10 Things From This Weekend

  1. United go top of the league

Thanks to a pick up in form from United and a stumble from City, Manchester United are now top of the league. They hosted Sunderland this weekend and went ahead just before halftime with a late first half goal from Memphis Depay. Rooney opened the second half with a goal and then Mata finished it off with a late goal. Van Gaal seems to have found his team and has them playing very well right now. This week will be a big test for them as they host Wolfsburg.

  1. Barcelona get back to winning ways but it is costly.

The main story out of Barcelona is the injury to Lionel Messi. The forward left the game after 10 minutes with a knee injury. He clashed legs with a defender in the box and will now miss about 8 weeks with a damaged collateral ligament. The question now is will he be fit in time for the first El Classico of the season at the Bernabeu on November 22? According to Madrid based papers, he will miss the clash. But Mundo Deportivo, based in Barcelona, claims he will be there. Barcelona got two goals from Luis Suarez this weekend to give them the win. Jonathan Viera got a late conciliation goal.

  1. Dortmund stumble in the last week.

On last Monday, Borussia Dortmund had won 5 out of 5 games in the Bundesliga. Since then, they have faced Hoffenheim and Darmstadt 98 and drew both games. They needed a second half goal to equalize against Hoffenheim. Then they stumbled late, as Aytac Sulu scored a 90th minute goal to give Darmstadt a 2-2 draw. They have now dropped 4 points in a week and sit four points behind Bayern Munich. Can they figure out what is wrong quickly? They will need some help now as Munich look strong.

  1. PSG Rolls On

PSG came into the weekend just one point ahead of St. Etienne and then fell behind at the weekend after 11 minutes. Then in the second half, PSG got going as Zlatan, Cavani, Di Maria, and Aurier all scored to win the game 4-1. PSG are now four points clear at the top and have scored 7 goals in their last two games. They are rolling again and look to be ready for their trip to Kiev to face Shathkar. With the rest of their title challengers struggling, PSG look odds on favorites to win their fourth league title in a row.

  1. Fiorentina go top as they hand Inter first loss.

Fiorentina came storming out of the gate this weekend with 3 goals in the first 23 minutes. Josip Ilicic scored a penalty in the fourth minute. Then Nikola Kalinic scored two goals in 5 minutes. The game further turned when Miranda was shown a red card in the 31st minute. Mauro Icardi scored a goal in the 60th minute to give Inter hope, but it was killed off 16 minutes later when Kalinic finished off his hat trick. Fiorentina held the possession and went top of Serie A thanks to their goal difference. Coming into the game, Inter had given up just 1 goal all season and in the span of 23 minutes that total quadrupled. Inter need to figure it out fast, as they face Sampdoria and then Juventus in their next two games.

  1. Chelsea continues to struggle

Coming into the weekend, Chelsea had won just two games this season and need to carry on from their second win of the season when they traveled to the northwest to face Newcastle. They needed a win but were without their star striker. However, they were facing a team that had not won a game yet this season, so Chelsea was almost certain to win this weekend. But that is why they play the game. Late in the second half, a great ball was played in by Vurnon Anita and Ayoze Perez controlled the cross and volleyed it home. Then on the hour mark, Georginio Wijnaldum finished off Perez’s corner with a great header past Begovic. Chelsea looked set for their fourth loss of the season, but they showed a little bit of heart in the last half hour as Ramires and Willian both scored to equalize the game at 2. While it was a massive comeback for Chelsea, it is still 2 points dropped. They now sit in 15th place and are 8 points off the top of the table.

  1. Villarreal go top with a win in Madrid.

Villarreal have come off a disappointing season last year to take the league by storm. They started the season with a 1-1 draw against Real Betis but have beaten Espanyol, Granada, Athletic Bilbao, and Malaga since. This weekend they faced off with Atletico Madrid. Atleti had won all of their games except for their match against Barcelona. This game was a 50-50 game all along and the only difference was an early goal from Leo Baptistao. Leo is currently on loan to Villarreal from Atletico Madrid and he scored the only goal of the game. The young Brazilian striker has never really played for Atleti, as he has been on loan since he arrived. For those EPL fans, the EPL is the only league that does not permit players to play against their parent club. With their 1-0 win, Villarreal are now top of the league. They sit 1 point ahead of Barcelona and 2 ahead of Real Madrid.

  1. Munich is a machine and Lewandowski is unhuman.

Lewandowski added 2 more goals to his tally and that takes his mark to 101 goals in the Bundesliga in just 168 games. This is faster than any foreign player in the Bundesliga. During the week, he scored a ridiculous 5 goals in 9 minutes. He has now scored 10 goals in four matches in the Bundesliga. Munich is flying very high right now, as they look more and more dangerous each week. They have won every game this season, scoring 23 goals in 7 games and giving up just 3 goals. Will it be another run away for Munich? Dortmund and Wolfsburg have hit some road bumps, so it just might be.

  1. Juventus struggles continue.

In a big match in Naples, Juventus were ready to show that they had turned the corner. However, their struggles continued when Lorenzo Insigne scored a first half goal. Then Higuain gave Napoli a cushion as he scored his 5th goal of the season. Juventus would score just a minute later as Mario Lemina scored his first of the season. The young midfielder joined Juventus on loan this season and gave his team some hope with just under 30 minutes left. Juventus could not find an equalizer and the final whistle meant that Juve sit in 15th place just 2 points clear of the bottom 3. Napoli, on the other hand, jumped into the top half of the table. Is there an end to Juventus’ struggles? Sevilla travel to Turin this week in Champions League, so it is not getting any easier.

