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Europe’s Finest Frontmen from Barca, Madrid and Bayern

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In the last few seasons, the European football scene has been dominated by the gargantuan institutions from Spain and Germany. Champions League titles and an exhilarating style of play on the domestic scene and 4 consecutive international trophies for the respective national teams provide all the evidence one needs of sides bursting with attacking talent. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have wasted no time this summer in adding yet more quality to their forward options. The thought of these sides clashing in the coming year is a mouth-watering prospect, but who can boast the most potent strike force of the lot?

 FC Barcelona

While 2013/14 was far from a vintage campaign for the boys from Catalonia, their strike-force remains one of the most feared on the planet. Neymar arrived in last summer’s transfer window and although he didn’t quite hit the heights that his price tag demanded, a dazzling World Cup before his dramatic back injury should at least give him a much-needed confidence boost.

Barcelona may have lost Alexis Sanchez from their quartet of forwards but they have brought in perhaps the best striker over the last couple of seasons. Luis Suarez; wrought with controversy and shameful action, made a £75 million move to the Spanish giants. A front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez is nothing less than frightening. All with supreme dribbling ability, an eye for the spectacular, and capable of producing on the biggest of stages, Barca must be considered amongst the top contenders for Europe’s biggest competitions.

Pedro Rodriguez provided plenty of goals and assists for the Camp Nou side despite finding opportunities limited. He may well be forced to experience a similar turn of events in the coming season if you assume that new coach Luis Enrique will persist with a 4-3-3 formation. A front three combination of Messi, Neymar and Suarez is full of goals and skill. All capable of playing right across the front line, you are likely to find that rotating positions will be a key factor to Barcelona’s success.

Real Madrid

Victorious in the Champions League and Copa del Rey last campaign, and only just losing out in La Liga, it goes without saying that Real Madrid are highly effective going forward. Week to week on the domestic front, they are not necessarily tested to their maximum so it is difficult to judge them from this evidence alone. However, when you consider their performances in Europe’s elite competition, in particular in the latter stages, their true class is there for all to see. Defeating the favourites for the tournament 5-0 over two legs in the semi-final and then to win 4-1 against their neighbours in the final itself requires some serious talent up front.

Officially the best player in the world for 2013; Cristiano Ronaldo, belongs to Real Madrid and is their main man without a doubt. Despite injury problems curtailing his end to the season, he was still able to rack up 51 goals in all competitions at a rate of better than one every game. Once the most expensive player in world football, he lost that title to team mate Gareth Bale last summer and since then, they have combined to become a deadly duo. Both possess outstanding pace, power, dribbling ability, and an incredibly powerful shot. Many likenesses can be drawn between the pair but unlike others before them, their similarities have not held them back, instead allowing each to flourish and reach new heights.

Perhaps the most understated of Madrid’s chief attackers is Karim Benzema, and yet he is one of the most natural and accomplished finishers in the game today. Bayern Munich found this out to their cost as he was a constant thorn in their side during their match-up in the Champions League. A successful World Cup campaign with France on a personal level will only serve to give him a further boost for the year to come.

In many people’s eyes, the best player of the World Cup was Colombia’s James Rodriguez. He shot to stardom with 6 goals and 5 assists, soon becoming Madrid’s latest Galactico. It will be fascinating to see him applying the same form in Spain and attempting to build a relationship with the current heroes of Los Blancos. Most likely playing off one flank or in the hole behind the striker, I can see many an assist being served up for others along with popping up with a goal or two himself every so often.

Bayern Munich

At their worst last season, they held the ball seemingly just for the sake of it and had no thrust or penetration in the attacking third. While the fluidity was there for all to see when lining up without a nominal striker, in the biggest games they were found to be rather ineffectual. With no particular player to look for in attacking areas, the space which their outstanding movement created was not capitalised upon. At the World Cup, Germany began the tournament with a similar set-up and although they found joy against Portugal, the arrival of the knockout stages meant a much greater role for Miroslav Klose. The true number 9 made a noticeable difference to the side and did not have a detrimental effect on their passing game. Bayern and Pep Guardiola would do well to learn from this.

