Is Madrid’s decline Real?

MadridZZ


One of the greatest nights in the modern history of Tottenham Hotspur reinforced worries for Real Madrid’s faithful following. Spur’s embarrassesed the defending European champions at Wembley storming into a 3-0 lead before Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late consolation for Zinedene Zidane’s men. The defeat was Real’s second in 4 days after a 2-1 loss to Girona in La Liga. Pressure is not something the Spanish team and their French manager have been accustomed to over recent times but how can they get out of this rut?

After the defeat to Girona Sky Sports pundit Guillem Balague pointed out 2 factors that were contributing to Madrid’s struggles.

“Cristiano Ronaldo has scored only 1 goal in 6 games – of course, he will click at some point – but the issue against Girona was they didn’t create many chances.” (Guillem Balague)

Ronaldo’s drought in front of goal is a worry. But as Balague alludes to it will not last. The Player of the Year winner is a goal machine and even though he is advancing in years he still causes problems for opposition defences. Against Tottenham whenever he got the ball you could sense that something was going to happen. His ability on the ball and running at players is second to none. As well as that his movement off the ball when Madrid’s more creative forces are at work is always threatening. He is the complete forward and if the team creates he will score a bucket full of goals.

The real issue is the fact the team are not creating the chances. Isco fired the defending La Liga champions into a 1-0 lead 12 minutes into their game with Girona. In the space of 4 second half minutes the newly promoted side had turned things around and claimed a 2-1 lead. Madrid were left with over half an hour to get back into the game but failed. While they had 14 shots, 6 of which were on target, they failed to score.

While 14 efforts in a game is not shocking, they only created 1 clear cut chance in the game according to Sky Sports statistics. Girona had 1 more effort in the game and had only 39% possession.

The general consensus after the La Liga game was that Madrid took the lead and switched off. Their creative midfield players were clumsy with the ball with a pass completion rate of 85% which is under what Madrid usually achieve.

Secondly, we have seen Zinedine Zidane successfully keep everyone in the squad happy – that was key to their title success last season. He was brave enough to make changes and to give rest to Ronaldo at important times. But when things start to go wrong you need less of the man-manager and more of the coach. You don’t get that from Zidane. He depends far too much on individual quality rather than the collective team. (Guillem Balague)

This is the real meat of the problem for ‘Los Blancos’. It has been a constant wave for Zidane since he took over at the Bernabeu. The squad at the his disposal was, and still is, fantastic and his status in the game inspired them all. Hitting the ground running was key and the winning mentality swarmed through the team. Chopping and changing the team and keeping everybody happy was well within his skill set and he excelled in the role.

Now different skills are required. Struggling against a back 3 is, in the modern game, a huge issue. Tactically Zidane froze in both games. He did not change the Madrid system even though it was clearly not working. He just switched the personnel. The defenders from both the opposition teams crowded out the attackers and did not allow the creative players to link up the strikers.

Even Zidane’s attempts to alter the formation going into the games going with 2 up top did not work. In the 2 games Madrid used a 4-3-1-2 system but it could not spark an improvement in performance. Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were paired up front and had no presence and Isco really struggled, in the number 10 position, to get his game going. This made the two strikers look iscolated as the midfield struggled to control the game.

The story was similar against Tottenham. 20 efforts, 9 on target and only the single clear cut chance. Dominating possession, they had 70% of the ball, was not enough and although Spurs had half the attempts their opponents did they created 5 clear cut chances. Uncharacteristic performances from Luka Modric and Toni Kroos who were sloppy in midfield did not help the Spanish giants as they laboured through the game.

It feels as though Balague let Real Madrid off the hook slightly as he blamed Zidane’s philosophy of championing individual players rather than the concept of a team. Madrid have been like this for years. If it is Zidane’s coaching style to incorporate this he will have learnt it from his time at Real.

Even during this most recent spell of dominance Madrid have been blowing teams away with the strength of their superstars rather than great team performances. They have a rigid style in which the attackers attack and the defenders, well some of them, defend. This is not an issue with Zidane but an issue with the club.

