Premier League Gameweek 5 – Winners/Losers

After an International break, Premier League came back with a bang where some big teams lost and there were some surprise winners, and we are here again with the list of winners and losers from the Premier League Match Day 05.

Winners:

Everton

First in the list winners is surprisingly Everton this week, who had the defending champions up against them. However, Roberto Martinez side looked sharper and far hungry for the points than their opponents, and that eventually sealed the show for the Toffee’s.

Steven Naismith was the surprise hero of the match, with a well-crafted hat-trick, who came off the bench in the 10thminutes for injured Muhamed Besic, and only became the 5th man to score a hat-trick coming as a substitute. Apart from the last 10 minute in the first half, Everton looked dominant throughout the match, and had far more pace and far more conviction that made the defending Champions looked 2nd best throughout the match.

Manchester United

Anthony-Martial-009

Next in the list of winners for week 05 in the Premier league features the red devil, as they outplayed their arch rivals at Old Trafford on Saturday. Until the first half, the match looked boring and slow for more of the part as both United and Liverpool looked defensive throughout the half.

However, in the 2nd half United turned up with a fiery performance that proved to be enough for a unmotivated looking Liverpool. One prime positive in the match for United was the emergence of the newly signed French teenager Anthony Martial, who scored a stunning solo goal on his debut and proved everyone why LVG paid £36 Million for a 19 year old.

Watford

Watford's Odion Ighalo celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during their English Premier League soccer match against Swansea City at Vicarage Road, London

Last in the list of winners for week 05 in the Premier league features the newly promoted Watford, who faced a tough home fixture against a team who defeated United last week and who managed to get a draw on the opening weekend against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Watford were dominant throughout the match and had twice as many shots on target and off target compared to Swansea, who looked far less convincing than the winners.

What made this win even more special was the fact that the home side had to play nearly one third of the match with 10 men after midfielder Valon Behrami was red carded in the 64th minute. However, the home side were not ready to give their initiative away and grabbed their Watford’s first win of the campaign, and they will look to capitalize on an impressive display in the matches to come.

Losers:

Chelsea

First in the list of losers once again feature defending Champions Chelsea, as they lost their 3rd match out of first 5 league games in the season. It is the exact number of defeats that Chelsea had throughout the last season which can be of a serious concern for the club hierarchy. Mourinho’s men looked a shadow of what they were last season, and they seem to lack that conviction that made them invincible throughout the last season.

Mourinho’s problem got worse with the amount of players that seems out of touch. The likes of Ivanovic, Terry, Hazard, Costa, Pedro and Febregas had a day to forget, as their performance graph dropped over the last few weeks. Mourinho has already had a mountain to climb, as his team find themselves 11 points behind the league leaders, with nearly 85 % of the season still to go and things are getting difficult with every passing game.

Liverpool

Next in the list of losers feature Liverpool, who once again had a night to forget as they lost to their arch rival Manchester United in a far less convinced performance on the night when Brendon Rogers was under scrutiny after another summer of high spending at the club. Liverpool did have some bright spots in the match, but Rodgers came under severe criticism for his persistence of 4-3-3 formation, where he found wanting after the departure of natural winger Sterling and in the absence of suspended Coutinho.

Young Ibe looked active after coming off the bench in the 2nd half, and a stunner of a goal from Benteke was the high points of what otherwise was a night of total disappointment for Brendon Rogers side, and questions are again being raised as to how long Liverpool board will give him the chance to turn it around this season.

Swansea

Last in the list losers features Gary Monk’s Swansea, as they lost to the newcomers Watford after their impressive performance against the big guns this season. Gary Monk and his team will be bitterly disappointed after an impressive start to the campaign, as they could not get a point away from home against a team who recently got promoted and were playing with 10 men in the last 30 minutes of the match.

Monk’s men lacked creativity and pace throughout the match, and only managed to get 6 shots on goal in total, with only 3 on target. Monk will hope that was a one off day performance as he will look for a push for a spot in the Europa League next season and would want to ideally get some points away in the matches against less quality opposition.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

La Liga Gameweek 3 – Winners/Losers

After a couple of weeks off due to International Break, La Liga was back in full action this weekend, and so are we with the list of Winners and Losers from La Liga Game Day 3, which is stated below.

Winners:

Barcelona

Barcelona feature in the winner’s category for game day three, where they ended up as a winner in a tough fixture against Athletico Madrid. Even though the match in terms of stats, were pretty equally distributed between the two teams.

However, Athletico took a lead in the 51st minute through Fernando Torres, but the reigning champions were not ready to go down without a fight and eventually came out as a winner with a breathtaking free kick from Neymar and a late goal from a very delighted once again father, Lionel Messi.

Real Madrid

Next in the list of winner’s for the game day three in La Liga is red hot Real Madrid. Madrid faced Espanyol on the road, which was a relatively easy fixture away from home, but Madrid made it look far easier than we all thought at the beginning. Playing without creative James Rodriguez, Real looked totally in control from the beginning and went three – nil up inside the first 20 minutes, thanks to ever reliable Cristiano Ronaldo.

Bale and Benzema were also in sublime form along with Ronaldo, who himself scored 5 goals in a match and became the highest scorer in La Liga for Real Madrid, surpassing club legend Raul in just 6 season after his record move from Manchester United in 2009. Real will hope to carry on this momentum into the Champions League opening fixture, where they will play against Shakhtar Donestk on Tuesday at Santiago Bernabue.

Las Palmas

Last in the list of winner’s for the game day 03 is La Liga is newly promoted Las Palmas. Playing away from against a bigger club Celta Vigo, Las Palmas went down to 10 men when their regular goalkeeper were red carded in the 11th minute, and were also 3-1 down in the 49th minute but the newcomers refused to give up the fight.

Having been dominated in pretty much throughout the match, Las Palmas were fortunate as well with an own goal from Pablo Hernandez, which made a way for a potential comeback that was completed in the 74thminute by David Simon.

Losers:

Atletico Madrid

First in the list of loser’s features Diego Simeone’s Athletico Madrid, who lost to Barcelona at home. Having been featured in a tough fixture, Simeone would have hoped to at least get a draw out of it, especially after going a goal up in the 51stminute. Simeone’s men were short of creativity, and Grienzmann and Koke had a night to forget.

Thiago was the star of the night for the red and white, but overall there is a lot to worry about for Diego Simeone as he and his team suffered their first defeat of the season in a crucial match at home.

Celta Vigo

Next in the list we have Celta Vigo, who after such a dominant performance and with playing against 10 men at home against newly promoted Las Palmas. Celta Vigo had a man advantage nearly throughout the match after Palmas Goalkeeper Javi Varas was red carded inside the first 12 minutes of the first half, and they looked all settled for a big win when they went 3-1 up in the 49th minute, but somehow managed to blow the lead away.

Defensively, Celta were all over the place and were extremely poor to say the least. Apart from the defensive lapses and an own goal, Celta Viga dominated the match in all aspects and had a total of 19 shots on goal, out of which 13 were on target. However, they would be bitterly disappointed as they failed to win a match while playing at home against a team who were playing with 10 men and are just recently promoted.

Malaga

Last in the list of losers for match day 3 in La Liga, we feature Malaga who had a disappointing draw against Eibar at home. Malaga who finished in the top half of the table last season were facing a team who escaped relegation by nothing more than miracle, and even after controlling the match in nearly every department, but Javi Garcia’s men’s were unable to break Eibar defense which was disciplined and were ready to put their body on the line.

Even though the match ended as a draw, Javi Garcia will take it more like a defeat as he would have hoped to earn more points in such fixtures, especially while playing at home.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

UAE will be colored Green this time around

The first part of England’s trip to the UAE has come to an end, and it was Pakistan who clinched the Test series to become the second best team in the world in the longest format. Before the tour began, Pakistan were being touted as hot favourites to beat the visitors in Tests as the home side hadn’t lost a home series for five years under Misbahul Haq’s captaincy.

Keeping in view Pakistan’s Test performances in the desert, it was always on the cards that the hosts would be too hot to handle, and that England would face a stern test against them. However, come the ODIs, the predictions are not exactly the same, and many believe it will be Pakistan who will find it hard to beat England.

PHOTO: AFP

The negative sentiment regarding the ODI series seems more to do with an unconscious mindset than reality. To begin with, in some pundits’ mind, there is still a backlog of what happened three years ago — England thrashed Pakistan 4-0 in the 50-over format. Another reason for such predictions can be the recent rise of the English team in the ODIs, where they defeated World Cup runners-up New Zealand and had a more than competitive series with the current World Champions Australia back home.

But amid all the claims and counter claims of how England will dominate the shorter format, there are many reasons to believe that Pakistan should be able to clinch the series.

If we compare the 2012 series with 2015, the major difference is the team selection.

PHOTO: AFP

Seven players were brought directly into the ODI team after a not-so-successful Test campaign in 2012. The retained players were also part of the 2011 World Cup squad, which was organised in the sub-continent, so they were more acclimatised to the conditions in the UAE.

In the current ODI squad, England have retained six players who took at least some part in the Test series. Taylor played only one match in the series of three, whereas, Buttler was dropped after consecutive poor display with the bat after a couple of matches.

