Europa League missings/line ups

FC Midtjylland vs Young Boys Bern

Rasmus Christensen(mid), Morten Koch Nielsen(def), Hassan Rilwan(sp)(att), Marco Larsen(att)
Doubtful: Izunna Uzochukwu(r)(mid),  Tim Janssen(sp)(att), Oliver Korch(sp)(gk)

Josh Simpson(sp)(mid)


Anzhi vs AZ Alkmaar

Odil Ahmedov(sp)(mid)

Celso Ortiz(sp)(mid), Thomas Lam(sp)(def), Ali Messaoud (sp)(mid)

Line ups:

Gabulov – Logashov, Samba, Joao Carlos, Tagirbekov – Boussoufa, Jucilei, Carcela-Gonzales, Zhirkov – Eto’o, Traore

Alvarado, Marcellis, Viergever, Gorter, Moisander, Maher, Falkenburg, Martens, Elm, Altidore, Beerens

Tromso IL vs Partizan

Tromso full squad

Partizan: Milos Ostojic(r)(def), Branko Pauljevic(def), Marko Scepovic(r)(att), Eduardo Pacheco(sp)(att)
Doubtful: Sasa Ilic(r)(mid), Nemanja Tomic(k)(mid), Lazar Markovic(r)(att)
Rested: Zvonimir Vukic(r)(mid), Mohammad Zaabia(att)

AIK vs CSKA Moscow

Robert Åhman-Persson(r)(mid), Alexander Milosevic(r)(def), Daniel Majstorovic(def), Henok Goitom(att), Robin Quaison(sp)(mid)

Seydou Doumbia(k)(att), Tomas Necid(sp)(att)

Legia Warsaw vs Rosenborg BK

Ivica Vrdoljak(r)(mid)
Unavailable Rafał Wolski(sp)(mid), Jorge Salinas(sp)(mid)

Steffen Iversen(r)(att)

Molde vs Heerenveen

Emmanuel Epko(r)(mid), Even Hovland(sp)(def)

Christian Kum(sp)(def), Mark Uth(sp)(att), Alfred Finnbogason(sp)(att), Jukka Raitala(r)(def)

Feyenoord vs AC Sparta Prague

Mitchell Te Vrede(sp)(att), John Goossens(r)(mid), Stefan de Vrij(r)(def)

Sparta full squad

Sheriff vs Olympique Marseille

Artem Khachaturov(sp)(mid)

Benoit Cheyrou(sp)(mid), Souleymane Diawara(r)(def), Leyti N’Diaye(def), Andre Ayew(r)(att)
Rested: Cesar Azpilicueta(r)(def)

Bursaspor vs FC Twente

Bekir Sevgi(gk), Ibrahim Kas(sp)(def), Emre Pehlivan(sp)(mid), Baris Orucu(sp)(mid)

Andrej Rendla(sp)(att)

FC Luzern vs Racing Genk

Dejan Sorgic(att), Sally Sarr(r)(def)

Jeroen Simaeys(r)(def), Elianiv Barda(r)(mid), Ayub Masika(sp)(att), Torben Joneleit(sp)(def), David Hubert(r)(mid)

Trabzonspor vs Videoton

Tolga Zengin(r)(gk), Tayfun Cora(sp)(def), Marek Cech(r)(def), Baris Atas(sp)(mid), Emre Gural(sp)(att)
Doubtful: Souleymane Bamba(r)(def), Soner Aydogdu(r)(mid), Halil Altintop(r)(att)

Ádám Gyurcsó(r)(att)

Vaslui vs Internazionale

Richard Annang(sp)(mid)

Cristian Chivu(sp)(def), Antonio Cassano(r)(att), Soares Julio Cesar(r)(gk), Samir Handanovic(k)(gk), Dejan Stankovic(sp)(mid), Joel Chukwuma Obi(sp)(mid), Ricardo Gabriel Álvarez(sp)(att), McDonald Mariga(sp)(mid), Walter Gargano(r)(mid)
Doubtful: Philippe Coutinho(sp)(mid)

Slask Wroclaw vs Hannover

Mateusz Cetnarski(sp)(mid)

Mame Biram Diouf(sp)(att)

Motherwell vs Levante

Steven Saunders(sp)(def), Simon Ramsden(r)(def)

Juanfran(r)(def), Pedro Rios(r)(mid), Dariusz Dudka(sp)(mid), Papakouli Diop(r)(mid)


Red Star Belgrade vs Girondins de Bordeaux

Filip Kasalica(r)(att), Cadu M.(r)(mid), Evandro Goebel(k)(mid)

Carlos Henrique(r)(def), Andre Biyogo Poko(mid), Abdou Traore(sp)(mid), David Bellion(sp)(att), Kevin Olimpa(sp)(gk), Matthieu Chalme(sp)(def)

Athletic Bilbao vs HJK Helsinki

Fernando Amorebieta(r)(def), Jon Aurtenetxe(r)(def)
Rested Fernando Llorente(k)(att), Javier Martinez(k)(mid)

Akseli Pelvas(sp)(att), Joel Pohjanpalo(sp)(att)


Zeta vs PSV Eindhoven

Ivanovic (k)(gk), Brnovic (sp)(gk)

Erik Pieters(sp)(def), Orlando Engelaar(sp)(mid)

ND Mura vs Lazio

Fabijan Cipot(r)(def), Dragan Jelic(r)(att)

