This will be the most interesting tennis season we have had in decades



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I am so excited for the new tennis season to get under way and with just weeks until the first grand slam of the year, I will be previewing the new campaign, as this is the most wide-open field we have had in a long time.

From the ‘greatest of all time’ to the ‘Next-gen’, there will be plenty that will want to make a name for themselves. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will want to maintain their dominance after sharing all four grand slam titles. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will want to regain their dominance. Whereas, the rest of the field will want to dominate.

Rafael Nadal ended the year as the world number one, as he had a fantastic end to the season, winning the US, as he beat Kevin Anderson to the crown. He also claimed, ‘La Decima’ as he has now won 10 Monte-Carlo Masters events, 10 Barcelona crowns, and 10 French Open grand slams. However, the 31-year-old is struggling with yet another knee injury, as he pulled out midway through the Nitto ATP Finals in London last November. He also pulled out of an invitation tournament in Abu Dhabi, and will also not take part in Brisbane next week. So, the question is, will the Spaniard be physically fit enough to go the distance at the Australian Open in Melbourne this coming January?

Roger Federer proved his worth once again by winning his eighth Wimbledon title and yet another Australian Open to his name. He surprised many by winning his 18th and 19th grand slam crown, and was brimming with confidence after having a perfect start to the season, also winning in Indian Wells and in Miami. Aged 36, will this renaissance continue or will the twilight of his career go out?

The year-end world number one of 2016, Andy Murray will look to make a serious comeback charge after he finished the season as world number 16 and just the solitary title to his name, winning in Dubai. The 30-year-old is more than likely to make a rise up the rankings at the end of the Australian Open as he crashed out in the third round, losing to Mischa Zverev, so a good tournament should get him back into the top 10, just like Federer did 12 months ago.

Novak Djokovic also struggled last season with injuries, as the former world number one looks to make a strong return to the top of the game. The Serb also pulled out of the invitational tournament in Dubai and hopes that he is fit enough for Melbourne. He failed to make a grand slam final last year, and also failed to win a Masters 1000 event, losing to Alexander Zverev in Rome on the clay.

Grigor Dimitrov won the biggest tournament of his career last year as he won the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, beating Belgian’s David Goffin to the title. Is the 26-year-old, now entering the prime of his career, starting to fulfil his potential. The world number three also won in Cincinnati, beating Nick Kyrgios and also made the semi-final of the Australian Open, losing to Nadal. There is still a lot of life left in the Bulgarian, but he needs to step up if he wants to call himself a grand slam champion.

One player that has certainly impressed the tennis world is the German, Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev, who looked very professional in some of the finals he played last season. He lifted two Masters 1000 titles, beating Djokovic in Rome, and Federer in Montreal. One criticism is that he has failed to make a grand slam quarter-final, but he is only 20 years old, and as he will have better draws at grand slams knowing that he is the world number four, he should have much easier runs in tournaments.

This season will be huge for players like Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic, and Stanislas Wawrinka, as they were all close to big things last season, but need to go one step further. The Austrian is more than likely to win the French Open, in a few years’ time, but the 24-year-old will be looking to knock on the door sooner rather than later, as he has made two consecutive semi-finals at Roland-Garros. The Croatian made the final of Wimbledon last year, losing in straight sets to Federer, but I feel that the 2014 US Open champion can win more grand slams, but it won’t be easy for the 29-year-old. The Swiss number two, also made the final of a grand slam last year losing to Nadal in Paris. The 31-year-old also lost to Federer in Indian Wells earlier on in the season, but can he push for the world number one spot?

My dark horse will be the jubilant Juan Martín del Potro, as he has the ability to beat anyone on the circuit. The 29-year-old won the 2009 US Open, and the 2016 Davis Cup with Argentina. However, the world number 11 has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, so keeping fit will be half the battle for him, but if he’s 100%, he can be the most dangerous player on tour.

