A Look back at Week 3

  1. How long will it take Frank de Boer to win his first game at Inter Milan? – We will have to wait another couple weeks to see if he can get his first win as manager of Inter Milan since his side drew 1-1 with Palermo. This was his first point of the season. His team dominated the game from a statistical perspective as any former Ajax manager would expect.  They had 68% ball possession and 22 total shots but only managed a single goal.  Palermo took the lead early in the second half thanks to a goal from Andrea Rispoli.  Then in the 72nd minute, Inter found the back of the net as Mauro Icardi scored his first goal of the season.  This game was a sign of improvement under de Boer, but not a good enough performance if Inter want to finish in the Champions League places.
  2. Can Hull City maintain their amazing start? – Almost. Mike Phelan and his side put up a great resilient performance this weekend but it was all for not. The game was still scoreless as the game went into the final minutes.  As the game winded down, Wayne Rooney got by El Mohamady and sent a ball across the face of the goal and Marcus Rashford tapped it into the net.  That was all United needed as they would go on to win the game 1-0.  Hull City’s perfect run is over, but 6 points from their first three games will go a long way towards helping them stay up this season.  As for United, Mourinho has them winning again as they maintained their perfect start.  They are not alone as Chelsea and Manchester City have also won all three games so far.  This could be an interesting three way race for the title this season.
  3. Can Atletico get a win against a promoted side? – No they cannot get their first win of the season. This weekend they traveled to Leganes this weekend and failed to get all three points. They dominated the statistics but could not find the back of the net.  They did keep a clean sheet which means for the second straight week, Atleti drew with a promoted team.  Diego Simeone will have to take a look at his squad before the end of the transfer window as they have struggled in the attacking end of the field.  They have scored just 1 goal in two games against two teams that are new to the Primera Division.  Their rivals have not helped Atleti.  Real Madrid and Barcelona have both started with 2 wins out of 2.  They have both been impressive this season as they look to race for the title this season.  It might be just a two horse race this season.
  4. How will Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich set up and play? – Ancelotti started his campaign off with a bang. Bayern Munich started this season with a 6-0 win over Werder Bremen. Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick in the first game of the season.  Ribery, Alonso and Lahm all scored goals as well.  Ancelotti went with a 4-3-3 this weekend and returned Philipp Lahm to right back.  His midfield three of Vidal, Alonso, and Alcantara played really well and dominated the game.  They had 70% possession and managed 27 total shots.  This was exactly the start that Bayern would have been hoping for and was a massive statement to the league.
  5. Which French team will drop points first – Nice, Lyon, or PSG? – Technically it was Lyon who was the first team to drop points, but in fact all three of them dropped points this weekend. Lyon conceded 2 goals in the second half to Dijon to lose the game 4-2. Nice was the only team that earned a point this weekend as they drew 1-1 with Lille this weekend.  Lastly, PSG lost 3-1 in Monaco.  This was a huge statement by Monaco.  Despite PSG having 67% ball possession, they only managed 6 total shots.  After the results of the weekend, Monaco is on top of the table now with Guingamp and Nice.  All three of those teams have not lost a game this season.  This weekend might have helped to open up the French league and give us a competitive race for the title.

The Score After Week 3 (This Week’s Score)

Me – 21 (4)

Brad – 18 (3)

This weekend is an international break so I will be back on Monday with a preview of the Champions League group stages and some predictions on the group.

5 Things to Watch During Week 3

  1. How long will it take Frank de Boer to win his first game at Inter Milan? – Frank de Boer has taken on a tough job as he looks to rebuild the Italian Giants. Inter Milan have fallen on hard times. They are undergoing a major rebuild.  Inter has some talent on their side, but they do have some major holes in the squad.  Frank looks to be rebuilding with the arrivals of Joao Mario and Gabigol.  This will provide De Boer with some better midfield talent.  They already have added Banega, Eder, Candreca, and Brozovic to their squad and now will look to turn around the results on the field. They lost the first game of the season, 2-0 to Chievo.  This weekend, they host Palermo.  They have won 3 of the last 6 against them.  I think Frank de Boer is a great hire and can do a great job rebuilding this giant.
  2. Can Hull City maintain their amazing start? – Hull City has been the story of the season so far as they have won all three of their games this season. They started the season with a surprise 2-1 win over last season’s champions Leicester. Then they defeated Swansea 2-0 and this week they defeated Exeter 3-1 in the English League Cup.  They have an interim coach in Mike Phelan who has them playing excellent football.  His side consists of just 20 players with no new signings this summer and 4 injured players.  They have only used 12 players this season so far, making just one substitution in their first two games.  This weekend they face off with Manchester United.  It should be great test for Phelan and Hull City.
  3. Can Atletico get a win against a promoted side? – Atletico Madrid played a very good first game of the season in which they had 27 shots and 62% possession. They were able to take the lead but then just seconds after they took the lead they conceded a late equalizer against Alaves. This week, they face another one of the promoted sides Leganes.  Leganes won their first game in La Liga last Monday 1-0 over Celta Vigo.  Can this newly promoted side provide more trouble for Atletico Madrid?  While it is very early in the campaign, two weeks in a row dropping points could be very troubling for Atleti.
  4. How will Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich set up and play? – Carlo Ancelotti makes his Bundesliga debut, which is the only big 5 league that he has not managed. He has won the league title in Italy, France, and England. He has also won the Champions League while in Italy and Spain.  Can he repeat his success in Germany?  He takes over a great team that has won 4 straight league titles and they will look to make it 5 in a row this season.  It will be interesting to see how he sets his side up this season.  He will have some interesting team decisions to make this season.  At center back, he has Mats Hummels, Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng, and Holger Badstuber.  In the wide positions he has Ribery, Muller, Robben, Costa, and Coman.  It appears that Renato Sanches is not fit to start, but the teenager should make his debut this weekend for Munich.  It will be interesting to see how Ancelotti sets up his team.
  5. Which French team will drop points first – Nice, Lyon, or PSG? – Three teams have gotten off to the perfect start this season. Lyon, PSG, and Nice are all perfect this season. They have won all of the games and are yet to concede a goal this season.  Lyon sits on top of the table thanks to 5 goals from Alexandre Lacazette.  PSG is second since they have scored 4 goals this season.  Nice is in third after winning both of their opening games 1-0.  This week, PSG faces the biggest test as they travel down to Monaco.  Lyon faces Dijon this weekend and Nice host Lille.  I think that the odds would be on Nice to be the first team to either concede or drop points, however I think it might happen this weekend for PSG as they face a tough Monaco side.  Hopefully all three of these sides can keep their runs going and make this Ligue 1 season one to watch.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

