German football elite division is coming back this weekend after the winter break in which the clubs took time off and recharged batteries. While in England, Spain and Italy the significant teams were playing during the festive season, the Germans went camping and planned the second part of the season. WhaleBets looks forward to the five things we can expect and cannot wait to see what will bring to many of us – Bundesliga fans from around the world!
When Jose Mourinho finally left after the derby defeat against Liverpool, many Man United fans were left with a taste of relief. The writing was on the wall for the Portuguese manager since a couple of months of, and it was probably only a matter of time. The reasons behind his sacking could be various and almost every United fan across the globe could give his list. Strangely or not, Manchester United managing bodies could also be blamed for the situation most successful English club currently is at. Jose received a contract extension last season even when some worrying signs were there to be seen. We looked what went wrong for Mourinho this season and what was the instant things which Solskjær changed. The subject whether the Norwegian should remain beyond this season is somewhat unclear and most importantly what would be the other options available – Pochettino, Zidane, someone else?
The big tests for the new regime at United are only coming – Spurs in the league and ambition to enter the Top 4, PSG at the Champions League in February and the domestic cup. Maybe some of this will be sacrificed, or maybe Ole Gunnar will go for all of them. Many things remain to be seen, but the start is somewhat promising, and United’s style of play bring back joy to their fans at last.
Jose famously fell out with some of his high profile players and was caught on various occasions being on opposite opinion with them. You could argue that this is possible and could happen to anyone at any club, but whether this must occur in public remains questionable. Jose decided to go and attack players openly in his post-match interviews shattering the confidence of Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Fred and almost everyone from his squad. The answer to the question for players’ confidence: Why do some teams excel under certain managers? Why does the same employee perform differently under different managers or at different points in his career? Jose lost the dressing room and eventually lost his job.
During his first five games in charge, Ole Gunnar Solskjær seems to inspire the squad and players such as Pogba, Lukaku, Suarez and the defence looks different and much more inspired. The freedom and the spirit Paul Pogba is playing is with, really makes you wonder if this the same player? The Norwegian lifted the spirits. But since Solskjær has come in Old Trafford appears to be a much happier place. He made an effort to congratulate almost each of his players, hugged them and praised them after each match, reminding us more to Jurgen Klopp than to Jose. The Portuguese approached “me vs the world” and often went to war of words with the media, opposing managers or players, but in the opposing side often he included his players. That, as previously mentioned, cost him his job.
Negative tactics – Attacking display
Jose was often accused of playing so defensively and result oriented. Yes, he got his enormous trophy room with Chelsea, Inter, Real and Porto, but many of the cups were won with brilliant tactics based on great defensive displays. Porto’s surprising Champions League win put Mourinho on the cover page of European football, but has the Special One improved from back then? Has he adapted his style of play to today’s game? With the influx of Mancini, Conte and Guardiola, even the old 4-4-2 was dumped for more modern looking 3-5-2 with wing-backs, and many dinosaurs of the English game adapted this display. Even Mourinho tried playing with wing-backs such as Young, Valencia, Darmian and Shaw. The number of games when United took the lead and then dropped back were so many that it will be difficult to name them all. In the first five games United played under Solskjaer, the team didn’t stop attacking. Even when they were leading, the substitutions were attacking oriented, and the Norwegian put out players on similar or more attacking positions.
One man who has benefited immensely from the Norwegian’s positive approach is Marcus Rashford, who is looking an absolute world-beater at the moment. The youngster has netted two in three under Solskjær but has been involved in every productive thing United have done going forward. His assist for Pogba’s opener against Bournemouth was Lionel Messi-esque, and he’s certainly enjoying expressing himself as his manager asked.
Mike Phelan and bringing back Sir Alex Ferguson’s values
When it was announced that Mike Phelan is going to be part of the Norwegian’s staff team, everyone was pleased that a familiar face from Sir Alex’s time is returning to Old Trafford. The importance of the assistant should not be underestimated, and United benefited from a person who worked closely to Ferguson over the years. The authority he is putting to all the players could be a massive boost to Ole Gunnar and the rest of his team.
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2018 had everything in the football world – World Cup, Champions League final with everything, Europa League with heroes and villains, Arsene Wenger retiring, Mourinho sacked by Manchester United, Mbappe shining and many many more. Take a look at what the WhaleBets team picked from the past 12 months in what was a tremendous footballing year!
12. Virgil Van Dijk’s transfer to Liverpool
Liverpool announced early in January 2018 that they’ve reached an agreement with Southampton over the record transfer of the Dutch centre-back Virgil Van Dijk. This certainly raised a few eyebrows, and many criticized Klopp for overspending, but the impactVirgil had on Liverpool was clear – he helped the team reaching the Champions League final, began the 2018-2019 season in a commanding style by being top of the Premierleague at the end of 2018 and some impressive figures: Before his first game, Liverpool conceded 1.2 goals per game and kept a clean sheet in just 32% of their games. Since they signed him that goals per game figure has dropped to just 0.5 and have kept clean sheets in 57% of matches.
