Alec’s Premier League XI of the 2016-17 Season

With Chelsea clinching the title and Hull claiming the final relegation spot, the dust has mostly settled in the Premier League this season. The time has come to reflect on the most outstanding performances of the season and determine who were the eleven best. In honor of Antonio Conte’s successful three back formation, the team of the season will be the 3-5-2 with which the Blues won thirteen straight matches during the season.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea, Manchester United

In a mostly underwhelming season for the Red Devils, De Gea has been a bright spot. He has made crucial plays to save United several points throughout the season. Most recently, De Gea guided an undermanned and outmatched United to a draw at rivals Man City by keeping a clean sheet despite an assault on his goal throughout the match.

Consistently rated among the top three keepers in the world, the Spaniard is said to have an eye for Real Madrid and his potential departure would leave a massive hole to fill in goal for Jose Mourinho.

 

Centre Back: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

Before this season, the Spaniard typically played left back for the Blues. But under new boss Conte, he has thrived as a central defender in the Italian’s three back system. Azpilicueta has earned an excellent 7.29 match rating on WhoScored.com in the 28 matches he has played centrally.

The Spaniard’s rise was a major reason why Conte’s formation was able to be a success and why Chelsea are champions of England. Azpilicueta figures to continue to be a major part of the club’s plans next season.

Cesar Azpilicueta thrived in Antonio Conte’s three back formation at Chelsea this season.

 

Centre Back: Eric Bailly, Manchester United

Moving to Old Trafford last summer from Valencia, Bailly was a bit of an underrated signing as the media focused on the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, the Ivorian has arguably been the Red Devils’ most productive signing this season. With the United back line being plagued by injury and inconsistency, Bailly has been a constant and has shown his quality, as well as his potential, as he is only 23 years old.

Bailly certainly looks to be following in the footsteps of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and other legendary United defenders as his future looks bright and United plan on him being a defensive cornerstone for years to come.

 

Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

The best defender on the best defensive team this season, Alderweireld has been everything Spurs could have hoped for and more since moving to the club from Southampton his summer. Alderweireld was at the center of a back four that conceded just 24 times in the league this season, eight less than anyone else. Alderweireld is a very smart player who doesn’t make mistakes at the back and can provide an occasional goal from a set piece header.

Although there are a few reports suggesting the Belgian international is hesitant to sign a new contract at Tottenham, there is no concrete evidence to believe he won’t be spearheading Spurs’ back line at the start of next season as well.

 

Centre Midfielder: N’Golo Kante, Chelsea

Voted PFA player of the year, no player has had a greater impact on the Premier League in the past two seasons than Kante. A central piece of Leicester’s title winning side a year ago, Kante’s high energy has put less pressure on his Chelsea teammates this season. As of May 8th, Kante had covered the fifth most distance in the Premier League this season. Kante became the first outfield player to win back to back league titles with two different squads since Eric Cantona with Manchester United in 1993.

Kante figures to be a key player in Antonio Conte’s midfield next season. The Frenchman will seek to follow in his countryman Cantona’s footsteps with a third consecutive triumph.

 

Centre Midfielder: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

In his second season at White Hart Lane, the young England international has continued his ascent towards stardom with 17 league goals, which leads all midfielders. The 21 year old came up big during important games. Including scoring both goals in a must-win 2-0 victory over Chelsea. Dele provides an extra dimension to his arsenal with his ability to be a threat in the air.

While he has been linked with Real Madrid. It is hard to envision Spurs letting their budding superstar leave at the tender age of 21. Expect Alli to continue to flourish next season as he looks to lead Tottenham to their first Premier League title.

 

Right Midfielder: Sadio Mane, Liverpool

Looking back on last summer, Mane was arguably the best signing made by any Prem side in 2016. The former Southampton standout scored 13 goals for the Reds in 26 matches before going down injured in April. When he was in the side, Mane’s pace was electric and freed up space for fellow attackers Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. Mane’s impact on Liverpool has shown when he is not on the pitch. Liverpool earned 59 points in the 26 matches Mane featured (2.3 ppg). In the 11 that he missed, the Reds managed only 14 (1.3 ppg).

