Dimitri Payet hitting his best form to boost West Ham’s top-four hopes

dimitri payet west ham

West Ham United midfielder Dimitri Payet has enjoyed a dream debut season at Upton Park, and finds himself as a signing of the season contender. The 29-year-old was a risk at £11M given his previous troubles in football, but he has been in the best form of his career during the current Premier League campaign, and is helping propel the Londoners achieve to an unlikely top-four spot.

The Hammers are currently fifth in the Premier League with 50 points from 30 games, and have won three and drawn two of their last five. It comes as no surprise the club suffered a considerable drop in form when the French playmaker was sidelined. Payet’s form has led to a long-awaited return to the national team, and the impressive Frenchman duly repaid the coach’s faith by scoring from an audacious free-kick

The talented 29-year-old has scored and created 18 goals in 22 Premier League appearances for West Ham United this season, while having made 55 successful dribbles and having created a staggering 86 chances. He’s perhaps been the best playmaker in the English top-flight in 2015/16, and West Ham legend Paolo Di Canio believes he has all the hallmarks to follow in his footsteps at the club.

“Payet is a fantastic footballer. He can be a cracker for a few years to come. He works hard for the team, off the ball as well as on it. Look at the top footballers, the ones who play for Arsenal or Manchester City, and they are not doing it like Payet. That proves that he is a very talented player. As an individual, Payet is one of the best signings this year in the Premier League. Just look at his numbers this season and they will show you that,” said the Italian coach.

West Ham are trying to tie down the midfielder to a long-term deal as he’s sure to have offers coming in the summer. For the time being it appears Dimitri Payet is keen to stay in London. Possessing fantastic close control and quick feet, Payet ghosts past players with ease and has great vision to pick out a decisive pass.

He also makes good runs into the danger areas to get among the goals, so he’s West Ham’s difference maker and the man potentially behind a lucrative Champions League spot in 2016-17. The Hammers have scored 47 goals in the Premier League in 2015/16, and Payet has contributed to nearly 40% of them.

Just how good has Dimitri Payet been for West Ham United this season?

Is Gareth Bale back to his best for Real Madrid?

Gareth Bale

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale is set to start against Barcelona in a must-win El Clasico this weekend, and could well have a say in who comes out on top given his much-improved form this season. The Welsh international has bounced back well following a disappointing campaign in 2014/15 that even saw talk about a potential exit, and is now looking back to his best for Real.

“Last season I didn’t play to anywhere near to my potential. It was important for me to keep working hard, to keep fighting. It is difficult playing in a foreign country. I’ve felt more settled, more involved in the team this year and I think that has shown in performances on the pitch,” said Bale, who has formed one-third of a potent attack with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, who have scored 63 goals between them in the league this season.

“It’s good to have a bad season, you really do learn a lot about yourself and I feel this season I took (what happened) last season on board. I understand the game a lot more over here and hopefully there is a lot still more to come in the future,” added the Welshman. Having scored 15 goals in 16 La Liga starts, Bale finds himself one of the most ruthless attackers in Europe, and is making up for lost time.

The 26-year-old has scored and assisted a goal in the Spanish top flight every 56 minutes, and was signed out by teammate Cristiano Ronaldo for being a key player in the squad. Real Madrid have certainly missed his influence since the former Tottenham forward spent time sidelined with injury, but now he’s back their form has improved.

They come into this weekend’s clash with their fierce rivals off the back of four consecutive wins, scoring 16 goals for their troubles. Bale has contributed to 31% of the goals, and looks in fantastic shape to end the season on a high. The World Record signing has certainly lived up to his billing since his move to Real Madrid, having scored and assisted 73 goals in 76 league games.

He’s on course to set a record tally for goals in a Real Madrid shirt as he’s currently matching his best return of 15 from 2013/14 with games remaining in the league. Any talk of the forward leaving the Santiago Bernabéu have been quashed this season, and it looks more likely that Bale will sign a long-term deal with Real Madrid.

What next for Gary Neville after his Valencia sacking?

gary neville valencia 2

Gary Neville’s tumultuous spell at Valencia was brought to an end on Wednesday, with the Spanish La Liga club citing that recent results weren’t good enough. During his time at the Mestalla Stadium, Neville dragged Los Che down the La Liga table from a top-half finish to being just six points from the relegation zone.

