The Champions League draw was today for the remaining 16 teams that qualified in the group stages. Five of those being English teams left us a slim possibility for matchups but there were still some very good draws. Let’s take a look at the draw:
Some big-time match-ups no doubt. We’re going to highlight the top 3 games to watch.
Juventus vs Tottenham
What an awful draw for group winners Tottenham. Tottenham topped their group, which contained defending champions Real Madrid and a strong Dortmund side. The Spurs have looked excellent in their Champions League campaign despite being dreadful in their domestic league. I like Juventus to win here but it’ll no doubt be a close tie. I think Tottenham is stronger than most of the teams in the draw but I like Juventus to outclass them here as they have a bit more experience in the knockout stages. The Spurs clock in at an average age of 25.7 while Juventus is at 28.8. Fun fact of this draw? Juventus has been eliminated in the last FIVE times they’ve matched up with an English team.
Real Madrid vs PSG
Congrats to PSG for topping their group in record-scoring fashion! Bayern Munich was surely a tough opponent and they completely outclassed them. Munich gets Besiktas in the next round. PSG’s reward you ask? The reigning player of the year and the reigning champions of the year, Real Madrid. Madrid has not looked to be the “Galaticos” of the past but it is hard to count them out at any given moment — especially on the big stage. PSG has been coasting through their league with their new addition — just a guy called Neymar. This is a great measuring tool for PSG to definitively put them in the contenders category. I think PSG is a great squad but I can’t see Ronaldo and Real Madrid being knocked out in the first round of the knockout stages. Give me Real Madrid in a tough one win aggregate series.
Chelsea vs Barcelona
Oh how we’ve missed this tie. Chelsea and Barcelona have met 6 times in the Champions League, second only to Madrid-Munich. Chelsea haven’t been as sharp as their league winning campaign last year, and Barcelona has been extremely impressive this year even after the loss of Neymar. Lionel Messi, however, has historically struggled against Chelsea logging 29 shots in 8 games against the club without a single goal. The last time these two teams met, Chelsea drew 2-2 at Camp Nou to send them into the finals (which ultimately they won). It’s going to take a lot of grit but give me Chelsea in a first round upset special. Look for them to be physical with Barcelona and grind out a low-scoring tie.
Another year, another Ballon d’Or for the best player in soccer (yes — he plays for Madrid NOT Barcelona). This is his fifth time winning the award gifted to the best player in the world, tying him with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (who blew a 4-1 lead in trophies, no big deal). The lifelong debate of who is better is always fun and there is no clear cut evidence but the dominance by the two of these players is unheralded. Take a look at the last 10 winners of the Ballon d’Or.
- 2008: 1st, Cristiano Ronaldo(Manchester United)
- 2009: 1st, Lionel Messi(Barcelona)
- 2010: 2nd, Lionel Messi(Barcelona)
- 2011: 3rd, Lionel Messi(Barcelona)
- 2012: 4th, Lionel Messi(Barcelona)
- 2013: 2nd, Cristiano Ronaldo(Real Madrid)
- 2014: 3rd, Cristiano Ronaldo(Real Madrid)
- 2015: 5th, Lionel Messi(Barcelona)
- 2016: 4th, Cristiano Ronaldo(Real Madrid)
- 2017: 5th, Cristiano Ronaldo(Real Madrid)
Absolutely insane — of course the younger generation (including Neymar) are finally starting to catch up skill wise, but enough can’t be said about these two players. 16% of the Ballon d’Or awards have gone to these two players. Incredible. Cristiano had a great season last year — leading Madrid to their first La Liga title in 5 years and a third Champions League trophy in four years. Ronaldo scored twice in the final against Juventus en route to a 4-1 victory.
Messi and Neymar rounded out the top 3.
The Spurs didn’t make it easy with such hefty odds at the ML but came through when it mattered with a 96-93 win to bring us to 5-0. The spread was -4.5 so the ML was the better call as the Pistons would have won otherwise. Today, we have a huge slate of Champions League games which brings me to the pick:
Celtic FC (-110) vs Anderlecht
Celtic took the first meeting in Brussels 3-0 and I don’t see this one going much different in Scotland. They return Dembele from injury, who is surely able to help out the offense in this one. Celtic is out after being fortunate enough to be in PSG & Bayern Munich’s group but will look to wrap up a Europa spot tonight. Take the boys in Green at home.
Today marked the drawing of the 2018 World Cup being held in Russia. Obviously some notable names left out of the draw — United States, Italy, Netherlands, Ghana, Chile — but this is still the biggest competition in the world and thus deserves the attention.
