Could Gareth Bale return to the English Premier League this summer?

Injury woes, inconsistent form, and critical supporters falling out of love with him this season have combined together to sum up a rather difficult second campaign for Gareth Bale with Real Madrid. The speedy Welshman is being tipped for a return to the Premier League as a result. His fitness continues to be called into question, and rumours linking him with a big-money move back to England are not going away in a hurry.

Bale, 25, is still enjoying a decent run in front of goal, scoring 17 goals in all competitions this season, but the supporters have been very critical of his form. The Welsh international has been booed off by Real Madrid fans during the campaign, and it is clear they feel he has been playing below his best after a dream debut season at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It was always going to be hard to top scoring the winner in the Copa Del Rey final and to score the goal to give Real the lead in the Champions League final. Bale has not come close to replicating the decisiveness and magic he showcased in 2013/14, and his time in Spain could be coming to a premature end.

Manchester United are one of the clubs who continue to be linked with the former Tottenham man, as they have been interested in Bale for years, though they never made an offer. They have the funds to meet Real’s demands, and could well succeed in their approach, with Real having the likes of James Rodriguez and Isco who can easily compensate for the loss of Bale.

The Red Devils have other options as well such as doing a swap deal with Angel Di Maria going in the opposite direction. The Argentina international has struggled for form for large parts of the season since his move from Real, and he would welcome a return to Spain. However, it is all mere speculation for the time being, and Bale has not made any public comments about wanting an exit this summer. It is also unlikely that Di Maria would be brought back to Madrid. A more likely scenario, however, is goalkeeper David de Gea moving to Madrid while Bale heads back to the Premier League. Of course, Manchester would also include some cash in the deal to close the gap in valuation of the two players.

There are plenty of factors that could see a move transpiring, as Bale would likely jump at the chance to work with former Wales legend Ryan Giggs, who is currently the assistant manager at Old Trafford. He would also be keen on a Premier League return where he was far more comfortable in his surroundings, and where he can play under less pressure. Finally, he would not have to take a big pay-cut to join Manchester, as United have sufficient funds to make the acquisition they need.

So could Gareth Bale return to the Premier League this summer?

Porto’s Jackson Martinez surely destined for a big-money move in the summer?

Porto striker Jackson Martinez put in a fantastic performance against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash, with the Colombian international making a notable contribution as the Dragons stunned the German Bundesliga side 3-1 at the Estádio do Dragão.

Inside of 90 seconds, Martinez drew a foul from Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who was fortunate to not have been sent off, before the spot-kick was dispatched by teammate Ricardo Quaresma. The 28-year-old went creator-turned-goalscorer in netting Porto’s third goal, to make it 3-1 in the 65th minute, but his overall performance was impressive.

“These were a couple of difficult weeks for me, as I did not knew if I would be able to play. It is never easy when we return after an injury, but I prepared myself for this moment and everything went great. I’m still not 100 percent fit but with the help of my teammates I was able to take this effort. This win fills us with joy, but we know that it does not define who will go through to the next round. We still have to play another match that will be much harder than this one,” he said, following the Bayern victory.

Against the German giants, no player won more aerial duels (3), no player was fouled more often (4) and no player had more shots (2). Martinez was outstanding, and has been all season without getting the European recognition he perhaps deserves. The 6 foot 1 inch striker was playing in the Mexican league only three years ago, but now finds himself linked with some of the biggest football clubs in the world.

Arsenal and Manchester United are said to be two of many clubs interested in his services, and with Martinez having continued his prolific run of form in front of goal in every season in Portugal, a big-money move surely awaits. Porto have certainly done well to hold on to him this long, considering Martinez has now bagged 87 goals in 126 games. This summer, he will be heavily coveted, and it’s been a long time coming.

Porto paid £8M to sign him from Chiapas (Jaguares) in 2012. With the striker proving his worth, the transfer turned out to be a successful move and the Portuguese giants are looking forward in anticipation of receiving considerable offers for Jackson. The experienced forward was impressive during last summer’s World Cup, scoring two goals in three appearances in Brazil,. He has delivered goals throughout his career. It seems his time has come to play for an elite club in one of Europe’s top leagues.

Is Jackson Martinez destined for a big-money move in the summer?

