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jcube

Rookie
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Juventus suffered some devastating news just before the end of the summer transfer window. The reigning Serie A champions lost one of their key players, centre-back Giorgio Chiellini, to a knee injury. It turned out the veteran Italy international suffered a ligament injury. He will miss more than six months, and Juventus already confirmed he won’t return until 2020. In other words, The Old Lady will have to play most of the 2019-20 campaign without their star centre-back.
The Torino-based club attempted to sign a replacement before the market ended. Jerome Boateng, Mehdi Benatia and Dejan Lovren all appeared as potential options. However, neither arrived at the club. In fact, Boateng rejected a move to Juventus and instead decided to stay at Bayern. The result of this fracas was the fact that Juventus couldn’t sell Daniele Rugani, as he ended staying with the club to increase the depth at the back.
Juventus should have acted differently over the past few days
However, this wasn’t a smart move from Juventus. Injuries happen, and now Juventus could be considerably shorthanded at the centre-back position. The injury from Chiellini and the retirement of Andrea Barzagli has left Juventus with only three “true” CBs ahead of the 2019-20 season: Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci and Rugani. De Ligt and Bonucci certainly are world-class defenders, but a competitive team also needs depth. It’s a long season after all, and having enough depth could be the difference between winning the title or not.
Trying to sign a player of a similar caliber to Chiellini’s wouldn’t have been possible. The transfer market was only days away from closing when Chiellini suffered the injury, and Juventus didn’t have enough money to sign a first-choice replacement. But adding ANYONE would have been a better strategy than simply stand pat.
How hard would have been to acquire Lovren, knowing Liverpool wasn’t opposed to sell him? Or perhaps re-capture Benatia, who is currently playing in a minor league such as the Qatar Stars League. Getting Boateng was harder, but there could have been other alternatives on the market.
Now, Juventus will have to alternate Bonucci, Rugani and Merih Demiral next to Matthijs de Ligt on defence. Not to take anything away from these three players, but they represent a big downgrade in comparison to Chiellini. Especially the last two. Clearly, they should have taken a different approach. And now that they didn’t, they could pay a hefty price for that.
 

jcube

Rookie
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At the start of the summer, the position of Christian Eriksen at Tottenham was precarious. The Denmark international had just a year of his contract left to run in north London.
The midfielder then took the step of stating that he felt like he needed a new challenge. This caused concern amongst everybody associated with Spurs. One of the team’s key players looked set to leave the club.
Remains at Tottenham for now
The European summer transfer deadline has now passed. Despite reported interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United, Eriksen remains a Tottenham player at least until January anyway.
It is an awkward position for both the player and Tottenham to be in. The player obviously wanted to seek pastures new and everybody knows it. To be fair Eriksen has not underperformed when selected for Spurs. In fact, he opened the scoring in last weekend 2-2 draw with Arsenal in the north London derby.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has attempted to leave him out of his starting eleven. However, without the Dane, the team from north London are not the same team. He provides such creativity and intelligence. Pochettino’s thinking of leaving out Eriksen from the starting line-up obviously makes sense. The Argentine is preparing for life without the Dane.
Pochettino’s compatriot Giovani Lo Celso has joined supposedly as Eriksen’s replacement but has played just 44 minutes of Premier League football. He will obviously need time to settle into a new country and league. Spurs need to win games in the meantime, though.
Unlikely Eriksen will sign a new deal
Pochettino is probably doing the right thing by testing out his options without Eriksen. All the signs point to the Dane’s exit either January or more likely next summer when he will be a free agent.
Eriksen can sign a pre-contract agreement with any foreign club in January. There had been talk of him signing a new deal with the north London club. However, it seems unlikely he will extend his stay with Tottenham beyond this season.
As a neutral, it is easy to see it from Eriksen’s point of view. Can he achieve anything else with Spurs? A Champions League final is likely to be the pinnacle of his career if he stays with Tottenham.
It seems unlikely they can repeat the feat this season. Realistically Eriksen is also not going to win the Premier League title with his current club. He has gone as far as he can with Tottenham and wants a fresh challenge.
Tottenham in a fight for a Champions League spot
Tottenham have made an inconsistent start to their Premier League campaign, picking up five points from a possible 12 so far this season. They will improve and find more consistency later in the season.
However, they look nothing like title challengers. Pochettino’s team needs to concentrate on qualifying for the Champions League. Spurs are currently odds of 8/15 to make the top-four once again this season.
The bookmakers still believe they will still finish in the top-four and they probably will do. Anything after that is a bonus, simply because the top-two Liverpool and Manchester City are just superior to the rest of the teams in the league.
The above reason is probably why Christian Eriksen will leave Tottenham in the next year. Until then Spurs boss Pochettino will likely have to figure out what to do with Eriksen.
Considering his attitude has not seemed to suffer by a lack of a move, then maybe the Argentinian may have to bite the bullet and continue to play him. Eriksen may not be a key player for Spurs for much longer, but for now, he is one of their most influential performers.
Should Tottenham boss Pochettino keep selecting Christian Eriksen?
 

