Saturday, 31 May 2014

Why Alexis Sanchez and Chile can go far

Wanted for extreme counts of flair, pace, finishing and skill, Alexis Sanchez is a top transfer target for a sweep of top European clubs including Manchester United, Juventus, Arsenal and Liverpool. Although coveted and his Barcelona future up in the air, Alexis Sanchez will have another thing on his mind at the moment, being the jockey of the Darkhorse that is Chile this summer in Brazil.

When Chile and Alexis Sanchez kick off their World Cup with a match against a struggling Australia side, they have the pleasure of not having pressure on them to go far in the competition. Most people have the two finalists of the last World Cup as the teams to advance from Group B, but Chile,spearheaded by Sanchez, have a chance to advance and set Brazil on fire.

Jorge Sampaoli, the Chile manager, is a true descendent of previous boss Marcelo Biesla. Biesla played attractive attacking football four years ago in South Africa, and Sampaoli has continued to delight fans. The boss plays a high tempo game where his side go all out in attack when in possession. When without possesssion they press defenders and harass opposing players like wasps. Players such as Alexis Sanchez have thrived under him, becoming a talisman of his national side.

In one of Chile's last international matches, the South American's traveled to Stuttgart to face Germany in a friendly. The match ended 1-0 with victory to the Germans, but scoreline didn't reflect the run of play. Chile and Sanchez opened up Germany's defence and caused them many problems throughout the night.

Alexis was the Roadrunner, leaving the Wile E. Coyote German defenders in his dust. No German player could match him for speed, or match most of the Chile team in gerneral. The Chileans abused their speed as they attacked the Germans from all angles. Alexis ghosted in behind the german defence multiple times, performing non-stop harassment of the German defenders.

The other notable stars that will be key to Chile and the ones that also caused the Germans problems were Eduardo Vargas and Arturo Vidal. Vargas like Sanchez, can buzz straight past defenders like a hornet and can be deployed centrally or on the wings. Vidal, arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in the world, never gives up until every blade of grass is covered and has a killer instinct in the attacking third.

This Chile team will hurt Australia, Netherlands and Spain when they run at their defences, spread the ball wide and players like Sanchez run in behind the oppisitions defence. The chileans can evade onrushing challenges with their agility and beat most defenders for speed. Here they can attack through pockets of space against opposing defences. The width of the pitch will be extremelty vital for Chile. Vargas and Sanchez on opposite touchlines will fly past defenders like wingmen up in the sky. They can also cross over their positions repeatedly, leaving their markers dazed and confused. The Chileans always try to impose 2 on 1 situations on the wing, usually created from the overlapping runs of Eugenia Mena down the left or Mauricio Isla down the right. The runs in behind opposing defences will be especially lethal, a move Sanchez executed numerous times and to great effectiveness against Germany. After he got behind enemy lines he acted as the architect of moves cutting delicious balls across just asking to be hit.

Together the lethal linkup and chemistry of the Chile team will be their most effective weapon. With the understanding they displayed throughout the qualifying rounds and against Germany, they showed together they can act as naval ship that can destroy anyone.

The defence of Chile is though is their weakest point. Two important cogs in their defensive machine will be Marcelo Diaz and Gary Medel. Marcelo Diaz acts as a screener to the defence, reading the game and closes down space. He can organise and link up play from the middle of the park as well, crucial to the midfield. The main defender for Chile is Gary Medel.  Medel isn't afraid to get physical with opposing attackers, but has good discipline. He can read the game like a book and make crucial interceptions and tackles when it counts. Diaz and Medel act as the armour around the achilles heel of this Chile side and will be just as key as the attackers.

With a team full of enthusiasm and a point to prove, along with players that perform on the international stage like Alexis Sanchez, Chile can go toe-to-toe with the big boys in the World Cup no matter who they are. In Brazil they will open the eyes of the world and capture the hearts of fans if they play like they have under Jorge Sampaoli in previous matches, and can look to upset Spain and Netherlands in their group.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Why Brazil can win world cup

With just over two weeks until the heart of football gives pulse to another world cup, the heartbeats of the host-nation echo across the world as players and fans alike prepare for the biggest sporting event the world has ever known.
This July Brazil host the FIFA World Cup, inviting 32 of the best to dine with them in their football kingdom, but the expectations for the banquet are huge. Fans expect their team to make it to the last course of the meal, and finish it proudly, licking the plate clean so in the reflection there will be nothing but a winner.
The pressure on  Brazil to do this though will be huge, weighing down on them the whole competition, but ifthere is anything to take away from the confederations cup it is they can handle it, and handle it with style. When Brazil won the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, there was three main aspects that won it for them and these aspects are what amkes them the favourites to win the world cup.

The Defence
For once Brazil's attack may be outshone in their own country, but not by another teams attack, but their own opposite end. In last years confederations cup, Brazil managed to score fourteen goals in five matches, but their defence rivaled their star-studded attack by conceding only three goals in five matches. The rock-solid defence of Brazil featured Barcelona's Danni Alves, Chelsea's David Luiz, Paris Saint Germain's Thiago Silva and Real Madrid's Marcelo. This all-star defence consisted of four players from four different clubs, across three different leagues, but never has a Brazil defence shown as much chemistry as they did.
The center back partnership of David Luiz and Thiago Silva acted as two guards blocking off all visitors to the goals during the campaign, rarely doing wrong. The cohesion displayed between the fullbacks and the center backs was evident in the final, as when Marcelo pushed up multiple times to attack against Spain in the final, David Luiz covered the vacant left back role every time, a road block to any counter attacks. The dynamic duo of Danni Alves and Marcelo both fulfilled their defensive duties well, but when in attack, their overlapping runs and deadly deliveries flourished, and was too much for their opposite numbers to handle.

The Fans
No body else is as football crazy as the Brazilians, and it's their chance to prove it when Brazil's campaign kicks off on June 12 against Croatia. If the fans are like they were at the confederations cup last summer, the stadium will be electric, with the Croatians conducting the electricity and getting zapped. In the confederations cup the Brazilians were strongly behind their nation, with fans in David Luiz wigs, Neymar masks and in full-body green paint to represent fan favourite Hulk. If the fans keep up this enthusiasm it will give the players more energy and reason to perform in their own backyard. The Brazil fans in their famous yellow and green will be pivotal for their countries hopes, being the twelfth man on the field for their country, and will be just as important as the players.

