1. Champions League 2019/20 –Journey to the Group Stages

    The UEFA Champions League is one of the most watched soccer tournaments across Europe as we see the top teams from each league compete to become the ultimate squad. Taking place during the summer of 2019 we saw the qualifying rounds of the 2019/20 season begin and after a short break the competition commenced with the group stages starting on the 17th September and due to end in December ready for the knockout phases to start in early 2020. As the group stages are well underway, we thought we would take a brief look at match day and the qualifiers of this season’s Champions League tournament. So, if you are interested in finding out more about the fixtures then keep on reading.

    Champions League Qualifiers

    The Champions League Qualifiers for 2019/20 started on the 25th June and ended on the 28th August 2019. Within these stages of the football tournament the final qualifying teams were determined for the competition.

    In the first Preliminary round, the champions of the Gibraltar, Andorra, San Marino and Kosovo associations played against one another and the winner was Feronikeli from Kosovo who beat the Lincoln Red Imps 1-0 in the first round and FC Santa Coloma 2-1 in the final.

    After the first few matches of the preliminary round, we saw Feronikeli take on 31 champions from a wide range of associations. Unfortunately, Feronikeli lost out to The New Saints who also joined Nomme Kaljum, Red Star Belgrade, AIK, CFR Cluj, Ferencvaros, Qarabag, Sutjeska Niksic, Celtic, Saburtalo Tbilisi, Valletta, Rosenborg, Maribor, Dundalk, HJK and BATE Borisov with the advancement to the second round.

    The second qualifying round is split into two with two paths available for the Champions League and the Europa League. Via the Champions League path, we saw the 16 winners from the first qualifying round face the 4 champions from Croatia, Denmark, Israel and Cyprus. But for the Europa League path we saw the 4 runners u

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  2. Round-up of the Champions League Group Stages

    Along with the ongoing tournaments such as the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, Primeria, the Champions League is also in progress. This league incorporates a range of clubs from all of the leagues across Europe and is a widely celebrated by fans worldwide as they cheer on their favourite soccer team once more. Currently in the group stages, the Champions League is where clubs across the globe compete on the soccer field to eventually lift the trophy at the end of the games – thus gaining Champions status.

    Within this blog post we will take a look at how the tournament is panning out at the moment and what we can expect from the clubs in the coming weeks. From looking at how the matches have been scheduled and the groups picked, to the highest scoring player and team, you will find out all about this here.

    How are the Teams Grouped?

    After the initial play-offs had taken place prior to the scheduled group matches, the teams were whittled down to the 32 names below. These were then drawn into their specific groups on the 30th August 2018. Their first set of matches were scheduled for the 18th and 19th September whereby each team within the group played against one another for a home and away match. Below you can see a breakdown of the clubs included in this season’s Champions League Tournament.

    Champions League Trophy

    Group A

    • Atletico Madrid
    • Borussia Dortmund
    • AS Monaco
    • Club Brugge

    Group B

    • Barcelona
    • Tottenham Hotspur
    • PSV Eindhoven
    • Inter Milan

    Group C

    • Paris Saint Germain
    • Napoli
    • Liverpool
    • Red Sta
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  3. Taking A Look At The 2018/19 La Liga Fixtures

    Preparation for the beginning of the La Liga season in the coming months is in full speed. Clubs are well into their training schedules, the team’s sportswear is now available to the public, and now the list of fixtures has been released.

    Therefore, it is time for us to take a look at what 2018/19 has got in store for the Spanish Primera Division. From the table changing news that two key Real Madrid members have departed, to the welcoming of the three newly promoted clubs, we have got it covered below in this article.

    Overview of Schedule

    Last season saw Barcelona take the trophy with a number of teams following closely behind. Within the top 5 were Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Valencia and Villarreal. When it came to the amount of matches won, there was not much in it, considering Atletico, Real and Valencia were so close at 22 and 23 wins compared to Barcelona’s 28.

    The opening match of the season unfortunately does not feature the current Champions. However, there is not long to wait until Barcelona take to the pitch as their first game is scheduled for the 18th August which is the day after. And this takes place in their home grounds Camp Nou against Alaves.

    Notable Match Dates 

    The La Liga season for 2018/19 starts on the 17th August with Girona vs Valldolid and ends on the 19th May with Celta Vigo vs Rayo Vallecano. This tournament spans across 9 months, which means there is a large amount of games to watch. However, we have decided to put this list of must-see games together for you which feature the top 5 clubs from last season. Focusing on the matches scheduled between themselves, these are the most notable games you will not want to miss.

    • Barcelona – 07/10/18, 28/10/18, 25/11/18, 02/12/18, 03/02/19, 03/03/19, 03/04/19, 07/04/19,
    • Atletico Madrid – 20/08/18, 30/09/18, 21/10/18, 25/11/18, 10/02/19, 24/02/19, 07/04/19, 24/04/19
    • Real Madrid – 30/09
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  4. Five key players in Europe's top five leagues this season

    29th November 2017.
    There has been four months of domestic football already played this season, which is a good barometer to understand and analyse Europe's standout players.

    Of course, there will always be Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on the list, but there have also been some superb players the average fan might not know in detail.

    Here are five of Europe's best players, one picked from each of Europe's top five leagues:

          • England Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City, midfielder


    Under Pep Guardiola, the former Chelsea starlet has enjoyed unprecedented success in his career so far. While he has not won the title with the Citizens yet, De Bruyne has played the best football in his career and is consistently placing himself in the world-class bracket each time he steps onto the field.

    The Belgian international has dropped deeper into midfield, rather than take his formative number 10 role, thanks to Roberto Martinez, the Belgian coach, trying this out, which Guardiola then soon emulated at Manchester City.

    By being a mainstay in the heart of City's midfield, De Bruyne is on the ball far more than if he was just playing by either Sergio Agüero or Gabriel Jesus. As seen this season, De Bruyne drives with the ball from deep and either delivers an unbelievable defence-splitting pass, or goes for goal. Both come off for him with regular success.

    While De Bruyne is not the sole player responsible for City's triumphs at the top of the table, as well as in Europe, he is pivotal to everything Guardiola's team do. Everything runs through the Belgian as they look to him for creative ingenuity. He will not register an abnormal amount of assists this season, but he is always an integral part to the attack and the likely player t

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  5. Gonçalo Guedes: Valencia's Loan Star

    25th October 2017. By Ryan Baldi.
    After years of financial uncertainty, managerial turmoil and two successive twelfth-placed finishes in La Liga, Valencia are back.

    Under the auspices of former Villarreal coach Marcelino, the sleeping giant of a club is awakening, rising to second in the Spanish top flight, behind only Barcelona, and thrilling with their unique brand of highly-organised, finely-tuned, yet free-scoring brand of attacking football.

    Marcelino's strict, regimented approach is exactly what Los Che needed, after complacency had set in among the squad amid six changes of manager in less than two years. The 52-year-old from Asturias has reintroduced discipline, structure and work ethic, while a whopping 16 members of last season's squad were deemed "expendable" and shipped out.

    West Ham United flop Simone Zaza has grabbed many of the headlines during Valencia's rise from the ashes, and deservedly so with eight goals to his name in nine La Liga appearances in 2017/18 only Lionel Messi (11) boasts a better return. And captain Dani Parejo, young midfielder and reported Manchester United target Carlos Soler, and on-loan midfield general Geoffrey Kondogbia have all impressed for Marcelino's side this term.

    However, there is one man truly stealing the show at the Mestalla: 20-year-old Portuguese winger Gon§alo Guedes.

    Neymar's world-record-shattering €222million move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain this summer sent shockwaves around the football world, its impacts inflating an already grossly inflated transfer market and causing knock-on effects that numerous players, managers and, in some cases, entire clubs had to deal with.

    There is of course the case of Edinson Cavani having to share the Parc des Princes set-piece duties with the Brazilian, having on

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  6. Fabian Orellana Makes Deadline Day Move to Valencia

    6th February 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
    Securing the signature of Fabian Orellana on deadline day from Celta Vigo was definitely a shrewd piece of business by Valencia.

    Following a fiery dispute with his manager at Celta, Eduardo Berizzo, that was reportedly due to Orellana trying to force a move away from the club without advising the club or his coach, this left his relationship with the Galician outfit in tatters.

    While Berizzo never officially disclosed the reason for his subsequent decision to no longer pick the wantaway Chilean, his actions and words spoke volumes over his dissatisfaction towards his once loyal charge. "I decided to leave out Orellana because of an unacceptable lack of respect towards me," Berizzo fumed.

    "My decision is firm and I told the club, who are in agreement. As long as I'm here, he will no longer be a part of this team. One thing is discipline and another issue is disrespect. He has not apologised but it doesn't matter. I have announced my decision and that's the end of it."

    Indeed, this was a sour end to Orellana's overwhelmingly successful four year relationship with the Sky Blues that saw him score 37 goals and supply 27 assists in his 172 appearances for the club. Moreover, helping Celta finish a brilliant sixth place last season, their highest La Liga placing for a decade, was another highlight of his time with the club. Although injuries restricted him to just nine outings this term, he still produced an impressive four goals and two assists in his La Liga and Europa League exertions for the Sky Blues.

    Valencia, however, were only too happy to nip in and secure his signature, in a deal that's an initial loan until the end of the campaign with an option to buy, which the Bats, assuming all goes well, are presumably very keen to exercise.

    At his Valencia unveiling at the Ciudad Deportiva Media Centre, the Chilean international was overjoyed about joining one of Spanish football's

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  7. Can Rodrigo Moreno Deliver at Valencia?

    31st October 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
    While there's no doubting the incredible talent Rodrigo Moreno possesses, it's been frustrating to see him continue to struggle for consistency since joining Valencia in 2014 for a reported €30 million.

    The underlying turbulence at the club, which has seen managerial changes aplenty and a plethora of dubious transfer dealings, obviously hasn't helped him, but you get the feeling it's time the 25-year-old stood up and really began to stamp his mark. In addition, the fact his rights are owned by a consortium that's spearheaded by Valencia's owner, Peter Lim, and that his agent is the infamous Jorge Mendes has brought it with an unwanted stigma too.

    For the man who was born in Brazil and moved to Spain as a teenager, it's been a fascinating journey for him so far. Upon arriving in his new homeland, he joined Celta Vigo's youth ranks, where his talent immediately began to turn heads. After four years with the Galicians, an offer from Real Madrid arose, which the then 18-year-old duly took up in 2009.

    Rodrigo would only stay at Los Merengues for about a year, though, where he played exclusively in the club's youth and reserve teams. An enticing opportunity from Benfica in 2010 then pricked his attention, and Rodrigo was off once again, with Madrid receiving an initial €6 million and an additional €12m over the next two seasons.

    The Eagles then brokered a deal to send him out on loan to Bolton Wanderers, a move that saw him reunite with former Madrid trainee Marcos Alonso, who's now doing great things at Chelsea. Although he wasn't a roaring success in England, largely because he found himself behind Lee Chung-Yong for his preferred right wing slot, he still displayed some fleeting glimpses of his extraordinary capabilities. Indeed, the opportunity to gain some vital Premier League experience at such a young age under the tough stewardship of Owen Coyle was undoubtedly a vital learning tool.

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  8. Alvaro Negredo: Off to a Flying Start with Middlesbrough

    26th August 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
    Having scored an outstanding 23 goals in his opening 33 matches for Manchester City, in his debut Premier League season back in 2013/14, many thought Alvaro Negredo would go onto become a star at the Etihad for many years to come.

    Unfortunately, however, this wasn't to be the case for the Spaniard, as his time in Manchester came to an abrupt halt. He would score his last ever goal for the club in January 2014, with reports citing homesickness and personal issues were to blame for his demise, but Negredo vehemently dismisses such claims. "I don't go along with this. I was not homesick," he insisted to the Daily Mail.

    "At City, we had a dressing room full of Spanish speakers. Javi Garcia, David Silva, I came with Jesus Navas from Sevilla, then there were Argentines like Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis. There were more than enough people to make me feel welcome."