  1. Rough weekend for the historical powers in France.

What team might you think of If I were to ask you who has won the most Ligue 1 titles? What about the top five in terms of titles? How many of you would say PSG? You would be wrong, as they have won just 5 titles and that includes the last 3. They are, in order, St. Etienne (10), Marseille (9), Nantes (8), Monaco (7), and Lyon (7). This was not a good weekend for those 5 teams. They combined for a total of 1 point this weekend. Lyon was beaten 3-1 in Bordeaux. Monaco earned the only point with a 3-3 draw with Guingamp. Nantes lost 4-1 to PSG, despite taking an early lead. Marseille might have been the shock result of the round, as they lost 2-1 to newly promoted Angers. Saint Etienne lost at Nice 4-1, despite Nice ending the game with just 9 players on the field. Saint Etienne is the closest challenger to PSG this year, but the rest are 8th or worse. One of these teams will need to step up if they want to challenge for the title again.

Picture of the Weekend…

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Goals of the Weekend…

My Pick – My choice this week is from Serie A as Torino beat Palermo 2-1 on Sunday. Marco Benassi scored a wonderful volley on a great cross from Maxi Lopez.

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James’ Pick

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Champions League Returns!

Tuesday Lineup

BATE vs. Roma                                                                                                               Barcelona vs. Bayer

Bayern Munich vs. Dinamo Zagreb                                                                 Arsenal vs. Olympiacos

Maccabi Tel- Aviv vs. Dynamo Kyiv                                                                  Porto vs. Chelsea

Zenit vs. Gent                                                                                                                Lyon vs. Valencia

My game to watch… Porto vs. Chelsea – While Chelsea have struggled in the EPL, they have a very straight forward group. Their closest rivals have to be Porto in the group and a win for Chelsea would almost guarantee their place in the Round of 16.

Wednesday Lineup

Manchester United vs. Wolfsburg                                                                  CSKA vs. PSV Eindhoven

Astana vs. Galatasary                                                                                             Atletico Madrid vs. Benfica

Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City                                                                        Juventus vs. Sevilla

Malmo vs. Real Madrid                                                                                                             Shakhtar Donetsk vs. PSG

My game to watch… Juventus vs. Sevilla – These teams are atop the group of death and a win will give them some breathing room. Both teams have had poor starts in their leagues but will look to maintain their 3 point advantage on the rest of the group.

Games on Friday…

La Liga – Celta de Vigo vs. Getafe – 2:30 pm EST

Bundesliga – Darmstadt 98 vs. Mainz 05 – 2:30 pm EST

Ligue 1 – Lille vs. Montpellier – 2:30 pm EST

What to Watch This Weekend…

  1. Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City

TV – Saturday September 26th – 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

Both teams will be looking for the three points this weekend after not the best results over the last couple of days.  Manchester City suffered their first defeat in the league.  After a blistering start, the blue side of Manchester has lost two of their last three games.  They did rebound in the midweek by pummeling Sunderland 4-1 in the Capitol One Cup.  Kompany should return to the lineup, but that is just the start of Pellegrini’s problems as Bony, Mangala, and Silva are all sidelined.  Tottenham suffered a defeat this week after winning three straight.  While it is only the Capitol One Cup, it was to their most hated rival, Arsenal.  How will they respond this weekend?  Christian Eriksen should be back after playing against Arsenal.  This means Min will push out to the wing.  It should be a great match and will give us a good picture of where Tottenham stand in the EPL.

My Pick – Tottenham 1 – Manchester City 3.  City gets rolling again with goals from De Bruyne, Aguero, and Kolarov, meanwhile Harry Kane will finally get his first goal.

James’ Pick – Tottenham 1 – Manchester City 3. Goals from Aguero, De Bruyne (2) and Harry Kane.

  1. Bordeaux vs. Lyon

TV – Saturday September 26th – 2:00 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

Lyon come into the game on a slightly better run of form, as they are unbeaten in five games but have only won 2 of those games.  Their last game was their first home win of the season.  They have been slightly disappointing this season and they will hope that win can turn around the season.  Bordeaux is reeling after a 6-1 loss to Nice.  Lyon has won their last three trips to Bordeaux by outscoring them 11-1.  With Champions League returning next week, look for Valbuena to start on the bench with a calf injury.

My Pick – Bordeaux 1 – Lyon 2.  Lyon will make it two wins in a row as Beauvue and Lacazette give them all three points. Saivet will get a consolation goal for Bordeaux.

James’ Pick –

  1. Real Sociedad vs. Athletic Bilbao

TV – Sunday September 27th – 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

The Basque Derby, or in Basque Euskal Derbia, takes place this weekend.  This is one of the most prominent rivalries in all of Spain as Real Sociedad host Athletic Bilbao.  This derby dates back to 1909.  While it has not been played every year due to Real Sociedad being relegated, it is one of the oldest in Spain.  Athletic has not won this derby since 2012 and has not won in Donostia (San Sebastian) since 2011.  Sociedad come into the game with a good win over Granada by the scoreline of 3-0.  Athletic Club come in following their defeat to Real Madrid 2-1.  Ernesto Valverde will hope to get a win and his side back on track.  David Moyes will look to keep the pressure off of him after winning their first game of the year this week.

