Champions League Preview: Favorite 5/5

Paris Saint – Germain (PSG)


PSG is the leading team in French domestic football, but so far could not show their ability on the bigger stage.

Pros: PSG have a really potent attack in the fact of Zlatan Ibrahomovic, Lavezzi, Cavani, Pastore and Lucas. When they are in full swing, they can demolish any defense with individual skills. They now also have the services of David Luiz, who had a miserable World Cup campaign but he will work better with better with the follow country men, Thiago Silva.  This mean that defensively, PSG should be a stronger unit this season around.

Cons: PSG explode on to scene after the takeover by Qatar Sports Investment group in 2011. Since then, the group have invested a huge sum of money in buying top class players which resulted in the rise of PSG at the French domestic level. However, so far, PSG is yet to establish themselves at the European stage. They always tumble from a strong position at a crucial stage. Whenever they faced a tougher challenge, they fall short of the finishing line.

Verdict:  All of the last few years, one get the feeling watching PSG plays against the European heavy weights, that they are playing with a sense of fear and are not believing in them self. They have to raise their level, play without fear and believe in themselves to make it to the advance level of the competition. It’s about time when PSG should come out of the shadows of the European giants like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

 

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Champions League Preview: Favorite 4/5

Chelsea

Chelsea had an amazing start of the season and look like favorite to win the league at least.

Pros: Chelsea got the award for the best performance in the transfer window for me, and that too for a reason. Chelsea have an attacking force that is capable of destroying any defense on a given day. Having three strongly skilled center – forwards in the form of Spaniard Diego Costa, Chelsea legend Drobga and French international Loic Remy, means that Mourinho has all the luxury to get the desired results unlike last season, even in the case of injuries that are bound to happen. Chelsea also filled the gap that was left by the departure of Frank Lampard by signing an under achieved Febregas from the Catalans. Return of Courtois means that Chelsea have one of the Best Young Keepers around.

Cons: Chelsea have issue in the pace department. Chelsea have Hazzard and Willian, along with Schurrle and Oscar to get the desired pace to surprised others teams on counter, but they are not the best sprinters around. Having said that, Chelsea does not always depend on pace from the flanks and this might not cause big problems throughout the season.

Verdict: Chelsea are a unit which is well oiled and completely functional with not many loopholes in their squad, and that too shows from their result in the opening 4 matched in the league. They will be a one very tough unit to beat and will not going to surprise me, if they go on to clinch the title. They are definitely the team for me along with Bayern Munich to win the Champions league this season.

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Champions League Preview: Favorite 3/5

Barcelona


Barcelona had a trophy less season last year and this year they were very active in the transfer window.

Pros: Barcelona have one of the best attack in the world, after inclusion of Luis Suarez. Even though, he will not be available for the first few matches, his return will surely boost the Catalans. Signing of 2 top class center backs in Thomas Vermalen and Jeremy Mathieu boost their defensive unit as well.

Cons: Barcelona made too many signings as they had to strengthen their squad and that might prove the focal point, due to which that Catalans might suffer this season. They have signed more than 7 new players this season and they look like a team which need some time to settle things on the pitch.

Verdict: Barcelona had a good start to their season with 3 wins out of 3 in the league, but it is natural to believe that it will take time for the team to develop the playing style of the new coach Luis Enrique and Barcelona will be a surprise for me, if they will end up as the Champions league winners.

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Champions League Preview: Favorite 2/5

Bayern Munich:

Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich are one of the most consistent team in Europe for the past 5 years, and this year they looked strong and balance on paper.

Pros: Bayern Munich are the current champions of Germany and they are the 2nd favorites to win the Champions league. Their attack is a formidable one and inclusion of Rebert Lewandowski further strengthen the attack. Their attack has every thing from creativity of Gotze & Thiago, pace of Robben and Ribery , strength and finishing class of  Lewandowski which might prove too much for other teams to handle.

Cons: Injuries to crucial players can prove a problem for them. Last season, their defense was left wondering against Real Madrid, as they were out run by the Spanish giants. This season, they tried to overcome their defensive problems with the signing of Benatia from Roma. Pep’s strategy of tiki – taka football took the real strength out of the Munich side, who dominated Europe 2 years ago, with pace and strength.

Verdict: With players like Muller, Gotze, Ribery, Muller, Schweinsteiger & with inclusion of Xabi Alonso, Lewandowski and Benatia, Bayern Munich this season can prove to be the real favorites to win the Champions with better performance in the transfer window that strengthen their squad over all. All has to be seen is if Pep will be able to transform his ideology into practice 2nd season running to make Bayern Munich the “Kings of Europe” again.

 

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Champions League Preview: Favorites 1/5

Before the start of the new Champions League season begin, we will look into details about the contenders and who can turn out a surprise package.

Real Madrid:

Los Blanco’s had a very rough start of the season. However, that does not mean that Madrid is not a force anymore. They are the current European Champions and will remain a strong favorites to retain their title.

