When the two teams step out at the Emirates on Saturday lunchtime in the quarter-final of the FA Cup, could we be looking at the eventual winners of the competition?
The longing for silverware has been ongoing for several years now in North London and Merseyside and when these two sides look at the other teams left in the competition they have to fancy their chances. They are the two highest placed sides remaining, excluding Manchester City, and even they made hard work of their Wembley clash with Sunderland last week in the Capital One Cup final.
There is no denying that both squads are worthy of a trophy. Arsenal have fallen short of the Premier League in recent years, which may be the case again this time round, and because of league focus, cup runs have usually suffered. But this season it seems as if they could have enough quality within the squad to take on the challenge of both the league and cup campaigns, and end their barren run which has stretched back since 2005 when they picked up the FA Cup.
Whilst for all the talent and ability the Toffees possess they just can’t make it past that final hurdle in the cup competitions, coming closest in the final against Chelsea in 2009 when they let an early lead slip. They did make the semi’s two years ago but lost out to neighbours Liverpool in a 2-1 defeat. Since Roberto Martinez has taken over they seem like a more rounded team with a solid defence and an often dangerous attack that could be capable of picking up the same trophy the club won 19 years ago.
Everyone will want to see what Mesut Ozil can do after a run of poor performance, a good display here could help fire the Gunners to Wembley and all his woes could may be forgotten by the Arsenal faithful. However, the home side will be without Jack Wilshere, who is missing with a broken foot suffered on international duty in midweek; despite rumours of a return for Aaron Ramsay, the Welshman won’t be featuring on Saturday.
Whereas Everton will be hoping Romelu Lukaku can build on last week’s winning goal against West Ham as he returned after a month out injured. The biggest absentee for the visitors will be Phil Jagielka as he is out with a hamstring problem.
When the sides met in the league in December it finished 1-1 in a typically tight affair and in their current situations I can’t see them being separated again and think it will finish with that same score-line in another close battle.
Less than 100 days out from Brazil 2014, the US national team has a lot going for it. Yes, they’re in a tough group but they’ve also improved considerably from the last World Cup, building a strong base and a cohesive team under coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Despite the odd injury (here’s wishing Stu Holden the best of luck) the preparations are on track, and the USMNT is not as reliant on one or two players as it might have been in the last two World Cups.
And yet, until Landon Donovan returned from his self-imposed sabbatical, there was something missing. USMNT is definitely more than just Donovan, but they’re also a lot more with Donovan in the side offering experience, guidance and a killer instinct on the pitch. His leadership of LA Galaxy in MLS has been exemplary and with Dempsey not in the best of form (as a forward or as captain), Donovan could be the MLSer the USMNT want, and need.
With Germany likely to qualify top of their group, Donovan’s quality and experience, not to mention the impact the legendary star has on his teammates at LA Galaxy and in the national team, could be crucial in pushing USMNT ahead of Ghana and (whisper it) Portugal into the knockout stages. They took care of England last time around, surely they can go one better and take out Portugal this time?
For most players in the national side the 2014 World Cup is a chance to stamp their mark on the international arena, to prove that this World Cup cycle will reinforce, not diminish, USMNT’s international stature. It’s a test of Klinsmann’s credentials and methods, as well as a test of the available pool of talent in MLS.
For Donovan though, playing in his 4th and last World Cup, it’s all about the legacy he will leave behind. As the joint all-time top-scorer in MLS and arguably the best player US soccer has ever seen, he’s not concerned about the record books.
Instead, he’s more focused on the long-term impact his career and his presence would have on his team LA Galaxy, on the new crop of stars coming through in the national team and in the long run, on the young people watching Brazil 2014 tuning in to watch the US national team.
Regardless of what Pele and Maradona fans would have you believe, it takes more than one player to win a World Cup, and as Spain and Germany fans will testify, creating the right culture from the grassroots up to your top-level league is just as important as performing well every four years.
And for a US soccer legend, there’s no better legacy than leading the charge on both fronts in his final act in US soccer history.
Landon Donovan will get a chance to be the sole all-time top goalscorer in MLS as soon as LA Galaxy’s opening game on Saturday vs Real Salt Lake. You can follow the game on MLS Live.
This content series is sponsored by MLS.
MLS’ 2014 Promises Excitement, While 2015 Looms Large - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
The 2014 MLS season starts tomorrow, and yet the long shadow cast by 2015 is already looming over the league.
When it’s all said and done, 2015 may just be one of MLS’ landmark years on the long, winding path towards becoming one of the best soccer leagues in the world.
In 2015, New York City FC, the spoilt child of Manchester City and the New York Yankees, will become the first MLS team to play in the heart of America’s biggest metropolis, and they’re sure to boast as star-studded a team as the league has ever seen while possibly becoming the league’s highest profile team abroad.
But the expansion spotlight won’t be focused solely on NYC. Orlando City, a true USL, American-soccer success story takes their MLS bow, bringing the league back to the South for the first time since 2001. While Orlando City may not have NYCFC’s resources, they have a committed ownership group, a strong developing fan-base, and the potential to become one of the league’s leading clubs.
Expansion won’t be the only thing going on either. San Jose are slated to finally open their new stadium, bringing a major league ballpark to a city that has always supported the league, and making the kinds of atmospheres seen at Earthquakes games at Stanford Stadium routinely plausible.
The Chivas USA nightmare also ends next year, with the team being bought by a new ownership group, being rebranded and renamed, closing the books on MLS’ biggest and most embarrassing blunder.
Plus, MLS can expect the post-World Cup bounce, with stars who are no longer playing for their place in their national teams released to come to America. It was Beckham in 2007 and Henry in 2011. Who will it be this time around? Drogba? Xavi? Lampard?
MLS will also come into next season with a new and improved labour deal, which should expand the salary cap, possibly add a fourth designated player slot, and continue to clarify the league’s bumbling, ridiculed, write-it-as-you-go, we’ll-cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it rulebook.
Plus: There will most likely be an announcement that MLS’ 23rd team will play at the Falcons’ new stadium in Atlanta, and a start date and stadium plan for Beckham’s Miami MLS team should come into focus.
Oh, and the league begins a new television deal that will provide more MLS coverage than ever before, and attempt to rectify MLS’ big weak-point – TV ratings.
So the rally cry for MLS’ 2014 is… Wait ’till 2015!?
