Premier League Season Review

As the latest football season comes to a close, the English Premier League has once again proved itself as the superior domestic league across the world.

A nail-biting title race between Manchester City and Liverpool, full of twists and excitement stretched all the way to the final day of the season, with fans of all clubs hooked.

There were also fantastic European campaigns for Liverpool and Spurs, who meet in Madrid for the Champions League Final and Chelsea and Arsenal, who will travel to Baku to battle for the Europa League. Today we will look back on another emphatic season and see who were the standout players, teams and managers of 2018/19.

 

Manager of the Season:

Josep Guardiola – Manchester City

Following last season’s record 100 points haul for the season, Guardiola became the first manager in Premier League history to successfully retain the title. Playing an elegant, attacking style of football, similar to that of Pep’s former Barcelona side, City won 32 of their 38 league games, scoring 95 goals. This also included an impressive 14 game consecutive winning run to finish the season and beat Liverpool to the prize by just a single point.

 

Player of the Season:

Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk has had a major impact on Liverpool since joining in 2017/18, with the Dutch defender becoming a clear fans favourite at Anfield this season. Powerful in the air, strong in the tackle and comfortable in possession, the commanding centre-half helped Liverpool to their highest ever Premier League points total, keeping 20 clean sheets in the process. Van Dijk has also contributed with some important goals at the other end for the Red’s and is now regarded by many as the top defender in world football. A worthy winner.

 

Surprise Package:

Wolves – 7th Place

One of the biggest surprises of the season was the success of Wolves. Promoted from the Championship the previous season, Wolves could yet be playing in Europe next season following a 7th place finish should Manchester City defeat Watford in the FA Cup Final. With their resilient defending and fast counter attacking approach, Manager Nuno Espirato Santo has gained plenty of plaudits for his side’s performances, with impressive defeats of Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal at Molineux this season. The strike partnership between Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota in particular has been key to the sides success with 13 and 9 goals respectively.

 

Under Performers of the Season:

Manchester United – 6th Place

Yet another disappointing campaign at Old Trafford. Arguably the world’s biggest club, United have missed out on Champions League football for next season with many question marks now clouding over the futures of a number of players. Despite spending millions of the playing squad, 3-time Premier League champion Jose Mourinho was unable to meet expectations and was shown the door. His replacement, former United goal scorer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived, and despite an initial up-turn in form, it appears as though the wheels may have come off for Ole, with his long-term future now also looking uncertain. A big summer rebuild required.

 

Signing of the Season:

Salomon Rondon – Newcastle United

Venezuelan frontman Salomon Rondon has enjoyed a successful season for Newcastle since joining on a year-long loan from relegated West Brom last summer. Identified by manager Rafa Benitez as the man to lead the line for the magpies, Rondon has been involved in 47% of United’s goals this season, having contributed 8 assists in addition to his 10 top-flight strikes. With West Brom failing to achieve promotion back to the Premier League, Rondon’s contract contains a £16.5 million release clause, however it remains to be seen whether he returns to St James’ Park next season.

AFC Ajax Academy Success Stories

After a 4-1 win over Real Madrid in this year’s UEFA Champions League, Ajax have earned themselves a quarter final match up against Italian giants Juventus. They have one of the most famous youth academies in world football, a set up which has been copied and envied by clubs all over the globe.

We have taken a look at some of the academy’s best success stories over the years.


Christian Eriksen

Eriksen began his youth career at Ajax in 2008 and made his breakthrough to the first team in a 1-1 draw against NAC Breda. Eriksen went on to play 113 times for Ajax, also earning an international call up for Denmark whilst in the Eredivisie.

Eriksen moved to Tottenham for a fee of £11 million in 2013 and has gone on to become one of the most recognisable figures in the English Premier League. The Dane, following in the footsteps of compatriots Michael and Brian Laudrup, became an icon at Ajax in an era when they were losing some of their status in European terms. Eriksen’s subtle football and vision were a reminder of the club’s fine creators of the past. Inevitably, his talent outgrew the confines of the Netherlands, but he patiently waited for what he felt was the right stage of his maturity to move to Tottenham Hotspur.

Wesley Sneijder

Sneijder began his career at Ajax, joining the youth academy in 1991 as a seven-year-old, following the footsteps of his brother. He made his first professional appearance in February 2003 in a 6-0 win against Willem II. After leaving the Amsterdam giants, Sneijder went on to play for clubs such as Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Galatasaray. Classed by many as a brilliant, diminutive playmaker, Sneijder inherited the fabled number 10 jersey at Ajax and made 126 appearances for the club.

Real Madrid paid an eye-catching €27 million for Sneijder in 2007 and he won the Primera Liga with Madrid. Upon joining Inter Milan, the midfielder won a Serie A title and the 2010 Champions League whilst guiding for the Netherlands, for whom he holds the record for appearances, to the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.

Rafael van der Vaart

Midfielder Van der Vaart spent seven years at the Ajax youth academy, between 1993 and 2000. He went on to make 117 appearances and score 52 goals in a five year stretch with the 1st team. Van der Vaart has made over 400 professional football appearances scoring 135 goals, for clubs such as Real Madrid, Tottenham, Hamburg and Real Betis. Van der Vaart represented his country in three World Cups and three European Championships.

Ryan Babel

Ryan Babel began his career at Ajax in 1998, staying with the youth squad for six years until 2004. Whilst he was still 17, Babel made his first team debut in a 4-0-win vs. ADO Den Haag. He scored his first senior goal against De Graafschap in a 5-0 win and went on to make 54 appearances for the Dutch national team. Since leaving AFC Ajax, Babel has appeared for Liverpool, Hoffenheim, Besiktas and Fulham.

