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The bad boys of soccer: Sergio Ramos, Luis Suarez, Neymar lead the way as players you love to hate

Tue, 23 Apr 2019 06:20:00 GMT

Soccer's best villains match their dastardly deeds with their all-world talent to produce the ultimate in bad boy brilliance. Soccer is the beautiful game. When played the "right way," it is a pure experience. Nice passing patterns, soft touches, artistic flourishes. But enough of all that. Remember the time Zlatan Ibrahimovic said that the Barcelona dressing room was like a classroom full of preppy schoolboys? Nobody wants that. Soccer needs villainy. The game's best side is its dark side. As The Joker said: "I'm not a monster, I'm just ahead of the curve." - Football's dark arts: Your guide - ESPN FC 100: Who...

Karim Benzema leads trio of hat trick heroes in Player Power Rankings

Mon, 22 Apr 2019 09:37:00 GMT

A trio of hat-trick heroes made their way on to our top 10 list, but Karim Benzema's stood out in Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. Our global editors pick their top 10 performers from the weekend. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Also receiving votes: Ishak Belfodil (TSG Hoffenheim), Carlos Bacca (Villarreal). Let us know what you think of the countdown by commenting on Twitter using #ESPNFCrankings.

Power Rankings: Barcelona, Liverpool remain on top; Ajax climb, Juventus fall

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 08:05:00 GMT

ESPN FC's Sid Lowe makes the case that Liverpool's attacking prowess could have the potential to overwhelm Barcelona in the Champions League semis. ESPN FC's Craig Burley believes Tottenham and Ajax will be the tie of the round, after both sides reached the semifinals in dramatic fashion. The ESPN FC panel says Lionel Messi alone makes Barcelona favourites over Liverpool. Are the Reds good enough to stop him? ESPN FC's Craig Burley believes Manchester United got a dose of reality following their three-goal defeat in Barcelona. ESPN FC's Craig Burley credits Ajax for teaching Juventus a footballing lesson over two legs in their Champions League quarterfinal tie. The Champions League semifinalists occupy the top four spots, while Juve's bad week is reflected by their tumble. Plus, Arsenal and Chelsea are in! (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Paris Saint-Germain, Benfica Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV, which airs daily on ESPN+.

Virgil van Dijk is the best player in the Premier League: how the Dutch defender became Liverpool's leader

Sat, 13 Apr 2019 07:13:49 GMT

In his teens, Virgil van Dijk worked part time washing dishes in a small-town restaurant. Nobody at Willem II, his mid-table Dutch club, saw much future in him. He was a well-liked but occasionally difficult kid -- "a real little rat," according to his youth coach, Robby Hendriks. Willem II wasn't even planning to offer him a professional contract. Fast-forward to 2019, and this spring, Van Dijk, 27, is expected to win both of England's Footballer of the Year awards. One is voted for by his...

Power Rankings: Barcelona No. 1; Liverpool, Juventus climb; Man City drop

Thu, 11 Apr 2019 01:53:00 GMT

Shaka Hislop presents his weekly Power Rankings where Premier League sides have taken control of the top five, but will any claim top spot? Craig Burley doesn't see a way back for Manchester United, even though they limited Barcelona to just one goal at Old Trafford. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview that he wants Lionel Messi to remain linked to the club forever. The leaders claim another week on top, but there is movement down below as a pair of Premier League clubs, plus the Italian champions, move up. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Atletico Madrid, Porto, Borussia Dortmund Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV, which airs daily on ESPN+.

Gnabry leads Bayern to Bundesliga summit, topping Player Power Rankings

Mon, 8 Apr 2019 10:20:00 GMT

Craig Burley and Alejandro Moreno unleash on Borussia Dortmund after a 5-0 loss at Bayern Munich that sent their rivals top in the Bundesliga. When you're the architect of a thrashing of your biggest title rivals that puts you top of the table, you're going to soar in Player Power Rankings. Our global editors pick their top 10 performers from the weekend. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Also receiving votes: Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona). Let us know what you think of the countdown by commenting on Twitter using #ESPNFCrankings.

