I am torn on what to talk about today. I had the opportunity to actually watch the whole Chelsea vs. PSG match on Wednesday since I was home sick. I feel like there were many big talking points during the game. For me the biggest has to be the fact that the Chelsea players swarmed the official as soon as Zlatan tackled Oscar. I think this is something that needs to be stopped. If you haven’t seen the tackle, please check out my twitter feed where I posted a vine of the tackle. I have now seen the tackle from about five different viewpoints and I have not seen a view that says to me red card. It was a yellow sure, maybe from some viewpoints. From the view of the ref, I would say it is a yellow card but a straight red? Not a chance. Why was it a red? Well, all of the Chelsea outfield players were within a yard of the ref almost immediately after the tackle happened. Why? They wanted blood, they wanted a red. If you watch the tackle, you can see that Zlatan pulls out from going in full force. I even feel that you can see this best from the ref’s point of view. But within seconds of him making contact with Oscar, all the players rushed the ref and were demanding the red card. This is not a Chelsea issue, as most teams all across Europe do this. It needs to stop. Only 2 people on the pitch should be allowed to speak to the ref, the two captains. That is it. I do not know why every player feels they need to try to get a card. The ref needs time to think and react and this can be difficult when you have 9 players screaming in your face. John Terry came out and defended his teammates, as he should, but no one should be seen shouting in the face of a ref asking for a red card. Terry ran in and started shouting for the red right away, as did his teammates. That is something that we must get out of the game.
Champions League Recap
Where to start, where to start. Let’s start with Wednesday since that was a fantastic day. The day saw a total of 11 goals and 2 red cards. Bayern Munich won 7-0 to advance, and PSG drew 2-2 with Chelsea to advance on away goals. We saw two teams face an opposition that only had 10 men for the majority of the game. One team took complete advantage of it, and the other did not. One team pressed the game and scored 7 goals. The other is no longer in the competition.
Chelsea had done what it needed to on the road…not lose and get an away goal. Everyone thought okay, now Jose will park the bus and ride this game out to advance to the next stage and get a late goal as added insurance. One would think that the script would change when Zlatan Ibramhimovic was sent off in the 31st minute. Chelsea now had a man advantage and could really dictate the game. However, that is not what happened. PSG dominated the midfield and worked hard defensively to make life very difficult for Chelsea. But then Chelsea does what it always seems to do and that is score a late goal to win. When Gary Cahill calmly volleyed the ball into the back of the net, it seemed that all of PSG’s hard work was for naught. However, they carried on. They kept pressing the game. They were trying to find a way through the resolute Chelsea defense. They eventually earned a corner and David Luiz sent a rocket header into the goal. Extra time it was as the game was tied 2-2 on aggregate. In extra time, Thiago Silva seemed to lose his mind and stuck his hand up to hit the ball in the box. Eden Hazard coolly slotted the penalty away. Okay now it is over. There was no way that Chelsea could give up another lead. PSG kept coming trying to find a way and with 7 minutes left, PSG earned a corner. Thiago Silva raised up and snapped a header right on goal, but Courtois made a brilliant save. Problem is that it resulted in another corner, and this time Silva made no mistake as he headed the ball over Courtois and into the back of the net. PSG had done it. They had played with 10 men for 90 minutes and they were going to advance. Chelsea were out on away goals. The best English hope was out of the competition.
Bayern Munich were fantastic this week in a match that could have been a banana peel for them. They had traveled to Ukraine and drew 0-0 in the first leg. They did not have any road goals and a draw in this leg could see them out of the competition. Well it didn’t take them long to respond to their poor goalless draw as they were on the board within the first 5 minutes. In just the 3rd minute, Kucher took down Gotze from behind and in the box. He was sent off right there. Shakhtar was going to have to play 87 minutes with just 10 men. Muller easily scored the penalty and that was just the beginning of the Bayern offensive attack. Jerome Boaten added a second goal in the first half. In the second half, Ribery, Lewandowski, Muller, Badstuber, and Gotze all scored. When the dust settled, Bayern had won 7-0. This was their biggest win in their Champions League history. One more goal and it would have tied Liverpool’s 8-0 win over Besiktas.
On Tuesday, white handkerchiefs came out at the Bernabeu when the final whistle blew. Real Madrid came into the game with a big 2-0 lead over Schalke. However, this seemed to give Schalke a care free attitude. They seemed to play very free and were the first team to score when Fuchs beat Casillas to his near side. However five minutes later, Ronaldo equalized for Madrid. However, that didn’t stop Schalke as they scored again in the 40th minute when Huntelaar beat Casillas to make it 2-1 and 2-3 on aggregate. However five minutes later, Ronaldo equalized for Madrid. No that is not a typo. He seemed to be the driving force for Real Madrid today. Los Blancos came out in the second half and dominated for the first ten minutes, and Benzema gave them their first lead. However, 4 minutes later Sane equalized for Schalke. The Aggregate score was now Real 5-3. Then with just 6 minutes left to play, Huntelaar scored his second goal. This made the score now 5-4. One more goal and Real Madrid are out of the competition. In the 90th minute, the ball fell to Benedikt Howedes. He brilliantly brought the ball down and snapped off a shot at the near post. This time, Iker was up to the save and Real would advance. Despite losing 4-3 on the day, they advanced with a 5-4 win over Schalke. But all credit goes to Schalke for really bringing their best and scoring 4 goals in the home of Madrid. Is this the beginning of the end for Carlo at Real Madrid? It shouldn’t be, but you never know with Fiorentino Perez.
