Tag Archives: Spain

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 17

Benteke-Totw

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting seventeenth gameweek in the Premier League. Aston Villa, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur provide two players each, while there is one each from Arsenal, Manchester City, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City.

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)

The French international is making the most of his chances to show Andre Villas-Boas what he can do after putting in a commanding display in goal in Spurs’ 1-0 win over Swansea on Sunday. Lloris kept a clean and made some brave clearances with the highlight being when he came off the line to punch away a dangerous cross and deny Michu a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Matthew Lowton (Aston Villa)

Not too many full-backs have made Liverpool’s rising star Raheem Sterling look terrible this season, but Lowton certainly achieved the feat on Saturday. Sterling looked completely out of ideas as the Reds slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Anfield and the former Sheffield United man can take great comfort in knowing it was his positioning and reading of the game which made the pacey winger so ineffective.

Ashley Williams (Swansea City)

The Swans may have been on the end of a 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane but Williams gave everything for the Welsh side, proving a rock solid presence at the back. A brave performance from the centre-half saw him make several key clearances and blocks as Spurs were denied a way through up until their late breakthrough from a set-piece.

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)

Though he has played most of this season at left-back, the Belgian international earned a rare start in the centre of defence at the weekend, and his manager was rewarded for this decision, with Tottenham looking solid for the most part at the back. As a bonus, Vertonghen also popped up to score the winner, as he elegantly volleyed home Kyle Walker’s free-kick.

Yaya Toure (Manchester City)

Toure was the star when City played at St. James’ Park last season and he was the star again on the weekend as he ran the show in the middle of the park for City as they defeated Newcastle 3-1. The Ivorian’s pinpoint pass set up Sergio Aguero perfectly for the opener, while he added a goal of his own late on to put the seal on both City’s win and an impressive individual display.

Ashley Young (Manchester United)

Following their dramatic derby win, the Red Devils were in the mood against Sunderland on Saturday. Central to Saturday’s 3-1 win was former Aston Villa winger Ashley Young who had a hand in two of the three goals United scored that day. His best was obviously the assist for Robin van Persie’s opener, but he was definitely a handful all afternoon for the Black Cats’ defence.

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

The Gunners hit back at their critics after their embarrassing League Cup defeat to Bradford in the midweek, with an assured 5-2 victory over Reading which was inspired by Cazorla’s hat-trick. The little Spaniard has been impressive all season and he did early damage in the first half when he scored two goals in as many minutes then followed up his heroics on the hour mark to seal his first triple in an Arsenal shirt.

Adel Taarabt (Queens Park Rangers)

QPR manager Harry Redknapp handed Taarabt a more advanced role against Fulham at the Loftus Road on Saturday and it worked a treat. Played just in behind the striker, the Moroccan international excelled and hit the Cottagers for two goals as the R’s emerged from the contest as 2-1 winners – their first win of the season after 17 attempts.

Anthony Pilkington (Norwich City)

Pilkington put in another stand-out performance for the Canaries against Wigan as he and fellow forward Wes Hoolahan continue to shine for the in-form club. A brilliantly-taken goal was the crowning moment of the Englishman’s afternoon, while his cross also set up Hoolahan for the second of the 2-1 win at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

12 goals in your first 17 Premier League games for a new club seems like a reasonable return doesn’t it? Even if you do have a £24 million price tag on your head. In United’s victory over Sunderland the Dutchman was instrumental, capitalising on John O’Shea’s mistake to score the opening goal. And in an ominous sign for Premier League defences everywhere, he again linked up with Wayne Rooney to secure a third.

Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)

Benteke has been one of the signings of the season and was influential to Villa’s surprise win at Liverpool, producing a star turn for the Midlanders as he netted a double, dealing a blow to Darren Bent’s hopes of ending his stint on the bench. The Belgian also provided the assist for Andreas Weimann’s strike with an audacious backheel.

TOTW GW 17

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Champions League Round Of 16 Draw – Some Mouth-Watering Clashes

UCL Round Of 16

The draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 has been made and we have some mouth-watering clashes in store for us. Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Manchester United for the first time since his transfer to Real Madrid in 2009, while Barcelona face AC Milan and Arsenal take on Bayern Munich.

In other matches, Turkish champions Galatasary face Schalke, Celtic have tough opposition in Juventus, Dortmund take on the improving Shakhtar Donetsk, while Valencia face Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s PSG and Porto battle it out against unfancied Malaga.

