Arsenal to Play in 2016 MLS All-Star Game, Will the MLS All-Stars Beat Arsenal?

Per the English Premier League club’s official Twitter account, Arsenal will play the MLS All-Stars later this year. Check out the video below for more.

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MLS’ season has yet to begin, but do you think the league’s best can beat the Premier League giants?

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Khedira and Dybala Transfers Step in Right Direction for Juventus

Sami Khedira and Paulo Dybala have both been linked with Champions League finalist Juventus, and now according to the Guardian’s Ed Aarons, the Bianconeri could announce the announce the signings soon.

(RELATED: 2015 Champions League Final Storylines to Watch: #Juventus vs #Barcelona)

Both are monumental signings for the club and signal a step in the right direction for Juventus. Here are just a few reasons why the signings are good for the Old Lady.

Transfer Fees

Sami Khedira is about to join a select club that features the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Fernando Llorente and Kingsley Coman. What do an Italian, a Spaniard and two Frenchman have in common? They were all signed on free transfers by Beppe Marotta.

Adding Khedira, a player who at 28 has already won the Bundesliga, La Liga, the Champions League and the World Cup, for no money may go down as one of Marotta’s best acquisitions. It probably would have been his best if he, you know, hadn’t acquired Pirlo and Pogba for a combined zero dollars/euros/pounds.

While Khedira is arriving on a free transfer, Dybala’s fee isn’t public knowledge. It’s likely in the €30 million range, and while that may seem like a ton of cash, the soon-to-be former Palermo striker has world-class upside. In five years, he and Alvaro Morata may provide Juve with the most dangerous attacking duo in world football.

If you still don’t like the fact that Juve paid €30 million for a player, just think of Dybala and Khedira’s signings as a package deal. Paying €30 million combined for the two is a steal.

Beating the Competition

The perception of Premier League teams, at least the upper-echelon ones, is that they can buy pretty much whoever they want. These British teams are flush with cash and generally can pry international players away from their old teams. However with Khedira and Dybala, two of the most typed/printed names in the transfer rumor sections, set to join Italian giants Juventus, it represents a major win for Juve.

Both have been linked with big-money spenders Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United with Dybala also being targeted by Liverpool.

Depth

Maybe the biggest positive about signing Khedira and Dybala is that neither represent a current area of need for the Old Lady.

The midfield is set with Pirlo, Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Roberto Pereyra, but Khedira adds extra quality and a player who will push for a starting spot in a midfield that is quickly becoming one of the best in Europe.

Dybala joins a similarly talented attack force that includes the likes of Morata, Coman, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.

It is completely feasible that neither player is a consistent starter for Juventus next season given the talent on the team, but the club will need depth and rotation for a shot at potential back-to-back trebles.

(RELATED: #Juventus Transfer Rumors: Players Who Could Leave Turin in the Summer Transfer Window)

Selling Club

Khedira and Dybala weren’t brought in as replacements for outgoing players and arrived before any departures, signaling that Juve has no desire to be a selling club.

Given the economic state of Italian football, it may not seem like Juve are prime candidates to be a buying club, but that’s exactly what the Bianconeri are doing.

Additionally, the club must have seen what happened to other clubs who made the Champions League final in past seasons and then saw their squads disassemble.

Borussia Dortmund lost Mario Gotze the season after reaching the final and saw Robert Lewandowski leave soon after. The German giants are set to lose manager Jurgen Klopp with Ilkay Gundogan likely to follow him out the door. In terms of the Champions League, they haven’t made it past the quarter-finals since losing to Bayern in the final.

Similarly, Atletico Madrid weren’t the same team this season after making it to the Champions League Final last term. Thibaut Courtois returning to Chelsea was a given after a long loan spell, but Atleti also lost Diego Costa and Felipe Luis to the west London club while David Villa departed for MLS club New York City F.C.

Atleti beat Barcelona by three points in last season’s title race, but finished 16 points behind the Catalan club as they finished third. Atletico also finished 14 points off cross-town rivals Real Madrid for second place.

