Team of the Week: Two hattrick heroes, a Chelsea Loanee and Others

Many were called, few were chosen. In a week of impressive attacking and defensive performances, it was no easy task selecting just eighteen players.

In a 4-4-2 formation, here is the first eleven:

Goalkeeper: Marc Andre Ter Steven (Barcelona)

The performances of the goalkeepers – Ter Stegen for Barcelona and Jan Oblak for Atletico Madrid was a major reason the high profile clash ended goalless. Ter Stegen shades it with some brilliant saves, especially in the first half, to keep Barcelona in the game.

Right-back: Hamani Traore (Rennes)

The Malian hardly put a foot wrong in helping Rennes curtail PSG attackers. The 1-1 draw has thrown spanner in the works of PSG, in their bid to win Ligue 1.

Left-back: Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)

The Spaniard scored the winner and put in a solid display in helping Chelsea win 2-1 away at Manchester City.

Center-back: Ben Godfrey (Everton)

The young center-back had an assist for the only goal of the game with a brilliant pass to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. In addition to helping Everton stop West Ham from having a shot on target.

Center-back: Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan)

The Chelsea loanee is enjoying himself at AC Milan. He added the gloss to the scoreline for AC Milan in their impressive away win at Juventus. He was also sturdy in defence throughout.

Midfielder: Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon)

The young midfielder scored two goals in Lyon’s 4-1 win against Lorient. The Brazilian has had 31 appearances in Ligue 1. His brace were were his second and third for the season.

Midfielder: Ricardo Gagliardini (Inter Milan)

The Italian was at the heart of Inter Milan’s trashing of Sampdoria. He also weighed in with a goal and an assist.

Wing-forward: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

The young Englishman is getting back in form for Dortmund at the right time. He scored twice as Dortmund put an end to RB Leipzig’s title dreams.

Wing-forward: Alexis Claude (Nice)

Claude weighed in with a hattrick of assists as Nice were not nice in coming from behind to deflate Brest.

Forward: Josip Brekalo (Wolfsburg)

The young Croat scored a hattrick for Wolfsburg in their 3-0 win against Union Berlin. The win keeps Wolfsburg in pole position in their hunt to finish in Champions League places.

Forward: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

It was goals number 37, 38 and 39 for the Polish forward as Bayern Munich celebrated their ninth straight Bundesliga title.

Manager: Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)

Thomas Tuchel followed defeating Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the FA Cup with another win in the league to delay the Citizens expected Premier League win.

Substitutes: F. Bredlow (Stuttgart), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), E. Elustondo (Real Sociedad), Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool), H. Mkhitaryan (Roma), V. Osimhen (Napoli), B. Yilmaz (Lille)

Boald Codes: La Liga Title Race, Mock Champions League Final and Others

We are neck deep in that time of the season. Some teams are in dire need of points to win the league, qualify to play on the continent or escape relegation. There are also the spoilers, who have nothing to play for.

More than ever, we need to pick our games more carefully. This is probably not a time for long tickets like toilet rolls, most of them will end up in the bin. As we always say, ours is to supply the pass, yours is to finish. It is either you are Harry Kane or you are Yaya Sanogo. As usual, we have the Bankers, the Banana Peels and the Boald Call.

BANKERS

We start from Africa, where table-topping Simba should at least play a draw against Young Africans in the Tanzanian league, 1x comes at around 1.2.

In the NPFL, Rivers United to win at home against Dakkada comes at 1.3, go for it. You could also play home win for Akwa United against struggling Sunshine Stars but that won’t come at good odds, an over 1.5 should come through there also.

Trust Manchester City not to lose at home against Chelsea. Both sides need the maximum three points, it could be cagey. A Manchester City double chance is a safe bet at 1.2.

Manchester City could win the league this weekend

Liverpool have to keep winning to push for a continental slot. Trust them to win at home against Southampton, it comes at around 1.3.

For Barcelona against Atletico Madrid, a draw will not be enough for both sides. Expect both sides to try get goals. An over 1.5 should be a safe bet at 1.3.

Dortmund vs RB Leipzig should be a goals game. Both teams need to go for it. Both to score comes at 1.5, go for it.

