Why Manchester City are a reflection of Bayern Munich- could this be Guardiola’s Champions League destiny?

They say in football that there are many patterns and coincidences, like a symmetry that aligns. It feels odd when it all comes together. Like a player rejoining an old club and his first game being against his former club. A successful manager never winning the Champions League, a manager reaching a multitude of finals and not getting a win, and then there are the records and how they are broken.

For example it is very possible that this season Liverpool will win the league title playing Manchester City and that would seem apt, a passing of the torch (at least for this season), from champion to new champion.

What has felt very similar this season has been Pep Guardiola’s approach to his Manchester City side this season and his approach to last club Bayern Munich. True Bayern won the league in impressive style and that won’t be the case for City. But the manner and tactics in which the two clubs have played has been quite delightful on the eye.

After the German league restarted Bayern were simply devastating to a manner in which some are hailing them the best team in the world. Not only were they playing brilliant football, they were scoring many goals and simply swept aside every team they had to face. The league ended earlier than many expected a Borussia Dortmund challenge never sufficed.

One could say that we are seeing the same of Manchester City. Yes they won’t be able to win the league this season, but they are wanting to go out on a high. First game back they beat Arsenal 3-0 in a one sided game which saw a team as talented as the Gunners having no shots on target. And then there was the clubs 2nd game a fantastic 5-0 thrashing of Burnley. The only disappointment from that game is Sergio Aguero’s injury, but he wasn’t even on the score sheet such is the menacing talent throughout the squad.

So what does this all lead to? And what is motivating Manchester City to finish 2nd? Truth is the club are using these games to get up to peak standard for the Champions League which resumes in August. They should be able to make the quarter finals as they hold a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg. Madrid would need to score 2 goals to have any chance, and whilst they can score, can they really keep the goals down from this City side?

As for Bayern they have one foot in the next round because they are 3-0 up from the first leg over Chelsea. These two giant sides look like they will progress. They could meet before the final of course- that is the luck of the draw, but it would feel ‘complete’ somehow if they were to meet each other in this season’s final. Bayern v Manchester City, two clubs bank rolled and yet two clubs who have a lot of the philosophy and DNA of Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola knows the league is over but that doesn’t mean his team won’t be playing at 110%, as has been shown they are doing just that. But the bigger prize for them is around the corner, the Champions League it is what Guardiola desires, can he get his hands back on the famous trophy for the first time since 2011?

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Five greatest football clubs of the past decade starting 2010

As football understandably lays low for a while let’s take a look at the most successful club sides in Europe’s top leagues over the past decade.

There are different ways of doing so, points gained for example in a league, trophies won, games won, etc. This list will look at the trophies won for the most successful teams starting from 2009/10 season until the 2018/19 season, to determine which team has been the most successful.

You may have a few contenders but may also be surprised by some teams on the list, so is the club you think is the best the number 1 on this list?

Points system: Champions League = 12pts, League title = 10pts, Europa League = 8pts, Cups= 5pts, all other cups =2pts

5th: Juventus 112 pts

After being forcefully relegated in 2006, Juventus have made up for that during the past decade in Serie A winning 8 league titles in what could be described as a total domination. They have added some domestic cups too but they have failed to win the big prize in the shape of the Champions League since 1996. They will be hedging their bets that Ronaldo can finally deliver that missing piece of silverware. Still they are far and away the most successful team in Italy. Even though Inter Milan were the only Italian team to win the Champions League in the 2010s, Inter only finished our ranking with 30 points!

4th: Real Madrid 116 pts

Real Madrid were amazing in the 2010s which included winning an incredible 4 Champions League and winning 3 of those in a row. That had not been achieved since Bayern Munich in the 70s! So it was odd that Madrid sit only in 4th place and only four points above Juventus. The reason is that for all of their European glory they haven’t actuallly won many domestic trophies in the 2010s. True they still scooped up two league titles, but for their standards you take out what they achieved in Europe and you almost get the feeling of could have done better.

