92 clubs favourite players – Chelsea – Juan Mata

If I had chosen to do this last season then there would not have been a problem with my selection for my favourite Chelsea player but things have changed over the summer.

The man that I enjoy watching the most is Juan Mata but unfortunately for me and a lot of other football fans Jose Mourinho isn’t giving us the opportunity to watch his talents on a regular basis. For one reason or another the Chelsea boss has decided he has better options in his squad and completely disregarded last season. Mata was in my opinion the best player in the Premier League last year and yes I am one of the few that believe he was better than Gareth Bale. In his 35 league games last year he got 11 goals and 17 assists which makes it even more remarkable that Mourinho doesn’t select him week in and week, and in total for both club and country last year in his 74 games he got 21 goals and 39 assists which means he was directly involved in 60 goals. It seemed like he was just going to get better and better but now that has all stopped and I have very rarely questioned the ‘Special One’ before but surely this is a massive blunder on his part. Yes he has multiple options to choose from but Mata has to be the first name on the team sheet for me, he is easily the most consistent of the attacking players.
Mata
His defensive side of the game has been questioned and if that is the reason he has been left out then maybe that is understandable but give the ball to Mata in the final third and chances will come and with Chelsea’s strikers not exactly hitting top form they need several of those at the moment. I am not going to say that the reason Chelsea have started slowly is because Mata has not been on the pitch but it is a factor that needs to be considered.

Mata at Chelsea needs to be given a role that Bale had at Tottenham, Cristiano Ronaldo has at Real Madrid and to a lesser extent Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle United. Just put him on the pitch and let him do whatever he wants, if you give him the ball your team will have a better chance of scoring simply because he is on the pitch. Will you be as solid defensively? No but sometimes you just have to say to these sorts of players go out there and enjoy what you are good at, taking players on, causing problems for the opposition defence and winning games of football basically on your own. This may sound like he is a ball greedy player but he has phenomenal vision and just look at his stats he clearly cares more about the ball ending up in the back of the net rather than scoring himself.

So the question is, should Mata be in the starting 11 every week? Has Mourinho got this one wrong? Does he now have to leave the club?

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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?

Assesment of English teams in Europe this week

The English teams in Europe this week all had tough tests and it ended up being a difficult time for some.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all had games this week. To start with Manchester United were at home to Real Madrid and after getting a 1-1 draw in the away leg, they may have been slight favourites to go through and when they went 1-0 up at Old Trafford they seemed to have one foot in the next round. However, Nani was sent off and the game was taken away from the quickly with goals from Luka Modric and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo ending their hopes this season. The turning point was the red card and it was dangerous play but in my opinion it should have only been a yellow card and Man United should have been in the next round.

Should Nani have been sent off?

Should Nani have been sent off?


Now, the Europa League first legs were taking place and Chelsea were playing Steaua Bucuresti and Rafa Benitez wasn’t given any help from his opponents. His time at Chelsea has been pretty close to a disaster with a lot of people unhappy with him in charge and the players not exactly playing to the best of their ability. They lost 1-0 but should go through by winning comfortably at Stamford Bridge but it is going to be more difficult than Benitez would have hoped.
Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?

Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?


Tottenham Hotspur had possibly the best looking tie on paper and one that could have went either way against Inter Milan. But they were too strong against the team from Italy and made them look very poor. 3-0 did not flatter them and they possibly should have had more. Gareth Bale added to his growing reputation by scoring the first and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen were the other two scorers. Spurs do need to be careful and not concede early in the away leg but I feel they have done enough to get into the next round.
Will Bale become one of the best in the world?

Will Bale become one of the best in the world?


Finally, Newcastle United had the toughest tie in the Europa League but got through it and defensively performed brilliantly against Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. They did not offer a lot going forward but could have nicked a result had Hatem Ben Arfa went for power instead of a chip. The two centre back James Perch and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa were fantastic and neither of them have been first choice in that position so far this year (with Yanga-Mbiwa only signing in January) and with Fabricio Coloccini injured at the moment they have both staked a claim for a starting place.
Newcastle's new Mr Consistent

Newcastle’s new Mr Consistent


So who had the best result in Europe this week? Who was the best player for an English team?

How will the English teams perform in the Champions League group stages?

