Manchester United, Leeds Players Star In Our Team of the Week, Including An African Hattrick Hero

Many of the top matches lived up to their pre-match analysis at the weekend. The ‘Mourinho Derby’ and the ‘El Clasico were not devoid of drama. Some teams did their push for survival a whole world of good. Some of the players came to the party, we have made a selection of the best players across the top leagues, plus seven substitutes and a manager.

Goalkeeper- Ilian Meslier (Leeds United)

The young French goalkeeper was one of the heroes as 10-man Leeds United defeated leaders Manchester City 2-1. He made six saves to help the cause.

Rightback – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Despite questions about his defensive abilities, Trent served the attribute that has endeared him to football fans once again – impact in the attacking phase. Trent scored the winner as Liverpool saw off stubborn Aston Villa 2-1. Thankfully, he was not playing against Vinicius ‘Akpororo’.

Leftback – Quini (Granada)

Quinni did not play left-out, the leftback helped Granada come from behind to win at Valladolid with a goal in the 2-1 win.

Center-back – Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)

The French defender was a rock in defence like Zuma rock as Chelsea won comfortably at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. Zouma contributed a goal in the 4-1 win.

Center-back – Martin Erlic (Spezia)

Not always will you see a center-back with a goal and an assist that helps his side turn defeat to victory. That was what Martin Erlic did in Spezia’s 3-2 win against Crotone.

Midfielder – Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Salon D’Or star Paul Pogba turned up with a performance, this time on a football pitch. He was instrumental as Manchester United came from behind to earn a win that has brought out the ramblings from Jose Mourinho.

Midfielder – Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

The German midfielder set Madrid on their way to an El Clasico win with a free kick goal that took Zidane’s men two up. He gave another composed midfield performance young midfielders will be envious of.

Attacking Midfielder – Stuart Dallas (Leeds United)

The Northern Irishman was the hero for Marcelo Bielsa’s men with two goals that downed Pep’s men at the Etihad.

Wing-forward – Jesse Lingard (West Ham)

‘J Lingz’ is discovering his inner CR7 at West Ham. The goals, the performances and dances are back. He scored another two at the weekend to help West Ham to a 3-2 win against Leicester City.

Wing-forward – Wahbi Khazri (St. Etienne)

Former Sunderland forward Wahbi Khazri went home with the match ball as St Etienne defeated Bordeaux 4-1. The Tunisian helped St Etienne go nine points above the relegation zone.

Center-forward – Edinson Cavani (Manchester United)

The Uruguayan was a menace as Manchester United ran riot at the New White Hart Lane. He scored a goal and saw another controversially chalked off as he turned back the years with a class center-forward performance.

Manager – Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds)

El Loco delivered a managerial masterclass as Leeds recorded a 2-1 win against Manchester City, despite playing with ten men for a long spell away from home. Pep must have taken lots of notes from this one.

Drop your comments and contributions. Which of our choices do you disagree with? Follow us on Twitter: @goaldbal

Boald Codes: El Clasico, Mourinho Derby and Other Betting Tips

Make we hustle for our quick 2k. As we have always said, Boald Codes is to guide you, the choice is yours. The most important thing in betting is to know the matches to avoid, else the bookies won’t be in business. When you select the matches you expect to come through and they do come through, you don jam quick 2k.

After the teams returned from international breaks last week, this week should be clearer BUT some of the teams on the continent will be more focused there. It is also the time relegation threatened clubs start upsetting the apple carts, as we saw with West Brom winning at Chelsea last week. As usual, we have the Bankers, the Banana Peels and the Boald Calls. We will be as direct as possible, too much analysis no dey bring money.

BANKERS

In the Premier League, Manchester City vs Leeds should produce goals. Over 2.5 comes at around 1.4. For bigger odds, you could go for both to score.

Chelsea should bounce back from last week’s defeat, away at Selhurst Park. They are in a comfortable place in their Champions League tie, they should focus here. A Chelsea win comes at around 1.5. Don’t sleep on it.

Tottenham vs Manchester United, the Mourinho Derby is too close to call. Expect both sides to go for goals. Tottenham’s defence especially, can’t hold water. Over 1.5 comes at around 1.3, if you must play this game at all.

