Week 4!!

5 Games to Watch During Week 4

Here are the 5 games that you should watch this weekend.  The Champions League group stage was drawn this Thursday.  Look out for a Champions League preview next week since we have an International break.

  1. Roma vs. Juventus

TV – Sunday, August 30th at 12:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

The first big match in Italy is this weekend as the titleholders travel to the Italian capital to face Roma.  Roma have been tipped by many to push the Old Lady all the way this year.  Neither of these two teams won during the first weekend, and they will both try to get off the mark this weekend.  Morata will return this weekend and can give Massimiliano Allegri a new look up top.  He is still missing some pieces in his midfield.

My Prediction – This should be a great game with both teams in need of three points.  Look for them both to try to keep a clean sheet and counter.  I expect Morata to get off to a fast start.  I think it will be 1-1 with goals from Morata and Salah.

James’ Prediction – Roma gets a goal from Alessandro Florenzi and Pogba scores for Juventus in a 1-1 draw.

  1. Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid

TV – Sunday, August 30th at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

Atletico Madrid travels down to Andalusia to face Sevilla.  Sevilla struggled in their first game, drawing 0-0 against Malaga.  They will be without Steven N’Zonzi as he is suspended.  Nico Pareja is also out with injury.  Atletico Madrid has won 2 of the last 4 matches in Sevilla, with the other two games being drawn.  Atletico will be strong defensively and will try to maintain the pace with the big teams.

My Prediction – This game has not been kind to Sevilla, as they have not won any of the last four games at home against Atletico.  Look for another tough game and a draw with the score being 1-1.  Goals will come from Konoplyanka and Griezmann.

James’ Prediction – The road team gets the spoils as Antoine Griezmann scores for a final score of Atletico Madrid 1, Sevilla 0.

  1. Monaco vs. Paris Saint Germain

TV – Sunday, August 30th at 3:00 pm on beIN Sports

Ibrahimovic is set to make his return to the starting XI this week and it could not come at a better time.  PSG face a trip to Monaco.  While no teams in France have really gotten off to a great start, Monaco are believed by some to be the second best team in France.  They did just suffer defeat in the Champions League and will have to settle for the Europa League.  Angel Di Maria could also start for PSGd as he gets used to his new teammates.  Look for him to play a part in this game.

My Prediction – This is probably the biggest test of the season for PSG.  The Stade Louis II will be packed, but Zlatan and Angel are ready to go.  I think PSG will maintain their perfect start with a 3-1 win.  Cavani, Zlatan, and Matuidi to score for PSG and Martial to score for Monaco.

James’ Prediction – This game will be scoreless as the two teams go for a point. Monaco 0, PSG 0.

  1. Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen

TV – Saturday, August 29th at 12:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 2

Bayern Munich has gotten off to a nice start this season, winning both of their games easily.  However, Bayern have a bunch of injuries and suspensions that could hurt the team.  Javi Martinez and Holger Badstuder have been out for a while and are now joined by Mehdi Benatia.  Jerome Boateng is suspended for the match.  This will leave Pep with a selection issue.  Their opponents will come in hot, as they beat Lazio 3-0 to gain a ticket to the Champions League Group Stage.

My Prediction – Bayern will try to dominate possession in this game.  Look for this to be a close game before Bayern pulls away.  I am going with 3-1 to Bayern.  Goal from Chalhanoglu, Lewandowski, and 2 for Muller.

James’ Prediction – Bayern Munich to win 3-1 with Muller scoring twice and Lewandowski.  Keibling will score for Bayer.

  1. Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

TV – Saturday, August 29th at 12:30 pm EST on NBC

Tottenham will attempt to get their first win of the season as they host Everton.  Tottenham has really lacked a cutting edge this season.  They have played some beautiful football this year, but just haven’t been able to find all three points yet.  Everton have looked shaky so far but were outstanding against Southampton.  Which Everton will show up?  That is the question.

My Prediction – Everton have not won at Tottenham in any of their last four tries but that changes this weekend, as the Toffees are able to catch Spurs on the break.  Lukaku scores twice in a 2-1 win, with a first goal of the season from Kane.

James’ Prediction – Everton gets goals from Kone and Barkley while Kane opens his account for Spurs.  Final score, Everton 2 – Tottenham 1.

Other Games on TV this Weekend

Saturday, August 29th

7:45 am EST – Newcastle United vs. Arsenal on NBCSN

9:30 am EST – Mainz 05 vs. Hannover 96 on Fox Soccer Plus

9:30 am EST – Stuttgart vs. Eintracht Frankfurt on Fox Sports 2

10:00 am EST – Manchester City vs. Watford on NBCSN

10:00 am EST – Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace on USA Network

12:00 pm EST – Bologna vs. Sassuolo on beIN Sports

2:30 pm EST – Barcelona vs. Malaga on beIN Sports

4:30 pm EST – Real Madrid vs. Real Betis on beIN Sports

Sunday, August 30th

8:00 am EST – Southampton vs. Norwich City on NBCSN

8:00 am EST – Saint-Etienne vs. Bastia on beIN Sports

9:30 am EST – Borussia Dortmund vs. Hertha Berlin on Fox Soccer Plus

11:00 am EST – Swansea City vs. Manchester United on NBCSN

11:30 am EST – Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Monchengladbach on Fox Soccer Plus

What We Learned During Week 3!!

10 Things We Learned This Weekend…

  1. Spanish Sides were lacking in the final third

This weekend there were only 12 goals scored. The record low is 11, so that was just barely beaten thanks to Eibar who scored three goals today. In fact, the top four sides from last year combined for only 2 goals. Valencia and Real Madrid failed to score this weekend. Barcelona struggled for most of the game but got the win following a great series of passes and a sweet volley from Suarez. That was in fact the first goal scored from open play in the weekend. The two goals scored on Saturday were scored on a free kick. Is this a trend for the future? Is La Liga getting more defensive? This would be hard to see, as there were 4 red cards given but we will be watching this as we go.

  1. Dortmund looks up for it this year.

Borussia Dortmund is top of the Bundesliga thanks to their goal difference. Dortmund is yet to allow a goal in the Bundesliga and have scored 4 goals in each of their two games. Aubameyang and Reus are having a wonderful season with goals in each game. Thomas Tuchel seems to have figured out the team that he wants to play and how he wants them to play. While they may have had a bit of a hiccup in the Europa League when they fell behind 3-0 to Odd BK, Dortmund was able to find their feet and responded with 4 goals to win the tie 4-3 on the road. The defense has been great in the league as they have kept two clean sheets. If they play like this the rest of the way, then Dortmund can push Munich all the way to the end.

  1. Barcelona look strong defensively

After giving up 9 goals in their last three games, Barcelona was able to keep a clean sheet this weekend as they beat Atheltic Bilbao 1-0. In a very defensive game, Barcelona was forced to call up some reserves and they played wonderfully. With two of their top 3 center back choices out due to suspension, Vermaelen was picked to start with Mascherano. Then very early in the game, Dani Alves went off injured and Sergi Roberto was brought on to replace him. Then in the second half, Sergio Busquets went off injured. Marc Bartra then came on and Mascherano was pushed up. The partnership that gave up 4 goals in the San Mames was back together and this time they got it right. The two shut the game down in the last 20 minutes and helped Barcelona get off to a winning start.

  1. United need a “Pedro.”

As we all saw on Sunday, Pedro is a world class player and it took him just 20 minutes to make a fantastic run and score a great goal for Chelsea. Then just 10 minutes later, he player a wonderful ball across the face of the goal and Costa finished it off. Meanwhile, Manchester United fans were wishing he was wearing red, not blue. United struggled to find the back of the net. Memphis scored two beautiful goals in the Champions League but has not found the net in the EPL. In fact only one player has scored for Manchester United this season. They have scored two goals in three games and one of those was a Kyle Walker own goal. United needs a player who can take control of the game and get a goal when you need it. Pedro is that player. While Memphis may develop into that player, Pedro is the finished product. United needs to find someone who can help Rooney before next Monday.

  1. Real Madrid just can’t find the back of the net.

While it is way too early and Las Palmas could be a solid mid table team, a draw to a newly promoted team is not something that Real Madrid can afford. In a league in which the top two or three teams will drop a minimal number of points, those two points could be huge at the end of the year. Real Madrid seems to be in the learning process under Rafa Benitez. They have not had the best summer and are still trying to figure out how they will all play together. There were lots of questions about how he would lineup the squad. Bale played in the central role with Ronaldo able to attack from wherever he wanted to. It was a very attacking formation. While they looked strong in attack, they just couldn’t find the back of the net.