Even if Pirlo leaves as rumored, Juve won’t lose much of their core, or first team at that. Adding Khedira and Dybala only strengthens the team ahead of next season.

For more Juventus, click here. For more from the world of Serie A, click here. For more Soccer/Football, click here. For Vine videos (including Champions League highlights and Europa League highlights), click here.

Juventus Transfer Rumors: Players Who Could Leave Turin in the Summer Transfer Window

With Juventus inching towards a possible treble, the questions shift from “Can Juventus make a deep run in Europe?” to “Can they sustain their European success?”

New additions will be likely to sustain the success. These new additions will come from different circumstances. Some will be from other clubs while others are players Juve either co-own, have sent out to another club on loan, or have a buy-back option on.

To make room for these players, incumbent members of the squad will have to go. Here are a look at some of those players.

Fernando Llorente

The towering Spanish striker has been linked to Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid in the past, which should help Juventus find a buyer for a player who has scored only seven goals in 31 appearances (all competitions) this season.

Despite the lack of goals, Llorente still makes sense for any interested Premier League club thanks to his aerial presence. The Premier League is an extremely physical league, and Llorente with his knack for scoring goals with his head, should fit in well.

His dearth of goals this season may signal his exit while also opening space for a player like Domenico Berardi (who is on loan at Sassuolo) or Simone Zaza (also at Sassuolo, Juve have a buy-back option in the players’ contract). The open spot could also go to an impact striker brought in from the transfer market like Robin van Persie or Paulo Dybala.

Rubinho

The veteran keeper has rarely appeared for the Italian giants and may find himself offloaded in the summer transfer window. Juve will likely send Nicola Leali out on other loan spell, but if they want the youngster to get experience with the first team in Turin, Rubinho would be the one to go.

This seems unlikely as the most game-time Leali would receive would be in the Coppa Italia in place of Marco Storari, but it’s a possibility nonetheless.

Paolo De Ceglie

The left back once looked to have a bright future in Turin, but has fallen by the way-side of late. He was due to spend the season on loan at Parma, but was called back in January to provide cover at left back due to Kwadwo Asamoah’s injury.

Another loan spell, if not an outright sale seems like the likeliest of outcomes. At only 28-years-old, he may yet provide value as Juve’s left back if Asamoah moves into the midfield and Patrice Evra retires.

Simone Pepe

Another player who hasn’t gotten the most field time as of late, Pepe has worked his way back from injury, but has yet to receive many full games. He’s gone the full 90 only once this season and other than that has only eclipsed a half hour once. Most of his appearances tend to be 20 minutes or less.

The Italian stands at a bit of a career crossroads. At 31, this may be his last chance to move to a club and be a major contributor. Does he go somewhere else and do that or stay at Juve and fight for a spot? Given the quality of the Old Lady, it would seem Pepe would be destined for a bit-part, bench sparkplug role for the rest of his time in Turin if he isn’t sold.

Whether Roberto Pereyra’s loan is made permanent could play a big role in whether Pepe stays.

Alessandro Matri

Matri was never quite was able to figure it out in Turin the first time around and seems destined to depart the Bianconeri for the second time.

The striker is on loan from Milan (Juve sold him to the Rossoneri in 2013) and has had loan stints with Fiorentina and Genoa before arriving once again in Turin. He was brought in strictly for depth and as such his loan deal remains unlikely to be made permanent. Like Llorente, he’ll need to leave to potentially create space for the likes of Berardi and Zaza and open up more minutes for Kingsley Coman.

Romulo

The midfielder hasn’t played much for Juve due to injury. Because of that, his loan deal may not be made permanent despite a reasonable price.

All stats courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com/ unless otherwise noted.

For more Juventus, click here. For more Soccer/Football, click here. For more from the world of Serie A, click here.

Juventus Carlos Tevez Replacements: RVP, Cavani, Higuain, Dybala

Recent reports have linked Juventus striker Carlos Tevez with an early return to his old club Boca Juniors. Tevez wants to finish his career with Boca and there is speculation that it’ll happen after his contract expires following next season.

