UEFA Champions League: Quarter-final First Leg Previews

In previous years, the Champions League has tended to get more and more dramatic as it goes along. However, this year, both the group stage, and the round of 16 have been full of drama with world class teams Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, last year’s winners Chelsea, to name just a few, already being dumped out.

So with this season’s tournament already being full of excitement and tension, these quarter finals promise to be nothing less than spectacular.

 

Bayern Munich vs. Juventus

Both these teams are considered “dark horses” to win the competition by many, but only one will make the semi-finals as these two European giants clash, with the first leg being held in Munich.

Both teams look set to win their respective domestic leagues, and won impressively at the weekend. Bayern tore Hamburg apart, winning 9-2, while Juventus picked up a colossal three points in a 2-1 victory over Inter Milan at the San Siro. Both these sides are flying, with Juventus having one of the most organised teams in world football, and Bayern having the most well rounded and energetic sides.

Bayern’s attacking trio of Müller, Kroos and Ribery will look to create chances for the deadly Mario Mandžukic, but if any side can neutralise the threat posed by these four, it is the expected Juventus defence of Barzagli, Chiellini and Bonucci, helped by energetic wing backs Lichsteiner and Asamoah.

Bayern’s Javi Martinez is suspended for this game, so Bayern will need to rely on Luis Gustavo to help Bastian Schweinsteiger keep Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and goalscoring midfielder Arturo Vidal quiet. Juventus tend to keep the ball regardless of the opposition, but against a creative Bayern side in the expectant Allianz arena, this may be difficult.

A genuinely mouth-watering tie.

 

PSG vs. Barcelona

Barcelona have fond memories of the French capital, having won this very trophy in Paris back in 2006, in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. However, despite having virtually won La Liga a while back, this Barca team arrives in Paris with question marks regarding their ability to play away from home.

In the round of 16, Barca were beaten 2-0 against Milan, with many suspecting they wouldn’t be able to overturn that result. Barcelona managed it however, winning 4-0 in Catalonia, so PSG will need a huge result if they are to go into the second leg with strong hopes of going through.

PSG’s defence that includes Brazilians Thiago Silva, Alex and ex-Barca left back Maxwell, will need to remain fully focused and determined if they are to silence Messi and co., and knock out the side who many consider tournament favourites.

 

Malaga vs. Dortmund

At the start of the tournament, many considered Malaga a side too weak to make waves in the Champions League and Dortmund a side just too young to compete against Europe’s elite. However, both of these hard working sides are just two games away from a place in the Champions League semis.

Malaga’s well-oiled machine of a defence has conceded a mere 6 goals in 8 champions league games this season, while Dortmund possess one of Europe’s most feared attacks, with Reus, Götze, Lewandowski and Błaszczykowski all hitting form right now.

Malaga do possess creative players themselves though, such as the highly regarded Isco and Joaquin.

Definitely one of the most tactically unpredictable quarter finals.

 

Real Madrid vs. Galatasaray

After getting through to the quarter finals in a highly controversial manner against Manchester United, Jose Mourinho’s quest for an historic third Champions League triumph runs through Turkish champions Galatasaray.

Although Galatasaray aren’t the most feared team left in the competition, their impressive 3-2 win away to Schalke in the round of 16 second leg is a prime example why they shouldn’t be dismissed, especially with the champions league’s top scorer (along with Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo) Burak Yilmaz in absolutely unbelievable from, as well as a presumably determined Wesley Sneijder returning to his old stomping ground of the Bernabeu.

Galatasaray’s Hamit Altintop and Felipe Melo will be expected to do a great deal of running to prevent Mesut Özil and Xabi Alonso from controlling the game too much, although this may prove a task too much for this tenacious Galatasaray side.

 

Written by Joshua Sodergren

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Tottenham: Can Spurs maintain their top four place come the end of the season?

Last season, Tottenham were very close to securing a Champions League spot after they were 13 points ahead of arch-rivals Arsenal at one point. You could sense the white side of North London hungry for a place in the UEFA Champions League. The 10 points gap between Tottenham and Arsenal increased after the high-flying Spurs trashed Newcastle 5-0 and from Harry Redknapp’s post-match conference, his side were all but ready to secure a Champions League spot.

Come February 26, 2012 and a dream North London derby win would’ve seen Tottenham stretch their 13 points gap to 16 points. The dream was alive when Louis Saha and Adebayor put Spurs 2-0 ahead at the Emirates in less than 20 minutes. However, an inspired Arsenal side came from behind to win the game 5-2.

From then on Spurs were doomed and were left licking their wounds after losing their healthy 13 points lead to Arsenal, missing out on Champions League qualification in the process. In my opinion it was totally unacceptable, especially when manager Harry Redknapp was fully confident of finishing above Arsenal and also winning the title at some point.