  1. No one wants to challenge PSG.

At the start of the season, I picked out Marseille, Lyon, Monaco, and Saint Etienne as teams who could challenge PSG for the title. Based on the first three weeks, none of those teams are in the top four and all have struggled this season. Marseille finally got a win this weekend as they punished newly promoted Troyes 6-0, but those were their first 6 goals of the season and first 3 points of the season. Lyon have only scored 2 goals in three games and lost this weekend at home to Rennais. Saint Etienne have scored in all of their games but have faced 10 men twice this season and have only managed to get three points from those two games. Monaco has the most points out of all of those teams, but their only winning game came after Nice saw a red card and they were able to comeback to win. They have not lost this year, but PSG is not going to drop many points this season. Will any of them step up?

  1. Vidal, Tevez, and Pirlo are going to be missed.

Coming into this season, Juventus had gone 47 games without defeat in the Serie A at home. Well this season, they started the season at home against Udinese. However, this game had a different feel to it. In their last competitive game, the midfield featured Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Paul Pogba. This weekend, the midfield featured Roberto Pereyra, Simone Padoin, and Paul Pogba. While last year they won the by 17 points and only lost 3 games all season. They dropped a total of 6 points at home as they went unbeaten. Well, this is a new season, and Juventus has already dropped 3 points at home when they lost 1-0 at home to Udinese. Is this a sign of more trouble to come or just a blip?

  1. Chelsea gets a much-needed three points, but is still far from their best.

The title defenders needed three points in the Hawthorns. They also needed a spark and this week they signed Pedro. It didn’t take him long to provide that spark, as he was able to score and provided an assist on his way to being the man of the match. Chelsea got another spark when James Morrison’s 14th minute penalty was saved by Courtois. This would have given West Brom an early lead and could have placed doubts in the Chelsea minds. But the save was made and then just 6 minutes later Pedro gave them the lead. Morrison would end up scoring later to make it 2-1 before Azpilicueta made it 3-1 just before half time. Early in the second half, John Terry was caught on his heels and gave a tug to Rondon who was in line to score. Terry saw his first red card since 2010 in the EPL. From then on, West Brom looked to score and did get a second from James Morrison. They could not get the third goal and Chelsea got all three points. It is a step in the right direction for Chelsea. However, 7 goals against in three games is still has people wondering about Chelsea.

  1. PSG and Manchester City continue to roll on.

Both PSG and Manchester City have kept 3 clean sheets and got 9 total points each. The defending champions of France continue to pick up three points each week as they beat Montpellier 1-0. Zlatan is still yet to play and the French champions are really pushing on greatly this season without him. Blaise Matuidi scored the goal this weekend. Manchester City continued to roll as they beat Everton 2-0. This was a very good game and it took a lot from City to finally break through when Raheem Sterling played in Alex Kolorov and he slid the ball past Tim Howard. Samir Nasri scored a wondergoal in the 88th minute to seal the points.

  1. Picture of the week… This is so Spursy…

IMG_5007

Goals of the Week…

James’ Pick – James went with James Morrison’s second goal. He headed the ball into the corner from a great cross by Callum McManaman.

https://vine.co/v/eDYBlvZPZpF/embed/simple

My Pick – I went with another Barcelona goal, as a great move was finished off by Suarez. Rakitic played a great pass into Alba and he crossed the ball to find a wide open Suarez who volleyed the ball in for the win and all three points.

https://vine.co/v/eDLpBmLIYqH/embed/simple

Match to Watch this Week…

UEFA Champions League Qualification – Monaco vs. Valencia – Tuesday August 25th, 2015 on Fox Sports 1 at 2:45 pm EST

Monaco has a lot of work to do if they want make it to the group stages of the Champions League. They lost the first leg 3-1 in Valencia. Valencia looked very good in this game and could punch their ticket with a goal in the second leg. Monaco made it to the quarter—finals of the Champions League last season and could be the only team from the quarters to not make it to the group stage.

Other Games in Europe this Week…

August 25

UEFA Champions League Qualification

Malmo FF vs. Celtic – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 2

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Rapid Wien – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports Plus

Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu Korce – 2:45 pm EST

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Basel – 2:45 pm EST

Capitol One Cup

Hartlepool United vs. Bournemouth – 2:45 pm EST beIN Sports

August 26

UEFA Champions League Qualification

Club Brugge vs. Manchester United – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 1

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Lazio – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 2

CSKA Moskva vs. Sporting CP – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Soccer Plus

Partizan vs. BATE – 2:45 pm EST

APOEL vs. Astana – 12:00 pm EST

Capitol One Cup

Barnsley vs. Everton – 2:45 pm EST beIN Sports

Games Next Friday…

Bundesliga – Wolfsburg vs. Schalke 04– 2:30 pm EST – Fox Sports 1

Ligue 1 – Guingamp vs. Olympique Marseille – 2:30 pm EST – beIN Sports USA

La Liga – Villarreal vs. Espanyol – 2:30 pm EST – beIN Sports Connect

Week 3!!

5 Games to Watch during Week 3

This week marks the start of the last two big 5 leagues in the Serie A and La Liga. La Liga kicked off today with Sevilla drawing 0-0 in Malaga. Here are the 5 games that you should watch this weekend.

  1. Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona

TV – Sunday, August 23rd at 12:30 EST on beIN Sports

Last week, Athletic Bilbao defeated Barcelona 4-0 in the San Mames. Now the La Liga season’ opening weekend has a rematch of this game. Bilbao comes into the game unbeaten in their last nine home fixtures. Barcelona also have some question marks in the defense coming into this game, as Pique and Mathieu are suspended for the game and Adriano, Douglas, and Alba are all injured. Barca B starlet Grimaldo could get his first start. Neymar will also be out with an injury. Athletic Club is not without their own injuries as Ramalho, Inaki Williams, Muniain, Iturraspe, San Jose, Etxeita, and Balenziaga could all miss the game with injuries. Look for Etxieta and Balenziaga to play with their injuries. Kike Sola will miss the game due to suspension.

My Prediction – Look for this game to be back and forth with Athletic Club looking to repeat last week. Barcelona will be more focused than they were in the first leg as many of their first XI missed that game. Look for Barcelona to win 2-1 with goals from Messi and Suarez for Barcelona and a goal for Aduriz.

James’ Prediction – Barcelona 2, Athletic Bilbao 0 with 2 goals from Messi

  1. Arsenal vs. Liverpool

TV – Monday, August 24th at 3:00 pm EST on NBCSN

Arsenal finally got off to winning ways last weekend when they beat Crystal Palace on the road last week. Liverpool has won two games in a row but probably should not have beaten Bournemouth. The Emirates has not been a kind place to Liverpool recently. Arsenal dominated Liverpool last season winning 4-1. Look for a lot of goals in this game, as the last six games at the Emirates have produced 18 goals. Liverpool could be without their captain Jordan Henderson. This could mean a start for Danny Ings or Emre Can. This choice will make a big difference in the game.

My Prediction – The Emirates has not been the best place for Liverpool recently and I do not expect that to change. Arsenal to win 2-1. Look for Sanchez and Giroud to score and Coutinho for Liverpool.

James’ Prediction – Sanchez and Benteke score as Arsenal and Liverpool draw 1-1.

  1. Fiorentina vs. AC Milan

TV – Sunday, August 23rd at 2:45 pm EST on RAI Internazionale

There is a new era starting in Milan under Sinisa Mihajlovic. Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca will hope to get off to a fast start for AC Milan. The home team has won only one of the last nine meetings in this fixture. Fiorentina haven’t brought in many new players this season. I expect the Milan rebuild to get off to a fast start today.

My Prediction – Look for Milan to start fast and jump to an early lead. Milan should win but their defense still has question marks and Fiorentina should score. Going with Milan 2 – Viola 1. A brace for Bacca and one for Nikola Kalinic.

James’ Prediction – Milan get off to a great start with a 3-1 win.

