Wednesday, 20 June 2018

World Cup: Germany v Sweden

After a shock but completely deserved loss to Mexico in their opener, Germany need to make up for lost time. Against a stocky and tough Sweden side, that’s going to be very interesting to watch.

There’s a lot riding on this game; can Die Mannschaft sort it out?

Germany News
After Herving Lozano gave them such a tough game in the opener, Germany are in the mood to impress. Their defence looked disjointed and their two centre-halves, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, looked very slow. If they are going to deal with Sweden, they cannot have that same lack of organization.

While Sweden might lack the pace of Mexico, they are nowhere near as open. Germany will need the likes of Mesut Ozil to step forward and deliver a top quality performance. With just one assist at tournaments for Germany, though, that might seem less likely than it first sounds.

Sweden News

Sweden come into this flying with confidence. They dealt with South Korea at arms’ length, and should have little if any issues being able to stay compact here. Sweden lack craft and pace, but they are solid, hard to break down and score their goals at key times.

Expect them to sit in deep and make it hard for Germany to get any kind of flow going. If they can do that, they should be able to stop Germany making too much headway: captain Andreas Granqvist will need to put in a performance for the ages, though.

The idea of Germany going two FIFA World Cup games without a win is just ludicrous to a certain generation. We recommend that you get used to the idea, though: Germany might just struggle to break down a Sweden side who know the value of defensive solidity.

Monday, 11 June 2018

World Cup: Russia vs Saudi Arabia

As far as opening games of the FIFA World Cup goes, Russia against Saudi Arabia might be low-key. However, if you were to look over the history of the tournament, the games which we often expect to be dull are sometimes the best!

With Russia bringing arguably the worst national side in their history against what some consider to be the best Saudi Arabia has ever had, this game should be quite interesting. Consider that Russia have among the oldest defences in the tournament while the Saudi Arabians are equipped with rapid pace on the break; what does this mean for the hosts?

Russia News
For Russia, the entire tournament feels like it belongs to the Miranchuk brothers and Fedor Smolov. The Krasnodar forward has been one of the best players in the domestic scene for some time, and could be looking to use the World Cup to get a bit move

The Russians need him to fire, though, as they have little to no creativity outside of him and the defence is a mess. With 12 in 32 for his nation, Smolov is the now-or-never star that could help Russia achieve some semblance of success from the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia News
For Saudi Arabia, the main player they have to look for is Al-Nasser forward Mohammad Al-Sahlawi. He scored a whopping 16 goals in qualifying, and comes into this tournament with some very good form.
However, the main issue with Al-Sahlawi is his big game drop-offs. He scored seven goals in two games against East Timor, but only one in the ‘big’ games in a loss to Australia. Hes not scored in friendlies against decent opposition including Peru, Greece, Belgium and Germany; if he cant fire, the lack of other forward options will tell.

It’s hard to call, but we think Russia will get the win here. While we might suggest the Saudi’s are a better side, they lack big game experience. Russia, while losing, has played a host of top sides recently and could benefit from that. We’re calling a Russia win, but not by much at all. If they fail to beat Saudi Arabia, expect them to lose all three games.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Player Profile: Antonio Rudiger

Depending on who you ask, Antonio Rudiger is either a top-class defender or an utterly liability at the back. A very impressive defender, his unique physicality and defensive rigour and ensures he’s often a player who can be seen playing with his heart on his sleeve. While defensive mistakes and losses of concentration occur more than they should, at 24 there’s ample time for him to improve and find a greater consistency in his game.

Starting out at Borussia Dortmund, he failed to make the breakthrough there and soon moved on to VfB Stuttgart. At Stuttgart, he quickly broke into the first-team and in 4 years completed close to 100 appearances. Before long, his fantastic form seen him pick up attention from abroad and in 2015 he left Stuttart for a move to Rome. At Roma, he quickly became an important part of their squad ad played over 60 games in a two-year stay in the Italian capital.

While he suffered at times from defensive lapses in Italy, and left a sour taste on his time with the Giallorossi following a sending off in a 3-1 home defeat to Lazio in the Derby della Capitale, he was a very impressive defender for much of his time.

His move to Chelsea came in 2017, when the German defender made his move over to London for around €40m. The signing was seen as the beginning of a Chelsea rebirth, with Rudiger impressing early on into his Chelsea career with some assured performances.

With an impressive debut campaign close to an end, Rudiger could easily set the standard for the rest of his career in the next coupe seasons. A hugely powerful defender with excellent pace and tackling capability, extra concentration and experience could see him evolve into a top-class defender,

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Crystal Palace v Brighton - 14th April

For this oddest of derbies, we reckon we’ll see some pretty impressive football break out. Crystal Palace are in desperate need of a result, and what better time to start than here at home against Brighton and Hove Albion?

Home News

Palace come into this one with a big injury list. Joel Ward, Christian Benteke and Jeffrey Schlupp will likely all miss out. so, too, will Alexander Sorloth, Jason Puncheon and Bakary Sako. Scott Dann, too, will be out.
This leaves Roy Hodgson with some rather challenging decisions to make. The loss of so many players and their propensity to concede late, vital goals will leave him worried. With such little depth left due to injury, can they get a positive result here at home to their major rivals in Brighton?

Away News

The away side’ only real concern is the loss of Davy Pröpper, after his red card last weekend. Other than that, they are more or less full-strength. Steve Sidwell is also out, but has not taken part in the season so far. However, they do Anthony Knockaert back after a challenging period of time out the side following a straight red against Everton.

In the middle of the pitch, we’ll likely see Pascal Groß come into the side in the middle alongside Beram Kayal. Up front, they’ll be reliant on the goals of ex-Eagle Glenn Murray to get the job done. Meanwhile the form of the likes of José Izquierdo in 2018 has been a mild disappointment, Brighton are in a good place, especially at the back. 

We reckon this will be a win for the away side. This is a big derby, but that weird propensity to concede key late goals won’t go away for the Eagles. As such, the Seagulls should get out of here with something.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Arsenal vs Southampton

After a fantastic 4-1 win at home to CSKA Moscow in the Europa League, Arsenal are finally looking alive again. Two wins in a row makes up for a three match losing streak, and hosting a Saints side bereft of confidence cold help further extend that. 
Home News
For the Gunners, the potential injury to the in-form Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a big concern. Despite finding some form of recovery in the last few games, confidence is fragile at Arsenal and even something as simple as an injury could derail them for the season.
However, for now, they’ll be OK. They’ve got enough positive performers including the rapidly in-form Aubameyang, to feel comfortable of getting out of this one with three points. However, Alexandre Lacazette might feel disappointed to likely be benched following a brace in Europe. For Arsenal though, this game offers yet another chance to just to add another small dollop of self-belief back into their game. 
Away News
The away side are in real disarray, meanwhile. Back-to-back losses and draws means the club is in a real mire, with relegation almost looking guaranteed on recent performances. However, the sheer lack of quality in the side is another major issue.
Too many key players have left, and despite having no injuries of note the squad feels brutally lacking in depth. The likes of Mario Lemina and Oriol Romeu tend to play games almost alone, and a trip to the Emirates will offer little respite. 
We just cannot see anything for Southampton in this game. Mark Hughes has a real struggle on his hands to keep them up. The lack of form of previous key performers such as Charlie Austin, Steven Davis, Nathan Redmond, Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand is simply too much of a drop-off for them to be able to handle. A likely Arsenal victory awaits.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

England's World Cup Prospects

As the Russia 2018 World Cup approaches, Gareth Southgate's England are in decent form and look ready for the challenge ahead. Do we allow ourselves to enter 'dare to dream' territory, with ideas that 'this is the one' and that we can sail through each round if only we show determination and have the right approach to play, rightly lifting the World Cup at the end of it? Or perhaps do we instead think that our time in the tournament will be 'same old, same old' as we struggle to beat bog standard competition and limp out of the competition in typically unimpressive fashion? I'd say that this time the jury is out, but expectations aren't exactly sky high.

We have disappointed on one occasion too many really and so if we make it through the group stage we enter firm 'anything is a bonus' territory. At time of writing we're level pegging with impressive Belgium to win the group, at 6/5. Those odds are probably about right, most of them are presented on some online betting sites for the 2018 World Cup. Where are do appear to be something is a dead cert is in our chances of emerging from the group (top two). As suspect as England can be when the going gets tough, it's hard to see how Tunisia and Panama can provide meaningful competition for us. Therefore the 1/7 to qualify likely isn't a particularly bad bet all things considered, even at those odds. We have some top class players and youth throughout the team, so they'll likely still have some spark even though the World Cup is awkwardly placed at the end of a tough Premier League season. Jack Wilshere is injury free, Marcus Rashford has bundles of talent. Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy. This is a team with big names and big talent to match.

Elsewhere in the competition, unsurprisingly both Germany and Brazil are odds-on to win their groups. They're both in top form and at number one and two in the world FIFA football ranking respectively (compared to England's lowly position 16), it's hard to argue that they'll have any trouble going far in the 2018 Russia World Cup. In a future update I'll be sure to comment on the quarter finals and beyond. For now, let's just hope that England make it to that point in the first place! If the team and fans dare to go to Russia of course!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Player Profile: Jan Vertonghen

For many, Jan Vertonghen might just be among the very best defensive players in the world. With close to 100 caps for his nation, Belgium, and a very impressive club career, Vertonghen has enjoyed a career already that many would die for. Now in his prime at 30, too, there’s nothing to say that his influence won’t continue to grow as a player. He’s been a key part of very successful Ajax, Tottenham and Belgium teams now. His authority also plays a key role, alongside his consistent threat from the back.

In his career, he’s been a regular threat for the opposition for a defender. Growing up in Saint-Niklaas, he made a move to Ajax as a youngster and became one of the many players to come though their youth academy with great success. Alongside the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelan, the trio came through at Ajax and helped to form the backbone of many successful seasons for the Dutch giants.

His main breakthrough with Ajax came in 2009, when he soon became a regular in the first-team after John Hietinga made his move to Atletico Madrid. While he suffered from injury at first, he soon recovered from his persistent injury issues and developed into the star he is today.

In 2012, he made his move to Tottenham Hotspur, after several seasons as one of the most impressive players in the Dutch Eredivisie. A uniquely talented defender, he rejected moves to the Milan, Newcastle and Arsenal to make the transfer to Tottenham. While his goal scoring prowess may have dried up in recent seasons, he’s retained the defensive prowess and solidity that has ensured he’s one of the most respected defender in the European game.

Without doubt, he’s among the best defenders of his generation.