Monthly Archives: November 2015

  1. The Round of 16 Takes Form with Week Five of the UEFA Champions League

    Week five of the UEFA Champions League 2015/16 began to bring the next phase of the competition into clear focus, as 10 of the round of 16 slots are now confirmed. Week six of the group stage, which the UEFA has scheduled for December 8th and 9th, will see several on-the-fringe clubs battling for last-minute advancement. For the most part, though, the big title contenders have already secured their round of 16 spots.

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    The First Qualifiers

    When we last checked in with the Champions League, following week four of competition in early November, three teams-Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Zenit St. Petersburg-had already guaranteed themselves advancement into the next round. Zenit St. Petersburg continues to carry the torch as the only team in this year's Champions League to have won all of their group stage matches. They beat Valencia 2-0 this week to fortify their status as one of the best football teams in the tournament.

    Real Madrid, meanwhile, also kept an undefeated streak alive, topping Shakhtar Donetsk 4-3. Remarkably, the Vikings were up 4-0 with just 20 minutes left in the match but allowed Shakhtar to score three goals in the space of 11 minutes to end the match. The game was the second Real Madrid Home Shirt 2015 - 2016consecutive poor showing by Real Madrid, who lost big to FC Barcelona last weekend in the La Liga. The Shakhtar Donetsk game did see Cristiano Ronaldo netting two goals, though, making

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  2. Imagining a La Liga without Messi or Ronaldo: Could it be the Future?

    Here we are; another season, another bevy of rumors about the potential departures of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from their respective football clubs. Every year seems to bring chatter that Spain's biggest soccer stars are about to hit the road and head elsewhere for the soccer seasons that remain in their careers. Amid the mounting speculation this season we imagine the future of La Liga without Messi or Ronaldo.

    Up in the Air

    Last season, the rumors were loudest about Cristiano Ronaldo, who was supposedly upset about Real Madrid's decision to sack Carlo Ancelotti and hire Rafael Benitez instead. Ronaldo ultimately signed a new contract, though, potentially tying himself to the Vikings until 2018. However, sources are currently saying that Real Madrid are likely to sell either Ronaldo or teammate Gareth Bale this coming summer, which means that a move away from the La Liga is not off the table for Ronaldo.

    Similarly up in the air is the future of Lionel Messi. The Argentine star has been injured for much of the 2015 2016 campaign but is obviously still valued at Camp Nou, having helped FC Barcelona win the treble last season. He is a top contender for this year's Ballon d'Or award and is arguably still playing at the peak of his powers. However, repeated tax fraud allegations from the Spanish government have reportedly frustrated Leo to the point that he would consider a move away from Barcelona if the right salary offer came along.

    An Impressive Legacy

    Bottom line, plenty of soccer pundits have speculated about the possibility of Messi and Ronaldo ending
    their

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  3. Ezequiel Lavezzi Looks to Be a Top Transfer Target for the Mid-Season Window

    It feels like it was just yesterday that each of Europe's football leagues was were playing their first games of the 2015 2016 season. However, we're nearing the end of November, which means that we are just about a month away from the mid-season transfer window. Such football clubs (ahemÂ…Chelsea) need all the help they can get with this winter signing period while at least one other (Barcelona) will be getting back into the market for new players after this past summer's transfer ban. Needless to say, January should make for an exciting month in the soccer world. And so far, Paris Saint Germain forward Ezequiel Lavezzi looks like he will be at the center of it all.

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    An Imminent Departure?

    Lavezzi is 30 years old and has always been dependably solid as a forward and winger at PSG. Since coming to Paris in 2012, the Argentine football veteran has scored 34 goals in 154 overall appearances. In other words, he's not putting up levels that match those of teammates Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Edinson Cavani, but he's doing well.

    He's also almost out of contract. When he signed with the Parisians in July of 2012-coming to Ligue 1 from Italian football club Napoli-Lavezzi inked a four-year deal with the club. PSG made a move to extend his contract a few weeks ago, but Lavezzi rejected the offer, possibly due to the summertime signing of Angel di Maria. While still a frequent substitute, Ezequiel hasn't started much this season, and would probably prefer to move on to a different club at this point. And with Lavezzi's contract up in July, the winter transfer window is PSG's last chance to make some money off his departure.

    Bottom line, the writing is on the wall for Lavezzi to leave Paris Saint Germain. The question is, where will he go next?

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  4. Benfica Title Hopes: Leading Primeira Liga in Goals, But Not in Points

    Benfica hold a lot of superlatives in the annals of Portuguese soccer. In addition to being the most successful football club in national history (with 34 titles and counting), Benfica also have the most runner-up finishes (27) and have won the Champions League twice (consecutive victories in 1961 and 1962). Add the fact that the Eagles are currently the two-time reigning champs in the Primeira Liga, and it's a good time to be a fan in the Benfica home shirt 2015/16. But are the Benfica title hopes for 2015/16 on track?

