Football expert and pundit Guillem Balague has revealed that Hazard is Madrid ’s main target for the summer and that the Meregues were not interested in the services of Pogba.

Pogba’s dwindle form has been a subject of debate – as many that include some former United legends believing that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho his playing the Frenchman out of position.

The former Juventus sat out the Red Devils’ 2-0 FA Cup win over Huddersfield last Saturday due to reported illness, and has also been substituted in United’s defeat at Spurs and Newcastle.

And with pressure mounting over Pogba’s future ahead of the summer, Balagues has revealed that Madrid “do not the money to finance such a deal when they buy their main targets this summer.”

Balague said Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and either of Hazard’s country man and club mate Thibaut Cortouis or David De Gea remain Madrid’s primary summer targets.

On the rumours surrounding Pogba, Balague told Sky Sports : "It is normal that when things are not perfect with the superstar of a big club, stories emerge in the media.

"Regarding Pogba, a leak to French publication L'Equipe suggested he wants a different position on the pitch to improve his performances.

"When reports like that emerge, don't be surprised that reports claiming Real Madrid want him soon follow.

"But they don't, they do not have the money to finance such a deal after they buy their main targets this summer. Perhaps more importantly, Real president Florentino Perez does not view him as a target."

"Hazard, Courtois or De Gea are the big names Real want at this moment in time," he added.

"Other targets may appear depending on their performances over the rest of the season or at the World Cup. That is how Real operate.”

The Spaniard concluded that Madrid had the opportunity of bringing Pogba to Spain for cheaper price in the past which they rejected and doubted if the Los Meregues would be ready to get a deal for the Frenchman now that he would cost more.

"I will tell you an interesting story about Pogba and Real Madrid. When he decided to leave Manchester United he was offered to Real Madrid B for €100,000.

"The coach of the team at the time told Florentino: 'Bring him to me when he cost €100m'.

"Well, Pogba does cost more than that now, but he is not the player they want for next season," he concluded.

 

 

 



Published in Transfer Rumors

SpotkickNG

 

As the most memorable aspect of February rolls around (sit down, Valentine’s Day), spotkick’s trusted pick up their crystal balls and cast their predictions on which teams will remain when 16 gets trimmed to eight in the Champions League:

Ola Fadahunsi 

Man City vs Basel

City have been one of the best sides in Europe this season; the tie with Basel should be a banana peel.

City, duh! 

Juventus vs Tottenham

Spurs made a good statement by topping Madrid in the group stage but Juventus' experience in Europe should see them above the North London side.

Juve to knock out Spurs

Porto vs Liverpool

The oddity here is Liverpool qualifying if history is anything to go by. But I will still stick with the Merseyside Red.

Liverpool for me

Real Madrid vs PSG 

Madrid are going into this tie with little or nothing to lose as many have written them off - thus putting enormous pressure on PSG. I doubt PSG's ability to contain this pressure even with their star-studded side led by Neymar: last year's exit to Barcelona at this stage is a perfect example.

I still think Real will qualify.

Chelsea vs Barcelona

The Blues' strength playing Barca over the years has been how solid they've been at the back but this year’s tie will be different - as Barca's strongest household has been their back line and when you sync that with what Messi and Suarez can offer upfront, Chelsea will bow out in style.

Barcelona to progress

Sevilla vs Manchester United

Consistency has been a problem for the two sides but i think United have more than enough to deal with whatever Sevilla would be throwing at them.

United to go through. 

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Roma

An even tie. Against all odds, Roma made it pass group stage - topping both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but if you've been a follower of the UCL for years, you'll know how dangerous Shaktar can be in games like this. As a lover of history, I'll give it to Shakhtar

 

Kunle Ajao

Juventus v Tottenham

Spurs have delivered much better than expected in this season’s competition, after underperforming in the previous campaign. They topped a group that comprised Dortmund and Real Madrid, and their 3-1 win over the latter was mighty impressive. Juve, though, have pedigree in this competition, and have been finalists for two of the last three seasons. They’ve been here and done it before more times than their opponents at this stage. With both sides possessing formidable defences and midfields as well, it might well boil down to which striker, in Harry Kane and Gonzalo Higuain, will have a better day.

Juventus to just about sneak through. 

Basel v Manchester City

There’s no doubt who the overwhelming favourite is for this one, Man City have looked impeccable most times this season. Basel were impressive in qualifying from Group A, beating Manchester United on the way, but have lost Manuel Akanji and Renato Steffen to the Bundesliga. They might spring a surprise, but this looks a hard ask.

Barring a shock, City to go through 

Real Madrid v PSG

The tie of the round, the game that is most likely to determine the future of both managers. For Paris Saint-Germain, it’s finally a chance to prove they can roll with the elite after all the years of spending, especially with last year’s capitulation to Barcelona still in the memory. Real Madrid, meanwhile, have their whole season riding on this.

PSG to make the last eight for me

Porto v Liverpool

This tie seems finely poised, pitting two teams who’ll equally fancy their chances of progress. Liverpool’s front three, despite the departure of Philippe Coutinho, has been one to envy, even if Sadio Mane’s form has dipped recently. Their defence still leaves much to ponder, though, and Porto will look to capitalise on any slackness. But Liverpool’s best form of defending has been attacking, and it has worked so far.

Will be no straightforward task, but Liverpool should progress

Bayern Munich v Besiktas

No prizes for guessing the favourite here, Bayern haven't quite looked the same since Jupp Heynckes took over from Carlo Ancelotti, with only one defeat in all competitions since September. Besiktas do have an experienced, if not ageing, squad which helped finish top of Group G, but that also owed a big part to Cenk Tosun, whose January departure is a big blow.

