Match Preview: Manchester United vs Real Madrid (Part 2)

The return leg of the massively anticipated battle between two of the World’s most appreciated and successful clubs goes down tonight at the Theatre of Dreams. With the tie in the balance at 1-1, the war is expected to be keenly contested and excellently played out.

Visitors, Real Madrid have been unbelievable in the past week, comprehensively beating fierce Clasico rivals, Barcelona in two consecutive matches. Mourinho would have taken 1 win, 1 loss but his boys had other ideas and he himself was the master strategist. The Portuguese genius took his boys to the Nou Camp seven days ago and returned with a 3-1 defeat of Barcelona, sending them packing out of the Copa Del Rey in the semis and setting up a mouthwatering Capital derby final meeting with Atletico Madrid. He did not end there.

Back at the Bernabeu for the League match, Jose rested 7 of the players who made him proud in Catalonia and brought in the likes of Castilla campaigner, Alvaro Morata and co. The soldiers were different, but victory was attained. Five of the regular starters remained on the sidelines with the exception of Angel Di Maria who was suspended for the game. The match ended 2-1 in favour of Real and it condemned the Blaugrana to their second defeat in about 67 hours to their great rivals.

The Merengues also became only the 2nd team in the history of football to defeat Barcelona in the space of approximately four days since its formation. The win at Camp Nou was also significant. It was the first time in 10 months that they lost on their home turf, although the last time was also to Madrid in April of last year. In his press conference yesterday, Jose stated that his team would have been just as motivated to come to Manchester and win outright even if they had lost both games v Barcelona. That man.

Premier League leaders, Manchester United welcomed Norwich to Old Trafford on Saturday evening. The result was a battering for the Canaries who were soundly beaten 4-0. The spanking was sweet revenge meted out on a Norwich side that accounted for the red devils last defeat in the EPL till date.

Japanese star, Shinji Kagawa came through, scoring a spectacular hat-trick to cap a fine day for Fergie’s men. Wayne Rooney also scored a beauty at the end. After leaving Bradley Johnson for dead, he sent a screamer from all of 20 yards to leave the opposition keeper gasping for oxygen. This added to his two assists in the match showed signs that the English superstar is back to form just at the right time with important games coming in thick and fast for the champions elect. Treble dream still alive.

Tonight’s encounter has all the makings of a razzle-dazzle affair. The match of ten years ago comes to mind. When a certain Ronaldo da Lima with revenge on his mind, came to conquer Old Trafford with his exceedingly magnificent footballing skills. David Beckham came off the bench that day in an attempt to spark a highly unlikely Manchester United revival.

Hard as he toiled (scored two brilliant goals), he couldn’t turn the aggregate scoreline in his side’s favour, but he made sure the red army won the match 4-3 (eventually lost the tie 6-5 after losing 3-1 in Madrid) and restored some pride. Sir Alex will want none of that drama.

He has set up his side in a way that they must look for a win, focus more on its strengths and care less about what Real Madrid and returning Legend, Cristiano Ronaldo will/can do. Being scared of the threat Ronaldo carries will do more harm than good according to the great Scot whose 26+ years at the helm have been nothing short of extraordinary. While defending to its maximum, the team must also attack well and take most if not all of chances created.

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aviero is a familiar name in this parts. The Portuguese living Legend took Manchester by storm when he arrived from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 to replace the equally Legendary David Beckham. After six years and 118 special goals, he left Old Trafford to seek pastures new. Quite rightly, he chose the beautiful city of Madrid to continue his football development. He left Manchester United with fantastic memories, most especially his elevation to the status of best footballer in the World in 2008.

Since transferring to Real, he has seen Lionel Messi claim the award four consecutive times and he is not in the least happy about it. His scoring record for the Bernabeu side is incredibly phenomenal. 185 goals in 184 games including 20 hat-tricks explains it all. His goal against his former team three weeks ago was reminiscent of the one he scored for Manchester United v Chelsea in the UCL final five years ago.

Fergie told the press after the match that he was critical of Evra at half-time on why he allowed Ronaldo to out jump him for that glorious goal. Well,after watching the replays, he had nothing more to say. CR7’s knees were above the Frenchman head when he headed past David de Gea. A repeat might be consequential.

Wayne Rooney disappointed me in the first leg. I wrote about his importance to the MUFC cause and how the match would be decided by him and not RVP as most people felt. He was absent throughout the game and misplaced more passes than ever before. His shambolic display must have to be transformed to one that can cause the Madrid defence all sorts of problems. When he is on fire, his teammates come alive.

RVP has to wear his scoring boots tonight, his scuffed shot in the closing minutes of the first leg hurt a lot of people. He usually puts those away.

Sir Alex announced during his presser that Phil Jones won’t take part in the game as he hasn’t fully recovered from the foot injury that has seen him miss the last two games. I wouldn’t buy that. Mourinho decided to match Fergie wit for wit by stating that Iker Casillas is out of contention for the match as well. Mind games. If they both start tonight, It won’t be a surprise at least to me.

People might ask why Casillas should be thrown into the starting 11 in place of the very impressive Diego Lopez. Simple. San Iker is way more experienced than his Spanish counterpart. Experience counts more than anything in these type of matches.

Ryan Joseph Giggs who started his Manchester United adventure 22 years ago, is set to appear in his 1000th official game as a professional tonight. It may have been better if he did it against Norwich at the weekend and it was against the same team he made his debut and on 2nd March as well which would have been a perfect historic achievement.

SAF has explained that he feels the game against the ‘Whites’ is the perfect time for him to reach the incredible milestone. Real Madrid fans rose up in applause of the Welsh legend when he came on at the Bernabeu. This will be even more rapturous. Whether he will start or appear as a sub is what Fergie has kept close to his chest.



Predicted Lineups

Manchester United- DDG, Rafa, Rio, Evans, Evra, Jones, Carrick, Kagawa, Welbeck, Rooney, RVP


Real Madrid- Casillas, Arbeloa/Ramos, Ramos/Pepe, Varane, Coentrao, Alonso, Khedira, Ozil, Di Maria, CR7, Benzema


Ryan Giggs might have to make do with a place on the bench alongside his fellow veteran Paul Scholes, who hasn’t played for a while due to a knee injury. The Ginger Maestro is back and his experience of these kind of games could prove vital. Remember his unstoppable rasping rocket of a shot that was eventually the difference between United and Barcelona in the 2008 semis. He hasn’t lost that quality. Once a maestro, always a maestro.

