Tag Archives: Champions League

Premier League teams attempt to rise on Matchday 2 of Champions League

As the second matchday of the UEFA Champions League commences later today, Tottenham and Manchester City begin their quests of making it to knockout rounds after having successful tournament results last year. Reigning Champions League winners Liverpool and former winners Chelsea are set to play on Wednesday – aiming to get back in the standings after devastating losses to Napoli and Valencia respectively.

Tottenham, fresh off a Champions League campaign in which they finished as the runner-up, started this edition of the tournament with a 2-2 draw against Olympiacos. Scoring two early goals from Harry Kane’s penalty in the 26th minute, followed by a Lucas Moura goal in the 30th minute – goals from Daniel Podence in the 44th minute and Mathieu Valbuena in the 54th minute were enough to seal a draw at Karaiskakis Stadium. Tottenham will host German giants Bayern Munich at 8 p.m. GMT for its fifth-ever meeting against the club. Bayern are coming off a 3-0 victory over Crvena Zvezda after goals from Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski, and Thomas Müller took all three points at The Allianz Arena.

Manchester City had a huge victory 3-0 over Shakhtar Donetsk at The Metalist, with Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gündogan, and Gabriel Jesus providing the necessary goals. They will face off against Dinamo Zagreb at Etihad Stadium at 8 p.m. GMT. The Croatian side defeated Atalanta 4-0 on Matchday 1 after Mislav Orsic’s hat trick at Stadion Maksimir. This will be the first-ever matchup between the two clubs – who do you think will end up in top spot?

Liverpool, fresh off of their recent Champions League winning campaign, started their campaign off with a dud as they lost 2-0 to Napoli. Late goals from Dries Mertens in the 82th minute and Fernando Llorente in injury time, helped the Italian team embarass the holders. Now, Liverpool will have to get back on track as they host Red Bull Salzburg at 8 p.m. GMT. The Austrian side had a 6-2 victory against Genk on the first matchday, led by a hat trick from Norwegian teen sensation Erling Braut Haaland at Red Bull Arena. The matchup between tonight’s game will be the first-ever matchup between the two clubs.

Chelsea, the champions of last year’s edition of the Europa League beating London compatriot Arsenal, did not get off to a great start in the Champions League as new coach/former club legend Frank Lampard and The Blues suffered a 1-0 loss at the feet of Rodrigo at Stamford Bridge. Considered the favorites of the group before the start of the tournament, Chelsea will have to get back in gear as they head to Stade Pierre Mauroy to battle Lille OSC at 8 p.m. GMT. Lille suffered a 3-0 defeat in their last game against Ajax due to goals from Quincy Promes, Edson Álvarez, and Nicolás Tagliafico at Johan Crujiff ArenA. The two clubs will face off against each other for the first time.

With the Champions League still in the beginning stages, time will tell if England will have back-to-back winners in the tournament for the first time since Liverpool and Aston Villa won the 1981 and 1982 editions.

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Is Zidane What Real Need?

Just over a year ago, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid were claiming their fourth Champions League in five years, and their third in a row. A far cry from the side that crumbled against PSG on Wednesday evening.

They managed to hold off a Liverpool side yet to reach the heights of last season, helped by two calamitous errors from Loris Karius.

This Real Madrid side that ruled Europe was packed with individual brilliance, from back to front. Yet, particularly in the last couple of years, it has felt as though this is a side lacking in the collective.

There was no particular style of football you could really label Los Blancos with aside from that of being a pure winning machine, which some may very fairly argue is the most impressive and important style of all. 

While their individual brilliance saw them through Champions League nights, it generally failed to sustain Real properly throughout a league campaign. Throughout their five year period of continental dominance, Los Blancos only won La Liga once. 

On the flip side, you have Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. A superb collective that can dominate over a season in the league, where a one off bad result can be bounced back from. But the chaotic nature of the Champions League knockout stages does not allow for such things. It’s hard to deny that there is a strong element of luck in pretty much all knockout competitions. 

At times, it has felt like fortune favoured Real. Spirited and deserving opposition performances were put to the sword with moments of fortune and brilliance. Overhead kicks have seemingly been a particular feature of Real’s recent dominance in the Champions League. 

