Europa está muy cara

grTras 2 tercios de Liga disputados, los equipos comienzan a valorar sus opciones de entrar en Europa. ¡Y ojo!, porque puede haber sorpresas.

Real Madrid, Barcelona y Sevilla, salvo catástrofe, estarán la siguiente temporada en Europa y en la próxima edición de la Champions League. Pero los demás se la juegan.

4º) Atlético – 45 puntos
5º) Real Sociedad – 44
6º) Villarreal – 39
7º) Éibar – 38
8º) Athletic – 38
9º) Espanyol – 35
10º) Celta – 34 (un partido menos)
11º) Alavés – 33

Atlético
Ganar la Liga parece una quimera, así que se centrará en conseguir una plaza de Champions. Pero la Real le pisa los talones. Este Atleti no es el de otras temporadas y el efecto del Cholo comienza a decaer.

Real Sociedad
Una temporada sobresaliente de los de Eusebio que están superando sus expectativas. La EL es factible, pero si sueñan con más, la Champions está a un solo punto.

Villarreal
El submarino está algo más hundido que de costumbre, pero sigue a flote en la pugna europea. Tras la eliminación frente a la Roma, tendrán más tiempo para concentrarse exclusivamente en el campeonato liguero y, como mínimo, repetir EL.

Éibar
Los armeros están armando mucha guerra y se encuentran a un solo punto de Europa. Puede pasar cualquier cosa.

Athletic de Bilbao
Un bache de resultados negativos le ha hecho bajar varias posiciones. Su objetivo debería estar más arriba, pero teniendo en cuenta que solo se encuentra a 1 punto de Europa y que está eliminado de la EL, puede centrarse en Liga, al igual que el submarino.

Espanyol
Los buenos resultados de los pericos le permiten ver de reojo la competición europea. Se puede.

Celta
Su objetivo era revalidar plaza, pero las rotaciones de Copa y de EL han propiciado dejar de lado la Liga cuando mejor iban en la clasificación. Aún tiene un partido aplazado, frente al Madrid, que podría catapultarle.

Alavés
Está más lejos, pero si gana al Granada podrá palparlo. En cualquier caso, salvo debacle monumental culé en Liga, el Alavés ya tiene una plaza para la próxima Europa League. Esto es gracias a haber llegado a la final de la Copa del Rey; el ganador accede directamente o cede su puesto si ya tuviera uno europeo. Por tanto, al enfrentarse al Barcelona, aunque pierda la final jugará la competición continental.

 

Manchester United win first ‘proper’ trophy under Jose Mourinho with EFL Cup victory

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Of course Jose Mourinho’s first trophy with Manchester United was won last August when the team triumphed over Leicester City in the English curtain raiser the Community Shield. But for football fans and pundits alike his first trophy as United’s manager started on Sunday with victory in the EFL Cup over Southampton.

Mourinho has become the first United manager in history to win a trophy in his debut season, and it’s something that will be welcomed at a club who have won just one trophy- the FA Cup since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

It was a piece of silverware that was very much needed at the club, who in the first three months of Mourinho’s appointment were hardly living up to expectations. Even though the Red Devils still lie outside of the top four positions the points difference is just two for a Champions League finish and five to 2nd place.

As for the cup final, we left with Southampton in our hearts, the better side on the day did lose and they will rue the goal that was disallowed. However United had Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the 35 year old proved once again what a great striker he is.

The Swede who should, by all rights, be slowing down is like a vintage red Bordeaux and has excelled again in another league, with a new team. His brace was the difference in the game and his goals undeniably brought the cup back to Manchester.

Had United lost this match we may have had a ripple effect where their league form could have suffered. But with this win, and with United’s talisman Juan Mata easily being one of the best mid fielders in the Premier league this season, there really is an installed belief that United can go far. Hope is back at Old Trafford that there is no doubt.

