Will Ronaldo win his first-ever Champions League title with Real Madrid this season?

UEFA Champions League Preview: Youth on display for Real Madrid, up five against Schalke

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A five-goal gap kills the sugarcoating. There are no clichés in the arsenal to make Real Madrid’s Tuesday visit from Schalke  an important game. The managers aren’t even trying. Carlo Ancelotti’s opening discussing resting players. Jens Keller is discussing playing for pride. Nobody’s under any illusions about the 6-1 lead Real Madrid takes into Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League match at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Three weeks ago, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo each bagged two in Gelsenkirchen, with only a spectacular volley from 19 yards out by Klass-Jan Huntelaar giving the Royal Blues a reprieve. Even memories of the strike, as technically perfect as it was, have been almost entirely buried. Schalke fans don’t want to remember leg one. Real Madrid fans are ready for the quarterfinals.

(REVIEW: Real Madrid sends Champions League message with 6-1 demolition of Schalke)

All of which makes Tuesday’s second leg a small nuisance – a game neither team really wants to play. Fans showing up at the Bernabeú tomorrow night are likely to see a series of great young talents, with Jesé, Álvaro Morata, and Isco all set to start. But this is Champions League. This the knockout round. As domestic races hit their home stretches and cup competitions reach their final stages, Europe’s commitments aren’t supposed to be so meaningless. It’s enough to ask why the game’s even happening, let alone why we should watch it.

We know why it’s happening (there’s no mercy rule in Champions Legaue). Why we should watch, however, takes more imagination. Jesé, the 21-year-old attacker who tore up last summer’s U-20 World Cup, is worth it on his own. Watching him try to blow by Schalke defenders is worth two hours of your time. Álvaro Morata, also 21, will provide another glimpse of Real Madrid’s enviable cadre of young attackers, while Isco (yes, 21) gets a chance to rejoin the starting XI. Though the likes of Bale, Benzema, and Ronaldo aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, Tuesday will give fans a glimpse of Real Madrid’s future alternate present.

“Real Madrid and Bayern München are the strongest teams in the world,” Keller said. “We must be realistic – Real Madrid are an amazing team and when you lose 6-1 in the first leg it is not easy to reach the quarter-finals.”

Unfortunately for Schalke fans, that team may still be better than the XI Keller will choose in Madrid, especially since Cristiano Ronaldo is slated to start. When he comes off, Gareth Bale may come on (Benzema, however, has a bad thigh). Ahead of Sunday’s visit from Barcelona — a game that could end Barça’s title defense — Ancelotti has to balance rest with a desire to keep his team sharp. This weekend, however, will be his obvious priority.

“We will make some changes because some players are physically tired,” Ancelotti said on Monday. Thoguh the team carries a 30-match unbeaten run into Tuesday’s game, the Real Madrid boss is intent on resting his stars. “The Málaga match was tough and we had to travel.”

It only adds to the meaningless quality of the game. Given the opportunity, Real Madrid would rather concentrate on Sunday. And Schalke would rather stay in Gelsenkirchen then travel for 90 perfunctory minutes in Madrid. Unless you’re a hardcore Madridistra or can’t get enough of the team’s battalion of young attackers, Chelsea versus Galatasaray is the game for you.

How will USMNT line up vs. Mexico in CONCACAF Cup?

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You probably don’t need reminding, but just in case you do, the U.S. national team face Mexico in a huge one-off CONCACAF Cup game on Saturday at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.

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The winner will represent CONCACAF at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia as Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT side are the underdogs against El Tri.

With plenty of struggles and a hangover from the 2015 Gold Cup failure, Klinsmann is under pressure and getting his team selection spot on will be crucial if the USA are going to get past Mexico in front of over 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl.

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Below I suggest three possible starting lineups, then give my conclusion on how I think the U.S. will lineup.

Let us know if you agree by posting your own lineups in the comments section below.

Klinsmann’s choice

—– Guzan —–

— Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Ream —

Jones —– Bradley

— Bedoya — Dempsey — Zardes —

—– Altidore —–

Mix-and-match XI

—– Howard —–

— Cameron — Besler — Ream — Beasley —

—– Williams —–

— Yedlin — Bradley — Zusi —

— Altidore — Zardes —

Stopping Mexico

—– Howard —–

— Johnson — Besler — Ream — Beasley —

—– Cameron —–

— Dempsey — Williams — Bradley — Jones —

— Altidore —


I think Klinsmann’s choice is the way to go, although Tim Howard‘s presence in goal over Brad Guzan would certainly help strengthen the USA’s defense. A center back pairing of Cameron and Besler must happen, while having Johnson in at right back will be a boost and Ream’s size may see him get the nod over Beasely. In midfield I’d go with Jones and Bradley sitting in front of othe back four and then that would allow, Zardes, Bedoya and Dempsey to support Altidore up top.

The final selection is ultra-defensive, but given the form of his team and Mexico’s attacking talents, Klinsmann may start more defensive and then change tact as the game goes on. Having all of your most-experienced players on the pitch will prove vital to succeeding at the Rose Bowl, therefore, even though the Mix-and-Match XI looks speedy and is dangerous, I’d expect to see “Klinsmann’s choice” or “Stopping Mexico” to be more like the starting lineup on Saturday.

“Legends World Cup” hope to bring Beckham, Zidane to Mexico

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David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane coaxed out of retirement to play in a “Legends World Cup” you say?

Well, that got my attention.

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According to an interview with the BBC’s world service, the organizers of the 2017 Legends World Cup are hoping to entice both Becks and Zizou to roll back the years and represent their nations in Mexico.

Beckham, 40, and Zidane, 43, are already putting their boots back on to captain a Great Britain and Ireland XI vs. a World XI for a friendly at Old Trafford on November 14 to raise money for UNICEF, and former Mexico goalkeeper Jorge Campos, 48, has urged the duo to take part in the tournament in 2017 where he will coach Mexico’s team.

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From the BBC:

“I want to see Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Brazilian Ronaldo,” said Campos, 48, the flamboyant ex-Mexico goalkeeper who will coach his country.

“Everybody wants to see Argentina’s Diego Maradona, but he can’t play. He’s too old.”

The tournament is scheduled to take place at the beginning of 2017, with 12 teams in total — four from the Americas, six from Europe and one each from Africa and Asia — taking part.

Given the age (players must be aged between 35-45) and caliber of the players Campos and Co. are trying to recruit, let’s have a think about who would play for the U.S.

Landon Donovan and Brian McBride up front? Brad Friedel in goal? Let us know who would make the squad.