Juan Pablo Carrizo(sp)(gk), Ederson(r)(mid), Cristian Brocchi(r)(mid), Francelino Matuzalem(sp)(mid), Giuseppe Sculli(sp)(att), Luciano Zauri(sp)(def), Pasquale Foggia(sp)(mid), Modibo Diakite(sp)(def), Alvaro Gonzalez(sp)(mid), Stefan Radu(r)(def)

AC Horsens vs Sporting CP

Alexander Juel Andersen(r)(def), Jeppe Mehl(sp)(mid), Soren Jensen(sp)(def), Lasse Jorgensen(r)(mid)

Oguchi Onyewu(sp)(def), Danijel Pranjic(sp)(mid), Fabian Rinaudo(sp)(mid), Marat Izmailov(k)(mid), Valentin Viola(sp)(att), Wilson Eduardo(sp)(att)

CS Maritimo vs FC Dila Gori

Ruben Ferreira(r)(def), Olberdam(r)(mid)

Mate Vatsadze(k)(att)

Atromitos vs Newcastle United

Atromitos full team

Hatem Ben Arfa(r)(mid), Fabricio Coloccini(r)(def), Shola Ameobi(sp)(att), Shane Ferguson(sp)(mid), Haris Vuckic(sp)(mid), Sammy Ameobi(sp)(att)
Rested Cheik Tiote(r)(mid), Demba Ba(r)(att)

Newcastle United march back into Europe tonight after a five year break and some interesting (!) times in that period.

Our opponents in the two-legged Europa League Fourth Qualifying Round are Greek side Atromitos FC from Athens and the match kicks off at their 10,000 capacity stadium at

8pm local time (6pm Uk time), when incidentally the temperatures will still be in the thirties!.

A nineteen man squad flew out to Greece yesterday;

Romain Amalfitano, Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigirimana, Yohan Cabaye, Adam Campbell, Papiss Cisse, Dan Gosling, Jonas Gutierrez, Steve Harper, Tim Krul, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, James Perch, Davide Santon, Danny Simpson, James Tavernier, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson

Due to tricky and expensive travel arrangements there is unlikely to be a big travelling contingent with only a small amount of United’s official 500 tickets reportedly sold.

For those at home, you’ll be able to watch it on Premier Sports (Sky TV channel 428)….or hopefully your local pub.

A possible very strong team could be along the lines of the following though you’d assume that with Chelsea in mind less than 48 hours after the final whistle, we’ll see at least a few of our elite warming the bench…not that it will need warming up in this heat!

Krul, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Perch, Santon, Obertan, Jonas, Anita, Cabaye, Marveaux, Cisse

The following five matches have already been confirmed as televised live, with no doubt many more to follow.

A big interest (leaving aside the all important result for the moment) for the majority who haven’t seen him as yet, could be the likely appearance of teenage striking sensation Adam Campbell at some point.

After scoring a first half hat-trick against their Spurs rivals at the weekend, what better time to blood him on the European stage.

I think most of us will be expecting a relatively comfortable passage through to the group stage but I’m sure Alan Pardew will not be complacent in any way.

Always potential danger when facing a team you know little about but surely Newcastle should have too much for them over the two legs and fingers crossed, put it away tonight.  Especially as a tribute to those who have made the expensive journey from Tyneside.

season preview / line ups

  Manchester City – Southampton FC  


Man City

Transfer in: Emanuel Adebayor (Tottenham – return from loan), Roque Santa Cruz (att), Betis – return from loan), Jack Rodwell (Everton)
Transfer out: Owen Hargreaves, Stuart Taylor, Wayne Bridge, Vladimír Weiss, Greg Cunningham


Transfer in: Jay Rodriguez (Burnley), Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham), Steven Davis (Rangers), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace)
Transfer out: Dan Harding, Bartosz Bialkowski, Lee Holms, Ryan Doble, David Connolly, Radhi Jaidi, Aaron Martin

Wigan Athletic vs Chelsea 



Transfer in: Ivan Ramis; Fraser Fyvie; Ryo Miyaichi ( loan from Arsenal); Arouna Kone (Levante)
Transfer out: Hugo Rodallega, Mohamed Diame, Hendry Thomas


Transfer in: Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) Eden Hazard (Lille), Thorgan Hazard (Lens); Oscar (Internacional); Yossi Benayoun (return of loan from Arsenal)
Transfer out: Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Romelu Lukaku; Jacob Melli, Jose Bosingwa

Umbro Athletic Bilbao Home Shirt 2012/13 Athletic Bilbao v Real Betis 


Athletic Bilbao Season Preview

The escapades of last season surely ranks as one of the greatest years in Bilbao’s recent history as they watched their prodigious squad reach two major finals (Europa League & Copa del Rey) as well as challenge briefly for Champions League qualification. Alas however Los Leones failed in all three pursuits, having the carpet pulled from underneath just as glory beckoned.

Pride remains the predominant keyword associated with Bilbao despite the agonising lengths the club went to in their unsuccessful efforts for victory. Born and bred Basque blooded battlers both on and off of the pitch, the cantera policy ensures that the historic morals of the club remain. Far from xenophobic, the loyalty shown within the San Mames is astonishing as the production line continues to develop exciting players for both Athletic and Spain.

Of those, Iker Muniain is the next youngster causing a stir in Europe. Present in the first team squad since the age of 16, Muniain made the top European clubs really take notice last season as his stellar performances in the Europa League propelled Athletic to the final. Now 19, the hot Pamplona prospect featured in 58 games for the club last year, scoring 9 times from the wing but assisting Fernando Llorente’s goalscoring greatly. He’ll be the main threat for Bilbao this season.