11. Lopetegui’s exits
Julen Lopetegui surprised everyone after he publicly joined Real Madrid just one day before the World Cup. He had guided his Spain and impressed over the qualifying stage, but he decided to accept Real Madrid’s offer to replace Zinedine Zidane. We will not argue with his decision, although he might have informed his current employers from the Spanish FA. The Spanish chiefs decided to fire Lopetegui and put Fernando Hierro in charge just 1 day before the World Cup. Spain never made it there and failed to impress. Lopetegui’s reign at European champions Real was cut short after a poor start of the season – so it turned out bad for all sides involved – Spain, Lopetegui and Real Madrid.
10. Ronaldo and Messi records which are not broken (yet)
In yet another year dominated by Cristiano and Leo Messi, the pair managed to break another number of records, but what is interesting is what remained to be done by the pair in 2019. Cristiano moved to Juventus and became integral figure straight away.
– Champions League Final goals
Di Stefano and Puskas have 7 goals each for the legendary Real Madrid side, Messi (2) and Cristiano (4) must improve if they want to reach records.
– UEFA competition appearances
Iker Casillas has 184 apps in all UEFA competitions, and both Ronaldo and Messi could surpass the legendary Spanish goalkeeper – with 129 and 109 respectively.
– Goals in most UEFA Champions League consecutive seasons
The current record is being held by Ryan Giggs – 16 seasons in a row. Messi scored in 14 successive campaigns and Ronaldo scored in his last 14 – and 14 in total. Both can thus match Giggs’ tally in 2020/21.
9. Manchester City 100+ points season
Pep Guardiola’s side impressed in the 2017-2018 season, and Manchester City won the title easily with a bunch of records being broken. Gabriel Jesus scored in the final minute of the last game of the season away at Southampton to make it – 106 goals scored, 32 wins out of 38 games, positive goal difference +79. Talk about the dominant title win!
8. Germany woes at the World Cup
Joachim Low kept his place in charge of the German National football team despite early World Cup exit in the group stages. The defeats against Mexico and South Korea was one of the highlights of the tournament, and many who picked Germany for the title was disappointed that their pick failed to reach the knockout stages. Leroy Sane was the questionable decision by Low to leave out the Man City winger. The Germans lacked goals and threats in attack and the likes of Muller, Werner certainly had a tournament to forget. So could Low and the Germans win the fans back?
7. Roma comeback against Barcelona
Kostas Manolas completed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Champions League by nodding a header from a corner. The Spanish giants went ahead comfortably after the first leg – winning 4-1 and holding a pole position before the 2nd leg. Goals by Edin Dzeko and Danielle De Rossi gave the Italians the hope of a miracle, and that happened when their Greek centre-back scored the winning goal. The crowd at Olimpico erupted after the final whistle and history were written. Roma then failed to overcame Liverpool at the semis, but the memory of a famous comeback will remain forever.
6. Wenger leaving Arsenal
It was a moment everyone expected for numerous years, but a moment no one was prepared for. Even biggest Wenger critics had tears in their eyes at Wenger last games in which the Frenchman said goodbye to the Gunners after building his dynasty in North London. The Invincibles record might not be broken, so Wenger and his team will remain in English Football history.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus
After winning everything with Real Madrid and breaking all goalscoring records (almost), the Portugal star decided it’s time to leave. Ronaldo won 3 times in a row the Champions League, and with a Manchester United success earlier in his career, the chance to win the most prestigious club competition with a 3rd different club was enough challenging for the star. On the way to securing the trophy Real eliminated Juve and Ronaldo scored one of the goals of the year – a stunning bicycle kick which was applauded by the Italians fans. Four months later, the Portugal star is bossing the Serie A.
4. England at the World Cup (including winning on penalties!)
Gareth Southgate got the nation united, and the young 3 Lions made fans dreaming. It’s coming home became yet again a hit over the summer when Harry Kane & Co. reached the semi-finals only to lose to Croatia. The likes of Pickford, Trippier and Harry Maguire will remain in England folklore after their heroics in Russia. The one particular highlight was that England won a game on penalties on World Cup. If we see that last penalty kick win was in 1996 against Spain, we can expect England to win again on penalties in 2040. Worth the wait?
3. Karius woes and Real Madrid winning 3rd Champions League in a row
It was just not meant to be for Loris Karius and Liverpool and that night in Kyiv. Liverpool reached their first Champions League final since 2007 and Jurgen Klopp side looked optimistic about their chances against Real Madrid. Karius made errors that might hunt him till the rest of his career, Gareth Bale score a spectacular goal and the match had everything. The highlight was Mohamed Salah getting injured after a clash with Real Madrid villain Sergio Ramos. Was it intentional or not – one of the biggest debates of the year.
