ten goals in three games and was difficult for Dortmund to contain all game.

Pereiro (PSV Eindhoven)

A match winner for PSV, scoring two beautiful goals to end Ajax’s winning start to the season.

Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)

Provided the opening assist for Allan to score and helped himself to two goals including a free-kick, as Napoli completely destroyed Milan

Coach of the week:

Unai Emery (Sevilla)

After a less than impressive start to the season; Sevilla put in a solid performance to ensure they kept the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan a fortress with a win over Barcelona.

 

BY OLUWATOBI PETER

@JOELREALITIES

This Super Weekend

Has there ever been a weekend like the one we are about to step into? Every where you turn or look; there is a big game or two in each of the major leagues in Europe; even the Nigerian Premier Football League is not left out with second taking on third as the pursuit for domestic honours continues.

So without much ado and fuss about it all; here is my preview of all the big games going down this weekend:

Warri Wolves v Sunshine Stars

As usual and as it has become the practice at most Nigerian Premier League teams; the issues relating to player remuneration has taken most of the shine in an otherwise pivotal Week 32 of the League season as it involves the title charge and the fight against relegation.

Warri Wolves and Sunshine Stars are among the strongest sides at home this season; even though Warri Wolves have from time to time gotten the odd draw or win here or there from away grounds; Sunshine Stars have struggled on the road most of the season and their only away win that comes to mind was against hapless Kwara United in Ilorin.

Warri Wolves go into the tie one point behind Sunshine Stars with an eye on moving to second and potentially cut Enyimba’s lead to three points whilst hoping the People’s Elephants drop points away to Heartland in Owerri. Warri Wolves and Sunshine Stars have almost identical records going into this tie with both teams recording two wins from their last six matches, but Warri Wolves have been able to muster three draws and one defeat as against Sunshine’s two draws and two defeats. The league title race is not over yet as the out come of this match would have a huge impact on the direction of the league title this season; as interestingly Enyimba still have to play their their closest rivals in the last two games of the season.

Tunde Adeniji and  Prince Aggreh have been a deadly pair for Sunshine this season with a combined effort of more that 20 goals this season; but Warri Wolves have the ever volatile Gbolahan Salami in their ranks; in front of goal, he is one of the best strikers in the league.

My Verdict: Warri Wolves to win and climb to second on the log.

Paris Saint Germain v Marseille

It is supposed to be the biggest game in Ligue 1, but then this is a rather inconsistent Marseille side visiting the Parc D’ Princes; back to back home losses against newly promoted Angers and Slovan Liberec in the Europa League have put Michel under immense pressure going into Le Classique; even though they previously held a solid home record. Marseille do not travel well and are winless away from home so far this season and continue to look out of sorts and inconsistent in performances, selections and tactics.

Paris Saint Germain look to be in very confident mood with a fully fit squad off the back of an impressive away win in Ukraine; Laurent Blanc’s side look most definitely set to retain the Ligue 1 title this season as all their rivals cannot seem to find any consistency. Zlatan Ibrahimovic aims to be the club’s all time with a goal in Le Classique; it would mark a special occasion for one of the clubs true legends.

Michel has toyed with different formations this season with the 4-3-3 formations seemingly the best suited to his side with Lassana Diarra at the heart of it all; but he comes up against a well oiled machine in Laurent Blanc’s explosive, fast paced attack; who have scored seventeen goals this season with just four conceded. PSG are on a seven game winning streak against OM in all competitions and have won seven straight home games against OM. Every where you look; PSG look in poll position to dispense of Marseille quite comfortably and I wont bet against them doing it with grace and poise.

My Verdict: PSG to win comfortably

Ajax v PSV Eindhoven

The biggest game in Dutch Football has two former team mates going head to head with the destination of the Ere Divisie title always at stake. PSV ended their league drought last season with their comprehensive league triumph. Ajax are on the verge of breaking a long standing clean sheet record, if they are able to stop PSV scoring; if successful it would be their 8th game at home without conceding dating back to last season with seven victories of their last eight home matches.

Ajax have looked quite solid so far this season looking to win back the title lost to PSV last season as their solid start has ensured they are so far undefeated this season. PSV won on their last visit to the Amsterdam Arena, even though Ajax have won four of their last six encounters in the head to head. It would be interesting to see how both sides line up with the doubts surrounding Andrés Guardado and Luuk De Jong for PSV; the Eindhoven club need a response after their mid week defeat in Moscow in the Champions League; so expect PSV to line up in a 4-3-3 formation against Ajax’s expansive 4-2-3-1 formation.

