Tag Archives: Napoli

Lille crowned champions of France as Juventus scrape Champions League qualification

Paris Saint-Germain are not the champions of France anymore, after Lille were crowned the winners of Ligue 1 thanks to their win over Angers on the final day.

The French title race went down to the wire, with PSG needing to better Lille’s result on Sunday to be able to leapfrog them at the final hurdle and win the title for a fourth straight season.

It was never on the cards on the day though, as Lille took an early lead and never looked back. Record signing Jonathan David was put through on goal by Renato Sanches and slotted past the goalkeeper, before Burak Yilmaz smashed a penalty home on the stroke of half-time to all but seal the title in the first half.

PSG had an eventful first half of their own, with Neymar missing a penalty after mind games from the Brest goalkeeper before Angel Di Maria scored directly from a corner. Kylian Mbappe added another in the second half but that wasn’t enough though as Lille stayed firm throughout the second half of their game to be crowned champions for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

It’s an incredible achievement from Christophe Galtier’s side, who have blended youth and experience brilliantly and maintained a very exciting style of play to be able to go toe-to-toe with the billionaires in the capital.

Mauricio Pochettino’s job when appointed in January was to ensure success. While he has won two domestic cups since joining, the club were eliminated at the semi-final stage of the Champions League by Manchester City and now were pipped to the title too, in a league many deem to be a one-horse race.

Considering he only signed an 18-month contract on arrival, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Qatari owners decide to cut ties now and bring someone else in this summer with a more long-term view at things.

Elsewhere on the continent in Italy, Juventus were able to scrape qualification into the Champions League on the final day after Napoli failed to beat Verona and they beat Bologna 4-1.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-BOLOGNA-JUVENTUS : News Photo
Ronaldo watches on as an unused substitute

Manager Andrea Pirlo made the unthinkable decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo from the team for the must-win game, but the choice worked brilliantly as the Bianconeri raced into a 3-0 lead in the first-half. Ronaldo didn’t even come on as Juventus waited patiently, but as Napoli failed to break down Verona and were held to a 1-1 draw their fate was confirmed.

They’ll be joined in the competition by AC Milan, who beat Atalanta 2-0 thanks to two Franck Kessie penalties to finish 3rd and qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2014.

Milan had led the table for a short period during the winter, but eventually faded away and as injuries and poor form picked up their season threatened to spiral out of control. Stefano Pioli was able to manage the situation well though and saw the team win four of their last five games to secure a wonderful season for themselves.

While Ronaldo’s future will almost certainly now be called into question, Juventus will be delighted to have been able to qualify after a very rocky season. They can now focus on rebuilding the squad, with or without Pirlo and Ronaldo, to try and reclaim their place as Italy’s best.

As for PSG, they also have some big decisions to make this summer. Despite the hundreds of millions spent revamping the squad over the years, they are still in need of some big upgrades at full-back and in midfield. Add to that the fact that Mbappe is entering the final year of his contract and there is a lot going on that needs to be addressed this summer.

How Europe’s leagues can be settled on the final day

A long and crazy season is finally coming to an end, but not before a wild final day across Europe’s top leagues.

While the Bundesliga in Germany is settled, with Bayern Munich finishing as champions for a ninth consecutive season and the top four places already cemented, Spain’s La Liga, France’s Ligue 1 and Italy’s Serie A are all far from complete as we enter the final game of the campaign.

With champions and Champions League places to be settled in them all, lets take a look at all the potential outcomes of the three leagues so that you’re all caught up ahead of the games.


LIGUE 1

The French title race has been one of the most riveting all season long, with Paris Saint-Germain looking to become champions for a fourth season in a row.

Their quest for success has been matched all the way though by LOSC Lille, who have led the way with the points tally since the 20th game of the season. PSG have tried to close the gap but failed to win key games, but Lille have continued winning games to go into the final day of the season as favourites to win the title.

As it stands it’s a three-horse race, although AS Monaco will need a lot of things to go in their favour to become champions.

If Lille win their final game of the season against Angers they will be champions, no matter what else happens in the division.

Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG must better Lille’s result to become champions again. Should they draw with Brest and Lille lose, they will both end the season on 80 points but PSG will win the title on goal difference with the league breaking any ties via GD and then goals scored – not head to head.

If Monaco are to pull off the impossible, they must win their final game of the season against Lens and hope both PSG and Lille lose. On top of that, they will need a six goal swing in their favour for the goal difference. It’s unlikely, but still possible and would represent the biggest shock of all the potential possibilities.


