Early Exit: Real Madrid out of Copa del Rey

A Tired Real Madrid side suffered an early Copa del Rey exit following a 2-2 draw and a 4-3 aggregate loss against Celta Vigo last night. Real Madrid’s hopes of winning the treble have faded away but Los Merengues should seize the opportunity to shift their focus on reclaiming the La Liga title after many years of failure.

arsenal

Real Madrid currently sit on top of La Liga table with 43 points despite having played on less game than both Sevilla (42 points) and Barcelona (41 points). Until recently Madrid had a 40 game unbeaten streak, but they have now won just one of their last five games. There are definitely worrying signs for the capital club but perhaps their early exit from the domestic cup would allow them to focus on staying ahead of Sevilla and Barcelona in the title race and return to their winning ways.

Last night Real Madrid failed to score from open play and in recent times they have had to rely on Sergio Ramos’ scoring abilities to be saved in other games. It is obvious that the team is tired and the injuries have not helped Zinedine Zidane give his players a rest. The season started straight after the Euros and Real Madrid had to partake in last season’s Champions League final as well as this season’s European Super Cup and the Club World Cup. Things have definitely been hectic for Madrid but they shouldn’t rest on their laurels just yet.

Zidane will now be focusing on the upcoming games against Real Sociedad in La Liga and Napoli in the Champions League. Real Madrid needs to be strong, convincing and uncompromising in their games. Any hiccup in the upcoming games could put the team under unneeded pressure. The season goes on as Atletico Madrid, Celta Vigo, Deportivo Alaves and one of Barcelona and Real Sociedad proceed to the Copa del Rey’s semi-finals. Perhaps, this could be a chance for Luis Enrique’s Barcelona to win some silverware this year.

Advertisements

Champions League: Who Qualified so far?

The Champions League group stage phase is almost over with just one round remaining to be played. Many teams have already secured their qualifications but the fight for the top spot is still ongoing in a few groups, while some teams are still fighting to qualify to the next round or at least the Europa League.

Group A:

Arsenal and PSG have sealed their qualification to the next round with both teams yet to be beaten (they drew each other twice). This leaves the two sides on level at 11 points, meaning the top spot is still up for grabs ahead of the last game. Arsenal visit Basel while PSG have it easier when they host Ludogerts. Ludogorets and Basel are tied in the last two spots with two points (they drew each other twice), both are hoping to grab that third spot.

Group B:

Dynamo Kyiv are out of Europe with only 2 points. However, the race for the top two spots is still wide open between three different teams: Benfica and Napoli lead with 8 points but Besiktas are just one point behind. The two leading teams meet each other in the next round while Besiktas will be looking to secure an away win in Kyiv which will guarantee qualification no matter what happens in the other game.

Group C:

The group is settled. Luis Enrique’s Barcelona have qualified as the group winners while Manchester City secured the second spot, Borussia Moenchengladbach will be heading to the Europa League and Celtic are out as they will finish fourth.

Group D:

Atletico Madrid won all their five games so far putting themselves as group champions ahead of Bayern Munich who will have to settle for the second spot. The race for the third spot is still open, FC Rostov are third at the moment but they mean fourth placed PSV Eindhoven who will try everything possible to grab a win when they play the Russians.

Group E:

Monaco beat Tottenham 2-1 to finish as group leaders leaving Bayern Leverkusen as runners-up. Tottenham are in third but they host fourth placed CSKA Moscow in the next round. A win or a draw is enough for Spurs to go to the Europa League but in case CSKA win, then that would send the Russians through to the Europa League.

Group F:

Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid have qualified to the next round but they will face each other in Spain in the next round to determine who will be the group winner. A draw is enough to keep Dortmund on the top. The race for the Europa League also sees a direct battle between Sporting and Legia Warszawa, The Polish side need a win if they are to grab the third spot.

Group G:

Leicester City may be suffering in the Premier League but they surely impressed in Europe. The English team won their group leaving only one open spot. FC Porto are second with 8 points but FC Koebenhavn are just behind with 6 points. Porto meet Leicester in the next round will the Danish side has an easy game against Brugge who have lost all five games so far.

Group H:

Juventus have qualified but their top spot is yet to be secured. Sevilla are just one point behind Juventus but they face third placed Lyon who needs a convincing win to grab Sevilla’s spot. Dinamo Zagreb are out of Europe with no points at all.

Champions League Matchday 1 Round-up

The first round of the UEFA Champions League group stages was played over the past two days with big teams such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leicester City and Manchester City scoring a whopping 25 goals in-between them and conceding none at all! Real Madrid had to wait till the final minute to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, Juventus were held to a stalemate by Sevilla and Arsenal and PSG  were pleased to come out of their match with a draw.

123

Barcelona and Bayern Munich were competing for the spotlight on Tuesday evening as the Catalans scored seven past Celtic and the Bavarians scored five past FC Rostov. The two, as always, are among the top candidates for the Champions League title but they may seem to find tough competition this year. Champions Real Madrid who scored a total of 15 goals in the past three Champions League opening fixtures had to settle for only two this time around. Cristiano Ronaldo saved Real Madrid from a potential loss by scoring his 550th career goal (366th for Real Madrid) in the 89th minute before Alvaro Morata added a second to gift Madrid the win. City-rivals and last year’s runners-up Atletico also settled for a small win as they beat PSV 1-0 away from home.

Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City was meant to change their fortunes in the Champions League and put them back on top domestically. The Catalan manager had already led his side to four straight victories in the Premier League putting his team two points ahead of rivals Chelsea and three above Manchester United but this is no surprise. However, on the European stage, City scored six goals past Steaua Bucuresti over two legs to qualify to the group stage and today they showed that they are still in form. Sergio Aguero who scored a hat-trick in the first game repeated that last night against Borussia Moenchengladbach as the Cityzens emerged with a 4-0 victory. Guardiola became the first Manchester City manager to win his first ever 7 games at the club, scoring a total of 21 goals and conceding only four. This can be already classified as a big achievement for Manchester City and a big boost for their confidence. Many expected Guardiola to transform his new team but very few thought he would do it this fast. Moreover, City had only won one out of their five Champions League opening games but that is history now.

Leicester City record a 3-0 win in their first Champions League game in their first ever Champions League campaign. Riyad Mahrez will be glad to have scored a brace and he will be hoping to carry that form into the Premier League to put his team back on the track. On the other hand, the two London teams, Arsenal and Tottenham failed to impress even though Arsenal managed to earn a 1-1 draw against French champions PSG in Paris. Their arch-rivals Tottenham lost at Wembley against Ligue 1 leaders Monaco. Things don’t look very bright for Spurs at the moment but all is possible in the remaining five fixtures. The French teams are showing the change is finally coming to France and PSG perhaps is no longer the best team out there. The third French team in the competition, Lyon is on top of group H after an easy 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. Could this be the year Monaco outshine PSG and win the League?

Elsewhere, Mario Götze scored his first goal for Borussia Dortmund in 1250 days. His return to the club helped the team record their biggest ever away victory in the Champions League, 6-0 over Legia. Finally, it seemed ironic that Juventus failed to score a single goal against Sevilla despite signing players such as Benatia, Pjanic and Higuain to help them in Europe. Whereas, Napoli who had lost Higuain were able to win thanks to his replacement Arkadiusz Milik who scored a brace in a 2-1 away victory against Dynamo Kyev.

This season promises to be an exceptional one, filled with big surprises and big achievements. It is really early to predict any potential winner or any potential flop but it is certain that the quality of the top teams has definitely improved compared to the previous seasons as we see the big competing for Europe’s most prestigious title.

 

Transfer Madness: €1.4 billion on 42 players

“We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money. We have to be very careful, very selective.” Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, knows well that his club have not been as active as they should have been in the summer transfer window. However, the fact that huge inflated sums are being paid for players left and right helps us understand the logic behind Arsenal’s transfer policy.

Money is being spent everywhere and in any possible way, Arsenal were said to be following Riyad Mahrez and Alexandre Lacazette but as things stand, both players seem to be staying at their respective clubs and even keeping such players is a costly activity. Lyon offered Lacazette the biggest contract in the club’s history to convince him to stay.

123

Many believe that Arsenal need to spend if they are to win the Premier League or at least remain in the top four. Nevertheless, recent history has told us otherwise, Manchester Untied spent big in the past two seasons and got little in return whereas Leicester City built a considerably cheap squad and managed to win the Premier League title. Football is no longer about the team that spends the most. Nevertheless, spending money helps a lot.  Arsenal’s current squad cannot win the Premier League, the Gunners need two more players to be able to compete throughout the whole season. Wenger has taken his sweet time in considering the options at hand but he has to make a move quickly before the end of the window, or else he will end up paying inflated prices just like his opponents.

Opponents Chelsea spent €76m on only two players and now are trying to sell players before they can add anyone to their team. While Antonio Conte’s preseason preparation shows positive signs, the Blues have wasted all their transfer money on only two players. There is no doubt that more players are needed if the London-based club is to win the Premier League this season. Their former star, Romelu Lukaku is a big target but would they spend over €70m on the striker that they once sold for much less? The two London clubs seem to be slightly behind their two rivals from Manchester. Both City and United spent big this summer as they are trying to dominate English football. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were the first two additions, and then big players followed on both sides. The pressure to perform is big on the two and that could turn against them.

The new Premier League TV deal has turned the tide. Following a few years of losing stars such as Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez, now the Premier League teams are attracting them. Manchester United were set out on regaining their lost status as the Premier League’s best clubs and paying a record fee for a player they let go for free was no hindrance. Manchester City have won the Premier League on two occasions recently but their aim is to become a dominant European force, something they have failed to do ever since their takeover by the Abu Dhabi-based group. On the other hand, the spending hasn’t been restricted to the Premier League. Gonzalo Higuain, Hulk and Andre Gomes are three of the four most expensive transfers this summer and they moved to teams playing in Serie A, Chinese Super League and La Liga respectively. Juventus, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, PSG, Borussia Dortmund and even Schalke 04 have spent big this summer. All in all, the 42 most expensive transfers of this summer have cost football clubs almost €1.4 billion!

