Who will be relegated from the Championship?

Last season the battle at the bottom of the Championship involved a lot of teams and went right down to the wire.

The teams that did go stay up will take confidence in that and will want to push on this season and not be involved at the wrong end of the table again.

The clear favourites to go down are Yeovil Town and unfortunately for them it will be a very tough ask simply because they were not expected to get promoted to the Championship in the first place so they do not really have the team in place to compete. I do like Gary Johnson though as a manager and his teams always seem to be very committed and want to win for him. They will be underdogs in every game so they have nothing to lose and that could work in their advantage.

Doncaster Rovers also gained promotion last season and this time I think they will go straight back down because I do not think they made the greatest of managerial choices in Paul Dickov but maybe he will prove me wrong. They have brought in Ross Turnbull in goal and this is a risky choice because he hasn’t played first team football for a very long time and even though he is getting older he does not have a lot of experience. I do though like the signings of Dean Furman and Harry Forrester and hope they do well in the Championship.

Barnsley finished last season superbly but it could be another year of struggle. David Flitcroft has had an exceptional start to his managerial career but it will be a real test for him when the going gets tough and his team get on a losing run. The signings he has made have been ok and will add something to the side and getting Chris O’Grady back is vital to the way they play. Also Dale Jennings will be looking to restart his career after an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich but hopefully he has taken some positives from that experience and will be brilliant in the Championship.

Paul Ince may have been able to keep his son Tom at Blackpool for the time being but that might not be enough for them to stay away from the relegation battle. Ince has not been a great manager over recent years and it will be a difficult job at Blackpool but he did end last season with very few defeats and if he can turn a few of the draws into victories then they will have nothing to worry about. They have brought in three decent strikers in Bobby Grant, Michael Chopra and Steve Davies so they at least have competition in the striking department and goals may not be a problem.

Burnley have lost their best player and most consistent goal scorer in Charlie Austin so it is no surprise at all that they are seen as one of the weaker teams in the division. They will need other players to step up or it will be a very long year for Sean Dyche if he gets to keep his job for that long. The only striker they have brought in so far is Ryan Noble from Sunderland and that cannot be convincing the fans that they are going to be successful.

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Who will win the Champions League?

The Champions League has reached the quarter final stage and it is quite wide open at the minute and it is difficult to pick a winner.

Looking at the teams, the favourites are still Barcelona even though they may not have been as dominant as usual in recent weeks. However, they proved to the rest of Europe that they are not going to be easy to knock out. 2-0 down after the first leg, they managed to win the second leg 4-0 and put on a fantastic performance. I do think they can win it but must perform better away from home.

Spanish rivals Real Madrid are second favourite, and you can understand why. They may even be a little annoyed that they aren’t considered the favourites by the bookies but with Jose Mourinho in charge and Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch they look a force and will do everything they can to win the competition. For me I think they can win it because in Mourinho they have one of the best tacticians in world football and some may argue that this is his competition.

Third favourite are Bayern Munich and they probably would have been more fancied had they not limped over the line against Arsenal. After securing a 3-1 away win, it should have been comfortable, however they lost the second leg 2-0 and only went through on away goals. This has obviously caused some concern but it really shouldn’t because they have a fantastic team and they may have just been slightly too complacent. Plus there manager will want to leave the club on a high and win the big trophy.

Another team from Germany have also made it to the quarter finals and Dortmund could be the dark horses in this competition. In the last couple of years they have been a breath of fresh air and will certainly give anyone a game. Throughout the squad they have very good players that have been underrated and maybe don’t get the spotlight as much as they should. Players like Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze are just two that have finally caught the attention this season.

In the Champions League there are always fantastic teams and this year realistically anyone could win it. Italian giants Juventus will not want to be wrote out just yet and will feel that they will be picking up the trophy at the end of the season. Experience has been key and they have been very quiet for a number of years now and may have been fortunate with their last draw against Celtic but they still comfortably beat the determined Scottish side.

Even the sixth favourite team have a chance of winning the competition. PSG have the players, they have the manager and they have the experience to win games when they probably haven’t been at their best. Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have a big say in where the trophy goes, when he is on form he can be lethal but too often he isn’t quite at it. If he and the rest of their attacking talent like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore backing him up they should score goals against anyone but can they keep it tight enough at the back?

Galatasaray were probably just happy to get to this stage but with recent signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder they may have just set their sights a little higher and they could win the tournament. A lot of people will write them off but it isn’t always the most glamorous club that wins the trophy, just look at Porto when they won it. Also, going to Turkey is never easy and they may get a lot of joy at home in an intimidating atmosphere.

Finally, Malaga are also still in the tournament and for me they are the only team that I don’t believe could win it and that is unfortunate because they did very well getting through the group stages and then knocking out Porto. All the other teams will be hoping to draw Malaga but that could work in their advantage, being the underdog.

