Category: UEFA Champions League

Premier League Title “Race” Finished! Champions League Semi-Finals set!

The Champions Get Their Silverware

The long wait to see when City would clinch the title has finally ended, and in the most anti-climactic way. Yes, Manchester United lost to West Brom in embarrassing fashion, but in the end what they truly did is rob City of a romantic and glamorous finish to their amazing dominance of the Premier League. The league wasn’t clinched with a bang during the Manchester Derby, but with a whimper on the pitch with a surely relegated team from the West Midlands.

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“Silver Linings,” said West Brom Player

Of course, a title win is still a great accomplishment, especially in the Premier League where there’s so many worthy competitors. However, it seems to not have that same glow since it has been in City’s grasp for the past couple month’s. Also, isn’t this what every City fan expected when they got Pep Guardiola? Dominance in the home competitions and a regimented style of play. Furthermore, putting more of a damper on the win is the ugly exit from the Champions League to Liverpool (lost by an aggregate score of 5-1 for those unaware, more on that in a bit).

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[Pep’s Head] How do I do the smile again? Nailed it.
While City could not get that treble, they have played attractive football and won the league. A great building block for the next season and they seem to only be getting better. Also, it has created an interesting dynamic, where every achievement for Pep looks bad on Mourinho. Who knows how long the ‘Special One’ will last at this rate.

Champions League Quarters Review and Preview

(Quarterfinals)

AS Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 agg) Roma advance on away goals

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“Never Say Never” – Justin Bieber

Barcelona just completely unraveled in Rome, they had placed themselves in an amazing position to move on to the semi’s but just could not settle the game and create a productive possession. Barcelona had 57% of possession, yet only had 3 shots on goal (out of 9 total) compared to Roma’s 6 on goal and 17 shots overall. Obviously that’s not all that dictates productive possession but the stat sheet clearly tells a tale of good creation of chances for Roma. If Barcelona complete their invincibles run this is gonna be a major negative mark on the season, but on a positive note it has given neutrals a true underdog to root for in the semifinals.

Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool (1-5 agg)

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Mo Salah, Mo Problems

As mentioned earlier, Liverpool took apart City like no one would’ve expected. It seems like Klopp has had Guardiola’s number unlike anyone else in the Premier League, winning three out of the past five meetings. Not mentioning the one loss Klopp had to Pep with a score of 5-0.  It seems the high press of Liverpool, which at times hurts their defensive posture, is the perfect antidote to Pep’s controlled movement out the back, and it showed. Liverpool deserved to go through, maybe next time City will get a better match up, or adapt better to Klopp’s game plan.

Real Madrid 1-3 Juventus (4-3 agg)

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Breaking News: Ronald is good at penalties.

Real Madrid can take a deep breath, they’ll continue their streak of trips into the semifinals. However, it was not easy in large part to Juventus’ and Allegri’s great approach to going away to Madrid already down three goals. Simply put Zidane’s plan failed quite spectacularly, and in reality if Benatia had been more disciplined they could’ve been on their way to the semifinals and one of the favorites. While Madrid, unlike Barcelona’s gifting of three goals, was creating offense and chances, they weren’t as deadly as Juventus when it came to finishing, and Buffon was having a decent game. On the penalty drama, Buffon should’ve kept better cool, it was definitely a penalty and it was time to just do your best and get in goal.

Bayern Munich 0-0 Sevilla (2-1 agg)

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James “Robben isn’t the only one who can make a cut” Rodriguez

Bayern won ugly, but winning ugly is much better than losing beautifully. Perhaps that is also unfair to Sevilla who had shown against United they could be a disciplined and talented team. They frustrated the offense which found daylight in Manchester, and were simply the better team. Bayern were the favorites and that was never really in doubt, especially not after a late red to Sevilla’s Correa.

(Semifinals)

The match-ups have been released for the semifinals and from a neutral perspective will be pretty great.

AS Roma vs. Liverpool

Liverpool are definitely favorites for this one, in my opinion they can pull it off but it will depend on which defense shows up and whether Salah will be have his moments of brilliance against his former club which will be very familiar with him. Roma of course also received the best hope of getting to the finals with this draw, also this Champion’s League run may be a good way to salvage a rather lackluster Serie A performance.