The Champions League group stage has been drawn and even though English teams are usually very good at qualifying through their group it may not be as easy this team.

No doubt, Manchester City have the hardest group with Spanish giants Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund. Madrid may pose the biggest threat with Jose Mourinho as their manager and he will be desperate to win the trophy again. Cristiano Ronaldo is obviously one of their biggest threats but they have quality all through their side and if City want to prove they are one of the best teams in Europe they will have to top the group and show up the former Chelsea manager. But, City may not even get in the top two because Ajax have a lot of quality themselves with players like Christian Eriksen in their side and you cannot discount Dortmund as they should never have been in the bottom pot anyway and have won the German league twice in a row.

Now, neighbours Manchester United have a much easier task as they should top the group if they play to their potential and I can’t see Braga, Galatasaray or Cluj topping this group. The current Galatasaray squad contains a few former Premier League players in Milan Baros, Emmanuel Eboue and Johan Elmander so they will want to show their quality and show everyone they are good enough against English opposition. Braga are an interesting side but unfortunately for them they can never seem to take that extra step and compete right at the very top and are seen as the customary third place team in Portugal. Cluj will probably be the whipping boys of the group however it is worth noting that they have beaten Roma and drawn with Chelsea in the past so they may be dark horses.

Arsenal will face Schalke, Olympiakos and Montpellier in their group matches and they will also be hoping that they don’t have too many problems. Arsenal new boy Olivier Giroud will travel to the club he signed from a lot sooner than he probably expected and the French champions will want to show Giroud that he was wrong for leaving and should have stayed but I can’t see them posing too much of a threat. What separates Schalke from the rest in this group is they have a goal scorer that is feared all over Europe and can score all different types of goals and that man is Klaas Jan Huntelaar, he will try and show Arsene Wenger that maybe he should have tried to sign him instead of Lukas Podolski and Giroud. Olympiakos will always cause problems at home for any team so they will be relying on that and goalkeeper Roy Carroll may have a lot of work to do in the group stages.

Finally, reigning champions Chelsea will be hoping to start their campaign comfortably and they will surely progress but may not get things their own way with Shaktar Donetsk, Juventus and Nordsjaelland in their group. The standout team is Juventus but they are not the team they once were even though they were very impressive in Serie A last season. But, if Chelsea can stop Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield they will have a great chance of winning the group. Shaktar are also a decent side and have won the Ukrainian title for the last two seasons so they may put more of an effort into trying to topple some of the bigger teams in Europe this year and it is always difficult to play away in Eastern Europe so that could be difficult for Chelsea. Nordsjaelland are the current Danish champions but not a lot is known about them so everyone is expecting them to lose all of their games but this could work in their advantage and they could pull off a few shocks

My Team of Euro2012

Euro 2012 has been one of the better international tournaments in recent years

Goalkeeper- Gianluigi Buffon- The Italian has been in fantastic form and has produced a number of wonderful saves throughout the tournament. But the main reason I have chosen him as my number 1 is the fact that he has marshalled the defence in front of him superbly even though there have been a number of changes at the back for them.

Right Back- Joao Pereira- For me he did a very good job and was consistent in every game, although he didn’t stand out because of other players in the team, he did not let them down and was very good defensively with little support from Nani on the right hand side. He clearly has a very good footballing brain as he knew that when Coentrao went forward he had to stay back. He has possibly been the most underrated player in the tournament.

Left Back- Jordi Alba- The new Barcelona man wasn’t even a left back until recently but now he looks like he was born to play in that position. He was rarely beaten by a winger and stopped a lot of crosses coming in. But his main strength is going forward and his movement was sublime at times and he gave Spain a bit more width which they lack at times.  You have to be a special player if you add something to the World and European Champions.

Centre Back- Sergio Ramos- Another player that has changed position recently and has done very well there. The Real Madrid defender has carried on his club form for Spain and hasn’t given their opponents a sniff and that is why they have only conceded one goal this tournament. He still adds a threat going forward and he has shown when the pressure is on he remains calm with a wonderful penalty against Portugal.

Centre Back- Mats Hummels- He may not have been very well known outside of Germany but the 23 year old will have caught the eye of a lot of clubs during the tournament. He has everything a centre back should, he is quite quick, good positioning and his marking was on a whole superb.

