Although it’s still early days, the La Liga title race is currently as tight as it’s been in decades. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Celta Vigo all jointly sit top of the table on 18 points each. The last time the La Liga race was this close was in the 1993-94 season when Real, Barça and Real Sociedad jointly occupied the top spot.
Trailing just slightly behind, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal are currently tied on 16 points each, bringing it to a total of five teams currently in contention to top the standings in Spain.
Despite both being hit by a spate of injuries, Real and Barça maintained their winning ways this weekend: Real Madrid dispatched Levante 3-0 on Saturday with Marcelo opening the scoring 27 minutes in. Moments later, Cristiano... Read More
Antonio Conte is reportedly on the radar of a number of Europe’s top clubs, with Roma, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea all reportedly interested in the Italy boss. Conte led Juventus to three consecutive Serie A titles before assuming the role of national team manager for the Azzurri.
This week, Conte further fueled speculations that he would take on the manager job at Roma following Euro 2016.
“I’ve had the pleasure of living in Rome more often this year as national team coach and I’ve got to say I’ve found it really good. I’m very serene because of this,” Conte told RAI television.
But Conte refused to be drawn on rumors that Roma had already contacted him about succeeding Rudi Garcia. “Roma have got to be very serene because... Read More
Uruguay vs. Colombia (6:55pm ET, beIN Español) Both sides are coming off wins in their World Cup qualifying openers, with Colombia having beat Peru 2-0 and Uruguay beating Bolivia by the same scoreline.
But Colombia will have to make do without their star man, James Rodriguez, with the Real Madrid midfielder having picked up a thigh injury last month.
Uruguay will also be without its key players with Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez both ruled out by injury. Uruguay will also be without coach Oscar Tabarez who is still serving a touchline ban from the Copa America.
History is not necessarily on Colombia’s side. The only time they’ve won previously at the Estadio Centenario was 42 years ago when they beat Uruguay 1-0 ahead of the 1974 World Cup... Read More
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema picked up a hamstring injury while on international duty with France and is expected to be out for up to three weeks. The injury will see him miss out on La Liga clashes with Levante, Celta Vigo and possibly Las Palmas, as well as at least one leg of Real Madrid’s two upcoming Champions League matches against Paris Saint-Germain.
After not finding the net for Les Bleus for a year, Benzema was on-form in France’s 4-0 win over Armenia in Euro qualifying on Thursday. The striker set up Antoine Griezmann for France’s opener before finding two goals of his own in the span of just two minutes.
But it was on the second of these goals that he suffered the injury that saw him replaced by... Read More
Chile welcomes Brazil to the Estadio Nacional in Santiago Thursday, as South American teams begin the qualification process for the 2018 World Cup.
The last time these teams met in an official match was at the 2014 World Cup. That match ended in a 1-1 draw, and Brazil prevailed 1-0 in a friendly earlier this year.
Having won 15 of 18 official meetings between the two, Brazil has historically had the upper hand when these two nations have clashed. But Chile has the confidence of having just won its first major trophy, when it lifted the Copa America on home soil this summer. The Chileans are also undefeated in their last five matches.
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli has a star-studded squad, led by Arsenal’s in-form attacker Alexis Sanchez. Alexis... 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
Known in France as Le Classique, Sunday’s derby will see 15th place Marseille face off against league leaders and reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain. The match comes in the wake of crowd trouble that saw Marseille’s match against Lyon suspended, resulting in several sections of Marseille’s home ground, the Stade Velodrome, being closed for the game against promotion side Angers last weekend.
With the French authorities and sporting press continuing to focus on Marseille’s crowd trouble, the main supporters' groups for the team have decided to boycott this weekend’s Classique. It may be just as well, as watching this struggling Marseille side taking on powerhouse PSG might not make for pleasant viewing.
The crowd trouble with Lyon is just the latest incident in an early season fraught with difficulties for Marseille... Read More
Barcelona fans the world over awoke to the happy news Monday morning that Lionel Messi’s knee injury isn’t as bad as feared. While the player is still set to be sidelined for a period of seven to eight weeks, no surgery is required and Messi could return to action sooner than expected, according to Argentina’s team doctor.
Messi suffered an injury to the ligaments in his left knee in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Las Palmas at the Camp Nou Saturday. After receiving treatment on the pitch, Messi was subbed off in the 10th minute and taken to a nearby clinic for tests.
Despite the hopeful prognosis from Argentina team doctor, Donato Villani, Messi is set to miss a number of important matches, beginning with... Read More
Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally opened his Ligue 1 scoring account for the season Tuesday, finding the net in Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-0 win over Guingamp.
It was the 83rd minute of play when the Swede ran onto a through ball from Angel Di Maria to slot home PSG’s third of the night, following goals from Javier Pastore and Di Maria himself. The goal took Zlatan’s tally to 107 goals for the capital club that he joined in 2012.
He might have made it 108 minutes later had he not missed a penalty.
Still, Ibrahimovic is now just two goals shy of the record held by PSG’s all-time leading scorer, Pauleta, the Portuguese striker who notched 109 goals in five seasons at PSG between 2003 and 2008.
It’s been a long time out in the wilderness, but Inter Milan is riding high at the top of Serie A after going undefeated in its first five matches. It’s not been pretty, it’s not been dynamic, but then Inter has never really been that kind of team.
Even Jose Mourinho’s historic treble-winning Inter side in 2010 specialized mainly in cautious, 1-0 victories. At the time, Mourinho was managing a team that had largely been built by Roberto Mancini. So it’s little coincidence that having been reinstated as Inter manager, Mancini is back to grinding out results with little regard for flair or style.
But that should not detract from the job Mancini has done since taking up his second spell in charge at the Giuseppe Meazza. The former Manchester... Read More
AC Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has scrapped plans to build a new stadium, claiming he is too “in love with the San Siro” to leave the 81,277-seat stadium that has been home to the club since 1926.
Milan had secured funding for a new, state-of-the-art 48,000-seat stadium that was to be built near the club’s new training ground in the Portello district of Milan. But those plans have now been abandoned due in part to a disagreement with the company that owns the land the stadium was to be built on.
Bee Taechaubol, the Thai businessman who is set to take a 48 percent ownership stake in the club next month, is also said to prefer keeping the Rossoneri at San Siro.
Fresh from its 5-0 thrashing of Club Brugge in the Europa League Napoli will host Lazio in Serie A at 4:30pm ET Sunday (watch live on beIN Sports). The win over Brugge came as a welcome respite for the Neapolitan outfit that’s started its season with a loss and two draws.
After beating Bologna 2-1 in its season opener, Lazio suffered a dispiriting 4-0 loss to Chievo before blanking Udinese 2-0 last week.
If Napoli is to come away with its first Serie A win of the season, the man to watch will be Gonzalo Higuain, who has eight goals in four previous appearances against Lazio.
Watch Napoli vs. Lazio LIVE at 4:30pm ET Sunday on beIN Sports.
Balotelli Looking for First AC Milan Goal After... Read More
Already reeling from the sale of Xavi and Pedro, Barcelona’s depth in midfield took another hit this week when tests revealed Rafinha Alcantara -– generally know as Rafinha -– suffered an injury to his cruciate ligament against Roma Wednesday.
The Brazilian midfielder had barely been on the pitch at the Estadio Olimpico in Rome for two minutes when he was the victim of a crunching tackle from Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan.
After the match Barça boss Luis Enrique remarked that the injury “doesn’t look very good.”