My Verdict: It will be close; but expect Ajax to win and remain undefeated in Eight.

AC Milan v Napoli

Napoli under Maurizio Sarri have continued to improve with each passing game and were impressive in their defeat of champions Juventus last week and their victory in the Europa League. They come against a Milan team that despite their lack of European exertions look jade and uninspiring; one week there’s a good result and performance to cheer, the next game its an underwhelming performance. Interestingly, both sides occupy the 10th and 11th positions on the table; they need the results to ensure that the likes of Fiorentina and Inter Milan do not pull far away and that Juventus don’t claw back whatever advantage they already have on them thus far.

AC Milan have won their last four home games in Serie A, so that should put them in the right frame of mind to put in a performance against the Naples team; however, Napoli have struggled away from home with a winless streak away from home stretching back six games. Milan will be without Romagnoli  which will be a big loss defensively and may have to call on the nervy Ely to form a partnership with the erratic Zapata; this may just be a recipe for disaster. Napoli seem to have more balance and have a fully fit squad; as Sarri has figured out his selection priorities as it involves their domestic and continental campaign.

My Verdict: Napoli are favorites, but Milan’s current home form make a draw a more likely out come.

Sevilla v Barcelona

If the outcome of the UEFA Super Cup game is anything to go by, we are in for a thrilling time; unfortunately that was months ago; almost like a pre season game. Barcelona have had major injury worries; chief of which has to be the loss of Lionel Messi for 8 weeks; then there are injuries to Rafinha and Andreas Iniesta with the small matter of the transfer embargo which prohibits Barcelona from fielding their summer signings.

Sevilla, despite all the plaudits from last season seem to be searching for their identity especially given the number of changes made in midfield, they seem to be searching for balance in the engine room; this will come its just that it has to happen quickly. Sevilla are renowned for their daunting home record at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuán, but this season that has been more of a myth than reality as Atletico Madrid and Celta Vigo have visited the so called fortress and left with all three points. Barcelona incidentally won away at Sevilla before; so its not an impossible feat to accomplish with an undefeated streak stretching to 12 games against Sevilla, although Barcelona are winless in their last two away fixtures with losses to Celta Vigo domestically and a draw at Roma in the Champions League.

My Verdict: Tight game to call with the injuries and form situation, so I would call this a draw.

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid

Real Madrid have been in celebratory mood this week with Cristano Ronaldo becoming the clubs all time leading goal scorer with 324 goals, surpassing a mark set by Raul Gonzalez. However, this is the derby and the fans,management and players associated with Atletico Madrid do not care what happens at the Bernabeu as all their focus would be on ensuring that they remain in the title reckoning though they currently stand two points behind their neighbours.

As it stands; Atletico are quite strong at home against Real as they are undefeated in their last five matches at the Vincente Calderon against Los Blancos with a clean sheet in their last four home games as well against their cross town rivals. Diego Simeone’s side had started the season well; chopping and changing his forward lines; but with defeats to Villarreal and Benfica this past week; they may be a sense of worry about the amount of progress the side had made so far this season.

Real Madrid are yet to lose this season, but have struggled at times against teams they were expected to stream roll; Sporting Gijon and Malaga easily come to mind with the games ending goalless. Real Madrid have a number of injury worries particularly in defense as Sergio Ramos aims to return to partner Raphael Varane at center back with the likes of Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez expected to make a return.

My Verdict: Tough to call, but my gut tells me Atletico are good enough to win this.

Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund

As stated at the start of the season; once again Bayern Munich will end the season as champions of Germany; however, Dortmund would be the closest rivals to them in terms of performances and final points tally. I have been hugely impressed with Dortmund this season under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel, he has kept a lot of the ideas from the Klopp era; they are a lot more physical and press with a lot more intensity.

From a tactical stand point you can expect Dortmund to sit in, press and look to catch Bayern on the break with the pace of  Aubameyang and Reus as the Gabonese seeks to improve on his current record breaking goal scoring run with Nine goals scored in Seven games. Bayern Munich as is customary with Pep Guardiola will enjoy a vast majority of possession, but with the various injury worries the team needs to find balance even though they have been quite electric of late with the goals of Robert Lewandoski spurring the team on. The Polish striker faces up against his former club looking to increase his current tally of ten goals in three games.

