Football Entertainment: Soccer Saturday Bingo

Soccer Saturday is a football institution in the UK and Ireland and has been ever since its inception in 1992. Broadcast on Sky Sports, the premise of the program is simple in that there is a host and four studio guests that review the Saturday afternoon football matches that play as they happen. There are also roving reporters at many of the other matches around the country and these are visited throughout the afternoon.

While the premise would make the program sound boring, the fact that it has been on air for 22 years is down to the on screen chemistry of the host, Jeff Stelling, and the studio guests makes the program watchable each and every week. The studio guests are currently former Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, former Arsenal defender Paul Merson, ex Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson and Celtic and Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas.

As a result of the on screen chemistry between the five in the Soccer Saturday studio as well as their familiarity with each other as well as the passion of these football men appearing while watching the matches we are often treated to a display of football analysis that is usually reserved for time spent in the pub with your mates, except on prime time TV!

The nature of the program, as well as the occasion faux pas from the studio guests, has led to many spin offs for people to join in at home. The most famous of this is the Soccer Saturday drinking game where shots of beer or Jagermeister are to be drunk at times of different things happening during the program.

However, for those of us that do not want to spend our Saturday afternoon’s getting heavily drunk we have come up with a bingo version of the game that allows you to play the same game without being unable to function for Saturday evening!

To play, just print off this bingo card from Butlers Bingo or write down the below situations and hand them out to all of the people playing the game. The winner is the first person to get all of their situations to appear on screen.

  • A goal is scored
  • A sending off
  •  Half time
  • Chris Kamara is talking
  • Paul Merson uses stupid rhyming slang (i.e.”he’s hit the beans on toast”!)
  • Swindon Town appear on the vidiprinter
  • Dundee appear on the vidiprinter
  • Phil Thompson says ‘Stevie Gerrard’
  • Jeff makes an ‘A Trialist’ joke
  • Your team scores two goals
  • Jeff calls Kenny Deucher ‘The Good Doctor’
  • Hartlepool score a goal
  • A pundit shouts off camera
  • LeTiss is mentioned in connection with a takeaway
  • Chris Kamara says “it’s unbelievable Jeff”
  • Jeff mentions “dancing in the streets of TNS
  • Jeff says “its Doom and Gloom at…”
  • The team ‘Keith’ is referred to as just being one guy
  • Brighton & Hove, or Daggers & Redbridge are jokingly referred to as two different teams playing the same oppo
  • When Arbroath striker Kevin Webster scores and Stelling says “ohh, Sally will be pleased”
  • Something bad happens to Craig Bellamy (injury, og, booked, arrested for assault etc.)
  • Northampton Town appear on the vidiprinter.
  • Jeff sings “I feel good” when James Brown scores for Hartlepool

These are just a taste of the situations that occur during Soccer Saturday, and feel free to add more of your own making to spice up for your Soccer Saturday bingo session! Once you’ve played this, jump online to play free games at any bingo site. You can win big and use it to spice up your Soccer Saturday fun!

Would you prefer to just play football instead of sitting at home? So basically you want to be a professional footballer? Click here!

 

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Feature: Much awaited football tournaments in the world

Soccer as it is called in the United States and Canada and football to the rest of the world, is one of the most popular sporting extravaganza played by millions worldwide.

The game is played with different formats with different pitch and team sizes but the most prevalent one feature two teams with eleven players each, playing on a grass pitch measuring approximately 105m x 68m with the main aim of kicking or heading a ball into their opponent goal. Men’s football was introduced into Olympics Games in 1908 while the women’s competition was added in 1996.

There is various international football tournaments played all around the world which are eagerly awaited by soccer fans.

Visit Carlton Leisure to book flights to various destinations around the world to enjoy these precious moments of various tournaments.

 

FIFA World Cup

Ask a football fan what delights him the most and undoubtedly you get the answer as FIFA World cup. There is no greater sports competition than this ultimate sports extravaganza. The next FIFA World Cup is held in Brazil from 12th June 2014 to 13th July 2014.

Come and enjoy the game of stamina and passion and see your favorite football giants competing against each other.

 

The UEFA Champions League

The UEFA Championship League is the most glamorous club competition in the football tournaments. The competition is organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Since 1992 it has become one of the most prestigious club competitions in European football which has helped to turn Europe into football’s most financially powerful continent.

