Last Weekend: Kick-off at the World Cup, Arsenal’s streak broken, Dnipro-1’s title charge and more

Last Weekend: Kick-off at the World Cup, Arsenal’s streak broken, Dnipro-1’s title charge and more

Most major football leagues around the world have paused as the FIFA Men’s World Cup kicked off this Sunday evening, but you would be mistaken to think that there is not enough action to keep our weekly column running. As you will find, there was lots of noteworthy games in Europe this weekend, including some big results at the top of the Women’s Super League table in England and in the ever-resilient Ukrainian Premier League.

By Neel Shelat

🏆 World Cup: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador

As ever, the World Cup kicked off with a match involving the hosts, as Qatar made their competition debut against Ecuador.

They were in for a tough ride right from kick-off, as Ecuador put the ball in the back of the net after less than 200 seconds through Enner Valencia. VAR ruled the goal out for offside, but Valencia was not going to be kept down, as he won and converted a penalty in the 16th minute, before scoring a second with a powerful and well-placed header in the 31st.

Taking a two-goal lead into the half-time break, Ecuador really eased off the gas in the second half and focused on controlling the game, which became quite a drab affair. In fact, there have not been fewer shots at any World Cup match since this data collection began in 1966.

Ecuador will not mind that stat, though, because this victory sets them on the right path in their bid to reach the knockouts. They will face much tougher tests against Senegal and the Netherlands, but if they manage to pick something up from either of those games, they will have a decent shot at making the Round of 16.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Arsenal 2-3 Manchester United

Women’s football will, of course, not be stopping for the FIFA Men’s World Cup, so there will be top-flight action across the major European leagues every weekend alongside Champions League action in midweek. The headline act this weekend was in England, where the buoyant Manchester United paid a visit to league-leaders Arsenal.

Stretching back to last season, Arsenal were on a WSL record 14-match winning streak, which they intended to extend at the Emirates Stadium. Their first half showing was not great, though, and Manchester United took what they would have felt was a deserved lead into the break after Ella Toone’s strike in the 39th minute.

The scores were level in no time in the second period after Frida Maanum’s deflected effort beat Mary Earps, and Arsenal looked much more dangerous thereafter. And they looked on course to continue their run of victories when Laura Wienrother applied a very controlled finish to Katie McCabe’s pinpoint cross, but they were in for a big surprise.

With five minutes left to play, Millie Turner headed in a set-piece delivery from Katie Zelem to equalise for Manchester United and endanger Arsenal’s record once again. In stoppage time, another ball in from Zelem found its way into the back of the net via Alessia Russo, giving Manchester United their first-ever away win at one of the WSL big three.

This late goal also ensured that the WSL remained draw-less after 39 games this season, which is quite a crazy statistic. For context, if we assume that the probability of a draw in an average football game is 25.21% (based on FiveThirtyEight’s research), the odds of this happening are 0.001201981%. In case it isn’t obvious, that is very very unlikely.

Unsurprisingly, that record ended later in the weekend with the dramatic match between Brighton and Liverpool. Elsewhere, Chelsea’s commanding win over Tottenham Hotspur took them three points clear at the top of the table, although they have played one more than Arsenal and Manchester United.

🇺🇦 Ukraine: Dnipro-1 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk

The Ukrainian Premier League is one of the few European top-flight leagues that is not pausing for the FIFA World Cup. On Saturday, we were treated to arguably the biggest game of the season so far, at least in the context of the title race.

The top two, who were the only two teams in the league who were yet to taste defeat this season, squared off in Rivne. Going into the game, Dnipro-1 had a five-point lead over Shakhtar, who finished the 2021/22 season on the top of the table but were not awarded the title since the campaign was suspended after the Russian invasion.

Dnipro-1 had a very good first half of the season then which meant they ended up third behind Shakhtar and Dynamo Kyiv, qualifying for European football in the process. This was the first time in their short five-year history, as the club was effectively formed as a successor to FC Dnipro, although that is not the case officially.

Between the seasons, Dnipro-1’s head coach Igor Jovićević then departed for Shakhtar, so he was facing his former club this weekend. His side got off to the better start and opened the scoring in the 17th minute through young sensation Mykhaylo Mudryk. Dnipro-1 equalised soon thereafter, though, and went on to win the game thanks to a second half strike from Artem Dovbyk, who was the top scorer in the Ukrainian Premier League last season and is leading the way once again.

That means Dnipro-1 now have an eight-point lead at the top of the table as their title challenge has certainly been legitimised now, and they will be leading the way into the new year no matter what happens between now and the winter break.

🇪🇸 Spain: Athletic Club 1-3 Real Sociedad

Over in Spain, there was a Basque derby in Liga F at San Mamés, where Athletic Club hosted Real Sociedad. 

Both sides were in the mid-table positions going into the match, ninth and seventh respectively with three points between them. That gap could have swung either way but within the first few minutes, the visitors looked much likelier to come away with all three points.

Amaiur Serriegi opened the scoring in the sixth minute, but Jone Amezaga equalised for the home side within the next 10 minutes. So, Gabriela García proved to be the match-winner for Real Sociedad with her fourth and fifth league goals of the season that helped her side coast to a deserved victory in the second half.

In a broader context, this result arguably cements the powershift in Basque women’s football. Athletic Club were among the Spanish giants in the 00s and were winning top-flight league titles before Real Sociedad Femenino were even formed, but they have failed to finish in the top five and ended up below Real Sociedad in the table in each of the last two seasons. And on this evidence, that looks set to continue in 2022/23.

🇳🇴 Norway: Kongsvinger 2-1 Sandefjord (2-5 Agg.)

The promotion-relegation play-off for Eliteserien was held this week in Norway, as Sandefjord were tasked with defending their top-flight status against Kongsvinger.

The two sides’ histories are quite contrasting. Sandefjord were only formed 24 years ago after a merger between two clubs, so with that in mind, they have to be considered a fairly successful club for completing 10 seasons in the highest division of Norwegian football.

Kongsvinger are over a century older than Sandefjord but have not been enjoying the best of times of late. They were top-flight regulars towards the end of the 20th century and even played European football on a couple of occasions, but since the turn of the millennium, they have only spent one season in the highest division.

Since then, they have even dropped down to the third tier fairly often, which is where they were last season. Having finished first and won promotion, their initial target would have been to stay up. The first half of 2022 suggested that they would have to fight to ensure that, but they brought up nine of their 13 league wins of the season from the 31st of July onwards to sneak into the last promotion play-off spot in sixth.

Sandefjord’s route to the play-offs was also quite dramatic, but in the opposite manner to Kongsvinger. After a good opening to the season, they failed to win any of their last 15 league games and only picked up three points through draws. They were in serious danger of falling to direct relegation on the final matchday when they were losing to Haugesund by a two-goal margin, but two goals in the last two minutes gave them another shot at safety.

They certainly made the most of that chance with a 4-0 home win in the first leg, which effectively did the job. Kongsvinger did complete a comeback to win the second leg, but that result counts for little more than consolation for them.

🇵🇱 Poland: Lechia Gdańsk 2-1 Górnik Zabrze

The Polish Ekstraklasa is not among the leagues that will be continuing through the World Cup, but they did play one final match before the winter break on Friday.

That game was a rescheduled fixture from the second round between Lechia Gdańsk and Górnik Zabrze, who were in 12th place and six points above their hosts. Lechia started the match in the relegation zone, which was a very disappointing position for a side that was playing Europa Conference League qualifiers just a few months ago.

A goal conceded in first half stoppage time meant that they were on course to stay there heading into the new year, but a late comeback on a snow-covered pitch changed that. Mario Maloca equalised in the 84th minute after a corner, and deep into stoppage time, a similar situation resulted in Łukasz Zwoliński grabbing the winning goal.

That takes Lechia up to 14th and out of the drop zone as the Ekstraklasa breaks for the winter, but they still have work to do in the battle against relegation in 2023.

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
This Weekend: the 2022 World Cup is here

This Weekend: the 2022 World Cup is here

The best matches to follow this weekend

By Bill Biss

The Main Event

And so it begins. The most talked about, most controversial, World Cup of our lifetimes gets underway on Sunday. Tournament hosts Qatar, ranked no. 50 in the world, take on Ecuador in the opening game of Group A. The two have not previously met in competitive action – Qatar pulled out of the last Copa America that they were invited to and they were drawn in different groups when Qatar did participate in 2019. For their part, Ecuador survived various legal attempts to see them removed from the tournament via their rivals in South American qualifying and come in to the game with four goalless draws in their last five fixtures.

We have to wait until next week for the first games involving the tournament favourites – England face Iran on Monday while the USA play Wales. Argentina go up against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the same day on which France begin their title defence against Australia. The potential ‘Group of Death’ containing Germany and Spain play Wednesday while hotly tipped Brazil start against Serbia on Thursday evening.

International Friendlies

For those national team fans not involved in the FIFA spectacle, this is, of course, still an international break – meaning there are particularly meaningless friendly games taking place across the weekend. The most high profile encounter is probably Austria hosting Italy while our boys, Norway welcome Finland to Oslo on Sunday. There is even the odd club friendly available to follow in the app – including a game between Premier League strugglers Everton and Scottish league leaders Celtic taking place in Sydney.

Another tie that we should mention is the second match of San Marino’s rather glamorous tour to Saint Lucia. The world’s worst side have left Europe for the first time in an attempt to break an 18 year and 126 game run without a win. In Thursday’s first game against Saint Lucia (ranked no. 172 to San Marino’s no. 211), 19-year-old debutant Lorenzo Lazzari scored, in injury-time, to claim a 1-1 draw for the Microstate.

Increased coverage for Women’s Leagues

There is plenty of men’s football still taking place in the lower divisions that we cover in the app but perhaps the top club action will come in the various first tier women’s leagues that are available.

In particular, there’s a full fixture list in England’s WSL where league leaders Arsenal take on in-form Manchester United on Saturday.

We’re also pleased to announce that we have increased our coverage for the Spanish Liga F and the Frauen-Bundesliga in Germany. This means live match stats and our famous player ratings will be available for these league, as they already are in WSL, NWSL and Women’s Champions League.

Among the Liga F fixtures this weekend, the ever-dominant Barcelona play Deportivo Alavés on Sunday while there are also Basque and Seville Derbies to look forward to.

And finally, it’s not too late to try out our tournament predictor game – here.

If you want to follow any of the games mentioned above, click on the relevant link and tap the bell icon to receive all the key match updates.

