Moyes believes changing to Winter World Cup in 2022 is the only option.

UEFA Champions League Preview: Moyes’s debut, Guardiola’s challenge, and Casillas’s call highlight Tuesday action

Leave a comment

UEFA Champions League’s group stage begins on Tuesday an eight-match slate, Groups A through D in action during the first day of the full competition. With special focus on matches in Manchester, Munich, and Istanbul, here’s a preview of the day’s action:

ANOTHER EARLY TEST FOR MOYES
Manchester United (England) vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m., Manchester (Old Trafford), England

David Moyes’s first year at Manchester United is destined to be defined by his predecessor, but given the Red Devils are about to embark on their first European campaign in 28 years without Alex Ferguson, you can understand why this ever-present storyline, already in danger of being driven aground, has resurfaced. After one, failed attempt to get into the competition with Everton (falling to Villarreal in 2005 third-round qualifying), his appointment with United has given him a pass into the show. It’s only natural to wonder if he’s up for it.

With only four competitive games managing United (five if you count the Community Shield), it’s far too early to judge Moyes. That’s the obligatory caveat, one that’s interjected into the conversation about the former Toffees boss. With its reproaching tone, the reminder’s would have believe any evaluation of Moyes is verboten. But with Manchester United looking more passable than dominant through the season’s first month, it’s worth considering whether the team is slowly starting to emulate his Everton squad’s conservatism.

Consider these remarks from Rio Ferdinand, on the adaptation United players are undertaking with their new manager:

“Obviously, [Moyes] is here now and he has implemented his ideas and told us what he wants to see from us, and it’s up to us to take those ideas and put them out on the pitch … That’s what we’re trying to do and in the first few games we’ve had some good performances, individually and as as a team. It’s about continuing that and building on that.”

(source: UEFA)

It’s a fairly innocuous, almost obligatory quote from one of United’s key veterans, but if you take it at face value, it implies the Red Devils have not only been happy with their 2-1-1 start but are performing according to plan. That’s a concerning prospect, considering the team’s underlying form.

That’s why tonight’s visit from Bayer Leverkusen should spark concern. Leverkusen have never won in England (including two previous visits to Old Trafford) but have a squad with more talents than the normal Premier League fan would expect. They’re not one of Germany’s big two, so they shouldn’t have a player like Stefan Kießling (the thinking holds). The now former Germany international (elective retirement) leads the Bundesliga in scoring in 2013 (17 goals).

Sidney Sam and Son Heung-Min, wide players in Sami Hyypiä’s attacking three, are capable of beating even the best defenders, but those aren’t the type of talents a typical English league follower will associate with the name Leverkusen. They round out an attack that can score against anybody, making the midfield battle all the more important. But with Manchester United rarely able to win that battle recently against quality European sides, Bayer may have a chance.

If the Red Devils play to their potential, they should beat Leverkusen, comfortably if not easily. But they haven’t played to their potential under Moyes yet, and with the approach that’s starting to be instilled, they may leave the door open for Kießling, Sam, or Son to steal a point. That’s why this game is such a test for Moyes.

source: Getty Images
Pep Guardiola has won two European titles in four years as a head coach, but given two chances to defend his titles, the former Barcelona boss came up short, failing to replicate the accomplishment of Arrigo Sacchi at Milan. (Photo: Getty Images.)

LET THE DEFENSE BEGIN
Bayern Munich (Germany) vs. CSKA Moscow (Russia)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m., Munich (Allianz Arena), Germany

No team has retained the European Cup since Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan in 1989-90. Twice Pep Guardiola has had a chance, his Barcelona teams that won Champions League in 2008-09 and 2010-11 favored to retain their title the following years. Each season, they fell short, eliminated in the semifinals by the eventual champions (Inter Milan in 2009-10; Chelsea in 2011-12).

A new challenge gives Bayern Munich’s boss a chance at new history, though early returns have been mixed. Bayern’s been dominant in league, allowing only two goals while taking 13 points from five games, but they’re not clicking to the extent they did last season. In both the UEFA and German Super Cups, they’ve shown there’s work to do if they’re to remain champions of Europe.

That work continues on Tuesday against a CSKA team who, while talented, are obvious underdogs. Unbeaten in eight in Russia, Leonid Slutski’s team is in form, a four-match winning streak accompanying Nigerian international Ahmed Musa (five goals in eight games), Japanese attacker Keisuke Honda (15 goals over the last two seasons), and emerging Swedish midfield linchpin Pontus Wernbloom to the Allianz.

Unfortunately, Russian international Alan Dzagoev will not be available in attack, and the aging, slow central defense pairing of Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezoutski are likely to have trouble when wingers Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben cut in augment Mario Mandzukic.

