Fantasy Football News

Juventus Top Performers – Coppa Italia vs Udinese

Juventus did not mess about in the Coppa Italia round of 16, utterly dominating an Udinese team that offered very little resistance and punching their ticket to the next stage, where they will face either Roma or Parma.

Matthijs De Ligt: Gianluigi Buffon had just one minuscule save and so the rear-guard fully did his job, keeping the opponents at distance. The rest of the squad played a big part in achieving that through incessant possession. The centre-backs saw more action on the opponent’s box than in their one, as De Ligt almost propitiated a goal and Daniele Rugani hit the post. The Dutchman was slightly tidier than the teammate. Alex Sandro instead was in energy-saving mode and did not bother motoring down the flank and Danilo was not very very active either.  Continue reading

How badly will Real Madrid miss Fede Valverde against Sevilla?

It was the moment that essentially decided the Spanish Supercopa final. Real Madrid’s win over Atletico Madrid in Saudi Arabia last weekend won’t be remembered for the penalties in the shootout, nor will anything during the 90 minutes stick in the mind. Instead, Fede Valverde’s cynical, last-ditch tackle on Alvaro Morata will be remembered.

The Uruguayan midfielder didn’t really have any other choice. With five minutes left of extra time, Morata was released clean through on goal. Valverde was the only one chasing back and so it was up to him to fell the Atletico Madrid striker, taking the straight red card for his troubles.

Valverde picked up the Man of the Match award almost purely for his tackle, raising a debate over whether such a decision was in the spirit of the game. Whether it was or wasn’t, the 21-year-old will now miss Real Madrid’s home match against Sevilla on Saturday, a landmark moment in this season’s title race at the top of La Liga.

The Uruguayan has become a key member of Zinedine Zidane’s side this season. He has filled a hole in Real Madrid’s midfield, leaving Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to fight over just two positions. It’s no exaggeration to say Valvede is now one of the first names on the team sheet.

Against Sevilla, Real Madrid will need to win the battle in the centre of the pitch. Julen Lopetegui will have revenge on his mind, returning to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since he was sacked as Real Madrid manager last season, and his team, currently sitting in fourth place, are a strong outfit capable of beating the best.

This is a critical point of the season for Spain’s top two. The fixtures will come thick and fast over the next few weeks as the Copa del Rey and Champions League start to clutter their schedule. A lot will be demanded of players like Valverde, but the 21-year-old will miss Saturday’s important match.

It will instead be up to the likes of Casemiro and Kroos to disrupt Sevilla’s play through the middle of the pitch. The Andalusians are excellent in transition and so Real Madrid must provide protection for their back four. Valverde would have helped do this. Finding someone to perform his duties will be key to what happens on Saturday.

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AC Milan 3-0 SPAL: Pioli’s men through to the quarter-finals with ease

AC Milan managed to follow up the win against Cagliari last weekend with yet another one this evening, beating SPAL with ease at the San Siro. Certainly, it was an encouraging performance by Pioli’s men, who now will face Torino ht quarter-finals of Coppa Italia. 

The Rossoneri started the game very well, immediately showing the away side their intentions for the evening. However, at least initially, SPAL managed to get past the Milan players despite the high line they faced. Pioli’s response? He ordered his players to push even further.  Continue reading

Premier League lineups – the likely starting elevens for all teams this weekend

Here’s a quick look at all the upcoming games and the predicted lineups for each team, to help you with your EPL fantasy picks.

Watford Vs Spurs

Watford XI: Foster, Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina, Chalobah, Capoue, Sarr, Doucoure, Deulofeu, Deeney

Spurs XI: Gazzaniga, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Tanganga, Aurier, Alli, Winks, Lo Celso, Sessegnon, Moura, Son Continue reading

A look back at the decade’s most memorable moments

The 2010s were both an exciting and turbulent period for football. With more than a handful of career-defining goals and several big scandals, nobody could say it was boring.

Although there are plenty of options to choose from, these are the moments that will ensure the past decade is remembered for a long time.

The FIFA Corruption Scandal

It was the summer of 2015 when things became more than a little uncomfortable for FIFA officials. In the summer of 2015, after a thorough investigation from the FBI, the US Department of Justice was forced to indict several top executives on charges of corruption.

