De Ligt and a summer of change at Barcelona

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After capturing the mercurial talent of Frenkie De Jong, it appears that Barcelona are in pole position to sign his current Ajax team-mate, Matthijs De Ligt.

The 19-year-old centre-back is wanted by all of Europe’s top clubs but has allegedly told those close to him that he ‘only wants Barcelona.’

That’s a real coup for the Catalans, who see De Ligt as a future captain of the club and a player who’ll be a mainstay in their defence for the next decade. Continue reading

Why Liverpool should prioritise the Champions League

Champions League

Ask Jurgen Klopp to choose between winning the Premier League and the Champions League, and he’s unlikely to give you a definitive answer. It’s a decision the Liverpool manager may have to make soon, though.

With the season in its final stages, Liverpool find themselves as serious contenders for both trophies. Their win over Porto over two legs has set up a semi-final meeting with Barcelona. Meanwhile, in the Premier League, they find themselves top of the table, two points clear of Manchester City with four games left to play.

Not since 1984 have they found themselves in this situation. They finished that campaign as English champions and European champions.

Continue reading

On this day in 2012: Chelsea beat Barcelona en route to Champions League glory

For a long while, Chelsea and the Champions League was a tale of frustration. Boosted by Roman Abramovich’s investment and Jose Mourinho’s brilliant management, the Blues won two Premier League titles at a canter in 2004/05 and 2005/06. They then added anotherchampionship crown to their honours list under Carlo Ancelotti in 2010, and also scooped an additional five trophies in the form of three FA Cups and two League Cups in the first eight years of the Abramovich era.
Despite their domestic dominance, though, Chelsea repeatedly failed to make the breakthrough in Europe. Under Claudio Ranieri in 2003/04, they were unable to take advantage of a surprisingly open tournament by suffering elimination at the hands of eventual runners-up Monaco in the semi-finals. They were also knocked out at the same stage in Mourinho’s first season thanks to Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ for Liverpool, before exiting in the round of 16 following defeat by Barcelona in 2005/06.
After more semi-final heartache against the Reds the following year, Chelsea reached their first Champions League final in 2008. They came within a penalty kick of lifting the trophy too, but John Terry’s crucial slip took the shootout to extra time and gave Manchester United a second chance which they did not pass up. Some questionable refereeing decisions played their part in the semi-final loss to Barcelona in 2009, before Mourinho beat his former club while in charge of Inter in the round of 16 the subsequentseason. After a two-legged defeat by Manchester United in the quarter-finals of 2010/11, Chelsea fans were beginning to question whether they were cursed on the continental stage.
It was evidence of football’s unpredictability that the Blues finally got their hands on the trophy when it seemed as if they were past their best. Much of 2011/12 was a disappointment, with Andre Villas-Boas sacked in March after failing to get his ideas across to a group of players who were unconvinced by his methods. Roberto Di Matteo was handed the reins on a caretaker basis, and in his second game in charge the Italian somehow masterminded a 4-1 victory over Napoli which gave Chelsea a 5-4 aggregate triumph inthe round of 16.
The quarter-final draw was kind to Di Matteo’s men, who dispatched of Benfica with a minimum of fuss, but a last-four meeting with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona – the holders who had made light work of Manchester United in the previous season’s final – was likely to be a step too far. Di Matteo had still only suffered a single defeat by the time the first leg rolled around on April 18, but Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and co. would surely prove too strong for a side who were sixth in the Premier League standings.
As it happened, Chelsea turned in a resilient performance in front of their own fans at Stamford Bridge to establish a first-leg lead. Barcelona dominated the opening exchanges and were unfortunate not to go ahead when Alexis Sanchez hit the crossbar in the ninth minute, with Cesc Fabregas miscuing from a brilliant position soon after. The Spain midfielder, playing against his future employers, then saw an effort cleared off the line by Ashley Cole, but it seemed like only a matter of time until Barcelona edged ahead.
Instead, on the stroke of half-time Didier Drogba broke the deadlock, turning home Ramires’ cross at the far post to send Stamford Bridge into raptures. Chelsea then faced a predictable second-half onslaught, with Adriano, Sanchez and Carles Puyol all going close before Pedro Rodriguez hit the post in stoppage time. Di Matteo’s charges somehow held on, though, winning the first leg 1-0 despite registering just a single shot on target all night.
“Tonight was about a great collective defensive performance,” Di Matteo said afterwards. “It wasn’t just our defenders: we needed to be able to close down the spaces as much as possible and limit Barcelona’s threat. Ultimately, with the quality of some of their individuals, they still create problems.
“Sometimes it feels like they have 20 players. They play like that against Real Madrid, against Milan, too. But our team were prepared to be patient in defence and not get frustrated. We looked very organised and the boys were really determined not to let them through.”
Chelsea redefined ‘backs to the wall’ in the second leg at the Camp Nou, yet despite the fact that Guardiola believes it was one of his Barcelona side’s best ever displays, the west Londoners escaped with a 2-2 draw which sent them through to the final. That game is remembered fondly seven years on, as is the equally improbable triumph over Bayern in Munich in the showpiece, but neither would have been possible without that 1-0 defeat of Guardiola’s all-conquering team on this day in 2012.

