Thoughts of a Lunatic: Elder Pele, Penalty War and other Talking Points

Happy New Year to all lunatics and everyone else. This is the first Thoughts of a Lunatic for the year, it should be much more civil or maybe.

COVID-19 is threatening to truncate football calendars once again, football is battling hard to stay alive. We should not be having pandemic champions and or tainted achievements back-to-back. In the wake of Leeds United vs Pundit – Karen Carney, another induced break will take something away from achievements. For those that don’t know about Carney vs Leeds gist, you have to read it up somewhere, I don’t tell stories here but I will judge by saying Leeds were completely classless. Away from that I have some other matters to talk about.

Elder Pele

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, also known as Pele is a name that will forever remain indelible in the history of football. Pele is unarguably one of the greatest to ever play the game. But as expected, the throne of the greatest ever has not been surrendered to him. He was in a kind of battle for the GOAT with Diego Maradona till Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo came and started disgracing all known numbers.

Pele is in a battle to keep his records

Pele’s recorded official goals were so much that one thought it will take some robots to break it. There were even arguments that he scored more than the recorded numbers.

Just recently Messi broke his record for goals scored for one club. Santos, the club Pele achieved the feat with, came out to say Pele scored more than they recorded. Recently, Ronaldo also overtook Pele on the number of official goals, Pele’s social media bio was edited to say ‘leading goalscorer of all-time’ with over 1,000 goals.

As it stands, no one is allowed to surpass Elder Pele, his numbers will be adjusted as appropriate when needed. All the goals he scored when playing ‘monkey post’ in Brazil has to be included. Make Baba rest jare. At least his World Cup record is safe.

Kicking the flag

There is an idiom known as ‘kicking the bucket’. Another idiom has just been invented – kicking the flag.

So, let me tell you the meaning of kicking the flag, how it should be used and its origin.

You can your breath after kicking the flag

When a striker is bought for big money and he fails to score goals, he can be said to have kicked the flag. E.g Timo Werner is kicking the flag at Chelsea. The idiom is in honor of Werner who has had more embarrassing misses than goals at Chelsea. Werner has missed when it was easier to score than to miss.

It is however surprising that Lampard prefers a misfiring Werner upfront to an Olivier Giroud. The last time Werner scored was in the first week of November. It appears Chelsea have a German Alvaro Morata on their hands. Even Chelsea have kicked the flag.

Penalty War

A penalty war is brewing in the Premier League. Who gets awarded more penalties? So when a team struggles in a match, could hardly muster shots on target, the coach can come out to talk about the number penalties they get compared to other teams.

Kudos to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he has gotten Manchester United into title conversations. Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side lose at Southampton and Klopp’s excuse was to compare Manchester United penalty numbers, really? Agreed some of the penalty calls may be questionable but hey Mr Klopp, that was not why you lost to Southampton.

Penalty shouts coming out loud

For Manchester United fans, they should be happy they have gotten into title conversations but we all know that they are semi-final champions under Solskjaer. Just yesterday, they lost another semi-final match to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup and will now play the third place match against Brentford. We won’t be surprised when they start battling for third again in the Premier League.

That’s all for today, once again welcome to the new year. Follow Goaldball across social media – goaldball on Facebook and Instagram, and @goaldbal on Twitter. Don’t follow the Lunatic anywhere, who follows a Lunatic by the way?

Three Nigerian Youngsters to Watch in 2021

It is another year. Just as lots of people expect breakthroughs in some of their endeavors, so also do the footballers. They will hope 2021 is that year they finally sign mega deals and catch the attention of national team handlers.

We take a look at three Nigerian youngsters that could have breakout years this 2020.

Paul Mukairu (Anderlecth)

Mukairu is already grabbing some headlines under the tutelage of Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany at Belgian Pro League giants Anderlecht.

The 20-year-old striker made an instant impact at Anderlecht after joining on loan from Turkish club Antalyaspor, with a goal on his debut.

Paul is highly spoken of and has been tipped to become a future Super Eagles star.

Mukairu is making waves in Belgium

“Paul is a player with a difference. He is a confident boy and brings a lot to any team he is in. He can play in various positions and formations and likes to help his team. Whatever his coaches ask him to do and wherever they ask him to play, he plays there with all his heart and delivers whatever is asked of him. He is a delight to any coach.’ said Coach Bala Misau, his coach at his Nigerian grassroot club Green Horse Football Club.