While this came as a great shock to many, what happened in December that year would shake the world of football even harder. Two FIFA vice presidents were arrested in a hotel in Zurich, and then a further sixteen officials were charged with partaking in criminal schemes, including ones involved more than $200m in bribes related to the bidding process for two upcoming World Cup tournaments.

While the scandal saw the end of two very powerful men’s careers, it’s essential to see this not as a tragedy but as justice being served.

Iniesta Wins the World Cup for Spain

Back in 2010, we saw the first-ever World Cup to take place in Africa. The final match was an aggressive and sometimes nasty game, with the referee handing out a record-breaking 12 yellow cards. But it wasn’t the rough and aggressive style of play that was the most remarkable thing – it was Andres Iniesta’s final goal that will be remembered.

Late in the game, after Dutch defender John Heitinga was sent off, Iniesta scored a beautiful goal and celebrated by lifting his shirt to reveal a tribute to Dani Jarque, the former team defender, who tragically died far too young in 2009. This touching tribute and beautiful bit of football paved the way for years of dominance by the Spaniards, who also won the European cup in both 2008 and 2012.

Ronaldo Scores a Poker

If somebody mentions poker, you tend to think of the card game, but it has a meaning in football too. If a player scores four goals in a single game, then they’ve scored a poker. While there are quite a few football players who put their skills of quick thinking to good use both at the poker table and on mobile poker sites, there are far fewer who can boast a poker in their football career.

One player who we can confidently say he’s incredibly skilled, both at the table and on the pitch, is poker star and football hero, Cristiano Ronaldo. In a Euro 2020 qualifier, when Portugal beat Lithuania 5-1, Ronaldo scored 4 of them.

The Battle of Manchester

The Premier League final in 2012 indeed divided a city. The dramatic climax to the season saw Manchester City play Queens Park Rangers. To win the league title, they just needed to beat them.

The game was a hard-fought one, with City fans crossing their fingers for a goal and United fans praying for the end of the game to come. It looked like Queens Park Rangers had the game in the bag. With the clock ticking over into
injury time, City were losing 2-1. However, a 92nd minute equalizer gave Manchester City hope, before an absolute screamer of a goal from Sergio Aguero saw City win the game and thus the title for the first time in 44 years.

With Man City second, how will the Premier League season end?

The winter transfer window might be open, but no premier league team looks distracted. Liverpool looks unstoppable. Man City recently toppled Leicester to go second in the league and Watford seems determined to avoid relegation by all means. But how will the season finish?

For starters, this is not a premonition of how the ongoing season will finish. It’s a prediction. And like other football predictions, some teams may end up surprising everyone. Based on the Premier League standings after 22 matches, here’s how we can expect the table to stand come May 17th when the season winds up.

Premier League Winners: Liverpool

If anyone doubts Liverpool’s prospects of lifting the PL trophy this season, watch the team play. They look like men possessed no matter who they face. Defensively, the Reds haven’t been giving up many goals lately, at least not since they blew out Everton 5-2 mid-December.

The midfield plays seamlessly whether they are helping the team defend or create chances for the iconic front three of Mane, Salah and Firminho. Speaking of attack, Liverpool have one of the best attacking trios in Europe.

However, the team’s success comes down to their cohesiveness, hard work and determination as a whole. And thanks to all the factors mentioned above, the Reds could break at least nine Premier League records this season. Here are some of them:

 Most home wins— 20 games, held by Man City
 Most consecutive wins—18 games, held by Man City
 Unbeaten record—49 games, held by Arsenal
 Most wins in a season—32 games, held by Man City
 Most points in a season—100 points, owned by Man City

Top Four

Man City now sit second in the table after thrashing Aston Villa 6-1. Aguero scored a hat-trick to overtake Frenchman Thierry Henry’s tally of 175 goals. He’s now the highest overseas goal scorer in the history of the Premier League. His hat-trick also bagged him another record—the most Premier League hat-tricks at 12.

Aguero aside, Pep Guardiola’s men look to have regained their form after a few upsets along the way. They might not win every other match henceforth but with Leicester’s form on the decline, they are the favourites to finish second.

There are a few contenders for the third and fourth positions, though. If the Foxes continue slipping and lose regularly, they could finish outside of the top four. They are six points above Chelsea and eleven points above Man United.

