La Liga Best 11 Players from the Weekend: Matchday 21

Real Madrid went top after they beat Valladolid to win their 3rd game in a row. And Madrid took 1st place after Barcelona lost 2-0 away to Valencia. Atletico Madrid continued their poor form when they could only draw 0-0 at home to Leganes. After 21 games the league title and top 4 places are still up for grabs and we look at the players who performed the best in matchday 21. Do you have any of them? Now is the time to look!

Formation: 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois- Real Madrid 7pts

The goalkeeper choice goes to Thibaut Courtois because Real Madrid were the only side at the weekend to play away and keep a clean sheet and that was the goalkeeper’s 10th of the season.

Defender: Nacho- Real Madrid 8pts

Nacho played out the perfect game as he helped keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win for Madrid over Valladolid and he also scored the winning and only goal of the game. An unlikely hero that is valued at 6.5m and has scored 21 points so far in total.

Defender: Roberto Rosales- Leganes 5pts

Roberto Rosales starred well for Leganes who stunned Atletico Madrid at their own stadium to hold out for a 0-0 draw, even with 10 men in the end. Rosales is valued at 5.5m and that was third clean sheet of the season.

Defender: Jose Angel- Eibar 5pts

Eibar held off Celta Vigo away with that game finishing 0-0 and Jose Angel was thick in the action and made some crucial tackles as he earned 5 points for the clean sheet. He can be part of your team for 8m.

Defender: Sergio Ramos- Real Madrid 5pts

Now with a total of 54 points for the season Sergio Ramos is the best performing defender in La Liga. He has played in 10 games where Madrid have kept a clean sheet and the veteran star does not come too cheap at 9m, but seems worth it.

Midfielder: Portu- Real Sociedad 8pts

Portu had a man of the match game after he assisted in Real Sociedad’s first goal and then  scored later on as his team won 3-0 against Mallorca in a one sided game. He has 42 points so far this season and is valued at 8.5m.

Midfielder: Ruben Garcia- Osasuna 6pts

Osasuna’s game was 0-0 with just 10 minutes left when they were awarded a penalty and Ruben Garcia under obvious pressure scored and that goal was vital as the home side went onto win their game 2-0. Having earned 32 points this season Garcia looks like a great deal, valued at just 4.5m.

Midfielder: Toni Kroos- Real Madrid 4pts

Kroos was part of a Madrid midfield that stayed firm in a difficult match and helped the defence keep a clean sheet and the German international then assisted in Madrid’s only goal of the game. Kroos currently has 35 points.

Midfielder: Jesus Navas- Sevilla 4pts

Sevilla beat Granada 2-0 and the opening goal which helped the home side to win the game was assisted by Navas, who has had another solid outing for the club he has become most associated too. He has 24 points so far this season and costs 4.5m.

Striker: Carlos Bacca- Villarreal 4pts

It was a low earning week for strikers, and Carlos Bacca scored one of Villarreal’s goals as they beat Alaves away from home 2-1. It was Bacca’s first league goal of the season but he has only started a handful of games for the club. His value is 10.5m, perhaps this could kick start his form?

Striker: Angel- Getafe 4pts

Angel got Getafe’s goal as they earned 3 valuable points at home to Real Betis winning the game 1-0. It was the players 9th goal of the season and he has 35 points already this season and his value is 7.5m.

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Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 21

Bartlomiej Dragowski (7 points): eight teams managed to keep a clean sheet in this round, which might be a League high this year, but no goalie fared better than Fiorentina’s youngster, who guessed right on a penalty by the previously perfect Domenico Criscito and stopped the opponents multiple times, in particular coming out beautifully in a one-on-one with Andrea Pinamonti late in the game.

Pawel Dawidowicz (9 points): Verona easily handled the pesky Lecce and Dawidowicz, who got a surprise start over Koray Gunter, literally soared in the air on a corner kick for his first goal of the season, paving the way to the W. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Round – Atalanta

The round featured three convincing shut-out wins and strong displays by Verona and Parma against Lecce and Udinese, but obviously the shut-out goes to Atalanta, which had the best performance by any team this season in their 7-0 romp of Torino.

