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2018/19 La Liga Top Goal Scorer

 

The race to be La Liga top goal scorer has been dominated by two men in recent years.

The Pichichi trophy is awarded by Marca, a Spanish newspaper to the player who has the most goals at the end of the Spanish top-flight league season.

The trophy has spent a great deal of time in the homes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.  The Argentine forward first one the award in the 2009/10 season, scoring 34 goals.  Ronaldo won his first top scorers award the following season and went on to finish as La Liga top scorer three times.

Messi holds the all-time record with Hugo Sanchez having finished as top goal scorer five times in his career, including last season when he amassed 34 goals in 36 matches.

With Ronaldo having left for Juventus in the summer, it is little surprise to see Messi as the clear favourite to end the 2018/19 La Liga season as the top goal scorer and move ahead of Sanchez in the record books.

Barcelona’s greatest ever goal scorer has already netted 5 times this season having played six games.  Only Gareth Bale (23) comes close to the total number of shots on target recorded by Messi this season (25) and having decided not to play for Argentina in the friendly games in the Autumn, there is no reason to doubt his credentials.

The only man who has prevented either Messi or Ronaldo winning the Pichichi in the last nine seasons, is Luis Suarez, also of Barcelona. Messi’s teammate upstaged the Argentine in 2015/16, scoring 40 goals and has 3 La Liga goals to his name after six matches this season.  With Messi on penalty and free-kick duty, it will be tough for Suarez to repeat the feat unless Messi is injured.

Real Madrid finished third last season and will be hoping to improve on that by winning the title.  Karim Benzema may finally be given the central striker position for the whole campaign, something the Frenchman has craved for some time.  Without Ronaldo, the pressure is on Benzema to score goals but he will still face competition from within his own ranks thanks to Gareth Bale.

If the two players share the goal scoring burden for Real Madrid this season, it may benefit the club but end up being to the detriment of their own top goal scorer chances.

Atletico Madrid are aiming to win La Liga this season and they have both Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa in their ranks.  Griezmann scored 19 goals last season but was still some way off catching Messi and Ronaldo at the top of the scorers chart.  It would be a big surprise if Griezmann or Costa won the Pichichi this season.

Other potential contenders to finish the 2018/19 La Liga season as top goal scorer include Iago Aspas of Celta Vigo and Andre Silva of Sevilla.  The former we already know about having established himself as a top Spanish striker but Silva has surprised many with his start to the campaign.

However, if Messi performs anywhere near his best for the majority of the season, there can surely be only one winner.

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Industry best price on Manchester City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Celtic and PSG

This will be a popular pre-season accumulator and dabblebet are offering all customers a big price on the five red-hot favourites finishing on top

The accumulator of Manchester City, Juventus, Celtic, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain all to win their domestic titles will be a popular multiple for ante post punters.

The five selections are odds on and at the time of writing the best price available is just 23/10 (3.30).

Not only is this a huge price boost compared to the next best quote, but it’s available to all customers, not just new ones. Back it in one click here or check out the full range of pre-season odds that are being boosted across Europe.

Manchester City are already odds on to retain their Premier League title at 4/6 (1.67) and it’s easy to see why. Pep Guardiola’s side broke numerous records en route to topping the table last term including goals and total points.

Having already added Riyad Mahrez to their attacking options, the bookies aren’t expecting any of City’s rivals to be able to stop them securing back-to-back victories according to the prices.

Bayern Munich’s domination of the Bundesliga has been impressive. They’ve emerged victorious in the past six seasons and are just 1/8 (1.12) to extend that run to seven. Last season no one could get within 21 points of Bayern and the odds suggest it’s likely to be a similar story this time around.

Two of the selections in this multiple are even shorter in price, Celtic (1/12) and PSG (1/10) are red-hot favourites for the SPL and Ligue 1 crowns and given the lack of credible opposition in their respective divisions that’s totally understandable.

Finally, Juventus have secured the services of Cristiano Ronaldo are now just 4/9 (1.44) to top Serie A for an eighth consecutive year.

With the five-time Ballon d’Or winner arriving in Turin it’s tough to see any of their rivals stopping the Old Lady from extending their impressive domestic record and they’ve already been backed accordingly.

At 11/4 (3.75) this selection should prove to be one of the most popular pre-season selections with dabblebet given the solid looking nature of each side in their quest to retain their league titles.

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Deschamps never considered France exit prior to World Cup win

Didier Deschamps is adamant he never considered resigning from his post as France head coach prior to their march to a second World Cup title.

