AP Photo/Francisco Seco

Ronaldo scores late to lead Real Madrid draw (video)

Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo’s done it again, because of course he did.

The Real Madrid megastar, 33, redirected a Luka Modric shot in the 87th minute to help Real to a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu on Wednesday in the club’s last match before the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Bayern Munich.

[ MORE: Man Utd makes historic hire ]

Real is three points behind Atletico Madrid, which visits Real Sociedad on Thursday, and 15 points behind still unbeaten Barcelona. The final Clasico of the season is May 6 at the Camp Nou.

Ronaldo continued his bounce back from a slow start to the La Liga season. After scoring only four times in his first 14 matches, CR7 has netted in eight-straight league matches and has 24 goals in total (Add in other competitions, and Ronaldo’s bagged 41 goals in 39 matches).

Everything is coming up Liverpool

Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP
1 Comment

Is a Liverpool victory in the UEFA Champions League written in the stars?

While defeating AS Roma is no easy task, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds avoided Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in Friday’s semifinal draw.

[ MORE: UCL draw | Europa draw ]

A potential 90-minute battle with Real Madrid or Bayern Munich for a sixth UCL title is drastically better than two legs, and don’t sleep on the idea that a final would occur after Liverpool has decided its Premier League standing.

Roma is no pushover, knocking out Barcelona after winning a group with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but it’s working way too hard to claim this draw was anything but the best case scenario for the Reds.

Liverpool’s last round defeat of Manchester City was by far the toughest ask of a relatively straight-forward path to the semis, though it started with admittedly the toughest route out of the playoff round with Bundesliga side Hoffenehim.

The Reds drew Porto in the Round of 16, waltzing to a 5-0 aggregate win after facing one of, if not the easiest draws in the group stage (Sevilla, Spartak Moscow, Maribor).

To boot: While Roma was very good over two legs and unlucky in the first, surely Liverpool wasn’t counting on Barcelona blowing a 4-1 first leg advantage to i Lupi.

Even the league fixtures benefit Liverpool’s odds against Roma, with the Reds traveling to West Brom before the first leg and hosting Stoke City before the second.

While Roma’s fixture list isn’t especially tough, it features a pile up. I Lupi have a three-match week ending with a visit to SPAL before the first leg, and hosts Chievo Verona before Liverpool hits Rome for the second leg.

No team in the semifinal has gotten there by luck, and Liverpool may just be taking strong steps toward reclaiming its status as a world power.

There’s no question the Reds’ attack, paced by the incredible Mohamed Salah, is as exciting as any in the world. Virgil Van Dijk has helped improve the defense, but the Reds are doing it with a midfield missing a key box-to-box piece (That void will be filled by Naby Keita next season).

Klopp deserves plenty of credit for doing this without a real disruptor in the center of the park, although Emre Can may be the most under-appreciated piece of his set-up. And he’s been regularly untested full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson in what’s turned out to be a masterstroke.

In other words, Klopp’s project probably didn’t expect to be challenging for a Champions League win at this stage of his Anfield revolution. And it’s fair to say they should be playing relatively carefree with the house’s money as the final month of the season approaches Merseyside.

Que SeraSera, indeed.

Liverpool, Roma in UEFA Champions League semis

Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images
3 Comments

Liverpool will open at Anfield as the Premier League giants avoid Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

[ MORE: Arsenal vs. Atleti in UEL ]

Roma is the opponent for Jurgen Klopp‘s men, handed their best chance to advance to the final in Ukraine.

The Reds defeated Roma in the 1984 UCL Final.

Bayern Munich is at home to Real Madrid in the first leg of the other semifinal.

Madrid have beaten Bayern the last six times they’ve met in the UCL.

Ranking the potential Champions League finals

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League will have its semifinal ties drawn early Friday, and as usual there are some juicy potential subplots to go with the main story line: Getting to a UCL Final.

[ MORE: Buffon rips referee Oliver ]

There are varying degrees of experience in finals for these four historic clubs.

— Real Madrid is vying to increase its all-time high of titles to 13, and become the first club to win three-straight finals since Bayern Munich from 1973-76 (which came after Ajax won three in-a-row).

— Bayern Munich is 5-5 all-time in finals, last winning in 2013’s Der Klassiker final.

— Liverpool has played in seven European Cup finals, winning five, but last earned a finalist’s spot in a 2007 loss to AC Milan.

— Roma hasn’t played for a European Cup final since a 1984 home loss to Liverpool, its lone appearance in the final.

There are six final pairings possible amongst the semifinalists, and we’re power rankings the least to most appealing in this post.

6. Bayern Munich vs. Roma — If only because this is one of two matches, statistically speaking, that would give the highest probability of a blowout.

5. Real Madrid vs. Roma — Same as above but with Cristiano Ronaldo and Real angling for a third-straight title.

4. Real Madrid vs. Liverpool — Two teams whose defending can be suspect and attacks are often lightning in respective bottles.

3. Liverpool vs. Roma — Would be an all-underdog tie with a guaranteed first winner in more than a decade (or ever in the case of i Lupi). Plus, the idea of Mohamed Salah going up against his old mates is pretty juicy. American-owned clubs, to boot.

2. Bayern Munich vs. Liverpool — Jurgen Klopp gets a chance at UCL final revenge from the 2013 loss at Wembley.

  1. Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid —  James Rodriguez meets his parent club. Arjen Robben his former club, and Toni Kroos the same. There were questions of how Bayern would respond to the retirements of Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso.

Ronaldo reacts to controversial win, blown lead: “It helps us to learn”

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo saved the day for Real Madrid, even if all eyes are on referee Michael Oliver’s decision to give him that platform.

[ RECAP: Real 1-3 (4-3 agg.) Juve ]

The penalty has been labeled everything from “stone cold” to “scandalous” — we lean hard toward the former — as Mehdi Benatia knocked down Lucas Vasquez before the latter could head home a stoppage time winner.

Legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon didn’t get to face the penalty, as he was sent off for protesting the call to Oliver in what may have been the Italian’s UCL last match.

For Ronaldo, he doesn’t understand the protests.

“I don’t understand why they are protesting,” Ronaldo said. “Lucas was tackled from behind and if they don’t give him the penalty, it’s a goal.”

No surprise that Ronaldo scored, but he admits it wasn’t 100 percent cool, calm, and collected.

The match had been headed to stoppage time after Madrid tossed away a 3-0 first leg advantage.

From MARCA:

“We have suffered, but it helps us to learn,” he added. “In football, nothing is given away, you have to fight until the end. Madrid could’ve scored more goals, but Juve and Buffon were good.”

Real and Bayern Munich will be the favorites to win the UEFA Champions League, with Liverpool slightly behind, and Roma the clear underdogs.