Archive for category Football Features

Newcastle vs Chelsea – 5 Key Tactical Battles That Could Decide The Game

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Newcastle United will try for their first win in four matches in all competitions against second place Chelsea in Saturday’s lunchtime offering from the Premier League.

Alan Pardew and the Magpies lost another Tyne-Wear derby to neighbours and bitter rivals Sunderland last weekend and then crashed out of the Capital One Cup in extra time with a fourth round home defeat by Manchester City.

Jose Mourinho’s Blues meanwhile put City to the sword in a meeting of title contenders on Sunday and their second string proved too strong for Arsenal in the cup midweek.

Omens are not exactly encouraging for Newcastle coming into this latest test – they have only beaten Chelsea once in their last seven meetings at St James’ Park.

The Blues also rested ten of the XI that started the win over City. Yet the Toon gave a good account of themselves against the same opposition, forcing Manuel Pellegrini’s team to an additional half hour in cup action.

For a full preview of Newcastle’s match with Chelsea, complete with team news, stats and likely line-ups, read another piece from Joe Dempsey.

Here we look to five key tactical battles that may result in Mourinho’s men going to the Premier League summit – for a few hours at least – or help to move the Magpies up into the top half.

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Fantasy Football Tips: 5 Expensive Misfits You Must Sell Immediately

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We are on to Week 7 already and all the leagues are taking shape as gaps start to appear between teams fighting to top their respective leagues.

It is no different in our very own league with a cluster of teams led by Michael O’Sullivan currently are in contention of winning the WhatCulture league for the 2013/14 season.

Further down the League in say around 247th place, teams haven’t quite got off to the flying start that they’d dreamt of when choosing their teams in anticipation of the new season.

Part of the problem that a player may have encountered are certain players have let your team down massively and are holding you back from accruing a bigger total and shooting up their leagues in a flash.

But, there is no need to panic as you just need to carefully analyse the big hitters and see whether they have lived up to their billing and repaid the faith you had in them.

As for those who have flopped massively, we name and shame some of the bigger culprits as we count down 5 Expensive Misfits You Must Sell Immediately

5. Juan Mata- 9.6million

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From the orchestrator of most of what was good about Chelsea last season, he has somewhat become a peripheral figure in this.

Undoubtedly, with the change of manager, would come new ideas and fresh thinking with regards to personnel, tactics and training.

So, with that in mind, it has appeared as if Mata, strangely in many people’s eyes, isn’t needed with such regularity (only playing 167 out of a possible 540) by Mourinho as he was by previous incumbents.

The Spaniard contributed his first assist to the cause, setting up John Terry from his free kick

Overall, Chelsea sit in 4th place with 11 points and ahead of the midweek clash with Steaua Bucharest, he walked out of a press conference after being incessantly questioned over squad selection.

In this instance, Kevin De Bruyne was the player in question, but that could’ve easily been Mata.

All this points to is uncertainty over who can become permanent fixtures in the Blues’ midfield.

Maybe Mata can’t hold this place down and 9.6million spent by 4.6% of the playing population is better spent elsewhere

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Man City vs Man Utd: Wayne Rooney Hitting Form At The Perfect Time

copyright Andrew Orchard

copyright Andrew Orchard

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney has enjoyed an upturn of form of late. After a summer to forget for the 27-year old, he now appears back doing what he does best for the Premier League side – scoring and making goals.

Rooney has three goals and three assists from his first five games this season in all competitions.

Former manager Sir Alex Ferguson previously admitted the England international’s performances were nowhere near to the level expected of him for the title holders during the 2012/13 campaign, but has recently broken his silence on Wayne Rooney to admit he’s finally showing signs that his best form could be returning.

In Manchester United’s recent 4-2 victory against Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, Wayne Rooney grabbed a brace, and a place in United history after becoming the fourth player to hit 200 goals for the side.

He put in a performance worthy of note, and manager David Moyes was pleased with the 27-year old’s contribution. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the side as they travel to face fierce rivals Manchester City on the weekend.

Striker Robin Van Persie has been the side’s most pivotal player in recent weeks, but Rooney has now forced his way back into the first-team, which will greatly benefit United for the early title clash.

City will still be slim favourites, but Moyes now has a better chance of victory with a two-pronged attack featuring an in-form Rooney and Van Persie playing upfront together. The question is, will he deliver?

