UEFA Champions League 2019/20: 5 talking points from Real Madrid’s big loss to PSG

An under-strength PSG side secured a shock victory over Real Madrid in their Champions League group opener. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points. 

 

1. No Neymar, no Cavani, no Mbappe – no problem!

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar

Real Madrid were widely tipped as favourites to win the encounter and with good reason. Paris Saint Germain were missing the services of their entire front three – Neymar through suspension while Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe nursed their respective injuries.

Surprisingly enough, it was the home team which put in a fantastic collective display, swatting Madrid aside with little problem to put in a very strong statement on the opening day.

2. Angel turns devil 

Scoring against his old teams is fast becoming a habit for Angel Di Maria.

Following his goal against Manchester United in last year’s Champions League, he scored two in 19 minutes against Madrid to put the game to bed in the first half itself. While Thibaut Courtois may be a little disappointed at letting the first goal in, the Belgian had absolutely no chance for the second one as Di Maria belted an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner to put his side two goals to the good.

3. 90 minutes – 0 shots on target for Madrid 

A side crowned Champions of Europe just 2 years ago is now struggling to open up games – the most alarming statistic being that this Madrid side failed to have any shots on target in the entire 90 minutes against PSG.

Zinedine Zidane’s struggle involves dragging his team up to the level of Europe’s elite clubs but on the evidence of this performance, there is a long way to go.

4. PSG ready for Champions League glory?

A team that has unfortunately been knocked out of the competition time and again by virtue of some very strange circumstances, this finally seems like the year PSG claim their holy grail. A win against Real Madrid proved how easily they can cope with the loss of their first choice front-three and with what we have seen on day 1, they might go all the way this year!

5. Big questions for Zidane 

For a man so often criticized for a supposed lack of tactical acumen, this was an acid test that he failed to clear. The absence of PSG’s first-team stars was supposed to be a boon for Zidane but instead turned into his worst nightmare. Real

Madrid looked like a side lost at sea while PSG seemed to know every nook and cranny on the pitch. Madrid’s up and down start to the season was supposed to be forgotten as soon as the Champions League started but the loss to PSG means Zidane has even more questions to answer now than when he took the job.

5 talking points from Barcelona’s 0-0 draw against Borussia Dortmund

Barcelona limped to a 0-0 draw against Borrusia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion. Here FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points. 

1. Ansu Fati starts while Messi only fit for the bench

Ernesto Valverde giảm tải áp lực cho Ansu Fati khi ‘sao mai’ của Barcelona bị so sánh với Messi

Still more than 6 weeks shy of his 17th birthday, 16-year-old Ansu Fati retained in place in the Barcelona side following his goal against Valencia on Sunday.

The youngster was picked ahead of the returning Lionel Messi – who was benched despite having been declared 100 percent by club doctors, a decision that came back to haunt Barcelona as could only limp to a 0-0 draw at the end.

2. Ter Stegen saves Barcelona’s blushes

Ter Stegen hopes to start UCL campaign with a win in Dortmund

Barcelona haven’t lost a Champions League opener in 20 years but it might very well have been a different story had Marco Reus converted his second half penalty.

Nelson Semedo was punished for catching Jadon Sancho inside the area and Reus stepped up, only for Ter Stegen to make a superb stop towards his left before showing incredible reflexes to get up and prevent a rebound. In the wake of his war of words with Neuer, this was a welcome reminder of his qualities.

3. Witsel imposes himself but Frenkie disappears 

Frenkie De Jong
 

After a lukewarm start to his Barcelona career, Frenkie De Jong once again failed to get into the thick of things and the game passed him by.

Sergio Busquets’s position has been stated as a possible reason for De Jong’s under-involvement but even the Spaniard’s substitution provoked only a minor improvement from the Dutchman. In complete contrast, Dortmund’s Witsel completely ran the midfield – rarely giving the ball away and making his side tick, in a display right out of the top drawer!

4. Barcelona ordinary without Leo Messi

Valverde to protect Fati from Messi comparisons

Clear as daylight at the Westfalenstadion was the fact that without Lionel Messi – Barcelona are a  very, very ordinary side. Their domination of possession meant little as Dortmund created the better chances and completely ran them over until Messi’s introduction in the 58th minute.

The Argentine opened up spaces for his team-mates to operate him with his dribbling and began putting the home side under pressure immediately, demonstrating his impact straightaway.

