Three Reasons Why Real Madrid will Win the Champions League Final

The world’s most watched sporting event, the Champions League final in Cardiff, Wales, is quickly approaching. Two of the best teams in Europe, Real Madrid and Juventus have survived to this point of competition. The flashy dynamic Madrid attack against the wall that is the Juve defense. The defending champs come in oozing with confidence and have to be considered favorites on Saturday.

1. They Know How To Get it Done

Last season, the men from Madrid were victorious in penalties over cross town rival Atletico Madrid. Juventus fell to Barcelona in the finals the season before that and have not been crowned champions of Europe since 1996. Despite massive successes domestically, Gianluigi Buffon and Co. have never hoisted a European title. Only Sami Khedira, Dani Alves and Mario Mandzukic have tasted European glory among Juve’s current roster.

Real Madrid on the other hand, are full of winners. With the majority of the team leftover from last years triumph and 2014’s title, experience in big games could be the difference. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) and Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich) have each won an additional CL title to the two they have in Madrid.

2. They Have the Reigning Ballon D’Or Winner

Cristiano Ronaldo…while there may be debate to whether he is THE best player on the planet, there is no debate that he will be the nest player out on the pitch in Cardiff on Saturday. Despite not having a great season statistically, nobody has been more clutch in the biggest competition in club football than CR7 himself.

Cristiano Ronaldo has carried Real Madrid through the Champions League this season. (Photo by Sports Illustrated)

After his five goals in two matches helped Real by Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals, Ronaldo scored an astonishing hat trick at the Bernebeau to all but extinguish Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their semifinal. Ronaldo is well rested and his combination of speed, jumping ability, and positioning still makes him the most difficult man to mark on the pitch and will drive Juve defenders crazy.

 

3. They Have Greater Squad Depth

Juventus may in fact have the second best squad depth in all of Europe. With players such as Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado, Andrea Barzagli and Claudio Marchisio being frequently rested throughout Champions League , Max Allegri will have plenty of options on Saturday.

However, the one team Juve can’t match up to are Los Blancos themselves. With Gareth Bale likely to start the match on the best due to fitness, Zinedine Zidane will have a star studded bench in Cardiff. Joining Bale will likely be Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio, James Rodriguez, Raphael Varane/Pepe and Lucas Vasquez. All of the aforementioned Real substitutes could start on almost any team in Europe. If Saturday’s match rolls into extra time like last year, Real could have the upper hand.

 

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Premier League Summer

Four potential summer signings that could change the Premier League landscape

As clubs start turning their attention towards next season, the task at hand for managers is to “cut out the fat” of their teams and use the money to sign better replacements. With the latest Premier League TV deal, teams are going to have the money to make a splash in the summer transfer window.

1. Antoine Griezmann to Manchester United

This rumor has gained significant traction in the past few days following the French striker rating his chances of joining United as “a six out of 10.” He also said he was “ready to leave [Atletico Madrid].” Griezmann netted 26 goals in all competitions for Atletico, and his pace, creativity and finishing prowess make him perfect for Jose Mourinho’s side, who struggled to find the net at times this season.

With Wayne Rooney likely leaving the club and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future uncertain, Griezmann could fill a major void. Not since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2009 will Manchester United have had as dangerous a player wearing the No. 7 shirt as Griezmann.

2. Kyle Walker to Manchester City

With one of the highest-regarded managers in Pep Guardiola and a seemingly endless supply of cash, big things will be expected this summer and next season at the Etihad. One of the issues that plagued City in Pep’s first season at the helm was defense. Particularly at full-back, City switched between underwhelming Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov at left back and the aging Bacary Sagna at right back.

With Sagna and Clichy leaving this summer, Walker would be a massive upgrade at right back, and City would deal a major blow to fellow title contenders Tottenham. The England International has improved massively under Mauricio Pochettino. His pace allows him to get forward more than other right backs because he can recover quickly.

3. Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool

Signing Virgil Van Dijk would help cure Liverpool’s defensive woes. (Photo by Sky Sports)

While center backs aren’t usually considered “massive signings,” a player as talented as Van Dijk signing for a club that has struggled at the back like Liverpool could be just that. Van Dijk made WhoScored.com’s Team of the Season for both the Premier League and UEFA Europa League. Before injury in the spring, Van Dijk was playing as well as any defender in England.

