The FIFA Team of the Year 2015

So, Lionel Messi has won his fifth career Ballon D’Or and the little Argentinian takes a starring role in this year’s FIFA team of the year. Featuring 8 La Liga players, a Bundesliga player, a Serie A player and a Ligue 1 player, it isn’t hard to tell that the Premier League wasn’t quite as successful as some hoped in 2015.

Manuel Neuer: Not quite as successful as his outstanding 2014, but Manuel Neuer is still the best goalkeeper I the world, and despite missing a penalty in the German Cup semi final shoot out defeat to Borussia Dortmund  and crashing out of the Champions League (also in the semi-finals) to Barcelona, “The Wall”, as he is otherwise known, was vital in helping Bayern to a third successive Bundesliga title.

Dani Alves: The Barcelona full back continued to demonstrate just why he plays for such a decorated club as Barcelona, his attacking qualities were second to none in 2015 as he was part of Luis Enrique’s treble winning side. Despite not being known for his defensive qualities, there is no disputing that Alves was an important figure for Barcelona last year.

Sergio Ramos: Solid in defence and also proving a threat going forward, Ramos was a somewhat good point of a Real Madrid team that failed to build on their success in 2014. The Spaniard thrived under former coach Rafa Benitez in Real’s brilliant start to the season (from a defensive point of view).

Thiago Silva: After the disappointment of the 2014 World Cup, the Brazil and PSG captain lead his side to a domestic double of Ligue and the Cuope de France. The centre back also scored his side’s vital goal in the 2 leg defeat of Chelsea in the Champions League, before being knocked out by eventual winners Barcelona.

Marcelo: An attacking threat who is similar to fellow Brazilian Dani Alves, Marcelo was a slightly controversial pick for the team of the year as he failed to win any trophies, but has started this season in good form.

Paul Pogba: Paul Pogba could be the real deal. He possesses all the qualities needed to be one of the greats, and starred in a Juventus side that aswell as winning Serie A and the Coppa Italia, also reached the Champions League final, only to fall to Barcelona. With unbeatable strength, the ability to prove an attacking threat whilst also being solid in defense, and a superb long shot talent, Paul Pogba can build on an incredible 2015.

Luka Modric: Luka Modric finally looks at home with Real Madrid after being called “La Liga’s worst signing the season he joined the Spanish giants. The 30 year old has played well with German Toni Kroos after the departure of Xabi Alonso, and is looking like the old Modric that we used to see at Tottenham Hotspur.

Andres Iniesta: Winning his second treble with Barcelona last season, the 2010 World Cup winner demonstrated just why he is so good in one of the biggest games of the year – in Barca’s 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid. A superb goal accompanied by an all round sensational classic Iniesta performance meant that he could once again prove that he is one of the best in the world.

Neymar: The Brazilian enjoyed an outstanding 2015, and after an okay start to his Barcelona career, Neymar kicked on and showed just why Barcelona paid so much money for him. With the goals and assists flowing, he was essential to Barca’s outstanding trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. Moments of utter jaw-dropping skill like his goal against Villareal, aswell as a goal in the Copa Del Rey final and the Champions League final saw Neymar have his greatest year yet, and it looks like there’s is much more to come.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Yet again brilliant, but maybe this time not quite brilliant enough. 5 goal hauls against Granada and Espanyol respectively reminded us of his sheer talent, but 2015 could be the start of Ronaldo’s decline. Obviously records were still broken and goals were scored at a freakishly high rate, but Cr7 failed to live up to the expectations that were set after his brilliant 2014.

Lionel Messi: Not only did he get the most assists in La Liga last season, Lionel Messi still scored goal after goal, and not only were they brilliant, but they came just when Barca needed him most. For example, his outrageous skill to discard Jerome Boateng followed by his audacious chip on Manuel Neuer in the Champions League final, or his incredible solo goal in the Copa Del Rey final, or even his neat finish that secured the title for Barca against Atletico Madrid. Messi also helped Argentina reach the Copa America final before losing on penalties to Chile, and his telepathic understanding with team-mates Neymar and Suarez was at times truly unstoppable.

Who missed out?: Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez.