3rd: PSG 121 pts

Despite PSG having no wins in Europe they have dominated Ligue 1 in France winning every title since 2012 except one where Monaco surprised them. They have won countless domestic cups after they were bought in the earlier part of the decade and have dominated the league ever since. They also have an abundance of very good players who are genuinely eyeing winning this years Champions League.

2nd: Bayern Munich 140 pts

Bayern did reach 2 Champions League finals and after losing on penalties, at home to Chelsea they made up for it the year after. They have dominated the league title in Germany winning every year except one and scooped up a few domestic cups also. For a club their size they would like to add more European trophies of course but Bayern still come out as the 2nd most successful club in European football of the past decade despite this.

1st: Barcelona 150 pts

Barcelona may have played second fiddle to their rivals Real Madrid in Europe in the 2010s. But they still won 2 Champions Leagues. They also have won 7 La Liga titles which is impressive given how they have had to fend off not just Real but also Atletico Madrid who enjoyed one of their most successful decades in the history of the club. Barca fronted by Lionel Messi one of the greats of the game have been the best team in Europe trophy wise finishing with over double the points of the most successful English team which goes to Manchester City.

Notable mentions: Manchester City 71 pts, Chelsea 68, Manchester United 51, Atletico Madrid 42, Inter Milan 30.

 

 

 

From Mbappe to Aguero the top 10 best strikers in the world right now

As we have a pause in the league we have complied the top 10 best strikers in the world at this time. With leagues hopefully set to resume in a few weeks time and with about 10 games left to play not so much should change in our assessments of who has been the best strikers in world football at this time.

We have complied links to some of these players and when the leagues do start back up you may want to add some of them into your team. You will be surprised as some are still affordable and on a good budget.

To note the list is made up of strikers goals to games ratios and not how many goals they have scored so far, as that would be unfair as some players have not played the same amount of games.

10. Wissam Ben Yedder- Monaco 18 goals

Monaco have struggled over the past few seasons selling too many good players and taking the cash. So it surprised everyone when they splashed out 40 million euros on Ben Yedder and bought him from Sevilla. Maybe it was a surprise that Sevilla let him go. Ben Yedder is a classic centre forward who scores goals. He has 18 so far and has made all the difference to Monaco, who are now chasing a European finish.

9. Jamie Vardy- Leicester  19 goals

When Jamie Vardy finally leaves Leicester they will build a statue of him. He has stuck with the club through the glory and desperate times. This season though has been superb and the club have surprised everyone climbing to 3rd place and keeping it. They are on course to qualify for the Champions League and Vardy’s 19 goals have surely helped them. He is currently the top goalscorer in the Premier League.

8. Sergio Aguero- Manchester City 16 goals

Aguero gets older but does so like a fine wine and scores goals. What he does so well is get the important ones too. It hasn’t been a great campaign for City who are 25 points behind Liverpool, but Aguero has battled on. Some say this could be his last season with the club, he will leave as a club legend, no doubt.

7. Timo Werner- RB Leipzig 21 goals

Timo Werner has scored 21 goals in just 25 games as his club continue to surprise, doing well in the Bundesliga and making the later stages of the Champions League. He looks to be the next big German striker who is going to score plenty of goals in the major competitions as is only 24. A goal scoring machine.

6. Lionel Messi- Barcelona 19 goals

Messi ‘only’ has 19 goals so far for Barcelona this season, but he is still easily the top goalscorer in the league, and his games to goals ratio is still one of the best in Europe. Even at 33 he is showing no signs of letting up and his goals have meant that Barcelona are in 1st position at this moment over their eternal rivals Real Madrid and going for yet another league win.

5. Neymar- PSG 13 goals

True Neymar only has 13 goals this season but then again because of two injury lay offs he has only played 15 games. That’s when it hits you how consistent the player is. Since coming back into the team in December PSG have looked like world beaters, so not only does he score goals but he clearly influences his team mates. Still one of the worlds best.

