European Finals To Be Available Free

BT have announced today that both the Champions League and Europa League finals will be free to watch on TV, online and on YouTube. This follows suit from last year, where this was also the case.

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Image: WalesOnline

The Europa League final will be broadcast from 7pm on Wednesday 24th May, and will feature the clash between Manchester United and Ajax. The Champions League final will be played in Cardiff on Saturday 3rd June, and will feature European heavyweights Real Madrid and Juventus. Coverage of the final will start at 6pm.

Both games are available on YouTube (YouTube.com/BTSport), on the BT Sport app, online at BTSport.com and on the BT Sport Showcase HD TV channel, and are available completely free.

5 Things You Might Have Missed From This Weekend’s Football

As the season nears the end across Europe, titles and relegations are beginning to be confirmed. This weekend saw titles confirmed in England and the Netherlands, whilst fans of French and Italian football will have to wait for their champions to be crowned. Elsewhere, Bayern completed an incredible comeback in their 5-4 win over RB Leipzig, Real Madrid remain in control of La Liga after a 4-1 win over Sevilla, whilst Benfica were crowned champions in Portugal.

Chelsea Clinch Premier League

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League - The Hawthorns

Image: FourFourTwo

On Friday night Chelsea travelled to West Brom looking to seal their second Premier League title in the last three years. The Blues were four points clear with three games remaining, so a win would see them confirmed as champions. The Blues dominated the match, but struggled to break through the resilient Baggies. But substitute Michy Batshuayi netted his second goal of the season with just eight minutes to go, meaning that the celebrations could begin.

Hull Suffer Relegation

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Image: Hull Daily Mail

At the other end of the table, Hull City were relegated to the Championship following their 4-0 demolition at the hands of Crystal Palace. After Swansea had beaten Sunderland on Saturday, Hull needed at least a point to mathematically avoid relegation, although even that would have left them needing a significant swing in the goal differences. A defensive mistake from Andrea Ranocchia in just the third minute set the tone for the match, and Palace raced to secure the victory that kept them in the division.

Juventus Title Celebrations Delayed

Roma

Image: Daily Mail

In the week that Juventus secured their place in the Champions League final, they had the chance to secure their six consecutive Serie A title as they travelled to second place Roma. But it wasn’t to be for Massimiliano Allegri’s side, who went down 3-1 to Roma. Mario Lemina put Juve in the lead, but goals from Daniele De Rossi, Stephen El Shaarawy and Radja Nainggolan ensured that the gap at the top was cut to four points. But Roma’s hopes of breaking the monopoly still remain slim, as Juventus host eighteenth place Crotone next weekend.

Monaco Effectively Seal Ligue 1

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Image: Daily Mirror

A Falcao brace helped Monaco take a step closer to their first league title since 2000, as they beat Lille 4-0. A superb run from Kylian Mbappe set up Bernardo Silva for a tap-in, and a late own goal completed the rout. The victory sees Monaco three points clear of PSG, with a game in hand. PSG, who dismantled Saint-Etienne 5-0, would need Monaco to lose both of their remaining games, whilst the champions would need to win their final and hope for a significant goal swing to secure a fifth consecutive title.

Kuyt Hat-Trick Seals Feyenoord Title

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Image: Sky Sports

On the final day of the Eredivisie season, Dirk Kuyt netted a hat-trick to secure Feyenoord’s first title in 18 years. Feyenoord went in to the final day a point clear of Ajax, so needed a win against Heracles Almelo to secure the championship. Kuyt wasted no time in getting the ball rolling, scoring after just a minute, and adding a second after just twelve minutes. He completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot with just a few minutes remaining. Even a late consolation goal was not enough to stop Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side from clinching the title, ahead of Ajax, who managed a 3-1 win over Willem II despite naming the Eredivisie’s youngest ever team.

Southgate Names Experimental Squad

Gareth Southgate today named his first squad as the permanent England boss. With the injuries of Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Danny Rose, Southgate has been forced in to naming an experimental squad for the friendly in Germany on 22 March and the World Cup qualifier at home to Lithuania on 26 March.

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Image: The Guardian

The main headline has to be the recall of in-form Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe, who is in line to earn his first cap since November 2013. The 34 year old has 14 goals in his 27 Premier League appearances so far this term, with Harry Kane being the only Englishman to find the net more often (19).

Elsewhere, there are call ups for a number of players who featured for Southgate in the Under 21s. Southampton duo James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond earn their first call ups to the full side, whilst Michael Keane and Marcus Rashford also make the cut.

