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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La Liga: This season’s title race promises the most dramatic conclusion in years

The gap in competition was made evident in Europe again this week as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid took major steps towards a passage into the last 8 of the Champions League. A 0-2 lead will be taken back to the Nou Camp as Manchester City were beaten on Tuesday night while 24 hours later, Diego Costa gave Atletico a valuable 0-1 lead against AC Milan, an away goal to cherish as they seek a way into their first quarter-final of Europe’s premier competition for the first time in 17 years.

The spread of competition in La Liga maybe undermined by a woeful disparity in television revenue distribution but with English and Italian opposition being slain on the continent, there was further evidence that the Spanish domestic summit remains extremely high.

Perhaps rivalled only by Germany who boast little on the same parity of Bayern Munich, the ferociously gifted machine that took their own first-leg lead away from England on Wednesday night.

Chelsea, guided by the nous and the fiery drive of Jose Mourinho, may pose some threat to Munich’s European crown but with Real Madrid facing Schalke, the German side who sit 4th in the Bundesliga and 19 points adrift of Bayern’s runaway lead, in the next glut of last-16 matches next week, it is likely that La Liga will still boast 3 representatives when the competition moves into its last 8. Those 3 clubs are locked in battle for their own domestic crown, all on 60 points after 24 games played and all with identical records, Barcelona’s goal-difference posting them top.

With Juventus leading Serie A by a margin of 9 points over Roma and Paris St Germain and Monaco leading the way in a top-heavy French League dominated by obscene levels of cash, the excitement of Spain’s title run-in is matched only by England where Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and league leaders Chelsea are separated by just 4 points.

It is Liverpool’s inclusion that is particularly intriguing, having taken advantage of Manchester United’s turbulent introduction to life after Sir Alex Ferguson not only to become favourites for a return to Champions League after a four year absence, but to also give themselves a legitimate chance of winning a title they last won 23 years ago.

A slightly shorter period separates Atletico Madrid from their last league win, 17 years to be precise, and their involvement in this year’s Spanish title race is arguably more welcome than Liverpool’s over in the Premier League.

It is approaching a decade since the El Clasico hegemony was last broken as a result of an outrageously top-heavy distribution of television rights which posts the £140 million income of Real Madrid and Barcelona almost 100% ahead of the next two biggest-earning teams, Valencia and Atletico.

The latter’s residency at the top this year has satisfied some complaints about Spain’s lack of competition for the big two, though it should not deflect attention away from a system that is desperately in need of reform. The majority of clubs remain crippled by debts, mainly money owed to the Spanish government to the tune of a total in the region of £700 million and almost half the league has struggled to land sponsorship.

Atletico’s emergence has convinced some that the chasm can be breached, though it has been a meticulous project, led by Diego Simeone since his appointment in 2011, financed by a reported debt of 120 million Euros. While Atletico, winners of the Europa League and the Copa Del Rey in recent years, have brought a discernible threat to Barca and Real’s dominance on the field, they are still finding it hard to compete with them off it.

A summer spending spree of £21 million, on deals with a clear eye on the future in Toby Alderweireld, Joshua Guilavogui and Leo Baptistao, was dwarfed by Real Madrid’s £80 million capture of Gareth Bale as well as £26 million deals for Isco and Asier Illaramendi while Barcelona signed Neymar for £50 million, a fee later reported to be more in the region of £90 million.

Atletico did pull off a huge summer coup in David Villa in a £4 million deal that weighed heavily in clauses and instalments as well as wages and there was no escaping the fact the Spaniard had become a cast-off from a side Atletico were planning to rival.

What Simeone’s team have lacked in significant investment they have made up for in rugged determination and fortitude, becoming a perfect representation of the doggedness and industry that typified their Argentine coach during his playing days. Diego Costa, who scored his 26th goal in 28 games in the San Siro on Wednesday, has led the line powerfully alongside Villa whose 11 league goals and experience have proved invaluable.

