Europe is the playground of some excellent football at the moment. The race to the top is on between the leagues, and they don’t disappoint. Although the most popular leagues often fill the leading positions, this year all teams are truly competing for a place in the Champions League of next season. Here are some of the current standings according to the league rankings of UEFA.
Real Madrid – La Liga
Regardless of a somewhat rocky start to the season, Real Madrid is occupying the first place in the rankings. We have to remind ourselves that they did indeed win all eight of the games played until now. This team has been referred to as the worst team that Real Madrid has ever seen and hence occupying the current number one position is an excellent reason for Los Blancos to smile.
Liverpool – Premier League
Liverpool has been dominating the Premier League the entire season until now. Jurgen Klopp’s influence seems to be paying off well with the Reds winning all eight games played thus far and it is clear that they are hungry for that league title.
Borussia Mönchengladbach – Bundesliga
For a change, the Bundesliga isn’t dominated by Bayern Munich, and indeed thus far it is the men of Marco Rose’s team surprising the league with great success thus far. Will they be able to stay at the top? We don’t know but then again nobody expected to see them at the top in the first place. Hence they might surprise the Bundesliga even more.
Juventus – Serie A
This is not an unfamiliar position for Juventus, yet reaching the top of Serie A didn’t come easy this season thus far for Juventus. Currently, they are locked in a feud to the top position alongside Inter. It seems that this rival from Italy has been reborn under the guidance of Antonio Conte. Maybe Juventus takes their ninth consecutive league title, and perhaps this honour belongs to someone else this season.
Paris Saint-Germain – Ligue 1
They haven’t been putting on an extraordinarily brave battle this season thus far, yet they made it to the top. This is, however, a position that is under serious threat with many teams battling to shift into first place. Thus they are truly aware of the fact that they won’t be able to slack one little bit for the remainder of the season to make it to their third consecutive win of the league title and their seventh during eight seasons.
Lokomotiv Moscow – Premier Liga
Lokomotiv was falling short during the previous season and this time around they are adamant about going that one step further. Lokomotiv is in a position where four teams all share the same point count, yet they have a goal difference and hence the spot as the leader of the pack. The man behind this goal count, Grzegorz Krychowiak, midfielder to West Bromwich Albion.
It was with shock that supporters of this Major League Soccer club received the news when Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from football this week. He posted on his social media that he will be retiring about an hour before the club announced their return to Soldier Field. This is truly a sad day not only for the club which was placed onto the map due to the performance of this great player but for the world of soccer as a whole. During his career, the 35-year-old German played mostly for Bayern Munich, before moving on to Manchester United for a short stint and then he joined the MLS club, Chicago Fire in 2017.
While playing most of his career at the European giants on the field, Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger has won seven German Cups and eight Bundesliga titles as well as the 2013 Champions League titles. Schweinsteiger scored 45 goals during his more than 300 appearances between 2002 and 2015 for Bayern Munich. He also represented his country 121 times on the field and scored 24 goals for Germany, a team which he also captained from 2014 until he left for Manchester United.
At Manchester United, he played 18 teams for the club and won the League Cup as well as the FA Cup before moving to Major League Soccer when he joined the Chicago Fires. At the Fires, Schweinsteiger represented the club 85 times and scored eight goals.
Schweinsteiger stated that it is tough for him to say goodbye since he is still very much active. He however also stated that he is looking forward to new challenges in the future and that he will always remain committed to the sport. His announcement was met with Bayern Munich sharing in his nostalgia when they posted a video sharing the highlights of his career from his early days onwards. Joe Mansueto, the owner and chairman of Chicago Fire, stated that Schweinsteiger managed to place his club on the world map. He was also applauded for being an excellent teammate and a great leader with brilliant skills, and he was an exemplary influence on the team.
A Low-Key Retirement
Schweinsteiger kept his retirement plans very low-key, and Fire’s coach Veljko Paunovic was informed only a few hours before the team took on Orlando City in their final season match. The German only shared the news after the game was over with his teammates. Paunovic stated that the star has always sustained a high level of professionalism on and off the field and that he made a significant impact as the influencer on the younger players in the club. Now he has the tremendously difficult task to find a replacement player for such an excellent star, and it is an almost impossible task.
Schweinsteiger stays in Chicago with his wife and former tennis star Ana Ivanovic. They have two sons who were both born in the city. Schweinsteiger earned an annual salary of $5.6 million which made him the fifth highest-paid player in Major League Soccer.
For a long time, Christiano Ronaldo has been one of the top goal scorers in the Premier League, but this weekend he was forced to move down one in the rankings by no other than a former amateur footballer, Jamie Vardy. To top it all off, Vardy managed his record amount of goals in fewer games than what Ronaldo could do it in.