Other than Sascha Zverev, who else from the ATP Next-gen will breakthrough into the current generation? South Korea’s Hyeon Chung won the inaugural ATP Next-Gen finals in Milan and will look to continue that form into 2018. Honourable mentions go to Denis Shapovalov who beat Rafael Nadal in the Montreal Masters back in August. And Australia’s Nick Kyrgios made the final of the Cincinnati Masters and looks dangerous on court if his temperament doesn’t get in the way.

It is going to be one hell of a season which starts with the Australian Open series, and the first grand slam starting on the 15th January 2018. Who will win the first grand slam of the year? Who will finish the year as world number one?

Here are my predictions for the grand slams:

Australian Open: Grigor Dimitrov

French Open: Rafael Nadal

Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic

US Open: Alexander “Sascha” Zverev

Season-ending No.1: Rafael Nadal



More success for Roger Federer as he picks up a third Miami Open Title



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Roger Federer has won the 2017 Miami Open Presented by Itau as he beat Spaniard Rafael Nadal in straight sets 6-3 6-4.

The 35-year-old Swiss had already won this year’s Australian Open in January and Indian Wells a fortnight ago going into this final, and he ‘rolled back the years’ with some fantastic tennis and stroke-playing and will move up to World Number 4 on Monday as there were early exits and players that were forced not to enter into the tournament.

A lot of neutrals were hoping for an entertaining final and we certainly got one as you could not separate the two in a quite entertaining first set, with it being on serve until Federer broke Nadal to take a 5-3 lead in the opening set. The ‘GOAT’ (‘Greatest Of All Time’), went on to close out the first set 6-3 and the Spaniard was visibly deflated.

Federer was sublime in set two as he did not concede a point in his first three service games and was piling on the pressure as Nadal had to hold his serve to even stay in the match. But Federer got his all important break in the second set, to take a 5-4 lead in the all-important set, which then gave him the platform to successfully serve his way to the title and it will stand him in good stead going into the clay court season.

In my opinion, it was a fantastic final as two juggernauts of the sport faced each other and it failed to disappoint. There was no definitive shot that amazed the crowd, but it was two rivals with contrasting styles going at each other, and you just couldn’t take your eye off it. It was textbook tennis. The only issue that Federer might have is how long he can keep this run going. You can’t criticise his motivation because he has so much of it. He will have to select his tournaments carefully if he wants to be in contention for the grand slam events which are the pinnacles of the sport. It is likely that he will make the year-end ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London, but he has to determine which tournaments will benefit him the most.  Will we see Nadal vs Federer again? Many will hope that is the case, and at this moment, there will be many more to come.




Tennis: who will win the year-end ATP Finals?

As the tennis season reaches the end of another gruelling season, we look ahead to the final tournament of the year, the Nitto ATP Finals.

The event consists of the top eight male players, as they battle it out for the blue-ribband event of the ATP Tour.

It just shows how much things have changed in the last 12 months as last year’s winner, Grigor Dimitrov from Bulgaria did not qualify for this year’s tournament, as the 27-year-old is currently the World No.19.

The finals will get underway on Sunday, as Austria’s Dominic Thiem will face South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, in the first singles match. The winner of the tournament could receive 1500 ranking points, if they are unbeaten throughout the tournament

It will be the tenth edition of the season-ending tournament, formerly known as the ATP World Tour Finals, at the famous O2 Arena in London. Previous winners at the O2 include the current World No.1 Novak Djokovic, World No.3 and record male grand slam winner, Roger Federer. Great Britain’s Andy Murray lifted the Brad Drewett trophy in 2016, and Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko won the first event to be held in London back in 2008.

There have been five winners at the O2, but either Djokovic or Federer have lifted the trophy in six of the nine tournaments. In fact, in the last 15 editions of the ATP Finals, the Swiss and the Serb have shared 11 trophies between them.

Djokovic and Federer both qualified for the ATP Finals this year and are expected to meet in the final. The 31-year-old has had a fantastic end to the season as he has lost only two matches since losing the final of Queen’s.

This run includes winning Wimbledon and the US Open, two Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai, the former where he achieved the Golden Masters, becoming the first player to win all nine Masters 1000 tournaments at least once in their career.

