Analysis of the Semi-finals

Real Madrid v. Juventus

Real meets Juventus in Turin on Tuesday, May 5th, for the first leg of the Champions league semi-finals. The advantage of playing away first is almost obvious, especially with the away goal rule. If real tie, with goals, then a mere nil-nil at the Bernabeu will put them through to the final. At home Real have been deadly this season, deciding big matches such as the quarter-finals against their cross town rival, Atletico. Real’s form in 2015 has not been as perfect as their form in 2014, yet they are definitely getting back in their groove. They’ve lost to Barca and Atletico in the return matches of la liga, which will likely be motivation for the UCL. Ancelotti will likely be sacked if Madrid doesn’t keep the Champions League trophy for the eleventh time. Such a big club like Madrid can not go without silverware for a year, and they know this. The players are mostly all returning from injury, from Bale to James who returned about a week ago and has since been in both the scoresheet with his stunners and dictating the pace of the game from the midfield. This has set off Isco as he thinks it is unfair James is right back in the starting 11. Yet I believe this will only make them more competitive and give Isco reason to play even better.

James celebrating his stunning volley vs. Almeria in Real's 3-0 win.
James celebrating his stunning volley vs. Almeria in Real’s 3-0 win.

Juventus has likely been having their best year in a while. They have not been this far in the competition in several years. They are basically Italian Champions with more than 10 points ahead of the second place, and they are also still alive in the Italian cup, thus making for a possible treble. Yet I do not think they will be able to get past this Madrid side that has been fine tuned by Ancelotti since last year. Modric is essentially the only player Juve will have the delight of missing the matches. Players to look for in Juventus are Pirlo playing a world-class holding midfielder that distributes the ball and takes set-pieces like no other, Tevez who seems to be back at his EPL intensity he found in Manchester, and Pogba the young French central midfielder who is both physically and skillfully phenomenal.

After a rough quarter's, Juve are through to their first UCL semifinal since 2003.
After a rough quarter’s, Juve are through to their first UCL semifinal since 2003.

Bayern Munich v. Barcelona

This match is very close to predict, Bayern have shown they do not rely on Robben to attack, and are definitely a world class side. Although, Messi and company seem to have found what they did not last year, and are looking to achieve their first big trophy since the signings of Suarez and Neymar. Neymar has already reached the goal tally that the Brazilian Ronaldo had at his time in Barcelona. The Barcelona attacking trio has been deemed the best to play at Barcelona, yet I personally think it was Ronaldinho, Messi, and Etoo who won the Champions league in 2005/06.

Ronaldinho, Messi, and Etoo. The best Barcelona attacking trio ever in my opinion.
Ronaldinho, Messi, and Etoo. The best Barcelona attacking trio ever in my opinion.
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Down to the Semi-finals

After the excitement from the Quarter-finals, and now the semi-finals draw, the champion will be chosen in merely 3 fixtures. This Champions league has seen not only the best football in Europe, but also one of the most dramatic tournaments ever. Looking back at some of the most memorable moments expressed in pictures, starting off in the group stages.

Liverpool out after a disappointing group stages.
Liverpool out after a disappointing group stages.
alexis n monaco
Alexis is disappointed after his side lose 3-1 at the Emirates and are eventually knocked out in the round of 16.
david luiz goal
The very controversial David Luiz shuts up the haters, for at least one match, as he scores a late equalizer and eventually PSG knock out Chelsea in the round of 16.
Bayern destroy Shaktar 7-0 after a 0-0 first leg.
Bayern destroy Shaktar 7-0 after a 0-0 first leg sending Bayern flying into the quarters.

Barcelona’s Suarez had a field day vs. PSG as he scored a brace featuring a nutmeg on David Luiz before each goal:

First goal:

http://streamable.com/e/5iiv?autoplay=1

Suarez' first goal with a beautiful nutmeg in the build up.
Suarez’ first goal with a beautiful nutmeg in the build up.

Second goal:

http://streamable.com/e/bz8e?autoplay=1

Chiellini shows what Gerrard should have done with Demba Ba when he slips in the Quarter-finals and saves a possible counter with a handball.
Chiellini shows what Gerrard should have done with Demba Ba when he slips in the Quarter-finals and saves a possible counter with a handball.
Chicharito's late winner sends 10-man Atletico home from the Bernabeu and Real into another UCL semifinal.
Chicharito’s late winner sends 10-man Atletico home from the Bernabeu and Real into another UCL semifinal.
The roller coaster second leg saw Bayern beat Porto 6-1 to comeback from a 1-3 loss in the first leg.
The roller coaster second leg saw Bayern beat Porto 6-1 to comeback from a 1-3 loss in the first leg.

