Players always know who the best players really are.
And when the best player ever having one his best seasons ever says who he thinks the best soccer players are today, you listen.
“Excluding [Cristiano Ronaldo] and me, the best players in the world are [Kylian] Mbappe, Neymar, [Eden] Hazard, [Luis] Suarez and [Sergio] Aguero.”
Messi leaves out defenders and keepers, but if you’re looking for the best offensive players in the world, it’s hard to argue with that list. After all, he’d know best.
So this is it.
The international break is over. It’s a sprint to the finish now for the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and all of the other European domestic divisions.
Three premier games take place this weekend that could decide title and/or UCL qualifications.
Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur
|Liverpool -175||Draw +310||Tottenham +480|
This, and a home match on 4/14 against Chelsea, are the most challenging games remaining for the Reds. FiveThirtyEight has them at 65% to win. However, the odds on this one are head-scratching and concerning if you’re a Liverpool fan.
Manchester United and Crystal Palace are both at 65% to win their respective weekend games. However, they’re -240 and -220 to win, and their opponents are much longer than Spurs (Watford +650, and Huddersfield +750).
One one hand, it makes sense. Tottenham is a top four team. On the other, odds makers make odds because their odds make money.
Liverpool are a point ahead of Manchester City with a game in hand. A win here keeps the pressure on City, whose title hopes would then ultimately come down to their derby against United.
Roma vs Napoli
|Roma +200||Draw +240||Napoli +125|
Roma is sitting four points out of fourth in Serie A. If they want to qualify again for the Champions League, a win here is an absolute must.
They find themselves as a small home underdog to a strong Napoli team. While neither squad will catch up with league leaders Juventus, a Napoli win all but punches their auto-qualification for the UCL and as stated, Roma must win this to have a chance. Roma knows this too, making that +200 an interesting play.
Alavés vs Atlético Matrid
|Alavés +410||Draw +230||Atlético Madrid -135|
We’ve already written the Alavés vs Atlético Matrid preview (+410, down from +420, for Alavés is insane). Like Roma vs Napoli, Alavés must win to stay in UCL contention.
Editor’s Note: For a refresher, read how to best on soccer.
The International Champions Cup (ICC) announced their 2019 summer schedule this week.
The ICC has been growing in popularity and relevance every year. Put on by Relevant Sports, the exhibition competition consists of pre-season friendlies from (mostly) top European and North American (Mexico) teams.
This year, games will take place in the US (LA, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, New Jersey, Foxborough, San Francisco, Charlotte, Kansas City, Houston, Arlington), Singapore, Wales, London, Sweden, and China.
2019 ICC Teams
This year’s participating ICC clubs are:
- Real Madrid
- Chivas Guadalajara
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester United
- Inter Milan
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Atlético Madrid
- AC Milan
2019 ICC Soccer Schedule
Games, dates, and times are as follows:
Tuesday, July 16:
- Roma vs. Chivas Guadalajara — Chicago, SeatGeek Stadium
Wednesday, July 17:
- Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich — Los Angeles, Dignity Health Sports Park
Saturday, July 20
- Manchester United vs. Inter — Singapore, National Stadium
- Arsenal vs. Roma — Charlotte, Bank of America Stadium
- Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid — Houston, NRG Stadium
- Benfica vs. Chivas Guadalajara — Bay Area, Levi’s Stadium
Sunday, July 21
- Juventus vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Singapore, National Stadium
Tuesday, July 23
- Real Madrid vs. Arsenal — Washington, D.C., FedEx Field
- Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan — Kansas City, Arrowhead Stadium
- Chivas Guadalajara vs. Atletico Madrid — Arlington, Texas, Globe Life Park in Arlington
Wednesday, July 24
- Juventus vs. Inter — China, Location TBD
- Roma vs. Benfica — Harrison, New Jersey, Red Bull Arena
Thursday, July 25
- Tottenham vs. Manchester United — Shanghai, Hongkou Football Stadium
Friday, July 26
- Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid — East Rutherford, New Jersey, MetLife Stadium
Sunday, July 28
- AC Milan vs. Benfica — Foxborough, Gillette Stadium
Saturday, Aug. 3
- Manchester United vs. AC Milan — Cardiff, Principality Stadium
Sunday, Aug. 4
- Tottenham vs. Inter — London, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Saturday, Aug. 10
- Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus — Stockholm, Friends Arena
As game odds are released, we’ll post them here.
What to Watch for at this year’s ICC
For the most part, the ICC are just fan friendly affairs with little intrigue other than, “Will [fill in the star] play this game?” or “Will [this new transfer] make the trip?”
This year has a few extra storylines to follow:
- Juventus: Um, so, given the sordid charges he’s facing in Las Vegas, is Ronaldo going to make the trip to the US? Bet on: no freaking way.
- Chivas: Will they go all out against Atlético Madrid and Benfica to show where they truly stand on the global stage? Bet on: hell yes.
- Real Madrid: After a likely heavy summer spending spree, will they showcase their new stars? Bet on: yes.
