x350

Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund overshadows Real Madrid – UEFA Champions League Group D preview

Leave a comment

Overloaded with three elite teams, Group D will always give us a match of the day. This week, it’s Germany’s champions visiting England’s, with Borussia Dortmund hoping to send Manchester City to two losses in as many rounds. Both teams will be looking to keep up with Real Madrid, group favorites trying to build on their opening day victory when they visit Ajax.

Manchester City (England) vs. Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
City of Manchester Stadium, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

They weren’t convincing on matchday one, but in hindsight, it’s hard to imagine a (realistic) result that would have dispelled what we learned last season: Borussia Dortmund wasn’t ready for Champions League. As German champions, they finished an embarrassing fourth in their group, not even earning a conciliatory ticket to Europa League. They were so poor, they were sent home.

To show they can be a factor in Champions League, they need to get a result against a team that matters, and although Manchester City also bowed out of last years’ tournament before the knockout rounds, their performance at the Santiago Bernabeu earned them some respect. They didn’t win – in fact, they gave up two leads – but they pushed an unquestioned titan to the limit on their home field. Combined with their Premier League title and a slew of players respected across the globe, Manchester City found an alternative route to their continental bonafides.

Could that work for Dortmund? Merely pushing Manchester City to the bring? It’s not likely. City doesn’t have Mourinho, Ronaldo and nine European titles. Dortmund’s going to have to beat City if they want Wednesday to shed water.

The key to doing so may rest with Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic – Borussia Dortmund’s talented center halves. Both 23 years old, their the pair almost anybody would pick if asked to start a new team with one duo. But they’re mistake-prone, and against a team with the depth and variety of attackers City will dress (Carlos Tévez, Sergio Agüero, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli), the pair may become a weakness. Whereas most opponents would’t be able to generate enough chances (and types of chances) to test the pair, for City, it may only be a matter of time.

That’s not to say City won’t have their own issues in defense. After a slow start to the season (scoring only six times in their first five games), BVB’s attack has caught fire, scoring 10 goals in their last three games. As encouraging, they’ve gotten those goals from seven different players (with none from Robert Lewandowski).

Of course, Dortmund will be facing a better defense than they’ve encounter in the Bundesliga. Vincent Kompany will win votes as the world’s best defender, while the main criticisms of Joleon Lescott are that he’s not Kompany. He’s still a world class defender that would start for most teams, half of a pair capable of silencing even the most powerful attack.

Ultimately, nobody’s expecting Dortmund to win on Wednesday. They’re just expected to show some hint they can play with the best. Fans want them to show their Bundesliga success can be translated into Champions League. Though a win in Manchester would unquestionably do that, it’s not necessary.

More: Group A Group B Group C Group D

Ajax (Netherlands) vs. Real Madrid (Spain)
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Manchester City’s loss at the Santiago Bernabeu may become a minor turning point for both teams. For City, it established some continental legitimacy. For Madrid, it was a huge wakeup call.

Back then, Los Merengues were struggling through an identity crisis. Having already lost two matches in league, José Mourinho claimed he didn’t have a team. Cristiano Ronaldo was sad, making vague complaints about his situation at the club. El Real looked on the verge of shuffling the deck.

Then they came back against City. Twice. Fast forward two weeks, and Ronaldo’s posting hat tricks in 5-1 wins over Deportivo La Coruña. Crisis over, or crisis averted? Neither. It was just a phase.

Ajax would have liked that phase to continue. Instead, they get the same team that beat them 3-0 in Amsterdam last year’s group stage.

Actually, this time could be worse. Last year’s win came at the end of group stage, when a 5-0-0 Real Madrid had already clinched first in their group. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t even make the trip. This year, only one match into the stage, Ajax will likely face Real’s full assault.

Miss Tuesday’s Champions League coverage?

Napoli fans wear Koulibaly masks to support defender after racial abuse

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Fans of Napoli  during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.

At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.

A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”

[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]

Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.

Afobe says he scored 15 goals a game with Harry Kane at the Arsenal academy

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on February 2, 2016 in London, England.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.

Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]

While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.

Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.

I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.

He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.

But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.

I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…

[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]

Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.

Gary Neville under pressure as Valencia without a win in nine

EIBAR, SPAIN - DECEMBER 13:  Head coach Gary Neville of Valencia CF reacts during the La Liga match between SD Eibar and Valencia CF at Ipurua Municipal Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Eibar, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.

After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.

[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.

However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.

I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.

There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.

Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.

Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.

Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United ]

Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.

PSG down Marseille 2-1 for ninth-straight Le Classique win

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 21:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic #10 of Paris Saint-Germain is congratulated by teamamte Maxwell #17 after Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the second half against AFC Fiorentina during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 21, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.Paris Saint-Germain defeated ACF Fiorentina 4-2.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.

Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.

[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]

PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.

On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

[ RELATED: Lewandowski’s agent confirms contract talks with Bayern Munich ]

However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.

Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.