Champions League Quarter-Final Second Leg Preview: Finish ’em

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The second leg of the quarter-final is here, so what should we look forward to:

Tuesday’s match-ups

Barca will hope to finish off ‘Ibra-less’ PSG when the two teams collide in the Camp Nou. Now it’s true that Barca is not unbeatable and PSG does have the capability to bring down Enrique’s men, but let’s be realistic for here. Les Parisiens might be cruising in Ligue 1, but the Champions League does actually contain teams who have a better squad than PSG. If it wasn’t for Chelsea’s lack of squad depth, PSG would have not even gotten this far in the competition. David Luiz, once the hero in the last 16, is again proving that he is not the man for big matches (remember Brazil vs. Germany in the last World Cup?).

And for the rest of his teammates, many are proving that they can’t do it in a club bigger than PSG. So no offense to PSG, but it looks like they going down in quarter-finals for the third season in a row.

Moving to Munich, the German champions (since December) will try to overturn a 3-1 deficit when they host Porto. Now they are few things that will determine the game: Porto’s approach to the game, Bayern’s way of defending, the midfield battle, and of course how many mistakes will Bayern’s ‘Mistakes Masters’ will make. But above all those facts, is Bayern’s ability to score 7 goals at home. Should they reclaim that ability, it might end up being a very long night for Porto.


Wednesday’s clashes

Real host Atletico and thanks to Ancelotti’s master plan of playing Modric and Bale when he could have rested them, Los Blancos will be without two of their most influential players. Well, just one, if you take Bale recent performance into consideration. For Atleti, the job is simple: give Real the usual dose. Now the last time Real beat Atleti was after extra time so if Ancelotti’s boys can keep the score 0-0 for 90 minutes, they might just have a chance to go on defending their trophy.

Anyways, this is football. Maybe Ronaldo and his 11 sidekicks will finally find a way to break their Atleti duck. But if they don’t, Ancelotti might just re-evaluate his statement about him being at Madrid next season.

Au Stade Louis II, Monaco will be hoping to overcome ‘over-confident’ Juventus when they host the Italian champions. Juve will of course hope to finish the job, but if Monaco sticks to their style of impressive defending and dangerous counter attacking football, the Italian side might just get the taste of what competitive football feels like (since they lost it ages ago).



I wanna take a page from ‘Epic Rap Battles of History’’s book by saying: ‘Who will and who will go to the next round?’, however, I have a feeling that the answer to that question was given in the first leg.

So I’m just gonna say this: Underdogs, impress and surprise us and show us why the UEFA Champions League is the most exciting and unpredictable competition in the world. Supra Checkin’ Out.


Written by Christopher Kayembe

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Champions League: Round of 16 Preview

Despite all the tenuous rumours of a fix, the Champions League draw for this season’s round of 16 was always going to be intriguing. After the group stage, which as always was mildly entertaining but is essentially merely a rather drawn out Hors d’oeuvre before the competition truly heats up in February, we have been whittled down to a group of teams who are now just four rounds away from the Lisbon final.

Italian champions Juventus aside, they could also lay a valid claim to being the best 16 teams on the continent, so whatever the combination fate drew those sides out in Nyon last month they were always going to produce some mouthwatering ties.

So what order did they come out in, ok so you probably know by now, but we’ll preview them here;


Manchester City vs Barcelona

City boss Manuel Pellegrini may be regretting erroneously judging his maths out in Munich on matchday 6 as they settled for a runners-up spot and tempting Spanish champions Barca out of the hat. However, that 2-3 victory at the home of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Bavarians would give the Chilean optimism, not to mention the free-scoring form of Sergio Aguero (19) and Alvaro Negredo (17), that the Catalans can be toppled.

Gerardo Martino’s outfit lead La Liga into the winter break but have not been at their scintillating best. Far from it actually, unsettled by inner-politics and uncertainty over Martino’s tactics, Athletic Bilbao and Ajax have both exploited their failings. Neymar, 11 goals and 10 assists, has settled in superbly though Lionel Messi has been hampered by injury.

Vincent Kompany and co. will be aware that the Argentine could return by February’s end, though City definitely, with 54 league goals scored so far, have enough in their own attack to trouble Barca’s vulnerable, ageing defence.

Will Tata sign a defender? Don’t count on it.


Olympiakos vs Manchester United

United brushed their troubled domestic form to one side in order to breeze through their group with only four points dropped and have landed a plum-looking tie against the Greek champions. The Athens club are no mugs however, recovering from an opening game thrashing at the hands of PSG to progress in second, helped along by the goals of Kostas Mitroglou and the creation of Javier Saviola.

David Moyes will be hoping his charges will be in a more settled position as they enter the second half of the season and with Wayne Rooney producing some marvellous form he has every reason to believe United will progress rather comfortably.

A lot will depend on whether United’s defence, shaky on occasion this season, can hold firm in the first leg assignment out in the usually partisan Karaiskakis Stadium.


AC Milan vs Atletico Madrid

Possibly the hipster tie of the round. Just how will Diego Simeone’s bunch of fiery pretenders do against Massimiliano Allegri’s group of underachieving misfits? Will the volatile Diego Costa out-volatile the incredibly volatile Mario Balotelli? How much of an influence will 2007’s star Kaka have on the tie? Or will it be Arda Turan and Koke who battle their way to victory. The list of tedious questions are endless….

Atletico sit joint top of La Liga and cruised through their group unbeaten, boasting a solid defence and a hugely talented goalkeeper in Thibault Courtois, though the Rossonerri, a lowly 13th in Italy, have been around the Champions League block and done it for as long as anybody can remember.

