This Landmark Weekend

Here we are again after another hard week of grinding and hustling; the weekend is finally upon us, so we can kick off our shoes and relax our feet because we have got some big games coming up across the world. This weekend is a landmark weekend in many ways; in London, Arsenal’s greatest manager celebrates 20 years in charge of the Gunners; Manchester United seek to bounce back from back to back defeats in the Premier League; there are landmark clashes in Turkey and Italy whilst in Nigeria, the final push for the league title enters its penultimate weekend.

Arsenal v Chelsea 

Hate him or Love him; Arsene Wenger is arguably Arsenal Football Club’s greatest manager; this is obviously despite the jury still been out on him not conquering Europe yet; but you cannot fault the man and the impact he has had on English football as a whole. On Top Radio’s Sports Cafe on Thursday; I tagged Arsene Wenger a revolutionary; his coming to England changed the way many managers viewed the game including the Legendary Alex Ferguson; introduction of diverse training methods, a different style of man management (remember the continuous and insistent  denials in seeing a tackle or major decision as it concerned his team); introduction of specific and rigorous dietary regiments on his players; the evolution of the Gunners from the boring 1-nil to the Arsenal to a team that mixed quick, zippy and exquisite passing with a huge burst of pace and speed; Wenger’s teams were notorious for putting teams to the sword within the first twenty minutes of a game, it was always brilliant to watch.

PAY-Arsene-Wenger

In the Saturday late Kick off at the Emirates; Arsene Wenger celebrates 20 years as manager at Arsenal Football Club; the French man has seen it all in football, but unfortunately for him Chelsea come visiting  not bearing gifts at all other than to be party spoilers and this is they have done before. On the occasion of Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game; a visit to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea was on the cards and we know there’s no love lost between both manager’s; decked in his new Suit and Tie; Arsene Wenger and Arsenal were on the end of a spanking.

Chelsea have dominated this fixture for many years with the only Arsenal victory that comes to mind been in the Community Shield from last season. Now this is a Chelsea team seeking an identity under Antonio Conte, looking for defensive solidity and midfield balance. The Italian manager has also transferred his never say die attitude to the team as Chelsea recorded victories with some late rallies in the first few games of the season; the team is still yet to play in the Conte mold, but you can see the progress and you can be rest assured that the players would maintain the same intensity and desire going into a game against Arsenal.

Antonio-Conte

The Gunners have only one win in their last eleven meetings with Chelsea; this inspires very little hope that the North London team can get a result against the Blues. It has been quite customary for Chelsea to dominate matches between both sides and I do not think this would be any different especially if Cesc Fabregas gets a start after a great performance in the EFL Cup in mid week. I think its high time; Antonio Conte made a decision relating to the lack of creativity in the middle of the pack from his team; Chelsea seem like a team with a lot of buzz but very little cutting edge in midfield; the introduction of Fabregas is a welcome addition and variation with Oscar my preferred fall guy.

In all of this; a keenly contested and entertaining game is expected from both sides; it would be interesting to see the adjustments both managers decide to make with Arsenal having many options of combinations in their midfield and Chelsea’s ongoing injury worries in defense.

Prediction: Looks like a draw for me; potentially a 1-1 draw.

Betting Punt: Chelsea Win/Draw

Manchester United v Leicester City

Jose Mourinho seems like a dead man walking; the feeling of de ja vu must be giving the Portuguese gaffer sleepless nights and of course the media have had a filled day with varying headlines and criticisms of his players. Jose has labelled some of them Einstein with some other Premier League managers throwing some support his way, but really it doesn’t change the fact that Jose’s United team is struggling and in need of a kick in the back side to get things going.

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Leicester City come calling as defending champions but with a mixed start to the season and an early exit from the EFL Cup puts their season in proper perspective especially with their Champions League Campaign getting off to a great start. Leicester would look to bounce back from the mid week defeat to Chelsea; expect Ismail Slimani to make a return to the starting line up after an impressive debut in a much deserved win for the Foxes. Claudio Ranieri seems to have settled on a line up especially with the huge gap left by the departure of N’Kolo Kante, which the presence of Daniel Amartey has helped to reduce the effects of his absence.

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Jose Mourinho is rumoured to be considering sending its side out without club captain Wayne Rooney after intense pressure and criticism from the media and United fans alike. You can expect a number of changes to the Red Devils going into this vital and pivotal game as I cannot remember Manchester United losing three straight league games. The likes of Carrick and Herrera are expected to keep their shirts in the starting eleven after strong performances in midweek. Manchester United haven’t lost to Leicester City at Old Trafford since 1998 and have lost only once to the Foxes in their last fourteen meetings; seems easier said than done for a United victory. For victory to be guaranteed; the United set up has to be better, more balance, quicker passing and some ruthlessness upfront.

