Is Mesut Ozil deluded with Ballon d’Or aspirations?

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil recently stated his belief that he could become a Ballon d’Or winner soon, as he feels he’s finally acclimatising to the physicality of the Premier League. The German international, 26, came under criticism in his first season at the Emirates, but has started to look more like a player worth £42.5M in recent weeks. He feels such improvement could see him back as the world’s best playmaker, and ultimately a Ballon d’Or winner.

“If I continue to develop well and stay healthy, I would like, in the next few years, to hold the Ballon d’Or in my hands. I am convinced that it can happen. I’m feeling very positive. I’m a world champion and I play at a top club in the Premier League. There is much more of a physical test here than there is in Spain or in the Bundesliga – I constantly have bruises, but that makes me harder. I feel physically better than ever,” he said.

Arsenal supporters were in disbelief when the World Cup winner made the move from Real Madrid to London, but such elation turned into frustration following his performances. At Real, the Spaniards were known for their counter-attacking style, which always saw the German as the focal point creatively. He was always driving forward with the ball and making a hosts of assists as a result of such possession in the final third. But with Arsenal, the build-up play is a lot slower and more patient, and Ozil receives a lot of the ball in areas he struggles to influence the games from.

He has a long way to go to win the supporters over fully, let alone be recognised on the world scale for his performances, and manager Arsene Wenger may not be too pleased that Ozil has such a high opinion of himself. He has been better recently, but hasn’t come close to matching the impact of many former starts at the Emirates, so to be discussing aspirations of winning the Ballon d’Or is incredibly premature.

Mesut Ozil has a lot to prove for the Londoners, and performance levels in the big games is something supporters have long been waiting for. He was signed to take the club in a new direction, but has arguably been a player holding them back at times. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Lionel Messi (Barcelona) have been fighting for the last few Ballon d’Or awards, and the Arsenal man is currently miles away from the duo. He’s not even the Gunners’ best performing star in 2015.

Is Ozil deluded with his Ballon d’Or aspirations?

Where does Petr Cech’s future lie next season?

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has revealed he will likely leave the London club at the end of the season in pursuit for regular first-team football elsewhere, after becoming second in the pecking order to Thibaut Courtois. Real Madrid are looking for a long-term replacement for their ageing goalkeeper Iker Casillas, and are reportedly keen on the 32-year-old, while the likes of Paris Saint-Germain could well be weighing up a bid to sign Cech in the summer too, but where will he go?

“I don’t know what the club’s idea will be. It looks like it works well with me and Thibaut as a duo, but that can work for one season only. I don’t want another one like this. There always will be speculation, I leave it for the summer. It will be important to sit down with the club, with the manager, to consider all the pros and cons. We will see what will work out the best. When a specific offer comes I will consider it. There are offers one cannot turn down,” he said.

Cech has been used in domestic cup competitions for Chelsea this season, despite coming off the back of joint-winning the Golden Glove award (most clean sheets) with Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny last season. He’s been a terrific servant for the Londoners in his 11 years at Stamford Bridge, and looks set to be calling time on his Chelsea career in the summer. He can hardly be blamed, as he still has many more years of service to give as a goalkeeper. Many top-level shot-stoppers keep playing until their 40 now, so Cech could still have the best years of his career still to play.

He won’t be without offers either, as his form doesn’t appear an issue between the sticks, and despite Arsenal and Liverpool being tipped as potential new destinations next season, Cech could well endure difficulty playing for another Premier League club after having spent so long at Chelsea. That means his future perhaps lies abroad, and La Liga giants Real Madrid would be very keen on his signature. They aren’t the only European giants either, with Italian Serie A runners-up AS Roma and two-time French Ligue One holders Paris Saint-Germain also being linked.

For eleven years, Petr Cech has only known Chelsea, and it was the London club that transformed him from an obscure hot prospect to one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history. He will be given an incredible send-off should he exit the English top flight next season as expected, but where does his future lie?

Is Diego Simeone the best young manager in the world?