The club released a statement early Thursday confirming that Rafinha had indeed injured his ACL and would require surgery and several months of rehabilitation. This means the 22-year-old is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Rafinha’s injury leaves Barcelona’s already thin squad... 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
The Serie A season is barely three weeks old and one of the most anticipated matches of the season is already looming, as Internazionale hosts AC Milan (2:40pm ET Sunday on beIN Sports) in the first Milan Derby of the season.
Not long ago, the Derby della Madonnina could be a potential title-decider between two of Europe’s heavyweights, but this Sunday’s Milan Derby opponents finished 8th (Inter) and 10th (Milan) last season.
While both the blue and the red side of Milan have invested in their squads over the summer and said all the right things in terms of returning to the summit of Italian football, it remains to be seen whether either can actually do so. Of the two, Inter has certainly started off the season stronger, with... Read More
More than one year after signing for Barcelona, goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is finally set to make his La Liga debut against Atletico Madrid Saturday. While Ter Stegen featured in Barça’s successful Champions League and Copa del Rey campaigns last season, coach Luis Enrique favored Claudio Bravo when it came to league outings.
But after straining his right calf in training on Monday, the Chilean keeper is in doubt for Saturday’s clash at the Vicente Calderon. While last season Enrique chose to start Jordi Masip for the one La Liga match Bravo was unavailable for, reports in Spain have tipped Ter Stegen as the man who will step in this time.
Based on Ter Stegen’s most recent appearances in a Blaugrana jersey -– a 5-4 win over Sevilla, and... Read More
The European transfer window slammed shut Tuesday and in terms of the business done this summer, Atletico Madrid left its La Liga competition in the dust. Unlike Barcelona, Atleti weren’t encumbered by any kind of UEFA imposed sanctions. Unlike Real Madrid, Los Colchoneros avoided getting dragged into any kind of protracted transfer drama.
Instead, Diego Simeone got his transfer dealings done early and sensibly. As is customary with Atletico, several key players left – Arda Turan to Barcelona, Mario Mandzukic to Juventus – but somehow those losses don’t seem as staggering as in past seasons.
In fact Jackson Martinez, signed from Porto earlier in the window, looks to be an upgrade to Mandzukic. And while it may take time to see how well Yannick Ferreira Carrasco does in terms of... Read More
With mere hours remaining in the summer transfer window, the writing is clearly on the wall that if there’s one area of the pitch Arsenal needs to reinforce, it’s at striker.
Spurning at least two high-profile opportunities to score against Newcastle United on Saturday, Theo Walcott blew his big chance to convince Arsene Wenger that he’s got what it takes to lead the line for the Gunners. Coming on as a sub with around 20 minutes remaining, Olivier Giroud also failed to impress, and Alexis Sanchez continues to drift through matches without making much of an impact.
Despite sitting in sixth place and having taken seven points out of a possible 12, Arsenal has only scored one goal this season: Giroud’s acrobatic strike in last week’s 2-1 win over Crystal... Read More
Serie A champions Juventus will look to bounce back quickly from their season-opening defeat to Udinese when they make the trip south on Sunday to face AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Last weekend’s loss put an end to a 47-game unbeaten run in the league.
On paper, losing at home against Udinese, a team that finished just outside the relegation zone last season, doesn’t look that good. But the result doesn’t tell the whole story: Max Allegri’s team dominated possession against the visitors and new signings Mario Mandzukic came close to scoring on more than one occasion, as did Paul Pogba, who remains at the club for now.
Cyril Thereau’s 78th-minute goal for the visitors, on the other hand, was Udinese’s first shot on target. And Juve wasn’t... Read More
The new La Liga season is barely a week old and already the boo birds are circling over Gareth Bale. The Welsh international is a favorite target of Real Madrid fans when the club falls short of expectations, as it did in Sunday’s season opener against Sporting Gijon.
Of course Bale did himself no favors when, in the first half, he found space on the left and chose to shoot from an impossible angle when he had two teammates steaming unmarked into the box.
Madrid coach Rafa Benitez has moved Bale into a central position, just underneath the striker. It’s a different position than he occupied under Carlo Ancelotti, who preferred to deploy him on the wing. But it’s typically where he plays for Wales, where he has had great... Read More
Mario Balotelli’s ill-fated spell at Liverpool appears to have come to an end, as it was revealed Tuesday that the player has rejoined AC Milan on a season-long loan. Having already passed his medical at the club where he spent one previous season and that he supported growing up, Balotelli is expected to start training with his new teammates immediately and could be in the lineup to face Empoli this weekend.
The move is somewhat surprising, given the nature of Balotelli’s exit from Milan 12 months ago when then- coach Pippo Inzaghi said Milan would gain “team spirit and hunger” with Balotelli gone.
But one year can be a long time in footballing terms. With Milan in the process of retooling its team, club owner Silvio Berlusconi has been... Read More
Although it’s just completed one of the most successful seasons in its 116-year history, there is a cloud of uncertainty forming over Barcelona as this weekend’s La Liga kickoff looms. Earlier this week, the team that claimed the treble for the second time in its history last season lost the UEFA Super Cup to Athletic Bilbao. Over the two legs of the match, Bilbao simply seemed to want it more, which might be easier to accept had Gerard Pique, Barça’s best defender last season, not earned himself a four-match ban for cursing at the ref.
And all this is without even mentioning the loss of two players who’ve been at the center of everything Barcelona, and Spain, have achieved over the past six or seven years.
How quickly things change in football. On Tuesday morning, Barcelona winger Pedro was edging steadily closer toward a move to Manchester United that has been agonizingly drawn out in the press for most of the summer. Twenty-four hours later and the want-away forward is apparently on the verge of signing with Chelsea instead.
According to reports coming out of England and Spain, Jose Mourinho’s team will complete the signing of the 28-year-old within the next 24 hours. Chelsea and Barça struck the deal late on Tuesday night, only days after Man U vice-chairman Ed Woodward had flown to Spain to discuss terms with the player and the Catalan club. However, United apparently never officially moved to trigger the €30m buy-out clause in Pedro’s contract, but Chelsea did, and Read More
Last season Atletico Madrid failed to hit the heights it had two seasons ago, when Diego Simeone’s team stormed to a La Liga title and came within 90 seconds of winning the Champions League. Instead, Atleti finished third, 14 points behind second-place Real Madrid and 16 behind Barcelona.
As has become almost customary for Los Colchoneros, Atleti has again seen a star striker depart the club, as Mario Mandzukic left for Juventus. But Atletico has managed to keep hold of last season’s leading scorer, Antoine Griezmann, and more importantly, Diego Simeone remains as the club’s manager, having signed a contract extension that will see him stay at the Vicente Calderon until 2018.
Defender Diego Godin has also signed on to remain at the club, despite interest from Manchester City, who... Read More
After stumbling in its season opener to West Ham United last week, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, and particularly goalkeeper Petr Cech, will have to pick up the pieces quickly if it is to live up to pundits' expectations to win the Premier League this season. While you couldn’t quite call them howlers, the former Chelsea net-minder made mistakes at the Emirates last Sunday and was directly culpable for allowing both of West Ham’s goals.
But it was more than just a case of first-day jitters from Cech that undermined the Gunners. While the North Londoners dominated possession, as you’d expect, they lacked a true cutting edge against an organized Hammers side that defended well and made the most of its chances.