Rafa, Evans and Welbeck return to the starting 11. David de Gea has not conceded a goal in 447 minutes of Premier League football and his form of late has been excellent. If he can put on a similar show like the one at the Santiago Bernabeu, then MUFC are as good as qualified.

For Mourinho’s men, all the star names return after sitting out the Barcelona game. CR7, Ozil, Alonso et al are all set to feature from the start.


Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Adam’s Premier League Column: Spurs victorious in latest instalment of the North London Derby


Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1

The North London Derby once again didn’t disappoint and, just as we all expected, Gareth Bale was on point. Perhaps he didn’t have a scintillating performance as many of us were hoping for, but he popped up with a crucial goal despite otherwise being somewhat ineffective. It was a cagey opening to this much anticipated battle between two rivals, one of which is in decline and the other, on the rise.

The game had a quick tempo and it was a pulsating spectacle. Both sides were at it and, up until the 37th minute, Arsenal defended very well indeed. They were undone like a knife through butter, as Gylfi Sigurdsson played a delightful ball into the path of Bale, who was left with the task to poke home and convert his twentieth goal in all competitions.

He did what he had to do throughout the course of the game, although he could have sealed the victory for Spurs as his effort from seven yards out blazed over the bar in the dying embers of the game.

Arsenal conceded a carbon-copy goal, this time Scott Parker slipping a ball through the heart of the defence and into Aaron Lennon’s path, who took it round the ‘keeper before slotting home into the empty net, his fourth of the season.

Arsenal did send warning signs to Spurs early in the second half as Per Mertesacker’s glancing header was deflected off Bale to half the scoring. Arsenal showed again that they just don’t quite have the cut to perform at the top level, and maybe it’s time to freshen things up at the Emirates.


Wigan 0 Liverpool 4

Wigan’s hopes of propelling themselves out of the relegation scrap that they undoubtedly find themselves in went downhill from the start.

Koné did however have a chance to put the hosts in front inside the opening minute, although his effort was too tame and untroubled Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal. Liverpool then went up the other end with Coutinho, who signed for the Reds in January from Italian side Inter Milan, crossing in, with Downing converting, which was his second goal of the campaign.

Things went from bad to worse for the Latics, and Luis Suarez ensured he doubled Liverpool’s lead, after he controlled a superbly weighted through-ball from Coutinho to stab past Ali Al Habsi sixteen minutes later.

Then, on 33 minutes, Luis Suarez thumped a free-kick, which took a deflection, to wrong-foot Al Habsi to pile on the pressure. Suarez then sealed his hat-trick three minutes after the interval, demonstrating further, in my opinion, that he is the best Premier League striker behind United’s Robin van Persie.

This was an important win for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool as at this time of year the DW Stadium is no easy place to get a result. Rodgers said on the victory: “Our defensive organisation was very good and we’re very pleased to score goals. [Suarez] is a real pleasure to work with. Every week I stand talking superlatives, but his biggest attribute is humility”.


Southampton 1 Queens Park Rangers 2

Harry Redkapp is not particularly liked at St Marys after he left them whilst in charge to join rivals Portsmouth, who he famously kept up. It was also his 66th birthday, and Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino’s 41st, too.

QPR got off to a flying start as Loic Remy stuck the visitors in front as he lost his marker Fox to find space to smash in from ten yards. He’s been a clever signing by Redknapp and I’m sure he’ll be crucial to the massive task that QPR face; staying in the Premier League. I have an inkling that they could do it after this result and it’ll go down in history if they were to survive.

Gaston Ramirez pounced on a fumble by QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar and chipped in a delightful goal on 45 minutes. It was QPR’s willingness to attack that earned them all three points, this time some great wing-play by Ji Sung-Park allowed him to get his cross in, which ultimately found Jay Bothroyd who scored on his first start since September.

A great three points for QPR and the Saints will no doubt be disappointed.


My Team of the Week


Written by Adam May

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Romania: A Gold Mine for Top Talent and Brilliant Prospects

Romania have been unlucky in recent years - poor results in tournaments and qualifications or just missing out due to stupid mistakes made by the manager and players have cost them. Despite beating the likes of England, Spain, Netherlands, Germany (Romania beat them 5-1 in 2005) on several occasions in recent years.

There’s always been something - or in fact, many things - stopping them from reaching their potential. Player’s mentalities, awful selections and tactics made by managers, and the most talented players wasting their potential for various reasons are all part of the reason Romania are now seen as just a somewhat average side nowadays.

As this article is meant to be about Romanian youth, let’s not go into too much detail over those issues. While the 80s and 90s were a special time for Romanian football (both club-wise and for the national team), it’s possible that this upcoming generation could bring Romania back to being the world class side it used to be.

That is, if those involved don’t screw it up the way they have in the last decade or so. The good news is, loads of young Romanian players are popping up directly in top leagues like the Serie A, La Liga, and Bundesliga.

It’s much better for players to start their youth careers in these top leagues immediately as in Romania they are likely to be held back by managers or owners and their potential wasted (although some of the clubs in the league seem to be improving their mentality).

Now, let’s get on to business. Here are some of the top U23 Romanian prospects at the moment. Of course, this isn’t intended to give you the full view of future Romanian stars, only a sample. There are many players I won’t list with loads of potential that could become top players anyway.



Laurentiu Branescu

The 18 year old Juventus keeper has been dubbed “the next Buffon” by the Italian media and is being held in high regard by club’s staff. Before signing with Juve, clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United were extremely interested in him but were not able to secure his services in time.

He doesn’t have very many weaknesses, his handling and reflexes are top notch and he’s a great young keeper overall. He is currently the main keeper for Romania’s U19 national team.

Potential rating: 5/5



Valentin Cojocaru

The 16 year old Steaua Bucharest stopper is widely regarded as one of the brightest young talents to come out of eastern Europe. He’s been attracting a lot of interest from clubs such as Liverpool in recent times and despite his young age, could find himself at a top club very soon.

