Claudio Ranieri’s Roma haven’t exactly set Serie A on fire this year, escaping from a tough group can they escape their league inconsistency and find success in Europe. Stuart Harper from trequartista.net is the man to answer that question.

Wednesday sees Roma host Shakhtar Donetsk in round sixteen of the Champions League. Despite the Ukrainian outfit making their first ever appearance in the knockout stages, it is pure folly to assume that the Italians will inevitably progress against Mircea Lucescu’s ‘pitmen’.

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A meeting between two of the best footballing sides in the world, a mouthwatering match-up so let our guest writers talk you through it. In the red corner is award winning writer Sian Ranscombe her blog “From a girl who loves the Gunners” is superb. And she hopes her team can follow in her trophy winning ways.

Up until a few weeks ago, I think both neutrals and fans were largely assuming this tie would be a one-way battle won easily by Barcelona. Arsenal have been inconsistent this season and if they can drop points to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, and let leads slip as easily as they have done, what chance do they stand against the mighty Barcelona?

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Another huge match this evening as two teams that on their day can either excite or frustrate. Schalke have put their league form to one side and impressed in the Champions League group stage Kevin McCauley from World Soccer Reader looks at their chances against Valencia.

As most people know, Schalke 04 have been two different sides between the Bundesliga and European competition. Though they have climbed out of the basement domestically, Schalke are still in a mid-table position in Bundesliga when they were believed to be a title contender in the preseason. Meanwhile, they skated through the Champions League group stages, easily qualifying for the knockout round, where they drew Valencia.

However, this is not exactly the same Schalke side that qualified for the Round of 16. Two of the team’s key pieces are gone. One through contract issues, and one through personal issues. Ivan Rakitic has moved on to Sevilla in La Liga after being sold in the January transfer window. The attacking midfielder’s contract was up in January, and Schalke were keen to get some sort of compensation as opposed to letting him walk for free.

Under completely different circumstances, defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones has gone to Blackburn Rovers on a loan with an option to buy after falling out with Felix Magath. These players have been replaced with Iranian attacking midfielder Ali Karimi and Ghanaian defensive midfielder Anthony Annan. It remains to be seen what kind of an impact they’ll make, but Annan was very good in his first outing for the club in the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund.

However, Anthony Annan will have to wait to play in the Champions leage for Schalke, as he is cup tied. Young Cameroonian international Joel Matip came in for Annan as a substitute in Schalke’s win over Freiburg, and I like him to start the first leg. Valencia could play with a 4-4-2 formation, starting both Aritz Aduriz and Roberto Soldado up top, which would lessen Annan’s responsibilities. However, it seems much more likely that Valencia will line up in a 4-2-3-1 shape with three of Juan Mata, Pablo, Vicente, Joaquin, and Jordi Alba making up that band of three.

Felix Magath will probably be hoping that Unai Emery opts to go with two strikers instead. Or, Magath could throw a wrench in things by starting someone else in that spot, but in the event that Valencia go 4-2-3-1, With Annan unavailable, Matip is the best man for the job of breaking up Valencia’s attacks.

On the other end of the pitch, the matchup between Schalke’s attacking players and Valencia’s back line seems like a favorable one for Die Königsblauen. It took a while for Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Raul to settle in with the club, but they’ve turned into a dangerous pair. Additionally, with Ivan Rakitic gone, Jefferson Farfan is now almost certainly Schalke’s most dangerous player and he seems the most likely man to wreak havoc on Valencia’s defense.
Talent-wise, the gap between these two teams doesn’t seem that large, so it might come down to luck and tactics. In the luck department, Valencia are certainly kicking Schalke’s tails this season. In the tactics department, it’s tough to separate Magath and Emery.

For now, I like Valencia to win the tie on away goals or penalty kicks, but I could easily see it swinging either way. To me, it seems too close to call.

