European Team of the week 28/10/13

On a weekend when it was all about the biggest club football match, the biggest rivalry; it just didn’t leave up to expectation; on the other hand the Revierderby was the headline game; unfortunately Dortmund remain second after an excellent performance behind Pep’s Bayern who remain undefeated. In France, Lille continue to lock the door with the keys thrown away and Roma make it nine out of nine wins with only a goal conceded.

My team of the week for the rest of Europe is as follows in a 3-4-3 Formation:

In Goal, Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama makes it 9 clean sheets so far this season with no goal conceded in 585 minutes; second appearance in a roll for the Nigerian Captain.

In my back Three, Bayer Leverkusen’s Giulio Donati has attracted a lot of attention lately and may just be in contention for an Italian National team call up; if you ever wondered how come Roma have been greatly transformed defensively; asides the manager? Mehdi  Benatia  is one major reason. Jonathan  Tah, only 17 and another in the long line of talent coming out of Germany.

No Midfield is ever complete without the presence of Andreas Iniesta with another stellar performance in the otherwise calm El Clasico;  Marco  Parolo gets a place after a solid performance against Milan with his involvement in Parma’s last five goals with three goals and two assists. Antonio Candreva has scored the same number of goals he scored during the entire of last season in the first nine games of the season; Henrikh Mkhitaryan slotted into this Dortmund side like he was born to play in it; a man of the match performance in the derby and was involved in all Dortmund’s goals.

Unlike his fellow debutant at the El Clasico; Neymar was fully involved in all that was great about Barcelona on the night; Arjen Robben has ensured that he remains a major part of the Pep project at Bayern and completing our team is Mario Mandzukic keeps delivering despite his manager’s flirtations with various systems.

If you create a new Serie A record, concede only a goal in nine games and visit a stadium where the host are undefeated in 22 games; you deserve to be the manager of the week; Rudi Garcia as quietly built a good team chemistry and ethic that has Roma heading in the right direction.

Take a look at our goal of the week, absolute Golazo from Alexis Sanchez.

euro halftimeng team 28-10

 

 

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EPL Team of the Weekend (28/10/13)

Another great Footballing weekend in the English Premier League; with all kinds of incidences; Chicharito saved Manchester United’s blushes; El Nino seems to have found some semblance of his groove; the Saints go matching on and Gus Poyet’s Black Cats get their first win under new management in the derby

 My EPL team of the weekend adopting a 4-3-3 formation is as follows:
Goalkeeper: So many candidates were pegged for this role but in an entertaining goalless draw, you would want to agree with me that the goalkeepers were outstanding too. In this case, I can only award it to a goalie who had to face a massive 31 shots on his goal,10 on target and he is none other than Cardiff City’s DAVID MARSHALL.

Right back: Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne. He might get a call-up to the National side if he continues like this. He makes the team in back to back weeks.

Left back: Everton’s Leighton Baines

Centre-back: Phil Jagielka’s performance was massive on the night against Aston Villa. Jagielka recorded a whopping 14 clearances, along with five tackles and four interceptions.

Centre back: Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker gets the nod.

Centre midfield: Chelsea’s Ramires both managed to break up play and burst into attacking positions time and again

Centre midfield: Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard who ran the midfield at ease against West Brom and built a good connection with Suarez and Sturridge upfront. The reliable veteran provided an assist and completed 87 percent of his passes.

Centre midfield: I liked the way Jedinak played against Arsenal but  Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez would play in this role for me. He tormented the Fulham backline all day and even scored a goal.

Centre forward: Where would United be without him? I don’t know the kind of meeting he had with David Moyes prior to the start of the season but I’m sure one of the songs he sang to the coach was “Lean on me, when you are not strong”.. He’s fit, he’s focused, He’s WAYNE ROONEY.

Centre forward: Mourinho said he was surprised, I’m also surprised at the performance of FERNANDO TORRES. He will partner Rooney upfront having scored his first goal of the season. From his last two performances for Chelsea, I’m sure pundits across the world will start to write an article titled. “HOW TORRES GOT HIS GROOVE BACK!!!”

Centre forward: He’s back, he’s been missed, he’s LUIS SUAREZ. In this form he is simply unstoppable, with three well-taken goals on the night,He is the star player of the weekend.

Manager: A round of applause for  Gus Poyet as Sunderland got their FIRST WIN of the season and it came against their fierce local rivals.

halfimeng Epl team of the week 28-10

Premier League Wrap: Arsenal stay top, United comeback, Torres delivers and Suarez shines

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After an exciting week Nine (9) games in the English Premier League, Arsenal remain top of the log, Luis Suarez scored his fourth top-flight hat-trick and Southampton recorded their best ever start to a Barclays Premier League season on Saturday.

On Sunday, Mourinho’s impressive Stamford Bridge run continued after an inspiring performance by Torres earned the Blues a 2-1 win over Manchester City and earlier, Newcastle United lost the Tyneside derby against Sunderland to record their first win of the season.

mikelartetaredcardwoe20131026_576x324Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the table to five points after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 to remain the only team to score in each of their Barclays Premier League matches this season.

The Gunners have scored in their last 14 Premier League games; the best current run in the competition with Mikel Arteta scoring his first goal of the season from the penalty spot a minute into the second half after Serge Gnabry was brought down by Adlene Guedioura to score 16 of the 18 Premier League penalties he has taken – six out of seven for Arsenal but the Spaniard was seen off soon afterwards after fouling former Gunners striker Marouane Chamakh.
Arsenal secured the win three minutes from time when Olivier Giroud headed in Aaron Ramsey’s cross.

Crystal Palace have lost six consecutive league matches for the first time since March 2001 with the Eagles conceding at least two goals in each of their last six Premier League matches.

For Arsenal, they remain unbeaten in 14 competitive away games, winning 12 and drawing twice.
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Aston Villa 0-2 Everton

Everton continued their strong start under Roberto Martinez as they ran out 2-0 winners at Aston Villa.