Michail Antonio’s impressive season with West Ham has seen the uncapped 26 year old selected over Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, who misses out. Jake Livermore will have the chance to add to his sole cap, picked up in 2012. Luke Shaw takes the place of the injured Danny Rose, despite playing just 2 games since November.

Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck and West Ham’s Andy Carroll had been tipped for a return to the squad after Harry Kane’s injury, but Southgate has deemed them both to have not played enough regular football. Jack Wilshere also doesn’t feature as he looks to concentrate on building up his match fitness.

England Squad:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).

Defenders: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Phil Jones (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Michael Keane (Burnley).

Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jake Livermore (West Brom), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Michail Antonio (West Ham), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

Strikers: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).

Southampton Miss Out On League Cup

Southampton were unable to claim their second major trophy in their history as they fell to a late 3-2 defeat to Manchester United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard put Jose Mourinho’s side two goals up, but a Manolo Gabbiadini brace pulled the Saints level. But it was a late Ibrahimovic header that saw the first silverware of the season head to Manchester.

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Jose Mourinho has now won all four of his League Cup finals (2005, 2007, 2015, and 2017). Image: BBC Sport

It was a frustrating start for Saints, who started the game brightly. Southampton felt aggrieved when Gabbiadini turned in a Cedric Soares cross, only for the goal to be ruled out by the assistant. Replays showed that the Italian was clearly onside, whilst Ryan Bertrand, who was standing yards behind the action, was actually offside.

After that decision it was only a matter of time before United opened the deadlock. It came in the form of an Ibrahimovic free kick. The Swede swept the ball in to the bottom corner from 25 yards to give United an undeserved lead. Jesse Lingard doubled United’s lead seven minutes before half time. Marcus Rojo strode forward, receiving the ball from out wide, before squaring the ball to Lingard, who had acres of space to curl the ball in to the far corner.

The game was looking lost for Saints, but there was a glimmer of hope just before half time. James Ward-Prowse whipped a low ball in to the six yard box just before half time, where Gabbiadini lost his man to guide the ball past David De Gea.

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Manolo Gabbiadini has now hit five (should have been SIX!) goals in his three games for Southampton. Image: Metro

And Saints fans only had to wait three minutes after the break for them to draw level. United thought that they had cleared a corner, but Steven Davis headed the ball back in to the box. Gabbiadini held off Chris Smalling as he turned and swept the ball home with his left foot.

A period of sustained Saints pressure followed. De Gea punched away a fierce Redmond volley, and Oriel Romeu hit the post with a header from a corner. In a rare United attack, an Anthony Martial cross found its way to the far post, where Jesse Lingard blazed over the bar despite being under no pressure. Jack Stephens almost gave Saints the lead with five minutes to go, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed clear his goal-bound header.

And it was Ibrahimovic who was the hero for Mourinho’s side, as he found the space between the Saints’ centre backs to nod home from close range to gift United the trophy in the 87th minute.It was a heartbreaking moment for Saints, who dominated large spells of the final and had the majority of the chances.

Despite not lifting the trophy, it was a final to remember for the Southampton fans. It was the first time that Saints had appeared in a major final since their 2003 FA Cup final appearance, and the fans were much more vocal than their Mancunian counterparts. Without the services of talisman Virgil Van Dijk and top goalscorer Charlie Austin, the players put in an incredible shift, but were ultimately punished by the difference in quality that United’s bank balance allows.

Southampton Player Ratings:

Forster – 6: Would maybe be disappointed with the first goal, but stood no chance for the other two.

Cedric – 7: Looked dangerous on the overlap, should have had an assist in the first half.

Stephens – 7: United felt he could have been sent off, but was unlucky to give away a free kick. Showed experience beyond his years.

Yoshida – 7: Really stepped up to fill the gap left by Fonte’s departure and Van Dijk’s injury.

Bertrand – 7: Strong going forward and kept Juan Mata quiet all game.

Romeu – 7: Picked up an early booking but put in a very solid display. Hit the post at 2-2.

Davis – 7: Classic Steven Davis. Covered every blade of grass and provided the second assist for Gabbiadini.

Tadic – 8: Most of Saints’ attacks came through him, unlucky to be taken off so early.

Ward-Prowse – 7: Picked up an assist and was a constant threat from dead ball situations.

Redmond – 7: Looked dangerous going forward, but was ultimately unable to recapture his finishing from the semi-final first leg against Liverpool.

Gabbiadini – 9: Scored twice and had a goal wrongly ruled offside. Should be very disappointed to be subbed off at 2-2.

