Previewing the UEFA Champions League Round of 16

On Monday, fans in Paris and Madrid lost their minds. While Manchester City gets Basel and Bayern gets Besiktas, PSG will face Real Madrid in the Round of 16. After the Whistle previews and predicts the chaos.

Basel vs. Manchester City

Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and Manchester City are 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and get a favor from UEFA. This won’t be close.

Pick: Manchester City

Bayern vs. Besiktas

This is the point where I make an argument for Besiktas.

This is the point where I acknowledge Bayern is going to win by 90 goals.

Pick: Bayern

Roma vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

The Ukrainians were so good in the group stage that Shakhtar eliminated Napoli and pushed Man City for the top spot. Meanwhile, Roma sits at fourth in the Serie A, and doesn’t have Mo Salah to carry the team when Edin Dzeko can’t score. I’ll take the upset here.

Pick: Shakhtar Donetsk

Juventus vs. Tottenham

The Spurs were flying through the first five games. Tottenham then made the mistake of playing red-hot Arsenal in the Premier League, and haven’t beaten a team since, except for Stoke. Juve has surged up the Serie A standings, and run into an Inter Milan roadblock. The team from Torino possesses a little more firepower, and should put up a few goals on a stuttering Totteringham defense.

Pick: Juventus

Porto vs. Liverpool

Vincent Aboubakar will be a handful for Liverpool’s vertically challenged defenders, but Porto isn’t the power they once were. Mohamed Salah’s incredible run of form should continue as the Reds advance to the quarters.

Pick: Liverpool

Sevilla vs. Manchester United

While their weekend performance at Real Madrid didn’t show it, Sevilla is a dangerous side to come up against. Romelu Lukaku’s struggles against high-quality opposition pose problems for MUFC, but Mkhitaryan, Martial, and the on-fire Marcus Rashford will propel Manchester United to a most-needed victory. Too many M’s?

Pick: Manchester United

Chelsea vs. Barcelona

The Blues haven’t been terrific, dropping to third in the loaded Premier League. Arsenal and Liverpool are nipping at Chelsea’s heels, and Antonio Conte might choose to focus on England. Barcelona have no such qualms, as Lionel Messi and Co. are on top of La Liga. This won’t be close even if Chelsea fields their starting XI.

Pick: Barcelona

Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Neymar and Dani Alves face a familiar foe in Spanish giant Real Madrid. Kylian Mbappe’s transformation into superstardom has continued, and the Parisians won’t struggle to light up the score sheet. Defending will be the concern.

Real Madrid has slipped this season, slotting in at fourth in La Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. have focused more on the Champions League, and draw the best team in Europe for their troubles. Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos will have to anchor a surprisingly ineffective defense, while Ronaldo, Marco Asensio, and the attack will have no problem scoring. This should be an amazing two games.

Pick: Paris Saint-Germain 🤑

 

Far too early semifinals prediction: PSG, Bayern, Barcelona, Manchester City

Far too early finals prediction: Paris Saint-Germain over Bayern Munich

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How Paul Pogba ruined the transfer market

In 2013 a young Brazilian named Neymar Jr. was sold to Barcelona for £53 million. For many years people judged transfer fees off of Neymar. For example, Mesut Ozil. He’s an amazing player, but not quite as good as Neymar so he went for £50 million. That’s how it worked. That is how soccer functioned. Until Manchester United and Paul Pogba had to go ruin everything for everyone. Don’t get me wrong. Pogba is world class. Is he better than Ozil and Neymar? Is he worth the £89 million? Only about half of the money was for his current ability. The rest was for what he could become. Now clubs have to pay based on a player’s potential. The big bullies like PSG will thrive. (€140 million for Kylian Mbappe; what the heck?) Sure Mbappe has insane potential and is already world class. But the guy only has had one good season. Again, big clubs with a cash influx will dominate.

The one thing smaller clubs always had is buying players with potential on the cheap. No more. Now they have to scrounge around in Nowheresville, Pennsylvania to find the next Christian Pulisic.

So what’s next? Paul Pogba killed world soccer. One of the most enjoyable things in life was watching a small team loaded with young talents take on PSG or Bayern Munich. Now there is no hope for a team with anything less than £100 million in the bank.

