If Bayern triumph in Champions League, could we have a dynasty on our hands?

3 Comments

Bayern Munich are set for their third Champions League final in four years, and while they haven’t won it since 2001, victory Saturday would firmly cement them as the team to beat for a year.

But many will ask the question, if victory finds its way to the Bavarians – will they be the team to beat for a long time?

Barcelona have been that club for a number of years, thanks to the consistent winning attitude Pep Guardiola brought to the Camp Nou 2008.  Barca have always been a force, but since Guardiola’s taking charge and Lionel Messi’s emergence as the consensus best player in the world, it’s been a “Barcelona or the field” mentality.

So what did Bayern do to the Catalan giants with Pep gone and Messi hurt? Just beat them 7-0 on aggregate.  While Messi is obviously going to be around for a while longer, the question “are Barcelona still the team to beat” is now more valid than ever.

Sure, this is all contingent on Bayern winning this weekend.  If they don’t, no matter what they do in the next calendar year, the past will dominate the conversation about the club, not the future.

If they can lift the trophy this season, after winning the Bundesliga by a staggering 25 points and shattering the league’s points record with 91, it could be nowhere but up for Bayern.

The league has been no match for Munich this season. Dortmund have been the only squad to give the Bavarians any trouble whatsoever this season, and they still haven’t been able to beat Bayern, drawing two league ties and losing two cup finals.

Their league success this season: 29 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss. Two of the four draws, like I mentioned, were to fellow Champions League finalists.  The loss came wayyyy back in October to Bayer Leverkusen who finished in third, a measly point behind Dortmund.  And they haven’t lost in the league cup, beating Dortmund in the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal and scheduled for the finals against Stuttgart on June 1.

Their Champions League success this season: they blasted through the group stage of the Champions League, scoring 15 goals and conceding 7 (3 of those in a silly loss at BATE Borisov with the club’s best-ever start to a season on the line).  Their one slip up in the knockout round came in a 2-0 loss to Arsenal in the second leg at the Emirates, but still advanced on away goals. They torched Juventus 4-0 on aggregate – the same Juventus that ran through Serie A this season relatively uncontested. Then came Barcelona – and there went Barcelona, 7-0.

Following hypothetical victory this weekend, they’ll inject even more talent and knowledge into the club.  That man Pep who brought Barcelona to heights previously unknown is set to take charge next season, Mario Gotze has already completed his defection from Borussia Dortmund, and Robert Lewandowski is rumored to be following suit.

Could anyone beat them? Take a club that’s achieved what they have this year – possibly a treble and a ridiculous league points total – and add the best managerial mind in the game, a 20-year-old German sensation, and one of the deadliest strikers in the game.

Is that even fair? Other top clubs may very well find out in the years to come that it’s not.

Arteta praises Saka, Willock, speaks on transfers, Mustafi injury

Mikel Arteta
Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal’s day got a little dicey in stoppage time of a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in the FA Cup’s fourth round, but it was mostly very comfortable at the Vitality Stadium.

A lot of that comes down to Bukayo Saka‘s exceptional day on the left flank. The 18-year-old had a goal and an assist, and is proving a big part of Mikel Arteta‘s plans to return Arsenal to glory.

“Mikel is trying to bring back the philosophy of the Arsenal way,” Saka said after the win, via the BBC. “We did that well in the first half, not so much in the second half.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Saka took a lay-off from fellow teen Gabriel Martinelli to make it 1-0 in the fifth minute, then crossed for Eddie Nketiah‘s 26th-minute insurance goal.

A Sam Surridge stoppage-time marker for Bournemouth made an otherwise easy day feel a bit tricky at the end.

Arteta had praise for his youngsters, especially Saka and midfielder Joe Willock.

“They were terrific,” he said, via Football.London. “Their courage to play and make big decisions. I think Joe can be an outstanding player in that position.”

Saka came through the system as a left winger, but Arteta has asked him to help fill in at left back.

“What I like is that he put his head down and he is very willing to learn the defensive principles.”

Arteta also admitted that a Cup run would be great for the team, adding that Shkrodan Mustafi’s injury is a big cause for concern. He said the club has a clear plan for the rest of the transfer window, and that he wants Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay in London.

“We will have to assess him but normally it is not good,” he said of Mustafi. “We had a clear intention of what we want to do in the market and if we can do it, fine.”

Arsenal moves past Bournemouth to reach FA Cup fifth round

Arsenal
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bukayo Saka had a goal and an assist as Arsenal beat Bournemouth 2-1 in FA Cup fourth round action on Monday.

The result seals another trip to the South Coast, as the Gunners will visit Portsmouth in the fifth round.

Saka and Eddie Nketiah were the goal scorers as Arsenal did the job without Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and David Luiz in the Starting XI.

