Tag Archives: Fantasy Matches

Fantasy Matches: Real Madrid 15-18 vs Barcelona 08-11

When you think about the best teams of the modern era, there are two that stick out like a sore thumb.

During a period where Spanish football was the home of the best players and managers in the world, it was obviously Barcelona and Real Madrid that had periods of dominance across Europe and domestically.

But what would have happened if you put those two teams, at their best, head-to-head with each other? We’re here to break it down and try and figure it out.

Barcelona between 2008 and 2011 were and are considered one of the greatest club sides in the history of football.

Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, they revolutionised the way attacking football was played up until this day. They dominated possession, scored countless goals, passed opponents to death and were the home to arguably the greatest player of all-time in Lionel Messi.

Their 4-3-3 system with attacking full-backs and technically secure players all over the pitch set the benchmark as they won two Champions League trophies, three La Liga titles, three Spanish Super Cups, a Copa Del Rey, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups across three-and-a-half seasons.

Real Madrid couldn’t compete with them during that period, but they made their own mark half a decade later when they not only became the first team to retain their Champions League trophy but they also made it three-in-a-row.

Add to that a La Liga title, a Spanish Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and two World Club Cups under Zinedine Zidane (plus an extra World Club Cup under Santi Solari after Zidane’s resignation), this is a team synonymous with success and winning.

The brilliant goalscoring of Cristiano Ronaldo, the majestic midfield play of Luka Modric and Tony Kroos, the playmaking from full-back by Marcelo and the leadership of Sergio Ramos at the back, this was a complete squad.

The difference between these two powerhouse teams is that Real Madrid were able to adapt their style of play depending on the opponent.

Against weaker opposition they had the ability to dominate the ball and carve open defences to score goals, while pushing high up the pitch to sustain pressure.

When they came up against quality outfits though, Zidane would ensure they sat a bit deeper defensively, were compact in midfield and explosive on the counter attack with the pace of Ronaldo, Benzema and even Gareth Bale leading the way.

Barcelona on the other hand were the same no matter what. Much like today’s Guardiola, it was all about controlling the ball and dominating possession. Short passes, lots of sharp movements and rotation across positions and technical security meant they were unshakeable on the ball.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane pose for a photo accepts The Best FIFA Men's Player award during The Best FIFA Football Awards at The London...

But the Catalan legend also instilled a hunger in the team to win the ball back as soon as possible when they did lose it, famously starting a seven-second press that if the opponent was able to surpass would usually result on them being in on goal.

It’s fair to say that Zidane’s Madrid side would ultimately allow Barcelona to have the ball in midfield and be compact, while using their own technical abilities and brilliant quality to try and pick them off on the counter as they did to so many top sides during their Champions League wins during that period.

The difference however, is that this Madrid side never came up against this Lionel Messi.

The little Argentine was a totally different animal under Guardiola, which is terrifying considering all he has achieved since they parted ways in 2012.

Lionel Messi of Argentina and Barcelona FC receives the FIFA player of the year award during the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010 t the congress hall on...

I have no doubts that Ronaldo would likely have a say on the game himself, because during this period of time he was at his goalscoring best and most clutch. But Messi could effect the game without just putting the ball into the net.

David Villa and Pedro were also huge goalscoring threats from the wing, while Dani Alves in his peak was arguably the best right-back of all-time. It’s hard to imagine this Real Madrid side keeping this peak Barcelona side goalless for 90 minutes and while I wouldn’t bet against them scoring themselves, ultimately the greatest player of all-time would separate the two best club sides we’ve seen in this era of football.

Prediction: Real Madrid (15-18) 1-2 Barcelona (08-11) / Messi masterclass.

Fantasy Matches: Sir Alex Ferguson XI vs Carlo Ancelotti XI


Just for a little bit of realism in this fantasy match, any players that played under both managers aren’t eligible to be in both teams.

Two of the best and most successful coaches ever went head to head in the Premier League between 2009 and 2011 as Carlo Ancelotti managed Chelsea to a Premier League title, while Sir Alex Ferguson followed that up with a title win of his own as Ancelotti was sacked.

While Ferguson ultimately ended up on top in this mini battle, Ancelotti’s success prior to his time at Chelsea and afterwards ensured that the world remembered just how good he was. With three Champions League trophies to his name as well as league titles in Italy, England, France and Germany he’s one of the best to do it.

Both managers have managed some of the greatest players to ever play the game, but what would happen if you put their best XI’s ever against each other? Who would come out on top? Lets take a look.

In goal, you have two of the best ever. Carlo Ancelotti was able to manage the likes of Dida, Iker Casillas and Thibaut Courtois during his career but it’s the legendary Gianluigi Buffon who gets the nod without a doubt. Ancelotti and Buffon worked together at Parma and while they didn’t have any success together, his quality between the sticks makes him a sure-fire pick.

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For Sir Alex, the decision was a little bit tougher. He worked with a host of top talent between the sticks also and was as successful with each of them, but it’s tough to go with anyone but Peter Schmeichel. The great Dane was the undisputed number one for eight seasons under Ferguson winning 15 trophies during their time together and that makes him the pick.

In defence, much of Ferguson’s team would have played together at some point or another. Gary Neville was the only choice for right-back that made any sense while Patrice Evra’s dynamism in attack meant that he pipped Denis Irwin for the left-back role. Rio Ferdinand played with both and for my money is the best centre-back England has ever produced but his partner was the hardest choice to make. His long-time partner Nemanja Vidic was one option, recreating the 07/08 Champions League winning back line. Instead though, I’ve opted for the big Dutch machine in Jaap Stam.