And with only three wins from 16 in the division, Neville can have little argument at the decision. So what next for the Englishman? Neville is still contracted to England in an assistant role so national team manager Roy Hodgson will be expected his no.2 to join him ahead of this summer’s European Championships in France.

However, the former Manchester United captain may consider a break from the spotlight while he continues his development. Neville has been linked with a number of vacant positions, but it’s hard to see the 41-year-old jumping straight into a managerial role.

He remained philosophical in his statement following the sacking: “I would like to thank Valencia, the fans, staff and the players. I would have liked to have continued the work I started, but I understand that we are in a results business, and in the 28 games (10 wins, seven draws and 11 losses) they have not been to my standards or to those which are required by this club.”

Aston Villa are one club reportedly considering the coach, but they have a demanding job for the next manager and it may be too big for Neville to handle. Former Manchester United boss David Moyes took time off after his sacking from La Liga side Real Sociedad, and he may be talking with Neville to do the same.

Neville has a lot of responsibilities with his coaching role with the England national team, his co-ownership of Salford, and his punditry role with Sky Sports on the table for him, so some time off might be the best option. There won’t be a shortage of jobs in the English pyramid over the months, but contemplation must begin on just where it went wrong at Valencia.

Los Che failed to keep a clean sheet in La Liga under Neville, and suffered all too many defeats to sides embroiled in the relegation zone. They struggled for goals, having been shut out in seven of their 16 league games, and considerably underperformed on home soil. Supporters never took the Englishman given how badly they started under Neville, so he was under pressure from day one in truth. While brave to take the job, Neville must be wiser when choosing what to do next.

Un Clásico atípico


Sin duda alguna, el Clásico de este fin de semana estará marcado por el homenaje a Cruyff. Pero en lo que concierne propiamente al encuentro liguero, será un Clásico atípico que no decidirá la Liga; no obstante el Barça tiene mucho que ganar y el Madrid mucho que perder.

A falta de 8 jornadas, el Barça aventaja en 10 puntos a los blancos y les tiene prácticamente ganado el golaveraje, por tanto, en función del resultado, estas son las consecuencias que traerá:

Si gana el Barça

Si había dudas de que la Liga estaba sentenciada, esto será una evidencia más de que el Barcelona se hará con el campeonato. Por su parte, el Madrid haría el ridículo al alejarse en 13+1 del liderato. Y esto repercutiría en la moral de ambos equipos, que la semana que viene juegan la Champions.

Si empatan

El Barça seguiría con bastantes opciones de ganar la Liga, aunque podría ser un atisbo de esperanza para el Atlético si le remontase un par de puntos. Para el Madrid seguiría siendo una utopía y, según el juego que despliegue en el Camp Nou, podríamos decir que habría salvado o no los muebles.

Si gana el Madrid

A pesar de ello, el Barça mantendría una distancia cómoda frente a los blancos de 7 puntos a falta de 7 jornadas (quizá de 6 sobre los rojiblancos). El golaveraje entraría en juego ante un hipotético empate, pero tras el 0-4 de la ida, todo hace presagiar que la ventaja sería azulgrana. No obstante, el Madrid reforzaría su moral antes del partido ante el Wolfsburgo y Zidane se coronaría en su debut en el Camp Nou.

Por tanto, un partido que no decidirá la Liga y que puede parecer descafeinado, pero que dada la eterna rivalidad entre ambos conjuntos todos lo querrán ganar. El Barça quiere sentenciar la Liga para así centrarse en Europa, mientras que el Madrid pretende salvar los muebles tras los altibajos de esta temporada. Pero, repetimos, la moral puede reforzarse o minarse para los cuartos de final en la Champions.

Cielo e infierno para la cantera


Saúl Ñíguez y Oliver Torres son dos canteranos rojiblancos con trayectorias muy similares, pero que este año se han mostrado completamente opuestas. Ambos nacieron en 1994 y apenas se llevan 11 días, ocupan un puesto en el centro del campo y han compartido vestuario en infinidad de ocasiones, su trayectoria en el Atlético está forjada tras temporadas de dedicación y su premio se ha visto recompensado con la Sub-21 (la Rojita). No obstante, este año uno se ha llevado la cara y el otro la cruz.

La grave lesión de Tiago abrió un hueco en el centro del campo que, al principio el Cholo fue rotando entre estos dos jugadores y otros como Thomas, pero que finalmente le ha asignado a Saúl.

