5 reasons why Pep Guardiola will join Juventus

Manchester City board member Galassi may have laughed off rumors of Pep Guardiola’s move to Turin, but the Spaniard has reasons aplenty to change base.

5. To conquer Europe’s top 4 leagues

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola with the FA Cup

If and when Guardiola’s Manchester City stint comes to an end, he will have conquered 3 of Europe’s top leagues – the Manchester City boss has managed in Spain with Barcelona and in Germany with Munich, before taking off to Manchester on an English adventure.

Pep Guardiola has some serious dance moves

Out of the traditional ‘big-4’ leagues in Europe, only Italy remains and when you take a look at Guardiola’s career path, a move to Turin seems more or less inevitable at some point.

4. The Guardiola-Ronaldo link up

Pep Guardiola spoke about Ronaldo in glowing terms last year when asked to comment on his departure from Madrid and a move to Italy to work alongside the Portuguese doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

From Ronaldo’s point of view, having worked alongside two of the best managers of this generation in Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, it would only be natural for him to want to work alongside another similarly driven individual in Pep – the only manager in today’s game who can be spoken of in the same breath as the aforementioned duo.

3. Juventus’s Champions League dream

The Old Lady secured their 8th consecutive Serie A title this season and it is an open secret that they are desperate for European glory. They broke the Italian transfer record as well as their wage structure to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo last season but even the Portugese couldn’t get them past the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

While Guardiola himself hasn’t won Europe’s top prize since his penultimate season at Barcelona, he is as close to perfection a club can have. Jose Mourinho’s methods may well be outdated but Guardiola plays the football of today and with the league title relatively easier to secure as compared to England, the club will be hoping Guardiola can channel his genius towards securing the continent’s grandest prize.

2. The financial angle

With various media outlets reporting that Juventus had offered the former Barcelona man a 24 million per-season package to join them, the finances of the deal are undeniably lucrative. While it’s not that Pep isn’t already well compensated at City, a deal that would make him the best-paid in the world would certainly be hard to turn down.

1. To end Mourinho comparison

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola at April's Manchester derby

Jose Mourinho prides himself on being the only manager to win league titles in England, Spain and Italy – with good reason too, one might add. The notoriously different play-style and tactical organization in these three countries makes his achievement unique and Pep Guardiola is one man who would not shy away from trying the feat.

The duo have had a fractious relationship over the years and to match his contemporaries’ record would be the ultimate sucker-punch from Guardiola to Mourinho, something that might finally end comparisons between them and establish Pep as the better manager once and for all.

5 possible destinations for Gareth Bale this summer

‘We cannot forget the past, but I look to the future’ – Zidane on Bale

Zinedine Zidane has publicly declared that Gareth Bale does not ‘fit into the team’, but which are the clubs that the Welshman could potentially end up at next season?

#5 Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain celebrate retaining the Ligue 1 title

Much like Real Madrid themselves, Paris Saint Germain are always on the lookout for superstars to complement their already star-studded squad. With Neymar and Kylian Mbappe already on board, Gareth Bale could very much be the player to complete the trident.

Having won four UEFA Champions League crowns, he has the European pedigree to match and his know-how may be the missing piece in their bid to claim their ‘holy grail’. As far as appeal goes, Paris is no less glamorous than Madrid and in terms of Bale’s marketing pull plus his star status, there may be no better match than Paris for the winger.

#4 Juventus

Now Juventus haven’t been strongly linked with Gareth Bale but just like Paris, their bid for European silverware may be the factor that seduces them to press the button.

Juve already have experience of pulling off a similar deal – the one that brought Cristiano Ronaldo to Turin last summer and might be willing to sanction a similar deal if they believe it would guarantee them the trophy they crave so desperately.

#3 Liverpool

Liverpool celebrate a goal in the Champions League

Links to Jurgen Klopp’s side have surfaced only in the last twenty-four hours and seem speculative at best, but it is news that has no doubt got the Kop excited.

Despite the fact that Bale’s signing would go against the entire set of established transfer procedures the Reds have created in the last 5 years or so – he turns 30 in July, will pull their wage structure apart, and his injury record is second only to that of Daniel Sturridge – the prospect of having the first bonafide superstar in the city since Luis Suarez’s departure may tempt them.

#2 Manchester United

United De Gea

Manchester United and Gareth Bale is a love-story that goes back a long way. From David Moyes’s revelation that they had a helicopter chartered for his arrival before Real Madrid swooped in to lure him, to Jose Mourinho’s confession last summer that they would ‘always be interested’ should a player like him be available – there seems something irresistibly inevitable about Bale and the red half of Manchester.

While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival does signal a change in policy back to the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, when they focused on brooding youngsters rather than buying superstars, it would certainly be interesting to know his reaction if a deal for the Welshman to come to Manchester is indeed put across the table for him to decide.

#1 Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

There is no other set of fans who love the winger more than the Tottenham fans and in many ways, a return to Spurs would be the perfect homecoming for him. The North London outfit are a different side to the one Gareth Bale left and have finally become the team that he wanted them to be.