Toluwalase Arokodare (Cologne)

The 20-year-old center-forward is currently on loan at Bundesliga club Cologne from Latvian side Valmiera.

It has not really gone to plan at Cologne where he has struggled for playing time with no goal in five appearances. The 6 ft 6 inches tall striker has the ability to change all of that. He scored 22 goals for Valmiera in 32 appearances.

Arokodare was part of the Golden Eaglets class of 2017 that failed to qualify for the African U-17 Nations Cup after they crashed out 3-2 on aggregate to the Baby Menas of Niger Republic and therefore missed their chance to defend their U17 World Cup title in India. He was a student of Segun Odegbami’s International Sports Academy.

Akinwunmi Amoo (Hammarby IF)

The 18-year-old plays as a winger for Swedish club Hammarby IF – a club co-owned by Sweden legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has already scored two goals for Hammarby in seven appearances.

The former Sidos FC of Lagos player is blessed with immense pace, dribbling skills and has a devilish left foot.

Amoo joined Ibrahimovic’s club

The diminutive winger began his international career with Nigeria in the 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations, and scored in his debut in a 5–4 group stage win against Tanzania, where they finished fourth in the tournament. Later the same year, Amoo was part of the Nigerian squad that got knocked out in the round of 16 during the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup but he did enough to catch the attention of foreign scouts.

It is a matter of time before Amoo makes it into the Super Eagles.

Thoughts of a Lunatic: Football’s Tom and Jerry and other talking points

The English Premier League has made sure we still have lots of football to watch during the Yuletide. The Nigeria Professional Football League also joined, and La Liga too. Most of the talking points have been from the Premier League, just as COVID-19 is threatening to disturb the season once again, and turn us to Telemundo viewers.

The Lunatic believes you have had a nice Christmas celebration. Even Mohammed Salah and other Muslim footballers were not left out in enjoying the season. The beauty of football, the game that unites all. I am making too much sense today, to my own surprise, I am probably still in holiday mood. Anyways, I saw plenty recently in the world of football, I will share some.

Second season syndrome getting wild

The record for the worst Premier League return stands at 11 points, set by Derby county in a year I can’t remember. Yes, a team played 38 matches and had just 11 points, they didn’t pull out (that didn’t come out right) halfway as is possible in a certain league. Sheffield United are threatening to break that record, they have just two points from 16 matches and have not won a match. At this rate, they will finish with around five points.

For a team that was wilding last season after just gaining promotion, no one would have thought the second season syndrome will hit them this bad. They were on the verge of qualifying for Europe last season and were one of the most organized teams in the league.

Luckily for them, they play in the Premier League. If they were a team in one Plateau in the Nigerian league, they will have no salaries by now. They would have gone from being placed on half salaries, to quarter salaries to no salaries.

As we start our farewell to Sheffield United, we enjoyed their wilding while it lasted.

Football’s Tom and Jerry

An idea for a football comic will be Tom and Jerry, Ronaldo and Messi edition. I can’t say who will be Tom and who will be Jerry. One of football’s greatest rivalry has created lots of funny plots.

Messi and Ronaldo rivalry remains legendary

While they were the main contenders for the major awards, they didn’t use to vote for each other. Messi will rather vote for Ahmed Musa to win the Balon D’Or than vote for Ronaldo. Ronaldo will rather vote for Paul Onuachu than vote for Messi.

Their cat and mouse game has been interesting recently. Messi voted for Ronaldo as second best to win the Balon D’Or in 2019 while Ronaldo didn’t vote for Messi, he voted for the likes of De Jong and De Ligt but Messi won.

In the votes for the 2020 FIFA The Best, Ronaldo decided to reciprocate Messi’s gesture by voting for him in the awards, this time, Messi didn’t vote for Ronaldo. Even though none of them won.

Just recently, Messi hailed Ronaldo as one of the top athletes in the world, just after not voting for him in an awards. The Tom and Jerry game is looking interesting and we are watching.

Diego Costa

Atletico Madrid have released Diego Costa via an official statement. Diego Simeone did not send a text message to Costa that he is no longer needed. That must have made Costa felt better.

