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As Chelsea hunt Cavani – is Torres’ time finally up?

“There’s no better place to be than at Chelsea with Mourinho”. These were the unequivocal words of Fernando Torres recently when questioned on his future with Chelsea. Words that exude nothing else but an unmistakable desire to ply his trade at Stamford Bridge this coming season. Compare these words with the “so-so” that Jose Mourinho mumbled recently to describe Torres’s time at Chelsea and you would be forgiven for thinking that things don’t quite add up for Spain’s number 9.

“So-so” – not a direct denunciation of Torres but certainly not a declaration of faith from Chelsea’s new manager either. Mix this with Mourinho’s not-so-secret desire to bring in Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and the signs do not look good for Torres.

The Chelsea faithful are unlikely to shed many tears if Torres’s departure means Cavani is brought in with the two strikers’ goal-scoring records last season contrasting starkly. 26-year-old Cavani scored a staggering 38 goals in 43 games, 29 of which were in Serie A. Torres, now 29, managed 22 in 64 for Chelsea in a season that many considered his best in blue – just eight of those 22 goals however were Premier League goals. To put it bluntly, Cavani is the player Chelsea thought they were signing in Torres from Liverpool – and more. Any fans doubting Cavani’s ability to make the notoriously difficult transition from Serie A to the Premier League should take solace in the success of strikingly similar players Carlos Tevez and Luis Suarez on these shores.

Fernando Torres

One element that Torres has in his favour however is the competition Chelsea may find in landing the understandably much sought-after Uruguayan. PSG are widely reported to have made Cavani prime target number one this summer and are more than capable of outspending even Chelsea yet Cavani, who was relatively quiet in the Confederations Cup, is believed to be eager to ultimately prove himself in the Premier League.

If Chelsea are unable to nab the Salto man it still remains difficult to imagine Mourinho’s Chelsea lining up against Hull in August with Torres or Demba Ba, who managed just the two league goals last term, leading it. Mourinho is likely to line his side up with just the one striker more times than not and he understandably won’t want to hand that responsibility to a player whose light has significantly faded since his Liverpool days.  Stephan El Shaararwy is another signing that Chelsea have strongly been linked with and one that Torres, like with Cavani, is supposedly being used in as a bargaining tool. Chelsea are unlikely to want their most expensive acquisition festering on the bench and are perhaps wise to use him as makeweight for the future development of that forward line.

Chelsea and Torres are believed to be holding talks this week over his future at the club with the Spaniard hoping to persuade his new manager that he still has a role to play at the club, be that with a new strike partner or not. He’ll certainly not want his roll to be as a deal-maker in the negotiations for his eventual replacement.

Torres is still likely to demand a costly fee and, at his best, remains formidable in every department in front of goal. Enquiries for his services will certainly not be shy in coming forward yet the problem for Torres would be convincing potential suitors that he is able to recapture the scintillating form he has shown slivers of at Chelsea and that he is worth a gamble with what would surely be a pricey fee.

If this is indeed the end of Torres’s spell at Chelsea then the question that remains is where next for ‘El Niño’. Perhaps the most likely destination is wherever Chelsea want him, whether that is in Naples or Milan. Barcelona are rumoured to be interested in Torres as a possible replacement for David Villa whose form has, for him, waned since his injury. Torres though has talked down this link, instead deciding to focus on Chelsea and his wish to benefit from the tutelage of Mourinho. After two-and-a-half underwhelming seasons at Chelsea and with Mourinho mercilessly tracking Europe’s elite however, that wish may well be left unfulfilled.

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Lionel Messi and Barcelona have potential to end AC Milan’s Champions League in first leg

Two European powerhouses collide on Wednesday evening, when Spanish maestros Barcelona travel to the San Siro to face seven-time European Champions AC Milan.