Pros: Real Madrid has one of the strongest attacking unit in the World. With the like of Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale, Modric, newly signed Rodriguez and Kroos and with the likes of Isco and Chicharito on the bench, Madrid have capacity to outsettle any defending unit in the Champions league.

Cons: Defensively, Madrid remains a force with more than few loop holes. Pepe and ramos leave too much of a gap at times, while Casillas is not the same as what he was 4 years ago. With Xabi Alonso leaving and Khedira remains unfit, Madrid also has a problem when it comes to defensive midfielders.

Verdict: With flaws in the transfer policy and with the departure of two of the best players last season for Madrid in Xabi Alonso and Di Maria, Madrid has an extremely tough task a head in defending their title this season.

 

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‘Same Heights Where They Were’ – Real Madrid

Real Madrid season so far is nothing but a story of a horse, who somehow find a way to come first but was not satisfied with it, and then find a way to come lower in the ranks and now is wondering where have I gone wrong?. Madrid for all the last season looked like a team who could have won Treble at one point, after already clinching Copa Del Ray (Spanish King Cup). Madrid were leading La Liga table and were already in the semi-final of Champions league 4th season running. It look all likely that Madrid will be able to win a un – precidented treble that season before losing the ground in the race for the Spanish league with untimely injuries, which made manager Carlo Ancellotti to focus on the Champions league only. La Decima was an icing on the cake for Ancellotti that season, having already won the trophy with Milan before as well.

However, this season Madrid somehow find a way to unsettle the squad and so far have already lost the Spanish super cup, and have lost 2 league games out of the first. All of this raise a question that where Madrid went wrong?

Real Madrid set their priority wrong compared to last season. Their problem last season was their defensive line as it is hard to trust Pepe, while Varane had some fitness issue to deal with. One good center back would have helped Madrid in strengthen their defense & a player like Hummels would be ideal as well as a center back partnership with Ramos would have been one of the best in the world. Real Madrid had an issue with Central Midfield, with Xabi ageing and they got the perfect replacement in the shape of Kroos, but that alone does not approve the selling of a Spanish verteran. That does not only put pressure on Kroos to settle in quickly, but have also weaken the defensive midfield position since Madrid is playing with no Leader’s in that place. Another blunder that Madrid made was signing Jamas Rodriguez at the cost of Di Maria. James Rodriguez was no doubt a player who took all the lime light in the world cup, but was he the only man Madrid needed? The answer is NO. Rodriguez is an amazing kid to have around, but is he the right man to replace the likes of Di Maria? The answer is again NO. He needs time to develop into a player on which Madrid can depend on and he can develop into a product who can perform under an immense pressure of playing at the Bernabue. Di Maria, on the other hand, was the spark that took Real Madrid back to the days of glory again with a double in the last season. He was the player of the season for the Los Blanco’s beyond any one doubt. Letting him go, as in the case of letting Xabi go after signing Kroos, again took away the chance for Rodriguez to settle into this squad, & might prove a problem in the time to come for Ancellotti.

Real Madrid lost the initiative they had over their rivals last season with flaws in their system of transfer policy which cannot be over looked and they would do really well in overcoming their flaws and reach any way near the same heights where they were last season.

 

It’s Just a Dream

Why No Bowler from the Big 3?

ICC (International Cricket Council), with every passing day have become a unit, whose integrity being looked with doubts over and over again. ICC had a history of taking things to the different level when it comes to its big financer, likes of India, England and Australia. People who see things with an eye of conspiracy see it and find prove that ICC never acts a balancing force, instead ICC acts as party and that never goes down really well. Incidents such as what happened in the Indian tour of England recently, where James Anderson and Ravindera Jadeja labelled as innocent after conducting offence of level 2 and 3, it even left Indian Skipper MSD (Mahindra Singh Dhoni) surprised. Another good example would be an incident between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan way back in 2008, where ICC could not punish either Harbhajan or Symonds and it settled out of the court. Not only that, people who followed the spot fixing scandal and witnessed the ban of 3 Pakistani players, find it hard to believe that ICC remained tight-lipped on the fixing scandals in IPL or claims on Suresh Raina’s involvement in match fixing. ICC had a history of events, where it could not establish its authority over the issues connected to the countries who play a huge part in assembling ICC.
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Recent crackdown on numerous bowlers and the timing of it, again raised eye brows over the procedure. It was very alarming to see that no one bowler was from the big three or from any white playing country, except Williamson, who was a part-time bowler anyway. Saeed Ajmal, who cleared in 2009, was all of a sudden found guilty of breaching the 15 degree rule for bowlers & all of his deliveries, suddenly, became illegal and now he cannot bowl until or unless he clear his action and that might put him in contention to miss the world cup. That will prove a significant blow for Pakistan as well as for the World Cricket. But this leave a question that are bowlers from weaker Cricketing countries like Srilanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe have these illegal action? Are bowlers like Ashwin, Naraine, Harbhajjan, and many others who have the backing of their strong cricketing boards have absolute clean action? Or will ICC for once, act like a Governing Body like FIFA and put a red line to make sure that everyone believe that all are equal? Or perhaps, it’s just a dream!