jcube

Rookie
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Harry Kane scored a hat-trick as England beat Bulgaria at Wembley Stadium in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying on Saturday evening.
He scored the opener as Raheem Sterling seized on an awful error from the visitors midway through the first-half. Two quickfire strikes, one from the Tottenham Hotspur man and the other from Raheem Sterling, saw the Three Lions seize a comfortable advantage just after the break. Kane secured his treble as another penalty was awarded and he stayed cool to again send the ball into the back of the net.
England starved of service early on
The first real chance of the game fell to the visitors and Brazilian-born striker Wanderson as he forced Jordan Pickford into a low save but it was relatively comfortable for the stopper.
England were frustrated throughout the first 15 minutes of the game as Bulgaria employed a somewhat defensive system. They did have the ball in the net via Kane but the goal was ruled out due to the striker being marginally offside.
Embarrassing from Bulgaria
The opening goal did eventually come and it was a silly error from the visitors that resulted in it. Bulgaria attempted to play out from the back only for goalkeeper Iliev to gift the ball straight to Raheem Sterling. The Manchester City man raced down the by-line and pulled the ball back to Kane for an easy first time finish from close range.
The Tottenham Hotspur man could have doubled the advantage just before the break but his header did not trouble Iliev all too much.
Wanderson also had another great chance to get on the scoresheet as he ran in-behind but could only shoot straight at Pickford once again.
Kane from the spot again
The visitors’ encouragement did not last for very long however as Rashford wrong-footed Bodurov in the penalty area and was taken down. Kane predictably was given the task of putting the ball into the net and he did just that as he blasted it high to the goalkeeper’s left.
He was then the architect as he found space to race down the left and pull the ball across for Sterling who converted from close range with his thigh.
Kane then had another opportunity from the penalty spot as he was tripped in the box buy substitute Dimitrov. There was no hesitation once again as he went the opposite way to secure his treble and another emphatic victory for England.
Final Thoughts
Despite the scoreline, Gareth Southgate’s men really were frustrated by Bulgaria throughout the opening half of the match as their defensive system really suffocated the match. However, the Three Lions were much improved after the restart and were much deserving of their victory. As a result, they now reclaim top spot in the group ahead of Tuesday’s match against Kosovo.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Sweden and Norway collided this Sunday at Friends Arena in Stockholm, in a thrilling match between two Scandinavian rivals. The game finished with a 1-1 stalemate, a result that didn’t left any fanbase satisfied given how the match unfolded.
Here are three things we learned from this entertaining match.
The recent H2H tendencies were maintained in this game
The recent matches between Sweden and Norway had been tight, contested affairs. That didn’t change here. Counting this game, now the last four H2H meetings between these two Scandinavian neighbours have ended in a draw. The last three have seen both sides scoring, and three over that span have finished with under 2.5 goals scored in total.
Norway have a slim edge on the H2H record when it comes to the past 10 meetings, with three wins against Sweden’s two and five stalemates. Furthermore, six of those games have had at least three goals, and seven have seen both sides scoring. Both traits happened this time as well.
The two playmakers stood out above the rest
Prior to kick-off, the two players to watch were Norway’s Martin Odegaard and Sweden’s Emil Forsberg. It’s safe to say neither disappointed based on their individual performance.
Odegaard, who’s on loan at Real Sociedad this season but is still owned by Real Madrid, delivered glimpses of his individual skill but proved to be decisive for Norway. The talented attacking midfielder set up Norway’s lone goal when he assisted Stefan Johansen with a great through ball on a counterattack.
Meanwhile, Forsberg netted Sweden’s loan goal. The RB Leipzig star placed the ball out of Rune Jarstein’s reach with a beautiful low shot from the edge of the box. Forsberg was also Sweden’s focal point on the attacking end, albeit that has been the norm since Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from the National Team.
Which side is on a better position to qualify for the 2020 European Championship?
With four games left in the European Championship Qualifiers’ Group Stage, Sweden are arguably in a better spot than Norway. The Swedes sit in second place with 11 points and control their own destiny, while Norway are fourth two points adrift their Sunday opponents.
Furthermore, Sweden’s next match is at Malta while Norway will host Spain. Sweden has a great chance to extend that gap if they can deliver another strong performance when the Qualifiers return next month.
 

jcube

Rookie
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England recovered from an early scare against Kosovo to secure a crazy 5-3 victory in Euro 2020 qualifying at St Mary’s on Tuesday evening.
The visitors enjoyed the perfect start as Valon Berisha profited from a Michael Keane mistake to open the scoring with less than a minute on the clock. However, Three Lions star man Raheem Sterling equalised only a few minutes later, with Harry Kane completing the turnaround with a devastating finish. Mërgim Vojvoda put through his own net to compound Kosovo’s misery. Jadon Sancho was then twice set up by Sterling to build an emphatic lead just before the break.
The hosts started the second-half as poorly as the first as Berisha latched onto a wonderful pass from Vedat Muriqi for an exquisite, curling finish into the far corner. Following his two assists, the Fenerbache striker was then the next on the scoresheet as he converted a penalty awarded for a Harry Maguire foul.
To extend the drama, Kane then missed a penalty of his own midway through the second-half as Aro Muric produced a wonderful stop.
Nightmare start for England but Sterling replies
It could potentially have been a tricky night for Gareth Southgate’s men and it looked to be even harder as with less than 30 seconds on the clock, Keane sloppily gave the ball away to Muriqi and the forward rolled the ball into Berisha’s path. The striker then confidently placed the ball past Jordan Pickford with a cool finish.
Kosovo’s lead was not to last very long though as Keane atoned for his error as he leapt highest from a corner and knocked the ball to Sterling. The Manchester City man had also got away from his marker to head the ball into the net.
Three Lions complete turnaround
Sterling was then key as England seized the lead. Rolling his marker in the centre of the park, he then stormed towards the penalty area, played Kane down the left flank and the Tottenham captain buried the ball through the legs of Muric.
Fellow winger Sancho then begun to steal the headlines as the Three Lions extended their lead further. The Borussia Dortmund man picked up the ball on the right wing and fired in a dangerous, low ball. Vojvoda was placed in the centre of the penalty area but just failed to sort out his feet and only served to place the ball into the bottom corner of his own net.
Sterling and Sancho combine again and again
The hosts were particularly dangerous on the wings and Sancho had enough time before the break to twice get on the scoresheet. On a blistering counter-attack, the youngster was played through by Sterling and buried the ball into the bottom corner for his first England goal. Sterling then skipped past his marker again barely two minutes later and dinked a delicious pass into Sancho for another easy finish with Muric stranded.
Kosovo managed to get on the scoresheet again immediately following the resume as Muriqi managed to pick out his strike partner Berisha. The Lazio forward then checked inside Trent Alexander-Arnold and curled a sumptuous effort into the top corner of the England net.
The deficit was crazily reduced even further only a few minutes later as Harry Maguire conceded a penalty for a lunging challenge on Muriqi. The Fenerbache man indeed was the one to step up and managed to convert, albeit via Pickford’s fingertips.
Hosts compose themselves to regain three-goal cushion
England managed to stem the tide of Kosovar attacks as the half progressed and even had their own opportunity from the penalty spot as Ross Barkley was hauled down in the box. Kane stepped up but this time could not beat Muric as he produced a wonderful stop.
Sterling could also have got another but the goalkeeper did well to get out to his teammate and tip his effort onto the post. Bersant Celina then almost made it an uncomfortable end to the game as he cut inside but curled his effort just wide.
Final Thoughts
Where to start with this one? Despite a brilliant showing from the visitors, England probably deserved the three points on the balance of play. That should not take anything away from Kosovo though. Bernard Challandes were a fantastic watch and but for some defensive lapses could well have been good value for a draw. The game really did have everything; goals, drama, penalties, contentious decisions and much more. As it happens though, the Three Lions extend their lead at the top of the Group A table.
 