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone recently signed a new deal with the Spaniards, keeping him at the Vicente Calderon until 2020 to the delight of the supporters. The 44-year-old revealed his excitement to be extended his stay with Atleti, saying “I am here because I’m convinced the club will continue to grow,” but how good a manager is he?

Since Simeone’s appointment in 2011, the Rojiblancos have won the La Liga title (2013–14), Copa del Rey (2012–13), Supercopa de España (2014), UEFA Europa League (2011–12), UEFA Super Cup (2012), and were UEFA Champions League Runners-up (2013–14). And with Simeone himself winning back-to-back La Liga Coach of the Year awards (2012/13 & 2013/14) have Atletico tied down the best young manager in the world for another five years?

Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp (47), Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola (44) are regarded among the best young managers (under the age of 50) in the world, given their title-winning exploits and impressive results in Europe, but Simeone has been working such wonders on a tiny budget, while retaining better consistency than Klopp most notably this season. He also didn’t inherit a treble-winning side like Guardiola did at Bayern, nor had a sleeping giant in Barcelona as his first big job. Simeone worked his way up to this moment, managing Racing (2006 & 2011), Estudiantes (2006/07), River Plate (2007/08), San Lorenzo (2009/10), and Catania (2011).

With a 64% win ratio at Atleti, Simeone has turned his former playing club into a real European heavyweight. They never had history in the Champions League, but now are among the favourites to go all the way. Considering that Simeone has taken the club forward while the likes of Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero, David De Gea, Filipe Luis, Martin Demichelis and Diego Costa have been sold in recent years, it speaks to Simeone’s mental toughness and abilities as a coach to continue their gradual progression.

Last season was the best campaign of the Argentine’s career, and of Atleti’s modern-day history. They bested Barcelona and Real Madrid to win the La Liga title on the final day of the league season. They also made the Champions League final, and were seconds of winning the trophy, before Real took the tile to extra time. It’s hard enough keeping a club stable when the best players are continuously sold, but it’s a monumental achievement to actually improve without such talented individuals.

This season, Atletico Madrid are 4th in the La Liga table after 28 games, but are only five points off second placed Real Madrid, while boasting much better form than their fierce rivals. Simeone recently revealed he’d turned down offers from Manchester City to remain in Spain, and it’s clear the young coach is destined to become one of the greatest in history if he can build on a  fantastic four years under his belt with Atleti.

Is Diego Simeone the best young coach in the world?

Have Real Madrid thrown away the La Liga title?

Real Madrid were defeated 2-1 by fierce rivals Barcelona in the last La Liga El Clasico of the season. The result sees Carlo Ancelotti’s side four points adrift of the Catalan giants with 10 league games to go, while capping a woeful run of form in the process. But have Real now thrown away the La Liga title?

Defeat to Barcelona was their third loss in the league in their last seven games, which has seen them relinquish their lead above Luis Enrique’s men at the summit at the worst possible time. Reports come out of the Real camp suggesting unrest between the players, and performance levels of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo would certainly back up such rumours.

Supporters were alleged to have attacked Bale in his car recently, while the Welshman continues to be booed and heavily criticised by major Spanish publications. The club are falling apart on the pitch and off it, and such distraction is doing the most damage in games.

Even manager Carlo Ancelotti previously admitted there was to much individuality in the team, and results are now spiralling as a result. Real went on an incredible 12-game winning run in the league earlier in the campaign, but one win from their last four games gives them little to shout about currently.

At the start of last month, Real Madrid had a chance to go four points clear over Barcelona in the title race, but they blew the opportunity by, and it’s since come back to haunt them. Valencia gave a hint of things to come, winning against Los Blancos in their first league game of 2015, and Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona have followed suit.

Last season’s Champions League and Copa Del Rey winners had lost three games from 21 in the league back in February, but lost three in the seven that followed, and they currently stand at a precipice. There’s still time for Real to make back the deficit, but Barcelona are enjoying their best form of the season (10 wins from last 11 games). It’s a question of who will blink first, and currently there’s only one team looking and playing like champions.

Real have to now worry about sides breathing down their neck too, with Valencia and holders Atletico Madrid just four points and five points behind respectively. There’s enough points to play for this season for Ancelotti’s men to regain a stronghold in time, but have they thrown the title away following poor recent form?