Now that the last four teams in the competition are known, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, and Bayern Munich, the end is near. The draw is as follows:

Juventus vs. Real Madrid

Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich

I predict a Champions league final to be an El Classico. Even though I did miss my last prediction when I predicted Bayern to lose, I think Barcelona is looking more solid than Bayern. Barca is yet to be outplayed in a match in this competition, and when it matters most, I do not see them letting the chance to return to a UCL final pass by. Also I see Real Madrid fighting toe to toe with a Juventus that many people do not believe in, but when tough games come around, its almost as if Real grows to reach their potential. In two fixtures I think Real will come out on top in aggregate and reach the final. Los Blancos have a galactico side once again and the end of this competition is one for all football fans to watch, and enjoy it as it is most likely going to be another very memorable champions league semifinal round.

An Analysis of the Porto vs. Bayern Munich Match

Porto is definitely an underdog in this match, yet I feel as though it is not impossible for them to overcome the likes of the bavarian giants that have world class players established in both the european scene as well as the international football scene. One reason Porto have a chance is the amount of injured players currently at Bayern.

Bayern Injury List

10.4 Sinan Kurt F 0 0-0
10.4 Tom Starke G 0 0-0
10.4 Medhi Benatia D 13 1-0
10.4 Bastian Schweinsteiger M 15 2-4
3.4 Franck Ribery M 15 5-7
3.4 David Alaba D 19 2-1
3.4 Arjen Robben M 22 17-7
23.8 Javi Martinez M 0 0-0

These players will all miss the first leg of the match against Porto for the quarter finals of the Uefa champions league. Without Alaba, Benatia, and Martinez, all common Bayern first team defenders, it will be hard for them to field a very solid defense. Ribery and Robben are world class wingers, and without them Bayern will lose a lot of depth in the attack along with making their play style forcefully become centralized. Finally Schweinsteiger is a very solid central midfielder and as seen in the last world cup he can shut down the attack of great players even Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Porto needs to look to find an advantage while Bayern is lacking these players in their starting line up and look to work from there. The first leg will be on Tuesday April 14th, and Porto will be looking to upset Bayern from a possible fourth straight semifinal appearance in the Champions league. I will be cheering on Porto, not only because it runs in my blood, but because seeing the underdog pose a fight to such a giant makes for a spectacular football match. I see a lot of parallels from this match and the match I saw in the world cup last summer between Algeria and Germany where no one believed in Algeria yet they took Germany to extra time and ended up being 2-1 after 120 minutes of football.

That is a little display of how Porto can dominate a match.

Quarter Finals Approaching

After all the excitement of the Round of 16, 8 teams are still alive to square off for a place in the Champions League semi-finals. Out of the 8 matches from the last round I predicted 5 of them correctly. 2 of the 3 fixtures I failed to guess the winner of were decided by the away goal tie-breaker. Chelsea was knocked out in Stamford Bridge after tying PSG 2-2. Likewise Arsenal had a chance to comeback from the 3-1 loss at the Emirates but fell short, they won 2-0 at Monaco but 3-3 aggregate put Monaco through with 3 away goals. The PSG – Chelsea matchup was a rematch of last year’s Champions League where Chelsea advanced on away goals, this year PSG got their revenge. The other fixture I predicted wrongly was Borussia Dortmund – Juventus, where the first leg Juventus took 2-1 and then in the second leg they stomped Borussia 3 – nil.

The draw for the quarter-finals are as follow:

UCL Quarter-finals draw.
UCL Quarter-finals draw.

This draw looks very competitive and no one can be 100% sure in their predictions, but I’ll give it a try:

PSG v Barcelona

This is a rematch of their group stage matches, where Barcelona came out on top both times. I think Barcelona has shown great football lately, from El Classico, to their clash with Manchester City. Messi is in great form, and doesn’t need to be scoring goals to affect the game. Suarez has finally routinely found the back of the net. And Neymar is just Neymar, give him half a yard and he will be gone, to the goal or assisting, he has put up great numbers this year so far with 17 goals and 4 assists. He is second in the team for average whoscored.com rating at 7.89 behind Messi’s 8.83. Barça will win, but it will be a close one, as PSG’s back 4 are all Brazilians who have played against the Barca trio together, and separate.