Neymar
The brightest star that shone last Summer in the Confederations Cup, Neymar will look to be the talisman of his country again. Although having a roller coaster of a debut season at Barcelona, Neymar can redeem himself as the most promising talent in the world by putting on a show in Brazil in the upcoming World Cup. The number 11 in the national side already has impressive international statistics, with 30 goals in 47 appearances in the famous yellow and green. It is no secret Neymar is key to Felepe Scolari's team, as displayed by his performances in the Confedertaions Cup and previous international matches where his pace, flair, trickery and finishing made him a class above the rest of his team. In the whole of the confederations cup final last Summer Neymar ran multiple defences ragged. The Brazilian skipped past challenges from some of the best defenders in the world, linked up well with his team mates and pulled wicked tricks out of his Halloween bag. The fan favourite is also capable of bringing the fans into matches, exciting them and letting them raise their voices to the roof. With these qualities Neymar is the soul of the Brazil national side, being a proven performer for his side and will be a weapon of mass destruction for his coach felepe scolari.

These three aspects will act as the Judge, Jury and Executioner respectively for the Brazil national team. From the defence to the fans to Neymar, all will be important for the hosts of the world cup's journey to the pot of gold that is at the end of the rainbow.

Why Neymar will shine this summer

A star that outshines the other twenty one on the field whenever he plays for Brazil, Neymar has a bright world cup to look forward to in just over two weeks. With his talent soon to be on display for the whole world to see in his backyard at the tender age of twenty two, Neymar has the chance to grow larger than life and become immortalized along with the greats such as Zinedane Zidane, Diego Maradona and Pele.

Although coming off a roller coaster debut season at Barcelona, Neymar's international record of thirty goals in forty seven appearances suggests that he will produce fireworks in Brazil, using his range of talents to light stadiums up. It is no secret Neymar will be the talisman for Felepe Scolari's side this summer, as shown in his international career and especially last year's Confederations Cup, where he displayed how he deserves to have the legendary number 10 on his back.

Last year's Confederations Cup was the first time Neymar donned on the legendary number 10, and it seemed to have possessed him. The Brazilian's flair, pace, trickery and finishing left the best of the best for dead. The 22 year old's performances showed his talents as he outclassed nations including Italy, Uruguay and reigning World Cup champions Spain, scoring a total of four goals in five games. Neymar looked to have appeared as a ghost to these nations, the defences never having an answer or response to his trickery and movement on and off the ball. In the attacking third Neymar was a gazelle, skipping gracefully along the grass past onrushing challenges, but as soon as he entered box, Neymar was a hungry jungle cat, pouncing on his prey and dispatching his chances.

With the marketing of the upcoming world cup being colourful and fresh, it's only natural Neymar is the poster-boy. The young Brazilian plays a colourful, charismatic game where he ignites crowds when he is on fire. His trickery and ball skills rally them and get them to raise the roof, bringing the twelfth man alive. This in turn creates an electric atmosphere and no matter who the opposition is they get zapped, but Brazil conducts it and gets supercharged.

The partnerships Neymar formed in the Confederations Cup also show why he will be the star of the world cup. His linkup play with Oscar Dos Santos, Fred and Hulk was amazing. The four of them seem to have a telekinesis relationship, reading each other's minds and understanding each other's movements. The best display of the four horsemen of Brazil's effectiveness was the third goal against Spain in the Confederations Cup final. The move started when Oscar tapped a ball into the feet of Hulk in the attacking third, who then spread it wide for Neymar to run over and drag defenders with him. The ball then ended up at the feet of Fred who put the ball past Casillas into the back of the net.

In Neymar, Brazil have a strong figurehead at the front of their strong international naval vessel. The Brazilian's God-given talent, charisma and linkup play are what will make him the star and shine ever so bright in Brazil this summer.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Unhappy Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure's relationship this season with City was that of a rose, simply beautiful, but it appears the thorns have grown. Toure is supposedly unhappy according to his agent, Dimitry Seluk, claiming the Ivorian is unhappy with how he was treated by Manchester City on his birthday.

All the speculation stemmed from Toure's agent's interview to The Sun, claiming the his client was 'So upset he's thinking of leaving' after City supposedly didn't wish him a happy 31st birthday last week. Yaya Toure looked to quell speculation of being unhappy a few days after the interview was published by joking on twitter the birthday card from City had 'just arrived' and 'Must have got lost in the post. Haha.'

The Ivorian then suggested his agent's words were not reflecting his view and attitude, tweeting with his account @Toure_yaya42 'Jokes aside. Please do not take words that do not come out of MY mouth seriously. Judge my commitment to @MCFC by my performances.'

The top scorer for Manchester City in the Premier League though has now made a U-Turn on his comments, back tracking and seamlessly agreeing with his agent's words by tweeting 'Everything Dimitry said is true . He speaks for me . I will give an interview after world cup to explain'.

If Yaya Toure was to leave City next season it would leave a black hole in the midfield, as he was instrumental to City winning the title last season, and is a fan favourite at the Etihad. Although the midfielder's agent has stated Toure wasn't recognized on his birthday, Manchester City's YouTube channel uploaded a video last week featuring the players and staff singing to the big man, adding more confusion to this tale that has arisen from nothing.

Manchester United's Transfer Targets



              Team Manchester United should look at building for next season:
             Januzaj        Van Persie         Alexis
                   Rooney                 Mata                
                                 Martinez
Shaw         Benatia         Jones            Rafael
                           De Gea



With a season's end that is black and white contrasted to last years end where they lifted the Premier League Trophy, Manchester United have gone from being the noisy neighbours to the ones that phone the police when irritated by the noise of their Sky Blue neighbours. Last season saw the unfamiliar sight of a Fergie-less touchline at Old Trafford, instead it was graced by another Scotsman who never fitted the billing and a team legend. Now with the season over and United eager to start work with Louis Van Gaal, the problems that floated around Old Trafford like litter in the ocean have to be cleaned out, with a fresh start to the season having to be the main priority.
The question of the moment for United is who should they bring in to create dreams again at the Theatre that is Old Trafford. With no invite to the exclusive European feast known as the Champions League to attract players next season, it may be hard for the Red Devils to convince players to join, but their history and rebuilding project should still attract the best-of-the-best. Here are the players Manchester United should target with their supposed war chest of 200 million pounds.

Luke Shaw:
The hottest property in England right now, Luke Shaw has earned that label by being an important cog in the machine that is Southampton. The 18 year old has caught the eye of the English giants as well as other clubs including neighbours Manchester City and Chelsea. Shaw has received praise for his attacking threat down the left touchline and being sound defensively. The Englishman would add a flair to the United wing with his pace, agility, crossing ability and delicate dribbling. The Southampton number 23 is also not afraid to take defenders on, using his quick switch of pace to accelerate away, a true menace to defences. The Left back in the PFA Team of the season's defensive side is also sound for someone of his age and experience, having good timing for challenges and isn't afraid to take on bigger men.  The attacking instinct and defensive sense would make the Southampton star shine bright in the Theatre of Dreams.