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Ukraine 0-0 England – 5 Reasons Three Lions Aren’t The Superpower Some Think They Are

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It’s Tuesday night. I’m sat at my laptop scrolling through enraged tweets and furious Facebook updates when it occurred to me that England really aren’t the massive superpower that we are dubbed to be by some. On the face of it, England have lost just 8 times in just over 60 games since 2008- but delve deeper into that stat and it’s grimmer reading than was first thought- especially when you consider this worrying stat from Opta.

“@OptaJoe: 2 – England have only beaten two teams in World Cup 2014 qualifying so far; Moldova and San Marino. Timid.”

In fact the best team England have beaten in a competitive game since 2008 is Croatia, a team who’s only player of any real note is Luka Modric- the man who managed just 4 goals for Real Madrid in the whole of the 2012/13 season. Granted, Croatia are 8th in the world rankings but they aren’t exactly the big name that England should be looking to beat on a regular basis.

It’s all well and good being able to beat the likes of Italy, Brazil and even Spain in friendlies, but when it comes to it, England don’t have the bottle to see it out, even in the 2010 World Cup against Germany, England were drubbed 4-1, a side they had beaten 2-1 less than two years previous. So why is it that England just can’t perform to the same level as these national teams?

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Chelsea Transfers: 5 Players Likely To Leave In August

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The long-awaited return of the “Special One” Jose Mourinho to Chelsea and the Premier League this summer promises to shake up England’s top flight and give the Blues a much-needed shot in the arm.

The West London club haven’t won the Premier League since 2010 now, while since then, Mourinho has been on his travels in Italy and Spain winning the Champions League and La Liga.

And the charismatic Portuguese boss has wasted no time in stamping his own footprint on Chelsea following his return for a second stint in charge, bringing in goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, midfielder Marco van Ginkel and striker Andr Sch rrle.

There’s also talk of what would be a huge transfer deal being completed for Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, which really would be typical of Mourinho – always one to make a grand entrance.

But what of matters at the opposite end of the spectrum? Who might be leaving the Europa League champions this summer?

This is after all a team who only finished third last season and a hugely-disappointing sixth the season prior.

Is it time to clear out the deadwood at Stamford Bridge?

Here, we take a look at 5 Players Likely To Leave In August.

Click “Next” to begin.

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Premier League 2013/14: Predicting Best Players Of Each Club

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Saturday will witness the first game of the 22nd season of the greatest league in the world, the English Premier League. It would be fair to suggest that the final weekend of last year didn’t bring the same drama and significance as in previous years, with Manchester United running away with the title and Wigan, Reading and QPR falling through the trapdoor of relegation prior the final day. With the Red Devils as dominant throughout the season as they were, hopefully this upcoming year will provide the unpredictability that the FA and Capital One Cups brought to the fans.

Furthermore, it is hopeful that the players will provide their very best for their clubs and fans. Last year, superstars like Gareth Bale, Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez lit up the league with the goals, whilst the likes of Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku displayed their immense potential as stars for the future. Old hands such as Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard were supplemented with young up-and-comers like Eden Hazard and Luke Shaw to amalgamate into a successful league campaign for the individual footballers. However, with the futures uncertain for the likes of Bale, Suarez and Wayne Rooney, there is the potential for other players from within their respective clubs to emerge as the star for the season.

Therefore, before the players unpack their new boots and line-up for the opening fixtures of the 2013/14 season, it may be beneficial to analyse every team that will be competing this year through the player that displays the most potential to guide their sides’ fortunes. Whether the club will be warring at the top of the table, sitting comfortably in the middle, or desperately battling at the bottom to retain their status, every club will be relying on their particular marquee player to produce week in and week out to give them their best possible chance of success.

It must be said, these are merely predictions based on the pre-season form of these players, their importance to the club last season, and their position relative to the place in the table they are expected to frequent most regularly. Teams at the top will require a key player to provide the goals to beat their opposition, similarly to teams at the bottom that will most likely rely on a single player’s goals to counteract their probable leaky defence. On the other hand, teams that are normally mid-table mainstays will try and maintain a firm defence to ensure that they do not get dragged into the mire.

So, let’s begin the examination of the top players of the Premier League, and call me old-fashioned, but I’m going to start from the top with…

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5 Reasons Why Chelsea Will Win The Premier League

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With the Premier League kicking off once again today, there’s a mass of speculation as to who will win this year’s flagship English football prize. With Sir Alex Ferguson and his thirteen titles safely out of the mix, there’s a raft of speculation that his replacement will struggle to emulate the successes of the last quarter of a century that have catapulted Manchester United to the most successful English side in league history.

