Monthly Archives: March 2016
- March 21, 2016
In terms of UEFA coefficient rankings (and judging by the last few Champions League and Europa League tournaments), the Spanish La Liga is the best football league in Europe. The English Premier League, meanwhile, is incredibly wealthy and is consistently cited as the most fiercely competitive division in all of soccer. While these two leagues boast plenty of virtues, though, there is one key superlative they do not have: the top stadium attendance in Europe.
Germany's Impressive Numbers
Indeed, on February 25th, the German Bundesliga announced its spectator figures for the first half of the 2015/16 campaign. According to the report, a grand total of 6,478,680 soccer fans came out to see the 153 Bundesliga games that took place between August and December 2015. That number figures out to a per-match average of 42,344 spectators-not only the highest tally of any league in Europe but also the highest of any football
- March 20, 2016
By Edward Stratmann.
Since making his Uruguayan Primera Division debut for Danubio at just 17, all it took was another 16 matches and Jose Maria Gimenez was quickly snapped up by Atletico Madrid for around €1 million.
Having signed him just prior to the 2013 U20 World Cup proved a great move by Atleti, for Gimenez would go on to star for Uruguay in the tournament as his team made the final, a game they heartbreakingly lost on penalties to an outstanding French side that included the likes of Paul Pogba, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Kurt Zouma, Jordan Veretout, Yaya Sanogo, Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti.
While this was a massive disappointment for the youngster, moving to Atletico to play alongside his idol and countryman, Diego Godin, certainly wasn't a bad way to bring back some positivity for him.
Only a matter of months later, in September, Gimenez would go on to make his full international debut. And having suitably impressed La Celeste's manager, Oscar Washington
- March 19, 2016
It's been a thoroughly unpredictable season of football in the English Premier League, so it stands to reason that the 2015/16 FA Cup would take an unpredictable turn as well. Following a winding and at times bizarre season, the FA Cup exploded in a series of upsets and close calls in the quarterfinals. Now, with most of the tournament's supposed frontrunners eliminated and one replay match left to decide the full semi-final draw, we are going to take a look at what happened and what could happen going forward.
The Tournament So Far
At the outset of the 2015/16 FA Cup, most of the teams earned assumed frontrunner notices were the teams that always get those notices: Premier League giants like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United. After the third round-the first to feature most of the supposed top contenders-there was little reason to think that one of those "Big Four" clubs
- March 18, 2016
By Karl Matchett.
The last eight are known, the first run of would-be challengers have fallen by the wayside and the early favourites...well, they remain the favourites.
An intense and enthralling round of 16 knockout stage in the UEFA Champions League saw the likes of Arsenal and Juventus exit, but few others who evoked any real excitement or entertained hopes of going far in the competition. What we're left with is those who have a genuine chance of lifting the trophy: holders Barcelona, domestic rivals Atletico Madrid, money project Paris Saint-Germain and comeback kings from Wednesday, Bayern Munich.
And, of course, Real Madrid.
They are outside of the initial group of four. Not because they don't have as good players, not because the club isn't big enough or capable of success, but because
- March 17, 2016
By Greg Lea
Juventus are a club who are used to setting records. In 2011/12, the Bianconeri became the first Italian side to go through a 38-game league campaign unbeaten, while two years later they made history again by smashing through the 100-point barrier as they stormed to yet another Scudetto. Ahead of this weekend's clash with city rivals Torino, they stand on the brink of breaking new ground once more: if Juventus are able to hold out for just four minutes without conceding a goal, they will better the 1993/94 Milan side's run of 929 consecutive minutes without letting in a single strike in Serie A.
The last time evergreen goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was beaten in the Italian top flight was way back on 10 January, when Antonio Cassano found the back of the net in Sampdoria's 2-1 defeat to the champions. 10 successive clean sheets since then have helped Juve claim 28 points from the last 30 on offer to overtake Napoli at the top of the table, with Max Allegri's charges
- March 16, 2016
By Karl Matchett.
It's mid-March and Arsenal are still in the UEFA Champions League, but by name only. In truth, the Gunners are just winding down the hours until their inevitable execution, already two goals down to Barcelona and facing a second leg at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, a ground where the Catalan club's league record this season reads played 15, won 14.
In Europe, for what it's worth, it reads played three, won three.
Manager Arsene Wenger will speak of hope and optimism, of luck and of you-never-knows, but of course everybody knows the reality: barring one of the most improbable comebacks imaginable this season, his team are out, again.
There's more chance of his team making up ground in the Premier League and lifting that title than there is of Arsenal beating Barcelona on their own turf by three
- March 15, 2016
With the 2016 UEFA European Championship set to begin in France on June 10th-just under three months from today-the time is winding down before national team coaches will have to finalize their squads for the event. This process, of course, is always something of a challenge. After all, how do you narrow down an entire country's worth of football talent into one 23-man squad? How do you select the players who are most likely to win you a title? How do you cut so much deserving talent? Suffice to say that this particular job is not a national team manager's most enviable task.
England's Looming Injury Problem
This year, injuries could be a huge determining factor behind which players we see on the pitch in France-particularly for England, whose top clubs have been
- March 14, 2016
Who is the best active manager in football? A year or two ago, the likes of Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal, Jurgen Klopp, and Carlo Ancelotti all would have likely made the shortlist. Now, though, Mourinho has been sacked from Chelsea, Louis van Gaal has failed to create another dynasty at Manchester United, Jurgen Klopp resigned from Borussia Dortmund following a disappointing 2014/15 season (and has been arguably underwhelming at Liverpool), and Carlo Ancelotti was sacked from the Real Madrid job after failing to win a title during the 2014/15 campaign.
All of those coaches still have claims to greatness-particularly Ancelotti, whose sacking was arguably unjust and who will have another chance to prove his pedigree when he takes over at Bayern Munich this summer. Until then, though, it's probably fair to cut the battle for the best active manager title down to two prime contenders: current Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola and FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique.
- March 13, 2016
Last season, the DFB Pokal was easily the most surprising event in German football. In fact, it might have been one of the most surprising events in all of European soccer. Bayern Munich were in the midst of yet another dominant season in the Bundesliga and were widely expected to win yet another German Cup. Had the Bavarians won the DFB Pokal, it would have been their third trophy in a row in the event, and their 18th overall.
Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, were in the midst of one of their worst seasons ever-a campaign that saw the venerated club drop from second place in the Bundesliga to seventh, and one that pushed the widely respected Jurgen Klopp to resign his post as BVB's manager. In 2013/14, Dortmund had lost to Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal, falling behind 0-2 in extra time. When the two clubs were drawn against one another for a semi-final match, the writing seemed to be on the wall that Dortmund's last shot at redemption in the 2014/15 season was about to
- March 12, 2016
There aren't many soccer squads in history-let alone right now, this season-that can stand shoulder to shoulder with FC Barcelona's unbreakable front three. The football club struck gold last season when Luis Enrique put Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez on the field together. Despite early reports that Enrique and Messi were having spats in practice, Enrique managed to teach his three stars how to play off one another to be better together than they could ever be separately. And considering just how good Messi, Neymar, and Suarez are separately, that statement is quite a feat.
Remarkably, if there is one offensive lineup in the world that can challenge Barca's Messi-Suarez-Neymar triage, that trio is also playing in the Spanish La Liga right now. Real Madrid have a dynamic trio of their own: Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo, all as capable of orchestrating incredible football feats as their Barcelona counterparts. The question is this: can