Category Archives: Football

A Casemiro masterclass – Everton 1-2 Manchester United

After joining from Real Madrid at the back end of August, Casemiro has had to bide his time before making a full debut for Manchester United in the Premier League.

There are a number of factors as to why Casemiro has not started for United this season, with one of the key reasons being the excellent performances of Scott McTominay pre-Man City. 

Such were the performances from the United academy graduate, that it made it difficult to drop him as he was part of a team that recorded four straight wins prior to the derby day defeat by City.



McTominay performed well when in and out of possession, and during one of his games against Arsenal, he recorded a 100% passing accuracy, highlighting that he is advancing his game under Erik Ten Hag.

What this has meant is that the five-time Champions League winner has only been restricted to games in the Europa League and substitute appearances in the Premier League, as the United manager aimed to slowly integrate the Brazilian into his style of play.

Much to the delight of the United fans on social media, they were delighted when it was announced that Casemiro was named in the starting lineup to take on Everton at Goodison Park.

The plan to hand Casemiro a full Premier League debut was on the cards after the City performance, as when he came on to the pitch, it allowed United to get some sort of control, albeit they were heavily beaten, but Casemiro was important in allowing United to get up the pitch and sustain attacks.

Playing away at Goodison Park, where the crowd is on top of you, and having to deal with long balls at times, it can be a tricky stadium to make your Premier League debut in. Could Casemiro pass this assignment unscathed?

The 30-year-old started but struggled early on. Inside his first five minutes he was at fault for the Everton opener, as he was dispossessed by the onrushing Amadou Onana, who hunted the ball down and pressured Casemiro.

He won the ball back and that allowed him to play in Alex Iwobi, who produced a superb curling strike beyond the stretching David De Gea from just outside the box to give Everton an early lead.

It perhaps served Casemiro as a reminder that the intensity of the Premier league is a different kettle of fish altogether from La Liga, as he may have perhaps had more time on the ball in Spain to turn and play that pass out.

It is a lesson to the Brazilian that you must at all times stay switched on.

Once Casemiro got the mistake out of his system, he showed everyone why he is talked about in the calibre that he is as he displayed excellent anticipation, passing, and vision, which is everything that you want in a defensive midfielder. 

The latter attributes were on show from the former Real Madrid man as he picked out another of his former Real Madrid colleagues, as his line-breaking pass found Cristiano Ronaldo on the Everton right, who slotted home from his left foot past Jordan Pickford to give United the lead.

Casemiro also showed his anticipation qualities as from the Opta stats, it was recorded that he won the ball back nine times, and this proved crucial in one sequence of phases as he read the intentions of Alex Iwobi, and cut the pass to play in Ronaldo for his 700th career goal.

Perhaps, for Ronaldo, it was fitting that Casemiro was the provider as he enjoyed a positive relationship with the Portuguese during their time in Spain together.

Casemiro’s passing abilities allowed United to dominate and dictate the tempo of the game as according to the Opta stats he made 70 passes, which was only bettered by United’s best ball-playing centre back in Lissandro Martinez.

Such were the possession skills of Casemiro, United had 61% possession during the game, which is the most they have recorded since the Brentford defeat back in August where they were trounced 4-0.

However, it was noticeable that Casemiro is a risk taker on the ball, as he liked to play passes between the lines to create attacking options and chances.

This means that from time to time, he is expected to lose the ball as he is looking to take risks. He lost the ball 17 times, which was two more than Christian Eriksen and Martinez.

Even though Casemiro should attempt those passes, the main aim for him will be to ensure his passing accuracy is there and at all times give United an option to pass, when looking to play out from the back. 

The Brazilian should get more opportunities to improve as he gets used to his team-mates, and he is almost certain to make his full Old Trafford debut at home to Newcastle next Sunday, as McTominay is suspended for the game, having picked up five yellow cards. 

It is fair to say that Casemiro passed the Goodison Park assignment with flying colours as he was awarded the Player of the Match by BT Sport, and hopefully there is even more to come. 