To Arsenal’s credit, West Ham keeper Adrian made a number... Read More
The new Premier League campaign is barely a week old and already Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has launched his first conspiracy theory of the season, and it’s not referees or the English FA that the Portuguese gaffer is pointing a finger at. This time, it’s the club’s doctor.
In the wake of Chelsea’s surprising 2-2 draw with Swansea City on opening day, Mourinho has rounded on Chelsea’s first team doctor, Eva Carneiro. The Special One’s ire stems from a stoppage time incident in which the referee waved Carneiro and team physio Jon Fearn onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard. According to Mourinho, the two should have been able to somehow ascertain from the sidelines that Hazard was in no real need of attention, despite the referee waving them on.... Read More
Ligue 1 Champions Paris Saint-Germain kicked off the new season on Friday with a 1-0 win away at Lille. The champions got their campaign underway without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was deemed unfit, and without new signing Angel Di Maria. They ultimately had to do without midfielder Adrien Rabiot as well, after the 20-year-old was shown a red card in the 28th minute.
The Parisians eventually took the lead about 15 minutes into the second half when Lucas Moura raced onto a through ball from Blaise Matuidi, rounded Lille keeper Vincent Enyeama, and slotted home the game’s only goal. PSG have a habit of dropping points on opening day and for a time it looked like they might again. But even with a man advantage Lille were incapable of truly troubling... Read More
Make no mistake: signing Angel Di Maria is a big deal for Paris Saint-Germain. PSG already has a talented squad, but the Argentine is on something of another level, at least from the club’s current midfielder options. Up until now, PSG has had two top-level strikers in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. But they’ve lacked a midfielder of a similar level to provide them service. They have that player now in Di Maria.
The Ligue 1 outfit came very close to signing him last summer after Di Maria helped Real Madrid win the Champions League, but Financial Fair Play restrictions forbade it. So Di Maria wound up at United, a club he didn’t really seem to want to join and, after a time, didn’t really want him either. Unfortunately for... Read More
Gonzalo Higuain has been offered a new deal from Napoli but plans to reject it, according to the player’s agent and brother, Nicolas Higuain. The news has, according to reports in England, cleared the way for Arsenal to sign the player, who came very close to joining the North London outfit two years ago.
One report in Italy claimed that the Gunners had already made a bid upwards of $60 million for the striker that was rejected by Napoli. And while Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentis has maintained that the former Real Madrid man is not currently for sale, he also admitted that if a club did come along that was willing to pay his $100 million release clause, Higuain would be allowed to leave.
Yes, it’s only preseason, a glorified friendly as they say. But still, far better to be on the winning side of the annual Community Shield that pits the Premier League winner against the FA Cup holder. And as Arsenal emerged from Sunday’s clash as deserving 1-0 winner against Chelsea, pundits around the world of football could be heard quietly shuffling the decks on their preseason predictions.
Again, preseason friendlies are rarely an accurate predictor of what’s to come, and Chelsea remains the clear favorite to retain the Premier League title. But in light of Arsenal’s performance against them Saturday and Manchester City’s thumping at the hands of Stuttgart the day before, it’s increasingly looking like the Gunners might be Chelsea’s biggest rivals in the coming season.
In a recent interview with ESPNFC, Jose Mourinho said he was “scared” when Radamel Falcao joined Manchester United on loan last season. The Chelsea boss professed himself to be a longtime admirer of the Colombian striker, who he called a “predator in the box.” Falcao was indeed prolific in his time with Porto in the Portuguese Liga and later at Atletico Madrid, where he established himself as one of the finest strikers in the world.
He’s struggled, though, ever since tearing his cruciate ligament in a French Cup match with Monaco in early 2014. His season-long loan to Man United yielded a paltry four goals in 26 Premier League appearances, leading many to wonder if the injury to his ACL had brought about an early demise.
After failing to turn up to catch his flight to join Manchester United on its preseason tour of the United States, it now seems all-but certain that Angel Di Maria will leave the club. Even at the Man United megastore, Di Maria player masks were placed on a discount rack, alongside the departed Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao. Although no deal has been confirmed as yet, a move to Paris Saint-Germain is believed to be imminent.
Reports in Spain and France have it that the two clubs have agreed upon a fee for the former Real Madrid man in the region of $70 million. Di Maria will reportedly sign a four-to-five year deal with the Ligue 1 champions. He could join up with them as early as... Read More
Despite assurances to the contrary earlier this month, it’s looking increasingly likely that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer. The prolific striker continues to be linked with a return to former club, AC Milan, and recently it was reported he was offered a three-year deal with Manchester United.
Ibrahimovic has spent three years with PSG, helping to propel the capital club to the pinnacle of French football and to establish it as a European power. However last season the Swede fell afoul of fans and the French public with a profanity-laced tirade against France and French football. With a season hampered by injuries, Ibra failed to win the golden boot for the top scorer in Ligue 1 for the first time since moving to France.
Barcelona fullback Adriano Correia wants to leave the Catalan treble winners and has reportedly reached a verbal agreement with Roma. The Brazilian defender joined Barça in 2010 and thanks to his versatility, became an integral part of Pep Guardiola’s team. Able to play as a right-back, left-back, central midfielder, and on the wing, Adriano has won three La Ligas, two Copa del Reys and two UEFA Champions Leagues during his time at Barça. But under Luis Enrique, he has fallen behind the likes of Dani Alvez, Douglas and Aleix Vidal at right-back and Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu at left-back.
Adriano did feature in Barça’s 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in a preseason friendly at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena Tuesday, but the 31-year-old has found it hard... Read More
Arsenal’s successful trip to Asia, which saw them claiming the Barclay’s Asia Trophy Saturday, brought about many intrigues. With Arsene Wenger already having refused to rule out the Gunners making a move for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud further stirred the pot by telling reporters another striker would be welcome at the Emirates.
“If there would be another striker it would nice for all the team because the competition is good for everyone,” said Giroud, speaking to the Guardian after Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat of Everton on Saturday.
Adding to the intrigue was Wenger playing it somewhat coy in reaction to a question about Theo Walcott’s contract negotiations. The Gunners, who in addition to Walcott and Giroud, can call upon the likes of Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez, Alex... Read More
In an interesting development to the ongoing saga of Arturo Vidal’s impending move to Bayern Munich from Juventus, multiple reports have surfaced, indicating that the Bundesliga outfit may be prepared to offer Mario Gotze as a makeweight in the deal.
Earlier this week, it seemed Vidal’s transfer to Bayern was imminent. However club executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has insisted no deal has yet been completed for the Chilean. But Corriere dello Sport has now reported that one aspect of the deal could see Gotze headed in the opposite direction.
Since moving to Bayern from Borussia Dortmund, the World Cup-winning goalscorer has found it tougher than expected to nail down a regular spot in Pep Guardiola’s team. While it may not seem the most obvious move at first glance, leaving... Read More
The four men vying to be elected president of Football Club Barcelona debated one another on Catalan television Tuesday night. With the pristine pitch of the Camp Nou as a backdrop, Josep Maria Bartomeu, Joan Laporta, Agusti Benedito and Toni Freixa took part in a heated discussion about the future and direction of the club that was moderated by journalist Bernat Soler.
The election comes at a time when the La Liga champions could be seen as being at something of a crossroads. On the one hand, Barça has just had one of the most successful seasons in its 116-year history. On the other, administrative and executive decisions in the past few years have seen the Catalan club moving away from its stated doctrine of being mas que un club... Read More
Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc moved to quell rumors that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be leaving the capital club.
