Regardless of whether you’re into recognizing the next generation football stars for your FIFA Career mode or simply a football enthusiast who loves to watch out for promising stars, everybody can enjoy seeing future stars develop from youngsters to superstars.
It’s a normal phenomenon for every footballer to hit maximum playing potential between the ages of 24-27, while a goalkeeper may take more years to attain that height. Some take more time to sustain their ability, while others are opened into the spotlight from their adolescent years, compelled to live up to their potential earlier rather than later.
With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the dusk of their careers, football fans are worrying about the gaping hole the duo will leave in the game once they leave the footballing scene.
Regardless of their unavoidable departure showing up not too far off, football appears to be in safe hands. The thoughts of every football enthusiast now turn to the new generation youngsters, abound in some of Europe’s finest team, from age 17 to 20 respectively.
The question now is, who would be the next great footballer when the established stars leave the scene?
Here are the 16 of Europe’s next generation football Stars
AGE 17 CATEGORY
- Pedro Lopez (Barcelona) & Jude Bellingham (Dortmund)
Pedro Gonzalez Lopez commonly refers to as Pedri has been one of the new generation youngsters in Spain this season, most especially for Barcelona.
His performances since he officially joined the Catalan giant from lowly Las Palmas has been a matter of discussion for many fans, who are of the opinion that at his age he should still be at La Masia. But then the language of the game is if you’re good, you’re good to play irrespective of your age.
The youngster has not only earned himself a regular spot in Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona team, but he has also made himself an important figure in the team with his surprising performances and the form he has been in since he joined.
Having gone back on loan to Las Palmas when he was signed in 2019, many would have thought he will find it pretty difficult to break into the Barcelona team, but surprisingly he’s been able to do that which also got him his debut call up for the Spanish U21 team.
Pedri’s quick fix has been evident since he was 16 years old when he was called up to the first team of Las Palmas, but no one thought his rise into becoming one of Barcelona’s important players would be as swift as this.
He may not have started scoring a lot of goals for his team, but has shown the manager could always trust in him to deliver.
As for Jude Bellingham, leaving the shores of England and the huge salaries coming into his account is a lot of sacrifices to make in deciding to playtime in Germany, but his decision seems right for his development as a professional player.
As a matter of fact, only a few 17-year-old youngsters are able to command a €25m transfer, but in Bellingham’s case that was exactly what the Westfalenstadion side coughed out to get him.
For what the German Bundesliga is known for in giving youngsters the chance to show what they’ve got, without wasting time Bellingham is already showing the stuff he’s made off with some of his impressive performances.
For a 17-year-old Bellingham to be invited to the English national team beaming with a lot of talent shows his hard work and consistency has paid off.
- Gio Reyna (Dortmund) & Rayan Cherki (Lyon)
Reyna’s father Claudio Reyna is a professional football legend and arguably the best player in the history of the US national team. With the way Gio’s trajectory is going, he could surpass the legendary status of his father.
Talented youngsters such as Dest, Pulisic, Musah, it’s no doubt that the US national team would be one of the best North American sides come 2030 when all of these players would have grown to their full potential, but then it’s left to be seen how some of these players would have grown.
Since joining from New York City FC in 2015, young Reyna has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom at Dortmund, and he has since established himself as a regular in Lucien Favre’s senior side.
The US U17 captain didn’t get into Favre’s first team by mistake, it was a cumulation of his impressive 17 appearances in all competitions in his debut season, and that further makes him an important player in the team with two goals and five assists both in the league and Europe.
Gio is already a regular starter at Borussia Dortmund at 17, and he is ticking all boxes in the middle of the park for the Die Borussen. If he continues with his impressive display in the team, he could be leading the US national team in the future World Cup just like his father led the American national team.
Cherki is the third of five brothers, born to a father of Italian origin and a mother with Algerian roots in Lyon suburbs. The Lyon youngster was six when his talent was spotted, and he has since gone to local amateur club AS Saint-Priest, where he caught the eyes of Roger Martinez who was his first coach.
Cherki has become one of the most coveted talents in Europe after breaking through Lyon’s first team last season at age 16, his amazing performance against Nantes is still one of the highlights Lyon fans still can’t get over with. The kind of maturity a player of his age displayed has made Europe’s elite clubs want to secure his service.
The Frenchman has made six Ligue 1 appearances for the former Ligue 1 champions thus far, although he’s yet to score this season. However, his impressive trajectory is a testament to him being one of the players to keep an eye on.
AGE 18 CATEGORY
- Ansu Fati (Barcelona) & Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes)
The Spanish league has been ablaze with the brilliance of the youngster since he made his debut. To say the teenage sensation has the world at his feet is an understatement, as many have termed him to be the next generation superstar.
The Guinea Bissau born, Spanish international also held the record of being the youngest Barcelona player to score a La Liga goal, eclipsing the record of Fabrice Olinga who also scored at age 16, 98 days, and Iker Muniain age 16, 298 days.
Before Fati sustained a meniscus injury on his knee, he already showed why he’s one of Barcelona’s important players. With the youngster out due to injury, Barcelona would no doubt miss him having been very instrumental in their matches. If he continues with the momentum he’s started with, then we’re in for a great superstar in the future.
Eduardo Camavinga’s emergence with Rennes was so remarkable and unique that at 16 he was already dictating general play in the front of Rennes defense as a holding midfielder, a very difficult position that requires a lot of experience and know-how.
He became France’s youngest debutant since 1914 after making his debut in Les Blues triumph in the Nations League against Croatia, plus being the youngest ever professional player for Rennes when he made his debut at age 16, which is a clear advantage of trusting him right from age 11 at the youth system.
When a team has a lot of talented players in their rank, it is expected that a youngster at age 18 should be gradually eased into the team. Especially a difficult position as that of a holding midfielder, but in Camavinga’s case he’s been thrown in a position many at his age could have failed to deliver or impressed.
Camavinga’s 36 appearances in all competitions for Rennes last season for the Ligue 1 outfit is a testament to how good the Angola born is. His impressive performances have got him linked to some of the top elite clubs in Europe.
- Reinier Jesus (Dortmund) & Jeremy Doku (Rennes)
Brazilian’s club’s recent history of exporting talented youngsters to Europe’s top team is certainly no doubt why they’re regarded as the best footballing nation. Among thousands, if not millions of Brazilian players that were exported to Europe, the likes of Ronaldo De Lima and co, a large chunk of those players did succeed in Europe.
The former Flamengo midfielder Reinier, also added to that list of his predecessors when he sealed a move to Real Madrid before going on loan to the Westfalenstadion, having proved himself worthy in the Braziliero as one of the best youngsters in the land.
Reinier has already been dubbed the best player in his age group by renowned scouts, and he has been tipped for the top.
Reinier has been a serial award winner throughout his youth football career, case in point was his five-star performances at the South American U17 Championship in Peru where he scored four goals in three matches. The tall attacking midfielder at 6.3ft, has the ability to dribble and play a defense-splitting pass to his teammates, and he has been compared to former AC Milan and Real Madrid star Kaka.
Who is Jeremy Doku? Doku is a Ghanaian-born footballer, Belgium international who plays for Rennes. Doku emerged on the football scene in 2018, playing for the Belgian giants Anderlecht, having been at the club since age 10.
He played five top-flight games for Anderlecht and further got more opportunities to increase his cap to 24 first-team appearances for the Belgian giant in the 2019-20 season before he sealed a move to Rennes for a transfer fee reported to be around €26m.
Since he made his debut with Anderlecht senior team, the youngster has proven himself capable of playing on either flank, as well as living to the tag of being the next Mane due to his strength, ability to take on defenders.
Reminiscent of Mane’s style of play, he’s been tipped to be one of the next generation stars that could end up playing for the big teams.