Bale’s signing, while financially infeasible, would certainly represent the ‘next step’ that Mauricio Pochettino has been urging his club to take for so long. A loan deal has been mooted to overcome the financial hurdles the deal poses, but wages remain an issue. Practical or not? Something for Daniel Levy to ponder over.

Ballon d’Or 2019: 5 outsiders who might just end up in the top 3

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi look odds-on favourites to reclaim the Ballon d’Or crown after Luka Modric broke their duopoly last year, but which outsider will push them all the way?

#5 Eden Hazard

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard

The Real Madrid bound forward has had his best season in terms of goal involvement this year and will surely be in with a shout when it comes to the accolade of the best player of the year. Hazard has been Chelsea’s best player by a country mile this campaign and in terms of sheer quality, is definitely second to none.

However, a trophy-less season until this point could hamper his chances of a podium finish. Nevertheless, that could still change with the Belgian set to play in the UEFA Europa League final in less than two weeks.

#4 Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane’s fantastic campaign could yet end with the highest collective honour in club football, provided his side manage to navigate the small matter of a Mauricio Pochettino inspired Tottenham in the European Cup finals.

Mane ended the Premier League season as the joint-winner of the Golden Boot and has demonstrated how his presence commands value even greater than that of his teammate Mohamed Salah to his side. In fact, his outside chance might very well turn into a firm challenge depending on the result of the Champions League final.

#3 Kylian Mbappe

Tanguy Ndombele tussles with Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe’s season yielded nothing special in terms of trophies – the youngster missed out on PSG’s holy grail, i.e, the Champions League trophy courtesy of Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s spirited Manchester United team.

Where the youngster stands out, though, is the sheer volume of goals he scores for his side. The 20-year-old has scored 32 goals in the league this season. With one match for both Mbappe and Messi to claim the European Golden Shoe, he could yet still beat the Argentine superstar for the accolade in his final game. Regardless of the result, however, Mbappe’s bid to enter the Ballon d’Or final three is a strong one on the sheer weight of his quality, if not in terms of trophies.

#2 Virgil Van Dijk

Dutchman is frustrated with Reds' second-placed finish

Destroyed by Lionel Messi in the first leg of their epic battle at the Nou Camp, Van Dijk shot back to claim redemption at Anfield. The imperious defender has been one of Liverpool’s best players, if not the best and is a clear example of the influence one single player can have on the fortunes of a team.

Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 was the last defender to finish in the top three of the Ballon d’Or but Van Dijk can break the jink this season.

#1 Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling celebrates Manchester City's title

Pep Guardiola’s latest protege, Raheem Sterling’s unprecedented improvement has been one of the best storylines in European football over the past two seasons. His goal-involvement has been consistently impressive and to claim a Premier League title two seasons running is no mean feat – Sterling’s inclusion in the Ballon d’Or top three will reinforce the belief that consistency in football never goes unnoticed.

10 players who must leave Manchester United in the summer

Manchester United’s disappointing end to the season has highlighted their urgent need for signings, but which are the players whose futures lie away from Old Trafford?

#10 Matteo Darmian

The Italian was one of Louis Van Gaal’s final signings and has endured a difficult spell at the club after an initially bright start. He was voted the United’s player of the month in his first month at the club while his performance in his first official game – a 1-0 victory over Spurs was described by Van Gaal as ‘the best of the match’. Towards the end of the season, Darmian lost his place to Marcos Rojo and has remained on the fringes ever since. The first choice for his country when he signed for United, it’s difficult to envisage the downward spiral his career has taken and with Inter and Juventus thought to be keen on signing him, his departure looks likely.

#9 Phil Jones

Manchester United defender Phil Jones

The English defender is already a one-time title winner under Sir Alex Ferguson and was even described by the Scot as having the potential to be ‘United’s best ever player’, likened by him to the legendary Duncan Edwards. Six years on from Sir Alex’s departure, Jones has failed to live up to the potential which saw United, Arsenal, and Chelsea all compete for his signature from Blackburn. His brief renaissance under Solskjaer seems to have plateaued and now seems the best time for all parties to move on, despite signing a new contract just months earlier.

#8 Ashley Young

Ashley Young’s position at Manchester United is one that is seriously up for debate. The former winger has been club captain since Wayne Rooney’s departure but his defending has been disastrous at times. One of the few players left at the club who understand it’s culture, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may yet choose to retain the services of Young, despite the clamour amongst fans calling for his departure.

#7 Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku

The first choice at international level, Lukaku is yet to scale the heights with United that he managed to at Merseyside and at the World Cup with Belgium. His best return at Everton was a 25-goal tally in the league while he has yet to touch 20 goal season in the league at Old Trafford. The Belgian was surprisingly relegated to the bench at the start of Solskjaer’s tenure but fought his way back into the lineup and with his age on his side, there is still time for him to seek greener pastures away from rain-laden Manchester.