    With all of that said, though, Benfica are in danger of snapping their streak of top-two finishes in the league if things continue to go as they have been going so far this season. The Eagles are currently in fourth place on the Primeira Liga table, with six wins and three losses on their record so far.

    To be fair, Benfica have played one fewer game than Sporting CP, the current table leaders, or Sporting Braga, the soccer club currently edging them out for third. Due to some irregular scheduling in the Portuguese top-flight, most of the teams in the division have played 10 games, a few have played nine, and one has only played eight. This irregularity makes it difficult to make concrete predictions or statements about how different football teams are faring in the pursuit of the title.

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    Dragging Behind Porto

    Still, there is one metric by which we can judge Benfica's current status in the 2015 2016 Primeira Liga. Porto are among the clubs that have only notched nine fixtures so far this season, and match Benfica in terms of wins (six), but are three points ahead of the defending champions regardless. Porto haven't lost a game yet, picking up draws in their other three matches. That consistency is what

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  5. PSV Eindhoven Stay Alive with Champions League Draw against Manchester United

    Manchester United had a chance on Wednesday to lock down a position in the knockout stages of the 2015 2016 UEFA Champions League. If Manchester United against PSV Eindhoven, on November 25th, had of resulted in a win for the Red Devils they would have pushed their Group B point total to 10, thereby making themselves untouchable to anyone in the group except for Wolfsburg. Instead, Man United stumbled into a dull, scoreless draw with PSV Eindhoven-a team that now has an opportunity to botch the Red Devils' chances of advancement.

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    Sloppy Squads

    Both Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven have had consistency issues this season, and those issues have combined to make Group G one of the more fluid groups in the Champions League competition. After a year away from the UCL tournament, United surged back with a strong playoff performance to earn a spot in the group stage. In fact, Manchester's dominant performance in the playoff round-which saw the soccer squad beating Belgium's Club Brugge on a 7-1 two-game aggregate-had some football fans wondering if the Red Devils might form into dark horse contenders for the tournament.

    PSV Eindhoven, on the other hand, came into the Champions League on the strength of a terrific title-winning performance in last season's Eredivisie. Affected clearly by the loss of their 2014 2015 standout Memphis Depay, who transferred to Manchester United over the summer, Eindhoven have been unpredictable and uneven throughout the group stage.

    A Missed Opportunity

    Unfortunately for fans in the Manchester United home jersey 2015/16, the November 25th fixture ended up being one missed opportunity after another for the

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  6. Chelsea's upcoming fixtures will prove if Jose Mourinho has overcome horror start to season

    Guest Post by Karl Matchett.

     

    Quite as shocking as Leicester City sitting atop the Premier League in late November is the fall of the team who reigned in that position at the end of May: Chelsea's abysmal season so far still sees them as close to the relegation zone (in points, even closer in places) than the top half of the table and with a difficult run of games coming up which will shape the remainder of their season.

     

    With questions over whether Jose Mourinho had lost the dressing room and the support of the board still fresh in all onlookers' minds, the recent run of three wins in four has at least gone some way to stilling the turbulent waters at Stamford Bridge-though the undercurrent of dissatisfaction is still very much present. It will be choppy and difficult to navigate once more this weekend, should Chelsea fail to take points off Tottenham Hotspur, a team who are suddenly being talked about in some quarters as potential title contenders after just one loss all season.

     

    A victory this weekend would be significant for Chelsea.

     

    Not all campaign have they managed a run of four victories in five games, and that mini run of consistent positive results will begin to have a cumulative effect. Having narrowly beaten Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League, Chelsea lost to Stoke, beat Norwich City by a slim margin despite an improved performance-and then swatted aside 10-man Maccabi Tel Aviv.

     

    Tottenham will represent a stronger, more confident and more offensive threat than any of the previous quartet of opponents, and Mourinho's claims that Chelsea can still make the top four this season will be severely put to the test

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  7. It's only the beginning for Dybala at Juventus

    With a delicate touch, the diminutive magician waves his wand, picking up from the spectacles produced in Sicily last season.

    At 22 years old, a silky left foot and deadly shot to match, there does not need to be an explanation as to why Juventus invested €40 million into acquiring Paulo Dybala from Palermo his raw talent was obvious for all to see.

    Dybala's match winning goal against AC Milan is just a glimpse of what we've been accustomed to from his collective time in Serie A scoring 13 goals and providing 10 assists last season and what we can expect from the Argentinean for years to come in black and white.

    Although it was understood Massimiliano Allegri wanted to patiently introduce the forward as he did with Alvaro Morata last term to which that move could be called a great success the former Milan coach had no choice but to include him in the starting XI due to Morata's and Mario Mandzukic's absences through injury, thus totaling the most minutes out of the attacking line.

    Juventus Home Shirt 2015 - 2016The Old Lady of Italian football endured a rough start to the campaign, collecting just five points from their first five Serie A matches, which was their worst start since 1970. Although Dybala has recorded six strikes this season, some have been quick to point to the matches in which he didn't score and Juventus simultaneously dropped points.