Christian Benteke has now missed two penalties this season when goalkeeper Tim Howard dived high to his right to push his effort over the crossbar after Seamus Coleman hauled him down in the box, leaving referee Anthony Taylor no option but to point to the spot.

Leon Osman then found Romelu Lukaku in plenty of space on the edge of the area and the on-loan Chelsea striker made no mistake in drilling in from 16 yards. Lukaku has scored five goals for Everton this term, the Belgian has now scored 22 in 40 Premier League appearances for West Bromwich Albion and Everton, but none in 10 for Chelsea.

For Aston Villa, they have now conceded a goal in 16 successive Premier League home matches.

Leon Osman then wrapped up the points in the final ten minutes, finding the bottom corner after he was expertly teed up by Gareth Barry.
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LIVE-Liverpool-v-West-Brom-2642161Liverpool 4-1 West Bromwich Albion

Liverpool thumped West Brom 4-1 at Anfield as Luis Suarez became the first player this season to score a hat-trick. The Liverpool striker scored his fourth Premier League hat-trick, his first at Anfield, in only his 81st appearance for the club.

James Morrison’s penalty gave West Brom brief hope to keep Liverpool’s undecent run of having not kept a clean sheet in any of their last six Premier League games but the game was put beyond West Brom’s reach with a brilliant 25-yard chip from Daniel Sturridge.
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javierhernandezwinninggoal20131026_576x324Manchester United 3-2 Stoke City

Two goals in two minutes from Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez rescued David Moyes’ Manchester United from defeat as they ran out 3-2 winners against Stoke City to record their sixth consecutive home win against Stoke in the Barclays Premier League.

United were stunned after four minutes when Jonny Evans kicked the ball against Peter Crouch who scored only his second goal in 18 Barclays Premier League appearances against Manchester United and saw it go into the net.

Crouch was the first striker to score a goal in the top-flight for the Potters this term and the goal conceded was only the ninth goal Manchester United have conceded before the fifth minute in the Premier League era at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie netted in the 43rd minute to level things up, extending his personal scoring run against Stoke to seven games, but United’s relief was short-lived, with Marko Arnautovic curling in a free-kick to record his first Premier League goal in first-half added time.

Wayne Rooney glanced the ball home in the 78th minute, before substitute Hernandez completed the turnaround two minutes later with a close-range header and to take his goal tally against Stoke in seven top-flight appearances to five.
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Norwich City 0-0 Cardiff City

Cardiff kept only their second Barclays Premier League clean sheet of the campaign against Norwich City as both sides were only separated by a point prior to kick-off and it stayed that way as they played out an entertaining 0-0 draw at Carrow Road,
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Southampton 2-0 Fulham
Mauricio Pochettino’s side continued their impressive home run this campaign as they moved up to third in the table with a 2-0 home win over Fulham. They have now made their best ever start to a top flight season (19 points from nine matches).
Rickie Lambert was left unmarked to head in a corner for their opener and the home team soon doubled their lead when Jay Rodriguez converted following good work from his strike partner.
Fulham offered little in terms of a response, particularly after the break as they became the seventh team to fail to register a shot on target in a Premier League game this season.
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tytne315headerSunderland v Newcastle United

Fabio Borini was Sunderland’s hero as his late goal secured a 2-1 win over rivals Newcastle United, the club’s first victory of the season.

The Black Cats have not won any of their last 12 Premier League matches (L9 D3). Prior to their 3-0 victory over Newcastle in April, Sunderland had gone nine PL games without a win.

The Italian was introduced in the 68th minute and grabbed the winner with a powerful 85th-minute strike from the edge of the penalty area.

Steven Fletcher gave Gus Poyet the perfect start to his opening game in charge at the Stadium of Light by breaking the deadlock in the fifth minute, but Sunderland were unable to hold on to that lead.

Mathieu Debuchy’s first goal for Newcastle brought the visitors level just before the hour, the defender converting a simple tap in at the back post before Italian Borini, on loan from Liverpool, lifted the gloom at the Stadium of Light when he thundered a 25-metre rocket past a flailing Tim Krul six minutes from time.

Sunderland have won one of their opening nine league games for the second season in succession and they have won consecutive League matches against Newcastle for the first time since March 1967 (the year that Gus Poyet was born). Interesting!!!

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fernandotorresceleb20131027_576x324Chelsea v Manchester City

Fernando Torres got his reward for an irrepressible display that he has rarely produced for Chelsea when he scored a last-minute winner after a defensive mix-up in a 2-1 Premier League victory over Manchester City who have lost as many away games (five) as they have won (five) in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday.

The Spain striker, who set up Andre Schuerrle’s first-half goal, missed a sitter and also struck the woodwork, gleefully fired into an empty net after City defender Matija Nastasic’s header back to Joe Hart went sailing past the outrushing keeper.

Sergio Aguero had levelled soon after halftime for City as victory lifted Chelsea back up to second place, level on 20 points with Liverpool and two behind leaders Arsenal.

The win ensured that Jose Mourinho is unbeaten in 65 Barclays Premier League home games as manager of Chelsea (W51 D14).

City lost a Premier League game in which Aguero scored for the first time (W29 D2 L1) and a disappointed Pellegrini felt his side were far better than Chelsea and that his side have been badly undermined by errors at the back this season.

Their latest defeat sees them sitting seventh, six points behind table-toppers Arsenal.
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Swansea City v West Ham United

Swansea’s quest to win successive Barclays Premier League games for the first time since 1 December, 2012 was hampered on sunday as the home side and West Ham United drew 0-0, the London side’s striker Ricardo Vaz Te suffering a dislocated shoulder according to manager Sam Allardyce.
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Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City

Roberto Soldado’s 80th-minute penalty secured Tottenham Hotspur a 1-0 home win over Hull City and lifted them up to fourth.

