Chelsea

CHELSEA v ATLETICO MADRID: Predicting the Starting Lineups

Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho have kept quiet about their starting lineups leading up to their Champions League semi-final match, while both managers know their magic lineups they both must wait on last minute fitness tests to key players.

For Atletico Madrid they await to hear whether Turan is fit to play, while Chelsea await word on talisman midfielder Eden Hazard, who faces a fitness battle after picking up an injury against Paris St-Germain in their quarterfinal clash.

Chelsea Starting XI

Expect a bit of a shuffle at the back as much maligned left-back Ashley Cole gets a rare start as Cesar Azpilicueta shifts to the right to cover for suspended Ivanovic.

While I fully expect Ramires to be dropped to the bench due to poor form and Luis/Lampard partner in the midfield. With Eden Hazard expected to miss the match, Andre Schurrle gets the nod in the starting lineup.

Up front it’s an easy choice to take Eto’o, despite Ba’s recent hot-streak, it is the Cameroonian striker who has led the line well for Chelsea, creating chances and finishing them off. Don’t be surprised if Ba comes off the bench, while Torres might get some action with a nod to his Atletico past.

 

Atletico Madrid Starting XIScreen Shot 2014-04-21 at 7.13.40 PM

Diego Simeone was worried all week about the health of star Diego Costa, but the coveted striker recovers from a nasty incident with the post to lead the line for Los Rojiblancos.

Costa wasn’t Atletico’s only worry, with influential winger Arda Turan battling a groin injury and missing Friday’s match – he’s expected to make the bench, but don’t expect him to be starting Tuesday. A handful of players can fill his role with Adrian and Garcia the likely few, but with Adrian playing well as of late expect him to get the nod.

The last fear for Simeone was for that of his starting keeper, but with UEFA deciding that Thibaut Courtois is cleared to play Atletico knows they can trust the man between the posts.

 

Henry writes about his two passions the Beautiful Game and the Brutal Game – whether you’re a die hard Soccer fan or passionate hockey fan, he’s got you covered. 

You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , where he live tweets about sports far too much.

The Premier League Transfer Madness, Explained.

After a painfully slow start, Monday’s Premier League Transfer Deadline Day proved to the masses of football fans all over the world that English Football world has gone mad.

Here is the madness explained…

Aston Villa

US International Bradley on loan at Villa

 

The Villains made two transfers of note in this window, the first being the loan signing of USA midfielder Michael Bradley, an interesting signing and it will be interesting to see how he fits in at Villa.

He is a hard-working midfielder and I think he will compliment Villa’s other signing; the 24 million pound signing of Darren Bent from Sunderland. The second the Bent transfer
was announced people were talking of how crazy the deal was and that Bent isn’t worth that much and etc., however a goal on his debut against Man City which proved to be the winner says that was he was bought for, his undeniable goal scoring ability.

The only departure of note was new signing Stephen Ireland off to Newcastle, it has been well documented that he didn’t want to join Villa but rather than keep his head down he pouted and played poorly and has now found himself at Newcastle, maybe he’ll find his love for the game again.

Blackpool

Ian Holloway is most people’s man of the hour, his witty retorts and blunt opinions have brought something to the Premier League not seen since Jose Mourinho left for Italy, however the situation surrounding Charlie Adam brought into light Holloway’s resolve.

Following a number of bids from Villa and Birmingham, Liverpool made an offer and Adam in turn handed in a transfer request, however Holloway was unimpressed with Liverpool’s offer and he managed to keep his star player – just a day later, the Scott showed why he is so highly rated, putting in a man of the match effort against League Leaders Manchester United.

Holloway, then managed to add Adam Reid and James Beattie to his side on the final day of the window, signings which I believe will add to his already hard-working team and should keep them up if they play to their potential and recover their form.

Manchester City

27 Million Pound Man Dzeko excited to be at City

Only three changes at the blue half of Manchester this time round, with Strikers being the only players to move.

Out of favour Roque Santa-Cruz returned to Blackburn on loan and Emmanuel Adebayor headed overseas to Real Madrid.

