Archive for the ‘Champions League’ Category

CL Recap

April 5, 2007

AS Roma defeated Manchester United 2-1 in a game marred by violence in the stands.  Don’t have much to write now on this topic but will have a post up about hooliganism in the next week.  As for last night’s incident, you can read about it here

As for the game, Paul Scholes was shown an iffy second yellow in the 34th minute.   Reduced to 10 men, United escaped with a narrow defeat and even managed an all important away goal courtesy of a cool finish by Wayne Rooney.   (TTL predicted a 1-1 game WRONG).  Think Roma blew a big chance last night and United are the favorites to advance after next Tuesday’s game at Old Trafford. 

Valencia and Chelsea drew 1-1 (TTL predicted a 1-0 Chelsea win WRONG) setting up what should be a wild game at the Mastella.  Chelsea had a lot of possession but never seemed like they’d get a 2nd goal.  Valencia defended well and went ahead 1-0 on a wonder goal before Drogba scored his 30th goal of the season to level it for Chelsea.  Just get the feeling that Valencia are going to squeak through next week. 

Tonight is the 1st leg of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals featuring:

AZ Alkmaar (Dutch club) v Werder Bremen (German)

Bayer Leverkusen (German) v Osasuna (Spanish)

Espanyol v Benifica (Portuguese)

Sevilla v Tottenham

AZ against Bremen should bring a windfall of goals but the pick of the games is Sevilla v Tottenham.  Sevilla is the defending UEFA Cup champion and lies 2nd in the Primera Division a mere 2 points behind Barcelona.  Tottenham has rebounded from a sluggish start and are in 6th place in the Premiership.  Both sides play an open, attacking style which should lead to plenty of chances. 

Back tomorrow with some more soccer news and the Best of Sports. 


Rather be Red

April 4, 2007

Liverpool gave a whipping to PSV Eindhoven by the tune of 3-0 last night (TTL predicted LP to win 1-0 in a boring match WRONG).  Next week’s return match at Anfield looks to be a stroll in the park as PSV manager Ronald Koeman declared “you’d have to be from another planet” to think PSV can win the tie.  The only bad news on the night for LP was Fabio Aurelio’s achilles injury which looks to be quite serious.  Nice 2 minute recap of the game below. 

AC Milan and Bayern Munich played to a 2-2 draw in an uneven but exciting match (TTL predicted an entertaining 2-2 game KUDOS).  Belgium international defender Daniel Van Buyten scored 2 poaching goals for Bayern with his 2nd goal coming on the last kick of the match in the 93th minute.  Always play to the whistle Milan. 

Milan were the better side throughout and only some great saves by the Bayern’s reserve keeper Michael Rensing kept the German side in the match.  Milan were also awarded a dubious penalty kick by the Russian referee whose appointment was widely criticized before the match by Bayern team officials.  Italian conspiracy alert!  Anyway, this tie is delicately poised with Bayern being the slight favorite to advance due to the away goals rule and since Milan will be without the service of their suspended striker Gilardino in the return leg next Wednesday.  

Now let’s breakdown tonight’s other quarterfinal games. 

Chelsea v Valencia(20:45 CET and 2:45 EDT) 

This shapes up to be the best match-up of the quarterfinals.  While Chelsea is the oddsmaker’s favorite to win the CL, Valencia is the team no one wants to face.  They defend very well, have a huge homefield advantage in the return leg at the deafening Mestalla stadium and score goals thanks in large part to striker David Villa whom Chelsea have been rumoured to buy.   As always at this late stage in the year, injuries will play a huge part as Chelsea are without winger Arjen Robben and all everything Michael Essien.   Valencia are missing winger Edu, the suspended pair of Navaro and Marcheno, and their leading scorer Fernando Morientes. 

Both teams play a similar counterattacking style, preferring to catch teams out of position on the break.  The onus is on Chelsea to try and score at home, but TTL thinks both teams will play carefully setting up a very tense clash next Tuesday in Valencia.  Chelsea to win 1-0 tonight in a game devoid of many goal scoring opportunities. 