Along with Llorente, Javi Martinez, Markel Susaeta and Ander Herrera, Muniain is the next Bilbao talent to be linked with a  big-money move. Each player from the list has been subjected to transfer speculation so often that it’s difficult to believe that they could still remain at Bilbao for the upcoming season.

Sadly however, Bilbao are heavily reliant on the income from transfers as their new stadium drains funds, giving coach Marcelo Bielsa a headache.

Despite this, the club renewed the contract of their Argentine boss after the impressive 2011/12 season. Bielsa conjured up some insane sorcery to not only guide Bilbao so far but he instructed them to play a brand of football so pleasing to watch which could devastate opposing sides, like Manchester United found out in the Europa League.

As for this year, Bilbao would yet again perform miracles to match the standard of last season. The continual struggle to keep their talented youth products may prove too elusive and the lack of depth could again cause untimely fatigue at the crucial stages of the season. Despite that, Bilbao will play their exciting style of football and will be a danger in domestic competition. Write them off at your peril.

Last Year:

La Liga: 10th

Europa League: Runners-up (Lost 3-0 to Atletico Madrid)

Copa del Rey: Runners-up (Lost 3-0 to Barcelona)



Ismael Lopez free from CD Lugo

Aritz Aduriz €2m from Valencia


Igor Gabilondo Free to AEK Larnaca

Pablo Orbaiz free to Rubin Kazan

One to Watch: Iker Muniain

Prediction: 7th

Betis Season Preview

Returning to La Liga following promotion in 2010/11, Betis’ season of consolidation was about as much as could have been asked of them. A whirlwind start of five wins from their first five games triggered fans to dream and took them to the summit of the league, but inevitably it wasn’t to last. A run of six straight defeats then followed until their results became more sporadic and Betis hovered above the relegation zone for a while.

Avoiding the drop back down to the Segunda straight away was the first objective outlined at the start of the season and it was duly achieved as the Andalucian side finished six points ahead of 18th placed Villarreal.

That target will surely remain once again for the folowing campaign.

Betis were once a force in Spain, regularly challenging for Europe. Those ambitions have been put on hold in recent years however and despite being back in the top tier, the aim of European qualification remains a little farfetched, but not impossible.

Levante were the surprise package of last season and nearly gained qualification for the Champions League. The emergence of Malaga has made that ambition much tougher for the less financially-endowed clubs but the Europa League can still be targeted by Pepe Mel.

Avoiding ‘second season syndrome’ must be conquered prior to that however and if it appears that another season in mid-table beckons for Betis then a late surge could put them into contention. La Liga poses many teams of similar ability though and Betis must be wary of being sucked into the relegation mix before they make a break for 7th.

Currently, Betis appear inferior to surpass the likes of Osasuna, Mallorca, Athletic Bilbao and local rivals Sevilla for those European spots. Whether or not they go on to disprove that depends much on how prolific Ruben will be.

Ruben has spent the majority of his career below La Liga but finished as third-top Spanish scorer in the division last year with 16 goals. He seems to have found his home south of Deportivo at last having been so nomadic during his six year spell in A Coruna. He and Jonathan will aim to improve upon the 47 goals Betis ammounted last season, the highest behind Rayo Vallecano in the bottom half, but the loss of Santa Cruz back to Manchester City will be a blow for the club.

Nevertheless, Betis have Benat behind these two supplying the ammunition.

Benat capped an impressive season by earning a call up to the Spanish squad in May. The 25 year old Bilbao graduate has attracted attention from teams across Europe as he looks to build on last season and remain in the ‘fringe player’ category of the European Champions’ team.

Betis claimed just eight draws to their name last season, most likely attributed to the amount of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes (17). Against a fatigued Atletico Madrid, Betis mauled the Rojiblancos throughout but conceded a 94th minute equaliser and in the process dropped two points. If they can keep it tight for the full 90 minutes and supply Ruben with enough chances then Betis could be an outside bet for the top 10 if the dreaded second season syndrome doesn’t kick in.

Last Season:

La Liga: 13th

Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Cordoba 2-2 on away goals)



Paulao Santos free from Saint-Etienne

Joel Campbell loan from Arsenal

Juan Carlos Perez loan from Braga

Ruben Perez loan from Atletico Madrid


Iriney Santos free to Granada

Inaki Goitia free to CD Mirandes

Ezequiel Calvente loan to Freiburg

Juan Calahorro free to Alcorcon

Javier Matilla loan to Murcia

One to Watch: Benat. Also look out for Mario, sent off thrice in 12 games last season!

