Spanish giants Los Blancos , will play host to German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu in their final Uefa Champions League Group H game on Wednesday night.
Understandably, after winning back to back Champions League titles, Real Madrid was made huge favourites to top their group when they were drawn, with many expecting a close battle between Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund for the runners-up spot. However, things have panned out a little differently to expectations.
In fact, Real Madrid has already relinquished any chance of taking the win in the group, sitting three points behind the fantastic Spurs and with a worse head to head record than their opponents. They have, however, secured qualification to the knockout rounds, thanks to the dismal showing put on by Borussia Dortmund.
At home, their results to improve, where they have won seven, drawn four, and lost one of their 12 competitive games. They have scored at least two goals in all but three of these matches too, and Borussia Dortmund knows perfectly well just how devastating their star-studded attack can be.
Dortmund’s season is going dreadfully, to be honest. They are used to putting up a challenge for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, but currently, find themselves 6th in the table and with just one win from their last eight outings in all competitions.
They managed to throw away a ridiculous four-goal lead at home to Schalke at the end of November, highlighting exactly where their problems lie. Borussia Dortmund has conceded 19 goals in their last eight games, scoring in every one as well. This has resulted in four of them have at least four goals, so backing Over 3.5 Goals here looks a good choice.
Real Madrid has won three, drawn two, and lost two of their last seven meetings with Borussia Dortmund.
Madrid has seen four or more goals in 50% of their last eight competitive games, with Borussia Dortmund also having that same record.
Prediction: Over 2.5
Liverpool vs Spartak Moscow
It’s fair to say that Liverpool didn’t get off to the greatest start in the Champions League group stages as they failed to beat Sevilla at home, but despite a few hiccups along the way they find themselves top of the group coming into the final round of group games.
We can expect to see a full strength side from Jurgen Klopp’s men as well because with Sevilla playing against Maribor he knows that his team will likely need a win in order to hold on to the top spot.
Liverpool has bounced back though, beating Stoke 3-0 and thrashing Brighton 5-1, both away from home. This free-scoring way of playing is hugely entertaining, and Spartak Moscow will be very worried about their chances of keeping the hosts at bay.
Spartak Moscow can’t just sit back and defend either. If they want to stand any chance of making it through to the knockout stages, they need to come out and attack Liverpool and considering they haven’t managed to keep a single clean sheet in the Champions League this season it doesn’t bode well for their defence.
Liverpool has won two and drawn one of their three previous meetings with Spartak Moscow.
The Reds has scored at least three goals in 88% of their last eight competitive fixtures, and in 60% of their Champions League group games so far.
Prediction: Liverpool Wins & Over 1.5
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Manchester City
Shakhtar Donetsk probably wasn’t expecting to be in this position coming into the final round of Champions League group games. When they were drawn in a group including Manchester City and Napoli, as well as Feyenoord, most people had them down as distant 3rd place finishers in the group, but it hasn’t turned out to be that case.
In fact, coming into Wednesday’s game they sit 2nd in the group, some six points adrift of the perfect record of Manchester City but holding a three-point lead over Napoli. A point would secure them qualification, but they do lag behind Napoli in the head to head records, so defeat for Shakhtar and a win for Napoli would resign Shakhtar Donetsk to the Europa League.
While, Manchester City’s season has hit a bit of a turning point, and whilst their performances are dropping off the boil a bit, they are showing the winning mentality that is needed to lift trophies. They have fallen behind in two of their last three games and been level in the final ten minutes in each of their last three, but each time they have pulled a winner out of the hat to keep them marching towards the Premier League title.
The Citizens have now won eight games on the bounce in all competitions and remain unbeaten this season. All five of their Champions League group games have ended in victory, including hauling four goals away to both Feyenoord and Napoli.
Manchester City’s only previous meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk was their 2-0 win earlier this season.
City has won 91% of their competitive games this season, including 100% of their Champions League outings and 100% of their away games.