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich

The heavyweights of the tournament will be against each other, and Real Madrid is definitely the safe bet if you’re a betting man, but this may not be the Bayern Munich of old. Jupp Heynckes has completely transformed this Bayern Munich team back into a confident dominant force to be reckoned with, and James may be looking to prove Zidane wrong for sending him away. People shouldn’t forget, last time Heynckes took the reigns of Bayern he won the treble and is in position to do so again.

Thanks for reading! Hope you liked this Rabble, there will be more coming up and definitely for FA Cup action this weekend.

Champions League Round of 16 (Day 8)

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The last day of the round of 16 stage was not very nice to a couple teams, because these were the most lopsided scores of the round of 16. Besiktas and Chelsea left this second leg with a much bigger deficit against them.

FC Barcelona 3-0 Chelsea (4-1)

While Chelsea had a lot more chances to score a goal than the scoreboard might suggest they definitely were a class below Barcelona. This happened for a couple reasons:

Umtiti had a monster game in Barcelona’s back line, those chances I referred to earlier, he wasn’t having any of it. If there is any chance of him leaving. pay him all the money.

Barcelona offense, Messi is a master of moving the ball like it is glued to his feet and putting himself into favorable positions, which is why he should get major credit for his goals. I say this because the second most responsible was Courtois. Messi put it between his legs at the near post, not once but twice, one of which was the fastest goal of his career. To put more credit to this offense, Dembele looked like he fit right back in with Suarez and Messi, however Suarez still has yet to score this year’s iteration of Champions League.

The Chelsea defense overall played well, Alonso and Rudiger had overall pretty good outings but they definitely got stretched out, throughout the match it can be more attributed to the push for a high line to catch up after being behind by so much. Conte is not having a great season, it currently looks like Chelsea are the most likely to be left out of the top 4, if this happens it makes it even more sure that Conte will most likely get sacked.

Besiktas 1-3 Bayern Munich (1-8)

The match was not something to be remembered but the only real star of the show at this game was the cat which made it onto the field. The stats show a pretty even game in terms of possession and shots on goal, however it is clear that Bayern was playing with house money and already had the fixture locked down. Bayern is cruising into the quarterfinals, and Besiktas had a good run.

That’s all for today, I was running a little short on time and I am still human, thank you for viewing!

Champions League Round of 16 (Day 7)

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Well this one hurt, if you’re a fan of English clubs in the Champions, or especially of Manchester United. And relief if you’re a AS Roma fan for finishing the job when called upon, something Manchester couldn’t quite figure out.

Manchester United 1-2 Sevilla FC (1-2)

Sevilla deserved this game, no doubt about it, but United clearly set themselves up for limited success from the start. As you can tell from the line-up United fielded Mourinho went with a 4-2-3-1 with Matic and Fellani as the holding midfielders. While Matic is a game changer, this was the first start for Fellani since he returned from injury and also shows the style of play that Mourinho wanted to proceed with. He went with the “kick long balls at the big guy to get forward,” which credit to him was somewhat effective since passing on the ground was made difficult with Sevilla locking down the passing lanes on the ground.

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It was a rather negative approach, but a Mourinho approach, and the offense never looked quite dangerous. Lukaku was doing great at the holdup play and Rashford kept bringing great runs down the wing, while Lingard was actually a bit quiet. I will note, starting Rashford was a great idea, and Lingard was somewhat in form so these were understandable.

Here’s where my criticism of the line-up comes in, Sanchez has been mostly unimpressive in league play and still doesn’t look fully settled, Mata had a much greater impact off the bench, or even Martial would’ve been a better option. The most egregious decision overall was Fellani in for Pogba, how many managers would dare leave their record transfer back from injury for FELLANI back from an injury. There was no excuse for Mourinho. As the line-up sheet shows, Mourinho threw everything into attack after the late goals from Sevilla with 15 minutes to go. It was too little too late, those players should’ve started and this one will be primarily on Mourinho. The players were also to blame as well because they had multiple missed opportunities.

