Ligue 1 -Player of the Week- Kylian Mbappe

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Kylian Mbappe scored both goals as PSG beat Caen at the weekend in what was a tougher match than expected for the current French champions, and he has emerged as our Fantasy player of the week.

Mbappe collected a cool 8 points with his two goals which now puts him on an overall points tally of 107 pts. Not only was Mbappe the player of the week but he is the leading player in Fantasy Ligue 1 and is a massive 27 pts in front of Lille striker Nicolas Pepe and his team mate Edinson Cavani.

Mbappe is just 20 years old and what has been incredible is how he has been able to adapt himself so well and shown so much consistency it’s as if he has been playing football at the top level for the past 10 years.

Not only is he leading the Fantasy Ligue 1 rankings but he is also the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 with 24 goals to his name already. He has already surpassed his best season goals wise which came with his former club Monaco in the 2016/17 season when he scored 15 league goals. Overall that season he was able to net 26 times but this season he has 29 and could well have 40 by the end of it.

It’s not just about goals for Mbappe though and he has assisted in 5 goals, with his vision and his pace no defender wants to really go toe to toe with him, and it is clear that Mbappe is one of the best players in the world, and possibly as an out and out striker could well be the best centre forward, even at 20. In that relation he reminds one of the Brazilian Ronaldo who burst onto the scene 23 years ago. Both players share that pace and a willingness to go for goal without hesitation.

If you don’t have Mbappe in your team, perhaps you should do and he can be bought for 10.5m his current value. That is 2.5m cheaper than Cavani who has 7 goals less than him. Indeed Neymar cost 14.5m and that’s 3m more than Mbappe, although to be fair Neymar has missed the past month and could be out until April, so injury has hampered his season performance.

What has also been impressive with Mbappe being in first position is that he has received 3 yellow cards and 1 red. Whilst Pepe and Cavani in 2nd and 3rd place have no cards against them and yet Mbappe still has a huge lead over them.

Mbappe has scored 5 goals in his past 3 games and looks the favourite to be the top goal scorer this season in Ligue 1. For 10.5m he is proving to be not the only the best player of the week in France, but currently the best player in Ligue 1.

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Walter Mazzarri Is Back At His Best

Liverpool v Torino - Pre-Season Friendly - AnfieldWhen Walter Mazzarri was appointed as Torino boss last January, I Granata were languishing on the outskirts of the mid-table and were a side without a clear identity. Fast forward a year later and Torino have become one of the toughest teams to break down in the peninsula and are now pushing for a spot in next year’s Europa League. While Atalanta have received all the plaudits for their offensive football, Mazzarri’s 
side are their antithesis, and sit on 38 points alongside Gli Orobici. 

After a failed stint in England that saw his contract terminated at the end of his first season, Mazzarri’s reputation took a hit. Long gone were the memories of his Napoli side  that, along with Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, pushed the envelope beating the likes of Juventus, Inter, and Chelsea in the process. Instead, unsuccessful tenures with Inter and Watford came to define the Italian tactician. That’s why his move to Torino was so important. Back with the familiarity of the Italian mid-table, Mazzarri could finally be himself again after years of trying to be someone he wasn’t.

Since assuming the reigns at the club, Mazzarri has steadied the ship and has made the most of the roster at his disposal. Using his trademark 3-5-2, the former Napoli tactician has transformed Andrea Belotti into a more complete striker, beyond what the stat-sheet might show. At the back, Armando Izzo, who arrived in the summer from Genoa, has been Mazzarri’s undisputed leader and has led by example. Alongside Nkoulou and Moretti, the trio have formed one of the league’s most solid partnerships at the back and have only conceded 22 goals – a feat only bested by the current top four.

In fact, in their last five games I Granata have managed five clean sheets beating the likes of Inter and Atalanta, and held Napoli to a stalemate. Torino also have their keeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank in large part, as the Italian international has played his best football since his Palermo days. After an inconsistent couple of years in Paris and a few loan moves, Sirigu has once again emerged as one of the nation’s top shot-stoppers and has been in top form this season.