Or join us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to discuss all the important football going on this weekend!

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
Is this Arsenal side the real deal?

Is this Arsenal side the real deal?

Everyone expected Arsenal to be in the race for a Champions League spot this season. Nobody envisaged them challenging for the title, yet as we head into the World Cup break, the Gunners are five points clear at the top of the table.

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

Mikel Arteta guided his side to a fifth-place finish last term, finishing two points off of a top-four spot. To get them over the line this time around, the owners backed their manager in the transfer market, spending over £100million for a second successive summer. 

Now, armed with a squad of players he has brought in, Arteta is able to execute his tactical plan. So far, so good. Arsenal are averaging 2.64 points per game. Keep this up for the rest of the season and they will equal Manchester City’s centurion’s campaign. 

However, rival fans seem to think the bubble will burst. 

They didn’t necessarily collapse towards the end of last season but they missed out on Champions League football last season by three points having lost six of their final 12 matches. There was even a three-game period in which the Gunners lost to Brighton, Crystal Palace and Southampton. 

By comparison, with the pressure on, Spurs won eight and drew two of their final 12 matches. Antonio Conte’s side picked up 26 points, eight more than Arsenal managed over the same period. 

There seems to be a feeling that once they graduate from underdogs to favourites, they aren’t the best at handling the increased pressure.

So why will it be different this time around?

For starters, they are all a year older and will have taken a lot from the experiences of last season. That cannot and should not be overlooked. They also added winners to their squad in Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fábio Vieira. The latter may not have featured much this term but that isn’t relevant to the point. He has a winning mentality having won the Primeira Liga with Porto. 

It may sound basic but knowing how to win is an underrated trait. It breeds more success. Liverpool are the perfect example of that. After winning the Champions League in 2019, the Reds went on to claim everything else over the next three years. 

If you haven’t been able to turn your squad into winners then you add some. That blend of success and hunger to be successful can often be enough to tip the scales in your favour. That is what Arsenal have done. 

They have the mentality. They also have the numbers on their side, too

Teams that are running exceptionally hot will fizzle out eventually. But everything about this Arsenal team screams sustainable. 

They have the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League along with Newcastle United, with both teams having conceded 11 goals this season. The Gunners also rank second (behind Manchester City) for Expected Goals conceded with a total of 12. So, they aren’t giving up high-value chances on a regular basis and there is no overreliance on Aaron Ramsdale between the sticks. 

Chelsea, for example, had an impressive run following the appointment of Graham Potter. However, their run of clean sheets had nothing to do with the organisation of the defence and everything to do with Kepa’s exploits in goal. It was only a matter of time before they started to concede. The Blues are now winless in five Premier League matches and have lost their last three. 

Defensively, Arsenal are resolute. Offensively, they are going toe-to-toe with Manchester City. They rank second behind the reigning champions for xG with 27.1 over their 14 matches. Unlike Pep Guardiola’s side who seem to funnel a lot of their attacking patterns the way of Erling Haaland, Arteta has assembled a squad with multiple goal threats. 

Even though Gabriel Jesus isn’t scoring, Arsenal are winning

He hasn’t found the back of the net in well over a month and yet the Gunners have claimed 13 points from the last 15 on offer in the Premier League. Only Newcastle can better that total. Arsenal top the away table with 19 points from eight matches and have a 100% record at the Emirates. 

You could even make the case that they have had the tougher fixtures too. City are yet to play Spurs or Chelsea while Arteta’s men have faced off against both, as well as Liverpool and Manchester United. 

In fact, some of Arsenal’s best performances this season have come against the big six. They have racked up xG90 totals of over 2.2 in their matches against Spurs (2.38), Liverpool (3.09) and Chelsea (2.25) while limiting the opposition in those games to an xG average of 0.99. 

Complete and utter domination against their biggest rivals

Arsenal have not finished in the top four since 2015/16 and the last time they lifted the title was in 2004, during the Invincibles season. They look a shoo-in for a top-four spot and their title challenge has solid foundations. The bubble doesn’t look like it is going to burst. 

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Premier League season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Serie A Review: Three takeaways from the last games before the World Cup

Serie A Review: Three takeaways from the last games before the World Cup

The final round of action of the year in Serie A brought another win for Juventus, more issues for Roma and another good performance from one of the stand-out signings of the season at Atalanta.

By Matteo Bonetti, US Serie A expert

Juve’s unlikely saviours

With how poorly Juventus had been playing over the course of the first three months of the season, it makes what has transpired over the last month even more surprising. In Serie A, Juve have now won six in a row while keeping a clean sheet in each and every one of those games. Without Bonucci, it’s been Danilo to really step up in Max Allegri’s back three to help command the defence alongside the only natural centre-back, Bremer. 

In midfield, Adrien Rabiot has surprisingly taken over a stale unit and given them a bit more dynamism. The French midfielder has been an enigma since joining Juventus – clearly talented, but lacking the consistency and impact necessary to take a step up to the next level. When Rabiot is at his best, he’s an elegant player who can do the box-to-box work and help break lines. That’s exactly what happened against Lazio. Rabiot’s interception and quick lobbed pass to Moise Kean to set up Juve’s first goal was a brilliant moment of individual quality and quickness of thought. 