Bayern Munich need to wrap up the Bundesliga as soon as possible. Robert Lewandowski is back. They should win at home against Borussia Mochengladbach, it comes at around 1.3.

Juventus can’t win the league but they can’t afford to miss out of the Champions League. They should at least avoid defeat against AC Milan. 1x comes at around 1.2, go for it.

Atalanta should win at already relegated Parma. It comes at around 1.2.

BANANA PEELS

Spezia need the points to avoid relegation and have shown some intent lately, including a draw against Inter Milan. They also won the first leg against Napoli. Be careful with Spezia vs Napoli.

You are not sure of the Inter Milan you will get. They are already champions and they play against ba Sampdoria side that have virtually nothing to play for. Be careful with this tie.

Already relegated Sheffield United take on inconsistent Crystal Palace. As we saw in their last home match, Sheffield might want to go down in a high. With nothing to play for, anything can happen.

Be careful with Real Madrid against Sevilla. Sevilla are outsiders in the title race and could be spoilers for a Real Madrid side that may have yet to recover from their Champions League exit.

Real Madrid might still be wounded.

BOALD CALL

In Ligue 1, Nantes are giving their quest to escape relegation a good push. After back-to-back impressive away wins, they should win at home against fellow strugglers Bordeaux. It comes at over 2.0. If you are bold go for it.

At this point, we wish you the best of luck. Terms and conditions apply. Hold the players and managers responsible if anything goes wrong but send your tithes here if you win.

Have a green weekend.

follow Goaldball on Twitter @goaldbal

Thought of a Lunatic: Arsenal in their Tent, Farmer’s League Revolt and Other Talking Points

The final bend of the season is here. No more international breaks this season. It is sprint to finish from now. The race is most likely for the swiftest. While some are staying permanently in their new found ‘tent’, some are grasping with trying to return to the top or Continental positions. Some are trying to swim out of the murky waters of relegation.

The Lunatic took some lessons from the world of football last weekend and here are his thoughts.

Arsenal’s Permanent Tent

Arsenal and their Youth Corper coach seems to have found home in tenth. They used to complain about going ‘forth’, so they have found a permanent ‘tent’. At a point under Arsene Wenger, finishing fourth was the standard till they started falling below. With Arsenal in it, it used to be a top-four in the Premier League. When Arsenal and Liverpool fell off, it was expanded to top six. If Arsenal are thinking it will be further expanded to top ten, they better wake up.

The most consisTENTH team in the Premier League

They have consistently held on to tenth this season. When it seems they have started to crawl up the table, they always find a way back to their tent. Against Liverpool last weekend, it was men against toddlers. With their Travis Scott captain, they were completely played out of the park.

The bad news for the Gunners with their empty riffles is they may miss out on Europe entirely next season except they win the Europa League. Let’s start welcoming Arsenal to the midtable club.

Pochettino in the farmer’s league

PSG winning the Ligue One is a giving or supposed to be. The ‘havesters’ have always been head and shoulders above the others in the farmer’s league. But it seems the farmers have revolted against the havesters this season. PSG also have a manager that is not used to harvesting and it seems the farmers have noticed it.

While PSG have made some headway in the Champions League, their poor performance in the Ligue One was highlighted by another home defeat against a top side. They had a chance of going top but blew it at home defeat against Lille. They have now lost five times at home this season. As usual, the returning Neymar gets so competitive in this sort of matches that he gets sent off. Just like he got sent off against Marseille earlier in the season, he got another red card against Lille. Anything to show he is committed to the cause.

PSG have been better in the Champions League

At the other place where Pochettino left in England, chaos is brewing. Jose Mourinho as usual throws his players under the bus in public. Questioned about his team conceding a late goal, something not always attributed to a Mourinho team in the past. ‘Same coach, different players’ he said. Maybe a coach is as good as his players after all. No coach be genius.

Atletico Bottlers

Talking about ‘monkey no get skills, na tree near tree’. Atletico Madrid are close to completing a bottling, even Arsenal will be envious of. At the beginning of the year, Atletico Madrid were 10 points away, with a game in hand. With both Barcelona and Real Madrid struggling, it looked like Atletico Madrid winning their second league title under Diego Simeone was a giving.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are back in form and are breathing down Atletico’s neck. They are both one and three points away from Atletico respectively.

