🇧🇪 It’s been quite a week for Kevin De Bruyne; he tied the knot with his wife at the weekend and today he celebrates his 26th birthday. Here’s to the most humble footballer in the game. 🎩🎈
La Liga champions Atletico Madrid churn out the finest goal scorers in world football year after year. Ever since Fernando Torres captained the club in 2007, the standard of strikers being produced has been of the highest quality; far superior compared to other teams around the globe.
Three of these forwards are the most feared in world football, and now applying their trade in England they are competing against each other to become Premier League champions.
Sergio Aguero- Destined for glory…
Man City’s talisman is football royalty in his homeland of Argentina and has been tipped for success from a very young age. He has been a regular international since the age of 18 and had fathered Diego Maradona’s grandson by the time he was 20.
Aguero has been Mr Consistent over the previous three seasons and carried this form into the 2014/15 campaign. He is level with Diego Costa on 17 goals so far this term, however unlike the Spaniard Aguero has proven he has what it takes to conquer the Premier League, year after year.
The past few campaigns have been head to head battles with Luis Suarez for top scorer bragging rights. This campaign it looks like his former team-mate over at Stamford Bridge will be his main competition for glory.
Many world-class strike partners have played with the Argentinian since his arrival in Manchester, including Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez; however he has been and will remain City’s ever present attacking threat. His goals have proved vital for the club and without him the trophy cabinet at the Etihad wouldn’t look quite as impressive.
His finish for one of the most famous goals of the Premier League era (against QPR in 2011) shows you exactly what his game is all about- he doesn’t stop until the last kick, gives his all in every match and oozes passion for the sport.
The good thing for both club and country is that the little man is probably capable of more. It would be fair to say that the Premier League is lucky to have such a talent performing week in week out.
Diego Costa- Resilience paid off…
The Brazilian turn Spaniard has had to battle his way through the rough to become the striker he is today. Whilst Aguero was making his debut for Argentina against Brazil, Costa was loaned out to second division Portuguese side Penafiel.
The devastating partnership of Aguero and Diego Forlan kept Costa on the fringes of Simeone’s squad for the best part of two seasons. Costa’s real chance for Atletico came when Forlan’s fitness and form deteriorated after his memorable performances at the 2010 World Cup, in which he picked up the Golden Ball award.
After hat-trick in a 3-2 win at Osasuna, Costa was described as a ‘Battering ram,’ who played like a hybrid version of the two strikers who used to keep him out of Simeone’s side.
In his most successful so far, Costa scored 27 goals in La Liga and 8 in the Champions League as Atletico became Champions and runners-up, respectively.He continued this form into the 2014/15 Premiership season for Chelsea after the £32m release clause was met by the Blues in the summer.
Under Mourinho he is living up to the fearsome, world-class status he earned last season and is proving to Abramovic that splashing out on his price tag is money well spent.
Costa is currently joint top scorer in the Premier League with 17 goals and has all the attributes needed for the English game. The aggression, physicality and pure presence in the box makes defenders tremble at the thought of facing the Spaniard.
His temper is an issue, however, and keeping away from match bans could prove the difference between his goals helping Chelsea clinch the title or finishing just short in 2nd place.
Radamel Falcao- Expectations too high?
Falcao’s prolific goal scoring at Atletico earned him the right to be mentioned in the same breath as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The Columbian front man hit the back of the net 52 times in 68 La Liga games for the Madrid outfit, becoming one of most established and feared strikers in world football.
Amid questions over whether he could be as successful in the Premier League, Falcao smashed an unstoppable first half hat-trick versus Champions League winners Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup. After the game, Diego Simeone portrayed him as ‘indescribable,’ saying “whenever you set the bar high he sets it higher and rises to the occasion.”
Falcao continued his La Liga form for Ligue 1 big spenders Monaco, scoring 9 in 16 games in an injury-struck season. This was enough for Louis Van Gaal to snap him up in a big money loan deal for Manchester United.
As has been the case for other big name United signings, the transition from other European leagues to the Premier League has not been as explosive as you may have expected at the start of the season.
He has just 4 goals in 16 games and although we have seen glimpses of the Falcao of old, it just doesn’t seem to be clicking in a United shirt. One reason for this is that he used to being the main man, the goal scorer, the one to watch in a system where he is the focal point.
Under Van Gaal, he is playing alongside Robin van Persie, who is essentially a left footed version of himself, and other star attackers such as Angel Di Maria and captain Wayne Rooney.
