Monthly Archives: January 2016

  1. Has Cristiano Ronaldo Won His Last Ballon d'Or?

    On Monday, January 11th, Lionel Messi won the FIFA Ballon d'Or Award for the fifth time. The win has seemed, for a while now, like a foregone conclusion. Messi led Barcelona to a treble victory in 2015, was the soccer club's top scorer during the 2014/15 season, and has even recovered from a lengthy autumn injury with grace. Cristiano Ronaldo may have led Leo in terms of goals scored, but Messi was probably the right pick for the best footballer in the world.

    Still, as Messi takes the Ballon d'Or and breaks Cristiano Ronaldo's two-year winning streak, one has to ask if we will see Ronaldo lift that trophy again. Or, for that matter, if Messi's fifth Ballon d'Or will be his last.

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    The Glory Years

    At this point, it's understandably difficult to imagine a Ballon d'Or ceremony

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  2. Will the Bundesliga Winter Break Benefit Germany at Euro 2016?

    The final Bundesliga matches of 2015 were played on December 20th, but the German top-flight league won't reconvene until Friday, January 22nd. That match, between Bayern Munich and Hamburger SV, will put an end to the Bundesliga's lengthy winter break-a rest period that is considerably longer than that of any other major European football league. The English Premier League hardly got any breaks at all, playing hard throughout the holidays to earn a week and a half's rest at the beginning of January. The Spanish La Liga, meanwhile, enjoyed a brief rest leading up to Christmas but resumed in time to play a round of matches in the final days of 2015.

    For soccer fans, the Bundesliga break isn't ideal. Going a whole month without seeing your favorite team play-at a time of year when every other league is active-is a serious exercise in patience. For the players, though, there is a huge benefit to playing in the Bundesliga and getting the month-long break in the

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  3. Copa del Rey 2016 Quarterfinal Preview.

    We're only just reaching the quarterfinals for the 2015/16 Copa del Rey, but the tournament has already brought its fair share of surprises. From the controversial disqualification of Real Madrid in the middle of the round of 32 (for fielding an ineligible player) to the surprisingly great showing from some of Barcelona's up-and-coming young talents, this year's Copa del Rey has offered entertainment and discussion in equal measure. Now, with the slate for the quarterfinal officially announced, we're checking back in with the tournament to assess the likely outcomes of the next run and whether or not FC Barcelona are a shoe-in to win the CDR title once more in 2016.

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    The Quarterfinal Draw

    As is customary for the Copa del Rey, most of

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  4. Football Association Announces Draw for the 4th Round of the 2016 FA Cup

    There were 11 draws in the third round of the 2015/16 FA Cup, which means that the majority of the match-ups for the fourth round of the tournament won't be completely decided until we get to the third-round replays scheduled for January 19th and 20th. Despite the lack of complete information, though, the Football Association announced the draw for the tournament's fourth round on Monday, January 11th, giving fans a general idea of who their favorite soccer clubs will be competing with at the end of the month.

    All 16 fourth round matches are currently scheduled for the weekend of January 30th. Read on for a quick run-through of that weekend's biggest must-watch fixtures!

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    The Key Matchups

    There may be 32 football clubs

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  5. Schalke 04 in Sixth Place as Bundesliga Restarts in 2016

    Though they haven't won a German Championship title since 1958, FC Schalke 04 have built a fairly solid reputation for always landing in the upper echelons of the league standings table. In 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2010, they ended their seasons as Bundesliga runner-up. In 2012 and 2014, they finished third. In 2013, they ended up fourth.

    Still, despite Schalke 04's recent solid track record for qualifying for the Champions League, the football club have also hit a few bumps along the way that have made them harder to bet on than some other teams in the German top-flight. In 2011, for instance, the Miners fell from second place to 14th in the space of a single season. And last year, the soccer team missed out on the Champions League, finishing sixth.

