UCL Talk

With the 1st legs now finished, we take a look at who is best placed to make Lisbon in May.

Just one goal was scored over both games and that came courtesy of Karim Benzema as Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich 1-0 at the Bernabeu and will now travel to Munchen with the lead. If Real Madrid do make it to the final and win, it will be Carlo Ancelotti’s third Champions League win as a coach, twice with AC Milan and what would be once with Real Madrid. As reported by Sky Sports News, Pep will not be to disappointed not to have won yet would have at the very least liked to have registered an away goal but will be confident of a turn around in the Allianz arena.

La Liga leaders Atletico now travel to Stamford Bridge and after failing to score at home in the Vicente Calderon, they will hope that Diego Costa et al can provide Los Colchoneros with an away goal. Before the Chelsea game only Barcelona and Real had managed to stop Atleti scoring at the Calderon this season.

Jose Mourinho will be happy with the 0-0 draw away in Spain, but at what cost? Both Cech and Terry came off injured, the former will now miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder whilst Terry will only play again should Chelsea make the Champions League final.

The 2nd legs will be very tight indeed; each side knows how close they are to the final of Europe’s elite tournament and will be extra careful not to make any mistakes.

It’s tough to call who I think will make the final. It would be great to see Atletico lift the trophy with the big ears, nobody would have predicted that at the start of the season and it could well top off a double winning season for them. Chelsea could well win three European trophies on the bounce, taking their tally to two UCL trophies, with a Europa League sandwiched in between. Real will be hoping to win their 10th title and their first since 2002; long over due with all who are associated with the Los Blancos.

And to holders Bayern Munich, could they be the first team to retain the Champions League?  AC Milan, Juventus and Manchester United have all made the final the year after winning it; they all failed to retain. History then suggests Bayern will fail in their quest to retain the Champions League trophy, but there has always got to be a first… right?

Tell us what you think in the comments below!

The Unenviable task of Moyes and the Champions League

It’s common knowledge this season; Manchester United are underperforming. Lying 7th in the league table, some 11 points adrift of fourth placed Liverpool, the likeliness of United qualifying for the Champions League, is the same as a child asking his parent if he can open his Christmas present on Christmas eve, chances are it isn’t going to happen. Yet there is still a glimmer of hope, this is Manchester United after all, the club that have defied the odds on a number of occasions over the years.

The recent draw with Fulham was a heartbreaker for all involved with the Red Devils. In a seemingly mis-matched game United struggled to overcome a resilient Fulham side, which had nigh on 11 men behind the ball for the entirety of the match. It was brick wall that even Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney struggled to break down.  Perhaps the tactics were wrong, maybe the team aren’t good enough, or it is just real bad luck. Any of the three could attribute to this. Let’s rewind to November, and United’s make or break home game against the league leaders Arsenal. On the day a 1-0 victory, courtesy of ex-Gunner Robin Van Persie, kept United within five points of the North London club, and with a real chance of clawing back the point difference, yet a week later the opportunity they had made for themselves was very quickly wasted. In a daunting away game to Cardiff, United led up until the 90th minute where, in injury time the Bluebirds were able to grab an equaliser and the game finished 2-2. Now this may well have been that season defining moment for United. For me they have never truly recovered from that moment; yes they had already had poor results before but I honestly feel this took the wind out of their sales.

Since that day in Wales, United’s form has been patchy, with only two wins in 2014 that also include defeats in the FA Cup and Carling Cup. Juan Mata was the only highlight of January, as injuries to strikers RVP and Rooney have really taken their tool on this struggling side. The need for a squad overhaul is obvious; the 07/08 Champions League winners, to an extent, still make up the backbone of this side; Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney and Welbeck (he only made the trip to Moscow), were all a part of the side that beat Chelsea; that was six years ago. The reason for stagnation can be attributed to age amongst other issues; Ferdinand and Vidic are now the wrong side of 30, Giggs is now 40 and cannot be expected to continue much longer whilst Nani has never been Mr Consistent and Anderson has had many problems. Only Carrick, Rooney and Evra have been a consistent feature throughout the last two seasons. The issue then is that the players that have begun to age have not been adequately replaced.

For fans that thought Moyes would come in and be an instant success, well then the expectations placed exceed that of sense. Whilst his style is somewhat different  to that of Sir Alex,  Moyes’ continued use of wingers, that is apparently part of the United tradition (ex-Red Gary Neville has mentioned this), circa, Beckham, Giggs, Ronaldo, Kanchelskis, even Lee Sharpe, all famous during the Fergie era, has been met with utter disgust and disappointment. Fair play to the majority who have continued their support to David Moyes, don’t expect United to be rash and dispose of him quite so quickly.