The next destination of the fiery Brazilian-Spaniard will be interesting to see. He has had a very interesting career. His first spell at Atletico Madrid was highly successful and he went on to also do exploits at Chelsea till he ‘broke bottle’ at Stamford Bridge and returned Madrid. Now he has been released by Atletico Madrid, his next destination will be interesting to see.

Diego Costa bids farewell to Atletico Madrid

Thanks for staying with Thoughts of a Lunatic in 2020, this is the last edition of the year. Let’s do it bigger and better in 2021, tell someone to tell someone about Goaldball.

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Arsenal’s Win or Saka’s Goal, Which Was The Fluke?

Arsenal returned to winning ways in the Premier League for the first time since November. In that time they have failed to win against the likes of Burnley, Aston Villa, Southampton, Wolves, including a run of not winning home matches, which included four straight defeats at home. A run that has seen them stuck in the relegation zone, closer to the bottom than to the top. However, they broke that duck when least expected with an impressive win against Chelsea. Have the Gunners turned the tides or have the win against Chelsea was just a flash in the pan?

Kudos to Mikel Arteta for making some big calls or calls he was forced to make. Youngsters Emile Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli started and added more spark to the attack. Would he have started them if Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang was hundred percent fit or if Willian was available? It was glaring it was the call Arteta should have made earlier but he stuck with the misfiring Aubameyang and Willian alongside the likes of Nicholas Pepe and Alex Lacazette. That it took Arteta long to make or be forced to make the bold calls should be a cause for worry.

There have been calls that the sidelined Mesut Ozil should be called back due to an inability of the team to create chances. Their goals and chances created stats are embarrassing and one that should not be associated with Arsenal of London, maybe Arsenal Tula. They scored three against Chelsea and could have scored more but they still struggled to create clear cut chances. This is easy to argue against. For their ‘dominance’ against Chelsea, two of the goals came from set pieces and the third was a speculative shot many have argued was not intentional, even if it was intentional, it won’t be successful nine out of ten times. The young players played with more energy and pressed Chelsea impressively but is it sustainable?

As we have seen in some of their wins and in some of their struggles, they tend to always move the ball out wide due to an inability to break down teams through the center. The first penalty came as a result of coming in from the flanks. While coming in from the flanks may not be bad, most times their final balls are always poor. We saw that against Chelsea, until Chelsea gave them the breakthrough with the penalty. The second goal was also Saka trying to run in from the flank before he was hacked down for the freekick that led to the second. It was a game in which Edouard Mendy in goals for Chelsea made numerous saves. Apart from scoring the penalty, Lacazette barely touched the ball in the opposition’s box as he regularly dropped deep to link up play. It worked against Chelsea but in truth, we have seen it all before and many teams have set up to nullify it. It was not a tactical ingenuity that Arsenal fans can get overly excited about.

Three goals up and seemingly comfortable, Arsenal found a way to be Arsenal still, they allowed Chelsea back into the match. It was almost three- two and an edgy finale had Bernd Leno not pull up a penalty stop. Their next two matches are against fellow relegation strugglers Brighton and Hove Albion and West Brom. If they are able able to get maximum six points in those matches, Arsenal fans can bring out the sticks of the drums, not the drums yet. But very few Arsenal fans are confident going into the matches still. Brighton have become a sort of a boogey team, they did the double against Arsenal last season. Sam Allardyce is in charge at West Brom, he has a good record against Arsenal.

Arsenal should still see this as a crisis period and do good business in January instead of waiting till the summer, since they have decided to stick with Arteta. Like they did in 2011 after an 8-2 defeat against Manchester United, when they went into the transfer market to do emergency business – that brought Arteta to Arsenal, they should do same in January. The team needs lots of quality. The quality of the players can cover up for some of Arteta’s flaws while he continues to learn the ropes. The win against Chelsea might just be a flash in the pan, there is still lots of work to be done.

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Father Christmas In The Premier League

It is Christmas, the season of good cheer and good tidings. Season to give and receive, depending on the side you belong to.

The season is synonymous with Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas. As a folkloric tradition goes, Father Christmas is the bringer of gifts during Christmas. …he knows if you have been good or bad so be good for goodness sake.

If Father Christmas visited the Premier League, what will the various Premier League characters be wanting or deserving?