Just 25 years old, the Senegalese international is only just hitting his prime. With Jurgen Klopp set to spend in the summer, Mane will enjoy plenty of help in the attack if he manages to stay healthy.

Liverpool has struggled mightily without the presence of Sadio Mane on the wing.

Left Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Although his teammate N’Golo Kante claimed the honor of PFA player of the year, Hazard made a strong case for the award as well. Following a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, the Belgian has bounced back to the tune of 15 goals and five assists in the league. The threat he provides when he is on the ball forces extra attention from opposing defenses. Hazard made a habit of scoring in key matches throughout the season and none was more spectacular than his solo goal to clinch a vital three points against Arsenal in April.

Antonio Conte will surely fight hard to keep his playmaker, but Real Madrid lurks. If Hazard stays, it will be interesting to see if he can stay motivated or if he will drop off as he did last season.

 

Attacking Midfielder: Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City

Despite an overall disappointing season for Man City, de Bruyne’s second season in Manchester has been anything but. The Belgian has been among the Premier League’s most unlucky players when it comes to finishing, but has still managed six goals. Where he has really contributed is with his 16 assists, tops in the league.

Next season, the pressure will be building for Pep Guardiola at the Etihad and he will look to de Bruyne to be one of the key contributors.

 

Right Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Despite having less talent around him than his peers on this list, Lukaku has still amassed 24 goals in the league. With one game to go, he is in the driver’s seat to win the Golden Boot for most goals. Perhaps the most physical player in England, Lukaku’s blend of size, strength and speed make it nearly impossible for opposing defenders to stop him when he gets moving with the ball.

While he is clearly a level above Everton, questions remain regarding whether Ronald Koeman and the Toffees will let the 24 year old Belgian leave in the summer. Lukaku played at Chelsea in the past and could potentially replace Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge if the former decides to leave.

Romelu Lukaku’s physicality makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders.

Left Striker: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

In the past, Sanchez has featured at wing for the Gunners. However, Arsene Wenger utilized the Chilean this season at striker and Sanchez responded. He is the only player to have double digit goals (23) and assists (10) this season. His brace in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland kept Arsenal’s top four aspirations alive and showed how important he is to the side. Sanchez will have a shot at the Golden Boot on Sunday when he faces off with Lukaku’s Everton.

Sanchez is said to be quite unhappy at Arsenal and a summer exit looks imminent. Chelsea, Juventus and Paris-St. Germain are said to be monitoring the situation. Wherever he ends up next season, Alexis will make a major impact.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

 

 

 

What Next Season’s Contenders Need to do to Improve in the Summer (Part 2)

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s second season in Manchester will be highly anticipated and expectations will be massive. With a year of experience in England under his belt, a title and run in the Champions League (assuming City make top four) will be expected.

City have perhaps the least amount of work to do as far as improving personnel. One storyline will be whether Sergio Aguero departs the club following the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. In Jesus and Kelechi Iheanacho, Guardiola has two young strikers with massive potential to develop. Aguero is nearing the end of his prime and may fancy a move back to Spain or Argentina in order to get more play time.

When City do go shopping in the summer, it will be mostly geared towards their defense. City’s deficiency at full back could be solved by signing Tottenham right back Kyle Walker. At left back, Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia would be a massive improvement over the departing Gael Clichy. Finally at goalkeeper, Guardiola needs to find an alternative to the horror show that has been Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero this season.

 

Arsenal

The most uncertain future among England’s top clubs is that of Arsenal. The Gunners could very well lose their manager and two best players at the end of the season.

The club has been pretty mum on whether Arsene Wenger will still be at the Emirates next season. A split fanbase has made this story one of the most talked about in recent months. If Wenger ends his 21 year run at the club, two rumored candidates are Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.

Alexis Sanchez looks to be on his way out of the Emirates this summer. The Chilean leads the club with 25 goals in all competitions this season.