Prediction: 12th

 Real Madrid vs Valencia 


Real Madrid Season Preview

Last season Real Madrid accumulated a record 100 points to clinch La Liga and, in doing so, they wrestled the domestic Spanish title off arguably the greatest club team in European football history. It will count among Jose Mourinho’s greatest achievements in football management and, for someone with the Special One’s track record so far, that is some accolade. Mourinho has now won domestic titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, which is a first for a top level coach. It would have been easy for Mourinho to walk away having achieved that feat, but he is determined to remain with the Spanish giants until he has won his third European Cup medal in a third different country. Looking at the players the Portuguese has at his disposal, why would he ever want to leave. Although Barcelona may argue that their first eleven is still untouchable, Madrid president Florentino Perez has assembled possibly the greatest squad of players in the history of club football. Real Madrid have a first team which stuns and dazzles – as they showed recently in a 5-1 demolition of Italian giants AC Milan during their pre-season tour of the US – but they could also field a second eleven which would surely finish third in La Liga were they to compete separately and might just win every other domestic league abroad under different circumstances. In lieu of their strength, Real Madrid’s transfer movement this summer has been unprecedentedly quiet. At the time of writing, they hadn’t actually made any new signings from outside of the club entity; the only addition so far is young forward Alvaro Morata, who has been promoted permanently from Real Madrid Castilla. Only one member of the first team squad from last year, Hamit Altintop, has left the club and it looks as though there will be very few changes in 2012-13. It would be very strange if we reached the end of the transfer window and nobody had come in. The Merengues are known to be chasing a second right back to compete with Alvaro Arbeloa for a starting berth and another midfielder to take some of the pressure off the ever-present Xabi Alonso. Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur is thought to be the main target and that could lead to the departure of Nuri Sahin – on a loan deal at least – who was plagued by injuries on his debut season at the Bernabeu last year. Whatever happens, Real Madrid will be the team to beat this season both in Spain and in Europe, as they look to retain their La Liga title and end their obsession with earning a tenth European Cup title. They scored a record number of goals last season and, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain furthest forward and Angel di Maria, Kaka and Mesut Ozil offering support, they will have a good go at breaking that record once again.Target:
Winning La Liga is massively important just to keep Barcelona in their place but their burning obsession with winning the Champions League for a tenth time is no secret.

Last Season:

La Liga: 1st

Copa del Rey: Quarter-finals (lost to Barcelona 4-3 on agg)



Sergio Canales & Fernando Gago €5million each to Valencia

Hamit Altintop €3.5million to Galatasaray

Pedro Leon loan to Getafe

One to Watch: Ronaldo

Valencia Season Preview

Can Valencia win La Liga?

I was always told it was best to begin with a joke. Maybe humour isn’t my strong point…

The fact that the question above is usually followed by an instant dismissal of Valencia’s title dreams, almost as quick as Messi changes direction, makes glum reading for Valencia supporters.

Only in a handful of leagues will the 3rd placed team not have a significant hope of challenging for the title. It’s a dismal situation for Valencia, struggling for success amidst the league, cup and European duopoly of ‘Bardrid’ as Valencia finished a whopping 30 points adrift of runners up Barcelona!

Perhaps a more suitable query would be to ask whether Valencia are the greatest challengers to the La Liga giants. Now I bet that has a few of you scratching your head and/or chin.

Atletico Madrid have strengthened within the last 8 months to become a Champions League contender and we all know about the spending of Malaga (up until now as it seems it could all go up in smoke), no less Valencia who sold Isco and Joaquin to the South coast side last summer.

Atleti halted Valencia’s European run in the semi-finals of the competition on their way to winning it, probably the turning point in the Valencia-3rd place dynasty.

Valencia have always been a selling club, losing key players annually. Jordi Alba departed for Barcelona in the summer yet Atletico maintained their squad from last season, looking to go from strength to strength. Valencia constantly have to rebuild and the resurgence of Atletico and the pressure of an immeasurable Malaga side could begin the club’s downfall after clinging onto 3rd for so many years.

Unai Emery, frequently chastised by the fans, has departed too paving the way for previously inexperienced Mauricio Pellegrino. Things aren’t looking too promising already. Why can’t Rafa Benitez just drop at the gates of the Mestalla?

Pellegrino may be the next best thing however having assisted Rafa at Liverpool and Inter. Can Benitez’s disciple bring similar success as his predecessor? If so it will probably be bigger than the next coming of Jesus!

Pellegrino may have lost Alba and Aduriz but his incoming transfers help ease the loss of the duo. Joao Perreira, Fernando Gago and Sergio Canales are handy players and are likely to be perfect at setting up Roberto Soldado (should Valencia not lose grip of their star man).

The gap, sadly, is growing between the top two and the chasing pack. Valencia simply cannot match the sort of revenue Real, Barca or even Atletico Madrid manage to bring in. The club face a struggle to keep their grip on 3rd place but Champions League qualification should still be attainable. They’ll just have to watch over their shoulder for Atletico Madrid and not focus on the inevitable yardage between themselves and ‘Bardrid’.

Last Season:

La Liga: 3rd

Copa del Rey: Semi-finals (lost to Barcelona 3-1 on agg)

Europa League: Semi-finals (lost to Atletico Madrid 5-2 on agg)



Andres Guardado free from Deportivo

Sergio Canales & Fernando Gago both €5million each from Real Madrid

Joao Perreira €3.7million from Sporting Lisbon

Jonathan Vieira €2.5million from Las Palmas


Hedwiges Maduro free to Sevilla

Michel free to Levante

Angel Dealbert free to Kuban Krasnodar

Bruno Saltor free to Brighton

Aritz Aduriz €2million to Athletic Bilbao

Jordi Alba €14million to Barcelona

Mahmet Topal €4.5million to Fenerbahce

Miguel Angel Moya €1.8million to Getafe

One to Watch: Joao Perreira

Prediction: 3rd

 FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad 


FC Barcelona Season Preview

Last Season:

La Liga: 2nd

Copa del Rey: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)

Champions League: Semi-final (lost to Chelsea 3-2 on agg)



