All posts by Rafael Marquez

Manchester United v Liverpool: Team News, Preview, Key Duels & Prediction



It is only a matter of hours before United play Liverpool in the Guinness International Champions Cup. The rivalry between both sides is the stuff of lore, and the fact that both sides are overcoming obstacles of differing proportions makes this game all about the rivalry, as both sides desire the title, but only one of these sides can get it.

 Last season saw a role reversal, as Liverpool jumped towards the top of the table, while Manchester United saw their worst finish in the Premier League-era. The fact that 7th place was their worst finish in a long time speaks volumes about the consistency that had been maintained over various competitions at United under the watchful eyes of Sir Alex Ferguson. Liverpool, on the other hand, has not been triumphant in the Premier League-era, but they have come close on a number of occasions, and have won other tournaments. However, Liverpool was in a state of decline over the 3 seasons prior to the last season, while United were at the top.

Now, United have brought an accomplished manager in the form of Louis van Gaal, who has already started to make a mark on the club. United fans are looking at last season as an anomaly, as the players are adapting fantastically to the new 3-5-2 formation and are looking set to compete for trophies. Liverpool, on the other hand, have lost their main goal-scorer in the form of Luis Suarez, who has moved to FC Barcelona, but the other attackers have shown no signs of putting a full stop to relentlessly drubbing teams, by scoring goals continuously. This game will enable us to see the progress that both sides have made, even though it is a preseason game and both sides haven’t actually hit top gear, yet. This game cannot be taken as a precursor to any future fixtures, as both sides tend to push themselves to win against the other, in each and every game.

United’s defence seems to be wearing a confident look, but a strike-force of Sterling, Sturridge and Markovic could tear United’s defence apart. On the other hand, United have dominated possession and have moved into attacking areas quickly, as the impact of Ander Herrera and Juan Mata supplying the attack with key passes, and some Wayne Rooney master-performances have resulted in United’s wins so far.

Key duels:

Jordan Henderson v/s Ander Herrera: Both players are good on and off the ball, and occupy the same areas on the pitch, so expect them to contest for the ball while in midfield, each putting in tackles on the other to win possession and create chances for their own respective sides to score. Henderson is trying to establish himself as Gerrard’s true successor, while Herrera is trying to make his place in United’s first-team after his transfer, so expect this to be a fiery contest.

Daniel Sturridge v/s Jonny Evans: Daniel Sturridge proved last season that he could be consistent over the duration of an entire season, as he made the most of his chances and almost forced Wayne Rooney out of his favoured position as striker for England. On the other hand, Evans, if he has an injury-free season, could make this his breakthrough year, after failing to deceive so far, if he can put in consistent performances for his club.

Ashley Young v/s Martin Kelly/Glen Johnson: Ashley Young has never looked happier while in a United jersey, as he seems to have found a knack for getting into space and he looks menacing while taking on opposition defenders, in his new left wing-back role. Glen Johnson is susceptible to mistakes, for which he will be caught out if Young carries his impressive form into this game. Martin Kelly, on the other hand, is more defensively inclined, and could do a better job against Young, so he should start ahead of Glen Johnson.

Why This Super Winger From South America Can Bring Back The “Ronaldo Era” At Manchester United Again


Juan Guillermo Cuadrado shot to fame during the WC for his pace, his dribbling skills and his celebrations after scoring. He has played for some time now and has been noticed, but the upswing in his nation’s fortunes in footballing terms means that he has moved into the buying lists of top clubs now. He played a role on the right-wing for Colombia, but he can play anywhere on the right, owing to the strength of his right foot. He was effective when deployed on the left last season, but versatility will not be frowned upon by Louis van Gaal, as Cuadrado will get more chances to play should he settle in quickly.

Manchester United has been in the market for replacements for most of their players, who seem to have lost the spark that had enabled them to shine under Sir Alex Ferguson. Their players seemed to have lost faith in their abilities as last season dragged on, sadly, and the wingers kept peppering the opposition box with crosses which couldn’t be converted, until David Moyes nailed himself to one and ended this shoddy tenure of self-doubt and failure.