Arda Turan, Gabi and Tiago have worked tirelessly in midfield to allow Koke, whose 9 assists are bettered only by Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas, to pull the strings. Of course, a solid defence always helps and Atletico’s is the best in the league, conceding just 16 goals. The back four of Felipe Luis, Miranda, Diego Godin and Juanfran, complimented by the superb talent of Thibaut Courtois in goal, have kept 12 clean sheets in total, a tally equalled only by Barcelona.

There is a fear, exacerbated by the way he saw his team brushed aside in the semi-finals of the Copa Del Rey by Real, that Simeone may again fall short due to a lack of genuine strength in depth, though a January loan of Wolfsburg’s Diego Ribas, who was excellent in his last spell at the Calderon two years ago, may have the galvanising effect that is needed, especially in attack where they have sometimes looked short of ideas in the face of teams willing to just sit and stifle.

It is a similar problem that faces the other two, though Real Madrid, who possess the phenomenal Cristiano Ronaldo, are packed with the fire-power required to deal with any concerted defensive effort, as are Barcelona who have Lionel Messi.

The duo’s scoring rivalry has not been as intense as recent seasons but both occupy impressive numbers all the same. Ronaldo’s 22 league goals from 21 games is typically outstanding though Messi’s 13 from 15, in a season hampered by injury and destabilising accusations of tax-fraud, is equally marked.

Even though in Carlo Ancelotti and Gerardo “Tata” Martino the big 2 have managers yet to experience success in Spain, their star players have both been there, done it and with both motivated by a vehement desire to outdo each other, faith will be rightfully installed in them to drive them over the line.

Just as vital however will be the supporting cast, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi who make-up the wonderfully gifted spine of Barcelona, and Madrid’s Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema, who have both shown discernible improvement during the transition from Jose Mourinho to Ancelotti.

Luka Modric has developed into one of the league’s prized assets and has formed a fearsome midfield together with Xabi Alonso, while Gareth Bale has settled into La Liga life very well indeed even if without the headlines, scoring 9 goals and registering as many assists. The emergence of Jese Rodriguez has also been promising, the 20 year old winger helping himself to 5 goals and 4 assists in 15 appearances, only 3 of which have been starts.

Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona’s 15 goal right winger, has cut a totally difference force from the troubled one that laboured on the periphery of matches last year, while Pedro has managed 13 from the opposite flank. It is perhaps due to the more direct style in operation under Martino, one that utilises more long balls and faster counter-attacking, one that saw them cede possession for the first time in five years at Rayo Vallecano earlier in the year.

A defence that lumbers on in the absence of a yet-to-be-replaced Carles Puyol has managed well enough, though Valencia and Sofiane Feghouli showed what could be done if pressure is applied on Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano, earning a recent shock 2-3 victory in the Nou Camp.

That weekend, Atletico went top, a perfect tribute to the late Luis Aragones, the coach who led them to their last title triumph, but a week later, top-spot was back in the hands of Barcelona after Simeone saw his side lose for the just the 2nd time this season, away at relegation-threatened Almeria.

Real meanwhile, who last held the summit on the 25th January, are the only side in consistent form having not lost since the end of October. It is an ominous run of just 4 points dropped from the past 14 games that will be put under intense scrutiny when they travel across the capital to face rivals Atletico in the first week of March.

Atletico won the season’s first derby, a 0-1 victory in the Bernebau, the first time they had beaten their more illustrious neighbours in the league since 1999. It was the moment that cemented Atletico as genuine title contenders, though Real Madrid and Barcelona, like always, are also in that group. Who makes the most irresistible case? It is too tight to say. Though none of them dare blink next.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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Football: What does it mean and how us fans shape our lives around it

There comes a time where we must all grow up. Young boys stop playing with little action figures and move on to games consoles, young girls stop wearing their mothers make-up and start wearing their own. We all go to secondary school, reach an age where an interest in the opposite sex grows and we watch more shows created for an older fanbase, as opposed to the kid’s TV we used to enjoy.

