Dutch forward Robin van Persie reacts du

As it happened, Euro 2012: Germany begins title quest; Netherlands rocked

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If you were with us yesterday, you know how this works. It’s not quite a minute-by-minute, but it is a place that will keep you up-to-date on everything that’s happening in today’s Euro 2012 action.

That action kicks off at noon Eastern with the Netherlands taking on Denmark in Kharkiv, Ukraine. At 2:45 p.m. Eastern, tournament favorites (or co-favorites, I don’t want to upset anybody) Germany face Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Portugal.

The group (Group B) is being billed as the Group of Death, but between today’s games and tomorrow’s Group C match ups, we’ll just call it a pretty spectacular first weekend of the tournament.

And we’ll be here throughout. Refresh this page to get the latest updates, and in the interim, here’s some linkage:

As the day goes on, we’ll have post-match thoughts and our big Saturday review, but for now, we’ve got some soccer to blog:


(All times Eastern)

1640: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Final, and Germany gets their victory. The match could have gone either way, as Pepe’s late first half chance showed. Ultimately, Germany’s reliance on crossing (particularly from the right) in the second paid off.

1637: Germany 1-0: Portugal: Another very good chance for Portugal. Ronaldo is through on the left and pulls one back for Nani from 12 yards out. He shoots but has it blocked by Holger Badstuder and goes out for a corner.

Lars Bender is on for Thomas Muller.

1632: Germany 1-0 Portugal: This game should be tied, and it’s not. A long ball is held up by Nelson Oliveira, who has to take it to the line. He cuts it back for Nani whose ridden off the ball, leaving an open chance at the right post for Silvestre Varela. He can’t lift it over Manuel Neuer, who claims the shot, preserving the lead.

1630: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Germany spent so much of this match in possession and now can’t get the ball back. Portugal’s applying more pressure than Germany has at any point of this match, and although there haven’t been any clear cut chances, there have been a lot of near-chances. One of these could come good.

Mesut Ozil is off. Decent day that people are drooling over – that’s how that works. Toni Kroos is on. He’ll have a decent spell that people will drool over.

1627: Germany 1-0 Portugal: The Portuguese are coming back. Attack built down the left is cut back for the oncoming Fabio Coentrao, whose blast takes a “cheeky” deflection before going over the bar. Minutes later a cross from Nani finds the woodwork, albeit the top of the bar.

1625: Germany 1-0 Portugal: The game’s opened up. Shocking, huh? Portugal’s midfield has to play like midfielders and we get a real soccer game? Who would have thought? We’re even seeing Miguel Veloso, who’s spent most of the game sitting right in front of the defense, venture toward Germany’s area. This is crazy.

1623: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Gómez is now coming off for Klose. Klose was originally slated to come off earlier, but then the goal happened. He hasn’t ben that bad. When we last saw Gómez, he was ruining Bayern’s chance at Champions League glory. Today he’s done well to get on the end of the crosses he’s gotten, obviously converting what started to be the winning goal.

1616: Germany 1-0 Portugal: Breakthrough, and it’s exactly how they wanted it. Germany had abandoned building through the middle an decided if they were going to win, it was going to have to come from wide. And that it did, with a ball from the right finding Mario Gomez in the middle. The Bayern man hammered it down and to the near post, beating Patricio. Germany has their lead.

1613: Germany 0-0 Portugal: Two pluses for a Germany team looking less and less likely to get their three points: Ozil has done a decent job or orchestrating things, while Thomas Muller’s crossing from the right has been very good. Here he puts a dangerous ball into the six from the sideline. Patricio swallows it up, but a near post runner could have done something with that.

1608: Germany 0-0 Portugal: That was a close one for Germany. Joao Moutinho, with a head of stream entering the final third, finds Ronaldo coming from from the left. From 16 yards out, Ronaldo winds up, but just as he looks to let go Jerome Boateng gets back to put a foot, blocking the shot. Regardless. it was the first time Portugal has been able to generate something that didn’t involve playing long, wide, then in.

1602 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: We’ll see if this continues, but it seems Germany may be resigned to playing the ball down the flanks, avoiding that trio in Portugal’s midfield. Over the last couple of minutes, it’s been stay wide, pump it in, with Mari Gomez putting one header over the bar. We’ll see if this continues.