The finals of 2012-13 UEFA championship is the most watched sporting events in 2013 worldwide drawing over 360 million television viewers. There is no club competition to match the champion league.

 

The Copa America

It is one of the oldest existing continental football competitions. It is a South American international Association Football Competition contested between CONMEBOL as well as two other nations, frequently Mexico, Costa Rica or the United States.

Brazil and Argentina are referred as South American football’s “Big Two” current holders but it is the Uruguay which is the most successful team of the tournament with 15 wins till date.

 

The FA Cup

The Football Association Challenge Cup which is commonly known as the FA Cup is an annual knockout cup competition in English football. It is the most famous domestic competition in the world.

A women tournament is also held known as FA Women’s cup. Established in July 1871, it is arguably the oldest association football competition in the world.

 

Africa Cup of Nations

It is a main international association football competition in Africa that pits the continents greatest international sides against each other in a fascinating battle of supremacy. It was first held in 1957 and since 1968, it has been held every two years.

The tournament is held in the month of January and the continent’s most successful side is Egypt which has won this tournament a record seven times.

 

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Champions League: Round of 16 Preview

Despite all the tenuous rumours of a fix, the Champions League draw for this season’s round of 16 was always going to be intriguing. After the group stage, which as always was mildly entertaining but is essentially merely a rather drawn out Hors d’oeuvre before the competition truly heats up in February, we have been whittled down to a group of teams who are now just four rounds away from the Lisbon final.

Italian champions Juventus aside, they could also lay a valid claim to being the best 16 teams on the continent, so whatever the combination fate drew those sides out in Nyon last month they were always going to produce some mouthwatering ties.

So what order did they come out in, ok so you probably know by now, but we’ll preview them here;

 

Manchester City vs Barcelona

City boss Manuel Pellegrini may be regretting erroneously judging his maths out in Munich on matchday 6 as they settled for a runners-up spot and tempting Spanish champions Barca out of the hat. However, that 2-3 victory at the home of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Bavarians would give the Chilean optimism, not to mention the free-scoring form of Sergio Aguero (19) and Alvaro Negredo (17), that the Catalans can be toppled.

Gerardo Martino’s outfit lead La Liga into the winter break but have not been at their scintillating best. Far from it actually, unsettled by inner-politics and uncertainty over Martino’s tactics, Athletic Bilbao and Ajax have both exploited their failings. Neymar, 11 goals and 10 assists, has settled in superbly though Lionel Messi has been hampered by injury.

Vincent Kompany and co. will be aware that the Argentine could return by February’s end, though City definitely, with 54 league goals scored so far, have enough in their own attack to trouble Barca’s vulnerable, ageing defence.

Will Tata sign a defender? Don’t count on it.

 

Olympiakos vs Manchester United

United brushed their troubled domestic form to one side in order to breeze through their group with only four points dropped and have landed a plum-looking tie against the Greek champions. The Athens club are no mugs however, recovering from an opening game thrashing at the hands of PSG to progress in second, helped along by the goals of Kostas Mitroglou and the creation of Javier Saviola.

David Moyes will be hoping his charges will be in a more settled position as they enter the second half of the season and with Wayne Rooney producing some marvellous form he has every reason to believe United will progress rather comfortably.

A lot will depend on whether United’s defence, shaky on occasion this season, can hold firm in the first leg assignment out in the usually partisan Karaiskakis Stadium.

 

AC Milan vs Atletico Madrid

Possibly the hipster tie of the round. Just how will Diego Simeone’s bunch of fiery pretenders do against Massimiliano Allegri’s group of underachieving misfits? Will the volatile Diego Costa out-volatile the incredibly volatile Mario Balotelli? How much of an influence will 2007′s star Kaka have on the tie? Or will it be Arda Turan and Koke who battle their way to victory. The list of tedious questions are endless….

Atletico sit joint top of La Liga and cruised through their group unbeaten, boasting a solid defence and a hugely talented goalkeeper in Thibault Courtois, though the Rossonerri, a lowly 13th in Italy, have been around the Champions League block and done it for as long as anybody can remember.