In 2012, England’s success in the ODIs was mainly due to four players. In batting, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen contributed 61.8 % of the total runs scored by the English team in the series. If Ravi Bopara, the third-best scorer, is included then the trio scored 72.8% of the total runs for England.

In the current team, it’s hard to find anyone other than Joe Root, who encompasses all of what Cook, KP and Bopara had back then. England’s top-three batsmen in 2012; Trott (46), Pietersen (45.5) and Cook (38.5) had considerable averages in Asia, whereas, Bopara had an average of 27 but played as an all-rounder. However, in the current squad, only Root has an average of 51 against spin but he also has played only one series in the Asian conditions (against Sri Lanka), whereas other players have seemed to find it hard on slow pitches and some of them are yet to feature on these turning tracks.

Meanwhile, only two players who were part of the 2012 squad will be featuring against Pakistan this time around — Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan. Buttler averages 26.5 in eight innings in Asia, with only one half-century. Morgan averages less than 20 in his last 16 innings in the continent, with only one half-century to his name as well. Taylor is good against spin and he has proved that with two scores of fifty in four innings in Asia but this will be a different ball game for him altogether.

In bowling, Steven Finn and Greame Swann were ruthless against Pakistan. Both are not available this time around and the new breed of bowlers hasn’t promised anything much to the English team as of now. England will be relying mostly on Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Reece Topley and the spin duo of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.

Pakistan, meanwhile, look a far more settled side than they were in 2012. Pakistan team management, three years earlier, experimented a bit too much. For instance, in the first ODI, Pakistan played with Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul as the fast-bowling options, but in the second match, Wahab was replaced by Cheema.

PHOTO: AFP

In the first match, Asad Shafiq was used at one-down, in the second he was replaced by Azhar Ali. Shoaib Malik played in the first ODI, and was then dropped for the next two, but was again given a chance in the last match.

Umar Akmal kept wickets in the first two ODIs and Adnan Akmal did so in the next two. Imran Farhat opened in the first three ODIs, but was dropped in the fourth and replaced with Azhar, while Shafiq was reinstated as one-down.

Umar Akmal batted at number six in the first three matches, and was promoted to bat at number four in the last. In the last match, Pakistan went in with only one seamer, with all three Wahab, Gul and Cheema out as Abdur Rehman opened the bowling with Junaid Khan.

Back then there was no clarity in the team plan and the results were horrible in the end. However, in recent times, Pakistan’s team management has learned the value of consistency, and this team is more settled; with players knowing exactly what their role is in the team.

PHOTO: AFP

The argument that Pakistan does not have the likes of Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez to trouble the Englishmen this time around is also to be considered since Test specialist leggie Yasir Shah is yet to bring the same form with the red ball. However, Pakistan have bolstered their bowling attack with four potential spinners; Yasir, Bilal Asif, Zafar Gohar and Shoaib Malik and all of them can become a potent threat on helping pitches for an opposition which cannot treat spin well.

Cricket is a funny game and one cannot predict what’s going to happen the other morning. However, Pakistan this time seems to be the clear-cut favourites; not because they have already won the Test series, but because of the kind of talent they possess.

The article originally appeared on The Express Tribune.

Winners & Losers from La Liga Match Day 02

La Liga Match Day two comes to and end, and it was an intriguing weekend of Spanish football that we all witnessed. With nearly all big teams finding their form this week in La Liga, we have a very interesting roundup to our winners and losers list from La Liga match day 02.

Winners:

Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid emerged on the of the winners list, after a pretty impressive thrashing of Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. Sevilla were the aggressor in the game, but it was the finishing of Athletico Madrid that proved pivotal for the other half of Madrid.

Gabi was instrumental in the middle of the park and proved to be a real leader who wanted to excel from the middle, whereas it was Antonio Griezmann from the wings who provided that much-needed pace from the wings and provided 2 assists in the game. Overall, Diego Simeone should be a relieved man after getting out with a comprehensive win in a comparative tie at a very tough venue, which made them earn 3 precious points in the league.

Eibar

Eibar feature at no 2 on the winners list this week, after earning a more than impressive win against Athletic Bilbao. Athletic probably started the game as favorites on the face of their recent performances against defending Champions Barcelona, but it was anything but. Eibar pretty much dominated the match from the right go, and Athletic had little to show against the outright winners.

Eibar had 8 shots on target, compared to Athletic 1, which shows the kind of dominance they had. Eibar was more clinical in terms of possession, as they were only dispossessed 12 times compared to Athletic’s 21 times. Saul Berjon prove to be the real hero for the home side, as he scored a goal as well as provided an assist in a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao. In all it was a professional performance from Eibar that will see them having more confidence in the games to come.

Deportivo La Coruna

Last on the list of winners for match day 02 in La Liga is Deportivo La Coruna. For a team who avoided a relegation battle on the last day of the league last term, a draw on the road against a team who will feature in the Champions League this season is nothing more than a victory.

Even though there is nothing much to be made of their performance throughout the game, but a result lie this will prove to be a big boost for the side who was in danger of being relegated and had to draw their last match against Barcelona in their own backyard.

Losers:

Valencia

The first team to feature in the list of losers for Match Day two in La Liga is Valencia. Valencia had a relatively easy task when they faced Deportive La Coruna at home. Considering that Deportivo just escaped relegation last season and Valencia will feature in the Champions league, the home side would have hoped to finish the match with 3 points, but they would be bitterly disappointed with the results keeping in mind that they had enough chances to seal the victory and this was one of the easiest fixture to play at home in the league.

Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao features on the second in the list of losers for Match Day two in La Liga. Seeing Athletico play in such a commanding manner against the defending champions 3 times in the recent past, one would have hoped to see them get past Eibar, but it was a total day to forget for Ernesto Velverde’s side, as they were out rightly beaten in every department in the match.

Considering the fact that they only managed to hit one shot on target in the whole match, shows they didn’t deserve any points against Eibar. Velverde will hope that this will be a one-off case, and his team will bounce back from back to back defeats and will regain their form that they showed against Barcelona.

Sevilla

Last in the losers for Match Day two in La Liga features Sevilla. Sevilla had a tough fixture when they face Atheltico Madrid, but it was a home fixture and since they also feature in the Champions League, a three nil home thrashing was not expected.

Sevilla had a decent match in terms of stats, but after the departure of Carlos Bacca this season to Milan, they find it hard to find the back of the net even after creating some impressive chances. Lack of finishing paid them heavily as they were comprehensively beaten by the team who they would have hoped to at least get a point from.

Unai Emery’s track record with Sevilla speaks for itself, but with losing two key players in the last two seasons, this season will surely test his managerial skills and it is yet to be seen if he can keep Sevilla at the level they have been over the past two seasons.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Premier League Game Week 4: Winners/Losers – United Abysmal

As game week four of English Premier League comes to an end, it was nothing less than a week of upsets. With some of the big guns losing their matches this week, we have some very interesting winners and losers in our elite list this week.

Winners:

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace features on top of the Winners list as Alan Pardew once again find a way to overcome Mourinho’s men. Palace had one of the toughest fixture as they visited struggling blues at Stamford Bridge.

Even though Chelsea had more of a ball, and largely dominated the game. Palace remained calm and did not panic even when Chelsea came back from behind after Falcao opened his account for the Blues. Palace kept the ball and made sure they will give a hard time to Chelsea’s defense, which is more than just struggling at the moment.

For most of the first half, Palace looked a more dangerous side and created more threatening chances, but Chelsea were the stronger side in the last 10 minutes of the first half. The second half was again positively started by Palace, and their pace and attacking display paid dividend in the 65th minute where they took the lead over reigning champions.

Palace should have sealed the game in the 74th minute when Yannick Bolasie missed an open goal, which led to Chelsea’s comeback which was short lived. All in all a very impressive show from Crystal Palace and Mourinho for once, were made to take the blame after the defeat, as Alan Pardew’s men were more than just competitive for the defending Champion.

West Ham

West Ham feature 2nd in the list of winners, after a totally dominating performance against Liverpool at Anfield. Brandon Rogers said before the match that match against West Ham will be more difficult than visiting Arsenal, and hence the case was proved later.

West Ham controlled the match in all departments, with more overall shots on goal, with more dribbles and with more tackles. Liverpool would have had an escape route after Coutinho went off in the 53rd minute, but West Ham was also reduced to 10 men in the 79th minute, but went 3-0 up in the 90th which completed a day for total misery for the home side.

Swansea

Swansea also feature in the list of winners, after a remarkable comeback against United while playing at home. United were dominating the match completely till the 60th minute, but then Swans turned it around to score two goals within five minutes.

It was Garry Monk’s third consecutive win against the Louis Van Gaal’s side in the league, and the red devils manager had to accept that his team couldn’t cope the intensity of their rivals.

For Swans, after not having much possession, their performance throughout the match was pretty much par with the rivals and they did not give United much of a space even after having nearly 65% of the possession. Andre Ayew is proving to be the best signing of the season so far, with 3 goals in 4 matches as it seems to be another master stroke by Gary Monk, who is impressing every football pundit once again.

Losers:

Chelsea

The top in the list of the losers this week is non – other than defending champions Chelsea. Chelsea had a match against a far lesser quality Palace side, but was not in the best form on the day.