 


Daley Blind

Following on from his father, Danny, Daley Blind joined the Ajax Youth Academy in 1998. Consistently performing with the A-juniors in the 2006-07 season, Blind earned his place in the first team in the 2008-09 season, signing his first professional contract aged 17. Blind’s debut arrived later that season, in December 2008, in an away match vs. FC Volendam. Blind went on to play his trade for Manchester United before returning to his boyhood club in 2018. To date Blind has made 60 appearance for the Netherlands, scoring two international goals.

 

Edgar Davids

Davids made his senior debut in 1991. Recognized by Pelé as one of the world’s 100 greatest living footballers, Edgar Davids, a Suriname native, is one of the most complete midfielders to have played the game in the last twenty-five years. Davids spent six years in the youth set up at AFC Ajax before spending five successful years in the first-team.  Moves to AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and a return to Ajax were all part of his impressive football CV.

 

Dennis Bergkamp

Bergkamp joined Ajax Academy at the age of 11. Working his way through the squads, Bergkamp was handed his debut by another academy legend, Johan Cruyff, in a 2-0 victory against Roda JC. Winning the league title, the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Cup on one occasion. Bergkamp moved to Inter Milan in 1993 and won the UEFA Cup once in his 2 years at the club. Bergkamp then moved to Arsenal in 1995 and became a club legend. Winning the Premier League on 3 occasions, being part of the team that went unbeaten in a season. Bergkamp came runner-up in the 1993 Ballon d’Or and 3rd place in 1992. He was also named in the Fifa 100, which is a list created by Pele of the 100 greatest living players.

 

Fancy following in the footsteps of Ajax’s superstars of past and present? Trans World Educational Experiences offer bespoke football tour experiences to some of Europe’s premier football destinations, including our Amsterdam Football Development Tours. For more information, visit our enquiry form here and allow us to prepare a sample itinerary for you. 

Champions League Last 16 Preview

With some huge ties in store in Europe’s elite club competition and places in the quarter finals at stake, we take a look ahead to this week’s fixtures in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

  1. Borussia Dortmund – Tottenham

No team in Champions League history has failed to qualify after winning their first leg 3-0 at home, and there’s no doubt Spurs are strong favourites to go through to the last eight in Germany tonight. With Harry Kane’s recent return to the side and the Premier League title race pulling away from them, Pochettino has said his side are going to Germany tonight to win.

However, after a disappointing first leg performance and the backing of the Signal Iduna crowd, Dortmund should not be written off just yet. The expected return of Marco Reus tonight will also be a big bonus for the home side who will be fancied by many to win the game tonight despite the overall tie looking like it is beyond them.

Players to watch: Harry Kane, Marco Reus

Score prediction: 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

 

  1. Real Madrid – Ajax

The weekend’s El Clasico defeat has left Real Madrid with a mountain to climb in the battle for the La Liga title, and it looks like Real will yet again be forced to put all their efforts into the Champions League. As with the majority of their season so far, Madrid were unconvincing in the first leg and it would have to be said Ajax were hard done by.

Ajax go into the game with nothing to lose and their attacking style of football could cause problems for a struggling Madrid side who will be without their suspended captain Sergio Ramos. Overall, Madrid should qualify but they will have to improve drastically if they are to be in with a chance of retaining their Champions League title.

Players to watch: Kasper Dolberg, Mathias De Ligt

Score prediction: 1-1

 

  1. PSG – Man Utd

Manchester United will go into Wednesday night’s fixture not fancied by many to go through. However, they would not be the first team to go to the Parc De Princes and get a result against a PSG side who go into the second leg with a fairly comfortable lead. With a squad full of European superstars it is hard to see past another positive result for the Parisians.

This game will probably come down to who has the stronger starting 11, with both missing fairly big names over the last few weeks. For United to go through it’ll take a huge performance from the big names like Lukaku and Pogba, but if Mbappe performs for PSG, being the game changer that he is, United could again struggle for a result.

Players to watch: Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe

Score Prediction: 2-1 PSG

 

  1. Porto – Roma

In the last 15 years, Porto have never qualified for the quarter finals of the Champions League after losing the first leg of their Round of 16 tie. This doesn’t bode well for a side that also lost track in the Portuguese league title race at the weekend after a loss to bitter rivals Benfica. However an away goal in the Italian capital two weeks ago means that the tie is far from over.

Roma, 2-1 winners in the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico, will fancy their chances in Portugal. A Roma goal will mean Porto have to score two to take the game to extra time and the Italians will set up to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Players to watch: Nicolo Zaniolo, Mousa Marega

Score Prediction: 1-0 Porto

Top Five January Signings So Far

With the Premier League season now at the halfway stage and the hectic Christmas schedule having a big impact at both ends of the league table, the January transfer window offers sides the perfect opportunity to add to their sides.

Whether it be a striker for some much-needed goals or someone to tighten up the defence in order to push on in the second half of the season, the January window is always a busy one.

In today’s blog we will review the top 5 January signings so far and provide an insight as to what to expect from each player.

5.    Jason PUNCHEON  –  Crystal Palace > Huddersfield (loan)

Bottom of the table Huddersfield are currently 8 points adrift from safety and look certain to return to the Championship after just two seasons. The Yorkshiremen have struggled to pick up results so far this season and have since parted company with former manager David Wagner. Before his departure however, Wagner did manage to secure the loan signing of midfielder Puncheon from rivals Crystal Palace until the end of the season. Puncheon, 32, will help to bring in some much-needed premier league experience for this season’s strugglers, with the Englishman set for his 200th top flight appearance in the coming weeks. The Terriers will be hopeful that Puncheon can add goals and assists from midfield for the league’s lowest scorers in what already appears to be a mammoth task to survive the drop.