Villarreal vs. Sevilla – Taking a look at the battle for fourth place, this will be a very big early season 6 pointer.  I know it is very early, but this game could go a long way in deciding who gets into the 4th and final Champions League spot.  Villarreal started the season with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Granada.  Sevilla won their first game of the season in a 10 goal thriller 6-4 over Espanyol.

My Pick – Villarreal 2, Sevilla 3: Goals by Pato, Castillejo, Vietto (2), and Yedder
Brad’s Pick – Villarreal 1, Sevilla 2: Goals by Pato, Vietto, N’Zonzi

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Two teams that will most likely end up in and around the top four of the Bundesliga face off to start the season.  Monchengladbach finished fourth last season and Leverkusen finished third.  This is an early season major clash in Germany.  This will be a massive early season test for these two teams.

My Pick – Monchengladbach 1, Leverkusen 1: Goals by Raffael, Stindl, Mehmedi, and Volland
Brad’s Pick – Monchengladbach 2, Leverkusen 3: Goals by Dahoud, Kramer, Mehmedi, and Volland (2)

Napoli vs. AC Milan – Napoli did not get off to the start that they would have hoped for after losing Higuain this summer.  They drew 2-2 with newly promoted Pescara.  This week they hope to win their first game of the season as they host AC Milan.  Milan defeated their old boss last week when they beat Torino 3-2.  Napoli looks to be a hungry team and hope to get off to a great start.  Look out for the AC Milan goalkeeper as Gianluigi Donnarumma is making headlines.

My Pick – Napoli 3, AC Milan 2: Goals by Mertens, Gabbiadini, Hamsik, and Bacca (2)
Brad’s Pick – Napoli 1, AC Milan 1: Goals by Hamsik and Bonaventura

Monaco vs. Paris Saint-Germain – This is the first game between PSG and one of the two teams that people think can challenge them for the title.  Monaco got off to a disappointing start as they drew 2-2 to start the season before winning their second game 1-0.  If they are going to get themselves into the title race, they will need to get a result against PSG this weekend.

My Pick – Monaco 1, PSG 1: Goals by Fabinho and Moura
Brad’s Pick – Monaco 2, PSG 3: Goals by Moutinho, Silva, Cavani (2) and Matuidi

Hull City vs. Manchester United – Both of these teams have gotten off to a great start this season as they have both won their two opening games.  United have been good under Jose Mourinho and should be the favorites to win this weekend.  They are looking full of confidence and Zlatan seems to have settled extremely well.

My Pick – Hull 1, United 2: Goals by Snodgrass, Ibrahimovic, and Martial
Brad’s Pick – Hull 1, United 3: Goals by Livermore, Pogba, and Ibrahimovic (2)

Bundesliga Preview

The Bundesliga returns this weekend for the 54th season.  The season kick off was a couple weeks ago as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich squared off in the DFL–Supercup.  Bayern Munich went on to win the game 2-0 thanks to goals from Vidal and Muller.  This is a preview of what should be 1 and 2 in the Bundesliga.

Title Contenders

This looks to be a two team race in the Bundesliga.  The defending champions Bayern Munich have seen some changes this summer.  Pep Guardiola has moved on to England and Carlo Ancelotti replaced him.  Ancelotti has been brought in to help advance the team in the Champions League. Bayern Munich has won the last four league titles and the last 3 Pokal Cups, but they came up short in the Champions League under Guardiola.  They brought in Renato Sanches from Benfica and Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund.  Borussia Dortmund is looking to end Bayern Munich’s hold on the league.  Last season they finished runners-up in their first season under Thomas Tuchel.  They are hoping they can build on this season. Dortmund has done well using their earnings this summer to strength their team.  They brought in Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Ousmane Dembele, Sebastian Rode, Raphael Guerreiro, Marc Bartra, and Emre Mor and still have turned a profit this summer.  One of the interesting things to watch will be how the new signings can gel and if they can push Munich.  Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and Schalke are all favorites for the other two spots in the Champions League places.

The Two Promoted Teams

Last season, two teams that have had long stints in the Bundesliga were relegated as Stuttgart ended a 39 year stint and Hannover 96 was in the Bundesliga for 14 years.  The winner of the 2.Bundesliga last season was Freiburg.  They came straight back up after being relegated in 2015.  The second place team in the 2.Bundesliga was RB Leipzig.  Leipzig is just 7 years old as a club and finds them in the top flight for the first time ever.  Lastly, in the relegation play-off, Eintracht Frankfort, 16th place in the Bundesliga, defeated Nurnberg, third place in 2.Bundesliga, 2-1 on aggregate so they remained in the top flight for this season.