They are Serie A’s last remaining standers, but will the Milanello gentry be knocked out by the relative new boys on the block?… okay, enough with the rhetorical.

 

Zenit St Petersburg vs Borussia Dortmund

“Press.. press.. press.. press..” goes the cry from Jurgen Klopp, the mantra of relentless work that saw the Germans into last season’s final but also into a dark valley of injuries and wretched form that sees them only 4th in the Bundesliga, 12 points off Bayern Munich going into the winter break they will be so grateful to see. In Europe, they emerged from a difficult group with 12 points, fired on by Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus, but Mats Hummels and Nevan Subotic have had nervy moments at the back.

A rejuvenated Dortmund will fancy their chances against arguably the weakest team left in the competition, yes they were handed a 4-1 rinsing by debutants Austria Vienna on matchday 6, and they limped through with as much momentum as an injured tortoise with just 6 points and 1 win.

Though Luciano Spalletti does still possess midfield general Axel Witsel and the hugely expensive commodity Hulk, plus it will be hugely cold out in Russia for the first leg. They will be hoping to score an advantage out there.

 

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich

Someone had to mention the holders didn’t they and here they are, boasting some swashbuckling league form, unbeaten in 16, scorers of 42 goals and conceders of 8.

Mario Gotze, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller, Mario Mandzukic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, Javi Martinez and co. place the emphasis on the collective as Guardiola proceeds into the next tactical frontier. Their 1-3 dismantling of Manchester City at the Etihad was indication of what they can do.

It must have been the most contrasting of emotions for Arsene Wenger’s men on the final group game, trudging off the Napoli pitch having just progressed from a desperately difficult group but ultimately to a defeat which saw them having to grudgingly accept the runners-up spot.

It’s not all bad though, the arrival of Mesut Ozil has beamed the Gunners up to the top of the Premier League with Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Oliver Giroud all showing superb form.

Mathieu Flamini offers some much-needed steel to the midfield which protects a sturdy defence. Plus, of course, there was the small matter of this last season.

 

Galatasaray vs Chelsea

It’s the tie that Didier Drogba wanted and with the Ivorian motivated to the hilts, nothing is beyond the Turkish side that also has Wesley Sneijder, as he did vs Juventus, capable of coming up with the big moments.

Though they crept past the Italians with a goal-difference of minus 6, Real Madrid stuck 10 past them in their 2 meetings, so defending is obviously not a plus point for Roberto Mancini’s side. The Italian coach will be busy re-accustoming himself with the last 16 furniture having failed to break the group stage ceiling with Manchester City.

Chelsea had a turbulent time of it in qualifying, losing twice to Basel but eventually coming good. Oscar and Eden Hazard have been impressive, but Jose Mourinho is still to decide on a regular striker, Samuel Eto’o, Demba Ba or Fernando Torres? Hmmm.. decisions. Whoever gets the nod will be hopeful of firing a few past Europe’s feeblest backline.

Mourinho, twice a winner of the competition, will be overwhelming favourite if he can successfully guide his own defence through the hostile trip to Istanbul and back to Stamford Bridge.

 

Schalke vs Real Madrid

The Germans have been hampered by the injury to Klaas Jan Huntelaar and have found goals hard to come by this season, experiencing patchy domestic from and a sluggish group stage.

Julien Draxler will see this as a stage to show his burgeoning quality while in Jefferson Farfan and Kevin Prince-Boateng, they boast attacking verve and vigour. Huntelaar will be due back in time for February, bringing a huge smile to the face of manager Jens Keller.

As he comes to realise that Madrid will arrive to Gelsenkirchen with an armada of Cristiano Ronaldo, just the 34 goals for the season so far, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Angel Di Maria. The return of Xabi Alonso has given the midfield more composure and Isco can also produce moments of magic.

With walking red cards Sergio Ramos and Pepe patrolling the backline they are always minutes away from potential disaster, but as Carlo Ancelotti’s side continues to gel, you’d expect them to sweep aside their German counterparts with relative ease.

 

Bayer Leverkusen vs Paris St Germain

Anybody who watched Bayer play Manchester United in the group stages will be continuing to scratch their heads over just how the Germans have made it this far. Resembling a bunch of direction-less amateurs both at home and away, they were dispatched for an aggregate score of 9-2.