Jordi Alba €14m from Valencia


Henrique free to Palmeiras

Seydou Keita free to Dalian Aerbin

Ruben Mino free to Mallorca

One to Watch: Messi

It was the end of an era. Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s legendary midfielder of the 1990s, managed Los Cules during the most successful spell in the club’s history. Barca won 14 major honours in just four seasons under the Catalan boss, including three successive La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies. Now breaks the dawn of a new era under Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova and his first task is to wrestle control back from Barcelona’s great rivals Real Madrid, who usurped Barca as the kings of Spain under controversial manager Jose Mourinho in 2011-12. How the Catalan giants respond to that humiliation could define the success of the club over the next few years. Vilanova will be under an intense spotlight, but there have been no paradigm shifts in the club’s policy to suggest that the blaugrana army will be any weaker under the new management. The players claim nothing has changed and that the Tito Team has very much the same style and approach of the Pep Team; unsurprising when Vilanova has been schooled by Guardiola over the past four years. The team does not look any weaker, either. Even though there has been a slowing down in the transfer market in Spain, brought about inevitably by the deep economic depression the country finds itself in, Barca look stronger if anything having signed Jordi Alba to replace liver tumor victim Eric Abidal at left back and have seen just one senior player, supporting midfielder Seydou Keita, leave the club. Barca expect to be stronger this season thanks to the variety of promising young players who continue to pour out of La Masia. Gerard Deulofeu, Sergi Roberto, Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra and Cristian Tello could all figure prominently this year to supplement the senior veterans. Meanwhile, apart from Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez, nobody is in danger of slowing down due to age – those two (especially Xavi) still lead the way when fit. David Villa’s return to full fitness is like having a new 40 million euro signing so Vilanova will have plenty of options and he is still likely to sign a top class centre back before the transfer window closes. A season preview of Los Cules wouldn’t be complete without mention of the fact that they still have the best player of all-time leading the attack and Lionel Messi, who scored a whopping 73 goals in all competitions for Barca last season to smash all previous records, has looked even sharper in pre-season than he did last year. 

Barcelona will aim to win everything but the main priority will be bringing the league trophy back to Catalunya. Along with Real Madrid, they will also start the season as Champions League favourites and they will look to live up to that billing.

Real Sociedad Season Preview

Media hype and excitement has been largely focused around two or three teams in the build up to the new La Liga season and that probably suits Sociedad. In fact if it could continue for the remainder of the season then I don’t imagine hearing too many complaints from Philippe Montanier as his team aim to slip beneath the radar.

Levante surprised us with their determined stance last season and it appears that Sociedad are well placed to follow in their path with a vibrant squad centred around an attacking quartet which could bring many admirers.

Northern Spain plays host to many teams who enjoy playing the game in a fluid manner (with the exception of Osasuna at times). Largely overshadowed by their neighbours Bilbao, Sociedad have quietly crawled their way back amongst the chasing pack in La Liga and now possess a dangerous squad which could progress within the next few seasons.

Antoine Greizmann is the gem within the attack-minded midfield. The Frenchman at just 21 is an integral figure in Sociedad’s team and often chips in with crucial goals and assists. He’s also a team player; when through one-on-one against Racing and on a hat-trick, Greizmann set up a teammate to make the score 3-0.

Carlos Vela is another youngster who excelled last season and will look to Greizmann and Xabier Prieto as his folly when in the mood for goals next season. Arsenal finally allowed the Mexican to leave for Spain after a few difficult years there and should capitalise on his 12 goals last year while on loan. Vela formed a destructive partnership with Imano Aggiretxe last year, scoring a combined 24 goals in league and cup competitions.

Youth isn’t just an isolated feature in the attacking department; all of Sociedad’s first XI are under 30 after Mikel Aranburu retired last season. Aranburu spent his whole career with Sociedad and sadly hung up his boots at the climax of the last campaign. His absence should introduce 19 year old Ruben Pardo to the squad, another exciting central midfielder who has been blooded through the famous youth system, Bilbao kept at an arms length constantly (notoriously famous for their predation of Sociedad’s youngsters).

And defensively Sociedad have strong, youthful players in Martinez and Estrada, as well as Mikel Gonzalez. Martinez has attracted plenty of attention following a solid season and was named in many pundit’s teams of the year. The youngster is unlikely to begin the season however as he will be part of the Spanish Olympic football team for the early weeks in August.

Montanier has a strong, youthful squad at his disposal and more importantly one which can score goals. The only forseeable problems could be having to cope with the loss of Aranburu and the lack of experience available and the all important opening game. Barcelona.

Sociedad can quite easily challenge for Europe this season but a number of injuries could alter the shape of the whole team. Getting the first game out of the way and putting together a consistent run of results will be the tricky part but they have plenty of quality and look a good bet to be the surprise package of La Liga this season.

Last Season:

La Liga: 12th

Copa del Rey: Round of 16 (lost to Mallorca 6-3 on agg)



Gonzalo Castro free from Mallorca


Mikel Aranburu retired

Borja Viguira free to Alaves

Vadim Demidov free to Eintracht Frankfurt

One to Watch: Carlos Vela

Prediction: 9th

 Levante vs Atletico Madrid 


Levante Season Preview

Who says La Liga is boring and predictable? Ok the title race proved a pretty elitist affair in contrast to the rest of the division and Real Madrid and Barcelona’s finances do explode off the chart compared to their 18 fellow Primera amigos, but when teams like Levante surprise us all by finishing 6th then much of the previous becomes insignificant.

To understand the scale of what Levante achieved last year, try to imagine Wigan leading the Premier League for a bit, beating Manchester City in the 3rd game and maintaining their charge to finish in a Europa League position. And that their transfer budget amounts to half a million pounds over the last four years combined!