Here is a run down on all the eight ties from the Champions League Round Of 16…

Galatasaray v Schalke

This is a tie which could easily go either way. Galatasaray will be the most happier of the two teams to have avoided the big names in the first knockout round. Schalke, on the other hand, will be happy to play the second leg at home in front of a sold out crowd in Germany, which has been one of the most difficult places to play football away from home this season.

Prediction: Schalke

Celtic v Juventus

Celtic had very few hopes of making it through to the last-16 but they did it, and now if they can do it again it would be a huge achievement but it looks highly unlikely. The Bhoys always knew that they were going to get a difficult draw. However, their home win against Barcelona will give them some confidence of securing a first leg advantage which they can take back to Italy.

Prediction: Juventus

Arsenal v Bayern Munich (Must Watch)

Arsenal never really seem to have any luck at this stage of the competition with draws against Barcelona and AC Milan in the two seasons before this one. The Gunners now face Bayern Munich – last season’s runners-up – and its no doubt this is going to a very tough game for the English side. But at the same time its a superb challenge for Arsene Wenger’s young side to defy all odds and shock the German giants.

Prediction: Bayern Munich

Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund (Must Watch)

Of all the ties this has to be one of the most entertaining tie consisting of two teams that have been very impressive this year. Dortmund are the heavy favourites to win this one having topped the Group of Death, but you can’t take Shakhtar for granted. They have also been very good in the group stages and have dumped Chelsea out of the competition.

Prediction: Borussia Dortmund

AC Milan v Barcelona (Must Watch)

A mouth-watering clash between two teams that have a long and rich history in the Champions League. AC Milan are not anymore the same force of the old, but have huge pedigree in this competition, while Barcelona are currently the best team in Europe. This could be one of the first matches that Tito Vilanova takes charge of following his treatment against cancer relapse.

Prediction: Barcelona

Real Madrid v Manchester United (Must Watch)

This is the dream match and also a first chance to see Cristiano Ronaldo return to his old club. The Portuguese star is still loved by the United faithful but he will be the obvious threat to their quarter-final chances. Both sides would have wanted to avoid each other before the semi-finals (atleast) but its a great tie for the neutrals. The two sides have some great history and rivalry between them and hopefully the tie could live up to the expectations.

Prediction: Manchester United

Valencia v Paris Saint-German

PSG will be delighted with this draw. The French club spent heavily in the summer to buy some talent players and in Carlo Ancelotti they have an experienced coach to guide them through this tie comfortably. The Spaniards, on the other hand, can’t be underestimated as they have been impressive in the group stages but they face a huge task ahead and will have to make the most of the first leg at home.

Prediction: Paris Saint-Germain

Porto v Malaga 

Another of the ties which could go either way. Porto are a tricky opposition and have tremendous talent in their ranks but they will have to cash in during the first leg at home because Malaga are one of the highest scoring teams at home in this competition. But at the same time, the Spaniards have been very inconsistent in the league and their inexperience in this competition may count against them.

Prediction: Porto

Teams Manchester United and Arsenal Want To Avoid In The Champions League Round Of 16

Arsenal-United-ucl

Arsene Wenger recently said it didn’t matter if his side finish second in their group, but given the difference between the sides Arsenal and Manchester United might draw, he may have to think again.

As everyone knows, if you want to win tournaments, you are going to face the best teams at some stage of the tournament. With Arsenal finishing second in their group, they now are more than likely to face a tricky first round in the knockout stages. While, Manchester United finished top of their group and although there are a couple of teams they will want to avoid, they will likely get a favourable draw.

Manchester United

For United, Real Madrid are clearly the ones to avoid, with Jose Mourinho’s men second in their group by Borussia Dortmund. As the Portuguese himself said, the past two times his side have finished second in their group they have gone on to win the Champions League, and with the quality they have in their squad, they are still one of the favourites to win the tournament. The other side United will be keen to avoid is Shakhtar Donetsk, who have been very impressive this season and knocked Chelsea out.

The other four teams that Manchester United could draw pose less threat than the above two. Milan are improving but they don’t look like they will be able to compete in Europe this year. Porto are tricky, but United should be able to beat them, and the same goes for Valencia. Celtic could be interesting given it will be the ‘Battle of Britain’ and their performances against Barcelona were incredible, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side would be expected to win comfortably.

Arsenal

While United are looking to avoid only two teams, the Gunners really have only one favourable draw and that’s Malaga. The Spanish side’s excellent start has fallen away a little bit in the league, and with their inexperience in the Champions League you would think Arsenal would be able to beat them. The rest of the sides look dangerous.