Son will hope for another dance performance

Real Madrid and Barcelona go into the El Clasico in good forms. They both know a win will take them closer to the tittle. It is a game that should produce goals. Both to score comes at around 1.5, go for it.

Barcelona and Real Madrid go head-to-head

In the Serie A, both Inter Milan and Juventus have home matches against Cagliari and Genoa respectively. Both should win. Juventus should overcome their recent struggles here. A win for them comes at around 1.3. Inter Milan are in good form and coasting to the title, they are also valued at around 1.3 for a win.

Atalanta should win away against Fiorentina. It comes at around 1.5. Atalanta should do enough for a win, to solidify their push for Continental places. Over 1.5 could be a safer bet.

BANANA PEELS

There are many matches you should be wary of this weekend but we have highlighted some and their alternatives.

Bayern Munich might play a depleted side against Union Berlin, with the Champions League return leg against PSG in their sights amidst lots of injury worries. Be wary of a Bayern win which comes at around 1.5. But the game should still produce goals. Over 2.5 could be safe.

Same goes for Borussia Dortmund, who have been poor in the Bundesliga, by their standards. They have a tricky away game at Stuttgart. It is also a game that should produce goals. Avoid a Dortmund away win.

PSG are valued at around 1.7 to win a match in Ligue 1, that should tell you something. They go away to Strasbourg, with the Champions League also in their sights. You should also go for goals in this one.

BOALD CALL

West Ham and Leicester are jostling for Champions League places. They play at the London stadium this weekend, with both in good form. West Ham are due a bad result and the signs are there. Expect Leicester to avenge the first leg defeat. If you are Boald go for a Leicester away win at around 2.4.

Kelechi Iheanacho and his teammates should find joy at the Olympics stadium

We have supplied the passes, put your finishing touches to score the goal. Wish you a green weekend. When you win, pay your tithes here.

Boald Code: Madrid and Manchester Derbies, Der Klassiker and Other Betting Tips

If you followed our tips last week, congratulations. We came through with almost all our calls. We dey feel like Nostradamus right now.

It is another week and we have carefully gone through the various matches once again. We have selected those we believe are the Bankers – that we believe will come through, the Banana Peels – the games you should avoid and the Boald Call – big odds you should play only if you are bold.

Bankers

We start from Africa where the CAF Champions League takes center stage. We are going for home wins for Al Ahly and Wydad Casablanca against AS Vita and Horoya respectively. Al Ahly are defending champions, Wydad are penultimate champions. You can always trust this top guns to get the job done at home.

In the English Championship, in-form Norwich host Luton. Norwich have won their last six and are top of the table. Go for a Norwich win at around 1.4/1.5 across platforms.

In the Premier League, West Brom vs Newcastle should be a cagey affair. An under 3.5 should be a good choice. You could also go for no goal in the first 30 minutes. Or first half under 1.5 which comes at around 1.3.

In La Liga, Real Sociedad are unbeaten in six. They host Levante at the Anoeta. Levante could be tricky customers but Real Sociedad’s form should be enough to get a win. It comes at around 1.4.

The Madrid Derby should be a cagey affair. Under 3.5 full-time or under 1.5 halftime should be good choices.

A Madrid derby with title-deciding implications

In the Bundesliga, Der Klassiker is always a game of goals. Over 2.5 should come through or go for a Bayern Munich over 1.5. At around 1.3/1.4 odds across platforms.

In the NPFL, go for home wins for Plateau United, Rivers United and Enyimba against MFM, Jigawa and Ifeanyi Ubah respectively.

In Turkey, title-chasing Besiktas host Gaziantep. Besiktas are in good form and have won their last four. Go for a Besiktas win at around 1.4.

In Ukraine first-placed Dynamo Kiev host Minaj, who are in twelfth. Dynamo Kiev are in good form, back them to win.

In Scotland, Rangers host St. Mirren. Stephen Gerard’s men have won all of their last five against St. Mirren. Go for a Rangers win.

Banana Peels

In the Premier League, there are so many banana peels.

