Manchester United vs Bayer Leverkusen: Match Preview

The post-Sir Alex Ferguson era has been filled with twists and turns up until this point. The favoured one, David Moyesis about to embark on his first MAJOR EUROPEAN adventure tonight when Steffan KeiSling’s Leverkusen visit Old Trafford for the first time in 11 long years.

The draw has pitted a European powerhouse with three other ambitious clubs and the great SAF has warned his successor that this is possibly the toughest group stage draw he has ever seen. He couldn’t be wrong.

High flying Real Sociedad who accounted for Lyon’s elimination in the play-offs and MirceaLucescu’s Shakhtar Donetsk complete the tricky group. Any slip-ups will be fatal.

Manchester United are coming off an unconvincing 2-0 win v Crystal Palace at Old Trafford and sit 5th in the standings. That is dismal compared to what Bayer have done so far in the Bundesliga.

Four wins out of five and they only sit behind Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich on the table. It has been a dream start for former Liverpool skipper and Finnish Legend, Sami Hypia who took over first as caretaker boss last year and is now fully at the helm in Leverkusen. His exceptional leadership qualities can be seen in the organization and displays of his wards thus far.

The red devils don’t have fond memories of the last time both clubs met as it was Klaus Toppmoller’s Bayer that sent them packing out of the 01-02 UCL when they were within touching distance of a 2nd Champions League final in four years. The heroics of Roy Keane and co fell short that night. Revenge it is then?

Nani is suspended for this tie after the CuneytCakir drama last time out. This game might come too soon for Jones, Rafa and Danny Welbeck and with Manchester City lying in wait on Sunday, changes are expected to cope with the tight fixture schedule.

27.5 Million man, Marouane Fellaini is set to make his first ever appearance from the start for his new club and it is very likely that he will be alongside the indispensable Michael Carrick. The TC23 brand has to wait for his chance yet again after failing to impress in his first couple of games (bar Chelsea).

Wayne Rooney will don his protective headband once more as he continues his attempts to win back his confidence and his teammates trust. Robin Van Persie cannot wait to make up for the shocking misses v Real Madrid and the Japanese witch doctor, Shinji Kagawa is waiting to hear his name read out as a starter after the early season disappointments. Rio Ferdinand is aware of the fact that he cannot play all the games.

With J.Evans fit, Rio should be rested for the crunch Derby in five days time.

For Bayer, Sami Hyypia cannot believe that his first European adventure takes him to Old Trafford where he has been a worthy adversary for a decade. In fact, the Liverpool Legend’s last 90 minutes as a player in the English League came against Manchester United in that memorable 4-1 demolition of the red army.

He has fond memories of his playing days and won 4 games at the Theatre of Dreams. He meets his fellow ROOKIE European campaigner in David Moyes, who despite qualifying Everton for the UCL eight years ago, never got the chance to coach a team in the Group Stages. The yellow Submarine(s) (Villareal) and Juan Roman Riquelme made sure that goal was never achieved.

The likes of Sidney Sam and KeiSling have scored 8 goals between them in the Bundesliga this term and that is somewhat outrageous considering how many pundits predicted they will struggle following the sale of Schurrle to Chelsea.

Former Hamburg star, Heung-Min Son was brought in to replace the aforementioned player and he has done really well since then.
Sam, who has Nigerian roots, has stepped up his game beyond belief and is a major threat alongside forgotten German predator, KeiSling.

Lars Bender (second half of the Bender twins) faces a late fitness test and should pass it with flying colours. You don’t get the chance to face Manchester United every day.

Omer Toprak was rested at the weekend and should be recalled. Dom Kohr and Niklas Lomb miss lout through injury. The vastly improved Leno has to punch above his weight to keep out the rampaging United RVP-Rooney led frontline. Spahic and co will provide the needed shield.

For Sami Hypia and David Moyes, this match is more than Manchester United v Bayer Leverkusen affair. It is definitely a Liverpool-Everton rivalry and a chance for the Finn to get one over the red devils as he loved to do when he was at Merseyside.
The atmosphere will be electric to say the least and Sami knows better than to expect a rousing applause.

 

PREDICTED LINEUPS

MANCHESTER UNITED: DDG, Fabio, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Carrick, Fellaini, Kagawa, Rooney, Giggs, RVP

David De Gea has yet to concede at Old Trafford this season and the experience of Ryan Giggs will be vital in this game. He is the only survivor from both sides meeting eleven years ago. With 134

Champions League appearances, no one has featured more for one club in Europe’s elite club competition. Another one for the EVERGREEN LEGEND who turns 40 in November.

 

BAYER LEVERLUSEN: Leno, Donati, Toprak, Spahic, Boenisch, Bender, Reinartz, Castro, Heung-Min, Sam, KeiSling

The trio of Sam, KeiSling and Son Hueng-Min must be closely watched. Castro is no stranger to spectacular goals. How he can be kept at bay is left for Fellaini and Carrick to find out.

Referee DamirSkomina was last spotted at Old Trafford in February 2012 when Frank De Boer’s Ajax stunned the United faithful in a 2-1 win. He dished out 16 yellow cards and a single red in the five matches he officiated last season. That means he is not afraid to dish them out as at when due.

Manchester United have been abysmal at home for sometime now. Just 3 wins out of the last 9 home games in the competition is a terrible record.

Four out of the last 6 have been lost and that has to be transformed if they intend to go far this time around. The exit of last season was controversial and the wound is still fresh. Making amends is all that is required.

However, Bayer 04 are party spoilers and they have everything needed to claim a historic first victory on English soil tonight. That is if United let them.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Zenit: Can they finally make an impact in Europe’s best club competition?

It’s that time of year again! That Champions League time of year. And for Zenit Saint Petersburg, it’s yet another chance to show Europe just what this club can do.

After stunning the continent to claim the UEFA Cup and Super Cup in 2008 Zenit has struggled in European competition, failing to make the quarter finals of any European tournament following that golden year and consistently failing to make the grade in the Champions League.

Just the one apperance in the last 16 in their history is deemed just not good enough in Saint Petersburg, and this year has to be the year when the 3 time Russian champions can finally really make an impact in the biggest club competition in the world. The Russians can’t say the group stage draw hasn’t been kind to them, with every major name being avoided.

That’s not to say that familiar foe Porto and Spaniards Atletico Madrid won’t be hard to get past though, in an incredibly even looking group that in which every point will be vital. Group minnows Austria Wien won’t want to be the whipping boys though, and Hulk and co have a real job on their hands if they’re going to make new Zenit history before the final come next May.

The opening match on the 18th of September won’t be the first for Zenit in this year’s competition however. After relinquishing their Russian champions crown to CSKA Moscow last season, a run through the gruelling qualifiers was awaiting starting as early as July.