5. Will Dortmund rue missed chances? 

Reus wants Dortmund to ‘start right’ in this season’s Champions League with victory over Barcelona

Faced with a tricky group, Dortmund gave a fantastic account of themselves on the opening night against Barcelona and might have even got a win, had it not been for their profligacy in front of goal.

Paco Alcacer and Reus failed to convert gilt-edged opportunities while new boy Julian Brandt was unlucky to strike the crossbar with a venomous shot that would have been worthy of winning any game. Inter are yet to come with Messi now fully fit, so Dortmund might never have this kind of opportunity once again!

 

UEFA Champions League 2019/20: Liverpool vs Napoli – 5 key battles

Champions Liverpool kickstart their European campaign away against Napoli later tonight. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the 5 key battles. 

1. Kalidou Koulibaly vs Mohamed Salah:

Sadio Mane vs Mohamed Salah – Trouble in Liverpool paradise? | The John Dykes Show

Napoli centre-back Koulibaly was turned inside out by Liverpool forward Salah the last time these two sides met and the Senegalese will be looking to exact revenge this time around. Liverpool knocked the Italians out last season and Salah’s duel against Koulibaly was one of the key turning points on that ominous night. An intriguing battle.

2. Hirving Lozano vs Trent Alexander-Arnold

Mexican international Lozano has had a decent start to life in the Italian League, notching up one goal in his two appearances so far. The Champions League, however, is a different stage altogether and European nights like these are the reason he came to Naples.

Expect a fascinating duel between the winger and Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold – arguably one of the best in the world at this moment.

3. Sadio Mane vs Alex Meret

Liverpool have a very different proposition to face in goal this time around as compared to the last time – when Arsenal loanee David Ospina was in goal for the Italians. Youngster Alex Meret signed for big money from Udinese last year and has now cemented his place in the team.

Up against an in-form Sadio Mane – fresh off the back of a double against Newcastle – it will be the test of a lifetime for the young custodian.

4. Andy Robertson vs Jose Callejon

‘We want to create more stories’ – Klopp warns that Liverpool are eager to defend UCL title

Having had contrasting fortunes with club and country this season, Andy Robertson will look to further exorcise the ghosts from Scotland’s qualifying debacle by adding another win under his belt. Dealt with the task of facing former Real Madrid star Jose Callejon – expect a fierce battle.

5. Adrian vs Dries Mertens

A topsy-turvy start to his Liverpool career has culminated in Adrian starting his first Champions League game – and what a match to make his debut in! As evinced by his mistake against Southampton, the Brazilian is error-prone at times, something Dries Mertens could exploit, especially considering that Liverpool shot-stopper is nowhere as comfortable with the ball at his feet as fellow countryman Alisson.

5 players who are not happy with their FIFA 20 ratings

The FIFA 20 ratings have got the all the players talking – and how! FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the reactions from the pros on their ratings in the game. 

1. Jadon Sancho 

Given an overall of 84 in the latest edition of the game, Jadon Sancho wasn’t impressed on seeing his passing was rated a meagre 77 on the game. The Dortmund youngster immediately tweeted EA Sports – “77 passing?!”, to which they cheekily replied, “Why pass when you have 90 dribbling”, in a reference to his dribbling statistic, rated 90.

For a player who managed 19 assists in all competitions last season, 77 passing is certainly something worth questioning!

2. Gabriel Jesus

Famously described by Pep Guardiola as the ‘best pressing forward in the world’, Gabriel Jesus was unsurprisingly left fuming when shown his defensive ratings – 39. “If it’s me. Come on EA FIFA, you have to be joking.”, Jesus was translated as saying.

An overall rating of 82 too left the striker frustrated, as he refused to come to terms with the statistics set out for him.

3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 

Highly rated in the game with an overall of 88, Aubameyang’s reaction was one of frustration, instead tweeting for his fans to have their say on his rating card, later retweeting some of the replies which called out for him to be awarded higher ratings.

“88 Gen !!! Im ok with that. But you guys from #EA should explain me something’s that I don’t understand !! what’s your thoughts on my fifa 20 rating card guys?!”

4. Eric Dier 

A player who has fallen down the charts, Eric Dier was horrified on his ratings in the latest edition. In a candid chat with fellow player Davison Sanchez on Spurs TV, the England international’s worst fears came true.