Subs:

Boufal (Tadic, 77) – 6: Lacking match fitness and it showed.

Long (Gabbiadini, 83): Brought on too late to make an impact.

Rodriguez (Davis, 90): Brought on too late to make an impact, but was good to see him on the pitch at Wembley after his injury problems.

Unused: Hassen, Sims, Caceres, Hojbjerg, McQueen.

Manchester United Player Ratings:

De Gea 8; Valencia 6, Bailly 6, Smalling 5, Rojo 6; Herrera 7, Pogba 6; Lingard 7 (Rashford, 77, 6), Mata 6 (Carrick, 45, 8), Martial 6 (Fellaini, 90); Ibrahimovic 10.

Unused: Romero, Blind, Young, Rooney.

Leicester sack Ranieri

It was Leicester winning the title that reminded us why we love football, but it is their sacking of Claudio Ranieri that sums up what we hate about it.

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Image: BBC Sport

When Claudio Ranieri took over at Leicester they were favourites to get relegated. Ranieri had recently failed to win a single game as Greece manager, even losing to the Faroe Islands, whilst Leicester had narrowly avoided the drop under Nigel Pearson. What followed was the most incredible season in Premier League history.

Fast forward nine months, Leicester are again fighting a relegation battle, but crucially sit outside of the drop zone. They reached the last 16 of the FA Cup, and are still very much in their Champions League last 16 tie. By normal standards, Leicester are having a good season. But Ranieri has become the victim of his own success, being judged against an anomaly of a season.

Ranieri was one of the main reasons behind the wealth of goodwill towards Leicester last season. Everyone that wasn’t a Tottenham or an Arsenal fan was willing them to the title, and you would have thought that it had given him at least enough credit with the owners to give him a chance to keep his side in the division. It is a sign of modern football that the man who gave the Foxes their greatest ever success was unceremoniously dispensed of less than a year later.

If you look at Leicester’s season in isolation, then sacking Ranieri was the right decision. The Foxes sit just one point above the drop zone after 25 games, and have not won a Premier League game in 2017. The champions have won just five games all season and seem to be sinking without a trace. The owners may have seen the impact that Marco Silva and Paul Clement have made at Hull and Swansea respectively, and felt that this is what was needed.

But how much of this slump is Ranieri’s fault? Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have simply not turned up this season. Vardy’s goal against Sevilla was his first in 758 minutes of football, and only his seventh of the season. Mahrez has not been the same player since the summer; he looks lethargic and hasn’t shown the same hunger as last year. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have reverted back to the players that they have been for their entire careers: relegation candidates, not title winners. Obviously the loss of N’Golo Kante has had a major effect, and his work-rate has been the thing that Leicester have been missing. Whether or not it was Kante that inspired this relentlessness is up for debate, but players like Danny Drinkwater have not showed the same levels of application since the Frenchman’s departure.

Have the Leicester owners made the correct decision in sacking Ranieri, or is it a sign that modern football has lost its way? Have your say in the comments, or tweet me @MoodyMan147.

Who Should Be On Puel’s Christmas List?

With the January transfer window approaching, Claude Puel sees his Southampton side sitting in seventh place. The window will be seen as a crucial one by Saints fans, with top scorer Charlie Austin facing several months out with a shoulder injury and the persisting rumours surrounding centre-backs  Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk. If the Saints are serious about securing qualification for European football for a third consecutive season then they may consider signing the following players.

1. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool (Loan)

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Image: Mirror Football

The Liverpool striker has found himself out of Jurgen Klopp’s plans at Anfield, and the Reds are prepared to let him leave. Sturridge has played just 42 minutes in the last 9 games, and he would certainly see that increase at St Mary’s. The England striker has a knack for finding the back of the net, but injuries have reduced his effectiveness over the past two and a half seasons. A run of first team football could be what he needs to re-establish himself as England’s first choice striker, and possibly impress for a better move in the summer. A concern would be whether Sturridge would fit in to the Southampton system with his selfish style of play, whilst another stumbling block could be Liverpool’s desire to see a permanent deal struck instead of any loan deal.

2. Jermain Defoe – Sunderland (Transfer)

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Image: Daily Mail

Having almost single-handedly kept Sunderland up last season, Jermain Defoe has continued his form in to this year, netting 8 times in the league. But with the club’s current financial situation, the Black Cats may have to cash in on one of their few saleable assets. Defoe is your typical poacher, given a chance in the box and he will likely stick it in the back of the net. Their are two real problems with this transfer, though, the first being his age. At 34, this is not a long term transfer. Defoe would probably cost upwards of £10m, meaning Saints will not get any resale value. More importantly, Defoe spent a year playing for Portsmouth in 2008, so he would have some job winning over the St Mary’s faithful.