4. Kylian Mbappe -PSG 18 goals

Mbappe has scored 18 goals from just 20 games and continues to be one of the very best strikers in the world. He is still so young and has plenty ahead of him. He has been so consistent for PSG and is genuinely one of the deadliest strikers on his day in world football.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo- Juventus 21 goals

Last season Ronaldo scored 21 goals from 31 league games. This season he has the same amount of goals from just 22 games. Ronaldo did not go to Italy to just see out his playing days and has been more than terrific at Juventus. Perhaps his time there will be defined if he can bring European glory to the club, but as a goalscorer he cannot be judged. Everywhere he goes the goals follow.

2. Ciro Immobile- Lazio 27 goals

Ciro Immobile has had an incredible season, so has his club Lazio who are looking for their first league title in 20 years. They might get it and if they do then a lot of it could well be done to Immobile’s goals. It is clear that he will get on the 30 goal marker which is quite rare in Italian football and has simply been a superb striker this season.

1. Robert Lewandowski- Bayern Munich 25 goals

One of the most intelligent strikers in world football. This season Lewandowski has scored 2 more goals than he has played (23). Bayern Munich look on course to win the league in Germany and are amongst the favourites to win the Champions League. He scores plenty of goals, and scores beautiful ones too. Keep your eye off him for a second and suffer the consequences. A stunning striker.

 

 

 

Top European clubs to have most players at Euro 2020

This will be a unique European tournament. For Euro 2020, there is no single host country, but 12 different cities around the continent playing host to matches.

Europe’s top clubs are naturally well represented at the Euros. This year’s tournament should be no exception, but which clubs are set to have the most international players involved at the finals?

Assuming all are fit and well to take part in Euro 2020, the following are our predictions:

Chelsea

English Premier League outfit Chelsea could lead the way at the Euro finals with the most representation at the tournament. A case can be made for 14 players from the Blues being involved.

Spain goalkeeper Kepa, France trio Olivier Giroud, N’Golo Kante and Kurt Zouma, Denmark and Germany defenders Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, Italy midfielder Jorginho, Croatia counterpart Mateo Kovacic, Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi, and as many as five England players, could all be at Euro 2020.

The likely inclusion of so many players from Stamford Bridge in national teams’ Euros squads is largely down to the nurturing of young talent done in West London since Chelsea legend Frank Lampard came in as manager last summer.

Bayern Munich

Bundesliga big boys Bayern Munich are always well-represented at major tournaments like the Euros and World Cup. Euro 2020 should be no exception with 13 predicted first team players set for summer duty.

Naturally, many of those are German. Manuel Neuer, Niklas Sule, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry are all in Die Mannschaft’s setup.

There are four France internationals at Bayern: Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman. As World Cup holders, Les Bleus are among the favourites at 6/1 in the international football betting on Euro 2020 with bet365.

Completing the likely Euros involvement from Munich are Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Poland frontman Robert Lewandowski, Croatia winger Ivan Perisic and Austria’s versatile David Alaba.

Real Madrid

Another of Europe’s top clubs, Real Madrid, look sure to have around a dozen of their players involved at Euro 2020. Spain makes up the biggest proportion of those with four: defensive duo Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos, midfielder Isco and winger Marco Asensio.

France duo Ferland Mendy and Raphael Varane join Belgium duo Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, who faces a race to be fit after a fractured ankle, as locks for inclusion.

Germany playmaker Toni Kroos, Wales star Gareth Bale and Croatia’s Luka Modric could be joined by Luka Jovic if Serbia reach the tournament finals.

Barcelona

El Clasico rivals Barcelona are another rich source of international footballers. Potentially on their way to Euro 2020 from Camp Nou are Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto for Spain.

France trio Antoine Griezmann, Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti, recent out of transfer window arrival Martin Braithwaite of Denmark and Portugal full-back Nelson Semedo are others set to go to the Euros.

The Catalonia based contingent is completed by Germany goalie Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Netherlands counterpart Frenkie de Jong. That makes 11 Barcelona players on course for Euro 2020.

Could Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland be the next Lionel Messi?

The talk around Erling Haaland has been so electric if as to ignite fire around just how good he is, and his recent transfer to German team Borussia Dortmund has only added to his lure.