Prediction: Tough call, but I think Manchester United should Win

Betting Punt: Manchester United win

Besiktas v Galatasaray

With last season’s triumph as Turkey’s top club and the breaking of the duopoly that exist between Fenerbache and Galatasaray; Besiktas have somewhat taken off from where they left off last season aiming to retain their title with a squad that seems much stronger than any composition in the entire Super League.

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With a chance to go top of the table available for both clubs; it is expected that both teams will go all guns blazing, it is expected that Besiktas would have the upper hand in this one with players like Eren Derdiyok and Cenk Tosun expected to shine and light up the match.

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The Home team would look to milk the support from the home crowd who turn the stadium to a colourful and noisy; the visitors for me have been disappointing for me in their play, but with this been their toughest battles, a victory would give the Gold and Red a huge boost of confidence.

 

Prediction: Close game expected; but Besiktas should shade this one

Betting Punt: Besiktas Win/Draw

Fiorentina v AC Milan

AC Milan won back to back games for the first time since February, 2016; the signs are ominous for a potential revival at the Rossinerri; Carlos Bacca is scoring goals, Donnaruma is shutting teams out and showing maturity far beyond his age, but they come up against a resilient Fiorentina side that ground out a late winner against Roma and fought back twice against Udinese; they don’t know how to lie down.

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Milan have won both of their last two matches in games that last season they would have dropped points to the likes of Sampdoria and Lazio. Vincenzo Montella is gradually putting a compact team together, hopefully when the necessary and expected January investments come in they would be on the right track, It is imperative he has funds to spend in January to potentially rid the instability at the club at this point.

Like every top flight Serie A game, you can be rest assured that it would be a balanced game between two teams who have found form in recent weeks and looking to build on it; victory for either side provides a solid platform to boost morale and ambition for either side.

Prediction: With the current form of both teams, its difficult to separate both sides. 

Betting Punt: Draw

FC Ifeanyi Ubah v Enyimba

Its the Penultimate weekend to probably the most competitive run in to the title in recent memory, with as many as four teams still in with a chance of been crowned champions of the Nigerian Professional Football League. Rangers International, Rivers United, Wikki Tourist and FC Ifeanyi Ubah are still in contention for the league title and are separated by just four points with two games to go.

Ifeanyi-ubah

FC Ifeanyi Ubah go into their last home game of the season with defending champions Enyimba visiting in what is an Oriental derby that would either move FCIU closer to the title, a continental slot or as an also ran. With the investments made in the team by controversial billionaire businessman; nothing short of a CAF Confederation Cup slot will be accepted as a minimum reward for a long and hard season filled with different types of issues for the team and their owner.

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Enyimba have been quite disappointing this season and I wont be surprised if there are wholesale changes at the team in the off season; a poor showing in the CAF Champions League did very little to boost their reputation; however as we have always known of Enyimba, they are always in contention and still have the Federation cup to fight for; interestingly the final may be between both teams going head to head this weekend.

Enyimba have won only two of their last seven matches; which eventually put paid to the title aspirations they were having; this poor also reflects in their last four games, where they are winless in four; dropping points to teams in the relegation positions like MFM and Ikorodu United.

Ifeanyi Ubah have lost two of their last six and these have been away from home; so their home comforts remain true and they would seek to use this to their full advantage to ensure that they push the battle for the title to the final day.

Prediction: Close game expected; I believe FC Ifeanyi Ubah will win this

Betting Punt: FC Ifeanyi Ubah Win/Draw

Drogba,Eboue not punished

Galatasaray African duo Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue will not be punished for displaying tributes to Nelson Mandela during a league match.

After a brief hearing, the Disciplinary Committee decided to drop the charges brought against the Ivory Coast internationals by the Turkish Football Federation.

Both players received support from their club which hung a huge image of Mandela outside their stadium with a message saying: ‘Your legacy is in our hearts’.

The Turkish football body had threatened actions against the striker and defender for unveiling vests bearing ‘political’ messages, which is not allowed during matches.

21‘Thank you Madiba’ was written on Drogba’s undershirt, while Eboue’s bore the words: ‘Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela’, during their side’s 2-0 win over SB Elagizspor on December 6. 22

Drogba said he would do it against for Mandela if the opportunity arises.