Potential rating: 5/5


Silviu Lung Jr

The 23 year old keeper currently plays for Astra Giurgiu, who are currently second place in the Romanian Liga I. Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg were close to signing him during the January transfer window but unfortunately the deal didn’t go through.

He has loads of ability and can pull off amazing saves but sometimes can make stupid blunders, which have cost him. But he is very talented and still has his whole career ahead of him.

Potential rating: 4/5




Dubbed the “Romanian version of Thiago Silva,” Vlad Chiriches is one of the most hyped Romanian youngsters at the moment. The 23 year old Steaua Bucharest is truly a phenomenal young defender.

He is not only great at the back, but he is very technical for a defender. He dribbles well and often adds to his side’s attacks and has scored a handful of beautiful goals this season (both in the EL and the league).

Several big clubs are after him, including Barca, Milan, Chelsea, Inter, and Lyon. Some have made offers of up to 7 million euros but the crazy owner has refused them asking for a minimum of 10 million euros.

He will most likely leave to one of these big clubs in the summer. I don’t see them backing down after his most recent performances in the Europa League. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him.

Potential rating: 5/5



Valerica Gaman

Gaman currently plays for Astra Giurgiu, who currently lie in second place in the Liga I, and is a very good CB prospect. Although he is 24, I will make an exception as he just turned yesterday.

Like Silviu Lung Jr, he was also close to signing with Zenit but it didn’t happen. He is a talented defender, great in the tackle and also great at heading the ball.

Potential rating: 3.5/5


Alexandru Matel

23 year old RB at Astra Giurgiu. Despite having a slight injury problem, his performances for both club and national team have been impressive recently. He definitely has a lot of potential.

Potential rating: 4/5


Paul Papp

The 23 year old Chievo Verona central defender joined in the summer from FC Vaslui. He scored on his debut for the club and while he isn’t yet a regular (for some reason), he still has made an impact in the games he’s played in the Serie A and for the national team.

Potential rating: 4/5


Cornel Rapa

The recently turned 23 year old promising right-back signed for Steaua Bucharest from Otelul Galati in the January transfer window.

After Matel, he is the biggest Romanian RB prospect at the moment and has been a solid performer this season and the last.

Potential rating: 3.5/5


Constantin Nica

The 19 year old Dinamo Bucharest right-back has three U21 caps to his name and looks to have a bright future.

Potential rating: 4/5


Alin Tosca

The 20 year old versatile defender and midfielder can play as a right-back, left-back, and as a right midfielder. He is one of the top young defenders in the Liga I at the moment and plays for Viitorul Constanta (Hagi’s club & academy). One to look out for.

Potential rating: 3.5/5


Deian Boldor

18 year old CB currently playing for AS Roma U19. Potential to develop to a very good Serie A and Romania defender in the future.

Potential rating: 2.5/5


Bogdan Tiru

18 year old Viitorul Constanta central defender who’s been on trial at Ajax and has good potential.

Potential rating: 2/5




Gabriel Torje

Nicknamed “the Romanian Messi,” Torje is probably the best prospect of all. His technical, dribbling, and finishing ability is phenomenal. He has lots of pace and likes has a very similar style to Messi (and a similar stature), therefore the comparison.

He has been on fire for the national team this season and although he scored a couple of goals, racked up some assists and played well in his debut season at Udinese, he is currently on loan at Granada in the La Liga. Fiorentina made an offer for him but he had already agreed to go on loan.

The 23 year old winger has aroused interest from Arsenal and Real Madrid in recent times. With his natural talent, he should have a great career and has the potential to be a star at any club.

Potential rating: 5/5


Claudiu Bumba

Bumba just turned 19 in January and has been playing for Roma’s primavera team since the summer of 2012, after the Italian giants paid 600,000 euros to secure his services. He is probably the best young Romanian player at the moment after Torje (although Torje is older) and maybe Stanciu.

His most notable achievements so far this season include scoring a goal in the Supercoppa Primavera final to help his team win the trophy, scoring 4 goals in 16 matches (making him the club’s third top scorer, with the other two having played more matches) in the league and, more recently, scoring two goals against Spartak Moscow in the Viareggio Cup.

He also has several assists and is the captain of the Romanian U19 national team.

Potential rating: 5/5


Nicolae (or “Nicusor”) Stanciu

The 19 year old FC Vaslui youngster has been widely sought by big clubs across Europe. He is definitely the best teenage talent in the Liga I at the moment, and probably the best Romanian prospect in midfield after Gabriel Torje and Claudiu Bumba.

He is generally regarded as a creative CM but also plays well on the wings and has great speed, technical ability, and finishing. He has scored several beauties this season and in the past both in the league and in Europe.

He also captains the Romanian U21 national team and made his Liga II debut at the age of 15 years and 18 days coming on as a substitute. During his spell for Unirea Alba Iulia, Stanciu was tracked by various European clubs, including Hoffenheim, Celtic, Brescia, and VfB Stuttgart.

Potential rating: 5/5


Alexandru Maxim

The 22 year old attacking midfielder is yet another young Romanian star in midfield - he’s one of the best dribblers on the Romanian national team and has impressed in the 5 matches he’s played for Romania (in which he managed to score 2 goals).

He recently joined German Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart.

Potential rating: 4.5/5


Adrian Stoian

It’s incredible how many creative, young midfielders Romania has begun to produce. Here’s yet another one. Adrian Marius Stoian, a 22-year old winger, is a product of the famed Gheorghe Popescu (former Real and Spurs defender) Academy and joined Roma in 2008.

Between 2008 and 2012, he’s only made one first team appearance, coming on as a substitute against Juventus in a Serie A match in March of 2009. While it may seem odd that he only played in once first team match, one should take into consideration his age at the time - he was only 18 when he made his Serie A debut.

Since then, he’s gone on loan to Pescara and Bari, where he had an excellent season. In the summer of 2012, he joined Chievo in a co-ownership deal of 500,000 euros which involved Michael Bradley going the other way.

Since joining Chievo, he’s played in 11 matches and scored 2 goals, and putting in some fine performances. With a little more time and faith from his manager, he could develop into one of their best players and Roma may very well buy back the other half of his deal!

Potential rating: 4/5


Vlad Nicolae Marin

The 17 year old left winger was involved in a controversial move last summer. He was playing for Lazio’s youth side until Manchester City decided to offer him a contract without Lazio’s permission and sign him for free. This of course angered the higher-ups at Lazio and City were forced to compensate them with 300,000 pounds.