Deschamps was under pressure before France’s victorious campaign in Russia, with many suggesting he was not the right man to get the best out of the country’s exciting talent.

Much of the criticism focused on Deschamps’ rather pragmatic tactics and approach, despite boasting a pool of vibrant attackers that is almost unrivalled in international football.

Ahead of the World Cup, Deschamps had to contend with reports linking other coaches – namely Zinedine Zidane – as his replacement, but he insists he has never had any plan to step down of his own accord because of his gratitude to French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet.

“I did not think of leaving for two reasons,” he said to TF1.

“Firstly, I am someone who keeps his commitments and make sure I reach the goals that are set for me.

“Secondly, which is also important to me, is a question of trust and respect for my president. From the first moment he counts on me until 2020, [so] I will be there.

“It will be necessary to support me two more years.”

Deschamps and France came in for particularly harsh words from Belgium players after Roberto Martinez’s side were defeated in the World Cup semi-final.

Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne were especially unkind in their assessments of France’s style of play, but Deschamps does not find their appraisals to be surprising given their disappointment at defeat.

“When you’re a high-level player, you’ve just had a great disappointment, you’ve been eliminated, I can understand that they do not have the clarity, the necessary hindsight,” Deschamps added.

“They do not realise the scope of their words. It’s part of the sport.”

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World Cup celebrations rock France; ‘Les Bleus’ victory parade set for Champs Elysees

“Our Day of Glory Is Here” declared Le Figaro, referencing a rousing line from the Marseillaise anthem.

“History Made” announced sports daily L’Equipe, while business journal Les Echos went for the more straightforward “Champions of the World”. Photos of superstars Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, as well as shots of the team holding aloft and kissing the trophy, dominated coverage.

The victory has created a sense of national unity, with commentators playing up the fact the squad, the second-youngest in the competition, includes many with central and north African heritage, even if all but two were born in France.

When the country won its first World Cup in 1998, when Zinedine Zidane was its talisman and playmaker, the team was referred to as “Black-Blanc-Beur” (Black-White-Arab), a positive reference to its diverse ethnic make-up.

But some were keen to push that phrase to one side, seeing in it a sense of separateness, even if it was meant positively.

“We’re not in 1998,” said Mounir Mahjoubi, the secretary of state for digital affairs, whose parents emigrated from Morocco.

“We’re not still celebrating ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’, we’re celebrating brotherhood,” he said of the current team.

Videos shot by the players in the frenetic changing room after the win showed them singing, dancing and raising a toast together, while teaching President Emmanuel Macron, who could barely contain his excitement, how to do a “dab”.

METRO STATIONS

For Macron, who became president last year at the age of 39, taking his political movement to victory against the odds, the football team’s success is likely to have positive repercussions after a slump in the polls.

The Paris metro system got into the celebratory mood, announcing the names of a number of stations were being briefly changed to honour the players and coach, Didier Deschamps.

So Notre-Dame des Champs station was relabelled “Notre Didier Deschamps”, and Victor Hugo was switched to “Victor Hugo Lloris” after the captain and goalkeeper.

The 2 km Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe and the vast Place de la Concorde turned into a heaving sea of people on Sunday night, waving red, white and blue flags, setting off firecrackers and blowing horns until early morning.

On Monday, the after-effects were still visible. A number of smashed windows, an overturned car and graffiti scrawled here and there, including the phrase “Liberte, Egalite, Mbappe”, a reference to the national motto “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”.

 On Twitter, Brazil legend Pele paid tribute to the exploits of Mbappe, France’s standout, 19-year-old superstar, saying that if the teenager kept equalling his goal-scoring records, Pele might have to strap his boots back on.

Mbappe replied to the tweet in English saying “The king will always remain the king”, quickly gaining 15,000 retweets.

The team is scheduled to arrive back in France at 1400 GMT, with crowds set to gather at Charles de Gaulle airport to receive them. A parade down the Champs Elysees is scheduled for 1530 GMT, and there will be a formal victory reception with Macron at the Elysee Palace at 1630 GMT.

And it’s not just in Paris that the nation has been taken over with football fever. From Nice and Marseille in the south to Lille in the north, Nantes in the west and scores of towns and cities in between, TV stations were full of images of red, white and blue clad fans singing in streets and squares.