On current form, the 14-time Grand Slam winner reached the final of the Rolex Paris Masters last week, which included beating Federer and Croatia’s Marin Cilic in three sets. Djokovic was eventually beaten in straight sets to Russian 22-year-old, Karen Khachanov, as he lifted the biggest title of his young career.

During that week, Djokovic became the World No.1, as Rafael Nadal pulled out of the tournament, with an ankle injury. The Spaniard chose to have surgery, and therefore will not play in London next week.

Djokovic was drawn in the Guga Kuerten Group alongside, Cilic, Germany’s Alexander Zverev, and World No.10 John Isner.

In the other group, the Lleyton Hewitt Group, Federer will play Anderson, Thiem, and Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

The 37-year-old had a great start to the season as he won the first slam of the year, the Australian Open, and picked up his 20thgrand slam title. He won the Rotterdam Open in February, and then became the oldest ever World No.1 at the tender age of 36 years and 195 days.

However, he failed to win a Masters 1000 title this year, despite making finals in Cincinnati and Shanghai towards the back end of the season. He suffered a quarter final defeat to Anderson at Wimbledon and a fourth-round exit to Australia’s John Millman at Flushing Meadows. He then lost his No.1 crown to Nadal when he couldn’t defend his title in Halle, an ATP 500 event leading up to the All England Championships.

It will be interesting to find out who will be crowned as the Nitto ATP Finals champion 2018, as this season draws to a close. How much energy have the players got left in the tank? We will have to find out when the tournament gets under way on Sunday.





Tennis club in Chichester beats their target for Children in Need

Chichester Racquets & Fitness Club celebrated Children in Need on Friday night, as they raised money through various events at the club.

There were tennis and squash tournaments taking place across the whole day, with the evening being wrapped up with a charity auction, with a wide range of items going on sale from tennis lessons to a helicopter ride over Chichester.

The club have raised over £3,500 for the charity, with their target being £2,500. Club Manager, Jack Lerwill, 31, said: “It [Children in Need] is just a fantastic charity and a fantastic cause. It is one of those events that the country gets behind.”

The club have raised money for the BBC charity for over 10 years, ranging from charity auctions to golf days out.

VIDEO: Snow sweeps over Chichester

Schools and businesses across Chichester closed due to the weather conditions.

The Beast from the East continued covering the south coast where people struggled to get to work.

Dozens of schools remained closed for the second day, but for others it was their first day off, as the weather was too dangerous for them to stay open.

The blizzard conditions affected people travelling to and from, with many having to work from home.

The Met Office predicted more snow to arrive issuing an amber warning of snow and ice across the region.

Southern Railway told passengers to complete their journey by the mid-afternoon and to check the national rail website for live departures.

West Sussex Fire advised people to make ‘essential journeys’ to plan and leave in plenty of time.

However, many school children were having fun in the snow, as some found out their school was shut today.

For some, it was their first ever day off school due to the in-climate weather, and so decided to get their sleds out and head to Priory Park, Chichester. Their faces were filled with delight when they were sliding down the hill.

Also, the birds sung despite the cold temperatures hitting the south and all over the UK.

El Futuro Special – Will this England U17 team go onto to be successes?


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Rhian Brewster scoring for England against Brazil in the U17 World Cup semifinal – (c) Daily Mirror

In this El Futuro special, I will not be discussing a specific player, but a team. That is, of course, the England U17s, who have made the final of the U17 World Cup in India.

They have been impressive throughout the tournament, with a 100% record in the group stages, beating Japan on penalties, and thrashing the United States in the quarter-finals. But the most important of all, beating Brazil 3-1 in yesterday’s semi-final.

The final will take place this Saturday (October 28) in Kolkata which will kick-off at 3:30pm BST. The final will be broadcasted on BBC Two (3:20pm BST) and Eurosport 1 (3:15pm BST).

The Young Lions will take on Spain in the final, which is the repeat of the U17 European Championships final earlier this year, where England lost on penalties.