The last game was Porto hosting Basel. The first leg ended 1-1, but the road goal was not going to be needed for Porto. Porto absolutely dominated the match from start to finish. Brahimi opened the scoring with a brilliant free kick. Herrera added a second just after half time. Casemiro scored on another absolutely beautiful free kick. Aboubakar capped off the scoring. Porto would win 4-0 and 5-1 on aggregate. Can they be this year’s dark horse?
Europa League Review
The Round of 16 will be taking place over the next two weeks. The first legs took place on Thursday. Every team that played at home won except for two games. Zenit Saint Petersburg beat Torino 2-0. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk beat Ajax 1-0. Wolfsburg beat Internazionale 3-1 after they gave up an early goal. Club Brugge beat Besiktas 2-1. Everton came back to win 2-1. Napoli beat Dynamo Moscow 3-1. The only road team to win was defending Champions Sevilla, as they won 3-1 at Villarreal. Roma also earned a draw 1-1 with Fiorentina when Keita scored in the 77th minute. The second legs will take place next week on Thursday.
This weekend in Italy, Juventus travels to Palermo as they look to extend their double digit lead at the top. They can have a 14 point lead at the top by the end of the day on Saturday. While the title seems to be only a matter of time until Juve are crowned well before the end of the season, all eyes are turning towards the race for the Champions League places. This has heated up in recent weeks. Napoli and Lazio are level on 46 points. Fiorentina and Sampdoria are sitting in 5th and 6th respectively, 4 points behind Lazio and Napoli. Roma is also falling into this race as they sit just 4 points above Lazio and Napoli. Napoli is the first to play on Sunday and they can momentarily grab the last spot when they travel to Verona. On Monday, Fiorentina host Milan, Lazio travels to Torino, and the biggest match is Roma hosting Sampdoria. If Sampdoria can win then it will be a race for two spots between these 5 teams.
In the other league with a double digit lead at the top, Bayern Munich travel to Werder Bremen. Second place Wolfsburg host Freiburg. While the top two spots in this league seem to be set in stone, the race for third and fourth (both of which give you a Champions League Ticket) is heating up. Currently Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen hold those spots. Monchengladbach has 41 points and Bayer has 39 points. Schalke 04 and Augsburg sit one point behind Bayer Leverkusen. Monchengladbach host Hannover on Sunday. Bayer plays today as they host Stuttgart. This is a huge match for Stuttgart as they are in a major need of points. Schalke travels to Hertha Berlin. Lastly, Augsburg hosts Mainz on Saturday. It should be a big week in the race for the top 4.
In France, the title race just keeps getting better. The top 3 are separated by just 4 points. But that can all change this weekend. Marseille hosts leaders Lyon this weekend. Can Marseille propel themselves right back into the title race? Can Lyon distance themselves from Marseille? This will be a huge clash on Sunday. Right before this game, Bordeaux hosts Paris Saint-Germain. PSG are coming off a huge victory during the week and can take top spot with a win this weekend. Monaco can jump into the race for the third spot with a win over Bastia on Friday.
In Spain, new leaders Barcelona travel to Eibar as they look to stay atop the league. Will they look ahead to what is a huge week in their season? El Clasico is just a week away and Barcelona host Manchester City during the week in Champions League. Real Madrid host Levante as they look to respond t,o their midweek loss. Fourth place Valencia host Deportivo on Friday as they hope to close the gap on third place Atletico. Atletico travels to Barcelona to play Espanyol. This weekend is all about the build up to next week. I personally cannot wait for next Sunday when the best teams in the world take the field.
Manchester United’s season will be judged on how they can do in their next five games, as they play four of the top six teams in the league. Will they still be sitting in the top four after these games? It all starts this weekend when they host Tottenham at Old Trafford. The other big match of the weekend takes place in West London when Southampton travels north and plays Chelsea. This will be a fun watch to see how Chelsea can respond to their shocking exit from the Champions League. Can they respond and win the title quickly? Manchester City can cut into Chelsea’s lead when they travel to Burnley. There is also a London derby this weekend when Arsenal host West Ham. The last game of the weekend sees Swansea host Liverpool. This will be the start of the run into the end. Which teams will make the moves to play in the Champions League next year?
EPL Pick ‘Em
The current score is now 193-179. I am slowly closing the gap. I am going to need some big weeks here as we only have 10 more rounds left.
My Picks – Palace 2-0, Villa 1-1, West Brom 1-0, Leicester 2-1, Arsenal 2-0, City 3-1, Chelsea 2-0, Spurs 2-1, Newcastle 0-0, Pool 1-0.
Buzz’s Picks – Palace 2-1, Arsenal 2-1, Hull 1-1, Sunderland 1-0, Stoke 2-2, City 3-1, Chelsea 2-0, Everton 1-0, Man U 3-2, Pool 3-1