Mourinho’s team lack answers of the questions that were asked of them in the league so far, and they have already lost four points at home after first 4 games in the league, which is not normal at all. The biggest worry for the Portuguese is the defensive problem, and with Stones arrival seems more unlikely as the times goes on, Mourinho will have a very tough task to defend the title this season.

However, there were also few positives for the blues as newly arrived Pedro again looked threatening from the right, and Falcao managed to open his account at Stamford Bridge and he will hope that will go a long way in recapturing his best form.

Liverpool

Liverpool feature at number two this week in the loser’s list, as they were hammered by the Hammers in their own backyard. Rodgers did confess his concerns prior to the match, and said that the match against West Ham will be more difficult than playing against Arsenal, and it proved that way.

Liverpool were out rightly beaten in every department, and hence left Brendan Rodgers to face severe criticism once again. What makes things worse is the fact that Philip Coutinho will not be available for the next match as he received a red card, which makes it even tougher for the reds to make a comeback next week.

Brendan Rodgers has already spent more than £150 Million during his reign at Liverpool, but is yet to win a trophy for the Reds, and this sort of performance will only increase pressure as the board and the supporters look for a better results this season.

Manchester United

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The last team to feature in the list of losers is none other than Manchester United. Van Gaal’s men were in total control of the game for most of the game, and had nearly 65% possession, but failed to create any sufficient chances, which made them pay once again. United were leading till the 60th minute, but then Gary Monk’s men turned it around in the matter of five minutes, and United lost 2-1 after failing to equalize after going behind.

Van Gaal’s problem in the defense showed once again, as lack of any marquee signing in the center back department can cause them serious hurdle in the time to come. Also the lack of form of Wayne Rooney in the league is creating more headache for LVG, as Javier Hernandez and RVP have already left the club and Rooney remains the only experienced striker in the squad, and with him out of form, United will have a hard time living up to the pre-season expectation.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

La Liga Game Week 1 Winners/Losers

As it was the opening day of the new season in La Liga, the action was back on as the teams started their campaigns show their supremacy over one another. However out of all the action packed weekend, we will look at 3 teams who we believe ended up the first La Liga week as a real winner and 3 teams who ended up as the real losers.

Winners:

Sporting Gijon
GIJON, SPAIN - AUGUST 23: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid duels for the ball with Luis Hernandez of Real Sporting de Gijon during the La Liga match between Sporting Gijon and Real Madrid at Estadio El Molinon on August 23, 2015 in Gijon, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Sporting Gijon features in the first place in our elite list of winners in the week 01 in La Liga season 2015/16. Sporting Gijon had a stern test first week against 10 times Champions League winner and Spanish giants Real Madrid, where anything but a defeat should have been considered as a victory. Sporting Gijon throughout the match looked like a team who was disciplined, and were willing to stay on the toes throughout the match.

Madrid in the 2nd half tested Sporting defence to the maximum, and had more than 25 shots on goals, out of which most of them were taken care of by the Sporting defence. Sporting also probably had the best chance of the game, where they were denied by the linesman when the ball struck inside of the bar and there was confusion if the ball landed on the line or over the line. All in all, Sporting were the surprise package of the week and were worthy of being placed in the top of our winners list.

Barcelona

Barcelona features in the list of winner even after unimpressive show, mostly down to the fact that they faced the same opposition against which they recently lost the Spanish Super Cup in a comprehensive manner. Barcelona were made to work hard as Athletic Bilbao were not ready to give up their stern grip on the opposition.

Messi also missed the penalty in the 31st minute, which made the case worse until Luis Suarez came to Luis Enrique’s side rescue with a 54 minute strike, which proved to be enough for the reigning Champions. The match should give Ernesto Valverdo a lot of hope in the coming season, as he will look to finish one better that what Athletic finished last time around.

Rayo Vallecano

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Last in the list of the winners for the first week in La Liga 15/16 season is Rayo Vallecano, who held Valencia to a 0-0 draw at Campo De Futbol De Vallecas. Rayo Vallecano showed the kind of attitude that was needed to face a giant in the league, which paid dividend as they remained extremely competitive throughout the match.

Paco’s team looked relatively settled throughout the match and had a far more share of possession than their rivals, and had the same amount of shots on target and off target as well. Many would argue that Valencia’s intensity was not up there as their eyes were set on the Champions League qualification clash with Monaco, but it’s Rayo Vallecano who will finish first week as a winner in the elite list.

Losers:

Real Madrid

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Real Madrid feature as the top team in the loser’s list for La Liga Week 01. Rafa Benitez men were outright favourites to get the job done, but after having more than 25 shots on goal, Spanish giants were unable to break the deadlock that proved costly in the end. Los Blancos looked far lesser threatening in the absence of their star striker Karim Benzema. The decision to play Jese as the men in front of the goal did not pay dividends.

Modric and Kroos along with Isco looked threatening throughout the game, but it was Gareth Bale, who looked like the real go to men after being played in his new position. Even though he did not complete the job for the new boss, but he was one the positives that came during that match. With 2 of their bitter rivals winning in the first game, Benitez will have to come with new ideas if he is to challenge Barcelona and Athletico for the Title.

 

Valencia

Valencia also features in the losers list this week after their more than disappointing show against Rayo Vallecano in the first week of La Liga season 15/16. Valencia had a relatively easy away fixture, but their performance lacked intensity and Rayo Vallecano managed to put on a really impressive show. Rayo Vallecano kept more of a possession and made sure that Valencia’s attack was neutralized with the slow game play. For a team who will participate in the Champions League this season again, a performance like that will be a severe blow in a bid to qualify for the Europe’s elite competition this season again.

 

Villarreal

villarreal

Villarreal is the last team to feature in our elite list of losers for the Week 01 in La Liga this season. Villarreal had a competitively easy fixture with the newly promoted Real Betis, but it proved anything but that. Betis dominated the game from the right go and stats shows that they were bitterly unlucky to come out with just a point in the match. Villarreal looked nervous and were not at the same level as people associate with yellow submarine.

The lost possession more times, were far below in the possession, have nearly 60% less shots on goal compared to Real Betis and so on. All in all, for a team who had a more than decent performance last season, their performance was not up to the mark and they would have to improve pretty much everywhere to reach the same level where they were last season, if not better.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Premier League Game Week 3 – Winners/Losers

The 3rd week of English Premier League has come to an end and some teams are now shaping up into their more settled style of play come the end of the Transfer Window. We have picked out 4 teams that both as a real winner and real losers in week 3 of the English Premier League.

Winners:

Manchester City:

man-city-fa-cup-celebration

Coming on the back of an impressive win over defending Champions Chelsea, Manchester City had a visit to Goodison Park, which is a difficult venue to visit for any side in the league. However, City seemed at absolute ease throughout the match, where they dominated the first half as well as the 2nd, and finished the game with a comfortable score line of 2-0, which is surely what they deserved at least. City throughout the game looked more threatening and more versatile, whereas Everton looked far more one-dimensional. According to exclusive Sports Matrix stats, City had 17 shots compared to Everton’s 10, and had 8 dangerous shots compared to Everton’s 5. Moreover, City had 9 shots from good chances, which is nearly double to what Everton Produced. City also had better possession to Everton (54 to 46), which once again showed their total supremacy over their rivals. City’s impressive start to their season campaign sends a strong message to their opposition’s as they seem to be the team which means business.

Bournemouth

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Bournemouth is included in a surprise winner’s category, after their more than impressive show against West Ham, where they totally dominated the game from the word go.  This was Bournemouth’s first ever victory in the top flight and that too against a consistent Premier League side. Not only in the goals department, but Bournemouth was quick to offer a lot of pace and enthusiasm.

Sports Matrix suggests that Bournemouth had far more shots from good chances than West Ham (10 compared to 6), which shows why they were leading at the half side and stayed pretty much in control throughout the match except  than those 20 minutes where West Ham United made a remarkable comeback.

That was not it, as Bournemouth made more clearances (37 to 16), won more tackles (54% to 42%) and won more Aerial Duels (56% to 44%), which shows their supremacy over Slaven Bilic side. To say that Bournemouth was the pick of the side over the weekend would surely not be an understatement.

Newcastle United

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If Bournemouth was the most deserving winners of the week 3 in Barclays Premier League, than Newcastle would have to be counted as the luckiest team to find a place in this elite list. Newcastle had one of the toughest fixture as they visit Old Trafford to face an inform United.

United did all they could, but with a bit of luck and lots of effort, Steve McClaren’s side managed to earn a precious point on the road, which seems more like a victory than a draw, considering the fact that according to Sports Matrix exclusive stats, they only managed to had 2 shots on target compared to United’s 18. Newcastle had to grind it out, stayed rough and tough which eventually gave them a point which many believes was a reward a bit too much for their performance.

Leicester City

Leicester-City-v-Tottenham-Hotspur

Our last winner of the Week 3 in Barclays Premier League is Leicester City, who continued their progress under experience Claudio Ranieri. Leicester City also had a tough fixture against visiting Spurs, who were far superior in their quality compared to the home side. Leicester City remained competitive throughout the match, and looked a far more relaxed unit than they looked for most of the last season.

