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Real Madrid looked poised to sweep Barcelona away in La Liga after beating them so comprehensively in the Spanish Super Cup in August yet by the end of Saturday's 'Clasico' they could be a remarkable 14 points behind their bitter rivals.

Coach Zinedine Zidane has overseen Real's worst run of results in the league in nine seasons and his side go into Saturday's encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu sitting fourth in the standings, 11 points adrift of Barca albeit having played one game fewer.
It is a scenario few could have foreseen after Real won a Liga and Champions League double last term and began this season so convincingly.
Seemingly the only positive Real will take onto the pitch on Saturday is that they are still world champions after retaining the Club World Cup last weekend with victory against Gremio in the final.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde looked in a vulnerable position in August after the resounding 5-1 aggregate defeat to Real so soon after succeeding Luis Enrique, especially with Brazil forward Neymar having left for Paris St Germain.
Yet the Spaniard has moulded the team into a highly resilient outfit who are unbeaten in their last 24 games in all competitions.

The Catalans are six points clear of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, who visit Espanyol on Friday.

Barca may not have the same creative spark as in recent seasons and have on occasion been accused of being boring, but they have developed a tougher edge under former Athletic Bilbao coach Valverde, conceding only seven goals in 16 games.
"After losing the Super Cup we knew that we had to work as hard as ever and all follow Valverde, who I think has started to leave his stamp on the team," Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen told Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"He has been watching us for a long time and he knew what he needed to do to improve us. That vision has served us well, we are very good defensively and we need to keep that up, or improve it, for the rest of the season so we can stay up there."

Barca captain Andres Iniesta said his side had erased the humbling 3-1 and 2-0 defeats to Real in the Super Cup from their memories but he does not think his side's big lead in the standings will have much bearing on the pitch on Saturday.

"That is in the past, we're in another competition and in a different moment. It's a completely different game and nothing to do with how we were back then," Iniesta told Marca.

"I don't look at the league table before a 'Clasico'. They are unique games and form has no impact. We know what's at stake and we'll try to take an important step towards winning the league."

Jurgen Klopp is pleased with Liverpool's recent defensive record but has stressed his players will need to be "spot on" at Arsenal on Friday.

While the Merseyside outfit have frequently dazzled with their attacking this season, their defence has been criticised at times.

Since losing 4-1 to Tottenham at Wembley in October, though, they have conceded only four goals in nine Premier League games.

Reds boss Klopp has no doubt those "numbers are important" but has emphasised Arsenal pose a considerable threat.

The German - whose side are fourth in the table, a place and a point better off than Arsenal - said ahead of Friday's clash: "We are a team who are very offensive-orientated, but that doesn't mean that you have to give any space away.

"The boys did well in different systems, which I really like a lot because that is the biggest improvement, but only because they now do the jobs in the moment, much more often.

"There are always things to work on, that's how football is, but of course the numbers are important - only four (conceded) in the last nine is good.

"But it's in the past. We have to be ready for a different challenge on Friday. It's Arsenal and they have quite a talented group there! We need to be spot on in this specific part of the game."

Liverpool failed in their pursuit of Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk over the summer, and there has been plenty of talk about the possibility of the Dutchman moving in the January transfer window.

Klopp was asked ahead of the Arsenal game if his side's defensive record of late had had an effect on what he might be thinking in terms of January business.

And he said: "Everything we are doing has influence on our plans. That's all I can say about that.

"So, yes, it has influence. But I don't know exactly in which way. So you'll have to wait a little bit.

"When we win a game and when we defend well, then I'm happy about it. If we defend not that good as a team, then I'm not happy about it, but I don't think then the solution is a new player always.

"For example, Alberto Moreno did fantastic this season, and then we played at Sevilla and he did not well. People didn't hesitate to say: 'That's why we need a new left-back'. And I think: 'Wow'.
"So thank God, I, or we, here make the decisions and nobody else.

"We are not relaxed, but we have a view on everything and it needs to fit together and everything needs to work out in the end, and you need to have solutions for different situations and systems and all that stuff.

"So far, it's okay. It could have been better, but it could have been much worse. Now, we prepare for Arsenal and we have to be defensively really, really strong in that game, otherwise we don't have a chance."