jcube

Rookie
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This weekend sees the return of the Premier League after close to a two-week international break. One team hoping that the international break will have done them some good is Tottenham. This season they seem to have been suffering from a hangover of reaching last season’s Champions League final. Prior to the international break, the team from north London picked up just five points from their opening four matches.
This weekend Tottenham host high-flying Crystal Palace at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in a game that they need to win to kick-start their season.
Two creditable away results
Last time out in the Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino’s team drew 2-2 with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the north London derby. Spurs missed a golden opportunity to pick up a rare away derby victory against the Gunners.
Although a point at Arsenal is not a terrible result in a derby game, they blew a two-goal lead and allowed Unai Emery’s team back into the contest. Arsenal even had a late Sokratis goal disallowed, so it could have finished in defeat.
A 2-2 draw at Manchester City was also not a result to be sniffed at, especially as the Citizens saw a stoppage-time goal by Gabriel Jesus disallowed by VAR. In some ways, Spurs have been fortunate this season.
The most disappointing result of the campaign was a 1-0 home defeat against a Newcastle team who had lost their opening two games of the campaign.
Big players need to step up
Tottenham’s best players the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen need to step up for their team. The uncertainty surrounding the latter’s future has not helped the team’s mood.
Dele Alli and Heung Min-Son have endured difficult starts to the season through injury and suspension. The pair now appear to be back fully-fit and available. The pair can also be key players if the team from north London are to rediscover the sort of form that took them to a Champions League final last season.
It is not just the forward players who need to improve their performances, though, the Tottenham defence has failed to keep a clean sheet.
At one point during Pochettino’s reign as Tottenham boss, they had one of the most solid defences in the Premier League. The defensive partnership of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were a formidable defensive force.
However, both are out of contract next summer and Pochettino also decided to drop Vertonghen towards the beginning of the campaign. Whether the contract uncertainty is affecting the squad is uncertain, but something seems to have changed in that Spurs dressing room since last season.
Palace is Tottenham’s latest test
The visit of Crystal Palace to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium should offer no danger to the home side. However, as Spurs have a history of losing games in the most surprising circumstances, it could be a banana skin for the home side.
Tottenham head into the clash at odds of 4/11 to record a victory, which illustrates their favourites status heading into the match. Granted Palace are currently fourth place in the Premier League table and will be stubborn opponents.
However, the best teams in the league usually find a way of beating limited teams like Palace, which is why they are the best teams in the league. We all know that Liverpool and Manchester City are way ahead of the rest.
Tottenham was supposed to be the team most likely to threaten last seasons top two. On the evidence of the season so far, that scenario looks highly unlikely. The slip-up against Newcastle was just one of those things.
However, due to how Spurs have started the season, they need a big performance against Palace to send out a message that they are capable of challenging at the top of the Premier League table.

Will Tottenham beat Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon?
 

jcube

Rookie
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Many people talk about the big two in Spain of Barcelona and Real Madrid. That is understandable considering they have won the majority of La Liga titles in the last two decades.
One other club to have won the Spanish top-flight title are of course Atletico Madrid. Los Rojiblancos won the title against all odds in 2013/14. The victory was Atletico’s tenth league title in their history, making them the third most successful side in the history of the Spanish top-flight.
Diego Simeone’s team have made a bright start to the new La Liga campaign and are the only club to take maximum points from their opening three games. The stellar start has raised hopes amongst the club’s fans that this could be another successful campaign.
A big overhaul in the summer
This summer saw a massive overhaul of the Atletico squad. The likes of Antoine Griezmann, Felipe Luis, Diego Godin, Juanfran, Lucas Hernandez and Rodri all left for pastures. They were all key players too. It wasn’t like they were losing fringe players.
Simeone and the team responsible for recruitment at the club did a sterling job and in true Atletico fashion they have carried on with business as usual. A whole new backline arrived with full-backs Kieran Tripper and Renan Lodi joining centre-backs Felipe and Mario Hermoso in the Spanish capital.
Marcos Llorente arrived as Rodri’s replacement, with highly-rated attacking midfielder Joao Felix arriving for a club-record fee from Benfica too. At the moment, Atleti are not really missing the departed players.
The defensive players were ageing, so maybe it was time to renew their defensive options. It seems that the big turnaround in players may well prove beneficial in the medium to long-term for the team from the capital.
Already got a head start on their rivals
Atletico finished second place in the Spanish top-flight for the tenth time in their history last season. However, in truth, Barcelona ran away with the title once again. This season has started in a very different manner.
Barcelona have picked up just four points from their opening three La Liga games this season. Atletico’s city rivals Real Madrid have picked up just one more point than the reigning Spanish champions.
The fact that Atletico have already picked up nine points could be crucial even at this fledgeling stage of the Spanish top-flight title race. If Atletico can keep winning and gain momentum, then it will help belief within everybody at the club that they can mount a realistic title challenge.
At some point of the season, Barcelona are likely to gain some consistency, when the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez return to the team. Real Madrid are likely to gain slightly more consistency at some point too. However, if last season’s debacle is anything to go by, they may not gain enough consistency to win the league.
We will just have to wait and see what effect the new signing have once they are fully-fit and settled with Los Blancos.
May be Atletico’s best title chance in years
Although it is very early in the season, this season is shaping up to be possibility Atletico’s best chance of winning La Liga in a long time. Diego Simeone’s team are currently odds of 7/1 to finish the season as Spanish champions. Some bookmakers actually make Atleti second-favourites to top La Liga at the end of the season.
Even with the squad upheaval, Atletico seem to have a more settled team that their city rivals. The fact that Barcelona have made a poor start to their La Liga campaign also gives Los Rojiblancos hope they can win their tenth Spanish title in season 2019/20.

Could this be Atletico’s year to win La Liga?
 

jcube

Rookie
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Liverpool and Newcastle United opened the fifth round of the 2019/20 Premier League season by locking horns on Saturday lunch time at Anfield.
The hosts entered the clash on a high note, as the only team in the league to have recorded a 100% output by winning all of the opening four games. Newcastle, on the other hand, managed to record their only win so far in the game where they were least likely to – away to Tottenham Hotspur, so that may have served as something to draw inspiration from as they headed to Merseyside to play the reigning champions of Europe.
Team News
Still without the services of Allison Becker, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp revealed that it will be a while yet until the Brazilian goalkeeper recovers fully from the calf issue which forced him off in the first game of the season. Midfielder Naby Keita was also unavailable, though he is expected back in full training after the team’s Champions League exploits away at Napoli in a few days. Defender Nathaniel Clyne is a long-term absentee with an ACL injury. Klopp decided to shuffle his midfield and forward sections, which resulted in captain Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino both starting on the bench.
As before, Adrian replaced Alisson in goal. The back four remained unchanged from their previous outings, with Virgil van Dijk, wearing the captain’s armband, and Joel Matip flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stepped in for Henderson, with Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum providing him with some cover in the middle of the park. Divock Origi also made the lineup, joined upfront by Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce had to make do without his arguably best midfielder Sean Longstaff, who was out with an ankle injury. He was also without Matt Ritchie (ankle), former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, Allan Saint-Maximin, DeAndre Yedlin, Dwight Gayle and Florian Lejeune.
Recognizing the danger of Anfield, Bruce put five defender in front of goalkeeper Martin Dubravka: Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles and Paul Dummett as the centre-backs, flanked by Emil Krafth and Jetro Willems. The midfield was also set up for a counterattacking approach, with former Liverpool player Jonjo Shelvey and Miguel Almiron in the central roles, and the pacey duo of Christian Atsu and Isaac Hayden out wide. The strength of Joelington was supposed to give the Liverpool defence the most to worry about.
The First Half
As expected, Liverpool took control of the match from the start, keeping most of the possession and pushing the visitors back, while the Magpies defended patiently and sought for counterattacking opportunities.
There was a slight worry for Klopp in the third minute as Origi stayed down following an awkward slide, but the Belgian proved capable of continuing.
But in the seventh minute, the news weren’t so good for the home side. Atsu did well to avoid an offside trap and held the ball up, before engaging Willems on the left. The fullback cut inside and blasted his shot past Alexander-Arnold, beating Adrian and finding the far top corner.
0-1.
The home side tried to respond to this early shock quickly, and Oxlade-Chamberlain broke through the middle and took a low, powerful shot that just missed the target. But if Newcastle started the game defensively, it was nothing compared to how they were playing after the goal. They constantly had nine outfield players behind the ball, and forced Liverpool to either go wide or look for set-pieces to threaten Dubravka. But neither approach worked and they simply could create a proper chance.
Newcastle made problems for themselves a few times by trying to play out from the back and getting themselves cornered, but they always somehow managed to survive.
After 20 minutes, Liverpool were starting to show nerves, which suited the visitors fine. A long pass caught Joelington offside, after which the Magpies’ striker provoked an angry reaction from Adrian.
Three minutes later, Liverpool finally started to get into promising positions. First Lascelles had to save his team from Origi, before Alexander-Arnold squared the ball dangerously into the six yards. And then, Salah won a corner which resulted in a strong penalty appeal as Lascelles obviously pulled Matip down from behind. It remains unclear how and why VAR failed to react, but nothing could stop the reaction from Liverpool that followed.
Minute 28 was running when Robertson broke past Krafth down the left and employed Mane in the box. The Senegalese moved inside and blasted the ball into the far top corner.
1-1.
Just as the opening goal gave Newcastle some belief, so the equalizer seemed to have squeezed it out of them. They looked completely content to only sit in front of Dubravka, but they didn’t look all that confident in their defending anymore.
But after 35 minutes, Origi went down again and required medical assistance. This time he wasn’t able to recover, and Roberto Firmino came on in his place.
It took the Brazilian just a few minutes to significantly impact the game. Matip dispossessed Atsu in the middle of the park and Firmino picked the ball up, suddenly releasing Mane in behind the Newcastle defence. Dubravka came out only to make a mess of things, and allowed Mane to calmly place the ball into the empty net.
2-1.
With the things now right from a Liverpool’s perspective, it was now their turn to take the tempo slightly down as the end of the opening half approached. They still kept the ball under control, and rarely allowed the Magpies to cross the halfway line.
The Second Half
The visitors came out a bit more after the break, and they spent a minute or two in Liverpool’s half during which they had a corner, but nothing came of it. Liverpool quickly reminded them of the dangers of such an approach at Anfield through Wijnaldum, whose cunning half-volley from a yard inside the box just missed the top corner. A quick altercation followed, and the ball moved quickly from one end to the other.
Bruce appeared to have instructed Fabian Schar to occasionally join Joelington in attack and offer himself as an additional target for long passes and crosses, but from another attempt at provoking Adrian, there wasn’t anything he could do against either Matip or Van Dijk.
In the 56th minute, Liverpool suddenly took advantage of Newcastle’s slightly more adventurous approach and Firmino set up Alexander-Arnold for a good chance, but Dubravka stopped the fullback’s effort from a tight angle. Alexander-Arnold returned the favor in the next move as his cross almost found Firmino on the six-yard line, but Schar reacted well.
As the game progressed, the visitors’ forays forward were becoming few and far apart, and not by their own choice. Liverpool were turning up the volume, and for a while the Magpies were hard pressed to defend against a third goal.
A similar situation was repeated on the hour-mark and this time Firmino managed to send a header on target, but Dubravka was alert. It was then the Brazilian’s turn to try and act provided as he squared the ball from the left for the incoming Salah, but the Egyptian’s shot was blocked. Next it was Robertson who almost benefited from Firmino’s creativity, but as he broke into the six yards from the left his effort drifted past the far post.
In the 67th minute, Bruce withdrew Almiron and Krafth, and sent on Muto and former Liverpool fullback Javi Manquillo.
Two minutes later, Hayden’s late challenge on Mane gave Alexander-Arnold a chance to whip in a cross from deep. Van Dijk returned the ball from the far post across and past Dubravka, but the quickest to react was Lascelles.
However, with 20 minutes to go, Salah managed to win the ball of Lascelles and enabled his team to attack again. Eventually, the Egyptian charged through the middle, passed to Firmino and kept running. The Brazilian brilliantly disguised his return pass as he flicked it back into the path of the fully sprinting Salah who broke through the defence and slotted past Dubravka.
3-1.
With a two-goal lead now in place, Klopp anticipated a tougher fight in the middle of the park and introduced James Milner instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose long injury absence still leaves him a bit short on match form.
Liverpool continued attacking and circling the box, but their momentum was interrupted in the 79th minute when Schar and Hayden both stayed down injured. Bruce had no choice but to spend the last substitution at his disposal by sending in Federico Fernandez instead of Schar, while Hayden had to endure the remainder of the match.
The competitive edge seemed to have vanished from the game as Liverpool still kept the ball and the game under their control, but neither team seemed really bothered if there would be another goal or not. In the 84th minute, Klopp gave Xherdan Shaqiri a run-out in a midfield role, as Wijnaldum made his way towards the bench.
Three minutes later, Firmino produced another piece of magic and and sent Salah through, but Lascelles and Dummett reacted well. Alexander-Arnold was still able to shoot on the follow-up, but Dubravka made a fine save. Less than 60 seconds were gone since when Firmino set Mane up for a tap-in and the Senegalese delivered, but the Brazilian was rightly ruled offside.
The introduction of Milner and Shaqiri brought back some of Liverpool’s energy in the middle and they looked very motivated in the three minutes of injury time, despite the lead that was now unassailable. However, the scoreline remained unchanged.


 

jcube

Rookie
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Some players come out of nowhere and make a name for themselves with one or two good performances. Others are top youngsters that simply take advantage of their first chance they find within the senior team. Ansu Fati is the latest example of the latter phenomenon.
Ernesto Valverde gave Fati the chance to start on Saturday against Valencia, and the promising youngster delivered. He had a goal and an assist within the first six minutes of the match, and was one of Barca’s best players during the side’s huge 5-1 thrashing of Valencia at Camp Nou. In the end, the 16-year-old played 60 minutes and delivered an inspiring performance in front of the home crowd.
A strike from Fati and another from Frenkie de Jong put Barcelona up by two within the first 10 minutes. Kevin Gameiro pulled one back for Valencia in the 27th minute, but that would be everything Los Che would muster on offense. Barcelona had no problems to control the game and, had they been more accurate, they would have been able to bolster their lead before the break. They didn’t, however, so the first half ended with a 2-1 lead for Los Blaugranas.
Suarez steals the show in the second half
As mentioned above, Fati left the pitch in the 60th minute and when he headed back to the bench, Barca were up 3-1 thanks to a strike from Gerard Pique. Luis Suarez – who was returning from injury – was brought in to replace Fati, and the Uruguay international made his presence felt almost instantly. He needed just one minute to find the back of the net, extending Barca’s lead to three goals.
Suarez wasn’t done, however, and he added another strike in the 82nd minute following an assist from Antoine Griezmann. Barca have now scored five goals in each of their first two home Liga games this season, showing they really play at their top form at the Camp Nou.
Maximiliano Gomez, who came off the bench for Valencia, pulled one back on stoppage time for Los Che. But it wasn’t enough, and Barca cruised their way towards a huge win. One where Fati and Suarez took central stage and fully dominated with their play.
 