Power Rankings: Barcelona stay top ahead of Man City, Liverpool

Thu, 4 Apr 2019 07:16:00 GMT

Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop contextualize Lionel Messi's dominance after the Barcelona star reached 40 goals for the 10th straight season. There is no change at top end of Shaka's latest countdown after winning weeks for the leaders, but further down there are three new entries. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Tottenham, Man United, Napoli. Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV, which airs daily on ESPN+.

Yussuf Poulsen beats Paco Alcacer, Lionel Messi to top of Player Power Rankings

Mon, 1 Apr 2019 10:03:00 GMT

Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop contextualize Lionel Messi's dominance after the Barcelona star reached 40 goals for the 10th straight season. Coming up with a hat trick upon your return to club football after the international break is enough to earn top spot in Player Power Rankings. Our global editors pick their top 10 performers from the weekend. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Also receiving votes: Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta), Alexander Isak (Willem II). Let us know what you think of the countdown by commenting on Twitter using #ESPNFCrankings.

Premier League sprint to the finish: Title race, Champions League chase, relegation battles in focus

Fri, 29 Mar 2019 11:11:00 GMT

Shaka Hislop wasn't too impressed by Manchester City's win over Tottenham but says they have proven they can hold off Liverpool in the title race. Alexis Nunes and Paul Mariner share their thoughts on Liverpool's win over Cardiff which keeps the Reds on top ahead of Man City's derby match. Craig Burley doubles down on his opinion that Man United were rash in appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager and might pay the consequences. Former Arsenal striker Paul Mariner takes Unai Emery to task for his starting XI in Arsenal's defeat against Crystal Palace at the Emirates. The Premier League season is set for a frantic conclusion at both ends of the table, with the battles for the title, top four and relegation set to go down to the wire. With permutations updated after each game, we run through what is left to play for and ESPN FC senior writer Mark Ogden offers his thoughts and predictions.  Jump to: Title race | UCL qualification | Relegation - Premier League table - SPI odds for the Premier League season RACE FOR THE TITLE 1.  LIVERPOOL...

Kosovo's remarkable rise: How a country formed in 2008 is on the verge of reaching Euro 2020

Wed, 27 Mar 2019 08:19:00 GMT

Kosovo's rise shows no signs of slowing as more players heed the call of their homeland on the road to Euro 2020. PRISTINA, Kosovo -- As soon as Arber Zeneli received the ball, electricity filled the air. That's hardly unusual: The left winger is one of the players tasked with lifting Kosovo above the mean, and just when they needed it, he did it again. Kosovo had been frustrated by a dogged Bulgaria and, with half an hour to play on Monday, stood on the brink of a chastening defeat. Then, via the sharpest of runs from the left, a swerve past his defender and a whipped shot into the far corner, Zeneli raised...

Ronaldo and Messi at the 2022 World Cup? Don't bet against them

Thu, 21 Mar 2019 08:40:00 GMT

Ronaldo and Messi return to international duty, and it's not unthinkable that their eternal rivalry will stretch to the 2022 World Cup. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are back on Friday. It's been two-hundred and sixty-five days since we last saw them, each bowing out on the same day, at the same stage of the World Cup, likely with the same heartache. Lionel Messi was in Kazan, where his Argentina side had let a 2-1 second-half lead slip in a wild, drunken shootout of a knockout game that saw France advance 4-3. Cristiano Ronaldo was in Sochi, a thousand miles away on the banks of the Black Sea, yet shoulder-to-shoulder with...

Playing two upfront becoming a viable approach again in the Premier League

Tue, 19 Mar 2019 12:29:00 GMT

The Exploding Heads review the weekend in the Premier League, including Swansea forgetting to turn on VAR and Millwall fan's actually caring. The Premier League remains Europe's most international, multicultural top-flight league in terms of players and managers, and yet somehow there often seems to be a distinctly old-school feel to the football. For instance, Pep Guardiola has spoken of the importance of coping with winning second balls, while Jurgen Klopp has spoken about the need to deal with the inclement weather. Tactically, things are somewhat different: We're in the age of false nines and gegenpressing, rather than long balls...