Of course, England will look to seek revenge over the Spaniards, as they will hope to lift the trophy in Kolkata.

England have scored 18 goals in the tournament so far, with 14 of them coming from open play.

I watched the semi-final between England and Brazil, and I thought the home nation was fantastic and very professional. Rhian Brewster scored his second successive hat trick, as he has scored seven goals in six games, as he looks to bring home the golden boot award. Brewster missed quite a few chances early on in the tournament but he has really kicked on in the latter stages, which is amazing to see.

We also have to give credit to the defence who have stood strong in important moment in games, as England have only conceded four goals in six games. Goalkeeper, Curtis Anderson have to take most of the credit, as he has an 82.6% save rate so far in this tournament.

To put that into context, that is the third highest overall, and the two goalkeepers above them in fellow Englishman, William Crellin and Gaizka Ipeze from New Caledonia, have only played one game each. Anderson also scored and saved a penalty in the shoot-out against Japan in the Second Round.

The two centre-backs in Marc Guehi from Chelsea, and captain, Joel Labatibeaudiere have been rock solid and have defended well, especially against the Brazilians.

With Jadon Sancho being forced to return to his club, Borussia Dortmund, the wingers have had to step up, and they have done that. Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi and Manchester City’s Phil Foden have been excellent in the wide positions and have created a lot of chances.

I am surprised that manager, Steve Cooper hasn’t involved Manchester United starlet, Angel Gomes, who is only 16, but when England are doing so well, then if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

With the youth England teams performing so well this summer, let’s hope this group can top it off. It’s great that they are going fair in tournaments, but it is important that they are going to play regular first-team football, and then go on to progress into the senior England team and hopefully, go far in major tournaments.

El Futuro – Will moving from Manchester to Dortmund seriously develop his career?


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Jadon Sancho (c) ESPN FC

Jadon Sancho playing for England U17s against Turkey U17s in Croatia at the U17 European Championships. (c) ESPN FC

He is only 17, but for Jadon Sancho, he is already being dubbed as the future star for England. But with his recent summer move to German side, Borussia Dortmund, will he be the best young talent in the world, or will the pressure get to him just like players gone before him?

Jadon Sancho started his football career at the Watford academy. They saw a lot of talent, when he joined at the age of just seven. He played there for eight years, but then moved in 2015 to the impressive academy facilities of Manchester City, as he wanted to escalate his career and hopefully one day make it into the first team. He was offered a new £30,000-per-week contract to stay at Manchester City, but he declined the offer and decided to move to Borussia Dortmund for around £8million on the summer deadline day.

The winger has failed to make an appearance for the first team at Dortmund, but he has made two appearances for the second team in the fourth tier of German football. There will come a time that he will be given an opportunity to play in the Bundesliga, and hopefully the Champions League.

The problem for Sancho could be that Borussia Dortmund do have a lot of quality in the wide positions going forward, with Dortmund signing Andriy Yarmolenko and Maximilian Philipp this summer, and also Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic already at the club. Even worse, Sancho could end up not being a part of the future plans at the end of the season, which was what happened to Emre Mor earlier this year, as the 20-year-old left for Spanish club Celta Vigo, only a year after signing for ‘Die Schwarzgelben’ (German for ‘The Yellow-and-Blacks’).

Sancho has been impressive on England duty over the last six months playing for the under-17s and is a crucial player for the Young Lions in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, which is currently taking place. He scored twice in England’s 4-0 win in their first World Cup game against Chile last Sunday, and added to his tally, as they beat Mexico 3-2 on Wednesday. He has scored 14 goals in 17 games for the U17s, which shows his natural goal-scoring capability.

To also mention, Sancho was the player of the tournament in the U-17 European Championships earlier this year in Croatia, as England finished runners-up. In previous tournaments, players like Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabregas, and Toni Kroos have won this accolade, so it just shows that Sancho does have the potential to become a special talent.

But he has added more than that to his game, as his dribbling ability is second-to-none, taking on players and beating them with ease. I know that when he progresses, it will be harder for him to beat players, but it is refreshing to see players dribble past defenders with such elegance and authority.

