Champions League returns! 5/5 (3)

Champions League returns with knock out phase! 16 of the best teams in Europe are left to fight it for the lucrative title of the best on the continent!

All contestants left are well known to the general public and used to compete in the latter stages of the competition.

Champions League round of 16 fixtures

I guess you’re all informed how the draw works but we’re quickly sum it up. Group winners are seeded teams with the advantage to play the return game at home.

Second-placed teams are non-seeded and play first match at home. At this stage two criteria that need to be considered when pairing is:

  1. Clubs that played in the same group can’t meet in the round of 16
  2. Clubs from the same country can’t meet in the round of 16

The principles really narrowed the possibilities for English clubs since all 4 of them progressed from the group stage. Spanish and German competitors also had limited options left with 3 clubs from each country earning promotion.

Champions League
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France and Italy managed 2 participants each. Last spots were secured by Dutch and Portuguese representative.

This is what the urn in Nyon prepared for us:

Schalke 04 (GER) – Manchester City (ENG)

Atletico Madrid (SPA) – Juventus (ITA)

Manchester United (ENG) – Paris SG (FRA)

Tottenham (ENG) – Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Lyon (FRA) – Barcelona (SPA)

Roma (ITA) – Porto (POR)

Ajax (NED) – Real Madrid (SPA)

Liverpool (ENG) – Bayern Munich (GER)

Final triumph favorites

Based on what we saw till now in Champions League alone front-runners are Juventus and Barcelona.

Juventus didn’t have overly tough group even if Manchester United was part of it. But we all know how United performed in the autumn under the previous manager.

Champions League

Despite some shaky moments and 2 defeats, the Italian giants showed impressive strength in depth and real desire to finally get their hands on the trophy! Well, at least until topspot and qualification were granted.

Healthy advantage in Serie A allows Allegri to rotate his players domestically in order to focus on the Champions League.

In the last few years Juventus was competitive but every time lacked something. That crucial little detail that eventually swings the fortune your way.

That detail has been taken care of in the summer with Ronaldo’s acquisition. Now they can’t hide anymore. The squad is complete and it’s up to the manager to make it perform as it can.

Barcelona is a mainstay in the knock-out stages in the competition for nearly 2 decades. Not much can be said about the Catalans that hasn’t been said already. Several times!

Group wasn’t the easiest on paper with Tottenham and Inter, returning to Champions League after a prolonged period. PSV rounded it up but never had realistic chances of progression.

Champions League

Squad on Valverde’s disposal is balanced, talented and experienced. Beside the natural will to win every competition they enter, this year additional motivation is to finally dethrone the arch rivals from the Spanish capital.

Whatever domestic success Barcelona accomplished in the last 3 years, Real Madrid overshadowed it by winning Europeans’ prime competition.

Second row

Real Madrid, as reigning champion, has to be viewed as a favorite. At least in the wider circle.

Losing the technical leader and best scorer along with one of the most successful managers in club’s lustrous history left scars. Deep ones! The voids weren’t filled adequately and it shows!

There is still abundance of quality in the team, even unused. However, despite recent upturn in form, Real lost some of its fear factor.

Abysmal first part of the season granted group top spot only due to Roma’s inability to hit the target from sitters!

Champions League
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Managerial change improved the performances and results, however, hardly enough to regain the crown. Other team are better equipped for final triumph!

It’s hard to predict what to expect from Manchester City in Champions League! Dominant and ruthless in Premier League, yet somewhat struggling in international competition.

A balanced group started with a shocking home defeat to Lyon and continued with hard-fought victories against Shakhtar and Hoffenheim.

Nevertheless the Citizens managed to win the group. Final standings would suggest with ease but actually it wasn’t easy. At all!

Champions League

Schalke won’t give any indication on City’s real strength, the gulf in class is just to big. However in the quarter finals we should have an answer which is the real City.

The one that gives Lyon the only win in Champions League or the one that blows Liverpool and Chelsea away.

Whatever the draw for next stages will say, if anyone beside the mentioned 4 teams wins, it’ll be a huge surprise!