What a takeover would mean for Everton and Moshiri’s new approach

Over the past few days, links have developed regarding the possible sale of Everton Football Club Ltd to US investors, thus raising questions over the current ownership and how things look for the future ahead.

The story, which was first reported by the Financial Times, sited the potential investor as Poland-born US businessman Maciek Kaminski.

Kaminski’s interest in acquiring Everton dates back to July, as part of a three-man consortium, headed by Peter Kenyon. That said consortium is reported to have split now and it’s just Kaminski’s KAM Sports LLC brand that look to purchase the club.



Kaminski built his wealth through the real estate industry, founding the ‘Kaminski Poland fund’ as well as ‘Kaminski Asset Management’ respectively.

During takeover talks in July, Kaminski reportedly visited Everton’s under construction new stadium site at Bramley-Moore Dock, contrasting the statement released by current owner Farhad Moshiri, in which he reinstated “the club is not for sale’ tag.

Moshiri has been looking for significant stadium funding since February, when his partner-in-crime Alisher Usmanov was sanctioned by the UK government.

Although mistakes have been made in the past by Farhad Moshiri & co, he looks to have finally taken a step back in the recruitment and decision-making at Everton recently, with the so-called ‘strategic review’ at the forefront of this narrative.

Moshiri has been extremely hands-on in his approach at running Everton in recent years, employing managers he sees as his ideal ‘Hollywood’ manager, in the form of Ronald Koeman and Carlo Ancelotti.

Both proved to be very expensive appointments and ones that definitely did not work out.

It’s not just managers that he’s been controlling with either, Moshiri is also vulnerable to manipulation from sports intermediaries and player agents, overpaying on transfer fees and player wages.

This summer, following the appointment of director of football Kevin Thelwell, it has appeared that Moshiri has listened to the fans advice, allowing his employees to do their jobs.

Since his arrival in January, Thelwell has made several impressive appointments, including promoting uner-18’s manager Paul Tait to the under-23’s position.

Sticking with the academy, another notable appointment goes by the name of Gareth Prosser, who in his role as academy director, combines his work with Kevin Thelwell – having previously worked together at Wolves.

It’s not just the academy that has seen improvements. Upgrades have been made at senior levels too, with Thelwell appointing Jack Nayler as head of sports science.

Nayler has worked amongst the top echelon of European clubs, including Real Madrid, PSG, Celtic, Chelsea, and most recently, RB Leipzig.

Thelwell has also played a key role in recruitment, spending Moshiri’s money wisely in a window that looks to be one of the most productive in the club’s recent history.

It’s notable that less ‘lucrative’ deals that have made the most impact on Everton so far this season, with James Tarkowski and Conor Coady both impressing.

The good deals don’t end there though.

Thelwell and his team fought hard to secure the signing of the highly regarded Belgian midfielder Amadou Onana, for a fee of 33m, beating West Ham to his signature – a player that not only has high potential in the English game, but also provides at the present and is one of the first names on the team sheet.

Moshiri has reaped the rewards of his practice this season, with the club sitting healthily above the drop-zone, in 11th place.

With Everton gaining some sort of sustainability and progress, it’s clear to see why many Everton fans don’t see the benefit in a new owner taking control.

As well as Moshiri’s new-found competence, the idea of a businessman with a net worth of sub-$1bn isn’t exactly appealing to the fans that know the team.

It’s not just the new stadium that needs investment, it’s also the squad.

Talks between Moshiri and Kaminski continue, although a deal is not imminent, and it remains to be seen whether Moshiri will be willing to sanction the sale of a project he has worked on and invested so much into.

Chelsea vs Manchester City – Women’s FA Cup Final Preview

One thing we have come to expect from both Chelsea and Manchester City is trophies.

Funnily enough, the two sides met in their first final against each other earlier this year – having met in eight semi-finals in the past seven years alone.

