Football

Lewandowski scores 2 against Celta; Chelsea hold City; Inter Milan dominate as Serie A leaders; Badiashile out of Carabao cup final; Mbappe to Madrid confirmed

Last week the footballing world witnessed some of the biggest stories unfold, however not all of them can be covered, hence here is our hot take on what are the biggest news that brewed last week.

Celta Vigo 1-2 FC Barcelona: Robert Lewandowski brace rescues Catalans, as defending champions earn hard-fought win on the road

FC Barcelona showcased their might once again as they emerged victorious in a controversial win against Celta Vigo at Balaidos Stadium. Robert Lewandowski was back among the goals as he scored a brace including a banger in the first half followed by a last-minute penalty as Xavi’s brigade earned all three points on the road, thus staying put on the title race.

Barcelona defeats Celta

FC Barcelona has been on an inconsistent run since last few games, with topsy-turvy of emotions coupled with poor defense have been the talk of the town. After a horrific stalemate against Granada last week, Barcelona geared up for an high-octane mid-week clash against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League win a good victory which would indeed boost their morale. At the Balaidos, both teams were slated to face each other, with Celta aiming to upset the visitors and avenge their reverse-fixture defeat, when they led 2-0 to eventually lose 3-2. Xavi’s men are well placed on the title race, but they need to win consecutive games which would only brighten their spot at the top, with Real Madrid and Girona going head-to-head at the pinnacle. Atletico Madrid won 5-0 against Las Palmas, as a win for the Catalans would skyrocket them to the third position, closely trailing behind the leaders.

Both teams went with their strongest formations, with Xavi opting to leave out seasoned veteran Ilkay Gundogan on the bench, to give him ample rest ahead of Champions League clash, while he started with his traditional 4-3-3 pattern, as the defensive line comprised a blend of youth and experience, with Araujo, Cubarsi, Kounde and Cancelo guarding the wall. De Jong, Christensen and Pedri were deployed at the midfield, while Lewandowski was flanked by two youngsters Lamine and Vitor Roque, as the Brazilian earned his first start after impressive performances in last few games.

As for Celta, Rafa Benitez started with 4-4-2 formation, having Strand-Larsen and Aspas on the frontline, with a four-fold defensive and midfield line, as Guaita completed the set-up.

Robert Lewandowski opens up scoring

Robert Lewandowski, the Polish striking metronome has been under fire this season, barely able to score goals and misfiring shots in front of the goal. The reigning Pichichi winner was bound to step up in big games, and last night, he proved the age-old quote once again “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”, as he scored a banger from a sweet cheeky pass from youngster Lamine Yamal.

After several chances stirring for both sides, it was the visitors who got the sight of the goal, just when referee was about to blow his whistle for half-time break. The goal was coming since long, as Lewa and Lamine coupled up beautifully to score the opener, with the La Masia kid showcasing his out-of-the-world caliber once again. The Spaniard stepped into the box while surpassing Vigo defenders, as he latched the ball to Lewa, before the Polish bypassed Starfelt, thus scoring a banger on the far corner of the goal, leaving little chance for Guaita. As the referee stopped the game, Barca would be the happier side going into the break.

Aspas levels, before Lewa sets milestone in final-minute penalty

Just as the game resumed, Barcelona found themselves on equal terms as Iago Aspas, Vigo’s talisman, came back to haunt Barca once again with a sublime finish, which reached off a deflection from Kounde. It was former Barca man Oscar Mingueza who stepped up to bring his side on level terms, as he teed up Aspas with a lovely pass after Strand-Larsen found him at the edge of the box. Aspas pounced upon the attack, with his first time shot reaching towards the goal in an unwanted deflection from Joules Kounde, thus slotting in the net, leaving little for Ter Stegen to save it.

With a score line of 1-1 at the end of ninety minutes, it was slated that Barca might have dropped points once again as they were unable to break the deadlock. But, Lamine Yamal once again proved instrumental for earning the penalty, when he was kicked by a Celta player inside the box, thus giving the Blaugranas to win the game in the last minute. Lewandowski stepped up to score his 50th goal with the Catalans, but missed on the first strike, as Guaita saved it, but referee asked to retake it as a rare mistake from the custodian of coming off the line ahead of the ball being kicked helped Lewandowski to achieve the milestone of 50th goal, with Barca winning on the final minutes.

With this victory, Barca replaced Atletico on the third place, thus gearing up well for the midweek clash against Napoli at the Round of 16 clash of UEFA Champions League, a stage where the Catalans reached after years.

