Germany Soccer Champions League

No contest: Bayern Munich dominates helpless Viktoria Plzen, 5-0, in Champions League

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Pep Guardiola’s team is doing nothing to squash the talk of repeating as Champions League winners, as whispers are growing louder that his fabulously talented team has the stuff to pull off a back-to-back European rarity.

Yes, Wednesday’s crushing display came against a Czech side just wading into the sparkly Champions League water, but this was truly dominating stuff. Two goals from Franck Ribery and one each from David Alaba, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze (off the bench) had Bayern Munich well in control throughout as the heavy favorites delivered professionally against visiting Viktoria Plzen in a 5-0 romp at the gleaming Allianz Arena.

The defending champs are a perfect 3-0-0 in this year’s competition, alone at the top of Group D and holding an increasingly impressive plus-10 goal difference. (That is 11 scored, just 1 against.)

Guardiola’s men, still learning some new tricks under their new Spanish boss and now finding the next gear in October, were about as dominant as they could. Bayern eventually built a 34-0 edge in attempts (and a 21-0 edge in attempts on goal). We see lopsided numbers like that from time to time in league play, but only rarely in Champions League action.

Only some outstanding work from besieged Plzen goalkeeper Matús Kozacik kept the score respectable for the Czech Republic club, especially before the break, before Bayern seemed to lose some interest over the last half hour or so.

Bayern’s domination finally paid off as those ridiculously quick feet of Arjen Robben helped spot his team that inevitable lead, pulsing in from the right into a shooting spot and forcing center Plzen center back Roman Hubnik to stab desperately into the tackle.

Ribery, working as expertly as always along Bayern’s left flank, went low and right with the resulting penalty shot, placing accurately to give his team a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute, no less than the Bavarians deserved at the moment.

Only that good work from Kozacik kept Bayern from doubling the lead (or more) over the next 15 minutes. He saved well off Mario andzukic from close range, and shortly thereafter turned away Daniel Van Buyten’s powerful header.

His best work before the break came in the 40th minute, when Robben connected sharply with Toni Kroos cross, sending a header toward goal that demanded a strong hand and stronger reaction from the visiting goalkeeper.

In between, however, Kozacik could not reach a wonderful ball from David Alaba, who was actually on his weaker foot as he sped across the top of the 18 and turned a right-footed shot crisply toward the lower left corner.

Ribery’s 62nd minute effort – nasty dribbling inside the penalty area, punctuated by a sharp, technical finish – was the best goal of the Bayern bunch. That came after the break, just before Schweinsteiger’s excellent turn and finish from close range.

Also worth noting is that Philipp Lahm, the longtime German outside back, was once again stationed centrally in Guardiola’s midfield.

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT
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The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Ozil, Coquelin: Arsenal can win the title this season

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal FC
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I suppose, in theory, that any Premier League club that fields a team could win the league title for a given season, so the above headline could have been written in reference to any one of 20 teams a few short weeks ago.

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Fast forward eight rounds of fixtures to the present day, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer with every passing week that it’s a three-horse race — Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, who currently sit 1-2-3 atop the league — for the 2015-16 Premier League title.

So — and stick with me for just a second — why not Arsenal? [The crowd gasps loudly] Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin believe the Gunners have what it takes to win the title this year, so why doesn’t anyone else?

Ozil and Coquelin, on Arsenal’s progression to title contenders — quotes from the Guardian:

Ozil: “We have a great team with many world-class players. Our goal is to win the Premier League and I think that this season it’s possible to do it, if we all stay healthy. But the season is long.”

Ozil: “I didn’t expect [Bayern Munich] to beat Dortmund 5-1. Their recent results show they are simply in great shape … But our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100 percent, then we can beat Bayern.

“We are playing at home. Although we have respect for them, we don’t have any fear. We know how to score goals against Bayern and we can be successful. It will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”

Coquelin: “We proved a lot of people wrong. Inside the dressing room we knew we could do good things this season. We knew we could be contenders, but obviously we have to be consistent.

“We are getting stronger against the big teams. We beat City last season, now United. It’s all about consistency. The league is getting tougher, so we need to be getting results every week … We knew we had to put it right after Olympiakos and that’s what we’ve done.”

Coquelin is absolutely right — no one expected Arsenal to throttle Man United the way they did on Sunday. The Gunners acquitted themselves quite well, though it should be mentioned that Louis Van Gaal set up United to fail miserably with the immobile midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger against a quick, dynamic Arsenal unit.

[ MORE: “Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings ]

That’s not meant to take anything away from Arsenal’s scintillating performance, because they did exactly what they should be doing against a poorly planned side — that’s not always been the case for Arsenal against top teams. The Gunners will play hosts to Man City on Dec. 19; perhaps we’ll better be able to dub them contenders or pretenders based their showing that day.