Valverde hopes Messi scores 200th European goal this season

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde joked he hoped Lionel Messi would reach 200 European goals this season.

Messi scored his 100th goal in European competition on Wednesday, netting in Barca’s 3-1 Champions League victory over Olympiacos.

Valverde is already hoping for more from Messi:

“I hope he reaches 200 goals this season,” he joked.

“These numbers endorse what we see every day in training.”

A Dimitris Nikolaou own goal gave Barca their lead, but they played the second half with 10 men after Gerard Pique’s red card.

However, Messi and Lucas Digne struck to put Valverde’s men in control before Nikolaou’s consolation goal.

Valverde is refusing to get carried away by his team’s form, even with Barca topping Group D and LaLiga.

“I do not know if the fans have fallen in love with me,” he said.

“The results are good and we continue to get them, but tomorrow is another day, things can change overnight.

“We are going to cross our fingers and keep working.”

 

4 Young Players Barcelona Must Sign In Future

4) MARQUINHOS

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The young Brazilian is already among the best defenders at the moment. His ball playing abilities and speed make him an ideal candidate for Barca’s passing game. The Catalans have been huge admirers of the defender, chasing him ever since his Roma days. Still 22, Marquinhos has a long way to go in the modern football and has the potential to become the very best. Barca’s appeal may be enough to convince the Brazilian to leave Parc De Paris. He is often identified as a natural heir to Carlos Puyol, and a backline of Pique and Marquinhos could be a nightmare for strikers.

3) AYMERIC LAPORTE

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Though 22, Aymeric Laporte has been a part of the transfer rumours for quite some time now. Some of Europe’s top clubs including Manchester City, who were reportedly willing to pay 50 million for the defender, court the Frenchman. Laporte has matured into a fine defender and has added a good passing range to his game. Destined for a great career, Laporte could be tempted by the appeal of Barcelona. He is no stranger to Spanish football, having made more than 100 appearances for Athletic Bilbao, which would help him settle with much more ease than Marquinhos.

2) PAULO DYBALA

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Paulo Dybala has often been touted as the next Lionel Messi in the football world. It’s easy to understand why Dybala is compared to one of the best players ever. Dybala, like his compatriot, has quick feet, pace, skill and an eye for goal. Nicknamed “the jewel”, Dybala has had to deal with a lot of attention despite his young age. And to his credit, he’s dealt with it with great aplomb. Since joining Juve from Parma, he has taken his game to another level. He is the creative mastermind for the Bianconeri and has a bright future ahead of him. Understandably, his sublime talent has not gone un-noticed with Real Madrid, Barca both keeping an eye on him. The Argentine too could be tempted by the idea of playing with the Messi.

1) YOURI TIELEMANS

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One of the biggest reasons behind Barca’s struggles this season has been their midfield problems. The likes of Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic have been uncharacteristically out of form this season and have failed to stamp any kind of authority one associates with them. New signing Andre Gomes has dramatically failed to impress, thus increasing the pressure on Messi to create chances for the Catalans. A fresh injection is a must for Barca at the moment, with their stars apparently running out of steam this season. The Belgian wonder kid, Youri Tielemans, could provide that fresh energy. The midfielder has a great vision and an incredible stamina to go with it. He would surely add the much-needed inspiration. The 19-year old prodigy has played more than 100 games for Andrelecht and, is an important part of the squad despite his young age.

 

FIFA MOBILE SEASON 2 SWITCHING TO 11 PLAYER TEAMS

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No more daunting 27 man sides to manage in FIFA Mobile.

As of Season 2, you’ll be managing a traditional 11 player squad.

Beyond that, while we already knew leveling (aka training) and upgrading your players would be a thing in the new version of the game, Player Rankings, a new paradigm about training and building a team, will come into play as well.

Since you’ll spend the entirety of your season upgrading your players and updating your team, eventually, once you reach a side of all 100-rated players, you’ll reach a bit of an artificial ceiling. But with Player Rankings, you’ll be able to keep going. Notified in the picture above, as you continue to upgrade your highest ranked players, your squad overall will continue to go up along with it. Sort of like using boosts to go beyond a team’s would be squad rating in Season 1.

