Should Inter Milan be taken seriously in the Serie A title race?

Inter Milan recently confirmed a deal to sign Manchester City striker Stevan Jovetic, with the Montenegro international their seventh major signing of the summer. Manager Roberto Mancini has been tasked with a rebuild following a woeful last campaign that saw Inter finish closer to the relegation zone than the top spot, and he’s made some good acquisitions so far.

  • Geoffrey Kondogbia (AS Monaco) £21M
  • Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich) £11M
  • Jeison Murillo (Granada CF) £6M
  • Davide Santon (Newcastle United) £2.5M
  • Stevan Jovetic (Manchester City) Loan fee: £2.1M
  • Miranda (Atlético Madrid) Loan fee: £2.1M
  • Martín Montoya (FC Barcelona) Loan fee: £1M

The Serie A giants have strengthened in almost every area this summer, and are desperate to push for a Champions League spot in the table again. Re-appointing manager Roberto Mancini saw an improvement in form, but the Azzurri have a long way to go before they’re back in the upper reaches.

Inter have finished outside of the top-four in each of the last four seasons, and have sold key players over the years which has made their task even harder. Upon his return to the San Siro, Mancini admitted this was his toughest task in management, saying: “To come back to Inter is the biggest challenge. It’s not easy at this moment.”

“It’s not easy because we are working very well, but the results are so-so, and, you know, Inter is a top club. The supporters want to win every game. At this moment it’s difficult, and this is a very big challenge for me, but I think that when we win again.”

Juventus have been the team to beat in Italy, with the Old Lady having won four consecutive Serie A titles, but they too have strengthened in the transfer market. Inter Milan are going in the right direction to start their climb up the table, but Mancini’s first full season back at the club could still be one of learning. Inter’s side still need a lot of work done to it, and they still need an overhaul of the playing squad.

However, their resurgence looks to be on the cards, and the coming season should showcase some real progression from the Azzurri. Roberto Mancini is a hero for his title-winning antics in his first stint, but if he could turn the club around this time, he would be considered above the likes of treble-winner Jose Mourinho to the fans.

So could it be time to take Inter Milan seriously in the title race?

Can Borussia Dortmund turn their fortunes around this season?

Borussia Dortmund have been working hard to recover a calamitous last season, with BVB enjoying a strong pre-season for form, as well as winning their first competitive fixture (1-0 against Wolfsberger in the Europe League). New manager Thomas Tuchel has been ticking all the boxes as far as supporters are concerned, and the confidence has been clear to see among the side.

Dortmund are looking for Europa League success to make up for their lack of Champions League participation this season, and victory away to Austrian outfit Wolfsberger in the first leg is a good start. They have a near-fully fit side this campaign too, which is in complete contrast to how things went under former manager Jurgen Klopp in 2014/15.

Finishing 7th in the league table last season, a top-four spot in the Bundesliga is the minimum expectation for Tuchel, and with the new boss having retained key players such as Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer, Dortmund could be in for a successful campaign.

BVB were bottom of the league early in the last campaign, but given how impressive they have been in pre-season so far, there’s little chance the Germans will be languishing in the bottom-half. Tuchel has brought the intensity of Dortmund’s play back, and the individual brilliance of Marco Reus has returned at a perfect time.

So many players have reaffirmed their desire to stay at the Westfalenstadion, which  speaks volumes about their faith in the manager, as well as the loyalty having been instilled in recent years. Many expected a summer exodus after their poor season, but the players made up their own mind to stay with the German club.

The coming season can see Borussia Dortmund once again regarded as genuine title-challengers for Bayern Munich to contend with, but they’ll need to hit the ground running to achieve it. The start of a new domestic campaign can often see form being inconsistent until the side starts to settle, but if BVB are serious about their aspirations this season, they need a blistering start out of the blocks.

Dortmund were the last side to end Bayern Munich’s stronghold in the Bundesliga crown, but it proved to be temporary, as the German giants have since won three on the bounce. Pre-season preparations have been strong with Tuchel’s side, however, and winning appears to have become a habit, so can Borussia Dortmund turn their fortunes around in the league?

Why Barcelona can retain the Champions League crown this season

Since the Champions League’s inception, no side have managed to successfully defend their title, with 2014 winners Real Madrid having fallen short in the semi-finals the following campaign. Manchester United have come the closest, winning in 2007/08 before losing in the final a year later to Barcelona. Coincidentally enough, it’s the Catalan giants who are the current holders now seeking to make history, and here’s why they can deliver.