The odds look overwhelmingly on Bayern Munich

Chelsea v Barcelona

This seems like the most ill-timed meeting of them all, Chelsea’s form having dropped massively, and not helped by Antonio Conte’s constant complaints over transfer dealings. Barcelona have lost just once since that supposedly-crushing Super Cup defeat in August. Philippe Coutinho is cup-tied, but Ernesto Valverde’s side are still favourites in this tie, if not the whole competition.

Barcelona to make progress here.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma

Roma were impressive in finishing top of a group that involved Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. But they haven’t been at their best lately in Serie A, and have slipped well out of the title race. Shakhtar are just as impressive a side, and have previous when it comes to the two teams meeting at this stage, they beat the Giallorossi in the last 16 in 2011.

Roma to qualify, just about. 

Sevilla v Manchester United

Sevilla are still searching for that first Champions League quarter-final appearance. They came close in 2008 (losing to Fenerbahce) and last season (eliminated by Leicester), but this looks like the hardest task of all. Jose Mourinho is a master at negotiating ties like this, and only the most courageous would bet against United going through, particularly with this being perhaps their most likely chance of silverware.

Manchester United to progress

 

Shehu Idris

Basel v Manchester City 

Does this actually need a prediction. Better luck next time Basel. A full scale hurricane is coming Basel's way, perhaps they shouldn't even bother showing up for both legs but, in Ed Sheeran's voice, "What do I know?". 

Juventus vs Tottenham

This is like a classic ole battle between an old, experienced and embittered war veteran and a young, greenhorn who's shown that his youthful exuberance can bleed giants to death if allowed. I'm tilting towards the green-necks from North London they should handle the Old Lady pretty easily. 

Porto vs Liverpool

This should be easy for Jürgen Klopp's men, they'll do it on both legs and if by deeds of their typical Liverpool-ism they don't, take this prediction as a tongue-in-cheek bluff. 

Real Madrid vs PSG

We'll plumb this pseudo-big club money sack with over-pampered players who're only there because of the jiggling coins it has in coffer. Real Madrid to progress, yes of course. 

Bayern Munich vs Besiktas

It’s hard for anyone to not see Bayern progressing here 

Chelsea vs Barcelona

Chelsea are but a sorry shadow of their true selves currently, with their coach a 'Noob Saibot' of his usually maniac, football-loving self and against a Barcelona side that haven't lost in the league this season and have Lionel Messi? May God have mercy on them. Barcelona to progress. 

Sevilla vs Manchester United

Sevilla struggled under Eduardo Berrizo, are still struggling under Vincenzo Montella, plus this season has been what they projected it will be. Manchester United will help see to that. United to ease pass them. 

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Roma

Who are these ones? Me, I'm tired ooo. Anyway, Roma to progress.

 

So, according to we at spotkick.com, the potential quarter finalists are:

Barcelona 

Manchester City 

Manchester United 

Roma

Real Madrid 

Juventus 

Bayern Munich 

Liverpool

Keep in mind, keyword, ‘potential’,  there’s not many things as humbling as seeing a seemingly genius and iron-clad prediction go all kinds of wrong.

 

Feel free to disagree with us in the comments section.

Published in International Watch

Manchester United signing of Alexis Sanchez during the winter transfer window is a big blow on Rashford ’s future, saysJamie Redknapp.

The 21-year-old, who busted into limelight in the 2015-16 season last made a top-flight start for the Man U on Boxing Day.

With competition for the wide attacking positions from the likes of Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Jese Lingard, the arrival of Sanchez from Arsenal in the winter transfer has further pushed Rashford down the pecking order.

Writing for skysports, Redknapp, who believes the Red Devils made a good deal in bringing Sanchez to the Theatre of Dreams believes the Chilean arrival at the club could cause a major blow to Rashford development.

The former Liverpool and Tottenhamm Hotspur player believes Sanchez will always get the nod of Rashford irrespective of the Chilean performance

Redknapp wrote: “I don’t blame Manchester United for bringing in Alexis Sanchez. His wages are expensive, but you would normally have to pay around £70m for a player like that in the current market.

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“They have dodged the transfer fee and signed a winner who will give them fantastic energy and quality.

“On the other side of it, though, I can’t help but feel disappointed about what it does to a player like Marcus Rashford. Some would say great players like come and go and you’ve got to get on with it, but the bottom line is that Rashford has now dropped down the pecking order.”

He explained further: “… Due to his {Sanchez} reputation and the fact he has been bought by the manager, Sanchez will always go ahead of Rashford whether he is playing better or not.

“It’s the hardest thing for a young English player.

“You feel like you are just getting to the top of the pecking order and then suddenly, bang, it’s like a sledgehammer hits you.

“Your club have signed a world star.”

Since making his debut for United in 2016, Rashford has registered 29 goals in 108 appearances for the 20-time league champions – scoring seven of those goals this season.

The 15-time capped English international missed United’s 1-0 loss to Newcastle United at St. James Park earlier today.

 

Published in International Watch

10 Memorable UEFA Champions League Last 16 Ties

Thursday, 08 February 2018 17:02

Claps hands Tony Stark style circa ending of Iron Man 3 (Just go with it, okay!), it’s February. Yup, the second month of the year, when we enter crunch time in the football season. When managers who haven’t been sacked announce that they’ll leave at the end of the season, and when UEFA Champions League football returns.

The time when, as ITV commentator Clive Tydesley said, ‘the Champions League becomes the European Cup again’, as the knockout football takes centre stage. And there have been some rather tasty ties in the first knockout round over the years, so, with one eye on next week’s resumption, here’s 10 of the classic match-ups in this round:

Porto v Manchester United (2004)

Rather fitting that we begin with the tie in which Tydesley gives his ‘European cup’ quote, as Manchester United, having toped their group with little fuss, met in the last 16, a Porto team that narrowly escaped the group phase, and their up and coming manager Jose Mourinho (the good old days then) had a chance to pit his wits against the mighty Red Devils and Sir Alex Ferguson.