Managerial Changes

This section has to start and finish with Carlo Ancelotti.  The Italian takes charges of the biggest club in the country after Pep Guardiola left Bayern Munich.  Ancelotti has won the Champions League 5 times, twice as a player with Milan, twice as a manager with Milan, and once as a manager with Real Madrid.  He will look to become the first manager to win the Champions League 4 times.  The next coaching change happed as RB Leipzig appointed their manager, Ralf Rangnick to sporting director and hired FC Ingolstadt’s manager Ralph Hasenhuttl after he led Ingolstadt to a fantastic first season in the Bundesliga.  Ingolstadt then signed Markus Kauczinski who had previously managed Karlsruher SC.  Schalke 04 sacked their manager Andre Breitenreiter in May and then replaced him with Markus Weinzierl of FC Augsburg.  Augsburg would go on to replace him with Dirk Schuster of SV Darmstadt 98.  Darmstadt 98 then replaced Schuster with Norbert Meier.  It has been an interesting summer of change in the Bundesliga.  Which of these managers can make a big impact this season?

5 Big Incoming Transfers

Breel Embolo – Basel to Schalke (€22.5m)

Ousmane Dembele – Rennes to Borussia Dortmund (€15m)

Christoph Kramer – Bayer Leverkusen to Borussia Monchengladbach (€15m)

Kevin Volland – Hoffenheim to Bayer Leverkusen (€20m)

Marc Bartra – Barcelona to Borussia Dortmund (€8m)

5 Big Outgoing Transfers

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – Bayern Munich to Southampton (€15m)

Henrikh Mkhitartyan – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United (€42m)

Ilkay Gundogan – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City (€27m)

Leroy Sane – Schalke to Manchester City (€50m)

Granit Xhaka – Borussia Monchengladbach to Arsenal (€45m)

Predictions

Champion

My Pick – Borussia Dortmund

Brad’s Pick  – Bayern Munich

Champions League Places

My Picks – Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke

Brad’s Picks – Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen

Relegation Places

My Picks – Darmstadt, Freiburg, Ingolstadt

Brad’s Picks – Darmstadt, Leipzig, Freiburg

Top Scorer

My Picks – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Borussia Dortmund

Brad’s Picks – Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich

A Look Back at Week 2

  1. Can Leicester or Arsenal get a major three points this weekend? – The answer is no for both of these two teams. These two played out a rather dull game this weekend in which neither team found the back of the net. Arsenal had the majority of possession but only managed 4 shots on target.  Leicester City only managed 1 shot on target.  The game might have been different as Hector Bellerin seemed to have tripped Ahmed Musa in the penalty area, but no penalty was given in extra time.  For Arsenal, it was a better display than last week but it was still not good enough.  Both of the Manchester clubs have looked really good and Chelsea has won both of their opening games.  Both of these teams need to get a win before the international break in a couple weeks, and Ozil and Giroud should be back in the starting lineup next weekend after making substitution appearances this weekend.
  2. How will the big three in Spain start the season? – Two of the big three started very impressively. Barcelona started the season with a bang as they defeated Real Betis 6-2. The front three looked very good this weekend.  Arda Turan opened the scoring, Messi scored a fantastic brace, and Suarez came away with his first hat trick of the season.  Denis Suarez, Samuel Umtiti, and Lucas Digne all made their debuts for Barcelona.  On Sunday, Real Madrid got a world class performance from Gareth Bale as he scored a brace with a goal for debutant Marco Asensio.  Asensio looks like he could be a great signing for Real Madrid.  Cristiano looks to be back next weekend so it will be interesting to see how Zidane fits Asensio into the team. Atletico Madrid came away from the weekend looking up at the other two thanks to a 95th minute goal from Manu Garcia for Alaves.  We did not see a goal in the first 89 minutes of the game.  Then in the added time at the end of the second half there were two goals scored, Kevin Gameiro scored the first goal in the 93rd minute and then Garcia leveled the score.  Each team would come away with a point.  Overall the big three look strong and will be tough all season for the rest of the teams across Europe.
  3. How big of a loss is Pogba for Juventus? – The loss was apparently not as big this weekend as they went on to defeat Fiorentina 2-1 this weekend. Kwadwo Asamoah, Mario Lemina, and Sami Khedira all played very well and Miralem Pjanic did not make an appearance for the team. The only new signing to start the game was Dani Alves.  He played okay but was not the standout of the game.  Sami Khedira opened the scoring in the first half.  Juventus looked to be cruising but then in the 70th minute Nikola Kalinic scored to level the game at 1 apiece.  The tie would not last long as big money transfer Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 75th minute.  The substitute gave Juventus the point and made a statement having come on only 9 minutes prior to scoring.  If this is a glimpse of what Higuain is going to do this season, then it looks like the rest of Italy might be in trouble.
  4. Can Lyon hold on to Alexandre Lacazette and maintain their great start? – All of the news coming out of Lyon is that Lacazette is not on the move and that he will be staying in Lyon. I certainly hope this is true as he is on fire and scoring for fun. He scored two more this weekend to make it 5 in 2 games.  The win means that Lyon stays on top of the table as one of only three teams to win both of their opening games.  PSG maintained their perfect start this weekend as well with their 3-0 win over Metz.  Cavani seems to be struggling this season in the spotlight, but I think that time will only help him especially with how well Angel Di Maria is playing.  Nice is the third team to win both of their games this season as they defeated Angers this weekend and Stade Rennais last weekend.
  5. How will the Friday night games work out in England? – After the first Friday night game, I think the verdict is good, as the game seemed to have a great atmosphere and this is a great platform for the Premier League to increase their influence on the sports world. This Friday, we saw Manchester United win 2-0 thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He scored a goal in each half, including one from the spot in the second half.  I think that the idea of a Friday night game is awesome, however, it will be difficult to get good ratings in the United States thanks to work hours and the time change.  This will probably go over very well in England, but only time will tell how fans feel towards this Friday night game.

