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Bundesliga

POSSIBLE BIG 5 EUROPEAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS REVEALED

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BY PAUL NICHOLSON.

This season’s Big 5 European league champions will be Manchester City, Barcelona, PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich, according to a set statistical model developed by the CIES Football Observatory.

Barca, PSG and Juve already lead their divisions, while both Man City and Bayern currently sit in second place.

The CIES Football Observatory data is built around what it calls ‘pitch production’ which includes data sets on shots on target, ball possession and shots conceded from the box. The result is a calculation of expected points per match (see tables below). The model has been built over the past two seasons with the first half of this season’s data being used to create the current tables.

“Manchester City achieved so far 5% of points per match less than expected according to its pitch production. Conversely, Liverpool obtained 15% more and its results are supposed to decline in the second part of the season,” say the report authors.

In the Premier League the most over achieving team on this methodology is Burnley (+46%) while the most under achieving is Huddersfield (52%). Chelsea are performing exactly to expectations while Spurs are way ahead of what could be expected (38%). Man Utd are also beating their predicted points score by 5% and Arsenal by 23%.

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PSG top the French league and are 25% above their predicted points outcome, In Spain Barca top the league but are 2% below their points per match expectancy. Real Madrid are 13% off the pace.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Bundesliga

Guinea player, Naby Keita suspended for rest of season by Bundelisga side

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Werder Bremen have suspended Guinea’s Naby Keita for the rest of the season and forced him to pay a ‘substantial fine’ after he refused to play in Sunday’s Bundesliga clash with Bayer Leverkusen.

Keita made headlines over the weekend when he refused to travel with his teammates and instead went home after finding out that he would not make the starting lineup for the game which eventually saw Leverkusen crowned Bundesliga champions.

While reports claim Keita will receive a ‘substantial fine’, an official statement from the club has revealed he will serve a suspension. Keita will be not be selected for games for the rest of this season, while he will also be banned from training with the team and featuring in the dressing room.

Bremen director Clemens Fritz said: “Naby’s behaviour cannot be tolerated for us as a club. With this action, he let his team down in a tense sporting and personnel situation and placed himself above the team.

“We can’t allow that. At this stage of the season we need full focus on the remaining games and a team that is very close together. There was therefore no alternative to our measures.”

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The former Liverpool midfielder joined the club as a free agent on a three-year deal in the summer of 2023, following a poor spell at Anfield.

The 29-year-old was keen to defend himself and his professionalism, taking to Instagram to share his point of view. He said: “Ever since I arrived at this magnificent club, I have always shown my professionalism.

“I have always tried to help the club and the great supporters, especially during this time of poor results. Since the start of my career, I have never had problems with my discipline and have always shown an exemplary attitude. I will not accept any person trying to tarnish my image.

“To the supporters, I have always worked hard in training to get the right result at the weekend. In training, I can only give my best.”

Keita has played just 106 minutes for Bremen since moving back to the Bundesliga last summer and now will be unable to secure any further game time during the current campaign.

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Bundesliga

Alonso Hails Boniface, Other Players for Leverkusen’s Bundesliga Triumph

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Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso hailed their Bundesliga triumph as “something extraordinary” after they secured their first title in the club’s 120-year history on Sunday evening.

Bayer Leverkusen had a 13-point lead heading into the match against Werder Bremen, knowing a victory would secure the Bundesliga even with five matches remaining. The hosts made easy work of Bremen as they won 5-0 thanks to a penalty from Victor Boniface, a wonderful strike from Granit Xhaka and a Florian Wirtz hat trick.

The triumph marked the end of Bayern Munich’s run of 11 straight titles, and a breakthrough for Leverkusen after they came so close in both 2000 and 2002.

“This is a very special moment for the club,” Alonso said post-match. “After 120 years, to win the Bundesliga for the first time is something extraordinary. The players performed, they were a top team together. I am so proud of all of them. For me, it’s an honour to work here.

“Finally, we can say Bayer Leverkusen is a German champion. It’s a huge honour for all of us. It was earned by the team, by the club, by the fans. Everyone, all departments, was working and fighting for this title, so we are a result of that hard work over many years. This is a moment to enjoy and a huge success for this club. The first title is always special for everyone. So to be part of this history feels incredible.”

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When asked when he thought the title was within reach, he pinpointed their win over Bayern Munich on Feb. 10, which gave Bayer a five-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. By the time Matchday 29 ticked around, Bayer Leverkusen were 16 points ahead of Bayern.

“That game against Bayern at home,” Alonso said. “It could have turned out that they would have been ahead of us. We didn’t talk about winning the title in the locker room that day but we all knew.

“We were all thinking about it. With the consistency, the quality of our game over the season, we earned this title. It’s not easy and we were living it every day, which made us believe. It’s an incredible team; all the players, even the young guys, worked so hard. Everyone was always preparing hard. We might need a little more time to reflect on what we accomplished but right now, we want to enjoy this.”

As Leverkusen closed in on history, fans invaded the pitch twice in the final 10 minutes. The first mini-invasion came after Wirtz’s second, and Leverkusen’s fourth, in the 83rd minute. Alonso and the players beckoned the supporters back. When Wirtz scored his third and their fifth in the 89th minute, the invasion was larger. The referee waited for the 90th minute and with fans still on the pitch, blew for full time.

“The fans were top,” Alonso said. “They lined the whole way to the stadium. We could see that they wanted this and we talked about it in the locker room, that we wanted to transform their energy onto the field. And again the players delivered and for me that’s special.”

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Alonso said he did not feel the external expectation and pressure of having a role in ending Bayern’s dominance of German football.

“The weight of history was not heavy inside me,” Alonso told ESPN’s Archie Rhind-Tutt.

“I was hearing that but I said, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ It was about bringing the right players; the staff were really supportive. We had a good team to play a good season but we have overcome expectations with the way we have played and deserved the results. It’s difficult to put into words but happy to be part of it.”

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Bundesliga

Zidane Close to Bayern Job

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Zidane In The Picture As New Man United Owner Schemes For Ten Hag Sack -

Bayern Munich have reached out to Zinedine Zidane to gauge his interest in taking charge of the team next season, according to reports in Spain.

Thomas Tuchel will leave his post this summer after overseeing a downturn in form which saw Bayer Leverkusen roar to the Bundesliga title, with Bayern officials searching for a replacement for several weeks.

Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso was the top target before he publicly confirmed his desire to stay with his current side, forcing Bayern to look elsewhere.

According to MARCA, contact has been made with Zidane, who has been out of work since leaving Real Madrid  back in 2021. The Frenchman is known to be keen to return to work and was rumoured to be waiting for the France national team job, only for Didier Deschamps to extend his deal with Les Bleus until 2026.

Whether Zidane would be interested in managing Bayern is unclear, but the legendary midfielder has previously confessed that he does not want to work in a country where he cannot fluently speak the language.

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Jose Mourinho is named as a potential candidate for Bayern, as are Julian Nagelsmann and Hansi Flick, both of whom have already enjoyed spells in Bavaria.

BILD recently reported that Nagelsmann, who was sacked in favour of Tuchel in March 2023, is now the top target for the job.

Nagelsmann is currently in charge of the German national team but will see his contract expire after this summer’s European Championships. An extension has not been ruled out publicly.

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