It was no gain saying United were favourites, and midway through the first period Quinton Fortune would give them the lead. But two goals from Fortune’s fellow South African Benni McCarthy, one in the first period, and the other in the second, meant Porto would take a 2-1 lead to Old Trafford in a fortnight, a game where United would be without captain Roy Keane, who was sent off at the Dragao, much to Fergie’s incandescence.

United were still favourites to go through nevertheless, and in the first half of the second leg, Paul Scholes would give them the lead, and the midfielder was unlucky to see the offside wrongly deny him a second. It stayed at 1-0 for most of the game, United as it stood would go through on away goals, until the last minute, when Dmitry Alenichev was fouled just outside the United box. McCarthy’s free-kick was pushed away by Tim Howard, but Costinha was on hand to turn home the equaliser, sparking Mourinho’s famous touchline run at Old Trafford. Porto would go on to win the tournament, and some 14 years later, Mourinho is now the home manager at the Theatre of Dreams.

Chelsea v Barcelona (2005)

Well, Mourinho again. Clive Tydesley again. After his European triumph (or triumphs) with Porto, Jose left for Chelsea, where he got tagged the ‘Special One’. The Blues were top of the Premiership and flying, while Barcelona were also ahead of the rest in La Liga when both sides clashed at the Camp Nou in the first leg. Chelsea took the lead through a Juliano Belletti own goal, an advantage they would take to halftime. But things took a big swing in the second period, when Didier Drogba was sent off for his lunge on Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. The hosts pressed home their numerical advantage, as two goals in five from Maxi Lopez and Samuel Eto’o meant they would go into the second leg ahead.

But the Blaugrana would be caught unawares and left shell-shocked after 19 minutes of the return leg, as Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff all got on the score sheet to give Chelsea a three-goal lead on the night (4-2 on aggregate). Barcelona were left reeling, and in need of a lifeline, which they got after Paulo Ferreira’s handball in the Chelsea box enabled Ronaldinho to score a penalty, one which Petr Cech came close to saving. But Cech could do nothing about what happened just before halftime, as an outrageous Ronaldinho toe-poke from the edge of the box put the scoreline at 3-2, and Barcelona ahead on away goals. Chances would fly at both ends in the second half, Eto’o guilty of missing one, while Joe Cole also fluffed his lines for Chelsea. But the Blues would get back in the aggregate lead with 12 minutes left, John Terry heading home Lampard’s corner to put them within touching distance of the last eight. Barcelona sought another reply, but found none, and for the first time since the competition was renamed, no Spanish side would be in the quarter finals. For Chelsea, it was delight, as Mourinho joined the players’ celebrations after the final whistle, as Clive Tydesley declared that who could stop the Blues from European glory. The answer came in semi-finals, in the form of a familiar face in Liverpool.

Werder Bremen v Juventus (2006)

Werder Bremen had made history in the group stages, as they became the first side to lose their first three games and still qualify for the knockout phase, and in this round of 16 tie they struck first, Christian Schulz giving them the lead at home Juventus. But the Old Lady turned things around, and goals from Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet had them leading with eight minutes left. Bremen, though, showed the resolve they demonstrated in their group, and late strikes from Tim Borowski and Johan Micoud gave them a first leg advantage.

That advantage was doubled 13 minutes into the second leg, Micoud again the scorer, as Bremen started to dream of the last eight. Trezeguet grabbed an equaliser in the 65th minute, but Fabio Capello’s side needed one more to go through. It didn’t seem forthcoming, Juve seemed stuck and on the verge of elimination, until Bremen’s goalie Tim Wiese caught a corner in the 88th minute, and his histrionic roll led to the ball slipping out of his hands and into the path of a grateful Emerson, who rolled the ball into an unguarded net, and rolled the Bianconeri into the next round, much to Wiese’s horror.

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich (2007)

It was the resumption of the international rivalry between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, as they were pitted together for the fourth time in seven years. Real had triumphed in two of the previous three, and were in mood to lay off here, Raul giving Los Blancos the lead after just 10 minutes. That lasted only 13 minutes, however, as Lucio’s header pulled Bayern Munich level, but Real would take a 3-1 lead into halftime, Raul adding his second before Ruud van Nistelrooy got on the score sheet himself. Bayern looked in real trouble in the tie, but gave themselves a huge lifeline with two minutes left, Mark van Bommel’s shot handing the Bavarians two away goals in a one-goal loss.

And they took advantage quite literally as the second leg begun, an error from Roberto Carlos led to Roy Makaay scoring the fastest ever Champions League goal, and Real were chasing the game from the off. Bayern added another not long after the hour mark, Lucio repeating his first leg trick to give Los Blancos a mountain to climb. Van Nistelrooy would pull one back from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute, but they would have a goal disallowed after, Sergio Ramos the guilty party, as they bowed out of the competition at this stage for the third year running.

Fenerbahce v Sevilla (2008)

It was uncharted territory for Fenerbahce in 2008, as Sari Kanaryalar, under Brazilian manager Zico, negotiated a group involving Inter Milan, PSV and CSKA Moscow for a berth in the last 16. The Turks had been making an impression in the competition, and against Sevilla, backed by a raucous Sukru Sarakoglu crowd, took a 17th-minute lead through Mateja Kezman. Sevilla had also been impressive themselves, beating Arsenal to top spot in Group H, and levelled just six minutes after through Edu Dracena’s own goal. Fenerbahce went again and retook the lead, Diego Lugano’s thumping header just before the hour mark sending the home crowd to cacophony once again, but once again Sevilla wouldn’t lie down, and Julien Escude dragged them level again, 10 minutes after Lugano’s moment. The hosts, though, ensured they would finish with a first leg advantage, as substitute Semih Senturk grabbed a winner three minutes from time.