Faced with the thankless task of trying to catch Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, Valencia will be looking forward to the oppurtunity of a run in this competition. David Cartlidge from Spanishfootball.info fills us in on their chances.

Valencia come into the game on a fantastic run of form, having won six of their last eight games and are sitting pretty in 3rd place in La Liga. Many however, would say that form and placing doesn’t tell the full story.

A good amount of the victories have come in the very last moments in games, and they’ve also benefited from some fortuitous officiating as well as poor lapses in judgement by the opposition at crucial times – though it could be argued they’ve been proficient enough to capitalize on such errors.

The thing with Valencia has been their inability to blow opponents away as such, and they’ve never really looked in control throughout any game. There is always a decent period within the 90 minutes that they’ll switch and off give away 4 or 5 very decent chances to the opposition, purely down to the fact they like to coast all too often.

There are many factors to this, one being Unai Emery’s fascinating, albeit frustrating pragmatism when it comes to setting up his side. Emery likes to tinker with his formations and personnel, and while many acknowledge his obvious talents as a manager there are some questionable features of his management style.

Valencia at one time or another has played with at least five different formations this season, though Emery perhaps favours his 4-2-3-1 over any of the others due to its stability at the back while at the same time focusing on the side’s main strength – wide play.

In midfield Los Che contain a lot more depth, and the most impressive player this campaign has been Tino Costa. The Argentinean signed from Montpellier in the summer and hit the ground running, becoming an integral part of any system which Emery employs, operating well in midfield by showing good ball retention as well as distributing it to more advanced players as he sits deep in the central areas ‘pulling the strings’.

Costa’s job is one seemingly vacated by Ever Banega, who was the star of last season but he’s failed to shine this season, perhaps finding unease with constant chopping and changing of systems as well as having ongoing off the field problems with Emery.

Juan Mata looks set to miss out the first leg through an injury, and this is of great benefit to Schalke as Mata has become the star of the team since David Silva and David Villa both departed for new pastures. Despite playing through of his career so far predominantly as a left-sided winger, Mata has found a new lease of life in an almost free-role operating all across the front line and has supported the lone striker well when in the team.

In a nutshell I’d say Valencia are a team who are vulnerable at the back and whom can be opened up when put under pressure, but must be watched incredibly closely on the counter attack when taking into account the quality they have in wide areas. The central hub of Costa and Banega is also a key facet, to let them keep the ball and dictate would be mistake of the German side’s part – and could be the difference between qualification and having their European trip cut short.

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Welcome to the start of the gibfootballshow Champions League previews. Instead of listening to me waffle on, who better to tell you all about each teams chances in the tournament than from the fans themselves. So over the eight games you will read the thoughts of sixteen talented bloggers.

In Tottenhams first ever foray into Europe’s elite club competition they have impressed everyone. Now they face a side top of Serie A, could Tottenham reach the Quarter-Finals. Jack McInroy from You’ll Win Nothing With Yids looks at their chances.

So much for winning the group! We beat the Italian (and European) champions Inter only to be drawn against the current Serie A leaders. It could be worse. While we’ll be underdogs against AC Milan, Arsenal play Barcelona with the sole aim of keeping the aggregate score down to a respectable level.

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I would like to think that when I’m wrong; I’ll say I’m wrong. And when it comes to Harry Redknapp and Tottenham’s Champions League campaign….I was wrong.

Now I am not saying I now preach at the church of Redknapp but I admire what he has done in the tournament so far. How many people had Spurs down to win their group? I know I didn’t!

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Rangers' forward Steven Naismith vies with Manchester United's Ryan Giggs -Champions League action in pictures

A disappointing night at Ibrox tonight, both teams not learning from the mistakes of the first game. For me Sir Alex got his team selection wrong, no width where it mattered, Rangers didn’t attack enough when in possession. Everything that went wrong can be found in my STV article that depicted the first game http://bit.ly/huQyL6

It took Manchester United 176 minutes to break down the Rangers defence and Walter can take credit from that, but he needs to find a way of playing with this tight defensive system and letting the players break forward when they have the ball. Scottish teams aren’t good enough to play tiki-taka passing up the field and play round the opponents.