Bayern Munich’s key addition over the summer months has been the Polish forward, Robert Lewandowski. In a move that had been all but confirmed for 12 months, the ex-Dortmund man would take up the goal-scoring mantle. During Dortmund’s run to the Champions League final in 2013, Lewandowski struck four past Real Madrid to really demonstrate his class at the very highest level.

Germany’s top goal scorer at the past two World Cups has been Thomas Müller and yet he is not always given the regular football he deserves. It will be very interesting to see how Guardiola accommodates both Müller and Lewandowski into his plans for the new season. The form of fellow attackers Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben will play a large part in how much game time each receives. The latter had a hugely impressive World Cup in Brazil and while Ribéry has probably peaked, he still has a great deal to offer. It would be an exceptionally attacking line-up that housed all 4 of these star names, possibly requiring others such as Schweinsteiger and Thiago to take up deeper roles. When you think of the firepower at their disposal, and names such as Mario Götze who have not even been mentioned, it is clear that the defining factor will be their ability to gel together as a unit. Individual talent a-plenty, defenders across Europe will be quaking in their boots.

Overview

Statistics alone would give the impression that the most potent forward line belongs to Real Madrid (109 goals), closely followed by Barcelona (106 goals) with Bayern (91 goals) lagging behind somewhat. I tend to agree with the statistical analysis; that on top form, the Spaniards have a little more at their disposal. I believe that Bayern’s attacking prowess lies in the fluidity of movement rather than relying primarily on supreme individual talent. In Suarez, Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, and Bale, the two Spanish sides have players who are quite simply on another level to all other challengers in the world game.

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I am currently at university studying Mechanical Engineering, but in my spare time I'm into all things football. I'm an avid Liverpool fan but always try to remain impartial. My other interests include gaming and Formula One.

Barcelona

Would Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele make Liverpool title contenders?

Jurgen Klopp has expressed his interest in the 20-year-old.

Josh Kerr

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Dembele
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool should make a move for the La Liga ace Ousmane Dembele if the Barcelona winger becomes available this summer.

Manager Jurgen Klopp spoke of his fondness for the 20-year-old in a press conference yesterday and suggested he may be interested in signing the French international.

In quotes reported by the Daily Mail, Klopp admitted he was interested in the former Borrusia Dortmund forward by saying: “Is he on the market? Now I’m interested.”

Klopp’s interest may not actually lead to the club pursuing Dembele.

However, with a current squad losing bodies by the day following a large number of injuries to crucial players, Dembele would be a perfect addition for the Reds.

Some would argue he even may be capable of challenging Sadio Mane in the club’s starting eleven.

(Photo by Cristina Quicler/Getty Images)

Reports linking the club with Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann could spell concerns to the 20-year-old that he isn’t in Ernesto Valverde’s future plans.

The arrival of Dembele’s fellow countryman will make it significantly more difficult for him to keep his place alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Dembele endured a tough first season for the La Liga champions, which included only nine Primera Division starts due to a long-term hamstring injury.

Understandably, a club as competitive as Barcelona can’t afford to wait around for Dembele to fulfill his outstanding potential and, therefore, a move may make sense.

The world’s third most expensive player certainly has the talent to be one of the brightest stars in the game.

If Liverpool genuinely want him, they will have to fork out a lot more than the initial £96.8 million that Barca paid less than 12 months ago.

Following Barcelona’s drawn-out pursuit of former Reds talisman Philippe Coutinho, the tables could now turn.

This time, it would be Jurgen Klopp’s side testing the Catalan giants resolve in their attempts to pry away a once-prized possession for an astronomical fee.

Dembele was initially considered a panic buy after the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint Germain and the Catalan’s failure to sign Coutinho in the same window.

(Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Having now captured Coutinho, and with the club being linked with Griezmann, both of whom can slot into Barcelona’s famous front three, it is difficult to see what Dembele’s role in the team will be next season.

At just 20 years of age, the Frenchman is too talented to sit on the bench and with Liverpool proving themselves to be among the best in Europe this season, he could be the perfect player for Klopp to break the bank, to ensure the Reds continuing improving under his control.

With Naby Keita set to join this summer, and considering Virgil van Dijk’s immediate impact, the addition of another top player, in the form of Dembele, could be the move that allows Klopp’s side to seriously contend for the Premier League next season.

