Preview: Black Stars prepare for upcoming World Cup in a friendly test with unknown opponents
Placed in what has been described as this year's "Group of Death" alongside European heavyweights Germany and Portugal as well as familiar foe United States, Ghana will certainly have a tough task ahead to qualify for the knockout stages in their third World Cup appearance.
Hence, in order to prepare for the eagerly anticipated tournament, the Black Stars will be taking on several European and South American teams over the next few months so as to get a feel of what to expect once in Brazil.
Preview: A good rehearsal for both teams, staged in Barcelona
Tunisia emphatically failed to reach Brazil 2014 last November. The goalless result of the first leg against Cameroon in the playoffs left them hopeful. However, the Indomitable Lions played with a lot of hunger back home and dismantled their opponents 4-1.
For the Tunisians, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will have to be followed on TV but Wednesday will offer them the opportunity to come up against a qualified team, Colombia.
The South Americans had a rather smooth World Cup qualification campaign. To prepare for their clash against African giants Cote d’Ivoire in Group C, Los Cafeteros will want to beat Tunisia without the help of injured striker Radamel Falcao.
Preview: Socceroos to take field without captain Lucas Neill
Despite of signing a short term contract with English side Watford, the 34 year old has failed to make it to Ange Postecoglou’s 23 man squad to face Ecuador. The former Everton man had been without a club after Japanese side Omiya Ardija refused to offer him a contract extension, with incoming manager Ange Postecoglou making his intentions of only including players who feature regularly for their clubs loud and clear.
Apart from the veteran who was axed from the squad, there were some surprise inclusions with all of Curtis Good (Dundee United), Chris Herd (Aston Villa), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town) and Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf) in contention to make their international debuts.
Preview: Can Löw’s charges beat Chile?
Germany does not have a good track record when it comes to friendlies. They just do not seem to take friendlies too seriously. Joachim Löw, the man charged with leading the Germans to their first international trophy since Euro 1996, has chosen four debutants. Matthias Ginter of SC Freiburg is one of them. Andre Hahn of FC Augsburg is another.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga has been named as one of only two strikers in the squad alongside veteran Miroslav Klose. His performances have been impressive despite the overall performance of his fledgling team, Hamburger SV. The more surprising pick is perhaps Skhodran Mustafi considering that rarely does a German who does not feature in the Bundesliga get picked in the national side. The youngster features for UC Sampdoria in Italy’s Serie A.
Preview: Can Austria silence Luis Suarez’s Uruguay?
The Austrian squad has a distinctive Bundesliga flavor to it. Some of its leading men ply their trade in Germany, none so less than David Alaba. Alaba plays a midfield role for the national side but features as a left back for his club. He runs the midfield with power and energy; whereas, he is usually seen motoring down the left for Bayern, he is found calm and composed for country, ready to drive forward when needed.
His supporting cast includes the captain and ex Bundesliga star, Andreas Ivanschitz. Ivanschitz currently plies his trade in Spain where he features for Levante. Christian Fuchs, Schalke’s marauding defender, also features for Austria. Emmanuel Pogatetz, Zlatko Junuzovic and Sebastian Prödl are three more Bundesliga stars who are part of the Austrian setup. Martin Harnik helps Austria get some goals whenever he can. Marko Arnautovic, who used to feature for Bremen and now features for Stoke, shows up with a big performance when he wants to.
Preview: Legends join hands for a good cause
A match which has been billed as Ronaldo, Zidane and Friends vs BSC Young Boys and Friends will see the likes of former Real Madrid legends Ronaldo, Zidane and Figo return to action once again. The event which marks this game is the 11th ‘annual match against poverty’ and this time around the majority of the proceeds will be donated to the people affected from the Typhoon Haiyan which struck Philippines last November.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ambassadors Ronaldo and Zidane are just two of the star players who are expected to play part in the match. The prolific duo will be joined by Italian international Paolo Maldini who after dedicating his entire playing career to one club, has now expressed his delight of returning to the football pitch for a good cause.