The second leg was just as action-packed, and less than 10 minutes had been played when Sevilla scored twice, a brilliant Dani Alves free-kick and a Seydou Keita thunderbolt put them on course for the last eight, then Frederic Kanoute added a third for the hosts, after Deivid pulled one back for Fenerbahce. But Fenerbahce and Deivid weren’t about to throw in the towel, and the Brazilian scored his and his side’s second with 10 minutes left, to force extra-time.

No goals came in the extra half-hour of football, which meant the tie would be decided by penalties. The first kicks of both sides- Kanoute and Wederson- were successful, but next weren’t, as Escude and Edu both missed. Ivica Dragutinovic and Mehmet Aurelio both scored to make it 2-2 in the shootout with three played each, but Sevilla’s next takers would fail, as Enzo Maresca and Alves were both denied by Volkan Demirel, either side of Kezman scoring, to send the Turks into their first ever Champions League quarter-final.

Real Madrid v Liverpool (2009)

Real Madrid had lost in four successive last 16 ties coming into this, they hadn’t had the best season so far, already dismissing Bernd Schuster and hired Juande Ramos, and for some reason, signed Julien Faubert on loan from West Ham (old, but still shockingly gold). Liverpool, meanwhile, had reached at least the semis in three of the last four seasons, and were locked in a title race in the Premier League. The Reds took a deserved 1-0 win in the first leg, thanks to a late header from Yossi Benayoun, and were in the driving as Real came to Anfield for the return.

Back in Merseyside, Liverpool went guns blazing, and by halftime they were two up (three on aggregate), Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard (from the penalty spot) putting them within touching distance of the next round. Gerrard added another with a lovely side-foot finish just a minute after the break, before Andrea Dossena put the gloss on the win. 4-0 on the night, 5-0 on aggregate, yet it was proof of how much more it could have been to recognise that Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas had a very good game.

Milan v Barcelona (2013)

When the draw for this tie was made, it looked a no-brainer, Milan had been less than impressive all season, and had the deficiency of Zenit St. Petersburg to thank for making it this far, while Barcelona had lost just twice all season before this first leg. But the Rossoneri produced a performance worthy of the tales of Catenaccio, defending superbly and took the lead just after halftime through Kevin Prince Boateng, and that lead was doubled late on by Sulley Muntari to give Milan a first leg advantage.

Barcelona knew they had a job on their hands in the second leg, no team had ever lost a first leg by two goals without scoring and qualified. But they got off to the perfect start at the Camp Nou, thanks to none other Lionel Messi, and the deficit was halved after four minutes. Barcelona rode their luck towards the end of the half, as M’baye Niang broke free one-on-one with Victor Valdes, only to hit the post, and right away, straight down the other end, Messi added a second, and the scores were level on aggregate with three-quarters of the tie played. Barcelona began the second period as they did the first, and David Villa made it 3-0 on the night, and 3-2 on aggregate, before Jordi Alba added a fourth in stoppage time to seal the tie. History was made, and a precedent was sent for some four years later.

Sevilla v Leicester (2017)

Leicester had defied football logic to win the Premier League in 2016, and transferred their fairy-tale powers to Europe, to advance to the first knockout phase of this competition last season. Opponents Sevilla were seeking a first quarter-final appearance and dominated the first leg, Pablo Sarabia and Joaquin Correa scoring to put them in control. But the Rojilblancos had missed a penalty much earlier in the game, and late on Jamie Vardy pulled one back for Leicester, an away goal to take back to the King Power.

By the second leg three weeks after, Leicester were lining up with a new manager, Claudio Ranieri had been sacked after the first leg loss, and was replaced by assistant Craig Shakespeare. The Foxes had won their first two domestic games under the new manager, and took the lead here through skipper Wes Morgan. Leicester were now level in the tie, and ahead on away goals, but they would take an outright lead in the second half, through Marc Albrighton. Sevilla, despite being reduced to 10 men after Samir Nasri saw red, had a chance to level on aggregate after Franco Vazquez was fouled in the box by Kasper Schmeichel, but, like the first leg, the penalty was spurned, Steven Nzonzi the guilty party this time, his week effort saved by Schmeichel, and Leicester held on for a heroic win, and a place in the Champions League quarter finals, less than 10 years playing in the English Third Division.

Manchester City v Monaco (2017)

There weren’t many ties as anticipated as this one when the draw was made back in December 2016, as it pitted Manchester City, a side with a manager that prides on attacking football, against Monaco, a youthful storming through the French first division and had amassed 100 goals by February 2017.  It was City who made the early inroads in the tie, and took the lead through Raheem Sterling, but goals from Radamel Falcao and teenage forward Kylian Mbappe ensured Monaco would go into the break in the lead. Falcao missed a penalty at the start of the second half, but made amends with an impudent chip, not long after Sergio Aguero had pulled City level. Aguero would restore parity once more with a well-taken volley, before goals from John Stones and Leroy Sane gave City a 5-3 first leg win.

Prior to the second leg, city manager Pep Guardiola had emphasised Monaco’s attacking prowess, and therefore the need for his side to score at Stade Louis II, and so named an attacking line-up. It didn’t quite work out for the visitors though, and by the half-hour they were deservedly two down, Mbappe and Fabinho with the goals that put Monaco ahead in the tie. City improved in the second half, and with 20 minutes left, Sane pounced on Danijel Subasic’s save from Sterling to make 2-1 to Monaco on the night, but 6-5 to City on aggregate. City were back in the driving seat, but Monaco weren’t done yet, and from Thomas Lemar’s free-kick, Tiemoue Bakayoko got in front of Aleksandar Kolarov to guide in the header. There would be no more goals, as Monaco went through on away goals after a 6-6 aggregate scoreline, on their way to an impressive semi-final achievement.

