Vidal will get his chance for revenge

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After not being able to overcome eternal rivals, Real Madrid, in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, Barcelona were dealt a further blow with the news that Arthur Melo has been ruled out for 3-4 weeks.

The Brazilian has been an incredible success story since his arrival from Gremio, to the extent that there are now genuine concerns as to how successful Barca will be in his absence.

He has given the Catalans an extra layer of security thanks to his ball retention and willingness to set the tempo and rhythm of a game, and they’ll certainly miss his input. Continue reading

Barcelona perform U-Turn on Denis Suarez to Arsenal

Denis Suarez

La Liga leaders Barcelona have reopened the door on Denis Suarez’s loan move to move to Arsenal, after the transfer had looked to be dead in the water just last week.

Rumours of disagreements over the specific terms of the deal, primarily Arsenal’s unwillingness to agree on a compulsory purchase clause on the midfielder at the end of the season, had looked to have killed off the move.

However the Catalan side have now given Suarez the green light to make the move to the Premier League.

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Barcelona keen on PSG star Adrien Rabiot

Rabiot

La Liga leaders Barcelona have confirmed their interest in signing French international Adrien Rabiot from Ligue 1 side Paris Saint Germain.

The midfielder’s contract expires at the end of the 2018-19 season, and he is free to confirm terms with non French teams during the January transfer window, with a view to sealing a move in the summer.

His situation has become increasingly tense with the French giants, with widespread reports that he has been banned from the club’s dressing room on match days by the club’s hierarchy.

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Barcelona looking for Coutinho improvement in 2019

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Barcelona head into 2019 as La Liga leaders, with Ernesto Valverde chasing a second successive league title since taking over.

They lead rivals Atletico Madrid by three points, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss knows his players will have to go up a gear if they are to compete domestically and in Europe in the second half of the season.

Many of the squad are having solid, but unspectacular seasons, with the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele often making the key differences in recent weeks.

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La Liga Best XI – Week 12

williamsWith the latest round of La Liga taking place this past weekend, it is now time to cast our minds back and see which players performed their roles the best for their clubs. There were, as always, some quality games on display – Barcelona losing for only the second time this season at home to Real Betis was something of a shock, while Real Madrid made it two wins on the bounce with their 4-2 win at Celta Vigo. We will be adopting a 4-3-3 this week, so let’s get to it.

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Serie A must continue purchase of World Class players to enhance image

Seven years ago, one French Club, Paris Saint Germain invaded Serie A and plundered the league’s top stars from its top teams. Jérémy Ménez, Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marco Verratti, Thiago Sliva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Later, Marquinhos and Edison Cavani joined the fray. PSG’s incursion was propelled by current owners, Qatar Sports Investments, spearheaded by Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

It wasn’t just the ability of the oil rich investors to price away the best talents from other clubs as was the case with Neymar last season, but it exposed how vulnerable and financially weak clubs in Italy were at that particular period. Let’s look at it from this perspective, the strength of a league is predicated on the strength of its clubs. Thus, Serie A became weak in the eyes of its opposing leagues.

It’s worth to note that, during those trial moments, Juventus were putting in place the right structures, both administratively and infrastructure (The Allianz Stadium). They managed to sign the likes of Carlos Tevez from Manchester City, Arturo Vidal from Bayer Leverkusen, got Andrea Pirlo on a Bossman and a world class potential in Paul Pobga. The results are six scudetti on the bounce and two Champions League finals in the last five years. They continue to attract some of the best talents in Douglas Costa, Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can.

This season,the backdrop to Juventus campaign is the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. Portuguese Captain is a symbol of perseverance, whiles his great achievements and showy personality drags the media to his orbit. A report this year from D’Marie Analytics, a social media research firm estimates that a post by Ronaldo across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is worth a cumulative $728,973.35, making him both the most valuable soccer player and athlete overall.

