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Drogba, Berbatov and the Premier League strikers up for grabs this summer

With the big clubs looking to strengthen their squads for 2012-13, there is a likelihood that a number of fringe players will be sold on. Here are six Premier League strikers likely to be looking for a new club this summer.

Edin Dzeko

Although experiencing a great start to the 2011-2012 season, scoring seven goals in the first four matches for the Blues, a year spent in the shadow of Argentine team-mate Sergio Aguero has been disappointing for the Bosnian hit-man. Already proving himself as a dangerous Premier League forward, Dzeko will look for new ground come next season and with another big-money forward likely to join Roberto Mancini’s men in the summer, the £27 million forward will want to get first-team football elsewhere and there are many clubs that will want him.

Dimitar Berbatov

It has been a strange season at Old Trafford for the Bulgarian forward, who has experienced a game drought at the beginning of the season, a fantastic December – scoring six goals in three games – and a disappointing finish. The Manchester United outcast will want to find a new club next year after demonstrating his ability when he has had the chance. Valued at around £10 million, the 31-year-old forward would be a great signing for any club in need of a goal-hungry poacher. Although known for his laziness, there is no doubt that many sides will want him come the summer.

Marouane Chamakh

For Marouane Chamakh it has been an awful season, scoring only one goal in 21 appearances for the north London outfit, and although signing on a free transfer from Bordeaux in 2010, the Moroccan forward has been a big disappointment. With the signing of Lucas Podolski, there will be no space for the target man in Arsene Wenger’s plans and it is possible he could make a move back to France very soon. The Premier League has proved to be just too much of a challenge for the 28-year-old striker, who will be frustrated with his unhappy time at Arsenal.

Jermain Defoe

Super sub Jermain Defoe, much like the others mentioned, has had a year spent watching from the sidelines, as Manchester City loanee Emmanuel Adebayor has led Tottenham’s front-line this season. The unsettled 29-year-old has been linked to a £10 million move to Anfield and has also been connected with a transfer to promoted side Reading. Although Harry Redknapp is keen to keep him at Tottenham in the summer, Defoe is dying for first-team football and there will be a number of new options for him if Spurs are willing to sell.

Didier Drogba

With an expiring contract in the summer, 34-year-old Didier Drogba is set to make a departure from his beloved Stamford Bridge after eight years of dedicated service. Scoring vital goals in the cup competitions this season, the Ivorian target man will play a vital role in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich and will be intent on having a last surge for European glory. It is rumoured that Drogba could make a mover to either Shanghai Shenhua – to join former teammate Nicolas Anelka – or possibly back to former club Marseille if a contract extension of two years is not offered by the Blues.

Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt has been a loyal servant at Anfield since signing in 2006 and has proved a important player for King Kenny’s side this term, scoring the equaliser in the extra time of the Carling Cup final and leading them on to win on penalties. There has been much speculation over a return to Dutch side Feyenoord, after admitting that he wants to go back, but for the 31 year-old the deal would be now or never and with a Liverpool team on decline, it looks like the Dutchman is set to make a return to Rotterdam.

By Jacob Tucker

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Who will be next in a long line of unfortunate Chelsea managers?

Roman Abramovich’s ever-revolving door of Chelsea managers seems to have always been a hot topic in the press and as we are nearing the end of the season, is Robbie’s time as interim first team coach up? Among the fans Di Matteo has been a hit, and there is no doubt that the dressing room atmosphere has dramatically improved from the previous dictatorship of AVB. But surely Abramovich will want a big name for the job; will he have the same fate as the unsuccessful Andre Villas-Boas, or will he restore Chelsea to it’s former glory and lead them into a new era of Premier League dominance?

Rafael Benitez

Although far from a favourite for Chelsea fans, Benitez is definitely one of the bookies’ frontrunners and from Abramovich’s point of view, you can see why he might want the ex-Liverpool manager to take up the reins. Benitez had an extremely successful career with Liverpool from 2004-2010, winning the UEFA Champions League in his first season after being 3-0 down to AC Milan. He also brought in super striker Fernando Torres, who scored 33 goals in his first season under the coach’s guidance but has now been hugely under-performing at the exact club Benitez could join. It is, therefore, very possible that these two things are the very reason Abramovich might want to appoint Benitez – a Champions League trophy and Fernando Torres’ return to the peak of his form.

