The Serie A was recognized as the best soccer league in the world in the last year, according to the International Federation of Soccer History and Statistics (IFFHS).
The Italian competition where the Mexican plays Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo beat the English Premier League which was the best last year,
It took 14 years for the Serie A returned to the top spot in the world soccer leagues in the IFFHS rankings.
Italia takes the award with 1026 points for 1003 of the English Premier. In third position appears the Brasileirao, the best in South America, with 964 points, ten more than the Spanish La Liga.
In fifth place came the German Bundesliga, which climbed five spots from tenth position in 2019.
The Portuguese league is sixth in the IFFHS standings, maintaining its position, like the French Ligue 1 which is seventh. Another notable jump is that of the Paraguayan First Division, which achieved its best classification since its creation, being in eighth place, ahead of Argentina and Ecuador that close the Top-10.
For its part, Liga MX descends to 29th place and is below leagues such as Cyprus, Romania, Israel, among others.
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The Premier League’s first place and second place team face off this weekend, with champions Liverpool hosting top of the table Manchester United at Anfield.
United’s 1-0 win over Burnley saw them go three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table, with Jurgen Klopp’s side opening the door for United having failed to win any other their last three league matches, including a 0-1 defeat against Southampton on January 4.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been excellent away from home in the Premier League this season, having won 11 of their last 12 matches away from home, but with Liverpool having not lost at home since April 2017, a run of 46 matches, United’s title credentials will face their sternest test yet this weekend.
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Ahead of this huge game between these historic rivals, there’s little doubt that publications up and down the country will be formulating the best combined Liverpool and Man United XI ahead of the game, based on opinion and/or stats.
But, what would a Liverpool and Man United combined XI look like based purely off FIFA 21 player ratings? Scroll down to find out.
Liverpool and Man United combined FIFA 21 XI
First, some ground rules. Firstly, players who are likely to be unavailable for this weekend’s game haven’t been considered, which rules out Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and more.
Also, the below Liverpool and Man United combined FIFA 21 XI has been based purely off FIFA 21 Career Mode ratings, not FIFA 21 Ultimate Team ratings, as players are restricted to certain positions on that game mode.
These ratings on FIFA 21 are accurate as of the latest player database update, which was released on January 11 for Xbox, PlayStation and PC.
So, without further ado, here’s the Liverpool and Man United combined FIFA 21 XI.
GK: Alisson (Liverpool) – 90
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) – 87
CB: Fabinho ( Liverpool ) – 87
CB: Harry Maguire (Man United) – 81
LB: Andy Robertson (Liverpool) – 87
CDM: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – 86
CM: Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – 88
CM: Paul Pogba (Man United) – 86
RW: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 90
CF: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – 86
LW: Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – 90
Without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez or Joel Matip, Fabinho has to move into the centre of defence for this strongest combined XI, otherwise, Fabinho would have to go into midfield and one of Eric Bailly (79) or Victor Lindelof (79) would have to be included, making the overall team weaker.
The likes of David De Gea (86), Marcus Rashford (85), Georginio Wijnaldum (85), Thiago (85), Edinson Cavani (84), Alex Telles (84) and Anthony Martial (83) are some of the players who miss out.
*FIFA 21 is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, with the next generation version of the game set to be released on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PlayStation 5 on December 4, 2020.
The voting for the FUT 21 Team of the Year squad began on Thursday January 7, 2021 at 4PM GMT. The FIFA 21 Ultimate Team TOTY voting is live now at EA.COM/TOTY.
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For its first three years of existence, the Overwatch League has kicked off early in the year. But that’s going to change in 2021. Today, Blizzard announced that its ambitious esports league will begin play in April. It will also be the first season in which the league is played entirely online — and there will be some big changes to accommodate that. “To take full advantage of what was learned last season, we’ve made several changes that will improve the quality of competition and the fan experience for this coming season,” Blizzard says.
First is a structural change. Blizzard says the 20-team league will be split into two divisions — one made of teams from China and Korea, the other North America and Europe — and they’ll play against other teams in their region during the regular season. The top teams from each division will then qualify for four major tournaments that will happen throughout the season. (Full details and scheduling aren’t available just yet.)
OWL features teams from 19 cities that are spread across North America, Europe, and Asia, and Blizzard says that it’s developing a new tool to make it possible to play across regions. It’s described as “a new system that establishes minimum latency connections so that teams anywhere in the world can scrimmage against one another or conduct practices if players are apart.”
The league’s first season was in 2018, but last year was expected to be a big one for OWL; the league was going to move to a home-and-away format, similar to traditional sports leagues, with teams playing out of venues in their home cities. Those plans were disrupted by the pandemic, with Blizzard eventually shifting to an online format, which continued through to the championship game.