Ballon D’Or 2015 Preview

Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar. These are the three names that have been shortlisted for this year’s Ballon D’Or award, all hoping to be crowned World Player of the Year 2015. Ronaldo is the current holder, Messi the favourite, but don’t rule out the samba skills of Neymar.

Beginning with Ronaldo, it is fair to say that the Portuguese superstar has not hit the heights of his sensational year in 2014, as 55 goals and 17 assists for club and country this year is obviously very poor. On a more serious note, he failed to pick up any trophies this year (other than La Liga top scorer) after the Champions League, Copa del Rey, World Clubs Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2014, and he’s seemed to struggle so far this season (despite 3 goals against Shaktar Donetsk, 4 goals against Malmo and 5 goals against Espanyol). Obviously, he is still Ronaldo, which means not only did he manage 5 goals against Espanyol, but also against Granada at the end of last season, but although he appears to be past his peak, Ronaldo seems to refuse to convert to a more authentic No.9 role where he could become a poacher. So, a good year, but perhaps not a Ballon D’Or winning year.

Moving onto Messi, what else is there to say? The little Argentine played an instrumental role as Luis Enrique’s Barcelona emulated the 2009 team of Pep Guardiola and won the League, Cup and Champions League all in one season, he guided Argentina to the final of the Copa America, and all the way through delighted us with incredible free kicks, solo goals, and assists. Also, even though Messi scored 51 goals despite an 8 week injury in 2015, it isn’t just his scoring that makes him favourite to scoop up the prestigious golden ball for a fifth time. Firstly, he provided 26 assists, with 18 of them coming in the league, meaning he topped the assists chart for La Liga last season. Also, it was his link with team-mates Luis Suarez and Neymar that enthralled the world of football, as it seemed as if the trio had some sort of telepathic link, which allowed them to score goal after goal last season, and they weren’t just average goals, but usually absolutely outstanding ones, and Messi was at the heart of it all. His most notable moments of the year would be his insane solo goal in the Copa Del Rey final and his bamboozling goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final.

The final genius to be shortlisted for the award is the 23 year old Brazilian superstar that is Neymar, and he isn’t just there to make up the numbers. Scoring in the Copa Del Rey final and the Champions League final, the trickster stepped up to the mark whilst the inspirational Messi suffered a cruciate ligament injury in September. With the trio broken up, Neymar and Luis Suarez formed their own mini double act to save Barca, and let Messi make his return with the Azulgranas three points clear at the top of the table. Like Messi, Neymar has produced moments of jaw-dropping magic that have left the world in awe, and his superb year could lead to his crowning.

Finally, looking at the people who have missed out on the final three, names include James, unsung hero Ivan Rakitic, and the brilliant Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan Suarez is the most high profile name left out, as his stunning finishing, superb awareness and overall brilliantness, along with the fact that he won the treble with Barcelona means that, surely he could have been on the shortlist rather than Ronlado or Neymar.

Anyway, put January 11th in your diary – will Ronaldo equal Messi’s four Ballon D’Ors, will Messi get his fifth, or will Neymar be the first person other than Messi or Ronaldo to win it since Kaka in 2007?

Real Madrid v Barcelona Preview

With the latest edition of the world’s greatest game edging ever closer, it’s time to analyse the players on form going into the game, how the two teams have fared recently and which team will come out on top – Real Madrid or Barcelona?

The home team, Madrid, have been in mixed form recently, and since their 0-2 victory over Malmo in September, they have had 4 wins, two draws, and, most recently, a 3-2 defeat against Sevilla, who have also beaten Barcelona this season, despite sitting 10th place in mid-table mediocrity. They sit second in the table behind Barca themselves, but with a win could go top due to the head-to-head rule. Their star player, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, is hitting a slightly rough patch, but, as we all know, form is temporary, but class is permanent, and it will surely be only a matter of time before he starts scoring again, and of course, he and the rest of the Madrid faithful will hope that is Saturday night. Looking at their defence, which has been solid all season, keeper Keylor Navas is lucky to be playing football at all this season, as he would almost certainly be sitting on the bench if the disastrous De Gea hadn’t been so, well, disastrous. But he is playing, and he’s pulled it out of the bag so far this season, and even with the form of Neymar and Suarez in Messi’s absence, it will be a real challenge for Barcelona to get past the Costa Rican international. Also in defence, it is uncertain whether or not centre-back Sergio Ramos will start after picking up a shoulder injury in the process of scoring a stunning acrobatic goal in the defeat by Sevilla a fortnight ago, and it has been suggested that the Spaniard may play on pain-killers.