Power Rankings: Messi ensures Barcelona stay in first, Liverpool climb

Tue, 19 Mar 2019 07:58:00 GMT

Premier League clubs are dominating this season's Champions League, but how do they fare in Shaka Hislop's latest power rankings? Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick. Thanks to Lionel Messi's hat trick, Barcelona went 10 points clear in Spain at the weekend and stay at No. 1 in my Top 10! (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Ajax Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV, which airs daily on ESPN+.

Answering the biggest questions of the international break: Are Germany finished? Can England stay on top?

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 01:35:00 GMT

Netherlands reaffirmed themselves as a footballing power last year in the Nations League and now will look to continue that positive momentum in Euro qualifying. It is officially international break time, and contrary to the old and tired criticism that international breaks are boring, March's FIFA window offers up some major storylines and heavyweight matchups. With Euro 2020 qualifying beginning this week and key late-round qualifying games in both CAF and CONCACAF, Nick Ames spans the globe to tell us what to watch for in this jam-packed international break ... Will the Dutch add to Germany's misery? Last year, in the Nations League, Netherlands...

Messi gets standing ovation, tops Player Power Rankings ahead of James

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 12:37:00 GMT

Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick. It's not often a player gets a standing ovation ... from a stadium full of opposing fans. Such a plaudit is enough to top our Player Power Rankings. Our global editors pick their top 10 performers from the weekend. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Also receiving votes: Luis Alberto (Lazio), Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao). Let us know what you think of the countdown by commenting on Twitter using #ESPNFCrankings.

Lionel Messi routinely delivers magic for Barcelona, but his third goal vs. Betis was interstellar

Mon, 18 Mar 2019 07:11:00 GMT

Here are three sentences whose words do no justice to the majesty of their content: In the depths of a molecular cloud, a star is born. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Lionel Messi chipped Pau Lopez in Barcelona's 4-1 win at Real Betis on Sunday. All three of the above sentences represent events that are noteworthy on an intergalactic scale. They all mark moments where aliens, sitting peacefully in their suburban homes, looked up to the skies from their Sunday papers and said: "Things done changed." Though...

Power Rankings: Barcelona stay top, Juventus climb, Liverpool return

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 08:00:00 GMT

Shaka Hislop presents his weekly Power Rankings, where quite a few Premier League clubs find their way into the top 10. Craig Burley refuses to name Barcelona Champions League favourites after their big win over Lyon, due to their defensive inconsistency. Barcelona went behind early to Rayo Vallecano, but responded with three, including Lionel Messi's goal in his 800th career game. Lionel Messi made sure that Barcelona's No. 1 spot was not in danger, while Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Juventus' upward movement. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich. Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV.

Bernardo Silva is the future for Manchester City

Wed, 13 Mar 2019 01:15:00 GMT

When Roots Manuva, backed by the melancholic strings of the Cinematic Orchestra, crooned that "I'm All Things To All Men," he could have been singing a future ode to Bernardo Silva. The Portuguese footballer is not a jack-of-all-trades; he is a master. He has the trickery of a winger, the vision of a No.10, the energy of a No.8 and the tenacity of a centre-back. He is clearly the player that can take Manchester City forward, and with the news on Wednesday that the club have signed Bernardo to...

Sterling's hat trick beats Ribery, Ben Yedder to top of Player Power Rankings

Mon, 11 Mar 2019 11:07:00 GMT

In a weekend when a handful of players registered hat tricks -- and one hat trick of assists -- one three-goal performance stood out above the rest. Our global editors pick their top 10 performers from the weekend. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Also receiving votes: None. Let us know what you think of the countdown by commenting on Twitter using #ESPNFCrankings.

Power Rankings: Barcelona remain at the summit as PSG fall out of top 10

Thu, 7 Mar 2019 01:20:00 GMT

After Ajax and Man United's huge wins in the Champions League, where will they land in Shaka Hislop's latest Power Rankings? Mark Donaldson takes us through his picks for his Fantasy La Liga team, which includes three Barcelona players and no one from Real Madrid. Barcelona are still our No. 1, but three mammoth clubs have fallen outside the top 10 of Shaka Hislop's Power Rankings. (function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src='https://embed.playbuzz.com/sdk.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk')); Dropping out: Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund. Agree? Disagree? Let us know, and watch Shaka defend his picks on ESPN FC TV.


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