John Guidetti: Is his future with the Citizens on the line?

Last January, Manchester City starlet John Guidetti headed south to Staffordshire, to join a Stoke City side with misfiring strikers and a lack of goals across the team. Guidetti was brought in to help keep Stoke in the top division, whilst gaining valuable experience under former boss Mark Hughes.

The move itself was Guidetti’s chance to prove himself, the first time he is allowed to get valuable Premier League experience after a wonderful loan move to Feyenoord in 2011/12 before paralysis of the right leg halted the Swede’s career for 18 months.

Guidetti 21, was in fact tipped to start alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Euro 2012 before the dastardly illness shelved his progress and he had hoped to regain that kind of form again when Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini allowed him to leave the club on loan for the rest of the campaign.

Subsequently, in came a host of offers from the likes of Ajax, Internazionale, Feyenoord, Lazio and Real Betis but City chose Stoke, a place where they felt Guidetti would thrive and mature as a player, to come back next campaign ready for the vigours of a top four side.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Guidetti has played just 59 minutes for the Staffordshire club since joining in early January, as the form of Peter Odemwingie and the reputation of Peter Crouch has kept the City youngster out of the starting eleven. In a recent game against Norwich, Guidetti came on, won a penalty and was the player sacrificed as Jonathan Walters was sent off. So much for match experience, eh?

The question really is, why did City sent Guidetti to Stoke? They’d just signed Odemwingie, already had Peter Crouch, Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters and therefore didn’t really look light on attacking options.

The likes of Ajax or Lazio may have been better for the Swedish international but instead City chose to send him to Hughes. The same Hughes, you might recall, that whilst at City, chose to play Ched Evans instead of Daniel Sturridge. Make of that what you will.

Next year, Guidetti’s contract is up and there have been rumours of Feyenoord offering £1.2m to take him off City’s hands. However, it is well-known that Pellegrini likes him (he tried to sign him whilst at Malaga) and may give the Swede a lifeline.

Whether City offer him a new deal I don’t know, but another Premier League loan next campaign, this time with opportunities may be the best thing for him. He is a talent, there’s no doubt about that, a talent that most of us City fans would hate to see go to waste.

 

Written by Henry Francis

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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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Why Some Football Fans Need to Get a Grip During Winter Transfer Windows

At the start of the new year came the mid-season chance for various football clubs to either improve their squads or offload those players that are lacking promise. The winter window is much different in tone from the summer window.

Pressure is often higher to make purchases to add quality to squads, something that is more readily taken advantage of by the selling teams. “Panic buys” occur when teams are so desperate for a player to fill certain roles that they often overpay to an embarrassing degree.

For fans this embarrassment only becomes relevant in the eventual aftermath. At the time, they are hounding their clubs to buy whoever just to say that a sale was made. Somehow the idea of participating in a transfer window at all is more important than the immediate need for a player of quality.

That’s why there are certain reasons these fans must calm down and understand exactly why the winter window should not be clouded by emotions.

 

Real Life is Not a FIFA Video Game

You would be amazed just how many adult fans who comment on the quality and state of their club compare it to their experiences playing a video game. They expect transfers to occur just like how it happened on their PlayStation console. They think hours and hours of gameplay is comparable to the education, experiences and millions of dollars routinely handled between actual football clubs.

It would be the same as a man walking into a business selling heavy duty packer cups and expecting to be able to perform any job based on one’s having read a company brochure.

The reality is that transfer window business isn’t easy. The results are not guaranteed to be satisfactory and during the winter window, it takes a great deal of wisdom and expertise to avoid being cheated.

Fans should trust the wisdom of those who’ve shown themselves capable at their jobs and remember that they are on the outside looking into someone else’s business establishment.

 

A Name Does Not make an Outstanding Transfer 

During the 2010-2011 season, Liverpool FC had an unusual winter transfer window. They sold then star player Fernando Torres to Chelsea FC for £50 million and spent record amounts on players Luis Suarez at £22.8 million and Andy Carroll for £35 million.

Of the three, Torres was the biggest name and certainly the biggest price tag. That would make some fans automatically expect such a player to be an outstanding part of a team. However, Torres struggled at Chelsea and has yet to match the rate of success he experienced as a Liverpool player.

Andy Carroll had a lackluster time at Liverpool, was sent out on loan and was eventually traded. His spell was marred by injuries.

The best money spent out of the three players was Luis Suarez, who despite absences over controversies has managed to settle in as a player and break club and league records. His transfer also involved the least amount of money spent.

What this transfer window showed is that overspending for players based on big names and desperation doesn’t necessarily end well. This is an error that has cost football clubs millions of dollars and resulted in massive disappointments.

Football fans, the winter window is indeed an important chance for your particular club to spend money and get a better player or make money through offloading certain players. As simple as that is to say, however, the process is hardly simplistic. The outcome is also hardly predictable.

Clubs can better benefit from the support of fans who do not attempt to dictate club behavior through what they think they know rather than reality. It is also best to take a deep breath and feel disappointed that your club didn’t spend big money on a big name.

You never know, that immediate disappointment may manifest in relief in a few months when it turns out avoiding a winter window panic buy was the right move.

 

Michael is a full-time blogger who has passions in all corners of the online world. In his down time he enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and blogging on everything from technology, to business, to marketing, and beyond. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Safe standing: Back to the future for football stadia?

In the past few days, League One side Bristol City have announced that they want to install ‘safe standing’, seats which can be folded back to create terracing. Already in use in grounds all over Germany such as the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, it could be in use for rugby games at Ashton Gate in the next few months.

However, safe standing is still outlawed in football games in England, but could it become a fixture in grounds up and down the country in the future?

Fans groups worried about sterile atmospheres in stadia throughout the leagues have called for its introduction, citing how Bundesliga clubs have benefited from using it in place or ordinary seating.

 

Safety first?

The implementation of safe standing might be popular with fans, but what about the clubs? With anxiety about the perceived lack of safety involved with ordinary terracing, it seems that the all-seater stadia that we see in grounds all over the country today are here to stay for a long time to come, although modern venues owe a lot to the terraces of old.

Many older fans will fondly remember packed uncovered terraces during the 1970’s, 60’s and even further back, while as recently as the early 1990’s, some grounds such as Anfield had at least some terracing.

While some all-seater grounds such as, say, the Britannia Stadium, still produce plenty of noise, others seem almost like libraries, Old Trafford being a prime example.

 

Looking back

A new quiz asked fans of all Premier League clubs how well do you know your team. Asking about just about every aspect of the club’s history, it may make fans wonder how their ground used to look before being covered in identikit plastic seats.

The quiz from Ladbrokes asks 10 questions, all of which are pretty difficult for the casual fan to answer correctly. Part of the clamour for safe standing could be attributed to a sense of nostalgia for the old days when standing during games was the norm.

Given how it could increase attendances and help fans enjoy the games more, it could give the game a new lease of life, attracting older fans who gave up on going to games due to the lack of standing room.

 

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Football Tips: So You Want To Be A Premiership Footballer?

Whether it’s scoring a winning Cup Final goal, or hoisting the World Cup over your head, you’re not alone in dreaming of a career as a football pro. You’ll need hours of practice, a very strong physique, and a thick skin to cope with constant rejection. Still think the Premiership is for you?

 

Getting Your Name Out There

Whether you’re attending football trials, talent days or joining an academy, most clubs have a vast network of contacts and leads that help them scout out the best young footballers in any given area.

Even if there isn’t a visible presence, you’ll almost certainly find that scouts are operating at matches all over the country, and even getting involved with community projects and school programmes.

In all but the most rural locations, if you’re good, you’re going to get head hunted.

 

Dealing With Rejection

The Premiership league is one of the most saturated in sport when it comes to potential new players. Every club has an academy, and over 9,000 young boys are vying for the coveted positions that the Schools Of Excellence offer the most gifted players. More than 90% of recruits will receive the devastating news that they just aren’t good enough for a career at the top of the game.