Haaland was at it again at the weekend as he scored two goals in Dortmund’s 5-0 win over Union Berlin. Haaland has already scored 7 goals in just 3 league games for the Bundesliga side and has started in the best possible way.

His pace and vision have been exciting and pundits have praised him. In his last 25 games including playing in Austria last season he has scored 35 goals and one has to be reminded that he only 19. In that respect he looks just as exciting and thrilling as he French international Kylian Mbappe.

Talking of Mbappe Dortmund have been drawn to play PSG in the Champions League and the two players will come together in what should be a mouthwatering 2 legged affair. Normally Haaland would have been cup tied coming to Dortmund in January but UEFA changed the winter transfer rules last summer allowing a further three players to be eligible to be included in a Champions League squad.

Everyone is in agreement that Haaland could be the future star of football and that means he is going to be compared to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact with these two greats getting older the next generation needs to come along and Haaland alongside Mbappe are looking like the players to do just that.

The Norwegian national side will also be excited and if they beat Serbia in the qualifiers they could face a play off game to qualify for Euro 2020. Could it be that one day Haaland leads out Norway into a major tournament final just like Ronaldo did for Portugal? Who knows.

The first objective for Haaland will be the Bundesliga title. Bayern Munich have returned to the top displacing RB Leipzig and they have 42 points. Leipzig have 41 and Dortmund are very close behind on 39. Dortmund have been in superb form and have won their last 3 games in a row scoring an incredible 15 goals in those three games. Bayern’s biggest threat looks like being their old rival Dortmund who they beat of course in the 2013 Champions League final. Could Haaland be the final key in Dortmund’s quest for a first league title since 2012, Bayern are going for their 8th in a row.

Haaland has been so impressive already that if he scored 2 more goals he will already be joint 4th in the top goalscorers this season. The brilliant veteran Robert Lewandowski holds first again with 22. All eyes will be on German football now, well at least it would have peaked the interest of some football fans who will want to follow Haaland’s progress.

 

 

How RB Leipzig have divided German football and rose to the top

Ten years ago RB Leipzig were not even called RB Leipzig and were in the fifth tier of German football. It took a good six years to rise to the Bundesliga under the owner ship of the energy drinks company Red Bull and the team have not looked back.

The club owner Oliver Mintzlaff who is also head of Red Bull global soccer have done amazing stuff since it was determined that the tiny team from the east of Germany could play with the best teams in the country. It was going to take investment and time of course and that patience seems to have paid off.

It hasn’t come easy though, whilst setbacks are normal the club were not welcomed by certain teams. The rules of ownership in Germany differs from other countries and RB Leipzig were seen as not following traditional German football rules and that irked clubs and fans alike. There was even one time four seasons ago when Borussia Dortmund fans boycotted their away game with Leipzig and there have been numerous protests since then.

Has anything got better? Well in general it has and the club have been run like a smooth machine. It hasn’t been a vanity project either and the owners seem intent on making the club successful not just in Germany but in the Champions League, though the main goal is dethroning the mighty Bayern Munich.

This is something that the club are currently doing. RB Leipzig are top of the Bundesliga standings with 40 points from 18 games and they are four points ahead of Bayern. The other threat to their title are Borussia Monchengladbach who have 35 points. Borussia Dortmund are down to 33 points and are seven points behind.

Leipzig have done well and even been runners up in the Bundesliga in 2016/17, and qualified for the Champions League on two occasions. So what is the strategy behind the clubs success and can they finally start winning trophies?

One strategy was the club signing players who were 24 and under and trying to keep a very youthful squad. The club have not spent big on players but spent money on acquiring young talent though it was important to bring in established Timo Werner in recent times.

They haven’t won major trophies yet though they have made big splashes already. As seasons pass perhaps more respect will be given to the club, and maybe some of the fans who protested against them actually wouldn’t mind if they beat off Bayern Munich to win their first league title.

 

Are Bayern Munich focusing more on the Champions League than the Bundesliga?

Bayern Munich and winning the Bundesliga seemingly goes hand in hand but this has been a difficult season for the German champions who have sacked Niko Kovac this season after a slow start.