In addition to their tepid display against Chelsea in the Champions League. Someone’s sit should start becoming hot. Passion is not enough for the world’s most expensive manager anymore. He must earn his money by ensuring Atletico see this through.

The Lunatic will rest his pen here. Enjoy the midweek Champions League and Europa League matches. Someone said Chelsea were in good form till a President went to London and they got hit for five at home against West Brom. Porto are waiting.

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Boald Codes: FA Cup, Old Firm Derby and Others

Even if last week was not so green, we go again. Person wey dey find greens no dey rest. We have gone through the plethora of matches to pick those we believe will help us make some coins this weekend. As usual, we have our Bankers, Banana Peels and Boald Calls. As we always say, bet responsibly, neither we nor you will play the matches. So, we die there does not suffice.

BANKERS

All things being equal, Chelsea should beat Sheffield United comfortably in one the FA Cup quarter-final ties. Chelsea are still unbeaten under Tuchel, they play a Sheffield side that are out of sorts. Chelsea is valued at 1.26 for a win.

Tuchel is unbeaten in Chelsea

Be careful with the other FA Cup ties, they could be tricky. Everton vs Manchester City should produce an over 1.5, at least.

Atletico Madrid have only La Liga to hold on to now, they should win at home against Alaves, at 1.41. Alaves have not won any of their last five matches.

Bayern Munich should win at home against Stuttgart. Stuttgart are in good form but should find Bayern too much. Bayern win is valued at 1.28.

Hertha Berlin vs Bayer Leverkusen should produce goals. Both can score and concede. Over 1.5 is 1.25.

Juventus have the Serie A to try fall back on after crashing out of the Champions League. They should do enough to defeat Benevento. It comes at around 1.22. Benevento have not won any of their last ten matches in the Serie A.

Lille will want to return to winning ways in Ligue 1. They host Nimes and should win. They are valued at 1.30 for a win.

Lyon vs PSG is the match of the weekend in Ligue 1. They are second and third, level on points. PSG double chance is 1.40. Though they have been inconsistent in the league this season, they should do enough to at least avoid a defeat against Lyon.

Lyon vs PSG is delicately poised

Portuguese league in-form team Sporting Lisbon should defeat Vittoria Guimaraes at home. It comes at 1.5. Vittoria lost their last two matches. Only FC Porto have been able to pick a point against Sporting in their last eight matches.

In the South African PSL, giants Mamelodi Sundowns should win at home against Black Leopards. They are valued at 1.30. Sundowns are top of the table while Black Leopards are bottom. Sundowns have won all of their last 10 matches against Black Leopards.

BANANA PEELS

As stated earlier, be careful with the FA Cup matches in England. Form could be thrown out the window in cup matches.

Aston Villa host Tottenham in one of the Premier league matches. Tottenham are wounded but they go away to a very difficult Aston Villa. It is a match that will struggle for goals. Avoid a Tottenham win especially.

Barcelona go away to the Anoeta, always a tough ground for them bar two of the last three seasons. Barcelona have found some form recently but will find Sociedad very difficult. Avoid a Barcelona win.

Roma vs Napoli looks finely poised. It could swing either ways. Napoli’s recent penchant to make this sort of ties low scoring means you should avoid the goals game.

BOALD CALL

Schalke 04 are almost dead and buried in the Bundesliga and have been in terrible form. They host a Borussia Mochengladbach side low on confidence. Schalke could pull a shocker. Schalke double chance is 2.5. Go for it, if you are bold. Gladbach have not won any of their last six matches in the Bundesliga, coupled with defeats on the continent.

In the Old Firm Derby, Celtic host Rangers. Rangers have won the league but Celtic have pride to play for. Rangers are also coming off the back of a rough night in the Europa League. Celtic win is around 2.5. Go for it, if you are bold.

The Old Firm Derby is always feisty

There you have our picks for this weekend. Once again, bet responsibly. Don’t stake your school fees or house rent, you might win becoming a dropout that sleeps under the bridge. If you win, pay your tithes here. Have a swell and green weekend.