SERIE A

While the champions of Italy are already crowned with Inter Milan ending the dominance of Juventus thanks to the brilliance of Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku in particular, the rest of the division is a free-for-all.

The four places directly below them are all still up for grabs, with the potential of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus team finishing up in the Europa League places very real.

The final day of the season will see Atalanta take on AC Milan, where a win for Milan will not only confirm their place in the Champions League for next season but also move them above Atalanta in the league table. That would also allow Napoli to move above them with a win in their final game against Verona. Should both Milan and Napoli win their games, it won’t matter what Juventus do on the final day against Bologna as they will be unable to be caught.

Juventus must win their game and also hope one of AC Milan or Napoli do not in order to make the top four and ensure their record of appearing every year since 2012 continues. Should Andrea Pirlo’s side fail to win, then both Napoli and Milan will qualify regardless of their own results.


LA LIGA

The simplest of all, but the most tense end to the season will be the Spanish league title race between Madrid’s two biggest clubs Atletico and Real.

The two sides, along with FC Barcelona, have competed all throughout the season to be crowned champions, with Diego Simeone’s side at one point holding a massive lead with games in hand too. However a bad turn in form earlier in the season has seen them be dragged back into the tussle and it will now go down to the final day.

Barcelona were in the race up until this past weekend, when a 2-1 home defeat to Celta Vigo meant they now were unable to match the winning points tally but the tightness of the battle between the top two was on show in the matches involving the two Madrid sides.

Atletico were able to wrap the title up during the last game, if they had won their game against Osasuna and Real Madrid had failed to win. However as Real Madrid took the lead through defender Nacho, Atleti fell behind. They managed to turn the result around however, with goals from substitute Renan Lodi and a late winner from summer signing Luis Suarez meaning the title is still in their hands.

This weekend Simeone’s men will travel to Valladolid knowing that a win will secure them a first title since 2013. Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid will however host Villarreal, who need a win to secure European football themselves next season but also have a Europa League final in the midweek following to navigate.

Should Real Madrid win and Atletico Madrid’s fail to, they will win the title in back-to-back seasons for the first time since their 2006-08 campaigns. Los Blancos’ huge win in December in the Madrid derby means they will win the league should both teams finish level on points, with Spain opting for a head-to-head tie-breaker rather than goal difference.

Diego Maradona – Your Favourite Footballer’s Favourite Footballer

It’s hard to write this with the news so fresh, but I wanted this to be a raw piece of my emotions having just found out that Diego Armando Maradona has passed away.

Aged 60, Maradona suffered a cardiac arrest according to reports and news broke of his death at round 16:15 (GMT) on November 25th 2020.

I’m not one for emotions usually, especially surrounding the death or lives of people I don’t know or have never met. Celebrities are just humans in my mind and Maradona should fall into that category realistically. That isn’t what happened though.

My mind raced, my stomach sank and I was legitimately shocked to read what I was reading. One of the greatest of all time was no longer with us.

I spent the next few hours watching videos and reading stories about Maradona and his career since I never really got to see him play having been born in 1993. I re-read old stories, still in awe.

It was when tributes started flooding in that you realise how many lives he touched. Yes he was quite obviously a mad man with crazy tendencies but he represented everything that I love about the beautiful game.

His flair, creativity and imagination shone through in everything he did. There was a video doing the rounds of him dancing with a random lady during an Argentina game at a recent World Cup. His smile and charisma shone there just as it did when he was on a football pitch. He didn’t do it for the cameras, it was just him.

He did all these tricks, flicks and magic on a football pitch before there was real money in the game. Before the superstardom across the world was a thing. Yet he was exactly that – a superstar.

You could argue that his most iconic moment is the ‘hand of God’ against England, but I’d argue against it. The man had so many more iconic moments in his career, that is just one that grabbed headlines on the biggest stage.

His goal in that same game where he dribbled past the whole England team, including the goalkeeper, is equally iconic. His goal against Belgium earlier in the tournament was just as good, but not as iconic.

The fight he had against Athletic Bilbao when they tried to quite literally kick him out of the game with tackles that today would see you landed with an assault charge, never mind a red card.

Nothing is more iconic than the ‘Maradona Seven’ in my eyes though. I spent hours upon hours, for weeks upon weeks, practicing how to master that skill that he made so effortless and easy.

The man was a rockstar, in an era where rockstars were still a thing in the music world. He literally inspired a generation of footballers on his own.

A celebrity death has never affected me in a way like this before but I felt numb and shock when I read this news. But as a friend of mine stated in a group chat on Whatsapp, if there is anyone who would want their life celebrated rather than mourned it would be Maradona.