PSG v Barcelona (2017)

Of course. Perhaps the greatest ever Champions League last 16 tie, one that’s still fresh in the mind, and will live long in the memory. Both sides had been having under-par campaigns, and were on course to relinquish their domestic titles, but PSG were in a more questionable state, and Barcelona were still regarded as favourites for the European title. On the evidence of the first leg though, it was nothing like that, Le Parisiens had a night to remember on Valentine’s, outplaying, outthinking and outmuscling Barcelona, by halftime goals from Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler had them 2-0 up. They would add two more after the break, Di Maria getting his second, and Edinson Cavani wrapping things up. Surely the tie was over.

There was still a second leg to be played, but Barcelona had a lot of ground to make up, and no team had ever erased a four-goal first leg deficit. But they got off to a flyer, Luis Suarez pouncing on some uncertainty from PSG goalie Kevin Trapp to put Barca ahead on the night, and by halftime they were halfway to the comeback, Layvin Kurzawa’s own goal making it 2-0 on the night. Luis Enrique’s side began the second half as they did the first, and following a Thomas Meunier ‘foul’ on Neymar (yes, this column is still bitter and thinks it wasn’t one), Lionel Messi stepped up to make it 4-3 on aggregate. Barcelona had the wind in their sails, but things would take a different shape soon after, as Cavani made it 3-1 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate, and had Barca needing three more goals. The home crowd were deflated, and only some profligacy from Di Maria and Cavani prevented PSG adding more goals, the tie seemed over. But in the 88th minute, Neymar curled home a free-kick, then Luis Suarez was supposedly fouled by Marquinhos (again, still bitter), and Neymar converted the penalty in stoppage time. Now it was 5-5 on aggregate, but PSG were ahead on away goals, until the last minute, when Neymar’s cross into the box was turned home by Sergi Roberto, sparking mayhem across the pitch, the dugout, stands, commentary boxes and broadcast studios as well. Barcelona had done the impossible and erased a four-goal deficit. It was the kind of turnaround that makes one think their names were already written on the title for 2017, not to be knocked out in the next round by Juventus, although it was the latter that happened. 

Published in International Watch

The former Manchester United and England striker has described Ruud Van Nistelrooy as the best finisher he had seen in the Premier League and chose Argentine international, Carlos Tevez as his favourite strike partner.

Wayne Rooney played with Van Nistelrooy for two seasons (2004 – 2006) with the former Netherland international recording 95 Premier League goals in 150 appearances – he also played alongside his ‘favourite’ from 2007-2009 with the two {Rooney and Tevez} sharing over 40 goals between each other in the League from 2007-2009.

Rooney alongside Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Rooney alongside Ruud Van Nistelrooy

 

Rooney with Carlos Tevez
Rooney with Carlos Tevez

 

Speaking on Monday Night Football, Rooney, who was not short of quality strikers In his 13-year stints at Old Trafford – as he played alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Louis Saha, Dimitri Berbatov, Robin Van Persie to mention a few, described Ruud Van Nistel Rooy as the best finisher he had seen in the Premier League and said Carlos Tevez was his favourite strike-partner.

“We suited each other’s {himself and Tevez} games.

“We worked off each other. It must have been horrible for defenders to have faced us, because we were just in their faces.

“When he signed, there was talk we wouldn’t have been able to play together, but we hit it off,” Rooney, who adds that Nistelrooy is the best finisher he has seen in the EPL said on MNF.

“Ruud Van Nistelrooy was the best finisher I have seen in the Premier League. Even if we won by four or five goals, he would just sit there on his own, gutted. He was fantastic.

The United great also picked the overhead kick against rival Manchester City at Old Trafford as the best goal of his career.

Rooney with the overhead kick goal that condemned City to a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in 2011
Rooney with the overhead kick goal that condemned City to a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in 2011

 

“The size of the game, City were going for the league it was one of the worst games I have played to be fair.

“The ball takes a bit of deflection, I have realised I was a bit of a space and tried it, and normally I might miss that, but caught it perfectly. It was surreal after I scored.

“In the dressing room after the game, all the staff were in shock. To be honest, I am sick of it.

“The amount of people who come up to me and talk about it. Still it is rightly the best,” Rooney submitted.

The England and Manchester United ended his 13-year-old association with Manchester United after he was allowed to join boyhood club Everton in the summer for free.

He has registered 10 goals in 20 appearances in the league this season but was good only for the substitute in Everton’s 5-1 loss in the hands of Arsenal last Saturday.

 

 

Published in International Watch

When Carlos Carvalhal was swamped in celebration by his staff, while Sam Clucas lay down on the turf in exhausted disbelief, Swansea had just confirmed another special result, as Clucas’ second goal of the game put the South Welsh side 3-1 up at home to Arsenal, with less than 10 minutes.

That the win lifted them temporarily out of the drop zone and undoubtedly off the foot of the table was one thing, that it was achieved against the Gunners was another, and that it was their first back-to-back league success of the season, after seeing off Liverpool eight days earlier, was something else as well.

‘It’s all about winning’, said Swans defender Mike van der Hoorn. ‘If you are winning then life is happier. I was talking to the boys when we were having lunch at Fairwood about how life is so much easier when we win’. ‘It changes you as a person’, the Dutchman added, ‘the belief is there and now we need to keep up this form.