#6 Marcos Rojo

The scorer of the goal that prevented Argentina from being knocked out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the group phase, Marcos Rojo’s season has gone downhill ever since. His continued injury worries have meant that he has never had a chance to become the first choice, while his rash tackling has meant Solskjaer has been rather reluctant to thrust him into games at crucial junctures. He turns 30 next year and even though saving his United career might well be impossible, there might one final payday for him provided he decides to leave this summer.

#5 Juan Mata

Juan Mata’s situation at Manchester United is a rather peculiar one. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made it clear he wants the Spaniard to stay but the player himself refuses to confirm or deny reports of an impending departure, instead preferring to focus on his club’s season. His soft-spoken demeanour and selflessness on and off the pitch have made him a fan-favourite and Mata will have no trouble in finding a new club due to the high regard he is held in by clubs and coaches all over Europe, which might perhaps be the best solution for all parties involved.

#4 Sergio Romero

The best second-choice goalkeeper in the league seems to be a Manchester United man through and through, but could easily choose to be first-choice somewhere else. The club will be loathed to let him leave but should the opportunity to be the first-choice goalkeeper at a top club arise, Romero might well be tempted to leave the place he has called home 2015.

#3 Chris Smalling

Another player against whom the fan-clamour is rather high, Smalling’s season has been relatively better compared to his compatriots. He has put in some masterful performances, particularly against Kylian Mbappe in United’s Champions League knockout tie against PSG. If, however, Smalling is to re-establish himself as a part of the England setup, he might well have to leave United and prove he can play a different, ball-playing brand of football – a lack of which has been touted by Gareth Southgate as the primary reason for his omission from the set-up.

#2 Paul Pogba

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba

Recently named by Patrice Evra as the best player for United this term, Pogba’s failure to influence games during United’s most important period of the month has led to what can only be described as a fan-mutiny against him. Matters came to a head when a fan was heard mouthing expletives at the Frenchman following United’s defeat against Cardiff and with Madrid calling – it might be best for him to leave a place where he is not the most-loved at this moment.

#1 Alexis Sanchez

Just where did it all go wrong for Alexis Sanchez?

The man who was supposed to be the missing piece in United’s jigsaw has instead scattered all the pieces haywire – out of form for more than a year now. For the best-paid player in the Premier League, a change of scenario might be the most viable option, especially with Manchester United looking to free up their wage bill to fund their summer rebuild.

Liverpool 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers: 5 talking points as Liverpool’s season ends in heroic failure with 97 points

Liverpool’s two goal victory was not enough to claim the title but the Reds end this campaign with their heads held high. Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the game.

#5 21 minutes of heaven

For 21 minutes, Liverpool were on top of the English Premier League. The Reds were cruising courtesy of an early goal by Sadio Mane and in the meanwhile, Glenn Murray scored at Brighton just as the clock struck 27, to send shockwaves across the entire league.

Television viewers didn’t even have to switch channels, for the sudden burst of distinctly celebratory noise at Anfield made clear what had just happened.

Sergio Aguero scored just one minute later to draw the Champions level before Laporte restored the status quo 11 minutes later, ending Liverpool’s 21 minute journey in dreamland.

#4 Wolves give nervous Reds a scare

It wasn’t all smooth-sailing for the Merseysiders who were given some scares by a Wolves outfit who weren’t at all prepared to roll over and die. The most clear-cut opportunities fell, as they should have, to Raul Jiminez.

The striker, however, uncharacteristically failed to convert any, with a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping denying Wolves the opportunity to make more of the impetus that they had given themselves.

#3 Sadio Mane forces three-way tie for golden boot

Trailing Mohamed Salah by two goals at kick-off, Sadio Mane’s sensational two goal salvo was enough to force a tie for the golden-boot race, but sadly not quite enough to claim a first Premier League title.

The Liverpool duo might have thought they were joint-winners at full-time, only for Aubameyang to draw level with them late-on – meaning the prize will have to be shared by all three of them this season.

#2 The most heroic of failures

Jurgen Klopp’s men end the season with a mind-boggling 97 points – the third highest tally ever, the first two being Manchester City’s points total(s) in the past two seasons.

The Kop can consider themselves unlucky, having come up against such a force of nature in Pep Guardiola’s City side. Indeed, a tally of 97 points would have been enough to claim the title in 9 of the past 10 seasons.

Alas, not this one.

#1 European destiny awaits

For this Liverpool side, there is no shame in losing to a team like Manchester City, especially considering the perspective the last 10 days have given them. Overturning a 4-goal deficit against a Lionel Messi-led Barcelona is no mean feat and a Champions League final appearance will surely cushion the blow of this failure.

5 European Cups already glitter in their trophy case and there is no doubt the entire city is waiting with bated breath for their European destiny to fulfill itself.

Ajax 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur: 5 talking points from Spurs’ Amsterdam miracle

Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side took fate into their hands to turn a 3-goal aggregate deficit around in 45 minutes at the Cryuff arena. Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points.

5. Football, bloody hell!

Tottenham star Lucas Moura celebrates his hat-trick
 

Just when everyone thought they had seen it all, especially after Liverpool’s victory over Barcelona at Anfield yesterday, the Champions League throws in another epic tale into the spanner.