While I haven’t seen much of him, it seems like he could be an extremely good player if City snatched him up like that and Lazio reacted the way they did. Oddly, though, he hasn’t been capped at any youth level for Romania yet.

Potential rating: 5/5


Alexandru Chipciu

Chipciu (pronounced ‘Keep-choo’) is a 23 year old attacking midfielder and winger currently playing for Steaua Bucharest. He’s played 7 matches for Romania and has scored one goal (in a friendly match against Greece).

His performances at Steaua this season, both in the Europa League and the Liga I, have attracted a lot of attention from bigger clubs and have gotten him call-ups to the national team. He may not be Romania’s #1 midfield prospect, but he’s certainly a great option and

I’m looking forward to see where he ends up in the future. His main strengths are dribbling, crossing, passing, and a good first touch.

Potential rating: 4.5/5


Liviu Antal

23 year old right midfielder, Liviu Antal, had his first taste of the UEFA Champions League experience last season with Otelul Galati. He put in some thrilling performances against the likes of Manchester United, SL Benfica, and FC Basel.

In the 2012/2013 season, he joined FC Vaslui and scored his first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw against Fenerbahce in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. He made his debut for Romania (and his single appearance to date) in a friendly match against Paraguay in 2011.

He’s not at the top of the picking order but he’s still one of the better young wingers in Romania.

Potential rating: 2.5/5



The 21 year old left winger is a rising star at the Romanian club owned by Hagi, Viitorul Constanta. He’s scored 3 goals and racked up 3 assists in 20 matches in the Liga I. His value has been steadily rising in recent months and it looks as though he may find a new club in the summer.

Potential rating: 2.5/5


Gabriel Iancu

The 18 year old Gheorghe Hagi Academy product and former Viitorul Constanta player (both owned by Hagi) midfielder is one of my favourite youth players at the moment. Ajax and Galatasaray have been in close contact with Viitorul for several months, however he’s now at Steaua Bucharest after joining in the January 2013 transfer window.

He is a very reliable and mature player for his age and should turn out to be a top player.

Potential rating: 4.5/5


Dan Nistor

Nistor is 24, however I will make an exception as he fully deserves to be mentioned here. He is the best young Romanian DM at the moment, despite only having one cap for Romania, and has put in stunning performances at Pandurii this season (who are currently third in the league).

He’s a good passer of the ball and can set up attacks with ease. He is also solid at the back when needed, and is an ideal DM for a lot of clubs.

Potential rating: 4/5


Mihai Radut

The 22 year old DM has the potential to surpass Nistor, although at the moment the latter is probably better. He spent part of his youth career at Sporting CP in Portugal and now plays for Liga I leaders Steaua Bucharest and is currently on loan at Pandurii.

He has been capped by Romania three times, which is quite an achievement for a DM of his age (Nistor only has one, surprisingly).

Will be an important national team player in the future and asset to most clubs who would be interested in buying him.

Potential rating: 4/5


Raphael Stanescu

Born in Germany, 19 year old attacking midfielder Andrei Raphael Stanescu is one of the best products of Dinamo Bucharest’s academy and has been capped for Romania U19 4 times, scoring one goal. He has played 5 first team matches in the Liga I for Dinamo and scored one goal.

Potential rating: 3/5


Andrei Tugui

Andrei Ionut Tugui is a 17 year old midfielder and the captain of the Romanian U16 national team. He joined Roma on loan (with an option to buy) in the January transfer window and has impressed the coaches there.

He is just one of the many Romanian youngsters at Roma but is probably one of the brightest talents after Claudiu Bumba.

Potential rating: 4.5/5




Dragos Iacob

This 16 year old striker, currently playing for Frosinone’s youth, is considered one of the most valuable teenagers in Italy. His family moved to Italy in 2001 so he is eligible to play for Italy. However, he has already been asked to play for their national team but he declined as he states that his dream is to play for Romania.

He was the club’s top scorer year after year and was nicknamed “The Cannibal” by the Italian media because of his aggressiveness and determination on the pitch. He also helped his team win the “Manchester United Premier Cup” last season and won both his youth league and the Italian Super Cup for his age group.

According to reports, stats, and videos, he seems to have loads of potential and could very well be a super star in the future.

Potential rating: 5/5



I have to make another exception - Raul Rusescu is 24 years old, but is the top scorer in the Romanian league and has scored several beautiful goals this season, both in the EL and Liga I. He is just unbelievable and will probably move to a bigger club in the summer.

He has scored 31 goals in 51 matches since joining Steaua in 2011. He’s made a single appearance for Romania but will surely be capped again soon.

Must-see goal!

Potential rating: 5/5


Gheorghe Tucudean

The 21 year old Standard Liege striker is the best U21 Romanian striker at the moment. He has scored 3 goals in 5 matches for the U21 national team and 9 goals in 12 matches while on loan at UTA Arad in 2010.

After joining Standard from Dinamo Bucharest this January transfer window, he’s played two matches for the Belgian club without scoring, however has had several great opportunities and looks certain to score soon.

Potential rating: 3.5/5


Denis Alibec

The 22 year old striker is currently on loan at Viitorul Constanta from Inter Milan. While at Inter, Alibec scored 8 goals in 9 appearances in the Campionato Primavera Girone B and won the Viareggio Cup in 2011.

He is a left-footed player and is known for his composure, balance, and relaxed way of playing. He has scored 3 goals in 5 appearances for Romania’s U21 national team and has been capped once for Romania’s senior team in a friendly match with Poland in February 2013.

Potential rating: 4.5/5


Gheorghe Grozav

The 22 year old winger, who has also been employed as a striker with good results, is currently playing for Petrolul Ploiesti who are in fifth place in the Romanian Liga I at the moment. He’s also played 15 matches for Standard Liege before coming back to Romania and has scored 5 goals in 19 matches for Petrolul this season.

He’s been capped for the senior national team 9 times and scored 3 goals.

Potential rating: 3.5/5


Fabian Himcinschi

Himcinschi is an 18 year old striker currently playing for Empoli’s youth team. He’s played 6 matches for Romania’s U17 NT, scoring an incredible tally of 9 goals.