4.    Nathaniel CLYNE  –  Liverpool > Bournemouth (loan)

Bournemouth have enjoyed a mixed season so far under manager Eddie Howe. The Cherries got off to a flyer with an impressive run of results early in the season leaving them in a lofty position in the league. However, in recent months results have taken a turn and Bournemouth have slowly began sliding down the table, coinciding with regular right back and club captain Simon Francis being ruled out for up to 9 months with injury. As a result, the club have moved to bring in full-back Nathaniel Clyne from Liverpool on a loan short term deal. Clyne, an England international has struggled for game time recently due to consistent injury problems and has fallen down the pecking order at Anfield. Blessed with lightning pace, Clyne can provide a major impact at both ends of the pitch provided he can rediscover his form shown in past seasons.

3.    Ryan BABEL – Besiktas > Fulham (loan)

Another one of this season’s strugglers, Fulham, have signed former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel from Turkish side Besiktas. Dutch international Babel, 32, has signed for Claudio Ranieri’s side on a temporary deal until the end of the season. No stranger to the Premier League following a previous three-and-a-half-year spell at Anfield, Babel will be sure to excite fans with his creative flair and hope to ease the burden on striker Alexander Mitrovic to get the goals to keep the London club in the Premier League. Despite his best years probably behind him, Babel will join Fulham as a player with a good pedigree on both the club and international stage and bring some much-valued experience to what is a relatively young squad.

2.    Christian PULISIC  –  Borussia Dortmund > Chelsea (£58mil, loan back)

The first major transfer story of the 2019 January window was the announcement of US International Christian Pulisic’s move to Chelsea. The 20-year-old attacker became the most expensive American in history following the reported £58 million move and will return to Dortmund on loan for the remainder of the season. Tipped as one of the most exciting young players in the world, Pulisic’s pace, skill and eye for goal will be sure to make him a top success in England over the next few seasons, with the blues battling off competition for his signature from a number of Europe’s top clubs.

1.    Dominic SOLANKE  –  Liverpool > Bournemouth (£19mil)

In another impressive signing for Bournemouth, Solanke joins Liverpool teammate Clyne in moving to the south coast club. As mentioned previously, the Cherries recent form has dropped and with current forward Callum Wilson continually being linked with moves to a top club, Howe has has added England international Solanke to increase competition amongst his already impressive attacking options. Highly rated at both youth and senior level, Solanke has yet to be afforded a consistent run in the side during his time at Chelsea and Liverpool but is sure to get his chance to shine at Bournemouth. A technically gifted, athletic and physical player, Solanke is sure to cause plenty problems for Premier League defenders in the coming months.

 

 

 

Twedex Unveiled as Global Travel Partners for The World School Games Event Series

Trans World Educational Experiences (Twedex) was today unveiled as Global Travel Partner of The World Schools Games Event Series in 2019.

The World School Games Event Series will see schools from across the globe compete in a range of sports competitions at various age categories, in a quest to unearth the World Champions of school sport. With the flagship World School Games event, staged annually in Dubai, set for expansion in 2019 to 48 schools competing at separate U11 and U13 events in athletics, swimming and football, the introduction of the Event Series aims to broaden the scope of competitive school sport on the world stage.

The world’s number one University for sport, Loughborough (UK), was last week announced as the host venue for the inaugural World Schools Netball Cup in June. The World Schools Football Cup will be staged in Barcelona (Spain) in October, as well as The World Schools Rugby Cup and The World Schools Cricket Cup in Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

Scott Macfarlane, of Twedex, is privileged to be involved in the expansion of one of the most exciting youth sports competitions in the world.

“The World School Games Event Series provides a unique stage for the world’s best school athletes to compete with and against each other, in a fun and competitive series of events, at truly world class facilities. At Twedex we are always looking for innovative ways to give young people the best sports travel opportunities possible. It’s the perfect fit.”

“We’re very proud to work in collaboration with The World School Games and will use our organisation’s skillset to enhance the travel and logistics experience of the travelling teams for each event in 2019.”

Adam Kerr, of The World School Games, is delighted to team up with Twedex ahead of a hugely exciting year for both organisations.

“To have secured the services of Twedex as Global Travel Partners is a terrific coup for The World School Games. Over 5,000 athletes from more than 40 countries will take part in a World School Games event in 2019. The travel and logistics at global events require a huge amount of expertise and planning, and our expansion in 2019 will mean we have more athletes than ever travelling across the world to take part in our events.”

For more information on the newly launched World School Games Event Series visit www.wsgevents.com | www.theworldschoolgames.com

Spanish Basketball: An Overview

Spain is a country often associated with a number of sports, no more so than football thanks to the continued global success and popularity of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, as well as the national team’s World and European Cup victories in recent years.

One sport that appears to fly under the radar of those from outwith the country is the game of basketball. This week we will take a closer look at the nation’s game and provide an insight into Spain’s second most popular sport.

Within Spain there are a number of competitive leagues run by the Spanish Basketball Federation, with a range of teams from across the country competing regularly for the chance of silverware. The nation’s top division, the Liga ACB, also currently known as Liga Endesa is widely regarded as one of the most competitive and highest quality national leagues across Europe.

Liga ACB is also one of the most well supported professional indoor sports leagues in the world, with an average attendance of 6,500 for league matches in the 2016/17 season, the ninth-highest of any domestic professional indoor sports league and the fourth-highest of any professional basketball league in the world.

The competition consists of 18 teams and follows the usual double round robin format, with each team playing one another both home and away during the course of the season from October to May each year.