Boald Code: Chelsea vs Manchester United and other fixtures

Another weekend, pools of games like sands in Bar Beach. Tempting as they are, there is always need to thread cautiously. It is also a tricky week and there is every need to avoid over-analysis.

In our picks this week we will be as direct as possible. We have our bankers, the banana peels and the Boald call, we hope our choices brings you the luck of the green.

Banker

We start with the Nigeria Professional Football League. The Saturday fixture sees in-form Abia Warriors host Wikki Tourist. Go for an Abia win, it comes at around 1.50.

Manchester City and West Ham are two in-form sides in the Premier League. Go for a Manchester City win at around 1.30.

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund should win against struggling Arminia Bielefeld. It comes at around 1.20.

Expect Haaland among the goals for Dortmund

Bayern Munich should do the business against Cologne or at least score goals. Over 2.5 comes at around 1.33.

Tottenham should put their struggles behind them to win at home against Burnley. Tottenham win comes at around 1.50.

Napoli have struggled lately but can now solely concentrate on the league. At around 1.48, you can back them for a home win against Benevento.

In the CAF Champions League, Wydad Casablanca are backed at 1.73 for a home win against Kaizer Chiefs. Wydad are recent winners of the Champions League and will have too much for the South Africans. Go for a Wydad win.

Banana Peels

Leeds host Aston Villa at Elland Road. Aston Villa who will likely be without captain Jack Grealish are likely to deploy a defensive approach. Avoid playing the goals game. A Boald Call is a Leeds win, it comes at over 2.0.

Avoid a Juventus win, they go away to Hellas Verona. Juventus have a must-win Champions League match in focus, that may affect them. The last time they played at Hellas Verona, they lost and Hellas Verona are a good side at home, they have won all their last three at home.

Boald Call

Our Boald Call comes from the match of the weekend, Chelsea vs Manchester United. Chelsea have not won any of their last six league matches against Manchester United, three of which have ended in draws. Since losing against Tottenham, Manchester United have drawn against all of the traditional big six. Expect a cagey affair that may end in a draw and or low-scoring match. If you are bold, go for a draw, at around 3.39.

Chelsea vs Manchester United should be cagey

Those are our picks for today. As doctors will say, ‘we treat, God heals’. We will also say, ‘we predict, teams play’. So, if you win, pay your tithes here, if you don’t, hold the teams responsible.

Boald Codes: Betting Tips For The Weekend

So, you have started making those plans. How you will hit it big in betting and finally buy that house in Banana Island and buy that dream car. Now, come back from dreamland, na so dream am last year. On that note, Happy New Year – this is the first Boald Codes for the year.

Winning bets has to do with sensible permutations and lots of luck. So, as we always say, lower your expectations and bet responsibly. We have made some picks to guide you as you stake this weekend. It is quite a tricky weekend with cup matches in England, never devoid of upsets. There is also the matter of COVID-19, that is forcing some teams to play without their best legs.

Banker

In Germany, third placed Bayer Leverkusen should get back to winning ways against struggling Werder Bremen. Bremen have just one win from their last eight matches. At around 1.4, 1.5, Bayer are good value for a win.

Atalanta are back in form and should win away at Benevento. Benevento are in decent form but should find the firepower of Atalanta too much. Atalanta win comes at around 1.6.

AC Milan suffered their first defeat of the season against Juventus in midweek, trust them to bounce back with a home win against Torino, who have won just one in nine matches.

In the NPFL, Katsina United should win at home against Adamawa United, who are not known to be good travellers.

Rivers United should win at home against Kwara United. Kwara got a surprise win at Plateau United in the first week but Rivers have had a very good start to the season. Trust them for a win.

In the English FA Cup, go for wins for Brentford and Manchester United at home against Middlesbrough and Watford respectively. Both teams lost out in the semifinals of the Carabao Cup but expect them to bounce back as they try to go on another good cup run. Both teams are also in good form.

Bruno Fernandes is in good form

Lille will aim to get back to winning ways when they travel to bottom placed Nimes. Nimes have just one win in ten and have not won in their last seven. Bank on Lille for an away win.

