Barcelona still have reasons to be cheerful

When things go wrong, and badly wrong at that, it’s hard to find any positives to take from a situation.

In Barcelona’s case, things just went from bad to worse from the beginning of the current season.

The start of the 2019/20 campaign was Barca’s worst in a quarter of a century, and yet, before Ernesto Valverde was sacked, the Catalan club were still sitting pretty at the top of the La Liga table. Continue reading

Ligue 1 to allow 5 substitutes in 2020-21

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Clubs in France’s Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 will be allowed to make up to five substitutes per match for the 2020-21 campaign, the French League (LFP) confirmed on Friday.

 

This follows a string of top European leagues to have already made the announcement, after successes in the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and German Bundesliga among others following the restarts of their divisions this summer.

The additional substitution allowance was due to fixture congestion, with most teams playing two games each week to get their domestic campaigns finished and in order for the Champions League and Europa League’s to resume later this month.

However, teams will only be allowed to make these changes during three occasions during play, as well as at the half-time interval. Teams from France’s top two divisions will also be allowed to name up to nine substitutes in their matchday squads, compared to seven previously.

France cancelled their 2019-20 season indefinitely and awarded runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain the title on a points per game basis. The new season is set to start on Saturday 22 August, the day before the Champions League final, which PSG themselves could be involved in.

PSG are set to face Atalanta in the quarter-finals of the competition over in Lisbon Portugal on Wednesday 12 August.

 

How does this effect fantasy football?

This news, although no different from the other top European leagues, will likely make a huge difference in the 2020-21 fantasy football season.

Managers across the top divisions were able to rest their star players early in the second half after gaining a big lead, and essentially rest half of their outfield players with 20 or so minutes remaining at times.

Continue reading

La Liga- Team of the 2019/20 season revealed

Real Madrid won the league, Barcelona imploded by their standards and finished 2nd and the usual top 4 qualified for the Champions League. The season also kissed goodbye to Mallorca and Leganes and Espanyol finished bottom, so there will be no traditional derby between them and Barcelona next season.

But which players really came through and shined in La Liga? Which of these players did you have in your team? Did you find you had some bargains or was it the players that you would have expected to bag the points at the beginning of the season?

The format we are using is the traditional 4-4-2 as we look at the best team in La Liga for season 2019/20.

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois- Real Madrid 117pts

Courtois finished with 10 more points than any other goalkeeper in the league and was only part of 2 keepers that earned over 100 points. Whilst Madrid didn’t score many goals by their standards this season they did defend well and Courtois was sharp in goal keeping an impressive 18 clean sheets.

Defender: Sergio Ramos- Real Madrid 109pts

Let’s face it Sergio Ramos is the defender of the decade in Spain and it is no surprise to see the Real Madrid veteran ranked as the best defender in La Liga this season. Not only did he help keep 17 clean sheets he also scored 10 goals, incredible for a defender. In a rare instance for him he also managed not to get sent off this season in the league.

Defender: Raphael Varane- Real Madrid 83pts

Varane had another solid season in the back four of Real Madrid keeping 16 clean sheets and scoring 2 goals and assisting in another one. He was mostly a constant in the side playing 31 league games and has formed the perfect bedrock with his teammates.

Defender: Daniel Carvajal- Real Madrid 79pts

Yet another Real Madrid defender and the reason they dominate the team of the year is because Madrid conceded the least goals this season. Carvajal only scored once this season but then again he assisted in a further 5 goals just adding to his reputation.

Defender: Diego Carlos- Sevilla 64pts

Sevilla qualified for the Champions League and defender Diego Carlos had an outstanding and consistent season. He scored a couple of goals but in his real job as defender he helped keep 15 clean sheets which is more than impressive.

Midfielder: Santiago Carzola- Villarreal 79pts

Not many would have thought that the best midfielder in La Liga in the rankings would end up being Santiago Carzola but the player has returned to his former club in style. Racking up 79 points his value was just 5.5m and he went on to score 11 goals and assist in another 9 in an outstanding season for him.