Going forward United haven’t yet flourished this season, however if the system changes to more suit Falcao and he stays at United we may see him up there with the likes of Aguero and Costa next season.
We’ve seen plenty of upsets over the years, but will the magic of the FA Cup produce more in this season’s fourth round? Here’s a round up of the most likely Premier League teams to be dumped out by lower league opposition….
Boro to Repeat 2009’s 8-1 Demolition of City?
Well, maybe not that extreme, however Middlesbrough are going strong this season, sitting fourth in the Championship having only lost once in all competitions since mid-October. They are up against a Man City side without a win in two games and come off the back of a disappointing display in Sunday’s home defeat to Arsenal. Yaya Toure’s absence has left a hole in the middle of the park for City- If Boro can exploit the Ivorian’s missing presence in midfield and show why they boast the best defence in the Championship, they could see past Pellegrini’s men and, at least, earn a replay.
Tip-Middlesbrough double chance (win or draw) @ 3/1
Bournemouth to Breeze Past Villa…
The South Coast outfit are on the up, whilst the top tier ever presents are on a downwards spiral. This will be a tricky test for Aston Villa, who have found the net only eleven times in the league since it kicked off back in August. Bournemouth sit top of the Championship and everything seems to be going their way; they couldn’t have picked a better Premier League side to face, albeit away from home in this fourth round tie. If both sides continue their current form they may not face each other next season in the League- With the Cherries representing the Premier League whilst Villa may drop down to the second tier.
Tip- Bournemouth to win @ 2/1
Heskey to Haunt Liverpool on Anfield Return?
The England and Liverpool legend will partner Eidur Gudjohnson in a strike partnership that would frighten even the most experienced Premier League centre backs, once upon a time. Since the appointment of Neil Lennon in October, Bolton seemed to have turned the corner of what was a disastrous start to the campaign. They are now unbeaten since Boxing Day and will be looking to at least grab a draw against a Liverpool side who’s defensive form is far from convincing.
Tip- Bolton double chance (win or draw) @ 5-2
For all of these tips to come in you can place a treble at 41/1 – well worth a punt with your spare change!
Where has 2014 gone? We are now into the second half of the season and injuries, suspensions and run of fixtures are taking their toll on struggling teams, on top of the loss of key men to the African Cup of Nations. Here is a round up of upcoming key battles and how to utilise your use of transfers/wildcards…
Finding a goal scorer at Villa Park…
For a team with 11 goals scored since the season began, Aston Villa aren’t fairing too bad in 13th place. Narrow 1-0 victories have kept them in a solid position going into the back end of the season; however it is unlikely the same scoring form in 2015 will keep them there. Main goal threat Christian Benteke has been back for a while now and will be looking to use his recent average form as a spring to terrorise the shaky Liverpool defence; who have shipped 27 goals past them already this season. Holding on for dear life and squandering opportunities has been a familiar tale for Liverpool this season and looking at Brendan Rodgers’ attacking options you wouldn’t expect them to be sitting on a goal difference of plus two. If Liverpool can’t find goal scorer and become unsettled, Benteke could be the man to unlock the defence and be in for a field day.
Kane is able…
…to lead Tottenham into rekindling their impressive form. The inform striker for the inform team (minus the Selhurst blip) will be hoping to keep the Spurs marching on Versus Gus Poyet’s Sunderland – who find them 17th in the form table and 16th in the Barclays Premier League. In front of the White Hart Lane faithful and with a £5.8 million price tag, Harry Kane is well worth a punt considering the amount of misfiring strikers almost double his asking price. With seven goals each, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli are also worth a thought in the short term. When Spurs are high flying they can compete with any midfielder, however inconsistency may overshadow this good form in coming weeks.
Hamer over Schwarzer…
When Mark Schwarzer signed for Leicester on the 2nd January, Ben Hamer had conceded seven goals in five games and was under huge pressure after the injury to number one Kasper Schmeichel. However, as soon as the Aussie came in Hamer and his backline have had a complete transformation, shutting out Hull, Newcastle and Aston Villa on their way to 1-0 victories. Stoke are lacking a prolific goalscorer this season, but seem to share the accolades between Mame Biram Diouf (5 goals), Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters (4 goals) and Bojan Krkic (3 goals). If Mark Hughes doesn’t measure his attacking options right, Leicester could be on their way to a fourth clean sheet in five games.
