FM

Nov 272014
 

Arsenal have been involved in several gaffe in the past especially one that involves how a player’s injury was managed. The recent injury to Mesut Ozil was a case in point. The German playmaker was ruled out by its national team medical staff for a period of three months in October. But Arsene Wenger was quick to downplay the injury as he has always sought to do, thereby raising the hopes of fans. He claimed in mid October that Ozil would spend just six weeks out, but as it turned out the initial prognosis of the German team was spot on. He is not expected back until the New Year.

This lack of certainty in which club has developed a knack for not being sure when a player would return from injury could easily be linked to the reason why Oliver Giroud was not registered for the group stages of the Champions League.

The club has taken some flak in recent days for the defeat the team has suffered in the last few weeks, as well as the indifferent form since the season started, but the club could be taken to task as to why Oliver Giroud was not registered in the first place for the group stages. The time scale put for his recovery was three months, and it was thought at the time that he would return to the team’s set up in the New Year. Could the team have taken a gamble in registering him after all in view of the fact that there was a place left to be filled in the UEFA quota?

Assuming it was a match (Borussia Dortmund) that no other striker was fit, it would have been a costly mistake on the part of the club that he was not registered.

Another thing to consider is whether the club got the time frame of Giroud’s recovery wrong? Arsene Wenger claimed in his press conference last week, that the French striker was one month ahead of schedule. Could it have been possible for the club to set the time he eventually spent on the sidelined correctly? Which turned out to be two and half months?

If the history of the club’s past history of getting the recovery time of player’s wrong is anything to go by, then the answer to the above question is that they could have been able to do more to get the actual time frame Oliver Giroud would use to recover from his fractured bone.

It is a situation that beats the club hollow as it inability to be exact when it comes to player’s recovery could have come back to bite the club if other options were not available for the club to use.

Oliver Giroud showed what he was capable of within the short time he was on the field against Manchester United. His first contribution was getting on the end of a corner kick that almost resulted in a goal, while he eventually scored a goal deep into added time.

The club has a collective responsibility to get the actual time of a player’s recovery right. It has affected Arsenal’s season in the past, where two-three weeks layoff became three months.

Oliver Giroud will not play a part against Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray. While Wenger claimed he returned from injury one month of ahead of schedule, there is no doubt that the club could have done more to get this right in the first place, which could have forestall his non participation in the group stages of the Champions League.

Oct 212014
 

Arsenal face stern competition on Tuesday night as his side face Anderlecht in a must win match should they hope of coming out of the toppling the group.

Arsenal lost to Borussia Dortmund in their first Champions League encounter and ended up winning their second Group stage match against a helpless Galatasary in a 5-1 encounter which saw Welbeck score his first hat trick for the Gunners.

The present injury crisis rocking the Arsenal camp means that Wenger must use available resources against Anderlecht in order to come out top of the group.

With a host of players out, Wenger looked to 19-year old rookie, Hector Bellerin, who made his first Premier League debut against Hull City. The young defender impressed while covering up for suspended defender Calum Chambers having received five yellow cards this season.

Reports suggest that the 19-year old defender could feature in Arsenal’s Champions League match; his second game in a row, and would play as right-back while suspended Chambers would play in the centre-back position alongside Mertesacker.

With ten players reportedly injured, including long term Theo Walcott who might be featuring in the match after playing 45 minutes with Arsenal’s U21 squad.

Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Oliver Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy, Serge Gnarby, Yaya Sanogo, Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper David Ospina might be missing the clash due to lack of fitness or injury.

19-year old Bellerin impressed with his performance against Hull City in a disappointing 2-2 draw and the desperate Arsenal manager has sought to put his hope in the young Spaniard by playing him in a must win match.

European clubs have been wary of coming out second in Champions’ League group stages. While strong and powerful teams come out as group head, the second in each group are matched against the first in the draws; meaning a stronger team is matched against a ‘weaker’ team which logically sees the stronger proceed to the next phase of the competition while others are either eliminated or dropped to the Europa League.

With this in mind, clubs, as much as possible try to avoid the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Barcelona in the round of 16 phase.

David Ospina’s addition to the injured list of Arsenal is a major blow to Frenchman, Arsene Wenger, who seems to be growing thin of man power with each game.

The current situation of Arsenal and the sudden emergence of 19-year old Hector Ballerin into Wenger’s first team mean that the manager’s decision on adopting the youngster on the pitch is as a result of little or no option.

A loss to Anderlecht would mean that Arsenal may struggle against Anderlecht, Galatasary and Borussia Dortmund while a win would give Wenger a sigh of relief, and a shot at playing a less powerful side in their round of 16 Champions League stage.

Borussia Dortmund are current Group D leaders with 6 points, Arsenal are second with 3 points, having lost a game to Dortmund and winning against Galatasary in a fashionable 5-1 win. Turkish giants Galatasary are third with just a point, as well as Anderlecht, having settled for a draw with the Turkish giants.