The VAR was introduced in the World Cup, and the whole world watched whether this would improve the game we all love. Referees mistakes cost hundreds of times a win to all our beloved clubs, but did VAR provided us with an answer? VAR has had a mixed time in Russia, then, but that was always going to be the case given this is the first World Cup in which the system has been used. The news that the technology is going to be used in the Champions League and Premierleague is good for everyone supporting it, and it might change football for good.
1. France at the World Cup
Didier Deschamp’s side impressed and won the World Cup in a really spectacular manner. Led by one of the greatest footballing generations of football, Les Blues marched their way into winning the cup. Kylian Mbappe certainly impressed the most. The first teenager since Pele to score twice in a World Cup game. The first teenager since Pele to score in a World Cup final. Won the trophy that has eluded Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo was at the hands of the Paris SG star player. How far can France go from nowon? We will wait and see.
UEFA Champions League Round of 16 and UEFA Europa League Round of 32 draw was made!
The draw was made earlier on 17.December and the opponents learned who they will face in the elimination phase of the Europe’s most prestigious tournaments – Champions League and Europa League.
Many people consider it as the fiercest game of football ever being played. Argentina’s football world is indeed still spinning around between the two giants – Boca Juniors and River Plate.Now, it’s about to lit up the whole South America and the entire world. Final ever tie of the Copa Libertadores to be played throughout two legs – what better clash for that!
Now the prize is even more significant, so this will be Superclasico like no other… it’s going to be like Barcelona against Real Madrid, as the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, like Muhammed Ali vs. Joe Frazier – a game of football that goes beyond the 90 minutes.
Like plenty of the footballing rivalries, Argentine’s most significant match is all about different class. Boca is coming from the colourful but dodgy area of Buenos Aires – La Boca port area. This part of the capital is retaining a robust European flavour and centre of the radical political movement. Even though many tourists commonly visit the city, the large number of crimes around Estadio Alberto J. Armando, popularly known as La Bombonera is occurring on a daily basis. On a different note, River Plate’s nickname is Los Millonarios (The Millionaires), and historically, the richest and powerful people have always been River’s fan base.
The mega derby has been played 246 times throughout 100+ years already. Boca has the slight advantage regarding wins – 88 versus 81 River wins. The draws have been 77. While the pair have historically dominated Argentine football with 69 league titles between them (River 36, Boca 33), but they have never met in a Copa Libertadores final. It has never happened before, and it will never happen again – at least not in this format of the 2-legged fixture being the final.
Boca will host the first game on Saturday, 10. November and the second one being played on El Monumental a fortnight after. Boca reached the final for record 11th time after progressing over Palmeiras winning 4-2 on aggregate. Boca will be hoping for a win, which will be their seven tournament success.
In the other semi-final River also overcame a Brazilian side – Gremio. They have appealed against the Argentine’s side manager Marcelo Gallardo, but unsuccessfully. Gallardo may be suspended for the final, but the main point is the forthcoming final.
The tournament itself is the equivalent of the UEFA Champions League, and it’s organised since 1960. Featuring teams from across the continent, with Brazil and Argentina’s representatives dominating the past winner’s list. Mexican organisations have also been invited to compete.
Argentine side Independiente is the most successful in the competition’s history with seven titles, while Boca is close behind with six. Uruguay’s Penarol has won five times, and Argentina’s Estudiantes follow with four triumphs. Paraguayan outfit Olimpia have won the Copa three times, as have Nacional (Uruguay), River (Argentina), Sao Paulo, Gremio and Santos (all Brazil).
Twenty-five champions have come from Argentina and 18 from Brazil, with Uruguay providing eight winners. The remaining champions hail from Colombia, Paraguay, Chile and Ecuador. Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela and Mexico have never had a Copa Libertadores champion so far, but this appears to be the most exciting final up to date. Batistuta, Maradonna, Pasarela and Riquelme are just a few of the most famous players to grace the Superclasico. Reinaldo Merlo from River played the most times in the derby with 42 appearances between 1969 and 1984. Silvio Marzolini is the most-capped player in the derby for Boca Juniors, playing 37 matches. The most notable all-time goalscorers are Angel Labruna for River with 16 goals and Paulo Valentim with 10 for Boca.
Who will write themselves in the history book with golden letters and could this match be as a turning point for both Argentina and South America’s football in general.
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Why don’t Bayern Munich look so scary anymore? How come the six consecutive title winning-sides look so beatable at the moment at the start of the new Bundesliga season?
After four games without a victory in the new season, the team is considered to be in some crisis, because the giants have set the standard very high over the years. New manager Niko Kovac is already feeling the pressure of having the bigger club mentalityover his shoulders – everyone has an opinion who should play, how the rotation must be done, do the old dogs must be in the squad and many more.
He took over during the summer after guiding his former club Eintracht Frankfurt to a German Cup win against his future employers.
Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness kept a close eye on last week’s training sessions, and Bild described how Kovac worked on fitness and tactics with the players who had not been away on international duty. After all international stars returned from their national teams’ duty and all eyes were on them to raise their game. And so they did – Bayern won 3-1 thanks to Lewandowski and James goals, and for the time being can relax. Of course, the nerves could soon be back on track if they fail to qualify from the UEFA Champions League group or fail to win one of their next games in the Bundesliga
Bayern already trails to league leaders Borussia Dortmund and more worrying is that Armin Feh’s side looks like a team from other planet compared to the Reds. Paco Alcaser and co. are truly inspiring and BVB can be competition to Bayern and the rest of theleague. If we add Gladbach to the picture as well, we would suggest that Bayern could be in trouble in defending their title.
There are plenty of factors to analyse, with recruitment, an ageing squad and poor management all raised as reasons Bayern are struggling to live up to the levels expected of them, and we will focus on the following reasons:
- Recruitment issues / slow starters
- Ageing squad leaders
- Shadows of former managers + rumours of Wenger
- Niko Kovac – inexperienced at the highest level
Recruitment issues – despite getting Leon Goretzka from Schalke 04 on the cheap, Bayern didn’t sign any major players this summer. Arturo Vidal left, and with Xabi Alonso retiring last year, Goretzka and his teammates have to fill the gap in midfield quickly. James and Serge Gnarby can provide a spark up front, but the loss of Douglas Costa could be felt early on the season. The likes of Julian Brandt and Leon Bailey (both from Leverkusen) could be soon scouted to give Bayern some speed on the wings. Other big question – where will the goals come from if Lewandowski is out of the squad? Bayern failed to sign high-profile 20+ goals a season striker for a consecutive year, and the Pole is without alternative yet again.
Leaders Neuer, Ribery, Robben, Muller, Lewandowski are already in the developed stages of their footballing careers and won almost everything with the club. The big question is – do they have ambition enough to go and make another successful season for the Munich side. Some of them will like to test themselves at the highest level in a different league, so it won’t be surprising if either Neuer, Muller or Lewandowski end up in Spain or England.
Managerial issues – let’s face it, Bayern was managed by leading and famous names in the past years – Ancelotti, Guardiola, Heynckess are to name a few. Managers with proven track record and style of play. Now they’ve jumped to a more inexperienced choice like Niko Kovac, which deserves admiration. But is he unproven at this level and maybe is not yet up to the task of managing such a talented and ambitious squad? Arsene Wenger was already linked, Zinedine Zidane is still out of a job and the woes Joachim Loew is having at Die Mannschaft are only a few big shadows waiting over Kovac’s shoulders. Can he fight off the demons and lead Bayern to a record-breaking season full of trophies? We will soon find out.
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After playing the first two rounds of the European top club football competitions, there are already early winners and losers. Last 3 season’s winners Real Madrid are finding it tough without Cristiano Ronaldo, debutants Hoffenheim and Crvena Zvezda Belgrade are having a difficult time at the beginning and many more exciting topics. Arsenal, Chelsea and AC Milan started perfectly in the Europa League and will be hoping to continue their impressive form and to carry on until the late stages of the competition. WhaleBets will review all of the actions from the groups, and you will have a full recap.
If you want to get familiar with the two major European cup competitions – you can check the infographics our team made or read the preview of the 2018/2019 season.
UEFA Champions League
|Club Atlético de Madrid||2||6|
|AS Monaco FC||2||0|
Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid started with two wins from their opening matches leaving both Club Brugge and Monaco on the brink of elimination. The Belgian champion hardly proved a match for Atletico and had no luck in their opener against Dortmund. Cristian Pulisic late strike proved vital for the Germans. Atletico won away at Monaco and overturned an early lead to win with Diego Costa and Jimenez getting on the score sheet on the process. Next fixtures are offering Atletico v Borussia Dortmund clashes and Brugge v Monaco, so many answers on which teams will finish top and bottom could be given.
|Tottenham Hotspur FC||2||0|
In this group, the biggest highlight was the Tottenham – Barcelona game at Wembley which finished 2-4 and was decided by Leo Messi’s brilliance. The talismanic Argentine forward scored twice in a thrilling win which left Spurs with two defeats. Mauricio Pochetinno’s side lost the first match late on against Inter, so they will be looking to get two wins against PSV and to hope for the better performance against both Barcelona and Internazionale in the reverse fixtures.
|FK Crvena zvezda||2||1|
In what appeared to be one of the most exciting groups, Napoli, PSG and Liverpool are in a real battle for only two places. Liverpool impressed and won against PSG at the start of the campaign, with Napoli drawing against Crvena Zvezda. Then PSG thrashed the Serbians in Paris thanks to Neymar’s excellent performance. Napoli won at the end against Liverpool to make sure that the three teams have all to play for till the final game of this group.
|FC Schalke 04||2||4|
|FC Lokomotiv Moskva||2||0|
Porto, Schalke 04 and Galatasaray are locked in a battle to progress from this group, and after two losses Lokomotiv Moscow are a long way off. Porto and Schalke played a draw and are with 4 points and after Galatasaray thrashing 3-0 Lokomotiv Moscow, Turkey’s representative is having their chances in progressing with next game against Schalke 04 which are hardly impressive in the Bundesliga.
