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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Leicester vs Manchester United

Pre-Match Analysis

Leicester vs United. A crucial game for both teams and one that is key for the top position in the league. Leicester, who are currently on 28 points and are incredibly 1st in the league, have stormed the league with sublime form in recent games. Their 3-0 away win against Newcastle United moved them up as leaders of the league, however Manchester United are not far behind. Currently in 2nd place, United are out for a win. Their most recent game against PSV in the Champions League did not go according to plan but none the less, Manchester United have proven on several occasions, just how great of a side they are. The clash between the top teams in the league will be one of the most important matches of the league and with both teams being in good form we can almost definitely expect goals. With players like Jamie Vardy and Chris Smalling being on incredible form, the game will be no doubt be one to watch. The real question everyone will be asking is whether Leicester can perform as well as they did when they last hosted the Reds.

Manchester United have played incredibly well defensively having only conceded 1 goal from their last 7 Premier League appearances. Goalkeeper David De Gea has proved to the world, just how great he is as a keeper. Game after game, David De Gea consistently pulls off spectacular saves for his side so will be a crucial part in the game against Leicester if he plays. United are missing key players due to injury including midfielder Ander Herrera, however they do have an incredibly talented set of players for the role. Midfielders such as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin are capable of breaking down play and causing problems in the centre of the pitch. Whoever starts in Leicester’s midfield against United will have to face an incredibly deadly force. Manchester United also have key players like Juan Mata and Chris Smalling. Both these players will play an important part in the game and will need to play at their best to beat league Leaders Leicester.

Leicester have amazed the world. This time last season, they were bottom of the table and were almost defiantly thought to be relegated. This season however, they have played outstandingly in the league. Striker Jamie Vardy has scored in all of his last 10 games in the league and has played fantastically for his side. The last time Leicester hosted United, they put on a sublime performance winning 5-3 so this game will surely be spectacular. Leicester have played incredibly throughout this season but can their attacking style of play outplay United’s heavily defensive play? Leicester have scored an outstanding 28 goals in their 13 premier league games. This is higher than any other club in the league so Manchester United will having trouble defending against this side. Despite this, Manchester United have an incredible defence, having a conceding average of 0.69 goals per game.

Line-Up Analysis

It comes as no surprise to see David De Gea starting in goal for Manchester United in this crucial game against league leaders Leicester City. The fan favourite Spanish goalkeeper has been on incredible form and has been a vital role in our season so far. The standout change in the defence from our midweek game against PSV is the replacement of Marcos Rojo, for young talent Paddy McNair. This change could perhaps be a risky one, especially with attackers Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez being on incredible form. Despite this, United have consistently put on a great display of defensive football so we are defiantly capable of holding off the attacking opposition. Let’s wait and see whether or not our defensive line up of Darmian, Smalling, McNair and Blind, is enough to do the job. Playing a three at the back could be a challenge, but with Wing backs of Young and Darmian, we could be strong on the counter.

Carrick and Schweinsteiger are two midfielders capable of breaking down play and pulling off incredible tackles and passes. Both midfielders have years on experience so the swap between Schneiderlin and Carrick could perhaps be beneficial. The two practiced holding midfielders will have to play a vital part in the centre of the pitch and are more than capable of holding play and creating quick counter attacks. Having played an important part in the previous league game against Watford, Bastian Schweinsteiger should be feeling good for the clash against Leicester.

A couple big changes in the attack against Leicester sees Juan Mata starting for United rather than aspiring talent Jesse Lingard and also Ashley Young for Memphis. Mata, who started on the bench midweek, will be started in his preferred role as attacking midfielder and will need to be at his best against Leicester to create chances for Strikers Wayne Rooney and Martial. The attack against Leicester is very strong and with pace, power and experience all on the table, the game against league leaders Leicester City will surely be one of the most important games of the season.

First Half Analysis:

What a half! It started off solid, if uninspiring from United as it has been for most of the season. For 25 minutes we were excellent in stopping their midfield and counter attacks, but with absolutely no attacking flair, even when we had a chance to counterattack! Our players resorted to taking them out before they could counter which is wise, but maybe a bit risky in such early stages. When they broke from the corner, I knew we were in trouble. Young didn't know what he was doing and completely left Vardy unmarked. While we're on the topic - congratulations to Vardy on this remarkable feat. 

After the goal we went back to the 'stable' play we had before the goal but still with no inspiration. They had a good chance which De Gea managed to keep out but other than that it was pretty ordinary stuff. That is until stoppage time. From the corner, Basti used his strength and experience to break free and head home from close range.

As for individual performances, Smalling has been good, but i would like to see him stay back for set pieces now that it's been proven that there's no one left to cover for him. Speaking of which, I think that Memphis needs to be brought on for Young as the latter is already on a yellow and we need someone with blistering pace who can take players on as right now we are too static. I also think that we should consider bringing Rooney off as he has been slowing the pace down a lot in attack, holding the ball instead of releasing it quickly. Lastly, I think that Schneiderlin needs to be brought on for Carrick as he has lost possession a couple of times and having Schneiderlin there as a placeholder could free up some players to attack and he could stop Mahrez from running riot. That's all from us for now, let's hope we can put on an overall better show in the second half.

Second Half Analysis:

Well, that was a bit of a let down. It's been the same story all season long so let me just breeze over the second half and then talk about the implications for the season. Leicester had a few good chances on the break but our defence - especially Smalling held up. Depay coming on gave us the OPTION to attack fast, but sadly we didn't utilise it. Depay also had the best chance of the half when he failed to control a header from Darmian. That's really all there is for those 45 minutes of play, now for the rest of the season.