Oct 212014
 

After a comfortable 2-1 away win at the Selhurst Park over Crystal Palace on Saturday, Chelsea directs attention to the Uefa champions league match day three fixture against Slovenian side NK Maribor at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s last outing in the champions league was against Sporting CP of Portugal in Lisbon where the visitors ran away with a 1-0 win which placed the team 4points on top of the group’s table, 2points above second place Maribor and Schalke 04 of Germany.

Jose Mourinho will look to get his first win in 3 Uefa champions league matches at Stamford Bridge after the previous two ended in a loss (against Atletico Madrid) and a draw (against Schalke 04) and get the team on the right path to qualifying for the next stage of the competition.

Bearing any injury and some fitness issues in  mind, we profile a likely line-up for Tuesday’s game in the match day three of the 2014/15 Uefa champions league fixture against NK Maribor of Slovenia at Stamford Bridge.

In Goal

Thibaut Courtios is set to continue in goal for this game. He was in goal in the previous two Champions league match against Schalke and Sporting Lisbon. Against Crystal Palace over the weekend he was superb in goal and though not overtly tested by Palace attack. Everyone expected he would keep a clean sheet to take his tally to four clean sheet in all competition for club this season but he was easily beaten by a late Fraizer Campbell consolation for the Eagles.

Petr Cech could also stake a claim for the spot but it will be the young Belgian that Jose Mourinho will prefer in between the sticks.

In Defence

Jose Mourinho has maintained the same defence line in our previous champions league matches with Filipe Luis taking over from Ceasar Azpilicueta who has always been used in the league games on the left full back. With a crunchy tie away to Manchester United on Sunday in mind, Mourinho could give Branislav Ivanovic some rest allowing Azpilicueta who is suspended for Sunday’s game to play as the right full back. Ivanovic has played in all of Chelsea’s game this season and bearing in mind any attacking threat posed by Maribor Mourinho might decide to give him some rest. Captain John Terry and partner Garry Cahill will as usual nail down the Central defenders’ spots.

In Midfield

The partnership between Fabregas and Matic have been immense and that will look to continue with both taking the double pivot spot. While Fabregas links the more attacking players with the defense, Matic will be tasked with the responsibility of screening the defence from opposition’s attack. Mourinho would have loved to rest the duo of Matic and Fabregas who have played every single game for Chelsea this season but likely replacements Mikel and Ramires are unavailable for this game.

Mourinho has confirmed that Ramires who just returned to light training yesterday(Monday) will not be ready for this game while Mikel is totally ruled out with a foot injury he copped while on international duty with Nigeria in the AFCON qualifiers.

Eden Hazard, in-form Oscar and Willian will take the three band spot behind the striker. While Oscar plays directly behind the lone striker, Willian and Hazard will operate from the right and left flank respectively. Andre Schurrle who started light training again with the first team would not be able make a return to the starting XI. Schurrle sat out Chelsea’s last game due to illness he contracted during the international break.

In Attack

Diego Costa has been given no chance for this game by Jose Mourinho after the player missed the Crystal Palace game due to his hamstring problem. Loic Remy started in his stead and showed understanding with the other attacking players- Oscar, Hazard, Fabregas. He is set to make his first champions league start for Chelsea as this game could also come too early for Didier Drogba who is recovering from his aggravated ankle injury. So Remy is likely to start.

Probable line-up:

Courtious, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Luis, Matic, Fabregas, Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Remy

Substitute:

Cech, Zouma, Ivanovic, Salar, Ake, Drogba

 

Written by Kc Emmanuels

Oct 212014
 

Ahead of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions’ League match against NK Maribor, the Slovenian Champions, Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho has dropped a hint of a very rare start for midfielder Nathan Ake. Mourinho would be without midfielders Ramires, Andre Shurrle and John Obi Mikel, leaving Nemanja Matic and maybe Cesc Fabregas to the holding midfield role for the match. The manager in his press conference before the match tonight said: “Matic and Mikel are quite similar in that position, we are stable. Nathan Ake doesn’t have experience but is ready,’’ Mourinho said on the club’s twitter page. While many still wouldn’t see an Ake start for Chelsea considering the availability of Matic, the Dutch youngster could be tasked by the manager to play the defensive midfield position tonight, if the vibe gotten from the Portuguese manager is anything to go by.

Ake, 19, is a midfielder with defensive qualities who was signed from Feyenoord in 2011 by Chelsea with the view of nurturing his immense prospects to an enviable height. However, he’s been on the fringes for the senior team of the London club, but a main player for the U-21s. He has been praised by keen watchers and commentators for his versatility and ability to play as a utility player. He is able to play at left back, centre back and the defensive midfield role. For the match tonight, it is very possible that Jose Mourinho deploys him in the defensive midfield role as a result of the injuries to Ramires and John Obi Mikel, while resting Nemanja Matic for the English Premier League encounter against Manchester United on Sunday26th October. The match against Maribor, though very important to Chelsea’s UEFA Champions’ League campaign, could be used to showcase and boost Ake’s confidence in a role he could own at Chelsea in the nearest future.