|FC Bayern München||2||4|
|AEK Athens FC||2||0|
Ajax surprises everyone this campaign by topping the group after the win against AEK and drawing away at Bayern. Benfica lost at home to the German team then won against AEK Athens. Ajax clashes with Benfica will determine who will join Bayern in the next round that anything apart from 2 wins out of their matches against AEK Athens would be considered a huge shock.
|Manchester City FC||2||3|
|FC Shakhtar Donetsk||2||2|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||2||1|
Considerable favourites in this group Manchester City lost their opener against Lyon and were on the brink against Hoffenheim either, but managed to get a much-needed win via David Silva winning goal in Germany. Shakhtar was left with only 2 points after drawing both their games against Hoffenheim and Lyon. German debutants now will face the French side twice, and this could turn out to be hard to predict group.
|PFC CSKA Moskva||2||4|
|Real Madrid CF||2||3|
|FC Viktoria Plzen||2||1|
Real Madrid began life after Zidane and Ronaldo with a sound win against Roma but then failed miserably in Moscow by losing 0-1 to CSKA. Loppetegui will be having hard times if his side fails to qualify from what looks like an easy group – well at least on paper. Roma is slowly finding their form again and now must focus on their two decisive games against CSKA Moscow.
|Manchester United FC||2||4|
|BSC Young Boys||2||0|
Cristiano’s return to Man United was the highlight of the draw, and it appeared that this could not happen. The Portuguese superstar was sent off during Juventus’ win away in Valencia, and his ban only meant that he could not feature against Young Boys. Later UEFA decided not to increase the ban and Ronaldo will return to Old Trafford. Valencia will be hoping to get two wins against outsiders from Switzerland and then to pray for the best against United at home and away at Juve.
UEFA Europa League
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||2||6|
|AEK Larnaca FC||2||0|
|PFC Ludogorets 1945||2||0|
Zurich and Bayer Leverkusen are on hot track in progressing from their group after dealing with Bulgarian side Ludugorets and Cyprus’ Larnaca. Leverkusen showed great composure and scored the total of 7 goals in their two games. Zurich, on the other hand, was pragmatic and won twice by a single goal margin – both wins coming in the closing stages of their matches. If someone from Larnaca and Ludogorets would like to progress, they will have to get at least one win from their clash and then to hope for better performances.
In the battle of the Red Bull teams, Salzburg won against Leipzig and defeated Celtic as well. The Austrian side is having vast experience in the tournament and sits on leading position to qualify from this group. Celtic are gearing for final fixtures against the leaders after having mixed results in their two games – winning at home against Rosenborg and losing against Leipzig away. Rosenborg will need to improve after losing both their fixtures.
|SK Slavia Praha||2||3|
|FC Girondins de Bordeaux||2||0|
French side Bordeaux is with 0 points after their two opening fixtures and must drastically improve over the next few matches if they want to progress from this group. Zenit is leading along with FC Copenhagen after both teams drawing in the first round. Slavia Prague is in an excellent position to qualify after having 3 points from their opening fixtures.
|GNK Dinamo Zagreb||2||6|
|FC Spartak Trnava||2||3|
Anderlecht fears the worst after losing both opening games and failing to score a single goal – losing both matches against Spartak Trnava and Dinamo Zagreb. Turkish giants Fenerbahce lost heavily in the opening fixture in Zagreb but managed to get a win against Spartak Trnava in the second one. Anderlecht now is facing Fenerbahce, and many answers could be given in the doubleheader between the Belgians and the Turkish club.
|Sporting Clube de Portugal||2||6|
|FC Vorskla Poltava||2||0|
In this group favourites are marching to qualification easily by winning both their games and now the tie between Arsenal and Sporting CP will decide who will potentially go out as winners and who will be as runner-up. Arsenal began their life under new manager Unai Emery brightly, and despite fielding under-strength teams, they won comfortably 4-2 and 3-0. Sporting CP also had no trouble against the likes of Vorskla and Qarabag FK, and despite a turbulent summer, they will have no problems progressing from their group.
|Real Betis Balompié||2||4|
Biggest shock contestant Dudelange could not live up the expectations and failed to register a single point from their two opening fixtures. They lost narrowly from Milan and Real Betis and are yet to play a double-tie with Greek giants Olympiakos. Milan overturned a deficit from the Greeks and won 3-1 at the San Siro. Betis and Olympiacos are going to be battling it out for the second spot, knowing that most probably AC Milan will occupy the top place at the end of the group campaign.
|SK Rapid Vienna||2||3|
|FC Spartak Moskva||2||1|
In an evenly matched group without real favourite for the top spot – this group appears to be unpredictable. Steven Gerrard is in his debut season and Rangers returned to Europe after a few year’s exiles, but this didn’t stop them to be on a top place – 4 points – draw against Villareal and a home win against Rapid Wien. Spartak Moscow is bottom, but they have experienced squad on disposal, so surely the fight will go down the wire in this group.
