Real Madrid Join Race for Timo Werner After Growing Frustrated With Current Strikers

​Real Madrid are the latest side to express an interest in RB Leipzig hitman Timo Werner, having grown frustrated with their lack of depth at striker this season.

Karim Benzema has been a star for Real this season, but neither Luka Jović nor Mariano Díaz has impressed behind him. Jović, who joined for £54m during the summer, has managed just one goal in 17 appearances, while Mariano is yet to actually feature in either La Liga or the Champions League this season.

Manuel Akanji,Timo Werner

Fortunately, ​Benzema has been on a tear this year, racking up 16 goals and seven assists in 24 games, but Zinedine Zidane wants more competition for places. According to ​Sky Deutschland, Werner is seen as the perfect candidate to offer exactly that.

However, they are only interested in a summer move for the German, who sits on 23 goals and ten assists in just 25 appearances, and Leipzig are not even thought to be prepared to sell in January as they currently find themselves top of the ​Bundesliga.

Speaking on the Transfer Update Show, Marc Behrenbeck revealed that it is seen as just a matter of time before ​Real approach Werner.

Luka Jovic

“Karim Benzema is very likely to renew his contract again, but they are not satisfied with Luka Jović and Mariano Díaz,” Behrenbeck confirmed.

“A new striker should arrive soon, and Timo Werner is at the top of the list. His release clause should be between €30m and €60m, depending on how successful he is. For a player of his calibre, that’s relatively little money.”

Real like the fact that Werner has a release clause which, even at its highest point of €60m, is comfortably affordable. They would be able to negotiate with him with very little effort, which appeals to Los Blancos.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DUSSELDORF-LEIPZIG

However, the main concern is the potential competition they may face. Long-term admirers ​Bayern Munich may choose to involve themselves in discussions, while Werner is also understood to be on ​Chelsea’s list of potential targets.

If he continues this form, there will be plenty of other suitors who cannot resist trying to sign him, which makes for an incredibly intriguing saga.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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The Bulls**t-O-Meter: Ranking How Ridiculous January’s Transfer Rumours Really Are

It feels like no time at all since the halcyon days of the summer, when the temperatures reached double figures, the taps were well and truly aff, and we were awash in nonsensical transfer speculation surrounding a ‘who’s who’ of Europe’s top players.

It’s been a quick few months since, with plenty of actual football to pass the time, but now the January window is open, it’s time to dust ourselves down and do it all again. 

In the modern climate where anything with a searchable headline passes as ‘news’, however, we need some help in filtering the good from the bad, the worthwhile from the worthless, and the genuine from the just not happening. 

To aid us with that, we’ve dug out, dusted off, and plugged in the old Bulls**t-O-Meter, and run a few of January’s most talked-about transfer rumours through it. 


Jarrad Branthwaite

Ben Chapman,Jarrad Branthwaite

Linked Clubs: Aston Villa, Celtic, Everton, Leicester, Newcastle, Rangers

Carlisle United’s ‘giant starlet’, as he has hilariously been monikered, looks to have attracted Premier League interest with his performances in League Two this season. The humungous man-child, the Cumbrian De Ligt (who is actually only around 6ft 3′ according to our Blues correspondent ​Chris Deeley) looks dead certain to be signing elsewhere this month. 

He’s been linked with virtually every mid-range club in the ​Premier League, as well as the big two in Scotland, although it’s the Toffees who currently lead the way – it seems they have tabled at least one bid as things stand. 

Possibility of Future Transfer: Absolutely Nailed On

Likelihood of January Move: Very Strong

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 1/10


Christian Eriksen​

Christian Eriksen

Linked Clubs: Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester United

​The Danish midfielder has been flirting with leaving ​Tottenham for about two years now, but on the first of the month, he entered the final six months of his deal – signalling his availability for pre-contract negotiations.

With no new deal in sight since the appointment of José Mourinho, his departure either now or in the summer looks a tacked-on certainty. Inter look to be the current favourite, as they target a £20m deal that would see him join the club immediately, and that may make sense for Spurs to avoid losing a valuable asset for free. 

Minimal poo here, with perhaps only some lazy reporting giving it the distant hint of a faecal aroma. 

Possibility of Future Transfer: Nailed On

Likelihood of January Move: Fairly Strong

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 2/10


Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho


Linked Clubs: Chelsea, Manchester United 

Since moving to ​Borussia Dortmund from Manchester City’s youth academy, Jadon Sancho has been nothing short of a Bundesliga revelation. He has been obscenely good, and only seems to be getting better, having tallied up 19 goal-involvements in 15 league appearances since August. 

With that sort of form of course comes interest from his homeland, and while it seems unlikely that Dortmund will sign off on a departure for anything short of a stupendous transfer fee this month, it does seem likely he will return to England down the line. 