Overall Analysis:

How long do we have to put up with this slow possession football? Countless times I saw back passes when there were obvious attacking options available. We have the talent and the resources to be the best team in the league, and one of the best in the world - I truly believe that. But not like this. We may win the title this season or next but it really will be a hollow win, because we would have bored everyone including our own fans to death. Do we really want to be remembered as the team that played horrible football but managed to grind out results? Because we already have Chelsea for that. That would also mean saying goodbye of our hopes to win the champions league because it just wouldn't work in Europe - can you imagine this team going up against Barcelona or Munich? I've long been somewhat defensive of Van Gaal's philosophy having seen what it accomplished for us at the end of last season but almost all of my faith is gone. 

However, on the bright side, the title is not an impossible mission. We are only 1 point off the league leaders and considering the next few teams we're coming up against, we should be top of the league by Christmas. Although today was disappointing and we should have clinched three points, the only way is up and we must improve for our game next weekend against West Ham, which may be tough considering their away form against the top teams. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Manchester United vs PSV

Pre-Match Analysis:

Tonight's game sees Manchester United take part in the Champions league group qualifying round against PSV Eindhoven. After playing 4 games, United sit top of the table with 7 points whilst their opponents PSV are currently second with 6 points. Group B is definitely the tightest group where only 3 points separate the top and bottom teams. CSKA versus Wolfsburg is the other fixture to be played tonight in Group B so keep an eye out for the scores in that game.

United are in a comfortable position so far but ideally would want to win the group so a win today is required. At the very worst, a draw would not be a terrible result but after the reverse fixture of losing 2-1 against PSV, the Red Devils will be looking to bounce back win a solid win. The game was dominated by the horrific injury caused to our left-back Luke Shaw, who is making tremendous progress to get match-fit. Goals from Moreno and Narsingh cancelled out Memphis Depay's opening goal. Hopefully Memphis will be able to reproduce some more quality football.

PSV certainly are a good side with quality players in their team. Bruma and Moreno have a good partnership in the centre of their defence so our attack need to be ready to cause them problems. In

their midfield, Narsingh and Guarado are players who can score goals so they will need to be marked closely. Upfront, De Jong and Locadia are most likely to start, both of whom have already scored in the Champions league this season. Overall, PSV will be fancying their chances for the game tonight and will be optimistic going into it. I am expecting to see a good game of football with some individual battles in certain areas of the field.

United on the other hand were impressive on the weekend with a 2-1 victory over Watford. Depay scored in that match after being on the receiving end of some deserved criticism from the manager, LVG and some fans. Memphis has responded brilliantly with a goal on the weekend so I expect that he will retain his place in the starting 11 and hopefully can get some more goals for us. Jesse Lingard has produced some excellent form in the Champions league so a start for him tonight is likely.

We will be without Phil Jones and Ander Hererra whilst Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney are fit to play tonight. Marouane Fellaini has also recovered from his calf injury. Other injury absentees include Valencia and Carrick.

In goal, De gea should start. For our defence, I would like to see Rojo at left- back, Smalling and Blind as centre backs and Darmian play as a right-back. In midfield, Schneiderlin and Schwensteiger as CDMs with Mata and Lingard as CAMs. Up front, Martial and Depay should start tonight with Rooney and Fellaini on the bench to be brought on later into the game.

In terms of our formation, I would play a 4-2-2-2, with two CDMs in Schwensteiger and Schneiderlin to counter PSV's attacking options. Mata and Lingard as advanced midfielders to offer pace and creativity with Martial and Depay to provide speed and skill.

A great match is in store for us tonight. Hopefully we can get the three points! #GGMU

Line-Up Analysis

As we expected, David De Gea starts in goal. Our back line is looking strong and it looks like Van Gaal is giving Darmian an opportunity to prove himself after being dropped to the bench for a few games. On the left we will have Marcos Rojo hoping to be able to push forwards at every opportunity possible.

Onto our midfield, we are starting the Schmidfield once again which has been working well for us in recent matches. There was a slight issue about Bastian Schweinsteiger's fitness, but it would be hard to drop him after he played a vital part in securing three points at the weekend. Mata has been dropped to the bench today which isn't a great surprise after his recent dip in form and the fact that he does deserve a break, as he's been playing most games this season. 

Our four more attacking players consist of Lingard, Rooney, Memphis and Martial. Rooney and Martial are back after missing Saturday's game due to illness for Rooney and a slight injury for the latter. Jesse Lingard has held his place in the starting line-up after another solid performance at the weekend. And then we move onto the star man, Memphis Depay who will face his old club once again. In the last game against them, he managed to score the first goal, but that was not enough as PSV managed to clinch the victory. We will be determined to play our best football today and take all three points!

 First Half Analysis:

Very emotional stuff here by the fans tonight, a large number of them holding out lit candles to mark the passing of the original number 7; George Best. He is arguably the best player to play for this great club and was once called 'the best player in the world' by Pele himself. A win here today would be a great way to celebrate the life of George Best. Rest in peace Georgie, you deserve it.

The story of our season: dominate possession but don't make much use of it. The opening minutes of this champions league tie was something which we Manchester United fans are now accustomed to see. The tempo wasn't there and what was really prominent was the lack of pace in our attack which is surprising when we have quite athletic and young players like Memphis, Martial and Lingard.

