CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RETURNS: TEAMS TO BACK TONIGHT.

MANCHESTER CITY VS JUVENTUS

Without a shadow of doubt the main clash of tonight’s Champions League fixtures comes from the Etihad Stadium as unbeaten Premier League leaders Manchester City play host to Italian champions Juventus. In their recent Champions League history Manchester City have struggled to cope with some of Europe’s top teams and have endure disappointing campaigns in the competition, however this year could be different. The Manchester side have splashed a whopping £142.36 million this summer alone on transfers including the big money acquisitions of Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi and not to forget Kevin De Bruyne which means that Manuel Pellegrini has massive strength in depth for this upcoming season.

As for Juventus, the Italian champions have always had massive pedigree in the European competitions, reaching last years final, but have suffered a poor start in defending their Serie A title this season. The Italian giants have had a very busy transfer window in which the ‘Old Lady’ have lost several key players. Along with Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo have left the Turin club in a major reshuffle. Juventus have since invested in youth, particularly highlighted through their purchase of striker Paulo Dybala from Palermo.

Paulo Dybala could be the future for Juventus.
Paulo Dybala could be the future for Juventus.

In terms of tonight however Manchester City’s star striker Sergio Aguero picked up an injury in his sides weekend fxture at Crystal Palace and will miss tonights action. However both Raheem Sterling and David Silva are available for selection after overcoming hamstring and ankle injuries.

Prediction: DRAW

Real Madrid vs FC Shakhtar Donetsk – Back Real Madrid
PSV vs Manchester United – Back the draw
Paris St G vs Malmo FF – Back Paris St G
VfL Wolfsburg vs CSKA Moscow – Back VfL Wolfsburg
Benfica vs FC Astana – Back Benfica
Galatasaray vs Atletico Madrid – Back Atletico Madrid
Sevilla vs Borussia Monchengladbach – Back Sevilla

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Manchester United – Who is Van Gaal looking to sign?

Rumours have been heating up concerning Manchester United’s transfer activity and targets during this summer’s transfer window.

Manchester United are interested in signing Bayern Munich veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and Real Madrid star defender Sergio Ramos according to various media reports and articles. Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal is trying to strengthen his squad this summer transfer window after the club finished fourth in the Premier League last season. German international Schweinsteiger, 30, and 29-year-old Spain player Ramos are among those who are said to interest the United boss.

Sergio Ramos is said to be stalling over a new contract at Real Madrid.
Sergio Ramos is said to be stalling over a new contract at Real Madrid.
Bastian Schweinsteiger could help bolster Manchester United's  midfielder next season.
Bastian Schweinsteiger could help bolster Manchester United’s midfielder next season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ramos’ contract with Real Madrid expires in 2017, while Schweinsteiger’s Bayern deal only runs until 2016 meaning that a deal for either could be made cheaper due to the short length of time both have left on their contracts at their respective clubs. A deal for Sergio Ramos however could see stopper David De Gea move in the opposite direction to the Bernabeu and Madrid.

An ideal move for Van Gaal would be to offload Robin Van Persie, Nani and Javier Hernandez this summer whilst bringing in a new, big name forward who can produce a twenty goal plus seasonto help out Wayne Rooney. The clubs move for Falcao backfired last summer as the Colombian largely struggled with the pace and physicality of the Premier League however his international team mate Jackson Martinez could be a great singing for the Red Devils. Martinez has had another great season at FC Porto and his physical style of play coupled with his great finishing could see him become a fan favourite at Old Trafford if he makes a switch to the Premier League in the off season. Manchester United have also been linked to English international Harry Kane and have already brought in PSV Eindhoven winger Memphis Depay for £31m. Hoffenheims versatile Brazilian attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino has further been linked with a move to Old Trafford.

Van Gaal is particularly keen to recruit a right-back too as he eyes Southampton English international Nathaniel Clyne who is a player in demand this summer.

Who will be Champions League victors, Barcelona or Juventus?

The 2015 UEFA Champions League Final will be the final match of the 2014–15 UEFA Champions League and the 60th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA. The final will be played at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany, on the 6th June 2015, between Italian side Juventus and Spanish side Barcelona.