However Sami Hyypia’s men lie 2nd in the Bundesliga so they must be doing something right. Sidney Sam is a very dangerous winger and Simon Rolfes can create from deep. Stefan Kiessling, having a modest season with 11 goals, can finish off the chances created for him.

If Bayer continue to ship goals at the same rate as they did in qualifying, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be sizing up his prey like a hungry leopard after he netted a massive 8 goals in the group stages. If he doesn’t fancy it however, Edinson Cavani, who has 4, can always step up. The Qatari-owned French club have spent buckets and Laurent Blanc will cast half an eye on the final.

With Marquinhos excellent in defence and a midfield driven by Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta, he has the solid spine to compliment a prolific front-line.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Napoli vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Recently, the warriors of Naples have fought many battles and lost the important ones. The 3-0 spanking by Juventus and the 3-1 loss at the Signal Iduna are results that have not gone down well with the Sky Blue army. Matchday six of the UCL is the biggest game of the season for Rafa Benitez and his men.

In the lead up to the game, problems have arose between the gaffer and team captain, Paolo Cannavaro’s agent, with the latter accusing the former of ignoring his client and declaring him unsuitable for his team.

In fairness, the younger brother of former Azzurri skipper, Fabio, has done little to prove he merits a place in the starting eleven. In the away fixture v Roma earlier in the season, he was sent off for one of daftest challenges you’ll ever see. An action which effectively ensured that the sky blues left the capital without a point.

Cannavaro is set to depart the club in the January transfer window since he has found opportunities hard to come by. Miguel Britos and Federico Fernandez are doing a great job alongside Raul Albiol and only injury/suspension can deny them a place in the starting line-up

Visitors, Arsenal are the early pacesetters in the English Premier League. The gunners have lost only two games in domestic action this term and lead the chasing pack by five points. They were six minutes + stoppage time away from extending the advantage to seven, only for Barcelona loanee, Gerard Deulofeu to pop up and score a beauty for Everton in the 84th minute to level matters.

Arsene Wenger is aware of the task at hand and is confident that his wards will qualify. It will be an astonishment of epic proportions if Napoli cruise past Arsenal with the much improved Per-Kos partnership present at the San Paolo.

Benitez knows what is required to qualify for the next round. Although they have made it difficult for themselves, they have one last chance to put things right in front of their fans and on their turf. Irrespective of the opposition, the Paolo is a scary place to visit and the Partenopei fans will make life unbearable for Arsenal from the stands.

The burden rests firmly on the shoulders of Gonzalo ‘Pipita Higuain- the Argentine attacker is 26 today and will want to get one over a team he almost joined in the summer before De Laurentiis stepped in. It would certainly be one of the best birthday presents ever if he scores the goals required to enable Napoli qualify for the Round of 16. Something previous South Americans like El Diego and Cavani would have happily done.

Pipita’s job is tougher because Marek Hamsik is injured. The Slovakian playmaker will not take part in the Club’s most important game yet and that is a big blow. Another ex-Real Madrid player, Jose Callejon has been in good form this season. His goals and work rate deserve commendation. Napoli have a good chance to qualify if Jose and Pipita raise their game.

For Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, it has been a jolly good ride so far. The first tough game in the December run-in ended in a draw on Sunday and the same result will ensure that they don’t only qualify, but top the group as well. Giving the excellent form they currently are, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

The mission is simple: don’t concede at all. Even if you do, let it not be more than three and if you manage to let in three, score at least one. Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil have been scoring the goals of late and will look to continue in that fashion.

Wojciech Szczesny now seems assured in goal and that has made Wenger’s decision to bring in Viviano, laughable. The Pole has to remain solid and impenetrable to stop the Callejon-Pandev-Insigne-PIPITA quartet.

 

PREDICTED LINE-UPS

NAPOLI

Pepe Reina, Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere, Dzemaili, Inler, Pandev, Insigne, Callejon, HIGUAIN.

Pretty much the expected team selection from Rafa. Hamsik aside, everyone walks straight into the starting 11 except that Pandev is often the strike option if/when Pipita and co fail to shine. The Macedonian captain has a lot to offer when he is called upon.