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To help you make some of your choices, Goal has picked out a few games and provided some background into the fixtures.

Crystal Palace v Bournemouth

After starting the season in nightmarish fashion with seven consecutive losses and failing to score in any of those games, the Eagles are now unbeaten in four home matches.
Bournemouth, meanwhile, have not won any of their last three in the Premier League and currently have just two away victories to their name this season.

Barnsley v Derby County

The Tykes seemingly can’t buy a win at the moment, having lost four matches on the spin and netting just once in that time – a run which comes after a series of games where Barnsley lost just one of eight.
The East Midlanders, on the other hand, have made an assault on the playoffs by registering seven wins in their last 10 matches to move from 16th up to sixth, and with just two away losses this campaign, that form should continue in South Yorkshire.

Amiens v Lyon

Ligue 1 has only been about one club this season – Paris Saint-Germain – but Lyon are sitting pretty in second place and should consolidate that with a win over Amiens in the first ever league meeting between the sides.
The visitors have lost just one of their least 10 league matches and just two in total this term, and whilst Amiens had a run of seven league matches unbeaten broken last week, Lyon average 2.5 goals per game and that should see them to another three points.

Reading v Cardiff City

This is the kind of match that the Bluebirds have to win if they are to realise their promotion dream. Cardiff sit in second place and have won their last four matches as well as four of their last six away from south Wales.
The Madejski Stadium was a tough place to go last season, with only two away sides emerging victorious in 23 fixtures there, but this campaign is a different story as the Royals have already lost four times at home.

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15 games for GH₵400k

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AC Milan vs Roma: Preview and Predictions

Written by Sunday, 01 October 2017 09:54

Both AC Milan and Roma earned wins in their respective midweek European fixtures, but it was far from comfortable for the Rossoneri and the Giallorossi.

For Milan, they were given a scare at home as Croatian side Riejka fought back from 2-0 down to try to snatch an equalizer, only for youngster Patrick Cutrone to score the match winner.

Meanwhile, Roma went 2-0 up, but Qarabag grabbed their first ever Champions League goal to make it 2-1. Whilst the Lupi hung on to win 2-1, it nonetheless caused some nervy moments for the visitors.

In any case, both are tied on points, but of the two managers, it’s Vincenzo Montella who arguably has more pressure on him at the moment. Milan ended up losing 2-0 to Sampdoria at the weekend and there are now rumors that he has this game, plus the Derby della Madonnina to turn things around or could face being sacked.

Meanwhile, this match will represent a real challenge for Roma, who were defeated by Inter earlier this season. The Lupi are coming into this fixture with a whole spate of injuries, with Diego Perotti, Gregoire Defrel and Patrik Schick all not available for this fixture.

Milan are still struggling to keep things tight in defense, despite the addition of Leonardo Bonucci, and Edin Dzeko has netted five goals in his last six appearances for Roma. He certainly will be a handful for the Rossoneri’s back line, who have looked less than solid as of late.
AC Milan vs Roma: Head-to-head statistics

Roma have won their last 9 away matches.
Roma have won their last 3 matches against AC Milan in all competitions.
AC Milan have seen over 2.5 goals in their last 4 home matches against Roma in all competitions.
There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 10 of Roma’s last 11 games.
Roma have scored at least 3 goals in 7 of their last 8 away matches.
AC Milan have scored at least 2 goals in their last 4 home matches.
AC Milan vs Roma: Prediction

Roma appear to be hitting full stride, whilst there are still some questions about Milan’s ability to really compete with the heavy hitters. The Rossoneri have netted in their last ten Serie A games and given that there have been over 2.5 goals in 10 out of Roma’s last 11 games, there should also be plenty of goals in this one – especially as the Giallorossi have also scored in their last 12 Serie A road fixtures.

Chelsea vs. Manchester City: Team News, Preview

Written by Saturday, 30 September 2017 08:44

Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge on Saturday in the Premier League’s standout fixture of the weekend.

