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Season Summary and my Game of the Season - Last Decade - Part 1
So I'm bored so I've compiled a list of my personal highlight game of each of the last 10 seasons. This is the first 5, I'll do the last 5 in another post at some point. I've added a brief summary of the season and the game to help set the context. I have added links to highlights for each game where possible. Join me down memory lane. Love to get your thoughts and your own personal highlights of each season. This has taken me ages and it made me realize how many amazing games we've played over the last 10 years. It's been so hard to talk about everything and I apologise if this is a wall of text. It has really reminded me to be grateful for being able to watch this club in this era. I go to every home game but not the away games, so I probably have some bias towards the home games.
2009/10 - Season finish 5th place - Chelsea 1st
Player of the year - Tevez. Top scorer - Tevez (29).
This was the first year we were chasing a top 4 spot. It was between Tottenham, Villa and City and it went right down to the wire. A win against Villa on 1st of May kept us in prime position, then a devastating 1-0 loss to Tottenham on 5th May in the penultimate game of the season kept us out. We signed Lescott (Everton fans hated him), Gareth Barry, Kolo, Tevez and Adebayor that year. And Roque Santa Cruz and Adam Johnson, but let's not talk about them for different reasons respectively. Mark Hughes got sacked in December because we couldn't defend for shit. Weirdly this season is one I have some of the fondest memories for. We had top tier players for the first time in my life. It had a wild west feel, we had so many new players and we were in a mode where we could win or lose any game. It didn't have the same pressure as some of the more recent seasons because one loss didn't derail our whole season. Even though it ended in disappointment I still absolutely loved watching City this year. We also had arguably one of the best City kits of all time this year. By far the worst game of this season for me was the 1-0 loss to United at home. Scholes scored a fucking injury time winner and I couldn't speak to anyone for about a day I was so pissed off.
City went 1-0 down at home to that seasons PL champions after the ball bounced off Adebayor's back into his own net. Adebayor then scored a poachers goal at the right end, then Tevez completed the comeback with a low curling free kick. But that wasn't it, Chelsea got a penalty and Lampard stepped up to take it. Given guessed right and saved, securing a 2-1 win. This is my personal favourite because the atmosphere was rocking that night. I still remember how it felt, the Given save was celebrated more than most goals. It felt like we had arrived, we'd taken on one of the best teams in the league and won. Honourable mentions: City 4-2 Arsenal (easily could have chosen this game instead, Adebayor slide) Chelsea 2-4 City, City 3-2 Sunderland (this game got Hughes sacked, every time either team attacked they looked like scoring), United 4-3 City (If we hadn't played 20 minutes of injury time and Owen scored this might have been the best game).
2010/11 - Season finish 3rd place - United 1st. Won FA cup.
Player of the year - Kompany. Top scorer - Tevez (23).
This was it, we finally broke our trophyless streak and got 3rd place! Momentous season with some big moments and some big signings. This was the year we signed David Silva, Yaya Toure, Balotelli, Dzeko and Milner. New heroes were born this season and this season set the scene for the next decade at the club.
Now, I'm sure a lot of people might go for the FA Cup final as their favourite, but for me the semi was mine. This was the first time I had ever seen City play at Wembley (now it's virtually every year). Arch rivals, the team I hated most for my whole life, both meeting in the semi final. City desperate to win their first trophy for 35 years, United desperate to stop them. I was personally shiteing it this game and was not expecting to win. Berbatov missed a great early chance that made me blurt out a few swear words in front of my dad. It was a cagey game and we were cheering any half chance. Until up steps the man, the legend, Yaya Toure. Carrick gifts him the ball, he drifts past a defenders and slides it past van der Saar right in front of the City fans. Bastard man Paul Scholes kicks Zaba and gets sent off, City reach the final and ultimately win the trophy. Weird reminder, Tevez was the captain this season. He didn't speak any fucking English and he was the captain. Kompany was in the squad and Mancini chose Tevez. Go back look at pictures of us winning the cup and he's lifting the trophy first. Just thought that was a funny side note. Honourable mentions - FA Cup Final 1-0 vs Stoke, City 1-0 Tottenham (Crouchy scoring the top 4 deciding goal for the second year in a row).
2011/12 - Season finish 1st Place
Player of the year - Aguero. Top scorer - Agueroooooooooooooo (30)
If the last season was a great, this one was incredible. If you wrote a script like this year people would say it seemed far fetched. There was so much drama this year, even before the finale. It's so much talked about amongst City fans I probably don't even need to go into too much detail. You probably already know which game will be my favourite because it is completely unavoidable. I will just say a few words and I bet you can work it out - 6 games - 8 points, 6-1, 1-0, 3-2. City raced into the lead this season, we didn't lose a game until 12th December vs Chelsea. In that run was the famous 6-1 win. Do I even need to discuss that. Jesus christ what an amazing feeling after that game. Compounded by the fact that we won the league on goal difference, so that game actually did decide the title. Unfortunately we had a bit of a slump after the mid point of the season. A loss at Swansea really hurt us (some fan got pictured on TV crying when they scored, then 2 draws and a loss to Arsenal and it looked like typical City had come back and gifted United the title. Tevez also had an unscheduled 6 month golf break mid season. I actually went to the Bayern away game, to date the only away CL game I've been too. Hugely disappointing game, we actually had a penalty shout in the first half and it could have gone very differently. Anyway, Tevez came back at the right time and was vital to the end of the season. I would like to mention the 3-3 Sunderland game. I still use this game in my memory today for how even if a game looks like shit, if you fight back and can get a draw it might just mean the difference at the end, even if the odds are stacked against you. I remember Balotelli arguing on the pitch with Kolarov over a free kick at 3-1 down and the fans were so close to turning on him. Both of them ended up banging in goals from outside the box to draw the game. Also please remember that Yaya Toure scored twice away at Newcastle in a very tight game to get us one step closer. Also weird tidbit. After we drew 2-2 early in the season to Fulham I was interviewed by BBC Radio Manchester because I was going to the club shop and they wanted reactions. They asked me something along the lines of 'is this damaging dropped points or is it just a blip.' Think I said something about draws away from home not being the end of the world. No idea if it ever got aired because I didn't listen to it.
Do I need to say anything? I'll just use this space to remind people that the perfect angel that is Zabaleta also got a goal this day and Joey Barton is a shitbag. I was at this game and it was both horrible and amazing. When we were 2-1 down even with 5 minutes left unlike most people I still had a weird certainty we were going to win it, maybe I was in shock or denial. There were so many other fantastic games this season. Honourable mentions: City 4-0 Swansea (Aguero's debut and 2 goals, a superstar was born), Spurs 1-5 City (Dzeko 4), United 1-6 City, QPR 2-3 City (forgotten game, but we actually beat them 3-2 earlier in the season in a very tough game), City 2-1 Chelsea (return of the golfer), City 1-0 United (Kompany's celebration is melted in my brain), Newcastle 0-2 City.
2012/13 - Season finish 2nd - United 1st
Player of the season - Zabaleta. Top scorer - Aguero & Tevez (17).
Phew, how do you follow up such an amazing season? With a disappointing one of course. Lackluster signings and Mancini allegedly losing the dressing room cost us this year. Our biggest signing Jack Rodwell only joined while I was driving down to Birmingham for the Charity Shield match vs Chelsea. We won that 3-2 but that was to be the only silverware that season. Too many draws in the start of the season cost us and we never really got going this year. A lot of teams chanted 'boring boring City' due to Mancini's very defensive style. We finished rock bottom of our CL group, the second time in a row we had failed to qualify. United carried by van Persie comfortably won the PL without us ever really being close. His free kick to beat us 3-2 at the Etihad was haunting (damn you Nasri block it properly). A horrible day out at Wembley watching us get giant-killed by Wigan sealed Mancini's fate. The fans still loved him though. Some chanted 'you can shove your Pellegrini up your arse' at Wembley (I did not approve and this did not age well and he took out a full page ad in the MEN to than the fans. The fans responded with one for him in an Italian newspaper. taking one out in I still to this day absolutely love Mancini. He dragged us out of the shadow and showed nothing but fire and passion for the club. He was a true friend to the City fans and an all time legend.
A really tough game. Milner got sent off about 20 minutes in and we went 1-0 down through a Shane Long lucky goal. We still looked the better team and Dzeko was subbed on and scored a header. It's still 1-1 heading into injury time and it looks like we've pissed away 2 points. But suddenly City break, Aguero slides a perfect ball through to Dzeko and he bangs it in from just outside the box. He rips his shirt off and celebrates with the fans after coming off the bench to score 2 goals to win a game we had played the majority of with 10 men. After scoring a late winner the month before vs Fulham away he cemented his unwanted label as a super sub. Honourable mentions - United 1-2 City, Real Madrid 3-2 City (we looked like we had done them at home, but they snatched it with two goals with less than 5 minutes left), Arsenal 0-2 City.
2013/14 - Season finish 1st place. Won the league cup.
Player of the season - Yaya Toure. Top scorer - Aguero (28).
Enter Pellegrini. This was our first title battle against Liverpool and foreshadowed the past two years. Big Bren did a great job at Liverpool, sending them into fits of hysterical bizarre memes in typical Liverpool fashion. This was very similar to the 2011/12 season in that we pissed away the title and then had to fight back to win it on a knife's edge. I remember reading articles mid way through the season talking as if Liverpool had already won the league. Their fans were singing "we're gonna win the league" in April. They brought out a book about nearly winning the league. But then Gerrard slipped, Suarez cried, the Scousers dream had fucking died, City win, five in a row, we're all singing Edin Dzeko, Edin Dzeko. Anyway enough indulgence in looking at them, back to City. We signed Fernandinho this year, along with Navas, Negredo, Jovetic and the legend that is Demichelis. After playing some dreary football under Mancini at times, Pellegrini introduced flowing attacking football and now we turned the 'boring boring City' chants into ironic ones. We finally got out of our Champions League group for the first time, only to be knocked out by Barca in the next round. Negredo was a great impact player for the first part of the season, but a shoulder injury vs West Ham seemed to make him permanently lose his form. Navas was a great injection of pace even if he couldn't cross to save his life. This season belongs to Yaya Toure though. The man that had scored all the important goals to win our first 2 trophies found another level this year. He was borderline unplayable at times, scoring 20 goals from midfield. There were two highlights for me a run from the halfway line past Villa defenders and then a curled finish. The other was of course the league cup final goal vs Sunderland. Facing towards the touchline he curled it into the top corner from miles outside the box, don't think I've ever seen a goal like it. Let me also take a moment to point out United's demise. Ferguson left and in stepped Moyesey. They were piss poor and finished 7th. They have never really recovered since this year. A patchy start to the season got us off badly, but we recovered around DecembeJanuary to be back in the fight. Unfortunately the results from February did not go in our favour and with Suarez and Sturridge scoring for fun we fell behind. We lost 3-2 at Anfield (I hate that place) and then a 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland looked like all our title hopes were over. Okay can I point out again that another come from behind draw against Sunderland, when behind in the title race, seems to have saved our title winning season? Why do things seem to repeat themselves in football? Crouch scoring in the same fixture two years in a row to seal the CL spot, then Sunderland going ahead at the Etihad only for us to peg them back in the last few minutes? Anyway, step up Demba Ba, slip down Gerrard and we're back in the lead. Crystal Palace finish the job. Unlucky lads, you'll have to put the pre-made Champions scarves back in the cupboard for another year.
We just fucking smashed them. This was arguably a more dominant performance than the 6-1 game. They did not stand a chance this game even with 11 men. Aguero started the scoring with a tricky volley with the ball played in just behind him. Yaya poached one just before half time. Aguero got one more before Nasri hammered a volley underneath De Gea. Ratbag Rooney scored a free kick, but honestly 4-1 flatters them. It could have been 10-0 on another day. A small aside, before every derby game Rooney used to run right over towards the City fans, sometimes flapping his arms about etc. trying to wind us up. Loads of times when he's scored vs City he's cupped his ears and shit like that. Any time when we hammer them I used to love watching him walk off with his tail between his legs. Honourable mentions - United 0-3 City, City 6-0 Spurs (Navas scored a banger 11 seconds into the game), Everton 2-3 City (big Joe Hart against Naismith save helped win the title), City 6-3 Arsenal, City 7-0 Norwich, Spurs 1-5 City, City 5-0 Fulham (Demichelis scored a wonder goal).
It is no secret to Tricolores that Fluminense is in a dire financial situation. With the fat years of Unimed sponsorship long gone, the club hasn't been able to splash money on big signings like it once did in the early 2010's, resulting in mediocre campaigns, with three bottom-half finishes in a row since 2015. However, the club's history teaches supporters that many of Fluminense's successes came not from their stellar squads, but from their tight-knit, sedulous teams instead; and that's just the kind of team they have assembled this season. The board allowed many players to leave the club, including key ones (Diego Cavalieri, Gustavo Scarpa, Henrique Dourado, Wellington Silva, Richarlison, Henrique), to help balance the club's finances and restricted signings to free agents and loanees, which meant manager Abel Braga had to rely mainly on home-grown talent to build his team. It took a lot of time for him to get the team working the way he intended on the Campeonato Carioca, but despite all odds he has so far succeded: in spite of a frustrating elimination to Vasco on a last-minute goal, his campaign on the tournament included a 4:0 win against Flamengo and a dominating 3:0 triumph against Botafogo, showing that the current squad is prepared for the Brasileirão to come. Manager Abel Braga has focused on building a solid defence and a speedy, capitalizing attack, settling on a 3-5-2 formation. Highly contested throughout 2017, goalkeeper Júlio César has improved tremendously thanks to the strong chemistry on the backline of three between recently promoted Ibañez, clumsy Renato Chaves and ever-aging veteran Gum. Richard with his well-timed tackles and Jadson with his fine ball distribution allow Fluminense to control the midfield, leaving creative duties to Sornoza and his great vision of the game, with Gilberto and Ayrton helping from the wings with their speed and exquisite feinting. The pacey and indefatigable second striker Marcos Júnior is Abel's weapon to take the opponent by surprise in counter-attacks; Pedro, with his finesse and positioning, is Fluminense's promising young striker.