Spectacularly enough, all of that happened, albeit in Spain where Los Blancos rule and the Blaugrana clean up elsewhere. Ignoring the overwhelming dominance of two indomitable presences, Levante proved to Europe that success didn’t necessarily have to be built on the quickly-disappearing Euro. You might agree that a touch of Madrid’s limelight deservedly shone on Levante as their fairytale season came to an end.

In his first season with the club, Juan Ignacio Martinez took Levante to the top of La Liga and into Europe for the first time ever. Considering the team had managed a 14th place finish last term with almost all of the same players, the achievement speaks for itself. His team surprised many and managed to finish above the likes of Bilbao, Sevilla and Villarreal.

An overwhelming surprise package, Martinez’s tactics are quite the opposite. Vehemently sticking to basic orders of defending stoutly and working hard when out of possession, Levante managed to carve out wins irrespective of the growing age of their squad.

Many expected naivety to settle in whilst the team clung onto their lofty position. Fatigue and a lack of cojones became frequent words to fall from bedazzled pundit’s gaping mouths yet none of those factors affected the determined Valencian outfit. For much of the season Levante barely fluttered an eyelid and beat Real Madrid, Malaga and Atletico Madrid in the process despite the lack of chances that came their way.

Reborn, Arouna Kone became the revelation of the season. Emile Heskey’s goalscoring record looked like Lionel Messi’s compared to the Ivorian’s but 17 goals later, posting a tidy chance to goals strike ratio, and Kone had become a revered man in La Liga. Thankfully for Levante, his deal has become a permanent one this summer as more expectation lies upon his shoulders.

As impressive as they were last season, Levante surely can’t expect a similar season to the last. Limited resources will peg back the club as an extended European season beckons. A faded smugness has returned in journalist’s pieces as the joyous period in Levante’s history is predicted to return to normal. And even if it does then a season in Europe might just be the best treatment.

Martinez’s team will stick to similar tactics and Arouna Kone will again be the dangerman. Growing knowledge of a simple strategy around La Liga could affect them this year and Kone will be lucky to get as much space as he did last year as a result. Yet their impressive resolve shown last season by no means labels them as a one hit wonder.

A long drawn out season in the Europa League could prevent them from mounting another 6th placed challenge and the resulting fatigue could make relegation an issue but Levante are organised and bullish. They’ve set the bar high and the achievements of last year won’t perish their self-belief. Avoiding relegation is vital and anything else would be a bonus. Levante just want to enjoy as much of this golden period as they can.

Last Season:

La Liga: 6th

Copa del Rey: Quarter-finals (lost to Valencia 7-1 on agg)



Arouna Kone free from Sevilla

Angel Rodriguez free from Elche

Michel free from Valencia

Pedro Rios free from Getafe

Keylor Navas €200,000 from Albacete

Nickolaos Karabelas free from AEK Athens

Pape Diop €200,000 from Racing


Valdo free to Atlante

Ruben Suarez free to Guizhou Renhe

Javi Venta free to Villarreal

Xavi Torres €0.5m to Getafe

One to Watch: Michel

Prediction: 14th

Atletico Madrid Season Preview

Monaco is the venue where two managers who were given similar tasks last year will meet to discuss how they fared. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo managed to steer his beloved club to a maiden Champions League victory against all odds in Munich last May whilst concurrently Diego Simeone guided Atletico Madrid to an emphatic Europa League final win in Bucharest and both will be vying to win the European Super Cup on August 24th.

Simeone had only been in charge since the winter break ended in late January but revitalised the club and leads them into another season of European football and a brighter future.

Tactics were tweaked and Madrid began to turn more defeats into draws, sometimes better. The team, languishing in mid-table obscurity, made a sharp dash for the Champions League qualification spots but were pipped by Malaga in the end. Nevertheless, another campaign in Europe, with retaining their Europa League crown a secondary goal, provides the stepping stone so to ensure that the Champions League doesn’t elude them once again.

The 3-0 success over Athletic Bilbao gives Simeone time and confidence within the boardroom and the platform to go on and battle with Malaga and Valencia for 3rd and 4th spot.

Simeone deploys stubborn tactics which aren’t always easy to watch, but are supremely effective. If Madrid can prevent the opposition from scoring then they certainly have a chance to sneak a win through Falcao and Adrian.

These two scored 55 goals between them last season and pose a real threat to any opposition. It has taken time for their partnership to blossom but next season could result in even more goals. However, an injury to either one would be damaging to Atleti’s ambitions so another striker might be necessary ahead of the season opener against Levante, despite winger Cristian Rodriguez arriving from Porto.

Financing a transfer for an able striker might be tricky however as the club are currently millions of Euros in debt and are forced to sell key players on a regular basis. Highly rated central-defender/right-back Alvaro Dominguez was vital to the club’s success last year but has since been sold to German club Borussia Monchengladbach for €8m. A young, versatile player, Dominguez’s absence will be felt significantly in the Atleti back line, especially as Cata Diaz is likely to be his replacement. The 32 year old signed for €1m from Getafe but will surely struggle to match the standards Dominguez set in his time at the Vicente Calderon.

Defensively, Atletico still appear resolute. Diego Godin and Miranda create a strong presence in the middle whilst despite the loss of Antonio Lopez to Mallorca, Filipe is more than capable at left back. In goal, Madrid once again have Thibault Courtois between the posts as he extended his loan from Chelsea for another year.

As a result, matches can be won at both ends of the pitch with supreme firepower upfront and stern defensive bodies behind them, not forgetting exciting players such as Juanfran and Koke in midfield. Simeone has a powerful squad at his disposal but is likely to continue playing a mundane style of play. If it proves effective enough then he shouldn’t hear too many complaints. Atletico haven’t been as effective as they should have in recent years and that’s one reason why they have failed to qualify for the Champions League so often. Will this season be any different?