If Jurgen Klopp were to acquire the Dutchman’s services, Van Dijk would immediately start alongside Joel Matip at the back for the Reds. A major upgrade over Matip’s old partner Martin Skrtel, Van Dijk is still just 25 and can certainly improve under Klopp. Having conceded 42 times this season, Klopp will certainly take a long look at Van Dijk and how he can sure up the defense.

4. Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton

Just as the Toffees seem to be on the verge of breaking into the top level of the Premier League, their two biggest stars are rumored to be on their way out. Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, who combined for 30 goals and 14 assists this season appear to be headed to greener pastures. However, Ronald Koeman still remains manager and he is excellent at fostering young talent as well as bringing the best out of his players.

Sigurdsson is on the verge of joining from Swansea, where he scored 10 goals and had 13 assists in all competitions. One of the most creative players in England’s top flight, Sigurdsson could possibly be considered a slight upgrade over Barkley by some. The Icelandic international can create goals regardless of the talent around him. If Everton secure Sigurdsson and spend wisely with their Lukaku/Barkley money, they should avoid a decline.

 

Featured Image by 101 Great Goals

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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.

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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.

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UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals preview

UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Preview

The draw for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals took place on March 17th. With some of the best teams in the world entering the draw, the quarter-finals look set to be highly competitive. Let’s take a look at what we can expect in the next round of the competition.

Champions League Quarter-Final Draw

The teams that are in the hat for the quarter-final draw were:

  • Atletico Madrid (Spain)
  • Barcelona (Spain)
  • Real Madrid (Spain)
  • Bayern Munich (Germany)
  • Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
  • Leicester City (England)
  • Monaco (France)
  • Juventus (Italy)

Here is the fixture list for the quarter-final:

  • Atletico Madrid (Spain) v Leicester City (England)
  • Borussia Dortmund (Germany) v Monaco (France)
  • Bayern Munich (Germany) v Real Madrid (Spain)
  • Juventus (Italy) v Barcelona (Spain)

With such strong teams making it through to the latter stages of the competition, there is no such thing as an easy draw. Atletico, however, has the closest thing to an easy matchup against Premier League Champions, Leicester.

Atletico Madrid v Leicester City – Champions League Quarter-Finals #1

Champions League Quarter Final Leicester v Atletico

Image courtesy of twitter.com

Leicester is the team that constantly defies expectations. From surviving relegation in 2015 to winning the Premier League in 2016. They are now trying to defy people even further, by trying to win the UCL. This will not be easy, however, as they are the only team that is outside of the top four in their respective leagues. Standing in their way, however, is a strong and organized Atletico Madrid side.

Under Diego Simone, Atletico has been to two finals in the last three years. They are currently sitting in fourth position in La Liga, and with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, they should have more than enough class to overcome Leicester.

Borussia Dortmund v Monaco – Champions League Quarter Finals #2

Image courtesy of twitter.com

Monaco is coming into the quarter-finals off the back of an amazing 6-6 game with Manchester City in the last round. They are looking strong domestically and currently sit atop Ligue 1, with Falcao finding the form that moved him to the UK. Monaco hope that they can continue their strong push in the tournament.

Dortmund had a slight scare in the first leg of their round of 16 tie against Benfica. They did, however, manage to bounce back and win the second leg 4-0. Combine this with decent league form and four wins in their last five games. Dortmund hope they have what it takes to reach the semi-finals.

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid – Champions League Quarter Finals #3

Champions League Quarter Final Bayern v Munich

Image courtesy of twitter.com

Well, this is the game that most people would have been happy to see in the final. Instead, we are treated to this game in the Champion League quarter-finals. This is the opportunity for current Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti, to go up against his former employers. Bayern is coming into the quarter-finals following the 10-2 demolition of Arsenal. The winner of this game will surely make the final, and should possibly be considered the favorites for the title.

Real are one of the best teams in the world. They are currently two points clear at the top of La Liga, with a game in hand. After defeating Napoli 6-2 on aggregate, Real should be full of confidence heading into the quarter-finals, and look to show once again why many consider them the best side in the world.

Juventus v Barcelona – Champions League Quarter-Finals #4

Champions League Quarter-Finals Juventus v Barceclona

Image courtesy of twitter.com

The quarter-final between Juve and Barca may turn out to be the one to watch, as the best defense faces off against the best attack. Juve comes into the quarter-final having only conceded two goals throughout the competition. Juve is dominating domestically and is likely to take home the Serie A title. They hope that with a strong defense, they can frustrate Barca who looked vulnerable in the last round.