Up front, Kean has been red hot. Juve’s third choice striker (behind Arek Milik and Dušan Vlahović) has now scored five goals in his last five appearances, going from afterthought to an important rotational player who has made the most of the chances given to him by Allegri. Kean’s first goal against Lazio was clinical – a chipped goal from outside the box to beat the onrushing Ivan Provedel. It was the kind of finish a striker on form and full of confidence will try, showing off awareness and composure under pressure.

This is all brilliant news for Juventus and Max Allegri. The World Cup comes at a perfect time to give Federico Chiesa the chance to build back 90 minutes in his legs after a serious injury last season, and Paul Pogba to finally make his debut this season. With those two players having missed all or most of the season so far, it’s been the unlikely pairing of Kean and Rabiot stepping up to give a bit of an offensive spark.

Roma are Dybala-dependent

Roma’s recent skid has been worrying for José Mourinho. A loss in the Derby against Lazio followed by two disappointing draws against lesser opposition in Sassuolo and Torino. Roma have been out possessed and outplayed in these games, with the second half of the Torino match teaching us a valuable lesson – they simply cannot do without Paulo Dybala. 

Dybala is Roma’s only player with world class ability, and the second he came on against the Torino the entire game changed for the Giallorossi. His movement was flawless, hitting the post on what would’ve been a stunning curling finish from outside the box. It was also the imminent danger he posed every time he got on the ball. Dybala just looks head and shoulders above every other attacker Roma have, even though that’s not saying much at the moment. 

Roma’s two forwards, Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti, have been woeful this season. Belotti (who missed a penalty against Torino) has yet to score his first goal in 12 games. Abraham on the other hand, has scored three times but should’ve had a lot more. The English striker has the highest expected goals compared to actual goals scored in the league, a useful statistic that tells you the story of whether or not a striker has been clinical with his chances. According to the xG, Tammy should’ve scored more than twice his current number. 

The World Cup break couldn’t have come at a better time for José Mourinho and Roma, who need a regroup and a chance to hopefully find a healthier squad in 2023. More importantly, Dybala needs to stay healthy, something that has plagued his career for the last few years. He’s currently Roma’s top goalscorer with five goals, despite having only played 606 minutes this season, which is 12th most in the squad.

Lookman’s surprising start

With all the talk this season being about Napoli and their incredible signings, another player who joined without much fanfare over the summer is Atalanta’s tricky attacker, Ademola Lookman. The London-born Nigerian has been a revelation for the Bergamo based club. In 15 matches, he’s already scored more goals than he has in an entire season at any point in his career, as his seven goals put him third on the Serie A Capocannoniere charts.

Most of his work has come in the last six weeks – Lookman has scored six times during the last eight rounds. Aside from his goals, he’s a really fun player to watch. He normally starts as the left-sided attacking midfielder or second striker in Gianpiero Gasperini’s system. With the ball at his feet, Lookman is exceptionally quick and hard to dispossess because of his technical dribbling. Atalanta have needed a player with his characteristics to take over a role that has become more industrious for the club since the departures of magicians like Alejandro “Papu” Gómez and Josip Iličić. 

Lookman follows a similar pattern for Atalanta’s summer transfers – unheralded or unknown players who join for little money only to go on and tenfold their value because they’re able to play the best football of their career under Gasperini. The Nigerian was owned by RB Leipzig in the German Bundesliga but sent to England for loan spells with the likes of Everton, Leicester City and Fulham. His production at those clubs was nowhere near the level that we’re seeing in Serie A with Atalanta, as Lookman has become one of the more exciting players in his position that we’ve seen in Italy this season.

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Serie A season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Play FotMob’s Tournament Predictor

Play FotMob’s Tournament Predictor

Make your World Cup predictions and compete against friends.

Our popular predictor game is back for the World Cup. Predict who will get out of the groups, progress through the knockouts, and take home the trophy.

Then, create leagues and compete against friends.

You can find the Predictor in the More tab in the app, and on the web at

Posted by Curt Baker
Bundesliga Report: Where do we stand at the Winterpause?

Bundesliga Report: Where do we stand at the Winterpause?

As the Bundesliga takes an early Winterpause due to the impending FIFA World Cup, there is a familiar name on top of the table. But Bayern München find themselves surrounded by unfamiliarity while more traditional powerhouses struggle with form and identity. 

It’s been a whirlwind opening 15 games that have witnessed shocks, sackings and surprises. Who will come out on top as the end-of-term marks are handed out?

By Chris Williams, our Bundesliga expert

The good

It did look like Union Berlin would graduate from the Hinrunde with straight As, but a terrible November has seen Die Eisernen slip to a B+. A wonderful mark still for a club that operates on far less than those around it but maybe a sense of reality came to the capital as winter approached. 

Sitting ninth in goals per match, with 1.6, there had been a discussion that perhaps grounding would come when their xG eventually matched with actuality. 

Jordan Pefok and Sheraldo Becker set the league alight early on but their shooting boots have slipped off lately, only one goal in the last eight games between them has seen the one-time leaders slip to fifth – picking up just one win in their last five matches. 

While the club from the Big City faltered there was another ready to take their place, and SC Freiburg did that emphatically. Christian Streich’s men have been consistent, and it’s no shock they find themselves second, four points behind Bayern and two clear of Leipzig. 