The last five FA Cups have been won by either Manchester City or Chelsea, and this is something that the most successful club Arsenal will be trying to change next season.



Both sides are seen as favourites whenever they get to domestic finals, but we know that this time there can only be one winner. When the two sides met in the Continental Cup Final in February, it was City that were victorious – coming from behind to win 3-1.

When Chelsea manager Emma Hayes spoke about what would be different between that final and this weekends final, she mentioned that it was a depleted squad that competed for that last cup, and with this one, she thinks they’ll be more like their true selves, both in terms of squad availability, but also just mindset and mentality.

City arguably have had one of the biggest injury crises we have seen in the WSL for some time – going as far as having to use their third-choice keeper as well as playing wingers at full-back and midfielders at centre-back.

Luckily for them, City have been able to bring most of their players back from injury over the past few months and will be at full strength essentially for the final.

The strength of both squads is what makes this battle between two great clubs even more interesting and harder to predict.

Both teams seem to have adopted a winning culture, and anything less than that appears to be a disappointment for both players and managers. And having met as many times as they have in the latter stages of competitions, it doesn’t seem that it’s necessarily about surprises on the day – the key here will be execution.

Both sides have huge game changers, which is what makes them such competitive teams at the highest levels.

With City, it’s their wide threat through wingers Lauren Hemp and the newly fit Chloe Kelly.

Prior to her ACL injury last season, Kelly was probably the most in-form winger in the league. She’s someone that has beens able to provide important goals and assists, as well as causing defenders problems with her dribbling and speed.

They’re also able to suffocate opponents offensively because their full-backs, particularly Lucy Bronze, are able to get involved offensively too.

To add to this, City have goal scoring midfielders such as Caroline Weir and Georgia Stanway makes them even more of a threat because for opposition teams, there’s very few players in the City team that you can afford space to because they can hurt you both in the centre of the pitch and in the final third.

For Chelsea, their game changing aspect seems to be more varied. Their strength comes in the depth they have in the midfield and their versatility within middle of the pitch.

Hayes. who has often times this season changed formation during the game, knows that she can rely on experienced midfielder Guro Reiten – who has been in fine form in this second half of the season.

She’s contributing to goals weekly whether that be through goals or assists, but also she understands Hayes’ system so well that when tactical tweaks have to happen, she slots in seamlessly.

Erin Cuthbert is the same. The Scottish midfielder has been deployed in numerous positions for this Chelsea side and still churns out very high levels of performance.

The tenacity that can be found in this Blues midfield is what separates them from most clubs in the country.

When it comes to winning second balls, defending the first phase of set-pieces and crosses, Cuthbert always seems alert. This is something that is of extreme value especially in the games that are closely contested.

I don’t think much more has to be said on Sam Kerr’s big game record either – both for club and for country.

She constantly scores important goals when it’s needed on the big occasion and it won’t be a surprise to see her do the same this Sunday. Kerr seems to just have a knack for knowing both where to be but more importantly how to put the ball in the back of the net.

What do we know? That it will be an immense showcase of the talent that available in the WSL. Whether that will be from Chelsea retaining their title, or from City once again showing that they’re an extremely difficult team to beat in the FA Cup.

Ready, Steady, Lionesses

With the 2022 Women’s European Championships fast approaching, England Lionesses head coach Sarina Weigman has attempted to select a balanced squad for qualifiers and friendlies – with one eye set on the final 23-player squad that she will select for the summer.

We have seen lots of consistency in who she has selected for the squad, with a huge array of talent and squad competition at her disposal.

In the lead up to the Euros, we look here at a breakdown of her squad selection, strong areas, and areas in need of strengthening and or decision making. In today’s feature, we will be looking predominantly at the wingers/wide forwards that England have.



The wide forwards

When it comes to the forwards that Weigman gets to choose from, she’s very much spoilt for choice.

Even just glancing at the forward lines of the big three – especially Manchester City, you could make up a world-class forward line using their players alone.

