The most memorable moments of the 2013-2014 Champions League

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On Saturday, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid will face off in the first Champions League final to feature two teams from the same city. But before the excitement in Lisbon kicks off, let’s review some of the most memorable moments of the 2013-2014 UEFA Champions League tournament.

Zlatan Ibrahimović puts four past Anderlecht
Ibra’s not going to the World Cup, so the least we can do is talk up his genius here. The world was reminded of the wonder that is Zlatan on October 24, when PSG paid a visit to Anderlecht. Ibrahimović’s first was a simple tap in. Five minutes later, he followed it up with a fantastic backheel, completely confusing the Anderlecht defender attempting to take the ball off him. Next came a powerful, swerving shot to the top corner, completing his hat-trick within 18 minutes. Edinson Cavani scored a fourth for the visitors, but that only seemed to irritate Ibra, who followed up by nodding the ball to his feet, only to volley into the back of the net.

Watch. Just watch.

A heated finish in the Group of Death
Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and Napoli were all drawn into the same group, along with Marseille. Going into the final game, the standings were such that it was impossible to determine who would move on to the knockout round. Napoli had the lowest chance: they needed to beat Arsenal, and hope that Marseille could salvage a point. And, up until the 85th minute, it looked like the partenopei were about to make their dreams come true. They were up 1-0, while Dortmund were even in France. Then Kevin Großkreutz scored. Napoli needed two goals to progress. They managed a second, but couldn’t find a third. With all teams finishing on 12 points, and even on head-t0-head, Dortmund’s and Arsenal’s superior goal differences sent Napoli into Europa League.

Martin Demichelis becomes a scapegoat
Manchester City just can’t catch a break in the Champions League, can they? Even on points with Bayern Munich in the group stage, they fell into the second slot, setting up a meeting with Barcelona. But this season’s Barcelona side showed certain signs of weakness, and it seemed as though City could make it through to the next round.

Then Martin Demichelis happened. The Argentine, whose signing only Manuel Pellegrini could understand, lunged in with a horrific late challenge on Lionel Messi. Out came the red card, in went Messi’s resulting strike. City went on to lose 2-0 at the Etihad, then 2-1 in Barcelona, ending their quest for the quadruple.

(READ MORE: ATLETICO, REAL TAKE THEIR DERBY TO LISBON)

Olympiakos make things interesting against Manchester United
By the time the knockout stages rolled around, United’s domestic campaign was already in tatters. They’d been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Sunderland, out of the FA Cup by Swansea City. Last year’s title winners looked to have no hope at repeating the feat, or, in fact, even qualifying for the Champions League. Unless, of course, they won it all.

And when they got drawn against Olympiakos, the idea that United could turn things around and make a miraculous run for the Champions League trophy didn’t seem all that far-fetched. Except Manchester United were dreadful in Greece. Olympiakos won 2-0 and while United managed to come back to progress to the next round, they were easily defeated by Bayern Munich.

That goal from that man
Javier Pastore’s been eclipsed at PSG, but for a few minutes back in April, he was a hero. With 90 minutes played, the hosts were up 2-1, and Chelsea fans were feeling rather confident. After all, they’d be taking an away goal back to Stamford Bridge, and the Blues could easily overcome the goal disadvantage. Then came Pastore. Thrown on with just five minutes left, the attacker turned the Chelsea defense inside out, snaking through the blue shirts to dink in PSG’s third.

Of course, this subheading could also be applied to the second leg. Chelsea desperately needed a second goal, so José Mourinho put on…Demba Ba. He silenced his skeptics with a goal in the 87th minute, stretching out his leg to slot the ball home. The Blues were on to the next round.

Unbeaten Atlético hold fast to make the final
It’s not often a team makes it to the final without losing a match – points can be lost in the group stages, or a side can lose one leg of a knockout game, only to win decisively in the other. The last time it happened was in 2008, when Manchester United lifted the trophy in Moscow. Now, it’s Atléti’s turn to shine. The first leg of their semi-final against Chelsea finished in predictable fashion for two sides that really commit to defending: a goalless draw. But those expecting to see more of the same at Stamford Bridge were sorely disappointed (or perhaps thrilled). It was Fernando Torres that scored first, but Mourinho’s game plan fell to pieces once Adrián scored. Atlético put in two more in the second half, setting up this infamous Madrid Derby in Lisbon.