|Apollon Limassol FC||2||1|
|Olympique de Marseille||2||1|
Eintracht Frankfurt won the German Cup, lost their manager to Bayern, and now are living the dream in Europe – beating Marseille away and Lazio convincingly at home. Marseille will be hoping for improvement knowing that they managed to reach the final on last year’s edition of the tournament. Eintracht is possibly qualified, but the encounter between Lazio and OM appears to be mouthwatering.
|Sarpsborg 08 FF||2||3|
If there is a real thrilling group in the tournament – it has to be this one. Four teams, all with 3 points and all to play for in the next four rounds. Surprising or not, Sarpsborg is leading the way on goal difference with the biggest shock coming from Besiktas who are finding it tight from the beginning of the year.
|R. Standard de Liege||2||3|
Record breakers Sevilla won the tournament five times and certainly will be hoping to reach the later stages of the competition. The Spanish side was stunned in their away fixture in Russia by FC Krasnodar. Standard Liege are also a team to look after, but the outsiders Akhisar are unlikely to cause significant problems to anyone, and they are in trouble in the Turkish Super League too.
|FC Dynamo Kyiv||2||2|
In this group, Dynamo Kiyv started slowly with two draws and certainly will be hoping to gain points in their next matches. Their both games ended 2-2, so certainly both teams to score is a good option in their games. Astana won at home against Rennes and now will be hoping against the bottom of the table team Jablonec to get the valuable points which will see them trough. On the other hand, the Czech team made a comeback against Kiyv so that the momentum will be there too.
|FC BATE Borisov||2||3|
In the final group, the other English representative Chelsea started with 100% record. The Blues from London are respecting the tournament, and Sarri fielded strong selection in both wins against PAOK and MOL Vidi. BATE Borisov is the other team in the group, and they will undoubtedly be relishing the challenge in facing one of the favourites in the tournament Chelsea in their next two games.
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After the busy summer football fans had and after all transfer windows across Europe now closed, WhaleBets team would like to offer you a quick review of the best value for the money signings. In many cases the clubs want to overspend on a player or to drag into a bidding war with another rival club, but who were the best signings your team could’ve got for a relatively smaller fee and which could turn in to a bargain.
1. Stefan de Vrij (Lazio Inter, free transfer)
The Dutch centre-back spent four years with Lazio and established in the capital as one of the best defenders in Serie A. Having been linked with most of the big guns from the English Premier League like Manchester United, City, Chelsea and Liverpool; he decided to stay in Italy and join the revolution of Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri added Radja Nainggolan, Lautaro Martinez and are already looking impressive at the start of the new season. It’s to be seen whether they can challenge Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo for the title, but yes, Inter got an experienced and reliable centre defender in de Vrij. Lazio can only blame themselves for not extending the Dutchman contract earlier and lost him for no money at all.
2. André Silva (AC Milan Sevilla, loan)
The Portuguese centre-forward arrived last summer in what appeared to be a transfer revolution in AC Milan. He came as a young striker with a lot of potential and goalscoring record but failed miserably to repay the 38 million euro paid by Italians giants for him. He scored only three times during the whole season, remained on the bench most of the time, and even he didn’t make the match squad in Genarro Gattuso’s newly looking Milan side. After completing his loan move to La Liga, Silva started scoring, and he even got a hattrick in his league debut. Being at 22-years old still, the future for Sevilla and the young Portuguese striker might look bright and yet again the Andalusia side got a real transfer bargain.
3. Leon Goretzka (Schalke 04 FC Bayern, free transfer
FC Bayern continued the tradition in getting the best out of their Bundesliga competitors as they’ve gained Schalke 04’s captain over the summer. Leon Goretzka came through the youth ranks of Bochum, but joined Schalke in 2013 and played over 100 times for the north side. In 2016/2017 season he flourished on the more attacking role and scored eight goals. The big guns from Munich announced the signing of Goretzka in January and the German international signed 4-year contract on 1 July 2018. He even scored on his league debut against Stuttgart and Bayern fans will be hoping that the 23-year old playmaker could fill the gap left after Arturo Vidal’s departure. Certainly, Schalke 04’s fans will be a little disappointed with the way their favourite is gone, and it’s interesting to see how he will be treated when returning to their ground.
4. Bryan Cristante (Atalanta Roma, loan)
The newly-capped Italy international switched Atalanta for much more ambitious Roma and the chance to participate in the UEFA Champions League. Roma’s midfield is going to be a brand new looking after influential players like Nainggolan and Strootman left and now the likes of Cristante and Nzonzi would have to carry the expectations for good performances on their shoulder. Cristante would have the chance to develop and work with Danielle De Rossi – an iconic box to box midfielder for the capital city team. Given the fact that the midfielder is only 23-years old, the investment which Roma could make next summer by buying him permanently for 25 million euro could become a profitable one.