“There have never been any doubts as to his presence in the team for 2015-16,” said the former France boss, speaking to Les Parisien.
Blanc’s reaffirming comes only a day after Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini admitted that while there was interest, it was unlikely Ibra would be returning to the Serie A outfit where he spent three seasons between 2006 and 2009.
The Swedish striker has also been linked with a return to AC Milan, another of his previous clubs. However according to Blanc, Zlatan and his occasional strike partner Edinson Cavani are both set to remain at PSG.
Cavani, however, continues to be linked with a move to... Read More
While it’s usually the big name attackers making all the transfer story headlines, this summer it’s been goalkeepers taking up column inches in Spanish and English papers. First, Peter Cech was hailed as the signing that could transform Arsenal from perennial fourth-place finishers into legitimate Premier League contenders. And now with Iker Casillas on the verge of leaving Real Madrid to join Porto, the stage is set for the next phase of what’s in danger of becoming the longest and most protracted goalkeeping transfer saga in football history: bringing David De Gea to Real Madrid from Manchester United.
Negotiations in the Casillas deal nearly broke down on Thursday night. However both parties reportedly reached an agreement on Friday morning, under which Madrid will pay part of Casillas salary to assure... Read More
Over the weekend the Manchester Evening News and other sources reported that Roma are eyeing a bid for Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian striker was instrumental in helping the Citizens become Premier League champions in 2012 and 2014. However, the former Wolfsburg man, who scored only two goals in his last 23 appearances for City, has fallen down the pecking order at the Ethihad of late.
Meanwhile Roma, who are Serie A runners up for the second consecutive season, have been suffering from a serious deficiency in the goals department. Last season not a single player on the squad was able to crack double digits in the scoring column, with Francesco Totti and Adam Ljajic tied on eight goals for top scorer at the club. For two seasons... Read More
Although he’s the most decorated modern player in club football terms, Lionel Messi remains a nearly-man at international level following Argentina’s loss to Chile on penalties in the Copa America final. As the tournament concludes with Chile being crowned deserving winners, there’s a pervading sense of déjà vu from last summer’s World Cup hanging around both Messi and Argentina.
Once again, the Albiceleste entered the tournament with a star-studded squad built around the recently restored “Best Player in the World”; Once again, they reached the final through a series of mostly middling performances; And once again, they fell to a team that was the best in the competition. Like Germany last summer, Chile are deserving winners, having played the best and most consistent football throughout the nearly month-long tournament.
Having fallen just short of the final hurdle at last summer’s World Cup, Saturday’s Copa America final represents a second chance for Lionel Messi to finally lead Argentina to major silverware. On Wednesday in the semifinals, the Barcelona man was on-song as Argentina handed out a 6-1 thrashing to a very good Paraguay side.
For the first time we saw Tata Martino’s team open up and play the kind of expansive, attacking football we’ve been longing to see from the Albiceleste. While not finding the back of the net himself, Messi notched a hat trick of assists as goals rained in from Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, Marcos Rojo, Gonzalo Higuain, and Sergio Aguero. The fact that Argentina could have five different goal-scorers in a match where Messi doesn’t... Read More
It looked like smooth sailing for Argentina at the end of the first half of its opening Copa America match, up two-nil against Paraguay. But as has so often been the case throughout this tournament, Paraguay had other ideas. Two second-half goals from the un-fancied Paraguayans saw the tournament’s favorite held to a draw.
Argentina coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino will be determined to avoid a similar fate when the two sides meet again in a semi-final clash Tuesday. Martino has the best squad in the tournament at his disposal and the manager won’t want to let Paraguay, the team he coached all the way to the final four years ago, level the playing field by drawing Argentina into a penalty shootout.
Both teams reached the semis by progressing on penalties... Read More
No, it was nowhere near as traumatic as last summer’s 7-1 loss to Germany that saw Brazil eliminated from the World Cup. But the Selecao’s exit from the Copa America on Saturday after losing to Paraguay on penalties did seem a suitably inglorious exit for a team that’s now failed to catch fire in two successive major tournaments.
Big Phil Scolari, the man presiding over last summer’s Germany loss, was sacked immediately afterwards. But even at the time, the reappointment of Dunga didn’t seem like the best way to take the team forward. Twelve months later, we have confirmation that assumption was correct. While Dunga’s team didn’t have to bear the crippling pressure of hosting the tournament on its own soil, they were pretty dismal for most of the Copa.
The Copa America quarterfinals continue Friday and Saturday. We preview the remaining two matches that will decide the final four in the 2015 edition of the most long-running tournament in international football.
Argentina vs. Colombia - Friday 6/26 Two of the tournament’s sleeping giants go head-to-head in Friday’s fixture. Of the two, it’s Colombia who’ve struggled the most in this tournament so far. James Rodriquez has been nowhere near the player he was at last summer’s World Cup. The Real Madrid man was effective in Colombia’s 1-0 win over Brazil, but compared to his Golden Boot-winning performance last summer, he’s been a virtual passenger. Radamel Falcao, meanwhile, is becoming a liability: He had seven shots in the group stages and hit the target just once.
With the Group Stage now in the bag, there’s a sense that South America’s big guns are still priming to be fired at this year’s Copa America. While pre-tournament favorites Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay are all through to the quarterfinals, only host nation Chile has managed to look impressive thus far. But with a small pool of just 12 teams, the heavyweight clashes come fast and thick in the Copa America. With the quarters set to kick off on Wednesday it’s time for the big boys to step up.
Chile vs. Uruguay – Wednesday 6/24 On the strength of performances so far, Chile is looking as close to an odds-on favorite as anyone in this tournament right now. While Brazil, Argentina and Colombia have struggled to get out of... Read More
The sad, strange tale of Parma FC’s decline reached its most likely conclusion, as the club was officially declared bankrupt and relegated to Serie D Monday. Although there had been two offers on the table and another in the works from former baseball catching great Mike Piazza, in the end no one was willing to take on the financial challenge of bringing the club back from the brink.
Parma’s problems began about a year ago when UEFA refused to grant the Serie A outfit a license to compete in the Europa League over financial mismanagement issues. In December, club president Tommaso Ghirardi sold Parma for just one euro to a Russian-Cypriot conglomerate. Two months later the club was sold again for the same price, this time to Giampietro Manenti.
Slapped with a suspension for a red card earned in the dying seconds of Brazil’s Copa America loss to Colombia Wednesday, Neymar will be forced to miss the Selecao’s final group stage match against Venezuela Sunday.
Last summer, with the Barcelona talisman knocked out of action with a cracked vertebrae at the World Cup, Brazil were undone by a German side that picked them off clinically on its way to becoming the first European team to win the Cup in South America. One popular narrative since then has it that had Neymar been fit things might’ve gone differently against the Germans. But on the evidence of Brazil’s showing in the Copa America so far, that doesn’t necessarily seem the case.
This was particularly apparent in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Colombia.... Read More
They may have struggled at times in their 2-0 opening win against Ecuador, but of all the pre-tournament favorites, it looks like Chile who are off to the best start. While it admittedly took a 67th minute penalty won and converted by Arturo Vidal to open the scoring, Chile were largely successful at containing a formidable Ecuador attack led by Enner Valencia. Ecuador however, came close on a number of occasions, particularly in the 82nd minute when Valencia rocketed a header off the crossbar that could have leveled the score and changed the game.
