Champions League Quarter Finals Aftermath: Don’t Hate the Referee, Hate the Game!

The turning-point moment: Arturo Vidal sees second yellow in Bayern Munich’s Champions League loss to Real Madrid.

After listening to arguements for and against the competence of referees, especially after the most recent Real Madrid versus Bayern Munich Quater-Final Champions League match, I came up with that title.

Do not get me wrong. I totally love the beautiful game of football. It’s almost un-hateable but, during the quarter-finals, did the referees miss key decisions? I think they did.

Infact, sometimes I think they were so blind and needed a guide dog sometimes to help them make decisions.

That being stated, we should note that there has never been a time football refereeing has been deemed good enough. Every football supporter feels that the referee is always against them even though many a times the players of their beloved teams are guilty as charged.

Football has gotten as much coverage as it is getting nowadays and all the lucrative TV deals are there to milk every single talking point there is.

If you think the referees are incompetent, it’s not their fault that they are incompetent, blame the body that hires them. Its as simple as that.

Referees have always and always will be controversial, especially in big games. But let’s look at the conditions that set these controversies up: Players act, coax and encourage referees to get on their side for every decision. Then the smallest of every decision is contested then the referees are blamed for the outcomes.

A certain “Grumpy One” would often cite referee mistakes as excuses for his sides incompetence when a match doesn’t go his way.

The associations and authorities also need to assist the referee in his duties if they want less complaints. Case in point for the video referees: if all the teams involved want it, why not introduce it? If it, improves the credibility of the game, why not bring it in?

In my opinion, if there should be blames, blame Ribery that lost chances, blame Robben and Lewandowski for not being clinical enough. Those are then fine margins for me but it’s easier to blame the referees.

We can say the referees weren’t good enough on the day. We can also make the argument that Bayern weren’t either.

The best team over two legs won it. Again it’s more justifying to blame the referee. But the beautiful game created the circumstances everyone is now complaining about – maybe not everyone.

 

About Author

Kolawole loves to talk about football amongst other things, passionate about Liverpool, Coutinho and Jurgen Klopp. You can catch the silent observer on twitter @kopainzy

What I Learnt from the UEFA Champions League this week

One for the road: Sergio Ramos celebrates scoring for Real Madrid against Napoli. Photo credit: @realmadriden

“We are only halfway through the tie. There are 95 minutes left and lots of things can happen.

“I go into the game with a positive mood. We have to do everything really well, both in defence and in attack. PSG are a really good side.

“Of course, lots of things have happened since the first leg. We have improved and have put in some good performances. We are optimistic by nature and convinced of what we can do. We will try to make the most of the favourable circumstances.

“If a team can score four times against us, we can score six times against them. We have seen that before this season. We have nothing to lose.”

What better way to begin discussing one of the most exciting weeks in UEFA Champions League history than to start with the words of the Barcelona coach cum prophet, Luis Enrique?

The 7th and 8th day of March, 2017 will remain etched in the memories of football fans for as long as I can think of. History was made, records were shattered and the already-immortal ones became even more immortal (if that word exists).

While so many will talk about how Arsenal ’10-d 2′ bottle things up after a fine start to a football season, the major talking point of the week was the showdown in Barcelona.

It’d have been hard to think of any record that Barcelona had not shattered. But a 4-0 first leg deficit was a high hurdle, a new one for the ‘Catalan gods.’ But they proved themselves once again, as one of the best, if not the best, in the world of football.

The greatest comeback you’ve ever seen? I thought so too!

Aubameyang came to life with a hattrick. Benfica couldn’t hold on. Real Madrid stuttered at first (a trend fast becoming a norm for the Los Blancos), then came back to win in Napoli.

What else did I learnt about the UEFA Champions League (UCL) this week?

Borussia Dortmund’s Yellow Wall

1. The UEFA Champions League is in a World of its Own…

When day turns into night midweek, and the stars litter the sky, the best in Europe come out to play. The competition is the UEFA Champions League and the word ‘play’ has been taken to another level.

It may not be the most-watched football competition in the world but, the Champions League has a way of catching (capturing too) attention the world over.

It’s not certain there’s a puppeteer pulling the strings behind the curtains, but if there is, this one puppeteer is a good one, one that is getting better with each passing Matchday.

Each night, drama is expected to happen. And with each night of football, the UCL doesn’t fail to disappoint. It serves up high drama with each passing night and the fans everywhere (well almost, taking timezones and who won or lost into consideration) go to bed satisfied.

