With UEFA Champions League quarterfinals over, it’s time to take inventory of what we’ve learned about the teams that comprise one of the more competitive semifinal quartets in recent memory. In our second stop, we consider the team that’s positioning themselves as the favorites: Bayern Munich.
At some point, Bayern Munich’s going to have to break out of their jog. The ease with which they defused Arsenal at the Emirates meant that round’s only drama came in its last few moments, and against Juventus, Bayern was never threatened. Maybe they’re so good they can trot to this year’s title, but in all likelihood, they’re going to be tested.
That’s the lens through which we’re evaluating Bayern. Yes, they look good, and yes, they’re probably the favorites, but where are the cracks? What are the points Jurgen Klopp, José Mourinho, and Jordi Roura can exploit to send the Bavarians crashing?
Here’s what we found out:
- Attack: The loss of Toni Kroos means that Thömas Müller will play through the middle while Arjen Robben starts wide. Can Müller be the orchestrator Bayern may need over the next three games? And will Robben been good Arjen? Or bizarro, make sure the people in the 16th row are wearing helmets, Robben?
- Defense: Bayern’s only allowed 13 goals in 24 Bundesliga matches, but that ratio has increased to 10 in 10 in Champions League. While that’s still an impressive total, detractors can look at a group that included BATE, Lille, and Valencia and wonder how much FCB were tested. Against Juventus they kept two clean sheets, but against Arsenal in the Round of 16, Bayern conceded three times. Nobody’s expecting a complete breach of their defenses, but against the attacks present in the semifinals, Bayern’s defensive record may not hold up.
- And beyond: This is where the acquisition of Javi Martínez is supposed to pay off. His ability on the ball, value bursting forward, and defender’s presence at the base of midfield gives Bayern a dimension they lacked in their last two finals runs. The question is whether those qualities will come through in this packed final four.
- Preferred matchups: Nobody should scare Bayern, but Barcelona represents an unknown. Whereas they have Dortmund’s number and beat Real Madrid in last year’s semifinals, this core hasn’t faced Barcelona. FCB may prefer to take embrace what they know and get Dortmund in the semifinals, Real Madrid in the final.
Friday, April 12 – Semifinal matchups drawn
Tuesday, April 23 – Leg one, semifinal one
Wednesday, April 24 – Leg one, semifinal two
Tuesday, April 30 – Leg two, semifinal two
Wednesday, May 1 – Leg two, semifinal one
Saturday, May 25 – Final (London)
After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.
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If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.
There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.
Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.
MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.
Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.
Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.
The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.
Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.
Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.
Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.
Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.
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The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:
“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.
“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.
“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”
With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.
The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:
Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.
The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.
There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.