Saúl se ha convertido en titular indiscutible durante los últimos meses. Se lo ha ganado a base de esfuerzo, carreras e incluso goles. Simeone lo ha llegado a definir en una rueda de prensa como «todocampista» ya que le permite diseñar esquemas y tácticas de juego muy variopintas. El canterano se ha hecho un nombre y, desde luego, que ya no es un desconocido. Es más, algunos medios le señalan como el futuro de la Roja.

En cambio, Oliver Torres, que este año ha regresado al Calderón tras su cesión en el Oporto donde cogió muchos minutos, no parece ser del agrado del técnico. En los primeros compases de la temporada contaba para el Cholo, pero ha pasado del campo al banquillo e incluso a no ir ni convocado para algunos encuentros. Torres llegó a estar nominado para el premio Golden Boy en 2014, lo que le auguraba un futuro lleno de éxitos. Calidad tiene, pero si no disfruta de minutos no puede demostrarla.

Saúl se ha ganado el cielo, mientras que Oliver está pasando por un verdadero infierno al quedar relegado. Veremos si en abril o mayo las cosas cambian para estos dos jugadores, aunque está claro que el final de temporada no es momento para experimentos. Saúl es fijo y, salvo lesión, lo seguirá siendo este año. Por su parte, Oliver ansia una nueva oportunidad para hacerlo bien y así ponerle las cosas difíciles al técnico.

Rome Derby doubly important as season winds to a close


Roma’s 2-0 Derby win over bitter rivals Lazio last November was watched by only 35,253 spectators. The figure was well below Roma’s biggest crowd of the season, when more than 57,000 saw the 1-1 draw with Barcelona.

It’s a figure which probably won’t be bettered this Sunday. Just as they did in the first Derby della Capitale, Roma and Lazio Ultras have announced they will boycott the match. It’s a sorry state for both. Those fans are protesting security measures inside the Stadio Olimpico, with a barrier essentially splitting the Curva.

While the stadium may be sparse it will not take away from the build-up and tension which surrounds the Derby. And at this stage of the season, as season targets draw closer, it’s a vitally important contest for both.

Roma are chasing a Champions League appearance for a third successive season and with a five point advantage over both Fiorentina and Inter are the favourites to do so with only eight matches remaining. An eight game winning run, halted by the Nerazzurri before the international break, has them in this position.

Not that Luciano Spalletti is getting carried away. “Form doesn’t count for anything, when you’re in good form it can cause you problems, this [Derby] clears everything. It’s an advantage for the team that’s struggling.”

That puts the ball in Lazio’s court. The Biancocelesti have recorded just two wins in their last nine in all competitions. Go back to the start of 2016 and it’s only five victories. Without doubt, the pressure is on Stefano Pioli and his team.

The coach is likely to get the sack if Lazio finish outside the European places. And their chances of that are slim. Currently eighth, Lazio are a long way from fifth-placed Inter, 13 points. Their only saving grace is to finish sixth and hope Juventus win the Coppa Italia. That would give the final Europa League spot to sixth place. But Milan are seven points up the road, so even that looks an uphill climb. “We have to beat Roma,” exclaimed captain Lucas Biglia. They haven’t done so since the Coppa Italia Final in 2013.

Lazio drew with Milan in their last match and Pioli admits his team is not playing with any confidence. The boss will be without the suspended Senad Lulic, while Spalletti has a full squad at his disposal.

This remains the Rome Derby and with both teams needing a win it is sure to be a typically passionate affair. Even if some won’t be there to see it.

Lionel Messi hits a half-century of goals for Argentina

Lionel Messi

Argentina enjoyed a straight-forward 2-0 win over Bolivia in their last World Cup qualifying match, with star forward Lionel Messi hiting a landmark 50th goal for the South Americans after scoring from the spot. The Barcelona man scored inside the first half hour, and now finds himself just six goals shy of matching Argentina’s all-time top scorer – Gabriel Batistuta.

Bastistuta scored 56 goals in 78 games as a natural centre-forward, boasting a 0.71 goals-per-game ratio, considerably better than Messi’s 0.47 (50 goals from 107 games). Nevertheless, it seems inevitable that the latter will become Argentina’s all-time highest scorer, and considering Messi is still 28 years old, he could set a lofty tally many will struggle to surpass in the future.

It has been a very good season for the Barcelona star, with the Catalans on course to win the treble again. Messi has also recaptured the Ballon d’Or back from long-term rival Cristiano Ronaldo. This season Messi has already netted 22 La Liga goals in 23 starts. Messi has scored 37 goals in 38 games in all competitions, however, it is his international exploits which often remain a source of controversy.