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea: Pochettino’s men inflicts shocking stalemate at the Etihad, inspires a whirlwind tale in the league table

Manchester City and Chelsea played out an enthralling draw at the Etihad, with City’s performance being labeled as one of their worst performances this season, squandering chances, thus settling for a solitary point. With this tie, Premier League finds itself in an engrossing state at the table, with Liverpool and Arsenal successively registering victories, leaving Pep’s brigade on the third spot.

Chelsea inspires brilliant tie at Etihad

Chelsea and Manchester City have always promised to be an exceptional clashes, owing to their abilities to swoon over the game in their own hands within few games. Last night was not an exception either, as a vital one point for both sides have left a tumultuous phase in the Premier League, as the race to the top gets increasingly tighter, with City’s title rivals Arsenal and Liverpool having registered emphatic victories against respective opponents.

With a high-octane clash on the cards, tacticians from both sides presented their strongest eleven, as hosts City went with their traditional 4-1-4-1 formation, with Haaland the sole striker upfront, followed by a our-throng attacking midfield comprising the likes of Foden, De Bruyne, Alvarez and Doku. With an one-man holding midfield in the form of Rodri, City’s defensive duties were vested upon Walker, Akanji, Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake.

As for the Blues, Pochettino went with his trademark 4-2-3-1 formation, keeping Nicolas Jackson spearheading the attack, followed by two of former City greats in the midfield trident of Gallagher, Sterling and Palmer. The holding position was well set by two of Latin American greats in the form of Enzo and Caicedo, followed by the defensive quartet of Gusto, Disasi, Colwill and Chilwell.

Sterling draws first blood

It is often said that old things come back to haunt faster, as Pep Guardiola got a taste of this old quote, with his former front man Raheem Sterling came back to eke him on the seat with an early goal in the first half. The Englishman led a brilliant counter-attack from the other half, eventually meeting Jackson’s cross, before cutting Walker to slot the ball past Ederson. Sterling was often criticized for his infamous finishing, often vying over the top, but he showed great composure while giving his side the lead just before half-time, thus etching his name in the record books by becoming the first former City player to register goals against them in the same campaign, both home and away.

Rodri rescues a point for the hosts

With a tense score of 1-1 at the break, Pep’s side had a lot of thinking to do after the restart. Despite piling pressure on Chelsea keeper Petrovic in the second half, they were unable to get past him, thus having a rare off-day on the field. Norwegian marksman Haaland missed a sumptuous opportunity to get a goal, only to fire it wide from a De Bruyne assist.

Rodri showcased his clutch fate once again as he is often considered as the go-to man for Pep, as the Spaniard has always stepped up on big occasions, thus scoring the leveler on the 83rd minute. Walker’s shot got deflected, only to fall in the feet of Rodri, whose ferocious first-time strike rattled the Chelsea goal, thus helping his side earn an extremely hard fought point.

City settle themselves on the third place, as Pep’s side finding it increasingly difficult to reach the pinnacle.

Benoit Badiashile: Chelsea dealt with major injury blow as central defender slated to face prolonged period on the sidelines

Premier League giants set to face another injury setback as Benoit Badiashile has been ruled out for at least a month. With his injury, it is evident that Chelsea would be unable to field the enterprising duo of Badiashile-Disasi in their highly anticipated Carabao Cup final.

Benoit Badiashile-a rising star among the ranks

Benoit Badiashile has been one of the stars for the Blues this season, as the French defender has paired up with his fellow compatriot Axel Disasi, and has upped the ante for Mauricio Pochettino’s faltering side, which has performed on a mediocre basis in the Premier League. As Thiago Silva is on the sidelines due to the stellar rise of this French defensive duo, Badiashile’s injury would indeed prove to be a vital upset in Poch’s plans.

The defender has had a fair run in front of the goal, with Pochettino looking up to him as a possible replacement of the aging Thiago Silva, and has impressed both fans and critics likewise in last few games. However, in the game against Aston Villa, where the Blues emerged victorious with a score line of 3-1, which included a berserk Enzo Fernandes free-kick on the top corner, Badiashile was forced off the field, citing injury reasons.

Slated to miss Carabao Cup final against Liverpool

Although Chelsea are going through a rough patch, with currently on the bottom half of the table, they are well on course to secure a domestic treble. With a Carabao Cup final which is slated to be held on 25th February, and a FA Cup fifth round game, Chelsea would look to get at least a trophy this season, as their inconsistent performance have been under the scanner for days.