Having met in last seasons Champions League in both the group and knockout stages, the teams will be all too aware of the dangers each present.
Milan held Barcelona to a draw at Camp Nou in last years group stage; also drawing the first leg of the last-eight clash before the Spanish league leaders went on to win the second leg 3-1 courtesy of goals from Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. If the Italians are going to qualify for this years quarter-final they will have to come away from this first leg with some sort of advantage. Stephan El Shaarawy will be hoping to start after his late fitness test, but Giampaolo Pazzini will definitely be part of the squad having overcome a thigh injury. Milan will be missing Mario Balotelli (cup-tied); otherwise they have their strongest available line up.

Lionel Messi

Barcelona, sitting top of La Liga by 12 points, may feel they have a point to prove in this competition. Arguably the best team in the modern era, Barca have won the Champions League three times in the last seven years – and were it not for stout defending by Chelsea last year, may have made another final. Having faced Milan several times in recent seasons they will know that an away goal will be key in this tie.

Barca will welcome Xavi back into the squad after a fitness test on Monday, but it seems David Villa will unfortunately miss the tie. Lionel Messi will of course start the game; the Argentine with five goals in the competition already will look to add a couple more to his ever-impressive scoring record.

Milan will look to keep this game tight – but if they fail to defend properly against Messi and co, the tournament could be over before it has even started.

By Stephen Reid

Seven stars on the verge of missing out on Euro 2012

With only a couple of months before Euro 2012, and the teams and groups decided, the last thing to be confirmed are each nation’s squads. With the tournament only being played once every four years, it may be some players’ last chance to feature, with all the major superstars keen to playin Ukraine and Poland. However, some more than others are in danger of missing out through injury, poor form or selection issues at club level; here are the top seven sitting on the fence.

Fernando Torres

The World Cup winning striker has lost his way since the last major international tournament, and is no longer guaranteed a place in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad. With a barren spell at Chelsea blighting El Nino’s career, the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado and Fernando Llorente could get the nod ahead of Torres.

Jermain Defoe

One of the most clinical strikers in the Premier League when given an opportunity, Defoe has had a frustrating season in and out of the Tottenham side. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart ahead of the Englishman in Harry Redknapp’s preferences, Defoe may well miss out on the competition due to lack of playing time.

Mario Balotelli

During the qualifiers Cesare Prandelli used the Manchester City forward on a regular basis, and Balotelli started to lead the line towards the end of that campaign. However, the national selector recently left Super Mario out of his squad for a friendly against the United States, claiming Balotelli’s immaturity and indiscipline as the reason.

David Villa

Spain and Barcelona star Villa would have been a certainty had he been fit, but a broken leg in the Club World Cup in December has the Camp Nou man cutting it fine. Villa should make it back to club action before the end of the season, but with the number of Spanish attackers available, is not guaranteed participation.

Giuseppe Rossi

Another star to pick up a serious injury, Rossi ruptured knee ligaments in October, and has been through a strenuous rehabilitation process since. The Villarreal forward was in Prandelli’s preferences before the setback, and has targeted April for a possible return to action.

Raul Albiol

With Jose Mourinho using Sergio Ramos in the centre of his Real Madrid defence alongside either Pepe or Ricardo Carvalho, Albiol is a serious doubt for Euro 2012. The ex-Valencia man has only made five appearances in the Primera Division this term, and with versatile Javi Martinez and Sergio Busquets also being able to play at the back, Albiol needs a miracle to be included.

Jack Wilshere

The Arsenal playmaker has not played a minute of football this season due to a knee injury in pre-season, although Arsene Wenger has promised that his star will be available before the end of the Premier League campaign. However with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Tom Cleverley, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick and maybe even Paul Scholes in contention for a place in the centre of the park, Wilshere needs to hurry up.

Published – footylatest

Euro 2012: The Strikers To Watch

Euro 2012 is only a matter of months away, and excitement is growing in fans and players alike. The tournament in Poland and Ukraine is set to be one of the most open of recent times, with holders Spain sure to be challenged by the likes of Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and England. Any successful team needs a leading goalscorer, and some of the most prolific marksmen on the planet will be on show this summer.