  1. Koln vs. Wolfsburg

TV – Saturday, August 22nd at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Koln are undefeated in their last 10 home matches in the Bundesliga while Wolfsburg is undefeated in 21 of their last 23 matches. This should be a good game. Wolfsburg could lose their talisman in the form of Kevin De Bruyne. He could be on his way to Manchester City. Koln will look counter and hope to catch one on the break.

My Prediction – This game could go either way. Look for Wolfsburg to try to dominate the game and could get caught on the break. I am going 1-1. Bas Dost to score for Wolfsburg and Bittencourt for Koln.

James’ Prediction – Wolfsburg will dominate and win 3-1 with goals from

  1. Manchester United vs. Newcastle United

TV – Saturday, August 22nd at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

The big question in this game is can Rooney get going. Wayne has really enjoyed playing against Newcastle. He has scored 12 goals against the club that ranks third amongst Premier League opposition for Rooney. United has won 3 out of 3 to start the season, meanwhile Newcastle has not won a game this season.

My Prediction – I think this game will be all United again and Romero will not really be tested for the fourth game in a row. United should get their third win in a row winning 2-0. Memphis and Mata to score the goals.

James’ Prediction – Rooney gets his first goal of the season and Mata adds one as well.  United win 2-0.  Another clean sheet for Romero.

Other Games on TV this Weekend

Saturday, August 22nd

9:30 am EST – Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Augsburg on Fox Soccer Plus

9:30 am EST – Hoffenheim vs. Bayern Munchen on Fox Sports 1

10:00 am EST – Leicester City vs. Tottenham on NBCSN

10:00 am EST – Crystal Palace vs. Aston Villa on USA

12:00 pm EST – Hellas Verona vs. Roma on beIN Sports

12:30 pm EST – Hamburger SV vs. Stuttgart on Fox Sports 1

2:30 pm EST – Atletico Madrid vs. UD Las Palmas on beIN Sports

4:30 pm EST – Rayo Vallecano vs. Valencia on beIN Sports

Sunday, August 23rd

8:00 am EST – Lille vs. Bordeaux on beIN Sports

8:30 am EST – West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea on USA

9:30 am EST – Ingolstadt vs. Borussia Dortmund on Fox Sports 1

11:00 am EST – Everton vs. Manchester City on NBCSN

11:30 am EST – Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Mainz 05 on Fox Sports 2

2:30 pm EST – Sporting Gijon vs. Real Madrid on beIN Sports

Monday, August 24th

2:30 pm EST – Granada vs. Eibar on beIN Sports

Italian Serie A Preview

Last but not least is the Serie A.  The Italian top flight starts this Saturday. The season started with the Supercoppa Italiana.  It showcased Juventus and Lazio.  Juventus won both the Sucdetto (Serie A title) and the Coppa Italia, so the runner up in the Coppa Italia was asked to play in the game.  New boys Mandzukic and Dybala both scored as Juventus went on to win 2-0.  Is this a sign for another season of Italian domination?

Title Contenders

Juventus are looking to win their 5th title in a row and this should happen easily for them.  Juventus have had a very good summer despite losing some crucial pieces.  Andrea Pirlo left for New York City FC.  Carlos Tevez returned to Boca Juniors.  Arturo Vidal moved on to Bayern Munich.   Even with those pieces leaving, Juventus has strengthened their squad somehow.  Theu brought in Sami Khedira from Real Madrid.  Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic have been brought in to feature up front with Alvaro Morata.  Look for Kingsley Coman to get a bigger role this year.  Their midfield of Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira should be solid.  Lastly, Juventus should have a strong defense led by Gigi Buffon. I think Juventus will run away with the title.  The only real challenger could be Roma who should feature a new look attack with Francesco Totti, Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, and Iago Falque.  Look for them to challenge Juve for awhile before they fall off.

Promoted Sides

Capri – This club has been on a meteoric rise.  In the 2012-13 season, the team was promoted to Serie B for the first time ever.  In their second season there, they won the Serie B, awarding them promotion to the Serie A.  They are the 64th team to participate in the Serie A.  Last season they recorded a record 43 points in the first half of Serie B.  They went on to gain promotion and win the league.  They should be a fascinating team to watch this season.  Their manager is Fabrizio Castori.  He has managed a lot of clubs and been managing since 2003 in the Italy. This is his second season in charge of the club.  He plays a very Italian style of football.  In 42 games last season they gave up just 28 goals against. Their leading scorer was Mbakogu.  If they are to stay up then they will need to get him scoring and keep their defensive shape.

Frosinone – This is the 65th team to ever participate in Serie A.  That is right two new teams that have never been in the Serie A before.  Frosinone finished second in the Serie B last season and earned automatic promotion.  Frosinone has a very high scoring team that stars Daniel Ciofani and Federico Dionisi.  They might not have the top flight experience, but they are prolific goal scorers in the lower leagues.  They are managed by Roberto Stellone who has managed both Napoli and Torino in the past.  They will need a better defense in this season if they are going to stay up.

Bologna – Bologna won the Serie B playoff to return to Serie A after a season in Serie B.  Bologna are 7 times winners of the Serie A.  They have also won the Coppa Italia twice.  The club is now looking to stay up for the next couple years. Their manager is Delio Rossi who took over in May of 2015.  The new manager will need to continue their stellar defense that was the second best in Serie B.  They might be the favorites of all three to stay up.

5 Major Storylines to Watch this Season

  1. Can anyone challenge Juventus for the title? – The gulf in class between Juventus and the rest of Serie A was put on display this past season when Juventus won the league by 17 points.  The question now is can any of the teams rearm and make this year a challenge for the Old Lady.  Roma have looked to strengthen by adding Alessio Romagnoli, RadjaNainggolan, Wojciech Szczesny, Mohamed Salah and Edin Dzeko.  The Milan clubs have also been really busy this summer.  Napoli have a new manager as they attempt to return to the Champions League.  Lazio have also had a tough summer.  I think the race for Europe will be interesting, but Juventus could run away with the title.
  2. Can either Milan team return to Europe? – With the final of the Champions League set to be staged in the San Siro this year, it is a shame that neither Milan team is involved in European competition.  In fact for the first time in 60 years, no team from Milan will be playing in European football.  AC Milan and Inter Milan will be looking to the return to the pinnacle of football this season.  AC Milan have been busy this summer bringing in Andrea Bertolacci and Simone Verdi in the midfield,  Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca as forwards, and most recently Alessio Romagnoli in defense.  They should be an entertaining team this year.  Inter have been just as busy bringing in Geoffrey Kondogbia, Miranda, Martin Montoya, Jonathan Biabiany,  and Stevan Jovetic.  Both teams are looking to make a quick return to Europe and the Champions league.
  3. Will any of the promoted sides stay for more than 1 season? – With two teams that have no Serie A experience, I think it will be very difficult for them to stay up.  These teams are not used to what it takes to compete in the Serie A. Bologna have a chance, but they have become a yo-yo club recently.  I think the answer here is yes but I can only really see Bologna doing it this year.  Here is to hoping that the new clubs can stay up and surprise us all!
  4. Can Lazio take the next step? – They are currently ahead 1-0 in their Champions League qualifier. Can they make it to the group stage?  If they do, will they be able to keep up in the league as well?  Ricardo Kishna and Ravel Morrison should be really interesting additions.  This will be a great young team.  Hopefully they can cope with the extra fixtures.
  5. Can Napoli return to the Champions League? – After two straight seasons in the Champions League, Napoli will be missing out this season.  If they hope to return then they will need to find a way to jump over a young and talented Lazio and Fiorentina squads.  The club will hope they can return soon.  The team has not made any additions to the squad this summer and have lost their manager.  They will be a strong side but may need some new additions.

5 Key Additions

  1. Sami Khedira (Juventus) – What else can I say but a world class player for free is what Juventus got here.  He is the perfect replacement for Andrea Pirlo.
  2. Edin Dzeko (Roma) — He will add a new dimension to Roma and has a point to prove after his exit from Manchester City.
  3. Joao Miranda (Inter Milan) – If Inter Milan are to return to Europe, a lot will ride on Miranda and his ability to stabilize their defense.
  4. Alessio Romangnoli (AC Milan) – Similar to Miranda, if AC Milan are to return to Europe, a lot will depend on Romangnoli and his ability to stabilize their defense.
  5. Carlos Bacca (AC Milan) – The former Sevilla striker is going to add a lot to a Milan side that was lacking up front.  He scored 28 goals last season for Sevilla while leading them to a Europa League title including two goals in the final.