The other controversial change in 2020 saw the league shift its broadcast from Twitch to YouTube, after Activision Blizzard signed an exclusive streaming deal with Google. The change came with a decline in viewership, though OWL says it’s planning to improve broadcasts for this upcoming season:
For our fans, we’re working very closely with YouTube as we enter the second year of our partnership. There are a lot of things in the works that we can’t reveal yet, but we can say that we’re going to level up the quality of our match streams, add more value to watching live matches, and improve the discoverability of live Overwatch content.
We’re also making improvements to our match broadcasts with a new and improved virtual set, a freshly redesigned graphics package, and changes to our show format that place even more emphasis on match play. We’ll have more to share on this later in the offseason.
And while the league is planning for a season of largely remote competition, Blizzard also isn’t ruling out a return to live matches in the future. “While we cannot predict the future, we hope to welcome fans back to live events if health and safety conditions improve in 2021, but that might not happen, and it might not be at every location where teams compete,” the league said in a statement. “Our top priority remains to keep our players, fans, and staff safe.”
Yesterday, Activision announced that OWL’s sister league, the Call of Duty League, would begin play in February.
For years, competitive gaming has done its best to mimic professional sports, whether it’s players wearing Nike jerseys, big-name celebrity investors, or ambitious plans for home-and-away games. But Chris Greeley, commissioner of the League of Legends Championship Series — the game’s top professional league in North America — believes that esports has moved beyond mimicking existing sports.
“We had this idea in the beginning that, because esports is a sport, and we wanted to be taken seriously, we should look like a sport,” he tells The Verge. “The LCS looked like the NBA on TNT. It was great for validation and for investors and sponsors to look and say ‘Hey, this looks just like a sport, therefore this is an easy translation.’ But we’ve outlived that.”
So starting in 2021, the league is making some big changes, both in terms of how it looks and how it’s structured. “We feel like we’re finally free to be ourselves,” Greeley says.
The most obvious change is visual. The league has a new logo — it’s a crystal made of the letters LCS — and a refreshed graphic design for broadcasts. Whereas the previous logo was a shield that wouldn’t have looked out of place in college football, the new one clearly represents a video game. It follows similar redesigns for the other top League competitions around the world, including Europe, China, and Korea.
(Greeley says the logo has received a mixed reaction from fans so far — which was expected. “People hate change. We’ve seen it from pretty much every esports rebrand,” he says, adding “You don’t want [a logo that] looks like it came off of a can of soup. It has to be resonant.”)
The idea behind the refresh, he says, is to give the LCS its own distinct voice in an increasingly crowded field. “It’s not just about a new color or a new logo, but it really is about how we’re going to follow with our broadcast and our content,” he says. “You’re not going to tune in this week and see a finished product. We’ll be iterating over the next year or two, but I think this is a really great start.”
To go along with this, the LCS is also introducing some major format changes, with a bigger focus on tournaments, including one to kick off the year that starts on January 15th. Previously, the competition closely resembled something like the NFL, with a slate of regular season matches culminating in the playoffs; the best teams then moved on to international competitions. The goal is to find a balance between the thrill of knockout tournaments and the familiarity of regular season play. “Tournaments are exciting,” Greeley explains. “The problem is, if everything is a tournament, if everything is meant to feel exciting, then nothing feels exciting.”
Despite problems caused by the pandemic, the LCS — along with many other esports leagues — experienced tremendous growth in terms of viewership last year. But the league struggled on a competitive level. At the annual League of Legends World Championship, North American teams were far behind the competition and didn’t pose much of a threat to the big clubs from Europe, China, and Korea. Much of the blame was put on the region’s developmental scene. Instead of encouraging up-and-coming local players, many LCS teams relied on aging or imported stars.
The league is hoping to change that with a revamped amateur system, with the goal of opening things up, so that the developmental squads for each LCS team — known as academy teams — are able to play in different tournaments against other amateur and college teams. This will culminate in an end-of-year tournament called LCS Proving Grounds.
According to Greeley, these changes were in the works prior to Worlds — but the feedback was still welcome. “The criticism around the need for NA to make changes to develop players, that actually was satisfying to hear, because I knew this was coming,” he says of the amateur changes. “We hadn’t announced it, it was nearly final at that point, but we were just figuring out how we were going to roll it out. When you’re developing a solution, and then everyone stands up and says ‘We need a solution,’ and it’s done and ready to show, that’s actually a pretty good feeling.”
2021 will also see the league continue to operate remotely. Typically, LCS matches take place in a Los Angeles studio with fans in attendance. That obviously hasn’t been possible during the pandemic, but Greeley says that this could slowly change throughout the year. The first step is to get the broadcast team in the building, and the hope is that by the time playoffs come around, players can be present as well. Viewers, meanwhile, will likely have to stick to watching on Twitch and YouTube.