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Future seems bright after great final at ‘greatest’ World Cup

MOSCOW – “The greatest World Cup ever” got the final it deserved when a young, exciting France team swept aside Croatia with a pulsating 4-2 victory and performances that suggested a changing of the guard at the top of the sport.

Antoine Griezmann finally lived up to the star billing his immense talent has long promised, and Kylian Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a final since Pele 60 years ago.

Paul Pogba scored a scorcher and the showpiece was the highest-scoring 90-minute final since 1958.

Croatia, a nation of just four million people, more than played their part but playing the French had been a match too far after they battled through three extra-time matches in a row — the equivalent of four games in 11 days.

Host Russia had used the extravaganza to detoxify its global brand and enhance its reputation by breaking down a number of negative stereotypes, and showcasing itself as a nation that can host huge events and welcome tens of thousands of visitors.

Soccer, too, can now use this World Cup to focus on the positive and on the future as the sport’s governing body FIFA seeks to put behind it the 2015 corruption scandals which scarred the organisation’s reputation.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar all left the party early, but the youthful France team, and others, showed enough in Russia to suggest there are characters who can step into those giants’ shoes.

Gareth Southgate’s young England team also suggested a brighter future. The country had been seeking to reach the final for the first time since their home triumph in 1966, but fell to the Croatians in the semi-finals.

More importantly, though, their honest, enthusiastic and down-to-earth approach was a million miles away from the jaded cynicism and paranoia which had hampered Englad’s previous campaigns.

THE GREATEST

Right from the opening match when Russia — the lowest-ranked nation to host the tournament (70) — excitement built and, after Ronaldo got a hat-trick as Portugal drew 3-3 with neighbouring Spain, mumbles about this being the greatest World Cup started growing.

The fantastic goals, upsets and late drama was unrelenting and by the time FIFA President Gianni Infantino made his address ahead of the final, he said it was indeed the greatest – and plenty of pundits, commentators and visitors to Russia agreed.

France coach Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 side who won on home soil, became the third man to lift the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.

He might be forgiven for raving about the 2018 tournament.

“I have never seen such a World Cup because there was a levelling at the top,” he said. “The small teams… arrived really well prepared.

“I don’t know if it was a beautiful World Cup — there were crazy scenarios sometimes.”

Beauty, though, is in the eye of the beholder and there was more than enough on show over the past month to suggest ‘the beautiful game’ is more than just a tired cliche for soccer.

Certainly, there will be challenges ahead with the next World Cup being held in hot Qatar with the timng switched so the tournament runs over November and December 2022.

But the emergence of new, exciting talent, the challenging of the old guard – champions Germany finished bottom in the group stage – and new technology in the form of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology wiping out almost all cheating, points to a bright future for the tournament and the sport.

 (Reporting by Ossian Shine; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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England’s Lack of Creativity Could Be A Problem

England’s penalty shootout win over Colombia was a huge moment for the players, the manager and the nation.  Having lost three consecutive World Cup penalty shootouts in Italy, France and Germany, the curse was laid to rest in Moscow with a 4-3 victory over the Colombian team.

There was plenty of drama during the 120 minutes of football but the quality was lacking.  Colombia were missing their best player and key creative influence, James Rodriguez.  It showed as they struggled to assert themselves in the middle of the pitch in the early exchanges and did not have the little bit of quality required.

However, despite having 51% of the possession in the game and being on top in the opening 30 minutes, England also struggled to create anything meaningful from open play.

England’s goal came because of fouling from a corner and it wasn’t the first time they have been gifted a penalty in the tournament. Despite having completed more passes and ending the match with a greater passing accuracy, England only managed two shots on target during the entire 120 minutes of football.

Colombia had twice as many shots on target as England yet were criticised by many for their approach to the match.

This highlights a problem England have had throughout the tournament and that’s creativity in midfield.  England have struggled to create good goal scoring chances in Russia and its that which could prevent them from winning the World Cup.

A great example is Harry Kane, who has 6 goals in the tournament, making him the top scorer after the Round of 16 stage.  However, 50% of those goals have come from the penalty spot, two from corners and the other was a fluke.  Kane has not faced the opposition goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation from open play and while the number of goals will go some way to easing his frustration, England have a problem.

Colombia handed them their only goal of the match in the Round of 16 tie and Panama also helped England with some of the worst defending from set-pieces you are ever likely to see at a World Cup finals.

England now face Sweden in the quarter-final and this is where their lack of creativity could come to haunt them.