The Manchester United midfield duo saw the majority of the possession, they tried to find the runs however we again witnessed that sideways passing with our front four players. Lingard showed a lot of creativity and vision by making runs to find the long balls from Blind and Darmian. He looked like the player most likely to score at one point!

However as the half dragged on the front four grew in confidence and Martial and Lingard started to take more chances and shots. Memphis was criticised by the Holland coach for not playing for the team but individually, however in his absence from the starting XI, he is now showing maturity and is dazzling to watch with his skill set.

PSV were successful in showing us how to attack with tempo and pace, even though they rarely attacked and the when they did, they did on the counter. Scheneiderlin was supposed to be covering Smalling however he was inconsistent in getting good tackles in. Smalling was brought forward to make a few blocks and get those all important tackles in.

0-0 at this champions league match, even though it's not do or die it would be great to see a win to boost morale.

Second Half Analysis:

The measure of how good a manager is decided when a team goes into half time at 0-0 and here you can see the effects of the manager. There was no affect to the way Manchester United played! In fact you could see that the team went in reverse from the first half. Instead of keeping the pressure high on PSV, we allowed them to have room and to amass confidence throughout the second half to point where the pivot has shifted and now it is us, the clearly more dominant force in the first half, on the back foot. 

Martial the Martian. Martial didn't see nearly enough of the ball that you would expect him to get, he was totally isolated up front when Rooney played more deep. Fellaini, substituted on for schweinsteiger foolishly, became the target man with Blind and Rooney putting those over head long balls in to him. Schweinsteiger instills composure and elegance to a usually very erratic and nervous Man Utd midfield. 

Lingard had the best of the very few chances of the second half however him being 15 yards out lobbed it over the goal cross bar. Very poor finishing! Memphis started positively and got the ball into the box trying to lay off Martial and Rooney. Very strange to see him come off for Young who had a very good first thirty seconds as he put two great crosses in, but honestly after that, what did you else was there? He wasn't defensively sound and had to rely on schneirderlin and Smalling to keep out the danger. Smalling and Blind had an impeccable half, making no errors and endangering the teams defence. Blind has a knack for picking beautiful passes and that is what we saw on display today. A great shame that Mata didn't start, he hadn't enough time to establish himself to do anything. 

The flying Spaniard, David De Gea, was called a few times to make some saves but, as you would expect, nothing went passed him. A great re-signing indeed.

Even though we didn't lose tonight, this draw will definitely lower the team morale, and this is especially bad since we're going to be playing a particularly dangerous and motivated Leicester who are on top on the weekend. I hope Van Gaal does something to put passion in these lads.

Overall Analysis:

Quite a disappointing match overall. What made it worse was the fact that a win tonight would have sealed qualification for United. Everything was in our favour, playing at home with our fans cheering us on. The game really exposed our weaknesses as a team: there was a clear lack of movement and passion. The football that we are playing is slow and boring. Although there were good moments and sparks it overall was a poor game.

Going into today's game we were top of the group with 7 points. Now we are second with 8 points and face the prospect of being knocked out if we do not win our final group game against Wolfsburg. In the other group game, Wolfsburg beat CSKA 2-0 to basically make it a 'three-hose race'. A win against Wolfsburg is a must but after tonight's performance it is hard to see that happening.

The frustrating part of this is when you watch how we played against Watford: enthusiastic, passionate, confident and then compare it to the game tonight which was lacking in all of those elements.

In the first half we dominated possession but came up against our constant struggle this season of actually making use of that possession. Lingard was impressive in the first half as he was trying to impose himself on the game but it was clear that United are missing a 'world-class' player in the team: someone who can command games and take control.

The second half did not really improve. PSV started to come into the game more and tried to make things happen. It was quite a disappointing night for Martial who did not seem to make much of an impact although he has just come back from an injury. Our tactic of launching the ball forward to Fellaini was very poor and it is not the type of football that you expect to see played by United.

If we are serious about winning the Champions league this season then LVG definitely needs to recruit some new players in the January transfer window. What we are lacking more than anything is real 'game-changers'.

Having said all that, it was not a disastrous game in all, at least we managed to get a clean sheet. Let's just hope that we have better fortune when we face Premier league leaders Leicester city on Saturday.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Real Madrid vs Barcelona - El Clasico

Pre-Match Analysis:

One of the most anticipated football clashes in history, El Clasico is renowned for being one of the most watched football games of the year. Barcelona and Real Madrid undeniably have some of the greatest players in modern day football and with both sides flooded with sheer talent, the two footballing giants are considered as two of the greatest teams of all time. El Clasico is not just considered as a match between two sides, but amongst many as a battle amongst players. Ronaldo and Messi, two players that inspire people all over the world. For years now, debates over which player is better have continued to cause arguments in the footballing world, but no matter which football team you support, or whichever player you prefer, there is no denying that both players are the best at what they do. Real Madrid have managed 71 wins from 170 matches however Barcelona are not far behind with 67 wins. Despite Barcelona being slightly behind on wins, they have managed to win 3 of their last 4 league matches against Real Madrid. With an outstanding total of 546 all-time goals in 170 games, there is no denying that the two sides bring something special to football.

