Champions League Review Part 2


Liverpool 3 vs. 0 Man City

After the two fixtures between these teams in the premier league this champions league tie was always going to be a feisty one. Liverpool supporters hounded the city team bus as they arrived at Anfield, and while throwing glass bottles and damaging the bus can not be condoned the atmosphere created on arrival is what makes football special and would have intimidated even the greatest of players. It is said that European nights at Anfield are a spectacle to behold and last night was another one to be added to the list. 

As You’ll Never Walk Alone was belted out by Liverpool fans the two teams took their positions on the pitch and the game began. City were alert and on the front foot in the opening ten minutes of the game, while Liverpool were quick to close down every single City player in possession of the ball. At the 12th minute a poor cross field pass by Sané was intercepted by the Liverpool defense, Liverpool did what they do best and broke forward with Salah who passed the ball into Firmino. Firmino’s shot was saved by Ederson only to Walker who failed to clear the ball, Salah was on hand to smash the ball in the goal and Liverpool led by a goal. As the momentum began to swing in Liverpool’s favor Chamberlain was able to break from midfield to score from outside the box to make it 2-0 to Liverpool in the 20 min. The blitz continued to take place and lobbed pass in the box from Salah was headed in the goal by Mané to give Liverpool 3 goals in 30 min. The rest of the first half continued in similar fashion as City were not able to get to grips with the game as they tried to repel attack after attack from Liverpool. 

While the first half showcased Liverpool’s strength in attack, the second half portrayed their stubborn defence as City dominated possession for 45 minutes without ever posing any real threat to the Liverpool goal. Robertson did bring down Sterling in the box late on for what looked like a penalty, but it was waved away. Full time brought an end to another memorable night at Anfield. 

The three fixtures between the two teams shows that Klopp and Liverpool learned and progressed from every single game played. Losing 5-0 at the Etihad, winning 4-3 at Anfield, and now winning 3-0 at Anfield. While Pep has brought his style of play to City, his approach of all out attack has gone wrong on occasion throughout his career. City need a minimum of 3 goals without reply at the Etihad next week, and while they are more than capable of doing that Liverpool will also fancy their chances of getting an away goal or two. City might be dominating the Premier League, last night proved that they are a long way away from having any real pedigree in Europe. 

Barcelona 4 vs. 1 Roma

The scoreline would suggest a dominant performance by Barcelona at home, but it could not be far from it. The first two goals were own goals scored by De Rossi, and Manolas while the rest were scored by Piqué and Suarez in the second half. Džeko was able to get an away goal for Roma but the damage was already done. 

Barcelona have coasted through La Liga this season but recent performances have shown a team that have struggled to get the points they need and they have relied on luck as much as skill. 

While 4-1 might seem to be an unassailable task for Roma they should be encouraged by the fact that Barcelona were definitely not in control for much of the game. Barcelona could go through to the semi’s but they are definitely not favourites to win the Champions League.  


Champions League Review Part 1


Juventus 0 vs. 3 Real Madrid 

Similar to last seasons Champions League Final Juventus capitulated to Real Madrid and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. 

As early as the 3rd minute Isco received the ball on the left and crossed it into the box for Ronaldo to apply a poacher’s finish. The rest of the first half petered out as both teams fought for position without really posing any threat to each other. 

Madrid showed up in the second half with another gear to their play, they dominated position and attacked the Juventus goal with consistency. The breakthrough came in the 64th minute when a rare misunderstanding between Buffon and Chiellini allowed Ronaldo to get in on goal. Buffon was able to recover but Ronaldo kept it alive and the ball fell to Carvajal on the right, Carvajal whipped in a cross and Ronaldo scored a goal of the season contender with a bicycle kick to give Real Madrid a comfortable lead. Dybala was sent off in the 66th minute for a second yellow, and in the 72nd minute brilliant interplay between Marcelo and Ronaldo ended with a good finish by Marcelo to give Madrid a 3rd away goal. 

In all honesty the tie is most likely over. For Juventus to stand a chance to make a comeback they would have required at least two goals to be scored on their behalf. They now will go to the Bernabéu needing to score a minimum of three goals without reply from Madrid to take the fixture to extra time. 

Ronaldo is now the leading goal scorer in Europe this season and has silenced anyone who doubted his ability. Madrid and Zidane are on course to reach the semis of this seasons Champions League. 

Sevilla 1 vs. 2 Bayern Munich 

Sevilla once again proved that they are no push overs in this season’s Champions League with an impressive attacking performance in Seville, only to be edged out by a resilient display by Bayern. 