Last Year:

La Liga: 5th

Europa League: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)

Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Albacete 3-1 on agg)



Thibaut Courtois loan from Chelsea

Cata Diaz €1 from Getafe

Cristian Rodriguez free from Porto

Emre free from Fenerbahce


Perea free to Cruz Azul

Fran Merida free to Hercules

Leandro Cabrera loan to Hercules

Eduardo Salvio €10m to Benfica

Ruben Perez loan to Betis

Antonio Lopez free to Mallorca

Ruben Micael loan to Braga

Alvaro Dominguez €8m to Borussia Monchengladbach

One to Watch: Torn between Thibaut Courtois and Adrian Lopez

Prediction: 4th

Friendly, Napoli (Ita) – Olympiakos Piraeus (Gre)

NAPOLI (3-5-1-1): 1 De Sanctis; 14 Campagnaro, 28 Cannavaro, 5 Britos; 11
Maggio, 85 Behrami, 88 Inler, 17 Hamsik, 6 Aronica; 24 Insigne; 29 Pandev. A
disposizione: 83 Rosati, 21 Fernandez, 20 Dzemaili, 18 Zuniga, 8 Dossena, 23
Gargano, 9 Vargas. Allenatore: Mazzarri

OLIMPIACOS (4-4-2): 42 Megyeri; 2 Maniatis, 8 Fejsa, 6 Papazoglu, 20 Cholevas;

18 Fetfazidis, 23 Siovas, 22 Tatos, 35 Torosidis; 93 Abdoun, 29 Mitroglou. A
disposizione: 1 Carrol, 9 Pantelci, 14 Castillo, 7 Fernandez, 27 Greco, 190
Torrijos, 3 Modesto. Allenatore: Valverde.

ARBITRO: Damato di Barletta

Europa league

 Mura – Arsenal Kijev preview  

Mura lost the first match in Kiev 3:0, but Uefa decided a result 3:0 for them, because Eric Matoukoua (Arsenal’s palyer which scored 3rd goal) couldnt play that game becouse of suspension.. Arsenal wanna convincigly won and come into next round. Rich chairman said he will give 100 000 dolars for each scored goal. Mura with full squad (very young), they are without Florescu, Khomin, Rafael, Lampi, Matoukou

Drakovič, Majer, Kramar, Cipot, E. Janža, Bohar, Maruško, Horvat, Kouter, Jelič, Fajić

Pankiv, Leandro, Simonenko, Gitchenko, Polevoy, Maksimov, Shakhov, Kovpak, Kobakhidze, Shatskikh, Mazilu

  Slaven Belupo v Athletic Bilbao preview  

The Croats missed a good chance to keep this tie alive as they were beaten 3-1 by what looked like Athletic’s second string side, so they clearly face an uphill task in the return leg.

Slaven Belupo finished last league campaign in 3rd place, just two points behind Hajduk Split and with the Croatian giants now much weaker than last term, it is team from Koprivnica that are now considered the best side in the top flight after Dinamo Zagreb.

Coach Roy Ferencina has managed to create a very homogenous unit that enjoyed a really good start to the season, with 6-0 and 4-2 Europa Leaguevictories over Portadown followed by two league wins.

The Pharmacists were beaten by Split at the weekend, and with Mario Gregurina still sidelined through injury, the hosts don’t have much to hope for before the clash with Athletic. Only good new is they will full their small stadium and Davor Vugrinec, key players (but in years now) is back for this game, he is league topscorer of all time.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Rodic – Puric, Grgic, Bubnjic, Pilipovic – Canadjija, Kokalovic – Glavica, Rak, Delic – Busic.

Athletic Bilbao enjoyed a very promising season last term, although defeats in Europa League and Copa del Rey finals left a bad taste in the mouth.

The club chiefs somehow managed to persuade El Loco Bielsa to remain at the helm, while all key players stayed at San Mames despite heavy interest from abroad.

The Europa League clash against Slaven came at a bad time as Athletic were without several important players, but the back-ups did a great job to record a 3-1 win and make their job easier in the return leg.

Ander Herrera and Iker Muniain have since resumed training after returning from the 2012 Olympics, but Javi Martinez was allowed few more days to rest and he is out of contention for this game. Munian is doubtful for starting line up

New signing Aritz Aduriz has recovered from a hamstring injury and he could start, but Ion Aurtenetxe and Fernando Amorebieta remain sidelined. Fernando Llorente is likely to be left on the bench after expressing his desire to leave the club.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Iraizoz – Iraola, Ekiza, San Jose, De Marcos – Herrera, Iturraspe, Inigo Perez – Ibai Gomez, Aduriz, Muniain.

  Aalesund – APOEL Nicozija  

Artificial    turf

  Marseille v Eskisehirspor  preview  

Marseille gained the upper hand of the tie by holding the Turkish side to1-1 draw in the first leg, but Eskisehirspor will give their best to make life difficult for their opponents in the return leg.

The French giants are coming on the back of one of the most disappointing seasons in their recent history, given that the team that had been tipped to fight for the title finished the league campaign in 10th place, 34 points behind champions Montpellier.

OM qualified for Europa League by winning the Coupe de la Ligue, but they were far from impressive in the first leg against Eskisehirspor, although they did miss several important players.

The squad have suffered virtually no changes apart from the fact that Elie Baup replaced Didier Deschamps, but the big problem is that a number of high-profile players is expected to leave this summer.

