footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Posts tagged ‘borussia dortmund’

Champions League Returns

Whenever this tournament starts a new season, it feels as if it never left. Sure it’s been 116 days since Real Madrid snagged their 10th European Cup in Lisbon. But that was last season. Thirty-one teams are now on a mission to dethrone the reigning champions and grab the cup themselves in Berlin on June 6, 2015.

The longer I watch this competition, the more it both frustrates and delights me. I love the Cinderella stories like Bulgarian champions Ludogorets’ remarkable run to this year’s Group stage; and the return of Cypriot team Apoel FC, after their own heroic run to the quarterfinals in 2012. On the other hand, it’s disheartening to see the latter stages of the competition become more and more of a closed shop.

I’ll still totally be watching, though, because it is some of the best football you’ll see anywhere on the planet. And that means I’ll also be making predictions about which teams will be celebrating passage into the round of 16 after Matchday 6. Cuz my prediction skills rock. Not.

Group A:
Atletico Madrid
Juventus
Olympiacos
Malmo
Winners: Atletico Madrid, Juventus

Group B:
Real Madrid
Basel
Liverpool
Ludogorets
Winners: Real Madrid, Basel

Group C:
Benfica
Zenit
Bayer Leverkusen
Monaco
Winners: Benfica, Zenit

Group D:
Arsenal
Borussia Dortmund
Galatasaray
Anderlecht
Winners: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund

Group E:
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
CSKA Moscow
Roma
Winners: Bayern Munich, Manchester City

Group F:
Barcelona
PSG
Ajax
Apoel Nicosia
Winners: Barcelona, Ajax

Group G:
Chelsea
Schalke
Sporting Lisbon
Maribor
Winners: Chelsea, Schalke

Group H:
Porto
Shakhtar Donetsk
Athletic Bilbao
Bate Borisov
Winners: Athletic Bilbao, Porto

Group C and Group H are pretty wide open, so I reserve the right to change my mind on which teams will advance from those groups.

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And so…the Quarterfinals

Glamour ties + Grudge Matches = Great European Nights

At least we hope so. I’ve written before that Champions League matches at this stage can be so cagey as to drive away any semblance of enjoyment for us fans.

That said, the balls in Nyon have spoken. My initial reactions to the quarterfinal matchups:

Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich: Um…
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid: A big European test for the Digeo Simeone project
Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund: A rematch of last year’s semi-final, which Dortmund won impressively.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea: Is it wrong to call this the Oligarch’s Invitational? If so, I don’t want to be right.

Now that the field has been whittled to the best of the best, we’re due for a “shocking” upset. All of the above teams should beware.

On to the Next

Manchester United survived Olympiacos – and many a gloom & doom prediction – to advance to the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals. Time will tell if this good result is a turning point for David Moyes and his team or just a blip of good fortune in their season of misery.

Rounding out the quarterfinal lineup is Borussia Dortmund who survived a (sort of) comeback from Zenit St. Petersburg.

This Friday’s quarterfinal draw should be interesting.

Atletico Madrid
Borussia Dortmund
Chelsea FC
FC Barcelona
FC Bayern Munich
Manchester United
Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid

The only prediction I feel safe in making is that Chelsea will have to play one of the Madrid teams.

Chelsea Advances & Drogba Says Goodbye

Thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Gary Cahill, Chelsea advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals. But the big story of the night was the love-in the Chelsea fans had for Didier Drogba who was returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time since he helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2012. The match may have been boring, but it had one of my favorite things: futbol moments – those little nuggets of human connection that bubble to the surface of the cutthroat sporting competition. Jose Mourihno & Drogba embracing before the match, Drogba being marked by his former teammates John Terry & Gary Cahill. I live for that stuff – even when it involves the hated Chelsea.

As for Chelsea’s chances in the CL, I’m putting them in the team-no-one-wants-to-face category, though I wouldn’t put it past Mourihno to park the bus all the way to Lisbon and win it all.

Only 2 more CL matches – Manchester United vs. Olympiacos and Borussia Dortmund vs. Zenit St. Petersburg – left to determine the remaining quarterfinalists.

It’s Baaaaack

After a two-month hiatus, UEFA Champions League returns this week. And because I never learn my lesson, I’m putting my shoddy prediction skills to work again. Here’s who I think will be celebrating when the round of 16 concludes next month.

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich: The one everyone has been talking about since before the round of 16 draw occurred. Bayern have dominated everything they’ve done this season – losing only once (to Manchester City in the UCL group stage). And while Arsenal topped the Premier League for most of the season, they now sit second, and their form the past month has been shaky. I think Bayern will advance, but I am still not sold on them repeating as European Champions. Winner: Bayern Munich

Manchester City vs. Barcelona: Both teams bring good form into the tie, but I think the Catalans will advance easily. Winner: FC Barcelona

Bayer 04 Leverkeusen vs. Paris Saint-Germain: Even without injured Edinson Cavani, PSG should have too much for the Bundesliga’s second place club. That said, this is probably the matchup that most intrigues me in this round. Winner: Paris Saint-Germain