Potential rating: 4.5/5


Marius Alexe

Alexe is turned 23 years old on February 22nd 2013 and is a left winger and second striker for Dinamo Bucharest. He has played in 95 matches for the Liga I club, scoring 24 goals. He’s also played for Romania’s senior team 7 times. He is best employed as a left winger as he isn’t a ‘poaching’ type of striker.

Potential rating: 2.5/5


George Puscas

The 16 year old striker currently plays for second division club FC Bihor Oradea, but has been on trial at Arsenal recently after he impressed the Gunners’ scouts in a Romania U17 match.

He seems to have a good deal of potential however he may not fulfill it if he doesn’t actually end up signing with a big club like Arsenal.

Potential rating: 4.5/5


Cristian Gavra

The 19 year old Viitorul Constanta striker went on trial with Ajax recently and the club seem interested in securing his services over the summer. He’s scored 5 goals in 8 matches for the Romanian U19 national team and is regarded highly by Hagi himself.

Potential rating: 4/5


Written by Filip Buduru

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Special Feature: The Top 5 Football Defeats

Defeats in football are some of the most saddening moments for both the fans and the players of the losing side. This is especially the case when your team is losing to a rival team.

In this review of top 5 football (soccer) defeats, a defeat is rated highly if it involved a big goal difference between the two teams. We also give more emphasis on defeats in derby matches due to the rivalry between teams that compete for the same fan base.


5. England 3 versus Hungary 6: 1953

The match between England national team and Hungary entered into history books as one of the greatest defeats in the history of soccer due to the fact that the result was highly unexpected.

Before the match, England were unbeaten at home which made them confident that a weak Hungary side could not beat them on their own turf. They were however embarrassed when their opponents outplayed them in all departments on the pitch to seal a historical 6:3 win.



4. 1982: Swansea City 12 versus Sliema 0

This match entered the list of top 5 football (soccer) defeats due to the fact that it happened in the European Cup Winners competition. The style in which Swansea beat their opponents is also convincing as their 12 goals were from 8 different players.


3. Manchester United 8 versus Arsenal 2: August 2011

This match serves as a big landmark in the long battle between the two longest serving managers in the Barclays premier league. A weak Arsenal side travelled to Old Trafford after losing key players in the previous transfer window and Manchester united comfortably rained 8 goals into their net.



2. Barcelona 5 versus Real Madrid 0: November 2010

The rivalry between the richest clubs in Spain always gives football fans around world at least 90 minutes of entertaining football. On November 10th 2010, Real Madrid travelled to Camp Nou for yet another clasico clash but would leave the stadium humiliated by being outplayed by their rivals.

The 5-goal difference is still the greatest goal difference in a match between the two sides. Jose Mourinho later conceded that his team’s demolition was a ‘historically bad result’ for Real Madrid.



1. Manchester United 1 versus Manchester City 6: October 2011

This match brought the climax of the rivalry between the two biggest football clubs in Manchester. Manchester United were humiliated by a 6-1 loss to their city rivals on their own home turf. The big difference in the score line and the great rivalry between the two clubs has helped this match to top our list top 5 football (soccer) defeats.

The big difference in the score line would later prove costly to Manchester United as they would later lose the Barclays Premier League to Manchester City on goal difference after tying in points.


There are a few other big defeats that did not make it to my top 5 football (soccer) defeats due to the mere fact that they were not international matches.

We narrowed our filter to international matches that are recognized by FIFA which is the world football governing body. Other football matches that failed to make this list happened a long time ago and although soccer has evolved a lot since then, they are still worth a mention.

For instance in 1885, Arbroath beat Bon Accord by 36 goals to nil in a Scottish cup tie while Aberdeen Rovers were thrashed 35-0 by Dundee Harp in the same competition.

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Luis Suarez: Red-hot Uruguayan steals the show against the Latics

Top of the match:
Luis Suarez

Flop of the match:
Arouna Kone

After the shock Europa league exit, a week ago Liverpool posted a commanding 4-0 victory at DW stadium on the Saturday night. Downing’s opener followed by Suarez’s hat-trick had earned comfortable 3 points for the visiting side.

Reading’s loss at Goodison Park had left something for the Latics’ to cheer about as they stand level on points with Aston Villa in the 16th position; the latter play the 2nd placed Manchester City tomorrow.

Roberto Martinez played the same team which had beaten Reading in the last match day, whereas Brendan Rodgers made a single change in his side which thrashed Swansea, 5-0 couple of weeks ago- Joe Allen replacing the unavailable Daniel Sturridge.

Plenty of actions had occurred in the opening two minutes of the game- Boyce’s cross from the left found the unmarked Kone, whose weak shot was saved by Liverpool’s long-time Spanish custodian Pepe Reina. Soon after Kone’s miss, there followed the Liverpool’s counter. Phillipe Coutinho, with his spectacular skills got past Boyce and his cross from the left found the unmarked Downing who headed perfectly past a helpless Al Habsi.

16 minutes later, Coutinho’s skills came into the fore once again. Skipping past Maloney, the 20-year old Brazilian’s through ball found Suarez and the Uruguayan made no mistake to put the ball beyond Al Habsi’s reach to earn the Reds’ second of the night.

When Liverpool were leading 2-0 twenty minutes after the kick-off, a golden chance was handed to Wigan to pull one back. But Boyce’s powerful volley was beautifully saved by Pepe Reina. Moments later, an unnecessary clash between Boyce and McArthur occurred as the latter’s foolish back pass went into the legs of Suarez, who failed to pounce on the error.

Minutes later, though, Luis Suarez was fouled near the edge of the box and the Uruguayan stepped forward to earn his second through a deflected free-kick which found the right corner of the net.

Moments later, after Liverpool’s third goal, Beausejour’s cross found the Argentine Di Santo whose powerful header from 8-yards out was saved by the Liverpool goalie. During the closing stages of the first half, Wigan were given a free-kick near the edge of the area. Once again, Reina made a spectacular save with his right hand to deny Beausejour’s powerfully struck free-kick.

Wigan’s condition went from bad to worse, soon after the second half kick-off. Glenn Johnson dribbled the ball past 3 defenders brilliantly near the centre line to break Suarez loose. The former Ajax man completed his hat-trick with a finely executed shot which struck the inner side of the net and through the legs of a bemused Al Habsi.

