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Europa League Opponents For Arsenal Revealed, Pogba Named Player Of The Season

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Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal will play in the UEFA Europa League this season, and their group stage opponents have now been revealed, while Paul Pogba was named as the 2016/17 Europa Player of the Season.

The Gunners qualified for Europe’s second tier competition after finishing outside the top four in the Premier League last season.

Other big clubs in the competition include AC Milan, Villarreal, Lyon, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, Everton and Lazio.

Here are the groups for the 2017/18 Europa League campaign:

Group A: Villarreal, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Astana, Slavia Praha

Group B: Dynamo Kiev, Young Boys, Partizan, Skenderbeu

Group C: Braga, Ludogorets, Hoffenheim, İstanbul Basaksehir

Group D: AC Milan, Austria Vienna, Rijeka, AEK

Group E: Lyon, Everton, Atalanta, Apollon

Group F: Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow, Sherif, Zlín

Group G: Victoria Plzen, Steaua Bucharest, Hapoel Beer Sheva, Lugano

Group H: Arsenal, BATE Borisov, Cologne, Crvena Zvezda

Group I: Salzburg, Marseille, Vitoria Guimaraes, Konyaspor

Group J: Athletic Bilbao, Hertha Berlin, Zorya Luhansk, Ostersund

Group K: Lazio, Nice, Zulte Waregem, Vitesse

Group L: Zenit St Petesburg, Real Sociedad, Rosenberg, Vardar

Meanwhile, Pogba beat his United teammates Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the award for the best Europa League player of the 2016/17 campaign.

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Football :  Benzema the fall guy as Real Madrid flounder

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In a recurring theme of Real Madrid’s stuttering season, Zinedine Zidane protested all his side lacked was a goal as they fell 10 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona after firing more blanks in a bad-tempered Madrid derby.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s (L) run of one goal in eight La Liga games has attracted attention as it is so out of character for Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer

In a recurring theme of Real Madrid’s stuttering season, Zinedine Zidane protested all his side lacked was a goal as they fell 10 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona after firing more blanks in a bad-tempered Madrid derby.

Yet, in attempting to defend a lacklustre performance from Saturday’s stalemate at Atletico Madrid, Zidane turned the spotlight once more on the misfiring Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

Ronaldo’s run of one goal in eight La Liga games has attracted more attention because it is so out of character for a man who has plundered 414 goals in 408 games as Madrid’s all-time top scorer.

The World Player of the Year has also bagged six goals in four Champions League games to compensate for a slow La Liga start.

Benzema, by contrast, has just two goals in nearly 1,000 minutes on the field this season in all competitions and patience with the Frenchman is wearing thin.

Madrid-based sports daily Marca described the repeated presence of Spanish wonderkid Marco Asensio on the bench for Real’s biggest games as « incomprehensible », after Asensio posed more of a threat for the final 15 minutes than Benzema had for 75 before being hooked at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Marca’s rival publication AS described Benzema as a « ghost striker » for his lack of end product.

Former England great Gary Lineker has even provoked a fierce reaction from both Zidane and Benzema in recent weeks for labelling the latter « overrated ».

Benzema’s eight-year stint at the Santiago Bernabeu has been filled with highs and lows.

Jose Mourinho complained of his meek nature claiming he wanted a « hunter » whilst describing Benzema as a « cat » when Real boss, and Benzema has often found himself whistled by the demanding Bernabeu crowd for his lack of killer instinct.

However, in a huge show of support, Benzema, 29, was handed a bumper new four-year contract in September.

Madrid also bet big on Benzema by cashing in on Alvaro Morata when Chelsea offered £60 million ($81 million, 68 million euros) in July and failed to replace the Spanish international.

Morata scored more goals than Benzema last season despite playing fewer minutes and his sensational start to his Chelsea career has left even Ronaldo questioning Madrid’s transfer policy.

The Portuguese admitted Real lacked the same experience in a depleted squad this season after a first defeat in the Champions League group stages for five years at Tottenham Hotspur in their last European outing.

Yet it is Ronaldo’s presence that has played a huge role in preserving Benzema’s status as Madrid’s number nine with the latter seen as the perfect unselfish foil for Ronaldo.

« He is more egotistical than me, but that is normal, » Benzema told Canal+ France last week on his relationship with Ronaldo.

« I score goals but there is someone alongside me who scores 50 goals a season. »

Zidane has been a fierce defender of Benzema’s role as a team player not just a goalscorer.

« Karim won’t score 60 goals a season, but he will score 25 or 30 and make 30-40, » he said in response to Lineker’s criticism.

However, having saved their money as rampant inflation swept through the transfer market in the summer, time is running out for Benzema to prove his worth with Real well-placed to splash out on a new Galactico at the end of the season.

Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all been linked with a move to the Bernabeu.

The one competition where Benzema does have a formidable record is in the Champions League.

Only Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Raul and Ruud van Nistelrooy have scored more than his 51 goals in the competition proper.

A return to form to secure Real’s place in the knockout phase for a 21st consecutive season when they travel to Cypriot champions APOEL Nicosia on Tuesday is needed to quieten the critics once more.

Source: www.pulse.ng

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Silva not surprised by Chelsea and Spurs interest in Richarlison

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Richarlison has impressed since joining Watford from Fluminense and Marco Silva can see why he is starting to attract interest.

Watford coach Marco Silva is not surprised that Brazilian star Richarlison is attracting admiring glances from bigger clubs amid rumours of Chelsea and Tottenham taking an interest in him.

The 20-year-old has enjoyed a seamless transition to life in the Premier League since Watford paid a reported £13million to Fluminense for him.

Many feared that the talented youngster would either need a long time to settle or struggle with the league’s physicality, but he has hushed his doubters quickly.

Richarlison has four goals in 11 Premier League appearances and has generally impressed with his trickery and pace on the left flank.

Recent reports have claimed that Chelsea and Tottenham are both keen on acquiring him, and Silva is not remotely shocked.

« It’s not really a surprise, » Silva told reporters ahead of Sunday’s clash with West Ham.

« He’s had a fantastic impact at our club and on the Premier League. It’s a normal situation that everyone’s starting to talk about him, but most important is that he keeps going, to improve.

« He’s a player with a lot of quality so it’s normal if everybody starts to pay attention to him.

« He’s a different type to the normal Brazilian player; for what we wanted for our team he’s the player with the [right] skills.

« We are talking about a fantastic talent, a very, very good player. I’m sure in the future he’ll achieve everything he can. »

Source: www.besoccer.com

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Ronaldo sets negative record for the first time since joining Real Madrid

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The Portuguese striker is currently suffering from a serious goal drought in La Liga, something unprecedented since he joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2009. Ronaldo had never gone eight matches with only one goal on his total tally.

Cristiano Ronaldo has only scored one goal in 720 minutes played in the Spanish first division this season. Astonishing.

The forward was sidelined due to suspension for the first four fixtures after being dismissed and handed a five-match ban in the Spanish Super Cup first leg at the Camp Nou. He was not available to feature until Real’s fifth La Liga match.

Since then, Ronaldo has only found the back of the net against Getafe, with Madrid clinching a 2-1 win. That is something that had never happened to the Portuguese striker in over eight seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Only one equally poor balance comes to mind. In his first season after joining from Manchester United, Ronaldo failed to score from gameweek 5 to 12, but the striker missed six of those eight matches through injury.

Source: www.besoccer.com

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