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Quique Sanchez Flores was unfortunate not to get his second stint in charge of Watford off to the best possible start as the Hornets recovered from 2-0 down to take a point against Arsenal.
The Gunners looked in control as a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the first-half saw the Gunners head into the break with a comfortable advantage. However, Tom Cleverley scored his first Premier League goal since January as he punished the Gunners for sloppy defensive play. Substitute Roberto Pereyra then took advantage of Arsenal’s poor second-half as he struck the equaliser from the penalty spot with only ten minutes left on the clock.
The hosts looked the most likely to steal the three points but could not quite find the winning goal despite a handful of chances.
Early impact made by new boss?
Following an underwhelming start to the season, home supporters would have been hoping for a reaction following the appointment of Sanchez Flores and that is initially what they got. The Hornets enjoyed a positive start to the game with Bernd Leno twice tested early on – Cleverley forcing the stopper into an impressive stop with a long-range effort.
Defender Jose Holebas then had a great chance as he got on the end of Gerard Deulofeu’s centre but could only lift the ball over the crossbar.
Aubameyang as clinical as ever
That good start did not last long though as the Gunners seized the lead in somewhat controversial circumstances. Will Hughes looked like he was fouled by Dani Ceballos but play continued as Sead Kolasinac tore down the pitch. The left-back played the ball into Aubamayeng and the Gabon forward swivelled delightfully in the box to finish coolly past Ben Foster.
He was on the scoresheet again only ten minutes later following a wonderful move as Mesut Ozil and Ainsley Maitland-Niles exchanged passes before the ball was pulled across the face of goal for a simple tap-in.
Defensive mistakes from Arsenal yet again
With Unai Emery’s men cruising, a silly mistake just after the break saw Watford handed a huge lifeline. Sloppy play at the back allowed Deulofeu to cut out Sokratis’ pass and Cleverley was on hand to hammer the ball home to halve the deficit.
The Spaniard also went close himself as he cut inside and sent an effort whistling past the post as the hosts found considerable momentum. Substitute Ismaila Sarr was the next to have an opportunity as he rolled David Luiz in the penalty area but his low shot also squirmed off target.
It was the visitors who were severely under the cosh throughout the majority of the half but Lucas Torreira almost put the game to bed as his powerful first time effort was batted away by Foster.
More penalty woes for the Gunners
They were to rue their lacklustre second-half as the Hornets equalised from the penalty spot. David Luiz tripped Roberto Pereyra in the box and the Argentine was successful from 12 yards to hit a deserved leveller.
Deulofeu, who performed excellently throughout the match should have put the hosts ahead for the first time in the match but once again could not hit the target. Cleverley was the next to go close as his swerving shot look destined for the top corner only for David Luiz to nod the ball away. Abdoulaye Doucoure should have claimed victory from a lethal counter-attack but could only find the body of Leno only yards from goal.
Watford weren’t quite able to complete the turnaround though as they claimed a positive point in Sanchez Flores’ first game back at Vicarage Road.
 

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Karim Benzema saved the day for Real Madrid this weekend. That’s something he has done more often than not in recent months.
The Frenchman bagged two goals in a six-minute span this past Saturday against Levante, and played a key role during his side’s 3-2 win at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. The 31-year-old is enjoying a great start to the 2019/20 season, and has four goals in four league appearances.
That’s a return most strikers would want, especially in the beginning of the season. However, Real Madrid fans are never happy with what Benzema does on the pitch. Even when he saves the team, the fans are still unsatisfied with the former France international. This seems to be a board issue as well, as Madrid signed Luka Jovic this summer with the hope the Serbian could eventually replace Benzema.
This negative trend needs to stop as soon as possible. And for once, just for once, both fans and board members should appreciate what Benzema gives to – and for – Real Madrid. The stats don’t lie in this case. Per WhoScored, Benzema has been Real’s best player in three of their first four Liga matches with an 8.2 rating overall, four goals and one assist over that span.
Plus, the former Lyon star has been directly involved in five of Real Madrid’s nine goals. Yet, some fans want him gone every summer.
The track record should support Benzema, not be used against him
“He’s not very good”, “he misses easy goals”, “he’s streaky”. Fans have said those – and more awful – things over Benzema across the past few seasons. Yet, the French has scored at least 20 goals across all competitions in six of his 10 seasons with Los Blancos. The biggest criticism lies on the fact that he was poor both on 2016/17 (19 goals in 48 matches) and 2017/18 (12 goals in 47 games).
But let’s face it. Who hasn’t had a bad year? After all, we’re talking about a striker who has been under pressure, on the spotlight and playing at the highest level for more than a decade. At some point, you’re going to face ups-and-downs. Even Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have gone through scoring droughts. But it seems as if most of the criticism is heavier towards Benzema.
It seems things have changed this season. Gareth Bale is now the focus of the criticism at Santiago Bernabeu, and it also helps that Benzema have started the year on fire. But things will be different if he spends two, three or four games without finding the back of the net. It’s likely that, if that happens, then Madrid supporters will unleash his fury towards Benzema once again.
But that’s exactly what shouldn’t happen. The Frenchman has been so good for Madrid this season, that he doesn’t deserve the criticism that goes directed towards him. For once, the supporters need to appreciate what he’s done for the club so far. They have a world-class striker on their squad, and need to consider themselves lucky because of that.
 

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Heading to Naples is always a difficult task for any club – and yet, even though Liverpool experienced the feeling of taking on the Italian giants last season, it still didn’t matter. The European champions were unable to get off to a successful start as they attempt to defend their title, with Napoli running out 2-0 winners earlier this evening.
Strong intent
From the first whistle it was clear to see that the home side were in clear control of the game. Their quick movement and ability to reset whenever Liverpool came at them left Klopp’s side a little bit confused, to the point where they just couldn’t get anything moving. Sadio Mane did have a nice opportunity for the Reds, but on the other side, Adrian made a few good saves to prevent Napoli from going ahead.
After Liverpool came out with a bit more intent in the second half it seemed as if they were going to take control, but Napoli were equally as resistant. They were able to gain control of proceedings once again, and with just under 10 minutes remaining, a Robertson challenge in the box gave Dries Mertens the chance to put Napoli into the lead.
Checkmate
Despite getting a good hand to the ball, and making another great save earlier on in the second half, Adrian was unable to prevent the goal. Then, in injury time, an error from Virgil van Dijk allowed Fernando Llorente to score – sealing the result and gaining a measure of revenge for Tottenham, dating back to the Champions League final last year.
Napoli will now turn their attention towards a visit to face Lecce at the weekend, as they attempt to build off of what this win could mean for them and their campaign. Liverpool, on the other hand, need to get their head in the game as they travel down to London in order to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
When these two eventually go head to head in the return fixture, it’s pretty clear to see that it’s going to mean a lot for both sides. While it may not be quite as high stakes as last season, it’ll certainly be an interesting encounter.
 

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Former Real Madrid man Angel di Maria scored a brace against his former club as Paris Saint Germain got their UEFA Champions League campaign off to the best start with a 3-0 win at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday evening.
The Argentine scored the opener from close range in only the 14th minute with a stabbed finish. He then doubled his night’s work with a brilliant effort from outside of the box. Real Madrid were poor throughout the majority but thought they had earned a lifeline as Gareth Bale scored a stunning goal, only for it to be ruled out by VAR.
Thomas Tuchel’s troops secured what could potentially be a statement victory in their pursuit of their first European triumph as Thomas Meunier and Juan Bernat combined in the latter stages, with the former tucking home a brilliant team goal.
Di Maria at the double
The hosts hit the front with pretty much their first attack of the match. Juan Bernat found space down the left channel and crossed the ball towards di Maria who just had enough space to prod the ball past Thibaut Courtois at the near post.
Eden Hazard then went close to an equaliser soon after as he wriggled on the edge of the PSG penalty area but could only fire his shot just wide.
However, the hosts soon doubled their lead and it was again through the unplayable di Maria. Picking up the ball just outside the box, he set his sights on the bottom corner and sent a wonderful effort whistling in.
VAR rules out Madrid lifeline
Despite how tremendous di Maria’s second strike was, it seemed that Bale had topped it as he looped a stunning effort over Keylor Navas in the home goal. The strike was ruled out though for offside due to a handball call via VAR.
Real Madrid were severely disappointing throughout the majority of the match and really struggled to keep their former player quiet. He could have got his hat-trick midway through the second-half but lifted a great effort just over the crossbar.
The visitors once again thought they had finally got on the scoresheet as Karim Benzema tapped in after picking off a ricochet but once again the strike was ruled out by the referee, this time for offside. The Frenchman then also nodded wide when he really should have scored.
Another stunning strike from PSG
The scoring was rounded off at the Parc des Princes as Real Madrid were put to the sword and caught cold on the counter-attack. Intriguingly, it was Bernat and Meunier who broke forwards as the Belgian released the left-back into the box. The Spaniard cut back and rolled the ball to his defensive partner who tucked the ball simply into the net to claim a brilliant victory for the hosts.
Final Thoughts
Real Madrid really did look shell-shocked as they left the field in Paris. The hosts were in brilliant form all evening and a more emphatic scoreline would not have flattered them whatsoever. The Spaniards failed to have any impact on the match at all and in fact failed to have a single shot on target. PSG were much deserved of their brilliant victory, one they will hope sets them in positive stead for the rest of the European campaign.
 

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Week 1 of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is now on the books. And while there were some shocking and unexpected results, now it’s time to focus on individual performances.
These were the Top 5 performers during the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Week 1.
Mislav Oršić – Dinamo Zagreb
There is absolutely no question that Mislav Oršić was one of the biggest stars of the UEFA Champions League Week 1. The talented Dinamo Zagreb winger, who is 26 years old, netted not one and not two, but three goals against Atalanta in the opening match for both sides. Against all odds, the reigning Croatia Prva Liga champions won this game 4-0.
Oršić, who recently debuted with the Croatia national team earlier this month, has been on top form for Dinamo in the current Champions League campaign. He has six goals in seven Champions League matches – including qualifiers – and all signs point towards him remaining a core piece of Dinamo on their quest to reach a spot on the knockout stages.
Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
Few teams in the world have the depth and talent Manchester City currently own on their attacking third. That’s why what Riyad Mahrez did against Shakhtar Donetsk on Week 1 of the UEFA Champions League should deserve some extra praise. The Algeria international contributed a goal and an assist in City’s solid win over the Ukraine giants.
While registering one goal and one assist in a single game shouldn’t be much of a deal in today’s football, it could go a long way for Mahrez in establishing himself with a bigger role at the Etihad Stadium. Especially considering he must compete with the likes of David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva for playing time – let alone a starting role. This was the best way to show Pep he can still make things happen when he receives a chance.
Timo Werner – RB Leipzig
Few strikers in the world have started the 2019/20 season as on fire as RB Leipzig star Timo Werner. The Germany international netted two goals against Benfica in the Germans’ 2-0 win over the Portuguese giants this past Tuesday. Now Werner has seven goals in all competitions during the current term.
Werner played a pivotal role on the win and showed once again why Leipzig battled so hard to extend his contract instead of selling him. If Leipzig want to become a force in Europe, they need Werner’s best version. And so far, he is showing it – both at the domestic and European level.
Angel Di Maria – PSG
If there are two teams that Angel Di Maria absolutely “hates”, these are Real Madrid and Manchester United. The former Argentina international tends to reach his peak of performance against these two sides. He showed it one more time when PSG took on Real Madrid during Week 1 of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League campaign.
The former Real Madrid and Benfica star delivered two goals against Los Merengues this past Wednesday, and it was clear he was playing with a chip on his shoulder. Knowing PSG didn’t have Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar ahead of this match, Di Maria carried the side towards a huge win. And in the process, he showed everyone associated with the Ligue 1 giants that he still has enough talent to play a role within the team going forward.
Erling Braut Håland – RB Salzburg
Braut Håland was not the only player who netted a hat-trick during Week 1 of the UEFA Champions League. However, the Norwegian youngster certainly made a name for himself and delivered quite an impact during Salzburg’s 6-2 win over Genk in the first UCL match for both sides.
If we also add to the fact that Håland is only 19 years old, and that he scored all three goals in “only” 72 minutes, then we can easily see why the match against the Belgian opponents wasn’t one Håland will forget any time soon. By all accounts, the Norway international was one of the top players in the Champions League’s first week of action.
 