The winners will also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2014–15 UEFA Europa League, Sevilla, in the 2015 UEFA Super Cup and will further qualify to enter the semi-finals of the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup as the UEFA representative.

The 2015 Champions League final is a battle between two major European powerhouses who this season have both won their individual domestic titles. Once again in the 2014/2015 season, Juventus eased to a fourth successive Serie A title in Italy with consistent performances both in the league and also at a European level where they defeated Barcelona’s rivals Real Madrid over two legs at the semi-final stage, 3-2 on aggregate. Barcelona too eased to the La Liga title in contrast to other tighter seasons in La Liga history as Luis Suarez, Neymar and of course Lionel Messi hit top form towards the end of the season. Barcelona beat Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregated to advance to the final in Berlin. Both Barcelona and Juventus have also won their respective domestic cups this season meaning that a win in the Champions League final for either side would see them complete a famous ‘treble’.

Possible line-up for Juventus:

Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, Vidal; Tévez, Morata.

Doubtful: Barzagli (thigh)
Out: Cáceres (ankle), Asamoah (knee), Rômulo (thigh).

With Andrea Barzagli doubtful for the Champions League final in Berlin and Marin Caceres out with an ankle injury, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is relying on squad depth in defence to fill out his sides bench on Saturday evening in the German capital.

Possible line-up for Barcelona:

Ter Stegen; Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitić, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.

Unlike Massimiliano Allegri, Barceona manager Luis Enrique has a fully fit squad travelling to Berlin for Saturday nights Champions League final and is expected to pick the same team that has performed well throughout the season so far. His only selection headache is whether to use the experience of departing captain Xavi from the start in Berlin.

Where the game can be won and lost

Juventus’ defensive line will have to play exceptionally well to keep out Barcelona’s front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar who have been in sensational form for the Spanish giants this season. Star forward Lionel Messi has once again staked his claim as the best player in the world with a season of record breaking scoring. The Argentine has an incredible 58 goals in 56 appearances for the Catalan giants this season which has led to Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon claiming that Messi is in fact ‘extra-terrestrial’ hoping that the forward would ‘become human again’ on the 6th June 2015.

Can Juventus keep out Messi, Suarez and Neymar?
Can Juventus keep out Messi, Suarez and Neymar?

Not only do Juventus have to cope with Lionel Messi but Luis Suarez and winger Neymar as well. Although experiencing a slow start to his Barcelona career, Luis Suarez has thrived playing under the Camp Nou floodlights. Scoring 24 goals in 42 appearances for Barcelona, Suarez played a pivotal role in the teams semi-final against Bayern Munich where he set up both goals in the second leg of the match up to send the Spanish club to the final on Saturday night. Tricky Brazilian winger Neymar Jr has further been in scintillating form this campaign bagging 38 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions.

Unless Chellini and his back line for the Italian champions can deal to some extent with Messi, Suarez and Neymar then only a Barcelona win is surely conceivable in the Champions League final in Berlin on Saturday 6th June.

Prediction – 3-1 to Barcelona.

Where will Raheem Sterling be playing next season?

The latest new reports on the situation involving young Liverpool star Raheem Sterling state that the main reason behind the players proposed move away from Merseyside is due to his desire to move back home to London where he grew up as a child, the Daily Star reports. Prior to his move to the UK, Sterling in fact grew up in the country of Jamaica leaving for London at the age of 7. Sterling was part of the youth set up at London football club Queens Park Rangers prior to a move to Liverpool under Rafa Benitez at the time in 2010 for an initial fee of £650,000, expected to have since moved up to the £5 million mark. Since then, Sterling has shone for the Reds making 91 appearances for the team and scoring 18 goals in all competitions in the past four seasons.

Although struggling this season for Liverpool, the youngster enjoyed the 2013/2014 season where Liverpool boss Brenden Rodgers introduced him into his Premier League starting XI towards the middle part of the season. With strong performances came a place for Sterling within Roy Hodgsons England set up and further guaranteed his seat on the flight to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup where he showed his promise as one of the teams only highlights in a dismal campaign on the world stage. In 2014 Sterling further claimed the prestigious ‘Golden Boy’ award, previously won by Lionel Messi in 2005, recognising him as the best under-21 player playing in Europe during that season. His natural rapid pace coupled with his all-round general play which has improved dramatically since moving to Merseyside, has meant that Raheem Sterling has become one of the emerging talents on the world footballing stage.