No side has kept more clean sheets in the Barclays Premier League this season than Spurs (six) and they are the only side in the top nine to score fewer than 10 goals this season.

Five Tactical Surprises from The El Classico.

For the first time in a long while, we approached an El classico without any bitter exchanges from the managers or some controversy leading on to the biggest game in club football. More often than not, the tactical approach of the managers always seem to come to question; especially during the Jose Mourinho era, where it seemed like Real Madrid could not cope with the style and brilliance of Barcelona under Pep Guardiola; however, as time wore on and with about four el classicos per season; Real Madrid started getting used to playing Barcelona’s style and tactics.

Going into this season’s first installment of the El Classico; with both managers taking part for the first time; a number of questions came to mind as to how they would approach the game especially taking into consideration that Barcelona under Tata Martino seem to be more direct  unlike previous sides who were more patient and eleborate. Real Madrid on the other hand seemed more of the same, but with greater flair and freedom unlike in the Mourinho era; Carlo Ancelotti’s team look more entertaining.

To the game proper, it may not have been a classic or the best encounter you may have witnessed; but five tactical moves surprised me in this tie particularly from Carlo Ancelotti and I can comfortably say this was the reason Barcelona had the edge and went on to take the maximum three points.

Playing Sergio Ramos in Defensive Midfield

It is no longer news that Real Madrid miss Xabi Alonso in their midfield; he’s calmness, control and command of the midfield is second to none; but haven’t we been here before; especially in the Mourinho era when he played Pepe in Defensive Midfield to add an extra shield to their defensive plan. That plan failed woefully and so did this one; yes Sergio Ramos is good on the ball; but that’s coming out of defense with a 89% pass completion rate. Putting him in midfield was like having a fish out of water; the trio of Barcelona Midfielders easily picked passes around him coupled with their fine movement led to an early caution and eventual substitution for a proper midfielder in Asier Illaramendi; begs the question of why gamble in the first place; maybe Ancelotti doesn’t trust Illaramendi to get the job done yet.

Exclusion of Isco

Big surprise for me was Isco exclusion; outside Cristano Ronaldo, you could say Isco has been Real Madrid’s best player with 4 goals in 9 games and 87% pass completion rate second only to Luca Modric. As far as I am concern, we know Real Madrid was not going to control possession, but having a player like Isco on the pitch would add some creative intelligence and incisive spark to their play; Modric always seems to be keen to play as a Regista (deep lying playmaker) sitting along side Khedira; this would have freed up Isco to do his thing high up the pitch bearing in mind that Real didn’t play with a proper defensive midfielder anyway; so why not play with some freedom.

Playing without a focal point in Attack

Surprisingly Ancelotti decided to drop Benzema and also left out Morata from his squad for the day. Real Madrid looked out of sorts going forward as there was no focal point. Yes Ronaldo can play upfront, but the truth is Ronaldo will always peel off to the wings either right or left; its what he does especially when he has the ball. I would have gone with Morata since Benzema has been off form; Morata possesses the physicality to ruffle the Barcelona back line and he would have caused them a lot of problems. Not that Benzema did not give the Barcelona defense something to think about when he came on, but if he or Morata had started; the outcome may have been different.

What was DI Maria’s Role

Have you ever had a more invisible player on the pitch in a big game of this nature than Di Maria? It was quite amazing to see him wandering all over the pitch with absolutely no aim and Di Maria is not that type of player; in fact Di Maria is second in La Liga in key passes (according to whoscored.com). Its was quite a shock that Ancelotti moved him to the left with Bale on the right and Ronaldo in the middle; interesting thing is Ronaldo kept popping up on the left, more so Bale for the better of his stellar season at Spurs played on the left. Take for example the chance missed by Khedira; it was from a cross by Ronaldo on the left; where was Di Maria? invisible of course. Even the goal that Real scored (permitted that Di Maria was off the pitch at the time) came from a Ronaldo pass from the left; Di Maria should never have been dropped on the right; big mistake and a tactical surprise.

Pace in key areas and at the right time can change games

Real packed their attack with a lot of pace to no great effect as the personnel on offer in midfield could not utilize the outlets provided by this pace. Barcelona on the other hand, struggled when they had to run at the Real Madrid defense. Interestingly, since the departure of David Villa and the eventual return of Messi to the right of the Barcelona attack; that role has been available for grabs; it was a surprise to have Cesc Fabregas play in the role; call it the False Nine role; he didn’t provide the pace Barcelona needed in that area at certain times until the introduction of Alexis Sanchez and what a way to mark his introduction, but with a fantastic goal.

In conclusion, Barcelona had their tactics spot on, Real on the other hand were shocking tactically and it would not be the first time that Carlo Ancelotti would be questioned on his tactical astuteness.

THIS WEEKEND: Three Games You can’t Miss.

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Following an exciting Uefa champions league week, league action resumes across major centres. Like you all know, nothing beats the thrill of club football and we all cannot wait. As is our tradition on Halftimeng.com; we take a trip across Europe and take a look at THREE(3) key fixtures.

thBARCELONA VS REAL MADRID
All eyes will be in Spain this weekend as the 167th El-clasico takes centre stage at the Noucamp when Barcelona files out against rivals, Real Madrid. An exciting story is the fact that the two coaches will be having their first feel of the El- clasico, Tata Marino and Carlo Ancelotti.

Barcelona will aim to beat arch-rivals Real Madrid in La Liga for the first time in almost two years in Saturday’s much-anticipated El Clasico.

The Catalan giants last won a league fixture against Real Madrid in December 2011, as they came from behind to win 3-1 in the Spanish capital.

And although Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup wins have since followed, Barca will be determined to end a run that has seen them take just one point from their last three league meetings with Real.

Gerardo Martino’s table-toppers are the only side to avoid defeat in La Liga this term, having recorded eight wins and one draw.