End of season and Harry Redknapp was replaced by former Chelsea boss Villas-Boas. It didn’t take long for him to make his mark with a historic victory against the mighty Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Come January and Gareth Bale was turning into some Ronaldo- type player, scoring goals from all angles and dragging Spurs out of the mud. The signing of Moussa Dembele also added some creativity and guile to the Spurs’ side, ably replacing Madrid-bound Lukas Modric.

That form sparked Spurs to secure a 4 point gap ahead of Arsenal, and a win against Arsenal in White Hart Lane would extend the points to 7. Goals from Lennon and the red-hot Gareth Bale was enough to secure that victory. A similar come back goal from big man Mertesacker proved useless for Arsenal, and Spurs were now 7 points ahead of Arsenal.

Bale and Dembele.... crucial to Spurs' top four chances.

Bale and Dembele…. crucial to Spurs’ top four chances.

A win against Fulham at home and Spurs would extend the gap to 10 points, while Arsenal had to play a difficult and organized Swansea side at home. Well, that was never to be the case as a drilled Arsenal side beat Swansea 2-0 courtesy of goals from Nacho Monreal and the Ivorian Gervinho.

It was all left to Tottenham to beat Fulham and maintain a healthy gap ahead of their North London rivals. In the twinkle of an eye, a second half goal from Berbatov was enough as Fulham sunk Spurs 1-0 to reduce the gap to four points. In the most abhorrent manner, AVB eyes grew like wild fire during the closing stages of the game. His post conference talk after the game was a bit shocking especially in the manner Spurs lost.  He said something about his “big stars being tired” and that he isn’t “too concerned (worried) about the loss to Fulham. ”

Giving away 13 points last season was horrendous and with the same event likely to happen again this season, especially with AVB clearly stating that he isn’t too concerned about the loss is worrying to say the least in the final weeks of the season.

With 9 games to go and 27 points to play for, I won’t write them off too early. They have had a fantastic season. It is never easy  to gain maximum points at Old Trafford and to beat Arsenal in the North London derby was encouraging as well so you can’t possibly take anything away from Spurs. They have worked very hard this season and they need to start getting back to winning ways as soon as possible.

A win in their next game after the international break should be a tricky test for Tottenham’s top four ambition, especially with an in-form Arsenal looking ready and loaded to rip apart a struggling Reading side next, along with a game in hand in mind as well.

If Tottenham fail to secure a Champions League spot, it could be disastrous one for the club. AVB might actually lose his job and their big stars, especially Bale, might opt to leave for bigger clubs with the promise of trophies and Champions League football.

A top 4 place is a must for Spurs. Anything less would be a major disappointment. They have all the ability and personnel to do so, but they must regain their rhythm before it’s too late.

 

Written by @femi4arsenal

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Malaga: Dortmund next up for the Los Boquerones

The modern day game of football does not present many happy tales. However, in the case of Malaga one side is attempting to buck the trend this season and present all observers with a positive outlook on the game.

Before even a ball was kicked this season the outlook seemed rather bleak for a side that would be competing in Europe’s elite competition. After a summer of financial turmoil that witnessed the departures of several key players the coming season did not present one of promise. However, with a couple of new additions to the rather beleaguered and wafer thin squad the club have confronted their adversity and succeeded thus far.

Having qualified through their initial Champions League group they were drawn against Porto where a two nil home win at La Rosaleda saw them successfully through to the quarter finals. They have now been drawn against Borussia Dortmund and will now face one of the outside contenders for a place in the semi finals.

Whilst Dortmund have struggled a little for consistency domestically this season their European campaign has been somewhat of a revelation so far. When the initial draw for the group phase was made, it seemed unlikely they would qualify after being paired with Ajax, Manchester City and Real Madrid but they surpassed all expectations and won the group. It was not that they were not regarded as a force but it was assumed that their inexperience in Europe could cost them.

However, with the talented young players they have at their disposal they have turned themselves into serious contenders for the Champions League crown and will prove to be a serious threat for Malaga. Boasting a squad consisting of Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus, to name but a few, they have some seriously talented players. The Spanish side will have to be extremely well organised in order to maintain a level of control over the opposition attack, whilst still managing to pose a threat themselves.

One of the key players in the tie will be Isco who Malaga will have to ensure is fit and available for both ties. It was he who scored the opener against Porto in the previous tie and his movement and technical ability will be pivotal in opening up the German side.

There are very few weakness in Dortmund’s side at present and some individual brilliance could go along way to deciding the tie. As they showed in the last round against Shakhtar, their form at the Westfalenstadion is imperious so they will need to ensure they win in Spain.

Considering some of the views before the season began it is remarkable just to be thinking about Malaga competing in the last eight of the Champions League. Now though, having got there, they will face possibly their toughest opponents thus far which will severely test them.

So far this season they have defied the odds and proved the critics wrong and why start backing against them now?

 

Written by Andy Hunter

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Champions League: Dismal campaign at best for the English Premier League sides

Manchester United were the third English team to be knocked out of the UEFA Champions League after losing at home to Madrid in the most surprising manner,  after winger Nani was sent off for a rash challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa. To most United fans, it wasn’t a red card and the referee should have been killed.