Avoid Leicester to win away at the Amex stadium. Brighton are usually a compact side, though they struggle for goals. Leicester are injury-plagued and may be at that point where their performance level starts dropping.

Manchester City should win at home against Manchester United but you don’t know the Manchester United that will turn up. Manchester United’s likely defensive approach makes it difficult to predict. It may also not produce goals.

The Manchester derby seems tricky

Barcelona seems to be in good form but they have shown some level of inconsistency this season. They should win away at Osasuna but a goals game might be a safe option. Osasuna won at Camp Nou last season.

Boald Call

In the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg are in good form. They play away against a stuttering Hoffenheim side. Wolfsburg have won on their last two trips there. If you are bold, go for a Wolfsburg win at around 2.4.

Those are our picks for today. Don’t forget to bet responsibly.

If goes the other way, hold the clubs and the players responsible. Terms and conditions apply.

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.

Boald Code: Madrid Derby, Manchester Derby and Other Betting Tips For The Weekend

Ticket bursters have been doing their best to stop us from doing detty December but we no go gree. However, as we have always said, you have to be very careful and bet responsibly. Ours here is to give you the assists, yours is to finish. While we are supplying the assist, remember your finishing skills is also important to score a goal. A word is enough for the wise. To our picks of the weekend.

Bankers

Wolves double chance at home against Aston Villa comes at around 1.25, it is a good one to bank on. Wolves will look to bounce back from their trouncing at the hands of Liverpool last week. Aston Villa have had an extra week of rest but Wolves know how to navigate this sort of matches.

Fulham host Liverpool at Craven Cottage. Fulham have gotten better but they don’t look like they are equipped to stop the top sides. Liverpool win comes at around 1.3. Go for it.

Arsenal vs Burnley may also pass for a boald call based on Arsenal’s form but you can trust the Gunners to return to winning ways. Around 1.5 odd is juicy. Arsenal also have a good home record against Burnley.

In Germany, in-form RB Leipzig host struggling Werder Bremen. A Leipzig win comes at around 1.3. It is worth staking on.

Third placed CSKA Moscow host eleventh placed Ural in the Russian League. CSKA win comes at around 1.3, it is worth taking to the banks.

The Egyptian league returns, money bags Pyramids host Al Ittihad. Pyramids to win comes at around 1.5, go for it. Pyramids were third last season, Al Ittihad finished tenth.

On the matters of the Derbies, goals game is your best bet. For the Madrid Derby, expect both sides to be cautious, under 3.5 comes at around 1.2, go for it. For the Manchester Derby, both sides have not been convincing consistently, expect both sides to go for it. It should produce goals, over 1.5 is around 1.2.

The Manchester Derby should produce goals

Banana peels

Be careful with Crystal Palace vs Tottenham. Zaha is back for Palace, they are a different proposition with him in the side. Palace know how to set up in this sort of matches. Be careful with going for a Tottenham win, though the odd is good.

Well, AC Milan for the upteenth time. They have been proving us wrong for some time but we feel they are due a bad result. Parma have not been good but they know how to turn up for big games, like they did against Inter Milan earlier. Be careful with going for an AC Milan win.

Borussia Dortmund have suffered what looks like a mini slump in the Bundesliga, coinciding with Erling Haaland’s injury. They have failed to win in their last two. They are up against a Stuttgart side that have lost just once in five, though they drew three of those. As we saw against Bayern some weeks back too, they could be difficult to beat. Avoid a Dortmund win.

Boald Call

The ultimate Boald call, the Madrid Derby ending in a draw comes at around 3.3. We expect both teams to cancel each other out in what may end goalless or 1-1. If you are very Boald, go for it.

Atalanta to win at home against Fiorentina comes at around 1.6. It is a lesser Boald call, you can include it in your banker. Atalanta have become more pragmatic this season, basking in the euphoria of reaching the Champions League last 16, you can bank on them to win against struggling Fiorentina.

As stated earlier, na pass we dey give, finishing dey your hand. Bet responsibly and if you win, send your tithes here make we sef do detty December. Wishing you best of luck.

