What would a Catalan national team look like?

What would a Catalan national team look like?

It’s the early hours of the first of October, 2018. One year ago, to this day, the Spanish region of Catalonia held an independence referendum of contentious legality. I won’t go too much into the detail – this is a place for football, not politics – but suffice it to say that Catalonia is still part of Spain.

But what if they weren’t? What would the national team of Catalonia look like? I’m gonna take a stab at a Hypothetical XI. Here goes.

In goal, it’s Real Madrid’s Kiko Casilla.

Image result for kiko casilla
Imagine making a living as a third-choice goalkeeper.

Casilla was born in Alcover, in Catalonia’s southernmost province, Tarragona. His career has seen him go from Real Madrid to Cadiz to Cartagena to Espanyol and back to Real Madrid, and he’s been capped once for Spain. However, it’s likely Casilla would take this chance if it arose to get back into playing international football. Competition for the Catalan gloves would mainly come from Jordi Masip and Pau Lopez.

Our wide defenders are Martin Montoya and Victor Alvarez.

Montoya is uncapped for Spain and would be eligible through his birth in Barcelona Province. His career’s seen him play for five teams in three countries and he’s still just 27, making him a good addition to this Catalan side. Victor Alvarez would take the spot on the left of defence, with the Arsenal Tula defender perhaps a little weaker than his counterpart. Whilst Jordi Alba would be eligible, it’s hard to see him changing allegiances to play for a weaker side he probably feels less connected to.

In the heart of defence, we’re playing Marc Bartra and captain Gerard Pique.

Image result for gerard pique catalonia
Yeah, THAT Gerard Pique.

One would be forgiven for thinking Pique’s in the same boat as Alba, but the Barcelona defender has made himself known as a vocal proponent of Catalan independence and you’d think he’d offer himself up straight away. With over a hundred international caps and four Champions Leagues, his experience would be vital for the side. We’ve paired him with former Barcelona teammate Marc Bartra, who has thirteen caps for his national side but hasn’t played since 2017 and would be forgiven for leaving the Spanish set-up for that of Catalonia. Backups include Jordi Amat and Marc Muniesa.

The midfield trio is – believe it or not – Cesc Fabregas, Sergi Roberto and Xavi.

Where’s it all gone wrong for Cesc Fabregas? He wasn’t picked for Spain’s World Cup squad for Russia and he’s still not played a minute in the Premier League this season. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that he’ll get into Luis Enrique’s Spain squads, and since he would be eligible for Catalonia, I’d hazard a guess he’d take the call-up. In Sergi Roberto’s case, he’s been on the outer of the Spain squad, with four caps and a goal to his name in two years. It’s difficult to tell how much quality he’s really got, but some international football is almost always better than no international football.

Image result for xavi
The Qatari money’s done wonders for him.

Yeah, Xavi is still playing at the age of 38. Whether or not he’d be willing to play international football again after a four-year absence is questionable, but we certainly hope so. After all, it’s the greatest midfielder of our generation, coming back (at least sometimes) to Europe. This is something we need to happen. In case it doesn’t for some incredibly disappointing reason, we have two options: tempt Sergio Busquets out of playing for Spain, or replace him with Victor Rodriguez or Gerard Deulofeu (although some structural changes may be needed for the latter).

Our two wingers are Cristian Tello and Aleix Vidal.

Looking at Vidal first: we’re going to play him on the right wing. Vidal’s now at Sevilla after three uneventful years at Barcelona, and he should be expecting more regular club football. Regular international football on the other hand isn’t happening for Spain, with Vidal picking up just one cap. Opposite him we’ve placed Cristian Tello, another one of the one-cap lot. Tello’s now at Real Betis alongside our centreback Marc Bartra, and he seems to be getting regular football there. International football would be a step up for him.

And banging in the goals, it’s none other than Jonathan Soriano.

Image result for jonathan soriano
No Red Bull logo? OK, we’ll use this one.

Yes, he plays in China. Yes, he hasn’t excelled in a “big” league. But his goalscoring record speaks for itself. In five years with Salzburg, Soriano scored 172 in 202, and now at Beijing Sinobo Guoan, he’s got thirty in thirty-four. Bear in mind that he hasn’t exactly got the greatest teammates in the world either, with only Renato Augusto and Cedric Bakambu that stick out. Soriano could do wonders for this Catalonia team.

And there you have it, folks. This could be a decent team with a couple of years of international football behind it. I’m almost disappointed I’ll never get to see it in action. But ultimately, it’s all Hypothetical.

http://as01.epimg.net/futbol/imagenes/2017/12/29/primera/1514541643_385936_1514541747_noticia_normal.jpghttps://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/f/b9/gerard-pique-barcelona_mpnqmoetde6u1wkmejmavcjc6.jpg?t=-652236074https://images.cdn.fourfourtwo.com/sites/fourfourtwo.com/files/styles/image_landscape/public/xavi_main.jpg?itok=hWAXQ1un&c=4e372db251ba0b15aa0b0cc8aa57341ahttps://estaticos.sport.es/resources/jpg/1/6/1499523511061.jpg

Premier League – Our round seven predictions

Premier League – Our round seven predictions

As hard as it is to believe, we are somehow already 7 weeks into the Premier League season. Feels like just yesterday I watched United beat Leicester in the first game of the season. And as the league goes on, so does this tipping competition.