Balague predicted that Madrid would be fired up after the Girona loss and that Spurs should be wary of their response. It did not work out like that. Zidane needs to sit down with his coaching staff and seriously discuss how they can solve this problem. They have the talent players like Marco Asensio and Theo Hernandez have to be pushing for a place in the starting eleven. Madrid need to develop and work on their team fluidity and become more balanced. They have always been more concerned with going forward but in these testing times it is vital they go back to the drawing board.

Real Madrid host Las Palmas in their next fixture. It is an ideal game for them to get back on track. Las Palmas sit 18th in La Liga winning twice out of 10 fixtures.

Madrid will be hoping that their superstars can fire up and react to the negative results. If they do not win the players and manager will be under severe pressure. The expectation is that they win comfortably against Las Palmas but, even though it goes against everything Real Madrid stand for, Zidane would take a 1-0 win to steady the ship.


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The sky is the limit for Spurs ace Kane


Another season and Harry Kane keeps on scoring. Some things never change. His early performances in this campaign have lead to compliments from his manager, Mauricio Pochettino. First Kane was compared to an Argentinian legend who played with his boss for their national side.

“Batistuta was a killer, a strong mentality, a strong shot. You can compare but for me I put Batistuta higher, but Harry can be better. Harry is a killer, too. Look at his scoring in the last few seasons.” (Mauricio Pochettino)

High praise indeed. It could have been a ploy by the Spurs boss to motivate his player to carry on improving and reach new levels. But there is no reason why the Englishman cannot go on and emulate legends of the game. At the very least it gave the the Tottenham goalscorer a decent nickname. Killer Kane. His manager was not finished there. After the Batistuta comment he went one step further.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is fantastic, one of the best. But Harry is one of the best and maybe better because he is younger.” (Mauricio Pochettino)

Now in terms of world football at the moment there is still a separate bracket of seriously world class players at a level never seen before. Ronaldo being one of them Kane is still some way off the Real Madrid star and his Barcelona rival Lionel Messi. The key part of Pochettino’s comment is the fact Kane is younger. He is still working on his game and improving his skills. As his reputation grows his opposition will fear him more.

The comment has to be taken on face value regardless of Kane’s age. And it has to be labelled as complete nonsense. There is no doubt that Ronaldo is better than Kane at the moment. The ex Manchester United attacker has surpassed the level even Sir Alex Ferguson could have imagined  when he brought him to Old Trafford. Over 10 years at the top taking all the expectation on his shoulders at two of the biggest clubs in the world show just how good Ronaldo has become.

Kane is starting his fourth full season as a regular Premier League player. The striker has performed well and after bursting on the scene in 2014/15 with 21 league goals. Many people believed that Kane would be a one season wonder due to his surprise run of form and he would begin to struggle the next season. The predicted dip never happen and Kane bettered his tally scoring 25 in the Premier League for Tottenham.

If there were still doubters last season Kane really turned up the heat. Retaining the golden boot award he won the season before he once again bettered his return and scored 29 goals in the league and 35 in all competitions. Surely now the critics do not have a leg to stand on, he has proven he will score goals consistently when playing regular football. You would not bet against the Spurs striker equalling Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer’s record of winning the golden boot in three consecutive campaigns.

Tottenham stepped forward as Real Madrid’s main rivals for top spot in their Champions League group when they beat Apoel away by 3 goals to 0. All 3 goals were courtesy of their talisman. As if his first European hat-trick was not already satisfying enough it was perfect. The first with his left boot, the second with his right and finally a headed effort was added. It will be Tottenham’s adventures in Europe that will ultimately define Kane’s career. If he can do it in the Champions League his reputation will increase. He has the perfect opportunity in the next couple of game weeks. Back to back matches against reigning kings of Europe Real.

There is a feeling that if Tottenham cannot produce trophies Kane may move on. Ultimately that is how football works. But why would he leave? The team is set up to create chances for their star striker. Dele Alli plays behind him moving and creating space for Kane and Christian Eriksen has such a quality delivery the forward only needs to get in the right position. The qualities the Spurs number 10 posses will lead to interest from the footballing elite if the club cannot grow with him.