There's another good reason for Fluminense's low budget at the transfer window: the Estádio das Laranjeiras, the club's historical grounds and birthplace of the Brazilian NT, is to be renovated for its centennial in 2019 and expanded to a capacity of 15,000, allowing it to host its first professional match since 2003.
Gilberto came on a loan from Fiorentina and Jadson was released for free by Udinese. Sornoza is also regularly called up for the Ecuador national team.
Star of the show
Sornoza is the maestro of Fluminense's midfield. The Ecuadorian international arrived at the club after carrying Independiente del Valle to a surprise Copa Libertadores final and now dazzles Tricolores with his great ball control and superior reading.
Pablo Dyego. The 24-year-old comes from Fluminense's youth academy, but only now he's getting minutes at the team following several loans. He has impressed supporters with his sturdiness, speed, and fine finishing, and could soon get a spot at the starting XI.
After a drought of 15 years with no major title, Grêmio is coming from an incredible sequence of years. Having broken this drought with the Copa do Brasil title in 2016 and achieving the so dreamed about 3rd Libertadores title last year (and just falling short against Real Madrid in the Club World Cup final), Grêmio comes into 2018 with high hopes to be a contender to title in all major competitions. President Romildo Bolzan Júnior and his board managed to recover Grêmio's dire financial situation at the beginning of 2015 season, by betting on Grêmio's academy system and lesser known players, instead of big old names. It payed off, as 3 years later, Grêmio is back winning titles with great young prospects calling the attention of major European clubs. The biggest reinforcement for Grêmio this season is the maintenance of its Copa Libertadores' champion and CWC runner-up squad. The team got a slow start in state league this year, by fielding mostly reserves, being threatened with relegation. Once Renato and his squad took form, the team went back to the performance that earned the title of "most beautiful football in Brazil" at mid 2017, with the trademark style of great possession and offensive football. Grêmio is currently in the verge of winning the RS' state league, and looking as a strong contender for Brasileirão. As mentioned earlier, the core elements of the Libertadores winning team, goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe, National squad defender Pedro Geromel, young star midfielder Arthur, best player in América in 2017 Luan and club legend, manager Renato Portaluppi. Grêmio's CBs are considered the best duo in Brasil, as both Geromel and Kannemann are contenders for going to WC with Brasil and Argentina, respectivelly. In the midfield captain Maicon is back from a 2017 filled with injuries to be the companion of, signed to Barcelona, Arthur. With this, Grêmio solidify even more his possession dominant playstyle, as both are well known for it's pass accuracy. In the attack, Fernandinho and former Dortmund player Lucas Barrios left, leaving their place to Éverton, 12th player in the Libertadores campaign, and with great start of the season so far, and **Jael, initially regarded only as a meme player (Jael the Cruel), but also with an amazing start. Reinforcements signed were Alisson and Thonny Anderson, from Cruzeiro and André, former Santos player, coming from an amazing Brasileirão with Sport last year.
Renato Portaluppi achieved club legend status last year, as the first Brazilian to win the Libertadores as a player and a manager on the same club. Renato joked in all 2017 about making a statue of him if he won Libertadores. Joke became reality and Renato's statue is coming in September.
Pedro Geromel, former FC Köln, Vitória de Guimarães and Mallorca player, found his football again in Porto Alegre; Arthur, not known yet, but soon will be a common face as he is going to FC Barcelona at the end of the year.
Stars of the show
Marcelo Grohe, Geromel, Luan and Arthur It's impossible to talk about Grêmio's success without citing the 4 players that can earn a call up to the NT, these guys were the foundation to conquer the Libertadores.
Thonny Anderson. Young prospect of Cruzeiro academy, came in the deal for Edílson, and is surrounded with expectations. So far, strong showings in the state league, is regarded as the Luan substitute.
Internacional heads into the 2018 Brasileirão to forget and learn from the past 2 seasons. Once a International contender and 2 times Copa Libertadores champions, Inter saw their demise at the hands of poor administration, leading to the first Brasileirão relegation in the club's history and a really weak 2nd tier to get back, not being able to win the title. The year started slow for Inter, being prematurely eliminated from the Campeonato Gaúcho by their biggest rival, Grêmio; Odair Hellman, thus, has enjoyed from a to work with the team, and prepare for Brasileirão. Inter's main strengths rely on the genius of Andrés D'Alessandro and his quality to create their offensive plays, be it in crosses or in free kicks. Alongside D'Ale, Patrick is having a great start of the season so far, their synergy creates the most of offensive sector from Inter, with Patrick scoring many goals himself. The team main goal man is William Pottker, was having a great 2018 so far, until struck by injury, and coming back right on time for Brasileirão. Worth mentioning also Leandro Damião, called for the NT in 2011-2013 is back, but for now, he recovers from a cervical injury. On the defensive sector, GK Marcelo Lomba lives great form, with Inter having to their disposal Danilo Fernandes, another amazing GK. But despite having great keepers, Inter's defense remains a doubt if they will be able to hold on against stronger sides than 2nd tier. With the reinforcement of Rodrigo Moledo, back from Greece, alongside Victor Cuesta, Odair hopes to fix the sector, exposed in the Derbies against Grêmio.
Inter is the only ever undefeated Brasileirão Champion. Inter accomplished in 1979 season, led by Falcão(later Roma player), one of the greatest club idols.
Andrés D'Alessandro River, Portsmouth, Zaragoza and former Argentina international; Rodrigo Dourado earned a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics for Brazil.
Stars of the show
Andrés D'Alessandro. Idol of the club, star of Inter's 2nd Libertadores, even with 36 years, still the most reliable and consistent player in the team; Patrick,coming from Sport, he has been the best duo to D'Alessandro and overall the best reinforcement so far.
Iago. Elected revelation player from Campeonato Gaúcho, seems to be doing great in a position that caused trouble for the whole 2017.
Founded by a group of Italian immigrants in 1914 as Palestra Itália, Palmeiras one of the largest clubs in Brazil in both titles and fanbase. Along with holding the record for league titles (9) and national titles (13), the club boasts around 15 million fans, being tied as the third biggest fanbase in the country with São Paulo and Vasco. Many place Palmeiras currently as the strongest roster in Brazil, having a plethora of options in most positions and reinforced last year's second-place team with players such as Lucas Lima and Gustavo Scarpa, who had both been considered the best players of their teams in 2017 (Santos and Fluminense, respectively). The best position to see the depth that Palmeiras has is GK, where Jaílson is the starter having in the bench Olympic gold medal winner Weverton and club legend (and the original starter in the Olympics-winning team) Fernando Prass. The rest of the team is studded with great players as well, such as the winger Dudu, the defensive mid Felipe Melo and even Borja up front, who seams to have regained his good football, being the team's top scorer so far in the season. The 2018 Season has barely started, but it's already been a roller-coaster for the club. With a blazing start, the team seaming to find a good cohesion and a starting XI shaping up more and more, things changed in the two-week stretch before the beginning of the Brasileirão. Palmeiras had to play the two legs of the Paulista final against arch-rivals Corinthians in the weekends as well as two Libertadores games in the midweeks, a level of intensity the team had not yet been tested for. With two wins, a loss, a draw, and a lost title, it's become blatant that the team's major weakness is the inexperienced duo of defenders, as Palmeiras has not yet been able to replace the loss of Yerry Mina to Barcelona. Another glaring issue Palmeiras will have to overcome is the unequalled pressure to succeed coming from fans and press alike.
In 1965 for the inauguration of the Mineirão the Brazil national team won a friendly against the Uruguayan NT 3:0. That team was 100% composed of Palmeiras players, as well as the manager, Filpo Nuñez, who is the only non-Brazilian to manage the Brazil national team.
Felipe Melo is undoubtly the most well-known player for Europeans, but Lucas Lima, Dudu and Borja are also somewhat well known.
Star of the show
Dudu is the thermometer of the team, when he's well, the team's well, when he's not, the team lags with him.
Keno late bloomer Keno is going into his second season with the green kit and has shown both at the end of the last season and at the beginning of this one that he could be claiming a spot in the starting XI soon.
Paraná Clube is the youngest club in the 2018 Brasileirão 2018 but despite being 28 years old, it carries the history of the clubs that merged to create the Tricolor. It wouldn't take long for its first local titles, the 90s were dominated by Paraná and the club reached its peak by winning the Campeonato Paranaense five times in a row and by playing at the top flight for 14 of the club's first 18 years. In 2007, Paraná reached the round of 16 in its first and only Copa Libertadores. In that same year, struggling with serious financial problems, the Tricolor was relegated to the second division, being able to return to the Brasileirão only in 2017. After getting promoted in 2017, I thought Paraná would be a contender for the 2018 Campeonato Paranense. That is the cost of success for smaller clubs in Brazil, we couldn't keep most of our players from last season: only three of the victorious starting XI are still in Paraná. Manager Wagner Lopes was fired after a series of five matches without a victory and Rogério Micale was appointed as the new coach. He will only have to deal with Brasileirão since we are already out of Copa do Brasil (beaten by Sampaio Corrêa, a 2nd tier side)... maybe a good thing as we will need full power in all and every match to avoid relegation. The squad has lost some important players like Maidana (Atlético-MG), Eduardo Brock (Goiás), João Pedro (Atlético-PR) and Renatinho (Botafogo). Richard is a great goalkeeper but I feel he will have a tougher job this season playing against stronger sides. Without the centre-backs from 2017, I don't believe we will keep a decent defence like we had last year (43 goals conceded in 64 matches). Leandro Vilela and Carlos Eduardo are a safe choice in the midfield, while Baez and Diego are playing as wide-midfielders trying to open spaces in the opponents' defense. This also creates some problems to Paraná because we don't have a midfield fast enough that covers the final third of the pitch. Thiago Santos is our main striker (34 goals in 110 matches in his career) but he still needs to prove his worth in the Brasileirão. All in all, 2018 will be a successful season for Paraná if the club manages to escape relegation.
Midfielder Carlos Eduardo played for Hoffenheim and Rubin Kazan.
Star of the show
Carlos Eduardo is probably the most skilled player in the group. Staying up depends on his good performances.
Keep na eye on Johnny Lucas (17 years old). The defensive midfielder has been called for the U20 Brazil national team and can develop his football skills a lot in 2018. Another youngster is Matheus Pereira, a Juventus player who is on loan at the club after a disappointing season in Bordeaux.
In the last couple of years, Santos has been one of the clubs that people don't expect big things of but keeps fighting for the top positions. This scenario repeats itself again this year due to having lost a couple of "important" pieces, with some pundits and specialists putting the club as the quarta força (fourth best) of SP. The club is going to have to find solutions inside the squad to overcome this status, as it is going through some financial trouble (as always) and big signings are basically discarded. So far, that's exactly what it has done, with almost every player in the squad having been tested as a starter (save from some useless bastards). A lot has changed since last year, with the club going through some major changes in the administration and coaching staff, and the performances on the pitch reflecting that instability, with the team alternating between some brilliant games with a lot of fight and some downright awful showings, where the team has looked lost and lazy. New manager Jair Ventura, brought in at the beginning of the year, has the faith of most fans due to making the Libertadores quarterfinals last year with a weak Botafogo squad, but even then there are some doubters, as his defensive style of play is not in Santos' DNA. As for the main players, the defense starts with Vanderlei, the best GK playing in Brazil, Daniel Guedes on the right side of defense, Lucas Veríssimo, a player that most fans didn't rate at all at the beginning of 2017, but made some major improvements since then, his clumsy CB partner David Braz, and Dodô on the left side, currently on loan from Sampdoria. Alison is the starting DM, famous for his heart and rough playing style. In front of him, there are some question marks, with many players having been tested in those positions but none establishing themselves as starters. Currently, those spots are being claimed by Léo Cittadini and Jean Mota, but a lot can change as the year goes on, as Vitor Bueno and Renato are not behind in the pecking order by much. The attack consists of Bruno Henrique, a flashy and fast winger, currently injured, being replaced by Rodrygo, a teenager that's being touted as the next big thing coming out of Santos, Eduardo Sasha, a player that has surprised even the most optimistic fans with his great performances, and Gabriel, the Gabigol. Fresh from a failed spell in Europe, if he puts his mind to working hard and chills a bit with the yellow cards, he can be a very important piece as the year goes on.
In 1969, Pelé's Santos briefly stopped a civil war in Nigeria.
Gabriel. Perhaps the most recognizable player in the squad for many, the striker hopes to reestablish himself in his boyhood club and return to Internazionale at the beginning of next year stronger than ever.
Star of the show
Vanderlei. One of the two players responsible (along with Bruno Henrique) for the team's 3rd place finish in last year's tournament, the fans expect the keeper to maintain the level and keep on with his miraculous saves.
Rodrygo. The 17-year-old is yet another wonderkid from Santos' prestigious academy, and from what he has shown so far, he has a brilliant future ahead of him.
This will be the 10th season after São Paulo has lifted his third consecutive Brasileirão trophy, a feat that no other club has achieved in round-robin system in Brazil. Since then, the Tricolor Paulista has been living on its shadow, struggling to compete for the title. In the 9 seasons since, São Paulo went through ups and downs, with few top positions and culminating with the last two seasons were the club battled against relegation. In 2017, São Paulo had the help of Hernanes to finish in 13th position, the worst the club has recorded since 1998. It's no coincidence that these results are effects of the political turmoil the club has been living, with some questionable board changes, internal disputes and even corruption cases. This scenario, combined with a 5 year titleless, led São Paulo to be on constant pressure. In the months before, São Paulo has again faced some political backlash, causing major changes on football board, with the arrival of club past idols: Raí, Ricardo Rocha and the newly retired Lugano. The trio took the responsibility to put the club back on the titles' race. Soon after that, the team lose their two main players, Hernanes and Pratto. For 2018 season, the club bought keeper Jean, attackers Diego Souza and Tréllez, not to mention the arrival of winger Valdívia, defender Anderson Martins, left-back Reinaldo, and midfielders Hudson and Nene. Dorival Jr was unable to make the team competitive and was sacked after losing three derbys. For his position Diego Aguirre was hired, right before the club's knockout games on the Campeonato Paulista. The Uruguayan coach relied on heavy defensive work in semifinal but lose on penalty shootout, ending 3rd overall. With only six games so far, Aguirre's team is a mistery. To complicate things further, both Souza and Tréllez didn't meet the expectations and Cueva will hardly stay much longer. With new manager and many squad changes still happening, the starting team will be determined in the tournament. Fortunately, the team have some good disputes on his defensive side with Arboleda and Reinaldo being the only guaranted starters. The midfield, centered on Jucilei, will see a dispute between rising star Liziero and veterans Hudson and Petros. Souza and Nene will battle for Cueva's spot. Wingers M. Guilherme and Valdívia will aid the attacker that, at this point, could be Tréllez, Gonzalo Carneiro and even Souza, who knows?
According to the club's folklore, the white ball was created by one of São Paulo's employees who, tired of running behind brown leather balls in the woods, painted the ball white to help recover them.
Nene. The 36-year old veteran has been, so far, a decent substitute to Cueva.
Star of the show
Cueva. The Peruvian will certanly departure after 2018 World Cup but until then, São Paulo will heavily depending on his talent to win.
Liziero. The gifted 20-year-old defensive midfielder has gained a lot of spotlight after impressive performances in the last games of the Campeonato Paulista.
One of the most traditional sides in northeastern Brazil, Sport amasses a huge following, with polls finding their fanbase to be around 3 to 4 million strong, around the population of Uruguay. In addition to their immense following, the club is the most recent non-South/Southeastern club to have won a national title, having won the 2008 Copa do Brasil over juggernaughts Corinthians. Furthermore, for the past years, Sport has been considered an example of management, with the club in little to no debt, and being able to hold on to their players in spite of harassment from larger clubs. Throughout history it would not be out of place to consider the Leão da Ilha a mainstay of Brazil's elite division - in the past 10 seasons, Sport has been in Série A 7 times. Despite not being relegated, 2017 was not kind to the club. After winning the Campeonato Pernambucano, finishing second in the Copa do Nordeste and a surprisingly good first half of the Série A, Sport seamed to forget how to play football. In the second half, Sport only managed to amass more points than relegated side Ponte Preta, with a pitiful 29,8% of points made per game. Relegation was only narrowly escaped, in the final matches of the year, and the club ended up without even a Sulamericana spot for the first time since 2011. Things don't look better in 2018, as the club projects negative revenue for the season, finished third in the Campeonato Pernambucano and forfeited their Copa do Nordeste spot. A veteran manager with many titles in his resumé, including the very Copa do Brasil title that is Sport's greatest pride in recent years, Nelsinho Baptista is well known and trusted by the Sport board, dispite a lackluster start of the season. The team is going through renovations, with many players being swapped in the roster, Traditionally, Nelsinho favors a more defensive tactic, playing with 2 DMs, such as Anselmo, and exploiting counter-attacks with a fast midfield and effective strikers such as Éverton Felipe and Marlone.
Sport's 2008 upset win in the Copa do Brasil, thanks to the away goal rule, led to CBF no longer counting away goals in finals as of 2009.
Marlone was a 2016 Puskas Award contender, when the forward was at Corinthians.
Star of the show
Magrão The most experienced and longest-serving player at Sport, keeper Magrão is seen by fans as one of if not the greatest legend in club history.
Éverton Felipe Talented young player coming from the club's youth system, many fans have high hopes for his future.
Vasco went through some tough times through the last 5 years, being relegated to Série B in 2013 and 2015, political instability and less then ideal finances. One of the "Doze Grandes", Vasco looks to make another great campaign after guaraanteing a Copa Libertadores spot last year and to make the last 5 years nothing but a dark memory. This year, Vasco went through the qualifying stage of the Copa Libertadores, reached the Carioca Finals, only losing the title at the Shootouts after conceding a tie equalizing goal at the 90+4 minute of the second match, they look to repeat and even improve their campaign from last season. Even after losing important pieces from last year through the January window, manager Zé Ricardo rebuilt the team and went on to gather great results through the start of the year: Martin Silva leads the team from the back, the Uruguayan international is going through an amazing patch of form and is one of the main names on this roster, protected by the always contested Erazo and Paulão, with the goalscoring threat of the right back Yago Pikachu and the reliable left back Henrique. Deep on the midfield, former Velez Sarsfield player Leandro Desábato is one of the standouts of their season, alongside his partner on the double pivot Wellington, a box to box midfielder that was one of the important pieces last season, combining with the experience from the 12' Série A winner Wagner and the youth and talent that Evander and Paulinho offer, there's no way that Duvier Riascos lacks opportunities to score.
Vasco is famous in Brazil for being the club that first allowed black people to play without restraints.
Paulinho is the most coveted young star in Brazil right now.
Star of the show
Also Paulinho, the 17-year-old is the spark of brilliance on Vasco attack, scoring in Libertadores matches and deciding "Classicos", unfortunely he's going to be out for 4 months after injuring his elbow.
Giovanni Augusto just recovered from injury and is asking for his space on Vasco midfield.
After a last-minute saving goal at another game, and a movie-like escape from relegation, Vitória is trying to put 2017 behind. 2017 was a year to forget for them, with political crysis behind the scenes, failed signings and a lot of time spent in relegation zone. Now, Vitória aims a year without the relegation desperation, and, maybe, a spot at the sudamericana. Vitória had a solid Campeonato Baiano, leading the round-robin phase and winning easily against the lesser sides of the state. But, after the big brawl at the first derby against Bahia, they lost 5 starting XI players and the manager for the rest of the competition. That made the team look shaky, and was decisive for the title loss to Bahia. In other competitions, where the players aren't suspended, the team is doing just fine, ending the group stage at the regional cup in first and classifying for the 4th fase of the national cup. Vitória lost their wonder-kid David to Cruzeiro and their goalscorer Tréllez to São Paulo, and didn't sign any replacements for them, but promoted another kid, Denilson, to fill the void left by David. A signing from last year, Neilton, is showing a lot more now, with an impressive 13 goals in 20 games. And they still have Mancini, the manager who saved them last year, starting in a pretty dire situation, and he is a total idol in the club, and has the locker room and the directory total confidence. The team starts with Fernando Miguel, who has been under the bars for three years, protected by Kanu and Ramon, Kanu being a threat to the keepers at set pieces and known to score bunch of goals. At the left side, the newly signed Lucas, and the right, the fast Bryan, forming the backline. Midfield is defended by Uilliam Correa, one of the best players from last year, who commands the pace of the midfield after Willan Farias' injury, and Fillipe Soutto, who was signed to fill in for injured players last year, and is still doing that. The playmaking of the team is done by Neílton, who is also their most aggressive player. He has at his side Denilson, who started playing at the center of the attack, but was dragged to the side by Mancini, and Rhayner, another aggressive skilled dribbler. Leading the attack, Vitória has André Lima, an experient and opportunist goalscorer.
Vitória is the only team to get 2nd place at the first, the second, the third division and the national cup.
With a squad consisting mainly of unknown players, foreign observers may not recognise any of the names on the squad.
Star of the show
Neílton is the hope of Vitória to win games, and the team is much weaker when he is not playing, since he is the main hope of scoring.
Luan, recently promoted from the youth team at 19 years old, scored a goal at the Campeonato Baiano finals, is making great appearances and the supporters ask for him to be starting, but Vitória's managers are trying to transition him slowly, but he has the potential to be a great player.
England vs New Zealand Final BluePrint ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
England vs New Zealand Final BluePrint ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
England has finally sealed its spot in the Finals of the ICC World Cup 2019 by thrashing the defending champions Australia by 8 wickets at Edgbaston,It took them 27 years to find their winning combinations and we hope they the best team lifts the trophy now. Meanwhile, New Zealand made it to the finals of the tournament successively two times by coming out with flying colors in a dramatic clash against India.
Lords Pitch Stats
Lord’s is known as the dream pitch for the cricket
290 is the average score here
64% matches won by team batting first
They have won 7 out of 10 of their last matches
They have beaten India in their previous match
Bairstow was top scorer and Woakes was the top bowler
They have won 6 out of 10 matches
They lost to Pakistan in previous match
Neesham was the top scorer and Furgeson was the top bowler
Head to Head (in ODI) :Overall : Matches PlayedEng WonNZ WonTieNo Result9041430204
On Friday at 8pm UK time, Reading and Derby County will kick off the 127th season of the English second division - also known as the Championship! 24 clubs will compete for 3 promotion spots to the Premier league (2 via automatic promotion and 1 via playoffs) and to avoid the 3 relegation spots to the third tier a.k.a League One.
Its looking like a really tight and competitive season. The league is absolutely full of ambitious player and managerial talent - the more time goes by the more it looks like a Premier League 2. If you want a competitive league with proper English football, that also has the spice of skilful players and forward thinking managers, it really is the place to go.
This is guide written by the fans who have come together on /Championship - an absolutely huge thanks to them. Do check out the sub, we try to keep it a good place to discuss the EFL, away from the rancid gloryhunting shithole that is /soccer (just kidding - I like this place). Lots going on, including a score predictor thread which is running all season.
This guide is in table order with the PL demoted sides first. Only 5 clubs today (because the Swansea one is a fucking novel and I can't fit any more in), the rest will be submitted tomorrow and Friday. Do bare in mind that not all the transfer news will be up to date as these guides were largely written a week ago. Point out to me if there are any clear errors with formatting or spelling.
How to watch in the UK: Live rights are owned by Sky Sports. They are upping the number of televised matches this season. Reading v Derby on Friday is televised. The weekly highlights show previously on Channel 5 is moving to Quest TV, which apparently is on Freeview. How to watch abroad: Depends, but in most territories, the iFollow Service is available, which is £110 to watch all a single club's matches. Bargain. I think the clubs that aren't on iFollow have their own similar streaming services. Check out club Youtube channels - quite a few of them post extended highlights now with their own commentary, including Derby, Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford and more. (You may need VPN to watch if you're abroad.)
Location: Swansea, Wales Nickname: Swans, The Jacks Major honours: Football League Cup (2013), Championship Play-off Winner (2011), League One Winners (1925, 1949, 2008) 17/18 finishing postion: 18th (Premier League) Transfermarkt squad value:€115.5 mil NOTE: This number is as of July 22nd, when we still have Mawson (€15 mil), A. Ayew (€15 mil), Bony (€10 mil), Clucas (€8 mil) and Fernandez (€8 mil), who are all pretty much expected to be sold, or loaned out, before the season starts. Without all of these players except Bony (who's injured for a while so it makes it unlikely he'll be sold soon), the squad value would be around €70 mil. Manager: Graham Potter joined the Swans on 11th June 2018. In 2010, he became head coach of Östersund, who were in the fourth tier of Swedish football. 5 years later, he got the club promoted into the Swedish top flight and in 2017, they won Svenska Cupen which qualified them for the Europa League where they managed to get through the group stage. He’s been applauded for what he did at Östersund and the way he managed to build the club up from nothing. The year after his success in the Europa league he signed a 3 year contract with Swansea. Potter is well respected by The Swans and after a few years of poor managerial and financial decisions his appointment is seen as a step in the right direction to bringing us back to our old ways of being a well-run club. Potter has been recognised for his "progressive" and "unconventional" coaching methods. At Östersund, he encouraged his players and staff to engage in community activities, such as performing in theatre and music productions which was designed to take them out of their comfort zone. Potter describes his style of football on the pitch as "tactically flexible, attacking, and possession-based". At Östersund, he deployed a flexible 3–5–2 formation centred on ball possession. Best player(s)/ talisman:With many of our best players being rumoured with a move away what good players that remain at the start of the season is yet to be seen. Alfie Mawson is probably our standout player. He’s been amazing for us since we got him and was a bargain at about £3m. He’s great in the air and is just an all round tank. Keeping him will be a huge boost for us and should be solid in the championship. Federico "El Pajaro" Fernandez has also been strong at the back with Alfie. The pair played with each other for the majority of last season and together became a solid unit. We will most likely sell him to reduce wages though. Jordan Ayew put in a great shift last season and was our top goal scorer. His work rate was immense and was able to drop back and defend when needed. He’s fast, able to beat a man and a decent finisher. Sadly all these players are transfer targets for other clubs and might not even be here at the start of the season. If we can keep a lot of our players we should have a decent season but who knows who'll be left by the end of the window… Rising star: Swansea’s U23 had a great season last year and with Potter wanting a young and fresh squad, a handful have moved up into the first team. Our standout youngster, Oliver McBurnie, joined Barnsley on loan in January last season where he went on to win a Championship player of the month award after 6 goals in 8 games and went on to win Barnsley’s Player of the year award. While only 22, he’s struggled to break into our first team but will most likely be our main striker for the coming season. Be on the lookout for his long legs, miniature shinpads and ridiculous sock length! LEGS LEGS LEGS!!! Connor Roberts performed well at RB last season and adapted quickly to the premier league where he battled Kyle Naughton to be in the starting line up and did great when given the chance. Decent at going forward and professional at the back. Hopefully potter puts him ahead of Naughton. What happened last season?: What Happened last season?: After our great escape the season before and with Paul Clement at the helm there was optimism that the 17/18 season could be our turning point where we start rebuilding 'The Swansea Way". How wrong we were. After a disastrous transfer window where we sold Sigurdsson and never replaced him and started panic buying the week before the transfer window closed we were left an obvious hole in our team. We had no creativity in midfield and no one could kick the ball into the box to save their life. And just to rub it in further Renato Sanches turned out to be more disappointing than Bob Bradley. With the team sitting bottom of the table Clement was sacked in late December. Then along came the wise talking Carlos Carvalhal who managed to rebuild the confidence the team had lost. Our results took a turn for the good, beating Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley and West Ham consecutively at home. He pulled us out of the relegation zone and things were looking good. However, the good times were quickly followed by the bad times. Our form turned and we didn’t win a single one of our last 9 matches. We were quickly relegated after pitifully losing to both Southampton and Stoke in our last 2 games of the season. Highlights (Or lowlights): The pass by Renato Sanches that summed up his and our season Swansea City 3-1 Arsenal Summer transfer business (so far): At the end of last season, it was clear we needed several transfers, both in and out. However, this would all depend on the manager we got. Yan Dhanda (Free, Liverpool): A 19 year-old Midfielder, Yan Dhanda left Liverpool this summer and joined the Swans in a free, before we even hired Graham Potter. At one time one of the most promosing youngsters in Liverpool's Academy, injuries slowed down his progress, and ultimately made him fall behind other players. Citing lack of first-team playing time, Dhanda decided to join us this summer in hopes of getting regular playing time in the senior squad. Through 3 pre-season games, Dhanda has been one of the brighest and most impressive players in the squad, even scoring a game-winning goal and smashing a penalty in a shootout against Genoa. With our current injuries and shenanigans involved in our midfield, Dhanda has a good chance of becoming a starter and hopefully guide our midfield during the season. Jordi Govea (Free, Real Madrid): Another 19 year-old from Ecuador, Jordi was the first signing under Potter. Not much can be said about the lad, but this is what Real Madrid had as his bio:
Jordi is an Ecuadorian defender who possess three key qualities for a player in his position: he's skilful, is able to go past a player and has a good shot on him. He's left footed and is able to send in good crosses on the run.
With Martin Olsson currently as our starting LB, and Kyle Naughton as the backup, the hope is that Jordi can develop on our U-23 squad and hopefully move up to the senior squad in coming years. Also the only man I've seen do a medical while wearing jeans (https://twitter.com/SwansOfficial/status/1015251916132057089) Joel Asoro (€2 mil., Sunderland): Yet another 19 year-old, a Swedish winger who has represented his country in the younger levels, he was Potter's first senior signing. With world-class speed, and some impressive skills, Asoro was able to score 3 goals and get 2 assists last season in 26 apperances for Sunderland. While these numbers may seem a bit disappointing, many of these games were sub appearances on a very dysfunctional team. Along with Dhanda, Asoro has been one of the most impressive players during preseason, constantly beating his man with either speed or skills, and whipping in good balls to Legs. At the current rate, Asoro appears to have a good chance of starting on the right wing spot, with Nathan Dyer and Luciano Narsingh backing him up. Predicted starting XI: NOTE: This is gonna be assuming Mawson, A. Ayew, Clucas, and Fernandez are all sold by the start of the season. If by some reason they end up staying, they are pretty much guaranteed to start. Based on the pre-season games so far, a lineup looking like this would be plausible, with Rodon most likely to be replaced by a CB (possibly Scott McKenna) when we buy one. Our second unit is looking something like this. Best case scenario: Graham Potter is able to motivate and make sure our senior players (Fer, Carroll, etc.) stay fit, along with our youngsters being able to make an impact as expected, and also we retain Mawson, Fernandez, and Clucas, we can finish in the top 2 and get promoted automatically. Worst case scenario: Our worst case scenario, and something many of us fear of happening, consists of primarily 3 things. 1. Graham Potter isn't given enough time to build an identity with our squad and is sacked by the midway point of the season by the greedy, dumb American owners. . 2. We end up not replacing the players we sold properly like last summer, therefore having a squad with holes everywhere and no chemistry. 3. Our youngsters such as Asoro, McBurnie, Dhanda and company don't pan out and progress at all, thefore becoming mediocre players. This would all culminate in us looking like Sunderland, and making relegation a probability. Prediction: Realistically I see us selling Mawson and company in the last days before the season starts and not replacing them properly until later on. Because of this, as well as our current injuries with Fer and Clucas, I can see us initially struggling to build an identity but over time, we will start playing like Potter wants us and finishing the season strongly. 8th place, missing the play-offs by 4 points What will happen to your closest rivals?: The scum that is known as Cardiff City will break the record for lowest points ever accumulated in a Premier League season, getting 5 points all from draws, and will therefore get relegated with 17 games to spare.
Location:The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, West Midlands Nickname: The Baggies, The Throstles Major honours: 1x League title, 1x League Cup, 5x FA Cup 17/18 finishing postion: 20th in Premier League (relegated) Transfermarkt squad value: £101.16m Manager:Darren Moore or Big Dave as he's known to Albion fans. A club icon as a player in the early 2000s, he returned to look after our U23 squad before being promoted to assistant manager by Alan Pardew in January. Following the end of Pardew's horrific reign, Moore took temporary charge with Albion facing inevitable relegation. He led us to wins over Newcastle, Spurs, Man Utd and a draw with Liverpool, somehow taking our futile battle for survival to the final week of the season. Following this he earned the head coach role permanently. Moore is loved among the Albion faithful, largely due to his reputation as a player here. He heavily favours a 4-4-2 formation and at the back end of last season, tended to soak up pressure and play on the counter attack. It will be interesting to see how his approach differs in a league where we are one of the favourites, not fighting to survive (hopefully) Best player(s)/ talisman: It's an interesting situation for Albion currently. There are plenty of Premier League quality players still in the squad. A lot depends on if they are picked off before the deadline shuts. Chris Brunt is a club stalwart and likely to be reappointed as captain. He is adored by the fans and in my opinion will be an incredible asset in the championship. His set pieces alone will bring 10+ goals to the side. Kieran Gibbs is a high quality player who appears to be set to stay and should make a big difference. Jay Rodriguez, Craig Dawson, Salomon Rondon and Nacer Chadli should all make a big difference in this division IF they stay. In all honesty I expect to lose a few of the above. Sam Johnstone appears to be an astute signing to replace the outgoing Ben Foster. Rising star:Sam Field he's one of our own! He looked completely at home against some of the top Premier League sides last campaign. A box-to-box midfielder, he's full of energy and looks so comfortable on the ball. I expect him to be a major part of our side this season, having just signed a new long-term deal. Kyle Edwards is an exciting attacking midfielder who has been impressing in pre-season. He may have a part to play following a loan spell at Exeter last campaign. Jonathon Leko looked like a potential world-beater when he first came through a couple of years back. A lightning quick winger full of tricks. A loan spell at Bristol City and limited appearances later he seems to be losing his way. Will be an interesting one to watch. Finally, the enigma that is Olly Burke. After signing with us last summer for £15m, he failed to impress any of the four managers we had over the season. He looks exciting when he comes on, without any end product so far, and was unfairly blamed for a loss at West Ham by Alan 'Coward' Pardew. We all know the talent he's got. Hopefully we can see it this season. What happened last season?: Let's not talk about it... We finally escaped the stranglehold of Tony Pulis, only to opt for the human joke that is Alan Pardew and duly hurtled towards relegation. Four of our players stole a taxi and then played (and lost) the following weekend. Pardew was sacked about 3 months too late, and Moore took over, restoring pride with some notable wins over Man Utd and Spurs. This season we also lost the great Cyrille Regis, and the outpouring of emotion and the coming together of the club during the weeks after his passing was something special. Summer transfer business (so far): We started by releasing Claudio Yacob, Boaz Myhill and Gareth McAuley. Yacob and McAuley will be greatly missed but it is perhaps the right time for them to go. Jonny Evans departed for Leicester for a cut-price £3m, Ben Foster left for Watford and James McClean has departed for Stoke City. Sam Johnstone has been bought in to replace Foster, with Jonathon Bond arriving as backup. Kyle Bartley has joined from Swansea City and it appears that Harvey Barnes will soon be arriving on loan from Leicester. Finally, James Morrison is currently out of contract but still with the club. His future is uncertain. I am very happy with Johnstone and Bartley. It has been a quiet window for Albion so far but that is largely a good thing. The squad is packed with Premier League talent and the window is more about keeping hold of them. There is major interest in Dawson and Rondon, along with interest in Rodriguez, Hegazi and Chadli. If any of the above go, then we would need to replace. Otherwise I would be happy with another striker and another CB. It is also worth mentioning that every player in the Albion side suffered a 50% wage cut upon relegation which means that we are financially sound despite relegation, but may lead to more big names leaving. Predicted starting XI:This is my best attempt. It will undoubtedly be 4-4-2. We may see Nyom in at right back and perhaps Barry in for Field. Obviously about half of this side could leave, so we shall see. Best case scenario: The bulk of the side remains and the quality in the side shines through as we breeze to automatic promotion. Worst case scenario: The better players leave or do not put the effort in. Moore cannot transfer his great start into his first full season in management. We become embroiled in a relegation battle Prediction: It will be somewhere in the middle. I'd like to think we'll go up automatically but I think play-offs are more likely. 6th What will happen to your closest rivals?: Villa won't go down but will settle into mid-table, despite the recent takeover. I think Wolves will do well in the PL, although I don't know how long Nuno will last before a big club comes in.
Location: Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire Nickname: The Potters Stadium:bet365 Stadium, 30,089 seats Major honours: 1972 League Cup 17/18 finishing position: 19th, Premier League Squad value: £127.8 million Manager:Gary Rowett signed from Derby in May. His honest attitude has brought lots of optimism to fans, who are looking forward to an overhaul of the Club. His style of play seems to change based on the squad he has available. Best Player:Joe Allen was vital to the Club last season, giving us hope that we would avoid relegation. His massive new contract signed this summer shows how loyal and committed to the Club he is, and will be a vital player this season. Rising star:Tom Edwards is a local lad who has won the Under 18 Player of the Year award twice in the Club. In the latter parts of last season he played some good first team football. What happened last season: A pathetic attempt at a season that had been coming for a while under Mark Hughes. Paul Lambert was appointed in January, but a win rate of just 2 in 15 matches wasn’t enough for him to keep his job and miss out on the million pound bonus offered to him. Transfer business so far: So far this has been a decent transfer window. Peter Etebo had an amazing World Cup for Nigeria and Benik Afobe looks really promising. Adam Federici has also been appointed to replace Lee Grant. Xherdan Shaqiri has left along with a few players like Stephen Ireland and Glen Johnson who will not be missed. Badou Ndiaye also looks to be on his way out, but it looks like Jack Butland will stay with us, which is massive. Perhaps most surprising are the new contracts signed by our 2 best players last season, Joe Allen and Moritz Bauer. Predicted Line up:Here is our predicted squad. I’m not sure what formation we will have. EDIT: This is a new version, complete with our rumoured new signings and in the right formation. Best case scenario: Stoke will finish top with an all-time Championship points record. Worst case scenario: A mediocre start to the season will see Rowett sacked and Stoke with a disappointing mid-table finish. Prediction: I think with our squad and our new manager, we will finish 1st. What will happen to our closest rivals? Port Vale will be relegated to the Vanarama National League.
Location:Villa Park, Trinity Rd, Birmingham B6 6HE Nickname: The Villans, The Villa, Prince William's Club, David "Twat" Cameron's Second Club. Major honours: 7 First Division wins, 7 FA Cups, 5 League Cups, 1 European Cup, 1 European Super Cup, 1 Intertoto Cup 17/18 finishing postion: 4th Transfermarkt squad value: £67.77m and dropping fast Manager:Steve Bruce (for now). Former Man Utd playing legend who's been a fixture of English football for decades. He joined Villa in 2016 after successful runs at Hull, Sunderland (yes they were good once) and Birmingham City. A bit of a promotion specialist, he's taken Championship clubs up to the Premier League 4 times in the past and just missed out last season, losing 1-0 to Fulham in the Playoff Final. Tactically, he's fairly old school who prefers 4-4-2 or a 4-1-4-1, usually involving a big man up top. Fun fact: while managing Huddersfield in 1999 he wrote three novels, "Striker!", "Sweeper!" and "Defender!", which focus on main character Steve Barnes, a football manager. Barnes solves crime and takes on terrorists, and the books have become prized rarities. The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast managed to get a copy and read out some of the copy - suitably awful. Best player(s)/ talisman: There's only one Jack Grealish. A Villa boy through and through, he's been with the club since 2001 (aged 6), and made his way into the first team in the 2013-14 season. He's been the centre of controversy a few times, most notably getting on the beers and passing out on a Tenerife street. Playing as a number 10, his quick feet and dribbling skills provide a number of goals and assists, as well as fouls. He probably went down a bit too easily when first in the Premier League, but time in the gym has noticeably toughened him up and he's a much more solid player as a result. One of the better players in the Championship, and due to Villa's abject finances, a transfer target for the likes of Leicester. Rising star: Keinan Davis could possibly be it, potentially Andre Green and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy as well. What happened last season?: Have you ever walked into a casino, spotted the roulette table and popped £10,000 on red? It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off. You've doubled your money if you win, but look like a right git if you lose. Villa figured this was a good way to approach 2017-18: spend millions on players, get in lots of loans, gamble everything on achieving promotion. After a so-so start, Bruce got the team playing well, stringing together a number of wins and moving through the playoff spots. Unfortunately they ran into a few teams playing out of their skin - champions Wolves ran away with the league and boasted a squad that included several Champions League players. Neil Warnock's Cardiff couldn't stop winning and grabbed the second automatic promotion. In the playoff final Villa came up against a Ryan Sessegnon-led Fulham and were just pipped at the post 1-0. Summer transfer business (so far): It's one-way traffic, due to absolutely abysmal finances. Loan spells for Lewis Grabban, Robert Snodgrass, Josh Onomah and Sam Johnstone have all ended, which is almost the spine of the team (Johnstone in particular - he was arguably the best keeper in the Championship and personally bagged a number of wins). Plus clubs are circling to pick off whatever assets we have left (eg. Jack Grealish, James Chester). With no prospect of anyone new coming in, it looks like the youth academy will be getting a lot more game time. Predicted starting XI:Possibly this, but half these players could be gone before the first match. Best case scenario: Mid-table anonymity would have to be best case - Villa are a mess and could go down this time around. Worst case scenario: Our finances are the real issue - they are dire. Villa need to find £9 million this month to avoid going into administration. Owner "Dr." Tony Xia is a billionaire, apparently, but tax bills went unpaid and the question remains if he's able to support the club as generously as he has in the past. Administration, points deductions and potentially relegation to League One are all real possibilities right now. It's not looking good. Prediction: Due to financial irregularities in the 23 clubs above us, Villa will get into the Champions League and take out the likes of Atletico, Bayern and Real Madrid on the way to our second European Cup. "Taylor, Green, prepared to venture down the left. There's a good ball played in for Jack Grealish. Oh, it must be and it is! It's Keinan Davis!" What will happen to your closest rivals?: Unfortunately the Scum managed to avoid League One in the final rounds of the season. Here's hoping they go one better. Agbonlahor to re-sign for one game: the Derby. And score the winner, again.
Location: The Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough Founded: 1876 Nickname: The Boro (Or just Boro) Major honours: The League cup 2003-2004 season 17/18 finishing position: 5th Transfermarkt squad value: 79.34m Manager: Tony Pulis became manager of us in late December 2017, replacing the sacked Garry Monk after a pretty lacklustre few months of the campaign (despite where our league position was). Pulis is known in England for being the man that is never relegated when in charge of someone in the top flight. We are all aware of Tony Pulis' style of football. You start by having a strong and massive defence and maximise your use of set pieces to gain an advantage. Pulis is a lover of all set piece plays, whether that is crossing the ball in from a corner or free kick, or launching a ball into the box from a throw in, they're all in his arsenal of weapons. 'Pulisball' as it is pretty much known. Pulis has achieved promotion from the championship once before with Stoke, and I hope he achieves it again with us this season Best player(s)/ rising star: I mean, where else do I begin. Adama Traore. Arguably the best player in the championship on his day and is one of the most frightening dribblers in English football, maybe even world football. The winger is known for his speed and dribbling ability although is usually criticised for his lack of end product. Before last season I would've agreed, however 5 goals and 10 assists, with all but 2 assists coming before Pulis' arrival show the progression of the Spanish winger. As for other members of the squad, Ben Gibson, the prodigal son. Boro through and through he's progressed into a commanding centre half with the ability to play out from the back thanks to Karanka. He gained attention and emerged as one of the few given credit after our disappointing premier league campaign but was only the subject of one bid upon our relegation, from now manager Tony Pulis. It remains to be seen whether he'll be here come the first game of the season, but I hope he will be. As for future stars, Dael Fry, already has played 2 championship campaigns for us and looks as assured as a veteran of the game. Another centre half produced by our academy and he is being played in cdm this pre-season by Pulis, to add to his versatility. Hopefully a standout season for him, especially if Gibson does end up leaving. Finally, yes, he does always look as confused as images of him show. What happened last season?: Well, the first half of the season was tragic under Monk. We played really poor football at times and looked like we hadn't defended a day in our lives. There was also no consistency in the team, we'd win one game then lose the next. A key theme under both managers however, was our inability to beat those around us in the table. After Pulis' appointment the results picked up and it ended with us finishing 5th in the table. We ultimately lost in the playoff semi finals to Aston Villa but honestly, we didn't think we'd even be in the top half around Christmas. Summer transfer business (so far): Just the three deals to talk about so far. We've acquired Paddy McNair from Sunderland who looks like a decent player. He's been utilised in right back and midfield during pre-season so it looks like they'll be his positions for the season. I imagine he'll play alongside Clayts and Howson in a midfield three. Aden Flint was signed from Bristol City and I think I'm in the minority when I say I don't like how much we paid for him. Obviously the man is a Pulis player but I'm a bit unsure about his defensive ability. That being said he's looked strong during pre-season and I'm sure Pulis will get the best out of him. Fabio departed our club for Nantes so we'll need more full back cover. As for the rest of the window, I expect Gibson to leave but will be delighted if he doesn't. One of our strikers will also leave and Braithwaite should follow after his decent World Cup performances. We'll probably bring in a striker and a winger and hopefully hold onto Adama. That'd be a successful window in my eyes. Predicted starting XI: My best guess The only other guess I could make is that Gibson might leave and then Ayala would start, but he's injured at this point in time. Britt might play over Gestede too if Pulis is feeling fancy. Best case scenario: It has to be top of the pile right? It's not out of the question to imagine us up there and if everything clicks then we've got a chance. A defence that scores more than some teams' strikers, Adama channelling his inner Messi and finding consistency, Rudy/Britt/Bamford scoring for fun. It could be carnage. Worst case scenario: I can't see us finishing outside the playoffs, if we did then that would be gut-wrenching. But if we did then that would most certainly be the worst. Realistically, it'd be losing in the playoffs... again, and if it were in the final again then god help me. Although saying this, now losing Bamford and maybe Traore will be a worst case scenario in itself, definitely if they're not replaced. Prediction: Have to be confident, although it always kills me. 1st or 2nd. Tony Pulis and his nice white trainers carry us to the promise land. That being said, we never do it the easy way. Best Match of Last Season Sorry Leeds fans, but it had to be. "Hattrick Bamford" as our Twitter account tweeted, 3-0 against Leeds with Adama running the show. Leeds clearly found some positive from the game as they're set to sign him off us. This was the sign of what we should've done more last season. Showed what Paddy could've been too if given an even more extended period in Striker by himself. Oh well. What will happen to your closest rivals?: Who even are our closest rivals in this league? We're in geographical purgatory. Can't say Sunderland anymore so what? Leeds? Bielsa either turns them into the well oiled machine they hope for or he succumbs to the old Leeds ways and is sacked by December. As for the Mackems, probably promoted from League 1.
For those of you who aren't into football, this season of the Premier League is the most astonishing season in the history of English football
I know there are a lot of you who don't care at all about English football, and I only really started following it myself a couple of years ago. You just might want to know what's going on. This season is all about the amazing story of a small, troubled club at the bottom of the premier league called Leicester City. Last year they're bottom of the league, and sure to be relegated. Then, they win seven of their last nine games, and make the great escape , finishing sixteenth and surviving. Impressive, and rare, but that's just the start. This season begins and after a couple of games Leicester have won and are top of the table. It's a charming quirk of the beginning of the season where a couple of good results put odd little clubs at the top briefly, before the season goes on, the big clubs keep winning, and the table normalises into its familiar shape. Except Leicester keep winning, and winning. After 17 matches they're top, with 11 wins and only one loss. Every single week people say "They've done very well, but how long can they keep it up?" and "They'll slow down soon". Right now there are only nine matches to go and they are way out in front. Leicester City are going to win the premier league. It is, by a long way, the biggest upset in sports history. The odds at the beginning of the season were 5000/1. It's the maximum odds bookies have, which they give to things like Elvis being proved to be alive, or Christmas to be the warmest day of the year. A fan who put a cheeky tenner on at the beginning of the season just sold his betting slip back to the bookies for £23,000. Odds like this have never been paid out on, ever, and second place isn't even close. A microcosm of Leicester's success has been the story of Jamie Vardy.
At 22, he was working in a factory in Sheffield, spending his weekends playing for the Stockbridge Park Steels for £30 a week.
At 23 he signs for sixth-tier non-league team Halifax Town. He has to be subbed off at half time every match... to stop his electronic tag going off.
At 24, he plays in third-tier League One and then finally goes the following season to Leicester City, helping the then-Championship side get promoted to the Premier League in 2014.
Now he will play for England, joining the squad in this year's Euros in France.
What about the reigning champions though? What are they doing about all this? That'll be Chelsea, who won the league convincingly in 2015, having it all tied up three matches before the end of the season. They almost don't lose a single game. They have all the money in the world, an incredible squad, and Jose Mourinho is a tactical genius. But then this season begins, and they can't catch a break. They can't stop losing. They plummet in the table, and halfway through the season they are so far down everyone starts whispering about relegation. Same club, same players, same manager, playing the same football, and nobody can get it together. Chelsea players just aren't as good this season, any of them, and the strangest thing about it is that no-one knows why. It is a total mystery. In December, Leicester City finally play Chelsea and everyone waits to see if this incredible season is for real. Leicester win, 2-1. Chelsea are later kicked ignobly out of the League Cup by Stoke. Mourinho only ever manages elite teams, and only ever succeeds. He is massively arrogant and dismissive, because his results have always afforded him to be. He isn't used to this at all. He spins out of control, falling out with the media, battling with the FA over refereeing decisions, getting banned from matches and fined in the process, and is so cruel and unfair to his medical team that one of them, Eva Carneiro, is fired/leaves messily and sues for Constructive Dismissal. Jose Mourinho, though he bounces around the top European clubs season after season, seems to have found his home in Chelsea and wanted to stay there for several years. He is loved by the club and the fans and given the time to turn things around. After a while the board can't risk any more poor performances and he is sacked, leaving the training ground in tears. There is so much more going on this season, I could talk about Manchester United's pathetic flailing around (they have lost to Bournemouth and Norwich City [EDIT: and now West Brom!], and are tenuously in sixth), Tottenham's dream season of young English stars beating the odds, Mahrez, and Watford having a blinder, but that's just the start.