The balance of the forward options is what makes that area particularly strong as we get both providers and finishers in almost every candidate.

Electric pace is a huge part of the system that the Lionesses play and within that, they have so many people that they can count on.

Lauren Hemp is the quickest player in the league and probably one of the quickest players that will be at the Euro’s this summer.

 Her unique blend of pace and decision-making despite being so young makes her an almost definite starter for England, as her skill set is an absolute nightmare for defenders.

She has now added goals to her game for country which makes her even more of a threat.

Arsenal’s Beth Mead similarly brings technical proficiency and goal scoring prowess from one of the wide positions.

Having played across the forward line throughout her career from Sunderland to Arsenal, there is a level of consistency that Mead brings.

When her team needs a goal, she’s often able to provide it, as well her ability to pick out the right pass to her teammate who can also score.

Mead’s traits mean that it also take away some of the pressure off the main striker playing on the day. She is a reliable goal scorer, and with that brings confidence to Weigman that she’s able to alter and rotate the front line without sacrificing goals that will win matches.

This in turn will also give Weigman the upper hand when picking starting line-ups – especially in the tournament setting.

Nikita Parris is expected to be selected and what someone like Parris brings is supreme experience. Having played at Championship winning teams at club Level and been a core part of Lionesses teams that have done well at prior tournaments.

A last-minute addition to bolster the wing options would be Chloe Kelly. Whilst she has missed 75% of the season due to an ACL injury she suffered last year, her talent and what she’d bring to the team cannot be understated. As mentioned before, she is someone else who brings both goals and assists to the team.

She’s arguably the most technically and naturally gifted winger that England have – with her ability to combine both her technical ability on the ball when dribbling, but also when linking up with teammates.

Like Hemp, she’s also someone that is extremely blessed when it comes to pace, which as seen in most European defences, that’s an area that they struggle with.

Selecting someone who hasn’t been able to showcase their skillset across the whole season is often seen as a risk. But when it comes to someone of Kelly’s calibre, it appears to be a risk worth taking when it comes to having a unique skill set and being a game changer for them.

A late addition?

With Fran Kirby taking some recovery time away from football in order to get healthy from an ongoing issue that’s plagued her throughout her career, she’s expected to miss the Euro’s – having not featured since the end of February.

That’s not to rule her out completely from contention as we know that a fully fit Kirby walks into most teams in the world. However, Weigman will be cautious not to rush her back as her regaining full health is the most important thing for all parties.

Could we see a late addition to the Lionesses squad with someone who hasn’t received a call up since Weigman’s tenure began? For example, Man City starlet Jess Park who has had an impactful season, or Manchester United’s Leah Galton who continued her fine form from last season.

My Guess

Because of squad restrictions, I’m not sure Weigman calls up somebody new.

This decision would be supported by the fact that many of her attacking midfield options are also extremely strong and comfortable on the wing – having played their numerous times throughout the season for club.

They also have such versatility amongst the wingers themselves that I think that Weigman will opt to find the solution ‘in-house’. Though that’s not to say that we won’t get a surprise inclusion as often seems to happen when international tournaments happen.

Erik Ten Hag to Manchester United – Destined for failure or light at the end of the tunnel?

So.. Manchester United are close to appointing Erik ten Hag as their next manager after they verbally agreed on a three-year-contract for the Dutch coach to take over at Old Trafford.

The current Ajax boss seems to have won the race to become the man to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a permanent basis, taking over from Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season.

He pipped the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Brendan Rodgers, Luis Enrique and others to the role if reports are to be believed and fans are delighted at the steps taken to get him in.



There is no doubting that Ten Hag is a great coach. He has built two excellent Ajax sides with an attractive style of football, young players and competed well in Europe too.

But there are doubts around his appointment that people seem to be either overlooking or downright ignoring.

The level of competition in Holland is not that high. Yes his team blew the competition out of the park in recent seasons, but much like PSG that’s kind of what they’re supposed to do.

