Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Moussa Dembele

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Moussa Dembele came 6th in the Ligue 1 rankings as the best striker and he finished the season earning 65 points finishing just 1 point behind Andy Delort. The Lyon striker who helped his side to a 3rd place finish thus providing them with a chance to play in next seasons Champions League scored 15 goals and also assisted in a further 4, making him have quite a successful personal season.

Dembele is just 22 and it is interesting to see how his career has developed because even though he was born in France the wealth of his experience as a footballer is in the United Kingdom. That is because Premier League side Fulham bought him from the youth team of PSG when he was just 16. After spending three seasons with the club where he only scored 15 times he was sold to Scottish club Celtic where he fared quite better scoring 26 goals and winning six trophies with the Bhoys.

Lyon finally came in for him in 2018 and the chance to move back to France was simply too great and it would be to one of the best clubs. At Lyon in his debut season he has had a very good one, 15 goals is a fantastic return when we consider this is from just 21 starts. He did play a total of 33 games for the club last season but 12 of those started from the bench.

Dembele did not score in his first two games of the season and it wasn’t until his 3rd match that he chalked up the points although it was worth waiting for as he scored two goals in Lyon’s 3-0 win over Dijon earning him 8 points in the process. This would equal his best single match points tally which he repeated a further two times when Lyon beat Toulouse 5-1 and when they drew against Strasbourg 2-2.

His best form of the season was at the end of September and lasted for a month, scoring points in 4 consecutive games. He earned 16 points in that period.

The worst moments for Dembele came in February as he couldn’t find the net in 3 games in a row. Dembele ended the season consistently being able to earn an average of 4 points but in his last game of the season away to Nimes, which Lyon won 3-2 he wasn’t able to score a goal and didn’t earn any points.

This past season was Dembele’s best as a player and he looks frighteningly good when we consider his age. His value is 5m and that looks set to rise at the beginning of the upcoming season as he really fits into his role at Lyon.

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Was Andrew Robertson more deserving of the PFA award than van Dijk?

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Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk won the PFA award a few days ago and not many people involved in the game and fans could really disagree with that result. Given that the award is voted by professional players it simply added even more weight to the fact and in the process van Dijk has become the first defender in the Premier League to win the award since Chelsea’s John Terry back in 2005.

Still some were surprised that the award was not given to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling instead who has grown from a very good player to a World class one. He got bizarrely in the end the Young player of the year, which given he is 24 just seemed odd, and he has been around of course for many years. It felt like a sympathy vote in the second thought- but alas that argument is for another day.

Another argument that we can put to one side is why would an award celebrating the best players of the season be handed out before the season has ended? van Dijk no matter how good he has been may end the season empty handed. An argument could be that the next 2 games will not yield a different and superior player but these voting cards were given out in mid March with still 10 games left to play. Thus a player should not be judged on 75% of the season- again an argument for another day.

But something that should not be overlooked is the fact that van Dijk’s team mate Andrew Robertson was. Robertson has been superb this season and was last season too for the Reds. It is interesting why he was overlooked given how solid he has been and given that fellow ex professionals rank him so highly. Phil Neville once said that Robertson was the best left back in the world. Maybe that was a stretch, but he has arguably been the best defender in the Premier League for this season.

Robertson has had a personally brilliant season and that is reflected also in the Premier League fantasy rankings. In the defenders Robertson is currently in 1st position with 114 points and is beating van Dijk by 3 points. While both players have been rocks in defence it also worth noting that Robertson has yet to score a goal- van Dijk has 3, but at the same time Robertson is not employed to score goals. However he has incredibly assisted 11 times this season to van Dijk’s 2.

One could be cynical and say that van Dijk got the awards nod because of the huge transfer fee involved when Liverpool bought him from Southampton for £75m in January, 2018. That fee attracted instant pressure on both the player to perform and manager Jurgen Klopp- had he for example taken a gamble? In contrast Robertson joined the Reds for under £10m.

Big performances from big fee players have always attracted positivity just like they do in the negative sense when it all goes wrong, and let’s be fair van Dijk has been superb in the Premier League this season. It is also hard to argue with professional footballer players whether a certain player deserves the award or not.

Let’s just say that Robertson was unlucky this season, perhaps in the future he will get even more credit if his performances remain the way they have been.

Celtic Park Set To Host Another Epic Battle

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Celtic host Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Wednesday and the home form of Celtic in this competition is quite something to behold. A capacity Celtic Park on a Champions League night really is a special occasion and as well as giving the home side an extra spring in their step, seems to strike fear into the greatest of opposition.