Real Madrid have statically been the greater side in El Clasico with more wins and goals than their rivals, but Barcelona are not far behind. Real Madrid have world class players in all positions the most iconic being their attackers Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. The most expensive players in the world are backed by an extremely powerful midfield with players such as Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, so there is no denying that Real Madrid are capable of controlling play and tearing defences. Real Madrid also have a selection of world class and established defenders. With the likes of Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo and Carvajal, Real Madrid have one of the strongest defence in current football. Goal Keeper Keylor Navas has had a lot to live up to after the sale of veteran keeper Iker Casillas, but has not failed to impress. Real Madrid also have game changing players such as Karim Benzema and Jese Rodriguez so there is no denying that we can expect an excellent display of football from them.

Barcelona, currently first in the league have been on an incredible run of form however, it is undecided whether Lionel Messi will be taking part. Despite this, Barcelona have several other game changing players including Luis Suarez and Neymar. Both players are proven goal scorers and play a key part in their sides attack so whether Messi plays or not, Barcelona have two of the greatest attackers in their team. With midfielders such as Rakitic and Iniesta, Barcelona have two incredible creative midfielders, both capable of causing any defence problems and breaking up play. With a defence consisting of Pique and Mascherano, any opposing attackers will have difficulties coming up against Barca. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is very reliable in goal, so Barcelona have a very safe pair of hands in net. 

Line-Up Analysis: 

Real Madrid Lineup: Keylor Navas, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Danilo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, James Rodriguez, Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale

Barcelona Lineup: Claudio Bravo, Jordi Alba, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Roberto, Andreas Iniesta, Neymar, Luis Suarez. 

Now when you look at both sides starting XI's the main thing you'll notice and be shocked at will be that Messi is not playing. These could totally detriment Barcelona's attacking threat but we doubt that, that would be the case as they still have the highly rated Neymar, who has been in superb form, and Suarez who is probably in the top 3 strikers in Europe currently. In Barcelona's past 8 games the duo have scored 14 goals between them in Messi's absence so the Real Madrid's CB pair will have to be fully alert. 

Barcelona have started a solid back four with the likes of Pique, Mascherano, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba. How unsurprising is that? We've seen these four players again and again neutralise any attacking threat especially in the Barca's triumphant treble season, season. However Real Madrid are starting the likes of Ronaldo, the current holder of the Ballon D'or, Benzema and the worlds most expensive transfer; Gareth Bale. These three make the BBC, one of the most lethal and dangerous attacking three in world football. A surprising addition to the team is Benzema, who amid his sex tape scandal with fellow French player Valbuenna shouldn't be selectable.

There is tremendous amount of reports that Real Madrid are ready to cash in on the now 30 years old Ronaldo. This could be the last el Classico that he plays in and it is a shame that Messi will be missing this due to injury. Maybe after this no more direct comparison of Ronaldo vs Messi?

First Half Analysis

Despite the arguably best player in the world not starting- the first half between these two giants of football did not fail to impress and live up to the historic and iconic El Clasico. It seems fair to say that the first half was completely dominated by Barcelona since the first whistle. Barcelona unsurprisingly started the game by dominating possession with their magnificent passing with Iniesta, Rakitic, Busquets and Sergi Roberto running the show-Madrid however is a side that requires much more than simple passing to beat- Madrid begin to push high and hard pressuring the Barcelona players.

There has been a tradition of one side scoring a goal in the first seven minutes in the last few El Clasico fixtures however in this match this does not seem to be the case- Ronaldo and Neymar seemed very close to continuing the tradition however both players were denied their goals by the opposition’s goalkeepers. Nonetheless the El Clasico would not be the greatest derby in the world if neither teams slotted in a goal in the early minutes of the game- near the 10th minute Sergi Roberto was given a surprisingly large amount of space to roam freely with the ball, with no imminent pressure from Madrid Roberto makes a run to the edge of Madrid’s box and plays a through ball in to Luis Suarez. Luis Suarez given the perfect opportunity uses the outside of his boot to curl the ball into the far corner of the goal making it 1-0. Sergi Roberto has been in tremendous form and is clearly a star for the future- another product of the renowned Barcelona’s youth Academy ‘La Masia’.

The following few minutes we see the trailing Madrid team increasing their attacking game with attempts from James and a scuffed shot from Benzema. It seems that it is just not working for the “Los Blancos”. For a small amount of time it looked like Real Madrid might bring back a comeback but Barcelona did not allow this to happen with their strong and intense pressuring. In some cases however the pressure may be too excessive as shown by Dani Alves grabbing onto Cristiano Ronaldo preventing him too jump and header the ball. Dani Alves was a very frustrating character to watch for any neutral fan due to his numerous diving and over exaggerations to tackles and as a result stopping the game and slowing the tempo of the game

Near the end of the first half it seemed that the game’s tempo had slowed down but Barcelona was still dominating the game- keeping as much possession as possible and when not in possession applying intense pressure. The issue with Real Madrid was that there was not enough support for the attacking player/s and therefore each attack by Madrid was prevented and immediately counter attacked. Eventually the Barcelona pressure seemed too strong- Modric lost possession near the 38th minute and Barcelona capitalised on this mistake. Iniesta received the ball just outside the box and played a spectacular through ball to Neymar cutting the Madrid defence; Neymar the top goal scorer in the La liga easily slotted the ball past Keylor Navas.

The first half ended 2-0 to Barcelona, clearly the absence of Messi has not affected Barcelona at all showing the world why Barcelona is currently the worlds best team dominating the sport. Real Madrid seemed shocked by the events which have occurred in their own stadium and they have a mighty task to accomplish in the second half however there has been some glimpse of hope for Real Madrid with a handful of good chances.     

