Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 1 day ago
With the new Premier League season about to get underway, most fans and pundits are speculating over who will win the title and finish in the top four. But Premier League soccer isn’t about trophies and Champions League spots for everyone. For many teams, it’s simply about survival.
With that in mind, we bring you FC Yahoo’s previews and predictions for what the lower half of the table will look like – and which teams seem the least likely to remain in the Premier League – when the season wraps up next May.
Having just been promoted to the Premier League, Watford is already most people’s favorite to go back down. The club has made a host of signings since winning promotion, most notably acquiring winger Steven Berghuis from AZ Alkmaarand midfielder Etienne Capoue from Tottenham. But new manager Quique Sanchez Flores will need to get his new signings up to speed in a hurry.
19. Leicester City
In a week that FIFA was meant to be ceremoniously convening in Zurich for its election congress, the organization that governs international soccer has been rocked to the core by the arrests of FIFA officials on corruption charges relating to the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
At the center of the case, which was put together by the FBI and the Department of Justice, is a 70-year-old, morbidly obese American named Chuck Blazer. For decades, Blazer was the highest-ranking American in FIFA’s global operation. However, he was also up to his neck in corruption.
One year ago, Carlo Ancelotti was being hailed as the manager who finally delivered Real Madrid’s long awaited 10th European title, or La Decima. Fast forward 12 months and the Italian will be lucky to still have a job next week.
Eliminated from the Spanish Cup by Atletico Madrid, ousted from the Champions League by Juventus and overtaken by Barcelona in La Liga, Real Madrid will go trophy-less this season despite having spent more than $100 million on players last summer. So where did it all go wrong for Real and its manager?
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There's been a lot of talk about Olivier Giroud lately. First, Thierry Henry told Sky Sports that while the Arsenal striker "does a job" he's not good enough to help the club win a Premier League title. Then fellow former Gunners goal-scoring great Ian Wright leapt to Giroud's defense, saying he was a "fantastic player" and that criticisms of him were unfair.
Even now, at age 28, Giroud still appears to be getting better. According to Wenger, this continual desire to improve is something Giroud acquired while working his way up from the lower divisions of French soccer to become a starting striker for France's national team.
It's ironic that Pep Guardiola should face what's shaping up to be the biggest test of his managerial career against a team he helped build. The Catalan coach returns home to Barcelona to face his old team in Wednesday's Champions League semifinal first leg without key members of his squad due to injury and with Bayern Munich no longer the favorite to win the title. And it's not just his team's survival in the competition that could be at stake but also maybe his job and his very legacy as a coach.
The traumatic manner in which Bayern was blown out of the competition on a 5-0 aggregate by Real Madrid last season was the first time Guardiola was seen to have truly got it all wrong. At the time, Bayern's elimination was seen as something of a fluke. But if Bayern falls to Barcelona at the same hurdle this season, it will resemble more of a pattern.
Unfortunately for him, there was really only one way to go – down.
Reigning European champion Real Madrid received more bad news on Tuesday when it revealed that Karim Benzema would be unavailable for Wednesday’s clash with Atletico Madrid due to a sprained MCL in his right knee. With Benzema, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric all lost to injuries in the past few days, manager Carlo Ancelotti has decisions to make as his team heads into the second leg of a crunch-time tie against a side it has failed to beat in seven meetings since winning the 2014 Champions League final last May.
“We have to find solutions to some absences,” admitted the manager to Radio Anch’io earlier this week.
[FC Yahoo: Meet the miracle worker of the Madrid derby]
Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp dropped a bombshell on the world of international soccer on Wednesday when he announced he would be leaving the club at season’s end. Klopp has spent seven years in charge at Dortmund, guiding it to two Bundesliga titles, one German Cup and a Champions League final.
Young, charismatic and capable of turning the sum of his players into something that’s somehow greater than the individual parts, the 47-year-old Klopp has long been among the most sought-after managers in Europe. And unlike Pep Guardiola, he has no plans to take any kind of sabbatical from the sport. So with this unexpected news, several of Europe’s top clubs are assumed to be on alert.
Here are five possible places where Klopp could end up next.
1. Manchester City
Whether you choose to call it the best league or merely the “most entertaining,” it’s hard to argue that the Premier League isn’t the most exciting soccer competition going at club level. It’s also the one with the most money, the best coverage and the widest distribution of top-level players and managers across the league. But as the Champions League quarterfinals get underway this week, they will do so without a single English team remaining in the competition.
Instead, we are left with a collection of teams that each basically bestrides its domestic league like a colossus. In Germany, Bayern Munich has been so far out of sight for so long that even Pep Guardiola's side must be bored with a Bundesliga campaign that’s become a foregone conclusion. Juventus, the sole remaining power in Serie A, is currently cruising to its fourth consecutive title. In France, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco have both enjoyed cash-fueled ascendancies to the top of Ligue 1.
Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 4 mths ago
With Barcelona leading Real Madrid by a mere point atop the La Liga standings, both teams head into Sunday's El Clasico at the Camp Nou playing for more than just pride. The winner could potentially open up a lead that might prove difficult to close this late in the season.
Real Madrid will be looking to its front trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, popularly known as the "BBC," to lead it to victory and regain the top spot in La Liga. But Barcelona has its own power trio up front with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, lately known as the "Three Amigos." Together, the two triumvirates comprise six of the very best players in international soccer. But which set of players has the edge heading into Sunday's potentially title-deciding clash?
Bale vs. Neymar
Advantage: Three Amigos
Benzema vs. Suarez
Cristiano vs. Messi
Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 4 mths ago
Between 2010 and 2014, Atletico Madrid won seven major trophies at a rate of at least one per season. Having been knocked out of the Copa del Rey and virtually eliminated from the La Liga title race this season, the Champions League represents Atleti’s sole remaining chance of extending that record.
It all hinges on Tuesday's round of 16 second leg against a Bayer Leverkusen side that nearly played Atletico off the pitch at the BayArena last month. In the first leg, the defending La Liga champions had difficulty coping with the intensity of Leverkusen’s high-pressing game in a 1-0 defeat. Afterwards, Atletico manager Diego Simeone admitted his team had barely "escaped alive."