We can change our minds so easily when we grow up. We outgrow almost everything from our childhood, be it a show, a board game or an obsession with our favourite teddy or toy that never left our side. Even hobbies find their way of slowly drifting from our routines and finding their place in our memories, never to be forgotten.

One thing that seldom changes, however, is relationships. Some even grow stronger. Childhood friends become school friends, school friends become work friends, maybe even partners. Having an affinity with something rarely changes, and it’s the same with football.

Football can shape the childhood of children so easily. We watch and become transfixed by one player, one team or just the sport in general. For children in football mad families, it is inevitable that they will watch football from early. As a young boy in an Arsenal mad family there was no other team I was ever going to watch, and when I did watch I was hooked by Thierry Henry.

He was my first idol, the first player I fell in love with. And even today, the sight of Thierry Henry or the mere mention of his name buckles me up and takes me down the greatest evocative road I’ve ever journeyed on. Reliving the moments that lit up my childhood, experiencing those moments again. Just fantastic.

To this day, as an 18-year old, I will admit that if it come down to going on a date with a beautiful female or going to watch the Arsenal, I’d pick Arsenal. She may be upset by that so I’d invite her along. If she says no then that’s her problem, not mine. However strong that may sound, football has played a part in my life so huge that living without it would be fairly difficult. It’s an escape, and the same for many other people.

People shape their lives around football. Socially and professionally, everything is built around football. Unfortunately though, not for me, professionally speaking. I work when most Arsenal games are on, and as an 18-year old I’m sadly unable to dictate when I work.

Money comes first when you’re building for a future. Needs must. But it’s not the same for others. People book days off from work to go to games. Even if they’re just going to watch it down the pub with some friends, football comes first.

It’s a strange connection, as people who don’t love football are unable to comprehend the feeling felt by fans when a goal is scored, a pass is misplaced or the ball is controlled. All these footballers are really are just normal people who can kick a ball better than the rest of us, but it’s not as simple as that.

As kids we idolise these men and treat them as superheroes and when we grow up we just sit back and watch in awe. They become parts of our lives and on the back of interviews and performances we end up feeling like we know them.

It even influences the way we use social media, particularly on Twitter. Many people you’ll find on there use it solely to air views and discuss football. There’s something about mixing social media and watching football that results in a narcissistic belief that our views are superior to others. Opinions in the world vary, but on social media the passion we hold for our clubs exudes into 140 characters and any objection comes across as disparagement. So, naturally, we bite back.

Peronally speaking as a reserved individual, football provides a platform for conversation. With not many interests other than the beautiful game finding a middle ground is difficult, and relating to people is rare. With all this in mind, football is the most important thing in my life and it’s played a huge part in the development of me as a person. It’s taught me many different emotions and even a few swear words along the way. Like millions of my fellow humans, I don’t know where I’d be without football.

Football elicits emotion that is not comparable to anything in life. Loyalty to your club is not a choice, it is an obligation; something that is very much permanent; like a birthmark, or a mole – something we cannot remove from ourselves. No matter how frustrating we may consider our connection with a football club to be, there is no doubt that however illogical perserverance through frustration sounds, it would sound even more illogical to contemplate removing your loyalty.

So loving football isn’t necessarily a choice, it’s a requirement. And it’s fun to be part of a community that’s so widespread yet united as one. It’s a wonderful feeling. And that’s why football will always come first.

 

Written by Ryan Goodenough

Follow Ryan on Twitter @SidelineArsenal

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Real Madrid: A Memorable Day At The Stadium Tour

Football fans who are visiting Madrid absolutely must visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Should you not be able to make that visit, then at least take some of your visit time to take a stadium tour of the most impressive football stadium in the world. You’ll be standing on top of the world when you visit this stadium.

No visit to Madrid is complete without this fantastic stadium tour. Whether you’re a football fan or not, young and old alike will appreciate and enjoy learning more about the historical facts of this venue.

 

Pricing For The Stadium

Inexpensively priced for adults and even less for children who are under 14, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the stadium and dream for a moment about the Champions League Final in which you’re the key player. Let yourself sit back and picture your life as a championship player.