Nani has been linked with other clubs, and United fans have had no qualms about his possible departure, as he hasn’t been able to live up to his initial promise. It was always a tough ask to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Portuguese teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and he veered inconsistently between remarkable and mediocre performances throughout his time at United. His replacement on the right wing, Valencia, was clearly out of his depth last season, as he didn’t look good enough to be playing for United. Zaha, the young apprentice, wasn’t given a look-in under Moyes (David, obviously), as United’s right flank was susceptible to a number of opposition attacks last season.

This season, Louis van Gaal has opted to adopt a 3-5-2 formation in addition to the usual 4-4-2 formation, to add muscle to the midfield, as last season; the midfield was static and was overrun very easily. The 3-5-2 formation adds pressure to the role of the wing-back, who needs to be defensively and attackingly strong to handle the entire flank on his own. Plus, the player will need to have high stamina to maintain the same work rate throughout the duration of the game. Except for Rafael, who is still too defensive, no United right-sided midfielder seems to have defensive and attacking properties in the correct measure to be able to shunt up and down the flank with ease and shake up the opposition, which is where Cuadrado could be of most use, since he has the necessary work rate to perform in the highly physical Premier League.

He will have top players like Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to support him and an easy style of play, which will help him adjust faster to the United style of play. Buying him would bring in a consistent player who will be hungry to perform and will be an asset to the club.

FC Barcelona is also competing to get Cuadrado, but for the player, a move to United would be a better choice, as he will get games for the first-team. We have seen a disillusioned Alexis Sanchez leave FC Barcelona owing to a lack of playing time, and Cuadrado would do well not to go down the same path. Plus, United need a versatile, pacy player like Cuadrado, who could bring back the “Ronaldo Era” at Manchester United again.

Dejan Lovren, ” The Next Carragher” Can Be The Savior Of Liverpool’s Defence

Earlier this week, Liverpool announced the signing of Dejan Lovren from Southampton for £20million. After spending just one season with Southampton, the Croatian international has left the club for European giants Liverpool. After prolonged negotiations Brendan Rodgers has finally got his man, but we have to wait to find out is he the solution to Liverpool’s defensive blunders.

Jamie Carragher retired at the end of the 2012/13 season and Liverpool have failed to replace him at the back, there is no doubt the Reds need a leader at the back. Rodgers believes the Croatian international can emulate Carragher. Liverpool conceded 50 goals last season, more than any other side in the top 4. Mamadou Sakho has been injury prone and Kolo Toure has failed to impress. Long serving centre-back Daniel Agger future is still unclear and Rodgers feels Lovren might be the man to solve his defensive problems.

“I think he’s a really commanding centre-half,” said Rodgers, on the official club website.

“I’ve said since we lost Jamie Carragher that we needed that leadership. He’s a player that gives us that.

“He’s very strong, very commanding, but he can play. I’ve been really impressed with him.

“I watched him at Lyon, he came into the Premier League with Southampton and I know their players thought he was a big driving force for them and kept them defensively solid.

“He had a really good World Cup. I think he’s a player that can still improve, still develop as he’s in his mid-20s. He’s someone I’m really looking forward to working with.”

Dejan Lovren is a “modern centre-back” as he is confident on the ball, makes forward runs and can pass the ball well. Defensively, Lovren is quite consistent at the back. Martin Skrtel was a bit inconsistent last season as he made few defensive blunders and scored four own-goals last season. Lovren hardly makes such defensive blunders and his defensive stats are very impressive. He made more number of tackles than any centre-back from the top 4 sides and the number of interceptions are also impressive. That obviously will be less for a title challenging team defender, but its fair to say Liverpool need someone like him who can be solid at the back and contribute during attacks.

Stats Compared With Other Liverpool Defenders

Another interesting bit is, communication is a key aspect between defenders and the fact that Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho can all speak French might tempt Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to pair Lovren with Sakho. Rodgers recently admitted he is ready to play Lovren with Sakho or Skrtel.

Liverpool conceded a lot of goals last season from set-pieces and crosses, Lovren doesn’t help much in this situations. He is not strong aerially and his positioning is not too impressive either. His aerial prowess is not an upgrade on Daniel Agger and that’s something Rodgers needs to address. Lastly, Lovren comes with a “£20million” price tag which is not an ideal thing for a defender. Rodgers expects him to be the leader of the defense, but the pressure of expectations after a big money move is never a good thing. But if everything goes well for the ex-Saints man at anfield, then he can be savior of Liverpool’s defense which struggled throughout the last season

Manchester United’s Rising Star vs Chelsea’s Blistering Left Back – Who Will Make Bigger Impact This Season?