“We’re not rushing getting fans back into the arena,” Greeley says.
The second season of the Call of Duty League will begin play next month. Today, Activision Blizzard announced that the CDL regular season for 2021 will kick off with an opening event from February 11th–14th, though the actual schedule and matchups have yet to be determined.
The league debuted last year with an ambitious plan to blend city-based teams with esports, similar to the Overwatch League. However, due to the pandemic, the CDL — along with most other competitive gaming leagues — was forced to shift to an online format. The season culminated with a championship weekend in August where the Dallas Empire won a literal throne.
The 2021 season will introduce a few changes, including 4 vs. 4 gameplay and a shift to PC. There will also be a new team among the 12 CDL clubs: the Los Angeles Thieves will replace Optic Gaming Los Angeles. Like last year, all games will be broadcast exclusively on YouTube.
While the season won’t start until next month, a preseason event will take place on January 23rd and 24th, where fans from the top three teams last year — Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago — will be able to vote on who they play against.
Fans in North America will be able to play League of Legends on their phones very soon. Today, at a big event detailing what 2021 will look like for League, developer Riot revealed that Wild Rift — the mobile and console version of the game — will launch in open beta in the Americas starting in March. It’s not clear what platforms the beta will be available on, but previous open betas were primarily on Android and iOS.
Additionally, Riot outlined its plans to support Wild Rift throughout the year. That includes regular events like a Lunar New Year festival in February, a ranked season that kicks off in some regions this week, and the addition of around two new characters each month.
The other big reveal from the event relates to Riot’s esports ambitions. League of Legends is arguably the biggest competitive game in the world right now, and Riot is trying to do something similar for its tactical shooter Valorant. So it should come as no surprise that the developer now says it’s looking to build out esports scenes for its trio of League spinoffs: Teamfight Tactics, Legends of Runeterra, and Wild Rift.
Competitive mobile games like Honor of Kings, PUBG Mobile, and Brawl Stars are some of the most popular in the world, so it makes a lot of sense that Riot would try something similar with its smartphone titles, however there aren’t a lot of details on what the scenes will look like just yet.
Meanwhile, the developer also announced that this year’s League of Legends World Championship will be held in Shenzhen, China. Last year’s event took place in Shanghai.
Broadcasters were left fuming by the Covid postponements in the Premier League.
Television companies pay hundreds of millions for their live rights and to see games being called off at the last minute while players break strict protocols has caused one hell of a stink.
Sky, BT Sport and Amazon are among the firms in the current £5billion TV deal and executives are understood to have left the Premier League in no doubt about their view.
Clearly, if players contract the virus unintentionally while respecting all the rules then there can be no complaint but the number of high profile cases flaunting the strict protocols has gone down exceptionally badly.
There were three postponements in the week after Christmas with Manchester City’s trip to Everton and also Fulham’s games at Tottenham and Burnley.
But it is not just about those games but players breaking rules as Tottenham trio Giovani Lo Celso, Sergio Reguilon and Erik Lamela having a Christmas get together with West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini and their respective families.
Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy apologised after hosting a bash.
Football has been awash with talk of other gatherings and broadcasters will be fuming if further revelations emerge not just because of the commercial damage but the bad look it gives football in these tough times.
Is this finally Zaha’s year?
The transfer window could be very quiet this month.
But there is one player who is still attracting headlines and interest which does beg the question as to whether this could be the year that Wilfried Zaha leaves Crystal Palace.
Zaha, 28, has been involved in a couple of recent transfer sagas involving Everton and Arsenal, this time Paris Saint Germain and Leicester have been looking, especially with Mauricio Pochettino now at the Parc des Princes.
Ivory Coast star Zaha has never hidden his ambition to win trophies, is respectful to Palace but his form suggests that he really is at the peak of his powers, enjoying the best period of his career and it could be an interesting year if a big club tests the water.
Palace boss Roy Hodgson has been fulsome in his praise while his statistics this season have been nothing short of remarkable and are catching the eye of big clubs.
In his 15 games so far, Zaha has scored eight goals, provided two assists, had 13 shots on target, created 12 chances and provided 19 key passes into the danger zone.
Zaha has been one of the best entertainers in recent seasons and it has been hard to think of another player who has been such a talisman for one club.
But his starring role for Palace this season may also drive a market in January or in the summer window.
BBC’s local radio crackdown
BBC local radio has a cult following among football fans as they provide commentary from up and down the country.
But BBC bosses have ordered a crackdown and stopped local stations travelling all over to follow their club for fear of catching the virus and bringing it back to their studios.
BBC Radio Norfolk and Leicester have both posted pictures or posts of them having to stay behind and do commentaries off TV which feels like such a break in Saturday afternoon tradition for hundreds of thousands of fans.