Chelsea won Sporting Lisbon in Portugal in their last group stage fixture this season, after a 1-1 draw against Schalke at Stamford Bridge in the opening fixture. A second win would brighten their chances of topping the group and though Jose Mourinho wouldn’t stake a victory on any ground, in any competition for another upcoming match, playing Ake and resting Matic may suggest the level of importance placed on the Slovenian Champions NK Maribor. To confirm this, Mourinho recently said concerning the match that: “I don’t have Manchester United in mind, I have Maribor in mind. I don’t rest players. We must play with what we have, with the best we have,’’ the Chelsea manager said.  However assuring that statement is to fans who wouldn’t want an excuse for failure to win this match, Mourinho also added: “When somebody is injured, it is an opportunity for another player.’’

Maribor by all means are no pushovers as they have remained unbeaten in their opening two matches against Sporting Lisbon and Schalke 04. Chelsea would be expected to grab the maximum 3 points playing at Stamford bridge but it wouldn’t be surprising if NK Maribor stages a very good challenge by taking home a point in this match, whether Jose Mourinho deploys Ake in the holding midfield role or not. Chelsea already are faced with an attacking dilemma between ageing and vastly experienced Didier Drogba and Loic Remy, the newly acquired forward from Queens Park Rangers.

’Tayo Amosu.

Oct 142014
 

Manchester United is set to make a £4m January bid for Ron Vlaar. Louis Van Gaal will look to reunite with his former international player Vlaar at Manchester this January. Manchester have struggled at the backline this season conceding cheap goals. The players at the back have found it increasingly difficult to play in the three man defence of Van Gaal’s 3-5-3 system and bringing in Vlaar who was at the heart of defence for Netherlands where Van Gaal implemented the system with great success seems to be the ideal solution. A bid in the region of £4m could be launched for the 29-year-old Aston Villa man as early as this January.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid are set to scupper the Chances of Manchester United signing Juventus Midfielder Arturo Vidal. United were linked to the Chilean midfielder all summer but Juventus were reluctant to sell their star man. Real Madrid has however jumped into the scene and will hope to wrap of a deal for the central midfielder. Real Madrid are light in central midfield area after the departure of Xabi Alonso and the imminent departure of Sami Khedira to Arsenal in January. Carlo Ancelotti wants to add one more central midfielder to his team and have been linked to Chelsea’s Ramires but fresh report have it that Real Madrid could also make a move for the long time United target.

Former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku  has claimed he turned down an offer from Italian giants Juventus in order to join ‘perfect Everton’. The Belgian was a £28m deal to Everton in the summer after impressing on loan for the Toffees the previous season.

Former Arsenal captain Thiery Henry could make a return to Ligue 1 after the end of the current Major League Soccer season with his destination being the Pac De Prince of Paris Saint-Germain. Former France international Gerard Houllier who also manages global football for New York Red Bulls where Henry plies his trade believes the 37-year-old striker still has enough football left in him to perform at top leagues.

Bayern Munich are lining up a €38m bid Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil and the player is ready to make the move to Alianz Arena as early as January. The player has failed to spark up the premier league as he did in La Liga which prompted Arsenal to folk out £42m for his purchase in August 2013. The player has come under huge criticism and is getting frustrated at life in the Premier league and will demand a move this January.

Atletico Madrid have turned to Petr Cech to solve their goal keeping woes. The Chelsea keeper has found first team action hard to come by since the return of Thibaut Courtios from Atletico Madrid where he has been on loan. Jose Mourinho seems to prefer the young Belgian in goal to veteran Cech who has been no.1 at the club for over a decade. Atletico signed Jan Oblak from Benfica in the summer but he has not been formidable between the sticks in his early days as Courtios and Atletico will look to bring in an experienced hand like Petr Cech to help in the title defence.

Arsene Wenger is set to reinforce his injury ravaged team come January with the fund from the imminent sale of Mesut Ozil set to be used in acquiring the services of Mats Hummels from Borussia Dormund, Sami Khedira from Madrid and Schalke’s Julian Draxler.

Written by Kc Emmanuels

Oct 102014
 

With just 2 months gone into the new 2014/2015 football season, Arsenal currently has 7 players out of 25 registered for the new season, on the treatment table. According to a comprehensive compilation done by physiroom.com, Arsenal now occupy the 5th position in the injury log of English Premier League teams with David Ospina, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Yaya Sanogo, suffering varying degrees of injuries. Here below, highlights the updates on these injuries.

Arteta and Ramsey: Following the 1-1 draw in the North London derby involving Arsenal and bitter rivals, Tottenham Hotspurs, the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger in his post match conference has hinted that Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta would be out for a while. However, it is clear now that Mikel Arteta, who suffered a calf/shin injury, should be back in time for the next Arsenal EPL encounter against Hull City on the 18th of October. Ramsey on the other hand, who suffered a hamstring injury in the North London derby, is expected back in the main Arsenal squad on the 1st of November, 2014. This is in line with the earlier prediction of their time on the sidelines put at 2/3 weeks for Arteta and 3/4 weeks for Ramsey.

