Barcelona’s Munir El Haddadi struggling for form

FC Barcelona v SSC Napoli - Preseason Friendly

Barcelona forward Munir El Haddadi started against Getafe in the Spanish La Liga this weekend, but found himself hauled off after 61 minutes following yet another disappointing performance. The 20-year-old has been given the majority of his league appearances from the substitutes’ bench, but hasn’t been able to shine for the Catalans this season.

Against Getafe, El Haddadi failed to register a shot on target, while making just one dribble and goalscoring chance. He was guilty of relinquishing possession this weekend, and certainly didn’t impress his manager enough to warrant staying on the pitch. Luis Enrique put him out of his misery after an hour, and now the youngster will be considering future.

Failing to score from 10 games in all competitions for Barcelona, Munir El Haddadi could find himself out of the match day squad entirely if manager Luis Enrique gives up risking him in games. The Spanish international has stiff competition in the side in attack, and he won’t last long in the first-team if his barren spell continues, so he’s currently at the precipice.

Now aged 20, Munir El Haddadi cannot allow his development to go stale. If game time starts to allude him at Barcelona, he may have to seek action elsewhere in the form of a loan. The academy starlet won’t want to be playing reserve team football as he’s certainly outgrown the level of competition. Last season, he was forced to drop down into the B side, but did still make 16 appearances in total for the first-team.

Nevertheless, his future could be up sooner than expected if he can’t continue developing for Barcelona, so this is a big season for the young forward. Despite not having scored for a reported 431 days for the Catalans, Enrique is standing by the forward. “It doesn’t worry me. The minutes they’re getting is allowing them to grow, and they have been participating in our goals,” he said.

“Playing with or without pressure are very different things,” he reasoned. “It’s not the same when you play because you have to play. But I am happy with them, although they can both improve.” The Barcelona manager cannot persist with failed players in his pursuit for silverware this season, however, so Munir will have to start vindicating his selection soon.

With Lionel Messi out of action for Barcelona, Munir has the best chance to prove his worth, but he hasn’t taken his chance with both hands, and can’t seem to turn around his poor form.

Can Isco keep impressing for Real Madrid?


Real Madrid midfielder Isco scored the opener in Los Blancos’ 3-1 win against Las Palmas in the Spanish La Liga on Saturday afternoon, and turned in an impressive performance at the Santiago Bernabeu. The 23-year-old netted his first league goal of the campaign on the weekend, and is impressing manager Rafael Benitez while the likes of James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale have been missing out.

Isco was linked with a host of clubs during the summer, but Real had no intention to let their talented maestro leave the club. The Spaniard has been on the periphery at times due to the competition for places in the Real Madrid squad, but is currently staking a claim for more game time. Making 26 league starts last season, Isco scored and created 13 goals for Los Blancos, and may get a run in the team after a glowing performance against Las Palmas.

On Saturday, the 23-year-old ran rings around his opposition. No player in the Real Madrid side made more dribbles than the former Malaga star, and he followed it up with a chance created and three shots taken. Boating a close touch and quick feet to get himself out of sticky situation when under pressure, Isco was a forgotten man who is fast getting himself back into the reckoning under a new manager.

The Real boss has revealed he won’t rush back his injured stars, so Isco could get himself a run of games. “Our priority is to do the best for Madrid and the players we have. We are not going to risk him or any of the others who are close to returning. We have a lot of matches left and we believe we have the resources to tackle the next game,” he said.

“All the players that have problems have recovery programmes and deadlines. They are in line with what we expected and we will not rush. We want the players to be fine. It makes no sense to force a situation if we don’t have to.”

A number of Premier League giants appeared keen to take the young playmaker of Real’s hands ahead of the 2015/16 season, and he’s currently showing why. Benitez called for more goals from Isco earlier in the campaign, so finally getting off the mark in the Spanish La Liga will do his chances of a long stay the world of good.

