THIS WEEKEND (25/04/14)

article-2613306-15A09FD4000005DC-66_634x390This weekend had promised to be a mouth-watering one prior to the death of Ex-Barcelona boss, Tito Vilanova who passed on after a long battle with cancer aged 45. Our condolences to his family and friends and the Barcelona football family. Back to action, we have some key games to look forward to seeing this weekend in Italy, England and Spain.

Our first stop is Italy where we have a big clash on friday night.

ROMA VS AC MILAN

roma-milanRoma will be looking to muster the motivation to make it nine wins in a row when they welcome AC Milan this evening at the Stadio Olimpico. With neither side dropping points since mid-March, Friday night’s matchup features the two hottest sides in the league considering their results in the last six matches, Milan has won five of those six matches, scoring 12 goals and conceding 2 along the way while Roma has taken all 18 points, banging home 15 goals in the process. The difference between the two teams in the standings is big though, Roma have guaranteed their Champions League place for next season as they will finish 2nd, 8 points behind league leaders Juventus. AC Milan instead is sixth on equal points with Parma and they are embroiled in the fight for Europa League qualification.

Probable line-ups:
Roma (4-3-3): De Sanctis, Maicon, Toloi, Castan, Dodò, De Rossi, Nainggolan, Pjanic, Gervinho, Totti, Ljajic. Manager: Garcia

Milan (4-2-3-1): Abbiati, Abate, Rami, Mexes, Bonera, Montolivo, Muntari, Taarabt, Kakà, Poli, Balotelli. Manager: Seedorf

Prediction: Roma 3-2 AC Milan

article-2612887-1D57D4BD00000578-637_634x467Our next stop is England where we will be looking at two games quickly, Liverpool VS Chelsea and Crystal Palace VS Manchester City. Following Moyes’ sack earlier in the week, four members of the “class of 92” will lead United against Norwich City on saturday while the battle for survival heats up as Sunderland tackles Cardiff City and Fulam hosts Hull City.

LIVERPOOL VS CHELSEA

downloadLiverpool host Chelsea on Sunday aware that victory over the Blues would eliminate them from the race for the Premier League title. The Merseyside club lead Chelsea by five points with three games remaining, and a win at Anfield would take Liverpool to within four points of their first league trophy since 1990.

For manager Brendan Rodgers, Daniel Sturridge will face a late fitness test, On-loan winger Victor Moses is ineligible against his parent club and midfielder Jordan Henderson serves the second game of a three-match ban.

article-2612845-1D505D4C00000578-329_634x487Jose Mourinho is considering wholesale changes for Chelsea’s trip to Anfield due to the proximity of the Champions League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid next Wednesday. The Blues are hit by injuries to goalkeeper Petr Cech (shoulder), captain John Terry (ankle), playmaker Eden Hazard (calf) and Samuel Eto’o (knee), while midfielder Ramires’ season is over after he received a four-match ban.

Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are ineligible in Europe so are likely to feature, while Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel are available ahead of European bans, with all four likely to be selected at Liverpool.

Possible starting lineups

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Flanagan, Skrtel, Sakho; Gerrard, Lucas, Coutinho; Sterling, Sturridge, Suarez

Chelsea: Hilario; Kalas, Mikel, Christensen, Ake; Matic, Van Ginkel, Baker, Lampard; Salah, Ba

Prediction: Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea

Crystal Palace VS Manchester City

ad_123544248Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will hope to remain in the title race when his team travel to Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon. City sit six points adrift of leaders Liverpool with a game in hand, and anything other than victory at Selhurst Park will damage the club’s hopes of a second Premier League crown in three years.

Crystal Palace have now won 5 games a row; only 3 teams (including this week’s opponents Manchester City) have enjoyed better winning runs all season in the Premier League and Tony Pulis has led them to guaranteed safety.

For Pellegrini, his team will be without David Silva, Jesus Navas and Matija Nastasic for the trip to Selhurst Park on Sunday but Yaya Toure may be available for selection after missing the games against Sunderland and West Brom.

Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis has guided the Eagles to five successive wins in the Premier League to guarantee their top-flight status for another year. Their ascent from relegation favourites to mid-table safety has been one of the stories of this Barclays Premier League season.

Last weekend’s 1-0 win at West Ham United strengthened Palace’s hold on 11th position, and a sixth victory in a row could see the London outfit move into the top half of the table.

Pulis is unlikely to make any alterations to the team that won at Upton Park.

Possible starting line-ups

Crystal Palace: Speroni; Mariappa, Ward, Dann, Delaney; Dikgacoi, Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie; Jerome

Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Demichelis; Fernandinho, Nasri, Javi García, Milner, Jovetic; Aguero

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester City

imagesFinally in Spain, Real Madrid will be in action against Osasuna with Ronaldo getting the nod to start while Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema remains doubtful. Valencia welcomes Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will be away at Villareal.

Prediction: A comfortable win for Real Madrid. Atletico will struggle against their hosts but they should edge it and should Barcelona drop points against Villareal, it would be no surprise.

