EPL TEAMS IN EUROPE – “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?”

CLeagueIt’s been a gloomy start to 2014 for English Premier League teams in Europe as only Tottenham achieved what five rivals failed to do – WIN.

Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all opened the Champions League knockout phase with first-leg losses, while Chelsea drew. Last night, Swansea got knocked out of the Europa League and Spurs overturned a 1-0 deficit against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to advance to the round of 16.

The question is, what’s wrong with the EPL teams, what could be the reason(s), mental tiredness, too many matches, lack of quality players or tactical deficiencies from the Managers? We can go and on in trying to identify the cause of the problems but is that really suppose to be an excuse?

article-2562356-1B9E35CD00000578-122_634x407Manchester City were very disappointing in their own approach against Barcelona. Truth is, they had no business losing that game, Pellegrini’s tactics failed and the players couldn’t just get themselves fired up to rise up to the occassion.
(Had really felt like spanking the players and the Managers after the game)

_73096823_021206307-1Arsenal on the other hand started brightly against Bayern – Defending Champions. Wenger’s tactical approach had worked perfectly until his GK was sent off and that brought another dimension to the game which gave Bayern the upper hand and a 2-nil result sounded fair on paper but doesn’t look like a good one going into the second leg.
-(Not creating excuses but they can be pardoned).

e516dae1775bcba342f61e4b7f182488_crop_northManchester United were awful, terrible, pathetic, annoying, disgusting, looked like a team in chaos, lacked ideas, lacked creativity, lacked tactical input from the bench and that sorry performance against Olympiacos has been dubbed as their worst outing ever in Europe.
(How can a team set such a record in the 21st century?…AAARRRRRGGGHHHH).

a5fec0eb-9c3c-47fc-b308-a1cda4388a14Chelsea managed to get a draw in Turkey, fair result. Mancini was spot on with his tactics only after 30 minutes. Mourinho’s Blues had started well with Torres getting an early goal and despite not being convincing in their overall display, they will go into the return leg a bit confident especially after getting that crucial away goal.
– (It can be better, learn how to kill the game early boys.)

1393526401723_lc_galleryImage_Football_SSC_Napoli_v_SwaSwansea City put up a spirited display against Rafa Benitez’s Napoli over two legs, goalless draw in Wales and a 3-1 loss in Naples. Monk was playing against a side that’s been managed by the winner of the competition last season with Chelsea.
-(A big lesson learnt, when next they get into Europe, they will be more experienced.)

1393537356426_lc_galleryImage_Football_Tottenham_HotspuTottenham are the ONLY side to have won in Europe in 2014 amongst all English teams, a 3-1 win over Dnipro ensured that they qualified 3-2 on aggregate following a 1-nil loss in the first leg. Tim Sherwood will be very happy with his players, Adebayor was fantastic on the night and the atmosphere was well charged with the departure of Defoe from White Hart Lane.
-(Next Up is Benfica, over two legs, Spurs have a good chance.)

For Arsenal, Manchester City and Swansea, the draws weren’t fair but if we are to avoid not seeing any English side in the last 8 of the Uefa Champions League, they all have to raise their and the coaches all have to be tactically and technically efficient in the return leg.

Halftimeng’s prediction: Read our match-day previews to find out the teams that will likely make it through to the next round from England.

EUROPA LEAGUE WRAP

tottenhamhotspur_kffvaojvaq481ctkf0r1e4gv3Tottenham were the only English side that brought smiles to their football fans last night, achieving what five other rivals failed to do – WIN.

Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all opened the Champions League knockout phase with first-leg losses, while Chelsea drew. But on Thursday, straight after Swansea was knocked out of the Europa League, Tottenham overturned a 1-0 deficit against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to win 3-1 at White Hart Lane and advance to the round of 16.