The S1 “Pre-Season” players whose Season 2 bonuses correspond to player rankings are Neymar, Mario Mandzukic, Pizzi, William Carvalho, and Miranda.

Stay tuned for more FIFA Mobile Season 2 news and updates in the weeks to come.

Ballon d’Or 2017 Power rankings – Top 5

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The Ballon d’Or has been awarded since 1965 by France Football, initially to the best European players before being expanded to cover the entirety of the footballing community.

Even though their partnership with FIFA, started in 2010, ended last year, the signature Golden Ball (Ballon d’Or in French, hence the name) is still regarded as the highest individual honour up for grabs in football.

And we all know how big that is.

Here, factoring in performances from January to the first fortnight of October 2017, we have a look at the top 5 contenders for the Ballon d’Or – and rank them accordingly.

The winner of the 2016 Ballon d’Or was, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo

Please remember, this is an award that should, ideally, go to the best “individuals” out there and you are welcome to come up with your own top 5, basis their performance from Jan – mid-Oct, in the comments below!

5. Isco

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Isco has been magical for Real Madrid ever since he, and Gareth Bale’s frail muscles, convinced Zinedine Zidane to give him an extended run in the competition. He runs the show at the Bernabeu, his dancing feet and impeccable vision the basis of most Real Madrid attacks.By the end of the year he was virtually unplayable – and although Madrid haven’t started off too well this year, Isco certainly has picked up where he left it

For Spain, too, he has emerged the main man – and he ran circles around Italy in their top-of-the-group clash that sealed automatic qualification to World Cup 2018 for La Furia Roja… a performance that left Marco Veratti singing his praises that evening

“I suffered a lot against Isco. I was taken aback by his performance.Not even [Lionel] Messi has come close to that level. When I saw his nutmeg, I felt like standing up and applauding too.”

4. Harry Kane

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Harry Kane is arguably the best out-and-out striker on the planet at the moment, and that has to count for something, right?

Only Lionel Messi has scored more goals than the Englishman during the calendar year 2017, and apart from that eerie annual August blip, he’s been unstoppable all year round.

After collecting his second consecutive Golden Boot at the end of last season (sure, Tottenham Hotspur won the square root of bugger all, but this is an individual award) and having played September and half of October with the full intention of keeping up his purple patch, the man they now call a one-career-wonder (a play on the jibes he was dismissed with during his first good season) is now a genuinely serious threat to the establishment.

No Englishman has won it since the irrepressible Michael Owen in 2001, and no one has even made the top 3 since Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard finished 2-3 in 2005 (Ronaldinho won it that year) but keep this form up and Harry Kane should soon enough join those illustrious ranks.

3. Neymar

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No Brazilian has won the Ballon d’Or since Kaka did over a decade ago, and only Neymar himself has made it to the podium since (in 2015, when he won 7.86% of the vote to Ronaldo’s 27.76% and Messi’s 41.33%).

Neymar, though, has been in fantastic form in 2017. He may have had a lackluster La Liga season by his usual standards, but he pulled off arguably the performance of the tournament when he hoisted Barca on his back and climbed the impossible summit of Barcelona 6 – 1 PSG in that memorable pre-quarterfinal clash.

Since joining those self-same opponents he so casually had destroyed just months previously, he’s taken himself to the next level – toying with defenders, creating chances with impunity and generally making Ligue 1 the most watchable league in the world all by his lonesome.

For Brazil, meanwhile, he has been unplayable… the phenomenal totem of Tite’s great Brazilian renaissance and the main reason A Selecao are favourites to the title next year.

Sure, he may not walk home with the Golden Orb this time around, but it would take courage to bet on him doing the same next year.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

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The man.

Winner of the Champions League. Winner of La Liga. Scorer of 10 goals in 5 Champions League knock-out matches (the quarters, the semis and the final). All-around badass.