Banana Peels

The careful with the English FA Cup matches generally.

Be careful with the FA Cup matches

In the NPFL, avoid going for a MFM home win against Sunshine Stars. MFM tend to struggle at home against fellow South-Western teams.

Stoke at home against Leicester will be tricky. Rodgers tends to always rotate, and with a good league finish in their sight they may not be at their best against Stoke, who had a good run in the Carabao Cup.

Boald Call

Tenth placed Cadiz host fourteenth placed Alaves. Cadiz have gone off the boil a little after a very good start. At 2.6 for a home win against Alaves, it could be worth the risk.

Hertha Berlin have lost just once in five, they go away to Arminia Belefield, who have just two wins in ten. At around 1.8, Hertha Berlin is worth the risk for a win.

There you have it, our picks for the weekend. Blame the players in case of any hiccups. Remember to bet responsibly and pay your tithes here if you win.

Follow Goaldball on Twitter @goaldbal

Boald Codes: Betting Tips for the Weekend

So you have selected those games. Your bet slip as long as a roll of tissue paper. They will take. You have selected what you believe are the sure games. You have already gone to price a car. You are already planning on how to spoil that babe silly. Dirty December on your mind. Now, calm down. Na so you stake last week, the week before, the week before then… wetin you win?

Well, nobody be Professor for this business. Everybody just dey try. That is why we always advice that you bet responsibly. Don’t stake people’s thrift kept with you.

We have selected some games as usual. The Bankers, the Banana Peels and the Boald Calls, just to guide you. Remember, we self just dey forecast, na the footballers dey play. If you lose money, hold the players responsible. However, we have a 70% average success rate, check our previous editions to confirm.

Bankers

Norwich are at home against Coventry in the English Championship. The Canaries are in good form and are top of the table. They come at around 1.6 for a win. Though they will be without Emiliano Buendia, who is out suspended, they still have enough to get a win.

Bayern did Amaka last week, expect hem to atone this week. They come at around 1.3 to win away at Stuttgart. Trust them to win. You could also include Robert Lewandowski on your goals scorer ticket.

Borussia Monchengladbach are at home against struggling Schalke 04. They are valued at around 1.3. Gladbach are in good form, off the back of another impressive win in the Champions League. Trust them for a win.

Atalanta are back to winning ways. They should beat Verona at home. It comes at around 1.3.

Juventus away to Benevento is also around 1.3 for a Juve win. This are the sort of matches were Cristiano Ronaldo shows. A Juventus win should come and also Ronaldo to score.

Ronaldo should have a filled day

Lyon to win at home against Reims is around 1.4. Lyon should do enough to win against a Reims side that have struggled.

In South Africa, defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns host Stellenbosch FC. Sundowns are valued at 1.4 for a win. Too good to ignore.

The likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona should also win their home matches against Alaves and Osasuna respectively.

Banana Peels

Brighton and Hove Albion host Liverpool at the Amex. Be careful. Not just because Liverpool lost in midweek against Atalanta, but because Brighton know how to be difficult in this sort of matches. They could be very organised and deny Liverpool the spaces.

Real Sociedad host Villareal at the Anoeta. Sociedad are top of the table and have been impressive. However Villareal have not been bad either. Sociedad are without David Silva, who is out injured. If you must, play an Under 3.5. Both teams will likely cancel each other out and struggle for goals.

Sassuolo have had a good start to the season, they host Inter Milan this weekend. Antonio Conte is under some pressure at Inter Milan and Sassuolo have proven to be difficult opponents in the past.

AC Milan host Fiorentina at the San Siro. AC Milan are top of the table, Fiorentina have struggled. AC Milan to win comes at around 1.7, avoid it. Fiorentina have a knack of showing up in big matches are Milan are without talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Boald Calls

If you get mind, back Atletico Madrid to win away at Valencia. Atletico Madrid are unbeaten and in good form, Valencia defeated the other Madrid side Real Madrid some weeks back. Regardless, they will find Atletico Madrid a more difficult proposition.

Chelsea vs Tottenham is the big match of the weekend, both teams are in good form. If you are Boald go for a Chelsea win. Lampard has a good record against Jose Mourinho and Chelsea have the players to expose Tottenham’s defence. It comes at around 2.0.