In-form Luis Suarez key for Barcelona’s Champions League hopes

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez continued his fantastic form in the Champions League with two exquisite goals against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night at the Parc des Princes. He has now scored six goals in as many games in the prestigious competition, yet it is the way he scored both goals & his relentless effort which might be the key to how far the Spaniards go in Europe.

His first goal saw him collect the ball outside the penalty area under pressure, before performing a nutmeg on PSG defender David Luiz, then he went on to off a challenge to slot home at the near post. His second goal saw him dribble towards goal in the middle of the park, cleverly slipping the ball through Luiz’s legs once again, before curling an effort into the top corner. The Uruguayan’s brace effectively sealed the quarter-final clash in favor of Barca from the first leg, leading to fans and pundits lauding Suarez for his performance.

“He is a No 9 I like to see, as he goes into the channels, and will hold the ball up. For the first goal he went into the channel, held it, pure strength. The second one, he drops (deeper to collect the ball), plays a one-two and goes in behind. He’s always available. He’s always looking to go behind and now Barcelona have a proper No 9. (Suarez) being in that position will allow everybody to play better. Leo (Messi) on the right and Neymar on the left, and now the No 9 they didn’t have for a long time,” said Thierry Henry.

Suarez’s brace against Paris-Saint-Germain took his season tally to 18 goals in 28 games, eight of which were scored in his last 10 outings. The former Liverpool man was outstanding at the Parc des Princes, scoring twice from just three shots, making four dribbles, and creating one other chance. He has been key for Barcelona in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and if he continues to perform at this level, he might succeed in leading the Catalans to European glory. It has been four years since Barca last lifted the famous trophy and Suarez indicated he moved to Spain in order to win in Europe.

Barcelona do boast what is perhaps the strongest attacking trio in world football, but Messi and Neymar are often marked closely by opposing sides which set out to keep the duo quiet. Suarez has shown he can be the difference in such encounters, as he was the one who scored a brace against Manchester City at the Etihad in the first leg of the Champions League last-16.

As of late, Suarez has been playing at his best and appears to be enjoying his football, but can he fire Barcelona to a first Champions League triumph since 2011?

Is Klopp a shoo-in to replace Pellegrini at Man City in the summer?

Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed that he is set to leave the German side at the end of the current season, citing that he is no longer the man to take the club forward. Manchester City will certainly be on alert, with the Premier League holders reportedly looking to replace Manuel Pellegrini during the summer, but will Klopp make the move?

Klopp’s decision comes four days after BVB lost their second consecutive game in the Bundesliga to confine the side to a mid-table position with six games to go. Dortmund are 22 points worse off than at this point last season, having spent the early parts of the campaign rooted to the foot of the table. Players from last summer’s World Cup took time to find their form, and the loss of some key players in the transfer market left Dortmund playing catch-up.

Therefore, Dortmund’s loss could be Manchester City’s gain, as City apparently have the resources to build almost any side the German manager wants, should he make the move to the Etihad in the summer.

Jurgen Klopp’s CV

T-Home Super Cup: (2008)
Bundesliga: (2010/11), (2011/12)
DFB-Pokal: (2011/12)
DFL-Supercup: (2013), (2014)
UEFA Champions League runner–up: (2012/13)

German Football Manager of the Year: (2011), (2012)
FIFA World Coach of the Year Second place : 2013

Manchester City have put in a woeful campaign and have lost their Premier League title, meaning they are on course for a trophy-less campaign. They won the league and Capital One Cup double in 2013/14, yet this season they have failed on all possible fronts in their bid to add to their trophy cabinet. With manager Manuel Pellegrini failing to bring any silverware this season, the City hierarchy will likely take a close look at Klopp’s availability.

They are desperate to become a mainstay in the title race for years to come, and Klopp is a manager who achieved great success with Dortmund. Klopp not only kept Borussia competitive in the Bundesliga, but also went as far as challenging Bayern Munich’s supremacy despite the gap in wealth in favor of the Bavarian side. With Dortmund, Klopp won the Bundesliga and more notably reached the final of the Champions League, a competition the City ownership has been keeping a close eye on for the past couple of years.

Pellegrini enjoyed a successful debut campaign, but things have considerably fallen apart since, and it does appear as if the current City manager is unable to get the best out of his squad at this stage. A separation might be the best remedy for City’s problems.