Could Michael Carrick become a key player in England’s midfield?

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick was recently recalled to the England national team by manager Roy Hodgson, and looks set to make his first cap for the Three Lions since mid-October 2013 – which was a 2-0 win over Poland (World Cup 2014 qualifiers). The 33-year-old has come back into the fold at domestic level, after having returned from injury, and was praised by his new manager Louis van Gaal following a contract extension.

“He is important because he can read the game as a player on the pitch. He can play the ball forward and that I like, as our aim is always to pass the ball more forward rather than sideways or backwards. He is my second captain and is an important man for my selection. That says enough what I think about (him),” said the United boss.

This season, he’s made just 14 Premier League starts for Manchester United, with injury problems forcing the likes of Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney to occupy the central midfield area for the Red Devils earlier on this season. He’s been on the periphery with England even more, being an unused substitute against Slovenia (Euro 2016 qualifier) in mid-November last year. Hodgson hasn’t been too fond of Carrick, but could now be open for a return given England’s dearth of quality.

Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) and Michael Carrick (Man Utd) are likely to start in the midfield for England, potentially in the holding role to provide creativity for the forwards. The veteran midfielder’s strength is his passing. Carrick has completed 89% of his passes in the Premier League this season, with 79% of his long balls finding their intended target.

Carrick does provide protection too. He’s made 47 tackles and interceptions in the Premier League, but is very wise with his positioning to ensure opposition teams are stifled playing through the middle. So for England, the long-serving United midfielder could become a key component after two years of inactivity. There’s a real lack of top-level options at Hodgson’s disposal, so any experience he can get his hands on will be vital.

The likes of Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) and Ross Barkley (Everton) are fringe players, but there’s nobody else to pick in such a key area as Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) continues to suffer with injury. With no Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and no Frank Lampard (Chelsea) in the England side, Hodgson has little choice but to plump for United ball-player. So can Michael Carrick now become a key player in England’s midfield? Could he make the Euro 2016 squad next year?

Can Borussia Dortmund secure Champions League football against all odds?

Borussia Dortmund recently earned a valuable 3-2 away win against Hannover, which saw Jurgen Klopp’s side end the night in the top-10 of the German Bundesliga. It has been six months since Dortmund were so high in the table, with last season’s runners-up enduring a woeful season that saw them bottom of the table earlier in the campaign. With Dortmund having finished runners-up in the Champions League in 2013, and also second in the German Bundesliga last season, their fall from grace had shocked many to say the least.

However, their upturn in form sees them looking up in the league, and they will have their sights set firmly on a top-four finish to guarantee Champions League football for next season. Borussia were knocked out of the competition at the hands of Italian giants Juventus in the Round of 16, but with their stadium selling out on a regular basis, they will look to rebuild in the summer to fix what has been an alarming situation on the domestic front.

Dortmund currently sit 10th in the league after 26 games, meaning the German outfit will have only eight more games to climb as much as possible in the standings. Their form of late has been very impressive, winning five and drawing two of their last seven league matches. Such form has shot them up the table, boasting a 2.43 points per game average, but they’ll need a near perfect finish to the season to threaten the third and fourth placed sides, and to consequently earn a Champions League place.

Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach, are the two sides occupying 3rd and 4th in the table respectively, with just a single point separating the duo. Klopp’s side still have Monchengladbach to play before the end of the season – the first fixture ending in favor of Dortmund back in November – so their meeting against Die Fohlen could prove to be a very important moment in the season.

Many supporters will have ruled out the possibility of Champions League football for 2015/16, but Dortmund have a great opportunity if they can go on an extended winning run in the league. There’s no doubting they have the quality in the side to achieve it, let alone a significant improvement in form at the perfect time too.

Dortmund won’t get there based on their form alone because they will need Leverkusen and Monchengladbach to lose matches and drop as many points as possible. With a squad containing Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus as key players, among many other talented individuals, Die Schwarzgelben have the quality to make a miraculous comeback in what has been a disappointing league campaign so far.

So can Borussia Dortmund secure Champions League football against all odds?