Stam won three titles in three seasons plus a Champions League and FA Cup trophy during his time at Old Trafford and was arguably the best defender in the world under Ferguson and his ability to compete on any level with all attackers makes him the perfect foil for Ferdinand and a perfect pick.

For Ancelotti, the decision was tougher. The only absolute lock was at left back, as Paolo Maldini makes it into any team he’s eligible for such was his quality. At right-back there were a few choices, but Cafu’s brilliance in both directions got him the nod over the likes of Dani Carvajal and Lillian Thuram. In central defence the likes of John Terry, Pepe, Raphael Varane, Alessandro Nesta and Jerome Boateng were all options but in the end I opted for the two I believe that performed best under him.

Maldini and Stam played together at Milan, but they’d be on separate teams here

Brazilian Thiago Silva trained under Ancelotti at AC Milan for a few months before the Italian left the club, but they were re-united at Paris Saint-Germain. Silva was colossal at the back for Ancelotti as they won a Ligue 1 title while growing to try and become a force in Europe. The other pick, is the man who led his Real Madrid side to Champions League success despite not being the permanent owner of the captain’s armband yet.

He became a true leader under Ancelotti, scoring the legendary 93rd minute equaliser in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. His pace, aerial prowess, leadership and ability on the ball as well as his defensive positioning make him one of the all-time greats and gets him in this team.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s central midfield pairing was arguably the easiest. He dominated all of English football for years with a duo of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane and despite having the likes of Michael Carrick, Paul Ince and Bryan Robson to call upon too, nobody tops these two for him. Out wide, the options were a little bit tougher but still pretty easy. Throughout the years Ferguson managed some world class wide players, but the obvious selection is Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Joining as a teenager, Ronaldo progressed to become the best player in the world under the tutelage of the legendary Scottish manager. The question in reality is which wing to play him on, since the next decision was between Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

Manchester United v Middlesbrough - Carling Cup : News Photo

Both played a huge part in the club’s success throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s before Beckham left for Real Madrid in 2003 and that exit is the reason why I’ve opted for Giggs. The Welsh winger broke onto the scene way back in 1990 and played every season of his career except for the final year under him so it’s almost impossible to leave him out of the side. His inclusion on the left wing means Ronaldo goes in on the right, where he started his career at Old Trafford.

Ancelotti’s options were much, much harder to decide on. Some huge names like Andrea Pirlo, Angel Di Maria, Gennaro Gattuso, Frank Lampard, Marco Verratti, Thiago Alcantara, Luka Modric, Arturo Vidal and Michael Ballack have all been left out such is the quality of player that he has worked with in the past.

After thinking long and hard, the defensive midfield position goes to Xabi Alonso. His incredible passing range mixed with his defensive quality and intelligence make him the perfect shield in an all-out attack minded midfield. Ahead of him, Clarence Seedorf. The Dutchman is one of the most complete central midfielders Europe has seen in the last 40 years and his best years arguably came under Ancelotti at Milan. He offers a balance of attack and defence and can help to ease the load on Alonso, while also helping to create going forward too.

Quarter-final Brazil v France - World Cup 2006 : News Photo

It’s unlikely Ancelotti’s side would need much help creating though, with Zinedine Zidane and Kaka lining up behind the front two. Kaka won the Ballon d’Or under Ancelotti in Milan with phenomenal dribbling, an eye for goal and fantastic acceleration one of many reasons he was so key to the Serie A side’s successes during that period. Zidane played under Ancelotti at Juventus and they won the Intertoto Cup together in 1999 and his elegance and skill is well known enough for me to not have to justify his inclusion here.

Up front the decision for Sir Alex’s side was unbelievably difficult to make. Despite an array of goalscoring talent over the years I narrowed it down to four – Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Eric Cantona and Wayne Rooney.

Manchester United v West Ham United : News Photo

Now granted, all four warrant an inclusion in the team on their own individual merit and I’m happy to admit my age probably played a part in my selections. Unfortunately I never saw enough of Cantona to justify putting him in ahead of the all-time top goalscorer for the club and arguably the best all-round player to play for the club.

Then it came down to the two best pure goal scorers I’ve seen at the club and I had to go with the man himself, Ruud van Nisterooy. The Dutchman scored 150 goals at Old Trafford in just five seasons with the side and had it not been for a fallout with gaffer, he’d likely have broken all the goalscoring records at the club.

For Ancelotti, the striker positions were a bit easier. While he dealt with some of the best attacking talents during his managerial career, two stood out more than any other.

At AC Milan, his go-to forward throughout was Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko. He scored 90 goals in five seasons under Ancelotti and was one of the most feared strikers in the world, winning the Ballon d’Or in 2004. Then there was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who spent a season under Ancelotti in Paris. He scored 35 goals in 46 games for the French champions as they won Ligue 1 together before Ancelotti moved to Madrid. His all-round ability as well as his link-up play and goalscoring attributes make him a handful for any defender and alongside Shevchenko could form one of the great partnerships ever.

So who wins the game? It’s almost impossible to say. My bias as a Manchester United fan without a doubt leads me to think that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side can take a victory but the more you look at the Ancelotti team you struggle to see any weaknesses.

I’ll go with my gut and say Ronaldo’s inclusion in Ferguson’s team gives them the edge and the fact that the vast majority of them have played together before makes me feel they’d take a slight win.

Serie A XI vs Premier League XI: 1992 – Present


Before we get too far into it, “all-time” is defined by the life span of the Premier League in this instance to try and keep it as fair as possible. Anyone who played in Serie A or the Premier League between August 1992 and today was eligible to be selected, but I selected the players I saw most of and believe were the best.

I think it’s widely accepted that in the 1990’s, Serie A was the place to be if you were a world class footballer.