Performances in Europe are great too, but I would bet large sums of money that United fans wouldn’t want Unai Emery anywhere near Old Trafford’s home dugout and his side have done well in Europe too.

Ten Hag has also never had to deal with the pressures and the egos of dealing with top players and reputations before.

Having the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba in the changing room can often see decisions questioned, naturally, because these players have won things at the very highest level before.

Dealing with those problems will be new to him, and it’s undoubtedly a gamble to bring him in.

But in the same breath, and in his defence, there was no sure-fire appointment for United this time around.

In the past there seemed to be an ideal candidate every time and not bringing them in was seen as silly. Van Gaal was brought in to build a style and blood young players.

He did it, but too slowly and far too pragmatically and when Jose Mourinho became available, the United board couldn’t help themselves.

He was brought in to win immediately and while he is the last Reds manager to win a trophy of any kind, he was detrimental to the development of the team and arguably took the club backwards.

Solskjaer was never cut out for the permanent job and was given the role because of a purple patch of form while he was the interim boss. There was a bit of progress, because he cleared the club of plenty of deadwood and recruited relatively well, but he never had the coaching abilities to compete.

With Ten Hag United are now restarting that process.

They have an incredible conveyor belt of talent coming through the academy right now. Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri, James Garner, Ethan Laird, Alejandro Garnacho, Zidane Iqbal and Alvaro Fernandez are all on the brink of senior football.

The first-team still has players that are under-25 who are already involved like Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Dean Henderson and Diogo Dalot that Ten Hag can improve and develop.

But United, the club and the fans, must have patience. There is no overnight recipe for success anymore. It doesn’t matter who gets signed or sold, the team needs time to develop.

The coach must be given time to implement his style and ideas, weed out the players who don’t fit in, improve those who do and be backed to compete at the highest level.

While Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola are all in the Premier League with their super-squads it will be incredibly hard for Manchester United to close the gap on them and compete regularly.

But they can close the gap and they will get there, with time and the right decisions being made.

Ten Hag has been given a chance to do that, with a three-year contract and an option for a fourth, but it can go one of two ways.

Either Ten Hag gets the time and trust to complete the process, which he has shown he is capable of doing while at Ajax, or the club demand immediate success and fail to realise the scale and size of the problems they face.

Ten Hag is a great appointment on paper, but football isn’t played on paper. Unless the board fix up and sort the club out, then Ten Hag will just be added to the ever-growing list of disappointments at Old Trafford in recent years.

Fernando Santos’ lack of planning will cost Portugal a place in Qatar 2022

The European World Cup qualifier playoffs are finally upon us and that means we’ll find out which one of, if any, of Portugal or Italy will make it to Qatar at the end of the year.

Both teams failed to qualify through their groups, with a last minute defeat to Serbia costing Portugal their place, and now they’ve been placed on the same playoff path.

They’ll now take on Turkey, while Italy face North Macedonia and the winners face each other next week to finalise their place. But I’m willing to bet it won’t be my beloved Portugal at the end of it all.



News came out this week after coach Fernando Santos announced his squad that there are big issues.

Joao Cancelo and Renato Sanches are suspended for the game against Turkey after too many yellow cards in the qualifying group, while Nelson Semedo, Ruben Neves and Ruben Dias are all out of the squad completely through injury.

Then it was revealed that Pepe, the veteran and world class central defender, has tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t be available against Turkey either, with his availability in a potential final in question too.

That means a likely central defensive pairing of 38-year-old Jose Fonte and defensive midfielder Danilo will be formed to try and carry the team into the World Cup, which screams down horribly upon the reign of Santos as manager.

Yes he won Euro 2016 and it was a magical, magical moment in the team and country’s history. Nobody is disputing that and it correctly earned him credit in the bank with fans and the FA.

But six years on and there has been little to no progression in the squad, while Portugal haven’t progressed past the first knockout round in any of the following tournaments.