One yellow card each in the first 15 minutes set off what turned out to be balanced fixture. Sevilla gained the lead in the 32nd minute when a Escudero cross was smartly finished by Sarabia on the left hand side. Whether Sarabia had handled the ball in his first touch is debatable, but nevertheless the goal was given. 

Ribéry had been causing problems down right side throughout the game and an attempted cross in the 37th minute led to an goal by Navas to bring Bayern back into the game give them a crucial away goal. 

The second half was equally balanced but a Ribéry cross in the 68th minute was headed home by Alcântara to give Bayern the win and two away goals to take to Munich. 

The fixture at the moment is in favour of Bayern Munich who have been dominant all season at home. Sevilla need to score a minimum of two goals in Munich if they are to stand a chance of winning the game. Bayern will feel confident with the away goals and a solid defensive display at home to compliment a goal or two could be enough to take them to semi final. 

Champions League QF Preview Part 2

Wednesday brings another exciting day of Champions League football. 

Liverpool vs. Man City 

This fixture should be epic! 

Liverpool in years since Benitez left had been a side with plenty of history but not one which offered no real threat to any top teams in the Premier League. That of course changed under Brendan Rodgers and they came ever so close to ending their poor run only to slip up (pun intended) at the last moment. Liverpool decided it was time to make some changes so they appointed Jürgen Klopp in the winter of 2015. What followed has been gradual improvement, an implementation of a philosophy (gegenpressing*), and a mixture of smart buy’s and promotion of youth. Klopp and Pochettino are similar in that they have not won anything in recent years but what they have built at their respective clubs should bring them trophies sooner rather than later. This season Liverpool have reeked havoc in the Premier League and Europe obliterating teams with their front three of Sadio Mané, Mohammed Salah, and Robert Firmino.

It was thought that losing Coutinho to Barcelona would cause a few problems but that has not been the case. Liverpool’s standout player this season has been Mohammed Salah. 34 goals in 36 games is an amazing return for any player and Salah is on course to reach 40+ goals this season. The front three of Liverpool are what make them tick as elsewhere on the pitch Liverpool do tend to lack quality. Karius has been able to push Mignolet out to become the first choice goalkeeper but he is definitely not a great goalkeeper. Defence wise Liverpool usually have a back four of Robertson, Matip, Van Dijk, and Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool’s defence has been known to concede goals although Robertson has been a standout performer in the left back slot. The midfield is an area where Liverpool probably need to add some creativity and grit. The summer arrival of Keita should fix that problem but for now they can rely on experienced players like Milner, Henderson and Oxlade Chamberlain to do the job. 

One would need a dedicated blog to describe how amazing City have been this season. Manchester City unlike Liverpool tend not to dwell much on finances and usually can buy who they want when they want. They did just that last season by hiring Pep Guardiola and gave him money to buy players he wanted in the team. Last season Pep was still implementing his philosophy at Manchester City and it at times seemed that the pace and unpredictability of the Premier League caught him off guard. Last summer Pep brought in numerous defensive reinforcements as well as sold the dead weight of the squad. After spending around 400 million pounds in total City are have torn apart the Premier League this season. Almost all players in the team have been consistent throughout the season whether it be Ederson and the defence providing clean sheets, the creativity of De Bruyne and Silva providing goals and assists, or the attacking prowess of Sané, Sterling, Aguero, and Jesus. 

The recent league meeting at Anfield was a showcase of attacking masterclass finishing in a 4-3 win for Liverpool. The defence of both teams made several errors throughout the game and Liverpool led 4-1 till the 84th minute. As mentioned before Liverpool’s defence has been suspect and that almost led to them losing 2 of the 3 points. 

Do not expect any of the players to hold back, Liverpool will be hoping to defend their heart out at Anfield while nicking a goal or two. The same can be said for City, both teams will not want to slip up but there can only be one winner. 

Barcelona vs. AS Roma 

Barcelona lead their league by 9 points are unbeaten this season with only 8 games to play. While Barcelona used to be known as the Tiki Taka playing attacking machine under Pep, Valverde has balanced the team out bringing better performances defensively as well. Barcelona’s main threat remains Lionel Messi as was proved in the 2-2 draw in Seville at the weekend. Without Messi Barcelona are much less daunting and as was showcased in the round of 16 tie against Chelsea where if it were not for Messi and Chelsea’s inefficiency Barca could have been knocked out. 