Children will enjoy the fantasy and you’ll feel the energy of the crowd as you make that winning goal. If you’re wondering about other possible discounts, you’ll also get a steep discount if you’re a member of the fan club. Well worth the time and effort. Young and old alike will appreciate this visit.

 

Plenty To Enjoy On Your Visit

Tours are available year round between 10:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Saturday. Sunday has reduced hours. On match days it may be a bit more difficult to gain access to the changing area but it is still possible.

Visitors are given free reign to peruse the Trophy Room which is interactive. Children love interactive tools and exhibits so plan to spend some time simply interacting with all that they have to offer on your visit to the Trophy room. With a lot of great exhibitions including tributes to many legendary figures.

You’ll appreciate and enjoy the finer details of this stadium. Take a stroll around the pitch and up into the gods via the top of the stadium. Make sure to snap some fabulous photos for your own collection. Sit down and picture yourself coaching in Madrid and impersonate Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti.

Feel the power as you picture them emerging from the tunnels. One day, you can say to your grandchildren “I was there” and of course tell them all about your fabulous trip and how you stood in the stadium in that very spot.

Don’t forget to visit the press rooms and practice interviewing your friends before you move on to the rest of your trip. For a brief moment you can say you were there, at the best football club in the world. Be sure to grab some video of it to share with friends and family.

Have The Most Amazing Time

Now that you’ve taken the trip, think about your stay and let others know your reviews:

Both soccer and Madrid fans will say it’s one of the most amazing stadium tours available. the trophy room is put together very nicely and you’ll be able to appreciate the history behind the club. Even someone who doesn’t follow the game can enjoy this as much as you. This is a definite highlight of the stay.

Even if your favorite team isn’t Real Madrid, you’ll enjoy and appreciate the museum and feel the history of soccer in the tour. You’ll never regret the time you took to take this tour.

One of the most amazing tours in Madrid and even more unique when you enjoy a trip to the Bernabeu. Enjoy and appreciate the views as you walk along the Stadium and revel in the breathtaking tour.

 

Other Great Tours To Enjoy While You’re In Madrid

 

The Prado Museum Tour

Housing one of the largest art and sculpture collections in the world, this museum houses paintings by the likes of Tintoretto, Goya and El Greco. Picasso and Rubens are also showcased. reasonably priced and if you go during the last few hours of the day, your entry fee is free.

Make this your afternoon or evening closing sight for any day.

 

Retiro Park (Also Known As Parque del Retiro)

Known as the lungs of Madrid, this park is very close to the Prado. Ideal for a combined visit. Set on over 320 acres and completely enclosed with Palaces as well as museums and lakes with boating and beautiful gardens to walk through. Something is always going on as you take a moment to stroll around and enjoy local musicians who are entertaining the crowds.

You’ll enjoy stalls with plenty to see and do. You’ll enjoy taking a leisurely stroll through the park and learning more about Spain’s military history.

If you enjoy Charlton Heston, you’ll like visiting the El Cid’s sword that is on display from the movie El Cid he starred in.

Royal Palace of Madrid

No trip to Madrid would be complete without a visit to the Royal Palace. With over 2000 opulently decorated rooms you’ll get a taste of the luxury from bygone eras. Take along your passport as there is an entry fee however, it is free if you’re from EU.

These special free hours are during winter months from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm and in summer months from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. You won’t be sorry you took the time to visit this palace.

Picture your life living here and living in such opulence.

 

Amy Rice writes for www.spanishkicks.com when not writing I enjoy spending time with my daughter, going to the gym and playing adventure golf.

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Special Feature: How Poker Can Improve Your Football Game

Most players focus on physical fitness when training for football, but that only gets you so far. In order to be the best player you can be, you have to get your head in the game as well.

There are plenty of creative ways to train your mind for football, but playing poker is probably one of the most obscure ones you’ll come across. Nevertheless, it could enhance your skills in more ways than one.