Although with everything I said, Lukaku for £79 million is outrageous. Pogba completely flipped the transfer market on its head. The best striker in the Premier League goes for less than a top 10 midfielder in the Serie A. Only a few Italian teams would even have a remote chance in the PL. So take a minute to think about how Paul Pogba and Manchester United ruined not only the Prem but all of world soccer. I mean, John Stones went for £47.5 million! if you think that is even close to what he is worth, you are simply stupid!

Premier League Gameweek 3 Roundup

Harry Kane still has NEVER scored an August goal. SLUMP ALERT!

It’s the summit of world soccer. Third time’s the charm. What could go wrong? Well. . .

 

Manchester City 2-1 Bournemouth

Oh, this crazy league. Left back Charlie Daniels produced a goal of the season contender in the 13th minute to put the massive underdogs ahead. Gabriel Jesus’s tap-in eight minutes later equalized. This game was destined to be a draw, we all said. Then referee Mike Dean gave ten (!!!) minutes of stoppage time! Raheem Sterling played hero in the seventh minute of these, and was then given a second yellow card and sent off—for running into the crowd in celebration. Cheers, Mike Dean.

Swansea 2-0 Crystal Palace

Loan signing Tammy Abraham volleyed home a spectacular ball from Leroy Fer to open the scoring just before halftime. From there it was all Swansea, and Jordan Ayew’s goal emphasized it.

Huddersfield 0-0 Southampton

Skip.

Brighton 0-0 Watford

Skip.

Newcastle 3-0 West Ham

This was a special performance from the recently-promoted Newcastle. Matt Ritchie ran the show, picking up a nice assist to pad his stats. Christian Atsu, Alexander Mitrovic, and Joselu all scored, delivering Slaven Bilic one more conundrum to deal with.

Manchester United 2-0 Leicester City

Ah, yes. Romelu Lukaku missed a penalty, making his FPL owners (like me) furious. Henrikh Mkhitaryan also racked up his fifth assist in three games en route to a dominant win for the Red Devils.

Chelsea 2-0 Everton

Alvaro Morata is enjoying playing in London, isn’t he? The striker racked up another goal and another assist, carrying the Blues to three points. The scoreline may flatter them a bit though. Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gueye were both inches away from changing the landscape of this game.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal

Can we just move on?

West Brom 1-1 Stoke

Two boring, park-the-bus sides went up against each other. Both scored crummy goals and parked the bus thereafter. What’s left?

Oh, right. The Baggies signed Kieran Gibbs.

Fun.

Tottenham 1-1 Burnley

Yes, Clarets! New signing Chris Wood buried a pinpoint pass from Robbie Brady to prolong the “Wembley curse” of Tottenham. Harry Kane still hasn’t scored in any August, ever.

 

That will do it for this week! If you would enjoy me berating Arsene Wenger’s infinite  failings, please leave a like! Transfer deadline day is tomorrow, and Arsenal probably won’t sign anybody. What a time to be a Gunners fan, am I right?

Premier League Gameweek 1 Roundup

Photo courtesy of premierleague.com

 

 

It’s been a long three months, but the Premier League is back with a bang. An entertaining Gameweek 1 featured only one goalless draw, and had its share of surprises.

 

Arsenal 4-3 Leicester

Coming into the first game of the week, Arsenal were missing all of their starting center backs. The result? Sead Kolasinac moved over from wing back, Nacho Monreal was stuck in the center, and poor Rob Holding was the only actual center back playing at center back. For Leicester, Shinji Okazaki surprisingly started alongside Jaime Vardy instead of new signing Kelechi Iheanacho.

As an Arsenal fan, this game was just pure stress. For the neutrals it must have been fantastic. Record signing Alexandre Lacazette put the hosts in front after just two minutes with a sublime header, only to see Leicester pull ahead through Okazaki and Vardy. Right before the break, Sead Kolasinac kind of/sort of/shouldn’t have found Danny Welbeck for the equalizing goal.

In the 56th minute, Jaime Vardy found the back of the net to put Leicester back in front, 3-2. Arsene Wenger immediately decided to throw on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. They both scored, Arsenal won, and you all probably watched it anyways.

Watford 3-3 Leicester

Many things are constant in the red half of Liverpool. The first is signing Southampton players. The second? They are really, really bad defenders. Goals from Stefano Okaka, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and a dramatic last-minute equalizer from Miguel Britos offset strikes from Liverpool.

