Yes, BATE Borisov leads this group – UEFA Champions League Group F preview

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It’s been three weeks, and the result is still unbelievable. Bayern Munich did lose in Minsk last round. The same team that’s tearing through the Bundesliga lost to BATE Borisov, one of the bigger upsets in Champions League history.

The result keeps the group a three-team race, even after Lille’s early fade. It also means the day’s most important match isn’t Bayern’s visit to LOSC’s new Grand Stade. It’s the one in Belarus.

BATE Borisov (Belarus) vs. Valencia (Spain)

Dinamo Stadium, Minsk, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

After wins at Lille and versus Bayern, Belarusian champions top the group with six points. While their results have been upsets, they haven’t been squeaked out, smash-and-grab jobs. Far from it. BATE have a +4 goal difference, have scored three of their six goals in their matches’ first 23 minutes, and have yet to concede before the hour mark. They haven’t trailed in the tournament, only spending 29 minutes on even footing with their opponents.

So BATE’s likely to be around longer than we expected. It’s only right that we take some time to better know some of their key contributors:

  • 28-year-old striker Vitali Rodionov will lead the attack. Over the course of his career with BATE, he’s been good for one goal every two league games. In this year’s tournament, he’s scored in each game.
  • Alyaksandr Volodko’s Champions League success earned the defensive midfielder a callup for to the Belarus national team, for whom he debuted last week. The 26-year-old has a goal and two assists while playing on the left of a three-man unit in front of the defense.
  • Edhar Alyakhnovich has a goal and an assist playing on the right in BATE’s midfield. Like Volodko, Alyakhnovish started his career at Dinamo Brest before moving to Borisov (he moved in 2010, Volodko’s been with BATE since 2008). Against Lille, Alyakhnovich completed 52 passes (second on the team) at an 87 percent clip.
  • As with most upsets, the goalkeeping has been huge. Andrey Harbunow, in his first season with BATE, has had to make 12 saves during over the first two games, during which time the Belarusians were outshot 46-18.

In previous matches, BATE was aided by the element of surprise. They came into the competition as minnows. When they beat Lille, they opened eyes, but it wasn’t until their upset of Bayern that people really started to take note. Now, they’re this year’s APOEL Nicosia – the Cypriot club that made a Cinderella run to last year’s knockout round.

Valencia is unlikely to become the third team to overlook FC BATE. Coming off a convincing victory over Lille, Los Che can go top with a win in Minsk. It’s an opportunity few thought they’d have when the tournament started, but with back-to-back games against BATE, Mauricio Pellegrino’s team have a chance to take control of the group.

Coming off a dramatic league victory over Athletic Bilbao, Valencia can use this match to regain some of the swagger the showed during strong performances at the Santiago Bernabeu (1-1), Nou Camp (0-1), and Allianz Arena (1-2).

From BATE head coach Viktor Goncharenko:

” It is hard to say if we would be happy with a draw. We could definitely say so afterwards, though it depends if we were ahead or conceded first.”

From Valencia head coach Mauricio Pellegrino:

“[O]ur defence has to be more reliable. We cannot afford too many defensive mistakes against BATE, and I think it is time to win away at last.”

UEFA preview

More previews: Group E Group F Group G Group H

Lille (France) vs. Bayern Munich (Germany)

Grand Stade, Lille, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Rebuild versus reload. It’s a dichotomy that has cliché when talking about U.S. college sports. Some programs are so good at getting new talent, they don’t rebuild after their best players graduate (read: forgo their last three seasons of eligibility). Those programs just reload – bringing in a new class of top-flight talent, never missing a beat.

The explosion in sports media that’s occurred over the last 20 years has pushed that cliché beyond college sports. Rebuild versus reload is asked whenever a team starts descending in their success cycle. When old cornerstones are phased out for new figureheads, is a team reloading? Or completely rebuilding?

Lille and Bayern are perfect illustrations of this dichotomy – examples of why some clubs’ successes go in phases while others are perpetual powers.