A good deal of the reporting on it has of course been virtually made-up for clicks, making it near-impossible to tell what is legit and what isn’t. But the fact there seems to be plenty substance buried in it somewhere means it can’t rank too highly. 

Possibility of Future Transfer: Strong

Likelihood of January Move: Unlikely

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 4/10


Cristhian Stuani

Cristhian Stuani

Linked Clubs: Barcelona

Oh for the love of…

Ok, so the story here goes that Barcelona are in need of short-term cover up front (thanks, Luis Suarez’s knee) and aren’t prepared to go for another high-profile Kevin Prince-Boateng type, since that stung their palms last January. 

Their search has, apparently, led them towards the on-fire Stuani, who hammered in 19 La Liga goals for Girona last season, and has followed that up with 16 in 18 in the Segunda Division following their relegation. 

Who knows with this one? It could simply be as lazy a rumour as it gets, simply because he currently plays in Catalonia, but it could equally just be a really unambitious move from Barcelona that would likely lead to riots on the streets. Time will tell which…

Possibility of Future Transfer: Barcelona or bust

Likelihood of January Move: Reasonable

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 5/10


Christian Kabasele

Andy Madley,Christian Kabasele

Linked Clubs: Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle, West Ham

Watford have five good games, and all of a sudden their 28-year-old centre-back – who missed their last game with a red card suspension – is a target for Arsenal and Manchester United. Smells like the transfer window. 

Come on. Just…come on. West Ham and Newcastle interested, you could almost see. Manchester United and Arsenal? Behave yourselves. 

No surprise this one originated from the least trustworthy tabloid of them all, the ever-reputable [information redacted for liability purposes]. 

Possibility of Future Transfer: Reasonable? Depends on Watford’s survival? Who knows

Likelihood of January Move: Not hugely likely

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 7/10


Kalidou Koulibaly

Kalidou Koulibaly

Linked Clubs: Manchester City, Manchester United

The stench of sh*t on this one doesn’t come from the suggestion that Kalidou Koulibaly, once considered the best defender in history before Virgil van Dijk knocked him off his pedestal with a towering header, could leave Napoli in future. It comes from claims that he could leave in January. For Manchester United.

The idea that either of the Manchester clubs, in fact, would invest north of £70m on a new centre-back mid-season, regardless of how inhumanly good that centre-back is, is just silly. We all know how particular Pep Guardiola is with his central defenders, and Manchester United literally just broke the world transfer record for a defender in the summer to land Harry Maguire (ok, that hasn’t quite worked out for them, but still).

Think about these things before you mindlessly report them. 

Possibility of Future Transfer: Mild

Likelihood of January Move: Not happening is it? 

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: 8/10


Kylian Mbappe

TOPSHOT-FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-PSG-MONACO

Linked Clubs: Liverpool, Real Madrid

*screams endlessly into the abyss*​

Believe it or not, there are Liverpool fans out there who actually think, and expect, Kylian Mbappé to join them. If not this month, then in the summer.

What on earth are they all taking? There is not a chance – and I mean that, not a single chance – that they will sign him in the foreseeable future. 

They don’t need it, they’re not even close to needing it. They are not even in the same postcode as a team that needs it. Nor can they afford it, really, considering it would surely cost a world record fee to lure him to Anfield. 

This one would require Sadio Mané or Mo Salah to rock the boat with a surprise transfer request, but even if that happened, it’s likely the Reds would turn their attentions to making another star, rather than buying one. 

So, a request to you fools who ​have #Mbappe2020 trending, just because both Liverpool and Mbappé are sponsored by Nike: stop it. 

Possibility of Future Transfer: Possible-ish, if PSG’s owners withdraw their funding, or Real Madrid bid Jeff Bezos’ entire net worth

Likelihood of January Move: *bangs head off desk at the thought of reading another story about it*

BULLS**T-O-METER RATING: *DING DING DING* 10/10!!!


For more from Robbie Copeland, follow him on Twitter!

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Sergio Ramos Reveals ‘F****d’ Ankle Stopped Him Taking Panenka Penalty in Super Cup Win

​Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has admitted that he wanted to try a Panenka penalty in the Super Cup final victory over Atlético Madrid, but he didn’t trust his injured ankle to be able to pull it off.

Ramos picked up the knock during Sunday’s game but managed to battle through the pain to complete the match, which went to penalties after the two Madrid sides played out a dramatic 0-0 draw.


It was ​Ramos who netted the winning penalty during the shootout, but he confessed (via ​Marca) that he actually wanted to steal the show with one of his trademark Panenka penalties which he has made a habit out of pulling off.

“I always take the fourth penalty due to superstition, not because it had been calculated that I’d take the winning penalty,” Ramos said.