But two minutes later Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez played in Eduardo Vargas who slotted a shot past Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez from the center of the box to make it 2-0. It... Read More
Despite persistent rumors linking him with a return to AC Milan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic insists he’s happy in Paris and will remain with Paris Saint-Germain. However the 33-year-old, who is on national team as Sweden prepare to face Montenegro, admitted he’d been in contact with Milan CEO Adriano Galliani and left the door open to the possibility by throwing the old “You never know what will happen in football” line out to reporters.
PSG are apparently readying a spectacular bid to eventually replace Zlatan with Cristiano Ronaldo. While Ronaldo is unlikely to leave Real Madrid this summer, L’Equipe reports that PSG will move for the striker ahead of the 2016-2017 season. Were the Swede actually to return to Milan this summer, that process could become accelerated.
The Copa America has traditionally been seen as a clash between Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, but this year’s edition sees increased competition for South America’s traditional heavyweights. The emergence of host nation Chile as an international power, the resurgence of Colombia’s national team, and a promising Ecuador side that’s on the rise means there are nearly half a dozen teams in the tournament with a reasonable shot at lifting the trophy when the Copa concludes next month.
Bolivia With a squad of mostly domestic players, expectations are low for Bolivia, especially after they lost 5-0 to Argentina in their final warm-up before the tournament. Manager Mauricio Soria says his team will come out attacking. But with forwards who ply their trade at clubs like Changchun Yatai and Oriente... Read More
It was a slightly awkward position for Barcelona club president Josep Maria Bartomeu to find himself in. Speaking to the press the Monday after Barcelona won its fifth European title and wrapped up a historic second treble, Bartomeu had to offer reassurances that Luis Enrique, the manager who’d won those three trophies – La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League - would still be at the club next season.
“You don’t have to suffer, Luis Enrique will continue,” said Bartomeu to Catalunya Radio. “His season has been a 10/10 and there is no need to break contract.”
Enrique, who like Pep Guardiola captured the treble in his first season in charge at Barça, had bypassed an opportunity to make similar assurances over the weekend, saying only, “These decisions will... Read More
With a Champions League final to be played this weekend, the curtain is about to be drawn on the current season of European football. While there’s been plenty of news to follow courtesy of the unfolding FIFA scandal, in the background, the transfer rumor mill has been quietly powering itself up. With the summer window set to open at the end of the month, let’s take a look at some of the deals that could be in the works this summer.
Liverpool has announced that James Milner will be joining the club on a free transfer from Premier League runner-up Manchester City. Meanwhile, the already tiring saga of Raheem Sterling’s campaign to leave the Anfield club shows no sign of abating: The latest rumors have the 20-year-old winger linked to... Read More
It’s tempting to cast Saturday’s Champions League Final in Berlin as a clash between two diametrically opposing styles: the possession-based, attacking tiki-taka of Barcelona; and the cautious, defensive catenaccio of Juventus. In reality, though, the only aspects of the game that will truly be that black and white will be Juve’s jerseys.
It’s true that Juventus gave up fewer goals than any team in Italy on their way to winning their fourth consecutive Serie A title; they also scored more goals than any other in Serie A.
Meanwhile Barcelona racked up an astonishing 110 goals in La Liga this season (eight less than second-place Real Madrid), and managed to concede just 21 goals, three less than Juve. Of major sides across Europe, only Bayern Munich gave up fewer goals... Read More
With back-to-back FA Cups now safely ensconced in the Emirates Stadium trophy cabinet, Arsenal’s nine-year drought is well and truly a thing of the past. A third place finish in the Premier League this season relieves the North London outfit of the need for arduous Champions League qualification, a factor that’s often impacted the early stages of their league campaigns in recent years. And while winning the FA Cup ain’t what it used to be, these are signs of progress at Arsenal.
With the albatross of an impending decade of no trophies no longer hanging over their heads, the time is right for Arsene Wenger’s team to kick on and truly challenge for the Premier League, and possibly even the Champions League.
It’s been 11 years since Arsenal last... Read More
Arsenal face Aston Villa in the FA Cup final Saturday, knowing a win will make the Gunners the first team to lift the Cup 12 times. Victory at Wembley would also take Arsene Wenger’s FA Cup tally to six, making the Frenchman ironically the most prolific manager in modern times in terms of winning English soccer’s most-celebrated domestic cup competition. Wenger is currently even with Sir Alex Ferguson with five. Having won the Cup 12 months ago, Arsenal could also become only the eighth team in history to retain it.
But the pressure will be on Wenger and his team, as Arsenal are strong favorites to beat a Villa side that barely avoided relegation.
Apart from the injured Danny Welbeck, Wenger will have his full squad at his... Read More
Was there ever really any doubt this was coming? Despite some in the media speculating it would be different this time, the inevitable sacking of Carlo Ancelotti by Real Madrid happened this week. Although he won the club’s 10th European title in his first season in charge, this season he won nothing. The last time a manager remained in charge at the White House after going trophy-less was in 1983; and that was Alfredo Di Stefano, a club legend.
Ancelotti has essentially been a dead man walking ever since Real Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus. Barcelona clinching the title a few days later was just the final push down the staircase for Ancelotti. It’s unfortunate because there really aren’t many managers in world football better... Read More
Olympique Lyonnais may have fallen short in their effort to overhaul Paris Saint-Germain in the French title race, but striker Alexandre Lacazette’s 27 goals in 31 appearances saw the Lyon man claim top scorer honors in Ligue 1 for the season. The 23-year-old is now reported to be on the radar of several top clubs around Europe. With Arsenal, PSG, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich all said to be interested in him, the Lacazette saga could be one to watch this summer.
Twelve months ago, Lacazette was relatively unknown outside of France, failing even to earn a call-up for the French squad for the 2014 World Cup. Having spent his entire career at Lyon, Lacazette has only managed to break into double digits on the season once before. Part of Lacazette’s... Read More
Having already clinched the Serie A title and Coppa Italia, it’s been a big season for Juventus. It could get even bigger if they beat Barcelona in the Champions League final. The best team in Italy by a long shot, the Old Lady has already re-staked her claim to continental greatness just by making it into the final against Barça. Should they actually pull off a win, it might force fans and pundits alike to have a serious rethink about Serie A and Italian football in general.
Although the problem for Serie A currently is that Juve are establishing Bayern Munich-like dominance over the rest of the league. A full 16 points ahead of Roma in the standings, no one has come that close to challenging the Turin outfit... Read More
Barcelona aren’t the only Champions League finalist that could be in line for a historic treble. Juventus just added the Coppa Italia to a haul that’s already seen Max Allegri’s team crowned Serie A champions this season. And while popular wisdom has it that Juve have no chance of beating Barça and winning a historic treble, the same was said before they beat Real Madrid in the semis.
Okay, granted, we’re talking about a Real Madrid team that’s had its problems this season. Luka Modric’s injury has hit Carlo Ancelotti’s team hard. Gareth Bale is being persecuted by his own fans, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s conduct appears to be increasingly getting under his teammates’ skin. As opposed to a Barcelona side that’s recently regained its status as the best club side... Read More
It was something of a mixed bag for Arsenal against Manchester United Sunday. Yes, the Londoners came away from Old Trafford with a point, keeping them in-line for a third-place finish and automatic Champions League qualification next season. The draw also saw Arsenal maintain their good record against the top sides, which is much improved from last season. And while the resulting point suits them, apart from the excellent Aaron Ramsey, Arsene Wenger’s team looked rather flat against United.