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This article was originally publish on twofootedtackle.com but also wanted to feature it on my own site.

At the age of 21, Valentin Stocker is a name unknown to most people outside of Switzerland. The Swiss Super League is not one of the more glamorous divisions so it is no surprise that the waves Valentin is making at FC Basel haven’t reach our rubbish-strewn shores as of yet.

Two goals against Wales in the recent European Championship Qualifiers may have raised an eyebrow or two. The goals themselves were not blockbusters worthy of mention on TV round-up shows, but showed Stocker continuing to do what he has done all season: playing from the left of midfield he has acquired a knack of being in the right place at the right time.

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This is the article I wrote for STV Sport before the match between Rangers and Valencia

After the dust settled on Rangers 4-1 win over Motherwell on Saturday, thoughts would have turned to this week’s opponents and early La Liga pace setters Valencia. A few hours after the full time whistle at Ibrox, Valencia were in action with the small task of taking on Catalan giants Barcelona in the Nou Camp and any fans who tuned in to cast their eye over their midweek opponents would have witnessed what truly was a “game of two halves”.

In a first half that consisted of Los Che taking the game to Pep Guardiola’s star studded side, dominating the play and deserving their half-time lead, Unai Emery’s team could have easily been held more than the slim one goal advantage. The second half was a much different story.

Pep Guardiola’s team talk worked a treat, with Barcelona pinning Valencia back in their own half for much of the half. A superb team goal finished by Iniesta gave them their equaliser, mimicking the movements of Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith earlier that day. Xavi’s pass sliced through four defenders and Iniesta applied the finish, making it 1-1 and later Carles Puyol left his defensive post unguarded to crash a powerful header into the net and give Barca a crucial home win.

The heroics of Cesar Sanchez in the Valencia net kept this game close, denying Villa and Messi countless times, but the defeat dropped Valencia down to third in the league after a bright start to the league campaign. There was, however, enough in the first half to show any Rangers fans watching that this is a team to be respected.

For many observers, this was supposed to be the season where Valencia fell away, the pressure to sell key players finally telling and seeing Valencia living in reduced circumstances, with results to match. David Villa and David Silva were the most notable departures from the Mestalla but Valencia also said goodbye to Nikola Zigic, Carlos Marchena, Alexis and Ruben Baraja. All six were regular starters last season, forcing Emery to utilise his squad to cover the gaps.

Predicting Valencia’s line-ups this season have been a job impossible for even Mystic Meg. In the league alone an astonishing 22 players have been used. Having two players in each position is a situation most clubs dream of, and for Emery to go on and use each player is a method seldom used in football these days.

In La Liga the manager has set his team up for the majority of games in a 4-4-1-1 formation, deviating slightly to 4-2-3-1 against Barcelona. It seems very likely he will use one of these formations for the trip to Ibrox.

Cesar Sanchez has been the only ever present so far. After spells at Real Madrid and Real Zaragoza, and the ill fated time at Tottenham Hotspur, the goalkeeper moved back to Spain at the tender age of 38 to make the number one jersey his own. Still playing at a very high level his performances have boosted the performances of the back four.

With Portuguese international Miguel out injured, Bruno will start at right back. He’s a tough tackling no frills full back, more defensive minded than Miguel although he sometimes gets caught out of position.

In the centre should be the pairing of David Navarro and Ricardo Costa. Navarro is more famous for the seven month ban he received after the much documented fight against Inter Milan, but he remains a no-nonsense, solid defender who is very strong and good in the air. His partner Ricardo Costa is one of Emery’s six new signings.

He spent half of last season on loan at Lille in France where he played at centre back and left back and has the ability to play anywhere along the back four. This positional knowledge helps out the defence no end, able to fill gaps left by the full backs he then has the pace to track attackers down the wing.