“I had planned on taking a Panenka penalty, but I didn’t have the ankle to do lots of little steps. My ankle is a bit f****d.

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

“I was a bit scared and, as time passed, it seized up and hurt more. But once you’re in the game and know there’s so much to play for, you forget the pain. But now it’s a bit f****d and let’s hope it doesn’t take much time to recover.”

The ankle did not prevent Ramos from winning yet another trophy for ​Real. His tally now sits at 21 honours, and he admitted that he plans to best the record of 23 which was set by Francisco Gento between 1953 and 1971.

“I’m older now and I’m very patient,” he said. “On a personal level, it’s a special day for me. When [trophies] come in the latter years [of your career], you see it in a different way.

TOPSHOT-FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

“It’s always a challenge that I’m two trophies behind overtaking the player with the most in history and let’s hope I can do it.

“Awards demonstrate [the club’s success] more than words. It’s the biggest and most successful club in the world for a reason and it’s because it’s won throughout its history, generation after generation. This is why Real Madrid is so big.”


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Federico Valverde Apologises for Cynical Red Card Foul in Real Madrid’s Super Cup Win

​Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde has apologised for his cynical foul which saw him sent off in the dying embers of Sunday’s Super Cup victory over Atlético Madrid.

With the score at 0-0 in the last five minutes of extra time, Atlético’s Álvaro Morata found himself through on goal, only to be intentionally scythed down by Valverde, who was quickly shown a red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity. Atlético failed to capitalise on the free kick, and Real went on to win on penalties.

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

When asked about the incident after the game, Valverde insisted (via ​Marca) that he did not want to commit such a foul, but he had no regrets about doing so at such an important part of the game.

“I’ve apologised [to Morata]. It’s not good what I did, but I had to do that,” Valverde confessed.

“I’m happy for the trophy. When the penalties ended, I waited and I then I ran [onto the pitch]. They congratulated me, but it’s for everyone. For those who played, those who didn’t and those who gave advice at half time. It’s a triumph of the team.”

Federico Valverde

Despite the foul, Valverde was still named as the Player of the Tournament, and many fans have called for a statue of the Uruguayan to be erected outside the Santiago Bernabéu for his match-saving tackle.

After the game, ​Real manager Zinedine Zidane added (via ​AS) that he would have preferred not to lose one of his players, but he too confessed that it was the only thing which could be done in that situation.

“In the end, he has done what he had to do,” he said. “It is a crude foul but it had to be done at that time. 

Zinedine Zidane,Federico Valverde

“He has done well. In the end the important thing is that he has apologised to Morata because they know each other very well.”

“He has taken the MVP trophy and I’m glad for him. He has done a great job, like everyone else. He sure wants to share it with all his teammates.”


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Real Madrid 0-0 Atlético Madrid (4-1 Pens): Report, Ratings & Reaction as Ramos Strike Seals Victory

Real Madrid required penalties to claim the 2020 Supercopa de Espana, with Sergio Ramos netting the decisive spot-kick after 120 minutes finished goalless despite Federico Valverde’s late red card. 

The game started exactly as you’d expect a Madrid derby to start, with ​Real controlling possession while ​Atléti sat back purposefully, content to take advantage of any early slackness from Zinedine Zidane’s side and counter at pace. Both Joao Felix and Alvaro Morata provided nervy moments for Los Blancos in the opening 15 minutes, but otherwise it was an attritional start to proceedings. 

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

Real controlled a packed midfield third in the first halfbut were struggling to create anything against a typically resolute Atleti defence. Ferland Mendy came closest with a right-footed effort that stung the palms of Jan Oblak, before Casemiro sent a header sailing over the bar.

Having been short of ideas in the first 45, Zidane’s side stepped up the tempo at the start of the second half, and the lively Luka Jovic clipped the outside of the far post with a low effort. Fede Valverde then somehow managed to head Dani Carvajal’s header onto his knee, when he looked certain to score from close range. 

The best chance of the game fell to Atleti’s Alvaro Morata ten minutes from time, as the striker ran onto a great ball from Angel Correa, but with just inches separating him from Thibaut Courtois, he could only fire it against the legs of the overbearing keeper.

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

Substitute Rodrygo fluffed a good late chance, but neither side could complain as a game desperately lacking in quality trudged on to extra-time. 

The additional 30 minutes brought out the best in both goalkeepers as the players tired and the game opened up, but just as it looked to be petering out, some drama struck. Morata broke through on goal, but one on one with Courtois, he was wiped out cynically by Valverde, who took a straight red card on the chin to keep his side in the game for the final few minutes of extra-time. 

Some unsavoury scenes followed, and so too did penalties after nothing came of the resulting free-kick. But while the game itself ended with some late drama, there was none of that in the shootout, with Real netting four from four, as Atletico toiled, to seal the trophy.