Second Half Analysis

The teams seemed to stay the same for both sides. This was very surprising for the trailing Madrid side as they would need to change something in order to turn this game around. Barcelona just as the first half begins to settle into the second half by continuing their passing rhythm. The Real Madrid players attempt to intercept and apply high pressure to this very confident Barcelona side. Eventually they intercept the ball and Marcelo was given a very big chance easily skipping past Alves and Pique however he fails to finish and the ball is smashed into the side-netting. Real Madrid had further more chances from James whose shot was saved and from Bale who fires over from an angle.

In the second half you can clearly see that Real Madrid’s recently recovered from injury players Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale are still not fully recovered and taking their toll from their injuries. The Real Madrid attacking threat from the past few years has seem to faded along with the dangerous trio BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) it looks like only Modric, Kroos and Cristiano Ronaldo are the ones trying and running around in the game. The Real Madrid defence seems to have been broken in the second half with continuous attacking play from Barcelona. In the 51st minute Sergio Ramos fouls Sergi Roberto just outside the box receiving a yellow card (half way towards receiving his 1000th red card of his career). Neymar strikes the free kick towards the top corner however Keylor Navas just about tips it over for a corner.

Another fast paced attack from Barca the passing is impeccable from the players- the ball is passed from Neymar to Iniesta, Iniesta then returns the ball into the box back to Neymar and makes a run into the box- Neymar backheels the ball back to Iniesta who smashes an absolute screamer into the top corner of the net- no chance for the goalkeeper 3-0 to Barcelona. Game Over. The Santiago Bernabue is left in shock the Barca fans’ cheering and the Real Madrid fans’ booing and jeering can be heard and the Los Blancos fans wave white handkerchiefs as if to signify surrender showing that the match is lost.

Its 3-0 down in the El Clasico, its already a nightmare for the Madrid players what could possibly make it worse- well in the 56th minutes off goes Rakitic and on comes Messi- the top goal scorer in la liga history, the top goal scorer in the El clasico and possibly the best player in the world. He has an immediate impact in the game providing through balls and passes to Suarez and Neymar and the Barcelona team is controlling the game completely.

The Messi impact was clearly shown in the 74th minute where Messi provides a beautiful one touch throughball to Luis Suarez who finishes with ease. The scoreline now 4-0. To make matters worse for Real Madrid in the 84th minute Isco fouls Neymar with no attempt to get the ball resulting in a red card. With 10 men Real Madrid have no way of coming back and the game ends 4-0. One side thrilled with the outcome of the game and the other devastated. This game however is not the title decider and both teams will look forward to the next few games. 

Overall Analysis

On paper both teams looked incredibly even- the 5 most expensive players playing on one pitch seemed like a treat for any football fan and follower. With the absence of Messi in the starting lineup and the recent recovery of Madrid’s Bale and James it even looked like Real Madrid could be favourites for this game. However the recent form of Suarez and Neymar made Barcelona an incredibly difficult obstacle to overcome.

As said before Real Madrid looked like no weak team on paper but clearly shown by the game it rarely matters what’s on paper but how a team performs. As Thierry Henry said ‘It is about the desire and mentality to win the game and for the Madrid players it was just not there’. The Madrid players looked sluggish and tired and gave too much space for Barcelona- there was no pressure or intensity.

However in Barcelona’s case it was completely opposite. Luis Enrique has completely changed Barcelona and the way they play. He has used Guardiola’s tactic of tiki taka but also made amendments to it- because of a lack of pace in defence oppositions could counter easily however now the defence drops deeper and make the midfield more defensive and pressure the opposition to take long balls- this however still does not affect the attacking threat of Barcelona because they have the most dangerous trio in the world (Messi, Neymar, Suarez).

Overall it could clearly be seen that Barcelona work as one whole unit they attack as a team and apply pressure as a team. Madrid on the other hand could not support their attackers and thus less chances could be taken and executed.
Does this game prove that Messi is better than Ronaldo? Or Real Madrid have lost their dominance in football? These answers are still not clear but one thing is for sure- the Galacticos era may have ended and the new era of Barcelona’s dominance may have begun.

This article was written by our guest author: Aarohan

Watford vs Manchester United

Pre-Match Analysis:

The Premier League is back after the International break and today’s early kick-off is between United and 11th placed Watford. With 16 points to their name, Watford will be a tough opposition.

Previously, Watford lost 2-1 to Leicester City and as a whole they have struggled to attain any real form. Teams enjoy playing against us and trying to cause an upset so Watford will definitely be looking to come to the Theatre of dreams today and get a win. Their captain Troy Deeney is their talisman and carries their team forward. He will be looking to push on and get some more goals for his team. He scored in their last league game too from the penalty spot so we will need to watch him carefully. His strike partner, Ighalo is playing some good football at the moment too and the two forwards have built up a promising partnership. Former Tottenham man Capoue is in their midfield and offers something extra for them. Their weaknesses are in their defence although they have a good goalkeeper in Gomes. They should be praised for the steady start that they have made back into the league.

United are currently fourth in the table with 24 points although the game today will be an interesting one since there are numerous notable absences. Both Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial will not play today since Rooney is ill and Martial is injured. A start could be on the cards for Lingard or Pereira.  Schwensteiger and Schneiderlin are available for us today so I would like to see them both start.