The scoreboard remains pretty much the same; Blake leads us on 35, Alf, still filling in for Zac is slightly behind on 31, and as usual, I’m well behind the rest of the pack at 24.

On with the tipping!

West Ham United vs Manchester United

Image result for West Ham

Dan

West Ham are finding their feet under Pellegrini, with a win against Everton, a respectable draw against Chelsea, and an 8-0 thrashing of Macclesfield. The Red Devils, on the other hands, are back to being in a shambles, and like Chelsea, the Hammers will hold them to a draw. 1-1 draw.

Blake

After a poor start, West Ham is really starting to come into their groove. After taking a draw against a solid Chelsea side, they’ll be high on confidence and as they’re against a team who have just drawn against Wolves and lost to Derby, this’ll be a draw. 1-1 draw.

Alf

Fabiański is a hard nut to crack but I believe that United will bounce back from the Derby defeat. 2-1 United.

Huddersfield Town vs Tottenham Hotspur

Dan

After three consecutive defeats, a win against Brighton along with a penalty shoot-out victory over Watford in the Carbado Cup has Pochettino’s men bounce back. Let’s be honest here, it’s Huddersfield. No way Spurs will mess up here. 3-0 Tottenham 

Blake

Huddersfield have just lost 3-1 to Leicester City whilst Spurs took three points against Brighton last weekend. It’s not so much a question of who will win but how much they’ll win by. 3-1 Tottenham

Alf

The Terriers finally get their sense of scoring last game but Tottenham won’t make it easy to concede. 3-1 Tottenham

Arsenal vs Watford

Dan

Watford’s brilliant start is beginning to falter with losses to United, a draw with Fulham and the penalty shoot-out defeat to Spurs. Against an Arsenal that is finding their groove, they’ll falter yet again. 2-1 Arsenal 

Blake

We all knew Watford’s early form wouldn’t continue, but the draw against Fulham shows us that they’re really just another middle-of-the-table side. Arsenal’s win against Everton showed that they can win without being the better side, and I think they’ll do the same to move ahead of Watford in the table. 2-1 Arsenal

Alf

One of the most interesting fixtures this week. No more clean sheet for the home side, I guess. 1-1 draw.

Wolves vs Southampton

Dan

Wolves have time and again proven their quality, and will do again against an inconsistent Southampton side. 3-1 Wolves.

Blake

Even though Wolves are sitting in tenth, I have to say I’m a little disappointed with them so far. I was expecting them to attack and score a few more goals, but only five sides have fewer goals than them this season. They’ll only get one against Southampton, and the Saints will score once too. 1-1 draw.

Alf

The amazing run for Wolves will continue. The Saints will have a hard time stopping them. 2-0 Wolves.

Newcastle vs Leicester

Dan

Two weeks ago, I predicted West Ham to get their first win, and they did. Last week, I did the same for Burnley, and they got their first win. Folks, we’re going for the hat trick. 2-0 Newcastle.

Blake

I think it’s becoming clear that my prediction of eighth for Newcastle this season was a little lofty. They’ve been mediocre at best and I can’t see a reason for that not to continue into Matchweek 7 against a Leicester City side in ninth. 3-1 Leicester

Alf

The Magpies will prevail after a hard fight. 2-1 Newcastle

Manchester City vs Brighton

Dan

Look, it’s City. Guardiola’s team is very formidable and they won’t have problems against Brighton, no matter how highly I rate the Seagulls. 3-1 City.

Blake

City are a side that scores goals. Brighton are a side that lets a few in. City are at home, with all 400 fans cheering them on. The only contest Brighton will be in is the contest for loudest fans at the City of Manchester Stadium. 4-0 Manchester City.

Alf

One-sided contest expected. 3-0 City.

Everton vs Fulham

Dan

Tough match to call. Both sides haven’t won in their past three matches, and both of them have the quality to win this contest. I’ll go with Everton for this one, but this could really go any way.

Blake

Despite losing last time out at Arsenal, Everton showed some real attacking intent and deserved more from the match. It’s just a matter of whether or not it’s gonna click for them, and against Fulham I think it will. 2-0 Everton

Alf

Fulham’s defence is still leaky. Shouldn’t be hard for Everton to win. 2-0 Everton.

Chelsea vs Liverpool

Dan

Chelsea triumphed in the Carbado Cup clash. But can they do it again here? I don’t think so with Liverpool’s frightening record against the top six, but, I don’t see Liverpool winning it either. 2-2 draw.

Blake

Yes, Liverpool have been stellar so far this season, but if they play how they did against Chelsea in midweek they’ll have no small amount of problems. Chelsea, at home, will take a narrow win here, moving above the Reds. 1-0 Chelsea.

Alf

Taking previous encounters in consideration, I’ll be surprised if there are no goals. 1-1 draw.

Cardiff vs Burnley

Image result for cardiff city

Dan

Cardiff are terrible, but Burnley lost to Burton in the Carbado Cup despite their hammering of Bournemouth earlier this week. Given the circumstances, I see a draw on the cards. 0-0 draw.

Blake

I kinda feel bad for Cardiff. This is looking like a winnable game for them, but after what Burnley did to Bournemouth last weekend, I think they’ll be hardpressed to get a point. This might be where it clicks for Burnley. 2-0 Burnley

Alf

Perhaps the Bluebirds get their first 3 points against a weak Clarets side? 2-1 Cardiff.

Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace

Dan

Despite the complete collapse that happened to them against Burnley last week, Bournemouth are a quality side and with a home advantage, should see off a dour Palace. 2-1 Bournemouth

Blake

Picking 0-0 scores for Palace games is what I normally do, and it’s what I’m gonna do again. No amount of Bournemouth brilliance could ever make an Eagles game worth watching. 0-0 draw.

Alf

Meh. 1-1 draw.
Image credit:
https://www.hindustantimes.com/football/chelsea-drop-first-points-with-0-0-draw-at-west-ham/story-vFitIMe9U0DsLxJmJYM6UL.html
https://www.premierleague.com/clubs/23/club/overview
http://www.goal.com/en-gb/news/cardiff-city-2018-19-season-fixtures-transfers-squad-numbers/1x4ughnthwrim1t2bzm3a28apr

Why paying to watch the HKPL online is a horrible idea to promote football in Hong Kong

Why paying to watch the HKPL online is a horrible idea to promote football in Hong Kong

For the Hong Kong Premier League, the digital broadcasting service of the Oriental Daily News is, currently, the sole provider of the live coverage of the Sunday, professional football of the city.

However, starting from this season, the newspaper company and a few football clubs (Kitchee included) decided to implement a “pay per view” (“PPV”) plan for the broadcasting rights.

How does this scheme operate? Well, it’s simple – just sign up using your email, then pay $50 (in Hong Kong Dollars) online in order to get the code and gain access to the exclusive footage.

What if you don’t want to pay? Simple. You’ll need to wait until the matches end for the highlights, which are completely free of charge to watch. Nothing in English, though.

The good news, though, is that there will be still free shows but it’s largely limited to those selected fixtures involving “mid-table teams” like Tai Po, Dreams and Hoi King. Oh well…

These are the only ways to go if you want to sit on your sofa cozily and munching your chips, watching the HKPL online.


From the title of this story, needless to say, I’m extremely dissatisfied with this policy.

Why? Because we’re used to having free coverage of the HKPL and this kind of “sudden changes” disgusts us. It may be worth it if the quality of the broadcasting service is higher.

Sadly, according to some who paid for the matchday shows, it’s still the same thing we get for free. This is why instead of promoting the HKPL, people are discouraged to pay that sum of money.

Instead of attracting new fans, what the businessmen are doing run the risk of losing them. The best thing we, as supporters, can do is to go to the stadiums ourselves instead. It’s not expensive to buy tickets compared to subscribing to the PPV thing. Just a couple more bucks.

People were voicing their dismay on Facebook during the “Hong Kong Clásico” between Kitchee and Eastern. I’m not sure that those entrepreneurs will listen to the voice of the fans. Just hope that they won’t risk losing the fan’s support in this case.

“Football without fans is nothing.” – Jock Stein

I believe that without the support of the fans, making the HKPL a profitable business won’t last long. Football can be a new type of merchandising in HK if it’s executed well, but one thing for sure, the “pay per view” thing is nothing more than a total failure.

Why the Hong Kong Premier League is both boring and exciting to watch

Why the Hong Kong Premier League is both boring and exciting to watch

The Hong Kong Premier League, or the HKPL, is currently the sole profession men’s system in the city. A relatively new top-division league formed in 2014, it’s a contest which can be seen as “far from perfect” and “a work in progress”, which gives both uncertainties and opportunities in Asian football.

As a football writer from Hong Kong, while I support Arsenal, I’m also a close follower of my local football. In this article, I would like to share with you are some explanations of why you should (and shouldn’t) follow the Hong Kong Premier League.


The reasons why the HKPL isn’t worth your time: 

  1. Small league. It’s a contest with 10 clubs with only 18 games. Even the lower leagues in Japan and Korea offers more competition. Resources may be a constraint but this shouldn’t be an excuse for the HKFA not to expand the HKPL.
  2. Lack of big names. Sure, Nicky Butt, Mateja Kežman, Diego Forlán and most recently, Momo Sissoko, donned the jersey of HKPL clubs. Yet, the question is, when will the HKPL get a former superstar like them? In 5 or 10 years? I don’t really know.
  3. Predictable winner. With a tycoon like Ken Ng, the support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club and loads of cash, it’s almost certain that HKPL is a one-sided game for Kitchee (aka the Bluewaves). South China is no longer here since they relegated themselves to the amateur division. Sigh.
  4. The absence of charisma. The irony about Kitchee is that they’re the only squad with their own playing style as they integrated Spanish football into their DNA by cooperating with Barcelona in the early 2000s. The others? Nope.

The reasons why the HKPL is inspiring to watch: 

  1. The thrill of the game is still here. There will be comebacks, screamers and emotional moments in the beautiful game. Surely, it’s not limited to the HKPL, but I believe that it’s a point worth mentioning.
  2. There are still good sides. Kitchee still has the strongest lineup but don’t leave out Eastern, HK Pegasus, Lee Man, Hoi King, Dreams and R&F (HK). Community-based teams like Southern, Yuen Long and Tai Po have excellent support since the locals are loyal to their men at all times.
  3. There can be surprises waiting for you. Kitchee managed to win against Kashiwa Reysol in the AFC Champions League. Tai Po salvaged a point against Yuen Long in the local derby. The shock 7-goal defeat of Eastern last season. I believe that there are more wonders to come in the future.
  4. There are exciting talents in HKPL. Cheng Chin-lung, Tan Chun Lok, Chuck Yiu Kwok and Yuen Ho Chun are the ones to watch. Meanwhile, you may want to pay attention to naturalised players like Jaimes McKee (England), Jordi Tarrés (Spain), Paul Ngue (Cameroon) and Sandro (Brazil).