While there is still a ways to go in the transfer market, here are five players to watch who could be on the move and really make an impact either leaving or coming to a top team.

  1. Juan Cuadrado (Chelsea to Juventus) – The winner could be on the move out following the arrival of Pedro at Stamford Bridge.  Juventus are in the market for a new attacking player.
  2. Julian Draxler (Schalke to Juventus) – The attacking midfielder is the big name addition on the top of Juve’s list.  He is a dynamic player that could give Juve a stronger midfield following the departures of Pirlo and Vidal.
  3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain to AC Milan) – The striker has hinted at a move away from Paris and may choose to return to a former club in AC Milan.
  4. Fernando Llorente (Juventus to Manchester United) – The striker is looking to move on following the arrivals of Dybala, Mandzukic, and Zaza.
  5. Layvin Kurzawa (Monaco to Juventus) – Juve are looking to add cover for Patrice Evra and this left back can give them the much needed cover.

Like I mentioned in the last blog, this season I will be having a good friend of mine, James, making some predictions this season and will be giving his insight on some of the big games.

Top 3 Predictions

Mine – Juventus, Roma, AC Milan

James – Juventus, Roma, Napoli

Relegation Predictions

Mine – Frosinone, Carpi, Atalanta

James – Frosinone, Capri, Cheivo

Spanish La Liga Preview

The Spanish Primera Division kicks off this Friday.  The season kicked off with a bang as Athletic Club Bilbao shocked Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg and then 1-1 in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup.   This is Athletic Bilbao’s first trophy in 31 years. They exposed Barcelona and looked great over the two legs.  Will we have a new champion in La Liga?  Barcelona has won 5 of the last 7 La Liga crowns.

Title Contenders

We have to start with the defending champions Barcelona.  They will again be favorites this season despite the rocky start.  The club is still one of the best sides in the world, but it will be an interesting start to the season.  Since last season’s end we have seen club legend Xavi and their plan B, Pedro, leave.  The team is off to a shaky start, giving up 9 goals in the first 3 games.  What does Barcelona have? The best front 3 in the world. Messi, Suarez, and Neymar were amazing towards the end of last season and a big reason why they won the treble for the second time in the club’s history.  They also have Andres Iniesta who is the best midfielder in the world.  The team has made some additions in Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, but they cannot play until January due to a transfer ban.  Their biggest rival will be Real Madrid this season.   Real Madrid begins their first campaign under Rafa Benitez.  The former Liverpool, Valencia, and Chelsea manager brings a wealth of experience and knowledge back to his home.  He has won just about everything as a manager but can he handle the top job in Madrid? He will have to handle the egos of Bale and Ronaldo, and get the best out of both of them if he is to dethrone the Catalans.  Lastly, Atletico Madrid has rearmed and is looking to make another run at the title.  Diego Simeone has done some amazing business this summer and added a lot of speed and quality to his side.  Look for them to push the big 2 this whole season and possibly steal the title back.  In the last 7 years, Barcelona has won 5 titles, Atleti 1, and Real 1.

Promoted Sides

Real Betis – This team returns to the top flight after a one-year absence.  Real Betis is the second team in Sevilla.  They won the Segunda Division last season.   Despite winning the league, they have been busy this summer as they look to stay up this year.  They have brought in some big names as well such as Cristiano Piccini (Fiorentina), Francisco Portillo (Malaga), Foued Kadir (Marseille), Juan Manuel Vargas (Fiorentina), German Pezzella (River Plate), and Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg).  While Rafa will get the headlines, it will be Pezzella, Vargas, and Piccini who will have to make the difference in defense.  Their manger is a familiar name in Pepe Mel.  Mel was manager of Betis from 2010-2013 before he was let go and then took over West Bromwich Albion.  Their top scorer will be Ruben Castro as he looks to lead the team for the 4th year in a row.  A young player to watch is Dani Ceballos. One thing that I can say is that the atmosphere at the Estadio Benito Villamarin will be amazing all season

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Sporting Gijon – This team from Asturias will hope for an extended stay in the top flight of Spanish football after they finished in second place in the Segunda Division last season.  This team is in really a bad financial situation.  Due to this, they have not been able to sign any players this summer.  Despite this, they have brought in former Barcelona youth player, Antonio Sanabria on loan from Roma.  The player to watch is Miguel Angel Guerrero.  Guerrero led the team last year with 11 goals.  Last season this team managed to only lose two games all season, but they lost Ivan Hernandez to retirement.  The 35 year old was the leader of the team as they only allowed 27 goals last season.  His loss will be huge on the team.  Aberlardo Fernandez will have a lot of work to do and will struggle with his young squad.

Las Palmas – The Yellows are the last promoted team that is located on the Canary Islands.  Last year they finished in 4th place in the Segunda Division and won promotion via the playoff.  They are returning to the Primera for the second time since 2000, in which they stayed up for two years before going back down.  They then spent two years in the second tier and then two years in the third tier.  Following 9 years in the Segunda Division, they are back and want to stay.  The big addition this summer has been making Sergio Araujo a permanent signing following his time on loan from Boca Juniors.  The striker scored 25 goals last season for Las Palmas and the Canary Islanders will hope this continues.  They also added Javi Varas in goal and Javier Garrido to sure up their defense.  Paco Herrara will try to keep Las Palmas up, but he may struggle.

5 Major Storylines to watch this season

  1. How will Real Madrid lineup in this season? – With Rafa Bentiez, Real Madrid will look to be more structured and defensive.  How will this work with Ronaldo and Bale in the side.  The starting back four seems pretty set to me.  Marcelo on the right with Coentro as back up. A combination of Sergio Ramos, Pepe, and Raphael Varane in the center.  Lastly, the team brought in a new right back in Danilo who will compete with Dani Carvajal.  For me, the big question is who plays in the holding midfield roles.  Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will most likely start the season there, but look for Casemiro, Luacs Silva and new signing Mateo Kovacic to get a chance.  Then comes the big question.  The world seems to think that Rafa will play with a 4-2-3-1.  If he does then who is his striker and who are the attacking three?  Will Ronaldo be on the left or the number 9?  Will Bale get to play in the center just behind the striker?  How much will we see Isco? James? Jese?  What about Benzema?  Will he still be with the team?  Lastly we come to the goalkeeper.  Right now Real Madrid has Keylor Navas as their starting goal and are looking to add another goalkeeper this summer having already brought in Kiko Casilla.  They no long have San Iker in goal, so who will it be?
  2. Will Barcelona miss Xavi and Pedro? – Due to the transfer ban, Barcelona is not allowed to add players until January.  While they have already signed Aleix Vidal from Sevilla and Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid, these players will only be allowed to train with the team and cannot play in any competitive matches.  So now that two crucial players from last season have left this summer, will Barcelona miss not having them on the team?  I think they will miss Pedro, as he looks set to sign with Chelsea.  This is an exceptional footballer who has been a vital part of the team.  He has been there since 2008 after coming up in the youth system.  He has won just about every trophy he can.  They will no doubt miss Xavi, as he has been a leader and inspirational force at the club.  He will truly be missed.  Both of these players are leaving behind large gaps and it is clear that the club, and fans, will miss them.  It will be more about how the team can cope with their absences.
  3. Will any of the promoted sides stay for more than 1 season? – This season, I only see one team remaining up in the Primera Division.  Sporting Gijon is in major financial trouble, Las Palmas is too young.  Real Betis should stay up in La Liga since they are a side with lots of experience and talent.  Look for Betis to possibly even push for midtable.
  4. Can Atletico win the title? – Without a doubt, Atletico Madrid have had the best summer.  The team has almost a perfect balance and is the kind of team Diego Simeone would dream up.  He is two deep at just about every position and will be able to make deep runs for all three trophies this season.  In defense, they added Stefan Savic to go with Deigo Godin, and Jose Gimenez.  Filipe Luis has returned to the squad where he was fantastic two years ago.  They brought in midfielder Yannick Carrasco from Monaco.  Finally, they brought in Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto to reshape their front line.  Luciano Vietto was one of the best strikers in La Liga last season and is one of the top young forwards in the world.  Look for this reshaped Atletico Madrid to challenge for the top spot but come just short.
  5. Who will finish in fourth place? – With the top three spots in Spain taken by the big three clubs, the question remains which team will take the final Champions League spot.  Last season it was Valencia.  They finished just 1 point above Sevilla.  Sevilla will also play in the Champions League since they won the Europa League last year.  It looks to be a battle between these two teams, but could Athletic Bilbao use their preseason triumph as a catalyst?  Is Villarreal ready to make a comeback?  Sevilla, Valencia, and Villarreal all spent big as they hope to make it in the top four.  Sevilla have brought in Ciro Immobile, Steven N’Zonzi, Adil Rami, and Michael Krohn-Dehli.  Valencia brought in Zakaria Bakkali, Joao Cancelo, Matthew Ryan, and Andre Gomes.  Villarreal have brought in Leo Baptistao, Victor Ruiz, and Roberto Soldado.  It should be a great race for fourth place this season.