Teams are ranked by total points, receiving one point for a win, and no points for a loss, with the eight highest-ranked clubs at the end of the season competing in a seeded playoff, with the winner’s crowned league champion. Sides who finish as one of the two lowest-placed teams are then relegated to the LEB Oro division and replaced by the top team in the second tier plus the winner of the playoff.

In addition to club level success, Spain’s national sides have also enjoyed success on the court themselves, with their last major title win in 2015 at the European championships. Currently, the men’s side are second in the FIBA World Rankings, bettered only by the USA.

 

FC Barcelona Lassa

FC Barcelona Lassa, part of the FC Barcelona multi sports club, was founded on 24 August 1926, and is the oldest member of the Liga ACB. The team plays its home games at Palau Blaugrana, located at the famous Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. The arena, opened in 1971, also plays host to the club’s roller hockey, futsal, and handball sides.

The club competes domestically in the Liga ACB and is an ever present in the prestigious EuroLeague. Barca have won several accolades in its time, including seven of the last thirteen ACB championships, and in 2003, completed a Liga ACB, Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) and EuroLeague triple crown.

FC Barcelona has played in a total of seven EuroLeague Finals, with the last one being their 2010 win. In 2017/18, they finished third in the domestic league and won the Copa Del Rey.

Real Madrid Baloncesto

Real Madrid Baloncesto is a Spanish professional basketball team that was founded in 1931, as a division of the Real Madrid C.F. multi sports club. Like Real Madrid’s football side, the basketball team has been the most successful club in both Spain and Europe.

Madrid have won a record 34 Liga ACB championships, including in both a 7-in-a-row and 10-in-a-row sequence. They have also won a record 27 Spanish Cup titles, 10 EuroLeague Championships, and 4 Saporta Cups.

The side play their games at WiZink Center, an indoor sporting arena located in Madrid, with a capacity is 15,000 people. The 2017/18 season was another year filled with success, with the team winning the domestic league and EuroLeague double and finished runners up in the Copa Del Rey.

 

Club Deportivo Saski-Baskonia

Baskonia are a side based in Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the North of Spain. Historically, Baskonia are another team who have experienced domestic success over the years, winning three ACB championships, six Spanish Cups and four Spanish Supercups in its time.

On a European level, Baskonia are one of the most recognisable teams with an ever presence since the 2000/01 season. Although Baskonia are yet to win a EuroLeague title, the club has been runners up on two occasions, in 2001 and 2005. In 2016, they returned the EuroLeague semi-finals for the first time in eight years but were defeated after overtime by Turkish side Fenerbahce.

Baskonia’s last major achievement came in the 2009/10 season, defeating FC Barcelona to win the Liga ACB title. In 2017/18, the team finished second in the Liga ACB, and got to the quarterfinal of the Copa Del Rey and EuroLeague.

 

For more information on Trans World’s Basketball Development Tours, visit our dedicated basketball page here or enquire now!

 

La Liga Preview 2018/19

With the new La Liga season kicking off last weekend, today we will be taking a closer look at Spain’s big three; Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid and what we can expect from each side in the campaign ahead.

 

BARCELONA

Current league champions Barca will be looking for another successful season, with trophies targeted in all competitions. The Catalan club have already bagged the Spanish Super Cup defeating Sevilla 2-1 earlier in the month and opened their title defence with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Alaves at the Camp Nou over the weekend.

Newly appointed club captain and star man Lionel Messi has already vowed that his side will do everything possible to return the Champions League trophy to the club, the first time since 2014-15 season. Last year’s shock exit at the hands of Italian side Roma slightly over shadowed an otherwise successful domestic campaign.

New Signings:

In order to achieve their desired goals, Barca have made a couple of high profile signings to boost an already illustrious first team squad.

Brazilian attacker Malcom arrived in rather controversial circumstances in a £40 million move from French side Bordeaux. The player had been set to sign for last year’s nemesis Roma and had flown to the Italian capital, however a last second hijack bid from the Spaniards was enough to secure the signing. Malcom, 21, is seen as a top prospect, with his pace, trickery and eye for goal sure to make him a successful addition.

Arturo Vidal is another player sure to play a key role this season. The ex-Bayern Munich midfielder had seemingly fallen out of favour at the Allianz Arena and has thus sought a new challenge. Vidal, who has the ability to control a game with his wide range of passing, box to box running and tough tackling, could be a real steal for the Catalan’s with a transfer fee of just £18 million.

One player who will not be gracing the hallowed turf this season however is Andreas Iniesta. The midfielder leaves Barcelona after 22 magical years, following his progression through the academy to club captain and international icon. Iniesta, a World Cup winner with Spain, won nine La Liga titles, four Champions League’s six Copa del Rey crowns during his time.

 

REAL MADRID

Real Madrid begin the new season with many questions still looming following a summer of high profile exits. Ex-player and manager Zinedine Zidane’s decision to step down from his role at the club despite leading Madrid to a record third-successive UEFA Champions League was a shock. This news was overshadowed, however, by the news that star forward Cristiano Ronaldo would also be leaving the Santiago Bernabéu. The five-time Ballon D’or winner moved to Juventus in a £105 million deal, leaving many Madrid fans fearing the worst after losing arguably the world’s best player over the past decade. The Portuguese captain departs following nine years in the Spanish capital and an array of on-field success including four Champion’s League successes, leaving very big boots to fill.

New Signings:

While Madrid have so far failed to sign a recognised replacement for Ronaldo, they have made a few additions to the side.

Their hunt for a new first choice goalkeeper was finally completed with the arrival of Chelsea shot stopper Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian, previously of rivals Atletico Madrid, signed a six-year deal following a fee of around £35 million. Madrid, who had previously been linked with Manchester United keeper De Gea, turned their attention to Courtois once it was made clear the Spaniard would not be allowed to leave Old Trafford.

