Some interesting thoughts from former Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel. It’s probably no coincidence that the man getting the answers is CNN International’s Pedro Pinto. He was the same reporter who not only obtained a sit down with Cristiano Ronaldo last month but also got the Real Madrid attacker to talk about his image problems.
Today, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League knockout stage draw, Pinto talks to Schmeichel about what it takes to have success in Europe’s premier club competition. For the 1999 Champions League winner, you always have to look at three clubs, though he does offer a surprise pick to win this year’s competition:
- On Schemeichel’s big three: Barcelona’s a given. With Manchester United struggling so much in last year’s competition, it’s weird to consider them as part of a big Champions League anything. But you look at their track record relative to other teams, and it makes sense. It wasn’t so long ago they won in Moscow, and they’ve been to two finals since. Real Madrid, on the other hand, has not had much recent success despite back-to-back semifinal appearances. They do have nine European Cups to their credit, but Milan and Liverpool are also highly decorated. Maybe there is no big anything. It’s just a bunch of teams with varying levels of success.
- On the formula to beating Barcelona: Chelsea usually gets credit for this, but it was actually Manchester United, one year before the Tom Henning Ovrebo controversy at Stamford Bridge, who supplied the blueprint so many teams have since used. United went to the Nou Camp and played aggravatingly tight and boring (earning their 0-0) only to get a long distance blast early in leg two from Paul Scholes. United went on to Russia and won the title.
- On this year’s potential champion: It’s difficult to make a case against Dortmund that doesn’t require a thesaurus worth of synonyms for inexperienced. Let’s just skip it and note should they or Real Madrid win, we’ll have another season where the Champions League winner isn’t an actual league champion. Let’s just hope each team finishes higher than sixth.
The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.
Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.
[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]
Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.
“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”
Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.
“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”
Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.
The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.
No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.
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The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.
Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)
The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).
Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).
World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.
Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.
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The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.
The BBC added this tidbit:
Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.
Get well soon, Lauren.
Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.
The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.
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Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.