Mehdi Benatia:
One of the cornerstones of the Roma team that was been a surprise package last season in Serie A, Morocco International Mehdi Benatia is one of the most wanted defenders in Europe right now. The Roma Center back was the warden of the jail that was the Roma defence,  having applied lock-down to many sides last campaign. There are various attributes that have made Benatia a rock at the back for his side. The Moroccan has great strength which he uses to out muscle attackers and applies it to make powerful challenges. Benatia is a very good reader of the game, reading plays like a book. He uses this god-given ability to make crucial interceptions and knowledge of when to make a challenge on an attacker. Another attribute that makes the Moroccan special is that he is also good with the ball at his feet, as he is able to dodge tackles and charge down the middle of the park like a rhinoceros. With the departure of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, Medhi Benatia is very much needed at Manchester United, and would be a great addition to the twenty time English champions.




Javi Martinez:
The forgotten man last term for Bayern Munich, Javi Martinez's defensive midfield role acts as armour to the back four, an area that left flesh exposed last season at United. The Spaniard last season was rarely used by Pep Guardiola, making just 14 starts for the Bavarians in the Bundesliga.  Martinez's importance to Bayern Munich was reflected in the 4-0 demolition Real Madrid gave Bayern in the Champions League Semi-Final at the Allianz, as it seemed there was a black hole in the middle of the park, no one to stop the Real Madrid counter attacks. Javi Martinez is also versatile, able to play as a center back or holding midfielder, with his strengths being his timing and reading of the game. The Spaniard is best deployed though as a screener in front of the back four where he exerts these qualities, and where under Jupp Heynckes in the treble winning season he broke down many plays through crucial interceptions and tackles. In a position that was weak last season for Manchester United, Javi Martinez would be a perfect addition to the team, being an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle. His ability to sit in front of the back four and protect them as well as being able to play there himself would make him a great signing for the Red Devils, adding depth to a thin midfield and defence.





Alexis Sanchez:
Wanted when he was the Catalyst of Udinese, the Serie A Player of the Season resisted the temptation of playing in the famous red of Manchester and chose La Liga giant Barcelona, but it has been a rocky road.  Although the Spear-head of the Chile team enjoyed his best season in the famous red and blue under Gerardo Martino, Alexis had been reverted to the bench for the season defining games such as both Atletico Madrid ties in the Champions league, all El Classico's (Even though he came off that warm bench to score the winner in the first of the season), and both ties against Manchester City in Europe. Sanchez is an electric player who leaves players in his dust, speeding past them like the road runner. Sanchez is also a magician when in the oppositions half, producing moments of magic like his chip against Real Madrid and his goal against Atletico Madrid on the final match-day. Having scored 19 goals in 34 appearances in La Liga, 7 of those appearances off the bench, along with 10 assists, Sanchez can be the difference in a match, and that is what Manchester United look for in a player. Alexis is a player that appreciates being valued and seen as irreplaceable, and that's why if United make a strong approach for him, he could be the Romeo to the United fans Juliet.






Monday, 19 May 2014

Arsenal's challenge next season

After a nine year drought in North London that saw the rain clouds hover mainly over Manchester, North London's excruciating dry spell is over. After a hard fought battle, the Gunners tamed the tigers on the weekend, coming back from 2-0 down to finally add silverware to the lonely trophy cabinet in Emirates that lacked a new sparkle.
The question now though on the lips of Arsenal supporters is if they can now challenge for more silverware next season. Last season Arsenal had the pleasure to be on top of the most exciting league on the planet for the longest time of any team last season, and just recently lifted the FA Cup, tasting the fruit from the tree that has for so long been out of their reach. To experience the sensation of being a champion again and to amass a better Premier League challenge, Arsene Wenger needs to look back at where their league challenge went wrong, from the results against the top four to the squad fatigue linking with the failed transfer windows. 

Last season Arsenal spent Spent 128 days atop Mount Olympus, looking down at the rest of the League with Zeus by it's side. Arsene Wenger's side enjoyed the view longer than any other club, but ended up free-falling from the clouds and pulled the parachute to finish fourth. Up until December last year the gunners were proving their doubters wrong by continuing their hike, showing no signs of slowing down, but they soon stopped climbing and hit their peak. The North London side's season changed when they were knocked off the cliff by Manchester City 6-3 at the Etihad. They tried to go toe-to-toe with the Sky Blues, attack vs attack, but their arms were too short to box with the best. The North London outfit's key games against the top four after the humiliation at the Etihad didn't improve and look that of champions; picking up two points out of a possible twelve. The Gunners suffered two more humiliations at the hands of Liverpool and Chelsea, away at Anfield and Stamford Bridge respectively. At Anfield a first time football fan would be forgiven for believing Arsenal was a relegation threatened team, conceding four goals in the first twenty minutes. The reds went marched onto a 5-1 win over the Gunners, one in which that saw Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel bag braces and Daniel Sturridge snag a single. At Stamford Bridge, Arsenal's defence was scrambled all over the park like letters scattered over a knocked over scrabble board. The Blues cruised to a 6-0 humiliation over the visitors, a humiliation that saw Kieran Gibbs wrongly sent off after Alex                Oxlaide-Chamberlain handled in the box. Altogether Arsenal managed five points out of a possible eighteen against the big boys, with a goal difference of -11. The solitary win and two draws against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City respectively at the Emirates reflected how the Gunners manage hold their own against top opposition at home, but retrospectively get blown away when they are the visitors. To improve their fortunes against the top 4, Arsene Wenger needs to change his tactics when visiting. The Frenchman can not set his teams out to outscore opponents away from home and win the midfield battle like last season. This naive thinking failed against the three teams as away to Manchester City Fernandinho and Yaya Toure out muscled the midfield pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey, to Liverpool the midfield trio of Jordan henderson, Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho out-numbered the pair of Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere, and last to Chelsea where David Luiz and Nemanja Matic manhandled Mikel Arteta and Alex       Oxlaide-Chamberlain. The 4231 set up against these teams fails against these midfield monsters, with arsenal fielding midfield maestros against them. A 433 would be more adept as an extra man in midfield could give the gunners a better chance to hold the midfield against teams with more physical opponents, as Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta are not suited to acting as road blocks to these Monster Trucks.