Another player who has arrived at Madrid this summer is Vinicius Junior. The young Brazilian forward will finally link up with his team mates after agreeing to join the club last season in a delayed £40 million transfer from Flamengo. Perceived as a potential long-term replacement for the departing Ronaldo, the youngster may have to step up to the plate quicker than anticipated to fill the vacant void. With stars such as Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Isco around him however, Vinicius should have the perfect platform to develop into a top talent.

 

ATLETICO MADRID

Another team hoping to compete for silverware this season is Atletico Madrid. Often overshadowed by rivals Real, Atleti will hope to pounce on the uncertainty surrounding the Bernabéu. Unlike Real though, Diego Simeone has been able to keep hold of his star men, something as valuable as any new signing. Frenchman Antoine Griezmann has been subject of continuous speculation over the past few years with some of the worlds biggest clubs including Barcelona and Manchester United interested in the forward. Defender Diego Godin was another key member of the team also heavily linked with a move away from the Wanda Metropolitano however, along with Griezmann, both have committed their futures to the club with the signing of new contracts.

New Signings:

As well as retaining current players, Atletico Madrid have also strengthened in key areas with the aim of competing with both Spain, and Europe’s best.

One area clearly identified by Simeone requiring improvement was on the wings, with two of Europe’s highest rated wide men joining the club over the summer break. Firstly, Thomas Lemar joined from Monaco, fresh of the back of winning the world cup with France. Another graduate of the highly established Monaco development system, Lemar had been linked with moves to most of the continents biggest sides. However, it was Atleti’s offer of £70 million that secured his services on a five-year deal.

The second winger to arrive was Portuguese midfielder Gelson Martins Following a club incident last season, Martins became on of a number of high-profile Sporting Lisbon players to have their contracts terminated upon request. Alert to the situation, Atletico were quick to pounce, signing the pacey international on a free transfer.

Premier League Preview 2018/19

With the 2018 World Cup over, attention once again returns to the new domestic campaigns and the hotly anticipated English Premier League, with some big results in week one of the new season.

In what will surely be the most competitive season in recent years, many teams have strengthened significantly to achieve their desired goals. Here we will provide a predicted final table, with an insight into each team, key men and new signings:

  1. Manchester City

Last year’s champions, City took the league by storm with their free-flowing attacking football leading to many asking whether they are the greatest team to have played in the Premier League era. Pep Guardiola’s side possess quality throughout the pitch with great strength in depth which should stand them in good stead for the long season competing across four competitions.

New Signing: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City – £60mil)

Mahrez finally completed his much-anticipated move to City. The Algerian winger was key to former club Leicester’s fairy tale league winning campaign collecting the PFA Player’s Player of the Year along the way and will add greater competition in the wide areas providing goals and assists.

Key Men: Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero

  1. Liverpool

Another team who received great plaudits for their attacking style, Jurgen Klopp’s men came agonisingly close to winning last season’s Champions League, beaten by Real Madrid in the final. Forward Mo Salah will be looking to continue his hot form, finishing as last season’s top scorer with 32 goals, 44 in all competitions. Elsewhere, the playing squad has been strengthened significantly over the summer with a number of key signings including Allison (GK), Fabinho (Midfield), Keita (Midfield) and Shaqiri (Attack) in the hope of ending the club’s trophy drought.

New Signing: Allison (Roma – £67mil)

Liverpool finally addressed the goalkeeping dilemma at the club with the arrival of Allison following shaky performances from pair Mignolet and Karius. The Brazilian international arrived from Italian giants Roma in a world record deal for a goalkeeper with the hope of shutting out opposition teams.

Key Men: Virgil van Dijk, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino.

  1. Manchester United

Last season’s runners up, United will be looking to go one better this season and regain Premier League title they have won 13 times previously. Failure to do so may result in huge pressure on boss Jose Mourinho position, following large financial backing from the club’s owners in recent seasons. Fan’s will be hoping World Cup winner Paul Pogba can replicate the form shown for France at this summer’s tournament to fire his side to glory.

New Signing: Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk – £50mil)

Brazilian midfielder Fred made a big money move to Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho’s key signing. A box-to-box midfielder, Fred will aim to conduct the transition between defence and attack using his pace, passing ability and aggressive nature to dominate the centre of the park.

Key Men: David De Gea, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez

  1. Tottenham Hotspur

Another season finishing in a Champions League spot, Spurs were expected to push on further to a possible league title challenge. However, Spurs became the first team in Premier League history to fail to sign a player during the summer transfer window. Despite this, one positive for manager Mauricio Pochettino is that the club were able to hold on to players such as Deli Alli and prolific striker Harry Kane who were linked with big money moves away from the club. The team are currently playing home matches at Wembley Stadium, with work ongoing to complete their new 62,000 capacity stadium, set to open later this year.

Key Men: Deli Alli, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane

  1. Chelsea

Current FA Cup holders, Chelsea make a fresh start following the appointment of coach Maurizio Sarri. Previously of Napoli, the Italian gained a strong reputation with his side playing attractive attacking football which he will aim to emulate with the Londoners. Sarri himself however, has admitted that it could take time for the players to adapt to his style and so a league challenge this season could be a step too far. With players such as mercurial Belgian Eden Hazard, Chelsea are sure to still be one of the top forces this season.

New Signing: Jorginho (Napoli – £55mil)

Heavily linked to rivals Manchester City, Chelsea won the race for the midfielder’s signature, who follows the path of his manager arriving from Napoli. A deep-lying midfielder, Jorginho will look to pull the strings in the heart of the Blue’s side and should have no problem adapting to boss Sarri’s style.