Ronaldo stamped his authority on the footballing calendar in a whirlwind period of four odd matches between March and June where he scored the goals that won Real Madrid all that they won. He was an unstoppable goal-scoring machine, but in the manner that has drawn some criticism in the recent past – he was a wonderful team player, agreeing to rest against the smaller sides (as advised by his coach, Zidane), hugging the touchline when asked to, switching between the roles of winger, inside forward and central striker effortlessly and against the best sides.

Carrying over the good-will of the 2016 win as well and desperately seeking that record-equalling fifth triumph, the great man is arguably the favourite to win the award.

Why the no.2 ranking then?

Because of just how out-of-this-world good the man’s who’s no.1 has been all this calendar year.

1. Lionel Messi

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Oh, Messi.Some years, Lionel Andres Messi decides “F*** this, I’m going to do it myself”. 2017 is looking like one of those years.

With Barcelona playing the poorest football they have in years, with Luis Suarez firing blanks, with Andres Iniesta injured, he led Barca to the verge of another Liga triumph over Madrid – beating the eventual champions on their home turf, his celebration a mixture of pure, unadulterated passion.

He didn’t quite succeed, but he’s started this domestic season on fire… and he’s been unplayably good in the past couple of months – no one has scored more goals in 2017.

And then, he decided “F*** this” whilst wearing the Argentina jersey as well. The one argument that had always been thrown against him was that he had never turned up for Los Albiceleste but this time around he hoisted his team on his back, ignoring just how average everyone around him was, ignoring just how terrible the administration has been… and carried them across the Andes and into Russia.

Ronaldo was without a doubt the most effective player, but pretty much no one has played quite this well, this consistently, all year….

Leo Messi is just having one of those years.

 

FIFA 18 Team of the Week 4 Predictions

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FIFA 18 Team of the Week 4 Goalkeepers Predictions

  • Pedro Gallese (GK) 74 > 80 – Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz
  • Sergio Herrera Pirón (GK) 71 > 77 – CA Osasuna
  • Darren Randolph (GK) 74 > 80 – Middlesbrough

FIFA 18 Team of the Week 4 Defenders Predictions

  • Giorgio Chiellini (CB) 89 > 90 – Juventus
  • Kendall Waston (CB) 74 > 80 – Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  • Jason Marks (CB) 53 > 64 – Bray Wanderers
  • Kári Árnason (CB) 70 > 76 – Aberdeen
  • Andreas Granqvist (CB) 80 > 83 – FC Krasnodar
  • Kyle Walker (RB) 83 > 85 – Manchester City (One to Watch)
  • Joshua Kimmich (RB) 84 > 86 – FC Bayern München

FIFA 18 Team of the Week 4 Midfielders Predictions

  • Blaise Matuidi (CDM) 85 > 86 – Juventus
  • Ben Whiteman (CDM) 63 > 73 – Doncaster Rovers
  • Antonín Barák (CDM) 72 > 78 – Udinese
  • Leon Goretzka (CM) 82 > 84 – FC Schalke 04
  • Aaron Ramsey (CM) 82 > 84 – Arsenal
  • Christian Pulisic (CAM) 78 > 82 – Borussia Dortmund
  • Mohamed Salah (CAM) 83 > 85 – Liverpool (One to Watch)
  • Christian Eriksen (CAM) 87 > 88 – Tottenham Hotspur
  • Mohamed Elyounoussi (RM) 78 > 82 – FC Basel
  • Steven Zuber (LM) 75 > 80 – TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
  • Kamil Grosicki (LM) 76 > 81 – Hull City
  • Yannick Carrasco (LM) 85 > 86 – Atlético Madrid

FIFA 18 Team of the Week 4 Forwards Predictions

  • Arjen Robben (RW) 88 > 89 – FC Bayern München
  • Daryl Murphy (LW) 72 > 78 – Nottingham Forest
  • Joshua King (ST) 77 > 81 – Bournemouth
  • Júnior Negrão (ST) 63 > 73 – Daegu FC
  • Stefan Šćepović (ST) 72 > 78 – Real Sporting de Gijón
  • Khalid Boutaïb (ST) 71 > 78 – Evkur Yeni Malatyaspor
  • Jozy Altidore (ST) 76 > 81 – Toronto FC
  • Roman Bezjak (ST) 71 > 77 – SV Darmstadt 98
  • Roy O’Donovan (ST) 63 > 73 – Newcastle Jets
  • Robert Lewandowski (ST) 91 > 92 – FC Bayern München

