Tag Archives: Danny Welbeck

Revealed – Manchester United Have The Best Youth Academy In England


According to research by Sporting Intelligence, Manchester United have the best youth academy having produce more first-team players for club in Europe’s top 5 leagues than any other team in England.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are ranked fifth in the world behind the likes of Barcelona, Olympique Lyonnais, Real Madrid and Stade Rennais. Twenty of the twenty-four players who have graduated from the Old Trafford academy have gone on to play in the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 or the Serie A.

Nine of the twenty-four players produced are still at United ( including Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck), and the remaining 15 playing elsewhere include the likes of Phil Neville (Everton), Kieran Richardson (Fulham), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96), Paul Pogba (Juventus) and Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City).

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Arsenal came second behind United with 20 players, Aston Villa third with 15, Tottenham and West Ham joint fourth with 13 primary products. Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City are in seventh with 12 home grown players, while Chelsea are eight with total 12 players and Liverpool are tenth with a total of 10 primary products.

Outside the Premier League, Barcelona are the undisputed kings of producing players – with a massive 38 players produced by the famous La Masia academy. And it’s not only the number of production that impresses, its the unbelievably high talent level too. The likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Jordi Alba, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique are all home-grown players.

Ligue 1 club Olympique Lyonnias lie second behind Barcelona with 29 primary products, while Real Madrid have 27 home grown players. Another French club, Stade Rennais, are above Manchester United with 21 primary prodcuts. Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich are sixth with a total of 23 players followed by Sochaux, Real Sociedad, Atalanta and Atletico Madrid.

Top 10 from the Premier League

Manchester United – 24 total academy products
Arsenal – 20 academy products
Aston Villa – 15 academy products
Tottenham Hotspur – 15 academy products
West Ham United – 13 academy products
Newcastle United – 13 academy products
Manchester City – 12 academy products
Southampton – 12 academy products
Chelsea – 12 academy products
Liverpool – 10 academy products

Complete list..

Top 10 from Europe

Barcelona (La Liga) – 38 academy products
Olympique Lyonnais (Ligue 1) – 31 academy products
Real Madrid (La Liga) – 29 academy products
Stade Rennais (Ligue 1) – 24 academy products
Manchester United (Premier League) – 24 academy products
Bayern Munich (Bundesliga) – 23 academy products
Sochaux (Ligue 1) – 22 academy products
Real Sociedad (La Liga) – 21 academy products
Atalanta (Serie A) – 21 academy products
Atletico Madrid (La Liga) – 21 academy products

Complete list..


What Impact Will The Manchester Derby Have On The Title Race?


It may be worth only three points, but Manchester United’s win on Sunday could be a huge blow to Manchester City and their hopes of defending their Premier League crown.

Last season, the first Manchester derby of the season saw City come away from Old Trafford with a shocking 6-1 win. The result this season tighter, but the effect on the title race could be equally huge.

Manchester United
United now sit six points clear of their bitter rivals at the top of the table. Their defence is weak without the injured Nemanja Vidic and they still don’t have a world class midfielder, but they do have the best strike force in the Premier League.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie won the game on Sunday, and everyone would expect them to keep doing the same thing all season. If they don’t, there is always Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck to do it. Their strength is their attacking play and it has led to United winning away at both of their title rivals – Chelsea and Manchester City.

Manchester City
For City, the result will be devastating, not only because of the manner in which it happened but because of their all round performance. Although the game was decided in stoppage time, they could have been 3-0 down if Ashley Young hadn’t been wrongly flagged offside. With this loss they lose their two year (37-match) unbeaten record at home, and also the good feeling they had got from their league wins over United last season.

It could get even worse for the reigning champions if their skipper – Vincent Kompany’s injury is severe, with Kolo Toure looking feeble as his replacement. Questions have to be asked about Roberto Mancini not putting Joleon Lescott on, and also about starting with out-of-form Mario Balotelli ahead of Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko.

It will be very interesting to see how City respond to the home derby loss to their fierce rivals on the back of their humiliating exit from Europe in the midweek. Mancini’s position will come under scrutiny, and if his side don’t return good results over Christmas and fall more behind in the title race then City could be set for a major change in the New Year.

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 12

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting eleventh weekend in the Premier League. Arsenal, Liverpool, Norwich City and Southampton provide two players each, while there is one each from Manchester City, Sunderland and West Brom Albion.