Doku’s market value is reported to be around €20m when he was with the Belgian side, a considerable fee for any club interested in his services, due to his impressive performance he’s been linked with Liverpool in time past, Chelsea, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, and some other Europe elite clubs, but Rennes were lucky enough to snap him up.
Anderlecht is quite known for their famed for producing quality players, which includes the likes of City legend and former captain Kompany, Inter Milan forward Lukaku, and Leicester City high flying midfielder Youri Tielemans, with Doku joining the list he could also end up been the next poster boy of Belgium football.
AGE 19 CATEGORY
- Takefusa Kubo (Villarreal) & Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Real Madrid youngster, Villarreal loanee may still be waiting to make his Real Madrid debut. However, he is no doubt the best youngster from the Asian country Japan, and he has been making a name for himself outside the four walls of Bernabeu, first with a loan move to Real Mallorca last season, and now with Unai Emery led side, Villarreal.
Although there are many raw parts of his game, his ability to take on defenders is one unique part of his talent which also makes him a thrilling prospect to watch out for. The former Barcelona’s La Masia youngster is definitely on the same route to becoming a great player for Japan just like the legendary Hidetoshi Nakata if he keeps developing.
Kubo would likely return to Madrid next season and go on to be the next generation star for Japanese football for at least the next decade.
Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka is currently one of the youngest players in the English topflight league. The England international who made his Premier League debut in January 2019 has since then become an integral part of Arteta’s Arsenal team with a lot of versatility to his game.
Saka was so impressive for Arsenal in a standout breakthrough campaign, in which he scored four goals and provided 11 assists in 39 games across all competitions, which got him a call up into the fold of the Three Lions national team.
With Saka’s trajectory as it stands, he has given the football world a glimpse of what to expect as one of the amazing youngsters in football. If he continues with this development then Arsenal and England are in for a prospective world-class player.
READ ALSO: Kai Havertz: Europe’s Best Young Midfielder
- Rodrygo Goes (Real Madrid) & Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
The Osasco-born attacker is another Brazilian youngster on the payroll of Los Blancos, Rodrygo is a player with much quality and one of the future star that could lead the Samba Boys to future World Cup championship.
Rodrygo can operate mostly on the right flank, likewise on the left side when needed, he’s also known for his threat and composure inside the box, which is quite evident in some of his performances couple with goals for Los Blancos.
The 19-year-old winger €45m move from Santos to Madrid in 2019 really put a lot of weight on his shoulder amid comparisons with some of Selecao legends, such as Ronaldo De Lima, Robinho, and Brazil’s current poster boy Neymar. His talent as one of the most exciting youngsters in world football hasn’t gone unnoticed, which has earned him recognition as Goal’s NxGn 2020 award winner.
Rodrygo has only appeared in 5 matches this season in the league and 3 in Europe, playing a total of 155 minutes. He’s been able to average 1.74 assists for every 90 minutes he plays on the pitch which is relatively a decent stats for a player of his age in a team full of great players.
Polishing all of his skills is very important, if he does that the world should watch out for yet another Brazilian superstar.
Mason Greenwood is one of the most impressive youngsters to emerge within the English Premier League for Ole Gunner Solsjkaer led side Manchester United. He has already established himself as a potential goal poacher who could go on to lead the line for the Red Devils for many years, especially with his performances.
With him, and the likes of Rashford, Bellingham, Foden, Saka, and Sancho, the Three Lions oozes a lot of great talent who would make them proud in the future. They’ve all announce themselves to the world through their performances, with dedication and consistency, Greenwood could perhaps be the next Harry Kane or Rooney for England.
Since his emergence, he has enjoyed a lot of recognition and that has to do with scoring 16 goals in his debut season. Seeing such from a player who is two-footed, quick, smart, and precise in front of goal, perhaps we should expect much more from him as a real deal of English football.