Giroud and Debuchy: These two Frenchmen represent the long term injuries at Arsenal and contrary to reports that they may be out for the year, 2014, fans of the Gunners may likely see them back before the end of the year as their comeback dates have been revealed as 14th of December. Arsenal’s gangling striker, Olivier Giroud, who scored a late equalizer in the 2-2 draw against Roberto Martinez’s Everton at Goodison Park, indeed suffered an Ankle/Foot injury, an incident which saw the manager, Arsene Wenger swiftly signing Danny Welbeck from Manchester United, as he had been said to be ruled out for at least 3 months. Similarly, Mathieu Debuchy, Arsenal’s new right back, suffered an Ankle/Foot injury against Champions, Manchester City, in a 2-2 draw against the Gunners at the Emirates and was said to be out for the year too. But now, confirmed reports now say, these two Frenchmen would at least be back in training on the 14th December, 2014.

Sanogo and Ospina: Yaya Sanogo, who picked an injury in action for the French national U-21 squad, would make the October rush to get fit for Arsenal again alongside Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry. He suffered a hamstring injury on international duty for the French national U-21 team but should be fit enough for selection by the 18th of October, 2014. However, David Ospina, the Colombian national team goal keeper, who was brought in after the 2014 FIFA World Cup from OGC Nice, has suffered his second injury since after the World Cup. The first time, it was a thigh strain that he suffered while playing for Colombia in the quarter final loss to Brazil in July, which kept him out of action for Arsenal, until recently. Now, ahead of the Chelsea clash last weekend, he was said to have been pulled out of the trip to Stamford Bridge due to the same thigh/hip strain and the 25-year-old goal keeper is sidelined again. No return date for the Arsenal second choice goal keeper is known yet.

Mesut Ozil: Arsenal’s record signing, Mesut Ozil, is the latest injured player in the Arsenal squad. The 25-year-old German midfielder travelled to Munich to have an MRI scan on a knee problem and is said to have suffered a knee ligament injury. The player who joined up with the Joachim Lowe managed Germany national squad will miss their Euro 2016 qualifier this weekend and though news filtering in around the media have put his time out on the sidelines to be at least 3 months, no return date has been made official yet.

’Tayo Amosu.

Oct 022014
 

On Tuesday, 10th September, Man City was held to a draw in their home ground by Roma in the group stage fixtures for this season’s champion’s league. After the match which ended 1-1, there were headlines screaming about the failure of City to qualify from the group despite the fact that there are four matches left to play. Drawing the match with Roma was never an option for City, however as always in football, the unpredictable happens and that it did. Already, Bayern top the group with two wins from their matches against City and CSKA Moscow.

Roma take second place with a win against CSKA Moscow, and a draw against City, while City is in third place with a point and a loss. CSKA Moscow are bottom of the group with zero points and two loss. City faces CSKA Moscow next and while some of the media are of the opinion that all hope is lost for City, City fans should be comforted with the knowledge that the team can still qualify from the group.

Beating CSKA Moscow in both legs of their fixture will give City 6 points and this should be an easy task. This being that City are used to CSKA Moscow after playing them in the group stages last season and beating them in the home and away tie. Bayern will certainly help City’s cause by beating Roma . Might seem a forgone deal, but the Roma team are reinvigorated and have gone unbeaten so far this season. Therefore, Bayern despite their topping the group might still slip, therefore they “must” beat Roma in both legs of their encounter. Roma’s anticipated defeat will certainly be a huge boost to City and such mentality will be needed when Bayern comes visiting.

By then, City would be second in the group with 7 points in contrast to Roma’s 4 points, the implication being that Roma must lose against Bayern and City must beat CSKA Moscow. The odds are that, Roma will hold Bayern to a draw, but I don’t see such happening as Bayern is a very strong team, and there are individuals within the team whose sole performance will ensure the team beats whatever opponent they face. The next tie against Bayern is a must win for City, and the trip to Italy must end in a win for City. Hence, the remaining four matches are a do or die affair for City, as a win in these matches and a faltering by Roma, ensures that City qualify and advances into the next round while Roma drop into the Europa.

As it stands, City hold their own destiny in their hands, and Pellegrini must explore all avenues availed to him to ensure that he meets the target set by the owners and also cure City of their stage fright on the continental stage. Although it might seem too earlier to suggest that Pellegrini’s job is at stake, we must also consider the fact that above all else, City seek to conquer the Continent having already conquered the domestic league, and failure by the manager to make the much needed impact in the Champions league will have dire consequences.

Oct 012014
 

Arsenal’s dearth of defenders has meant that several youth players have been called up to train with the first team ahead of the Champions league match with Galatasaray on Wednesday.

Already, Hector Bellerin and Isaac Hayden have three appearances for the first team in defence this season. The former played at right back against Borussia Dortmund and Southampton, while Isaac Hayden played in central defence against the Saints in the Capital One Cup. Both players have regularly trained with the first team this season, and with the spate of injuries ravaging the squad, they could be set for a place on the bench in Wednesday’s match. Also, called up are Under-21 centre half Stefan O’Connor and left back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill.

With Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal out injured, the defensive options available to Arsene Wenger is severally limited, and the players called up would at least serve as cover in case of further set back on the injury front.

