Real Madrid vs Roma Champions League Preview

Real Madrid vs Roma Preview: New Era Begins for Los Blancos

With their eyes firmly set on the midweek Champions League action, both Real Madrid and AS Roma will be determined to put their respective domestic draws behind them as Europe’s elite competition returns to the spotlight. Real Madrid vs Roma could be a cracker.

The reigning European champions kick off their title defence and start pursuit of their fourth consecutive Champions League title through the beginning of a new era at Santiago Bernabeu. All of their previous four European crowns were in large amounts won thanks to the formidable goal scoring exploits of the man who is now residing in Turin (and will be hoping to spread his ketchup in Valencia). Read More

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Inter Milan vs Tottenham Champions League Preview

Inter Milan vs Tottenham Preview: Can Spurs pick themselves up?

Tottenham will need to improve on recent results if they are to get anything out of Tuesday night’s game against Inter Milan.

Spurs’ 2-1 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday was a flattering score line for the north London club, who had one of their sloppiest performances under Mauricio Pochettino. Tottenham were slow off the blocks and conceded in the first minute, only for the goal to be ruled offside. However, this did not send a warning to the Spurs players who continued to play their lacklustre football with multiple passes going astray and a number of them leading to Liverpool chances.

Just before half time the first goal scored by Liverpool came in that fashion with Spurs failing to clear the ball and Christian Eriksen heading the ball back to Liverpool who scored from the resulting corner.

Michel Vorm was heavily criticised for his poor contact of the ball that allowed Wijnaldum to head in, with the referee having to revert to goal line technology for clarification of the ball going in. Liverpool later doubled their lead after the ball hit the post and Michel Vorm couldn’t scramble onto the rebound, which resulted in Firmino tapping home. Read More

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Valencia vs Juventus Champions League Preview

Valencia vs Juventus Preview: Ketchup for Ronaldo’s return?

“Goals are like ketchup: all comes out at once”. If Cristiano Ronaldo applies the analogy that he launched back in 2010, after ten games without scoring for Portugal, then Valencia have reasons to be worried.

Cristiano finally scored for Juventus, against Sassuolo (as Massimo Allegri had predicted), and in a double dose. The Portuguese star overthrew the psychological barrier, and just three days before his return to Spain. Definitely not good news for Valencia, against whom Ronaldo has already scored fifteen goals, with eight of them at Mestalla.

Ironically, it’s in Spain, where Cristiano Ronaldo lived for the last nine years, that begins this European journey of a “vecchia signora” with renewed ambition with the arrival of the Portuguese. “If you can’t beat him, sign him” must have been the idea of the Italian leaders, who advanced for the most popular transfer of the summer. Juventus don’t want only internal hegemony and looked for the missing piece to regain European glory. Read More

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Barcelona vs PSV Eindhoven Champions League preview

Barcelona vs PSV Preview: Are Barca Champions League favourites?

Football’s premier club competition the Champions League kicks off for the season this week, and FC Barcelona’s search for a first title win since 2015 begins at home against PSV Eindhoven.

Ernesto Valverde’s men have been drawn in a relatively difficult Group B alongside Tottenham Hotspur of England, Inter of Italy and PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands. The first test for the Catalan club is arguably the easiest of the three opponents with PSV having qualified for the tournament by defeating BATE Borisov 6-2 on aggregate over the two legs.

Lionel Messi’s main focus this season appears to be the Champions League and he has made it abundantly clear that he would very much like to win it this year. Addressing the fans at the Camp Nou at the beginning of the season, here’s what the little magician had to say: Read More

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Liverpool vs PSG

Liverpool vs PSG Preview: Will crossing make the difference?

This is a very intriguing match up. Liverpool have been arguably the continent’s biggest over-achievers in their last two European campaigns, albeit they fell at the final hurdle both times. Then there’s Paris Saint-Germain, who have more money than most countries yet haven’t been able to venture past the last eight of the Champions League.

Throw in the Dortmund connection of Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, plus Neymar’s needle about the Reds finishing outside the top four this season, and Liverpool vs PSG looks set to be a cracker.

Presumably Neymar was just upset because James Milner equalled his record for assists in a Champions League campaign. Looking at how the players of Liverpool and PSG performed last season, they were the top two for attack points. Read More

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Bäst offensivt i hela serien – Kristoffer Olssons betydelse för AIK

Allsvenskan är tillbaka efter ett i mångas ögon alldeles för långt landslagsuppehåll. Omgång 21 drog i gång på lördagen men omgångens stora match spelas nu i eftermiddag: IFK Norrköping-AIK.

AIK har tassat över 400-strecket i antal dagar utan förlust i allsvenskan, och otroliga 32 raka matcher utan förlust över två säsonger. Samtidigt har man på senare tid (från juli och framåt) också haft många matcher mot lag på nedre halvan av tabellen.

Hemmamatchen mot Häcken innan landslagsuppehållet sågs som ett första tuffare test sedan VM-uppehållet. Men Häcken – skulle det visa sig – blev enklare för AIK än i stort sett alla motståndare i år. En 3-0-seger som var så kassaskåpssäker att man får börja leta efter nya och starkare uttryck för att beskriva vad det var.