Centre Midfield- Steven Gerrard- The England captain for me was their best player and seemed to be lifted by getting the armband for the tournament and he didn’t let anyone down. His free kicks were always dangerous and his defending was top class, he blocked a lot of shots and covered a lot of ground. If only England had got him into more attacking positions they may have gone further in the competition.

Centre Midfield- Andrea Pirlo- My player of the tournament by a long way. This has been competition, by himself basically he has dominated teams like England and Germany and even in the opening group game against Spain he looked like the best player on the pitch. His passing accuracy must be one of the best in the tournament but it’s not just his accuracy, it seems like very pass he makes has been well thought out and will create something.

Centre Midfield- Xabi Alonso- You have to have a Spain midfielder in your team and Alonso has been the best in the competition in my opinion. He is the most important to the team as he plays a very unique role, basically he sits alongside Busquets who gives him the ball at every opportunity and looks for a playmaker. Without him in the side I think a lot of their attacks would break down a lot earlier and is irreplaceable in the side.

Right Winger- Alan Dzagoev- Remember him from the group stages? Russia in their opening game and it was largely down to this man as he scored twice and ripped the Czech Republic defence to shreds. Then in the second game he scored against Poland with a header which just showed another attribute that he has. The most disappointing thing about Russia going out was that I couldn’t get to see more of him but he did enough to be in my team of the tournament.

Left Winger- Cristiano Ronaldo- Ronaldo started off the tournament pretty slowly and missed guilt edge chances against Denmark but after the Holland game, I’m sure a lot of people were asking whether this would be Ronaldo’s tournament and when he scored against Czech Republic it seemed even more likely however it wasn’t to be and his decision not to take a penalty against Spain cost the team.

Striker- Mario Balotelli- If he didn’t produce against Germany in the semi final he wouldn’t have got near this team however he did and could now win the Euros and the golden boot. He had been performing quite well, and causing problems for defenders but he wasn’t putting away his chances which meant he was criticised. However, the England defence couldn’t get to grips with him and the Germans had no answer to him.

Player of the day- Sergio Ramos and why I’m glad I watch the Premier League

Spain are through to the final of the European Championships but in all honesty it was a very poor game.

Portugal looked threatening in the first half but then Spain took control and created the better chances in the second half and extra time. Andres Iniesta should have done better when the ball was pulled back to him in the box but the Portuguese keeper pulled off a good save. So the game went to penalties and what did we learn from it, well Spain can hold their nerve and Portuguese footballers clearly aren’t the cleverest first with Bruno Alves being fourth on the list trying to take his third. So who was more stupid Alves for stepping up too early or Nani for letting him walk all the way to the edge of the box before realising he was supposed to be first? In my opinion Crisitiano Ronaldo’s ego cost them the game as he is surely their penalty taker, why didn’t he step up and take it first? Instead it seemed like he would want the glory. However, I may be wrong and he may not have took one but that is very unlikely.

So all in all what did I learn from this game? That even though England aren’t great, the Premier League is the best in the world. There is very little chance of a game being like this and only one shot on target in the first 90 minutes from both teams is a disgrace, even when bottom of the league play top they do still usually get a chance or at least a shot on target. I am already counting down the days till the football season starts again in England as I think there would be more passion, heart, determination and drive in a League 2 game than there was in this game. Some people may argue that it was because their quality cancelled each other out but I don’t believe that as the better players should be able to create at least something in 90 minutes instead we got them overreacting to challenges, surrounding the referee and trying to get their opponents booked.

Man of the match- Sergio Ramos- It was so difficult to choose a man of the match as I was hardly watching the game as I was so bored at times, but the Real Madrid man was very good at the back and showed his strength as well as his composure on the ball. He stopped Ronald from producing his best and was always across to cover his fullback when needed. The penalty that he put away was also very confident and similar to Andrea Pirlo’s against England. Spain will have to up their game in the final but it wouldn’t surprise me if they performed exactly the same and won the tournament as teams seem to now be scared of them and not believe in themselves and try to attack.

