Real Madrid’s form after restart gives them chance vs Man City

Real Madrid head into the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie with Manchester City on Tuesday as one of the top in-form teams following the restart.

Zinedine Zidane’s side won their first 10 games to wrap up the 2019-20 La Liga title, prior to drawing 2-2 with Leganes on the final day.

Excluding the final game which was of little importance to either side, Real Madrid conceded just four goals in their 10 La Liga matches after a three month lay-off. A pretty spectacular performance.

They now head to England for Friday’s crucial Champions League tie away to Manchester City, needing to score at least twice if they are to progress, having lost the first leg 1-2 at the Bernabeu back in February.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the game but had to come from behind, scoring two goals in the final 15 minutes to get the first leg victory that they deserved on the night in the Spanish capital.

Manchester City themselves won’t be any pushovers – they finished their 2019-20 Premier League campaign with five consecutive victories, scoring 21 goals and conceding just once.

Though, in arguably their most important match following the restart, they were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal in an FA Cup semi-final match at Wembley Stadium.

The most important area of the second leg will simply be how well Real Madrid’s defence match up to Manchester City’s attack this time. If they can bring their domestic form over to the Champions League then they have a real chance of making it over to Lisbon for the remainder of this season’s competition.

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5 more players Real Madrid could sell this summer

Zinedine Zidane guided Real Madrid to the 2019-20 La Liga title earlier this month in his first full season back at the Spanish giants.

The French manager had an aging squad to play with but managed to blood a number of younger players, including Federico Valverde, Vinicius, Rodrygo, Eder Militao and Luka Jovic.

Next season could see further youngsters given a chance in the first team, with Martin Odegaard and Takefusa Kubo returning from loan spells in La Liga this past season.

So far the club have yet to announce any new signings but somewhat surprisingly sold Achraf Hakimi in a €40 million deal for Internazionale. The 21-year-old had looked very impressive in his two-year loan at Borussia Dortmund.

Zidane may simply be happy with Dani Carvajal and the returning Alvaro Odriozola as his options at right-back next season.

Five other players in the first team squad that I wouldn’t be surprised to see leave the Bernabeu this summer are:

James Rodríguez

Following a two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich that saw the German champions pass on the opportunity to make the deal permanent, James Rodriguez returned to Real Madrid at the start of this past season.

The Colombian made just eight La Liga appearances (5 starts) with only one of those coming after the restart. He was originally sent on loan to the Bavarians during Zidane’s first spell in charge of the club, so don’t be surprised to see him leave Madrid this summer.

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Mbappe to miss Atalanta tie

Paris Saint-Germain will be without Kylian Mbappe for their single legged Champions League quarter-final tie against Atalanta.

The game is set to be played at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on Wednesday 12 August.

Mbappe sustained an ankle injury in Friday night’s French Cup final and is expected to be out for three weeks. He left the stadium on crutches.

PSG confirmed Kylian Mbappe’s injury today, saying scans showed “an ankle sprain with damage to the external ligament.”

“The player is expected to be sidelined for approximately three weeks.”

The Parisians were 1-0 winners thanks to Neymar‘s goal in the 14th minute to claim the domestic double. Thomas Tuchel’s side were awarded the Ligue 1 title at the end of the April following France’s division to suspend play indefinitely.

Tuchel has plenty of options in attack, with Mauro Icardi and Neymar expected to be part of the front three next month. Attacking midfielder Pablo Sarabia replaced the injured Mbappe on Friday.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Mouting and Julian Draxler were both among the substitutes. The French champions will be without Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier, who both left on a free transfer when their contracts expired on 1 July.

Kylian Mbappe scored 18 goals in 20 Ligue 1 appearances (17 starts) in the disrupted Ligue 1 season, adding a further five assists. The 21-year-old scored five goals in seven Champions League appearances (5 starts).

The French Cup final was the Parisians’ first competitive game since mid-March, which could play a role in their match against Atalanta.

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Have Barcelona just conceded the La Liga title to Real Madrid?

Real Madrid are now the odds on favourites to win La Liga after Barcelona drew 2-2 at home against Atletico Madrid in an entertaining match.

Barcelona are looking at a hat trick of titles but their fierce rivals Real look like they will stop them. Barca have dominated in Spain of late winning 4 of the last five, in the last decade they have won 7 titles alone.

Whilst Real Madrid have dominated on the European scene in the last decade winning 4 Champions Leagues, including three in a row they have failed mostly on the domestic front. Though in 2017 they broke the Barca stranglehold by winning the title which is, up to this point, coach Zinedine Zidane’s only managerial league title.

