OFFICIAL: Real Madrid legend Paco Gento has passed away at the age of 88

The legendary and iconic Paco Gento has passed away at the age of 88, Real Madrid have announced.

Real Madrid lost one of the biggest legends in the club’s history today.

Los Blancos have confirmed that club legend Francisco (Paco) Gento has passed away.

Gento has passed away at the age of 88, and the club have sent their condolences to his wife, Mari Luz, children Francisco and Julio, and grandchildren Aitana and Candela.

Gento, who was a left winger, made 428 league appearances for Real Madrid, scoring 128 times and spending 18 years at the club in total.

He won as many as 12 La Liga titles, six European Cups and two Copa del Reys.

Interestingly, the weekend’s Super Cup win from the current Real Madrid’s stars saw Marcelo equal Gento’s record for trophies won with the club (24).

Gento is an honorary club president at Real Madrid, and the club will play tribute to him on Sunday when they face Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

The former winger will be remembered as one of Real Madrid’s biggest legends.

Laporta: I am convinced Barcelona will beat Bayern Munich

The Blaugrana president has full confidence in side’s chances to advance to the Champions League knockout stage

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is “convinced” his club will defeat Bayern Munich in their final Champions League group game on December 8.

He has said the appointment of Xavi as manager has inspired more respect from opponents, which could be a factor in what he has predicted to be a “miracle” win at the Allianz Arena.

The Blaugrana could still advance to the knockout stage without toppling their German opponent, but leaving Munich with a win is the only way to 100 per cent assure advancement regardless of what happens in Benfica vs Dynamo Kyiv.

What has been said?

“Beating Bayern is something that can be achieved,” Laporta said to AS. “There is going to be a miracle, I am convinced that we are going to win.

“Xavi is very motivated and very strong. I hope everything goes well for us, I think that at the moment Xavi’s arrival has generated a little respect from our opponents. They know we can do it again.”

Bigger picture

Barcelona lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich at Camp Nou earlier in the campaign, and their general form this season has been below typical standards as they sit in seventh place in La Liga.

There is also the matter of their infamous 8-2 loss against Bayern Munich in 2020, which they will be reminded of by rival fans in the build-up to the December 8 clash.

However, the Bavarians may be fielding a weakened starting line-up as they have already clinched first place in the group and could be hesitant to risk injury.

Laporta also believes the Xavi boost in spirit will translate to a passionate display on the pitch.

Barcelona will seal a place in the last 16 if they beat Bayern Munich; if they draw or lose at the Allianz Arena they would need Benfica to draw or lose their match against Dynamo Kyiv in order to advance.

Opera Football Weekend Preview: Liverpool host Arsenal, Xavi’s Barca coaching debut, Leicester vs Chelsea & more – details and predictions

Hey! The international break has finally gone, do you miss league games? Time to have a preview of key matches this weekend!

Liverpool vs Arsenal

Kick-Off

20.11.2021 17:30 (utc)

Probable Lineups

Summary

Liverpool saw their 20-game unbeaten run in the top flight come to a sudden halt prior to the international break, going down 3-2 to West Ham. That makes welcoming opponents Arsenal to Anfield all the more enticing, with just two points separating them coming into the weekend, and as Liverpool’s last three league defeats have now come against London clubs!

Salah next? The 11 players given a new Liverpool contract in 2021-22 -  Planet Football


The ‘Reds’ currently boast a nine-game unbeaten league home run (W5, D4), albeit having drawn their last two despite taking the lead in both games. The four points dropped in those two matches are as many as they surrendered from winning positions in their previous 23 league games at Anfield. A visit from Arsenal could therefore be the tonic for Liverpool to get back on track, as the Merseysiders have won the last five home league H2Hs, finding the net at least three times on all occasions.
But Arsenal are one of the league’s most in-form teams at the moment as Mikel Arteta’s youth-oriented strategy finally seems to be uniting fans of the team. Their current eight-game unbeaten streak (W6, D2) is actually the longest of all PL clubs and you have to go back to August to December 2018 to find the last time they embarked on a longer top-flight run without defeat.
After the hysteria surrounding starting the season with three defeats, the ‘Gunners’ have catapulted themselves to the cusp of the top four. They’ve kept three consecutive PL clean sheets on their travels and are now on the verge of securing four successive top-flight away shutouts for the first time since May 2005. That’s a big ask here though, as they’ve won only one of the last 12 league H2Hs against Liverpool (D4, L7), keeping one clean sheet in that time.
Players to watch: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has seven goal contributions in five home PL games against Arsenal (G5, A2), whose in-form youngster Emile Smith Rowe has seen four of his six PL goals arrive in the first 30 minutes of play.
Hot stat: Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp’s average of 2.18 points per game against Arsenal is the third-highest points per game ratio of all managers who have faced Arsenal 5+ times in the PL.