The score after Week 2 (This week’s score)

Me – 17 (7)

Brad – 15 (11)

Some soccer to watch this week…

UEFA Champions League Qualification Round 4 Second Leg ~ Tuesday and Wednesday

UEFA Europa League Qualification Round 4 Second Leg ~ Thursday

England League Cup Round 2 ~ Tuesday and Wednesday

French Coupe de la Ligue Round 2 ~ Tuesday

5 Things to Watch During Week 2

This weekend is the start of Serie A and La Liga, as well as the second weekend for the Premier League and Ligue 1.  The Bundesliga returns next weekend.  Here are 5 things to watch for this weekend, plus five games to watch.

  1. Can Leicester or Arsenal get a major three points this weekend? – Both teams come into this weekend following a disappointing start to the season. Leicester lost the opening game of the season to Hull City 2-1. Leicester seems to have their team settled now and will look to get their season started with a win over the one team that defeated them twice last season.  Arsenal took a 1-0 lead on Liverpool last weekend before they conceded 4 straight goals.  They did manage a slight comeback but ended up coming short as they lost 4-3.  Arsenal still has a long list of players that are not fully fit.  I think we will see Ozil, Koscielny, Giroud, and Wilshere potentially return as Arsenal need to get their season started.  Cazorla and Xhaka could also come into the side.  Leicester gets Robert Huth back in their defense and that should be the only change to the Leicester side.  Both of these teams will desire three points this weekend.
  2. How will the big three in Spain start the season? – With the start of the Spanish league this weekend, the eyes will be on the big three in Spain. Barcelona hosts Real Betis on Saturday. Real Madrid plays at Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid hosts Alaves on Sunday.  All three of these teams will be favorites to win this weekend, but the bigger question will be on how they play.  Barcelona and Real Madrid have long lists of players out this weekend.  For Barcelona, Iniesta, Mathieu, Mascherano, and ter Stegen are out injured; Neymar and Rafinha are still playing in the Olympics and Andre Gomes is suspended.   Real Madrid is without Navas, Pepe, Ronaldo, and Coentrao, to injury and Luka Modric due to suspension.   Atletico Madrid is only without Griezmann to suspension and Moya and Cerci to injury.  How the big three will manage without these major players will be interesting.  I know the season is a marathon, but a good start is essential.
  3. How big of a loss is Pogba for Juventus? – The big favorites for the Serie A is Juventus. Their big two additions came from their nearest rivals and they have added great depth to their side. This weekend they start the campaign for their 6th straight Serie A title.  Juventus will continue with their 3-5-2 despite the loss of one of their stars from last season.  Paul Pogba was a big part of their double winning side and has risen to stardom at Juventus.  He now has moved back to Manchester United.  The question will be who will replace him.  The three central midfielders will be between Asamoah, Khedira, Marchisio, and new signing Pjanic.  Pjanic will have the pressure of replacing Pogba and should be on display this season.  We will see how he performs this weekend.
  4. Can Lyon hold on to Alexandre Lacazette and maintain their great start? – Lyon plays tonight as they host Caen. Both of these teams came away with all three points, but Lyon put on a show as Lacazette scored all three goals in their 3-0 win against Nancy. Lacazette is now on the radar of many teams across Europe and the question will be can Lyon hold on to him for two more weeks.  If they are able to hold on to him, then they could challenge PSG.  They are currently on top of the Ligue 1 table.  PSG also won their opening game but only won 1-0.  Lyon plays today and PSG does not play until Sunday.  Another big win for Lyon could really put some early pressure on PSG and Unai Emery.
  5. How will the Friday night games work out in England? – For the first time in the Premier League, there will be games on a Friday night. This season there will be 10 to 12 games on Friday night or for us in America, Friday afternoon. The first game will feature Jose Mourinho and his first home game as manager of Manchester United.  His opponent will be Southampton.  United got off to a winning start as they defeated Bournemouth 3-1 last weekend.  Southampton earned a point thanks to Nathan Redmond as they drew 1-1.  The second game will be four weeks later as Liverpool travels to Stamford Bridge.  I think it will be interesting to see how the atmosphere is at these games and how the managers and players react to the different schedules.  This one should be a great start to the Friday night schedule.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

Leicester vs. Arsenal – This is a massive game this weekend.  These teams finished first and second last season but they did not get off to the great start.  Arsenal should have a very different lineup this weekend as many of their players were rested last weekend.  Robert Huth is back for Leicester this weekend.  Can Arsenal make it four wins in a row against Leicester?

My Pick – Leicester 1, Arsenal 1: Goals by Mahrez and Sanchez
Brad’s Pick – Leicester 2, Arsenal 2: Goals by Mahrez, Vardy, Sanchez, and Walcott

Real Sociedad vs. Real Madrid – The defending European champions travel to the Basque country this weekend as Real Madrid plays Real Sociedad.  Madrid has won 5 of the last 6 games against Real Sociedad.  Ronaldo is out injured but should be back soon.  Benzema is doubtful which means Morata should start up front.