At around the 70 minute mark, Enrique’s mistake left the substitute McManaman free and the midfielders beautiful cross was shot just wide by McCarthy. No dangerous attacks came through either side after McCarthy’s shot and Liverpool gained a well deserved 3 points.


Written by Raghuvarman Sampathu

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Premier League Betting Preview: Top 5 Weekend Bets

The biggest game of the Premier League weekend by far takes place at White Hart Lane where Champions League qualification-chasing Tottenham and Arsenal do battle in an eagerly-anticipated North London derby which will surely have massive ramifications for both teams not only this season but the next.

So where else to start today’s preview but at the DW Stadium where Wigan will take on Liverpool this evening.  Luis Suarez must be backed to hit the onion bag, champing at the bit as he must be having had over a week’s rest, and facing a defence whom before the Latics’ admirable victory over Reading last weekend had failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their previous six league matches of 2013.

I like the look of Suarez to score tonight, and I also like the look of goals at the Liberty Stadium today for the Swansea-Newcastle game.  The injury-enforced absence of vital Magpies custodians Tim Krul and Fabrizio Coloccini casts a veneer of uncertainty over the Newcastle defence which the newly crowned Capital One Cup winners can exploit, whilst at the other end Swansea are themselves missing a defensive stalwart in Chico Flores and it remains to be seen whether they will become another victim of the defensive lax-itis that seems to befall teams in the aftermath of winning the League Cup over past seasons.

Lost amongst all the rightful praise and incorrect over-fawning of Gareth Bale’s decisive contribution to Spurs’ win over West Ham on Monday was the fact that the Hammers applied themselves very well against the third-place team and as Sam Allardyce rightly pointed out, if the mercurial Welshman had not been on the pitch then the Boleyn club would have surely collected three points so good was their performance.

If they can maintain that level against Stoke today then Allardyce will surely be in celebratory mood come 5pm.  He has in Andy Carroll a weapon that can give Stoke’s burly defenders sonething to think about, and if Carlton Cole comes in for the injured Kevin Nolan then that could spell double trouble for the free-falling Potters.

The Manchester United juggernaut rumbles on and regardless of the fact that Los Merenges loom large on the week’s horizon, Sir Alex and co will ensure that all focus remains on beating Norwich today, and beat the Canaries well they should do.

Vengeance may also play a part today as Norwich were the last team to inflict a league defeat on the Red Devils way back in mid-November.  The Norfolk club havent scored an away league in a couple of months, during which time United have improved defensively by an immeasurable amount.

Lastly, Southampton must be a decent shout at home to QPR and further cement the Pochettino revolution against a former Saints manager, with whom he shares a birthday.  One assumes the Argentinian incumbent will be enjoying his cake a little more than his counterpart Harry Redknapp this evening.



1) Wigan vs. Liverpool Luis Suarez Anytime Goalscorer 6/5 Boylesports
2) Swansea vs. Newcastle Over 2.5 Goals 5/6 Boylesports
3) West Ham to beat Stoke 12/5 Coral
4) Manchester United to beat Norwich to nil 5/4 BetVictor
5) Southampton to beat QPR 3/4 Coral


Written by Emelie Okeke

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Arsenal: Who can plug the gap in front of the Gunners’ defence?

Gilberto Silva: Is there anyone around suitable enough to replace this man?
Gilberto Silva: Is there anyone around suitable enough to replace this man?

Gilberto Silva: Is there anyone around suitable enough to replace this man?

If you ask an Arsenal fan what position in the team needs strengthening, there’s a very good chance they will say defensive midfield.

For a number of reasons, first of all, we haven’t had a ‘proper’ holding midfielder - someone who does nothing but sit and cover the back 4, then keeps the ball and plays it simple - since Gilberto Silva in my opinion. Mikel Arteta is who occupies this role at the moment and has done a decent enough job there.

Now, while I rate Arteta highly and would say he was our best player last season behind you know who, I don’t think he’s quite suited for this role.


Here are some reasons why:

1) When Arsenal are being hit on the counter (often), he doesn’t have the pace to get back and do much about it.

2) His strength can prove a problem at times. While Arteta is no push over, when he comes up against big, physical presences in midfield, he struggles to get a grip on the game.

3) I think Arteta’s main strengths (passing, reading the game, creating) would be better utilised further forward. He would do very well linking up with the likes of Cazorla to create.

For me, a top class defensive midfielder must be a number of things.


These are:

1) Strong. They must be able to battle and take control of the midfield no matter who they’re up against.

2) Intelligent. They must be able to read the game well and have good positioning to cover their defence as well as stay disciplined for the good of the team.

3) Quick/mobile. Covering ground is an important part of playing this position and if they can’t get back to protect their defence, then they’re not doing their job.

4) Have solid passing. At the base of the midfield, the ball MUST be kept, any slack pass will be pounced upon so the defensive midfielder must be able to keep the ball.

5) Tackle/intercept well. The main part of a defensive midfielder’s job is to win the ball to protect their defence. If they can’t win the ball, then that’s a problem.


Here are 5 players who I believe would do very good job as Arsenal’s holding midfielder:


1) Fernando Reges of FC Porto

At 25 this guy has both experience on his side and is on the right side of his prime years. He has been at Porto since 2007 and has won the Portugese League three times, as well as the Europa League.

He also has plenty of Champions League experience and is the perfect ‘foil’ for players such as Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez to do what they do best, attack.


2) Etienne Capoue of Toulouse

A tall, physical player who a lot of Arsenal fans think is exactly what we need. At 24 he is young, so still has plenty of improving to do. He is also versatile and is able to play at centre back effectively. Being 6ft 2, he is a physical presence who can dominate a midfield.

He also has 5 caps for France and will no doubt pick up more in the future.


3) Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton

Despite just signing a contract extension at his current club until 2017, an offer from a top club would surely turn his head. Schneiderlin has been at Southampton since 2008 and has been part of their side which has risen through the leagues.

In my opinion, he is amongst the most underrated players in the league. He currently tops the charts for both tackles and interceptions in the Premier League and has held Southampton’s midfield together at times.

Not only can he defend, though, he also chips in with goals, shown by his opener v Newcastle last Sunday.