On the other side, Dortmund have taken a step back this season, which is why the 47-year-old wants a change of scenery, but Klopp is aware that City are not exactly in the best shape either. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in Manchester, but City do have a bigger budget than Dortmund and they have a number of quality players in the squad.

Any manager with the experience and pedigree would be interested in the challenge of taking over at City, and in the case of Klopp it could be the ideal start of a new chapter of his managerial career.

If Klopp does indeed take over at the Etihad, then it would not be a shock if he does bring the likes of Marco Reus with him too. There might be a number of big job vacancies this summer depending on how the European season ends, but if City come knocking on his door, will Klopp take over from Pellegrini?

Who is Jan Oblak?

Atletico Madrid earned a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final  clash at the Vicente Calderon thanks to the heroic exploits of Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak. The young shot-stopper was not well known prior to 2015 but gained some attention following two solid performances against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.

Following his impressive display against bitter rivals Real Madrid, Oblak is starting to make a name for himself. The goalkeeper saved his most impressive performance in an Atletico shirt for the European match against the team’s city rivals Real.

Just 22 years of age, Oblak signed for Atletico Madrid last summer for a pricey £14 million fee from Benfica. Upon his arrival in Spain, he said: “Benfica wanted me to stay and the president has done everything to stop me from leaving, but my wish was to sign for Atletico. The financial factor was not the main reason, but the conditions are much better. Ever since I was a child I have dreamed about playing in the Spanish league. This was always a big challenge that I wanted to take on.”

Following the sale of David De Gea, and the loss of on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in recent years, Atleti endured a goalkeeper void they desperately needed to fill, and Oblak’s performance against Real Madrid showcased just how good a talent he is, while going some way to paying off his transfer fee.

Real created plenty of chances during Tuesday night’s clash at the Vicente Calderon, but were met with a goalkeeper in fine form. Oblak has not been Atleti’s first-choice in goal this season, but featured in a number of games as an alternative for Moya. Surprisingly, Oblak has earned just four caps for Slovenia in the last three years.

The 22-year-old kept 14 clean sheets in 16 games last season for Benfica. He has three clean sheets in four league games since moving to Atletico, and is currently gaining more notoriety following his Champions League showing. He made a one-on-one save against Real forward Gareth Bale early in the game, and impressively kept out the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema too.

“They are one of the best teams in the world at defending. Oblak did a great job,” said Real Madrid boss Ancelotti after the match.

Oblak did do a good job, and he might continue to feature on a regular basis for Diego Simeone’s side if he can come close to replicating such a fine performance. The future certainly looks bright for the 22-year-old, who is in a crucial stage in his development, and won’t benefit from having his progression needlessly stalled.

It is clear the Atletico manager has avoided placing too much pressure on Oblaks shoulders. Diego Simeone will not rush the Slovenian goalkeeper despite the considerable amount spent to secure his services.

Did Oblak’s performance against Real put his name on the world map and more importantly secure more playing time for the emerging goalkeeper?

Can Atletico Madrid get revenge against fierce rivals Real Madrid in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final?

Spanish La Liga title-chasers and fierce rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid square off in a repeat of last season’s Champions League final. The 2014 final saw Atleti just seconds from winning the trophy, but a late equaliser took the game to extra time, where Real took advantage of tired legs to eventually win 4-1 at the final whistle.

This time, the two sides are playing for a place in the semi-finals of the competition, with the first leg at the Vicente Calderon. Real are narrow favourites to win, but Atletico boast a great home record ahead of the fixture. The players are certainly fired up to help their side to a result too, with Atleti striker Fernando Torres admitting he and the majority of the squad have beaten waiting for Tuesday’s clash ever since the Champions League draw was made.

“Everyone is waiting the whole year to play these kinds of games — the quarterfinal of the Champions League against the biggest team in the world right now. I was born in Madrid — living in the same city, you can see how great they are and how big the club is. Once you are away, you realize that it’s not only in Spain, it’s around the world,” he said.

“There is so much history, and you need to play and win against that history. It’s difficult to play against them because you fight against everything, the history, the players, but because of that the motivation is always so high. We need to forget everything that’s happened in the past, the victories, the defeats, everything, because you cannot use that for the game. We are focused on winning, and doing everything it takes.”