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Barcelona

Is Barcelona’s Andre Gomes the man to take West Ham to the next level?

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Photo: Getty Images

This season has been a disappointing one for West Ham as they have once again failed to match the rising expectations of fans and owners after their move to the London Stadium, but there could be hope in the summer with rumours of a sensation signing from Spain.

Barcelona midfielder Andre Gomes is believed to be a target, according to the Mirror, as he looks for a fresh start after a disappointing two years at the Camp Nou.

The former Benfica and Valencia man has struggled to adapt since joining the La Liga leaders and has only been a bit part player this season, with the Hammers ready to make a move to bring him to London.

(Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

There is no doubting that such a signing would be a coup given the quality of Gomes that he so regularly displayed before moving to Catalonia and he could benefit from moving to a club content with fighting for Europe, rather than titles.

The Portugal international relished his role as a leader in attack and the freedom that came with it in the past, so much so that it earned him his big-money move, and a deal taking him to West Ham could see him return to such a role.

David Moyes’ side have been sorely lacking creativity, particularly with Manuel Lanzini out injured and struggling for consistent form, and Gomes could be the man to help lead a charge back up the table next season after a disastrous 2017/18.

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Barcelona

Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona: Three talking points from Stamford Bridge

Rob Meech brings us three talking points as Chelsea held La Liga leaders Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Lionel Messi finally broke his goalscoring duck against Chelsea to give Barcelona the edge after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Messi had failed to score in eight previous attempts against the Blues, but he was not to be denied on this occasion as he cancelled out Willian’s 62nd-minute opener.

A Chelsea clean sheet would have been a massive boost ahead of a daunting trip to the Camp Nou next month.

However, Messi’s equaliser 15 minutes from time means Antonio Conte’s men face an uphill battle to qualify for the quarter-finals of Europe’s showpiece competition.

Here are three talking points from Stamford Bridge…

Conte’s tactical approach so nearly pays dividends

But for the fatal error that led to Messi’s leveller, Chelsea would be heading to Catalonia in three weeks’ time with a one-goal lead to protect.

That they came so close to victory is testament to Conte’s tactical nous, which stifled Barcelona while also allowing the home side to flourish.

As expected, the visitors dominated the ball throughout the encounter. However, they created precious few opportunities as Chelsea’s back line held firm.

Conte had resisted the temptation to start with an out-and-out striker, with Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud both named on the bench.

The fluid movement of Pedro, Eden Hazard and Willian caused more problems than Barcelona have been used to this season and the Blues’ second-half goal was a deserved one.

Heading into the second leg, Conte will need to devise another masterplan if Chelsea are to proceed to the last eight.

Third time lucky for impressive Willian

The tricky Brazilian has by no means been a regular for Chelsea this season.

But he was given the nod against Barcelona in a three-man attack that featured Hazard as a false number nine.

It’s a system Conte has favoured recently, but although it failed to get the best out of Hazard, the same could not be said about Willian.

He was Chelsea’s chief threat and, on another night, could have walked off with the match ball.

Willian twice hit the post in the first-half, showing great skill on each occasion to create space and leave Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with no chance.

Despite his misfortune, Willian was unbowed and he broke the deadlock with a pinpoint finish that raised the roof at Stamford Bridge.

It was a fitting reward for a top-class performance that highlighted his natural ability.

Surely he can’t be far away from cementing a regular spot in Conte’s starting XI?

Messi ends Chelsea goal drought to have decisive say

It is not often that British football fans get to see the little magician at such close quarters, so each time he arrives on these shores it is to be cherished.

Chelsea had a game-plan to nullify his influence and in the first half this worked superbly.

Although there were the usual sublime touches that we have come to expect, Messi was largely shackled by a solid rearguard display from Chelsea’s three-man central defence.

However, it only takes a side to switch off for a moment for the Argentinian to flex his muscles.

A misplaced pass from Andreas Christensen was intercepted by Andres Iniesta, whose pull back enabled Messi to slide the ball past Thibaut Courtois.

Once the ball had arrived to him in the box, there was no doubting where it would nestle.

Messi’s exuberant celebrations underlined the importance of his equaliser in the context of the tie.

It could be the decisive moment.

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