They were held to a goalless stalemate at Osasuna last week but will hope a return to the Camp Nou – where they have won their last 19 Liga matches – helps them return to winning ways.

Real Madrid sit third in La Liga, three points adrift of Barca, with their only loss of the season coming against neighbours Atletico Madrid last month.

Both sides have new stars determined to make an impact in their first Clasico – Neymar in Barca’s case, and Gareth Bale in Real’s. Brazilian Neymar has scored three goals in 13 appearances since moving from Santos and has claimed the fixture is the biggest in club football.

While much attention will focus on the impact of Neymar and Bale – the latter having returned from a back injury against Malaga on Saturday – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are more than likely to steal the show.

Widely regarded as the two best players on the planet, both have made an outstanding start to the current campaign, with Ronaldo’s brace in a 2-1 UEFA Champions League win over Juventus on Wednesday taking him to 15 goals from 12 appearances this season.

Four-time world player of the year Messi, meanwhile, has 12 goals in nine outings.

My Take: Going by current form, Real Madrid looks like they will be having an edge considering Barcelona’s defensive frailties. I think a score-draw will be a fair result.

Gary+Cahill+Chelsea+v+Manchester+City+j4iEmth_1iPxCHELSEA VS MANCHESTER CITY
In England, two coaches will continue their “rivalry” from La liga, Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini when they present their teams on sunday with Chelsea hosting Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho’s side have won all four of their top-flight games at Stamford Bridge this term, scoring 10 goals in the process.

However, 2011-12 champions City are unbeaten in their last five games in against the London club in all competitions, winning four of those encounters.

Former Real Madrid boss Mourinho avoided a touchline ban this week, but was fined by the Football Association for improper conduct during Chelsea’s 4-1 victory over Cardiff City last weekend.

Chelsea have lost just one of their eight Premier League matches so far this season – last month’s 1-0 reverse at Everton – and go into this clash having won their last four in all competitions.

This form has helped Mourinho’s side to joint second in the table, just two points behind leaders Arsenal and one better off than City.

The hosts will be boosted by the return of England left-back Ashley Cole following a rib injury, with long-term absentee Marco van Ginkel (knee) their only sidelined player.

Fernando Torres will be hoping to have done enough to keep his place in Mourinho’s starting team after scoring twice in Tuesday night’s 3-0 UEFA Champions League win at Schalke, although fellow forward Samuel Eto’o could be in line for a recall after bagging his first Chelsea goal against Cardiff.

City, meanwhile, head to Stamford Bridge on the back of a 2-1 Champions League victory against CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital on Wednesday.

That victory was overshadowed by midfielder Yaya Toure allegedly being the subject of racist abuse, and UEFA have launched an investigation into the matter.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side – who are the Premier League’s top scorers with 20 goals in eight games – have won their last three fixtures in all competitions.

City skipper Vincent Kompany is not yet available to return to the squad due to the thigh injury he picked up in the 3-1 win over Everton earlier this month, but Pellegrini has no other absences to contend with.

Argentine striker Sergio Aguero is in fine form ahead of the game, having scored five goals in his last three games.

My Take: It’s too hard to call.

th (1)UDINESE VS ROMA
In Italy, Can Roma make it 9 out of 9? I say a BIG YES; especially against an unconvincing Udinese side. The big teams have tested Roma this season already, they have lived up to expectation so Udinese shouldn’t be a worry because they just look “too good to lose”.
Roma manager Rudi Garcia says the team are fully equipped to cope with the absence of captain Francesco Totti when they travel to Udinese.

My Take: This is definitely the wrong week for Roma to fall.Nothing Udinese have done thus far suggests they’re anything more than a midtable side. Sure, that’ll change sometime after January, but for now, the Roma win is inevitable.

 

UCL Wrap (Match Day 3) – Ibrahimovic sparkle as Champions League goals flow

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap] total of 27 goals were scored across various UCL match centres last night with Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo sparkling on the night.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo come face-to-face next month when Sweden meet Portugal in a World Cup playoff and they sharpened their claws with six goals between them on a thrilling night of Champions League action on Wednesday.

ibrahimo643063Ibrahimovic joined the select band of players to score four Champions League goals in one match as Paris St Germain won 5-0 at Anderlecht to consolidate their place at the top of Group C with a third straight win.

Ronaldo struck both goals for Real Madrid, one from the penalty spot, as they posted a 2-1 win over Juventus to also move to nine points in Group B.

Swede Ibrahimovic, who scored all four for Sweden nearly a year ago in a 4-2 friendly win over England, wrapped up a 19-minute hat-trick with a stunning right-foot 25-metre thunderbolt before adding a fourth goal after the break.

That took his tally to 10 goals in five games for club and country and also put him 10th place on the all-time Champions League scoring list. Edinson Cavani scored PSG’s other goal.

The French champions, who have spent millions on top players in the last two years, proved they can be serious candidates for the competition with their biggest ever away win in Europe, virtually eliminating Anderlecht in the process.

cr714666_w2Ronaldo took his tally to seven goals in three Champions League matches this season and is now third on the list of all-time scorers with 57 goals from 95 matches in the competition proper behind Raul (71) and Lionel Messi (63).

Juventus finished with 10 men after Giorgio Chiellini was sent off early in the second half after brushing a rather theatrical Ronaldo with his arm.

One hundred million euro man Gareth Bale was again a substitute, replacing Karim Benzema with just over 20 minutes left.

Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo were not the only top forwards amongst the goals on a night when 27 hit the net in the eight matches. Franck Ribery scored twice for European champions Bayern Munich in a 5-0 win against Czech champions Viktoria Plzen to continue their 100 percent start to Group D.

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Bayern, whose last encounter with Plzen was back in 1971 and ended in a 7-1 aggregate win, set a frantic early pace and European Footballer of the Year Ribery gave them a deserved 25th-minute lead from the spot.