Carlitos has been superb for the Bianconeri this season with 26 goals and eight assists in 27 appearances across all competitions. While he recently “rubbished” those rumors, Juve will need a replacement, especially if they hope to build on their ever-improving European success of this season.

Juve have a star in Alvaro Morata who will be a full-time starter next season, but with Fernando Llorente underperforming and likely to be sold, coupled with Kingsley Coman not being quite ready to log heavy minutes, the team will need someone to step in for Tevez should the Argentine depart.

With bonus money from Juve’s Champions League run coupled with cash from player sales, the Old Lady will have money to spend during the upcoming summer transfer window. If they need to find a replacement for Tevez, here are some options.

Gonzalo Higuain  

With Rafa Benitez potentially exiting, Higuain could follow his manager out the door. Reports have linked the former Real Madrid star to Arsenal as well as Juve.

The Argentine has accumulated 23 goals and eight assists in Naples across all competitions, so he obviously has a track record and is comfortable with Serie A.

A pairing of Higuain and Morata would certainly be exciting to watch and would strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. The pairing would also give Real Madrid a look at what they’re missing. Los Blancos are obviously better off with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, but the new-look Juve attack would show a little of what could have been.

Higuain’s exit coupled with Benitez’, could signal the end of a once-promising era for Napoli. The club invested a heavy amount of cash in the first team, but never overtook Juventus or made much noise in the Champions League. Napoli currently sit in Europa League spot in the standings and it’s not inconceivable that they slip even further. This lack of success could mean the end of Higuain’s time in southern Italy.

Simone Zaza

Zaza was a Juve-owned player until he was sold to Sassuolo where he has gone on to net nine goals in 24 appearances. He also has an assist.

The striker has also opened his scoring account for the national team with a goal for the Azzurri in a European qualifying match against Norway. Juve will have to ward off interest from other interested clubs due to the player’s young age (23) and potential. However, the Bianconeri have a buy-back clause, similar to the situation with Real Madrid and Morata.

Robin van Persie

The Dutch forward has netted ten goals and handed out two assists for Manchester United this season, but could find himself on the way out at the club. Manchester United have long been linked to Dutch attacker Memphis Depay and are bound to be linked to a number of other elite players in a bid to improve the club.

This means that van Persie, along with Javier Hernandez, Nani and Radamel Falcao, could be offloaded to make room.

The Dutchman nearly joined Juve in 2012, but if available at a cut-rate cost, may go through with the move to Turin this time around. He’s been linked to Juve on a free transfer, and while he wouldn’t be the tireless, ground-eating machine that Tevez is, he would score a load of goals, some which would probably be quite spectacular.

Paulo Dybala

Another Argentine, Dybala is one of the more coveted young footballers in European football and looks set to leave Palermo after the current season ends.

The forward has 13 goals and 10 assists in 30 appearances for the Sicilian club. He’s been linked to a who’s who of elite clubs, specifically in the Premier League, and will cost Juve a large sum of cash, likely similar to the total they spent on all of their new arrivals this season.

The question becomes whether the fee is worth it for a largely unproven player, or if Juventus would be better off investing elsewhere. Juve reportedly have a deal in place, but it remains to be seen if this Argentine will move to Turin thanks to interest from a host of other clubs.

Radamel Falcao

Juve have been linked to Falcao before, but the forward never made the move. Similar to Robin van Persie, the Columbian may be available on a cut-rate deal after struggling on loan at Manchester United. Monaco may be willing to distance themselves from the once prolific hit-man and may sell. After all, they did loan him to United before the season despite having Champions League football on the docket.

With Juve and Monaco meeting in the Champions League, the Bianconeri have stepped up their interest once again. Despite the dip in form, Falcao hasn’t turned 30 yet and could have a few good years left in him.

Juventus have had success raiding Manchester for talent in the past with Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra and Tevez all turning around their careers in Turin—is Falcao next?

Domenico Berardi

Similar to Simone Zaza, Berardi is a player currently in a Sassuolo shirt who could be wearing the black and white of Juventus next season. Where he differs from Zaza is that he is actually owned by the Old Lady and wouldn’t require a buy-back fee.

The attacker has 11 goals and six assists for Sassuolo this season and would give Max Allegri the tactical flexibility that is so vital to Juve thanks to his ability to play out wide on the right.

Berardi is only 20, and if he can break into and contribute to Juve’s first team next season, he’ll provide a pillar for the team to build on for the future along with Morata, Pogba and Coman.

Also, excuse the music please…

Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani has some rather curious stats. The striker has scored six goals in nine Champions League games, which is a positive and quite the achievement against Europe’s best, but he’s only scored nine times in Ligue 1.

Like many players on this list, he’s been linked with a move away from the French capitol, and Juve have rumored interest. Like Robin van Persie, he may be sold to make room for new additions.

The Uruguayan hasn’t been himself when playing out of position (out wide) for the Parisians, but would nonetheless cost a pretty penny. Pairing him with Morata would be exciting, but Juve must be careful if Tevez sticks around for another year. Morata can’t spend a full season on the bench behind Cavani and Tevez while Cavani can’t continue to toil away on the wing. Needless to say there would be some issues.

Ciro Immobile

This is pure speculation on my part, but Immobile might be a fit back in Serie A. He’s struggled to acclimate to the Bundesliga and may be better suited back in Italy. The World Cup veteran only has three goals in 19 Bundesliga appearances.

With Jurgen Klopp leaving Dortmund and the possibility that Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels and Marco Reus could follow, there could be a lot of change in terms of the German giants’ first team.

Dortmund may be inclined to an offseason rebuild instead of going forward with the same, especially with a new coach. Because of this, and the potential departure of some of their biggest stars, Dortmund may be willing to sell Immobile, especially considering he’s been a flop in the Bundesliga.

All stats courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com/ unless otherwise noted.

For more Juventus, click here. For more Soccer/Football, click here. For more from the world of Serie A, click here.

#Juventus Potential Carlos Tevez Replacement: Gonzalo Higuain

Recent reports have linked Juventus striker Carlos Tevez with an early return to his old club Boca Juniors. Tevez wants to finish his career with Boca and there is speculation that it’ll happen after his contract expires following next season.

Carlitos has been superb for the Bianconeri this season with 26 goals and eight assists in 27 appearances across all competitions. While he recently “rubbished” those rumors, Juve will need a replacement, especially if they hope to build on their ever-improving European success of this season.

Juve have a star in Alvaro Morata who will be a full-time starter next season, but with Fernando Llorente underperforming and likely to be sold, coupled with Kingsley Coman not being quite ready to log heavy minutes, the team will need someone to step in for Tevez should the Argentine depart.

With bonus money from Juve’s Champions League run coupled with cash from player sales, the Old Lady will have money to spend during the upcoming summer transfer window. Starting with Gonzalo Higuain, this series will look at potential replacements for Tevez, including Edinson Cavani, Robin van Persie and Paulo Dybala among others.

If they need to find a replacement for Tevez, here are some options.

Gonzalo Higuain  

With Rafa Benitez potentially exiting, Higuain could follow his manager out the door. Reports have linked the former Real Madrid star to Arsenal as well as Juve.

The Argentine has accumulated 23 goals and eight assists in Naples across all competitions, so he obviously has a track record and is comfortable with Serie A.

A pairing of Higuain and Alvaro Morata would certainly be exciting to watch and would strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. The pairing would also give Real Madrid a look at what they’re missing. Los Blancos are obviously better off with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, but the new-look Juve attack would show a little of what could have been.

Higuain’s exit coupled with Benitez’, could signal the end of a once-promising era for Napoli. The club invested a heavy amount of cash in the first team, but never overtook Juventus or made much noise in the Champions League. Napoli currently sit in Europa League spot in the standings and it’s not inconceivable that they slip even further. This lack of success could mean the end of Higuain’s time in southern Italy.