5 Key Additions

  1. Luciano Vietto (Atletico Madrid) – This 21 year old Argentine might be the best purchase of the summer.  Last season, Vietto scored 20 goals in all competitions including 8 in the Europa League.  He has a ton of experience for a young player and will be perfect in Simeone’s system.
  2. Jackson Martinez (Atletico Madrid) – This dynamic striker will look to get Atletico Madrid going this season as he brings his 32 goals in 41 appearances last season to the Vicente Calderon.
  3. Danilo (Real Madrid) – This right back joins Real Madrid and will greatly improve the right side of their team.  He is one of the best young right backs in the world and will get the chance to show how good he is this year.
  4. Aleix Vidal (Barcelona) – While we will have to wait until January to see Vidal, this speedy right wing back could be the replacement for Pedro and give Barcelona a new option on the right side of the field.
  5. Rafael van der Vaart (Real Betis) – Could van der Vaart resurrect his career in the Andalusian capital?  This creative midfielder will try to help the club stay up for more than a year.

While there is still a ways to go in the transfer market, here are five players to watch who could be on the move and really make an impact either leaving or coming to a top team.

  1. David de Gea (Manchester United to Real Madrid) – Is there anywhere else to start?  This has been the top story all summer and with United missing out on Pedro, the red devils may want to hold on to their world class keeper.
  2. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid to Chelsea) – This moved was tipped to happen as Chelsea are off to a rough start.  However, with Pedro on his way to London this move may not happen.
  3. Nolito (Celta Vigo to Barcelona) – The Spanish international could move to Barcelona if the Catalans come calling.  He might be the replacement for Pedro.  He would not be allowed to play until January however.
  4. Gregorz Krychowiak (Sevilla to Arsenal) – The Polish central midfielder was very impressive in his first season in Andalusia.  However, he might be on his way out as Arsenal is lining up a move for the player.
  5. Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia to Manchester City) – When you read this, the deal might be done but as it is not currently finalized, this will be a big move for Manchester City. Otamendi is a world class center back and could form a great partnership with Vincent Kompany.

Like I mentioned in the last blog, this season I will be having a good friend of mine, James, making some predictions this season and will be giving his insight on some of the big games.

Top 4 Predictions

Mine – Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Sevilla

James – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla

Relegation Predictions

Mine – Eibar, Las Palmas, Sporting Gijon

James – Real Betis, Sporting Gijon, Grenada

What We Learned During Week 2

10 Things We Learned this Weekend

  1. Manchester City is the title favorite.

Back to back 3-0 wins means that you are definitely in the title race.  When one of those teams that you beat is the title holders, then you are the title favorites.  City has looked amazing this year, as well as strong and hungry. Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany look like the players of two years ago and are pushing the team.  Pellegrini said that his team was hungry and angry.  That is evident early on.  While the title race is not over, City is clearly the title favorites right now.

  1. Dortmund looks really good.

Dortmund took on a team that finished in the top four last season, and looked dominate doing it.  They came out strong and never looked back, beating Monchengladbach 4-0. They jumped out to an early lead and got great performances from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrik Mkhitaryan.  While Monchengladbach struggled at the back, look for them to push on after the tough game.  Dortmund did put down a marker and looked really good.

  1. Chelsea could be in trouble but will be in race.

Is this the last season for John Terry at Chelsea?   He had not been substituted in the league by Jose Mourinho in their time together.  Last season, Terry played every minute.  While the change makes sense from a tactical stand point, it was a shocking move.  Chelsea is off to their worst start under Mourinho and worst since 1998.  While there are still 36 games left to go, are these just the little cracks that will become big or can they be fixed quickly?  Terry and Ivanovic are looking their age.  Costa and Hazard have struggled.  Fabregas is getting lost in the middle.  The team doctor situation dominated the news cycle.  All of these are tough to deal with, and the fact that their rivals are getting stronger.  Jose will need to find a solution quickly as they need to string together some performances this year.

  1. The gap in France could be huge.

Will PSG win the title by Christmas?  Obviously that won’t happen numerically, but the gap between PSG and the rest of the league appears to be bigger than first thought. Lucas Moura is healthy and showing his quality.  They have depth at just about every position and Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not played a game yet.  While there is a lot of news coming out about the possibility of him leaving the club this summer even if he leaves, PSG should be fine as they have Edinson Cavani to lead the line.  On top of their strong side, their closest rivals all seem to be stumbling out of the gate. Lyon finally scored a goal this week but struggled against Guingamp.  Monaco drew 0-0 with Lille this week.  Marseille are freefalling right now.  If these clubs want to keep pace, then they will need to find some offense or they will be out of the race by Christmas.

  1. Bayern Munich is deep and really strong.

When you can bring on players like Thiago Alcantara, Mario Gotze, and Rafinha you know that your squad is deep and strong.  Then you factor in that Ribery is still injured and not in the picture and your brain hurts when you have to pick a top 11.  Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa have slide into the team easily and have looked really good.  Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandownski look dangerous.  Philipp Lahm and David Alaba are probably the best full back pair in the world.  They look really strong and could be in line for a treble this season.

  1. Barcelona has a lot of question marks in the defense.

Barcelona has not gotten off to the best start this season. Despite winning a trophy in the UEFA Super Cup, they lost the Spanish Super Cup.  During these three matches, Barcelona have conceded 9 goals.  They won the UEFA Super Cup thanks to a late goal in extra time from Pedro 5-4.  In the Spanish Super Cup, they lost the first leg in Bilbao 4-0.  In the second leg they drew 1-1.  The team has been rotated and lots of different players were given a chance.  The one thing that we have seen is that they are not that deep at the back.  While their top 4 defenders are all world class, after that question marks arrive.  Jeremy Mathieu is not a world class right back.  Marc Bartra and Thomas Vermaelen were embarrassed in Bilbao.  In the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup, Gerard Pique was sent off.  To make matters worse for Barcelona, they have to travel to Bilbao on Sunday to open the La Liga season.  With no Pique or Mathieu for the opening match, the depth will be challenged.

  1. Leicester City could be mid table.

Leicester has two wins out of two and now just 34 points from safety.  For those of you wondering, 40 points is regularly considered the mark for survival.  If you can get to the 40 point mark you will stay up.  Having 6 points already in means they are will on pace to get to that mark.  They are currently sitting second in the table and have looked very good this season.  Claudio Ranieri has the team playing very well.  They could well be on pace to have a nice season and end up in the middle of the table.

  1. Struggle, Sack, Improve, Survive, Repeat

It seems very predictable that Sunderland will struggle, sack their manager, improve, and then survive.  Can they keep this strategy for what seems to be the 3rd year in a row?  They have lost their first two games this season and given 3 points to two teams that could be in the relegation fight with them.  The big concern for Sunderland fans is that there might not be an improve phase this season.  The back four really struggled in both games.  Yann M’Vila is a quality player but they need about 5 or 6 quality players in order to survive.

  1. Manchester United and Liverpool have looked poor but have maximum points.

Both of these teams have gotten off to great starts in terms of results.  They have won both of their games 1-0.  However, neither of them looked great.  They both have brought in a lot of players and the teams are still gelling. Manchester United needs Rooney to get going.  As the fixtures start to pile up, Rooney will need to carry United.  Liverpool needs Coutinho to carry the team.  He is the playmaker now and while he scored a great goal in the first game, Brendan Rodgers will need more from the little Brazilian.  Both teams have maximum points and two clean sheets.  If they both hope to reach the top 4, then they will have to improve.

  1. This is the picture that describes how Chelsea fans feel right now.

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Goals of the week…

James’ Pick – Lukaku’s First goal against Southampton.  Lukaku finished off a great cross from Kone.

