Who’s in across Europe? Glancing at the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League

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We’re down to the Final Four (don’t sue) in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League, and by now we know plenty about Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich. So who will we see in next season’s edition?

Some slots are firm, while there’s plenty to be settled in the next few weeks in others. Let’s take a look at whose guaranteed to make the group stage:

Spain: Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Barcelona
England: Liverpool
Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund
Italy: Juventus, Roma
Portugal: Benfica, Sporting CP
France: Paris Saint-Germain
Greece: Olympiacos

As for the open spots in the group stage:

England (Second and third-place clubs still undecided): Right now, it’s Chelsea (75 points, 3 to play) and Manchester City (74 points, 4 to play) with a sizable advantage on fourth-place Arsenal (70 points, 3 to play) and fifth-place Everton (69 points, 3 to play). City’s pretty much a lock, and the Blues aren’t far behind despite recent injury troubles.

Germany (Third-place club still undecided): Schalke is in the driver’s seat, with 58 points and three matches left in the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen is four back of Schalke while Wolfsburg is five back.

France (Second-place club still undecided): Monaco will be in the Champions League, but it’s group stage fate is uncertain until Lille fades a bit further back. There are four matches to be played, but any points lost by Lille will all but clinch the group stage spot for Monaco.

Ukraine (First-place club still undecided): This one could go right down to the final match day on May 17. Shakhtar Donetsk is currently in first by three points, but have played one more match than Dnipro. Shakhtar has the better goal differential as well.

Russia: (First-place club still undecided): Zenit St. Petersburg has the pole position by a single-point, but their upcoming match with second-spot Lokomotiv Moskva means CSKA Moskva has a shot despite being four points back.

Netherlands: (First-place club still undecided): Ajax is in the Champions League and their group stage fate with a single point in their remaining two matches, both against lower clubs. Feyenoord waits six points back with only the weakest hopes.

Turkey: (First-place club still undecided): Fenerbache would be in the competition, holders of a healthy 12-point lead on second-place Besiktas, but sanctions have the club barred from Europe. So it’ll be either Besiktas or third-place Galatasaray, the latter being two points back of second place.

Belgium: (First-place club still undecided): Still five rounds of playoffs to go, meaning Standard Liege, Club Brugge, Zulte Waregem, Anderlecht, Lokeren and Genk are all options. The first round mentioned are within four points of each other and have the best chance to advance.

And while there are plenty of clubs alive for berths, why don’t we take the chance to congratulate some of the other auto-qualifiers, regardless of whether their missions begin in July or December:

Gibraltar: Lincoln Red Imps
Estonia: Levadia Tallinn
Northern Ireland: Cliftonville
Faroe Islands: Havnar Boltfelag

Wales: The New Saints
Portugal: Porto
Austria: Red Bull Salzburg
Scotland: Celtic

Latvia: Ventspils
Belarus: BATE Borisov
Croatia: Dinamo Zagreb
Kazakhstan: Aktobe

Finland: Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi
Sweden: Malmo
Iceland: Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur
Norway: Stromsgodset

Ireland: St. Patrick’s Athletic
Lithuania: Zalgiris Vilnius

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.

Bournemouth carried over the line by ‘fight and belief’

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It wasn’t pretty — at least not in the second half — but Bournemouth had enough “fight and belief” to get themselves over the line for a first-ever win away to Southampton on Friday.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Speaking after the game, Cherries manager Eddie Howe was obviously pleased by the victory in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry, but quickly turned his attention to a list of areas in which his team came up short and was perhaps fortunate to hold onto a 2-1 lead prior to Callum Wilson‘s gifted goal in the 95th minute — quotes from the BBC:

“It was a nice moment. We rarely get those moments in football where you get that pure emotion and joy for a few seconds. Then you start thinking about next week.

“You want the players brought down to earth because you want the focus on consistent success. In the first, half we were okay. We didn’t hit the heights we are capable of. We were scrappy and didn’t keep the ball as well as I wanted, but we had spirit and sometimes that’s the most important thing.

“In the second half, we were reactive and looked tired and that’s where we needed to show our heart to see the game out. There were some heroics from our goalkeeper too.”

As for defender Nathan Ake, scorer of Bournemouth’s first goal, it was all about digging deep for the desire and will to win. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the first names on Howe’s teamsheet every week at this point.