The Barclays is back boys, which means the managerial merry go round is about to hit the accelerator and kick into overdrive. This cruel fairground ride is bound to claim a fair share of victims over the course of the season, but who will be first? Last year Frank de Boer took home the gold in a record smashing 4(!) games; surely nobody will leave their club as fast as the Dutchman, but here’s my personal take on how each manager may fair this season. AFC Bournemouth – Eddie Howe Bournemouth are weird aren’t they. They’ve become somewhat of a Premier League mainstay, whilst maintaining the feeling of being a Championship side. I like them, they’re cool. Another cool thing is the man at the helm ‘future England manager,’ Eddie Howe. He’s done an insanely fantastic job in getting his side to this stage and is a club legend for sure, even if the club struggle, I can’t see Howe being sacked. Stranger things have happened in football, such as Robert Green going to Chelsea, but Howe staying put seems inevitable. Sack Race odds: 20/1 (All odds from SkyBet) Arsenal – Unai Emery It still doesn’t quite feel real to talk about Arsenal sans Arsene Wenger; he’s been the gunners’ leader for the entire span of my interest in football, but all good things must come to an end, and good things can be birthed from such endings, so in comes the Europa League specialist, Unai Emery. Will he be sacked first? Almost certainly not, in fact, Emery seems like he is poised for success with the London club, with a host of important new signings and a proven philosophy. However, I can’t help but get flashbacks to when David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson. The burden was too large, Moyes drank from the poison chalice of management, causing his tactical brain to explode, and he never truly recovered. Hopefully for Unai, this chalice is slightly less poisonous and he can work some magic when stepping into Wenger’s shoes. Sack Race odds: 33/1 Brighton and Hove Albion – Chris Hughton What a lovely man Hughton is, he’s worked harder than anyone to make it in the Premier League. It wasn’t meant to be at Newcastle or Norwich, but little Chris has found his true love at the Amex Stadium. Brighton sailed to a highly successful maiden season in the Premier League, and a vast amount of that credit has to go to Hughton. He changed things up by adding the likes of Schelotto over club legend Bruno, allowed Pascal Groß to work his magic feet and played to the strengths of Glenn Murray, who ended up bagging 11 league goals. Second season syndrome looms in the air, but if Hughton keeps it fresh again his love affair on the south coast will continue to blossom. Sack Race odds: 16/1 Burnley – Sean Dyche If the 2018/2019 managerial sack race is won by Sean Dyche, I’ll eat a worm. Dyche is everything that makes Burnley tick, he and the club are basically those two old fellas you see in the pub every night drinking dark mild, it’s an unbreakable bond. Dyche is well aware of the club’s strengths, weaknesses and how to squeeze the best out of every fixture. The only issue rearing its ugly head is that of overachievement and squad depth; Europa League qualification was something nobody could have predicted for the claret side and people surely can’t expect Dyche and company to repeat the feat this year, especially with the extra burden of having to get his paper thin squad through a highly populated fixture list. Sack Race odds: 20/1 Cardiff City – Neil Warnock Neil Warnock is somehow not the favourite to depart his side quickest this season. Warnock has forever been the Premier League bridesmaid, but never the bride, as whilst he has a very impressive Championship record, he’s never cut the mustard in the top division. He sits in the void between Premier League and Championship alongside the likes of Lewis Grabban, Dwight Gayle and Cameron Jerome, in that they’re all too good for the Championship but simply are not built for the trial and tribulations of the Premier League. Sadly for Warnock, his success will again be his own downfall. Sack Race odds: 8/1 Chelsea – Maurizio Sarri Sarriball is an interesting entity in football. It’ll entertain, it’ll win hearts and minds, but as of yet, it has failed to win a top level trophy. Will his stylish brand win one this year? I think not. Whilst his tactics are excellent and his style is easy on the eye, it takes time to implement such a system, especially in an entirely new league. Undoubtedly Sarri needs a sufficient tenure to implement his intelligent plan, so sacking him before even giving him a hope of getting everything in place would be pure madness, even from a notoriously non-reactionary, cool headed fellow such as Roman Abramovich. Sack Race odds: 33/1 Crystal Palace – Roy Hodgson Roy the boy rides again! At the tender age of 70 (the oldest in the league) Hodgson enters his first full season with Crystal Palace after working wonders there last season. With De Boer at the wheel the club were on a highway to hell (a.k.a the Championship) but Hodgson steered them to safety and got everyone at Crystals nightclub grooving again. He’s been there and done it all before so when it’s all said and done I wouldn’t be surprised to see Roy standing tall once again. Who knows, if he has an incredible showing, maybe he could be England manager one day… Sack Race odds: 20/1 Everton – Marco Silva I’ll save you the classic Paul Merson jokes, but Mr Silva has proven quite popular in the top division hasn’t he. Silva laid his roots at Hull, then started turning up trees with Watford, before proving to be a thorn in his own side after getting his head turned by the Ev in the winter. Everton finally got their man and should he be able to get them playing like Watford early last season, they’ll be off to a flyer. The question mark however, is on the defensive side. Silva knows how to get his creative players into the game but his teams are often leakier than the Titanic, which doesn’t bode well for England’s world cup hero Jordan Pickford. Sack Race odds: 18/1 Fulham – Slavisa Jokanovic Are you a football hipster? Do you like walking down the river side to your favourite cereal café? Do you love nothing more than your team’s home ground to be an old hunting lodge? Well Fulham is the team for you and Slavisa Jokanovic might just be your new best friend. Jokanovic has hauled his team back to the big time by having each and every one of his players invest in his brand of attractive, attacking football. Now with the likes of Mitrovic, Seri, Schurrle, Sessegnon and Cairney at the manager’s disposal we could be looking at the breakout team of the season and a influx of new Fulham fans from across the globe. Sack Race odds: 20/1 Huddersfield Town – David Wagner I mentioned second season syndrome before with Brighton, but the eerie stench smells much greater in regards to Huddersfield. They almost burnt out last year and despite signing some decent players (Kongolo permanently, Durm, Sobhi etc.) they are once again, a firm favourite for the drop. The question that is begged then is this, will a bad season see Wagner be sacked in a bid to change the fortunes of the club? I would say possibly yes. Whilst before I did speak of the love towards Dyche and Howe from their clubs, in this world of money and power there is little room for loyalty in football anymore, and Wagner is a man I fear for if things begin to go south. Sack Race odds: 16/1 Leicester City – Claude Puel Tensions got nasty between Puel and Leicester last season. There were warm beginnings due to the removal of Craig Shakespeare, but if there’s two things Leicester fans do not like it’s, 1.) winning just three games in fourteen to end the season, and 2.) playing a boring style of football. He’s certainly one of the favourites to win the sack race, despite his side being expected to finish around the middle of the table, so I would be extremely fearful for his head if Leicester don’t kick off well. After all, this is the board that sacked Ranieri after he pulled off the impossible dream. Sack Race odds: 7/1 Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp Despite Klopp being at the helm of Liverpool for less than three years, it just feels right that he’s there. Like hand in glove, bacon and egg, Northern Rail and cancelling trains; they just fit together. They’ve signed better than any of their Premier League rivals and finally have the squad depth to mount a challenge on all fronts. Anything less than top 4 (maybe even 3) and a decent run in the Champion’s League would be a disappointment, but it seems written in the stars that Klopp will once again deliver what is expected from the Kop faithful. Sack Race odds: 80/1 Manchester City – Pep Guardiola City fans must be glad all over that they have Pep at the helm, at the City board surely feel the same. The blue half of Manchester exploded into life last season and performed to a level which many would say was the greatest showing in Premier League history. Pep has the highest odds on winning the sack race, and rightly so, as this season they look to have even more firepower with Mahrez arriving, and further stability with Foden and Laporte vying for first team action. They’ll probably win the league again, just hopefully not at such a canter to make things interesting. For now though, his bald-fraudometer reading remains at zero. Sack Race odds: 100/1 Manchester United – Jose Mourinho From the bookies’ least fancied, to their most fancied; Jose Mourinho is on the brink of destruction at Manchester United it would seem. Mourinho’s that fella that you have in your five-a-side team who does some daft skill in his own half, loses it, you concede, but he never accepts that he’s in the wrong it up, and instead throws a paddy and blames everyone else. He’s already fallen out with a plethora of people at Old Trafford including: Luke Shaw, Ed Woodward and even his own fans’ home support. Plus, with his reign at Chelsea ending in tears following a conspiracy and tirade against Eva Carneiro, we can expect some fireworks to fly during Mourinho press conferences this year, and further rifts between the man, the fans and the board will quite likely lead to Mourinho leaving the club before too long. Sack Race odds: 5/1 Newcastle United – Rafa Benitez Poor old Rafa. He’s always a gentleman and shouldn’t have to put up with the farcical nonsense that is Mike Ashley. He worked wonders keeping his paper thin side in the Premier League last season and he should have been rewarded with some impressive new recruits. Ashley being Ashley though (Newcastle haven’t broken their transfer record since signing Michael Owen in 2005) means that instead of quality new faces Benitez has been forced to search the bargain bins at Poundland yet again. For all of the above, I personally believe Rafa will be the manager to leave his club first. He won’t be sacked, surely Mike Ashley isn’t that stupid, instead Rafa may well step down. The man is simply too wonderful a coach to put up with the endless idiocy he’s been served up in the North East, and instead he should seek healthier options elsewhere. Sack Race odds: 8/1 Southampton – Mark Hughes I fully ate my words last season, when Hughes took over at Southampton I thought they were doomed, but he actually did a decent job and kept them in the league thanks to a few tidy results. I can’t help but not like Hughes though, maybe it’s his arrogant personality, maybe it’s that he cares way too much about handshakes, who knows. The Welshman’s issue this time round is the lack of new arrivals and the constant question of, where will the goals come from in this Southampton team? Will Charlie Austin be able to stay fit enough to kick it in the net? Wil the loan of Danny Ings be a success? Will Nathan Redmond finally be able to understand that you can run, kick and breathe all at once? Find out on this year’s edition of the Prem. Sack Race odds: 12/1 Tottenham Hotspur – Mauricio Pochettino First things first, Daniel Levy got a taste of his own medicine and completely fluffed this transfer window. After years of squeezing every penny out of teams to get a stellar deal, here’s a comprehensive list of Spurs’ 2018 summer signings: nobody. Pochettino would be safe at Spurs regardless of league position, but this shambolic transfer window means that he will get even more leeway in what is expected to be a disappointing league season following years of success. Plus, with Real Madrid plucking Lopetegui over Pochettino recently too, I don’t see any reason why Poch would depart the new White Hart Lane in the near future. Sack Race odds: 50/1 Watford – Javi Gracia I actually had to Google ‘who is the Watford manager?’ only to be greeted with the completely forgettable answer of Javi Gracia. Outside of a 4-1 win against Chelsea, his run at the helm of the Hornets has had very little sting behind it, which likely will continue through 2018/2019. Without a doubt Gracia will be relying on his defence in order to keep his team up, and salvage his own job. Last season their top scorer was Abdoulaye Doucouré (who I cannot believe wasn’t snapped up) with 7 goals, and their blunted strikeforce consists of a fat guy on £100,000 per week (Deeney), a fat guy with a poor injury history (Okaka) and a skinny guy who’s Premier League goal ratio is 1 in every 4.5 games (Gray). Sack Race odds: 8/1 West Ham – Manuel Pellegrini West Ham live in a constant state of insanity. Their board have consistently lied to the fans about plans, both on the pitch and in terms of the stadium change, leaving many long-time Hammers fans disgruntled with their beloved team. Stability may have arrived in the backroom however, as experienced head Manuel Pellegrini, who must have rocks in his head to take this role, takes to the hot seat at the London Stadium. Pairing such a successful manager with a plethora of exciting signings: Wilshire, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Sanchez and Perez amongst others, means that West Ham should be able to secure an impressive finish this time round. Sack Race odds: 18/1 Wolverhampton Wanderers – Nuno Espírito Santo Rounding off our band of merry men we have another gentleman who may become a victim of his own success. Wolves are back in the big time after six years of absence, and they’ve gone super-size on their transfer dealings, assembling arguably the most luscious squad a promoted side has ever forged. I question whether Nuno as the managerial nous required to cut it in the top division, and considering the fact that Wolves have gone all in this summer, they could end up searching for a more prestigious manager if a fast start escapes them. Fun fact though, Nuno was born in São Tomé and Príncipe, which is cool. Sack Race odds: 18/1 There you have it then folks, the Premier League sack (or leave you club because of gross mismanagement) is on. My front runners have to be Warnock, Mourinho and Benitez, but I’d love to here who’s job you are fearful for this time round.
The American/Canadian second division, the North American Soccer League, kicks off in two days. Here's my preview for those who want to learn a little more.
