Egypt FIFA World Cup Preview

Egypt comes into Group A with possibly a massive advantage as they approach Group A with a chance to move onto the final 16.

In Group E of the Africa region, Egypt ended up winning the group with 13 points beating out 2nd Uganda, 3rd Ghana and 4th Congo. They had a strong qualification scoring 6 goals. Salah alone scored 5 of them.

Head Coach/Manager: Hector Cuper, former Argentine center back with management experience from across the globe. His management style is more defensive, which doesn’t usually bode well with teams of less quality. It’s basically the opposite of Jurgen Klopp’s management style, so this Word Cup might be the test of Mo Salah’s true quality.

Group Matches:

6/15 8 AM Uruguay

6/19 2 PM Russia

6/25 10 AM Saudi Arabia

Notable Players:

Mohamed Salah: I mean you saw this coming right? The hottest player in the world having the season of a lifetime in his first year at Liverpool. He has proven impossible to stop to anyone and has been a menace with his skilled dribbling, speed, and a killer left foot. Salah has been a part of a massive team effort from his mates at the front 3 including Roberto Firmino (Brazil), and Sadio Mane (Senegal). Part of Liverpool’s successes and eventual run to the Champions League Final, also go to the purchase of Virgil van Dijk, who has provided great defensive organization, and you can point to the improvement of the young ones, like Trent Alexander-Arnold at RB and Andrew Robertson at LB. But the main piece of the puzzle, is Salah who has scored 43 goals in 50 appearances. This man is a lethal injection to any defense and a man to be feared at the World Cup.

Mohamed Elneny: Central midfielder who plays for Arsenal and is usually on the defensive side of the ball. He won’t score goals, but he’ll be a rock in front of the center backs. He’s not entirely to blame for Arsenal’s poor defensive record, that’s mostly on players like Xhaka and Mustafi. Elneny can usually hold is own and he will prove to be vital for Cuper’s system to work.

How Far Can They Go?

I see Egypt making the round of 16. Egypt doesn’t seem probable for a run deeper than the round of 16 but crazier things have happened, like Costa Rica in 2014. I expect them to at least beat Saudi Arabia and ether win or draw vs Russia and Uruguay. If you want a long shot underdog, then look no further.

Saudi Arabia World Cup Preview

Now let’s move onto the team that Russia faces on the first day, that team being Saudi Arabia. Probably the most unknown team, let’s look at how they qualified:

They finished 2nd in Group B for the Asian/Oceanic regions, finishing ahead of Australia and behind Japan. Key wins over Thailand, Iraq and Japan was what carried them through.

Head Coach/Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi, third coach within a year and former coach of the Chilean national team. Former Barcelona player, Pizzi will look to stay positive and do what he can with the squad. Don’t expect major differences or anything too crazy as Pizzi realizes he’s on a cooler seat. Expect build up play and aims to one of their highest scorers, Mohammad Al Sahlawi.

Group Matches:

6/14 11 AM vs Russia

6/20 11 AM vs Uruguay

6/25 10 AM vs Egypy

Notable Players:

Mohammad Al-Sahlawi- The 6th highest goal-scorer for the national team, Al-Sahlawi is a dominant force in the domestic league, playing for Al-Nassr. Eleven goals in twenty three apperances is a decent number and if they get the ball up to him, expect a goal or two

Osama Hawsawi- Captain of the Saudi Arabian squad with over 100 national appearances in his belt. A central defender for the domestic Al-Hilal, look for him to lead the squad from the center of the park.

Salem Al-Dawsari- One of the few players who doesn’t play in the domestic league, a winger for Villareal in La Liga. He can use his top league experience to hi advantage around lesser quality wing-backs. His dribbling and ball control skills should be vital in getting a move going.

How Far Can They Go?

Don’t cal me a hater but I don’t see Saudi Arabia winning a game here. Their best chance is Russia on Opening day, a hyped up and attack minded Russia. Next they’ll have a well-balanced Uruguay and they’ll have the good chance against Egypt, depending on how they play. They might sneak in a draw, but I see them getting knocked out with the home nation.