The Arsenal squad that trained at London Colney ahead of the match with Galatasaray included 22 players, with four players expected to be drop including Abou Diaby who Arsene Wenger claims his not yet ready to play, it means one or two of the duo could make the bench for tonight’s Champions League match at the Emirates.

It is not yet clear the players Arsene Wenger would field across the middle of park particularly as Jack Wilshere is expected to be rested following his injury scare on Saturday. The last time he came up with a knock to his ankle two weeks ago in Dortmund, he was only fit for the bench against Aston Villa three days later, which is where he is likely to be against Galatasaray.

The present inclusion of players from the youth set up to join up with the first team ahead of a crucial match in the Champions League, once again calls into question the refusal of the manager to sign a defensive backup during the summer transfer window. Although, the club is not yet down to the bare bones in defence, yet, it is one or two injuries away from getting to that situation especially with Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal out which reduces the club’s senior defenders to four from the original six.

With Calum Chambers currently sitting on four yellow cards in the league, he is one yellow card away from suspension, which means it would not be long before Hector Bellerin is thrust into making his Premier League debut.

Although, the adage that when a player is good enough, he is old enough is there, it is down to the club’s negligence that youth players are now being called upon to plug gaps that they fail to fill in the summer.

Sep 182014
 

It was a disappointing Champions League return for three of the four Premier League teams, with Liverpool the only English side to come out on top, and even they struggled during their narrow 2-0 victory over Ludogorets Razgra. Elsewhere, there were mixed fortunes for the La Liga sides, while the Serie A duo of Roma and Juventus both enjoyed comprehensive victories.

#1 Germany 3 England 0

Germany swept aside England in the mini three-match series between the countries in the opening round of group stage games. On Tuesday Arsenal’s frailties were ruthlessly exposed by Borussia Dortmund who recorded a 2-0 win on home soil. The Bundesliga outfit dominated the match and were fully deserved of their victory, which propelled them to the top of the group, while the Gunners are subsequently rock-bottom.

England were looking to bounce back the following day, however they endured more disappointment as Man City suffered a last-gasp defeat at Bayern Munich, while Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Schalke at the Bridge. It was a desperately disappointing couple of days for the three English clubs, who will each be gunning to recover come the second wave of games in just under two weeks times.

#2 European Nights Resume Normal Service at Anfield

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the English quartet as Liverpool recorded the one and only win for the Premier League. However, they were expected to do so, having been handed the easiest start to their long-awaited return to Europe’s elite competition: a home fixture against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets Razgrad. That said, the Reds were made to make hardwork of the Champions League debutants who have only been in existence for 13 years, with skipper Steven Gerrard rescuing the Merseysiders courtesy of a last-gasp penalty. Anfield is famed for its ‘European nights’ and the accompanying drama and there was no shortage as Brendan Rodgers side made its return to the competition for the first time in five years.

#3 Ruthless Roma enjoy rip-roaring return

Roma marked their return to Europe’s elite club competition with a 5-1 thrashing of CSKA Moscow in front of a jubilant home crowd in the Italian capital. Returning from a three-year absence, they showed that they mean business by ruthlessly tearing apart CSKA, and in the processes flew to the top of Group E. Meanwhile, club legend Francesco Totti showed he still has what it takes at this level in his 23rd season at the Stadio Olimpico. Sterner tests against Bayern and City are on the horizon, however their stunning start means confidence is high.

#5 Mixed fortunes for Spanish sides

As expected Spanish giants Real Madrid (4-1 against Basel) and Barcelona (1-0 against Apoel) recorded home victories, as they each registered, contrasting, winning starts to their respective campaigns. However, last season’s runners-up, Atletico Madrid, suffered a shock defeat in Greece to Olympiakos. Diego Simeone’s men were edged out 3-2 in an enthralling match at the Karaiskakis Stadium, which has really spiced up Group A. Meanwhile Athletic Balbao’s 16-year wait for a return to the Champions League ended in a drab goalless draw at home to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Elsewhere, Porto stuffed BATE 6-0, Juventus and Zenit recorded comfortable 2-0 victories over Malmo FF and Benfica respectively, while Moncao edged out Bayern Leverkusen. Additionally Ajax and PSG played out a 1-1 draw, as did NK Maribor and Sporting Lisbon, and Galatasaray and Anderlecht.

It’s too early in the competition to ascertain too much about what the next eight months has in store but the ‘heavy-weights’ of European football, who have become synonymous with dominating the Champions League in recent years, namely Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid all began as they mean to go on and it would be a surprise if they didn’t occupy the three of the four semi-final places come next April providing the draw keeps them apart in the Quarter Final.

May 132014
 

On Tuesday Real Madrid destroyed Bayern Munich 4-0 in their own backyard, followed 24 hours later by Atletico Madrid who outclassed Chelsea, to set up a sizzling all-Spanish affair in Portugal. As a result, La Liga has been propelled to the top of the European pedestal, and the fact that both teams are from the same city only adds to the frenzied excitement already building around May’s showpiece Final. Twelve months ago the talk surround the supremacy of German football and how the Bundesliga was set to dominate for years to come. Well, step aside German football, Spain has never been too far behind and it would appear it is La Liga who currently sits aloft the European football perch.

Here’s some musings from the Semi Finals.

The wait for a successful title defence goes on

Bayern Munich’s dramatic and humiliating collapse at the hands of Real Madrid ended the Bundesliga side’s hopes of becoming the first team to successfully defend the Champions League since its inauguration in 1992/1993. Pep Guardiola’s men were ruthlessly ripped apart in the second-leg at home to Los Blancos, despite being favourites according to the online oddsmakers at Sports Betting Dime, in a strikingly similar fashion to the way they tore through Barcelona at this stage last season. However, they are sure to bounce back in 2015 and expect them to be gunning for revenge should they clash with Real in the latter stages but has the tide turned and is Guardiola then great coach everyone thinks he is?

More agony for John Terry

A distraught John Terry was once again reduced to tears of devastation after he endured yet another heartbreaking night in Europe. The exit at the hands of Atletico extended the Chelsea skipper’s semi-final falterings to five, while the defender will need no reminding of his mortifying penalty miss in his one and only appearance in the Final of the competition back in 2008.

The Blues did of course go on to memorably win the Champions League four years later in 2012, however Terry was forced to watch from the sidelines after stupidly getting sent off in the semi-final second-leg against Barcelona. A year later, the former England international was once again absent from his side’s participation in a European Final, that of the Europa League – but this time it was a persistent ankle injury which prevented him from playing in the 2-1 win over Benfica.

At the age of 33 and despite a decorated domestic career, time is ticking away for Terry’s search for European glory…

All Spanish Final 

For the first time in the history of the famous competition, two teams from the same city will lock horns in the Final. On May 24th, the second successive final involving teams from the same country will take place at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz with La Liga with Spain in the spotlight this time around as Atletico take on Real Madrid.

In terms of accolades, Real are streaks ahead of their rivals having amassed a record of nine European Cups, although their last success seems like an eternity ago (2002) for a club seemingly synonymous with the competition. Meanwhile, Atletico have actually never won the prestigious trophy, instead settling for a solitary runners-up spot way back in 1974.

Real head into the eagerly anticipated encounter as favourites to lift ‘La Décima’ once again and will in turn take their already sizeable tally into double figures. However, opponents Atletico, who have enjoyed a sensational season and are on the verge of winning their first league title for 18 years and simply cannot be underestimated and there is just something that perhaps suggests that it may well be Diego Simeone’s year.

Apr 302014
 

Following Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at home against Atletico Madrid, captain John Terry was seen crying. This, of course, is not the first time he has been caught sobbing after losing.

When he missed a penalty in Moscow that cost Chelsea the opportunity to beat Manchester United to win his club’s first ever Champions League title, you could understand.

But who over the age of nine cries after losing a semi-final?

Apr 282014
 

Some people just have a knack for winning bets.  Whether they know loads about sport or just have lady luck on their side, some win big for giving away little and you can find out more with the campaign to find the best bets.

With the Champions League reaching its final stages and the big guns battling it out to be Champions of Europe, it’s always worth betting a few quid. With only four teams left you might not get the greatest odds ever, and you’d have to bet a lot to win £500,000. However, this time last year, one lucky football fan walked away with exactly that after laying down only 30p.

The unnamed man made a fifteen game accumulator bet with winning odds of around 1,666,666 to one. Yet when Bayern Munich lifted the Champions League trophy at Wembley Stadium last year, he was half a million quid better off. Now that’s got to be one of the ever right?

What makes it all the more spectacular is that apparently it was the same bloke who some years earlier had won around £157,000 by betting Manchester United would win the Champions League back in 1999 on another accumulator bet.

Now, either this guy is incredibly lucky, knows more about football than anyone else on the planet, or he’s come back from the future in a time machine with a fistful of football results.

Are you lucky too?  Give us a tweet  @bgo_official on Twitter, using the hashtag #bgoBestBets for a chance to see if you’re lucky enough to have yours published on their blog.

Apr 112014
 

After beating PSG to progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League, many Chelsea fans were hoping for a draw against Atletico Madird.

Their goalkeeper and one of their most important players, Thibaut Courtois, is in Spain on loan from Chelsea. There had been talk of a clause in Courtois’ contract which meant he wouldn’t be allowed to face his former club, unless £4.95m was paid to Chelsea.

UEFA have today released a statement to confirm that to maintain the integrity of the competition, Courtois would be allowed to face Chelsea if the two teams were drawn against each other.

The integrity of sporting competition is a fundamental principle for UEFA. Both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations contain clear provisions which strictly forbid any club to exert, or attempt to exert, any influence whatsoever over the players that another club may (or may not) field in a match.

It follows that any provision in a private contract between clubs which might function in such a way as to influence who a club fields in a match is null, void and unenforceable so far as UEFA is concerned.

Furthermore, any attempt to enforce such a provision would be a clear violation of both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations and would therefore be sanctioned accordingly.