I’m sure there are plenty of questions as too why certain players aren’t playing more regularly, (for the life of me, I still don’t understand Kagawa’s omissions, fair he hasn’t performed every time when given the chance but he is a confidence player and needs regular games. I’m hoping we don’t see another Veron, a truly gifted player who failed to make the grade at OT), or a change in actually shape of the side, it seems like there is no risk being taken. Why not push Rooney alongside RVP or even have Kagawa, Rooney, Mata combo in behind RVP? It would seem Moyes prefers harder working players in attack or defence, something Kagawa and Mata are not, and one of the reasons the latter left Chelsea.

With 12 games left to go United can gain a maximum of 36 points, this would make their final total 78 points, a total that you would think, would guarantee Champions League qualification. With their “harder” games at Old Trafford, City and Liverpool to be exact and a trip to Moyes’ old stomping ground Goodison Park, it is understandable that United fans should at the very least expect a further 27 points, and that is catering for defeats in those more difficult games.

Let’s not forget that they are still very much in the Champions League, and many would expect them to see of the challenge of Greek Champions Olympiakos.

The season for Manchester United is not over yet……. Not by a long way.

David Moyes Manchester United

6th November – NEWZ as it happens

Sascha Riether has been given a three match ban for a stamp on Adnan Januzaj

Riether Stamp

Microsoft are in the running for the naming rights to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium

Good Morning, and welcome to another day of football NEWZ.

BREAKING NEWZ – Robert Lewandowski has revealed that he has decided what club he is to join next summer. “I will reveal my future next year. No one needs to contact me anymore”. So speculation will be rife, for the next month or so, who do you think he has signed for? Leave us your thoughts in the comments at the bottom.

Robert Lewandowski

We will start with the fallout from last night’s Champions League games, and we will begin in the San Sebastian Anoeta. Manchester United and Real Sociedad fought out a 0-0 draw in the Basque country. Marouane Felliani saw red, whilst Robin Van Persie missed a penalty, following a foul on Ashley Young, (I’ll touch on that lightly, much the same as the amount of contact for Young to go down).

The other game in that group, between Shakhtar and Leverkusen also finished 0-0, so nothing has really changed in Group A.

Juventus drew their third game of the group, meaning that they are yet to win in this years Champions League. Goals from Ronaldo and Bale, prevented a win for the Old Lady, as the game finished 2-2. Arturo Vidal has put Juventus ahead, before it was left to Fernando Llorente to equalise. PSG could only manage a draw against Anderlecht, while Bayern Munich did just enough to see of Viktoria Plzen. Manchester City’s 5-2 win over CSKA has put them within touching distant of the knock-out phase for the first time.

Ray Wilkins has blasted Ashley Young’s dive and says he really needs to cut it out of his game.

It is certainly not the first time Ashley Young has been accused of diving

It is certainly not the first time Ashley Young has been accused of diving

Arsene Wenger has called for a ‘positive approach’ when Arsenal face Borussia Dortmund this evening

 

Bring back the Cup Winners Cup

European club football could do with a major overhaul.

Over inflated and uninteresting to watch, the Europa League needs a change. The Champions League as good as it is, can at times been relatively predictable and is full of “non-champions” battling it out to be Europe’s best. It has also help the bigger clubs get better, and the smaller nations and smaller clubs become far detached for the super heavyweights of the European game.

The Cup Winners Cup trophy

The Cup Winners Cup trophy

What UEFA need to do, is have a complete re-shuffle when it comes to continental club football. The need to make the Europa League ‘relevant’ again should be top of UEFA’s agenda. Using the final season of the Cup Winners Cup as an example, the weeks football was set out in the following way. the UEFA Cup was a Tuesday night, Champions League on a Wednesday and Cup Winners Cup on a Thursday. So not majorly different to the set up of current.

The Champions League consisted of 24 teams back then, (teams finishing in second in England, Spain, Italy and Germany were allowed entry to the qualification stages), as they had just expanded from the previous season. Each group winner qualified whilst, the two best runners up also went through to the quarter finals. It did not warrant two game days a week.

European Cup trophy

European Cup trophy

 

So just imagine if it were to revert to a format of old, reducing the amount of qualifiers from each nation to just one, and then all teams finishing in second play would enter the UEFA Cup. The Cup winners of each country would enter the re-formed Cup Winners Cup.