Do Tottenham Have to Fear Losing Harry Kane in the Summer?

Tottenham striker Harry Kane celebrated his recent call-up to the England national team with a hat-trick against Leicester City in Spurs’ 4-3 win at White Hart Lane. The 21-year-old also took his tally to 29 goals in all competitions this season, but should the London outfit fear losing him in the summer?

The three goals scored against the Foxes put him on level with Diego Costa (Chelsea) in the Premier League scoring charts this season, grabbing even further the attention of many potential suitors. Harry Kane’s rise to prominence has surprised many outside of the club, and has increased the interest in securing his services with many sides desperate for a goalscorer.

In the Premier League, there aren’t many clubs where Kane could go. Tottenham are a side chasing European football, so the Englishman would need to move to Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, or Manchester United to keep improving and building his career. Any other side would be a step down.

Liverpool and Manchester United are the only sides from the list with a remote chance of being interested in Kane, but the young forward could well be inundated with offers from across Europe. There won’t be a shortage of enquires from sides in the top European leagues in the summer, some of whom will offer large sums of money to make Kane their man. A deal could well become even more likely if the interested teams can offer him Champions League football as Tottenham cannot next season.

The academy prospect is not only a prolific goalscorer, but also boasts great hold-up play, can spearhead the attack on his own, and is a real aerial threat, He scored a number of headers this season, among a host of other variety of efforts. It’s exactly what interested clubs will be looking for in a striker, and Kane’s young age also makes him a hotly-coveted star.

19 goals in 20 Premier League starts for a side chasing a top-four spot in the table, while being only 21, makes Kane one of the hottest young strikers in Europe, let alone just the Premier League. He looks on course to receive personal honours at the end of the season as a result of his impressive season at White Hart Lane, but Spurs will be looking to fend off increased summer interest.

As a six-foot striker, boasting impressive technical abilities and a real eye for goal, there aren’t many sides who would pass on the opportunity to sign him. Tottenham may well have to slap a large price tag on his shoulders this summer in order to capitalize on Kane’s rising star and the growing interest in obtaining his signature.

Should Liverpool leave out returning captain Steve Gerrard for Sunday’s Manchester United clash?

Liverpool host fierce rivals Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, with the Reds favourites to pick up all three points as a result of their fantastic form in the Premier League of late. Brendan Rodgers’ men are fifth in the table after 29 games, and have won five league outings on the bounce. They have returning long-serving midfielder and captain Steven Gerrard available to start, but should he come straight back into the side?

The Merseysiders have beaten the likes of Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester City in consecutive weeks to boost their chances of finishing in the top-four of the table come May, and their unbeaten run in the division has been stretched to 13 games. Their impressive form has also coincided with the absence of club captain Steven Gerrard, who has missed six of Liverpool last 11 top-flight fixtures. While the ex-England international has been out of the side, Liverpool have won every game, conceding only two goals.

Rodgers scrapped playing three central midfielders in the side months ago, and has turned their form around with a 3-4-3 formation. Gerrard had floated around in a number of positions, playing as one of the three attackers, wing-back, and as a deep-lying central midfielder. Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson have impressive while the 34-year-old has been sidelined, so why would the manager make a change to a winning side?

“Who do you leave out? Henderson, you don’t leave out. Allen was maybe one of the best players on the pitch against Man City. I don’t think (Rodgers will) play Steven Gerrard. The team is playing well. They’ve been on a great run since Steven has been out of the team. Unfortunately, he’ll know himself, when you go out the team and the team continue on a great run, it’s hard to get back in. It’s unfortunate for him but we’ve all been there towards the end of our career,” said former Liverpool player and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher.

Manchester United have been woeful away from home this season, dropping points from five of their last seven games on the road. Liverpool are the big favourites to win, which will see them replace Louis van Gaal’s side in the top-four too. They can win without Gerrard in the team, but the captain is the lifeblood of the club, and knows what’s required in this fixture than any other. He’s not as young as he once was, but remains an influential figure in the team.

Should Liverpool leave out Steven Gerrard in Sunday’s clash against Manchester United? Or does he deserve to start?