And who could deny the wondrous ability of their players. A front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric creating in midfield anchored by Casemiro.

Even in defence, Real Madrid had more excellent attackers. Marcelo and Dani Carvajal probably spent most of their time in the opposition half, and Sergio Ramos’s goal threat from set pieces is admirable.

But this attacking brilliance felt like a problem lying in wait – a lack of coherence and defensive stability. Casemiro was thrown in at the base of midfield, but at times it appeared to be more like Pritt Stick trying to hold an aeroplanes wings on. 

There was a fragility covered up by superstar moments. Real’s midfield and attack had little defensive nous aside from their Brazilian anchorman. And Marcelo’s frequent raids forward left so much space in defence, not helped by Ramos’s instinctive drive to attack the ball. 

It’s miraculous that these weaknesses were never really exploited. It felt inevitable that they would be, and that the time would soon come to shift on Los Blancos’s brilliant but ageing stars. 

Now we skip ahead past their disaster of 2018/19, with Ronaldo’s departure and the chaos of Julen Lopetegui, to the present day back with Zidane. 

There has been some forward shift. Eden Hazard has taken up the number seven shirt, and Vinicius Junior emerged into the first team last season – a child of the 2000s. 

But in defence, there are still issues. Ramos is a conundrum – there is no denying his incredible and combative defensive ability, particularly in one on one duels. But he is reckless, often darting from his position and leaving space in behind him.

However, Real Madrid seem to struggle to cope without him. He was missing last night against PSG as Los Blancos fell to a 3-0 defeat. That was thanks to a two match suspension he picked up for deliberately getting a yellow card in the first leg of Real’s last 16 tie against Ajax. We all know how that second leg went. 

Nacho Monreal also being suspended won’t have helped Zidane and Real, but their failings in Ramos’s absence shows their reliance on individuals – be it through their ability or character. 

Ramos is far from the perfect defender, but he is an aggressive leader and Los Blancos seem to struggle without him. They also, of course, have struggled since Ronaldo’s departure. Not only have they lost his show-stopping moments on the pitch, but also the leading character of the Real Madrid blockbuster. 

Marcelo, for all his frankly laughable defensive lapses, also seems to be a missed presence when he is not in the side. Even when he hits crosses woefully behind their intended recipient, they get finished off via overhead kicks. Some of those sparking moments seem to be fading.

And perhaps this shows what the strength of Zidane was and is. Somehow fashioning this unwieldy band of superstars into a single minded and driven unit, capable pulling off spectacular moments to win big matches – matches they arguably sometimes did not deserve to win. 

But now there is a rebuild going on. The superstars from that team are dispersing, waxing and waning. Zidane has an entirely different task on his hand to when he first took up the Real Madrid job. Old structures will have to be knocked down for new ones to be built, and Zidane may not have the right managerial talents to do so. 

4 Potential Replacement for Sarri

With Maurizio Sarri, now well and truly back in Italy, along with his almost famous ‘cigarette’ butt, which was permanently between his lips during Chelsea’s matches, who is in line to replace him.

There are 3 good, candidates, which include one outstanding one and no that does not mean Jose Mourinho, returning back for an impossible 3rd time. I think from a Chelsea fans point of view, that would be almost as bearable as

Rafa Benitez, returning for a second spell… when he was universally unpopular in his first term

So lets look at the first candidate, which is the man Sarri has replaced at Juventus

Max Allegri

There is no denying he is a very good contender for the job, a serial winner, like his predecessor at Juventus Antonio Conte, and would be a very good fit for Chelsea, however, as is the way with bosses at Europes top flight clubs, the very pressure of keeping the club at the top of their game and league, nearly always takes its toll

As is the case with Allegri, who after a good few years in the Juve Hotseat, has declared his intention to take a year out of the game, in much the same way that Pep Guardiola did, before he pitched up at Bayern Munich

Darren Moore

Yes the Ex West Brom manager / head coach, a surprise outsiders choice, but still none the less a very good coach, who did a brilliant job at West Brom under difficult circumstances and was very unfortunate to be sacked

John Terry

Chelsea, through and through and currently the assistant manager at Aston Villa to Dean Smith, who got Villa promoted back to the premier ship. Terry has been closely watching the methods of Smith and has stated his intention to return to the Bridge one day as manager, though he has yet to manage a club at any level, unlike …

Yes, you guessed it…

Frank Lampard

Like Terry, he stated his ambition to return one day to manage ‘his’ club, yet opted for the less glamourous surroundings of Pride Park with Derby County in EFL Championship and… against the odds, go them to the Play Off Final, where they lost to

Aston Villa!!