A win for Antonio Conte's side would move them level on points with the visitors, in what will be both teams' final fixture before the international break.
Team News

Chelsea go into the game with few injury problems; only Danny Drinkwater is sidelined and not expected back until October, per BBC Sport.
Manager Antonio Conte may make changes, however, with his side having been in Spain in midweek to take on Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

Manchester City will be without defender Benjamin Mendy after the club confirmed he has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and is to undergo surgery.

Danilo could come in to replace Mendy, although manager Pep Guardiola could switch formation and use Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling as a wing-back.

However, that looks unlikely as both forwards are in excellent form attacking-wise, having scored against both Crystal Palace last weekend and Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek.

City are likely to be without Sergio Aguero following reports of him being involved in a car accident in Amsterdam that could rule him out for a couple of months, per ESPN:
Preview

This is a huge clash at the top of the table that pits two in-form teams against each other and will test the title credentials of both sides.

City head to west London having scored 16 goals without reply in their last three Premier League matches.
Chelsea are also on a good run, having beaten Stoke City 4-0 last time out, with Alvaro Morata again proving what a superb buy he has been with a hat-trick.
Chelsea may also be able to call on Eden Hazard, who is yet to start in the Premier League this season, per WhoScored.com.

Conte will surely want to have the Belgian's creativity and ability to go past players against City, particularly with Morata in such red-hot form.

The two teams look well-matched ahead of the game, but Chelsea will need to find an answer to City's in-form forwards if they are to get anything out of the game.

 

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea – 101 Great Goals prediction: Atletico Madrid 1-1 Chelsea

Wednesday night’s clash is expected to be a close one. Both sides head into the game in promising form.

Chelsea have scored four or more goals in three of their last four games, but they face an Atletico side that are yet to lose this season.
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea: Champions League preview
Premier League champions Chelsea travel to Spain to take on Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.

The match will be the first ever European game at Atletico’s brand new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Atletico have won both of their first two matches at the 67,000-seater stadium, including Saturday’s 2-0 win over Sevilla. Goals from Yannick Carrasco and Antoine Griezmann helped the Spanish side to a third straight win.

Diego Simeone’s side are yet to lose a match this season and are currently 2nd in La Liga, four points behind leaders Barcelona.

Last year’s semi-finalists were held to a 0-0 draw in their opening match away at Roma.

Chelsea, meanwhile, cruised to a 6-0 home win over Group C minnows Qarabag. Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Michy Batshuayi all got their names on the scoresheet.

Antonio Conte’s side extended their unbeaten run to seven matches on Saturday, beating Stoke 4-0 at the bet365 Stadium. Alvaro Morata bagged his first hat-trick for the club, with Pedro adding another. Morata actually began his youth career with Atletico in 2005.

Atletico Madrid team news v Chelsea: Torres reunion
Augusto Fernandez is back in training for the home side following a hamstring injury, but Wednesday’s game may come too soon for the midfielder.

Filipe Luis and Fernando Torres are both in line to face their old club.

Chelsea team news v Atletico Madrid: Courtois OK
Conte confirmed that Marcos Alonso is fine and that withdrawal at the weekend was a tactical one.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been given the all-clear following a head injury and is expected to start against his former club.

David Luiz’s suspension only applies to domestic matches, but there’s a slight chance the Brazilian could still miss out due to a wrist injury picked up against Arsenal.

Danny Drinkwater missed Saturday’s win with a calf injury and is targeting a return after the international break. The former Leicester midfielder is yet to make his debut for the Blues.

Diego Costa won’t be involved as he seeks a move away from Stamford Bridge. The Chelsea striker will most likely be rooting for his former (and likely future) employers.

Paris Saint-Germain v Bayern Munich: Preview

Written by Wednesday, 27 September 2017 08:41

Arjen Robben has warned big-spending Paris St Germain their money ``does not score goals'' ahead of their Champions League tie with Bayern Munich.

The new-look Parisians this summer made Neymar the world's most expensive player for a 222 million euro (£200.6million) fee, while on-loan strike partner Kylian Mbappe is expected to command around £166million if PSG take up their option to buy him outright from Monaco next year.

Those deals are a sign of PSG's intent to seriously contend for European football's biggest prize, a trophy Bayern have won on five occasions.

