Europa League Places at a Premium in EPL

The English Premier League continues to grow in strength throughout their table. Where a few seasons ago any light follower of the EPL could predict places 1-7 as soon as the first ball was kicked in the season, the EPL now has the talent pool and the coaching talent to provide shocks, surprises, and quality play from top to bottom. With the way the EPL is growing, will the battle for Europa League spots become as heated as making the top-four once was?

This year, if we have a situation like last season where top four clubs win the continental club cups, the Europa League spots will be fought over by six to seven clubs. Although either Tottenham or Arsenal will probably end up in the top four when the final game is over, the teams that will be in the hunt for the Europa spots include Everton, Liverpool, Swansea, West Brom, and Stoke City. Considering teams like West Brom and Swansea have rarely ever been in a situation to be involved in European competition, this is making for a fascinating race.

European competition adds serious money to any team’s coffers. Although you will only be making a fraction that the Champions League provides, entry into the Europa League still provides your squad with a definite addition to your bankroll. Teams like Everton and Liverpool would prefer to be in the Champions League, but their coaches and players will start to look towards the Europa league once they realize that CL qualification is out of their reach.

Swansea is definitely a club that would be great to see in European competition. Their nickname of Swansea-lona is very apt and their passing would provide some fantastic football for the entirety of Europe to enjoy. Swansea may also find their qualification route through winning the League Cup, so they definitely have the most likely pathway of the smaller clubs.

West Brom has started to fall off their early season hot-streak that saw them sitting in the top four for a large portion of the season, and a fixture against Liverpool will definitely define the direction that the rest of their season will be heading in. Steve Clarke has done wonders with the club, and Europa qualification would be a dream-realized for a club the size of West Brom.

Liverpool and Everton will both want Europa qualification merely so that they can hold it over the head of their rival. Although Everton have been consistent this season, they are experiencing a similar situation to West Brom and the nagging injury that star-man Fellaini continues to play with may end up costing them in the long run. Liverpool, however, have shown that they are coming back to prominence by collecting draws against Arsenal and Manchester City.

Although this will definitely take a better shape in the next few weeks, the depth of the EPL is providing excitement across the entirety of the table. For all we know, the battle for Europa qualification may soon become something that clubs start to target at the beginning of a campaign. All I know is, I am loving this!

Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com

Nike Mercurial Veloce AG Video Review

Ronaldo and Manchester United At Full Strength for Champions League Clash

The tie of the Round of 16 has to be the match between Manchester United and Real Madrid. Although the tie would typically garner a ton of respect and TV viewers just because of the history that these two teams possess, this tie gets the added benefit of seeing one of the world’s greatest players going up against the club that he became a household name with. Cristiano Ronaldo will be going up against a United team that houses many of the players that were with him as he burst onto the world scene.

Manchester United will have the most complete scouting report available when it comes to CR7. Most of the players that will be on the pitch for Manchester will have spent a significant amount of time with the Portuguese playmaker and they will be completely aware of the danger he possesses. However, CR7 is never the same player from year to year and his talent continues to grow as he gets older. If United hope to keep Ronaldo at bay, a combo of Valencia and Raphael would probably be the best method that United have. Both are fast and can perform relatively thorough defensive duties, but even that might not be enough to hold CR7.

The worst news for United is that Ronaldo is in a deep vein of scoring form. A hat-trick against Sevilla in his last match will mean that United will face Ronaldo at a level befitting a player of his potential. The worst part is that the more focus Ronaldo is able to garner and the more United have to focus on the Portuguese winger, the more likely one of the other Madrid stars is to pop up and snag a goal for the Spanish giants.

On the flip-side, the men in Manchester United jerseys are dominating in their domestic league and they are showing all the signs of a truly dominant United squad. In their most recent fixture against Everton, Rooney looked great attacking and defending, De Gea was stopping anything and everything, and Robin Van Persie still seems to be scoring at the slightest chance.

Although I’ve never been one to grasp at phrases, we definitely seem like we are about to witness two immovable objects crashing against each other. For United, a victory over Madrid would only solidify their success this season. For Madrid, continued success in the Champions League would be the only thing to have their season be seen as a success. One thing is for certain, this titanic tie will provide some fantastic football…make sure you are watching.