Whilst winning the league in his debut season looks highly unlikely for Mourinho, there are still plenty of positives to take note of. A cup victory is already under their belts and they are in the quarter finals of both the FA Cup and the Europa League- another trophy this season coupled with a top four finish will be rightly deemed as a successful season that will certainly put paid to Mourinho’s nightmare second season at Chelsea and frighteningly for United’s opponents there is a chance and a very realistic one at that, that the Devils are back once more.

Who will win the race to a top four finish?

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With the title looking done and dusted, just 4 points separate second place and sixth place in the Premier League and with some tasty fixtures coming up, we take a look at who is most likely to miss out on the top four.

Tottenham took full advantage of Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United’s matches were all postponed due to the League Cup final. They romped to a 4-o first half lead in their match against Stoke City this weekend. Any thoughts of a Europa League hangover were quickly dispelled as a 24 minute hat trick from Harry Kane and a goal from Dele Alli on the 45th minute wrapped up the three points for Tottenham Hotspur. Although there wer no more goals to come in this match, Tottenham had done all the hard work and took their foot off the gas in the second half.

With Liverpool facing a trip to managerless Leicester City tonight, the Reds will fully expect to take 3 points from Leicester who are without a win in their last six and have lost their last five on the bounce. It’s a far cry from last season for Leicester who dropped into the relegation zone at the weekend thanks to a Crystal Palace win. A win for Liverpool in this match could see them climb to third place, and as they gear up to face Arsenal this weekend, two wins in a row could see them open up a four point gap on the Gunners.

Manchester City were scheduled to take on Manchester United but this was postponed due to the League Cup final. City has a relatively easy run of fixtures coming up with Sunderland and Stoke City in the coming weeks. However, after those matches they face Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in quick succession and that run, along with the return leg of their Champions League tie with Monaco, where they lead 5-3 will surely define their season.

Jose Mourinho has Manchester United firing now and they have won their first silverware under him as well as winning their last seven matches in all competitions on the bounce. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been hugely influential this season and with 15 league goals and a double in the cup final, looks to have played his way to a new contract offer.

Defeats in the league to Chelsea and Watford look to have ended Arsenal’s title ambitions and a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich mean any chance of progression in the Champions League is now over. They must concentrate on the league and have some tough games coming up against Liverpool and Manchester City.

As the season comes to a climax, it’s all to play for and almost impossible to predict who will finish in the top 4 this season.

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¿Puede ganar la Liga el Sevilla?

nasriTras haber disputado 2 tercios del campeonato, el Sevilla es el único que aguanta el ritmo del Madrid y del Barça. Aún queda mucho por disputar, pero es inevitable meter a los hispalenses en la pugna de la Liga. ¿Podrá dar el campanazo? He aquí varios argumentos a favor y en contra para una posible conquista del título nacional.

1º) Real Madrid – 55 puntos (1 partido menos)
2º) Barcelona – 54 puntos
3º) Sevilla- 52 puntos

 A favor

  • Da la cara en partidos importantes. El Madrid perdió su racha histórica de imbatibilidad en el Pizjuán, donde también cayó el Atlético. Además, en los derbis sigue demostrando ser el rey de la capital hispalense.
  • Nuevos fichajes. Monchi es Midas, todo lo que toca lo convierte en oro. El equipo tenía todo cubierto en Navidades, pero lo ha mejorado, más si cabe, con la incorporación de Jovetic.
  • Centro del campo goleador. Iborra, Nasri, Sarabia son centrocampistas con mucho potencial ofensivo, eso se traduce en resultados.
  • Mejora fuera del Pizjuán. El año pasado las victorias fuera de casa fueron su asignatura pendiente. Este año, con los mismos resultados en su estadio y una mejora a domicilio, han logrado auparse en la clasificación.
  • Motivación. El efecto Sampaoli funciona, el equipo se lo cree y transmite esa confianza clave.