Coming very soon, more potential Tevez replacements including the aforementioned Edinson Cavani, Robin van Persie and Paulo Dybala as well as Simone Zaza and Radamel Falcao

All stats courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com/ unless otherwise noted.

For more Juventus, click here. For more Soccer/Football, click here. For more from the world of Serie A, click here.

 

Juventus Transfers: Alvaro Morata Quickly Making Fernando Llorente Expandable

Over the summer, it was obvious that Juventus were in the market for another attacker to bolster the incumbent duo of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. The club was linked to Radamel Falcao and nearly signed him, but in the end brought in Real Madrid youngster Alvaro Morata.

While not nearly at the level of Falcao, Morata is only 22-years-old and possess about as much potential as a young striker can have. A knee injury prevented him from integrating himself immediately, but as the season has progressed, the Spaniard has become a crucial member of the squad. So crucial in fact that he is pushing countryman Fernando Llorente out of the starting lineup. Llorente has struggled with form and Morata has seized the opportunity to pass the towering hit-man with some superb displays.

On the surface, the two Spanish strikers’ numbers are very similar.

 Morata                 Llorente

Appearances (All Competitions)       28                           28

Goals                                                  9                              6

Assists                                                4                              2

Pass Success Percentage              75.1                        72

Shots Per Game                               1.8                          1.8

Average WhoScored Rating             6.78                        6.77

 

Despite the similarities, there are differences. Llorente is skilled in the air (mainly due to the fact that he towers over defenders at 6’5”) and averages 2.3 aerials won per match. Morata (who’s no slouch at 6’3”) only averages a singular aerial win per game. Morata takes the cake in terms of assists with four compared to Llorente’s one. Despite all this, the biggest difference may come in minutes played. Morata has logged 1,065 minutes on the year while Llorente clocks in at 1,728. That’s a difference of 663 minutes, or seven full games and change.

It’s pretty clear that Morata has been more efficient with his times.

His goal against Borussia Dortmund in this week’s Champions League knockout round first leg insured Juve had a 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg in Germany.

With the exception of a yellow card against Atalanta, Morata has been on fire. He had a hand in both goals in a 2-2 draw with Cesena, scoring one and setting up another. He also tallied a goal and an assist in a 3-1 over Milan, earning Man of the Match honors. Before that he netted the only goal in a 1-0 Coppa Italia victory for the Bianconeri against Parma. Other recent conquests include an assist each in blowout wins over Napoli (3-1) and Verona (4-0). Morata also scored in a separate demolition of Verona, this one finishing 6-1. That’s five goals and four assists in his last 10 matches, six of which he played the full 90. Llorente only managed two goals and two assists in his last 10 games. He played the full 90 minutes only twice in that span.

Throw in the fact that Morata is a full eight years younger than Llorente and it makes sense that the former Real Madrid man is making Llorente expendable.

Given Llorente’s play and age, and the fact that Carlos Tevez will return to Argentina when his contract expires, Juve will need some new attackers.

Sassuolo duo Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza are both forwards who have been heavily mentioned as possibilities to move to Turin in the near future.

Berardi is actually owned by Juve and is spending the year on loan with the Neroverdi. He has seven goals and six assists in 19 appearances for Sassuolo and provides tactical flexibility thanks to his ability to play on the right wing. Zaza is actually Neroverdi property, but Juventus has a $15 million buy-back option on the forward’s contract this summer. Zaza has nine goals and an assist in 21 appearances for his club and has already opened his scoring account for the Italian National Team with a goal in the Azzurri’s 2-0 win over Norway in a Euro 2016 qualifying match.

Llorente has been linked with moves to Tottenham, Marseille, Liverpool and Arsenal, so there are suitors. Should a sale occur, their will clearly be funds for Juve to get a new striker to replace the struggling Llorente in the team. The Old Lady don’t necessarily need a replacement for Llorente, but a long-term one for Tevez. They already have Llorente’s replacement in-house—Alvaro Morata

All stats courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Real Madrid: Why Kroos and James Don’t Make Sense Tactically & How the Hoarding and Exorbitant Spending Produce Results

Real Madrid has a tendency, or, more like a need, to employ the best players in the world in their team. In the process, the club spends absurd amounts of money. They will routinely spend tens of millions of dollars just for squad players.