Zenit’s only past experience of the early rounds of the Champions League was back in 2010 and it wasn’t a positive one, being sensationally knocked out by French side Auxerre.

This time round though things went much more to plan, thrashing 2012 Danish champions Nordsjælland 6-0 on aggregrate, and negotiating a potentially tricky tie with Paços de Ferreira comfortably 8-3.

Now though things are going to get a lot tougher, and even against debutants Austria Wien, the Russians aren’t going to have it all their own way.

Here’s my own opinion, on just how Zenit will fare against each opponent in group G, a group in which no clear favourite is visible.

 

Zenit-Atletico Madrid

Maybe it’s a good thing, to get the hardest match out of the way first. Zenit travel to Spain with a pretty dismal away record on the road in Europe despite having won both away legs in the qualifiers, and face a real uphill battle if they’re going to return to Russia with any points to show for their efforts.

Atletico for me stand out as slight group favourites especially after playing excellently against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, and despite the loss of Falcao to Monaco, the Spaniards are looking strong. David Villa, signed from Barcelona, should make fill Falcao’s gap, and the often shaky looking Zenit back line it’s going to be a long night.

Rubin Kazan’s victory in Madrid in last season’s Europa League should give Zenit hope, but a point from Madrid would be a very acceptable result. In Saint Petersburg though, Zenit should be looking at getting the three points and nothing else.

Two gripping encounters await us, between the two teams which should both progress into the last 16 together.

 

Zenit-Porto

These two clubs are just starting to get to know each other quite well, meeting in the group stages for the second time in three years. And a repeat result of Zenit’s success then should be on the cards.

The loss of James Rodriguez and João Moutinho has further enhanced Porto’s status as a selling club rather than a club with real ambitions of once again conquering Europe like they did almost 10 years ago.

If Zenit just about got the better of Porto two years ago with Hulk on the opposite team, with him now on their side the Russians should be able to rely on their strength to come through.

In Portugal a hard night awaits where the atmosphere is always red hot, but in Russia just like against Atletico, only a win should be deemed acceptable.

The games against the Portuguese champions fall together as the double header in on matchdays 3 and 4, two games which will surely decide the fate of both sides.

 

Zenit-Austria Wien

It’s hard to know what to expect from a team that practically no one knows about, but last year’s struggles against Anderlecht should be enough for Zenit to treat these games with the utmost respect. The Austrians came through the qualifiers squeezing past Faroe Islands’ outfit FH, before seeing off regular group stage participants Dinamo Zagreb 4-3 on aggregate.

Experienced striker Roman Kienast will be the main threat along with Philipp Hosiner who scored 32 goals domestically last season , and in Vienna, Zenit won’t have it easy at all. In Russia things should be pretty straight forward if the mindset for the game is at it should be, but only time will tell just how dangerous this Austrian club can really be, and if they can realistically challenge for European football next spring.

 

Conclusion

A lot depends on just Zenit themselves rather than their opponents, though. Last season’s disappointing group stage campaign where they fell just a point short of the last 16 should serve as a good lesson for a club which desperately needs to make a real impact in this competition sooner or later.

New young goalkeeper Yury Lodygin has proved an instant hit with the Saint Petersburg faithful with some wonderful stops, with one stunning point blank save against Pacos in the qualifiers standing out, and Igor Smolnikov, a right back signed from Krasnodar, has also made a great start to life with Zenit.

With troublemaker Igor Denisov now with Dynamo and Hulk staying put despite many summer rumours, coupled with excellent recent results, the Russians look to finally have the team spirit back, and appear set for a season which could make history.

Providing in team fights can be kept to a minimum, together with consistency on the pitch, the last 16 should be the least the club can expect, and a run to at least the quarter finals is what Zenit should really be demanding.

 

Written by Shaun Nicolaides

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Chelsea: Why has Lukaku joined Everton?

After Romelu Lukaku’s successes with West Bromwich Albion last season, many expected him to play an increased role at Stamford Bridge this season, under the reinstated Jose Mourinho. The signs were good during pre-season with the Belgian getting a fair amount of game-time and looking ready for the coming season.

However, rumours started to circulate on deadline day about a possible loan move back to the Hawthorns, with Everton also interested. In the closing minutes of the window, it was confirmed that the striker would be spending the 2013-14 season at Goodison Park.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one shocked by this news, because I fully expected Lukaku to make an impact in a Chelsea shirt this season, despite not playing much competitive football for the club so far this year. There must have been a reason for Mourinho to allow one of his prodigies out on loan, which I presume was due to the quality of strikers that the Portuguese manager has at his disposal.

Last season, Chelsea relied on Fernando Torres and Demba Ba to produce the goods, and now the pair have been joined by the Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o. The 32-year-old has enjoyed a successful career in Europe, playing for Barcelona and Internazionale among other clubs, and enjoying great success on the pitch in the process.

He’s spent the last two years in Russia’s top division with big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala, but since their owner decided to transfer-list many of the club’s top earners, Eto’o has upped sticks and made the move to London. This simply increases the competition for places in the team, which could leave Lukaku out in the cold.

There is also a chance (be it a slim one) that Lukaku being temporarily exiled to Liverpool is a punishment for the Belgian’s crucial miss in the UEFA Super Cup penalty shoot-out loss to Bayern Munich a couple of weeks ago.

It was Lukaku’s weak penalty that was easily dealt with by Neuer that confined Chelsea to defeat. A miss like that can crush a player’s confidence, so if that miss is the reasoning for sending the 19-year-old back out on loan, then it can only be to rebuild his confidence, surely?

Whatever the motivation for the move is, it can’t have anything but a positive effect on Lukaku’s career in my opinion. It will give him the chance to get another full season of Premier League football under his belt, which will help him challenge the strikers currently at Chelsea when he returns to London next season.

The young Belgian has a very bright future ahead of him, but he has to make sure Chelsea don’t damage him by turning the striker into a serial-loanee.

 

Written by Ben Warner

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UEFA Super Cup Preview: Pep and Mou clash once more

Sometimes I wonder who writes these scripts. You know, Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola returns from his sabbatical and Mourinho is back at his ‘beloved’ Chelsea. What happens next? They face-off in Europe for a very important ‘winner takes-all’ game. Whoever is victorious will not only smile home with the trophy, but also the upper hand in their never ending rivalry.

Mourinho stoked the fire recently by throwing tantrums at Pep, questioning his coaching abilities. The revered Managerial great hasn’t replied the Portuguese coaching legend, but Uli Hoeness, President of Bayern Munich has defended his current manager in the light of comments made by Jose. All these and more will make Friday’s game hugely entertaining.

For all those who are ardent followers and keen admirers of the Super Cup, you must be used to the fact that it has always been played in the principality (Monaco). The St Louis II Stadium has hosted the game since 1998. However, that has changed this year. Friday’s showpiece match will now be played at the Eden Arena, Prague-Czech Republic.

