FIFA 19 vs Goal: Which Team of the Champions League Group Stage is better?

FIFA 19 have revealed their Team of the UEFA Champions League group stage ahead of the final matchday before Europe’s premier club competition goes into hibernation for the winter.

Some of the football’s biggest stars such as Neymar and Lionel Messi have been recognised for their performances, but there are a few players who are perhaps unlucky to have missed out on a place in their team but have made it into Goal’s XI.

For example, Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has been in fine fettle for the Serie A champions during their European excursions, keeping four clean sheets in just five UEFA Champions League matches – no other stopper has kept more.

Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte’s form also arguably warranted a place in FIFA’s XI; along with his stellar defensive work, the Frenchman has scored twice in the UCL this season – no other defender has scored more.

On the other hand, Nabil Fekir was rightfully included in FIFA 19’s team, with the Lyon star one of only eight players to have 2+ goals and 2+ assists in the UCL this season.

Along with Fekir, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski made the grade. On Matchday 5, the Polish superstar became the third fastest player to ever score 50 CL goals (now as 51).

Which Team of the UCL Group Stage is better?

FIFA 19, complete with brand new UEFA Champions League features, is out now.

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‘Any team that has Messi is the favourite’ – ex-Spurs midfielder Nayim

Ex-Tottenham midfielder Nayim has claimed that any side featuring Lionel Messi will always be favourites as Mauricio Pochettino’s side get ready to face Barcelona in a crucial Champions League clash on Tuesday night.

The midfielder joined Spurs from Barca in 1988 and went on to play 144 times for the Londoners, scoring 18 goals.

Pochettino’s side know that they must better Inter Milan’s result against PSV to ensure qualification for the knockout stages of the European competition, and are likely to need a victory.

But the Spaniard has warned his former club that any side boasting five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is bound to be at an advantage.

The Argentina international is already the leading goalscorer in the Champions League this season with six in three appearances and he produced a star turn during Barca’s 4-2 win against Spurs at Wembley back in October.

In an exclusive interview with Goal, Nayim said: “Any team that has Leo is slightly more the favourite than the rest but in the end, he can not do it all by himself, it can happen that there are games that tie him very well and other teammates have to appear.

“Without a doubt, but there are other important teams that can win, Barcelona seems to have the Champions League as their main goal and until now I have seen how they are competing in Europe quite well.”

The 52-year-old added that should Barcelona fail to go into the match without the necessary intensity, Spurs still have a chance of a positive result: “It depends on how Barcelona comes in. If it goes as Tottenham should, it will be very difficult for them even though they are capable of winning, they are a very solid team with very dangerous players.

“When Leo Messi is inspired, it is very difficult to stop his team, but if they do not come out with the necessary tension, Tottenham will increase their chances.”

Nayim did, however, acknowledge the importance of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen returning to the side after both missed the defeat against Barca in the reverse fixture.

He said: “Undoubtedly, we are talking about two very good players, especially on the offensive level, they are guys who know how to create opportunities from nothing and finish very well, they have shot from a distance and we will have to be very aware of them.”

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Manchester City vs Hoffenheim Betting Tips: Latest odds, team news, preview and predictions

Manchester City will be determined to put league defeat to Chelsea behind them when they welcome Hoffenheim to the Etihad Stadium for Wednesday’s Champions League clash.

The Citizens are already sure of a place in the last 16, but need to avoid defeat in this final game to secure top spot.

Latest Odds

Having run out 2-1 winners in the reverse meeting in Germany, they are 1/5 (1.20) favourites with bet365 to return to winning ways with a victory here.

Sergio Aguero vs Hoffenheim

Julian Nagelsmann’s men are already out of the competition but can clinch a Europa League spot should they win and Shakhtar Donetsk lose at home to Lyon, and are available at 14/1 (15.00) to pull off a shock in this one.

Both of the guests’ away matches in the group so far have resulted in draws, and there are odds of 7/1 (8.00) on offer on them claiming a share of the spoils once again.

Team News

Sergio Aguero remains a doubt after missing out on the last two games, while Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are both doubts and Benjamin Mendy, Claudio Bravo and Eliaquim Mangala still on the sidelines.

Adam Szalai and Kerem Demirbay are both suspended, with Kevin Vogt, Lukas Rupp, Havard Nordtveit and Nadiem Amiri all ruled out through injury.

Goals at both ends

It is not difficult to pinpoint the reasons for Die Kraichgauer’s elimination from this tournament, and it is certainly not down to their attacking play.

Manchester City v Hoffenheim Betting Preview

The German tournament debutants have scored 10 goals in their five group games so far, a figure exceeded by only seven of the 31 other teams in the competition.

Indeed, they took the lead in the 2-1 defeat at home to Pep Guardiola’s team, and will be confident of causing more problems for a backline that has kept just once clean sheet in five fixtures.

Predictions

All in all, odds of 5/4 (2.25) look like strong value on City coming out on top despite conceding against an enterprising Hoffenheim team that has found the net in all seven previous Champions League matches.