The sight of Mauricio Pochettino sinking to the ground and bowing his head in what was a mixture of elation and disbelief after Lucas Moura tucked in the winner will live long in everyone’s memory and makes one reminisce of the only quote fitting for such an occasion – ‘Football, Bloody Hell!’

4. Heartache for unlucky Ajax

 

The reaction of the Ajax players at full time told everything one needs to know about this tie, all they had to do was bury one of the numerous chances they had created for themselves.

Ziyech’s shot that struck the bar, Lloris’s late save just before the final goal, Tadic’s first half shot – the flashbacks are sure to play over and over and over again in their heads as they recover from this unbelievable heartache.

3. Deserving Pochettino in tears at full-time 

 

If there was one man at the Cryuff Arena who deserved to make his way into the Champions League final, it was Pochettino and the god’s must have surely smiled when Lucas Moura tucked in a last second winner to present his manager with the greatest gift of what is still a career in it’s infancy.

The Argentine has worked wonders on a shoestring budget and everyone saw what the win meant to him when he burst into tears as the clock struck full time and the realization of what had just happened dawned on him.

2. Lucas Moura writes his own destiny with fantastic hat-trick 

Tottenham forward Lucas Moura
 

As soon as Lucas Moura tucked the ball into the net for his team’s first goal at the start of the second half, it was as if he knew what was to come next. The Brazilian winger looked to the skies, seemingly sure that it was all written.

He believed, dragging the entire Spurs team along with him and by the time he scored his second, he was sure that the script was but in his own hands – finally scoring his third at exactly 4 minutes and 59 seconds of the allocated 5 minutes injury time to send his side through and complete the story.

1.  Spurs put in performance worthy of Cryuff Arena to march into finals 

Tottenham forward Harry Kane
 

It was not the perfect performance from Spurs who hung on at times, but the spirit in their game was surely reminiscent of the man after whom the stadium has been so aptly named.

Pochettino’s men did not, at any point throw in the towel and at full time it was exactly as the commentator said after Ajax’s second goal – ‘A performance worthy of the name’, albeit this time it held true not for the Dutch side, but for the opposition.

UEFA Champions League 2018/19: 5 talking points from Liverpool’s miraculous comeback win over Barcelona

With Liverpool drawing on the magic of the Kop to cause a massive upset against Barcelona and make their way to the finals, FOX Sports takes a look at the key talking points.

#1 Outrageous Liverpool start stuns Barcelona

Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold

Jurgen Klopp spoke about the need for his team to draw from the Anfield crowd as well as take inspiration from their previous comebacks and it seemed like the ploy worked wonders.

Divock Origi scored from the rebound off a Jordan Henderson shot that was saved by Ter Stegen early to set the mood for the evening. Liverpool’s high-press was evident from the very start and it was Mane who intercepted Jordi Alba’s poor back-pass to send Henderson on his way, giving his team the impetus they so desperately needed.

#2 Wasteful Messi

While wasteful may be too strong an adjective to use for the Barcelona ace, waste was exactly what he did when the moment to seal the game arrived. Presented with a fantastic opportunity just outside the box early on, the Argentine’s shot drew a routine save from Allison who parried it over the bar.

Another gilt-edged opportunity vanished as Messi dwindled on the ball for a micro-second, allowing Van Dijk to recover, but wouldn’t have counted anyway as the flag went up for offside.

His greatest moment of shame though, came after Liverpool had already scored four. Robbed by Fabinho, it was Messi who was running after the Brazilian and eventually brought him down in a scene that no one could have imagined before the game.

#3 Super-sub Gini scores two in two

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum

On for the injured Andy Robertson, 9 minutes was all it took Georginio Wijnaldum to get up to the pace of the game, scoring with a low strike past Ter Stegen.

Barcelona had no time to react to the shock as the Dutchman scored a dramatic second just two minutes later with a fantastic header to put his team level on aggregate and was more than worth the super-sub tag that he has been awarded in the aftermath of the game.

#2 Possessed Origi scores controversial winner

Liverpool striker Divock Origi

Chosen by Jurgen Klopp to start ahead of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi seemed almost like a man possessed – his hold up play and early goal giving Liverpool the push they so desperately needed early in the game.

Origi’s most pivotal moment, however, came late on as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick thinking help set him up for a free shot on goal, guarded only by the keeper.

The Catalans’ lost focus as an extra ball found it’s way onto the pitch during a Liverpool corner, but Alexander-Arnold wasted no time, restarting play less than 2 seconds after the additional ball was sent out of play – catching the entire Barcelona team napping to allow Origi to smash the ball into the top right-hand corner and book his team’s tickets to the finals.

1. European royalty Liverpool to get second time lucky?

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson (C) celebrates

With five UEFA Champions League trophies to their name, the Merseysiders showed their tag of ‘European royalty’ is more than fitting by putting in a champion-like shift at home to make their way into the finals.