The problem with right-footed players on the left-hand side, is the predictability to cut inside on their favoured foot and try and shoot. Modern players don’t try and use their weaker foot when crossing, which could be due to them not practicing on it enough, or they feel more comfortable always crossing on their stronger foot. If he can play with both feet, he will become one very good player.

Could Sancho have been a success if he stayed at Manchester City? At this stage, it is hard to tell, but anything is possible. To be honest, he would only really get an opportunity if there was an injury crisis. It happened to Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, and it has happened to other players before, and it will happen again.

But with Sané and Sterling looking to be first-team regulars for the ‘Sky Blues’ if they play a front three, it will be hard for Sancho to get regular game-time. It is refreshing to see a player wanting to move for first-team football and not for money. Sancho could have stayed at City and be in that comfort zone of the academy, but he has gone left-field and decided to challenge himself by going abroad. We are seeing more young players leaving their academy in England and going on to play ‘men’s’ football, where winning and losing means so much more.

Jadon Sancho has so much potential and has the ability to become one of the best players in the world. But he knows he has got to keep his head down and not get too caught up in thinking that he has already made it. He still has a long way to go, but I think he has the determination and the perseverance to achieve his dream.

El Futuro – “I couldn’t say no to Real Madrid” – the potential star of World football


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Dani Ceballos signing for Real Madrid – (c) AS Diario

From Real Betis to Real Madrid, 21-year-old Dani Ceballos has steadily grown into a player to look for in the next few years as he has the potential to be a great midfielder, not just for Real Madrid, but for the Spanish national team.

At the age of six, Ceballos joined the Sevilla youth team and played for them for five years, but was released as he was suffering from bronchitis at the time. In 2009, he joined his home-town club CD Utrera, a team in Andalucía. Two years later he joined Real Betis as he looked to progress his career, and look to be a first-team regular.

Before playing for the second team, the coaches already saw the potential and elevated him into the first team, and made his debut for Betis on April 26, 2014, when he came on as a substitute in a 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad.

In the 2013/14 season, Real Betis were relegated into the Segunda División, but Ceballos stayed at the club in the hope to play more regular football. Nine months past his debut, he scored his first professional goal in a 2-0 home win against Racing de Santander. Real Betis then went on to win the Segunda División title by two points, and he played a crucial role, scoring 5 goals in 33 appearances for ‘Los Verdiblancos’ (Spanish for ‘The Green-and-Whites’).

In July this year, he made an €18 million (£15.8 million*) move to Real Madrid, but is it one step too far for the Spanish midfielder? In the time that he has been in the Madrid shirt, he has looked impressive as he scored in a 2-0 win against Barcelona at home in the Supercopa de España. And last Saturday, he made his first start for ‘Los Blancos’, and scored two goals in a 2-1 away win against Deportivo Alavés.

However, Ceballos has yet to make his debut for the Spanish national team, but he has played at U19 and U21 level for his country. In fact, he was named player of the tournament in the most recent U21 European Championships this year. With the depth in the Spanish midfield, in Iniesta, Koke and Isco to mention a few, it’s going to be very difficult to gain much game-time for the national team at this minute. But with the breakthrough of Marco Asensio, anything can happen when the manager, Julen Lopetegui has had spells as manager of the Spanish U21 team and is not afraid to experiment.

Manager of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane has changed the team regularly this season already, so Ceballos will have plenty of opportunities to play for the first team, and will feel a crucial part of the squad, especially if Madrid bring home trophies at the end of the season. However, with the slow start to the season, they are already seven points behind leaders, Barcelona, after six games. But with the sheer depth that Real have, they still have a chance of catching up.

Will we ever be likely to see ‘Dani’ in the Premier League? Possibly, with Chelsea signing former Real Madrid striker, Álvaro Morata. Knowing that in the transfer market nowadays, Dani Ceballos could be sold for £40-50 million next year, so Real Madrid could take the hit for a huge profit. He has come out and said that he regretted not joining rivals, Barcelona in the summer, so if he is not happy with the amount of game time he is being given, he will push for a move away from the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

A player with huge potential, but Dani Ceballos needs to convince us that Real Madrid is the right club for him fulfil it. He has to be patient if he wants to make it. However, other clubs will be attracted to him and will look to lure him away.