They are Serie A’s last remaining standers, but will the Milanello gentry be knocked out by the relative new boys on the block?… okay, enough with the rhetorical.


Zenit St Petersburg vs Borussia Dortmund

“Press.. press.. press.. press..” goes the cry from Jurgen Klopp, the mantra of relentless work that saw the Germans into last season’s final but also into a dark valley of injuries and wretched form that sees them only 4th in the Bundesliga, 12 points off Bayern Munich going into the winter break they will be so grateful to see. In Europe, they emerged from a difficult group with 12 points, fired on by Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus, but Mats Hummels and Nevan Subotic have had nervy moments at the back.

A rejuvenated Dortmund will fancy their chances against arguably the weakest team left in the competition, yes they were handed a 4-1 rinsing by debutants Austria Vienna on matchday 6, and they limped through with as much momentum as an injured tortoise with just 6 points and 1 win.

Though Luciano Spalletti does still possess midfield general Axel Witsel and the hugely expensive commodity Hulk, plus it will be hugely cold out in Russia for the first leg. They will be hoping to score an advantage out there.


Arsenal vs Bayern Munich

Someone had to mention the holders didn’t they and here they are, boasting some swashbuckling league form, unbeaten in 16, scorers of 42 goals and conceders of 8.

Mario Gotze, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller, Mario Mandzukic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, Javi Martinez and co. place the emphasis on the collective as Guardiola proceeds into the next tactical frontier. Their 1-3 dismantling of Manchester City at the Etihad was indication of what they can do.

It must have been the most contrasting of emotions for Arsene Wenger’s men on the final group game, trudging off the Napoli pitch having just progressed from a desperately difficult group but ultimately to a defeat which saw them having to grudgingly accept the runners-up spot.

It’s not all bad though, the arrival of Mesut Ozil has beamed the Gunners up to the top of the Premier League with Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Oliver Giroud all showing superb form.

Mathieu Flamini offers some much-needed steel to the midfield which protects a sturdy defence. Plus, of course, there was the small matter of this last season.


Galatasaray vs Chelsea

It’s the tie that Didier Drogba wanted and with the Ivorian motivated to the hilts, nothing is beyond the Turkish side that also has Wesley Sneijder, as he did vs Juventus, capable of coming up with the big moments.

Though they crept past the Italians with a goal-difference of minus 6, Real Madrid stuck 10 past them in their 2 meetings, so defending is obviously not a plus point for Roberto Mancini’s side. The Italian coach will be busy re-accustoming himself with the last 16 furniture having failed to break the group stage ceiling with Manchester City.

Chelsea had a turbulent time of it in qualifying, losing twice to Basel but eventually coming good. Oscar and Eden Hazard have been impressive, but Jose Mourinho is still to decide on a regular striker, Samuel Eto’o, Demba Ba or Fernando Torres? Hmmm.. decisions. Whoever gets the nod will be hopeful of firing a few past Europe’s feeblest backline.

Mourinho, twice a winner of the competition, will be overwhelming favourite if he can successfully guide his own defence through the hostile trip to Istanbul and back to Stamford Bridge.


Schalke vs Real Madrid

The Germans have been hampered by the injury to Klaas Jan Huntelaar and have found goals hard to come by this season, experiencing patchy domestic from and a sluggish group stage.

Julien Draxler will see this as a stage to show his burgeoning quality while in Jefferson Farfan and Kevin Prince-Boateng, they boast attacking verve and vigour. Huntelaar will be due back in time for February, bringing a huge smile to the face of manager Jens Keller.

As he comes to realise that Madrid will arrive to Gelsenkirchen with an armada of Cristiano Ronaldo, just the 34 goals for the season so far, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria. The return of Xabi Alonso has given the midfield more composure and Isco can also produce moments of magic.

With walking red cards Sergio Ramos and Pepe patrolling the backline they are always minutes away from potential disaster, but as Carlo Ancelotti’s side continues to gel, you’d expect them to sweep aside their German counterparts with relative ease.


Bayer Leverkusen vs Paris St Germain

Anybody who watched Bayer play Manchester United in the group stages will be continuing to scratch their heads over just how the Germans have made it this far. Resembling a bunch of direction-less amateurs both at home and away, they were dispatched for an aggregate score of 9-2.

However Sami Hyypia’s men lie 2nd in the Bundesliga so they must be doing something right. Sidney Sam is a very dangerous winger and Simon Rolfes can create from deep. Stefan Kiessling, having a modest season with 11 goals, can finish off the chances created for him.

If Bayer continue to ship goals at the same rate as they did in qualifying, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be sizing up his prey like a hungry leopard after he netted a massive 8 goals in the group stages. If he doesn’t fancy it however, Edinson Cavani, who has 4, can always step up. The Qatari-owned French club have spent buckets and Laurent Blanc will cast half an eye on the final.

With Marquinhos excellent in defence and a midfield driven by Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta, he has the solid spine to compliment a prolific front-line.


Written by Adam Gray

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Arsenal: Tonight’s London Derby is a Cup final for the Gunners in disguise

The fairy tale start to the season for Arsenal is still well, on. Infact, its quite absurd to call it a “Fairy Tale ” opening. The Gunners have worked very hard to earn that top position status, and if there is any team who deserves the league come end of season, its them.

Albeit, they still have their negative enigmatic traits in them. Despite positives oozing around the Emirates, the same old Arsenal has had its cameo this season.

Games against both Manchester clubs, Everton, to name a few has illustrated the same old Arsenal who tends to shoot itself on the foot.