“I know mine’s (speed) going to be disrespectful – I know they’re going to disrespect my speed. I think people have a false perception of my speed. If yours is 74, I’m not looking forward to mine. My pace is 54 and my dribbling is 65 – it makes no sense.” – said Dier, clearly not amused by his ratings.

5. Rhian Brewster 

Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster was left red-faced after his prediction turned out completely wrong.

“That 60 shooting will be 85 by next season. Believe that!”, he had tweeted last season, only for him to realize he got a measly +2 upgrade to 62 when this year’s ratings were revealed.

Not the one to be deterred, the youngster took it in his stride with a sporting reply, “Mission failed, we’ll get em next time.”

 

FIFA 20: 5 highest rated midfielders

The FIFA 20 ratings are out! FOX Sports Asia taking a look at the top 5 midfielders in the game according to the latest reveal by EA. 

1. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – 91 

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne
 

Rather unsurprisingly, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne features as the top rated midfielder in the latest edition of the game. Despite an injury-ridden season last year, De Bruyne came back into the side to make an impact towards the latter part of the campaign. He has also begun the current season in a rich vein of form, having already notched up 5 assists and 1 goal in 4 matches for his club. Truth be told, it’s hard to find anyone better at the moment.

2. Luka Modric (Real Madrid) – 90 

Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric

Ballon d’Or incumbent Luka Modric comes in second with an overall of 90, and his inclusion does raise some eyebrows. The Croatian had one of his worst seasons as Real faltered in all major competitions and his influence waned. His legacy however, at least in the game looks to have endured and remains at a high.

3. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea) – 89 

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante

Mr. Consistent for both club and country, N’Golo Kante coming in third is certainly well deserved. Chelsea’s topsy-turvy season, one in which his own role changed significantly, ended with a trophy and Kante remains ever so crucial for his club. An injury has restricted him in recent months but expect the mild-mannered assassin to come roaring back.

4. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) – 89

Sergio Busquets during Barcelona's clash with Real Madrid
 

Sergio Busquets is one of those players that seems to have been around forever. Brought into the Barcelona team by Pep Guardiola, he has remained a constant ever since and added yet another La Liga trophy to his cabinet last season. Like Kante, an epitome of consistency and rightly rated as one of the games best midfielders with an overall of 89.

5. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) – 88 

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos
 

The German international, like Modric, endured a horror season at club level. However, along with the likes of Benzema, Kroos is one of the players who escaped with their reputations intact. He recently signed a long-term contract and seems set to continue as the lynchpin for club and country in the years to come.

England 4-0 Bulgaria: Talking points from Three Lion’s thrashing of Bulgaria at Wembley

England defeated Bulgaria 4-0 in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers at the Wembley. A hat-trick from Harry Kane and a goal from Raheem Sterling sealed the deal for the Three Lions.

Here are the major talking points from the encounter.

1. Bulgarian keeper gifts England the opener 

Bulgaria’s plan to sit back and defend seemed to be working quite well, until their keeper decided to get in on the act that is. Trying to play their way out from the back in the first half, Iliev sent a pass straight into Raheem Sterling.

The Manchester City man duly obliged – squaring for Harry Kane to make it 1-0 in the 24th minute.

2. Rashford shines after racism row 

Having been at the centre of a huge storm the past couple of weeks, Marcus Rashford answered his critics by putting in a fantastic performance in front of the Wembley crowd. Down 1-0, the Bulgarians nearly scored at one end before Rashford’s trickery earned England a penalty at the other, which Kane converted to make it 2-0.

The United man wasn’t done and he played his part in the third goal as well with a fine run and weighted pass for Kane to set up Sterling’s tap in – showing solid form despite the racist abuse he has been subject to on social media over the past month.

3. Hat-trick hero Kane takes the match-ball home

It was all fun and games for Harry Kane as he became the first player since Gary Lineker to score 23-plus goals in his first 40 appearances for his country. Two penalties and the opener marked yet another productive outing for the Spurs man who has become the epitome of consistency for club and country alike.

4. Mount makes debut but Mings and Maddison’s wait continues 

Out of three possible debuts, Gareth Southgate handed out only one – a sign perhaps that the others must do their bit to earn it. Truth be told, Mason Mount’s early season form certainly warranted the debut he was handed out, while Maddison and Mings will get their chances eventually, should they maintain their current levels.