Robben scored in the final of the most recent one of those triumphs in 2013 and the Dutchman has reminded PSG that even with their riches, they still need to produce on the pitch.

``Paris have already spent a few more euros than we have, but money does not score goals,'' he told kicker. ``Quality on the pitch scores goals - good teams score goals.''

PSG crushed Celtic 5-0 in their opening Champions League group-stage encounter and Saturday's draw at Montpellier was the first time they failed to win all season.

Neymar was absent that night, though he is back in the squad for Wednesday night, and Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has pinpointed the danger of PSG's attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.
``

We're respectful of PSG, especially their attack; they have three world-class players up front,'' Rummenigge admitted on Bayern's official website. ``However, we have more experience in the Champions League.''

By prising away one of Barcelona's top players in Neymar and landing another of the world's hottest young properties in Mbappe, PSG began this Champions League campaign among the favourites to go all the way.

Manager Unai Emery believes his team now deserve to be considered among the continent's elite, even if they have made themselves somewhat unpopular in elevating themselves to such a position.

``When I was in Spain, I watched Europe's big clubs like Real, Barcelona, Bayern, Juventus and Manchester (United), with all the best players in the world,'' Emery told a press conference.

``There are five or six teams that can buy the best players in the world. Our team has taken an important step towards competing with the best teams.

``Today, we have more enemies, because they see that we have a serious team and that our transfer activity put us a step closer to being in the mix to win the Champions League.

``It's not a demand, it's a process. That's why people are talking about us a lot more now. Right now people are talking about Paris St Germain because we are among the best teams in the world.''

Monaco vs Porto: Preview and Predictions

Written by Monday, 25 September 2017 11:31

Thirteen years into their meeting at Gelsenkirchen in the Champions League final, Monaco and Porto meet again at the same competition. The group stage fixture is of great importance for both teams as they failed to raise the bar on matchday 1.
Monaco were held to a 1- 1 draw by Champions League new boys RB Leipzig on the opening day. However, their remain as prime candidates to win the group following Porto’s defeat to Besiktas. This inturn implicates that the Portuguese side has a big job to do on Tuesday as another defeat will blow out their qualification chances depending on results elsewhere.

Both teams made a decent start to their competitive season. Monaco are unbeaten at home in competitive matches this season. They won all their 4 games at the Stade Louis so far scoring a total of 16 goals as against 3 conceded. Meantime, their lone defeat in all competitions happened in the Ligue 1 fixture away to Nice, 4 days before the away draw at Leipzig.

Meantime, other than the defeat at Besiktas, Porto had won their remaining 7 matches this season. The team had kept 5 clean sheets on the bounce before the defeat. Since then, the team failed to guard the defense.

Monaco vs Porto: Head-to-head

The final at Gelsenkirchen on May 2004 is the lone meeting between the two sides. It proved to be the lucky day for Jose Mourinho as Porto thrashed Monaco 3-0.

Monaco’s overall record against Portuguese clubs is 2 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses from 7 matches. At home, they are unbeaten in three with 2 wins and a draw.

Porto met French oppositions 23 times and boast a solid record with 12 wins, 6 draws and 5 losses. However, they struggled a bit in away games as the 11 games saw 3 wins, 4 draws and 4 losses.

Monaco vs Porto: Prediction

The teams might have similar sort of forms, but Monaco come with a reputation of outscoring any opponent on any given day. This is very much a reality as Porto’s defense looked brittle in recent games. The French side will also benefit from playing this match at their home turf.

Borussia Dortmund versus Real Madrid has become a routine fixture at the Champions League over the past few seasons. The Bundesliga side had kept the La Liga giants at bay in each of the last four double legged meetings. Can Zidane’s men sprung a surprise this time, with Dortmund desperate for a win following the opening day loss to Tottenham.
Dortmund lost 3-1 to Tottenham on matchday 1 of the Champions League 2017/18 season. Despite the result went against their way, the team had majority of the ball and best of the scoring chances. Their defense is at blame for the disappointing result.