The belief certainly looks there under Carvalhal, under the swamp of haplessness that was present in the closing stages of Paul Clement’s tenure. Not just that Swansea had beaten Arsenal, but that Swansea outplayed Arsenal, going toe-to-toe with them, looking them in eye until the Gunners blinked; they had more shots, and more corners, than their more-illustrious opponents. The Jacks had beaten Liverpool at the Liberty stadium on the previous Matchday, and here they began well, Jordan Ayew seeing his shot deflect wide, Alfie Mawson coming close on two occasions, while a superb tackle from Arsenal’s Mohammed Elneny denied Clucas an opening. It would be the Gunners who would take the lead though, as an excellent piece of foresight, as well as pass from Mesut Ozil found Nacho Monreal, who, prior to this season had one league Arsenal goal to his name (at the Liberty Stadium in 2013), but was celebrating his fourth of this campaign.

That seemed to be the beginning of the end for Swansea, under Clement, it probably would have been without question. But Carvalhal’s first win as manager was a comeback victory at Watford, and his side demonstrated their new found resolve when Mawson played in Clucas, who slotted home the equaliser barely 100 seconds after Arsenal struck.

The Swans have been showing enough grit and effort to earn a fair bit of luck this season, and judging by the game at home to Liverpool, when Roberto Firmino directed a free header onto the bar, unmarked, in the 93rd minute, they were getting it. But that would be nothing compared to what occurred midway through the second half in this game. From quick Arsenal throw-in Monreal shuffled the ball to Shkodran Mustafi, whose ill-advised back pass put goalkeeper Petr Cech under pressure, and the latter’s miscued clearance fell straight to Ayew, who required just one touch to accept the gift, and put the hosts in front.

The stadium was in full bounce, and with 19 minutes left, watched as Nathan Dyer’s shot grazed the outside of the post, as Swansea sought a third. But they would get it late on, a not-so convincing moment from Monreal resulted in Ayew making his way into the box with the ball, and his deflected cross would be turned home by Clucas. Cue delirium at the Liberty, from the fans, goal scorer, and dugout as well, Swansea had scored seven league goals at home this season before that night, then they got three in 84 minutes. The belief is rising, as are the performances on the pitch.

‘If we can continue to play at the level we have in the last two league games’ said van der Hoorn, ‘and the fans can keep it up too, then it will make for a very interesting finish to the season’. If Swansea keep this up, it might just make for another seemingly unfathomable escape this season.

Cherries in Dreamland at the Bridge

Olivier Giroud made his way into a seat at Stamford Bridge, the Frenchman had signed for Chelsea, less than a day after playing a part in Arsenal’s loss at Swansea, but what he proceeded to watch would be nothing short of jaw-dropping. For the first 45 minutes, Chelsea toiled and probed as they sought a way through, but none was forthcoming, and barely two minutes into the second period had been played when they fell behind, Callum Wilson in an exchange with Jordon Ibe, before finishing under Thibaut Courtois. One became two soon after, Junior Stanislas the next to find himself in behind the Blues defence, and his finish also went under Courtois, albeit the Belgian ‘keeper got something on the effort. Stanislas would turn provider for the third, his shot having been turned in by former Chelsea defender Nathan Ake, who didn’t hold back in celebrating. There was no celebration from Antonio Conte, though, his side have dropped to fourth place on goal difference, and are only two points away from fifth-placed Spurs. Conte says he doesn’t feel pressure, but recognises the fight on Chelsea’s hands to make the Champions League next season. Also known as pressure

Spurs Catch United Napping

‘I don’t think it’s very normal to concede a goal like we did’, said Jose Mourinho, as he watched his side concede to Spurs’ Christian Eriksen after just 11 seconds played at Wembley. ‘Ridiculous’ he described it, and United, perhaps stunned by such a start, never really got going, and before the half hour mark, they would concede again, Phil Jones slamming Kieran Trippier’s cross into his own net. The scoreline barely flattered Spurs, who will know they should have added more, Mauricio Pochettino’s side are two points off third place. As for Manchester United, the gap to City increases to 15 again.

Elsewhere

  • Huddersfield are well and truly on the side, as the Terriers have slipped to 17th place after yet another defeat, this time at home to Liverpool. A well-taken strike from Emre Can, and another wonderful display from forward Roberto Firmino were the highlights, as the Reds bag a first win since beating Manchester City almost three weeks earlier, and climb to third. Huddersfield might wonder if things would have gone differently had Laurent Depoitre’s shot not been away by Loris Karius when it was still goalless.
  • Debut: Theo Walcott bags an assist as Everton salvage a point at home to West Brom. Second game: Theo Walcott’s double gives Everton three priceless points at home to Leicester, the English winger’s brace was responsible for Everton getting their first win of the New Year, against the Foxes, whose pre-match was covered in speculation about Riyad Mahrez, the Algerian absent for the game, but doesn’t leave the club in the end.
  • Oh, and it was transfer deadline day last night, Giroud’s move to Chelsea part of a three-way roll that saw Michy Batshuayi leave for Dortmund, whom had initially sold Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal, although the transfer crescendo had to share the limelight with some actual football (how horrible!).

Results

Swansea 3-1 Arsenal

Tottenham 2-0 Manchester United

Stoke 0-0 Watford

Southampton 1-1 Brighton

Newcastle 1-1 Burnley

Manchester City 3-0 West Brom

Chelsea 0-3 Bournemouth

West Ham 1-1 Crystal Palace

Huddersfield 0-3 Liverpool

Everton 2-1 Leicester

Published in International Watch

Neville Rates Wilshere as England's best midfielder

The United legend has branded the 26-year-old Jack Wilshere as the best English Central midfielder.

Wilshere, who came through the Arsenal’s Youth Academy has suffered various degrees of injuries which has hampered in growth at Arsenal.

The midfielder spent last season on loan at Bournemouth and he is in the final six months of his contracts at Arsenal though reports are having it that the England international has been offered a new pay cut deal at the club.

