Monday, February 18, 2013

Champions League round of 16 Part 2

Week two that kicks off another flurry of matches for the Champions League

19 February 2013
Porto Málaga
Referee: TBD – Stadium: Estádio do Dragão, Porto (POR)
Arsenal Bayern
Referee: TBD – Stadium: Arsenal Stadium, London (ENG)
20 February 2013
Galatasaray Schalke
Referee: TBD – Stadium: Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi, Istanbul (TUR)
Milan Barcelona
Referee: TBD – Stadium: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan (ITA) 

Porto v Malaga: Malaga might no longer be solvent by the time this game is played...okay that was mean. Porto are quietly continuing to post solid results in Europe. Look for the Portuguese giants to dispatch of their Spanish rivals 4-2 on aggregate.

Arsenal v Bayern: Well you did it again Arsene, got Arsenal out of the group I guess that means it was a "successful" season once again for the Gunners. Alas. I think that the ride is over for the Gunners when they face the runners up from last year's Champions League. The likes of Robben, Muller, Schwieny, Ribery et al are set to try to get back to the finals. I just do not think that Arsenal have the steel to deal with the German giants. Bayern move on 5-1 on aggregate.

Galatasary v Schalke: Any time one of the Istanbul clubs goes deep into the Champions League it makes for interesting times! Add to this the new additions of Scheider and Drogba and all of a sudden you have a side that might make a deep run. They will face off against a solid Schalke side. But I cannot see the Turkish side not making some noise now that it has added some solid pieces to an already good side. Galatasary head to next round with a 2-1 aggregate victory. 

Milan v Barcelona: Maybe if this were the Milan of Gullit and Van Basten we would have a mouth watering match....hmmmm just think of that match up. Baresi, Maldini et al trying to stop Messi, Xavi and Iniesta...while the Puyol and Pique would have to find a way to containt Van Basten and Gullit....anyways. This version of Milan will have no answers for the Barcelona attack. Look for Messi and co to go through relatively easily 6-1 on aggregate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Barcelona Youth ... as if we needed more evidence of their talent pool

Crazy video, thanks to Brett for pointing me to think if these kids were in the US they would be playing this at recess. Or for teams that don't keep score!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Champions League round of 16 Part 1

Here we go...the Champions League gets ramped up again with the first round of knock outs

12 February 2013
Celtic Juventus
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP) – Stadium: Celtic Park, Glasgow (SCO)
Valencia PSG
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (ITA) – Stadium: Estadi de Mestalla, Valencia (ESP)
13 February 2013
Shakhtar Donetsk Dortmund
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)
Real Madrid Man. United
Referee: Felix Brych (GER) – Stadium: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid (ESP)

Some interesting clashes, none more interesting than the Real Madrid v Man United tie!

Celtic v Juventus: The Italian giants are playing well these days, quietly. While the Scottish giants are without their traditional rivals, as Rangers have been dropped into what appears to be purgatory! Both sides had some surprises in the group stages, most notably Celtic defeating Barcelona at home. Unfortunately I think the Old Lady is poised for a deep run. Juventus get through 3-1 on aggragate

Valencia v PSG: Ah the Manchester City on the Siene. They are starting to click in Ligue 1 and I think they will do so in Champions League. Valencia is no push over, and could be a dark horse themselves. They did have a relatively easy group BATE and LOSC not providing much resistance Valencia and Bayern. I just think that Ibra and co will find a way to get through. PSG go forward 3-3 on away goals.

Shakhtar v Dortmund: The Ukraine giants always seem to be in the mix...but get no respect. Unfortunately I think Dortmund will get through on their creative genius Gotze. Remember that Dortmund finished tops of what was seen as the group of death, besting the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax. Nothing to sneeze at. Dortmund advance 5-2 on aggragate.