AGE 20 CATEGORY
- Jadon Sancho (Dortmund) & Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
When talking about a potential world-class player, then you can boldly add the Borussia Dortmund forward to that conversation. Over the past two seasons, he has proven to possess that status with his performances for the Westfalenstadion side since he moved to Germany, and also rank arguably as one of the finest wide players in Europe.
His consistent, flamboyant but effective dribble has often made him one of the most sought-after players in the transfer market. The Englishman is destined to move to a bigger club in the future, where ever he moves, such a team certainly has a quality player in their squad.
The talented Englishman may not be as impressive and explosive this season as he was last season, scoring goals aplenty and making assists for his teammates. However, that doesn’t mean the former Manchester City star isn’t a good player any team could bank on to deliver on the big stage.
The young Canadian left-back, Alphonso Davies is one of the enterprising youngsters that took the Bundesliga by storm this year, having broken into the senior team at Bayern Munich under Hansi Flick.
Davies was a teenage winger looking to force his way into the Bavarian giant squad despite the tough competition for places in his favored position. But right now he can boastfully say that’s a thing of the past, as he has become the first point of call for the left wing-back position in the Bayern Munich team.
Since he made his debut, he’s been arguably considered to be the most exciting young left-back currently, with his attacking attributes combined with his ridiculous recovery speed when attacking, defending, which has no doubt mark him out as a potential world-class in the mold of Marcelo.
- Phil Foden (Manchester City) & Erling Haaland (Dortmund)
Foden has not only been an integral member of Pep Guardiola City’s side, but he has also been regarded as one most exciting youngsters that could help the English national team challenge for trophies in the future.
Talent-wise, he is probably the best around in the English league at his age. With the style of football Pep play, if he continues to play under Guardiola, Foden could end up being among the best midfielder in the world. However, he needs to play more to develop fully but also has to be patient due to the star-studded squad at City.
At 22 or 23 he should have developed enough to start fulfilling his potential for club and country, fortunately for him he’s well surrounded by fantastic players that would help him in fulfilling his potential. We can only hope his trajectory won’t be like that of Jack Wilshere.
Erling Braut Haaland is certainly not a stranger to every football enthusiast who saw him paint the Austrian league with goals at age 19. The Norway international is a countless goalscoring records holder, as a matter of fact, he’s only getting better which other players of his age still find it difficult to reach his level.
Since he moved down to Dortmund from Salzburg he has shown he could also flex muscles with the big boys of the game, painting the Bundesliga with goals, which has placed him among the players that could challenge for the Goal individual award.
Haaland is the son of a former Norwegian international and has proved to be an obvious natural talent from the start.
Been a natural finisher with a superb vision and an understanding of the game, he might be the next generation star that would take over from Ronaldo and Messi. Surprisingly he’s started showing glimpses of that and what to expect from him.
All of these players have shown they’re exciting youngsters to watch out for. However, history did make us understand that not all exciting youngsters end up being a world-class footballer. Such as the stories of Bojan Krkic, Adu who has tagged the next Pele, Christians Macaulay and many other who has failed to live up to expectations.
But then, we might end up seeing the next superstar among them in years to come.
Erling Haaland: The Story Behind His Striking Rise
Erling Haaland was always going to become the ultimate striker and probably the best number 9 on the planet. Also, there’s every possibility that one day, he may become a Ballon D’or winner. But, there’s still one mystery, how did he become the cyborg that he is today?
Haaland continues to be a goal machine, becoming the quickest player in history to reach 20 Champions League goals. His goal from the spot in the UCL round-16 second leg tie against Sevilla was his 20th goal in just 14 appearances in the competition, which broke Harry Kane’s previous record of 24 games.
“Of course he’s fast, powerful, good around the goal and he’s got real soccer sense. But it’s more of his energy, it’s his infectious personality that I think is like a magnet; it draws people to him, it makes people want to be around him.” Those are the words of Red Bull Salzburg manager, Jesse Marsch.
Grab a handful of popcorn and sit back as we unfold the story behind the rise of this Norwegian beast, goal machine, and keeper’s nightmare, Erling Braut Haaland.
