Tag Archive | "Champions League"

2012-2013 UEFA Champions League Groups, Tips, and Predictions

Group Stage Set For 2012 Champions League: The 2012 Champions League is going to be a tough haul for the 32 teams that are involved, as just one can claim the biggest prize in European soccer. The ping-pong balls have been drawn, and the 32 teams have been placed into their eight Champions League groups of four for the fixtures that are going to get underway starting in September. Needless to say, there are going to be a few teams that are quite happy with what should be relatively easy draws going into the knockout rounds of the Champions League, but there are others that are going to be quite upset with the teams that they are going to be sharing fixtures with for the rest of the calendar year.

2012 Champions League Groups
Group A: Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kiev, FC Porto, Paris Saint-Germain
Group B: Arsenal, Montpellier, Olympiacos, Schalke 04
Group C: AC Milan, Anderlecht, Malaga, Zenit St. Petersburg
Group D: Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, Real Madrid
Group E: Chelsea, Juventes, Nordsjaelland, Shakhtar Donetsk
Group F: Bate Borisov, Bayern Munich, Lille, Valencia
Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Celtic, Spartak Moskow
Group H: Braga, CFR Cluj, Galatarsaray, Manchester United

At one glance, the team that has to be quite happy is Manchester United in Group H. Surely, there will be a fixture or two in which full points aren’t achieved, but relatively speaking, this is going to be the easiest group that the Red Devils could have asked for. The truth of the matter is that another English giant, Arsenal has a relatively easy draw as well, knowing that it shouldn’t have all that many problems with Schalke, Olympiacos, and Montpellier in Group B.

Further down the road, it appears as though PSG, the team that is the overwhelming favorite to win the Ligue 1 this year, will be able to get into the knockout rounds of the Champions League with ease out of Group A. AC Milan is a team that should have no problems in Group C, though it will be interesting to see if Malaga can keep its early season momentum going in La Liga and get into the knockout stages of the Champions League as well.

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Group E should be fairly cut and dry, as Chelsea and Juventes should be head and shoulders above Shakhtar Donetsk and Nordsjaelland, both of which are fortunate just to be here at this stage of the competition. Those two will be fighting for the drop in spot to the Europa Cup in 2012-13. Group F features one team with absolutely no chance in Bate Borisov, and three teams that have to feel like they can all get into the next stage of the competition. Meanwhile, in Group G, Barcelona should get through in a romp over three teams that should all be ready to fight. Celtic has to think that this is a great chance to get through, though Benfica and Spartak Moskow aren’t going to go down easily.

However, all of the buzz is about Group D in the Champions League, which is easily the Group of Death. Real Madrid and Manchester City are the two highlights of the group, and one would think that they would both be able to get through to the second stage of the competition. That might be how it ultimately plays out, but Ajax is a team with a ton of experience at this level and a slew of Dutch championships, and Borussia Dortmund won the Bundesliga. It won’t be an easy group to handicap for sure, and this very well could be the second straight year in which Manchester City is left out in the cold and forced out of the group stages of the Champions League.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Villarreal vs. Manchester City Preview, Picks, Tips, & Analysis 11/2/11

We always knew that Group A was going to be one of the toughest groups in the Champions League group stage schedule this year. However, we didn’t know just how difficult this group was really going to be. On Wednesday, we might be facing a bit of a de facto elimination battle between Villarreal and Manchester City, as these two teams are trying to get out of the gutter in Group A.

For Man City, a 1-1-1 start to the Champions League slate was unimaginable. The team has been just so insanely efficient in the Premier League, it isn’t even funny. It went on the road and absolutely thrashed Manchester United at Old Trafford, a feat that is never easily accomplished, and it has scored 36 goals in 10 fixtures in domestically as well. The Citizens are 9-1-0 and have a +28 goal differential, and they really are off to one of the best starts that a team has ever had in this league.

It’s clear that there are just riches and riches of talent on this team. Sergio Aguero has nine goals this year, as does Edin Dzeko. Mario Balotelli has five strikes, while David Silva has three. That doesn’t even include the power of Carlos Tevez, whose antics have seen him essentially jettisoned from the squad. Perhaps getting the Tevez drama over and done with after losing at Bayern Munich earlier in the Champions League will be just what the doctor has ordered for the Citizens if they hope to get out of Group A this year.

It’s tough to say that Villarreal really needs to get three points out of this fixture, but that unfortunately, really is the case. The team is in the gutter, and it is going to be a decided underdog in this fixture, and without any real freebee matches to come, the team can’t afford to sit here at the bottom for very long.

The truth of the matter is that the faster this team gets out of European competitions, the quicker that it can focus on La Liga. This year has been a certified disaster for the Spanish side, going 2-4-4 in its first 10 matches. Before Saturday’s win against Rayo at home, the team had lost back to back matches by 3-0 counts.

