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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or Shortlist Revealed

Lionel Messi has won the award for the last four years
The 23-man shortlist for the 2013 FIFA world player of the year, or the FIFA Ballon d'Or, has been unveiled. Usual suspects like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery lead the list which includes five Premier League players, a host of La Liga stars as well as players from Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga. The managers list is led by former Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heyckes and Spain national team coach Vicente Del Bosque. 

Here’s the full list (in no particular order):

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid/Wales), Edinson Cavani (Paris St Germain/Uruguay), Radamel Falcao (Monaco/Colombia), Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Belgium), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St Germain/Sweden), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona/Spain), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich/Germany), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund/Poland), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich/Germany), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich/Germany), Neymar (Barcelona/Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal/Germany), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus/Italy), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/France), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich/Netherlands), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Portugal), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich/Germany), Luis Suarez (Liverpool/Uruguay), Thiago Silva (Paris St Germain/Brazil), Yaya Toure (Manchester City/Ivory Coast), Robin van Persie (Manchester United/Netherlands), Xavi (Barcelona/Spain).

Coach of the year: Carlo Ancelotti (Real Madrid/ex-Paris St Germain), Rafael Benitez (Napoli/ex-Chelsea), Antonio Conte (Juventus), Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Sir Alex Ferguson (ex-Manchester United), Jupp Heynckes (ex-Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund), Jose Mourinho (Chelsea/ex-Real Madrid), Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil), Arsene Wenger (Arsenal).

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

European Leagues Review: Barca Edge out Madrid in El Classico, Chelsea Pip Man City while Roma Set Serie A Record

Arsenal continued to lead the standings following a hard-fought 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday evening. The Gunners were held back by Palace for the whole of the first half and only got the breakthrough two minutes after the interval via a Mikel Arteta Penalty. Olivier Girourd’s header in the 87th minute put the result beyond doubt. Liverpool continued to pile pressure at the top with a 4-1 mauling of West Brom. Luis Suarez netted a sublime hat-trick and Daniel Sturridge’s delicate lob ensured the Reds collected maximum points against the Baggies. Manchester United looked destined to share a 2-2 draw with Stoke City until Javier Hernandez struck in the 80th minute to give David Moyes a thoroughly needed victory at Old Trafford. On Sunday, Sunderland collected their first 3 points of the season with a 2-1 win over Newcastle in the Tyne Wear Derby, Liverpool’s on-loan forward Fabio Borini riffling in the winner after coming in as a second half substitute. Fernando Torres created Chelsea’s opener and then went on to tap the winner for Chelsea in their 2-1 win over Manchester City, a victory that lifted them to 2nd on the log while Roberto Soldado’s 2nd half penalty helped Tottenham overcome Hull City 1-0 at White Hart Lane.

Barcelona edged out Real Madrid 2-1 in the first El Classico of the season to open up a 6-point cushion on their bitter rivals. A goal each either side of the half from Neymar and Alexis Sanchez gave the Catalans the victory while Real Madrid’s consolation goal was scored by Jese Rodriguez in the first minute of added time. The win ensured Gerardo Martino’s men remained on top of the Liga BBVA, one point above Atletico Madrid who thrashed Real Betis 5-0. Villareal cemented their 4th place position with a 4-1 win against visiting Valencia while Almeria remained rock bottom following their 3-0 loss away to Real Sociedad. Malaga’s season continued to deteriorate after going down 5-0 against visiting Celta Vigo.

The Bundesliga top three, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Munchen all won their weekend matches to keep up to pace with each other as the fight for the Bundesliga title increasingly looks like a 3-horse race. Leaders Bayern were pushed to the end by Hertha Berlin who took the lead at the Allianz-Arena through Adrian Moses with only four minutes on the clock. But Mario Mandzukic leveled in the 29th minute before putting the Bavarians ahead early in the 2nd half. Mario Gotze headed in Bayern’s 3rd but Anis Ben Hatira made drew one back for Hertha to set up a tense finish but Pep Guardiola’s men weathered the storm to take home the 3 points. Emre Can’s 83rd minute goal helped Leverkusen to a 2-1 win over Augsburg with Sami Hyypia’s men having to come from behind. Henrikh Mhkitaryan provided two assists for Nuri Sahin and Jaukb Blaszczykowski’s goals as Dortmund cruised 3-1 against Schalke 04 in the Revierderby. Gabonese Pierre Emerick Aubameyang netted the other goal for Dortmund with Max Meyer scoring the consolation for Jens Keller’s Schalke.