Their next target now will be to erase the heartache of the previous year, where a Karius disaster left them with a rather bitter taste in their mouths. The Reds certainly are better equipped this time around, although the winner of Ajax’s tie with Tottenham will have more than a fair say in the contest.

UEFA Champions League 2018/19: Liverpool vs Barcelona, 5 key battles

As Liverpool aim to overcome a three-goal deficit against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the 5 key battles which could define this match, and perhaps, this tie. 

#5 Jordi Alba vs Alexander Trent-Arnold

Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba

Jordi Alba’s cross for Luis Suarez’s goal last week proved exactly why the left-back is so highly rated by team-mates and contemporaries alike, putting in a pin-point delivery for the striker to slot home even when his team were on the back-foot.

Liverpool’s fast start had compounded Barcelona’s need for a goal and it was Alba who delivered when they needed him the most – from the very position Trent-Arnold was supposed to be marshalling him away.

No stranger to forward forays himself, Trent-Arnold will need to curb his enthusiasm and put in possibly his most mature performance to keep the doors closed on his ends and give his team a chance to progress in the UEFA Champions League.

#4 James Milner vs Ivan Rakitic

James Milner

Ivan Rakitic was one of Barcelona’s most impressive performers in the first leg, while Fabinho had his night go from bad to worse when Lionel Messi scored the free-kick. James Milner was amongst the cluster of players Messi drew towards him with his run for the first goal and will no doubt be kicking himself for not fouling the Argentine when he had the chance.

While stopping the little man may be a step too far, he can certainly look to stop Rakitic from exerting his influence on proceedings at Anfield.

#3 Allison vs Luis Suarez

Alisson

Luis Suarez’s over-the-top celebration after scoring in the first leg wasn’t well received by certain sections of the Kop and the former Anfield favorite has promised there will be no repeat in Merseyside. The striker’s reaction was understandably though, with the strike last week being his first in Europe this season.

Liverpool goalkeeper Allison, on the other hand may feel hard done by for he could do nothing about any of the goals in the first leg and will be determined to keep the two scorers at bay in the second leg, especially Suarez – considering there are no guarantees he will honour his promise of a curtailed celebration this time around.

#2 Georginio Wijnaldum vs Gerard Pique

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique

Taking Roberto Firminho’s place in an unfamiliar front three will be Geoginio Wijnaldum, who was kept relatively quiet by Pique in the first leg. Firminho’s intelligence and work-rate is almost impossible to replicate, as Wijnaldum himself echoed post the first leg, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be looking to add his own touch of tenacity and technique to the role.

Wijnaldum stretching the Catalan side’s defence will be key to Liverpool scoring early in this encounter while Pique repeating his exploits from the first leg will correspondingly ensure what is by no means a certain victory for his side in this UEFA Champions League tie.

#1 Lionel Messi vs Virgil Van Dijk

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring for Barcelona against Manchester United

Virgil Van Dijk was gracious in defeat the last time these two sides met a week ago at Anfield, echoing the general sentiment about Messi’s genius and how lucky he was not to face the Argentine week-in-week-out. The Dutchman conceded Messi had ‘won the battle but not the war’, refusing to down tools before the second leg at Anfield.

Messi too will be under no illusions about the quality of the Barcelona side he has dragged so far and will be prepared for a Liverpool onslaught. Having made a mockery of Van Dijk at the Nou Camp, he will have no mercy whatsoever this time either in what will again be the most pivotal battle on the field.

10 best players out of contract this summer in Europe’s top 5 leagues

With the transfer window nearing its commencement, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at ten of the best players across Europe’s top five leagues who are out of contract this summer.

#10 Juan Mata

Juan Mata

Manchester United’s number eight is out of contract this summer and may finally be looking to move on from his Old Trafford (mis)adventure.

Firmly rooted as a fan favourite, it’s Mata’s selflessness both on and off the pitch that has won supporters over during his time in Manchester. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been vocal about his desire to keep him on and even though contract talks are still ongoing, as things stand, the Spaniard will be leaving on a free this summer.

#9 David Luiz

Despite the fact that the Brazilian is a firm favourite of Maurizio Sarri owing to his ability on the ball, David Luiz’s season has been anything but fantastic.

The orchestrator of Chelsea’s play from the back, Luiz has been derided by fans as well as pundits for his slack defending and similar to Mata’s situation, Sarri has echoed his support for Luiz’s contract renewal bid, with talks ongoing but a consensus yet to be reached.

#8 Gianluigi Buffon

Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon

Yet to extend his contract with the Parisians, Gianluigi Buffon’s French adventure ends with the league title secured but his holy grail – the Champions League still very much out of reach.

Indeed, it was an error by the legendary Italian goalkeeper that led to United scoring their second goal on the fateful night that PSG were knocked out of Europe. If he decides to hang up his boots this year, it will be without a Champions League medal to add to his decorated locker room.

#7 Ander Herrera

Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera.

A fan favourite like Juan Mata, Ander Herrera’s passion and desire on the field has won everyone at the club over.

