James Rodriguez: The Signing of the Summer

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When news broke that Bayern Munich had secured the services of Real Madrid star James Rodriguez on a two year loan, not only did it become clear that the German outfit had completed the deal of the summer, but the player was also reunited with the coach who arguably helped make him a star.

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Champions League Quarter Final Previews

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We’ve reached the business end as so often said of the Champions League- the greatest club competition in the world and this week there are some truly exciting matches on offer for us to watch. The last eight is here, who can advance to the semi finals? We take a look at the four first leg matches being played this week and give our predictions.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND V MONACO

Both teams will rank as outsiders to win the competition, but write them off at your peril. Monaco have been brilliant this season in Ligue 1 and continue to lead the tables over PSG. They have a free scoring attitude, they were able to score 6 against Manchester City in the last round.

Dortmund are still one of the best teams in Germany, and at home especially are very hard to beat. The atmosphere in Germany will be electric. If there is one thing we expect to see it is goals. Dortmund to win this match, but Monaco will claim a vital away goal.

JUVENTUS V BARCELONA

This match is being billed as the best defence in Europe meets the best attack. Juventus have so much experience in their ranks and are so good at home that if Barcelona came away from Italy with a draw they would be happy. The truth is this will be a tough match, and Juventus can smell their first Champions League title since 1996.

This is of course a repeat of the 2015 final which Barcelona won 3-1. Barcelona have been a little stale lately having lost at the weekend to Malaga 2-0. But they are sure to give it there all here. But we expect a Juventus victory in the first leg.

ATLETICO MADRID V LEICESTER CITY

Leicester have done so well to get to this stage of the competition having dumped out Sevilla. Sevilla were brilliant but naive, but Atletico will be a mountain to climb for Leicester. If the English club get a positive result here it could well be one of their most important in their history. The atmosphere at Vicente Cauldron will be hot and if Atletico play to their abilities this could be a one sided affair. Still Leicester have nothing to lose and will give it their all. But we can’t go against Atletico, and this should be a home win.

BAYERN MUNICH V REAL MADRID

Two European giants will do battle in what should be an incredible tie. Bayern will be favourites to get the win at home and they have been simply stunning this season in all of their competitions. But Real Madrid have been equally brilliant and really the only thing that separates the clubs is the home/away advantage. We will go for an entertaining draw for this first leg match which won’t be decided until deep into the 2nd leg. This match is sure to be a cracker, that there is no doubt.

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Ex Real Madrid, Liverpool player Xabi Alonso announces retirement

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Xabi Alonso one of the most accomplished midfielders in the past decade has announced via Twitter that he will retire from the game at the end of this season.

Alonso,35, said on Twitter – ‘Lived it, loved it, farewell beautiful game’. The Spaniard currently plays for German giants Bayern Munich, and Alonso will retire as one of the most decorated players in the modern era.

His career kicked off at Real Sociedad where he came within one game of winning La Liga with the unfancied side in the 2002/03 season. On the last day of the season Real Madrid had to beat Athletic Bilbao to claim the title over Sociedad and ultimately did with a 3-1 victory at home, but Sociedad’s effort is still talked about today and will never be forgotten by the fans. It was here that Alonso made a real name for himself and earned a move to the Premier league to play at Liverpool.

With the Reds came his first pieces of silverware which included in his first season none other than the Champions League, after Liverpool’s incredible comeback victory over AC Milan in the final. Alonso went on to win the UEFA Super Cup, the FA Cup and the Community Shield before making a switch back to Spain to play with Real Madrid.

Though Alonso was now playing for one of the most successful sides in European football it was suggested that he never wanted to leave Liverpool. The reality was that him and manager of the Reds at the time Rafa Benitez had not seen eye to eye and Alonso completed a £30m deal. Success followed Alonso though and he more than made up for not winning the league in 2003 by winning at Madrid. In 2014 he won his 2nd Champions League title and Madrid’s historic 10th overall, and also won two Copa del Rey’s to boot.

When he was surplus to requirements after 5 seasons, Alonso made the shrewd move to Bayern Munich where his silverware has only been further boosted, and another two league titles have followed.

Alonso was also part of the famous dominant Spanish team and his international trophies are simply jaw dropping, where he has won a FIFA World Cup and two European Championships.In all Alonso has won 15 trophies, and he will retire with memories of a lifetime and his head held up high.

Currently his side Bayern Munich have a 7 point lead in the Bundesliga and with the Bavarian giants still in cup competitions Alonso is sure to win even more trophies in what will be fittingly his final season as a player.

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From Bayern Munich to Barcelona Champions League- Round of 16 Preview

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The UEFA Champions League the grandest of all club football prizes is upon us once again as we settle down for the 2nd legs of the round 16 ties which will be spread out over this week and the next. There are some terrific games coming up and there is a sense of can the greatest of comebacks really materialise? That’s the question that will be asked to the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal who both have to make up 4 goal deficits, which has never been done in Champions League history.

TUESDAY:

Arsenal v Bayern Munich

Arsenal come into this game after having a complete meltdown in Germany where they lost 5-1 and if they are going to participate in the quarter finals they will need some type of miracle to take place at the Emirates. The Gunners will be looking to Alexis Sanchez to spearhead a revival, and there will be certainly be a determination from the home side to win the game on the night.

However it seems hard to think that Bayern won’t at least score. Arsenal need to win 4-0 to go through in 90 minutes, and if they concede then they will need to repeat the result in Germany. Arsenal may win on the night but Bayern will be advancing.

Napoli v Real Madrid

The European champions were tested in the early exchanges in Spain but Madrid got a hold of the game and won the first leg 3-1. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale will travel with the club, and after some rocky weeks Madrid will come into this game with confidence after beating the impressive Eibar 4-1 at the weekend.

We should expect to see a fast paced game and Madrid do have a woeful record in Italy. Napoli will feel confident with a sold out stadium, but can they stop Madrid from scoring? Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri has declared his side have a 3% chance of advancing but if Napoli can score first then it could well be game on.

Wednesday

Barcelona v PSG

Nobody expected what occurred in Paris to happen, least Barcelona who have dumped PSG out of this competition on two occasions. But it all clicked for the French champions who were devastatingly good as they ran out 4-0 winners. Barcelona have it all to do and whilst they have the quality to do so, if PSG play at even half of the level they did in the first leg they should knock Barca out.

Barcelona have been in this situation before where a few seasons ago they were beaten in the first leg by Bayern Munich 4-0. Sensing a comeback, they played punch drunk and were outwitted again at home as they lost 3-0. The omens are certainly on PSG’s side.

Borussia Dortmund v Benfica

Outsiders Benfica come into this game with a narrow 1-0 lead from the first leg and Dortmund will be favourites to overturn that score. Benfica will need to come out attack minded, score first and the game could be theirs. But if the Portuguese side adapt a defensive tactic in Germany it could be a long night for them.

Dortmund’s ground will be absolutely rocking and the atmosphere will be electric. The first goal is so important and will put this 2nd leg on its head. Dortmund should have the quality to qualify.

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Wenger remains defiant at Arsenal but is he being delusional?

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Arsene Wenger has been here many times in the last 10 years, will he won’t he quit Arsenal? Even at his lowest depths the Frenchman who has been in charge of the Gunners for almost 21 years has remained defiant. However with a league title already looking distant and a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, the question was asked again, and again Wenger stood firm.

Wenger went onto say, “No matter what happens, I will manage next season, whether it’s here or somewhere else, I am not sure. I want to do extremely well, I feel a big responsibility, you do not stay somewhere for 20 years and walk out of a defeat like that and whistle. But I have the strength and experience to deal with that. I would just like to add as well that we played against a good Bayern team who have won this competition and who have 11 top-class players.