EPL Team of the Weekend (13/04/14)

Following an exciting English Premier League weekend, we have carefully chosen our best XI. Liverpool looks on course for their first EPL title in 24 years following a 3-2 win over Manchester City, Chelsea remains in the mix as well with a hard-fought 1-nil win away at Swansea, Fulham got a vital win in her quest to remain in the EPL andmore drama is to follow with four games to go. Do you agree or disagree with the panel? Let’s hear from you via the comment section of this page or via twitter -@halftimeng. Using a 4-4-2 formation, here it is. Thank you.

2014-04-14-EPL-TOTW

THIS WEEKEND (01/03/14)

This weekend, as we always do, we preview the big games in England, Germany, France as well as two major mouth-watering stops in Italy and a game in Spain.
Capital One CupMANCHESTER CITY VS SUNDERLAND

Manchester City and Sunderland will battle for the Capital One Cup at Wembley on Sunday. This is Manchester City’s first final appearance in the League Cup since 1976, where they beat Newcastle United at Wembley 2-1 while Sunderland’s only previous League Cup final appearance came in the 1984/85 season, where they lost 1-0 to Norwich City.
City’s three league cup finals in 1970, 1974 and 1976 each game has ended 2-1, with The Citizens winning twice.The only previous League Cup clash between Man City and Sunderland came in the third round in 1979/80. The Mackems progressed in a replay beating City at Maine Road 1-0.Sunderland have only lost one of their last five games against Manchester City, winning three and drawing once. On their way to the final, Man City kept four clean sheets while Sunderland managed just one (v Peterborough).

TEAM NEWS:
Manchester City: Striker Sergio Aguero could return for Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final. Fellow forward Stevan Jovetic (hamstring) and defender Matija Nastasic (knee) are both ruled out.

Sunderland: Midfielder Liam Bridcutt will be the only significant absentee because he is cup-tied. Lee Cattermole is likely to play the holding role in front of Gus Poyet’s back four at Wembley. Goal keeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) is the only man to miss out through injury.

Halftimeng Predcition : A Manchester City win.

Madrid Derby imagesIn Spain, there is a huge one, a top of the table clash for bragging rights as Los Blancos travel to the red side of the capital to take on Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid looking to extend their lead at the top of the table. Carlo Ancelloti’s men came away with a thumping 6-1 victory away to Schalke in the midweek Champions league fixture and with Cristiano Ronaldo having returned from suspension will be looking for a win. Real Madrid will be looking to repeat the victory they had at Vicente Calderon a fortnight ago when they cruised past Los Rojiblancos in the semifinals of Spanish Copa del Rey. Atletico Madrid will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Osasuna last weekend and there could be some changes from the side that started in Pamplona.

TEAM NEWS:
Atletico Madrid: Filipe Luis returned to action last week against Osasuna and will start the derby.Tiago and Javier Manquilo both remain out injured.
Real Madrid: Gareth Bale shrugged off a groin injury to play in midweek against Schalke and will be ready to start again this weekend.Cristiano Ronaldo returns from his three-game ban, meaning Jese returns to the bench.

Halftimeng Predcition : Considering Real Madrid’s current form, they should win it.

Bayern v SchalkeIn Germany, Bayern Munich welcomes Schalke 04 to the Allianz Arena in the 23rd gameweek of the Bundesliga, appears to be a wrong time for the visitors to visit the Allianz Arena considering Bayern Munich’s terrific form this season. Bayern Munich come into this match following a victory against Arsenal in the Champions League and Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga. Whereas, Schalke 04 suffered an embarrassing home defeat against Real Madrid coming into this match. Bayern Munich are comfortably in the top spot in the league table as they are 19 points clear of the second placed team and remain unbeaten this season. Meanwhile, Schalke are currently in the 4th spot of the league table, a point behind the 3rd place, Dortmund and 2 points above the 5th place Wolfsburg. They need to improve their organisation against a high-quality opponent like Bayern and defend deeper.

TEAM NEWS:
Bayern Munich: Bastian Schweinsteiger should start ahead of Thiago. Thomas Müller is nursing an injury so he’s been ruled out. Mario Mandzukic will probably get another start.
Schalke 04: Kyriakos Papadopoulos could replace the injured Felipe Santana at centre-back.
At left-back, Sead Kolasinac is not fully fit and could be replaced by Christian Fuchs.
Leon Goretzka and Julian Draxler compete for the spot on the left wing.

Halftimeng Predcition : Bayern to win comfortably.

PSG V MarsielleIn France, First-place Paris Saint-Germain will look to keep their five-point lead atop Ligue 1 intact after they host fifth-place Marseille in the latest edition of Le Classique. Marseille are on a five-match unbeaten run heading into the Parc des Princes, where they have not won since February 2010. PSG have won four of the last five Le Classiques and will be favored to keep that streak and their 10-match unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 play going after Sunday’s rivalry match. The defending champions could go into the game under pressure should Monaco reduce PSG’s lead at the summit of Ligue 1 to two points with a win at Saint-Etienne on Saturday.

