UCL Team Of The Season: Chelsea Dominates

Chelsea fans are still celebrating their Champions League success. Thomas Tuchel got Chelsea fans all over the world into hysteria and you can bet the party will last for a long time, to the chagrin of fans of rival clubs.

We take a look at the best performers in the UEFA Champions League this season, with majority of them coming from Chelsea as expected.

Goalkeeper – Ferland Mendy (Chelsea)

The Senegalese shot-stopper capped a fairytale season with a Champions League medal. He had little to do in the final but his assuredness and brilliant saves were crucial in the run-in.

The highlight of his season was keeping Chelsea in the semi-final tie against Real Madrid with brilliant saves in the first leg.

Rightback – Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Chelsea’s captain remained Mr. Reliable. Playing majorly as part of the back 3 in Tuchel’s system. Azpilicueta rarely put a foot wrong throughout his 11 appearances in the competition.

Azpilicueta became the second Chelsea captain to lift the Champions League trophy

Leftback – Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid)

The French leftback was one of the reasons Madrid made it to the semi-final. His highlight was a brilliant performance in the first leg of the quarter-final against Liverpool.

He made 11 appearances and scored one goal.

Center-back – Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Dias marshalled a watertight Manchester City defence, which was the bedrock of the Citizens getting to the final.

Even though Dias couldn’t end an impressive debut season with Manchester City with the Champions League title, he did enough to make our team.

Center-back – Marquinhos (PSG)

The Brazilian must have been disappointed with the Parisiens ouster at the semi-final stage but can keep his head high for his own performance.

He was rock solid in defence as well as contributing goals at the other end. He scored 3 goals in 11 appearances.

Midfielder – Ngolo Kante (Chelsea)

The pint sized Frenchman performance in the final alone is enough to win him a place in this team. He was at his hassling and tackling best throughout his 13 appearances in the competition.

He is already in the conversation for a Balon D’Or.

Midfielder – Mason Mount (Chelsea)

The becoming of Mount was complete with a brilliant performance in the Champions League final, providing the assist for the winning goal.

The highlight of his season was the goal that put Real Madrid to the sword in the semi-final.

Midfielder – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Up until a frustrating final was ended with a ruptured face, the Belgian was arguably the player of the competition.

Playing many times as a false nine, De Bruyne was at his best helping City to their first final.

Right Wing-forward – Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

The Algerian fully got into his own in the knockout stages of the competition.

He scored 3 of the 4 goals the Citizens scored against PSG in the semi-final.

Right Wing-forward – Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

Though he looked helplessly from the stands as PSG got knocked out in the semi-final, he was one of the best players of the tournament.

The highlight of his season was a hattrick at the Nou Camp against Barcelona. He ended with 8 goals in 10 appearances.

Center-forward – Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

The Norwegian did his growing reputation no harm with another stellar goals scoring season in the Champions League.

He ended the season as topscorer with 10 goals in 8 appearances, failing to score only in the quarter-final clashes against Manchester City.

Manager – Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)

Unarguably the manager of the season, he masterminded Chelsea’s second Champions League title in just three months in charge.

His solid team barely broke a sweat in seeing off the likes of Atletico Madrid, Porto, Real Madrid and Manchester City in the final, conceding just two goals in the run.

Substitutes: T. Courtois (Real Madrid), A. Rudiger (Chelsea), B. Chilwell (Chelsea), L. Modric (Real Madrid), P. Foden (Man. City), Neymar Jr (PSG), K. Benzema (Real Madrid)

Who do you think we missed out on? Join the conversation. Follow us on Twitter @goaldbal and we are Goaldball on Facebook.

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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Mbappe or Haaland: Who is the next big thing in football?

The UEFA Champions League returned during the week and it is safe and cliche to say, it returned with a bang. Goals were scored, there were interesting results as there were shockers. However, the biggest talking point was the emergence of a new order or a change of guard as the case may be. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the biggest individual awards in football for over a decade and it is not unconnected to their heroics in the Champions League. Nights of saving their teams from the brink of defeats, nights of scoring jaw-dropping goals and doing insane numbers. However, during the week Ronaldo’s Juventus and Messi’s Barcelona suffered defeats, none of them could save their teams from the jaw of defeats. Instead, young Kylian Mbappe put Barcelona to the sword with a magnificent hattrick. The following day, Erling Haaland scored two and provided one as Borussia Dortmund won away at Sevilla. It has led to questions, are Mbappe and Haaland the next big things in football?

Messi and Ronaldo define an era in football

Presently, Mbappe and Haaland are doing insane numbers in the Champions League and in football generally. Both seems to be direct, effective and devastating just like prime Ronaldo and Messi. Haaland has eight goals in just five Champions League matches this season and 25 goals in 24 matches in all. Mbappe has scored five in six Champions League matches and 21 in 29 in all.

It is interesting to note that there is already some form of challenge. After Mbappe’s heroics on Tuesday, Haaland said he was inspired by the performance to also come up good the next day – Wednesday.

“I saw Mbappe yesterday and he scored some nice goals and I got a free boost from him! So yeah, it was nice.” Haaland said.

It is reminiscent of how Messi did something today and Ronaldo is expected to respond the next day or vice versa and most times, they don’t fail to disappoint.

Comparing the two, Mbappe has been around for longer and achieved more than his Norwegian rival. Mbappe is already a World Cup winner. At 20, he was the best young player at the 2018 World Cup as Les Bleus won their second world title. Apart from winning numerous Ligue 1 titles with PSG, as expected, he was pivotal as a young Monaco side upset the odds to win the Ligue 1 in 2017. All Haaland has to show are league titles with RB Salzburg in Austria. In terms of honours, Mbappe is still way ahead of Haaland.

Mbappe and Haaland are building something interesting

The Messi vs Ronaldo narrative took an interesting turn when Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid. It meant they both played for arguably the biggest clubs in the world – Barcelona and Real Madrid. The competition became more fierce and the comparisons more direct. With Mbappe and Haaland right now, it appears they have to make the big moves to really bring the competition to the fore and to also better their lots in terms of team accolades. Mbappe is with arguably one of the biggest clubs in the world presently but winning Ligue 1 titles won’t put him in the big league, he has to make a move to the bigger clubs in the biggest leagues. For Haaland, making a move is a no-brainer, Dortmund is at best a stepping stone to greater things. Their next moves will determine how big their competition will be and how big they will be as footballers.

Dortmund should be a stepping stone for Haaland

In terms of their styles, Mbappe looks like the all-rounder. Most times playing on the flanks, off a center-forward. His pace is probably his biggest weapon but he also packs a bag of tricks and a devastating goalscoring ability. He looks like he will end up as a center-forward – a poacher in the mould of Ronaldo de Lima. Haaland is a fast center-forward with good aerial prowess and surprisingly quick feet, he is also a devastating finisher. Both guys look like they still have so much off their sleeves in terms of scoring goals, the numbers – goals will be very pivotal to the comparison or rivalry going forward.

There are also some youngsters showing signs they could become very big. It may not be limited to this two. The likes of Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Frenkie De Jong etc. could also be or part of the next big things.

Regardless of how the competition goes, one or both of them is expected to win the Ballon D’Or and FIFA the Best titles. With both Ronaldo and Messi aging and gradually approaching the swansong of their careers, it is good for the game of football and the narratives that a new rivalry seems to be building – Mbappe vs Haaland.

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.

Three PSG players test positive for coronavirus


Neymar Jr has reportedly tested positive for coronavirus, alongside two other PSG stars.

The other two are believed to be Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, according to French magazine L’Equippe.

The Parisiens lost in their bid to win their first Champions League title in a 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich last month.