Will Liverpool sell one of their star assets this summer?
Will Liverpool sell one of their star assets this summer?

After Sterling’s agent Aidy Ward last week claimed ‘he’d even reject £900,000-a-week if Liverpool offered it’, it is almost certain that Sterling will not be a Liverpool player by the start of next season even though the club have stated that he is not for sale at any price. Therefore with news that Sterling wants to move back to London where could the young footballing star end up? Manchester City and Manchester United are now unlikely destinations for the England international with Chelsea and Arsenal now leading the race for his signature. It is further possible that Sterling too could in fact move abroad, maybe to reunite with Rafa Benitez at Real Madrid if the Spaniard completes a move to the Santiago Bernabéu. Barcelona star midfielder Xavi stated in November 2014 that Sterling was in fact good enough to play for the La Liga club, praising his physical and technical qualities.

It can be stated that after a disappointing season with Liverpool on the whole, Raheem Sterling will want to once again play in the Champions League this time around as the youngster looks to develop into one of the world’s best attacking footballers.

Latest odds on where Sterling will be playing next season – http://www.paddypower.com/bet/football-specials/transfer-specials/Raheem-Sterling%27s-Next-Permanent-Club-7740854.html?force_racing_css=N.

Can Arsenal be title contenders next season?

Three key signings that Arsene Wenger has to make this summer.

Ever since the unforgettable season of the ‘Invincibles’ in the Premier League campaign of 2003-2004 Arsenal have somewhat struggled to regain the golden years of football the North London club once had. An eight year barren run in the form of trophies was only halted last season with an extra-time win over Hull in the FA Cup final and since then Arsenal have improved but have not fully challenged for the title this time around once again. This season there have been many positives however and key players that have stood up to the plate for the London based team. Alexis Sanchez has particularly impressed since joining from Barcelona, netting 24 goals in 49 games, Olivier Giroud has had his best season for Arsenal arguably scoring 18 in 33 appearances and other players such as Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck in particular have played consistently well for Arsenal especially in the second half of the season. This coupled with the experience of players such as Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky with the bright future and youth of the club performing well in the form of Hector Bellerin, whom has been outstanding this year for his young age, among other youngsters make for good reading for Arsenal fans everywhere.

Arsenal need a strong, ball playing central defensive midfielder who can shield the back four but who can also fit in with the teams passing set up and tactics. Certainly Francis Coquelin has been a solid player for Wenger this season when asked to play in this role; however he lacks the passing ability to back up his powerful presence in the heart of midfield. It can be said that the club have never been able to replace that man Patrick Vieira since his departure in 2005 as newer signings such as Alex Song failed to shine as brightly. There is one player currently in the Barclays Premier League whom could be the signing that Arsenal fans desire, Morgan Schneiderlin. The Southampton midfielder has long been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium after enjoying another successful campaign at the South coast club despite been ruled out for the rest of the season from the 25th April. Although linked with rival club Tottenham, Arsenal is likely to be Schneiderlins preferred destination as the midfielder has stated a desire to play in the Champions League consistently, something Arsenal can offer. It is expected that in order to sign the French international Wenger will have to part with around £25 million as stated by various sources, http://goo.gl/xPiKdo.

Schneiderlin could make the move to Arsenal in the summer.
Schneiderlin could make the move to Arsenal in the summer.

Wenger needs to address the problem he has in net at the London club. Wojciech Szczesny has struggled massively this year as his replacement, David Ospina, has put in a better level of performance with the Polish stopper been linked to a summer move to Southampton. Reports suggest that Chelsea back up goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has made 332 appearances for the Blues in his career, could make the move across the capital for a fee expected to be around £10 million. Manchester United and PSG are both also interested in the Czech international. Asmir Begovic could further be a transfer target for the North London club.

Could Petr Cech be making the move across London?
Could Petr Cech be making the move across London?