The choice of left-back on Wednesday could help determine not only how Valencia attack, but also could show a weakness that Rangers could exploit. Jeremy Mathieu and Jordi Alba have been fighting for the position so far this season. On Saturday against Barcelona both were picked to link up down the left hand side and though the original team sheet showed Mathieu at left back with Alba slightly further forward, throughout the game both swapped positions taking it in turns to defend and attack.

Emery’s decision to leave out Juan Mata made this selection possible but with Mata’s return on Wednesday almost guaranteed this leaves the kind of selection headache managers dream about.

Whether playing as a defender or a midfielder Mathieu is not scared to go forward and join the attack. Against Malaga and Bursaspor he was used in a defensive role but very often when the team on the attack it is no surprise to find him in line with Valencia’s forwards.

With only 11 minutes of the game gone against Barcelona, Mathieu (red) had already decided to break forward. Nearly on the shoulder of the last defender, with Alba (yellow) pushing up trying to release Mathieu down the wing, there is acres of space behind the full back which forwards and midfielders could easily use against them. In these situations the alertness of Ricardo Costa is hugely important.

Against Bursaspor, Mathieu did a fantastic job of controlling playmaker Volkan Sen though. Whenever the ball was played into his feet Mathieu was touch tight and he frustrated the Turkish international giving him very little time on the ball. When Valencia pushed forward looking for more goals though, Sen started to exploit the space Mathieu vacated.

A simple ball over the top caught Mathieu (red) out of position in one instance. Costa (yellow) had to come across quickly to close down Sen (blue) and stop the attack. In this situation Bursaspor didn’t do a good job in supporting the attack, as a darting run from any of the midfielders could have exploited the space left by Costa and easily have led to a great chance. Rangers’ midfielders will need to be alert when Costa covers Mathieu’s position, Steven Davis is wonderful at breaking from the midfield and as his thunderous shot against Motherwell proved he is also good enough to take advantage of any space given.

Unai Emery might decide to play Jordi Alba on Wednesday to keep things tight. Not picking Mathieu does however mean Valencia are without a player who has great aerial presence and is a very technically sound defender. The team would also miss his ability on the ball, his pacy breaks from the back and his aptitude for turning defence into attack very quickly.

Alba too has these abilities, although not to the extent of Mathieu. The young full back was extremely impressive while marking Lionel Messi on Saturday, showing he has the speed and the strength to keep up with one of the world’s best. His size could be his downfall though. Up against Lafferty, Broadfoot or Whittaker, Rangers would win the aerial battle giving them an effective out-ball. Mathieu at 6 foot 3 wouldn’t be as easily beaten.

Defensively, the full back area is one that Rangers could punish if worked properly, Valencia’s midfield worked very hard to close down Barcelona and win the ball back, with four midfielders (yellow) closely chasing the ball, and the defenders’ attention also trained on the ball.

This led to Bruno (pink), being caught in a central area, unaware of David Villa (red) pushing down the flank followed closely by Maxwell (blue). The majestic skills of Iniesta (green) beat the midfield and he was able to find Villa in acres of space supplying him with a chance to shoot on goal.

With Steven Naismith in good form recently, it is important he is wise to Bruno’s positioning and tries to use this to his and Rangers advantage. It is obvious Rangers don’t have the quality in midfield that Barcelona do, but the space is there to be exploited.

One of Valencia’s great strengths this season has been the pressure the midfield puts on the ball, turning this into countless fast break situations. Emery will likely play with a four in midfield, favouring a creative player to support the front man rather than playing forwards Aduriz and Soldado up front together. The latter, now fully fit after missing the start of the season will lead the line, the five players picked to play behind him will be the result of hours and hours of discussion and deliberation.