Fantasy La Liga picks for this weekend’s games

La Liga

This weekend sees another full schedule of LaLiga fixtures so it’s time to be getting your fantasy LaLiga selections ready!

Starting Friday night with Alaves against Real Valladolid, all 20 teams are in action with the last fixture between Real Betis and Valencia on Sunday night.

As always, we’ve taken a look at the fixtures from a LaLiga fantasy football viewpoint to help you with your picks for the weekend.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend. Continue reading

Dembele has vindicated Valverde’s trust

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There was a time, not so long ago, when Barcelona’s demanding fanbase couldn’t have cared less if Ousmane Dembele was sold or not.

Incessant newspaper headlines relating to poor timekeeping, a lackadaisical attitude and little effort being shown in training or in matches, meant that if his Barca career wasn’t hanging by a thread, then it wasn’t too far off.

That’s when Ernesto Valverde played his trump card. Continue reading

Week 32: Best 11 Players of the Weekend in Fantasy La Liga

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It was a weekend that saw Atletico Madrid close the gap on league leaders Barcelona to 9 points after Barca rested most of their first team squad in order to prepare for their Champions League match against Manchester United in midweek. But Barca will surely still win the league. Real Madrid do not play until today but given that they are 8 points clear of 4th place their Champions League participation will be assured for next season.

Below in a formation of 4-4-2 we look at the best performers in La Liga over this past weekend and see if you had any of these top performing players in your line up.

Goalkeeper: Sergio Asenjo-Villarreal

Sergio Asenjo had an important job to do even if the goalkeepers of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona earned the same points. Villarreal are struggling with relegation and Asenjo was able to keep a clean sheet and make important saves as his team beat Girona 1-0 to move 2 points clear of the bottom three. It was the clubs first clean sheet in the last 5 games.

Defender: Xabier Etxeita- Huesca

Etxeita was the defender for Huesca that really stood out at the weekend to earn his 5pts. Huesca played league leaders Barcelona, and while Barca did rest the majority of their first teamers, Etxeita remained disciplined in defence and made sure his team got a famous point against the Catalan giants. He is valued at 3m.

Defender: Filipe Luis- Atletico Madrid

It was a typical solid performance from Filipe Luis as Atletico eased to a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo to move within 9 points of Barcelona and pull 5 points clear of Real Madrid. Luis has had an outstanding season and is valued at 6.5m.

Defender: Alvaro G. Soberon- Villarreal

Soberon won’t be on many of the team of the week lists but he shored up a Villarreal defence as the team who have struggled all season got a huge result at the weekend by beating Girona 1-0 away from home. He has earned just 7 points this season and 5 of them came at the weekend. He can be bought for 4.5m.

Defender: Jeison Murillo- Barcelona 

Murillo is seldom used at Barcelona but the 26 year old was drafted into the team as Ernesto Valverde opted to rest the majority of players. It is to Murillo’s credit that he stayed focused and made some good blocks as Barca kept a clean sheet, impressive given a wealth of this team were playing together for the first time.

Midfielder: Sarabia- Sevilla

Sarabia had a fantastic game as Sevilla took on their arch rivals not only did he assist in the first goal for the club but he then scored the 2nd and Sevilla won a thrilling game 3-2 for Sarabia to earn 6pts at the weekend. The player is currently the highest ranked in midfielders with 78pts and is valued at 7m.

Midfielder: Giovani Lo Celso- Real Betis

Keeping with the Sevilla derby on the other end was Lo Celso and Betis who put in a big performance before losing 3-2. Lo Celso did score though to make it 6 goals this season and was a threat in the match.

Midfielder: Franco Vasquez- Sevilla

Vasquez has stepped up his game in recent weeks as Sevilla look to finish 4th and claim a Champions League berth. He also scored what turned out to be Sevilla’s 3rd and winning goal in the derby against Betis and earned his 4pts this past weekend.

Midfielder: Pablo Fornals- Villarreal

Fornals has earned 25pts this season and was the best midfielder that Villarreal had at the weekend earning 3pts for helping his team keep a clean sheet and keeping his midfield together as they got a vital away win over Girona. Fornals can be brought into your side for 8m.

Striker: Santi Mina- Valencia

Santi Mina earned the most points of any striker this past weekend with 8. Mina scored 2 goals as his team beat Levante 3-1 to edge closer to a Champions League spot he has a total of just 14 pts but could have a strong finish to the season and is valued at 7m.

Striker: Inaki Williams- Athletic Bilbao

Inaki Williams really helped Bilbao out at the weekend by scoring a brace as his side won 3-2 in a game that included them missing a penalty. The win was huge and Bilbao have a chance for a Europa League finish. Williams has earned 49pts and is worth 7.5

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best La Liga Fantasy Managers? If you’re up for the challenge then play www.liga-fantasy.com now!m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will constitute a failure for Barcelona this season?