*Euro to pound conversion rate – September 28, 2017

El Futuro – Will Patrick Cutrone be the next star for AC Milan?


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Cutrone - (c) ESPN FC

Welcome to my new series, named ‘El Futuro’, where I talk about young players who are destined for the future that you may not know about. These will be players not just from the domestic leagues, but from across the world.

The first player that I will be talking about in this new series, is AC Milan and Italy striker, Patrick Cutrone, who has made an impressive start to this season in Serie A. The 19-year-old has been at the ‘Rossoneri’ (Italian for the Red & Blacks) since 2006, and has patiently waited for his chance to play for the first team. Fortunately for Cutrone, Milan manager, Vincenzo Montella has given him the opportunity to play regularly this season.

Cutrone made his first-team debut for AC Milan on May 21 earlier this year, coming on late in the second half in a 3-0 win at home against Bologna. But his name really came to fruition when he started in the first game of the new Serie A season last month in scoring and assisting in a 3-0 win away to Crotone. He then scored a week later at the San Siro in a 2-1 win against Cagliari. He has a better minutes per goal ratio this season than top quality strikers in the league in Gonzalo Higuaín, Mario Mandzukic and fellow Italian, Andrea Belotti. Including the goals he scored in pre-season, it looks to me that he has great composure, a great header of the ball, and is a poacher in front of goal. He has a similar style to Chelsea striker, Alvaro Morata.

He has done well to get game time in the AC Milan shirt, and willing to fight for a regular place. However, with the money that Milan have spent in the summer transfer window, he has a lot of tough competition to face. AC Milan have recently signed André Silva from Porto, Fabio Borini from recently relegated Sunderland, and have loaned in Nikola Kalinic from Fiorentina. The competition is there for Cutrone, but will he hide or will he thrive?

Knowing that Cutrone has been in the Rossoneri academy for a long time, the fans have already adored to him and will always support him through thick and thin. However, as we have seen with Gianluigi Donnarumma, when you don’t state your intent in staying, the fans can quickly turn as the faithful threw fake money at the 18-year-old goalkeeper during a game as he was looking to move to a new club for more money, but when you have a super-agent in Mino Raiola, it’s not surprising that it was reported that he was looking further afield from the San Siro.

With the World Cup coming up next year, there is a chance for Cutrone to play a big role for Italy, if they qualify. When they played against Spain in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month, they played two up-front but they really struggled in their defeat at the Santiago Bernabeú in Madrid. Ciro Immobile and Belotti played in that game, and it wouldn’t startle many if the Italy manager, Gian Piero Ventura, would change personnel for the first game in Russia.

Patrick Cutrone is one for the future and has amazing talent, but can he handle the pressure when it comes to big games, big moments, and big competition? This will be a big season for the striker, but I’m sure that he will have plenty of time to prove his ability and for his sake, become one of the best forwards in the world.

Manchester City were dominant against Liverpool with a 5-0 win, but the game marred by Mané sending off

Manchester City were comfortable in their win against Liverpool earlier today, but were undoubtedly aided by the sending off of Senegalese winger, Sadio Mané. The momentum was in favour of Liverpool prior to the sending off, even though Man City opened the scoring with Sergio Aguero going around the goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, and sliding the ball into the back of the net.

The Sky Blues doubled their lead with a goal from Brazilian striker, Gabriel Jesus just before half time, with a tap-in. Gabriel Jesus scored his second and City’s third, with an unlikely assist from his fellow strike-partner, Sergio Aguero.

Leroy Sané added a special brace, including a fantastic strike which landed in the top corner, to take City to the top of the table before the 3pm games kick-off.