Tottenham vs APOEL
There were sharp intakes of breath all around North London when this Champions League group was drawn earlier in the season. Being alongside European heavyweights such as Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund meant that Tottenham looked to be in for a rough ride, but they’ve absolutely excelled in their five group games.
They started with an entertaining 3-1 win over Dortmund at Wembley, a result which many thought could prove crucial in their inevitable battle for second place. That battle turned out to be anything but inevitable though, as they took four points from two games against back to back Champions League winners Real Madrid to put them on course for the top spot. That top spot standing is sealed now, and they can look forward to the knockout stages in 2018.
APOEL aren’t going to be lying down though. They have managed to take two points off Borussia Dortmund and only lag behind the German giants on goal difference. Considering they were largely deemed as the group whipping boys, APOEL has done amazingly well to still have a chance of progressing to the Europa League.
Undoubtedly, APOEL is still huge underdogs for this game, and rightly so. Tottenham won’t be taking this game lightly as they look to restore confidence in the squad, and the Cypriots were well beaten in both of their matches against Real Madrid and their hosting of Spurs in September.
September’s 3-0 win for Tottenham was their first ever meeting with APOEL.
Tottenham have won 80% of their Champions League group games, and 100% of their last six outings have resulted in fewer than four goals. 80% of APOEL’s Champions League games have seen fewer than four goals.
Prediction: Spurs Wins & Over 1.5
FC Porto vs AS Monaco
This has probably been one of the most surprising groups in this Champions League campaign, but it was always going to be a close call. Monaco were touted as group favourites following their stunning Champions League display last season, but their summer departures have left them struggling and the likes of Besiktas and Porto have really upped their game.
Obviously, this gives Porto all the incentive to go out and win here. They lead RB Leipzig on a head to head record, with the German club set to face a potentially weakened Besiktas side at home on Wednesday evening. This is going right down to the wire, and Porto will be keen to not let it slip. All they need is a win to guarantee passage through to the knockouts, but anything else leaves them open to drop down.
Monaco has just had a torrid time in Europe this season, and with five points between them and Leipzig, they can’t even attempt to qualify for the Europa League knockouts. They have shipped 11 goals in their five group games, including their dreadful 4-1 thrashing at home to RB Leipzig in their last continental outing.
Away from home, they have drawn with Besiktas and Leipzig, but with their opponents having so much incentive to get the win on Wednesday a home win certainly isn’t out of the question.
Porto has won all three of their previous meetings with Monaco.
The home side has seen both teams score in 80% of their Champions League games this season, whilst Monaco have in 80% of theirs.
Feyenoord vs Napoli
Feyenoord isn’t exactly having the best of seasons, either domestically or continentally. They won the Eredivisie after a long spell without the trophy last season, but coming into December they find themselves well on the back foot in all competitions.
They have failed to pick up a single point in this admittedly tough Champions League group, and in the league, they find themselves 5th in the table with only 25 points from their 14 games. They have picked things up recently, with their 1-0 win over Vitesse on Saturday giving them their first back to back wins since September.
Napoli was touted as second favourites for this group, but they’ve struggled at times and find their chances of qualification hanging in the balance. They still have a great chance of taking second in the group, as 2nd placed Shakhtar are three points ahead but have a worse head to head record and face the dominant Manchester City on Wednesday. A win for Napoli should be enough, but nothing else will do and they still need to hope Manchester City beat the Ukrainians.
The weekend saw Napoli lose 1-0 at home to Juventus, bringing their three-match winning streak to an end. They will be confident about their chances against Feyenoord though, and judging by the Dutch sides’ previous performances it could be a comprehensive win for the Italians.
Napoli won their only previous meetings with Feyenoord 3-1 earlier this season.
Napoli has also seen three or more goals in 100% of their Champions League games this season, whilst Feyenoord have in 80% of their group games and have lost 100% of them.