In the second of those matches against Real Madrid, the team’s top striker, Giuseppe Rossi was knocked out with an ACL injury that could cause him to miss the rest of the year. He certainly won’t be around in this match and likely will not be on the bench for support either. Without Rossi, who already has three goals domestically this year and netted two just to get the team into the Champions League this year, there is a real void that Villarreal just will not be able to fill.

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These two teams met on October 18th on English soil, a match that nearly ended in disaster for the hosts. They were behind 1-0 just four minutes in, and it took an Aguero goal in the 90th minute just to pick up the three points in that crucial tie.

Villarreal doesn’t have a point yet in the Champions League, and a loss parlayed with a win for Napoli over Bayern Munich ensures that its European campaign is finished. Even a win will still keep it in last place, though at least qualification is fathomable at that point.

For Man City, a win will most likely boost it back into the qualifying territory for the UCL knockout rounds. It is currently one point back of Napoli and three behind Bayern Munich. Goal differential could be key as well, as the Citizens are currently at a -1, and even a one goal victory could still leave them on some tenuous ground going forward for the rest of this competition.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

2011-12 Champions League: Through Champions League Scores 10/19/11

The UEFA Champions League group stage in 2011 got revved up once again this week, and there aren’t all that many surprises to talk about through three of the six fixtures in this year’s qualification for the knockout rounds.

Group H is the biggest laugher. Both AC Milan and Barcelona have seven points through three matches, and both BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen have just one point from playing each other. There’s no doubt that this group has already been decided.

Both Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen have played fantastic soccer in the Champions League as well. Both teams already have two victories. Valencia is going to be the odd team out in all likelihood, as it is already four points back of qualification in Group E.

The busy group of the bunch is Group F, where you would like to think that all four teams are still in search of the second phase of the competition. Arsenal and Olympique Marseille both have two victories to head up the group. However, if the group stages ended right now, it would be the German champions, Borussia Dortmund that ends up going home as the last place team in the group. Dortmund has been outscored 7-2 in its three matches, including a bad loss to Olympiakos that probably will not be forgiven.

Further down in Group G, it’s surprising to see Apoel Nicosia still undefeated. Granted, this hasn’t been the toughest group in the world, and there are only three points separating all four teams, but just the thought that it has a shot of staying alive in any European competition is impressive.

The dominating teams in the top half of the Champions League draw have been as good as expected in the start of this tournament.

Real Madrid has three victories and an impressive 8-0 goal differential in its three matches so far to run away from Ground D, and it can be the first team to punch its ticket into the second round of the tournament with just one more result. It seems as though the last fixture between Ajax Amsterdam and Lyon will determine which team survives into Round 2.

Manchester United is only 1-2-0 in Group C, but we don’t foresee any issues going forward. The Red Devils are a point clear of FC Basel for second place behind Benfica, who has only conceded one goal and has seven points to show for its three matches.

Inter Milan is two points atop of Group B, and it really shouldn’t have any challenges going forward at this level of the competition. The team can really take it easy against the likes of CSKA Moscow, Trabzonspor, and Lille, all of which are just grasping for a hope at being the second team to qualify through this group.

Finally at the top of the table, things are most interesting in Group A. The English giants, Manchester City are doing a fantastic job taking care of business in the English Premier League, but they are only 1-1-1 in three fixtures in the Champions League. Right now, that’s just not good enough, as both Bayern Munich and Napoli are in front of the Citizens. Another Spanish side is struggling though, as Villarreal has just one goal to show for its three matches, and it is likely already conceded to being out of European competition.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Manchester City Football – Carlos Tevez Suspension News

Over the course of the last two seasons, Carlos Tevez proved to be an absolutely invaluable player in the Premier League. He has helped developed Manchester City FC into one of the formidable sides in the EPL, and he has a whopping 43 goals to his name since coming over from cross town rivals, Manchester United. However, the Citizens are looking to suspend Tevez into January, potentially signaling the end of his time playing in Manchester once and for all.

Tevez has only played in two fixtures this entire season thanks to fact that there is just such a plethora of strikers up front for the Citizens. At any given time, Manager Roberto Mancini can call upon Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, or Tevez to play up front. Normally speaking, it has been Tevez that has found himself on the bench in these ties.

Needless to say, this was a situation in which the Argentine was not a happy camper. He made his displeasure known throughout England in the media, but the final act of disgrace finally came in a midweek tie against Bayern Munich.

With his team getting completely outplayed on German soil, Tevez reportedly refused to enter the game as a substitute even though Mancini requested that he get into the game. Tevez and his camp suggest that he refused to warm up a second time, as he was seen running up and down the sidelines off the pitch early in the second half.

As a result, Man City has suspended Tevez without pay for the next two weeks. Now, they are looking to see if they can impose that ban all the way into the January transfer season, where they would love to be able to get some sort of fee in exchange for his services instead of just cutting him loose and being without their striker or any money to show for it.