Last season when Mesut Ozil joined the gunners, he was lighting stadiums up, producing fireworks wherever he went, but towards the new year he started to run out of gun powder, started to look jagged. The German was not alone though, as he was met by the Gunner's striker, Olivier Giroud. The two main pieces to the Arsenal jigsaw started to play with less intensity and at a slower pace. In February, Ozil was taken off at half time after aggravating his hamstring. A more than likely cause of the injury was the German play-maker's fatigue, Arsene Wenger rarely opting to rest the former Real Madrid number ten. Olivier Giroud's the other Arsenal player guilty of looking jagged. The former Montpellier man played a total of 3083 minutes last season in the premier league out of a possible 3420 minutes, starting 36 games. The striker also started seven games in the Champions League, so it was no surprise the striker looked fatigued, but Arsene Wenger persisted in playing the France international. The chance to sign a back-up striker in the January transfer window fell to Arsene Wenger, but he wasted it .The Gunners were in a good position in the table, but he refused to sign another forward and add more depth. instead opting to sign Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom on loan from Spartak Moscow. The Swede in turn made only three appearances, two of them off the bench. If Arsenal look to have a more effective and longer title challenge next season they have to use both transfer windows more wisely, with a world class striker being their main priority. Strikers the gunners are linked with include Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani and Mario Mandzukic. All three are strikers that on paper would do well for the gunners, but as long as Arsene Wenger signs any world class forward it would be a step in the right direction for the Gunners.The Gunners also need a strong physical presence in the midfield, someone who can make challenges, hold the oppositions attacks when everyone else is pushed forward and have a good workrate. It was the absence of a man of this calibre that allowed Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea to pull the strings in this department against Arsenal. Targets matching these descriptions include Paris Saint Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi and Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira. Both would act as a shield to the back four of the Gunners, protecting the back four from opposing counter attacks, and make challenges to get the ball back. These two are just what Arsenal need, and would add some much needed depth to the Arsenal holding midfield.


After lifting a trophy after a long, dark, solemn nine years, Gunner fans and players alike will only want more. If Arsene Wenger improves on the areas where his side's Premier League challenge ran off the rails, they have a chance of giving their new FA Cup trophy a friend next season.



Thursday, 15 May 2014

Barcelona's second chance

With all the negative noise coming from the Barcelona Camp about new managers and unsatisfied players, you would be forgiven for assuming they were a team doomed for relegation like Fulham, but they are quite the opposite; the Catalans are two wins away from a successive La Liga trophy. For a team with the rich history of Barcelona that few clubs can rival, it's unfamiliar for the club to come out publicly and state how much of a failure this campaign has been when they are within touching distance of the trophy, their breath fogging up the glass holding the trophy.
After writing themselves off, Barcelona players and fans alike must have had a sleepless night following their 2-2 draw with Granada, the club losing it's pulse in La Liga, but little did they know this was the best result from the top three clubs in the league. Atletico Madrid lost away to Levante, and Barcelona's fierce El Classico rivals drew away to Valencia and with Real Valadoid, thus reviving the battling Barcalona.
After publicly speaking about how he isn't 'good enough' to be Barcelona manager, the Catalans have been revived with the defibrillators being the other top contenders misfortunes. They have awoke to see this 'failure' of a season is only now one win away from retaining their beloved trophy. Along with Tata Martino's negative words, Barcelona war-hero Xavi Hernandez gave an explicit description of the current season, but now they can see the light from the two Madrid teams burns.
Now behind the wheel again, Barcelona have got refueled and received new tires, and entered the race again, right behind Atletico Madrid for the overtake. With a win against an Elche with a previous nine game unbeaten run, the title bout between Tata Martino and Diego Simeone will leave one manager lifting the belt and the other left for dead having given their all.

 To beat a ruthless and hungry wolf in Atletico Madrid, Barcelona need to unleash the superhero who wears blue and red, the Amazing Lionel Messi.
In what many has considered a poor season for the four time Ballon D'Or winner, Lionel Messi has hit twenty-eight goals with ten assists in twenty-eight appearances in La Liga. Although having an envious scoring record in La Liga, the Argentine hasn't scored against Atletico in the five meetings they had this season. In both ties of the Champions League quarter finals, whenever the Argentine touched the ball he was swarmed and stung by the Atletico players. In the match that will decide the title, Messi will know the Atletico players will stick to the same aggressive mantra, so he has to anticipate that he will attract players like a magnet, so he can use this to make his teammates options. When he touches the ball, he can draw players away, and setup teammates making runs in behind. If Messi is the difference, it will rubbish all the criticism he has gathered, from reports of him being lazy or saving himself for the world cup.

Barcelona need to be united and believe this weekend when they face an Atletico Madrid team that has defied the odds all season. The Catalan's Talisman Lionel Messi will need to be a class above the rest when the ball is kicked at the Camp Nou on the weekend, hopefully bringing joy to what has been a lackluster season for the Catalans.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Manchester City's next target

High up in the sky, looking down at the rest, the Sky Blues have just conquered the mountain that is the Barclay's Premier League. Although feeling on top of the world with the majestic view from the top of their domestic Mountain, towering above them to their side and rising above the heavens, is a mountain rivaling Olympus, looking down at all of Europe. City have attempted three expeditions up this mountain, falling off the edge all times. Now though, as they prepare to hike up it again, they can have no excuses to fear this mountain that has never been conquered successively by the one club, the UEFA Champions League.

Having won the Barclay's Premier League twice in three years, the Citizens have had a run at the UEFA Champions League three times over the last three years. Out of those three occasions the furthest they have managed is the round of last sixteen. Having just led a domestic crusade by winning the Premier League on the final day of the season, City need to consider conquering Europe their main target next season. To make a successful impact on Europe, the Sky Blues should consider the quarter finals the minimum, with the semi-finals being a success. Although dominating domestic opponents with a world class squad, they still have a few steps forward to take to take Europe by storm; the Citizens need to act in the transfer market and buy a world class center back partner for Vincent Kompany, they cannot fear teams with holding more European experience and the Etihad should be a fortress feared throughout Europe.

A part of City's demise in their last European campaign was caused by Martin Demechilis. The Argentine was a grenade, with Barcelona pulling the pin. He slid tackled Lionel Messi when last man at the edge of the box, giving away a needless penalty, and resulting in an early shower in the change rooms. To make it in Europe against the best opposition in the world, the Citizen's need to look at options available in the Summer to partner Vincent Kompany in defence. Three realistic world-class center backs the Sky Blues should chase after include Porto star Eliaquim Mangala, Benfica's Argentine Ezquel Garay and Morocco's monster Medhi Benatia. Highly rated versatile Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala, capable of playing center back and Left back, has received praise because of his pace, strength and aforementioned versatility. With his pace and strength, the Frenchman is able to recover quickly for himself and teammates. The Porto man would also easily fit in with Manuel Pellegrini's style as he is good and confident with the ball at his feet, all this at the tender age of twenty three.The second Primeira Liga center half is Argentina's Ezquiel Garay, twenty eight years old, who has been a cornerstone in Benfica's hopeful domestic treble and Europa League campaign. The Argentine has strong pace but is praised for his defensive attributes, reading the game like a book. He is strong and able to out muscle attackers, and good in the air. The last of the the three center backs City should target is Medhi Benatia, the rock of AS Roma's rise this season. The Moroccan has been exceptional at the back for Roma, the warden of the Jail that applies lock-down to attackers. He is praised along with the other two for his turn of pace, strength off set pieces and puts his all into every challenge. The defender is always a threat off set pieces, and commands his area with ease. With either of these three center backs paired with Vincent Kompany, Manchester City's defence would be unbreakable with two of the world's best center backs.

Although Demichelis played a part in the fall of City, they ultimately shot themselves in the foot when they hosted Barcelona at the Etihad. City were not the almighty Kings hosting unworthy servants at their Etihad feast, instead they were the royal court Jesters entertaining Barcelona. They allowed Barcelona to hold the ball and play with it, a style City have adopted in their domestic league. This resulted in a 0-2 home loss to the Catalans, showing the inexperience of the English Champions. To leave a mark in Europe, City have to be the bully, get in the face of the opposition and show their quality, not be the one giving up the lunch money. They can not allow teams that have more experience to have a walk in the park. When City traveled to the Camp Nou though, they played like they should have played at home. They pressed Barcelona, showed they weren't scared, and created solid goal scoring opportunities. Although leaving Europe last season with glimpses of what they can do when they were the hungry, wild jungle cats, City's last campaign will be remembered for rolling over like the humbled lion, a trap they cannot fall into again.

When a team walked down the tunnel of the Etihad in the Premier League and saw the 'Pride In Battle' motto before the tunnel exit, they knew they were going to war. In the 19 battles that took place at the Etihad, City walked out victor's seventeen times. They won a total of fifty two points points out of a possible fifty seven. This stadium will be an important aspect in Manchester City's European challenge. The Sky Blues have to make examples out of teams. They have to turn the stadium into a European Gladiator Pit. It should strike fear into the unlucky opponents, make them afraid to step out into the barbaric atmosphere. Though to succeed in creating a fearful destination for opponents, the fans and players alike have to work together. If the fans are always behind the home team and create an electric atmosphere, the opposition will get zapped. Together, they can make it a destination that strikes fear into any opposition; whether they be a Bayern Munich, Barcelona or a Real Madrid.

With a special spot sitting in the Etihad trophy cabinet waiting for the Champions League trophy, City need to win that trophy before the dust settles. To win the famous trophy, the Citizens just have to take a few steps forward, and if they do, they have a real chance of impacting Europe, and prove that Manchester is now blue.



Sunday, 11 May 2014

Miracles in Manchester

''We have to understand that now we are in this position, it’s a miracle. We thought that Chelsea would beat Sunderland – they didn’t'
'We thought Chelsea would go to Liverpool with a second team and lose - but they won.
'Now that we are here, it doesn’t matter where we are playing, we have to get a result and win it because it’s a miracle we are still here.
These words spoken by Manchester City's midfield maestro Samir Nasri echoed the thoughts of Manchester City players and fans alike about where they were positioned in the 38 lap race that is the Barclay's Premier League. Each lap represented a tough match in the most exciting football league in the world, and just as Samir Nasri put it, no matter who you are, you have to agree it was miraculous campaign for City. This season was extraordinary, like no other, and will not be forgotten for some time. It saw a Theatre of Dreams turn to a Stadium of Despair, a blue fortress in London lucked out by Black Cats, and a Red Merseyside team soar too close to the Sun.
The coveted place at the top of the Barclay's Premier League table nursed many worn out and wounded soldiers, from Liverpool team punching above their weight to a team that plays 'anti-football', but in the end, City finished in the position that had slipped from their grip multiple times, like keys stuck in a drain. When the race hit the green light, Manchester City were positioned at the front, favourites to take the silverware. They were guilty of a 100 million pound spending spree, only other club rivaling them being Tottenham, but what won the title for City was something money couldn't buy, miracles, and three single miracles stand out to be the ones that won the title for the Sky Blues.


Slaying the beast
In what was thought to be a match in which City would run away with, City were left dazed and weakened after captain Vincent Kompany was sent off after a short thirteen minutes against a mid-table Hull City. With a point looking like the best result away from home and a man down, City disregarded this handicap and lived up to their mantra, 'Pride in Battle'. David Silva opened the scoring for the Sky Blues with a beautiful finesse, good enough for any highlight reel. In battle, instead of hiding behind the shield, blocking swipes and attacks, they grabbed the sword and slayed the tiger. In victory, the Sky Blues showed off the head of the fallen beast, and in doing so, proved they were champions without the trophy, champions in waiting. If this match was played earlier in the season under the same circumstances, you would be forgiven in believing Hull would be the team taking the three points and displaying the head of their fallen enemy, but to Manchester City's credit, they turned their away fortunes around and rode their luck to the final whistle.

Sunderland upset Chelsea
In what was the first of City's major miracles featuring Chelsea, the Black Cats rode their luck from the Etihad and for the second time in a week impacted the title race. Gus Poyet's side were  favourites for the drop, but after sucker-punching a ghostly Manchester City, the Argentine's side had unfinished business. Connor Wickham, the man who slowed down City, struck again against another title chaser, scoring the equalizer against Chelsea. Fabio Borini, the Italian on loan from Liverpool coolly dispatched a penalty to down the European Giants, thinking he was giving his owner club a step closer to the title. This shocking win would knock out a title contender, give one hope, and lead to another's demise. Now, just to match the teams with the proper outcomes; Chelsea were the team knocked out, City were given hope, and Liverpool had been lead to demise, but how? The result meant Chelsea would now just focus on their champions league semi-final tie with Atletico Madrid, meaning Jose Mourinho would rest players. Brendan Rodgers thought this would go to his side's advantage, but it didn't. He perhaps underestimated Chelsea's 'B-Side' and instead of playing for the draw he was tempted by Jose Mourinho like the serpent tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, and just like the latter, he paid the price.