Factor in Chelsea loanee Ola Aina’s industry and creativity from the left wing along with De Silvestri’s experience and veteran leadership, and Torino are one tough side to score on, let alone beat.

Mazzarri’s Torino is very similar to any of his past sides that he’s had success with. A compact trio in the midfield, a dangerous duo up top complimenting each other, all-while relying on a resolute defence. We’ve seen this before. With Tomas Rincon acting as the midfield hard-man, as his ten yellow cards would suggest, Daniele Baselli and Soualiho Meité are able to get forward to supply Iago Falque and Belotti. As a whole, Mazzarri’s Torino come together as a real force, and are proof that the sum could be greater than its parts.

Whether or not they qualify for the Europa League remains to be seen as the competition is fierce, however, if Torino have showed us anything this season, it’s that Walter Mazzarri is truly back at his best and it’s wonderful to see.

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Can PSG go the whole season in Ligue 1 unbeaten?

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More or less PSG have been absolutely dominant in the French Ligue 1 since 2012 and their massive takeover which has seen the club win 6 out of the last 7 titles in France. Millions have been spent on some of the greatest players to have graced the game in recent years. The likes of Zlatan Ibramhimovic, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and a new starlet in Kylian Mbappe have passed through their doors.

However it is this season that just feels different under new coach Thomas Tuchel. The reason is evident when you glance at the league tables. Yes it is no surprise to see PSG in 1st position, but they have played 14 games so far and won 14. It’s like a PlayStation game that went very wrong in a kind of excellent way. 42 points means that their nearest challengers Lyon are 15 points behind and the league in effect looks over before December.

We should also be reminded that their nearest rival Lyon were soundly beaten 5-0 last month by the Parisians. They are just that good that no team in France seems to be able to touch them. And yet of course in previous seasons it felt the same way until they would lose a surprise game away from home. This past weekend that almost happened. Not so much that the team would lose but even drop their 100% win rate. The team was Toulouse and with an important Champions League game coming up against Liverpool, both Mbappe and Neymar did not play and PSG edged to a 1-0 nervous victory.

PSG certainly have it within them to not only go unbeaten the whole season but to win every game, it would be a massive achievement even if some critics would point and suggest that the French league is not strong. Well tell that to Premier League champions Manchester City who in 2 games against Lyon both home and away failed to beat the team and conceded 4 goals along the way.

Ligue 1 is not the strongest league in Europe of course but it is far from weak, all it is missing is some wealthy owners to give PSG a run for their money (pardon the pun).

PSG’s real tests will come as the season progresses. How will they react if they are knocked out of a cup competition, especially the Champions League? The league is theirs that is basically assured now, but it is a question of how long they can continue their dominance this season which is most fascinating. Europe will be looking on in anticipation that is for sure.

Thomas Meunièr: PSG’s marauding right-back

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iThe footballing world is like a maze which keeps throwing new dimensions and nuances for all those who love the game with all their heart. Just when you believe that you finally know it all and have mastered the game, there is something which the game throws up at you leaving you in a state of daze and confusion.

How many of you are familiar with the fact that one of the greatest legends of the game- Ian Wright almost opted to give up on the game at one stage in favour of a regular profession? That’s certainly accurate although it seems unbelievable in nature. Wright almost decided to become a plasterer at one stage before his heart reigned supreme over the min gifting the footballing world an absolute genius.

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Mbappe loses appeal and will miss PSG clash with Reims

mbappe3France international Kylian Mbappe has lost his appeal against the red card he received at the start of September and will now sit out a third game, ruling him out of Paris Saint-Germain’s clash with Reims this week. The Ligue 1 leaders – already five points clear at the top, ahead of Lille – will likely stick with a front three of Edinson Cavani, Neymar  and Julian Draxler in the 19-year-old’s absence. Mbappe had been sent off in PSG’s 4-2 win over Nimes on September 1, after lashing out at Teji Sevanier. Sevanier was also banned – for four games in his instance – for his part in the fracas. Mbappe has begun the season in scintillating form, scoring four goals from his opening three appearances.