Sam Surrridge scored for Bournemouth in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time. That gave a tension to the other four minutes of stoppage which did not exist in the rest of the match.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Saka drifted into the 18 to wallop a Gabriel Martinelli layoff into the upper reaches of the goal, the ball zipping from post-to-post with fury.

The 18-year-old Saka picked up an assist on Arsenal’s second goal, his cross seeing its way to Nketiah for a straight-forward finish in the heart of the 18.

Saka now has three goals and six assists in 23 appearances for Arsenal this season.

It wasn’t strictly positives for the Gunners, as Shkrodan Mustafi was stretchered off with an injury in the 62nd minute.

Bournemouth got one back when Simon Francis‘ cross was dummied by Dan Gosling, Surridge using a clever touch to set up his shot past Emiliano Martinez.

It’s Surridge’s first senior goal for Bournemouth, though the 21-year-old has managed 29 goals between Yeovil Town, Swansea City, and Oldham Athletic.

Ten possible transfers to monitor this week

Transfer rumors
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been an active-enough transfer window from a wide perspective. Manchester United, Chelsea, and fans of other contenders may still be waiting for their breakthrough, but there’s been a lot to see world wide.

[ MORE: Deadline Day needs ]

Erling Haaland has a new home, and his housewarming party has been spectacular. Javier Hernandez headed from Sevilla to Major League Soccer.

Takumi Minamino joined Liverpool from Salzburg, and Gedson Fernandes found a home at Tottenham.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

So what’s still (possibly) to come before the transfer window slams shut at 6 p.m. ET Friday?

Aaron Long from New York Red Bulls to West HamA loan-to-buy bid’s been rejected, but could David Moyes skip the trial period. USMNT center back Long wants to go the Premier League, and RBNY are not in the CONCACAF Champions League so there’s time to replace him.

Antonee Robinson from Wigan Athletic to AC Milan — Speaking of USMNT-related transfers, could-be left back of the future has become a fixture at the DW Stadium but reports of his replacing Ricardo Rodriguez at Milan are many.

Paco Alcacer from Borussia Dortmund to Newcastle — The Magpies need another striker with Joelinton struggling to find form, and the BVB man is open to leaving on account of Haaland’s arrival.

Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United — A difference of $12 million seems likely to be made up by Friday.

Moussa Dembele from Lyon to Chelsea — He’s thrived at Fulham in the Championship, Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, and Lyon in Ligue 1, so the Premier League may finally get to see a mature Dembele. He made two appearances for Fulham in 2013/14.

Mykola Matviyenko from Shakhtar Donetsk to Arsenal — Twenty-two years old with 26 caps for Ukraine, reports of a try-it-before-you-buy-it with the Gunners seem very friendly to Arsenal.

Boubakary Soumare from Lille to Chelsea or Manchester United — Sixty-six senior appearances for a Ligue 1 side at age 20 is an eye-popper, and Soumare’s ceiling as a defensive midfielder is high.

Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Gerrmain to Atletico Madrid or Chelsea — The reports have all said Atleti is the front-runner, but the longer is takes the more you wonder…

Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli to Manchester United — Not in January with Napoli a month away from Barcelona in the UCL, right? Right?

Gareth Bale,  Krzysztof Piatek, Willian Jose, Mario Gotze, Steven Bergwijn, Alcacer, pretty much forward to Spurs — Self-explanatory. Spurs are transfer rumor bait as much as anyone not called Manchester United thanks to the injury to Harry Kane and the clear need for refreshment.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

FA Cup fifth round draw

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The draw for the FA Cup fifth round has been made and a potential clash between Chelsea and Liverpool has been set up.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

If Liverpool’s youngsters (sans Jurgen Klopp and their first team) get past third-tier Shrewsbury Town in their fourth round replay they will travel to Chelsea, while holders Man City will travel to second tier Sheffield Wednesday.

Man United will travel to either Northampton Town or Derby County as they could face former United legend Wayne Rooney, while Portsmouth (the lowest ranked team left in the competition) will host either Bournemouth or Arsenal.

Southampton or Tottenham will host Norwich City in the only guaranteed all-Premier League last 16 clash.

To help ease fixture congestion for Premier League clubs and due to their week off for a mid-season player break (even if if didn’t work out like that for Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton and Newcastle United due to fourth round replays) the fifth round will be played across three midweek evenings on Mar. 3-5.

There will also be no replays from the fifth round onwards in the FA Cup, as the games will go to extra time and penalty kicks, if needed, if the scores are level.

Below is the draw in full for the fifth round.


Sheffield Wednesday v. Manchester City
Reading or Cardiff City v. Sheffield United
Chelsea v. Shrewsbury Town or Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion v. Newcastle United or Oxford United
Leicester City v. Coventry City or Birmingham City
Northampton Town or Derby County v. Manchester United
Southampton or Tottenham Hotspur v. Norwich City
Portsmouth v. Bournemouth or Arsenal