Key Men: Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard

  1. Everton

Following a slightly disappointing campaign, Everton have recruited significantly over the summer in an attempt to break into the top 6. As well as 6 new first-team players – including 4 on deadline day, Everton also appointed former Watford manager Marco Silva. Everton fans will be hoping their club can follow suit of neighbours Liverpool in once again challenging for domestic trophies as well as the return of European nights on the blue side of Merseyside.

New Signing: Richarlison (Watford – £40mil)

Brazilian attacker Richarlison took the Premier League by storm when he first arrived last season at Watford under coach Silva. Full of energy, pace and trickery, as well as a keen eye for goal, the wide man cause havoc for opposition defences and was crucial to Watford’s survival campaign.

Key Men: Jordan Pickford, Gylfie Sigurdsson, Cenk Tosun

  1. Arsenal

Life after Arsene Wenger begins at Arsenal following the Frenchman’s exit. Former PSG boss Unai Emery is the man tasked with rebuilding the side following a few years of disappointment and failure to qualify for the Champions League. Despite this, Arsenal failed to make a marquee signing during the window with Emery perhaps preferring to take a closer look at the players already at his disposal.

New Signing: Bernd Leno (Bayern Leverkusen – £22mil)

Highly rated German goalkeeping Leno arrived on a deal to provide much needed competition for number one Petr Cech after more than 300 club appearances in his homeland. With Cech coming towards the end of his career it is hoped that Leno can be the man to succeed for many years to come.

Key Men: Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

  1. Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace could cause a few upsets this season as they look to build of last year’s 11th place finish following several close relegation battles in previous seasons. A team full of pace, Palace can be particularly dangerous on the counter attack with the likes of Wilfred Zaha and Andros Townsend in the side.

New Signing: Max Meyer (Schalke – Free)

Highly rated German midfielder Meyer was available on a free following the expiry of his contract at Schalke. Once linked with moves to some of the world’s biggest clubs, Meyer has always aspired of playing in the Premier League and hopes to provide the Eagles with the creativity and goals from an advanced midfield role.

Key Men: Mamadou Sakho, Luka Milivojevic, Wilfred Zaha

  1. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Premier League new boys Wolves retuned to the top flight following their Championship success last season. The Wanderers have made a statement of intent with some eye-opening transfer signings as they look to cement their place amongst England’s elite. Midfielder Ruben Neves is a player to watch with some astonishing strikes last season.

New Signing: Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon – Free)

Portuguese international goalkeeper was one of a number of native recruits by manager Nuno Espírito Santo. The highly rated goalie arrived on a free transfer from Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon as one of a number of players who requested the termination of their contract following a club incident and should provide much needed solidarity at the back.

Key Men: Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez

  1. West Ham United

Another club with high ambitions who have invested heavily in the playing squad over the off-season. Now Settled in their new stadium, fans expect the club to push on and aim for those much-coveted European places. Former Manchester City boss and Premier League winner, Manuel Pellegrini has been appointed to try and take the club to the next level.

New Signing: Felipe Anderson (Lazio – £35mil)

Brazilian attacker Anderson arrived at the London Stadium in a big money from Italian club Lazio following a 5-year spell. The attacker can both create and score goals with his versatile attacking talents and should excite the Hammers crowd.

Key Men: Manuel Lanzini, Mark Noble, Marko Arnautovic

  1. Watford

Watford began last year’s campaign with such promise but with reports linking then manager Silva with a move away from the club, the teams on field performances suffered and Silva was eventually sacked as the Hornets plummeted down the table. With the new season upon us however there is once again reason for optimism under manager Javi Garcia’s guidance.

New Signing: Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona – £11mil)

Watford completed the permanent signing of Deulofeu following a previous loan spell to provide some much-needed attacking quality, particularly following the sale of Richalison to Everton. The Spaniard will look to start the campaign with the type of form he showed on his last spell with the club.

Key Men: Abdoulaye Doucoure, Roberto Pereyra, Andre Gray

  1. Newcastle United

Following a long relegation battle last season, a remarkable run in resulted in Rafa Benitez’s side finishing in a impressive 10th place for their first season back in the Premier League. Off-field politics have threatened to derail the Magpies however with manager Benitez desperate for investment in order to push the club on.

New Signing: Salomon Rondon (West Brom – Loan)

Newcastle have been crying out for a striker since returning to the top flight and Benitez has finally been able to bring one in. Despite being relegated with West Brom last season, Rondon impressed proving to be a real handful for defenders. Wearing the famous Newcastle number 9, Rondon will be aiming to become a local hero.

Key Men: Jamaal Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez

  1. Leicester City

Leicester recent season is always going to struggle to live up to that magical campaign in 2015/16 where they won the league against all odds. Realistically, the club should be aiming to finish between around 6th and 10th place. However, with star player Riyad Mahrez joining champions Manchester City fans may be anxious about the upcoming season.

New Signing: James Maddison (Norwich – £22mil)

The youngster’s reputation continues to grow, rising from League 1 to the Premier League within 2 seasons. Big pressure will be on the midfielder’s shoulders to step up and produce the goals and assists left void by the exit of Mahrez.

Key Men: Kasper Schmeichel, Harry Maguire, Jamie Vardy

  1. Bournemouth

Bournemouth continue to defy expectations as they play their 4th straight season in the Premier League. The Cherries, under manager Eddie Howe, have adopted a footballing style that has led to him being tipped to become manager of some of the country’s biggest clubs as well as the national side in the future.

New Signing: Jefferson Lerma (Levante – £25mil)

Columbia midfielder Lerma joined the cherries from Spanish side Levante, becoming the clubs record transfer. The powerful midfielder will add a new dimension to Bournemouth’s midfield as they look to avoid getting dragged into a relegation battle.