1600 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Just as Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Robin van Persie did before him, Lukasz Podolski seems to be volunteering to be this match’s misfiring attacker. He’s had two or three chances which, while not great, have made him look back. Here, he has a ball played to him in the left side of the area, which he promptly puts out for a goal kick.

1557 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Perhaps this half will settle in at some point, but it looks like the game may be a little more open over this final 45. Portugal is more readily coming out of their own half (downplaying the notion they’re playing for a draw). Germany has been able to threaten a couple of times, too, with the team causing Portugal trouble once they get Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira moving.

1554 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Twice we’ve seen a little more of what Paulo Bento wants Portugal to do. They’re hitting the ball long and wide and allowing those all-world wings to go get it. Opening the half, it was Nani with a chance to do work. This time it’s Ronaldo who forced another corner kick.

1549 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: We are back. No changes that I’ve heard of.

1534 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Halftime. Stats. Possession: Germany 61-39. Shots: Germany 6-3. Shorts on target: 3-1. All numbers courtesy of UEFA.

1532 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Halftime. Portugal was impenetrable at the back and generated the best chances. It’s a very Portugal performance, and while some are saying they’re set up for a draw – well, they always set up this way, which is why so many of their recent matches have ended 0-0. Are we destined for another?

1531 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Controversy? A corner by Portugal sees Pepe put the ball of the underside of the bar. The ball goes down and nails the line, drawing some appeals for goal from Portugal. Replays showed the ball wasn’t in … so whew?

1526 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Germany causes some excitement with their latest threat but can’t get the ball on goal. Muller plays a ball in that comes back across for him at the right post. He shot does wide of the far post, though Portugal looked a little bit lost as Germany knocked it around. Also of note: All of Germany’s buzz-worthy moments have come from right-center out. Two opportunities for Podolski were from passes from the right. A cross to Gomez in the first minutes produced a shot, while this latest flurry came from wide right.

1521 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: It’s more of the same. Germany has the ball but they’re not doing anything with it. This isn’t quite the case of the complacent Dutch that was saw in the first game. Portugal’s midfield three is sitting deep (Miguel Veloso’s scarcely five years in front of Pepe and Bruno Alves). They’re maintaining their shape as Germany tries the left and the right. Now, you see the midfield fo Schweinsteiger and Khedira slowly creeping forward, but there don’t seem to be a lot of options for Germany.

1514 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Germany remains in control, not that they’re coming close to scoring. Portugal’s midfield three has managed Germany’s movement well. Patricio’s gone relatively unbothered in goal, and for all their possession, Germany has yet to fin something that works in the final third.

1503 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Fist real chance for Portugal. A ball played down the left for Ronaldo allows him to size up Jerome Boateng. A series of step overs free the right back and allow Ronaldo to go left and put a ball across the six. Nobody can get on to it, but it forces a corner, where Bruno Alves can get onto a ball played to the middle of the box.

1458 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Germany doesn’t want to pass to Mats Hummels anymore. Holder Badstuder, in possession near the center circle, looked at his central defense partner and then though better of giving him the ball. He played it to Philipp Lahm instead, but the captain was more magnanimous. Unfortunately, Hummels was slow to the ball, allowed Helder Postiga to close him down, and them played a poorly weighted ball back to Manuel Neuer. The Germany `keeper cleared it but only under heavy pressure from Postiga. For his trouble, Postiga got carded, sliding into Neuer.

1455 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: The first glimpse of one of Germany’s most effective tactics, though it yielded only a week chance. Thomas Müller, hugging the line on the right, plays a ball across the top of the area to Lukas Podolski. Coming in from the left, the new Arsenal man doesn’t hit it right, seemingly catching it with the outside of his laces. Patricio with an easy save.

1454 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: A couple of fouls (Gomez, Muller) and a bit of a tussle between Postiga and Hummels and this game’s starting to see some life.

1449 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: Still too early to say much except Germany’s first minute was impressive. The atmosphere in this match, however, seems world’s better than the nap-inducing opener.

1446 – Germany 0-0 Portugal: The last match of the day has kicked off. Portugal going from right to left.

1442 – And, here are the teams:

Portugal: Patrício, Alves, Pepe, Coentrão, Pereira, Veloso, Moutinho, Meireles, Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga SUBS: Eduardo, Beto, Costa, Rolando, Lopes, Custódio, Quaresma, Micael, Viana, Almeida, Oliveira, Varela.