Premier League 2019/20: Southampton 1-1 Manchester United – Five talking points

Manchester United drew against ten-men Southampton at St.Mary’s, leaving them with a dreadful return of 4 points in 4 games. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points. 

#1 Southampton press disrupts United 

A feature of United’s play under Solskjaer so far this season has been the willingness to play out from the back, something that did not necessarily figure in Jose Mourinho’s playing style. Southampton boss Hasenhüttl knowingly took advantage of this fact, positioning his attackers high up and encouraging them to press United’s defenders – all of whom seemed very prone to taking risks – giving up the ball several times in the process and allowing the Saints several openings.

#2 Daniel James on fire 

Three goals in four games and what a start to life it has been for Daniel James at Manchester United. Ryan Giggs publicly advocated the youngster to move to United and the Wales boss was surely not mistaken about his quality. A fantastic finish for the first goal took all the pressure off his side and James was similarly resourceful in the second half – laying on several chances for team-mates but for the lack of a finishing touch. A performance that deserved more.

#3 United in crisis once again? 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirms which Manchester United players will leave

A club of United’s stature are never far away from crisis and dark clouds are wandering over Old Trafford once again. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side failed to break down a compact defensive unit once again and the lack of quality is evident all over the pitch. An opening day win against Chelsea papered over the cracks but their summer business is once again in sharp focus – no one apart from Paul Pogba seems like they have the quality or graft to break open a defence, with the injury to Martial also magnifying their lack of depth.

#4 The Marcus Rashford conundrum 

This was supposed to be the season Marcus Rashford finally took his chance, Solskjaer trusting him as the man to compensate for Romelu Lukaku’s goals. In stark contrast to expectations, the striker has instead put in more of the performances which made Mourinho shunt him out to the wings. It would’ve been 6 points from 6 had he taken any of his chances in the past two weeks, but a paltry 1 point from a possible 6 further plunges United into doubt and disarray.

#5 Four points from four games

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba

All of the optimism from the opening day win over Chelsea has been wiped clean, leaving United back at square one. 4 points from 4 games represents a dreadful return and with the international break looming, they won’t have the opportunity to rectify their malaise anytime soon. Safe to say, Manchester United have a lot of thinking to do over the next two weeks.

Top 5 contenders for UEFA Europa League 2019/20

The groups for the UEFA Europa League have been drawn and we have some exciting encounters to look forward to. But who are the top five contenders? FOX Sports Asia takes a look. 

#1 Manchester United 

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba

Traditional heavyweights United are in the mix to claim the Europa League – especially considering that none of Europe’s elites feature in this edition, bar Arsenal.

As the old saying goes, Manchester United are just one loss away from crisis – something they are in the midst of right now after their latest loss against Palace at home. Also, with Lukaku and Sanchez gone, their front-line looks as thin as it has ever been since.

With Manchester United, however, the name is enough and make no bones about it, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team will be amongst those challenging for the trophy come the latter half of the season.

#2 AS Roma 

Roma celebrate a goal in Serie A

An Italian giant who, like Arsenal and United have been relegated to Europe’s second-tier, Roma will look to the Europa League as a real opportunity to claim silverware.

With the Seria A more competitive than ever, it also represents an alternate route to the Champions League, something that might come into play depending on how the season shapes up. Paulo Fonseca’s experience and tactical nous is another factor that might come into play – the Portuguese coming into the job after a fantastic 3-year spell at Shakhtar. Another real heavyweight in this season’s competition.

#3 Arsenal 

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Last season’s runners up will be looking to erase the bad memories this time around as Unai Emery continues his North London revolution.

The Gunners would have preferred the Champions League this season but nonetheless, this is a welcome opportunity to get rid of the lingering disappointment from last season’s defeat in the finals against Chelsea. The league will be their priority but come mid-season if they are too far off the pace, don’t be surprised if they put all eggs in the Europa League basket – seeking a back-door Champions League entry.

#4 FC Porto 

Porto are as dark a horse in the tournament as there ever has been and no one can really predict how far they’ll end up going. A team with a long and beautiful history in the Europa League – 2003’s win with Jose Mourinho represents one of the competition’s most romantic stories, after which it took them 8 years to claim the trophy again, ending their wait in 2011.

It’s been exactly 8 years since then and after their league disappointment last season, it might be time to repeat history – once again.

#5 Sevilla  

Sevilla are to the Europa League what Real Madrid are to the Champions League.