Sweden do not have one individual player who would command a place in the England starting XI.  What they do have is great organisation and an ability to defend.  It is highly unlikely the Swedish players are going to be conceding needless penalties from poor defending at set-pieces and England will need to do something different to break them down.

Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling failed to provide the spark in the match against Colombia and could not create one good scoring opportunity for Kane in open play.  That has got to change against Sweden if England are to break down Janne Andersson’s team and have a genuine chance of winning the World Cup.

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Solid defence could be the key to Brazil winning the World Cup

 

Brazil were pre-tournament favourites to win the World Cup. We are in the quarter-finals stages of the Russia 2018, and the Selecao are still firm favourites to win the most prestigious competition in international football.

On Friday, Tite’s side face Belgium in the last-eight of the competition, in what could be a highly exciting contest, between two teams that can beguile and enthral when on their game. However, as much attacking talent Brazil has in their ranks it is their defensive form that could prove to be the key to beating Belgium and indeed lifting the trophy later this month.

Tite’s side has kept clean sheets in ten of their last 12 international outings. Defensive solidity is not what Brazil are renowned for, but the current team for all the style and flair of the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho and Willian, the South American recent successful run is built on solid defensive foundations.

Some have compared the current team to the Selecao team that won the 1994 World Cup in the USA. That team was defensively solid but had the flair of Romario and Bebeto in attack among others to score the goals.

Brazil’s current team will need all their defensive wiles to look after the attacking talents of the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard. The Red Devils have netted at least twice in five of their last six internationals, so they are a significant threat to that solid Brazil defence.

In fact, both teams have exceptional attacks, so it could come down to who produces the better defensive display in the last-eight clash to decide who progresses to the last four of the competition.

Judging by Brazil’s recent defensive displays, it would not be a major surprise if the Selecao kept the Red Devils at bay in Kazan.

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Team Ethic vs Individual Talent as Uruguay Meet France

 

We are fast approaching the business end of the 2018 World Cup.  The first of the four quarter-finals will take place on Friday at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium as Uruguay meet France.

Uruguay have won the competition twice in their history but you must go back to 1950 to find the last time they lifted the trophy.  Having reached the semi-final in 2010, Uruguay will be hoping to match that performance in 2018.

France were left reeling at the end of the 2016 European Championship as they lost 1-0 to Portugal in the final. This match presents an opportunity for France to reach their first World Cup semi-final since 2006 in Germany.

Uruguay were drawn in a group with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the hosts, Russia.  Having defeated both Egypt and Saudi Arabia 1-0, Uruguay produced their best performance of the tournament to beat Russia 3-0 and top Group A.

What followed was a tough Round of 16 match against Portugal.  Edinson Cavani scored two good goals as Uruguay defeated the Portuguese 2-1 and fully deserved their place in the quarter-final for the way in which they played.

Uruguay do not have a star-studded midfield but they do have players who work well in a system. With Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez in defence and Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani up-front, they have world class quality at both ends of the pitch.

France started their 2018 World Cup campaign with a less than impressive showing against Australia.  A late deflected goal gave them a 2-1 win and another narrow victory followed against Peru, with France winning 1-0.

Qualification was secured ahead of the final group game against Denmark and the teams played out a 0-0 draw, which saw France finish top of the group.

The reward for winning the group was a match against Argentina in the Round of 16.  The South Americans had yet to impress in the tournament and France exploited the gaps in their defence to score 4 goals, including one from the penalty spot.

It was an excellent attacking display from the French but they did concede 3 goals themselves and this will be a slight concern when going up against Suarez and Cavani.

Looking ahead to the team news and Uruguay are sweating on the fitness of Cavani.  The Paris Saint-Germain striker has scored 3 goals at the World Cup but left the field early against Portugal with an injury.  There is a fear it could be a hamstring injury which will see him miss the rest of the tournament.  Christhian Stuani could come in to replace him.

France could name the same team which started the match against Argentina.  Benjamin Mendy is the only injury doubt for Didier Deschamps and if fit he is likely to be on the bench.

This is going to be an extremely close game.  France looked very good against Argentina but Uruguay will not give them the same amount of space in which to break.  France have the superior individual talent but Uruguay are a great team and if they can frustrate the French we could see another upset at the 2018 World Cup.

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History Making Hosts Meet Croatia in Quarter-final

Russia came into the 2018 World Cup with little hope of doing well.  Even their own fans did not expect anything from the team but they have surpassed all expectations to reach the quarter-final of the tournament for the first time since playing as Russia in 1994.