Ranieri is known to bring that calmness in the dressing room, and Leicester has continue to impress everyone in their 3 games so far this season. To come back against a team who belong to a top half of the Premier League for many seasons in the past says a lot about the team’s character. Leicester City’s performance in the first 3 games of the season is a good enough sign for the “foxes” fans and they can hope that this season their ride will be far smoother to retain their place in the top league in the Country.

Losers:

Manchester United:

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Our top spot in the loser’s category goes to Manchester United. The red devils had a relatively easy fixture against the magpies, where they faced a team who had a terrible outing against the Swan’s the weekend before. United controlled the whole match, from the start till the end, but lacked the finishing touch even after having 18 shots on target.

United can call themselves a little unlucky as controversy still surround a Rooney’s disallowed goal, but they only had themselves to blame after not being able to convert ample amounts of chances. For Van Gaal to deliver trophies this season, United will need to find someone who can score them goals, after just being able to score 2 goals in 3 outings this season.

Tottenham Hotspur:

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Spurs found themselves sitting at the 2nd spot in our elite list of Loser’s in week 3 in Barclays Premier League. Pochettino’s men will not find many easier games on the road than the one they had against Leicester, where they again seemed to lack the potency to find a breakthrough till the 81st minute, only to concede an equalizer a minute later.

Harry Kane doesn’t seem to be in the same form as he was last season, whereas there are rumors regarding Eriksen and Lamela’s future, which is increasing Pochettino’s problems as he is now on the hunt to sign at least 2 strikers to ease of the burden on Kane. As of now, Spurs lack that quality to be considered as a real favorite to finish in the top 4 this season, which might prove costly for the manager as the Owner Mike Ashley might lose his cool finally.

West Ham United:

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Third in the list comes West Ham United, who faced the biggest upset on the weekend, where they lost to new comers Bournemouth. Slaven Bilic side looked unprepared and undisciplined, and were slow to get off the hook, and that’s why they went 2-0 down inside the first 30 minutes.

Though Bilic side made a strong comeback in the 2nd half, but it was short-lived as they first went behind again in the 66th minute and were later down to 10 men in the 79th minute, which sum up their performance. Bournemouth in all departments showed better game play and were the deserved winner. For a team who consistently feature in the Premier League year after year, Bilic side needs to toughen up or else they might have a fight in their hand to avoid relegation this season.

Aston Villa:

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Last in the list of loser’s for week 3 in the Premier League is Tim Sherwood’s Aston Vila. Aston Villa have already lost their 2 key players who were pivotal to their survival last campaign in Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph. Villa had a tricky visit over the weekend to Selhurst Park, and Alan Pardew’s men made sure that they will have a hard time throughout the match.

Tim Sherwood’s team was completely dominated, and never really looked like a team who is capable of getting anything out of the game. With the squad depth and quality seems to be compromised after the sale of 2 quality players, this campaign will going to be the real test of Sherwood’s managerial capability, as he will look to keep Villa in the Premier League for another year at least.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

We need Amir back because our selection committee couldn’t find a replacement bowler

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s team is being re-known for all the excitement it brings to the game of cricket. That comes from the fact that surprises are the forte of Pakistan cricket structure.

So much so, that we ended up giving a 40-year-old his debut match just two series before the World T20, and now we are on the verge of giving a chance to a player who just completed his five year ban amidst a spot fixing scandal.

We must give credit to the selection committee as Rafatullah Mohamed from Peshawar was included on the back-to-back impressive performances in the Domestic T20 tournament, and Muhammad Amir is being considered for the national team on the back of a really impressive return to competitive cricket.

For what we witnessed in the past, earning Pakistan’s cap has been too easy in recent times.

We used to hear that you have to score hundreds and thousands of first class runs and play more than just a couple of seasons to be selected for the national team, before becoming prominent in the eyes of the selectors, but this trend has changed with the arrival of T20. We once claimed that youngsters are not given enough chances, now it feels that the chances are rapidly distributed among players.

The likes of Awais Zia, Mukhtar Ahmed, Saad Nasim, Bilal Asif, Nauman Anwar, Rafatullah,Imran Khan Jr and Shakeel Ansar all fall under the category of players who wouldn’t have lasted 10 matches. It’s evident that most of these players may not be able to survive in the international arena with the kind of qualities they possess. But, ironically the selection committee lacked the eye of picking international players. They missed the fact that players such as Ahmed, Zia and Rafatullah wouldn’t easily adjust to the international arena as they weren’t included in the national team at the best time, for instance; it’s ‘too late’ in the case of Rafatullah.

Then there’s Imran Khan, he would find it hard to outfox the opposition, since he only bowls either a slow ball or a yorker length, and thus becomes extremely predictable.

On the other hand, there is hype surrounding the potential return of Amir to the national side, assuming that he would be great for the team.

Having said that, the Pakistan head coach once said that he would like to see Amir playing at least two seasons before being included in the team, and the selection committee said that he will have to prove himself before being considered again. But within a month’s time, after back-to-back good performances, everyone has now agreed on ‘principle’ that he should beincluded in the team in the near future, even though some players are likely to resist this move.

But amidst all this hype, excitement and controversy, there is a serious need of a reality check for the Pakistan cricket system. Yes, Amir was and still is, an exceptional talent, but here we are talking about how faulty the cricket system is in this country.

On the look of events, we are over the moon as we have quality bowlers back in the ranks, but on the other hand, it’s absolutely sad to see that the cricket system in this country could not find a replacement of a boy who hardly played for 14 months, and was only 18 when he was suspended.

There was a time when it was hard to select the best five bowlers for your team, as there were many options to choose from, but today it is completely the other way around.

If the past three years were not enough, where we literally had to pray that West Indiesdoesn’t play an ODI so we can qualify for the Champions Trophy in 2017, the episode of rushing Amir back in the mix of things should be alarming enough for all parties concerned, because obviously, in these past five years, we could not find a replacement bowler.

PREMIER LEAGUE 2015/15 PREVIEW: Chelsea

“Chelsea was outright winners last season, where the strength of their squad proved too hot to handle for the rest of the league. Their dominance was so outright that no team were able to beat them in any department.

This season, even though they still look overall favorite to defend their title, but their rivals have done some good business, and their glory to the title will be far tougher than last term around. “

Chelsea had a season to remember in every aspect last season. Their dominance was so outright that it almost looked a little too funny in the end, as their title surge never looked in doubt. The new comers in Costa, and Ferbegas looked completely at ease as they were featured in the Top goal scorers and Top assist provider for the blues in 14/15 campaign. Oscar, Hazard and Willian proved instrumental for the champions as they remained a team to beat in the last season. Matic remained the midfield giants for the Mourinho’s man, and Ivanovic, Terry and Courtous did great while defending.

However, this campaign should be more a test for the Mourinho’s men, as rival tried to strengthen their squad in the Transfer window. The likes of City, Manchester United and Liverpool spend heavily and they will look to push Chelsea all the way. This year, Mourinho will have to live without 2 club legends, with the like of Cech and Didier Drogba left the club. Jose signed Asmir Begovic from Stoke City as Cech replacement, whereas he finally able to grab his favorite Colombian Falcao on loan from As Monaco.

Chelsea should have enough quality to outdone their rivals once again in the title race, as they will face a far stiffer challenge this term than the last term around. The likes of Falcao will only going to strengthen blue’s attacking force, as last season they found wanting when Diego Costa had injury problems. That was one of the reasons as to why they scored 10 goals less than the 2nd place team (Manchester City) last season. Chelsea will also look to Kurt Zouma, as he did exceedingly well in the later part of the last season and look set to play more part in the coming season, which should help Chelsea throughout the campaign.

This year, Mourinho will have Costa, Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao as an attacking option, which should prove fruitful to them throughout the season. Their right wing remains a concern, as Cuadrado doesn’t seem to settle in that role as Mourinho hoped in January. Salah will also make a way out of the Stamford Bridge as his move to Roma on loan seems imminent, which means Willian will be the only option who can play on the right. All in all, Chelsea still looked strong enough to dig out results against their opponents, and seems to have a strong enough squad to defend their title this season as well.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Stoke’s new players and their possible impact

Stoke City had a relatively successful last season, and this time it was always about consolidating on what they have already built in the last few seasons.

Ever since Mark Hughes came into regime at the Britannia Stadium, the Potter’s philosophy started to change from a stubborn, more defensive and more physical at the time of Tony Pulis to more fluent, more direct and more attacking brand of football.

Begovic Joins Chelsea

Till now, Stoke have signed 7 players in the transfer window, while they had to let go 2 of their players. The most noticeable departure was of the Bosnian Goal Keeping ace Asmir Begovic, who joined Champions Chelsea as the replacement for departing Cech. His departure makes sense as young Jack Butland, who is being tipped as the next big thing is already in their ranks, and they also included young Dutch midfielder Marco van Ginkel in the deal, who arrived at the Britannia Stadium for a season long loan.

Stoke City's New Signing Joselu

One major signing for the Potter’s this time around is the purchase a 25 year old Spanish Striker Joselu from German club Hannover 96 for the fee of £5.9 Million. Joselu is an ex Real Madrid player who had a decent season with the German side, and seems like a backup replacement for Mame Biram Diouf, who had a more than a decent 1stseason at the Britannia Stadium and for ageing Crouch. Joselu is a 6ft 3in striker, who is great on the aerial balls and have good pace to stretch most defensive lines. He won 188 aerial duels last season for the German side, which was more than any player achieved in the Premier Leaguer Last season.