Diego Simeone’s side have lost just one game at home in the league and Europe this season. They have won every home clash in the Champions League, and boast an 81% win ratio in their own backyard in La Liga. Real Madrid have looked a little more human on the road. Carlo Ancelotti’s men lost their last home game in the Champions League to German side Schalke, and have lost three of their previous five on the road, so they will be tentative on Tuesday.

In the league this season, Atleti have beaten Real on both occasions at the Vicente Calderon and the Santiago Bernabeu, so there’s no reason why they can’t replicate such performances in Europe. They were outstanding last season in La Liga, and will be desperate to get revenge against Real following the heart-breaking loss in the Champions League final.

Can Atletico Madrid get revenge against Real Madrid?

Why Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi is attracting Premier League interest

Valencia defender Nicolas Otamendi has been linked with a move to Manchester United this summer, with manager Louis van Gaal desperate to sign an experienced and commanding central defender to boost his team’s chances of winning the Premier League title.

The Red Devils were reported to have made a £27 million bid in January for the Argentine, only for Valencia to reject the offer. The Spanish team is keen on retaining the services of the 27-year-old to boost the chances of finishing the current La Liga campaign as high as possible.

With Los Che keeping 11 clean sheets in the league this season, conceding just 23 goals in 30 games, and on course for their highest finish in the division for three years, it is easy to see why they want to keep Otamendi. He has been outstanding in the back-line, averaging a tackle or interception every 15 minutes while contributing three goals on the other end.

While not the tallest centre-back, Otamendi has won 66% of his aerial duels, and has completed 86% of his short passes. With the defender lifting nine trophies with two of the five clubs he played for, his experience makes him ideal for Van Gaal. United currently have Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo as the options at centre-back, but no clear leader at the back. Otamendi could be that man.

That United are reportedly willing to pay £27 million for a 27-year-old centre-back who spent most of his career outside Europe’s top 5 leagues shows just how desperate they are to ensure their defensive line is strengthened ahead of next season. They are likely to renew their interest in the summer, if other targets such as Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels are not signed.

Last summer, Manchester United bolstered their attacking options. This summer, the focus is on the defensive end. They may well be forced to pay over the odds for their man, however, with Sky Sports journalist Graham Hunter saying: “Manchester United’s interest in acquiring Otamendi is well established. Therefore, I would expect them to try to buy him in the summer. If they come in with £50 million then Valencia have a decision to make. It is better football sense for Valencia’s level to use the good players they have got to earn Champions League revenue.”

United could well be one of multiple sides interested in Otamendi if he is made available by Valencia. He is enjoying a great campaign, and could fill the defensive void at a host of top European clubs.

Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke once again putting himself in the shop window

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke scored the winning goal in the Villans’ 1-0 away win against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. The Belgian international, 24, has scored eight goals in his last six games for Tim Sherwood’s team. Now boasting a tally of 10 goals from 21 starts in the Premier League this season, Benteke is once again attracting interest from a host of clubs.

The 24-year-old has found his scoring boots, and is brilliantly spearheading the attack as he was back in 2012. Benteke struggled for large parts of the season under predecessor Paul Lambert, but Sherwood has worked hard to get the best form out of him. His goals have become crucial in Aston Villa’s fight to avoid further trouble in the Premier League table. By finding the goal on a regular basis, Benteke has also taken giants steps towards restoring his reputation in Europe.

“Benteke is prolific. Give him a chance and he will score. His responsibility is to hurt the other team and score goals – he’s doing that. The shackles are off. If you create chances for them they’ll score. Now we are playing it to Benteke a lot earlier, keeping him in the game is key. It stretches the opposition,” said manager Tim Sherwood.

Tottenham were one of many sides linked with Benteke’s services last season, but the Londoners instead opted for former Valencia hitman Roberto Soldado. However, the Spanish international failed to prove his worth in the Premier League, forcing manager Mauricio Pochettino to find a suitable alternative.

Aston Villa value the Belgian striker at around £20 million, yet his value might rise further if he continues to impress. It is quite extraordinary to think based on his current form that Benteke is the same player who scored just three goals in all competitions up until March.

Signed from Belgian Jupiler League club Genk for £7M in the summer of 2012, Benteke has provided an impressive return of goals. He has not matched his debut season of 19 Premier League goals, but has scored in double figures in league play in each of his three seasons in England. There should not be a shortage of interest in the summer as a result, with Liverpool and Tottenham desperate for a striker of Benteke’s ilk.