My Pick – Real Sociedad 2, Athletic Club 2.  The Basque teams will share the points.  Goals from Vela and Canales for Sociedad and an Aduriz brace for Bilbao.

James’ Pick –

  1. Napoli vs. Juventus

TV – Saturday September 26th – 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports USA

Both of these teams have had miserable starts this year and they both sit in the bottom half of the table.  Juventus followed up their first win of the season with a midweek draw at home against Frosinone.  This game should have been a Champions League places show down, but instead will be a battle between 12th and 13th.  With that being said, there will be a lot of attacking talent on the field and two so-so defenses.  Juventus went from a staunch defense to one that has kept just one clean sheet.  Look for Jose Callejon to get another chance in the starting XI.  Jorginho is also a pick to play over Valdifiori in the middle of the park.  For Juventus, Pogba will have to dictate the play as the best player on the floor.  Look for Morata and Dybala to start up front together.

My Pick – Napoli 2 – Juventus 1.  Juventus have been missing their cutting edge and this will hurt them again.  Goals from Higuain, Insigne, and Morata.

James’ Pick –

  1. Inter vs. Fiorentina

TV – Sunday September 27th – 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports USA

Inter Milan is the hottest team in all of Italy.  They have won all five games by a one-goal margin.  This is the top of the table clash this weekend as Inter are on top with Fiorentina just 3 points back in second place.  La Viola will hope to get the points and move to the top of the table.  This will be a very defensive game, as these teams have the best defensive records in the league.  It is the first big test for Roberto Mancini this season. Paulo Sousa seems to have his team ready for this battle and ready to challenge for a spot in the Champions League.  Look for this to be a great tactical battle and probably end in a draw.

My Pick – Inter 1 Fiorentina 1.  Goals from Jovetic and Kalinic.

James’ Pick –

Other Games on TV This Weekend

English Premier League

Newcastle United vs. Chelsea – Saturday – 12:30 pm EST on NBCSN

Manchester United vs. Sunderland – Saturday – 10:00 am EST on NBC

Leicester City vs. Arsenal – Saturday – 10:00 am EST on USA

West Bromwich Albion vs. Watford – Sunday – 3:00 pm EST on NBCSN

Spanish La Liga

Barcelona vs. Las Palmas – Saturday – 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Real Madrid vs. Malaga – Saturday – 12:15 am EST on beIN Sports

Italian Serie A

Genoa vs. Milan – Sunday – 6:30 am EST on beIN Sports

German Bundesliga

Mainz 05 vs. Bayern Munchen – Saturday – 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Werder Bremen vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Saturday – 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Hamburger SV vs. Schalke 04 – Saturday – 12:30 am on Fox Sports 2

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hertha Berlin – Sunday – 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Borussia Dortmund vs. Darmstadt 98 – Sunday – 11:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

French Ligue 1

Guingamp vs. Monaco – Sunday – 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

What we Learned This Weekend

  1. Chelsea 2 – Arsenal 2

In the biggest match of the season, the story was not about the football but rather about the color red.  Chelsea scored two goals, but Arsenal received two red cards that really changed the game.  The first one was given to Gabriel Paulista.  It was given for his kickout on Diego Costa who, to be honest, was lucky to still be on the field.  Was Paulista guilty? Yes.  Should he have been sent off? Yes.  Should Costa have seen red? Yes.  I am personally getting very tired of his antics.  Listening to the pundits this weekend, they talked about how he is good at towing the line, but I don’t see it that way.  I think it is more about how poor Mike Dean was.  He missed three smacks to the face from Costa and should have given him about 5 different yellows.  In the end, Cazorla got two yellows and that was the end of the game.  It is three big points for Chelsea but there are still lots of questions. Costa might face some punishment after being charged with violent conduct.

  1. PSG stumbles again

After winning their first four games of the season, PSG have stumbled lately after they failed to win for the second weekend in a row.  After beating Monaco 3-0, PSG have drawn at home to Bordeaux and on the road against Stade de Reims.  The game was scoreless for 83 minutes before Nicolas de Preville broke free on the right side of the box and passed the ball to an open Theoson Jordan Siebatcheu.  Siebatcheu then passed the ball into the back of the net.  Almost instantly, Cavani and Pastore played a 1-2 that lead to Cavani smashing the ball into the back of the net.  Pastore’s ball was an amazing chip pass that sent was played just off Zlatan and perfectly for Cavani.  Cavani has been on fire but couldn’t find a winner.  PSG dominated the game but could not where it counted.

  1. Rafa is getting the defense right

Real Madrid brought in a new manager this summer with the aim of getting a better defensive setup.  They brought in Rafa Benitez to do this and early signs are good.  So far, Real has scored 12 goals and conceded 0.  They are the only team in the top 5 leagues that has not conceded.  There were so many questions about his appointment but so far so good.  The opening match could have been better but since then, the attack seems to have found their footing.  They are now scoring 5, 6, 4, and 1 goals in their last four games.  Their defense has anchored by a strong central partnership.  Ramos, Varane, and Pepe have been rotated and been really strong as a result.  Marcelo has the left back side locked down.  Danilo started the year but injury has given Carvajal the most recent starts.  The biggest growth in defense however has to be Kroos and Modric.  They are the key to the defense.  A strong start from Real Madrid has been down to their strong defense.