Nobody could argue Barcelona weren’t the best side in Europe by some distance last season – their 3-1 win in the final against Juventus proved their credentials emphatically. Barca weren’t without their flaws, but they boasted the best attack in the competition which ultimately proved key. This summer, the Spanish outfit seem to be the side best prepared to go all the way again in Europe, with their close competition still greatly lacking.

Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Chelsea are Barcelona’s biggest threat to their European title, but none of the aforementioned have strengthened their squad to realistically stand up to the Catalans. At Bayern, they replaced influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger with hot-head Chilean international Arturo Vidal, while manager Pep Guardiola has had major fallings out with players and staff.

Real Madrid suffered a highly disappointing campaign after such an incredible season in manager Carlo Ancelotti’s debut term. Los Blancos faded fast in Ancelotti‘s second season, ultimately costing him his job, while raising question marks on how far new boss Rafael Benitez can take them. Real aren‘t expected to threaten this season as a result.

Chelsea are a threat, and a side that won’t go away in Europe under manage Jose Mourinho. The Blues boss is meticulous in his planning for Champions League games, and will be desperate to triumph in the competition with Chelsea after so much heartbreak down the years. The Premier League holders aren’t making big changes to their squad this summer, which shows a sign of strength ahead of the new season.

Barcelona are sure to be challenged during their European journey, but having an attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar guarantees goals in any game. The South American forwards are some distance ahead of the new prolific strike partnerships, bagging more than 120 goals collectively last season.

Barcelona are one side who haven’t lost any key regular first-team players this summer, and have retained the best strike force in the world for their troubles too. Can the Catalans retain the Champions League this season?

EFL será lanzamiento de nueva y emocionante temporada pronto! se enorgullece de lanzar la nueva temporada la próxima semana! Por favor, comprueba de nuevo en unos días y recuerde que usted puede crear su equipo de Grandes Jugadores como Messi, James Rodríguez, Ronaldo

y Alexis Sánchez!

Para competir, usted debe tomar ventaja de las sustituciones y las transferencias de jugadores! Los entrenadores más inteligentes y más conocedores será demostrar su valía!

Juventus: Rebuilding for a Brighter Future

When Andrea Agnelli was appointed as President of Juventus, very few of the club’s fans expected a great turnaround to take place, particularly in such a short period of time.

Five years later, and Juve have returned to glory with four consecutive league titles as well as the Coppa Italia (once). More remarkably, Juve reached the Champions League final only to lose to an extremely talented Barcelona side.

One of Agnelli’s best decisions was to hire Giuseppe Marotta as Director General (Marotta would later on become CEO of Juventus as well). Following a disappointing 7th place finish in Serie A, former Juve captain Antonio Conte was hired as coach. The Agnelli-Marotta-Conte trident would work its magic guiding the club to one historic season after another.

In the summer of 2014 when Conte and Juve went separate ways, many fans expected the club to struggle yet with Massimiliano Allegri as manager, the Old Lady continued to excel. Juve not only won the Scudetto for the fourth time on the trot, but also added the Coppa Italia for a domestic double, the first since the Marcello Lippi era in 1995, and reached the Champions League final, a first since the 2003 Final against Milan (again under Lippi in his 2nd spell with Juve).

Despite the managerial change (Conte’s departure) last summer and the departure of key players (Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo & Arturo Vidal) this summer, the club remains in safe hands. President Agnelli and CEO Marotta, along with Fabio Paratici, the club’s Sporting Director, and hardworking players such as Gianluigi Buffon, club’s captain & soul, as well as Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio have remained with the club leaving enough room for optimism for the upcoming and future seasons.

Despite the dramatic departures this summer, there are several reasons for Juve fans to celebrate:

1) Average Age of Squad: Juve’s average age continues to drop this summer with the majority of the signings being under the age of 25. Of the outfield players signed, only the experienced Sami Khedira and Mandzukic are over 25 years old (Neto is a goalkeeper).

2) Squad’s Depth: Despite the loss of Tevez in attack, Juve added veteran striker Mandzukic to retain some experience upfront along with the talented Paulo Dybala & the powerful Simone Zaza. In midfield, the club added Khedira who has vast experience having played for Real Madrid and won the World Cup with Germany.