Despite often being relegated to the bench during his five-year stint at the club, Herrera’s commitment to the Red Devils has never been called under question. However, lax management at the boardroom has led to an impasse in contract negotiations, with PSG thought to be lurking in the background.

#6 Franck Ribery

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery

A legend at Bayern  Munich who very nearly won the Ballon d’Or during their treble-winning season, Ribery has won all there is in terms of collective honours in German and European football alike.

Injury troubles have sadly caught up with the French winger who will now hope to prove himself somewhere entirely new after twelve seasons with the German champions.

#5 James Milner

James Milner celebrates his goal for Liverpool.

Liverpool’s Mr.Dependable’s contract situation is a bit of muck, with there being confusion over whether it runs out in 2019 or 2020.

His performances have been superb in another fantastic campaign collectively and individually for the Englishman but until official confirmation about his situation is given, it looks like he will be leaving on a free at the end of the current season.

#4 Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge Liverpool

Another Liverpool star out of contract in the summer; the Reds will be less keen on having Sturridge stay on next season as compared to James Milner who is a very integral part of the team.

The forward’s injury worries are yet to completely abate and it looks unlikely that the club will persist with a player over who’s fitness no guarantees can be given or taken at any point of time.

#3 Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben’s confirmation of his departure from Bayern brings to an end a fantastic 10-year association in which the ‘Robbery’ duo terrorized defences throughout Europe.

His next destination is yet to be revealed and provided he can get his fitness back, there is still a lot he can offer to a team – both on and off the pitch.

#2 Mario Balotelli

Super Mario’s much-travelled career could be set for another new destination when his contract with Nice expires this summer. The Italian is currently spending the season on loan at Marseille, despite having just a few months left on his contract.

The forward has a decent scoring record for the French side and there will certainly be no shortage of teams willing to take a punt on the Italian international.

#1  Adrien Rabiot

The most talented out of all the free agents in the summer, Rabiot’s situation at PSG means there is almost certainly no way back for him in Paris. The youngster has been shunned from the first team, after refusing to sign a new deal with the club.

Linked with Barcelona as well as a host of other clubs, the young, dynamic midfielder will begin the latest chapter of his relatively short journey somewhere new come next season. Although it remains to be seen where exactly that would be.

Manchester United 1-1 Huddersfield: 5 talking points as Red Devils fail to make Champions League

No Champions League for the Red Devils! As Manchester United laboured to a dispiriting draw against bottom of the table Huddersfield town, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points.

#1 The end of Alexis?

Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez

Handed a start by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after nearly 8 weeks in the wilderness owing to a combination of injury and poor form, Alexis Sanchez certainly seemed the brightest of Manchester United’s attackers.

The Chilean’s touch seemed bang-on, while he also showed glimpses of the deceptive turn of pace that made him so lethal during his Arsenal days. Most impressive of all, however, was the striker’s work rate – he hassled and harried Huddersfield’s backline throughout, even setting up Rashford for a simple finish that the youngster eventually missed, after reclaiming a ball that seemed all but gone.

In the end though, it wasn’t to be for him as the former Barcelona man limped off to an ankle knock after half time, going off injured in what could potentially have been his last appearance in Red.

#2  United fail to impress…yet again

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, so optimistic in his first couple of months in-charge, confessed pre-match that he doesn’t see his side challenging for the title next season. On the evidence of their display against the Terriers, it’s not hard to see why.

The Red Devil’s early spell of dominance faded soon after the first goal and their familiar lethargy took over, with the back-four even affording opportunities at goal to a Huddersfield team that has scored the least number of goals in Europe’s top 5 leagues.

Huddersfield’s goal added to United’s embarrassment and despite pressurizing the home team for the last quarter of the game, United couldn’t break past the determined hosts.

#3 Unlucky Pogba

Paul Pogba’s afternoon began on a horrible note, giving away the ball cheaply time and again in midfield as he failed to generate any rhythm for his side. Manchester United’s goal however, sprung the Frenchman into life as he crashed a spectacular header onto the crossbar before finally making his way into the game with some eye-catching passes and flicks.

The World-Cup winner was expected to take even more responsibility following the opposition’s equalizer but failed to do so. As luck would have it, his late shot on goal came back off the underside of the bar – in a moment that perfectly epitomized his hit and miss career at Old Trafford so far.

#4 Relegated Terriers show heart

Huddersfield Town celebrate

In what was as much a show of heart by the home team as it was a damning indictment of United’s performance and quality – the already relegated Huddersfield town put up a battling performance to hold the 20-times Champions to a draw in their backyard.

Despite the fact that United will be hanging their heads in disbelief post-match, the hosts can be proud of the point they gained – at a stadium where they have had only a single positive result all season.

#5 Shambolic United head to Europa League

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Knocked out of the Champions League a couple of weeks ago by Lionel Messi, it’s a time of reflection for the Red Devils, who might be beginning to wonder if the lower echelon of European football is really where they belong.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s charges had to ensure a win to keep their hopes alive but even that proved a step too far as the gaffer now looks towards his summer rebuild under the watchful gaze of Ed Woodward, who incidentally was in attendance to see his side’s hope of making the Champions League fade away with a whimper.