Recent signings Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez are hardly squad players, but it shows how far the team is willing to go to be the best. Both signings undoubtedly help the team improve (they would help any team) but they don’t make the most sense tactically. In coach Carlo Ancelotti’s favored 4-3-3 formation, Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria were favored as the midfield trio. Admittedly, the team sold Di Maria, but with Kroos’ addition, the team will now field an overcrowded midfield group. A group that includes Modric, Alonso, Kroos, a healthy Sami Khedira and last summer’s splurge signings Isco and Asier Illarramendi. That’s a lot of midfielders who, if you combine their transfer fees, could fix a country’s economy.

While Kroos’ signing gives Madrid even more quality in the middle of the park, the team’s signing of Rodriguez produces questions. Lots of them. James is a superbly talented player, and his skill probably merits a place on a team like Madrid’s roster, but tactically it is a bit tough to fit him into the current team.

James Rodriguez can play as an attacking midfielder, a true No. 10 or he can be deployed out wide as a winger. In the current 4-3-3 that Ancelotti employs, there is no way on Earth Rodriguez displaces either Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo. It simply won’t happen. And to be fair, no one in the world is going replace Madrid’s two most expensive players. The team could alter the 4-3-3 and play him in his favored position as a traditional No. 10 with two pivot midfielders sitting behind him. This could provide deadly results offensively, but it would also limit the number of central midfielders Ancelotti can use. With a huge glut of them already, to accommodate Rodriguez he may have to sacrifice one of them, hence pushing someone further down the totem pole and potentially off the team all together.

This is where the hoarding strategy comes into play. Real Madrid is able to sell off star players in order to make room for star players. Or they simply sell off their highly priced squad players to other clubs where those players will play prominent roles.  While it may not be the most fiscally responsible thing in the world, it helps the team avoid the swinging axe that is Financial Fair Play.

Last summer the team spent over 150 million euros (a little over 200 million US dollars) bringing Bale, Isco, Illarramendi, Daniel Carvajal and Casemiro into the fold. Normally a team spending that kind of capital would be hit with FFP sanctions. However, unlike fellow big spenders PSG and Manchester City, Madrid made some cash to offset that absurd sum. They unloaded Mesut Ozil to Arsenal for 50 million euros and sold striker Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli for 40 million euros. Combine those with the sales of Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon (both also to Napoli) among others and Madrid made nearly 130 million euros from outgoing players.

This allows the team to recoup some of the money they spent, but more importantly it allows them to escape those FFP sanctions. PSG wasn’t able to avoid the axe as they spent nearly 140 million euros on four players. Of the players they sold or let go, they collectively brought back 26 million euros.

City, on the other hand, spent north of 90 million pounds, while recouping a little over 15 million pounds on player sales.

These may not seem like serious issues, but they have impacted both teams’ current offseason spending. PSG, who doesn’t want to cross the line with FFP having already been sanctioned, tried and failed to acquire Di Maria from Madrid without paying a deservedly large sum of money. This is mainly due to the fact that they don’t want to, and can’t spend too much money.

Meanwhile, City has lost a number of spots on their team as part of the sanctions, and thus their international slots are full. Because of this, the team had to sell Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia in order to acquire long rumored target and French center back Equiliam Mangala.

The penalties only get worse for clubs like PSG and City if they continue to breach FFP guidelines. Real Madrid seems to have figured it out. The team buys star players. Should the star players fail to adapt or a bigger, better star comes along, then the incumbent stars get the boot. Because of this, Madrid escapes Financial Fair Play penalties all the while being one of the best, if not the best, club in the world.