Before you even think about walking the long road to football fame, you absolutely must harden yourself to constant rejection. It can’t be said enough: There are a lot of young potential stars out there, and very few places to be filled.

You’ll never be rewarded for trying out, and dealing with the reality that you aren’t quite good enough can be a very hard (and often life defining) pill to swallow.

 

What Are The Talent Scouts Looking For?

It may come as surprise to some, but most scouts aren’t looking for raw talent. You’re going to need it, and in spades, but the people in the know are looking for something else too. Character.

Scouts who have their eye on a special player will often want to get to know them (and their family) before making any important decisions, and a talent scout rarely cares about the football games they are watching. Putting the ball in the back of the net matters very little to someone with a very special set of criteria in mind.

Scouts are more interested in a player’s position on the pitch, and whether they’re prepared to give 200%. Not just for themselves, but for their teammates too.

 

Where Do I Go From Here?

If you think you’ve got what it takes to succeed, you’ve got to give yourself the best possible chance of being spotted. You’ll need to quickly rise to the top of your school and local teams, then rapidly move on to a county or district club.

At the very least, you’ll need to represent your school at a county level. You stand a far greater chance of being noticed if you’re playing away from your home town regularly. It’s also imperative to make sure you’re not stagnating at a local club that can’t challenge your progress.

A career in football is going to require a Herculean effort and a mountain of skill, but every year, the fortunate few go on to greatness.

 

Written by Harry Price

Harry Price is a successful entrepreneur and bachelor. He spends his free time playing competitive poker and football. He also has a passion for volunteering with his local homeless shelter.

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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

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Premier League 2013/14: So far, so very, very entertaining

Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - Barclays Premier League

The Premier League has always boasted its competitiveness compared to Europe’s other top leagues, although in reality it was only two, sometimes three teams that were really in the title race. So far this season, that has changed quite dramatically.

Here we are in January and the top 6 places are changing on a weekly basis and it’s nigh on impossible at this point to predict in which order the top 7 will be, come the end of the season.

For the most part, Arsenal have set the pace thus far. The sensational capture and influence of Mesut Ozil, coupled with the excellent form of Aaron Ramsey have helped re-establish what looked very unlikely on opening day, Arsenal as genuine title contenders.

On paper, their squad still looks thin, but on the pitch they’ve contended with a long list of injuries, negotiated the Champions League ‘group of death’ and remained consistent. If Arsene Wenger can find a suitable forward and defender in the January transfer window, then the Gunners could end their long trophy drought with a Premier League crown.

Pre-season title favourites Manchester City and Chelsea have both stuttered at times, but are now ominously gathering pace. City’s away form earlier in the campaign was threatening to derail their title challenge, but with that having improved and being so imperious and scoring goals for fun at the Etihad, they are now many people’s pick to be champions.

Fernandinho has slotted in beautifully next to Yaya Toure and Negredo looks an excellent acquisition, alongside the sublime Sergio Aguero seamlessly. Indeed, they have the best squad and arguably the best team that is gelling so well under the guidance of Manuel Pellegrini that, it could well be their title to lose.

Before the start of the season, I felt Chelsea were slight favourites to be champions with the quality and experience in the squad and the Premier League know-how of Jose Mourinho; however, they looked surprisingly fragile at the back and have often lacked fluidity in attack, but are still within touching distance of top spot.

Oscar often made a difference for the Blues early season and Eden Hazard has picked up his form of late, something that has been vital given that their strikers have barely found the back of the net and their best player, Juan Mata, is bizarrely spending most of his season watching from the bench. Mourinho may lack class with some of his post-match interviews, as he deflects attention away from his team, but he has a knack of winning trophies and Chelsea are certainly in the hunt for the title.

Liverpool are in with real chance of getting back into the Champions League this season, aided by the goals of the magnificent Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan was the best player in the league last season, but the stupidity of biting Ivanovic and his reputation probably prevented him being recognised as such. This year, not only has hebeen almost unplayable at times, but he’s also cleaned up his act and been a huge part in Liverpool’s often scintillating attacking play.