Van Gaal in his pre-match conference stated how he expects more from Memphis Depay who has had an average season so far. Memphis has shown sparks and signs of his talent this season but has yet to really impose himself on a match. I assume that Memphis will start and Van Gaal will use this game as a test to see if Memphis can prove himself.

De Gea should be starting in goal. In defence, Darmian, Smalling, Jones and Rojo would make an ideal back for. For our midfield, Schwensteiger and Schneiderlin as defensive midfields. They would be able to control the game from midfield. In a more advanced midfield position, Mata and Herrera offer us creativity and make the team tick. Up front we are quite short in options but I would start Lingard and Memphis together.

Hopefully it shall be a good game today and I am expecting a United win, going for 2-1! #GGMU

Line-Up Analysis:

With Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial out, what most people were looking for in our line-up was a striker. Also, with many more absentees, we have a weak bench full of young players awaiting to make an appearance for the first team. Sean Goss and Marcus Rashford are on the bench hoping to make their first team debut this afternoon. 

Lets start from the back, we have solidity in goal with David De Gea. It also looks like our back line will have Ashley Young in right back, and Daley Blind in left back. We will continue with the CB partnership from the international break with Jones and our player of the season so far, Chris Smalling. 

We will also be looking at another appearance of the Schmidfield combination of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger. It looks like Mata will be sitting in front of them with the creativity. 

Our front will be interesting to watch, with what looks like Ander Herrera and Lingard providing the width, and Memphis Depay up front, hoping to gain some form which will see him back in the regular starting XI. This front three is more than capable of scoring goals, but with no out-and-out striker, it will be a challenge. 

First Half Analysis:

It was a great attacking start from Manchester United, one of the best starts I have seen in a while. We continued to pass the ball around and applied good pressure on Watford when they had pressure, meaning that we won back possession quickly.

We finally scored a goal in the first quarter of an hour. A beautiful, inch perfect ball in from Ander Herrera led to an exquisite left footed finish from Memphis into the top right had corner of the net. This goal is hugely important as hopefully, it will give Memphis the confidence and self-belief that he needs to improve.

An early substitution was sadly required after Herrera looked to have picked up a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Marcos Rojo and we resorted back to a 3-5-2 formation, which we all hated seeing at the beginning of last season. This injury is not what we needed as our injury list is long enough as it is. Hopefully it will not be too serious and he will be back sooner rather than later. One player that has found it hard to settle into the game is Juan Mata. He's been sloppy in possession and hasn't managed to pick up his good form from earlier in the season.

On a positive note, we have been playing some amazing link up play which is always great to see. Our away fans have also been in good voice, as they always are. Memphis has started playing to his potential and is making a huge influence on the game. Lets hope we can maintain this momentum going into the second half!

Second Half Analysis:

What drama! I'll admit, when I saw Watford score in the 88th minute, I was livid. Apart from a few flash chances, we were taking things too easily. We were playing much more direct throughout the match but we were sloppy at times in the midfield. I feel that our young team was a little inexperienced and when they started to attack more we really missed the experience of Carrick. I can't believe I'm saying this but we needed more of the defensive possession type football we've been criticised for today, just to slow things down a little. 

De Gea was amazing, a brick wall as usual, and his saves were sublime. Lingard and Memphis were impressive, but I don't feel that Pereira had a huge impact, but he may not have had enough time to excel. Basti was great in defensive positions and of course his late goal had me jumping out of my seat. I was happy to see the late resilience that had become synonymous with United teams in the past, but we've been lacking these past two years. Overall, a match too close for comfort, but we'll take the 3 points.

Overall Analysis:

What a performance! For a team that didn't start a striker, we had no issues in creating opportunities and scoring goals. We were much better in the first half where we dominated the game and Memphis scored a goal in the 11th minute. However, the second half was poor to say the least. Lingard had a huge chance to double our lead which he failed to make the most of. Not long afterwards, Rojo committed a foul in the box, and Deeney converted the penalty to equalise. In a last ditch attempt, Bastian Schweinsteiger (or Deeney's own goal) managed to score at the far post to bring home the three points.

Our stand out performers today must be Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and David De Gea. Memphis Depay was a creative spark during the whole game and he is proving his haters wrong. After being heavily criticized in public by Louis Van Gaal, he has showed that he is capable of being a regular starter in this Manchester United squad. Bastian Schweinsteiger was controlling the midfield throughout the game and proved to be a warrior after securing the three points with the winning goal at the end. The passion in his eyes after scoring is admirable. He has a huge love for the club. David De Gea, I don't know where to start with this man. He has been outstanding. He made some world class saves, and continued to show the world why he is one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world, if not the best at the moment. 

Now onto our next game midweek on Wednesday against PSV in the Champions League, Memphis's old team where we will be hoping to secure our place in the next stage of the Champions League.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

England vs France

Pre-Match Analysis:

Football, Faith and Family

Today's game is a special one, filled with many emotions. Football unites people together across the world. The precious game that we all love is a celebration of the family of football.

On Friday, the horror of the Paris attacks shook the world and brought us together as one nation. Today we will be observing a one minute silence at Wembley Stadium in memory of the innocent people that lost their lives and their families that are grieving. Also, in the stadium, the French national anthem will be displayed on the screens so that all the fans can sing along and pay their tributes. This is a great sign of how Football is more than just a sport. It is important to remember that there was a possibility that the game today would be cancelled. Now this fixture holds even more importance.