2018 World Cup Host Nation Preview

Group A headliners Russia are due to start off the big tournament vs Saudi Arabia on June 14th 2018. In eastern time, it starts at 11 AM. It’s the opening match on the opening day. It doesn’t matter if it’s Canada vs American Samoa, the first match is always exciting.

So let’s learn more about our host nation, who didn’t have to go through a qualifying process.

Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov , managed Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow so he’s known to be a domestic manager, was a goalkeeper in his playing days. He probably wan’t change much from the recently fired Slutsky. He has a preference for an attacking style which can prevail over a defensive style in tournaments like this.

Group Matches:

6/14 11 AM vs Saudi Arabia

6/19 2:00 PM vs Egypt

6/25 10:00 AM vs Uruguay

Notable Players:

Igor Akinfeev: Goalkeeper Captain for  the National Team and CSKA Moscow. Aged 32 years old and known for his leadership and consistency. A man who’s played at CSKA Moscow all his life and has also won 6 Russian Premier :League titles. He should come into this competition in good form.

Aleksandr Kokorin: Forward for Zenit St. Petersburg aged 27 he’s entering the plateau of his career at the perfect time. This year, he scored 18 goals in 27 apperances. Given that the Russian Premier league is rather tough and in his group, his toughest defender to face is Diego Godin, expect Kokorin to knock in a goal or two in front of the home fans.

Artem Dzyuba: Forward on loan for Arsenal Tula in the Russian Premier League. He’s been on the decline at Zenit St. Petersburg so his starting spot and squad spot is up in the air.

Roman Neustadter: Defensive Midfielder/ Center-Back at the age of 30 is one of the few players who doesn’t play for a domestic club, who actually plays for Fenerbahce in Turkey. Who was previously on the German National Team, he switched to the Russian team in 2016. Known for his Schalke days from 2012-2016, he is the strongest central defender on the team.

How Far Can They Go?

I honestly don’t see Russia going past the group stage in this tournament. I do see them defeating Saudi Arabia but vs an underrated Egypt team with the hottest player in the world, I see them getting a draw at best. That and in their final game, in terms of quality, Uruguay is easily better than Russia and is a team that could go deep. They won’t embarrass themselves as I see them rocking the country on Opening Day, but that’s as far as they’ll go.


World Series Prediction

Yes, I have the Astros repeating, I actually have the Astros in 5 over the Washington Nationals. I only see the Nationals winning one game and that one game has Max Scherzer on the mound in game 1. The Astros are leaps and bounds better in terms of lineup, bullpen and starting pitching and I’m 100% confident in picking the Astros again. Last year I picked the Indians so I could be accidentally jinxing the Astros. But like I’ve said, I am very confident in this pick.

American League Playoff Picks

ALDS: 1 Red Sox vs Wild Card Angels

Here I don’t see much of a fight from the Angels, I think the Angels are going to get smacked around here. And really I see the starting rotation of the Red Sox becoming the stars here. This result could depend on the Angels finding a closer but I see the final end result staying the same. I think Sale, Porcello and Price in that order are enough to put the Angels out in 3 so I have Red Sox in 3


ALDS: 2 Astros vs 3 Indians

Now this is where it gets interesting. Two lineups filed with either All-Stars or future All-Stars, with the Astros lineup being slightly better in that regard. The Astros have a perfect blend of youth (Altuve, Springer, Correa) and experience (Reddick, Gonzalez, Gattis). The Indians have plenty of strength in the forms of Lindor and Ramirez but the losses of Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana, two seasoned veterans, may cause inconsistencies in the lineup. You don’t want inconsistencies to pop up with pitchers like Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. I have the Astros in 4.


ALCS: 1 Red Sox vs 2 Astros

So who will face the (probably) Nationals in the World Series? Let’s start off with the fact that no matter what, this series will be 7 games long. This is essentially a mock Word Series, these teams are extremely good and extremely even as well. Great lineups, great bullpen and great starting rotation, it’s a battle of who can be the most perfect essentially. The Astros and the Red Sox in terms of starting lineup and defense are dead even. Both have excellent infields, especially in the middle infield (Pedey and Bogaerts vs Altuve and Correa) and they’re even in the outfield as well. But the Astros and their bullpen and starting rotation are just slightly better. The bullpen two some of Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock will, in my opinion, end up carrying the day and they will prove especially vital in a crucial game 7. The Astros in 7 to meet the Nationals


That Sean Manaea Guy Huh?