Roman Zozulya headed the Ukrainian side in front at the start of the second half but, after Christian Eriksen leveled from a free kick, he was dismissed for head-butting Jan Vertonghen in the 62nd minute.
Within six minutes, Emmanuel Adebayor scored twice to set up a meeting with Benfica, which beat PAOK Salonika 3-0 to go through 4-0 on aggregate.

The last 16 will see two meetings of national rivals that should lift Europe’s less illustrious competition, with Juventus facing Fiorentina, and Sevilla playing Real Betis.
gggggindexJuventus replicated its 2-0 first-leg victory over Trabzonspor in Turkey, with goals from Arturo Vidal and Dani Osvaldo. And Fiorentina was held to 1-1 by Esbjerg of Denmark but advanced 4-2 on aggregate.
Swansea’s loss at Napoli gave Italy a third team in the next round and kept Rafa Benitez on course to win back-to-back Europa League titles. The Spanish manager, who lifted the trophy with Chelsea last season, saw his new team emerge 3-1 winners over Swansea after a goalless first leg in south Wales. Napoli will next face Porto, which drew 2-2 at Eintracht Frankfurt to advance on away goals with a 5-5 aggregate draw but Serie A rival Lazio went out surprisingly, drawing 3-3 at Ludogorets after losing 1-0 at home.

However, three Spanish teams remain in the competition, Sevilla beat Maribor 2-1 to complete a 4-3 aggregate win over the Slovenian side, and Betis advanced 3-1 on aggregate after winning 2-0 at Rubin Kazan. Valencia relied on its 2-0 away win to oust Dynamo Kiev after a scoreless draw in Spain, and will next face Ludogorets.

Lyon beat Chornomorets Odesa 1-0 to setup a meeting with Viktoria Plzen after the Czech side beat Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 on aggregate. Ajax conceded another three goals against Red Bull Salzburg, losing 3-1 to allow the hosts to advance 6-1 overall. Salzburg will next play FC Basel after the Swiss side beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-0.

Next match-day in the Europa League is billed for March 13, 2013.

The Man, Felix Magath! – Tola Ogunlewe

Magath2_2831948bSo Fulham survived their first game under Felix Magath and attention quickly turned back to the man they call “the last Dictator in Europe” or “the torturer”.

When Louis Holtby was asked in January following his move to Fulham on Loan how he felt treated under Andre Villas-Boas, his simple reply was “well I have survived Felix Magath”. Holtby played under Magath in the Bundesliga with Shalke 04. Little did he know they would be reunited a couple of months later. Only a few days ago, Ryan Turncliffe was shown the door after only signing at the end of January from Manchester United. Magath is living up to his reputation.

Managers get singled out for different reasons over their careers but very little of them are singled out for being disciplinarians who do not compromise. Magath is a Manager who would have it no other way. Players like Grafithe, Diego and many others would explain with personal experiences.
In comparison to other disciplinarians such as Louis Van Gaal, Arigo Saachi and Fatih Terim, Magath has shown he is a man with no equal. He often fined players for making an unnecessary back pass during a game and Defenders for letting the ball bounce in the 18. The skilful Brazilian players were not left out either, just ask Diego, players got fined for unnecessary show of skill. Magath likes everything straight to the point much like the “German Machine never dies” mantra.

Felix MagathHis fitness regime is legendary, believing that if players are physically impeccable there was nothing that couldn’t be achieved on the pitch. He sent his players on mazing runs through the forest carrying medicine balls. At VFB Stuttgart, his players trained three times daily including a cross country run at dawn. He once fined a player for returning to the team bus late after a running session in the mountains, and that after he found out the player had actually fainted. It would be interesting to see him manage players like Messi and Ronaldo. It is trite to say that discipline is high on the agenda of Magath.

Many managers in the Barclays Premier League today are more concerned with their players enjoying training and having a laugh around, not Magath. On the training pitch its serious business because you might get a fine during the next game for not paying attention. One thing however that Magath cannot be faulted for is his success as a manager. He has won the German Bundesliga three times, once with Wolfsburg a team who aside Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund, is the only team to win the title aside from Bayern in the last 10years. He also won the German Cup twice and guided Wolfsburg to the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League for the first time.