Key Men: Nathan Ake, Ryan Fraser, Callum Wilson

  1. Fulham

Fulham are another of the teams returning to the Premier League after a few season’s in the Championship. Slaviša Jokanović’s side gained a reputation as one of the best footballing teams in the second tier scoring plenty goals and conceding few. Similarly, to other new boys Wolves, Fulham too have spent plenty money and time will tell on how far they can go this season.

New Signing: Alexander Mitrovic (Newcastle – £22mil)

Fulham completed the full signing of Serbian forward Mitrovic following a successful loan spell in the second half of the season. The strikers 12 goals in 17 games were crucial in Fulham achieving promotion and fans will be delighted to see him back at the club as they prepare for an exciting season.

Key Men: Jean Michael Seri, Tom Cairney, Ryan Sessegnon

  1. Burnley

Manchester City aside, Burnley were probably last season’s stand out team surprising everyone with their physical and direct approach as they finished in 7th position and qualified for the Europa League. Sean Dyche’s side have struggled to recruit though and with 4 competitions to compete in, their squad is looking a little light.

New Signing: Matej Vydra (Derby – £10mil)

Last season’s Championship top scorer, Burnley will be banking on Vydra to step up in the Premier League and fire in the goals required for a successful season. The Czech striker has previously spent time at Watford and Reading.

Key Men: James Tarkowski, Steven Defour, Chris Wood

  1. Brighton & Hove Albion

The Seagulls were tipped by many to be relegated last season, however narrowly avoided relegation mainly thanks to their ability to defend as a unit. Chris Hughton’s side will be hoping to be more competitive this year following the arrival of 10 new signings to the Amex stadium.

New Signing: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar – £17mil)

The attacking midfielder netted an impressive 21 goals in 27 appearances in last season’s Eredivisie scooping the golden boot award. Brighton fan’s will hope that he can provide the side with some much-needed attacking threat after scoring the 4th fewest goals in last year’s campaign.

Key Men: Glenn Murray, Pascal GroßDavy Pröpper

  1. Southampton

The saints flirted with relegation last season, narrowly managing to survive. However, it appears it may be another difficult year for the south coast club. Low expectations might work in their favor on the other hand and they are a team that could sneak under the radar.

New Signing: Mohammed Elyounoussi (Basel – £16mil)

Saint’s fans will be hoping they have a new cult hero in Elyounoussi. The attacker, who can play on either wing or through the middle scored 22 goals for swiss side Basel last season catching the eye of manager Mark Hughes who moved quick to bring him to St Mary’s.

Key Men: Ryan Bertrand, Nathan Redmond, Charlie Austin

  1. Huddersfield Town

Last season’s favourites for relegation, the Terriers defied all odds to survive in their first ever Premier League campaign. David Wagner is under no illusions that his side face a tough battle once again this season, with a good start is crucial to avoid playing catch-up later on.

New Signing: Adama Diakhaby (Monaco – £10mil)

Promising French under-21 international Diakhaby singed from Monaco to provide the spark going forward. Comfortable with both feet and possessing natural pace, Diakhaby could develop into a real talent but will need to adapt quickly to the Premier League.

Key Men: Christopher Schindler, Aaron Mooy, Elias Kachunga

  1. Cardiff City

A bit of a surprise in last season’s championship, Cardiff were tipped by very few as a promotion candidate. Definitely one of the favourites to return to the second tier, Cardiff appear to be lacking in Premier League quality and barring a big surprise, will probably go down.

New Signing: Josh Murphy (Norwich – £11mil)

A young prospect who has featured at England youth level, Murphy is an exciting and pacey player who manager Warnock will be looking to develop into a key member of the Cardiff side and will be crucial in an undoubted survival battle.

Key Men: Sol Bamba, Aron Gunnarsson, Bobby Reid

World Cup Final Preview

The summer of football is set to close in style as France take on Croatia in the World Cup final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday afternoon.

Russia 2018 has been full of upsets, brilliant goals, counter-attacks and VAR debate over the last four weeks, as 32 nations from all four corners of the globe came together for the biggest World Cup ever.

It has been all of that and more as we have been treated to a tournament which was as exciting and enjoyable as anyone could have predicted.

There have been plenty of firsts in Russia: Panama scored their first ever World Cup goals, Manuel Neuer was punished for playing sweeper-keeper for the first time in the dying moments against Japan, Kieran Trippier picked the biggest game of his career to score his first England goal and Ally McCoist gave the British public a history lesson they never thought they’d get in his first stint as a World Cup commentator.

Panama celebrate their first ever World Cup goal.

As many of the big names fell by the wayside, France became the only pre-tournament favourite to deliver on the promise showed by the strength and depth of their star-studded squad.

Holders Germany fell at the first hurdle as Sweden and Mexico progressed from their group, Spain were edged out on penalties in the last 16 by Russia after a shambolic series of events left them scrambling for a new manager just days before their first game, while Brazil were defeated at the quarter final stage by a brilliant Belgium side in full flow.

With household names such as Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette and Dimitri Payet left at home – proving just how strong French national football is at the moment – Les Bleus were tipped by many to build on their positive exploits at Euro 2016.

It is one thing to be tipped before a ball has been kicked and another to be lining up as World Cup finalists though. France deserve huge credit for the way they brushed aside Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium after emerging from the group stages.

Traditionally, to win the World Cup you need to get the better of at least two world class sides on the way to the final – France have achieved that and more with the scalps of three of the most talented teams on the planet.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates against Argentina.