  1. Dortmund continue to roll

I feel like I write this every week, but Dortmund continues to look good.  They have won by an average of 3 goals each game this season.  Thomas Tuchel has this team humming and they continue to look ready to challenge Bayern Munich.  This weekend, they faced off with Bayer Leverkusen.  Bayer was coming off a nice win in the Champions League.  They had been struggling in the league but are a solid team.  However, that did not matter to Dortmund.  Jonas Hofmann scored the opener in the 19th minute.  Then in the second half, Kagawa and Aubameyang scored to give Dortmund a resounding 3-0 win.

  1. West Ham Dominate on Road

Slaven Bilic must have the secret to winning on the road in the EPL.  So far on his travels, he has beaten Arsenal and Liverpool before heading to Manchester to face the hottest team in England.  However, that did not stop West Ham as they went on to jump out to an early two goal lead.  Victor Moses shocked the defense as he let a long range shot fire and beat Joe Hart for the opener just 6 minutes into the game.  Just after the half hour mark, Diafra Sakho got on the end of a loose ball and slotted it away.  That, however, was the end of the West Ham domination and City really started to show up after that.  Kevin De Bruyne scored his first goal for City to give them hope.  The second half of the game was all City, but Adrian was on fire and had the game of his life.  West Ham was able to hold on for all three points.  West Ham has now scored 7 goals and only conceded 1 goal.  Can Bilic keep this up?  It is important if he wants to reach midtable this season.

  1. What is wrong with Monchengladbach?

Last season, Monchengladbach finished in fourth place after a fantastic season.  This season is a different story.  They did not have the easiest start to the season, starting at Dortmund.  They faced Mainz, Werder Bremen, Hamburger SV, and Koln this weekend.   Monchengladbach has only scored in two games and conceded 12 goals this season.  Their schedule is not going to get any easier.  This team should be much stronger, and I hope they can figure it out soon as they face Manchester City, Wolfsburg, and Juventus in the upcoming weeks.  Due to this poor run of form, Lucien Favre has resigned as head coach.  The future is really up in the air now and it will be a very interesting appointment.

  1. Juventus get their first win.

The Old Lady finally has three points following their win in Genoa.  Coming off a great win in Manchester, Juventus continued with another win this weekend.  Juventus switched to a 4-3-3 and this led to another victory.  The first goal was an own goal from Lamanna.  Then Juventus really got a big break when Armando Izzo was shown his second yellow card.  Paul Pogba converted a penalty kick in the second half to give Juventus all three points.  They seemed to have turned the corner and are back to looking like the Juventus of last season.

  1. Celta Vigo is for real

Celta Vigo is one of just five teams in Spain to have not suffered defeat.  The other four teams are Barcelona, Real Madrid, Villarreal, and Valencia.  While their first three games were not against the toughest opponents, this week, Celta traveled down to Andalusia to face Sevilla.  Sevilla has been struggling in the league but just won 3-0 in the Champions League.  The Rojiblancos were hoping to get off the bottom of the table and get their first win.  However, they would have to wait as Celta scored two goals in the first half.  Fernando Llorente would add a goal in the second half but it was not enough.  Celta earned all three points and kept their place in the top 4.   Can they stay there all year?  Probably not, but Europe is a definite possibility.

  1. Lyon fails to put away Marseille.

While PSG has been dropping points, so has Lyon.  This weekend they took on Marseille and had the chance to cut into PSG’s lead at the top.  Lyon got an opening goal from the penalty spot.  Lacazette was played in and then taken out by Mandanda.  He then finished off the spot kick to give Lyon the lead.  This was his first goal of the season.  He has to start scoring more if Lyon wants to start climbing up the table.  Romain Alessandrini went straight into the back of Mathieu Valbuena.  Valbuena was making his return to Marseille and was targeted all match.  Alessandrini was shown a straight red and it should have lead to a Lyon win.  Marseille fans were throwing missiles and flares on the pitch so much so that the match needed to be suspended for 20 minutes.  When the teams came back on the field, Karim Rekik headed in the corner to draw Marseille level.  It was a good point for Marseille, but a bad performance from their fans.  Lyon should have come away with all three points and will need to step up their game in the future.

  1. Inter stay perfect.

Inter, meanwhile, is one of four teams in the top 5 leagues that have won all of their games.  Following their 1-0 win in the Milan Derby, Inter went to Chievo Verona and came away with another big 1-0 win. Mauro Icardi was the first to react to a great ball played into the box and got the ball into the back of the net.  That was the only goal in the match and all that Inter needed.  They have now played four games and won four games.  Three of those games have been 1-0 wins.  They have conceded just 1 goal all season and that came in the only game they scored 2 goals in.  There is no distraction from Europe for Inter, so it will be interesting to see how long they can keep this going.

Picture of the Week…

Diego Costa complaining

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Goals of the Week…

My Pick – I am going with Matt Ritchie’s stunner for Bournemouth against Sunderland.