-Supersport.com-

CAF Champions League Final Preview

 

With a place in this year’s club world cup and millions of dollars at stake, Al-Ahly and Orlando Pirates will do battle in order to determine who’ll be  this year’s CAF champions league winners.

After an entertaining first leg final in South Africa were Al-Ahly got a 1-1 draw, the Egyptians know that a scoreless draw or an outright win will get them their eight champions league title and further cement their status as Africa’s greatest team so far. For Pirates, victory will see them lift their second title, joining the likes of Enyimba International who have two. The South Africans first title came in 1995.

Despite Al-Ahly having suffered a defeat at home to Orlando Pirates in the group stages, Al-Ahly will still be favourites. Veteran Muhammed Aboutrika will retire at the end of the season and despite him having won the title four times, this will present the perfect platform for him to bow out.

The character Orlando Pirates have displayed in the Champions League shown again in the last couple of minutes against Ahly in the first leg as they got an equaliser. Under the tutelage of Roger De Sa, Pirates have shown their tenacity and grit, putting in big performances when they were most needed. They will be hoping for improved fortunes in front of goal as they dominated play in the first leg but couldn’t score until stoppage time. However, they can draw some inspiration from their Semi Final triumph over the more fancied Esperance.  Andile Jali and Oupa Manyisa will  need to be at their best and Lennox Bacela who’s expected to bang in the goals isn’t left out as well.

This one could go either way but Pirates are suprisingly tipped for an excellence performance to claim their second title. However, whoever gets to win this years champions league would be deserved winners.

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)

STORY OF TWO HALVES: ETHIOPIA 1-2 NIGERIA

nigeria_ethiopia [dropcap]F[/dropcap]or a lot of Nigerians, it would seem as if the return leg should be billed for next weekend, win the game comfortably and prepare well for the mundial in Brazil next year. Unfortunately, the return leg will be played in Calabar on November 16. (We would be giving you a special coverage of that special fixture right here on “HalftimeNG”).

The good thing is Calabar would have a party-like atmosphere throughout the week leading to that game. However, is it possible for us to get complacent going into the second leg after a good win in the first leg? NO!!! (Do you agree?)

It felt very good winning away from home after a long while, barring the fans, antics, altitude, pitch in Ethiopia, the Super Eagles of Nigeria got the Job done with a 2-1 win over the Walya Antelopes and moved a step closer to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

A spirited Ethiopia took the lead after 57 minutes but the African champions fought back and drew level through the individual brilliance of Emenike when he took on the entire Ethiopia defence before he fired past the goalkeeper. Emenike would then be brought down on his way to goal a minute to full time by Aynalem Haile and the Fenerbache front man dusted himself to tuck away the resulting penalty.

On Halftime, let’s take a look at the key moments of what happened in the first and second halves of the encounter.

FIRST HALF:

Electrifying atmosphere in the Addis Ababa National Stadium as both sides filed out on the pitch with Line ups being announced.

For Ethiopia, Coach Bishaw started with Jemal Tassew (GK), Tesfaye Seyoum, Degu Debebe (C), Aynalem Hailu, Abebaw Butako, Asrat Gobena, Menyahel Teshome, Shemele Bekele, Adane Girma, Behailu Assefa and Saladin Ahmed Said.

Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi started with Vincent Enyeama (GK)(C),Efe Ambrose, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egweukwe, Elderson Echiejile, Ogenyi Onazi, John Obi Mikel, Ahmed Musa, Nnamdi Oduamadi, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike.

Kick off and we are underway at the Addis Ababa Stadium, Ethiopia 0-0 Nigeria.
The hosts enjoyed a great deal of possession and started brightly ahead of the African champions.

[dropcap]21’ [/dropcap]– Oduamadi got a good chance to put the away team ahead but shoots wide after Emenike provided the assist from the right flank.

[dropcap]24’[/dropcap] – The debate is still on, Oboabona makes a desperate clearance off the line after Said controls the ball neatly and fires past Enyeama. Did it cross the line? The TV replay angles didn’t help us ascertain as well but the goal wasn’t given and play continued. (It didn’t cross the line #MyOpinion).

[dropcap]35’[/dropcap] – Surprisingly, the home side called for a quick water break, looks like the altitude was affecting both teams.

[dropcap]45 + 2’ [/dropcap]– And now you know why he’s been one of the finest Goalkeepers in Europe this season following a quick reaction to parry Said’s shot after the Ethiopian forward neatly controlled the ball.