My Pick – Sociedad 1, Madrid 3: Goals by Vela, Asensio, Morata, and Bale
Brad’s Pick – Sociedad 0, Madrid 3: Goals by Bale (2) and Benzema

Juventus vs. Fiorentina – The defending Serie A champs are back in action as they host Fiorentina.  Juventus should hand debuts to Dani Alves on the right side of their midfield 5 and Pjanic in the middle as a replacement for Pogba.  Gonzalo Higuain may sit out as he has been deemed unfit.  Fiorentina have a very strong front three as Giuseppe Rossi, Nikola Kalinic and Borja Valero can cause threats.  This game could be tight as the season starts.

My Pick – Juventus 2, Fiorentina 0: Goals by Dybala and Pjanic
Brad’s Pick – Juventus 2, Fiorentina 1: Goals by Mandzukic, Higuain, and Rossi

PSG vs. Metz – How much pressure will be in PSG when this game takes place?  Will Lyon be three points ahead of them? Both Metz and PSG won their games last weekend.  Jese is going to miss the game due to appendicitis.  Thiago Silva and Marquinhos are both out, so Kimpembe should start again this week.  For Metz, they will look to continue their great return to the Ligue 1.

My Pick – PSG 3, Metz 1: Goals by Arfa, Cavani (2), and Erdinc
Brad’s Pick – PSG 3, Metz 1: Goals by Cavani, Motta, Matuidi, Nguette

Milan vs. Torino – AC Milan will start the season with a very similar team to last season.  The Torino squad however has over gone some changes this summer and how they settle will be interesting to watch.  Both teams have really intriguing front threes.  Torino has Ljajic, Belotti, and Falque.  Milan should start Bonaventura, Bacca, and Niang.

My Pick – Milan 2, Torino 2: Goals by Niang, Bacca, Falque, and Ljajic
Brad’s Pick – Milan 2, Torino 1: Goals by Bacca (2), and Ljajic

 

La Liga Preview

This weekend is the start of the Spanish La Liga.  The season started with the European Super Cup between Real Madrid and Sevilla and the Spanish Super Cup between Sevilla and Barcelona.  Real Madrid won the UEFA Super Cup thanks to a very late goal from Sergio Ramos.  Ramos scored in the third minute of added time to send the game into extra time.  In extra time, Dani Carvajal scored the winner.  The Spanish Super Cup finished up this week.  The second leg was yesterday as Barcelona finished off the two legged affair with a 3-0 win to complement their 2-0 win in the first leg.

Title Contenders

The title will come down to three teams this season and those three are the usual suspects.  Barcelona are the defending champions and they look set to be the favorites.  They are the bookies favorite at 8/11.  Barcelona has brought in four players this season to add depth to their squad.  They are all 22 years old with an eye on the future.  The second favorites are the defending European Champions, Real Madrid at 6/4.  They have brought back Alvaro Morata, but other than that they have pretty much the same team that won the Champions League.  Finally, we have Atletico Madrid at 10/1.  Atleti will look to win their second title in three years and maintain their great run in La Liga.  They have a very good and deep squad.  They brought in Kevin Gameiro, Nico Gaitan, and Sime Vrsaljko.  They also brought back Fernando Torres.  This squad should be poised to challenge the other two.  It will be a very good race this season, especially as these three teams keep getting better and better.  Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao look set to battle it out for the final Champions League spot.

The Three Promoted Teams

The winners of last season Segunda Division was Deportivo Alaves.  Alaves achieved promotion after a 10 year absence from La Liga.  Alaves is one of the now four teams in the top flight from the Basque Country.  The second place team from the Segunda Division to achieve promotion was CD Leganes.  This is the first ever promotion for Leganes.  They are located in the outskirts of Madrid.  Their stadium is the second smallest in La Liga, holding just 8,138.  Only Eibar has a smaller capacity.  The final team to get promoted was Osasuna.  Despite finishing 6th in the league table, they were able to earn promotion by defeating Gimnastic and the Girona in the promotion play-offs.  Osasuna is located in Pamplona, home of the running of the bulls.

Managerial Changes

This summer, we have seen 7 managerial changes.  This biggest of them are the changes in Sevilla and Villarreal.  Sevilla are coming off of winning their third consecutive Europa League title and this led to Unai Emery getting the job at Paris Saint-Germain.  He was replaced with Jorge Sampaoli, the former manager of Chile.  Villarreal sacked their manager Marcelino and replaced him with former Getafe manager Fran Escriba.  Two other big names have come back to Spain as Juande Ramos replaced Javi Gracia at Malaga and Quique Sanchez Flores is now the manager of Espanyol.  Deportivo La Coruna replaced Victor Sanchez with Gaizka Garitano and Granada hired Paco Jemez.  Alaves also have a new manager despite earning promotion, as Mauricio Pellegrino replaces Jose Bordalas.

