UEL MD3 Group Stage Previews: Tottenham, Villarreal and Leicester in action

Gareth Bale comes off bench to score first Tottenham goal in seven years as Spurs beat Brighton amid VAR controversy

A look ahead to three group stage fixtures from MD3 as the Europa League continues on Thursday. Villarreal host Maccabi Tel Aviv, Tottenham hope they can atone for their embarrassment in Antwerp against Ludogorets before Premier League rivals Leicester hope to follow up their emphatic 4-1 win over Leeds in a big home clash against Portuguese side Braga. Continue reading

Rewind: Ranking Cristiano Ronaldo’s top 5 teammates during his career

Cristiano Ronaldo with former Real Madrid teammates Marcelo and Karim Benzema

Spoiler alert: no Juventus players feature in this list, but it’s one where Cristiano Ronaldo’s former teammates – both at Real Madrid and one from Manchester – make their name and deservedly so, having helped him become the world’s best. Continue reading

Wales 3-1 Belgium: Williams, Robson-Kanu and Vokes seal semi-final spot for Dragons

Wales 3-1 Belgium: Williams, Robson-Kanu and Vokes seal semi-final spot for Dragons

In one of the most unpredictable and exciting matches of this year’s tournament, Wales came back from a goal down to prevail 3-1 against Belgium – sealing their place in the semi-finals against Portugal.

In what was billed as the most exciting quarter-final ahead of kick-off on Friday evening, Wales and Belgium met with a place in the last-four up for grabs. The game didn’t disappoint either – as Wales came back from a goal down to seal a famous victory, becoming the first team to reach the semi-finals on their Euro debut since Sweden in 1992.

Gareth Bale and the rest of the Dragons have embraced the European Championships thus far – whilst Marc Wilmots‘ side have only ignited their spark as the tournament’s dark horses with a convincing 4-0 victory over Hungary in the last-16. A chilly evening in Lille, where rain began to fall just moments before kick-off – everything was in place for an intriguing encounter with Portugal awaiting the winner.

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England 2-1 Wales: Player ratings as Sturridge nets late, dramatic winner

England 2-1 Wales: Player ratings as Sturridge nets late, dramatic winner

It was billed as the battle of Britain, and late drama saw bragging rights firmly fall to substitutes on a frantic afternoon in lEns.

Having managed to somehow squander a one-goal lead against a Russia side who, on the evening, were very poor, England knew they needed to win against Chris Coleman’s Wales side. They did just that, and as a result, leapfrog their opponents into top spot in Group B.

How did the England players fare individually? Read below, for the Three Lions’ player ratings.

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Ancelotti’s sacking highlights cut-throat nature of football

Just a year on from leading Madrid to La Decíma, the Italian manager has been relieved of his duties as Réal boss after a lacklustre season in Europe. Well, erm…

Everybody knows: Real Madrid are one of the best teams in world football, a European powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. With that being taken into consideration, Carlo Ancelotti led them to their record TENTH UEFA Champions League trophy just a year ago; and yet earlier this week, they announced he was being sacked from his managerial post.

Yes, he confirmed earlier in the week that he’d be taking a year out due to neck surgery, but that’s not the main reason as to why he was dismissed from his post in the first place. Personal health is important, do not get me wrong, and it’s not nice to see someone suffering from an injury in such a way, but having to have neck surgery is a back-up story. He was sacked because the team had a poor season. A team of Real stature, reputation, quality and the sheer fact they’ve got plenty of star-studded players including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Jámes Rodriguez at their disposal, they finished in an un-inspiring second place in La Liga behind rivals Barcelona, and were knocked out against Serie A giants Juventus in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Real’s title rivals Barcelona (pictured) celebrated sealing the La Liga crown once again after their 1-0 win over last year’s champions, Atlético

Now on the surface, you may ask, why? Why does that constitute a bad season? Yes they were inconsistent in stages of the league campaign, coupled with the fact that Gareth Bale has been made a scapegoat for the team’s failures in Europe, but why does that mean it’s a bad season? Well, to keep it concise, Real’s perceptions over a successful season, is to win multiple titles every year. They’ve technically won two titles in the 2014-15 campaign, both of which are not exactly the most glamorous (UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup) and as a consequence for that, they’ve unfortunately used Ancelotti as an example, meaning that if you don’t win the best titles, you do not get to keep your job. In the modern era of football, being a manager in itself is a cut-throat business. A few bad results can go against you, and you will be sacked in no time. Ancelotti is no doubt, a world-class boss, has proven himself in many of Europe’s top leagues, and that leads onto my next point. Who is good enough to replace him?

Rafael Benítez, currently of Napoli, has been heavily tipped to take charge of Los Blancos from next season onwards. The Spaniard also has an impressive CV, having led the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Valencia to triumphs in their respective campaigns where he was at the helm. Me personally, I think whoever replaces Carlo, whether that be Rafa (increasingly likely at the time of writing) or another candidate will have a lot of pressure placed on them to deliver standout results from the off-set and warn against inconsistency, which can ultimately cost them their job. At the end of the day, the eyes of everyone will be watching Madrid in the next few months, criticising their every move, because of the sheer scale of what has happened to the club – their manager has been sacked, and time will tell as to whether they’ve appointed the right one, in due course.

It seems to be a never-ending cycle because truthfully, Ancelotti has not done a bad job. He’ll take a year out of management to sort out some personal issues, look after his family and such, but after that, European clubs will be flocking to have him as their new manager, he’s good enough to warrant that. Réal do not seem to care if you’ve done a bad job or not, they want RESULTS, which turns into TROPHIES, which emphasises SUCCESS. Trophies, they have not got. And now, they’re on the search for a new manager to take the reigns at the Bernabeú.

Carlo Ancelotti’s win rate at all of his previous clubs:

Real Madrid – 74%

Paris Saint-Germain – 62%

Chelsea – 61%

Juventus – 57%

AC Milan – 56%

Ironically, Real are at the top of the list. What does that tell you? Ruthless. They are hungry for results, and Carlo did not deserve to be sacked. Taking on the Real Madrid job involves a lot of patience, character, being able to handle pressure and criticism from others. With the way in which Madrid operate, I have to wish good luck to their upcoming manager, who, as Florentino Perez confirmed in his news conference, will be announced next week. If it’s Rafa, time will tell whether it’s a feasible option or not. Regardless, good luck. You’ll need it.