Umtiti’s selfishness could cost Barca

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Samuel Umtiti is going to have ‘conservative’ treatment on his persistent knee problems in a bid to cure them, rather than resorting to surgery.

The Barcelona centre-back has clearly been short of his best this season, and one can deduce that it’s due in no small part to those ongoing issues.

To that end, it’s surprising that the French World Cup winner, when the problem first became apparent, didn’t immediately go under the knife and ensure the problem was resolved once and for all. Continue reading

Looking back to how Cristiano Ronaldo emerged as a centre-forward at Real Madrid

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On the 4th January of 2016, a new era began at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Zinedine Zidane was announced as the new manager of Real Madrid on a two-and-a-half-year deal. The departure of Rafa Benitez was simply inevitable, as his short and unconvincing time at the club had to come to an end.

At the time of the announcement, there were a lot of mixed thoughts on the decision made by Los Blancos, with the majority being filled with excitement as the Frenchman aimed to extend his legacy at the club by bringing in success as a manager. However, the rest of the footballing world felt the appointment was a huge risk, with Zidane lacking managerial experience and tactical knowledge.

During his time as the coach of Real Madrid, Zidane went on to one La Liga title, three Champions League trophies and one Spanish Super Cup as well as a number of individual awards. The European dominance along with winning the club’s 33rd league title in 2017 would not have been possible had the coach kept Cristiano Ronaldo on the left flank instead of moving him up top as a lone forward.

Focusing more on Ronaldo, he first started to acknowledge this new role under Benitez, when Karim Benzema was suffering from a few injury issues. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner faced a number of problems whilst playing in this position, with the main one being the side was not built around him, and Benitez’s defensive style of play did not work well with Real Madrid’s free-flowing system.

On the other hand, once Zidane was introduced into the managerial picture, Ronaldo became the perfect number nine in Europe due to his movement on and off the ball and his pure instincts. The best example to show that he adjusted to a new approach and style is the 3-0 victory over rivals Atletico Madrid in November 2016, when his hat-trick summed up his growth as a centre forward.

The 4-4-2 diamond formation got the best out of both strikers in Benzema and Ronaldo, with the former playing as the deep-lying forward who would combine with the midfielders, whilst the latter would remain in the final third of the pitch and come up with the goods for when his side needed him the most. Overall, the improvements became evident as the trophies started to come in.

Ronaldo’s transition from being a dazzling winger to a dominant and ruthless forward became much easier, when Portugal coach Fernando Santos started playing him up front alongside either Ricardo Quaresma or Luis Nani. Playing in the same role as well as a similar formation at both club and international level has allowed the Madeira-born star to adapt and thrive within this new change.

It’s definitely not easy to pick out an international game that proved Portugal were on top of their game and the opposition. Though, the most recent and memorable competitive fixture that comes to mind is the World Cup match between Portugal and Spain, where Ronaldo’s incredible hat-trick allowed his team to pick up a vital point early in the tournament as they went past the group stages.

Throughout the closely-watched game, Portugal were defensively sound and composed to a certain level whilst Ronaldo’s influence on the pitch gave Santos’ men some hope that they would get something out of this match. In the end, the test of patience pulled through as Portugal earned themselves an invaluable point and Ronaldo went on to steal the headlines for the next few days.

Overall, it is fair to say that two to three managers have helped Ronaldo to become the centre-forward he is today. Although he is playing as a left-winger for Juventus at this moment of time, the Italian side will be relying on his individual brilliance in strike as the Serie A and Champions League campaign goes on, especially given that they are aiming to complete the treble this season.

Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #27 – Asif Norat on Man Utd

EuroFantasyPodCover700x300Jamie welcomes Asif Norat along for the Premier League section of the show before later being joined by Dave for Serie A & La Liga.

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Lionel Messi’s season so far for Barcelona has been very impressive

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Some may believe that Lionel Messi arguably the greatest player of his generation if not all time is having  a quiet season so far with Barcelona. It has been a testing summer of course after Argentina were knocked out of the World Cup by eventual winners France in the last 16, and failure seemed to follow Messi around in Russia.

The transfer window saw the departure of Andres Iniesta from Barca, a player that Messi has relied on for the past decade for his sublime touches and passing of the ball. Now Messi has had to link up better with the likes of Ivan Rakitic and his trustworthy lieutenant Sergio Busquets. Is Messi also a little in mourning of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus- that rivalry seems to have calmed now that the players are plying their trade in different leagues. Perhaps there isn’t that push to do well anymore against one another. Something that could be reignited if the two teams meet in the Champions League.