Written by: Andrew McCole, guest contributor, SoccerProse.com

Portugal Away Jersey - 2013

Nike Portugal Away Jersey – 2012/13

Nike has recently released some new national team jerseys that look great. Despite some nice looking jerseys, the one that sticks out the most is the new Nike Portugal away jersey. When you have one of the best players in the world playing on your team, you need to have a stylish jersey to match his stylish play.

Portugal’s last away jersey was predominantly white with a green and red cross displayed in the center to tie in Portugal’s national colors. With this new jersey, Nike has kept the same general design. This away jersey keeps the cross design that is predominantly displayed in the center. However, instead of red and green, this has a gray cross. The whole jersey is sleek black now instead of white. This change in color looks fantastic and is, in my opinion, one of the best looking national team kits available right now.

The Portugal crest is stitched on the left chest and the Nike swoosh is stitched on the right chest in white. Not only does this jersey look great, it also feels great so you can cheer your favorite national team on while remaining comfortable.

This jersey is made of 100 percent polyester and features Nike’s Dri-Fit material. This keeps you dry and comfortable as you cheer on Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese national team.

This jersey is currently available at SoccerPro.com, so head over there today if you want this sleek jersey. You can wear this and channel your inner Cristiano Ronaldo as you show your skills on the pitch, or just wear it while you cheer on the national team. The choice is yours.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Roberto Mancini

Can the Premier League title race be reignited this weekend?

Earlier this week, we posted about the possibility of Manchester United having already secured the Premier League title. With a nine-point lead and the fact United has not lost since Nov. 17, United seem to be cruising. However, Manchester City’s manager does not think the title is locked up and neither does United striker Wayne Rooney.

“They have nine points more than us because they did better than us. But in three months, everything can change like last year. If we can recover eight points in six games, I think to cover nine points in 13 games will be easy,” Mancini said according to ESPNFC.

“Results are the most important thing now. Look at Manchester City against QPR. They should have got the win, had a lot of chances but ended up dropping points,” Rooney said according to ESPNFC. “Once it comes down to the last four or five games, then we will see what position we are in and work out what we have to do.”

If City is looking for a chance to get back into the title race, this weekend is the perfect opportunity. Everton head to Manchester United this weekend while Manchester City head to Southampton.

In the two clubs first match of the season, Everton beat Manchester United 1-0 at home. This second matchup could have huge ramifications for each team depending on the result. Manchester United are trying to maintain their nine point lead atop the table and Everton is currently three points behind Tottenham for the final Champions League qualifying spot. Everton has not been on quite the same run of form as United, however, Everton has not lost a game in the Premier League since Dec. 30.

Manchester City, on the other hand, will not have as difficult of a game this weekend as league leaders United. Southampton is currently in 16th in the Premier League, only three points above the relegation zone. Even though Southampton has been struggling to get points, they have been a hard team to beat at home. This season, they have won three games, drew five and lost only four games playing at St. Mary’s Stadium. In their past four matches, Southampton has tied Chelsea, Everton and Wigan and only lost to Manchester United 2-1. When these two clubs met earlier in the season, Manchester City won narrowly 3-2.

Even though the quality of opponent is much lower for Manchester City than Manchester United this weekend, neither game will be easy for the teams from Manchester to win. However, for City, if United is to lose this weekend, you cant get a better opponent than Southampton to try and pick up points against. With a United loss and City win, the lead at the top of the table will be cut to six and make the title race exciting once again.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Nike Mercurial Veloce Review and Tech Rundown…(Video)

Wondering how the new Nike Mercurial Veloce looks, fits, and feels. Well Nike have released this handy video to help answer those questions for you.

Mario Balotelli AC Milan

Mario Balotelli scores twice to help AC Milan win

After an up-and-down playing career at Manchester City, Mario Balotelli has landed at AC Milan and started his time at AC Milan with a bang. Balotelli scored in the 24th minute and then won the game for Milan, converting a stoppage time penalty to give AC Milan a 2-1 win over Udinese. Balotelli’s first start with his new club could not have been much better, unless he scored a hat-trick. However, I think he will be okay with two goals and a game winner.