Real Madrid dismantles Bayern Munich
Many believed that los merengues could hang with Bayern Munich, but few thought they’d beat the Bavarians so decisively. Real had edged a 1-0 victory in Madrid, making the game at the Allianz anyone’s for the taking. And Sergio Ramos seized the moment. The defender had his side up 2-0 by the 20th minute, taking advantage of Bayern’s poor defending on set pieces. Then Cristiano Ronaldo scored in, bagging his own brace to give Real the 5-0 aggregate victory.

Suddenly, la decima was again within Real Madrid’s grasp. But they’ll have to get past their city rivals to grab their tenth European Cup…

The saga continues on Saturday.

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.

PL Preview: Three Tuesday fixtures including Chelsea visit to Huddersfield

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As the holiday season nears, the Premier League begins to ramp up. While that can be hard on Premier League managers, it’s great for you, the fan, who now has plenty of options to choose from as you make your way through the work week.

[ PL SCHEDULE: Where to watch all midweek Premier League games ]


Burnley vs. Stoke City – 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

If Burnley defeats Stoke City on Tuesday, the Clarets would jump Tottenham, Arsenal, and Liverpool en route to a place in the Premier League table’s Top 4. Just pause for a moment and soak that in.

Better?

That’s right, Sean Dyche has his Burnley side on a roll, having won five of its last seven matches. In games where they were earning draws last year, they’re picking up all three points this year. Meanwhile, they face a Potters group that sits just three points above the relegation zone, meaning the heat has turned up on Mark Hughes. What is in store for us at Turf Moor?

INJURIES: Burnley – Tom Heaton (shoulder), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee) | Stoke City – Jese (personal leave), Glen Johnson (knee), Bruno Martins Indi (shoulder), Stephen Ireland (leg).


Huddersfield vs. Chelsea – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Antonio Conte, in charge of the defending champions, is suddenly on the hot seat. Already 14 points back of leaders and expected winners Manchester City, the Blues are sitting a distant third in the table.

A trip to Huddersfield could be exactly what the doctor ordered. The Terriers started the season well, but had lost four Premier League matches in a row before a 2-0 victory over Brighton turned things around.

Conte has already ruled Chelsea out of the title, with the Blues now fighting for a Champions League place. Can the boss take advantage of the poor opposition form? He will be without star striker Alvaro Morata who is dealing with both back problems and general fatigue, with Conte calling his schedule “impossible.”

INJURIES: HuddersfieldMichael Hefele (Achillies), Philip Billing (ankle), Jon Stankovic (knee), Kasey Palmer (ineligible – parent club) | Chelsea – Alvaro Morata (back), David Luiz (knee).


Crystal Palace vs. Watford – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

The Eagles hav a chance to pull themselves not only off the bottom of the Premier League table, but out of the relegation zone completely when they host Watford at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace sits a point back of Swansea City on the bottom, but with somewhat improved performances under Roy Hodgson, three points would climb them completely out of the drop.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how Hodgson balances a desperate need to collect points with discipline of his struggling striker Christian Benteke, who remains goalless on the year after missing a critical penalty he wasn’t supposed to take in the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth over the weekend.

Watford, meanwhile, is without a win in its last three and desperately needs a result. The Hornets sit ninth in the Premier League table but could see their advantage over the bottom half evaporate with another loss.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace – Mamadou Sakho (calf), Joel Ward, Damien Delaney, Connor Wickham (knee) | Watford – Will Hughes (hamstring), Isaac Success (knee), Nathan Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (hamstring), Craig Cathcart (knee)

Report: FA to open inquiry on Man United-Man City tunnel incident

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The FA is looking into what exactly happened in the minutes after the final whistle at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.

According to multiple reports in England, an altercation took place in the area outside the dressing rooms as Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was not particularly happy with the way Manchester City players were celebrating their 2-1 victory. According to the Telegraph, Mourinho went to the visitors dressing room and asked the players to show more respect to the hosts.

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Mourinho then reportedly ended up with a milk carton and water thrown at him while Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta suffered a cut to his head.

Now the FA is looking into the situation and has reportedly asked Man United and Man City to submit their version of the events, as the altercation did not make it into referee Michael Oliver’s post-match report.