It wasn’t that long ago that Jamie Vardy was running out on the field for the Stockbridge Park Steels. They are a football club in the seventh division in English soccer. Since those days, the 32-year-old striker came a long way. Vardy started playing for the Stocksbridge Park Steels when he was 16 years old. Here he spent three years before he moved on to H.C. Halifax Town. In this Northern Premier League club, Vardy scored 25 goals and won the Player’s Player of the Year award of the club. Then he spent some time at Fleetwood Town before moving on to Leicester City in 2012. His non-league transfer fee was a record-setting £1 million. Money well spent since he played a vital role in the club winning the Championship in 2014. Now Vardy has placed Leicester City once again in the limelight.
Setting a New Record
On Sunday the 29th of September, Leicester City was up against Newcastle United. Vardy scored two of the five goals in their 5-0 victory. With these two goals, he surpassed Ronaldo’s record of Premier League goals. Vardy’s first goal was a finish from the inside of the box and the second goal was a header. These two goals tallied his total amount of goals in the English top division to 85 goals, just one more than Ronaldo’s total of 84. In addition to this, one must also note that Vardy entered the Premier League is already 27 years old. Vardy managed to achieve his record in a total of 183 games compared to the five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or who needed 196 games to make his record. Vardy’s number of goals also placed him on par with Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard, the duo from Chelsea. He is also one ahead of Carlos Tevez, the former Manchester United and Man City striker.
A Gamble Which Worked Out Well
When Leicester City paid the transfer fee for Vardy which was considered to be a record high at the time, they took a gamble on him. This became a gamble that brought on high returns. During his first two seasons, Vardy managed to score 20 goals for his club. During the 2015-2016 season though, he came into his full potential under the guidance of Claudio Ranieri, and he scored 24 goals for Leicester City. This achievement helped them in getting promoted to the Premier League. His excellent performance meant that it was no surprise that he won Player of the Season award for that year.
The 25-year old Australian striker has made some dangerous waves in the world of football over the past couple of years. She has not only inspired young talent with her skills and abilities but also became the face identified with both Perth Glory as well as the Matildas. Currently, she is playing in the United States in the National Women’s Soccer League for the Chicago Red Stars, where she is still contracted to play six more season games. After that, she will return to Perth, where she is recruited to the Football Federation Australia as a marquee player. Currently, she has no contracts binding her to either Perth Glory or the W-League.
The Lure of European Soccer
About two years ago, the French club, Paris Saint-Germain, showed some serious interest in the Australian and at that stage, even Kerr herself thought that maybe this is the end of her return to W-League. Now the interest in Kerr and her brilliant career came from the English giant, Chelsea. Chelsea made Kerr an offer of $1 million over two years. Playing for Chelsea is however much more than getting better pay, for Kerr. This could mean achieving a higher level of success for the striker. Europe is still the core around which the world of soccer rotates, globally. Playing for Chelsea would mean that Kerr would now have the opportunity to become part of the European soccer scene, to play in the English Women’s Super League and to be part of the Champions League, where she will be able to compete against the best teams in Europe.
A Great Loss for Australian Soccer
One person who is all too aware of this offer to Kerr and the effect which it would have on Australian soccer, to see her go, is Tony Pignata, CEO of Perth Glory. Even though he thinks that it is brilliant that such an outstanding player is offered such a great opportunity, it would be a loss for them. Kerr has made a massive impression in the world of football in Australia and contributed significantly to the much higher level of exposure which not only the Matildas but also Perth Glory has been receiving over the past couple of years. He also mentioned that they are waiting for her to finish off her season in the US, but they have been in conversation with her manager already, regarding returning to Perth Glory. Pignata considers Kerr to be one of the best soccer players in the world, and although he wishes her only the best, it would be almost impossible to replace her in his team. Currently, they can’t do much more except to hope that she will decide to return and remain part of the group, although this is probably not the best move she could make to enhance her career. Following the European route remains the possibility of an entirely new level of exposure for her.
After what seems to be a struggle for Rooney and his family to settle on the American east coast, he might be coming back to England for a shock return.
Rooney’s Career at DC United
The former English captain is still under contract at DC United until 2021, but it seems that the Rooney family is keen on returning to England and wants to cut their stay short in the United States. Rooney recently became captain at the US club but is now eager to end his contract with DC United earlier than expected. The best time for him to cut the deal short would be to leave at the end of the MLS season at the end of November. That would suit Derby County who is eager to take him on from January onwards.
After Rooney arrived in England during the first week in August, it was confirmed by Derby County owner, Mel Morris that Rooney is indeed on the verge of signing their championship club. According to Morris, the decision to sign the former captain of Manchester United as well as England, in the position of player-coach, is done with the full backing of Philip Cocu, the club’s manager. Cocu, formerly playing for Barcelona took over in the manager position from Frank Lampard last month. Derby County was successful in their opening Championship match and managed to achieve a 2-1 win against Huddersfield under Cocu’s management.