As far as being good goes, Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool team deserves lots of good gifts for winning the Premier League. When Pep Guardiola took over Manchester City, coupled with the way Manchester City bought every footballer that looked like a star, we thought City will continue to win the league till Guardiola gets tired and leaves for another money bag. Thanks to Klopp for bringing competition to the league. However, Mo Salah will still love to have a captain’s armband from Santa. When the Liverpool captain wears his armband, Salah also wears his. There can be two captains on a ship. Klopp will also like to give gifts to VAR officials, you know, so they can be nicer to him.

For all of Guardiola’s exploits, he has never won the Champions League without Lionel Messi. To seal his reputation at City, he needs the cup with the big ears. Santa should wrap Messi up and send to Pep.

Santa should send red Christmas cards to Arsenal players, since they have developed a love for red cards. They have also become a good donor of three points, they deserve gifts for their benevolence. Arsenal as a club have also been very nice. Which other club pays a player 350,000 pounds per week for doing nothing but run commentary and engage fans on twitter? Which other club also appoints a manager even when he is yet to do his freedom? Arsenal deserve gifts, preferably one that will serve them well in the Championship. Santa should send a baseball cap to Mikel Arteta, and Arsenal have their Spanish Tony Pulis.

On behalf of Nigerians, Santa should give Manchester United bowls of jollof rice. Thanks to them, Odion Ighalo was able to fulfil his childhood dreams of playing for Manchester United. Even if he has become a non-playing staff in the past few months. We even heard he helps to arrange cones during training sessions. All na favour over labour. We heard Ahmed Musa is a Manchester United fan too. Ed Woodward should do the necessary. Musa is presently clubless, else he does an odemwingie and show up at Carrington.

Budweiser, official beer partner of the Premier League should also consider sending beers to Premier League goalkeepers for every goal they concede. Kepa Aribibizagba will drink to stupor.

Big Sam is on a rescue mission to West Brom. He will need a defensive striker like Kevin Davies, they don’t have such at West Brom presently. A player that can throw the ball from the halfway line to the box is also needed. Santa should wrap such players in a box and send to Allardyce.

A time machine for Chris Wilder. Last season, he was wilding. Sheffield United were talked about as European places contenders. This season they are bottom of the league. Just two points from fourteen matches. Defeats are landing on them like punches on Deontay Wilder. All Wilder will need is a time machine that will help him live last season again.

Chelsea may have forgotten to buy Kai Havertz’s manual when they bought him from Bayer Leverkusen. So that the £71m pounds will not waste, Santa should send his manual to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea clamour for rice like they are Nigerians. As rice is expensive in Nigeria, so is rice expensive in London – Declan Rice. Santa should send Rice to Chelsea – whether local or imported.

Ole is always at the wheels. Sometimes, he is fast and steady. Some other times, he is slow and rough. We doubt he has a driver’s license, hence his inconsistency at the wheels. Santa should send a driver’s license to Ole so he can drive Manchester United safely, to Europa League glory.

Merry Christmas to you from Goaldball. Thank you for being on the journey with us. Let us do next year bigger and better.

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Thoughts of a Lunatic: Ole’s Confusion, Chelsea Scammed and Other Talking Points

Merry Christmas to all fellow lunatics – regular readers of Thoughts of a Lunatic, friends of the lunatic, well wishers and witchers.

To football matters, sincerely, I am tired of talking about Arsenal. It seems we are at the point we just wait till the end of the season to see how well they fare in their relegation dogfight. It seems they have appointed a Professor of mathematics as manager. He knows all the stats that proves his team is playing well and should be winning but no one else is seeing those performances and the results. I said I won’t talk Arsenal, to other serious football issues.

Ole’s Confusion

For many Manchester United fans, they don’t know what to make of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Sometimes, the results and performances are extremely bad, as in very bad like traffic gridlocks in Lagos. Some other times, it is very good, like we saw last weekend against Leeds United.

Ole was well at the wheels against Leeds United

You would have thought it was Ole that FIFA nominated for The Best Manager of the Year with the way Manchester United dispersed Leeds United. Manchester United tore through Leeds defence like aboki knife through suya.

Manchester United find themselves in the dizzying heights of third with a game in hand and have put themselves in the position of title challengers. This is after an embarrassing ouster from the Champions League to the Europa League. For now, it is all good but don’t be surprised if the shouts of ‘Ole out’ rent the air again in few weeks, the countdown begins 10, 9, 8…..

Chelsea scammed?