5 Big Incoming Transfers

Nico Gaitan – Benfica to Atletico Madrid (€32m)

Alvaro Morata – Juventus to Real Madrid (€30m)

Andre Gomes – Valencia to Barcelona (€35m)

Nani – Fenerbahce to Valencia (€8.5m)

Lucas Digne – PSG to Barcelona (€16.5m)

5 Big Outgoing Transfers

Dani Alves – Barcelona to Juventus (Free)

Jese – Real Madrid to PSG (€25m)

Eric Bailly – Villarreal to Manchester United (€38m)

Grzegorz Krychowiak – Sevilla to PSG (€33.6m)

Luciano Vietto – Atletico Madrid to Sevilla (Loan €3m)

Predictions

Champion

My Pick – Barcelona

Brad’s Pick  – Real Madrid

Champions League Places

My Picks – Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Sevilla

Brad’s Picks – Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla

Relegation Places

My Picks – Las Palmas, Alaves, Leganes

Brad’s Picks – Eibar, Leganes, Deportivo La Coruna

Top Scorer

My Picks – Luis Suarez, Barcelona

Brad’s Picks – Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Serie A Preview

The Serie A returns this weekend, and the major question is can someone over take Juventus.  The Italian giants have won the last 5 Scudettos.  They will look to make history as the first team to win 6 titles in a row.  Juventus had previously won 5 titles in a row between 1930 and 1935.  The other two teams are Torino from 1942 to 1949 (with a break for WWII between 1943 and 1945) and Internazionale from 2005 to 2010.

Title Contenders

Juventus are the title favorites again this season, despite the loss of Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata.  Using the money from those sales, they brought in Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic, Marko Pjaca, Mario Lemina, Medhi Benatia, and Dani Alves.  They are going to be a very strong team this season again.  The other two big teams this season are Roma and Napoli.  Both of these clubs will hope to end the Juventus reign.  Roma has also splashed big money this offseason bringing in Gerson from Fluminense.  They also made permanent deals for Mohamed Salah, Stephan El Shaarawy, Antonia Rudiger, and Edin Dzeko.  Napoli will look to build on their second place finish last season and possibly move one step up the table.  They did lose their leading scorer but have brought in Arkadiusz Milik from Ajax and Piotr Zielinski from Udinese following their performances for Poland in the Euros.  This will be a huge year for Lorenzo Insigne as he will look to step into the shoes of Higuain.  The Milan teams are rebuilding, but they should not be able to challenge for the title just yet.  They might be able to finish in a Champions League place.

The Three Promoted Teams

The first team to earn promotion to the Serie A was Cagliari Calcio as winners of Serie B.  They won the league by one point over Crotone.  They had a very strong attacking side and could help them stay up.  The club was in Serie A in 2015 and had spent 11 straight seasons in the Serie A before going down in 2015, but came straight back up.  Crotone had a remarkable season as they earned their first ever promotion to the Serie A.  It will be interesting to see how this team copes to a new league and with a new manager. The final team promoted for this season was Delfino Pescara.  They were last in the Serie A in 2013.  They finished fourth in the Serie B and qualified for the Serie A by winning the promotion play-offs.

Managerial Changes

This summer has been a busy one as half the teams in the Serie A have changed managers and one team did so twice.  The big ones are the two Milan clubs as Cristian Brocchi (AC Milan) and Roberto Mancini (Internazionale) both left their clubs.  Frank de Boar was poached from Ajax to take over at Internazionale.  Vincenzo Montella was the manager of Sampdoria last season but is now the manager of AC Milan.  The most entertaining managerial position has been Lazio.  Simone Inzaghi saw his time as interim manager of Lazio end on July 6th as Marcelo Bielsa was named manager.  Then just two days later, Simone Inzaghi was back in the job as Bielsa resigned.  Sampdoria replaced Montella with Marco Giampalo who left Empoli.  Empoli then hired Giovanni Martusciello.  Atalanta sacked their manager Edoardo Reja and hired Genoa manager Gian Piero Gasperini.  Genoa then signed Ivan Juric as their manager.  He was the manager of Crotone.  The newly promoted side then hired Davide Nicola former Livorno and Bari manager. Udinese also replaced Luigi De Canio with Giuseppe Iachini.  It has been an interesting merry-go-around this season.

5 Big Incoming Transfers

Gerson – Fluminense to Roma (€16.6m)

Arkadiusz Milik – Ajax to Napoli (€32m)

Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli to Juventus (€90m)

Ever Banega – Sevilla to Inter Milan (Free)

Ciro Immobile – Sevilla to SS Lazio (€8.5m)

5 Big Outgoing Transfers

Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United (€105m)

Adem Ljajic – Roma to Torino (€8.5m)

Stephan El Shaarawy – Milan to Roma (€13m)

Miralem Pjanic – Roma to Juventus (€32m)

Antonio Candreva – Lazio to Inter Milan (€22m)

Predictions

Champion

My Pick – Juventus

Brad’s Pick  – Roma

Champions League Places

My Picks – Roma, Napoli

Brad’s Picks – Juventus, Napoli

Relegation Places

My Picks – Crotone, Genoa, Pescara

Brad’s Picks – Pescara, Empoli, Cagliari

Top Scorer

My Picks – Mauro Icardi, Inter Milan

Brad’s Picks – Gonzalo Higuain, Juventus

A look at the 5 Things to Watch Week #1

 
  1. The start of new campaigns for the massive managerial names in England.– it was a very good weekend for the new managers in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola got off to a winning start following Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Sunderland. They played a very Pep style of game but needed a late own goal from Paddy McNair. The only new manager to lose was David Moyes and his Sunderland side. On the South coast of England both Claude Puel and Walter Mazzarri each got a point as Southampton and Watford drew 1-1. Interim manager Mike Phelan lead his Hull City to a surprise win over Leicester City. Ronald Koeman earned a draw against Tottenham. More on Jose and Manchester United next. Antonio Conte also got off to a winning start with a 2-1 win over West Ham. Overall, it was a good weekend for new managers. 
  2. How will Manchester United line up and will Rooney & Zlatan work? – The answer is in Jose’s favorite 4-2-3-1 with Zlatan up front and Rooney behind him. The surprise was the inclusion of Juan Mata and how well he played. Mata opened the scoring. Martial started on the other wing. For me one of the surprises was the inclusion of Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini in the center of midfield. I know Paul Pogba was suspended, but no Carrick? No Schneiderlin? It will be interesting to see who lines up next to Pogba next weekend. United was very strong against a poor Bournemouth side. Both Rooney and Ibrahimovic scored in the second half as the game finished 3-1. A bright spot for United was Eric Bailly and Daley Blind. They look to potentially be a very strong pairing in the center, but I would expect Smalling to step in for Blind once he is healthy. 
  3. How will Leicester start the defense of their title? – The answer is not well. They created chances but did not finish them off. They created more opportunities to score than Hull and had more possession, but Hull finished twice and Leicester only scored from the spot thanks to a weak penalty called by official, Mike Dean. I do not think they are in major trouble. but it was the first time that a defending champion lost their opening game. 