Despite their previous loss to Spain, there were flashes of play to suggest that Hodgson's men have formed a good relationship between them. However, the problem still lies in the final third. Playing against a "world-class" team like Spain was exactly the wake up call that we needed after finishing top in our fairly mediocre group in the Euro qualifiers. Players such as Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Anthony Martial will be players to watch out for. Our latest addition to the squad, Manchester United's shining youngster Jesse Lingard will be hoping to earn his first cap for his country after having been called up from the U21s squad following injuries of Carrick and Vardy. Jesse Lingard has performed well in the few games that he's played this season and in his last game against West Brom, he scored his first Premier League goal. It will be interesting to see how England play against one of Europe's finest teams. One can only stress whether Hodgson will start Wayne Rooney, or will he opt for the man in form, Harry Kane. Ryan Mason has also been called up to the senior squad, we would like to congratulate him for this. The Tottenham midfielder has not started a league match since September. 

France are a great team with a good history. However, the main talking point about today's game will be whether Friday's attacks will affect them psychologically. Didier Deschamps will be hoping that his men can prove that they will not let the tragic events caused by the attacks stop them from being united as a country. In France's last game they beat Germany 2-0 at home. France have a very talented squad with the experience of Lloris and former United player Patrice Evra, coupled with the sensational skill of the young players in Pogba, Griezmann and Martial. The game will be an excellent display of technical ability but will be a difficult one for England.

Both teams are contenders for winners of the Euro 2016 Championships so it will be an interesting fixture to see how the teams play.

Line-Up Analysis:

The team-lists have been published for this highly anticipated game.

England: Hart, Clyne, Cahill, Stones, Gibbs, Dier, Alli, Barkley, Rooney, Sterling, Kane.

France: Lloris, Sagna, Varane, Koscienly, Digne, Schneiderlin, Cabaye, Matuidi, Ben Arfa, Gignac, Martial.

On paper these are two very strong teams. I would say that France edge it in terms of quality. They have a brilliant goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris. Their defence of Sagna, Varane, Koscienly and Digne are very strong and will be up for a physical battle with the English forwards. The midfield of France is a quality one with a real strength-in-depth; the vision and passing ability of Schneiderlin with the creativity of Cabaye and the pace and power of Matuidi. The French attack consists of Ben Arfa, Gignac and Martial; three very dangerous players. Look out for our United players: Schneiderlin and Martial.

Now onto the England team. After losing to Spain they will be looking to bounce back imminently. Joe Hart starts tonight and provides the English team will that star-quality and stability in goal. Two fantastic goalkeepers in Lloris and Hart will be on show tonight. I am impressed with our defence in Clyne, Cahill, Stones and Gibbs. The pace of the full-backs will be vital for us tonight in Clyne and Gibbs. Cahill and Stones are both two very strong defenders but they really do need to be completely focused for the match since our defence tends to make basic errors under pressure.

The midfield has a youthful approach in Dier, Alli and Barkley. I do think that it will be a tough game for them but their energy and ability show provide England with a great chance to get the result that we want. It is surprising to see such a young midfield but I believe that Roy knows what he is doing- these players should be aiming to compete with the very best in Europe. In particular, Barkley is nothing short of stunning and spectacular when he is in his prime. Dier may act as a CDM but it will be interesting to see where Roy Hodgson plays him exactly. I think that Roy made the correct decision in not starting Jesse Lingard since he only got his first senior call-up this week. Although I really do want Roy to play him in the second half, he could be a unique assest for our squad.

England's attack looks very promising tonight. We anticipate that the formation will be a 4-3-3 with Rooney in the middle with Kane on the right and Sterling on the left. The front three certainly have goals in them so it will be important to see how they gel together tonight. The Rooney-Kane partnership is especially important since these two forwards are most likely to lead our attack next summer in France.

Wherever you are, sit back, relax and enjoy because this match should be a cracker!

First-half Analysis:

The first half of this particularly poignant clash between two international sides who are looking to give youth a chance wasn't dominated by either side. Both sides played great football at times, especially England using their full backs, RB and LB, a lot when on the attack. Kieran Gibbs and Clyne were given more freedom especially since to get forward and make more threatening runs at the heart of the French defence. A very surprising change from Roy Hodgson was the exclusion of Chris Smalling from the starting XI, very surprising taking his recent surge in form for club and country. Maybe because of the hammering England suffered at the hands of the Spanish, which in our opinion wasn't just the defences fault but an error in tactics coming from the top, Roy Hodgson. However this could be a problem as Hatem Ben Arfa and Anthony Martial caused a couple of wayward problems here and there to Stones and Cahill. For the vast majority of the half our defence was sound and when needed, Hart would rush out showing his intelligence and reading of the game.

Harry Kane saw a lot more of the ball however still wasn't enough. He held the ball up well to let Barkley, who wasn't as influential in this half compared to his game against Spain, and Rooney join in, in the attack. Dele Alli also came and made a couple of great runs and troubled the French defence. However his first touch wasn't always immaculate which is needed now that he plays in the top tier regularly.

The build up is there for England but the final finish is what's lacking. But when the finishing is there we get some spectacles: The goal was absolutely amazing, a thunder bolt of a shot from outside the box from Dele Alli. What a goal! And what a player he might become, the future is looking bright!