Atletico v Real Madrid

Los Blancos will win the Madrid Derby in the Champions League. You likely didn’t hear it here first or have the thought come across your mind when you read these words. Yet this is one of the fiercest rivalries in Europe, and a rematch of last years final. Likely one of the most awaited games of the season so far. The question is can Real return to the form they saw in the first half of the 14-15 season, and ultimately the form that saw them Champions of Europe and of the Copa Del Rey 10 months ago. Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema definitely have the hype to win this matchup, but can they get their synergy back together and play as a team? Modric returning to the midfield was a great boost, and James should return by the first leg. With Ancelotti’s side fielding a 4-3-3 like formation, the three in the middle will have to work their asses off in training to show they deserve to start, with a pool of highly skilled players such as James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Isco Alarcon, Sami Khedira, Illaramendi, and the newly arrived Lucas Silva from Cruzeiro in Brazil. If Real play as well as they can and should, this should be a definite win for them.

Ronaldo celebrating his goal in the Champions League final last year when Real Madrid won 4-1 in extra time.
Ronaldo celebrating his goal in the Champions League final last year when Real Madrid won 4-1 in extra time.

Porto v Bayern Munich

No one else will believe this, and it may seem outlandish, but until now, Bayern has not faced a side that will challenge them more than FC Porto. The Portuguese side have shown that they can play world class football and have shown the world they are more than good enough to be among Europe’s best 8 teams. If they hang on in the match at Allianz Arena, I see Porto winning 2-0 at home. Casemiro, who won the Champions League last year with Real Madrid has been solid in the center midfield, along with distributing very well. Porto is also a team, but they do not lack quality in their ranks, many of the players shined in the World Cup last year. Brahimi with Algeria, Jackson Martinez and Quintero with Columbia, Herrera with Mexico, and finally Martins Indi with the Netherlands. Quaresma is a super-sub that can come in and work the Bayern wingbacks, the pace that Porto can offer from the outside with Tello, Brahimi, and Quaresma is insane, along with their set-piece prowess that they have shown in the UCL, there is no reason for Bayern to be counting them out. Finally I think that Porto matches up well with Bayern because they do not need possession to score and play their play casemiro free kickstyle. Counter attacks are the main threat with this Porto side, and Bayern should be careful.

Danilo celebrating his late equalizer to give Porto a 1-1 draw for the first leg against FC Basel.
Danilo celebrating his late equalizer to give Porto a 1-1 draw for the first leg against FC Basel.

Juventus v Monaco

Even though I messed up both of these sides last time I predicted winners, I am now almost sure Juventus will be in the semi-finals of Europe. I did not believe the hype around Juve. Sure they won the Serie-A last year and will likely do it again this year, although I did not know they could thrash teams in the European scene too. Roma was killed 7-1 against Bayern at home, one of the reasons I didn’t believe in Juventus. Though Tevez has shown new found form that mirrors his United days and Juve has several world class players and veterans such as Buffon, Pirlo, Marchisio, Pogba, Giovinco, Chiellini, Vidal, Evra, Morata and Llorente. This team has depth, and skill where Monaco doesn’t have nearly as many world class players. Taken Monaco did beat Arsenal, I don’t think Juventus will fly by them, but Juve has everything going for them.

Those are my predictions for the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals that show some very exciting matchups. I will be looking forward to watching them and enjoying the football. If you disagree with any of these predictions say so in the comments. Some of the sites I used for stats and draws are as follow:

whoscored.com

uefa.com

Excitement in the Return Matches

With the second leg of the fixtures starting this week, fans saw surprising results, injuries, and most of all, Champions League football. This Champions League football that has been branded for its display of tactical managers, fierce competition, crazy fans, great goals, and historic comebacks. Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 8.38.05 AMThis week saw very one sided matches such as the Porto and Bayern victories, along with very close matches where Madrid lost in the Bernabeu and had they not had a 2 nil lead would’ve lost. Also the tie between PSG and Chelsea saw PSG go forth with more away goals, bringing revenge when the opposite happened in Chelsea’s favor last year.

As my family from Portugal are all Porto fans, I was ecstatic to see them claim a spot in the next round of the Champions league with an absolute win over FC Basel. The 4-0 result came with a goal from the Brazilian Casemiro who came from Real Madrid.

Real Madrid also snuck into the next round of the Champions League, carried by their 2-0 win in the first leg in Germany. Their loss to Schalke in Madrid caused some tension in the team and Ronaldo claimed he wouldn’t talk to the press anymore this year.