AC Milan vs. Atletico de Madrid: As with any tie involving Milan, this strikes me as a toss-up. Milan have performed poorly in Serie A all season and needed a Mario Balotelli wonder goal to beat lowly Bologna last Friday. That said, Atletico Madrid haven’t been any great shakes in La Liga – recently relinquishing their league lead to the Barca-Real tandem. Still, I think they will have just enough to get past Milan. Winner: Atletico de Madrid

Olympiacos vs. Manchester United: So, in December, I said Olympiacos had no hope of beating Manchester United. But Man U’s Premier League travails the last month – to say nothing of the pitiful loss to Sunderland in the League Cup – has to have given the denizens of Karaiskakis Stadium some cause for hope. Still picking the Red Devils to get through. Winner: Manchester United FC

Galatasaray AŞ vs. Chelsea FC: This only holds interest for me because of the reunion (of sorts) between Jose Mourihno and two of his former players – Didier Drogba & Wesley Sneijder. Otherwise – I got nothin’. Oh, Galatasary are currently second in the Turkish Super League. Chelsea will advance easily. Winner: Chelsea FC

FC Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid: This should be easy for Madrid, but honestly, it’s hard to predict much with that team. As much talent as they have, they are still capable of throwing up random awful performances. I know little about Schalke’s performances this season, except to say they’re currently fourth in the Bundesliga and they just beat Bayer. This doesn’t help me predict anything, but since when has that stopped me? Winner: Real Madrid CF

FC Zenit vs. Borussia Dortmund: BvB are on something of an upswing, but even if that wasn’t the case, getting past Zenit should be easy peazy, especially with players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan returning from injury. Winner: Borussia Dortmund

4th Anniversary

A month+ since I last blogged. I’m not just waiting for Champions League to restart. I’m mostly meh on the current status quo of the big European leagues. Well, except for Spain, where an actual title race seems to be developing.

Hard to believe, but It’s been four years since I became a football fan

Four years since I fell in love with what we fans call The Beautiful Game. And, to tell you the truth, I still can’t understand why.

Looking back, it’s not like the 2010 World Cup – which was what triggered my interest in the sport – was a particularly good one. Yes, Spain won its first World Cup, but the final was boring as fuck. Some of the matches before the final round were exciting – most notably, the quarterfinal between Uruguay and Ghana. But others – like the marquee matchup between Portugal and Spain – turned out to be tedious duds.

So, why was that the tournament that transformed me into a football fanatic?

I think part of it was that I started paying attention to the sport at a time when coverage of it had become more widely available in North America.

The internet also obviously helped. The proliferation of blogs and news sites dedicated to the sport, as well as fans from all over the world congregating on social media outlets like Twitter and Reddit, helped to make a novice like me feel like I was part of this much larger community of fans.

But even those practical explanations don’t full account for my fanatical interest in the sport (I mean, is it normal that I listen to a minimum of four football podcasts every week?)

Over the past four years, as I’ve tried to figure out why I became smitten with the sport, I’ve concluded it’s because I’m a soap fan. And there’s no better soap around than world football.

I was reminded of that when I watched Borussia Dortmund play Bayern Munich in their first Bundesliga match last fall. As Mario Gotze prepared to come on the field as a substitute, I tweeted:

Gotze was playing against his old team for the first time since Bayern made the sneaky move to take him away from Dortmund towards the end of last season. Needless to say, the boos that greeted Gotze in his old home stadium were deafening.

All of which is a long way of saying that the main reasons I follow football are the human stories. Which player will adjust when moving to a new league and which won’t? Which coaches will take the gentle, respectful approach with their players, and which will rule with an iron fist? And which team rivalries will live up to the hype when they actually play?

In short, I have as much investment in what’s happening off the field as on it.

Actual Rd of 16 Draw

I may have mentioned that my prediction skills are terrible. But hey – at least I got Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich right!

My quick thoughts on what the balls threw up in Nyon (wait, that sounds bad. Oh well).

Manchester City vs. FC Barcelona: Well, some say City’s owners have been trying to recreate Barcelona in Manchester, so I guess this will be the true test of how far along they are in that (wait for it) project.

Olympiacos vs Manchester United: Given the way United have performed this season, Olympiacos will think they have a chance. They will be wrong.

AC Milan vs. Atlético de Madrid: Atletico have been so good this season (see how they ran away with Group G?), but this Milan team – shoddy though it is – will put up a fight.

Bayer 04 Leverkeusen vs. Paris Saint-Germain: One of the more intriguing and hard to call ties of this round. Technically, PSG should easily get past Bayer. But then, technically, Bayer shouldn’t even be in this round given how poorly they performed in their group.

Galatasaray AŞ vs. Chelsea FC: The reunion of Mou and King Didier.

FC Schalke 04 vs. Real Madrid: Like Bayer 04, Schalke shouldn’t even be in this round, and I don’t know if they’ll have enough to threaten this star-studded Madrid side.

FC Zenit vs. Borussia Dortmund: I appreciate that Zenit midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has already started the trash talking months in advance of this tie. But Zenit had better enjoy being in the knockout stages while it lasts – cuz it won’t last long.

Arsenal FC vs. FC Bayern Munchen:
My lone correct prediction. Hard to say how this one will play out. Bayern is the stronger, deeper team, but they just had their first loss of this season’s Champions League to Manchester City last week. And it was Arsenal who inflicted one of Bayern’s two CL losses last season (albeit past the point when it mattered). Another one that’s tough to call.

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