Match Facts & Betting Odds

There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Liverpool’s last 8 games (Premier League).
Over 2.5 goals 1.50
Liverpool have scored at least 2 goals in their last 8 matches (Premier League).
Over 1.5 goals 1.16
Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 away matches (Premier League).
Arsenal win or draw 2.62
Liverpool are undefeated in their last 10 home matches against Arsenal in all competitions.
Liverpool win or draw 1.11
Liverpool are undefeated in their last 9 home matches (Premier League).
Liverpool win or draw 1.11
Arsenal have won their last 3 matches (Premier League).
Arsenal win 6.50
There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Arsenal’s last 3 away games (Premier League).
Under 2.5 goals 2.62

Opera Football Prediction

Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season last time out before the international break, losing 3-2 away to West Ham in a thrilling game.
Arsenal now hold the longest unbeaten run in the division as a result, eight games without defeat in the Premier League.
Liverpool remain favourites but they haven’t been as solid at the back this season as normal. They are struggling to get the right balance in midfield without Gini Wijnaldum.
Liverpool have won their last five home league matches against Arsenal but Mikel Arteta’s side will give them a tough game on current form.
So, Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal

Leicester City vs Chelsea

Kick-Off

20.11.2021 12:30 (utc)

Probable Lineups

Summary

Things aren’t quite right at Leicester City with their pre-season expectation to challenge the top four currently off-track as they languish in the bottom half of the Premier League (PL) standings. Compounding matters further for the hosts is the fact that manager Brendan Rodgers is heavily linked with a move away from the club, stirring further unrest amongst their ranks.
An optimistic fan would point to Leicester beginning this weekend just five points off the top five and being unbeaten in five of their last six PL games (W2, D3, L1). However, if Rodgers’ record against high-flying Chelsea is anything to go by, this will be a tough afternoon for the hosts (W2, D8, L8) though those outings are usually tight affairs, with eight of the last ten producing two or fewer total goals.

Chelsea at Leicester predicted XI: Tuchel turns to 3-4-2-1 in PL return


The international break came at the perfect time for title-chasing Chelsea, who had dropped points for just the third time this season prior with a frustrating 1-1 home draw against Burnley. Boss Thomas Tuchel also had a lengthy list of injuries to contend with and the break has given those individuals time to step up their recovery efforts ahead of the PL return.
Extremely solid when playing away, Chelsea have picked up 13 of a possible 15 points on their travels so far (W4, D1) and are one of just two unbeaten PL away sides, alongside Brighton. That form has been built on a solid defensive unit that has conceded just once across five PL away games this campaign.
Players to watch: Leicester’s Patson Daka became the first Zambian to score in the PL after his strike here just last month, he also netted over the international break. Another player who scored for their country during the break was Chelsea and Germany star Kai Havertz; he’s led the line in the absence of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner.
Hot stat: No PL side has picked up fewer yellow cards than Chelsea’s 12 this season (1.09 per match on average).

Match Facts & Betting Odds

Chelsea have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 away matches (Premier League).
Chelsea win or draw 1.18
Chelsea have won their last 3 away matches (Premier League).
Chelsea win1.75
Leicester have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 3 home matches (Premier League).
Over 1.5 goals1.30

Opera Football Prediction

Leicester are winless in three (D2, L1) and are already seven points adrift of fourth place.
Chelsea are three points clear at the top of the Premier League but dropped points to Burnley last time out.
Chelsea have only won one of their last four away to Leicester but will be considered favourites here.

So, Leicester 0-1 Chelsea.

Barcelona vs Espanyol

Kick-Off

21.11.2021 20:00 (utc)

Probable Lineups

Summary

Club legend Xavi Hernández returns to Barcelona, but this time in the dugout, as he’s charged with turning around what is the club’s second lowest 12-game La Liga (LL) points tally in the 21st century. Their 3-3 draw (after being 3-0 up) against Celta Vigo before the international break extended Barça’s winless LL streak (D2, L2) and summed up the on-field problems and morale-sapping results that Xavi must now address.