Wenger continued, “We have to give credit to our opponents as well sometimes. It’s important to put things into perspective in this competition, and they are top-class players. I am in a public job, I accept that and I have to behave with my values and accept everyone can have an opinion. We have to focus on real problems. The way we play football, not my future. The priorities are how we respond to a defeat and how we play together. It’s always important not to look for wrong excuses in life and focus on what is important and what you can influence in your job.”

Some media believed Wenger was going to announce the end of his tenure at Arsenal, but they may have to wait for that. True Wenger quitting with just three months of the season left makes little sense. However if Wenger does not confirm soon what he is doing the Gunners could be looking at just a few weeks to find a suitable replacement.

Critics have said that Wenger can no longer distil the belief in his players and that the team have lost their touch when not having the ball. That Wenger looks jaded, almost resigned to defeat and that there is no fire in the belly of his team any more.

However Wenger surely the most privileged manager in the Premier league if not World football seems to have not been affected by this latest set back. But just how much is he now tarnishing his legendary image with a club who have not won the league for 12 years, and have just two FA Cups to show for in the last decade?

Wenger is clearly part of the furniture at the Emirates, and right now he is here to stay, in the most difficult and awkward circumstances.

Rising Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman ruled out for two months

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Kingsley Coman was supposed to be preparing to play for France against Sweden in their World Cup qualifying match, but it never came to pass. The talented 20 year old on loan at Bayern Munich from Italian giants Juventus suffered a bizarre injury in training and it is expected that he will miss up to 8 weeks recuperating.

It was a bitter blow for a player who when given the chance at Euro 2016 by French manager Laurent Blanc showed enough burst, creativity and hunger to set anyone’s pulses alive. He is already being compared to some French greats of yesteryear and with Bayern facing a tough season ahead of them in the Bundesliga they will rue this miss.

But as some German media pointed out there is a little good will in his injury. Though the player will miss some crucial league games and Champions League matches unlike for example the Premier League the German league has a near 5 week break and so in reality Coman will miss just four weeks.

The player has torn a capsule in his left ankle but worse of all has also torn ligaments in his knee. He is expected to fly back to Germany for his operation. Coman has made 6 appearances from 10 games for Bayern this season who lead the league only on goal difference from surprise package RB Leipizig.

Coman of course suffered a similar injury at the start of the season and with this recurrence it will be up to the Bayern medical team to assess why this has happened again, because the future is bright for the French international. This came to light this week when Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed the clubs interest in him.

It is Bayern’s intention to buy Coman from his loan and Juventus has given the Bavarian giants the first option. The fee is believed to be around £20 million including add ons which in this day and age looks like a bargain. With the Italian champions selling Paul Pogba to Manchester United in the summer this deal sounds slightly odd given that they could have requested the return of the 20 year old at any moment. Right now despite his injuries it looks certain that by as early as January Coman will be a full time Bayern Munich player.

Could this be a huge mistake by Juve? Only last year influential Spanish magazine Don Balon named Coman as one of the greatest footballing prospects in Europe. Only time will tell.

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Barca and Bayern record resounding victories in the Champions League

Euro 2016Barcelona and Bayern Munich began their 2016-2017 Champions League campaigns with resounding victories as they each produced extremely impressive performances.

Both teams are aspiring to win a sixth European Cup title and commenced their respective quests to achieve that in a supremely confident and positive manner.

In doing so the two sides showcased their credentials as strong contenders to once again reach the latter stages of European’s football’s elite club competition, the final of which is to be held in the Cardiff National Stadium on 3 June 2017.

Barcelona breeze past Celtic

In terms of Barcelona’s potential journey to Cardiff, that started with Luis Enrique’s side inflicting a 7-0 defeat on Celtic at the Nou Camp, which represents the Glasgow club’s heaviest ever European loss.

As they have so often done since first playing together at the start of season 2014-2015, Barcelona’s forward triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez delivered an attacking masterclass to ruthlessly torment Celtic.