Shay Given Signed for Stoke from Aston Villa

Stoke signed 2 Goal Keepers, one experienced in Shay Given who signed from Aston Villa after a loan spell out at Middlesbrough last season and one in young Danish Haugard from FC Midtylland. Realistically, Shay Given is being signed to play as a 2ndchoice Goal Keeper, whereas Haugard is being signed as a long term project.

Potter's grab Jhonson on Free Transfer

In the defensive line, Stoke signed former Liverpool right back Glen Jhonson for free, which is a great bargain after his contract ran out of time with Anfield side. They also signed Philip Wollscheid from Bayer Leverkusen on 3 year deal after a successful loan spell with Potter’s in the 2nd half of the last season.

Stoke missed out on Shaqiri

The biggest disappointment for the Potter’s throughout the transfer window was the Shaqiri transfer saga, where Stoke nearly signed former Bayern and Swiss international Xerdan Shaqiri from Inter, but missed out on him after the club and the player could not reach the agreement. There were reports that Inter accepted a bid of £12 Million for the Swiss winger, but the player could not reach the agreement with the club after discussion with the manager Mark Hughes, who later said that “I went out and spoke to Shaqiri. We had a good chat. We needed to establish whether a deal could get done and we didn’t sense that.
“Maybe it is one that could be revisited, but I would say that it is probably not likely to happen. We have other targets now.”

Had that deal been agreed, Stoke would emerge as a real success story in this Transfer Window. However, Potter’s progress have been reasonably impressive, as the club and the manager tried to cover as many areas as possible. Mark Hughes signed a striker, who would provide a cover to Diouf and ageing Crouch, as well as found a right back who is in his early 30’s and can still offer a lot to a mid – table club. Hughes had also signed 2 centre backs to increase options as well as 2 Goal Keepers, who provide cover for Jack Butland in the short and long run. In Van Ginkel, Stoke has managed to grab one very promising young talent, and Hughes will hope to have an improved season this time around.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Juventus Looking To Draxler to Strengthen Midfield

Juventus Looking to Draxler to Bolster their Midfield

Juventus are looking to German starlet midfielder Julain Draxler to strengthen their midfield after the departure of the midfield maestro’s in Pirlo and Vidal. Juventus did sign another German International Sami Khedira for free from Real Madrid after his contract came to an end. However, with 2 quality midfielders leaving and Pogba been linked with different clubs, Juventus is in need of a quality midfielder and they are looking to Draxler to fill that gap and give the Italian Champions a much needed balance.

German International had a hard time during the 14-15 season in which he only managed to appear 15 times for Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga due to injuries, out of which only 8 times he started for the German giants. Draxler was sidelined due to thigh injury at the end of the first half of the season, which kept him out for months. Before that he had an Achilles problem that kept him on the sidelines. However, Draxler is a quality not many have doubted for. In his short career, he had reached the heights not many players could have dreamt of. He was the part of the World Cup winning German side, and he is being long tipped as the next big thing in German football.

Pirlo and Vidal left the Italian Champion this Summer

For Juventus, Draxler will bring something different than Vidal or Pirlo. Assuming that he will be fit enough to reclaim his best form, Draxler is great in the year, and is taller than Vidal which might prove helpful for Juventus. He got the vision to create that final ball, is very good with the long shot and have the strength to hold the ball in the middle. He lacks that aggressive instinct that Vidal had, but that has to do with the fact that he was playing at a more attacking position in Schalke. With Juventus looking to strengthen their central defensive midfield, Draxler will have to develop that skill in the time to come, or Juve can play him in a more attacking position.

Draxler will hope to reclaim his best form for the Italian Champions

With Juventus looking to bolster their midfield, Draxler can prove to be a wild card for them, which can be of great affect in the time to come. Yes, he did had a hard time in the last season and yes, he might not be the best replacement for an experience Vidal around, but at his age and with the talent that he possesses, Juventus can hope that he will be their main stay in the midfield for years to come.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

5 Best Signings to watch out for in the Champions League Season 2015/16

With days passing by, and teams gearing up for the new seasons, a lot of deals have come to a close and some deals are yet to be completed. Here we have a list of 5 players, who will be most instrumental in their team’s progress in the Champions league next season.

Sami Khedira:

1st in the list is Juventus jackpot signing once again, as they signed a World Class player in Sami Khedira for free. Khedira’s contract came to an end at the end of the last season and Juventus convinced him to join the club, where Pirlo have already left the club and there were still rumors that Pogba or Vidal might follow him in the coming days. Khedira’s presence will give a much needed boost to the already strong Juventus midfield, as he will bring in the experience of playing at the Bernabue along with winning the World Cup with Germany last year. His performance for the Los Blancos have been on a slide ever since the departure of Jose Mourinho from Madrid, and Ancelloti’s attacking mindset did not give him room to shine for the whites in the last 2 seasons. This will be his chance to be counted and show the World once again as he will get the chance to play in a more defensive looking Juventus this season, which should give him more breathing space to perform at the highest level.

Raheem Sterling:

2nd in the list is English highly rated 20 year old winger Raheem Sterling, who has finally completed his transfer to Manchester City after a long transfer saga. Manchester City bought him for a whopping £49 Million, which made him the most expensive English player ever. His arrival at the Etihad will give a much needed fresh breath of air to the city attack, which haven’t had many inclusions in the last season. His pace will help the blue side of Manchester, along with Aguero upfront that will have the capacity to create trouble for any opposing defense in Europe. Even though he is yet to perform in the Europe’s elite club competition, but his quality will give immense boost to the struggling City side who always had a hard time progressing in the Champions League.

Morgan Schneiderlin

Next in is Manchester United’s new boy Morgan Schnerderlin. Red Devils’ have done a great business this season, especially in the midfield with the arrival of a highly rated French International Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton. Schneiderlin had an amazing time with Southampton where he participated in the revival of the club from the 3rd tier of English football with back to back promotions. His presence in the middle of the park brings calmness to his fellow players, and he has the capacity to hold the ball or win the ball back at a crunch time. With United making a comeback to the Europe’s elite competition after a season’s break, Schneiderlin could prove to be an Ace in the book of Wild Cards of Louis Van Gaal.

Jackson Martinez

Our 4th player in the list is Athletico’s new boy Jackson Martinez, who is featured in our Top 5 signing in the Europe so far due to his performance for his former club FC Porto. He was their go to man when the team needed him and had the presence of the traditional center forward. He is a nightmare for defender’s to deal with his pace, height and strong built and it is fair to say that Diego Simeone finally managed to find the right replacement for Diego Costa. With the arrival of a quick and solid center forward in Jackson Martinez, Simeone and Athletico will be hoping to once again produce the heroics of 2013/14 season, where they went all the way to the final and lost to their City rivals Real Madrid.

Bastian Schweinsteiger:

The last in the list is another signing from Manchester United, who have left Bayern after spending his whole career there. With Bastian joining United, the red devils will finally have an experience midfielder, who have tasted victory at every level for the club and the country. With him in the side, United can expect to have a warrior in the park, who is ready to give it all to make it tough for the opposition. Louis Van Gaal will hope that Schweinsteiger will use all his experience and help the red – devils to reach the glory that they were known for.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Dear Virat Kohli, creating a pitch that only favours your team, is unfair

Finally, the Proteas’ un-defeated run of nine years in Tests comes to an end, and it was India who literally forced it to come to an end.

Since the achievement was so massive, it was presumed that there would be words of praise for the young Indian team, who managed to achieve something no one could in nearly a decade, but that was not the case.

The whole discussion was down to the fact that ‘pitches were off sub-standard’ and that the victory looked more like a “snatched” one than an “earned” one.

The discussion increased with the number of matches, and with it increased the anger within the Indian team management as well, where the likes of captain Virat Kohli and team director Ravi Shastri were left fuming after the comments about the pitches.
PHOTO: AFP

Ravi Shastri slammed Australian veteran Mathew Hayden and all-rounder Glen Maxwell, who criticised the pitch in the third Test match which ended in less than three days.

“Let them sit in Australia and talk about their pitches,” said Shastri. “Tell them not to waste their time about Indian tracks. Come and play here.”

“When we go overseas, we don’t have any choices. Why would you complain?”

PHOTO: AFP

Indian captain Kohli also defended the pitches, and more so defended his team’s success, which is somewhat tainted due to this pitch controversy.

“Why are we not talking about the fact that we are 2-0 up in the series?” said Kohli. “We are criticised about our game and technique when we don’t play well abroad. But when the visitors perform badly, it’s always the wicket.”

Looking at both of the above statements, Shastri and Kohli seem to be missing the point. As an avid cricket follower, we love to see a competition between the bat and ball, but what happened in India is absolutely shambolic to say the least.

PHOTO: AFP

When Kohli and the Indian team complain about tracks outside Asia, their records suggest otherwise. In the recent series, a total of nine innings before the start of the fourth Test and only four 50s or plus have been scored from both teams, whereas only three players out of both squads have an average of 30 plus.