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My Pick – The only goal scored by Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup was a special one as Rakitic put a great ball in and Suarez chested it down to Messi who calmly placed in the back of the net.

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Match to Watch this Week

UEFA Champions League Qualification – Manchester United vs Club Brugge – Tuesday August 18th, 2015 on Fox Sports 1 2:45 pm EST

This is the biggest game for Louis Van Gaal in his time at Manchester United.  These two legs will be tough and tense.  Manchester United should qualify for the group stages and avoided some of the bigger names in this round.  The biggest concern for Van Gaal will be can he get Rooney firing again and playing at his best.  There are concerns that he could be burnt out, but the manager has backed his striker to succeed and get going this week.  Look for United to win this week as a big road win will make next week easier.

Other Games in Europe this Week…

UEFA Champions League Qualification…

August 18

            Astana vs. APOEL – 12:00 pm EST – Fox Soccer Plus

BATE vs. Partizan – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 2Go

Lazio vs. Bayer Leverkusen – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 2Go

Sporting CP vs. CSKA Moskva – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Soccer Plus

August 19

            Valencia vs. Monaco – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 2

Skenderbeu Korce vs. Dinamo Zagreb – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 2Go

Celtic vs. Malmo FF – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Soccer Plus

Rapid Wien vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports Regional

Basel vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Sports 2Go

Games Next Friday…

Bundesliga – Hertha Berlin vs. Werder Bremen – 2:45 pm EST – Fox Soccer Plus

Ligue 1 – Montpellier vs. Paris Saint-Germain – 2:30 pm EST – beIN Sports USA

La Liga – Malaga vs. Sevilla – 2:30 pm EST – beIN Sports Connect

Week 2!!

This Week’s Big 5 games

This week marks the start of the Bundesliga season and the second week for the BPL and Ligue 1.  So without further ado, here are the big 5 games for the weekend.

  1. Manchester City vs. Chelsea

TV – Sunday August 16th at 11:00 am ET on NBCSN

While one game will not determine the title race, Manchester City can give themselves a nice boost really early in the season.  If City is able to win, they will have a 5 point lead on Chelsea.  City laid down a great marker at the start of the season when they beat West Brom 3-0.  The only change to their lineup could be Sergio Aguero entering the starting lineup.  For Chelsea, their draw against Swansea was disappointing.  For this match, Courtois is suspended and it will mean Asmir Begovic will make his first start. I would anticipate Ramires playing in midfield for Oscar with Fabregas pushing forward.

My Prediction – City 1, Chelsea 1; Jose will most likely park the bus and try to get a point from the Ethiad.  I think this will happen with Aguero and Hazard scoring their first goals of the season.

James’ Prediction – City 2, Chelsea 1; A big match for Chelsea as they CANNOT drop points a second week in a row, even if they are away. But they DO.  Man City imposes their will in the back half and Chelsea under perform as they still look a tad rusty.  Goals by Aguero, Silva, and one from a fortunate bounce in favor of Costa who is beginning to look more fit and ready to break out in the coming game weeks.

  1. Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Monchengladbach

TV – Saturday August 15th at 11:30 am ET on Fox Sports 2

The Thomas Tuchel era starts with a big test when Borussia Monchengladbach comes to Signal Iduna Park.  Monchengladbach qualified for the Champions League last season and will hope that Lars Stindl and Josip Drmic can step up following the departures of Christoph Kramer and Max Kruse.  Dortmund will look to get off to a great start as they try to make it back to the Champions League.

My Prediction – Dortmund 2, Monchengladbach 1; Dortmund will be a much stronger team.  Look for Aubameyang and Reus to be the difference.

James’ Prediction – Dortmund 2, Mochengladbach 1; Tough early test, a positive pre-season builds right into the regular season but a late goal erases the clean sheet opportunity.

  1. Guingamp vs. Lyon

TV – Saturday August 15th at 1:00 pm ET on beIN Sports

If Lyon are to challenge PSG for the title this season then they will need to find their offense.  They showed little signs of offense last week when they again failed to score for the 5th game in a row.  Mathieu Valbuena has been brought in to help with this.  Guingamp will also look to get their season off to a better start as they suffered defeat in the first Derby Breton against Rennes.

My Prediction – Guingamp 1, Lyon 2; Lyon will finally score and look for Valbuena to be the difference. Fekir and Lacazette to score for Lyon and Briand for Guingamp.

James’ Prediction – Guingamp 0, Lyon 2; Losing to PSG provides fire to come back home and dominate.  Lacazette scores 2.

  1. Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal

TV – Sunday August 16th at 8:30 am ET on NBCSN

In Arsenal’s second London derby, the Gunners are hoping for a better outcome this time around.  Alexis Sanchez could return to the starting lineup which would be a huge boast for Arsenal.  Crystal Palace will attempt to win their second game in a row behind the great play from Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur last week. While this game is much more in doubt now than it was this time last week, look for Arsenal to come out strong.

My Prediction – Crystal Palace 2, Arsenal 3; Sanchez will make the difference this week but it will not be easy for Arsenal. Sanchez, Walcott, and Oxlade to score while Cabaye and Bolasie score for Palace.

James’ Prediction – Crystal Palace 2, Arsenal 3; Disappointing week 1, Arsenal right the ship behind a healthy Sanchez who nets 2 to go along with one from Cazorla.  Again, the back line falters and Palace nets in 2 (1 from Cabaye, 1 from Murray) which continues to put Wenger on the hot seat.

  1. West Ham United vs. Leicester City

TV – Saturday, August 15th at 10:00 am ET on US

In what is an early top four clash this season ;), West Ham and Leicester face off against one another.  West Ham is coming off an historic win in the Emirates and will look to keep that going.  The 16-year old Reece Oxford is likely to keep his place in the team after he played great against Mesut Ozil.  Leicester also got a huge win this season.  Claudio Ranieri got his team off to a great start and will look to keep that going.  Sakho and Vardy are both expected to start despite having rough weeks in the newspapers.

My Prediction – West Ham 2, Leicester 1; the home field advantage could make the difference and West Ham will look to win 2 in a row.

James’ Prediction – West Ham 1, Leicester City 0; Top of the table battle ends with the Hammers sitting very pretty after 2 weeks!  A view they rarely and may never see again for a long time.  Sahko nets a goal off a pretty header that is going to be up for goal of the week.

Other games on TV this weekend

Saturday August 15th

7:45 am ET – Southampton vs. Everton on NBCSN

10:00 am ET – Tottenham vs. Stoke City on NBCSN

9:30 am ET – Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hoffenheim on Fox Sports 2

9:30 am ET – Werder Bremen vs Schalke 04 on Fox Soccer Plus

Sunday August 16th

9:30 am ET – Wolfsburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt on Fox Sports 1

11:30 am ET – Stuttgart vs. Koln on Fox Soccer Plus

11:00 am ET – Lorient vs Bastia on beIN Sports

3:00 pm ET – PSG vs. Gazelec Ajaccio on beIN Sports

8:30 am – Arsenal vs. West Ham on NBCSN

Monday August 17th

3:00 pm ET – Liverpool vs. Bournemouth on NBCSN

5:00 pm ET – Barcelona vs. Athletic Club on ESPN2

Bundesliga Preview

Today we look at the German Bundesliga.  Bayern Munich look set to repeat as champions, but they suffered a bit of a setback.  In the preseason DFL-Supercup, Bayern Munich squared off with VFL Wolfsburg, who won the 2014-15 DFB Pokal. Arjen Robben put Bayern Munich ahead early on in the second half, but then a Kevin De Bruyne cross was finished off by Nicklas Bendtner in the 89th minute.  The game would go on to penalties and the only player to miss his was Alonso, giving Wolfsburg the trophy.  Could this be a sign of change in the Bundesliga?

Title Contenders

Bayern Munich are set to win their fourth straight title as the 2015-16 season is about to get underway.  They have been one of the most dominate teams in the league for the last three years.  They have won the league with about a month to spare the last couple years.  They will be clear favorites to win again as they have strengthened their squad with the arrivals of Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal. They should be a tough team to beat with many different options as Robben and Ribery are both fit again.  Many believe that this season could be tougher for Bayern as their rivals become stronger and stronger.  One team that is tipped to push them this season is Wolfsburg.  They finished second last season and have looked to strengthen their team in the off season.  Max Kruse was their big addition as the forward hopes to continue his great scoring record from last season.  They also have held on so far to Kevin De Bruyne.  If he stays then they can make a serious run at the title.  Bas Dost and Andre Schurrle will attempt to add goals as well.  Borussia Dortmund are hoping to have a better season this year and have a very talented team, but also have a new coach in Thomas Tuchel.  It will be an interesting new season for them.