Whereas Messi scored a hat-trick, the 29-year-old’s sixth in the Champions League, Neymar beat Celtic goalkeeper Dorus De Vries with a wonderful free-kick and also provided four goal-scoring assists, whilst Suarez completed the scoring with Barca’s sixth and seventh goals.

Subsequently in just over two seasons playing alongside one another, the South American trio have now scored a combined 266 goals and assisted a further 128.  Equally as influential a figure for Barcelona as Lionel Messi,  Neymar and Luis Suarez are, is Andres Iniesta, who also scored against Celtic as the 32-year-old strives to become a five times Champions League winner with the Catalan giants, after helping them triumph in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015.

Ancelotti guides Bayern to impressive win over Rostov

In the latter of those four years, Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the final, after recording a 5-3 semi-final aggregate victory over Bayern Munich.  The Bavarian giants opened up their current Champions League campaign by comprehensively beating FC Rostov 5-0, as Bayern’s Carlo Ancelotti became the first man to manage seven clubs in the competition.  The 57-year-old Italian’s wealth of Champions League managerial experience was previously built during spells with Parma, Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.

Although it took almost half-an-hour for Bayern to take the lead through Robert Lewandowski’s expertly converted a penalty, thereafter they confidently dismantled their Russian opponents, with Joshua Kimmich playing a particularly prominent role.

Specifically the 21-year-old scored twice in between goals from Thomas Mueller and Juan Bernat.  In doing so, on a personal level, Kimmich capped an excellent 10-day period, during which he scored his first goal for Germany, first league goal for Bayern and first Champions League goals, after his brace against Rostov.

Atletico win in Eindhoven

Bayern’s next Champions League game is against the team who beat them at the semi – final stage of last season’s competition, Atletico Madrid, with Diego Simeone’s side also winning their first group – D – game.  In order to do Los Rojiblancos produced a typically determined and resolute display as their 21-year-old midfielder Saul Niguez’s scored a spectacular scissor kick to earn Atletico a 1-0 victory over PSV, although they were fortunate to do so.  As well as Luuk De Jong having a goal disallowed, PSV missed a penalty when Andres Guardado had his spot – kick saved by Jan Oblak.

As such each of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have enjoyed successful, albeit differing, starts to this season’s Champions League, whilst so too did Napoli.

A quartet of close contested affairs

Arkadiusz Milik scoring twice for the Serie A side in the Ukraine as they recovered from a goal down to win 2-1 against Dynamo Kiev, for whom Oleksandr Shovkovski kept goal to become the second oldest player in Champions League history at 41 years and 255 days.  The oldest player remains former Lazio goalkeeper Marco Ballotta at 43 years and 252 days.

The other game in Napoli’s group – B – was drawn 1-1 between Benfica and Bestikas as the Brazilian striker Talisca struck a superb free-kick in the last minute to equalise for the Turkish Super Lig team against his parent club.  Specifically Aguias enabled the 22-year-old to go on a season long loan to Besiktas, for whom Portugal’s Euro 2016 winner Ricardo Quaresma played an important role.

Whilst Benfica’s match with Besiktas ended in a draw, so too did the two games in Group A.

Specifically whilst the Bulgarian side Ludogrets withstood intense pressure from Basle in Switzerland to earn a 1-1 draw, that was also the same score line between PSG and Arsenal, as Arsene Wenger’s side recovered from conceding a first minute Edison Cavani goal, to equalise through Alexis Sanchez.

2016-2017 Champions League underway to an entertaining start  

Therefore whereas Barcelona and Bayern started their Champions League campaigns with resounding victories, each of the other five games played on the first night of the competition were closely contested affairs.  One match scheduled to take place but which did not was Manchester City’s fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach.

The Bundesliga club are set to be Barcelona’s next opponents in Group C on 28 September, whilst City will host Celtic on that same night.

In the interim each team’s focus will be upon domestic football commitments, whilst aiming to ensure that they enter their second group stage game in optimum form.