The old left-backs have been left back, as newer, comparatively younger left-backs have been purchased by Manchester United and Chelsea. Luke Shaw is the new kid on the block, while Filipe Luis brings a wealth of experience with him.

Both will be first-choice for their respective clubs, and both will have to hit the ground running. Luke Shaw has already been running on the training ground, as he was declared unfit by manager Louis van Gaal and has got minutes on the pitch, while Filipe Luis has been using the pre-season games to establish himself in the Chelsea first-team.

United can look at long-term security in terms of Shaw, as he is only 19 and easily has ten, if not more years at the top-level. On the other hand, Luis is 29, but was more of a first-team, short-term player. Shaw has just played one season at this level, whereas Luis has had years of experience, in different leagues. However, Shaw has played in the Premier League, even if it has just been one season, whereas Luis has not played in the Premier League, which tests defenders differently as compared to other leagues. Here, defenders have to defend against opposition attacks, and also create chances on their flank for their players to capitalise on. The role of a fullback in the Premier League has been likened to that of a rook on a chess board, as the flanks are the fastest means of attack for a team.

STATS (Last Season)

Luke Shaw


Filipe Luis 

To add spice to the Shaw transfer, Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, criticised the purchase and the wages of Luke Shaw, stating that it would be untenable to pay so much to a young player. Chelsea were in the race to get Luke Shaw, too, but didn’t pursue him after United were close to sealing the deal. Filipe Luis has been spoken about as being a expensive quick-fix to replace the departure of an experienced Ashley Cole, as fans are looking forward to the maintenance of clean sheets, like in the earlier season with a stable defence.

Shaw versus Luis: who will win? Until the season begins, we will not know. Theirs stats are similar too but Ex-Saints man has a better shot accuracy than the Brazilian star. True, Shaw is a tender talent, but he will have fewer games to play, as United are not playing in Europe. On the other hand, Luis adds to a formidable Chelsea defence which needs to have enough players to make the most of all the competitions in which the club will participate this season.

5 World Cup Stars, Who Might Be Heading For The Premier League

A busy summer of transfer dealing always follows a major tournament and already in 2014, we’ve seen Enner Valencia, Alexis Sanchez and David Ospina complete moves to the Premier League. But who will follow them? Here are five players who could switch to the Premiership after starring roles at the World Cup.

Mats Hummels

Manchester United are third favourites at 6.00 with Betfair to win the Premier League this season and manager Louis Van Gaal is linked with the majority of available talent in the wake of Brazil 2014.

With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic having left the club, there is a serious need for a replacement centre half and German World Cup Winner Hummels is believed to be a long term target. The 25 year old defender was a solid performer at the back for Germany while scoring two vital goals along the way to the final but it’s felt that Barcelona may prove to be a bigger draw for the Borussia Dortmund star.

Divock Origi

19 year old Lille striker Origi attracted media attention when he replaced Romelu Lukaku to score Belgium’s only goal in their group stage win against the Russians. Almost as soon as the ball hit the back of the net, Liverpool and Spurs were linked with the player’s signature but having lost out on Loic Remy, it’s expected that Brendan Rodger’s side will now complete the purchase.

Origi was described as a teenage scoring sensation by one area of the press but his overall record in France suggests there is work to be done if he is to become an Anfield regular. In 40 games for Lille, he has found the net on just six occasions and while he often plays on the wing in Ligue 1, that’s a record that needs improvement.

Islam Slimani

Algerian forward Slimani may have the record for having the highest number of links to Premiership sides this summer. Stoke City, West Ham, Newcastle, Everton and Crystal Palace are just five of the names mentioned in connection with a signature but any move has stalled amidst reports that current club Sporting Lisbon are holding out for a fee of £10m.

Slimani was one of the stars of a positive World Cup for the Algerians and his two goals sparked the interest. £10m may be seen as too much for a man who has scored eight goals in 26 league games in Portugal but expect further negotiations ahead of the new campaign.