Manchester United v AS Roma  (20:45 CET and 2:30 EDT on ESPN )

Will Ronaldo and Rooney finally score some vital goals in the CL for United?  Can Roma’s thumb-sucking Totti, who many Italians consider their nation’s finest player, deliver in his first CL quarterfinal?  How many yellow cards will be given out for players taking dives?  And is Roma the team that will stop United’s drive towards winning the Treble (Premiership, FA Cup and CL championships)?  The answers are after the clip. 

Playboy Ronaldo and shrek will play well, but think the old guard in Scholes and Giggs will shine in Rome tonight.  Totti presents some danger on set pieces but Man U’s midfield keeps him under control in open play.  Two yellow card will be given for faking dives.   In the end, Roma is not the team to derail United’s Treble dream as Roma cannot get in done in the return leg at Old Trafford.  But tonight Roma will give Man United some trouble in a passionate 1-1 draw.  Back tomorrow with a recap and some other tidbits. 

Enjoy the games. 

Champions League Quaterfinals I

April 3, 2007

It is a beautiful time in the sports year.  NCAA tourney has just ended, Opening Day has arrived, the NBA&NFL playoff marathons beckon, the Cricket World Cup, NFL draft zaniness, the MLS kicking off and crunch time in domestic soccer leagues across Europe.  Good stuff.  O.k. granted Cricket isn’t drawing huge interest in many places, but the “highlights” on BBC are excellent for lulling off into a peaceful slumber.  But let’s leave the dreamland of Cricket and focus on the Champions League quaterfinals.  First leg is tonight with the next game on April 11th. 

AC Milan v FC Bayern Munich (20:45 CET and 2:45 EDT & available on ESPN Deportes/Setana USA)

Milan hosts Bayern in a rematch of last year’s 1st knockout round encounter won by Milan 5-2 on aggregate.  Bayern will be without star keeper Oliver Kahn and Dutch midfielder Mark Van Bommel who are suspended tonight.  The German side has been playing well lately having defeated Bundesliga leaders FC Shalke 04 by 2-0 on Saturday.  Meanwhile Milan has struggled in the Serie A and currently reside in sixth place.   But they boast a remarkable home record at the San Siro in the CL having won 15 of their last 18 home games in the competition. 

First encounters in the two-leg format are difficult to predict since neither side wants to make a crucial mistake and put themselves in early difficulty.  Coupled with that traditionally these are two of the toughest defensive sides in all of soccer, it would seem to point to a tactical (ie boring) affair.   However, Milan is hinting at fielding two strikers (Gilardino&Inzahgi) which would certainly open things up for the offensive maestro Kaka to play in loads of space just behind the strikers.  Kaka is amazing to watch and capable of destroying teams through his passing or scoring.  And Bayern has demonstrated a ruthless desire to attack lately and possess two deadly finishers in Maakay and Podolski.  Breaking down Milan is always difficult especially with a healthy Nesta back in central defense but if English WC hero Owen Hargreaves can successfully control midfield for Bayern goals should be on the offer.  Therefore, TTL is going with an entertaining 2-2 game which would greatly benefit Bayern because of the away goals. 

PSV Eindhoven v Liverpool (20:45 CET and 2:30 EDT on ESPN2). 

TTL is a LP fan and was relieved when LP drew PSV.  And all the indicators point to LP coming through this tie victorious.  The teams played twice in the group phase drawing 0-0 at PSV and LP winnning 2-0 at Anfield.  The Dutch squad has seen a huge lead in the Eredivisie closed to 3 points and is decimated by injuries, playing without vital centre-back Alex and striker Kone.   Meanwhile, back at Merseyside, LP simply knocked out the defending champs Barcelona in the previous round and hammered Arsenal 4-1 on Saturday behind the robotic freak’s sensational hat-trick. 

Expect PSV to play a very defensive-minded game and try to frustrate LP at every opportunity.  The PSV manager Ronald Koeman has enjoyed numerous successes lately against English clubs with PSV knocking out Arsenal in the last round and his Benefica side defeating LP and Man U in last year’s CL.  Koeman has said he wouldn’t mind a boring 0-0 draw but TTL thinks an in-form LP squad while nick a 1-0 win, albeit in a boring game.   