Bayern have won their last eight Bundesliga matches with Dortmund succumbing to back to back draws with the game against Darmstadt surprising. Also both teams are even in their last six matches via the head to head; but you would have to admit that on current form, Bayern Munich are clear and overwhelming favorites.

My Verdict: Bayern Munich to win

Everton v Liverpool

Its the Merseyside Derby, the first installment this season for the fixture with the most Red cards in the premiership era. Its a tie that divides the city of Liverpool between Red and Blue lines. Both teams do not like themselves in any way shape or form with Everton currently ahead on the table so far this season. Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers have flattered to deceive despite the huge financial outlay on players and the manager is under immense pressure from the fans and the owners, the result in mid week against Sion has potentially turned up the heat on the Liverpool manager.

In the last six installments of this derby; five have ended in draws with Liverpool getting the solitary win, this time around Everton have to be considered as favorites going into this encounter. Everton are undefeated in eight games heading into this fierce derby, despite that Liverpool would still fancy their chances as they have not lost at Goodison Park since 2010. Both teams have major injury worries to top players in their squad, but would still be able to put together solid line ups to enhance the spectacle of the Merseyside Derby; watch out for some long range screamers, feisty tackles, Red Cards and last minute equalizers or winners.

My Verdict: Tough to call, but I cant see any other outcome than an Everton win.

Arsenal v Manchester United

If you were to ask both sets of fans; this is one game they do not like to lose, but this game has lost most of its relevance over the years; thanks to the emergence of Chelsea and Manchester City as title contenders; hence diluting the importance of clashes between both sides in the title reckoning.

Arsenal finally got a win under their belt against Manchester United after fourteen games with a win in the FA Cup, but the Manchester side have dominated league clashes between both sides with the Red Devils undefeated in their last eight matches against the Gunners. Arsenal have many injury worries, the most damaging may be the absence of Laurent Koscielny; who has stood out as probably the best defender at the Emirates. The woeful performance in the Champions League against Olympiakos may still linger in the hearts of the players as they aim to bounce back from that unfortunate result that has put qualification from the group stage in jeopardy. Louis Van Gaal’s major issue has to do with the composition of his defense as injuries to Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo has forced the manager to make some alteration to his back four; the return of Phil Jones may just hand him a berth to partner Chris Smalling with Danny Blind moved to left back; this may dis-stabilize the understand already built in the center back position between Blind and Smalling.

Even though, it is no longer a feisty encounter with one controversy or the other rearing its head; it is still a game no one wants to lose. United won at the Emirates last season with only two shorts on target, stretching their undefeated run in their Premier League from May 2011. Both teams need the result as a win for Arsenal would move Arsenal level with Manchester United in the top four positions; but victory for United would move them six points clear at the top to hold top spot in the league for the second consecutive week.

My Verdict: Tough to call; a draw would satisfy both parties

 

Weekend Review: PSG and Monaco fails to win, Ajax starts title defence on a good note.

hooray-the-football-is-back-onWant to believe you enjoyed seeing some games at the weekend no doubt with some exciting goals scored in the league games and also not forgetting the Falconets’ win against Korea Republic at the ongoing FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in Canada with Nigeria’s Courtney Dike setting a new record as the first woman to score the fastest goal in the history of FIFA Women competitions. (Yaay!!!! “singing Happy by Pharell Williams) *winks*

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Meanwhile, Last weekend’s matches in France was an eventful one no doubt. Champions PSG were held by Reims, runners-up Monaco were beaten at home and a riot at the Bastia vs Marseille match that left Forty-four French riot and para-military police officers injured when clashes broke out after the game. A source close to the case said scores of supporters of the Bastia team attacked police officers outside the stadium, pelting them with stones and explosive devices. (Not good for the game). In that game, Marseille were pegged back 3-3 by Claude Makelele’s men and there were also opening day wins for Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux, Nice and Nantes while Champions League hopefuls Lille were held to a 0-0 stalemate at home by Metz.

Falcao's penalty wasn't enough to save his team.
Falcao’s penalty wasn’t enough to save his team.