Another factor in Kane’s happiness at the London club is the wage structure Tottenham employ. Kyle Walker left for Manchester City in the summer and Danny Rose tried to force his way out. Spurs have a strict salary structure in place and do not offer as much in wages as their rivals. It should not be a factor but the reality of modern football means that it is a considerable one. It is vital for Spurs to keep Kane if they want to progress as a club.

The comparison with Ronaldo is unfair. They are different players. Ronaldo is far more dynamic and started out his career as a winger. He had to modify his game to play centrally and become a goalscorer. Even though Kane is not as competent at dribbling and creating chances he is more of a natural striker and goalscorer. When Kane gets a chance it is more often than not a goal. The comparison to Batistuta is substantially more accurate. The way he develops will be key to any legacy he leaves and the level he can reach is unknown. If he can keep improving and his eye for goal stays sharp he could become one of the best.

Stars in football rarely come out of the blue. Many prospects are monitored from an early age and football fans have a good knowledge of who will break through and become a superstar. Kane was on the radar but when he stepped up to the first team few believed he would make the impact he has. Now he is established as a key player at White Hart Lane, a highlight in the Premier League and an established England first team player. Not too bad for a player once released by Arsenal.

He has put down the foundations and now new challenges are emerging. European success, Premier League success and some sort of success with England are on the agenda. He is the brightest star for Spurs and England and with a growing reputation comes added pressure. Now the road towards a long standing legacy in football has been paved the long journey to realising it can begin.


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Benzema extends Bernabeu stay

Benzema


Karim Benzema has joined fellow squad members Marcelo, Isco and Dani Carvajal in signing a new deal. Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, who has signed a new deal recently himself, has convinced the French striker to stay at the Bernabeu until 2021. The chances of him leaving seem slim, which will frustrate Arsenal fans, as his release clause is a staggering €1 billion. The contract, if seen to its conclusion, will see the serial goal scorer spend a total of 12 years at Madrid after his 2009 move from Lyon. A move that disappointed many a Premier League manager as numerous were keen on Benzema at the time. The question arises – what does the future hold for Benzema at Real Madrid? With young players coming through his time in the first team could fade out.

The Frenchman arrived in Madrid with a great reputation. After a storming five year spell at Lyon he was one of Europe’s most sought after front men representing the French side 145 times in all competitions bagging a magnificent 64 goals. While not blessed with blistering speed Benzema had the abilities of a traditional number 9. His movement sets him apart and forces you to forget his lack of speed by modern footballing standards. He has a deadly eye for goal to the point you expect him to find the back of the net in any situation. He has just enough physical strength to remain elegant and not seem clunky. He is also decent in the air and is good at getting his head up and picking out his team mates. A truly balanced striker.

Then came the offer from Madrid. The fee initial agreed at €35 million but Manchester United were eager to get the striker. After United’s bid Madrid moved to €41 million and the English club pulled out. It was Alex Ferguson who wanted him at this time but every top English club has been linked with a move for Benzema and Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have been after him for a long period of time. It looks very unlikely now that he will leave Madrid in the foreseeable future. Wenger had to settle for Benzema’s Lyon understudy Alexandre Lacazette this summer and it is understood he contacted Madrid prior to signing Lacazette to enquire about Benzema.

The French striker joined with a host of stars. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xabi Alonso all joined in the summer of 2009 – quite an expensive one for ‘Los Blancos’ seeing them splash out a total of €259 million. It was a period of chaos for the Spanish giants with 9 players coming in and 15 leaving the club. Contrasting times now for Mardid with Zidane employing a strategy based around stability underlined by this recent flurry of new deals.

Benzema did not set Spain alight when he left France. 27 league appearances returned 8 goals adding 1 more in the Champions League. His slow start was matched by his team as it saw them finish second in the league and trophy-less for the season. A similar story the next season saw Real Madrid, now managed by Jose Mourinho, finish second in the league again. Goals galore for Benzema with 26 goals in 48 outings in all competitions. Unbelievably (or not so) he was still playing second fiddle to Ronaldo who top scored for Madrid.