Prediction: Over 2.5
Maribor vs Sevilla
Maribor’s Champions League campaign comes to an expected end on Wednesday as they face Sevilla in their final group game, with them sitting rock bottom of the group with an unbridgeable four-point gap between them and Spartak Moscow in 3rd. This rules out any chance of qualifying for the Europa League knockouts, and whilst that is a disappointment, they will feel some sense of relief.
The continental campaign looks to have had a significant detrimental impact on the rest of their form, and the Slovenian side has won just three of their last eight matches in all competitions. They are still top of their league, but they only have a three-point lead and have played a game more than their chasers.
Sevilla actually has something to play for as well. Things are very tight in the race for qualification, and all three of the other teams besides Maribor could feasibly finish top of the group. Liverpool currently holds the top spot, but they are only one point ahead of Sevilla and face a more difficult clash with a Spartak Moscow side who will be going all out for the win on Wednesday.
The weekend saw Sevilla comfortably beat Deportivo to make it four wins from their last five games. Their one failure to win during this period was in the Champions League when they spectacularly came from 3-0 down at halftime to draw 3-3 against Liverpool.
Sevilla has won two and drawn one of their three previous meetings with Maribor, with both teams scoring in two of them.
The LaLiga outfit has kept a clean sheet in just 14% of their last seven away games, conceding an average of 2.28 goals per game in this period.
Prediction: Sevilla Wins
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.
Top 15 Highest Paid Players In Ligue 1
Ligue 1 no doubt harbors quite a number of talented players, as such it’s quite understandable for those considered to be world-class players among them to cash out hugely on what they earn at the end of the month.
As of late, the players’ salaries have given indications of solid development, on account of the tremendous income pouring into the game. The fierce rivalry between the country’s top football clubs has brought the nature of the competition higher than ever. The league has more than its own fair share of highly paid players.
Here is a rundown of the top 15 highest-paid players in the Ligue 1
- Neymar Jr – (Paris Saint Germain, – €3.06 Per Month )
Behind Ronaldo and Messi, the Brazilian forward is regarded as the third-best player in world football since moving from Santos to Barcelona in 2013 for a deal reported worth €86.2million.
After apparently growing and widening his status as a footballer with his achievement on and off the pitch, it was evident that the former Puskas Award winner would go on to attract top elite clubs.
With the Parisian club brimming with a lot of cash to flex muscles with high spending clubs, it was just a matter of time before Neymar would join them. Fast forward to 2017, the Selecao captain signed for PSG for a world record transfer fee worth €222million, and since then he’s been an important figure of both the club and their project.
Amidst transfer rumors of him returning to his old home Barcelona, plus the fact that the Parisian are also ready to offer him a new deal that would tie him down with the French side for at least another three seasons.
- Kylian Mbappe – (Paris Saint Germain, € 1.91m Per Month)
As a World Cup winner and one of the best prospects in world football, it’s quite understandable for Mbappe to be among the highest-paid players in Ligue 1 and Paris Saint Germain. The 2018 World Cup winner burst into the scene as a young player for Monaco, making his professional debut in 2015 at the age of 15.
The Frenchman signed for the Parisian club in 2017 on loan, which was later made permanent in 2018. He has shown to be a great prospect for both the club and their project in dominating the Ligue 1 and also flex muscles with the top clubs in Europe.
His permanent transfer to Paris Saint Germain is reported to be worth €180million, making him both the second most expensive player and most expensive teenager. Since joining the Ligue 1 Champions permanently, the 22-year-old has scored over 120 goals for the Parisian club.
However, amidst the rumor of Real Madrid prepping up to break the bank in their quest to bring him down to the Bernabeu, the World Cup winner is still actively the second biggest earner in the league and of course Paris Saint Germain.
- Correa Marquinhos & Marco Verratti – (Paris Saint Germain, €1.2m Per Month)
Since the departure of top players such as Edinson Cavani, Zlatan, and recently Thiago Silva, Marquinhos’s status has risen from being a mere squad player in the dressing room into a leader, captain, and one of the best gladiator of the club.