As enjoyable as this might be for the rivals of United, once again English football will be poorly represented in the latter stages of the Champions League, which isn’t really great for any Premier League fans.

Oh and last note on this game, I don’t want to be too thick about the reasoning for the outcome of this game, but credit to Sevilla’s manager, Vincenzo Montella. Montella managed the game well, Sevilla came with a purpose and his substitute Ben Yedder completely changed the game. The criticism of United was just so strong because the last 15 minutes when they were playing catch up was the most inspired football they played all night making it very obvious they were capable of pressing the Sevilla defense, but it was much too late.

AS Roma 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (2-2) [Roma goes through on away goal advantage]

The second game of the night where Roma went home on the second leg and took care of business. Dzeko was great on the night, he played his game well playing on the backs of the center backs waiting for a ball to put him through.

Shakhtar had the majority possession during the game but really didn’t do much meaningful with it. They had zero shots on goal. Roma easily neutralized them but let them have the ball to not get caught on a break.

Great Champions League games, that were close throughout the match, but each victor earned their right to the quarterfinals. Tomorrow will be the last round of Champions League before the break, stay here for the review!

Champions League Round of 16 (Day 6)

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It’s a late post but here, and it’s time to cover the thrilling finale to Champions League action until next week.

Manchester City 1-2 FC Basel (5-2)

City jumped on to the #playyourkids movement this game. They lost this leg, but overwhelmingly won on aggregate. Gabriel Jesus continues his blazing form by notching in the first goal after some great team play. Basel responded with a fumbled ball in the box, Elyounoussi would then put into the back of the net. Lang would put another in at the 71st minute, but it was all they would muster up against City.

Statview of the game: Manchester City controlled the possession as they normally do, 78-22 in their favor. However, the shots on goal were even at three a piece. Lastly, Basel definitely had the edge at fouls, getting called on 11.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus (3-4) 

Spurs’ fans everywhere are gonna be up late thinking of what could’ve been in the next round. It all looked so promising and in true Spur’s fashion, that’s when it all went downhill. Son scored to put them ahead at home, and 3-2 on aggregate. Then the second half came around and Higuain took it upon himself to lead the comeback putting them level after a great cross, and a defense of statues. But things at this point are still okay, Spurs would still go through on the away goals.

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Spur’s fans at Wembley

Then bombing down the left side comes Paulo Dybala, the Argentine, Juventus forward. His finishing was great and put them even on away goals and ahead on aggregate. After this Allegri was content to trust his world class experienced defense to see the result out, and they did. Spurs still looked dangerous on the attack and were literally inches from scoring the equalizer which would send them to overtime, but it was not meant to be.

This one goes out to the Spurs’ fans, but Gigi Buffon fans will be happy to see the chance at a Champions League trophy is not completely gone yet. Next week, more Champions action, its gonna be great, come back here and be entertained. Thanks for reading!

 

Champions League: Round of 16 (Day 5)

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The most exciting time of the round of 16 is here! Day 5 took its fair share of victims, most notably today however, Unai Emery..

Liverpool 0-0 FC Porto (5-0)

Salah and Van Dijk are the notable names that started the game on the bench. This is understandable since Liverpool are coming into this game five goals ahead on aggregate and they will have a crucial derby game this Saturday against Manchester United. There was plenty of chances for Mane and he just kept narrowly missing. Unfortunate for Porto and Liverpool fans as well, as it ended a scoreless affair.

Paris St-Germain 1-2 Real Madrid (2-5)

While PSG showed signs of life in the first half, none of their attacking players could get it done. It’s somewhat understandable missing Neymar and being behind already by two goals, but they have so much talent Emery is still to blame here. After the offense finally started getting real chances the whistle was blown for the end of the first half and Real Madrid was able to regroup.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the second half by putting away Vazquez’s cross with his head. It felt like a demoralizing blow. Matters only got worse with a Verratti red card. Not until Cavani scored an equalizer did they seem to regain the faintest hope. Which was quickly stomped out a small while later with Casemiro’s shot taking a nasty deflection past Areola. The rest of the game was just a training exercise for Real Madrid. Zidane lives to fight another day as Real manager and has kept showing his skill for managing the game.