Midfielder: Raul Garcia- Athletic Bilbao 75pts

What a season Raul Garcia had as defender for Bilbao, scoring an incredible 15 goals with his club only finishing in 11th place. He almost netted 40% of his clubs goals. His one weakness this season was his bookings where he picked up 11 of them.

Midfielder: Roberto Torres- Osasuna 65pts

Osasuna may have only finished the season in 10th place but their standout player was midfielder Roberto Torres who scored 7 goals and assisted in another 8 in a memorable season for the player who would only have set you back 5m at the beginning of the season.

Midfielder: Toni Kroos- Real Madrid 56pts

Only one Real Madrid made the midfield selection and that was German international Toni Kroos. He was involved in 8 goals in the league and helped shore up the midfield too and protect the back four and when he played he helped in keeping 18 clean sheets.

Striker: Lionel Messi- Barcelona 134pts

Messi is still doing the business even if Barcelona had a season to forget. He was far and away the best player in Spain racking up 134 points. His scoring was down just 24 this season but that’s from just 32 games and on top of that he assisted in an incredible 18 other goals. Still one of the greats in world football.

Striker: Karim Benzema- Real Madrid 100pts

Much further down the pecking order, Messi would be partnered with Karim Benzema who had yet another consistent season with Real Madrid. Benzema assisted in 8 goals but also scored 21 making him the 2nd best striker in Spain this season.

All in all this is a team that is dominated by Real Madrid players, the eventual champions this season and 6 of their players are featured. It is interesting how just 1 player from Barcelona made the cut, a lot of change is clearly needed at the club ahead of the new season. And as for Atletico Madrid? They have an abundance of very good players, but not one of them was able to consistently stand out this season.

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Is Aubameyang bigger than Arsenal as the Gunners beat Chelsea in FA Cup final?

All of a sudden Arsenal seem back. After a poor season which saw Unai Emery sacked before Christmas and former player Mikel Arteta brought into the dug out it seemed like Arsenal would be waiting a long time for any type of silverware. However they have ended the season by winning the FA Cup against the odds.

Arsenal came from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 to lift their 14th FA Cup which is a record. Indeed Arsenal have won 4 cups in the last decade and their name is becoming part of the cup itself- just go ahead and put red and white ribbons on permanently why don’t you?

A burning desire and their name to be scripted onto the cup seemed to come when they upset Manchester City at the semi-final stage. Arteta had changed up the system and even David Luiz was playing with confidence. This was the first glimpse that under Arteta Arsenal could end up being a force to be reckoned with.

In the final it was going to be incredibly difficult given that the last time Arsenal had faced Chelsea in a cup final was in the 2019 Europa League showpiece where Chelsea simply outplayed the Gunners as the game went on and ended up running out 4-1 winners. Sure Eden Hazard who is now at Real Madrid orchestrated the win but still that game surely had to be playing on some of the minds of the players?

Maybe then it was to no surprise that Chelsea took a 5th minute lead through Christian Pulisic who has been outstanding this season for the Blues. With 56 points earned this season the American international was the 3rd best player for Frank Lampard’s team.

Chelsea started brightly but couldn’t find a 2nd and there was just that feeling creeping in that they were not putting this game to bed. With under 30 minutes played Arsenal were awarded a stone wall penalty and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who else? stepped up to take and convert it and the game was back on.

Whilst the 2nd half had it’s lull periods Arsenal were looking more and more of a threat, how much difference from their second half performance in the Europa League. Chelsea hoped for extra time but the Gunners could sense blood and Aubameyang got his brace and the match winner with just 3 minutes left to play.

True Chelsea will feel that Mateo Kovacic’s sending off was harsh, though he was already on a yellow card. It’s unfortunate though that VAR perhaps isn’t used in the big decisions like this, because on this occasion the referee looked to have got it wrong. It’s also worth pointing out that Kovacic has racked up 8 yellow cards this season from just 14 starts in the league.

This cup win feels like a turning point for Arsenal though because finishing 8th in the league represents their worst season in a generation. Arteta has said the win was his most important of his career, now he will be hoping that his statement won’t hold true in a decades time.