Liverpool 3-2 Newcastle United: 5 talking points as Reds take title race to the final day with late winner

Following Divock Origi’s late winner at St James’ Park to send the title race to the final day of the season, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points.

#5 Complacency infuriates Klopp


A recurrent theme throughout the 90 minutes at St. James’s Park was Jurgen Klopp constantly reprimanding his players over their perceived complacency and lack of work rate.

Liverpool’s early lead was cut short by Christian Atsu and Klopp’s fury-driven body language – particularly towards Daniel Sturridge gave a fascinating insight into the psyche of an undoubtedly relentless coach while at the same time highlighting what appears to be an essentially broken relationship between the coach and his striker.

#4 Lucky Liverpool

The Reds started on the front foot courtesy of a Virgil van Dijk header which gave them the lead before being pegged back by Atsu and it could have been worse for them but for some good fortune.

Ayoze Perez’s explosive bit of control and snap shot struck the bar at 1-1 before Salah made it 2-1 to send his team into half-time a goal up, but still very much under pressure and following Salmon Rondon’s fantastic strike to make it 2-2, the Magpies were left ruing what might have been.

#3 Salah out for the season?


Mohamed Salah’s head injury was the only blot on what was a lovely football evening in the north-east. Dubravka’s movement out of his area to punch the ball away resulted in the Newcastle goalkeeper catching the Egyptian on the back of his head and he had to be eventually stretchered off.

The nature of his injury and his reaction – he did not once lift his head following the collision – raising doubts over whether he will be able to feature again for the Reds this season.

#2 Origi strike takes it to final day

Divock Origi played out a rendition of his exploits against Everton, breaking Newcastle hearts and reviving Liverpool’s dream.

The Belgian’s dreadlocks guided the ball onto Lascelle’s head, who in turn flicked the ball into his own net, ensuring the race for the title goes to the final day of the season, all set up for a frantic finale.

#1 Liverpool’s year at last?

So many last-minute winners. Never giving up. Dramatic finales. Liverpool’s season has had it all. With so many signs, it’s hard to argue destiny isn’t waving its wand over the Merseysiders’ season and dragging them along every inch of the way.

There’s another team making their own destiny up in the north-west though, and despite the Reds giving it their every breath, the ball is still very much in Manchester City’s court going into the final day of the season.

UEFA Champions League 2018/19: Barcelona vs Liverpool, 5 key battles

Barcelona square off against Liverpool in a mouth-watering Champions League tie later tonight. Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at 5 key battles that might shape the course of the game.

#5 Andy Robertson vs Nelson Semedo

Liverpool full-back Andy Robertson

A full-back on paper, Robertson’s attacking threat is one Barcelona must be wary of – something he has demonstrated ably by equalling the record for assists by a defender in the Premier League.

No stranger to bursts of attacking endeavour himself, Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo must curb his instincts and put in a shift if the Blaugrana are to prevent Liverpool’s full-backs from wreaking havoc tonight.

#4 Allison vs Luis Suarez

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez

One of the best goalkeepers in Europe this season, Allison’s imperious form in front of goal is what has separated the Reds from defeat at times. The Brazilian, who moved to Anfield from Roma last summer, has kept seventeen clean sheets in the Premier League, the most in the competition.

Luis Suarez, on the other hand, has had a disastrous run in Europe – with Messi largely running the show from behind. A former Anfield darling, Suarez will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of scoring against his former employees, despite the mutual respect on both sides.

#3 Mohamed Salah vs Gérard Pique

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah

Liverpool’s fluid front three means none of the attackers tends to stay as in place as they look on paper – running around and causing havoc throughout.

Out of the trio, Salah is the one who tends to make the most run in behinds and will look to trouble Pique – who no longer has the legs to outrun a young winger. Despite proving more than a match for Rashford in the previous round, the Spaniard knows that the Liverpool man presents an altogether different challenge with his goal threat and maturity.

#2 Ivan Rakitic vs Georginio Wijnaldum

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic

Fresh off the back of securing the La Liga title, Rakitic will be braced for an assault on the Champions League trophy now, in what will be his second continental title should he manage to secure it. The Croatian has embarrassed both of the two English teams he has come across this season in Manchester United and Spurs, but whether he manages to repeat his showing against Liverpool depends on the mercurial Gini Wijnaldum.

The Dutchman has been the only mainstay in Liverpool’s midfield this season – one of the ‘undroppables’ alongside the front three and coming up against Rakitic will be his toughest test yet. A midfield battle to savour!

#1 Lionel Messi vs Virgil Van Dijk

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi

It’s the one battle that the world is waiting for with bated breath.

Virgil van Dijk – recently crowned PFA Player of the year, has not been dribbled past a single time this Premier League season while Lionel Messi, conversely, has made a mockery of every central defender he has come across this season.

Everyone’s eyes, Van Dijk included, will be on the little magician’s left foot as the pint-sized Goliath tries to carve his way past the giant David in this story.