Their reward for reaching the quarter-final is a match with Croatia.  This is the second time Croatia have reached this stage of the World Cup, with the previous occasion being 1998.Croatia went on to reach the semi-final that year before going out to the eventual winners, France.

Russia were drawn in Group A of the 2018 World Cup with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay. Playing Saudi Arabia first gave the hosts an opportunity to start well and they did, winning the game 5-0.  This left them feeling confident ahead of the Egypt match and they scored 3 more goals to take maximum points.

Their biggest test in the group stage was Uruguay and they failed, losing the game 3-0.  This saw Russia enter the Round of 16 with little hope against a strong Spanish team.  Having fallen 1-0 behind, a penalty allowed them to get back into the match and they held on to see out the 90 minutes and extra-time to win on penalties.  It was a massive shock.

Croatia were handed a tough group but got off to the perfect start by defeating Nigeria 2-0. This saw them enter the game against an under-pressure Argentina with confidence and Croatia took them apart, winning the game 3-0 to sit top of the group.  Croatia won their final game against Iceland to qualify with a 100% record.

The match against Denmark was never going to be easy and Croatia fell 1-0 down immediately.  A good response saw them level inside 5 minutes but Croatia were left frustrated by Denmark’s tactics and missed a penalty in extra-time which saw the game run to a penalty shootout.

 In a dramatic shootout which featured some great saves, Ivan Rakitic stepped up to score the winning penalty to send Croatia through.

Team news and Russia can welcome back full-back Igor Smolnikov who was suspended for the Spain match but he may be forced to settle for place on the bench.  With the tactics having worked so well against the Spanish, Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov is unlikely to make any unforced changes to the starting XI.

Croatia have no suspension or major injury concerns ahead of this game.  They are also likely to keep the same starting XI from their previous game with Mario Mandzukic leading the line in attack.

Russia will begin this match as the underdogs and will look to defend well as they did against Spain.  However, Croatia offer a different threat to Spain and have players who like to run with the ball at pace and this is what Russia have struggled with in the past.

This game could see the end of the home challenge at this World Cup as Croatia use their creativity in midfield and pace out wide to win the match

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CROATIA VS DENMARK PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

 

The 2018 World Cup Round of 16 has produced a couple of all-European ties and one of them sees Croatia play Denmark.

Croatia are looking to recreate their special moment in France 1998, when they went all the way to the semi-final only to lose to the hosts and eventual winners, France.

Denmark have twice been to the Round of 16 at the World Cup but have never been beyond the quarter-final stage. This match presents a decent opportunity for Denmark to progress in the tournament.

Having been drawn in a group with Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, Group D looked very tough for Croatia.  However, they made light work of the opposition and comfortably defeated Nigeria 2-0 in their opening match of the tournament.

What followed was an excellent performance against Argentina to defeat the South Americans 3-0 and keep Croatia at the top of the group.  Although Argentina were poor, it was a great result for Croatia and made the other teams in Russia take note.

The final match of the group saw Croatia rest many players but they still came out on top against Iceland, winning the match 2-1 and securing top spot in the group with maximum points.

Denmark also had a difficult group to contend with but got off to the best possible start by defeating Peru 1-0.  The Danes were on the back foot for long periods and conceded a penalty but somehow managed to come through to win the game.

Having taken the lead early against Australia, the Danes were expected to win that match with ease but allowed Australia back into the game via the penalty spot.  Denmark failed to break through a second time and were forced to settle for a point.

The final match of the group, against France, was going to be their toughest test.  However, with the French already through and the other game going their way, Denmark played out a boring 0-0 draw to seal qualification.

Looking ahead to the team news and Croatia will welcome back several players who were rested against Iceland.  Ivan Strinic, Dejan Lovren, Ivan Rakitic, Domagoj Vida and Mario Mandzukic are among those to come back into the team.

Denmark are unlikely to make many changes from the 0-0 draw against France.  Christian Eriksen will play in midfield alongside Thomas Delaney and Mathias Jorgensen with Simon Kjaer captaining the team in defence.  The main consideration will be who to play up-front and out wide for Denmark.

Croatia have been scoring goals for fun in this tournament and have netted 2 or more goals in each of their three matches.  This suggests they are clicking as an attacking unit and they will hope that continues in this match.  Denmark will make it difficult for their opponents but it’s Croatia who have the better quality in attacking areas and they should come through this match, scoring a couple of goals in the process.