Nine players have occupied these positions so far this season, each bringing their own attributes to Valencia’s style and success on the counter attack. One of the first names on the team sheet will likely be Juan Mata, who was rested against Barca with the trip to Ibrox in mind.

Mata was let go by Real Madrid and signed for Valencia on a free in 2008 and for two years he has quietly been making a name for himself. Now out of the shadows of Villa and Silva this could be Mata’s breakout year. Undoubtedly talented on the ball, he has the ability to play off the front man in a creative role but seems to be more effective starting from the left and breaking into the box.

His excellent finishing abilities have led to 26 goals for the club so far and at only 22 it will not be long before the big club vultures are back at the Mestalla waving their chequebooks. Right now he is a Valencia player and one to be very wary of.

Whoever Emery picks to support Soldado and Mata, be it Pablo Hernandez, Manuel Fernandes, Ever Banega or Tino Costa, Rangers must not give the ball needlessly away in midfield or up front as many of Valencia’s goals this season have come from breathtaking fast breaks.

 

When Valencia go forward, regardless of their formation, there are always players in support. Against Malaga when it was 4-4-1-1 four players broke forward providing options left and right of the man in possession. Then, against Barcelona, while playing 4-2-3-1 a very similar break saw four players bombing forward giving the man on the ball choices and leading to the opening goal, Right midfielder Pablo (red) cut in from the right to get on the end of Mathieu’s cutback, Soldado’s run (blue) to the back post caught the attention of Puyol and Maxwell gave Pablo the space needed to apply the finish.

Another great example of Valencia’s strength in attack was the fourth goal against Bursaspor. With 14 minutes to go and already three goals to the good, Valencia won the ball back next to their own bye-line (red). Three passes and 10 seconds later, Soldado (yellow) found himself one on one with the goalkeeper and had an easy job to make it 4-0. It was a fine example of the counter-attacking style the Spanish team have shown so often this season.

Undoubtedly Wednesday night will be a very tough test for Walter Smith’s team, and if Rangers are to have a genuine hope of advancing from the Group Stage some kind of result will be needed. At home, the Rangers fans will want a victory and this pressure to go forward could fall straight into Valencia’s style and strengths. Rangers can’t afford to sit back and defend but caution must be taken when attacking in numbers.

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Sunday July 11th was apparently the official end of the 2009/10 football season, and for me Today is the start of the 2010/11 season, not exactly much of a holiday, now after only 4 preseason friendlies Celtic will travel to Portugal to face league runners-up Sporting Braga over two legs, the winner will go on to face one of the top clubs in Europe for a place in the Champions League, not exactly the easiest path however it is a consequence of the poor quality in the SPL, and is not going to change very soon.

Cards on the table, when the draw was made I was happy with the draw. In our pot we could have faced Zenit St.Petersburg, Dynamo Kiev, Ajax, Fenerbahce and of course Braga, It’s no disrespect to them at all, no one wants to travel to Russia or the Ukraine at this stage of the year, both countries seasons are half way through, and with both countries not in the World Cup they would be fresh and rested, a trip to Turkey is never the easiest at any time of the year, and Ajax have a wealth of talent that I am glad we avoided.

The “weakest” of the 5 teams it was a good draw, it doesn’t guarantee an easy game however, I set about searching Braga as a team to see what Neil Lennon’s men would be up against, The squad is not full of household names, the only name that I recognised where Goalkeeper Quim, and Cameroonian forward Albert Meyong, not names that make you hesitant in any way, some deeper digging would be needed.

Os Arsenalistas (The Arsenalists) are managed by Domingos Paciencia he only took charge in June 2009 and led them to their best ever finish in the clubs history, even more surprising when the look at his previous tenures, 9 wins from 24 games with Union Leira and 19 in 65 games with Academica, Braga’s record last year is stunning only dropped 2 points at home all season, that came with a 0-0 draw with Naval, added to that they only conceded 6 goals at home in the league, their away record is not to be baulked at, 4 draws and 2 defeats, an uncharacteristic 5-0 defeat at the Dragao against FC Porto their worst result.