Let’s take a look at how poker can improve your football game.

 

Reading Your Opponents

Poker is a game of strategy much like football is. It requires the ability to read other people you are playing against and identify their strengths and weaknesses. When you’re on the football field, you need to be able to see similar strength and weaknesses so you can adjust your strategy and ultimately score a goal. A little time at the poker table could be just what you need.

You can learn from a person’s body language and his playing style in a poker game. Subtle twitches can indicate hesitance and a lack of confidence worth tapping into. If you can pick up on those signs in a soccer game, you will be able to dodge other players and successfully get the ball to someone else on your team. Your mind will be in the game then.

 

Maintaining Your Aggression

In order to intimidate your opponents in football or in poker, you need to be a bit aggressive. That doesn’t mean you have to start punching people in the face. It just means that you have to exude enough confidence to make people start questioning themselves.

If you can learn to be confident when you play poker, you can take that same mindset into a football game. Make the other players feel like you are superior to them. Make them shudder at the idea of playing against you. Then you will have an easier time scoring a goal.

 

Holding Your Bluff

You don’t always have to have a good hand to win in poker. You can make other people think you have something you don’t. In football, you can make people think you’re going to move one direction when you have other plans entirely.

This isn’t bluffing, so to speak, but it is a matter of manipulation. If you can begin reading players in poker, you can start to see what you can do to make them fold under pressure.

In soccer, you can use those reading abilities to psyche the other players out on the field. Adjust your body language, speed, and sight to indicate a move that contradicts your true plans. You can get through a game much easier after that.

 

Keeping Your Focus

Concentration is a large component of poker and football alike. If you cannot focus on you opponents and the game as a whole, you could be caught off guard. It is difficult to practice concentration on the playing field because you have to move your body and your mind at the same time.

With poker, you can use your brain alone. Once you get your mind trained to pay attention, you can get your body to follow suit.

 

Planning Your Strategy

Poker may seem like a game that happens one card at a time, but it actually involves a complex set of moves. Much like a chess player, a poker player has to think about his moves and his opponent’s future moves before deciding how to act in a hand. Should he check, wait for a bet, and then raise? Should he bet strongly from the start to weed out the potential for luck?

Both activities require the ability to think three steps ahead of the other player. You can improve your chances of strategizing on the fly after playing poker.

 

Releasing Your Stress

At the end of the day, poker doesn’t have to be serious and intense. It can just be a fun game to play with your buddies. If you’re stressed out from work, school, sports, and more, you may simply want to let loose from time to time. Poker is a great way to step away from reality and take the pressure off yourself for a while. Learn to use it to your advantage.

Whether you’re preparing for the World Series of Poker or the FIFA World Cup, you can benefit from the skills listed above. Tune into your true capabilities, and you will be unstoppable on the field.

 
Author bio: Curt D Peterson is an avid gamer, who also loves writing. He has for years played in poker tournaments around the world and made a living off it. He has also ghost written a number of articles that have been featured in reputed journals.

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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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Liverpool: Gerrard expects ‘happy’ Suarez to stay

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has hailed Luis Suarez as the best player he has played alongside and is confident the prolific frontman will stay at the club at least until the end of the season.

Unibet mobile betting fans were shocked as Suarez looked set to leave Anfield in the summer after expressing his frustration at again missing out on the Champions League.

Arsenal made two bids, the second just over £40million, in an attempt to trigger a release clause. However, the Reds stood firm and insisted the controversial Uruguayan would be staying put.

Suarez missed the first six games of the campaign as he completed his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April. He has made up for lost time since his return, scoring nine goals in seven league games.

The 26-year-old is expected to be the source of much speculation in the January transfer window but his Liverpool skipper is unconcerned. He claimed Suarez is now committed to the Reds.

“I think he is happy. I think he is pleased with the decision he has made to stay around,” Gerrard told ESPN.

“He is in good form. The team are playing well so I think January won’t be a problem. But come the summer, I think depending how Liverpool have done will determine what goes through Luis’ mind.

He is the key. His goals, his performance and his form will be the key whether we finish in the top four or not.”

Gerrard, who inspired England to qualification for the 2014 World Cup in October, has played with some top players, the likes of Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. However, Suarez is “out on his own”.

“The only player who comes close to producing what Luis produced in a red shirt is Fernando Torres but Luis just pipped him for me,” Gerrard added.

 

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Ballon D’Or 2013: Why Ronaldo has to win this year’s award

It is somewhat remarkable that there still remains a grand possibility that Cristiano Ronaldo may not be competing at next summer’s World Cup. On Tuesday night, he leads his Portuguese team to Stockholm to do battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden, defending the slender 1-0 lead given to them last week in Lisbon by, of course, who else but Ronaldo?

His diving header after cutting across Jonas Olsson was his 28th competitive goal of this season and his 63rd since the turn of the calender year. It is an astonishing goal-scoring record that renders it preposterous that the world stage could be robbed of his brilliance next summer. His attendance however would mean the absence of the mercurial Ibrahimovic who has chalked up a modest 42 since the beginning of 2013. An easy dilemma this is not.

Both captain their national teams and both are wonderful players boasting prolific scoring records, but to many that is where the similarities end. The Swede is a mixture of audacious athleticism, stunning technique and predatory instinct, allowing him to remain on the periphery of matches for vast periods before striking a majestic dagger into vulnerable defences.

Observers in England, swayed by many one-off matches where he has struggled to leave his mark, are quick to shrug him off as the stereotypical flair-but-no-substance continental footballer.

“He’d definitely struggle on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke, he’s good but when he has it up him he’s nowhere”, tiresome assessments that are drowned out by 280 career goals, league titles in Italy (six of them), Holland, Spain and France. Plus, most famously, by that volley against England in the friendly just over a year ago.

“Ibrahimovic is my player, he is my captain and he is my No1,” said Sweden’s coach Erik Hamren after voting for his man in the Ballon D’Or. In the race for that award however, Ronaldo may have the more viable claim for exaltation. It may have been a trophy-less year for Real Madrid but Ronaldo has continued to evolve into a relentless goal-scoring machine.

His career tally stands at a mammoth 348 and is the quickest player ever to reach 100 goals for Madrid, his own blend of physical power, electric pace and unique technical brilliance that occasionally heave back the boundaries of possibility make him unrelenting. If he misses with his first four chances he’ll ram home the fifth, refusing to go away until he wins or at least scores trying to do it.

It is FIFA’s Ballon D’Or, an award that Ronaldo last won in 2008, that is still motivating Ronaldo after having to watch Lionel Messi, the Argentine with whom he shares a footballing zenith, claim the honour over the past four years.

Though with his Barcelona rival hampered by injuries and by his own remarkable standards, a subdued year on an individual front, this may represent Ronaldo’s best chance of claiming the award for the second time. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has done his best to voice whose camp he is in, making a comical reference to Ronaldo’s fondness for vanity, answered by the Portuguese in the only way he knows, with ten goals in his last five games.

FIFA’s prime individual honour may bypass them both with Franck Ribery also making a valid argument after being Bayern Munich’s perpetual winger in their march to the treble in Germany. “I do not know if I will win, however I think I deserve it,” he said. “Before I was a good player, now I think I’m the best.”

Despite his effusive self-belief and his wife’s future planning, “she has already prepared the space above the fireplace in the living room” he says, it may be hard to believe that the scoring feats of Ronaldo, or even Messi on 45 since the new year, will be overlooked in favour of Ribery’s sparkling, yet not stand-out, role in Bayern’s success.

Fellow nominees Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer all played vital parts in their journey under Jupp Heynckes, highlighting the importance of the Bavarian’s team dynamic in contrast to the individual quests made by Messi and Ronaldo.