After scoring against Everton courtesy of Mesut Ozil, had the Gunners held on to that score-line, they would have been 7 points adrift and made tonight’s encounter more of a bragging rights affair.

The aberration score-line at the Ethiad further illustrated a team that dies often before the funeral. They were moments where Arsenal could have equaled the scores or gone ahead, but due to silly and avoidable errors, they were battered by an industrious Manchester City side that is gifted with depth.

The loss at Old Trafford exposed the lack of mental strength, often. The manager stated after the game that he felt his side didn’t have that mentality to win at Old Trafford. Title contenders in the BPL should be  installed with belief to grind out results in any stadium- and he knows that.

In contrast, the performances against the likes of Southampton, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Cardiff showed the resilience disposed in this squad and capability to get results even when they are second-best.

Tonight, however, all this would be history. With the home crowd cheering on and the players well rested, Arsene’s boys should be fighting to win and nothing else.

Losing at home to Chelsea would be disastrous. Not alone does it dampens their title aspirations, but Wenger risks losing a Champions league berth and ending the season trophyless.

Monday night, Arsenal’s defense would come under scrutiny by an attacking Chelsea outfit. It’s quite unfortunate to lose Koscielny to injury, but saying Vermaelen can’t fill the void is false; he’s a top player with experience, and his introduction at the Ethiad showed he’s still capable and fit.

Wilshere is another key player who is set to miss the London derby due to an ignorant middle finger sign at the Ethiad. In as much as I disapprove such gesture from Wilshere, I find it ludicrous that the FA would hand a two game ban for an incident that wasn’t in anyway damaging. The diminutive midfielder missing the game however is a chance for other top players in the squad to get a run in. Tomas Rosicky has continued to show his brilliance when picked, his pace, vision and sublime passes would be useful.

Welsh Jesus Aaron Ramsey is expected to be influential in this clash. The midfielder who has had a scintillating start to the season, on his day, would cause problems for Jose Mourinho’s men.

There has been rumors about Arsenal finding another striker in the January transfer market. Olivier Giroud has not been bad. Infact, he’s one of the orchestrators of most of Arsenal’s slick attacking flair- his layoffs, ability to holdup play are almost to perfection. He’s going to be the target man for Arsenal against a well drilled Chelsea defense without a shadow of doubt.

The significance of this game know no bounds. A win for Arsenal would be comforting and certainly refresh that title contenders mentality, anything less would erupt a volcano amongst the faithful and club itself. I hope not.


Written by Femi Hilekaan

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Manchester City vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal’s title credentials will be tested to the limit when they travel to Manchester City on Saturday in the midday kick-off. Arsene Wenger’s men will face a City side unbeaten at home in the League and brimming with confidence after coming from 2-0 down to defeat Bayern Munich 3-2 at the Allianz Arena.

The defending champions went 2-0 up within the first quarter of an hour, until David Silva, Alex Kolarov and James Milner came up with the goals Pellegrini required to be victorious over Pep Guardiola for the VERY FIRST TIME in his managerial career.

City have been in dominant form especially at home in the League, winning all seven fixtures and scoring 27 goals in that stretch. They have only let in 2; one of them a fantastic free kick by Wayne Rooney in the 4-1 clobbering of Manchester United. Recently, it was Spurs that collected a sound thrashing. Kun Aguero, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo all had their names on the score sheet in what still remains one of the most one-sided matches I have ever seen.

Arsenal task has been made the more difficult judging by their last performance in the Champions league where they were beaten in Naples. City are yet to be prevented from scoring in 60-odd home games and it will be difficult to see how Per and Kos stop the Kun-Negredo combo from netting at least one goal.

The North Londoners sit five points clear of the chasing park and are aware that there is no room for lapses in concentration. With the big London derby coming up next, anything less than a draw could be detrimental to the lingering hopes of finally ending their EPL title drought.



Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Negredo.

Possibly the strongest starting eleven Manuel can put out with injuries to Richards (wouldn’t have started ahead of Zabaleta anyway) and Gael Clichy. It is not the Chilean’s fault that Dzeko is rotting away on the subs bench. ALVARO NEGREDO has been possibly the best purchase made by City in the last three years. The Spanish attacker has proved his worth in four months and cannot be benched on current form.

We all know who the chief supplier of goals is and he has returned to the set-up after an injury ravaged start to the season. David Silva is surely assured of a starting place ahead of anyone in the playmaker slot.

Samir Nasri has done very well this season and should start against his former club and Sergio Aguero must lead the line as usual. Vincent Kompany was swept aside effortlessly by PABLO DANIEL OSVALDO in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, but he is still the Leader of the team and strongman of the defence.

He should get the nod alongside the vocal Demichelis. Both should be comfortable against Olivier Giroud who is goal shy away from London. The Fernandinho-Toure midfield is as assured as any other in World football and should show that on Saturday. The presence of Fernandinho has allowed Gnegnery to maraud further up field and cause some damage.

It has yielded the right results for the recently crowned BBC AFRICAN FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR and his club. He returns after sitting out the Bayern victory through suspension. Joe hart remains an able deputy to Roman shot-stopper, Costel Pantilimon. Role reversal.



Szczesny, Jenkinson, Kos, Per, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini/Wilshere, Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, Giroud.

Pretty much the same as we have seen from Arsenal all season. Aaron Ramsey is set to start after being rested in midweek as well as the imminent return of Jack Wilshere whose sore ankle must have healed in time to face the blue army. Lukas Podolski is set to return to the team after almost four months on the sidelines, but Bacary Sagna is still out with a hamstring injury.