Like Madrid, the Spaniards claimed three titles on a trot from 2014-2016 and their history constantly makes them up their game when the going gets tough. Their demolition of Liverpool in the finals (2015-16) showed they are not merely flat-track bullies and can match up to the best. Truth be told, they can beat all the teams listed above on their day. One to watch out for!

5 reasons why Virgil Van Dijk will beat Lionel Messi to win Ballon d’Or

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

After pipping Ronaldo and Messi to the prize of the UEFA Champions League player of the season award, FOX Sports Asia lists 5 reasons why Virgil Van Dijk will claim this seasons Ballon d’Or as well. 

#1 Individual impact  

The very reason Van Dijk is so highly rated at this moment is the fact that the Dutchman’s individual impact on his team outweighs that of all other competitors. For a team which conceded goals in bucket-loads before his arrival, Van Dijk has come in and completely shut shop. Very rarely does a big money signing has such a drastic impact so quickly – a factor that propels him ahead of every other European footballer in this particular race.

#2 European Champion 

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk with the Champions League trophy

The Ballon d’Or recognizes exceptional performance across Europe in any given season and Virgil Van Dijk is European royalty. Simply put, he is the current Champions League holder, meaning he beat every other competitor – Ronaldo and Messi included, to the trophy. Despite some inconsistencies in recent times, a Champions League trophy is as good a guarantee for the Ballon d’Or as anything else. Come to think of it, if a Champions League doesn’t guarantee the Ballon d’Or, what will?

#3 The general consensus

Liverpool have postponed a friendly against Schalke

After claiming the title for the UEFA Champions League player of the season, the general consensus amongst coaches and journalists is evident – Van Dijk was an overwhelming favourite. Lionel Messi came in second, some 100-odd points behind while Ronaldo was more than 200-points behind in third. The Ballon d’Or is voted for by journalists, coaches, as well as, players and it would in no way be a surprise if they were to come to the same conclusion. Very rarely, if ever, does the favourite lose out on the trophy.

#4 A growing appreciation of defenders 

Even though attackers will forever be the game’s blue-eyed boys, there is an increasing recognition that dominant teams can never be built without dominant defenders. The modern defender today does everything with and without the ball that a forward can – and perhaps more. As building out play from the back becomes an ever-so important component of the game, the appreciation for defenders is growing – something that has perhaps played a part in the how Van Dijk has been liberally given the same amount of credit as say a Messi or a Ronaldo.

#5 About time that a defender won the award 

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

The last defender to claim the Ballon d’Or was Cannavaro in 2006, that too on the back of a fantastic World Cup campaign. Before that – Beckenbauer, who, it can be argued, wasn’t a defender at all!  It’s been a 13-year long wait since 2006 for another defender to come to the fore and Van Dijk hasn’t disappointed. Messi and Ronaldo’s domination was long and it might still continue the year after, but for a defender to beat them to the award would be unprecedented – and completely warranted. Van Dijk, if he wins the award, does so on complete merit – indeed just about time for a defender to claim the award again!

3 reasons why Real Madrid should sign Neymar

Reports: Zinedine Zidane's reaction to Neymar choosing Barcelona return over Real Madrid move from PSG

With Real Madrid and Barcelona entangled in a transfer saga for PSG forward Neymar, FOX Sports Asia lists three reasons why Madrid should sign him up. 

1. Eden Hazard can’t do it all alone

Real Madrid’s pre-season was a clear indicator of just where the team stands at this moment – the 7-3 defeat to Atletico marking the lowest ebb of a summer riddled with doubt and chaos.

Record signing Eden Hazard often remained on the periphery of games, before finally bursting into life with his first goal against Bundesliga side Salzburg. An injury to the Belgian, however, meant Madrid had to start the season without him and their struggles are out in the open – as evidenced in the 1-1 draw to Valladolid.

Even with his return, he cannot be expected to shoulder the team’s responsibility all alone and in Neymar, Madrid have the ready-made superstar they need to complement Hazard’s talent.

2. Madrid’s answer to Barcelona’s superstars 

Reports: Real Madrid to sell star midfielder despite Zinedine Zidane's request

With the signing of Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona have an attack brimming to the broth with talent. Lionel Messi, Griezmann, Dembele and Suarez represent a fearful prospect for any defence in world football and at the moment, Real Madrid don’t really have anyone apart from Hazard in that category.

