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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Serie A news 5/5 (7)

Serie A news; Juventus won at the death, AC Milan went close, Lazio and Roma blew it while Inter deservedly lost.

Not exactly headline grabbing! Or even news, however, that’s what top Italian tier had on offer this weekend. Even if there were little surprising results, a lot of entertaining games took place.

Serie A news

This time the attention is all for Fabio Quagliarella! Why you might wonder? Well, this weekend he scored a brace for Sampdoria against unimpressive Udinese.

Serie A news

And by doing so matched Batistuta’s record; scoring in 11 consecutive league games!

A veteran in Italy’s prime football competition with nearly 500 appearances for various clubs, including Juventus, Napoli, and Torino.

He scored goals wherever he played but more than numbers he dragged attention with the way he found the back of the net.

Impressive shooting and aerobic ability pleased spectators all over the Peninsula for the last decade.

Despite all the talent at disposal he never managed to hold a regular place in the national team and gathered only 25 showings.

And now, in the twilight of his career, he also found consistency.

EPL  SOCCER PICKS & GAME

New record?

Next match-day Fabio has a chance to up the ladder and become the first player to score in 12 consecutive Serie A games.

On Thursday he’ll blow the 36th candle on his birthday cake, wouldn’t that be a great gift?

Only one thing could beat that; doing so in his home town!

Quagliarella was born in Castellammare di Stabia, a commune in the Metropolitan City of Naples.
Guess where Sampdoria’s next Serie A contest is!?!

Exactly, at the San Paolo stadium in Naples! How about that for destiny!

Serie A news

He never celebrated when he scored against Napoli but on this occasion, he might be pardoned if he’s to lift his arms in the air and scream. After all, a Serie A record would be set.

With Napoli’s scudetto dreams all but over and with no real threat to Champions League qualification also Partenopei fans shouldn’t hold it against him.

Juventus all but won Serie A

Another weird twist of fate all but gifted Juventus the umpteenth Scudetto in a row. 11 points cushion should be more than enough to see it out.

The weird thing is that it happened after probably the worst showing in the Allegri era.

Juve rarely presented eye-catching football, instead went for solid domination and minimal advantage.

This time, however, Lazio showed the bianconeri that if they’re to maintain invincibility they’ll have to do more then just show up!

Reigning champions missed a couple of stalwarts but it can’t be an excuse for first 60 minutes of play!

Lazio controlled the proceedings, dictated the tempo, suffocated the opposition and created a couple of promising situations.

Meanwhile, Juve managed a total of 0 (yes, zero!) attempts on goal in the first half!

Emre Can capped off his horror show with an awkward own goal. At that time Allegri pulled the first rabbit out of the hat – Bernardeschi!

Supersubs

Anyway, until Juve’s academy graduate Immobile missed the sitter that could end Vecchia Signora’s unbeaten run, the champions didn’t take the situation seriously.

Serie A news

Heroes are born in dire situations. And whom do you turn to when you need inspiration?

The other rabbit in the hat. It’s Portuguese but it’s not Ronaldo! This time Juve’s Lusitan hero was Joao Cancelo!

Came on in the 70th minute and equalized 4 minutes later. Simple as that!

The action was started by the other substitute, Bernardeschi, who set up Dybala to fire on goal. Lazio’s keeper managed to keep out the first attempt but could do nothing to prevent Cancelo’s shot finding its way to the bottom corner.

Serie A news

Later on, Ronaldo took his only real opportunity, a penalty, and secured all the points for the Turin giants.

Juve didn’t play well, didn’t play even decent! But managed to win anyway. That’s what champions do – win!

Nevertheless, if the club has any hope of challenging for the Champions League triumph, vast improvement will be needed.

For their own sake, I hope they’re sparing their best for international competition. Otherwise, it’ll be another trophy-laden but still disappointing campaign.

News from the rest

AC Milan played a goalless match against the former coach, Ancelotti. A fair but useless result for both. Nonetheless important for Gattuso’s team morale.

They held confrontation versus a team that supersedes them! Not something rossoneri’s fans are used to.

And they have a chance to back it up next weekend when they travel to face Roma.

Serie A news

Hopefully, the latest attacking addition, Piatek, will prove his introductory months in Italy were just a taste of his talents, not the extent of it.

As initially stated, no real surprises in terms of results, except perhaps Torino beating Inter so comfortably.

Still, the majority of games had a great emotional impulse.

Roma led Atalanta away 3 goals by the 40th minute but in the end, nearly lost and barely saved one point.

Chievo Verona vs Fiorentina wasn’t a game for those with weak hearts. 7 goals, missed spot-kick, red card, woodwork, spurned chances,… You name it, they did it. And Chiesa finished it.

Serie A news

Whenever you had a feeling that visitors put the game to bed, the home side somehow clawed back. If this game isn’t a promotion for Serie A, I don’t know what is.

Similarly to Juve, also SPAL came from behind to snatch an important victory on the road against Parma.

Serie A presented itself in an extremely entertaining light this weekend. More of the same news can be expected from next game-day.

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