Bayern’s European royalty. Even attempts to spend the club into insignificance (in the 1980s) couldn’t knock FCB off their pedestal in Germany. Thanks to wealth and reputation that give Bayern the pick of Bundesliga talent, Bayern doesn’t rebuild. They reload. Currently two years without a title, FCB has raced out to a perfect 8-0-0 start in Germany.

Lille, on the other hand, has been forced into a rebuild. Two years ago, LOSC claimed their first league title in 47 years with the help of players like Eden Hazard, Gervinho, Moussa Sow, Yoann Cabaye and Adil Rami. With all of those stars gone, Rudi Garcia’s squad’s been forced to rebuild, seemingly unable to hold on near the top of their league while their new stadium’s virtues to take hold.

It’s not too late, though. Lille currently sit 11th in France, but the season’s still young. Although they’ve won only two of their nine league matches, they’ve also only lost two games, one of which was to Paris Saint-Germain. If Garcia can get more production out of Nolan Roux, Salomon Kalou, Ryan Mendes and (or) Tulio de Melo (a quartet that’s combined for four goals this season), Lille can convert draws into victories.

While it would be nice if that process started on Tuesday, Lille’s problem is the bigger picture. Bottom of their group with no points through two matches, LOSC may have too much ground to make up in Champions Legaue. Against a Bayern team smarting from a shock loss in Belarus, progress will be as important as points.

From Lille head coach Rudi Garcia:

” We are playing one of the biggest sides in Europe so we will have to give it 120% and Bayern will have to have an off day if we want to get a positive result. It is David against Goliath. “

From Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes:

” LOSC are one of the best teams in France, regardless of the league table. They are well organised and have a good structure.”

UEFA Preview

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Premier League social media wrap: Brighton, teqball, remembering Tiote

Premier League social media
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Premier League sides are fully back in the flow of training with scheduled matches coming within a fortnight.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

So it’s no surprise that banter’s back, too.

That’s where we’ll start Friday, with Irish center back Shane Duffy making sure he’s keeping things light as Brighton and Hove Albion prepares to defend its Premier League place.

Duffy turned a sprinkler on his teammates at training, showing that, yes, your high school career has some things in common with Premier League footballers.

How about some skills as Manchester United gets ready for its return to the PL pitch?

Bruno Fernandes and Andreas Pereira tangled with Fred and Diogo Dalot in a match of Teqball.

You’ll have to watch to see who won.

There’s also a sad anniversary on this day.

It’s been three years since former Newcastle United wrecking ball Cheick Tiote passed away at age 30 after collapsing during a training session with Chinese side Beijing Enterprises, causing shock and grief around the Premier League.

His former teammates were remembering him on Friday, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner was definitely beloved and will always be remembered for his incredible goal to cap off Newcastle’s 4-4 comeback draw with Arsenal.

We’ll start with Norwich City backstop Tim Krul, who spent time with Tiote at Newcastle.

Former Magpies wizard Yohan Cabaye pinned an old memorial to his Twitter wall.


Preview: Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha preview, how to watch
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Four Bundesliga teams are unbeaten in their last five matches and Hertha Berlin is the unlikeliest of the bunch.

They’ll tangle with Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday in the latest challenge of the Bruno Labaddia era in Berlin.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Labbadia is Hertha’s third manager of the season and Hertha has played a scrappy brand of football that has punched and counter-punched under his tutelage. That doesn’t mean they’ve failed to find finish, as Liverpool loanee Marko Grujic and Brazilian youngster Matheus Cunha have been potent.

Borussia Dortmund is a bigger ask, though Hertha made RB Leipzig make mistakes in a 2-2 tie.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Will it be able to get a result at the Westfalenstadion? Perhaps this is a bridge too far, because Dortmund’s shown an explosive offense and its defense has been strong far more often than not this season.

That said, Erling Haaland is just returning to fitness and has just one goal since the league’s restart from the coronavirus pause. Mats Hummels will miss with a yellow card suspension and Marco Reus still isn’t back.

