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Champions League Group Stage Ultimate XI

Group Stage Ultimate XI

The Champions League group stages are done and dusted with Chelsea becoming the first holders in the history to be knocked out in the group stages, Manchester City completely out of Europe, Real Madrid finishing second and Lionel Messi in fine form.

Here, IntoTheTopCorner picks its Group Stage Ultimate XI, containing the very best performers over the six matchdays in a 4-5-1 formation. There’s an alternative to each selection, so have a look at the team below…

GK – FRASER FORSTER (CELTIC)

Forster

Celtic are through to the knockout stages for the first time since the 2007/08 season and they had some individual performances to thank for. The former Newcastle United shot-stopper is one of them, as he had two brilliant games against Barcelona that actually secured their qualification. A last-gasp defeat at the Camp Nou and a historical win at Celtic Park did their confidence a world of good, and their final matchday win over Spartak Moscow was more than deserved.

Alternative – Joe Hart (Manchester City)

RB – PHILIPP LAHM (BAYERN MUNICH)

Lahm

Bayern’s skipper and Mr. Consistent, Philipp Lahm, has proved dependable yet again as the Bundesliga leaders secured the top spot in Group F ahead of Valencia. Though, the German international captain did his best work on the left flank he comes in our side as a right-back. He managed three assists and won one penalty in the five matches he played and looked very solid at the back.

Alternative – Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

CB – THIAGO SILVA (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN)

Thiago Silva

The Brazilian is known as one of the best defenders in the world of football at the moment and he didn’t let anyone down. The former AC Milan centre-back was very consistent throughout the group stages as he helped the French side to first place in Group A in their long-awaited return to Europe’s elite. He scored two goals including the opener in PSG’s important win over Porto on Matchday six.

Alternative – Martin Demichelis (Malaga)

CB – MATS HUMMELS (BORUSSIA DORTMUND)

Hummels

Dortmund – surprisingly – topped the Group of Death and they had their solid defence to thank for it. Hummels, the integral part of the reigning Bundesliga champions’ back four, was at his very best as Die Schwarzgelben remained unbeaten in all of their six group games and also managed to keep three clean sheets in the process.  All the defence played their part, but the German international was perhaps the standout performer in Jurgen Klopp’s back four.

Alternative – Nicolas Otamendi (Porto)

LB – GIORGIO CHIELLINI (JUVENTUS)

Chiellini

Juventus secured their passage through to the knockout stages as Group E winners thanks to an unbeaten run of six games. Their last three were impressive wins and also clean sheets, while the Old Lady came out victorious in Donetsk – a feat achieved by very few teams in the past 12 months or so. The Italian international was perhaps the most impressive player in Antonio Conte’s back three.

Alternative – Christian Fuchs (Schalke)

CDM – ARTURO VIDAL (JUVENTUS)

Vidal

The Chilean international has to be one of the players of the group stages. The former Leverkusen man is a typical box-to-box midfielder combining defensive steel with goal-scoring prowess at the highest level. His partnership with Claudio Marschisio is the engine of Conte’s team. In the group stages, he averaged 4.8 tackles per game and scored three goals with one assist—an absolutely remarkable feat for a defensive midfield.

Alternative – Victor Wanyama (Celtic)

CM – WILLIAN (SHAKHTAR DONETSK)

Willian

The Brazilian alongside the Chilean gives our side some South American feel in the midfield. Willian, who has attracted a lot of interest from the Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham in the past, was one of the top performers for Shakhtar scoring four goals and creating two as they made it through to the last-16 and dumped the holders out of the competition in the process.

Alternative – Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk)

CM – ISCO (MALAGA)

Isco

The 20-year-old Spaniard scored twice and assisted two in six games to announce himself on the European stage and walk straight into our line-up. While he has failed to to translate this form into his La Liga games, Isco has been in super form in the Champions League. It’s his form in the in Europe’s elite competition that has clubs scrambling to meet his €18.5 million buyout clause before Malaga extend his contract, and it’s clear this kid has something slightly special.