The Orobici were looking to atone from a surprising home loss against SPAL, while they had drawn against Inter the match the week before. Gian Piero Gasperini selected Berat Djimsiti over Mattia Caldara in the back, Hans Hateboer on the right since Timothy Castagne is out with an injury and their standard trident led by Duvan Zapata. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Derby della Capitale

Napoli-Juventus was likely a little more intense and significant, but it already got extensive coverage in another column, so the nod for match of the round goes to the Derby between Roma and Lazio, which was not exactly one of the ages but always carries gargantuan magnitude.

La Lupa came into the match looking to build on last week’s easy win over Genoa, which had interrupted a two-game slump, while the Eagles were riding a 11-match winning streak that had commenced back in late October. They were coming off a rout against Sampdoria. Continue reading

Will West Ham be relegated under David Moyes?

It’s fair to say that David Moyes second term with West Ham has not started well and the pressure will be on the club after they crashed out of the FA Cup losing to West Bromwich Albion. Is David Moyes the right choice for the club?

The Hammers have not looked good under the Scotsman with only his first game back in charge showing any positives. In that the Londoners beat Bournemouth 4-0 and showed an attacking flair so rare under Manuel Pellegrini the former coach who was given his marching orders in December only to be replaced by Moyes.

There just seemed to be a collective sigh of disappointment but inevitability when Moyes was named as manager. He had been at West Ham before of course, indeed his last job was at the club, where he had rescued them somewhat but with nullifying football and a 29% win rate. It was interesting recently when Everton visited the London Stadium. Of course Moyes most infamous years were with Everton. But both clubs are in the same boat now, the same level if you will and yet Everton have moved on and have Carlo Ancelotti as manager, West Ham are stuck in the past with a manager who doesn’t seem to have the correct ideas for the club.

Since the Bournemouth win, the Hammers have lost to Sheffield United, drew with Everton and lost in a heavy 4-1 defeat against Leicester. In between all of that was a win- in the 3rd round of the FA Cup against Gillingham, but with all due respects to the club no Premier League team would live on that win for more than 48 hours.

The club are in 17th just but a slip into the bottom three does look inevitable. In two days’ time they will play their game in hand, a match that could give them breathing space. But as luck would have it that game is against current European and World club champions Liverpool, who of course have not lost a match in the Premier League in over a year. Add to the fact that Moyes had a terrible time when playing Liverpool in the Merseyside derby and you more than likely will have another loss for the Hammers.

To add insult to injury West Ham will play Liverpool again in a few weeks time up at Anfield before having to encounter Manchester City. If we look at the clubs next 8 fixtures they will be lucky to get 7 points, based on their fixtures and by then it will be the end of March and relegation could be a possibility.

The bookmakers have Norwich far and away out to go down and next up is Bournemouth who are priced up at 1.80 (4/5). West Ham are currently 2.75 (7/4) whilst Everton who are a same boat team as we discussed before are now 66/1. See the difference?

One has to wonder what was running through the clubs owners minds when they decided that Moyes would be the right choice to lead the club forward? In truth they didn’t trust their own instinct only giving him an 18 month contract.

Everything feels so utterly predictable for West Ham right now. The fact that they went out to WBA in the cup is a feeling of deja vue over other cup years. But the fact that WBA’s manager is Slaven Bilic a former manager of West Ham and a cult player at the club just rubbed big gritty salt into the wounds of a club who also seem to have lost their identity. Bilic himself touched on this last week claiming that the new stadium for the Hammers is devoid of atmosphere.

He was 100% right of course, but now the focus has to be on what major turn of events happens next at the club. The best thing would be that the current owners sell the club on, they have had their time, and it hasn’t all been bad, just very underwhelming. The roots of the club need to be pulled out, because the Hammers do have a decent team, much too good to go down, but where have we heard that one before?

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Man Utd 6-0 Tranmere Rovers; The Red Devils continue to progress in the FA Cup as they cruised past Micky Mellon’s men with ease

After a really difficult week with defeats to Burnley and Liverpool in the league, Manchester United had only two things on their mind, of getting back to winning ways and aiming to end the season with a bit of silverware, as they travelled to Tranmere Rovers for the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Going into the game, majority of football fans were expecting a potential upset and some FA Cup magic, especially if one was to consider the away side’s poor form over the last couple of weeks whilst the state of the pitch at Prenton Park would have surely been an advantage to the hosts only.

However, it was a straightforward victory and a walk in the park for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United, as the three goals by the 16th minute mark was more than enough to put the game to bed despite the efforts and hard work that was shown by the Tranmere Rovers players from start till the end.

With the goals coming from the most unlikely of sources in the first half through Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard and even Phil Jones, it was the fifth time this season were the side has scored four goals or more in a single game. On top of that, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood were able to chip in with a goal, two individuals who have to step up in Marcus Rashford’s absence.

Now, we look onto the three key things we learnt from United’s latest match…

The back-three/five formation has it’s benefits when correctly utilised

The back-three/five formation is often seen as a defensive and pragmatic system, due to the number of defenders and lack of attacking-minded players that are utilised within the setup. However, when having the ideal individuals and intelligent players that fit into each specific role flawlessly, then it works out perfectly, just like what the Red Devils had seen from their team today at Prenton Park.

With the likes of Rashford, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay remaining out on the sidelines and are not expected to return from injury anytime soon, United could possibly use the 3-4-1-2 setup more often as they aim to the remaining schedule game by game. Given the energetic wing-backs in Brandon Williams and Diogo Dalot, as well as a playmaker like Juan Mata to link the midfield to attack, the back-three/five formation could be seen a short term solution for Solskjaer and his men.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gets back to winning ways and fights to live for another day

It’s not been an easy week for Solskjaer, as the defeats to Burnley and Liverpool have had the United fans and the Premier League pundits questioning if he is the right man for the job, someone who is lacking the needed experience and tactical knowledge in order to succeed at one of the biggest clubs in the world. Though, with the dominant victory over Tranmere Rovers and the players putting on a discipline and composed display, it could possibly be something that they can build on from here.

As the side continue to remain in the FA Cup, Europa League, EFL Cup (not for long) and six points away from fourth-place Chelsea, there is still a lot to fight for as long as Solskjaer can remain open-minded on and off the pitch whilst proving that he can get the best out of the current squad. If he can get maximum points from now until the key players return from injury, then there is a possibility of the team ending the season on a high note, however, it is a big if as the side have not been able to show their dominance, consistency and quality on a regular basis so far this footballing campaign.

The United supporters continue to protest against the Glazers and Ed Woodward

Despite the 6-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers and the fact that the side have qualified for the next round of the FA Cup, the United supporters were still not satisfied, as they went on to directing their anger and frustration to the Glazers and Ed Woodward, who have played the pivotal role to the club’s decline. With the fans raising their voice today and recently against Burnley and Norwich, it looks like they will continue to do so until there is a huge change to revive their football club.

It’s actually been a long time coming, as the hierarchy and the owners have not shown enough attention and care towards the club’s performance and results on the pitch, whilst they are more bothered and focused about the income and profit they have been able to make off it. However, the Manchester United fans are taking a stand and are now saying enough is enough, as the side have failed to make a single challenge for the Premier League title since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Juventus Top Performers – Round 21 vs Napoli

In a tough day for the whole sports world, Juventus put out their worst and most unexplainable performances of the season in Naples, started playing only when the horse had already bolted and failed to take advantage of the enemies’ stumbles earlier in the day.