Att möta tabellfyran IFK Norrköping i Norrköping kan knappast viftas bort som ett “för litet” test. AIK går in i matchen med åtta raka segrar i allsvenskan, och fem raka utan insläppt mål. Bara elva insläppta mål för Svartgult på hela säsongen. Defensiven har hyllats medan man samtidigt fått kritik för att spela tråkigt. Inte minst har det gnytts från guldkombattanten Hammarby där vissa menar att AIK inte är jätteroliga att titta på.

Man kan tycka vad man vill om det, liksom sådana diskussioner överhuvudtaget. Vänder man på det så kan man konstatera att AIK snittar nära två mål/match, bara två lag (Hammarby och Malmö) har gjort fler mål i serien och då har MFF en match mer spelad.

En spelare som har en ytterst viktig roll i AIK:s offensiva spel är Kristoffer Olsson. Han var AIK:s största nyförvärv förra säsongen, men första året levde inte riktigt upp till de höga förväntningarna (även om han varvade upp under hösten).

AIK värvade inför den här säsongen in ett mittfältsankare i Enoch Kofi Adu, vilket bidragit till att Olsson kunnat koncentrera sig mer på det kreativa. Och nu framstår han som en av allsvenskans bästa spelare.

Poängmässigt så står Olsson står på åtta poäng (tre mål och fem assists) så här långt. Helt okej men inte skyhögt heller. Men han har en fot med i det mesta AIK skapar framåt, här alla offensiva aktioner den här säsongen:

Och bland 318 allsvenska spelare den här säsongen är Olsson nummer tre på Twelves leaderboard. Bara Hammarbys Jiloan Hamad och Sundsvalls David Batanero får högre poäng. Går man in på offensivpoäng så är Olsson bäst av alla.

En anledning till att Olsson får så höga poäng är att han skapar många målchanser och slår många passningar som enligt algoritmen leder fram till förväntade mål (expected goals). Något som indikerar att han borde haft fler mål och assists på kontot.

I dag är han tillbaka i hemstaden Norrköping, och vi kan förvänta oss ett hemmalag som vill ta kommandot i matchen och som ju också måste vinna för att haka på i striden om Europaplatser. AIK lär vara bekväma med detta och kontraslå, och Kristoffer Olsson kan då spela en avgörande roll med sitt passningsspel.

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Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid

Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid Preview: Should this be the Case?

Right after the international break, coach Julen Lopetegui will not only have a tough match, but a tough decision to make. Against Athletic in Bilbao, should he spare Casemiro, his pressing machine, from his third match in eight days, as he played for Brazil in two friendlies in the US?

That could be a good option in order to have a solid Real Madrid XI against Roma, for the first group stage match in the Champions League. But falling twice in a year against a bitter rival at San Mamés stadium is too expensive a cost.

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Watford vs Manchester United Premier League Preview

Watford vs Manchester United Preview: A tricky test for unsound United

After a poor start to the season, Manchester United redeemed themselves somewhat with a good performance and a result against Burnley before the international break. They will be looking to pick up where they left off when they face Watford at the weekend, although that may well be easier said than done, given how Javi Garcia’s team have played so far this season.

Watford have beaten every team they’ve faced, including Tottenham Hotspur, and will be hoping to keep their 100% record when United travel down to Vicarage Road on Saturday.

United will be without Marcus Rashford, who scored two goals in two games for England against Spain and Switzerland during the break, as he was shown a red card in his last appearance for his club.

Thankfully they will have Romelu Lukaku, who again added to his tally for Belgium this week by scoring three goals in two games. He is now 10 goals clear of any player who has ever represented Belgium before, which is quite a feat when you consider he has only just turned 25. Read More

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Newcastle vs Arsenal Premier League Preview

Newcastle vs Arsenal Preview: Can Arsenal breakdown a low block?

Arsenal have won two in a row to climb up to the top half of the table. Newcastle have lost two in a row and fallen into the relegation zone. This match is an important one for both teams coming off the first international break of the season.

Newcastle

Here’s their rankings for different statistics this season:

20th – Possession

18th – Shots

19th – Danger Zone Shots

17th – Big Chances

19th – Expected Goals

13th – Dribbles Attempted

4th – Average Pass Length

Rafa Benítez is a really good coach, but one thing he is not is a coach who will sacrifice defensive solidity to create scoring chances. With a challenging schedule including matches at Chelsea and against Tottenham and Manchester City, it is not surprising to see Newcastle at the bottom of most offensive categories this season.

As a team they have been in control of the ball for just 96 minutes this season, which averages out to 24 minutes a match. For comparison the average team has been in control for 34 minutes per match (this measure takes out all of the time that the ball is not in play and on average there is about 60-70 minutes of ball control per match). Read More

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Manchester City vs. Fulham

Manchester City vs Fulham Preview: Time for Sané to start?

There’s no better way to leave the interminable international break behind than with an incredibly exciting Manchester City fixture. As an American, Fulham have always held a place in my heart as the club of Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, and (to a much lesser extent) Carlos Bocanegra.

But more than that, the current incarnation of Fulham have a genuine buzz about them. Only Arsenal games feature more shots and shots on target, they have exciting young talents like Ryan Sessegnon, and they picked up a genuine star in Jean-Michel Seri in the transfer window. In short, get ready for some fireworks.

As with Wolves, Fulham aren’t your typical newly promoted side. Rather than playing defensively and seeking to counter-attack, they use possession to get their shot attempts and are even averaging a greater share of the ball than Spurs, United, or Arsenal thus far this season (albeit having endured a light schedule to date). Read More

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