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Is the Bundesliga now just a one club league with dominant Bayern Munich in total control?

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The German Bundesliga kicked off this weekend where amongst the results the highest was Bayern Munich’s thrashing of Werder Bremen, 6-0 to be precise in what was an awfully one sided affair.

Bayern have won the last 4 league titles, but it’s not just the fact that they are winning the league but it is how they are doing so as well. Complete dominance without a real challenge.

Last season Borussia Dortmund offered some hope but in all truth we were snatching at straws given that the gap was still seven points.

When Bayern’s latest league title run of 4 wins in a row started they won the league by 25 points over Dortmund. The following season it was 19 points the season after that Bayern won it by 10 points and last season it was the same number. Given these statistics it looks more competitive as Bayern simply aren’t winning the league as easy- or are they?

Last season Bayern lost just 2 games and under Pep Guardiola who did a fine job there it still seemed like the German giants were coasting. The likes of Dortmund alongside Bayer Leverkusen are supposed to give some threat to the club but it hasn’t been forthcoming.

One of course could look at Italy where Juventus have picked up the title on the last 5 occasions- but a threat has still remained in the shape of Roma and Napoli- even though they traditionally fall off the radar when it really matters.

PSG have picked up four titles in a row too but Lyon and Monaco have proved that on their day they can play just as good. Ligue 1 too has been left lopsided so to speak given the vast injections of money into PSG as the league has continued as normal for the rest of the clubs.

In Spain often mimicked for not having any competitiveness which is a myth which should be blown out of the stratosphere- any one of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have a realistic chance of the title. And it’s not always the team you expect to win that will dominate. Real Madrid may have won 2 Champions League’s in the past three years but in that time they have not won La Liga.

Bayern of course also have the buying power where this summer they spent a cool £75m on two players in Renato Sanches and then took one of Dortmund’s best players in a generation Mats Hummels. They also have possibly the finest manager of the 21st Century in Carlo Ancelotti and the future looks bright and stable as it has ever been for the Bavarians. Great for them but let’s hope they will have more of a roller-coaster season and really feel at the end of next May like they have earned success rather than bought it.

 

 

 

The painful but brilliant summer of Borussia Dortmund

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Like Paris Saint-Germain have dominated the French Ligue 1 and Juventus have dominated the Italian Serie A during recent years, Bayern Munich have been on fire in the German Bundesliga.

In fact, ‘Der Rekordmeister’ has been rivaled by just one team during the last couple of seasons – Borussia Dortmund. The BVB finished second three times during the last four Bundesliga campaigns, after picking up the German title two times in a row before that. Therefore, Dortmund are the last team to beat Bayern in a Bundesliga title race.

Painful departures

Will the 2016-2017 season see the Black and Yellow be able to compete with the team from Munich once again? Probably not. Despite delivering nothing less than a brilliant performance on the summer transfer market, Dortmund are primed to finish in second place once again. And also once again, well behind Bayern.

Coach Thomas Tuchel has seen three key players, one in every line, leave his squad this summer. Star defender Mats Hummels left the club for his old one, yes, Bayern Munich. Dortmund received 38 million euros for the 27-year-old, a big amount for a defender but a fair one for as Hummels is one of the best in the world.

Meanwhile, Manchester United were able to steal playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a 42 million deal. The Armenia international proved himself as one of Europe’s most versatile offensive players, having a foot in a staggering 55 goals for Dortmund last season, 31 of them coming in the Bundesliga.

In addition, the BVB also lost midfield wizard Ilkay Gundogan to Manchester City, as the Citizens put 27 million on the table for the Germany international. The 25-year-old was big for Dortmund due to his excellent positional play, key passing, and ball-winning abilities.

Brilliant signings

This means Dortmund lost a big amount of quality and will trail Bayern all season long. Despite the fact that the club has made a series of great signings this summer, who will contribute to the BVB’s success for the next couple of years.