Mesut Ozil is set to battle it out with David Silva in a tale of two excellent lefties with some of the most unique passing skills ever witnessed/seen. Silva is no slouch and Ozil is different class. Aaron Ramsey can add to his 13 goals this season on Saturday which will further push his case up the ladder for him to be crowned PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR cum May ’14.

On current form, he is among the best in the World in his position-which is currently unknown as he is deployed to several in every match. Mikel Arteta, who has assumed full responsibilities as team captain, since the ouster of club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, from the team, is accumulating too many red cards this season. Nevertheless, he is one of the most effective players in the League can be relied upon to give the midfield the needed balance.

Wojciech Szczesny has been very dependable this season but almost brought back memories of his over confident self in the first half of the game in Naples. Luckily for him and Arsenal, the mistake amounted to nothing.

With Pantilimon between the sticks for City, they have kept a few clean sheets along the way. Joe Hart might be facing deja vu. Roy Hodgson might be forced to look elsewhere for a replacement to the England first choice goalkeeping jersey if this current situation does not change soon.



A game that pitches two of the best sides in Europe against each other. It is the viewers’ dream to anticipate and finally watch some of the greatest footballers in the world slug it out for bragging rights. IT could be nine points-advantage Arsenal or three points-gap trimmed by City at the end of proceedings.

What is required of us is to wait as events unfold. Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton will keep a close watch on this game as it has a bearing on their current positions in the League.

As for Manchester United, this is beyond their reach at the moment. Focus should be on how to gather enough points before the new year. Who knows? Arsenal might be the first team to inflict on City, its first home loss. In football, nothing is certain.


Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Napoli vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Recently, the warriors of Naples have fought many battles and lost the important ones. The 3-0 spanking by Juventus and the 3-1 loss at the Signal Iduna are results that have not gone down well with the Sky Blue army. Matchday six of the UCL is the biggest game of the season for Rafa Benitez and his men.

In the lead up to the game, problems have arose between the gaffer and team captain, Paolo Cannavaro’s agent, with the latter accusing the former of ignoring his client and declaring him unsuitable for his team.

In fairness, the younger brother of former Azzurri skipper, Fabio, has done little to prove he merits a place in the starting eleven. In the away fixture v Roma earlier in the season, he was sent off for one of daftest challenges you’ll ever see. An action which effectively ensured that the sky blues left the capital without a point.

Cannavaro is set to depart the club in the January transfer window since he has found opportunities hard to come by. Miguel Britos and Federico Fernandez are doing a great job alongside Raul Albiol and only injury/suspension can deny them a place in the starting line-up

Visitors, Arsenal are the early pacesetters in the English Premier League. The gunners have lost only two games in domestic action this term and lead the chasing pack by five points. They were six minutes + stoppage time away from extending the advantage to seven, only for Barcelona loanee, Gerard Deulofeu to pop up and score a beauty for Everton in the 84th minute to level matters.

Arsene Wenger is aware of the task at hand and is confident that his wards will qualify. It will be an astonishment of epic proportions if Napoli cruise past Arsenal with the much improved Per-Kos partnership present at the San Paolo.

Benitez knows what is required to qualify for the next round. Although they have made it difficult for themselves, they have one last chance to put things right in front of their fans and on their turf. Irrespective of the opposition, the Paolo is a scary place to visit and the Partenopei fans will make life unbearable for Arsenal from the stands.

The burden rests firmly on the shoulders of Gonzalo ‘Pipita Higuain- the Argentine attacker is 26 today and will want to get one over a team he almost joined in the summer before De Laurentiis stepped in. It would certainly be one of the best birthday presents ever if he scores the goals required to enable Napoli qualify for the Round of 16. Something previous South Americans like El Diego and Cavani would have happily done.

Pipita’s job is tougher because Marek Hamsik is injured. The Slovakian playmaker will not take part in the Club’s most important game yet and that is a big blow. Another ex-Real Madrid player, Jose Callejon has been in good form this season. His goals and work rate deserve commendation. Napoli have a good chance to qualify if Jose and Pipita raise their game.

For Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, it has been a jolly good ride so far. The first tough game in the December run-in ended in a draw on Sunday and the same result will ensure that they don’t only qualify, but top the group as well. Giving the excellent form they currently are, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

The mission is simple: don’t concede at all. Even if you do, let it not be more than three and if you manage to let in three, score at least one. Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil have been scoring the goals of late and will look to continue in that fashion.

Wojciech Szczesny now seems assured in goal and that has made Wenger’s decision to bring in Viviano, laughable. The Pole has to remain solid and impenetrable to stop the Callejon-Pandev-Insigne-PIPITA quartet.




Pepe Reina, Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere, Dzemaili, Inler, Pandev, Insigne, Callejon, HIGUAIN.

Pretty much the expected team selection from Rafa. Hamsik aside, everyone walks straight into the starting 11 except that Pandev is often the strike option if/when Pipita and co fail to shine. The Macedonian captain has a lot to offer when he is called upon.

Raul Albiol and whoever partners him in defence must be watchful of the exceptional skills set of Ozil-Ramsey-Giroud-and Santiago Cazorla. Well, Gokhan Inler must play his part too.



Szczesny, Jenkinson, Kos, Per, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Roiscky, Walcott, Giroud/Bendtner.

There’s this strange feeling that Wenger might like some width tomorrow, hence the inclusion of Walcott in the first eleven. Tomas Roiscky is a genius when fit and ready and we all know the numbers Aaron has posted this season. Any position you ask him to play, he does unbelievable things.

In fact, due to his leading role this season, some have boldly opined that he is better than the peerless ARTURO VIDAL. Ozil has been very impressive for the Gunners with timely goals and assists since he came from Spain. The Germany playmaker extraordinaire is probably the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League.