4) Victor Wanyama of Celtic

With not long left on his current contract, now would be the perfect time to move for Wanyama. This guy is everything a defensive midfielder needs to be. Tall, strong, versatile, young, does his job well and is a threat in the air.

He has been pivotal and so impressive throughout Celtic’s Champions League campaign, typified when he scored the opening goal during their fantastic win over Barcelona.


5) Maxime Gonalons of Lyon

Another French defensive midfielder and he has arguably been the best of the lot this season. He is currently the captain of Lyon who sit 2nd in Ligue 1 behind PSG. For a 23 year-old to captain a big club like Lyon, you must be talented. He has 6 caps for his country and continues to produce good performances week in, week out.

In my opinion, he is the ideal candidate. Not only can he defend but is also a very neat passer of the ball and at 6ft 2, is a danger in the opposition’s box. Proved by his header against Spurs in the Europa League.

If it was up to me, i would go for Fernando. Mainly for his experience and intelligence of the game. He knows the role he plays so well and is everything Arsenal are currently missing in their midfield.

Who would you pick?


Written by Charlie Smith

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Diego Milito’s Injury: The Search for the Perfect Quick-Fix

The recent injury to Diego Milito in the Europa League has proven to be a troubling one. Not to mention the fact that it has put one of Inter’s top performers on the side-line’s for an extended period, it has highlighted the clubs lack of options when it comes to a spear head for the team.

For many Inter fans this current predicament is symptomatic of a lack of foresight by the Club’s hierarchy. Yet again Marco Branca has been responsible for a lack of vision in the transfer market, as the signing of the 36 year old Tommaso Rocchi indicates. The former Lazio veteran was brought in as cover for Milito, but it seems quite evident that he was only going to be used sporadically or as a closer in games to help keep Milito fresh for the following week and not as a regular starter.

There has also been criticism in some quarters due to the club letting go of younger talent such as Longo, who is on loan at Espanyol, and Livaja, who has gone to Atalanta as part of a co-ownership deal.

However, although the absence of those two players offers an easy point of attack for critics of the regime at Inter, it doesn’t really tell the full story. As undoubtedly talented as those two young players are, it is doubtful that they would be able to deliver the consistency and level of performance that are required of a team chasing the champions league spaces.

Circumstances, however, have not been kind to Inter and they now find themselves without an out and out goal threat up front. Although Cassano has been an extremely positive signing, he is much more of a creative player and is unlikely to contribute more than 10 goals between now and the end of the season.

The same may also be said of Palacio. While these two players are very good they are both better served creating opportunities for a striker such as Milito and not leading the line themselves.

With few options available Inter have been searching for an out of contract player who can come in and help the team out on a short term basis. Unfortunately, this presents an incredibly narrow field with which to choose from. John Carew recently had a fitness test with the club, but it was decided it would take too long for the former West Ham player to regain fitness and therefore it seemed pointless taking him on.

All this means that Inter’s chances of qualifying for the Champions league look pretty desperate. Their main rivals, AC Milan and Napoli, have strikers that many an Inter fan would probably kill for and with Inter’s form over the Christmas period already looking shaky at best; it’s hard to see how Stramaccioni is going to turn things around.


Written by Oliver Beatson

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Zenit - Liverpool aftermath: Not much St. Petersburg love for Suarez

A week may have already passed since last week’s Europa League drama at Anfield, but there has been no let up in the controversy that has followed the game. Whether it be Liverpool’s dramatic comeback or the antics of Luis Suarez, it was a game that so far, has been impossible to forget. While Zenit can look forward to a round of 16 tie against Swiss side Basel, Liverpool are left with bitter regrets after coming so close to pulling off a remarkable comeback against the Russian champions.

But it hasn’t just been the football that has proven to be the talking point. After the final whistle, many Zenit fans have called for Liverpool star Suarez to be banned from football until he can learn to play the game properly, after Suarez was spotted on camera stamping on the back of defender Tomas Hubocan, and earlier, deliberately hacking down Nicolas Lombaerts.  Ultimately Zenit had the last laugh with progressing, but you can’t ignore the fact Liverpool came so close to cheating their way into the last 16 ahead of the Russians.

When the draw for the last 32 was made in December last year, it was straight away singled out as one of the ties to watch out for, two games that would capture the attention of not just Europe, but the whole of the footballing world. And not just traditional football fans decided to take a look, in my case even my whole family took to the TV to see how a club steeped in such tradition as Liverpool would cope against a Zenit side which has gained European pedigree only in the last few years.

And both games didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Not just the second leg at Anfield had all the thrills and spills of a typical old fashioned cup tie, the game in Saint Petersburg was no less enthralling. End to end football was the order of the day, and the controversial Suarez himself could of helped himself to a Russian hat trick. But instead it was Zenit’s Hulk who stole the show, unleashing a blockbuster of a shot to open the scoring on 69 minutes, and that was followed quickly by veteran Sergey Semak capitalising on some stilted defending to slot home.

That goal eventually ended up to probably be the killer goal in the tie, but it could have been so different. Liverpool created no less chances than their hosts, albeit mostly down to Zenit’s slack defending, but how the English outfit didn’t get at least one away goal still puzzles many two weeks after the game.

While the first game lacked in controversy, that was all about to be made up for in the second leg in Liverpool. Before the game Liverpool’s living legend and captain Steven Gerrard had publicly made a call for the Merseyside faithful to be even louder than usual given the daunting task facing the hosts, and they certainly paid attention to him. Anfield may always be a cauldron of noise even on the smallest of occasions, this was just something else. The incessant deafening shouts of the Kop were heard from the first minute all the way to the last, and almost just on voices alone did Liverpool turn over their Russian counterparts.

And yet for Zenit the evening started so well. Hulk capitalised on a loose back pass to finish calmly past goalkeeper Pepe Reina, and with that, the tie looked done and dusted. It proved to be anything but. Luis Suarez smashed home a free kick just 10 minutes later, and moments before half time Joe Allen squeezed the ball in to bring the hosts within two of progressing.

Just 15 minutes into the second half it was 3-1, a stunning Suarez free kick bring Liverpool within an inch of adding Zenit to their long list of comeback victims. But it wasn’t to be with Zenit holding out for the remaining half an hour to just about go through to the last 16, and a collective sigh of relief was felt all the way from Saint Petersburg. The real talking though had only just started.