Italy started the decade by hosting the World Cup and losing in the semi-finals to Argentina in extra-time. It was the end of an era but also the start of one, as they began to bring through incredible youth players all over the pitch that would go on to become world champions in 2006.

Their domestic league was as competitive as always too. There have been five different winners since the 1992/93 season but a huge 12 clubs have finished in the top 3 positions since then too.

They have been blessed with some of the greatest talent of all time, and yet the majority of them won’t make it into this team.

Claudio Villa Archive : News Photo

The likes of Cafu, Chiellini, Thuram, Davids, De Rossi, Gattuso, Zidane, Kaka, Ibrahimovic, Shevchenko and Baggio all saw their primes in Serie A and yet they won’t make it into this lineup for me. I’m aware you’ll all shout at me in the comments or on Twitter, but it is what it is.

The Premier League on the other hand has managed to grab the tag-line “best league in the world” over the last 20 odd years and it’s hard to argue sometimes. Some of the all-time great players plied their trade in England, while some of the greatest teams in recent history have also come from England.

Arsenal v Manchester United : News Photo

Much like Serie A, some superstar names will miss out in this team too. Players like Schmeichel, Irwin, Lauren, Campbell, Van Dijk, Carvalho, Evra, Vieira, Giggs, Gerrard, Lampard, Yaya Toure, David Silva, De Bruyne, Fabregas, Beckham, Owen, Fowler, van Nistelrooy, Cantona, Bergkamp, Suarez, Hazard and Salah won’t be involved.

So lets take a look at who is involved, shall we?

In goal, it’s a battle between two legends. Gianluigi Buffon was the only logical pick for Serie A’s team, with over 650 appearances. He has won the title a record ten titles too, making him the only possible option.

For the Premier League, Petr Cech gets the nod. The former Chelsea and Arsenal stopper’s prime was one of the most unreal things I ever witnessed, with Cech conceding just 15 goals in his first Premier League season followed by just 22 the following year and won the title four times.

AC Milan v Inter Milan - Serie A : News Photo

In front of them will be two of the greatest defences you could possibly build from that generation.

Javier Zanetti and Gary Neville are two long-serving, former captains of their respective clubs where they spent almost their entire careers. Zanetti is the Inter Milan player with the most appearances for the club in history, while Gary Neville came through the academy and retired at Manchester United. Both were excellent defenders in their prime, too. Zanetti was an athletic, strong full-back who’s technical quality allowed him to move into midfield for a spell in his career. Neville was a bit more basic without the athleticism, but had a wicked delivery and was a solid one on one defender.

On the left, you have two of the best defenders in history. While Paolo Maldini is most often referred to as a centre-back, I saw him mostly at left back for Milan and he was incredible. Strong in the tackle, an excellent reader of the game, perfect timing and great technically. He’s only bettered in that role in history to me by the Premier League’s pick – Ashley Cole. The former Arsenal and Chelsea man had a very short spell in Serie A with Roma, but his peak came in the Premier League as part of Arsenal’s Invincibles and then with Chelsea’s Champions League winning side.

England v Hungary : News Photo

In the middle, I can’t think of two more complete central defender pairings you could make in my lifetime. Alessandro Nesta and Rio Ferdinand are, to me, the two best centre backs I’ve ever seen. Alongside them you’d have Fabio Cannavao, the 2006 Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup winning captain, and John Terry. Terry was incredibly underrated for his ability on the ball with both feet, but was also imperious in the air in both boxes and willing to put his body on the line to block a shot like any Italian defender would be proud to do.

Central midfield was probably the hardest decision I had to make for the Premier League team. So many world class options, but in the end I opted for a duo that won more Premier League titles together than any other.

Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were the perfect blend of force, finesse, intensity and goal threat that you’d need in a side. Keane was a stud of a ball winner, but also had energy to go box-to-box, while Scholes was able to be a threat in the final third or dictate play from a deeper position if necessary.

UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Bayern Munich v AC Milan : News Photo

For Serie A it’s a mixture of finesse and technique, as Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf reunite. The two played together for both Milan sides, but most notably in the red half for AC. Seedorf was the total package and could play any midfield role to perfection, much like Scholes, while Pirlo was more about keeping the ball moving and using his technique rather than physical attributes in comparison to Keane.

Attack for the Premier League was probably quite easy in the end. While some top stars missed out, there were no four players who deserved their spot more than these.

Recently retired Wayne Rooney was the ultimate number ten in the Premier League and to this day is the only player to have ever scored over 200 goals AND assisted over 100 goals. Around him, are the three of the best to ever touch the league. Cristiano Ronaldo started his career on the right but moved to the left and became a goalscoring demon before joining La Liga and eventually Serie A.

Manchester United v Arsenal : News Photo

His ability to go either way while also being a threat aerially and from range mean he can play anywhere along the front line and still produce, so he slots in there. On the left is arguably the most complete striker of his generation in Thierry Henry.

Normally I’d put Henry up front because that’s where he became Arsenal and France’s all-time top goalscorer from, but he had a preference of drifting out wide and using his lightning pace to get in behind defences. That also allows me to put Alan Shearer up front.

The all-time top goalscorer in the division with 260 goals, nobody has come close to matching that number. He holds almost all the goalscoring records you can think of in England’s top flight and in his prime, was one of the best strikers in the world.

For Serie A, the conversation is much the same. Two of Italy’s golden attackers of all-time will sit just behind the strikers, with Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti taking the creative mantles in the side. Agility, skill, vision, technique, power and finesse, between them they had it all.

Ahead of them are probably my two favourite strikers ever. Batigol, Gabriel Batistuta, who made a name for himself by trying to rip nets when he scored goals because of the pure power he could hit a ball with, had everything in his game to trouble a top defence on his own. Now pair him up with the GOAT, Ronaldo Nazario. El Fenomeno. R9.