Yes and no. While 2015 is a surefire lock for the history books, 2014 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting seasons on the field in MLS history.
In Toronto, TFC have blasted off, shattering their ignominious and inglorious past with names like Defoe, Gilberto, Bradley, and Cesar. Add the likes of De Rosario, Jackson, and Morrow, and the Reds won’t be shooting for their first playoff appareance ever, they’ll be shooting for MLS Cup.
If things don’t go well out of the gate, hard times could hit affable boss Ryan Nelsen. If things go well, Toronto could become MLS’ biggest club. That was Tim Lieweke’s goal when he signed on with Maple Leaf Sports, and he’d love nothing more than to stick it to AEG’s LA Galaxy, who fired him just before he could close the deal for Frank Lampard.
DC United, one of MLS’ most storied teams, is looking to rebound after a historically dire 2013, and they have totally rebuilt their team, with Eddie Johnson leading the charge. The next step is building that new stadium.
New York were quiet – emboldened by their trophy-winning 2013, and a new philosophy from underdog manager Mike Petke emphasizing stability and team. But the pressure’s on for NYRB this year, before Henry retires, and NYCFC take the city by storm.
Houston know a thing or two about stability, and should be right around the playoff picture again, while upstart New England look to consolidate after a surprise run in 2013 that saw them take Kansas City to the brink.
Speaking of the champs, they’ve only strengthen, and Sporting KC return all the key pieces from their championship 2013.
The new man in Chicago is an MLS vet – Canadian Frank Yallop – who has hardware from stints with LA and San Jose – had a pick of jobs, including his hometown Vancouver Whitecaps, but chose to sign on with the Fire, who’ll push for the playoffs with attack.
The man who got canned in Chicago – Frank Klopas - is in in Montreal, where the Impact’s stunning self-destruction at the end of 2013 hasn’t been aided by a languid offseason that has many predicting that 2014 could serve as a bottoming out.
Philadelphia ran hot and cold last year, and the mandate to get back to the playoffs is clear. There’s a new DP, a French playmaker, and a returning Mo Edu to help reach that goal, but the Union need a solid defense and Jack McInerney to start scoring. John Hackworth has the confidence of the front office – for now.
In Columbus, it’s all about the new: New owner Anthony Precourt is ambitious, and a good match for young coach Greg Berhalter, who gets his first MLS coaching job after managing in Sweden. With additions on the back-line, this team is trending in the right direction, but progress could be slow.
Overall, the East is much more competitive than it was last year, in large part because the awakening of DC and Toronto. BMO Field will be rocking again in 2014, as will RFK, and that’s only good for the league.
The West had a quieter offseason, but the competition remains suffocating.
Real Salt Lake will miss Jason Kreis – the question is how much. His longtime assistant Jeff Cassar takes over, and the old guard of Saborio, Rimando, Beckerman and Morales looks to lead again.
Portland have a mouthwatering attack, a solidified defense, a stud coach, and rabid fan-base. What could go wrong?
As Seattle would tell the Timbers if the two were on speaking terms, there are quite a few things that could derail a can’t-miss season – for the Sounders last year, it was poisonous chemistry.
The trouble-makers are gone now, but have they been replaced by less talented players? Seattle think they finally have all their ducks in a row, but the pressure is firmly on the erstwhile revered coach, Sigi Schmid.
LA could be ready to pounce – Landon Donovan is in for a full season, Bruce Arena has a contract extension and key pieces were added over the offseason. They were quiet last year, but the Galaxy could reign again in 2014.
Colorado is in more than a spot of bother, considering they tried to hold onto Oscar Pareja until be bit his way to Dallas, and now they don’t have a coach going into the season. As if that weren’t bad enough, Pablo Mastroeni is now guiding a young team that will miss Pareja’s touch.
There’s new hope in Dallas, where chemistry issues also surfaced last year. Parjea wants to go the route of youth and attacking football, which could see attendances continue to increase from a promising 2013, but talent is lacking, and it will be a stretch to make the playoffs.
San Jose has made their interim coach from last year Mark Watson the permeant head man, and the hottest team at the end of last season looks to continue their momentum from last year behind a rebrand and that unmissable smash and bash style of play fitting of the nickname, “Goonies”.
Vancouver was harsh in sacking Martin Rennie at the end of last season, and then struck out trying to hire a big name (read: Bob Bradley) in the offseason, so they also promoted from within – Carl Robinson is the man. The ‘Caps have added some pieces, but they also lost Camilo in a bizarre offseason dispute with Quinetero. Have they done enough to make a playoff push?
Meanwhile, Chivas USA had a very good offseason (now that the all non-Latino ban has been lifted), both in the players they brought in – Mauro Rosales, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, and Luke Moore – and a professional coach, Wilmer Cabrera. Not that it matters much anymore. Chivas are a dead club walking. Eyes on 2015 for sure.
Ready for next season? Hold on a year. This season could be a lot of fun too.
1. The USMNT’s World Cup success depends on MLS. If the game against Ukraine said anything, it’s that MLS has never been as important to the national team as it is now. In 2010, only two starters in game one at the World Cup against England played in America.
In the 2014 World Cup campaign, that number figures to rise to at least five. Four of those players – Donovan, Bradley, Gonzalez, and Besler – could get the US out of the group, or send them home early.
2. Toronto FC! The big names are only part of the game-plan for a club that has unbounded ambition. BMO Field will be expanded soon, and the club will almost surely end their franchise-long playoff draught in front of raucous, sold-out home crowds. If things go well, especially for Bradley, Cesar, Defoe and Gilberto, the big-spending business model in MLS will be boosted, and TFC will be on their way to a global brand.
3. Big names post-World Cup. MLS always gets a boost when the tournament is over. World Cups are landmark moments in players’ careers as they strive to play for their national team. But those who have played in their last international tournament are then free to come to America. Names like Xavi, Puyol, Drogba, Joe Cole, Forlan and more are floating around.
4. The big atmospheres in MLS are outstanding. Because of restrictions in England, Premier League fans don’t see the kind of supporter culture MLS has in Portland, Seattle, Kansas City, San Jose, and Toronto. Capos, tifos, banners, you name it. And these stadiums are loud.
5. Improved play. The league’s standard of play is unrecognizable from ten years ago, and unrecognizable from its global reputation as a retirement league. In fact, the average age in MLS is less than that in the Premier League, and the league has less players in their 30s than the EPL.