As a result of Super Cup commitment, Bayern had to play Freiburg in the Bundesliga and that ended in a disappointing draw for the Bavarians. Pep rested some of the big names for the big one in Prague.

Jose Mourinho also had to take his men to Old Trafford with the intention of becoming the first club to achieve the distinction of defeating Manchester United on their own turf two times in a Calendar year. It finished nil-nil in a rather stoic affair. Attention has shifted to the Super Cup clash.

For Mourinho, he is about to win a trophy he will not have deserved, considering the fact that is another of his adversary, Rafa Benitez, who led the blues to EUROPA LEAGUE glory in Amsterdam. It is a classic tale of ‘what goes around, comes around’.

When the now Napoli boss (BENITEZ) took over as Inter boss in the Summer of 2010 following Mourinho’s exit, the latter criticised his successor, complaining that if Benitez hoists any of the trophies he qualified the Nerazzurri for, the glory would be his, rather than that of the new boss.

The Spaniard went on to lose the Super Cup, but made amends in the World Club Cup. Now the table has turned and it is Jose who might be at the wrong end of the words he blatantly uttered three years ago. Knowing how proud and arrogant he is, he might just hand the trophy over to Bayern if he can.

Bayern Munich and Chelsea are the last two clubs to win the UEFA Champions League and coincidentally, it was Chelsea who inflicted one of the most crushing defeats on FC Hollywood last year in a pulsating final at the Allianz Arena.

Incidentally, it was Drogba’s last kick for the 3-time Premier League Champions which sealed the club’s maiden UCL triumph. The Ivorian has since moved on to China and most recently, Turkey, wearing the famous colours of Fatih Terim’s Galatasaray. No matter what they say in public, the Bavarians will want nothing short of victory in Friday’s ‘very important game’.

More significant because Chelsea are now better equipped than two seasons ago and ‘The Special One’ has returned to the helm. Bayern have also strengthened. Bringing in the likes of Mario Gotze, Thiago Alcantara (out for 7 weeks) and shipping off both Luis Gustavo and Mario Gomez to Wolfsburg and Fiorentina, respectively. Mourinho has been very busy in the Transfer Market too, recruiting the likes of Mario Van Ginkel, Andre Schurrle, Wallace and Willian.

Irrespective of all these, it is the continued exemption of Mata from the Starting eleven that is a source of worry for fans and admirers of the 2-time Chelsea player of the year. The club’s most consistent performer of the last two seasons now finds himself on the periphery of the new manager’s plans. We have been hearing that he is carrying an injury.

That doesn’t take the biscuit in my opinion. Mou clearly prefers the industry of Kev De Bruyne and I can understand why. It’s his choice and he clearly has his own strategy. Suitors are coming thick and fast for the brilliant playmaker (Mata).

Chelsea will need to be at the top of their game to avoid a repeat of ‘THE FALCAO SHOW’ which happened last year in Monaco. It was Chelsea-Atletico Madrid then with the Blues=European Champions and Los Rojiblancos, Europa League winners. That was where the difference ended.

Colombian Tiger, Radamel Falcao continued from where he left off in the Europa League, scoring a perfect hat-trick v the pensioners in a match that ended 4-1 in favour of El Cholo’s Colchoneros. Little did he know that one year on, the Principality would be his home for the foreseeable future.

We don’t expect a high scoring encounter considering the capabilities of both teams’ rearguard – but in football, we have learnt never to say never. It will be the Blues’ second straight appearance in what a few of us have tagged ‘THE CHAMPIONS GONG’. Bayern haven’t been in this situation in twelve years, so we can pardon them if they treat it with utmost necessity.

The heavy burden of being ‘European Champions’ and ‘The Best team in the World’ might weigh down on their shoulders anytime soon. They, nevertheless, would want a longer reign than Barcelona in this regard.

To continue to occupy the throne, they must first defeat Chelsea and then focus on December’s Club World Cup. The win is more important because they were undone by Dortmund in the Domestic Super Cup a few weeks ago. That memory still lingers on, until something of note temporarily erases it.

The Bavarians will be extremely delighted to play a Drogba-less Chelsea after all the harm the Ivorian has caused in meetings of the past seven years. Oliver Khan once stated that Double D (Drogba) is the best striker he faced in his immensely exceptional career. That is some compliment considering the fact that Ronaldo Da Lima sent him to the cleaners eleven years ago in the World Cup title match.

But there is a man who can have as big an influence as Didier in Mourinho’s squad. He is Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian starlet scored 17 League goals for West Brom last season, including a 45 minute hat-trick against Manchester United. Any one who has such an impressive RESUME can do damage at any level, given the chance.

If he gets the nod to spearhead the attack, the likes of Dante and Boateng must keep a close eye on him. The trio of Oscar-Hazard-Ramires have featured in all three Mourinho managed games so far. Goes to show how highly he rates them. Lampard’s starting berth might be threatened now, with the arrival of WILLIAN. Th ex-Anzhi and Shakhtar playmaker signed for the Europa League winners rather than Tottenham Hotspur

For Chelsea, the likes of Franck Ribery (Nominee for UEFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR alongside Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo), Arjen Robben (who Mourinho and Chelsea know so well), Mario Mandzukic, Bastian Schweinsteiger (doubtful for the clash)-unarguably the best midfielder in Europe this year, and Thomas Mueller are the biggest threats to their ambition of becoming holders of the 2013 UEFA SUPER CUP.

The ROBBERY(ROBBEN-RIBERY) gang were unplayable last season and have continued in similar fashion this term. Last Saturday, they scored two beauties to win the Bavarian Derby vs a stubborn Nurnberg. Robben’s the peak of the double. Thomas Mueller has grown into one of the best players in the world since his excellent performance at the 2010 World Cup.

When he is called upon, he rarely fails to deliver. Mandzukic was the reason why Gomez headed to Italy. The Croat has grown in leaps and bounds since his arrival from the Volkswagen Arena last summer. Has been a regular in all of Pep’s starting line-ups since the beginning of the season. Schweini is the dominant force in the Bayern midfield.

Never one to shy away from the big ones. An excellent ball distributor, a great tackler and one with an eye for goal is the complete package. The Bundesliga Champions are such a lucky bunch. It is a pity that Thiago will be unavailable for the Treble winners. However, there are so many options in midfield and attack. He won’t be missed.

For both teams, pride and history are at stake…and then the small matter of managerial supremacy between two of the greatest managers of all time. Although, Pep has the big H2H advantage, if he loses this to Mourinho, it would perhaps be the most excruciating loss of his career yet.