Three teams are considered to be in with a big chance of taking the 2013-14 Premier League title. Last year’s winners Manchester United, who have consolidated their squad over the summer, and despite a dearth of signings, have a strong squad available to them. Manchester City are also in the mix, the 2011-12 champions hotly tipped to emulate the successes of Roberto Mancini in May 2012, following the acquisition of Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, and Negredo to their line-up. Manuel Pellegrini has one of the strongest squads ever seen in the Premier League on paper, and without a ball kicked, they are 9/4 favourites with most bookmakers.

However, perhaps the smart option are Chelsea. The Londoners are joint-favourites with most bookies, and with a slew of positive signs from Stamford Bridge over the summer, here’s why they’ll be lifting the Premier League trophy come May.

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Middlesbrough 1-2 Leicester – Foxes Pounce On Lacklustre Second Half Display From Boro


TONY Mowbray will be disappointed to see his side come out without any points after a dominant first half display.

The Boro Boss kept with the same starting eleven that saw his side stroll to a 2-1 friendly win over French Cup winners Bordeaux.

The game saw Middlesbrough’s new acquisitions Dean Whitehead and Jozsef Varga make their full league debuts.

The Teessiders started the brighter; Lukas Jutkiewicz latching onto a Grant Leadbitter flick on. But the former Everton trainee dragged his shot wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s far post.

The Boro continued to dominate, Leadbitter finding Jutkiewicz once again, lurking on the edge of the six yard box. However his shot was once again no trouble for the Leicester keeper.

Jonathan Woodgate almost doubled his goal tally for Boro, his header from a Mustapha Carayol cross went agonisingly over the crossbar.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson started ushering his players forward, Wes Morgan missed a free header on the penalty spot before a long delay which Zak Whitbread taken off in a neck brace.

Paul Konchesky then went close, forcing a good save from Jason Steele down to his right hand post.

Referee Andrew Madley then handed out the first caution of the afternoon, Mustapha Carayol retaliating after Richie De Laet dispossessed the Boro winger.

Boro’s front two, Jutkiewicz and Emnes, continued to link up well together. A smart link up between Boro’s nine and ten set Mustapha Carayol off down the left wing with former Boro player Sean St. Ledger poking home a header in the 35th minute.

A very gifting St.Ledger presented Jutkiewicz with a difficult half-chance shortly before the interval, but the former Man City stopper Schmeichel was equal to it, with a smart save towards his near post.

Teesside born keeper Jason Steele then almost gifted Leicester City a goal for themselves. A long, hopeful cross in the box from Konchesky wasn’t dealt with by the Middlesbrough back four, with Steele in no mans land; luckily for Mowbray’s men there wasn’t a fox to pounce on the mistake.

Marvin Emnes had the chance to put Boro two goals clear on the stroke of half time. A through ball from Jutkiewicz presented the former Dutch under-21 international in one-on-one with Schmeichel; but he failed to put the ball in the net, after taking several touches too many.

Boro went into the break 1-0 against a Leicester team who have failed to test Steele in the Boro goal. Pearson will be glad for the break; Mowbray will wish they could stay out.

Leicester came out in the second half and started well. Matty James’ through ball almost found New Zealender Chris Wood; but a quick-to-pounce Jason Steele came hurtling off his line to deny the former West Brom man.

Leicester’s front two were finally edging their way into the game. They were starting to receive scraps from their midfield and long balls from the back four.

It was a stark contrast from their Teesside counterparts Jutkiewicz and Emnes who were linking well together and bring the midfield further up the pitch.

Leicester had a massive appeal for a penalty turned away. Boro skipper Rhys Williams hacked clear from the Boro six yard box, only to be met by a coming together of Whitehead on Drinkwater; Leicester adamant that Whitehead got nowhere near the ball, as he sent Drinkwater sprawling.

The foxes were becoming ever-increasingly into the game, a sustained bit of pressure saw Drinkwater bend one past a sprawling Jason Steele after a smart bit of trickery by Chris Wood who was immediately replaced by one cap wonder David Nugent

Jamie Vardy, who had been wreaking havoc in the space between the Boro centre halves, then broke through one on one and cooly slotted past Jason Steele once again. A well taken shot just inside the Boro box was nothing short of what Leicester deserved in this second half.