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La Liga update 5/5 (5)

La Liga hasn’t been reviewed lately, therefore, this time we’ll have a look at performances of stand-out participants in the last period.
Definitively the most interesting situation is in the biggest club in the world and defending European champions.

Real Madrid La Liga struggles

Real Madrid currently sits 3rd in La Liga and that looks to be the best they can achieve this year.

Beside the hard-fought but ultimately deserved victory against Sevilla this weekend, Blancos have immense difficulties.

Only in 2019, in 3 weeks, Real already dropped 5 points. Half of the deficit to Barcelona!

La Liga
Soccer Game Predictions

And if Sevilla would present itself at the Santiago Bernabeu like a team fighting for Champions League place, Madridistas would be in even worst situation.

Playing against a direct rival for European premier competition qualification and accumulating a total of 2 shots on goal speaks volume. Do the Andalusians really want that spot?

Perhaps Machado, Sevilla’s manager, counted on misfiring Madrid’s attackers’ help in getting something out of it.

If so, few could blame him however this kind of approach could be understood by relegation-threatened teams, not top-of-the-table contenders!

What’s wrong?

Six defeats, only 55% win ratio, 30 goals scored in 20 games, over 1 goal conceded per game. Well, to make it short – everything!

After a nightmare October culminated with a dreadful El Clasico performance, the coach has been changed.
Santiago Solari took over and besides winning Club World Cup, admittedly little more than a friendly tournament, didn’t do much.

La Liga

Of course apart from fighting with one of the most talented players in the squad. If Isco’s attitude deserves such treatment is up to the manager and his staff.

Anyway considering the situation and performances shown on the pitch, both of them should take a step back and revise their positions.

Isco can’t allow spending his theoretical peak on the bench. He’s had his fair share of misunderstandings also with Zidane. But eventually won him over and played a crucial part in club’s fortunes in recent successes.

On the other side, Isco’s creativity and technique are essential if Real is to fight for any target, aside from the above mentioned CWC.

EPL soccer picks

For the good of the team, and consequently his, Solari has to find a way to communicate with the player and get the best out of him.

Winter transfer market isn’t offering any blockbuster signings and the Argentine manager has to work with what he has.

Whatever the issue with Isco is, solve it, there aren’t better footballers coming to the rescue.

La Liga

Future?

I’ve already expressed my thoughts on Real’s current squad. A big portion of the players available are past their best. In order not to ruin all the good done till now should leave.

It’s hard to part ways with legends, every club experiences the same situation.

Nevertheless, it’s a necessary step toward a brighter future.
A large overturn in the locker-room is needed. Even Perez must be aware of it by now!

Squad reconstruction started last summer with the sale of the most prolific striker and one of the most decorated managers in club history.

Even if Solari doesn’t earn confirmation for next season. No matter if final La Liga position is bellow 4th spot. Whatever sporting disaster might occur, for next season, Mourinho isn’t the solution!

Barcelona’s easy trot

Barcelona is firmly and comfortably leading La Liga. After a rocky first couple of months, especially October, Barca found its rhythm.

After the unexpected setback against Betis on Nou Camp in November, the Catalans rallied up, tightened the defense and started to play as everybody’s used from them.

La Liga

3 goals in next 8 matches conceded are a proof and convincing victories against Espanyol, among others, demonstrate squad’s strength.

Domestic cup administrative fiasco will soon be forgotten if the team will continue with impressive displays, maintain an abundant advantage in the league and progress far in the Champions League.

Elsewhere

Deportivo Alaves and Getafe deserve special mention! In spite of limited resources and teams composed of relative unknowns to the wider public, both stand in European qualification places.

La Liga


Both have their most valuable player evaluated less then what Real or Barca stars are earning, both have patched up the squad with loans and both have a better defensive record then serial World champions.


In fact, Getafe is second only to Atletico Madrid in the defensive category!

La Liga

Initially, I had my doubts on their successful campaign but after 20 battles you have to give them credit for pushing Sevilla in 4th place. Hats off!

Barca might not allow any title race to take place. But for all other places, there won’t be any punches held. With Real Madrid, Alaves and Getafe, the fun will continue right till the last match.

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