Arsene might want to give Nicklas a chance to prove himself yet again after that rare goal v Hull last week. Wilshere will be required to rest his ankle in the aftermath of what happened on Sunday and Flamini should miss out through injury.



The San Paolo will be rocking on Wednesday night and everyone is anticipating a spectacular match between two great clubs slugging it out for a place in the last 16 of the UCL. Victory for Napoli might not be enough which is bizarre because it would take them to 12 points.

If Dortmund win at the Velodrome and Arsenal avoid being thrashed 3-0, then both Klopp and Wenger will be delighted to sail through what was dubbed the ‘GROUP OF DEATH’ when the draws came through. If Napoli achieve the impossible, De Laurentiis might just open his chequebook for reinforcements to be brought in to bolster the ever improving squad.

It is first in England v third in Italy. If the gunners were in Serie A, they would have been third behind Roma and Juventus points wise and if Napoli had been a premier league club this campaign, they would have been 2nd behind Arsenal. Tight game in prospect as both teams are doing quite well domestically.

Stalwarts like Higuain and Ozil have one or two points to prove on Wednesday night. How weird it will be for both players who as early as May, were playing together for one club. We await showtime.


Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Barcelona vs Real Madrid: The El Clasico Preview

Geraldo ‘TATA’ Martino cannot believe his eyes. The Newell’s Old boys all-time great was chosen to replace the ailing Tito Vilanova in August and he has settled in well to be honest. Like fellow Argentine, Cesar Luis Menotti aka ‘El Flaco’, the man who led Paraguay to the Copa America Final in 2011 as well as the quarter-final of the World Cup a year earlier, has brought his own ideas and style to Catalunya. His tinkering of the squad has been hailed by many as a master stroke and up till now, it working like magic. Only four draws in all competitions while other matches have been won convincingly is an absolutely superb record. He would never have dreamt of this kind of start. The Catalans had won all their games until the stalemate in Pamplona last weekend put an end to their perfect record. Atletico Madrid also lost to Espanyol immediately after. Real Madrid defeated Malaga and cut the deficit on both sides to three and two respectively. Two of the greatest teams in history go head to head in the first Clasico of the season with both having managers who have never been involved in this kind of game. Tata Martino and Carlo Ancelotti may have overseen many derbies in their careers to date, but they are aware that none has been/can be as big as EL CLASICO. The Argie and Italian tacticians have enjoyed a great deal of success with teams they have handle in the past. Nevertheless, they are where they have always dreamed of since they were kids. To manage Barcelona and Real Madrid is the pinnacle of anyone’s career. The best thing that can happen in the life of an human being whose desire is to manage, career is coaching and ambition is to be the greatest of all time. Last season, Real Madrid had the better of Barcelona in all competitions. But the Blaugrana won the league which is the most important thing. In Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Barca and Real boast the two best players in the WORLD. Both geniuses have 30 Clasico goals between them and they have decided many a Clasico with the Argentine most decisive in past contests between the giants. Just like Manchester United v Liverpool, Boca v River Plate, Milan V Juventus, Chiefs v Pirates, etc, this is the most anticipated game in La Liga every season and one of the most awaited all over the globe. Since 2008, No other player has scooped the WPOTY award asides CR7 and Messi, with the latter taking the last four. It is without doubt that Messi is the best player in the world. Ronaldo is the most complete footballer in the world without argument. His industry, hardwork, goals and everything he puts in just makes him a marvel anytime he comes out on the pitch. Messi on the other hand, is a wonderful sight to behold. He has turned enemies into admirers and haters into passionate fans. Being voted the best footballer in the world for four years running is something that was unthinkable until the diminutive goal machine achieved it last year. He has been a contender for the World’s biggest individual football honour since 2007. No one can boast of such a feat. He always shows up in every big game and today will not be an exception. If he scores today, he will stand alone as the highest goal scorer (19) in Clasico affairs - one ahead of the inimitable ALFREDO DI STEFANO (18). CR7 is not far behind on 12 and he has scored in RM’s last six visits to Camp Nou. A ground he has come to love after that unforgettable demolition in 2010. He silenced the Camp Nou crowd last year with a fantastic winner that sealed Real’s 32nd League title in style. Even though the press have Neymar and Bale as possible game changers today, Leo and CR7 have no equal and are the prime suspects anytime an offence is committed in a bionic manner. Xavi and Iker Casillas have played 50 La Liga Clasicos between them…25 apiece. Times have changed nowadays. San Iker is now a bench warmer and if not for respect, he would have found it hard to play any game in any competition. He has been relegated to the bench by the ever impressive Diego Lopez who has merited his place in the starting eleven. Xavi is no longer a certainty in the Barca first eleven with TATA choosing to rest him on occasions and make switches when he deems fit. He will likely feature today. What is unclear is whether he will start or come on as a sub. While the likes of Xavi, Iker, Ramos, Valdes, Iniesta, Messi, CR7. etc can boast of appearing in a lot of Clasicos, the same cannot be said of Gareth Bale and Neymar. Two of the most promising footballers of the last couple of years will play in their first ever Real-Barca duel this evening. While Neymar has settled in well, Bale has struggled for form and fitness and Angel Di Maria is keeping him out of the starting line up at the moment. Carlo has hinted that he will start the game. Who he will replace is what the Italian has kept to himself. He surely knows better than to keep ADM on the bench as he is one of the most in-form players in the world at the moment. Neymar scored loads and loads of goals for Pele’s Santos and he has done very well since his arrival, although only three goals have come from his boots until now. He has made lots of goals and it was his header at the Calderon that ensured Barca won the Super Coppa Espana on away goals. If Messi and CR7 choose to be quiet which is a rarity, then Neymar and Bale can take over the talismanic duties of the pair and steer their teams to victory in a match neither wants to lose. The likes of Batra, Casemiro, Carvajal, Jo Dos Santos, Isco, Illarramendi, and Nacho might also get a first taste of EL CLASICO today. The game could be won in Midfield, in attack or in defence. Barcelona have obvious weaknesses at the rear and Real Madrid are not better in that regard. In midfield, Barca have Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Alex Song and Fabregas. Real have got Alonso, Khedira, ILLARRA, Isco, Casemiro and Luka Modric. Balanced. We all know what both teams have in attack. While Barcelona will feel very confident with the form of Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Neymar and Tello, Real Madrid cannot say the same about Kartim Benzema who is supposed to be the major marksman. The Frenchman has not been at this best this season and Alvaro Morata is threatening to take his place in the team. One would have thought that the departure of Pipita Higuain and the coaching of Zizou may have galavanized him to greater heights. That hasn’t been the case. Save for some good games under his belt, all in all, he hasn’t been the marksman Real Madrid thought they had when he arrived from the Stade de Gerland. If he continues like this, Perez and co will spend. Falcao and Lewandowski have been linked and they score for fun. The return of Xabi Alonso is good news for everyone with close alliances with the capital club. One of the best deep lying playmakers in the World has been out of action for several months. This game might be too early for him to return as a starter. Having him on the bench will be excellent for Carlo and Zizou. Tata may not want to play the trio of XAVI-INIESTA-FABREGAS which means one must make do with a place among the subs. At the back, the question will be Pique and who? Puyol?, Batra?, Mascherano?. In attack, Messi, Neymar and……………..Pedro? Alexis? Tello? Those are his headache(s) at the moment.