Morris also stated that the idea to bring Rooney in was one which was only recently originated. The news that Rooney is keen on returning to England and being in talks with Derby County might spark the interest of other clubs also to get the 33-year-old star to sign with them. Morris is relatively confident that they will settle the deal with Rooney, although he also mentioned that in the industry nothing is for sure until signed. Bringing in Rooney will give Derby County the edge they need through the experience which Rooney has. He remains the country’s record scorer, and he is without any doubt one of the greatest players ever delivered by England and will be a significant asset to any club which he joins.
Rooney Keen on Coaching
Over time Rooney has expressed many times already, his desire to stand in a coaching position. He stated that there are many things which he wants to achieve and being a coach is one of them. When his days of playing is over, he will reassess his possibilities and take it from there again. He also has admitted during June that he has been receiving many offers from clubs both in England as well as in the United States regarding coaching positions. Possibly in only a couple of more days, there will be more certainty regarding Rooney’s decision on where he will spend the near future.
The success stories of the Premier League is balanced against those considered as epic failures. Managing in the Premier League is known to be challenging. Hence over the years, there has been a couple of managers whose names are edged in the Hall of Shame for Premier League Football. Here are the five top achievers in this dismal category.
Crystal Palace Suffering Under Ian Holloway During 2013
The season of 2013/14 was the year in which Ian Holloway had to lead Crystal Palace from strength to strength. The club was suffering in the Premier League after being promoted from the Championships. Being freshly developed is a place where many teams have experienced difficulty. Holloway was not the man to guide them into the future. Eight games were played under his hand of which they have managed to win only one. This left them with an average score count of 0.38 points. Holloway was dismissed from his duties, a call that worked out very well for the team, who then moved up into 11th place with a total of 45 points.
The Wolves and Terry Connor – a 2012 Nightmare
Terry Connor is probably the nicest man in the world of football, but being nice couldn’t manage to achieve any success for him. When former manager, Mick McCarthy left, Connor moved up into his position. It was supposed to be a great stride forward in his career but ended in disaster. The Wolves didn’t manage to win a single one of 13 games played. Four draws brought them at least an average point score of 0.31. At the end of the season, the Wolves had only 25 points and moved back into Championship, and Connor moved back into the role of assistant manager.
Mick McCarthy Did It Twice at Sunderland
Sunderland stood under the unsuccessful management of McCarthy twice. First during the 2003 season and then again during 2005/06. At the end of the season, Sunderland had two wins behind their name from 37 games played. Their average score places McCarthy in the third position with 0.27 points.
Paul Jewell Couldn’t Bring Derby Around
In 2007/08, Jewell had the task to manage the losing Derby team into success. They were a recently promoted team struggling in the league. Unfortunately for Derby and Jewell, the only acknowledgement they could manage to receive during the season was for lowest points scored in history. From 24 games played they lost 19. A draw on five gives them an average score of 0.21.
Crystal Palace Did It Again with Frank de Boer
The winner of the award for worst performance as Premier League manager is without a doubt belonging to Frank De Boer. De Boer tried to bring Crystal Palace’s playing strategies to a new level, but the team was just not experienced enough. Leaving them with four losses from four games and De Boer getting sacked. This made him the only manager ever to leave English management with zero points to his name.
It’s now extremely simplistic for Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea. Claiming victories against Leicester and Watford over the last two weekend of the English Premier League will ensure a group stage entry into the Champions League next season.
Chelsea’s Current Season
Let’s forget about the potential of a Europa League final that will occur in Baku as a safety net – 6 points from two matches and the Blues will finally be over the line, allowing them to return to where Roman Abramovich wants them to be, among the most prestigious clubs situated in Europe.
This will necessarily mean that the first season where Sarri was in charge was a successful one. Of course, we mean relative success, because Chelsea hasn’t been anywhere when it comes to challenging clubs for a title. However, progress is the same when it comes to a coach that has also witnessed his team miss out on the Carabao Cup after a penalty shoot-out against Manchester City. Even if the Blues manage to finish in the top 4 and claim victory in the Europa League, it might still not be enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job as head coach.
The Doubts Over Maurizio Sarri
Marina Granovskaia, the person that runs the football club daily, remains the most prominent advocate for Sarri, and that is considered a massive tick in the coach’s favour. However, one the dust settles on the current season for Chelsea, the doubts and questions surrounding Sarri will remain, and Marina Granovskaia will be required to convince Abramovich that Sarri is the coach to lead the club during the 2019/20 season.