As so many keep saying, his body may have left us but his legacy will be eternal.

One of the absolute best footballers to have ever played the game. Whether it be charity games or a World Cup final, he wanted to make an impact. For no reason other than he loved football.

He’s your favourite footballer’s favourite footballer. Rest in eternal peace, Diego Maradona.

What Can We Expect From Gabriel Magalhaes?

The transfer market is open and full of clubs looking for reinforcements ahead of the new season.

One name that continues to pop up that many people may not be synonymous with, is Gabriel Magalhaes. The Brazilian defender has been heavily linked with a number of clubs, including Manchester United, Everton and Napoli with a £30million move touted.

It was originally expected that he would follow Victor Osimhen to Naples, after Lille accepted a world record bid for an African player for the striker. The story that originally came out was that Napoli had made a double bid, with Gabriel being the second part of that. However, Osimhen is officially a Napoli player already and Lille’s president says Gabriel will make a decision on his future soon.

This has led to speculation that Everton could hijack the deal, with the Premier League appealing to the 6ft 2′ centre-back. But then Manchester United reportedly entered the equation. According to Mohamed Bouhafsi of RMC Sport, United have held talks with Gabriel’s representatives and Lille about a potential move although there have been no official bids yet.

So who is Gabriel? What’s he good at? Would he do well in England?

Firstly, Gabriel is a central defender from Brazil aged just 22 years old. He made 30 appearances for Lille this season in all competitions including the Champions League as they ended the campaign in fourth place following the COVID-19 cancellation. He is good in the air, quick over the ground and still has plenty of attributes that can be ironed out and coached to become even better.

If he were to sign for United, the expectation is that he would replace or at least compete with Victor Lindelof. When you compare them statistically, it has to be done with a pinch of salt. Manchester United play a more possession based game than Lille and often have to defend less in a game. With that said though, Gabriel’s stats are impressive.

According to WhoScored, on average he wins 3.2 aerial duels per game in comparison to Lindelof’s 2.7, makes 1.7 tackles per game compared to Lindelof’s 0.8 and 3.3 clearances compared to Lindelof’s 3.4. He also betters the Swede when it comes to interceptions per game, with 1.2 to Lindelof’s 0.7. So what we can establish from that is that Gabriel is a competent defender.

The next question that needs to be asked however is whether or not he’s a good partner for Harry Maguire. Maguire was signed for £85million a year ago and made captain halfway through the season when Ashley Young left. It’s fair to say he is indispensable to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side. Maguire had a good campaign but was prone to errors and physical weaknesses that only a good partner would be able to help.

United are severely lacking in pace at centre-back with their current partnership and their other options in Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe couldn’t stay fit if their lives depended on it. Gabriel would solve that issue. Along with his passing ability, his speed is one of his better attributes and helps him on the rare occasions that he is caught out of position.

He’s big and strong, quick and mobile and a good footballer with the ball at his feet. At only 22 years old, Gabriel could seemingly be the gem of a centre-back that United need to not only partner Maguire currently but to become the main man going forward.

At a reported fee of just £30million, Gabriel could be an astute piece of business and one with little risk but high reward. The experience of Lindelof and Maguire will help him in development but also mean he doesn’t have the pressure of having to play in every single game. Solskjær will have some depth in the position that he trusts and knows can all compliment each other in some form.

Predicting The UEFA Champions League 2019/20 Last 16 & Quarter-Finals

After Covid-19 put a big wall in the path of Europe’s elite clubs, UEFA finally were able to make the draw for the upcoming quarter-finals and semi-finals of this year’s tournament.

UEFA announced last month that the tournament would be completed in the month of August with a new format, including straight knockout ties from the quarter-finals onwards with all games being played in Portugal. All games with a second leg still to be played would be completed behind closed doors.

With that done, the draw was made on Friday afternoon to determine the brackets of the rest of the tournament and it threw up some intriguing ties.

In quarter-final 1, the winner of Manchester City vs Real Madrid will take on the winner of Juventus vs Lyon.

Manchester City currently hold a 2-1 lead going into their home leg against Real Madrid, thanks to goals from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne. Sergio Ramos was sent off for Zinedine Zidane’s side and will miss the second leg but both sides form following the restart of football has certainly given Madrid more of a chance than they had pre-lockdown. Guardiola’s men have their full focus on the Champions League after being dethroned already by Liverpool in the Premier League, with City now prioritising a first European trophy. Even without Sergio Aguero, the form of their attackers should be enough to see of Madrid even though they’ll be bouncing after likely regaining La Liga from Barcelona by the time this game happens.