Ramos won the European Championships in Euro 2008 playing at right back

Player of the day- Fabio Coentrao

The first quarter final saw Portugal beat Czech Republic 1-0 and dominate from start to finish and the result never looked in doubt.

Czech Republic didn’t offer much in the game and never really threatened scoring apart from when their winger Vaclav Pilar raced down the left wing, beating a few players however his cross was awful and this summed up their performance. They were hardworking but not at any point did it look like they actually wanted to win the game. Their best player was Petr Cech and that just tells you everything about their performance, he produced some fantastic saves, particularly one which he tipped over the bar from long range as it was moving in the air. Portugal created numerous chances and also had a goal disallowed when substitute Hugo Almeida headed past Cech but he was rightly judged offside. The Portuguese needed a goal so up stepped their main man in Cristiano Ronaldo who made a good run from the left wing to head home a cross. It was a really good performance from the Real Madrid man and he always looked the most likely to break the deadlock or create something. There isn’t much more to say about this game, Portugal won the game comfortably and it would have been a better game had Russia got through instead.

Man of the match- Fabio Coentrao- For me the left back was the best player on the pitch, even though Ronaldo will get all the headlines, I think Coentrao does a lot of the work down that side of the pitch. When Ronaldo goes inside which he will inevitably do to try and get involved, the Real Madrid left back pushes on and stays out wide to give his team another option. I think he could be the most important player in the Portugal squad because if he wasn’t on the pitch, Ronaldo would be restricted to the wing a lot more. He defended well against Czech Republic and was a threat going forward, there was hardly ever an attack when he wasn’t involved. Plus he kept the dangerous Petr Jiracek quiet for the whole game.

Coentrao played 33 times for Real Madrid last season

Player of the day- Cristiano Ronaldo

Germany are looking like the team to beat as they came through the group of death with nine points and in each game looked very good.

Portugal will be joining them in the knockout stages and their game was the one I decided to watch as I personally felt that Germany would win their game and ultimately eliminate Denmark which did happen. Denmark actually surprised me a lot this tournament and maybe deserved to go through as they were very consistent and if only they had performed better in the first half against Portugal they would have finished second.

So onto the game I watched, Holland started the brighter and looked like they would cause Portugal some problems and they took the lead through a wonderful finish from Rafael Van Der Vaart and at that point I thought they would go onto win the game by at least the two goals needed to qualify but a lack of passion and drive has been evident all tournament and some of the players looked like they would have rather been on their holidays. Poor defending allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to break through the offside trap and finish off a one on one. The second half the Dutch were even worse and their attacking players were not performing and didn’t create much and yet again Ronaldo was able to grab a goal from a counter attack.

Man of the match- Cristiano Ronaldo- The man has the burden of being the best player on his shoulders and it isn’t like being at club level where Real Madrid can look towards Mesut Ozil or Karim Benzema to step up. He seems to have to do it all, as his support in Helder Postiga and Nani is nowhere near the quality of his teammates. His two goals were at crucial times and he held his nerve and confidently put them both in the corner. His all round game in the tournament has been fantastic in my opinion and he should have had more goals but he has frightened defences and could lead his country to the final.

Ronaldo cost Real Madrid £80 million in 2009

Portugal will take on Czech Republic and Germany will take on Greece and I fully expect these two from group B to go through however football is a funny game and anything could happen so maybe one of these will fall.

Players of the day- Cristiano Ronaldo and Bastian Schweinsteiger

The first round of Group B games only produced two goals but the second games had much more action and goalmouth action.

Denmark kicked off their second game against Portugal feeling very good about themselves after beating Holland while the Portuguese needed to win to have a realistic chance of staying in the competition. The moment that changed the game in my opinion was the injury to Niki Zimling who had been playing very well and was outstanding in the first game against Holland, when he went off the team seemed to lose a little bit of their shape and the Portuguese capitalised on it. Pepe scored with a bullet header from a corner and then Helder Postiga scored from a Nani cross and it seemed as though Denmark were sinking without a trace. But Nicklas Bendtner pulled a goal back just before halftime after one of the best build-ups I have seen all tournament. The second half turned into a very tactical affair and Cristiano Ronaldo missed two one on ones, then Bendtner scored from a powerful header and the scores were level. However, Silvestre Varela had the last laugh and scored with his second attempt to break Danish hearts.