Lampard versus Mourinho once again.

That’s all on these edition. If you win, don’t forget to send your tithe here. If you don’t win, hold the players responsible. Bet responsibly.

BOALD CODES: Betting Tips For the Weekend

The last couple of weeks have been very interesting for punters. The betting companies have been cashing out due to the numerous inconsistent results that the season has produced. Everyday for the bookies, one day for the punter, we go again. We have carefully observed some of the fixtures this weekend and made some choices to guide you.

The Bankers

All things being equal, all this should happen this weekend.

PSG should win away at Nantes, it comes at good odds of around 1.4 across platforms. The Parisiens are without Neymar Jr but Moise Keane has come to form at the right time. He scored four in his last two matches and has Kylian Mbappe for company. Nantes on the other hand have not been impressive

Sampdoria are in good form in the Serie A, they host Genoa at the weekend. The odd is good, around 1.9 across platforms. A safe bet is a double chance at around 1.2.

Real Madrid have been dodgy but they should win at home against Huesca. A win in the El Clasico last week should spur them to a win. Around 1.4 across platforms.

Juventus have not won any of their last three Serie A matches that they have played. They are due a win away at Spezia, with Cristiano Ronaldo returning, they should win.

Napoli against Sassuolo should be a game of goals. Sassuolo are free-scoring and Napoli have also not been bad in terms of scoring. Over 2.5 is around 1.3 across platforms. Both to score is also an option.

Try out our Sure 10 odds: BCG2R4S (Sporty Bet)

BANANA PEELS

Try and avoid this matches.

Liverpool host West Ham on Saturday. The Reds have a defensive crisis against a resurgent West Ham. Goals game may be a safe bet.

Aston Villa have had a very good start to the season but lost 3-0 to Leeds last week. Their home tie against Southampton is a difficult one, the Saints ended Everton’s unbeaten run. Stay away from a Villa win.

AC Milan are due a bad result. They go away to a plucky Udinese side. Stay away from an AC Milan win, even though the odds look juicy.

Rennes are dealing with having to play lots of games, expect them to shuffle their team. Avoid Rennes straight win at home against Brest.

Boald Call

Atletico Bilbao to win at home against Sevilla is around 3.1 across platforms. If you are bold, go for it. Sevilla have not won any of their last three La Liga matches and have struggled for goals. Bilbao have lost three of their last four. Two teams in poor form but Bilbao are well rested while Sevilla played in midweek in the Champions League.

Both teams have struggled for goals, you could also go for a under 1.5, which is around 2.3.

Terms and conditions apply. If you win, pay your tithes in here. If you don’t win, hold the players and the clubs responsible. Don’t forget to bet responsibly.

Joseph Bassey, Wale Agbede and Edwin Onyebolise previews La Liga on this edition of Pundits Roundtable

With the top guns Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid yet to play, La Liga can not be said to have really gotten into gear, even though some matches have been played.

As the big fishes prepare to get in the action, we are joined by three football pundits that knows La Liga like the back of their palms – Joseph Bassey (@akajoebass), Wale Agbede (@thewaleagbede) and Edwin Onyebolise (@theofficialije) as we do an in depth preview of the 2020/21 La Liga season.

GB: What tactical trend(s) should we be looking forward to see in the La Liga this season?

Joseph: It’s a great time to be alive if you’re a fan of Spanish football, there will be a collection of super coaches with impeccable tactical nous. Obviously Zidane, Koeman, Simeone and Lopetegui are the headliners but Unai Emery, Manuel Pellegrini are no push overs. There won’t be a common theme, expect variation in tactics from these managers.

Zidane will hope to keep winning the tactical battles.

Wale: Tactically, I think the La Liga is as diverse as it gets in terms of ideas. From the pass-oriented Ronald Koeman, Julen Lopetegui and Imanol Alguacil to the more astute Zinedine Zidane, Diego Simeone, Pepe Bordalas and Paco Lopez, expect plenty contrasting styles in every match week. What could be particularly striking (although not totally alien before now) is how much quality the likes of Zidane, Lopetegui and Emery have in wide areas. Wing play could be a big feature, tactically, of the league this year.

