UEFA Champions League Group E preview

4 Comments

After Chelsea, Group E in the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League is wide open for exploitation. The group’s teams are nicely spread out all over Europe, with England, Germany, Switzerland and Romania all represented.

source:  Chelsea

How they qualified: Barclays Premier League third place, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (2012)

Home stadium: Stamford Bridge / London, England

Coach: José Mourinho

Outlook: New-old coach José Mourinho has a lot of faith in his squad, as well he should. Chelsea should win this group, as it clearly has the largest talent pool at its disposal. Beyond that, Mourinho’s teams start to struggle. A core of his previous team, as well as the team that won this competition two seasons ago, remains at Stamford Bridge, which should give the former champion all the push it needs.

source:  Schalke

How they qualified: Bundesliga fourth place, defeated PAOK in playoff round

Best finish: Semifinals (2011)

Home stadium: Veltins-Arena / Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Coach: Jens Keller

Outlook: Schalke almost didn’t make it to the group stage, but wunderkind Julian Draxler worked his magic to ensure passage beyond the playoff round despite his team going down to 10 men. It’s been that kind of time for Schalke since Jens Keller took over as manager, particularly since the new season began. The Germans need to work the kinks out of their system to avoid an embarrassing result in this group.

source:  FC Basel

How they qualified: Swiss Super League champion, defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv in third qualifying round, Ludogoretz Razgrad in playoff round

Best finish: Quarterfinals (1974)

Home stadium: St. Jakob-Park / Basel, Switzerland

Coach: Murat Yakin

Outlook: Basel usually makes it to the group stage and pulls off a couple good results. The club also has a history of producing young talent to be poached by bigger clubs, Xherdan Shaqiri most notably from recent memory, as well as Philipp Degen, who has returned to the club of his youth days.

source:  Steaua Bucharest

How they qualified: Liga 1 champion, defeated FK Vardar in second qualifying round, Dinamo Tbilisi in third qualifying round, Legia Warsaw in playoff round

Best finish: Winner (1986)

Home stadium: Arena Națională / Bucharest, Romania

Coach: Laurențiu Reghecampf

Outlook: For the first time in five years, Steaua finds itself back in the Champions League group stage. It wasn’t easy getting here, and a result better than fourth place will be hard to achieve. A Romanian team has never qualified for the spring portion of the Champions League since the competition was rebranded, but this is probably the best team from the Carpathians in the past decade, even after selling center back Vlad Chiricheș to Tottenham.

Group outlook

Chelsea should win this group comfortably, but Schalke, Basel and Steaua all have equal claim to the second and third slots and advancement into further continental competition. If Schalke can pull together some decent performances, it has the best odds of advancing, but the other two will fight ferociously to ensure at least a third-place finish in this group.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
Leave a comment

CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.

After further tests, Lletget to miss 4-6 months

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

So much for initial reports.

Less than 24 hours after the LA Galaxy announced that Sebastian Lletget had come through his injury on USMNT duty with no structural damage, a specialist found something worse.

Lletget has a Lisfranc injury and requires surgery, meaning the Galaxy and the U.S. will be without the midfielder for four to six months.

[ MORE: Spurs eager for U.S. return ]

Lletget, 24, spent a half-decade with West Ham but couldn’t break into the squad before returning to the U.S. last summer. He became a mainstay for the Galaxy, earning a call-up to the national team.

He scored his first USMNT goal on Friday to open the World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but was injured after a hard sliding tackle from Ever Alvarado.

Galaxy has depth beyond Lletget and Jermaine Jones, with Rafael Garcia, Joao Pedro, and Baggio Husidic able to fill a similar role, but this one stings for the Galaxy. Get well, Sebastian.

Scouting report: Everton target Orlando’s Cyle Larin

Leave a comment

Reports have been suggesting the Orlando City’s star striker Cyle Larin is attracting some serious interest from Premier League side Everton.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live ]

Larin, 21, has started the MLS season off in red-hot form and the report suggests the Toffees have bid $4 million for his talents. They’ll likely have to up that offer for the Canadian national team star.

What is Larin all about?

With Romelu Lukaku seeming to be heading towards the exit door this summer as his contract saga rumbles on, it’s not outlandish to state that Larin has a very similar style to the prolific Belgian international. Of course, he has yet to test himself in the PL and Lukaku’s boots would be a big pair to fill if Larin did arrive at Goodison Park as some kind of replacement in the coming months, yet when you watch Larin play there are so many similarities between the pair.

Ronald Koeman is always eager to give youth a chance and with Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all getting regular minutes this season, so Larin would get chances to impress if he ended up on Merseyside.

Here are some key stats Toffees fans will want to know too:

  • 17 – Number of goals Larin scored in his debut MLS season, the most-ever by a Rookie
  • Larin has scored all three of Orlando’s goals so far in the 2017 MLS season
  • He has scored 39 goals in 68 appearances for Orlando since arriving in 2015
  • For Canada, he has five goals in 19 appearances after making his debut as a teenager
  • Larin became the first-ever Canadian to be selected as the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft when he joined Orlando in 2015

Click play on the video above to see Larin’s best moments so far in MLS, as he continues his impressive development.