The quarterfinals are next and the draw should be announced this Friday, stick around here to read about it.

Champions League: Round of 16 (Day 4)

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No blowouts today! In a change of pace from what the normal has been the last couple match days. The last day of Champions League action for a few weeks ended in some dramatic fashion.

Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 AS Roma

What a game. The first leg of this draw had it all; some heroic defending and goalkeeping, great goals and individual play-making. Roma drew first blood after some great passing that left Cengiz Ünder right in front of goal alone to finish the shot. The second half was not a good one for Roma though. Ferreyra, the Shakhtar Donetsk player, opened the scoring with a fast break in which he just had to beat one defender to have a cool calm finish. That’s a nice result right? Well Donetsk was not gonna let it be, they continued pushing, and on a free kick, Fred, channeled his inner Messi and banged the winner off the crossbar. While there was plenty of time after the goal for Roma to equalize, their efforts fell short and now they will have plenty of ground to make up.

Sevilla 0-0 Manchester United

The headlines on this game are already how Manchester United escaped with a draw, and rightfully so.

Yes, the only reason Manchester United is leaving Spain with a scoreless draw is David de Gea, who time and time again has continued to prove himself as the top goalkeeper currently playing. If we look closer though we can see that Sevilla just dominated this game, the possession stats were overwhelmingly theirs. Shots on goal were 8-1 in favor of Sevilla. Point blank saves were just a norm for de Gea this game, it quite literally felt like nothing was gonna beat the brick wall that is David de Gea.

Sevilla will definitely be regretting not having put a couple on United to have a better chance away but they certainly did their part. There is the argument that it is simply the Mourinho way to sit back and defend, absorb the pressure. Surely conceding so many shots on goal could not be part of the process, if David de Gea does not have an outstanding game, this draw is over before it even gets to the second leg.

This United squad needs to start playing better. The amount of talent available on the squad and the lack of results being delivered is terrible. Even after this match though Manchester United have to be the favorite to go through.

The return legs for both of these matches will be March 13. Will Roma come back? Can United depend on their players, not just their keeper?

Champions League: Round of 16 (Day 3)

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Week two of the round of 16 is here. A big question this week is whether the English clubs can maintain their good results in the Champions League. Also, whether the favorites would be upset, and today at least, it didn’t.

Bayern Munich 5-0 Besiktas

The most one sided affair of all the matches this week got even more one sided with a early red card to Domagoj Vida, a Besiktas player. This was just the beginning of what would be a five goal rout. Muller and Lewandowski netted a brace each and Coman got a goal as well. The match was one way traffic the whole 90 minutes. The possession stats were 69-31 in Bayern’s favor, and 35 shots (12 on goal), compared to 6 shots (1 on goal) for Besiktas. The second leg will be a hard one to watch, but hopefully with better defense from the Besiktas side.

Chelsea 1-1 FC Barcelona

Barcelona decided to field the same starting lineup against Chelsea as the one they had against Eibar on the weekend, which was bound to have fatigue. The match was tight the whole entire way, however Chelsea looked dangerous to score, or more specifically Willian. Willian hit the post twice. However, Chelsea finally broke through on the 62nd minute with a goal by Willian himself. His shot totally fooled Ter Stegen, it looked like it would be outside the post, but quickly curled back in.

It didn’t take Barcelona long to strike back, 13 minutes later after a great pass to the top of the box Lionel Messi gets a goal of his own. David Azpilicueta also attempted a diving tackle to prevent the pass, but it did not quite work out. After that goal both sides seemed to be very protective of their score and defended well. Conte attempted to bring on Morata for a different attacking strategy, but he felt invisible. He then paired that substitution with taking Fabregas off for Drinkwater, which was still playing it safe.

This result is definitely in Barcelona’s favor, they will receive Chelsea at home with an away goal in hand. They should be the clear favorites to go through to the next round.

The return leg for both of these matches will be on March 14. Bayern Munich will probably field youth, but Chelsea will be at the Camp Nou, and honestly it’s gonna be a hard win to pull out.

