Pitchside

  • Tottenham have youth, talent, potential - and something more important than any of those things: character

    Alex Netherton heaps praise on the young team which is giving Tottenham Hotspur fans genuine reason to be optimistic about the future.

    Harry Kane celebrates scoring against QPR (Reuters)Harry Kane celebrates scoring against QPR (Reuters)

    Last Sunday, Tottenham were convincingly beaten by a weakened Chelsea side in the League Cup final.

    Chelsea were not that weakened, and the defeat was not humiliating, but it ably demonstrated that Spurs still had some way to go. The 5-3 defeat that Spurs had dished out to Chelsea in January was revealed to be something of an aberration - Spurs couldn't have asked for their attack to function better that day. But the League Cup result suggests that the league table has it right: Chelsea are a significantly better side than Spurs, with greater squad depth.

    Of course, Chelsea are better funded

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  • Former flop Franco Di Santo scored a wonder goal to show why he's one of Europe's most in-form forwards

    Franco Di Santo was one of the worst strikers in recent memory in the Premier League, but he did this on Saturday to continue his amazing form in Germany.

    Franco Di Santo is finally having a good seasonFranco Di Santo is finally having a good season

    Do you remember when Franco Di Santo used to be rubbish? And by rubbish we mean really, really rubbish?

    The kind of rubbish that saw him score just 13 league goals in three seasons at Wigan Athletic, despite being their regular centre-forward?

    Well you might be surprised to learn that the Argentinian, who also managed to score once in 22 league games for Blackburn Rovers, is currently tearing things up in the Bundesliga.

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  • Cup specialists Athletic Club aiming for Madrid scalp

    Athletic Club need to address their home form as they welcome Real Madrid to the Sam Mames.

    Athletic Bilbao's players celebrate (AFP)Athletic Bilbao's players celebrate (AFP)

    Athletic Club and Barcelona were still celebrating reaching the Copa del Rey final when the rejections began. Andres Iniesta had barely finished saying how he wanted the final to be in the Bernabeu when Real Madrid said no. It was no surprise: Real Madrid get more abuse in Barcelona and Bilbao than any other venue. 

    With Spain not having a national stadium, the cup final venue is chosen once the two finalists have been decided.

    Madrid would have been the natural venue, being roughly equidistant between the two cities (though still 600 kilometres away) and having the infrastructure to soak up

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  • European Match of the Weekend: New-look Valencia threaten La Liga elite

    With the help of Opta, we preview Atletico Madrid against Valencia from Liga.

    Valencia's players celebrate after they scored a goal against Atletico Madrid during their Spanish first division match at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, October 4, 2014 (Reuters)Valencia's players celebrate after they scored a goal against Atletico Madrid during their Spanish first division match at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, October 4, 2014 (Reuters)

    Quietly and efficiently Valencia are building up steam under new owner Peter Lim and on Sunday face champions Atletico Madrid ready to fight for third place in La Liga.

    Valencia are a new-look side thanks to the investment of Singapore billionaire Lim and, through solid displays rather than dashing football, they are on course to complete their aim of qualifying for the Champions League.

    Atletico drew 0-0 with Sevilla last weekend to leave Valencia, who won 2-0 at Real Sociedad, just one point behind on 53 ahead of their showdown at the Calderon.

    Under pragmatic coach Nuno Espirito Santo,

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  • Are Manchester United regretting selling Danny Welbeck?

    Is Radamel Falcao an upgraded on Danny Welbeck for Manchester United

    Arsenal's Danny WelbeckArsenal's Danny Welbeck

    When the FA Cup draw was made, one tie immediately stood out. Manchester United versus Arsenal, a modern rivalry which shaped the first decade of the Premier League era.

    Although the tension between the two giants of English football has died down somewhat since the emergence of Chelsea and Manchester City, there is still a vigorous buzz when the two sides go toe-to-toe.