In Kylian Mbappe France have the most exciting prospect in the world and he has not failed to deliver on the biggest stage of all. The big favourite to be crowned Player of the Tournament, Mbappe will top off an incredible year if he is on the winning side on Sunday.

At the centre of most of what France do going forward, Mbappe’s pace, power and skill has left pundits and viewers awestruck with the maturity and ability of a player who is still to celebrate his 20th birthday.

A man of the match performance in the game of the tournament so far, France’s 4-3 victory over Argentina in the quarter-finals, was followed up by a brilliant showing in the semi-final against Belgium. Whatever happens on Sunday, Mbappe is sure to be at the centre of the world game for years to come.

Croatia’s route to the final has been markedly different to their opponents. A strong start to the tournament saw them take three wins from three group games, including a 3-0 hammering of Argentina on a night that nothing could go wrong for Zlatko Dalić’s team.

Since then the Croats have had their work cut out to keep the World Cup dream alive as their side of the draw seemed to open up favourably for one of the ‘lesser’ nations to make their mark on the tournament.

Victories in the last 16 and quarter final against Denmark and Russia required extra time and penalties to set up a semi-final meeting with England. After 240 minutes of football there were doubts over Croatia’s ability to go the distance in the country’s first World Cup semi-final since defeat to Sunday’s opponents France in the semi-finals of the 1998 competition.

Croatia captain Luka Modric in full voice.

Inspired second half performances from Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić took the game to extra time once more, with Croatia only the second team in World Cup history to have played 120 minutes in three consecutive matches at a single tournament – England in 1990 the only other to have done the same.

Talismanic striker Mario Mandžukić delivered the winner when it mattered in the second period of extra time to break English hearts and send Croatia to their first ever World Cup final.

An achievement that will undoubtedly go down as the greatest in Croatian sporting history, regardless of the outcome against France, the Croats have showed smaller countries around the world exactly what is possible in football.

With a population of just 4 million, the odds were stacked heavily against Croatia going into the tournament. However a combination of determination, ability and just the right amount of luck means they have a straight fight to be crowned world champions this weekend.

There is little doubt that France go into the final as favourites – their run to get there gives them this title deservedly – but Croatia have done more than enough to prove their worth. If the Croats can get Modrić, Perišić and Rakitić firing alongside Mandžukić we are in for a hugely entertaining game.

In a tournament which has been full of scalps and surprises, Croatia will be hopeful that there is one last upset on the cards in Moscow on Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy the game!

 

Top Five Champions League Group Stage Goals 2017/18

With the last 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League nearing its conclusion, we take a look back at some of the best goals from of this year’s group stage:

5. MARLOS vs. Feyenoord (01.11.17)

Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian-born Ukrainian attacking midfielder Marlos capped off a brilliant 3-1 win over Dutch side Feyenoord with a delightful finish on Matchday 4.

Following a slick passing team move, Marlos received the ball on the edge of the box with space ahead. The skilful midfielder then faked to shoot with his left before dragging the ball onto his right foot, leaving the opposition defender twisted and stumbling.

With the keeper fast approaching and the goal angle narrowing, Marlos kept his composure to produce an exquisite chipped shot that floated into the back of the net and sent the fans wild.

 

4. TOSUN vs. Porto (13.09.17)

In the opening game of group G, Turkish giants Besiktas travelled to play Porto at the Estádio do Dragão in what was to be an exciting match with the visitors winning 3-1.

The pick of the goals on that evening would come courtesy of Cenk Tosun. The Besiktas forward – now of Everton following a £27 million January move – received a pass around 30 yards from goal, opening his body and taking the ball on the turn.

With one touch to set himself, Tosun then unleashed a thunderous dipping effort at goal, rocketing into the top of the net leaving the keeper no chance.

3. EL SHAARAWY vs. Chelsea (31.10.17)

As two of Europe’s big hitters met in the Italian capital, many expected a close and intense affair. However, an outstanding individual performance from Stephan El Shaarawy compiled with 2 goals, sent the hosts on their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory.

A player renowned for his trickery, pace and moments of magic, the Italian forward opened the scoring with a beauty of a strike after just 38 seconds. A long ball forward towards Dzeko was knocked back to the edge of the box, where El Shaarawy was quickest to react.

Arriving at speed, he produced a wonderful piece of technique to strike the ball on the half volley with the outside of his foot, sending the ball spinning towards the top corner of the Chelsea goal.

 

2. BALE vs. Borussia Dortmund (26.09.17)

Plagued with injury since his move to Real Madrid in 2013, Bale has struggled to show his best form for the ‘Galacticos’, Bale proved he is still full of quality with an impressive finish in the match against Dortmund.

A highly anticipated clash in the so called group of death, containing three potential champions, the meeting at the Signal Iduna Park would be a crucial fixture for both. With the game poised at 0-0, Bale opened up the scoring in the 17th minute of his sides 3-1 victory.

Peeling away from his marker at the far post, the Welshman was found by an excellent cross from full-back Carvajal, Bale watched as the ball dropped over his shoulder before producing a magnificent side foot volley across the goal into the roof of the net.

1. GRIEZMANN vs. Roma (22.11.17)

In what was a must win game for his side, Frenchman Antoine Griezmann produced the goal of the group stages with an acrobatic overhead kicked to send his side to 2-0 victory to keep Atletico’s champions league dreams alive.

As the game ran on scoreless, both teams pushed for a breakthrough, however it was Griezmann’s moment of magic that put the Spanish side ahead. A break down the left found teammate Correa in a crossing position, who in turn lobbed a ball in towards the back post. Griezmann peeling off into acres of space found the cross slightly behind him. Brimming with confidence and undoubted technique the striker swivelled and produced an outrageous over head kick into the net.