To add to their woes, Badiashile’s injury extent would be a spot of bother for Pochettino, as 39-year old seasoned veteran Thiago Silva would get the nod with Disasi. As further scans has revealed that he would be facing a prolonged period of one month on the sidelines, his groin injury could make way for several other stars in the team, including youngsters like Alfie Gilchrist, who has already made his debut for the senior side, few weeks ago. Along with the Carabao Cup, he is slated to miss the trip to Crystal Palace, as Blues take on the Eagles today.

As one star makes way for the other, Pochettino would be boosted by the return of Levi Colwill, who missed four games due to a hamstring injury, as he would be on the trip to Selhurst Park.

West Ham 0-6 Arsenal: Declan Rice stunner lights up Gunners’ title race as Arteta’s side hammer abject hosts

Arsenal have blanked hosts West Ham as David Moyes’ side had no answers to the ruthless attacking spirit of Gunners. With a 0-6 score line in favor of the visitors, Arsenal have well positioned themselves in the title race, inching closer to Manchester City and Liverpool.

A sheer masterclass by Mikel Arteta

Arsenal and West Ham had promised to be a heavyweight clash as both sides were coming on the back of blitzkrieg performances in their last games, but it felt that David Moyes’ side hardly had any solutions to the perfectly executed masterclass by Arteta, as the Hammers had found themselves 0-4 down within the first half, with three goals coming in the span of four minutes. To add to their woes, former Hammer Declan Rice, who had led to their maiden silverware last season in the form of UEFA Europa Conference League, added to the score line after a voluptuous goal from yards away, thus going off the field with standing ovation from the home side, as they showcased their respect for the former skipper.

Within the first half hour, it was a fair game, with both sides having opportunities to pounce upon. But, as soon as William Saliba headed the opener, Arsenal tore their opponents apart, leaving a hapless West Ham side on the brink of exhaustion. The abject home side conceded three more goals within the first half, followed by quickfire goals from Bukayo Saka and Rice, which had pulled the final trigger for David Moyes. This victory is labelled as Arsenal’s greatest victory in terms of goals, as they have blanked six goals without any reply.

“We are in a good moment”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was heard speaking in elation about his side’s humongous victory, as he spoke about the historic win, along with high praise for Saka. He said, “It’s great to make [club] history, especially the way we have done it. We’re in a good moment and when you have good moments you have to build and maintain the momentum. The team from the beginning looked really sharp. “

With Saka’s brace, he took his goals tally past 50, with 13 goals already in this season in all competitions. Speaking about their star boy, Arteta said, “What he has done in the last two or three seasons is remarkable. His attitude, his quality, what he delivers every week – it’s really difficult to find. That’s why he is so important to us.”

Speaking about the win, former Arsenal star Paul Merson was heard saying on Sky Sports, “This was a massive result. If this was Manchester City we would be waxing lyrical. Arsenal don’t get the credit they deserve. If you want to win the Premier League you have to bounce back quickly and they have done that. They are right in this title race now.”

With this victory, Arsenal have well-positioned themselves right in way of a fantastic Premier League title, as they are ranking third, closely sitting behind Manchester City and Liverpool, who rounded off their respective games with comprehensive victories over Everton and Burnley, respectively.

Jude Bellingham: Real Madrid star out for three weeks with ankle sprain; set to miss Champions League first-leg clash

In a contrasting world of emotions for Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, star player Jude Bellingham is slated to miss three weeks of football owing to a horrific ankle sprain which has taken a toll on the Englishman. He scored a brace in their top-of-the-table clash against Girona, but was forced off due to injury with a grimacing pain.

Jude Bellingham: a hero among the Los Blancos’ ranks

Jude Bellingham has been one of the top stars in the Blancos’ colors this season. The former Borussia Dortmund star has excelled n every aspect of Spanish football, ticking every boxes since the day he joined forces with Carlo Ancelotti. He is considered to be an impact player for the capital side, as his exuberance and efficiency has taken the Spanish footballing world by storm, with pundits drawing comparisons with Real Madrid legends like Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.

Owing to his class and blitzkrieg form, Real Madrid fans have welcomed him with wide arms, chanting “Hey Jude” as the Englishman keeps on racking numbers for the club. But, unfortunately, Ancelotti would be without the services of his star player owing to a freak injury which he suffered during the game against Girona, where Real defeated fellow title contenders 4-1, with Bellingham scoring a brace, before being subbed off before the hour mark.

To miss heavyweight European clash against RB Leipzig

As Real prepares for life without Bellingham, it has been confirmed that he would be missing several games. He would not be playing in Champions League first-leg clash against Leipzig, coupled with several other heavyweight clashes against Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano. Thus, it might open options for several other stars like Fran Garcia and Brahim Diaz, as they would be looking for starts in respective games.