Felix Magath celebrates winning the Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg in 2009
Felix Magath celebrates winning the Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg in 2009

You would think this would earn him praise for past players, well when a man is nicknamed “Saddam Hussein” praises do not quickly come to mind. Rafinha, the Brazilian right back, who is now at Bayern Munich but played under Magath at Shalke 04 once said he felt sure he could enrol in the Brazilian army and succeed. Jefferson Farfan was even harsher saying Magath left nothing positive at the club after he left. As Louis Holtby rightly said, some of those criticisms are unjust as he is personally currently reaping the rewards of such a hard training regime.

I guess the question is do you want success at all cost or do you want it as long as it is not strenuous. The answer for Magath is “we would be successful but you must be ready to push yourself to the limit”. You can argue he is paranoid and a control freak but he is definitely a successful one. Man Up!!

Felix-Magath

Preview: Schalke 04 VS Real Madrid

Schalke-vs-Madrid-1024x588Wednesday February 26, 2014/Kick off: 08:45PM/Last 16/Veltins-Arena

The two teams have never met each other before, Madrid have won just one of their 24 matches on German soil, losing 17. (Not a good record). If they are to improve upon that sequence of results, they have to start well tonight in Gelsenkirchen.

Schalke’s push for a top 4 finish suffered a blow on Friday as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Mainz. The hosts will be keen to return to winning ways tonight. For the Los Blancos, they dropped points just once in the group stages and will enter the meeting with Schalke at the summit of La Liga following the 3-0 win over Elche.

2063462_w2Despite Schalke holding home advantage, Real will be confident of taking a big step into the next round of the Champions League, spearheaded by the returning Ronaldo. The Spanish giants have won six of their last seven games in the Champions League and the top scorer in the history of the Champions League group stage- Cristiano Ronaldo- returns to action for his side after serving a three-match league ban that kept him out of action for the past two weeks.
TEAM NEWS:

2062873_w2For Schalke 04:
-Schalke have a number of injury worries ahead of the welcome of Real, with Marco Höger, Dennis Aogo, Atsuto Uchida and Christian Clemens all sidelined.
-Jan Kirchhoff and Beneidkt Höwedes are both doubts.
-Roman Neustädter is one booking away from suspension.

2063108_w2For Real Madrid:
-Sami Khedira is Carlo Ancelotti’s only injury concern, while Gareth Bale and Luka Modric are both doubts.
-Jesé and Asier Illarramendi will be expected to come into the starting XI should the duo fail to prove their fitness in time.
-Iker Casillas will start in goal.

HOW THEY WILL LINE UP
Looking into the mind of both coaches, this is how they will probably line up their team.
For Jens Keller(4-2-3-1): Ralf Fährmann; Sead Kolasinac, Benedikt Höwedes, Joël Matip, Tim Hoogland; Roman Neustädter, Kevin-Prince Boateng; Julian Draxler, Max Meyer, Jefferson Farfan; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

For Carlo Ancelotti – (4-3-3): Iker Casillas; Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Alvaro Arbeloa; Angel Di Maria, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric; Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale.

HalftimeNG Prediction: Home advantage is key for Schalke especially if they are looking to pick  a positive result against Real Madrid, who are definitely huge favourites for this one.

SCHALKE 1-3 REAL MADRID

Preview: Galatasaray VS Chelsea

Wednesday- February 26, 2014/Kick off: 8:45PM/Last 16/Turk Telekom Arena

indexGalatasaray are a very good and stable side no doubt and they can stun Chelsea tonight especially if there display against Juventus in the final group game is being conidered. With a couple of game-changing personnel in Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, there are reasons to believe they could challenge Chelsea.

Galatasaray is a difficult opponent for anyone travelling to Turkey. It has lost once in its last seven Champions League matches at home, a 6-1 thrashing by Real Madrid. It has won the other four and drawn two.