Burnley 3-2 Chelsea

No, that’s not a typo. Sam Vokes (twice) and Stephen Ward propelled Burnley to a shocking 3-0 lead over the defending champions at Stamford Bridge. Alvaro Morata and David Luiz managed consolations for the box score, but one question lingers.

What is going on with the Blues?

Crystal Palace 0-3 Huddersfield

Look at the Terriers! Picked to finish last by the whole world, Steve Mounie’s brace thrusted them to the top of the early table. An abysmal showing by Frank de Boer’s side, especially in defense, certainly opened the door. Mounie ran through it.

Everton 1-0 Stoke

There’s not much to say, is there? Wayne Rooney’s header was the only time Everton weren’t just playing it around the back like they didn’t care, and Stoke obliged them.

Southampton 0-0 Swansea

The Saints had 29 shots. Twenty nine! Only two were on target.

Just. . . just move on.

West Brom 1-0 Bournemouth

Tony Pulis grabbed the most Tony Pulis of victories. A header from Ahmed Hegazi put the hosts in front and West Brom promptly spent the rest of the game trying to send long balls to Jay Rodriguez.

Manchester City 2-0 Brighton

Kevin de Bruyne —> David Silva —> Sergio Aguero goal.

de Bruyne—> Silva—> Lewis Dunk own goal

A typical win at the Etihad. Or in Brighton. Either way, it was BORING.

Tottenham 2-0 Newcastle

Dele Alli and Ben Davies scored in the second half to deliver an away win for the Spurs. Newcastle were content to defend, getting booked left and right. It didn’t work.

Manchester United 4-0 West Ham

West Ham were very poor defensively, and Romelu Lukaku took advantage, scoring two . Nemanja Matic seems to have unlocked Paul Pogba’s center midfield potential, as they dominated the Hammers. Hammered them, in fact.

 

That’s all for today! Next week I will round up Gameweek 2, and the article will likely be out on Tuesday. Until then, don’t destroy your FPL teams 😀😎🙄

Premier League Predictions III: The Top Four

Today I predict the top four of the Premier League. If you missed the first two parts of my EPL predictions, please go back and read them.

Arsenal. Liverpool. Chelsea. Manchester City. Those four teams will make up the top four, starting in the fourth spot with. . .

Liverpool. The Reds bolstered their attacking lineup with the €42 million capture of Mohamed Salah from Roma. The problem is, as Arsenal fans like me painfully learned with Mesut Ozil, attacking players tend to get pushed around for about half a season before they become accustomed to the Premier League’s version of the world’s game. Playing Philippe Coutinho in the center of midfield won’t help their playmaking either.

What is left to be said about last year for Arsenal? Their record 19 year streak of finishing top four was broken and the Gunners will compete in the Europa League this year. Fans changed their tune when Arsene Wenger signed some striker (!) named Alexandre Lacazette. This Lacazette guy is actually very good. Mesut Ozil is going to break every assist record imaginable this—oh wait, he did that two years ago.

Mesut Ozil is going to break all of his assist records this year if Alexis Sanchez stays. Arsenal could finish even higher if not for second-placed Chelsea. When John Terry is your worst departure, you’ve had a pretty solid transfer window. When Alvaro Morata and Tiemoué Bakayoko come in to South London?  Unheard of. Look at what happened to the last five champions of the Premier League. They got off to abysmal starts the year after. Add the fact that Eden Hazard will miss the first month of the season. Chelsea should be on fire late a lá Arsenal 2015, but it won’t be enough to top. . .

Champions Manchester City. Has Josep “Pep” Guardiola finally assembled the team he has wanted at the Etihad? New signings Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker will start on either side of the defense. Danilo won’t even start. Bernardo Silva and Ederson Moraes have been signed to start at right mid and goalkeeper respectively. Considering that Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva are the other attacking midfielders, this side will score goals. Lots of them. In defense, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany form a formidable center-back partnership. If they’re healthy.

 

Did you agree with my predictions? Perhaps you thought something different. Let me know in the comments!

Premier League Predictions I: The Bottom Half!

Welcome back to After the Whistle! Today I bring you the first part of my English Premier League predictions: the bottom half of the table.