The 2011-2012 season was the one for ‘Los Blancos’ and it saw them topple the mighty Barcelona and Pep Guardiola to claim the La Liga title. Ronaldo may have grabbed the headlines with a 60 goal season but Benzema again scored a hat full returning 32 goals in 52 games as well as setting up 19. The quality of football Madrid produced this year saw them break the record of most goals scored scoring 121.

After such success it was difficult to swallow a second place finish in the league and only the Spanish Super Cup to show for their efforts the following year. While it was a disappointing season for Real Benzema still scored 21 goals and provided 21 assists in all competitions for the club.

Mourinho went and Carlo Ancelotti arrived in 2013. A lot changed. Gareth Bale arrived, Mesut Ozil, Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain left a long with 7 other squad members. Madrid slumped to third in the league. Some things did not change. One of those was Benzema scoring goals – another 24 in all competitions which contributed to a Copa del Rey win and a famous Champions League victory that signalled their tenth European Cup win – ‘La Decima’ complete.

A stagnant season followed for Ancelotti as Madrid won no major trophies. The brutal standards set by the club saw the famous Italian ousted because of that. However, the French striker carried on scoring. He played 46 times and managed 22 goals and 15 assists, pretty good for an off year.

The appointment of Rafa Benitez in 2015 did not last long and then Zidane came in. The 2015/16 year was a struggle for Benzema – thigh and knee problems saw him sidelined for large chunks of it. When he played he scored. Finishing with 28 goals in 36 games should be seen as a success given the circumstances. Zidane was also able to claim an eleventh European title for the club he once played for. Followed the next year by a La Liga and successful Champions League defence Zidane has started to bring consistency to the club. 48 games in the 2016/17 campaign for Benzema saw a return of 19 goals.

What now? Benzema is facing real threats from the Real Madrid youngsters for his place. The experienced striker will be looking over his shoulders with Marco Asensio seriously putting pressure on the club to play him with recent performances. Lucas Vazquez and Borja Mayoral are also beginning to force their way into contention. Given that Benzema already has to contend with Ronaldo, Bale and Isco for a position in the final third the competition for places is fierce.

The signing of the new contract may have shocked a few. With his advancing years and niggling injuries the football community would have been expecting Madrid to be open to letting Benzema leave. Clearly not. A long term extension and a pay rise as well as a mega money release clause emphasise how much he means to Zidane and his plans.

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Stability is at the centre of Zidane’s philosophy after defending the Champions League he sees no point in selling big players who have top quality experience. He does not want to be left with the job of replacing them and taking that risk. Benzema’s 371 games for Real Madrid and 182 goals create a reputation and embody everything Madrid represent. Zidane wants to keep that invincible aura around the club and having Benzema in the starting line up or even on the bench is integral to that process.


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De Gea racks up 100 United clean sheets

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It has been an unbelievable few years for Manchester United’s Spanish shot stopper. Save after save clean sheet after clean sheet. His form saw him win the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year (the name of the Manchester United Player of the Year award) three times in a row between 2013 and 2016. He became the first goalkeeper to claim the prize and the first player to win it three times in a row. A 4-0 win against Everton at Old Trafford saw him bring up his century of clean sheets. It has been a great journey for David De Gea which did not start with the same joy as it provides now.

De Gea joined United in 2011 after long term number one Edwin van der Sar retired. Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he was going to move for Manuel Neuer before a member of his scouting team strongly informed him that the young Spaniard would be a better option. Signed for £19 million from Atletico Madrid De Gea endured a torrid start in Manchester and struggled to adapt to the Premier League. His skinny frame and lack of good decision making from set pieces and crosses was evident to see and a weakness for United.

It was a difficult first year for De Gea but Ferguson and Manchester United kept faith in the young goalkeeper. They were proven right as after the retirement of long term boss Ferguson the keeper was the most consistent and brightest star. Every manager that has come into the club since the departure of the Scotsman has done everything within their power to keep him at the club. Even though the defence has chopped and changed De Gea has stayed and steadied the ship.

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The attraction of Real Madrid, who are consistently interested in the goalkeeper, has turned his head at times. The attraction of ‘Los Blancos’ and Barcelona is such an attraction for Spanish players. De Gea has been reported to want the Madrid move, which could have materialised if it was not for a faulty fax machine. De Gea remains at Manchester United and seems happier than ever now the clubs fortunes have turned around. Credit has to be given to Jose Mourinho for the job he has done at United but pleasing De Gea is the most important thing he has done. Champions League football must have played a huge factor in the keeper staying and Mourinho was able to achieve that.

With De Gea nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. He makes saves that he just should have no right in even thinking about. His agility and reactions single him out as the best goalkeeper in the world. Lets not forget that the United player is only 26 years of age and is coming into the prime of his career. He has ironed out the weaknesses in his game since arriving at Old Trafford and developed his game.

His distribution is another part of his game that sets him apart from the rest. His comfortable receiving back passes and his range of passing is far superior to many outfield players. Now he has a solid team in front of him with Eric Bailly and Phil Jones being selected at centre back together. Nemanja Matic also provides excellent cover in the midfield. Even though he is now being asked to do less in games for his club his concentration is still on point. He can have two or three situations to deal with in a game but he still performs at the highest level.

De Gea seems to be in Manchester for good. Madrid have not attempted to sign him as aggressively as they have in the past. United seem to have sorted out their issues and Mourinho has now said after three years of standing still the club is moving forward. That must be music to the players, fans and directors ears. It must also satisfy De Gea’s ambitions. Reaching 100 clean sheets is a great achievement, there will be more – he may even be eyeing Peter Schmeichels 180 clean sheet record. But for now enjoy what De Gea has already done!


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Pep putting City pieces together

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The early headlines of the 2017/18 Premier League season were dominated by their Manchester rivals but a period of dominance has switched the attention back to Manchester City. It began with the 5-0 dismantling of 10 man Liverpool which sent Pep Guardiola’s men to the summit of the table, of only until Manchester United drew with Stoke City. A quality display away at Feyenoord in the Champions League and a 6-0 thrashing of Watford followed and reinstalled excitement at the Etihad. The three match spell has seen them score 15 goals without reply. Guardiola has made suitable changes to his system and we will take a look at what has helped them click.

Two up top

The signing of Gabriel Jesus, who arrived in January 2017, threatened to dethrone Sergio Aguero as the king of goals at City. The Man City boss even informed the press that Aguero could leave just a month after Jesus’ arrival. After Aguero struck a hat-trick against Watford Guardiola, who seems to have gone full circle on the Argentine striker, hailed him a club legend. He is now in position to take over as City’s all time top scorer needing just two goals to overtake Eric Brook.

Fitting both players in the team seemed impossible and it was suggested that Jesus may be shifted out wide. However, Guardiola has found a way to get both players playing centrally in his new system. The pair offer a constant threat and a thorough test for any defence. Reports suggest that the pair get on very well which shows on the pitch. Aguero’s movement and ability to find a yard to get a shot off with his acceleration coupled with Jesus’ direct running and sharp skills work well together.

Fernandinho

Vital to this system is the defensive midfielder. Holding down that position of late has been Fernandinho who plays a restricted role allowing the other midfield players to get forward and create chances for the dynamic front two. He drops back between the central defenders when needed and distributes the ball while holding his position. The role that the holding midfielder plays in this system is one of the most important for City as the discipline allows the more advanced players to focus on attacking.

Narrow Midfield

City are operating with three central midfielder in front of the holding midfield player. The three players are able to move into space and drift into channels because of the role the defensive midfielder plays. David Silva has been able to slot into this role with ease as his creative play and movement off the ball flourish when he does not have to think too much about going backwards.

The narrow midfield currently employed compliments the style of football Guardiola demanded at Barcelona. The freedom available in the middle of the park saw Raheem Sterling play in the central midfield area against Watford. Pass and move is key to the Pep way and with three players who are creative playmakers allow the team to play with sufficient flair and fluidity which will please the boss.

Attacking Full Backs

An area that has been heavily invested in at City is the full back area. Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo all came in. The narrow midfield encourages the full backs to bomb on and the players Pep has brought in do not need much of an invitation to do so. Walker has done it for Tottenham in the Premier League before and is settling into life at his new club with minimum fuss. Fernandinho performing so well in his new role allows Walker and whoever plays on the opposite flank the freedom to go forward knowing the Brazilian and the central defenders are covering the counter attack.

Deeper De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne is one of the stand out players in the Premier League. His ability to pick a pass, beat his man and create chances single him out as one of the most dangerous midfielders playing in England today. Preferring to play as a 10 he has been forced to play out wide in the City team for sometime. This new system may not put him behind the strikers but at least he plays more centrally. Dropping deeper highlights his range of passing and understanding of the game. They system gives him the freedom to roam around the pitch, move into channels and get forward. He makes City play and the system suits him.

Potential Issues

The big question – will Pep stick to this in the big games? At Old Trafford, at Stamford Bridge, at Anfield? Even in the deeper stages of the Champions League. Or will he revert to his back three which he started the season with? It is hard to say at the moment. The system is unique and it is catching teams by surprise. There are holes in it and more disciplined teams with quick players of their own will be able to turn Man City around and hit them on the break.

With the formation being so reliant on individuals, particularly whoever holds the midfield, it only takes certain individuals to have a bad game for everything to go wrong. It will be interesting to see what happens when City are on the back foot. Will they continue with this system or go to something more conventional?

Conclusion

The excitement around Manchester City when Pep Guardiola arrived is finally being realised. Recent results push them to wrestle away the favourites tag in the Premier League from all their rivals. The system is working. The quality of football is of the highest order. Can they be stopped? Only time will tell.


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Why Fellaini is vital at Old Trafford

Felliani (1)


He has had his critics since signing for Manchester United after he followed David Moyes to Manchester from Goodison Park. A lot of it has been fair as at times the criticism is for good reason but the player remains at Manchester United. So what does he bring to the table? It must be substantial because it was not only Moyes who was happy with the Belgian internationals contribution as Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have utilised Marouane Fellaini regularly. After a fantastic performance in the Champions League opener Felliani will be looking to build on it with Paul Pogba sidelined.

Before the case is made for Fellaini’s influential presence at United it is important to mention why he attracts criticism. The former Everton man makes some strange decisions that baffle fans and pundits. Whether it be making a needless tackle two minutes after coming on to give away a penalty or his evident love for controversy with silly disciplinary outburst he attracts negative headlines. Off the pitch controversy also follows the Belgian star which negatively affect his public image. If all this is added to the style of football he plays, which it would be difficult to describe as playing ‘the beautiful game’, it becomes clear why his reputation is such.

The fact remains – there is not one other player at the top level of European football who is anything like Fellaini. His style is unique. It may be primitive in its nature but used in the correct way it is useful. If you look around the United squad Mourinho has added height in the central midfield position. The signing of Pogba last summer and Nemanja Matic this summer increased the size in the middle of the park. Fellaini uses his height much better than the two new signings. Pogba brings great vision and drive from midfield and Matic has a calming influence and quality defensive skills. Other midfield options in the squad include the smaller Ander Herrera has a versatile game but cannot do the job the big Belgian can. The ageing Michael Carrick is also an option in the position but it seems he will not feature heavily this season.

Fellaini is an aerial threat both in the box and helping the team move the ball up the field quickly if the deeper players are under pressure. With Romelu Lukaku claiming the main striker position in the team having him and Fellaini as targets gives two players to hit if the goalkeeper or defender need to. The United players ability in the box also creates a chaos for opposition defenders. It feels more threatening to have Fellaini in the mix from set pieces and he scores and wins headers often. The midfielder has played 138 times for Manchester United scoring 17 times and creating 10 for his team mates.

Fellaini is a high intensity player and his defensive skills are straight to the point. He does not have the cultured defensive skills of new midfield partner Matic, the Belgian midfielder goes in hard and does not mind leaving his opponent on the ground if it’s necessary. You could the United number 27 as a bull in a china shop, little thought goes into how he operates in the middle of the park but he chases the ball and shows great desire for the cause.