- Tottenham: Will the Spurs successfully defend their 2018 ICC trophy, since it’s probably the only trophy they’ll see in the next decade? Bet on: yes.
MLS Matchweek 5 lines are now released in full.
The marquee match-ups are Eastern conference fixtures between Orlando City and top-of-the-table DC United, and Columbus Crew vs Atlanta United. An Orlando win *could* temporarily put them top of table (albeit with a game in hand), depending on the outcome of the Friday night Toronto FC vs NYCFC game. An Atlanta United win would…give them their first win.
One thing to watch for is how many players who participated for their country over the international break are inserted back into the starting line-up for their respective clubs.
MLS Matchweek 5 Game Odds
All listed odds from March 28 on BetStars NJ.
|Friday, March 29|
|Toronto FC +100||Draw +270||NYCFC +260|
|Saturday, March 30|
|Chicago Fire +180||Draw +250||New York Red Bulls +145|
|Columbus Crew +105||Draw +260||Atlanta United +250|
|New England Revolution +125||Draw +260||Minnesota United +200|
|Sporting KC -167||Draw +310||Montreal Impact +425|
|FC Cincinnati +125||Draw +260||Philadelphia Union +205|
|Colorado Rapids +150||Draw +245||Houston Dynamo +175|
|Real Salt Lake +120||Draw +240||FC Dallas +225|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +260||Draw +260||Seattle Sounders +100|
|Sunday, March 31|
|Orlando City +145||Draw +260||DC United +170|
|LA Galaxy -120||Draw +290||Portland Timbers +310|
Odds and Ends
- After coming off a win as the biggest Matchweek 4 underdog (+750! On the road! Against the Red Bulls!), Orlando City is getting some respect. They’re now slight home favorites against DC United.
- Should New England be favored against any one right now? They are against a stronger than expected Minnesota United. Some value in that +200 there.
- Atlanta United aren’t automatic favorites any more, especially against a strong Columbus Crew squad.
- Same goes for Colorado. To paraphrase Fran Fraschilla, “they’re two years away from being two years away.” Yet a solid Houston Dynamo team is a slight underdog traveling to Denver.
- NYCFC has struggled, dropping leads and drawing all three games. But +260 to Toronto? Seems a bit long.
- New York Red Bulls have also struggled and had some key players on international duty. Yet, they’re given a slight edge (+145) traveling to Chicago (+180).
- The only odds-on favorites now are the Galaxy and Sporting KC. They former host a falling Timbers team who are receiving some action, going from +310 to +270. The latter is being bet heavily, as Sporting has gone to -167 and Montreal longs from +260 to +425.
As March winds down and domestic leagues enter the home stretch, many of Europe’s top clubs are already thinking about how they’ll improve their rosters this offseason. Real Madrid is poised to spend lavishly, and they won’t be alone.
While speculation is already rampant regarding the futures of top players like Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt and even PSG’s Kylian Mbappé, a slew of young players at smaller clubs – and some who are awaiting opportunities at elite clubs – will be the subject of headline-grabbing bidding wars all summer. Below is a look at five players aged 22 or younger worth getting to know ahead of the summer transfer window.
Eintracht Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic (21)
The headliner of this list is among the Bundesliga’s biggest young stars, and it’s hard to imagine him staying with his current club next year. He’s reportedly a top target for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and his list of suitors seems to grow every day (Inter Milan and Bayern appear to be the latest to the party). If the young Serbian continues at his rate – he’s already scored 15 goals this year – it will be a stretch to consider him “under the radar,” if it isn’t already.
Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi (18)
Like Jovic, Callum Hudson-Odoi is not exactly obscure at this point. His performance against Montenegro on Monday was bittersweet. His play turned heads, but the night as a whole was overshadowed by the racist abuse he and teammate suffered Danny Rose suffered during the match. Whether he remains with Chelsea will be fascinating to watch, as the club appears insistent on keeping him, but may not be able to. Bayern Munich is among a number of clubs willing to spend big on the young English talent.
River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios (20)
The Argentine midfielder appears to be the latest in a long line of stars from his country. His days in his home nation are likely numbered, as Real Madrid nearly acquired him in January. While Los Blancos are a less likely a destination for him after their signing of Eder Militao, a move to Europe still seems like a fait accompli, with Inter Milan among his most interested suitors.
Standard Liege midfielder Razvan Marin (22)
A deep cut, if you will, Marin is a Romanian midfielder who, according to Spanish newspaper As, will join Ajax as – no pressure – the successor to Frenkie de Jong. He currently plays for Belgian club Standard Liege, where he has scored five goals and tallied five assists in domestic play this season. Marin is believed to have impressed Ajax’s coaching staff during his team’s losses to the Dutch club in Champions League play earlier this season.
Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombélé (22)
Ndombélé has been called a younger version of Paul Pogba, which is, obviously, high praise. He is a tantalizing prospect who has reportedly drawn interest from Real Madrid, PSG and Juventus, but like Hudson-Odoi (and probably every player on this list), his current team has made it clear he won’t be an easy player to sign. The fact his current contract runs through 2023 probably means Lyon has a fighter’s chance to hold onto him a while.