Preview: Sabella looking to finalize squad for World Cup
Wednesday’s fixture will allow coach Alejandro Sabella to take a final look at all his players before he decides as to who will make the trip to Brazil for the mega event. One player who is expected to not make the squad is Juventus forward Carlos Tevez.
The former Man City striker last featured for La Albiceleste in the 2011 Copa America quarterfinal and has been overlooked for the national team since the arrival of Sabella in August 2011.
Preview: Deschamps drops some big names as his side welcomes a familiar foe
The two sides have faced off on numerous occasions, with the Netherlands enjoying the better head-to-head record as the last meeting ended as a 4-1 victory in their favour during the group stages in the EURO 2008 tournament.
However, a lot has changed since then, and with both teams having already qualified for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, French national team coach Deschamps has opted to mix things up in his side for the friendly encounter.
Gone are the likes of Manchester City stars Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy; in their stead will feature Real Sociedad youngster Antoine Griezmann for his first senior cap, as well as Porto's Eliaquim Mangala who has only featured once previously for Les Bleus.
Preview: An excellent warm-up ahead of Brazil 2014
The Elephants flopped at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Four years later, they were keen to improve but it was never going to be easy to qualify into the knockout stages with Portugal and powerhouse Brazil completing the ‘Group of Death’. Not even the spirit of the African soil offered luck to the Ivoirians.
This time, the World Cup fiesta will take place on the land of the most successful footballing nation. During the draw last year, the West Africans fell into Group C with Colombia, Greece and Japan. Cote d’Ivoire stand a good chance of finally getting third time lucky.
Preview: Milan look to pull off a big upset at the San Siro
AC Milan and Juventus are two of the most historic clubs in Italy. Apart from all of that history, both sides are currently heading in two very different directions.
Juventus are the reigning Serie A champions, and they look destined to win the title again. Antonio Conte’s side has an eight-point lead over AS Roma, but with 13 matches remaining, the visitors will not want to drop points at the San Siro.
Ricardo Montolivo believes that his side has what it takes to embarrass the league leaders, as they did in November of 2012.
Preview: Barcelona has a chance to makeup points
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will square off earlier in the day, which gives Barcelona a chance to gain some points on one, or both of their rivals. The thought of Almeria coming into the Nou Camp and grabbing points from the Catalans is hard to believe, but as we saw in Barcelona's last match, anything can happen.
Last weekends 3-1 defeat at the hands of Real Sociedad caught many by surprise. But with Barcelona still set to take on Real Madrid later this month, Tata Martino believes that his side has the title race in their own hands.
Preview: Nobody is invincible
Everyone at Real Madrid is fired up for Sunday’s exciting match up between Atleti and Los Blancos at the Vicente Calderon. This includes quiet manager Carlo Ancelotti who told the press:
“The Copa final was a final; the game in La Liga went well for us, and not so well for them. They arrived better at the semifinals and we must congratulate them. This Liga game will be different; both teams have a lot on the line.
“There are many games left, but it is true they could go six points ahead. We have always said it: we are going to go from game to game. We will go into the game as if it was a final, as we always do. They are very good in defence and in attack they have great individuals. But nobody is invincible.”
Preview: Spurs looking to build on European triumph
The North London side put forth an astonishing display of character as they raced to a 3-1 win over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the second leg of the Europa League last 32 tie.
After winning the first leg 1-0 the Ukrainian side increased their lead on aggregate to 2-0 after Roman Zozulya put the visitors 2-0 up on aggregate but three goals within 13 minutes allowed Tottenham to take the lead and a seal a place in the last 16 of the competition.
Preview: A tight encounter on the cards
Manchester City are eying the quadruple and their first chance to win a cup this season has come. Goalkeeper Joe Hart did not quite impress against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League last month and will understandably be replaced by Costel Pantilimon.