On the contrary, looking at India’s last three tours to AustraliaSouth Africa andEngland, they did lose the series comprehensively, but their batting performance was far superior even in those grounds than in the current series at home.

In South Africa in 2013/14, in four innings, Indian batsmen managed to score two centuries and five 50s, and Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Kohli, all had averages over 65.

In the England series of five Tests in 2014, Indian batsmen managed to score two centuries along with 15 half centuries. Later last year, India visited Australia, where in a four-match series, their batsmen managed to score seven 100s and 11 50s.

What those records suggest was that India did manage to play on those pitches, but perhaps their quality was not the same as of their opponents, and that’s why they ended up on the losing side. But in this series, Faf Du Plessis said that after the first day of the third Test, the par score on that pitch in the first innings was not more than 140 – which pretty much sums up the criticism on the playing surface.

Pakistan just won the series against England in the Emirates, and no one made a fuss about the pitches, as everyone expected them to turn. But it was nothing like the India-South Africa series, where if you score a four and even if you are an Indian batsman, you might feel like throwing a party later at night.

What Kohli and the team have to understand is that creating a pitch that favours you is fine, but creating a pitch which practically makes it impossible for the other team to play will be termed as ‘unfair’. Similarly, one is called a dry track, one is called a rank turner, and one is called “a surface full of scattered little stones, and a ball hitting on any of them can either tweak a mile, or might just come straight, or might stay down, or might just go to the fourth slip without anyone touching it”.

I think Kohli and the team took the advertisement “Mushkil hai, maza ayega” (It’s hard, will be fun) to a whole new level.

The article originally appeared on The Express Tribune Blogs.

Brazil’s Fall From Grace

“For Brazil, a 2nd consecutive exit at the Quarter – Final stage in Copa America proves that this is just not the case with European teams taking lead in the World football, in fact there is a problem on the larger scale that needs to be fixed.”

For any football viewer, Brazil has been always a force in the World Football that was renowned for the kind of attacking football that was attractive to the eye, and remained fruitful in the results as well. Brazil remains a team that has won the World Cup most times (5 times), with Germany and Italy remains second (4 times). However, the last of those 5 World Cup wins came back more than a decade ago in 2002. Since then, Brazil only managed to reach one Semi – Final in 3 World Cups, which was in 2014 which was hosted in their own backyard, where they got a 7-1 thrashing to the newly crowned World Champions, Germany.

There was a sense that European football is taking a distant lead against their North American giants, and that’s why Brazil and Argentina is facing a hard time in the World Cup Tournaments. Argentina in the recently concluded World Cup and in this Copa America Tournament, have managed to prove that argument wrong by reaching a World Cup final and now are one victory away from clinching their first major International Trophy in more than 2 decades when they will face Chile in the Copa America final on Sunday, 4th July. For Brazil, a 2nd consecutive exit at the Quarter – Final stage in Copa America proves that this is just not the case with European teams taking lead in the World football, in fact there is a problem on the larger scale that needs to be fixed.

In 2011, Brazil was ranked 11th in FIFA ranking, which was the first time in nearly 2 decades. Brazil’s performance in the recent times were alarmingly poor, and as we say that there is theory to everything, Brazil’s poor performance in the recent time has a theory as well.  So what has really gone wrong? The Answer is pretty much a lot.

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To begin with, Brazil has some serious issues in their defense, the one they need to sought out sooner than later. For quite a long time, Brazil used to get away with their average defensive line with their brilliance in attacking display, but with attacking quality diminishing in the recent years, it’s taking a toll on Brazil’s defense which was never their forte to begin with. Brazil lack in the quality Goal keeping department, and that problem does not seem to be solving out any time soon. Julio Cesar was the man between the sticks till the World Cup 2014, but at the age of nearly 36, he is surely past his best and there is no one to match his quality, and his quality was by no mean equal to any World Class Goal Keeper like Lloris, Nuer or De Gea.

 

After the Goal Keeping crisis, another problem Brazil face is the lack of discipline in their defensive line. PSG’s Thiago Silva, who people rank among the best defenders in the World, does his best nearly every time around, but he lack support from the other end. David Luiz, who signed for PSG for a whopping €50 Million last year from Chelsea, is too attacking minded for a center back, and is always willing to leave his place to join the attack up front. He is brilliant when he is part of the attacking unit, but leaves players unmarked while defending.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: David Luiz of Brazil in action during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

What makes this problem severe for Brazil is that he is not the only one like that in the Brazil’s normal defensive line, as the likes of Marcelo and Dani Alves (even though Dani Alves is pretty decent while defending and had a brilliant Copa America) also have this attacking mentality, which leave their defense open too often. What worsen this problem is the fact that replacement for these defenders are not great either. One replacement for Luiz can be Dante, who plays for German Champion Bayern Munich, have more than once shown that he lack the pace to compete at the top level.

Inter’s new boy Miranda is a good replacement, but he is at the wrong side of his age and is also losing his pace and won’t be able to replace Luiz come the next International tournament around. Marcelo’s ideal replacement is a Chelsea left back Felipe Luiz, but he is also at the wrong side of his age, and is not so good while attacking from the wing. Madrid’s new boy Danilo provide a good and long term replacement for Dani Alves, but Brazil has a lot of work to do in their back four.

Another problem for Brazil is the lack of Leader in the middle of the park. Likes of Paulinho, Fernandinho, and Luiz Gustavo could not establish themselves as the man who dictate the game from the middle, like Aturo Vidal do for Chile. Their performance remained below par for the National side, and they gave away the ball a little too cheaply in the middle, which then even further emphasize the loopholes in their defensive line.

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In the attacking department, Brazil in the recent times have been too dependent on Neymar, which every now and then proves to be a burden too much for an individual to carry. Neymar’s performances for Brazil is been astonishing to say the least, but Brazil’s too much dependence on him proved costly in the recent World Cup Semi Final, where Neymar had to miss because of a serious injury and then in the Copa America, where he had to fly home after being banned for 4 matches after receiving a red card in the match against Colombia. The likes of Chelsea’s Willian, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho & Zenit’s Hulk could not replicate their club performances for the National side, and Brazil found wanting in their attacking department in Neymar’s absence.

Too conclude it all, Brazil seems to lose its way a little in the recent past, and could not able to adapt to the change of style in football in the recent years, where teams have earned success by playing possession football and by having a rock solid defense. Their method of going all-out attack does not seem to pay dividend any more, and it’s about time to change the direction a little.

It seems like it’s about time for Brazil Football Confederation to get back to the drawing board as their recent slump in the Copa America and World Cup should be an eye opener for them. It also seems like this Brazil team lack the character that they were known for. This current generation seems to lack self – belief that the previous lot of players had from mid-90’s to early 2000’s, where they won 2 World Cup and came runner up in 3 World Cups between 1994 till 2002. Some may argue that maybe it’s a little too late to change their attitude or mentality for now, but it’s never too late to start building up for the future. BFC now has a job in their hand, to take steps that might not be pleasing to the eye, but steps that will ensure that Brazil will come back on the very top once again in the near future.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Who’s the real Winner in Schweinsteiger Deal? United, Bayern or the Player?

“United’s chances of coming out of this deal as a real success is depending on how United will take care of him, as he had some injury issues, especially with his knee in the last few seasons.”

As reports are coming in that Schweinsteiger have finally signed up for the Red – Devils, it is arguably the biggest transfer saga that has come to an end. United manager Louis Van Gaal was keen on the German Midfielder for quite a while, and have finally able to snap up the World Cup winning midfielder. Here we will look in detail as to, who have come out of this deal as a real winner; i.e. Manchester United, Bayern Munich or Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Manchester United:

Photo Courtesy of Twitter @ESPNFC

For Manchester United, the deal is a more like a “long shot”, but a long shot they would be more than willing to play. With Schweinsteiger arrival, United have made a marquee signing to begin with. The signing will bring the kind of quality that United lacked after the departure of  three real leaders in Vidic, Evra and Ferdinand.

The likes of Fellaini and Herrera is already there, but they lack that leadership quality and found wanting when asked to play in front of the defensive line. With Schweinsteiger, United will finally have a leader in the park, who can dictate the game on his own terms and on his own pace. United’s chances of coming out of this deal as a real success is depending on how United will take care of him, as he had some injury issues, especially with his knee in the last few seasons. With no winter breaks, and a tougher schedule than Bundesliga, United medical staff will have a hard task to keep him fit to take the best out of him in important matches during the campaign next season.

 

Bayern Munich:

Aug 3, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola directs plays during Bayern Munich training in preparation for the 2014 MLS All Star Game at University of Portland Merlo Field. Mandatory Credit: Susan Ragan-USA TODAY Sports

For Bayern Munich, a deal worth of £14 Million plus is a bonus for a player, who, according to them have already past his best and is nearly 31 years old. Bayern able to cash in on a player, who just had 15 starts last season, and haven’t had more than 30 league games for the club in a season since 2011.

With Lahm getting better in a midfield role, and with Guardiola preferring Alonso over Schweinsteiger, this seems more like a win – win situation for the German champions, who will use this cash to strengthen their squad in the coming days. However, we believe that Bayern will not be the real winner as they will miss the experience of Schweinsteiger in the coming season, and his presence in the dressing room which could prove costly for the German Champions.