(Photo Credit to Fox Sports MLB, check out their Facebook!)

Yeah I’d say he’s pretty good too. Holy crap what a night the first no hitter in the season! Manaea had 10 K’s on the night vs the Boston Red Sox on what was a dominant performance. Not only that but he was #1 on the 5 hot pitchers on the waiver wire linked here: 

Back at the time of posting, his ownership rate was 56.8% and to be fair, before the time of posting, he was on my personal team. Now his ownership rate is 80.5%, a 23.7% increase! Tonight, he scored 47 points with his complete game, 10 K no hitter. 47 points! Simply unreal!

Not only that, but he did it vs the Boston Red Sox, who came off of crushing the Angels and was on a major hot streak. Honestly, with this outing, you can plug and play with confidence. Hopefully he’s on your roster cause no he’s a hot commodity. Congratulations to Sean Manaea, For pushing your fantasy team and mine, and for the first no hitter of the season! Hopefully it’s the first of many.

Ultimate Fanatics Blog Update #2

Here listed below is an update to the blog.

Tomorrow there will be a post on who will represent the American League in the World Series. Then after that is a World Series Prediction, which I’m telling you right now, is not an easy prediction.

After that, I’m going to do something different. My next baseball post will be the power rankings for the month of April. But before then, lemme say that I am amped for the World Cup that starts in mid June. I will project the 23 man squads for each of the 32 teams competing and of course I’ll throw in some free analysis along the way.

You don’t have to even like soccer to enjoy the World Cup, it’s just that fun to watch. But it’s even more fun to read about! Follow my Twitter:@ufblogg_lijoi for the latest updates so keep an eye out!

Surprise! In the AL Wild Card

Honestly, this was something that I just thought of today. I’m going with an uncommon upset pick for who will win the AL Wild Card. I know I might be prone to the fact that they have had a hot start however I think they can carry through in the long run.

Wild Card: Angels vs Yankees

Yes you heard right, the Angels. And let me throw another curveball:

The Angels are beating the Yankees in the Wild Card

You heard it here first! In the matchup that pits Garrett Richards vs Luis Severino, I smell another choke job on the part of Severino, but I see Richards doing significantly better than last year’s Ervin Santana.  Richards throws in a curveball compared to Ervin Santana’s style of pitching. What makes Richards special is the ability to change direction on his fastball. Imagine a 99 MPH fastball coming at you, now imagine that fastball dipping and ducking. It’s a hard pitch to hit, especially for the Yankees and most teams who are fastball hitters. Richards also has a good changeup, which is essential to a 99 MPH fastball and he can throw in a slider and curveball for good measure. Garrett Richards plays into a Wild Card himself with his pitching style that should throw Yankees hitters off.

But what if this becomes a bullpen game? Even if the Angels provide a lot of offense, shouldn’t the Yankees come back and win thanks to their bullpen and their offense coming back? Nah not in this case. Let’s say Garrett Richards goes 7 innings and allows maybe 2 runs at the max. Who can finish in the Angels bullpen? Well you have Jim Johnson, who has a strong arm and is coming off a weak season and Bud Norris as valuable set up men. The Angels could possibly trade for a closer, this being their weakness in the bullpen. But I see the Angels doing just enough in the opening stages to run away. I think that with veteran leadership among the likes of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols should propel this dynamic squad to the top. At some point, Mike Trout has gotta have a playoff career.

Names like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez are all sexy. But as I explained, I smell an upset.



Who Wins the AL West?

Finally! our journey takes us the the last division in baseball. The AL West which is due to be a three team race in the long haul. Keep your eyes peeled for my AL playoff predictions and of course my final World Series Predictions. Also lemme know how good those 5 diamond in the rough pitchers were. I know I got Sean Manaea who was #1 on that list and he scored 27 points vs the Mariners. He’s playing the hot Red Sox next so pick up with caution.

Alight let’s dig in!