Local radio often also provides commentary for the EFL’s iFollow service so it has a big impact.
Five Live is still travelling the length and breadth of the country for commentaries.
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Sean Dyche claims Premier League players should be vaccinated to protect the game’s integrity.
Dyche revealed Burnley are the latest club to be hit by coronavirus.
However, they should have enough players to fulfil Saturday’s FA Cup tie at home to MK Dons.
But Dyche is worried clubs are being handicapped by the numbers of players and contacts having to self-isolate.
And he feels vaccination is the solution.
“My view, and I’m not saying it’s the view, but vaccination is the way forward for football,” said the Burnley boss.
“I appreciate some people will be surprised by that comment.
“But if you think about it, we all wanted football back, there’s the cash it generates through tax, the well-being it generates with the obvious most high-profile one being Marcus Rashford and what he achieved.
“You look at the amount spent on testing in the Premier League, that money could then be channelled back into the NHS and into the vaccination system.
“Surely that’s better than just continually testing a load of footballers two or three times a week?
“I appreciate some people will say why should footballers get vaccinated etc?
“But 20 Premier League clubs with say 100 people vaccinated, the payback to the NHS would be considerable.
“If you vaccinate, you don’t need to keep testing and that money could be used for a much-better cause while football would stay a competitive industry rather than one that might end up skewed because of players missing games.”
Dyche also Dyche claims it will still be hard for Burnley to sign anyone this month, despite ALK Capital’s takeover.
New owner Alan Pace has promised to back Dyche in the January transfer window and the Clarets boss is interested in signing Manchester United ’s Phil Jones.
But Dyche is not optimistic about bringing in any new faces because January is a difficult window.
“Nothing has changed from before the takeover,” he said. “January is a very, very tough window.
“Not many clubs want to lose their players and the odd time you might get someone in.
“There are things we have talked about and possible options, so we’ll wait and see. I’m not banking on it, looking at it is a better way to put it.”
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This current Premier League campaign is close to approaching its halfway point, and it’s shaping up to be one of the most competitive in years.
This point is captured by the fact that just 10 points separate first-placed Liverpool with Leeds United down in 12th.
As things stand, Jurgen Klopp’s men have 33 points, which is 16 fewer than what they had accumulated after the same number of matches of last season, and 12 less than in the 2018/19 season prior.
This notable drop in points by the champions, added with the fact that no top team has been able to take advantage and leapfrog them in the table does bring to prominence the unpredictable nature of the season so far.
Numerous theories have been formulated trying to explain the enigma behind the erratic nature of this season, with things such as a lack of supporters and the ongoing Covid pandemic all undoubtedly being a factor.
However, there does seem to be growing evidence of fatigue throughout most sides in the division, caused by a lack of a proper pre-season and a congested fixture schedule. This is impacting the performance capabilities of a lot of the sides in the division, therefore opening the door for more unpredictable fixtures and results.
This point is captured by looking at the changes in the division’s passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA) average this season when compared to previous campaigns.
PPDA is a metric to quantify high press intensity, by calculating the number of passes an opposition is allowed to make in the final 60% of the pitch and dividing it by the number of defensive actions attempted by the team looking to win the ball back. The lower the number, the more aggressive and better a team’s high pressing is.
The Premier League’s PPDA average this season is 14.15. However, last season that average was notably lower at 12.42, whilst in the campaign before that it was 11.89. In fact, the league’s PPDA average is at it’s highest for at least five years, with the data not publicly available for the seasons before then.
The changes in each team’s PPDA average in this season, compared to the last, is illustrated below.
Notably, only Aston Villa, who’ve played just 15 league matches so far, are noticeably pressing more aggressively higher up the pitch, with an increase of 19 per cent on their PPDA average from last season.
Strikingly, it’s most teams juggling the demands of both domestic and Europen fixtures that seem to be feeling the strain most. Klopp’s Liverpool, known for their high pressing capabilities, have dropped off by 6 per cent in comparison to last season, whilst Chelsea and Manchester United have both fallen by 11 per cent.
Additionally, each of Manchester City, Leicester City, Tottenham, Everton and Wolves have seen their PPDA averages drop by 20+ per cent.
The biggest changes in pressing aggression have come from each of the newly promoted sides, however, this is to be expected given that they’ve transitioned from the Championship to the Premier League.
Furthermore, Leeds, who are considered one of the most hard-working sides in the division under Marcelo Bielsa, currently have a PPDA average of just 9.46 which still ranks as the most aggressive in the league.
Overall though, the above highlights what toll the current campaign and all of its challenges are taking on the teams in the league. It also goes some way to explaining why we’re seeing such unusual results and an unrecognisable league table at this stage of the season.