Alternative – Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)

RW – CRISTIANO RONALDO (REAL MADRID)

Ronaldo

Love him or hate him, but the Portuguese is surely one of the best players in the world and he proved it with his performances for the Spanish champions in the group stages. The former Manchester United star managed to scored six goals in the group of death and will be hoping to score many more in the later stages as he hopes to guide the Los Blancos to their first ever Champions League title in over a decade.

Alternative – Juan Mata (Chelsea)

LW – LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA)

Messi

A Champions League team without the best player in the world? Not possible at all. The Barca striker is at his very peak and was again at his very best in the group stages scoring five goals and creating two as he helped the Catalans top their group. The Argentine has had the best year having scored 90 goals and will be hoping more of the same in 2013 as he looks to guide his team to yet another European success.

Alternative – Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray)

ST – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (PARIS SAINT-GERMIAN)

Ibrahimovic

Out strike force is a nightmare to any team and Ibrahimovic leads it. The Swede has played for the many elite club during his career but his contributions for the French capital side in this season’s campaign can’t be ignored. He has managed to score just two goals in the six games but it’s the five assists that are the most impressive. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez must really enjoy playing alongside the Swede as he continues to impress.

Alternative – Jackson Martinez (Porto)

Group Stage Ultimate XI

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Manchester City v Manchester United Preview

City-Utd

The first Manchester derby of the season is here as Manchester City and Manchester United resume their rivalry on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium which could provide vital momentum in the title race.

Roberto Mancini’s City emerged victorious in both the Premier League encounters last season, winning 6-1 at Old Trafford and 1-0 at home before winning the title in the most dramatic style on the final day of the season.

The reigning champions have made a decent start to the defence of their crown and remain unbeaten after 15 games, but it is United who have a three-point advantage at the top of the table ahead of Sunday’s meeting. There have been indications that it is already a two-horse race for the Premier League title, with others rivals – Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool – struggling for consistency.

City’s participation in the Champions League and even Europe came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Bundesliga champions – Borussia Dortmund in the midweek, while they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton last weekend after a less than impressive performance. United, on the other, were also beaten 1-0 (at home) by CFR Cluj but had already won the group so Sir Alex Ferguson was able to rotate his squad. The 19-time league champions overcame Reading 4-3 last weekend and have been in superb form going forward all season, but it was yet another match in which they fell behind and this time not once but twice.

Ferguson will surely be demanding greater concentration against a team that has the best defensive record in the league and haven’t lost a single game at home since December 2010. The Scot says it would be one of United’s best-ever results if they can win on Sunday.

TEAM NEWS

Manchester City

City’s influential playmaker David Silva will be given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Manchester derby at home. The Spanish international missed the Champions League loss to Dortmund with a hamstring injury but remains in contention and is batting to take part on Sunday. Aleksandar Kolarov has been ruled out with a groin problem and Micah Richards (knee) is still sidelined. Gael Clichy (ankle) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) both should be available for selection, while James Milner (hamstring) is likely to miss out.

Manchester United

Tom Cleverley is doubtful for Manchester United after limping out in the first half of the game against Cluj and will have a scan on his calf injury. Sir Alex Ferguson has also revealed that Shinji Kagawa and Nemanja Vidic (both) are struggling to be fit in time for the derby and may completely be ready for the Sunderland game. Antonio Valencia (thigh), Nani and Anderson (both hamstring) have been ruled out of the important clash, while the likes of Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra are set to return to the starting XI after being rested in midweek.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 164
Manchester City Wins – 46
Draw – 50
Manchester United Wins – 68

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

30-Apr-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
08-Jan-12 – FA Cup – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
23-Oct-11 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
07-Aug-12 – Community Shield – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
16-Apr-11 – FA Cup – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United

FORM GUIDE

Manchester City – LDWDD
The Citizens have been unbeaten in the league so far this season and are just three points behind leaders Manchester United in the standings. But they have won just once and drawn thrice in their last five games in all competitions, with the only win coming at Wigan. A win on Sunday will take them above United in the league table on goal difference.

