Galatasaray's players celebrate their victory over Schalke 04 following their Champions League soccer match in Gelsenkirchen

Galatasaray win continues Schalke’s season of contradictions

Leave a comment

There was a freakish nature to the two first half of the goals that sent Schalke crashing out of Champions League, but in a season of confounding highs and dumbfounding lows, today’s elimination at the hands of Galatasaray seems apropos. Conceding twice in six minutes just before halftime, Schalke found the perfect complement to Saturday’s win over Borussia Dortmund, a complement that only the bruised hearts of the club’s followers will be able to appreciate.

Early this season, Schalke looked like one of the best teams in Germany, though a mid-season slide sent them crashing to mid-table. With Saturday’s 2-1 win over rival BVB vaulting them fourth in league, Schalke seemed to have turned a page, but after losing 3-2 at home to Galatasaray, the Miners have instead descended into another valley, one that sees them out of Champions League.

(MORE: Messi Barcelona makes history, come back against Milan)

Having drawn 1-1 at Gala three weeks ago, Schalke were favored to make their second quarterfinal in three years, and after Roman Neustäder stabbed home the opener in the 17th minute, that script seemed set to hold. Though Galatasaray had been the more progressive side before the goal, Schalke had players capable of protecting their lead and seeing out the match. They did it three weeks ago when they bled out a drawn in Istanbul. Surely they could do the same in Gelsenkirchen.

But former Miner Hamit Altintop derailed the plot in the 37th minute. His speculative 26-yard blast after a Gala restart froze Timo Hildenbrand before swerving into the right side of goal. With one low percentage strike, Galatasaray had not only equalized, 2-2, but also found a valuable away goal.

That away goal rule proved large in the 42nd minute when Hildebrand failed to beat Burak Yilmaz to a ball at the top of the Schalke box. The Gala striker was able to chip home into an open net for his eighth goal of the competition, giving Gala a 3-2 lead.

The score could have proved devastating, but when Michel Bastos converted chaos into a goal in the 63rd minute, Schalke had plenty of time to find a winner. With Gala holding the away goals tiebreaker, they’d need it. Their second half onslaught led them to 60 percent of the game’s possession and a 26-15 edge in shots.

But it also left them empty-handed. When Gala substitute Umut Bulut scored in injury time, the tiebreakers no longer mattered. Gala had won outright, their 4-3 aggregate victory sending them to their first quarterfinal in 12 years.

Ironically, they did so without game-breaking performances from their biggest stars. While Yilmaz has proven to be Gala’s best player throughout the tournament, it was the January acquisitions of Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba that were expected to make the Turkish champions a threat in the knockout round. Yet neither player had a significant impact on the tie. Instead, it was Yilmaz, who leads the competition in goals, whose performance defined the tie.

That may be something Schalke learns to regret. In the second half today, we saw what the team was capable of doing, but they only elected to find that gear once pushed to the edge of elimination. Just as in this weekend’s Revierderby, they played one good half of soccer, but unlike BVB, Galatasaray made them pay. Had Schalke played better, Gala may have needed more from Drogba and Sneijder.

Perhaps there’s no better way for Schalke to end this year’s competition: eliminated by a team who didn’t have to play their best to advance. Whether you confine your scope to today’s game, that last week, or expand it to the entire season, Schalke is a team of contradictions. And those contradictions allowed Galatasaray to go into Gelsenkirchen and eliminate them from Champions League.

PREVIEW: Tottenham Hotspur’s “To Dare Is To Do”

Leave a comment

The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.

With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]

Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.

Ahead of Boro, Allardyce rips his Palace players

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Sam Allardyce, Manager of Crystal Palace looks on during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Sunderland at Selhurst Park on February 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sam Allardyce continues to have a public go at his players.

The embattled Crystal Palace boss says his resume should have his Eagles players latching onto his directives. He’s previously said he “thought it would be easier“.

The Eagles, seemingly, aren’t. Palace has dropped in form since Allardyce took over for Alan Pardew, and sits 19th in the PL table.

[ MORE: Who is Man Utd opponent Rostov? ]

That’s only two points from safety, and Allardyce isn’t massaging his players to get them over the hump. From The Guardian:

“The advice I’ve given [players] over the years must have been pretty good because I’ve been managing at this level for such a long time now,” said Allardyce.

“My experience and my qualifications are far greater than theirs. They can talk about tactics and systems, that’s fine, but they’re players are they’re paid to play. I’m the manager, and the system and tactics are my expertise, not theirs. When I set those out, they have to put them into practice. Stay focused, stay within the game-plan.”

Allardyce has won less than 36 percent of his matches at every stop except West Ham since 2007, and he went 68W-46D-68L with the Irons. Palace has a massive match against visiting Middlesbrough this weekend, and this is one heck of a risky ploy to motivate his troops.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 26

Leave a comment

Premier League action is back after the FA Cup break, with plenty of big games on the way.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every game

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Leicester City 1-4 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Hull City 2-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

West Brom 3-1 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-1 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Crystal Palace 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Everton 1-1 Sunderland– (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Watford 1-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Tottenham 2-2 Stoke City – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Report: Sounders on verge of adding AC Milan’s Honda

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 21: Keisuke Honda of AC Milan attends prior the Serie A match between AC Milan and SSC Napoli at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 21, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
Photo by Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Seattle Sounders may have a game-changing transfer on their hands (inasmuch as a game can be changed for a reigning MLS Cup winner).

AC Milan is reportedly willing to release Keisuke Honda from his contract, clearing the way for Seattle to add the 30-year-old attacker.

Honda has 36 goals in 82 caps for Japan, and has played just 15 minutes in Serie A since Oct. 25 despite his status as a regular call-up for country.

[ MOURINHO: Ranieri firing is absurd ]

This untenable situation would be a boon for Seattle, who would gain Honda despite recent gossip linking him to Watford, Southampton, Spurs, and others.

The idea of Honda on the pitch with Nicolas Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey could spell a major sophomore season for forward Jordan Morris.

If this Japanese import has even a modicum of the success as another Seattle team’s look to Asia — See: Suzuki, Ichiro — look out.