There is nothing like a club going all out to splash the cash on a player they expect will come good, only to end up disappointed. Nicholas Pepe is Arsenal’s record signing, from all evidences, na maga money dem pay, he should be the cheapest or better still free. It seems Chelsea have also paid their’s for Kai Havertz. Havertz is looking like Chelsea’s version of Pepe. Their costliest signing of the summer came for a reported £71m. Safe to say he has been the poorest of Chelsea’s summer signings.

Even though Timo Werner is building a reputation of stopping Chelsea’s goals than scoring them, he has still been in action than Havertz.

It is still his first season and he might be one of those players that don’t settle in fast. The earlier he settles in the better or he settles out.

Allardyce’s rescue mission

Mr Jack Bauer started his rescue mission at West Brom on a losing note and with ten men.

Mr. Relegation fighter

Slaven Bilic got a creditable point away at Manchester City in his last match before he was replaced by Big Sam. Maybe Bilic’s sacking was cruel but the end will justify the means.

Allardyce aka ’67 days England manager’ has the enviable record of never losing a relegation fight but na one day juju dey spoil. It is still early days yet, especially if he is able to get some players in the January transfer window, a defensive striker like Kevin Davis will come in handy. Else the season go long like ASUU strike.

Anyways, that’s all on Thoughts of a Lunatic for today. Keep enjoying the beautiful game and the best of this Yuletide.

Follow Goaldball on Twitter @goaldbal

Boald Codes: Betting Tips for the Weekend

We go again. Everyday for the bookies, one day for the punter. As results continue to get interesting across football leagues, it becomes more necessary to be extra careful when making predictions. It is the period where you likely become more desperate but caution is the word.

Teams ability to produce surprising results is why bookies are in business. The lesser the matches you have on your ticket, the higher your chances of winning. Before maga go maga the maga.

Now that we are done with the preaching, here are our picks for the weekend, selected after careful study of form, stats and antecedents.

BANKERS

Manchester United vs Leeds United used to be a big tie in the Premier League, they have some sort of rivalry. Go for a goals game, like over 2.5 comes at around 1.4. As we have seen recently, Manchester United don’t seem to be able to keep clean sheets, also trust them to score goals and Leeds won’t sit back.

Sam Allardyce takes charge at West Brom. The first thing Big Sam fixes is the defence. Aston Villa are also inconsistent in front of goal. Go for a under 3.5 in West Brom vs Aston Villa. It comes at around 1.4.

The relegation battle expert is back

RB Leipzig have been getting the job done, trust them for a win over struggling Cologne. RB Leipzig are unbeaten in six. It comes at around 1.30.

First vs Second in the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen top the table and are in very good form. They host a Bayern Munich side that will be eager to lay down the marker. Go for goals over 2.5 or GG.

Inter Milan should win against Spezia at the San Siro. Nothing much to say about it. Inter have won their last five, Spezia have not won in five

Atletico Madrid will want to return to winning ways at home against Elche, after losing for the first time this season last week in the Madrid Derby. Go for an Atletico win, it comes at around 1.2.

BANANA PEELS

Tottenham host Leicester. Try to avoid a Tottenham win. Leicester have done well away from home in big matches. Brendan Rodgers will likely give Jose Mourinho a taste of his own medicine. Defend and play on the counter.

Mourinho vs Rodgers will be an interesting battle

Lille vs PSG is also first versus second. Avoid a PSG win. Lille are a very good and difficult side. As we saw last week when Lyon won away at PSG and earlier in the season when Marseille defeated them, PSG are not so invincible against the top sides in Ligue 1. Lille won this tie 5-1 last year.

Barcelona have won two on the bounce in La Liga but can’t be said to have turned the corner. They host Valencia in what is a very tricky tie. Avoid this tie or avoid a Barcelona win.

BOALD CALL

Our Boald call is an interesting one. It comes from Germany. Schalke 04 have not won in 26 matches. Their opponents Arminia Bielefeld have one win in nine. It is a relegation six pointer. If you are bold, go for Schalke to win it. It comes at around 2.3. If Schalke don’t beat Bielefeld at home, who will they win?

Thoughts of a Lunatic: The Best Joke, Arsenal Relegation Materials and Other Talking Points

Christmas on my mind. Not just Christmas, money for some detty December. Lunatic sef need money, no be only you. As everywhere dey red, Christmas red and the other red, Arsenal players are also making it red. Red everywhere, as bet tickets dey red, na so eye dey red.