As a 19-year-old teenager, the Brazilian was signed in 2013 on a five-year deal by Paris Saint Germain from AS Roma for a fee of around €31.4million. And as reported by BBC Sport, the deal was said to be the highest transfer fee for a teenager then, while Sky also reports it to be the then fifth highest transfer.
The current form of the Brazilian makes him rank as one of Europe’s most valuable players, most especially as a player who is currently plying his trade with the best team in France.
According to the transfer market rating, Marquinhos market value currently stands at €70million, as such with his years of experience and playing over 313 matches for the Parisian, it’s no surprise that the club captain takes home €1.2m per month tied with the Italian on the same amount.
As for the Italian, he’s also been a very instrumental player for the team since joining the club nine years ago. There have always been rumors concerning his future, either joining Barcelona or go back to Italy, but as it stands his current contract with Paris Saint Germain would expire in 2024.
- Angel Di Maria – (Paris Saint Germain, €1.1m Per Month)
Since joining the Parisian for €63million after a disappointing stint with Manchester United in 2015, the Argentine winger has continued to prove to the world that he’s still one of the best players in football since leaving Real Madrid.
Di Maria isn’t just rank among the highest earner for doing nothing, he earns his pay through his brilliant performances over the years since joining them, accumulating a total of 251 appearances scoring over 88 goals and 104 assists.
The former Real Madrid winger may not stay in the Ligue 1 with Paris Saint Germain for three years or more, as he’s already moving close to the end of his career. However, with his deal still running that makes him the fourth-highest earner in the league.
- Keylor Navas – (Paris Saint Germain, €1m Per Month)
When Navas joined Madrid from Levante in the summer of 2014, no one ever thought he’s going to achieve quite a number of success with Los Blancos based on where he was coming from and his antecedent as a goalkeeper.
After a successful stint with Los Merengues, the imminent arrival of Thibaut Courtois means the Costa Rican goalkeeper days at Real Madrid are numbered.
With his achievement at Real Madrid, it was evident that the Costa Rican won’t find it hard to get good European suitor to come by, as such Paris Saint Germain came calling for his services in 2019 having been told he won’t be Real Madrid number one going forward into the new season.
Following Navas’s move to the French capital, it means his salary would be on the high side based on his achievement and reputation as a Champions League winner with arguably the biggest club in Europe.
As a Paris Saint Germain player, he earns €1m per month, making the Costa Rican one of the highest-paid players in Ligue 1
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- Mauro Icardi – (Paris Saint Germain, €800,000 Per Month)
The imminent departure of El Matador when Icardi joined Paris Saint Germain on loan means the responsibility of goalscoring would be on the shoulder of the Argentine. The former Inter Milan forward made his loan permanent with the PSG following a strong start in Paris.
The Argentine and controversy certainly go hand in hand based on his antecedent with his previous clubs. Everywhere he goes he has always shown he could lead the line perfectly, and since he joined the Parisian permanently no report of controversy has been recorded concerning the former Nerazzurri captain.
Icardi may not be the poster boy of PSG just like his days at Inter, that doesn’t make him less of a player in the dressing room among other star players like Neymar and Mbappe who are no doubt the face of the club.
- Leandro Paredes – (Paris Saint Germain, €750,000 Per Month)
Juan Bernat – (Paris Saint Germain, €700,000 Per Month)
Presnel Kimpembe – (Paris Saint Germain, €670,000 Per Month)
Ander Herrera – (Paris Saint Germain, €650,000 Per Month)
Wissam Ben Yedder – (Monaco, €650,000 Per Month)
Cesc Fabregas – (Monaco, €600,000 Per Month)
Julian Draxler – (Paris Saint Germain, €600,000 Per Month)
Idrissa Guaye – (Paris Saint Germain, €500,000 Per Month)