On the field, the team’s leading scorer this season, Alexis Sanchez, is all but guaranteed to be leaving in the summer. His list of possible suitors contain Chelsea, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Midfielder Mesut Ozil also faces an uncertain future.

If either Sanchez or Ozil leave the club, it will leave a massive gap. However, the massive transfer fee Arsenal will collect will give them options in the replacement process. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Everton’s Ross Barkley are the latest rumored targets to replace Sanchez and Ozil respectively.

 

Manchester United

Much of what United is able to accomplish in the summer will be dependent on their result in the Europa League final May 24 vs Ajax. A victory would boost the Red Devils into next season’s Champions League, and equally importantly, it would make Old Trafford a very attractive destination in the summer.

Uncertainty over the striker position is first and foremost on Jose Mourinho’s mind. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 and just sustained a serious knee injury. Marcus Rashford, while equipped with serious talent and potential, is still raw. Mourinho could look to the transfer market at that position. Antoine Griezmann has long been linked with a move to Man U and his addition would certainly make United quicker and more creative in the final third, an area they lacked in Mourinho’s first year with the club.

Two familiar faces could potentially depart the club this summer. Wayne Rooney has struggled to break into the first team under Mourinho and has been linked with a move back to his boyhood club Everton after an illustrious 13 year career for United. Goalkeeper David de Gea was close to moving to Real Madrid two summers ago and Los Blancos could come knocking again this season.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

EPL: What Next Season’s Contenders Need to Do to Improve in the Summer (Part 1)

With Chelsea having one hand on the Premier League trophy, those who fell short are already looking to new hope next season. A highly anticipated transfer window awaits in the summer, and there are improvements to be made for all the top clubs.

Chelsea

Romelu Lukaku is seen as a potential replacement for Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge. (Photo by Goal.com)

For presumed champions, Chelsea faces quite a bit of uncertainty heading into next season. Rifts between manager Antonio Conte and striker Diego Costa have caused the latter to be linked with a move to China. Real Madrid is also reportedly interested in superstar Eden Hazard.

 

It is paramount that the Blues hang on to Hazard and find an adequate replacement for Costa if he leaves. Two options are Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. Both are quick, strong and left-footed handfuls for defenders. Lukaku once played with Chelsea and a deal featuring Hazard for Morata and money has been rumored as a possibility.

Chelsea will also want to make sure they hang onto goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is seemingly always linked to leaving Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino will be searching for the final piece to his Spurs title puzzle. After likely coming up short back to back seasons, the Spurs need to sign players to upgrade the wing and midfield positions.

Despite a great second half to the season, Son Heung-Min is not a true winger, and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who has been linked to Tottenham, would be a great fit. He would add a pacy threat and could cross the ball into Harry Kane.

In the midfield, Moussa Dembele will turn 30 this summer. A young, dominant midfield presence alongside Dele Alli would boost the Spurs. The Monaco duo of Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko are options, as well as Nice’s Wylan Cyprien.

As far as departures, Kyle Walker has been linked to a move to Man City. While his departure would be a blow, the Spurs should be fine as long as they retain Kane, Alli, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has continued to deliver results despite what many consider to be an underwhelming squad. Liverpool can perhaps improve more than any of their competitors with a good transfer window this summer.

Signing Virgil Van Dijk would sure up Liverpool’s woes at the back. (Photo by Sports Mole)

Klopp’s most glaring issue is at the back where Liverpool was repeatedly vulnerable. Alberto Moreno is not a true left back, and the Reds could use a solid center-back to pair with Joel Matip. Klopp is looking at Southampton duo Ryan Bertrand and Virgil van Dijk to fill the void. He also has his eyes on Burnley center-back Michael Keane.

Liverpool could also target a true striker this summer. While Roberto Firmino is great, he is not a true striker. Daniel Sturridge can’t stay healthy, and Divock Origi has been inconsistent. Romelu Lukaku or Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette could work in Klopp’s system.

The good news for Liverpool is that they aren’t expected to lose anyone major in the summer. If Klopp can be smart with his buying, the Reds could be really improved ahead of a likely Champions League campaign.