John Ruddy (Norwich City)

The England keeper was in instrumental form in his side’s shocking 1-0 win over Manchester United at Carrow Road on Saturday. He made a succession of crucial saves – especially from Ashley Young – and two right at the death, to frustrate United and keep them at bay.

Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton)

Southampton have conceded the most number of goals this season, but Clyne is one player to keep an eye for in the future. In the biggest game at the bottom of the table, he was rock solid in defence when his team needed him and going forward he chipped in with an assist as his team got the better of QPR at Loftus Road.

Carlos Cuellar (Sunderland)

The former Aston Villa defender has been rock solid at the back for the Black Cats this season and he was once again at his best against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday. He put in a very impressive defensive display and also scored his first goal for the club by heading home a corner.

Michael Turner (Norwich City)

Turner struggled at the start of the season but on Saturday he was at his very best. He was the heart and soul of the Canaries’ spirited defensive display and dealt brilliantly with both Javier Hernandez (later replaced by Danny Welbeck) and Robin van Persie. He put his body on the line and successfully got his head to numerous crosses to keep United’s attack at bay.

Jose Enrique (Liverpool)

This is the second consecutive time the Liverpool left-back has made our Team Of The Week and he completely deserves it. Played in an advance role in Saturday’s comfortable win over Wigan, the Spaniard put in his best performance of the season so far and ended the game with a goal and an assist.

Theo Walcott (Arsenal)

Arsenal fans and manager Arsene Wenger may be split on whether Theo Walcott is worth the money to keep at the club past this season. However, on Saturday in the North London derby at least Walcott put in a brilliant display. His contribution included an assist and an injury time goal.

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

The little Spainiard has been the Gunners’ best player this season and on Saturday he was at his creative best against Tottenham, making the most of Arsenal’s one-man advantage. He was involved in most of the hosts’ intricate build-up play, and topped off his performance with a goal and a brilliant assist in the 5-2 thrashing.

Jason Puncheon (Southampton)

He provided the impetus from the right side of midfield for Southampton, on his first return to Loftus Road, having played there on loan last season. His two assists and a sweet left-footed curling goal from the edge of the box was just the reward for his impressive performance.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Another weekend and its Suarez again. The Uruguayan international is in the form of his life and without him I really can’t see Liverpool being a serious threat. However, he now has ten goals this season and increased his tally over the weekend with two well taken finishes in the home win over Wigan.

Shane Long (West Brom Albion)

The former Reading man spent a good 60 minutes terrorising the Chelsea defence and David Luiz in particular on Saturday. His goal involved great movement and his assist for Peter Odemwingie was of the first order. He has adapted very well to the life in the Premier League and now can produce performances capable of dismantling top sides.

Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)

The Argentine striker ended his barren spell of just one goal in his last 12 appearances for City, with a brace in the 5-0 thrashing of Aston Villa. His first came from the penalty spot, while his second was a close-range tap-in. But, his performance will be the most pleasing thing for Roberto Mancini.

How Can Manchester United Solve Their Striker Dilemma?

Manchester United would not have won their latest Champions League Group H encounter against Portuguese side Braga at Old Trafford if it was not for the excellence of Javier Hernandez.

Hernandez was the lifesaver – bagging a brace in United’s comeback victory – and showed why he must still be considered a key attacking option for Manchester United this year.

His tireless performance not only caught the attention of the Old Trafford faithful but also of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who stated after the match that the 24-year-old Mexican international striker has given him some selection dilemma ahead of Sunday’s crunch match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

As per Manchester United’s official site, Sir Alex Fergsuon said:

“Chicharito has given me a good problem. He’s got me thinking, I must say that. He and van Persie and Rooney and Welbeck… I don’t know what to do with them to be honest with you.

“The boy is improving all the time. He has a great enthusiasm for the game, he trains magnificently, he practices all the time and his goal ratio is fantastic.

“It was a great ball from Tom Cleverley for the second goal but Chicharito’s movement in behind the defender for the second goal was terrific.”

Given the praise he receives from his manager and his fellow team-mates, the work-rate he puts on the pitch and the attitude he shows on and off the field, everyone would expect Hernandez was starting week-in-week-out for the Red Devils and would be their top choice striker after his dream debut season in the Premier League, but in reality, Chicharito is below Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order at Old Trafford as far as the strikers go and has just made four starts this season (only one in the Premier League).