Memphis Depay

20 year old PSV winger Depay scored twice for the Netherlands in Brazil and his pace would be an undoubted asset for any Premier League side. Manchester United and Liverpool have been linked but according to some areas of the press, Spurs are the front runners in this particular chase.

If Depay does travel to White Hart Lane, he will face competition from Andros Townsend and Nacer Chadli so overall, Old Trafford seems a more likely destination.

Arturo Vidal

Once again, it’s Manchester United leading the way in the chase for Vidal who featured for Chile in Brazil. Louis Van Gaal will, however, face competition from Liverpool and possibly Chelsea so it’s a question of whether the 27 year old will sacrifice Champions League football this season in the hope that United will be challenging for the Premier League title once again.

Current club Juventus were said to be demanding in excess of £40m for the playmaker but the key to the deal could be Manchester United’s Nani who may head to Turin as part of the overall fee.


Manchester City Stars Suffer Racial Abuse During Pre-season In Croatia



With the first-team off in America in their pre-season tour, Manchester City’s U-21 side were looking to continue in their winning ways in their pre-season training camp in Croatia, when racism reared its ugly head yet again. The incident happened during the U-21 side’s match against Croatian side HNK Rijeka in Novigrad, Croatia on Tuesday. The home side were leading 1-0, but the match was called off after 44 minutes after the visitors France U-19 international midfielder Seko Fofana was allegedly racially abused by an opponent.

After the incident took place, Fofana retaliated and kicked out at his opponent, following which he was promptly sent off. The English club believes that the Frenchman, who is generally a composed player, only acted out as a result of being racially abused moments earlier. After consulting with their players, the coach and the management decided to call the match off just moments before half-time.

In their official statement after the game, Manchester City said: “Following an alleged incident in the latter stages of the first half of the game, being played in Novigrad, Croatia, a decision was taken by the management staff to withdraw the City team from the field of play and cancel the game.

“Club representatives in Croatia and in Manchester are liaising with officials, the match organisers and the Croatian Football Association to pursue this matter further.”

While the reigning Premier League champions are fuming at the abuse levelled at their player, the home side Rijeka, didn’t seem to share the same belief at all. In fact, the official statement from the club, seemed to question whether such an incident even took place and were blaming the visitors for making a mountain out of a mole hill.

A statement from Rijeka read: “Manchester City coach Patrick Vieira entered the field, something was discussed with the referee, and then to the amazement of a well-filled stadium he took his team off the pitch. What are the reasons? They are known only to him.”

Manchester City, however are understandably concerned as this is the fourth occasion in the last two years, in which their players were racially abused by either opposing players or fans. City’s Elite Development Squad coach, Patrick Vieira, who himself was a victim of racist abuse as an Arsenal player back in 2000, was furious about what transpired and was explicit in his support of Foffana, who only joined the club from the Ligue 1 side FC Lorient in January 2013.

Instances of racist abuse have become almost common-place in the past few years, even with all the sanctions being imposed by UEFA. After all, it was only four months ago that former striker Andy Cole’s son Devante Cole, who is also a part of City’s Elite Development Squad was racially abused by Atlético Madrid fans, who were later fined €10,000 and ordered to partially close the stadium by UEFA.

It is not just in the junior level, but the seniors too haven’t been spared. It was only last October that influential midfielder Yaya Touré was abused by CSKA Moscow fans and that was after both he and Mario Balotelli, were the victim of racist chants by Porto supporters in February 2012.

With racism running rampant in many parts of Europe, it is high time UEFA impose stricter guidelines and bans on clubs which are found guilty of racially abusing a player.

La Liga Champions Atlético Madrid Interested In Arsenal Duo


Arsenal look to set to lose out on Spanish duo Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal to Atlético Madrid as reports in Spain are suggesting that the Spanish champions are preparing a double swoop for them. With both players currently on the fringes of the first-team, it is likely to be a move that benefits both clubs and the players as well.

Both Monreal and Cazorla joined Arsenal from Málaga, but that is where the similarity ends between the two. While Cazorla immediately got the fans on his side and went onto become a first-team regular since signing in 2012, Monreal has struggled to crack into the first-team and has been the club’s second-choice for most of his career at Arsenal.

