With the start of the New Year came the opening of the January transfer window. This is the shorter version of what occurs in the summer and is always a very interesting time. During the summer and in January are the only times that clubs can buy and sell players. This is the perfect time for a team to either move players in to strengthen their squad, or cut some dead weight. It leads to high drama that is not on the pitch and adds a whole new narrative to the season. Teams can either enter turmoil during this window or think they have answered all of their problems. This is a period of time that agents and newspapers love. They will start spinning rumors and try to create transfers for players. It is truly one of the reasons that I love this game. This is a whole new narrative to add to the already drama filled season. Who will land the player that will change the season? Who will make the shocking move that really shifts the landscape? Will a team take a gamble to get back into the race for Champions League or the title race? Over the next couple weeks we will see. However the action will really turn up on the last day of the month since that is when it really gets interesting, and all the drama really plays out.
This year it seems to be Barcelona’s turn. The club lost to Real Sociedad at the weekend and now everything is tail spinning out of control. Messi is not happy. Suarez is unsettled. There is a huge divide in the locker room. At least that is what the newspapers would have you believe. I am not saying that this is not based in some truth, but the one thing I have learned is that the sporting newspapers in Europe are almost as bad, if not worse, than the tabloids here. They will take any story and run with it if it gets them the big headline. I do believe that Messi is not happy. He does not like to sit out. Would you? I feel that he and Enrique had a bit of an argument, but to suggest that he will transfer away is an interesting conclusion. First off, Barcelona would not sell him for anything less than his release clause, which is 200 million Euros. With the new financial fair play rules, that rules out just about every team in the world, especially PSG and Manchester City since they have already been punished for breaking them. It would also cause a team to sell multiple players or sign big sponsorships. Having looked at the numbers, I think there are only two teams who could realistically sign Messi within the rules of financial fair play without selling 3 or 4 players… Real Madrid and Manchester United. They both have money to spend and huge profits, so they could make the transfer happen. Chelsea are not making enough profits now to make the transfer happen and not break the rules of financial fair play. This is not due to the staggering 200 million they would spend on the fee, but on the wages they would no doubt have to pay him. Rumor is that Messi makes 300,000 Euros a week. That is more than any player at Chelsea currently and would get them into trouble. It will be interesting to see what happens, but I think it only leads to one thing… a bigger contract for Messi and more play time for him. The big 3 at Barca played during midweek with great success.
How happy are Real Madrid that Barcelona seems to be in a mess right now? Besides the fact that they are Real’s biggest rivals, it is also hiding the fact that Real Madrid have not won a game in 2015. While I imagine that will change this weekend when they host Espanyol, but they lost against Valencia and then again this week against Atletico Madrid. Atletico Madrid really seem to have Real’s number under Simeone. Will their defense of the Copa del Rey be over in 1 week’s time? I am not sure, but a 2-0 loss on the road will be hard to overcome. Real Madrid will need to summon the spirit of Junaito to help them with this comeback. Barcelona cruised to a 5-0 victory over Elche with Suarez, Messi, and Neymar all scoring within 10 minutes of each other. It looks to be an even more interesting week next week when Atletico travel to Real for the final leg of the round.
The Serie A title race got a little more interesting this week when Juve drew 1-1 with Inter and Roma won 1-0 at Udinese. The lead is now 1 point for Juventus. This weekend is going to be an epic show down in Italy. The top four teams all play each other this weekend with the marquee matchup as the Roman Derbi, Roma will host Lazio. In this battle of 2nd versus 3rd, there is way more than just 3 points on the line. The other big match is Napoli hosting Juventus. Will we have a new winner? A new team in the 3rd spot? It should be a cracking weekend in Italy.
Ligue 1 returns this weekend. The leaders, Marseille, play today as they travel to Montpellier. PSG will travel to Bastia as they look to close the gap on Marseille. Lyon, who currently sit in 2nd place, host Toulouse . As the second half of the season starts, this has really become a nice title race. The top 4 teams are only separated by 5 points. It should be interesting to see who can come out on top, and if PSG can defend their title.
The Germans are still on winter break and will not return until January 30th.
This weekend in La Liga could be a big one. Real Madrid host Espanyol in their bid for their first win of the New Year, but the big match is on Sunday when Barcelona host Atletico Madrid. Atleti are coming of a huge win against Real Madrid and will look to jump over Barcelona as they make their push towards repeating as champions.
The English Premier League is now in a tie at the top with both Chelsea and Manchester City on 46 points. They both play on Saturday when City look to take top spot at Everton and Chelsea look to hold on as they host Newcastle. Manchester United will look to get back to winning ways as they host fourth place Southampton. Southampton will look to jump United with a victory at Old Trafford.
EPL Pick Em
The current score is Buzz 138 – Me 128. Can I close the gap this week?
Me – Pool 2-1, City 2-0, Leicester 1-1, Burnley 2-2, Chelsea 2-1, West Ham 2-1, West Brom 1-0, Spurs 2-1, Arsenal 1-0, Saints 2-1
Buzz – Pool 2-1, City 3-1, Chelsea 3-1, Villa 1-1, West Brom 1-0, QPR 2-2, West Ham 2-1, Spurs 2-1, Gunners 2-1, United 3-1