Whether you knew it or not, the North American Soccer League (NASL), America's second division, is kicking off in two days' time. There's been a whirlwind of activity in the preseason, with new teams coming in, broadcast deals being signed, and recognizable players joining up. I'm someone who follows the league pretty closely, and while I'm certainly not an expert analyst, I've taken some time to put together a capsule for each club competing to provide a brief introduction to the league. With that said, a quick overview of the NASL and its structure: The NASL is the second tier of U.S./Canadian soccer, having formed in 2011 after breaking away from the USL First Division. It is in no way connected to MLS. Twelve teams will compete in 2016 across two seasons - Spring and Fall. The Spring Season, being previewed here, consists of 10 games and will only feature 11 teams (Puerto Rico FC enters in the Fall). The Fall Season starts in July and will consist of 22 games. At the conclusion of the Fall Season, four teams - the Spring and Fall Season winners, along with the two remaining teams with the best overall records - will enter the Championship playoffs for a chance to win the Soccer Bowl Trophy. For a short recap on last season, you could watch my attempt at making a season review video. Oh, and be sure to check out /NASLSoccer! I'm over there a lot, and it's a good place to learn more. Got it? Alright, let’s get started. Team Name: Carolina RailHawks Location: Cary, North Carolina Manager:Colin Clarke Stadium:WakeMed Soccer Park History: Founded in 2006, Carolina was one of the breakaway members from the USL First Division that formed the NASL. The team's name is mean to represent both the rail lines that run directly across from the field and the hawks that are indigenous to the area. The RailHawks play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. In 2015, the RailHawks' owners, Traffic Sports, were indicted in a FIFA corruption scandal, leading to the sale of the club to local tech entrepreneur Stephen Malik. 2015 In Review: Carolina got off to a promising start in the spring, taking 14 points from 10 games and winning a 3rd place finish in the standings. Led by the creativity in the midfield of club legend Tiyi Shipalane and the goals up front from former Rangers striker Nacho Novo, the RailHawks picked up some good results at the beginning of the Fall Season as well. From that point, though, the wheels came off, particularly in road matches. Out of 10 away matches in the Fall, Carolina took just a single point. In the end, the result was 7th place in the Fall, and 6th in the combined table. 2016 Preview: The RailHawks marked their 10th anniversary in style off the field, inking a local TV deal, making stadium upgrades, and promising higher investment in the club. They doubled down on their commitment by re-signing club captain Connor Tobin as well as key players Tiyi Shipalane and Nazmi Albadawi. Then, they cleaned up by signing several high-level players, such as NASL Best XI midfielder James Marcelin, and former RailHawks Matt Watson and Akira Fitzgerald, who had most recently spent time in MLS. Carolina are the perfect example of a revamped and growing NASL: They've found a new owner who is excited and willing to spend, and they've invested all around the club and have reloaded their roster. Expect the RailHawks to challenge from right out of the gate in 2016. Key Players:Ty Shipalane, MF; Connor Tobin, MF; Nazmi Albadawi, MF One to Watch:Marvin Ceballos, MF. The Guatemalan international has been described as a "natural #10" by manager Colin Clarke and has the potential to be a breakout star for Carolina this year. Predicted Finish: 4th. I think they fly under the radar as a well put-together team, and pressure from FIFA scandal gone. This prediction could blow up in my face. Team Name: FC Edmonton Location: Edmonton, Alberta Manager:Colin Miller Stadium:Clarke Stadium History: Edmonton is a growing team, having only formed in 2010, just in time for the first NASL season. The Eddies are slight rivals with Minnesota United, participating in the Flyover Cup and raising money for charities together. Edmonton is currently the furthest west of all NASL teams, and has struggled with attendance figures as well as play on the field. Their best season finish was 5th place, and the closest they've been to a championship was the league's quarterfinals in its first year of existence. 2015 In Review: Despite progress made in 2014, things turned south for the league's northernmost club in the Spring Season of 2015. Two wins meant a 10th place finish out of 11. The Eddies' relief came in the form of a Canadian Championship cup run, in which they came inches away from defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the semifinal, only to be knocked out by a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time. In the fall, results picked up for Edmonton. Lance Laing marked his record third appearance in the league's Best XI with eight goals and seven assists throughout the Spring and Fall Seasons, but the team suffered when he was on international duty with Jamaica. The team's playoff hopes fell away during the final five games of the season, during which they found only one point. FC Edmonton finished 5th in the Fall and 7th in the combined table. 2016 Preview: Edmonton would seem to be in a spot of trouble. Over the offseason, winger Lance Laing, who put the Eddies on his back at times, left to join Minnesota United. So, FC Edmonton made some changes. In the front office, they added Jay Ball as general manager; Ball played a significant role in the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada. On the field, they brought back Daryl Fordyce, the club's all-time leading scorer, and made a splash by signing Canadian international Nik Ledgerwood from Germany. Manager Colin Miller called it the most promising offseason in club history, and proceeded to sign the Senegalese center back Papé Diakité and Jake Keegan, 2nd-top scorer in the League of Ireland last season. With the roster set, Edmonton toured Great Britain, showing well in several friendly across the pond. With a lackluster history and a star player missing, Edmonton will look to defy the odds in 2016. Key Players:Albert Watson, DF; Daryl Fordyce, FW; Nik Ledgerwood, DF/MF One to Watch:Allan Zebie, MF. An FC Edmonton youth product and Canada youth international, Zebie, only 22, has established himself as the Eddies' regular right back. This year, he could move to a whole new level. Predicted Finish: 6th. Laing is gone, but most of the roster returns, aided by savvy signings. Team Name: Fort Lauderdale Strikers Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida Manager:Caio Zanardi Stadium:Lockhart Stadium History: As one of the members of the original NASL, the Strikers have a history dating back to 1977. The team signed some of the world's finest players, including Gordon Banks, George Best, and Gerd Müller. After moving to Minnesota, a second Strikers team popped up in Fort Lauderdale in 1988, playing for six years in the American Soccer League (ASL) and the American Professional Soccer League (APSL). The current incarnation, founded in 2006 as Miami FC, rebranded into the Strikers before the first season of the new NASL. In 2014, after a loss in the NASL final, the club made international headlines when Brazilian legend Ronaldo joined their ownership group. In 2015, the low-budget club shocked the league by once again making the playoffs. 2015 In Review: Following the Spring Season, there weren't many optimists left in the Strikers camp. After dumping most of 2014's star players (Fafà Picault, their star player, went to Europe; Pecka moved to Real Salt Lake), the firing of head coach Günter Kronsteiner, and the flop of much-hyped signing Leo Moura, Fort Lauderdale limped to an 8th place finish in the Spring. The Fall was a different story. After re-signing Kronsteiner, a young Strikers team turned it all around. Fluminense loanees Marlon Freitas and Stefano Pinho shined, with Pinho topping the NASL scoring charts and winning the league MVP award. James Marcelin joined Pinho in the league's Best XI, and midfielder PC just missed out. The Strikers finished 4th in the Fall, and a win against Jacksonville on the last day propelled them to 4th in the overall standings as well, giving them a semifinals spot. The fairy tale ended in New York, with the Cosmos coming from behind to win 2-1 en route to the NASL Championship game. 2016 Preview: For the past two years, Fort Lauderdale has been the surprise team of the league. This year, the rest of the NASL will be as prepared as they can, but the Strikers still present a bit of a mystery. After squeezing into the playoffs in 2015, the team once again dismantled its roster, letting go of manager Günter Kronsteiner (again), watching the league's MVP and top scorer Stefano Pinho leave for Minnesota, and parting ways with Best XI midfielder James Marcelin, who signed with Carolina. In response, Fort Lauderdale ramped up operations: They created a reserve team in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), announced a whole wave of staff appointments, expanded partnerships and advertisements, got a TV deal, hosted an international tournament, and toured China. They also made some big-name signings, inking World Cup winner Kléberson, Brazilian veterans Adrianinho & Bruno Cardoso, U.S. youth internationals and UEFA Champions League-experienced players. And they unveiled their new jerseys on a yacht. Yeah, what can I say? The Strikers have big ambitions, and they've moved on from being a low-budget side that scraped past other teams. So will new investment bring more success? We'll have to see. Key Players:Kléberson, MF; PC MF; Adrianinho, MF One to Watch:Matheus Carvalho, FW. Carvalho has a solid pedigree, having played a few minutes for Monaco in last year's UEFA Champions League. It's possible he could be a welcome surprise in South Florida. Predicted Finish: 7th. So much change on this roster, and several star players past their primes. Team Name: Indy Eleven Location: Indianapolis, Indiana Manager:Tim Hankinson Stadium:Carroll Stadium History: After years of calls for a professional soccer team in Indianapolis from the Brickyard Battalion (the Eleven's main supporter group), the dream was finally realized in 2013. That year, legendary American soccer executive Peter Wilt announced that he would become the president of Indy Eleven, a team that started play in 2014. Despite struggles on the field, Indy Eleven became the first American soccer team to sell out all its home games in its inaugural home season. Wilt left on good terms in 2016 to pursue a Chicago NASL project. 2015 In Review: After a disappointing first year on the field, things didn't get much better in 2015 for Indy Eleven, though they did once again lead the league in attendance. Star player Kléberson picked up a season-ending achilles injury, and the Eleven won only one in their first eight matches. That record, combined with an embarrassing U.S. Open Cup defeat at home to USL's Louisville City FC, led to the firing of head coach Juergen Sommer. His replacement, interim coach Tim Regan, won the final two games to elevate Indy to 5th in the Spring. However, any playoff aspirations fell away in the Fall, as a string of bad results climaxed with a 7-1 loss in Fort Lauderdale en route to a 9th place finish in the Fall Season and combined standings. Indy could find a silver lining with the strong performances of several youngsters, such as Dylan Mares and Duke Lacroix. 2016 Preview: With one of the largest fanbases in the league and some of the worst performances, Indy are under pressure to finally turn around its performance. To start, they stripped down most of the team to just a couple of players, and hired long-time manager Tim Hankinson to construct a rebuild. Hankinson piled on MLS experience, inking Jon Busch, Siniša Ubiparipović, Justin Braun, Lovel Palmer, and Gorka Larrea, among others. Preseason did not go well, with most friendlies ending in defeat or stalemate to lower-division and university teams, and several players picking up injuries. That said, this Eleven squad is better than any other that has taken the field, and have a good mix of senior players and up-and-comers that are ready to deliver. Key Players:Dylan Mares, MF; Brad Ring, MF; Siniša Ubiparipović, MF One to Watch:Duke Lacroix, FW. It's time to meet the 22-year-old forward every soccer fan in Indianapolis is talking about. Lacroix got a chance last year, and electrified on the wing. This season, he'll hope to earn a starting job. Predicted Finish: 8th. If one of the new central striker signings turns good, they'll have a real chance in this league. If not? Expect the same as before. Team Name: Jacksonville Armada FC Location: Jacksonville, Florida Manager:Tony Meola Stadium:Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville History: Announced on July 25, 2013, Jacksonville's team was christened as Armada FC on February 18, 2014. The Armada was the only expansion side to join the league in 2015, lead by the ownership collective Sunshine Soccer Group and club president Steve Livingstone. The team chose to play at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville and quickly established themselves in the top tier of NASL attendances, although they didn't do as well on the field. 2015 In Review: Jacksonville got off to a fast start, with Jemal Johnson scoring seconds into their first game as the Armada went on to win three out of its first five. That was the best run of form the team would see all year. After finishing a respectable 6th in the Spring, the Armada fell into a slump, finishing last both in the Fall Season and combined table. The team fired its first manager, José Luis Villarreal, after attempting to give him a co-managerial role with Guillermo Hoyos. The club later fired Hoyos after giving him a contract through 2019 months earlier. 2016 Preview: The Armada began their offseason with a big statement of intention, hiring former USA goalkeeper Tony Meola as head coach. After an unsuccessful inaugural year, much of 2015's roster did not make it back. Instead, Jacksonville refined it by looking to the lower leagues. They signed NASL Best XI midfielder Richie Ryan, USL MVP Matt Fondy, and USL Defender of the Year Bryan Burke, in effect establishing a small collection of some of the best players below MLS last season. Just before the season began, the Armada suffered a blow as young standout Akeil Barrett transferred to the Swedish second division. Yet, after a preseason that included promising signings and friendlies, Jacksonville seem ready to move up the table. Key Players:Alhassane Keita, FW; Mechak Jérôme, DF; Matt Fondy, FW One to Watch:Charles Eloundou, FW. Once a highly-touted prospect, Eloundou, 21, saw his career stall with the Colorado Rapids (MLS). Now settled in Jacksonville, this year may be his opportunity to shine. Predicted Finish: 9th. Good first steps, but still a lot to do after finishing bottom of the table last year. Team Name: Miami FC Location: Miami, Florida Manager:Alessandro Nesta Stadium:FIU Stadium History: Unrelated to the original Miami FC (now the Fort Lauderdale Strikers), this team was founded in 2015 and kicked off in 2016. Miami attracted international attention with its ownership (entrepreneur Riccardo Silva and former Italy legend Paolo Maldini) as well as its first head coach (Maldini's Italy teammate Alessandro Nesta). The team began play at FIU Stadium. 