 

That said though, he has a years experience of club football under his belt and go the Derby Job, through his uncle Harry (Redknapp) who knows Mel Morris, the Derby chairman

In that time Lampard has shown himself to be an oustanding managerial candiate for A top job, though wether that is Chelsea at this time remains to be seen

Given the fact that he is a Chelsea Legend, in a different way to John Terry, he would certainly bring the Solksjaer effect to the Bridge and gives Chelsea a chance to bring through some of their outstanding Youth

Will he get the nod… Well he hasn’t said No!!

REYES : FORMER ARSENAL PLAYER DIES IN CAR CRASH

Jose Antonio Reyes, Who was part of Arsenal’s historic ‘Invincibles’ in 2003-04, has died in a car accident aged just 35, Spanish club Sevilla have announced. Reyes who was with Spanish second division Extremadura for whom he played for just 2 weeks ago represented his boyhood club Sevilla 250 times scoring 40 Goals. He has also played for great names including Real and Atletico Madrid. A minute’s silence will be observed at Saturday’s Champions League final as a mark of respect to Reyes, who was the first Spaniard to win the Premier League.

Reyes signed for Arsenal during the January transfer window of the 2003–04 campaign for £10.5 million, he played 21 times and scored 5 goals in the remainder of that season including two in the penultimate two games of the season that helped keep as undefeated Arsenal won the title without losing. He played for the gunners for another 2 seasons winning the FA Cup: (2004–05) FA Community Shield (2004) and reaching the UEFA Champions League Final in 2005–06. In 2004–05 he managed to score in each of the first six games. He was named as the Premier League Player of the Month for August. Reyes featured heavily in the Gunners’ 2005–06 Champions League run, against, among others, Real Madrid, Juventus F.C. and Villarreal CF, coming on as a substitute in the final against FC Barcelona, which Arsenal lost 1–2. In total he played 110 times for the gunners scoring 23 Goals playing alongside greats including Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabreges who are among many people who paid tribute to Reyes.

Henry, called him a “wonderful player, superb team-mate and exceptional human being”. “I wish his family and friends continued strength and courage to get through this difficult time. #takenfartoosoon”, he added on Twitter

Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas called Reyes his “first great friend in the world of professional football”, and added “Our connection in the field was also special.”I always say that you have been one of the greatest talents in our football and I know that I am not wrong. “Two days ago I was talking about you in an interview, it might be a sign, who knows, to remember you, my great friend.

Current Arsenal manager Unai Emery, who Reyes played under at Sevilla, paid tribute by saying: “Deeply sad and speechless after knowing this tragic news. I’ll never forget your magic and your smile.

After leaving Arsenal Reyes joined Giants Real Madrid on loan where he scored 7 goals in 38 appearances wining the la liga title, he then joined Real’s neighbours Atletico where he spent the next 4 seasons winning 2 UEFA Europa Leagues (2009–10, 2011–12) UEFA Super Cup (2010) UEFA Intertoto Cup (2007) and was a Copa del Rey runner-up in 2009–10.

He had a loan spell with Benfica whilst at Atletico before returning home to Sevilla in 2012 where he was part of the side managed by Emery that won 3 back to back Ueafa Europa Leagues and in the 2013-14 campaign scored in the second leg of their last-16 win over city rivals Betis. , in the final of the following season’s tournament, reportedly his final game for the club, he captained and assisted Carlos Bacca’s first of two goals as the team came from behind to defeat FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3–2 in Warsaw. However, he remained, starting as skipper in the ensuing Super Cup against Barcelona in Tbilisi and scoring a goal as his side came from 1–4 down to take the game to extra time, but lose nonetheless.

