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.
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.
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
We take a look at the stand out players at this years European U21 Championship.
Domenico Berardi – Striker (Juventus)
Born in Cariati, Calabria, Berardi joined the youth academy of Cosenza at the age of 13, before moving to Sassuolo at the age of 16. Berardi there made his senior debut for Sassuolo on the 27th August 2012. In 2013, he was named Best Player of the Serie B and later was described as the “undoubted star of the Sassuolo side.”
On the 2nd September 2013, Juventus confirmed that Berardi had joined the club on a co-ownership basis that saw Luca Marrone transfer in the opposite direction for a fee of €4.5 million. Since his move to the Italian giants Domenico Berardi has since moved back to Sassuolo on loan, bagging 31 goals in only 61 appearances.
So far in the Under-21 European Championship the 6ft 1in striker has managed to get his name on the scoresheet once in two games and has played well despite the Italian teams poor impact on the tournament so far.
Berardi is regarded as one of the most talented and promising young footballers of his generation.
Harry Kane – Striker (Tottenham)
A name familiar to followers of the English Premier League after his fantastic form this year, Harry Kane is an English international footballer who plays for Tottenham Hotspur and the England national team as a forward.
The striker born in Chingford has this season rose through the ranks at Tottenham and become a key player for the North London club. Scoring 31 goals in 51 appearances across all competitions this season, Kane was the Premier Leagues third top scorer, behind Segio Aguero and Diego Costa, and has since drawn similarities to German legend Jurgen Klinsmann in the way he plays. His form this season led to Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time top scorer, saying in March that Kane “seems to have that natural ability to get goals. He’s also young, fresh and his attitude appears to be very, very good…It looks as if he could have a very good future in the game.”
Kane has in fact represented England at all youth levels, playing for the under-17, under-19, under-20 and under-21 sides and managed to score on his senior international debut on 27 March 2015 vs Lithuania.
Kevin Volland – Attacking midfielder (Hoffenheim)
Kevin Volland is a 22 year old German footballer who plays as a winger for the Bundesliga side 1899 Hoffenheim.
Kevin Volland, previously at 1860 Munchen, moved to Hoffenheim in 2012 and has since shone at the German Bundesliga side. Throughout the 2012–13 season, Volland scored six goals and provided a further 12 assists. During the 2013–14 season, Volland improved his scoring total, registering nine goals and contributing a further eight assists. As a reward for his strong start with the club, Hoffenheim extended his contract on 28 July 2013, through 2017. Since then various Premier League clubs have been said to be interested in Kevin Volland including Liverpool and Manchester City.
Kevin Volland has scored 11 goals in 20 appearances for the German U21 national side and has so far managed to grab two goals and an assist in Germanys games vs Denmark and Serbia in the group stages at the European U21 Championship.
William Carvalho – Defensive midfielder (Sporting Lisbon)
William Carvalho is a Portuguese central defensive midfielder who currently plays for Sporting Lisbon in the Primeira Liga.
The 23 year old has been the subject of a £28.5 million transfer bid from Premier League runners up Arsenal already this summer and is also currently the subject of interest from Louis Van Gaal and Manchester United. Various media outlets are reporting that it is highly likely that William Carvalho will not be at the Estadio Jose Alvalade next season.
His strong performances so far at the U21 Championship, especially in his national sides game vs England, have warranted much praise from both fans and pundits alike. The midfielder further made two appearances at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for the full national Portugal team.
Max Meyer – Attacking midfielder (Schalke 04)
An upcoming star in the German top flight, Maxillian Meyer is a 19 year old, German footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder or as a forward for Bundesliga side Schalke 04.
Max Meyer has starred at all levels in the German national youth set up. The young midfielder was part of the Germany under-17 squad for the 2012 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship in which he managed to score three goals and further helped Germany to reach the final which the side would eventual lose in a penalty shoot-out to the Netherlands. Regardless, Meyer was in fact top scorer at the tournament and was duly awarded ‘best player of the tournament’. Since then, Meyer was in fact included in the 30 man provisional senior squad for 2014 FIFA World Cup and later that year on the 13th May 2014 made his senior international debut against rivals Poland.