Real Madrid v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg : News Photo
Man City take a 2-1 lead into the second leg against Real Madrid in their last 16 tie

Juventus and Lyon battled each other in the first leg but it was the French side who came away with a shock win thanks to Lucas Tousart’s first-half strike. Juventus’ form in this season’s competition hasn’t been fantastic but with Cristiano Ronaldo in the best form of his Juventus career post lockdown, the Serie A leaders are expected to progress following their home leg. With the French league cancelled rather than paused, this game in August will be Lyon’s first competitive fixture in four months, which will most certainly be an issue for them.

In the other undecided fixture, the winner of Napoli vs Barcelona will take on the winner of Chelsea vs Bayern Munich.

Napoli and Barcelona took each other on in Naples and neither side could find a way to get clear of the opposition, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. Dries Mertens scored a fine goal on the half hour mark, bending the ball from the edge of the box into the top corner before Antoine Griezmann equalised in the second half after a fine passing sequence allowed Nelson Semedo to square the ball for the Frenchman to tap in. Arturo Vidal was sent off late on and will miss the second leg, but Barcelona should have enough about them in attack at the Camp Nou to put this game beyond Gennaro Gattuso’s side.

I expect they will take on Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, who will go into the second leg in Munich with a 3-0 lead from Stamford Bridge. Fresh off winning the Bundesliga and German Cup, Bayern are among the favourites for this competition and will likely be able to rest a few players in their second leg against Chelsea before they take part in the quarter-final clash.

In the already decided quarter finals, Timo Werner-less RB Leipzig will take on Atletico Madrid, who knocked out holders Liverpool in the last round with an extra-time win at Anfield. Italian newcomers Atalanta will take on French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain in the final quarter-final clash in a game that is likely to be full of goals.

Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg : News Photo
Neymar’s goal saw PSG oust Dortmund to get into the quarter-finals

Those results would see Manchester City take on Juventus in the last 8 in a game that will likely be decided by the odd goal. Guardiola and Sarri both like to try and have the majority of possession but City’s midfield is just too strong for Juventus’. The form of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala will undoubtedly cause Pep’s side problems, while Matthijs De Ligt has arguably been Juventus’ best player since the turn of the year. In a one-off tie, Juventus will have to push forward more than they want to and with no fans, City’s quality should shine through and take them into the semi-finals.

Barcelona will likely come into this game having missed out on the La Liga title and after battling through a tough game with Napoli. Their squad is small and the amount of games in a small period of time won’t help them when coming up against Bayern Munich. The German side will be well rested following the end of their domestic campaign and will have some rhythm back after completing their tie against Chelsea. With Robert Lewandowski having his greatest goalscoring season ever and boosted by Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry and Thiago Alcantara all having excellent seasons I expect the Bavarian side to progress quite comfortably. While there is every chance that Lionel Messi just decides that he wants to be in the next round and becomes unplayable once again, Bayern as a unit are too much for this Barcelona side and should be able to play their way and get a result.

Liverpool FC v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg : News Photo
Atletico Madrid knocked out holders Liverpool in the last round

After Atletico Madrid beat Liverpool, a draw with RB Leipzig is something that Simeone’s side wouldn’t have been opposed too. A very similar style of high pressing and fast transitions is what Julian Nagelsmann likes his side to do, but they’ll be without top goalscorer Timo Werner following his departure to Chelsea. Without him, their biggest goalscoring threat is gone and Atletico’s form post-lockdown has been much better. They defend well as a unit and have found form going forward too. They should have more than enough to progress through, especially in a one-off game.

In the final quarter-final, free-scoring Atalanta make their debut at this stage of the competition against Thomas Tuchel’s PSG side. Neymar, Mbappe and co managed to overcome Borussia Dortmund in the last round thanks to a strong defensive performance in the second leg. Their quality going forward is undeniable but Atalanta are a wildcard. They seem to approach games with a “we’ll score more than you” attitude and it’s done them well in Serie A. They’ve scored the most goals in the league for the second season in a row and will fancy their chances against a PSG side who haven’t played competitively since March. Ultimately though, PSG’s quality should shine through. Going forward Icardi, Mbappe and Neymar are unrelenting and all capable of scoring or creating. Defensively they could absolutely be stronger but if there’s any team in Europe you don’t want to go goal-for-goal with it’s PSG.

That would make the semi-finals super tasty, with Manchester City taking on Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid taking on Paris Saint-Germain. Lisbon will host these games and the final in August.