At the beginning of the season with Zidane coming back and the soap opera of Gareth Bale will he won’t he leave it was thought that Real were going to experience a season of transition, however they look stun to set everyone if they can wrap up the title this season. It could well go amongst Zidane’s very best achievements of his glittering career given that many thought Madrid could be playing second fiddle to not only Barcelona but Atletico Madrid also.

As it stands Real are top by just one point but they have a game extra to play which takes place on Thursday, July 2nd. It is a home game against Getafe which they will be expected to win with ease.

Win that and they will go 4 points clear with just five games left to play. Barca have been a mess lately where they have drawn 3 of their last four games and dropped vital points. In the game against Atletico there was 3 penalties, one for Lionel Messi but Saul converted 2 goals from the spot for Atletico and that was enough to take 2 points from Barcelona. Indeed Atletico then had a chance to win the game and put even more misery on Barca.

If another clasico remained between the two clubs then the league would not feel as over as it does now. At least then Barca could stake their claim and give it one last try. But the two teams have already met each other. Real’s remaining games all look winnable and yet of course you never quite know what will happen. Lose to Getafe tomorrow and everything changes again. But for now it looks like Real are in the driving seat to win their 34th Spanish title.

 

 

La Liga is back and will kick off with the grand derby when Sevilla take on Real Betis

It’s taken 3 months but La Liga is finally returning after Covid-19 and the first match will take place this Thursday when bitter rivals Sevilla take on Real Betis.

The match between the two teams is called ‘The Grand Derby’ and it is sure to be a good encounter. Of course the edge will be taken off the game given that the league will play out the season behind closed doors with no fans. However the Bundesliga has proved that even without fans games have still been intense. For example goals are still being scored, with plenty of attacks and players are still being booked and cautioned. Of course without the fans it will never be the same, but at the end of the day many fans will be watching the games on television and getting back into the drama of football.

Currently Sevilla are in 3rd place with 47 points and whilst a top two position looks out of reach the club will have to continue to win games to qualify for next seasons Champions League. There is just 2 points between Sevilla in 3rd and Atletico Madrid in 6th position and it is clear that Sevilla have no given right to a top 4 place. As for Real Betis they are in 12th place with 33 points and 9 points behind a Europa League place and losing pace so they will probably need something from this game.

Betis come into the match with mixed form with just 1 win from their last five games although they did win their last match before the pandemic put an end to proceedings. However that victory was a fantastic 2-1 win over Real Madrid. As for Sevilla they are on a 4 game unbeaten run and have lost just two games at home this season.

And who will win La Liga? Only Barcelona and Real Madrid can win the title now and Barcelona have 58 points whilst Madrid are just two points behind on 56. At the weekend Barcelona will be away to Real Mallorca whilst Madrid will take on Eibar at home. Of course both teams will be favourites to pick up all three points but they could also be rusty. However what has been impressive in Germany has been Bayern Munich who have actually looked sharp and fantastic as if the break had never occurred so it will be interesting to see how the two giants in Spanish football react.

The first games back in La Liga will be spread over four days starting on June 11th until Sunday June 14th. The league has another 11 games left to play.

 

 

Unheralded Sergi Roberto continues to prove his worth for Barcelona

Sergi

Due to his incredible adaptability to operate in so many different positions, such as a central midfielder, winger or fullback, and his undoubted all-round quality, Sergi Roberto continues to prove his worth to Barcelona.

And under Quique Setien’s tenure, he’s shown what a vital asset he is to the tactically sophisticated technician’s plans, with him giving his manager much flexibility as to how best deploy him and his team in general.

Operating at right back, a role he’s now extremely familiar with, for Barca’s crunch clash with Getafe, Roberto once again put in shift littered with upside, in a match where he notably scored his first league goal since 2017.

Despite Barcelona dominating possession for large chunks, third placed Getafe still posed a major threat offensively with their transitions, physicality and nous upfront. So Roberto had to be on his game to handle this threat, which he was, dealing with whatever came his was quite comfortably indeed.

Facing off against talented Barca loanee, Marc Cucurella, Roberto certainly won the battle, for he defended with conviction and awareness to keep his adversary quiet. Good in 1v1s, tracking runs attentively, strong in aerial duels and timing his challenges cleanly, the 28-year-old hardly put a foot wrong, thus ensuring Cucurella struggled to have his usual impact.

When not directly marking Cucurella, Roberto remained positionally secure, as he’d recognise when to tuck infield to ensure compactness, step out, drop back, shift across or support his defenders.