The three requests Xavi has made to Barça as he takes over as coach
Xavi’s Barca coaching debut

The new boss couldn’t have chosen a better first game than the ‘Derbi Barceloní’, as Barcelona are unbeaten in 22 LL matches against city rivals Espanyol (W17, D5) – their longest-ever undefeated H2H streak against their derby foes. As Xavi plots a way to make the Nou Camp a fortress again, he’ll expect to extend Barcelona’s 11-game winning LL H2H home run.
H2H history can only get you so far though, and what Espanyol have is improving form in their corner with three wins across six LL games (W3, D2, L1) – as many victories as they managed across their previous 25 LL fixtures. Three points here will actually propel Espanyol above Barcelona, and possibly heal some of the wounds of a 1-0 loss here back in July 2020 that relegated the visitors.
Alternating between draw and defeat on the road since the start of the season (D3, L3), gaining a first win at the Nou Camp since February 2009 – a match that saw Barça boss Xavi play in midfield – seems a stretch of the imagination. However a stalemate would add to Espanyol’s H2H draw record of 38, which is more than they have recorded against any other LL opponent.
Key battle: Barça’s Marc-André ter Stegen has gone six LL games without a clean sheet, but does have a joint-personal best of seven H2H LL clean sheets to his name. He will have to stop red-hot Raúl de Tomás who is looking to become only the second Espanyol player in the 21st century to score in six consecutive LL games.
Hot stat: No side has seen more match goals (eight) beyond the 80th minute in LL home games than Barcelona.

Match Facts

Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in their last 5 home matches against Espanyol in all competitions.
Barcelona win or draw 1.08
Espanyol have failed to win their last 15 away matches (LaLiga).
Espanyol lose or draw 1.08
Barcelona have seen under 2.5 goals in their last 4 home matches against Espanyol in all competitions.
Under 2.5 goals 2.37
Barcelona have won 5 of their last 6 home matches against Espanyol in all competitions.
Barcelona win 1.36
Espanyol have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 4 away matches (LaLiga).
Over 1.5 goals 1.20

Opera Football Prediction

It has been a busy international break for Barcelona, who appointed legendary midfielder Xavi Hernandez as their new head coach and brought back another favourite in Dani Alves, although the experienced full-back can’t play until January.
Barca head into the derby with Espanyol in pretty poor form, and are currently ninth in the table. They blew a three-goal lead last time out against Celta Vigo to draw 3-3, conceding in stoppage time.
Before that, they did manage beat Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League, but even that followed a disappointing draw with Alaves in La Liga.
Espanyol picked up an impressive 2-0 win last time out over a resurgent Granada thanks to goals from Raul de Tomas and Adria Pedrosa. It was an important response from Vicente Moreno’s men after suffering a defeat to bottom club Getafe.
Espanyol have won three of their last six and only lost once, so they come into this game in very good form, although Xavi’s homecoming at Camp Nou has a Barcelona win written all over it.
So, Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol

Watford vs Manchester United

Kick-Off

20.11.2021 15:00 (utc)

Probable Lineups

Summary

Claudio Ranieri hasn’t quite enjoyed the ‘new manager bounce’ Watford fans were hoping for, winning just one of his four Premier League (PL) matches in charge (L3). This contributed to his side heading into the international break only two points above the drop zone, hardly ideal with Manchester United up next, especially as they’ve suffered more PL defeats against them than any other side (W2, L12).
If the ‘Hornets’ are to get back on the right side of the results, then rediscovering their threat in front of goal will be key. They’ve failed to score in a joint league-high seven matches this season, a problem that’s amplified when you’re averaging 1.73 goals against per game. Yet it’s worth noting that they did win and bag 3+ goals in three of the four matches that they did score, suggesting any win could be via a thriller.
With manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær still under mounting pressure, Manchester United won’t care how they win, just as long as they do. However, the ‘Red Devils’ boast only one PL success across their last six encounters (D1, L4), with those four defeats representing as many as they had in their previous 40 matches in the competition (W24, D12).
Although the visitors hold a dominant H2H record against the hosts, recent issues overcoming newly-promoted sides will be causing Solskjær serious angst. United are winless in their last three PL matches against newly-promoted teams (D3) and could go four without a win in such matches for the first time since 1997!
Players to watch: Josh King scored a hat-trick in Watford’s last goalscoring match, and he’s netted in two of his last three games vs United. Across spells with Real Madrid and Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in his last 14 league games against promoted teams.
Hot stat: Watford are without a clean sheet in 21 PL matches, that’s their longest ever run without one in the top flight.