1. Houston Astros


Additions: Gerrit Cole, Hector Rondon

Departures: Colin Moran, Mike Fiers

Honestly they can do it again. If the team is relatively healthy I don’t see why not. Not only did they keep the majority of the World Series winning team but they improved it mightily. Hector Rondon should be a great set up man and another bolster to the bullpen while Gerrit Cole has gotten off to a hot start with his bag full O’ K’s. The 3 man of Keuchel, Verlander and Cole could be the kiss of death for any of these teams in the league, Combine that with their young stars like Correa, Altuve, Bregman and Springer and you got a team that has a very strong chance of repeating this year. Remember after the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and we were talking dynasty. We here we’re doing the same thing, except this time, I think it’s legit. Astros take the division to say the least.

2. Los Angeles Angels


Additions: Shohei Ohtani, Zack, Cozart, Ian Kinsler

Departures: Yusmero Petit

No it wasn’t the Yankees who had the best offseason, no way it was the Angels, simply by landing future Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani. I know it’s early but if he has proven anything, he has proven that he’s here to stay and he’s the real deal without question. I mean come on if you can hit a home run, off of Corey Kluber, in only your second at bat against him, you’re a legit hitter in my book. Oh and he’s a damn good pitcher. But wait there’s more! The angels robbed the Tigers like a bank in securing veterans Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler who are still good players at this stage of their careers. They also snagged a 2017 All-Star in Zack Cozart who boosts the lineup and the defense. Finally! The Angels built some sort of a team around Mike Trout! Now let’s see what they can do with it.

3. Seattle Mariners


Additions: Dee Gordon, Ryon Healy, Juan Nicasio

Departures: Yonder Alonso, Yovani Gallardo

The signing of Dee Gordon doesn’t make much sense when you already have a high quality second baseman in Robinson Cano. Gordon will be playing CF which matches the amount of speed that he has to go on and chase that ball down when necessary. Gordon hasn’t played center field in his professional career yet so it should be interesting to see how he develops throughout the year. Don’t expect the Mariners to do much of anything since they didn’t make a significant upgrade to their rotation. Once they do that, then we can say that progress has been made but until then, they are stuck in sub mediocrity.

4. Oakland Athletics


Additions: Stephen Piscotty, Yusmero Petit

Departures: Ryon Healy

Giving up young power stud Ryon Healy to the Mariners isn’t an upgrade to a team that needs upgrades. They aren’t committed to a full rebuild just yet which is a bit concerning considering it’s another year of mediocrity. Their ace now is aforementioned Sean Manaea after the departure of Sonny Gray via trade. There isn’t much behind Mqanaea in terms of rotation but the pick up of Blake Treinen from the Nationals should save some wins for the A’s. He is the difference between 4th and 5th in the division. If the rotation and hitting core can back up the ace and the closer, maybe this team can sneak by the Mariners, but other than that I don’t see anything special here.

5. Texas Rangers


Additions: God (Bartolo Colon), Matt Moore

Departures: Miguel Gonzalez

Remember when the Texas Rangers choked to the Cardinals in the World Series? When was that 2013? Geez how the time has just flown by! Now the Texas Rangers are in the pit of sadness and they aren’t moving anytime soon. They bolstered their rotation a bit behind aging ace Cole Hamels but that won’t be enough in the long run. Their offense is below average and their rotation can’t close out the simplest of games (example 2017 Sam Dyson). Expect the Rangers to be basement dwellers for the season.

AL East Predictions!

After my central predictions, it’s time to move onto the AL East. Now this post involves the certain New York Yankees and the certain Boston Red Sox. Now I follow two huge fans of either team and in real life I have plenty of Red Sox and Yankees fans alike. So what I’ll do is I’ll link both blogs into this prediction. Let’s see if they’ll duel it out!

Here’s the Yankee:

And here’s the Red Sox:

Both are great writers who publish very good content and I highly recommend digging into their content!

I also found another blog that covers all MLB news, possibly better than I do. Here is the link to his blog as well. As I said, check him out! If you like my blog, you’ll love his!


Alright now let’s dive into these predictions!