 

Bastian Schweinsteiger:

For Bastian Schweinsteiger, this is a tough decision to start with. He is leaving a club for which he played for all his life, for nearly 15 years, where he have won everything and is an iconic figure. He will have to start all over again at Manchester United, and a new challenge will surely excite him. Keeping in mind that he was not getting enough football under Guardiola, we believe that it’s Schweinsteiger who is the real winner in this deal, as this move will suits him in an attempt to gear up for the Euro next year, where he will lead Germany as a Captain.

At the age of nearly 31, Schweinsteiger will have stiff challenge to show his class once again, but in a different league, in different weather conditions & in a more competitive league. He has nearly won it all with Bayern and Germany, and Manchester United will be hoping that he will use all of his experience and will win this challenge as well.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

10 star players who could leave the EPL this summer

As the summer transfer window begins to hot up, the future of several high profile players plying their trade in the Bundesliga is up in the air.

We take a look at ten players who could be making possible moves away from the EPL, including Mario Balotelli, Lukas Podolski and Roberto Soldado.

Raheem Sterling

Jul 30, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Liverpool FC forward Raheem Sterling (31) controls the ball against Manchester City FC during the second half of a game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The highly rated Liverpool and English winger refused to sign contract extension with Liverpool last season, and had expressed his desire to leave the club to play in the Champions League. With Manchester City’s striker Sergio Aguero insist that he is happy at Etihad, Madrid will move their focus to Sterling as to whom they openly showed their admiration at different times and will try to snap him to increase their attacking options.

Fabio Borini

Another Liverpool player, Fabio Borini seems to be on his way out of the Anfield, after his agent admits that Borini feels like a “Caged Tiger”. Borini, who was the star man for Sunderland as they avoided relegation in 2013/14 season,  had a disappointing season with the reds, where he just managed to start 12 games for the reds throughout the whole season, in which he scored 1 goal and provided 1 assists.

David Ospina

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Arsenal is finally looking to bring in a World Class Goal Keeper in Peter Cech from rivals Chelsea. Cech’s future has been in question since the return of Thibaut Courtois from Athletico Madrid loan spell. Cech only managed to start 7 times for Chelsea last season, which he openly accepted was frustrating for him throughout the campaign. His arrival will pave way for David Ospina, as he looked all set to sign for Turkish side Fernerbahce.

Glen Johnson

Liverpool and English right back Glen Johnson is going to be a free agent in the coming days after his contract will finish at the end of this month. Johnson, who had more than 150 league appearances for the Red’s in 6 seasons at the club will be a prize asset for any team who is willing to strengthen their defense this season for a minimal cost.

Mohammad Salah

Chelsea will be willing to offload their winger Mohammad Salah, who had a great latter half of the season at Fiorentina, where he was on loan till the end of the season. Chelsea will be looking to offload him to generate funds for Falcao, who is about to arrive at Stamford Bridge. For Basel star had 13 starts for the blue’s, where he scored 2 goals for them. Rumors are that Inter Milan will go head to head with Ac Milan, as both rivals will try to land him to San Siro this season.

Lukas Podolski

German World Cup Winning striker Lukas Podolski might see his way out of the Emirates stadium as the Gunners look for a clear out to make room for another striker this summer. Podolski had a hard time and failed to become a permanent in the starting XI and was sent on loan to Inter last season, where he scored only a single goal in 17 appearances for them. Turkish Champion’s Galatasaray is interested in the striker and would look to seal the deal in the coming future.

Roberto Soldado

Turkish Champion’s Galatasaray is linked with a Spurs flop Soldado, who couldn’t establish himself at White Hart Lane. Soldado moved from Valencia in 2013 for a hefty price tag of £26 from the Bale generated money, which was a club record fee. Soldado, who only managed to score 7 goals in 51 league appearances for the club, and only managed to score 1 in 24 appearances last season seems to be a certainty to leave the club after the emergence of Harry Kane as the real striking force in the squad.

Gael Kakuta

Chelsea’s Kakuta will be another player who will not be featuring in EPL this season. Kakuta signed for Seville after spending 6 seasons on loan at 6 different clubs that include Fulham, Bolton Wanderers, Dijon, Vitesse, Lazio & Rayo Vallecano from 2010 – 2015. Kakuta made only 6 appearances for the blue’s in his time at the Stamford Bridge, and couldn’t a single goal for the reigning Champions.

John Obi Mikel

Chelsea’s outcast John Obi Mikel is set for exit from the Stamford Bridge, after news emerges that Chelsea is lining up a bid for Belgium and Zenit Midfielder Axel Witsel. Mikel joined Chelsea in 2007 and managed to appear more than 200 times for blue, and scored a single in his career at Stamford Bridge.

Mario Balotelli

Italian International Mario Balotelli seems to be on his way out of Anfield after a horrid first season with the club, where he only managed to score a single goal for his side in 16 appearances throughout the season. Balotelli will be hoping that a move away from Anfield will help him regain his form. Rumors are that the former AC Milan man is moving back to Seria A, as few sides are interested in the services of the Italian Striker.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Shoaib Malik retirement: A mediocre career, an honourable exit

On the eve of the third day of the last Test match between Pakistan and England, all focus was shifted from a gripping match to a headline which was least expected. Malik, who just made his comeback to the Test side in this very series, after a gap of five years, announced his immediate retirement from the longest format of the game.

Malik, who was originally not included in the squad, made his way in after Bilal Asif was reported for his action while playing against Zimbabwe. He was given a go in the playing eleven after Azhar Ali was ruled out of the first Test due to a foot injury.

In cricket, it is always about taking the opportunity when it arrives and Malik knew it was his time to perform. He played a mammoth innings of 245 in the first Test on a dead Abu Dhabi pitch. His innings gained more significance as he was batting at one-down, which was never his preferable position in Tests, and he was playing the longest format of the game after a break of five long years.

PHOTO: AFP

For Malik, it was more about grinding it out in tough soaring conditions than his technique which made thing work for him on his Test return.

After witnessing such a phenomenal comeback to the side, no one would have thought that a man who just expressed his desire to play in all three format, would retire so soon. Yet, his decision makes so much more sense.

The famous phrase ‘all’s well that ends well’ suits the game of cricket as well. Malik, who averages in the early 30’s and has more than 30 wickets to his name, called it quits at the age of just 33. It looks even more bizarre when you see a 41-year-old leading the same side and is yet to make any official announcement to hang his boots.

PHOTO: AFP

However, the decision speaks volumes about Malik’s matureness as a professional which he must have learned by playing in different leagues all over the world. He had the opportunity to share dressing rooms with several modern day greats, which surely would have helped him understand that it’s better to leave when people are asking you ‘why now’ than at a time when the question becomes ‘when will you’?

Many greats such as Ricky Ponting and Shivnarayan Chanderpaul, to name a few, could have had a better ending if they left at the right time. The likes of Inzamamul Haq and Muhammad Yousuf in Pakistan fall into that category. They did not retire when the time was right and their good work was somewhat compromised since they failed to receive the farewell they deserved.

Malik raised his bar as a true professional and a team man when he wrote in his blog after retirement that he left the team to make room for youngsters. He also left a silent message for other seniors. His, more than just graceful, exit from the five-day format, even after having such a mediocre career by any standards, sets an example for the likes of Younus Khan. The veteran, even after having a below par ODI career, is adamant to play in the 50-over team at the age of 37, most probably at the expense of a deserving youngster.

PHOTO: AFP

The Sialkot Stallions’ captain also set an example for the likes of Saeed Ajmal who has failed to settle with his new bowling action and there is no great hope that he will make it to the national side any time soon.

Malik’s early departure sets an example for everyone that leaving at the right time for the greater good of the team can help you earn respect even with such an average career.

The article originally appeared on The Express Tribune.

Real Madrid: Iker Casillas’ career hangs in the balance as David De Gea nears move to Bernabeu

Real Madrid, after having a serious debacle last season where they finished the season empty handed after winning La Decima the season before, is looking to strengthen their squad this season. Madrid has long been an admirer of David De Gea from the days when he used to play for cross-town rivals Athletico Madrid, but couldn’t convince him to come to Bernabeu back in 2011. However, this time around, De Gea seems to be more convinced about a move to the Los Blancos side, and there’s no doubt there is a need to strengthen their defensive line with a more assured man between the sticks.

Casillas, a world class goal-keeper, probably the best of his generation and his record speaks for himself. However, he has had a hard time for Real Madrid and Spain in the recent times, and had to face the anger and disappointment of the Bernabeu faithful last season. He had a mediocre World Cup and was one of the prime reasons for the La Roja’s early exit from Brazil. His form throughout the season raised eyebrows of many, and led to questions as to why Navas was not being started more often, a proposition Ancelotti, at the time was not willing to accept. Mistakes such as a first goal against Atletico at the Vicente Calderon in the league match, that opened the gates for the worst defeat for Madrid against their noisy neighbours in the league, made Madrid pay a heavy price in the end as Madrid lost the league even though they were four points clear at the top after Christmas break.