Things could be getting worse for the Citizens as well. The aforementioned Edin Dzeko was awfully unhappy about getting substituted against Bayern Munich as well. Nigel De Jong came on to replace Dzeko, who was noticeably upset and in a yelling match with his manager after the change.

The difference here between the spat with Dzeko and the one with Tevez (which ironically likely would have been what the substitution was had it gone through) was that Dzeko apologized both to his manager in private, and in the public light on Thursday, and all is considered water under the bridge.

Not that there is ever a good time to get into a dispute with star players like this one, but at least the good news for the Citizens is that after this week’s fixture, they are off for two full weeks. Saturday’s clash at Blackburn Rovers could be a feisty challenge though, especially with the team potentially coming in shorthanded and very aggravated with the way that it played against the German powerhouses on Tuesday night.

Posted in English Premier League, Featured

2011 Champions League Predictions: Previewing the Champions League Odds

We are incredibly excited to see how the best teams in the world are all going to fare in the Champions League this year, with action in the group stages starting on Tuesday. Check out our Champions League predictions for each of the groups and how we think this tournament is going to pan out!

Group A
It’s fairly clear that this is the proverbial “Group of Death.” Manchester City got rather unlucky to be placed in this group, but the Citizens are still our choice to get through. They’re +115 favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook to win Group A, but Bayern Munich isn’t all that far behind at +165. Villarreal, which finished fourth last year in the Spanish Primera, would like to think that it has a reasonable side, and in another group, perhaps it would have better fortune. Napoli, at +1040, really has very little shot at qualifying for the next round, as the two fixtures with the Azzuri are the ones that everyone expects to get points from. Napoli does play surprisingly solid defense, but this unit really doesn’t have the offensive firepower that the rest of these clubs do. Just surviving to tell about the Europa League would be quite the accomplishment, but we don’t see a team that Napoli is finishing in front of. We tend to think that both Man City (+1025) and Bayern Munich (+2000) have chances of actually winning the Champions League, but odds have it, neither will be around to see much more than the quarterfinals. A semifinal season for either would be quite the accomplishment.

Group B
Group B is a wide open group that any of the four teams can win. The favorite, of course, is Inter Milan, the traditional Italian power. At -130, this is one of the rare odds on favorites to win a group, but we aren’t so sure that it is justified. Going into Russia and Turkey are never easy tasks, and you can bet that both CSKA Moscow (+395) and Trabzonspor (+1775) are going to do everything that they can to make life a living hell on the Italians. However, the second qualifying spot is the most interesting in this group. Lille (+385) is the second favorite to make it out of this group, but it is clear that any of these three teams could find its way into the knockout rounds, just as it wouldn’t be all that surprising if any of the three don’t qualify for even the Europa League. Inter Milan (+3000) is the only team in this group that we feel has any chance whatsoever of beating the Champions League odds, and we’re fairly convinced that it doesn’t really stand much of a chance either.

Group C

Manchester United should be counting its lucky stars that it drew this type of a group. There is no doubt that the Red Devils, at -420, are going to win this ground, likely with one or two fixtures to spare. The toughest clash is going to be this first one at Benfica this week, but even a point in that match should clearly send United into the next round. At +695, the Red Devils have just a fantastic price on the odds to win the 2011 Champions League. The Portuguese side knows that it shouldn’t have all that much problem qualifying for the second round either. With FC Basel (+1950) and Otelul Galati (+3300) showing absolutely no signs of life whatsoever, Benfica should be able to coast into the knockout stages. It would be a tremendous shock for either the Swiss side or the Romanian side to stay in the Champions League longer than six matches. This is the first time that Otelul has been in this tournament, making just six appearances in European competitions before this.

Group D
Real Madrid really got a sweetheart draw as well, and the Spanish side is at -355 to win Group D. There will be no stopping this team, and we’d be shocked if Madrid ended up with anything less than perhaps 14 points. Olympique Lyon at +440 should be a qualifier for the second round unless Ajax Amsterdam (+885) can pull off some magical moments. Don’t be totally surprised by the Dutch side though, as this team is rich in history, and it’s go-for-broke offensive mentality can be a surprise to some of the best sides in the world. Ajax would be our dark horse pick to survive into Round 2. Dinamo Zagreb is one of the worst teams in this tournament in spite of the fact that it is a powerhouse in Croatia. This team is +100000 to win the Champions League and +2800 to win Group D. Just picking up a few points would be an accomplishment.