Twenty-year-old Valentin Lavigne scored with three minutes left to hand unfancied Lorient a shock 2-1 victory over Monaco in the final match of the opening weekend in Ligue 1 action on Sunday. Colombian striker Radamel Falcao had appeared to salvage a point for new coach Leonardo Jardim with a controversial penalty on 78 minutes, following Ricardo Carvalho’s sending-off. Cameroon international Vincent Aboubakar made no mistake from the spot as he planted a low shot past Subasic to put Lorient 1-0 in front.

Seven-time French champions Lyon began their campaign in fine style as they defeated Rennes 2-0 at the Stade Gerland. Table toppers, Caen won 3-0 win at Evian on Saturday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrating
Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrating

It wasn’t the ideal start for the champions Paris Saint-Germain as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Reims in the curtain raiser on Friday with Zlatan Ibrahimovic getting a brace. And starting slowly is nothing new for PSG, who have now failed to win their opening match in any of the four seasons since Qatar Sports Investments began their revolution at the club in 2011.

Ajax players thank the fans after win over Vitesse.
Ajax players thank the fans after win over Vitesse.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, New coach Marco van Basten got off to a winning start with AZ Alkmaar as they won 3-0 at Heracles Almelo, Steven Berghuis opening the scoring before Guus Hupperts and Muamer Tankovic added two more. A late equaliser saw Twente Enschede draw 1-1 at SC Cambuur, Heerenveen suffered a surprise 2-1 loss to newly promoted FC Dordrecht who marked their return to the top flight following a 19-year absence, while fellow league newcomers Excelsior earned a 1-1 draw at NAC Breda. Defending champions Ajax Amsterdam began the defence of their title with a comfortable 4-1 win against Vitesse Arnhem while Feyenoord edged ADO Den Haag in the last minute with a Mitchell te Vrede goal. There were also wins for PSV Eindhoven and FC Groningen against Willem II and Go Ahead Eagles respectively.

THIS WEEKEND: Milan Derby takes centre stage and Liverpool hopes to climb top of the EPL

Aron+Gunnarsson+Luis+Suarez+Liverpool+v+Cardiff+brgIlFJkjPElAhead of this weekend’s action in major centers across Europe, we will be looking at key fixtures in Italy, Spain, France and England.

We start from Italy where the Milan Derby looks to be the biggest fixture this weekend as INTER MILAN host AC MILAN at the Sansiro on Sunday. Although both sides haven’t been so convincing this season, the glitz and glamour that surrounds the derby will definitely make it a “Must-Watch”.

interrrrrragesFifth-place Inter has a chance to show some conviction in pursuit of the Scudetto title after suffering their first defeat in 9 matches in the previous round, while all top-four teams scored points and pulled away from the Nerazzurri. Inter will miss the services of their most creative player on the night – Ricardo Alvarez and their stand will be closed on Sunday due to territorial-discriminating chants in Napoli by their fans though the rival supporters have announced a strike to fraternise with their cross-town colleagues, so there is a chance that the derby will have little atmosphere in the stands and the stadium will be partly empty.

Looks like Mazzari will adopt a 3-5-1-1 formation, Ricardo Alvarez is suspended and Walter Mazzarri will most likely cope with his absence by fielding both Mateo Kovacic and Saphir Taider in midfield.
Fredy Guarin will therefore be deployed behind the lone striker, which will likely be Rodrigo Palacio.

For AC Milan, they were the first team to score at least two against Roma and showed some improvements in their organisation last week. Still, the lack of wins will push them to aim for all 3 points here.
Christian Abbiati should be back in goal after being replace by Gabriel at half time against Roma. Massimilano Allegri will have to do without playmaker Riccardo Montolivo as he is suspended. The consequence will likely be a change of lineup, from the 4-3-2-1 of the previous match to two strikers in front of Kakà. A different option would be retaining the typical 4-3-3 with Balotelli playing wide and Kakà closer to the midfield.

PREDICTION: It should be too close to call but Inter might edge this one. INTER MILAN-1 AC MILAN.

valenciarealAway from Italy, we make a quick stop in Spain where VALENCIA will welcome REAL MADRID to the Mestalla.
Valencia have not had the ideal lead up to such a big game after the decided to relieve Miroslav Djukic of his post and Nico Estevez has come in his place. It remains to be seen just what effect this will have on the side and against Real Madrid.
The only worry for the new young tactician is that Ricardo Costa could miss this one after straining his hamstring last weekend.

