Manchester City made their first serious stride forward in the Champions League last season, reaching the semi-finals of the competition. Manuel Pellegrini guided them through a group containing Juventus and Sevilla, finishing top of the table ahead of the Italian giants, despite losing both matches to Massimiliano Allegri’s men.

The Citizens eased past Dynamo Kiev before edging past Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals, securing a last-four berth where Real Madrid awaited them. There was little between the two sides over the course of the two legs, with Fernando’s own goal being the deciding factor in sending Real to the final in Milan.

City scraped into fourth place in the Premier League last season, securing their place in this year’s tournament, although they were forced to see off Steaua Bucharest in their play-off fixture. The draw for the group stage set up a mouth-watering clash between Pep Guardiola and his former team Barcelona in a fierce battle for top spot in Group C, while Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic will attempt to provide resistance.

With Guardiola at the helm, City will be eyeing a breakthrough on the continent with their first European success, and given the investment poured into the team over the past eight years it is time for the club to become a force alongside Barca, Real and Bayern Munich. The Citizens are backed at 12/1 in the latest Champions League odds to win the crown for the first time, although they will have a major challenge ahead of them to end Spain’s recent dominance.

As expected, City have started strongly under Guardiola’s tenure, winning all three of their Premier League matches thus far this season. However, their victories over Sunderland and West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium were far from convincing. Despite failing to put together a complete performance in the early stages of the campaign, City are top of the table, with Chelsea and bitter rivals Manchester United for company.

Their display in their 5-0 hammering of Steaua was far more straightforward, although the standard of opposition was far below what they can expect for the remainder of the term across all four competitions. Sergio Aguero has hit the ground running in the new season, notching six goals in his opening five matches, including a hat-trick in the away leg in Bucharest. The Argentine holds the key to how far his side will progress in the Champions League this time around.

Should he produce his best form on the continent then City will have a chance to match the firepower of the dominant teams in the competition. The 28-year-old was put under too much pressure last season as Wilfried Bony failed to fire, while Kelechi Iheanacho did not score in his four European matches.New signings Nolito and Leroy Sane will ease the strain on Aguero, while Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne will have benefited from a year to acclimatise to their new club, building a rapport with the Argentine spearheading the attack.

Guardiola has proven that he is not afraid to make big changes at the club, having removed Joe Hart from between the sticks and sent the England international out on loan to Torino. He has now followed that decision by leaving Yaya Toure out of his squad for the group stage. Toure has been a polarising figure at the Etihad Stadium over recent seasons. The Ivorian has displayed brilliance at times on the pitch, but has also had the propensity to put in a number of sub-standard performances. His attitude has also come into question, and the latest development could see his time at the club come to an end.

The 33-year-old’s absence will make Vincent Kompany’s return to action even more pressing for the Citizens given his leadership qualities. His injury problems have played a huge role in City’s struggles to add further trophies to their collection over the past two years. An extended absence this term could be mitigated by the signing of Jon Stones, while Nicolas Otamendi has appeared more comfortable in his second season. However, City’s success could well hinge on how much playing time their skipper can handle on the continent this term.

Out of all the nations and squads that are competing for their spot in the 2016 Euro’s, Germany was expected to be one of the squads that would qualify without facing much difficulty as they are the current champions of the world after winning the 2014 World Cup in a very convincing fashion.

Germany conceded 4 goals and scored 18 goals during their campaign in the 2014 World Cup, it was a very impressive and convincing series of performances from the German squad but they have recently been struggling trying to add points in their group for the 2016 Euro’s which is going to be hosted by France.

Poland snatched a surprising victory over Germany on October 11 and 3 days later Germany had to settle with a 1-1 draw against Republic of Ireland.

The team of Joachim Low is currently located in the 4th spot of Group D having collected a total of 4 points from 3 matches. Poland and Republic of Ireland are ahead of the German squad as they have gathered 7 points.

There still are 7 more matches left to be played which is more than enough for Germany to pick themselves up and start performing like they were a few months ago when playing in Brazil as they claimed the World Cup trophy.

The latest qualifying match that Germany played was against Republic of Ireland and a goal from Toni Kroos at the 71st minute gave the hosts the lead. The match was ticking down its last few minutes and just when it seemed like Germany was going to claim the victory and all 3 points then at the 94th minute John O’Shea scored the equalizer which ended the match on a draw.

Joachim Low took the chance to express his disappointment as he witnessed his squad not being able to hang on to their lead and had to settle with a draw against the Irish team.

“We are all disappointed. In the last minute we were too naive to have long balls only hyped forward, we didn’t hold the ball and lost the balls.  Overall, it was a difficult game, we had to be patient. In the first half our game was missing width and depth we have it easy for the Irish to defend’’ Low told reporters.

Even with these recent underwhelming performances Germany is still heavy favorites on securing a top spot in Group D and qualify into the 2016 Euro’s.

