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

Leave a comment

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.

Manchester City 3-1 West Ham: Sterling shines with double

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28:  Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal with Nolito, Gael Clichy (2ndL) and David Silva (L) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham United at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Ham gave Manchester City a bit of a scare early in the second half, but Raheem Sterling‘s second goal of the afternoon provided the home side with all three points at the Etihad Stadium.

The Citizens held on for a 3-1 win on Sunday after Sterling found the back of the net twice, with the second coming in the dying minutes from a close-range tap in.

In the 18th minute, Kevin De Bruyne hit a superb free kick directly into the path of Fernandinho, who smashed home a header to give the hosts a 2-0 advantage.

Without a host of players for the visitors, City took it to their opposition early on when David Silva started a strong attack down the center of the West Ham defense. The Spaniard played the ball out wide to Nolito before finding an open Raheem Sterling, who calmly slotted his effort into the corner for the lead after seven minutes.

Michail Antonio provided West Ham with a lifeline following halftime, however, it wasn’t enough for the visitors to complete the comeback. Antonio headed home at the far post just prior to the hour mark after Arthur Masuaku beat his man and found the attacker.

Video: City clinical on set piece to double lead

Leave a comment

Manchester City has lived up to the billing early on in the Pep Guardiola era, and the first half of Sunday’s match against West Ham has been everything the Spaniard could hope for.

After taking an early lead through Raheem Sterling after seven minutes, Fernandinho doubled the City lead in the 18th minute after a stellar set piece situation.

Kevin De Bruyne‘s stepped up for a free kick before the Belgian curled his effort directly into the path of Fernandinho, who headed home the hosts for the 2-0 lead.

Even though West Ham is understandably undermanned with Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll and others, City is putting on a show right now at the Etihad.

West Brom 0-0 Middlesbrough: Guzan holds Baggies scoreless

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Cristhian Stuani of Middlesbrough takes on Brendan Galloway and Claudio Yacob (R) of West Bromwich Albion  during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough at The Hawthorns on August 28, 2016 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It wasn’t the most attractive perfromance all around but Middlesbrough remained perfect on Sunday after finishing level in their 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion from The Hawthorns.

Brad Guzan earned his second start in net on Sunday since joining Middlesbrough, and the U.S. Men’s National Team keeper was active early on, making two key saves in the first half to keep the match scoreless.

Despite Boro’s success in possession, the team lacked a final touch early on and failed to register a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes. West Brom was successful in limiting Alvaro Negredo’s touches early on, which prevented the road side from getting any sort of offensive rhythm.

West Brom continued to press for the opener in the second stanza, however, the home side’s remained limited and largely unthreatening. Craig Dawson had an opportunity to open the scoring in the 63rd minute with a header from close range, but the attempt missed wide of net after Matt Phillips played in the service.

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. West Ham (Lineups, Live Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City battles with Aaron Cresswell of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola remains perfect in his early run in the Premier League and looks to continue that trend on Sunday as Manchester City hosts a difficult West Ham United side at 11 a.m. E.T. from the Etihad Stadium on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Joe Hart has been the talking point for weeks now at City, but with the new signing of Claudio Bravo finalized earlier this week the attention turns to whether or not the Englishman will be offloaded before the transfer window closes next week.

WATCH LIVE: Manchester City vs. Sunderland live online

West Ham needed a late winner a week ago to edge Bournemouth at home, however, Slaven Bilic‘s side has battled hard in both of their fixtures to start the season.

The Hammers will be extremely undermanned on Sunday as Dimitri Payet headlines the group of players that haven’t travelled with the team to Manchester. Striker Andy Carroll won’t be at the Etihad either, leaving West Ham lacking with depth up front.

Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyate will play key roles for the Hammers as they look to fill the voids left by Payet and Carroll.

Meanwhile, City will keep Will Caballero in net while Bravo finishes his transition into the squad. Nolito also gets the start alongside Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero up front, which will give West Ham fits defensively.

LINEUPS

Manchester City – Caballero, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Clichy, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Nolito, Aguero.
Bench – Hart, Fernando, Nasri, Kolarov, Delph, Iheanacho, Navas.

West Ham – Adrián, Ogbonna, Reid, Masuaku, Collins, Noble, Kouyate, Antonio, Tore, Enner Valencia, Fletcher.
Bench – Randolph, Byrum, Burke, Oxford, Obiang, Lanzini, Calleri.