The round of 16 was a time to forget for Barca. Losing 4-0 to PSG in the first leg was something that should never have happened. They managed to turn it around with an emphatic performance at home, but things will not be so easy against Juve. Barca is currently the leading goalscorers in the competition with 26 in total. They hope that the MSN trio can carve Juve open, as they have done with so many other teams this year.

Who do you think will make it through to the next round? Let us know in the comments below.

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One Signing Each Premier League Contender Should Make in January

 

We are just past the halfway point in this Premier League season. As it stands, six teams are within ten points of the top. January is the final chance for these sides to polish their team as the final dash for the title is in sight.

Chelsea: Tiemoue Bakayoko, Monaco

Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko could help stabilize Chelsea’s midfield.

The Blues have been tearing through the league this season. New manager Antonio Conte has instilled his 3-4-3 formation into the side and Chelsea has rocketed to the top of the league. The brilliant play of summer signing N’Golo Kante has been a large reason behind Chelsea’s turnaround season. The ability to win the ball in the midfield has allowed the Blues to feed their very talented attacking players. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have each enjoyed bounce-back seasons.

If a side is going to run the 3-4-3 effectively, they need excellent defensive midfield play to make up for the one less defender at the back. While Kante and Nemanja Matic have done well thus far, Chelsea is still thin at the position. Bakayoko is just 22 years old and is enjoying a breakout season for Monaco. His dribbling ability through the middle would allow Hazard and Willian to play more wide. From there they can whip in crosses to Costa, one of the best in the air in all of England. Bakayoko’s youth is enticing as Matic is 28 and has been inconsistent at times this season. Although his playing time could be limited initially, Bakayoko will undoubtedly be a big part of the future at Stamford Bridge if Conte is able to acquire his services.

Liverpool: Quincy Promes, Spartak Moscow

Liverpool target Quincy Promes has helped Spartak Moscow to the top of the Russian Premier League

In Jurgen Klopp’s second season at Anfield, Liverpool have arisen as serious title contenders at this point in the season. Their plethora of attacking players, including Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, and Roberto Firmino have been very efficient in the attacking third.

However, Klopp will be without Mane for a large part of the next month. The Senegal international will be participating in the Africa Cup of Nations. The tournament comes at a critical time in Liverpool’s season with matches against Manchester United and Chelsea on there horizon. Promes has had a great season at Spartak. He has netted six goals and also has six assists in the Russian Premier League as Spartak have surprised by leading at this point in the season. It may be tough to coax Promes from Spartak, but Klopp should try. Promes will give Liverpool some width while Mane is away. He can play opposite Mane, which will benefit the Reds when Mane returns from international duty.

Tottenham: Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

Wilfried Zaha would bring creativity on the wing to White Hart Lane

Once again, Mauricio Pochettino has put Spurs squarely in the title conversation. Tottenham sit third in the table at the turn of the calendar year. Young players have stepped up this season, including 20-year-old midfielder Dele Alli. Spurs are fighting off Real Madrid for his services.

However, Spurs could use an outside threat to compliment their plethora of middle attacking players. Alli, Harry Kane, and Christian Eriksen have combined to score 25 goals in the league this season. All of those players are under the age of 25. 24-year-old Zaha could add to this “young core” that Pochettino has built at White Hart Lane. Zaha, who plays on the left wing at Crystal Palace, would compliment Kane, Eriksen, and Alli in the middle. Zaha is extremely skilled with the ball at his feet and has a tremendous ability to get crosses in from tough angles. Erik Lamela has been underwhelming again this season and Zaha could fill the void for Spurs.

Manchester City: Holger Badstuber, Bayern Munich

Holger Badstuber’s experience at the back could prove invaluable for Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola’s highly anticipated first year at the Etihad has been up and down. A victory against Barcelona in the Champions League showed City’s potential under Pep. However, they have been very inconsistent at times domestically. Their inconsistency, especially at the back, is the primary reason why they find themselves seven points adrift at this juncture.

Man City payed quite a bit to sign promising young English center back John Stones from Everton over the summer. Stones, while very talented and promising, is still raw. There has been more than one occasion where he has looked lost this season. Captain Vincent Kompany’s injury woes have continued and it is difficult to rely on him for an extended period of time. Eliaquim Mangala consistently underperforms when given a chance in the starting XI. Badstuber is very experienced at just 27 years of age. He has 119 caps for Bayern and 31 for the German National Team. While a permanent deal is unlikely, Pep could explore a six-month loan deal for Badstuber. This would give City added security and depth at the center back for the remainder of the season while Stones continues to develop.