Ghana made an early exit from the 2014 World Cup as the nation failed to make it out of the group stages after sustaining defeats against United States and Portugal and only being able to pick up a draw when playing with Germany. With all of these negative results, Ghana only managed on securing 1 point during the group stages which was the lowest amount in their group.

United States, Portugal and Germany were all of the opponents that Ghana had to face during the group stages and it doesn’t come to a big surprise that the guided by Kwesi Appiah was unable on picking up more points considering the amount of experience and big name players that the squad of Ghana lacked compared to their opponents.

The news that is really making its way to the headlines of newspaper and has caused controversy it’s the incident involving Kevin-Prince Boateng with the head coach Kwesi Appiah.

Before Ghana played their last match of the group stages against Portugal, Prince Boateng was sent home along with Muntari after the former Ac.Milan player was believed to have verbally abused Kwesi Appiah.

Prince Boateng is currently out on a suspension and according to the head coach Kwesi Appiah, he has no intentions of recalling the player back to the team anytime soon.

Kwesi Appiah said: “I believe in discipline and I will not allow anything to affect the team and for now, Kevin-Prince Boateng is not part of my plans. The head coach Kwesi Appiah continued on saying that he will only consider bringing players to the national team that are disciplined, committed and ready to die for the country.”

Joachim Low started his national team coaching career as the assistant of Jurgen Klinsmann as they both managed the German team during the 2006 FIFA World Cup which saw their campaign concluding with a 2-0 defeat when playing the semi-finals match against Italy.

When the 2006 World Cup was over Jurgen Klinsmann decided not to renew his contract with the national team which allowed Joachim Low on taking up a new position in the team as he decided to sign a 2 year long contract.

Ever since he was selected as the successor of Jurgen Klinsmann, Joachim Low has managed to claim a number of positive results but ultimately failing to win the tournament. This is the case of the 2012 Euro’s where Germany made it to the semi-finals in an impressive fashion as they won all 3 of their group matches and was the only team that accomplished that but ultimately lost against Italy in the semi-finals once more.

Germany had to settle with a 3rd place spot during the 2010 World Cup after losing against Spain in the semi-finals. After all of those years of coming so close on winning a major trophy with Germany, Joachim Low was finally able to accomplish it as the team claimed the most recent edition of the World Cup and Low will remain being in charge of the nation at least until 2016.

“I didn’t think of stopping for one second. I’m as motivated as I was on my first day at the DFB. I didn’t extend my contract with the DFB until 2016 to prematurely break it. I simply kept to what we had agreed before the World Cup that we were going to calmly sit down and analyze the tournament as we have done after every tournament’’ Low explained.

Low continued on saying that he is eager on accomplishing more things with Germany as he wants to win the 2016 Euro’s which will be hosted in France.

German international Lewis Holtby, who moved from Tottenham to Fulham in the January transfer window, says that performing well for his new club helps him appear at the World Cup 2014. The 23-year-old has featured for the national team thrice in his career. He made his debut back in 2010, but the incredible strength in depth has meant that Joachim Loew has been hardly able to give Holtby an opportunity in recent times. On Holtby’s part, he has been unable to feature regularly for Tottenham due to the strength in depth of the squad.

After having completed the loan move – till the end of the season – to Fulham, Holtby says that the time is right for him to start performing and hopefully reach the World Cup. After primarily representing Schalke in German football, Holtby came to Tottenham in the summer. He made 24 appearances for the team and scored one goal in the first half of the campaign. However, Tim Sherwood does not appear to see him as part of the plans – for now. Hence, he has made the loan move to Fulham, who are struggling down at the foot of the table.

The arrival of the 23-year-old will provide the coach with some much-needed quality up front. They have been unable to score goals on a regular basis this campaign.

“I’m hungry for games, especially in the Premier League, that’s what I came here for. It is a great opportunity for me now at Fulham to get these games and get the full trust of the gaffer, Mr Meulensteen, and show my abilities and what I can do and maybe slot in to the Germany side too, somehow, to get my confidence running. I want to show the Premier League and all the pundits what I can do week in, week out on the pitch,” said Holtby.

Arsene Wenger has talked up the chances of Serge Gnabry featuring for Germany in the World Cup 2014. The German youngster has been in fine form for Arsenal after making the move from Stuttgart two years ago. The 18-year-old is expected to get more first-team opportunities in the team due to the recent injury for midfielder Theo Walcott. The England international will miss the rest of the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Even with several first-team players available to replace him, Wenger has given more game time to Gnabry.

The youngster has not failed to take his chances since he has been impressive in the Arsenal colours this campaign. Despite being extremely young, Wenger says that there is a chance that Germany manager Joachim Loew could decide to take the youngster to Brazil. His chances will certainly be helped by the presence of other German internationals at the club. Loew will undoubtedly be keeping tabs with the progress of players like Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker. This may help Gnabry get attention in the eyes of the national team manager.