José Mourinho

Unlike Benitez, “The Special One” is by far the fans’ and the media’s favourite. Currently managing La Liga leaders Real Madrid, there has been much speculation about a return to the Premier League. Mourinho had an extremely successful career at Chelsea and his controversial arrogance and ego was loved by the fans, and was reflected in Chelsea’s 64 consecutive home league matches without a defeat. Mourinho left the club unexpectedly in 2007 after disagreements with Abramovich, but many hope the Russian might just be man enough to forgive and forget for the good of the club. After leaving Stamford Bridge, the Portuguese manager took over Italian side Inter Milan and won four trophies in two seasons including the UEFA Champions League, and two Serie A titles. Many claim he is the best at what he does, but will he return to the place he was first called “The Special One”?

Pep Guardiola

Currently managing Catalan giants Barcelona, Guardiola has hinted at a move to the Premier League and there are many clubs that want him. The Blaugrana legend has a great record as manager of the Catalan side, losing only nineteen matches in his four-year career as boss of La Liga’s champions. He has also led Barcelona to victory in two FIFA Club World Cup finals, and has won the Spanish league three years in a row, however Barcelona are currently sitting in second place behind Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Although the Spaniard has denied the rumours concerning a move to west London, he could very well rethink his options if his side do not get past the resilient men in blue in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final. After suffering his first defeat at home in 54 consecutive matches, who knows what could happen at Camp Nou?

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo, a Chelsea legend, has done a great job at the club since the departure of AVB, seeing them into the FA Cup final and more importantly the UEFA Champions League semi-final against old rivals Barcelona and beating them in a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge. After the 5-1 slaughtering of Spurs in the semi-final of the FA Cup at Wembley, Di Matteo could very well claim some silverware, as the Reds of Merseyside – who Chelsea will face in the FA Cup final – have experienced a dramatic drop in form over the past months. Although Abramovich will want a big name in, Di Matteo’s chances of full-time management could well depend on the upcoming results in the FA Cup final and the UEFA Champions League semi-final.

Laurent Blanc

A footballing legend capping 627 appearances at nine different clubs – including Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United. Presently, Blanc is the manager of France and will be leading the national team into Euro 2012 this year. The 46-year-old will be hoping to lead his side to victory with a particularly strong starting XI, including Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery and Real Madrid hitman Karim Benzema. Although not being a favourite for the Chelsea job, Blanc could very well be suited for position, proving just how good a club manager he can be after a wonderful season at Bordeaux, winning Ligue 1 in the 2008-09 season. His future at Les Bleus is still unclear, as he is yet to sign a contract extension also.

By Jacob Tucker

Champions League quarter-finals preview: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich & Chelsea the favorites

This season’s version of Europe’s most prestigious club competition has thrown up surprises and shocks along the way, with a number of sides in the last eight exceeding expectations and defying Champions League odds. However, the usual suspects and biggest teams in Europe remain, with four mouth-watering ties having their first legs played this week.

APOEL vs. Real Madrid

This tie arguable epitomises what the Champions League is all about; David vs. Goliath, minnow vs. superpower. The Cypriot champions have delighted their fans with a fantastic showing this term, becoming the first side from their country to make the knockout rounds and beating some strong sides, including Lyon and Porto, along the way.

However, their opponents in the last eight are quite the step up. Real Madrid have been in scintillating form this campaign, lead the Primera Division and are unbeaten in this year’s tournament. Jose Mourinho has the experience of winning this competition with two other clubs, and with a masterfully in-form Cristiano Ronaldo in Los Blancos’ line-up, Madrid have every chance of glory this year.

Benfica vs. Chelsea

A tie between two very-evenly matched sides, Chelsea will go in as favourites but not by much. The Portuguese side have been markedly better this term, and eliminated Manchester United in the group stages. With the likes of Javi Garcia, Axel Witsel and Nicolas Gaitan in a youthful and exciting midfield, Jorge Jesus’ men will look to get ahead in the first leg at the Estadio da Luz.

Chelsea staged a remarkable comeback to overturn a 3-1 first leg defeat to Napoli in the last 16, and now must be considered as challengers. Roberto Di Matteo has sparked a bit of life in his seasoned squad, and if the English side can deal with a hostile reception in the first leg, will be confident of progression.