Betting Banner - Best Bet    Manchester City to win and both teams to score for a 1.5pt stake at 5/4 (2.25) with bet365

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How can Nigeria get the best out of in-form Ola Aina?


COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter 


Coaches in modern football have increasingly come to be categorized by their concept of squad building. Opting to give primacy the integrity of the system is associated with a proactive approach, while a more player-centric model is termed reactive. 

There are, of course, grey areas, overlap and a certain irony in the fact that today’s most proactive coaches rely on strict positional play and eschew free-form attacking. However, it is a useful criterion for categorization, and it might hold the key to understanding why Ola Aina has struggled to assert himself in international football with the Super Eagles. 

On loan at Torino, the wing-back has shone away from the uncertainty of parent club Chelsea, and stood out at the weekend in a goalless draw against AC Milan at San Siro.

Yet, even in the absence of the injured Tyronne Ebuehi, there is a sense that he is a recourse rather than a first pick at right-back. 

Ola Aina - Nigeria vs. Libya

Some of that is to do with the loyalty that so defines Gernot Rohr, as the German has favoured converted midfielder Shehu Abdullahi instead for most of his time at the helm of the Nigeria national team.

The wider issue, however, is a tactical ome: Aina is a wing-back playing in a team that does not often use wing-backs. 

Rohr has preferred a back four for the most part, and there is an element of misfortune in that, on the occasions when he has used a back three instead, Aina has been unavailable: he was not selected for the World Cup, and picked up a knock on the eve of November’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in Johannesburg. 

If we surmise that the job of the national team manager is to make the most effective use of the most in-form players available to him, what then might that mean for the national team, and for Aina?Ola Aina quote 

It would depend, on some level, on how much of a marginal gain he could offer in an altered system, and also how the other components of the team fit around that. 

At the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, erstwhile Head Coach Jo Bonfrere had a problem going into the final; mercurial midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha had been suspended for the semi-final, an unfortunate circumstance which, ironically, helped him discover his best midfield pairing.  

Tijani Babangida struck twice against South Africa to nook a final place, but now the Dutchman had a problem: would he leave Okocha out, as the team seemed more solid and cohesive without him, and risk the ire of the public, or would he sacrifice sure footing in order to accommodate his magician?

Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria

In the end, he did neither: Okocha returned to the side, but in a weird left-sided role in midfield which both neutered him and opened up the team on that flank. The marginal gain was that he scored a belter in the second half, but it in no way made up for the imbalance his presence created.

Would the team have been so dire as to go 2-0 down in the first place? Probably not. 

The lesson here is simple: only by playing your best players in their preferred roles can their best be elicited for the benefit of the entire side.  Ola Aina Torino

Aina’s form, as impressive as it is, is tied unmistakably to the wing-back role, one which to some degree masks his underdeveloped defensive instincts.

Played as a full-back in a back four, he is required to fulfill more defensive duties, and it is no surprise that he has looked shaky when deployed there: over both legs against Libya, he struggled positionally, and was arguably culpable for the first Libyan goal in the return leg in Sfax.  

If the Super Eagles are to get his very best, it would necessitate a permanent move to the 3-5-2 that has been used only occasionally.

Whether he can elevate the team enough to justify that change is the question which Rohr must answer.  

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‘Is that it?’ – Mertens unimpressed by historic ‘This Is Anfield’ sign ahead of CL showdown

Napoli attacker Dries Mertens has suggested that Anfield’s fear factor is exaggerated, ahead of the Serie A giants’ trip to Liverpool in the Champions League.

The Italian side are currently top of Group C with nine points and can book their place in the knockout phase with a draw in Tuesday night’s heavyweight encounter.

Meanwhile, Liverpool must secure a 1-0 victory or win by a two-goal margin to qualify, with second-placed Paris Saint-Germain also in action against Red Star Belgrade in Serbia.

Mertens has experienced the Anfield atmosphere on a European night already, as a Utrecht player 10 years ago in the Europa League, and he has questioned the ground’s famous reputation as one of the toughest venues to play at in European football.

“My strongest memory is that they have a sign saying ‘This is Anfield’ and everyone was talking about it, so I was thinking it’s very big, you know,” he told The Times.

“I came through the tunnel and I asked, ‘Where is the thing?’ and they said you missed it and I hadn’t noticed it.

“So, in the second half, I’m looking at this small thing and asking, ‘Is this so special?’”

The 31-year-old winger went on to concede that he expects a far more raucous crowd than the one he encountered on his previous visit to Anfield but also insists he can cope with the pressure to elevate his own performance.

He added: “Football in Italy is crazy and the people are very crazy, too, so I think we are used to it. For me, it will push me to a different level, these are the nights we want to play.”

Napoli come into the match fresh from a 4-0 win against Frosinone in Serie A on Saturday, which kept them in touch with league leaders Juventus at the top of the table.

Liverpool also head into the crucial Group C clash full of confidence, having reached the Premier League summit with a 4-0 win at Bournemouth at the weekend.

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