There has to be a team that finishes bottom of the table. In my opinion it has to be Huddersfield. Aaron Mooy and Tom Ince carried this team last year. Aaron Mooy and Tom Ince. They have made no notable signings and lost Elias Kachunga to Ingolstadt. Because he was in loan. This could be the weakest Premier League team in five years.

Top to bottom, the Premier League (bar Huddersfield) is so close, it’s unreal. In 19th place is Watford. In a normal season I would call them safe. New coach Marco Silva has a terrific record in home games, but recent history has taught us teams have to pick up points on the road. Watford have been abysmal away from Vicarage Road, and that will prevent them surviving relegation.

Stoke City‘s stars are jumping ship faster than Newcastle loaned players to Marseille last year. Marko Arnautovic has gone to West Ham. Bruno Martins Indi has gone back to Porto despite Stoke attempting to trigger his loan-to-buy option. Xherdan Shaqiri is the subject of a rumor mill and could be gone in the next month. This team will not survive relegation.

17th place and a shocker indeed. Swansea City have almost no cover for the playmaking of Gylfi Sigurdsson, who appears to be leaving the club. I don’t care how good their defense is—it isn’t that great anyway—if you can’t score goals, you can’t win. The Swans only survive because. . . well, Stoke.

In 16th is Burnley. Sean Dyche has found a nice formation in the 4-4-2 with Sam Vokes recently dropping into a no. 10 role. The likes of Steven Defour in midfield and Tom Heaton in goal make this side easily safe from relegation. If Michael Keane doesn’t—oh wait.

In 15th is Brighton. It’s really a shame that they haven’t been very active in the transfer market, as I think they could surprise people. They have some solid Premier League quality players in David Sto—

——CUT!!——

They have some solid Premier League players in Anthony Knockaert and new arrival Pascal Groß. This side will not struggle to create chances. Will they finish them? How will the defense do? These are questions that the Seagulls must answer if they wish to establish themselves in the summit of the world’s game.

What to do with West Brom? They finished tenth last season and were very strong at the back, but often lacked ideas in the attacking third. I put them at 14th as teams like Leicester, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle should pass them. Not a bad squad though.

(Un)lucky number 13 for Leicester City. They could sink even lower if Riyad Mahrez leaves. Jamie Vardy doesn’t look like his 2015/16 self, but the Foxes know how to win games. Where’s the Tinkerman when you need him?

Josh King was electric last year for Bournemouth. Scorer of 16 last year on only 1.9 shots per game, he was absolutely clinical in front of goal. He scored 9 goals in his previous three seasons. He has one season wonder written all over him. Bournemouth will not finish top half again unless King carries them like he did last year, and that is not going to happen. Twelfth it is.

What happened to Crystal Palace last year? They were stuck in bottom table form until Wilfried Zaha started playing at a world-class level. The entire team woke up and they cruised to. . . 14th. If Zaha can replicate that form and the team decides to play around him, they could be a top half side. It’s just hard to see them finishing any higher than 11th without some consistency.

 

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James Rodriguez finally leaves Real Madrid!

Colombian star James Rodriguez has finally completed a move away from Real Madrid, after being linked to Inter, Arsenal, PSG, Manchester United, and others. But he hasn’t gone to any of the aforementioned teams.

Speculation had grown over James’ future after Real manager Zinedine Zidane repeatedly left him on the bench, choosing to play Casemiro in a defensive 4-3-3. The Spanish giants initially demanded close to £75 million for him, which ruled out most clubs as potential destinations for Rodriguez.

Yesterday it was announced that James (Haw-mace) has moved to Bayern Munich! Real Madrid put the correct price tag on the world class CAM. However, sources report that the German club has decided to loan him for two years, with an option to buy. This is the staggering bit: the fee. Bayern will pay £5 million each year of his loan, and then have an option to buy him permanently for only £30 million! Incentives could see the total fee rise to £45.2 million, well below Madrid’s asking price.

This is a ridiculous deal for the Bavarians. Remember when 22 year old James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, scoring in every game? Remember how he took control of the round of 16 clash against Uruguay? (And that ridiculous volley!)

At age 25, the Colombian wizard hasn’t even hit his prime, but has notched 46 goals, 45 assists, and 27 Man of the Match awards in just over 10,000 minutes of game time. The list of active players to go 45/45/25 in 10,000: James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. That’s it.

 

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