Man of the match- Cristiano Ronaldo- He may be remembered from this game for missing two one on ones but he shouldn’t be as his movement was sensational and every time he had the ball he created panic in the Denmark defence. He even put in a shift defensively and constantly tracked back against Lars Jacobsen, if he had took his chances it would have been a 10 out of 10 performance and everyone would have been saying he is the best player in the world.

Ronaldo scored 60 goals for Real Madrid last season

The second game was one of the most anticipated in the group stages with Holland taking on Germany. The Dutch really need to avoid defeat after the result from the earlier game and decided to start Robin Van Persie once more instead of Klaas Jan Huntelaar. They missed a few early half chances and Mario Gomez made them pay with a fantastic turn and finish from a Bastian Schweinsteiger pass. Gomez followed that up with his second of the game and his third in the tournament but goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg should have done better and not been beaten from that angle. In the second half the Germans were just strolling to victory until Robin Van Persie scored with a powerful finish and should have set up a tense last 15 minutes however the Germans didn’t allow it to happen and comfortably saw the game out.

Man of the match- Bastian Schweinsteiger- Mario Gomez may have got both the goals but the Bayern Munich midfielder set up both the goals with precise passes and ran the central area of the pitch from start to finish. When the game got scrappy he was in their battling and when it needed composure, he put his foot on the ball and dictated the play, sometimes picking up the pace and then other times, particularly towards the end, slowed it down.

Schweinsteiger has been at Bayern Munich his whole career

Players of the day- Simon Kjaer and Mario Gomez

Group B took centre stage in the European Championships with Holland taking on Denmark and Germany playing Portugal.

The first game of the day provided the first real shock in the tournament with Denmark playing superbly and beating Holland after a terrific goal from Michael Krohn-Dehli. The Dutch side had a lot of attempts but were unable to score with Robin Van Persie in particular being very wasteful. The Arsenal man had a few chances but his finishing wasn’t up to the standards we now expect and his control was also off at times. A big question for the manager is, does he start Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the next game which has now became a must win? Arjen Robben hit the post and Denmark rode their luck and on another day they could have conceded two penalties however the luck was on their side and maybe they deserved it.

Man of the match- Simon Kjaer- This was a really difficult one to choose because anyone of their players could have won it. Simon Poulson at left back was fantastic going forward and for the most part he kept Robben quiet. Daniel Agger, showed everyone how good he is and the Liverpool player was always there with a crucial tackle or block. Niki Zimling and William Kvist combined well and stopped the Dutch team playing through the middle of the pitch forcing them out wide. Michael Krohn-Dehli obviously scored the goal but it was his all round performance that was particularly impressive, he was confident on the ball and every opportunity tried to take on his fullback and succeeded regularly. But I went for Kjaer, because he marshalled Robin Van Persie and then Huntelaar very well and when he had the ball he never gave it away and was quick to start counter attacks for his side. Dominant in the air and showed enough pace to deal with any threat as well as having almost perfect positioning for most of the game.

Simon Kjaer is only 23 and will have a good career ahead of him

The next game was one of the most anticipated games of the tournament but it didn’t live up to its billing with Portugal deciding to play for a draw and rarely threatened going forward. Despite that, they almost took the lead just before halftime when Pepe hit the underside of the bar. Germany couldn’t find much space and their better players were unable to get into the game much. Lukas Podolski on the left wing hardly had a touch, Thomas Muller sent in a few crosses but most of them were poor and didn’t reach one of his own players. Mesut Ozil was always trying things but he couldn’t find a killer pass. In the end the goal from Mario Gomez who managed to power home a header from a deflected cross.

Man of the match- Mario Gomez- Like in the first game it was difficult to choose but for a completely different reason. There were no stand out players and nobody really looked on form. Cristiano Ronaldo could have been in with a shout because every time he had the ball at least he tried to make something happen. But I gave it to Gomez as he did what nobody else could do and that was put the ball in the back of the net. He hardly had a touch, but he did his job better than anyone else and to me he has won the game for Germany, he was probably the only player on the pitch that could have scored that header so the match winner gets the vote for me.

Mario Gomez scored 41 goals for Bayern Munich this season