The Chelsea coach will want nothing more than victory over his biggest rival of the last five years. How sweet it will taste.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

BAYERN MUNICH: Neuer, Lahm, Dante, Boateng, Alaba, Schweini, Kroos, Robben, Ribery, Muller, Mandzukic

CHELSEA: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, LUKAKU

Bayern can lay claims to the fact that they have the best eleven in European club football at the moment. Most of their players are top five in the world in their respective positions. That says a lot. The game might be decided by small details and Cech/Neuer might well be decisive too. There’s an old saying that attack wins games, defence wins titles.

Without a strong rearguard, the possibility to accumulating titles in world football is very slim. Jose Mourinho started the Manchester United game without a recognised striker. He is unlikely to repeat the same on Friday. The ‘False NINE’ tactic is not one of his strong points and would have backfired if RVP and co were not profligate in front of goal.

The bulk of the team that featured at the Theatre of Dreams will again be called upon – De Bruyne and Schurrle may have to start from the bench.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Helpful Tips: Coping with the end of the football season

As the international football season wraps up, it is a very tough time for a lot of fans. If a season was terrible, the end can seem a welcome relief. And if your team was outstanding, it can be great to see a wonderful run end well. In either case, you’re left counting the days until the new season begins, and the months in between can leave one with a “now what” sensation.

Rather than sitting and doing nothing, there are some proactive ways to handle the end of the association football season.

 

Get Out Of The House

A regular trip to the pub where you watch games doesn’t count. No, now is the time to stretch legs or fire up the 2007 mustang. Go out and breath the free air, and remember that there are things that are great in the world that have nothing whatsoever to do with “the beautiful game”.

The less time you spend in places associated with the game, the more likely you can find constructive ways of biding your time until the next season begins.

 

Develop Post Season Hobbies

If you make sure that you are busy, you won’t have time to sit around moping. Plan ahead and make sure that your weekends are filled. Visit friends. Take a vacation. Learn how to surf. Just be sure that you have your off season time loaded with activities. You can develop yearly traditions that take your mind off of the stress associated with being a football fan and enjoy time away from the game.

 

Find Other Sports Leagues To Follow

Probably one of the best ways to distract yourself from the end of association football is to look around for other sports that are going on during the break. If you’re the type of person that can follow multiple sports and leagues, it may be a good idea.

There are international events such as the World Cup that also occur during the off-season. These may offer you the opportunity to continue to enjoy the sport, or introduce friends and family to the sport.

 

Use It As A Time To De-Stress

Instead of looking to other sports, it may be an even better idea to go in the complete opposite direction: Tune out of all sports news for a time. It’s a documented fact that dedicated soccer fans can develop a heart condition related to their involvement in the sport. The ups and downs can take a very negative toll on the mind and body. This may explain why fans feel so drained and empty when the season is over.

Instead of seeing the end of the season in a negative light, think of it as a blessing in disguise. This can be a valuable time to recuperate, take a deep breath, and re-energize. Using this time wisely can allow you to be charged up and ready to go when the games start back up again.

 

Written by Michael Deaven

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Champions League: End of Season Awards

 

Surprise package: Galatasaray

Many looked at Galatasaray’s team at the start of the Champions League season thinking they were a team with a few decent players, but nothing that would create any real waves in Europe’s elite club competition.

In reality, they surprised many after a disappointing start where they only had one point after three games. With some excellent performances by Turkish striker Burak Yìlmaz including a hat trick away to Cluj, Galatasaray found a way to get second place in their group.

Many thought this was where the journey would end, but a 3-2 victory away to Schalke after a 1-1 home score put them through, with the added help of champions league winners Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder.

Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over the Turkish champions at the Bernabeù looked to have dumped Galatasaray out, but in the second leg Galatasaray went from 1-0 down to 3-1, needing two goals to go through.

Real Madrid managed to make it 3-2, but the buzz around the Turk Telecom was unforgettable, a bit like Galatasaray’s campaign.

 

Biggest flop: Manchester City

Hopes for Manchester City were high after an incredible league success the season before, but their campaign turned out to be a massive letdown that has now appeared to at least partially cost Roberto Mancini his job.

Despite being in the “group of death” or “group of champions” with Ajax, Real Madrid and finalists Borussia Dortmund, not winning a single game was a colossal failure on the part of a club who’ve spent such huge sums in acquiring their squad. They were unlucky to lose 3-2 to Madrid on match-day one, but they were outclassed both home and away by Borussia Dortmund and were lucky to draw to them at home.

Ajax too beat the Citizens in Amsterdam, and drew 2-2 in Manchester, meaning City finished bottom of the group. A painfully disappointing campaign.

 

Best goal: Luis Alberto (CFR Cluj) vs. Manchester United

Few would have seen Luis Alberto play previously to CFR Cluj’s Champions League adventure this season, but the little known Brazilian produced his own memorable moment in this season’s UEFA Champions League in the game against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

 

Cluj needed to win and hope Galatasaray didn’t in order to go through, and despite being heavily unfancied to win away to the Red Devils they did thanks to Alberto’s goal, but Galatasaray won as well.

Nonetheless, Luis Alberto’s 30-yard strike that sped into the net beyond the outstretched arm of David de Gea will be a goal that will live long in the memory of every CFR Cluj fan.

 

Best Game: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Málaga

After a somewhat drab and edgy 0-0 draw in Spain in the first leg of this quarter final, most expected Dortmund to comfortably beat their opponents in front of their oh so passionate fans. However, an early goal from the experienced Joaquin gave Málaga a 1-0 lead and a pivotal away goal. Robert Lewandowski then produced a great run and finish to put Dortmund level on the night, but behind on away goals.

And then the controversy began; as Dortmund pushed forward, Málaga broke and Eliseu tapped in from two yards and despite being in a clearly offside position, the goal was given. However Dortmund weren’t going out lying down, they bombarded the Málaga goal, with Reus scoring to make it 2-2, still not enough for victory.

 

With a minute left of stoppage time, Reus shot across goal and after a scramble Felipe Santana tapped in to make it 3-2, yet replays showed he too was offside.

Dortmund didn’t care though as Signal Iduna Park erupted in elation and inspired Dortmund to the final, which they would narrowly lose to fellow Germans, Bayern Munich.

An incredible game in an incredible atmosphere in an incredible season for Bayern Munich.

 
Best XI: Weidenfeller, Lahm, Dante, Varane, Alaba, Gündôgan, Schweinsteiger, Müller, Ronaldo, Yìlmaz, Lewandowski

Honourable menitons: Schweinsteiger, Neuer, Marchisio, Martinez, Robben, Ibrahimovic, Matuidi, Messi, Isco, Pirlo

 

Written by Joshua Sodergren

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Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund: The Finale

Jerseys of German football clubs Bayern

When Bayern Munich dismantled Barcelona, the world became aware that a new super power has emerged. Jupp Henyckes has steadily turned the Reds of Bavaria into the heavy weights of European Football. However, to make it stick at least for the time being, Dortmund (again) stand in the way of FC HOLLYWOOD. The very same team that denied them the domestic double last season.