Last time out, after being roundly thrashed in Camp Nou they faced a Manchester City side who were on top form and coming on the back of ten wins on the trot. The bookmakers had already written off Celtic’s chances, marking down Manchester City as 1/7 favourites and rating the hoops chances at 10/1. Moussa Dembele, who signed from Fulham in the summer, opened the scoring with just 3 minutes on the clock and this kicked off what will be remembered as another epic night as the sides slugged out a 3-3 draw. Dembele went on to claim a brace for the night, with Raheem Sterling also scoring two, although he may want to forget his own goal.

European giants such as Juventus, Manchester United and lately Barcelona have all come to Glasgow and left the city obsessed with football with nothing. In fact, Celtic, with 25 Champions League home fixtures have lost just three, drawn six and won sixteen, and if they make it seventeen against Borussia Monchengladbach, they will put themselves in a strong position for at least a third place finish.

In 2012, under Neil Lennon’s guidance, they were drawn in a group containing an all-conquering Barcelona. Victor Wanyama, who now plies his trade with Tottenham Hotspur following his summer move from Southampton opened the scoring, rising high above a static Barcelona defence to head into the net, on that memorable night. With Celtic leading 1-0, Lennon baffled the support by bringing on young striker Tony Watt who went on to score a goal he will never forget as the Hoops took a 2-0 lead. Lionel Messi did manage a consolation goal that night in the 91st minute, but once again the fortress of Celtic Park saw off another challenger.

With Borussia Monchengladbach pointless in the group, they know a defeat here would virtually spell the end of their European campaign this season. Striker Andre Hahn is expecting a no-holds barred match and is adamant that Monchengladbach will be up for the fight. Celtic on the other hand, will run out once again to a rocking Celtic Park, savour the legendary atmosphere and go all out to get that seventeenth home win.

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Barca and Bayern record resounding victories in the Champions League

Euro 2016Barcelona and Bayern Munich began their 2016-2017 Champions League campaigns with resounding victories as they each produced extremely impressive performances.

Both teams are aspiring to win a sixth European Cup title and commenced their respective quests to achieve that in a supremely confident and positive manner.

In doing so the two sides showcased their credentials as strong contenders to once again reach the latter stages of European’s football’s elite club competition, the final of which is to be held in the Cardiff National Stadium on 3 June 2017.

Barcelona breeze past Celtic

In terms of Barcelona’s potential journey to Cardiff, that started with Luis Enrique’s side inflicting a 7-0 defeat on Celtic at the Nou Camp, which represents the Glasgow club’s heaviest ever European loss.

As they have so often done since first playing together at the start of season 2014-2015, Barcelona’s forward triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez delivered an attacking masterclass to ruthlessly torment Celtic.

Whereas Messi scored a hat-trick, the 29-year-old’s sixth in the Champions League, Neymar beat Celtic goalkeeper Dorus De Vries with a wonderful free-kick and also provided four goal-scoring assists, whilst Suarez completed the scoring with Barca’s sixth and seventh goals.

Subsequently in just over two seasons playing alongside one another, the South American trio have now scored a combined 266 goals and assisted a further 128.  Equally as influential a figure for Barcelona as Lionel Messi,  Neymar and Luis Suarez are, is Andres Iniesta, who also scored against Celtic as the 32-year-old strives to become a five times Champions League winner with the Catalan giants, after helping them triumph in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015.

Ancelotti guides Bayern to impressive win over Rostov

In the latter of those four years, Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the final, after recording a 5-3 semi-final aggregate victory over Bayern Munich.  The Bavarian giants opened up their current Champions League campaign by comprehensively beating FC Rostov 5-0, as Bayern’s Carlo Ancelotti became the first man to manage seven clubs in the competition.  The 57-year-old Italian’s wealth of Champions League managerial experience was previously built during spells with Parma, Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.

Although it took almost half-an-hour for Bayern to take the lead through Robert Lewandowski’s expertly converted a penalty, thereafter they confidently dismantled their Russian opponents, with Joshua Kimmich playing a particularly prominent role.

Specifically the 21-year-old scored twice in between goals from Thomas Mueller and Juan Bernat.  In doing so, on a personal level, Kimmich capped an excellent 10-day period, during which he scored his first goal for Germany, first league goal for Bayern and first Champions League goals, after his brace against Rostov.