Gareth Bale, with all his persistent niggles is an aging force while Karim Benzema, for all his graft, has never been one from the top bracket. Signing Neymar would mean Madrid finally having an attack capable of going toe-to-toe with not only Barcelona, but also the rest of Europe’s elites.

3. Replacing Ronaldo 

My rivalry with Messi is like Senna and Prost – Ronaldo

The impact of Ronaldo’s departure on Madrid has been colossal and for all their spending this summer, they haven’t really replaced him. Hazard’s goal tally is far too less to rival Ronaldo’s and neither is the Belgian driven enough to be the world’s best.

In Neymar, Madrid would be getting not only a player capable of matching Ronaldo’s immense goal return but also someone willing to take up the mantle of being the best in the world – the kind of player they desperately need right now.

 

Ballon d’Or 2019: Top 5 contenders as per the odds

Taking into account the European betting market following Liverpool’s win over Chelsea in the Super Cup, FOX Sports Asia looks at the top 5 contenders for the Ballon d’Or as per the odds. 

#5 Sadio Mane – 33/1

Sadio Mane completes the top five at 33/1, also being the third Liverpool player in the list. Like Alisson and Van Dijk, the European Cup in Madrid was the pinnacle of Mane’s season. He also guided Senegal to the finals of the African Cup of Nations where a Riyad Mahrez inspired Algeria beat them to the trophy.

While the case of the candidates in front of him might scupper his chances, Mane, like Alisson could spring an unlikely surprise.

#4 Cristiano Ronaldo – 20/1 

Talk of the Ballon d’Or and Cristiano Ronaldo’s mention is never too far away.

The Portugal international has had yet another fantastic season with the Nations League in May proving to be the icing on top of the league that he claimed with Juventus. He was also crowned the Seria A’s best player and despite a lower than normal goal return in terms of his lofty standards.

And Ronaldo could well make it number 6 this time around.

#3 Alisson Becker – 16/1 

Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson comes in third with 16/1 odds.

The keeper is fresh off the back of Copa America success with Brazil and European glory with Liverpool – playing a huge part in both. Amazingly, he is yet to lose a single game in Brazilian colours!

Collective glory and individual performances – he has both in plenty and one wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he breaks the mould and claims the trophy this time, however unlikely it may seem.

#2 Lionel Messi – 3/1 

Second in the running for the 2019 Ballon d’Or is Barcelona captain and club legend Lionel Messi – at 3/1. So highly is Messi rated by his peers that Van Dijk himself vouched for him earlier this year ahead of their encounter in the Champions League.

In fact, it is a testament to Messi’s quality that he still stands the second favourite to win the gong despite winning only the league with Barcelona – Liverpool knocked them out of Europe while Valencia claimed the Copa Del Rey with a surprise victory in the finals. His international duck continued too, as Brazil won the Copa America and if Messi manages to make it 6 this time around – it will be solely down to his quality.

#1 Virgil Van Dijk – 8/13

If Virgil van Dijk wasn’t already the clear-cut favourite for the coveted trophy, he certainly is following Liverpool’s shootout victory over Chelsea that saw him claim the UEFA Super Cup.

Van Dijk’s superb season needs no introduction – the Champions League win against Tottenham in June was preceded by an engaging title race against Manchester City where his team finished second. Another heartbreak lay in store for the Dutchman as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal won the UEFA Nations League later that summer – defeating the Oranje in the finals but even in defeat, Van Dijk came through with his reputation only further enhanced.

If the odds really are to be believed, he might very well be the first defender in 13 years to win the Ballon d’Or crown.

 

(Source: Oddschecker)

5 transfers which can be completed before the European window shuts

With less than three weeks left for clubs to wrap up their business, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at 5 transfers which can be completed before the window slams shut.

#5 Christian Eriksen to Juventus

Tottenham’s long-serving Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen has publicly angled for a move away from the club this summer – saying he would be open to a ‘new challenge’. With Eriksen now in the final year of his contract, Spurs could be tempted to sell him for a cut-price deal.

While he has not ruled out the possibility of staying at Spurs, it’s looking increasingly unlikely as negotiations over a new contract drag on. Juventus and even Real Madrid are thought to be interested but with Zidane looking to bring in Pogba and Juve already having spent big on the likes of De Ligt – one could much rather expect him to instead sign a pre-contract at any of Europe’s elite in January with a view to join them on a free next season.