TEAM NEWS:
For PSG, striker Edinson Cavani’s participation is still in doubt because of a thigh problem, and Christophe Jallet (back) remains on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, Marseille will be boosted by the return of midfielder Jacques-Alaixys Romao, who is set to return from suspension and give Anigo a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Halftimeng Predcition : A big clash no doubt but PSG should edge it.

Roma v Inter imagesFinally in Italy, two games will attract much attention, Roma against Inter Milan and Juventus will be AC Milan’s guest at the Sansiro.

Roma have won five of their last six matches and are still unbeaten at home. Inter’s new-look 3-5-2 has given the squad a confidence boost after a disappointing run of form that lasted over two months. Winning at Roma may be a bridge too far, but the Nerazzurri will feel they can pick up a point. Roma will have to cope with enforced absences, but it appears their squad is big enough to cover for losses. Meanwhile, Mazzarri has nigh-on his full squad available and could try nick the win in the capital. The absences of Federico Balzaretti, Dodô and Maicon will force Rudi Garcia to pick between Alessio Romagnoli and Michel Bastos at left-back.

Francesco Totti and Alessandro Florenzi may not be able to take part in the encounter, while Gervinho will be assessed closer to kick-off.
For Inter, After starting the season with a more conservative 3-5-1-1, Walter Mazzarri is now sticking to a 3-5-2, with Argentinian duo Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio leading the attack. Mateo Kovacic and Ricky Alvarez should both start on the bench, Walter Samuel will lead the defence as Hugo Campagnaro is unavailable.

Halftimeng Predcition : Roma scores well at home, so they should nick this one.

downloadAC Milan VS Juventus: For the first time in a long time, Milan appear solid all over the pitch following impressive performances against Atlético and Sampdoria, despite succumbing to defeat in the former. Ideally, Juventus would have preferred to play Milan prior their recent good run, AC Milan are undefeated in their last 6 home matches in Serie A. The Rossoneri will likely leave space for Juventus to exploit as the hosts push for a goal.

TEAM NEWS:

For AC Milan, with Sulley Muntari suspended, Michael Essien and Nigel de Jong are in contention to play alongside Montolivo.
Mario Balotelli is still struggling with his shoulder, so Giampalo Pazzini is expected to start – wearing a protective mask.
Keisuke Honda, Robinho, Valter Birsa and Riccardo Saponara are all available, but Clarence Seedorf could field Andrea Poli in the supporting trio.
For Juventus, Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna are both candidates to complete the defensive trio as Giorgio Chiellini will probably miss out. A certain Arturo Vidal will be absent, as he is suspended. He will be replaced by Claudio Marchisio in midfield.
Pablo Osvaldo scored again in the Europa League, but the favourites for the attack in the league are still Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.

Halftimeng Predcition : Score draw!!!

NPFL FINALE – KANO PILLARS ARE CHAMPIONS AGAIN

pillars-champions-ai-300

The 2012/2013 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) ended on Sunday with Kano Pillars retaining the league title for the second time in a row.

Despite their 2-0 defeat to Lobi Stars, Pillars finished top of the table with 63 points form 38 matches.
Aba elephants, Enyimba shot to second spot after they beat Sharks 1-0 at home to finish on 62 points.

Unlike last season, the top team was rewarded for their efforts this season with winners, Kano Pillars earning a prize money of 10 million Naira (about $62,000).

Kano Pillars and Enyimba will represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Champions League.

Bayelsa United suffered a 1-0 defeat in Gombe to end their fantastic campaign on 61 points and also grabbed a continental ticket that means they will be representing Nigeria in the CAF Confederation Cup next season alongside Federation Cup’s runners-up, Warri Wolves.

Four teams from the elite league dropped to the lower division after failing to keep their league status.
Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan (3SC) were confirmed to the second-tier league in Nigeria on Sunday when Kaduna United beat them by 2-0.

Wikki Tourists of Bauchi were also demoted in Port Harcourt when Emeka Atuloma’s solitary strike gave Dolphins the full points and ensured Wikki Tourists finish the season on 49 points.

Heartbreak for football lovers in Kwara state as their two top flight teams based in ilorin, Kwara United and Abubarka Bukola Saraki FC (ABS) failed to remain in the NPFL.

Three points garnered would have saved Kwara United but they failed to grind it out against Akwa United who also needed a point to stay up. The game ended in a one all draw, Akwa United finished with 51 point while Kwara United finished with 50 points.

Ogehenkaro Etebo’s strike confirmed ABS’ demotion with his strike in the 18th minute.

Akwa United, Nembe City, Lobi Stars and Nasarawa United all escaped the relegation scars with 52 points except for Akwa United who finished with 51 points. Nembe City and Lobi Stars beat their opponents by 2-0 respectively, while Nasarawa United engaged Heartland Fc in dogfight and pipped the Naze Millionaires by a lone goal via a spot kick which was converted by league top scorer, Victor Namo.

Final Standings:

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