    The Underdogs

    Unfortunately, it looks like the 2015 2016 season could mark Schalke's second missed Champions League chance in a row. Halfway through the Bundesliga

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  6. Is Serie A the League to Watch in 2016?

    In the Spanish La Liga, five points currently separate the top four clubs on the standings table. In the English Premier League, the top-four spread is six points. In the German Bundesliga, it's 17 points. In the French Ligue 1, it's 24. Compare those figure to the Serie A, where just three points separate the top four soccer clubs on the league standings table, and it's clear to see that Italy's top-flight division is the fiercest competition in all of European football this season.

    Indeed, fueled by the early season struggles of Juventus and the comeback of Inter Milan, the Italian Serie A has been an unpredictable battle this season. As of the matches played during the weekend of January 9th, Napoli are leading the way in the league with a tally of 41 points. Juventus and Inter Milan are two points back, with Juve enjoying the advantage thanks to superior goal difference. Fiorentina round out the top four, with a point tally of 38.

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  7. Inter Milan look to boost Serie A title hopes

    Juventus might be steamrollering their way back toward the top of Serie A in Italy, but they'll have work to do to claim another Scudetto with two or three teams looking capable of challenging them after the Turin side's poor start to the campaign.

    One of those is Inter Milan, looking strong and balanced if not terribly entertaining under Roberto Mancini, but the Nerazzurri could ideally benefit from one or two alterations in January to push them closer to the top and prevent points slipping through the net-as happened in the recent disappointing, though arguably undeserved, 1-0 reversal at home to Sassuolo.

    Inter have good depth through most of the spine of their team and manager Mancini has options in attack, but one or two additions or alterations can make such a difference over the second half of

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  8. 2016 League Cup Semi Final News

    Following the fifth round of the 2015/16 League Cup, the draw for the tournament's semi-finals seemed to set up a natural championship rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp's Anfield squad crushed Southampton 6-1 in the quarterfinals, earning an easy berth in the semis. Manchester City, meanwhile, beat Hull City 4-1 to earn their semi-final spot. At the time, the Sky Blues were also enjoying a position at the top of the Premier League: they seemed like clear frontrunners to win the entire League Cup.

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    A Surprising Loss

    As the first legs of the League Cup semi-finals were played on January 5th and 6th, though, it became clear that the predicted Liverpool-Manchester City final might not be as set in stone as we might have thought. Man

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  9. Wolfsburg End 2015 with a Four Game Dry Spell

    VfL Wolfsburg ended the 2014 2015 Bundesliga campaign in second place, with an impressive record of 20 wins, nine draws, and five losses. To be sure, the football club benefitted from an off year for the usual runners-up at Borussia Dortmund. However, the Wolves were also just a very solid soccer team, finishing just 10 points behind Bayern Munich at the final tally and managing a +34 goal difference in a season where even the fifth-place team landed at a GD of zero.

    Led by the 16-goal performance of striker Bas Dost, the Wolves scored 72 goals in 34 fixtures-just eight points off Bayern's goal total of 80. Wolfsburg had only won one title in the history of top-flight German football, in the 2008 2009 season. However, based on how well the soccer club did last season, some fans and pundits alike were wondering whether or not the Wolves might contend for the Bundesliga title in 2016.

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  10. Vidal and Turan Make Barcelona La Liga Debuts

    In a deliberately barren summer 2015 transfer window, FC Barcelona made just two signings: Turkish midfielder Arda Turan, arriving from Atletico Madrid for a fee of €34 million; and Spanish winger and right back Aleix Vidal, transferring from Sevilla on a €18 million fee. At the time, Barca were still serving out a FIFA transfer ban for breaking the rules of the "international transfer of minors." As a result, while Turan and Vidal arrived at Camp Nou in the summertime, they were barred from actually competing for FC Barcelona until after January 1, 2016.

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    The Debut Performances

    Now, though, with the New Year finally upon us, Barca's year-long transfer ban has officially lifted, meaning that both Turan and Vidal are finally allowed to play again. Both footballers don

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