Ballon d’Or

Earlier this week the Ballon d’Or shortlist came out. This is a list of the three players that are finalists for best player of the year.  The award was originally given out by the French media for the best European Footballer. In 1995, it was expanded to the best player playing in Europe. Then in 2009, it merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year to become its current trophy known as the FIFA Ballon d’Or. In its current format, there have only been two winners: Messi (3) and Ronaldo (1). Messi won 3 in a row before Ronaldo won last year.

This week, the original list of 23 was cut down to Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Manuel Neuer. Neuer is the surprise choice for the shortlist, as no goalkeeper has been named on the shortlist in the current format.  Goalkeepers do not win this award. Since the original award was created in 1957, only one goalkeeper has won the award, Lev Yashin, in 1963.  He was the goalkeeper for Dynamo Moscow and Russia. I would love to see another goalkeeper added to this list of winners. Messi has won this trophy the most with 4.  He won the fold Ballon d’Or 1 time and has won this version 3 times. He will hope to add his 5th in January. Ronaldo will look to win his 3rd to join Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten on 3 Ballon d’Or trophies.  He won last year and once in the old version of the trophy.

Let’s look at the three candidates and their credentials over the past year.  Messi was awarded the Golden Ball for best player of the tournament during the 2014 World Cup.  He was the driving force behind Argentina’s run to the final.  However, he had a disappointing season with Barcelona and did not win a trophy with them last season.  Cristiano Ronaldo was the best player in the Champions League. He helped Real Madrid finally get la Decima and was the league’s top scorer with 17 goals, which is more than anyone else in history. He also won the Copa Del Rey, but did not play in the final. In the World Cup, Ronaldo only scored 1 goal as Portugal crashed out in the group stage. Lastly, there is Neuer, the goalkeeper for Bayern Munich and Germany. With Munich, they ran away with the Bundesliga and won the German Pokal Cup. They made it to the semi finals of the Champions League.  In the World Cup, Neuer was awarded the best goalkeeper. He kept a clean sheet in the final match as Germany went on to win their fourth World Cup. I would love to see Neuer win the Ballon d’Or and feel that if he doesn’t do it this year, then he probably never will.  I honestly don’t know if a goalkeeper will ever win it again. Despite all of this, my choice to win it all is Ronaldo, mainly for his work in the Champions League.

Another interesting award is the Coach of the Year award. The three finalist are Carlo Ancelotti of Real Madrid, Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid, and Joachim Loew of Germany. I think all three of these coaches were amazing over the last year. However, I feel Simeone deserves this award. Loew won the World Cup as a favorite, Ancelotti won the Champions League as a favorite, but no one ever gave Atletico Madrid a chance to win the Spanish League.  Yet, Simeone did an amazing job and his team was fantastic. If winning La Liga is not enough, he even led his team to the final of the Champions League and was minutes away from winning that trophy as well. It will be interesting to see who wins as they are all very great options.

The FIFAPro World XI will also come out at the ceremony in January.  Looking over the shortlists for Goalkeepers, Defenders, Midfielders, and Forwards there are some interesting options.  One of them being Suarez is on this shortlist but was not one of the 23 originally up for the Ballon d’Or.  My prediction for the FIFAPro World XI: Neuer; Lahm, Hummels, Godin, Mascherano; Di Maria, Iniesta, Schweinsteiger; Messi, Ronaldo, Costa

In the midweek games, the big teams seemed to be getting back on track. Arsenal were able to get the win at home against Southampton via another Alexis Sanchez winner. United battled back to win 2-1 over Stoke and needed a late save off the line from Ashley Young. Chelsea won easily 3-0 over Spurs as Drogba showed us a glimpse of the old Drogba. City ended their recent struggles at the stadium of Light as they beat Sunderland 4-1 with Aguero scoring two goals to 14 on the season. Liverpool with Gerrard back in the side won 3-1 against the bottom club Leicester.  West Ham, Swansea, and Aston Villa also got three points. Burnley got a huge point at home against Newcastle and Hull got a point against Everton.

This weekend…

In Spain the big match is the Catalan Derby as Barcelona host their neighbors, Espanyol. Real Madrid host Celta de Vigo. Atletico travels Elche and Sevilla travels to Rayo Vallecano.

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund are currently playing a must win today as they host Hoffenhiem. The big match up of the week is Bayern Munich hosting Bayer Leverkusen. Could this be the first lost for Munich or will it be a huge 6 pointer in the race for the Bundesliga crown? A Bayern win probably makes this league a two horse race, as they would have a 13 point lead over 3rd place Bayer. Wolfsburg travels to Hannover as they look to keep pace with Munich.

In Italy, Juventus travels to Florence today to play the Viola, while Roma host a promoted side Sassuolo. This league is truly a two team race as Roma in second is 8 points ahead of Napoli in 3rd heading into the weekend.

In France, Lyon travel to Evian Thonon Gaillard.  Evian defeat PSG last year at home and will look to defeat another top team at their ground this year.  PSG host 7th place Nantes, while Marseille host Metz.  This might be the tightest race across the Big 5 as Lyon sit just 5 points behind the leaders, Marseille, who have a one point lead on PSG.  Every point will be crucial if either Lyon or Marseille try to take back the trophy this year.

In England, the marquee matchup has 3rd versus 4th when Southampton hosts Manchester United on Monday. This will be a big match for both teams. The Saints have lost 2 in a row and are yet to beat any team that finished in the top 6 last year. Manchester United have now won 4 in a row. Can they keep this going ahead of the big match next weekend with Liverpool? Liverpool this week hosts Sunderland. It will be interesting to see how they line up with a crucial Champions League match next week against Basel. In the other big matches, Chelsea looks to extended its unbeaten run to 15 when they travel to Tyneside to face Newcastle. Manchester City will look to keep pace with Chelsea as they host Everton. QPR face Burnley and Hull face West Brom in big bottom of the table battles.

EPL Pick ‘Em

During the midweek games, I won 16-9. This week we both correctly predicted that Manchester United would win 2-1. I was also able to correctly predict the West Ham and Aston Villa victory and the Hull-Everton Draw. This brings the season total to Buzz 92 to Me with 88.

My Picks –

Liverpool 2-1, Chelsea 2-1, Hull 1-1, QPR 2-1, Arsenal 2-1, Spurs 1-0, City 2-1, West Ham 1-0,  Villa 1-1, Saints 2-1

Buzz’s Picks –

Liverpool 2-1, Chelsea 2-0, Hull 1-1, QPR 2-0, Gunners 2-1, Spurs 1-0, City 3-1, West Ham 2-2, Villa 1-1, United 2-1

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