Jose Mourinho's Lock-down
When Manchester City left Anfield, they were shadows. The players had fought against the Liverpool players and fans like Leonidas and his army of 300 against the thousands of Persians, and it just about killed them. When Sunderland traveled to the Etihad in one of the two games the Sky Blues had in hand for what seemed an eternity, everyone looked to see a response from the title chasers. In what was a game that saw the familiar mojo of city at their home missing, the Black Cats sucker punched the aspiring champions with a 2-2 draw. Now three points behind Liverpool, Manchester City had to call a favour from an unlikely source, Jose Mourinho. The 'Special One' had applied lock-down to City twice in the league, securing 1-0 wins on both occasions. Chelsea were out of the title race, and the man himself stated he would start a B-Team against the league leaders to rest key players for the Champions League. City looked to be chasing false rainbows in thinking Jose Mourinho would halt Liverpool, but they found the pot of gold at the end. Chelsea secured an unforgettable vintage 'Special One' 2-0 away win, Liverpool flying too close to the Sun. With a 2-0 away win against an in-form Crystal Palace, the Citizens were back in the hot seat. Having been crossed out and re-written in title favourites in the space of one week, Manuel Pellegrini owes a certain Portuguese someone a phone call. 

The Barclay's Premier League is the most exciting league in the world, and in order to lift the trophy in the future, a team needs top players, a top manager, top results and a few miracles along the way, with the new Champions having displayed all those aspects at their disposal this campaign.










Saturday, 10 May 2014

Mario Mandzukic's future


With the imminent arrival of Robert Lewandowski around the corner and being dropped by Pep Guardiola for the DFB-Pokal final against Borussia Dortmund this weekend, Mario Mandzukic must be considering his options for next season. The Striker has been a faithful servant to his Bayern masters ever since he joined the Bavarians in 2012. Since then the clinical Croatian has been regarded with a reputation for sniffing out the goals and pouncing on the opportunities, displaying this sixth sense since he was the alpha in his old pack at Wolfsburg. This season Mario has struck 18 times, two less than his counterpart Lewandowski, the Polish international beating the Croatian on the final day of the season. Although being an integral part to Bayern, and having a bright world cup to look forward to in just over month, spearheading his native Croatia, Mario Mandzukic must evaluate his options in the Summer and decide if he best ply his trade elsewhere.
The second top scorer in the last Bundesliga has no short list of clients after his signature, with interest from European giants such as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Real Madrid, and his current club aren't so keen on giving up the Croatia International. Although the 2013 treble winners may be reluctant to let one of their bright stars shine in another sky, the choices may be limited if the striker pushes for a transfer. With his services coveted by many clubs, if Mandzukic decides to leave he has to choose what is his best destination, which team will bring out the best in him.

Mario Mandzukic plays best as a lone wolf up front, sniffing out his chances, an ultimate opportunist. He would act the perfect target man at any club; 6'2, great strength, lethal finishing and outstanding jumping ability paired with heading. He is simply any creative midfielder's delight to play with. When a cross is whipped into the box and Mario is among the bodies, there is a good chance a goal scoring opportunity will be created. His pin point heading is lethal no matter how good of quality the delivered ball is, with his timing and execution of the jump a level above the rest. The Croatian uses his God-Given ability to snag a goal or setup a teammate, like he did with Bastian Schweinsteiger against Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final tie. With amazing heading and prolific finishing, Mandzukic is someone a manager wants the ball passed to in the box. The positioning of the prolific striker is arguably his greatest attribute. Mandzukic plays more like a space shuttle leaving earth, finds space and enters orbit around the defence. Teammates don't even have to raise their heads to play a pass as he is always one-step ahead of his markers, using instinct over speed.

Being the target man he is, Mario Mandzukic always wants his team in possession. If his team don't have the ball, the Bayern Striker won't just wait like a boy staring at his presents under the tree on Christmas Eve, he will instead rip open the wrapping of the presents, going back and trying to get the ball up field. When defenders around him have possession, the Croatian is a bull, charging down defenders applying pressure. 
Although not the paciest and most agile, Mandzukic has quick feet with the ball. He is able to skip past defenders and give himself space and time. When he does this he can make his teammates options or give himself a chance to shoot. 

With all these qualities, the Croatia striker has to have a real look at his future and decide which team will bring out the best in him. Manchester United are in rebuilding mode, and have four strikers already in the form of Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. They have also not been invited back to the exclusive European feast known as the Champions League, a competition that Mario deserves to play in. 

Real Madrid have been blessed by Karim Benzema's form this season, holding the ball up effectively for teammates such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to run onto, acting as their target man. 
With Chelsea needing a strong figurehead for their powerful Naval vessel, and Arsenal needing a new cannon for their fortress, these are two ideal destinations. Chelsea need a strong target man with a Mourinho-esque workrate, and with both these qualities marked off, Mario Mandzukic would walk straight into one of Jose Mourinho's training sessions. Having a killer instinct reminiscent of a great white, Mandzukic would feed off the scraps that Eden Hazard and Oscar Dos Santos present him with. Both play makers would gut open the defences with the prolific striker reaping the rewards. With both play makers constantly creating chances for their strikers last season Demba Ba, Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o, the pair wouldn't even have to look up to pick out the Croatian.

If though the Bayern Munich front-man joined Arsenal, he would play ahead of the midfield maestro Mesut Ozil, who would be able to play him through on goal blind folded. Being easily capable of scoring a header, Mandzukic is just as able to head crosses down to teammates. Mandzukic would use this strength, acting as a powerful cannon, firing balls in every direction when in hold up play. Being capable to hold the ball and dispatch it for his electrifying wingers in Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain to chase down, the Croatian striker would add a creative spark to his engine. 

With many clubs after the prolific striker, Mario Mandzukic has a tough choice ahead of him; fight for his less than guaranteed striker position at Bayern Munich or dispatch goals elsewhere for clubs that on paper he looks sure to succeed in such as Arsenal or Chelsea.



Friday, 9 May 2014

Partnership that won City the League

With each premier league season that goes by there is a partnership that defines a team; Liverpool's attacking mantra summarised by the SAS, Suarez and Sturridge, Chelsea's dominant defence summed up by the two rocks at the back, Gary Cahill and John Terry, and City's pair was thought to be Beauty and the Beast, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo, but this was wrong. Not only was the partnership not even the best in the team, it didn't even paint the right image of what Manchester City has been like this season, giving them a false identity. The true identity was painted by two artists, a partnership of art that would rival Michelangelo and Raphael, the partnership of two artistas that would be the heart of a Manchester City side needing colour, the partnership of David Silva and Samir Nasri.