The Euro 2012 Golden Boot will be contested by a large number of attackers, with the eventual winner likely to be in a successful side that makes the latter stages of the tournament; here are some of the main contenders:

Mario Gomez is the current favourite for the accolade, as the Germany international striker is sure to lead the line for Joachim Low’s side. The Germans were unrelenting in qualifying, winning all ten of their Group A games, with Gomez netting six times in the process. The Bayern Munich attacker is the Bundesliga’s current top goalscorer with 18 strikes, and in a much-fancied Germany team Gomez is expected to hit the net on regular occasion. His international team-mate Miroslav Klose is also in the running at fifth favourite, with Arsenal target Lukas Podolski back in 11th.

Robin van Persie runs Gomez close as second favourite, and the Netherlands frontman will take some stopping; the Arsenal hitman is the Premier League’s top goalscorer with 25 goals, and he has been in incredible form of late. Van Persie scored six goals in qualifying, and is ready to replicate his stellar club performances on the international stage. Although Van Persie is a sure starter in Bert van Marwijk’s side, Klass-Jan Huntelaar may also play and could be a good bet for the Golden Boot. The Schalke striker has re-found his killer instinct in the Bundesliga, and topped the Euro 2012 qualifying goal charts with 12 strikes; he is seventh favourite to lift the individual crown.

Spain are the team to beat this summer, with a fantastic World Cup winning side at the peak of their abilities. However, with a dearth of talent at his disposal, it will be interesting to see who Vicente Del Bosque selects in attack. David Villa would surely have played if fit, but the Barcelona attacker is recovering from a broken leg and faces a race against time to be available for the competition; despite this he is still third favourite to lift the Golden Boot. Roberto Soldado may well start instead after excellent form for Valencia and in international friendlies; he is sixth favourite. Fernando Torres faces a battle to be selected after a terrible year, however the Chelsea forward is still eighth on the list.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s club form has been exemplary over the last five seasons, however the only criticism of the Real Madrid attacker is that he does not show this for Portugal. Despite this, the former Ballon d’Or winner is fourth favourite to tleadthe goalscoring charts. Mario Balotelli is the most fancied of Italy’s strikers in ninth place, despite being left out of the squad for the recent friendly defeat to the United States, whilst Karim Benzema heads France’s hopefuls as tenth favourite.

England’s shining light Wayne Rooney is down in 19th, largely due to the fact that he will miss two games in the group stages due to suspension, with currently injured colleague Darren Bent way down in 36th. The next Three Lions boss may have to rely on youth at the tournament, with Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck at 38th and 39th on the list to excel if given a chance.

Published – Soccerlens

Five strikers ready to light up Euro 2012

Interest and excitement is starting to build around Euro 2012, with the international tournament less than six months away. All the usual suspects will travel to Poland and Ukraine, with holders Spain sure to be tested by Germany, Netherlands and maybe even England, amongst others. The following five attackers have their nation’s hopes resting on their shoulders, and will battle it out for the competition’s golden boot.

Robin van Persie – Netherlands

Premier League defences will testify to the quality and predatory nature of Arsenal and Netherlands striker Robin van Persie, as The Gunners’ captain is ready to lead Bert van Marwijk’s attack in the summer. With 22 goals in the English top flight so far this campaign, Van Persie is without doubt one of the form forwards in world football. With the likes of Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder ready to supply him, expect Van Persie to continue his stellar club form on the international stage.

 

 

Mario Gomez – Germany

Mario Gomez has emerged as the spearhead for Bayern Munich’s improved showing this term, and is the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer with 17 goals so far. On the international stage Gomez scored six goals in Euro 2012 qualification, and will battle it out with veteran Lazio forward Miroslav Klose for the No 9 jersey. With a considerable contingent of Joachim Low’s squad originating from the Allianz Arena, Gomez’s bond with his club team-mates, in particular playmaker Thomas Muller, could see Germany as a real contender in the summer.