Looking quickly at the draw:
- Group A is a snoozer. Russia gets the opening World Cup game against…..Saudi Arabia. Horrendous. Uruguay & Russia to qualify.
- Group B looked to get off to a fast start with Portugal and Spain both being drawn. Iran & Morocco make this a cakewalk for the top two. Spain to qualify first, their neighbors Portugal second.
- Group C provides a little intriguing options under France. Love to see the Socceroos qualify but I think Denmark has the best shot.
- Group D looks to be a fun one. Croatia is obviously a talented team but cinderella story Iceland looks to continue its magic from the Euros. A quick fan favorite, Iceland getting a result against Argentina will be all time. Argentina to qualify first and Iceland continuing their run
- Group E should see Brazil qualify easily — and they better hope so because a possible reunion with Germany could happen in the next round if not (see: 2014 World Cup). Brazil to finish first, Switzerland second.
- Group F is what I believe is going to be referred to as the Group of Death. Germany is still a force and is the defending WC champion. Mexico has looked great recently and are one of the fastest teams in the field, and Sweden is fresh off knocking Italy out of the tournament. Shouldn’t be easy but I still like Germany & Mexico to qualify.
- Group G had some intrigue with Belgium and England but the two teams should qualify easily. Although it wouldn’t be surprising if England found a way to blow it..
- Group H should see Colombia qualify easily and the second spot is up for grabs. Give me Japan to qualify second.
We’ll do a group by group breakdown as it gets closer to the summer.
Also — this man of the match trophy is exactly what I’d expect a Russia MOTM trophy to look like
Yesterday, the United States Soccer Federation found itself in the news cycle during world cup qualifications despite an embarrassing loss to find themselves a way out of the tournament. There are obviously going to be big names missing in Russia, especially with Italy falling to Sweden. The reason they were in the news?
What an absolute joke and bad look for the U.S. To add insult to injury, we’re going to attempt to bring in some of the big names that failed to qualify for a glorified soccer version of the NIT? There’s a reason nobody watches the NIT — because nobody wants to see mediocre teams that couldn’t qualify for the real thing compete. Sure — Italy, Netherlands, Ghana, and Chile are huge teams and usually find themselves competing at the highest level. However, they failed to do so and it should stay that one.
There’s absolutely no chance that these players would want to compete in a meaningless tournament rather than spend their time off on vacation. This is the most American thing ever and is such a bad look to the rest of world soccer. Even if this did happen, I can’t see any of those teams fielding their first choice team. Another genius idea from Sunil Gulati, I’m sure. Just take the L and move on.
Earlier this week, all the United States’ Mens soccer team needed to do was secure a point from Trinidad & Tobago. Easy right?
Wrong. The USMNT went into the waterlogged field of T & T and showed absolutely no passion or urgency, losing 2-1. To sum of the management of this team, let’s take a look at what the manager had to say, courtesy of Bleacher Report.
United States manager Bruce Arena has described the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as “a blemish,” and he added there’s “nothing wrong” with the country’s football structure after Tuesday’s shock 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago.
The problem starts with this mentality that this is acceptable. For reference, Chile was unable to qualify in CONMEBOL and their manager immediately resigned as he knew he had no business being in charge if he was unable to lead them to the only competition that actually matters. Arena’s incompetence cost us any hope of seeing the US compete in Russia and quite frankly should have been fired on the plane ride over. To start this game with the exact same lineup he rolled out the previous game and have no indication of a strong defense is a JOKE. Geoff Cameron was nowhere to be found when he should have been starting.
The US went down quickly after an Omar Gonzalez own goal — fitting after the dreadful outing that he had. A bizarre long distance goal was misplayed by Tim Howard and we only had one highlight the entire game from the only player that actually cared.
This team showed no passion and urgency at all. The most passion shown all night came from player turned analyst Taylor Twellman.
Jokes on us — as of now Bruce Arena is still in charge. Sunil Gulati is still president and the USMNT has no hope for the future outside of Pulisic. Hopefully someone opens their eyes and sees a complete overhaul is necessary but for now we’re going to have to wait another 4 years until Qatar to see the team in a real competition.
We move onto week 4 of the Premier League following the international break. The picks are still not up to par but we hope to get back on track today. This slate of matches is headlined by the big match-up between Manchester City and Liverpool FC. Liverpool, coming off a huge statement win against Arsenal, looks to keep their momentum going against the highly touted Man City side. Let’s take a look at the picks:
Allen: 14-16 (LW: 5-5)
Danny: 9-21 (LW: 3-7)