With eight clean sheets – the most in all of the Bundesliga – they only just sit behind the Bavarian giants in goals conceded per match, second with 1.1 while their attacking threat in the opposite box has seen opposition defenders panic, with five penalties awarded in their favour.

The ever-dependable Vincenzo Grifo has notched up a season so far FotMob rating of 7.72, nine goals and two assists are the headline but drill into his campaign and you’ll see goals from inside the box, outside, free kicks, left foot, right foot and from the penalty spot. 

As Freiburg breezed past Union 4-1 in Sunday’s match-up, the Italian hit a hattrick, two of those from the spot showed just how composed he is under pressure – a 9.7 rating was no fluke. 

Would any review of greatness be complete without the mention of perennial champions Bayern München? It would seem not. Early running saw the Rekordmeister out of contention for the top slots, defeat at Augsburg saw Julian Nagelsmann’s men languishing in fifth.

Since that September afternoon they haven’t lost a match, only dropping points to Dortmund in a thrilling Klassiker, and they’ve rediscovered their deadly form. 

Hitting Leverkusen for four, they then smashed five past Freiburg, before demolishing both Mainz and Werder with six each. It leaves them with 49 goals scored, outperforming their xG of 36 and creating 45 big chances across 15 games. The Bavarians top the charts on pretty much everything, including the only one that really matters – the league table. 

The bad

There is a queue of clubs that could have made the cut for underperforming in the run-up to the winter break but it’s only natural we start at the bottom of the table.

Schalke 04 are rooted at the foot of the Bundesliga, five points adrift from safety and looking equally as poor as the last time they were in the league. Relegation may be an almost certainty already but at least they can look back on two games where all three points were taken. 

Unsurprisingly, being the worst side in the league they sit in the bottom three clubs for almost every team statistic, their only light relief is – just one player has been sent off all season, Dominick Drexler during defeat to Köln.

Head coach Frank Krammer only lasted until Matchday Nine, and Thomas Reis could face a similar exit in 2023. On arrival, the 49-year-old said “it’s about picking up as many points as possible in the four games until the break for the World Cup,” – they’ve picked up three. 

Every year for the past insert your own number of years, Borussia Dortmund have had the resources to break Bayern’s stranglehold on the title. However, there’s always been something to summon the arrival of storm clouds over the Westfalenstadion.

This particular season has seen injury woes, a lack of consistency and too many individual mistakes – it leaves Edin Terzic with a lot to mull over as he eats his Christmas Dinner.  

An inability to get a rhythm going has seen the Black and Yellows yo-yo from game to game. Highs include a 5-0 victory over struggling Stuttgart, while bitter defeat at home to Werder Bremen and an absolute roasting away to fellow Borrusia in Mönchengladbach, highlight the lows seen by a team which should be challenging for the top. 

Jude Bellingham leads the way with a 7.53 FotMob rating, he should be well inside the eights but a personal rollercoaster has matched that of the team, and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko is their top scorer and top assister – six and three respectively is a good return for his age, but a young teenager should be learning from those around not dragging them back into games. 

The rest

What about the midfield, the also rans for who it looks neither stale nor sunny? Xabi Alonso’s arrival at Bayer Leverkusen has seen an upturn in form, nine goals with only one conceded in their last three outings has moved The Werkself out of the relegation zone, and gives them a 2023 to look forward to. 

Marco Rose is another name who returned to the league after the season got underway. RB Leipzig didn’t hang around in dismissing Domenico Tedesco and the ex-Gladbach and Dortmund tactician was their man of choice to come in and turn things around.

I think we can absolutely say the 46-year-old has done that. Propelling Die Roten Bullen from 13th to third in just eight weeks. Unbeaten in 13 games across three competitions they even saw off Real Madrid in the Champions League. 

How they wish they would have started the season with Rose, they could well be top. 

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Bundesliga season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
LaLiga Review: Where do we stand heading in to the World Cup break?

LaLiga Review: Where do we stand heading in to the World Cup break?

LaLiga wrapped up a few days earlier than most of the top leagues around Europe, completing a full mid-week round, in order to get the early stages of the Copa del Rey completed over the weekend. For all the results, click here. But for now, let’s review where we stand going in to the big midseason pause.

By Ben Hayward, LaLiga expert

Barcelona head in to the World Cup as league leaders

Barcelona head into the break for the World Cup as LaLiga leaders following an impressive comeback win with 10 men away to Osasuna last Tuesday night. Barça went behind to a David García goal from a corner inside six minutes at El Sadar and were left with a mountain to climb after Robert Lewandowski was sent off for a second bookable offence with just over half an hour gone. Gerard Piqué, on the bench for what was to be his last-ever game for the Catalan club, was then dismissed for dissent at half-time as he protested to referee Jesus Gil Manzano. But Xavi’s side secured a victory in Pamplona thanks to a Pedri goal early in the second half and a Raphinha header five minutes from time which was reminiscent of Robin van Persie’s famous goal for Netherlands against Spain at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

It was the first time Barça had ever come from a goal down at half-time away from home with 10 men to win in LaLiga and there were wild celebrations in the dressing room after the game. And at the end of the season, it could be hugely significant. “It’s a victory of courage, faith and family,” Xavi said afterwards. “We celebrated in the dressing room. I’m very proud of the team today. It’s a tremendous victory, but it’s early to say that it gives [us] a league [title].”