They may have a point, but that still doesn’t cover the fact that they’ve been knocked out after two quick-fire goals, with former hero Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the winner and handing the final nail in the coffin to the Red Devils’ treble aspirations.

The manner at which English teams are paying full attention to the English Premier League over the UCL has come under full notice, or well, I might be wrong.

Earlier, the English champions Manchester City finished bottom in their group where they were drawn with the likes of Dortmund, Real Madrid and Dutch outfit Ajax. As expected, the lack of experience played a crucial part in Manchester City’s poor Champions League adventure. An experienced Champions League team should be able to get points away from home and also be capable of holding on to leads,  especially when playing away from home.

A clear example was the game against Madrid. After taking the lead at the Bernabeu, the Manchester City team as expected went into ghost mode and two quick goals from Benzema and Ronaldo was enough to sink the English champions. Experience, as I said, played a crucial part in their display and from my own point of view I can understand Manchester City’s poor run. They have a chance to do better next season.

Chelsea has been the worst English team to take part in the competition this season and are currently number one on my pecking order of the worst teams that took part in this year’s Champions League. After winning the Champions League last year, many expected Chelsea to be  one of the finalists of this year’s tournament yet again, but that was never the case. Finishing third in their group, they were the second English team to be knocked out of the Champions League in the most embarrassing manner.

For Arsenal, Wenger’s  side are currently on the brink of elimination after losing 3-1 to Bayern in the first leg at home. They are expected to do the impossible in Munich by scoring 3 unanswered goals. After watching the display at White Hart Lane sorry ‘Hart’ last weekend, scoring 3 unanswered goals in Munich is highly impossible with those frequent school-boy defensive errors and a lazy striker at hand.

They all have another chance to improve and show what English football is all about in the Champions League next season, especially with Tottenham likely to be flying the English colors in next season’s competition ahead of Arsenal,  who are currently 5th in the English Premier League table.

Maximum attention should be enforced by English teams in the next Champions League, as it is has been the league that has shown the world what English football is all about.

 

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Borussia Dortmund: The Black and Yellows showing their bright future could be right now

Jose Mourinho said the world’s eyes would be on his Real Madrid side’s captivating win over Manchester United on Tuesday night, but that would have been a discredit to events over in Germany where Borussia Dortmund are offering their own brand of entertainment. As Madrid battled into the quarter-finals of the Champions League at Old Trafford, Dortmund joined them with a fine display at home to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Their 44 year old manager Jurgen Klopp, already boasting a decorated coaching reputation enough to make him an attractive proposition to the likes of Chelsea, stepped calmly into the media room after their 3-0 win and in fluent English, announced how “cool it was” to reach the last eight of UEFA’s premier competition for the first time since 1998.

A year before they had won the trophy with the well-drilled organisation of Ottmar Hitzfeld which suffocated Manchester United in the semi-finals and nullified Juventus’ majestic creative quality in the final, one will remember the superb job Paul Lambert did in man-marking Zinedine Zidane, but the ease with which Dortmund brushed aside Shakhtar last night will have made a case that the triumph could be repeated in Wembley this coming May.

It is a different dynamic ushered by Klopp, instead of the efficiency of Jurgen Kohler, Mathias Sammer and Martin Kree at the back and the relentless work-rate of Lambert and Andreas Moller in midfield, there is the technical brilliance of Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, the sublime passing of Ikay Gundogan and the smart movement of Robert Lewandowski. It is a young, slick, fluid unit littered with smart technicians who are fully comfortable on the ball. Dortmund are, to us Klopp’s terminology, a “cool” side.

They were far too cool for Shakhtar who were exploited by the movement of Gotze, who scored the second after delivering the corner for Felipe Santana’s opener, and Reus off the attacking line led by Lewandowski. The Polish striker used the freedom afforded by Klopp’s loose 4-2-3-1 to drift out to the right to provide Gotze before Jakub Blaszczykowski, playing on the right, got in on the act to roll home a third following a spill by Andriy Pyatov in the Shakhtar goal.

The Ukrainians were dragged around the pitch by Dortmund’s 54% control of possession and were picked off by the fluid interchange and understanding Dortmund boast in attack. The Germans had 17 shots to Shakhtar’s 12, the latter figure swelled by Mircea Lucescu’s reckless abandon of an already lost second-half. It became a rout. “I hope Dortmund reach the final as they’re a very strong side” said the Romanian coach, “I believe they deserved to go through, overall, the result correlates with what we saw on the pitch”, the assessment was not too far from the truth.

A third straight Bundesliga title will elude Dortmund this year as they lie 17 points behind league leaders Bayern Munich, despite only losing 4 times in their 24 matches, a large indication of the extent of Bayern’s unrelenting domestic dominance. Yet it has been another great campaign for Klopp and his talented squad, they finished top of the Champions League “group of death” outplaying Manchester City and Real Madrid in the process, and to show how dangerous their attacking quadrant can be, they have accounted for 44 of their 54 goals in the Bundesliga this season.