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Edinson Cavani- PSG’s Silent Guardian

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edinson-cavani-julien-cetout-nancy-paris-sg-ligue-1-15102016_pbiajfj0ae0b1uq9idydk0c53Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis was in a state of deep despair at the end of the 2009-10 season following the side’s dismal show in the Serie-A. Napoli finished 6th on the league table with just 59 points, trailing league champions Inter Milan by 23 points despite investing a record sum for the services of talented striker Fabio Quagliarella. The local lad failed to make his presence felt racking a tally of just 11 league goals at the end of the season.

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Liverpool remain a force in the Champions League

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Anyone who thought that Liverpool’s march to Kiev last season was a flash in the pan will be eating their words after their performance against one of the favourites in the competition, Paris Saint-Germain.

A final score of 3-2 doesn’t really tell the whole story because the Reds were on top for long periods. With Anfield in full voice, European nights don’t really come much better than this. Continue reading

Is Adrien Rabiot the real thing?

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960Hardly a couple of weeks have passed since the summer transfer window slammed shut with the world-record transfer of Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea hailed as the pick of the signings. Surprisingly, the footballing world is abuzz with concrete news reports linking the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona and Juventus with a possible move for a PSG-based player. However, what makes it all the more interesting is the fact that these reports do not involve high-profile players like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Marco Verrati for once. The player being referred to is none other than French midfielder Adrien Rabiot who only has a year left on his existing club contract.

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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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Neymar and Mbappe are ready to make PSG the best team in Europe

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They say that the world’s very best players will hit the ground running no matter where they play and that can be true of both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe who had a very successful debut season together in the 2017/18 Ligue 1 campaign.

PSG won the domestic treble and Neymar and Mbappe scored 49 goals between them as the Ligue 1 title was wrapped up in super quick time. It all looked so very easy, which does take away from the greatness of this duo. Although there would be disappointment yet again in the Champions League. With Mbappe now becoming a full time member of PSG the level of the side is about to rise once more.

PSG were a strong side without the duo, headed by a sterling midfield which has the likes of Angel Di Maria and Marco Verratti, and the supreme strength of striker Edinson Cavani to bang in the goals. But the purchase of Neymar a world record from Barcelona for over 200m euros and then Mbappe who was finally bought this summer from Monaco after a season long loan spell for around 150m euros, PSG now have the deadliest at least on paper striker force in the world. Except the theory has turned into a reality, these two players already are sharing a special bond and a superb chemistry together.

Now compare the problems that Neymar encountered with Cavani when he arrived and the two clashed more than once over who was going to be taking the penalties, it was childish but it also showed that Cavani did not want to be walked over and taken over after spending so many seasons in Paris. The reality is that Cavani could well be squeezed out of the squad but the power duo a tag that is starting to follow Neymar and Mbappe around the French media.

And the two players have picked up where they left last season, PSG have played 2 games, scored 6 goals and 4 of them have come from Neymar and Mbappe, who share 2 goals a piece. Neymar has scored in each game and after being rested for their opening game, Mbappe was unleashed on Guingamp in the 2nd week and scored 2 goals when Guingamp had taken a shock lead.

The status of PSG has risen to star power with these two supremely gifted players, Neymar despite his play acting in this summer’s World Cup is still one of the best players in the world and Mbappe is arguably the best teenager in the world. It is just getting better and better for the champions, and the next step inevitably has to be winning the Champions League.

Ultimately that is where the two players and PSG will be judged by the mainstream, and it looks difficult to look past the team if these two players keep their form and hit their targets. European teams including current champions Real Madrid should be afraid, very afraid.