Promoted Sides

FC Ingolstadt – Ingolstadt won the league last season to earn automatic promotion to the Bundesliga.  This Bavarian team was founded in 2004 when two teams merged into one.  This will be their first ever season in the top league.  They were the top scoring team in their league last season, winning  by 5 points. Lukas Hinterseer and Stefan Lex were the leading scorers.  They may find it difficult, but they should be a great watch and tough opposition.

SV Darnstadt 98 – This team has been on a stunning run over the last three years.  In 2013, they barely survived relegation to the fourth division. Now they are in the top flight of German football and their fans must love every moment of this season.  However, their coach claimed that they don’t belong in the league.  They should be a great watch this season as they have nothing to lose this season and will have a ton of support at home.

Hamburger SV defeated Karlsruher SC so they remain in the top flight of the German Bundesliga.

5 Major Storylines to Watch this Season

  1. Can Bayern win the title with a month to go again? – Bayern is the strongest team in the league and will try to add a fourth title.  Pep Guardiola will look to make it three in three years as manager of Bayern Munich.  However, the club will aim to add some European success this season as well.  Will the European challenge open the door to other teams in the league or can they win both of them?
  2. Can Wolfsburg hold on to Kevin De Bruyne? –  This will be a huge part to their season and could be the difference between them challenging for the title or not.  They will also have the added matches from Champions League as a challenge.  Look for Wolfsburg to push Munich but fall just short of the title and make it out of the group stage.
  3. Will any of the promoted sides stay for more than 1 season? – I think the answer to this question will be a no, but you never really know.  Last year, Dortmund was in a relegation fight so you never know what teams can slip into danger.  Paderborn went up and then back down last year but Koln was able to survive.  Look for one of the two to make a serious run at staying up.
  4. Can Hamburger avoid the relegation playoff this season? – After a seventh place finish two years ago, Hamburger have finished 16th the last two years.  This means they have had to play in the play-off match against the third place team from the second tier.  They will look to push on this season and climb up the table.  Unfortunately for them, hey do start their season against Bayern Munich and they are already out of the DFB Cup this season.  Here is to hoping for a successful season.
  5. Can Borussia Dortmund rebound and return to the Champions League? – After what was a terrible season for the black and yellows, they are entering a new era post Jurgen Klopp.  Thomas Tuchel is the new manager for the team and he will look to reshape the team.  He is going to try to make them less one-dimensional and focus on how to best use his very deep and strong squad.  Marco Reus is going to stay for at least one more season.  Dortmund should be a good watch this season and will look to make a deep run in the Europa League.

5 Key Additions

  1. Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich) – This dynamic midfielder should provide Munich with a new option and some grit when needed.
  2. Max Kruse (Wolfsburg) — He will add a new dimension to Wolfsburg and some much needed depth.
  3. Christoph Kramer (Bayer Leverkusen) – He could be a huge part of the new look Leverkusen as they look to replace their midfield.
  4. Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich) – He is a fascinating player.  He will give them another attacking option when Robben or Ribery get injured or need a rest.
  5. Gonzalo Castro (Borussia Dortmund) – Very experienced midfielder who will provide Dortmund with the experience and a cool head to help them get back to Champions League

While there is still a ways to go in the transfer market, here are five players to watch who could be on the move and really make an impact either leaving or coming to a top team.

  1. Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg to Manchester City) – This could be a huge move in the world of football.  After not having a great time at Chelsea the last time he was in England, De Bruyne could return to the EPL.  He was amazing last season.
  2. Abdul Baba Rahman (Augsburg to Chelsea) – This looks like a done deal, but the transfer fee is yet to be sorted out.  He will be the replacement for Filipe Luis.
  3. Gokhan Inler (Napoli to Schalke 04) – The midfielder is going to leave the Italian city and is going to make a choice between Schalke and Leicester City.
  4. Alen Halilovic (Barcelona to Hamburg) – This will most likely be a loan move for the youngster.  He will be getting more playtime with the move and the club has confirmed he will be loaned out.
  5. Julian Draxler (Schalke to Juventus) – The attacking midfielder is the big name addition on the top of Juve’s list.  He is a dynamic player that could give Juve a stronger midfield following the departures of Pirlo and Vidal.

Like I mentioned in the last blog, this season I will be having a good friend of mine, James, making some predictions this season and will be giving his insight on some of the big games.

Top 4 Predictions

Mine – Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund, and Borussia Monchengladbach

James – Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund

Relegation Predictions

Mine – Koln, Hannover, and Darnstadt 98

James – Hamburg, Darnstadt 98, Ingolstadt

10 Things we learned this weekend…

1. Don’t look at the table until six weeks in…

You should never really get invested in what the table says until week 6 or 7 at the earliest.  The table will be very interesting for the first couple weeks and fans can claim to be top of the league when they may end up in the relegation scrap fight.  The defending champions are currently 10th.  Arsenal is in the relegation zone.  The top four right now in the Premier League…Manchester City, Leicester, Crystal Palace, and West Ham.  If more than one of them is in the top four at the end of the season, I would be shocked.

2. Arsenal needs more than just a center forward…

Arsenal had a terrible performance and really struggled in their match against West Ham.  Petr Cech did not have his best game and was probably at fault for the two goals.  However, Arsenal needs more than just Cech to find his footing.  They need a center forward for sure and will need more.  Debuchy and Monreal really struggled out wide and Per Mertesacker was not up to his top billing.  Another defender or two could really help.  I also feel they could use another holding midfielder.  While it is way too early to write off Arsenal, especially with the window still open, Arsene needs to bring in more recruits.

3. PSG needs Zlatan but will win the league without him…

When you look at what happened this weekend in France, I think the only conclusion is that PSG will win the league.  Monaco was trailing 1-0 when Olivier Boscagli was sent off for Nice and then Monaco was able to score two goals to get the win.  Lyon was the better side but was unable to score and drew 0-0.  Saint Etienne lost 2-1 to Toulouse.  PSG meanwhile went down to 10 men very early in their game and were still able to get all three points as they beat Lille following a great goal by Lucas Moura.  They missed Zlatan in terms of their ability to finish off goals.  If PSG want to make a run deep in the Champions League then they will need Zlatan but in terms of the Ligue 1, they should be fine without him.

4. Make sure your manager wants to stay long term before the season starts…

The other major story in France this week was Marseille.  This team that was picked by some to be in the race for the Champions League spots is now in search of a new manager as Marcelo Bielsa resigned from his role following their loss at the weekend.  He is now being linked with the Mexican National team job.  While the news was definitely shocking, it is something that shouldn’t be that surprising when you think about Bielsa’s history.  Moving on from him is the task that now faces Marseille and it will surely have an impact on the field. The names have been interesting so far as Klopp and Zidane are two big names being mentioned.  It will certainly be a story to follow.

5. Home games are going to be vital in the title race…

This week, three of the top 4 from last year played at home and only 1 team was able to win.  Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United all welcomed teams to their grounds this weekend.  Chelsea was able to jump out to a lead twice only to be pegged back both times.  2 points dropped at home is not what Chelsea should be doing.  Arsenal was the most shocking result of the weekend as West Ham United were able to come to the Emirates and get all three points.  Following 2 calamitous errors by Cech and the Arsenal defense, West Ham were able to win 2-0.  Manchester United hosted Tottenham and while the game was not pretty, 3 points is 3 points.  United got all three points thanks to a Kyle Walker own goal.  Those might be three big points in the end for United, and could be costly for Chelsea and Arsenal in the end.

6. Leicester could stay up…

Leicester opened their second year with a bang as they beat Sunderland 4-2.  They came flying out of the gate with 3 goals in the first 25 minutes.  Riyad Mahrez scored 2 and Jamie Vardy opened the scoring.  Marc Albrighton added the fourth in the 66th minute.  This is something that should give the Leicester fans some hope.  The team looked very good and got all 3 points.  I had them in my bottom 3 before the season but these three points could be vital at the end of the season.