A player that has world class dribbling technique and abilities and possesses great pace and speed, Max Meyers playing style is usually compared to that of fellow German star Mario Götze and superstar Lionel Messi.
Max Meyer has appeared in both of Germanys games so far in this year’s European U21 Championship.
John Stones – Defender (Everton)
A commanding centre back for Premier League side Everton, John Stones is an upcoming English international talent well known to followers of the Premier League. Still only 21 years old, Stones can also play at right back if necessary.
John Stones signed a five and a half year deal with Everton on the 31st January 2013 for a transfer fee reported to be in the region of £3 million from then Championship side Barnsley. Stones made his league debut as a late substitute in a 1–0 home win over Chelsea in September 2013 and started his first Premier League game for Everton in a 1–1 away draw against Stoke City in January 2014. His impact during his early spell in the first team at the Merseyside club warranted a new 5-year contract that will keep him with Everton until 2019. It is widely believed that the contract is worth around £30,000 a week to the young English star. Since then John Stones has been linked with a transfer to both Premier League giants Manchester United and Manchester City.
Stones made his first senior England start in a friendly against Norway at Wembley Stadium on the 3rd September 2014 and five days later made his competitive debut in a 2–0 victory away to Switzerland.
John Stones is yet to feature in an England shirt so far in this year’s European U21 Championship finals.
Emre Can – Defensive midfielder (Liverpool)
Emre Can is a 20 year old, German footballer who plays for English club Liverpool as a natural central midfielder. Known for being a versatile football player, Emre Can can also play as a defensive midfielder, centre-back or full-back.
Emre Can began his career at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, playing mostly in its reserve side before transferring to Bayer Leverkusen in 2013. A season later, Brenden Rodgers brought the German youngster to Liverpool for a transfer fee of around £9.75 million, activating his release clause at Leverkusen. Emre Can has enjoyed a strong start at Liverpool despite playing at central defence under Rodgers, a position he is less natural to.
Can has represented Germany from Under-15 to Under-21 level but is yet to make his full debut for the German senior international side. Many football experts have compared him to fellow German midfielders Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger, because of his ability to attack and defend whilst playing in central midfield.
Can has played in both games so far for the under-21 team at the 2015 European Championship in the Czech Republic. In their opening game in Prague, Can scored with a 17th minute equaliser from the edge of the penalty area in a 1–1 draw against Serbia and has since assisted once in the country’s game vs Denmark.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
As the 2014/2015 football season draws to a close we look at some of the major transfers that could occur this summer and decide how likely each signing is.
Arturo Vidal – Manchester United
Juventus’ Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal is one of Louis Van Gaal’s top transfer targets this summer as he looks to create another title challenging team at Old Trafford. Arturo Vidal has been at Juventus since 2011 joining for €10.5 million on a five-year contract from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in which time he has won the Serie A four times as well as three other major domestic trophies. Vidal has played as a box-to-box midfielder for most of his career as the South American is capable of assisting his team-mates in both defence and attack leading to the Italian press nicknaming him as ‘The Warrior’. The Chilean possesses all round fantastic attributes including pace, technique, stamina, marking, positioning, tackling and anticipation which leaves him as a desired target for the other major European clubs as Vidal has become one of the best complete midfielders currently in the world. Early reports suggest that a fee of around £40 million would be needed to prise the player away from Italy but with Manchester United’s huge summer budget, a deal could easily take place between the two clubs.
Premier League rivals Arsenal are also lining up a bid for the Juventus star according to many media sources, apart from ESPN who state that Arsene Wenger is not looking to do any business with the Turin club.
Chance of transfer – 70%
Paul Pogba – Manchester City/Chelsea
Another Juventus midfielder that could be leaving the Serie A this summer for the Barclays Premier League is Paul Pogba. The gifted French youngster is rapidly becoming one of the most influential midfielders on the continent as this season he has played a massive part in both Juventus’ Serie A title and the teams charge towards the Champions League final against Barcelona. Pogba, who was released by Manchester United in 2012, received the prestigious Golden Boy award for 2013 and has since become one of the best young players in the world, winning the 2014 World Cup tournament’s ‘Best young player’ award. Scoring an impressive 20 goals in 89 appearances from midfield for Juventus, Paul Pogba is a well-rounded box-to-box midfielder who is capable of changing a game both in attack and defence.