Haaland’s Salzburg Breakthrough
As at when Jesse Marsch was appointed as Salzburg manager, Haaland had been at the club for about six months and had only played one game. And then he went to the U-20 World Cup where he scored nine goals in one game.
From his Salzburg debut, Haaland, who had already impressed at the Norwegian league with Bryne and Molde left observers with no doubt about the quality he possesses.
He would become one of the best strikers on the planet because the talent in him was very obvious. In a chat with oh-my-goal, Jesse Marsch revealed that Haaland’s personality was the first thing he fell in love with about Haaland.
“The first couple of days I worked with him, what impressed me more than anything else was his personality on the pitch. He was just relentless! He worked harder than anyone.”
But beyond his raw talent in Salzburg, Erling Haaland left his mark on the locker room with his personality. He had a smile on his face and got along incredibly well with his teammates. Therefore, it wasn’t just his talent, it was his overall energy.
Erling in person had a really positive influence on his teammates. Erling the player, was a selfish assassin who scored 29 goals in 27 appearances for the Austrian club.
Meanwhile, he also always talked about making his teammates happy. “The best memory I Had of him was when we were getting penalties in just about every game, and he was giving them to all the other attacking players.“
“And then, after a player missed a penalty, I said Ok, Erling has to take the penalties and I told him he would be taking the penalties”
“It’s incredible to have such a talented player who loves to score goals, be the one that is giving the penalty responsibilities to the others because he wants them to feel the power of success, the power of scoring goals, and the power of confidence. That says a lot to me about the character of Erling.” Marsch revealed.
At 19, when most people think about personal glory, Haaland was already a perfect teammate and a future leader which was unprecedented for a player as good as he was and in his age range.
Without a doubt, Haaland’s personality was great enthusiastic and it did really have a big effect on a lot of people at Salzburg.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Influence
Erling Haaland may owe his incredible rise to his immense talent and his positive leadership qualities. But that’s not all, Cristiano Ronaldo also played a huge role in Haaland’s evolution.
People often say that Erling Haaland is the next Cristiano Ronaldo but is the CR7 comparison justified?
Certainly, Erling is more of a pure striker than Cristiano but from a power football perspective, his ability in the transition to affect games like the Portuguese ace makes the comparison justifiable.
Haaland himself admitted that Cristiano Ronaldo was his role model but if like Cristiano, Erling broke all the goalscoring records, it’s not really the part of football that CR7 has influenced.
Haaland is following in Cristiano Ronaldo’s footsteps in terms of leadership and he even is now a role model to many players just like Ronaldo was to him.
Cristiano Ronaldo has had positive effects on his teammates and in every team, he’s played in which really helped him overtime right from his days at Manchester United and Real Madrid. But for Erling, one could really see that right from his young age that it’s a natural quality he has.
It will be up to Haaland to continue to modify that aspect of himself and mold that in a way that he can become a really strong leader within his teams as he continues to grow older.
Above all, Haaland took inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo in one essential area, work ethic. Like CR7, he’s always hungry to improve. “He really worked hard a lot. After training, he would stick around to finish, to hit some crosses, to work on his heading.” – Jesse Marsch, RB Salzburg Coach.
Like CR7, Erling Haaland thinks every little detail counts. He would wear special glasses because he felt like when you look at your computer all day long or your cell phone, that your eyes would start to fade and so he had that special glasses he always wears.
And while he has his own personality, Erling is directly inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo especially when it comes to nutrition and work ethic by picking the most hardworking professional football player in history as his role model.
Perfect With BVB
Borussia Dortmund activated his €20 million (£17m/$22m) release clause, beating United and Leipzig to his signature after all three clubs held meetings with the player, his father, and agent Mino Raiola.
Borussia Dortmund already had forward Paco Alcacer on the books, but saw Haaland as such a generational talent, that they were willing to offload the Spain international to give the Norwegian teen an even better chance of success.
CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke says that they had been looking for someone with Haaland’s particular skill set for a long time and could not pass up the opportunity to sign him.
“We always wanted to have a center-forward who has a different way of playing football,” Watzke told Goal and DAZN. “But this guy also had to come onto the market first.
There are not many who are 1.94 meters (6 ft 4 in) tall and that fast. Actually, nobody else comes to mind. It was just an opportunity that you don’t get very often. – Goal.com
Dortmund offered the striker the best chance of regular game time as they promised to make him their first-choice striker, something Alf-Inge Haaland admits is crucial to his development.
Haaland’s Dortmund story got off to the perfect start with the most incredible debut against Augsburg. Trailing 3-1, Lucien Favre sent on the teenager from the bench and was rewarded with a 22-minute hat-trick to help secure a 5-3 win.
Having revealed all the secrets that make Haaland an outstanding striker, in all honesty, the Norwegian striker has no limit because he keeps getting better at Dortmund.
He was incredible at Salzburg. “We were obviously so sad to lose him so quickly because we had a lot of fun and success with him, but we’re also very proud of him and we’re really excited to see him continue to push himself and move forward and show everybody in the world how good he is.”
And today, he’s showing just how good he is in Germany. He used to only be seen as a superpowered and superfast goalscorer. But at Dortmund? He’s also shown his technical advances and his in-game intelligence and influence.
He’s more and more capable of keeping the ball, playing in different positions, taking part in the game, in short, he’s become the ultimate striker.
Giving his unique skill-set and amazing personality, he will definitely sign for a bigger club in years to come. Yes, he may experience some difficulties, but his quality will help him manage whatever challenge that comes his way and in-turn become the best number 9 of not only his generation but in football history.
Top Sure Predictions For This Weekend : Tips, Stats And Analysis
Thomas Tuchel’s first game in charge of Chelsea didn’t quite go as he would have hoped, and the German coach cut a frustrated figure on the sideline as the Blues limped to a largely uninspiring 0-0 draw at home to a determined Wolves team on Wednesday evening.
Tuchel had overseen just one training session with his new charges before their date with Wanderers however, and it will take time for his ideas and tactical philosophy to take hold.
Teething problems are to be expected as Tuchel finds his feet at Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea could endure another nervous moment or two against Burnley on Sunday.
Burnley meanwhile, warmed up for their trip to London with a smash and grab victory at home to Aston Villa in midweek.
The dogged Clarets twice overturned a deficit at Turf Moor to beat the Villains, and the manner of their triumph should add another dollop of self-belief to the confidence they would have gained from beating Liverpool at Anfield last week.
Chelsea ambled to a 3-0 win at Burnley in the teams’ reverse fixture back in October, though we don’t expect it to be similarly smooth sailing when the sides reconvene on Sunday.
Buoyed by excellent results against Liverpool and Aston Villa, Burnley will arrive at Stamford Bridge ready to throw their weight about, and we see them notching against their nervous hosts.
Chelsea has beaten the Clarets in five of their last six league encounters, however, and with eager players hoping to impress their new, notoriously demanding coach, and Tuchel’s compatriots Werner and Havertz keen to make full use of their clean slates, we expect the Blues to eventually force a win.
Predictions: Chelsea Wins
Brighton – Tottenham
Tottenham will be licking their wounds following their midweek chasing by Liverpool, and with Harry Kane out injured, they will have to work hard to bounce back with a win at Brighton on Sunday.
Spurs had been gearing up to launch a title challenge this season, though the manner of their 3-1 reverse at home to current champions Liverpool on Thursday would have been a real wake up call for their supporters.
Jose Mourinho’s troops were thoroughly outclassed in the capital, and their 0.10 xG (Expected Goals) figure for the evening highlights just how ineffective they were.
Brighton meanwhile, missed a huge chance to establish a buffer between themselves and the drop zone when they were held to a 0-0 draw by Fulham on Wednesday.