1. Boston Red Sox


Additions: J.D Martinez

Departures: Addison Reed, Doug Fister

Yes this was a close one. Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are great teams. But I think the addition of Martinez is going to be huge for the Sox who needs one more ounce of run support and that’s exactly what they got. Of course losing a setup man to the Twins isn’t fun and J.D Martinez is all they got out of this offseason. Could they be saving up for Machado or Bryce Harper? Maybe even Josh Donaldson? Certainly that’s a question to consider. I think a bolstered offense is motivation for that rotation, a rotation that is wicked strong and can hold their own. We’ll see is David Price can be back to his Rays days this year and we’ll see if Chris Sale can put in another insane year that warrants a Cy Young award. I see the Red Sox taking it again, slightly.

2. New York Yankees


Additions: Giancarlo Stanton

Departures: Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, Michael Pineda

Sure Stanton is a big deal and the Yankees are going to be extremely compelling this year but they lost key role players and a rotation spot. Losing Starlin Castro leaves an open spot to be filled by a possible rookie next to Didi Gregorius, who I think is the Yankees most vital player. Nope not Judge or Stanton, it’s Didi who can make the Yankees a potentially World Series winning team if he can hit and play defense like he has been recently. He is the backbone of the team, kind of like a George Springer. Once he gets going, so does the team. What concerns my about the Yankees are two things: Sonny Gray and strikeouts. Gray has been average since being with the Yankees, posting a 3.70 ERA with a 5-7 record. Not bad, but the season can hinge on his improvement. Lastly, Stanton, Judge and Sanchez all have issues with striking out. Especially Stanton, who recently has been on a ring of strikeouts. Just controlling their strikeout rate and getting more contact can work in their favor. Give them a year to gel and they’ll win the division.

3. Toronto Blue Jays


Additions: Curtis Granderson, Aledmys Diaz, Yanghervis Solarte

Departures: 0

Getting role players like Granderson and Diaz should hold this team in the middle of the pack. They have a good rotation that can perform when it matters, guys like Stroman and a hopefully healthy Aaron Sanchez. Both pitchers can be dominant in their own right and they could save some wins for the Blue Jays in the long run. This could be the last year before the almighty rebuild because there is a high chance Josh Donaldson will leave. That’ll leave breakout star Justin Smoak all alone. Don’t expect much of a pop from this squad, but get ready for either a huge rebuild, or a weak attempt to keep Donaldson. If Donaldson stays, I would be very surprised.

4. Baltimore Orioles



Additions: Who?

Departures: Welington Castillo

This statue can be found at Ed Smith Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Florida! Pretty sweet huh? Sweet, sounds like the complete opposite of the Orioles this season. Get ready to say goodbye to Machado and hello to the rebuild because at this point it is simply inevitable. Without attempting to improve their squad, might as well call it for the rest of the year. But at least they won’t be as bad as the Rays. Yeahhhhh about the Rays.

5. Tampa Bay Rays


Additions: Denard Span

Departures: Evan Longoria, Brad Boxberger, Steve Cishek

This is the roof of Tropicana Field. Hopefully, since they are building a new stadium in Ybor City, this will be the last time the roof will be seen. The Rays logo does not deserve to see the light of day in my opinion (hehe light hehe ray hehe light humor, I crack myself up.) I personally don’t mind the Trop, it just sucks to be in an empty stadium. If Ybor can bring bodies to the stadium, I don’t care if we go 0-162, at least we can bring bodies in! You know what at one point I thought 0-162 was a possibility. Thankfully we beat the Red Sox once so I guess that’s an accomplishment. This sell off was absolutely meaningless and a slap in the face to all the fans, and YES WE HAVE FANS INCLUDING MYSELF!!!!! We just don’t show up sadly. And now there is no chance we’ll show up because we traded our best player ever for dirt and now we have no setup for Alex Colome. The only thing to get excited about is Kevin Kiermaier and possibly Brent Honeywell. Please for the love of God call that man up. Please! Else we’ll go to Montreal and I’d hate that. I grew up with this team, and to see it slip away because of off season’s like this is simply disheartening. We were close to a Wild Card spot last year! And now we just blow it up?! I guess some things I will never understand.