The league could well be Barcelona’s most difficult challenge in a while. Whilst Real Madrid have significantly dropped off other rivals have taken their place and Barcelona find themselves in 2nd place but all around them are the likes of Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and let’s face it Real still remain a danger.

Still if some think that Messi is going quiet then they haven’t been watching much of La Liga this season. He has 9 goals in the league and has scored 14 goals this season in 14 games, even at 31 he is not slowing down. He is sure to break his 600 club goals this season too. Currently he is in 2nd place in the top goalscorers chart and with 6 assists he is top of the pile in Spain.

Messi is also playing well for the team, dropping back when he needs to, scoring great goals and assisting well. Truth is nothing much has changed at the Nou Camp even if it has at the clubs direct rivals Real Madrid. Next month will be about pushing on for the club who apart from having to play Espanyol in the derby away from home they seem to have a good fixture list.

There is still a recklessness about the team in part, due to their attacking mode but they still look like the best team in Spain. Messi won’t win the Ballon d’Or this year after missing out on all of the top prizes in a season where his club won the domestic double. But he will be thinking about next year and capturing that title once more along with a few others too.

Just 6 points separate Sevilla in 1st place from Girona in 7th in exciting season for La Liga

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What a season it has been so far in the Spanish La Liga title race. Instead of, as in recent seasons Barcelona or Real Madrid taking off and not being seen for dust, both teams have had their struggles in recent weeks and the league remains wide open as we approach December- when is the last time we could say that?

Indeed take away Atletico Madrid’s superb title win in 2014 and there hasn’t been a different winner of the league apart from Barca and Real since the 2003-04 season when Valencia won it. What is also interesting is since then Barcelona has only failed to finish in the top 2 places in one season. In the last 14 years, 11 have finished with either Barca or Real Madrid taking the first two spots.

Of course the quality of football has been superb- even spellbinding at times and no one can argue against that. But for competitive games the Spanish league sure has come up short and we have been left with the same old song and dance of the majority of teams not just being able to challenge for the league but being so far from the top and the league title having that sinking feeling that it is virtually over by Christmas. Not so this season.

The first surprise is seeing Sevilla top of the league, not because they are a poor team but just the fact that it isn’t either Barca or Real sitting there. It is to put it mildly a revelation. Of course Barcelona are right there in 2nd place just a point behind but then again they have Atletico Madrid and Alaves breathing down their necks. And then there is the curious case of Real Madrid, Ronaldo less and showing it in 6th place. The team that have won an incredible 3 Champions League’s in a row won’t be in next seasons competition if the league was to end now.

It’s incredible to think how the league has simply opened up but then again some of the other teams namely Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have plugged away, bought well in the summer and made their threat real. But there has also been change at the super clubs. Andres Iniesta leaving Barcelona was certainly a big deal. Cristiano Ronaldo leaving for Juventus was a big change for Madrid who had become so reliant on him for the past decade. But also Real have suffered the departure of Zinedine Zidane, brought in Julen Lopetegui, sacked him and replaced him with Santiago Solari- for them it is the mid 2000′s all over again.

Realistically some of the teams will fall away and both Barcelona and Real Madrid should be able to find the form to mount a reasonable title challenge. But the likes of Atletico and Sevilla look like they will be sticking around for a while yet and could cause between them a major shock this season in Spain which nobody would have saw coming before the beginning of the season.

Barcelona do and don’t need Ousmane Dembele

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So the story goes like this, Ousmane Dembele Barcelona’s 100m euro signing missed training. He had a stomach bug and needed to rest at home. The problem just like any other normal job is that Dembele did not call his employers to tell them of his absence immediately and with everyone wondering where he was he finally phoned a reported 90 minutes later. Further more when Barcelona sent their doctor over to Dembele’s house he had dramatically recovered from his bug- Dembele had not only been found out he had also shown his grave immaturity.

Dembele who is just 21 has been criticised this season after his big money move from Borussia Dortmund last year. A move that only came about because Antoine Griezmann rejected Barca’s advances and stayed with Atletico Madrid. The criticism of Dembele on the pitch does seem harsh. One has to be reminded that he is only 21, and has had injuries that have stopped him from having frequent games. He has scored some goals- not enough for a forward but his goals have either been important ones or spectacular ones. And anyway it is clear that Dembele won’t be a 25 goal a man goal scorer, he’s a luxury player that will put in more assists than goals.