6. World Cup stars. In 2010, the number of players MLS sent to the World Cup was minuscule. Not so this time. The USA, Australia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nigeria, Brazil and others will be watching the league closely, monitoring the progress of their players.
7. To get ready for Orlando City and NYCFC. Over the course of the year, both clubs’ identities will take shape. Crests will be unveiled, as will new signings – big signings – if these teams are to be believed, and two of the most exciting clubs in the league will get ready to blast off.
8. Henry’s last hurrah. Though he hasn’t officially announced anything, it’s likely that Thierry Henry will retire at the end of the season. The 2014 campaign with the New York Red Bulls may very well be the last chance the world has to see a true master of the game at work.
9. This may be the last year that NBC will have MLS rights. NBC’s MLS coverage was the best the league has seen in nearly 20 years of existence, and if they’re not covering MLS next season, their comprehensive and committed coverage will be missed.
10. This league is going places. Fast. Big players, big cities, big money, big support – it’s all happening. The time to jump on board is now.
Tune in to the start of MLS 2014 season with Seattle Sounders taking on Sporting Kansas City live on NBCSN. You can also follow the other games on MLS Live or MLSsoccer.com’s MatchCenter.
This content series is sponsored by MLS.
MLS’ national TV and marquee matchup on opening weekend is defending champion Sporting Kansas City traveling to CenturyLink Field to take on the revamped Seattle Sounders. You can tune in to watch the game live on NBCSN on Saturday, March 8, at 3 pm ET/12 pm PT, or follow it on MLSsoccer.com.
It was steady as she goes for SKC in the MLS offseason, retaining the core of their 2013 championship side. Captain Jimmy Nielsen has retired and taken a coaching job with Oklahoma City, and Teal Bunbury was traded to New England, but most interestingly, Sporting have retained their high-profile 2013 DP signing, Argentine forward Claudio Bieler.
Bieler was an enigma last year – clearly talented, Bieler produced at the beginning of the year, but totally fell out of favor to the point that he was barely coming off the bench during the MLS Cup run. He was bad-mouthing coach Peter Vermes in the press, and a move back to South America appeared to be in the works.
But seemingly against all odds, Bieler was tucked away and brought back anew for 2014. Will he play immediately? Probably not. But Bieler is someone to keep an eye on going forward.
Interestingly, Sal Zizzo – acquired from Seattle’s rival Portland – has become a big player for Kansas City on the wing opposite Graham Zusi, and with CJ Sapong injured, he could start on Saturday.
SKC are a solid team with clear unity and identity. In Seattle, their 2014 credentials will be immediately tested.
The pressure is on.
Seattle’s respected brass made a gusty and admirable move by sticking with Sigi Schmid at the end of last year’s tailspin, which they felt was caused by a toxic locker-room that Schmid couldn’t control.
Fine. But now Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales, John Hurtado and many many more have been cleared out, and replaced by solid – if slightly less talented players. Still, Seattle expect MLS Cup.
The replacements brought in – Chad Marshall, Marco Pappa, Kenny Cooper, Jalil Anibaba – are solid players who won’t crowd Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins out of the lineup.
Seattle needs to hit the ground running, but Dempsey – absolutely the main man this year – has had an awful six months, culminating in a horrific loan spell with Fulham. Now, after little rest, more frustration, and no preseason with his team, can Dempsey step up leading into the World Cup?
The Sounders, and Schmid, need him to. They need a three points from day one.
Lineups and Tactics
Seattle: Frei, Yedlin, Anibaba, Marshall, González, Alonso, Evans (C), Pappa, Dempsey, Martins, Cooper.
Sporting Kansas City: Kronberg, Myers, Collin, Besler (C), Sinovic, Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber, Zizzo, Zusi, Dwyer.
Kansas City is solid and the back, and they go from their. They’ll probably ceed possession to Seattle for most of the game, but it will be interesting to see what kind of tactical mentality the Sounders had – Schmid didn’t figure it out with Dempsey last year.
More woe for Seattle – Kansas City is just about as prepared as a team can be on day one, and they’re hard to beat anywhere. 2-0 champs.
Tune in to watch the game live on NBCSN on Saturday, March 8, at 3 pm ET/12 pm PT, or follow it on MLSsoccer.com.
This content series is sponsored by MLS.
The Portland Timbers open their 2014 MLS season on Saturday night at the newly christened Providence Park, where they’ll be sporting their classic new retro third kits. The push for the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup is looming on the horizon, along with – for the first time in club history – CONCACAF Champions League play.
Here are your 2014 Portland Timbers.
You can also catch the video season preview for Portland Timbers at MLSsoccer.com.
The Great Wall Of Gambia
Donovan Ricketts (Honorary Member) – Remember Troy Perkins? Vaguely, maybe. Ricketts has been everything Portland could have hoped for when they snagged him from Montreal in mid-2012. Ricketts was Caleb Porter’s first transaction, an auspicious sign of things to come.
Futty Danso – At the moment, Danso is slotted in as the Timbers’ third center-back. He usually is to open a season, but he usually finds his way onto the field one way or another before it’s all said and done. The longest tenured Portland Timber.
Pa Moudu Kah – When the Timbers picked Pa Kah out of the Middle Eastern wilderness in the middle of last season, few could have predicted he’d become one of the central leaders in the Timbers’ strong locker-room – a sort of third captain behind Jack Jewsbury and Will Johnson. Kah has his moments of insanity, but he’s as strong as they come. He’ll start at center-back next to Norberto Paparatto.
Jack Jewsbury – Jewsbury, steady as she goes, has solidified his position as the Timbers’ first-choice right back. Still very good on the ball, his sharp positional play mostly covers his lack of pace. Jewsbury is one of those guys you want around.
Michael Harrington – Harrington has totally resurrected his career, with a strong 2013 culminating in a call-up to the US National Team January camp in Brazil. Harrington has returned with confidence and he’s never played better.
Norberto Paparatto – Portland wanted to acquire a starting caliber center-back this offseason with international experience and size. At 6’4, the former captain of Tigre in Argentina fits the bill. Paparatto’s height is important on a small team, and he’s very good with his feet – a highly valued attribute in Portland’s system. A key player.