En contra

  • El calendario es, a priori, el más complicado de los 3 de arriba. En las últimas jornadas visita el Calderón, Mestalla, el Camp Nou y el Bernabéu.
  • El precio de la Champions. Seguir en Europa puede salir caro, sobre todo si algún rival (como a priori puede pasarle al Barça) se quedara fuera y se centrara exclusivamente en la Liga.
  • Victorias por la mínima. El Sevilla ha ganado 16 partidos en Liga, pero 11 han sido por un solo tanto de diferencia. Si la suerte le da la espalda, puede dejarse muchos puntos por el camino.
  • Biris. Los problemas con los Biris y su huelga de animación, pueden mermar el rendimiento del equipo. La plantilla los necesita.
  • Presión. El equipo ha conquistado las últimas 3 Europa Leagues, pero en la península no es el amo. Subirse a lo alto de la clasificación al final del campeonato, podría darle vértigo.

Opciones tiene, y muchas. No sabremos si el Sevilla ganará la Liga, pero si de algo estamos seguros es de que llegará al final peleando por el título.

 

 

Barcelona prepare to take on Atletico Madrid in must win game of the season

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It has been by far a routine season for Barcelona, a team that are suffering an identity crisis, a team who seem to dazzle one moment and look lacklustre the next and a team who aren’t sure where the next 3 points are coming from.

All is not well in the Camp Nou. Lionel Messi has had to save them recently when displays by Luis Suarez and especially Neymar have come up short. Coach Luis Enrique has been under intense pressure. There is a feeling from the fans that he is not wanted any more. His tactics have been questioned- Why does he repeatedly leave out Ivan Rakitic? Gerard Pique didn’t start the last game and their latest purchase Andre Gomes has had some horrific moments in the famous colours.

There are of course in the final of the Copa del Rey and will be expected to win against Alaves. If they do, it would be their 29th domestic cup victory- and their third in a row.

All of this is very well but the supporters demand the league title and the Champions League. In La Liga Real Madrid have been so dominant that Barca’s season try as hard as they might feels like nothing more than a footnote. And yet with football being football the tables were turned on its head slightly when Madrid capitulated at Valencia in mid-week and all of a sudden Barcelona are just a point behind but having still played a game more. At worst and in theory there is a four point gap.

But do Barcelona believe it? That is the real question. There has been an air of wanting change this season, which has affected the club’s performances on the pitch. Is it true that Messi is seeking a transfer away from the club, something unthinkable a few seasons ago. It is highly possible that Enrique will be playing out his final season- because even if you are a success here, you usually know when it’s time to leave.

And then there is the Champions League, a competition they have won 4 times in the past decade, but they look to be heading out of that this year. PSG a team that Barca used to play as the great pretenders destroyed them 4-0 and the second leg even if Barca will now be at home looks a formality.

So the league may well be back on, but who is believing it? We may get some kind of closure this weekend when the Catalan giants travel to Atletico Madrid- Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. The match is being touted as the biggest test of Barcelona’s season so far- and it is. A loss here and a Real Madrid win at Villarreal would cancel out the Madrid’s Valencia loss and the league would be again a distant dream for Barca.

It is a game that Atletico must win too, with the league looking increasingly difficult for them their priority will be qualifying for the Champions League next season. Real Sociedad are breathing down their necks and the re-emergence of  Sevilla who entered this weekend in 2nd place has made every team take notice.

Even the very best Barcelona sides have struggled at Vicente Caldron, which will in fact be the last time that these two great teams play each other here. Atletico are due to switch to their brand new stadium next week.

On Sunday Barcelona will be asked, no demanded to put in a performance that sends a message to Real Madrid that they will not give their title up this easy. Because despite how solid Barca has been, and despite Messi being a saving grace in moments one gets the feeling that the team are forcibly pulling themselves over the winning line without wanting to pass it in first place.

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Who Will Take the First Silverware of the Season Home?

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The first silverware in England is up for grabs this weekend as Manchester United meet Southampton in the League Cup final at Wembley. Although Manchester United will go into the match as favourites, Southampton are never an easy team to break down and could well cause an upset.