Fitness concern for Bayern: The hamstrung team that took on Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup hasn’t gotten much healthier. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s ankle keeps him iffy. Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, and Mario Götze are all out. Natural fullback Philipp Lahm could get another start in defensive midfield.

source: Getty Images
Captain for club and country, Iker Casillas has been relegated to a backup’s role at Real Madrid. However, Carlo Ancelotti is ready to hand him a start in Istanbul. (Photo: Getty Images.)

WELCOME BACK, SAINT IKER
Galatasaray (Turkey) vs. Real Madrid (Spain)
Kickoff: 2:45 p.m., Istanbul (Türk Telekom Arena), Turkey

Coming off a performance that saved his team embarrassment at El Madrigal (though Real Madrid still drew at newly-promoted Villarreal), goalkeeper Diego López has been rewarded with a trip to the bench. Merengues head coach Carlo Ancelotti will go with Iker Casillas in Champions League, valuing the captain’s experience in one of Europe’s most intimidating venues. Going forward, it looks like López will play in league, with Casillas taking Champions League (and potentially, Copa del Rey).

The decision has slightly overshadowed what should be an enticing rematch. Last spring, in the second leg of the teams’ Champions League quarterfinal, Galatasaray beat Real Madrid, 3-2. Unfortunately for Fatih Terim’s side, they were still eliminated from the tournament, having lost the first leg 3-0 at the Bernabéu.

The result emboldens the Turkish champions, and with the talent in their squad, Gala have the potential to upset the still consolidating Blancos. Didier Drogba will face his former Chelsea boss Ancelotti for the first time since the Italian left Stamford Bridge, while Wesley Sneijder gets another chance to inspire envy in his former club. With Terim calling on the crowd to help push the team, Real Madrid face a surprisingly difficult Champions League opener.

Stumbling into Europe: Real Madrid suffered their first blemish on Saturday, but they’ve yet to truly click this season, part of the reason why they’re now chasing Barcelona and Atlético Madrid in Spain. In Turkey, Galatasaray have drawn their last three games and sit seventh after four rounds.

OTHERS
All games kickoff at 2:45 Eastern.

  • Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) vs. Manchester City (England), Štruncovy Sady Stadium, Plzen – City will choose a full team despite the weekend’s upcoming Manchester Derby, according to Manuel Pellegrini. A must win attitude reflects the uncertainties the Sky Blues carry after two disappointing Champions League campaigns. Plzen, last in Champions League in 2011, possess a quiet optimism despite the probable absence of defender Marián Čišovský, who scored five goals in qualifying.
  • FC Copenhagen (Denmark) vs. Juventus (Italy), Parken, Copenhagen – Ståle Solbakken, in his first year back at Copenhagen (who he led from 2006 to 2011), can capture his first win of the season against Juventus, the defending Danish champions struggling in the Superliga (sitting 10th out of 12). Even in the best of forms, a result would be a big ask of the hosts, facing one of the teams with legitimate hopes of claiming this year’s title.
  • Olympiakos (Greece) vs. Paris Saint-Germain (France), Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus – Laurent Blanc is emphasizing patience on the road, an approach that could result in undo conservatism for a team coming off their season’s strongest performance (2-0 win at Bordeaux). They’ll need to retain that form against a team off to a perfect start in league, with striker Kostas Mitroglou posting a weekend hat-trick.
  • Real Sociedad (Spain) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Anoeta, San Sebastian – Skakhtar survived last year’s tough draw, finishing second in a group that included Juventus and Chelsea. This year, however, they ride a disappointing start into another tough group, their two points in their last three games their worst spell since April 2011. Real Sociedad are also misfiring, going 1-1-2 through four rounds in Spain, but coming off their playoff win over Lyon, La Real embark on their first Champions League game in 10 years.
  • Benfica (Portugal) vs. Anderlecht (Belgium), Estádio do Sport, Lisbon – Jorge Jesus views Anderlecht and Olympiakos as on the same level as Benfica, putting pressure on the Eagles to hold serve at home. Coming off a strong weekend performance against Paços de Ferreira, last year’s Europa League runners-up appear ready to defend their ground, even if they will be without Nicolas Gaitan, Rúben Amorim, and Eduardo Salvio. Anderlecht, having already lost twice in Belgium, will hope Matias Suarez can continue a hot start that’s seen him score six goals in the season’s first seven games.

John Terry still hopes to remain at Chelsea beyond this season

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Terry is a Chelsea legend.

It is the only team he’s every played for and even at the age of 35 the legendary captain of the Blues looks better than ever.

[ MORE: Wenger reveals bank talks ]

That’s why when he announced in January that the club wasn’t going to offer him a new deal and he’d likely be on his way this summer, fans of Chelsea reacted angrily and jumped to the support of Terry. He’s won four Premier League titles with Chelsea, a UEFA Champions League trophy, five FA Cup and three League Cups.