“When managers have got decisions to make, whether it benefits me or not, I have to be man enough to take it,” Hart explained before adding:
“I work hard every day to win and I understand it doesn't always go my way and you have to move forward.”
It remains to be seen whether Manuel Pellegrini’s decision will pay off. The biggest team news in City’s camp is that Sergio Aguero has recovered from injury and is expected to play a role this Sunday.
Preview: Roma poised to continue fine run against Internazionale
Inter Milan have recorded just a single win against the capital club in the last nine meeting between the two clubs with the last three matches ending in a victory for La Maggica. Owing to their current form the hosts will definitely be considered the favourite for the tie.
Rudi Garcia’s men second in Serie A, trail leaders Juventus by nine points and talismanic midfielder Daniele De Rossi among others is optimistic that the Old Lady will drop points in their coming fixtures.
Preview: Red’s hoping to move up in the league table
With Manchester City not playing this weekend owing to their participation in the final of the Capital One Cup, Liverpool have the chance to leapfrog the Citizens for the third spot and might as well finish this week in second place if Arsenal loose in their Premier League encounter against Stoke City.
Brendan Rodger’s men have been in ravishing form and their four goals against Swansea last time out allowed them to overtake Man City as the league’s top scorers.
Preview: Can Schalke stand up to the challenge?
Had Julian Draxler hit the ball either side of Iker Casillas rather than at him, the score might have been so different. The match might have turned. But Schalke was left to rue missed chances and lackadaisical defending as Real toyed with them. Their next task is set to be harder considering that they lost a number of players to injury in the UEFA Champions League. Nonetheless, the exit from Europe this season could help them finish in the top four in the league by allowing the players to rest more.
Bayern’s injury list is not too long. Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller will both be unavailable for selection due to some minor injury problems. Holger Badstuber is making his way back into the game slowly. For Schalke, Marco Höger, Christian Clemens, Dennis Aogo, Atsuto Uchida and Jan Kirchoff are all out of this one. Felipe Santana sustained some problems against Real and is out. Sead Kolasinac is a doubt as well.
Preview: Last victory for Arsenal at the Britannia was in 2010
The last time Arsenal won a match at the Britannia, was in February of 2010. A 1-3 victory for the Gunners was the least of their concerns that day, as Aaron Ramsey was stretchered off with a broken leg, after a Ryan Shawcross tackle at midfield.
Ramsey will not be available for Saturday’s match, but two of the scorers from that victory will.
Nicklas Bendtner got the Gunners on the board that day, after they went down in the eight minute. A 90th minute spot kick from Cesc Fabregas gave the Gunners the lead, with Thomas Vermaelen adding his name to the score-sheet in the 94th minute.
Preview: Can Mourinho’s attackers break down Magath’s Fulham?
Felix Magath was only a few minutes away from seeing his side earn three points in the previous weekend. Nonetheless, he took a point from that match and he will perhaps be satisfied with the outcome. Magath has demanded at least six wins from his team in the remainder of the campaign. This is surely not one of the matches he looked at when he was trying to plot the wins he feels the side needs.
Fulham will be without the services of Kostas Mitroglu, Fernando Amorebieta and Damien Duff. Matthew Briggs’ availability is doubtful. Chelsea will be without Marco Van Ginkel. David Luiz is a slight doubt. Chelsea will be coming into this one on the back of a rather uninspiring (at least as far as the second half is concerned) performance against Galatasaray in midweek in the Champions League. Magath knows that Chelsea will be tired. He coached plenty of Champions League sides and he reminded the press of his experiences, according to Sky Sports:
Preview: Bianconeri poised to make it to the last 16 of the Europa League
After an embarrassing performance in the Champions League which saw them getting knocked out in the first round of the competition, the Old Lady will be hoping to make the most out of their participation in Europe’s second tier club competition.
The Italian league leaders will head into the second leg with a two goal advantage after goals from Pablo Osvaldo and Paul Pogba gave the Turin side a 2-0 win in the first leg.