Raul Albiol and whoever partners him in defence must be watchful of the exceptional skills set of Ozil-Ramsey-Giroud-and Santiago Cazorla. Well, Gokhan Inler must play his part too.

 

ARSENAL

Szczesny, Jenkinson, Kos, Per, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Ozil, Roiscky, Walcott, Giroud/Bendtner.

There’s this strange feeling that Wenger might like some width tomorrow, hence the inclusion of Walcott in the first eleven. Tomas Roiscky is a genius when fit and ready and we all know the numbers Aaron has posted this season. Any position you ask him to play, he does unbelievable things.

In fact, due to his leading role this season, some have boldly opined that he is better than the peerless ARTURO VIDAL. Ozil has been very impressive for the Gunners with timely goals and assists since he came from Spain. The Germany playmaker extraordinaire is probably the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League.

Arsene might want to give Nicklas a chance to prove himself yet again after that rare goal v Hull last week. Wilshere will be required to rest his ankle in the aftermath of what happened on Sunday and Flamini should miss out through injury.

 

Conclusion

The San Paolo will be rocking on Wednesday night and everyone is anticipating a spectacular match between two great clubs slugging it out for a place in the last 16 of the UCL. Victory for Napoli might not be enough which is bizarre because it would take them to 12 points.

If Dortmund win at the Velodrome and Arsenal avoid being thrashed 3-0, then both Klopp and Wenger will be delighted to sail through what was dubbed the ‘GROUP OF DEATH’ when the draws came through. If Napoli achieve the impossible, De Laurentiis might just open his chequebook for reinforcements to be brought in to bolster the ever improving squad.

It is first in England v third in Italy. If the gunners were in Serie A, they would have been third behind Roma and Juventus points wise and if Napoli had been a premier league club this campaign, they would have been 2nd behind Arsenal. Tight game in prospect as both teams are doing quite well domestically.

Stalwarts like Higuain and Ozil have one or two points to prove on Wednesday night. How weird it will be for both players who as early as May, were playing together for one club. We await showtime.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Match Preview

 

Arsenal will push for that 3rd consecutive victory in the Champions League this season, as they host last year’s finalist Dortmund at the Emirates on Tuesday.

Wenger’s men continued from where they left off before the International break fixtures in the league; by thrashing Norwich to retain top spot on the log. The Gunners started the game on the front foot as expected, with chances gone begging with love.

But soon afterwards, a string of passes, flicks, and composure fired Arsenal to a 1-o lead. The build-up and finish of the Gunners’ first goal was scintillating and definitely a contender for goal of the season.

The second proceedings, however, witnessed Norwich asking questions, and a couple of saves from Sczensy prevented an equalizer. It wasn’t to be the same old-Arsenal though. Frenchman Olivier Giroud found Ozil with an inch-perfect cross, the 42.5 million acquisition scored with an header for the first time in his top flight career.

Jonny Howson’s calm finish for the canneries brought hope for the visitors, but Ramsey’s proficient goal, and Ozil’s tap in annihilated such hopes.

Dortmund also brushed aside Hannover in the Bundesliga with a lone-goal courtesy of a first half penalty. The Gunners have taken 19 points from 7 league matches, Dortmund won 7 in 9 league games this season.

In the Champions League, the Gunners have also started in effulgent fashion; first beating Marseille away 2-1, then Italian Napoli at home 2-0. Whilst Dortmund lost their first game in Naples, but defeated Marseille 3-0 on match day two.

The Gunners should be confident in approaching this game, not just because of their red-hot form, but their impressive home- record against German sides- winning nine and losing 3 in 13 games.

 

Team news-

Dortmund would welcome back their suspended goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller for this clash. Absentees Sebastian Kehl (Ankle) and Marcel Schmelzer (Thigh) who have not featured since September are ostensibly ruled out for the trip to London.

Sven Bender is likely to feature despite carrying a knock; the defensive midfielder has expressed his excitement on facing his fellow country-man Mesut Ozil. Lukasz Piszczek and llkay Gundogan remain long term injuries.

For Arsenal, aside Flamini who is recovering from a concussion, Theo Walcott who suffered a set-back in training and ruled out for an addition two weeks, the same squad that played in Norwich could feature against their German opponents.