He is the most successful player in club history and despite his off-the-field issues, he is one of the greatest defenders England has ever produced.

Speaking to Soccer AM on Sky Sports in the UK, Terry revealed that he still believes he has a few years left in the tank and that he hopes it’s with Chelsea.

“I’ve got a couple of years left. Definitely I intend to keep playing, hopefully that’s at Chelsea, but if not it will be somewhere else,” Terry said. “I am definitely feeling good physically and I intend to play as long as I can. As a professional footballer you’re a long time retired, so I think not only for myself but for all of us we should get the most out of it and enjoy it while it’s there.”

With talk of a move to China, MLS or elsewhere in Europe, it seems like Terry still has his heart set on remaining on Chelsea.

The fact that he’s toned down his rhetoric in this interview suggests perhaps some headway has been made behind-the-scenes as Antonio Conte will arrive as Chelsea’s new manager in July following the 2016 European Championships where he coaches Italy.

Should Conte push for Terry to get a new one-year deal at Stamford Bridge?

Right now, Terry is still the best central defender Chelsea has. Despite his age and many believing it may be good for both parties to move on and for Conte to not have to worry about Terry’s huge influence in the dressing room, surely the Blues can’t just let a top-class center back walk free this summer?

Luke Shaw aiming to make Manchester United return this season

SWANSEA, WALES - AUGUST 30: Luke Shaw of Manchester United warms up with Bastian Schweinsteiger (R) prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Manchester United at Liberty Stadium on August 30, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Luke Shaw has been out-of-action for a half-year, dating back to a horrible injury in Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League defeat at PSV Eindhoven in September.

[ MORE: LVG says Leicester will have to earn title ]

Shaw, 20, is hoping that spell on the club sidelines will end before the end of this Premier League season, as the $45 million buy from Southampton continues to progress toward match fitness.

From ManUtd.com:

“I am back outside now, still with the physio but, day by day, I am getting better and fitter. I am just going to keep pushing now until the end of the season and see what happens. At the moment, my leg feels really great every time I go outside. There was a bit of aching at the start but now they are all gone. It is just back to hard work now and hopefully I will see the fans before the end of the season.”

It’s a good goal for the youngster, but there’s obviously zero need to rush things. With the FA Cup surely a tempting proposition as well, Shaw will also need to be reintroduced to playing in matches. Would Louis Van Gaal want to risk that during some pivotal encounters in the race for a Top Four place?

Red Bulls acquired defender Aurelien Collin from Orlando City

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 15:  Aurelien Collin #78 of Orlando City SC heads the ball during an International friendly soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on July 15, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Orlando won the match 3-1. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The New York Red Bulls have acquired veteran center back Aurelien Collin from Orlando City SC in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

The Red Bulls announced the deal for the 30-year-old Collin on Friday.

[ MLS: Red Bulls 4-0 FC Dallas ]

Collin, who is from France, was acquired by Orlando City ahead of its inaugural MLS campaign last season. Before that, he spent four years with Sporting Kansas City, where he won the 2013 MLS Cup and was named the MVP of the game.

Collin was named MLS Best XI in 2012 and earned three consecutive MLS All-Star appearances from 2012-2014. He has played professionally in France, Greece, England, Scotland and Portugal.

USMNT’s Tim Howard starts for Everton

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard smiles during practice Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in St. Louis. The U.S. men's team is scheduled to play a World Cup soccer qualifying match against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP
1 Comment

Tim Howard is back in goal for Everton.

[ WATCH: Stream PL games via Live Extra

The U.S. national team legend, 37, returns for the Toffees and is named captain by under-fire manager Roberto Martinez.

Howard hasn’t played in a Premier League game for Everton since January 24 when the Toffees lost 2-1 against Swansea at Goodison.

Since then he has struggled with a calf injury and has been replaced by Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles as Everton’s starting goalkeeper. In the past few months Everton’s manager Martinez has come under increasing pressure from the fans as they’ve continued to coast along in midtable and were beaten in the FA Cup semifinal by Manchester United last weekend.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up this summer? ]

The New Jersey native has signed a deal with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids — a contract which makes him the best-paid goalkeeper in MLS history — who he will join on July 1 as he return to the U.S. to finish out his career.

After spending 13 years in England with Manchester United and Everton, it seems like Howard will get a final chance to say farewell to Everton’s fans in the last three weeks of the season.

Despite criticism from sections of Everton’s supporters this season, Howard has been a fans favorite for most of his decade on Merseyside.

Below is the starting lineup for Everton as they face Bournemouth on Saturday at Goodison (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League Extratime and online via Live Extra).