Match Facts & Betting Odds

Man Utd have won 15 of their last 17 matches against Watford in all competitions.
Man Utd win 1.45
Man Utd are undefeated in 30 of their last 31 away matches (Premier League).
Man Utd win or draw 1.11
Man Utd have been winning at both half time and full time in 7 of their last 8 matches against Watford in all competitions.
Man Utd win/win 2.30
There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Man Utd’s last 3 away games (Premier League).
Over 2.5 goals 1.66
Man Utd have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 away matches (Premier League).
Over 1.5 goals 1.20

Opera Football Prediction

Watford have lost three of Claudio Ranieri’s first four matches in charge. After a shock 5-2 win away to Everton, Watford have suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats to Southampton and Arsenal.
The international break came at the right time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, though the pressure is still on. Supporters are quickly losing faith after a very bad start to the season.
United have lost four of their last six in the Premier League and have generally struggled at Vicarage Road in recent times.
United have conceded in each of their last seven matches away to Watford and only have two clean sheets in two of 11 league matches this season. It looks like they’ll have to do it the hard away again here.
So, Watford 1-1 Man Utd

Manchester City vs Everton

Kick-Off

21.11.2021 14:00 (utc)

Probable Lineups

Summary

Manchester City are one of just three clubs ever to successfully defend a Premier League (PL) crown, though only Manchester United have retained PL titles on more than one occasion. Yet, with City beating United themselves just before the international break, they will feel confident of building on that and keeping pace with the title race, especially after eight successive wins against opponents Everton across all competitions.
After a shock home defeat to Crystal Palace late last month, City will target a strong start, as they last failed to win a PL home game after scoring in the opening 15 minutes back in September 2020. Another loss certainly seems unthinkable, with City never losing successive home league games in front of attending fans under Pep Guardiola (2016/17-present).
Everton’s last game before the November international break (0-0 vs Tottenham) saw them record their first clean sheet since September 25. The same result would be a huge boost to the mid-table ‘Toffees’, though they’ve not kept successive PL clean sheets since May.
Following a 5-0 defeat here on the final weekend of 2020/21, Everton’s last away win against City dates back to December 2010. That hoodoo looks set to survive, though neither of Everton’s last two away league clashes against a reigning champion (W1, L1) have seen them fail to cover a +1 handicap.
Key battle: Man City’s Phil Foden scored in both league H2Hs last term, whilst four of his last six PL goals have been second in the overall order on the day. Though personally goalless since September 2017, former City man Fabian Delph may be a worthy foe for him in the centre of the park, after a strong performance against Spurs earlier this month.
Hot streak: City’s last six PL wins by 2+ goals have seen them score inside the first 15 minutes.

Match Facts

Man City have won their last 8 matches against Everton in all competitions.
Man City win 1.14
Man City have scored at least 2 goals in their last 8 matches against Everton in all competitions.
Over 1.5 goals 1.14
Man City have seen over 2.5 goals in their last 3 home matches against Everton in all competitions.
Over 2.5 goals 1.44
There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Man City’s last 3 home games (Premier League).
Under 2.5 goals 2.75
Man City are undefeated in 9 of their last 10 matches (Premier League).
Man City win or draw 1.02
Everton have failed to win their last 5 matches (Premier League).
Everton lose or draw 1.02

Opera Football Prediction

Manchester City bounced back from a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace with an easy 2-0 win over Manchester United before the international break. They start the weekend 3 points behind the leaders Chelsea.
Everton are winless in 5 league matches and have lost 3 times in that spell. They have won one of five away league matches this season.
So, Man City 3-0 Everton

Tottenham vs Leeds

Kick-Off

21.11.2021 16:30 (utc)