3) Team’s Core: Key players such as Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, Claudio Marchisio & Paul Pogba have all remained with the club. They offer a mix between veteran leadership & the youthful exuberance embodied by Pogba.

4) Combination of Youth & Veterans: While Juve boast several players under the age of 25, including Zaza, Dybala, Daniele Rugani, Kingsley Coman and Stefano Sturaro, there is plenty of experience left in the side with Buffon, Chiellini, Patrice Evra, Marchisio, Khedira & Mandzukic on the team’s books.

5) Longevity of Players: Barring any injuries, Juve’s team will be quite competitive by World Cup 2018, not just in Serie A but also in the Champions League while most of Juve’s rivals, with the exception of perhaps Barcelona, will be in need of revamping their squads.

6) Transfer Market: If there is one management circle that can be trusted to deliver the results, then it is Juve’s! There have been mistakes but you can only admire the quality of the work that has been done since Marotta & Paratici joined the team. Juve still have a few weeks to add the missing pieces, most likely a number 10 & a left-back as per Marotta’s words.

7) Financially Sound: Juve’s financial foundation is increasingly favorable compared to a few years ago and the club will continue to benefit from owning its stadium. While the club has spent big on the like of Dybala, Juve did sell Arturo Vidal and also made a hefty sum from reaching the final of the Champions League.

8) Team Spirit: Juve’s way has been defined as putting the team ahead of the individual. Even during Lippi’s two successful eras, Juve were built on team spirit with emphasis on performing as one unit as opposed to relying on individual performances. This means the loss of a star player or two can be compensated for by the group’s effort.

9) Serie A is Behind: While Inter and Milan have spent heavily in the summer market, the two Milanese sides have a lot of catching up to do following a dismal season. Napoli will improve following the departure of Rafa Benitez while Lazio were the surprise package. However, none of the aforementioned teams (plus Roma), have what it takes to dislodge Juve from the top of Serie A. The 2015-16 Scudetto is Juve’s to lose!

10) Hunger: The club’s core players, specially Buffon, Chiellini & Marchisio, are hungry for more success, in particular in Europe. This can only bode well for the team as a whole not to mention the fact Juve still have Pogba. Pogba’s 2014-15 season was disrupted by the injury he suffered against Borussia Dortmund so he will have a lot to prove ahead of Euro 2016 & following the departure of senior midfielders Pirlo and Vidal.

A close look at Juve’s successful 2014-15 campaign shows that while Tevez was perhaps the club’s best player, not a single individual stood out far ahead to separate himself from the rest of the squad in terms of performances. Both Pirlo and Vidal played the least number of league games per season since joining the club.

Bonucci had his best and most consistent season ever while Buffon built even further on his legendary status. In midfield, Marchisio covered for the trip of Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal whenever they were injured and did so in admirable fashion. This leaves encouraging signs for this upcoming season.

In addition, Sturaro proved he belongs when he had an absolute cracker of a game against Real Madrid in Turin. The fact that Sturaro was not fazed when thrown into the thick of things against the stars of Real shows the Italian midfielder is up for the task of playing the toughest competitors in the Champions League.

While the fans remain nervous about this summer, they need to sit back and reflect at what the management has done in the previous seasons. Overall, and despite a few mistakes, the track record has been too good to be true. The same management which signed Pirlo on a free transfer, was able this summer to scoop Khedira in another free transaction.

Marotta and Paratici brought Vidal to Juve so fans must not lose faith in them after a few significant departures this summer. One thing comes up to mind when analyzing the current situation at Vinovo: will there be a repeat of the 1996 summer revolution at Juve? Back then, stars Gianluca Vialli, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Paulo Sousa were allowed to leave. Some believe that proved too costly with Sousa helping Dortmund in 1997 to lift the Champions League at the expense of none other than Juve!

Will we see a repeat of what happened post the 1996 season? Or will it be different? Either way, the 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns went well with Juve winning the Scudetto twice and reaching the Champions League final on both occasions. The main issue here is whether this rejuvenated Juve side can deliver the Champions League title in the upcoming couple of years? That is perhaps what Agnelli and Marotta are banking on! to launch new Season soon!

First, we want to thank all our fans, in particular those who created teams to play EFL games during the 2014-15 season.