Apr 042014
 

Paris Saint-Germain dispelled the belief that the perceived lack of competition in Ligue 1 would hinder their chances in the Champions League with a 3-1 victory over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at the Parc des Princes this evening, despite giving up a one goal lead inside the first half.

Much was made of the attacking qualities in the French Champions’ locker before the kick-off and it was no surprise when the hosts went one goal to the good inside three minutes after a very positive start on the front foot. Chelsea were caught cold by the pace of the Parisians’ attack and Ezequiel Lavezzi slammed the ball past Petr Cech when the ball finally fell into a shooting position after impressive work on the flank by Blaise Matuidi.

Jose Mourinho’s decision to play Andre Schurrle as a lone forward cum attacking midfielder this evening was pondered by the media prior to kick-off as possibly a message to owner Roman Abramovich with regards to the purchase of a striker in the summer, however it must be said that the German winger by trade put in a commendable shift. Schurrle consistently harried the defensive pairing of Alex and Thiago Silva and then had the energy to put Marco Verratti under pressure when the ball was moved onto the Italian.

Paris Saint-Germain seemed to have stunned themselves such was the early timing of their opening goal with Laurent Blanc’s side unsure whether or not to pile forward and try and take further advantage of Chelsea’s sluggish start. The home side did in fact show a hint of indecisiveness and elected to sit back on their one goal lead and it allowed Chelsea to compose themselves and gain a foothold in the contest. It was the sort of faux mercy that Europe’s elite tend not to show after taking a lead and that is something Paris Saint-Germain will have to learn from should they progress to the semi-final stage.

Chelsea’s equaliser came through a rare Thiago Silva mistake, the Brazilian defender seemed to get the timing of his challenge ever so slightly off and Oscar was felled by a trailing leg.  Eden Hazard comfortably stepped up to wrong foot Salvatore Sirigu with his penalty finding the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Marco Verratti will come in for criticism tonight as the Italian gave the ball away a few times too many however the former Pescara midfielder was crucial to PSG’s ball retention throughout the match. Seldom did you see the French champions play an aerial ball from their own penalty area, the hosts much rather preferred to play the ball out from Sirigu and Verratti was often the recipient. As Marouane Fellaini found last night in a similar position, against a team who presses high up the pitch at pace it is a thankless task receiving the ball from the goalkeeper as you have to turn, often be faced with two or more men and try and slide an inch perfect pass through a miniscule opening.

Verratti did manage to retain possession more than people realise as well as running himself into the ground to create an opening for others to pass into. It was a rather sacrificial performance with Verratti giving up potential rave reviews for his own performance for the good of the team.

The match had slipped into a lull after the break with neither team looking particularly threatening going forward, Chelsea happy with their away goal and PSG rather puzzled with regards to how to regain their earlier tempo. PSG were given a significant helping hand by David Luiz just after the hour when the Brazilian gave away a sloppy free-kick wide on the left hand side in a position where PSG were looking unlikely to develop the move. The man of the match Lavezzi went on to deliver an almost perfect delivery into the gap between the goalkeeper and the line of defenders with David Luiz putting the ball into his own net.

An injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic not long after saw the introduction of Lucas Moura. The direct running of the former Sao Paulo starlet caused Chelsea real problems and Moura’s positivity proved to be infectious to the rest of the team.

Chelsea had lost their momentum courtesy of both the goal and the introduction of Fernando Torres in place of the hard working, if isolated, Andre Schurrle and PSG took full advantage of the newfound room in midfield, Thiago Motta orchestrated the tempo without so much as a second glace from Chelsea’s forward line. It seemed only a matter of time before another PSG goal came.

In truth it looked as if both teams had settled for the result as it stood heading into injury time, until €42million substitute Javier Pastore received the ball in the right hand corner of Chelsea’s half. The Argentinean playmaker seemed to flick a switch and turn on the style out of the blue with his nimble feet seeing him beat three Chelsea defenders before powering the ball past Petr Cech at his near post to send the Parc des Princes into an ecstatic frenzy just seconds before the full-time whistle.

Jose Mourinho was unsurprisingly disappointed with his team after conceding a late goal labelling the manner in Chelsea allowed Pastore to score as “ridiculous.” Mourinho continued on what appeared to be the words of a frustrated man by suggesting it would be “difficult” to overcome the 3-1 deficit with Chelsea “not a team full of talent to score a lot of goals.”

On the topic of PSG, Laurent Blanc’s men showed that they were far more than wealthy pretenders this evening with the widespread quality in the side showing them to be a class above Chelsea, despite a difficult period following the equalising goal. Thiago Silva was a rock at the back with the captain’s reading of the game cutting short Chelsea attacks before they had even had chance to develop, giving away the penalty was the only blotch on his copybook.

There are worries for Laurent Blanc ahead of Tuesday’s return leg at Stamford Bridge with Marco Verratti and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both being substituted through injury with Ibrahimovic appearing to have pulled a hamstring which will almost certainly see him miss the trip to London. Lucas Moura’s twenty minute cameo did however show that there are options from the bench to replace Ibrahimovic without too much of a decrease in production.