    Where in previous campaigns during their peak, this would be a heavyweight clash for the title; the two clubs currently have to make do with competing with each other for places in the Champions League. With Arsenal on the

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  • 8 reasons why the FA Cup has lost its magic

    Boring weekends, needless replays and no prestige... Michael Da Silva explains how the FA Cup lost its magic.

    The FA Cup has been enduring a slow death for a long time.The FA Cup has been enduring a slow death for a long time.

    While the Premier League and Champions League have gone from strength to strength, basking in the glory of record-breaking TV deals and multi-million pound sponsorships, the FA Cup is no longer the great institution of English football it once was.

    In fact, its decline has been a constant reminder of the emphasis on money-over-everything attitude that has engulfed the game – leaving the FA Cup seriously damaged.

    The games are dull, the big teams are weakened and the one thing it desperately needs – money - is sorely lacking.

    But before we go any further, indulge us while we investigate how

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  • Philippe Coutinho’s midfield magic could reinvigorate Brazil – if only Dunga lets him play

    Philippe Coutinho has been in brilliant form for Liverpool, writes Jack Lang, but it's far from certain what his role will be for Brazil.

    Coutinho in a rare outing for his national teamCoutinho in a rare outing for his national team

    Brendan Rodgers has rarely been shy in praising the development of young players under his tutelage, but this felt different. More genuine. Fanboyish, almost.

    “He is a joy to work with and a joy to watch,” swooned the Liverpool manager after watching Philippe Coutinho dismantle Manchester City last weekend. “He is a kid who has so much ahead of him in the game. He is a sensational footballer.”

    Anyone who has watched the Reds over the last couple of years would be hard pressed to disagree. Since his arrival at Anfield, Coutinho has beguiled – firstly only intermittently, a sideshow to Luis

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  • Four hat-tricks, yet Lionel Messi has gained Barcelona just TWO points

    The figures are pretty damning for Lionel Messi and La Liga as a whole. But how does the Premier League fare when the same criteria is applied?

    Lionel Messi rues his penalty missLionel Messi rues his penalty miss

    He’s struck 27 goals in 25 matches in La Liga – including four hat-tricks – but Lionel Messi has technically contributed just two points to Barcelona’s total this season.

    It took the Argentine forward until early February to make a decisive contribution, with his effort against Villarreal imperative to Barca’s 3-2 victory.

    At least, that’s the findings when you erase all of his goals in 2014/15 and look at which matches Barcelona relied on him to get a result. Incredibly, that figure stands at just one match.

    If you remove all of Messi’s goals in Spain’s top flight, the Catalan giants’ goal

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  • How Ashley Young's unexpected resurgence is firing Manchester United

    Ali Tweedale of WhoScored.com details the resurgence of Ashley Young and the reasons behind his rejuvenation.

    Ashley Young (Reuters)Ashley Young (Reuters)

    Ashley Young, the winger, the close-to-£20m signing, the dribbler, the goalscorer and England international, has long been forgotten. The Ashley Young now at Manchester United had, it was said, become a bit-part player, a utility man, a failed experiment at left-back, the butt of jokes, nowhere near the England team, let alone an option for Louis van Gaal amongst the vast array of attacking talent he has at his fingertips.

    The problems the Dutchman is enduring in getting his team to play good football have been well documented, with his tactics continually called into question. In the last

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  • Jordan Henderson has embraced captaincy and it has improved him

    Jordan Henderson has proven himself capable of replacing Steven Gerrard.

    Jordan Henderson (AFP)Jordan Henderson (AFP)

    Liverpool's heir-in-waiting to Steven Gerrard's throne, Jordan Henderson, put in a superb performance at Anfield last night as the Reds continued their wonderful 2015 form and stretched their unbeaten run to 12 games in the Premier League.

    Henderson, 24, was handed the club's vice-captaincy earlier in the season and looks set to take over from Gerrard when the 34-year-old leaves for LA Galaxy.

    The former Sunderland man has taken on the responsibility at the club and helped Liverpool climb back up the Premier League table with some superb performances and, last night, looked like the real

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