Germany are especially going to be weak in this position due to the age and injuries faced by the current strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose. Both players have not featured much for their clubs this campaign.

“We are looking at a guy who has good individual talent, he can pass people, is a good finisher, and has a very good football brain with good vision. He has great pace. Two footed, can finish right and left. He has a lot in the locker. I am not afraid to play him. I have shown that against Tottenham in the FA Cup – it was a big game. He has convinced many people that he at least deserves another chance,” said Wenger.

Germany manager Joachim Low confirmed prior to the England match that he would be resting a number of key players like Mesut Ozil. This would also allow the opportunity to test a number of new players for the team ahead of the World Cup. However, this has been interpreted as a sign of disrespect towards England, who are not regarded as one of the top teams in the world right now. Low, though, has clarified his comments by saying that he only wants to use his squad strength and look at a number of new players.

Germany qualified for the World Cup with relative ease by managing to do so several weeks prior to the end of the qualification campaign. The team recently suffered badly in the form of injury to Sami Khedira, which would possibly rule him out of the World Cup. Hence, Low needs a player who can do the job as the Real Madrid man has efficiently done in the last few years. Ozil has also been playing constantly since the start of the season, which would wear him out at the start of the World Cup.

“It was clear for me that these two matches against Italy and England, I would use them to try out new players in key positions and what better test for these up-and-coming players than to play in front of a partisan crowd of 80,000 fans spurring their own team on. It was a deliberate acid test for these young players and it’s definitely not the case that we’re fielding a B team or that there’s any lack of respect to our hosts,” said Low.

Due to these reasons, Low will be looking at some of the younger players like Mario Gotze. England do not have such luxury in terms of squad strength.

German national team manager Joachim Loew has said that he is extremely surprised at the decision taken by Real Madrid to sell midfield star Mesut Ozil to Arsenal. The German midfielder was sold to Arsenal in a £ 42.5 million deal on the transfer deadline day. He has been one of the prolific players for Madrid since moving to the Spanish club in 2010. He was signed by former manager José Mourinho for € 15 million right after a stunning World Cup with Germany. He has been a major contributor to the team in terms of assists rather than goals.

He has been sold by Madrid in order to generate funds for the purchase of Gareth Bale, who has cost them a world record £ 86 million. The Spanish giants are thought to have taken huge loans from several banks in order to make this transfer possible. Hence, they had to sell Ozil in a move that has not proven to be popular even amongst the current Madrid players. Loew has also said that Madrid was wrong to sell the 24-year-old because it is not advisable to lose a class player, but he did acknowledge that some difficult decisions have to be taken in business.

“The transfer is good for the national team, he will have a top coach at Arsenal and will be playing at a very high level, that’ll suit him well. I have heard a few players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Sami Khedira are sad to lose a class player. And for me it’s hard to understand why Real let one of their top scorers go, but that’s business. He’s a sensitive player who needs a lot of confidence in him from his club and coach,” said the German manager. Ozil also expressed the lack of confidence from Madrid in his final days.

One thing that there is no shortage of these days is slots games based around the various sports – as their success has led more sports betting fans to hit online casino websites – and a fair proportion of these games are football slots.

This is understandable, as football is one of the biggest sports globally, but it means that there is a lot of competition amongst football themed slots games. One such game that seems to have risen above the general pack is the World Cup-inspired five reel video slot Soccer Safari, but why has this particular game proven such a hit? Continue reading

German international Marko Marin has joined Spanish club Sevilla on a season long loan deal from Chelsea. The former Werder Bremen winger was a £ 7 million signing for Chelsea only 12 months ago, but he has failed to establish himself in the first team of Chelsea due to several injury problems. Chelsea also changed management after just a few months of his arrival to the club. This also had an effect on the player, who is now intent on re-establishing himself at club and international level with impressive performances for Sevilla.

The winger was expected to become part of the first-team plans after the arrival of José Mourinho, but the arrival of new signings in the form of Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne. The latter is expected to be more of a first-team player this season after spending the last season on loan at Werder Bremen. During his 12 months at Chelsea, Marin made only six starts. The 24-year-old is hoping to rediscover his form in the next 12 months at Sevilla. The departure of Jesus Navas to Manchester city is expected to free up a place at Sevilla.

The club are expected to be one of the contenders for a Champions League place.

“I come here with more ambition than when I signed for Chelsea. Sevilla is a club of tradition that I have come to for the new season with the hope of helping them return to a position in the league that they occupied not so many years ago. I hope to take on the role of a leader. After talking with (sporting director) Monchi and (Sevilla midfielder) Ivan Rakitic, who is also a leader in the team, I have understood the project and the philosophy of this club,” said Marin.

Marin has not featured for the national team since 2010.