So can Isco forge himself a long stay with Real Madrid?

Unsettled Pedro Rodriguez regretting summer move to Chelsea

pedro rodriguez

Chelsea forward Pedro Rodriguez is alleged to have told his friends his regret about leaving Barcelona for the Premier League strugglers this season following a difficult few months at Stamford Bridge. The 28-year-old made the surprise move after growing discontent with a lack of starts with the Catalan giants. Despite being a boyhood Barcelona fan who has gone on to become one of the longest-serving players in the squad, Pedro was convinced by Spanish teammate Cesc Fabregas to join him in London, but things haven’t quite gone to plan since.

Pedro has managed just one goal his seven Premier League appearances this season and that came on his debut against West Bromwich Albion. Since then, the Spanish international has gone cold for Chelsea, and he’s also suffered fitness woes that saw him miss the Blues’ defeat to West Ham, and put him in jeopardy ahead of this weekend’s clash against Liverpool. With Chelsea currently 15th in the Premier League after 10 games, life with the Londoners could be a lot better.

Pedro’s arrival surprised many as the Blues had Eden Hazard and Willian in the side, and Mourinho’s headline antics are spoiling his debut campaign. The former Barcelona star had a number of clubs interested in his signature, but took the risk to join Chelsea even after their poor start to the campaign. Barcelona have started the new season convincing enough to challenge for the league crown early on, and with the likes of Lionel Messi out of action for some time, Pedro will have been playing for the Catalans.

Matters aren’t helped with the Chelsea manager’s misconduct this season, and Pedro certainly won’t appreciate how Mourinho is ripping the club to pieces every week. A recent Capital One Cup exit now sees the Blues realistically out of two competitions already, and their Champions League campaign hasn’t started well either. A move to Chelsea never seemed to have much longevity in hindsight, and report are now suggesting the Spaniard is considering his future. Pedro has been struggling for form in recent weeks, and now finds himself stuck at Stamford Bridge.

The experienced forward has found himself on the losing side four times in his last eight games in all competitions, and looks set for a season without silverware. He won the treble with Barcelona in 2014/15, and started the season strongly, popping up with late goals after coming off the bench, but his gamble to push for regular action elsewhere has really backfired.

Kelechi Iheanacho making a name for himself at Manchester City


Young Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho has been making the most of game time presented to him by manager Manuel Pellegrini, and has been one of the surprise-packages of the season so far. The 19-year-old has made six Premier League appearances, all from the substitutes’ bench, and has already scored his first senior goal for the club. Such form has also seen him called up for the Nigerian national team ahead of World Cup qualifiers to come.

Iheanacho’s debut goal for Manchester City was a late winner against Crystal Palace, and he’s since added to the tally with a Capital One Cup goal versus the Eagles a month later. He has a composed nature about his finishing, and isn’t short of confidence either. Signed from the Nigerian Taye Academy in January 2014, Kelechi Iheanacho has developed quickly, and could have been playing last season but for an ankle injury.

In addition to his Capital One Cup goal against Palace, Iheanacho also set up two chances, and is looking a very good striker option as cover for the likes of Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony. Eyebrows were raised when Pellegrini allowed the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko and Steven Jovetic all to leave the Etihad Stadium in the summer, but clearly the Chilean boss had Kelechi Iheanacho in his mind to feature this season.

Pellegrini has been full of praise for Kelechi Iheanacho following his exploits against Palace, but added that his impressive form hasn’t come as a massive surprise given what he sees from the Nigerian on the training ground. “He didn’t impress me because I work with him every day, so I know what he can give to our team. Last season I think he was ready to do it,” said the City boss.

“We talked about his work permits but unfortunately for him he had a very serious injury in his ankles. That is why he couldn’t play last season. Now he is ready and I am very happy for him to demonstrate what he can do. But it is just one game, he must repeat, he must improve.”

“In the way he demonstrates what he can do, of course he has an option to start. It is not easy position to start in this team because we have important players like David (Silva), like Kun (Aguero). But in this moment they are not fit and for me it just depends on the performance of the players who start.”

Two goals and two assists from 133 minutes of game time isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself, and Kelechi Iheanacho could go on for a bright career if he can build on his impressive early season form.

Jackson ya carbura

Jackson Martinez

Lo bueno se hace de rogar. El flamante fichaje de Jackson Martínez ha sido uno de los más sonados esta campaña. No obstante, a pesar de gran ilusión depositada en el delantero colombiano, el ex-jugador del Oporto ha sufrido un inicio peor de lo que podía imaginar. La falta de gol es la criptonita de un delantero, y Jackson ha tenido demasiada. Afortunadamente, esto ya forma parte del pasado.

Liga, Champions… a Jackson se le ha negado el gol en todas las competiciones. Y aunque tanto él, como el Cholo o cualquiera de sus compañeros sabían que los tantos llegarían pronto, se le ha resistido demasiado tiempo. Mientras tanto, la presión se iba haciendo cada vez más grande y la competencia apretaba fuerte desde atrás. Griezmann es indiscutible, pero Torres, Correa y Vietto están al acecho del colombiano para marcar.

Quizá han sido demasiados partidos, pero por fin ha llegado el gol. Aunque haya tardado más de la cuenta, ¡a ver quién para ahora a Jackson Martínez! Se estrenó en Champions frente al Astana. No fue un gol cualquiera, fue el gol de la liberación. Ese tanto le quitó mucha presión, porque sabía perfectamente que cuando llegase el primero los demás caerían seguidos. Y no se equivocaba. Este fin de semana ha marcado también al Valencia con un gol de pillo y de delantero avispado. ¡El delantero está motivado y este es el Jackson que quiere el Calderón!

Así que, a partir de ahora, el Atlético ya tiene la delantera de ensueño que quería. Martínez ya está enchufado y con este potencial se presenta como la pareja de baile ideal del joven Antoine. Que tiemble la Copa, que tiemble la Liga, que tiemble la Champions. Jackson ha venido para quedarse. Con confianza, este delantero nato va a hacer vibrar a todo el Manzanares. ¿Pichichi Jackson? Aún está lejos, pero podemos apostar a que acaba entre los máximos goleadores de todo el campeonato.

Sporting, a pressão da liderança


Um Domingo de tempestade perfeita permitiu ao Sporting isolar-se no topo da classificação, conseguindo o feito de vencer em casa do eterno rival que escapava aos leões desde Janeiro de 2006. Uma liderança que poucos antecipariam depois da campanha modesta na Liga Europa, de um arranque de campeonato pouco espetacular e a turbulência permanente na comunicação social, e que premeia o trabalho de Jorge Jesus ao leme. O Sporting é, efectivamente, candidato ao título.

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Il periodo nero del Bologna

Delio Rossi

Non e’ stato l’inizio di campionato che il Bologna si aspettava. Delle tre neopromosse i gialloblu sembravano la squadra piu’ accredidata, grazie agli arrivi durante il mercato estivo di giocatori del calibro di Destro e Giacchierini, sicuramente un lusso per una matricola. Invece,  la classifica e’ amarissima per gli emiliani dopo 10 giornate:  6 punti terzultimo posto in classifica ben 8 sconfitte  e solo 6 reti segnate che denotano una fatica tremenda a creare occasioni da goal.

La bella squadra che l’anno scorso incantava i camapi della Provincia in serie B  non c’e’ piu’ e da oggi e’ priva anche del suo timoniere: Delio Rossi e’ stato infatti esonerato  dal presidente Joey Saputo (giunto ieri al Dall’Ara) a seguito della sconfitta con l’Inter, malgrado la discreta prova messa in mostra con i neroazzurri.

Prima di salutare definitivamente Casteldebole, Delio Rossi ha voluto parlare con i cronisti per un saluto e alcune considerazioni a esonero ufficializzato: “È stata un’esperienza bellissima, ringrazio la società, la dirigenza e i bolognesi che mi hanno fatto sentire uno di loro. Penso di aver contribuito, magari in minima parte, alla promozione in A non più tardi di pochi mesi fa.

“Sono stato condannato dai risultati, perché nel calcio funziona così. Era nell’aria, mi potevano salvare solo i risultati e se non arrivano qualche testa deve cadere. Se cadrà solo la mia? Spero di sì, non sono uno di quelli che spera che dopo l’esonero le cose vadano male, anzi lascio una squadra ben allenata e in salute. Ai giocatori ho detto di finire il lavoro che abbiamo iniziato e di salvare il Bologna”.

Al suo posto e’ stato chiamato Roberto Donadoni, reduce dalla stagione problematica con il Parma.  Al tecnico livornese spettera’ l’arduo compito di risollevare un gruppo in crisi. In primis, il suo uomo simbolo, quel Mattia Destro, acquistato per 6,5 milioni di euro, più 5 di bonus che incredibilmente deve ancora mettere a segno la sua prima rete in campionato.

Il giocatore,  dopo gli ultimi sei mesi buii al Milan era atteso al riscatto, ma sembra aver perso fiducia nei suoi mezzi, avendo inanellato una serie di prestazioni sottotomno dove ha sbagliato goal incredibili.  Non ha fatto di meglio, il suo compagno di reparto Matteo Mancosu, che al momento ha segnato una sola rete, pera ltro inutile nella prima partita di campionato persa con la Lazio.  Serviva una scossa per ridare linfa ad una squadra in crisi e la societa’ ha optato per il cambio di allenatore. Ora la patata bollente passa a Donadoni.

Turin shaping up for vital Derby showdown

Torino FC v Juventus FC - Serie A

It was the biggest Granata party in years. After Fabio Quagliarella scored the goal to end Juventus dominance over the Turin Derby, Torino fans took to the streets to celebrate a victory two decades in the making.

Torino had last tasted Derby della Mole success in April 1995 and from 2002 to the first meeting last term had even failed to score. One of Italy’s most historic city rivalries had descended into a one-sided affair, a city painted Black and White. For fans of Il Toro, April’s result was too long in coming.

The 232nd Derby this Saturday sees the two clubs as evenly matched as they have been in years. And both are in need of a win.

The word ‘crisis’ is starting to appear in conjunction with Juventus. Massimiliano Allegri’s side went down by a single goal at Sassuolo on Wednesday, ruining a three-match unbeaten run in Serie A. It was their best period of the season, but at Mapei Stadium the Bianconeri looked their ineffective worst.

Pressure has risen. The boss called the first half ‘disastrous’. Captain Gianluigi Buffon was just as blunt: “We all played badly.” The ramification of the defeat is that Juventus have gone into ritiro – a training camp – a measure reserved for teams hoping for a change in fortunes.

Juve remain in the bottom half, three points behind their city rival. Curiously, the Granata also come into this clash in something of a slump. They’ve gone four games without a win. On course for maximum points against Genoa in midweek following an 89th minute goal, they were forced to share the spoils thanks to an equaliser three minutes into added time.

Yet after that breakthrough triumph last season, Torino will go to Juventus Stadium with added confidence. “It’s so wonderful to watch Juventus from up high,” President Urbano Cairo recently boasted.

Coach Giampiero Ventura is dealing with a fair share of injuries as they aim to stay above their neighbours. Six players missed Genoa and he will be hoping to recover some for the trip across town. In the Black and White corner, Claudio Marchisio – decisive in Derby’s past – skipped the visit to Sassuolo, but should be available.

Given recent results and the scrutiny surrounding the faltering champions, this is shaping up as the most important Derby Della Mole in recent memory. And it is likely to be the closest showdown.

Is the Capital One Cup now Manchester City’s to lose?