The last word has to go to Aubameyang. He has scored 22 league goals this season and assisted in a further 3, meaning that he has contributed to almost 50% of Arsenal’s league goals. He has been phenomenal, the one truly world class player in the side that can change a defeat into a draw and a draw into a win.

Aubameyang stands above as the lead man in this Gunners side and the club will be hoping that he will sign a new contract and stay with the club. They most likely have little chance of that happening if Barcelona or Real Madrid come knocking but given how teams have had to step back somewhat following the pandemic maybe that call won’t happen and maybe Aubameyang will realise that at Arsenal he is the king of the hill, at another club that might not to be the case.

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Serie A Best Fantasy XI – Round 38

Juan Musso: he ended his season with one of his finest performances, as he frustrated all Sassuolo attempts with great saves, in particular on a pair of bombs by Domenico Berardi and Hamed Traore, which he pulled out of the top shelf.

Danilo D’Ambrosio: another successful outing for Inter’s jack-of-all-trades, who broke the deadlock right away against Atalanta, in more typical fashion this time, as he bagged a header on a corner kick taking advantage of a defensive mishap. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round 38

Standings implications: Inter saved best for last as they sunk Atalanta, securing the second place and closing one point shy of Juventus, which did not bother showing up against Roma. Lazio stayed in fourth as they were bested by Napoli. In the relegation zone, Lecce went down in typical chaotic fashion versus Parma, while Genoa’s win over Verona was never in doubt and so the Salentini are the final team to move back to Serie B.

In the meaningless portion of the schedule, Milan kept it going against Cagliari, Udinese picked up a quality win over Sassuolo, Bologna shared the spoils Torino, Sampdoria with Brescia.

Continue reading

Is Atletico Madrid still the best place for Thomas Partey?

He has been the subject of much transfer speculation of late and it’s not hard to see why Thomas Partey might have his suitors. While Atletico Madrid have endured a difficult 2019/20 campaign, only making a late surge to a third place finish in La Liga to save their season, the Ghanian midfielder has impressed.

Indeed, Thomas has become a key figure at the Wanda Metropolitano, outshining the likes of Koke and Saul Niguez in the Atletico Madrid midfield. Now, the 27-year-old is facing a career crossroads, with a number of Premier League clubs reportedly keen to sign him over the summer transfer window.

The £45 million release clause in Thomas’ current contract is a big reason why he has become so attractive to potential suitors, but even without that price tag it’s likely there would have been interest in the player this summer. The 27-year-old is the ultimate modern midfield anchor, providing great energy and drive through the centre of the pitch.

Thomas is tenacious and strong in the tackle, but is exceptional with the ball at his feet, both as a dribbler and a passer. He would be the perfect addition for a team like Arsenal, and indeed the North London club are widely believed to be leading the pursuit of the Atletico Madrid midfielder. Mikel Arteta has reportedly made the signing of Thomas this summer a priority as he looks to overhaul his squad at the Emirates Stadium.

There is, however, also talk that Thomas could sign a new contract with Atletico Madrid. Latest reports claim the Ghanaian is still in discussions with the Spanish capital club over a new deal that would eliminate the £45 million release that is currently making him so attractive to Arsenal and other Premier League clubs looking for a relative bargain.

At the Wanda Metropolitano, Diego Simeone plays to Thomas’ strengths. He uses the Ghanian to channel attacking moves through the centre of the pitch. There’s no guarantee that Arteta would have as much faith in Thomas, although the Spaniard appears to be a fan. Thomas could become a giant at Atletico Madrid, with the second half of the 2019/20 season suggesting they are heading in the right direction again. Thomas could still be a significant part of this as they move into a new era.

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What next for Luka Jovic at Real Madrid?

His signing was seen by many as a sign that Karim Benzema would be phased out of the Real Madrid starting lineup this season, but Luka Jovic hasn’t come close to having that sort of impact since arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu last summer. Benzema certainly hasn’t been phased out of the lineup.