5 iconic moments of Arsene Wenger’s career

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Arsène Wenger celebrated 21 years at the helm of Arsenal over the weekend with a 2-0 victory over Brighton Hove and Albion. For the man to have been at Arsenal for over two decades is some achievement.

He may have had several low points in his time at Arsenal, but he has also had a lot of iconic moments. He’s won trophies, set records, changed cultural perspectives and elevated the status of Arsenal Football Club.

He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest figures football has ever seen and he deserves way more respect & recognition than we give him.

Here are 5 iconic moments in Arsène Wenger’s career.

5 Moving Arsenal to the Emirates

It’s one thing to build a great team, it’s another thing to build a great club. Arsène Wenger set out a vision for Arsenal football club and followed it to the tee. He turned Arsenal from a great club into a super club on a global stage.

He noticed that Arsenal were trailing behind Europe’s elites in matchday revenue and gate intake. The 38,419 capacity of Highbury would no longer be enough for the club Arsène Wenger wanted to manage, he wanted to take them to new heights and that’s exactly what he did.

Many people criticise Arsène Wenger’s inability to win the Premier League ever since moving to the Emirates, but many seem to forget that he was under severe financial restrictions at that time.

The bank that loaned Arsenal the money to construct the Emirates specifically stated they would only complete the deal if Arsène Wenger managed to keep Arsenal in the Champions League in that time, which he did. When the whole world was doubting his vision, he stuck to it and took the club into a new stratosphere.

4 Winning the Double in his 2nd season

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In only his second season in English football, Arsène Wenger laid down an impacting precedent for his Arsenal career. The Frenchman became the first foreign manager ever to win the double in England, as he led Arsenal to the Premier League and FA Cup in the 1997/98 season.

The Premier League victory was extra special as Arsenal won 15 of their 18 PL games after Christmas, overturning a 13-point deficit over Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.

Winning the double was literally a rarity in that era and a foreign manager coming to do it in his 2nd season was deemed remarkable. Since then, Arsenal’s greatest manager ever has gone onto win 10 major honours with the club, making them one of the most successful clubs in England.

3 The signing of Thierry Henry

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There comes a time when every football manager looks back at THE signing that changed their career. For Sir Alex Ferguson, it was Cristiano Ronaldo, while Jose Mourinho should fondly remember the day he brought Claude Makalele to Chelsea.

And for Arsene Wenger, it was Thierry Henry who he had to thank for the most successful period in his managerial career.

Under his watch, the striker became the most prolific goal scorer in Arsenal’s history. It was Arsène Wenger who gave Thierry Henry his first ever senior professional contract back at Monaco. So, it only made sense for the boss to emphatically sign him once again in North London.

The signing of Thierry Henry paved the way for an influx foreign imports to the Premier League. It dawned a new era not only at Arsenal, but in England. Thierry Henry will go down as Arsène Wenger’s greatest ever signing.

2 The most successful manager in FA Cup history

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After convincingly beating the Premier League Champions back in May, Arsène Wenger became the most successful manager in FA Cup history. The Frenchman has won the cup on 7 separate occasions, more than any other manager in the cup’s 143-year history.

Because of the Frenchman’s unrivalled success, he’s propelled Arsenal to overtake Manchester United as the most successful club in the FA Cup with 13 wins.

Sometimes the FA Cup is deemed as a lower-tier cup, but when the best teams in England are constantly fighting for it every season, the scale of Arsène Wenger’s achievement is put into context.

1 Invincible Season

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It’s literally unheard of in the modern era of Premier League football for any team to go unbeaten for a domestic campaign. Arsène Wenger’s team of 2003/04 are the one & only team in the Premier League era to have won the league whilst going unbeaten.

