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Claude Puel heaps praises on Leicester

Claude Puel reckons that technically his team might have got only one point at Brighton, but morally it was a victory for them after the way they turned it around and earned a draw from a not so great position.

Leicester conceded a lead early in the game and then they were reduced to only 10 players in the 28th minute when James Maddison had to go off having been booked twice in a space of just two minutes. It was an incredibly hard challenge for the visitors to not concede any more goals from there, but they not only managed to ensure that, they actually went on to equalize as well. Puel was mighty pleased with that monumental effort.
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Chelsea manager unsure over Thibaut Courtois’ future

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has said that he is unsure over the position of Thibaut Courtois but he remains hopeful that the goalkeeper will stay put at the club for the upcoming campaign. The Belgium international has shown no intention of extending his contract beyond June 2019 and this has seen him continuously associated with a move to Real Madrid.

Despite this, the European champions have yet to make a formal enquiry for the Belgian and Sarri remains optimistic that the shot-stopper will prolong his stay at Stamford Bridge, he said: “I don’t know. At the moment, Courtois is the goalkeeper of the club, of Chelsea, and so I don’t know in the future. It depends on the club. ‘It depends especially on him I think. But I hope that Courtois will be our goalkeeper.”
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BARCELONA IS EUROPE’S TOP CLUB, BEATS MADRID

Spanish side Barcelona thumped their arch rivals Real Madrid to become the top club on the continent despite Madrid winning their 13th European Cup recently. The La Liga champs overtook Madrid based on a Euro Club Index compiled by data company Gracenote.

Gracenote considered the results of the top 100 clubs on the continent over the past four years. However, the recently concluded season carried two third of the weight. Teams collect or lose points based on the results and circumstances of each game. If any club from a league performs well in Europe, the entire league gets a bonus.
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SHAW: IT’S SCARY

Manchester United’s summer signing Luke Shaw says that he is starting to see the potential for a scary team with the way United have been improving over the last few months. The club started poorly under new manager Louis Van Gaal and it took them several matches just to get the first win out of the way. Since then, they have had some good results including the victory over Everton. Shaw, who faced public criticism from the manager about his poor fitness upon his arrival to United, has been featuring more regularly in recent weeks.

The use of a proper left back has aided United in improving the attack and defence. One of the best matches that they have played this season came in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday. It needed a late equaliser from star striker Robin van Persie to secure a point against the table leaders, but it is a point that keeps them in the hunt for the top four. Returning to the Champions League is vital for a club like United partly because of the finances involved but largely because of the prestige. Shaw expressed his confidence that United can still catch Chelsea, who worked in points ahead of them, since there is a long time left in the season.

“It has been a fight, but we talk in the dressing room and at training and we know we’ve still got the best to come. I don’t think we are playing our best at the moment, although you saw bits against Chelsea. It will take time, but when we are all on form, I think we are going to be a scary team to face. Yeah, of course [we can catch Chelsea]. It’s a long season and we’re at the start of it so you don’t know what will happen during the middle of season,” said Shaw.

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Zaha looks to have played last game

Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha appears to have played his last game for United after being sent out on loan to Crystal Palace once again. Zaha was one of the last high-profile signings made by former manager Sir Alex Ferguson. He was brought from Crystal Palace for £ 15 million, but he immediately fell out with new manager David Moyes and was sent out on loan to Cardiff city. His loan spell at the Welsh club did not work as planned after he made only 10 appearances in the second half of last season. This was after being used by Moyes for only four matches in the first half.

It appears that his situation at United has not changed even under Van Gaal, who had a good look at him during pre-season and decided to send him on loan to Crystal Palace where he made his name. The return of Neil Warnock to Crystal Palace has given positive signs to the winger, but he has refused to rule out a return to United in the future. The season long loan deal will provide Zaha with lot of opportunities to get regular football and impress Van Gaal. It will be extremely tough for Zaha to breakthrough into the United team, who have already spent £ 150 million on new players and are planning to spend more in January.

“I signed for a couple of years at United so the goal is to do my best here for the season and go back and make sure I get back into the team and the England set-up. It is just great to be playing again. There is nothing like being out on the pitch and the crowd singing your name. It was a bit ­frustrating. What am I doing if I am not playing? I know how everything works here and the gaffer just wants to give me game-time,” said Zaha.

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De Gea and Fletcher Come WIth Praise Of Van Gaal

Manchester United stars David de Gea and Darren Fletcher has come out in praise of new manager Louis van Gaal by saying that the Dutchman has had a profound impact at the club. Van Gaal was appointed as the permanent replacement for David Moyes after the Scot was sacked with four matches remaining. It was after a disappointing season in which United not only failed to win any trophy, but also did not come close to challenging for those titles. Van Gaal has already had a lot of influence on the club as a whole.