For Real Madrid, every win is crucial now considering their position on the log in order to keep their La Liga hopes alive. They will be hungry to return to winning ways after their frustrating and controversial draw away at Osasuna.
Carlo Ancelotti will have to play Nacho at centre half given the absences of Pepe and Raphael Varane and his inexperience is something Valencia will try to exploit. Sergio Ramos, it is hoped, will be fit enough to play though there are minor doubts about his fitness. During the week there were also concerns over Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness. but the Portuguese is available.

There has been 24 goals scored in the last four meetings between these two sides at the Mestalla – goals are certain. Valencia has been very inconsistent this year but it sure looks like Real Madrid will come out tops.

PREDICTION: VALENCIA 1-3 REAL MADRID

ligue-1-psg-vs-lille-610x300Over in France, Vincent Enyeama’s Lille will travel down to Paris to tackle league leaders, PSG. It’s a battle between 1st and 3rd with just four (4) points seperating both sides.
Paris Saint-Germain played a match that dragged into extra-time in midweek, so fatigue may plague a few of their players. Another news emerging from the PSG camp is that Edinson Cavani has gone to Uruguay to deal with personal issues and he may not be back in time to play. Otherwise, Laurent Blanc has a full squad to choose from.
For Lille, they did not play in midweek so they will be fresh for this game. Lille bounced back from a rare loss to Bordeaux to beat Bastia 2-1 last time out. Ryan Mendes remains sidelined as he continues to nurse a heel contusion.
John Jairo Ruiz has a hamstring niggle and could miss out. Simon Kjaer and Idrissa Gueye have not trained due to muscle injuries, but should feature.

These two teams have very talented midfields but Paris Saint-Germain should have enough in attack to slip past Lille at the Parc Des Princes.

PREDICTION: PSG 2-1 LILLE

liverrpoolOur final destination for this weekend will be in England, the biggest game England won’t be played until Monday night so we will just give a quick wrap of four key games in England this weekend.

Liverpool will climb to the top of the Barclays Premier League table if they continue their winning run against Cardiff City on Saturday and ahead of the match they were boosted by the news that leading goalscorer Luis Suarez has signed a new “long-term” deal to stay at Anfield. The two sides have only met twice in the last 50 years, each time in the League Cup, with Liverpool prevailing on both occasions.

PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL 4-1 CARDIFF CITY

southamptonSpursTottenham Hotspur will hope to bounce back from consecutive home defeats when they travel to Southampton on Sunday. A 5-0 defeat in the Barclays Premier League by Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Sunday led to the exit of head coach Andre Villas-Boas the following day, with his caretaker Tim Sherwood overseeing a 2-1 home loss to West Ham United in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday. Spurs are seventh in the English top flight but will hope to take advantage of Southampton’s poor run of form, in which they have failed to win any of their last five matches.

PREDICTION: SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 TOTTENHAM

West-Ham-vs-Manchester-UnitedWest Ham United will head to Old Trafford in a positive mood after their midweek heroics as they look to inflict a third straight home Barclays Premier League on Manchester United.
The champions have lost their last two top-flight fixtures at Old Trafford 1-0, against Everton and Newcastle United respectively, although they won their most recent League match, coasting to a 3-0 success at Aston Villa last week.
Manager David Moyes will be concerned by the fitness of Wayne Rooney as the England striker missed Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Stoke with a groin injury and with fellow striker Robin van Persie (thigh) on the sidelines, Moyes will be counting on the former Everton man.

PREDICTION: MANCHESTER UNITED 2-1 WEST HAM UNITED

downloadFree-scoring Manchester City will be hoping to extend their eight-match unbeaten streak when they take on Fulham at Craven Cottage. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have charged to fourth in the Barclays Premier League table on the back of a run of form that has seen them defeat European champions Bayern Munich in Germany and League leaders Arsenal. City have scored 29 goals in that run and although Sergio Aguero (calf) is sidelined for the foreseeable future, Pellegrini can still call on the likes of Edin Dzeko,Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic to play up front.

