The seven-fold predictions for 2018: Champions League, World Cup 2018 and more

Lionel Messi celebrating Argentina goal during world cup qualifier

The new year is here, leagues across Europe are already active and the Serie A will join this weekend.

It’s a false start for some big clubs; Arsenal and Real Madrid won’t mind starting all over, for the first time in history, AFC Bournemouth beat the gunners at the Vitality stadium with Jordon Ibe scoring for the first time for the Cherries since his big-money move from Liverpool, in the same vein, Villareal beat Real Madrid for the first time ever at the Santiago Bernabeu over the weekend.

Elsewhere, against most expectations, Liverpool ruined the beautiful scripts of Pep Guardiola’s team with a sensational and gritty 4:3 success at Anfield, Manchester United were too strong for Stoke as they closed the gap on Monday, in all it’s a wild goose chase as far as the Premier League is concerned, give it to the Citizens already!

The sevenfold predictions for 2018 are here, across leagues as well as the big one in the summer, the FIFA World Cup in Russia... fasten your seatbelt people.

Swansea to go down 

Swansea City FC players celebrate goal

Swansea have been around for a while in the premier league, from Brendan Rodgers in 2011 to Michael Laudrup, to Gary Monk and then Francesco Guidolin, who actually was the last Swansea manager to enjoy some reprieve; Bob Bradley was an epic failure at the Welsh club and Paul Clement spent more time fighting the drop than he wished, his sack led to the present manager Carvahal who was named after Leon Bitton led them out twice, with a strong history of ups and downs, the time is finally here for them to return to the championship.

The showing in the FA Cup replay further explains Swansea’s priorities, the win over Wolves mean extra game at the next round and who knows, like the 2013 league cup success which produced the highest winning margin at the finals, albeit against Bradford, it might be another huge campaign but good luck with that considering the presence of City, United and Liverpool. Swansea will fight in vain, with crazy fixtures away from home, quiet transfer dealings so far this window and injuries piling up, they should start preparing for life in the championship league.

Garden of Eden relocation

Eden Hazard could be the man for belgium at World Cup 2018

Twenty children don’t play for twenty years, since joining after that fairytale champions league winning season, Eden Hazard has easily been Chelsea’s best player, from lowly Lille to the European champions then, he hit the ground running almost immediately and was instrumental to Chelsea’s two titles in three years under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte two seasons later.

Not many players can single-handedly influence the title like Hazard has done at Chelsea, he was even an interesting voice when Leicester shocked the league by screwing the dreams of Tottenham with his 88th minute leveller which ultimately handed the title to the Foxes although they would still have won it with hapless Everton offering nothing in the penultimate game.

As it stands, Eden Hazard will leave Chelsea at the end of the season, with Real Madrid his likely destination, he looks disinterested these days as Conte doesn’t even help matters by playing him upfront whenever Morata is unavailable, his body language in games speaks volume of his tiredness with the Blues, Conte won’t be the manager after May, Hazard won’t be one of them beyond then neither.

Argentina, England and Portugal to crash early in Russia

Argentina football team Russia 2018 world cup Messi

Argentina left it completely late but not too late in their qualification campaign to the summer World Cup in Russia, 3:1 comeback win over Ecuador saw them qualify in place of Chile who missed out on stories in between; it was pretty straightforward for England, and Portugal didn’t have many problems beating Switzerland to the top spot en route Russia but in all, all three won’t make it past the quarterfinals with my money on two of them not getting there at all.

Portugal to start with rode on luck to triumph in France almost two years ago, over reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo will fail them big time as the big star himself knows he’s nearing the end of his illustrious dominant era, the form of Jose Fonte and Cedric means they have to look elsewhere for defensive strongholds, in the middle, Renato Sanchez’ move to Swansea isn’t working, their big hopes now lie on the Silva brothers, upfront is a bit dicey for the European champions, they play Spain first and very much likely to lose, Morocco and Iran will frustrate them, if they get four points and progress, they will not last beyond the quarters as group A may be favourable to them at the next round.

For Argentina, again they play Nigeria for the umpteenth time, this time they won’t beat Nigeria, they are star-studded but what becomes of them when Messi doesn’t come to the party? Iceland will stun them, Croatia will beat them... Adios Argentina. And England, they will come second behind Belgium in group G, they should have fun battling Poland at the second round.

English team to win the Champions League

Klopp in training with Liverpool players

Since Chelsea’s shocking triumph in 2012, no English team has reached the last four of the UEFA champions’ league, Manchester United did win the Europa League last season but it doesn’t really hold much weight compared to the dominance of Spain in the elite competition.

For the first time in a while, all English clubs made it to the next round and safe for Chelsea who have to negotiate with Barcelona for a place in the quarterfinals. Tottenham can dump Juventus if they re-enact the magical bravery that got them effectively past Real Madrid, Sevilla can’t match Manchester United, Basel has gotten to the end of the road with City on rampage and Porto will need more than a miracle to get past Liverpool.

Going forward, PSG is expected to see out Real Madrid, even if Barcelona bests Chelsea, which is extremely 50-50, the premier league teams on parade should be able to handle the duo with an eye on Bayern as well... Prepare to host the title in England.

Arsenal to win Europa

Mesut Ozil winking during Arsenal match

Like Manchester United did, expect Arsenal to land the Europa league in May, Ostersund won’t be a problem even if Arsenal field reserves, sake for Athletico Madrid and Napoli, not even BVB can stop Arsenal in Europe’s second-tier tourney.

With absolutely nothing to play for outside the Europa, some would argue at the chance of winning the Carling Cup but with City lying in wait at the finals even if they get past Chelsea, all focus should be on the continental trophy.

Arsenal are busy in the transfer window, no real signings as at now but with Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan touted, the Gunners may have adequately replaced Alexis Sanchez who is Manchester United-bound, sacrificing the league, where they have absolutely nothing to play for might be a right decision, learning from Jose Mourinho last season, it will end well for Arsenal at last.

France to win the World Cup

France could go all the way at the World Cup

Whatever happened to Le Bleus at the finals of Euro 2016 on home soil must have been adequately fixed with depth in quality and style upgrade, in Russia, it will take some 2002 type of debacle to see them come short of last four. No team can match France's abundance of talents, and with a manager in the business since forever, there’s no stopping France in the summer.

Hugo Lloris will most likely keep his place, if injury stops him, my money is on Lafont to deputize, young and intelligent shot stopper, in defence they have arrays of options, a headache is in midfield where this post won’t be enough to name the options they have, when it comes to team selection, no manager has half as much headache as Didier Deschamps, and upfront, even if injury stops Barcelona’s Dembele, Griezmann, Giroud, Lacazzette, Martial, the returning Benzema et al have places to fight for... Stop them if you can.

Showtime for Africa in Russia

Salah and Egypt will be hoping to make it out of their World cup group

No African team has made it past the quarterfinals in the history of the FIFA world cup, since Cameroon in Italia 90 and Senegal at the first time of asking in 2002 where they shocked defending champions France in the opener, it’s been second round at best for African participants at the world cup, this time, expect Africa to rise.

At least one African country will make it to the last four, Egypt, Nigeria and Senegal will all make it past the group stage and from there on, anything can happen.

It’s time for the continent to deliver, the players on offer are ripe to shock the world, the fact they’re seen as underdogs takes the pressure away and makes it easy for them play with freedom; style of play is paramount, weather might pose some problems but don’t rule out Africa at Russia 2018 World Cup.

Written by @komptrolla

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