With nothing left to play for in Serie A except remaining 3rd, Roma can focus all their energy on this tie. Their champions league performances this season have shown that they have plenty of attacking talent in the form of Dzeko, Shaarawy, Perotti etc. Their midfield and defence is also packed with players in good form such as Nainggolan, and Manolas. 

Roma and Barca both had decent opposition in the round of 16 with Shakhtar, and Chelsea respectively. As Roma will be looking to get an away goal at the Camp Nou which is no easy task while Barcelona will try to score a few at home to take to Rome for the return leg. This tie could be close but if Messi is on form and plays well in both legs Barcelona will probably reach the next stage. 

Champions League QF Preview Part 1

It is back!

Juventus vs. Real Madrid 

Last year’s final played over two legs. Juventus have maintained their dominance of Serie A this season although that might come to end if Napoli manage to win it. Real Madrid have not been able to mount a successful La Liga defense and Barcelona probably will end up winning it this season. Real Madrid and Chelsea have had similar seasons but while Chelsea have some how managed to fall further down this year Real Madrid have roared back led by a rejuvenated Cristiano Ronaldo. 21 goals from 13 games in 2018 has thrashed any talk of Ronaldo losing his touch, playing more centrally and relying on instinct rather than pace has helped in Ronaldo’s return to form and it could not come at a better time. The whole Madrid team seems to have found some sort of form with players like Bale also managing to notch a few goals in recent weeks, the only outlier seems to be Benzema who has been poor throughout the season. Real comfortably knockedout out PSG 5-2 on aggregate in the round of 16, a fixture that many thought PSG would win. Real however showcased why they have won the trophy in the last two seasons. 

Napoli have not let Juventus run away with Serie A this season but Juventus have still managed to gain some breathing space with 4 points separating the two teams. Juve’s star players this season have been Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain contributing 42 goals between them. Juve’s round of 16 fixture was against Tottenham Hotspur and a 2-2 draw in Turin in the first leg suggested that Spurs had the upper hand going into the second leg. That was certainly the case in the first half at Wembley when Son scored to give Spurs the lead and send fans into raptures. Allegri though has not come to be known as shrewd tactician for nothing and a strong defensive performance in the second half led to a goal by Higuain in the 64th minute. Dybala sealed the comeback in the 67th minute to knock Spurs out of the Champions league.

Real Madrid and Juventus were written off by several pundits in the round of 16 only to prove that experience plays a major part in the outcome of such games. Juventus have suffered heartbreak in two champions league final’s recently losing to Barca in one and Real the other, though a game over two legs should be different prospect. First legs are usually cagey affairs, Juventus will prioritise a clean sheet while Real will want to get an away goal or two. This will most definitely be the fixture to watch on Tuesday. 

Sevilla vs. Bayern Munich 

Sevilla sit 6th in La Liga so in most cases they will be prioritising their quarter final games against Bayern. A 2-2 draw with Barcelona at the weekend should encourage them but it should be noted that they were winning 2-0 till the 88th minute. Sevilla played Manchester United in the round of 16 and many thought there was really going to be only one outcome of that fixture. After a 0-0 draw in Seville which Sevilla dominated pundits suggested that United had the advantage going into the second leg at Old Trafford. In my opinion the fact that United had not managed to score an away goal was a disadvantage and Sevilla’s dominance in the first leg suggested that they were more than capable of getting a goal at United. The second leg remained a cagey affair although only one team looked like breaking the deadlock, and they did in the 74th minute when Ben Yedder gave Sevilla the lead. Ben Yedder doubled the lead in the 78th minute, and while Lukaku did manage to get a goal back it was no more than a consolation. 

17 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich can easily focus on dismantling Sevilla in Seville. Bayern played Besiktas in the round of 16 and an 8-1 aggregate scoreline should tell you all you need to know. Bayern had a poor start to their season according to their standards and sacked manager Carlo Ancelotti replacing him with a caretaker manager in the form of Jupp Heynckes (a Bayern legend). Their leading scorer has been Lewandowski with 31 goals in all competitions although other players like Muller, Rodriguez, Ribéry etc have hit a purple patch recently. A 6-0 win at the weekend against Dortmund would have only encouraged Bayern going into this fixture. 

Sevilla showed great character and attacking prowess against Manchester United, though it has to be said that United themselves have not been amazing this season. Bayern though should be a team too far for Sevilla and while it might be close in the first leg, over two legs there is no doubt that Bayern should reach the semi final of the Champions League.