If you’re interested in knowing the HKPL more, you may leave a comment to ask me questions. And for non-Chinese speakers, there’s a good English source of football in Hong Kong called Offside. Don’t hesitate to take a look at it if you have the time!

Rumour Rater: Gotze, Navas and more

Rumour Rater: Gotze, Navas and more

Welcome to the first edition of the Rumour Rater, a weekly post in which I round up the latest transfer news from around Europe and offer my opinion.

That’s pretty much all I have for an introduction, so let’s get into it!

Premier League

According to the Mirror, the two Manchester clubs, United and City, are about to battle over Ajax’s young defensive midfielder Frenkie de Jong, in a deal that could be worth 50 million pounds.

Image result for frenkie de jong

Rating: 6.5/10. A move would make sense for either club, as Fernandinho for City and Nemanja Matic for United are both on the wrong side of 30. 50 million, however, seems a large fee to pay for a player that is yet to test himself outside of the Netherlands.

Mario Gotze has been advised by former teammate Kevin Grosskreutz to link up with former boss Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Rating: 6/10. The scorer of the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final has struggled recently at Borussia Dortmund, and going to Klopp, the manager who gave Gotze’s career its kickstart, would make sense. However, with one of the world’s best attacking trios in Mane, Salah, and Firmino, it’s hard to see where Gotze would fit in a Liverpool side.

Yet another club has joined the race to sign PSG’s Adrien Rabiot, and it’s Manchester City, who are trying t0 bring him back to the club he spent time at as a teenager.

Image result for Adrien Rabiot

Rating: 7/10: Should City get Rabiot, most likely they won’t go after de Jong as they play in primarily the same position. However, given that he has experience with Europe’s elite, he might be a better replacement for Fernandinho than de Jong.

Europe

Leroy Sane has been linked with a switch to Juventus within the next couple of years.

Image result for Leroy Sane

Rating: 7/10, but only in the next few years. Apparently, the Turin based side wants to sign a “young Ronaldo.” That’s despite them having only signed Ronaldo himself this season. Given that he’s 33, though still arguably the best in the world, it’s understandable to be looking for the future. However, Ronaldo isn’t in a sharp decline just yet and Juve will probably need to wait a while to splash the cash on Sane thanks to FPP.

That’s not all we have about Juventus, however, as they have been linked with Real Madrid shot-stopper Keylor Navas. 

Image result for Keylor Navas

Rating: 7/10 Navas initially feels a good fit for Juventus, as with Gianluigi Buffon’s departure they may need a new world-class man between the sticks, and with the arrival of Thibaut Courtois in Madrid, Navas’ place as the undisputed first-choice goalie for Real is under threat. However, buying Navas may be hard to justify for Juve, as Wojciech Szczesny taking over Buffon’s place as Juve’s main goalie, not to mention their signing of Mattia Perin. Still, neither of those two are quite on the same level as Navas, so this may happen.

Barcelona appear to be in pole position to sign Mexican PSV winger Hivring Lozano, after Lozano himself said it would be a “dream to play for Barcelona”

Image result for Hirving Lozano

Rating: 5/10. Lozano would be a very solid addition to just about any side in the world right now, but a player of his quality needs regular first team football and I can’t see him getting it at Barcelona. With Coutinho, Malcom, Messi, Munir, Suarez, and Dembele all battling it out for a place in Barcelona’s front line, I can’t see Lozano really changing that.

Image credit:

The Problem with Frenkie de Jong….

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-5121961/Mario-Gotze-suffers-fresh-injury-blow.html

https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1007024/Barcelona-transfer-news-PSG-Adrien-Rabiot-La-Liga-gossip-one-match

https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11679/11485143/leroy-sane-returns-to-germany-squad-after-world-cup-omission

http://www.marca.com/en/football/real-madrid/2018/08/16/5b757723ca474109678b45a6.html

https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11096/11421113/hirving-lozano-the-making-of-mexicos-breakout-world-cup-star

Granit Xhaka – a curse or a blessing for Arsenal?

Granit Xhaka – a curse or a blessing for Arsenal?

As an Arsenal fan who started supporting the club from 2016, the first transfer which caught my attention was none other than Granit Xhaka, who joined the Gunners from Möchengladbach.

To date, there have been mixed opinions of the Swiss midfielder. And when people ask me “what do you think of Xhaka?”, it always gives me a headache as I’m in a “love-hate” relationship with it.

The good thing is that Xhaka is good at long-range shots, which is a trick capable of surprising the opponents. He did it against Hull, Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, Liverpool and AC Milan. It seems that he can take free-kicks too after he proved his worth in the Newcastle game, I think.

Xhaka is also an adaptative player who has solidified his place in the starting XI, no matter if he’s under Wenger or Emery. Moreover, proved at Gladbach, he’s a leader in the dressing room and is named as one of the captains of the Arsenal squad.

Despite the virtues mentioned, Xhaka is inconsistent and sometimes gives the ball away to the opponents. Moreover, he’s awful at defending and tends to commit fouls, resulting in cards or even suspensions. His discipline has been improving but he himself would need to be aware of that.