They won the UEFA Nations League, but if we’re all being honest, that isn’t a major international honour and will never be considered as such.

The lack of progress under him can be seen just by looking at the squad for this set of games. There was a possibility, before Pepe’s positive test, that Santos could have named the same back five and defensive midfielder for these games as he did in that 2016 Euro’s final.

It’s ghastly and the lack of any youth options in the centre of defence to come through in that time is frightening.

Ruben Dias barely counts, because he was always going to make it. Captain of Benfica at a young age and clearly heads and shoulder above those at his age level, he was fast-tracked and rightly so.

But the likes of Goncalo Inacio, Tiago Djalo and David Carmo have never had a look in. Ezri Konsa is eligible to be called up, but Santos has never even pretended to look into it. He’s just stuck with the players he already knows.

Somehow in 2021, Luis Neto was still getting call ups.

Now, in a situation where it’s likely to be the final World Cup opportunity for the likes of legends like Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Joao Moutinho is relying on players that are below par over-performing or stepping up immediately from a lower level.

Even if they manage to get past a tough Turkey side on Thursday night, that’s surely going to be too much to ask when they inevitably come up against the European champions Italy in the final.

You can’t hope for things at the highest level. Santos has had plenty of chances in the past to blood young defenders in the same way he has midfielders and attackers.

If they now fail to make it to the greatest tournament on the planet for the first time since 1998, then the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Santos.

Manchester United European woes are the tip of the iceberg

Nine. Nine games. Nine match days. That’s all that’s left of this God forsaken season for Manchester United after they crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the last 16 stage to Atletico Madrid once again.

Just as a disclaimer, this isn’t me writing this article as a football journalist. This is me writing this as a Manchester United fan and getting all my frustrations out because this club is making all the same mistakes.

It’ll be five years with no trophy at the end of this season and nine years without a league title for the 20-time champions. United are at rock bottom.



First things first, sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the right thing. But he also absolutely wasn’t the only problem at the club. Those issues start way above him or any other manager’s head.

The thing this club lacks the most is an actual identity. Yes that’s a buzzword right now in modern football, but it’s a fact.

Whenever Manchester City step on the pitch, you know exactly what the role of each and every player on the pitch is. Regardless of personnel, you know what each player in each position is expected to do.

When Liverpool step on the pitch, you know the same thing. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Inter Milan. All the top sides in the world are in the same boat.

It makes recruitment easy too, because you immediately know which players would suit and which players wouldn’t.

At Manchester United, there is no such luxury. This is a squad banded together by marketing people with a mix of talents and qualities, with the hope that whoever has been given the managerial role at the time can sort it out.

There is no vision. This board survived on the brilliance of Sir Alex Ferguson and the monopoly he had over the Premier League for so long, they thought it would carry over when he left.

This squad needs a total revamp. Not because they’re not good enough, because they are. This group of players, with the right manager, are capable of competing. There is no doubt about that.

But who the right manager is, is impossible to decipher when there is no vision or identity at the club right now.

Take Scott McTominay as an example. It’s well known I’m not his biggest fan, but he’s into his third manager now where he’s one of the first names on the team sheet.

I can’t explain why, most fans aren’t sure why and when you listen to ex-pros or pundits talk about him, they almost never mention his footballing ability when discussing his best attributes.

It’s always ‘passion’, ‘energy’, ‘running’. Never his passing ability, or his ability to break up play, or his positional sense. But it’s almost impossible to criticise the manager for picking him because we have no idea what the team is being asked to do. There is no identity in the team.

At this point, it’s already been a decade of mediocrity. The club can wait a few more years and finally get it right.

They made a good decision bringing in Ralf Rangnick to help sort out the behind the scenes issues, it’s just a shame he needed to have six months in the limelight first before getting to work.

It could be a good thing though. He knows exactly what needs to be done. He knows the club needs a revamp and he knows it starts off the football pitch rather than on it.