Marco Reus has been a revelation since his £14 million move from Monchengladbach in the summer having scored 11 goals and providing 8. The axis of him and Gotze is integral to Klopp’s system of high-tempo pass and move that relies heavily on the combative presence of Sebastien Kehl alongside Ilkay Gundogan, the deep midfield launch-pad who dictates play with both long and short range passing.

A narrow system in midfield allows for easier retention of the ball while Lukasz Pisczek and Mario Schmelzer provide the width from full-back. It is a system that is now almost second nature to Dortmund as Klopp has used it 21 times this season and refuses to deviate from it on the continent where possession is key.

At the back, centre-halves Nevan Subotic and Mats Hummels, who missed the game with Shakhtar, are both perfectly able on the ball, in-keeping with the modern game importance of bringing the ball out on the ground. It is an exciting squad in which every player is a talented ball-player.

Sir Alex Ferguson named Dortmund as the favourites to land the competition he was eliminated from on Tuesday, the same night the German club were making a claim that the Scot maybe won’t be too far from the mark. They will face tougher propositions than Shakhtar as they progress into the latter stages of Europe’s elite competition, but their exciting band of ambitious talents, led by their vernal and amiable coach, will be primed for the tests that will follow.

It could be 1997 all over again for the Black-Yellows.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Match Preview: Manchester United vs Real Madrid (Part 2)

The return leg of the massively anticipated battle between two of the World’s most appreciated and successful clubs goes down tonight at the Theatre of Dreams. With the tie in the balance at 1-1, the war is expected to be keenly contested and excellently played out.

Visitors, Real Madrid have been unbelievable in the past week, comprehensively beating fierce Clasico rivals, Barcelona in two consecutive matches. Mourinho would have taken 1 win, 1 loss but his boys had other ideas and he himself was the master strategist. The Portuguese genius took his boys to the Nou Camp seven days ago and returned with a 3-1 defeat of Barcelona, sending them packing out of the Copa Del Rey in the semis and setting up a mouthwatering Capital derby final meeting with Atletico Madrid. He did not end there.

Back at the Bernabeu for the League match, Jose rested 7 of the players who made him proud in Catalonia and brought in the likes of Castilla campaigner, Alvaro Morata and co. The soldiers were different, but victory was attained. Five of the regular starters remained on the sidelines with the exception of Angel Di Maria who was suspended for the game. The match ended 2-1 in favour of Real and it condemned the Blaugrana to their second defeat in about 67 hours to their great rivals.

The Merengues also became only the 2nd team in the history of football to defeat Barcelona in the space of approximately four days since its formation. The win at Camp Nou was also significant. It was the first time in 10 months that they lost on their home turf, although the last time was also to Madrid in April of last year. In his press conference yesterday, Jose stated that his team would have been just as motivated to come to Manchester and win outright even if they had lost both games v Barcelona. That man.

Premier League leaders, Manchester United welcomed Norwich to Old Trafford on Saturday evening. The result was a battering for the Canaries who were soundly beaten 4-0. The spanking was sweet revenge meted out on a Norwich side that accounted for the red devils last defeat in the EPL till date.

Japanese star, Shinji Kagawa came through, scoring a spectacular hat-trick to cap a fine day for Fergie’s men. Wayne Rooney also scored a beauty at the end. After leaving Bradley Johnson for dead, he sent a screamer from all of 20 yards to leave the opposition keeper gasping for oxygen. This added to his two assists in the match showed signs that the English superstar is back to form just at the right time with important games coming in thick and fast for the champions elect. Treble dream still alive.

Tonight’s encounter has all the makings of a razzle-dazzle affair. The match of ten years ago comes to mind. When a certain Ronaldo da Lima with revenge on his mind, came to conquer Old Trafford with his exceedingly magnificent footballing skills. David Beckham came off the bench that day in an attempt to spark a highly unlikely Manchester United revival.

Hard as he toiled (scored two brilliant goals), he couldn’t turn the aggregate scoreline in his side’s favour, but he made sure the red army won the match 4-3 (eventually lost the tie 6-5 after losing 3-1 in Madrid) and restored some pride. Sir Alex will want none of that drama.

He has set up his side in a way that they must look for a win, focus more on its strengths and care less about what Real Madrid and returning Legend, Cristiano Ronaldo will/can do. Being scared of the threat Ronaldo carries will do more harm than good according to the great Scot whose 26+ years at the helm have been nothing short of extraordinary. While defending to its maximum, the team must also attack well and take most if not all of chances created.

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aviero is a familiar name in this parts. The Portuguese living Legend took Manchester by storm when he arrived from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 to replace the equally Legendary David Beckham. After six years and 118 special goals, he left Old Trafford to seek pastures new. Quite rightly, he chose the beautiful city of Madrid to continue his football development. He left Manchester United with fantastic memories, most especially his elevation to the status of best footballer in the World in 2008.