Champions League: Round of 16 (Day 2)

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The last day of this week’s Champions League match ups has finally come to an end. And the most anticipated round of 16 match between PSG and Real Madrid did not disappoint.

FC Porto 0-5 Liverpool

Liverpool took care of business on the road just like Manchester City did yesterday. The goals kept falling to this dangerous offense, Mane bagged the hat trick, while Salah and Bobby Firmino got one each as well. Liverpool took the wheel and never let go, the goals kept coming and the defense held strong with a clean sheet. With this help Liverpool will be able to focus much less on the return leg and focus more on the league.

Real Madrid 3-1 Paris Saint-Germaine

Real Madrid gets the win at home, and what a way to do it. This round of 16 draw is gonna be a big decider for the fate of each manager, with each team having so much pressure to perform in this tournament. Both teams started the game quite aggressively, not always characteristic of the first leg of a draw. Leading to the first half ending in a tie, with PSG netting that crucial away goal.

There’s a couple things that Unai Emery is going to think here at the half time, this Real Madrid team hasn’t been in the best goal scoring form, and you already have the away goal, a 1-1 result would be great to take home. So at the 66th minute he takes out Cavani and puts in Meunier, a very defensive minded substitution. In my opinion, as soon as you make the decision that attacking isn’t a priority, you’re at a huge disadvantage, you cannot trust a team with the quality of Real Madrid to not have multiple great chances for 20 minutes.

Now here’s where Zidane made the right choice, between the 68th and 79th minute, he makes three key offensive substitutes bringing in Vazquez, Bale and Asensio. Instead of being complacent he pushed for another goal knowing the return leg at PSG was going to be as challenging as it gets. Asensio makes an instant impact, and passes the ball into the corridor of uncertainty where Ronaldo hits it home off his knee. To put the icing on top Marcelo scores one more time to make it three, his work rate this game was nothing short of incredible.

The whole entire defense of Real Madrid shined this game, Varane made multiple great clearances, and Ramos made many goal saving blocks maybe preventing some goals that could’ve thrown the momentum of this match the other way.

PSG’s goal keeper Areola was having a great game right up until those last goals, and Emery’s attempt to salvage the game with the Draxler substitution was too little too late.

Real Madrid is in a great position to go through now, but it would be a mistake to count out a team with as much talent as PSG, it’s gonna be a nail biter.

Both return legs for these fixtures will be played on March 6th.

 

Champions League: Round of 16

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The first matches of the round of 16 finally were played today. If you wanted goals then you definitely got your money’s worth.

Juventus 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Juve got off to a flying start thanks to a quick set piece goal by Higuain. Quickly after, Juve put another one in from the spot after earning a well deserved penalty.

Tottenham’s attack couldn’t be counted out and as soon as the second goal went in Kane looked dangerous to score. Allegri’s men sat back and just tried to absorb the pressure and it didn’t work out at all. Kane beat Buffon after receiving a great pass and put it in the back of the empty net. The onslaught wouldn’t stop until Spurs gave up another penalty, this one would give Higuain the hat trick, and he hit the crossbar. Spurs went into the half only one down, but surely Juve’s defense can hold at home. It didn’t. Eriksen scored from a free kick by blasting a shot on the ground to Buffon’s right, he’s gonna want that one back.

The game ended 2-2, a truly great result for Spurs, being 2-0 down away. They never stopped fighting and you have to give them credit for that. The draw isn’t over of course, there’s still another leg, but if they play like this again it’s hard to see them not passing.

FC Basel 0-4 Manchester City

The match that never quite looked it would go any other way, and actually ended much worse than expected. Basel, the same giants that took down Manchester United just a season ago looked to try and repeat. However, this City squad is still on fire and it seems everyone in the lineup has a burning itch to score screamers. Gundogan, Silva, and Aguero all got on the score sheet with great goals. They utterly dominated the match with Basel only getting one or two real chances.

Next leg will be at Manchester City’s home and it seems this draw is done and dusted. It would truly take a miracle to have Basel even get close.

The second leg for both matches will take place March 6th.

Thanks for reading, tomorrow will be day 2 of round of 16, it should be another great day of football.