The UEFA region’s final round of World Cup qualifying for 2016 gets underway this weekend. The continent’s top teams will look to consolidate their positions in their respective groups before qualifying resumes next March. Here is a look ahead to some of this weekend’s key matches.
France vs. Sweden
Euro 2016 finalists France will host Sweden in World Cup qualifying on Friday. Led by attacker Antoine Griezmann and midfielder Paul Pogba, Les Bleus boast one of the most talented squads in Europe and will be favorites at home against a Sweden side still struggling for identity in the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era.
Marcel Deschamps’ side has won two out of three of its last three qualifiers and sits atop Group A. Deschamps is dealing with some injuries in the defense department,... Read More
In the wake of reports about a delegation of senior players calling a meeting with him to demand more attacking football, Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez is feeling the pressure ahead of Saturday’s El Clasico against Barcelona.
Benitez, who earned a reputation for playing defense-minded football in stints at Valencia, Liverpool and Napoli, came out on Friday promising he would set his team out to attack.
“The attributes of this Real Madrid team mean we have to attack regularly, threaten the opposition keeper and score goals, and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Benitez told MARCA.
The former Real Madrid Castilla player also bristled at the suggestion by many in the media that Barcelona, despite being the visiting team, were favorites.
“We’re playing at home,... Read More
In a week in which terror attacks have cast a long shadow over European football in the bombings in France and the cancellation of scheduled friendlies between Belgium and Spain, and Holland and Germany, this season’s first El Clasico is still set to be played on Saturday.
With the entire continent still grieving and on its guard, the show will go on: Real Madrid will line up against Barcelona, and the people will attempt to take back a little normalcy from the terrorists who have tried to wrest it from them.
Security levels at the Santiago Bernabeu will be heightened, with a major increase expected in the number of police deployed around the stadium, as well as more stringent security checks for fans entering it.
And what of... Read More
According to a report in the French daily Le Parisien, Cristiano Ronaldo spoke to Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc on Tuesday, telling him “Your team plays really well. I’d like to work with you.”
Speculation in press and football circles has been rife since cameras caught the two former Manchester United teammates speaking closely together following PSG’s 1-0 loss to the La Liga outfit in the Champions League.
Ronaldo has been linked with PSG for a couple of seasons now. The Ligue 1 outfit’s current talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is out of contract this summer. With the Swede now age 34 and linked with a possible move to Major League Soccer, it’s entirely possible that PSG could be lining up his successor.
As the reigning World Player of the Year... Read More
The Vicente Calderon has not been an easy place for Real Madrid to go in recent years. Last time they visited, they lost 4-0. That was during Carlo Ancelotti’s time in charge, during which Real failed to register a single win over Atleti in La Liga.
But now, with a new manager in charge and having beaten Atletico in the Champions League the last time the two met, Real Madrid are likely to be more confident going into this weekend’s fixture than they’ve been for some time; especially with Atletico still smarting from losing at home in the Champions League for the first time under Diego Simeone.
With just two points separating them in the table, both sides have it all to play for on Sunday. Atletico are notorious... Read More
Cristiano Ronaldo struck five goals into the back of the net against Espanyol on Saturday to break the record held by Raul and become Real Madrid’s all-time leading La Liga goal scorer.
What is so impressive about Ronaldo’s feat is not just the speed at which he accomplished it – 230 goals in 204 matches as opposed to Raul’s 228 in 550 – but the fact that CR7 isn’t really an out-and-out striker.
While Ronaldo’s goals have typically involved using pace or trickery of some kind to strike from the wing or outside, against Espanyol the former Manchester United man operated more like a traditional center forward. All five of his goals were converted with a single touch.
Seeing Ronaldo’s ruthless efficiency begs the question as to what kind of... Read More
With Carlos Tevez already identified as Atletico Madrid’s top transfer target this summer, Juventus, in a bit of football symmetry, have named Atleti striker Mario Mandzukic as the man they would replace the Argentine with. Mandzukic, who had a good but not great season with Atletico, is one of the players the club is reportedly looking to move on this summer.
After falling from last season’s dizzying heights of winning La Liga and making it to the Champions League final, to finish third this season, Diego Simeone is looking to rebuild an Atleti attack that suffered in the wake of Diego Costa’s departure to Chelsea.
While Mandzukic contributed a respectable 12 goals and five assists in the league this season, it was Antoine Griezmann who emerged as Atleti’s... Read More
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 29th hat trick of his Real Madrid career Saturday to lift his side to a 3-2 away win over Sevilla and keep them in the hunt for the La Liga title. The win was Real Madrid’s first at Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan since 2011 and brought an end to a 34-match unbeaten streak at home for Sevilla.
Ronaldo’s three goals also saw him once again overtake Lionel Messi to become the leader in the race for this season’s Pichichi award for the most goals. It was a clutch performance in a crunch game from a player who’s borne the brunt of much of the criticism surrounding Carlo Ancelotti’s team this year.
Granted, the cards did fall in Real Madrid’s favor to some degree. After 23 minutes... Read More
An analysis conducted by the CIES Football Observatory has named Barcelona attacker Lionel Messi the top performing forward in Europe’s elite leagues for 2015, while Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo came in at 29th. The study analyzed players based on six Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, including rigor, recovery, distribution, take-ons, chance creation, and shooting.
Messi has scored 17 goals in La Liga in 2015; Ronaldo has netted just six.
According to the study, it’s Arjen Robben who is Messi’s closest competition. The Bayern Munich winger came in second with his Netherlands teammate, Bas Dost coming third. Messi’s Barça teammate Luis Suarez came in fourth, followed by Chelsea striker Diego Costa in fifth and Tottenham striker Harry Kane in sixth.
While Ronaldo came in at a relatively lowly 29th, that’s significantly... Read More
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