AS Roma beat Udinese 1-0 and in doing so set a new Serie A record of nine consecutive wins at the start of a season. American Michael Bradley scored the only goal of the match for Rudi Garcia’s men who had been reduced to 10 men after Maicon saw red for a second bookable offence. But Roma, who have conceded only one goal in nine matches, were undeterred as they pushed for the winning goal which came in the 82nd minute. Napoli continued to pile pressure on the Rome outfit with a 2-0 win Torino, Gonzalo Higuain converting two controversial penalties to ensure Rafael Benitez’ men kept the gap from the top to 5 points. Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez were both on target for defending champions Juventus in the 2-0 win over Genoa at the Juventus stadium while Parma stunned visitors AC Milan. Inter Milan won a 6-goal thriller against Hellas Verona 4-2 to stay 4th, level on points with Fiorentina who won 2-1 away to Chievo.


Edison Cavani and Blaise Matuidi’s 2nd half goals helped Paris Saint Germain come from two goals down and salvage a 2-2 draw against Saint Etienne on Saturday. Benjamin Corgnet and Romain Hamouma had given the hosts a first half two-goal lead and they looked on course to grab an unlikely victory over the moneybags until Matuidi struck in the 68th minute and Uruguayan Cavani hit the leveler in the third minute of added time. Monaco moved level on points with PSG at the top after their 2-1 win over Olympique Lyonnais. Lille consolidated 3rd spot with a 1-0 win at Nantes while Lorient’s 2-1 win over Sochaux moved them off the relegation zone.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Barclays English Premier League Week 9 Preview

The Barclays English Premier League enters its 9th leg this weekend and the story has pretty much remained the same; Arsenal and Liverpool leading the charts, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham in thereabouts, and team X (read Manchester United), improving, one point a game or so. Will so much change at the end of gameweek 9? Can Arsenal fans start their own ‘Giniwasekao’ vibe already? Here’s my take:

Crystal Palace Arsenal

You could argue that Arsenal have had a fairly easy run of fixtures during the early parts of the season. The only tough test they have encountered in the league was the North London derby against Tottenham, a match that ended on a 1-1 stalemate. But things are set to get much tougher now as Arsene Wenger’s men go into a make or break run of games that will show just how good, or otherwise, they are. After the Crystal Palace encounter this weekend, the Gunners face Chelsea in League Cup, welcome Liverpool for a Premier League date, travel to Germany to clash with Borussia Dortmund, return home for an EPL game away to Manchester United before hosting high-flying Southampton and Ligue one outfit Marseille in the League and Champions League respectively.  You got to hate that if you are an Arsenal fan. But like the always say, you take one game at a time. And so onto Arsenal’s most immediate problem; Crystal Palace. This early kickoff will give Arsenal a chance to open a 5-point gap at the summit of the league, at least until Liverpool take on West Brom at 5pm. You have to go back to April 1994 when Ian Holloway’s Palace last beat Arsenal in the league. The last five encounters since then have ended in 3 wins for Arsenal and 2 draws. Having said that, this should be an easy win for the Gunners against the struggling Eagles who are second from bottom. 

Liverpool West Brom
Liverpool failed to collect maximum points against 10-man Newcastle on Saturday last week, a result that saw them drop two crucial points as they continue to mount an onslaught on next season’s Champions League football. The Reds are the only team among the top 5 who have the little pleasure of not being distracted by Champions League or Europa League football. They always look almost invincible in the first half but fade a bit after the interval. Their opponents on Saturday evening, West Brom, who are managed by former Liverpool assistant coach Steve Clarke, have won all the previous three encounters between the two sides. Liverpool will have to be at their best to prevent that from being four straight defeats against the Baggies. They have the quality, they have the momentum, they’ll have the home support and they sure know any other slip up will prove costly. The SAS (Sturridge and Suarez) partnership should be in full swing at Anfield should they want to bag the three points. This will be a tough test for Liverpool but they will overcome. A 2-1 win for Liverpool sounds generous for West Brom, donge?