What it did do was send Barcelona provisionally five points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table and ensured the Blaugrana will stay there until the end of the year as LaLiga stops for the World Cup. So far, so good for Xavi’s side: 14 matches, 12 wins, one draw, one loss, 33 goals scored and five conceded. Statistically, it is the form of champions, but Real Madrid remain close and on December 31, a new league will start.

“We have improved,” Xavi said. “We came here a year ago and the team is growing. The fans want to win. We have got to the break as leaders.”

But Xavi was upset at the match officials for a number of calls which went against his side. “We feel persecuted,” he said. “The decisions were very unfair. It was all against us: the goal they scored, which was a foul, Lewandowski’s sending-off was questionable… but we have faith, character, personality. It’s a golden victory.”

Real Madrid bounce back from defeat at Rayo

Real Madrid bounced back from their 3-2 defeat at Rayo Vallecano last Monday night by beating Cadíz 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu just 72 hours later. Éder Militão’s header late in the first half and a beautiful volley by Toni Kroos with 20 minutes left looked to have wrapped up a straightforward win, but there were some nervy moments for Los Blancos towards the end as Luka Modrić missed an open goal from six yards out, Lucas Pérez levelled following a rare Thibaut Courtois mistake and Pacha Espino – who was all alone with only the Belgian to beat – headed over the top in added time.

The win was a welcome one for Madrid after the defeat at Vallecas and a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Girona prior to that. It closed the gap at the top to two points and coach Carlo Ancelotti was satisfied. “We have ended this first part of the league well and won three deserved points,” the Italian said.

And he added: “The break will be good for us. We were a bit tired towards the end and now we will have time to rest.” Madrid will also hope that Karim Benzema is back to full fitness when he returns, with the French forward having missed each of the champions’ last three LaLiga games. He has been missed too, with this game against Cadíz the only win of the three.

Benzema will be at the World Cup with France, but Kroos is sitting out Qatar 2022 and that could be a blessing for Madrid in a second half of the season sure to be conditioned by the fitness of international players following the tournament, which starts on November 20.

Vinícius Júnior, meanwhile, appeared to give an insight into his priorities – and probably those of many other players too – in making it to the World Cup without harm. “Thanks to God for another match without injury,” he tweeted after the game. “See you soon, Madridista!”

Atlético beaten again

The situation at Atlético Madrid is now worrying to say the least. After Champions League elimination and failure even to make the Europa League, plus a recent last-gasp loss to lowly Cadíz, the Rojiblancos were beaten by promoted club Mallorca on Wednesday and go into the break outside the top four positions in LaLiga.

Vedat Muriqi was left all alone after Jan Oblak had failed to deal with what looked like a fairly harmless long-range shot and the Kosovan’s strike turned out to be the winner on the island. Álvaro Morata saw an effort ruled out for a marginal offside a few minutes later and came close to a leveller right at the end, but things are just not falling for Atlético at the moment and even Diego Simeone’s position has been called into question following recent results.

“Let’s hope the players come back from the World Cup with the intention of reverting the situation,” Simeone said. “We will have more time to work now.”

Atlético have gone five games without a win in all competitions and the break is an opportunity to reset. “Great teams are the ones who can reload after bad runs,” left-back Sergio Reguilón said after finally making his Atlético debut. “We have to come back after the World Cup with our batteries charged.”

Basque clubs now third and fourth

Third and fourth are up for grabs in LaLiga this season as a number of clubs jostle for positions behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. And with Atlético dropping down to fifth, the two remaining Champions League spots are filled by the Basque clubs.

Real Sociedad climb to third following a 2-1 win at struggling Sevilla, although their case was helped considerably as both Ivan Rakitić and Tanguy Nianzou were sent off for the Andalusians in the first half. Imanol Alguacil’s side missed a number of good chances to win the game by a bigger margin and the coach said: “I’d like to have won 4-1, but we have 26 points from 14 games and we could have even more.”

Two points behind Real Sociedad are Athletic Club. Ernesto Valverde’s side cruised to a 3-0 win over Valladolid at San Mames as Gorka Guruzeta marked his first LaLiga start of the season with two goals. “We’re doing a lot of things well and we’re strong at San Mames,” Valverde said. “We have to be stronger away from home.” The victory saw Athletic leapfrog both Atletico and Real Betis, who went down to 10 men after an hour and subsequently lost 3-0 to Valencia at Mestalla.

The race for the European places is wide open, though, with only five points separating fourth (Athletic) and 11th (Mallorca) with 14 rounds of LaLiga completed. Valencia (10th) are in that group just behind Villarreal (ninth), with the Yellow Submarine finally able to secure a win under Quique Setien as they beat Espanyol 1-0 in Barcelona.

At the bottom, meanwhile, Elche look doomed already with just four points after defeat to Girona. Cadíz, with 11 points, are in 19th following their narrow loss in Madrid. Sevilla sit above them in 18th on goal difference alone and will need to make their quality count in the second part of the season.

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 LaLiga season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Last Weekend: Arsenal extend their lead, Inter win at Atalanta and more

Last Weekend: Arsenal extend their lead, Inter win at Atalanta and more

This was the final weekend of club football action before the 2022 World Cup. As most domestic leagues wrapped up for a winter break, there was lots of interesting action and some surprising results, including Arsenal’s win over Wolves, newly-crowned champions in Ecuador and much more.