Leonardo Bonucci: the back-line was decent for about 70 minutes and the first goal did not come from a mistake by the defenders, but rather from Lorenzo Insigne having too much freedom to shoot from outside the box and Wojciech Szcesny rejecting it too centrally, although the save was not that easy. In the second, instead, which turned out to be very meaningful, Insigne was left alone in the box on a rebound and Matthijs De Ligt slightly deflected the shot, rendering pretty useless a pretty good outing up to that point. So the spot goes to the captain, only because somebody has to get it. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 21

Standings implications: in a pretty surprising round, Napoli upset Juventus, Cagliari held Inter to a tie, while Roma and Lazio equalized. The Nerazzurri are now three points behind first place, the Biancocelesti potentially two. Atalanta return within one point from the Champions League zone after the complete annihilation of Torino. Cagliari surely got a positive result but they were caught in the standings by Milan, which nipped Brescia, and Parma, which instead outplayed Udinese and so there is now a three-way tie in sixth position. Verona are not far behind after torpedoing Lecce, Bologna instead prevailed in the Derby with SPAL. Sampdoria and Sassuolo shared the spoils in a snooze-fest and thus maintain a little cushion over the last three positions. Genoa were the only team to get a point in the relegation zone as they survived the meeting with Fiorentina. Continue reading

Manchester City’s quest for a cup treble continues

Manchester City are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup after an emphatic 4-0 win against Scott Parker’s Fulham. Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and a Gabriel Jesus brace ensured City’s quest for a cup treble continued in a season that could still be an impressive one.

Despite being 16 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City find themselves in good stead in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and the Champions League, a trophy that has eluded the blue side of Manchester. Continue reading

Will Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United actually happen this time around?

It’s that time again. With most of the January transfer window completed, the transfer rumours circulating around Manchester United continue to increase and rise day after day, which is no longer a surprise as the English media and the European outlets enjoy using the Premier League giant’s name, in order for them to gain more attention and awareness towards their daily coverage.

So far this month, the club have been already linked to the likes of Jude Bellingham, Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Raul Jimenez and many other players. However, over the last couple of days, the consistent and strong reports have been to no one else but Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes, who was actually on the club’s radar throughout the whole summer but nothing concrete came from it.

Half a year later, the interest has been revived between both clubs, as the press in England and Portugal are more than certain that a deal can be agreed on by all parties before the transfer window comes to an end. Given the financial issues that Sporting are currently going through, they would still be looking to demand a fee of around €70million for the 25-year-old, however, the Red Devils seem quiet confident that an offer of £45million plus £10millions in add-ons will be enough.

With both Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba on the sidelines, and are expected to remain out of action till the latter stages of the season, the lack of creativity, goals and quality within the line-up instantly dries up as they have lost to the likes of Arsenal, Burnley and Liverpool this month. In all three of those games, they failed to score in either of them or create any chances convincingly.

And when you looking at the situation from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s point of view, it doesn’t take much to find an upgrade on certain attacking midfielders such as Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, a few examples of individuals that have been utilised within the number ten role but have failed to come up with the end product in the final third. If Bruno was to come in, he’d fit perfectly in the playmaker role, linking up effectively with both Anthony Martial and Daniel James.

Not only that, but the Sporting captain has more to his game than his ability to shoot from distance and to create clear-cut chances with ease, as he continues to prove himself as a player that never hides away from the ball or the game. He is also regarded as a complete midfielder, chipping in with the defensive duties whilst showing his tactical intelligence and positioning in the advanced areas.

Also, in regards to the intelligence he shows within the game, he has the quality to drive his team forward from midfield through his dribbling and movement on and off the ball. The intelligence he possess, most certainly allows him to be in the right place at the right time, whether that’s in the final third of the pitch to latch onto the ball or make a crucial tackle on the defensive phase.

United’s main issues have been breaking down the teams that setup in a defensive low block and oppositions that are more than happy to sit in their own third of the pitch for majority of the game. However, with the potential arrival of Bruno, the side would have a playmaker and an attacking midfielder than can be the game changer, something they have been sorely missing for a long time.

Overall, it would not be a surprise to see the board and Ed Woodward failing to pay up to Sporting Lisbon’s demands in order for Bruno Fernandes to arrive to Old Trafford, as they have choked up on a number of similar deals in the past. On the other hand, if they were able to snap up the Portuguese international before the transfer window is over, it would be the perfect news for Solskjaer and the Old Trafford faithful, who have not been enjoying the last couple of weeks with a very thin squad.