Marseille vs. Bayern Munich

Both Marseille and Bayern Munich have been inconsistent this term, with lacklustre domestic campaigns being redeemed by the progress on the continent. Didier Deschamps’ men played well to eliminate Inter in the last round, but have lost seven out of their last eight games in a terrible run of form; to stand a chance in this tie they must recapture some form and resolve.

Bayern started out of the blocks at a lightning pace this term and dominated the ‘group of death’, knocking out Manchester City in the process, but have stalled in 2012. With Dortmund looking odds-on to retain their Bundesliga crown, the Bavarians are desperate for glory in Europe. Much is expected of Jupp Heynckes men this term, especially given that the final is at the Allianz Arena.

AC Milan vs. Barcelona

Arguably the tie of the round, Italy and Spain’s champions go head-to-head. These teams met in the group stages, with a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou leading to a 3-2 Catalan victory at the San Siro. Milan are one of only a few sides that may be able to stop Pep Guardiola’s men from winning this year’s trophy. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in form and will be motivated to beat his former employers, but Massimiliano Allegri’s side will need to win the first leg at home to give themselves a fighting chance.

Barcelona are lagging behind El Clasico rivals Real Madrid in La Liga, but the Blaugrana have kicked into form recently, and have won their last nine games in a row in all competitions. Ballon d’Or holder Lionel Messi is in ominous form, becoming the club’s top all-time goalscorer in past weeks; the Argentine seems to deliver in all the biggest games, and no team has managed to figure out a way of nullifying him as yet.

 Published – Champions League Talk

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Inter, Bayern and Real Madrid with work to do

The Champions League quarter final contestants will be decided this week, as the final four fixtures of the round of 16 take place on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. After stellar performances from the underdogs in the respective first legs, four favourites have work to do to make the last eight.

Chelsea vs Napoli

Since the 3-1 first leg defeat to an in-form Napoli in Italy, Chelsea have sacked Andre Villas Boas and will need to up their game if they are to stand a chance of progression; despite domestic wins of late, Walter Mazzarri’s men will pose a more stern test. The hosts need an attacking outlook, but with Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik ready to pounce, John Terry’s role at the back is equally as important as the team’s attackers. Napoli have goals in them, but are also susceptible at the back; this was showcased in their 6-3 win over Cagliari on Friday night. Away goals could decide this tie.

Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow

Real Madrid were expected to walk all over CSKA in the first leg, but the Russians put up an ardent fight to get a 1-1 draw at the Luzhniki through an injury-time equaliser. Jose Mourinho’s men are still in a dominant position to progress, with Cristiano Ronaldo in superb goal-scoring form; the Portugal international has 45 goals already in all competitions this term. The travelling support will pin their hopes on promising attacking duo Alan Dzagoev and Seydou Doumbia, but anything other than Madrid progression would be a massive shock.

Inter vs Marseille

Marseille take a slender 1-0 advantage to the San Siro on Tuesday, after a last-gasp Andre Ayew header gave the French side victory at the Stade Velodrome in the first leg. Claudio Ranieri has come under increasing pressure due to domestic inconsistency, and if Inter are eliminated the head coach will fear for his future. Didier Deschamps’ men are not in good form either however, and have lost all four Ligue 1 games since beating Inter in February. The midfield battle will be key to deciding the fixture and should be a pulsating watch, as Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano face Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder.

Bayern Munich vs Basel

Bayern have high hopes for this season’s Champions League as the final will be held at the Allianz Arena, however Jupp Heynckes’ men have stuttered of late and are 1-0 down against Basel after the first leg. The Bavarian giants did have ideal preparation for the second leg by beating Hoffenheim 7-1 on Saturday, with Mario Gomez grabbing a hat-trick. The Swiss champions will look to their excellent showing at Old Trafford earlier in the season as motivation, with Bayern-bound Xherdan Shaqiri the visitors’ fulcrum of attack.

With AC Milan, Barcelona, APOEL and Benfica already in the quarters, four close games will decide the remaining participants. Madrid should overcome CSKA, whilst Chelsea will most likely be eliminated by a classy Napoli outfit. Marseille have the quality to compound Inter’s misery and Bayern should fight back to knock out Basel – just.

Published – Soccerlens

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