Balotelli’s skill on the field has never been questioned. It’s his character off the field that has caused trouble for the young Italian striker. Maybe now that he is at his boyhood club, the off-field problems will cease and the talk surrounding Balotelli will be his skill on the pitch. AC Milan is going to need Balotelli to continue producing goals following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure for PSG.

Even with the win, AC Milan remains in fourth place in Serie A. They trail Lazio by three points for the final Champions League qualifying spot. AC Milan will be desperate to claim that final Champions League spot and Balotelli could be crucial in helping AC Milan get three points the rest of the season.

AC Milan may not have the chance to play their game this weekend against Cagliari due to safety concerns. ESPNFC posted a statement regarding the game in an article.

“The conditions do not exist from a public ordinance or security perspective for the hosting of the Cagliari-Milan match at the Is Arenas di Quartu,” according to ESPNFC.

If an alternate venue cannot be found, the game could be cancelled.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Man United - 2013

Will Manchester United win the Premier League?

The other day, we posted about Barcelona and their domination this season in La Liga. Despite only holding a nine-point lead on Atletico Madrid, it seems predetermined that Barcelona will win La Liga this season. However, when we look at Manchester United, it does not seem predetermined that they will win the Premier League, even though they hold the same nine-point lead as Barcelona.

Therefore, I pose the question: Is it safe to say United will win the Premier League? Through 25 games, United has won 20, tied twice and lost only three times. Is the reason people don’t give United enough credit in the Premier League because they find them boring? In January, Fox Soccer columnist Leander Schaerlaeckens voiced his opinion of United.

However, United has scored 60 goals, the most in the Premier League. The next closest team is Chelsea with 51 goals, and those 60 goals are only 12 goals behind the team many claim to be the best team in the world, Barcelona. So it is not like United are playing 0-0 draws every week. Maybe it isn’t the lack of goals, but the fact that United are so consistent, a fact that Schaerlaeckens pointed out, that makes them boring. If you want to find the last time United lost a game in the Premier League, you must go back to Nov. 17.

Maybe the reason they are boring is because, despite being a big name club, United do not have many big name players. As ESPNFC’s Mark Payne points out, United has Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, but who else?

“When asked to discuss the midfield, United fans often scratch the back of their heads and say something like, ‘They’re okay,” according to Payne. “This has not been the most illustrious year for United’s defence. Seven teams have been more effective at protecting their goal than the league leaders this term.”

The ultimate question remains: Is it safe to say United will win the Premier League? Is United boring because we are just too used to their winning ways? Let us know what you think about the Premier League title race and United’s style of play.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Lionel Messi

Barcelona is cruising in La Liga

Barcelona had their point lead atop La Liga reduced over the weekend after a 1-1 draw against Valencia. It took a Lionel Messi penalty to save a point for the league leaders. While Barcelona dropped points, Atletico Madrid beat Real Betis 1-0. Despite having their lead reduced, Barcelona still has a nine point lead over Atletico Madrid in La Liga and a 16-point lead over rivals Real Madrid.

Part of the reason Barcelona are cruising in La Liga is because of Messi’s fine run of form. Messi has scored 34 goals while adding 8 more assists in 22 La Liga matches. With those goals and assists, Messi has contributed or scored more than half of Barcelona’s goals this season in La Liga. That is incredible with a team like Barcelona, where there are world-class players all over the field.

With a solid lead in La Liga, Barcelona may start looking to their Champions League match-up against AC Milan. Barcelona will want to reclaim the Champions League trophy after Chelsea won it last season. Barcelona has a favorable match-up against AC Milan in the Last 16. AC Milan currently sits in fourth in Serie A, 12 points behind league leaders Juventus.

The way the season has gone so far, it is hard to find a team that could beat Barcelona in either La Liga or the Champions League. Not only has Messi scored a large amount of goals in La Liga, he has also scored five goals and added two assists in the Champions League. Barcelona looks set to reclaim La Liga and the Champions League this season. Let us know who could possibly beat Barcelona in either La Liga or the Champions League.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com