Loic Remy, Souleyman Diawara and Leyti N’Diaye remain sidelined, but Alou Diarra and Cesar Azpilicueta are back in contention.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Mandanda – Azpilicueta, M’Bia, N’Kulou, Morel – Valbuena, Diarra, Cheyrou – Amalfitano, Gignac, A. Ayew.

Following the 12-year absence from Turkey’s top flight, Eskisehirspor gained promotion to the Super Lig in 2008 and they have been on the constant uptrend ever since.

The team finished last league campaign in 5th place to ensure their first ever European qualification, but were very unfortunate to be drawn alongside Marseille.

The Turks, nonetheless, played well against their more illustrious opponents and earned a 1-1 draw that leaves them some hope before the return leg in France.

Former Borussia Dortmund full-back Dede, former Fulham striker Diomansy Kamara and experienced defender Servet Cetin are expected to help their younger teammates in this high-profile clash that will be played at Stade Parsemain in Fos sur Mer since Velodrome is undergoing reconstruction work.

Sezgin Coskun misses out through injury, whereas striker Batuhan Karadeniz is out of contention after clashing with coach Ersun Yanal.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-2-1): Boffin – Veysel, Servet Cetin, Diego, Dede – Tello, Hurriyet, Alper – Erkan, Malecki – Kamara.

  PAOK – Bnei Yehuda  preview  

PAOK miss: Stafyllidis, Garcia, Jacobo, Reginaldo

Line ups: 

Glykos, Etto, Khumalo, Katsikas, Lino, Fotakis, Lazar, Robert, Georgiadis, Giannou, Athanasiadis

Aiyenugba, Azoz, Hadad, G. Cohen, Ivaškevičius, Edri, Nachum, Menashe, Marinković, Galvan, Ndlovu

Vitesse v Anzhi  

Vitesse miss: Van der Struijk (?), Büttner
Line up: Velthuizen, Yasuda, Kašija, Kalas, Van Aanholt, Van Ginkel, Van der Heijden, Cziommer, Ibarra, Bony, Reis

Anzhi miss: Traore, Žirkov
Line up: V. Gabulov – Logashov, Samba, Tagirbekov, Gadzhibekov – Boussoufa, Jucilei, G. Gabulov, Shatov – Eto’o, Smolov

 Inter  v Hajduk  

Line ups

Handanović, Jonathan, Samuel, Ranocchia, Silvestre, Zanetti, Mudingayi, Guarin, Sneijder, Milito, Palacio

Blažević, Vršajević, Milović, Maloča, Jozinović, Andrijašević, Radošević, Caktaš, Oremuš, Luštica, Vukušić

  missing   players

AIK Stocholm without: 


Elfsborg without:

Stefan Larsson  (DF, 9 Ap/0 Gl)
Skuli Jon Fridgeirsson (DF, 4 Ap/0 Gl)
Martin Andersson (DF, 0 Ap/0 Gl)
Marcus Rohdén  (MF, 10 Ap/0 Gl)
Amadou Jawo  (FW, 12 Ap/2 Gl)

Joachim Jörgensen (MF, 15 Ap/0 Gl)

Servette without:

Christopher Mfuyi  (DF, 3 Ap/0 Gl, 225 Min)
Patrik Baumann  (DF, 0 Ap/0 Gl, 0 Min)
Issaga Diallo  (DF, 0 Ap/0 Gl, 0 Min)
Christian Schlauri  (DF, 0 Ap/0 Gl, 0 Min)
Genserix Kusunga (DF, 0 Ap/0 Gl, 0 Min)
Kevin Mbabu (DF, 0 Ap/0 Gl, 0 Min)
Geoffrey Tréand  (MF, 1 Ap/0 Gl, 90 Min)
Silva Eudi (FW, 1 Ap/0 Gl, 73 Min)
Julian Esteban (FW, 0 Ap/0 Gl, 0 Min)
Samir Ramizi (FW, 0 Ap/0 Gl, 0 Min)

Christopher Routis (DF, 1 Ap/0 Gl, 90 Min)

Omonia without:

Efrem (mf 28/6)




Crvena Zvezda without:

Marko Dmitrović (GK)
Aleksandar Kirovski (GK, 1/0)
Veljko Simić (MF)
Marko Vešović (MF, 23/1)
Vukan Savićević (MF)
Stefan Čikić (MF)
Eduardo de Fiori Mendes Cadu (MF, 23/11)
Eli Babalj (FW)

KRC Genk without:

Grzegorz Sandomierski (GK)
Torben Joneleit (DF)
Jeroen Simaeys (DF, 29/2 last seson)
Abel Masquero (DF)
Ajub Masika (MF, 1/0, 6/0 last sea)
David Hubert (MF, 14/1 last sea)
Stef Peeters (MF)
Bennard Kumordzi (MF)
Siebe Schrijvers (FW)
Leandro Trossard (FW)
Bright Edomwonyi (FW)

Twente without:

Sander Boschker  (GK, 8 Ap/0 Gl)
Rasmus Bengtsson (DF, 13 Ap/0 Gl)
Nils Röseler (DF, 8 Ap/0 Gl)
Nicky Kuiper  (DF, 6 Ap/0 Gl)
Tim Breukers (DF)
Denny Landzaat (MF, 16 Ap/0 Gl)
Andrej Rendla (FW, 2 Ap/0 Gl)
Luc Castaignos (FW)

Rapid without: 


Apoel Nicozia without:

Ailton (21/4)