Reyes won his first full cap for Spain on 6 September 2003, coming on as a half-time substitute during a 3–0 friendly win against Portugal in Guimarães.[64] On 11 October, again coming from the bench, this time for Vicente, he scored twice in the final three minutes of a 4–0 win in Armenia for the UEFA Euro 2004 qualifiers,[65] but was left out of Iñaki Sáez’s final squad.

Two years later, Reyes was picked for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but only appeared once in four matches – the 1–0 group stage win against Saudi Arabia, with Spain already qualified in first place.[66] He was again overlooked for the victorious Euro 2008 tournament, as manager Luis Aragonés preferred the likes of David Silva and Santi Cazorla on the wings.

UEFA Nations League – The Final Four

Following Europe’s success at last years FIFA World Cup, the continent has been captivated by the new UEFA Nations League. The new competition allows European teams to compete with one another in a league format; with teams of a similar ranking being matched in groups with each other, to level the playing field. 

As the inaugural competition draws to a close, we take a look at the semi-finalists and assess how they’ve managed to get this far in the ‘league’. The finals of this tournament are in Portugal, suiting the nation themselves, as they take on Switzerland in the first semi-final game on June 5th. Southgate’s England find themselves in yet another international semi-final, as they take on Holland on the following day. The winners of each game go head to head in the final on June 9th. 

Portugal

Portugal started in a group with Italy and Poland and finished the group stage in first place and undefeated; with a win and draw against each team. Fernando Santos’ team were relatively poor in last years FIFA World Cup, after finishing second in their group and being knocked by Uruguay in the Round of 16. However, two years prior to this they conquered Europe, winning their first international trophy at Euro 2016. They clearly have European dominance, and with players like Ronaldo, Quaresma and Bernado Silva, you’d expect them to overcome Switzerland on Wednesday.

Switzerland

It goes without saying that Switzerland are a surprise entry in the Semi’s, especially that their group consisted of The Belgian Red Devils, and Euro 2016 wonder-team Iceland. Only making the Round of 16 in the 2018 and 2014 FIFA World Cup, their international achievements have been limited. They do however have a good set of players, with recent UCL winning Xherdan Shaqiri, and Arsenal duo Granit Xhaka, and Stephan Lichsteiner. They will need to be on top form if they are to overcome Portugal in front of their fans, but a win would be a massive achievement for the nation. In the group stage, they spectacularly came back from 2-0 down, to win 5-2 against Belgium. Will they be able to bring the same fireworks to Porto?

Holland

Somewhat surprisingly after not making the qualification for the previous World Cup, The Netherlands found themselves in group A1, the toughest group in the new competition. Consisting of both of the previous World Cup winners France and Germany, it would be a tough challenge to make the semi-finals. After losing their first game to France, they bounced back to triumph over Germany and win the game 3-0. Koeman’s side went on to defeat the world champions the second time of asking, and a high scoring draw against Germany sent The Dutch through on goal difference. Holland have a strong, well-drilled side, with Premier League player of the year Virgil Van Dijk, and Ajax’s star midfielder Frenkiede Jong. Known for their possession based, tactical gameplay; will The Flying Dutchmen spoil Southgate’s party?

England

The speculation as to whether The Three Lions could replicate their 2018 World Cup success looked to be subdued, following the loss to Spain in the first game of the Nations League. With the following game against none other than Croatia (we all know what happened the last time), would Southgate be able to turn the tables, and avenge last summers eventual disappointment? The game finished as a disappointing 0-0 draw, and England’s Nations League campaign would be over unless they took all 6 points from their remaining two fixtures.  Two outstanding performances followed, with a 3-2 victory against The Spaniards, and a 2-1 triumph against new rivals Croatia; England had made another International Semi-Final. The other semi-finalists will struggle to match England’s squad depth; with Maguire, Alexander-Arnold and Stones in defence, Lingard, Henderson and young prodigy Jadon Sancho in midfield, and an attacking force of Sterling, Rashford and Golden Boot winner Harry Kane. With such talent from both of the teams, it should be a cracking game.