With Chelsea back in the Champions League next season, it will help their rebuilding program. However, the current season has produced more questions than answers regarding their development and progress under Maurizio Sarri. If Chelsea managed to end up in the top 4 positions of the Premier League, it could be argued that the result is the failings of Manchester United and Arsenal instead of the successful methods by Sarri.
This might be harsh, but the Blues have managed to open a two-point lead between themselves and Arsenal that is currently in fifth place despite claiming 2 points from a potential 9 points in the last three games of the Premier League.
Chelsea managed to make ten goals without being able to score in consecutive away matches against Manchester City and Bournemouth earlier this season. It was only the 1-1 draw against Manchester United on Sunday which spared the Blues from becoming the first Blues side to lose all away matches against the big six rivals during a season since the club was bought in 2003 by Abramovich.
Chelsea is also on the brink of losing their most valued player, Eden Hazard. He is currently playing the last year of his contract, and when he transfers to another club, Chelsea will need all the help it can get to stay an elite football team.
There is a joke among the locals of Castelldefels, a tiny town situated between the mountains and sea outside of Barcelona, that the home of Philippe Coutinho is jinxed. Cesc Fabregas managed to buy it months before he was transferred to Chelsea and Thomas Vermaelen, who used to stay there, endured lengthy curses on the sidelines due to injuries. Then, Andre Gomes decided to move there after he was transferred from Valencia to Barcelona but never managed to find his feet at the club.
Philippe Coutinho was mostly seen as the €160 million man who has destined to finally life the curse. His former Liverpool teammate, Luis Suarez, assisted him in finding a house and it was supposed to mark the start of a brand-new attacking trident. Not only would Coutinho be alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the pitch, but he would also be their neighbours.
Fifteen months have come and gone since Philippe Coutinho joined Barcelona with a record-signing deal. However, it looks like the curse is still apparent with the Barcelona forward to this day. The Brazilian, who was transferred to Barcelona to replace Neymar over the short-term and to replace Andres Iniesta over the long-term, is still unable to meet the expectations that come with his jaw-dropping price tag.
Coutinho had an incredible start at Barcelona where he managed to score ten goals in only 22 matches during the 2017/18 season. However, things have deteriorated since then, and he is not playing as he should during the 2018/19 season at Camp Nou. In the current campaign, he has only scored a total of 9 goals in more than 40 different appearances, and several sources suggest that Barcelona will be open to selling the Brazilian if they can receive a bid that is more than €100 million during the summer.
“It’s quite remarkable that a Brazilian soccer player like Coutinho is struggling to find his feet at a club like Barcelona. Especially when you consider that they have more than 300 days of sunshine every year. He was superb when he played at Liverpool who has 300 days of rain every year,” a source that is close to the player informed us recently.
A Football Star Without a Proper Position
The biggest issue for Coutinho since he arrived at Barcelona in January 2018 was a simplistic one: Where exactly should he play?
When you look at the versatility of Coutinho, he managed to play at the tip of the three midfielders for Liverpool. However, he was often found on the left. When you look at his position in the Brazilian national team, he either played on the right, accommodating Neymar, or played in the centre. Ernesto Valverde, the head coach for Barcelona, allowed Coutinho to play in several positions. However, none of them genuinely fit his skills and abilities as a footballer at Barcelona. This is the biggest problem for him at the moment, and that needs to change before he gets back to playing like a pro.
Raheem Sterling’s last-minute goal gave City the advantage
with a stunning 3-2 comeback win in the reverse fixture and they should comfortably
make it through.
Juventus face a huge task as they try and overturn a
two-goal deficit against Atletico Madrid at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.
Late goals from Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin secured a
2-0 victory for Atletico in the first leg and Juve will have their work cut out
to reach the last eight.
The result saw Atletico’s Champions League odds slashed to
9/1 and they are sure to be cut further if they can see off the current Serie A
Barcelona will fancy their chances of progressing when they
go head-to-head with Lyon at the Nou Camp.
The two sides drew 0-0 in the first fixture, but Barca
should prove far too strong back on home soil. The Spanish side are unbeaten in
their last 10 matches in all competitions and look good value at 9/2 to win the
The most intriguing tie of the round is the heavyweight
clash between Bayern Munich and Liverpool at the Allianz Arena.
The two sides drew 0-0 at Anfield and Bayern’s recent home
record against English clubs makes them favourites to reach the last eight.
The Bundesliga side have won their last four matches at home
to English clubs, while Liverpool have suffered four successive away Champions
Liverpool were beaten by Real Madrid in last year’s final,
while Bayern have lost in the semi-finals in four of the last five campaigns,
including last season’s defeat by Madrid.
The Reds have pulled off remarkable results in this
competition before, but Bayern look great value at 10/11 to progress to the