Benzema apologizes to Vinicius Jr

Real Madrid Karim Benzema has reportedly apologized to Vinicius ‘Akpororo’ Junior after urging his Real Madrid team-mates to not pass to him during Tuesday night’s Champions League match against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Benzema was caught on camera accusing Vinicius of ‘playing against us’, in order words calling him ‘an enemy within’ while talking with Ferland Mendy during their 2-2 draw with Monchengladbach.

But Benzema looked to clear things up with the Brazilian by approaching him at the club’s training facility to explain himself and apologize for what was said, according to Spanish outlet Marca.

In a conversation spoken in French caught on camera, Benzema tells Mendy: ‘Don’t play with him. On my mother’s life, he [Vinicius] is playing against us.

‘He [Vinicius] does not do anything useful,’ with the left back replying: ‘When he becomes scared, he loses what makes him great.’

Madrid were a goal down at half-time, they later drew the match after conceding one more in the second half.

Zidane Not Worried About Madrid’s Form

Real Madrid gaffer Zinedine Zidane insists he has no doubts that Real Madrid will reach the last-16 of the Champions League if they match the performance that rescued them a last-gasp draw at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Madrid fell behind to a Marcus Thuram brace either side of half-time in Germany before Karim Benzema and Casemiro scored late goals to rescue a point in their second Champions League group game.

However the result leaves them bottom of their group following a shock 3-2 opening day home defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk, with their next two matches coming in what is now a crucial double header against Inter Milan.

‘The result shows the character in this team,’ Zidane said. ‘We deserved to draw and I think get even more. I like the reaction and it’s an important point.

‘We played well throughout the match, but it’s true that we lacked something because we didn’t win. We believe in the plan and we deserved the draw’

The result comes after an impressive win against Barcelona in the El Clasico.

Thoughts of a Lunatic: Auba Envying Ozil, Barca Plan C and other talking points.

This football season could well be a pandemic season with some pandemic results here and there. After just six matches in the Premier League, all the teams have tasted defeat, with Everton top of the pile. Real Sociedad are top in La Liga, both Real Madrid and Barcelona have produced some pinkish performances.

A team lost to Ajax 13-0 in the Eredivisie, such team does not deserve the honour of having them mentioned here. There were lots of lessons the lunatic took from football actions this weekend, should be read with a lunatic mind.

Auba envying Ozil

Arsenal have a £350,000-a-week star in their team. He is however a non-playing staff. He is part of photoshoots and promotional items but does not play – you all know Mesut Ozil.

Arsenal may soon have two G-Boys in their team.

Recently, while his teammates were playing, he was running commentaries on Twitter, what a way to be useful. It seems Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is envying Ozil. Since he signed a mega deal believed to be worth up to £300,000 a week, he has become a ghost on the football pitch. He has failed to have a shot on target in three of his last four Premier League appearances, any league goal he scored in that period was on Play Station.

Very soon, Arsenal fans will turn to him if things don’t change. The manager will drop him for tactical reasons and he will join Ozil to do Twitter commentaries.

Young Progressive Boring Managers

The new generation of young managers are said to be progressive. They play exciting brands of attacking football, but we didn’t see that when Manchester United played Chelsea last weekend.

The young managers Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer served us a bore fest.

With a lot of attacking talents at their disposal, the highlight of the match was Harry Maguire practising his wrestling skills on Ceasar Azpilicueta. Which reminds us why we must not keep quiet in our quest to END VAR.

Barca Plan C

While we can not say Messi has downed tools at Barcelona, no goal from open play in five league matches is not Messi.

Barca’s plan A and B is failing

Barcelona’s plan A tactics used to be ‘get the ball to Messi’. Lots of times he bailed them out. Since Barcelona refused to let him go at the summer, the plan A is no longer working. Unfortunately, Messi was also the plan B. Ronald Koeman reportedly told Messi he wasn’t central to his plans, it is high time we start seeing that plan in play. The plan should be plan C. Then plan D and plan E. If those don’t work, it is plan F, which he won’t be able to execute because it will come in form of a sack letter.

Real Madrid have found lots of joy in the El Clasico in recent times and they did it again, the Nou Camp is beginning to feel like Santiago Bernebeau to them.

Where is Pirlo headed?

Juventus straight win used to be a banker on punters tickets. The story is not the same anymore. Another draw against Hellas Verona leaves more questions than answers..