The feeling among Argentina supporters is that their maestro doesn’t match his Barcelona performances on international duty, and many don’t believe him to be worthy of topping their all-time scoring charts as a result. Despite all that Messi has won at club level, fans hold World Cup winner Diego Maradona in much higher regard for leading the nation to glory in the past.

Notably, it took Messi some time to start performing in World Cup tournaments, and for years supporters felt let down arguing that he couldn’t deliver his individual brilliance on a regular basis for his country when needed the most. To be fair the fans of the national team have been far too critical of Messi, particularly when considering the criticism he faced for failing to score in the latter stages of the 2014 World Cup.

All Messi’s four goals in the tournament came in the group stages, and fans haven’t let him forget it. The ongoing argument is sure to rear its head when Messi does finally surpass Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time top scorer, with many on opposite sides of the debate. Nevertheless, it is a terrific achievement in itself and it becomes even more paramount when factoring in the weight of expectations from supporters.

Messi could become his country’s all-time top scorer despite a goal-to-game ratio worse than the hero he’s dethroning. He has failed to lead the side to a major international trophy outside of the Olympic Gold in 2008. However, hitting 50 goals is impressive, and the Barcelona man could retire with an impressive goal scoring milestone to etch his name in Argentine history.

Benfica host Braga in Portugal’s Top Weekend Game

League leaders Benfica will host Braga on Friday, April 1st in the Primeira Liga’s top game of the weekend. Benfica will be desperate for a win in order to maintain the advantage over second place Sporting Lisbon and third place Porto.

Porto have the easiest fixture out of the top 3 teams yet they are six points behind leaders Benfica. Porto will play host to bottom of the table Tondela. Porto rely heavily on their multi-dimensional defender Miguel Layún, midfielder Yacine Brahimi, and strikers Vincent Aboubaker & Hyun Jun Suk.

The Mexican international footballer Layún is on loan from English Premier League club Watford and is having a great season with Porto. He already has 4 goals and has provided a remarkable tally of 14 assists.

Second place Sporting Lisbon travel to face Belenenses in a match the Lisbon side ought to win. Sporting rely heavily on striker Islam Slimani as well as midfielders João Mário and Adrien Silva. Striker Slimani has already managed to score 20 goals in league play and his teammates will be looking for him to add to his tally against Belenenses.

Going back to league leaders Benfica, they will face a tricky match against Braga who are in fourth and have the third best defensive record in the Primeira Liga. Benfica will try to breakdown Braga’s defensive line with strikers Jonas Gonçalves Oliveira and Kostas Mitroglou.



Between them the attacking duo have found the back of the net 44 times in the Portuguese League! Veteran Brazilian scorer Jonas has found the net an impressive 29 times in just 27 league games while his partner Greek striker Mitroglou has scored 15 goals. Jonas has also added an impressive 9 assists to his contributions to Benfica’s attack.

Will Benfica win against Braga on the back of the Jonas-Kostas partnership? Will Porto keep up with a home win to maintain whatever slim chances they have of winning the league?

You can always follow the results of the Portuguese League live by clicking here.


Liverpool host Tottenham in biggest Premier League game of the Weekend

The Premier League will witness a decisive weekend starting with Saturday’s clash between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. The London side’s players head to Liverpool brimming with confidence following the solid display versus Germany, in particular with Harry Kane scoring and Dele Alli showing he can deliver for England with solid performances.

For Tottenham this is a must win game if they are to continue to pressure Premier League leaders Leicester City; however, the Londoners will face a stiff challenge from a Liverpool side gradually improving under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp. It will be interesting to see whether Liverpool can stop what many consider as the most exciting team in EPL.

jurgen klopp liverpool premier league

Elsewhere, Manchester City travel to face AFC Bournemouth in another must win game for the Citizens in order to maintain the all important 4th spot (allows entry to Champions League qualifiers) and fend off the likes of West Ham United, Manchester United and even Southampton. All the aforementioned clubs are separated by just 4 points with City on 51 and the Saints in 7th position with 47 points.

It is perhaps Arsenal’s last chance to remain in the title race when the Gunners host inconsistent side Watford. It is also a must win for Arsenal because any other result will seriously dent Arsene Wenger’s chances of winning the Premier League as a manager for the first time since 2004. While a draw maintains Arsenal’s mathematical chances of winning EPL, however, it will also signal the team’s inability to mount a serious challenge against Leicester and Tottenham.

