Should Pique be dropped?

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Gerard Pique remains a world class defender, however, does that make him un-droppable for Barcelona?

In the recent past, the elegant Catalan will be the first to acknowledge that he’s not been at his best for his club side.

A dip in form is only to be expected from time to time, but should a player then be taken out of the firing line or allowed to work through it? Continue reading

Tottenham need more than Kane to beat Barcelona

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Injuries to key players in Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side couldn’t have come at a worse time for the north Londoners.

If losing Dele Alli wasn’t bad enough, to hear that Christian Eriksen, Serge Aurier, Jan Verthongen and Moussa Dembele were out too would likely have sent even the most optimistic Spurs fan into meltdown.

Hugo Lloris returns in goal in one bit of good news for ‘Poch,’ who will be heavily reliant on the talismanic Harry Kane doing the business. Continue reading

Defensive issues remain a concern for Barcelona

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Barcelona slipped to their first La Liga defeat of the season in midweek, going down to a shock 2-1 loss to struggling Leganes.

Ernesto Valverde’s side remain top of the table, as Real Madrid slipped to a 3-0 defeat away at Sevilla, but he will be concerned with their leakiness in defence.

The defending La Liga champions have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last four domestic games, including wins over Huesca and Real Sociedad, a draw with Girona and the loss to Leganes.

The former Athletic Bilbao boss has rotated his back four in those games, with injuries and suspensions forcing his hand at times.

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France’s youthful defence defies the doubters

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France secured their place in the World Cup final with a 1-0 semi final win over rivals Belgium, and Didier Deschamps’ now face their third ever final in the competition.

Les Bleus were earmarked as amongst the favourites to win the World Cup before a ball was even kicked in Russia, however a low key group stage performance dampened expectations.

A VAR-assisted win over Australia, followed by an unconvincing win over Peru and a dull 0-0 draw with Denmark saw the French through as Group C leaders.

However from there on they have excelled, putting themselves a clear favourites to now win their first World Cup since their victory on home soil in 1998.

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Samuel Umtiti renewal Barcelona’s most important signing

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Barcelona are constantly linked to a string of big-name signings. In fact, the front pages of Catalan-based sports papers El Mundo Deportivo and Diario Sport regularly splash their front page with a story on the Blaugrana pursuing a new signing every day of the week.

Many of these are based more on fiction and the need to fill column inches, especially during the close-season. The truth is that Barca have already made their most important signing of the summer transfer window: renewing the contract of central defender Samuel Umtiti. Continue reading

World Cup 2018: Griezmann and Giroud provide goal threat for France

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It is now time to take a look at another favourite for this summer’s World Cup in Russia. Following on from last week’s assessment of European champions Portugal’s chances, this week we are looking at the very team Portugal beat in the final of Euro 2016. That team, of course, is former world champions France, who are seeking their first World Cup triumph since winning it in their own back yard in 1998 – 20 years ago this year. If that isn’t a fact that makes you feel old, then I really don’t know what will. If France don’t win either this tournament or the Qatar 2022 competition, they could well be planning their own version of Three Lions discussing 30 years of hurt.

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Barcelona set for record equaling La Liga and Copa double

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Barcelona have the La Liga title within their grasp, as the Catalan side need just three more league wins to make completely certain of their first title since 2015-16.

The goals and talismanic performances of Lionel Messi, alongside the enduring brilliance of Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, alongside outstanding seasons for Paulinho and Samuel Umtiti  have put Barcelona top of the pile.

The manager Ernesto Valverde also deserves great credit, for his intelligent management of the summer transfer window, his tactical moderations of a great side and his ability to cope with the pressure that comes with this role.

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Barcelona set for squad rotation in April

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Barcelona remain on course to win the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles this season, but manager Ernesto Valverde will need to do some tinkering.

The Catalans have won the treble three times before, in 1958-59, and famously under Pep Guardiola in 2008-09, and again under Luis Enrique in 2014-15.

However given the tame predictions of how they would fare under Valverde this season, at the start of the campaign, this season could be the biggest achievement yet.

The former Athletic Bilbao boss has diligently redeveloped Barcelona’s tactical approach, as their Golden Generation enters their thirties, and a need for new blood emerges.

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Umtiti absence could rock Barca hopes

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When Samuel Umtiti limped out of Barcelona’s weekend draw against Celta Vigo, fans of the Catalan giants feared the worst. Such was the hysteria surrounding the French international’s injury, the initial reports in the Catalan sporting press suggested he would be ruled out for 14 weeks before the injury layoff was later revised down to two months. Nonetheless, his absence will be significant for the Blaugrana and he will miss this month’s El Clasico clash with Real Madrid.

The Cameroon-born defender has started 19 matches for Ernesto Valverde’s side this campaign and he has proved a rock at the heart of their defence. Across their opening 14 La Liga fixtures and Champions League group games, Barca have only conceded eight goals and have kept 12 clean sheets – defensive numbers in-line with Europe’s very best. Continue reading