04-Dec-12 – Champions League – Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Manchester City
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-1 Everton
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Wigan Athletic 0-2 Manchester City
25-Nov-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City
21-Nov-12 – Champions League – Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid

Manchester United – LWWWL
The Red Devils come into this match on the back of three consecutive wins in the Premier League and are sitting three points clear of their opponents at the top of the table. But they haven’t hit top gear and their defensive frailties have already been exposed. A win on Sunday will be massive one and will take them six points clear of City at the top.

05-Dec-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 0-1 CFR Cluj
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Reading 3-4 Manchester United
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United
24-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
20-Nov-12 – Champions League – Galatasaray 1-0 Manchester United

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
The Belgium international scored the only goal in last season’s 1-0 win over United at the Etihad stadium – which won them the title – and was also as solid as rock at the back. The club captain is an inspirational presence for Roberto Mancini, and his match-up against Robin van Persie will see arguably two of the best players in their respective positions battling in a mouth-watering clash. How he copes with the Dutchman and what he can offer going forward will be the key to the outcome of the game, but one thing is for sure – if Kompany is on form, City are a very hard team to beat.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
All eyes have been on Robin van Persie this season, and – even Javier Hernandez has gone past Wayne Rooney in the goal-scoring charts, but numbers alone do not tell the full influence of the 27-year-old on his side. With the Dutch forward being the target man of the strike force, Rooney will certainly drop deeper when United lose possession, and will try to create chances from further back in the final third. His work rate and distribution are very important in clashes like these, and with two strikes in his last league game at Reading, the England forward may be in line for a hot goal-scoring streak.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany (C), Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy; Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry; David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri; Sergio Aguero.

City XI

City manager Roberto Mancini is likely to recall Yaya Toure back to the squad after resting him for the Champions League game against Dortmund, while David Silva may well recover from his hamstring injury in time for the big game. Joe Hart continues in goal as Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic will play ahead of him in centre of the defence. Aleksandar Kolarov (groin) has been ruled out, which means Gael Clichy could be rushed back after recovering from his ankle injury, but should he not be ready Joleon Lescott could slot in or Pablo Zabaleta could switch sides win Maicon coming in on the right side. Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure are expected to shield the defence as Silva, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri could play in a more advance role. Sergio Aguero is likely to lead the line for the hosts, with both Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko coming off the bench at some point during the game.

Manchester United (4-3-3): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Ashley Young.

United XI

Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to continue with David De Gea in goal after the keeper made his return to first team action against CFR Cluj in the Champions League. Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra are all expected to be back in defence after being rested during the midweek defeat at home. With Valencia and Nani both out, United are expected to play with the same formation (4-3-3) that won at Reading. Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes will make the three-man midfield with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young further up the pitch, playing on either side of Robin van Persie. Shinji Kagawa is expected to make the bench, while the inform Javier Hernandez will be an option should the visitors need a goal at some stage of the game.

OPTA FACTS

  • 3 – Man Utd have won 1-0 against City three times in their last six Premier League games at the Etihad.
  • 5 – There have been just five goals scored in the last six league meetings between City and United at the Etihad Stadium and no more than one in any of those games.
  • 10 – Robin van Persie is joint-top scorer in the league, with 10 goals alongside Demba Ba, Michu and Luis Suarez – Man City’s top scorer is Carlos Tevez with seven.
  • 36 – City (15) and United (21) have come from behind to win a combined 36 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season.
  • 21 – Man City and Man Utd have been awarded more penalties than any other side in the Premier League since the start of 2010-11.

REFEREE

Name – Martin Atkinson
Based – Yorkshire
Age – 41
Games – 18
Yellow Cards – 71
Red Cards – 1

MATCH ODDS

Manchester City 13/10, Draw 12/5, Manchester United 21/10

PREDICTION

As both teams have pulled away from the rest at the top of the table, it could turn out to be a very close affair decided by a moment of brilliance or a mistake. City will be looking to attack at home and take full advantage of United’s weaknesses at the back, while the Red Devils will hope to avoid conceding the first goal again but have also shown the determination and character to win games from losing positions. With the winner taking the top spot in the league table, both teams will look to get the 3 points. United have the firepower, but City have a very solid defence, making the hosts slight favourites. Expect United to get something out of this one, maybe a high scoring draw.