When the season kicked off, most believed Samir Nasri and David Silva were too similar to be on the same pitch, only one being able to play. Manuel Pelegrinni seemed to agree with this belief at the start of the season, starting David Silva in the first game of the season in the starting eleven and Nasri on the bench, but soon the partnership of these two exploded into life on a canvas when played together.
The midfield pair of Samir Nasri and David Silva appear to mirror each other perfectly; both start on a wing but feel more comfortable cutting inside off their designated wings, both like to play short, quick one touch passes drawing triangles,  both are fast off the mark and good with their feet, and  just like when staring into a mirror, the kick of a right foot will appear as a left, this quality distilled between the two as Samir is right footed and David is left.

When starting for Manchester City, the pair of Samir Nasri and David Silva will start on opposite wings, but will end the match having covered each others starting touchline as well. When the ball is kicked off, the first thing the two will do is drift inside and call for the ball. The best example of the effectiveness of this unorthodox tactic was displayed when Manchester City beat Arsenal 6-3 at the fortress known as the Etihad. Both the Frenchman and the Spaniard came off their touchlines and swapped wings multiple times, getting the full back pairing of Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs dizzy and never having a solitary moment of peace. The amount of runs each made in behind the line of defence was remarkable given that Arsenal's back four was one of the strongest in the league, having conceded only eleven goals in fifteen matches, the fullbacks never picking up the runs as they constantly lost their marker. When drifting inside, Gibbs and Sagna didn't know whether to follow them, being drawn out of position, or stay where they were. When they chose to follow the Frenchman or Spaniard, they were made to pay as Manchester City's fullbacks performed over lapping runs, given time and space to pick the perfect final ball. When though, they chose to ignore the runs and dribbles of the two midfield maestros cutting in, they paid the price twice, as the quick feet of Samir Nasri wore out those of the big German Per Mertesacker, while David Silva's ballet graced Laurient Koscielny.

The quick, creative one touch style of David Silva and Samir Nasri both bring out the best in each other, teaching midfielders and defenders basic geometry lessons, drawing shapes with their intricate passes around them. This quality has opened up many teams, with players not even getting near the ball. A great show presented by these by two was the own goal scored by Glen Johnston in the much anticipated 'Title Decider' between Liverpool and Manchester City. Both were in the hive of the Merseyside's box, swarmed by the Liverpool defence, but managed to play a short, quick one-two, which gave Silva the chance to dispatch a deadly ball, resulting in a goal. When these two perform plays such as those they rival William Shakespeare, with the duo leaving their English audience delighted and in awe just like the latter.

A strong part of each of their game is the fact that both are quick and agile, easily able to glide past defenders easily with the ball glued to their feet. The dancing feet of Nasri paired with the ballet grace of David Silva compliment each other. Nasri lives for one-on-one situation with defenders, usually dropping the shoulder or pulling something out such as step overs from his bag of tricks.  David Silva though thrives off multiple defenders driving towards him, giving his teammates more space to operate in and a chance to pick out the killer pass to gut the defence.

With so many qualities shared between the two, there has to be something different, and the preferred footing is that something. With Nasri right footed and Silva left, they are able to offer something different to each other when they are on opposite wings and swap over. They are able to punt hopeful and killer crosses into the box with their respective foot, giving varieties of balls, and shoot with their respective foot. When cutting inside, Nasri pulls the trigger with his right, Silva with his left, this leaving the defenders dumbfounded as when they are swapping and crossing over the field, they can't press the both of them to use the same foot, having to change their tactics multiple times.

In what has been a season that City have won their games mostly from within the midfield, the partnership of David Silva and Samir Nasri has blossomed, being a thing of beauty more than a football relationship. It has left fans with a sweet taste in their mouths hoping to see more of this love story next season when City defend their English Crown.


Monday, 5 May 2014

Liverpool Heartbreak

Six more to go! This was the feeling that Liverpool exerted as it felt they were able to score another six goals to match the goal difference of Manchester City, but this would turn to be their downfall.
The goal spree started with Joe Allen in the 18th minute, nodding home a corner. Daniel Sturridge doubled the advantage after the break, with a deflected effort that bounced past Julian Speroni. Two minutes later the score was made 0-3 to the visitors by the one, the only, Luis Suarez. Sterling played in a delicate ball that Suarez put away with ease, but instead of celebrating like the job was done, the prolific Uruguayan picked the ball out of the net as if they had just equalized. The mentality was to score more to match Manchester CIty's superior goal difference, but Liverpool's straight forward thinking cost them. In the 65th minute, a substituion was made, Jason Puncheon was off, Dwight Gayle was on, this a moment that has influenced the title race .
In the 79th minute, it seemed the Red side of Merseyside's defence switched off. Glen Johnson, outstanding all game, stood watching Damien Delaney who rocketed the ball into his side and deflected past Mignolet.
Then 81st minute, after Liverpool had a penalty shout denied, Palace attacked, the Eagles swooping in formation. Yannick Bolasie flew past Johnson, then squared a ball to the substitute Dwight Gayle who turned it into the back of the net.
The Goal that has put a heavy dent in                                                                      Liverpool's title challenge 
With two minutes of normal time remaining, Liverpool looked nothing like a side only 1 more game from a possible first title in 24 years. This was a team that had been winning 0-3, now the score was 2-3, and their nerves were jangled. Then in a moment that must have been slowed time down to a halt, Glen Murray headed a ball into the path of Dwight Gayle, one on one with Mignolet. What followed was the moment that Manchester City fans all around the world would have loved to see, one they probably celebrated just as hard as a goal of their own, Gayle had made it 3-3.
The match still wasn't over. Palace looked like they could score another, but Liverpool were now desperate. The last cliffhanger of the match came when a corner from Steven Gerrard flew over everyone and came to Coutinho outside the box. he whipped a ball into the box, and Speroni palmed it away, but only for it to fall to Victor Moses with an open goal. The Nigerian took an air swing, and now time was frozen for City and Palace fans alike. The ball was swarmed by players, and it was inevitable the ball would end up in the net, but no Liverpool player could make a good contact. Lucas swung a shot but got deflected to Moses at the right of the goal then crossed it to Suarez, which went out off him. Liverpool's night title hope had just taken a massive hammer blow.
 Liverpool had just thrown away a 3-0 lead, and the images that followed were not pretty. Suarez had put his shirt over his head, most likely hiding tears, and was consoled by team mates. Captain Steven Gerrard comforted him, and ushered the camera away from the top scorer in the premier league, but the faces of the other Liverpool players gave a hint of what Suarez's face was like under that white jersey.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Man City's Signing of the Season