David Alaba doubled the lead 12 minutes later with a low drive and Ribery got another with a superb chip in the second half. Bastian Schweinsteiger added the fourth three minutes later and Mario Goetze completed the scoring in stoppage time.

There was also a big win for Bayern’s Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen who thumped Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 with Stefan Kiessling putting last weekend’s “phantom goal” behind him with two genuine efforts that could not be doubted.

kiiieee14485_w2Kiessling’s header against Hoffenheim on Friday was counted as a goal even though it went in through the side netting, but there was no question about his 22nd minute header that opened the scoring against the Ukrainians.

Simon Rolfes scored from the spot and Bundesliga top scorer Sidney Sam made it 3-0 after 57 minutes before Kiessling walked the ball home 18 minutes from time to seal the win.

aguero4319_w2Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero was another to get two as his side came from behind in Group D to win 2-1 at CSKA Moscow. Galatasaray beat FC Copenhagen 3-1 to climb off the bottom of Group B with Didier Drogba on target.

However the night was marred by racist chanting from the home fans directed at City’s powerful midfield trojan Yaya Toure.

United554_w2The lowest scoring win was at Old Trafford where Manchester United beat Real Sociedad 1-0 after Real defender Inigo Martinez scored an own goal in the second minute which was enough to lift United to top spot in Group A.

benfica4580_w2Benfica and Olympiakos ended 1-1 in the only draw of the night played out on a quagmire of a pitch in Lisbon. The result left them both on four points, five behind Group C leaders PSG.

UCL PREVIEW (Match Day 3)- Real Madrid, Bayern and PSG looking to consolidate.


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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ction across Europe last night in eight centres produced eight (8) goals. Are we likely to see more tonight? We have a comprehensive preview for you.

Galatasaray AS v Real Madrid CF - UEFA Champions LeagueReal Madrid (Spain) vs. Juventus (Italy)

Real Madrid versus Juventus became the stage’s marquee matchup when the teams were drawn in the same group. The teams currently exist on subtly different levels. Real Madrid has made three straight Champions League semifinals while Juventus is still trying to regain their European footing. They’ve yet to threaten for a UEFA honours since returning to Serie A.

Real Madrid cruised through opening matches against Galatasaray and Copenhagen, scoring 10 times while conceding once. Juventus have yet to win a game in the group.

Ins and Outs: Xabi Alonso’s still out for Real Madrid, but that’s it as far as their absences. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Fabio Coentrao and Raphaël Varane are eligible to feature tonight.

For Juventus, Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella and Stephan Lichtsteiner are all out.

Prediction: Real Madrid 2-0 Juventus

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CSKA Moscow (Russia) vs. Manchester City (England)

Until Manchester City claim a spot in the knockout round, there’ll always be doubts about whether they’ve made the changes necessary to transcend their previous failures. They have brought in Manuel Pellegrini, a good manager and a handful of players, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic but until they’ve actually clinched a spot in the tournament’s second round, it’s all means without an end.

A Wednesday win over CSKA would be a huge step forward. The Russians are going to be City’s biggest obstacle to reaching the second round, an obstacle they’ll be through with in a forth-night. If City can take four points in these next two games, they’ll put one foot into the final 16.

Without Dzagoev in the team, CSKA look completely lost and while they overcame Viktoria Plzen last time out in Europe, City are a much tougher proposition and it’s expected that the Premier League side will come away with all 3 points.

INS AND OUTS:

For CSKA, Alan Dzagoev is out while Igor Akinfeev may recover in time to start between the sticks. Seydou Doumbia made his long awaited return from injury in the 2-0 defeat to Zenit on Friday, but may start from the bench against Manchester City and Aleksandrs Cauna will certainly miss out through injury.

For Manchester City, Manager Manuel Pellegrini will be without Martín Demichelis, Jack Rodwell and Vincent Kompany for the trip to Russia, meaning Joleon Lescott or Javi García will start alongside Matija Nastasic at centre-back. Jesús Navas wasn’t involved against West Ham, with Samir Nasri expected to keep his place in the midfield for the encounter.

Prediction: CSKA Moscow 1-3 Manchester City

FBL-EUR-C1-BAYERN MUNICH-VIKTORIA PLZENBayern Munich (Germany) vs. Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic)

For Bayern, Pep Guardiola’s trying to say the right, respectful things of his visiting minnows, but the emphasis is on the defending champions. Philipp Lahm’s expected to be back at right back, Bastian Schweinsteiger should resume a holding role, and the newly healthy Mario Götze will be back in midfield. How well  Bayern plays with something resembling their first choice team will be as interesting as their opposition.

INS AND OUTS:

For Bayern, Jerome Boateng is suspended and with Dante now sidelined with an ankle problem, Guardiola’s hand has been forced somewhat with veteran Daniel van Buyten set to come into the side. Javi Martinez has just returned to training but he won’t be fit enough to fill in on Wednesday so summer signing Jan Kirchoff will make his first start for the club. David Alaba was rested at the weekend but should return to the XI while Franck Ribery was left out of the squad entirely as a precaution, but should also be back in contention.

For Plzen, Centre-back Marian Cisovsky is back available having missed the previous two group games and he should return to the side with Roman Hubnik dropping out. Fellow defender David Limbersky is set to continue to miss out having not played over the past month due to a thigh injury. Marek Bakos should continue to lead the line after scoring in Moscow earlier this month but faces competition from Tomas Wagner.

Prediction: Bayern Munich 4-0 Viktoria Plzen

Manchester United coach David Moyes takeManchester United (England) vs. Real Sociedad (Spain)

Having started the season poorly, Manchester United remain unbeaten in Europe and will look to continue that record with the welcome of Real Sociedad. The Premier League champions must pick up a win here in order to ease the pressure building on manager David Moyes.