With Arsenal’s recent awful showings of late, Wilshere has been one of the few bright points to talk about – and that made Gary Neville to describe him as the best English midfielder – saying he could feature for any team when fully fit.

Both Neville and Wilshere worked together from 2012-2016, when Neville was the assistant to Roy Hodgson, who was then the England Manager.

Garry Neville believes Wilshere is the best English midfield player (Getty Image)

 

And talking about Wilshere, who last featured for England in 2016 on Monday Night Football, Neville said there was no other midfielder in the country than Wilshere.

“He’s the best English midfielder by a street,” Neville said. “I worked with all of the English midfield players for four years and he could play in any single team in this country and live in that team or any single team in Europe, he’s that good.

“He takes the ball on the half-turn and hes the only English central midfield player (like that). Dele Alli yes and Ross Barkley Yes, but I class them as being more forward.

“I’ve worked with him and I’ve got no allegiance to Jack Wilshere or Arsenal Football Club and this is a fantastic player and talent, who is a must for England if he’s fit and playing well.”

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Though a fan of Wilshere’s talents, Neville conceded that injury has made the midfielder not to be reliable.

 

Neville says injury has hampered Wilshere's progress (Getty Image)

“Every time he goes to into a challenge or over-runs the ball a little bit, I think ‘broken leg.’ I know that sounds really bad.

“That is the only problem with him. His performance levels are high, but the reliability is not good enough. You need him to play three, four or five seasons on the bounce.

“The talent is unquestionable. For me, he is the best midfield player that I saw with England in my time there. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were coming to the end in my first year, but I overall in that four-year period, for me he was the best of the bunch,” he added.

 

 

Published in International Watch

The controversial United striker claims he is a victim of “Under Cover racism,” in his home country Sweden.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was born to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, said the Swedish media always look for a way to attack him.

The striker claimed that things would have been different if it were to be born of Swedish parents.

The striker noted that the criticisms from the Swedish media made him stronger.

Ibrahimovic, as quoted by Mirror: “What do the Swedish media do? Do they defend me or jump and attack me?

“No, they still attack me. Because they cannot accept that I am Ibrahimovic.

“If another Swedish player would do the same mistake I do they would defend him.

“But when it comes to me they don't defend me. But it is ok for me, because this is what makes me stronger.

“This is about racism. I don't say there is racism, I say there is undercover racism.

The former PSG forward explained further: "This exists. I am 100 per cent sure. Because I am not Andersson or Svensson. If I would be that trust me they would defend me, and if I would rob a bank they would defend me, I tell you.

"But they are not defending me in the way they should. Because prob I am the best player through history in Sweden.

"What I did, nobody else has done. The Golden Ball in Sweden, the best that [had] ever won it was two. Two golden balls. How many do I have? I have 11. Eleven Golden Balls - It has never happened.

"What I did for football in Sweden has never happened."

When the striker was asked that maybe the critised him because of his ‘perceived arrogance,’ the striker replied, “It doesn’t matter.”

He added: "It doesn't matter. I am the best there is. Are you proud, appreciative of what you have or you are not?"

 

 

Published in International Watch

‘Don’t even talk too much’, wrote his Twitter handle after the game at Goodison Park, and the picture was telling too, as Jesse Lingard had his finger to his lips in silence to, probably the home fans, but definitely to the critics of both him and Manchester United.

The Red Devils had drawn three successive league games prior to their visit to Everton on New Year’s day, but that run of form didn’t stop Lingard’s flow, the Englishman has scored seven times in the league since late November, more than any of Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Eden Hazard or Sadio Mane have had all season.

‘He’s been with us in the first team for a few seasons now and this season he’s really scoring and playing his best football and playing with confidence’, said teammate Juan Mata. ‘I think he’s matured as a player and we are very happy with him because he’s helping the team with important goals’

If Lingard’s development has been eye-catching this season, his eye for big goals hasn’t, he ended his first full season with United with an extra-time winner in the FA Cup final in 2016, and popped up with the team’s second goal in their League Cup final win against Southampton last February, and even registered another Wembley strike in the Community Shield at the start of last season. He has carried on in that vein of scoring important goals for the club this term; he grabbed that delightful nerve-settler at Watford in November (the start of his goal-scoring run), hit a double at Arsenal four days after, came up with what proved to be the winner at West Brom, and it was his brace that rescued a point at home to Burnley. And he began the year with an absolute belter in Merseyside to seal their first win in four games, moments after Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had denied him with a smart save.

Pickford did have his fair share of saves to make on the day, as United produced a dominant display and an eventually comfortable victory. ‘I thought we created a few chances in the first half and were dominant, comfortable on the ball and had a lot of freedom and enjoyment so we knew the chances would come in the second half’ said Lingard, who probably came the closest in the first half, as he saw his shot roll just wide of Pickford’s goal.

But more openings did come for United in the second period, and early on Juan Mata had two tries at goal, the first tipped over by Pickford, the second crashing against the post. Yet for all United’s dominance, their opening goal came from the counter, United’s all-time top scorer and Everton skipper Wayne Rooney gave away possession in midfield, and eventually Paul Pogba- who had a terrific game- found Anthony Martial, whose finish was too much for Pickford. ‘The boys deserved it’, said manager Jose Mourinho afterwards. ‘..the players were top class and on top of it we played very well’.

Everton did push back a bit after falling behind, but a breakthrough was neither coming nor deserved, and inside the final 10 minutes Lingard put the game to bed, his 10th goal in all competitions this term. ‘I’m pushing myself and trying to get as many goals as possible this season to help the team to win games’.

So far, it’s been mission accomplished.