                                                                                       Fernandinho is an important cog in Man City's                                                                                                            midfield machine
When Fernandinho signed for City, he crept under the radar as players were being sold and bought like wild fire. Arsenal signed Ozil, Real Madrid signed Bale,Tottenham signed Soldaldo, Barcelona signed Neymar, but who was City's marquee signing? At the time this was a hard question as they had signed 5 quality players, amassing over 100 million pounds. The Sky Blues brought in Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic, Martin Demechilis and a Brazilian named Fernandinho, the latter I believe to have earned the tag signing of the season, not just for City, but the Premier League itself.
Yesterdays performance after coming on for Aguero against Everton in the first half sums up the importance of Fernandinho to the title chasers. The Brazilian shifted in a dominant performance in the middle of the park, demonstrating pace, power, vision, technique, workrate and awareness.              
In the build up to Manchester City's second goal, Fernandinho found the better side of Leighton Baines, sped away, and sent a pass in between the defence to give Dzeko a scoring chance. Howard saved Dzeko's effort, but the ball spilled to Milner, who whipped the ball onto Dzeko's forehead to make it 1-2. It was Fernandinho's awareness to tuck inside of Baines for Kompany to find him and unleash a run that led to the goal. This whole season for City Fernandinho has shown he has the stereotypical pace of a Brazilian footballer, and that attribute has been a secret weapon for the 2012 premier league champions with aggresive pile driving runs from the center of the park.
The power that Fernandinho exerts is phenomenal for someone of his stature. This is why the former Shakthar Donetsk man and Yaya Toure make the perfect pair, they are both epicenters in the middle of the park sending waves of force towards the opposition when the ball is at their feet. Defenders and midfielders struggle to put challenges into the path of him, as he is more of a charging rhino than a running Brazilian.
The vision and passing of Fernandinho is majorly underrated compared to holding midfielders such as Ilkay Gundogan, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sergio Busquets and his midfield partner Yaya Toure. According to football statistic website WhoScored.com, Fernandinho ranks 4th in Manchester City on terms of pass accuracy in the premier league and 3rd for the club in the premier league. The Brazilian has created 41 scoring opportunities for his team mates in 31 appearances, and assisting his teammates 3 times.
The dribbling technique of the Brazilian has been seen many times this season. The build up of the Edin Dzeko's first goal involved Fernandinho gliding past Leighton Baines, then slowing the ball down and giving himself two important aspects of dribbling; space and time. When Fernandinho is on the ball, he manages to take the ball that is glued to his feet to dangerous areas, and giving himself space between the defence and himself. The pace and power he demonstrates helps him accomplish this. When carrying the ball through the Everton line of midfield to defence, he decelerated and found open space, rewarding him with the time to play the perfect pass, which he performed, resulting in the build up to a goal.
Perhaps the most important quality of the engine that runs the midfield is his workrate. If someone were to watch him for the first time, that person would assume there is two of him on the field. Non-stop running and not finishing until every blade of grass is covered, his never stop working mantra has saved and helped Manchester City dominate the midfield in games. This workrate merged with awareness of where to be has acted as a catalyst to City's domestic dominance of midfield. When his partner in crime Yaya Toure attacks, Fernandinho knows to stay back and screen the back four. If the attack seems dull and needs a spark to ignite the fuse, he knows to push up and help the forwards crack the shell of the defence.
Fernandinho's is a rare player that has all these qualities, demonstrating them in all the games he plays. It is the tireless performances he puts in like the game at Goodison Park that has earned him such praise and an assured spot in the Manchester City starting eleven.






AC Milan win Derby, Juventus win Scudetto

AC Milan have walked away with the bragging rights of the town as AC Milan beat rivals Inter Milan in a tense derby, meanwhile Juventus have won a 3rd successive Scudetto as Roma slip up



Both sides struggled to make the contest as entertaining as past fixtures as both teams are having forgettable campaigns, but Nigel De Jong popped up at the right moment to nod home a laser-guided Mario Balotelli set piece delivery from the right hand side.

Roma players after conceding


Juventus have won a 3rd successive scudetto as Roma lost 4-1 to relegation threatened Catania. The team captained by veteran Francesco Totti needed a win to keep their slim title hopes alive, but the loss let Juventus celebrate another Serie A title.

Udinese won a thrilling match at home against league stragglers Livorno 5-3, Di Natale missing a penalty kick but making up for it with a goal from open-play.

                                                 Di Natale celebrating after his goal

Parma made up a two game losing streak with a win against Sampdoria 2-0, giving them European dreams again.

Torino were given a 1-0 win thanks to a Gennaro Sardo own goal, beating a 10 man Chievo.

Bologna snatched a very important point with their away 0-0 draw wth Genoa, lifting them into 17th place.

Real Madrid take point

Real Madrid have failed to take advantage of Atletico Madrid's slip up at Levante

Los Blanco's dropped two valuable points against a determined Valencia trying to make up for Thursday's Europa League's exit, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an extra time equalizer to get the point for Real Madrid.
Jérémy Mathieu made it 0-1 to the visitors towards the break, scoring off a corner beating Marcelo and Varane to it.
Sergio Ramos' rich goal scoring vein continued as he equalized for the Galacticos after Ronaldo unselfishly headed a ball back for him to put in the back of the net.
Valencia retook the lead after Feghouli skipped past Sergio Ramos and a deflected cross landed at the feet of Parejo who dispatched the ball past Diego Lopez.
Not going to get beaten at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo scored to give the Bernabeu hope. Madrid stole the the point from Valencia's open palm as the prolific Portuguese tremendously scored with an acrobatic back heel from a volleyed ball from Angel Di Maria.
Madrid then pressed for a winner but Alvaro Morata, who wasted a few chances, hit the side netting, summing up most of Real Madrid's evening.
Carlo Ancelotti will not be happy after his side failed to take advantage of league leaders Atletico Madrid's slip up against Levante.






Roar win the A-League

Brisbane Roar have defeated Western-Sydney Wanderers in a tense grand final that went into extra time

Brisbane Roar completed a comeback to come back from  0-1 down to win 2-1 shortly into the 2nd half of extra time thanks to Henrique. 
Matthew Sprianovic handed the lead to the Wanderers after heading home a corner delivered from Japanese play maker Shinji Ono. 
Besart Berisha cancelled out Sprianovic's header with a header of his own thanks to a ball whipped in from Broich from a free kick outside the box.
The decisive goal came in the 109th minuted after James Donachie squared a ball to Henrique, who snap-shot the ball into the middle of the net. 

The Joe Marsden Medal for man of the match was split between Thomas Broich and Iacopo La Rocca.

Berisha thanked Brisbane fans for making his stay in the North so good,"It's amazing. I had such a good time here," said an emotional  Berisha, who played his last game in a Roar jersey before he is on his way to Melbourne Victory. "To finish like this is fantastic, thank you so much."