Hence, this is a big weekend for EPL and a must win Saturday for Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal. You can follow the results of the games live on our site by clicking here.

Injuries stand between Juventus & making History

Even the most pessimistic fan did not expect Juventus to start the 2015-16 Serie A season with three losses, two draws and just one win. Juve’s players were clearly struggling and pressure was piling on coach Massimiliano Allegri and his squad.

The media and fans turned into heavy critics with the club’s summer transfer campaign ridiculed as a failure for obvious reasons, most notable the departures of club heroes such as Andrea Pirlo & Carlos Tevez. Fast forward to March 20th, 2016 and Juve have not only reclaimed top spot in Serie A but did so on the back of a remarkable 21-game unbeaten streak. What has been even more impressive is the fact Juve have won 20 out of the 21 games, with a goalless draw against Bologna being the sole exception.

Juventus - Napoli

So what has changed to fuel Juve’s meteoric return to the top following a dismal start? And who or what can stop Juve from crowing this astounding turnaround with the Scudetto?

Once Pirlo, Tevez and Arturo Vidal, three decisive players for Juve over the past few seasons, were confirmed departures, it was clear the club’s management had turned its attention to an extensive rebuilding project. The project focused on adding younger players with great potential and skills such as Paulo Dybala, Alex Sandro, Daniele Rugani as well as Simone Zaza.

Dybala has turned out to be the summer’s best signing in Serie A, and perhaps Europe, contributing 14 goals and 8 assists in 29 league games, including 24 as a starter. Brazilian full-back Sandro has proven to be one of the best in his position in the league with his bursting runs forward and his ability to create scoring chances for his teammates with his crosses.


Coach Allegri gradually introduced Dybala and Sandro to Juve’s starting lineup before entrusting them with more responsibilities based on their major contributions. The fact Allegri was cautious in integrating the newer players and the long injury list meant Juve were deprived of key players earlier in the season which proved to be disastrous.

It is perhaps the same detrimental element- injuries to key players- which can derail the Bianconeri and their quest for a historic 5th consecutive Scudetto. Some might say coping with injuries is part of a club’s season but the painful Champions League exit was punctuated by key absences in the 2nd leg in Munich. Midfield general Claudio Marchisio, rising star Dybala and defensive cornerstone Giorgio Chiellini were all missing.

In addition, Croatian striker Mario Mandžukić was only fit enough to come off the bench while Sami Khedira’s constant muscular problems meant he could not last the full 90 minutes at the same high level. This Champions League tie against Bayern highlighted Juve’s squad depth when compared to other Serie A teams yet, ironically, also exposed the club’s shortcomings when compared to the other big European sides.

Juventus vs. Bayern Monaco

Juve do not have a squad as deep as Bayern’s and that was the difference in the tie. Even without Arjen Robben and with Franck Ribery in the twilight of his career, the Bavarian side still had too much punch going forward, exposing the tired and old legs of Patrice Evra. The Frenchman Evra was at fault for both Bayern’s second and third goals; however, this would not have been even an issue had Chiellini been fit to start in Munich. Hence, the game in Munich highlighted what could be Juve’s undoing in the remainder of the Italian league season: injuries.

In the first 6 weeks of the current campaign, the Bianconeri were hampered by injuries and that was a main factor behind the heavy bleeding in points. Gradually Juve recovered their key players in due time to mount a massive and historic comeback; however, the month of March has been a tough one and the injury bug has struck once again.

The injury crisis has worsened in recent weeks with Juve’s entire defensive line sidelined due to injury, with Leonardo Bonucci suffering injury during the Germany friendly to to join Andrea Barzagli & Chiellini on the treatment table. To make matters worse, emerging star Dybala remains questionable and is not fully fit. Khedira continues to be injury prone while Marchisio has had an injury interrupted season.


A careful analysis of Juve’s situation shows the quest for a 5th Scudetto can only be derailed by an injury crisis, the same factor which played a huge part in the early season struggles (combined with the integration of the new faces during the first few months).

Will Juve overcome the injuries to retain the league title and perhaps go on to achieve a historic domestic double by also winning the Coppa Italia? If Juve win both trophies, then it will be a historic achievement since no Italian side has ever won the domestic double two seasons in a row.