Real Socieded on the other hand have endured a similarly tumultuous start to their domestic campaign and need to pick up a positive result if they’re to stand any chance of making it through Group A. They’ll be buoyed, however, in that United have lost their last 2 competitive fixtures at the hands of Spanish sides at Old Trafford. However, without the services of key man Esteban Granero, United are tipped to come away with a victory here, but it’s likely to be a close encounter at Old Trafford.

INS AND OUTS:

For United, David Moyes will be without the services of long-term absentee Darren Fletcher, while Nemanja Vidic is sidelined and will miss out. Rio Ferdinand, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are all doubtful and may not be available.

For Real Sociedad, will be without the services of injured trio Esteban Granero, Diego Ifrán and Daniel Estrada for the trip to Manchester United.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Real Sociedad

Paris Saint-Germain's French coach LaureAnderlecht (Belgium) vs. Paris Saint-Germain (France)

In Brussels, Paris Saint-Germain will try to maintain their perfect record against an Anderlecht side again struggling to make an impact in group stage. PSG coach Laurent Blanc has said a win is a “must,” a demand looking more toward the knockout rounds than Group C’s dynamics. If his team is going to accomplish it’s bigger goal (having a real impact in Champions League), they need to manage the smaller ones.

INS AND OUTS:

For Anderlecht, Ronaldo Vargas misses out through injury and Goalkeeper Silvio Proto isn’t expected to recover in time so Thomas Kaminski should continue to deputise.

For PSG, Christophe Jallet is expected to miss out after being forced off during the win over Bastia at the weekend. Javier Pastore and Thiago Silva remain absent, while Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti are available after missing out due to domestic suspension. Gregory van der Wiel is one yellow card away from a European suspension.

Prediction: Anderlecht 1-2 PSG

Elsewhere,

  • Galatasaray (Turkey) vs. Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Coming off a draw at Juve, the Turkish champions hope their new coach, Roberto Mancini, can help them push for a second straight appearance in the knockout round. That goal means getting the best of Copenhagen, with a home win on Wednesday crucial to their upset hopes. It’s uncertain how the Danes will cope with the Istanbul crowd.
  • INS AND OUTS:

For Galatasaray, Manager Roberto Mancini has made a few changes since his appointment, starting Sabri Sarioglu and Ceyhun Gülselam in his first two league matches in charge. The Italian went with one up front against Juventus in his first match in charge but he may revert to a 4-3-1-2 against a more favourable opponent, with Yilmaz partnering Drogba in attack. Semih Kaya and Aurelien Chedjou are the preferred pairing at the back with Wesley Sneijder, who scored twice at the weekend, given the free role behind the strikers.

For Copenhagen, Left-back Pierre Bengtsson has missed the last two league matches through injury so youngster Cristoffer Remmer may continue to deputise. Stale Solbakken may be keen to avoid disrupting his team’s flow after an impressive 3-0 victory over AaB at the weekend so the starting XI could remain unchanged.

Prediction: Galatasaray 2-0 FC Copenhagen

 

Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)

 

Two teams with similar levels of talent meet with vastly different Champions League experience. Mircea Lucescu’s Skakhtar side has been in this situation before, whereas a Leverkusen team that has less experience showed their nerves against Manchester United. Both teams are extremely dangerous going forward, potentially testing who blinks first. Will Sami Hyypiä be the first to protect his defense? Or will Lucescu feel the need to offset the threats of Stefan Kießling and Sidney Sam.

INS AND OUTS:

Bayer Leverkusen’s Coach, Sami Hyypia will be without the services of Lars Bender and Levin Mete Öztunal through injury, while Son Heung-Min could come into the starting XI after being an unused sub last time out.

For Shaktar Donetsk , the Ukrainian side may remain unchanged from the weekend’s victory in the domestic scene with head coach Mircea Lucescu facing no troubling injury concerns.

Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Shaktar Donetsk

Benfica (Portugal) vs. Olympiacos (Greece)

Paris Saint-Germain is going to win this group, but Benfica and Olympiacos are vying to claim Group C’s second knockout stage spot. Both teams have beaten Anderlecht and lost to PSG, results that could be replicated in the group’s last two rounds. How these two do against each other should decide who’s still in this tournament come February.

INS AND OUTS:

Benfica have a number of injury worries, with attacking players in Lazar Markovic and Rodrigo both forced off at the weekend and doubtful for this game as a result. Gaitan could play on the left in Markovic’s absence, while Rodrigo may not have been involved anyway. Miralem Sulejmani is also a doubt, while Eduardo Salvio and Silvio are both still out.

For Olympiakos, Bong, Holebas and Machado all missed out through injury at the weekend and could be absent for this game too. Dangerman Konstantinos Mitroglou will lead the line once again, looking to build on his hat-trick at Anderlecht.
Prediction: Benfica 2-1 Olympiakos

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Wrap (Match Day 3)

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was another exciting night of football in the Uefa Champions League as Lionel Messi marked his first start after injury with a goal in Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at AC Milan in the on Tuesday while Fernando Torres got two as Chelsea thumped Schalke and Atletico Madrid’s charge continued.

lewwwaaaArsenal manager Arsene Wenger would have been happy with a draw in their match at home to Dortmund because it would have kept them top of Group F. Instead, the section was blown wide open as the Londoners, who lead the Premier League after some stylish performances and had enjoyed back-to-back European wins before this match, received a reality check. The Germans, whose coach Juergen Klopp watched from the stands as he served a touchline ban, took a 16th-minute lead through Henrikh Mkhitaryan before Olivier Giroud equalised for the hosts before the break. Wenger had spoken of the danger of Dortmund’s Polish players before the game and his fears were proved right when Lewandowski volleyed home eight minutes from time to snatch the points for Dortmund at the Emirates stadium.arseenaa In another Group F game, Napoli got a 2-1 victory in France against Olympique Marseille to also put the team on six points in Group F.  Marseille remains the weeping boys.