Their big purchase was Edin Dzeko, brought in to replace the departed duo. Certainly an interesting move, Dzeko is a good player but so were Adebayor and Santa-Cruz, but the question will be how well he can adjust and he copes in the physical English league. If this edition works out, it appears Manchester City will be able to make a real push towards the top of the table.

Chelsea and Liverpool

I’ve grouped these two teams together because they managed to make transfer deadline day interesting.

With the revelation that Fernando Torres wanted to leave Liverpool after Chelsea had made a bid, it became apparent that he was joining the Blues and Liverpool needed to find a replacement, quickly.

Suarez took just 16 minutes to score on his LFC debut.

Their attentions turned to young Andy Carroll, the Newcastle striker and England international. After a day of drama it was announced that he would be joining fellow new signing Luis Suarez at Liverpool for a fee of 35 million pounds.

Crazy money in my opinion for an unproven striker, but a gamble Liverpool needed to make in order to replace the hole left by Torres, they do however finally have two good strikers with which to lead the line. Whether they can now turn Liverpool’s season around is going to be exciting over the next few months.

Chelsea meanwhile have a strike-force that is in transition, despite pairing Drogba and Torres up, their squad is on its last legs as its age begins to show with injuries to Lampard and Terry. The summer will be one of interesting developments, can Torres fire Chelsea to the top or will he be the lone star as the inevitable mass chop and change of the summer occurs.

As usual Arsenal and Manchester United sit quiet during the January transfer period.

The top two teams in the Premier League, happy with their squads and ready to fight to the end of the season.

One thing is for certain, an interesting end to the season lies ahead.

Tom Dobbyne throw’s his own spin on current sports affairs and offers satirical commentary on current events. Follow him @TomDobbyne or on Facebook as English Tom.

English Premier League – Power Rankings

With all teams having eleven games under their belt and just over a quarter of the season done with, it’s time to look at which teams are hot and which teams have started to slide down the rankings.

Who’s Hot

Fergie continues to create greatness.

Manchester United, 2nd– Outside of fan circles, Manchester United continues to be underrated, despite not losing in any competition this season. The Red Devils are just two points behind Chelsea and although Wayne Rooney has been a distraction for much of the last few weeks, Alex Ferguson’s boys continue to push their way forward.

 

Newcastle, 5thDespite a few rough weeks, the Magpies have pushed forward and find themselves fifth in the standings. After a two goal comeback to pick up a point against Wigan on October 16th, Newcastle has scored 8 goals in their last three League games, and picked up a big victory over Arsenal this past week.

Liverpool, 9th With Fernando Torres firing on all cylinders this past weekend, blasting two goals past League Leaders Chelsea, the Merseyside team has picked up three straight League wins. A team that stuttered out of the gates and were quickly in the relegation zone, Liverpool has picked up its form and Roy Hodgson looks to be turning the ship around, but they still have a lot to prove.

Who’s Cold

He hasn't got a "Kalou"

Chelsea, 1st The League leaders looked a shadow of the team that stormed out of the gates at the start of the season. Missing Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba. Salomon Kalou continues to be lacklustre in front of net, scoring once since September 19th, and was a poor replacement for Drogba on Sunday.

 

Tottenham, 7th – Despite excellent European form, the team that were highly rated coming into the season have just two wins in their last six league games and the 4-2 loss to Bolton this weekend highlighted a season already filled with inconsistent play on the pitch. This is a team full of top rated players and I wouldn’t expect them to finish the season out of the top five but have a lot of work in front of them to improve on their current standing in seventh with 15 points, a total that five teams are sitting at.

West Ham, 20th – Just seven points this season and a total meltdown in the second half of this week’s game against Birmingham saw them give up a two-goal lead and settle for a draw. Robert Green has continued his fantastic World Cup form and lacks confidence in-goal for a team that looks destined for relegation.

 

 

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Quote of the Week – Despite a string of bad publicity for out of favor striker Wayne Rooney, England teammate Frank Lampard had this to say about the Manchester united player, “Confident, very good to be around, funny, and one you want next to you as a mate if you go to war or if you just want a laugh. He’s a lad’s lad and that’s what I love about him.