Spending power is not directly proportional to football success. However, it will be interesting to see how this season will end up after huge amounts were spent. Perhaps, some learn from the story of Leicester City while others aim to do it the Real Madrid and Manchester City way. Below is the complete list of the most expensive 42 players in this transfer window so far and more are yet to come, who do you think is worth his transfer fee and who is not?

 

Paul Pogba €110m (Juventus to Manchester United)

Gonzalo Higuain €90m (Napoli to Juventus)

Hulk €55.8m (Zenit to Shanghai SIPG)

Andre Gomes  €50m (Valencia to Barcelona)

John Stones €49m (Everton to Manchester City)

Granit Xhaka €45m (Borussia Moenchengladbach to Arsenal)

Leroy Sane €43.7m (Schalke 04 to Manchester City)

Michy Batshuayi €40m (Marseille to Chelsea)

Eric Bailly €38 (Villarreal to Manchester United)

Mats Hummels €38 (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich)

N’Golo Kante  €36m (Leicester City to Chelsea)

Sadio Mane €36m (Southampton to Liverpool)

Renato Sanches €35m (Benfica to Bayern Munich)

Arkadiusz Milik €35m (Ajax to Napoli)

Kevin Gameiro €32m (Sevilla to Atletico Madrid)

Gabriel Jesus €32m (Palmeiras to Manchester City)

Miralem Pjanic €32m (Roma to Juventus)

Alvaro Morata €30m (Juventus to Real Madrid)

Andre Schurrle  €30m (Wolfsburg to Borussia Dortmund)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan €30m (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United)

Ilkay Gundogan €28 (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City)

Georginio Wijnaldum  €27.5m (Newcastle to Liverpool)

Mario Gotze  €26m (Bayern Munich to Borussia Dortmund)

Grzegorz Krychowiak €26m (Sevilla to PSG)

Breel Embolo €25m (Basel to Schalke 04)

Jese €25m (Real Madrid to PSG)

Samuel Umtiti  €25m (Lyon to Barcelona)

Nicolas Gaitan €25m (Benfica to Atletico Madrid)

Andre Ayew €24m (Swansea City to West Ham United)

Marko Pjaca  €23m (Dinamo Zagreb to Juventus)

Vincent Janssen  €22m (AZ Alkmaar to Tottenham Hotspurs)

Antonio Candreva €22m (Lazio to Inter)

Kevin Volland €20 (Hoffenheim to Bayer Leverkusen)

Ahmed Musa  €18.75m (CSKA Moscow to Leicester City)

Lucas Digne  €16.5m (PSG to Barcelona)

Nolito €16.5m (Celta Vigo to Manchester City)

Sime Vrsajlko €16m (Sassuolo to Atletico Madrid)

Nampalys Mendy €15.5m (Nice to Leicester City)

Graziano Pelle €15.2m (Southampton to Shandong Luneng)

Ashley Williams €14m (Swansea City to Everton)

Victor Wanyama €13.5m (Southampton to Tottenham Hotspurs)

Raphael Guerreiro €12m (Lorient to Borussia Dortmund)

Sevilla Continue to Write History

Liverpool looked to be on course to winning the Europa League final as they were leading 1-0 at half-time but their Spanish opponents had a different say in the final 45 minutes of the match as they ended up scoring three goals to make history by breaking their own record of winning the European competition for a third consecutive time and bringing their total to five.

arsenal

Liverpool appeared to be dominating the pitch early on and were intent on scoring and so they did. However, Liverpool’s players couldn’t handle the pressure after the break and their shambolic defending allowed Sevilla to score 17 seconds after the start of the second half. Following triumphs in Eindhoven and Glasgow, Turin and Warsaw, Sevilla now have great memories in a fifth city, Basel. The Spanish side under Unai Emery has shown that they can challenge on several fronts at the same time without losing control. Emery’s season is not over yet, he still has another final to play next Sunday when his team meets Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final in Madrid.

Ahead of Sevilla is a different challenge, next season they take part in the Champions League for the second consecutive time. Although they were unlucky to be drawn in the group of death with Juventus, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach, their early exit from the competition meant that they can win the Europa League. However, their aim next season should be higher. Emery should be confident of reaching one of the top two positions in his group next year no matter who the opponents are. Sevilla’s problem this season has not been talent or ability, it has been their failure away from home. In La Liga, they were unable to win a single away match, losing 10 and drawing nine (only Levante had a worse record). The team’s league performance in home matches would have earned them a spot right behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. This shows how important their fans are to them.

Emery can take Diego Simeone as an example. Atletico Madrid won the Europa League in 2012 and it was a great achievement but Simeone was not content with just that. His side went on to reach the Champions League final twice and win La Liga once in the space of four years. Although Sevilla are not as good as Atletico, they have the potential to do just as good. 11 years ago, Sevilla had no European titles to boast, now they have five. It is in their hands to decide whether they can replicate their success story in the Champions League or not.