The finger has been pointed at Dembele because of the money involved in his transfer fee from Dortmund to Barcelona, which was indeed insane. Dembele at that point considering the market value should have been half of what Barcelona paid to the Bundesliga club. But they believed, he was worth it and went ahead.

Dembele on the pitch despite the critics is doing a calm and calculated job, he’s certainly not the finished product but neither was Lionel Messi at 21. If he is given the time in 2-3 years Dembele could be a solid regular in this side. But that’s if he is still at the Catalan giants.

Respect goes a long way at any huge club, because there are millions of kids not in Dembele’s position who would give everything to be there and who would not have missed training without a valid excuse. It’s a real shame this new state of affairs and it has been reported that Dembele has now been given an ultimatum by the club- any more mishaps and he will be sold.

And Barcelona would do that just, the problem of course is that they will lose a lot of  money on the player who actually has a buyout clause of 400 million euros. That would of course be waived and the reality is that Barcelona would be hard pressed to get 50m for him, a massive loss of around 55m in just 18 months.

Hopefully Dembele can see the error of his ways. For now Barcelona are ready to forgive him and put it down to the stress of being at a high profile club for a 21 year old. The media pressure on Dembele can’t be easy, granted. One hopes that he realises the unique position he is in, if he doesn’t then he deserves to be discarded no matter how good he is on the pitch.

Diego Simeone needs to leave Atletico Madrid

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If you look at this decade alone and name 5 brilliant managers surely one of them has to be Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone. The Argentinian has been in charge of Atletico since 2011 and has achieved some incredible results with the perennial underdogs.

In a league such as La Liga that contains the two best teams in world football in Barcelona and Real Madrid his achievements with the club cannot be underestimated. He has won 7 major trophies with Atletico which includes the title win of 2014 and the team have got to 2 Champions League finals- both lost to their eternal nemesis Real Madrid. But in Copa del Rey’s and the Super Cup they have also exacted their revenge. They have knocked Barcelona out of two Champions League campaigns and this season have already beaten Real Madrid 4-2, and let’s not forget their 2 Europa League titles.

Under Simeone Atletico are experiencing their greatest achievements and no matter what happens he will go down as a legend with the club. And he still has pulling power- that’s most of the reason that French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann has stayed with the team, even when Barcelona have come calling and would easily spend £100m on the player. Simeone has made Atletico believe that they are invincible and for the most part his fantastic managerial tactics have been spot on. However after 7 years, which will be 8 years in 2019 in charge, is it time for Simeone to leave the club?

At just 48 Simeone does have time on his hands, at least another 20 years at the top but surely if he doesn’t leave Atletico soon he could become the forgotten man. He has won everything with the club apart from the Champions League, but he has nothing left to prove, and yet he still searches for more trophies. It is clear that he wants to add another Spanish title to Atletico’s history and of course make up for the two final losses in the Champions League. But he should be free to walk if he so chooses.

The time feels right for Simeone to branch out at pastures new. The Premier League has shown hints of wanting him to coach over there, how Manchester United perhaps could use his services right now. Arsenal were reported to be interested a few seasons ago but that has gone with Unai Emery in charge now. Over in Italy there is Inter Milan who have struggled since Jose Mourinho left the club in 2010.

If Simeone wants to be known as one of the greats, well you can’t do a Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger anymore. It makes sense to leave and prove your worth elsewhere. What is sure is that the lucky team that gets the pleasure of working with him, will surely benefit, and yes it could well be the saddest day in Atletico Madrid’s history when he finally does decide to leave, but leave at one point he must.

 

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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La Liga Weekend Picks – Round 12

parteyWith a full card of action scheduled in La Liga this coming weekend, let’s take a look at which players are worth consideration for inclusion in your fantasy teams over the next few days. With some nice fixtures coming up such as Sevilla doing battle with Espanyol, Celta Vigo hosting Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid hosting Athletic Bilbao (on Saturday) there will be plenty to keep you entertained between Friday and Sunday, so without further ado we will adopt a 4-3-3 formation this week and get cracking!

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La Liga Best XI – Week 11

ponsThis past weekend saw a couple of cracking games in La Liga, with Real Betis and Celta Vigo fighting out a thrilling 3-3 draw while Barcelona earned a hard-fought victory at Rayo Vallecano, triumphing 3-2. That win means the Catalans retain their three point lead over local rivals Espanyol at the top of La Liga, while Vallecano are four points adrift from safety, sitting second bottom. With that in mind, let us now take a look at which 11 players performed the respective roles the best in La Liga this weekend.

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