And of course, commercially, there are all sorts of financial spin offs when you sign Cristiano Ronaldo, from merchandise to image rights.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Ronaldo’s debut match against Chievo attracted 2,330,234 unique viewers, with an audience share of 11.9 percent. That’s a 68 percent increase in viewers on Juve’s first match of last season, when they faced Cagliari at home. It is also the fourth-highest total since the Italian branch of Sky launched, surpassed only by the Derby d’Italia in 2013 and 2016, and Roma-Juventus in August 2015. Another Broadcast giant ESPN signed a multi-year deal to broadcast Serie A in the United States It’s difficult to quantify how much of this attention is contributed by the competitiveness of the league after Napoli gave Juventus a hard fought for the scudetto last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s entrance has brought the sheen that Serie A needs.

It is however important for the other top teams Inter Milan, Napoli, AC Milan and AS Roma to leverage on the current attraction to lure elite players to their abode.

The two San Siro outfits, AC Milan and Inter are beginning to recover their financial muscle after the change of ownerships from Italian families to foreign Investors, as well as Roma. Things are beginning to look up for AC Milan under the current owners Elliot Hudge Fund Management who have brought back Leonardo in the position of Sporting director, alongside Paolo Maldini as sporting strategy and development director.

AC Milan’s transfer activities have not triggered the kind of excitement that greeted the appointment of their former heroes. Paolo Maldini’s name seems to have overshadowed their purchases in the summer and rightly so because names likes, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Alen Halilovic, Samu Castillejo and Diego Laxalt do not generate euphoria. But the Rossoneri take consolation in the signature of Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara.

Inter Milan managed to sign Radja Nainggolan from AS Roma and Kwadwo Asamoah from Inter whiles keeping Ivan Peresic and their priciest asset, Captain Maruo Icardi. The reports about Luka Modric wanting to join the Nerazzurri drew a lot of enthusiasm around the club and showed further proof of the kind of players that Serie A are missing. Though the player decided otherwise, it was a sign of ambition on the part of the Nerazzurri.

Despite the acquisition of Javier Pastori and Steven Nzonzi by AS Roma this summer, the Giallorossi have lost world class goalkeeper Alison Becker to Liverpool and Kevin Strootman to Marseille. Whiles Mauricio Sarri and Jorginho have joined Chelsea from Napoli. Last year, three players from Serie A mounted the FIFPro World XI podium. Two of them, Dani Alves and Gialuigi Buffon are currently PSG players. Cristiano Ronaldo may be on the podium in the next FIFA Mens Best Player Award Event but it will be based on his performance at Real Madrid.

Serie A need a continue purchase of world class players to continue enjoying the attention it’s currently attracting.

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Early La Liga fixtures favour Barcelona title defence

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Barcelona began their La Liga title defence with a 3-0 home win over Alaves last weekend, and they have a favourable run of games right up until mid-October.

Ernesto Valverde’s side won the domestic double last season, losing just one game in the La Liga season, and they look in strong form to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2016.

The former Athletic Bilbao manager has focused on youth within his summer transfer policy, bringing in Arthur Melo and Malcom – alongside the experience of Arturo Vidal.

They are set to play a key role for the Catalan side this season, combined with their established superstars, and the early season run of games lends itself to a title push.

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La Liga tension ahead of Super Cup final

Malcom

Controversy continues to plague the Supercopa de Espana, ahead of Sunday’s showdown between Barcelona and Sevilla in Tangier.

The traditional La Liga curtain raiser between the defending league champions and the Copa del Rey holders (or runners up in this example, as Barcelona won the double last season) has been littered with bad tempered incidents.

Initially the Andalusian club objected to La Liga’s decision to change the competition format of a two legged affair played at each side’s home ground, to a one-off game contested at a neutral venue outside of Spain.