The Champions League is back!: Logistics of the Return of the UCL

After a break since the end of the group stages, the Champions League has commenced once again and football fans everywhere are excited to see “the best of the best” square off in the first knockout stage round. The first two fixtures occurred on Tuesday February 17th and saw both results as draws. Bayern was held off by Shaktar and PSG came back from a one nil deficit to Chelsea at home. With the return of the Champions League the football leagues are more balanced and their fixtures will take place mostly on the weekends for the next couple of weeks. Also big teams that are not in the Champions or Europa Leagues will have an awkward midweek break. This is mostly true for Manchester United who has one of the most expensive weekly salaries in Europe paying for players like Di Maria, Falcao, Robin Van Persie, and Wayne Rooney to name a few. Some Champions League sides will see their players needing rest from two full 90 minute matches in one week’s span, and the league ties are usually the matches clubs rest their starting 11 players on. Teams like Madrid and Barcelona tend to give their star players some rest in league matches in which they feel confident upon winning. These logistics of the return of the Champions League in February is nothing new to clubs as it has become routine for clubs with such tradition. One club that may be negatively affected by their presence in the knockout phase is Borussia Dortmund. They find themselves at the very bottom of the Bundesliga and having Champions League matches to be worried about is the last thing that would help their recovery in their domestic league.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-AUGSBURG
BVB is struggling in the Bundesliga with stupid errors that turn into heartbreaking losses.

January Transfer Window

Football (soccer) fans everywhere are excited about this day, the transfer window deadline day. Unlike American sports, football has two designated windows in the course of a year for players to be able to be purchased (traded) by clubs around the world. This time is marked by changes to teams, and a well orchestrated transfer window can mean great performances in the following months. Noting that the January window is in the middle of the European season, so clubs are not so eager to let players go, and the market tends to inflate due to the situation at hand. If a club is going to buy a player in January, it usually means they are not doing well and are desperate for a change, thus allowing prices to sky rocket.

In this blog post I will be reviewing the largest transfers that occurred in this January’s transfer window, rumors that never turned out to be true, loans to satisfy team rosters, and the best deals for clubs.

Rumors that could have but didn’t happen:

Garreth Bale to Manchester United

There was much drama at the Bernabeu after the Club World Cup win as Whales international Garreth Bale seemed to be in bad terms with his teammates, reflecting on the pitch. Madrid lost two matches in a row after their 22 match winning streak they had previously been in. Bale had instances where a goal was surely on if he had chosen a lay off instead of taking it on himself, yet he chose to be greedy, without success. This edged on transfer rumors of a huge transfer that would’ve been if Bale was indeed to go to Manchester. This was not the case to Madridista’s delight. Bale will stay at the Bernabeu.

Lionel Messi to Chelsea

Another English club that was rumored to make a huge transfer in January, Chelsea were thought to have sent a 200 million pound bid for four time ballon d’or winner Lionel Messi. This was followed up by some online drama when Messi followed Chelsea on Twitter. This move was made a rumor after a few weeks when Messi went back to his previous statements that said he wouldn’t leave Barca for a while.

Notable transfers:

Odegaard to Real Madrid

odegaard-madrid
Odegaard holds up a Real Madrid shirt. He will be playing for the reserves team that plays in the second division until the end of the season.

The wonderkid everyone was fighting over finally chose a team to go to… and make bank. The 16 year old Norwegian is making 80 thousand pounds a week, more than Marco Reus and Paul Pogba make! This came as a shock to many fans, yet catering to a potential super star is a good investment for Madrid.

Torres to Atletico Madrid

Fernando Torres has lost his form that made him a star earlier in his career, but ever since his move back to Madrid, where he became a star, he has scored 2 goals against Madrid in the first leg in the quarters of the Copa, and then opened the tally against Barca in the semi’s.

Victor Valdez to Manchester United

A free transfer saw the ex-Spanish international that was a free agent sign with the English giants. He will be the second Spanish keeper at Old Trafford. De Gea is still to be the starter as of right now but having such a legend in the club is always good.

Andre Schurrle to Wolfsburg

The Chelsea German international and world cup champion is on his way back to Germany after not finding space in the Chelsea regular squad. The 23 million pound move was a last hour transfer that will define his career.

Loans:

Podolski to Interdownload

As the 14/15 season progressed, it became clear Arsenal would be marked for their injuries in the season once again, yet even then Podolski couldn’t find a place in the squad, so a loan to Inter was the right choice. The German international had a good time in Brazil, being crowned world cup champion, even with his club performances being sub-par. He will be meeting up with Shaquiri who left Bayern for similar reasons, yet not performances, but really space in the club.