That’s something even the great Sir Alex Ferguson can’t say he’s achieved, it’s also something Jose Mourinho hasn’t achieved either. Arsène Wenger stands alone on that pedestal and that feat will perhaps never be replicated in the near future.

That Invincible Arsenal team won 26 games, drew 12 and lost none. It’s not only the achievement that’s great, it’s the manner in which they completed it. They were a team finely balanced with skill, pace, power, technical ability and tactical awareness.

Arsène Wenger created the perfect machine and a formula that may never be re-created again.

5 best midfielders above the age of 30

Midfielders often run the game of football. Connecting both defence and attack, these players are often responsible for the way the game is played setting the tempo for their respective teams.

All the best teams in the world have that one player (or in some cases 3) in the centre of the park capable of making a difference with a moment of magic. While the players are on this list are all above 30, there is no doubting the fact that they are still crucial and capable of making a difference to their sides.

Here are the 5 best midfielders above the age of 30:

5 Arturo Vidal (30)

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One of the most consistent midfielders in the last few seasons, Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal is known for his warrior-like performances in the heart of the midfield for both his club and country.

Supremely skilled and not afraid of going into tackles, Vidal is one of the most complete midfielders in the game and is capable of playing as a defensive midfielder, central midfielder or even as an attacking midfielder.

After initially making his name at Juventus as part of a midfield three along with Pirlo and Marchisio, Vidal after his shift to the Bundesliga has arguably become a more rounded player and is capable of contributing equally in both defence and attack.

One of the first names on the team sheet for Carlo Ancelotti, the Chilean will be looking to have another stunning season for the Bavarian giants.

4 Blaise Matuidi (30)

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One of the best signings of the summer transfer window, new Juventus recruit Blaise Matuidi has quickly settled into his surroundings and has shown why he is so highly rated by his peers.

Described as a “fierce and strong” tackler. Matuidi is adept at winning the ball back and starting off his team’s attacks. The Frenchman is also blessed with unbelievable stamina and his runs from midfield often creates space by drawing opponents out of position.

While the likes of Dybala, Chiellini and Higuain get all the attention, Matuidi’s addition this year could help Juventus take the extra step and finally win Europe’s premier competition this season.

An absolute engine who gives it his all in every game, the Frenchman’s stupendous fitness coupled with his excellent positioning skills has seen him become the game’s premier box-to-box midfielder.

3 Cesc Fabregas (30)

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Probably not the first name on Conte’s team sheet but still capable of producing moments of magic, Cesc Fabregas will be hoping to reestablish himself as Chelsea’s main playmaker this season.

Capable of cutting open opposition defences with consummate ease, the Spaniard’s creativity and through balls have often helped Chelsea break down opposition defences and dominate possession against the smaller teams.

After having adjusted to Conte’s system last season, Fabregas will be confident of having an even bigger impact this season. In fact, in a recent interview with Marca, Fabregas spoke about Conte’s methods:

“With Antonio, there is no option other than to compete and give 100 per cent in every training session and each match. I’m not going to deny it, it was a difficult season.

“I came from playing everything with [Jose] Mourinho and [Guus] Hiddink and then suddenly I was not counted on all of the time. Not everyone knows what I went through during those months and there were people who went as far as to say that it was no longer worth it.

“I know what I can give the team and if I can play or not so I decided to stay and fight.”

Fabregas has looked in the mood this season and Conte and Chelsea fans will be thanking their stars that the Spaniard decided to stay at Stamford Bridge.

2 Andres Iniesta (33)

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One of the true legends of the game, Andres Iniesta, even at 33 is one of the best midfielders on the planet. After having a relatively poor 2016/17 season by his own high standards, the Spaniard has made an impressive start this season and he will be keen on helping Barcelona achieve their lofty targets.

Blessed with excellent vision, passing ability and supreme dribbling skills, Iniesta has often been the silent architect of Barcelona’s immense success often being their most impressive player.