Thriller in North London

It was the kind of game that one prayed wouldn’t end at the Emirates, a game that saw brilliant goals, terrific saves, terrible defending, unfathomable misses, and a livid Arsene Wenger. Alvaro Morata will be one not to look at this game with much fondness, however, the Spaniard missing three gilt-edged chances, the first early on, and the last as the game reached its dying embers. In between those misses, Alexis Sanchez saw the combination of a brilliant right-hand from Thibaut Courtois and the woodwork deny him giving Arsenal the lead, while at the other end Petr Cech foiled Tiemoue Bakayoko; and when Cech was beaten, Cesc Fabregas’s shot flew wide late in the first half.

The second period followed a similar vein, Cech denying Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso, and Courtois stopping Alexandre Lacazette. But Courtois could do nothing when Jack Wilshere’s thumping hit crashed in off the bar just past the hour mark, for his first league goal since May 2015, and three minutes after Cech would also be beaten, diving the wrong way for a Premier League penalty for the 16th time in a row after Hector Bellerin was adjudged to have fouled Hazard, referee Anthony Taylor warming his way back into Wenger’s hate book, and the French gaffer described the decision as ‘farcical’, and claimed a conspiracy against the Gunners. But there was nothing contentious when Marcos Alonso popped up to turn home Davide Zappacosta’s cross and put Chelsea in front with six minutes left, and that seemed to be that.

But in a game of this manner, it wasn’t going to be, and in the second minute of stoppage time, Bellerin came up with an Arsenal leveller. There was still for Morata to flounder from less than 18 yards, and Zappacosta hit the bar from the follow up, much to the frustration of Antonio Conte. For this two in the Premier League table, it’s as-you-were, although many were still catching their breath right after fulltime to notice that yet.

Elsewhere:

  • The defeat was one thing, that they lost to Crystal Palace at home was another, that they let a lead slip was also another issue, and so was the fact that the defeat means they haven’t won in nine games. It’s more than worrying times for Southampton and Mauricio Pellegrino, and the fans haven’t hidden their displeasure. The Saints are 17th.
  • Manchester City’s winning run had been halted by Crystal Palace on New Year ’s Eve, and so this perhaps seemed like a test on how they would react, which it took them 39 seconds to, Raheem Sterling adding yet another goal to his tally this term. City running out 3-1 winners wasn’t the biggest talk concerning the team this week, neither was Kevin de Bruyne playing despite being stretchered off at Selhurst Park. It was David Silva revealing his premature born son fighting ‘day-by-day’ to survive as the reason behind him missing games, even if the Spaniard did play on Tuesday, and well it should be added.
  • It was another must-win game for West Brom, so typically they lost, as West Ham, thanks to an Andy Carroll brace- one of which was a late winner- came from behind to take all three points, a win that takes them five points clear of their opponents, but only one above the bottom three, and it became six and two when they managed to play out a draw at Wembley against Spurs.
  • Speaking of losing must-wins, Stoke are also in that category, as they slipped into the drop zone following a home loss to Newcastle on Monday. There has reportedly been considerations by the board over sacking Mark Hughes, but apparently Sparky remains because there seems to be available replacement. After all, Hughes himself did ask who’s ‘gonna do it’ if the Potters do get rid of him.
  • And there was a bit of history at Turf Moor on Tuesday, as Liverpool’s Ragnar Klavan became the first Estonian to score in the Premier League. More importantly, it grabbed a late win for the Reds after they seemed to have let it slip.
  • Speaking of the Wembley game, it was a drop-your-contender-for-goal-of-the-season contest, as Son Heung-Min's thunderbolt equaliser for Spurs cancelled out Pedro Obiang's even better strike. Even Spurs' Christian Eriksen Obiang's hit. 

Results

Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea

Leicester 3-0 Huddersfield

Everton 0-2 Manchester United

Burnley 1-2 Liverpool

Swansea 0-2 Tottenham

West Ham 2-1 West Brom

Southampton 1-2 Crystal Palace

Manchester City 3-1 Watford

Stoke 0-1 Newcastle

Brighton 2-2 Bournemouth

Tottenham 1–1 West Ham

 

 

Published in International Watch

Man U, PSG battle for Lassana Diarra signature

Thursday, 04 January 2018 19:13

The winter is here; not that of GOT but football lovers know is that period of the year where club sides do some salvage signings.

Unlike in the summer transfer window, most times, club sides don’t get to see the best of players available at this stage and this has led to the report that Manchester United and French giant PSG are both interested in the services of Lassana Diarra.

Dreamteamfc.com reported that the Diarra was released from his contract at Al Jazira on Christmas Eve and the duo of Man U and PSG were being touted for the services of the French midfielder.

Dreamteamfc.com reported that the fact that PSG at this point needed to comply with the financial fair play after spending so much in the summer coupled with the fact that an injury to Andrien Rabiot would leave PSG short in the defensive midfield position – as they would be left with only ageing midfielder Thiago Motta in that department.

And for Man u, they have been shot in the defensive midfield department as the likes of Michael Carrick and Maroune Fellaini have been on the sideline for the most part of the season.

On how Lassan Diarra is going to adapt, it is worthy to note that the 32-year-old has enough experience in his bags and head – as he’d represented the likes of Portsmouth, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Marseille, amongst few others in the past

 

In 2016, Diarra was named in the Ligue 1 Team of the season and narrowly missed out of representing France at EURO 2016 due to injury.

 

Lassana diarra while still playing for Arsenal

 

lassana Diarra at Real Madrid
Donning the Real Madrid No.10, shouldn't this be considered enough experience?

Though, he is a free agent but at the same time we might be correct if we say both Man U and PSG are high on something.

But on the other hand, PSG paid over £35m for Jese’s services two summers ago and Man U even managed to pay a dime to sign Lukak…

 

 

 

Published in Transfer Rumors

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