Germany: Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Podolski, Gomez SUBS: Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, Höwedes, Mertesacker, Gündoğan, Schürrle, Bender, Kroos, Götze, Reus, Klose.

Hummels does start in central defense over Mertesacker, deemed not quite ready (or good enough) to start. The rest is as expected for Germany, including Gomez starting over Klose.

1441 – The anthems are being played, and Germany-Portugal is about to start. Here’s our report from the last game.

1351 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Final. Before I got punch out an Offshore Drilling, some numbers: Possession: Netherlands 53-47. Shots: Netherlands 28-8. Shots on target: 8-8.

1351 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Final, and the Netherlands are in trouble. They may now need to win out to get out of group, and off the back of losing to Russia in 2008’s quarterfinal, they’ve not been upset in their last two Euro matches.

1350 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Review of the play showed Lars Jacobsen clearly handled the ball, but the best part was Klass-Jan Huntelaar’s Michael Ballack impression, sprinting toward the official with veins popping out of his neck.

Robin van Persie just blew another good chance.

1347 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Dutch have anther handball shout in the penalty box, their second or third of the match. Whether it was a handball or not, it’s almost not the point. The Netherlands have again just stopped playing to appeal to the official. Rather than attack a ball that’s only nine yards from goal, they’re hoping to be bailed out.

1342 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Dirk Kuyt, the Netherlands’ final sub, comes on for Gregory van der Wiel, who had  sub-par game. The Netherlands haven’t mounted a meaningful attack in some time. Either they’re saving for one last push or are over it. Regardless, if there’s one man who can spur them on, it’s Kuyt.

1333 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: An amazing pass by Sneijder puts Huntelaar in. With the outside of his right foot (from the left), Sneijder puts Huntelaar behind the defense from 40 yards out. Huntelaar doesn’t get the ball away quickly enough and sees his shot saved by Andersen. Van Persie is there to kept collect the rebound, but the two’s hacking at Andersen bring a whistle.

It was the Netherlands’ best chance of the night, but it’s starting to look like that’s the kind of night it’s going to be.

1331 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: With the changes, the Netherlands are playing with Huntelaar as a No. 9, van Persie as a ten. Van der Vaart is in central midfield, and Welsey Sneijder’s playing to the left of center. Arjen Robben’s high on the right, with van Bommel holding.

Christian Eriksen’s off. Schøne’s on.

1328 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Van Marwijk desperately needs to get new blood on the field. The Dutch, having not scored through that early first half push that saw them put 102 shots on goal, look discouraged. Now, in the 71st minute, the subs come on. Van der Vaart is on for de Jong, and Huntelaar is on for … Afellay? I guess it has to be that way, but he’s been good, today. But who else would you take off? A defender? You can’t right now, especially with Denmark pushing a little in the last few minutes.

1326 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Part of the problem for the Dutch has been evident during Denmark’s last spell of possession. There is either a lack of intensity or lack of confidence in their defenders, so nobody’s challenging the Danish attackers, trying to get the ball off their feet. It would be nice of they picked it out a little. As is, the Danes are able to not only eat up some time but also create the odd chance, here forcing a corner.

1324 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: At what point does Bert van Marwijk start making changes? We’re already in the 67th minute, and the Dutch are still playing with both van Bommel and de Jong.

And as I type, ven der Vaart and Huntelaar hand in cards.

1320 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: A foul is given by Lacobsen on the charging Willems, giving Wesley Sneijder a chance to serve a ball in from the left flank, 35 yards out. His inswinger is perfectly placed at the far post, about 8-9 yards out, where John Heitenga has beaten his man. The offside flag it up, though, but Denmark needs to bea  bit worried. That’s twice this half that Heitenga has been able to get up and above the rest of the Danish defense.

And as I type, a cross for Arjen Robben sees the right winger head a ball wide from about eight yards out.

1318 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Sneijder with another good ball for Sneijder in that channel between Kjaer and Jacobsen. The Dutch seem intent on attacking there, although Kjaer does well this time, considering Jacobsen was a little up the field when Sneijder played his ball. Corner kick sees Andersen strong coming off his line to claim it.

1316 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart are warming up … I don’t think funny is the right word, but I’m giggling. Lightly.