Both Manchester City and Chelsea are keen on a deal that would bring the French midfielder, still only 22 years old, to the Premier League this summer with Metro reporting that it is in fact Chelsea in pole position for his signature this summer.
Chance of transfer – 65%
Christian Benteke – Liverpool
It’s no secret that Christian Benteke wants a move away from Aston Villa this summer. The striker has recently stated that he wants to play European football next season; something the Midlands club can’t offer their star forward. Scoring 42 times in 88 appearances for Villa, Benteke is known for his strength and powerful all-round play as well as his finishing. The 24 year old’s impressive goal scoring ratio in the Barclays Premier League has alerted Merseyside side Liverpool in particular as Brenden Rodgers looks for a striker to couple up with Daniel Sturridge. The striker has a £32.5 million release clause in his current contract at Aston Villa, a small fortune that Liverpool could afford.
Chance of transfer – 95%
Radamel Falcao – Chelsea
Although massively out of form during his loan spell at Manchester United this season, Premier League rivals Chelsea are said to be interested in making a move for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao during this summer’s transfer window. With a fee of around £25 million been discussed between Chelsea and AS Monaco over a potential transfer, Falcao could be returning to the Premier League next season.
Chance of transfer – 60%
Raheem Sterling – Real Madrid
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. 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.
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. Real Madrid are slowly becoming the favourites in the race for the Liverpool youngster, especially as Rafa Benitez looks set to take charge at the Bernabeu. This transfer race has a long way to go yet though with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all further interested in the forward.
Chance of transfer – 80%
Jackson Martinez – Arsenal
Jackson Martinez has been in fine form again this season for Portuguese side FC Porto. The Colombian striker, also captain at the club, has hit 21 goals in 29 Liga Sagres games for Porto this season as the club finished second behind rivals Benfica. Columnist Tim Vickery has previously described Jackson as “an out-and-out goalscorer, a front-to-goal centre-forward who can finish off both feet”. The Colombian striker has been Primeira Liga top scorer in all three of his seasons at FC Porto.
The Daily Express has reported that Jackson Martinez has permission to join Arsenal or Liverpool this summer although Arsenal are very heavy favourites to sign the Colombian forward from FC Porto as the striker is said to want regular Champions League football.
Chance of transfer – 95%
Dani Alves – Manchester United
Barcelona’s Brazilian right back Dani Alves could be moving to the Premier League this season according to some media reports. The Guardian is reporting that Premier League club Manchester United believe that they’re in pole position to sign the 32 year old from the Spanish giants. With Dani Alves becoming a free agent this summer, Barcelona have little power in stopping the Brazilian making a move across Europe. French giants PSG are also said to be interested in a deal for the right back however manager Laurent Blanc has stated that he believes the player will remain at Barcelona for the foreseeable future.
Chance of transfer – 70%
Nathaniel Clyne – Liverpool
Liverpool’s need for a quality right back is desperate as Glen Johnson has struggled this season under pressure. Nathaniel Clyne, only 24 years old, has had an outstanding and very consistent season for south coast Premier League club Southampton and as the right back is only valued at around £15 million, could prove to be a steal for the Merseyside club. Formerly an international at under-19 and under-21 level, Clyne made his senior international debut for England in November 2014 after an impressive start to the 2014/2015 season. He began his career at London club Crystal Palace, playing regularly in four Championship seasons before a move to Southampton, where he has played three seasons in the Premier League.
Chance of transfer – 80%
Morgan Schneiderlin – Manchester United/Arsenal
Southampton’s central defensive midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is one of the most sought after transfers this summer. It is said that Manchester United and Tottenham are interested in the Frenchman however Arsenal are favourites to win the race for his signature. Regardless of this though, Schneiderlin himself has stated a desire to play for Manchester United with it been reported that he has told his close friends that a move to the Red Devils would be his preferred destination according to the Daily Star.
The midfielder has stated a desire to play in the Champions League consistently, something both Manchester United and Arsenal can offer. It is expected that in order to sign the French international both teams will have to part with around £25 million.