He has tried to alter several things like formation, training areas, and transfer policy in the last few weeks of the pre-season. After having played different versions of the 4-4-2 formation for more than two decades, United will be adopting a unique 3-5-2 formation for the upcoming season. This is in addition to the number of high definition cameras that have been setup across the Carrington training ground. Van Gaal reportedly wants to monitor every moment of his players and this is said to have cost United in the region of £ 500,000. United, it seems, are ready to back the 62-year-old in the best possible way.

Fletcher and De Gea have also provided their backing to the manager, who has led the club to an unbeaten pre-season tour.

“Van Gaal demands a lot, but the players are responding to it and enjoying playing in the new system and playing under him. We’ve got a fantastic team spirit – we were talking about it last night amongst ourselves. We’re all close and we’re all pulling in the right direction and we all want the best for Manchester United. We’re disappointed with where we finished in the league last season and as a result of that Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, they all finished above of us,” said Fletcher.

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UNITED HAVE A CHANCE

Manchester United’s 1st leg of their Champions League match saw the English club picking up a 1-1 draw and even though it was a tightly contested match with both sides trying to edge out a victory, Arjen Robben criticized the squad of David Moyes.

Robben, speaking to the German media, said: “It was not easy, as our opponents didn’t leave any gaps. We wanted to play football but they tried to stop us. The English were just playing on the counter and have played very defensively; it was almost like in handball’’.

“But when you go a goal down you have to be pleased with a draw. 1-1 is a very good result that we can take home with us and then we just have to finish it off next week.” Robben said.

The match was played in the home stadium of Manchester United at Old Trafford but the final showdown is expected to be played and take place at the Allianz Arena on March 9 with the Dutchman Van Persie still out of action with an injury and he is not likely to return in time for the Champions League match against the Germans.

Despite what the outcome of the match will be Manchester United is believed to be preparing a €40 million bid hoping to sign Toni Kroos from Bayern Munich during the transfer window which opens during the summer.

Toni Kroos is reaching the last year of his contract with Bayern Munich which will allow Manchester United on making a move for him when he his contract expires and he becomes a free agent although it remains unclear if Pep Guardiola is willing to offload the 24 years old midfielder.

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UNITED FALL SHORT

Manchester United signed themselves in the midst of a very important time in the season where they could potentially lose everything. The club are still in with a shout to finish in the top four and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, although it is looking highly unlikely in itself.

They are nine points behind fourth placed Manchester City, who have two more games in hand. This could potentially put them at a huge disadvantage since finishing in the top four gives Champions League football for next season.

Further, they are on the verge of being knocked out of Europe’s Premier competition after suffering a 2-0 defeat against Olympiakos in the first leg. The return leg will be at home, which provides the club with some confidence that they can overturn this deficit. Prior to that, they have to focus on the league match with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Former defender Gary Neville says that this is a much bigger match than the midweek Champions League encounter primarily because this is a derby. He also says that there is more at stake in this match since it could help them get back into the race for the top four with a win.

United are coming to the encounter with reasonable confidence after a 3-0 win over West Brom last weekend.
“If you were say to me ‘which game are they more likely to win 4-0 or 3-0?’ it would be Olympiakos. That’s the game. Even just to win the match, it would be the easiest of the four. West Ham on the Saturday will be tough and City and Liverpool go without saying. For me, the game they are more likely to win is Olympiakos. It’s whether they can win it by the scoreline they desire,” said Neville.

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CITY VS BARCA

There is no doubt whatsoever that Barcelona’s visit to the Etihad Stadium as the Catalan club will be locking horns to face off against Manchester City is the most anticipated match to watch in this campaign of the Champions League.

Both teams have a star studded squad with the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi leading the way for Barcelona while Manchester City has Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure as the backbone of the Premier League club.

Both are going through similar situations when you compare their locations on their respective leagues although Barcelona does have an edge as they are at the top of the Spanish league, La Liga meanwhile Manchester are fighting to snatch the top spot in the Premier League along with Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool as their main direct rivals.

Probable Starting Lineup

Barcelona

Valdes

Montoya-Pique-Bartra-Adriano

Xavi-Song-Iniesta

Neymar-Messi-Sanchez

Manchester City

Hart

Kompany-Zabaleta-Clichy-Demichelis

Milner-Toure-Silva-Navas

Negredo-Aguero

Match Prediction

Both teams will be going all out in search for a good result that can help them stay more relaxed when they meet once more during the 2nd leg which will be played at the home turf of Barcelona, Camp Nou.

Manchester City campaign so far has been like a roller-coaster ride with a resounding 5-1 victory against Tottenham and some weeks later having to settle with a goalless draw against Norwich City.

Barcelona on the other hand has been far more consistent with convincing performances every week and every match they play and even when Lionel Messi was out injured, they still managed to cope well during the absence of the Argentine superstar.

It’s a battle between 2 European powerhouses but its hard to see Barcelona losing against Manchester City even if it is going to be played at the Etihad Stadium, Messi is roaring to come back and perform for his team at an important stage such as Champions League.

Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2