Predicted Score: Manchester City 2-2 Manchester United

The Best Chelsea And Manchester City Combined XI

Ahead of Saturday’s mouth-watering clash between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, we here at IntoTheTopCorner have decided to make the best combined XI using both the team’s players.

In goal, England’s number one choice keeper Joe Hart takes the place ahead of the Champions League final hero Petr Cech. The back four is dominated by the Chelsea players with Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole as the two full-backs and skipper John Terry in the heart of the defence alongside City’s Vincent Kompany. The midfield consist of Yaya Toure and Ramires as the two holding midfielders, with City’s playmaker David Silva, Chelsea’s star of the season Juan Mata and the Blues’ big money summer signing Eden Hazard further forward. The 4-2-3-1 formation means there is room for only one striker in the team, which results in a tough dilemma. Fernando Torres has struggled whole season and Daniel Sturridge hasn’t played much, so it has to be one of City’s four strikers – and it’s Sergio Aguero, who gets the nod ahead of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli, to lead the line.

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 8

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting eighth weekend in the Premier League. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have provided two players each, while there is one each from Fulham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Norwich and West Ham.

Joe Hart (Manchester City) 

He was criticized for the goal England conceded in Poland during midweek, but the City keeper was back to his best against West Brom. He couldn’t do much about the goal, but kept his side in the game late on, with two very important stops from Romelu Lukaku that allowed Edin Dzeko to come up with a late winner.

Chris Baird (Fulham)

The Fulham right-back scored the only goal of the match helping the Cottagers beat Aston Villa at Craven Cottage. He capped a solid display for his side with a goal as he provided the finish after getting at the end of a John Arne Riise corner and also helped his side keep a clean sheet.

Gary Cahill (Chelsea)

The England international was only in the side for the suspended John Terry, but was calm and collected at the back and put in one of his best performances of the season in the important 4-2 win over Tottenham. He also got his name on the score-sheet as he opened the scoring with a thumping volley.

Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United)

The Newcastle skipper was back in the side after fully recovering from his injury and he led by example. He was as solid as a rock at the heart of the defence and with the Magpies down to 10-men after just 25 minutes, he put in a shift for two. His side may well have collect all three points if he would have lasted the whole game.

Javier Garrido (Norwich City)

He may not have scored the winning goal, but the former City full-back was one of chief architects of Norwich’s historical win over Arsenal on Saturday. He put in a fine defensive performance and at the same time was very good in supporting the counter-attacks. He kept the Gunners’ right wing relatively quiet and restricted them to very few chances.

Juan Mata (Chelsea)

He is getting better & better by each game and is surely an early contender for the Player of the Year award. The little Spaniard responded perfectly to the national team snub by helping his side to a comeback win at White Hart Lane against his former boss Andre Villas-Boas. He scored twice and assisted once to keep Roberto Di Matteo’s side at the top of the table.

Mark Noble (West Ham United)

Noble has been playing in the Premier League for most of his career but his performance on Saturday was one of his best. He put in a commanding display, scoring twice (once from the spot) in the important 4-1 win over Southampton. His drive and determination in midfield made Hammers look good.

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

He is one special talent and is getting stronger with every game. He became the second youngest scorer – after Michael Owen – for Liverpool when he scored the winner against Reading. He has huge potential in him to become oen the best in England and it looks like he is on the right track under Brendan Rodgers’ guidance.

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

The Dutchman was again at his classy best against Stoke and it was another example of how dangerous the partnership between Van Persie and Rooney is going to be. His brilliant left wing cross resulted to Rooney’s equaliser and then he himself got on the score-sheet with sublime finish just before the interval.