Everything is going swimmingly for Manchester City in the Capital One Cup this campaign, with the Sky Blues having recently booked their place in the quarter-finals of the competition with a 5-1 win against Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium. They were boosted by the news of fierce rivals Manchester United’s being eliminated on penalties to add to Chelsea and Arsenal’s exit on Tuesday evening.

With Liverpool the next highest ranking side left in the Capital One Cup this season, Manchester City will surely fancy their chances of going all the way again like they did in 2014. Manager Manuel Pellegrini claimed his first piece of silverware for his new club with victory over Sunderland at Wembley, before his side captured the Premier League title, and he will eye a repeat given the competition.

A win against their quarter-final opponents Hull City – of the Championship – will see the Sky Blues just 180 minutes from a final at Wembley. Everton and Southampton are the next strongest teams after Liverpool, and the duo are certainly beatable for Manchester City in their current form. Pellegrini’s men struck five against the Eagles, adding to the four they put past Sunderland in the previous round.

In the Premier League, City have scored 11 in their last three, and their manager was true to his word when promising an attacking display at the Etihad this week. Pellegrini was criticised following a goalless draw against rivals Manchester United, where it had appeared the Chilean seemed content with a point, but there could be no criticism of their performance this evening. It’s not the first time City have delivered such a crushing blow, and it won’t be the last this season.

The Capital One Cup has been gaining in popularity over recent years, with the likes of Chelsea having faced Tottenham in last season’s final, as well as Manchester City gunning for silverware in 2014. The top Premier League sides have been taking the competition very seriously, and with there being so few games before you get to the semi-finals it’s not hard to see why so many like it.

City have beaten Sunderland and Crystal Palace, and are now just 90 minutes away from a two-legged semi-final outing. And considering how there never fails to be an upset each seasons, a deep run in the Capital One Cup will be helped with less competition. This season, Manchester City look the most convincing due to the nature of their wins in the cup, but can they go all the way in 2015/16?

Juventus’ nightmare shows no signs of stopping this season


Just when Juventus thought they were finally putting an end to their poor start in the Italian Serie A this season, they get hit with a sucker punch against Sassuolo which now confines them to a bottom-half placing for another week. The Old Lady were beaten 1-0 at the Mapei Stadium, and have now lost more times in 10 outings this season than they lost throughout the entire last campaign, and now league leaders AS Roma are 11 points ahead of the defending champions.

Manager Massimiliano Allegri has been under pressure during the inconsistent run of results, but he will have seen this coming after so many high-profile names left the club all at the same time. Any club would suffer when saying goodbye to a large number of influential players, and Juventus are no different. They have been trying to recover without such starlets, and did look to have finally turned a corner in October following two wins and a draw in the league, but the Sassuolo defeat sets them back again.

“We committed five fouls around the area before we conceded the goal. Then we were down to 10 and we were nervous. With many young people in the middle of the field, it can be hard work, but this is not an excuse. Everyone is responsible – even me. We must do better. We had a good reaction, and we must be happy with this, but also angry about what was done in the first half. Tonight was worth so much. We had to avoid losing more ground. We lost to having received a shot on goal from a free-kick, and this says a lot about what we did,” said Allegri following the match.

Just the three wins from 10 games is in complete contrast to their performance in Serie A over the past few years, and it looks like their dominance is over. Their fight to keep talented midfielder Paul Pogba could be over too, and losing the French international would be the biggest disappointing for the club and its supporters. It’s sad times for Juventus, but Europe has provided some solace with a bright start to their Champions League campaign – seven points from their first three games.

It’s not a common sight seeing Juventus in the bottom half of the Serie A table, let alone losing so many games early on, but it’s a nightmare the Italian giants can’t seem to wake from at the moment. 11 points off top spot is a big deficit to make back, but in truth Juve aren’t considering a title-challenge this season, but rather stopping an impending implosion if their season continues in a similar fashion.