Since transferring to Real, he has seen Lionel Messi claim the award four consecutive times and he is not in the least happy about it. His scoring record for the Bernabeu side is incredibly phenomenal. 185 goals in 184 games including 20 hat-tricks explains it all. His goal against his former team three weeks ago was reminiscent of the one he scored for Manchester United v Chelsea in the UCL final five years ago.

Fergie told the press after the match that he was critical of Evra at half-time on why he allowed Ronaldo to out jump him for that glorious goal. Well,after watching the replays, he had nothing more to say. CR7′s knees were above the Frenchman head when he headed past David de Gea. A repeat might be consequential.

Wayne Rooney disappointed me in the first leg. I wrote about his importance to the MUFC cause and how the match would be decided by him and not RVP as most people felt. He was absent throughout the game and misplaced more passes than ever before. His shambolic display must have to be transformed to one that can cause the Madrid defence all sorts of problems. When he is on fire, his teammates come alive.

RVP has to wear his scoring boots tonight, his scuffed shot in the closing minutes of the first leg hurt a lot of people. He usually puts those away.

Sir Alex announced during his presser that Phil Jones won’t take part in the game as he hasn’t fully recovered from the foot injury that has seen him miss the last two games. I wouldn’t buy that. Mourinho decided to match Fergie wit for wit by stating that Iker Casillas is out of contention for the match as well. Mind games. If they both start tonight, It won’t be a surprise at least to me.

People might ask why Casillas should be thrown into the starting 11 in place of the very impressive Diego Lopez. Simple. San Iker is way more experienced than his Spanish counterpart. Experience counts more than anything in these type of matches.

Ryan Joseph Giggs who started his Manchester United adventure 22 years ago, is set to appear in his 1000th official game as a professional tonight. It may have been better if he did it against Norwich at the weekend and it was against the same team he made his debut and on 2nd March as well which would have been a perfect historic achievement.

SAF has explained that he feels the game against the ‘Whites’ is the perfect time for him to reach the incredible milestone. Real Madrid fans rose up in applause of the Welsh legend when he came on at the Bernabeu. This will be even more rapturous. Whether he will start or appear as a sub is what Fergie has kept close to his chest.

 

 

Predicted Lineups

Manchester United- DDG, Rafa, Rio, Evans, Evra, Jones, Carrick, Kagawa, Welbeck, Rooney, RVP

 

Real Madrid- Casillas, Arbeloa/Ramos, Ramos/Pepe, Varane, Coentrao, Alonso, Khedira, Ozil, Di Maria, CR7, Benzema

 

Ryan Giggs might have to make do with a place on the bench alongside his fellow veteran Paul Scholes, who hasn’t played for a while due to a knee injury. The Ginger Maestro is back and his experience of these kind of games could prove vital. Remember his unstoppable rasping rocket of a shot that was eventually the difference between United and Barcelona in the 2008 semis. He hasn’t lost that quality. Once a maestro, always a maestro.

Rafa, Evans and Welbeck return to the starting 11. David de Gea has not conceded a goal in 447 minutes of Premier League football and his form of late has been excellent. If he can put on a similar show like the one at the Santiago Bernabeu, then MUFC are as good as qualified.

For Mourinho’s men, all the star names return after sitting out the Barcelona game. CR7, Ozil, Alonso et al are all set to feature from the start.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Special Feature: The Top 5 Football Defeats

Defeats in football are some of the most saddening moments for both the fans and the players of the losing side. This is especially the case when your team is losing to a rival team.

In this review of top 5 football (soccer) defeats, a defeat is rated highly if it involved a big goal difference between the two teams. We also give more emphasis on defeats in derby matches due to the rivalry between teams that compete for the same fan base.

 

5. England 3 versus Hungary 6: 1953

The match between England national team and Hungary entered into history books as one of the greatest defeats in the history of soccer due to the fact that the result was highly unexpected.

Before the match, England were unbeaten at home which made them confident that a weak Hungary side could not beat them on their own turf. They were however embarrassed when their opponents outplayed them in all departments on the pitch to seal a historical 6:3 win.

 

 

4. 1982: Swansea City 12 versus Sliema 0

This match entered the list of top 5 football (soccer) defeats due to the fact that it happened in the European Cup Winners competition. The style in which Swansea beat their opponents is also convincing as their 12 goals were from 8 different players.

 

3. Manchester United 8 versus Arsenal 2: August 2011

This match serves as a big landmark in the long battle between the two longest serving managers in the Barclays premier league. A weak Arsenal side travelled to Old Trafford after losing key players in the previous transfer window and Manchester united comfortably rained 8 goals into their net.

 

 

2. Barcelona 5 versus Real Madrid 0: November 2010

The rivalry between the richest clubs in Spain always gives football fans around world at least 90 minutes of entertaining football. On November 10th 2010, Real Madrid travelled to Camp Nou for yet another clasico clash but would leave the stadium humiliated by being outplayed by their rivals.

The 5-goal difference is still the greatest goal difference in a match between the two sides. Jose Mourinho later conceded that his team’s demolition was a ‘historically bad result’ for Real Madrid.