De Gea, on the contrary, had one of the best, if not, the best season for the Red Devils in 14/15, where he was among the best goalkeeper’s throughout the season along with Chelsea’s Courtois and spurs Hugo Lloris. De Gea seemed the only assured block in a defense of uncertainty for United throughout the season. He was quick on the feet, and had the ability to stay big in one-on-one situations. He is the one prime reason as to why United were able to qualify for the Champions League, as he earned them some precious points.

Looking into exclusive stats from SportsMatrix, De Gea had 30.8% good saves compared to 19.4% of Casillas throughout the league in 14/15, and also had nearly double of spectacular saves of 15% compared to 7.8% of Casillas during the same time, which exactly proves why Madrid is after this young Spaniard and is willing to let go their living legend.

Another important factor that is influencing Madrid’s decision to go for the United number one is his young age, and at the age of 24 and given the amount of talent he possesses, he will surely stay on at the Bernabeu for a while to come.

De Gea is all set to leave Manchester United for the Spanish giants if media reports are to be believed, as the deal is seems to be coming to closure in the next few days. However, the real question is where does Casillas go on from here? Casillas, who is still only 34 despite the fact that he seems to have been around for an eternity. The World Cup winner will be looking to switch to a side where he will get a first team role, and either Arsenal or Tottenham could be possibly the destination for the Spanish legend.

Indeed, it now seems Arsenal is in for Chelsea’s Peter Cech as they are looking to end their goalkeeping woes should keep their eye on Casillas situation in case they won’t be able to land the Czech international. Spurs on the other hand, seems to have resigned to the fact that their star man Lloris will leave the club for Manchester United in order to get Champions League football, and they would love to get the experienced Spaniard to take over the charge between the sticks.

Casillas’ leadership quality along with his experience as a keeper where he has spent all of his life at a club of the size of Madrid is bound to help any side in need of a goalkeeper. For Casillas, a change of club might help him to regain the lost form and become the keeper he once was, which will be a great spectacle to watch out for.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

English Premier League: 6 Midfielders Who Could Make Their Way to EPL Next Season

Azeem Siddiqui identifies six midfielder who could be on their way to the Premier League next season…

Top class midfielders are in high demand. Look no further than the clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and other teams consider to be part of Europe’s elite who have been linked with playmakers in the transfer mill.

Things are no different in England with a lot of Premier League clubs are looking to strengthen their squad this season, especially in the midfield department to boost their chance of success not only on the domestic stage, but to break their hoodoos in Europe’s elite competitions.

And with that, PF90 has have identified six midfielders, who might be featured in the Premier League season 2015/16.

Paul Pogba

The French midfielder, who is tipped to leave Turin this season, is a target of Barcelona & many other European giants, and few English clubs are quite interested in this young high rated midfielder. Manchester City, who had a trophy less last season, are emerging one of the favorite to land the young French man, with reports emerging that City are preparing a £86 Million offer for him to land him in Manchester and create a dream combination of Toure and Pogba in the center of the park.

Kevin De Bruyne

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Former Chelsea outcast, De Bruyne had a fantastic season with VFB Wolfsburg. With highest assists in the Bundesliga last season, De Bruyne was among the top midfield sensation throughout Europe. Manchester City once again is in for this midfield maestro, as they look to revamp their squad and challenge for the premier league glory next season.

Ikay Gundogan

Dortmund and Germany midfielder, Ikay Gundogan is another top quality midfielder that Premier League sides are looking to land this season. Another Manchester club, this time Manchester United who is emerging as favorites to seal this deal in the near future.

Roberto Firmino

The Brazillian from Hoffenheim 1899, is also looking set for a move to England, after his agent confirm the news that he will be playing in the Premier League next season. Firmino had an impressive season with Hoffenheim, where he netted 7 times and provides 10 assists and was one of the star performers for the club.

Asier Illaramendi

Madrid outcast Asier Illaramendi, who seems to be on his way out of the Bernabue, is looking set for a move to the Premier League, most probably to Anfield. Illaramendi moved to the Spanish Capital in 2013 with high hopes after Madrid paid a heavy price for his services, but is yet to develop as the first team player. Madrid hierarchy is resigned to a fact that they might have to let the young Spaniard go, in order to increase funds for one or two marquee signings this season.

Yohan Cabaye

Yohan-Cabaye

The PSG outcast and a former Magpie man Yohan Cabaye, is set to leave Paris to find first team football. With his former boss Alan Pardew looking to strengthen Palace squad this season, Cabaye will be happy to join him at Selhurst Park and work under the man who brought the best out of him in the past.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.

Newcastle and Steve McClaren – A Marriage of Convenience

Newcastle United is being often termed as a big club, mainly because of its geographical location and because of the ground size and facilities that it has over the years. That was one of the prime reasons that led to Newcastle’s immediate revival in the Premier League, after being relegated in 2009 to the Football league Championship. Newcastle has a strong fan based, and their fans are highly connected with the club and show up every week in, week out to support the men in white and black.

Ever since their promotion back to the Premier League, the Magpies have remained relatively far away from the relegation zone, until the horrid run they had after Alan Pardew resigned back in January 2015. His resignation left Newcastle’s un-favorite owner Mike Ashely to make a tricky call, and he decided to gamble with the Assistant manager John Carver till the end of the season, with seemingly safe league position and a potential mid table finish.

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However, that gamble backfired and the Toons had to win the last match against West Ham to secure their run in the Premier league next season. John Carver managed to win only 3 of his 20 matches in charge that led to his dismissal as the Magpie boss. From the position of securing a position in the top half, under Carver, Newcastle became a serious potential candidate of going down, which put pressure on the owner Mike Ashley to take re-invest this season to make sure they won’t have to go through relegation battle again.

Former Derby boss Steve McClaren was tipped favorite to replace Pardew when he left the post in January 2015, and he finally was instated as the manager of the Toon Army after signing a three year contract with the Magpies last week. However, his arrival seems to be a marriage of convenience more than anything else, and the club supporter’s aren’t really optimistic about it.

The reason we called it a marriage of convenience for both is the fact that both, i.e. Newcastle and McClaren get something out of it, at the same time. For Newcastle, it’s a good deal as they finally got a manager who had experience of working at the top class level and that too in different countries. Had it been Derby who got promoted, Newcastle would have made a big deal out of his arrival, which they unfortunately couldn’t. Newcastle finally found a man who has an experience working abroad as well as working at home, even though all of that was not extremely successful. For McClaren, it’s his chance to salvage some pride after his horrid show with England, where England couldn’t qualify for the European Championship in 2008, which was the 1st time in 14 years.

But all of this won’t be easy, as both Newcastle and McClaren had a poor run at the back end of the last season, and it won’t be a piece of cake to turn it all around. Newcastle’s poor end to their season emphasize the importance of re-investment in their squad. They have some major reshuffling to do, and McClaren accepted that as well when he talked to the media in which he stated that “it is the right time to re-invest in the squad”.

Ideally, the Magpie’s need 4 -5 quality players in this squad, and with finances of £39 Million in the bank, it shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Newcastle would want to strengthen their attacking power with the addition of 1 or 2 quality strikers. Even though they have the likes of Cisse, who is always scoring goals, but had injury problems over the couple of last seasons. Reports suggest that the Toon Army is monitoring the situation of QPR’s highly rated striker Charlie Austin and West Brom sensation from the last season Saido Berahino.

Newcastle would want to seal the deals as soon as possible to avoid frustration later on, as they have already missed out on former Marseille striker Andre Ayew, who joined Swansea on a free transfer. Another addition they need is in the defense department, where they need to find 2 solid center backs, to replace Collocini and Ryan Williaon, both of whom who surely seems to past their best as they struggled in the later part of the season, where they failed to keep up with the pace of attack, and also left people unmarked in the 30 yard circle. If Magpie’s are to play their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, they might also need to find a left footed player, ideally who can play on the right wing as Ben Arfa used to do in the past.

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Their midfield looked solid, with Sissoko and Colback, as well as their man between the sticks in Krul, who proved time and again that he is a top quality Goalkeeper. Daryl Janmaat who came in as a replacement for Arsenal bound Debuchy, had a decent season, but had a below par end to his campaign and he will surely want to improve this season around. Up front, Cabella is a quality player and Newcastle will be hoping that this season he will improve drastically, and will feel more settled at the club. Ayoze Perez, who was undoubtedly the finding of the last season, can play upfront or on the left wing with his pace, and Newcastle will be looking for the same or improved performance with a bit more consistency this season.

McClaren will not have an easy job in his first season, as he will look to win over the hearts of the Newcastle supporters, sooner than later. Ideally, McClaren and Newcastle will be looking for a top half finish in the league, and a better showing at the cup or ideally challenging for the Cup title, as this season will be all about making a statement.

For Newcastle as a club, a season like that would make a statement for the rest of the Clubs in the league that they are looking at a bigger piece of cake than what they are already getting. For Owner Mike Ashley, using available funds to sign quality players will make a statement to the club’s supporters, that he means business with Newcastle and that he wants to bring the glory days back to the Magpie’s. But it’s McClaren, who want to make a big statement by setting his eye on success at a club of the size of Newcastle, which will give him the belief that he once had, for being one of the most intelligent footballing brain in the country. If McClaren & CO. will be able to achieve the targets, it will surely going to be the base that the Toon’s will hope to build their future on in the season’s to come.

The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com.