Group E
The fifth group in the Champions League could be a remotely interesting one. FC Chelsea Football Club is at -225 to win Group E and +1135 on the Chelsea odds to win the Champions League, but we just don’t see it happening. This is clearly no better than the third best team in England in our estimation, and even though it will get through this group without that many hassles, winning in the knockout rounds could be awfully difficult. The Belgian champs, Genk (+3000) are the overwhelming underdogs and shouldn’t be a challenge in the Champions League, while both Valencia (+325) and Bayer Leverkusen (+550) have legitimate chances of getting into the knockout rounds. The loser of this duo will likely become one of the favorites in the Europa League.

Group F
There is a ton of experience in Group F, and that experience could be bad, bad news for Arsenal. Of all of the favorites to win a group, the English side is the one that we are most afraid could legitimate be knocked into the Europa League… or worse… out of European competition all together. The Gunners are +135 co-favorites, and if they play in the UCL as they have in the Premier League thus far, they won’t survive this group. Olympiakos is at +1285, a price which might be worth investing in. Borussia Dortmund is carrying the German banner this year as a +135 co-favorite in Group E, and it might be a worthy play at +3800 to win this tournament. Marseille is the Wild Card of sorts in this, the second version of the “Group of Death,” but we could definitely see the French side getting into the knockout rounds.

Group G
There are going to be some happy teams in Group G, as this is the one group that doesn’t have any representatives from the biggest leagues in Europe. Here, we feature the defending Europa League champs, FC Porto, who is -110 to win Group G, but we also have APOEL (+2075), Shakhtar (+220), and Zenit St. Petersburg (+405). Russian soccer has definitely come quite a long ways over the past few years, and there is a realistic chance that this could be a rare trip into the knockout rounds for this country. The Donetsk side is the second favorite, but we know that it is a team that is there for the taking. Either way, save for Porto at +4000, there isn’t a team that is even worth thinking about winning the Champions League.

Group H
There won’t be an easier group to handicap than this one. Neither Plzen (+4700) nor BATE Borisov (+2700) have any chances whatsoever of getting through this group, and both are merely going to be fighting to perform in the knockout rounds of the Europa League in 2012. This is a group that belongs to both Barcelona (-515) and AC Milan (+425). It is just a formality that these two teams have to play six games in the group stages, and both should be considered serious, serious threats at +195 and +2800 respectively to win the Champions League.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Europe, Featured

Wenger Suspended: Champions League Preview – Arsenal vs. Udinese

Arsene Wenger has had a great history with Arsenal in his career. He has been with the club for 15 seasons, leading it to three Premier League crowns, including an unheralded undefeated season in 2003-2004. He also has four FA Cup titles to his credit, and he has been named Premier League Manager of the Year three times. However, with his team reeling thanks to a horrendous offseason, things are starting to look bleak at best for the Gunners.

Arsenal is still struggling just to get its place in the Champions League this year, something that it will now have to do without Wenger on the sidelines for the return leg in Italy against Udinese. Arsenal won the first leg 1-0 last week, but now, it knows that it could be some trouble and be forced into the Europa League with a bad result on the road on Wednesday.

Wenger was suspended by UEFA for the first leg of the Champions League qualification, but instead of adhering to the terms of the suspension, he stayed in communication with his assistant managers, drawing the ire of the European soccer officials. Now, not only has Wenger been suspended for the return match at Udinese, but he will also be sidelined for the first fixture in whatever European competition the Gunners end up playing in.

But perhaps there is a lot more for Wenger to worry about than this. His Arsenal side is looking at potentially an 0-1-2 start to the EPL campaign come this weekend as well. The Gunners were held to a scoreless draw at St. James Park against Newcastle with just 10 men at the death. Gervinho was sent off with just 14 minutes remaining thanks to a careless slap to Joey Barton. It was a ticky-tack red card, but the truth of the matter is that the Gunners should have produced more than just 11 shots, two of which found the target over the course of the 90 minutes.

Even worse came the signature game of the season to date, a 2-0 loss at Emirates Stadium against the hated Liverpool Reds. Liverpool came to town full of sound and fury, and though it was clearly supposed to be a side that was outclassed by the Gunners on paper, it definitely didn’t appear to be that way from start to finish.

So what really is wrong with Arsenal? For one, the team probably never really did get over the loss of Cesc Fabregas in the transfer season. Of course, the team will be boosted eventually by the returns of the like of Johan Djourou and Jack Wilshere, though none of these players are expected to be the ultimate panacea to the big problem at the Emirates.

Better is expected out of Robin Van Persie, arguably the club’s best offensive option at the moment. Theo Walcott, who opened up the season with a goal against Udinese in the opening leg of the Champions League playoff, hasn’t really been heard from in the Premier League as of yet.

Udinese has yet to take the pitch in the 2011-12 Italian Serie A campaign, though it did finish off the season with a great flurry of results, including a 2-0 win at Chievo and a scoreless draw at home against AC Milan. Captain Antonio Di Natale referred to this game as the biggest match in the history of Udinese.

The match on Wednesday is slated for 2:45 p.m. (ET) and will be played at Stadio Friuli.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

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