 

 

1. Manchester United 1 versus Manchester City 6: October 2011

This match brought the climax of the rivalry between the two biggest football clubs in Manchester. Manchester United were humiliated by a 6-1 loss to their city rivals on their own home turf. The big difference in the score line and the great rivalry between the two clubs has helped this match to top our list top 5 football (soccer) defeats.

The big difference in the score line would later prove costly to Manchester United as they would later lose the Barclays Premier League to Manchester City on goal difference after tying in points.

 

There are a few other big defeats that did not make it to my top 5 football (soccer) defeats due to the mere fact that they were not international matches.

We narrowed our filter to international matches that are recognized by FIFA which is the world football governing body. Other football matches that failed to make this list happened a long time ago and although soccer has evolved a lot since then, they are still worth a mention.

For instance in 1885, Arbroath beat Bon Accord by 36 goals to nil in a Scottish cup tie while Aberdeen Rovers were thrashed 35-0 by Dundee Harp in the same competition.

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Bayern Munich: The Bavarians proving themselves worthy of continental dominance

While the aftermath of Arsenal’s dismantling by Bayern Munich on Tuesday night will centre around Arsene Wenger’s future and his evolutionary odyssey that continues to edge ever close to an end, it cannot be overlooked that the side who left north London victorious had just made a genuine case that this could be the year that ends their twelve year wait for a Champions League success.

Arsenal had been dogged with disappointment throughout the season and the growing pressure on Wenger had reached evidently new heights as the Frenchman took to a press conference to voice his anger and frustration following a dismal FA Cup knockout at the hands of Blackburn.

They had been embarrassingly eliminated by League Two Bradford in the League Cup, hopes of qualification for next year’s Champions League dangle by a thread domestically and they were heading in to battle with Bayern’s well-oiled machine resembling a lame dog about to be finally put out of his misery. The quest to end a wait of eight years without a trophy was all ready to head over to a ninth.

It was not that Bayern beat Arsenal on Tuesday night but the ease in which they did it. Only a rousing second-half display saw Arsenal come out of the game with any shred of dignity left intact as their German visitors looked content enough to hold their hosts by the puppet strings, waiting patiently for the right time to strike their venom. Sadly, in the second round of UEFA’s flagship competition, their was a huge gulf in class between the two sides.

Bayern sit clear at the top of the Bundesliga by a margin of 15 points and on a run of 13 matches unbeaten in which they have not conceded a single goal since the 14th December. In fact, the only goals they had let past them in that 13 match run were in 1-1 draws against Monchengladbach, Dortmund and Nuremburg as news of Pep Guardiola’s imminent arrival at the end of the season showed now signs of halting the Jupp Heynckes juggernaut that are intent on banishing the heartache of last season’s failure from the memory.

Not only did they lose out on the Bundesliga to Borrusia Dortmund by a margin of 8 points, but they lost the DFB Pokal, Germany’s domestic cup competition, to them too, comprehensively outplayed in the final to a scoreline of 5-2.

Then they contrived to lose the Champions League final on penalties to Chelsea after dominating throughout, in the comfort of their own home of the Allianz Arena. Sebastian Schwiensteiger missed the decisive penalty and was in tears, epitomising the agony Heynckes and his side had suffered.

Uli Hoeness, Bayern’s president, was present on that terrible night and immediately set out his plans to turn his club into winners again, “we used to laugh at Leverkusen for always finishing second, now that is us”, he said. Sporting director Christian Nerlinger was replaced by Mathias Sammer, while Hoeness went about renovating the spine of the side.

In came Monchengladbach’s centre-half Dante who has since become a Brazil international, Basle’s supremely talented young winger Xherdan Shaqiri and Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, joint top scorer at Euro 2012, for a combined total of £25 million. Mandzukic has 17 goals for Bayern and is currently joint-top scorer in the Bundesliga.

Most notably of all, a Bundesliga record fee of €40 million saw Javi Martinez, Athletic Bilbao’s deep lying midfielder, arrive to add steel to the midfield, or the “biter” as Hoeness called it.

That Hoeness admitted his club “probably paid €10 million too much” was indicative of the lengths the club had to go to in order to land the 24 year old who has slotted seamlessly into the side alongside Schwiensteiger and the young Toni Kroos.

It was Kroos, another sensational product of the new generation of German technicians heading into next year’s World Cup, who set them on their way against Arsenal with a sublimely taken half volley before Thomas Muller, another young native of supreme talent, made it two. A mistake by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer allowed Lukas Podolski to half the deficit before Mandzukic restored the two away-goal advantage that looks unassailable ahead of the second leg.

Wenger described Bayern as “a team of class” as the dust began to settle at the Emirates and he was perfectly correct. It was a defence missing Holder Badstuber, their best centre-half, that coped so easily against Arsenal’s front line. Martinez and Schwiensteiger marshalled the area in front of it with poise and intelligence with Kroos buzzing around in advance of them.