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James’ Pick – James is going with Gonzalo Higuain’s first goal of his brace against Lazio.

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Games This Week…

In Germany, Italy, France and Spain, we have a midweek round of league games.  Here is a quick look at the games to watch in each league.

Germany –Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg.  This is an absolutely huge match between 2nd and 3rd this weekend. It is Tuesday afternoon on Fox Sports 1.

Italy – Internazionale vs. Hellas Verona. The only perfect team in Italy hosts Hellas Verona as they look to keep up the pace.  The game is Wednesday afternoon.

France – PSG cs. Guingamp.  Can PSG get back to their winning ways in Ligue 1? It is Tuesday afternoon.

Spain – Celta Vigo vs. Barcelona. This features two of the unbeaten teams in La Liga.  It is Wednesday afternoon on beIN Sports Connect.

In England we have the League Cup taking place this week.  The game to watch has to been Tottenham Hotspur hosting Arsenal.  How will the Gunners respond to their defeat at the weekend?  The match is Wednesday afternoon on beIN Sports.

5 Games to Watch During Week 6

  1. Chelsea vs. Arsenal

TV – Saturday, September 19th at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

The Jose Mourinho vs. Arsene Wenger battle resumes this weekend when Arsenal travel across London to face Chelsea.  Chelsea are coming off a win in the Champions League, where as Arsenal suffered a shocking defeat.  Mourinho needs to carry this momentum over, as a loss this weekend could be devastating for him and the club.  Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho in a competitive match, but did defeat him in the most recent Community Shield match.  Pedro and Willian look set to miss out on the match, but Terry, Matic, and Costa should all return.  The big question for Chelsea is Baba Rahman or Ivanovic.  Ramsey, Bellerin, Mertesacker, and Coquelin should all start.  Cech will make his return to the Bridge after his summer move to Arsenal.

My Pick – This is just what Jose needs.  Look for Chelsea to park the bus and get the goal on the counter.  It won’t work out, as Walcott will have too much pace. 1-1 draw with goals from Walcott and Costa.

James’ Pick – Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2 with goals by Costa, Hazard, Sanchez, Walcott

  1. Dortmund vs. Leverkusen

TV – Sunday, September 20th  at 10:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

The hottest team in Germany takes to the field Sunday as Borussia Dortmund has been flying, scoring 15 goals in their first four games but now they face a strong test.  Leverkusen has won on their last two trips to Dortmund and will look to make it three in a row.  Reus is still a doubt with his broken toe.  Chicharito could start for Leverkusen.  How will the Europa League affect Dortmund?  We will see this weekend.

My Pick – Dortmund 3 – Leverkusen 2 in a great match.  Goals from Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan (2) for Dortmund and Calhanoglu and Chicharito for Leverkusen.

James’ Pick – Borussia Dortmund 3 Leverkusen 1 with goals by Aubameyann(2), Mkhitaryan, Hernandez

  1. Napoli vs. Lazio

TV – Sunday, September 20th at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

Both of these teams would like a reset to the season.  Both were being tipped to challenge for the Champions League places but have struggles.  Napoli has managed just 2 draws so far this campaign. Lazio have won two of their three games and are just three points back in the league.  A win for them could propel them up the table.  Look for it to be a high scoring affair with both teams struggling defensively.

My Pick – Napoli will get their first win of the season 3-2 over Lazio.  Goals from Higuain, Insigne, and Hamsik for Napoli and Anderson and Matri to score for Lazio.

James’ Pick – Napoli 2 Lazio 1 with goals by Higuain, Callejon, Candreva

  1. Sevilla vs. Celta de Vigo

TV – Sunday, September 20th at 6:00 am EST on beIN Sports Connect

The surprise of the season so far has to be Celta Vigo.  They have started well as they are unbeaten in the league.  Sevilla has been okay but they have not won a game yet in the league. They just got a huge win in the Champions League.  Sevilla are a really strong home side, as they only lost once at home last year.  Look for the Sanchez Pizjuan to be rocking on Sunday.  Celta Vigo had the chance to go top of the league last week but watched a 3-1 lead evaporate.

My Pick – I think this is the week that Sevilla gets there first win of the season.  I am going for Sevilla 2 – Celta 1 with goals from Konoplyanka, Llorente, and Nolito.

James’ Pick – Sevilla 3 Celta de Vigo 1 with goals by Gamiero, Banega, Reyes, Orellana

  1. Stade de Reims vs. PSG

TV – Saturday, September 19th at 10:30 am EST on beIN Sports

The French champions have started well again this season and they look set to repeat as champions.  This weekend they travel to Reims to face off with Stade de Reims.  Reims currently sits in third place and are three points behind the Paris side.  Reims record signing Jaba Kankava could start this weekend.  Hopefully Reims will not be scared and will go for the win at home.  PSG are looking to create more after a disappointing draw with Bordeaux.  PSG is now 100% healthy and will need their squad with five different competitions in the next two weeks.

My Picks – PSG will get back to their winning ways this weekend with a 2-1 win in Reims.  Goals from Di Maria, Cavani, and Devaux.

James’ Pick – PSG 3 Stade de Reims 0 with goals by Cavani(2), Lavezzi

Champions League Results

James’ Result – Juventus 2 – Manchester City 0

My Result – Dinamo Zagreb 2 – Arsenal 1.  In what might have been the shock of the weekend, Arsenal traveled to Croatia and would easily come away with three points.  They did not, as the Croatian side came with a strong game plan and went ahead in the first half.  They added a second in the second half before Walcott got a consolation goal.