To sum up, Xhaka is okay in passing and creating spaces, reasonable in taking corners and long-range efforts, yet a horrible leader in defending. This is what makes him such a special player.


Here’s another important question, “provided the performance of the player, should Arsenal sell Xhaka for cash, or at least, loan him to another club for more experience?”

While a number of Arsenal supporters may say “show him the door, he’s still s**t after two f***ing years with us”, for me, it’s a dilemma, especially when you understand the bigger picture.

Yes, I agree that cashing in the Swiss can help the Gunners to fund for getting better players. If Xhaka’s departure can pave way for a reliable player in midfield, I’ll agree on the idea.

However, while he’s not the solution to the midfield problem of the team (this is the main reason why I miss Cazorla, who used to be the “little wizard” in the squad), selling him may worsen it instead.

The reason? He can score a long-range equaliser, take a free-kick to extend the lead or assist the winning goal of a comeback. You’ll never know when will the Swiss help to save Emery’s job.

The unpredictability of the sport (and Xhaka’s fitness) is what makes the situation awful to deal with.

I myself would prefer not selling him, but the rest of the Gooner crowd may say otherwise. Let me know in the comments if you have something to say.

Premier League: Our round six predictions

Premier League: Our round six predictions

Time marches on, as does the premier league. That means once again we find ourselves doing the most regular post on this site: Premier League tipping.

Last round was same old, same old, with Blake leading the way on 30 points, Alf, filling in for Zac, slightly further back on 25, and sadly like usual, I’m well behind everyone else on 18.

I think it’s time to solve that. On with the tipping!

Fulham vs Watford

Image result for Fulham

Dan

This might be where Watford’s spectacular start begins to unravel; a trip to Fulham is no easy fixture, and with their confidence knocked slightly after the loss to United, I can see Fulham prevailing. 2-1 Fulham.

Blake

The Hornets weren’t bad against United but Fulham struggled against City last week and I expect their somewhat poor start to the season to continue. 2-1 Watford.

Alf

The Cottagers will do everything to get the home points but the Hornets will prove otherwise. 3-1 Watford.

Manchester United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Dan

United are flying high after three consecutive victories, but the Wolves also haven’t lost in three. This one is gonna be close, and really could go anyway, but I’m going to favour the home side here. 3-2 United.

Blake

It’s finally starting to click for the Red Devils, beating Watford last weekend and Young Boys in midweek. Wolves aren’t a bad side but they’re away from home and I see them losing here. 2-0 United.

Alf

Wolves did well to grab a point from City but it’s Old Trafford, so everything can happen. 2-1 United.

Crystal Palace vs Newcastle United

Dan

After tipping Newcastle to win each of their past three matches, and having them lose all three, I’m done with the Magpies for the time being. Besides, Palace is quality and should see off The Toon without too many problems. 1-0 Palace.

Blake

Crystal Palace are a painfully boring side. They’ve had just ten goals scored and conceded in their five matches so far, less than any other side. The Toon aren’t much better, so this will be dull. 0-0 draw.

Alf

Palace managed to win against strugglers Huddersfield while Newcastle lost to Arsenal. Equal contest expected. 1-1 draw.

Leicester City vs Huddersfield

Dan

Huddersfield are complete garbage. End of. 3-0 Leicester.

Blake

Leicester City have stated unspectacularly with two wins and three losses. Huddersfield however have only scored two goals and it’s hard to see that number increasing at Leicester City Stadium. 3-0 Leicester.

Alf

Kasper Schmeichel shouldn’t have a problem in keeping a clean sheet against a weak Terriers attack. 3-0 Leicester

Cardiff City vs Manchester City 

Image result for Cardiff City

Dan

Cardiff are complete garbage. End of.  5-0 Manchester City

Blake

Yes, it’s Manchester City. Yes, they’re away to who I believe to be the worst side in the league. But they just lost to Olympique Lyonnais and I expect they’ll have a battle on their hands, even against a poor Bluebirds side. 1-0 Manchester City

Alf

Lyon may have defeated the Citizens at home but I’ll be more surprised if they can’t get the away points from Cardiff. 3-0 Manchester City

Liverpool vs Southampton

Dan

As a United fan, seeing Liverpool at the moment is nothing short of torture. But, I want to win this competition, so I’ll go with my head rather than my heart. 2-0 Liverpool

Blake

These are the predictions I hate giving out. Liverpool have been stellar so far whilst Southampton have been questionable and I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t predicted this scoreline high enough. 4-0 Liverpool

Alf

Ings’ presence in the Saints squad may upset LFC fans, but it won’t change the fact that the home side will get the win. 2-1 Liverpool

Burnley vs Bournemouth

Dan

Last week, I predicted West Ham to finally gel against one of the more solid sides in the competition, and they did. Let’s see if lightning strikes twice, as I’ll predict the same for Burnley. 1-0 Burnley

Blake

The Cherries have been overshadowed by Watford so far this season, but they’ve been pretty great as well. Burnley are in last place and should stay there after this week’s matches. 3-1 Bournemouth

Alf

With error-prone Hart in goal, I’ll expect them to concede goals without Heaton and Pope in the squad. 3-1 Bournemouth

Brighton vs Tottenham

Dan

After three straight defeats, Pochettino will be desperate for his side to turn things around against the Seagulls. But, much like what happened to United earlier this year, I think Brighton will pull off a shock. 2-1 Brighton

Blake

Two sides who have the potential to be good – or not – and we never really know until they start playing. I can see Spurs scoring a couple but I can’t see them keeping the Seagulls out of this. Spurs, being Spurs, will take a point and a point only. 2-2 draw.