1312 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The urgency the Dutch have shown in attack hasn’t translated to the defense. An attack that starts with a long ball down the right (retrieved by Eriksen) moves left, where Simon Paulsen takes on Arjen Robben then Gregory Van der Wiel. He gets to the line, cuts a ball back, and the pass is left to die nine yards from goal even with the far post. Two players sprint for it, and Afellay clears it out for a corner.

1308 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Dutch seem to realize the task at hand and have already generated three good chances. One, however, begs the question: What’s wrong with Robin van Persie? A 30-yard great ball along the ground from Sneijder finds van Persie running through the left channel. Squaring up to goal he takes a horrible touch that ruins his scoring chance.

Since, the Dutch have generated another chance for van Persie, a shot by van Bommel, two opportunities for Afellay … and it looks like the Danes are in for a long 45 minutes.

1304 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: We’re back with no chances. The Dutch have 45 minutes for get their goals. Remember: They still have to face Germany. Obviously, Denmark does, too, but points lost here not only make first place difficult, it opens the door for a very capable Danish side.

1249 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Halftime stats … Possession: Netherlands 56-44 Denmark; Shots: Netherlands 13-5 Denmark; Shots on goal: Netherlands 3-5 Denmark.

All number courtesy UEFA.

1248 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Halftime, and although the Dutch seems to control the game, they didn’t play with any urgency until after the goal. Even then, they didn’t generate the number of chances they’re used to. But make no mistake about it: the Netherlands have had most of the chances, haven’t converted, and the Danes executed when it counted.

1244 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Another good chance for the Dutch, and some bad defending from Denmark. A long ball from John Heitenga sees van Persie win a head down to Sneijder at the edge of the box. Van Persie peals off toward the right, and nobody follows him. Sneijder finds him, giving RvP an open chance, but he doesn’t get it out of his feet fast enough to prevent Andersen from closing down the angles.

1243 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Danes are coming into the match (beyond the scoreboard). For the first time since very early, the possession number has dipped below 60 percent for the Dutch. After a long spell of possession that saw Christian Eriksen and Michael Krohn-Dehli keep the Dutch defenders on their heels, Stekelenburg’s forces into a diving save.

1240 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Ibrahim Afellay is one of three Dutch starters who weren’t part of the main XI in South Africa. He’s displaced Dirk Kuyt, and just now, he showed why. Coming in from the left, Afellay takes advantage of a lunging challenge from Daniel Agger, letting a shot go from just outside the box. If floats over the bar, but Afellay did well to wait for and take advantage of a bad choice from Denmark’s captain.

1237 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: Stephen Andersen nearly gave away Denmark’s lead. Trying to get the ball into midfield, the Danish goalkeeper didn’t see Arjen Robben. Going in on goal with only one defender to beat, Robben moves onto his left foot from 16 yards out an nails the left post.

1226 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark: The Danes’ first meaningful chance has put them ahead. Left back Simon Poulsen is allowed the carry the ball from 40 yards out to deep along the left flank, drawing defenders. A deflected cross finds left wing Michael Krohn-Dehli just outside the box. He collects, attacks, make one move to the outside, and is in on goal. Marteen Stekelenburg comes out be sees the shot go through his legs for the opening goal.

1224 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: With Denmark playing so conservatively in defense, we’re seeing some of the Dutch defenders become a little more adventurous when the team’s in possession. John Heitenga was just seem lingering in midfield, providing support when Mark van Bommel went wide. In the same sequence, Gregory van der Wiel felt comfortable enough to move into the middle from his right back position.

1219 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: To this point, this game has been pretty dull, but the Dutch seem willing to start taking some chances. Along the right Robben is in possession. Van Persie comes over and back (35 yards out) and take a ball to feet. Robben goes on a run and comes onto a ball flicked behind the defense. Going in alone on Andersen, Robben slows up and tries to play a ball across to Sneijder. Kjaer comes back and slides onto a ball that ends in Andersen’s arms. Wasted chance.

1217 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: Robben gets his first chance to come in from the right onto his left foot. From 23 yards, he forces a driving stop from Stephan Andersen.

1212 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: That was nice, if ultimately not that dangerous. Van Persie’s about 26 yards out and curls a ball from the right toward the far post. Wesley Sneijder is making a run from midfield and barley beats Simon Kjaer but can only chest it back across the face of goal. Van Persie can’t quite get there in time.

1208 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: Early, van Marwijk’s switched Arjen Robben (normally RW) with Ibrahim Afellay. Going down the left, Robben creates a chance for Robin van Persie, cutting it back toward the sot. The ball seemed slightly behind RvP, who definitely didn’t have space to run onto the shot. He pushes his first chance wide of the near post.

1207 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: It’s a pretty tame start. The Dutch are hogging the ball, and the Danes aren’t too intent on making them share. A couple of flashes of brillance from the Oranje but nothing worth writing about. The atmosphere’s uninspiring.

1202 – Netherlands 0-0 Denmark: Nigel de Jong went 48 seconds before committing a foul. New man.

1201 – “[Player] said to interest Manchester United.”

Drink.

And … we’re off.

1159 – Captains Mark van Bommel and Daniel Agger excahnge handshakes and banners. Agger survives.

1155 – Teams are coming out on the field in Kharkiv, which looks nowhere near ready to replicate the atmosphere we saw yesterday in Poland.

1146 – Another update via UEFA as we’re about 15 minutes away from kick off in Kharkiv:

David Crossan, Metalist Stadium: My Ukrainian colleague Viktor tells me one of the reasons orange is so prominent here is because the Dutch are playing all three group games in the city and as such the locals have decided to get behind them.

1129 – Here are the teams for the noon game, Netherlands-Denmark, via UEFA:

Denmark: Andersen, Kjær, Agger, S Poulsen, Jacobsen, Kvist, Eriksen, Zimling, Krohn-Dehli, Rommedahl, Bendtner SUBS: Lindegaard, Schmeichel, Bjelland, Okore, Wass, C Poulsen, Schøne, Silberbauer, J Poulsen, Kahlenberg, Pedersen, Mikkelsen.

Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems, Van Bommel, N De Jong, Robben, Sneijder, Afellay, Van Persie SUBS: Vorm, Krul, Mathijsen, Bouma, Boulahrouz, Schaars, Strootman, Van der Vaart, Kuyt, Huntelaar, L De Jong, Narsingh.

One note on the Netherland’s starting left back:

David Crossan, Metalist Stadium: So left-back Jetro Willems becomes the youngest ever EURO player at 18, beating Enzo Scifo’s record from 28 years ago.

1116 – Good morning. I’ll admit: I’m going to have to get used to this routine. It’s still kinda early here in Pacific time. At least, it’s early for me.

Lineups are coming in a few minutes. Picks? Though part of me wants to think the Dutch will drop points, I’d put my money on both the Netherlands and Germany getting full points today.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Spurs’ Bentaleb off to Schalke on loan, joining PSG’s Stambouli

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 18: Nabil Bentaleb of Spurs U21 looks on during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Leicester City U21 and Tottenham Hotspurs U21 at The King Power Stadium on March 18, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Schalke’s quest to rejoin Germany’s elite was buttressed by a pair of interesting pickups on Thursday.

The Royal Blues have added Benjamin Stambouli from Paris Saint-Germain and Nabil Bentaleb from Tottenham Hotspur.

The Bentaleb deal is a loan, as the oft-injured attacker looks to shake off his underperforming reputation. The 21-year-old has 19 caps and three goals for Algeria.

[ MORE: Boufal to Saints ]

Stambouli joins on a four-year deal. A defensive midfielder, Stambouli left Spurs for PSG last year and made 27 appearances for the French champions.

The side nabbed high-profile prospect Breel Embolo earlier this offseason, and should be a problem for most opposing sides when the season begins this weekend.

Schalke finished in fifth place last Bundesliga season, and brings back captain Benedikt Howedes and Olympic star Max Meyer.

Ranking toughness of UCL groups for Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City

Kompany and City's defense struggled to contain Messi and Barca in the first half.
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Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City all entered the UEFA Champions League at the group stage and they found out their fate on Thursday following the draw in Monaco.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

Right now Leicester, Arsenal and Spurs will be feeling pretty good about their chances of advancing to the UCL’s Round of 16. As for Man City, boy, it will be a tough route through the group stage once again for them.

[ MORE: Ronaldo wins top award ]

Below is a look at the toughness of the group stage draw for all four PL teams.