 

Roberto Soldado – Spain

Spain’s attacking options are frightening, and the holders will again be the team to beat in eastern Europe this time around. Although their midfield of Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Andres Iniesta is set, Vicente Del Bosque has options up front, with no clear cut starting No 9. With Fernando Torres struggling for form and David Villa recovering from a leg break, the stage is set for Roberto Soldado to become the World champions’ main man. The Valencia forward has consistently been a threat in La Liga and the Champions League over recent seasons, and the top Spanish goalscorer in the Primera Division this season so far could well be a massive success if given his chance.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo has been accused of not recreating his form for Real Madrid on the international stage, but the sprightly attacker will want to prove his critics wrong this summer. Last season’s Pichichi winner, Ronaldo has continued this term where he left off, and has already netted 24 times in 21 Primera Division games this campaign. At times a one-man band for club and country, Ronaldo will have to be at his best if Portugal are to progress through a difficult Group B, which also contains Germany, Netherlands and Denmark.

 

 

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s record at club level is a copybook of success, as the striker has achieved glory and won league titles at Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and AC Milan. At 30-years-old, Zlatan will look to lead his nation to a strong Euro 2012 campaign and build on his 28 international goals. Temperamental, at times selfish but undoubtedly one of the most prolific strikers in world football, Ibrahimovic could well be the Scandinavian country’s hero or villain.

 

Published – Footbo

El Clasico preview – Real Madrid vs Barcelona: The visitors’ champions status to be tested at the Santiago Bernabeu

The first El Clasico of the 2011-12 season sees Barcelona’s Spanish dominance over the last three seasons set to be thoroughly challenged by Real Madrid. The quality, passion and electric atmosphere of a contest between Spain’s top two teams will be present as always when the duo meet, but this fixture has the potential to swing the balance of power in the country and the continent. Barcelona have been untouchable, mesmerizing and victorious at home and abroad over the last three years, but are showing signs of inconsistency and have not been at their menacing best this term, whilst Madrid are top of the standings and ready to wrestle the crown back from their bitter rivals. A mouth-watering match in the offing, football doesn’t get much better anywhere in the world than this.

The hosts are looking as dangerous and on-form as a Madrid team have over the last ten years, and sit top of La Liga with 12 wins from 14 games; Los Blancos are three points ahead of Barca and have played a game less. A 3-0 win over Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday night made it a club record 15 victories in a row for the Santiago Bernabeu giants, and Jose Mourinho’s men go into the game more prepared, motivated and ready than in any Clasico fixture in the recent memory. The Portuguese coach’s winning mentality and inability to accept second best has rubbed off on his team, as ‘The Special One’ looks to replicate his dominant track record with Porto, Chelsea and Inter in the Spanish capital.

Mourinho’s countryman Cristiano Ronaldo will continue his personal battle with Lionel Messi on Saturday, as the debate to whom the best footballer on the planet is rages on. Both players are in the offing for the 2011 Ballon d’Or, and the ex-Manchester United attacker will look to stake his claim by leading the hosts to victory. Midfield lynchpin Xabi Alonso will return from suspension in a massive boost for the home team, whilst Mourinho has a tough decision to make in deciding whether to go for the combative Lassana Diarra alongside the Spain international, or the more creative and attacking minded Mesut Ozil. If Madrid win they will increase their lead at the top of the Primera Division to six points with a game in hand, and receive a massive boost going into the new year.

With three consecutive La Liga titles and two Champions League triumphs in three years, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team will go down in history as one of the greats. However, Guardiola’s genius is set to best tested, as the game on Saturday is arguably the biggest challenge the former midfielder has faced in his coaching career to date. With a world-class opponent and a hostile reception guaranteed, Barcelona will need to be at their best to leave the Spanish capital with three points. With Madrid’s current ruthless streak, the Blaugrana will know that they can ill-afford to let their age-old rivals get too far ahead in the race for the title, as even though it is early in the season they may not be caught.