It is difficult to bet against Barcelona and they are the team I think will win it but it all depends on the draw, so if they don’t my second pick would be Bayern Munich.

Who do you think will win the Champions League?

Will Thomas Muller join a Premier League club this summer?

Thomas Muller scored in the Champions League final for Bayern Munich but he may be on his way out of the club this summer.

Muller also has 10 international goals for Germany

Last season he spent a lot of time on the bench and it would seem that the 22 year old wants to be guaranteed first team football. He did actually play 53 games last season which is the most in his career but a lot of them were from the bench and he does have the ability and the talent to be a regular in a lot of sides all around Europe. He did still however manage to score 11 goals and play a major part in Germany’s Euro 2012 campaign in particular the qualifiers where he started all 10 games and contributed seven assists. Muller’s versatility works for him and against him because he can play in any of the forward roles which means he is always there in case of injuries but whenever everyone if fit he is put back on the bench just in case someone isn’t having an effective game or is struggling with an injury. But his main strength is his composure as he never looks fazed and if he is given an opportunity to score he will usually take it.

So would he be interested in a move to the Premier League and which teams would he realistically sign for? Tottenham Hotspur are the first team that spring to mind as they are in desperate need of a striker with Jermain Defoe being the only experienced striker at the club and it is not clear whether he will stay either. Muller would fit perfectly into their side with him able to capitalise on the through balls from Rafael Van Der Vaart and the crosses of Gareth Bale, I am sure he would score plenty of goals in England.

Another team linked with a move is Manchester City who will be linked with any player that becomes available and has proved to be a good player for their club. But, I could see them going for the German international because it looks like they may lose out on Robin Van Persie. With them interest in him it suggests to me that they are in the market for a new striker and Muller would fit the bill as he can play in a front two or three and will do a job out wide for them. If Edin Dzeko leaves I think he would be a perfect replacement.

The team that he scored against in that Champions League final, Chelsea have also been linked with a move for him and even though they have spent a lot of money so far this summer they haven’t really invested in their strike force and after losing Didier Drogba they will need some reinforcements for the currently inconsistent Fernando Torres. Daniel Sturridge is still at the club but he probably didn’t play as much as he would have hoped after Roberto Di Matteo took over so he will be hoping for more starts this year. But the new manager may look elsewhere and Muller could be a good signing for them and with Romelu Lukaku joining West Brom on loan they definitely need a new striker at least for backup.

Players of the day- Franck Ribery and Theo Walcott

Sweden are the second team to be knocked out of Euro2012 after their 3-2 defeat to England while France beat Ukraine.

The first game was suspended after the fourth minute because of terrible weather conditions and it eventually got under way almost an hour later. The first half saw both teams come close but neither could really take control of the game, although France had more of the possession they couldn’t quite carve the Ukrainian defence open. However, early in the second half the game was all but over after two goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye. Both goals were finished off brilliantly after some wonderful passing. Cabaye deserved his goal and once again was sublime in the centre of the midfield and along with Andrea Pirlo, has been the most consistent player in the tournament. Ukraine had a few half chances but couldn’t find a way past Hugo Lloris in the French goal.

Man of the match- Franck Ribery- The Bayern Munich winger was in and out of the game but whenever he had the ball he frightened the life out of the Ukraine defenders. His pace was crucial in the first goal and he looked the most likely all through the first half to open the scoring. France’s other flair players were slightly disappointing in my opinion with Samir Nasri never getting out of first gear and Menez being very wasteful at times. Ribery was the one that added some much needed creativity to the game and outshone the rest.

Ribery made his international debut in 2006

England managed to beat Sweden in a thrilling game with both teams pushing forward for the win. Andy Carroll gave them the lead with a good header from an accurate cross from Steven Gerrard and England seemed in control without every really posing a threat. The second half was very different as the Swedes knew that defeat would mean they were eliminated from the competition and when Glen Johnson couldn’t clear an Olof Mellberg shot, they looked confident and were forcing the issue a lot more and then Mellberg once again popped up from a free kick to score a header. This left the England fans with a feeling of oh no not again but Roy Hodgson made a positive substitution and brought on Theo Walcott who scored with one of his first touches. Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson should have done a lot better though. The winner was scored by Danny Welbeck who flicked in a Walcott cross with an inventive effort that not many other players would have been able to pull off or even try.

Man of the match- Theo Walcott- He may not have been on the pitch for that long but he changed the game and proved to be the difference between the sides. James Milner hadn’t been able to get much out of the fullback Martin Olsson but he looked awful against Walcott. His goal may not have been the best but at least he had a try and it lifted everyone. For the Welbeck goal he was vital as he picked up the ball and was very direct, driving at the defence and pulling the ball across for the Manchester United striker. He may not have been involved a lot but when he did have the ball he caused problems and maybe will get a chance to start in the next game.

Walcott now has four goal for England

Will Lucio join the Premier League this season?

