When Real Madrid renews its quest for a 10th European title on May 24, it won’t do so in the type of clash of detached powers matchup we often see in UEFA Champions League finals. After their 4-0 (5-0, agg.) defeat of defending champions Bayern Munich today at the Allianz Arena, the nine-time European champions are destined to face an opponent with an clear connection to the club. Either 2011-12 champions Chelsea, managed by recently deposed Merengues boss José Mourinho, or crosstown rivals Atlético Madrid will try to keep Real Madrid from its decima.
If Chelsea prevail tomorrow at Stamford Bridge, both finalists will have a head coach that’s recently bossed the opposition, with Carlo Ancelotti having preceded over operations in London from summer 2009 through May 2011. Still, most of the attention will be on Mourinho, who left Real Madrid at the end of last season. While both men won league titles at their former clubs, Mourinho reportedly left a divided dressing room and a club full of enemies in Spain. While the potential for Carlo Ancelotti win a third Champions League will earn its share of cyber inches, the potential for Real Madrid to rise at its former boss’s expense (or, for Mourinho to get one over on Real) could get as much coverage the decima itself.
If, however, Atlético prevails on Wednesday, next month’s match at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz takes on a different type of intrigue – an inner-city Derby for the most prestigious honor in club soccer. Though it would mark the fifth time teams from the same federation made the final (and the second time the teams would be Spanish), an Atlético-Real matchup would represent the first time clubs from the same city would compete for the title. With Atleti having recently claimed a foothold in the once lopsided rivalry, the club’s first Champions League crown would leave them undisputed kings of the Spanish capital.
Regardless of Wednesday’s outcomes, the narratives are likely to boil over. It won’t be enough to marvel at the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Arda Turan, and Óscar matching up against Real’s galacticos nuevos. One potential pairing would be about a miscast savior; the other would be about a fight for civic as was as European pride. All this, and the decima looms.
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Chris Coleman says he chose to remain as Wales manager despite interest from Premier League side Hull because he’s in a job that is “close to his heart.”
The Football Association of Wales rejected an approach for Coleman from Hull this month, with the Welshman deciding to stay on rather than resigning.
Coleman, who guided Wales to the European Championship semifinals against the odds, said on Wednesday that “if someone comes and it’s the Premier League, anybody, you kind of look at it sideways. Of course.”
But, Coleman added, managing your country “comes around once, if you’re lucky.”
Coleman has made no secret of his desire to manage in club football in the future, but says “what I’ve got here is something very special and close to my heart.”
Who’s going to join Porto, Monaco, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets Razgrad and Celtic as playoff teams to join the UEFA Champions League group stage?
The biggest names of Wednesday’s slate are cruising after their first legs, with Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach putting five and three goals on the board, respectively.
[ MORE: Champions League Tues. roundup ]
Could the match be Joe Hart‘s last for City? The longtime backstop gets the call with the transfer window a week away.
In the other three cases, things are wide open. Rostov plays Ajax, Red Bull Salzburg faces Dinamo Zagreb, and APOEL lines up Copenhagen.
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League slate — FOLLOW LIVE
Borussia Monchengladbach (3) vs. (1) BSC Young Boys
Rostov (1) vs. (1) Ajax
Red Bull Salzburg (1) vs. (1) Dinamo Zagreb
APOEL (0) vs. (1) Copenhagen
Manchester City (5) vs. Steaua Bucuresti (0)
The newly-renamed EFL Cup, formerly the League Cup, rolls on Wednesday with four more matches ahead of the evening’s third-round draw.
American attacker Lynden Gooch starts for Sunderland, while Tim Ream starts for Fulham and Luca de la Torre is on the Cottagers’ bench. Emerson Hyndman is on the bench for Bournemouth.
Tuesday’s action saw Premier League sides West Brom and Watford excused from the tournament.
Wednesday’s EFL Cup schedule — FOLLOW LIVE
Accrington Stanley vs. Burnley
Fulham vs. Middlesbrough
Morecambe vs. Bournemouth
Sunderland vs. Shrewsbury Town
Robbie Keane is ending a big chapter in his career.
Fear not, Galaxy fans, the 36-year-old living L.A. legend isn’t calling it quits on club soccer, but Keane is done with representing the Republic of Ireland.
Keane will play one more game for the Boys in Green, a friendly against Oman next week, before leaving the Republic to qualify for the World Cup without him.
[ MORE: Yedlin, Newcastle make it official ]
In a sprawling and understandably emotional — if not moving — statement, Keane says he isn’t going to stop playing for his club anytime soon, and that he hardly dreamed he’d get to this point.
No player has been capped (145) or scored (67) as many times for Ireland than Keane.