Best Time to be a Soccer Fan

Anything you can do, I can do better. On Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo recorded his record setting 23rd hat trick in La Liga. He lead Real Madrid to their 17th straight victory. He had a dominating performance and scored his 200th goal for Real Madrid. He showed us how dominant he can be. He has 23 goals this season in 14 games. That is a remarkable strike rate this year. Ronaldo is off to a record-setting pace and it might be time we sit back and just watch as he continues to dominate the game of soccer. Ronaldo is setting the pace. Then, Sunday came and it was Messi’s turn to answer him. While Messi is not having the season that Ronaldo is, he is still one of the best in the world and he showed us that on Sunday. In the Catalan Derby, Messi came to play. Barcelona fell behind 1-0 and then just on the stroke of halftime, Messi came out of the tall grass and curled a beauty past Casilla. It was one of those finishes that makes you drop your jaw and wonder how in the world someone can do that. He didn’t stop there either. Five minutes into the second half, Messi scored another brilliant goal and eventually added a 3rd en route to Barcelona winning 5-1. This was Messi’s third hat trick in the last four games.  He is really starting to play this season. After walking these two performances on back to back days, it makes you wonder. Are these two players the best ever? They clearly push each other to be better and keep raising the bar each and every week. The only thing I know for sure is that I am so glad I get to watch these two superstars.

Something doesn’t feel right about the EPL. Something is missing. I mean there are goals, saves, tackles, and drama, and yet something is missing. But part of the drama is missing…No EPL manager has been sacked.  This is one of the staples of an EPL season.  While I do believe we will see some fired, there are usually some firings before the start of December.  During the 2013-2014 season, we had already seen 2 managers get the sack and would see 4 more get sacked in December. In 2012-13 we had 2 before December. In 2011-12 Steve Bruce was sacked in November.  In fact looking back in history, there have only been 4 seasons in which no manager was sacked before December. In two of those four seasons, a manager resigned before the season started. This is the first season since 2010-11, but before that it hadn’t been since 1995-96. The sack race is one of the best story lines that takes place over the EPL season.  There is even a website dedicated to this race, thesackrace.com.  On this website, they give you the odds on which manager will be the next to leave.  Currently the best odds to get fired is Nigel Pearson of Leicester City.  Alan Irvine is in second and Steve Bruce is the third manager on the list.  Who will be the first two go?

Weekend Recap

In Germany, Munich continue their winnings ways that they beat Bayer 1-0.  Dortmund came up with a huge result to move out the relegation zone.  Mats Hummels made his return to the team and made one of the best plays I have ever seen.  Check out my twitter @SoccerfAtPond for a vine of it.  It was spectacular and saved Dortmund 2 points.  Germany now seems to be a two horse race between Bayern Munich on 36 and Wolfsburg on 29 points.

In Italy, the only two teams in the race both dropped points.  Juventus drew 0-0 at Fiorentina and Roma somehow managed to come back and draw 2-2 with Sassuolo.  Genoa was able to gain ground on these two as they beat Milan 1-0 and moved into 3rd place.  They are now 9 points behind Juve and 6 behind Roma.

In Spain, as previously mentioned, the big boys won as Real Madrid extended its win streak to 18 and Barcelona won the Catalan Derby.  Atleti also kept pace with a 2-0 win over Elche. As all of the top 3 teams are within 4 points of each other.  Sevilla also came up with a big road victory to help keep them in 4th place.

In England, the big result of the weekend was Newcastle 2-Chelsea 1.  The unbeaten season is over for Chelsea.  Man City closed the gap with a 1-0 victory over Everton.  Arsenal fell 3-2 to Stoke City.  There is a big match-up today while Southampton and Manchester United both look to jump into the top 3.

Midweek Preview

This week marks the 6th and final group games of the UEFA Champions League.  The top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout phase and the third place team will join the Europa League.  Tuesday we will see Groups A, B, C, and D play. Wednesday will bring the conclusion of Groups E, F, G and H.

In Group A, Atletico Madrid have qualified and will be winners if they don’t lose to Juventus by more than 2 goals.  Juventus need to a draw or Olympiakos fail to win.  Olympiakos will advance to the knockout stage if they win and Juve lose.  Malmo will qualify for the Europa League with a victory.

In Group B, Real Madrid have won the group.  Anfield will host the big match on Tuesday as the winner of Basel vs Liverpool will advance.  Basel only needs a draw to advance. Ludogorets can qualify for the Europa League if they get more points than Liverpool on the day.

In Group C, Bayer Leverkusen have advanced and will win the group with a win at Benfica.  Monaco needs a draw or win off Zenit, whereas Zenit will need to win to advance. Benfica is eliminated.

In Group D, both Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal have advanced.  Anderlecht has qualified for the Europa League.  Dortmund will win the group with a win over Anderlecht.  Arsenal will win the group with a win of Galatasaray and a Dortmund draw or loss.  Galatasaray have been eliminated.

In Group E, Bayern Munich have won the group, but the rest of the group is all still alive with 5 points each.  CSKA will need to beat Bayern and have Roma not win.  Roma will advance with a victory over Manchester City.  Man City needs to win and have CSKA not win.  If the two games end as a draw, then Roma will advance.  If CSKA lose, Roma needs a scoreless draw to advance.

In Group F, Barcelona and PSG will show down in Barcelona to see who wins the group.  PSG need a draw or win whereas Barca need a win.  Ajax needs a draw to qualify for Europa League and APOEL needs to win to qualify for the Europa League.

In Group G, Chelsea have won the group.  Sporting Lisbon will advance if they draw or win against the Blues.  Schalke need a win and a Lisbon loss.  Maribor can come in third if they can get their first win against Schalke.

In Group H, Porto have won the group and Shaktar Donetsk have come in second.  Bilbao will go to the Europa League as long as they do not lose to BATE Borisov.  BATE can jump Bilbao if they beat the Basque Club.

My predictions for the last 16 are Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Roma, Barcelona, PSG, Chelsea, Schalke, Porto, Shakhtar,

It should be a fascinating couple of days and some enthralling soccer.

EPL Pick ‘Em Results

On Saturday, we both got Hull and West Brom to draw, but had a bit more faith in their attacking abilities.  Buzz nailed the 2-0 victory for QPR, while I gave Burnley too much credit as they failed to score.  We both thought that City would win by a bigger scoreline, and I correctly thought that West Ham would win but missed on the scoreline.  We will wait to see for the final match today.  I currently have 4 points while Buzz has 5 points.  This will be a big match tonight as I picked Southampton and he picked United.

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