Also, Iniesta has a knack of putting up his best performances in the biggest stages. The only player to be the man of the match in both the World Cup and Champions League final, the Barcelona captain certainly has a few more good years left in him.

1 Luka Modric (32)

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Real Madrid is a team full of superstars. The Ronaldos, Bales and Iscos of the world will always have a place in the Real Madrid team. However, when they come across a team which has a well-drilled defence, they rely on their midfield maestro Luka Modric to break down the opposition.

While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo undoubtedly played a huge role in Madrid’s Champions League and La Liga double last season, Modric was quite clearly the most important member of Zidane’s squad.

The Croatian’s ability to spray the ball around and dribble past opponents with equal ease made him a valuable asset and Modric showed his class with a truly superlative performance in the Champions League final against Juventus.

While Madrid are always dangerous, there is a marked difference the way they play with and without their Croatian wizard.

FIFA 18 REVIEWS ROUND UP

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FIFA 18 is still a work week from its full retail release, but the world’s gaming press have begun to provide their own opinion on how this year’s football game from EA is shaping up.

Worth noting: Some of these are classified as “Reviews in progress”.

Bleacher Report (Score: 9/10) “FIFA 18 is a well-rounded package, crammed with subtle tweaks that will force players to improve their game by finding an identity. EA Sports’ juggernaut is truly rolling, but as ever, months of play will define whether these changes really deliver. ”

Eurogamer (Score: Recommended) “If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll get a lot out of this hyper cleaned up version of FIFA 17. Like Spurs, FIFA 18 plays a fantastic game of football. But like Spurs, FIFA 18 probably won’t win any trophies.”

GameInformer (Score: 8.8/10) “On the pitch, FIFA 18′s gameplay shows as many strides forward as it does legacy issues. I like how it feels to run and dribble with the left analog stick, with easy, minute changes of direction letting you move into open spaces. Overall, the game seems more wide open than some previous FIFAs, which more strictly governed how you moved up the pitch.”

Gamespot (Score: 7/10) “It’s off the pitch that EA excels. From the variety of game modes on offer and how everything’s presented, to the constant updates in FUT’s Team of the Week, Daily Objectives, and discussion of real-world happenings in commentary, FIFA 18 captures the world of football and confidently translates it into a video game”

The Telegraph (Score: In Progress) “FIFA 18 is a significantly better football game than its predecessor.”

Trusted Reviews (Score: 4.5/5) “FIFA 18 is simply magnificent. Streets ahead of what came before, and continuing its dominance over its rivals, EA has done a superb job. With huge improvements across the board, this is the game FIFA fans have waited five years for.”

Forbes (Score: N/A) “By accentuating its prior positives and offering real and tangible improvements to gameplay, FIFA 18 excels and is slightly better than last year’s solid entry.”

Four Four Two (Score: 4.5/5) The biggest game on the planet improves markedly in every key area. FIFA fans will adore it. PES die-hards: well, be grateful that your beloved is a beauty too.

IGN (Score: 8/10 In Progress) “Ultimately, FIFA 18 introduces enough new ideas to suggest it’s not sitting on the laurels of its success. However, it’s a simplified experience, one that fails to embrace the complexity of football at the highest level.”*

Daily Mirror (Score: 5/5) “All the modes have been given some treatment and it’s great to see EA have fleshed out the Journey a bit more. For those of us wanting a story-led single-player experience, FIFA 18 definitely delivers.”

Daily Mail (Score: N/A) “FIFA 18 is the best football game on the market, hands down. They have done it again.”

82 LEON GORETZKA FIFA 18 PLAYER REVIEW: MIDFIELD MAESTRO

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The Germany and Schalke midfield powerhouse is turning out be quick a midfielder in real life, and it’s carrying over to FUT 18. He’s received an incredible 82-rated item, with some of the best stats in the game.

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IN-GAME STATS

To say his stats are phenomenal would be an understatement. Just looking at his face card stats, he’s got a 4-star weak foot, no card stats below 73, H/H work rates, he’s 6’2, and boasts a whopping 469 total card stats (which is one of the highest in all of FIFA 18).