Player of the Week – Liverpool’s Pepe Reina faced a stern test against Chelsea, but turned away their talent with some spectacular saves and picked up the clean sheet for his team.

 

Owen Hargreaves: A synonym for injuries, let downs and heartbreak.

Disappointment of the Week – The highly anticipated return of Owen Hargreaves was a complete, utter failure, when the England Midfielder limped off the field just six minutes into his return. Fans for England and Manchester United will have reason to worry as Hargreaves suffers another blow to his career.

 

 

 

Henry Whitfield is a sports contributor to the Dalhousie Gazette and provides commentary on local sports in and around the HRM. You can follow him on twitter@HenryWhitfield or on his blog, Sports With Henry.

Champions League Draw!

Football is back!

Today marked the group stage of the European Champions League being set and awards being given out for Player’s of the year.

The stage was set by an array of Footballing superstars including Gianfranco Zola, Gary Lineker and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

With three London based clubs in the draw, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham,it marked the first time since 2003/2004 that three teams from one city have made it into the group stage.

Group A – Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Tottenham, FC Twente

Group B – Lyon, Benfica, Schalke, Tel-Aviv

Group C Manchester United, Valenica, Rangers, Bursaspor

Group D – Barcelona, Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan

Group E – Bayern Munich, AS Roma, FC Basel, Cluj

Group F Chelsea, Marseille, Spartak Moscow, MSK Zilina

Group G – AC Milan, Real Madrid, Ajax, Auxerre

Group H – Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, SC Braga, FK Partizan

Some very interesting match ups, with Group G including no less than first ever winners and 9 time champions Real Madrid being drawn with 7 time winners AC Milan. Also featuring 4-time winners Ajax, Group G is the clear “Group of Death” for this year’s draw.

Another interesting match will feature Manchester United battling with Rangers FC, a club that Sir Alex Ferguson scored 25 goals for during his time there in 1967-1969.

Elsewhere, Chelsea FC was drawn with Spartak Moscow, which sees owner Roman Abramovich takes his club to his home country and the return of Russian player Yuri Zhirkov.

First matches are played on September 14th and 15th.

Not only were the groups drawn, but UEFA Player of the Year awards were announced and awarded, here are this year’s winners:

UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan)

Inter Milan continued their winning ways

UEFA Defender of the Year: Maicon (Inter Milan)

UEFA Midfielder of the Year: Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan)

UEFA Forward of the Year: Diego Milito (Inter Milan)

UEFA Player of the Year: Diego Milito (Inter MIlan)

It was a clean sweep for Mourinho and his men in blue stripes, his legend grows and the special one will look forward to completing another clean sweep with Real Madrid this year.

Community Shield Preview and Predos

Football is back!

Yes, the lower England football leagues kicked off this weekend and we have a few international tours to keep us busy, oh and that league they call the MLS was going on, but today the real football season starts.

The annual Community Shield pits defending league champions Chelsea against runner-up Manchester United. The one-point difference at the end of last season will still be fresh in both teams and the battle for dominance between the two powerhouses will ensure this matchup is as exciting as ever.

Last year Chelsea pipped United in penalties, but go into the match this year on the string of four pre-season losses and a run of injuries. Goalkeeper Petr Cech is out, along with defensive stalwarts Alex and Boswinga, while Didier Drogba will start on the bench.

Manchester United has its own set of injuries to worry about with Michael Carrick out for the start of the season and both Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney battling injuries last year, both strikers will play at least 45-minutes but Sir Alex Ferguson will rely heavily on his young stars to fill in the gaps.

Many of the players in today’s match will have much to prove after a dismal, disappointing, disastrous, absolutely horrible World Cup for England and an implosion of France, which leaves Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Florent Malouda, Nicholas Anelka and Wayne Rooney.

This season will be a testing one for Manchester United who have a squad filled with a combination of experience and youth, but time will tell if legends Paul Scholes, Edwin Van Der Sar and Ryan Giggs will contribute at the same level as before or if young stars Nani, Anderson, Smalling and new signing Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez will usher in a new era.