This is the second consecutive season in which Galatasaray have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League. They were eventually knocked out by Real Madrid in the quarter finals last season. Chelsea have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.

2035650_w2These two teams have only met on two previous occasions with Chelsea boasting a 6-0 aggregate triumph from the two-legged affair during the 1999-2000 Champions League campaign. Chelsea come up against a side with tremendous attacking potency in the shapes of Drogba and Burak Yilmaz while lacking a reliable scoring presence of their own. Galatasaray, meanwhile, will be jealous of the defensive security Mourinho has in the likes of John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic this term.

Roberto Mancini hasn’t had it good in Europe and e hope he doesn’t just screw this up again especially when you are contesting with a manager that understands and has been successful on the continent, Jose Mourinho.

133626a7mx88n8x0e2d2m7TEAM NEWS:

For Galatasaray:
-Gökhan Zan might get to start after recovering from a hamstring problem.
-Aydin Yilmaz is in the same boat, having recently recovered from an ankle injury.
-Aurélien Chedjou is still out with a groin.
-Hakan Balta and Hamit Altintop are also slight doubts, but should be available.

2062770_w2For Chelsea:
-Nemanja Matić and Mohamed Salah are both cup-tied.
-Marco van Ginkel is out with a long-term knee injury.
-Oscar, David Luiz, and John Obi Mikel will all have to face a late fitness test.

HOW THEY WILL LINE UP
Looking into the mind of both coaches, this is how they will probably line up their team.
For Roberto Mancini – (4-3-1-2): Fernando Muslera; Alex Telles, Hakan Balta, Semih Kaya, Sabri Sarioglu; Felipe Melo, Ceyhun Gülselam, Selcuk Inan; Wesley Sneijder; Didier Drogba, Burak Yilmaz

For Jose Mourinho – (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; Cesar Azpilicueta, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic; Frank Lampard, David Luiz; Eden Hazard, Willian, Ramires; Samuel Eto’o

HalftimeNG Prediction: It’s delicately poised and we might not get to see a high-scoring game. Galatasaray 1-2 Chelsea

EPL Team of the Weekend 24-02-14

2014-02-24-EPL-TOTW

The panel had to take their time before dropping this, do you agree with us? Let’s hear your thoughts, hit us up via the comment section of this page, on our facebook page and via our twitter handle (@halftimeng). Thanks.

 

Preview: Olympiacos VS Manchester United

Tuesday- February 25, 2014/Kick off: 8:45PM/Last 16/Karaiskakis Stadium

manchester unitedimagesUnited have won all four of the clubs’ past encounters, which came in the 2001/02 and 2002/03 first group stages. Ryan Giggs has featured every time, scoring three goals. United will look to avoid defeat here as well as look for an away goal to have an easier match when they return to play at Old Trafford.

However, this is the first time that they have been back in the round of 16 since the 2009/10 season. Olympiakos are heading into this match ingood form as they have won their last six matches in all competitions. Last year, they did beat Arsenal in the group stages and that makes it 3 wins in a row on home soil against English sides and their overall home record against sides from England stands at W5 D3 L3.

TEAM NEWS

For Olympaikos:
-Olympiakos will be without injured duo Dimitrios Siovas and Javier Saviola while Jose Holebas will be assessed closer to kick-off.
-Carl Medjani is expected to partner Kostas Manolas at centre-back.
-Nelson Valdez will be hoping to prove his fitness to lead the attack.

For Manchester United:
-Defenders Phil Jones (hip) and Jonny Evans (calf) are out of Manchester United’s Champions League clash with Olympiakos.
-Winger Nani (hamstring) is also sidelined, but defender Rafael and striker Danny Welbeck have overcome their respective head and knee injuries.
-Club-record signing Juan Mata is cup-tied having played earlier in the competition for Chelsea.
-David Moyes could bring Antonio Valencia in for Mata from the side that won 2-0 at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

2062241_w2HOW THEY WILL LINE UP

Looking into the mind of both coaches, this is how they will probably line up their team.
For Jose Michel, using a 4-2-3-1 formation: Jimenez – Salino, Papadopoulos, Marcano, Holebas – Maniatis, Machado – Campbell, Fuster, Perez – Olaitan.