REAL MADRID

Key Talking Point

Real came into this one refreshed and in resurgent mood. Having burned out with three straight draws prior to the winter break, they had warmed up for their trip to the Middle East with a 3-0 victory over Getafe and followed that up with a convincing win over Valencia in their Super Cup semi-final.

That victory saw a new tactical system implemented, with Zidane opting to play with five natural central midfielders to keep the opposition guessing where runs would come from. That carried over into the all-important final, with the partnership of Valverde and Carvajal asked to do much of the creating on the right hand side.

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

While it worked remarkably well against Valencia, there was no such luck here. They had the better of possession throughout, but for 90 minutes they could not sustain a period of meaningful pressure, and the result was a poor game that played right into the hands of their opponents.

None of that will matter to Zidane and co, however, who had the bottle to take home the trophy in a reasonably fuss-free shootout. 


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Courtois (6);  Carvajal (7), Varane (6), Ramos (6), Mendy (7); Modric (6), Valverde (8*), Casemiro (7), Kroos (6), Isco (5), Jovic (6).

Substitutes: Rodrygo (5), Mariano (5), Vinicius Jr (6).


STAR PLAYER – Whatever you think of Real’s season so far, few could fairly argue that the emergence of Valverde hasn’t been a huge positive that bodes well for the future – as well as the present.

​​

​​Typically a box-to-box central midfielder, the Uruguayan’s industry was put to use with startling effectiveness on the outside right of a fluid midfield five. He will have more creatively productive days in a white shirt, but he offered a consistent threat down the right, while the defensive cover he offered seamlessly gave license to Carvajal to stroll up and down the wing all day long.

His late red card was far from a moment to be proud of, but it was a case of taking one for the team and preventing a certain goal with minutes left on the clock.


ATLETICO MADRID

Key Talking Point

It’s likely Atleti surprised even themselves with their dramatic comeback against Barcelona to reach the final, and from the off it was abundantly clear they weren’t prepared to make the same mistakes that necessitated a late, late show on Thursday evening. 

José Giménez came in for Stefan Savic in the only change, but as a whole the team looked far more steady and assured off the ball, limiting their famous rivals to very little – in the first half at least. 

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

As both sides’ nerves settled, the game opened up, and with it so did Los Rojiblancos’ defence to an extent, but they continued to nullify the substantial threat offered by Real with characteristic effectiveness. For the most part they showed exactly why they have lost just once in La Liga since September.

They were comprehensively beaten in the shootout and it will be a sore one to take for Diego Simeone’s side, who did all they could over 120 minutes. 


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Oblak (6); Trippier (7), Felipe (7), Giménez (8), Lodi (7); Correa (6), Herrera (6), Thomas (6), Saul (6); Félix (5), Morata (6).

Substitutes: Vitolo (6), Llorente (6), Savic (6), Arias (6).


STAR PLAYER – The improvement in Atlético’s defensive performance from their semi-final against Barcelona was notable, and there was exactly one reason for that – the return of José Gimenez.

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-REAL MADRID-ATLETICO

The Uruguayan returned to the heart of the defence at the expense of Savic and seemed to immediately improve his side, marshalling the back line along with Felipe and ensuring that the lively threat posed by Luka Jovic – save for one or two menacing runs early in the second half – was kept on mute. 


Looking Ahead

Real Madrid take on Sevilla back in the more familiar surroundings of the Bernabeu on Saturday, while Atlético travel to SD Eibar, looking to record a fourth straight La Liga victory. 

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Ambitious N’Golo Kanté ‘Plotting Summer Move’ to Real Madrid

​Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kanté is apparently pushing for a move to Real Madrid at the end of the season, with the France international said to be looking for a ‘fresh challenge’ in his career.

The 28-year-old has been in and out of Chelsea’s side through injuries at the start of the season, but Kanté has now cemented his place back in Frank Lampard’s starting lineup and has made 10 consecutive appearances in the Premier League.

Kanté still has a contract at Stamford Bridge until 2023, but The Sun reports the midfielder wants a ‘fresh challenge’ at the end of the season and views Real Madrid as his ‘ideal destination’.

N'Golo Kanté

It’s claimed that it would cost Real Madrid over £100m to prise Kanté away from Chelsea when the transfer window opens in the summer.

It’s worth noting that the report doesn’t cite where this story has originally come from – The Express and The Daily Star, who are also running with this rumour, only refer back to The Sun’s piece too.

Bayern Munich and Juventus have also been credited with having an interest in signing Kanté, but neither side would be able to afford the France international in the near future.

The Bundesliga champions have their sights set on Leroy Sané, as well as either Philippe Coutinho or Kai Havertz, while Juve already have a midfield that’s overflowing with bit-part players under Maurizio Sarri.