“It was a very tough game. The fans are buzzing. It was a great three points. The manager said to put the ball in the box.

“It was a great ball and it fell on my head. In the second half, we made it difficult for ourselves. We didn’t keep hold of the ball and had to defend more. The last result against Everton was great so it gives you confidence, but we had to fight and believe we could win.”

Had you offered anyone associated with Bournemouth 10 points from their first six games, they would have snatched your hand off to take them. A thoroughly solid start to the season. Up next is a visit from ninth-place West Ham United next Saturday.

Bournemouth picks up first-ever win away to Southampton

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Bournemouth picked up its first-ever victory (16 visits – all competitions) away to Southampton in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry, 3-1 at St. Mary’s Stadium on Friday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Nathan Ake and Harry Wilson got goals for Eddie Howe‘s side during a wonderfully dominant first-half performance before the roles were reversed in the second half. James Ward-Prowse pulled Southampton back to 2-1 not long after halftime and Saints pressed and pressed for an equalizer but ultimately came up empty. To make matters worse, Callum Wilson put the game away on a late Saints howler.


3 things we learned

  1. Slow starts for Saints — Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. For a team that’s built around the idea of defensive solidity and limiting chances, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side appears especially limited once forced to change its plan of attack and… well, attack. In the two games they didn’t concede first, two clean sheets and two wins.
  2. Halftime adjustments — Hasenhuttl certainly got his tactics wrong from the start, but whatever was said at halftime made a noticeable difference in the second half. Given loads more freedom to push forward in attack and to win back possession, Southampton made it a game from 45:01 onward.
  3. Making few chances count a lot — Bournemouth needed just six shots to get their two goals. On the other hand, they managed just six shots in 90 minutes. Highly efficient, or lacking in overall production? Both, perhaps?

Man of the Match: Oriol Romeu


Ake put the Cherries ahead in the 10th minute, rising high above the crowd to get his head to Diego Rico‘s corner kick. It was Bournemouth’s fifth goal (of nine scored) from a set piece this season.

It didn’t take long for Bournemouth to easily cut through Saints’ four-man backline — a tactical change from the three-man operation which secured a victory away to Sheffield United last weekend — and put the ball in the back of the net again. Joshua King finished a devastating counter-attack with a sublime finish, only to have the goal taken off the board for being narrowly offside, via video review.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Once again, Bournemouth met little resistance en route to doubling their lead, only this time the goal stood. Philip Billing got to the endline down the left side of Saints’ penalty area and cut the ball back to the penalty spot where Wilson was waiting to sweep it past a helpless Angus Gunn.

Saints were gifted their way back into the game in the 52nd minute, when Steve Cook went straight through Che Adams as Southampton broke down the left side of the box. Ward-Prowse stepped up to the spot and hammered the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to cut the deficit in half.

Saints’ best chance at drawing level came in the 82nd minute, but Ward-Prowse was denied Ramsdale from close range, and though he spilled the rebound in front of goal, Bournemouth were able to clear the ball away in just the nick of time.

Gunn and center back Jannik Vestergaard ran into one another outside the Saints penalty area in the 95th minute, allowing Wilson to pick the ball up and walk it over the end line for the late exclamation point on Bournemouth’s historic night.

Bournemouth’s defensive desperation was such that they attempted just the six shots in the game, including zero between the 38th and 85th minutes. Alas, Saints couldn’t find the equalizer and Bournemouth catapulted all the way up to third in the PL, for the time being.

Watch Live: Southampton v. Bournemouth

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Southampton takes on Bournemouth in a battle of south-coast clubs at the St. Mary’s Stadium (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Both teams enter the match with seven points, and a win can, for the time being, vault either side into the top four until the rest of the weekend’s games take place.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Interestingly, Southampton have ruled the roost when it comes to matchups against Bournemouth. Southampton has won three, drawn four and lost just once in Premier League matches against Bournemouth, but perhaps this time it could be different.

Both teams are coming off wins, though Bournemouth’s 3-1 shock of Everton could be seen as more impressive than Southampton’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield United.

Watch the game with us at the link above, and stay on PST for analysis and reaction at halftime and following the final whistle.


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