It’s been a long season and the Gunners’ best players this term have all faded somewhat in recent matches, seemingly exhausted by the campaign. Alexis Sanchez had an anonymous match against United, as did Olivier Giroud. Mesut Ozil provided a few moments of inspiration and some excellent service on set-pieces. But... Read More
With the threat of a La Liga strike over the new TV rights deal now averted, Barcelona will travel to the Vicente Calderon Sunday to face reigning champions Atletico Madrid as planned. A win at the Calderon will see Barça crowned Spanish champions and keep Luis Enrique’s team in line for what could be a historic treble.
Despite Atleti’s home field advantage, Barcelona are seen as favorites Sunday. Although their 18-match winning streak was snapped by Bayern Munich on Wednesday, Barcelona are into the Champions League final against Juventus next month and will also face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final this month. A win Sunday would see the Catalans claim the first of the three major trophies available to them and be a huge step towards claiming... Read More
Although it took them until last week’s meeting with Crystal Palace to officially seal the deal, Chelsea were the only real contender in the Premier League title race for most of this season. While some have criticized the quality of the football Jose Mourinho’s side played, there was little doubt over the course of the season that the Londoners would be crowned champions come May.
With a team stacked with talent, the shrewdest manager in world football, and a winning transfer policy, Chelsea are already favorites to retain the title next season. Will anyone be capable of seriously challenging them? Maybe. Let’s take a look at the teams who could give Chelsea a run for their money, and what they need to do in order to do so.
It seemed to finally come together for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 on Friday as Les Parisiens put on a command performance, demolishing Guingamp 6-0 at the Parc du Princes. A hat trick from Edinson Cavani, a brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a single goal from Maxwell put PSG well out of reach for the mid-table side. The win put PSG in pole position for their third consecutive Ligue 1 title, and thanks to Lyon’s 3-0 loss to Caen Sunday, PSG can clinch with just a single point against Montpellier next week.
With two rounds left to play, PSG are six points clear of Lyon and have a superior goal differential. Ibrahimovic’s return from his recent suspension has come just in time for the club. The Swede has been in... Read More
AC Milan are in the midst of their worst season in over 20 years, and the powers that be at the club apparently feel that the best way to bring the club forward is to look to its glorious past. Set to receive a badly needed injection of cash from its new mega-rich Thai businessman co-owner, Bee Taechaubol, the club is reportedly on the market for a marquee player to rebuild the team around. Apparently the first choice is former Rossoneri striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Zlatan enjoyed a successful spell at Milan between 2010 and 2012, winning the Scudetto and the Copa Italia before moving on to Paris Saint-Germain. But after being Ligue 1’s darling for the past couple years, it’s all come a cropper for Ibra in the City of... Read More
You can take the Ballon D’or, the Pichichi, and all the other records and throw them into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Because if you wanted an answer as to whom the best player in the world is, it came towards the conclusion of Barcelona’s first-leg, semifinal clash against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
The match had been at a deadlock for well over an hour when Messi suddenly turned it on. His first strike came in the 77th minute when from out of nowhere, he fired home a shot from the edge of the box that left the otherwise outstanding Manuel Neuer no chance in the Bayern goal.
He struck again just three minutes later, when he was played in by a nice pass from Ivan Rakitic,... 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
On Thursday Spanish legislators approved a new law governing the sale of football television broadcasting rights that could open the door to a sea change in La Liga. Under the current arrangement, clubs are allowed to negotiate their own individual TV deals – a system that heavily favors Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The new deal was intended bring La Liga more in line with the other major European leagues like the English Premier League and Serie A. Once passed, the law will rectify the imbalances to how the TV money is distributed in Spain and should bring about more financial parity in the league.
Spanish sports ministry spokesman Miguel Cardenal described the deal as “a historic measure and one that was necessary for Spanish football.”
Juventus bounced back from their surprise loss to Torino last weekend with a 3-1 win over Fiorentina in midweek. But the Serie A leaders had to postpone their title celebrations as Lazio, who are currently in second, romped to a 4-0 win over Parma, keeping the title race alive, at least mathematically.
Despite holding a 14-point lead over Lazio, this was the second time in the space of a few days that Juve failed to close the deal on the Scudetto. But the Turin outfit will have a chance to wrap up their fourth consecutive title this weekend when they face Sampdoria away. Although even if the title is secured, manager Max Allegri has ordered that there be no celebrations until the following weekend.
Arsene Wenger cut a familiar frustrated figure on the sidelines at the Emirates Stadium Sunday as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea held his Arsenal side to a scoreless draw. It was the 13th time Wenger had pitted one of his teams against one of Mourinho’s and the Frenchman is still looking for his first win against the Portuguese.
And while Arsenal never looked in danger of succumbing to a demoralizing loss, like last season’s 6-0 hiding at Stamford Bridge, they also never really looked that likely to score either. A big part of the credit must go to John Terry. The Chelsea center back was exceptional at the Emirates, cutting out crosses, making clearances and being praised by his manager afterwards for having had his best game ever.
After playing out last weekend’s lackluster Milan Derby to a scoreless draw, Internazionale will welcome Roma to the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium Saturday. This Roma side, which spent the early part of the season hot on Juventus’ heels, is currently tied with Lazio on 58 points in second place.
Rudi Garcia has seen his team has draw 10 of its last 14 matches with goals having been the main problem for Roma this year. Despite not giving up too many, they’ve been unable to score more than one a match since early February. And finding the net against an Inter side that’s kept a clean sheet in its last three will be no easy task at the Giuseppe Meazza.
But Roma are in desperate need of all three points... Read More
By most accounts, Paris Saint-Germain was pretty woeful overall in yesterday’s second leg Champions League semifinal loss to Barcelona. But if one PSG player stood out for having an even worse game than the rest of his team, it was surely Edinson Cavani.
Like his teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Uruguayan was isolated up top and received little in the way of service. But while Ibra dropped deep and attempted to influence the match in midfield, Cavani was basically a bystander. And while in the first leg Cavani had a number of missed attempts on goal, in the second he failed to register a single shot, on-target or off. The 2-0 loss, that sees PSG eliminated on a 5-1 aggregate, was just the latest instance of Cavani failing to make an... Read More
Goalkeepers rarely make headlines for doing things well. When they do make the papers, it’s usually for high profile blunders. Like the two we witnessed in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal at Wembley between Arsenal and Reading. The first howler came in the second half of regular time.
With Arsenal up 1-0, thanks to a first-half blast from Alexis Sanchez, keeper Wojciech Szczesny fumbled a save on a shot from Garath McCleary, allowing Reading the goal that would take the match to extra time. Szczesny has been relegated to bench warmer and Cup-keeper since his last headline-grabbing incident: being caught smoking in the showers at the Emirates Stadium after a culpable performance in Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Southampton on New Year’s Day.
But this time it won’t be Szczesny who... Read More
This Sunday’s Milan Derby will be different from past clashes between Internazionale and AC Milan. While the match that in Italy is known as the Derby della Madonnina has historically been a clash between two footballing giants with title implications, Sunday’s edition, on paper anyway, will be little more than a clash between two mid-table teams who share a stadium.
AC Milan currently sits in ninth place, one point above Inter in tenth. With neither side anywhere near this season’s Scudetto race and realistically out of the race for Europe, there is little left to play for this season in terms of tangible goals. But as it is in other mid-table derbies around the world, when there is little else to play for, victory in the derby becomes all the... Read More
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not on the pitch for Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 home loss to Barcelona in the Champions League this week. The striker was serving a ban for a red card he received when PSG edged Chelsea on away goals in a 2-2 thriller at Stamford Bridge last month. With Edinson Cavani continuing to flounder when deployed as a central striker, Zlatan’s presence was badly missed as PSG was cut open by a superior Barcelona side.
