UEFA Champions League

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

Leave a comment

Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Guardiola plays down squad turnover, makes odd UCL excuse

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola says he’s happy with his Manchester City squad, despite tabloid reports that up to 13 players will be sold this summer.

And he’s playing off Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League dismissal at the hands of Monaco.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

City led 5-3 after one leg but fell 3-1 at Monaco to go out on away goals, and one line of reasoning from Guardiola is particularly odd.

From the BBC:

“Lessons can be learned, that’s pretty sure. For a lot of my players it’s the first time they’ve played in this competition.

“Most of the goals we conceded were our mistake, it’s happened many time this season and hopefully it will happen less next season.”

Guardiola isn’t a manager who usually gives a lot of garbage answers, but that experience excuse makes eyes roll 720 degrees or more.

Aside from John Stones and Leroy Sane, his Wednesday 18 was nearly identical to the one he trotted out against Real Madrid in last season’s semifinal.

Wily Caballero, Aleksandar Kolarov, and Raheem Sterling went from the bench last year to this season’s XI, with Jesus Navas and Nicolas Otamendi heading the other direction, but this wasn’t about experience.

Most of his new faces who weren’t in the squad know a bit about the UCL, too: Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo, Nolito.

A bit lazy with that excuse, Pep.

Way early UEFA Champions League predictions

Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Now that the UEFA Champions League has drawn its ties for the 2016-17 quarterfinal, who has the edge in each match-up.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 29 ]

Barcelona vs. Juventus

Juventus has allowed just two goals in eight UCL matches this year, an even better mark than its sparkling 19 goals conceded in 28 Serie A matches.

Barcelona is surely going to test that number, likely to find a way to at least double Juve’s European concession.

Yet the Old Lady will have a chance to flex its offensive prowess through Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, and Miralem Pjanic. With Sami Khedira posted atop a sterling back line, Juve has the recipe to hold off Barca.

The Blaugranas, however, have Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar and an incisive pair of midfield metronomes in Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic.

Prediction: Barca, 3-2.

Monaco vs. Borussia Dortmund

What’s the over/under for goals on this one? 8? 10? More?

Monaco brings its high-flying attack and BVB replies with… its high-flying attack. For every argument one side would like to make, there’s an answer on the other side.

The prowess of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one of the top strikers in the world? Meet a trio of very different attackers in resurgent Radamel Falcao, young Kylian Mbappe, and under-the-radar vice captain Valere Germain.

The difference as we see it will be how Monaco’s marauding wing backs/fullbacks Benjamin Mendy and Djibil Sidibe operate given the threats provided to their defensive positions by Christian Pulisic, Ousmane Dembele, and Marco Reus.

Prediction: Monaco, 7-5.

Leicester City vs. Atletico Madrid

Pontus Kaamark of Leicester City (lef) takes on Juninho of Atletico Madrid during the 1997 UEFA Cup (Graham Chadwick /Allsport).

Both sides probably fit quite neatly into their respective leagues’ “Never rule out” category, for different reasons.

With Leicester, it’s a club which has achieved the unthinkable: Defeating all comers in what was probably the most surprising championship of all-time.

In terms of Atletico, there’s a defensive wizard in Diego Simeone who has twice been to the precipice of Champions League glory despite finishing better than third in La Liga exactly once this century.

We imagine Leicester will find a way through the Atleti back line at least once, but Antoine Griezmann and company represent a step up in class from Sevilla (Yes we realize Sevilla has a five-point table edge on Atleti).

Prediction: Atletico, 4-1.

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich

Carlo Ancelotti has Bayern Munich on the verge of its fourth-straight semifinal, with a club that controversially dismissed him standing in the way.

That club also is the most successful side in European Cup history, even if the first six of their 11 titles came when the tournament was limited to one club per league.

Tactically, it’s very difficult to imagine where the advantage lies for these super powers. There are even unique emotional “advantages” on both sides, with Real’s Gareth Bale aiming to play a final in his home country of Wales and Bayern looking to buoy both Ancelotti and the final season for hero Philipp Lahm.

Your guess is as good as ours, but we’re going with Ancelotti’s bunch… on a hunch.

Prediction: Bayern, 4-2.

Bonus: Onwards

Semifinals
Bayern Munich defeats Atletico Madrid
Barcelona tops Monaco

Final
Bayern Munich outlasts Barcelona

UCL draw: Leicester meets Atleti; Spanish sides separated

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leicester City’s route to the UEFA Champions League semifinal goes through the Vicente Calderon.

Craig Shakespeare’s bunch will meet stingy Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals, a tie drawn Friday in Nyon.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 29 ]

The first legs are April 11-12, with the second legs one week later, and there’s still a chance for a 75 percent La Liga semifinal.

Elsewhere, Carlo Ancelotti has been handed a big chance for revenge, as he’ll lead Bayern Munich against Real Madrid.

Entertainment could be at a maximum when high-flying Monaco mixes it up with its German stylistic twin, Borussia Dortmund.

Last but not least, a tie with 16 UCL Final appearances: Juventus vs. Barcelona.

Nasri blasts Vardy: “I thought English players were tougher”

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
3 Comments

Samir Nasri‘s sending off was silly and may have cost Sevilla its comeback bid against Leicester City, but was Jamie Vardy a villain in the incident?

Nasri leaned into Vardy as the pair clashed heads following the Leicester man’s reaction to a foul in the UEFA Champions League’s second leg.

[ MORE: Boro, Karanka part ways ]

And while Nasri certainly deserved a second yellow for the altercation, Vardy helped make sure it came true by wildly reacting to the contact. The Englishman also seemed to move his head toward contact.

Nasri does not like Vardy much right now. From the BBC:

“He played it well. I thought the English players were tougher than that. He is the one who came to my face.”

“If I tell the truth I don’t think you will be able to write it. I would love to speak to him – there are too many cameras and security and I have to think about next year and not getting a big suspension.”

Expect these quotes not to be lent much credence despite some truth due to Nasri’s status as a bit of a baby. The former Man City man quit the France national team after being dropped once by Didier Deschamps, and has been investigated for IV doping amongst other negative headlines.

But Vardy played his part to the extreme, a bit of gamesmanship which helped Leicester move onto the quarters. Should he be faulted for that? Both chatted “stuff”, Vardy got banged.