By Neel Shelat

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal

There were eight Premier League matches played on Saturday so there was a lot going on, but let us focus on Arsenal’s trip to Wolverhampton.

After Manchester City’s dramatic late defeat against Brentford in the early kick-off, the Gunners knew that a win in this game would take them five points clear at the top of the table heading into the World Cup break. Their hosts were a couple of points adrift at the bottom of the table, and this would be Steve Davis’ last match as their interim manager as Julen Lopetegui is set to take over after the World Cup.

Wolves delivered a fairly admirable first half performance as they defended well and restricted Arsenal’s chances, while also getting into threatening positions through counterattacks, although their end product was mostly lacking. They were made to rue their wasted chances 10 minutes into the second period, as Martin Ødegaard turned in Fábio Vieira’s ball across the box at the end of an intricate team move.

Ødegaard went on to score a second in the 70th minute to effectively seal the result and cement a sizeable lead at the top of the table for Arsenal in the World Cup break. Their fans will surely start believing in their title chances now, although Manchester City will still probably be considered favourites. The underlying numbers do suggest they still are the best side in the league, but Arsenal are not far off them at all.

🇪🇨 Ecuador: Aucas 0-0 Barcelona (1-0 Agg.)

We are off to Ecuador next, where there was a very significant result on Sunday night. The second leg of the Liga Pro final was being held in the capital, Quito. The record champions, Barcelona SC, had a one-goal deficit to overturn against Aucas, who had never lifted a major title in their 77-year history.

The way the Ecuadorian league works is that it is divided into two stages with 15 matches each. The sides that finish at the top of the table in either stage qualify for the final (as well as the Copa Libertadores), where the winner is crowned after two legs.

This match was, as one might expect, quite a tense affair, but there were a good few chances at both ends. The biggest of the lot fell to Barcelona, who were awarded a penalty in the second half, but the effort was saved by the feet of Hernán Galíndez. That meant Édison Vega’s goal in the first leg was enough for Aucas to lift their first-ever league trophy. A major achievement for a small but well supported and historic Ecuadorian club (their badge alone should have you interested)

🇩🇪 Germany: Freiburg 4-1 Union Berlin

As the Bundesliga wrapped up for the calendar year of 2022, the very last match between Freiburg and Union Berlin offered the winner the opportunity to head into the winter break in the runners-up spot.

Union were, of course, the shock leaders early on in the season, but their massive xG overperformance was always a cause for concern. That seems to be properly catching up to them now, as they had just one win in their last four league games heading into this fixture.

Things did not get much better for them in Baden-Württemberg, where the match was all done and dusted within 20 minutes. Freiburg already had a two-goal lead within six minutes as Vincenzo Grifo scored two quickfire goals, including one from the penalty spot. Union missed a great chance to halve the deficit in the 10th minute as Robin Knoche failed to convert a spot-kick, and about 10 minutes later, they gave one away at the other end again. This time, Diogo Leite was sent off for the foul, while Grifo netted again to complete his hat-trick.

On the stroke of half-time, Michael Gregoritsch added a fourth for Freiburg. Substitute Sven Michel did pull one back for the visitors late on, but that was little more than a consolation goal. So, it is Freiburg who are currently second behind Bayern in the Bundesliga, while Union are down in fifth. It is all very tight in the race for Europe at the moment, but Freiburg should think that they have a good chance of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time ever at the end of this season.

🇮🇹 Italy: Atalanta 2-3 Inter

The big matches keep coming thick and fast in Italy. After Napoli’s trip to Atalanta, Derby della Capitale and Inter’s visit to Juventus last weekend, the headline fixtures of the final round before the World Cup included Atalanta vs Inter and Juventus vs Lazio.

The match in Bergamo was the early kick-off on Sunday, and it was an entertaining game. The hosts looked better in the opening exchanges, for which they were rewarded in the 25th minute when Ademola Lookman scored his third goal in his last three starts from the penalty spot. The scores were back level just over 10 minutes later, as Edin Džeko redirected the ball from close range after Lautaro Martínez helped on a cross to him.

Džeko scored again 11 minutes into the second half to give Inter a lead which was doubled soon thereafter by José Luis Palomino’s own goal. The defender did later find the right net to bring his side back into the game, but they could not equalise to salvage a point from this fixture.

It might surprise you to learn that this was the first time this season that Inter came away with points against a side currently in the top eight, but that really sums up their issues this season. They have been able to dispatch lesser opposition with relative ease, but have really struggled in big games. Still, with the sides around them faltering too, they are just three points away from second place. Atalanta had occupied that position for a good deal of time as they were the early pace-setters alongside Napoli, but have dropped back significantly now.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland: St. Mirren 1-1 Rangers

There is a sizeable gap at the top of the Scottish Premiership as we enter the World Cup break, and while Celtic have remained steady, Rangers have dropped quite a few points of late, damaging their title chances significantly.

Including this disappointing draw at St. Mirren, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side have won just two of their last five league matches, which were against the five sides currently directly below them in the table. St. Mirren are the lowest-placed of the lot down in the bottom half, but they too were able to take something away from last season’s Europa League finalists.

This performance was symptomatic of Rangers’ issues, as they dominated possession with 74% of the ball but struggled to create too many noteworthy chances. They conceded a fairly avoidable goal from a long throw, needing a late penalty from James Tavernier to come away with a point.