 

(Featured Image by Sportskeeda.com)

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Alec! 

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cristiano Ronaldo Continues To Carry Real Madrid Through The Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo walked off the pitch Tuesday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeau with a wide smile his face. The 32 year old Portuguese superstar scored a hat trick in Real’s 3-0 first leg semifinal win over crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid in the Semifinal.

Despite his age and no longer possessing the athleticism he inched, Ronaldo is scoring big goals in big games and he’s scoring a lot of them. In Real’s last three Champions League matches (@Bayern, vs Bayern, vs Atleti), CR7 has scored an incredible eight goals. He has adjusted his play style and is one of the most lethal headers of the ball today. His attacking positioning is brilliant as well.

On his goal vs Bayern, Ronaldo shows how he has grown as a player. He has intelligent positioning and takes the cross down with class before dispatching it confidently into the net.

Ronaldo’s ability to adapt from a speedy winner to a smart, clinical finisher is the reason why he has been able to sustain his high level of play as long as he has.

In a season in which the fellow members of Real’s BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) have underwhelmed, Ronaldo has come through repeatedly for Madrid. Bale has missed a majority of the season due to injury and Benzema has been largely ineffective in his striker role. Los Blancos are in pole position to win La Liga in addition to being a step away from a third UCL final in four years.

As shown by his recent form, Ronaldo always seems to show up in the big games. With the comfort of knowing they have someone who can get it done in the clutch, Real Madrid have to like their chances going forward in the Champions League.

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Is Champions League Still Reachable For United Without Zlatan?

Manchester United’s quest for Champions League football next season took a massive hit when star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered serious damage to his ACL and PCL ligaments in Thursday’s Europa League tie with Anderlecht .

United are fighting the battle for Champions League on two fronts, in England and in Europe. Jose Mourinho’s side controls their own destiny for a top four finish in the Premier League. Thursday’s showdown with Manchester City will have serious table implications in addition to the heated derby atmosphere.

A difficult schedule still awaits, with visits to City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come. Zlatan’s injury thrusts the spotlight on young Marcus Rashford and club legend Wayne Rooney at striker. Anthony Martial will also likely be given a chance to redeem himself for past chances not taken.

Manchester United will need Wayne Rooney to re-find his form of old.

Rashford has been significantly better in the last month and can give shaky backlines fits with his pace and work rate. Rooney and Anthony Martial both stepped up by scoring United’s goals in a 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. If that trio continues to play well, it could even be an improvement over filtering the entire attack through Ibrahimovic. Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday puts United in their best table position in months, making a top four dream very much alive.

In Europe, the Red Devils are in the Semi-finals of the Europa League. They must win the competition in order to automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League. Celta Vigo from Spain will prove to be a difficult test in the semis.

While they only sit tenth in La Liga, Celta have proved they can be giant killers by defeating both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season. Forward Iago Aspas is tied with Antoine Griezmann for fifth in La Liga with 16 goals on the season. Man U also lost defender Marcos Rojo to injury and will be shorthanded facing Aspas and the dangerous Celta attack.

Iago Aspas has tormented opposing defenses all season.

United will likely play similarly to the way they did against Anderlecht. Expect Mourinho to be conservative in the opening away tie and attack back home in Manchester in the decisive second tie.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Premier League’s Three Most Underrated Players

Despite being dubbed the “glamour league” and receiving the majority of the sport’s media attention, many class talents go unnoticed in the Premier League.

1. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool

While his more flashy teammates and lovable manager soak up the majority of the limelight, Henderson is vital piece of Liverpool as well as for England. Henderson is the leader in passes in the league this season by a wide margin. He often plays in the important defensive midfield role for Liverpool. With the Reds’ back line being very shaky, they rely heavily on Henderson for stability.

Henderson’s ability to play multiple positions (he has played on the right and the left for England) is also a major bonus. He doesn’t score very much and that is part of the reason why he is so underrated. Henderson is undoubtedly a major reason behind Liverpool’s recent rise.

2. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea

While Henderson doesn’t get the attention he deserves because of his position and style, Sigurdsson goes under the radar because he plays for a bottom tier club. Sigurdsson, who has played for Tottenham in the past, is an excellent attacking midfielder with excellent vision. He has amassed eight goals and 11 assists in the Premier League this season.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is undoubtedly Swansea’s most talented player.

Without the Icelandic international, Swansea would likely be deep in the relegation zone. Sigurdsson has had a hand in over half (19/37; 51%) of Swansea’s league goals. His build up play has also been key on other goals. Bigger clubs will likely come knocking for the 27 year old this summer, especially if Swansea are relegated to the Championship.

3. Ander Herrera, Man United

Like Henderson, Herrera has been a key player at a top club for a long time but has always been overshadowed by his peers. While he was inconsistent in the past, Herrera has stepped up as a trustworthy midfielder this season for Jose Mourinho. Herrera has had five assists and  joins Henderson and teammate Paul Pogba in the top three passers this season.

Herrera showed what he can do on Saturday in a masterful man of the match performance in United’s 2-0 win over Chelsea. Herrera completely neutralized Blues’ star Eden Hazard and scored the second goal for Man United. Herrera is reaching his prime and his play is certainly showing it.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Leicester Can Take Many Positives From First Leg Defeat

Despite falling 1-0 to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie, Leicester City still should have a positive outlook heading into the second leg to played back in England on Tuesday.

Heavy underdogs, Leicester were dealt a blow before the match even started when it was announced that captain Wes Morgan would miss yesterday’s match in Madrid. Despite being pressed against the wall for ninety minutes, it took a questionable penalty call and ensuing Antoine Griezmann finish to break what would have been a scoreless draw.

Although an away goal would have been nice, Leicester know how to make up one goal deficits. They advanced past Sevilla with a 1-0 win at home in the second leg. A same result on Tuesday would force extra time and potentially penalties.

Leicester have proven very difficult to beat in the confines of their own stadium. Behind what is sure to be a raucous crowd, exoect Craig Shakespeare’s men to come at Atleti with full force.

Leicester Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel will need to repeat his round of 16 heroics against Atletico Madrid.

It will be vital that midfielders Wilfred Ndidi and Danny Drinkwater win the battle in the midfield and set up Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, and others for scoring chances. Kasper Schmeichel, who came up huge against Sevilla, will need to cope with the absence of a suspended Robert Huth.

While taking down last years finalist would truly be a monumental feat. These Foxes, with this coach, at this stadium, are the ones to do the job.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Is Chelsea’s Title Run Under Threat?

With Chelsea seemingly strolling to its second title in three years, recent attention has been cast on the race for the top four as well as the relegation battle. The Blues were stunned 2-1 at home against Crystal Palace on the weekend, but bounced back on Wednesday with a victory over Manchester City by the same score.

Tottenham stand as Chelsea’s lone obstacle to a second title in three years.

Tottenham stormed back late to defeat Swansea City and maintain a seven point gap between them and the Blues. So, with eight games left in the season. Do fixtures favor the chasers?

CHE  (71 pts)             TOT (64 pts)

@Bou                          Wat

@ManU                       Bou

Sou                            @Lei

@Eve                         @Cry

Mid                             Ars

@Wba                        @Whu

Sun                            Mun

Wat                            @Hull

 

Tottenham face Arsenal in addition to the Manchester United match-up both sides have. Fortunately for Spurs, they host the Red Devils, while Chelsea must travel to Old Trafford. Chelsea have two very easy match-ups on the slate when they host Sunderland and Middlesborough.

While the Blues have arguably the easier schedule, and a nice point cushion, there are difficulties left. In addition to the visit to Old Trafford, Chelsea must also play at Everton and West Brom. Both sides are in the top 10 and pose serious threats to Chelsea.