There is a clear leader in Group G, where Atletico made it three wins from three with a 3-0 victory at Austria Vienna that left them a point away from the 10 that are usually enough to send teams into the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition. With Diego Costa scoring twice, including a stunning solo effort, they went five points clear of second-placed Zenit St Petersburg, who made the most of the sixth-minute sending off of Porto’s Hector Herrera – the competition’s fastest ever dismissal from two yellow cards – to beat their hosts 1-0.

Costa enjoyed a dream competition debut in Vienna, scoring the second and third goals including a superb effort after he raced from inside the Atletico half and danced past the last defender before slipping the ball into the corner of the net.

herre3559_w2It was the other extreme for another Group G player, Herrera, whose first Champions League start lasted six minutes. The 23-year-old Porto midfielder was shown his first yellow card after a foul and then picked up a second booking for encroaching on the free kick he had just given away to set a red card record he will want to forget. The hosts almost managed to hang on for a draw before an 86th-minute header from Aleksandr Kerzhakov stole the points for Zenit, with the salt in the wound coming from the fact that ex-Porto forward Hulk had set up the goal.

chelseaaschIn Group E, the day’s biggest statement of intent came from 2012 European champions Chelsea, who have now made amends for the home defeat by Basel in their opener with two away victories. Spaniard Torres, so often uninspired in domestic competition, once again shone on the big stage with two goals and could easily have had a hat-trick as he smashed a header against the bar from just inside the area. He, like Messi, had just returned from injury and his lively contribution came at just the right time for his club as Chelsea moved level on six points with Schalke 04 at the top with a 3-0 win in Germany where Torres celebrated his 100th start for the club with the fifth-minute opener and another after 69 minutes before Eden Hazard added a late goal.

The top two are clear of third-placed Basel, who have four points ahead of Steaua Bucharest on one after the two sides shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in Romania.

messss517_w2Celtic got their first points in Group H after a James Forrest penalty on the stroke of halftime and a deflected shot by Beram Kayal early in the second half helped them to a 2-1 win over Ajax Amsterdam, who got a consolation in added time.

Barcelona are in charge of Group H with seven points, while Milan – who had gone ahead through Robinho’s ninth-minute opener before Messi levelled after 23 minutes – have five points. The glamour match at the San Siro  fizzled out in the second half after a frantic opening period of pressure from the Italians. Milan took an early lead through Robinho following a smart exchange with Kaka but with Barca then dominating possession, it was a matter of time before they made it count. Andres Iniesta found Messi – making his first start after a three-week layoff – in space on the right and the Argentine kept his cool under pressure from Kevin Constant and Riccardo Montolivo to find the bottom right corner to equalise . Celtic are on three points with Ajax bottom on one.

Uefa Champions League Preview (Match Day 3)

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lrighty, the UEFA champions league is back and we have three “BIG GAMES” to look forward to seeing tonight.

SCHALKE VS CHELSEA

CHELSEA IN ROMANIA

FC Schalke 04 face their toughest test of the UEFA Champions League so far when they welcome Chelsea FC to the Veltins-Arena on Tuesday evening.The Royal Blues currently sit top of Group E with maximum points from their opening two games, but preparation for their third tie of the campaign has been far from ideal. Star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has been ruled out until the New Year, while midfielder Marco Höger suffered a partial tear of the cruciate ligament in his right knee on Saturday and will miss the remainder of the season. With Jefferson Farfan and Kyriakos Papadopoulos yet to regain full fitness, head coach Jens Keller goes into Tuesday’s encounter with several key players missing. But it is expected that every player on the pitch will do his very best.

Not that it’s all bad news for Schalke: Kevin-Prince Boateng, Jermaine Jones and Timo Hildebrand have all been declared fit for the match after missing the last-gasp win over Braunschweig in the Bundesliga.

6 points from 6 mean Schalke are top of Group E, 3 points ahead of their rivals in this game, Chelsea, but this is likely to be the biggest test they have faced so far.

Prediction: Schalke 1-2 Chelsea

AC MILAN VS BARCELONA

Barcelona-GEPAAnother pair of exciting teams will play against each other tonight as well,in San Siro where AC Milan will host Barcelona in an authentic Clash of Titans.

Los Blaugranas started their season on a tear, and before their goalless draw this weekend, they had won all of their matches in all competitions. So far they are perfect with six points in two games in this Champions League campaign whilst the Italian side have four points after defeating Celtic and drawing against Ajax.

Barcelona have some of the best players in the world, and it will be interesting to see how their attacking trio faces a tough defensive line. Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, but he’s coming off an injury. Alexis Sánchez started this season scoring a lot of goals, and Neymar seems like he hasn’t been able to settle into the team’s rhythm. Barcelona will go as far as these three players can take them on Tuesday.

Milan, on the other hand, might have been struggling so far, but they can’t be discarded as they have a knack for being in some of the greatest moments in soccer history. With practically the same teams on both sides they already defeated Barcelona 2-0 last season and they will look to repeat not only the result but also the performance. Stephan El Shaarawy is the most dangerous element in the squad and he will be a constant headache for Barcelona’s defensive unit.

Prediction: AC Milan 1-2 Barcelona

ARSENAL VS BORUSSIA DORTMUND

OzilTwo of the best teams in Europe will face each other in a very entertaining clash as Borussia Dortmund will have to travel all the way to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal.

After two Champions League matches played, things are quite different for both sides. While the Gunners sit at the top of the standings thanks to their attacking style that saw them won their first six points, Dortmund haven’t been at their best in the group stage and have conquered just three out of six possible units as they defeated Olympique Marseille but lost against Napoli.

Lots of Arsenal hopes lay on the shoulders of German star Mesut Ozil. The former Real Madrid playmaker has been on an absolute tear since joining the London side, and a lot of the success the team has had this season could be thanks to the spark that Ozil provides in the attacking midfield.

