Stadia Trivia: Can you name Europe’s largest football stadiums by capacity?


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Liga BBVA: The Top Five Best Transfers So Far this Summer

With the kick off of the new La Liga season looming, it is shaping up to be another intriguing year in the Spanish top-flight. Luis Enrique’s all-conquering Barcelona will be the team to beat after last season’s treble and they have strengthened, though find themselves hamstrung by the transfer ban that prohibits Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal from playing for their new club until January.

Under the new direction of Rafael Benitez, Real Madrid have had a quiet summer by their standards, signing Danilo from Porto and Kiko Casilla from Espanyol as Iker Casillas’s replacement, though a deal for Manchester United’s David De Gea still could go through.

Also looking to wrestle the title away from Catalonia will be Real’s city rivals Atletico who have undergone a clear-out after the disappointment of last term, spending £88 million and recouping £60m by signing 6 players and letting go of 8.

Clubs contesting the race for Europe have all been active in the market so the race for fourth looks set to be exciting once again but in a league where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is particularly striking, the onus is also on the cash-strapped clubs at the bottom to work the market effectively.

Here’s a run-down of some of the best deals in La Liga so far this summer;


Steven N’Zonzi- Stoke to Sevilla (£9.7 million)

Stoke have spent the summer crafting their image to suit something easier on the eye than what many onlookers have been accustomed to in their Premier League spell, but for the rousing arrivals of Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri they may find the absence of the midfield steel that N’Zonzi provided to be damaging.

To further bolster a midfield that already houses the excellent Grzegorz Krychowiak, N’Zonzi brings energy and smart passing as well as his fearsome athleticism for a fee short of £10 million.

At the age of 26 and having missed just five Premier League games over the past three seasons, it is a bargain that even the most wily city trader would be proud of.


John Guidetti- Manchester City to Celta Vigo (Free)

Like so many striking records that have been forged in the Eredivisie in Holland, Guidetti’s 20 goals in 23 games on loan for Feyenoord in the 2011-12 campaign has so far flattered to deceive as he found himself frozen out by City’s riches and has subsequently struggled in temporary spells at Celtic and Stoke.

Though now 23 and having starred in Sweden’s under-21 European Championship win this summer, Celta provide him with a chance to reinvigorate his club career.

Quick, instinctive and who can also create as well as finish off chances, Guidetti could be a shrew acquisition for coach Eduardo Berizzo as he looks to replace Santi Mina.


Stefan Savic- Fiorentina to Atletico Madrid (£9 million)

The Montenegrin centre-half struggled to establish himself in the Premier League with Manchester City in 2011-12 but has since developed into a fine defender in his three years in Florence.

Comfortable on the ball and a very gifted reader of the game, the 24 year old offers Diego Simeone something different to the committed brawn of Diego Godin and Cristian Rodriguez as he aims to replace Miranda, who moves on loan to Inter Milan.

The deal is facilitated by the move of Mario Suarez in the opposite direction, but Savic’s measured calm is a good asset for Simeone to compliment Godin and Rodriguez with.


Rafael Van der Vaart- Hamburg to Real Betis (Free)

In what looks at first sight as a one-last pay day before he sails off into the sunset kind of deal, it is worth remembering Van der Vaart is only 32 and can still produce the magic that bewitched so many top-level defenders in a career that has been oddly nomadic given his obvious talent.

Moving closer to his grandparents and once again given a shot at La Liga after exiting Real Madrid in acrimonious circumstances in 2010, it gives the player the chance to approach the end of his career on a high while giving newly-promoted Betis some star-quality.

The Dutchman will add craft and guile to Pepe Mel’s team as they aim to avoid the drop.


Jonathas de Jesus Elche to Real Sociedad (£7 million)

Though the campaign ended in relegation for Elche, Jonathas’s 14 goals made it a memorable one on an individual level. In fact, that haul nearly kept them up though they were sent down due to unpaid tax debts and the sale of their top scorer will help alleviate those financial problems.

Suitors included Scottish champions Celtic, West Bromwich Albion and even Chelsea but Real Sociedad, with David Moyes needing a striker after last year’s goal struggles, have won the race for the Brazilian.

Tall, powerful and an ice-cool finisher, he is able to lead the line by himself and is likely to thrive off the service from the new-look front-line that includes new signings David Concha and Armindo Bruma.


Written by Adam Gray

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Football Poem: Arsenal forever… We are the Mighty Arsenal

We are the mighty Arsenal -
we are a world-class team,
We play our game so
majestically, we really are

We play in the English Premier
League - and we fear no
other team,
Not even Manchester United -
do you know what I mean?

Highbury is our home - we
also recruit beginners,
Our famous name is known
to all - we are the world-
class GUNNERS.

We really do have a history -
of famous players in time,
All were simply brilliant -
they really were sublime.

There was goalkeeper, Bob
Wilson - and the manager,
George Graham,
Every match they played -
it was a jam-packed stadium.

The most important game
they played in - was a classic’
FA Cup Final,
When Charlie George let
loose a shot - it really was

But now they soldier on -
with a super manager,
And they continue to be
a world-class team, Arsenal -


Written by Darryl Ashton 

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Premier League: The 2015/16 Top Four Battle Prediction

The English Premier League has started once again. Here is my top four prediction. Please carry on reading to see if yours is the same as mine.

Of the major sides, Liverpool and Manchester United have been the busiest during the transfer window as they look to increase the options available in their squad before the season begins.