His in-game stats are pretty special. Not only is he fast (which 83 acceleration and 85 sprint speed), but he’s also technically gifted, great on the ball, solid both offensively and defensively, and can run all game long.

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I used him with the Basic chemistry style, which gives him a nice all-round boost:

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SQUAD

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The team is extremely, extremely solid. It completely bulldozes the AI on Legendary, and wrecked the two online opponents I faced.

STATS

I’ve used Goretzka for seven games so far, and here are my stats with him:

Price: 3,700 coins (He’s now ~16,000)

Games: 7

Goals: 6

Assists: 2

Let’s get into this review.

REVIEW

Pace: 10/10

Everything you could possibly need in a central midfielder, and a lot more. Covers ground effortlessly, tearing up and down the pitch. His pace is incredibly useful when defending, and devastating in attack. It’s one of my favorite things about the card, and makes him an absolute animal in game.

Dribbling: 10/10

For a big man, he’s got a great touch. Ball-control is touch tight, first touch is reliable, and he can stop and turn with ease. He dribbles very smootly in game, and doesn’t feel clunky at all. Genuinely glides across the pitch effortlessly.

Shooting: 8/10

From distance, he is lethal. Popped a couple of long shots with him, and they all went in. Inside the box, finishing is a little dodgy, but he gets them on target to win us a corner, or create a chance from a rebound. His heading is very, very good, and he scored a couple for me (by virtue of his jumping, height and heading accuracy).

Passing: 9/10

He may have only got two assists, but he’s an integral part of my midfield. His distribution is top quality. Short- and long-passing and very, very good, and with his pace, his crossing is incredibly effective. He can play the role of playmaker with ease, and I’m sure that if I moved him further up the field, he’d rack up assists.

Defending: 9/10

Tackling is perfect. With his pace, long legs, and decent strength and aggression, he can dispossess anyone. He does it efficiently too, without giving away too many fouls, or missing many tackles. Interceptions are also very good, as is his marking — he reads the game well, and covers his opponents effectively. His heading accuracy is very good, and he can direct headed passes very easily, as well as registering headers on target.

Physicality: 10/10

This is where he dominates. He feels far stronger in game, and his aggression and lanky frame means he plays like a tank in-game. He very hard to bully off the ball, and puts up a fight against every player he faces. His stamina is excellent, so he’s running until the very last minute, and it makes him an incredibly useful asset to have at the end of games.

SUMMARY

He’s an incredible all-round player, and a true midfield maestro. I can’t see how you can do much better than him. His play style and attributes really fit the meta this year, and he plays well above his rating in-game.

NBA 2K18 Review

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The NBA 2K franchise has been going on for nearly two decades and has managed to probably be the most consistently good annual sports game franchise in that time. Releasing with a few different editions this time around, NBA 2K18 has finally arrived with arguably the best gameplay in the series to date, though it comes with one major flaw that impedes it from true greatness.

Visual Concepts has almost always lived up to their name with standout visuals that provide the most realistic NBA action in gaming, and that is no different in NBA 2K18. Even with how good NBA 2K17 already looked, this year’s iteration takes the visuals to a whole other level. Whether you are playing with a superstar like LeBron James, a well known rookie like Lonzo Ball, or even a lesser known rookie such as Sindarius Thornwell, the facial designs are amazing and look just like their real life counterparts. This goes from the basic facial expressions to when they get excited after they get a clutch basket and a foul, though they are pretty stilted and creepy in the pre-constructed interview segments during the loading screens.

Not only has the game mastered the designs of the players, but it also has them actually playing like they do on the real life court. This allows each player to feel distinctly different from one another, with those who really follow the sport maybe getting a bit of an advantage by knowing how your team and the opposing team’s players will perform throughout the game.

NBA 2K18 offers an array of different game modes to check out, giving players plenty of different ways to experience the latest entry in the series. The Play Now heading from the main menu actually holds its own slew of game modes itself, including Play Now itself and Play Now online of course. The online servers for the game seem to be running very smoothly, outside of a few frame rate drop issues that are not very common.