After a sticky start to his Manchester United career, Jose Mourinho has watched his side get better as the season progresses. They are now into the last 32 of the Europa League and face a relatively easy tie against Rostov. However their focus this weekend will be on their trip to Wembley and lifting the League Cup for the 5th time.

Manchester United are in great form coming into this match and have lost just once since November, and even then, that was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Hull City in the semi-final of the league cup where they held a 2-0 lead from the first leg. they have won their last 5 matches on the bounce and have scored 11 goals with just one conceded. With a top 4 finish in their sights, they will be looking to enter the business end of the season on a high and by winning the League Cup, it will give them a timely boost.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been inspirational this season and the Swedish striker, who has scored 15 this season has quickly dispelled any thoughts that he is at Old Trafford to wind down his career. Along with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata in midfield and Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo in defence, Mourinho is moulding a team that look to be going places.

Southampton, who have only won one trophy in their entire history (The FA Cup), wont be going to Wembley just to make up the numbers. There is a belief among them that they can compete with the best the Premier League has to offer. Fraser Forster has been as reliable as ever in goals and with Charlie Austin and Jay Rodriguez providing a threat up front, they may cause Manchester United problems.

Southampton aren’t in the greatest form though with 2 wins and 3 losses in their last 5. Although he will miss out on this one, they will be hoping classy defender Virgil Van Dyke will be back sooner, rather than later.

Southampton and Manchester United have both won two of the last 4 matches between them and this one is shaping up to be a real thriller. If Manchester United score an early goal, it will force Southampton to come at them and we could be in for a great afternoon.

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Top Fantasy Football Midfielders – La Liga – Round 24

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With Real Madrid losing during the week to Valencia, La Liga is turning into one of the tightest leagues in Europe. They hold a 1 point lead at the top with Barcelona in 2nd and Sevilla just 3 points behind in 3rd. As they take to the field this weekend we will take a look at the midfielders most likely to earn points for your fantasy football side. Sarabia of Seviila, Jose Antonio Reyes and David Lopez of Espanyol. Pedro Leon of Eibar and Raul Garcia of Athletic Club all come under the spotlight.

Sarabia - Sevilla

Sevilla could join Real Madrid on points this weekend for 24 hours at least. They face an out of form Real Betis side who are without a win in their last 5. Sarabia has been in top form this season and the midfielder with 44 points is one player who should walk into your team. He is valued at just 2.5M and the midfielder who has scored 6, assisted 5 and 7 clean sheets in just 11 surely wont be valued at that next season.

Jose Antonio Reyes - Espanyol

Jose Antonio Reyes has made just 10 starts but he has contributed with 2 goals, 4 assists and 7 clean. sheets. His points total of 29 may well rise this weekend as Espanyol line up against Osasuna, who are becoming adrift at the foot of the table. He is valued at 5M and his Price/Perfromance ratio is 5.6, but with 15 points gained in his last 5 matches, he should certainly come under consideration this weekend.

David Lopez - Espanyol

The fact that Espanyol are playing Osasuna, means that 2 players from their side come under closer inspection this weekend. David Lopez has 26 points in 21 starts and valued at 5M. He should start this match and his price/performance ratio of 5.1 has every chance of rising after this match.

Pedro Leon – Eibar

Pedro Leon has been consistent this season and the midfielder who is valued at just 3M, should be a player that may well pick up some points this weekend. Eibar, who are 7th in the League, face Malaga and the home side, who have had some great results on their own patch this season, will be looking for the win that keeps them in touch with the top 6.

Raul Garcia – Athletic Club 

Athletic Club have a home match against Granada this weekend and 3 points look likely to be staying there. Raul Garcia has scored 5, assisted 2 and kept 5 clean sheets and is one player who may well earn more points this weekend. He is valued at 8M and his price/performance ratio is 2.9.

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Top Fantasy Football Midfielders – Premier League – Week 26

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The Premier League makes a welcome return after a week of drama which saw Claudio Ranieri sacked from Champions Leicester City. We take a look at the five midfielders in action and most liekly to earn your fantasy football team some points. Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Deli Alli and Christian Eriksen of Tottenham, Ross Barkley of Everton and  Sadio Mane of Liverpool all come under scrutiny.

Eden Hazard – Chelsea

The top performing player in the  fantasy league, Eden Hazard has a great chance of some points this weekend. He has accumulated a total of 68 ponts, which, even with his price tag of 12M, makes him great value. Chelsea face Swansea City this weekend at home and a comfortable win should be on the cards as Chelsea bid to protect their 8 point lead at the summit of the Premier League.

Dele Alli – Tottenham

Spurs face Stoke City this weekend and, given their great record at home, should win this match with relative ease. Dele Alli has been performing brilliantly (apart from his red card in the Europa League) and with 66 points gained from 22 starts, he is one midfielder who can earn points for your team. His Price/Performance ratio of 8.0 is one of the highest returns throughout the Premier League.

Christian Eriksen - Tottenham

Sticking with Tottenham, another midfielder who serious thought should be give to is Christian Eriksen. He is valued at 9M and has returned a total of 56 points. He has scored 5 goals and assisted 8. This along with 10 clean sheets, most of which have been at home, suggests he is likely to add to the total.

Ross Barkely - Everton

Everton are having a great season, but they really need a win against bottom club Sunderland to keep their hopes of reaching the top six alive. Ross Barkley has been an influential figure from midfield with 4 goals, 5 assists and 8 clean sheets. He has a total of 39 points, 8 of which have been gained in his last 2 matches and Everton look like one team who look likely to take all 3 points this weekend.

Sadio Mane – Liverpool

Leicester City are in turmoil at the moment and Liverpool will look to capitalize on that on Monday. Sadio Mane has scored 11 goals and along with 4 assists and 7 clean sheets, his points total of 63 is a terrific return. Valued at 9M, his price/performance ratio is 7.2 and that looks sure to rise by the end of play this weekend.

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Claudio Ranieri sacked from champions Leicester City

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Claudio Ranieri has been sacked as Leicester City manager less than a year after guiding the team to the Premier league title. The decision to axe the Italian has stunned the football world given the teams heroics last season.

Ranieri found out he was losing his job on the flight back from their Champions League match against Sevilla. There the club were outplayed but actually came away with a decent 2-1 defeat and the match was nicely poised for the 2nd leg at King Power Stadium.

But Leicester’s Thai owners who gave Ranieri their backing just two weeks ago have shown how brutal the game can be by sacking a manager that they admitted was Leicester’s greatest manager of all time. So why did they feel the need to sack him?

The most obvious point is that the team are currently in 17th place and if they lose to Liverpool in their next league game it’s possible that they will be in the relegation zone. It’s true that the club have been poor this season and they haven’t scored a Premier league goal in 2017.

But the fight they showed against Sevilla could well have been a turning point for the Foxes ambitions of staying in the top flight. No team since Manchester City’s 1938 league winning side has been relegated as champions. Fear and panic seems to have brought this on, but the decision remains bizarre given how just 9 months ago the club swept to the title.

One is reminded of the case of Blackburn Rovers who in 2010 were taken over by the Indian company VH Group. Within two years and after some controversial choices of management they were relegated and the club have yet to regain Premier league status. Again choices that were made in haste.

Leicester City despite making waves in the league and having a fairly positive debut Champions League campaign are not Real Madrid. They can’t sack a manager of quality and experience and hope to bring on in of equal value, especially so far into the season, and that is what they will need if they hope to stay up.

Keeping Ranieri for this season did have a risk factor and the current situation did have to be reviewed, but removing the man from his position so late in the season is an odd decision.

Roberto Mancini the former Manchester City manager has been tipped to replace Ranieri, how soon he or someone else can come in is anybody’s guess at this point.