For David Moyes, using a 4-4-1-1 formation: De Gea – Rafael, Vidic, Evans, Evra – Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, Januzaj – Rooney – Van Persie.

HalftimeNG Prediciton: . If there is one team that can put an end to a team’s winning streak, it’s definitely Manchester United. This should be a very entertaining game no doubt.
Olympiacos 1-2 Manchester United

Preview: Zenit St. Petersburg VS Borussia Dortmund

Tuesday- February 25, 2014/Kick off: 6:00PM/Last 16/Stadion Petrovski

zenit-vs-b-dortmudThis will be the first competitive meeting between these two sides and only the second time the Russian side have made it through to the last 16. In 2011/12 they beat Benfica 3-2 at home, Roman Shirokov scoring twice, but lost 2-0 away. Zenit has struggled in the Champions league but has been successful in the Europa League. Meanwhile, Coach Luciano Spaletti is hoping that his wards can “write a chapter in the club’s history” by ousting last season’s finalists, Borussia Dortmund.

training2396_w2Zenit have not played a domestic fixture since 6 December when they ended 2013 level with FC Lokomotiv Moskva atop the Premier-Liga. They have played friendlies in Qatar, Israel and Turkey. They will be looking to heap further misery on a Dortmund side heading into the fixture on the back of a disappointing 3-0 defeat to Hamburg.
Dortmund were fortunate that Leverkusen slipped up against Wolfsburg at the weekend as they look to secure a second placed finish, with Bayern Munich now 19 points clear in the Bundesliga.

TEAM NEWS

For Zenit St. Petersburg:

-Roman Shirokov is expected to miss out through injury, while Danny is a doubt but should be ok to start.

-First-team regulars Hulk and Tomas Hubocan are both one booking away from suspension.

For Borussia Dortmund:
-Dortmund have a number of injury worries ahead of the trip to Russia, with Neven Subotic, Ilkay Gündogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Sven Bender all sidelined.

-Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowksi are carrying knocks, but will likely feature from the off.
-Marco Reus and Sven Bender (both thigh) returned to action at the weekend after respective two-week absences, but the latter may be sidelined until May by a groin injury sustained in the first half while Erik Durm has a thigh complaint.

HOW THEY WILL LINE UP

Looking into the mind of both coaches, this is how they will probably line up their team.
dortmundimagesFor Spaletti, using a 4-2-2-2 formation: Lodygin – Smolnikov, Hubocan, Lombaerts, Criscito – Witsel, Shirokov – Faizulin, Ryazantsev – Hulk, Kerzhakov

bvbFor Jorgen Klopp, using a 4-2-3-1 formation: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Sokratis, M.Friedrich, Schmelzer – Sahin, Kehl – Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus – Lewandowski

HalftimeNG Prediciton: . While a lack of match fitness could affect the hosts, they’ll look to make home advantage count but Dortmund might capitalise on that as well. Zenit 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

Pelligrini probes Referee’s impartiality

_67996430_pellegriniManchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini questioned the impartiality

of referee Jonas Eriksson and accused the Swede of deciding the

outcome of their 2-0 Champions League defeat by Barcelona on

Tuesday.

City fell behind in their last-16 first-leg clash when Eriksson awarded a penalty to the visitors in the

53rd minute for a foul by Martin Demichelis on fellow Argentine Lionel Messi that appeared to take

place outside the area.

To compound the punishment, Demichelis was sent off, leaving City to play the rest of the match

down to 10-men, with Messi firing home from the spot and Dani Alves adding a second goal in

stoppage time.