Even though neither team dominated possession, England would hang back up and pounce on the counter with pace from Raheem Sterling, Strength from Barkley and goal threats from Kane and Rooney.The team would nudge the ball forward slowly, picking their passes and making sure that they retain possession unlike the shambles we saw during the Spain match(25% possession at one point!) and especially take advantage when French players like Ben Arfa and Cabaye falling complacent and sometimes neglecting their defensive duties. Which actually shows how alert and eager our team is.

England lead France at Wembley by one goal to nil.

Second-half Analysis:

Overall it was an encouraging performance by England as they beat France 2-0 at Wembley. Huge respect to France for even showing up to play the game tonight after the tragic event of the Paris attacks last Friday. This was an example of Solidarity at its finest.

There was a half-time change as Jack Butland replaced Joe Hart in goal to earn his 3rd cap for his country. England started the second half brightly and scored a brilliant second goal by our captain Wayne Rooney as Sterling crossed the ball from the left to Rooney who vollied the ball into the back of the net on 48 minutes. England continued to exert their dominance when Harry Kane had an ambitious shot 30-yards out which was inches away from the post in the 51st minute.

Paul Pogba came on for France and made a real difference. He upped the tempo and had a good shot which was just wide.

Olivier Giroud and Lassana Diarra came on in the early stages of the second half. The fact that Diarra played was both brave and humbling considering how his cousin was tragically killed 4 days ago. England then dropped off during the second half and allowed France to slowly get back into the game. Pogba was continuing to be influential as he linked up skillfully with Martial to produce a brilliant save from Butland who has been in impressive form.

Dele Alli was a class act during the second half as he showcased some of his strengths including his energy, pace and physicality. Griezmann then came on for Martial whilst England also made a substitution with Lallana replacing Sterling. Lallana had been criticised for a 'lazy' performance against Spain last week.

With 20 minutes to go, England were still in control although France did manage to inflict more pressure on England and played with more passion. England then made two substitutions, Kane and Barkley came off for Bertrand and Shelvey as Bertrand earned his 7th cap for his country. The performance of England was a much improved one in contrast to the game against Spain. France made another substitution, bringing Sissoko on for Schneiderlin.

There were several stand-out performances in the England side. For example, John Stones was very composed throughout the game and even glided past the French midfield at one point. Eric Dier was great tonight in the heart of the midfield. Dele Alli received 'Man of the match' for his efforts and was then substituted in the final few minutes for Phil Jones who made his 20th appearance for the national team.

With 2 minutes of added time, England held on. It was a successful performance that was watched by a crowd of 71,223 fans. Lingard did not play today which was disappointing for us United fans but I have no doubt that he will feature for England some time in the near future.

The game was entertaining which was courtesy of the two teams playing to a good standard of football despite the occasion and the events that surrounded the game. Going forward, Roy Hodgson now has several selection dilemmas in different positions.

To end, I would like to congratulate both teams and in particular France for playing tonight. Hope you all enjoyed the game!

Overall Analysis: (written by guest author: Callum Gill)

Well firstly to say what an emotional, heart wrenching and moving night it was at Wembley stadium as England met France on the football pitch, even if the evening’s main attraction was not the beautiful game being played out on the field. The fact that this match was being played at all, was a strong show of defiance by the football world, even though other matches (namely those in Belgium and Germany), fell foul to the threat of terror. Tonight, the game at Wembley still managed to go ahead despite the fact it was against the backdrop of a much needed strong armed police presence. My personal highlight actually came before the game of football had even began, during the moving serenade of the French national anthem La Marseillaise, which was sung by both the English and French faithful, following this came a number of other touching tributes to the 129 whom sadly lost their lives in the horrific Paris terrorist attacks, among these was the placing of a reef with Prime Minister David Cameron as well the Duke of Cambridge being present, along with an impeccably observed minute’s silence which seemed to leave French and Atletico Madrid superstar Antoine Greizmann on the verge of tears since his sister was actually one of the people who were held hostage in the Bataclan theatre on that fateful Friday night.

Now onto the actual match which was a surprisingly entertaining affair and was even played at a high tempo for many parts. It was the French who had the better two early chances, with Cabaye firing just over Joe Hart’s bar, before Anthony Martial showed why there has been so much hype about him with a spectacular dribble which took him past Nathaniel Clyne,  however,  he was only to be stopped by a quality save by Butland in the bottom corner. The question at this point was: would the French rue squandering these early chances?  This question was answered later in the first half, following a succession of missed opportunities by the United captain it was actually the young Delle Alli who stepped with a truly audacious effort from 25 yards out to give England the lead and his first senior international goal. This lead was then doubled just 3 minutes into the second half when Manchester City’s £49 million man, Raheem Sterling whipped in a exquisite ball to the near post which Rooney gleefully tapped in from just 6 yards out. One of the most emotional points of the game was when France bought Lassana Diarra on at around the 60 minute mark, Diarra was rightly given a standing ovation by the entire Wembley faithfuls after choosing to take part in the match despite the devastating passing of his cousin Asta Diakhite in the Paris terror attacks. Following this the French team began to ask some questions, however, only really tested England substitute keeper once in the 65th minute after a clever one-two between Pogba and Martial.

So it was to be England who ran out 2-0 victors and perhaps showed what a force they could be in France this Summer however truth be told  tonight was a night in which the result score line was not what mattered, as tonight Wembley showed the unity, togetherness and respect that football is all about. As England and France stood shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity and showed the globe how beautiful our game really is.

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood). #PrayForParis #PrayForTheWorld