Back tomorrow with a recap and a preview of the other quaterfinal games, Chelsea-Valencia and AS Roma-Manchester United.  Enjoy the games. 

CL Week Cont’d

March 7, 2007

Got to see all 4 games (albeit at the same time) and while stole some glances at the other games, TTL  spent much of the night sweating bullets as LP pulled out a glorious 1-0 loss to Barca to advance.  You’ll never walk alone indeed. 

Roma waltzed into Lyon and won rather easily 2-0.  TTL wrongly predicted a Lyon win.  Let’s hope Lyon’s poor display ends talk of Lyon’s manager Gerard Houllier taking over the US National Team.  Houllier is a decent manager with an impressive resume (Liverpool, French National Team) but he is far from the dynamic international presence the US wants.  It’d be like replacing Bruce Arena with a French version of Bruce Arena.  TTL likes the Bob Bradley interim hire and thinks Bradley should be given time to prove himself.  Enough digression as at least Roma’s Mancini provided the goal of the night.

Chelsea defeated Porto 2-1 overcoming a 1-0 deficit.  TTL predicted a Chelsea romp and it was far from that.  Chelsea won it on a solid goal with fine passing and a clinical finish by Ballack.  Porto’s goalie committed a colossal blunder in gifting Chelsea their first goal.  Without that gaffe this game would have been super tense as Porto really got stuck in and played well at Chelsea. 

Valencia drew 0-0 with Inter Milan allowing Valencia to advance due to away goals.  TTL foresaw Inter winning on penalties.  Each team had their chances and it was a rather entertaining game, especially the end.  Fortunately, there were plenty of stretchers around to carry all the players off the field. 

As for tonight’s action let’s do 2 sentence previews.  Home team is listed 1st along with goals from the 1st leg. 

Manchester United (1)-Lille (0).

This is the year of Man U as they are riding some outstanding play (particularly Ronaldo) and some glorious luck to the Premiership Title.  Lille will put up a fight but Man U’s offensive firepower along with Gigg’s disputed 1st leg goal are too much for Lille to overcome. 

Arsenal (0)-PSV Eindhoven (1)

Doubt this will be one for the purists as expect the Dutch squad to put all 11 men behind the ball and defend at all costs.  Arsenal’s magical Henry will start and Arsenal should nip PSV in a very tense affair. 

AC Milan (0)-Celtic (0)

Celtic will come to pick a fight but don’t have the talent to match-up with Milan all over the pitch.  Milan’s midfield anchored by Pirlo and the little strongman Gattuso will control the play as Milan cruise to an easy win. 

Bayern Munich(2)-Real Madrid(3)

Everyone is picking Bayern to win this game due to their good form and Madrid’s poor play coupled with Beckham being injured.  TTL  is jumping on the beerwagon and picking Munich to win. 

If Man U and Arsenal win tonight that means 4 English clubs will be in the quarterfinals.  Possibly a fifth British team as well if Celtic manages a win.   The Premiership is the best domestic league this year and are proving it in the CL.  Enjoy the games.   

CL Preview

March 6, 2007

Off and running with that most global of all sports, football or err soccer.  Before the preview, first a primer on all things Champions League.

How, why and when?

Teams qualify for this season’s CL based on last season’s results.  The top 2 finishers in the big leagues (Spain, England, Italy etc.) automatically qualify for the final 32 spots in the CL.  The winners of the smaller leagues (from Romania to Wales) along with the 3rd and sometimes 4th place finishers in big leagues have to up to 4 rounds of games before placing into the final 32. 