 

To the Point UEFA Champions League Draw Thoughts and Predictions: Group G

Welcome to the “Most Enviable to Play In, Least Enviable to Watch Group.” In this group you’ll find your typical minnow (Austria Wienn), a team trying to rebound from the loss of their best player (Atletico), a team trying to prove that oodles of money spent in the snowy, Russian north will win you something in Europe (Zenit). And finally, possibly the biggest, most successful feeder club in the word (Porto).

Look, Champions League football is Champions League football, but would you rather watch Zenit vs Austria Wien or Juventus vs Real Madrid? Or even Chelsea vs Schalke? The group’s TV ratings might be poor, but the teams in it are certainly not complaining. Arsenal would probably let Mikel Arteta play for Spurs to be re-placed in this group. Now, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but Arsenal, or for that matter any team in a tough group, wants to be in this group.

All in all, this group isn’t so bad. The Hulk/Porto reunion will be interesting, but outside of that it’s hard to find any notable sticking points in terms of staying in front of a TV to watch the games.

Prediction- Atletico, Porto, Zenit, Wien.

To the Point UEFA Champions League Draw Thoughts and Predictions: Group C

This is PSG’s group to lose. Let me repeat, PSG’s group to lose.

Benfica seems a solid bet to advance in the second slot, but the unpredictable nature of the Champions League could provide otherwise. Not to disrespect the other respective leagues and teams, but PSG has to be excited that they got grouped with teams from Belgium, Portugal and Greece as opposed to Arsenal, who got high finishers from Italy, Germany and France.

PSG will win the group easily. Going through with a 100 percent record isn’t out of the question, but a trip to Benfica could be tough.

Prediction- PSG, Benfica, Anderlecht, Olympiakos.

Real Madrid’s Star Offloading Will Come Back to Hurt Them

Madrid’s biggest knock, at least comparatively to arch-rival Barcelona, is the lack of youth. Historically, they tend to spend their money on superstar players instead of investing in youth. During the recent transfer window Madrid did buy a superstar, but they also invested in youth. Albeit someone else’s. They paid Leverkusen 6.5 million euros to get Dany Carvajal back. They also spent an astounding 69.2 million euros on the young midfield pairing of Isco and Asier Illarramendi. That’s even more astounding considering that, at the time, Real had Kaka, Luka Modric, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso and six- million-euro-signing Casimero in the center of the park. That’s two full midfields of players who could probably start almost anywhere.

Then Madrid signed Gareth Bale, who also plays midfield, and happens to be one of the best players in the world.

Real have/had way too many big name contracts, and players in general on the books (see midfield, above.) So they sold off hit man Gonzalo Higuain, winger Jose Callejon and central defender Raul Albiol, all to Napoli for 62 million euros. They also sold two of their many midfielders; Kaka is heading back to AC Milan for free. Free. Further justifying Madrid’s 65 million euro investment in him. Sound business there.  Plus, Mesut Ozil is heading to Arsenal for 50 million euros.

I don’t think this mass offloading of players will hurt Madrid in terms of production on the field. They did, after all, spend a lot of money for players similar and younger to those they let go, but it will hurt them if they play against their former players. Kaka, Ozil and the new Napoli contingent are all in the Champions League this year. Questions can be posed that Kaka is past his prime, Ozil’s team is stuck in a terribly difficult group and Napoli hasn’t gelled yet. But who knows? Maybe Madrid runs into a rejuvenated Kaka-led Milan squad and bows out in the early knockout rounds? Maybe Ozil assists on a few goals for Arsenal that the Gunners wouldn’t have scored without him, maybe those goals knock out Real? (Fun fact, check out this.) Maybe Gonzalo Higuain goes off on his former club in a two-leg knockout round. After all, Madrid is susceptible to forwards scoring on them in bunches. Lewandoski anyone?

While a front four of Benzema with Ronaldo, Ozil and Bale behind would have been terrifying in a 4-2-3-1 formation, it’s not going to happen. Putting Luka Modric or Isco in Ozil’s place certainly isn’t the end of the world, but the loss of Ozil and others will come back to haunt the Bernebau’s residents.