Some fans of a certain age who support Man City have certainly been through something of a rollercoaster over the last three decades! Having endured a few years of struggle during the early 1990s, the club were relegated from the Premiership in 1996, and after failing to bounce straight back were eventually relegated to Division Two (now known as League One). In that relegation, the club became only the second in history to have been European trophy winners later relegated to the third tier of their country’s football pyramid, after 1. FC Magdeburg of Germany. The period that followed was a slow climb back towards the top, but would eventually culminate in them becoming one of the richest football clubs on the planet.
Last weekend’s La Liga action saw Girona recording a 3-2 home win against Celta Vigo in arguably the best of the action throughout the Spanish top flight, while Getafe did themselves plenty of credit with their 2-0 win at Sevilla. Real Madrid were held 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao, and Barcelona managed to scrape a 2-1 win at Real Sociedad despite performing far from their best. This coming weekend sees Barcelona welcoming Girona to the Nou Camp, while Real Madrid host Espanyol. Atletico Madrid have a trip to Getafe, while Eibar and Leganes do battle in a match surely worth keeping an eye on. With all that in mind, let’s take a look ahead and see which 11 players to monitor in the next round of matches.
Gianluigi Buffon is set for discussions with Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel over the Italian goalkeeper’s role at the Ligue 1 champions. Reports suggest that Tuchel wants to keep Alphonse Areola as the number 1 stopper at Parc des Princes, leaving Juventus legend Buffon warming the bench. That has not sat well with the 40-year-old, who wants to continue on with plenty of game time. The club have since implied, however, that the interview in which Tuchel stated that Areola was “in pole position” to start was done in German, and so his stance was essentially lost in translation into French. The French champions have started with Buffon in goal twice and Areola three times so far this season, with the younger custodian being chosen in each of the last three.
This past weekend saw Barcelona move two points clear at the top of La Liga following their tight 2-1 win at Real Sociedad, with Real Madrid having dropped points, their 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao ending their 100% start to the campaign. With that in mind, let us now take a look at which players performed best in their respective roles, with a 4-3-3 formation coming this week!
GK – Jaume (Valencia)
Jaume was one of several goalkeepers to keep clean sheets this weekend, but as he would only set you back 2.5m on the Euro Fantasy League game he was the cheapest of the bunch. Solid display in Valencia’s 0-0 home draw with Real Betis.
Liverpool have made a wonderful start to the new Premier League season, sitting atop the table on goal difference after picking up 12 points from their first 12. Chelsea and Watford have also won all four of their openers, but Liverpool’s style of play and constant goal threat seems to be setting them aside from the other two at the top. Champions Man City are fancied to retain their title of course, but are two points behind the Reds at this moment in time. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has developed an exciting atmosphere around the club, and if Anfield is to welcome its first English top flight title since 1990 then the momentum needs to be maintained. While it may not happen this year, there is also every chance that it could – but only if the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group are prepared to back their manager to lead the team to glory.
Two weekends ago, Barcelona recorded a massive 8-2 victory over Huesca and Celta Vigo earn an impressive home win against Atletico Madrid, this weekend’s lineup is shaping up quite nicely. Atletico will be looking to get things back on track as they host Eibar, while Espanyol hosting Levante could be well worth a watch considering both sides’ early season form. Let’s now take a look at which players to keep an eye on in the fourth round of games in the Spanish top flight this weekend.
France began life at home after winning their second World Cup with a hard-earned win over the Netherlands, who failed to qualify for this summer’s tournament. It seemed fitting that the first goalscorer was none other than PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, who won the “Best Young Player” award in Russia. His work rate wearing the blue of his national team is every bit as impressive as it is in the Parisian home kit, and he timed his run perfectly to get onto the end of Blaise Matuidi‘s lovely pass across the face of goal, tapping France ahead after 13 minutes. Didier Deschamps’ men were ahead until the second half, when Besiktas’ Ryan Babel brought the Dutch level. It wasn’t long until Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud restored the lead and ultimately won it for France.
Spain began their UEFA Nations League campaign with an impressive 2-1 win against Gareth Southgate’s England at Wembley, indicating they may have just turned a corner since their turbulent World Cup campaign. The appointment of Luis Enrique as Julen Lopetegui’s permanent replacement was seen by many as a positive move towards getting the Spaniards back to their best after a disappointing campaign in Russia this summer. Lopetegui was sacked just days before Spain’s first game in the tournament and while stand-in Fernando Hierro deserves credit for leading the nation to the tournament in such difficult circumstances he did not seem to be the right man for the job, hence Enrique’s appointment.
When Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003 it was believed to be a hobby for him. Fast forward 15 years and after securing a few Premier League titles and cup triumphs the 51-year-old is believed to be considering selling the club and moving on to pastures new. Whether this would be the right approach for him on a personal (or a business) level is something only he can decide, but Blues fans will likely be hoping that he opts to remain in charge at Stamford Bridge. He has transformed the shape and future of Chelsea Football Club during his ownership, bringing in several world-class players and delivering a standard of football which had long since been desired among the terraces.
The loan system really is a wonderful thing. It can be utilised by smaller clubs who wish to bring in a potential star of the future to strengthen any leaks in their side, or bigger clubs can – on occasion – bring a player in who may otherwise be out of their reach on a temporary basis, treating fans to the spectacle of seeing such a big name wearing their own beloved shirt. It can help financially struggling sides add some depth, and also helps larger clubs get some experience for their younger talent before bleeding them gradually into their own first team. When used efficiently, the loan system quite literally offers a win-win for every single party involved. That certainly seems to be the case for Toulouse this season, who have loaned Man City starlet Manu Garcia for the 2018-19 campaign.