Alf

Spurs may have lost to a strong Inter Milan XI at San Siro, but against Brighton, I believe that they’ll prevail. 3-1 Tottenham

West Ham vs Chelsea

Dan

West Ham may have finally got off the mark with the win against Everton last week, but Chelsea is a far more formidable team (sorry Blake). Another win for Sarri ball is coming. 4-2 Chelsea

Blake

This will be a rout. Yes, the Hammers won last week, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to forget about the disaster that’s been the rest of the season. Chelsea are the worst possible team for them to play now, and they should score a few. 5-0 Chelsea

Alf

With Wilshere’s absence (hurts me as an Arsenal fan), the Hammers will have a hard time facing the Blues frontline. 2-1 Chelsea

Arsenal vs Everton

Dan

Alf and Blake’s favoured teams duel in this game, and while I’m not yet fully convinced by either side, I’ll go with the team that didn’t lose to West Ham last week. 3-1 Arsenal

Blake

Oh, Everton, the side that wouldn’t know consistency if it hit them in the face. Arsenal just beat Newcastle away but it’s Newcastle so I wouldn’t say it means a whole lot. Everton haven’t played midweek, Arsenal have, and that’s what draws them level. 2-2 draw.

Alf

The Gunners will concede, but based on the previous results, there’s a high chance that they’ll get the deserved victory. 3-2 Arsenal

Image credit:

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/fulham-burnley-jean-michael-seri-goal-aleksandar-mitrovic-goals-report-a8509071.html

http://www.insidewalessport.co.uk/category/football/cardiff-city/

An XI of French-born footballers playing for other countries

An XI of French-born footballers playing for other countries

In the wake of the 2018 World Cup, many people were speculating on the origins and background of the French team. It’s hard to blame them – after all, the side doesn’t exactly look like twenty-three randomly selected French lads. The point made by many was that France’s victory was a victory for Africa too, since they contributed so much to the team. This, of course, was controversial and led to people from all walks of life weighing in with their opinion.

Instead of talking about that, however, I think there’s an important point to be made in the reverse. As opposed to looking at perceived foreigners in the French set-up, we’re going to look at French-born players with other international sides. It’s a better side than you might expect so let’s jump straight in.

In goal, we’ve got Anthony Lopes of Portugal.

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Anthony Lopes is in between the sticks for our side. The Portuguese shot-stopper was born near Lyon and came through Les Gones’ academy before making his debut for the club in 2012. Still at Olympique after six years in the first team and eighteen at the club, Lopes was Rui Patricio’s backup for the 2016 European Championships which Portugal won.

Our fullbacks are Raphaël Guerreiro and Faouzi Ghoulam.

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Guerreiro is one of world football’s underappreciated talents. Born in northern Paris, Guerreiro is half-Portuguese and used this to his advantage, becoming an important player in Portugal’s Euro win in 2016 and being nominated for Young Player of the Tournament. He’s also had a successful club career with Stade Malherbe Caen, Lorient and Borussia Dortmund and was in the Champions League Breakthrough XI in 2016.

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Faouzi Ghoulam, meanwhile, plays his international football for Algeria. The left-back has 35 caps for his country at the age of 27, and went to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. In terms of his club career, Ghoulam has been at Napoli since his move from boyhood club Saint-Etienne four years ago and has been solid at the back there, being linked with just about every English club at some point.

In the middle of defence, we’ve got Kalidou Koulibaly and Medhi Benatia.

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Ghoulam’s Napoli teammate Kalidou Koulibaly is also French-born, hailing from the north-east. He spent his formative years at Metz before a 2012 move to Genk in Belgium and a switch to Napoli two years later. Koulibaly went to Russia for this year’s World Cup and has twenty-eight caps for Senegal in four years. Oh, and Chelsea may or may not be interested in him.

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Medhi Benatia is the most experienced player on our team so far with time at two of Europe’s biggest clubs and four consecutive league titles under his belt. Hailing from Courcouronnes in southern Paris, Benatia joined the academies of Guingamp and then Marseille before graduating into the first team. Time at Clermont, Udinese and Roma followed, before moves to Bayern Munich and then Juventus. Internationally, Benatia has fifty-five games for Morocco.

Running the show in the middle of midfield, it’s Adrien Silva and Geoffrey Kondogbia.

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The final member of our Portuguese delegation, Silva is in the same boat as Guerreiro – although unlike Guerreiro, Silva’s famly returned to Portugal when he was eleven and therefore he went through Sporting’s academy. Silva was loyal to the Verde e Brancos for fifteen years total, before his move to England and Leicester City. He also played a role in Portugal’s Euro triumph and went to the World Cup in 2018.

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OK, so Kondogbia has played for France before, but he’s switched his international allegiance away so he’s all good for this list. Kondogbia is from Nemours, forty kilometres south of Paris, and played for Lens in his youth. Moves to Sevilla, Monaco, Internazionale and then Valencia followed. Kondogbia has also played five friendlies for France, but has changed his allegiance to the Central African Republic (a republic in the central bit of Africa).