Maybe American teen Giovanni Reyna will get prolonged run along with Jadon Sancho. We’ll see!

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin, how to watch

  • TV Channels: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • Americans Abroad: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund)
  • When: Saturday, June 6 – 12:30 p.m. ET: Dortmund v. Hertha

Sheffield United season restart preview

Sheffield United season restart preview
Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Sheffield United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Blades when it comes to the season restart.

Outlook: Sheffield United has welcomed itself to the Premier League and put its feet up on the big boys’ tables while asking what’s for dinner. Blades sit seventh and will hope to continue a fairytale which has them on the precipice of the Europa League. Their fixture list in monstrous, especially at Bramall Lane, but Wilder’s proven capable of outwitting even the smartest of bosses for long periods of time. A name to remember is Simon Moore. The backup keeper and starter from Blades’ League One days could become vital should Manchester United defy expectation and pull Dean Henderson home from his loan upon its June 30 expiry.

[ MORE: Ranking every Southampton player in 2019-20 ]

Tactical analysis: Chris Wilder has flummoxed many a Premier League manager with his creative use of defenders in attack. United typically uses Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham as a back-3 with Enda Stevens and George Baldock as the two wingbacks. Those players have accounted for six of United’s 18 PL assists this season. For more on the tactics, Wilder laid things out in entertaining fashion for Arlo White late last month.

Possible XI (3-5-2) 

—– Henderson* —–

— Basham — O’Connell — Egan —

— Baldock — Fleck —  Berge —– Norwood — Stevens—

—– McBurnie —– Mousset —–

The challenge here is fitting January signing Berge into the mix, as fellow central midfielders John Fleck, Oliver Norwood, and John Lundstram have been instrumental in this amazing season. Lundstram seems the most likely to cede his spot if someone will, which really says something about Berge’s immense talent. David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp have provided a lot up top, so McBurnie and Mousset will see plenty of time on the bench. And the biggest question of all is Henderson, who’s on loan from top seven rival Manchester United.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Sheffield United’s chances ]

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Spurs, Wolves, Chelsea, Everton
Away: Newcastle, Manchester United, Burnley, Leicester City, Southampton

Predicted finish: The Blades will get the chance to defend their home turf from not one, not two, not three, but four would-be European rivals (It’s a little generous to include Everton, but the talent is there). Throw in Leicester and Manchesteer United away, and there is a huge bridge to cross for Wilder’s men to keep their incredible season on the path toward unprecedented heights. It’s not just about keeping Spurs and Arsenal in the rear view mirror, as Blades meet the next four teams above their seventh-place footing.

Petersen’s header leads Freiburg past 10-man Gladbach

Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach recap
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Nils Petersen’s second half goal led Freiburg to a huge 1-0 win over 10-man Borussia Monchengladbach at the Schwarzwald-Stadion on Friday.

Freiburg keeps its Europa League hopes alive by moving onto 41 points, one behind sixth and seventh.

Gladbach fails in a bid to go third and remains fourth with 56 points, ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on goal differential.

A second yellow card to Plea was a double curse to Gladbach, who went down a man and now will miss a star forward against Bayern Munich.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Bayer’s Ramy Bensebaini utilized a slick backheel turn to nutmeg an opponent and send in a cross that was put out for a corner kick.

Freiburg keeper Alexander Schwolow made a tight-angle save on Alassane Plea just after the quarter-hour mark.

Gladbach saw a chance chalked off after two dangerous bids resulted in an offside deflection into the goal.

Florian Neuhaus came close to scoring again when Lars Stindl headed the penultimate move of a fine team play into the six, but he popped it over the frame.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Gladbach’s second half again settled into the Freiburg final third, but it was a home sub that paid dividends at the other end.

Petersen improved his club record for goals when he nodded Vincenzo Grifo’s free kick home in the 59th.

Stindl wasn’t too far from equalizing with a 17-yard shot at the hour mark, but Plea’s second yellow card damaged Gladbach’s hopes of a comeback.