Potential midfield diamond for United on their travels…
After the unsatisfying performance against Southampton using his beloved 5-3-2 formation, Van Gaal may opt for a 4-4-2 against QPR. With another week’s training under his belt, Marcos Rojo is likely to come back in to the team alongside Michael Carrick at the back- this change will allow Daley Blind to push forward and play the most defensive position in a midfield diamond. This formation has seen Man United flourish this season with the right players available, plus the manager has plenty of options in attack with Radamel Falcao and Marouane Fallaini possibly coming into the starting Xl. Of the midfield quartet, it is Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria – virtually unchallenged for the number ten role- who hold the greatest threat at Loftus road, both from open play and set pieces.
Back five a risk for the Swans…
Chelsea have failed to find the net only once this season – an unwelcoming stat for any Fantasy manager with one of the Swansea back four, who haven’t kept a clean sheet in four games. Now that there is light between them and City in second place, Jose Mourinho’s men will not put on the breaks once they find the back of the net and we could be in for another goal fest- as was the case in the return fixture at Stamford Bridge, where the Blues ran out 4-2 winners. Safety first would see any Swansea defenders dropped to the bench for this Gameweek, before reinjecting them into the team for games they would deem winnable versus Southampton, Sunderland and West Brom. The likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa are not to be taken lightly and have already proven that they deserve their place in the overall Dream Team this season.
The future’s bright, the future’s Pardew…
After the comeback versus Tottenham and the talk of Alan Pardew’s attacking style, little seems to be going wrong for the South London outfit. Looking to their next four fixtures and they are up against teams who have leaked goals at the back, starting with a tricky, however hopeful trip to Burnley. then Everton, Leicester and Newcastle. With an asking price of just £5 million, Dwight Gayle is sure to be on everyone fingertips along with Wilfried Zaha, who sparkled after coming off the bench versus Spurs and topped it off with a fine assist.
Saints utilising defence to defend 3rd place…
It’s North vs South when these two meet at St James’ Park with Southampton on the up, and Newcastle spiraling downwards. The best defence in the league take on the manager-less Geordies, who have failed to score in the last two matches. The Saints are on a six game unbeaten run, conquering top four rivals Man United and Arsenal in the process. Dusan Tadic will be hoping for a starting position after his match winning display at Old Trafford, however it is in the defensive areas where points could be picked up. At under £6 million each, wing-backs Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne will bomb forward and provide for Graziano Pelle, whilst knowing they have a more than capable defensive structure to shut Newcastle out in this fixture for the 3rd time in a row- the previous 2 finishing 4-0 to Southampton.
Injuries a real concern for struggling Hull…
With record signing Abel Hernandez and top scorer Nikica Jelavic out for the foreseeable future, it’s difficult to see who will come up with the goods for Hull – especially against a well-drilled West Ham side. Enner Valencia could be the man to step up into Diafra Sakho’s scoring boots, after scoring the opening goal in the midweek FA Cup triumph over Everton. It was the Ecuadorian forwards first strike in front of the home crowd, and he will be looking for similar link up play leading to that goal with the man mountain that is Andy Carroll, whilst praying Stewart Downing’s sweet left foot delivers – as it has done all season. These three are the main goal threat for the Hammers and are all at a reasonable price at under £7 million.
Exploiting the hole in front of Arsenals back four…
In the stand-out clash in Gameweek 22, we see a well-documented problem for Arsenal – who have a dismal record against clubs challenging for the title. If they were going challenge the physical strength of Man City, they’d need a proven defensive midfield player, something they have lacked since the days of Gilberto Silva. With Mikel Arteta injured, Arsene Wengers options are Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky, both of whom will find it difficult keeping up with the fast paced movement and creativity of Silva and the physicality of his accompanying team mates. Despite not coming away with three points, Silva was instrumental last weekend against Everton, creating pockets of space for others as well as typical creative flair in City’s attacks. At £9.4 million the 29-year-old doesn’t come cheap, but he is a consistent performer if he stays away from injury troubles.
Will Saido be celebrating?…
Monday night’s game has great potential for both Saido Berahino and Romelu Lukaku, who will be looking to continue their good form since the turn of the year. Lukaku has already scored against West Brom this season and will be eager to show the away fans what they are missing. The Belgian scored 17 in 35 games for the Baggies but has struggled for goals so far in the League. In recent games however, Everton have been forced to pump the ball forward to the big man, and Lukaku looks dangerous once again. At the other end of the pitch is a great finisher with five goals in his last two games. The last thing on Berahino’s mind is a celebration – the kid just wants to find the back of the net. New boss Tony Pulis has stated he will not be sold, so expect his name on the score sheet for Baggies a lot more in the coming weeks.