In fact, the French striker has never been as important a figure as he is now, finishing as Real Madrid’s top scorer for the 2019/20 season. Jovic, on the other hand, started just four La Liga matches, scoring only twice. The Serbian centre forward was a peripheral figure for the majority of the title-winning campaign.

This has led to speculation that Jovic could leave the Santiago Bernabeu this summer having failed to make an impression in the Spanish capital. Big money signings aren’t often given much time to prove themselves at Real Madrid and Jovic want be kept around until he feels comfortable. Just ask Alvaro Morata.

A switch to the Premier League has been mooted, with Arsenal, Everton and Wolves all mentioned as potential destinations for Jovic. He has become a victim of circumstance at Real Madrid and still has remarkable potential. The Serbian just needs the right club and the right environment to thrive.

At Eintracht Frankfurt last season, Jovic flourished in a front two. At Real Madrid, he has been asked to lead the line on his own or fit into a 4-3-3 formation. Those are roles that don’t suit him. This is why a move to somewhere like Wolves, where he could feasibly play alongside Diogo Jota as a replacement for Raul Jimenez, might appeal Jovic. He could also play alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front for Everton.

“The feelings are good, despite the absences,” Zinedine Zidane insisted when asked to provide an update on Jovic’s status at Real Madrid earlier this year. “There’s a very big squad, and the rest are here to respond. Jovic is an obvious option. He is the future. He has to be calm. He is learning. He’s a boy who wants to learn a lot. He’s very good. He’ll get a lot of goals. We’ve backed him, and you have to be calm with him.”

For how much longer will they continue to back him, though? And even if they do, would Jovic be better off elsewhere? It appears the Serbian is already nearing a crossroads in his Real Madrid career.

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AC Milan 3-0 Cagliari: Pioli’s men finish on a high as Ibrahimovic scores again

After twelve long months, the Serie A 2019/20 has finally been concluded. AC Milan continued their amazing form since the restart by beating Cagliari 3-0 this evening, certainly ending the season on a high. Although they didn’t get fifth place, Stefano Pioli and his men deserve a lot of praise. 

It wasn’t the prettiest of games but Milan got the job done, once again. Since the restart, the Rossoneri have been performing on a very high level on both ends of the pitch, making them a true joy to watch each game. Pioli should be given a lot of credit for this, but he also got some help.  Continue reading

What will this summer hold for Real Madrid?

There was no stopping Real Madrid after the resumption of the Spanish football season. Indeed, Zinedine Zidane’s side won 10 straight games following lockdown to take control of the title race at the top of La Liga. Los Blancos head into the summer as Spanish champions for only the second time in the last eight years.

But for all the success Real Madrid have enjoyed this season in wrestling back the Spanish title from Barcelona, this is a group of players that still finds itself in the midst of a generational transition. The likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and even Sergio Ramos will have to be phased out of the Real Madrid starting lineup over the next few years and so there is no time for Los Blancos to rest on their laurels.

However, there is a suggestion that the Santiagio Bernabeu club won’t have much money to spend this summer. The coronavirus pandemic has hit most clubs across Europe, but the noises out of Real Madrid are that they have been hit harder than most. Spanish football in general seems to have been hit harder than most.

Reports claim Real Madrid will have to sell players before they can buy anyone this summer. There is fortunately, for their sake, a lot of deadwood for them to shift. James Rodriguez, for instance, is now seen as surplus to requirements at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Colombian has struggled for game time this season and has been linked with a move to the Premier League.

Mariano Diaz is another who could be moved on, with the striker barely featuring for Real Madrid this season. Then there’s Gareth Bale, the Welsh winger who become something of a sideshow with his antics in the stands as Los Blancos marched their way to the Spanish title. If Real Madrid could find a buyer for Bale, significant funds could be freed up for new signings.

But selling these players in this depressed transfer market is going to be tough. Clubs are being more creative in the way they are strengthening this summer and so this might make it more difficult to sell their players in orthodox transfer deals. They might have to enter the loans and free agents market like everyone else if they want to reinforce their squad ahead of next season.

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