Daniel Sturridge has also weighed in with goals, Jordan Henderson has been outstanding and Raheem Sterling is looking a much more mature player. With the experience and quality of Steven Gerrard and the creativity of Coutinho, Liverpool have continued their progression throughout the calendar year of 2013 to put themselves into contention.

Merseyside rivals Everton have been a revelation under arguably the manager of the year so far, Roberto Martinez. The Toffees had a squad primarily set up to be functional, hardworking and difficult to beat. Martinez has taken the handbrake off, allowing players to express themselves more and introduced a more patient build up to their play. Seamus Coleman being played as an attacking right-back has been a masterstroke, as has having the faith and confidence to play Ross Barkley in the key attacking midfield role.

Loan signings Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku have been pivotal in a very impressive season, but the lack of depth to the squad does raise the question whether or not Everton will be able to maintain their top 4 challenge to the business end of the season.

After a sticky start, Newcastle have got going pretty well, influenced by the talented Yohan Cabaye and the goalscoring prowess of Loic Remy. The lack of Europa League football has no doubt helped them and although a European place looks beyond them this season, the Magpies are set for a satisfactory campaign.

Southampton’s start was fantastic, a win and clean sheet away at Anfield was just one of many eye catching performances that lead to Adan Lallana and Jay Rodriguez rightfully gaining international recognition with England. Luke Shaw is continuing to enhance his growing reputation and Dejan Lovren has been stellar at the centre of solid defence that combined with a good passing style, has seen Manager Mauricio Pochettino’s list of admirers grow. The behind the scenes unrest however, does threaten their stability.

After selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for £85m, Tottenham spent over £100m on a promising centre-back, 2 central midfielders, 3 attacking midfielders and a striker, but bizarrely ignored their glaring weakness at left-back. Last season I felt that Spurs tactics were essentially to give the ball to Bale and hope he did something, meaning Andre Villas Boas would have to be more imaginative and expressive with his impressive looking squad this term.

Instead, they lacked a fluidity often suffered by teams trying to integrate too many new players at once and with the below par performances came a lack of confidence leading to the 6-0 hammering away to Man City and the 5-0 thrashing at home to Liverpool which ultimately cost Villas Boas his job. His replacement, Tim Sherwood, may not have the tactical prowess of Europe’s top managers, but he has employed a much more attacking style that has Tottenham back in top 4 contention.

Whoever took over as Man Utd manager after Alex Ferguson was always picking up a poisoned chalice, so to speak. They would inevitably either fail to live up to expectation or have success attributed to taking over an already successful team. I, amongst many others, was surprised at David Moyes selection as Ferguson’s successor.

Moyes built a good reputation at Everton, but his teams were very functional and his record was built mostly on finding bargains and over-achieving. Taking over at a club with money to spend and a higher expectation of success is a different challenge; one which only time will tell if Moyes is up to.

Last season, the under-performance of Man City and the goals of Robin Van Persie, particularly up until the festive period, probably masked the deficiencies in the Man Utd squad. Deficiencies that without Ferguson at the helm and big changes to the coaching staff, have become all too prevalent this season.

One positive this season though has been the marked improvement in goalkeeper David De Gea and with players like Van Persie and Rooney in the team, Utd have to be fancied for a top 4 spot. Their real difficulty will come in replacing an ageing defence, especially if there is no Champions League football for a club carrying heavy debts and huge expectations.

Before the start of the season, I fancied Chelsea to just win the title ahead of City. Although City look the team to beat, I have a feeling Chelsea may still edge them out in May.

Whilst the top 2 will probably be what many expected back in the summer, the tightness of the top 7 has been a pleasant surprise in what has been an entertaining season so far.

 

Written by Andy Wales

Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyArmchair

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Alvaro Negredo: The Spanish Beast sizing up a big say in the Premier League title race

It was last June when West Ham United were linked with Alvaro Negredo, reported by Sevilla president Jose Maria Del Nido to have tabled a £14.5 million bid for the Spaniard. There was no official confirmation from West Ham, though their £15 million went on Andy Carroll and Negredo went to Manchester City.