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Everton losing Senegalese central midfielder Idrissa ‘Gana’ Gueye to big-spending French giants PSG in the summer was inevitable. The Ligue One champions saw bids rejected for the star in the January transfer window and the interest never disappeared.
During his time on Merseyside, he became a crucial player for the Toffees. Marco Silva’s side’s recent poor defensive displays are no doubt in no small part down to the absence of the former Villa star.
He deserved a move to a team playing Champions League football. Last night he showed why PSG bought him in the summer, as he played a pivotal role in the Parisians recording a 3-0 win over Spanish giants Real Madrid in Europe’s elite competition.
Understated but not out of place
While former Manchester United star Angel Di Maria will get the headlines for his brace, Gueye produced an understated performance in the centre of midfield. Playing in what looked like a more advanced role than we were accustomed to seeing him at Everton, he created a goal and used the ball well. He also produced the more familiar harrying and nicking of the ball
Considering the calibre of player he was up against Gueye did not look out of place and thrived in a massive European game.
Good luck to the lad
Idrissa Gueye always came across as a really nice guy during his time on Merseyside. Everton fans how him in high esteem. The biggest reason is that when the Toffees rejected PSG’s January bid, instead of sulking, Gueye produced arguably the best form of his Everton career.
Some cynics might suggest that the 29-year-old upped his game due to secure a move to Paris in the summer transfer window. He may have done subconsciously, but Senegalese star’s form for much of his Toffees career was solid.
Gueye was always an unsung hero in the centre of the Everton midfield. He was more than just a midfield destroyer, although there were some perceived weaknesses in the midfielder’s game.
If many Evertonian’s were watching last night’s game then they will no doubt have not begrudged Gueye the chance to play at the highest level of the club game. There is not a much bigger game than facing 13-time European champions Real Madrid.
His display will be met by both pride and regret by everybody associated with the Blues. The pride that he is at such a high level and regret that as a club the Toffees could not offer him the opportunity to play in the Champions League.
PSG looking to win the Champions League
The PSG Qatari owners have made no secret of their wish to win the Champions League. It was always their primary goal. The club’s owners have ploughed in huge investment in the team since their arrival.
The money spent has inevitable led to PSG dominating a relatively weak Ligue One. However, the club from the French capital has failed to make it past the last 16 after previously managing to get to four straight quarter-finals.
They are no doubt desperate to win the Champions League. Wednesday night’s performance suggests that if the current team plays to their highest level, then they can give any team a challenge. Admittedly, Real Madrid played poorly, but PSG still had to put them to the sword.
Idrissa Gueye and his teammates are now odds of 8/1 to lift the Champions League trophy this season. If the Senegalese star can continue in a similar vein to last night, then he could prove to be a very shrewd addition for the reigning French champions.
 

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Leicester City delivered an impressive performance against Tottenham Hotspur and while they surrendered an early goal, they still managed to secure the three points thanks to a huge comeback. Harry Kane opened the scoring for the Spurs in the first half, but Ricardo Pereira and James Maddison lifted Leicester to a huge win at King Power Stadium on Saturday.
New Squad, Same Old Issues for Spurs
Last season’s Champions League runners-up made several changes to the side that drew against Olympiakos earlier this week, with names such as Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli out of the squad. The likes of Eriksen, Lucas Moura and Eric Dier settled for places on the bench, while Alli didn’t even make the 18-man squad.
The reasoning for this was Mauricio Pocchetino saying his players “lacked fight” against Olympiakos. But things didn’t change much at King Power Stadium. Sure, the Spurs scored first when Kane slotted home a clever flick from Son Heung-min. But the team crumbled after the break. That has happened quite often to the Spurs. Especially when they play on the road.
The VAR Played a Huge Role in This Match
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) ended playing a huge role on the development of the game. Leicester scored the first goal when Wilfred Ndidi pounced on a rebound in the 16th minute. However, his goal was ruled out due to an offside position.
Tottenham were also punished by VAR. They were up 1-0 when Serge Aurier netted what would have been a two-goal lead for the London-based side, but that goal was ruled out as well due to a previous offside from Son in the build-up of the play.
That situation proved to be critical, as Leicester equalized the game shortly thanks to Ricardo Pereira. And things went downhill for Tottenham afterwards.
James Maddison Saves the Day for Leicester
Maddison has been heavily linked with a move away from Leicester this upcoming summer. And performances like the one from Saturday’s match shouldn’t do anything to stop the rumour mill regarding then England international.
With the game 1-1 and Leicester throwing bodies forward, it was Maddison who would end up saving the day for The Foxes. The former Norwich star drilled a low effort past Paulo Gazzaniga to lift the hosts towards a huge result. One that proves their top-six credentials for the rest of the season.
Leicester now have 11 points in the standings, and have continued their impressive start to the campaign. Meanwhile, the Spurs extended their winless run away from home and have looked nothing like the side that reached the UEFA Champions League last season.
 

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Manchester United’s inconsistent start to the Premier League season continued as they lost 2-0 to West Ham United at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Andriy Yarmolenko gave Manuel Pellegrini’s men a deserved lead heading into the interval as he collected the ball in the penalty area and stroked a clinical finish past David De Gea. Aaron Cresswell rounded off the victory late on with a brilliant free-kick that left the Spanish stopper grasping at thin air as the Hammers moved up to fourth in the league table.
West Ham start the better
It was a scrappy start in the capital but it was the hosts that just shaded the chances. Yarmolenko tried his luck from distance but saw his shot find the arms of De Gea. Mark Noble then also tested the Spaniard as he was picked out Pablo Fornals’ free-kick.
United were really struggling to deal with their hosts, both in an attacking and defending sense, and that eventuality saw West Ham take the lead. A brilliant passage of play saw Yarmolenko, Noble and Felipe Anderson exchange passes, with the former being picked out in the box. The Ukrainian took one touch to take the ball away from his marker before finding the bottom corner with a cool finish.
Mata miss lets of the Hammers
Despite their dominance throughout the first period, the Hammers should have pinned back just after the break. Andreas Pereira did excellently to manufacture space on the right-flank and whip a wonderful ball into the back post. Juan Mata was unmarked and really should have finished into the empty net but somehow put his effort wide.
The match then got even worse for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s troops as striker Marcus Rashford went down with an injury, eventually being withdrawn and adding to the ever-growing list of stricken players at Old Trafford.
Chances for both sides
Pellegrini’s men then almost made it even worse for the Red Devils as Anderson and Yarmolenko combined once again, with this time the Brazilian being denied by the legs of the United goalkeeper.
The visitors could well have equalised once again as Victor Lindelöf nodded down from a corner, with the ball falling to Harry Maguire. With the goal at his mercy, the former Leicester City man could only put the ball straight at Lukasz Fabianski.
Opportunities continued to come for both sides and Cresswell was the next to go close from a free-kick as he lifted the ball marginally over the United net.
Cresswell free-kick floors United
As it happened, that was just a warning shot from the defender. Given another chance just outside of the box, this time he sent the ball cannoning into the top corner. De Gea did manage to get his fingers to it but the shot was just too powerful and accurate to do anything about.
Daniel James almost reduced the deficit late on but could only lash into the side-netting as the hosts claimed a fantastic victory.
 