PREDICTION: FULHAM 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY

Fc Twente defeats Go Ahead Eagles 3-1, NEC Nijmegen beats Roda 4-3

eridiFC Twente were convincing 3-1 winners over Go Ahead Eagles on Saturday evening to record their fourth successive victory in the Eredivisie and move level on points with leaders Vitesse.

With nine goals in their last three matches heading into this fixture, the Enschede club were on the goal trail again after 21 minutes thanks to Felipe Gutierrez.

Luc Castaignos then doubled the lead 11 minutes into the second half, and although Jop van der Linden reduced arrears from the penalty spot soon after, Dusan Tadic put the result beyond doubt after 62 minutes.

The win sees Twente move above Ajax and into second place, level on 33 points with Vitesse, who face NAC Breda on Sunday.

There was also movement at the other end of the table, where basement side NEC Nijmegen beat Roda 4-3 to close within a point of the teams above them.

In a topsy-turvy encounter, Roda put themselves in the driving seat with early goals from Guus Hupperts (eight) and Krisztian Nemeth (12).

However, the home side came out fighting after the interval and Marnick Vermijl found the target immediately with two goals in six minutes from Soren Rieks then edging them ahead.

Kevin Conboy made it 4-2 nine minutes from time and although Frank Demouge’s goal soon after set up a nervy finish, NEC held on for only their third win of the season.

The result means just five points now separate them from PSV Eindhoven in 10th, although they have played a game more than most of the teams above them.

ADO Den Haag are just two points off the bottom after slipping to a 2-1 loss at home to RKC Waalwijk, who leapfrog them in the standings.

Two goals from Kenny Anderson after seven and 82 minutes gave RKC the advantage, with Tom Beugelsdijk reply coming too late to save ADO.

-Skysport.com-

Newcastle target set for January loan

Borussia Monchengladbach are set to allow highly rated striker Luuk de Jong leave the club on loan this winter, as reported by Sky Sports.

De Jong joined the German club in 2012 for more than £12million but has failed to start a league game this term and so a loan move away from the Bundesliga looks likely come January.

Newcastle tried to sign the Dutchman from FC Twente back in 2012 and the Toon are hoping to secure a deal for de Jong with a clause for a permanent move in the summer.

Monchengladbach are unlikely to get anywhere near the fee they paid for the striker if they are sell next summer but a once promising career appears to be meandering, with Newcastle hoping to resurrect it.

“We will possibly loan Luuk at Christmas but definitely not to a competitor,” Borussia board member Hans Meyer said.

“Our head coach Lucien Favre has said from the start he didn’t have 100% confidence in De Jong filling the striker position but I think we’ll find a solution.”

UCL Wrap (Match Day 3) – Ibrahimovic sparkle as Champions League goals flow

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap] total of 27 goals were scored across various UCL match centres last night with Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo sparkling on the night.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo come face-to-face next month when Sweden meet Portugal in a World Cup playoff and they sharpened their claws with six goals between them on a thrilling night of Champions League action on Wednesday.

ibrahimo643063Ibrahimovic joined the select band of players to score four Champions League goals in one match as Paris St Germain won 5-0 at Anderlecht to consolidate their place at the top of Group C with a third straight win.

Ronaldo struck both goals for Real Madrid, one from the penalty spot, as they posted a 2-1 win over Juventus to also move to nine points in Group B.

Swede Ibrahimovic, who scored all four for Sweden nearly a year ago in a 4-2 friendly win over England, wrapped up a 19-minute hat-trick with a stunning right-foot 25-metre thunderbolt before adding a fourth goal after the break.

That took his tally to 10 goals in five games for club and country and also put him 10th place on the all-time Champions League scoring list. Edinson Cavani scored PSG’s other goal.

The French champions, who have spent millions on top players in the last two years, proved they can be serious candidates for the competition with their biggest ever away win in Europe, virtually eliminating Anderlecht in the process.

cr714666_w2Ronaldo took his tally to seven goals in three Champions League matches this season and is now third on the list of all-time scorers with 57 goals from 95 matches in the competition proper behind Raul (71) and Lionel Messi (63).

Juventus finished with 10 men after Giorgio Chiellini was sent off early in the second half after brushing a rather theatrical Ronaldo with his arm.

One hundred million euro man Gareth Bale was again a substitute, replacing Karim Benzema with just over 20 minutes left.

Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo were not the only top forwards amongst the goals on a night when 27 hit the net in the eight matches. Franck Ribery scored twice for European champions Bayern Munich in a 5-0 win against Czech champions Viktoria Plzen to continue their 100 percent start to Group D.

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Bayern, whose last encounter with Plzen was back in 1971 and ended in a 7-1 aggregate win, set a frantic early pace and European Footballer of the Year Ribery gave them a deserved 25th-minute lead from the spot.

David Alaba doubled the lead 12 minutes later with a low drive and Ribery got another with a superb chip in the second half. Bastian Schweinsteiger added the fourth three minutes later and Mario Goetze completed the scoring in stoppage time.

There was also a big win for Bayern’s Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen who thumped Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 with Stefan Kiessling putting last weekend’s “phantom goal” behind him with two genuine efforts that could not be doubted.

kiiieee14485_w2Kiessling’s header against Hoffenheim on Friday was counted as a goal even though it went in through the side netting, but there was no question about his 22nd minute header that opened the scoring against the Ukrainians.

Simon Rolfes scored from the spot and Bundesliga top scorer Sidney Sam made it 3-0 after 57 minutes before Kiessling walked the ball home 18 minutes from time to seal the win.

aguero4319_w2Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero was another to get two as his side came from behind in Group D to win 2-1 at CSKA Moscow. Galatasaray beat FC Copenhagen 3-1 to climb off the bottom of Group B with Didier Drogba on target.

However the night was marred by racist chanting from the home fans directed at City’s powerful midfield trojan Yaya Toure.

United554_w2The lowest scoring win was at Old Trafford where Manchester United beat Real Sociedad 1-0 after Real defender Inigo Martinez scored an own goal in the second minute which was enough to lift United to top spot in Group A.

benfica4580_w2Benfica and Olympiakos ended 1-1 in the only draw of the night played out on a quagmire of a pitch in Lisbon. The result left them both on four points, five behind Group C leaders PSG.

EUROPEAN TEAM OF THE WEEK

What a weekend of football, if we could summarise the weekend in one world we would most likely just say Wow!!!!!!!

It was quite difficult to narrow down eleven players that stood out in Europe, but as always our focus is mainly restricted to the top 5 leagues and my word, the performances were top notch.

In Goal is Nigeria’s very own Vincent Enyeama of Lille; another clean sheet under his belt making it 8 clean sheets in ten matches; consistent.
At right back is Diogo Figueiras (Seville); solid combination of attacking and defensive playall through.
At Left Back, even though he plays mainly in midfield these days; Philip Lahm shows his class in another super performance for FC Hollywood.
Our Center Backs are youngster, Matthias Ginter (SC Freiburg); only 19 but the heart and know how of a 30 year old; he is joined by Arribas (Osasuna), if you can shut out Barcelona then you deserve to be in our team of the week.

In Midfield, David Pizarro (Fiorentina) rolled back the years in the destruction of the old lady; he is joined by Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich) whose substitute appearance was one of intelligence and poise and of course Miraslem Pjanic (Roma) the destroyer of Napoli with an assured performance.

Upfront, Guiseppe Rossi (Fiorentina) ended Juventus’s undefeated start to the season with an impressive Hattrick; Rodrigo Palacio’s (Inter Milan) brace ensure Inter left Torino with a point. When you score a Scorpion type goal out of nothing, you make an appearance here, take a bow; Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Manager of the week is none other than Vincenzo Montella, great as a player, building a great reputation as a manager.

Worthy of mention are  Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Bernd Leno (Leverkusen), Joaquin (Fiorentina), Demenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Fabrizio Cacciatore (Hellas Verona), Alberto Gilardino (Genoa) Willy Cavalerro (Malaga)

Do you agree or disagree? Hit us up folks…

 

21-10-European-Team-of-the-week

Goal Keeper: Vincent Enyeama (Lille)

Right Back: Diogo Figueiras (Seville)

Left Back: Philip Lahm (Bayern Munich)

Center Back: Matthias Ginter (SC Freiburg)

Center Back: Arribas (Osasuna)

Defensive Midfielder: David Pizarro (Fiorentina)

Central Midfield: Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich)

Central Midfield: Miraslem Pjanic (Roma)

Left Forward: Guiseppe Rossi (Fiorentina)

Right Forward: Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan)

Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG)

Manager: Vincenzo Montella (Fiorentina)