In defence, Dortmund covered for the loss of Hummels by signing Marc Bartra (25) from Barcelona, while adding Euro 2016 champion Raphael Guerreiro (22) from Rennes… before the tournament started. Total cost? 12 million. Bargain! In midfield, the Black and Yellow secured the services of Bayern’s Sebastian Rode (25), while the amazingly talented Julian Weigl is primed for a big season and Nuri Sahin is finally healthy again.

And then, there’s the offence. Dortmund have been able to hold on to top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which might be their biggest summer achievement. But in addition, they brought back Mario Gotze (24) and added Andre Schurrle (25), while also being able to land supertalents Ousmane Dembele (19) and Emre Mor (18).

To conclude: Dortmund fans won’t celebrate their first Bundesliga crown since 2011, but they can look forward to a very fun season. Again.

Ancelotti maintaining magnificent status quo from Guardiola’s Munich era

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Ancelotti maintaining magnificent status quo from Guardiola’s Munich era

Carlo Ancelotti is set to manage Bayern Munich in a competitive match for the first time when the Bavarian giants face Borussia Dortmund in the German Supercup on 14 August.

Ancelotti continuing fine work undertaken by Pep

Since taking over from Pep Guardiola at the beginning of July, Ancelotti has successfully maintained the magnificent status quo at Munich created by his Spanish predecessor, which means the club are once again extremely well prepared for challenging to win major honors.

Whereas many of European football’s biggest clubs are currently extremely active in the transfer market, for instance both Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain have already signed a quartet of new players and may yet recruit more, Bayern are unlikely to make any further additions to their squad this summer, after signing Mats Hummels & Renato Sanches from Dortmund and Benfica respectively, according Ancelotti.

“We’ve already bought two reinforcements and they’re enough for us. I think our market is closed, we won’t make any other changes to the team,” said Ancelotti, with the 57-year-old Italian extremely happy with Bayern’s current squad and now focused upon retaining all of his key players rather than signing any more.

Earlier this summer, both midfielder David Alaba and striker Robert Lewandowski were linked with moves to Real Madrid. Subsequently Bayern’s chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expressed an unwillingness to sell either player, since they are two of the club’s most valuable assets and played key role’s in Guardiola’s successful Munich managerial era.

Success laden spell as Bayern manager for Pep

During that, the Spaniard guided the club to win a UEFA Super Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup, two DFB-Pokal Cups and three Bundesliga title, whilst developing a side characterised by both, a wealthy tactical versatility and an ability to play wonderful possession football.

As such rather than unnecessarily reconstructing Guardiola’s Munich’s team, Ancelotti is instead trying to build upon his predecessor’s fine work by making some subtle changes so as to instil a freshness into Bayern’s squad without compromising any of the qualities which have enabled the club to prolifically win trophies in recent seasons.

Ultimately those qualities include, an attacking ruthlessness, an ability to monopolize possession, along with an unwavering collective unity, each of which combine to make Bayern one of the most impressive and powerful forces in world football.

Ancelotti ideally suited to helping Bayern progress

Nevertheless one competition which Bayern did not win under Guardiola was the Champions League, which Ancelotti has a wonderful track record of doing. Specifically he guided Milan to win Europe’s elite club competition twice – 2002-2003 & 2006-2007 – whilst Ancelotti was also the mastermind behind Real Madrid’s 2013-2014 Champions League success, making him the only manager to win the competition on three occasions.

Therefore Ancelotti appears to be the ideal candidate to help Bayern win their first Champions League title since the 2012-2013 season, particularly given that he has managed to both maintain and strengthen the wonderfully talented squad which he inherited from Guardiola.

By following the formula which Guardiola devised to achieve great success domestically, whilst using his wealth of experience and knowledge to adapt that accordingly so as to suitably prepare Bayern for trying to win the Champions League, the potential exists for Ancelotti to enjoy an extremely successful reign as manager of the Bavarian giants.