The newly crowned German Champions upped the stakes this time around, winning the title with 6 rounds to spare and zooming through to the Pokal final (v. Stuttgart) exactly a week from today. They might have avenged the defeats to Dortmund with victories in the Super Cup and the Pokal last eight encounter, but the Bavarian red army are aware than anything other than victory tonight will be deemed totally unacceptable. It is now or never for Bayern Munich who have lost two finals in the last three seasons. Last year’s the more agonizing.

Borussia Dortmund’s story has been a fairytale one. Die Schwarzgelben failed woefully on the European front last season…Nevertheless, they came back strongly this time around, eliminating the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, Malaga, etc to reach today’s showpiece event. The road to Wembley has been turbulent and difficult, but the Yellow and black army of Ruhr have weathered every storm since and tonight represents a chance to make up for what has been a disappointing domestic season.

The 2011/2012 Bundesliga Champions ended the season a massive 25 points behind Bayern Munich and were sent out of the Pokal by today;s opponents. Dortmund know quite alright that Bayern are not finished yet. The pain and ache emanating from the two championships they lost to the Ruhr giants in addition to the crushing 5-2 defeat in the Pokal Final last May remain(s) fresh Victory over Dortmund will be the perfect finale.

Die Borussen were dealt a huge blow on Wednesday with the news that Mario Gotze will sit out the Final. The Bayern bound midfielder has failed to win the fitness battle and will never have the chance to repay the Dortmund fans who have cheered his name for more than a decade. Whatever happens, the Bundesliga runners-up might never be able to come to terms with the Gotze transfer which hit Jurgen Klopp harder than anyone associated with the German high flyers.

In his interview with Donald McRae of the Guardian, he opined that when Michael Zorc (Dortmund Sporting Director) told him of Gotze’s move to Bayern, he was befuddled and couldn’t think about any other thing. He even had to skip an outing with his wife the very night and declined to speak with anyone. It was that hurtful.  This development, amongst many others, will be enough motivation for Dortmund to get one over Bayern tonight. With or without Mario, Die Scwarzgelben have a chance to claim their second European crown tonight and that they will strive tooth and nail to achieve.

One injury Bayern have got used to for the past 5-6 months is the absence of Holger Badstuber. The German international sustained a career threatening injury in December and suffered a relapse two weeks ago. He has since undergone a corrective surgery under the famous Dr Richard Steadman which is expected to keep him out for another ten months.

In his stead, veteran Belgian, Danny Van Buyten has held sway, bringing all his experience to bare and combining almost perfectly with purchase of the season, Dante Costa Bonfim. The 29 year old Brazilian has earned rave reviews all season and deservedly so. That Bayern have remained ever so strong at the back in all competitions this campaign is largely down to his bravery and immense defensive capabilities. He has improved his strengths and worked on his weaknesses. He has stepped up since his 4.7 Million Euro move from Borussia Park.

Together with Captain Lahm and Alaba, the quartet have kept clean sheets in all their knock-out games since Laurent Koscielny scored at the Allianz Arena. Juventus and the almighty Barcelona were shut out home and away.

If Bayern have Van Buyten and Dante in central defence, Dortmund possess Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels. The latter was groomed by Bayern Munich. He left for Dortmund initially on loan, until it was made permanent in February 2009. He has since gone on to not only become an indispensable general of Klopp’s yellow and black army, but also one of the best defenders in the business.

Perhaps the most sought after centre back in the world, he must prove himself today – the biggest of his career to date. It is not as if Neven Subotic is anything less that world class. The Serbian has been a pillar at the back for Dortmund since his move from Mainz 05 five years ago.Only six days separate the pair (Neven and Mats) in age and both will not be 25 until December. Arguably the finest defensive pair in European football.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

DORTMUND: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer, Gundogan, Bender S, Kuba, REUS, Groskreutz, Lewandowski

Roman Weidenfeller has been one of the best goalies in Europe this season. In fact, in one-on-one situations, he’s arguably the best. The 32 year old custodian is one of the reasons why Dortmund find themselves within 90 (120 at most) minutes of being crowned Champions of Europe for only the 2nd time ever. Lukasz Piszczek is scheduled to undergo a hip operation soon after the season draws to a close. Something that will keep him out of action for at least four months.

With the news that Gotze cannot feature, the absence of Mats Hummels would have been more excruciating for Die Borussen. The German defender has been declared fit to play. Club Captain, Sebastian Kehl has to make do with a place on the bench, with Sven Bender the preferred choice in midfield. Marco ‘Rolls’ Reus is expected to step into the void created by Gotze’s absence from this match and departure from next season. When called upon, he has not disappointed. He is one of the most talented footballers in the German top flight and discounting the threat he poses will be utterly fatal.

10-goal Pole, Roman Lewandowski, will look to redeem himself tonight after he inexplicably threw away the chance to score the winning goal v today’s foes at the Iduna a few weeks ago. Despite that, his exploits against Real Madrid brought the Football World to a standstill and comparisons with the deadliest finishers in the Universe became rampant and countless. He has the ability to tear apart any defence, including the very one that hasn’t conceded in four knockout games and counting.

Gotze might be absent, but Kev Groskreutz is no amateur. He has showed his capabilities when called upon and scored a classy goal in the match v Die Roten  at the Iduna Park. He can do a job at Wembley, surely.

 

BAYERN MUNICH: Neuer, Lahm, Dante, Van Buyten, Alaba, Martinez J, Schweinsteiger, MULLER-ROBBEN-RIBERY, Mandzukic

Manuel Neuer is comfortably seated among the best five goaltenders in the world and rightly so. He is not Germany’s Number One by default. Four straight clean sheets against Juventus and the Blaugrana is no mean feat. He is ably supported in defence by Lahm, Dante, Van Buyten and David Alaba.

The Bayern skipper, Lahm, is the most disciplined full back in football today and it is an official statement of fact. Jerome Boateng made a huge impression at the Camp Nou when Bayern ran riot. However, this might not be enough to keep out Van Buyten from the starting eleven. Toni Kroos has not been missed one bit. A better and more talented footballer (at least for now) has replaced him and performed even better.

Arjen Robben, one half of the ROBBERY gang, has been almost unplayable since the Kroos injury. He tore Jordi Alba inside out and ensured that the left back got suspended for the return leg in Catalonia. He scored against the Spanish Champions home and away and put in some of the best all round displays you would ever ask of a winger. How Jupp Henyckes made him so habituated still baffles me. Javi Martinez didn’t allow his Spanish compatriots a moment’s rest in the Barcelona game.