Liverpool’s number 7 and Kop hero Luiz Suarez has always been in the thick of it. From that unforgettable deliberate handball against Ghana in the World Cup quarter final of 2010 to racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, he has never shied away from being in the spotlight.

And the game at Anfield encapsulated his career in just 90 minutes. In scoring two fantastic free kicks, in particular his second goal in the second half, he showed the whole world, just how much talent he has. On his day he is one of the most dangerous forwards on the globe and for 180 minutes he tormented the Zenit defence throughout, with the Russians in the end only just surviving.

To go with his remarkable and special talent though, he possesses the unwanted quality, of letting himself down horribly.

While on Russian soil he may not have done anything that appeared untoward, the game in England proved to be the complete opposite. His pure hunger and desire to win was obvious and that is only to be admired, but he was up to his old tricks again. Tripping up any Zenit player when he could, he then went a step further. In the lead up to Liverpool’s second goal, he hacked down the Belgian Lombaerts, an incident which forced Lombaerts off the pitch. And then came the most talked about moment, right at the end of the game.

With frustration rife amongst the Liverpool players, Suarez took it upon himself to rake his right foot on Tomas Hubocan’s back, an incident which was caught right on camera for the whole world to see. Somehow the officials missed the incident, and even more surprisingly, club officials at Zenit decided to not even follow up the incident with UEFA.

The infamous stamping incident.

That hasn’t stopped Zenit fans venting their anger though, and it’s up for debate, whether such a player holds the right to be on the football field. No one doubts the talent that the Uruguayan star possesses, it’s on show just about every week for everyone to see. But such ‘tactics’ that he uses to try and win games illegally, shouldn’t be allowed to continue any more. UEFA themselves cannot follow up this most recent incident however as the referee for the night Björn Kuipers didn’t file the incident in his match report, but surely it can’t be too long before someone somewhere clamps down on such dirty tactics.

In any case, the only ones smiling come the final whistle were Zenit. The Russians survived a severe storm at Anfield and their reward is what should be a slightly less traumatic tie against Basel, and Zenit’s tag as one of the favourites for the Europa League trophy has surely only been enhanced after somehow surviving in one the loudest stadiums in Europe.

Even more pleasing however, is to see the back of Suarez for at least another European season.


Written by Shaun Nicolaides

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Tottenham: Plenty more behind Spurs’ top 4 challenge than just Bale

Arsenal will head into the pivotal north London derby this Sunday preoccupied with forming a plan to stop Gareth Bale, the currently unstoppable winger who is steering Spurs towards the promised land of a top four finish. Bale’s relentless form of 8 goals in his last 5 games, including a superb match-winning double against West Ham on Monday night, has seen comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo such is his ability for winning matches alone.

Bale’s irrepressible talent will inevitably be high on the priority list for a defence as porous as Arsenal’s, but it would be wholly naive of the Gunners to restrict their attentions solely on the flying Welsh winger when they meet again with the side they thrashed 5-2 back in November.

That defeat was the last in a run of three that saw Spurs slide down to eighth in the table and credit must go to Andre Villas-Boas for arresting the patchy form to the extent they are now sitting third having lost just once since that autumn lunchtime at the Emirates. Just one loss in 15 is the impressive sequence of form they will put on the line against their bitter rivals on Sunday in a battle that will have huge resonance in the race for Champions League qualification.

Bale has a total of 15 goals in that time, yet it can’t be overlooked the strong platform on which he has majestically performed. Villas-Boas boasts arguably the strongest centre-midfield in the league with Dembele and Sandro, and with the Brazilian now injured, England international Scott Parker is a more than able deputy. Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker set the right flank ablaze with lightning pace and creative talent, they have a combined tally of 9 assists so far, while Jermain Defoe and Clint Dempsey share some of the goal-scoring burden with Bale in attack, they have shared 15 in total.

A scroll further down the Spurs squad will reveal Emmanuel Adebayor, with his strength and intelligent movement in attack, Gylfi Sigurdsson, the gifted technician who scored his first goal for the club on Monday, and 22 year old midfielder Lewis Holtby, with his incisive passing, impressive balance and dangerous presence between the lines bought from Schalke in January for a bargain fee of £2 million. Holtby was another successful Villas-Boas transfer purchase after Dembele and, going further back in the Spurs squad to the defence, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and defender Jan Vertonghen.

Signed for less than £10 million, Lloris has been superb at the base of a defence that has shipped just 11 goals in the past 15 games. The French goalkeeper has shown his shot-stopping ability on numerous occasions this season and his big physical presence has provided a calming influence to a back-line that is showing the resilience that hasn’t necessarily, especially with the eccentricities of Heurelho Gomes, been there in recent years.

Part of that new found solidity is owing to the leadership of captain Michael Dawson, but also other summer signing Jan Vertonghen who has joined many of his fellow Belgians in slotting seamlessly into Premier League life.

Having played in all but four of Spurs’ 27 league matches so far, he has shown his versatility in playing both left-back and centre-back, where he has cut a sound defender who is perfectly able to bring the ball out confidently from the back, as an 86% pass-completion rate and his solitary goal, a marauding run and smart finish against Manchester United at Old Trafford, has shown.

A strong tackle and interception rate, of 2.8 and 2.9 per game respectively, has indicated his defensive quality that has, at times, rendered his 6ft 3 inch frame immovable. It is his strong focus and concentration levels, far beyond his 25 years of age, that have boosted a defence that has included the inexperienced Steven Caulker and Kyle Naughton across the season.

Vertonghen and Lloris, both in their debut year in England, have made a decisive contribution to forming a sturdy back-line which allows a strong attacking-line up to thrive, and promises to avoid a drastic collapse similar to the one that saw Spurs hit a spell of rocky form at this stage last year that eventually led to them missing out on the Champions League.

It will be Bale, quite righteously considering the awesome talent that has been in full effect in recent weeks, that will dominate the build-up to Sunday’s monumental clash, but Arsene Wenger will do well to realise there is far more to this Spurs team than their winger.

His opposite number meanwhile, should be reminded of his record in the transfer market so far that has yielded some impressive results, most notably Lloris and Vertonghen who, even though they will not receive the credit, have formed the back-bone to Spurs’ top four charge.


Written by Adam Gray

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