PSG like Malaga are inexperienced in Europe, but have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a number of other talent players. They are probably the second best draw available. Then there is Juventus and Dortmund, winners over Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City and Shakhtar already, and they are not the real big guns of Europe. Barcelona and Bayern Munich are rightly considered amongst the favourites for the tournament, and if Wenger’s side pick either name, it will be very tough to see them making the last eight.

So, who do you want, and who you don’t want?

A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

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

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 16

Rooney-TOTW

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting sixteen gameweek in the Premier League. Manchester United are the only side to provide three players, while there is one each from Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Liverpool, Norwich City, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and Wigan Athletic.

David De Gea (Manchester United)

The Spaniard has had his share of critics during his time in England, but on Sunday during the Manchester derby he showed everyone he has matured into a goalkeeper capable of handling the big occasion. With Anders Lindegaard’s wife going into labour, United had no choice but to play the former Atletico Madrid man and he didn’t let anyone down. He put in a commanding display and was prepared to step off his line to embrace the physical challenge of contesting the high balls.

Glen Johnson (Liverpool)

Back at his former club West Ham, the right-back made a blistering start to the game with an outstanding strike into the top corner from 25 yards out. He did not celebrate his goal but was the visitors most threatening player and was a constant problem to the home defence at Upton Park, while keeping Matt Jarvis quiet for much of the game.

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

Ferdinand’s derby day may have taken a turn for the worse as he celebrated Robin van Persie’s late winner, but the experienced centre-half put in another steady shift for the Red Devils. During the periods when United’s midfied controlled the game, the veteran could concentrate on seeing off Sergio Aguero and did so effectively. He was established and reliable at the back, and also made an important block in the second half.

Sebastien Bassong (Norwich City)

The Cameroon international has doubled his career goals tally in the space of just four games, with the Norwich defender in the form of his life. He had found the back of the net just three times in over 150 appearances prior to 24th November, and there weeks on and he now has six goals to his name. The latest of those arrived on Saturday when he towered over Ben Davies to head home his side second of the game and held the line well as the Canaries won a seven goal thriller in South Wales.

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)

The Belgium international has been very impressive for Spurs this season as a left-back and on Sunday against Everton he was his side’s best player. He may have been without his partner on the left-flank – Gareth Bale but he contributed a lot to the game. He was a key reason for Spurs’ much improve performance in the second half and in one dominating spell he fired three shots at goal in 20 minutes.

Damien Duff (Fulham)

Facing former employers tends to bring the best out of certain individuals and Duff looked like a man on a mission during Fulham’s clash against Newcastle on Monday, and was also instrumental in helping the Cottages to a 2-1 win. The Irishman used his skill and experience to torment Davide Santon & Fabricio Coloccinni and also had a hand in both Fulham’s goal, laying on the first for Steve Sidwell and crossing for Hugo Rodallega to nod home the winner.

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Mikel Arteta will go down on the score sheet as the hero in Arsenal’s win over West Brom on Saturday because of his two goals (both from the spot), but the real star of the match for the Gunners was Jack Wilshere. The Englishman’s influence on the match was there for everyone to see with his passing, vision, defending and all-round determination to win the game for the Londoners.

James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic)

Wigan made it sure that Queens Park Rangers’ miserable start to the season continued on Saturday, with the London outfit still waiting for their first win 16 games into the season. Harry Redknapp took his side to the DW Stadium in search of a win, but a deadly double from McCarthy meant that he had to settle for just a point.  McCarthy was a real driving force in midfield and showed his true class with his two goals.

Fernando Torres (Chelsea)

On Saturday, the Spanish striker was finally looking like he was enjoying himself on the football field and goals obviously helped to lift the mood of the misfiring forward as he helped himself to two during Chelsea win at Sunderland. His movement caused the Black Cats defence problems all afternoon and manager Rafael Benitez will be hoping there is plenty more to come from his number nine.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Rooney enjoyed one his best days on Sunday, with his efforts pivotal to Manchester United’s 3-2 derby success at arch-rivals City. His first-half double, which came against the run of play, saw him move into 150 Premier League goals – youngest ever to do so. He found the right positions and also became the highest ever goalscorer in the Manchester derbies as a result.

Michu (Swansea City)

He may well have been on the losing side to an in-form Norwich, but the classy Spaniard was brilliant, again, in getting a second successive brace. He wasn’t at his best in the first half but orchestrated the Swansea comeback in the second period and took both his goals clinically. He double strike on Saturday, took him to the top of the goalscoring charts in the league.

TOTW GW 16

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