While he will be available for next week’s second leg at the Camp Nou, the towering Swede is also now facing a four-match domestic ban for a tirade against French football and France that was caught on video earlier this year. This leaves PSG without its most important player as the reigning champions head... Read More
Real Madrid is in an interesting position at the moment. Although favorites to win this season’s Champions League, according to a new study put out by CIES Football Observatory, Carlo Ancelotti’s men must first get past Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid – a team they’ve failed to beat in their last six encounters.
The city-rivals square off against one another on Tuesday in the first part of a two-legged tie that will send one team through to the semis and the other back to Madrid. Atletico are the home team for the first leg so Real Madrid face the daunting task of meeting their bitter rivals in the intimidating atmosphere of the Vicente Calderon. The Calderon is never an easy place for visiting teams and the last time Real paid a... Read More
It would have seemed folly to have this conversation a few short weeks ago. But with Arsenal and Manchester United in hot pursuit and Diego Costa out injured, people are starting to wonder; could Chelsea let the title slip?
It seems highly unlikely, but not impossible. It’s a pity that neither United nor Arsenal could have hit their good form a few weeks sooner. A boost of three to five points for either team would’ve potentially made this one of the most exciting Premier League title races in years. But seven points clear with a game in hand; Chelsea can afford to lose two games out of the remaining eight and still end up as Champions in May.
But the path to victory is by no means an easy or... Read More
Lionel Messi was on target again for Barcelona against Almeria on Wednesday, opening the scoring in the 33rd minute with a sumptuous curling strike from the edge of the 18. It was the first of four unanswered goals Barça put past Almeria on the day, Messi’s 33rd of the season, and his 21st in this calendar year. Begging the question: why couldn’t he have played like this a year ago on the runup to the World Cup?
The spring of 2014 was a very different time for Messi and Barcelona. Messi was nearly 10 pounds heavier and Barça was in the midst of what would prove to be its first trophy-less season since 2007-08.
They say the two things in life you can’t avoid are death and taxes and apparently... Read More
As with practically everything else this season, it took Paris Saint-Germain longer than you would have expected to take the lead against Marseille in Sunday’s Classique. In fact there were long periods in the first half when it looked like it would never happen.
Marseille took the lead right on the half hour mark through Andre-Pierre Gignac. Blaise Matuidi equalized for Paris just five minutes later, Gignac restored Marseille’s lead just minutes before the break.
As the teams headed into the locker room for halftime, it felt as if PSG had just been dealt a demoralizing blow. And on the evidence of the majority of their performances this season, it wasn’t entirely clear whether they’d be capable of coming back against this Marseille side that had been stronger throughout the... Read More
Red-hot Arsenal welcome Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday for what could prove a decisive clash between two teams vying for the top four. The Gunners are in the in-form team in the Premier League at the moment, having won nine out of their last 10 matches. With the injury crisis of earlier in the season behind it, Arsenal has come on strong in the New Year. Striker Olivier Giroud is playing confidently and has knocked in nine goals in his last nine matches.
Mesut Ozil too has hit a good run of form since returning from injury. While still criticized for his seemingly languid style, it was recently revealed that the German playmaker regularly covers more ground during a game than any of his teammates. Ozil’s return seems... Read More
It’s taken a long time but Paris Saint-Germain, strong favorite to retain the Ligue 1 title going into this season, has finally settled atop the league standings. Part of the reigning champion’s inability to top the table this season has stemmed from its own underperforming. A creeping sense of jadedness has underpinned much of what we’ve seen from the Parisians this term. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was also out injured for a key stretch of the season, with Edinson Cavani all-too-often failing to fire in his absence. Far too many matches PSG should’ve won have ended in draws. Apart from the dramatic way in which they knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League, there’s been precious little about PSG to get excited over this season.
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
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium will be the backdrop for the friendly between rival South American superpowers Brazil and Chile on Sunday.
On the evidence of its showing in Thursday’s 3-1 friendly win over France, it seems that confidence has been restored to this Brazilian side. While France took an early lead through Raphael Varane, Brazil were able to equalize before the end of the first half through Oscar. By the time Neymar put Brazil ahead 15 minutes into the second half, that 7-1 loss to Germany at the Maracana last summer was beginning to seem like a long time ago; when Luis Gustavo popped up with a third a few minutes later, France no longer looked like they believed themselves capable of getting back into the match.
Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi is reportedly making a quicker than expected recovery from his latest knee surgery and could return to training within two weeks. The New Jersey-born Rossi, who represents Italy internationally, has been sidelined for seven months following the latest bout with a recurring knee ligament injury that has dogged him throughout much of his career.
Rossi, 28, has yet to make an appearance for Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina side this season, but could be in line for a return to action before the season ends in May. The former Villarreal man missed last summer’s World Cup after aggravating his knee and suffered a further setback in preseason, which required additional surgery.
While the club had initially hoped Rossi would be back on the pitch this month, it now... Read More
In a game that Real Madrid dominated for long periods, it took a moment of stardust from Luis Suarez for Barcelona to gain the edge. With the score tied at 1-1 in the 56th minute, the Uruguayan used one touch to control a long ball in from Dani Alves and another to side-foot it just beyond the reach of the sprawling Iker Casillas into the far corner. It was a moment of brilliance worthy of the grandiosity of the El Clasico. Jeremy Mathieu had scored the opener for Barcelona, heading in an exquisite set-piece delivery from Lionel Messi in the 19th minute. Cristiano Ronaldo equalized on the half-hour mark, firing home from close range after receiving a cheeky back-heeled pass from Karim Benzema. Still, it was Suarez’s night, with the... Read More
After admitting in his own words that 2014 was “a not very good year,” Lionel Messi has lately regained the mercurial form that made him the undisputed best player on Earth for most of the last half decade. As this weekend’s El Clasico looms, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner is flying high once again.
Reports in the Spanish media have it that Messi’s return to form is in part due to a renewed commitment to fitness that included giving up pizza and shedding eight pounds from this time last year.
According to the Catalan daily, Mundo, Messi has refocused his training efforts and has been showing up early for team sessions to do extra work. He’s apparently also been working with a dietician and the kinesiologist for the... Read More
Barcelona’s 1-0 Champions League defeat of Manchester City at the Camp Nou was tougher than it might have been, mainly thanks to City keeper Joe Hart, whose many saves kept the Premier League champions in the game if not the tie. Barça also hit the post twice and were unlucky not to win the game by a greater margin.
But all in all, despite the narrow scoreline, it was a masterful performance from Barcelona with Lionel Messi in particular shining brightly. The Catalans now head into Sunday’s El Clasico against Real Madrid in excellent form, with only two losses in 20 matches this calendar year.
It’s a far cry from the shambolic Barcelona side of earlier this season that was beset by talks of a crisis and rumors about... Read More
It was somewhat telling that Real Madrid’s two most spectacular moments during Sunday’s 2-0 win over Levante were near misses. The first came early in the first half when Gareth Bale controlled the ball in midair before trying flick it to the far post for Cristiano Ronaldo. It was a magical bit of control that unfortunately came to nothing. The same could be said of Karim Benzema’s Zlatan-like scorpion kick, which rocketed off the crossbar in the second half: impressive, but ultimately futile. Between these two spectacular near misses, however, Real put in a convincing, if not awe-inspiring performance.