That was the third time in six Premier League assignments where a toothless Albion failed to score, and following their stalemate against the Cottagers, Brighton remain the only team in the division yet to win a home game in 2020/21.
Harry Kane has provided an incredible 23 goal contributions (12 goals, 11 assists) in 19 Premier League starts for Tottenham this season, and his absence through injury makes Spurs a less-lethal outfit ahead of their trip to Brighton.
With Tottenham’s talisman missing and Brighton’s general lack of thrust in the final third also a factor, we expect goalmouth action to be sparse on Sunday, and the under 2.5 goals market is favoured as a result.
Westham – Liverpool
West Ham are trying to upset the established order in the Premier League this season, and the high-flying Hammers look capable of giving champions Liverpool are real run for their money in London on Sunday.
A four game-winning surge saw West Ham briefly move into the top four last week, before their weekend opponents Liverpool replace them following the Reds’ superb 3-1 win at Tottenham on Thursday.
David Moyes’s in-form Irons have only been beaten twice in 13 Premier League assignments since early November however, and with Tomas Soucek’s aerial prowess, Declan Rice’s bite in midfield and Michail Antionio’s pace up top, they can cause Liverpool a headache or two in the capital.
Liverpool reminded their Premier League counterparts and challengers just how formidable an outfit they can be in midweek when the Reds ragdolled a strong Spurs side on Thursday.
Goals from Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane allowed the reigning champions to stamp their authority on their hosts, and Liverpool’s dominant display felt like statement of intent and a return to their ominous best.
Injuries pre-game to Fabinho and in-game to Joel Matip took the edge off Liverpool’s high spirits in mid-week, and with options already thin on the ground, Jurgen Klopp could be forced to pair Nat Phillips and Jordan Henderson at center-half on Sunday.
Predictions: Liverpool Wins
Barcelona- Atlethic Bilbao
Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao have served up two five-goal thrillers already this month and the entertainment looks set to continue when the pair renew their rivalry at Camp Nou.
A Lionel Messi-inspired Barca ran out 3-2 winners in the Basque country in La Liga earlier this month before Bilbao exacted their revenge by prevailing by the same scoreline to win the Spanish Super Cup in extra-time in Seville.
Barca, ten points adrift of Atletico Madrid in La Liga having played one game more, can ill afford any more slip-ups and they may take some stopping in their pursuit of a fifth straight win.
But with Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto still sidelined, Barcelona are weakened defensively and that offers hope to a Bilbao side that thrashed Getafe 5-1 at home last weekend.
Both teams have scored in six of Barcelona’s last eight home league matches, with their only two clean sheets coming against lowly pair Levante and Osasuna.
Ronald Koeman’s men have been held to consecutive score draws at Camp Nou by Valencia and Levante and Bilbao are another team with the attacking quality to give them a scare.
Despite their inconsistencies in La Liga this season, Bilbao have failed to score in only one of their last nine games and both teams have scored in each of their last five away league trips which include on their visit to Real Madrid.
Predictions: Barca Wins
Napoli – Parma
Parma are in terrible form having fallen to second-bottom in Serie A. The visitors have lost six of their last seven league games, while they’re rank outsiders for the points in Naples.
Napoli won 4-2 against Spezia in a comfortable night in midweek, with that win making it three victories on the bounce at home. However. Napoli have seen both teams score in five of their last six in Serie A.
With Parma scoring in all but two of their games on the road, they should find the net here. We’re backing Napoli to win and both teams to score, while we’re going with a 3-1 win for the hosts, given they’ve scored 13 across their last three at home.
Predictions: Napoli Wins
Roma – Hellas Verona
A 3-1 victory over Napoli last weekend took Verona into eighth, which is bad news for Roma. The hosts have won all 11 meetings with sides from 10th and below, but they’ve won none against the top nine.
Verona have already avoided defeat at Lazio, Atalanta, Juventus and Milan this season. They were also awarded a 3-0 win over Roma after the Giallorossi played an unregistered player in a 0-0 draw earlier this term.