Zinedine Zidane stepped up from failing at Real Madrid B to winning back-to-back Champions League with Real Madrid. Juve have taken Andrea Pirlo from yet to manage a game with the Reserves team to becoming first team manager. Pep Guardiola also went from Barca B team to success with the first team. Juventus will be hoping Pirlo is their own Guardiola or Zidane, but what Zidane and Guardiola have in common, Pirlo does not have. If you don’t understand where I am heading to, leave it.

We will give him time, also considering Ronaldo has been out injured. Managers have been sacked even after winning the league. His resemblance with the pictorial representations of Jesus won’t be enough if results don’t get better. Fans will forget he was once the brilliant midfielder, crucify him, they will say.

That’s all on this edition of Thoughts of a Lunatic. Till next time, no dey disguise, Soro Soke like a lunatic.

Follow Goaldball on Twitter @goaldbal

Thoughts of a Lunatic: END VAR, Pink Boys, Chelsea Premium 33 and other talking points.

The lunatic could not wait for league matches to return after the international break, and it was really worth it. Derby drama, goals, VAR controversies, were able to drag attention with END SARS agitation in Nigeria. Maybe it is high time we start an END VAR campaign as well. Lots to get into in this edition of Thoughts of a Lunatic.

END VAR
Apologies to END SARS agitators, the lunatic will have to borrow your slogan. It is high time FIFA ends VAR and let us return to dealing with referee mistakes alone. After Jordan Pickford’s attempt to assassinate Virgil Van Dijk went unpunished, it seems anything can happen even with VAR.

And what is it with drawing offside margins like Technical Drawing? The oversabi is not necesstri. It is not that serious. How can a player be offside by the tip of his nose or eyelashes? Haba!
End VAR, reform the referees, retrain the referees, punish all referees that have been kill-joys, change FIFA… We don’t even know what we want, just END VAR.

Pickford dived into Van Dijk with cutlass, knife, hammer,…

Chelsea 33 Premium
Chelsea are really confirming there’s so much to a name. First, we know what the brand Chelsea is associated with. Now, they have taken it to a new level with 3 on their jerseys. Who does a mixture of Chelsea and 33 Lager? You can only get drunken performances.

Second time this season they have served us chilled bottles of 33. At this stage, we are confused. Who are the shirt sponsors of Chelsea? 3 network or 33 Lager beer?
Liverpool also tried to woo Seven-Up just before the international break.
Back to Chelsea, Kepa Ariba…whatever cannot just stop drinking goals like it is 33, best £72m Athletic Bilbao will ever receive in their life. 600 years for the person that recommended him to Chelsea.

Better together

Pink Boys
Thank goodness, the Pink Boys will not be wearing their costumes of shame for the El Clasico next weekend. Or are not expected to wear it. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona were clad in their pink jerseys at the weekend, and they both produced pink performances.

Who ever suggested that men’s team should wear pink? So creepy. They chose to wear their ‘anko‘ on the same day and it was a party for both of them.

Pinky pinky

Super Maguire
Manchester Sixers captain Harry Maguire has become a favourite of the lunatic. For good reasons this weekend, he was commanding for Manchester United against Newcastle United. He scored a goal, he did not mark his own teammate, he did not get sent off and he did not try to beat a police officer.
We must however commend his smartness, knowing PSG are the next opponent, his muscles found a way to tear. He has escaped from Kylian Mbappe and Neymar dragging him from the Parc de Princes to the Greek prisons.

I Conte understand
A 39-year-old that just returned from isolation sank Antonio Conte and his Inter Milan team. After signing all the Young pensioners from the Premier League, Conte should be doing better at Inter Milan.
Who else does he need? Danny Drinkwater?
AC Milan are in good form but don’t have as much quality as Inter, and definitely not with a 39-year-old striker.

So, the UEFA Champions League group stages begin today, more football for the lunatic. For the London Thursdays, we will also help them to watch the Europa League, one of them decided to share in Chelsea’s 33 Lager beer at the weekend.

Don’t follow the Lunatic anywhere, but follow Goaldball on Twitter @goaldbal

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.