It is still quite a long shot that Chelsea let the title slip through their fingers. In a year with many notable collapses in sports, the traps are there if Chelsea are not careful.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

An Update on World Cup Qualifying (Part 3)

Europe (UEFA)

Europe’s qualification process for the World Cup involves nine groups of six teams. The winner of each group automatically qualifies for the tournament while eight out of nine second place teams advance to a separate head to head playoff. With so many prominent footballing nations in Europe, the spots are highly competitive.

Group A

Halfway through the qualifiers, France sit at the top of Group A. Sure to be one of the favorites in Russia next summer, Les Bleus are  having no problems in qualifying. The Netherlands, who missed out on Euro 2016, are in danger of missing out on Russia as well. Despite talent such as Arjen Robben, the Dutch sit fourth on 7 points, six behind the French. Sweden sits in second with 10 points, despite the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the national team.

 

Group B

Granit Xhaka (Photo courtesy: goal.com)

The top two in Group B seem to be clear cut at this point, with Switzerland and Portugal distancing themselves from the field. The question is, who will qualify automatically and who will have to go to the gruesome two leg playoff stage? Switzerland are well rounded with players such as Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez, and Borussia Monchengladbach keeper Yann Sommer. Portugal, of course, are Euro 2016 champions and led by the brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo. Switzerland have a three point advantage over Portugal with 15. Hungary sit third with 7.

 

Group C

Group C was always going to be Germany’s from the get go. The reigning world champions sit comfortably atop the group with 15 points. The fight for a potential playoff spot is in progress between Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, and Azerbaijan. The Northern Irish, who sit second with ten, are looking to build on a strong performance at Euro 2016. The Czech team are without longtime goalkeeper and current Arsenal player Petr Cech.

 

Group D

Serbia and Ireland currently sit atop Group D with 11 points. The Serbians have many prominent Premier League players such as Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic, Man City left back Aleksandr Kolarov, and former Chelsea man Branislav Ivanovic who now plays for Zenit St. Petersburg. Ireland made it to the knockout stages of Euro 2016. Sitting four points back with 7 are dangerous customers in Wales and Austria. Led by Gareth Bale and David Alaba respectively, both teams are capable of finding themselves in Russia next summer.

 

Group E

Robert Lewandowski looks set to play in his first World Cup next summer as Poland have taken a six point lead in their group. The Polish team also features Monaco defender Kamil Glik and Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik among others. The battle for second is close, so close that the one second place team omitted from the playoff on points scored could very well be from this group. Christian Eriksen-led Denmark is in contention for that spot along with Romania and Montenegro.

 

Group F

England have put themselves in a good position to win Group F. The Three Lions have a four point lead on Slovakia and five point lead on Slovenia. The Liverpool duo of Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana have each scored twice in the campaign. Scotland is also in the group and sits in fourth. Slovakia played in Euro 2016 and enjoy the services of Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik.

 

Group G

Gigi Buffon (Photo courtesy: zimbio.com)

Another group that has seemingly erupted into a two horse race, Group G contains two of the games’ greatest nations in Spain and Italy. Both sides have had to rebuild from the remains of golden generations in recent years. Spain now has David de Gea and Thiago while Italy boasts Marco Verratti and Leonardo Bonucci. However veteran presence still exists with Andres Iniesta and Gianluigi Buffon. The third place team fighting to stay alive is an up and coming Israel side which should see more players move to Europe soon.

 

Group H

After disappointing in recent tournaments, Belgium look set to get another opportunity next summer. They lead their group by two points over Greece and three points over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Belgium is loaded with talent such as Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Cortouis and Romelu Lukaku in the Premier League alone. Greece is a scrappy defensive side with solid players such as Roma’s Kostas Manolas. Manolas’ current teammate and former Man City striker Edin Dzeko features for Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Juventus midfielder and free-kick maestro Miralem Pjanic.