On Wednesday night, as with football’s cruel tendancy to exploit the ironic, it was Negredo hammering more nails into the coffin of the club who last summer tried to sign him.

Three nails in fact as the striker hit an unforgiving hat-trick in the first leg of the Capital One cup semi-final with West Ham. His third on the night, the fourth of a merciless 6-0 demolition, was a sweeping finish to round off a neat move involving Samir Nasri and David Silva. It is in those players whom City possess the graceful and the nimble, yet in Negredo they have something more rugged, a relentless presence who is driven by an appetite for goals.

On Wednesday night he hit his 18th goal of a season in which he has made 29 appearances, it is easy to forget, especially as Roberto Soldado experiences teething problems at Tottenham, this is his first year out of Spain.

The similarities between the two strikers are clear, both have experienced youth football at Real Madrid, both have been considered by Vincent Del Bosque as a natural centre-forward for his Spain side and both were prolific in Spain. Negredo signed off from Sevilla with 1 more goal than the 30 Soldado managed in his last year with Valencia, though at £16.4 million, £10 million less than the fee Spurs paid for Soldado, it is now clear who got the better deal.

Perhaps it can be argued that City’s business has trumped the rest of the Premier League, certainly no fellow fresh arrival to the league can boast a similar impact and reputation City’s “beast” has forged in his first 6 months in England.

A lot of credit will rightly be attributed to City’s coach Manuel Pellegrini who has quietly and amiably instigated a revolution at Eastlands. Having won the league but stagnated to rumours of mutiny under Roberto Mancini, Pellegrini has rediscovered not only a winning formula but an overwhelming confidence that victories can be achieved with unstoppable force.

Newcastle, Norwich, Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs and Fulham have all surrendered by four or more goals to City in the league as the juggernaut enters the second half of the season on 57 goals and counting. At the forefront of that has been Negredo, the ringmaster of City’s lavishly assembled forward line.

As a defender he can be near-impossible to track, able to constantly move along the front-line into the channels to create, he has 4 assists and has carved out 21 chances so far this season, or he can resort to his bullying style, proving a handful to his markers with his brute physical force and an ability to bring others into play. With City of course, carrying Silva, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho.

Jesus Navas and co. as the supporting cast, that is a welcome asset. Meanwhile, while the goals have flowed for Negredo, they haven’t come without trying. 58 shots have been attempted by the Spaniard high on confidence, again providing a direct touch to the patient, measured approach favoured by City’s technicians.

It is frightening that in the £22 million Stevan Jovetic City have a player who has not played since the 30th October due to injury and even more frightening that the demolition job on Wednesday was carried out in the absence of Sergio Aguero, the Argentine who has scored 48 goals in just 2 and a half years in Manchester. Pellegrini is finding that life without them for the time being is grand as Negredo fires on the most potent of cylinders.

Especially at the Etihad, Wednesday night saw his second hat-trick of the season after he got one against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, both contributing to a run of 14 goals in his last 11 home games.

It appears to be irrelevant just whom Negredo is partnered with such is the sense of belief he exhumes, most notably in front of the fans that continue to grow in adoration of their new number 9.

With Edin Dzeko on Wednesday he shared 5 goals and said of their relationship “We are always looking for each other and the partnership is working very well. We have a special connection. He speaks a little bit of Spanish and we are able to talk. He’s also a very good player and he had a really good game, too.”

There is an unerring sense that such is the velocity of Negredo’s form, the Spaniard could be partnered with anybody and strike up a prosperous combination.

It will be his burgeoning link-up with Aguero on which Pellegrini will pin his hopes on delivering City the title however, once the Argentine, on 13 goals for the season so far, recovers from his calf injury. “I need to get more and catch him up because I know, when he comes back, he will score more goals,” Negredo said of Aguero.

The Premier League will be higher on the list of priorities than the League Cup and there will be few more obliging opponents than West Ham’s sacrificial lambs on Wednesday, but as City approach the run in direct competition with Arsenal and Chelsea, the faith is in the beast to power them over the line.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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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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