In the world of football, so many talking points, especially the ones inspired by lunacy.

Arsenal Relegation Materials

When I spoke about new London derbies involving Arsenal, QPR, Brentford and the likes, some people thought I was taking it too far. But it is becoming clearer that Arsenal’s relegation materials are almost complete.

After losing a relegation six-pointer against Burnley at the weekend, they got even closer to the relegation zone. They have a young manager learning the ropes – relegation material. Their football is cross, cross and cross – relegation materials. Lots of substandard players – relegation materials.

Arsenal players are up for the relegation fight

One has to wonder if the players are mistaking the call to attack more for a call to attack their opponents. First, Nicholas Pepe, who can’t nod a ball, nods an opponent. Granit Xhaka, sees that they were playing well, boom, he grabs a neck. Minutes later Mohammed Elneny carries out his own attack. Wahala for Arsenal.

The Best Joke

Cristiano Ronaldo plus Lionel Messi plus anyone else is The Best Joke. No matter what any player does, FIFA must have Messi and Ronaldo on their podium. There is already a default list that includes Ronaldo and Messi, it is only edited to include a third person. At this rate, FIFA will still mistakenly include Messi and Ronaldo after they have retired.

As we have seen, there is a penchant of one of the duo (Ronaldo and Messi) that won’t win the award not turning up for the gala. If it goes as expected this year, none of them should show up. Though it will be held virtually this year, they can also stay away virtually. If Lewandowski don’t win this year, we should forget about FIFA The Best and turn to Davido The Best.

Bielsa is up for The Best manger of the year

When Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa made the list of the Manager of the Year, eyebrows were raised but to make matters worse he is in the final three. Bielsa is a celebrated manager for his knowledge and approach to the game, that is where it ends. When did winning the Championship become a big deal? Ladan Bosso should be making the list too, since we want to joke.

Neymar’s Prophecy

On the matter of the Champions League and Europa league draws, there is a lot to look forward to in February. Some interesting ties, one of which is Barcelona taking on PSG. Neymar spoke about playing together with Messi, little did we know he was prophesying the tie. We know Neymar’s other talent apart from playing football, acting. Little did we know he also has the gift of prophecy.

Nagelsmann suit will be an highlight

After sending Manchester United packing, RB Leipzig and their young manager come up against another English side – Liverpool. One thing to look forward to will be Julian Nagelsmann’s suit.

Champions League Draws: Who Are The Favorites For The Quarter-finals? 2

In continuation of our Champions League Round of 16 quick preview, we bring you the concluding part.

Porto vs Juventus

Porto were impressive in their group, finishing second to Man. City. They won four, drew one and lost just one against City. There’s Nigerian interest with Zaidu Sanusi playing for FC Porto.

Juventus edged Barcelona to top spot in their group but are yet to hit top gear. Cristiano Ronaldo is yet to set the stage on fire but has a knack of getting into the grove in the knockout rounds. In terms of quality, Juventus looks more equipped but Porto are more recent winners of the tournament, following their 2004 triumph.

Players to watch: Jesus Corona (Porto), Felipe Anderson (Porto), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Prediction: This is where we expect our first shocker to come from, Porto to scale through.

Barcelona vs PSG

Another titanic battle in the group. Probably the biggest tie of the round. As stated earlier, Barcelona finished second to Juventus in their group, losing top spot on the last day following their only defeat, at home against the Old Lady. The reward of letting go of top spot is a tie against PSG.

The last time both teams met in the second round of the Champions League, they served us a classic, with Barcelona overturning a 4-0 defeat with a 6-1 win at home. PSG recovered from a defeat against Man. United on the opening day, to finish top of their group.

Barcelona will be looking up to Messi

If he is fit, Neymar will be relishing facing his former team. The Brazilian was pivotal in helping Barcelona turn the tides in 2017, now he is on the other side. Barcelona have not been so convincing this season, with Lionel Messi largely a shadow of his old self. PSG have also not been able to find consistency.

Players to watch: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Neymar Jr (PSG), Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

Prediction: PSG to go through

Sevilla vs Dortmund

Another almost balanced tie. If it were the Europa League, we would have easily gone for a Sevilla win.

The Europa League champions qualified quite easily behind Chelsea. They look like a compact side but have struggled for goals.