The underlying xG numbers point to this problem as well. Rangers’ defensive numbers are comparable and even marginally better than Celtic’s, but there is a big gulf in their chance creation, which is why Celtic seem to be able to dispatch their opponents with much greater ease.

🇫🇷 France: Lille 1-0 Angers

We have mostly covered the happenings close to the top of various leagues so far, but let us now move over to the other end of the spectrum in the French top flight, where Angers are having a very tough time.

Their loss to Lille this weekend made it seven defeats on the bounce going into the World Cup break, which has left them rooted to the bottom of the table. That is a relatively unfamiliar position for them to be in, as they have never really been greatly involved in a relegation scrap since their most recent promotion in 2015.

Luck has not been on their side, as was evident this weekend when they had a goal ruled out by VAR for a contentious offside in the 34th minute, before conceding from a corner just two minutes later. Obviously, their performances have not been great either, as is shown by their underlying numbers which depict a negative trend since the start of the season.

Cover Image from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
Premier League Team of the Week – Round 16

Premier League Team of the Week – Round 16

FotMob TOTW – Round 16

The final FotMob TOTW for the Premier League before the World Cup. FOUR players came in with a big 9.1 rating so we need to dig deeper in to the decimal points to find out that Ivan Toney scored highest – 9.13 to Rodrigo Bentancur’s 9.12.

Who had the best weekend? See you in the replies on Twitter.

Posted by Curt Baker
Premier League Review: Núñez delivers, Brentford stun City and trouble for Everton

Premier League Review: Núñez delivers, Brentford stun City and trouble for Everton

In what was the final round of fixtures before the Premier League paused for the World Cup, clubs put on a show for fans. We had goals galore, statement victories and shock results, and we’re here to take a look at some of the biggest talking points. 

By Sam McGuire, Premier League expert

The Toffees are in a sticky situation

It wasn’t that long ago that Everton found themselves in mid-table with the best defensive record in the Premier League. However, the underlying numbers suggested it was a false position and that a rapid decline was on the agenda. Frank Lampard’s men are now just a single point above the relegation zone following the 3-0 loss to Bournemouth on Saturday. 

The Cherries racked up an xG total of 2.45 despite having just 36% of the ball as they put on a counter-attacking masterclass. The visitors, by comparison, had just one fewer shot in total but managed to create chances worth just 0.83 xG. 

Darwin Núñez delivers

The Liverpool forward scored twice in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Southampton on Saturday. The No.27 put on a finishing clinic due to his shot placement. Núñez had chances with an xG value of 0.71 but an xG on target value of 2.21. He has been accused of being wasteful in previous matches but he was the complete opposite of that against the Saints. 

The £64million summer signing also created two chances and on another day both of those are converted and he finishes the game with four goal involvements. He has now created eight chances in his last three Premier League outings, proving that his all-round game is improving. 

Bee sting at the Etihad

Manchester City have not looked convincing over recent weeks but they have managed to eke one-goal wins over Leicester City and Fulham to keep pace with Arsenal at the summit of the Premier League.  

Against Brentford on Saturday, however, they weren’t able to extend that run of good fortune to three matches. After Phil Foden smashed home an equaliser just before the break, the expectation was the hosts would push on in the second half. It didn’t happen though. Instead, the visitors continued to push for a goal and they carved out six big chances in the game. 

Ivan Toney scored what turned out to be the winner in stoppage time and had an opportunity moments after to claim a hat-trick, only to see Kevin De Bruyne clear his effort off the line. 

City had 29 shots to Brentford’s 10, but managed to create just one big chance. It was no smash-and-grab, it was a calculated gamble that paid off for Thomas Frank’s men. 

Tottenham’s unlikely hero

Rodrigo Bentancur has three goals in his last three appearances for Spurs. He has been the match-winner in two matches and these six points have ensured Antonio Conte’s men are in fourth place as we head into the World Cup break.  

The Uruguay international scored twice in two minutes to give Spurs a 4-3 win over Leeds United at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. The 25-year-old also completed 100% of his dribbles and made a remarkable 12 ball recoveries on the day as he finished with a 9.1 rating on the FotMob app. 

Pulling the strings for Manchester United

There is a lot going on at Old Trafford right now. Cristiano Ronaldo is trying to engineer a move away while 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho is making a splash. The latter scored the winner against Fulham and now has four goal involvements in his last four appearances for the Red Devils. 

However, the star of the show at Craven Cottage was Christian Eriksen. Deployed alongside Casemiro, the Danish playmaker scored the opener and assisted the winner as Erik Ten Hag’s side found a way to claim all three points in what was a thrilling, end-to-end contest. 

The 30-year-old created two chances on the day and won all of his tackles in what was an all-action display. 

The honeymoon period is well and truly over

Chelsea have now lost three consecutive Premier League games and are winless in five matches. They have slipped to eighth in the table and have a goal difference of zero. The Blues are averaging just 1.2 goals per 90 and they have the worst offensive record out of the teams in the top ten, netting just 17 times. 

Against Newcastle, they mustered just five shots and finished with an xG total of 0.30. Graham Potter needs to figure out a way to get his team firing. 

(Images from IMAGO)

You can follow every match from the 2022/23 Premier League season live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss