Latest batch of duFC starlets earn shots at the big time

David Cooper 25/02/2018
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Mohammed Awada has been picked up by Lebanon giants Al Nejmeh (duFC).

The du LaLiga High Performance Centre (HPC), which was established in 2016 to prepare UAE’s top football talent for international careers with the word’s best clubs, announced on Sunday that one of its players has been selected to join a leading football club in Lebanon and four other players have been selected for trials with international clubs and national teams.

Following 12 months of intensive training at LaLiga HPC, goalkeeper Mohammed Awada was scouted into Lebanon’s Al Nejmeh.

Mohammed Bouherrafa has earned a month-long trial at Segunda Division B’s El Ejido, Under-16 player Fabio Rolano has been given a shot with Bolivia, plus Aidan Pinto and Zayed Bin Walid came through about 200 players to be granted a two-month chance to potentially represent India.

Speaking about his experience, Awada said, “My year at the du LaLiga HPC made me believe that I could play internationally and sign a professional contract.

“Being at Al Nejmeh is incredible and I wouldn’t be here without the du LaLiga HPC.”

These players are among the 72 talents between the age of 10-17 who are handpicked by La Liga scouts every season to join the du LaLiga HPC through their participation in the nationwide du Football Champions competition or LaLiga Academy.

At the du LaLiga HPC, they undergo year-round intensive training at the hands of top UEFA certified La Liga Spanish coaches.

This enables them to be trained at the same level as La Liga youth clubs in Spain, with coaches focused on developing the players’ physical strength, technical skills, mental clarity and giving them in-depth knowledge.

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Scouting report of Villarreal winger Samu Castillejo who has much to prove if he wants big move

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Samu Castillejo in action for Villarreal.

Winger Samu Castillejo is one of La Liga’s most coveted emerging stars, yet his performance in Sunday’s rollercoaster 1-0 win against Getafe left room to improve.

Castillejo, 23, has continually been linked to Serie A‘s Napoli, among others, since a move fell through in the summer transfer window.

At his best, the ex-Spain Under-21 international combines devious trickery and commendable work rate. But he struggled to make a lasting impression in a hectic game decided by Turkey youngster Enes Unal’s third-minute tap-in and two penalty saves from heroic home goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.

Here, we analyse the performance of the coveted Yellow Submarine star.

STATISTICS 

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 1

Shots on target – 1

Touches – 45

Passes – 27

Key passes – 1

Dribbles – 1

Dispossessed – 3

30-SECOND REPORT

Castillejo’s performance matched his team’s. He started brightly on the right-hand side of Villarreal’s 4-4-2 formation with a number of promising runs to lift the crowd and sow seeds of doubts in the Getafe defence, before disappearing as unfortunate visitors Getafe gradually took control at Estadio de la Ceramica.

But he was not able to deliver a defining moment, prior to his 70th-minute substitution. He had only one shot (Villarreal’s seventh lowest), completed one dribble (Italy’s Roberto Soriano led the way with four), was one of six players in yellow to produce a solitary key pass and had only 45 touches (again, six more team-mates bettered this).

GOT RIGHT

SILKY SKILLS COMBINED WITH DESIRE – Castillejo really is a joy to watch when in full flight. Within the first minute alone, he’d twisted and turned several defenders and was unlucky not to earn a free-kick.

He was at it again just before the half-hour mark, denied at the last before he could deliver a troubling cross.

The June 2015 signing from Malaga was also prepared to go hunting for the ball, popping up on both flanks and even trying to influence things through the middle.

GOT WRONG

IN SEARCH OF AN END PRODUCT – One fierce second-half free-kick aside, no indelible impression was left.

This isn’t the end of the world. Getafe boast La Liga’s third-best defence with just 22 goals conceded, plus Castillejo’s two goals and four assists this term puts him on course to improve upon his best-ever return (2014/15’s one goal and five assists).

But if his dream about earning a berth at World Cup 2018 or making a move to a bigger side are to reach fruition, watching scouts will be concerned at the drop-off in impact during this fixture.

KEY MOMENTS

1st min GREAT RUN: Castillejo ran rings around several markers, a burst of pace taking him into the corner where he appeared to be fouled – but no free-kick was given.

29th min GREAT RUN: He repeated the trick again, but was crowded out before he could tee up either Unal or Colombia striker Carlos Bacca.

57th min CHANCE: Getafe goalkeeper Vicente Guaitia’s fingertips were stung by a free-kick from the right-hand corner of the penalty box which he impressively managed to hold.

VERDICT

Castillejo possesses the skill set to become the latest star to come out of La Liga’s middle ranks.

Any player who combines technical aplomb with a desire to work will be valued. With time and nurturing, consistency should come.

When it does, the Spain national team will boast another formidable weapon.

RATING: 6/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele set to be named in Barcelona's starting XI against Girona

David Cooper 24/02/2018
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Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are both expected to start when Barcelona take on Girona at the Camp Nou on Saturday.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has a full deck of cards to select from as they look to extend their unbeaten run at the top of the La Liga table.

With a seven point lead ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid, Valverde can afford to make some changes after the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in their Champions League first leg clash in London.

Coutinho is likely to come into the midfield, while Dembele could return after being an unused substitute against Eibar last weekend.

Nelson Semedo was suspended for the Chelsea match and is expected to return to the starting line-up, with Thomas Vermaelen set to come in ahead of Gerard Pique.

Barcelona beat Girona 3-0 in the first meeting between the two teams back in September – so expect another win for Valverde’s side.

POSSIBLE BARCELONA XI

Barcelona (4-4-2): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Vermaelen, Umtiti, Alba; Dembele, Rakitic, Busquets, Coutinho; Messi, Suárez

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