However they only need to lose three to four games, and they could end up in a fight for the fifth position with Sheffield and Wolves. Don’t bet on it to happen yet. If there’s one team capable of turning things around and doing the impossible, it’s the Foxes.

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Mid-Table Fights

This season’s mid-table looks different with Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham all having woeful forms. Arsenal, for example, has won as many games as it has lost: six. Everton looks to be under resurgence with Carlo Ancelotti in charge.

Tottenham’s hopes of fighting for a top-four position with Jose Mourinho in charge appear to have diminished. Manchester aren’t better off at fifth position, but they are back to winning ways. Wolves look good when they play, but they have rarely shown a determination to rise above mid-table mediocrity.

Despite that, Premier League fantasy managers love them. Adama Traore, Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty are some of the most owned players in the football simulation game.

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Surprise Positions

Let’s face. Sheffield United have been over-performing this season. Who would have thought a team freshly promoted could be doing so well? Of course, Leicester holds the record for over-delivering after they won the PL to the shock of the world in 2016.

Southampton is another team capable of ranking tenth or better after overcoming their poor run of form last year. Crucially, the Saints didn’t let their record 9-0 defeat to Leicester last October shred their hopes of overcoming relegation woes.

Instead, they used the defeat as motivation to chase a better record. And considering they are only six points below fifth-placed Man United, they could finish tenth or better. Of course, all teams above them have what it takes to finish in the top ten. But Southampton shouldn’t be underrated.

Relegation Bound

A few weeks ago, most people believed Watford, Norwich and Aston Villa had sealed their fate and would head back to the championship next season. Things have since changed. Watford have now won four of their last five matches, slightly elevating them above relegation danger.

Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Norwich are presently seated in the relegation zone. Based on Watford’s next set of fixtures, Watford they should be hopeful. For clarity, the Hornets face Tottenham, Everton, Man United, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Leicester before April.

Unfortunately, neither Bournemouth nor Aston Villa have better fixtures, which should give Watford hopes of surviving relegation this season. On the other end, nothing seems to be working for Norwich City. They haven’t won a game since they defeated Man City in September. And based on their present forms, nothing will save them from relegation.

After West Ham are denied a point are there serious issues with VAR, handball and offside?

VAR has been the main focus point in the Premier League this season and often made controversial choices. The newest one denied West Ham what looked like a last minute equaliser against Sheffield United. But VAR stepped in and denied the goal based on the fact that there had been a handball in the goal’s build up.

The new technology was right, there had been a handball. It was slight and it certainly wasn’t intentional, not in a Thierry Henry way when the French legend deliberately used his hand to control the ball in a World Cup play off with Ireland over a decade ago. This was different, there was no intention, no malice just the pace of the ball, the way it bobbled and the way the player in a natural position had received it. And yet a goal that looked pretty perfect did not exist and West Ham lost the game, incidentally David Moyes’ first loss as Hammers manager.

West Ham’s Declan Rice was the player at fault as he handled the ball and he had this to say to local sports channel Sky Sports after the controversial moment: “We are fuming all the lads are livid. This is a tough place to come, credit to them they ground it out. We created some chances and missed some chances. The goal at the end was a tough one to take because a point on the road would have been good for us.

Rice continued: “ I’ve just watched it back. He has knocked the ball into my hand. If you are running with your arms like that with the rules as they are now it is handball but it is not intentional. It is a kick in the teeth. I think it is the thoughts of every Premier League player, not just me, pretty much every one doesn’t want to have VAR in the game.There have been so many decisions this season that have been absolutely crazy. They were celebrating VAR like it was a goal and football should not be like that. I can’t get over it, he knocked it into my hand. It is not intentional handball. I was buzzing. I ran 20 metres up the pitch, slipped the ball in for Snodgrass.”

It is very understandable to feel Rice’s frustrations and it has happened countless times when VAR has stepped in whether it is a handball clearly not intentional or an offside. The offside’s this season have been almost comical where most of the time a goal has been chalked off because a players knee, nose or little finger has been officially offside. Surely this is not cheating or the attacking player having an advantage? They would in fact have to be incredibly ingenious to place a nose just in front of the defender all the while keeping tags on where the ball is and where the next pass will be coming from.