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DFL Supercup Preview: Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

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Niko Kovac’s first chance to win a trophy at new club Bayern Munich will be against his former side Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFL Supercup on Sunday. It’s the Bundesliga champions vs DFB Pokal winners in the curtain raiser for Germany’s 2018/19 football season and it’s a fixture that is expected to be as exciting as their last: the Pokal final. The previous meeting between the two sides resulted in a 3-1 victory for Eintracht which was masterminded by Kovac, with the Croat now in the opposite dugout at Commerzbank Arena, in charge of Bayern.

Sunday will be just the second-time Eintracht Frankfurt has featured in the curtain raiser, their last coming in a 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen in 1988. Meanwhile, the ever-dominant Bayern Munich have participated in seven of the last eight DFL Supercup’s, although they’ve lifted just four with their most recent being last season.

We’ve seen mixed results from Bayern Munich in pre-season during their International Champions Cup fixtures and for the 2018 DFL Supercup, the Bavarians will have to do it without Arturo Vidal who has departed Munich for Barcelona. Although, there could be starts for Bayern’s two new signings, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry, the latter returning from his Hoffenheim loan spell.

Like Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt are undergoing a transitional season. Kovac’s spell at Eintracht couldn’t have gone better but now at Bayern, it will be up Adi Hutter, former BSC Young Boys head coach, to carry on the good work by his predecessor.

Eintracht Frankfurt have lost a key player in Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has joined Sassuolo but arguably their biggest signing this summer is the contract extension of Croatia international and World Cup Finalist Ante Rebic, who had been close to joining Manchester United. The forward scored a brace in his last meeting with Bayern Munich, helping Eintracht lift the Pokal while a fine month in Russia has resulted in the 24-year-old penning a new contract that will see him remain at the Bundesliga club until 2022.

New signings Felix Wiedwald, Goncalo Paciencia, Nicolai Müller and Chico Geraldes could well start on Sunday for Eintracht Frankfurt and while there’s no doubting the 2018/19 campaign will be a tough one for the Super Eagles, certainly more difficult than the previous, there’s no reason as to why they can’t push Bayern Munich for 90 minutes on Sunday.

Early signs in the Bayern side suggest that Kovac doesn’t quite know his best formation while they’re going to have play the Eintracht without James Rodriguez, who has yet to return to full fitness after missing the England game at the World Cup.

One positive for Bayern Munich is that star striker Robert Lewandowski will remain at the club despite immense speculation that he would leave for one of Manchester United or Real Madrid this summer. The Poland international looked increasingly frustrated towards the end of the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign while the 29-year-old criticised his teammates the prior season after accusing them of not helping Lewandowski finish top scorer, instead finishing behind then Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

“It’s true Robert and I had a chat. Robert knows what I think about him and how I rate him. The whole club knows the qualities he possesses. He is one of the best three strikers in the world. There’s no way we’d let him leave. That’s why I told him. Robert accepted that, and I’m really happy about it,” Kovac told Sport Bild.

Like the Community Shield, winning the DFL Supercup isn’t the biggest of deals. Of course, both teams still want to win silverware at the end of the day but it’s more about signifying the start of the football campaign in Germany. Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich will provide fans with exciting football given both Hutter and Kovac like their teams to press high up the pitch while defensively neither have look solid. This fixture should certainly provide viewers with top class entertainment.

Probable line-ups

Eintracht Frankfurt: Wiedwald – Abraham (c), Hasebe, Salcedo – Da Costa, Torro, Fernandes, Willems – Fabian, Gacinovic – Haller

Bayern Munich: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Hummels, Süle, Alaba – Martinez, Thiago – Robben, Müller, Ribery – Lewandowski

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Arturo Vidal signing makes sense for Barcelona

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This summer transfer window surely cannot be compared to the last for Barcelona. Unlike twelve months ago, when they missed out on a series of prime transfer targets, they have already landed Arthur Melo, Clement Lenglet and Malcom this time round for a combined €115m.

They have been left frustrated in their pursuit of a secondary central midfielder. Arthur primarily will fill the void of outgoing captain Andres Iniesta but the unexpected – certainly for boss Ernesto Valverde – departure of Paulinho has left another gap in the squad. Continue reading