It’s fair to say it’s just the Round of 16. But that makes things scary too. What level of action awaits fans in the quarter-finals? Semi-finals? Of course, we know mouth-watering clashes await fans… but no one knows how exciting they’ll be. We can only anticipate.

 

2. … and the Premier League Can’t Seem to Keep Up

For letting Barcelona overturn such a massive first leg deficit, the whipping league for the week should be the French Ligue 1. PSG should be ashamed of themselves, right? Well, it’s a two-sided coin – and I’ll let you choose which side to stick to.

While you’re choosing, I’ve singled out England’s Premier League for some butt-whopping in this piece. This is a league that prides itself on being the toughest, – they’re closely followed by the English Football Championship. Lol, I know I know, I sound incredulous to most right now… but that’s how the bitter truth can look like sometimes. – meanest, unforgiving football league in the world.

On Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and even on some Mondays, these big shots strut their stuff, confidently and amazingly. The display takes your breath away. You see amazing goals, and master tactical plans being executed by players who are obviously close to the top of the football world’s food chain.

But when Tuesdays and Wednesdays appear, England’s top guns disappear into thin air. The fearsome English lions all of a sudden transform into harmless cubs. Then they’re knocked around haplessly by Europe’s ‘Senior Men.’

Then with repeated terrible European outings, Europe’s so-called minnows get the required confidence to step up to the plate too and either try a home run or slam dunk or a hole-in-one. And most times, they succeed, overpowering most of these ‘English Local Champions.’

The Gunners tried to prove themselves in the first half of their clash against Bayern Munich, but they couldn’t hold on or increase their lead. They had to let another five in, yet again!

I know you’re tempted to quickly mention the ref’s decision to send Koscielny off and how it affected the display of Wenger’s men on the night. But, as a football team, if you can’t keep playing well regardless of the kind of hand you’re dealt, aren’t you a spine-less, weak-hearted football club?

Sounds harsh, I know but English clubs have to wake up to the current reality. Benitez’s Liverpool, Fergie’s Manchester United and the rest didn’t win the UEFA Champions League by playing like boys. They weathered the storm, played like men and created space for themselves in history.

3. Referees?

You know, it’s almost impossible to talk about football these days without certain refereeing issues rearing their ugly heads.

The most recent episode of this unsatisfactory series before this week started was the Zlatan-Mings incident (just so you know, I still feel Ibrahimovic should have been sent to the showers earlier than scheduled. But heck, what do I know? I’m just a bloody football fan).

I can easily make a case for these referees: They’re humans, not robots or machines. As thus, they have EVERY RIGHT to make some terribly questionable calls every once in a while. But, what happens when those calls have huge, permanent effects on games?

Case 1: Arsenal, Koscielny, Lewadowski and the Red Card

It’s the responsibility of a player, defender for that matter, to know what to do while he’s sharing his own 6-yard box with an opponent. Rules are rules. Break them and get broken.

Koscielny, inside the six-yard box, stops a Lewadowski who is through on goal (stops here means he slightly touches the Polosh international who milks the situation and goes to ground faster than you can say “Alice in Wonderland.”).

Centre ref points to the spot, flashes a yellow and everything is fine. Remember, during this time, the Gunners were in cruise control. They had their hands, in a way, wrapped around the necks of the Germans.

One of the extra refs (those ones that stand beside the goal post) says something to the center ref. Yellow transforms into red and Arsenal go on to ship in 5 at the end of the day). A famous Frenchman called the ref’s move a scandalous one. I concur!

Case 2: Barcelona, PSG, and the Suarez Dive

I’ll save my breath for this one and let the gif do most of the talking.

I know they can’t see it all everytime but, arrrggghhhhh, some mistakes can’t be condoned at this high level of football. It’s just unforgivable.

Two weeks ago, Impossible. Two weeks after, “Nothing is impossible.”

4. Football Is Just Crazy

That’s the best definition I can find.

It was hard to imagine Barcelona overturn that 0-4 deficit in Paris. I thought Arsenal had learnt their lessons. I thought Cavani’s goal had put the final nail in Barcelona’s coffin. I thought Napoli would give Real Madrid a run for their money on Italy.

All these were my thoughts… until football came strolling along with its craze. All norms became abnormal in seconds with a rebirth of that famous Aguero goal by Sergi ranking high on the list of ‘irregulars.’