Match Predictions

Henry – Chelsea wins 3 – 2, with Malouda scoring and Drogba hitting the back of the net twice, while Wayne Rooney answers with a goal and sets up Hernandez for his first United goal.

Tom – Manchester United wins 2-1, while Javier Hernandez scores both for United.

A Look At The 2010/2011 Premier League Season

Previewing 2010/2011 Premier League Season

With Tom’s European preview in the books and the English Premier League just over a week away from kicking-off, it’s time to preview the season and throw some early predictions out there.

You can find @TomDobbyne’s Premier League predictions throughout the article as well, enjoy the read!

Transfers To Watch – This year’s transfer window has been quiet, but there were a few moves that should impact teams battling at the top:

–          David Silva, Man City (From Valencia, £24m) – Adds more creativity and experience

–          Joe Cole, Liverpool (From Chelsea, Free Transfer) – Will add a lot of pace to the midfield, and will be re-invigorated after being put back into a first team selection

–          Pablo Barrera, West Ham Utd (From UNAM Pumas, £4m) – The Mexican International played well in the World Cup and will be an influx of creativity for the mid-table side

–          Ramires, Chelsea (From Benfica, £18m) – The only key signing for Chelsea this summer and should balance the departure of J. Cole, Ballack and Deco earlier this summer.

Barrera Looks To Keep West Ham Up

Mangers In The Hot seatFinally, Benitez is out of England and wreaking havoc upon another league, but now we need another couple of managers to pick on:

Martin O'Neill Faces big pressure this season

–          Martin O’Neill, Aston Villa – The Villa manager has led his team to back-to-back sixth place finishes, however he increased their point total by just two last seasons. The pressure is on to get his team into the Promised Land of Champions League football.

–          Roberto Mancini, Man City – After the quick dismissal of Mark Hughes, Mancini was able to lead his team to a fifth place finish but the pressure is always on when your owners have unrealistic expectations

–          Chris Hughton, Newcastle – Now that Magpies are back into the Premier League, there will be no allowance for going back down, that being said look for Hughton to be the first to go if the team embarks  on a steady descent towards relegation.

The Relegation Battle – Last season saw Burnley, Hull City and in tatters Portsmouth drop down to the championship and saw Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion and Blackpool pop into the top flight, here’s who is pegged to go down:

–          Blackpool – The Tangerines were an outside bet to gain promotion and managed to shock pundits by sneaking in through the playoffs, but look to see them drop back down and there won’t be much Ian Holloway will be able to do to keep them up.

–          West Bromwich Albion – WBA is famous for coming up, only to drop back down and for every season since 2000, except 2004/2005 and 2006/2007, they have either been promoted or relegated from the top flight. It would be a pleasant surprise to see them stay up, but I’d expect to see them continue their usual trend.

–          Wigan Athletic – The Lactics had a goal difference of -42  at the end of last season, which was worse than all three teams relegated and without any additions in firepower the team looks destined for the drop.

Tom’s Predictions: Blackpool, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion

The Title Battle – A two horse race for much of the season, the final weekend saw Chelsea pip Manchester United by one point to win the English Premier League title on 87 points, while Arsenal finished third with 75 and Tottenham a distant fourth with 70 points.

–          1st, Chelsea Football Club – The defending champions are my favourites to repeat, ignoring the fact I am a diehard supporter, and should see off any challenge from Manchester United. A fit Didier Drogba will look to build on his Golden Boot season and rebound from a disappointing World Cup, look for him to break all his previous goal scoring marks.

–          2nd, Manchester United – The 2009/2010 runner-up has a lot to prove after injuries hurt them midseason and were unable to win the Champions League. They have yet to bolster their first-team, but signings of Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez are purchases for the future.

–          3rd, Manchester City – The newest member of the millionaires club, City added Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jerome Boeteng and Aleksandar Kolarov to their team and look to push for the title. It would be foolish to look past the talent of this team, but it will be up to Mancini to make the players fit together and play a fluid game.