First, establish a style. An identity. So that once the managers leave, or players become not good enough anymore it’s easy to identify replacements without having to burn everything down to the ground first.

Second, build a squad to suit. That could take a few years to get the right players in and get the players on the edge out, but it’s doable – especially with the resources the club have.

Thirdly, be consistent and challenge. The squad doesn’t need tonnes of work, but it does need key areas addressing, despite what was seen as a largely successful summer last year with the additions of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Until the club make those decisions and take those steps, it doesn’t matter who is in charge. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at the situation, because the problems trickle down from the top all the way down to the bottom.

This issue is way bigger than being eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16, and not finishing in the top four in the Premier League.

This is about a complete lack of planning and a complete lack of care at the top of the club.

Never have I been so disconnected from the club I have loved all my life, and the vast majority of fans I know and have spoken to largely feel the same way.

If the people in charge of the club don’t care, why should we? The answer is because the club will be there long after those people, and hopefully we will be too.

When they go, we can get back to loving this club like we once did. But until these issues are addressed properly, it’s no longer a football club but simply another multi-billion pound business.

How long will it take Newcastle to break into the Champions League?

Ever since the Saudi PIF took Newcastle over at the back end of 2021, the question has been when, not if, will they break into the UEFA Champions League?

This season the priority under Eddie Howe was safety, having won just one of their first 20 Premier League games under Howe and previous manager Steve Bruce.

But now unbeaten in eight games, with six wins in that run, the Magpies now sit seven points above the relegation zone and can start planning ahead for their assault on football’s elite.



Many reports have been shared of Newcastle targeting top level players to add to their squad, including the likes of Antonio Rudiger, Kalvin Phillips and even Marcus Rashford.

Bringing in that calibre of talent would undoubtedly accelerate their push towards breaking through the glass ceiling, but how realistic is that? Not very.

The first priority for the Tyneside club is going to be to separate themselves from the clubs at the bottom of the league in order to avoid this same situation next season.

Players like Chris Wood were brought in more to weaken their opposition than strengthen their squad and are unlikely to be starters going into the new season, while there is room to improve almost all other positions.

But they won’t be able to skip stages and go straight to signing top level players because of the money they now have available to them.

The ‘Big Six’ in the Premier League – Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham – all have huge amounts of money available to them also and they won’t stop spending just because Newcastle are going to start.

When Man City got their billions overnight, they had several years of competing in a much weaker league than now before they were able to break that barrier.

They didn’t have FFP regulations to deal with either back then, which is something that the Saudi’s must adhere to.

My prediction for Newcastle to make it into Europe’s elite competition is at least four seasons because of the standard of the big six currently and all the teams in between them too.

They will likely improve year on year, but not everything will go their way. They will miss out on key targets to other clubs, they will lose players to top sides, they’ll have spells where their form is bad and the manager gets changed.

They will get there eventually, I have no doubts, but it will be longer than many are expecting it to be in my eyes.

Benfica vs Ajax – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In a tie that is highly likely to be entertaining, two excellent young teams go head-to-head as Portuguese giants Benfica clash Eredivisie champions Ajax for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.



Route to Last 16

SL Benfica arguably caused the shock of the group stages as they pipped Barcelona to the runners-up spot in a group also containing Bayern Munich and Dinamo Kyiv.

They claimed a 3-0 win over the La Liga outfit at the Estadio Da Luz, before a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou meant they only needed to match Barca’s result in the final game. They won 2-0 against Kyiv to seal their spot, having scored seven goals and conceded nine.

Jorge Jesus has since left the club however, replaced by Nelson Verissimo until the end of the season.

Ajax completed a stunning group stage phase with six wins out of six, as Sebastian Haller scored ten goals to lead the scoring charts, scoring in all six games.

Erik Ten Haag’s side dominated a group including Sporting CP, Dortmund and Besiktas, scoring 20 goals and conceding just five to assert themselves as dark horses for the title.