But after Tuesday night’s man-of-the-match performance, he has surely thrown his hat into the ring for some more regular playing time this term. In his own words he has given the gaffer a ‘problem’ or a ‘selection dilemma’ about whom to play and whom to leave out on the bench.

So, how can United fix their striker dilemma? How can they keep all the four strikers happy at the same time? Which formation should they use?

Without any doubts, Manchester United have one of the best – if not the best – strikeforce in the world. Some squads will have one or maybe even two world-class strikers, but the Red Devils currently have four star strikers in their squad – all of whom are capable of winning the game single-handedly in both domestic and European competitions.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie need no introduction. They are both proven strikers, the top two goal-scorers in the Premier League last season and have scored a total of 362 goals (combined) between them. The duo are also forming one of the most fearsome and dangerous striker partnerships in the league.

Danny Welbeck, the local lad who has come off age in the last couple of seasons, a big-game player and an England regular to whom both the Red Devils and the Three Lions have turn for some inspiration and immediate impact in the past year or so. And then there’s Javier Hernandez, a regular goal-scorer for Mexico, who after Tuesday night’s excellent performance has once again shown everyone that he has the talent in him to become of the top strikers in the world.

They all are stars in their own right and it’s sad to see players who regularly start for their respective countries, on the bench for United. But the answer to handing four star strikers in one squad isn’t selling one of them for a good price in the next transfer window. There is no doubt that United could get a good price for Welbeck or Hernandez but selling them in order to create regular playing time for Rooney and Van Persie is not the answer.

Keeping in mind, the fact that there will be injuries, suspensions, international duties and a number of competitions to play in, a squad needs lot of depth and a number of attacking options, and for United to say that they don’t need a strong squad would be too ignorant. Sir Alex knows it very well that they need to have a lot of depth in their squad – like they had when they won the treble in 99 – and if he is able to keep the players happy, then why sell them?

This means that a rotation policy will be used, meaning that all four strikers will not get the minutes that they would love to every week. There will be times when United’s blockbuster summer signing – Van Persie is rested for Welbeck, and there will also be times when Rooney starts from the bench. This is nothing new in a squad that is blessed with so much of attacking talent. This is what has to happen this season in order to keep all four of them happy at the same time.

In terms of formation, the shift towards the new ‘diamond formation’ (4-1-2-1-2) is the best thing for United to keep their strikers happy as it helps to get most of their best attacking players on the pitch at the same time. The diamond formation is better than the commonly used 4-4-2 or the 4-2-3-1 as it allows for three attacking options rather than two or just the lone striker in the later two formations.

In the new formation, Van Persie and Rooney could both play at the top of the diamond, in behind the two strikers. That would allow Welbeck and Hernandez to get some more playing time than they would have got in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Three strikers start in this formation with one playing behind the two in a very advance midfield role and also creating the link between the midfield and the attack. It means that Van Persie could play up front with Hernandez and Rooney behind them or Rooney with Welbeck and Van Persie behind them creating more chances.

Now talking about what happens to United’s second star signing of the summer – Shinji Kagawa. He was very successful at Dortmund last season playing in the hole behind the striker in this case Robert Lewandowski and he could do the same by playing at the top of diamond with Rooney and Van Persie up front. But that would decrease the involvement of Welbeck and Hernandez.

With Kagawa being very versatile and comfortable with the ball on either foot, the most logical solution is to play him on the left side of the diamond and allow him to drift in the middle with the full-back overlapping. Similar to what Andres Iniesta does for Spain or Barcelona whenever he is played out on the left. Kagawa on the left means that Antonia Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani are all left fighting for one starting position on the right side of the diamond. That means less playing time for all three, especially Nani, who looks like is behind Valencia and Young in the pecking order.

After saying all this, the diamond formation is best formation suited for United’s current squad. Its the most effective way for Sir Alex to get his best attacking players on the pitch at the same time without sacrificing the dominance and creativity in the midfield and on the wings.

Players won’t play each week and will be rotated regularly, but that’s part and parcel of playing football at the highest level and especially at a club like Manchester United. This will create a competition for places and it will be healthy for the players also, as they will have to be at their best at all times and continue to impress the manager both on the pitch during the games and in training.