Probable Lineups

Summary

The weekend’s Premier League (PL) action concludes with what should be an entertaining 100th competitive clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United. Around 8,000 fans watched on as Tottenham won 2-1 in the first edition of this game at the old White Hart Lane back in 1925 and new manager Antonio Conte would surely take a repeat of that result here on what is his home league debut as Spurs boss.
The highly-coveted Italian manager will be confident of getting his tenure off to a flyer as he won at least once against each of the 53 teams he faced across his prior Serie A and PL appointments. However, he will need to get Tottenham scoring in order to achieve that feat in what will be his first meeting with Leeds, as only Norwich have netted fewer than their nine PL goals this term while they are now without a goal in three straight league games!
Leeds are another side desperately struggling for goals, as only Tottenham and Norwich have scored fewer than their 11 in the league so far. As a consequence, there’s already been unwanted talk of ‘second-season syndrome’ at the club as their cult hero manager Marcelo Bielsa looks to steer the off-colour ‘Lilywhites’ away from the relegation dogfight.
While Leeds gained a confidence boost when winning their first away league game of the season at rock-bottom Norwich, the quality of the opponents there will leave fans under no illusions that they should temper their expectations here. They may well score as they did in five of the last seven away H2Hs, though victory in this game would be their first at Spurs since 2001 (D1, L4 since).
Players to watch: Harry Kane should return to Spurs full of confidence after scoring seven goals in two games across the international break for England. Meanwhile, Leeds forward Rodrigo has scored twice in his three career appearances against Tottenham, both coming in 3-1 victories.
Hot stat: Tottenham haven’t had a shot on target in two straight PL games.

Opera Football Prediction

Tottenham failed to have a shot on target for the second league game running in their 0-0 draw at Everton prior to the international break but will be confident of getting back among the goals when they welcome a Leeds side that has conceded 18 times to north London.
The Whites secured an important victory in their last away game, returning to Yorkshire from Norwich with all the spoils. However, they are winless in their last five trips to Spurs, losing four, including a 3-0 defeat here at the beginning of the year.
Antonio Conte will have worked those not on international duty hard at Hotspur Way and as he aims to get his ideas across, Spurs could make it two wins from three under their new boss in Sunday’s afternoon encounter.
So, Tottenham 2-1 Leeds

Wolves vs West Ham

Kick-Off

20.11.2021 15:00

Probable Lineups

Summary

Wolverhampton Wanderers will be itching to return from the international break to right some wrongs after forfeiting their five-game undefeated streak (W4, D1) in the Premier League (PL) by losing 2-0 to Crystal Palace last time out. In hindsight though, even Wolves will be happy with their recent recovery after a shaky start to the season, and it seems consistency is eventually paying off after using just 18 different players in the league, the joint fewest of any team.
Boss Bruno Lage and his men will likely be happy to return to Molineux after winning their last two home PL fixtures, as many as they’ve managed in the nine such fixtures prior (L7). They now chase a hat-trick of home top-flight league victories for the first time since November 1980.
They’ll welcome current PL high-flyers West Ham who must still be on cloud nine after their 3-2 win over Liverpool before the international hiatus put them into third place. That monumental win was their fourth PL victory in a row – the longest winning streak in the league – and they’ll now aim to win five PL games on the bounce for the first time since February 2006.
The ‘Hammers’ have been breaking down doors on their travels lately, as their current 11-game unbeaten streak away from home in all competitions (W8, D3) is their longest ever undefeated away run as a top-flight club. They did the league double over their hosts last season, which was their first time doing so since 1922/23 – the same season in which West Ham last won back-to-back away league matches at Wolves!
Players to watch: Wolves’ Raúl Jiménez has seen 14 of his last 17 PL goals arrive in the second half, while West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen scored three goals in the two PL H2H matches last season, and has now averaged a goal every 77 minutes vs Wolves across three PL H2Hs.
Hot stat: No side has scored more set-piece goals (excluding penalties) than West Ham’s six this PL campaign.

Match Facts & Odds

West Ham have won their last 4 matches (Premier League).
West Ham win 2.40
Wolves have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 home matches against West Ham in all competitions.
Over 1.5 goals 1.33

Opera Football Prediction
Wolves’ five-game unbeaten streak came to an end last time out in a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace.
Wolves are yet to keep a clean sheet at home in the Premier League this season.
West Ham have won six of their last seven after beating Liverpool 3-2 before the break.
With six goals conceded over their last three games, West Ham are not watertight at the back either.
Nine goals have been scored across the last two meetings between the sides so we should expect another entertaining affair here.
So, Wolves 1-2 West Ham?

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