 

Group I

Following a heartbreaking Euro 2016 exit, Croatia and its “golden generation” currently have the upper hand on an automatic spot in Russia. Led by a superb midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and up and comer Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan, Croatia are certainly favorites to maintain their top spot. In second is Iceland, who grabbed headlines last summer with an incredible run in France culminating with a victory over England. Swansea playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson is their vocal point. Ukraine and Turkey sit two points behind the Icemen. Players such as Yovhan Konoplyanka and Arda Turan bring quality to those sides.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

 

 

An Update on World Cup Qualifying (Part 2)

North America (CONCACAF)

The final stage of qualifying in North America features six teams with three automatically qualifying and the fourth place side moving onto an international playoff. With four of the ten matches played, it is Mexico who have claimed the top spot with three wins and a draw equaling ten points.

The United States stumbled out of the gate, but recovered this past week with a thrashing of Honduras and a hard fought draw in a visit to Panama. The US currently sit in that dicey fourth position, ahead of Honduras on goal differential. The rise of young stars such as Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood of Hamburg have given new life to an American side that desperately needed, and could still use a pick-me-up. The US have proven commodities in goalkeeper Tim Howard as well as John Brooks, Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey.

Mexico’s side includes a trio who star in the Portuguese league. Wing back Miguel Layun and midfielder Hector Herrera are regulars for second-place Porto. While striker Raul Jimenez plays for league leaders Benfica. All three gained valuable experience in the Champions League Round of 16 this season. Finally, the Mexican attack is led by former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who now plays for Bayer Leverkusen.

Costa Rica announced itself to the world with a run to the quarterfinals in Brazil in 2014. Former Arsenal winger Joel Campbell and midfielder Bryan Ruiz are experienced international players and play for Sporting Lisbon. Finally, Costa Rica’s best attribute is the wall that is goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Since his outstanding performances in the 2014 World Cup, Navas has become the first choice goalkeeper at Real Madrid and made key saves during their Champions League title run a year ago.

New United States manager Bruce Arena is off to a strong start in his attempt to save the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying Campaign

Who Will Be in Russia Next Summer?

Mexico have firmly put themselves in a good position and their past experience should keep them from falling back.

Navas, Ruiz and Campbell are about as talented a trio as there are at this stage of qualifying. Costa Rica will be there next summer.

The talent of the United States is too much and as they become more and more adapted to new manager Bruce Arena’s tactics, they will only get better and better.

Finally, Honduras’ past experience should help them eek out Panama and Trinidad & Tobago for fourth place and a spot in the playoff.

 

South America (CONMEBOL)

Widely considered to be the most exciting of the qualifying processes. CONMEBOL’s qualifying is only one round featuring all ten nations with the top four qualifying for the tournament and the fifth place team qualifying for a playoff.

With the help of some mind-boggling performances from their superstar Neymar and guidance of new manager Tite, Brazil sit atop the group by nine points and have already clinched a spot in Russia next summer. Bottom feeders Bolivia and Venezuela have been eliminated, but just six points separate teams two through eight with just four matches remaining.

James Rodriguez-led Colombia sit second at 24 points. That is one point ahead of Chile and Uruguay, who boast their own stars in Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez respectively. Argentina sit in the playoff spot with 22 points, but have been rocked by the news that Lionel Messi will serve a four game suspension for cursing at the referee.

With three matches remaining on Messi’s suspension, Argentina will need their other big players to step up in his absence. Paris Saint Germain’s Angel di Maria and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero are two names that come to mind as possible candidates to pick up the slack.

Argentina will have to fend off Ecuador who sit on 20 points, as well as Peru and Paraguay who are further back with 18.

Lionel Messi’s suspension means his teammates will need to step up if Argentina want to qualify for Russia

Who Will Be in Russia Next Summer?

Rodriguez, Sanchez and Suarez all enjoy strong enough supporting casts to join Neymar and Brazil in Russia next summer. Rodriguez has pacy Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado. Sanchez is aided by Bayern Munich’s bulldog midfielder Arturo Vidal. Suarez teams up with PSG striker Edinson Cavani to make for a dangerous strike force.

Finally, it is difficult to imagine a World Cup without the magic man himself, Lionel Messi. Argentina has more than enough talent to get by in his absence and advance to a playoff where they will surely be heavy favorites..

 

Check Back Next Week for Part 3, and an update on European qualifiers.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Alec!

Page 1 of 41234