Predicting Chelsea and United’s Starting XI For Today’s UCL Matches

The current league leaders Chelsea and nineteen time English champions Manchester United face each other in Sunday’s huge Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge, but before that they have some Champions League business to attend. 

The defending champions, Chelsea make the trip to Ukraine to battle it out against joint group leader Shakhtar Donetsk, while Manchester United – who failed to make it past the group stages last term – face Portuguese side Braga at Old Trafford. Both the managers will be keen to get all the three points today, but at the same time they face some selection dilemmas about who to rest and keep fresh ahead of the huge clash on Sunday.

Here at IntoTheTopCorner, we predict the starting XIs for both, Chelsea and Manchester United keeping in mind Sunday’s important Premier League clash.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; Bransilav Ivanovic, John Terry (C), David Luiz, Ashley Cole; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard; Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard; Fernando Torres.

Roberto Di Matteo’s side haven’t picked any new injuries during the Tottenham game and the Italian isn’t expected to make a lot of changes to his line-up. Captain John Terry, who is banned for four domestic games, is expected to make the return in the heart of the defence in place of Gary Cahill. Full-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole will have to be at their best against Shakhtar’s dangerous wingers. Frank Lampard, who was a late substitute in the 4-2 win at White Hart Lane, could get the nod in midfield instead of Ramires. The former West Brom boss is expected to play the same attacking four which scored four past Tottenham, with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard starting on the wings, while Oscar playing in the hole behind Fernando Torres.

Manchester United (4-1-2-1-2): Anders Lindegaard; Rafael, Scott Wootton, Jonny Evans, Alexander Buttner; Darren Fletcher; Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa; Wayne Rooney; Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck.

Sir Alex Ferguson rested a number of players for Stoke’s visit after the hectic international fixtures, with Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher not evening making the squad. The trio will straight away be drafted in to the starting XI for today’s game. With David De Gea having started the previous two Premier League games, Anders Lindegaard is expected to start in goal for the Red Devils. Keeping in mind Sunday’s big game, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand are rested, which means youngster Scott Wootton and summer signing Alexander Buttner are expected to start in the defence along with Rafael and Jonny Evans. Robin van Persie – United’s top goal scorer in all competitions – could also be rested, that could see Javier Hernandez start along side Danny Welbeck in attack with Wayne Rooney playing at the top of the midfield diamond.

Top 7 Teenagers To Watch In The Premier League

With just more than a month to go for the new Premier League season to kick-off, it’s time to look forward and build-up to it. Today, we look at the top 7 teenagers (under-20 years of age) to keep an eye on in the upcoming Premier League season.


‘The Ox’ joined Arsenal from Southampton last season and was very impressive in his debut season in Premier League. The 18-year-old made 26 appearances for the Gunners during the last campaign and scored four times. His performances in the league caught the eye of the new England boss Roy Hodgson and was picked for the Euros in Poland/Ukraine. The winger, who started his country’s opening game against France, has been capped five times by the Three Lions.

The 18-year-old has a lot of pace and his direct attacking style has been already loved by Arsenal faithful. Chamberlain broke into the first team last season and he is expected to stay there & play an important role for Arsene Wenger’s team this season, who love to give the teenagers a chance to prove themselves.


Powell joined Manchester United from Crewe Alexandra this summer for a transfer fee believed to be in the region of £4m. The 18-year-old caught the eye of many top Premier League clubs with his impressive displays for the League Two side as he played an important role in helping Crewe win the playoffs. The England U-18 international made a total of 38 appearances last season scoring 14 goals including the winning goal in the nPower League Two Play-Offs final at the Wembley.

Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed in the press conference yesterday that he would be developing the teenager in center midfield role and with United having many problems in that position over the past couple of years, Powell could get his chances this season. The attacking midfielder is certain to feature in most of the Capital One Cup games and FA Cup games this year.


Lukaku moved to Stamford Bridge last season from Belgium side Anderlecht for a fee around £18m. The 19-year-old, who is dubbed as the ‘next Didier Drogba’, was tipped for big things last year but he hardly got a chance to impress. The Belgium international, who has been capped 14 times by his country, made just eight Premier League appearances and failed to score a single goal.

The former Anderletcht striker was one of the flop signings of last year, but with both Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba having left the club and with just Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge ahead of him in the pecking order, this might well be the year where the teenager may get the chance to impress at the bigger stage.


Barkley has been the part of Everton’s successful youth academy and has come through the ranks at Goodison Park. The 18-year-old has been at the fringes of the senior team ever since signing the professional contract at the start of the last season. The England U-21 international has made a total of six appearances for Toffees – mostly from the bench – in the Premier League since making his debut against QPR in the opening game of last season.

The midfielder, who has been predicted to ‘become one of the best ever player to play for England’ by Martin Keown, is expected to get much more game time this season than what he got last season. With a lower budget to spend in the tranfer market, David Moyes is certain to give Barkley and many other young players a chance to play in the first team.


The creative midfielder, who is the product of Chelsea’s youth academy, is heralded as the future of the Blues. McEachran made his first team debut for the Blues in a Champions League match against MSK Zilina in September 2010 and ever since has been around the senior team making a total of 22 appearances in all competitions. The 19-year-old, who is touted as the natural successor to Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, spent the second half of last season on loan at Swansea.

The England U-21 international, who has the talent and potential in him to become one of England’s best midfielder in future is expected to spend next season away on loan at a Premier League side where he might get some more first team football than at Chelsea, due to the competition for a place in the starting XI at the Stamford Bridge club.


Sunderland signed Wickham last summer from the Championsip side Ipswich for a fee of £8m. The 19-year-old was tipped for big things but his first season in the Premier League was a bad one. He was able to find the back of the net just once in 15 appearances as the Black Cats struggled without the services of Danny Welbeck, Darrent Bent and Asamoah Gyan, who were all present during the 2010-11 season.

This season is going to be the make-or-break for the England U-21 international has he will need to get over his ‘first-season blues’ and repay the club’s faith in him. Sunderland’s number 10 is expected to play an important role this season and he will have to score much more than what he did last season, if the Black Cats have to challenge for a place in Europe next season.


Miyaichi joined Arsenal in the summer of 2010 after impressing the scouts and the boss during a High School Soccer Tournament in Japan. The 19-year-old has featured only twice for Gunners since his arrival and that to in the Capital One Cup. The Japanese international was sent on loan to Bolton Wanderers in the January transfer window last season and he had a very successful time at the Reebok, making 12 appearances and was also voted as the club’s February Player of the Month.

With Andrey Arshavin expected to leave the club in the summer, Miyaichi may get a chance on the wings but at the same time he will face competition from the likes of Gervinho, Alex Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and the new signing Lukas Podolski for playing time. It looks likely that he will be sent on loan to another Premier League side again this season, where he will get some regular first team football.

England v Italy Preview

England and Italy both arrived in Poland/Ukraine to take part in UEFA EURO 2012 without much expectations, but today they meet each other in the quarter-finals in Kiev believing this could be their year. 

England topped Group D to reach this stage, preserving Roy Hodgson’s unbeaten record as national coach in the process -with four wins and a draw taken from five fixtures to date. Hodgson’s early success has been based on making his side as difficult to beat as possible, with greater emphasis placed on the need to be solid at the back and defend as a collective unit. Italy’s footballing philosophy is much the same as their opponents. It has been suggested that the two sides will cancel each other out, with the fear of losing set to outweigh the desire to attack and take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Past meetings between the two countries suggest it will be a tight affair, with all but one of the last nine encounters having ended all square or been settled by the odd goal. Unfortunately for England, they have emerged victorious in just one of those outings. The Three Lions’ record in quarter-final clashes is also not the best, having lost seven out of 10, and they are looking to grace a major semi-final for the first time in 16 years. Italy will be hoping to pile more misery on their success-starved opponents this weekend, and in Cesare Prandelli they boast a coach who is yet to taste defeat in 13 competitive matches in charge of the Azzurri.



England have all 23 members of their squad fit and are in contention for a starting berth, but it is likely that the same XI which started the Three Lions’ final group game against Ukraine will take to the field in Kiev. That means James Milner’s abilities going backwards will once again be favoured over Theo Walcott’s going forward, and Danny Welbeck will get the nod ahead of Andy Carroll in the battle to partner Wayne Rooney up front. Skipper Steven Gerrard is among those one caution away from missing a possible semi-final date through suspension, with Ashley Cole, Ashley Young, Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also walking a disciplinary tightrope.