Xavi and Iniesta were vastly ineffective and it was down to his energetic display throughout the 180 minutes. He hassled and hassled until frustration set in for his more illustrious colleagues. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support and extraordinary contribution  of Bastian Schweinsteiger. The cornerstone of the Bayern midfield and one of the best deep lying playmakers in the world rarely has a bad game.

After keeping Andrea Pirlo in wraps during both legs of the quarter-final, it was the turn of Xavi Hernandez to be reduced to mere mediocrity. ‘Schweini’ as he is fondly called, is a contender for best footballer of 2013 if the Bavarians win the Champions League.

Franck Ribery needs no analysis. What he has is clear for all to see. It is the Croat, Mario Mandzukic, who has surprised everyone with his mesmerizing performances. HE has relegated Mario Gomez to the subs bench and fittingly so. He doesn’t score many, but his industry is a vital element. It is Thomas Muller who carries with him all the ammunition necessary to gun down their arch-enemies. His eight Champions League goals have come against the likes of Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona.

He is a big game player and has proven that so many times. The 2010 World Cup top scorer and best young player keeps improving. Whatever role he plays-whether behind the striker or on the wings, he gives his utmost.

A combined Bayern-Dortmund ELEVEN in my opinion will be—-> NEUER, Lahm, Dnate, Hummels, Schmelzer, Schweinsteiger, Gundogan, Muller, REUS, Robben, Lewandowski.

You may agree or disagree. It is my humble opinion.

 

Written by Ohiskaka Eboreime

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Champions League: The Semi-final Preview

An enthralling and exciting semi-final slam awaits us. Four European giants, who play some of the most brilliant football ever seen throughout, battle it out for the chance, the opportunity to take the most prestigious club competition on the continent. Who are the favorites? Who are the underdogs? Here’s our world-class (somewhat) preview of what potentially awaits us all.

 

Bayern Munich – Barcelona

Bayern Munich have turned things around this season in grand style. It has even been said that Pep Guardiola might have nothing left to achieve by the time Jupp’ Osram’ Heynckes quits the Bavarians. News coming out of Germany this morning say that Mario Gotze is switching allegiance next season.

His next destination? The Allianz Arena to join his Nationalelf teammates, Neuer, Muller, Lahm, Schweini etc in what will be perhaps the best squad of players even assembled in Munich. The 6-1 mauling of Hannover 96 at the weekend was too good to be true. The Roten have scored for fun from the beginning of the season and only Arsenal have beaten them since the turn of the year. Against Wolfsburg in the Pokal Semis, Bayern also scored six and conceded one-a beauty from Deigo Ribas.

These goals galore have been done without the bulk of their first team players. The likes of  ‘EL Conquistador’ Pizarro who has been described as the best ’3RD STRIKER’ in the world by many, Jerome Boateng who has dropped to the bench since the start of the season, Xherdan Shaqiri, the diminutive Swiss winger, Arjen Robben who has found himself among the starters recently because of Toni Krooss’ layoff, etc have come in and done a great job. The Bundesliga champions are battle-ready for any team. Even Barcelona do not scare them considering the form they are in presently.

Barcelona are one of the favourites for Champions League glory. But before they secure a Wembley date against either Real Madrid or Dortmund, Bayern Munich must be stopped. However arduous it seems to be, the Blaugrana are unfazed by the challenge in front of them. A late 1-0 win over Levante nonetheless, the Spanish champions-elect have the ability to unsettle any team.

Tito Vilanova and his coaching staff are sweating over the fitness of star man, Lionel Messi. The Argentine has been sidelined for the last three League games and only came on versus PSG because it was absolutely expedient. Whether he can feature from the start today is something the management have kept close to their chest. If Messi does not play, the task will be made all the more difficult.

Barcelona have stars like Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Villa, Busquets, and Pedro, but without Messi, they are not so special. Forget the 5-0 success over an already condemned Mallorca. Carles Puyol and Javier ‘Jefecito’ Mascherano are currently sidelined through injury.

That leaves gaps in the Catalan rear guard which is likely to be filled by the returning Eric Abidal whose story has been one of greatness and determination. The Frenchman completed 90 minutes against Levante on Saturday. His height and balance will give him an edge over Adriano because of the giant nature of the Bayern point men.

Marc Batra can also line up alongside Pique if Abidal is not trusted enough to carry the responsibility.

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

BAYERN: Neuer, Lahm, Van Buyten, Dante, Alaba, Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery, GOMEZ.

Lahm and Schweini return to the starting eleven after being left out of the team that won emphatically at Hannover. Mario Mandzukic is suspended for this fixture, so the other Mario, Gomez, will step in his shoes. Javi Martinez has been vocal in his praise of his Spanish friends at Barcelona. Paying homage to Xavi and Busquets especially. He must perform every well to also earn their eulogies. Arjen Robben has a point or two to prove tonight. His mistakes cost Bayern dear in last year’s final. He must make amends to get back into the fans hearts in a positive light.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, as usual, has a big role to play tonight. The German machine kept Andrea Pirlo quiet in the two matches against Juventus. A similar showing is expected of him when Xavi steps foot on the Inflatable boat in a few hours. Lahm, Gustavo and Dante will all miss the 2nd leg at the Nou Camp if they are cautioned in this game.

 

BARCA: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Batra/Abidal/Adriano, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Villa.

For all of Christian Tello’s runs, goals, and assists in the last couple of weeks, it is unlikely that he will start tonight. The experienced heads of Villa and Pedro will be preferred to the youthful exuberance of the pacy winger. Messi could return to the team and Sergio Busquets has shaken off a hernia problem to face the Bavarian giants.

It is in defence that the problem lies. Bartra, Adriano or Abidal? The answer lies with Tito and Jordi Roura. Gerard Pique was uttering some annoying things against Germany in the build up to his great game. He has  to do the talking on the pitch tonight.

 

Real Madrid – Borussia Dortmund

The Schwarzgelben might have shot themselves in the foot with the shocking news that Mario Gotze is set to join arch-rivals, Bayern Munich in the summer for 37 Million Euros. However tempting the offer may be/or have been, Germany’s Lionel Messi who says he’d rather be called the CR7 of DIE MANNSCAFT, should not be allowed to go for any price.

The Signa Iduna landlords are becoming a major force in Europe and to move further, their best players must stay put. That is beside the point. Some of immediate greater importance is before them. The visit of high flying Real Madrid who are so willing to win their 10th European trophy popularly called ‘LA DECIMA’ by the Merengues faithful.

Borussia Dortmund do not give a hoot about Real Madrid’s quest to win the Champions League – they harbour their own ambitions, too. The Borussens have relinquished their Bundesliga crown to Bayern already and are looking for silverware this season. A 2nd European triumph, 16 long years after the first, will be a fantastic accomplishment. Jurgen Klopp has been bullish in his assertions that BVB can do the impossible this term. No one can doubt the quality they possess.