Other Games on TV This Weekend

Bundesliga

Darnstadt 98 vs. Bayern Munchen – Saturday – 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Wolfsburg vs. Hertha Berlin – Saturday – 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Koln vs. Borussia Monchengladbach – Saturday – 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Stuttgart vs. Schalke 04 – Sunday – 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Augsburg vs. hannover 96 – Sunday – 11:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

English Premier League

Swansea City vs. Everton – Saturday – 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Manchester City vs. West Ham United – Saturday – 12:30 pm EST on NBCSN

Serie A

Chievo vs. Internazionale – Sunday – 6:30 am on beIN Sports

Roma vs. Sassuolo – Sunday – 9:00 am on beIN Sports

Ligue 1

Monaco vs. Lorient – Sunday – 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

La Liga

Real Madrid vs. Granada – Saturday – 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Barcelona vs. Levante – Sunday – 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

Week 5 Recap

  1. Jose has his work cut out for him.

Chelsea look old and tired and way off the pace. Chelsea has now conceded 12 goals in just 5 games. Their defense needs a lot of work. John Terry has been really showing his age this season and has not been the rock that he was last year. Branoslav Ivanovic was one of the best defenders in the league last season and this season he looks like he is in shambles. He seems to be beaten for pace almost every week. So much so that he is now backing away from attackers. Cesc Fabregas seems to just want to go for a stroll every match and play simple passes. Matić seems overwhelmed. Does Chelsea have the answer? Is Jose Mourinho the answer? For a manager who has always had great defenses, his team seems lacking.

  1. Ronaldo ran riot.

After not scoring in the first two matches of the season, Ronaldo finally got going and boy did he. With Real Madrid playing in Barcelona, the superstar didn’t take long to get going scoring in the 7th minute. Ronaldo then finished off a penalty in the 17th and another great goal in the 20th minute to record a 20-minute hat trick against Espanyol. He would add two more in the second half for a total of 5 goals as Real Madrid went on to win 6-0. Benzema scored the other goal on a Ronaldo assist. After drawing their first game of the season, Real have now scored 11 goals in their last two games and are yet to concede all season. They look to be on top form and ready to challenge for the title.

  1. Leicester City is rocking.

After fighting for survival last season, Leicester looks set to be the surprise team of the season. Their last defeat was on April 29th against Chelsea. Since that game, they have won 11 games and drawn 4 in all competitions, including friendlies. The team has seen a change in manager and not missed a beat. They are currently second in the table with 11 points. Riyad Mahrez has been one of the standout players of the season. Jamie Vardy seems to be scoring whenever he wants. Nathan Dyer scored the winning goal this weekend and looks to be a great addition. Claudio Ranieri seems to be pulling the strings. I am really excited to see what he can do with this fun to watch team this year.

  1. Dortmund has moved on and look great.

Thomas Tuchel took over this summer after Jurgen Klopp stepped down last spring. Klopp had been in charge for 7 seasons and had won 2 league titles, a German Cup, and went to the Champions League final. In his last season, the team struggled. Now, the team is under a new manager and looks back to the Dortmund of 2012-13. Thomas Tuchel has the team humming again. Four games into the season, Dortmund sits on top of the table with a perfect start to their season. They have scored a total of 15 goals in these games while only conceding 3. If they are going to push Bayern all the way, they will need to keep this up.

  1. United get it right in the second half.

After what can only be described as a terrible first half, Manchester United get their tactics right and went on to defeat a poor Liverpool team. United perfectly executed a wonderful free kick and Daley Blind smashed his shot perfectly into the goal. Then they got a very soft penalty, which Ander Herrera finished off. The best moment of the game was when Benteke scored an absolute wonder goal, but more on that later. Then newly signed Anthony Martial weaved his way through the Liverpool defense to score a fantastic debut goal. Is he worth the price tag? It is way too early to tell, but it was a great start.

  1. Inter Milan go top after derby win.

In the Milan Derby, Inter looked set to go top of the table with a win and they did just that. In a game that was very much back and forth, Inter took the advantage with a 58th minute goal from Fredy Guarin. This was the only goal, but it was all that was needed. Inter maintained their unbeaten start to the season and go top following Chievo dropping points. While it is really to soon to tell, Inter look to have done some great business in the summer and could be ready to return to Europe.

  1. Barca needed Messi.

Following the birth of his second son, Messi was left on the bench for the start of the huge clash with Altetico Madrid. Barcelona still dominated the possession and had some great chances but they seemed to miss that cutting edge. The game went into half time level at 0. Then in the 51st minute, Fernando Torres was played in by Tiago and coolly finished the ball off the post to give Madrid the lead. The lead didn’t last long, as Neymar stepped up and calmly curled a beautiful free kick into the top left corner of the goal. 5 minutes later, Messi came on to the pitch and Barcelona looked set to win the game. It didn’t take long either, as just 17 minutes on and Luis Suarez played in Messi. Messi finished the ball into the back of the net.