Full-backs David Alaba and captain Phillip Lahm had the freedom of the flanks to march forward and it was the latter’s sublime cross that set up the third goal. That Heynckes can leave Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben on the bench, both of whom saw cameos here, suggests the embarrassment of riches available to Heycnkes that will soon be under the influence of Guardiola.

The Spanish manager turned Barcelona into a footballing version of the all-conquering Harlem Globetrotters during his four years in Catalonia, winning 14 trophies along the way, and this behemoth that Heycnkes and Hoeness have built, intent on reaching their third Champions League final in four years, is the perfect reason to end his sabbatical.

Bayern look dominant domestically, dominant on the continent and under the stewardship of Guardiola’s genius, that dominance could go on for a considerable while yet.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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AC Milan: The Massimo Show

The Giuseppe Meazza was agog with indescribable excitement and pride upon the final whistle of the eagerly awaited clash between hosts AC Milan and runaway La Liga leaders, Barcelona.

Not only had the team in red, black and white defeated Barcelona, they also ensured that the blessed trio of Xavi-Iniesta-and Messi were kept absolutely quiet. No member of the Blaugrana starting 11 had a good game. It was the stuff of dreams+greatness for the Rossoneri.

The hugely anticipated match had all the ingredients necessary for a fabulous occasion. Only a Real Madrid-Bayern Munich fixture was more frequent than this one in the history of the Champions League. Between them, 11 Champions League titles have been won.

The Trident couldn’t raise the bar last night..Flustered!
Barcelona arrived in Milan full of confidence in their ability to take home a healthy advantage to the Nou Camp in three weeks. A Messi inspired Barcelona won 2-1 at the Estadio Carmenes after trailing Granada 1-0 at the break.

The Argentine scored his 36th and 37th goals of the league season in a 2-1 win. The winner a classic 25 yard free-kick which left the goalie gasping for breath. Morale was boosted heading into the Milan game. The Diavolo had other ideas. Coach Massimiliano Allegri has risen from adversity to glory many times this season.

From 16th in the table, the Milanese have climbed up to third miraculously thanks to the Manager’s influence and trust. He was at it again last night when he picked the eleven soldiers to do battle with the Catalan army.

Abbiati in goal, Zapata-Mexes-Constant-Abate in defence, Muntari-Skipper Ambrosini-and Riccardo Montolivo in midfield, Pazzini-II Faraone Shaarawy and KPB in attack. Super Mario (January acquisition) could not feature because he was cup-tied (played for Man City in the group stages).

Barcelona didn’t spring too many surprises in their starting line-up. The only doubt was Xavi Hernandez who passed a late fitness test to partner Cesc Fabregas and ever present Sergio Busquets in midfield. Messi-Pedro and Iniesta lined up in attack. Pique-Puyol were chosen to close down Pazzini and company. Alves and Jordi Alba got the nod to play right and left back respectively.

The game started at a high intensity and energy levels were at the maximum for both sides. Barcelona played their game from start to finish but it was not enough to lead to success. Christian Abbiati was rarely threatened and the Mexes-marshaled defence couldn’t have played a better game.

KPB and El Shaarawy did excellently well to double up on the duo of Alves and Alba who both had a game to forget.

Four time Ballon D’or winner and current World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi was kept totally quiet from start to finish. Apart from one trademark bursting run down the right in the first half, he was as ineffective as his coach Jordi Roura who lacked ideas when Barcelona needed a plan B.

The reason for Messi’s incapability for 90 minutes was a certain Ambrosini. Another Massimo, who this time was on the pitch and not the sidelines, followed him everywhere and covered just about every blade of grass on the pitch in a performance reminiscent of Esteban Cambiasso v Barcelona in 2010.

Sulley Muntari apart from scoring the vital 2nd goal (via asuperb El Shaarawy assist), was dependable all night. He was available when needed and reliable when called upon. Ricco Montolivo didn’t do his reputation any harm whatsoever. When he had the ball, he found his teammates easily and calmed the Diavolo with his neat play and timely interceptions. He wasn’t afraid to drive forward either and made Xavi look ordinary in the entire duration of the match.

It was his ferocious shot that led to the Milan opener via a Zapata unintentional handball which KPB put away brilliantly. Andres Iniesta showed some flashes here and there. His only shot was off target and frustrations grew as the game wore on. Milan’s efficiency was the difference between both sides.

For all Barca’s possession (65%), there was absolutely nothing to show for it. Guardiola, Tito and most recently Roura have not devised a new strategy when the main one refuses to yield desired results. The greatness of a side is measured on how flexible and adjustable it can be when faced with a difficult situation.

The man who won the battle of tactics last night was the cool and calm Max Allegri who has been under pressure since August. The task of rebuilding a team after the departures of Gattuso, Ibra, T.Silva, Pippo Inzaghi, Seedorf, Nesta, Zambrotta and most recently Pato was mountainous. He got to it, not particularly well at the beginning which was expected.