Edin Dzeko (Manchester City)

The Bosnian may only have been on the pitch for just over 10 minutes but he completely transformed the tie as he netted City’s both goals in the 2-1 win at the Hawthorns. A trademark header got the 10-men City leveled and in stoppage-time he calmly finished off a flowing counter attack to grab what could be a crucial winner.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

A few months ago people were suggesting that Rooney and Van Persie couldn’t play in the same team and he will have to get used to life on the bench. Fast forward to mid October and the England international looks at his very best as he celebrated his decade in the Premier League. Scored an own goal, but responded brilliantly with two well taken goals at the right end. The second being his 200th in club football.

EA Sports Release New FIFA 13 TV Advert

EA Sports has released the new official TV advert for FIFA 13, which you can expect to see almost everywhere in the run-up to the game’s release towards the end of this month.

The ad features the game’s most celebrated modern football, Lionel Messi alongside Manchester City and England keeper Joe Hart, Arsenal’s whizkid Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Real Madrid’s top striker Karim Benzema and the former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp.

EA Sports has confirmed a FIFA 13 release date of September 25 in the US, September 27 in Europe and September 28 in the UK. A FIFA 13 demo will be launched on September 11.

Here is the full FIFA 13 TV Advert..

FIFA 13 – Cover Stars

EA Sports revealed via youtube live stream that Joe Hart and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be on FIFA 13 UK Cover along with the three time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.

Here’s the latest pack shot of the trio in action and the YouTube stream just in case you missed it…

Several FIFA 13 cover stars like Roberto Soldado, Karim Benzema and Claudio Marchisio have already been announced and have a look at those pack shots below..

Premier League 2012/13 Team Preview – West Brom Albion

Welcome to IntoTheTopCorner’s team-by-team preview to the new Barclays Premier League season. Here we look at West Bromwich Albion’s vital stats, their summer transfers and analyse their chances.

Manager: Steve Clarke.
Captain: Chris Brunt.
Stadium: The Hawthorns (26,272).
Last season: 10th.
Leading scorer (PL): Peter Odemwingie (9).
Odds: Title 2000-1. Relegation 7-2.

In: Yassine El Ghanassy (Loan, Genk), Ben Foster (£4.4m, Birmingham), Romelu Lukaku (Loan, Chelsea), Markus Rosenberg (Free, Werder Bremen), Claudio Yacob (Free, Racing Club de Avellaneda).

Out: Lateef Elford-Alliyu (Free, Bury), Kieth Andrews (Free, Bolton), Simon Cox (£2m, Nottingham), Paul Downing (Free, Walsall), Marton Fulop (Free, Ast. Tripolis), Joe Mattock (Free, Sheff Wed), Paul Scharner (Free, Hambuerger), Nicky Shorey (Free, Reading), Somen Tchoyi (Released).

Kits

Key Man – Ben Foster
The former Manchester United shot-stopper was the Baggies star performer last term and was named the Fans’ Player Of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year. He is arguably the second-best English goalkeeper behind Joe Hart and Hodgson wanted the keeper to come out of a self-imposed England excile for Euro 2012 given his form. His form this season will be vital for the Baggies and the number of clean sheets he manages could be the difference between survival and relegation.

Opening Fixtures
18-Aug – Liverpool (H)
25-Aug – Tottenham (A)
01-Sep – Everton (H)
15-Sep – Fulham (A)
22-Sep – Reading (H)
30-Sep – Aston Villa (A)

Probable Formation (4-4-2): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Gera, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Brunt; Lukaku, Rosenberg.

Verdict: Steve Clarke has a tough task to deal with after Roy Hodgson left for the England job, but the Baggies have a strong enough squad to stay safe and survive this season, especially with arrival of Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea. The Baggies are strongest up front, Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long are goal threats, even before the addition of the Belgium international. However the defence isn’t as strong as the attack but good enough to keep them up. This is the first real test of Clarke’s managerial abilities and it could mean a tricky season. I expect the Baggies to survive but just.

Prediction: 17th.