One part of Fellaini’s game that is underrated is his first touch and ball control. Because he looks relatively clumsy due to his frame (similar to Peter Crouch in this way) it often goes unnoticed that he has these skills. In fact a fan made video likening him to the great Zinedine Zidane circulated.



It is not easy settling into a new team and when you come for a huge fee it just adds more and more pressure. This situation faced Lukaku this summer. Of course having Pogba at the club, the two are by all accounts good friends, helps. But having a player of the same nationality also aids the settling in process. This is another reason Fellaini is key to the squad. Considering he also made the same switch Lukaku did in terms of clubs he can also help United’s new goal getter adapt to life at a bigger club. The pair will have played together for their national team as Fellaini has been used regularly representing Belgium 79 times scoring 16 times.

All in all Fellaini provides a service at Manchester United. It may not be the most attractive kind of football the legendary club has ever seen but it gets the job done. He will get into trouble, he will get into spats with opponents and he will do things on the football pitch which makes everyone viewing the game scratch their head. But what he will do is give you 100% every game and use his unique skill set to cause problems for his opposition. Love him. Hate him. One thing is definite. Fellaini is a United player and an important one at that.


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Liverpool return to the top table of European football

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The most successful British club in European football history end an eight year absence from the competition this evening. Liverpool take on Sevilla in a repeat of the 2016 Europa League final. ‘The Reds’ will be hoping to get off to a flying start and continue their successful history in Europe’s elite competition. Manager Jurgen Klopp is experienced in the competition after campaigns with Borussia Dortmund saw him reach a final. Liverpool will be hoping that their team will be able to roll back the years and upset some of the European giants.

Local rivals Manchester United, who Liverpool beat on the route to 2016 Europa League final, got off to the start Liverpool will be hoping to make in their opening fixture. Sevilla will be tough opponents for the English club and will more than likely be the main rivals for top spot for the Merseyside club. Spartak Moscow and Maribor complete Group E which gives the five time winners a great chance to gain qualification.

Liverpool’s long term presence in the Champions League tailed off after the 2009/10 ill fated effort. Rafael Benitez lead them into the competition and they were faced with a group which consisted of Fiorentina, Lyon and Debrecen. A group in which Liverpool would have been quietly confident with the group but it was not meant to be. Home defeats to Lyon and Fiorentina halted any progress they were going to make. Liverpool only managed two victories against bottom side Debrecen.

The performance in the 09/10 Champions League came as a shock especially as the club reached the quarter finals the season before. Seeing off the mighty Real Madrid in the first knock out stage they were eliminated by Chelsea in the next round. The performance in the Champions League, terrible performances in the domestic cups and a seventh place finish in the league cost Rafa his job.

Since then Liverpool have appeared in the Champions League once under the management of Brendan Rodgers in 2014/15. Again Liverpool fail to impress. They finished third again behind Real Madrid and Basel winning only the single game. Again a frustrating European campaign, a sixth place finish and falling at the semi final stage of both domestic cup competitions turned the heat up on Rodgers. Early into the next season he left the club and Klopp came in. Now he is taking his Liverpool side in to compete against the best teams in Europe. This time they look set to do themselves justice.

Liverpool had a good start to the season until their 5-0 loss to Manchester City. Sadio Mane’s red card had a huge influence on the result and playing a Pep Guardiola team with only 10 men is a daunting task. The football Liverpool have played is brilliant and new man Mohamed Salah looks to have fit in quickly and complements the other members of the front three well. The new signing is a doubt for the game after missing training yesterday which is a huge blow for Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge could feature as his replacement.

It feel more like the Champions League with Liverpool present in the group stages. The draw was friendly to them and they will be excited to get their newest stint of European football under way. It feels that they are undergoing a resurgence and a new era is forming on the red side of Merseyside. Good football and excellent management has the club feeling inspired. Champions League football is a massive plus for the club and performing well could see them return to their former glory on the biggest club stage there is.



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