His replacement has been Hans-Dieter Flick who made an immediate improvement where the club climbed from 4th and are now in 2nd place and from his first 11 games, Flick has won 9 of them. His win rate is an astounding 81%, and that has proven fans and pundits alike in Germany wrong. Indeed when Flick was appointed there was a surprise because he hasn’t managed a club side since Hoffenheim back in 2005.

So what was Flick doing in that 14 year gap? Well he was the assistant for the German national team which of course included winning the World Cup in 2014, so he has hardly been on an extended holiday.

Currently Bayern are four points behind surprise league leaders RB Leipzig and it seems only a matter of time before Bayern eclipse them, or will they?

There have been quite a few stories circulating in the German media that Bayern much like Manchester City in the Premier League want to focus more this season on winning the Champions League. Bayern have not captured Europe’s greatest prize since 2013 and there is a feeling in doing so the club will reestablish themselves as one of Europe’s great teams. That they are is always questionable to an impressionable youth one that now has less and less attention spans. Perhaps they don’t see past Real Madrid and Barcelona and Bayern will want to remind everyone of their status.

The German giants have of course advanced to the knockout stages of the competition and in their two group stage matches put 10 goals past Tottenham who also managed to qualify for the last 16.

Bayern will play Chelsea in the knock out rounds which, of course, will be a repeat of the 2012 final when Chelsea scrapped through on penalties. The league of course will be important for the club but the situation as it stands is that Flick can’t really lose. He has come in to pick up the pieces and a deep run in cups and maintaining 2nd place even if they don’t win the league shouldn’t affect his job this year.

The rallying cry has been led by Philippe Coutinho who said: “We want to do our best, survive the next round and win the Champions League at the end of course. I think we have the quality.”

So if Bayern drop more points in the league which could happen once the Champions League starts up again in a months time, don’t be surprised, there is a focus and it is not on the league title this year.

 

 

Will Pep Guardiola leave Manchester City at the end of the season?

At the end of this season, Pep Guardiola will have spent four years in Manchester. He’s never coached a team for longer than three years and so many have questioned as to whether he will remain at Manchester City beyond the end of the season.

The Spaniard has already stated he will see out his contract with the Premier League club, but there’s still that small possibility that he could leave the reigning champions, despite unfinished business.

He came to Manchester to win the Champions League. He’s yet to do that, with two consecutive Champions League quarter-final exits, against runners-up on both occasions – Liverpool in 2018 and Tottenham Hotspur in 2019. If he wins the Champions League this reason, then perhaps he doesn’t have a reason to stay.

With interest coming from former club Bayern Munich following their dismissal of Niko Kovac after a thrashing defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt, rumours of a Guardiola return to the Allianz Arena have been strong.

Guardiola says he was “incredibly happy” at Bayern Munich but insists he will honour his Manchester City contract. However, we know that these things change on a day-to-day basis in football.

When asked about a potential return to Bayern Munich, Guardiola responded: “When these things appear, is it the media or the club? We don’t know. It could be one guy [starting a rumour] and then people take it.

“I like the people from Bayern a lot. I was incredibly happy there, but they know I’m a guy that respects what I sign.

“In football, when you are not getting results you can be sacked but in this case if the club [Manchester City] wants me, I want to stay here.

“It doesn’t matter if Bayern want me or not in the future. My love for the city, the club and the people I met there is incredible.

“It is the same in Barcelona because it is my hometown, but the same happened here. I have more things to do.”

The chances of Manchester City sacking Guardiola at the end of the season even if he misses out on the Premier League and Champions League is extremely slim. Therefore, the chances of him leaving the Etihad this summer is also slim. But you can never say never in football.

Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has already expressed his interest in his former coach with Mauricio Pochetinno, Erik ten Hag and Thomas Tuchel also coaches that have been named with the vacant position. And with Bayern in no rush to name a successor to Kovac with interim Hansi Flick doing an adequate job, Bayern may prove a tempting proposition for Guardiola come the summer if he does part ways with Manchester City.

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Were Bayern Munich justified in sacking Kovac?