  1. Juventus finally get a point.

After a very slow start to the season, Juventus finally got a point following a 1-1 draw at home against Chievo Verona. While their heads might have been turned by their upcoming Champions League match with Manchester City, Juve needed to correct their poor start to the season. Mandzukic, Pogba, Chiellini, and Lichtsteiner all started on the bench. New signings Dybala and Hernanes got the start. Dybala scored the game-tying goal in the 83rd minute.

  1. PSG drop their first points of the year.

Edinson Cavani has continued his great start for PSG, scoring twice on Friday. Zlatan missed the game due to an abdominal injury but should return for the match against his boyhood club.  On Friday, the story was more about the poor goaltending than it was about the actual match. Cavani’s first goal came after Cedric Carrasso failed to control the ball. Then it was PSG’s goalie Kevin Trapp’s turn. Henri Saivet flicked on the corner kick right into Trapp’s arms and he seemed to just watch it then fly into the net for the first goal he has conceded in almost 400 minutes. Cavani put PSG back on top with a great free kick that was pure class. Henri Saivet who scored the first goal was given a yellow and sent off in the 77th minute. Despite being down to 10 men, Bordeaux would get a final chance when Kevin Trapp took too long on the ball after a back pass. Wahbi Khazri stole it off his foot and smashed in the equalizer. It was the first dropped points for PSG, but they remain atop the table.

  1. Usual suspects show up for Bayern.

Bayern took on Augsburg this weekend and they looked to keep pace with Dortmund. They would have their work cut out for them, as the last team to score against Bayern Munich in Munich during a Bundesliga game was Augsburg last May. It didn’t even make it to half time before Augsburg took the lead with an Alexander Esswein goal. In the second half though, Bayern came back thanks to the usual two suspects of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. Müller finished from the spot after Douglas Costa earned a very very soft penalty. It all means that Bayern are still perfect in the Bundesliga and keep pace with Dortmund.

Pick of the Week…

Ronaldo is back with a bang!

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Goals of the Week…

James’ Pick – The absolute wonder strike from Christian Benteke. Jordan Ibe crossed the ball into the box, Daley Blind headed it up into the air and then magic happened as Benteke smashed the ball into the back of the net. Check it out…

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My Pick – I was debating between two brilliant free kicks for this one but I am giving the nod to Edinson Cavani for his second goal against Bordeaux. He calmly placed the shot perfectly in the top left corner and left the goal planted to the ground.

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Champions League is back this week…

Tuesday Game to Watch…

Manchester City host Juventus.

The runners-up from last season have gotten off to a rough start to the season and face a difficult start to the Champions League. Manchester City has looked dominating and can really make a statement. This is a must watch game as the result will go a long way in deciding which team can make it out of this group of death. Juventus need a good result, but the same can be said for City. Winning the league is one thing, but to be among the best, you must go far in this competition.

Wednesday Game to Watch…

Roma host Barcelona

The champions start their defense on the road in a tough environment. Roma are off to a great start, including a win over Juventus. A win for Roma would be a great way to kick start the Champions League. Barcelona on the other hand has been dealing with many injuries. Gerard Piqué can play in this game, as he is eligible for European matches. No team has successfully defended the title since it was renamed the Champions League. Is this the year? We will get our first glimpse this week.

Other Games this week…

Tuesday

Wolfsburg hosts CSKA Moscow
Benfica hosts Astana
PSG hosts Malmo
PSV Eindhoven hosts Manchester United
Real Madrid hosts Shakhtar Donetsk
Sevilla hosts Monchengladbach
Galatasaray hosts Atletico Madrid

Wednesday

Chelsea hosts Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Bayer hosts BATE
Valencia hosts Zenit
Dinamo Zagreb hosts Arsenal
Dynamo Kyiv hosts Porto
Olympiacos hosts Bayern Munich
Gent hosts Lyon

The Europa League also starts this week on Thursday. but more on that post group stage.

5 Games to Watch During Week 5

Here are the 5 games that you should watch this weekend.  The Champions League group stage starts next week…how will that affect the teams this weekend?

  1. Manchester United vs. Liverpool

TV – Saturday, September 12th at 12:30 pm EST on NBC

The two most decorated teams in English football square off in what has to be the best rivalry in all of England.  Manchester United has won 20 league titles, 11 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, and 3 Champions League titles.  Liverpool has won 18 league titles, 7 FA Cups, 8 League Cups, and 5 Champions League titles.  Liverpool has lost seven of their last eight trips to Old Trafford in all competitions.  This is going to be a big test for both teams, since they both lost last week.  On the Liverpool side, Coutinho is suspended for the meeting.  Henderson and Lallana both look set to miss out.  Whie Manchester’s David De Gea just signed a new contract so he should be in goal for the first time this year.

My Prediction – United at home and with De Gea back means United should be the favorites, plus no Coutinho.  I am going United 2-1 with Mata and Herrera scoring for United and Benteke for Liverpool.

James’ Prediction – United 3, Liverpool 1 with the goals coming from Rooney, Depay, and Martial for United and Benteke for Liverpool

  1. Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona

TV – Saturday, September 12th at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

The last two Spanish champions battle in the first big clash between the Madrid teams and Barcelona.  Atletico is one of the best home teams in the league and will look to make that count.  However, Barcelona has won 10 of their last 11 away from home in the league.  No Bravo, Pique, or Alves for Barcelona means that Ter Stegen should start in goal and Roberto and Vermaelen will keep their places in the back line.  Tiago is the only injury question for Atleti.  This game will be tight.