It’s hard to put football in a box… football is JUST CRAZY!

So far, this year’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 has been ‘goals-full.’ And the drama continues next week before the highly anticipated draws for the quarter-finals.

Quick one before I stop writing…

Are there really draws? Or is it just one of the master plans of the puppeteer hiding behind the curtains? This was the topic in the blog’s discussion room yesterday.

With repeated draws in the past like Real Madrid v Lyon, Bayern Munich v Arsenal, Barca v PSG and more, what do you think? Are draws in football, especially in the UCL, really just draws or… is there more to it than meets the eye?

Let me know what you think by dropping your comments in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.

About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst on radio (The Beat FM), and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @Rotdav

C. Ronaldo’s New Role, 1-5/02/2017, Beautiful Goals and more from the UEFA Champions League Week

Coincidence?

Coincidence?

“We have been royally treated this week in the UEFA Champions League”

– Match Commentator of the Real Madrid vs Napoli game.
Nothing could be truer than that statement. In just two days, the pain of the absence of Europe’s ‘Premier Football Competition’ was swept away by amazing contests, beautiful goals and shocking results (Hello Paris).

The stage had already been set, since last year, for exciting clashes between Europe’s best. Of course I looked forward, mouth-wateringly, to the encounter in France and the one in Spain the moment the draws were made.

But I got more than what I bargained for this week – and I’m sure I’m not alone on this boat!

After just two nights in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash, Barcelona are already four goals behind, a certain English team shipped in 5 in Germany and the current holders had to wiggle their way past Napoli.

How about a bigger picture?

All 4 Valentine

All 4 Valentine

1. From Paris… With Love

PSG vs Barcelona, in recent times, has always been a tight contest. It has never been an affair that was too one-sided.

In one corner of the ring, you’ll usually haven’t the French, busy trying to stamp their authority in European football. In the other corner, the Catalan giants, looking to further assert their European authority.

So, you can understand why it’s almost always the classic case of a game “kinda too close to call” whenever these two entities meet. But, the meeting between PSG and Barcelona on Valentine’s Day, in Paris, wasn’t one too close to call. IT WAS A ONE-SIDED AFFAIR!

You are forgiven if you thought Barça’s MSN gang ran riot and terrorized their French hostages on the night because that’s what they know how to do best. On this fateful night, it was the exact opposite. PSG scored two unreplied goals (two beauties by Di Maria) in each half of the game to take a four-goal advantage into the second leg.

Surprised Barcelona didn’t score? With the way the PSG players played, it was impossible for the clubside from Spain to score. The closest they came to scoring was a header from Umtiti that hit the woodwork.

The work rate of Unai Emery’s men was un-freaking-believeable! Names like Aurier, Rabiot, Cavani, Veratti seemed to be on the move every time. The little pockets of space Messi’d usually enjoy in games like this were closed up. The Argentine was locked out. Neymar was isolated. Suarez? You know the rest.

The French side never seemed to slow down. For example, Barcelona were encamped in their own half for the entire first 5 minutes of the 2nd half. This is testimony enough about PSG’s resilience to kill the game – despite being 2 up already at the time. Add another 5 minutes, and Di Maria had rattled the net again, this time with a beauty from his left foot.

3 – 0.

By the 75th minute, PSG’s left-back had dribbled past Neymar, went on a mazy run, and supplied Cavani who scored the fourth with a one-timer. During this time, PSG’ had already registered10 attempts on target compared to Barca’s lone attempt on target.

Barcelona went visiting... 4 nothing!

Barcelona went visiting… 4 nothing!

The Catalan giants seemed distraught. The big and mighty names disappeared at the sight of regulars like Rabiot, Aurier, Draxler and the young Presnel Kimpembe. The fabbled “Barcelona Connect” struggled to connect throughout the game.

Now, the Catalan giants have an uphill task of overturning a four-goal deficit at the Camp Nou, a challenge no club In Europe has ever tackled successfully.

2. Real Madrid and CR7’s New Role

Before this game, there was something unnerving about the UCL form of Napoli. This was a team that could spring surprises. They won their group. It’s almighty Real Madrid, I know. But the Italians almost pulled off a Spanish surprise.

Their set-up from the word go startled and rattled Zidane’s men. Their quick exchange of passes seemed to catch Modric and co off guard. Sometimes, it looked like tiki-taka. At other times, it looked like something never seen before.

The passes were fast, the runs sharp and it didn’t take long before they opened their account, scoring inside the first 10 minutes of the game thanks to Insigne. And to think that Real Madrid had been doing all the playing during this time. That was the wake up call for the leviathan.

Realising that the ‘highly dreaded’ away goal had just been conceded, Real Madrid started creating chance after chance and Benzema found a way to pull Madrid back on level terms.

C. Ronaldo then unselfishly cut one back for Toni Kross, who finished cooly with a low shot. Then there was Casemiro’s beauty of a goal that got Rafa Nadal laughing and left Morata stunned on the touch line.

Jubilant: In case you missed Casemiro's cracker, look it up and watch it. Thank me later ;)

Jubilant: In case you missed Casemiro’s cracker, look it up and watch it. Thank me later 😉

Speaking of C. Ronaldo, it’s not exactly clear who has given the Portuguese football god this new role he now performs in: maybe his age has forced him to start operating in this new capacity, maybe it’s Zizou. It’s quite hard to tell. But the obvious remains: Cristiano Ronaldo is now more of a team player and less selfish.

Case Study: His assist for Toni Kroos Is one CR7 would usually take aim from. It was inside the opponent’s 18-yard box, a confort zone for Ronaldo. But he chose to pass Instead.

There was the 85th minute pass to Marcelo which he could have chosen to fire home as soon as he received the pass in the 18-yard box.

Seeing as the usually goal-hungry CR7 hasn’t scored a UCL goal in 523 minutes, it’s weird to see him break the UEFA Champions League assist record. Wonders, they say… http://www.goal.com/en/news/8/main/2017/02/15/32726982/ronaldo-breaks-champions-league-assist-record?ICID=HP_BN_2

3. No Love Lost at Odds of 5-1

“The game ends Arsenal 1, Bayern 5, for the second year running.” – Match Commentator.

But for Ospina, the scoreline may have had three digits. And you know whose the double digits would have been. This one was a contest between men and boys.

Forget what Arsene Wenger said about missing Koscielny. The Arsenal team that played against Bayern Munich on Wednesday wouldn’t have survived if they had a XI full of Koscielny’s. The English side was just helpless.

Swept away by the Germans: Arturo Vidal  and Lewandowski

Swept away by the Germans: Arturo Vidal and Lewandowski

It was a mismatch from the blast of the ref’s whistle and Arjen Robben’s beauty of a goal (how many times have I said this?) was a testament of things to come. Yes they got an away goal, but shipping in 5? De javu. De javu. De javu.

Is it time for Wenger to go? I don’t know. I can’t say. Ask your friend who’s an Arsenal faithful (please let me know what they think by leaving me a comment. I’d love to hear from you).

A Round of Applause please?

A Round of Applause please?

Some may say the job’s only half done for the Bavarians. And they’re right. Only a handful of German goals in England will rightfully settle this one.

Benfica beat Dortmund by 1-0. That’s still the most open game of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 so far.

The games continue next week. Will there be more beautiful goals, large scoreline margins or even more surprising wins or defeats? Fingers are crossed.
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage him on Twitter @rotdav

Four REALLY GOOD Reasons Why Pep Guardiola Is NOT A Failure

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After losing the first leg of his UEFA Champions League semi final tie with Atletico Madrid, the stakes were raised even higher for Pep Guardiola.

He was now tasked with the responsibililty of finding a way past a superb defense mechanism and also qualifying for the finals.

Maybe it was all the pressure that cause him to say, “If I don’t win, you can kill me.” The pressure must have gotten to the philosopher.

On Tuesday, he completed only one of those tasks. He unlocked the Atletico defense,  went on to win the game but failed to qualify for the final thanks to the highly dreaded “Away Goal” rule.

His team got knocked out and different statistics started showing up of how he had failed to make it past the semi finals for three consecutive seasons and so on and so forth.

The social media stratosphere pounced on the trend and called the Philosopher a failure. Because he failed on the big stage, Pep has been called out and labelled a failure by most.

But is Guardiola, after crashing out for a third consecutive time, a failure?

I don’t think so and here’s four reasons to prove my point:

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– But Luis Enrique and His MSN Gang Lost To This Same Set of Iron Men Too…
… and were not labelled failures. The media did not throw stones at them. Why is Pep now being branded a failure? One of the most dreaded trio in football history gave their all (plus all the referee favours) and still lost to this awesone set up of a team. It just did not work for them. They, in the end, weren’t regarded as failures. For this same reason, Guardiola is NOT A FAILURE. He played against a compact, very disciplined team whose defense system alone aroused fear in other teams. He played against a side better than his. And Pep knows what it feels like to be the coach of the better side. He has seen coaches quiver with trembling hands (cue Sir Alex Ferguson in that Champions League final) at the sight of a team FAR BETTER than theirs. His team. He knows what it feels like to be in TOTAL CONTROL. Now, the roles have been switched. His team, against Atletico Madrid, was second best (although the scoreline may be deceiving). And the Philosopher must definitely understand this better than anyone. Only one team can win. Losing to a better team just sends you back to the drawing boards and scheming sheets  and blueprints. It doesn’t make you a failure.

3110482_heroa
– Destiny Is TOO Powerful…
… and by destiny, it was just Diego Simeone’s time! Of course I’m not a seer or a fortune-teller but this one was completely out of Pep’s hands. You may not agree with me on the validity of this point and that’s okay. But you’ll agree that football requires plenty of luck. The kind of luck Ramos needed to be in the right place at the right time for that header in that Champions League final against Atletico Madrid. The kind of luck Shevchenko did NOT HAVE that cost him that penalty against Liverpool and ultimately the trophy. The Terry slip against Man. Utd? It’s an endless list and Pep just signed on to this list; The Luckless Ones. But luck equals opportunity plus preparation you may say. History tells me Guardiola was prepared for this opportunity to qualify for the Champions League final. How? He always finds a way to produce a master-piece after losing the first legs of encounters like this. Games against Porto and Barcelona come to mind. So what happened? He was simply unlucky. Or, to put it better, he has just been unlucky with Bayern. It’s obvious that no matter what he tried at Munich, the Champions League trophy would have eluded him still. Why? Because HE HAD TRIED ALL THAT A COACH SHOULD! All that a coach could. He shuffled formations and even benched Muller. If you were the Philosopher, what else could you have done to qualify? I thought as much. It just wasn’t part of destiny to win the Champions League with the Bavariansimage

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– Carlo Ancelotti’s Announcement Caused Pep To Falter in Europe
Although he (Pep) may not admit it, this affected him in a number of ways. It couldn’t have affected his Bundesliga dominance because Bayern owns German football. So the effect showed up in his European campaign. Allow me to propose a theory to prove my point. The past two seasons before this current one, Guardiola had failed in Europe. Although Bayern dominated the Bundesliga, it was too easy there. And the Bayern executives were bored. There was a sharp hunger amongst the executives to win another Champions League trophy. At least that’s why they employed the Philosopher… to win the ultimate prize again so that they could show off to clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona as fellow European power houses. And for two years, they were patient with Guardiola. But Pep failed to accomplish what he was signed for. And at a big club like Bayern, two years is a long time. So they set out to look for a household name in Europe; a name synonymous with winning the Champions League. They found Ancelotti and made the “mistake” of announcing the Italian. Pep must have felt bad. He must have seen the appointment as a “thank you for coming, you’ve tried but failed” note. And like Pellegrini, no matter how much Guardiola tried, Bayern’s “Carlo move” was always going to hunt the Spaniard. And hunt it did.

– What If He Didn’t Win Anything At All?
Of course this is a completely unreasonable point to make given that Pep was a coach at a club as good as Bayern Munich. But what if? What if, in his three years in Munich, he constantly got beaten to the league title by Dortmund and Leverkusen and co.? There’s a reason why I added this point to my article. Furthermore, there’s a  reason why I made it the last point of the article. Here’s why. According to the book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion: “There is a principle in human perception, the contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another.” The book goes on to explain how much difference it makes which point is made first or which fact is presented last. In this case, to buttress my point, I’ll like to present Guardiola’s three Bundseliga titles as the final exhibit in my defense of the Philosopher. My Lords (dear readers), what if he didn’t win those titles? It would have been a disaster right? But he did. The only trophy that eluded him was the Champions League and the Super Cup and maybe the Club World Cup. When compared, Guardiola won some and lost some. Now that doesn’t make him a failure does it? I rest my case.

It’d be great to hear from you. What do you think? Kindly share with me in the comments section below.

About Author:
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Iheanacho and Diego Simeone and Enyimba and 7 Talking Points From Football This Week

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Better than them all!

Whoever gets compared to Leo Messi and C. Ronaldo automatically makes the news. You must be a big deal to be compared to the gods of football right?

What if, as a player, you’re described as better than these gods? I guessed right. That’s how Iheanacho made the news this week.

A whole lot of other things happened in the football world this week. Incomplete games, surprising results (toothless Real Madrid?), fireworks in Sweden and more.

I’ve tried to single out a handful of them – some that you know and some that you probably missed – and try to have a conversation with you about them. That’s okay right?

Good.

Let’s talk football then.

First on the list,

1. Tottenham Couldn’t Keep Up. Now, They Can’t Win the League Again.
For a while now, only two teams were in contention for the English Premier League title. But after Monday, two got reduced to one – technically speaking of course. Tottenham drew in the game – at home for that matter – against West Brom. One would have expected Spurs to run the Tony Pulis’ men over but they settled for a draw instead. With Leicester leading with 7 points and 3 games to go, Spurs blew their EPL title chances away on Monday. This might just be the closest they’ll ever get to winning the EPL title… or maybe not?

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Nigerian Football: From Amodu to Redknapp?

2. Harry Redknapp and the Super Eagles?
You know how people’ll tell you they weren’t expecting a thing to happen? Well, I wasn’t expecting this kind of “thing” to happen. It wasn’t even on the list. But like football, anything can happen in Nigerian Football. The former Portsmouth coach has been contacted as regards becoming the coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria. As much as this is supposed to be good news (no more Yusuf and especially Amodu), a question comes to mind:
– But of all people, why Harry? Is he the cheapest available option or what? Or was it because he coached Jordan for two games?
Whatever it is, my fingers are crossed.

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3. Continental Action Is Affecting Enyimba Badly!
When Enyimba won that match against Etoile du Sahel, it was a relief for Nigerians to see a Nigerian club finally qualify for the group stages of the African Champions League. Their fans must have been happy too. Happy that their team was performing in Africa. But back home, the story is totally different. Enyimba, current champions of the Nigerian Professional Football League, are currently 19th on the table after 13 rounds of games in the league. The Elephants have only been able to play 9 out of those 13, winning just 4. With more continental action, they may have to postpone more of their league games. With more games postponed, they may lose more ground in the league and will find it hard to retain their league title. So much for qualifying for Africa!

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4. UEFA & Europa Leagues: So far, so good…
UEFA has not disappointed by putting the very best against each other. Villarreal beat Liverpool by a goal and Sevilla played a 2 – 2 draw in Donestsk. Interesting results for the second legs. At this stage, only the best could have made it thus far. But Real Madrid (without their best) failed to score in England against Man. City. This makes the return leg one to anticipate. Will Real run riot at the Bernabeu? Will Man. City shock the world and qualify for the final? Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, have continued to keep a clean sheet at home in this season’s European competition. They kept Bayern Munich out on Wednesday when they won by a lone goal. With the return leg in Germany and with Pep desperate to win the Champions League for Bayern before leaving, will the Bavarians be able to break down Simeone’s tough defense system and win? Speaking of Simeone…

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5. Diego Simeone and his Iron Men.
After knocking Suarez and co. out of Europe (keeping a clean sheet in that second leg in the process), some stats began to surface about Atletico Madrid. And when they shut out a certain Bayern side, the stats went viral. Check some of them out:

5 – Last five CL home games of @atletienglish:
4-0 vs FC Astana
2-0 vs Galatasaray
0-0 vs PSV
2-0 vs Barcelona
1-0 vs FC Bayern.
Fortress.  – via Twitter

Atletico Madrid’s defensive record under Diego Simeone: 256 games 135
clean sheets Absolutely bonkers!  – via Twitter

Obviously, it’s safe to say some very dogged defending has brought A. Madrid thus far. They seem to be redefining football. Simeone seems to be onto something totally different from what Pep Guardiola discovered. It’s like Diego created the kryptonite for “Total Football’s” Superman. And it is a system working perfectly well. Just maybe attack is no longer the best form of defense. Just maybe.

6. Iheanacho Has the Best Strike Rate in Europe.
I totally disbelieved this at first (sure you did too). But surprisingly, I found stats good enough to prove this point. With 5 goals from just 7 shots on target, Kelechi is the most prolific striker in Europe. He averages a goal every 81.3 minutes he has played. Of all players that have scored 10 or more goals in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season, this is the best rate you will ever find. For a player that starts most games on the bench, this is remarkable. Well done son!