Sergio Busquets can sleep well knowing fully well that he is certain to start for sure. This Clasico might be the best in recent memory if things go as expected


BARCELONA: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas, Neymar, Messi, Alexis REAL MADRID: Lopez, Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Khedira, Modric, ILLARRA, CR7, Bale, ADM. Jordi Alba is still out of action meaning Adriano continues to deputise at left back. He might be the weak link but he is a useful outlet and a very good footballer who can score out of nothing. Messi will lead the line in an all South American frontline. Carlo Ancelotti might start CR7 as the main striker (even though we know he won’t stay there) with Bale on the right and Di Maria on the left. The Argentine prefers being on the right but will be happy just to start. The Italian might leave out ISCO again and continue with the Modric-ILLARRA-KHEDIRA trident.

Varane should start ahead of Pepe as the Portuguese is erratic at times. Ramos has deteriorated in recent times. He captains the team in Casillas’ continued absence. Marcelo is Real’s best left back and Carvajal may replace Arbeloa.

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Match Preview


Arsenal will push for that 3rd consecutive victory in the Champions League this season, as they host last year’s finalist Dortmund at the Emirates on Tuesday.

Wenger’s men continued from where they left off before the International break fixtures in the league; by thrashing Norwich to retain top spot on the log. The Gunners started the game on the front foot as expected, with chances gone begging with love.

But soon afterwards, a string of passes, flicks, and composure fired Arsenal to a 1-o lead. The build-up and finish of the Gunners’ first goal was scintillating and definitely a contender for goal of the season.

The second proceedings, however, witnessed Norwich asking questions, and a couple of saves from Sczensy prevented an equalizer. It wasn’t to be the same old-Arsenal though. Frenchman Olivier Giroud found Ozil with an inch-perfect cross, the 42.5 million acquisition scored with an header for the first time in his top flight career.

Jonny Howson’s calm finish for the canneries brought hope for the visitors, but Ramsey’s proficient goal, and Ozil’s tap in annihilated such hopes.

Dortmund also brushed aside Hannover in the Bundesliga with a lone-goal courtesy of a first half penalty. The Gunners have taken 19 points from 7 league matches, Dortmund won 7 in 9 league games this season.

In the Champions League, the Gunners have also started in effulgent fashion; first beating Marseille away 2-1, then Italian Napoli at home 2-0. Whilst Dortmund lost their first game in Naples, but defeated Marseille 3-0 on match day two.

The Gunners should be confident in approaching this game, not just because of their red-hot form, but their impressive home- record against German sides- winning nine and losing 3 in 13 games.


Team news-

Dortmund would welcome back their suspended goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller for this clash. Absentees Sebastian Kehl (Ankle) and Marcel Schmelzer (Thigh) who have not featured since September are ostensibly ruled out for the trip to London.

Sven Bender is likely to feature despite carrying a knock; the defensive midfielder has expressed his excitement on facing his fellow country-man Mesut Ozil. Lukasz Piszczek and llkay Gundogan remain long term injuries.

For Arsenal, aside Flamini who is recovering from a concussion, Theo Walcott who suffered a set-back in training and ruled out for an addition two weeks, the same squad that played in Norwich could feature against their German opponents.


DID YOU KNOW: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) has attempted the most passes in the opposition half in the Champions League this season, with 1896? The Welsh Jesus (as the media says) is fully confident ahead of this game.


Prediction: Arsenal showed against Napoli that they are more than capable of upsetting the top dogs, and their German summer acquisition has lifted the spirit of the players, albeit, Dortmund are no pushover.

But if you asked Jurgen Klopp (who would be watching from the stands after an out-burst which resulted in a two-match ban) if he preferred another opponent for his Dortmund team at this stage, he would have gracefully said yes. Arsenal 3-1 Dortmund.