 

DID YOU KNOW: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) has attempted the most passes in the opposition half in the Champions League this season, with 1896? The Welsh Jesus (as the media says) is fully confident ahead of this game.

 

Prediction: Arsenal showed against Napoli that they are more than capable of upsetting the top dogs, and their German summer acquisition has lifted the spirit of the players, albeit, Dortmund are no pushover.

But if you asked Jurgen Klopp (who would be watching from the stands after an out-burst which resulted in a two-match ban) if he preferred another opponent for his Dortmund team at this stage, he would have gracefully said yes. Arsenal 3-1 Dortmund.

 

Written by Femi Hilekaan

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Feature: The Increasing Success of Football Betting

Football betting has long been popular amongst those that like to gamble, as illustrated by the ubiquitous presence of betting shops on high streets across the United Kingdom. Yet unlike many formerly popular industries, the world of football betting has thrived in the era of the internet.

Indeed, all of the major bookmakers like bwin.be have setup online versions of their physical shops, leading to not only a mass exodus from the high street to the virtual world of online gambling, but it has tempted a greater proportion of the population to gamble on sports than ever before.

Now, in terms of popularity, football betting is matched only by the wealth of similarly popular online casinos.

Reasons for the continued and increasing popularity of football betting:

1. Convenience – this is arguably the main reason for the aforementioned surge. The added convenience has been generated by giving those interested in sports betting the ability to find tips and odds information, in addition to being able to place bets securely online.

The World Wide Web has therefore made football betting into something that is very accessible in terms of the ability that the average punter now has to make an informed betting choice.

 

2. Audience – There has been a marked increase In the level enthusiasm for sport in general amongst the public, but it is football – and the Premier League in particular –that has seen a surge in popularity and therefore in the number of people betting on its results.

 

3. Advertising – The likes of Bwin are experts in marketing their brand and bringing themselves to the attention of a mass audience. Indeed, sponsorship deals with European footballing behemoths, Real Madrid and AC Milan, have obviously brought the betting site to the attention of a massive audience, thus helping to increase the popularity of sports betting on a global scale.

 

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Manchester City: Pellegrini’s Citizens succumb to Bayern’s brilliance

“Super-Bayern uberrollen Manchester” rejoiced the headline in the German newspaper Bild on Thursday morning, celebrating how Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, on his 100th day in charge of the club, rolled-over Manchester City in a manner reminiscent of how the coach’s Barcelona dominated teams in such an unforgiving manner.

While Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben may have been indebted to Joe Hart for the role he played in their goals in the 1-3 victory, the general media consensus, across both countries, was that Munich had totally outclassed Manuel Pellegrini’s men.

Guardiola, given his relentless quest for footballing perfection that continues at full pace in his new job, will no doubt be interested to read the inner pages of Der Spiegel. He would find a criticism of his team’s lack of cutting-edge in a first half that saw 70% possession but only a one goal cushion going into the interval.

“Bayern toyed with the British team in a game of cat and mouse, but forgot their bite” read the Frankfurter Allgemaine Zeitung, desperately finding something to pull Guardiola up on, like a schoolteacher attempting to keep his star student grounded.

It seems absurd that such a commanding performance would have attracted negative marks, but the Spaniard would probably have been delighted to have read the criticisms given his unrelenting search for improvement.

Though Wednesday night wouldn’t have given him much room to manoeuvre. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben menaced on either flank, the irresistible Thomas Muller played his withdrawn striking role to near-perfection and Phillip Lahm, the definitive professional, again vindicated Guardiola’s innovative idea to renovate him as a holding-midfielder with another fine display.

It wasn’t a surprise given how ruthless Bayern were in winning the competition under Jupp Heynckes last season, though Guardiola has inherited that clinical efficiency and added his own layer of Iberian philosophy. The Germans retained the ball with precision, the featherweight grace of Toni Kroos, gliding across the field like it was glazed with ice, linked the midfield to Muller, the “space investigator” as he calls himself, constantly roaming and constantly scheming.

It was space that Muller found himself occupying in the 54th minute, acres of it in fact, as Dante chipped in a delicate pass that found Gael Clichy daydreaming, Joe Hart helpless and Muller fully receptive of the chance that had been presented to him. 0-2 and it was game over. Still they passed and they pressed, Fernandinho was caught in possession by Muller three minutes later and Robben was slipped in, again past the abysmal Clichy, to drive into the open chasm that seems to be Hart’s near-post.