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What would constitute a failure for FC Barcelona this season?

It’s certainly a question worth posing. After all, there’ll be plenty of teams that would love to be in their position at this point in the season.

And yet, supporters and those loosely connected with the club still seem to be unhappy. Continue reading

Manchester United v Barcelona – Who were the best performers for the Red Devils

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Going into the match, majority of the Old Trafford faithful would have seen this as an intense fixture against Barcelona, but also as a bonus one, given the monumental comeback they produced versus Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. Meanwhile, the La Liga champions were looking to make a potential statement, as they aim to achieve their sixth Champions League trophy in club history.

The 1-0 victory to the Spanish giants much sums up the match, where the hosts were unable to create chances and failed to complete a shot on target whilst the visitors were comfortable with the away goal and did not push badly for the second to take back to Camp Nou. On the other hand, the Red Devils were just about consistent defensively, but were not able to break down the opposition’s defence and were only allowed to create a few half chances from Barcelona’s sloppiness on the ball.

With United having a bit downfall over the last couple of weeks or so, including an unconvincing victory over Watford and a defeat Wolves away, it was more than important that the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were able to put on a hard work of a performance. Despite being the underdogs and having little squad depth, there were no excuses for the players to not put on a complete display.

Now, it’s time to take a look at United’s best performers against Barcelona back on Wednesday…

Fred

Since joining Manchester United last summer for just over £50million, Fred has had some minor issues in adjusting life to the Premier League and doing enough to show he deserves to play as a regular starter.

However, over the last couple of weeks he has began to show his quality, especially in the Champions League, where he started off with playing a crucial role in the second leg against Paris Saint-Germain to now proving he is a midfielder that is active and energetic player against Barcelona.

The Brazilian international was a really busy player in the middle of the pitch, completing 64 passes at a successful rate of 86.5%, winning five of the attempted nine duels and dribbling past two players whilst in possession of the ball. With Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic out with injures problems, it is more than fair to say that Fred had quite a good match from the start till the final whistle.

Scott McTominay

Just like Fred, Scott McTominay was another midfielder that was able to put in a good shift on both sides of the pitch and was able to keep his head up high despite the defeat. Thanks to his aerial presence and willingness to press when required, both Arthur and Sergio Busquets were unable to dictate and dominate the match to the highest level like they normally do so.

As Matic is starting to lose his legs and is suffering a massive decline throughout the season, McTominay could potentially be the long-term defensive-midfielder that the club has been looking for in recent seasons. And if not, he could be utilised as a squad player, to play in games that may need his drive and work rate, something that Darren Fletcher used to do under Sir Alex Ferguson.

As a whole, the youngster has come up with a number of bright performances this season and the one against Barcelona will be added to his collection. Being a player that came through the youth academy over the last couple of years or so, McTominay will definitely be backed by the Old Trafford faithful to have a good career at the club, whether he goes on to prove that he is good enough to be a regular starter or not.

Victor Lindelof

He may not be seen as the type of centre-back that will constantly go head to head or into a physical battle with the opposition’s forwards, but Victor Lindelof has shown his pure quality on the ball as well as his leadership ability to guide the his team-mates in defence and midfield. Once he commits to being more dominant and aggressive, he will be regarded as the club’s best defender for sure.

During the Barcelona fixture on Wednesday, the 24-year-old Swede had a busy night down the right at Old Trafford, as he was playing along Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw in what looked like a back-three formation with Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot as the wing-backs. Due to this setup, the side were able to have enough protection defensively whilst intending to counter down the flanks.

Lindelof went on to complete two interceptions, three clearances, two successful duels whilst completing 33 passes at a success rate of 84.6%, evidently proving he had a lot of work to complete on and off the ball. Had Barcelona pushed for a second goal in the second half of the match, a full review would have been provided on if Lindelof is defensively composed to be a world class defender.

Barcelona look to sell three stars this summer

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Barcelona are facing a transfer market dilemma this summer. The Blaugrana are set to complete their fourth league title victory in five seasons and have already moved to strengthen their ranks – midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax in a deal worth up to €86m.

The move follows on from last summer’s deals for midfielders Arturo Vidal and Arthur Melo, leaving the future of Ivan Rakitic – a fixture in the side since his 2014 switch from Sevilla – somewhat unclear. Yet the Croatian midfielder is one of three big-name players who could be leaving the Camp Nou. Continue reading

Fantasy La Liga picks for the coming weekend’s action

La Liga

Every La Liga team will be in action this weekend, starting from early on Saturday and finishing with a Monday night game between Leganes and Real Madrid.

As always, we’ve taken a look at the fixtures from a La Liga fantasy football viewpoint to help you with your picks for the weekend.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy La Liga team this weekend.

Goalkeeper – Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) – 11.0 million

Widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Jan Oblak has amassed 104 fantasy La Liga points this season already. Continue reading