Gareth Bale, increasingly the target of Real Madrid fans’ ire, came good with two first-half goals that essentially took the fight out of the visitors. Bale, who’s so often seemingly made... Read More
Paris Saint-Germain astounded the football world by rallying past Chelsea in the Champions League this week, despite having been reduced to ten men early in the match. But back home in France, Les Parisiens are locked in the throes of a three-way dogfight at the top of the table where every point counts. Their chief rivals – first-place Lyon and third-place Marseille – are set to go head-to-head this Sunday at the Stade Velodrome.
A victory at home would bring Marcelo Bielsa’s Marseille within one point of Lyon and potentially into second place, depending on how PSG fares against Bordeaux. Marseille set the pace early on in the Ligue 1 season, and last week ended a four-match winless streak with a 6-1 demolition of Toulouse. But Lyon have... Read More
It’s taken a couple seasons and admittedly, they basically spent their way to the big time. But we have possibly seen the emergence of a new power into European soccer’s big stage this week. Paris Saint-Germain, the Qatari-backed Ligue 1 side that’s risen to the top in France, took their biggest scalp to date in Europe, eliminating Chelsea deep in extra time at Stamford Bridge to advance to the Champions League final four. More impressively, PSG played 90 plus minutes with only 10 men after Zlatan Ibrahimovic was contentiously sent off in the 32nd minute for a collision with Oscar. Sending Ibra off was in fact the first of many bad calls from referee Bjorn Kuipers, who nearly stole the headlines himself early on.
In a weekend that basically saw the La Liga title race turned on its head, Atletico Madrid missed an opportunity to close the gap on Real Madrid and Barcelona by giving up a draw at home to Valencia.
Diego Simeone’s men had taken a first half lead through Koke who, with a little help from Tiago, got onto the end of a set-piece delivery from Gabi to put Atleti ahead with just over half an hour gone by.
Normally you’d expect Atletico to go on to win after taking the lead. Since Simeone’s arrival, the Los Colchoneros have proved masterful at managing out 1-0 leads. They give nothing away, especially at the Calderon, and as their opponents become increasingly frustrated, Atleti often strike again. This season they’ve run up several... Read More
League leaders Real Madrid head to San Mames Saturday to face an Athletic Bilbao team currently sitting in 10th. Over the years, the Basque side has become something of a favorite target for Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s scored 14 goals in 11 matches against Athletic.
Of course the embattled Portuguese forward, who’s lately suffered abuse from his own fans, has often been an object of ire and derision from Bilbao’s fans. His contentious relationship with the San Mames faithful has boiled over on more than one occasion. It will be a measure of the man to see how Ronaldo responds to the pressure this weekend.
The firestorm surrounding his ill-timed birthday celebration has largely blown over. But his performances are still being criticized by the Spanish press and the latest rumors... Read More
Francis Coquelin continued to impress in midfield as Arsenal put two unanswered goals past Queens Park Rangers Wednesday. It’s easy to forget the French midfielder was on the verge of being released at the end of the season just a couple of months ago. But after another commanding performance against Everton on the weekend, during which he had his nose broken by teammate Olivier Giroud but remained on the pitch until the 89th minute, Arsene Wenger wasn’t about to drop him for the midweek trip to Loftus Road.
Wearing a protective facemask, Coquelin was at the heart of everything that worked in the center of the park for the Gunners. The 23-year-old had a perfect tackle rate of six out of six against QPR. He also made some impressive contributions... Read More
If there was a moment when the title race well and truly slipped beyond Roma’s grasp, it likely came in the 62nd minute of Monday’s Serie A clash with Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Defender Vasileios Torosidis came in for a reckless tackle on Juve’s Arturo Vidal. Already on a yellow, the Greek defender was shown a red card and ejected from the match.
Carlos Tevez stepped up to take the ensuing free kick, bending in a right-footed effort from outside the box that floated into the bottom left corner, leaving Roma keeper Morgan De Sanctis no chance. And just like that Roma found themselves a goal and a man down with 30 minutes left to play, and any remaining title aspirations hanging in the balance.
Already favorites to win the Premier League and advance to the last eight of the Champions League, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea could lift one of the three remaining trophies available to them this season in this Sunday’s League Cup final at Wembley. Standing in their way will be a determined Tottenham Hotspur side that arguably threw away its chance to advance in the Europa League in order to save its best for this final.
And while earlier in the season Chelsea’s Diego Costa was the in-form striker in the Premier League, of late it’s been Tottenham’s homegrown goal-getter Harry Kane who’s been banging them in. Kane was on target twice the last time the two sides met, on New Year’s Day, when Spurs handed Chelsea a surprise 5-3 defeat at White... Read More
Juventus took one step towards the Champions League last night with a narrow 2-1 victory at home over Borussia Dortmund, an impressive overall performance from the Serie A side who now find themselves at least slight favorites to go through.
But Juventus have a habit of winning home, both domestically and in Europe. They’ve lost just one of 15 European home fixtures since moving to the new Juventus Stadium in 2011. And while Juve have been the dominant force in Italy of late, if they do progress, it will only be their second appearance in the last eight since 2008.
Antonio Conte, the manager who ushered in this new era of Juventus' dominance, always saw his teams fall short somewhat in Europe. His successor, Massimiliano Allegri, now at least... Read More
Arsene Wenger has thrown cold water on new rumors about Santi Cazorla leaving Arsenal for Atletico Madrid. The Spanish playmaker had been linked with a move to Atleti last summer. And it’s no secret the La Liga champions covet Cazorla’s silky skills as a potential compliment to their often steely midfield.
But in his Friday press conference, the Arsenal boss was quick to rubbish such talk.
Speaking to AS, Wenger said: “He extended his contract last year. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, we’ve not been approached.”
In a midfield running over with talent, it’s Cazorla who’s so often been the key man this season. His link-up play, ability to slip past defenders, and reliability in taking penalties in Mikel Arteta’s absence, have earned him two consecutive... Read More
Cristiano Ronaldo ended his three-match goal drought in emphatic fashion, heading in the go-ahead goal for Real Madrid 27 minutes into the La Liga leaders’ Champions League meeting with Schalke 04. The goal was Ronaldo’s 34th in the knockout rounds of Europe’s elite club competition and put his side in the driver’s seat for the first leg of the tie against the Bundesliga outfit.
Ronaldo has been under pressure since social media photos of his 30th birthday surfaced, just hours after Real Madrid were handed an embarrassing 4-0 defeat from Atletico Madrid. Missing a sitter and having a forgettable game against Deportivo on the weekend did little to alleviate that pressure. However the current Ballon d’Or winner found himself unmarked in the box at Veltins Arena, essentially being granted a... Read More
The English champions-elect got a weekend’s rest heading into Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain, as FA Cup action brought a one-week halt to Premier League play. Meanwhile their opponents for Tuesday’s meeting were hit with the equivalent of a six-month Arsenal injury crisis in the course of 90 minutes.
PSG had no less than seven players forced off the pitch due to injury during their Ligue 1 clash with Caen Saturday. Of those seven, at least four are expected to be unavailable to face Chelsea.
Granted Chelsea had a more difficult time than expected knocking PSG out of the Champions League last season. However this year’s model is a different animal than the one that squeaked by on away goals last year. Mourinho is often known as a... Read More