    Without even taking into account the necessary adjustment period to the heightened club atmosphere moving on from Palermo and finding chemistry with a new set of teammates, that claim is a bit unfair.

    Simply put, the entire Juventus team struggled in this period, especially in the attacking phase which could be said is still under some tweaking when trying t

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  8. Spurs V Chelsea 2015 Preview: Can the Blues Build Momentum with an Away Win?

    When Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea FC face one another on November 29th, at the Spurs' White Hart Lane, it will be an interesting rivalry match between two of London's football clubs. The two teams both had great seasons last year, with the Blues winning the 2014 2015 Premier League title and Tottenham putting forth striker Harry Kane as the breakout star of the domestic season. Both clubs also suffered very poor starts to the 2015 2016 campaign, with Chelsea dipping as far as 16th on the Premier League Table and Tottenham sitting 17th after the first week of competition.

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    Getting Out of the Rut

    The difference between these two soccer clubs is that, while Tottenham Hotspur seem to have escaped their season-opening funk, Chelsea have not. On the contrary, the Blues have had just about the worst season that anyone could have reasonably expected. They've earned only 14 points after 13 weeks of play-a stark contrast to the 33 points they had at the same point in the season last year. Many have called for Jose Mourinho to resign from his position or be fired though the manager remains employed for the moment.

    Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, climbed out of the rut in September, after failing to win any of their first four matches. Kane, who tallied 21 goals in league play last season, was the primary reason for the Spurs' fifth-place finish. At the start of the 2015 2016 campaign, though, Kane was the primary reason the Spurs were languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table.

    Indeed, it took until September 26th-seven games into Tottenham's Premier League season-for Kane to finally break his scoring dry spell. That match, a 4-1 win against Manchester

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  9. Manchester City's Trophy Hopes Rely on the Fitness of Striker Sergio Aguero

    Guest Post By Greg Lea.

    There was not much for Manchester City fans to celebrate at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening as they watched their side being comprehensively taken apart by Jurgen Klopp's vigorous visitors from Liverpool. In fact, the only real moment of quality that the hosts could muster was a terrific solo effort from Sergio Aguero making his return from a seven-week lay-off with a hamstring problem that threatened to get City back into the game at the end of the first half.

    It was a fantastic goal from the Argentine marksman, who picked up the ball around 35 yards out, dribbled past Lucas Leiva and finished unerringly past Simon Mignolet and into the bottom corner. Although it was ultimately not enough to inspire a comeback Martin Skrtel found the net late on to wrap up a 4-1 Liverpool victory Aguero's piece of magic was a reminder of just how essential he is to Manuel Pellegrini's outfit.

    The 27-year-old has been a regular scorer ever since moving to the Premier League in the summer of 2011. His debut against Swansea City was memorable for a second-half brace as Roberto Mancini's men ran out 4-0 winners in the first game of what would ultimately turn out to be a title-winning campaign.

    He was prolific before that, too: 23 goals were plundered in 56 appearances for first club Independiente Manchester City Home Shirt 2015 - 2016and 101 in 234 outings for Atletico Madrid during a five-year spell that began in 2006. When the Abu Dhabi United Group parted with around £38m to bring him to England four years ago, they knew that they were signing one of the hottest marksmen on the continent.

    The only issue City have encountered with Aguero is his frequent absences from the team due to various fitness problems. He managed only 42 top-flight starts in 2012/13 and 2013/14

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  10. Lucky Week 13 of 2015/16 EPL: Leicester City Get a Big Break in the English Premier League

    Manchester City and Arsenal-the football clubs that were sitting at the top of the Premier League table headed into this weekend-week 13 of 201516 EPL season proved to be thoroughly unlucky. Both teams lost, with Manchester City falling 1-4 against Liverpool and Arsenal stumbling to a 0-1 loss in an away game at West Bromwich Albion. The Sky Blues and the Gunners now occupy the third and fourth place spots on the table, respectively. It's the lowest Manchester City have dipped all season.

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    Lucky Leicester

    For many of the other most notable soccer clubs in the Premier League, though, week 13 proved to be surprisingly full of luck. Topping the list of fortunate teams are Leicester City, who beat Newcastle United 3-0 to scoot into first place in the league.

    The win, in addition to netting the Foxes an impressive 28-point tally, also saw standout scorer Jamie Vardy equaling a Premier League record. During the 2003 2004 season, Manchester United Home Shirt 2015 - 2016Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy scored goals in 10 consecutive Premier League matches. On Saturday, Vardy tied that record, becoming only the second player to accomplish the feat since the EPL was founded in 1992.

    Next week, Vardy will seek to break the Premier League record against Van Nistelrooy's former team, Man United. The match will see Leicester City playing at home, with plenty of momentum on their side. If Vardy scores in that game, he'll be able to start chasing another record, currently held by Sheffield United legend Jimmy Dunne. Dunne scored in 12 consecutive

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