Almost immediately Grant Leadbitter went close for the home side. His sharp shot, that was destined for the top corner of Leicester goal was beaten away sharply by Schmeichel.

From the resulting corner, a routine straight from the training ground was belted over the bar by Dean Whitehead.

A smart reverse ball from Boro skipper Rhys Williams played Jutkiewicz in, however with his back to goal and Wes Morgan touch tight, his shot tamely went wide of the mark.

Jason Steele was to Boro’s rescue, the Teessiders failing to deal with David Nugent’s barrelling run into the area. The under-21 stopper saved well at his near post.

Jamie Vardy nearly compiled the home side’s misery, as Leicester’s 1million acquisition from Fleetwood, broke free from the Boro back four and struck the post from six yards.

Boro poured forward once the injury time had been announced. Faris Haroun curled in a great cross that was destined for the head of Jutkiewicz, however Leicester skipper Morgan did his best to put the centre forward off and he missed his header.

Boro’s final attack ended tamely, Grant Leadbitter failed to beat the first man at the corner. From that Leicester were able to run the clock down to ensure they took the three points back to the King Power.

Middlesbrough are looking for only their second win in the SkyBet championship since March 1st, when they beat Cardiff.

Leicester beat Middlesbrough for the second time at The Riverside in as many years. Both times running out 2-1 winners after earlier being behind. MOTM – Jamie Vardy

Middlesbrough Line Up (4-3-3)

Steele, Friend, R Williams (c), Leadbitter, Varga, Jutkiewicz, Emnes, Whitehead, Carayol (Haroun 60 ), Parnaby (L.Williams 82 ), Woodgate.

Goals – St.Ledger (35 O.G)

Unused subs: Leutwiler, Hoyte, Ledesma, Gibson, Smallwood

Leicester City Line Up (4-4-2)

Schmeichel, De Laet, Konchesky, Drinkwater, Morgan (c), Whitbread (Moore 18 ), James, Vardy, King, St Ledger, Wood (Nugent 60 ).

Goals – Drinkwater (60 ), Vardy (67 )

Unused subs: Logan, Marshall, Dyer, Waghorn, Schlupp

Attendance – 17,223 (1,618 visitors)

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Liverpool Transfers: 5 Surprise Summer Signings Brendan Rodgers Could Make


Liverpool have learned from their lessons last season and have wasted no time at all this summer in getting the bulk of the transfer dealings wrapped up in good time.

Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Manchester City defender Kolo Toure, Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas and Barcelona B midfielder Luis Alberto have all moved to Anfield in recent months, a stark contrast to 12 months ago.

Then, the Reds allowed the likes of Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt and Andy Carroll leave, and failed to replace any of them in the summer window, leaving the forward line threadbare until January, when Daniel Sturridge was plucked from Chelsea.

Those were hairy times for the Kop but now, manager Brendan Rodgers finds himself in a much healthier position following his recent acquisitions – and he hasn’t put his chequebook away quite yet, either.

Earlier this month, the Northern Irishman claimed he is now targeting “higher caliber players” over the remaining weeks of the transfer window, explaining he has “improved the squad – now we must improve the team”.

We could therefore be in for a shock or two this summer if Rodgers does indeed target a “marquee player”, and here, we take a look at 5 Surprise Summer Signings Brendan Rodgers Could Make.

Click “Next” to begin.

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Arsenal Transfers: 5 Alternatives To Júlio César

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In a previous article I made the prediction that Arsenal would win the Premier League this coming season. However one key thing they may need to address is their goalkeeper.

This position never seemed to be an issue through a great deal of Wenger’s rein, with Seaman filling the gloves till 2003 and Lehmann coming until 2008. Since a handful of keepers have been given the chance and ever step forward is greeted with 2 steps back. As last seasons first choice showed , Wojech Szczesny, at times he showed promise but had lapses which sadly often cost his team.

All summer J lio C sar, who produced some great performances in a woeful QPR team last season, has been tipped to join the Gunners and has spoke of his desire to remain in the capital. However lately with talks that he’d have to take a wage cut and other clubs like Napoli and Milan coming in for the Brazilian number one, his destination is in the balance.

Here are 5 potential alternatives that Wenger could call upon if he doesn’t get J lio C sar.

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