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7. Why Can’t Man. City Shift Their Game?
The English FA during the week declined Man. City their request to shift their game against Southampton scheduled for Sunday. This was because the game was already listed to be shown live on TV. Man. City coach complained about how this would affect his team’s preparations for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League clash with Real Madrid. He said, “I don’t understand why we cannot play one day before. Why can’t we at least be in the same situation as Real Madrid? We are representing Manchester City but we are also representing England in the Champions League. You don’t want to give advantage to the other team.” In other leagues, they’d even allow the team play on a Friday! But I guess things work differently in England. Little wonder they haven’t been able to do well in Europe in recent times.

Before I forget, feels good to know that Enyeama is showing them in France what Nigerians are capable of.

The legend has scored yet another accolade as the best goalkeeper in France. He also ranked amongst the best 10 goalkeepers in the world! Great stuff.

Please feel free to share your own talking points with me in the comments section. Would be happy to hear from you.

Cheers to a great weekend ahead!

Follow me on twitter @rotdav and let’s talk even more football.

The Weekend’s Real MVP: 3 Teams, Four Wins Out of Four, 0 Goals Conceded

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A round of applause please...

After a weekend of football drama, heart-breaks, 89th-minute penalties being awarded, title contenders being slaughtered and huge statements and discoveries being made (Juventus and Manchester United) I have selected 3 teams that, unlike some other teams that can’t stop conceding goals (Did I mention that I love Chelsea?), they have been as brutal up front as they’ve been at the back.

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Sterling Citizens

Manchester City
The Citizens had another ‘routine’ win over the weekend and Watford was the one who got the beating. So far, they’ve started the season so well, they have now won four of four, have scored 10 goals in the process and have kept clean sheets all the while. During all this, they’ve set a new club record as regards their current form: WWWWWWWWWW. They’re still behind Chelsea in the title race and it’s still too early to call right?

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French Champs still churning out the results

Paris Saint Germain
It’s understandable (barely) if you feel it’s the French Ligue 1 and PSG, as the only “major” team in the league (that you know), scoring 7, keeping 4 clean sheets in 4 is not a surprise. Well, what can I say? You’ve said it all but, only team or not, they’ve played 4 games (against 44 men) and have not conceded a goal. Just maybe they’re the only team in the league afterall.

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A team on a mission...

Ajax
Seems they’re still pissed at the fact that some other team carted away their “usual” end-of-the-season present last campaign and now they’re out with a resolution to get it back! After four games, the Eredivisie outfit have banged in 12 past their opponents and have refused to let them return the favour. It’s four wins out of four for them and there’s no ruling out the possibility of getting their treasure back at the end of the seaon. Or maybe they won’t get it back. It’s just the beginning of the football season.

Worthy Mentions
Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich
Both clubs have scored quite a number already this season, have won on the trot too but have each conceded a goal apiece.

Have a great week ahead! Send in your own Real MVP(s) for the weekend too by dropping a comment and you can follow me on twitter @rotdav and let’s talk more football 😉

Barcelona vs Bayern: An Unconventional Summary

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Dominant, Dominant, DOMINANT

It was all Barcelona. From start to finish. Their work rate was incredible. They succeeded in making Bayern look like babies. They were dominant. Their opponents, opposed to the norm, had to hang in there. They were holding on to the slim chances of a draw but they couldn’t keep up with the Catalans’ pace.

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Manuel Neuer: A half good

Neuer was the first-half’s Man of the Match after making save after save that kept Neymar and co. at bay. Barca did not let Bayern play ball. I’d like to use the word DOMINANT again. They forced the Bavarians to pass back to Neuer more times than they’d usually do in games. Suarez was everywhere up front, oppressing tacitly; Neymar too with a step-over here and a flick there. Messi?

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Unstopable

He wasn’t exactly quiet in the first half but he left his mark on the game in the second: on Neuer, on Boateng and on Guardiola too! The MSN gang tore Bayern apart from the 77th minute till the old lady sang. Messi’s double and Neymar’s late goal gave Barcelona a 3 – 0 lead going into the second leg (a deficit which, going by today’s game, the Bavarians can’t come back from in my opinion).

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Outplayed by his own

Let’s dedicate this paragraph to one man: Pep Guardiola. It was the #NightmareReunion. He sneaked into the stadium from the dugout before the game began, like he knew what was coming. I think he wanted a draw and after Neymar’s icing on the cake, a sorry look and a grimmacing face from Pep said it all: Things did not go as planned.

But can you blame him? His team got outplayed on all levels by the beast of a team he created (which is now a refined beast). His team did not play like a Guardiola-led side. They played like a Mourinho army except that they played a high defense line, conceded 3 goals and there were no red cards. Enough said.

Well done Barcelona. Time to surprise me Professor Pep.

You can follow me on Twitter @Rotdav

The UEFA Champions League Semifinal: What You Can Expect

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Who will advance?

The draws for the UCL semi finals have been done and we’ve seen the last 4 teams in the competition paired for the semi final games.

We will see 3-time winners and Italian champions-elect Juventus square up against an old enemy in the form of 10 time winners and defending champions Real Madrid (expect a lot of records to be sang out during both lega of this game). The other tie pits 4-time winners Barcelona against 5-time winners Bayern Munich (both coaches will most likely request the video of these two’s last two meetings).

The UCL last 4 paints a picture of dominance. 3 of the last 4 (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich) have won the title in the last 4 years and have been in the UCL semis at least 4 times in the last 5 years. Indeed one of them has made it to the finals in the past 4 years. Real Madrid are the defending champions. Bayern Munich were winners in 2013 and Barcelona were winners in 2011.

Juventus appear to be the odd team out, their last semi final appearance coming as far back as in 2003 and their last win as far back as 1996. Indeed fans of the other 3 teams were probably hoping to draw Juventus though I’m not sure their players and technical staff share that sentiment.

The draws also set up reunions of a sort. Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola is going back to his old team Barcelona for the first time as Bayern manager. He led them to 2 UCL titles in 2009 & 2011. Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is once again returning to his old team Juventus, not sure they’ll have too many fond memories of him as his Milan team denied them the title in the 2003 final in Edinburgh. Madrid old boy Alvaro Moratta will be returning to the Bernabeu for the first time. Barcelona old boy Thiago will also be making his first trip back to Camp Nou.

These games will be about attacking talent and defensive discipline. Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern have possibly the 3 best attacks in Europe and Juventus aren’t exactly slouches when it comes to attack. On the flipside, Juventus seem to have reinvented catenaccio and have one of the meanest defences in Europe.

Key Matchups

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Juventus – Madrid
The last time these two teams met which was last season, the Juventus defense just couldn’t live with Gareth Bale so I’m expecting more of the same and that means a Bale – Chiellini/Evra battle. In midfield I expect a running battle between Vidal-Marchisio-Pirlo & Modric-Kroos-Rodriguez. Tevez-Pepe/Ramos/Varane will be another interesting matchup.

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Barcelona – Bayern
The last time these two teams met it was a blowout, some sort of outclassing in all ways, with the Bavarians advancing courtesy of a 7-0 aggregate win. Expecting this tie to be a little tighter, Barcelona will have Lionel Messi this time as well as Luis Suarez & Neymar Jr. The MSN combo as some people refer to them should be able to make the aggregate scoreline more respectable this time. Bayern will probably be deploying the two arch tormentors of Barcelona two years ago, Thomas Muller & Arjen Robben.

Rakitic-Busquets-Iniesta v Thiago-Lahm -Alonso,
Robben vs Alba,
Neymar vs Rafinha,
Suarez vs Boateng
Lewandowski vs Pique will be the key matchups.
Messi & Muller will tend to drift and do damage all over the pitch

I expect Madrid and Bayern to advance to the finals.

This Week’s Real MVP: Pep the Philosopher

The man who, according to Robben, calls some of his players up in the midnight to talk… wait for it… football! Maybe he loves football. Maybe he’s obsessed.

His side surprisingly went 1 – 3 down to Porto in the first leg and he (majorly) was tasked with the job of getting the German machines back into the competition; a machine that has made it some sort of tradition to always appear in the Champions League semis. Huge task right? Try the Professor.

In the first 35 minutes of the game, Pep’s boys had already put four in the opponent’s onion bag and had registered 8+ attempts. It was some sort of assault; an early assault on Porto to keep them busy defending while they were busy attacking. By the end of the first half, Bayern were already 4 goals up, leading the game 5 – 3 on aggregate.

I’m of the opinion that he watched the first leg of their game against Porto and used the tactics that beat his team lost to turn the game on its head. In other words, he beat his counterpart Lopentegui at a game; a tactical victory.

Alle begrüßen den Philosophen! which in english means All hail the Philosopher!