  4. How will PSG start under new manager Unai Emery and without Zlatan? – They got three points but it was not as easy as it has been in the past. They dominated possession and held Bastia to 0 shots on goal, but only managed to score 1 goal thanks to Layvin Kurzawa. They will need to improve if they are going to go deep into the Champions League. Cavani did not play as Hatem Ben Arfa led the line. If Cavani comes into the line, he will surrounded by very creative players and should find a lot of wonderful scoring chances. 

  5. Can Marseille, Lyon, or Monaco start the season on a positive note? – The answer was yes for Lyon and kinda so so for the other two. Lyon started the season with a bang as Alexandre Lacazette scored a hat trick to give Lyon a 3-0 win. This was exactly the start that Bruno Genesio would have wanted. As for Monaco and Marseille, both teams earned a point. Monaco drew 2-2 with Guingamp. Monaco trailed 2-0 at halftime but was able to come back and earn a point. Marseille drew 0-0 with Toulouse. The point will be nice for each, but three points would have been nicer since both teams dominated possession and total shots. 
 
The score after Week 1
 
Me – 10
Brad – 4
 
Look out this week for previews of La Liga and Serie A

5 Things to Watch Week #1

The new season is upon us as the English Premier League and the French Ligue 1 start this week. We should be in for an exciting season with many twists and turns. Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride. This season, I will be giving you 5 things to watch for in the games each Friday. I hope you enjoy!

  1. The start of new campaigns for the massive managerial names in England. – One of the big story lines all season will be the managers and how they interact. No league in the world has the managers that the Premier League has this season. Think about it…Pep Guardiola vs. Jose Mourinho alone would be great television, but Antonio Conte has joined, you have Jurgen Klopp entering his first full season, Claudio Rainieri as defending champion, Arsene Wenger is still at Arsenal, and David Moyes is making his return. That leaves out the Pochittino (Tottenham), Koeman (Everton), and Howe (Bournemouth) factors. This is a storyline to watch all season, but especially after the first games of the season. 
  2. How will Manchester United line up and will Rooney & Zlatan work? – I know that many people are picking United to win the title, but I personally am not convinced. I know that Mourinho is great at times as a manager and gets results, but sometimes it does not work out long term and he does make mistakes. This is one of his biggest projects as this United team had a lot of holes. They should be a much improved side but can the big 2 up front coexist? What does it mean for Martial and Rashford? I think we will see both Rooney and Zlatan in the lineup together this weekend, but will it work out long term? 
  3. How will Leicester start the defense of their title? – Last season was amazing. Watching Leicester just keep on going all season was breathtaking and the best Cinderella story ever. This season, the odds seem stacked against them as well. They start the season with a trip to newly promoted and manager-less Hull City. How will they come out and play? This season Leicester will not have as much space to counterattack as teams should have figured that out by now.   That was a big part of how Vardy and Leicester were so successful last season. The other big question mark with this team is the fact that Arsenal seem determined to get Riyad Mahrez this summer. That would be a big change for Leicester, so keep an eye on him this weekend. 
  4. How will PSG start under new manager Unai Emery and without Zlatan? – A new era begins tonight in Paris as Unai Emery takes charge of the squad for the first league game.  He has his work cut out for him as outgoing manager Laurent Blanc won 3 titles in each of the last two seasons but failed to deliver the Champions League. Emery’s job will be to maintain the success in the French league and add European glory to that trophy hall. The odds are stacked against him as he is without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edison Cavani is injured for the first game. He has strengthened the depth of the squad but will need a big season from Di Maria and Cavani if he hopes to win the Champions League. It will be interesting to see how the season starts for him today in Bastia. 
  5. Can Marseille, Lyon, or Monaco start the season on a positive note? – Last season all three of these teams had dreadful starts and this meant that by Halloween the French league was basically over. They now will hope that a fresh start can lead to some success. Monaco hosts Guingamp today. Marseille hosts Toulouse and Lyon travels to Nancy on Sunday. These are all three winnable games and in fact, probably must win games if any of them want to challenge PSG. You might be saying there is no way this is a must win game, but remember PSG had the title clinched in March last season. If any of these teams drop points early, PSG could easily put them out of sight again. 

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

Arsenal vs. Liverpool – The EPL starts off with a bang as two top four contenders meet in London on Sunday. Arsene Wenger is looking to end his now 12 year EPL title drought. Many people are saying he has still not got the striker and defender he needs. Jurgen Klopp takes charge of his first full season at Liverpool and with no European football, he will hope to find success in the league.

My Pick – Arsenal 1, Liverpool 1: Goals by Sanchez and Mané
Brad’s Pick – Arsenal 2, Liverpool 1: Goals by Sanchez, Giroud, and Benteke

Chelsea vs. West Ham – the first Monday night game of the season features two teams that could be in and around the top 6 of the season. Antonio Conte has the job of trying to rebuild after a disastrous season for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. He will look to re-galvanize a very strong squad.