The end justifies the means they say and if there’s any situation that best typifies this saying, then Allegri’s perfectly fits the bill. Credit should be given to Vice President Galliani for constantly backing the former Cagliari manager and putting in a word or two for him in his meetings with Owner, Silvio Berlusconi who was given a perfect anniversary present with victory over possibly the greatest club side the world has ever seen.

It is 27 years this week since the former Italian Prime Minister took over the reins. He transformed the club into one of the most successful in World Football and yesterday’s victory is testament to that fact. The emergence of Stephan El Shaarawy from the shadows of the departed Ibrahimovic, the purchases of M’baye Niang, Bakaye Traore, Ricco Montolivo, Christian Zapata, Bojan Krkic (on loan from Barcelona via Roma), etc were shrewd and very essential to their steady growth.

Now the dividends are showing day by day. Now 3rd in the League and on the brink of sending Barcelona packing out of Europe’s premier club competition, Allegri’s managerial ability has passed the acid test. It remains to be seen how far the resurgence can get them to.

It is important to point out that it was the introduction of 18 yr old M’baye Niang which brought the needed bite to the Milan attack when Pazzini ran out of steam. Another brilliant decision by Max Allegri.

Discounting Barcelona will be a big mistake as the tie remains open despite the 2-goal advantage. Nevertheless, if the Diavolo replicate the performance of yesterday night, I can’t see the magic the Catalans will employ when they meet in three weeks time.

It is make or break for both teams. Tie remains firmly in the balance because anything can happen in our sport.

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Champions League: A Detailed Analysis and Look at the Round of 16

The Champions League is back! On Tuesday 12th February, the best club competition in the world re-starts with the Round of 16 featuring the greatest clubs and players on the planet. The likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich will all be fighting it out to lift the famous trophy.

When the draw for the Champions League Group Stage was made, PowerTableSports created the Champions League PowerTable to predict which teams would qualify for the Knockout Rounds and which would be eliminated from the competition. This prediction is based on our unique ‘tier effectiveness’ system where we calculate how effective different teams are against each other based on 4 tiers. If you’re handy with odds and enjoy the challenge, the Jackpot Capital odds are worth testing your skills on. How did we get on?

 

 

Underachievers

Man City and Chelsea were the big underachievers – PowerTable predicted that they would qualify for the Round of 16 and classed them as Tier 1 teams, however they both failed to qualify.

  • Man City were the biggest underachievers – PowerTable considered them Semi-Finalists but they finished bottom of their group.
  • Chelsea were considered Quarter-Finalists but they finished 3rd and only qualified for the Europa League.

 

Overachievers

Malaga and Celtic were the big overachievers having qualified for the Round of 16 despite being regarded as Tier 4 teams.

  • Malaga were the big overachievers having qualified for the Round of 16 by finishing as Group Winners despite being originally regarded as a Tier 4 team.
  • Celtic were also one of the big overachievers having qualified for the Round of 16 by finishing 2nd in the Group despite being originally regarded as a Tier 4 team.

 

After successfully predicting 75% of the teams who have gone through to the Round of 16, PowerTableSports has yet again used our unique ‘tier effectiveness’ system to calculate which teams will be eliminated and which will progress to the Quarter Finals. Tier 1 and 2 teams are those that we predict will go through, whereas Tier 3 and 4 teams will be those whose European title ambitions are ended for another year.

Galatasaray v Schalke

Schalke are currently on a poor run in the Bundesliga. The signing of experienced duo Sneijder and Drogba will swing the tie in Galatasaray’s favour.

Celtic v Juventus

Celtic have outperformed all expectations, including a fantastic win against Barcelona. Lightening is unlikely to strike twice though and Italian Champions Juventus will go through over both legs.

Arsenal v Bayern Munich

A mouth-watering tie between an inconsistent Arsenal against an unstoppable Bayern in their domestic Leagues. Bayern’s quest to become European Champions will be a step closer.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund

Shakhtar and Dortmund both set the competition alight during the group stages. Shakhtar have sold key player Willian though, which puts Dortmund as favourites (just!).

AC Milan v Barcelona

Barcelona are still favourites to lift the title. AC Milan will prove a stern test, but the Italian giants have a relatively inexperienced squad who Barcelona will dispose of over both legs.

Real Madrid v Man Utd

The tie of the round sees Ronaldo face his former club and Ferguson come face to face with Mourinho again. Close game, plenty of excitement but a United away goal should swing it their way.

Valencia v Paris Saint-Germain

Both teams were impressive during the Group Stage. Valencia will fancy themselves in the 1st leg, but PSG and their attacking flair will be too much over both legs.

Porto v Malaga

Malaga remained unbeaten in their Group and their inclusion in the Round of 16 will have surprised a few people. Porto will fancy their chances, but expect Malaga to pull off another surprise over both legs.

 

Check out PowerTableSports – we analyse football data and turn it into interesting and exciting insight for fans and punters – facts, stats, predictions, tips, articles and more!

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