5. Joao Moutinho (Monaco Wolves, 5.00 million €)
The influential Portuguese attacking midfielder joined the Wolves revolution led by Jose Mendes and his connections across Europe. Moutinho won tons of silverware with Porto, Sporting and Monaco and certainly making the switch to Molineaux would raise a few eyebrows. He was a significant part in Portugal winning the Euros in 2016, and his name indeed is familiar to fans in the Premier League has been on the verge of joining Manchester United earlier in his career. The 32-year old playmaker already enjoyed a good partnership with Ruben Neves at the heart of Wolves midfield and will be crucial for Nuno Espirito Santo’s plans to transform the Midlands club into a real hit in the English Premier League.
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The second-best European tournament is back on, and excitement is building around all clubs participating. Looking forward to the group stage draw, teams from the bigger leagues will value to the tournament as the route to the Champions League, as the winners are granted participation in the group stage of the most luxurious competition.
When it’s the draw?
The draw will take place on Friday, August 31 in Monaco.
What are the rules of the tournament?
12 groups with four teams, top 2 teams qualify for the Round of 32. 8 3rd place teams from the group stage of UEFA Champions League are entering the Round of 32 stage.
Groups to be determined.
What is the prize money?
- Preliminary round: €220,000
- First qualifying round: €240,000
- Second qualifying round: €260,000
- Third qualifying round: €280,000
- Play-off round elimination: €300,000
- Base fee for group stage: €2,920,000
- Group match victory: €570,000
- Group match draw: €190,000
- Group winners: €1,000,000
- Group runners-up: €500,000
- Round of 32: €500,000
- Round of 16: €1,100,000
- Quarter-finals: €1,500,000
- Semi-finals: €2,400,000
- Losing finalist: €4,500,000
- Winners: €8,500,000
Where will the final take place?
This years’ final is going to take place on the 29 May 2019 at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan. The venue is a 68,700-seat stadium, opened in March 2015 and the construction is a 225,000-square-meter stadium on a 650,000-square-meter site. The six-story, 65.7-meter structure is situated near Boyukshor Lake, in the Azerbaijan capital. In June 2015 the stadium served as the main venue for the European Games, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, and the athletic games. Qarabag played last year’s matches from their UEFA Champions League group stage at the stadium.
- September 20th: Group stage, matchday one
- October 4th: Group stage, matchday two
- October 25th: Group stage, matchday three
- November 8th: Group stage, matchday four
- November 29th: Group stage, matchday five
- December 13th: Group stage, matchday six
- February 14th: Round of 32, first leg
- February 21st: Round of 32-second leg
- March 7th: Round of 16, first leg
- March 14th: Round of 16, second leg
- April 11th: Quarterfinals, first leg
- April 18th: Quarterfinals, second leg
- May 2nd: Semifinals, first leg
- May 9th: Semifinals, second leg
- May 29th: Final, in Baku’s Olympic Stadium
Teams to watch
The Blues from London are Maurizio Sarri’s first season and started well in the League, so they will be hoping to replicate their excellent form in Europe too. Sarri’s record with previous club Napoli in Europe is not the best ever, and the ever-present competition in the English Premierleague give the opportunity to qualify to Europe’s most exceptional tournament via a different route. The Blues already have a history in winning the trophy under Rafael Benitez. The likes of Eden Hazard, William, Jorginho and co. will be hoping for reaching the later stages of the tournament at least.
Unai Emery is proven on this level, have an excellent reputation in the competition and will be hoping for the same success with his new employees. The Gunners had mixed start of the season, and early pre-season managed to bolster their defence and midfield but losing on a few primary transfer targets. Last season was the debut season in the competition for Arsenal, and the London side went out at the Semi-finals at the hands of the potential winners Atletico Madrid. Emery and his men will be looking at least of reaching the later stages of the Knockout phase.
New season, new expectations and new big name on the squad sheet – the story of AC Milan every summer. The 7-time Champions League winners are on their way to restore club’s elite status after several years of mediocrity in Seria A and Europe. Long ago are the days in which the Rossoneri were capable of attracting the best players and competed against top sides. After a play-swap plus cash deal, Gonzalo Higuain joined from Juventus, and Leonardo Bonucci moved in the opposite direction. For most Milan fans it will be more crucial how their team is going to perform in the local league, than performing at some level in the Europa League. Reaching the knockout stages should be a must though.
Europa League’s most successful team is always on the lookout to win their favourite competition. They have won this Cup 5 times and will be looking to earn even more glory. Last year’s landmark performance was when Manchester United was eliminated in the Champions League, so a good run in UEFA Europa League is on the cards for the Andalusia side. The disappointment from last season performance in La Liga must be erased fast, and Pablo Machin has a tough task after joining from Girona in May replacing Vincenzo Montella.