Chilean Pellegrini, who normally keeps his own counsel, was highly critical of the Swedish official,

who has held a Fifa badge for 12 years and has now refereed 22 Champions League and 87 Uefa

matches in total.

Pellegrini, who risks a severe sanction from European soccer’s governing body, told a news

conference: “I spoke to him (Eriksson) at the end and told him he should be very happy because he

decided the match.

“Barcelona had no chance to score until the penalty against Demichelis.

“The referee was not impartial. He did not have any control of the game. I think it was not a good idea

to have a referee from Sweden in such an important match.

“He did not call for a foul on (Jesus) Navas before the penalty. On the penalty, the foul was made

outside the box, but more importantly we were building up the play.

“The first mistake was not giving a foul against Navas and then deciding it was a penalty when it was

not a penalty.

“But it was not the only thing, he made mistakes from the beginning. It is very difficult to analyse the

game because of that.”

Asked why it was relevant that the referee was Swedish, Pellegrini replied: “More important football is

played in Europe than in Sweden so a big game with two important teams – that kind of game needs a

referee with more experience.”

Pellegrini was also angry that Eriksson had been chosen for Tuesday’s match after he had previously

dismissed two Barcelona penalty claims in the 2012 Champions League quarterfinal against AC Milan

at the San Siro.

“I think it’s a mistake to nominate a referee who has mistakes against Barcelona to have the same

referee here,” he told Sky Sports. “I say once again he (the referee) decided the game.”

PSG vs Leverkusen 4-0: ibrahimovic’s double ensures victory for PSG

download (1)A Zlatan Ibrahimovic double helped Paris Saint-Germain cruise to a 4-0 win in the first leg of their UEFA

Champions League last-16 tie with Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena.

An early goal from Blaise Matuidi after great work from the excellent Marco Verratti set PSG on their way, and

the result never looked in doubt from then on.

After a dubious foul from Bosnian defender Emir Spahic on Ezequiel Lavezzi, Ibrahimovic converted from the

spot, before adding a third soon after with the goal of the game.

From 20 yards, after the ball fell to him in space, the enigmatic Swede unleashed a half-volley, which flew

into the top corner to put his side firmly in control.

In what was somewhat of a procession in the second half, Spahic saw

red for a second yellow card, and the visitors could have added more,

but left it until the dying moments to net a fourth, thanks to new

signing Yohan Cabaye.

The result has put the tie pretty much beyond doubt, and it would take

a minor miracle for the very much inferior Germans to progress from

here.

Right from the word go, the Parisians were in command of this tie, and went ahead as early as the second

minute thanks to a simple goal which Bayer will feel they could have done better with.

Verratti was allowed far too much time to pick his pass, laying the ball through for Matuidi, who slotted the

ball under the onrushing Bernd Leno to settle any early nerves.

It was all too easy for the French champions, who passed the ball around with real ease, with Bayer reluctant

to press high up the pitch.

There was a touch of fortune about PSG’s second, with what seemed

an innocuous challenge by Spahic on Lavezzi being adjudged to be a

penalty, but Ibrahimovic converted with aplomb to put his side further

in command.

However, there was no fortune about Ibrahimovic’s second, firing an

unstoppable strike in from the edge of the box, leaving Leno with no

chance.

With the hard work done, the Parisians took their foot off the gas after the break, and another poor decision

from the referee helped their cause even more.

Spahic was adjudged to have fouled Lucas Moura, who went down easily and somewhat theatrically, with the

referee brandishing a seemingly harsh second yellow to the Bosnian, thus ending his participation in this

tie.

Against 10 men, PSG cruised, and should have added more, with substitute Javier Pastore coming close.

But two minutes from time that fourth did come after a fine team move involving Ibrahimovic and a cool

Lucas Moura lay-off, leaving Cabaye the opportunity to pick his spot, which he did with consummate ease.

The result all but ends Bayer’s interest in the tournament, but sent a message to those who doubted the

Parisians could replicate their league form on the continent, and are certainly in the running for glory come

May.