Two postseasons ago, the Major League Soccer community began debating whether playing the first leg of a playoff series at home was an advantage, giving the team with the worse regular season record an edge over the team that’d accomplished more before the playoffs. Given Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear’s success steering the Galaxy and Dynamo through that postseason, it was unclear whether lower seeds’ success was due to venues or savvy coaches, but the debate still gave birth to an interesting idea: Let the team with the better record choose whether they get the first leg at home.
Major League Soccer appears to be moving closer to adopting the idea, something Sports Illustrated originally reported yesterday. Today, the league’s official website confirmed the New York office is considering the rule, with MLS potentially deciding some time before March whether the change would take effect for in 2014.
For some, this is a needed change, with leg one at the lower seed’s stadium giving the worse regular finisher a chance to set the tone for the series. Others see the choice as an interesting wrinkle, while others have argued the team with the better record simply deserves the advantage of choosing when to play at home.
As for detractors, it’s hard to find anybody too outspoken, but you don’t have to look far to find people apathetic about the move. For some, it doesn’t matter when you play your home game. You get one game at your place, one at theirs. No matter what, you have to win over 180 minutes.
They’re views that underscore the two quotes in Sports Illustrated’s original piece. Those who see the current format (higher seed plays the first game at home) as a problem support this change, but there’s no real “consensus.” Others take a ‘why not’ approach, while others don’t think it matters. While there’s no mounting protest to the move, there also isn’t an overwhelming push for a change, even if the tweak looks likely to take effect.
With the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League to kick off over the next few days, let’s take a look at both games and predict which teams will make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.
[ MORE: Champions League scores ]
Liverpool or Roma? Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?
Here’s the lowdown as two eagerly anticipated games take center stage across Europe.
Liverpool vs. AS Roma
First leg: Apr. 24, 2:45 p.m. ET at Anfield
Second leg: May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico
This should be one heck of a tie with defending optional for both teams but both have very different ways of playing. Jurgen Klopp will unleash the fluid trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on an often brittle Roma defense but the Italian giants have a giant in their own up top in the shape of Edin Dzeko. How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense deal with the threat of Dzeko will likely decide the outcome of this game. Liverpool will look to feed off the famous Anfield atmosphere to wrack up a big first leg lead before they head to Roma for Leg 2, and I fancy Salah to blow his old team away in the first leg. Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate.
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
First leg: Apr. 25, 2:45 p.m. ET at Allianz Arena
Second leg: May 1, 2:45 p.m. ET at Santiago Bernabeu
A proper heavyweight clash as Bayern and Real do battle knowing that whoever wins will be the favorites in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life (again) after a slow start to this season and Zinedine Zidane’s side made hard work of it against Juventus in the last round but are on course for a third-straight UCL trophy. As for Bayern, they have been in imperious form and you feel like Robert Lewandowski can get the better of Real’s center backs. Expect this to be a tight game with extremely high quality from both teams. Real being at home in the second leg is a big advantage. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate.
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.
Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.
Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”
Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”
Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.
Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.
Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.
The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.
It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.
Take it away, Jurgen…
“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.
“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”
“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”
It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.
Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.
The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.
Take a look at the video below. Wow.