Peter Bosz has since managed to fix the majority of the problems in the back-line and the team let in just 1 goal in their last 3 matches. The main improvement has been seen in the goal-scoring department as the Borussians thrashed Gladbach 6-1 and Koln 5-0 in back-to-back home games. However, Madrid provides a different proportion as they had found it easy to score even when Ronaldo is out.

Real Madrid, since their thumping win against Barcelona in the Super Cup have produced some lackluster performances. They were held to draws by Levante and Valencia and eventually fell to a surprise defeat at home against Real Betis.

Too much rotation and injuries to Marcelo and Benzema, together with Ronaldo’s ban hasn’t helped the course. Their defense is extremely brittle and look to concede anytime even when they seem to have total control of the match. Yet, it is too early to conclude that this team in on the brink of a crisis.

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid: Head-to-head

Last season, we saw both group games between Dortmund and Real ending in 2-2 draws. Aubameyang scored a goal each in both fixtures.

Overall, there has been 12 meetings between the two clubs at the Champions League. Real Madrid are ahead with 4 wins as against Dortmund’s 3, with 5 games ending in stalemates.

Borussia Dortmund have not lost a Champions League fixture at home to Real Madrid. There has been 3 wins and 3 draws in the six meetings at the Signal Iduna Park.

To go with, Dortmund have a good record against La Liga clubs at home soil. Their 12 matches saw 7 win and 2 draws and lost just once.

On the other hand, Real Madrid do not have a good record in away trips to Germany. They managed only 5 wins from 31 games and lost a massive 19, the remaining 7 are draws. However, the did break the voodoo with a 2-1 win at Bayern Munich in the semifinal of the competition last season.

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid: Prediction

The general perception about this match is on the number of goals expected with both teams coming on the back of a scoring spree. Dortmund scored 13 goals in their three home matches this season, while Real netted 11 in their four away games in all competitions. Therefore, both teams to score and over 2.5 goals must be a banker bet.

And about full-time result, despite Madrid having a poor away record both against Dortmund and German teams, they are still a prime candidate to win this one outright. The main question is if Dortmund have a formidable squad to compete with elite teams this season. I certainly don’t think so.

Leicester City vs. Liverpool: Team News, Preview

Written by Friday, 22 September 2017 13:11

Leicester City welcome Liverpool to the King Power Stadium on Saturday, fresh from knocking the Reds out of the Carabao Cup in midweek with a 2-0 win.

The defeat was another poor result for Liverpool who are yet to win in September and have now gone four games without a victory in all competitions.

Leicester, meanwhile, will be aiming to improve on a slow start to the season, which sees them lying in 15th place having picked up just four points from their opening five games.
Team News

Both teams were much-changed for the Carabao Cup game and should bring key players back for Saturday's clash.

Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino did not feature at all on Tuesday and may return to the attack, but Sadio Mane remains suspended for Liverpool after his dismissal against Manchester City.

However, it is in defence where manager Jurgen Klopp may look to change things having said he was "really sick" with the goals they conceded against the Foxes in midweek, per Stuart James of the Guardian.

This is not a new problem, and the statistics back up Klopp's criticism, as the Reds have conceded 10 goals in their last four games and are yet to keep a clean sheet on their travels so far this season.

 Preview

Liverpool head to Leicester at the weekend with questions being asked of Klopp after their elimination in the League Cup.

The game highlighted familiar failings within the Reds squad, particularly their profligacy in front of goal, as noted by Goal's Melissa Reddy:
After this game, Liverpool's next fixture is against Spartak Moscow in Russia on Tuesday.

Leicester took full advantage of Liverpool's failings in the cup and may do so again.

In Jamie Vardy they have a striker who has the pace and precision to trouble the Reds back line.

The England international's league form is superb, particularly since Craig Shakespeare took charge, as illustrated by Opta:15 - Jamie Vardy has now had a hand in 15 goals in 18 Premier League apps under Craig Shakespeare (12 goals, 3 assists).
The season may be young but anything other than a win for Liverpool will increase the scrutiny on Klopp after a poor run of results.

The Reds' humbling of Arsenal in August showed they have the quality, particularly in attack, but they must tighten up to avoid being beaten by Leicester for the second time in a week.

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