Celtic will have had a tough task in scouting Paciencia’s men, 18 players have left last year’s squad with 13 new players coming in, including Nigerian centre back Uwe Echiejile, and goalkeeper Quim who will miss the Celtic game through injury, the only thing you would probably gain from watching Braga play is the managers style and the type of football they play, in true Portuguese style it is based on possession slow build up, and slick passing moves. Winger Alan is the focal point of most of Braga’s play, very skilful and tricky player.

On the flip side scouting Lennon’s team won’t be easy either, only in charge for 5 league games last season, and the arrival of 6 new players, the Celtic line-up remains a mystery, playing a 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 in pre-season, this seems to be the formation Lennon is settling on, away from home I can see it heading more towards the 4-5-1 not trying to give up too much space in the middle, with a lone striker upfront to lead the line. Preseason form never counts for much but Samaras has given himself a great chance to start with his 3 goals so far, whether he is the right man to play up on his own is up for debate, I would prefer Marc-Antoine Fortune, better in the air, stronger and has pace to run the channels, in the middle I would suspect Ledley, Brown, Crosas, and Juarez, not sure on the 5th pick, Ki Sung-Young could be too lightweight for an away battle, however he has undoubted quality on the ball and could be a surprise starter, Ledley on the left, Juarez on the right, Crosas, Brown and Ki in the middle, questions could be asked of their defensive abilities, the incoming signing of Biram Kayal could prove very important to the balance of Lennon’s side.

Cha Du-Ri and Charlie Mulgrew will no doubt make their debut’s, Loovens faces a late fitness test to partner Jos Hooiveld in defence, the quality of the defence troubles me, we still lack that extra quality you need at this level. With the first leg being the away tie for Celtic, any close game will do, even a 1-0 defeat would be a good result to come away with, Celtic’s away performances in Europe have been well documented and last season 6 defeats and 2 draws is unconvincing, a tight game will give The Bhoys a great chance of taking the game back to Parkhead where they have a much better record 1 defeat and 4 draws is a good return for a team that had a very poor season by their own high standards

This will be a very tight series and will come down to the wire, could even go to penalties, a cruel way for either team to start the season, to finish off I’ve just come across an interesting stat, in the Champions League, no Scottish team has ever won a match…………..is today the day.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – Third Qualifying Round – 1st Leg – Results

6 first leg ties were played yesterday, Omonia and Red Bull Salzburg kicked off first and Red Bull got a great start 1-0 up after 1 minute, Argentine Gonzalo Zarate scoring his first goal for the club, Omonia had the last laugh a 91 minute equaliser from the penalty spot which former Newcastle strike Lomana Lua Lua coolly dispatched.

Litex Lovech and Zilina played out a 1-1 draw in Lovech; Tomas Majtan put Zilina in the lead after 65 minutes only for Brazilian winger “Tom” to level the game 14 minutes later, great away goal for Zilina.

Dynamo Kyiv put one foot into the playoff rounds beating Gent 3-0 goals from Yarmolenko, Andrei Shevchenko and Zozulya, tough for Gent to now go to Kyiv and win by 4 goals. One of last year’s surprise teams Unirea Uriziceni managed to keep a clean sheet at home to Zenit St. Petersburg, however they couldn’t score either and the match ended 0-0, Zenit will fancy themselves at home next week.