At this stage there doesn’t appear to be much to this rumour at all.

But even if Kanté was pushing for a move away from Chelsea at the end of the season, the club aren’t under any major financial pressure to sell – although that could change with a high-profile arrival like their apparent target, Jadon Sancho.

N'Golo Kante,Francis Coquelin

While the rumour (wherever it has actually come from) will certainly grab the headlines for a few days, this will go down as a typically fictional January transfer story and Chelsea fans have got very little to worry about as far as Kanté’s immediate future is concerned.


For more from Ben Carter, follow him on Twitter!

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Weekly Predictions: Forecasting Tottenham vs Liverpool, Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid & More

​After a brief predictions hiatus – brought on by a ridiculously hectic fixture schedule and last weekend’s FA Cup action – we’re back in the land of guesswork…..and it’s all set to be another corking weekend of action.

Tottenham vs Liverpool and Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid headline the festivities, but there’s plenty of other games you should be keeping your eye on; the trials and tribulations of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United against Norwich and the progress of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal against Crystal Palace to name just two.

So with plenty to play for, it’s time to see which of the 90min editorial knows their onions most this week.

And begin…


Crystal Palace vs Arsenal

Saturday 11/1 – 12:30

FBL-ENG-FACUP-ARSENAL-LEEDS

By Jude Summerfield

Arsenal are back. Say no more.

Actually, maybe we should expand. The Gunners have picked up two wins since Mikel Arteta took over as manager, beating a bad Manchester United and edging past Leeds in the FA Cup. They’ve also drawn with Bournemouth and lost to Chelsea.

Palace don’t have the strongest record at home this season but are unbeaten in their last three Premier League games at Selhurst Park, and have given Arsenal problems in Croydon before.

Expect this to be an open game with the shares to be spoiled.

Editor Prediction
Scott 0-2
Chris 1-1
Andy 1-2
Jack 1-1
Jude 1-1
Toby 1-2
Krishan 2-2
Sean 1-2

General Consensus: Arsenal Win/Draw


Manchester United vs Norwich

Saturday 11/1 – 15:00

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

By ​Toby Cudworth

I grew up in a time when Manchester United and Arsenal were the two heavyweight forces in English football, with the Red Devils the standard bearers for the majority of that time.

Now, it’s a rather different story – with United’s fall from grace showing no signs of letting up, particularly under the guidance of the 19th best manager in the Premier League, OGS. So what better pick me up could United ask for – following their Carabao Cup whooping at the hands of rivals City – than a home game against basement boys Norwich?

The Canaries are without star striker Teemu Pukki, and despite Todd Cantwell’s best efforts, are plum bottom after a rotten run of results. United may have problems but this may be a well received stroll in the Old Trafford park.

Editor Prediction
Scott 2-1
Chris 1-0
Andy 2-1
Jack 2-1
Jude 2-1
Toby 3-0
Krishan 3-0
Sean 2-1

General Consensus: Unanimous Manchester United Win


Lazio vs Napoli

Saturday 11/1 – 17:00

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-NAPOLI-INTER

By Jude Summerfield

Napoli are having a rotten time of it, with just one win in their last six games.

Lazio, on the other hand, are six points behind Juventus and Inter and are very much the form team in Serie A, with Ciro Immobile banging the goals in for fun.

An entertaining spectacle is on the cards, but expect Lazio to slap a Kalidou Koulibaly-less Napoli around and win by a few on Saturday night.

Editor Prediction
Scott 3-1
Chris 2-0
Andy 4-2
Jack 2-2
Jude 3-1
Toby 2-1
Krishan 3-1
Sean 4-1

General Consensus: Unanimous Lazio Win


Tottenham vs Liverpool

Saturday 11/1 – 17:30

Jose Mourinho

By Sean Walsh

Jose Mourinho’s been in charge of Tottenham for under two months but this feels like the 41st time I’ve had to crack open the ‘Tough game for Spurs on Saturday – football’ gag since his arrival.

Liverpool’s first visit to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium shouldn’t daunt them, coming up against a side who’ve endured a miserable festive period and have been hamstrung by Harry Kane’s hamstring.

For all the talk that Mourinho loves getting one over the Reds, there’s such little evidence during the last few years to suggest that he’ll be able to get one over the best team in the world.

Editor Prediction
Scott 0-2
Chris 0-3
Andy 1-1
Jack 0-10
Jude 0-3
Toby 1-3
Krishan 1-3
Sean 0-3

General Consensus: Liverpool Win


Inter vs Atalanta

Saturday 11/1 – 19:45

Romelu Lukaku,Antonio Conte

By ​Chris Deeley

The good thing for Inter is that they’re really, really good right now. The problem is that, well, so are Atalanta. 