Looking at Barcelona, where else is there to start than with the scintillating form of Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have scored 26 goals between them this season, with 13 goals each. The Azulgranas come into the game off the back of 3 wins in their last 4 games, and last week, a confident 3-0 victory over Villarreal saw a Luis Suarez penalty along with two goals from Neymar, the second being an outrageous piece of skill from the Brazilian.

So, Barcelona are on form, Real slightly shaky, but as they say – the form book goes out of the window on derby day – and this isn’t any old derby.

La Liga: The annual two horse race is bigger than ever

As the Premier League season looks all done and dusted with Chelsea almost certainly going to win the title under Mourinho once again, in La Liga, it is definitely not the case. It may be another ‘two horse race’ as they call it between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but after each team taking turns to take the throne and be the dominant force in Spain, (apart from last year when Atletico won it) this year it is looking closer than ever, and after the recent change of hands after Barcelona’s triumph in El Clasico, the situation currently stands that Barcelona are two points clear of the ‘Galactico’s’, but, fear not Madrid fans, as Barca still have to face Atletico Madrid and local rivals Espanyol, and it may well mean that Barcelona cannot afford to drop any points for the rest of the season, that is, as long as Real don’t drop any either.

Not only are Barcelona and Real Madrid seemingly closer than ever, but their two star players are also both hitting top form this year, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, despite winning the Ballon D’Or, seemed to dip in form after receiving the award, but that all changed when he scored five goals in Real’s clash with Granada in which Madrid won the game a staggering 9-1. As for Messi, he has also been scoring plenty of hat-tricks himself in 2015, and both players seem to be in the form of their lives, only further increasing the battle between the two arguably best clubs in Europe and the world.

With six games to go, it is set to be a huge climax to the season, and I can only give one piece of advice: don’t put any bets on it!

Match Report #3 Barcelona 5-0 Levante

On Sunday afternoon Barcelona entertained Levante at the Camp Nou, and thrashed them 5-0, as a certain Lionel Messi bagged his 5th hat-trick of another great season.

It didn’t take long for Barca to open the scoring, when in the 17th minute, Lionel Messi’s in swinging cross found Neymar, who scuffed the finish high into the air, but, as they say, when your luck’s in, your luck’s in, and Neymar’s weird attempt looped over a helpless Diego Marino in the Levante goal.

Then, in the 39th minute, Barca proved that they are most dangerous in the ten minute spell before half time, when Marc Bartra pounced on a mistake before sliding a neat ball through to Lionel Messi who slotted his chance into the far corner with his right foot. This goal came just after Messi was denied what would have been a fabulous goal as he was ruled to have been offside, when later replays suggested that he was in fact well onside.

In the second half Barcelona began to turn up the heat, and some good work from Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez set up Messi for another goal with his right foot, tapping in a volley for Barca’s third.

And it didn’t take long for the sensational Messi to complete his 5th hat-trick of the season, as he calmly slotted home his penalty. This came after Messi had openly said he gets nervous over penalties. The last penalty he took was against Elche in an emphatic 0-6 win, and he did score, however he opted out of taking one against Villarreal, leaving Neymar on penalty duty. Unfortunately, Neymar couldn’t convert against the club he had scored from the spot against last season, which meant Messi had to take his chance against the team that he had missed against earlier in the season, in another 5-0 win, but this time he did score, putting the game beyond doubt and taking the scoreline to 4-0.

Later on, Luis Enrique chose to replace Neymar with what looked like a somewhat frustrated Luis Suarez, who had been put on the bench behind Pedro in the starting line up. Suarez then took his only real opportunity of his 20 minute cameo, and showed everyone why he should have been playing from the start, with an incredible bicycle kick. As Adriano’s great first touch took him to the by-line following a great diagonal pass from Javier Mascherano, he wipped in the cross towards the hungry striker, and just when it looked like it had been pulled back too far behind him, Suarez demonstrated his incredible athletic abilities to score a wonderful goal and complete the match.