While Arsenal fans wouldn’t be happy to see Cazorla go, the addition of Alexis Sanchez to a midfield that already had the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere means that the Spanish international is likely to struggle to get too many opportunities in the first-team in the coming season. Although he signed a new contract in March, the Spanish international, who turns 30 this December is unlikely to figure prominently in the first-team barring injuries to several key players.

Having also spoken about a desire to move Atlético last month, Arsene Wenger might feel that the time is right to cash in on his playmaker. While the departure of Cazorla might not go down well with all the fans, Monreal’s departure is unlikely to give them too many sleepless nights.

Since signing for £8.3 million from Málaga in January last year, Monreal has never really managed to make his mark on the side. The departure of Gael Clichy in the summer of 2011, was supposed to Monreal’s big chance but the Spaniard fluffed his lines and eventually lost out to young Kieran Gibbs. With the Englishman likely to remain first-choice again this season, Monreal would be more than happy to go somewhere else in the search of first-team football.

Having already lost Fillipe Luis, Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois to Chelsea, Atlético Madrid coach Diego Simeone is keen to bring in as many players to the Vincente Calderón as he possibly can, as he bids to reclaim the league title that his side won last season.

Although the club just signed Guilherme Siqueira from Granada, to replace Luis and are also interested in Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno, the availability of a proven performer in Monreal has made Simeone’s eyes turn in Arsenal’s direction. While Arsenal don’t want to sell either player, an attractive proposition by Atlético might just tempt the Gunners into letting both Spanish players leave the Emirates.

5 World Cup Stars That Could Play In The Premier League This Season

There were a number of stars on show this summer during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  And whilst the Premier League already had more players represented than any other league, they could always do with a few more.

Alexis Sánchez has already signed for Arsenal but here is a look five of the best who have been strongly linked with a move to Premier League sides:

Mats Hummels (Germany)

The Borussia Dortmund centre-back had an excellent World Cup that saw him end up on the winning team which including shutting out Lionel Messi and co for two hours in the final.  Has been linked with a move away from Signal Iduna Park for a couple of seasons with Manchester United the Premier League side showing the most interest this summer.

Has already won the Bundesliga and German Cup double double with Borussia Dortmund and played in a UEFA Champions League final.  If Bayern Munich don’t make a bid perhaps Hummels could seek pastures new elsewhere this summer.

Marcos Rojo (Argentina)

Both Chelsea and Liverpool have been linked to the Argentina left-back this summer.  After a slow start to the tournament, Marcos Rojo was solid at the back for the South American defence that went over eight hours without conceding a goal before Mario Götze in extra-time of the final.

An aerial threat too – scoring the winner versus Nigeria and whose flick-on led to an own goal in Argentina’s favour in their opening match against Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Should Chelsea strengthen their defence further, their odds of 3.00 to win the Premier League with Betfair will be even more attractive.

Stefan de Vrij (Netherlands)

A rock at the back of the Netherlands defence, Stefan de Vrij entered the World Cup relatively inexperienced and has come out highly-wanted around Europe.  Playing for cash-strapped Feyenoord could likely see him move on to this summer.

Manchester United with Louis van Gaal who coached de Vrij at the World Cup have been strongly linked with the centre-back.  The Red Devils are also seeking new centre-backs following the departures of both Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand this summer.

Daley Blind (Netherlands)

Another impressive player in the Netherlands side that finished third at the 2014 World Cup, Daley Blind has been linked to both Liverpool and Manchester United this summer.  Last season’s Premier League runners-up are seeking a new left-back whilst United have already signed Luke Shaw.

Daley Blind showed both his attacking and defensive abilities at left-wing back and in midfield this summer.  He plays left-back for his club side Ajax.

Juan Cuadrado (Colombia)

The pacey Colombian winger had an exciting World Cup whilst it lasted – up to the quarter-finals where he was constantly fouled by a Brazilian side who averaged a foul every three minutes in their victory.

Showed attacking threat at Fiorentina down both the left and right wings last season where he scored 11 league goals.  Has been linked to Arsenal but now that Barcelona have said to be interested, a Premier League move may be off the cards.