Robert Lewandowski cannot stop scoring. If the Pole scores in his next 5 league games, he will break Gerd Muller’s long standing record of scoring in 16 consecutive League games  Mats Hummels has returned to full fitness and is poised to start alongside Neven Subotic in defence, leaving Felipe Santana on the sidelines. The Brazilian will be infuriated by this. After all, it is because of him that Dortmund are in the semi-finals. Rolls Reus scored against Real at the Bernabeu in their group encounter and can repeat the same feat if given the opportunity.

Real Madrid have a few injury problems. The war against Betis was won not without a few casualties. Benzema and Modric picked up minor injuries, while Marcelo was stretchered out of the pitch following a hamstring issue. Varane, Coentrao and Sergio Ramos are all likely to return to the starting 11 tomorrow. Di Maria and Xabi Alonso are also set to take their places in midfield and Pipita Higuain will lead the line with CR7 as usual, carrying the team’s hopes and aspirations.

Jose Mourinho has to decide yet again if Iker Casillas will return between the sticks or continue with the very impressive Diego Lopez. He wants to win the Champions League at all costs after three consecutive semi-final appearances. Dortmund stand in the way, just like Bayern last time out and Barcelona two seasons prior. The Portuguese is set to leave the Spanish capital at the end of the season. What better way to sign off than with a record breaking 10th UCL title.

Real will not look beyond this game despite the capital derby showdown at the weekend which will go a long way to decide who finishes as La Liga runners-up. The’whits’ must do better than their last showing in Rhine-Westphalia. The 2-1 loss was deserved by the Ruhr giants and they almost won at the Bernabeu until a late Ozil free-kick sealed a 2-2 draw for the hosts.

Tomorrow night, both sides will attempt to get an early goal and ultimately secure an unassailable advantage before the 2nd leg in Spain.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

BORUSSIA DORTMUND: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Hummels, Subotic, Schmelzer, Bender, Gundogan, Kuba, ROLLS REUS, Gotze, Lewandowski.

Lewandowski has shaken off a minor problem to play in this game. Despite Gotze’s imminent departure, the playmaker will do everything humanly possible to destroy Real Madrid. Captain Sebastian Kehl who just signed a contract extension will start on the bench with Bender taking his place.

 

REAL MADRID: Lopez, Ramos, Pepe, Varane, Coentrao, Khedira, Alonso, Di Maria, Ozil, CR7, Higuain.

The back four will feature Ramos-Pepe and Varane from the start for the first time this season in Europe. Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira return to their adopted country. This time around, not to represent them, but to stop one of its leading teams from emerging victorious tomorrow.

CRISTIANO RONALDO is the top European goal scorer this season with 11 goals. Two more and he will reach the 50-goal milestone in the Champions League. He has 50 already this season in all competitions and 196 in Real colours.

 

Written by Ohiskaka Eboreime

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Champions League: A Brief Look At This Year’s Semi-finalists

Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and Barcelona are the final four out of the 32 teams that qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Borussia Dortmund replace Chelsea if you take last season’s semi-finalists into context. Real, Barca and Bayern have been consistent over the last two seasons and their qualification to the semis is testament to the fact that the pendulum has swung.

English teams were left to lick their wounds as none got past the last 16, even though Arsenal left with pride and Manchester United denied amid Nani’s controversial sending off.

It is important to note here that the last teams standing fully merit their places. Dortmund staggered into the semi-finals with a last gasp revival v Malaga- a game marred by controversy. Bayern annihilated Juventus home and away, Real Madrid sorted Galatasaray out, 5-3 on aggregate….While, Barcelona sent PSG packing on away goals rule.

Let’s find out what all the teams possess in their arsenal.

The ‘FAB 4′ of European Football by all standards this season will slug it out for the chance to line up in Wembley for this year’s UCL final. All four teams have equal chances of hoisting the most coveted trophy in European club football.

 

REAL MADRID

‘La Decima’ is the aim and once again, Jose Mourinho has qualified for the semi-finals of the Champions League for the 3rd straight year. A fantastic achievement worthy of praise. This time however, failure to at least reach the final will be seen as a major letdown by all those associated with the Capital club. Cristiano Ronaldo has once again carried the team on his shoulders. His 11 Champions league goals is the highest he has ever scored in this competition since his debut for Manchester United.

He became the 3rd player ever to score 10+ goals in consecutive seasons after Messi and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos sat out the 3-2 defeat at the Turk Telekom Arena through suspension, but are expected to return for the double header v Barcelona, Bayern or Dortmund. Real Madrid know all about these three teams. In the last two seasons, they have encountered all of them and most recently defeated Barcelona twice in four days.

It seems Mou has found the strategy to beat Barcelona. Bayern Munich and Dortmund have been successful against the Merengues and the Borussens won one, drew one in the Group Stages of this season’s campaign.

 

Borussia Dortmund

Jurgen Klopp is trying to make up for what has been an appalling season for the Schwarzgelben. They relinquished the Bundesliga crown to Bayern Munich last weekend in what has become the earliest time the German League trophy has been won. Being 20 points behind Bayern and eliminated by the team in the DFB POKAL is a terrible pill to swallow.

They have switched attention to the European cup and were within 3 minutes of bidding farewell to the tournament until a stroke of luck and some astonishing decisions sent Pellegrini’s Malaga packing. Mario Gotze and Marco ‘Rolls’ Reus are elated to say the least.

A shot at ultimate glory is two steps away and they are determined to give it their all. Robert Lewandowski scored his 6th UCL goal in the Malaga game. The man who has scored in ten consecutive League games is the main attacking threat for the 2nd placed team in the German top flight.

 

BAYERN MUNICH

No one will doubt Die Roten’s title credentials. The 23-time German Champions have been almost impeccable this season. In the year 2013, only Arsenal have won against them. The dismissal of Juventus sent a clear statement to other aspiring winners that the Munich based club want their 5th European trophy at all costs.

The bitter taste of last year’s defeat in their own home is still in the mouths of all those connected to the Bavarian outfit. Anything but a win will be seen as a step backwards. Jupp Heynckes lost all three trophies last season and wants to make amends. One is in the wraps, the other two are withing sight.

Bastian Schweinsteiger proved yet again that he can mix it up with the best deep lying playmakers in the world last night when he kept Andrea Pirlo quiet for much of the game. He himself was phenomenal throughout. Another excellent performance by the German machine. Mario Mandzukic will not be available for the 1st leg of the semi-final after he picked up a needless booking in yesterday’s game. Gomez or Pizarro will take his place. The latter has scored 5 goals in his last three games in all competitions.

They’re a definite threat.