2016 Preview: Expansion teams are often an enigma, and the organization of Miami FC is no different. Founded in the eye of a storm of MLS rumors (Miami Beckham United FC?), the brains behind Miami FC will likely want to get off to a running start in order to attract the sort of attention with soccer fans that can make them viable in the city and sustainable into the future. To that end, Miami brought in two star: Dario Cvitanich, who has scored goals and seen success with big clubs all over the world, and Wilson Palacios, the English Premier League veteran with nearly 100 Honduras caps under his belt. Mostly, though, the roster is filled out by players with NASL experience (Pablo Campos, Jaimé Chavez, etc.) and up-and-comers looking to make a name for themselves. In many ways, this is a similar approach that other past expansion teams have taken, with mixed results. The real question for 2016 might be just how well Miami FC establishes a fanbase in an unknown market. Key Players:Wilson Palacios, MF; Darío Cvitanich, FW; Matuzalem, MF One to Watch:Blake Smith, MF. Making his return to North American soccer after a year in hiatus, Smith is an unknown quantity. However, if he re-creates the kind of success he saw in Montreal and Indy, he could be a vital part of Miami's attack. Predicted Finish: 11th. Similar construction as previous expansion teams may yield similar results. Team Name: Minnesota United FC Location: Blaine, Minnesota Manager:Carl Craig Stadium:National Sports Center History: Professional soccer in Minnesota began with the Minnesota Kicks of the old NASL, but Minnesota has had a continuous presence of professional soccer since the founding of the Minnesota Thunder in 1990. When that team folded due to the financial shadiness of owner Dean Johnson, a new series of teams all slightly related to one another emerged. The NSC Minnesota Stars were launched in 2010, but the ownership of National Sports Center in Blaine, MN lasted only a season before the NASL took over the team. In 2011, the Stars won the Soccer Bowl for the first time in the new era of the NASL. In 2012, the team rebranded as Minnesota Stars FC and again went to the final, where they lost to Tampa Bay in penalties. The team was league-owned at the time and many fans and players thought that without a win in the final (thinking the league wouldn't dare let its champion fold), the team would no longer have a future. However, after the crushing loss, news began to leak out that the team had found an owner. In 2013, Dr. Bill McGuire (formerly of United Healthcare Group) purchased the Minnesota Stars and rebranded them as Minnesota United FC. The team is supported by the Dark Clouds, a supporters group founded in the Thunder days. They are known for their bizarre brand of "Jackassery," which is ecstatic support that opposes macho, wannabe hooliganism. They have a gameday zine called the Jackassery Times-Heckler and worship the god DETHLOON. The club announced a move to Major League Soccer in 2017 or 2018, pending the construction of a downtown stadium. 2015 In Review: Buoyed off the field by an MLS expansion announcement, Minnesota continued to show stellar performances on it. Although star player Miguel Ibarra transferred to Mexican club Léon, replacements brought in (including Ibson and Khalif Alhassan) proved to be up to the challenge. A fourth place finish in the Spring was strong, if not ideal. In the Fall, an incredible run of eight wins in 10 matches led to a 2nd place finish. United were 3rd in the overall standings, and Christian Ramirez scored the second-most goals in the league, just missing a second consecutive Golden Boot. In their playoff semifinal in Ottawa, Ramirez's penalty gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead, but an equalizer and extra time winner from opposition forward Tom Heinemann led to an end to their season. 2016 Preview: This could be Minnesota's last year in the NASL, and they're offseason move show a determination to leave with a trophy in both hands. In preparation for the move to MLS, Manny Lagos (manager since 2010) became Sporting Director, and assistant Carl Craig moved up to become head coach. The team returns all four of its Best XI players from 2015: Justin Davis, Ibson, Christian Ramirez, and Kevin Venegas. It made further inroads by signing two other Best XI members: Lance Laing, who carried FC Edmonton and became a regular with Jamaica, and Stefano Pinho, who was named the league's best player and won the Golden Boot with Fort Lauderdale. Is there any stopping this team? Well, while United obviously has an unparalleled attack, there are questions on the defensive side, with the team having lost preseason games 0-4, 0-4, and 1-3 to MLS sides. If defense does not turn out to be a problem, though, this is a side that could really challenge for both the league title and a position deep in the U.S. Open Cup. Key Players:Christian Ramirez, FW; Stefano Pinho, FW; Justin Davis, DF One to Watch:Greg Jordan, MF. Minnesota are clearly looking for MLS-ready players this year, and Greg Jordan could be a sleeper pick to move up with them. Since falling out of favor in Philadelphia, he's had a dependable two seasons with the Loons, and will look to step up his game in 2016. Predicted Finish: 3rd. May take some time for new players to settle, and who know how MLS move will divert their focus, but they'll be competitive no matter what. Team Name: New York Cosmos Location: Hempstead, New York Manager:Giovanni Savarese Stadium:Shuart Stadium History: The New York Cosmos brand is one of the greatest in all of world soccer, and their teams in the original NASL were arguably better than any American sides that have come before or since. Centered around players like Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer, and of course, the legendary Pelé, New York won five Soccer Bowls and became a global phenomenon. Since the team folded, there have been many attempts to revive it. This one is the first to get a real team on the field. The modern iteration of the Cosmos kicked off in the Fall Season of 2013, won the championship the same year, and won it again in 2015 with Real Madrid legend Raúl. 2015 In Review: After announcing the signing of illustrious Spanish forward Raúl, the Cosmos cemented their place as the biggest spenders with the biggest names in the NASL. 2015 marked the final seasons for Raúl and fellow former Spanish international Marcos Senna, and New York looked to send them off with a storybook ending. In the Spring Season, everything went to plan, with the Cosmos winning the title by a point and securing a playoff spot early. A high point came in the team's U.S. Open Cup victory over New York City FC on penalties, though they would later be knocked out by the New York Red Bulls. The Cosmos stayed strong in the Fall with a 3rd place finish, benefitting through performances from NASL Young Player of the Year Leo Fernandes (on loan from Philadelphia Union) and team MVP Ayoze. The Cosmos won the combined season with 56 points, edging Ottawa on goal differential. In the semifinal, the Cosmos came from behind to beat Fort Lauderdale 2-1. Hosting the Championship, relatively new signing Gastón Cellerino scored a hat trick in a 3-2 victory as Raúl and Senna lifted their final trophy. 2016 Preview: With the retirement of Raúl and Marcos Senna, the departure of star winger Walter Restrepo and formerly on-loan Leo Fernandes (both to Philadelphia), and the exit of championship hero Gastón Cellerino, this could have been a transition year for New York. But the New York Cosmos don't rebuild. They reload. This offseason, the Cosmos put together one of the most stunning collections of signings this league has ever seen. To recap: The two biggest names are Niko Kranjčar and Juan Arango, both vastly experienced players who have played at the very top of world soccer; senior internationals include Jairo Arrieta (Costa Rica), David Ochieng (Kenya), Michael Lahoud (Sierra Leone), Yohandry Orozco (Venezuela), and Yasmani Duk; other signings include Gabriel Farfan (MLS/Liga MX experience) and two U.S. youth internationals. On paper, it is hard to argue any team is better than the Cosmos. How the pieces of the puzzle come together is the only question left. Key Players:Danny Szetela, MF; Niko Kranjčar, MF; Juan Arango, MF One to Watch:Yohandry Orozco, MF. So, get this, right? There's player in his prime, who plays regularly for his country, had experience with Wolfsburg, and he's coming to the NASL? You'd better believe it, and Orozco has all the skills to make a huge impact. Predicted Finish: 1st. I've been wrong before with this team, but there's just too much talent to deny. Team Name: Ottawa Fury FC Location: Ottawa, Ontario Manager:Paul Dalglish Stadium:TD Place Stadium History: A longtime candidate for expansion, Ottawa was welcomed into the league in 2011, with the Ottawa Fury name being decided in 2013. The Fury were a fromer PDL franchise, and brought a history of support with it. The club shares a new stadium (as well as ownership) with the Canadian Football League Ottawa RedBlacks. In 2015, the team surged to the Championship final, but lost to the New York Cosmos. 2015 In Review: Few would have predicted Ottawa Fury's run to the NASL Championship after the Fall Season. Despite making a splash by bringing in Canadian international Julian De Guzman, the results failed to come, and the Fury found themselves in 9th place. In the Fall, though, coach Marc Dos Santos' plan clicked. A back line marshaled by NASL Best XI goalkeeper Romuald Peiser and defender Rafael Alves recorded eight shutouts, and an offense led by the connection between midfielder Siniša Ubiparipović (eight assists total) and forward Tom Heinemann (12 goals total) resulted in one loss in 20 games, and a Fall Season title. Heinemann's two goals in the semifinal knocked out Minnesota United, but the Fury ultimately fell short of the Championship in New York, losing 3-2 to the New York Cosmos. 2016 Preview: After falling short in the Championship, the Ottawa Fury had the offseason from Hell. First, Manager of the Year Marc Dos Santos left to be an assistant and reserve team coach for Sporting Kansas City (MLS). Then, many of the key players in the run to the final chose to part ways: Tom Heinemann, who scored every playoff goal, went to Tampa Bay; Colin Falvey, Ryan Richter, and Mason Trafford, who all started on the back line in the Championship, moved on; Best XI midfielder Richie Ryan left for Jacksonvile, playmaker Siniša Ubiparipović went to Indy, and starting winger Andrew Wiedeman moved to Cinicinnati in USL. Reinforcements have come, mostly in the form of other lower league players, but almost all will have to prove themselves before being considered adequate replacements. If I have to pick one out, the signing to keep an eye on will be Marcel De Jong, the Canadian international brought in who should play as a left back. The Fury will also be bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Romuald Peiser, who won the league's Golden Glove in 2015 and was named /NASLSoccer's player of the year. Key Players:Julian de Guzman, MF; Rafael Alves, DF; Romuald Peiser, GK One to Watch:Mauro Eustáquio, MF. Last year, Eustáquio impressed in the midfield when filling in for injured players. With so many departures, the youngster now has a chance to play well and force his way onto the Canadian national team. Predicted Finish: 10th. This team got completely picked apart in the offseason. They could turn out okay, but they'll have work to do to prove me wrong. Team Name: Rayo OKC Location: Yukon, Oklahoma Manager:Alen Marcina Stadium:Miller Stadium History: A fierce battle between the NASL and USL PRO for a team in Oklahoma City ended with both leagues announcing expansions in the city. The USL put together Oklahoma Energy FC in 2013. Meanwhile, the owners of Oklahoma City FC, a Premier Development League (PDL) team, decided to run an NASL side, but an ownership group breakup in 2014 caused a delay to the project. Eventually, Spanish La Liga club Rayo Vallecano partnered with the organization to form what is now known as Rayo OKC. The team name was announced in November 2015, and began play at Miller Stadium in 2016. **2016 Preview: As much of an enigma I've said Miami FC have been as an expansion team, it's safe to say Rayo OKC have been even more of a mystery. The organization was derided at first, dismissed due to the involvement from a struggling foreign team and its juxtaposition to the already-successful Energy. However, its initial roster has made fans sit up and take notice. Five World Cup veterans and nine national team players headline the squad, which includes illustrious Greek striker Georgios Samaras. Rayo has built its team using players with experience in European leagues (say, Yuma and Juanan) and players who have found success in MLS (Michel, Sebastian Velasquez) and the NASL (Billy Forbes, Erick Norales). Expansion teams typically take time to fare well, but if there's any that might have a chance at making a first impression by challenging for a title, this could be the one. Key Players:Robbie Findley, FW; Derek Boateng, MF; Georgios Samaras, FW One to Watch:Billy Forbes, FW. Over the past two years, Billy Forbes has become the breakout sensation of the league with the San Antonio Scorpions. With the Scorpions dissolving, Rayo OKC won their most prized asset in Forbes, who should certainly get a look-in from former San Antonio coach Alen Marcina. Predicted Finish: 5th. So much talent, but need to build some chemistry and fan support. Team Name: Tampa Bay Rowdies Location: St. Petersburg, Florida Manager:Stuart Campbell Stadium:Al Lang Stadium History: An original NASL team, the Rowdies won a championship in their first year (1975) and continued to impress until the league collapsed in 1985. The Rowdies kept playing in lower leagues until 1993. In 2008, the team was reborn again, with the vision of recreating its old glory days. However, because of legal problems, the team simply went by FC Tampa Bay until 2012, when the old moniker returned, along with a Soccer Bowl title won on penalties over Minnesota Stars FC. In 2014, the team was purchased by St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards, who promised to take the Rowdies to the next level. 2015 In Review: Following a frustrating 2014 season, manager Ricky Hill got the boot, and the Rowdies began building a new roster with the prolific coach Thomas Rongen. Under Rongen, the ball started to roll, and the Rowdies finished 2nd in the Spring Season, just one point behind the New York Cosmos. In July, Tampa Bay made waves by signing former U.S. international Freddy Adu. However, the Fall Season got off to a rough start. After securing only seven points in eight games, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards fired Rongen and general manager Farrukh Quraishi. Under new manager Stuart Campbell, Tampa Bay fell further, eventually finishing 8th in the Fall and 5th overall, missing out on the playoffs by just two points. 2016 Preview: In the third year of the Bill Edwards era, Tampa Bay is under big pressure to finally make the playoffs. The Rowdies haven't been the loudest team in the offseason, and have perhaps been overshadowed by some of their neighbors in Florida, but the transition from 2015 to 2016 has been smooth. Key players were re-signed, including defensive rock Tamika Mkandawire, Freddy Adu, and 2014 MVP Georgi Hristov. They bet big on bringing in Tom Heinemann, the striker who lit Ottawa's season on fire in the second half of 2015. And they brought in a good collection of supplementary players, such as Neil Collins (200+ games in the English Football League), Danny Mwanga (100+ MLS games) and Eric Avila (170+ MLS games). The Rowdies toured England in the preseason, scoring some impressive results (a draw with Stoke City; a win over Notts County). After an offseason that was, for once, not quite tumultuous, it may be Tampa's time to shine in 2016. Key Players:Georgi Hristov, FW; Tom Heinemann, FW; Freddy Adu, MF One to Watch:Darwin Espinal, FW. Only 21, Espinal is already having an impact on Honduran youth national teams. He's got several good forwards to compete with on this roster, but he could well become one of the best. Predicted Finish: 2nd. This could be the year it all comes together for the Rowdies. Predicted Spring Standings:
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The World Cup top scorers list always contains a number of familiar names, many of whom are likely to be the focal point of their side. Players who come off the back of a productive season domestically are always priced at shorter odds whilst those featuring for fancied teams such as France are also likely to be placed prominently in the betting odds. It was extremely hard to get any Champions League predictions correct back then as teams with long Champions League betting odds managed to lift the trophy on a few occasions. The tournament then changed completely. It was renamed the UEFA Champions League in the 1992-93 season and expanded with top-ranked countries given up to four places to World Cup Top Goalscorer Odds - 28/1 (29.0) Lewandowski's odds of 28/1 (29.0) make him one of the lively outsiders to win the Golden Boot, but that does not mean he should be written off. The FIFA Soccer World Cup kicks off in June with 32 teams battling for the title of world champions. Although 32 teams will take part only a handful have a realistic chance of lifting the trophy and this is reflected in the current world cup betting odds. World Cup Top Goalscorer Odds and Predictions Champions League Betting Odds & Predictions; he also has an outside chance of emerging as the top scorer at this World Cup, with the same odds as his compatriot Antoine Griezmann. Luka Modric.
Rugby World Cup Futures Betting Odds, Early Predictions & Betting Tips
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