Diego Valeri – The maestro is back for an encore after a stellar 2013 that saw him win MLS Newcomer of the Year, score 11 goals and notch 13 assists while playing hurt during the second half of the season. Valeri is the Timbers’ #1 playmaker, and everything is smoother with him on the field. He needs to be healthy and playing well for Portland to win silverware.
Maxi Urruti – The Timbers traded for Urruti towards the back end of the 2013 season. He immediately provided a spark up top, chasing the play, creating turnovers, and getting a cheeky flicked game-winner against the LA Galaxy. But Urruti is small and slight for a forward, and he doesn’t touch the ball all that much in the Timbers’ offense. To be effective, Urruti has to score – and he’s really the only option the Timbers have up top.
Gaston Fernandez – More pizzazz – as if the Timbers needed another creative playmaker up top. Fernandez is a wizard with the ball at his feet, and he’s going to make people miss and get fouled a lot this year. The question is how will he fit in with the rest of the attacking core?
Caleb Porter – The boss won MLS Coach of the Year in his first season in the league. What will he do for an encore? It’s going to have to be pretty impressive.
Darlington Nagbe – He’s one of the most naturally impressive soccer players you could ever hope to come across. He never loses the ball, rarely makes a bad pass, and can take over games with his slanting, slaloming runs. And yet he hasn’t put together that perfect season. He hasn’t quite hit peak consistency. Maybe this is the year Nagbe becomes one of the best players in the league.
Ben Zemanski – He’s improving. Still in his early 20s, Zemanski has a comfortable role as a central midfield deputy. In a few years, he’s an MLS starter. For now, he’s a useful backup.
Steve Zakuani – The acquisition sounded awesome on paper: A former number one draft pick with a ton of natural talent but bad luck with injuries leaves Seattle to skip across the state divide and is reunited with his college coach and teammates in Portland. It still sounds good today, but Zakuani hasn’t played at all in the preseason due to injury. When he gets back, will there be a place for him in the team?
Michael Nanchoff –Nanchoff’s loan to Sweden last year was productive. Regular game-time and a central role were beneficial. He’ll be scrapping for substitute minutes and cup starts.
Bryan Gallego – The newest member of the club and a Homegrown signing, Gallego is a defender for the future.
Diego Chara – He’s been at the center of what the Timbers have done well throughout their MLS existence. No one runs as fast, or as much, or as productively as Chara, who is as important to defense as he is to attack. He’s Will Johnson minus the snarl – and goals. The biggest running subplot of Portland’s 2014 season? If Chara can get a goal. Despite hardly missing a minute, he hasn’t scored since 2011.
Will Johnson – He had a career year – a sort of coming of age – in 2013, pouring in goals, setting off opponents, and leading from the front. Can he keep it up this year? Or will he cool off?
Schillo Tshuma – Big things are expected out of the Timbers’ first round draft pick, who has quickly drawn comparisons to Darlington Nagbe. It appears that he’ll be one of the first attacking options off the bench.
Tyler Peay – The big center-back from Washington did well in camp, and may see time in the US Open Cup.
Alvas Powell – For all intents and purposes, Powell is a rookie this year. After all, he’s the Timbers’ youngest player at just 19 years old. It appears that Powell is being groomed to step in for Jack Jewsbury as the Timbers right back of the future, but it’s unclear if he’ll play much of a role this season.
Don’t Forget About…
Kalif Alhassan – Long regarded as the gleaming prospect, Alhassan is getting older. This will be his fourth MLS season, and in those for years, he’s still a super-sub. Certainly, he’s made strides in game awareness and defensive work-rate, but when will Kalif fulfill all that promise that he clearly has?
Rodney Wallace – The Timbers’ breakout star last year, Wallace tore his ACL against Real Salt Lake, an injury which has probably cost him his World Cup dream with Costa Rica. When Wallace gets back in the summer, the Timbers will have missed his dynamism and style of play.
Frederic Piquionne – The Timbers brought this guy back for a reason, and they don’t bring old Premier League veterans back without good cause (hello, Mikael Silvestre!). Piquionne is a change of pace up top with his size, heading ability, and prowess inside the box, but will he be used? He hasn’t impressed in the preseason, and Porter has shown a preference for Fernandez as a false nine over him.
Bits and Pieces
Jorge Villafaña – A player Porter knows from his time with the US-U23s, Villafaña is versatile defensive cover.
Andrew Weber – A former Sounder and Amazing Race contestant, Weber is a downgrade from the retired Milos Kocic as backup goalkeeper.
Jake Gleeson – Figures to be loaned out to black-sheep developmental club Sacramento FC.
This content series is sponsored by MLS.
Jurgen Klinsmann outsmarted himself.
Looking to take a good player – Clint Dempsey – and make him the face of his team, Klinsmann bargained away the captain’s armband, and bet on that piece of cloth making Dempsey come out of his skin and lead.
There were a few problems with that strategy: First, no one really knows Dempsey.
No one could possibly have predicted that he would bolt from Tottenham and his stated long-term dream of playing in the Champions League for a dramatic MLS return with the Seattle Sounders.
No one saw Dempsey’s summer-2012 hissy fit coming, when he refused to play for Fulham and forced his way out the door at the very end of the transfer window.
Few predicted how far Dempsey would rise in European soccer, and fewer predicted what a miserable 2013 he would have after returning to MLS.
It’s over now, with zero fanfare, and so you may not be fully aware that Dempsey’s loan back to Fulham this winter was an undeniable, unmitigated disaster.
Over the course of two months, Dempsey registered one shot on goal. He didn’t score, or notch an assist. Near the end of the loan, he failed to make the bench for the worst club in the Premier League.
It was Dempsey out of orbit.
The sacrifice for those infuriating, soul-sapping couple of months? No preseason with the Seattle Sounders, which was one of the problems commonly attributed to Dempsey’s lackluster MLS play after joining the Sounders last year.
Dempsey also got virtually no rest, meaning he’s only had around a month off since the 2011-12 Premier League season ended.
Against Ukraine in Cypurs, Dempsey looked defeated and exasperated. He was totally ineffective and it would have been easy to miss him on the field until his frustration boiled over at the end of the game, when he was lucky to escape with no punishment from a scuffle with a Ukrainian player.
His body language, as it often does with Dempsey, told as much of the story as was discernable.
Dempsey isn’t in a good place right now, at least soccer wise, and it’s clearly affecting him.
This is the captain, remember.