Learning all the intricacies of the different mechanics in NBA 2K18 can be rather difficult by just playing in a regular game, so players also have the 2KU tutorial option under Play Now. This is good to have for newer players or those that just want to harness their skills, because it can even be hard to correctly perform a lay up in this often difficult game.

All-Star Team-Up also returns again, allowing players to play five on five matchups online with each live player controlling an All-Star player. Similarly, Blacktop also returns that lets you play anywhere from one on one to five on five matchups in a more street setting. Neither of these modes have really been improved all that much, but they are good to see back again regardless.

While the development team behind the game have provided us with the best basketball action to date, the major issue that really holds NBA 2K18 back is the game’s MyCareer mode, specifically the over reliance on the in-game VC currency. MyCareer is the single player mode in the game where you create your own player and get to try and take them to greatness.

Moving away from the story last year that featured Michael B. Jordan, the story this year follows a former basketball player that left the game to pursue a music career, but has now returned to try and salvage his basketball dream. The cutscenes here are incredibly cheesy and really overbearing at times, but you can at least tell they’re trying to make the process more innovative. Instead of a linear story setup, NBA 2K18 tries to go with a more Grand Theft Auto vibe by offering a hub world known as the Neighborhood.

The Neighborhood is the central area that you can walk around to go between multiple different locations, including the practice facility, Doc’s Barber Shop, and your MyCourt high rise apartment. While the idea seems inspired by GTA in its inception, it actually feels a bit more like the old PlayStation Home in a way, which is both good and bad. The actual movement of your player around the Neighborhood feels incredibly awkward, even when you run instead of walk. While it’s great they built this area for you to explore and be social with other live players, a fast travel system should have been implemented that lets you travel from one area to the next without having to walk there. The load times are so bad at times between the different areas anyways that it’s not like it would make it any longer.

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Besides visiting the different stores and venues, you can participate in training sessions and Pro-Am games on top of your actual NBA scheduled games. Rather than have the training sessions level you up as you would think, you instead are working towards unlocking badges that enhance skills that you already have, such as being able to make better passes or hit deeper three pointers for example.

The actual leveling up system is tied to the previously mentioned in-game VC currency that really keeps this game from being the best NBA 2K game to date. To level up any statistic for your player, you must spend VC, which is earned in various ways in the game. There are plenty of different ways to win VC inside MyCareer, but also outside of it such as in Play Now Online by beating higher tier teams online. It was a bad sign when the game was being promoted so much with VC purchase options and you can see why. Unless you’re planning on dedicating hours upon hours for weeks after the release of the game, you will struggle to level up your MyCareer player much at all.

Leveling up is far from the only use of VC in MyCareer either, with you needing to spend a lot of it if you want any level of customization. The most egregious of the bunch is at Doc’s Barber Shop, where you have to pay high amounts of VC to pick a hairstyle, hair color, facial hair style, or facial hair color. Each of these is individual and you have to pay everytime, even if you’re switching back and forth between them. Making it even worse is that there is no preview option, so you’re essentially just guessing and then having to pay again if you don’t like it. This paywall for leveling up and the other areas is incredibly frustrating and really drags down MyCareer as a whole, almost making you not want to bother with it after awhile.

 

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The good news is that NBA 2K18 also introduced a new variation on MyGM called MyGM: The Next Chapter that offers its own story mode. In this mode, you are a star player that goes down with an injury in a big game and is forced to retire early. As a result, you end up becoming an NBA General Manager and get to run your own franchise in a story mode setting. The game does still have it’s other basic MyLeague and Season options, but MyGM is definitely the standout of the bunch.

The NBA 2K series has continuously managed to impress us over the years with its level of detail to all aspects of the sport and NBA 2K18 is no different. The player animations and visuals look better than they ever have and the new version of MyGM is very enjoyable, but the shoehorned in use of VC for even the littlest of things in MyCareer prevents NBA 2K18 from being the best overall entry in the series to date.