Archive for the ‘Champions League’ Category

Champion’s League Live: Man United vs. Schalke

Champion's League: Manchester United vs. Schalke 04

Update: Floodgates open, 2-0 Manchester United and Schalke has been broken at home. What a wild Champion’s League year as Schalke themselves are coming off destroying the champs, Inter Milan at home in the last stage.

Halftime: 0-0. Gave up the commentary, but basically it’s just Manuel Neuer and a firing squad of Man United players teeing off. 11 shots, seven of them on goal.

Neuer has been nothing short of fabulous, but–and maybe it’s a German stereotype–best of all he’s been unflinching and thus keeping his defenders in it (for what they’re worth).

6:25: Fabulous tactical battle here as both teams poking and prodding, but making sure there read end doesn’t get hung out.

6:25: Best series there from Schalke as Edu finds Farfan, but skids it wide. Patience a virtue.

2:50: The weight of Giggs’ passes is unparalleled. Continually marvelous. Great ball to Hernandez there, though nothing comes of it.

2:50: Schalke giving entirely too much space in their defensive third. United will punish them if that continues.

Update: Under way shortly here. Can Schalke switch the attack fast enough to open the flanks. Will Raul be dangerous enough to make the midfield collapse and aid in that effort?

I wonder what brats they serve at Veltins-Arena.

Update: Valencia over Nani, Fabio over O’Shea. MUFC: Van der Sar; Fabio Ferdinand Vidic Evra; Valencia Carrick Giggs Park; Rooney; Hernandez.

Fabio over O’Shea is surprising (or is really Rafael in disguise).

Update: The vet Sarpei over Escudero. Schalke: Neuer, Sarpei, Raul, Edu Buamjohann, Papadopolous, Farfan, Jurado, Metzelder, Uchida, Matip

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It’s go time again in Europe.

The undercard today to the premier Spanish match-up tomorrow.

Astuto for Schalke....

I don’t expect many surprises today out of either United or Schalke.

For United, Sir Alex will employ Ji Sung Park on one side effectively nullifying Schalke’s advancement through wing and overlapping defender player on that flank. I think that’ll be United left flank where Park and Evra will patrol and attempt to quash Schalke’s attack through the creative Jefferson Farfan and the speedy backer (who is getting a lot of pub today) Atsuto Uchida. On the right flank, the Red Devils will attempt to advance more with either Valencia (likely) or Nani continually busting into the corner backed up by Michael Carrick who can swing a pass and the industrious John O’Shea.

Elsewhere I think you’ll see Rooney in the roving false nine role with Chicharito making strategic runs ahead of him. Nothing new there.

For Schalke (and I’ve only seen a handful of their games this year. They’ll try to get both Astuto open on the right playing off Farfan and on the left through Sergio Escudero whose youth United will try and take advantage of.

But amazingly, it’s Raul again for the Germans as his ability to find the ball, hold it and pick out passes in the midfield will be vital to United’s defense collapsing inward and giving those flankers space.

On to the game….

Tuesday: Champion’s League, Dale Murphy, More…

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming here shortly at TSG.

Dale Murphy...

• Kyle Beckerman, out for Wednesday Concacaf Champion’s League.

According to RSL GM Garth Laerway, “In the 37-game unbeaten streak at home we’ve played 10 times without Kyle Beckerman. We’re 7-0-3. So 10 out of 10 times when we’ve been in this position, needing the result we need we’ve succeeded.”

Take a step back. Yes, that’s a tribute to a few things. First, Jason Kreis and his system. Second, the outstanding centerback pairing behind him.

But consider this. Kyle Beckerman–the Dale Murphy of MLS–arguably not quite good enough for Bob Bradley’s USMNT A team. Beckerman, the lone holding midfielder for RSL.

The stat speaks to the power of playing with possession. Limiting chances for the other team when a key central piece of cover is missing.

By the way, loved that Real Salt Lake wore their Club America unis in Monterrey. That was too funny.

• Rumors abound that Jersey kid Giuseppi Rossi is wanted at the Camp Nou. Got to be honest. That’s be a near perfect pick-up for Barca with Rossi able to play up top on the inside or or outside. Yes, I’d like to see it happen.

Next level soon....

• A wonderful piece penned by Tim Ream in the New York Times blog. Ream talks about his mentoring by Mexican international and Barca alum Rafa Marquez. Take this season for it Ream and then apply it as you go to Europe to challenge. Same with you Juan Agudelo. Take the year and then go challenge yourself.

Yesterday, in the commentary, discussion on Liverpool’s up-and-coming backline bookends in Jim Flanagan and Jackie Robinson. They’re 18- and 19-years-old respectfully.

• Mentioned on Twitter yesterday. A “good” goal (1:48) by US national Chris Rolfe over the weekend up in Danishland, but why does the US soccer media feel the need to fawn over each time a US striker scores a goal abroad. Shouldn’t the US players be good enough to do that.

The disposition to “See Striker A score” and “anoint the return of said Striker A” to the national team needs to be curbed. Consistency is what should matter on the value meter. Ironically, or not, Rolfe’s goal game against the 2nd worst Danish league defense against a keeper that FC Nordsjælland was trying to replace at the beginning of the year. Yes, the curmudgeon in us is back.

• Business of soccer:

Last year we gave our MLS Player of the Week award to Lyle Yorks for his ability to hypnotize MLS into lining Benny Feilhaber’s pockets with no other suitors in sight.

This week, we will bestow the award early to Sporting KC’s Kyle Rogers who kicked of a Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo twitter follower-52-card-pick-up contest.

In case you didn’t know Kyle’s Sporting KC team plays at New York this weekend. So another case of a smaller team using bigger team’s marketing dollars to get their name out. Nice job Kyle.

• Die Meister! Die Besten! Les grandesequipes! The champions!

From Japan...with speed...

And then there were four…..UEFA Champion’s League back in action today with Manchester United taking on Schalke 04.

Key match-up in this one? Schalke’s right flank versus United’ left. Jefferson Farfan with an overlapping Atsuto Uchida (the first Japanese footballer to play for a team that reached the semi-finals of the Champion’s League) versus Nani and Patrice Evra.

Other than that, look out for two of the best false nines in the business, Wayne Rooney and Raul trying to wreak havoc on the other team’s defense.

(Oh, and we love reposting just how Javier Hernandez got smuggled into the EPL. Good read if you haven’t read it on TSG before.

• Stoke City versus Wolverhampton in the Barclays on Tuesday. Or two teams that love the foul the crap out of others.

Pass.

More coming…

CONCACAF Champion’s League: A Calm Or A Real Salt Lake Storm?

Quick name an American team  that plays possession-oriented ball, has won a Cup, features domestic and foreign internationals and is a goal or two away from heading to the World Fifa World Club Cup.

Mo reasons with Morales

Amazing that the last question is one that can be considered for an MLS team, isn’t it?

Real Salt Lake takes the field south of the border this evening in hopes of making history; that is making their opponent Monterrey history or at least escaping tonight with a sufficient and manageable result for the home leg.

It’s nothing short of an astounding position in and one that has galvanized unified support for MLS, the league ahead of club rivalries. I dare say–for many reasons–that a Chelsea fan likely doesn’t root for Manchester United this year if the Red Devils make the UEFA Champion’s League Final.

The showing by Real Salt Lake has already been impressive and no doubt saved the club a few marketing and talent development dollars as teams below the Tropic of Cancer have witnessed its quality. Plus, for a team with an exquisite home record, I doubt RSL will feel an away disadvantage around MLS opponent stadiums upon the tourney’s conclusion.

Enjoy the match.

Champion’s League Live: Spurs vs. Madrd

Update:

Tottenham Hotspur: Gomes; Corluka Gallas Dawson Assou-Ekotto; Lennon Huddlestone Modric Bale; Van der Vaart; Pavlyuchenko

Real Madrid: Casillas; Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Carvalho, Albiol; Alonso, Khedira; Ozil, Ronaldo, Marcelo; Adebayor.

Inter: Julio Cesar – Maicon, Lucio, Ranocchia, Nagatomo – Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Zanetti – Sneijder – Eto’o, Milito

Shalke 04: Neuer – Uchida, Höwedes, Metzelder, Sarpei – Papadopoulos, Matip – Baumjohann, Jurado – Raul, Edu

Update: Line-ups shortly

The near-angelic strains of the UEFA’s Champion’s League choir are an appropriate cacophony for today’s Champion’s League bouts.

Modric: The little man will need to be BIG today for any shot

Tottenham Hotspur with a galactic task to surmount against Real Madrid at home.

Likewise, surprising Schalke 04–under the stewardship of a new manager–looking pretty comfy in their home confines against Inter Milan.

Expect both Real Madrid and Schalke 04 to advance here. If you’re keen on an upset and fixated that one might occur, you’ll need to look to Germany. Inter Milan, under new management themselves this season, are the champions. There last stand came against Bundesliga heavyweights Munich. If any team has the moxie and firepower to surmount the task today, it would be King Wesley and his men.

Their task? Make a 5-2 home loss disappear against a team that has scored nine times in their last three home games. Yikes!

Real Madrid vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs’ fans hold on to a glimmer of hope that their side can produce today on the strength of a Champion’s League campaign that was going swell until they traveled to the Bernabeu.

Supreme defensive strategist Jose Mourinho won’t give the home side an easy go of it and with Real Madrid likely missing out on hardware in La Liga this year, Mourinho, Ronaldo and the clan need something to hang their hat on.

If your Spurs today, just attack. Be relentless. They flashed the ability in Madrid, but if they respect Madrid too much today and sit back it will be back to the league for them quickly…and a ho-hum of a match to watch.

Champion’s League Live: Manchester United vs. Chelsea part deux

Hey Fat Frank, you still got it?

Untied are thru to the semis. Chelsea were AWFUL and deserved to be knocked out. Is the end of their last decade or so run? They need to get younger, especially in defense!

PEEEEEP PEEEP PEEP

90 + - Final minute in injury time. What a woeful second half.

87:00 – Malouda, sends in a stinging shot that Van de Sar dives and pushes wide. Hard to believe he’s 40 years old!

83:00 – Chelsea finally showing some character and are attacking United’s goal, but so little and way too late. I think Chelsea’s defensive woes are worse then Liverpool’s. At least Liverpool have some young talent coming up in Kelly and Flanagan.

76:00 – GOOOOOAAAAL – WHAT A RESPONSE BY UNITED AND PARK. The South Korean traps it easily on the chest and hammers it home. Chelsea’s defense is AWFUL! United 3- Chelsea 1

75:00 – GOOOOOAAAAL – Drogba. The Ivorian latches on a great Essien pass and slides it pas Van de Sar. Game on! United 2- Chelsea 1

71:00 – And that’s really it for Chelsea as Ramires picks up his second yellow on a stupid challenge on Nani and is sent off. Now they’re down to 10 men and down 2-0.

70:00 – Chelsea’s defense is poor. Rooney runs down the wing to latch onto a pass and sends a looping cross in that the Chelsea defenders watch as Giggs comes flying in. Luckily for Chelsea his header is weak and Cech grabs it.

64:00 – Where as the first half was an example of good football, the second half has been dogged in missed passes and a lack of urgency from Chelsea.

61:00 - Ancelotti getting desperate here as he takes of Anelka and puts on Kalou.

57:00 - Drogba still has it as he receives a pass far from the box, juggles and spins and sends a shot wide. Sadly, thats been the best attempt since Lampards gentle tap in the first half.

53:00 – Rather a slow start to the second half. Chelsea have had some half-hearted attempts at goal but they all have gone wide. That’s the problem here, no real desire or heart being shown.

Drogba on for Torres…WOW. I think they should have kept them both on…Maybe take off Essien?

TWEEET and the second half is underway.

PEEEEP PEEP – Halftime. United are in the driving seat and cruise from here. Does Chelsea have an answer?

45:00 - Damn it. I SOOOOO wanted penalties. What an awful time to let a goal in. Chelsea have to score 2 now.

44:00 – GOOOOOOAAAAAAL – Chicharito stays onside this time as he pushes it in form a yard out. O’Shea completely fools Anelka and slips a pass to Giggs who sends an inch perfect pass across the box and Hernandez slides into to send it home. United 1 – Chelsea 0

42:00 – It’s rare that i stick up for John Terry as I think he’s an over rated despicable bastard, but he earns a yellow for a foul on Hernandez. To be fair (it pains me to write this), Chicharito ran into the England captain and Terry was just playing D. That wasn’t even a foul.

41:00 – Good all around football from both teams. Chelsea ping the ball around with some great passes though it takes them about 10 to get out of their own half. Finally Anelka gets hold of it and gives it straight to Evra.

35:00 - If Rooney was a Native American, his name would be Tatonka!

33:00 - Rooney counter with the speed of a hungry viper as Chicharito sends in a great ball to space for Nani to chase down. He hems and haws for a bit as Rooney and Park come to help, but he is brought down by Ramires who earns a yellow. He will miss the first round of the semi if Chelsea advance.

30:00 - Van de Sar with an incredible sliding tackle. Anelka gets the ball out wide and for some reason Van de Sar comes out and as Anelka attempts to skip past him, the Dutchman slides in, takes the ball off him cleanly and sends it to touch. O’Shea should take note!

29:00 - Another player who has lost their mojo is Essien. What happened to the Bison and Matts original man crush?

27:00 – Chicharito dives in and sends the ball into the back of the net but he is correctly ruled offside. That was a lovely pass from Rooney and equally sneaky from Hernandez.

21:00 – Lampard shows pace from his younger days and brings the ball into the United half. Sadly his stamina is that of his future days and he has to lay it off.

19:00 – Ramires on a mission as he gets the ball from inside his own box and out runs everyone of his teammates all the way into the other half. He lays off to Torres who sends in a hospital pass out to Malouda and he is duly fouled by O’Shea. Lamps takes the free kick and it goes sailing over the bar.

15:00 – Malouda’s turn to show off his dribbling skills as he saunters past three United defenders and slides one back for Fat Frank to smash into the back of the net. Lampard though, tries for the soft placement and Van de Sar dives and saves easily.

13:00 - Chicharito skips and turns and sends in a dangerous cross that Ramires unknowingly clears for a corner. From it Torres clears but nothing is going his way as he is caught in possession. Luckily the ball falls to a blue shirt and it is cleared properly.

12:00 – Anelka sends in a cross and Torres heads it just wide. Better from the Spaniard!

9:00 – Park shows some wonderful skill as he scampers past a couple of Chelsea defenders and then back heels an inviting ball into the middle of the box. Rooney charges thru but Ivanovic clears. Great stuff from Rooney and Park.

8:00 – Ramires charges in again and causes a few problems for United but Van de Sar bravely pounces on the ball. Torres might not be scoring but he is certainly showing more effort than he did in the latter stages of his Merseyside career.

6:00 – Nani is fouled and gets a free kick at the side of the penalty box, but his effort goes  right into the waiting hands of Cech.

4:00 – Park really should get more starts. I know he’s an automatic for Champions League games, but his hustle and determination are really impressive, and it’s not like he is lacking skill either. More EPL games for the Korean says TSG!

2:00 - Ramires starts of brightly as he charges down the spine of United’s defense. Good skill and power from the slight Brazilian, but his pass to Cole is a little too hard and it goes out for a throw in.

TWEEEEET. and United kick it off.

———————-

Only one exchange each of the children. You might ask why i always remark on this. I find it curious that the number of kids presented varies and there is no rhyme or reason to it. These are things WE NEED TO KNOW!

———————-

On a random note, I LOVE the music behind the new Heineken ad. The one with the guy fighting people at a party and the gorgeous blond singing…for those of you who like it too, its “The Golden Age” by the Asteroids Galaxy.

———————-

Lineups:

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani,Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez.
Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Berbatov, Smalling, Scholes, Valencia, Gibson.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Anelka, Torres, Malouda.
Subs: Turnbull, Benayoun, Drogba, Mikel, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Kalou.

Back with the starting line-ups shortly!

Just about the only game that matters in the UEFA Champion’s League goes down right…about…now.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea. Sir Alex Ferguson vs. Carlo Ancelotti.

Fernando Torres vs…..vs….World Wide Web.

Sure Barca is playing Donetsk, but the Catalans could likely have Thierry Henry trot out there and be fine in that one. They held serve and then some at home last week. A 5-1 drubbing likely had the Guardiola’s minions discussing strategy last night….over vodka.

Messi don’t dive and Barca won’t die.

The main event, about to start rumbling.

Chelsea needing an away goal and John Terry needing to hold on to his footing.

Go! Go!

Champion’s League: Manchester United vs. Chelsea Tactical Preview

For Manchester United vs. Chelsea Live Commentary.

I'm looking at the man in the mirror. "Both" need to score for Chelsea today.

Shaun will be along later for the live commentary.

For now, the tactical preview.

Your undercard? Well that would be….Barcelona vs. Shakhtar Donetsk? Ah yes, after the Catalans thrashing of the Ukrainian side last week, advancement for Iniesta, Messi and company is all but assured.

The Peppy men would need to lose by the exact score of 4-0 (an away goal by Barca ratchets that home side goal number up) to be knocked out in the knockouts.

Let’s move on.

Now for the Main Event: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Antonio Valencia is back.

Fernando Torres still has not scored.

Manchester United have yet to lose at home this season.

Much of this does not bode well for Chelsea.

That said, Champion’s League affairs–familiar with the opponent or not–don’t always hold serve.

The story in this one? The midfield of course.

Last week saw two unorthodox midfields for both sides. United had Ryan Giggs moved centrally, while Chelsea choose to deploy Yuri Zhirkov instead of Florent Malouda on the outside. (Florent Malouda must be pouting in the locker room or something because good form or not, I’m not sure how he’s not an automatic on the team sheet.)

The effect of the midfields was nearly a canceling out with the exception of Wayne Rooney, who was given a license to roam about the midfield, defend there, pick-up the ball here and generally cause havoc.

Rooney made himself a pest more than 9 times last week at the Bridge...

Rooney earned plaudits for his efforts, but consider this: While it needs to be a special player that is allowed to roam, shouldn’t that player be the difference maker, free of offensive positional discipline and a secondary defensive asset. I say yes. Would Steven Gerrard be the player?….okay moving on again.

Chelsea remained in a static 4-4-2 until halfway through the 2nd half and it’s lack of definition hurt their attack. Once again Chelsea was unable to discover their working #10 on offense.

If Jens Lehman can play for Arsenal again, couldn’t Chelsea have suited up Deco or god forbid Adrian Mutu down the stretch here?

On defense, the slowing Frank Lampard often looked lethargic and indecisive in defense and the former West Ham man was also hesitant going forward on offense.

With Sir Alex’s side in their home lair and Chelsea needing at least an away goal to make it series, what will be in store today?

Look for Chelsea to nudge a little more into a “sort-of” 4-3-3 likely with Nicolas Anelka up top because of his ability to drop deep or using the post-up moves of Didier Drogba.

Chelsea on the attack...

Fernando Torres plays off him more as a right forward. Florent Malouda complements to the left.

Behind the forward curtain is the pinched-in Frank Lampard pairing with the box-to-box play of Ramires with Essien as the holder. You may see Ramires and Essien switch in this game (or John Obi Mikel for Ramires with Essien taking the Brazilian’s spot). The midfield will be key and Ancelotti needs to get it right.

As for Manchester United, I think you’ll see the customary defensive posture from the Scottish skipper. Jack-of-trades Darren Fletcher is still out, and Ferguson may choose to deploy Ji-Sung Park to help out Rafael who is just making his way back into the side; or he may go with Antonio Valencia to keep Alex Cole pinned back. The Malouda-Rafael match-up is one the Blues will want to exploit and Ferguson’s balance of postures on that side may be the key to the match.

The backline fills out like it always does with Evra, Nemanja Vidic (who deserves more than cursory mention in player of the campaign discussions) and Piers Morgan’s buddy Rio Ferdinand.

United's defensive posture...

In front of Manchester United’s defensive curtain goes a 2-3-1. Michael Carrick will be called on to provide cover for Rafael on the right, while Paul Scholes will be the distributor on the left. Ahead of this, Rooney drops a little deeper. He’s flanked by Nani on the left and (the big question) either Ji-Sung Park on the right or, if Sir Alex is feeling it, Antonio Valencia. Hard for me to see both Valencia and Nani playing, so if the selection is Nani, Park may be flipped to the other side.

Ahead are the runs of Javier Hernandez keeping Chelsea’s central defenders occupied.

Manchester United will look to play long to the flanks, more as a defensive mechanism to keep Chelsea pinned in and challenge them to work up the field. Chelsea will look to exploit Florent Malouda or a quick switch to Torres who may get a fair amount of 1-on-1 chances versus Evra.

Very interesting and the best fare of the the four Champion’s League games this week.

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