The Guardian

GUARDIAN – European best XIs plus analysis of the Premier League title contenders

Best XIs from the five top leagues in Europe and a close look at Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool’s title chancesPremier League team of the weekLa Liga team of the weekBundesliga team of the weekSerie A team of the weekLigue 1 team of the weekTactical talking point: the Premier League title contendersChelseaChelsea’s defeat at Villa Park on Saturday may have dented their prospects of winning the league but they remain in a very strong position. City will leapfrog them if they win their three games in hand, but Chelsea have the more favourable run-in.They have to play both Liverpool and Arsenal, but do not have any other fixtures against teams in the top half of the table. The clubs engulfed in the relegation battle can pull off the odd upset – and José Mourinho’s men still have to play three of the bottom five – but they do not have to face many teams vying for European places.The defeat at Villa was Chelsea’s first league loss since the start of December. They have picked up 2.36 points per game in 2014 and have boasted a strong defence, with Fabian Delph’s flick only the fourth goal they have conceded in the league this calendar year.LiverpoolLiverpool are the form team in the league and they are benefiting from having played fewer games than the teams around them. With nine matches still to play, Brendan Rodgers will believe his side have what it takes. They still have to face Manchester City and Chelsea but, with both matches at Anfield, they have the chance to hurt their rivals. They also have to play Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, who are in the top 10, but they have been struggling lately.Since the turn of the year, Liverpool have averaged 2.6 points per game in an unbeaten run that includes comprehensive victories over Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United. Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge have contributed 3.2 goals per game in 2014 and have helped Liverpool become the leading scorers in the league with 75 goals. ArsenalArsenal’s win over Tottenham on Sunday gave them a timely boost but also served as a reminder that they are are not at the peak of their powers. Injuries have cost them recently, not to mention exhausting European away days, and they will need to improve if they are to come out on top at the end of the season.Their true title credentials may well be known by the end of the month. They face both Chelsea and Manchester City before travelling to Everton in the first week of April. They could be out of the running very quickly, but three wins in those matches may well see them become favourites.Arsenal have the same number of points and games to play as Liverpool, but their form will be a concern. An average of two points per game in 2014 is decent but they’ve dropped points in four of their last seven matches. Their defence has been solid this season but, with half as many goals scored per game in this calendar year as Liverpool (1.6), they are playing catch-up.Manchester CityManuel Pellegrini’s men are the only side that know they will win the league if they win all of their remaining games. Such a feat is unlikely but, having been dumped out of the Champions League and FA Cup, they, like Liverpool, have one sole focus.That said, with 11 games remaining, they still face a busy schedule, with a crucial game in hand against Aston Villa sandwiched between the last two games of the season. City, despite being favourites, could also see their chances alleviate or diminish sooner rather than later, with successive matches against Manchester United, Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool to come in the next few weeks.Again, like Arsenal they are not exactly in title-winning form. They’ve scored just four goals in their last game, with the absence of Sergio Agüero taking its toll. His fitness is likely to be a telling factor in the title race, with City averaging 3.33 goals per game in the 15 league matches he has started compared to 1.75 in the games he hasn’t. It’s now City’s title to lose, but the form of Liverpool in particular will be a real worry to all those around them.All statistics courtesy of, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.• Follow WhoScored on Twitter• Follow Guardian Football on FacebookPremier LeagueArsenalLiverpoolChelseaManchester CityLa LigaBundesligaLigue 1Serie AMartin 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


GUARDIAN – Pepe Reina says he would welcome Barcelona return

• Goalkeeper would replace outgoing Victor Valdés• Napoli player is unlikely to return to LiverpoolPepe Reina currently on a season-long loan at Serie A side Napoli, says he would welcome a return to Barcelona next summer.The Liverpool goalkeeper has been strongly linked with a move to the Primera Division at the end of the campaign to replace the outgoing Victor Valdés.Barça’s current No1 announced in May that he would leave the Nou Camp at the end of this season and Reina, who began his career at the club before making a name for himself at Villarreal and later Liverpool, would relish a return.However, the 31-year-old knows the Catalan club will have many targets and has refused to speculate on his future beyond this season.He told El Mundo Deportivo: “I would love to return to Barcelona. To play at Barça is a privilege. But I imagine that my name is on a list with others. Barça is a top club and Victor Valdés’ departure will have alerted other candidates so a return will be very difficult.”Right now I’m not thinking about it. I was fortunate to play there once and I consider myself privileged to have done that. The important thing is that I continue to do well at Napoli.”Reina has three years remaining on his contract with Liverpool, but is unlikely to return to play at Anfield given that Simon Mignolet has firmly established himself as first-choice goalkeeper, although Rodgers may wish to retain the services of Reina as his No2.BarcelonaNapoliLiverpoolLa LigaSerie AEuropean club © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds