Tag Archives: Toni Kroos

Champions League last 16 predictions: Atalanta vs Real Madrid

It’s Champions League time once again as the last 16 is back and the second round of fixtures commences.

Last week we saw the first eight teams compete, with some thrilling fixtures to take us through to the second leg and this week we’ll be hoping for more of the same – starting with Europe’s great entertainers Atalanta as they take on record winners Real Madrid.

The Serie A side currently sit in fifth place in the table, just six points behind second placed AC Milan and come into the game in great form having won their last three games in a row. As for Real Madrid, they’ve managed to significantly close the gap at the top of La Liga but sit six points behind Atletico Madrid in second place as they look to defend their title.

It’s been a tough season for Zinedine Zidane’s side as they’ve been forced to compete with inconsistent form, constant injury problems and several COVID-19 breakouts throughout the campaign. Madrid’s group stages saw them on the verge of elimination at that stage for the first time ever, only for a final day win over Borussia Moenchengladbach to be enough to see both teams through after Inter Milan drew with Shakhtar Donetsk.

Real Madrid v Valencia - La Liga Santander : News Photo

Atalanta have been their usual entertaining selves throughout the campaign, scoring 72 goals so far this season including 53 in Serie A – topped only by league leaders Inter. In the group stages of this competition, they were able to navigate a group including Liverpool and Ajax – beating both teams away from home.

Coming into this tie, the Italians will never have a better chance of beating the Spanish giants. Madrid have just 11 senior first-team players available for the first leg – meaning they’re without all of Sergio Ramos, Eder Militao, Alvardo Odriozola, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Federico Valverde, Rodrygo, Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema.

With Atalanta only missing Hans Hateboer, they’d be crazy not to go for the kill in the first leg and try and put the tie to bed early. They have the goalscoring capabilities to do so, having score three goals in five of their last eight fixtures and beyond Madrid’s starting eleven they should be able to hold off any threat.

Atalanta BC  v SSC Napoli - Serie A : News Photo

Madrid’s lineup is essentially known prior to kick-off because of their injuries and they’ll have to play in a way that their team maintain discipline and ensure they’re careful about letting the game get away from them. They still have their best midfield out, so have the ability to control a game but the inconsistency of their attack means it’s going to be incredibly difficult to see them score a goal, never mind win the game.

With a three week break between the two legs, Madrid will be hopeful of having some of those players return from injury to bolster their squad. With that said Atalanta’s away record in the competition is exceptional having won every game and conceded no goals and their fast-paced, attacking style could be key to that.

It’s so hard to see Real Madrid keeping a clean sheet even if a few of those players do return to the team by the time the second leg comes round and I think this will be the big shock of the round.

PREDICTIONS:
Atalanta 2-0 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 1-3 Atalanta
(Atalanta to progress, 5-1 on aggregate)

FIFA Should Be Held Responsible For Meaningless Friendlies Leading To Injury

In an already packed football schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing anyone needs or wants is pointless friendlies.

Yet FIFA have insisted that an extra international match be thrown into the schedule for fun, whether teams want it or not.

The vast majority of sides have been forced to take part in a friendly game during this break, to go with the two ‘competitive’ fixtures in the UEFA Nations League too. Those pointless games have led to Toni Kroos speaking out against UEFA and FIFA, while Premier League defenders Joe Gomez and Nathan Ake picked up injuries.

Gomez is now potentially due to miss the rest of the season with a serious knee injury, while Ake picked up a hamstring injury just 6 minutes into Holland’s 1-1 draw with Spain. Kroos’ comments came before the injuries but they still hold a lot of weight.

Unfortunately we players don’t decide these things. We’re just puppets of FIFA and UEFA. If there were a players’ union we wouldn’t play in the Nations League or a Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. These competitions are intended to absorb everything financially, and squeeze players physically too. Everything doesn’t have to be more, faster, more money.

Liverpool had their injury problems already and will now be without a key player in their squad during a tough season that is packed with games, through absolutely no fault of their own.

This comes after much talk about the substitution rule in the Premier League, where clubs decided to go against Europe and stick with just three substitutes per game instead of going up to five.

In the same way that FIFA have forced the Premier League to adapt their offside and handball rules this season to be in line with the rest of the continent, they should be putting player welfare at the top of their list and ensure everyone takes the five subs rule too.

They can ditch the friendlies too and show that Toni Kroos is wrong and they’re not interested in money over player welfare. Protect these players. Give them a break, physically and mentally. The extra few days a month without a game could prevent so much pain going forward.

FIFA need to take responsibility for the game they run. Look after the players during this crazy time, they’re humans before they’re footballers.