Despite Olivier Giroud having a good goal scoring campaign for the Gunners and Alexis Sanchez chipping in a healthy supply of goals during the course of the season, some would argue that the club still need a prolific talisman to compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs and rivals Chelsea. Arsenal have long been linked with a move for Karim Benzema however the French international seems settled at Real Madrid so Wenger may instead turn towards a transfer for Napoli star Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine international has been in fine form this season for the Italian club scoring an impressive 23 goals in 49 appearances however the money needed to complete a transfer here could prove to be a stumbling block for Arsene Wenger and the North London club. Another possible target could be Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon but he too would fetch a reasonable sum of money.

Gonzalo Higuain has hit form this season at Napoli.
Gonzalo Higuain has hit form this season at Napoli.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger will make youthful signings as usual during the summer window too with The Metro already reporting that Arsenal have signed French 16-year-old Yassin Fortune from French side RC Lens for around the £3 million mark, http://goo.gl/B9kZPT. The talented young midfielder had attracted interest from other major European clubs including Manchester United, as he is considered to be a star for the future.

What next for Liverpool F.C.?

What does life after Steven Gerrard mean for the Merseyside club?

To say that Liverpool have relied on their captain for 10-12+ years would be an understatement. Gerrard has stuck with the Merseyside club through thick and thin down the years and fully deserves his ‘legend’ title both within the North-Western city but also in the world of football in general. With his move to the L.A Galaxy in the rapidly developing MLS however, their once captain leaves a massive void within the club both on and off the pitch. Understandably in recent years, Gerrard has slowed down and made fewer appearances at the club but his presence will be sorely missed.

First of all, there doesn’t need to be a change in management. Brendan Rodgers will be the first to admit that his team have underwhelmed this season both in the league and the cup competitions but his young age and previous managerial record show that his knowledge within the sport is only going to grow further. It needs to be addressed too that Liverpool fans themselves need to understand that the club will not find another Steven Gerrard figure in this summer’s transfer market and need to possess patience in the near future.

This summer it will be the clubs new potential new signings that will have to do all the talking. First of all, Liverpool desperately need a new central defensive midfielder as Lucas Leiva has had a poor season. Emre Can could provide cover in that position but Rodgers seems to like the German international in a back three system. Liverpool need a defensive powerhouse that will shield the back two and give Henderson the freedom to move forward up the pitch. Victor Wanyama would fit perfectly within this role after having another fantastic season at Southampton and importantly he is tried and tested in the BPL. Yann M’Vila of Rubin Kazan, Axel Witsel of Zenit and Fernando from Shakhtar Donetsk could also fit this demanding role in front of the Kop next season.

Victor Wanyama in action for Southampton.
Victor Wanyama in action for Southampton.

It is not difficult to see that Liverpool have struggled massively in terms of goal scoring either this term as Gerrard himself is top scorer for the team with 12 goals in all competitions subject to this weekend’s final game of the season away at Stoke. Gonzalo Higuaín would cost too much for the club with transfers needed elsewhere on the team however both Aston Villa’s inform Christian Benteke, subject to very heavy rumours http://goo.gl/bvzQNB, and Lyon’s hometown hero Alexandre Lacazette could offer solutions for Rodgers, when Sturridge is out injured, for close to the £20 million mark.

Benteke could make the  move to Anfield this summer.
Benteke could make the move to Anfield this summer.

The Merseyside club further need to make a move for an attacking right-back to fit into Rodgers formation and tactics as Glen Johnson is phased out of the club. The front-runner according to various news articles, including Metro http://goo.gl/UaroqI, is Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal after the Spanish giants signing of Danilo from Porto for £23 million.

Carvajal is subject to strong rumours.
Carvajal is subject to strong rumours.

A new back up goalkeeper and centre back could be on the agenda too as the club look to drop unwanted contracts whilst bringing depth into the overall squad for next season. Peter Cech has been subject to heavy press rumours linking him with a move to Liverpool this summer as he plays second best to teammate Thibaut Courtois at rivals Chelsea however the Reds are more likely to revisit Fiorentina to pick up Brazilian stopper Neto for close to £2 million. At centre-back Rodgers needs strength in-depth. Skrtel has had his usual solid season but Lovren has struggled whilst Sakho has suffered various injury setbacks throughout the course of the year.

Other depth signings could include James Milner whom is sought after by Liverpool and Asier Illarreamendi for £15 million from Real Madrid.