#4 Paul Pogba to Real Madrid 

Despite putting in a fantastic opening day shift against Chelsea as United ran out 4-0 winners, Paul Pogba reiterated post-match that there was a ‘big question mark’ over his future. Real Madrid’s pre-season struggles have exposed the lack of a Pogba-esque player in their midfield and Zidane is a known admirer.

Manchester United’s asking price is the stumbling block, however, with the Red Devils unlikely to budge from their 150 million valuation. A bid of 27 million-plus James Rodriguez was dismissed straightaway last week with some even calling it an insult to the club but Real will almost certainly come in with an improved offer before the end of the window – hopefully, something that might test United’s resolve.

#3 James Rodriguez to Atletico Madrid

Real Madrid's James Rodriguez

The Colombian midfielder is considered an expendable asset at Real Madrid and their cross-town rivals are known admirers. Talks with Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli seem to have broken down over Real’s asking price but Atletico have cash in the bank – having generated over 160 million from the sales of Griezmann and Rodri.

With 3 weeks to go and no competition for his signature, Atletico could play it calm and stretch negotiations to lower the price as much as they can.

#2 Philippe Coutinho to PSG 

Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho

Relegated to the bench in Barcelona’s recent clash against Napoli, Philippe Coutinho’s future at Camp Nou is very much a subject of debate. The Brazilian is thought to favour staying at his current club and wants to fight for his place but the opportunity to sign Neymar might be too tempting for Barcelona to turn down.

As things stand, PSG is certainly interested and as footballers well know, anything can happen in the space of 21 days!

#1 Neymar to Barcelona 

Reports: PSG star Neymar reveals his next destination amid interest from La Liga giants

PSG ultras turning against Neymar might well be the final nail in the Brazilian’s Parisian coffin who is seemingly at a point of no return now with the fans in Paris.

Barcelona publicly put out a statement saying talks had ended earlier this summer but privately seem intent on getting their man no matter what. A delegation from the club is reportedly on the way to Paris to thrash out a deal but with the amount of money that would be changing hands, this is one of the transfers which could go into the final hours of the window.

Barcelona 4-0 Napoli: 5 talking points as Barcelona thrash Napoli in their final pre-season fixture

Barcelona

Barcelona crushed Napoli 4-0 in their final pre-season friendly at the Michigan Stadium on Sunday. The win gives Barca a confidence boost as they head into their La Liga opener against Athletic Bilbao on August 16. 

Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the encounter.

5. Napoli’s 15 minutes in hell

Despite Barcelona always being the dominant side in the game, the game was very much level until the end of the first half, when they finally changed gears. Suarez started the rout in the third minute of the first-half injury time and in a span of 15 second half minutes there-on, Carlo Ancelotti’s side conceded four goals to put the game as well as the tie behind them.

4. Griezmann opens his Barcelona account 

After an acrimonious departure from his previous club, on top of rumours of him not being welcomed into Barcelona by captain Lionel Messi – a goal was what Griezmann needed. After some near misses, the Frenchman finally scored in the 56th minute, getting on the end of a Jordi Alba cross after a wonderful team move to open his goal-scoring account for his new club.

3. Alena impresses amongst the big boys 

In a Barcelona team that was nearly full strength, apart from the enforced absence of Lionel Messi – youngster Carlos Alena showed some real composure and creativity in midfield. Griezmann’s first goal was all thanks to the midfielder, who released Alba down the left with a beautifully weighted ball. Suarez’s second too was created by him in a similar manner, releasing Dembele whose pass was met by the Uruguayan first time with a delightful finish from just outside the box.

2. Frenkie continues smooth adaptation 


For a player whose arrival was confirmed just months ago, it seems like Frenkie De Jong has never been away. The midfielder exudes calmness in a manner reminiscent of La Masia graduates of the past and it wouldn’t be a long-shot to say that he was born to play for the Blaugrana. De Jong’s simple football at the base of midfield kept Barcelona going and he even had time to set up Barcelona’s fourth goal. Safe to say, he is the type of player that the likes of Lionel Messi will definitely enjoy playing with.

1. Coutinho benched as Neymar talks continue 

With PSG sporting director Leonardo revealing talks of Neymar’s departure were now at a stage ‘more advanced than before’, Coutinho’s relegation to the bench, even if only for a friendly, has set the tongues wagging. It is widely believed that Coutinho, who both Barcelona and PSG value at over 100 million, will be key to an agreement in the Neymar deal. With 20 days worth of time left for the European transfer window to close, expect a lot of drama in this space!