So is VAR to blame for the chaos? Well in truth the root of the problem are out of date and new laws. The hand ball situation is a farce, it ruined last years Champions League final for example. All VAR is essentially doing is going with the rules, but it is being too precise. That may sound odd but true football fans or at least the ones following for decades will understand there have always been errors, but those errors have led to goals and not a lack of. It seems ingrained in football fans DNA that the way of the game wasn’t to pause it and then take 3 minutes to decide if a goal is a goal. And like Rice said is it normal to cheer like a goal has been scored when a VAR decision has gone against the opposition?

It does feel that VAR should be taking some responsibility, after all that final decision is coming down to another referee, who is not seeing the issue at hand. If pressure is being applied to have these decisions within the new rules at a 100% return then the rules need to be amended. The bottom line is did that player seek to cheat to get an advantage?

The rules are the rules but they can still be overturned by VAR’s decision, a clear and obvious error and all that. For now that point lost could well come back to haunt West Ham who could be in a relegation battle within a few weeks.

For now this case needs to be filed under c for common sense, let’s hope the powers that be use it fully.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 20

Lazio-Sampdoria: despite a fairly muted performance, the Biancocelesti came out on top versus Napoli last week, for the second week in a row propelled by a late Ciro Immobile goal. The capocannoniere keeps producing and has already reached the 20-goal threshold. He has scored their last three goals. It is possible that Joaquin Correa misses another one, but that will be clearer only later in the week, so Felipe Caicedo might get another chance to start and he has posted three goals and two assists in limited action in the last five appearances. Luis Alberto will be looking to pad his assist numbers (12), while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has reverted back to his less efficient self after a hot stretch. Senad Lulic will be suspended, so Jony is set to play on the left wing and he is a willing crosser. The Eagles have been airtight at home. Continue reading

Ligue 1 Player of the Weekend: Gaetan Charbonnier

It’s very possible you haven’t heard much about the Ligue 1 player of the weekend Gaetan Charbonnier. The striker was in impressive form as his club Brest destroyed bottom of the table Toulouse this past weekend by 5 goals to 2.

Charbonnier who is 31 has been in spectacular form since joining Brest. When the team played Toulouse in their last game it was seen as a tough game given that this was an away match and even though Toulouse have been very poor this season this was supposed to be quite a test for Brest who themselves had fallen down the table into the bottom half and hadn’t won for the last 3 games.

Charbonnier went on to score 2 goals in the game and assist in the fifth and final goal. Indeed it was his goals number 2 and 3 which ended up settling the game in his teams favour. His 2nd goal was the pick of the bunch. A great build up play between players and then a direct cross led to Charbonnier turning brightly and slotting home, the goal was like a pin ball strike and it killed the game off for Toulouse.

It hasn’t been an easy season for the striker who despite starting 17 games has only scored 3 goals this season, with 2 coming just last weekend. Though he has assisted in a further five goals.

The Brest striker is valued at 5m and earned 10 points this weekend beating off competition from PSG’s star striker Neymar and he has a total of 15 points so far. He has been booked 3 times and so far has no red cards to his name. Charbonnier will be hoping that the game against Toulouse opens up more opportunities for him in front of goal, and whilst he has had a poor first half of the season by his standards, the second half could be completely different. He is certainly great value at 5m if his form was to change after his man of the match performance.

Last season Charbonnier scored 27 goals, his best tally in Ligue 1 football and that is why this season has felt underwhelming. His best days are with Brest no doubt where he has become a prolific scorer but at this time his career will be remembered for playing well over 100 games with Stade Reims.

It could be worth adding Charbonnier to your team. Brest will have the objective to move back up the table and try to finish in the top half of the table after scoring 5 goals in one game, Brest and Charbonnier are pointing in the right direction.

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Napoli shore up the midfield with Demme and Lobotka

Napoli have been searching for midfielders ever since the ousting of Carlo Ancelotti and the hiring of Gennaro Gattuso, who decided to switch permanently to 4-3-3, they got their men in the past few days, announcing the acquisitions of Diego Demme from LB Leipzig and Stanislav Lobotka from Celta Vigo.

Demme signed a five-year deal Saturday and joined for €12M in a rare transfer that proceeded very swiftly for the Partenopei. The 28-year-old, who was born in Germany from an Italian father and was named after Diego Maradona, has been a linchpin of Leipzig over the last four seasons, collecting 214 appearances, scoring twice and providing 18 assists. He has one cap with the Mannschaft. Continue reading