Dortmund, on the other side, will depend heavily on what Robert Lewandowski is able to do up front. Playing away from home, the current Champions League runner-up will surely push their lines back as they try to employ a counter attacking style where the Poland international is highly effective. The play of midfielders Nuri Sahin and Ilkay Gundogan will also be a key factor as they will be in charge of stopping Ozil, Jack Wilshere and the rest of the Gunners’midfield.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

Away from the three big games;

AUSTRIA WIEN VS ATLETICO MADRID

Diego Simeone’s  men will try to continue their blistering start to the season as they will travel to Austria to take on Austria Wien in a match where the Spaniards are the clear favorites to take home the three points.

After two matches played in the Group Stage the situation is quite different for both sides. Los Colchoneros are sitting at the top of Group G with six points after two convincing victories against Porto and Zenit whilst the Austrian side only have one point after their draw against the Russian outfit.

Despite being considered as massive underdogs for this game, the hosts have some weapons to pull an upset against Los Rojiblancos.

The front line is highlighted by experienced striker Tomas Jun and the midfield is led by Alexander Grunwald, a creative playmaker that can cause a lot of damage when given enough space.

Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, will look to heal their wounds at Europe’s biggest tournament following their defeat against Espanyol in La Liga this past week. The individual quality is enough for Atletico to take home the three points. They also have a lot of chemistry, and it seems like they are playing better after each game, so it would be a shock if they aren’t able to continue their perfect campaign at the European level.

Diego Costa is the one player the whole world is talking about as the Brazilian is currently the top scorer in the league and has already found the back of the net 10 times. His pace and his complement with David Villa will prove to be too much for the inexperienced defensive line of Austria Wien.

Prediction: Austria Wien 0-2 Atletico Madrid

CELTIC VS AJAX

Celtic know they have to win if they’re to keep up their hopes of securing a place in the next round of the Champions League, but are missing a number of key men for the welcome of Ajax. The Dutch champions are yet to win away from the Amsterdam Arena this season. However, they picked up a 1-0 win over Celtic the last time the two teams met at Parkhead back in 2001.

Despite missing a number of first-team regulars, Celtic are tipped to make home advantage count and capitalise on Ajax’s poor away record this term. Kris Commons is the biggest loss after the midfielder limped out of the 1-1 draw with Hibernian at the weekend with a hamstring problem. He’s joined on the sidelines by Steven Mouyokolo, Adam Matthews and Derk Boerrigter, while Mikael Lustig and Emilio Izaguirre are doubts. Scott Brown is suspended following his red card against Barcelona.

For Ajax, Frank de Boer will be without the services of injured pairing Bojan and Lerin Duarte, but Niklas Moisander, is expected to travel.

Prediction: Celtic 2-1 Ajax

STEAUA BUCURESTI VS BASEL FC

Steaua currently foot Group E and need to pick up a win here if they’re to harbour and hopes of qualifying for the latter stages of the Champions League, but head into the meeting with Basel on the back of a confidence boosting win.

Head coach Laurentiu Reghecampf has just one injury worry in the form of Stefan Nikolic, however, he’ll be boosted by the return of Alexandru Chipciu, who made his first appearance since May from the bench on Friday.

Basel have impressed in the Champions League thus far and were unlucky not to come away with at least a point in the 1-0 defeat to FC Schalke 04 last time out. Manager Murat Yakin has a fully fit squad to chose from and may make a couple of changes from the side that won on Saturday in their local league.

  • The pairing come into the encounter having scored 7 goals between them at the weekend and a high scoring affair is a distinct possibility.
  • Prediction: Steaua Bucuresti 2-2 FC Basel

MARSEILLE VS NAPOLI

The French side have lost their last two matches in Ligue 1, and may be short of confidence in Europe as they are yet to pick up a point in Group F and know they have to beat Napoli tonight to renew their hopes.

  • Napoli returned to Naples empty handed in the battle for Serie A supremacy in Rome, despite matching Roma’s power for a majority of the game. The visitors have been more comfortable in hosting stronger opposition rather than travelling, but Marseille could be an affordable opponent to face away from the San Paolo.

For Marseille, Jérémy Morel and Benjamin Mendy are both available and will battle for the left-back position, with the latter expected to be favoured.

Napoli will be without Juan Zuñiga and Miguel Britos in defence, but Pablo Armero and Paolo Cannavaro are set to start in their absence. Gonzalo Higuaín has travelled with the rest of the team, but it’s unsure whether he’ll start and Gökhan Inler and Blerim Dzemaili are battling for one spot in midfield, while Lorenzo Insinge is expected to start ahead of Dries Mertens.

Prediction: Marseille 1-2 Napoli

FC PORTO VS ZENIT PETERSBURG

Portuguese outfit, Porto will be hoping to bounce back after defeat handed Atletico Madrid the advantage in group G, meanwhile Zenit need a result to avoid falling 5 points short of their hosts. The Russians would be content with a draw in that instance but their key players are certainly in attacking areas so they will look to exploit any opportunities to counter through Hulk and Danny in particular. The visitors are going strong domestically and will take confidence from a run of 9 wins in 10 league matches but Porto are unbeaten in the league themselves and this is likely to be a close encounter.

Porto’s back four will remain unchanged with Otamendi and Mangala getting the nod over Maicon. In midfield they have options in the likes of Herrera, Defour and Josue competing for places alongside mainstays Lucho Gonzalez and Fernando. Jackson Martinez will lead the line having netted 8 goals in the league and Champions League combined already, with Juan Quintero hoping to get his first start in the competition having scored from the bench at the weekend.

Zenit on the other hand will be missing midfielder Axel Witsel through suspension having been sent off against Austria Wien while defenders Hubocan and Smolnikov are both one booking away from a ban. The latter is likely to revert to a right-back role with Criscito and Ansaldi in competition to start on the left side of the defence. Viktor Fayzulin and Oleg Shatov will compete to take Witsel’s role in midfield alongside Zyryanov.

Prediction: FC Porto 2-1 Zenit Petersburg