Erich Brabec scored with 14 minutes to go to give Sparta Prague a 1-0 victory over Lech Poznan. The last game of the evening saw Welsh side TNS take on Belgian giants Anderlecht, new signing Sascha Klejstan scoring a goal on his debut after 7 mins, Legaer made it 2-0 after 18 minutes, TNS were given a lifeline when Jones made it 2-1, 7 minutes into the second half, but Matias Suarez made certain of the away victory, scoring Anderlecht’s third after 73 minute, Ariel Jacobs men will be confident of finishing the job back at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – Third Qualifying Round – 1st Leg – Fixtures

Along with Braga v Celtic there are 8 other games being played tonight;

Aktobe v Hapoel Tel Aviv
Sheriff Tiraspol v Dinamo Zagreb
Debrecen v Basel
AIK v Rosenborg
Partizan Belgrade v HJK Helsinki
BATE v Copenhagen
Ajax v PAOK
Young Boys v Fenerbahce

Some big games, Scandanavian derby between AIK and Rosenborg, and Ajax and Fenerbahce kick their campaign off, also tough away trips for Zagreb and Copenhagen, and what could be a very interesting game between Young Boys and Fenerbahce.

Nothing will be decided after tonight’s games, but teams have the opportunity to get one foot into the next round, I feel most teams will be trying just to make sure they don’t have one foot out the competition.

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This morning I woke up with a smile on my face, for the first time in 7 years there are no English teams in the Champions League Semi-Finals, this means I don’t have to hear about how the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, far superior to any other league etc, Alex Ferguson blaming those “typical germans” for getting Rafael sent off, when it was Ribery a Frenchman and van Bommel a Dutchman who had approached the referee

Teams from Germany, Spain, Italy and France make up the 4 left in the competition, by English media standards surely this means now these 4 leagues are all better than the Premier League, of course it doesn’t, it is simply a great advert to how global the game of football has become. Personally I do enjoy the Premier League, but also in the same I Love La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, I just love football, and will watch any league available, of course in all these leagues, you will get games that bore you to death on the other hand games that will blow you away, there are people that I speak to on a regular basis who just decide that they don’t like a league and will never ever change their opinion of it, no matter what.

This type of opinion really gets to me, why be so narrow-minded, given the choice of watching Wigan v Burnley or Bayern Munich v Stuttgart, to me it would be the German match every time, and sometimes it could turn out to be a poor 1-1 draw or it could be a cracker, the same with every game you sit down to watch, I love watching top European football no matter what league or country it is from, this allows me to form opinions of players based over league, cup and international matches, not just 2 or 3 Champions League games against English opposition and then form a limited opinion.

The opinion that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, is one that English people love to spout off about, 1 point I always make is, “What players at the peak of their game have moved to the Premier League?” and “How English is the Premier League?”

From last year’s Champions League semi-finals 3 of the teams were English but only 8 different English players started in both Legs, not a great amount from 3 of the top teams in England’s top Division.

9 French players played, 7 Spanish, 3 Brazilian, 3 Ivoirians and 2 Argentineans, in total 21 different nationalities were represented, and who was in charge of these so called “English teams” a Scotsman, a Frenchman and a Dutchman, and only Arsenal were owned by an English company.

Without boring everyone with stats as far as I am aware, most other big leagues have a majority of home based players in their squads have home grown coaches and are owned by men or companies from their own country, this so call domination of the European game by “English” teams to me is very diluted, and there are very little English things remaining of these teams, except where they play.

I don’t want this post to seem like an attack of the English game, I watch the Premiership every week and there are some fantastic players playing for some great teams, however I could never limit myself to English or even British football, I’d be missing out on some fantastic players, La Liga with Messi, Xavi, Ronaldo, Higuain and David Villa, Bundesliga with Franck Ribery, Robben, Toni Kroos, Torsten Frings, Stefan Kiessling, Serie A with Sneijder, Milito, Pato, Ronaldinho, Totti, and Cavani, Ligue 1 with Gourcuff, Chamakh, Bastos, Lisandro, Gervinho, Jelen I could go on and on.

People often ask being Scottish why do I bother with the World Cup, and all the players mentioned above are why, I have long come to terms with the fact that Scotland don’t have the players to make it on the International or Club stage, that does not however make my want to watch football any less, because there are hundreds of wonderful players worldwide that make it a joy to watch the beautiful game.

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