Title winners - Chelsea

Chelsea, the 2014/15 champions, have only brought in three players Radamel Falcao on loan, Asmir Begovic and Nathan.

Begovic has huge experience in the Premier League and has prove to be the real deal against the big teams of England over the past few years while at Stoke City.

Radamel Falcao, what’s there to say about him? He was the best striker a couple of years ago with superb goalscoring rates for FC Porto and Atletico Madrid. Despite a poor loan season under Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, the Colombian striker is willing to prove a point to all Premier League fans that Louis Van Gaal was the main reason for his poor form and lack of opportunities.

Chelsea will be looking to retain the Premier League title despite letting go of a lot of players either on loan or permanent deals. Chelsea and Jose Mourinho won the league by eight points ahead of previous champions Manchester City and surprisingly only lost three out of the 38 matches.


Second place - Arsenal

Arsenal have brought in Petr Cech who will be vital to them if they are willing to be title contenders this season. The Gunners haven’t had a world class goalkeeper for a long time and with a experience shot stopper like Cech, Arsenal will be looking to save up to 10 points this campaign.

Three to five years ago, Arsenal weren’t able to compete with Manchester City and Chelsea within the transfer market for world class players. But in the summer of 2013, they brought in Mesut Ozil, the next summer their big signing was Alexis Sanchez and this summer it seems to be like Petr Cech is their marquee signing.

In my opinion, Arsenal won’t finish far away from Chelsea this season. Big difference you could say is that Chelsea have quality players on the bench, so if one of their first team regular players were to get suspended or injured it wouldn’t be a worry for them. In contrast for Arsenal, who have been unlucky with injuries in the past few years which has been a vital reason as to why they have kept finishing 4th place and not a higher position.


Third place - Manchester United

Out of the top four teams last season not surprisingly, Manchester United have been the busiest club bringing in five players for a fee of £75m.

One big problem for the Red Devils last season was the lack of a spare defensive-midfielder for Michael Carrick when he missed games due to injury. But this summer Louis Van Gaal has brought in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.

The Dutch manager has a strong connection with Schweinsteiger, who he knows very well from his time at Bayern Munich. In fact, Van Gaal decided to convert Schweinsteiger from a winger to a central-midfielder so you could say he played a big part in understanding which position the German star suits well.

No introduction needed for Morgan Schneiderlin, the Frenchman has been a valuable asset to Southampton over the past few years. He is now recognised as one of the best defensive-midfielders in the Premier League and he seems like the ideal replacement for the ageing Michael Carrick.

With players coming, Manchester United have already offloaded the likes of Robin Van Persie, Rafael and Luis Nani to other clubs in Europe. Robin van Persie was Manchester United’s second top goalscorer last season and if they are looking to compete for the title they have to be bringing in a prolific striker like Edison Cavani or Robert Lewandowski.

Despite having a lot of injuries last season, Manchester United finished fourth with the fifth best defence in the league, but had with creativity and goal scoring predicaments. With only Wayne Rooney, James Wilson and Javier Hernandez available as the main strikers I believe the club don’t have much of an attacking threat from their forward line to be challenging for the league title.


Fourth place - Liverpool

After finishing 5th last season, Liverpool have done very well in the transfer window. Key players they have brought in are Nathaniel Clyne and Christian Benteke — two key positions they needed to fill.

They have also brought in Danny Ings on a free transfer, who was the top goalscorer for Burnley last season. You could easily say Ings could do the job in the forward position better than Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert did last season.

Another free transfer signing to they have brought in is James Milner. With Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard leaving the club after a long time, his leadership and experience will be missed on the pitch and in the dressing room. I won’t say Milner is the perfect replacement for Gerrard, but he has been in the Premier League for a long time and has been a key figure for Manchester City and Aston Villa over the years.

A big problem for Liverpool last season was playing the 3-4-3 formation, which none of the players were use to and didn’t have enough time to adapt to. In the 3-4-3 formation there is no defensive-midfield role, which is really important especially for Liverpool who have an average defence.


No Top Four for Manchester City?

With Edin Dzeko close to leaving the blues for Roma and Stefan Jovetic now a Inter Milan player. It only leaves Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony available as their strikeforce. If one of them was to get injured for a couple of weeks and up to a month it would only leave them with one striker, which won’t be enough for them especially with the club competing in Champions League too.

They also possess an ageing squad. Yaya Toure, 31, has been a vital player for City over the past few years. The player was once known as an average player in an unstoppable Barcelona team and when he signed for City he became a big hit for the Citizens. Ever since he joined, whenever he’s involved in a midfield battle you would know Yaya Toure would come out as the winner, but in the 2014/15 season Yaya has been surprisingly bullied in a lot of aerial duels. Question is, has Yaya Toure’s time come to an end?

Manchester City’s defence is ageing without a doubt and would be a surprise if they don’t buy a defender this summer. Their main back four last season was Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta. Both Clichy and Zabaleta are now 30, whilst Kompany will be 30 very soon and Demichelis is 34.

A lot of defenders can do well until they are 32-33 years old, but reason I brought up the defence is that even the full-backs available such as Sagna and Kolarov are ageing too. When defenders get older, they lose a lot of their pace that they had during the start of their career along with issues in maintaining fitness week in and out, so it would be best for them to bring in younger players who will be present and ready for the long term.


Written by Asif Norat

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