Tom’s Predictions: Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City

Can anyone stop Drogba from Scoring?

Top Scorer – Last season Didier Drogba finished three goals ahead of Wayne Rooney with 29 goals, while Sunderland’s Darren Bent finished with the third highest goal total at 24, closely followed by Carlos Tevez on 23 and midfielder Frank Lampard rounding out the top five with 22.

–          1st, Didier Drogba, Chelsea – Drogba missed a month of the season for the African Cup and still managed to score 29 goals. This season he’ll have a chip on his shoulder after a disappointing World Cup, and I see him scoring 30+ goals this season

–          2nd, Wayne Rooney, Manchester United – Rooney was hit with injuries last season, but I don’t see him scoring more than Drogba. However, look for it to be close all season much like last.

–          3rd, Carlos Tevez, Manchester City – The Man City striker will build off of a strong season and will be key to the final position for City.

–          Honourable Mentions – Jermaine Defoe, Fernando Torres and Gabriel Agbonlahor

Tom’s Prediction: Wayne Rooney

The English Premier League kicks off August 14th and make sure you come back each week our Weekly Premier League Roundup and our Fantasy League Roundup, where we will breakdown the top players each week.

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Henry Whitfield covers all things sports and can be found on Twitter @HenryWhitfield, where he live-tweets Mooseheads, Bluejays and much more!

EPL Final Weekend Preview!

After thirty-seven weeks, more than 66,600 minutes and 1,011 goals scored it is time for the English Premier League season to come to a close.

This season has been full of ups and downs, heroes and heartbreak and week thirty-eight promises to continue this trend.

As we enter the final weekend of football the Title has yet to be decided and even third place is up for grabs. Below I break down the major storylines of the final week in the English Football season from Champions to relegation and everything in between:

Fight For Third PlaceTottenham pulled off a big win over Manchester City on Wednesday, a match that clinched them a place in the top four and guaranteed Champions League action next year.  Harry Redknapp refused to discuss taking third place from Arsenal but they do sit just 2 points back of the Gunners heading into this weekend. Arsenal holds their fate in their hands, where just one point against Fulham will wrap up third place, while Tottenham take on relegated Burnley who need to win there and hope for a Fulham win to snatch third place. Arsenal will be missing super Captain Cesc Fabregas but have Robin Van Persie back who was the hero last time these two met.

Champions To Be Named – The pressure is all on Chelsea as they take on Wigan Athletic, where a win will see them be named Champions for the first time since they fired the Special One three seasons ago. It must be noted that Wigan beat Chelsea 3-1 when they met earlier this season, and the London team must remain focused to take a trophy that has become a resident in Manchester.  Manchester United takes on Stoke City, which should be a guaranteed win, as the Potters have not scored against the Champions since they were promoted two seasons ago. However, even if Manchester United score they must hope that Chelsea does not win to be named Champions.

Relegation Battle – The relegation battle is all but technically over, with Portsmouth dropped weeks ago and Burnley dropped last week. Hull City sits in 18th, but will want to win for the cash bonus involved as Burnley can overtake them if they win on Sunday.

Who has the Golden Boot – England striker Wayne Rooney and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba sit tied on 26 goals scored a piece, and Sunderland striker Darren Bent sits on 24 goals.  Drogba has just one goal in his last four games, where as Rooney has played a full ninety minutes in his last six matches and has not scored a goal since March 21st.  Bent has scored a number of goals in recent weeks and faces a Wolves squad that has little to play for; the advantage may be his if he can hit a rich vein of form. However, I’m going to give the edge to Drogba who will explode this weekend with three goals.

Injuries Stay Away – With all this action taking place there is one man in England who is more nervous than any other, Fabio Capello saw midfielder Gareth Barry go down with an ankle injury that will have him out for a month and the Italian will be crossing his fingers and praying that no other international goes down with an injury this weekend. With the World Cup just a month away any injury could knock a player out of contention and seriously hurt England’s chances in South Africa

Check back next week for my Premier League wrap up and my Season Ending awards.

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.