Manchester United Stoke City

Am I the only one missing Tony Pulis’ Stoke City? The Potters are currently just one point off the relegation spot and have failed to win in their last five matches. Mark Hughes has somewhat changed their hardcore direct style of playing but it’s hard to see which style he’s adopted. They are neither playing dirty, nor clean. To put it simple, they are struggling, just like their Saturday opponents, Manchester United. Trust me this will be a dull match, a very dull one. Le sigh.

Sunderlad Newcastle
The Tyneside derby is finally here! This derby draws its origin to the English Civil War, a series of armed conflicts and political problems that occurred between 1642- 1651. Hundreds of years later, Sunderland versus Newcastle still remains one of the most thrilling encounters in the English game. The duo clash again for the 115th  Tyne and Wear derby in what should be a mouthwatering encounter especially given that Sunderland are still looking for their first three points of the season. And what better place to get them than from your bitterest of rivals? The Black Cats got the better of the Magpies in last season’s encounter, a match that will fondly be remembered due to Paulo Di Canio’s wild celebrations. Sunderland are struggling and based on their recent record that doesn’t make for a good read, you’d tip Allan Pardew’s Newcastle to run the rule over them come Sunday. But with a new manager in Gustavo Augusto “Gus” Poyet, and this being not just your normal Premier League match, Sunderland will be keen to turn around their season. With the Stadium of Light expected to be at its vociferous best, I see Sunderland winning this. Come on boys!

Chelsea Manchester City
You get the feeling that Chelsea and Man City are beginning to put their act together. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have won all but one of their last five matches while City are on a 3-game winning streak both at home and in Europe. Both clubs won their Champions League matches, Chelsea          beating Schalke 04 3-0 away in Germany while City beat CSKA Moskva 2-1 in Russia. The English money behemoths clash on Sunday at the Stamford Bridge with City knowing nothing less than a victory will move them up the table. The Citizens have won all the previous four clashes between the duo and you have to go back to December 2011 when Chelsea last beat Manuel Pellegrini’s men. However, the Blues have beaten the Sheikh Mansoor owned club many times, 20, than any other club bar Arsenal with 21 wins in the league. Sergio Aguero looks like Man City’s topdog right now with 6 goals sweetened by 2 assists while Chelsea have relied on Oscar for the goals, the skillful Brazilian finding the back of the net 4 times just as much as Yaya Toure. There’s little really to separate these two teams going into the Sunday clash but I expect Aguero to lead the Citizens to victory.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria Take Giant Steps towards Brazil 2014

West African giants Ivory Coast and Nigeria put a foot into the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after both nations emerged victorious in their World Cup qualifier matches.

The Ivorian Elephants dispatched Senegal 3-1 in Abidjan on Saturday while Nigeria had to come from a goal behind to dismiss a hard-fighting Ethiopia 2-1 in Addis Ababa on Sunday.

A penalty from veteran target man Didier Drogba and an own goal by Senegalese Lamine Sane saw Sabri Lamouchi’s side take a 2-0 first half lead. Former Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou put the result of the game beyond doubt with a second half strike. Papiis Cisse riffled in in stoppage time to ensure the Teranga Lions left with an away goal heading into the second leg which will be played in Morocco.

Burkina Faso also put themselves on pole with a 3-2 win over Algeria. Jonathan Pitroipa gave the Burkinabes the lead towards the end of the first half, the Stade Rennais finishing with a lovely header. Sofiane Feghouli tapped in after the restart to draw the Algerians level only for Burkina to take the lead again thanks to Djakaridja Kone’s fine individual effort.

Algeria restored parity barely three minutes later, Carl Medjnai heading home from unmarked position but the North Africans were denied a point from the first leg when Zambian referee Janny Sizakwe handed Burkina a penalty which was tucked home by Aristide Bance.

On Sunday, Nigeria had Emmanuel Emenike to thank after the Fenerbahce forward scored a brace to help the Super Eagles seal an unlikely 2-1 win over Ethiopia. The Walya Antelopes had Nigeria on the back foot for most time in the game and took the lead in the 56th minute through Behalu Assefa. However, Nigeria hit back in the 67th minute with Emenike finding the back of the net with a stunning strike before slotting home a 90th minute penalty to ensure the Super Eagles will travel back home in Calabar with a 2-1 advantage. Tunisia and Cameroon played to an entertaining barren draw in the other qualifier.  

And That's thesteifmastertake!!