In the co-commentary chair, Gary Neville aimed personal criticism at England’s number one. “You have to say Hart’s got to do better again at that near post” he said, “that’s twice he’s been beaten there tonight. He’ll be disappointed again”. It capped off a forgettable night for Hart who was beaten too easily by Ribery’s low shot in the seventh minute, further intensifying the scrutiny into his worrying lack of form going into England’s vital World Cup qualifiers. “He’s got to do better there” Neville surveyed the first goal, “he’s let it go through his hands”.

Hart was one of the many City players to come out of the schooling devoid of any plaudits with Yaya Toure, so often the behemoth that commands the midfield battle with brute strength, struggling notably in the face of Lahm’s nimble mobility and the fierce consistency of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Clichy was embarrassingly wretched while his nearest centre-back, the inexperienced Matija Nastasic, was constantly terrorised by Robben’s raids in-field.

City’s attacking trio of Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and Eden Dzeko were almost non-existent until they were hauled off by a disgruntled Pellegrini with 20 minutes to go. “We played really badly” assessed the Chilean, and nobody could really argue. “We didn’t expect such an easy game like that” offered Robben “we expected more from City”.

That was to take nothing away from Bayern’s excellence however, producing the latest artwork in Guardiola’s steadfast search for his footballing vision to reach a zenith, a team that rotated on its 8 man midfield ahead of two comfortable ball-playing centre-halves and a goalkeeper. “I’m very, very satisfied” said Bayern’s president Uli Hoeness as he departed the Etihad, “it was amazing how we passed the ball around”.

Guardiola however, was less than happy. “We’ve a lot to improve on” said the 42 year old, “our dead-ball situations were terrible”. Few has noticed and even fewer agreed, they were too busy worrying how good Bayern Munich will be when, as Manuel Neuer said “we can get better still”, and Guardiola irons out the faults.

On Wednesday night, those faults were only obvious to him.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Atletico Madrid: No Falcao, no problem

In the last few years, it’s looked increasingly difficult to close the gap between La Liga’s big two – Barcelona and Real Madrid – and the rest of the pack. However, it now looks like Atletico Madrid are doing just that. With players like David Villa and Adrian in the ranks, things are looking up for Atleti this season, as they are catching the eye in the Champions League as well as in La Liga, where they currently sit joint-top with Barça.

When Colombian star Radamel Falcao left the Vicente Calderon for big-spending AS Monaco at the start of the summer, some critics claimed that Atletico would struggle to replicate their results with the Colombian international, and that they needed a world-class striker to replace him.

Boy, did they manage that. Spain’s all-time leading scorer and a Champions League winner with Barcelona – not bad for just over £4.2 million. That man was, of course, David Villa.

With that particular Spaniard at the head of attack, results seem to be improving. Seven straight La Liga wins have meant Los Colchoneros sit five points clear of their Madrid rivals Real, and level with Barcelona, the current title holders. Early in the season still, but there’s definitely signs that the dominance of the big teams could certainly be breaking.

There were early signs last season that Atleti were on their way back up, whilst Falcao was still in the ranks. A 3rd place finish after being close to the two teams above them for much of the season certainly pleased Diego Simeone, and they’ve started to build on that already this year, although they did have to fight off competition from other clubs for some big players such as Diego Costa, which they managed successfully – proving that there is an allure to La Liga clubs that aren’t Barça or Real.

It’s still only early days, but things are definitely looking up for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side.

 

Written by Ben Warner

Follow Ben on Twitter @TheBlueView and check out his fine football blog

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Manchester United: The Red Devils Travel to Donetsk with a Point to Prove

English champions, Manchester United, are a club in disarray, and David Moyes will be delighted to have the opportunity to put his domestic troubles to one side and concentrate on European affairs.

The game will act as respite for their new manager, despite his admission this week that his squad is not strong enough to compete for the Champions League title, suggesting that the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are better-equipped to stand up to the toughest challenge in club football:

“To win the Champions League, you have to have five or six world class players; that’s the level you have to get at to win it. We’ve not got that yet but what we have got is experience and several players who are in that category or close to it.”