With the heavyweights in the competition all in a good position to progress to the semi-final you have to feel that PSG showed tonight that they have a good mentality as well as individual quality on the pitch. A year ago we saw a team which perhaps wasn’t ready for the pressures that come with latter stage Champions League football however this year they have taken that next step. Despite a set-back following their early opening goal the French side remained largely positive in the second half and with this added to their obvious footballing qualities, it is easy to see them being more than a match for any of the side’s left in the competition.

Apr 022014
 

Following Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat in the Champions League quarter finals against PSG, Eden Hazard was seen wearing an opponents shirt when interview on French television station, Canal+.

Hazard scored Chelsea’s only goal in the game and also hit the post, but after being linked in all the papers with a move to the French club this summer, Chelsea fans probably didn’t want to see him wearing the PSG shirt.

Mar 312014
 

Ahead of the Champions League quarter-final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich, Arjen Robben has talked up the atmosphere at Old Trafford.

“Playing in England is always fantastic, and Old Trafford is very special with an amazing atmosphere,” Robben said. “A Champions League quarter-final in these surroundings – it’s the kind of thing you dream of as a player.“

Robben last played at Old Trafford in 2010 and scored a fantastic goal to knock United out of the competition, but the Dutchman insists he is more focussed on the upcoming game than any memories of that goal.

“I basically don’t think about it at all,” he continued. “I treat these things very factually. Football moves on so quickly. I scored that goal nearly four years ago and in the meantime we’ve experienced plenty of new things and been very successful. I always keep my eyes on the future. The time to reminisce is when you’ve stopped playing.“

Mar 212014
 

All Group Winners Progress

For the first time in Champions League history, the eight top seeds, and group stage winners, all sealed their places in the quarter-finals, which may not come as a huge surprise given the calibre of each progressed team, however the unpredictable nature of the competition usually results in an unexpected presence in the last-eight, but not this time. There are still the well-fancied favourites, the rank outsiders and those teams bursting to make a breakthrough, meaning we can now eagerly look forward to what promises to be a mouth-watering draw in Nyon on Friday.

Bayern remain favourites to retain title

Bayern remain the favourites to become the first side in Champions League history to retain the trophy. The all-conquering Bavarian outfit have reached the Final in three of the last four seasons, and will certainly fancy their chances of being in the final two for the third successive season, as they bid to win their sixth European Cup. However, nothing is ever that straight forward, with the Bundesliga frontrunners facing stiff competition from Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona who are both gunning to finish top of the pile once again.

Don’t rule out PSG and Atletico Madrid

Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid may be considered the three main contenders, however Atletico Madrid and PSG will no doubt have something to say about that. Both teams have enjoyed stunning domestic and European campaigns to date, which has subsequently won them numerous plaudits. Especially Atletico, who swatted away the challenge of AC Milan with surprising ease, while French powerhouse PSG romped through to the last-eight for the second year in a row after outclassing Bayer Leverkusen. Each side will fancy their chances of causing a huge stir as the competition starts to reach fever pitch.

Two in, two out

England have two representatives in the quarter-final draw following Chelsea and Man Utd’s respective successes. Last season not a single Premier League team managed to make it through to the last-eight for the first time in 17 years, however Chelsea and Man Utd have now restored a small dose of pride. Both teams may be the underdogs this time around, but in the past, as the Blues well now, English sides have conjured up some stunning moments of magic when their backs are against the wall. Meanwhile Man City and Arsenal, who were handed the most difficult of ties against Barcelona and Bayern, will now have to focus on winning the league, which is an achievement in itself.

Temporary Reprieval for Moyes as United Turn Around Two goal Defict

In a time of desperation Manchester United turned back time and produced a European display of old as they stormed back from their two-goal first-leg deficit to beat Olympiakos 3-0 in front of a rocking Old Trafford. No one will be more ecstatic, or more relieved, than the beleaguered boss David Moyes who is hoping to salvage something what has otherwise been an atrocious debut season in charge of the Red Devils. United are the 20/1 underdogs with Bet Victor to win their fourth European crown, which would arguably be their greatest achievement, given both the circumstances and the immense competition around them.

Can Jose Mourinho create history?

The Special One has two Champions League trophies under his belt (Porto 2004 & Inter Milan 2010), and despite what he says, the Portuguese coach is simply desperate to create history by taking a third team all the way in Europe. He failed to do so with Los Blancos, losing three consecutive semi-finals, but will be gunning to lead his beloved Chelsea to glory for the second time in three years. Similarly to United the odds are stacked against the Blues, as they were in 2012…and we all know what happened then…

Cristiano Ronaldo eyes goal scoring record

After bagging four goals in Real’s 9-2 demolition of Schalke Cristiano Ronaldo is now just one strike of 14 goals in a Champions League campaign, which is the joint-record held by Lionel Messi and Jose Altafin. The Portugal captain is in sensational form and he now needs to find the back of the net just two more times in order to surge to the summit of the standings. Ronaldo Portugal captain has at least two games to achieve this feat, while he has potentially five matches remaining (if Real reach the Final) to take his tally to new, unimaginable heights.