Dempsey was the guy wearing the armband while Tim Howard hollered and scratched and clawed to organize a backline in shambles and keep the US in the game.
Klinsmann’s idea was give Dempsey the armband, and let the armband produce the leader. Normally, it’s just give the leader the armband.
So forget for a moment that Dempsey – the definition of enigmatic – couldn’t captain a Sunday League pub team as well as the bartender, just settle on this: The experiment didn’t work.
Since being named skipper, Dempsey has gone into a tailspin to the point that certain people are questioning whether he’s even a surefire starter in Brazil.
I’m not sure what Dempsey thinks of being captain – if he cares all that much – but quietly giving the armband to someone else before the clash with Ghana in Natal would be risky, but possibly worth it.
Klinsmann talks all the time about camaraderie in his team, and creating a controversy with his captain wouldn’t be the best thing for that. But can Dempsey’s morale get worse right now?
Other guys want the armband. Other guys got passed over for Dempsey in the first place.
Landon Donovan was the vice-captain in 2010. He’s lead the USA in everything, and has been the face of the national team for over a decade. He’s captained his club team almost his entire career, and to say he’s deserving of the national team honor – sabbatical or not – would be an understatement.
Donovan is still feeling out his role on the team. No one knows for sure if he’ll start this summer, and while his relationship with Klinsmann has gotten better since he rejoined the team for the 2013 Gold Cup, it’s not totally solid.
Donovan captained the team in February against South Korea, and here’s what he said about it: “I don’t know the statistics, but throughout my career, when I’m wearing the armband, I would guess that I play significantly better. And I take that role very seriously. I take it professionally and, again, someone can do the stats, but I think our team record is probably pretty good when that happens.”
By all accounts, Donovan has never been more mature as a player or person. He has the seniority and the job should have been his.
Tim Howard and Michael Bradley could easily have been named too.
Howard has been the US’ most consistent player over the Klinsmann era, not to mention their best player. Howard’s vocal leadership – something Dempsey hasn’t shown at all – is clear, as is Howard’s experience.
If not those two, Michael Bradley has future captain written all over him.
Bradley is a coach’s son, a two-way midfielder, and one of the fiercest competitors in the history of the national team. It was Bradley who stepped up in the media and steered the US out of a rough patch when the article about Klinsmann’s failings and dissension in the ranks came out before the Costa Riva game in March.
Those three lead. If Dempsey leads, he does it behind closed doors. But that’s never been the MO for a very talented player who can do great things when he’s on. Not all good players are cut out to lead.
Dempsey definitely doesn’t lead by example. You could see that much from the game against Ukraine.
Klinsmann played a dangerous game with the captaincy, and he struck out. And it should be noted that one of the controversies covered in that article was his poor treatment of the man he replaced as captain in the first place, the forgotten Carlos Bocanegra.
Who knows, maybe Dempsey figures out with Seattle in the two months before World Cup training camp starts.
But the US shouldn’t have to pray their captain shows up in a good mood in order to play his best for his country.
This isn’t a reflection on Dempsey the player – the US will need him to come up big in Brazil. But Dempsey the leader in nonexistent.
If Klinsmann wants, he can spread the armband around in the US’s three pre-World Cup sendoffs, and wipe the slate clean going into the tournament. Of course, leaders will lead regardless if they are named captain, but the armband means a lot in soccer, especially at a World Cup. The Americans need a real captain this summer.
Dempsey never earned the job. Now it’s time to take it away from him.
Chelsea: Mourinho to swoop for ‘best young defender in the world’? - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has hailed Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane as the best young defender in the world, fueling speculation that the Portuguese may be set to swoop for the 20-year-old.
Mourinho gave Varane his big breakthrough when at Madrid last season, with stalwart Pepe dropped in favour of the young defender for the club’s Champions League run.
It is cited as one of the key moments in Mourinho’s battle for the dressing room in the Spanish capital, with the Iker Casillas saga also very memorable.
“I think he is the best young central defender in the world. Already I think he’s the best,”
“A young player must be somebody who plays in the World Cup for the first time.
“These are players like Hazard, Neymar and Rafa Varane. Maybe I forget some others.”
With Chelsea already with five centre-backs on the books, if you include January signing Kurt Zouma, any move for Varane will surely be preceded by a changing of the guard.
It remains to be seen whether captain John Terry will be offered a new deal to stay in West London, while David Luiz’ future is the subject of much speculation, with Barca skipper Charles Puyol to leave the Nou Camp at the end of the season.
What do you think? Is Varane worth a shot? Let me know in the comments below…
A few weeks ago we took at look at some betting trends for the 1st leg of Champions League knockout stage ties. Today we will continue our analysis and take a look at trends for 2nd leg matches. Do teams that enjoy an easy win in the opening leg follow up in the 2nd leg? Do high scoring 1st leg matches suggest another high scoring match in the 2ng leg? Let’s take a look.
Home Teams In 2nd Legs Coming Off A 1st Leg Defeat
This is one of the clearest trends in Champions League knockout stage betting since the 1998/99 season. Clubs playing at home in the 2nd leg following a defeat in the opening leg are 48-13-16 since 1998/99.
That’s a fairly impressive straight up record for clubs responding to a loss. But how profitable has it been to bet on such teams? Well if you had bet £1 on each of these home clubs, you would have made a profit in the range of just under £20, or in other words, a return on your overall investment of just under 26%.
Away Teams In 2nd Legs Coming Off A 1st Leg Defeat
This time we see a situation where it has been profitable to bet against teams coming off a defeat. Since 1998/99 teams that lost at home in the 1st leg have a straight up record of just 3-10-26. Had you bet £1 on each these teams across this timespan, you would have lost £24, a return of almost -62%.
On the other hand, betting £1 on the home team in this situation would have seen you earn a profit of just over £7, a return of near on 18%.
Goal Total, Overs And Unders
If the 1st leg of a tie had been high scoring, does it suggest the 2nd tie will likewise be high scoring? Well since 1998/99, ties that saw the 1st leg finish over 2.5 goals, saw the 2nd leg finish over 2.5 goals 50.0% of the time. On the other hand, ties that saw the 1st leg finish under 2.5 goals, saw the 2nd leg finish over 2.5 goals just over 54% of the time (not including extra time).