Despite drawing more games than they would like this season, Barcelona have the same personnel and winning mentality that has made them deserved champions over recent campaigns. Madrid will need to breach the tightest rearguard in the Spanish top flight; Barca have only conceded seven goals in 15 La Liga games this season, and will be boosted by the inclusion of pivotal centre back Gerard Pique. The usual midfield suspects such as Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and the third Ballon d’Or contender Xavi, will look to dominate possession and starve their amped-up opponents of the ball, whilst feeding their sprightly forward line. Guardiola has a decision to make in terms of whether to play 2010-11 mainstay David Villa or exciting summer signing Alexis Sanchez, whilst all eyes, as usual will be on Lionel Messi.

Madrid go into the game as slight favourites, but small margins will settle what should be a scintillating game of football. Barcelona will be asked to prove their mantle of champions in the most daunting environment, whilst Real Madrid have to state their case that they are ready to eclipse a team of a generation in the form of their most bitter rivals.

Publishedhttp://soccerlens.com/barcelona-real-madrid/62008/

Barcelona to add Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas to their ranks – but where will they play?

Barcelona have been Europe’s best side for a number of seasons and showcased total football in winning their third consecutive La Liga title and the Champions League crown in 2010-11. With the transfer window well and truly open, the Catalan side have signed Alexis Sanchez from Udinese for €37.5 million and are in negotiations with Arsenal over the return of Cesc Fabregas to Catalunya. The new faces are of top quality, no doubt, but with the dream team already at Pep Guardiola’s beaconing, will the new men get into the team?

Sanchez is fresh from a Copa America campaign with Chile, and the 22-year-old suitably impressed once-more, showing trickery, speed and great ball control to standout as one of the brightest lights in the tournament. Internationally, he Tocopilla born man is used as a second striker alongside Humberto Suazo; he tends to drop deep to pick up the ball, and also offers a ball over the top with his speed. For Udinese, Sanchez found himself in more of a right winger role, with licence to support main striker Antonio Di Natale, but starting from wide.

The European champions play a 4-3-3 formation, with Lionel Messi supported by David Villa and Pedro last season. It looks evident that the new South American signing will be in direct competition with La Masia graduate Pedro for a starting berth, but this is by no means a given. The 24-year-old Spanish international has made a real impact since entering the first team fray in 2008, and scored valuable goals last season, including in the Champions League semi-finals and final. He has recently just signed a new contract at the club with a €150 million buyout, giving you an idea of his worth to Pep Guardiola.

Fabregas has not yet signed for the Blaugrana, but a deal looks set to be completed, as the player wants to leave and Barca are closing in on the Emirates’ club’s asking price. The 24-year-old had a dip in form last term, and if he does return to the side he started his career with, he will have to be at his best to commandeer a place in the side.

In the 4-3-3 system, one holding player (Sergio Busquets) plays in front of the defence, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta playing ahead of him and orchestrating the game. This Spanish international trio have their play down to a fine art, and are the reason that the Catalans boss almost every match they play; they are the fulcrum of the team.

As good as the Arsenal man is, he, nor anyone in world football, is going to take Xavi or Iniesta’s place in the Barcelona starting line-up. When they are fit and available they are automatic selections, and are as important to the Barca team as Lionel Messi. Busquets has more of a battling quality than his two more creative team-mates and the potential new arrival, and protects the Barcelona centre-halves with the utmost diligence.

If Fabregas is to get a start for Barcelona, one would think it would be in place of Busquets, and in a more deep lying role than he is accustomed to at Arsenal. It would also mean that he would be responsible for the winning of the ball and anchoring of the midfield, something he has not been accustomed to doing in England. Does the new man really want to be the one to try to shackle Cristiano Ronaldo? And is he the man to do it?

Such is life; if you want to join the best team in the world, even for almost €40 million, you are not guaranteed a place in the team, as the players who are already in the position you want to play in are worth that and more.

Published – http://soccerlens.com/fans/barcelona-look-to-add-alexis-sanchez-and-cesc-fabregas-to-their-ranks-but-where-will-they-play/

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