Written by Femi Hilekaan

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Marseille vs PSG: A highly anticipated Le Classique awaits

Le Presidente returns to the Stade Velodrome as manager of the Les Parisiens. 

When Laurent Blanc was chosen to replace Carlo Ancelotti, eyebrows were raised across France at Marseille. Tomorrow, it will be no different as high flying PSG come to the Velodrome to take on L’OM.

Both clubs enjoyed mixed fortunes in their European adventures in midweek with the Leaders of Ligue 1 thrashing Eusebio’s Benfica 3-0 and Marseille thumped by a Klopp-less Borussia Dortmund by the same scoreline. This will count for nothing when the first CLASSIQUE of the season gets underway.

Elie Baup’s men have done very well in the transfer market and the League season until this point. Despite contrasting fortunes in Europe, Les Phoceens lie just one point behind tomorrow’s visitors in the race for the title. They will hope to turnaround their recent results v the Parisiens which has seen them lose three of the last four games.

An Ibra double was cancelled out by a Pierre-Gignac brace last time out. A repeat of that will be the spectators’ dream.

Some players have come to the fore for both clubs this term. The likes of Gianelli Imbula, Alaixys Romao, Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi and Dimitri Payet have done themselves and their team proud in recent months. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not hit scoring form yet.

This is because the burden of carrying the team has now been shared with Edinson Cavani who has outscored the Swedish Legend in the League thus far. That is not to say he is less important than he has always been. He assists and sacrifices for the team when he doesn’t score. But it could be said that he is not as ruthless in front of goal as he was last season. Carlos ‘EL GOLEADOR’ Bianchi’s record is still unbroken and Ibra has the mettle to create his.

The winner of this game might come down to who dominates the midfield. As the very well respected Jo-Jo said in his piece for ESPN, the trio of Verratti, Matuidi and Motta have to replicate the form they showed v the encarnados in midweek to have any chance of overpowering the IMBULA-ROMAO resistance.

In attack, Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin, the Ayew brothers and Andre Pierre-Gignac possess all that is required to cause the Alex-led defence problems. In fairness, PSG haven’ missed Thiago Silva until now. Marquinhos has not only comfortably replaced his more illustrious countryman, but also scored 3 goals in the last 5 games for his new club.

The all Brazilian central defensive pairing can only get better and Alex must improve to have any chance of being called upon when EL CAPITAN SILVA returns to the fold. Ibracadabra who celebrated his birthday this week, still doesn’t know Nic N’Koulou.

The Cameroonian was bullish about his chances of keeping the big Swde quiet when they first met last season…however, he failed in his attempts. Lucas Digne can’t get a look in at leftback because Maxwell has been virtually unplayable. GDW’s return to form and fitness has seen him recalled to the Netherlands squad for the first time in a year. The PSG rearguard is pretty rock solid.

Marseille can do with a better goal keeper in my opinion. Steve Mandanda might be a French international in his own right, but he is too shaky to take the club to the heights they dream of. In comparison with Salvatore Sirigu, he is a bloody amateur.

I liken Steve to Porto’s Helton who I am still at a loss as to how he still gets into that team even with all the managers that have been lured there in years gone by. Absolute disgrace of a goalie.

El Matador Cavani was conspicuously absent in the Benfica game. The scoring machine did nothing right against the Portuguese giants. A much better performance is needed if he is to remain first choice at the PdP.

In French football, there’s nothing greater than LA CLASSIQUE..not even Monaco v PSG..Tomorrow should raise the roof and steal the spotlight. Both teams are in the frame to challenge for CHAMPION OF LE CHAMPIONNAT!



L’OM: Mandanda, N’Koulou, Mendy, Mendes, Fanni, Romao, Imbula, Valbuena, Payet, AYEW A, AYEW J.

I believe almost everyone in World Football knows what Valby can do. The man nicknamed ‘World’s shortest’ is probably the best playmaker in Ligue 1. Discount him at your own peril. Gignac has been misfiring of late, so his position has to be filled by the younger Jordan Ayew.

PSG: Sirigu, van der Weil, Marquinhos, Alex, Maxwell, Matuidi, Motta T, Verratti, Lavezzi, Cavani, IBRA.


Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Sunderland vs Manchester United: Will the Red Devils return to winning ways?

Who would have thought that going into the 7th week of the season, Manchester United would lie a distant 12th? Eight points behind Leaders, Arsenal-another huge shock. Even Hull City is placed ahead of the defending champions of the EPL and it is a worrying sight for the fans. Unbelievable development.

Going into this evening’s game at the Stadium of Light, David Moyes is looking for redemption as his boys have let him down in no small measure. Three defeats from six games represents Manchester United’s worst League start in about two and a half decades. Life after Ferguson has been tortuous. Anything short of victory today will raise more questions about the choice of David Moyes.

Before the trip to the Etihad, stats came out that Moyes has a very good record over there WITH EVERTON. Well, we all know how it turned out afterwards. Another of such information has surfaced again that Moyes has lost just one of sixteen matches vs the Black Cats.

Then again, that was with the blue half of Merseyside. His new job hasn’t gone as planned and a 1-1 draw at the Dombass Arena was seen as a very good result by a lot of people. That is not and will never be the Manchester United way.

The last time the red devils suffered three straight defeats in the League was twelve years ago and the last time the team had seven points after the first six games, they went on to finish the season in 13th position and that was before Ryan Giggs made his debut.