We expect Verona to cause more headaches for Roma, especially considering how the hosts have struggled against any half-decent side so far.
Prediction: Home Wins Or Draw & U 4.5
Lorient – PSG
Lorient ended their winless run in midweek, beating fellow strugglers Dijon 3-2. PSG hit Montpellier for four last time out, making it three clean sheets on the run in Ligue 1. Lorient remains in the relegation places despite that win, while PSG held onto the top spot, but Lille are on the same points tally and continues to breathe down the necks of the title-favorites.
Lorient have not played well against PSG for a long time now, losing each of the pair’s last 12 matches. Lorient have also failed to score in four of their last five games against PSG and will need the visitors to have an off day if they are to claim even a point on Sunday.
PSG are in great form right now, winning five of their last six matches, and have looked really strong at the back. The visitors have kept clean sheets in four of their last six fixtures and Lorient have failed to score in two of their last six matches, one of which was against PSG in December.
Prediction: PSG & O 1.5
AZ Alkmaar – Ajax
AZ Alkmaar pulled off a remarkable Eredivisie double over Ajax last season but Pascal Jansen’s men have their work cut out to topple the table-toppers this time around.
Ajax are unbeaten in ten games in all competitions, winning eight of those fixtures which includes a 1-0 away victory at Alkmaar in the KNVB Beker just 11 days ago.
Four consecutive league wins have seen Ajax move four points clear of PSV at the Eredivisie summit and they have in a formidable form on their travels, dropping just two points across their last seven away games.
Erik ten Hag’s side have been scoring goals freely and we predict them to net at least twice on their trip to the Alkmaar.
Ajax have scored 63 goals in 19 league games, an average of 3.3 per game, and they have failed to score only once this season.
AZ Alkmaar have conceded in each of their last 14 matches in all competitions and, despite sitting fourth in the Eredivisie, their defense has been breached more than any other side in the division’s top-half with them leaking 28 goals across their 19 games.
Predictions: Ajax Wins Either Half
Lille – Dijon
A solitary goal proved enough for Lille to secure all 3pts away at fellow European hopefuls Rennes last week. Dijon played out a 5-goal thriller against Lorient in midweek but ended up coming out on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline. Those results mean that the gap between these two clubs has increased to 30pts and is expected to grow again on Sunday.
Lille have a great record against Dijon, winning nine, drawing one and losing just two of the pair’s last 12 encounters in all competitions. Lille’s last three wins against Dijon have all arrived in Ligue 1 and have been accompanied by clean sheets.
The hosts not only have the home advantage, but they are also the form favourites heading into this weekend’s clash. Lille have won four of their last six league games, while Dijon have only managed to win once during that same period of matches. The fact that Lille have kept three clean sheets in their last six attempts and that Dijon have failed to score in three of their last six outings points towards a clean sheet for the home side this weekend.
Predictions: Lille Wins
Cadiz- Athletico Madrid
It’s impossible to oppose leaders Atletico Madrid this weekend as they bid to rack up an eighth consecutive league victory, although hosts Cadiz could get themselves on the scoresheet to boost the returns for an away win.
Just three sides have taken points from Atleti this season, and despite their shock 2-1 success over Barcelona here in early December, we don’t envisage Cadiz causing Diego Simeone’s men too many problems here.
The hosts have won just one of their last eight league matches (D3, L4), and their 3-0 hammering at Sevilla last time out epitomized the limitations of Alvaro Cervera’s side.
Nonetheless, the Yellow Submarine netted six goals in their three previous league games including five in their last two starts at Estadio Ramon de Carranza, so it’s quite possible that the hosts can register again this Sunday against an Atleti backline that has conceded in four of their last five outings in all competitions.
Backing Cadiz to net markedly increases the odds about another Atleti victory and while the 4/9 for an away win is perfectly reasonable for the weekend multiples, this looks the best value option for single wagers.
Predictions: Home To Score