Monthly Archives: April 2016

  1. Paris Saint-Germain chase for Mourinho shows failure of Blanc to trouble Europe's finest

    20th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.
    Hundreds of millions of euros spent in transfer fees and wages and numerous changes to playing and coaching personnel have given Paris Saint-Germain double the number of Ligue 1 titles in the last four years as in the rest of the club's history combined-but absolutely nothing to celebrate on the European stage.

    Countless international starters have been signed, some at overinflated prices, along with a handful of the biggest names in the game: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Angel Di Maria, Thiago Silva. These are not merely good players, but genuine top-tier talents, players who should be capable of winning the UEFA Champions League...or at least going close.

    The margins can be fine between success and failure in the latter stages, but four years of reaching the quarter-finals and not really threatening to go beyond looks as though the club's bankrollers, Qatar Sports Investments,

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  2. Surprises Abound in Champions League Quarterfinal and Semifinal Draw

    19th April 2016.
    Not too long ago, we were speculating about Barcelona winning a second treble in a row, or about Paris Saint Germain taking what they've done in France the last few years and translating it into their first-ever Champions League win. Both of those narratives were dashed against the rocks in the quarterfinal rounds, where Barcelona crashed out of the 2015/16 Champions League in jarring fashion and where PSG fell in an upset to Manchester City.

    Now, with just four teams and two rounds remaining in the competition, the stakes have been ramped up another few notches. What happened for the UCL's once-guaranteed frontrunners, and what's next for Europe's most prestigious club football tournament? Read on to find out.

    Barcelona's Downfall

    Heading into the quarterfinals, FC Barcelona seemed like the safest of bets to charge right on through to the

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  3. Will Gonzalo Higuain Be a Premier League Transfer Target This Summer?

    18th April 2016.
    Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain turned 28 in December. His resume at this point includes more than a decade of senior football play, including six and a half seasons with Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid. Despite those facts, though, Higuain is currently in the midst of the best season of his entire career. Playing his third season at Italy's Napoli, Higuain has netted 30 goals in 31 Serie A appearances since last fall. He's never scored more than 27 goals in a league season before, and he's never cracked the 30 mark even across all competitions.

    A Career-Defining Performance

    Higuain's 2015/16 campaign accomplishments are even more impressive when considered in relation to what everyone else in the Serie A is doing. With 30 goals, the Argentine offensive star is handily the

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  4. Andy Carroll Back to Full Fitness and Performing to the Max

    17th April 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
    By scoring a scintillating hat-trick in just seven minutes and 14 seconds, in West Ham's entertaining 3-3 draw with Arsenal, Andy Carroll became the first player to notch a treble against the Gunners since Wayne Rooney back in 2011.

    A fantastic achievement indeed for Carroll who's endured a frustrating, injury riddled campaign, which has seen him suffer and be debilitated by groin, hip, ankle and hamstring ailments throughout the campaign.

    So by also scoring the fifth fastest Premier League hat-trick in history, and the second triple of his career, six years after his first for Newcastle United, Carroll would have certainly seen this as the perfect reward for all his perseverance and hard work.

    Starting his first league game since January the 2nd, Carroll demonstrated why on his day, he's one of the hardest forwards to stop in Europe. He battered Arsenal's two centre-backs,

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  5. What Next for Aston Villa?

    16th April 2016.
    For whatever reason, this past weekend's games seemed to solidify the fate of the 2015/16 Premier League. For one thing, Leicester City, spurred on by a brace from likely PFA Player of the Year winner Jamie Vardy, started to look like clear Premier League champions. Seven points clear at the top of the table with five games to play, the Foxes aren't in the clear yet but haven't seen any major threats in awhile.

    Perhaps more importantly, Leicester have now won five games in a row. They've got the momentum to finish out the season strong and win their first-ever Premier League title. At very least, Leicester's win against Sunderland over the weekend guarantees the club a spot in the 2016/17 Champions League-the first time the Foxes have ever qualified for the prestigious tournament.