EFL continues to work hard to bring the best Fantasy Football games to fans of the beautiful game. With the new European season set to launch on August 7th & 8th in France’s Ligue 1 & the English Premier League respectively, EFL will launch its new European games ahead of the aforementioned dates.

If you have registered before, you do not have to register again but you do have to create a new team for the upcoming 2015-16 season. You can select from your favorite stars such as Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo & others. You can pick the very talented yet controversial star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to lead your team! It is up to you to create your team of 14 players and to challenge your friends & other EFL users to prove you are an elite fantasy football manager!

One of the most important elements of playing EFL games is making transfers and that is something you as a fantasy manager must take advantage of to show you can deal with injuries, suspensions or a drop in form.

Please check back in the next few days for further updates and, as always, best wishes to our fantasy football managers!

Marco Reus rebuffs Premier League interest to stay with Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus has reaffirmed his desire to remain in the German Bundesliga this summer, after hearing about rumours linking him to a move to the Premier League. Liverpool are one side who have long been linked with the German international, but the players representatives – agency Sport Total – have revealed he will not be exiting the Westfalenstadion ahead of the new season.

“We read the rumours that are circulating about an alleged transfer for Marco. We can say with certainty that the player is having a wonderful time at Dortmund. He is flattered by the interest of many European teams, but he’s recently decided to stay in Dortmund.”

Reus has been shining for BVB during pre-season under new manager Thomas Tuchel, and could well be a key component in the side that challenges at the upper reaches of the table. The previous campaign saw him and others struggling with injuries, which greatly hampered Dortmund’s domestic form, while leading to long-serving manager Jurgen Klopp to finally resign.

But his performances this summer have shown he’s getting back to his best after a stop-start year. The 26-year-old was once regarded among the top-10 best players in the world, but saw his stock fall considerable due to injury. Reus is now looking to prove his worth on the grand stage, and appears loyal to Dortmund for their faith shown in him all this time.

While having a host of interested suitors, Reus hasn’t been enquired about officially by any side this summer. He’s a pacey forward with a real eye for goal, so it’s highly surprising sides haven’t been queuing up for his signature, especially when he was quoted to have had a £20M release clause.

The German forward did sign a new deal early in the year, scrapping the clause in question,  but it was largely expected he would seek Champions League football with another club in the summer after missing out with Dortmund. However, Reus’ U-turn will be a big disappointment to many sides tacking his progress for a number of years.

He’s been with BVB for three years, scoring an impressive 53 goals in 122 games, but has fallen short of major honours during his time with Dortmund. Reus has been linked to every major side in Europe since joining the German outfit, but has most recently rejected interest in favour of a lengthy Dortmund stay, so his future may not be in the Premier League after all.

Can Chelsea’s Eden Hazard become the best player in the world?

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was full of praise for Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard, calling him a better player than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo this summer. He believes his midfielder can hit the heights of the most elite European talents if he continues his speedy development, so can Eden Hazard become a future best player in the world?

The 24-year-old won the Premier League and Capital One Cup with the Blues, and was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year. Hazard also won personal honours from the club, and enjoyed his most prolific tally in front of goal, scoring and assisting 23 goals in 38 league games. His manager initially struggled to get him playing for the side in regard to his defensive contribution, but has since talked up Hazard’s work rate for the cause.

There’s little doubt Chelsea would have missed out on the Premier League title without the antics of Hazard, which is why manager Jose Mourinho believes his talented goalscoring playmaker deserves to be held in a higher regard than Ronaldo. The former Lille man popped up with important goals at important times, scoring the winners against Manchester United and Crystal Palace in Chelsea’s title run-in.

“In spite of the fact that Ronaldo was fantastic, (Hazard) was fantastic. He scored an incredible number of goals. Last season (Hazard was better). He has all the conditions to improve. He’s getting stronger and stronger, not just in his body, but in his attitude. He’s mentally tough,” said the Blues boss.”

Last season, Eden Hazard was the standout star in the Premier League, making more than 180 successful dribbles, and having over 100 chances created. The Belgian was also the most fouled player in the division in 2014/15, and has continued to improve ever since his debut campaign. His fine form has seen him linked with stellar suitors, but appears keen to stay at Stamford Bridge.