Team news

Benfica have been in good form domestically but were held to a 2-2 draw most recently against Boavista. Grimaldo returned to the team and scored in that game, in a huge boost to the side.

Darwin Nunez has been in exceptional form this season with 21 goals in 26 games and will continue in attack, but Haris Seferovic is missing for the hosts. Goncalo Ramos should start in his place.

Ajax will be without trio Brian Brobbey, Martin Stekelenburg and Sean Klaiber, while Andre Onana is likely to continue to sit in the stands ahead of his summer move to Inter Milan.

Haller will continue in attack, while superstar winger Antony will continue to support him along with Dusan Tadic as they look to continue their 100% record throughout the competition.

Breakdown and Prediction

Benfica’s 442 system will be in place as usual to try and find a hole in the Ajax defence, but the Dutch giants are going to be well equipped for this fixture.

Having already been to Lisbon and dominated Sporting, they’re coming up against a lesser side who play a system more suited to them and they should have too much for them in attack.

Benfica have got plenty of firepower and defensively are quite strong, so don’t rule out an upset in the home leg but realistically this is an Ajax side at their absolute peak under Ten Hag.

The Dutch giants will dominate the tempo of the game and possession and slowly but surely chip away before scoring goals and claiming a routine win over two legs.

Benfica 1-3 Ajax
Ajax 2-0 Benfica
(Ajax to qualify 5-1 on aggregate)

Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United – Champions League Last 16 predictions

The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.

In one of the biggest ties of the round, current reigning La Liga champions Atletico Madrid take on Premier League giants Manchester United for a place in the quarter-finals.

Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.



Route to Last 16

Atletico Madrid made it through to the knockout stages by the skin of their teeth in a poor group stage by their own standards.

Diego Simeone’s side suffered defeat home and away to Liverpool and they were beaten at home by AC Milan, but a final day win over FC Porto saw them claim the runners-up spot in the group.

They scored seven goals in the six games, conceding eight but crazily there were seven red cards in their group stage games too to show the frustration they carried.

Manchester United overcame a tough start to their group win finish top with a game to spare, despite changing managers during the group stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored in all five of his appearances to help United claim wins over Villarreal home and away and Atalanta at Old Trafford but they failed to beat lowly Club Brugge at all.

United scored a total of 11 goals int heir six group games, conceding eight and only managing to keep one clean sheet.

Team news

Atletico Madrid are facing several injury issues with all of Daniel Wass, Matheus Cunha and Yannick Carrasco ruled out of the game, while Thomas Lemar, Koke and Mario Hermoso doubtful.

Simeone was seen in training with a lineup consisting of a back-five, with January signing Reinildo as a centre-back, while Joao Felix and Luis Suarez could start together. Angel Correa is pushing for a start though following his good form.

Ralf Rangnick’s options are much better, with Edinson Cavani expected to be fit following a groin injury that has seen him miss the last few games.

Marcus Rashford has recently found himself on the bench after some poor form, so Anthony Elanga could get a start while Jadon Sancho will look to continue his excellent form. Ronaldo will continue up front.

Breakdown and Prediction

Atletico still have a reputation of being a defensive side with little intention to play attacking football, but that isn’t the case anymore.

The team have kept just three clean sheets since the turn of the year and have lost eight of their last 15 games in all competitions.

Manchester United on the other hand have been struggling with their performances in recent weeks, but the results haven’t taken a massive hit so far under Rangnick.

Across 90 minutes, they’ve lost just once since he became manager in 14 games but they’re yet to win three games in a row in all competitions this season. They won their last two, with a 3-0 win over Brighton and 4-2 win over Leeds.

This game is likely to be tight with both sides relatively low on confidence in their performance, despite the difference in their results.

Home advantage is likely to play a big part in both games, but I do feel that Man United will be able to progress because they have more goals in their team.

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Manchester United
Manchester United 2-1 Atletico Madrid
(Manchester United qualify 2-1 on aggregate)