With the dust settling and the anger and frustrations dissipated somewhat the question remains were Bayern Munich justified in sacking Niko Kovac?

Kovac was sacked at the beginning of the month after Bayern lost 5-1 at Eintract Frankfurt. This is a result that Bayern were simply not used too and it was a terrible one, but was there too much knee jerk reaction to it? After all even in defeat Bayern were just 4 points from the top of the league.

Partly the problem seems to have been the clubs position at the time which took them down to 4th. Fourth place and Bayern have a bad relationship the two simply do not go hand in hand. Let’s face it Bayern have not really trusted Kovac either. Had an experienced coach been in charge of the club that position would have been looked on back and forth to the manager, Bayern would have swallowed some pride and got on with it. In sacking Kovac who has little experience the decision would have been a much easier one.

When Kovac was sacked Bayern had won 50% of their games and lost 2 matches. The damning fact for the club was that they had won 18 points from a possible 30, continue that trend and the club would be lucky to qualify for the Champions League.

Since Kovac was sacked Bayern have won 2 games in the Champions League and Bundesliga under Hans-Dieter Flick. The most impressive was beating rivals Borussia Dortmund 4-0. That could well tell us that Kovac had lost the dressing room, if so then Bayern had little choice but to sack him.

The problem though is what were Bayern expecting when they recruited him? And it seemed from the beginning that the moment Kovac had put pen to paper and signed his contract it was the moment that Bayern woke up and thought what have we done?

Kovac’s first season did look like it would turn into a nightmare but he got fully into his job and turned it around and Bayern won the league and the cup double and he became the first person in Germany to win the double as a player and then as a coach. His win rate of 69% was also excellent.

And yet here we are and Kovac is out at Bayern after such a glorious time. All in all Kovac’s sacking seems like a very harsh decision, but at the very top of the game that is how it is now. His full time replacement may not even be needed until next summer as Flick is doing such a fine job. As for Kovac he needs to chin up because he has a bright future ahead of him.

 

Arsene Wenger’s time as a footballing coach officially comes to an end

Arsene Wenger hasn’t admitted it but he might as well and that is, he will never coach a team again.

Since leaving Arsenal in the summer of 2018 Wenger has been tipped to join various clubs and national sides, some of those stories have been nothing but rumours and some Wenger has lent his words too. He has said from time to time that he would definitely be interested in managing a club again.

Just recently it looked like he was a shoe-in for the Bayern Munich job after the German giants sacked Niko Kovac. Wenger even spoke to the club and things seemed to be moving forward and then out of the blue he landed a job with FIFA. Wenger will the head of global football development, or in other words he has been put out to rest after a career in football.

One doesn’t just land such a job, not even Arsene Wenger and it is clear that Wenger would have had talks with FIFA over a few weeks possibly months before he took on such a role. Why then when being interviewed would be continually show an interest in managing a football club again?

The reason is Wenger can’t let go of the past and because of that the past won’t let him move on. In a nutshell Wenger cannot manage another club because his emotional ties to Arsenal are too great. It’s almost romantic but makes little sense. In taking a FIFA job that Wenger will be able to do blindfolded he is simply taking steps into a comfort zone. At 70 and with a huge career behind him can he really be blamed? In a way no, but it is the way that he left coaching clubs that leaves a feeling of, was that it?

Make no mistake for his first 6 years at Arsenal, Wenger should be seen as one of the greatest coaches. But for the majority of his time at the club the Gunners could not keep that level. By the time Wenger left, Arsenal looked in tatters, does a couple of FA Cup wins really make it better for Wenger? No league title in his last 14 seasons as a manager, and in many people’s eyes he was an elite one.

Had he shown more interest and taken the Bayern job he could have had one last hurrah. People might argue but he’s too old now, he deserves his rest. The reality is that Wenger could have stayed at Bayern only until the end of the season. Trophies are there to be won. What better way to end a career with a winning memory.

In taking the FIFA job it just seems that Wenger has opted for the easier role, but will it really, in the end, give him the satisfaction he craves?