The Manchester outfit are sweating over the fitness of Wayne Rooney who picked up his 4th injury this season prior to the European fixture in midweek. A knock to his shin meant he was unavailable for selection in Ukraine. He should be fit to run out at the Stadium of Light.

That might mean Danny Welbeck dropping out of the starting eleven, except he will be deployed to the wings in a 4-3-3 set-up. Robin Van Persie is expected to start his first premier League game since the Palace win and he has a good record, haven never lost to the team from Wearside in League play.

Caretaker Kevin Ball could do with a victory to further stake a claim to the permanent position at the club he has served for the better part of his football life. If Steve Clarke and West Brom could break a 35 year hoodoo last weekend, Sunderland can follow a similar path and there’s no better time to do it.

Striker Fabio Borini is fit and eligible after sitting out last Sunday’s loss to his parent club, Liverpool. Steven Fletcher is close to returning for the Black Cats but this match comes too soon.

Sunderland were unlucky to be the hosts for the return of the Gunslinger last time out. Luis Suarez struck a brace to condemn the Wearsiders to yet another defeat. The 10 game ban did little to derail the Uruguayan and he continued from where he left off last season. Liverpool fans will hope he has truly repented of his many sins and turned a new leaf.

For David Moyes, he knows there’s no margin for error yet again. Another defeat will send more than a million tongues wagging. As Ryan Giggs said a few days ago, things have to be put right.



SUNDERLAND: Westwood, Gardner, O’Shea, Cuellar, Colback, Larsson, Ki, Cattermole, Giaccherini, Johnson, ALTIDORE.


MANCHESTER UNITED: DDG, Rafa, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Fellaini, Kagawa/Nani, Valencia, Roo/Welbeck, RVP.

Wayne Rooney is still a doubt for this encounter and Shinji Kagawa hasn’t proved himself worthy of a consistent run in the side after some lackluster performances. The introduction of Adnan Januzaj for the Japanese playmaker last weekend should serve as a wake-up call. Luis Nani did himself no harm with his good performance which ultimately counted for nothing. Nonetheless, he should get a run out today-either as a starter or a sub.

Former MUFC player, John O’Shea faces the club he served for ten years today. Another former red, Wes Brown misses out through injury. Something that has sadly been synonymous with his very promising career.

Ties and relationships will be put to one side, at least for 90 minutes.


Written by Ohiskaka Eboreime

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Inter Milan vs AS Roma: Rampant Serie A front-runners clash at the Meazza

Rudi Garcia in no mood to drop any points as he  as he arrives at the Meazza with a perfect record.

Walter Mazzarri left Napoli for a greater challenge in the Summer, pitching tent with the Don Massimo Moratti’s Inter who have suffered a slump since Jose Mourinho left in 2010. He has brought his Naples magic to Milan with his side unbeaten in six games (W4, D2).

Despite this run, they still trail today’s opponents by four points going into the game. Diego Milito is back and has been among the goals lately. He will find it difficult to be an automatic choice though as Mauro Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio are also in excellent form.

For the Giallorossi, it has been the best ever start to a Serie A season. Former Lille manager, Rudi Garcia has brought his own ideas to the Olimpico and they have paid off. Francesco ‘Er Pupone’ Totti has signed a new two year deal and the likes of Adem Ljajic and Gervinho have started life in the Capital very well.

Tonight’s encounter is by far the toughest test yet and would go a long way to determine whether they have the wherewithal to challenge for the Scudetto come May 2014.

La Maggica have a recent phenomenal record against the hosts. They are unbeaten in the last four games and destroyed the Nerazzurri in the Copa Italia semi-final last season home and away. The sale of top scorers, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and Erik Lamela to Soton and Spurs was thought to be wrong move. It is proving the direct opposite as the season has gone on.

Teenage defender, Marquinhos was also shipped off to PSG and the defence haven’t felt it one bit. Only one goal has been let in so far and at the other end, a lot has been scored.

Inter defeated Fiorentina in their only difficult match so far in the League and will hope to also put one over a Roma side that is full of confidence and in scintillating form. Ricky Alvarez and Esteban Cambiasso are proving themselves to be key players for the Milan club this term.

Standing in as skipper, the Argentine midfield pearl has displayed leadership qualities beyond his own expectations and this has rubbed on all his teammates. It will be an interesting battle today v the likes of De Rossi, Pjanic and new signing, Strootman.




INTER: Handanovic, Nagatomo, Ranocchia, Jonathan, Jesus, Campagnaro, Guarin, Cambiasso, Alvarez, ICARDI, Palacio.

Mazzarri likes hardworking players and this has showed in all his selections since he became well known as a tactical master. Fredy Guarin must have been forgiven for his stupid gesture towards his own fans when he was substituted against the Viola.

Palacio is expected to again lead the line with Icardi an ally in chief.


ROMA: De Sanctis, Castan, Maicon, Balzaretti, Benatia, Strootman, Pjanic, De Rossi, Ljajic, Gervinho, TOTTI.

Rudi G will pick pretty much the same team that has been so fantastic since the season commenced. The defence marshaled by Leandro Castan will hope to hold tight until the end of proceedings. Any doubts that the young Brazilian can stand on his own have been immediately cleared.

Douglas Maicon is coming back to his old stomping ground and Morgan De Sanctis returns to face the very same man who made him the player he is today. Francesco Totti (228) is 47 goals behind Serie A’s best ever marksman Silvio Piola- the Lazio and Novara Legend ended his stellar career on 275 top flight goals.

It might be a mountain to climb for the Roman General - two years might not be enough to reach that mark. But he can try.

Tonight’s clash at the Guiseppe Meazza is eagerly awaited. What a duel in prospect.


Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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