 

Now, the UEFA Cup and CWC would both be straight knockout, as they were before. The Champions League would still consist of a group stage and would then enter knockout rounds. Had this format been in play this year, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Marseille, Napoli and Benfica, (Borussia Dortmund, would be granted entry, due to Bayern winning both the Bundesliga and as holders of the Champions League, get automatic qualification), all of whom, finished second in their respective leagues would have been playing in the UEFA Cup on a Tuesday night. Already, the UEFA Cup looks a better proposition than it currently is. The reformation of the CWC would give much more meaning to tournaments like the FA Cup and the Copa Del Rey. As has been seen in England, finishing in 4th place is now a bigger achievement that winning the FA Cup.

UEFA Cup trophy

UEFA Cup trophy

Talk of a 64 team Champions League, where up to seven teams could qualify from the Premier League is utter ludicrous. How then could they possibly call it a “Champions League”?

The change could also have a positive effect on the UEFA Super Cup. When the CWC was around, the winners of that would face the Champions League winners. Well, why not have the CWC play the UEFA Cup winners in a playoff to see who would progress to the Super Cup Final to face the winners of the Champions League?

UEFA Super Cup trophy

UEFA Super Cup trophy

Whilst the likeliness of the Cup Winners Cup returning is extremely bleak, it would re-invigorate European football and would bring back meaning to qualifying for the Champions League by actually being “Champions”.

Willy Sagnol – October 2nd

One heck of a right back for both club and country, Willy Sagnol was a true professional. It’s a shame that his Achilles heel was infact his Achilles heel, that eventually saw him retire early.

Sagnol started his professional career at Saint Etienne in 1995, playing 10 times that season, before becoming a regular the next season, appearing in the league 36 times. His performances that season, secured a move to newly crowned Ligue 1 Champions AS Monaco. In moving to Monaco, Sagnol got his chance to test his abilities in the Champions League. All in all Sagnol spent three seasons at Monaco winning two Trophees des Champions and in his final season the Ligue 1.

Bundesliga comes calling.

Come the summer of 2000, clubs from around Europe began sniffing around the young right back. Bayern Munich were the club that managed to secure his signing, and Sagnol moved across the border and into Bavaria. It didn’t take long for Sagnol to become a regular fixture at right back for Bayern, also on occasion being asked to play as an attacking wing back. His first season with Bayern ended in great success, winning both the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. Sagnol would go on to win plenty more trophies with the German giants, including another four Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokals, two LIGA Pokals and a Intercontinental Cup.

It was during the year of 2000, that Sagnol made his debut for the French National squad. Initially he found it difficult to displace stalwart Lillian Thuram at right back. He spent a lot of time sitting on the bench for Les Bleus, until Lillian Thuram moved into centre back. Sagnol did win two tournaments with France, both Confederations Cups, and was a runner-up in the infamous 2006 World Cup Final, mainly rememebered for the Zidane/Materazzi incident.

Sagnol eventually retired in 2009 because of a continuous Achilles heel injury. It drew to a premature close a very successful end to a career for the man from Saint-Etienne

Sagnol (left) up against Spain's Fernando Torres at the 2006 World Cup in Germany

Sagnol (left) up against Spain’s Fernando Torres at the 2006 World Cup in Germany

The Champions League nears final stages tonight…. The AFC Champions League that is.

Whilst the majority of the World will most likely be engrossed in UEFA Champions League action, it would be amiss of us not to mention that today is actually the second leg of the AFC Champions League semi finals.

With all four clubs of different nationality, it is in stark contrast to the UCL semi’s off last season. Guangzhou Evergrande of China and  FC Seoul of South Korea enter their ties with leads of 4-1 and 2-0 respectively. Kasiwha Reysol of Japan have a daunting task of overhauling a three goal deficit, whilst Esteghlal will need to score at least twice to get back into the game.

Three out of the previous four winners have been South Korean and FC Seoul will be hoping to make it four in five. The last Japanese side to win the tournament was a Yasuhito Endo inspired Gamba Osaka in 2008, and Reysol will be hoping to emulate that side, being 4-1 down though, it looks increasingly unlikely.

Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande are bidding to be the first Chinese winners since Liaoning in 1989/90, when it was in its old format, the Asian Club Championship. Tehran were the last of the Iranian sides to win the continental competition, again in the old format. Esteghlal last won the competition in 1990/91.

The 2nd leg’s should be enthralling matches and we shall report on who makes it to the finals.

The AFC Champions League also takes place today

The AFC Champions League also takes place today