Even so, Moyes will be pleased to be competing in another competition after making the worst start to an EPL title defence since Blackburn Rovers in 1995/96, and will be hoping that the change of format allows his squad to play with a greater freedom – just as they did in their League Cup triumph over Liverpool last week.

Earlier this year, the Old Trafford outfit became the first football team to be valued in excess of $3bn – but this price was based upon a minimal requirement of qualifying for the quarterfinals of this year’s Champions League, a position for which they are 10/21 with Betfair.

Failure to do at least reach that stage of the competition would lead to ramifications far greater than fan unrest or criticism from Betfair pundits; if Moyes fails on this front, the club’s global image would take a heavy blow.

Victory in their opening Group A game against Bayer Leverkusen gave United the perfect start to European football, but should another good result elude him, it could well be “squeaky-bum time” for Moyes, far earlier than anyone around Old Trafford anticipated.

 

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Marseille vs Arsenal: Match Preview

A hard fought draw against an abstruse Sunderland team saw Arsene Wenger’s team exit the Stadium of Light with all three points in the bag. The Gunners started the game brightly, and barely 10 minutes into the half, debutant Mesut Ozil teed Oliver Giroud to fire Arsenal to an early lead.

The German international was enormously expected to display his tantalizing talents in the league, and his half-time performance alone was too emphatic for a player who fell sick on the eve of the clash, and had no idea about his new team playing style- That simply augurs what to expect from the player.

Predictably, the black cats upped their tempo in the second proceedings probably due to Di Canio’s effect at halftime. And they were finally rewarded when Lauren Koscielny plunged to a reckless challenge- giving the ref no option but to point to the spot-Gardner leveled matters for the home team.

At that point, Sunderland looked threatening, and with the home crowd cheering on, their vibrant passing tempo was increased. Most certain to cause the gunner’s problem, they made use of both flanks proficiently. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t to be the story- an admirable Ramsey’s volley from a Carl Jenkinson’s cross catapulted Arsenal in front for the second time.

Like a thunderous flash, glimpse of hope was seen again, as Altidore seemed to have scored for the cats, despite the ref blowing for a tangle with Bacary Sagna, but horrendously, the goal was disallowed.

Finally, combinations of Ozil and Giroud, neatly dispatched a goal-scoring pass for Ramsey, who in return, beat the keeper to increase his goal tally to seven this season. And, diminished any sort of a fairy-tale come back from the home-team.

The Uefa Champions League is here again, and Arsenal will battle against a Marseille side at the Stade Velodrome Stadium, with the host coming into this clash with full spirits, despite scraping an understandable draw at Toultouse during the weekend fixtures.

The previous time both teams met, Arsenal came out victorious at Velodrome with Ramsey scoring a well placed shot. The 2nd leg ended in a stalemate.

With both sides showing ambition in the summer transfer- Arsenal securing the signature of Mesut Ozil, and Marseille completing the switch of Florian Thuavin, it sure promises to be a different footballing affair come Wednesday night.

 

Team News

Arsene Wenger revealed during his Monday night pre-match conference the return of Merteshacker (Who missed the weekend’s game due to illness) to Arsenal’s defense. New boy Mesut Ozil is in contention to start, while the club is sweating over the fitness of Oilvier Giroud.

Highly influential attack orchestrator Santi Cazorla is out with an ankle injury. The striker limped off the stadium of light with a suspected knee injury. Marseille are more likely to field the same side that participated in the weekend draw.

Andrew Ayew is doubtful to start, whilst Senegalese International Diawara is unavailable. Gignac will spear-head the l’OM attack line, Valbuena, Mendez and Dimitri Payet all probable to start.

 

 

Prediction

Arsenal are in super-hot form, and with a host of creative talents in their side, they are bound to create chances for in-form striker Olivier Giroud who has 4 in 4 in the Premier League.

Marseille have lost their last 3 matches in the Ucl, and should be approaching this game in a positive manner. An early goal could be the antidote for a victory; otherwise, giving Arsenal room to display their brilliance on the pitch would be disastrous for Elie Baup’s side.

 

Predicted scoreline: Marseille 0-2 Arsenal

 

Written by Femi Hilekaan

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