 

BARCELONA

The best team in the world were saved from elimination by a Pedro pile driver after the introduction of 4-time Ballon D’or winner, Lionel Messi. El Pulga’s entry into the field of play galavanized the Blaugrana and it was no surprise when Barca scored barely minutes after his arrival. He is on eight goals (3 behind CR7). It will take the bravest of men to bet against him winning the Ballon d’Or for the 5th straight year anyways. He is the highest goal scorer in League play anywhere in the World with 43 La Liga goals.

Andres Iniesta is the most brilliant footballer in the world in my opinion. His football is more enjoyable than sex. One skill yesterday sent me shivering for minutes. If Barca are to go all the way, Iniesta yet again must come good in both legs. Tito Vilanova will not want to play Real Madrid yet after recent disappointments. Any of the German teams will be welcomed with open arms.

Barcelona are 2nd favourites after Bayern to win the competition. The Catalans defence is very shaky and that could be their greatest downfall.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Champions League Last 8: Tuesday Night Second Leg Preview

Real Madrid will be looking to finish the Gala job when they travel to the Turk Telekom Arena tonight. Fatih Terim and his boys will be looking to salvage some pride at least. A three goal deficit against a great team like Real Madrid is impossible to overcome. Although, impossible is nothing.

They could borrow a leaf from the phenomenal Depor side under Javier Irueta who came from 4-1 down to dismantle an A.C Milan team comprising of Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, Seedorf, Sheva, etc by four unreplied goals at the famous RIAZOR stadium in La Coruna. Juan Carlos Valeron ran the show that day. A repeat of that performance is highly unlikely.

Meanwhile, Malaga and bereaved manager, Manuel Pellegrini travel to Dortmund with the sole aim of trying to qualify for the semi-finals. The Iduna will be made very uncomfortable for the Boquerones. Tomorrow, Paris St Germain travel to the Camp Nou, while Bayern Munich visit the home of the Old Lady of Italian football to complete the demolition job. Conte awaits their arrival.

 

DORTMUND- MALAGA

The excellent Manuel Pellegrini is grief-stricken. The Chilean had to travel home over the weekend to be with his family as a result of the death of his father. It was looking increasingly unlikely that the Leader of the Malaga orchestra will be available for the biggest match of their history yet.

The Champions League quarter-final 2nd leg v Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund who couldn’t find the net at the Rosaleda despite having many scoring chances. The Borussens relinquished their status as German Champions to Bayern Munich at the weekend and will be looking to get to the semi-finals in what has been a near impeccable Eurpean adventure. The 1997 European champions will rely on the firepower of Robert Lewandowski to guide them past Joaquin’s Malaga.

The Andalusians also have Francisco “Isco” Alarcon to count on when the going gets tough. Julio’ the beast’ Baptista can also turn things around on his day. Labista Sevilla was marvellous at times in his career and can make things happen when it matters most.

Pellegrini is aware of the importance of the away goals rule and has underlined his ambition to take the game to Dortmund from start to finish. It can get all messy for the host if the first half ends scoreless. Pressure will begin to mount and they can buckle.

Defensive rock, Mats Hummels and the energetic Kuba are doubts for this game. Not that it really matters as Klopp has alternatives to choose from.

 

Probable Lineups

Dortmund:

Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Santana/Hummels, Subotic, Schmelzer, Kehl, Gundogan, Reus, Gotze, Kuba/Groskreutz, LEWANDOWSKI.

Polish predator, Lewandowski, came of the bench to score in his 10th successive Bundesliga game at the weekend and will be looking to add to his 5 Champions League goals this term. Gotze has missed far too many chances in the last two games. He will also be determined to make amends for the number of chances that went begging in the first leg.

Marco ‘Rolls’ Reus should be feared as always. He rarely puts a foot wrong and his partnership with the diminutive Gotze is one of the deadliest in world football.

 

Malaga:

Caballero, Jesus Garmez, Lugano, Demichelis, Artunes, Toulalan, Iggy Camacho, ISCO, Joaquin, Baptista, Saviola.

Los Boquerones will be without Weligton, who has been a rock in the center of defence and Midfield linchpin, Manuel Iturra whose play complements Toulalan’s. Huge losses. But ISCO is fit and set to roar.

 

GALATASARAY – REAL MADRID

Selcuk Inan was overshadowed and outplayed by Xabi Alonso in the battle of the World’s finest Deep lying playmakers at the Bernabeu. He wouldn’t want to be dominated in his own home, even though Alonso is suspended for the game. Luka Modric is also a fantastic footballer and can compete with the very best in the business.

Didier Drogba made his presence felt at the weekend with two fine goals in league play, but has done nothing for Gala in the European scene. If not for anything, he should at least chip in with a goal tonight.

Real Madrid will know better than to sleep on this game. If recent capitulations by A.C Milan are anything to go by, then ‘never’ is a word meant for the lame and tame-hearted. Fatih Terim will throw all that he possesses at the Merengues tonight for what it’s worth.

Jose Mourinho will not be able to call upon Roja Centurions, Alonso and Sergio Ramos tonight due to suspension. Pepe is a doubt after pulling up in training. French teenager, Varane is a certain starter and could be joined in central defence by the much maligned Raul Albiol if the Portuguese defender cannot shake off whatever ails him.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the UCL top scorer with 9 and can add to his tally tonight to stretch his lead at the top of the chart over Messi and the suspended Burak Yilmaz who have 8 a piece.

 

Probable Lineups

GALA:

Muslera, Eboue, Balta, Kaya, Riera, Inan, Melo, Altintop, Sneijder, DROGBA, Elmander

The crushing blow for the Turkish League leaders is that top scorer, Burak Yilmaz is unavailable for this game due to suspension. Somewhat needless and stupid. The Norwegian referee (Svein Oddvar Moen) in charge of the match at the Bernabeu wrongly booked the marksman for diving when indeed it should have been a penalty.

Dany Nounkeu is also out. Too many yellows accumulated by the central defender. Hakan Balta takes his place.

 

REAL MADRID:

Diego Lopez, Arbeloa/Essien, Pepe/Albiol, Varane Coentrao, Khedira, Modric, Ozil, Di Maria, CR7, Benzema.

The ‘whites’ made 7 changes to the team that spanked Levante on Saturday. Still the 5-1 result flattered Real who only started playing in the final stages of the match. San Iker is back after a 9 week layoff, but cannot unseat Diego Lopez from the goalkeeping position. It will be a travesty of epic proportions if that happens.

The Pipita-Benz centre forward battle might likely be won by the latter. Coentrao is a more disciplined left back and should replace Marcelo in that department. Sami Khedira returns to shore up the midfield, while Luka Modric will get the nod in the absence of Xabi Alonso. Kaka likely to be on the bench yet again even after scoring a goal at the weekend.

The Ozil-Di Maria axis will return to bolster the team.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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