I cannot lie to you all right now…I am on cloud 9 and am still buzzing from Wednesday. I was talking with a student of mine yesterday about the Barcelona-Bayern game and told him that I felt like for 70 minutes that might have been the best 0-0 game I had ever seen. However an alien, a super human, a man that words cannot even begin to describe, took over. As I was sitting at my desk watching the match through a fuzzy online feed, Lionel Messi took control of the game. Messi got the ball following a great take away from Alves and he rocketed a shot from just outside of the box that flew past Neuer and into the bottom right corner. Messi had broken the deadlock, but he was not done yet. Just three minutes later, Rakitic played in Messi again and what happened cannot be described by words. Messi calmly cut past Boateng, who ended up twisting and turning and falling to the floor. He then was one-on-one with Neuer, and as Neuer went down Messi chipped it right over his arms and coolly into the net. In the 76th minute, the world was going to be talking about how Barcelona was wasteful in the first half and will Munich be able to steal the show with a late goal. In the 81st minute, we were reminded of how great Messi is and questioning Pep for his tactics and decisions. Neymar would then be played in late on and was as cool as a cucumber when he slid the ball past Neuer to make it 3-0 to Barcelona. Bayern can recover, and have shown their ability to score and score in a hurry, but it was job done for Barcelona. I can’t wait to see Munich respond on Tuesday.
Last Tuesday was the other semifinal between Juventus and Real Madrid. This game set the stage beautifully. What a game. Juventus didn’t have to wait long before they opened the scoring. In just the 8th minute of play, Tevez was given room to shoot and his snap shot was saved by the arm of Casillas, but the ball fell right to former Real Madrid striker, Alvaro Morata, who tapped the ball into the net from maybe 2 yards out. The lead would only last for 20 minutes as the ball came into James Rodriguez and he chipped the ball across the box to find the cutting Ronaldo, who headed the ball into the net. 1-1. A big talking point in the game came in the 41st minute. Marcelo played in Isco down the left flank and he crossed the ball perfectly in to James. James hit the diving header towards a wide open goal, only to find the cross bar from 3 yards out. Then in the 57th minute, Tevez was breaking on the counter one-on-one against Carvajal. Carvajal did a great job pushing him to the side but then went in for the tackle and got only a piece of Tevez, sending him to the ground inside the box for a penalty. Tevez then stepped up and buried it into the open goal. The game finished 2-1 to Juve. While Juventus have the led going into next Wednesdays match at the Bernabeu, it is very difficult to see Real Madrid not scoring at least once. Can Juventus get an all important road goal next week to send them to the final, or will Ronaldo’s goal give Real Madrid the edge and help send them to the final? Wednesday should be fascinating. Here is to hoping it lives up to what we saw last Wednesday.
The Europa League semifinals also took place this week on Thursday. The holders of the trophy sent out a message to the world that they plan to get back to the final. Vidal scored two wonderful goals in the game and Gameiro added the third in the last 15 minutes. Gameiro had been on the pitch for just about 10 seconds. The final was 3-0 to Sevilla and Fiorentina has their work cut out for them. In the other semifinal, Napoli and Dnipro ended in a 1-1 draw giving Dnipro the edge as they head home for the second leg next week. The question though is should they have equalized? The Dnipro goal was clearly offsides and should have been called but was not. Will the Ukranian side be able to hold on at home? Can Fiorentina over come such a deficit?
In Spain, we cannot talk about the football without talking about the impending strike over the TV deal. This week, a new law was passed in Spain allowing the centralized selling of TV rights. The strike is set to suspend the season after this weekend’s round of fixtures. It will be interesting to see this play out over the next couple weeks, and I will be writing more about this next week and more information comes out. Meanwhile on the pitch, there is still a tightly contested title race going on between the two big boys of Spain. The gap remains 2 points with just 3 games to go. Both teams play on Saturday and are at home. Barcelona faces David Moyes and Real Sociedad. Real Madrid host Valencia. The more intriguing matchup is going to take place in Madrid as Valencia sits just 3 points clear of Sevilla. However, David Moyes was able to get the victory in the opposite fixture earlier in the season. This weekend could go a long way in deciding the title. Three points is a must for both teams. Sevilla will hope they can go level on points with Valencia when they travel to Celta Vigo on Sunday.