We can add another wrinkle to this trend. Ties that saw the 1st leg match end 1-1, saw the 2nd leg finish over 2.5 goals in 19 of 24 matches played with at least 2 goals scored in 22 of those 24 matches.
As always, it’s worth recognising that although these trends have proved to profitable (or un-profitable as the case may be) since 1998/99, they come from a small sample size, with such results possibly being the result of chance rather than a genuine market inefficiency. However, these trends are still worth taking into account when determining your bets for 2nd leg Champions League matchups in 2014. Good luck!
If you’re looking for more football betting analysis, visit the bettingexpert Blog.
If you’re looking for more football betting analysis, visit the bettingexpert Blog.
Chelsea vs Tottenham: A defining match for both sides? - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Chelsea host Tottenham in the Premier League this Saturday with a lot on the line for these London rivals.
The Stamford Bridge outfit are the only side in the top four to play in the division this weekend, with Jose Mourinho’s men able to open up a seven-point gap at the table’s summit.
Although others will have games in hand, seven points is a considerable tally and will give the west London side a psychological edge and push them one step closer to the Premier League title.
Chelsea are certainly one of the form sides in the division, which is largely due to the confidence that Mourinho has installed in his players. Just like the favourites for Cheltenham at Betfair, the Blues have an aura about them at the moment that suggests that silverware could be on the cards.
For Tottenham, the fixture marks the start of a period that will surely make or break their season, as Tim Sherwood’s men have the Blues, Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool to play in their next four games.
With a six-point gap between the North Londoners and Liverpool, Spurs cannot afford to drop many more points due to the scintillating form of the Anfield outfit.
Chelsea have traditionally been something of a bogey team for Spurs, with Stamford Bridge a torturous venue for the Lilywhites in the modern era. Spurs have not claimed three points at the home of their London rivals since Gary Lineker netted a winner back in February 1990.
The reverse fixture at White Hart Lane ended in a 1-1 draw, with Gylfi Sigurdsson’s opener cancelled out by John Terry’s second-half equaliser.
Chelsea are showing form that is typical of champions, with the Blues unbeaten in eleven games and winning eight of the last ten.
Spurs have improved markedly under Sherwood, but the North Londoners have had a number of disappointing results of late including defeat at Norwich and a draw at Hull.
The visitors’ tactics will be interesting, as Spurs have been playing two up front recently. With Roberto Soldado scoring the winner against Cardiff last time out, it will be fascinating to see whether the Spaniard retains his place in the side or another midfielder is preferred in his place to shore things up.
Both sides are in the running to achieve their respective ambitions, but three points here would go a long way to ensuring a successful season for either.
Arsenal’s injury-prone midfielder Jack Wilshere is facing another spell on the sidelines, with the club’s official website announcing today that the England international will be out for six weeks with a hairline fracture in his left foot.
The club said on their official website: “Jack Wilshere has sustained a hairline fracture to the navicular bone in his left foot.”
“Wilshere suffered the injury during England’s international match with Denmark on Wednesday night at Wembley Stadium, in which he played 59 minutes.”
“Following initial scans carried out by the FA on Wednesday night, further investigation by Arsenal’s medical team has discovered a crack to a small bone in Jack’s left foot – the navicular, an area of his foot which has not been previously injured.”
“Jack will now require a period of approximately six weeks’ rehabilitation, before starting to regain his match fitness.”
Wilshere, 22, played 59 minutes of England’s 1-0 win over Denmark on Wednesday, and was involved in a heavy collision with Liverpool defender Daniel Agger in the first half.
The Gunners midfielder had initially attempted to allay fears that he might have sustained injury, but Arsenal fans’ worst fears were today confirmed, with Wilshere’s absence coming at the worst possible time for the club, with away games against Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Tottenham all coming up in the next few weeks.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below…
International defender punished with 28-match ban after horror tackle - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
A Vietnamese defender has been handed a record 28-matchban by the VFF (Vietnam Football Federation) for a breaking an opponent’s leg in a V-League game last month.
Vietnam international Tran Dinh Dong, who plays for V-League 1 side ‘Song Lam Nghe An’, flew in two-footed on Nguyen Anh Hung, breaking his leg.
Hung broke his fibula in the clash, and was rushed to hospital in an unconscious state. While he was operated on successfully, the ‘Hung Vuong An Giang’ midfielder is now expected to be out of action for a year.
As well as receiving the lengthy ban, Tran has also been fined 20m dong (£567), and ordered to play the injured player’s medical bills.
His club has announced it intends to appeal the decision.
Tran’s coach Nguyen Huu Thang said (via the BBC): “I will fine him if he does wrong. I think the VFF (Vietnam Football Federation) issued the fine under pressure from public opinion, not based on reality.”
“We will appeal because his absence would strongly affect our name and V-League results.”
The VFF said in a statement: “The punishment is meant to be a warning to players throughout the nation, where violent behaviour on the field has gradually become more popular.”
A truly horrific example of a ’50-50′ challenge gone wrong, these types of encounters are among the most dangerous for footballers, with referees taking a strong stance as a matter of precedent.
This historic ban, in my opinion, is fully justified, and I’m impressed with the VFF in coming down hard on the player.
What do you think? Should he be banned for such a long period? Let me know in the comments below…
Wayne Rooney could be made new United captain before the end of the season - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Manchester United are reportedly set on naming Wayne Rooney as the new club captain, and could promote the England man to top dog even before the end of the season.
Present incumbent Nemanja Vidic yesterday agreed to a move to Serie A side Inter Milan, and with Rooney’s contractual situation now as water-tight as an eel’s undercarriage, the Daily Star claims that David Moyes is ready to hand over the armband to Rooney, and soon.
A Star source claims: “The manager will make Wayne captain and it could be sooner than people think.
“His current captain is leaving and promoting Wayne, the team’s talisman, is the logical thing to do because he is the future.”
Following the signing of his new contract, it has been widely expected that the 27-year-old would take up the mantle of United captain, with Vidic leaving for pastures new. It is rather lucky for United that the striker signed the contract extension, as who else could the United skipper?
Despite Chelsea’s constant flirtations with England man, and his penchant for destructive power-plays, Rooney is seemingly set to stay at United for good, and as captain.
But is that what the United fans want?
What do you think? Get voting, and let me know who you think would be the best United skipper in the comments below!