The man was at his absolute best for Inter Milan during the 90’s before a knee injury took away his explosiveness. Even after that he scored goals for fun wherever he went and his inclusion was a no brainer.

Originally tweeted by إسحاق الهاشمي (@is7aqalhashmi) on September 16, 2018.

So who wins? It’s almost impossible to say. It would without a doubt be the best football match I’ve ever been able to see but I’d give the nod to Serie A – just. The complete football team.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea vs Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid

One of the greatest managers in the history of the sport, Jose Mourinho has managed some of the greatest players the game has ever seen.

He also managed two of the best teams we’ve seen, during two separate eras and for two different reasons.

When Mourinho joined Chelsea as ‘The Special One’, he built one of the greatest defensive teams ever seen. During the 2004/05 season, the Blues conceded just 15 goals in the entire Premier League campaign as they strolled to a first title in 50 years before making it consecutive titles the following season too.

After leaving Chelsea and winning a treble with Inter Milan, Mourinho ended up at the Bernabeu as the manager of Real Madrid. There he would lock horns against Pep Guardiola and arguably the greatest club side ever in Barcelona and eventually break their stranglehold on the La Liga title.

His Madrid side were a goalscoring demon, scoring a record 121 goals during the league campaign as they recorded 100 points to win the title for the first time since 2008.

But who would win if the two sides met each other? Lets break it down.

Mourinho always loved building his teams from the back and that usually starts with the goalkeeper.

At Chelsea, he made the decision early on to replace long-time number one Carlo Cudicini with young Petr Cech. The signing from Rennes was completed before Jose arrived, but it was the Portuguese manager’s choice to put him in and keep him as the first choice. He won the Golden Glove award for keeping a record 21 clean sheets in his first season and conceded just 37 goals in two seasons combined, including a record low of 15 in the first.

For Real Madrid, the decision was much simpler. Club legend Iker Casillas was the number one pick at the club since he was a teenager and was still near the top of his game when Mourinho came in and he kept that position until Jose’s final season.

Chelsea's English defender John Terry (R : News Photo

In defence, Mourinho’s Chelsea back four is legendary among Premier League circles. Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho followed him from Porto and went straight into the side, while John Terry was already captain. William Gallas was a centre-back by nature, but filled in at left-back for Mourinho in place of Wayne Bridge as Mourinho opted for more physicality.

At Madrid, the defence selected itself. Alvaro Arbeloa had joined from Liverpool before Mourinho was hired, but he was the first choice right-back when they won the league because of a long-term injury to Mourinho’s trusted enforcer Carvalho who was also now at Madrid. This meant Sergio Ramos moved to centre-back alongside Pepe while Marcelo was still the first choice left-back ahead of Fabio Coentrao.

In midfield, Mourinho has almost always opted for physicality over intricacy and those patterns continue in these two sides.

At Chelsea, Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele were guaranteed starters in the first campaign while Michael Essien joined in the second season from Lyon. He replaced another Portuguese player in the side, as Tiago dropped out to accommodate the Ghanaian’s inclusion. He offered mobility, power, great passing and tenacity as well as an added goal threat for Mourinho, who looked to get even more from Frank Lampard.

Madrid’s midfield was more creative than Chelsea’s but still physical enough to withstand the battles it needed to get into. Xabi Alonso was the dictator from deep who was also able to break up play and defend, while Sami Khedira was the box-to-box option who marauded around the pitch chasing the ball to win it back but also to add extra threat in the opposition box on occasion.

The big difference was between Ozil and Lampard, with the German in the team to create while the England man was in the side to finish moves off. He finished as Chelsea’s top goalscorer in both of Mourinho’s first two seasons in England, scoring 19 and 20 goals respectively, while Ozil created 28 goals on his own in all competitions in 2011/12.

In attack, Chelsea were consistently clinical. Didier Drogba established himself as Mourinho’s first-choice centre forward, with the Ivory Coast international a physical presence with excellent link up play. He scored 30 goals in the two seasons combined under Jose, but it was ability to link with the wide men that made him invaluable.

In the first campaign Arjen Robben and Damien Duff played on opposite wings and terrorised defences, although the Dutchman was ravaged by injury problems during his time in London. In the second campaign, Robben continued at a similar rate but Joe Cole stepped up and essentially took over from Duff as his partner on the other side. Together they had pace, skill, a fantastic passing range and an eye for goal that carried Mourinho’s side to back-to-back championships.

In Madrid, the attack was much stronger in depth. Players like former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain were restricted to roles as a substitute mainly because of the form of Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and the phenomenal Cristiano Ronaldo.

Di Maria scored seven goals and assisted 17, while Benzema scored 32 and assisted 19 during the campaign. Those numbers paled in comparison to Ronaldo though, who scored an incredible 60 goals to go with 15 assists in all competitions as Mourinho was able to topple Guardiola and Messi at the top of La Liga.

It would be a true contest of attack against defence if the two sides met and it is harder and harder to look past Real Madrid as the winners of any potential contest.

The quality of the attack is arguably the best we’ve seen in recent years barring Barcelona’s incredible ‘MSN’ trio and as good as Chelsea’s defence was, they never really came under significant threat in the Premier League. They never quite dominated in Europe, reaching a semi-final and then the last 16 so Madrid would obviously fancy their chances.

Defensively Madrid weren’t awful themselves, conceding only 32 goals in their league campaign and they also reached the Champions League semi-finals.

It would be a fantastic game, where we’d see the best of Mourinho’s two philosophies of football. ‘Park the bus’ vs ‘give it to Ronaldo’. Ronaldo wins for me.

Brazil Greatest XI vs Italy Greatest XI

When you think football, you almost certainly will think of the Brazilian national team and it’s glittering history.

The famous yellow shirts are linked heavily with some of the greatest attacking players in the history of football, while defensively they’ve probably never been blessed with the best options. They’ve had a few stand outs but nothing like when you look at the history of the Italian side.

Arguably the greatest defensive nation in footballing history, Italy have had some of the best defenders in history prior to my lifetime including the likes of Franco Baresi. So what happens if you pit the best attack against the best defence over the most recent generations?

Much like in the ‘France vs Holland Fantasy Match‘, several top players have missed out on the lineups simply because I can’t pick more than 11 players. The likes of Rivaldo, Christian Vieri, Giorgio Chiellini, Gilberto Silva, Cafu, Marcelo and Gennaro Gattuso have been left out either because I believe these are better or I’m trying to get more of a balance of past and present.

Football. 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals. Semi Final. Saitama, Japan. 26th June 2002. Brazil 1 v Turkey 0. Members of the Brazil team are pictured with mascots as they sing their anthem prior to the match. L-R: Rivaldo and Cafu (captain). Credit: POPPERFOTO/J : News Photo

In goal, Italy’s choice was obvious. Gianluigi Buffon is likely to go down as one of the best goalkeepers ever and up until recently is the only Italy number one I’ve know. For Brazil, I’ve given Alisson the nod over two legends in Dida and Claudio Taffarel. The Liverpool man is arguably the best of the lot with his feet and is comfortable sweeping up behind a top heavy team, so he fits in well here.

At full-back, Brazil have arguably had the two best pairs of right and left backs of my lifetime with Cafu and Roberto Carlos as well as Dani Alves and Marcelo. I’ve decided to split the difference with this and take on from each era, with Dani Alves and Roberto Carlos taking the spots here.

Footballer Ronaldo in Action Against Italy : News Photo

For Italy, their full-backs pick themselves. Paolo Maldini is recognised as one of the best defenders the world has ever seen and while he could play at centre-back, he often was used as a left-back for the national team due to the plethora of top central defenders they possessed. As for right-back, Gianluca Zambrotta is comfortably the best Italian I’ve ever seen in that position and that makes his inclusion easy enough.

At centre-back Italy’s pairing is arguably unfair. Alessandro Nesta is the best defender I’ve ever seen in my opinion while Fabio Cannavaro is the last defender to win the Ballon D’Or following Italy’s World Cup win in 2006. A combination of speed, strength, intelligence, aerial ability and leadership they would be a nightmare for any attack.

Brazil’s options don’t have the same quality or reputation, but Lucio and Thiago Silva is also a pairing that would strike fear into any attacking lineup. Aerially dominant, good on the ball and aggressive as they come I would ultimately back the Brazilian’s to make an error before the Italians.

Italy Training Session And Press Conference : News Photo

In midfield, Italy have got balance for days. The destroyer vibe of Daniele De Rossi alongside the playmaking skill of Marco Verratti and Andrea Pirlo give the team the perfect base to build their attacks from while also being to compete in defensive situations too.

Brazil’s lineup is a bit more top heavy and I’ve gone with Fernandinho in the holding midfield role. Now I know I could’ve picked Gilberto Silva but I went with the Manchester City man for the simple reason that I have seen him play in top heavy teams before. With Kaka, Ronaldinho and Neymar ahead of him all interchanging positions and causing havoc, Italy will have a tough time containing the quality and invention they have.

In attack, Italy’s attack has got three magnificent talents ready to link up and interchange positions. Roberto Baggio is widely considered as the best Italian attacker of his generation or since, while Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero are the reigning kings of Rome and Turin respectively.

Their passing, creativity, skill and link up play would likely see some of the best team goals ever scored with them on the pitch, although they lack the frightening pace that a side likely to play on the counter attack would like to have.


For Brazil, two of the greatest number nines of the modern generation playing up front together is a terrifying prospect. Romario was the main man during the 1994 World Cup and it was ‘El Fenomeno’ who took the mantle and went on to be one of the best strikers of all time. Together, their combination of pace, skill, strength, creativity and ruthless finishing would surely be too much for any defence.

This would be a battle between attack and defence and it’s hard to see past the attack coming out on top.

Brazil are by no means pushovers defensively and if the full-backs are a bit more efficient with their attacking outlet then you can imagine Italy struggling to break them down with their lack of pace.

With that said, Italy will have the advantage in midfield with three excellent ball-players in there so if they can keep the ball for long periods and keep Brazil’s attack quiet then they would potentially be able to cause an upset.

The likelihood for me however, is that Brazil get on the ball in dangerous areas far too often for the Italian’s to cope and eventually they get broken down for the famous yellow jerseys to celebrate a win yet again.

France Greatest XI vs Holland Greatest XI

Since the early 90’s, two of the best footballing nations to have played the game are Holland and France.

Countless players have caught the imagination of fans and media alike over the last 30-odd years, so I decided to select the best XI of each country from my lifetime and pit them against each other.

Some incredible footballers have missed out, including the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, the De Boer brothers, Patrick Kluivert, Wesley Sneijder, David Trezeguet, Robert Pires, Paul Pogba and Patrice Evra.

I’m going to justify my selections for my teams here and break down what I think would happen if the two sides had ever met each other for real.

France v Netherlands - European Championship 2000 : News Photo

In goal, Holland’s keeper is obvious. Edwin Van Der Sar is a two time Champions League winner and multiple time league winner in two different countries with Ajax and Manchester United. He represented Holland 130 times throughout his career and is largely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation.

For France the decision was a bit tougher. It was between two World Cup winners in Fabian Barthez and Hugo Lloris but I opted for the Tottenham man in this instance. While Barthez was supreme in his time for France, he was more prone to errors than Lloris and for me his peak didn’t last for as long. Both have exceptional reflexes and decent distribution and I don’t think the squad is any worse off regardless of which one was chosen.

FBL-WC-2018-NED-FRA : News Photo

In defence for Holland, one of the best central defensive partnerships ever. Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk is the best defender in the world right now and has been for the last 18 months or so, while Jaap Stam was one of the most dominant in Europe during his peak in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Physically they’re untouchable but they can also compete in a foot race and in the air. They have the ability to play out from the back too to help build attacks early.

For France, it’s a similar story. Raphael Varane is one of Van Dijk’s closest companions at the top of the game right now while Desailly was France’s leader at the back during his time in the national team. Much like Holland’s pairing, they can compete with any sort of attack that comes up against them and would be a brick wall.

The full-backs are the first point where we see an advantage for one side or the other. France’s pairing of Thuram and Lizarazu is balance personified and the epitome of what a full-back duo should be. Individually both are comfortable at both ends of the pitch and equally able to defend their flank. Both are excellent defenders in their own right and are intelligent enough to know when to attack, although Lizarazu could struggle with the physical demands of today’s game a bit more.

Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids (L) speaks : News Photo

Holland’s options aren’t so star-studded. Former Barcelona paid Michael Reiziger and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst are both excellent professionals who won plenty during their career. Despite that, they both have their weaknesses too. Reiziger was never the best one on one defender while Van Bronckhorst was physically on the smaller side, which could be something this French side could look to exploit.

In central midfield, it would be a battle for the ages. Ngolo Kante and Edgar Davids have many similarities in their style, with both incredibly energetic and determined ball-winners who can also play with the ball at their feet too. Davids had a bit more swagger to his game but Kante’s defensive positioning is a thing of wonder. Alongside them both are two of their generation’s best as Patrick Vieira does battle with Clarence Seedorf.

Vieira made his name at Arsenal as a marauding box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal and a bite to his tackle, while Seedorf was one of the most complete midfielders ever. His passing range, stamina, strength, creativity and striking ability meant he stood out on any pitch he was on and he would look to do similar here.

In attack, it’s two absolutely incredible variations of style, skill and quality.

For France, the new school mix with the old school as Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann partner up with Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane. All World Cup winners and all phenomenally talented, they would be able to rotate almost freely in the attacking areas of the pitch, knowing they are perfectly protected behind them.

Football: Belgium coach Henry at World Cup : News Photo

Mbappe and Henry’s pace and goalscoring exploits would make them a scary sight for any defence that has ever existed, but especially a Holland side with obvious weaknesses at full-back. Zidane and Griezmann both have the ability to dominate a game in the hole and play killer passes from between the lines, while also carrying a goal threat of their own.

For Holland, it’s much of the same. Arjen Robben and Marc Overmars are among Holland’s greatest wingers ever, with their pace and drive while running from wide positions into the box unmatched by many. Centrally, Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy are Holland’s two highest goalscorers ever and would be able to link together to cause plenty of damage. van Persie’s ability to drop deep and link the midfield and attack would allow more space for van Nistelrooy to do what he does best – get in the box and finish.

It would truly be a game for the ages between these two nations and it would be a fantastic spectacle. But who would win?

Looking at the sides, the glaring difference as mentioned already would be the French wingers up against the Dutch full-backs. Everywhere else on the pitch is pretty evenly matched but with France’s two best goal-threats coming against Holland’s two weaker players it just pans out that the French would be able to get a victory because of it.

England 02-06 vs Current England Squad

England’s ‘golden generation’ is said to be from World Cup 2002 up until their failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

Some world class footballers represented their nation during that period of time, but they failed to make it past a quarter-final stage of any major tournament during that time under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren.

The current England side managed by Gareth Southgate finished fourth at their only World Cup together so far, finished third in the UEFA Nations League and are one of the favourites going into Euro 2020 next summer with a new golden generation on their way through the ranks.

So who would win if they were to face off in a one-off game today?

For the ‘golden generation’ the starting line-up essentially picked itself back then. There were the odd changes, with Sol Campbell involved at centre-back and left midfield often chopped and changed too. Central midfield had options like Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick and even Paul Scholes at one point all vying but it was Lampard and Gerrard who were more often than not selected together. A young, dynamic and fearless Wayne Rooney was up front alongside the legendary Michael Owen too to provide a huge goal threat.

These days, England’s biggest weakness is central midfield which was arguably the older teams’ greatest strength. The likes of Henderson and Winks have plenty of big-game experience, with Henderson having won the Premier League and Champions League in the last two years. Going forward, Harry Kane is on course to smash Wayne Rooney’s record as all-time top goalscorer for the national team, while Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho are among the best wide players in the game today. The depth in attack is fantastic too, with Marcus Rashford and youngsters such as Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood making the breakthrough to regulars in the international setup. Defensively though, they’re a shambles. Ben Chilwell is the only left-back with any shred of quality even close to being ready for international football at the moment, while Harry Maguire is a guaranteed starter despite his obvious flaws. At right-back, there is plenty of depth but only one man can play and Kyle Walker has proven to be the regular pick for Southgate, despite the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold over the last two-and-a-half years.

In goal, both sides have mediocre No.1’s with Paul Robinson and Jordan Pickford. Overall, both squads have holes but they’re very different.

The current side’s biggest issues are all personnel wise and just a lack of quality or experience for the level. The 02-08 sides biggest issues are the managers and formations deployed instead. In this day and age, it’s so difficult to play 442 without being overrun in midfield. Even with the lack of quality in the current England side, they would likely be able to hold onto the ball much better and look to cause problems with a sheer volume of control.

Defensively, individually, England’s defence was absolutely world-class and club partnerships were able to be re-made. Despite this, Robinson’s presence behind them was poor and the lack of midfield structure often saw them well beaten against the better sides.

It would be a fascinating tie in all honesty, with the pace and energy of the new school able to get at the 02-08 defence several times, but the sheer quality of the team back then would likely be able to edge a win. Wayne Rooney in that time period was one of the best footballers in the world and Michael Owen was lethal, while David Beckham was also at the peak of his powers.

When systems get cancelled out it tends to come down to the individual quality of the players on the pitch and for that reason I think the ‘golden generation’ would be able to scrape a win in a very tightly contested fixture.

Inter Milan 09/10 vs Atletico Madrid 13/14

A battle between two of the best defensive teams in recent memory, who won their league and reached the final of Europe’s biggest club competition with two managers who get absolutely everything from their team.

When Jose Mourinho took over at Inter Milan, few could see that within three years they would be reigning Italian and European champions in the same season. His side won the treble in his final year at the club, with Diego Milito leading the line alongside Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder pulling the strings from midfield.

In Spain just a few years later, Diego Simeone’s side pipped Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the La Liga title with a masterful display of soaking up pressure and pouncing to win games without the ball. They won 12 of their 28 victories by the odd goal, showing how comfortable and confident they were when defending a lead.

Mourinho adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, based on solid defensive structure with brilliance from individuals in attack. Lucio was one of the best defenders in the world at this point, while Julio Cesar, Walter Samuel and Javier Zanetti all used their experience to get the absolute most from themselves in this campaign. At right-back, Maicon was explosive and powerful and scored 7 goals in all competitions that season. His overlapping runs allowed Samuel Eto’o to move a bit more in-field to a more natural central position however he was predominantly placed on the right-wing for his work ethic and stamina.

Wesley Sneijder was given a free role in the No.10 position and delivered an outstanding season that put him in contention for the Ballon D’Or. Diego Milito also had the best season of his career during this year, as he scored 28 goals including both in the Champions League final.

At Atletico, Simeone’s team focused completely on not conceding chances and scoring goals on the counter. This setup helped Diego Costa to the greatest season of his career, as he scored 36 goals in all competitions. The defensive structure in place by Gabi, Koke and the back four allowed Raul Garcia to push forward from central midfield and get 15 goals himself too.

In a game against each other though, this could be one of the most intense tactical battles we’ve seen. Both sides would likely set up to ensure they don’t lose which could lead to a cagey affair where very little risks are taken.

Atletico Madrid will undoubtedly drop deep into two blocks of four, while Inter will try to get the ball to Wesley Sneijder as much as possible to unlock those doors. I think the main man for Inter in this game though could be Samuel Eto’o.

The Cameroon forward had an insatiable eye for goal during his time at Barcelona and scored seven goals with four assists in his 12 games against Atletico. With Maicon bombing forward to help Inter’s attack, Eto’o would become an extra body in the attack and be able to create space for himself or Milito to pounce. My pick for this would be an Inter Milan 1-0 win, with prime Jose Mourinho taking the spoils.

Do you agree with the teams picked? Do you agree with the end result? Let me know.

Chelsea Best XI vs Liverpool Best XI

Over the years, there is no doubt that these two sides have been among the most successful of the English teams.

Since the Premier League began in 1992, Chelsea have won 21 trophies (excluding Community Shield) while Liverpool have won 14 trophies including this season’s Premier League title.

So if you combine both team’s best players in that time frame into a single XI and pit them against each other in a one off game, what would happen? Who would be in the team? Who would be the managers? I’ve made the selections and and tried my best to break down what would happen.

Firstly I think the manager’s pick themselves. Jurgen Klopp is unquestionably the man in charge of the Liverpool side having led them to their first league title in 30 years. Along with that, back-to-back Champions League finals and a Club World Cup make him the most successful manager in recent times. For the Blues, Jose Mourinho is the obvious choice. The Portuguese boss won three Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup.

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League : News Photo

In goal, both keepers also select themselves. For Chelsea, Petr Cech is arguably the best in the competition’s history and constantly performed at the highest level on the biggest occasions while Allison has already out-performed Jerzy Dudek and Pepe Reina to be Liverpool’s best keeper in this era.

In defence, there is a mixture of past and present for Liverpool. Three of the current back four make it in, but former captain Sami Hyypia steps in for Joe Gomez to partner Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of the defence. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson didn’t have much competition in the full-back positions but club legend Jamie Carragher doesn’t quite make the cut. Mourinho’s XI won’t contain anyone from the current crop at the club, with Paulo Ferreira and Ashley Cole at full back alongside former captains John Terry and Marcel Desailly in the centre.

For Liverpool, the midfield was easy enough to pick. The collective trio of Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano was incredibly successful together and arguably not to win a league title of their own under Rafael Benitez. Gerrard had his best seasons alongside those two and despite Fabinho’s trophies with the club, it wasn’t enough to displace his fellow South American from the holding midfield role.

Chelsea’s midfield on the other hand was arguably the hardest thing to pick. They have had an array of talent in that area of the pitch over the years including Michael Ballack, Claude Makelele, Ngolo Kante, Gustavo Poyet and Jon Obi-Mikel but two options stood out moreso than others. Firstly, the current manager and the club’s all-time top goalscorer was a shoe-in. Frank Lampard obviously makes the cut and is partnered by ‘The Bison’ Michael Essien. The Ghanaian midfielder was exceptional for Chelsea with his aggression and stamina to get him around the pitch, while also being a great tackler and passer.

Ahead of them, it really is a fantasy for the Blues. On the wings, legendary Dutchman Arjen Robben and Eden Hazard cause all sorts of problems for Liverpool’s attacking full-backs and they’ll be partnered in attack by the ultimate little ‘n’ large combo. Gianfranco Zola will occupy the No.10 position, playing just behind their Munich hero Didier Drogba. Drogba beats out competition for the centre-forward role from the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Diego Costa, Nicolas Anelka, Hernan Crespo and Gianluca Vialli..

Picking Liverpool’s attack was arguably the hardest thing about their team. They’ve had a crazy array of talent in attack over the years, including Fernando Torres, Michael Owen, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Stan Collymore and more. I settled on this front three due to the fact they have all been influential in their own eras as well as just being phenomenal footballers. On the left, I’ve opted for Luis Suarez. While he isn’t a winger, I simply couldn’t leave him out of the team. He has the capabilities to play there with his dribbling ability and creativity, but he showed his fantastic eye for goal during his time at the club and since. On the right, Mo Salah is a no brainer. His goals and assists are one of the main reasons behind the success of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure at the club and he is arguably the best signing in their Premier League history. Up front was tough, but I’ve gone with Robbie Fowler. The former England striker is nicknamed ‘God’ at Anfield for a reason. He scored all types of goals, had creativity for assists too and is another I just couldn’t bring myself to leave out. His longevity in the league helped me take him over Torres but it was a tough call.

In the game itself, the game would be won on the wings. Liverpool’s midfield three would overrun Chelsea’s duo of Lampard and Essien but a Klopp team focuses so much on the full-backs providing for the attack. If they can get forward as they usually do and deliver, Chelsea’s defence will have to be at its absolute best to deny Liverpool’s fearsome attack. Going the other way though, Robben and Hazard would have a lot of joy and their ability to cut in and score goals would add to Zola’s options in the hole. Chelsea’s side have got goals all the way through it, even down to John Terry at set-pieces.

It would be a fascinating tie and one that would likely be decided by the odd goal. Strangely enough, I don’t think either side would keep a clean sheet because of the qualities of the rest of the team but I think Chelsea’s added goal threats mean they’d take a 2-1 win.

Do you agree with the teams picked? Do you agree with the end result? Let me know

Real Madrid ‘Galacticos’ vs Spain 08-12

If you ask most football fans of a certain age, the first football team they’ll remember globally is Real Madrid’s Galacticos.

A team put together with one superstar signing a year in the early 00’s, with the idea that they would partner up with the best of Real Madrid’s academy – hence the original ‘Zidanes y Pavones’ name given to the group.

Florentino Perez signed Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, David Beckham, Ronaldo and Fabio Cannavaro among others to wrestle the La Liga title away from the Camp Nou, while also signing youngsters like Marcelo and Sergio Ramos who would go on to become the face of the club for the next decade-and-a-half.

Shortly after the ‘Galacticos’ era came to an end, Spain dominated the international scene. Under Luis Aragones, Spain won their first ever international title by winning Euro 2008. He was then replaced by Vicente Del Bosque, former manager of Real Madrid’s Galacticos, and he won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. With a mixed core of Barcelona and Real Madrid players, Spain brushed aside all challengers and put themselves in the conversation with Brazil 1970 and Puskas’ Hungarians of the 50’s as the best international side ever.

So what would have happened if they’d come up against each other?

Spain were by far the more structured side in terms of style and philosophy. They were a heavy possession-based team, who passed the ball persistently to wear their opponents down. The incredible midfield depth has seen me leave out names like Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla in midfield which shows the options they have to choose from in their golden generation. A big factor they also had was that so many of these players played together at club level- only Fernando Torres never played for either Real Madrid or Barcelona during his career.

At the Bernabeu, it was all about having the best players on the pitch at the same time. They’d often play a lopsided formation to get their players in and it’s no coincidence that their success began to lessen once Claude Makelele left for Chelsea in 2003. They won La Liga in two of the three seasons Makelele was at the club, winning the Champions League in the other to make up for it.

As good as Makelele was, it was the attacking talent on display that often won Madrid games. Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul and Figo make up one of the best attacking line-ups we’ve ever seen on individual ability, while the addition of David Beckham in 2003 just increased that further. While Beckham didn’t win La Liga until the end of the Galacticos era in 2007, he was a huge part of the main side and is thus included in the team.

The midfield is where Spain win this game in my opinion. The pure quality in both directions means they will be able to keep the ball and win it back whenever Madrid get hold of it. The pure quality on show in a Madrid kit makes me think it would be incredibly difficult for Spain to keep a clean sheet but it would be even harder for Los Blancos.

The versatility in the attacking positions of Iniesta, Villa and Torres interchanging means Madrid’s legendary full-backs Michel Salgado and Roberto Carlos would need to be on their best behaviour defensively, which would likely limit them going forward. Makelele is arguably the greatest defensive midfielder of all-time, with the role being named after him due to his role in this team. But without any help, he’d only be able to hold this side off for so long. Zidane, Beckham and Figo aren’t good enough defensively to keep Spain at bay for too long and if they went a goal down, it would be even harder for them to claw the game back.

While those attacking players are lead by the great R9 up front, they need the ball to make magic. Spain averaged 64% possession across the three tournaments they won, meaning Zizou and co would have to be efficient on the counter attack.

I think overall, Spain will just have too much for this Galactico era. The quality on show would make this a fun watch but Spain would dominate the game in a way that only they could with their tiki-taka style and we’d see a lot of frustrated superstars in a white shirt. I’d go with a 3-1 Spain win over 90 minutes, with David Villa and Fernando Torres getting the goals for the World Champions while a long ball from David Beckham to R9 would launch a goalscoring counter-attack in reply.