An official statement was issued from the club confirming his injury, which said that he has suffered a “high-grade sprain in his left ankle”. After contributing to 28 goals in 29 games this season, Bellingham’s exuberance and enterprising ability will be missed in these important fixtures, as Ancelotti would be looking to explore options to replace the Englishman.

Kylian Mbappe: PSG and France stalwart has informed club board about his decision to leave as a free agent next season

In a shocking yet anticipated turn of events in French football, PSG stalwart and record-breaker, Kylian Mbappe has relayed his decision of leaving the French giants as a free agent next season to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, thus prompting heavyweight clubs, including Real Madrid to send a proper contract statement to the player.

Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid saga- is it finally over?

Kylian Mbappe has been one of the best strikers in this generation, as a never-ending fight between him and Haaland has been on the cards since the day they signed for their respective clubs. The French stalwart, at age 25, has already been breaking records for fun, which also include a FIFA World Cup trophy at the tender age of 18, followed by a blitzkrieg World Cup final hattrick against Argentina two years ago at Qatar, which almost snatched the trophy from Lionel Messi and company. For his club, he has already etched his name among the record books, and is reigning on the top of the goal scoring charts. But, as they say, for a player of his caliber, it is always better to get into the ranks of a heavyweight club, where they would flourish owing to their exuberance and class.

It seems that Mbappe, after a tumultuous saga with the French giants, will finally get a new heavyweight to boast of, as his dream of joining Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid might get true as he has conveyed his decision to leave the club at the end of the season as a free agent, as his contract expires in June.

An official bid by Real Madrid on the cards

As Mbappe’s decision to leave the club became official, it was just on the cards that Real Madrid would look to extend their hands to the player, prompting him to join the Spanish capital. According to football transfer pundit Fabrizio Romano, Real has already sent an official contract proposal, vouching on the excellent relationship Mbappe and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez had since their historic phone call in 2022.

The Mbappe-Madrid saga has been in and about since last season, when Mbappe was about to leave the club, as a result, being left out of the squad during the side’s pre-season tour to Asia. Things got a bit nasty when the striking metronome was forced to confirm his decision within an ultimatum, thus leaving Mbappe and the club on tenterhooks. At the end, Mbappe indeed agreed to play for the club, with an official contract from Real Madrid always on the offing.

We can see what happens in the next few days, as Mbappe and Real Madrid saga finally looks to come to an end after a long saga, as Fabrizio Romano looks to confirm this deal by saying, “Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid -here we go”.

Jurgen Klinsmann: South Korea sack head coach after failure in the Asian Cup; says “change of leadership necessary”

South Korean football federation has laid the axe down on legendary manager Jurgen Klinsmann as the German managing metronome was unable to demonstrate leadership at the recently concluded Asian Cup, where Son Heung-Min’s brigade lost in a shock semifinal against minnows Jordan.

Jurgen Klinsmann: a legend in the managerial fore

Jurgen Klinsmann has been a long-serving name among the managerial arena, as very few coaches like him were able to demonstrate their utmost caliber while managing a strong side. The former United States coach, under whose reign the Americans achieved ultimate popularity, Klinsmann had joined forces with Asian giants South Korea last year, with a long-yearning Asian Cup championship on sight. Owing to his exuberance and might that he brings on the sidelines, Korean fans would have hoped to clinch the coveted Asian Cup, and were right on course to achieve that, after some monstrous performances in the knockout stages of the recently concluded tournament.

South Korea came from behind twice in the knockout rounds, ousting Saudi Arabia on penalties, and Australia in the final half, but fell short in the penultimate hurdle, where lesser-experienced Jordan knocked out Taegeuk Warriors, thus bringing the downfall of Klinsmann, as his sacking seemed imminent after the result.

A long-term contract cut short

Klinsmann was appointed last year, with his contract extended till the end of 2026 World Cup, but after a rather horrific performance in the semifinals against Jordan, he was shown the door, as Korea looks to explore possible options for roping in next manager. The head of Korean Football Association Hwangbo Kwan, was heard saying about the decision, as he spoke about the conglomerated decision while sacking Jurgen . He said, “We’ve reached a consensus that Klinsmann cannot exercise his leadership as national team head coach for various reasons and that a change of leadership is necessary.”

Not only because of the terrible performance at the tournament which adjudges the best team of the Asian continent, Klinsmann is also considered accountable for in-team fights held between Tottenham skipper Son Heung-Min and teammates, as the feud rose during a table-tennis tournament which seems to have put the final nail in the coffin for Klinsmann.