In France, PSG can open up a 6 point gap at the top today as they host Guingamp. With just 3 games left, that gap might be enough to see off Lyon for their third straight title. Lyon will hope that they can gain some ground on Saturday when they travel to Caen. Monaco has opened up a 5 point lead on Marseille and St. Etienne, but they must travel to Marseille this weekend. A win for Marseille will really open up the race for the third and final Champions League spot. St. Etienne host Nice this weekend. At the other end of the table, 5 teams are within 2 points of each other and all trying to not be in the last relegation spot. Evian is currently in that spot. Stade Reims sits one point clear while Toulouse, Lorient, and Caen sit 2 points clear. Caen hosts Lyon and could be in trouble at the end of the weekend. Lorient travels to bottom of the table Metz. Toulouse host Lille. Stade Reims and Evian face each other on Saturday in which is a massive 6 pointer at the bottom of the table. If either team can find a way to get all three points then the other will be in the last spot and in desperate need of points.
In England, the big match of the weekend is Chelsea vs Liverpool. Chelsea was crowned champions of the league with 3 games to go and have nothing to play for except for their unbeaten home record. Liverpool is in desperate need for points after dropping 5 points over the last fortnight. Those 5 points would have them in the top 4 right now. 3 points at Chelsea could go a long way in getting them back in the race for the fourth spot. United can essentially, but not mathematically, clinch the fourth spot if they are able to beat Crystal Palace in London on Saturday. Manchester City and Arsenal need a point to clinch their spots in the Champions League next year and they should be able to do that as they host QPR and Swansea respectively. Sunderland travels to Everton in a big match in the bottom half of the table. Burnley travel to Hull in what could relegate them from the league or give them a tiny glimmer of hope. This will be a big relegation 6 pointer.
In Italy, there are still four rounds to go. The title may have been decided, but the race for a Champions League spot is far from over. While both Roma and Lazio have a nice lead on Napoli of 5 and 4 point respectively, Lazio and Napoli face each other on the final day of the season. If Lazio drop any points before that game, they could be in big trouble. Roma travel to the San Siro this weekend to face AC Milan. Lazio will host the other team from Milan, Internazionale. Napoli travel to Parma in the big three games of the weekend. Juventus host Cagliari as they most certainly will have at least one eye, if not two, on the second leg of their Champions League semifinal next week. At the bottom of the table, it seems more of a formality as Atalanta is now 6 points clear from the bottom 3. Cagliari needs to find a way to beat the Champions this weekend if they are to have any hope.
With 3 rounds left in Germany, very little is left to play for. While we are not sure who will finish in 2, 3, or 4, we know what three teams will finish in them. Wolfsburg has taken a massive tumble down the table that any other year might have seen them fighting for a Europa League place. This year however, it leaves them just 2 points clear of third place Monchengladbach. Bayer Leverkusen is 2 points behind Monchengladbach. However, the distance between Schalke and Bayer is a massive 13 points. So who will get the two automatic group stage spots and who will have to play in the play offs? Well two of those teams face off as Monchengladbach hosts Bayer. This game will go a long way in deciding who gets the privilege of playing in the Champions League playoff rounds. Wolfsburg travels to Paderborn this weekend. They could really use a big three points. At the bottom end of the table, Freiburg and Hamburger play in Germany’s big relegation 6 pointer.
EPL Pick Em
Buzz won another weekend and extended his lead with three weeks left. The score is now Buzz 233, Me 220.
My Picks – Everton 2-1, Spurs 2-1, Leicester 1-0, Hull 2-1, West Brom 2-0, West Ham 2-2, Palace 2-1, City 2-0, Chelsea 1-1, Arsenal 3-1
Buzz’s Picks – Everton 2-1, Villa 2-2, saints 1-1, WBA 1-0, hull 2-1, Spurs 2-0, united 2-0, Champs 2-1, city 3-1, Arsenal 3-0