The Bergamo side have scored 17 goals in their last five games (and conceded four) as they’ve risen to fifth in the table, with five players already hitting at least five goals in the league. That’s a lot.

On the other hand, Inter haven’t lost in 11 in the league. And they’re top. And they went to Napoli on Monday and won 3-1. And they’re really good. So…there’s that.

Editor Prediction
Scott 2-1
Chris 3-1
Andy 2-2
Jack 3-2
Jude 1-0
Toby 2-1
Krishan 2-0
Sean 2-1

General Consensus: Inter Win


Aston Villa vs Manchester City

Sunday 12/1 – 16:30

Josep Guardiola

By ​Toby Cudworth

Normally we’d be saying that Manchester City’s trip to Aston Villa holds significant weight in deciding which way the Premier League title will go.

But alas, City are out of the running after a pretty average (by Pep Guardiola’s standards) season so far, leaving the Cityzens to focus on wrestling second place away from Leicester and finally conquering the Champions League.

Villa are struggling, as you’d expect from a newly promoted side, despite playing well in patches. Injuries, poor decision making and an element of tactical naivety have contributed to a number of defeats, but Jack Grealish’s form has been a real positive for the hosts. 

The Villans skipper will need to be at his absolute best, dragging others along with him, for Dean Smith’s side to get anything out of this one – but it won’t be easy for the visitors.

Editor Prediction
Scott 1-3
Chris 0-3
Andy 0-4
Jack 0-3
Jude 0-3
Toby 1-3
Krishan 1-4
Sean 1-3

General Consensus: Unanimous Manchester City Win


Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Sunday 12/01 – 18:00

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-VALENCIA-REAL MADRID

By Krishan Davis

Spain’s most pointless, long-winded and far-flung competition draws to a close on Sunday with a, to be fair, tasty looking Madrid derby. 

Any sensible person would assume the Supercopa de España final would be being played at a neutral Spanish ground, such as Valencia’s Mestalla or Camp Nou in Barcelona. Maybe even it being played between the cup and league winners, rather than…erm, neither of those.

Wrong. 

Instead, a Madrid derby will be played out more than 2,500 miles away in the Saudi city of Jeddah. Go figure. In terms of what actually happens on the pitch (if you care), expect a tight affair, but Real to edge it.

Editor Prediction
Scott 2-2
Chris 2-1
Andy 1-2
Jack 2-1
Jude 3-0
Toby 2-1
Krishan 2-0
Sean 1-0

General Consensus: Real Madrid Win


Roma vs Juventus

Sunday 12/1 – 19:45

Juventus v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A

By Chris Deeley

Roma are startlingly good this season, and they’ve got themselves right in a two-horse race for the final Champions League place with a run of just one defeat in 12 league games before the winter break.

Then they came back and lost 2-0 at home to Torino, which was weird. If the team they were playing was anybody except Juventus, some of that might matter one way or another. 

However, they are playing Juventus and they’re going to lose. It’s just science.

Editor Prediction
Scott 1-1
Chris 0-2
Andy 0-1
Jack 1-1
Jude 1-2
Toby 0-1
Krishan 1-2
Sean 0-2

General Consensus: Juventus Win


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9 Players Who Have Scored Incredible Goals Directly From Corner Kicks

​It’s not often you see the footballing phenomenon that is a goal scored directly from a corner. Like a lunar eclipse or any Jesse Lingard involvement, these are seldom seen by mere mortals like ourselves.

However, Toni Kroos did the unthinkable with that stunning corner he scored against Valencia in the Spanish Supercopa semi-final and, unlike some ‘Olympic goals’, he definitely meant it. 

Whether it is a fierce drive whipped in to the near post that travels through a sea of bodies, or a beautifully weighted curler towards the far stick, these goals are truly something to behold. With that in mind, and in no particular order, here are some of the greatest direct corner goals we have ever had the pleasure to witness.


Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPERCUP-VALENCIA-REAL MADRID

Taking advantage of Valencia goalkeeper Jaume’s insistence on arguing with the referee following his decision to award a corner, ​Kroos decided to play the game at his own pace. Seeing the shot-stopper far from his goal-line, the German swept a curler in to the near post with little bother, only to be met by the aghast roars of the crowd. 

The latest in a long line of corner goals, it certainly stacks up as one of the best, and for once we know it was intentional.


Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)

Thierry Henry

Many see ​MLS as nothing more than a retirement home for Europe’s elite footballers, and you can see why given the ease in which Henry and co have conquered America’s top-flight. No moment exuded such nonchalance as much as the French winger’s corner goal scored against Columbus Crew in 2012.

Henry wasn’t shy to try the sublime or the ridiculous, but the whip and bend he achieves when striking the ball is simply breathtaking. I would implore you to check out all of these goals, but this one in particular will send shivers down your spine. 