GROUP G: Leicester City, FC Porto, Club Brugge, Copenhagen

Their first-ever season in the UCL, the draw could not have gone any better for reigning PL champs Leicester in terms of their dreams of advancing. Claudio Ranieri‘s side have FC Porto, who will be a very tough test, but in Club Brugge and Copenhagen they drew two of the easier teams they could have faced. Overall, this is not a tough group especially when you see the full draw. Looks like the fairytale for the Foxes will go deep in the Champions League this season. Toughness ranking: 3/10


GROUP A: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, FC Basel, Ludogorets

Arsenal will fancy their chances against PSG and when it comes to FC Basel and Ludrogorets they will expect to take two wins from each of these teams. But this is Arsenal so they’ll probably need a 3-0 win in their last group game to make the knockout rounds… Seriously, though, Arsene Wenger will be a relieved man to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich and Barelona in the group stage but Arsenal’s games against PSG will be pivotal in their chances of getting a good draw in the last 16. Overall, could’ve been a lot tougher. Toughness ranking: 4/10


GROUP C: FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Borussia Monchendgladbach, Celtic

It just had to happen for Pep Guardiola, didn’t it? He will return to the Nou Camp in his debut season at City to face his beloved Barcelona and Man City’s fans will be sick of the sight of Lionel Messi and Co. after they knocked them out of the competition in two of the last three seasons. That said, there will be two magnificent games between the giants with Barca the favorites to win the UCL this season. As for Monchengladbach, they are quietly a very strong team and even Celtic (who famously beat Barca in the group stage in 2012) will provide a tough challenge for City at Celtic Park in the away game. All in all, couldn’t have been tougher for City but they will likely squeeze through with Barca to the Round of 16.

Toughness ranking: 8/10


GROUP E: CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur, Monaco

Maurcio Pochettino’s side will be grinning like a Cheshire cat with this draw. Arguably it is even easier than Leicester’s with CSKA Moscow perennial strugglers in the UCL, plus German side Bayer Leverkusen very beatable and Spurs have done well against Monaco in the Europa League recently. Overall, if Spurs don’t win this group they will be very disappointed. A great draw for the north London club. Toughness ranking: 3/10


Best Player in Europe: Cristiano Ronaldo beats Bale, Griezmann to win award

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal kisses the Henri Delaunay trophy to celebrate after their 1-0 win against France in the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo was named the Best Player in Europe by UEFA on Thursday in Monaco, following the group stage draw for the UEFA Champions League.

Ronaldo, 31, beat other finalists teammate and Welsh international Gareth Bale and France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann to the award for the 2015-16 season. Barcelona duo Lionel Messi came fourth and Luis Suarez finished in fifth.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

The Portuguese striker scored 51 goals in 48 games for Real Madrid last season and led Portugal to its first-ever major title as a nation, winning the EURO 2016 trophy.

Ronaldo said on stage that he was “living his dream” by playing football as he won the award for a second time in his career, the list title coming in 2014.

Previous winners of this prestigious award, which takes into account the form of the player both for this club team in Europe and also for his national team, include Messi (the only other player to win the award twice), Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery.

UEFA Champions League group stage: Premier League teams learn their fate

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  The  UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Premier League teams got off very lightly, overall, in the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

The draw took place in Monaco on Thursday as reigning Leicester City were handed a very comfy group of opponents in Group G with FC Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen, as were Tottenham Hotspur who were placed in Group E with CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco.

Arsenal also got a very decent draw with Paris Saint-Germain, FC Basel and Ludogorets in Group A, but Manchester City once again got a very tough draw at the group stage along with FC Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic in Group C.

[ MORE: Full UCL schedule

Reigning champs Real Madrid have been drawn in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon and Legia Warsaw, with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid drawn together in Group D.

Below is the group stage draw in full with the opening group games to take place on Sept. 13/14 and a further five group games taking place — each team plays one another home and away — between September and December. The knockout stages then begin in February 2017 ahead of the UCL final in Cardiff, Wales on June 3, 2017.

You can click on the link above for the full schedule for group games.


GROUP A
Paris Saint-Germain
Arsenal
FC Basel
Ludogorets

GROUP B
Benfica
Napoli
Dynamo Kiev
Besiktas

GROUP C
FC Barcelona
Manchester City
Borussia Monchendgladbach
Celtic

GROUP D
Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid
PSV Eindhoven
Rostov

GROUP E
CSKA Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen
Tottenham Hotspur
Monaco

GROUP F
Real Madrid
Borussia Dortmund
Sporting Lisbon
Legia Warsaw

GROUP G
Leicester City
FC Porto
Club Brugge
Copenhagen

GROUP H
Juventus
Sevilla
Lyon
Dinamo Zagreb