    Aston Villa's Losing Streak

    Speaking of Premier League firsts,

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  6. Atletico Madrid perfectly placed in La Liga

    15th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.
    The only real surprise about Atletico Madrid's UEFA Champions League quarter-final win over Barcelona on Wednesday was that it was their first of the season against their Catalan rivals, having outplayed them and been the superior side tactically on all three previous occasions. In all three of those earlier fixtures, Atletico also took the lead-but ended up losing 2-1.

    There was little danger of such a recurrence in the second leg in Europe, with Atleti defending with a vigour and determination which made it impossible for Barcelona to break down.

    Atleti's overall performance was a 90-minute microcosm of the tactical discipline, organisation and ability to threaten the continent's biggest sides that Diego Simeone has instilled in his team over the past few years-and a huge indication why, along with going the distance in Europe, Atletico are poised and capable

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  7. Continuing Struggles at AC Milan

    14th April 2016. By Greg Lea.
    It has not been a vintage season for Milan, but the biggest backwards step the club have taken in 2015/16 came off, rather than on, the pitch; in sacking manager Sinisa Mihajlovic on Tuesday, the Rossoneri forced themselves to restart a process they have already begun multiple times in the last few years.

    Although Milan remain one of the biggest and most successful clubs in European football, they have struggled immensely since finishing as runners-up in Serie A in 2012. The following season, then boss Max Allegri inspired a remarkable turnaround in the second half of the campaign to secure a top-three finish and Champions League football, but such lofty placings proved unsustainable as Milan ended the next two campaigns 2013/14 and 2014/15 in eighth and 10th respectively.

    In some respects, the drop-off was

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  8. Wide open defence will cost Real Madrid genuine shot at winning Champions League

    13th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.
    Coming soon after a Champions League comeback victory from two goals down, securing a clean sheet in the process and moving into the last four, it might sound churlish to criticise Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid team for anything-but the truth is that the Spanish side's lack of defensive acumen remains a huge barrier to them achieving success this season.

    Torn apart only a week ago by a mid-table Bundesliga side, Real were again horrifically open at times in the second leg-but this time around, Wolfsburg didn't commit players forward, didn't gamble on the counter and didn't play their searching diagonals to exploit the gaps.

    Two goals to the good from early on in the match, Real Madrid had levelled up the aggregate scoreline

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  9. Which Players Should Roy Hodgson Pick for the England Squad?

    April 12th 2016.
    Roy Hodgson has an unenviable task awaiting him. The manager, who has been in charge of the England national football team, is set to unveil his squad for the upcoming 2016 European Championship on Thursday, May 12th. That date is weeks from the UEFA deadline of May 31st, and considering some of the injury woes that England's top players are currently facing, it's a bit surprising that Hodgson plans on making his announcement so early. In fact, Hodgson is prepared to unveil his 23-man Euro squad before the 2015/16 Premier League campaign has even come to a close. England's top-flight will close out its season the following Sunday.

    High Hopes for England

    Still, even if Hodgson is making a show of confidence by finalizing his squad early, the 68-year-old head coach has plenty of reason to have jitters about his tough decisions. England

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  10. Football for the Older Generation: Is There a Gap in the Recreational Market?

    11th April 2016.
    In professional football, there are opportunities for top players to stay competitive from their youth years into their late 30s at least. David Beckham enjoyed his prime years at Manchester United and Real Madrid in the 1990s and 2000s before moving to the United States Major League Soccer a few months before his 32nd birthday. He retired from professional football in 2013, just weeks after he turned 37. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, is 35 and only just made his move to MLS. And in November of last year, Japanese striker Kazuyoshi Miura, dubbed the "world's oldest footballer," signed a brand new deal with Yokohama FC. He turned 49 in February.

    The point is, while older players aren't necessarily the focus of top leagues like the Spanish La Liga, the German Bundesliga, or the English Premier League, many top stars are still enjoying plenty of longevity in the sport. Ironically, these

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