The former Arsenal man curves the ball sumptuously in the direction of the far post, seeing his effort crash off the woodwork and strike the back of the net with aplomb, leaving the goalkeeper with rather rosy cheeks.


Michael Bradley (United States)

Michael Bradley

The ex-Aston Villa man has been a staple of the United States’ recent rise in the ranks of ‘soccer’. The midfielder, currently plying his trade for Toronto FC, has a reputation as a strong deliverer of a dead ball. But this was quite something else.

In an international match against Panama, Bradley decided to take matters in to his own hands, curling a sensational ball towards the far post and witnessing his effort nestle in to the inside netting of the opponent’s net. 


Alvaro Recoba (Nacional)

FBL-URUGUAY-DERBY-NACIONAL-PENAROL

Here we have a repeat offender. Recoba scored several goals directly from corners but the most impressive of the lot was against Liverpool (not that Liverpool – the Uruguayan one) for Nacional. The former Inter and Torino player struck an immaculate dead ball and this goal was something of a cross between the aforementioned strikes of Bradley and Henry.

Once again, Recoba caught the keeper hapless, and the Uruguay international claimed another stunner that has graced countless YouTube compilation videos.


David Beckham (LA Galaxy)

David Beckham

The greatest crosser of the ball England has ever seen (fact) was most likely doing his party trick during a match between LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire. ‘Goldenballs’ decided to whip a ferocious delivery towards the near post, seeing his strike fly through a swarm of bodies only to find the back of the net.

Due to Beckham’s immense ability it’s difficult to argue against him perhaps having done this on purpose…

I’m sure he’ll claim it regardless.


Roberto Carlos (Corinthians)​

Botafogo v Corinthians - Brazilian Championship 2010

There were very few things, if any, that this man couldn’t do with his left foot. Apparently, scoring from a corner wasn’t one of them.

Having won the set-piece himself, Carlos’ quick thinking was rewarded as he struck the ball low and hard across the face of goal with the opposition keeper suffering a significant lapse in concentration. The ball flew in to the far corner much to the amazement of those in the stands, but the left-back probably thought he’d scored better wheeling away with a rather muted celebration.


Ronaldinho (Flamengo)

Ronaldinho

​Of course he did. 

With an unrivalled South American flair, the former ​Barcelona man had the courage to more or less try anything on a football pitch. So why not a goal from a corner?

Playing back in his native Brazil for Flamengo, the superstar flashed the set-play towards the near post and comfortably in to the back of the net. Even more incredible, there was actually a man marking the near post, and he still couldn’t keep it out.


Diego Forlan (Internacional)

Diego Forlan

Is anyone noticing a distinct South American/North American theme here? 

Forlan is the next on our list with his sensational corner kick strike against Fluminense in Brazil. The Uruguay attacker – who for some reason was on corner-kick duty – teased a lovely ball in to the box, and admittedly was aided by a shocking piece of goalkeeping.

Nevertheless, he joins our illusive club. I’m sure he’ll be over the moon. 


Junior Stanislas (Bournemouth)

FBL-ENG-PR-BOURNEMOUTH-MAN UTD

The photo above is David De Gea and Anthony Martial’s rather futile attempts to stop Stanislas’ corner from finding the back of the net.

In an attempt to bring things back to British shores, we feel it essential to include the ​Bournemouth winger’s strike, with a top quality assist from the raging winds of the south coast.

But as already mentioned, it doesn’t matter how it goes in. All that matters is that he’s written his name in to football folklore (kind of) with a remarkable strike against ​Manchester United.

Happy days.


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Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

It will be a Madrid derby in the final of the Spanish Supercopa when Real Madrid battle Atlético Madrid in Saudi Arabia.

In Wednesday’s first semi final, Real eased past Valencia 3-1 including that corner goal from Toni Kroos. Zinedine Zidane’s side cruised to a three goal lead before a stoppage time Valencia penalty took a bit of the shine off the win.

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Atlético progressed to the final in a much more dramatic way beating La Liga leaders Barcelona 3-2 on Thursday. Los Rojiblancos were 2-1 down with ten minutes left before an Álvaro Morata penalty and an Angel Correa strike secured a dramatic victory.

Madrid derbies are always entertaining affairs and with the first trophy of the season at stake, too, there is a little bit of added spice to this heated rivalry. Here’s 90min‘s preview of the game.


Where to Watch

When Is Kick-Off? ​Sunday 12th January
What Time Is Kick-Off? ​18:00 (GMT)
Where Is It Being Played? ​King Abdullah Sports City
TV Channel/Live Stream? ​N/A

Team News

Real Madrid will continue to be without Gareth Bale and ​Karim Benzema, who both picked up injuries at the start of the month.

Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard are longer term injury casualties – Asensio is out until the end of February, at least, with ligament damage, while Hazard will not be seen again before the end of January.

Koke

The main concern for ​Atlético will be the fitness of club captain Koke, who seemed to re-injure his hamstring during the semi final. The Spaniard came on, scored, but then was subbed off again after pulling up with the injury.

Meanwhile, Diego Costa has been out since mid-November with a hernia injury and there is no set date for his return.Thomas Lemar will also be unavailable due to a muscle injury but it is looking likely that he’ll be leaving the club in any event.


Potential Lineups​

Real Madrid ​Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro; Kroos, Valverde, Modrić; Isco; Jović
Atlético Madrid ​Oblak; Trippier, Savić, Felipe, Lodi; Correa, Herrera, Thomas, Saúl; Morata, Félix

Head-to-Head Record

Los Blancos historically have the edge over their city counterparts, having won 26 of the 54 games played between the two. 

Atlético have only won on just 11 occasions, while the remaining 17 clashes have ended all square.

Victor Machin,Nacho Fernandez

In recent years, Atléti have managed to close the gap with affairs between the two sides being tightly run. There have been five draws and two wins each in their last nine meetings.

The last clash ended boringly in a 0-0 draw at the start of the La Liga season, while ​Real secured their last win over Atlético 3-1 in February last year. Atlético’s last victory came in the UEFA Super Cup thanks to an extra time victory.


Recent Form

Real drew three ​La Liga games back-to-back prior to the winter break, before returning to form with a good 3-0 away win against Getafe at the start of the month. This left them level on points with Barcelona at the top of the league.

They then added to that 3-0 win with victory over Valencia, meaning Real are on an upward curve heading into this one.

Getafe CF v Real Madrid CF  - La Liga

Atlético have put themselves back in the title picture in La Liga after winning three successive games, closing the gap to just five points between themselves and the top two.

Simeone’s side overcame Barcelona in the semi-final, and have confidence flowing through their veins after securing their place in the ​Champions League last 16 back in December.

Here’s how both sides have fared in their last five games:

Real Madrid Atlético Madrid
Valencia 1-3 ​Real Madrid (8/1) ​Barcelona 2-3 Atlético Madrid (9/1)
Getafe 0-3 Real Madrid​ (4/1) Atlético Madrid 2-1 Levante (4/1)
Real Madrid 0-0 Athletic Bilbao (22/12) ​Real Betis 1-2 Atlético Madrid (22/12)
Barcelona 0-0 ​Real Madrid (18/12) Atlético Madrid 2-0 Osasuna (14/12)
Valencia 1-1 ​Real Madrid (15/12) Atlético Madrid​ 2-0 Lokomotiv Moscow (11/12)

Prediction

Both sides will be desperate for bragging rights in Madrid, with the chance to win silverware a lovely silver lining.

Real’s injury concerns run deep but their midfield showed how good they can be against Valencia; Isco, Kroos and Luka Modrić all scoring against Valencia. 

Zinedine Zidane

Atlético are in buoyant mood after a good run of form, and will take heart after coming from behind to beat Barça. Koke’s absence could be huge in midfield, allowing Zidane’s Real to seal a huge confidence-boosting win.

Prediction: Real Madrid 2-1 Atlético Madrid

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Barcelona’s Carles Aleña Refuses to Rule Out Future Transfer to Rivals Real Madrid

Barcelona starlet Carles Aleña shocked reporters as he answered a question as ​to whether he would ever join rivals Real Madrid.

The 22-year-old recently put pen to paper on a loan deal at Real Betis, signing until the end of the 2019/20 season.

At his Verdiblancos unveiling, the Spaniard – despite representing ​Barça since the age of seven – refused to ​rule out the possibility of signing for ​Los Blancos in the future when asked by ​​Mundo Deportivo.

“Football in the end goes around a lot, you never know, it is clear that it is the rival team. I have been from Barça all my life but they have always taught me to never say never because football goes around so many times. But it is clear that it is the rival team and I have never been from Madrid.”

Aleña shared his frustrations regarding his lack of game time under Ernesto Valverde.

“I was surprised that I was turned away. When you begin as a starter, a part of the first team and you see that they take you away from this. They were quite complicated months. At no time was there a bad feeling with the coach, he decided so and is the one in charge.

“I tried to work to return as soon as possible and it took many months but he decided so. It is clear that it surprises you, it bothers you.”

Carles Alena

Aleña concluded by reflecting on the bravery it took to make the move to Betis to develop as a footballer.

“It is not easy and more when you have a lifetime [at Barça] but in the end when you are stuck you have to take a step and be brave.”

The central midfielder made his Betis debut against Alaves and is expected to be indispensable to them for the rest of the season.

Plenty of opportunities to impress Madrid then, Carles.

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