Ronald Araujo: FC Barcelona offer improved contract extension to key defender amid transfer rumors

FC Barcelona has reportedly offered stalwart defender Ronald Araujo an improved contract value, as the club understands the importance of the Catalan defensive mainstay. According to recent reports, Spanish defending champions have held improved contract extension talks with the Uruguayan, considering a hefty pay raise.

Ronald Araujo- the Uruguayan wall

Ronald Araujo has been one of the leading defenders among the ranks of FC Barcelona. Owing to his tall and well-built stature coupled with excessive strength, he has been the defensive face for the Catalans since last two seasons.

Hailed as the “Uruguayan wall”, the name has aptly fitted with Araujo, with top strikers finding it increasingly difficult to dribble past him, thus ranking him among the top defenders in the world currently.

In the previous season, Araujo formed an exclusive quartet with Balde, Christensen and Kounde, completing the defensive wall for Barca, going with the acronym of “B-A-C-K”, and was often held responsible for the extremely dazzling season for Xavi’s men, which accounted for the least amount of goals conceded at the end.

Increased salary on the cards?

According to Victor Malo, the defending Spanish champions have tabled a potential offer for their defensive starlet, which includes an increased amount. Owing to his exuberance and out-of-the-world tactics on the defense, he is often considered to be plying his trade for another club in the next season. Amidst transfer rumors which have increased since last few weeks, Barca has looked for an improvised offer, which would keep him on the hold for a long run.

It suggests that Barca has offered an increased salary of 12 million euros to the Uruguayan, while his current salary ranges from 8-9 million euros, thus making him one of the highest earners in the club. It was heard that the offer was made after Deco had a three-hour long meeting with Araujo’s agents, Edoardo Crnjar and Edmundo Kabchi. With this increased salaried offer, he would be slated to stay at the club till 2029, in extension of his current contract which expires in 2026.

Among interested clubs, German champions Bayern Munich would look to rope in the defensive star, as they would look to strengthen their wall. However, the Barcelona captain is more than content on staying at the Spanish side, thus becoming a homegrown legend in the process.

Inter Milan: Serie A leaders dominate minnows Salernitana; goes ten points clear at the top

Inter Milan has showcased their might once again when they completely outclassed and outsmarted their lowly opponents, Salernitana, thus drifting away from Juventus in the title race. Along with skipper Martinez, his strike-partner Thuram was on the target too, with goals from Arnautovic and Dumfries completing the rout.

Inter Milan: in a class of its own

Inter Milan has been outstanding this season, owing to the likes of Argentine World Cup winner Lautaro Martinez, who is also leading the side, and the watchful vigil of Simone Inzaghi. Along with El Toro, his subordinates have performed wildly, thus soaring the Nerazzuri flag flying high. Last night was not an exception either, as Inter outpaced their opponents, relegation strugglers Salernitana, thus smashing four goals without reply. It was a battle between the first and last teams, with Salernitana going through a tumultuous phase of sacking of coaches, and changes at the helm. Before the game, it got almost evident that Inter were preparing for a rampant outing with the relegation battlers, and Marcus Thuram stamped an authority with his first goal within 20 minutes.

A 3-0 lead within the first half

As Inter began the proceedings, Marcus Thuram took matter in his own hands, as he gave the first breakthrough within 20 minutes. Carlos Augusto went away from Sambia in order to put a pacy cross into the middle of the box, helping the French striker to rifle his first shot past Ochoa, who had hardly put his hand onto the ball. Within two minutes, it was Augusto once again at the fray, when he assisted his second shot to skipper, sliding a sweet ball to Lautaro at the edge of the box. The Argentine decided to latch upon the ball as he tripped over Pasalidis, slotting the ball into the low bottom corner, giving Ochoa little hope of thwarting it away.

As the clock struck 40 minutes, it was Dumfries who scored the third goal of the night, thus killing the game within first half. A little mistake from Basic on the midfield led to his dispossession, as Inter lunged forward with the ball, with Barella’s ball deflecting of Coulibaly’s thigh. Ochoa did not expect that ball, thus scrambling the ball towards Dumfries’ feet, who smashed the ball from close-range, thus making it 3-0, with more than a hour left to play.

Arnautovic had decided to go bang-in on the last minute, thus completing the rout of 4-0. Dumfries was instrumental once again, as his pass bounced off Pellegrino, falling kindly at the feet of the Austrian giant, who smashed the goal into the bottom corner with the last kick of the game, thus drifting ten points past second placed Juventus.

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