Carlos Tevez like fine wine as he keeps getting better with age

Juventus striker Carlos Tevez recently made a telling contribution in the Old Lady’s Champions League last-16 second leg clash against Borussia Dortmund, scoring two goals and assisting a third, as the perennial Italian Serie A champions comfortably dispatched of their German Bundesliga opponents at the Westfalenstadion.

The 31-year-old scored two goals from as many shots, made one assist, created three chances, completed more than 90% of his passes,  and made two successful dribbles. His performance mirrors what the Argentine has been doing in the Italian Serie A on a near regular basis, and it seems growing old has transformed Tevez as a European heavyweight once more.

The former Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham front man has scored 15 goals in 23 Serie A starts this season, netting six times in eight Champions League games. He’s leading the Bianconeri to another league title, with Juventus currently 14 points clear of second-placed AS Roma with 11 games to go in the season. Tevez is renowned for his work-rate and industrious approach in attack, but he has also been displaying some great individual moves to remind the masses of his technical ability.

“Tevez is an extraordinary striker. Not only does he score goals, but he also helps his teammates and the midfield too,” said head coach Massimiliano Allegri following Juventus’ Champions League win against Borussia Dortmund.

It’s been a long time since Tevez set the Champions League alight, but he hasn’t looked back after ending his lengthy wait for a European goal. While his time in the Premier League ended in acrimony and speculation, he’s finally at home in Italy. The Argentina striker signed for Juventus for only £7.6M in July 2013, and took little time to find his feet, scoring 19 goals in 34 league games in 2013/14, and has 15 this campaign.

His form was so impressive that it led to him returning for his country (Argentina) after a three-year absence from the national team, gaining two caps in 2014 for the South American outfit.

He turns 32 next year, yet he has emphatically silenced his critics in Italy. Tevez has proven to be an astute bargain buy two years ago from Manchester City. He was named in the Europa League Team of the Season, Serie A Team of the Year and Juventus’ Player of the Season (2013/14) following a brilliant debut campaign for the Old Lady.

Just how good has Carlos Tevez been for Juventus this season?

Is Everton’s Phil Jagielka good enough for England?

England manager Roy Hodgson announced the national team squad for the Three Lions’ upcoming internationals against Italy (friendly) and Lithuania (Euro 2016 qualifier), and Everton defender Phil Jagielka remains in his thoughts. The veteran centre-back has been playing alongside Chelsea’s Gary Cahill at the heart of the defence, but his club form has been so woeful that Hodgson will be considering alternate options for the worst-case scenario.

Jagileka was particular poor in Everton’s recent humiliating Europa League defeat to Dynamo Kiev, which saw the Toffees lose 5-2 in the last-16 second leg, eliminating them from the competition without so much as a whimper. The 32-year-old had a torrid time against the Ukrainian Premier League leaders, which caps a miserable season too.

“A couple of times we made defensive mistakes. It was the kind of night where everything they tried went into the back of the net. I agree there were instances when we could have defended better but I think it is a case of the whole team not defending well enough. I don’t think it was a case of the personnel,” said Everton manager Roberto Martinez following exit to Kiev.

The England international has been at the heart of an Everton defence that have conceded 41 goals in 29 games – two more than they shipped after a 38-game season in 2013/14. It’s a real worry on the international stage, as England have to be thinking ahead for their Euro 2016 tournament to come next year. Does Hodgson have a big decision to make about Jagielka?

In the current England squad, the manager has Phil Jones (Man Utd) and Chris Smalling (Man Utd) to choose from in the side, and could well be considering one of the young defensive duo as Jagielka looks a considerable distance away from a player capable of playing the world’s best in the European Championships.

The Everton defender is vastly experienced domestically and internationally, but he’s hit a real slum in form that will lead Hodgson to make a decision about his future. The England boss can’t wait and see what happens over the next 12 months, and he will need to afford a good amount of time for a player breaking into the first-tam to get used to England’s style and his manager’s instructions. Few would be surprised if Hodgson mixed it up at the back in their friendly against Italy, in an attempt to see who could replace the 32-year-old for the long-term.

Is Phil Jagielka good enough for England?