Barcelona v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg

Remember it forever: Bayern Munich eliminate Barcelona, 7-0

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Barcelona was never equipped to challenge, and it showed. It showed with every inept attack thwarted by Bayern Munich’s commanding defense. It showed in every frantic challenge needed to prevent Munich’s first goals. And ultimately, embarrassingly, and historically, it showed on the scoreboard.

Down 4-0 to visiting Bayern Munich at kickoff, the Lionel Messi-less hosts scarcely put up a fight, with Bayern’s three-second half goals turning a walk into a rout. After their 3-0 loss at the Nou Camp, Spain’s champions-to-be exit Champions League with an embarrassing 7-0 aggregate loss, a result sure to leave European soccer in awe of the juggernaut this Bayern team’s become.

After a goalless first half, Bayern winger Arjen Robben opened the scoring with a 48th minute left-footed finish into the far netting from the right side of the box. In the 72nd minute, Gerard Piqué’s failed clearance of a Franck Ribery cross left the Barcelona defender with an own goal. Completing the rout, Thomas Müller scored his third goal of the tie, heading past Victor Valdes in the 78th minute.

The victory sets up last week’s inevitable. For the third time in four years, Bayern are in the UEFA Champions League final, this time set to face dethroned Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund in the competition’s first-ever all German final.

MORE: Bayern’s bold, beautiful plan

Dortmund confirmed their place yesterday with an unexpectedly close call at the Santiago Bernabéu, with late goals from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos leaving Real Madrid one goal from advancing come full-time. But with Barcelona leaving Messi on the bench and Sergio Busquets out of the team, a starting XI that was also deprived of Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba never came close to exhibiting the quality required to overturn a four-goal deficit.

Instead, it was Bayern providing a muted version of last week’s onslaught. Barcelona again held much of the ball, yet it München provided all of the threats, with only sliding tackles from Piqué preventing the visitors from padding their lead early. With Alex Song fully embracing a libero’s role, Barcelona tried to go wide-to-in on Bayern’s defense, but with Davi Alves unable to make headway against David Alaba, Barcelona were no more dangerous than last week’s inept showing in Munich.

But it was Alaba who made the game’s first meaningful impact, a beautiful diagonal ball from just inside his attacking half dropped into the foot of Robben. Robben was allowed to cut inside to use his only weapon, his left foot, and curled a ball into the side-netting from 16 yards out.

Attacking from wide also created Bayern’s final two goals, both through Franck Ribery. In the 72nd minute, a ball played wide by Luiz Gustavo (who had come on for Bastian Schweinsteiger) saw Ribery drill a high ball across the top of the six-yard box. Piqué misjudged the cross. As he tried to put a clearance up and out of play, he saw the ball hit off his knee and easily beat a defenseless Valdes.

Six minutes later, a ball sent out by Mario Mandzukic allowed Ribery to loft a perfect far post cross for Müller, who need only elevate to meet the ball and score from one-yard out.

Demoralized, Barcelona played the final 15 minutes more worried about an escalating embarrassment than any futile attempts to save face. Whatever semblance of pride that could have been salvaged was scattered by the flight of Piqué’s own goal. Having entered the round with a flock of believers convinced they were still the world’s best team, Barcelona leave the competition beneath the seven-goal burden of their reality: They are far adrift of Europe’s best, proving much closer to Paris Saint-Germain and Milan then another European Cup.

MORE: Highlights – Bayern send off Barça

If the last two days have proved anything, it’s that Bayern Munich deserve the mantle of Europe’s best. After a 7-0 win, the discussion ceases to be interesting. If Borussia Dortmund upset Bayern at Wembley, it should be seen as a significant upset, because whereas Bayern’s German rivals struggled to maintain the three-goal lead they carried into the Spanish capital, Bayern capped a performance for the ages, the lopsided nature of which may ultimately do them a disservice in history’s eyes.

Years from now, when people see 7-0 as the tie’s final score, they’ll assume Barcelona was a shadow of their former selves – a team who’d fallen from the ranks of Europe’s elite. Only half of which is true, of course. Barcelona are clearly not the team they were two years ago, but their walk through La Liga leaves them credentials as strong any non-Bayern team in Europe. They may be closer to PSG than Bayern, but almost any of Bayern’s challengers are. Barcelona are still very formidable opposition.

Yet Bayern embarrassed them, an achievement which, in time, we’ll hopefully come to see as a symbol of München’s greatness, not Barcelona’s failures. Though Barça’s not playing at their same Champions League-winning levels, after today, it’s unclear even the great teams of Cruyff or Guardiola could derail this Bayern Munich juggernaut.

At least, after completing a 7-0 rout at the Nou Camp, it’s worth a discussion.

Mourinho: Leicester home should be Claudio Ranieri Stadium

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Claudio Ranieri, Manager of Leicester City shows his frustration as Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho cannot quite get his head around Leicester City’s firing of Claudio Ranieri.