Out wide, there are Riyad Mahrez and Yacine Brahimi.

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It’s easy to forget that Riyad Mahrez is just twenty-seven years of age, what with the frankly ridiculous career he’s had. He never joined an elite academy, instead playing for Quimper in the fourth tier before moving to Le Havre, and then Leicester City where he won the league title and the Premier League Fans’ and Players’ Player of the Year awards. Earlier this year he transferred to Manchester City. Internationally, Mahrez has represented Algeria at the 2014 World Cup and has almost forty caps. Oh, and he came seventh in the Ballon d’Or 2016.

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Porto winger Yacine Brahimi is our other French Algerian. Originally from Paris, Brahimi joined the PSG academy in 2004 before moving to Stade Rennais, making his debut in 2009. Transfers to Granada and then Portuguese giants Porto followed, and he’s been linked with English teams including Liverpool and Everton. He also has thirty-nine caps for his country and represented them at the 2014 World Cup.

And our attacking partnership are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gonzalo Higuain.

Image result for pierre emerick aubameyang gabon

Aubameyang is Gabon’s captain but was born and raised in France, and lived there until his 2007 move to Milan’s academy. The striker stayed at the Italian club until 2011 when he moved back to France with Saint-Etienne, and in 2013 he joined German side Borussia Dortmund, winning the Bundesliga top scorer award in 2017. In 2018, Arsenal signed Aubameyang for £56m. Internationally, he’s only the top scorer of all time for his country of Gabon.

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Yep, you read that right. Higuain was born in France as his father was playing for a French team, Stade Brestois 29, at the time of his birth. It didn’t take long for him to leave – he spent his first birthday in Argentina – and to this day he’s never played for a French club, being the only player on this list (apart from Silva) not to have done so. Internationally Higuain’s not done badly – three international silver medals is pretty neat – but you have to think he would have taken a World Cup with France if he had the opportunity.

And there you have it, folks. Yes, I know about Toko Ekambi, or Ayew, or Harit, Bolasie, Bentaleb, whoever. This wasn’t an easy list to make.

Images: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ff/35/f9/ff35f9139a1bd408dbb1a1a4384b8c8f.jpghttps://images.performgroup.com/di/library/omnisport/65/2a/raphael-guerreiro-cropped_sadu505de4pd1mdlndofl947y.jpg?t=739525917&quality=90&w=1280https://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/cc/8c/faouzi-ghoulam-napoli-2017_gj5wx209dmyd1eqxwjp7qo58f.jpg?t=650110520&quality=100https://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/16/a3/kalidou-koulibaly-napoli_1acj84171g6z51mvgp0icf0o7j.jpg?t=-1708635135https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Moroccan-footballer-Mehdi-Benatia.jpghttps://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/26/be/adrien-silva-leicester_vzgrt5wqqim21pfw8wzhsp6v2.jpg?t=967334994&quality=100http://www.squawka.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/GettyImages-689471078.jpghttps://premierleague-static-files.s3.amazonaws.com/premierleague/photo/2018/07/13/c3294e0c-20b3-4239-9af8-c63380ea47fb/TF_18188.jpghttps://e2.365dm.com/18/08/768×432/skysports-yacine-brahimi-porto_4381191.jpg?20180805110346https://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/67/590x/Aubameyang-934607.jpghttps://images2.minutemediacdn.com/image/upload/c_scale,w_912,h_516,c_fill,g_auto/shape/cover/sport/fbl-friendly-esp-ita-real-madrid-milan-5b7159dbc445672401000001.jpg

The Europa league is no longer a reward

The Europa league is no longer a reward

In the 2015-16 premier league season, West Ham finished seventh in the premier league and thus was granted entrance into the qualifying rounds of the Europa League.

There were high hopes for the Hammers, as with players such as Dimitri Payet and a solid manager in Salven Billic, people thought West Ham might be able to make this a regular occurrence and try to challenge the league’s elite.

The following season, West Ham would win just one of their first six games and only three out of their first ten.

While they did end up finishing eleventh, it was a far fling for their high hopes.

In 2016-17, it was Everton. They finished seventh. While they would go on to finish eighth in 2017-18 it was only under the stewardship of Sam Allardyce after Ronald Koeman got the sack, that got them there after just two wins in their opening then matches.

This year it’s Burnley. Five games in and all they have to show for it is a singular point as they lie bottom of the league.

Why is this? Why does the seventh-placed team struggle so much?

The Europa league has four qualifying rounds before the actual group stage. This means that given that the seventh-placed team goes into the third qualifying round, to get to the Europa League has to play four extra games.

So while every other team in the prem has played five games so far, Burnley have played nine.

The physical toll it takes really takes the steam out of Burnley.

The physical health of players in football must be a priority.

And the way I see it, the Europa League’s qualification system is not helping. So, I think the qualification rounds should become a thing of the past.

Premier League: Our round five predictions

Premier League: Our round five predictions

After the boredom that is the international break, the official FootyFans tipping competition is back!

Last round saw me do absolute shit, getting just a singular point out of a possible 20. Blake retains his lead on 21 points, Zac is on 17, and I’m on 11. However, Zac going on holiday to Europe like the lucky bastard he is, Alf will be taking over Zac’s tips for the foreseeable future.

On with the tipping!

Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool

Dan

No Ali, No Lloris, and Liverpool are very strong against the top six. This looks like a Liverpool win, although the Spurs won’t make it easy. 2-1 Liverpool.

Blake

Spurs are missing both Dele and Lloris for this clash against Liverpool and I expect they’ll go down to a superior Reds side in the final match at Wembley. 2-1 Liverpool

Alf

Last time when Tottenham faced Liverpool at Wembley, the home side prevailed 4-1. However, with a much-improved squad than last year (Alisson is much better than Karius, despite the blunder against Leicester), I believe that LFC will do everything in their power to grab the three points from home. 2-1 Liverpool

Manchester City vs Fulham

Dan

Fulham is good. But they are in no way shape or form good enough to get anything away against Manchester City. 3-2 Manchester City

Blake

he Cottagers are a side on the up after getting a draw against Brighton in their last week, but City is just too good for them at the City of Manchester Stadium. 2-1 Manchester City

Alf

Provided the previous fixtures of the Cottagers, I believe that Fulham will have a hard time in containing attackers like Agüero, Sané and Mahrez. While it’s almost certain that City will win the game, bear in mind that Fulham just needs one goal to upset the Etihad crowd. 3-1 Manchester City

Bournemouth vs Leicester City

Dan

Bournemouth has had a great start to the season, and with the home advantage against an inconsistent Leicester, they’ll be able to get the three points. 2-1 Bournemouth

Blake

Bournemouth has been pretty great so far this season, to say the least. Sixth place is theirs at the moment and against a somewhat hit-and-miss Leicester City, they’ll take a win. 2-0 Bournemouth

Alf

The points would be equally shared. I guess. 1-1 draw

Newcastle United vs Arsenal

Dan

The Toon played well against Chelsea to no avail and played well against Manchester City to no avail, but against Arsenal, they will finally avail. 2-1 Newcastle

Blake

Where’s it all gone wrong for the Toon? Consistency’s not exactly their strong point and they sit down in eighteenth with a point only. Even against a somewhat dull Arsenal, and at home, they’ll lose. 2-0 Arsenal

Alf

It’s hard to predict fixtures like this but I’m in favour of an Arsenal win. 2-1 Arsenal

Huddersfield Town vs Crystal Palace

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Dan

The must miss encounter of the round, I can maybe see Huddersfield just snatch the win. 1-0 Huddersfield

Blake

If you ever feel down, just remember that thousands of people genuinely bought tickets for this match. I feel bad for those people. Ouch. 0-0 draw
Alf
Another equal contest. 0-0 draw.
Chelsea vs Cardiff City
Dan
Maruzio Sarri’s Chelsea against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff. Boy, this is hard to predict. 4-0 Chelsea
Blake
After the match against Arsenal, I can see why the Bluebirds would have their hopes raised. Will they get a goal at Stamford Bridge? Yeah, they will. Will they get utterly smoked? Yeah, they probably will too. 4-1 Chelsea
Alf
They did score against Arsenal but they may have difficulty in defeating Kepa Arrizabalaga. 5-0 Chelsea
Watford vs Manchester United
Dan

I feel bad for predicting that Watford would go down at the start of the season, considering their exemplary start. Against an inconsistent United who had their momentum sucked out of them thanks to the international break, Watford will keep their 100% record. 1-0 Watford

Blake
Yeah, it’s a little optimistic – who would have had Watford going undefeated from their first five? Manchester United are trying to get their act together, and the international break would provide them with some relief, but the Hornets will ultimately come out with a point. 1-1 draw
Alf
United will stage a comeback. This is what my intuition told me. 3-2 United
Wolves vs Burnley
Dan
Poor Burnley. The Europa league has seen their chances of early form collapse. The Wolves, however, will take advantage and pile on the misery. 3-1 Wolves.
Blake
This is the week it starts to click for the Midlands club, who’ve been a little dull so far. Burnley have been awful, and they’re playing away. No reason to think Wolves won’t win big here. 3-0 Wolves
Alf
The Wolves were spectacular against City and I believe that they’ll overcome the Clarets, who are currently the strugglers in the PL 2-1 Wolves
Everton vs West Ham
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Dan
I am so, so, sick of West Hams failure to gel. So sick, in fact, that I am going to tip West Ham to win every game until they actually win one. 3-2 West Ham
Blake
Dan, Zac, Alfred and I could probably beat West Ham at the moment, they’ve just not looked like they’ve got anything. Everton’s home advantage will help them to a sizable win. 4-0 Everton
Alf
The Hammers will be desperate to get their first points but the Blues won’t make it easy. 2-2 draw.
Southampton vs Brighton
Dan
When there are two sides that are hard to separate, I generally favour the home side. I’ll do the same for this encounter. 1-0 Southampton
Blake
These two sides are barely separable at the moment. This will almost definitely be the evenest
match of all of them, and it’s hard to say one has a clear-cut advantage over the other. 1-1 draw
Alf
They’ve metat the EFL Cup and Southampton ran out as victorious winners. I believe that they’ll do again this time. 2-1 Southampton
 Picture credit: https://www.premierleague.com/clubs/159/Huddersfield-Town/overviewhttps://readeverton.com/2018/09/14/digne-explains-why-he-left-barcelona-to-join-everton/
https://talksport.com/football/421599/tottenham-hotspur-vs-liverpool-spurs-predicted-line-up-for-the-premier-league-match-lloris-alli/