UEFA Champions League 2018/19: Tottenham Hotspur vs Ajax, 5 key battles

Dutch giants Ajax square off against Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of what promises to be an enthralling semi-final. Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at 5 key battles that may well decide the fate of the tie.

#1 Matthijs de Ligt vs Son Heung-Min

The darling of White Hart Lane at the moment, Son Heung-Min has barely let his team feel the absence of Harry Kane following the English striker’s injury. The South Korean has picked up the mantle of scoring crucial goals – the most important of which steered Spurs to the position they are in i.e the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Ajax’s De Ligt, meanwhile, has been imperious at the back, and like Son – his goal in the second leg against Juventus proved crucial for his team in the quarter-finals. On the ball is where he is most comfortable, but the real test of De Ligt’s credentials will be to stop Son from scoring – something not many have been able to do this season.

#2 Christian Eriksen vs Frenkie de Jong

Ajax’s dream run to the final 4 of the competition owes a lot of credit to the form of Frenkie de Jong. Already confirmed as a Barcelona player for next season, De Jong earned brownie points with his future employers by running the show against Madrid in the last-16 with aplomb and left even the likes of Pjanic reeling in the quarterfinals.

Christian Eriksen has been similarly influential for his team, with most of what Spurs create going right through him. In such a high profile match up, the only thing for certain is the fact that all bets are off.

#3 Daley Blind vs Fernando Llorente

Daley Blind’s Manchester farewell was Ajax’s gain as the Dutch international is running the show for his boyhood club, quite literally. Having torn up every blueprint for what a central defender must look and play like, the 5 feet 10 inch ball-player excellently complements De Ligt’s gargantuan frame and is making a mockery of United’s decision to cash in on him.

Fernando Llorente, on the other hand, may not feature from the start but surely is a handful when he comes on. The Spaniard scored the winner for Spurs in the quarters and may look to dominate Blind’s susceptibility to physical duels against lanky centre forwards when he eventually makes his way onto the pitch for Spurs late on.

#4 Victor Wanyama vs Dusan Tadic

On paper, Dusan Tadic leads the line for Ajax, but does he really? Jose Mourinho described the Serbian as a ‘fake 9’ and that is exactly what he is – creating space for others to run into with his clever movement.

Tadic will look to drag defenders out of position and break Spurs’ shape, to avoid which Victor Wanyama will have to be at his focused best.

#5 Hakim Ziyech vs Danny Rose

Danny Rose’s vocal stand against racism together with his return to form has led to the defender being one of the most recognizable faces in English football at the moment and the man he will be up against tonight is Hakim Ziyech – the star of Ajax’s second leg victory over Juventus.

The tricky winger will be a handful for Rose, who will look to avoid a repeat of the quarter-finals against Manchester City where wingers Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling tore Spurs’ full-backs apart.

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea : 5 talking points from Manchester United’s draw against Chelsea at Old Trafford

FOX Sports Asia reviews Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford by running over the salient talking points coming out of the game.

#5 Ole’s Mata surprise pays dividends

With fans and pundits alike expecting a pacy front-line, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sprung something of a surprise in his team-sheet. Ander Herrera’s return from injury and Bailly’s selection ahead of Smalling made the headlines, but Mata’s inclusion in the front three was the one that caused waves, literally and metaphorically.

Set up by Luke Shaw at the end of a flowing team move, Mata opened the scoring against his old club with his weaker foot to bring the match to life and send United 1-0 up in front of the Stretford End.

#4 De Gea disaster continues

United looked to be cruising to an important victory in the race for the top-4, even more so with Arsenal losing earlier in the day to Leicester City, until David De Gea intervened.

The Spaniard’s disaster month, which started with Lionel Messi making a mockery of him at the Nou Camp, continued as he failed to hold an innocuous-looking Rudiger shot from 30 odd yards out – and parried into the way of Marcos Alonso who took full advantage to level affairs just before half time.

#3 Two-footed Rojo survives

Replacing the injured Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo reminded fans he hadn’t changed one bit, lunging in on Willian in typical fashion. Replays confirmed Rojo had caught the Brazilian studs up on the ankles, but the referee begged to differ – awarding him only a yellow card for his action, meaning the Argentine was more than lucky to stay on the pitch up till full time.

#2 Low quality game exposes gulf in class

One thing the game made obvious by full time was the enormous gulf in class between the top two and the rest of teams competing for the top-4.

In a week where Liverpool and Manchester City touched the magic 90 point mark, the 21 point gap between third place and second served only to highlight how far the rest of the league has fallen behind the top-2, something the display of the two teams only served to further emphasize.

#1 Chelsea take control of their own fate

The draw at Old Trafford did more good for Maurizio Sarri’s troops than it did for Ole’s troops as Chelsea took control of their own fate following Arsenal’s loss earlier in the day against Leicester.

The Blues need now only to ensure victory in their final two games to ensure a top-4 finish, with both United and Arsenal now reliant on slip ups by Chelsea and Spurs.