The Last 32 (Group Stage)

This is when in the CL kicks off in earnest in September.   Teams are split into 8 groups of 4 based on a complicated series of rankings and are country-tied.  This avoids the problem of having the top teams play each other right away and ensures that teams like Chelsea and Manchester United (or Real Madrid and Barcelona) are not in the same group.  Teams play each other twice (home and away) with the top 2 advancing to the knockout stages.  3rd gains an entry into the UEFA Cup (another post entirely) and 4th places receives a nice cutlery set.  A complete round-up of this year’s groups is here

Last 16 or Knockout Stages

The 8 1st place finishers and 8 2nd place teams are put into a hat and drawn against each other.  Seriously.  The only caveats being teams from the same group will not draw each other nor will clubs from the same country.  Again, no hot Madrid-Barcelona match-up or even Ajax-PSV Einhoven games allowed.  The teams play home and away with the team ahead on total goals after two games advancing.  One huge thing to keep in mind is the away goals rule.  For instance, Liverpool beats Bayern Munich 2-1 in Munich and then Bayern wins 1-0 in Liverpool.  The aggregate score is 2-2, but since Liverpool scored 2 away goals to Bayern’s 1, Liverpool advances.  This is designed to make the visiting teams attack instead of simply playing for a tie.  If teams are still tied at the end of the 2nd game (or leg in Eurospeak) then it goes to Extra-time and penalties.  Which brings us to tonight’s games, the 2nd leg if you will. 

Liverpool v Barcelona.  (Home team is always listed first and all games are at 20:45 CET or 2:45 EDT)

Battle of the last 2 CL winners as LP (2005 Champs) and Barca (2006 Champs) battle at Anfield.  LP won 2-1 at Barca so they hold a huge advantage going into tonight’s game.  The Third Leaf (TTL) fully supports LP (along with the Cubs, Illini and Bears) and doesn’t have any real insight into this game besides huge nerves.  Expect Anfield to be an absolute cauldron of noise and Barca to attack at will since they need at least 2 goals to advance.  Having rested Thuram, Deco and Et’o on the weekend Barca is primed.  Hopefully LP will strike back on the counterattack.   And if they leave Crouch on the bench and go with the Porn Star Kuyt and the Punk Ass Bellamy up-front instead,  TTL can barely sense a great celebration of a memorable LP victory. 

Valencia v Inter Milan

Valencia twice recovered from a goal deficit to tie Inter 2-2 in the first leg.  Inter has been storming through a weakened Italian domestic league but Valencia are a step-up in class.  Valencia boasts an excellent home record but its extremely doubtful they can hold on to a 0-0 tie and go through on away goals.  Prediction is that this one is headed penalties after a 1-1 tie and Inter hold their nerve to win it. 

Chelsea v FC Porto

Special game for the Special One as Chelsea manager Jose Mourniho tries to eliminate  the club he guided to the CL title in 2004.  Good money says Chelsea will win easily despite the absence of English captain John Terry in defense.  Luckily they have all-world Michael Essien to fill-in for Terry.  Plucky Porto need to score after the 1-1 tie in the first leg and Chelsea excels at the counterattack.  Stroll in the park for the Chelsea lads.  And for those who say soccer is a non-contact support here is Terry’s frightening injury from the Carling Cup Final against Arsenal.  Thankfully Terry will be back soon.  

Lyon v Roma

5-time defending French Champs Lyon attempt to reach the CL quaterfinals for the 4th consecutive year.  Lyon were the trendy pick to win the CL before it started (ok TTL’s pick) but have played poorly in the past 2 months.  Still think Lyon will be too much at home for Roma to handle, but after a 0-0 tie in the 1st leg a Roma goal would turn this game into a mouth-watering affair. 

On paper this looks like a fine night of viewing.  LP-Barca could be an absolute cracker as Barca needs to score twice.  Soccer games like these are great to watch when teams throw everyone forward in order to get those precious goals.  Situations like these don’t happen very often, so enjoy. 

Tomorrow TTL will have a recap of tonight’s action along with a preview of Wednesday’s encounters.  And to fulfill contractual obligations to speak about David Beckham in every soccer-related post, it looks as if his knee injury will keep him out for 6 weeks.  Great news for the MLS but terrible news for Becks, as there is no way he will be called up to the National Team in April for the important Euro 2008 qualifying games.  

As always, enjoy the games.