Archive for the ‘ Uefa Champions League ’ Category

Ronaldo Must Be at His Best for Real Madrid to Beat Borussia Dortmund

Ronaldo Celebrating

 

When Real Madrid faces Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semifinals, you might think that the Spanish side is the prohibitive favorite to advance to the final.

You would be incorrect, I’m afraid.

Borussia Dortmund still hasn’t lost a single game in this year’s Champions League, beat Los Blancos 2-1 in Germany during the group stage in November and tied them 2-2 in Madrid two weeks later, after Mesut Ozil tied the game for Real Madrid in the 89th minute. For that reason, it will be up to Cristiano Ronaldo to lead his side to victory.

Again.

It may seem obvious that Ronaldo must be on his form against Dortmund, but generally Los Blancos have enough talent to beat opponents even if he isn’t the man of the match. Against Dortmund, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

While Bayern Munich has already wrapped up Bundesliga, Dortmund has lost just once in all competitions since the beginning of March and has proven to be one of the elite sides in Europe this season. Players like Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski would start for most clubs in the world.

Plus, Dortmund has the look of a charmed team after scoring two goals in stoppage time against Malaga to advance to the semifinals. Sometimes, nothing in sports is more insurmountable than a team with a bit of luck on its side.

And seeing as they would have moved forward on aggregate had the team’s group stage meeting been a semifinal, some folks might even consider Dortmund the favorites.

Real Madrid is the more popular squad, however, so it’s no surprise that over at Bovada Los Blancos are considered the favorites to reach the final. The fact that Ronaldo is the best player in the game might alone be the reason Real Madrid is favored.

And Ronaldo will have to play like the best player. He’s once again having an epic season, with 50 goals and seven assists in all competitions for Los Blancos. He’s been particularly dangerous of late, scoring in seven straight games for Real Madrid (with nine goals during that time).

With a league title pretty much out of the question at this point, winning a Champions League title is now the top priority for Real Madrid. And you have to think Ronaldo would like nothing more than leading his team to that title rather than seeing it go to Lionel Messi and Barcelona.

Not that it’s a given that Barca can get past Bayern Munich, of course. In fact, I think it’s the German side that will win that tie, but that’s just me.

In the end, must like Messi must come up huge for Barca against Bayern Munich, Ronaldo must be at his very best against Dortmund. Barcelona and Real Madrid might be considered the top superpowers in European football, but these German sides are the real deal and aren’t about to be intimidated.

Barcelona vs Paris Saint Germain 2nd Leg UCL Preview: Vilanova’s side counting on Camp Nou boost

Villa and Messi

 

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is racing to recover from a hamstring strain in time for the crunch encounter against Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou.

Cesc Fabregas is likely to be preferred in attack if Messi fails to return, while Pedro is also in contention for a starting berth after recovering from a calf injury.

Blaugrana boss Tito Vilanova may deploy either Sergio Busquets or Alex Song in central defence in place of the inexperienced Marc Bartra to counter the attacking threat of the visitors.

PSG captain Thiago Silva is expected to play despite missing the weekend win at Rennes with a bruised knee.

Thiago Motta (groin) and Alex (thigh) should also be fit, but Blaise Matuidi is suspended after picking up his third booking of the competition in the first leg.

  • Barcelona are on a 20-match unbeaten run at Camp Nou in the Champions League, winning 16, since a 2-1 defeat against Rubin Kazan in October 2009.
  • The Blaugrana‘s overall home record against French opposition is W5, D1, L1, with their most recent encounter against a Ligue 1 club ending in a 5-2 second-leg victory over Olympique Lyonnais in the 2008-09 Champions League round of 16.
  • Barcelona have gone on to win 18 of 23 European ties in which they have drawn the first leg away from home.
  • Paris Saint-Germain have won three of their four away matches in the Champions League this season.
  • The Ligue 1 leaders have never lost a two-legged European tie to Spanish opponents before. Their overall away record against clubs from Spain is W4, D1, L3.
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic  is the only player to have scored for six different clubs in the Champions League: AC Milan, Ajax, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus and PSG.

Juventus vs Bayern Munich 2nd Leg UCL Preview: Die Roten to reach third semi-final in four years

Nicolas Anelka

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

JUVENTUS

Buffon

Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini
Padoin, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Peluso
Vucinic, Quagliarella
BAYERN MUNICH

Neuer
Lahm, Van Buyten, Dante, Alaba
Martinez, Schweinsteiger
Robben, Muller, Ribery
Mandzukic

Juventus will be without Stephan Lichtsteiner and Arturo Vidal for the second leg clash in Turin following their first-leg bookings, as the Bianconeri look to overturn a 2-0 deficit against newly-crowned German champions Bayern Munich.

The bulk of the Old Lady’s starting XI were rested at the weekend which means there could be up to seven changes to the side that beat Pescara 2-1. Gianluigi Buffon should return, while Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini are welcomed back from their domestic suspensions, meaning the back four that has served Juve so well this season will be unchanged.

Federico Peluso is likely to start ahead of Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah, who has suffered indifferent form since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations. Simone Padoin could fill the right wing-back slot while Paul Pogba is in contention to start in place of the suspended Vidal.

Mirko Vucinic has fully recovered from illness but Sebastian Giovinco will miss the match after being stretchered off on Saturday, leaving Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri to battle it out for the remaining place upfront.

Javi Martinez is available again for Bayern after being suspended for the first leg, but Toni Kroos injured his adductor in Munich which means there is likely to be a reshuffle in attack, with Arjen Robben wide on the right, Thomas Muller drifting inside to occupy the No.10 role and Franck Ribery wide left.

Mario Mandzukic was rested against Frankfurt at the weekend but he is likely to start again against Antonio Conte’s men.

  • Juventus’ 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the first leg encounter ensured their 18-game undefeated sequence came to an end in the Champions League.
  • The Bianconeri have not lost in their last five games at Juventus Stadium and Emmanuel Cascione’s strike at the weekend for Pescara ended Juve’s 465-minute run without conceding at home.
  • Juventus managed a 2-0 comeback earlier in the group stages when they came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw against Chelsea. Fabio Quagliarella  got the equaliser 10 minutes from time.
  • Bayern Munich wrapped up their 22nd Bundesliga (23rd title) with a record six matches to spare thanks to their 1-0 win over Frankfurt on Saturday.
  • Die Roten have won 13 of 14 away games in their domestic league this season, conceding only twice and their only away defeat in the Champions League was a 3-1 loss to BATE Borisov.
  • Bayern have won 14 of their 15 games in 2013, with the defeat to Arsenal in the second-leg of their last 16 clash their only loss so far this year.

Borussia Dortmund vs Malaga 2nd Leg Preview: Last-four place up for grabs

Reus celebrating

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

DORTMUND

Weidenfeller
Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer
Bender, Gundogan
Reus, Gotze, Grosskreutz
Lewandowski
MALAGA
 
Caballero
Gamez, Lugano, Demichelis, Antunes
Toulalan, Camacho
Joaquin, Baptista, Isco
Saviola

Borussia Dortmund are set to receive a fitness boost in the form of Mats Hummels, who failed a fitness test to face Augsburg on Saturday but is likely to have recovered for the Malaga game to replace Felipe Santana in defence.

Sven Bender may get the nod ahead of Sebastian Kehl alongside Ilkay Gundogan in midfield, while Jakub Blaszczykowski is in a race to recover in time to replace Kevin Grosskreutz.

Malaga, meanwhile, will be without Weligton and Manuel Iturra, who both picked up costly yellow cards in the first leg of their meeting with Dortmund.

The likes of Sergio Sanchez, Francisco Portillo, Seba Fernandez and Pedro Morales are all expected to drop to the bench

  • Dortmund have drawn the first leg of a knock-out match on eight occasions and qualified six of those times.
  • Jurgen Klopp’s side are the only remaining unbeaten side in the competition following Bayern Munich’s 2-0 win over Juventus.
  • BVB have won all four of their home games this season in Europe, conceding just once in the process.
  • Malaga have progressed on both occasions that they have been held at home in European competition, against Leeds and AEK in the 2002-03 Uefa Cup.
  • Manuel Pellegrini is bidding to take a debutant team to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the second time, having done so with Villarreal seven years ago.
  • The Andalusians have won just one game away from La Rosaleda in Europe this season, however.

Galatasaray vs Real Madrid 2nd Leg Preview: Terim’s side face mammoth task after first-leg mauling

Ronaldo Celebrating

 

Galatasaray striker Burak Yilmaz is ruled out of the Champions League quarter-final second leg clash against Real Madrid through suspension.

Centre-back Dany Nounkeu also misses out after picking up a yellow card in the first leg, but Albert Riera and Selcuk Inan return to the side after being suspended for Saturday’s win over Mersin Idman Yurdu.

Real Madrid duo Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso are both banned for the trip to the Turk Telekom Arena.

Boss Jose Mourinho has no fresh injury concerns and is likely to field his strongest possible line-up as he looks to build on a 3-0 advantage from the first leg.

  • Galatasaray have won just once at the Turk Telekom Arena in the Champions League this season but have suffered only two defeats in their last 13 European home outings.
  • The Turkish outfit’s home record against Spanish opposition is W5, D2, L5, with the most recent victory being a 3-2 success against Real Madrid in the 2000-01 Champions League quarter-final first leg.
  • Galatasaray have scored fewer goals (11) and conceded more (12) than any other side still involved in the Champions League.
  • Real Madrid are on a 12-match unbeaten run in all competitions (W10, D2).
  • Los Blancos have progressed in 41 of 54 European ties in which they have won the first leg at home, including all seven when they initially triumphed 3-0.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo  is the Champions League top scorer with nine goals in as many games.

Cristiano Ronaldo Can Power Real Madrid to UEFA Champions League Title

Ronaldo Celebrating

 

Real Madrid hasn’t hoisted the European Cup in over 10 years, but superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo is determined to change that as he’s poised to lead Los Blancos to their 10th UEFA Champions League title in 2013.

Never mind the debate over who the best player in the world is—Ronaldo is the best player for Real Madrid. Following his sensational ninth-minute goal against Galatasaray in the first leg of Madrid’s quarterfinal tie with the Turkish club on Wednesday, it seems losing is no longer an option for Ronaldo, as Madrid is now unbeaten in its last 11 matches, dating back to early February.

Ronaldo’s early goal also extends his UEFA Champions League goal streak to four straight matches.

As far as the squad is concerned, Madrid looks like a safe lock for the semifinals, barring an away collapse next week. Ronaldo and company lead comfortably on aggregate and will advance to the next stage even with a 2-0 defeat on April 9.

But the better news for Madrid supporters is that Ronaldo is firing on all cylinders heading into the most critical stages of the UEFA Champions League.

If his match-winner at Old Trafford last month wasn’t enough to prove it, his electrifying go-ahead goal at Bernabeu certainly serves as overwhelming evidence that the 28-year-old forward is in his physical and mental prime.

Plus, Madrid currently has rival Barcelona’s number, having defeated Barca three times out of the two clubs’ last five meetings and earning draws in the other two. Barca is one of the favorites to reach the semifinals and perhaps the UEFA Champions League final in May.

Ronaldo certainly wouldn’t mind matching up again with the world’s top player in Lionel Messi, especially considering he has scored a combined five goals in Madrid’s last five meetings with Barca.

Other contenders like Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich pose threats to Real Madrid, sure, but neither club possesses an individual go-to talent quite like Ronaldo. Dortmund gave Madrid problems in the group stage earlier this season, but was severely out-shot (36-23) and out-possessed (61-39 percent on average) in two meetings. Surely Madrid will love its chances going up against them again in a potential knockout stage.

As for Bayern, winning the UEFA Champions League has proven nearly impossible as of late. The German powerhouse has finished as runner-up in two of the past three years, scoring just one goal in two final defeats in 2010 and 2012.

The difference?

Bayern lacks a go-to talent like Ronaldo—a player that not only rises above the pressure match after match, but also often delivers in the biggest moments.

Cristiano Ronaldo is surging right now, playing some of the best football of his career, and so is Real Madrid. Behind the strength of that superstar talent, Los Blancos are the hands-down favorite to hoist the UEFA Champions League crown next month.

Malaga vs Borussia Dortmund 1st Leg UCL Preview: Dark horses clash at La Rosaleda

Malaga celebrating

 

PROBABLE LINEUPS

 

MALAGA

Caballero
Gamez, Demichelis, Weligton, Antunes
Toulalan, Iturra
Joaquin, Baptista, Isco
Saviola
DORTMUND

Weidenfeller
Piszczek, Subotic, Santana, Schmelzer
Gundogan, Bender
Blaszczykowski, Gotze, Reus
Lewandowski

Malaga can be expected to name much the same team that played against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. Vitorino Antunes will continue at left-back in the place of long-term injury victim, Eliseu, who is their only major absence.

They are expected to shuffle the pack up front, though. Joaquin is likely to push out to the right wing, with Julio Baptista dropping back into the No.10 role, with either Javier Saviola or Roque Santa Cruz replacing Pedro Morales in the XI.

Borussia Dortmund will have the fortune of being able to field Marcel Schmelzer, who broke his nose against Stuttgart on Saturday, but can wear a protective mask and play with the injury.

Mats Hummels has been training, but is unlikely to be risked at centre-back, with Felipe Santana set to continue. Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender should be given the nod in midfield over Sebastian Kehl and Nuri Sahin.

  • Malaga have never faced German opposition in Europe before.
  • Coach Manuel Pellegrini also took Villarreal to the semi-finals of the Champions League in their debut campaign in the competition back in 2005-06.
  • Martin Demichelis and Roque Santa Cruz both played for Dortmund’s arch rivals Bayern Munich.
  • Borussia Dortmund drew 2-2 on their last two trips to Spain, against Real Madrid this season and Malaga’s Andalusian rivals Sevilla in December 2010.
  • Jurgen Klopp’s side are one of two unbeaten teams left in the Champions League this season. Juventus are the other.
  • Robert Lewandowski’s winner against Stuttgart on Saturday was his ninth in his last nine Bundesliga games.