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It has been a strange start to the new La Liga campaign. The big three of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have not hit top form yet in the Spanish top-flight. Over the weekend, the top-three of La Liga contained the names of the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Granada, names not associated with the top of the table in recent history.
Champions have made a terrible start
Barcelona have made the sort of start to their title defence that has led to question marks over the future of head coach Ernesto Valverde. The Catalan giants have won just two of their first five league matches, suffering two defeats in the process.
Some of the team’s displays in La Liga have been nothing short of awful, especially their 2-0 defeat at Granada. It would be majorly surprising if Valverde lasts much longer in his job. Their home game against Villarreal this evening is a must-win for the former Athletic coach. Anything but maximum points and a convincing display could just spell the end for the Barcelona boss.
Los Blancos also unconvincing, as Atletico slip-up
Real Madrid have made an unbeaten start to the new campaign in La Liga. Yet, their performances have not been that convincing. A 3-0 loss at PSG in their opening group game has increased speculation that coach Zinedine Zidane is heading for the exit. It would not be the strangest sacking that Los Blancos have ever made.
The team from the Spanish capital are top almost by the default because Barcelona, and more recently Atletico Madrid have not performed. Zidane’s team host Osasuna on Wednesday night and could even stretch their lead at the top of the table.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico started the campaign in good form, looking like they meant business in the title race. However, a surprise 2-0 defeat at Real Sociedad and a goalless draw last time leave Atleti sixth-place in the table.
The new players looked to have settled in okay this season after a sea of changes in the squad. However, the cracks have shown in their recent matches, against teams that Atletico would normally expect to defeat.
Simeone’s side faces a trip to Real Mallorca on Wednesday night in the midweek round of fixtures. It is a game they will expect to win, but so was the game in San Sebastien and their home match against Celta last time out.
Barcelona still the favourites for the title
Strangely, despite their poor start to the new campaign, reigning champions Barcelona are still the favourites to win La Liga at odds of 5/6, with the usual suspects of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at second and third favourites respectively to claim the crown.
The return to fitness of star striking duo Luis Suarez and newly crowned FIFA men’s player of the year Lionel Messi will obviously help the champions’ chances of returning to form.
Whether the Catalan giants will return to form once the pair are fully match fit and firing is unclear. They have had poor periods of recent campaigns and still came back to win La Liga. They are only four points behind Real Madrid, who as we have established are not pulling up any trees this season.
It will be interesting to see if Barcelona’s form improves or even if Real Madrid can produce better performances and streak away. However, from my point of view, it just feels like Real Madrid are top without having been brilliant. Who knows maybe Zidane can bring the Spanish title back to the capital and avoid the chop after all.
 
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If you haven’t heard the name of Erling Haaland, then you either live under a rock, or you’re not following European football enough.
Okay, that might be a stretch. But this coveted 19-year-old attacker has been tearing it up over the past 12 months, breaking records left and right and taking gigantic steps towards becoming a top-notch striker sooner than later. But, who is this Norwegian striker that seemingly every top team in the world wants to sign?
To take about Haaland, we must do two things first. We must talk about his roots, and his rose to stardom at the U20 level.
Haaland, 19, was born in Leeds on July 21st, 2000. He is the son of former Norway, Manchester United and Leeds United centre-back Alf Inge Haaland. His football roots come straight from his father, although his position on the field is completely opposite. The father was paid to prevent goals, and the son gets paid to score them. Haaland could have represented England since he was born in Leeds, but chose to represent Norway. That was a smart call, as he has already won two caps with the senior squad.
Haaland made his way onto the senior squad following an impressive showing in the 2019 U20 World Cup where he scored nine goals in a single match against Honduras. Yes, that’s not a typo. Haaland found the back of the net nine times during Norway’s 12-0 rout of the CONCACAF side during May this year.



A rising star already making waves all over Europe
It’s not like Haaland has been making headlines at the youth levels, though. He signed for RB Salzburg in January this year, and has started the season on top form. He has 11 goals and five assists in eight Bundesliga appearances, while also adding three in his UEFA Champions League debut against Gent.
All things considered, the 19-year-old already has 17 goals in 10 matches in all competitions. We must remember he’s only 19. That scoring form is impressive regardless of the opposition, but even more so for a player of his age. Not many U20 players can be as productive and as decisive in a top-tier league all over Europe.
It remains to be seen whether Haaland can reach the heights many believe he is capable of. But one thing is certain. He should already be considered as one of the top young players in the world. And it shouldn’t be surprising to see teams such as Barcelona and Manchester United following him. He has shown enough quality already to make the jump to a more competitive environment.
 

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During his prime at Chelsea, Diego Costa was without doubt one of the best out and out forwards in the world game. Few had the power, determination and sheer nuisance ability than the Brazilian-born Spanish international.
A return to former club Atletico Madrid in the winter transfer window of 2018 was a blow to the Blues at the time, as he had just scored 20 top-flight goals for the south west London club the season before. Chelsea have struggled to really replace him, while Costa has struggled to make an impact at Atletico in his second stint.
Maybe Chelsea and Costa were a match made in heaven
There are times when players and clubs go together perfectly well. The two just seem to come together and it makes for great viewing. That was the case with Costa and Chelsea.
The forward enjoyed three very successful years with the Blues, winning the Premier league title on two occasions. Twice he scored 20 goals in the English top-flight, with his lowest goal tally being 12 in his middle season with the Blues, as the whole team struggled.
They say never go back
The saying about going back to an old relationship is never a good thing. There is never the same passion and fire. Unfortunately, Costa has not experienced a great second spell back in the Spanish capital where he was beloved the first time around.
A combined total of just six La Liga goals since his return is a disappointing one. Admittedly Atletico have limited his playing time, so he has not played a lot of football in that time.
However, he has just not looked like the same player that terrified English Premier League defences for three seasons. He doesn’t seem to have the same terrifying ability, although he does seem to retain the fiery personality, which will never go away. The fact that he received an eight-match ban for an assault on a referee in April proved that he is still as fiery as ever.
That living on the edge side to the forwards game was fine when he was scoring goals. In fact, it helped him at times to produce his best form. However, he is no longer scoring goals, so when he is silly on the pitch it is highlighted more.
At 30-years-old of age Diego Costa looks to be on a steep downward spiral. It is sad to see for a player who was once such a good Premier League performer.
Linked with a summer move to Qatar or China
Italian publication CalcioMercato are reporting that clubs from both Qatar are watching Costa’s situation ahead of a possible move next summer. It is not the first time Costa has been linked with a move.
In fact, this summer Wolves were odds as short as 1/10 to sign the forward. Everton were also linked with a move for the experienced striker. However, for whatever reason, the forward remained in the Spanish capital with Atletico.
If things continue in a similar vein for Costa in the Spanish capital, then it is easy to see the forward heading to Qatar or China. He is obviously not the player used to be during his days at Chelsea.
A Premier League return would be unlikely, as he would be a year older and most English top-flight clubs would no longer pay his big wages. It would be a shame to see Costa leave Spanish football with such a whimper. However, we will always have his exploits in his first spell at Atletico and his Chelsea career to remember how good a player he once was.
 
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