The fact he chimed in with eight ball recoveries, three interceptions, two clearances and won two aerial duels punctuated his strong output.

Meanwhile, on the offensive side of things, Roberto was customarily assured in possession, stroking around the ball tidily to connect, construct and break the lines when the opportunity arose. Two footed and boasting fine vision, the Spaniard’s ability to remain unfazed by pressure to combine with his teammates to get away from danger or to find the free man was a big plus against Getafe’s fierce pressure.

Image 1 - Superb incisive pass to play in a teammate

Superb incisive pass to play in a teammate

Without question, however, his most striking contribution came from his wonderful forward bursts. Curling and timing his runs superbly so he could remain onside while exploiting the blindside of his marker, he added valuable width and depth to Barca’s attacks. Credit must go to the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Antoine Griezmann especially, for they drew their trackers narrow to generate openings for Roberto to explore.

Image 2 - Brilliantly timed blindside run in behind

Brilliantly timed blindside run in behind

Image 3 - Sublimely timed run in behind to take advantage of the space

Sublimely timed run in behind to take advantage of the space

Image 4 - Wonderful depth run as he catches Getafe off guard

Wonderful depth run as he catches Getafe off guard

Image 5 - Cucurella getting drawn inside which frees up Roberto to receive

Cucurella getting drawn inside which frees up Roberto to receive

Image 6 - Providing a great outlet for the switch

Providing a great outlet for the switch

Indeed, his goal offered a glowing testament to his aptitude here, with him angling his out-to-in blindside run smoothly to evade his marker before finishing with aplomb on his left foot.

Image 7 - Fantastic blindside run to get free before finishing

Fantastic blindside run to get free before finishing

Some other ways he unbalanced Jose Bordalas’ men came courtesy of his slick underlapping runs and rotations with Griezmann, which posed dilemmas for Getafe on who should mark who. His high and wide positioning also saw him available for quick switches of play, where he often found himself in a 2v1 overload with Antoine Griezmann or a 3v2 superiority to get at the away team.

Image 8 - Helping form a 2v1 out wide with Griezmann

Helping form a 2v1 out wide with Griezmann

Image 9 - Forming the free man as Barca form a 3v2

Forming the free man as Barca form a 3v2

When looking at his offensive numbers, and they were solid too, as he completed 41 of 46 attempted passes, five of six attempted passes into the box and final third, two shot assists, two dribbles and two touches inside the box.

After yet another accomplished display by the regularly unheralded Barca utility, this will do wonders for the heavily derided figure’s confidence, who regularly comes in for rather harsh criticism.

With such a massive period ahead that includes the Clasico against Real Madrid, their Champions League tie with Napoli and a tough contest with Real Sociedad, you can guarantee Setien will value his presence no matter where he decides to deploy him.

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Fantasy LaLiga picks for this weekend’s action – Madrid derby takes centre stage

This weekend sees another full list of LaLiga clashes as Madrid prepares for the derby when Real host Atleti on Saturday afternoon.

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games as you decide on what changes, if any, to make in fantasy LaLiga.

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

Goalkeeper – Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao) – 5.5 million

Unai Simon is the third-highest scoring goalkeeper in fantasy LaLiga so far this season but far cheaper than Thibaut Courtois and Jan Oblak. Simon is on 55 points.

Defender – Yuri (Athletic Bilbao) – 3.0 million

The highest-scoring defender is another incredible bargain at just 3.0 million. Yuri is another Athletic Bilbao player.

Defender – Yeray (Athletic Bilbao) – 2.0 million

A good cheap defender and another Athletic Bilbao bargain! Yeray is a great choice for many fantasy LaLiga managers.

Defender – Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid) – 7.0 million

Daniel Carvajal is enjoying some consistency at right-back this season for Real Madrid and is one of Los Blancos’ cheaper options.

Defender – Diego Carlos (Sevilla) – 6.0 million

Sevilla’s Brazilian centre-half is enjoying a strong season so far with Sevilla.

Midfielder – Daniel Parejo (Valencia) – 8.5 million

Parejo, the Spanish playmaker, having another fine season at the Mestalla.

Midfielder – Ruben Garcia (Osasuna) – 4.5 million

Five goals and one assist from Osasuna’s midfield makes Ruben Garcia one of the surprise packages of the LaLiga campaign so far.

Midfielder – Santiago Cazorla (Villarreal) – 5.5 million

Veteran midfielder Santi Cazorla only returned from long-term injury last season. He has been in great form for Villarreal.

Midfielder – Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad) – 5.0 million

The 20-year-old Norwegian star who is still owned by Real Madrid has a huge future in the game. Martin Odegaard has performed brilliantly this season.

Forward – Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 20.0 million

Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d’Or last week. The Argentine wizard missed the first few weeks of Barcelona’s season. Messi looked to be coming back to his best with two goals in the Copa del Rey during the week.

Forward – Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) – 10.0 million

Karim Benzema is ensuring no-one forgets about him in Zinedine Zidane’s new-ish Real Madrid squad.

Team in full (4-4-2): Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao); Yuri (Athletic Bilbao), Yeray (Athletic Bilbao), Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid), Diego Carlos (Sevilla); Daniel Parejo (Valencia), Ruben Garcia (Osasuna), Santiago Cazorla (Villarreal), Martin Odegaard (Real Sociedad); Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Total cost: 77.0 million

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Top fantasy LaLiga picks as Barcelona prepare for tough tussle at Valencia

This weekend sees another full list of La Liga clashes as Spanish football’s top flight settles in for the second half of the season.

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games as you decide on what changes, if any, to make in fantasy LaLiga.

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

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Top fantasy La Liga picks for this weekend’s action in Spain

We have another full schedule of LaLiga games coming up in Spain this weekend.

It’s time to look ahead to the upcoming games as you decide on what changes, if any, to make in fantasy LaLiga.

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

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Best 11 players in La Liga week 19

We are officially at the halfway point of the Spanish league season and the favourites to win the league, Barcelona and Real Madrid are both locked on 40 points with Barca on top due to goal difference.

We take a look at the players who performed this past weekend in La Liga, who made the cut for the best 11 and who didn’t?

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois- Real Madrid 7pts

The spotlight has been on Courtois since his move to Madrid but this season he is amongst the very best goal keepers. Along with four others he was able to earn 7 points for his clean sheet. But he gets the nod as Madrid played a local derby in beating Getafe as the club won 3-0.

Defender: Raphael Varane- Real Madrid 9pts

What a weekend it was for Raphael Varane who kept a clean sheet in the Madrid derby as his team won 3-0. But what nobody was expecting was that he scored 2 goals in the game and was the main reason his side won and strolled in the end to victory. Varane is currently 4th in the fantasy rankings and can be bought for just 8.5m.

Defender: Daniel Wass- Valencia 6pts

Daniel Wass was at the heart of everything and had a very good game as Valencia beat Eibar 1-0 and are now in the top six. He would have picked up more points but he got booked in the game.

Defender: Daniel Carvajal- Real Madrid 5pts

This was another solid game for Carvajal in defence as he was able to help his side to a clean sheet with a 3-0 win at Getafe. The defender is currently the best in La Liga fantasy rankings and has 50 points so far and is just 7m to buy.

Defender: Domingas Duarte- Granada 5pts

Domingas Duarte has proved to be one of the surprise defenders this season and is doing well week in and week out. He helped his team secure a 1-0 win over Mallorca and kept a clean sheet in doing so as the club propped up the table.

Midfielder: Luka Modric- Real Madrid 6pts

The world player of the year in 2018 was dominant in midfield as Real Madrid beat Getafe and to top it off after the club were 2-0 up he put the win beyond doubt by scoring a 3rd goal, which was ironically his 3rd of the season.

Midfielder: Manuel Trigueros- Villarreal 4pts

Trigueros has only scored 10 points all season and 40% of those came in this match as Villarreal beat Real Sociedad 2-1 away from home. The midfielder opened the scoring for his side after converting a penalty.

Midfielder: Santiago Cazorla- Villarreal 4pts

Sticking with Villarreal is Santiago Cazorla who came on as a substitute on the hour mark and then won the game for his side with a goal as the club ran out 2-1 winners.

Midfielder: Angel Correa- Atletico Madrid 4pts

Midfielders did not have a great weekend in La Liga with the average best scores of just 4 points. Correa gained his after his side beat Levante 2-1 and he opened the scoring which set the game up for his side.The player has earned 29 points so far this season.

Striker: Luis Suarez- Barcelona 6pts

Luis Suarez is still scoring goals as his team Barcelona drew 2-2 with Espanyol in the derby game. Suarez scored the equaliser for Barca and the teams first goal which ended up setting them up with a point at least to go home with. Suarez is the 3rd best striker in the league so far and has scored 11 goals.

Striker: Enes Unal- Real Valladolid 7pts

But the best striker this past weekend goes to Enes Unal who bagged 7 points as his side drew 2-2 with Leganes. Both times Valladolid were a goal down and both times Unal scored to get them back in the game. He is valued at 5.5m and has scored 3 goals so far this season.

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