So has the Belgian international put himself as a worthy transfer candidate ahead of this summer?

Why Chelsea are targeting Atletico Madrid’s Koke ahead of this summer

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke finds his name linked with a host of clubs, considering the Spanish international has been outstanding under manager Diego Simeone. Koke perfectly represents his coach’s work ethic as well as boasting high levels of technical quality. He is seen as the ideal midfielder who can make a difference in the middle of the park in multiple ways.

Full name, Jorge Resurrección Merodio, Koke has won the La Liga title (2013/14), the UEFA Europa League (2011/12), the Copa Del Rey (2012/13), the Supercopa de Espana (2014), and the UEFA Super Cup (2012). He won the U21 Championships (2013) with Spain, and has been a regular with Atletico for the last four years.

Chelsea have been linked with Koke recently, yet it remains unknown whether Atletico would be willing to consider an offer for their midfield hero. His asking price is reported to be around £21 million, a reasonable fee which the Premier League giants would be more than happy to match.

The 23-year-old has completed 83% of his short passes in Spain’s La Liga this season, creating 49 chances, and providing nine assists. Koke isn’t just a creator, as he also averages a tackle or interception every 22 minutes on the pitch. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet, and averages over 50 passes per game on a regular basis. As such, Koke’s ball-playing qualities have caught the attention of other sides.

The 2013/14 season saw Koke hit extraordinary heights. He ended up with 13 assists in the league as he helped Atletico Madrid to the title, finishing above the traditional Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid in dramatic fashion on the final day of the campaign. He was in the Spain squad for the 2014 World Cup, but was forced to settle for a cameo appearance. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho considers Koke to have the ideal qualities that will make him a good fit for his side. What makes Koke even more valuable for Mourinho, is the fact the Portuguese coach also places heavy emphasis on work ethic.

With so much reliance on the presence and fitness of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic, Chelsea desperately need another strong midfield option should their aforementioned due suffer injury or suspension. Koke is very versatile, as he can play left, right, and centre of midfield, so he is a manager’s dream.

It is very easy to see why Mourinho has targeted him, and there is no reason the Spaniard cannot blossom in the Premier League next season if he did join the Londoners. No move is expected to be made until the current campaign comes to a close, but it is a transfer many clubs will be paying attention to.

Could AS Monaco surprise everyone to win the French Ligue 1 title?

AS Monaco’s resurgence in France’s Ligue 1 table continued with a 3-0 away win against Caen on Friday night. The result sees Leonardo Jardim’s side 3rd in the league with six games still to play. They are four points adrift of leaders Paris Saint-Germain and three points behind second team Lyon, but boast the best form in the division at a perfect time – with four wins and two draws from their last six.

Such form could see Les Rouges et Blancs cutting back further on the deficit in time to win the title, but can they pull it off? Their recent form says so, as they are unbeaten in their last eight league games, and have lost only two games from 24. Their consistency in the last few months has come as a real surprise given how they’d started the season.

Monaco were all the way down in 10th near the midpoint of the campaign, dropping points in 10 of their first 15 games played, but have turned things around considerably to threaten a title-chase at the business end of the campaign. They finished second to Paris Saint-Germain in their first season back in the top-flight after relegation to the second tier, and have 18 points to fight for.

Their rise up the table is all the more impressive given they allowed their two best players to leave – with Radamel Falcao joining Manchester United on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent deal, and James Rodriguez being signed for £70M by Real Madrid. Therefore, for Jardim to have his side on track to potentially top the table is an incredible achievement.

Monaco’s defensive record has been key to their form, with a league-high 17 clean sheets earned so far, and the least amount of goals conceded (22). Monaco have only conceded more than one goal in five games from 32. No side has managed to score more than once against the title-chasers since November 2014.

It has been 15 years since Les Rouges et Blancs last won the French Ligue 1 title, and prior to their return to the top flight in 2013, Monaco suffered years of mediocrity – finishing between 8th-12th in the three campaigns that preceded their relegation in 2011. They spent a lot of money to rise again in the league, but are now impressing under a completely different philosophy despite losing two of their expensive acquisitions.

Can Monaco win the title this season?