However, Mourinho won’t allow his players to rest on their laurels. The Portuguese boss has already said this summer that he expects better from every member of personnel, and won’t allow complacency to creep into the ranks for their title defence. It’s such determination to be the best that connects with Hazard, shown by his continual progression over the last few years, and he will want to stake his claim among the world’s greatest. The 24-year-old midfielder believes he’s just behind the likes of Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Ronaldo (Real Madrid), so how far can he go this season?

Should Manchester United keep Angel Di Maria for a second season?

Manchester United midfielder Angel Di Maria looks on his way to Paris Saint-Germain this summer, with the French Ligue 1 champions having admitted they are close to securing the signature of the Argentinean international. And given his quality shown for a period with United, coupled with his outstanding Real Madrid antics, is he not worth keeping for another season?

PSG manager Laurent Blanc said of the rumours: “PSG are looking for an offensive player. Will it be Di Maria? I hope so. He plays for Manchester United at the moment and I hope that if that changes, it will be that he comes to us. We have to have patience a little longer. The outcome is very close.”

Di Maria endured a difficult debut season following his £65M move from Real Madrid last summer. The 27-year-old started the campaign strongly for the Red Devils, scoring and assisting 10 goals in his opening 13 outings in all competitions, but his best form came before the New Year.

Things spiralled considerably for the former Benfica winger, with his last league goal being scored all the way back in January, while losing his place in the starting lineup for eight of their last nine games in the division. He blamed off-the-field distractions for his poor form, and it’s clear he’s keen for an exit from Old Trafford. England can take a while to adapt, so it’s surprising United are allowing him to leave so soon, especially considering the sparse interest.

Paris Saint-Germain are one of very few sides who can afford him, and the French outfit are hoping signing Di Maria can boost their chances in the Champions League. Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic admitted his desire for the club to sign the Argentine this summer, saying: “If you get a chance to play with Di Maria, it is a fantastic thing. The guy has won everything. He is a fantastic player who plays for the team.”

“He brings pace to a team. He brings quality, big quality and for sure he will make our team even better than it is today. So for sure he is welcome and we will receive him with open arms.”

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal recently admitted he had no control over where the winger’s future lied this summer, but the midfielder could well be the difference in the title race if the Red Devils boss could get him firing again. He’s struggled in his debut campaign, but many other players have taken their time to find their feet, so could Angel Di Maria need another term to hit form?

Can Raheem Sterling enjoy a successful debut season at Manchester City?

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has found himself in the headlines almost every day prior to his highly-publicised move from Liverpool this summer, but despite the animosity incurred from the supporters and pundits alike, the English international was always going to be ultimately judged on his performances. His debut showing in a pre-season friendly gave a glimpse into what the youngster can do, with Sterling scoring minutes into City’s clash against AS Roma, so can he be a success at the Etihad?

The 20-year-old joined Manchester City for £50M ahead of the new season, which immediately placed pressure on him to shine in a Sky Blues shirt. And with Sterling getting off the mark in his first game, his confidence will be sky-high. There’s no doubt he has all the attributes to succeed, with the Englishman boasting excessive pace, quick-feet, brilliant creativity and an eye for goal. Building on his goal against Roma, Sterling impressed in parts in the Real Madrid defeat and is revelling in new surroundings.

“(Manchester City) seem like they are progressing and are looking to dominate in England and Europe. As a young player you want to be challenging yourself in the best competitions, against the best players and with the best players. The Champions League is a good thing to be involved in. It’s a competition that gives me an opportunity to show my ability on the biggest platform. This team also has great players – it’s a really good squad and players like Aguero, Silva and Yaya can only improve you,” he said upon his arrival.

Given his impressive form in the Premier League over the last two season, Raheem Sterling is likely to command a starting place in 2015/16. The likes of Jesus Navas may be the one to suffer as a result, while Samir Nasri also has to work for a starting place. He offers the City side goals from a wider area, which is something the aforementioned duo were lacking in. The Premier League runners-up may have paid over the odds for the 20-year-old, but it doesn’t mean he won’t impress. Sterling is under no illusions, and is adamant he can repay the club’s faith in him.

“It was really flattering that City wanted me so much. It made me feel great. The only thing I can do now is try to repay them by performing on the pitch. I set targets every season, like goals and assists, and I’ll trying to do my best to bring trophies to this club,” he added.

So can Raheem Sterling enjoy a successful debut season with Manchester City?