Inter Milan defender Lucio’s agent has claimed that he will be leaving the Italian team this summer and is looking for a new adventure in Europe.

Lucio has played 105 times for Brazil

The Brazilian international has had a fantastic career so far winning many trophies including the Bundesliga three times, Serie A once and the Champions League as well as many cup competitions. He has also played over 100 times for his national team Brazil and helped them to win the World Cup in 2002 which just shows he can perform on the biggest of stages. He first came to Europe to play for Bayer Leverkusen and instantly adapted to German football, not only defending well but also adding goals from defence with his power in the opposition in the box as well as his forward runs in open play. For Bayer Leverkusen he played and scored in the 2002 Champions League final but unfortunately they went on to lose to Real Madrid 2-1. After scoring 18 times for the club, he joined Bayern Munich and went onto even greater success, while he was in the team they were very successful in their own country and even though they couldn’t replicate that form in Europe he was still considered one of the best defenders in Europe.

Even though he was getting older his services were in great demand and he joined Inter Milan and in his first season won the treble in Italy. Inter won the Coppa Italia, Serie A and Champions League against his former club Bayern Munich. He barely missed a game throughout the season and now at the age of 34 he could still make the difference to a lot of teams in Europe. So who could he join in England?

The first team I think he could do a good job is at the current champions Manchester City. When Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott were injured last season  they struggled with Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure not looking up to the challenge and costing their team on multiple occasions. I think Lucio would just add extra experience and make a difference particularly in the Champions League because the current team have a lot of world beaters, but how many have actually won the Champions League or World Cup?

Manchester rivals United, should also be looking at him as Sir Alex Ferguson knows they need to improve their team this summer and although I was quite impressed with Jonny Evans this season, I think Lucio is a lot better than him still. Plus Ferguson doesn’t mind bringing in experience as we have seen in the past with players like Laurent Blanc. With Nemanja Vidic struggling with injuries this season he may not be able to get back to his high standards when he returns and with Rio Ferdinand also getting older he will not be able to play as many games next season. Yes they do have Phil Jones and Chris Smalling but they have been used in different positions throughout this season and that little bit of extra experience may have got them over the line this season and secured the title for them.

Finally, Arsenal always need a centre back. Laurent Koscielny has had a very good season in my opinion but he does still make mistakes and Thomas Vermaelen has struggled with injuries at times this year. Lucio is also a lot better than Per Mertesacker and the Brazilian would fit into Arsenal’s style of play a lot better as he is one of the best ball playing centre backs of the last 10 years.

He may not be as quick as he used to be but he still has a lot of very useful attributes and would add something to the very best teams in the Premier League so I think if any of these teams get a chance they should definitely sign him up.

Chelsea will face Benfica in the quarter final of the Champions League

After overcoming Napoli, Chelsea will face Benfica in the next round of the Champions League as they look to progress to the semi final.

Roberto Di Matteo will not be too disappointed with this draw as they know Benfica are a good side therefore they will not underestimate them and make sure his team prepare for the game properly but on the other hand he will also know that it could have been worse for his side. They came back fantastically against Napoli after a 3-1 defeat in the first leg but they managed to win 4-1 in extra time at Stamford Bridge and by doing this they have let everyone in Europe know that they are not finished yet and they still have enough quality left to win the whole competition.

Would they have progressed if Andre Villas Boas was still in charge? In my opinion no because the players looked happier and looked like they wanted to play for the man in charge. John Terry scored and had an all round fantastic game before going off injured, he wanted to get his head on every ball possible which he may not have done a few weeks ago. Frank Lampard scored a crucial penalty and he was also more influential in this game than I have seen him for quite a while and when he is on form you know he can get a goal or provide an assist. Didier Drogba opened the scoring and looked like a man possessed and someone that wanted to get Chelsea through all by himself and his performance reminded me of when Jose Mourinho was in charge and he destroyed opposition defences.

Lampard, Terry and Drogba celebrate a goal

These players may be a few years older now but they have proven when they want to, they can still put in match winning performances and on the night they all had to. The players showed a lot of togetherness and as soon as the first goal went in there was no doubt in my mind who would go through.

If Chelsea do progress, and they will be favourites to do so, they will face either Milan or Barcelona. Which will not be easy as Barcelona are clearly the best team in Europe right now and Milan showed everyone against Arsenal that if they are on form they can give a team a good beating, so it will not be easy for Chelsea but if they can get through the Benfica tie, they will grow more in confidence and they could spring a shock in the semi final.

The other quarter finals drew together APOEL from Cyprus and the European giants Real Madrid and in the other semi final they will face either Marseille or Bayern Munich. In my opinion even though APOEL  have done amazingly well Real Madrid will be the happiest of all the teams in the draw while Marseille and Bayern could be really close as they both possess real quality in their side.

It could be a fantastic quarter final this year with a lot of goals rather than the usual tactical battle so I for one cannot wait for the games to get underway.