Tag Archive | "Champions League preview"

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

Champions League Predictions – KRC Genk vs. Chelsea FC Picks 11/1/11

Chelsea Football Club has a chance to lock up its place in the second round of the Champions League if it can take all three points against KRC Genk when the two duke it out at Cristal Arena on Tuesday night.

It has been a frustrating season thus far for Racing Genk. The Belgian representatives from last year are stuck in the middle of their table domestically, as they are in sixth position through a dozen fixtures and look nothing like contenders for European competition once again this year. They are also seven points back of league leaders, Anderlecht, and they are three points back of being in Europa Cup qualifying for next season.

That being said, it has been a very, very frustrating European campaign as well. The team just barely survived getting into this competition against Partizan Belgrade (3-2 on aggregate) and Maccabi Haifa (3-3 on aggregate, winning in penalty kicks). Things started off well with a scoreless draw against Valencia, which had to make hopes high for at least a shot at survival in this tournament.

Unfortunately, then reality set in for the Belgian side, going on the road and getting smashed by both Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea by the aggregate of 7-0.

Through three matches thus far on the Champions League group stages, only Genk and Dinamo Zagreb have yet to register a goal. That being said, Genk can still drop into the Europa League with a win somewhere along the way, as Valencia in third place in the group, only has two points to show for its work thus far.

And then there’s Chelsea, which really has very little doubt about being a superior side in this group. The Blues are going to cram in this match on Tuesday just three days after getting ripped 5-3 by Arsenal in front of its hometown crowd at Stamford Bridge, a match which surely didn’t sit well with the hosts.

Needless to say, there could be some anger taken out in this game at Cristal Arena. The Blues outshot Genk 27-5 on the day in the team’s first fixture on English soil, and in terms of shots on net, the tally was 12-0. Fernando Torres struck twice, and he was one of the four different goal scorers in the 5-0 romp that, quite frankly, could have been significantly worse.

Chelsea could be resting some regulars, just as it did in that match a few weeks back against Genk. Much maligned John Terry, the team’s captain, could be one of the players that is given the night off before the team’s trip to Ewood Park this weekend to take on Blackburn.

The Blues will eliminate Genk from the Champions League if they can take three points from this match on the road if Bayer Leverkusen knocks off Valencia as well. Anything less still at least leaves Genk mathematically alive, though we know in all practicality, the team is just hoping for a drop into the Europa League. Chelsea gets into the second round with a win parlayed with a Valencia loss mathematically, and effectively gets in with a win parlayed with a Valencia draw.

Regardless of any other results, the Blues know if they can take four points from these last three fixtures, that they will be in the second round of this tournament, a feat that shouldn’t be that hard for a superior team that struck eight goals in its first three matches to snare seven points.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Champions League Predictions – Valencia vs. Chelsea FC Picks

The Mestalla is going to be the venue for Wednesday’s Champions League schedule, as Spanish giants Valencia take on the usual English suspects, Chelsea FC in a crucial Group E tilt that could help determine whether either of these sides is going to end up as a real competitor for the Champions League crown this year.

This is a huge match for a Valencia side which has gotten off to a respectable start this year in La Liga. No, it isn’t a club that is going to keep pace with Barcelona and Real Madrid this season, but there is no reason to not have another shot at the Champions League in 2012-13. This is a very, very talented side with a lot to look forward to, and even though this is a tough Group E, failure to progress would be considered a major disappointment.

Roberto Soldado has been the hero for this team this year, netting five goals to help Valencia to a 3-1-1 mark. The team’s first loss came just this past weekend on the road at Sevilla, a 1-0 loss that the team would love to have back.

Amongst the proud achievements for this Spanish side this year have been a 1-0 win at home against Atletico Madrid and a 2-2 draw against Barcelona after falling behind 2-0.

That being said, times are still not quite right at Stamford Bridge, as the Blues haven’t played the role of their normally dominating selves this year in the EPL. They have a lifeless draw at Stoke City to their resume, and a bad 3-1 loss at Manchester United in which the team really proved that it doesn’t have the chops to stick with the defending Premier League champions.

The good news is that Chelsea is coming off of a 4-1 win against Swansea City in which it truly put forth a superb, comprehensive victory. The bad news is that long time Blues player, Frank Lampard literally walked off of the bench area and back into the tunnel after not being used as a substitute in the game against the Swans. There is a real doubt as to whether or not Lampard will be making the trip with the team to Spain, and even if he does, whether he will get the nod in the starting 11 or whether he’ll even be on the bench with the squad.