Dortmund qualified quite easily in a group that had Lazio but have been largely inconsistent, especially in the Bundesliga. They have severed ties with their coach Lucien Favre, they should be a different team by February with Erling Haaland also expected back.

Players to watch: Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Marco Reus (Dortmund), Erling Haaland (Dortmund)

Prediction: Difficult to call, Dortmund to edge it.

Atalanta vs Real Madrid

This should be a mouth watering tie. Atalanta were impressive as they finished second behind Liverpool, winning all their away matches without conceeding a goal. Gian Gasperini’s men have not been at their attacking best but they seem more pragmatic this term.

Zidane has won the Champions League thrice as a manager

Real Madrid left it late to qualify. They picked just a point from their first two matches and stood the risk of an embarrassing group stage exit. They eventually made it, top of their group. They have not been really impressive but they have the knack of getting the job done when it matters.

Players to watch: Alenjandro Gomes (Atalanta), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Prediction: We expect a shocker from here, Atalanta to go through.

Champions League Draws: Who Are The Favorites For The Quarterfinals? 1

The Champions League round of 16 draws have been made, the teams now know their next opponents in their quest to win the trophy with the big ears. The likes of Manchester United also await their next opponents, in the quest to win the trophy with no ears. The matches will be played next year February and a lot will still happen between now and then. Forms will change, for good or for bad, teams will get depleted and teams will add more quality. Regardless, with what we know of the teams so far, let’s do a quick preview and predict the quarter-finalists.

Moechengladbach vs Man. City

Manchester City wouldn’t have prayed for a better draw. Not that Gladbach are not a good side, but they are not on the same level as City.

Gladbach ruffled feathers in a group that had Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Shaktar Donetsk. Trashing Shakhtar home and away was their highlight.

City has an easy ride to the round 16. They won five and drew just one of their group matches. In time past City have been knocked out by ‘inferior’ opponents, they have also not been convincing in the domestic league this season.

Players to watch: Marcus Thuram (Gladbach), Alassane Plea (Gladbach), Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), Raheem Sterling (Man City)

Prediction: Manchester City to qualify.

Lazio vs Bayern

The draws Lazio must have prayed against, they come up against the defending champions.

It was quite straight forward for Lazio in a group that had Borussia Dortmund, Zenit and Club Brugge. They won two and drew four to stay unbeaten, though they finished second to Dortmund.

Bayern are defending champions

Bayern had it easy in their group, dropping points just once, away at Atletico Madrid. They did the double against Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow. The tournament is just about to start for Lazio and they will do well to avoid a hammering.

Players to watch: Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Luis Alberto (Lazio), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern), Serge Gnabry (Bayern)

Prediction: Bayern to go through.

Atletico vs Chelsea

One of the most balanced ties of the round. Chelsea made light work of a group that had Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes. Winning four and drawing two of their matches, including a resounding 4-0 win away at Sevilla, Atletico’s fellow La Liga team.

Atletico were always going to be second in a group that had Bayern, leaving it late till their last group game away at Salzburg to confirm qualification.
Chelsea and Atletico Madrid had a memorable semi-final clash in 2014, with Atletico winning 3-1 on aggregate.

This term Atletico look good in La Liga, top of the standings. Chelsea also look good in the league, establishing themselves as title contenders. Expect a tactical battle between Frank Lampard and Diego Simeone, it is the type of tie that is likely to be won from the bench, Simeone should have the upper hand in that regard.

Players to watch: Joao Felix (Atletico), Luis Suarez (Atletico), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)

Prediction: Atletico Madrid to scale through narrowly.

Leipzig vs Liverpool

Fresh from knocking out one English side, Leipzig face another in the Round of 16. Leipzig recovered from a 5-0 thumping against Man. United to finish second behind PSG in a tough group. They will hope to build on their semi-final finish last season. However, they did not come up against a team like Liverpool enroute the semi-final the last time out.

Liverpool won in 2019

Liverpool won the UCL two seasons back and boast of a formidable team. Bar a home defeat against Atalanta, Liverpool found their group easy, finishing first with four wins. Manager Jurgen Klopp will hope most of his injured players are back and firing by February.

It will be a tactical battle against two German managers, Klopp against the young Julian Nagelsmann

Players to Watch: Emile Forsberg (Leipzig), Dayot Upamecano (Leipzig), Mo Salah (Liverpool), Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Prediction: Liverpool to go through