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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Transfers you should expect to see completed by the end of next week.

Yevhen Konoplyanka to Sevilla

The Ukrainian winger is now widely reported to be set to sign for La Liga club, Sevilla in the coming days. The forward, whose contract has now expired at Dnipro, is set to reject offers and interest from various Premier League clubs including Liverpool, Tottenham and Stoke.

Idrissa Gueye to Aston Villa

Although having a £9 million transfer offer accepted by Lille and the player flying over to Birmingham to complete a transfer to the Premier League side both Southampton and Marseille have made counter offers for Aston Villa target Idrissa Gueye. The Lille midfielder was poised to join Villa after Lille accepted a £9million offer but Saints and Marseille are understood to have made an eleventh hour bid of £10m for the Ligue 1 star.

Gueye

Asmir Begovic to Chelsea

It’s common knowledge by now that Premier League winners Chelsea are interested in Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic to play as back up to number one keeper Thibaut Courtois after losing Petr Cech earlier this week. However it’s been reported that Stoke chiefs have told Chelsea they want one of their fringe players on loan – on top of the Blues’ improved £8million offer for Asmir Begovic. Jose Mourinho wants the Bosnian keeper as back up to Thibaut Courtois to cover Petr Cech’s departure to Arsenal and Begovic wants to move to Stamford Bridge. But Stoke want winger Victor Moses, 24, forward Patrick Bamford, 21, or 19-year-old midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek on loan as part of a deal.

Manuel Lanzini to West Ham

According to varying reports West Ham have made a move for exciting Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini. The 22-year-old currently plays as a forward in the United Arab Emirates for club Al Jazira. The Hammers are seeking a loan deal for next season with an option to buy him if he impresses at Upton Park.

Lanzini

Dennis Praet to Aston Villa/Southampton

Aston Villa have joined the race to sign Dennis Praet, the highly rated Belgium international who is also attracting interest from Premier League rivals Southampton and Everton. Praet is set to leave Anderlecht this summer for a fee in the region of £10m and Aston Villa have made an inquiry about the possibility of making an offer for the young attacking midfielder.

Seamus Coleman to Manchester United

Manchester United will use Jonny Evans as bait in a bid to lure Everton star Seamus Coleman to Old Trafford according to various media outlets. The Toffees insist Coleman is not for sale and that United are wasting their time making a bid for the Republic of Ireland international however Manchester United bosses remain hopeful that the club can in fact land right-back Coleman and are set to tempt the Toffees with a cash offer plus Evans in a bid to secure a deal.Seamus_Coleman

Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli to Watford

It is widely been reported that Watford have now agreed fees with Tottenham to sign their French midfielders Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli. Capoue, 26, is understood to be close to agreeing to personal terms whilst negotiations are still also ongoing with Stambouli, although an agreement with the 24-year-old is still some way from being reached. Both midfielders have had limited opportunities at Spurs and a move to the Hornets could give them more playing time at the Premier League stage.

Other likely transfers to be completed in the next week include:

Fabian Delph to Manchester City

Aleksandar Mitrović to Tottenham

Lukas Podolski to Galatasaray

Antonio Rudiger to Wolfsburg

Morgan Schneiderlin to Manchester United

Adam Matthews to Sunderland

Who are the real young stars of the European U21 Championship?

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.”

Berardi

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.

Kane

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.

Volland

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.

Carvalho

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.

Meyer

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.

Stones

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.

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.