The story is on the tips of the tongues of many in the Premier League, and Manchester United’s boss is no exception.

[ MORE: UEL draw | Who is Rostov? ]

Speaking Friday ahead of United’s EFL Cup Final against Southampton, here’s what Mourinho had to say.

From the BBC:

“He deserves the Leicester stadium to be named ‘Claudio Ranieri Stadium’. The most beautiful thing in the Premier League and one of most beautiful in football history.

“Now Leicester are in the highlights again with a decision that has everyone in football united. It’s very difficult to accept. It’s important to realize how football is and we need to react. I was sacked as a champion [by Chelsea], a giant negative as I thought – peanuts compared to Claudio.

“I don’t think he needs more. Nobody can do what he did. If some of the stories have just a little bit of truth, it is difficult to find words to justify but we have to be able to cope.”

Mourinho is giving voice to what many feel, this writer included. Ranieri is in a relegation fight, yes, but to fire him days after the Foxes stole a road goal against Sevilla that gives them reasonable odds to advance in the UEFA Champions League? It’s an odd one, and smacks a bit of, “Well, we can’t fire him if he beats Liverpool or Sevilla”.

Liverpool visits the King Power Stadium this weekend, and the Foxes will need an incredible response at home to topple the rested Reds. Sure the Premier League is win now, but add me to the chorus who thinks the new manager will have the same odds to fix Leicester as Ranieri.

Roma’s American president losing patience over stadium delay

James Pallotta, AS Roma
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
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ROME (AP) Roma’s American president is starting to lose patience with city officials over long-delayed plans for a new stadium.

Ahead of a meeting between municipal authorities and club officials Friday, James Pallotta issued a statement saying the team expects “a massively positive result” from the encounter.

Pallotta adds “the alternative would be catastrophic for the future of AS Roma, Italian football, the city of Rome, and quite frankly for future business in Italy.”

[ MORE: PST feature on Pallotta ]

The mostly privately financed 1.6 billion euro ($1.7 billion) project received another setback this week when cultural authorities announced plans to declare the proposed stadium site – an abandoned hippodrome – as a site of “particularly important interest.”

The project in Tor di Valle, halfway between downtown and Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, also includes three office towers.

Who is Manchester United’s UEL opponent Rostov?

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 15: Jano Ananidze (L) of FC Spartak Moscow is challenged by Alexandru Gatcan of FC Rostov during the Russian Premier League match between FC Spartak Moscow v FC Rostov at Otkrytie Arena Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)
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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have learned their fate for the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The Red Devils face Russian side FC Rostov in the next round of the tournament, four victorious ties from claiming an automatic spot in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Spurs sent packing | Full UEL draw ]

So who is Rostov? Seventh in the Russian Premier League standings, Selmashi finished second last season and won the league in 1994 and 2008.

Rostov entered the Europa League after a run through the Champions League which saw the club knock out Anderlecht and Ajax, both still alive in the UEL, before finishing third behind Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich in the group stage. Rostov beat Sparta Prague in the Round of 32 of the UEL.

The club is led by former Moldova boss Ivan Daniliants. Its leading scorer is left wing Dmitri Poloz with 11 goals, and Ecuadorian national teamer Christian Noboa and Moldova veteran Alexandru Gațcan among its mainstays.

While some will make the case that a rough pitch, long trip, and stingy team makes this draw a bad one for United, Mourinho’s crew should triumph. How worse could it have been? This one won’t be easy, but consider Roma, Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach… even a reunion with Memphis Depay and Lyon would bring more of a challenge than Rostov.

Europa League draw: Man Utd learns fate

Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, center back to camera, celebrates scoring the opening goal with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 2nd right, and other teammates during a Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Saint Etienne and Manchester United at Geoffroy Guichard stadium in Saint Etienne, France, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
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The travel is tricky, but Manchester United’s draw for the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 could’ve been much worse.

The Red Devils are off to Russia to face FC Rostov in the next round of the UEL competition.

[ MORE: Spurs out | Who is Rostov? ]

In another draw that leads you to question whether there’s anything random about it all, United and lone La Liga representative Celta Vigo drew winnable matches against Russian clubs, Roma has a tantalizing match against Lyon, and an all-Bundesliga match hits the docket.

Heck, we’ll even see an all-Belgian tie between Gent vs. Genk.

And in a draw which will have many glued to their sets, USMNT left-sided man Fabian Johnson will help Borussia Monchengladbach against German rivals Schalke. The first leg comes five days after the pair face off in Bundesliga play.

The Round of 16 legs will be played March 9 and 16.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16

Rostov vs. Manchester United
Celta Vigo vs. Krasnodar
Copenhagen vs. Ajax
Olympiacos vs. Besiktas
Lyon vs. Roma
Schalke vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
APOEL Nicosia vs. Anderlecht
Gent vs. Genk