Atletico win in Eindhoven

Bayern’s next Champions League game is against the team who beat them at the semi – final stage of last season’s competition, Atletico Madrid, with Diego Simeone’s side also winning their first group – D – game.  In order to do Los Rojiblancos produced a typically determined and resolute display as their 21-year-old midfielder Saul Niguez’s scored a spectacular scissor kick to earn Atletico a 1-0 victory over PSV, although they were fortunate to do so.  As well as Luuk De Jong having a goal disallowed, PSV missed a penalty when Andres Guardado had his spot – kick saved by Jan Oblak.

As such each of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have enjoyed successful, albeit differing, starts to this season’s Champions League, whilst so too did Napoli.

A quartet of close contested affairs

Arkadiusz Milik scoring twice for the Serie A side in the Ukraine as they recovered from a goal down to win 2-1 against Dynamo Kiev, for whom Oleksandr Shovkovski kept goal to become the second oldest player in Champions League history at 41 years and 255 days.  The oldest player remains former Lazio goalkeeper Marco Ballotta at 43 years and 252 days.

The other game in Napoli’s group – B – was drawn 1-1 between Benfica and Bestikas as the Brazilian striker Talisca struck a superb free-kick in the last minute to equalise for the Turkish Super Lig team against his parent club.  Specifically Aguias enabled the 22-year-old to go on a season long loan to Besiktas, for whom Portugal’s Euro 2016 winner Ricardo Quaresma played an important role.

Whilst Benfica’s match with Besiktas ended in a draw, so too did the two games in Group A.

Specifically whilst the Bulgarian side Ludogrets withstood intense pressure from Basle in Switzerland to earn a 1-1 draw, that was also the same score line between PSG and Arsenal, as Arsene Wenger’s side recovered from conceding a first minute Edison Cavani goal, to equalise through Alexis Sanchez.

2016-2017 Champions League underway to an entertaining start  

Therefore whereas Barcelona and Bayern started their Champions League campaigns with resounding victories, each of the other five games played on the first night of the competition were closely contested affairs.  One match scheduled to take place but which did not was Manchester City’s fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach.

The Bundesliga club are set to be Barcelona’s next opponents in Group C on 28 September, whilst City will host Celtic on that same night.

In the interim each team’s focus will be upon domestic football commitments, whilst aiming to ensure that they enter their second group stage game in optimum form.

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Are Aberdeen Set to End the Celtic-Rangers Monopoly on Scottish Football?

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1984/85 – that’s the last time that a team other than Celtic or Rangers won the Scottish Premier League. The victors during that season were Aberdeen, and their manager? None other than Sir Alex Ferguson; or just plain old Alex as he was known back then.

Fergie led the Dons to three SPL titles in the 1980s, and that is the last time that any club has dominated Scottish football other than the Glasgow duo. Fourteen titles for Celtic and seventeen for Rangers sums up the subsequent three decades quite nicely.

But things look slightly different in this year’s contest, and while there is a long way to go yet Aberdeen look likely to push Celtic all the way.

The Dons overcame the Hoops 2-1 on Wednesday evening in an end-to-end affair to move within three points of the league leaders. Perhaps most crucially they are in better form than their most illustrious rivals, and while Celtic’s ability to blow sides away – witness their 8-1 crushing of Hamilton – is undeniable, so is their inconsistency and obvious fragility. Aberdeen will be ones to watch in the coming weeks.

So what has been the secret to the Dons’ success?

Defensively they are very strong – conceding less than a goal per game on average, while they are more than capable of finding the net themselves with nearly two goals scored per game.

Their recruitment policy has been smart too; bringing in players from the English lower leagues where both the standard and physicality of the game is similar to that of the Scottish Premiership. Guys like Jonny Hayes, Ash Taylor, Adam Rooney and now Simon Church – who joined from MK Dons on deadline day – all have quality but are capable of getting stuck in too. Add in players like Barry Robson, who offer creativity in abundance, and you have a winning formula.

They’ve got a decent manager to call on too. Derek McInnes boasts a win ratio of 56.4% at the club – the highest since Ferguson – and as a player who played at the highest level with West Brom you feel he has the experience and nous to guide Aberdeen to bigger and better things.

So Celtic had better watch out. While they’ve enjoyed a monopoly on the SPL title since Rangers’ demise, there may just be a new contender to their throne. No wonder the pressure is mounting on their manager Ronny Deila at the moment.