(Photo courtesy: FC Barcelona)

Top 10 most expensive Premier League signings this summer

With the Premier League transfer window finally slamming shut, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at 10 of the English window’s most expensive signings. 

=10 Joelinton (Hoffenheim to Newcastle United -£40M)

Newcastle United striker Joelinton

Newcastle United signed Brazilian striker Joelinton for 40 million pounds last month, finally culling some of the residual disappointment from Rafa Benitez’s departure. With Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez leaving for greener pastures, the striker has some huge boots to fill if he is to win over the St James’s faithful.

=10 Youri Tielemans (Monaco to Leicester City – £40M)

Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans

Linked with the likes of Manchester United, Youri Tielemans committed his future to Leicester City early last month, after a bright 6-month loan spell. At 22, the youngster has many years ahead of him and could very well turn out to be one of the revelations of the season, should he maintain consistency.

=10 Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid to Chelsea – £40M)

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic

Mateo Kovacic’s loan move to Chelsea was finally made permanent this summer, a transfer that assumed even more significance in light of their transfer ban. The Croatian has shown flashes of his talent but will certainly need to do more to justify his 40 million fee – or risk being stuck with the ‘consistently inconsistent’ tag that has haunted him in his career so far.

=10 Sebastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt to West Ham United – £40M)

West Ham record signing Sebastien Haller

Luka Jovic’s strike partner made his way to West Ham United in the summer – a clear indication of the Premier League’s growing financial strength, with mid-table clubs able to afford some of the best young talents on the continent. The Frenchman goal involvement in the Bundesliga last season was amazingly bettered only by Lewandowski and he is certainly one to keep an eye on!

6. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace to Manchester United – £45M)

Manchester United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka

England’s U-21 Wan Bissaka’s 45 million pounds transfer to Manchester United was wrapped up relatively early in the window, with ‘the Spider’ thought to be on top Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s priority list. His pre-season performances have certainly lived up to the hype and if the youngster remains injury-free, this might turn out to be a real coup for the Red Devils.

5. Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon to Tottenham Hotspurs – £54M)

Tanguy Ndombele has joined Tottenham

Daniel Levy and Tottenham Hotspurs finally opened their coffers to sign three key players this summer – Tanguy Ndombele being the first. The midfielder is a like-for-like replacement for Mousa Dembele, whose departure left a huge void for them in midfield. Having already showed glimpses of his skill, the Frenchman is expected to slot in straight away.

4. Joao Cancelo (Juventus to Manchester City – £60M)

Joao Cancelo in action with Juventus

Further strengthening the Premier League’s reputation in terms of attacking full-backs is the arrival of Joao Cancelo from Juventus to Guardiola’s Manchester City. While defending isn’t exactly his strongest point, Cancelo will expect to improve massively under Guardiola’s tutelage. Exciting times for City fans ahead!

3. Rodri (Atletico Madrid to Manchester City – £63M)

Rodri in action on his Manchester City debut

Manchester City finally fulfilled their wish of signing a long-term replacement for Fernandinho by signing Atletico’s Rodri, who comes to Etihad after only a single season at the Wanda Metropolitano. Pep Guardiola’s side struggled without the Brazilian against the big teams last season, something Rodri’s acquisition is expected to immediately address.

2. Nicolas Pepe (Lille to Arsenal – £72M)

Nicolas Pepe at Lille

Arsenal’s supposed budget of 45 million turned out to be a smokescreen as the Gunner’s broke their transfer record to sign Lille superstar Nicolas Pepe for 72 million pounds. The youngster was second only to Mbappe on top of Ligue 1 scoring charts last season and will be expected to make a similar impact at Arsenal, who now possess arguably the most frightening front-line in the country.

1. Harry Maguire (Leicester City to Manchester United – £80M)

Manchester United recruit Harry Maguire

The Premier League window’s longest-running transfer saga finally came to a close when Harry Maguire signed for Manchester United, with the Red Devils paying a record 80 million pound sum – making him the world’s most expensive defender ahead of Virgil Van Dijk.

The pressure is inevitable, with Van Dijk himself suggesting Maguire to get used to the tag and the Englishman must get up to pace as soon as possible – ideally starting with United’s opener against Chelsea, where he is expected to make his debut in what will surely be a baptism of fire.