Valencia played to a lifeless draw against Racing Genk in its first Champions League fixture of the year. Chelsea put forth a significantly better result, beating its old mate, Michael Ballack and Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Man U Soccer – Manchester United vs. FC Basel Predictions

Our Group C Champions League picks continue this week with a fantastic clash between two powers with a chance to make some real noise in the UCL. Manchester United will welcome FC Basel to Old Trafford in search of its first win on the European campaign in 2011.

The Red Devils were held on the road at Benfica in their first chance at three points in the Champions League, but Manager Sir Alex Fergusson isn’t going to be overly worried about that whole ordeal. Should Man U not end up cashing in on this home fixture and only have either one or two points through two matches, then there will be some cause for concern.

Over the weekend, Manchester United’s 1-0 lead at Stoke City went by the wayside when long time Premier League vet, Peter Crouch equalized for a 1-1 draw. It was the first match this year in which United didn’t pick up all three points, but the team still sits atop the Premier League table in spite of the mediocre result at Britannia Stadium.

Still, Manchester United’s offense has been fantastic this season, all the way from the first fixtures of the preseason in the World Football Challenge. The team has scored at least two goals in 11 of its 13 fixtures, with the only two duds being the 1-1 draw at Stoke and the 1-1 draw at Benfica. Thus far at home on the campaign, the Old Trafford faithful have seen a whopping 14 goals light up the scoreboard in just three fixtures.

Basel has come through a tough start to the season to make it to this point, but Alexander Frei and company are going to hope to pull off a bit of a miracle on the road on English soil this week.

The Swiss side has struggled just a tad domestically, as it is in fourth position on the table through 10 matches, though it does have the second best goal differential in the league at +10. This is most certainly out of character for a team that has truly dominated in this country over the past several years, and this is clearly the best chance that any team has in Switzerland of making some noise in the Champions League.

An opening match in the Champions League was a bit questionable against the newcomers in this tournament, the Romanian side Otelul Galati. Frei needed an 84th minute penalty to take down this fixture and to secure three points that would have been disastrous to lose. That being said, Basel only had six shots, four of which hit the target, numbers which paled in comparison to those of the Romanian new boys.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Barcelona vs. AC Milan Predictions: Champions League Preview

Barcelona might be able to wrap up Group H before things really ever get started by beating the Champions League odds on Tuesday in a nationally televised duel against AC Milan.

The UCL Cup holders come into this one as the overwhelming +195 favorites to repeat as champs this year. To make life even easier, there is no way that Barca should be dropping even a point in four matches against BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen, and three points in this fixture against the Rossoneri should be good enough to ensure getting into the knockout rounds as the Group H champs.

We have to remember that this is going to be a showcase game at Camp Nou for men like Cesc Fabregas, Thiago, and the likes. Of course, Lionel Messi is going to be one of the, if not the best player on the pitch, and he is always a threat to be able to find the back of the net.

Alexis Sanchez has been ruled out for this clash, as he’ll be sidelined for two months with a thigh injury.

Barca was stunned in a 2-2 draw in which it lost Sanchez. Real Sociedad came back from down 2-0 to draw, something that would have seemingly been impossible last season against the La Liga champs.

The Italian champs got off to a bad start to the Serie A season over the weekend when they dropped to an 0-2 hole at home against recent challengers, Lazio, and though they did end up drawing the fixture, no one in Milan was overly thrilled about it. However, both Antonio Cassano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were able to find the back of the net within four minutes of one another on Friday to pull level. There wasn’t another goal in the game.

Kevin-Prince Boateng has come in the papers in this fixture, calling it one that the Rossoneri can actually take three points out of. He claims that stopping Anders Iniesta and Xavi will be the key, and there has to be a level of confidence over the fact that Real Sociedad was able to fight back against Barca over the weekend.

Barca is a 1.5 ball favorite on the Asian Handicap, and it is a -120 favorite as well, making it the biggest chalk on the board on the first day of Champions League betting action. The over/under has been set at 3, over -120, also the highest number on the board. We’d recommend taking AC Milan though, as a goal and a half is a tremendous head start for a league champion of its stature, and we wouldn’t be shocked if it were to take a point from Camp Nou in Barcelona’s form.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), 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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