Italy have nine players cautioned and one yellow card away from missing the semi-finals, with enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli, captain Gianluigi Buffon and combative midfielder Daniele De Rossi aware that they must tread carefully. It remains to be seen whether Balotelli will be offered the opportunity to line up against a number of his Manchester City colleagues from the start, with Prandelli announcing that he will not name his team until an hour before kick-off. It is expected that Thiago Motta will be in contention for a starting role, with the midfielder having overcome a hamstring injury. Giorgio Chiellini is ruled out with a thigh problem, though, and his place is expected to go to Juventus team-mate Leonardo Bonucci.


Played – 22
England Wins – 7
Draws – 6
Italy Wins – 9


England – WWDWW
19-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – England 1-0 Ukraine
15-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Sweden 2-3 England
11-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – France 1-1 England
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – England 1-0 Belgium
26-May-12 – Friendly – Norway 0-1 England

Italy – WDDLL
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 2-0 Ireland
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 1-1 Crotia
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Italy 0-3 Russia
29-Feb-12 – Friendly – Italy 0-1 United States


Steven Gerrard (England)
The Liverpool icon may be getting older day by day, but he has certainly enjoyed wearing the captain’s armband. In centre midfield, Gerrard’s passing, effort, and most notably his crossing and set-pieces has seen him be a driving force and set up three goals at UEFA EURO 2012. Up against pressure from Claudio Marchisio and Co, he’ll need to ensure his side make the best use of the ball when in possession, as he has done all tournament.

Wayne Rooney (England)
The talismanic striker announced his return with the winning goal in against Ukraine in the last group game. Having watched the first two games from the stands, the striker is desperate to make use of whatever opportunity he would get and made an impact in his first match itself. The Manchester United star forward has the skill to cause Italian defence some trouble and would surely be the man to watch out for in Kiev.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
The former AC Milan and current Juventus playmaker has been Italy’s best player in the Euros so far. His accurate passing and ability to create chances from the midfield has caused the likes of Spain, Croatia and Ireland a lot of problems in the group stages. If Pirlo – who has two assists and one goal to his name in the competition – is given a lot of space and time with the ball then he will surely create many opportunities for his teammates which will cause a lot of problems to the English defence.

Antonio Cassano (Italy)
Antonio Cassano has shown flashes of brilliance since returning from minor heart surgery that threatened to rule him out of the tournament, but was something close to his best before running out of gas in the 2-0 win over Ireland. Prandelli will look for more of the same from the Milan forward, hoping he can cause confusion in the organised English defence by dropping deep and playing some of his trademark passes into the area for his teammates to run on to.


England (4-4-2): Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole; James Milner, Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard (C), Ashley Young; Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck.

Roy Hodgson is expected to field the same side that defeated the co-hosts Ukraine as in the final group game as he would be keen on keeping the stability. Although Milner and Young have failed to impress, youngsters Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain look set to remain on the bench as Hodgson is set to use them as substitutes who can make a difference later in the game. The John Terry and Joleon Lescott partnership has done just enough to keep them top, but has been caught out on many occasions. Up top, the Manchester United pairing of Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck would be looking to cause trouble to the three-man Italian defence.

Italy (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon (C); Federico Balzaretti, Daniele De Rossi, Leonardo Bonucci; Ignazio Abate, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Thiago Motta, Andrea Barzagli; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano.

The Italians are expected to stick with their 3-5-2 formation, with Manchester City star Mario Balotelli starting alongside Antonio Cassano at the top. Leonardo Bonucci is expected to replace the injured Giorgio Chiellini in the back three, who would try and stop the opponents from running at in-form goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Andrea Pirlo would be the key man in midfield once again, and the veteran would look to continue to dictate play like he has done throughout the tournament.


England 9/5 Draw 2/1 Italy 9/5


This is a game between two teams who play very similar kind of football. Both teams would make sure they stay strong at the back and won’t let their opponents create a lot of chances. The battle between Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo in the heart of the midfield seems to be a mouth-watering prospect. The game is expect to be a very tight and a cagey affair and maybe a moment or two of magic may be the difference between the two sides. Both the sides will be looking towards their explosive strikers – Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli for some individual class. Set-pieces or a counter attack will be important in this game between two teams who have been disappointing in recent international tournaments. The game has a huge prospect of being decided in extra time or on penalties. However, with some luck, England might just win this one and book themselves a place in the semi-finals.

Predicted Score – England 2-1 Italy (A.E.T)