 

 

 

Arsenal: Ricardo Pereira, Porto (on loan at Nice)

Ricardo Pereira is a perfect solution to Arsenal’s right-back injury crisis.

Arsene Wenger is notorious for not making moves in the January transfer window, even when his team could really use them. Fifth place Arsenal have been by no means bad this season, but there is always room for improvement at the Emirates.

Promising young right back Hector Bellerin will be out for an extended period of time with an injury and his predecessor Mathieu Debuchy is rumored to be at odds with Wenger and on his way out of North London. This leaves the underwhelming Carl Jenkinson as the only right back on the Gunners’ roster. Ricardo, who is on loan at Ligue 1 leaders Nice from Porto has exploded this season. His 7.6 match rating on WhoScored.com has him placed in their Ligue XI team of the season. He provides sound defending and security at the back. Pereira is also a threat going forward, with a goal and three assists this season. He could be a perfect solution in the interim while Bellerin is injured. And his ability going forward could see him utilized as a wing-back or midfielder when the Spaniard returns.

Manchester United: Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann would be an expensive, but worthwhile signing for Manchester United.

After a disastrous start to the season, Jose Mourinho has begun to right the ship at Old Trafford. Despite being ten points back of Chelsea, things are looking up at Old Trafford. Manchester United have played well throughout the season, but have failed to convert the many chances they create. 31 goals in the League is significantly less than the other five “contenders”.

Griezmann is widely considered one of the best players in the world and would not come cheap. However is precision in the final third is exactly what United need. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a pure striker who doesn’t create, and while Paul Pogba is one of the most creative midfielders in the world, he is limited going forward to do the teams reliance on him from a defensive standpoint. Griezmann would fit right into Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 as an attacking midfielder. He played this role brilliantly for France in this summer’s European Championships where he scored a tournament-high six goals. It also doesn’t hurt that Griezmann is close friends with fellow Frenchman Pogba. The two could do lots of damage if they play together under Mourinho.

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Real Madrid Takes Home the Champions League Trophy

Real Madrid won their 11th Champions League Trophy in dramatic fashion, scoring early in the match and converting all five of their penalties at the end of the match.

 

The game started off with a huge fifth minute save by Jan Oblak off a touch by Casemiro off a free kick from Gareth Bale.

 

Defender Sergio Ramos scored in the 15th minute off a Toni Kroos free kick flicked on by Bale. There was an offside shout from the Atletico players, but not called by the side judge.

 

Atletico put some pressure on around the 30th minute and earned a corner but were unable to put a chance on target.

 

Real keeper Keylor Navas had great save by off a volley from Antoine Griezmann in the 35th minute.

 

The final five minutes of first half Atletico had a long run of possession. The end of the first half could not have come at a worse time, they had solid build up play and got off a few shots.

Antoine Grezmann missed a crucial penalty for Atletico early in the second half. Photo courtesy goal.com.

Just off the second half kick Pepe fouled Fernando Torres in the box for a penalty. Greizmann missed the penalty off the bottom of the crossbar bouncing out past the box.

 

Daniel Carvajal was injured in a tackle and had to be subbed off for Danilo.

 

Atletico had a run of close chances right after the substitution putting three shots just off target.

 

Karim Benzema had a shot off a counter attack in the 70th minute, but was closed down well by Oblak. He was then taken off for Lucas Vázquez.

 

Real had a great run of shots drawing Oblak out of his goal but Bale couldn’t put the ball past any of the Atletico defenders in goal. On the ensuing possession Juanfran had a great cross to half-time substitute Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco to equalize at 1-1 in the 79th minute.

 

At the end of stoppage time Sergio Ramos took out Carrasco on a counter and earned a yellow. Gabi’s reaction to Ramos not getting a red card earned him a yellow. The ensuing Atletico free kick was cleared by Madrid ending regulation 1-1.

 

In extra time Real had a good chance off a corner that Ronaldo put into the ground and bounced harmlessly into the hands of Oblak. Then there were a few good chances for each team but no goals.

Ronaldo scored the last penalty to seal the win for Real Madrid. Photo courtesy businessinsider.com.

In penalties each team made their first three and Real made their fourth before Juanfran puts his off the post. Ronaldo put home the final penalty to win the trophy 5-3.