Bayern Munich's midfielder Bastian Schwe

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich 1 (3, 3-1 on kicks), at Real Madrid 2 (3)

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Man of the Match: Manuel Neuer was huge in the shootout, saving both Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká’s attempts. With Sergio Ramos’s pivotal kick going over the bar, the Bayern `keeper saved two of three chances he faced. While Luiz Gustavo possibly deserves this recognition for reeking havoc in midfield, Neuer was the difference.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • As much as you might hate penalty kicks, neither of these teams seemed capable of avoiding them. After a raucous first half, neither kept their verve in the second. They disappointed throughout the final 75 minutes, without only the tension of seeing a potential semifinal-deciding goal keeping the world from bursting out in collective exasperation.
  • In extra time, Real Madrid certainly tried to press the issue, but having Kaká on, Mesüt Özil off really hurt them. Perhaps Özil was gassed, but even when he and Kaká were on together, he had been marginalized in Real’s attack.
  • In extra time, the move really ended up hurting. After going the whole game without being able to maintain meaningful possession, Real finally got some control of the match. When they did, their best playmaker was gone, and his replacement was too slow with his decisions.
  • That control was a huge turnaround from a second half when Madrid were completely frustrated by Luiz Gustavo and Bayern Munich. It’s a shame the Bayern midfielder took a petty yellow late (a booking that will have him miss the final), because he was a principle reason why Real’s attackers were left frustratingly underserved throughout the match.
  • And who would have thought we’d be saying that after 15 minutes. A penalty conversion from Cristiano Ronaldo and then a complete defensive breakdown to gift him a second had this match minutes from a landslide. Credit to Bayern for collecting themselves and getting back into the match.
  • They got back in through Pepe’s penalty. Where there are no advised penalties, this one was particularly ill-advised. He and Sergio Ramos had Mario Gomez marked on Arjen Robben’s cross, yet Pepe still took the Bayern attacker down. If he just pulls up, what are the odds Gomez converts that cross? If he takes Gomez down? The odds are pretty good it’s both noticed (with the officially calling a tight penalty on Bayern earlier) and converted.
  • Already people were talking about how Ronaldo and Messi both missed penalties. Small note: Ronaldo also converted a penalty today. While it might not fit a nice, neat narrative that can romantically encapsulate the two Spanish teams’ frustrations, it might be a bit more even-handed to note that Neuer did a job on those two stops.
  • Iker Casillas’s heroics are unfortunately going the be forgotten. With his team down 2-0 after two rounds of kicks, he could have mentally packed it in. That’s not Casillas, though, and with successive saves, he put Real back on serve ahead of their fourth kick …
  • Which was one of the worst attempts I’ve ever seen. Dimitar Berbatov had a horrible try two years ago in the Community Shield, and Yakubu rolled a tumbleweed in Blackburn’s latest match against Liverpool. But at least those were on frame. Ramos’s was Baggio-esque, if only skied higher.
  • And, of course, Bastian Schweinsteiger, taking the next kick, was the exact opposite. He got the ball off the ground, but it in the middle where Casillas’s trailing feet couldn’t nick it, and sent Bayern through the to final. The contrast between that and Ramos’s attempt is all you need to know about this game.
  • Mourinho, his players and Madridistas are going to be crushed, but the team only has itself to blame. While Bayern were good enough, they were there to be had, particularly playing at the Bernabeu. From the quarter-hour mark on, Real Madrid presented no new ideas in attack. Whatever changes Mourinho might have made in approach didn’t end up being reflected on the field. The attackers were left frustrated, the midfield left to kept pinging balls at Bayern defenders, and Real left to wait for their shootout loss. At some point, with all the talent you have at your disposal, you have to change things up. You just have to.
  • Bayern, however, managed the away leg masterfully, particularly considering they were down on aggregate within 15 minutes. They dominated possession if not chances, and kept the home team from being able to dictate the game’s pace and tempo. Instead of letting this match degrade into Real counters against their craft (which defined the first 25-30 minutes), Bayern maturely slowed things down and played a match they could control.
  • Now, FCB get what they’ve wanted all year: the Champions League final at home, where they’ll be favored over Chelsea. Unfortunately, they’ll have to win it without Holdger Badstuber, David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo, but given the players Chelsea will be missing, Bayern will still be expected to claim their fifth European Cup.

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester, Spurs continue to defy the odds

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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VIDEO: Previews of all 10 Premier League games in Week 26

Arsenal v Burnley - Premier League
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You ready for the weekend? It’s only Thursday, but of course you are.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Week 26 of the 2015-16 Premier League season promises to be a pivotal one at both ends of the table with seven games on Saturday and three on Sunday.

[ MORE: Latest PL standings

In the 10 videos below yours truly takes a look at the key headlines, news, injuries and more on each PL game.

Enjoy.


Arsenal vs. Leicester City, Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Aston Villa vs. Liverpool, Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Bournemouth vs. Stoke City, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Crystal Palace vs. Watford, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Chelsea vs. Newcastle United, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra)

Everton vs. West Brom, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Norwich City vs. West Ham, Sunday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra)

Man City vs. Tottenham, Sunday (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Sunderland vs. Man United, Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Swansea City vs. Southampton, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra)

Ahead of huge top four showdowns, who are the title favorites?

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This weekend is massive. Huge. Monumental.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview ]

In terms of the Premier League title race having two games between all of the current top four means one thing: bedlam.

Following the Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) and Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) encounter, we should be provided with a much better idea of where the title is heading.

[ VIDEO: Man City-Tottenham preview

Then again, if Arsenal beat Leicester and Man City draw with Spurs, there will be just five points between all four teams. With 13 games to go this is tight and tense and the most open title race we’ve had in decades. It is also awesome.

[ MORE: Arsenal to play in 2016 MLS All-Star Game ] 

Let’s take a look at all four title contenders and try to see who has the best chance of winning this thing on May 15.


Leicester City
Current position: 1st (53 points)
Biggest plus: No pressure, they were meant to be relegated
Biggest negative: None of their current squad have ever been in this situation. How will they cope?
Key man: Jamie Vardy – A few off days in front of goal recently for the PL’s main man. If he regains his touch, the Foxes will win it.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Arsenal, Apr. 30 at Man United, May 15 at Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule (1 is weak, 10 is tough): 2/10 – The best of any of the title contenders, on paper, and no cup games.


Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 2nd (48 points)
Biggest plus: Mauricio Pochettino. He’s met every major challenge head on.
Biggest negative: Having the FA Cup and Europa League to contend with. Relatively small squad compared to the rest.
Key man: Harry Kane – If he can hit yet another purple patch, combined with Spurs’ solid defense, then that will be huge.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Man City, Mar. 5 vs. Arsenal, Apr. 9 vs. Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule: 3/10 – A very soft run-in for Spurs between now and the end of the season.


Arsenal
Current position: 3rd (48 points)
Biggest plus: They have the biggest squad and with Cech in goal their defense looks very settled.
Biggest negative: How many times have we been here before? Have to get over mental barrier, plus UCL and FA Cup to focus on too.
Key man: Alexis Sanchez – Hasn’t quite hit top form since returning from his hamstring injury. Can he hit top gear during crunch time?
3 key games: Feb. 14 vs. Leicester City, Mar. 5 vs. Tottenham, May 7 at Man City
Strength of remaining schedule: 6/10 – Probably the toughest out of all the contenders. Really need Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to pull through.


Manchester City
Current position: 4th (47 points)
Biggest plus: Strongest squad and Vincent Kompany should be returning soon. That, and wanting to send Pellegrini out on a high.
Biggest negative: Guardiola arriving means plenty of uncertainty. If Aguero or Kompany go down injured, title run could be over.
Key man: Vincent Kompany – City will always score goals with Aguero, Sterling, Silva and De Bruyne but they need Vinny back. Big time.
3 key games: Mar. 2 at Liverpool, Mar. 20 vs. Man United, May 7 vs. Arsenal
Strength of remaining schedule: 5/10 – Marginally easier than Arsenal’s because they play United and the Gunners at home. Still. Very tough.


 

Arsenal named as 2016 MLS All-Star Game opponent in San Jose

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Mesut Ozil (C) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal with his team mates Hector Bellerin (L) and Aaron Ramsey (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Arsenal is coming to San Jose, California.

On Thursday it was announced that the Premier League giants will take part in the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The decision to play against another PL opponent makes it the ninth time that’s happened and MLS’ best will have faced seven different PL clubs in Fulham, Chelsea, West Ham United, Everton, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal.

The venue for the 2016 ASG will be San Jose’s splendid, yet slightly compact, Avaya Stadium and the game will take place on July 28 at 9 p.m. ET.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Gunners fans in North America hoping to get tickets for the clash will have to act fast as the ‘Quakes home only holds 18,000 people, but there will be another chance to watch Arsenal play as they will face Chivas Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on July 31.

Safe to say Arsene Wenger won’t need to don his famous long padded jacket for matches in California this July…

As well as seeing Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud and more, the chance to watch young U.S. international Gedion Zelalem in action will excite many. That said, with the game coming late in July, plenty of Arsenal’s top stars may be on extended breaks due to their exertions for their national teams at the 2016 European Championships and the 2016 Copa America Centenario also being staged in North America.