Ferguson covers Moyes’ back in Manchester United’s boardroom - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Sir Alex Ferguson was recently spotted at the Oscars ceremony in America. The crueller elements of the press may have suggested that he wanted to be in the company of by winners for a change as he’d probably forgotten what that felt like. Doubtless however, no-one would have been brave enough to level the charge to the craggy old Scot’s face, and you can’t really blame them for that. All that said, the glitter and glamour of the ‘showbiz luvvies’ won’t have deterred Ferguson’s mind too much from the dilemma facing his club, and the best way to resolve it. Reports suggest however that, as far as the ex-manager is concerned at least, ditching new man David Moyes is definitely not the solution.
When Ferguson finally quit the Old Trafford hot seat, it was widely reported that it was at his instigation that Moyes was approached to replace him. Despite some claims to the contrary by a certain Irish ex-skipper however, Ferguson is nothing but loyal, and it’s being reported that his is the voice that is counselling patience with the new man, and that he will come good. The ‘capital’ that Ferguson has built up over his twenty-odd years of success at the club is now being deployed to protect his chosen successor, and he is very much tying his success to that of Moyes. Such is the influence of Ferguson in the Old Trafford hierarchy however, that others are persuaded to trust his judgement on the matter – and the question must be asked, why on earth shouldn’t they. Hers’ a man that knows more about successfully managing football clubs than almost anyone you can name, and more about doing that at Manchester United tan anyone at all.
Whether Ferguson would have tolerated the ‘off stage’ mutterings of some players, or even have done the things that may have provoked them is probably a different story entirely. That to one side however, so long as Moyes has Ferguson in the board room supporting him, the club is unlikely in the extreme to abandon their new manager.
Ferguson has expressed a firm declaration not to return to the manger’s chair, and that on its own is probably a strong case for keeping Moyes in place. The old Scot knows, and will certainly recall the tribulations he experienced when first taking over at such a massive club as Manchester United. Having a man with such experience and empathy in the board room is a great asset to Moyes. Many thought that the shadow of Ferguson would hang heavy over Moyes and make his job ultimately untenable. To date however, the reverse very much seems to be the case.
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It’s always being described as a’ nice problem’ to have; too many players competing for the same position, each with different arguments in their favour. For England manager Roy Hodgson, this is the problem he faces. He has competing cases for Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw. All three have strong cases to say they should be on the ‘plane to Brazil. The problem is, three in two doesn’t go – and therefore neither will one of the three. It could of course all be solved by an injury to one of the contenders. These things happen. If not however, Hodgson is going to have to show his hand and decide which two he will select to guard the left flank of his back line.
Even a few months ago, the argument would have been who is going to go along with Ashley Cole. Here was a player that has been lauded as one of the best left backs in the world for the past six years or so. Laden down with silverware from his days at Arsenal and Chelsea, Cole appeared a shoo-in. Then there was a disappointing performance against Newcastle, and Cole was dropped. In stepped nominal right back Cesar Azpillicueta, and aside from a cameo appearance or two, Cole has been warming the Blues’ bench since. Although he has 106 caps, a wealth of big tournament experience and the kudos of having played through the qualifying tournament when fit, unless he regains his place in his club team, he may well lose out.
Baines has been the ‘coming man’ for some time, but for all his advocates I the press, he has never been able to displace the excellent Cole. He has the added bonus of a deadly precision from dead ball situations, and galloping forward is probably the equal of the Chelsea man. What he doesn’t have however is international experience. Although covering for Cole on some occasions and a number of substitute appearances, naivety at the highest level can cost, as was illustrated when he was caught out for one of Chile’s goals in the recent defeat at Wembley.
Luke Shaw was in the Under 21 team at the start of the season, and seemed destined to be there for a while as he gained Premier League experience. His stellar rise however has meant that he is likely to be the very hottest of British transfer targets this summer and Chelsea and both Manchester clubs slug it out to try and persuade Southampton to sell him. As with Baines however, his international experience is limited, but he has the exuberance of youth on his side and has been tutored well through the Southampton academy understand his role in the team. If Baines was the ‘coming man that perhaps never arrived’ Shaw is unlikely to suffer the same fate. His appearance for England last evening against Denmark, albeit in a fairly tepid friendly was evidence enough of his huge potential.
So, if all three are fit and available, who will Hodgson have to make that difficult ‘phone call to? Popular sentiment at the moment is that Cole’s lack of first team action may just cost him his seat on the ‘plane, and that’s entirely possible. I just have the feeling however that with a fairly novice back line, likely to include Cahill and Jagielka at centre back, the manager may just feel that Cole’s experience should not be cast aside so lightly. If he does go with Cole, it’s likely to be Baines that misses out as Shaw is clearly the future for the position. It will be harsh on Baines who has always had that ‘nearly man’ tag around him. It could be a case however of near but not near enough.
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Lallana could be the Saint to save Manchester United’s midfield - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
It’s not the first time someone has put these two ends of an equation toghether to make a match, but last night’s England international friendly against Denmark saw Adam Lallana again underscore the talent he has and why he would be such a perfect fit for David Moyes’ new Manchester United revolution.
In a game that could be described as insipid at best, the introduction of the Southampton midfielder injected some life and drive into the England set up, and it was no surprise that it took a sublime piece of skill and an exquisite cross from Lallana to set up the goal for Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge. It wasn’t only the goal however that made the Saints’ man’s contribution so noticeable. The all round performance and energy e displayed reinvigourated a tired looking team. The impetus he gave is reflective of what he has done for his club side this season, and prompts the question as to whether this is the ideal player for the Old Trafford club.
The fact that Lallana’s visible presence off the field displays such a level-headed approach to his career is another reason as to why he seems an ideal acquisition. Back in December when talk of a move to United was in the air, he was quick to dismiss any speculation, saying he was happy at Southampton, and still had much to learn. He said that “I learnt my trade in League One and the Championship and feel I have grown with the club. I am delighted and as happy as I have ever been here playing for Southampton with one of the best managers in the league.” That sort of attitude must have been music to his manager’s ears, but also displayed a maturity of approach not often seen amongst many young players. The end of the season may bring a different story however, and could be the time for United to make a move.
The midfield still remains a problem for Manchester United, and the sort of displays that Lallana turned out last evening – and has consistently throughout the season for his club – illustrates that he could be the answer. For the man who is happy at the Saints, prising him away may be difficult, but this guy could surely be worth the effort.