Edwin: I personally don’t think La Liga is a “tactical” league in comparison to say … Serie A. The focus is more on technique and finesse. There’s a general theme to the way teams play except Atletico Madrid.

GB: What does Lionel Messi’s stay mean to La Liga, Barcelona and Madrid’s quest to defend the title?

Joseph: Messi’ stay almost guarantees that Barcelona will still be in the title race amidst their chaos, he is still the best player in the league. But the bad news is that it doesn’t necessarily make Barcelona a good team. Real Madrid’s project means Barca can’t depend on the brilliance of Messi only, he will need help to dethrone them.

Messi’s contractual situation at Barcelona has been one of the biggest issues.

Wale: To La Liga, it simply means the league still features the best player in the world. Messi is a big plus to La Liga sporting-wise and economically.

For Barcelona, I don’t see what they gain. It’s election year, an even older squad than the last and quite frankly, a leader who wants to leave. That can’t be a positive.

For Real, I think they clearly have a better project and, like last season, Messi might not be enough to stop them from winning.

Edwin: Nothing changes for La Liga except conversations. It’s gone from “How many goals will he score?” to his reaction and body language.

Barcelona will play second fiddle to Real Madrid who have a better team irrespective of Messi’s presence.

GB: Which matches/battles are you mostly looking forward to?

Joseph: The Andalusian derby (Sevilla vs Real Betis) will be a spectacle this season. Both teams have gotten stronger especially with the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini in Betis. Both teams could be competing for the European spots this season.

Wale: The El Classico, obviously. For Real, they must feel the urge to knock nails into a figurative Barcelona coffin. The last time they had any sense of dominance over Barcelona is over 15 years ago but they can build blocks this season.

I’d like to see how Emery manages Villareal in games. So many quality wide players but in Parejo and Trigueros, he has two of the best CMs in Spain.

Simeone will also have to cracks higher performance levels from his expensively assembled Atletico team. If not, don’t be too shocked at a major change at the Wanda Metropolitano.

El Classico remains a clash to look out for.

Edwin: El Classico remains the biggest game. Maybe the Madrid derby

GB: Who are the possible breakout star(s) to keep an eye on?

Joseph: Last season we saw the emergence of Take Kubo, Martin Odegaard and Rodrygo, this season, we maybe talking about Oscar Rodriguez who just moved from Leganes to Sevilla. The former Real Madrid Castilla player is a gem.

Wale: Takefuso Kubo. Had a decent season with Mallorca last year but his qualities might just be suited to the Yellow Submarines – Villareal.

Ansu Fati is clearly turning heads and this could be a breakout season for the 17-year old at Barcelona.

Martin Odegaard will be starring at the Santiago Bernabeu this season and after his exploits in the Basque country with Real Sociedad last season, a great year might be on the cards for the midfielder.

Edwin: Takefusa Kubo (Real Madrid – on loan at Villarreal). Arguably the best player at Mallorca last season.

Lee Kang-in (Valencia) If he can put a lid on his temperament, he’s one for the future.

Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal). He needs consistency and end product to make the next leap. Exciting with pace and trickery.

Ansu Fati (Barcelona) Heir to Messi? His start to life in the first team gives hope to Barcelona for the future.

Rodrygo (Real Madrid) Needs consistent run on the first. Has an eye for goal.

Nigeria’s Samuel Chukwueze is one of the youngsters to look out for.

GB: Do you see any team finishing above or breaking into the traditional top-two of Real Madrid and Barcelona?

Joseph: Unlikely especially with Messi deciding to stay. Sevilla and Atletico Madrid are still lacking key components (top strikers) that can drive them above Real and Barcelona.

Wale: There’s always the likelihood of this happening, especially in the last few years with the gap in quality diminishing so quickly. I don’t see how Barcelona will make a good enough season and if it goes really badly, a team like Sevilla, who topped the league for a few weeks last season, might just be around the corner hoping to pounce.

Edwin: I fancy Sevilla. Not since 2007/08 has Barcelona looked out of sort. I hope they take advantage.

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