The proliferation of Luis Suarez, Robin Van Persie, Edinson Cavani and Rademel Falcao also see them nominated alongside the usual suspects of Andrea Pirlo, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, though it looks increasingly likely, as the remnant flames of the tension between Ronaldo and Blatter continue to flicker, that the vote will be between Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery despite Hamren’s best efforts to show his support for Ibrahimovic.

The Swede can achieve his own personal victory on Tuesday night though not even missing out on the World Cup, though it would be a desperate shame, can remove Ronaldo from the pinnacle of his game. Zurich in January should mark the time he receives FIFA’s glass ball to recognise that.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Footballers and their Cars: Their Top 5 Favorites In 2013

Love them or hate them Footballers are some of the highest paid professional sports players in Europe and the rest of the world. The also court a lot of controversy with their off-the field shenanigans of wild parties and wild women.

The one thing that most of them all do when they hit pay day is to buy cars,but not just any model cars, the kind that come with a limited edition logo and cost enough money to feed a small Peruvian village. Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris are amongst the many high priced cars that come with the celebrity and fame of being a footballer.

 

1.     RANGE ROVER SPORT

This year it would seem the Range Rover Sport is the most popular expensive toy for Premier League players. This Mother of all SUV’s has everything a boy would want, looks, performance and tricks. Its the kind of car you cannot ignore when you drive past it and it is intimidating enough to get the best Mercedes Benz move out of the way.

If cars were a reflection of the person who drives them, then Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Jon Obi Mikel, John Terry, Danny Rose, Javier Hernandez and Ryan Gigs should be described as intimidating, fast and tricky and maybe they are but who knows.

This powerful SUV has an impressive 385 bhp, a top speed of 140 mph and a price tag of £102,900!

 

2.     PORSCHE CAYENNE

The Cayenne is Porsche’s most successful SUV so far. Everyone who is anyone would love to own this car, if not for the power then for the genius of an SUV that runs like a racing car. This car has been a favorite of many soccer players like Liverpool’s Steven Gerard and Kolo Toure to Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, Robin van Persie, Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling.

Priced at £90,790 it is just right for these guys who pull in £70,000 a week! When pitted against the Rover, it is faster, and has more power, and has to be taken out on the open road once in a while to let it stretch itself and roar.

 

3. AUDI Q7

This is the Germany’s most impressive muscle car yet. It looks just as good as it runs and is favored by the likes of Chelsea’s Fernando Torres, Man United’s Rio Ferdinand and Luis Nani, Tottenham Hotspur’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Moussa Dembele.

The car is priced at £95,260, reaches 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 secs and has a top speed of 55mph.

 

4.     ASTON MARTIN DB9 

Britain’s best car is also probably the most expensive car with a serious following amongst footballer’s and Britain’s celebrities. It is sleek, cool and super fast. Darren Bent owns a DB9; Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata have also been seen in a DB9 so has Liverpool’s Glen Johnson, Man City’s James Milner and Livermore of Tottenham Hotspur.

This is a serious sports car with 470 bhp of horse power, a 4.6 seconds time o getting from 0 to 60 mph and a top speed of 190 mph. The price is a staggering £128,653.

 

5. BENTLEY CONTINENTAL

No best car’s for football player’s list would be complete without the inclusion of the Bentley Continental. Wayne Rooney has one, Samuel Eto’o has one, Ashley Young has been seen and David Silva of Man City has had this car for some time.

At £132,150 and with all the bells and whistles that come designed into this car, you wouldn’t think anyone would want to spend £20,000 “pimping” a car that is proud of its regal roots to say happy birthday to your girlfriend but if your name is Stephen Ireland and you had a guaranteed check of £70,000, you can do whatever you want to do, and he did whilst he was at Man City.

This is the same guy who tricked out his £97,000 Audi R8 to a white and blue trim, a petrol cap shaped into a Superman and alloy wheels with a number 7 to match his jersey number.

 

Author Bio – Bradley Taylor is a UK freelance writer who has a passion for cars and you’ll often find him writing about luxury cars. He’s also an avid Derby FC fan! Connect with him on Google+ and Twitter.

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