Real Madrid v Manchester United: Wow, talk about story lines. The Special One facing off against the team many believe is the one he will head to once SAF retires. Ronaldo heading back to Manchester! The key is that the first leg is in Spain, which I think plays to the United favor. SAF will probably look to play conservative, maybe hold RVP or Rooney on the bench to try and get a late goal, head back to Manchester even and win back home. But could Ronaldo have something to say, he is wonderful form currently...but so is RVP. Real Madrid go through on PKs when it ends 4-4 on aggragate, Ronaldo strikes home the winning PK something he did not have the chance to do at the Euros!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Deschamps back to the 4-2-3-1 with some surprises

DD will head into tomorrow's match against Germany with an "old fashion" 4-2-3-1. According to reports look for the Arsenal right back Sagna back on the starting sheet as well as Newcastle midfielder Sissoko lining up for a start. Interesting.

Sagna, Koscielny, Sakho, Evra
Cabaye, Matuidi
Sissoko, Valbuena, Ribery

Can he run the midfield?
I am a little surprised that we are not seeing a more "muscular" midfield, as I had suggested in my blog post.  Much will be expected of Cabaye and Matuidi to check Ozil in particular. Much like what France did in Spain, look for the PSG midfielder to be asked to do the yeoman's work in the midfield and try to shut down any creativity from the Mannschaft. Cabaye will be the link, but will need to ensure he keeps his defensive responsibilities top of mind. Three things to look for:

  • Can Valbuena handle the #10 role? I am not sure he is disciplined enough to hold that spot and with Ribery on the left will he fight his urge to roam a bit on the pitch? Valbuena's showing against Italy was top shelf and he deserves getting the start, but not sure if in the middle of the midfield is best.
  • How will the right side function? With Sagna back in the starting line up and Sissoko getting a start...on the right...not really where I envision him long term. Deschamps will be looking at a brand new right side of his formation. How will this work? With Menez and Debuchy sitting on the bench, it will be interesting to see if DD goes to those two if things are stale on the right.
  • Is Dechamps settling on Kos-Sakho as his central defense pairing? At the beginning of his tenure, DD leaned on Yanga-Mbiwa/Sakho defensive pairing, which showed much promise. Due to circumstances, DD inserted the Arsenal defender in the back. Without Yanga-Mbiwa on the initial list from Deschamps, is the Kos-Sakho pairing becoming cemented as the #1 choice pairing? Let us see how this works out tomorrow.
It will be interesting to see how France answers these three questions. Of course a fourth question is - can Benzema find his scoring touch for France??

We will know tomorrow!

Allez les Bleus!!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Les Bleus get ready for test versus Germany

France v Germany, evokes many emotions...not all that good coming from a Frenchman! Then again at least on the football pitch, Les Bleus have had some good success. Most recently a 2-1 victory away to Germany. For this weeks match, Deschamps called upon many of the usual names...with a few surprises:

Les joueurs retenus :
Landreau, Lloris, Mandanda
Clichy, Debuchy, Evra, Koscielny, Rami, Sagna, Sakho, Varane
Cabaye, Capoue, Gonalons, Matuidi, Sissoko, Valbuena
Alessandrini, Benzema, Giroud, Gomis, Ménez, Ribéry.

The big surprise - the Rennes striker: Alessandrini. The left footed player has made his first appearance on the French national team list. Most recently, Varane had to withdraw and will be replaced by the Newcastle man - Yanga-Mbiwa.  It will be interesting to see who Deschamps leans on - does he stick with his tried and true formation or does he tinker? I say he goes with the former.

Back to running Les Bleus midfield
On defense I think you will see many of the same - Lloris in goal, Evra as your left back and Debuchy on the right. The question is, who does Deschamps look to as he center back pairing? Sakho will most likely get the nod, but does Yanga-Mbiwa get a start, even thought he was not in the original list? Or will we see Koscielny as we did in Spain? I think we will see the Arsenal man shoulder the PSG defender.

In the midfield - if Deschamps runs a 4-3-3 we should see a very "muscular" midfield of Capoue, Matuidi as well as the return of Cabaye. The Newcastle man should be seen as the player who will run the midfield with Capoue and Matuidi doing much of the dirty clean up work.

The front three should be Menez on the right, Ribery on the left and Benzema in the center. Look for Giroud to make a late game entry as well.

Should be a great test for Deschamps and Les Bleus.

Allez les bleus!!