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West Bromwich Albion face Manchester United in the league next as they battle against relegation and they will be hoping for the same result at Old Trafford. The fans will be asking, can they do a famous double over the Premier League champions?
If Albion are come to come away with a share of the points Thievy and Saido Berahino will be key. United’s ageing defence lacks pace so these two players will have to work hard throughout, running into the channels to create space and holes in the United back line. By running out wide it will drag the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand out to the flanks creating space in the middle. Late forward runs by James Morrison and Chris Brunt could cause the opposition problems especially if the forwards have dragged the centre backs out wide. Shots from the edge of the area will create problems for David De Gea, which was proven when Berahino scored the winner last time out from outside the 18 yard box.
On loan midfielder Morgan Amalfitano will have to recapture the form of earlier on in the season to help West Brom win the game. In the reverse fixture he caused left back Alex Buttner all sorts of problems with his trickery and ability to get round him getting the ball into the box. The Marseille loan man is a confidence player and if he is on his game he will cause plenty of problems and will be vital if Albion are to come out on top.
The Baggies will need goalkeeper Ben Foster to be on top form to take a share of the spoils. At Old Trafford Boaz Myhill played well in place of the England goalkeeper and was a major part of West Brom taking all three points. Foster will have to prove to the nation why he is the biggest threat to Joe Hart as the England number one by commanding his area and being on top form when called upon.
It is important the holding midfielders remain fully concentrated throughout the whole game because the likes of Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney like to drop deep to collect the ball. Communication is key between the back four and the defensive midfielders so they know where the United attackers are to prevent them from driving at the Baggies backline and firing in shots from all angles.
The players will have to be confident on the ball to express themselves and take chances when they come. United will dominate the possession but when Albion get the ball they have to use it well and get the ball forward as quickly as possible. The pace upfront will be vital and any shooting opportunity will have to be taken.
West Brom will need there far share of luck again to come away with the points but they have the ability in the side to topple Man United for the second time this season.
Liverpool poised to snatch £16million Manchester United target - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Seemingly flushed with their success of playing pacey front men, as the like of Suarez and Sturridge tear up defences throughout the Premier League, Liverpool are reported to be keen on adding more firepower of a similar type by pursuing Argentine wide man Nicolas Gaitan from Benfica,
Manchester United are also noted to be keen on the player, but at 26 years old and priced at around £16million he hardly looks a snip. As an attacking player, his goals ratio is hardly outstanding having netted only 15 times in 92 outings since joining Benfica from Boca Juniors in 2010.
Should Liverpool move for the player however, it would probably end all hopes of Victor Moses securing a permanent deal to stay at Anfield. The Chelsea player was loaned out by Jose Mourinho at the beginning of the season, and although he had a number of impressive performances during the early months, he has since become a peripheral figure, hardly featuring at all in recent games. A trip back to Chelsea in the summer may not hold better promise, and a further loan period elsewhere, or a permanent transfer may be on the cards.
One of the key arts of management is however an ability to see something in a player that others cannot and then to develop it. Brendan Rodgers seems to have this and his success in developing a seemingly ‘lost’ Jordan Henderson into a key component of the Liverpool team is an illustration. If he sees value in signing Gaitan, Liverpool’s hierarchy may well be wise to listen to his counsel
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On the back of renewed contracts for centre back Per Mertesacker and midfielder Thomas Rosicky, Gooners everywhere will be cheered by the news that Aaron Ramsey seems poised to pen a new five year deal at the club.
The Welsh international who had an outstanding early part of the season has been missing from the squad for two months with a thigh injury, but further good news emerged yesterday when it was revealed that he could be in contention for a return to first team action for the midweek trip to Munich when the Gunners seek to overturn a two goal deficit against the European champions.
It will not have gone unnoticed by many pundits that Arsenals’ recent loss of form, that has seen them drop from top place in the league to fourth, is concurrent with the absence of Ramsey, and manager, Arsene Wenger will doubtless be hoping that a return of his midfielder will herald an upswing in fortunes for the club.
The new deal is thought to give Ramsey a 100% increase on his existing salary to bring his weekly wage into the £1000,000 bracket, making ihm the club’s second-highest earner behind Mesut Ozil. The deal reflects the importance that Wenger ascribes to the young Welshman and his importance in the future of the club.
Gunners fans will all b hoping that a swift return to action will now follow and a resumption of the early season form that saw Ramsey net so many goals will drive the team on to a successful closing part of the season.
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Chelsea fans’ favourite to be £25m target for Barcelona - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
The news emanating from Barcelona that iconic centre back and inspirational leader Carles Puyol is set to leave the club at the end of the season is likely to produce a renewed attempt by the Catalan club to prise Brazilian star David Luiz from Chelsea.
It was widely reported in the summer that the Blaugrana made a bid for the player, but the Blues quickly knocked it back, with the newly returning Jose Mourinho not yet having fully assessed his new squad. With Puyol announcing his decision to leave however, the need for a replacement has been greatly heightened, and Barcelona are said to ready to return with an increased bid for Luiz.
Luiz has been a fairly peripheral figure at Stamford Bridge of late, with a string of injuries keeping him out of Mourinho’s mind. It does seem that Blues manager views the Terry/Cahill axis as his first choice pairing in the most important games, and while many fans enjoy the flamboyance of the Brazilian, as a ‘foto-fit’ of what Mourinho looks for in a defender, it hardly fits the bill, and the Portuguese seems very much inclined to lean towards Cahill rather than the maverick Luiz.
Despite early season claims to the contrary, Mourinho seems more likely to play the Brazilian in the holding midfield role. In a game where he was paired with new signing Nemnja Matic against Manchester City in the match at the Etihad a few weeks ago, he put in a stellar performance against the much-vaunted City engine room.
If Barcelona are determined to get their man – and rumour has it that Luiz would not be adverse to such a move – Barcelona will probably need to up their bid considerably from what was reported to be just over £20m in the summer.
The player cost Chelsea in excess of that, plus the supposed makeweight of Matic, now bought back for a substantial fee, and Chelsea would probably instantly disregard anything below the £25m mark, and may even hold out for more.
With Chelsea’s plans for next year involving January signing Kurt Zouma and a determined pursuit of Southampton’s Luke Shaw; a realignment of the defensive unit may be in order. If the club then also decide to offer John Terry a further one year contract extension, Luiz may well become available.
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