My Pick – Chelsea 2, West Ham 1: Goals by Hazard, Costa, and Payet
Brad’s Pick – Chelsea 3, West Ham 1: Goals by Costa (2), Hazard, and Carroll

Everton vs. Tottenham – the Ronald Koeman era starts with a home game for Everton as Tottenham comes to town. Tottenham will hope to build on their third place finish and possibly win their first ever Premier League title. 

My Pick – Everton 1, Tottenham 1: Goals by Barkley and Kane
Brad’s Pick – Everton 0, Tottenham 3: Goals by Kane and Dembele

Bordeaux vs. Saint Etienne – both of these teams will look to get off to a good start. Saint Etienne will hope to be in the conversation for a European place this season and possibly a Champions League place.  

My Pick – Bordeaux 1, Saint Etienne 2: Goals by Plasil, Beric, and Tannane
Brad’s Pick – Bordeaux 1, Saint Etienne 1: Goals by Sertic and Roux

Marseille vs. Toulouse – both of these teams could challenge for the top 3, or be in the relegation battle. Which one gets off to the faster start will make a big difference.

My Pick – Marseille 2, Toulouse 1: Goals by Cabella, Gomis, and Braithwaite
Brad’s Pick – Marseille 1, Toulouse 1: Goals by Gomis and Pesic

Premier League Preview

The new Premier League season is about to kick off and it is going to be an interesting one.  There is not a league that has the collection of managers like the Premier League this season.  The Manchester managers alone should provide some great storylines.

Title Contenders

 This title race should be wide open.  The defending champions Leicester are outsiders to repeat as they have lost some big parts. Many people will be wondering if they can repeat what they did last season, or if they will be able to cope with the addition of Champions League football to their schedule.  The two title favorites come from Manchester, as both City and United are the title favorites according to the bookies.  Both of these clubs have new managers.  Manchester City has appointed Pep Guardiola as their new manager.  He has been busy this summer reshaping the team.  He has brought in Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, and Nolito.  He will change the style of play and is still looking for a couple more players.  Manchester United has appointed Jose Mourinho.   He has not been as busy as Guardiola, but he has spent some money this summer.  Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are already with the team and Paul Pogba is going to be announced this week.  The question is, is this enough for United to jump from outside the top 4 and win the title? Only one team has ever done that and it was Leicester last season.  Arsenal is a perennial team with a chance to win the title, but they always seem to come up short.  They seem to be missing the goal scoring striker everyone says they need.  Will Arsene buy one?  Tottenham, Liverpool, and Chelsea will all be looking to get into the race.  The race for the top 4 this season should be a great one as at least 7 teams will think that they have a legitimate shot at a spot in the Champions League.

The Three Promoted Teams

The first team promoted to the Premier League was Burnley who won the Championship last season.  They returned to the Premier League after one season in exile.  Middlesbrough also achieved promotion after a 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion, which meant that they finished above them thanks to goal difference.  Middlesbrough is back after 7 seasons in the Championship.  Hull City became the third team promoted after they defeated Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship Playoff final.  Hull City was also able to bounce straight back up after finishing 18th in the Premier League in 14/15.  However, Hull lost their manager Steve Bruce when he resigned on July 22nd.

Managerial Changes

This summer saw a lot of changes at some of the biggest clubs in the league.  Overall 8 teams have changed managers this summer.  The big two happened in Manchester.  Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was sacked and Jose Mourinho replaced him after he was sacked by Chelsea last season.  Manchester City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini knew he was on the way out before the season was over when it was announced that Pep Guardiola was coming in.  Chelsea replaced Mourinho with Antonio Conte after a horrible season that saw them miss out on European football for this upcoming season.  Everton fired Roberto Martinez toward the end of the season since he was not performing up to their standards.  Everton then went and signed Southampton manager Ronald Koeman.  This meant that Southampton needed a new manager and they went for Claude Puel.  Puel has been managing in France since 1999 with stints at Monaco, Lille, Lyon, and Nice.  He won the French league in 1999/2000 with Monaco.  Watford decided to fire their manager, Quique Sanchez Flores and have replaced him with former Napoli and Internazionale manager Walter Mazzarri.  Sunderland has replaced Sam Allardyce with former Manchester United and Everton manager David Moyes.  Sam Allardyce was named as manager of England.  Hull City is without a manager right now since Steve Bruce resigned in late July.

5 Big Incoming Transfers

Leroy Sane – Schalke to Manchester City (£42.50m)

Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United (£

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United (£35.70m)

Granit Xhaka – Borussia Monchengladbach to Arsenal (£38.25m)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – PSG to Manchester United (Free)

5 Big Outgoing Transfers

Sadio Mane – Southampton to Liverpool (£35.02m)

N’Golo Kante – Leicester to Chelsea (£30.43m)

Victor Wanyama – Southampton to Tottenham (£12.24m)

Tim Howard – Everton to Colorado (Free)

Graziano Pelle – Southampton to Luneng (£12.97m)

Predictions

Champion

My Picks – Manchester City

Brad’s Picks – Arsenal

Champions League Places

My Picks – Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United

Brad’s Picks – Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United

Relegation Places

My Picks – Hull, West Brom, Middlesbrough

Brad’s Picks – Crystal Palace, Burnley, Middlesbrough

Top Scorer

My Picks – Sergio Aguero

Brad’s Picks – Harry Kane