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The most exciting European football tournament is nearly upon us. The group stages will be drawn, and club fans will start planning their trips across the continent or to evaluate their team’s chances to progress to the Knockout stages. Real Madrid won it three times in a row, but now Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane moved on, English teams spent tons of millions, Bayern and PSG have new coaches and will be looking to get a flying start of their regimes. Can Atletico finally make their mark after losing two finals or is Ronaldo, the real king of the tournament?
When it’s the draw?
The draw will take place on Thursday, August 30 in Nyon.
What are the rules of the tournament?
Eight groups with four teams, top 2 teams qualify for the Round of 16. 8 3rd place teams from the group stage of UEFA Champions League are entering the Round of 32 stage of the UEFA Europa League. Groups to be determined.
What is the prize money?
- Preliminary qualifying round: €230,000
- First qualifying round: €280,000
- Second qualifying round: €380,000
- Third qualifying round: €480,000 (Only for clubs eliminated from the champions path, since clubs eliminated from the league path qualify directly for the UEFA Europa League group stage and therefore benefit from its distribution system.)
- Base fee for group stage: €15,250,000
- Group match victory: €2,700,000
- Group match draw: €900,000
- Round of 16: €9,500,000
- Quarter-finals: €10,500,000
- Semi-finals: €12,000,000
- Losing finalist: €15,000,000
- Winning the Final: €19,000,000
Where will the final take place?
This years’ final is going to take place on the 01 June 2019 at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, Spain. The venue is a 67,703-seat stadium, opened formerly in 1994, but renovated in 2017 is the new home of Atletico Madrid. The Community of Madrid finances the stadium situated in the Spanish capital and cost 240 million euro. Diego Simeone and his men will be hoping to go all the way and to participate in the final to play at their home venue.
Key Dates and Stadiums
- September 18 – 19: Group stage, matchday one
- October 2-3: Group stage, matchday two
- October 23-24: Group stage, matchday three
- November 6-7: Group stage, matchday four
- November 27-28: Group stage, matchday five
- December 11-12: Group stage, matchday six
- February 12-13 & 19-20: Round of 16, first leg
- March 5-6 & 12-13: Round of 16, second leg
- April 9-10: Quarterfinals, first leg
- April 16-17: Quarterfinals, second leg
- April 30 – May 01: Semifinals, first leg
- May 7-8: Semifinals, second leg
- June 1: Final, in Madrid
The games will be played on those wonderful 32 venues across Europe with the biggest being Camp Nou in Barcelona and Wembley in London. The destinations which are most Easterns are in Moscow and most Western in Portugal.
Have a look at all of the grounds and do not forget to follow the Free Daily Tips in which you can see predictions for the UEFA Champions League throughout the whole Group stage of the tournament.
Teams to watch
Europe’s most successful team is hunting the unthinkable fourth trophy in a row, but Real’s task is going to be tough one. Cristiano Ronaldo and Zidane moved away, but new leader of the pack Gareth Bale started the season brightly. Young and hungry players like Asensio, Vazquez and the experience of Modric, Marcelo, Kroos and Ramos are certainly making Real a genuine contenders. The lack of high profile signing and a failed bid for Hazard or Harry Kane is raising doubts over the chances of the Madrid side.
Barca is the real favourite every year and this year makes no exception. A rather quiet summer, without having any big shakedowns on the transfer market – the Catalans managed to improve in defence by signing Clement Lenglet and shipped out Yerri Mina and Andre Gomes, but added Arturo Vidal and Malcom, so Barca have a strong side which can compete at top level. Leo Messi and Luis Suarez are continuing to shine year after year, but the departure of Xavi, Iniesta will raise a few concerns. Can the Catalans finally end arch rivals dominance in the tournament?
PSG regained the Ligue 1 title after losing out to Monaco last year, and finally, their owners will be eager to make their mark in Europe. A state of intent – Neymar and Cavanni stayed put, Gianluigi Buffon arrived and added experience to the squad. Thilo Kehrer should come useful at the rotation in defence after finishing his 30 million euro move from Schalke. Thomas Tuchel has the privilege in having maybe the brightest talent on the planet in Kylian Mbappe and the player everyone is talking about after France World Cup win over the summer.
The Italian big guns are stronger this year after clinching yet another Serie A title. Last season was pretty hard after Napoli gave the Torino side a real fight for the crown. Cristiano Ronaldo is 33, but he is their marquee signing, and if he finds his form in Italy the opponents are in for a tough fight. Joao Cancelo and the return of Leonardo Bonucci increase Allegri’s side in defence, and the big ask is – can Bianconerri find a replacement for Buffon?
Pep Guardiola’s City is setting the pace in English Premierleague and won the title rather easily last season. The Citizens will be hoping to finally break the drought in Europe after years of substantial investments. Riyad Mahrez was the most notable signing, but City’s squad is with a lot of position in every department. Fighting at home and abroad might come to a big ask for the team, but Guardiola is having a history in rotating his side so that won’t be a problem. Laporte and Benjamin Mendy are like new signings due to not featuring enough last term. Having said all this – can finally City go all the way in Europe and reach final?
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