7. Manchester City make a statement…

Coming into Monday, the door was wide open for City to make a statement and they came through with a loud statement to the League.  It only took 9 minutes for City to grab the lead as a Yaya Toure shot took a deflect and rolled into the back of the net.  Yaya Toure then grabbed a lovely goal as he placed the ball in the back of the net.  Then, Vincent Kompany snapped a header into the net to give City a 3-0 win.  Kompany was great in the game, and City look ready to take their crown back.  The last 5 champions have all played on Monday night of the opening weekend.  Will history repeat itself?  We will have a better idea next Sunday when they host Chelsea.

8. Rough home welcome for promoted clubs in England…

The weekend was a reminder to the promoted sides that this is not an easy league.  The three teams combined for just 1 point and 3 goals.  Bournemouth and Norwich were the home teams this weekend and will need to get points at home.  They both really struggled.  Bournemouth lost 1-0 to Aston Villa.  Villa could be a relegation rival and is a team that Bournemouth could have taken some points from.  Norwich had tough opposition and it showed as they lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace.  Palace are pegged to be a top 10 team this season but at home, Norwich need to get points.  Watford was the strongest team this weekend of the three as they were able to draw 2-2 at Everton.    On the face this seems like a great point for Watford; a road point against an established Premier League team.  However, Watford had the lead with just 4 minutes to go when Arouna Kone snatched the late winner.

9. The transfer window is still open…

Teams can still buy players for 21 days and change and this will be vital.  Based on the results, some teams will definitely go out and spend money to strengthen their teams.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  Chelsea is looking to add two defenders in Augsburg’s left-back Abdul Baba Rahman and Everton’s John Stones.  The question is whether Everton will bend on their “not for sale” claims.  Manchester United is looking to add Biglia from Lazio and Barcelona’s Pedro.  City is looking to add Kevin De Bruyne.  These last 21 days should be interesting.

10. Arsene Wenger sleeps with a teddy bear…

This picture is all you need to know about what happened at the Emirates.

IMG_3168

Goals of the week…

James’ Pick – Philippe Coutinho’s goal for Liverpool against Stoke City.

https://vine.co/v/ew9emJl9Irz/embed/simple

My Pick – Yaya Toure’s second goal for Manchester City against West Bromwich Albion

https://vine.co/v/edWzE6A3Azd/embed/simple

Match to Watch this Week

UEFA Super Cup Final – Barcelona vs. Sevilla – Tuesday August 10, 2015 2:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 1

This will most likely be a farewell game for Pedro as he moves on to Manchester United.  Look for him to feature in the game as Neymar is out injured.  This game will not be straight forward for Barcelona, as Sevilla will be looking to make a statement.  They will be featuring new signings Yevhen Konoplyanka and Ciro Immobile.  Adil Rami is a doubt due to illness.  This should be a great game as these two teams continue their preseason preparations.

Games Next Friday…

EPL – Aston Villa vs. Manchester United – 2:45 pm EST – NBCSN

Bundesliga – Bayern Munich vs. Hamburg SV – 2:30 pm EST – Fox Sports 2

Ligue 1 – AS Monaco vs. Lille – 2:30 pm EST

Spanish Super Cup – Atletico  Bilbao vs Barcelona – 4:00 pm – ESPN Deportes

Look for my Bundesliga preview on Wednesday and then my big 5 games of the weekend on Friday.

Week 1!!!!!

This Week’s Big 5 games

So every week, I will look over the schedule from all of the leagues and pick out 5 or so games that I think will be the best games to watch, or will have a large impact on the league. I will give you my take on the game and a prediction and then James will give you his.

This week marks the start of the EPL and Ligue 1 season. With all this being said, here are the big 5 games for the weekend.

  1. Manchester United vs. Tottenham

TV – Saturday August 8th at 7:45 am ET on NBCSN

This is a scintillating match to kick of the English Premier League. Manchester United can put the first marker down in what may be a tight Premier League. Louis van Gaal will look for a better start than last year. His lineup should be interesting in this game. The big question will be will we see David de Gea all season or will this be his last game? Tottenham will look to make a huge splash on the first weekend. A win for them could go a long way for them in the race for the top four. Their big question is can Harry Kane carry them all season. Look for Lloris to start, but he is still doubtful with his wrist injury.

My Prediction – United 2, Tottenham 1. Look for Rooney and Kane to score and then Mata for the winner.

James’ Prediction – Man Utd 2, Tottenham 1. Strong start to the season for the Reds with goals from Fellani and Depay, though Defense looks very poor and will be an issue. Kane pops one in as well.

  1. Lille vs. Paris Saint-Germain

TV – Friday August 7th at 2:30 pm ET on beINsports1

The champions of the Ligue 1 take to the road to start this season. They will be without their big Swede, as Zlatan will miss due to a knee injury. Look for Cavani to start up front and work to make a case for starting there this season. Di Maria will not feature in the game but will most likely be in the stands. This game kicks off the Ligue 1 season with excitement. Lille are hoping they can get back into European football next season. This game might not be the best way to start that for them.

My Prediction – PSG 3, Lille 1. Cavani shows he is world class with an opening day brace. One more from Pastore. Look for Lille to peg one back late on.

James’ Prediction – PSG 2, Lille 1. No let up from previous champs as they look to start fast. Look shakky earlier but break it open early second half.

  1. Stoke vs. Liverpool

TV – Sunday August 9th at 11:00 am ET on NBCSN

Everyone in Liverpool remembers what happened the last time Liverpool traveled to Stoke. It was Steven Gerrard’s final game as a Red and they lost 6-1. This will be a game in which Liverpool will hope to get some revenge and get off to a good start. Stoke City are looking to continue the high from last season and maybe push even further up the table. This is going to be a really good game and both teams will want to play beautiful football. Glen Johnson will make his debut for his new team and face his old team. Benteke will get his first start for Liverpool, as will Milner, Clyne, and Joe Gomez.

My Prediction – Stoke 2, Liverpool 3. Bent eke will get off to a great start as will Lallana as the both chip in goals but it will be new signing James Milner who gets the winner. Stoke play great football and score two beautiful goals.

James’ Prediction – Liverpool 1, Stoke 1. Tough start as neither team looks strong but Liverpool strongly underwhelms with the loss of Sterling, their goal scoring is going to need big performances from Henderson and Coutinho and possible Clyne to move up forward on a more consistent basis

  1. Nice vs. Monaco

TV – Saturday August 8th at 3:00 pm ET on beINsports1

As I pointed out on Wednesday, I think Monaco will be able to push PSG this season and in order for this to happen, they will need to get off to a fast start. These two close rivals will be looking to continue their great form. This should be a great game and will have a lot of young talent on display. The derby de la Cote d’Azur will kick off the season well for one of these teams.

My Prediction – Monaco 2 – Nice 2. Neither team gets going early. Look for Monaco to get  early lead in second half but Nice will peg them back. Llook for Haten Ben Arfa to score.

James’ Prediction – Monaco 3, Nice 1. Too much attacking and an early 2 goals will put Nice on tilt.

  1. Chelsea vs. Swansea

TV – Saturday August 8th at 12:30 pm ET on NBC

Chelsea will start their defense of the title this season with Swansea coming to the Bridge. They will have a very similar starting XI as they did last season and will look to push on this season. Loic Remy maybe the starting forward for this game, as Diego Costa is doubtful with a hamstring issue. Those hamstrings will go a long way in deciding this title. Swansea could make some noise this summer as they look to keep pushing on from a good end of their season last year. Under Mourinho, Chelsea has gotten all three points on every opening day of the Premier League. This will most likely be the same this season.

My Prediction – Chelsea 1, Swansea 0. No Costa means that Chelsea may struggle. They will nick a goal and mat likely keep a clean sheet. Look for Hazard to create the goal.

James’ Prediction – Chelsea 3, Swansea 0. Way too much star power and they are at home. Not a close match at all. Goals by Hazard 2, one from Ivanovic or Terry. 2 assist game from Cesc.

Other games on TV this weekend

Saturday August 8th

10:00 am ET – Bournemouth vs. Aston Villa on NBCSN

Sunday August 9th

8:30 am – Arsenal vs. West Ham on NBCSN

Monday August 10th

3:00 pm ET – West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City on NBCSN

3:00 pm ET – Lyon vs. Lorient on beINsports1