    In addition, he learned English and became very competent with the language, so it came as a surprise to him to hear such allegations. Negredo clarified the issue by explaining that the real reason behind his downturn began when, after a rough patch of form, the then manager, Manuel Pellegrini, suddenly lost faith in him. Edin Dzeko was then installed in his place, and with the Bosnian going on a fine run of form, Negredo was subsequently resigned to a spot on the bench.

    Thereafter, the man nicknamed "The Beast of Vallecas" never understood why he couldn't regain his manager's faith, no matter what he did to win his place back. "I trained harder than ever and tried to show Pellegrini I deserved to play," he explained.

    "In the end, though, when you do all that and you still don't get a game, it's difficult. I need to play for a manager who wants me."

    By the end of the 2014/15 preseason, Negredo

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  9. What Next for Gary Neville?

    5th May 2016.
    In December, Manchester United legend Gary Neville took on his first-ever head manager position at Valencia. On March 30th, his tenure with the Spanish soccer squad came to an early and abrupt conclusion.

    All told, Neville's dismissal from Valencia after a little less than four months in charge wasn't a surprise. The Bats have been in shambles for most of the season and Neville did little to put new wind behind the team's sails. At the time of his sacking, Neville's Valencia side had lost three La Liga games in a row, culminating in a 0-2 at-home defeat against Celta de Vigo.

    The Win-Draw-Loss Record

    Neville exits Valencia with the kind of unimpressive record that he will likely be trying to live down for several years to come. In total, he coached the Bats for 28 games. 10 of those ended in victory, seven in draws, and 11 in losses. Those numbers figure out to a 35.7% win percentage.

    In the domestic league, however, Neville's average was worse. He failed to grab a victory until Valentine's Day when his squad beat Espanyol 2-1. That game was his 10th La Liga match as manager. In the end, Neville coached 17 La Liga matches and only managed wins in three of them. That win percentage, of 17.4%, explains without much argument necessary why Neville was let go from his position so early.

    Neville leaves Valencia in a difficult spot as the end of the 2015/16 La Liga campaign approaches. The Bats placed fourth in the 2014/15 La Liga and even managed to qualify for the Champions League. This year, they'll be fighting to avoid relegation. Suffice to say that Neville's replacement, Pako Ayestaran (technically Valencia's fourth manager this season, if you count caretaker Voro Gonzalez) has a lot of work to do in the final weeks of the season.

    Neville's Next Steps

    As for Gary Neville,

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  10. Valencia summer transfers must address key squad deficiencies

    8th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.
    A huge spending spree two seasons ago gave rise to the hope for fans of Valencia that their team was on the cusp of a rebirth, an ability to once again challenge the top three sides and push their way back amongst Spain's elite in La Liga.

    Under Nuno, a top-four finish in 2014-15 seemed to be proof of that; Los Che were strong defensively and had promising young talent in attack-but over the summer, worrying signs began to emerge. Valencia didn't add to their squad so much as solidify what they already had, concluding permanent deals for the likes of Joao Cancelo and Andre Gomes as well as overpaying heavily for striker Alvaro Negredo, not a goal threat last term but an obligated purchase after Champions League qualification was assured.

    It was a poor summer for their transfer work and the upcoming off-season has to not only rectify the mistakes already made, but ensure that new ones aren't made to further set back Valencia's progress.

    Young additions last summer included Santi Mina, Zakaria Bakkali and Mat Ryan, but none were of established Champions League quality who would help the side push on. For sure, the loss of Nicolas Otamendi didn't help matters, but almost from the start of the season the fans turned against the manager and it wasn't too long before he was sacked, replaced by rookie boss Gary Neville.

    Of course, the Englishman has since also been ejected from Mestalla, racking up only three wins in La Liga and failing to find a consistent blend from his squad which is technically impressive, but mentally fragile.

    The defeat to Celta Vigo, Neville's last match in charge, gave an overview of Valencia's problems.

    The home side dominated for a good 40 minutes of the encounter, after an open first half-hour or so, and created lots of workable openings. There were chances to score which were failed to be capitalised on and, when Celta went up the other end and took the lead with

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