[dropcap]45 + 3’[/dropcap] – HT: Ethiopia 0-0 Nigeria
A good first half with both sides creating chances but the hosts had more clearer opportunities.
*POSSESSION – ETHIOPIA 61% – 39% NIGERIA

SECOND HALF:

At this point, a whole lot of fans in Nigeria were hoping that the Eagles can atleast come out from this encounter with a draw but were also expecting to see Goals.

[dropcap]45’[/dropcap] – Second half underway
In the first Ten minutes of the 2nd half,both sides exchanged good possession.

[dropcap]57’[/dropcap] – Another talking point as Behailu Assefa scored for the home team. He delivered a cross from the left flank which somehow bends towards goal; Enyeama catches the ball but the referee believes it was over the line, his decision was welcomed with great excitement and jubilations across the stadium. Now they can dare to dream!!! (ETHIOPIA 1-0 NIGERIA)

[dropcap]67’[/dropcap] – After substitutions have been made by both teams, Emmanuel Emenike scored! The striker’s Individual skill was on display as he held off his marker before firing into the back of the net from outside the box. Jubilations across Nigeria but the stadium in Addis Ababa had gone quiet. (ETHIOPIA 1-1 NIGERIA)

[dropcap]76’[/dropcap] – Double tackle on Ahmed Musa as he goes down under a challenge outside the box and just inside the box but the referee sees nothing wrong with the tackles.

[dropcap]77’[/dropcap] – And it should have gone in but Musa’s strike comes off the upright! Very close!!

[dropcap]83’[/dropcap] – Egwueke’s timely clearance saved the day as he botched Said’s chance who had controlled the ball well in the box.

[dropcap]89’[/dropcap] – No arguements, it’s a Penalty as Emenike was pulled down inside the box by Aynalem Hailu.

[dropcap]90’ [/dropcap]– Emenike coolly coverts from the spot, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. And the fans knew that it was all over. (ETHIOPIA 1-2 NIGERIA)

[dropcap]90 + 5’[/dropcap] – FT: Ethiopia 1-2 Nigeria

 

And it was a huge heartbreak for the hosts who will be very disappointed with the result but the African Champions had just paid them a visit, they came, they saw and they CONQUERED.

See you in Calabar!!!

Mancini appointed as Galatasaray’s manager

Galatasaray have confirmed that Roberto Mancini has become their new head coach on a three-year deal.

The Turkish giants had been in the market for a new coach after Fatih Terim was fired following a bust-up with club president Unal Aysal.

Following a meeting on Sunday, they have moved swiftly to appoint the former Inter and Manchester City coach, who has been out of work since being sacked by the Etihad Stadium outfit in May.

The Istanbul giants confirmed the news via Twitter, saying: “Galatasaray have reached a three-year deal with Roberto Mancini beginning with the 2013-14 season.”

Mancini, meanwhile, has spoken of his pride at joining Gala and is looking forward to their clash with Juventus on Wednesday.

“I’m very proud to have come to a club as big as Galatasaray,” he said.

“It’s different. I’ve made the right decision and I’ve come to a huge club. The Juventus-Galatasaray clash is a happy coincidence for me.”

Mancini will earn €3.5 million for the duration of the remainder of the current season and €4.5m for the remaining two years, with additional incentives on offer.

Emenike says he is being played out of position at Fenerbahce

EmenikeSuper Eagles striker Emmanuel Emenike, has admitted that he has not scored for Fenerbahce, because he is not playing through the middle.

The Nigeria international made the move back to Turkey this summer, but has been largely deployed on the flanks, with the manager preferring Moussa Sow or Pierre Webo as centre forwards.

“The fact is that I am being played out of position now, I am playing form the wing and not as the main striker,” Emenike told MTNFootball.com

“As a player I am obliged to my coach decisions, and I think playing out of position should not be an excuse because I operated from the wings most cases and it is not what I am used to, so I need to adapt to that.

“I am sure I will get better playing to instructions. I believe the coach still believes in me. And my passion to score goals for Fenerbahce is as big as ever.

“I love playing as a main striker and that I am used to, I will keep doing my best and I know in no time the goals will come in multiples because I am working very hard. I will gladly keep to my coach instructions because he knows more than I do.”

The former Spartak Moscow player, also said that he was not under pressure from the club to start scoring, but would love to get some goals soon.

“It is not true that I am under pressure from my team for goals, nobody in my team has asked me questions on this because they know me too well,” he declared.

“I am the one who is eager to score goals as expected by the fans as well as the club, as a matter of fact, I don’t live with pressure because I have never lost the focus to score goals.”