3. Alassane Plea – Nice (Transfer)

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Image: le10sport

 

One man that could be on Claude Puel’s radar is Nice striker Alassane Plea, who has netted 10 goals in Ligue 1 so far. The Frenchman can be also deployed behind the striker or on the wing, which would give greater depth all across the front line. Plea made 54 appearances for Nice under Puel, and has one cap at Under 21 level. As well as being a player that Puel will know, he also has the advantage of being in the mould of a Southampton signing. At 23, there is plenty of time for him to develop, giving the club the option of making a profit on him in a few seasons time. Outscoring Mario Balotelli this year means that Plea probably wouldn’t come cheap, and he would need an enticing offer to leave the French league leaders.

4. Michael Keane – Burnley (Transfer)

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Image: ITV

Claude Puel will certainly be looking out for a centre back, with rumours surrounding both of his current first choices. Burnley’s Michael Keane will certainly be a player that Southampton are monitoring. The 23 year old has been a mainstay in Burnley’s defence for the last three seasons, and his performances this season have seen him linked with a host of top clubs. Keane certainly seems a strong option in defence, with a wealth of first team experience, including two seasons in the Premier League. If Southampton were to sign him in January, then he would have the rest of the season to settle in to the team, learning under Van Dijk and Fonte, before stepping up to replace them next time around – much like Charlie Austin did this time last year. Keane is reportedly attracting the attention of much bigger clubs than Southampton, and with Burnley keen to hold on to their star defender, this would not be a cheap deal.

5. Fabian Schar – Hoffenheim (Transfer)

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Image: Daily Star

The Swiss centre back has been linked to both Southampton and West Brom recently after impressing at the Euros in the summer. After an inconsistent first season and a half at Hoffenheim, Schar could be open to a move away. At 25, Schar still hasn’t reached his prime, and can only benefit from half a season to adapt to the English game. His strengths fit with the style of defender that Puel seems to prefer, being very good on the ball whilst also being a physical presence in both areas. Although he was one of Switzerland’s stars from the summer, Schar has yet to impress in a top league, perhaps putting off potential suitors.

A further option available to Claude Puel is to recall young striker Sam Gallagher from his loan spell at Blackburn. Gallagher has nine goals in his 18 starts this year, which is a fantastic return after suffering a serious injury last season. Although might be beneficial in the immediate future to recall Gallagher, Puel will surely favour keeping him out on loan playing regular football, with Olufela Olamola and the returning Ryan Seager offering back up to Saints’ first choice strikers.

Who do you think Saints should target in the January window? Would you welcome a return for Morgan Schneiderlin? Have your say in the comments or let me know on twitter @MoodyMan147.

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – West Ham

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Dimitri Payet was West Ham’s top scorer last season, with 12 goals in all competitions. Image: BBC Sport

West Ham have had an odd summer, as they have been linked to almost every striker in Europe. Come the start of the season, they have brought in Andre Ayew and Jonathan Calleri to support Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia. They are amongst ten new signings as the Hammers move in to the Olympic Stadium, which also include the impressive captures of highly rated defensive midfielder Havard Nordtveit as well as wingers Gokhan Tore and Sofiane Feghouli. These arrivals have prepared West Ham’s squad for Europa League football, where the Hammers will be looking to improve upon last season’s shambolic European campaign. Slaven Bilic’s side really impressed in the league last season, especially new signing Dimitri Payet, and keeping hold of the Frenchman will prove to be West Ham’s best piece of business this summer. November and December will define whether West Ham can push on from last season’s seventh place finish, as they face consecutive games against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Key Man: Dimitri Payet. The French midfielder proved the signing of last season, chipping in with nine goals, including several impossible free kicks. With West Ham’s new signings coming in, Payet can only improve, having more quality players to support him.

One to Watch: Sam Byram. The young right back joined from Leeds last January, and made four appearances in the second half of the season. Byram has been continually nominated for the Championship Young Player of the Season during his time at Leeds, and will flourish in a West Ham side that is geared towards attacking. His versatility is also an asset, with him being able to be play all the way down the right wing. If he establishes himself at West Ham this season, you can expect to see Byram challenging Nathaniel Clyne for an England spot.

Last Season: 7th   

Prediction: 9th