Of course, the major talking point is the sending off, and many pundits have seemed to have strong arguments on whether it was a sending off or not. It was a very dangerous tackle from Mané, but was it really worth a three-match ban? The laws from FIFA states that if it was a careless or reckless challenge, then it doesn’t deserve a red card, but only a caution. If the player uses excessive force, then it is an immediate red-card. The ambiguity of whether the winger uses excessive force or not causes so many arguments, and many will say that it was a 50/50 challenge, many will say that he caused serious damage to the Manchester City goalkeeper and so was right to be sent off. It is a contact sport and many will say that we are moving away from it.

Manchester City were very professional in their performance, but the 5-0 win didn’t reflect the game in general, with Kevin de Bruyne being unstoppable in that midfield role yet again. The sending off stopped all the momentum of Liverpool as they were taking the game to Manchester City and created some very good chances, with Mohammed Salah being impressive once again, but just couldn’t score. They will be very confident going into their next game away to Watford, but Liverpool will have to fight back in their next game in order to keep in the race for the top of the table.


Spain have to be huge contenders for the World Cup next year


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Spain were impressive in their 3-0 win against Italy at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, as Isco scored twice with Chelsea’s Álvaro Morata sealing the third goal and the game to take Spain to the top of the group, and three points clear of their rivals.

What was so incredible about Spain’s performance last night was the fluidity between passing, and the way that they attacked the Italian’s back four, as they were missing Giorgio Chiellini, due to injury that he sustained whilst training with the squad. But with the Spaniards playing a 4-3-3 formation, but with a false 9, the Italian centre backs did not know who to mark, with either Isco, David Silva, or youngster, Marco Asensio changing positions during the game.

Looking at the Italian’s, 4-4-2 (when defending) or 4-2-4 (when attacking), formation, it looked like they were going to take it to the Spaniards, but they were unconvincing when going forward, and didn’t cause much of a threat to David de Gea in goal, who had nothing to do all night. The Italians didn’t need a second striker if they were going to sit back and hit the Spaniards on the counter-attack. They needed an extra midfielder, because Daniele de Rossi and Marco Verratti had too much to do, as Busquets, Iniesta and Koke ran rings around them. It was clear that Italy manager, Gian Piero Ventura, got the tactics totally wrong, and would regret it, if they don’t make it to the World Cup in Russia next year. It is certain that they will have to qualify via a tricky play-off in November.

You have to put Spain as one of the favourites because they have a great balance between youth and experience, with many of them being regulars, playing in the Champions League for big clubs. In fact, only two of the 14 players that played a part last night, had not been in a Champions League final. No wonder why they have won a World Cup and two European Championships in the last ten years.

This is why England always fall short at every major tournament. We don’t have the experience, nor the quality to go deep into tournaments. There must be a reason as to why the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich aren’t being linked with English players. Mainly it’s because we don’t have the ability to adapt to different situations in games, and we are so one-dimensional, that it took us more than a half, to score against Malta on Friday night.

However, we are seeing young English players being linked away from England, with 17-year-old Jadon Sancho moving to German side, Borussia Dortmund for around £10million, and was very impressive in the U17 European Championships earlier this year, scoring five goals in the tournament.

The other World Cup favourites are Germany, who won the Confederations Cup without their best players, and they also won the U21 European Championships in June beating Spain. However, it is unlikely that these players will feature much in Russia but it is positive for future major tournaments.

The other major contenders are France, with their brilliant performance against the Netherlands, but Didier Deschamps might struggle with picking his best eleven, because they have so many options, and it’s trying to have a team with the best balance, and players don’t get injured.

The big surprises could be once again, Belgium, who have a strong team, and Portugal, who won Euro 2016, do look quite balanced and look good defensively. However, Portugal are in second place, and might have to qualify via the play-off, but they do play Switzerland, in a top-of-the-table clash next month, and that will most likely decide who will automatically qualify for Russia.

The World Cup is still nine months away, and there are still crucial games left in qualifying, and the draw for next year hasn’t been made. Once that has been completed, then we can have a better idea as to who will be the prime favourites to lift the trophy on the 15th July 2018.