My Prediction – This game is always very close and will require a lot of work from the Atletico defense.  Barcelona will be strong in attack and midfield, so I am going Barcelona 2, Atletico 1 with goals from Messi and Neymar for Barcelona and Jackson Martinez for Madrid.

James’ Prediction – Atletico 2, Barcelona 2 with goals from Griezmann, Martinez, Messi, and Neymar.

  1. Inter Milan vs. AC Milan

TV – Sunday, August 30th at 2:45 pm on beIN Sports Connect

For the first time in a long time, neither of these teams is in Europe.  What does that mean is that they both spent a ton of money to get back not just into Europe, but also into the Champions League.  Look for Ivan Perišić to start in the new looking front three for Inter with on fire Stevan Jovetić and Marco Icardi.  Adriano and Bacca should lead the line for AC Milan, but Mario Balotelli might have a role to play.  This should be a fascinating spectacle.

My Prediction – AC Milan have not really hit their stride, look for Inter to take advantage and probably score a late winner.  Inter 2, AC 1.  Goals from Perišić and Jovetić for Inter and Bacca for AC.

James’ Prediction – Inter 2, AC 1 with goals from Jovetić (2) and Adriano.

  1. Hannover 96 vs. Borussia Dortmund

TV – Saturday, September 12th at 9:30 pm EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Borussia Dortmund has been the hottest team in Germany and currently sit on top of the Bundesliga.  They will hope to go a perfect 4 for 4 this season.  Marco Reus is a bit of a doubt, but new loan signing Adnan Januzaj could feature.  Aubameyang also picked up a bit of a knock and should start, but he might have to miss out as well.  Hannover meanwhile has been struggling and will look to add to their one point so far.

My Prediction – Strong possession and pressure from Dortmund mean this game is over at the half.  Dortmund 3, Hannover 0.  Goals from Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, and Januzaj.

James’ Prediction – Hannover scores but Dortmund wins 4-1.  Goals from Karamen, Aubameyang (2), and Mkhitaryan (2).

  1. Everton vs. Chelsea

TV – Saturday, September 12th at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

Last year this match was a thrilling 6-3 win for Chelsea.  Can they repeat last season and get their season finally started?  This is a big match for Matić and Fabregas, as the two have showed some weaknesses when teams attack them.  Everton might be at home, but they will look to counter and this is where they are lethal, as displayed in the game versus Southampton earlier this season.  Barkley and Lukaku will work to get on the ball and attack the Chelsea defense.  Chelsea has kept only one clean sheet in their last nine league matches, including 10 goals in their first 4 games this season.  That is just 5 fewer than they gave up in the whole of their 2004/05 title winning campaign.  Courtois just had surgery and will be out for a couple months, so let the reign of Begović begin.

My Prediction – New goalie and what appears to be a weak midfield could spell trouble for Chelsea.  Look for both teams to score. Everton 2, Chelsea 2 with goals from Lukaku (2), Costa and Pedro.

James’ Prediction – Chelsea gets a much needed win, 3-2 over Everton.  Goals from Pedro, Costa, Hazard, Lukaku, and Barkley.

Other Games on TV this Weekend

Saturday, September 12th

9:30 am EST – Bayern Munich vs. Augsburg on Fox Sports 1

9:30 am EST – Bayer Leverkusen vs. Darnstadt 98 on Fox Sports 2

10:00 am EST – Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City on NBCSN

10:00 am EST – Arsenal vs. Stoke City on USA Network

12:00 pm EST – Frosinone vs. Roma on beIN Sports

4:00 pm EST – Real Betis vs. Real Sociedad on beIN Sports

Sunday, September 13th

8:30 am EST – Sunderland vs. Tottenham Hotspur on NBCSN

9:00 am EST – Empoli vs. Napoli on beIN Sports

9:30 am EST – Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen on Fox Sports 1

11:30 am EST – Schalke 04 vs. Mainz 05 on Fox Sports 1

12:00 pm EST – Lazio vs. Udinese on beIN Sports

11:00 am EST – Leicester City vs. Aston Villa on NBCSN

Monday, September 14th

2:30 pm EST – Rayo Vallecano vs. Deportivo La Coruna on beIN Sports

3:00 pm EST – West Ham United vs. Newcastle United

European Qualifying and Transfer Window Recap

UEFA_Euro_2016_qualifying

This summer is the 15th European Championships. The Championships will be held in France. The field has also been expanded for this tournament to 24 teams, up from 16. France has automatically qualified for the tourney as the hosts, and the other 23 teams will be decided based on the group stage, which wraps up in October. The top two teams from each group will advance to the tournament. The third place teams can advance to the playoffs to get in to the tournament. The best third place team will qualify automatically. Here is a quick look at the group stages and the big games left.

Group A

Iceland and the Czech Republic have clinched the top two spots in the group. This will be Iceland’s first European Championships. Turkey currently holds the third spot, but the Netherlands are close behind, trailing by just two points.   Turkey still has a trip to the Czech Republic and Iceland. The Dutch meanwhile have to travel to Kazakhstan and host the Czech Republic. This could be the first time that the Dutch do not qualify for the Euros since 1984.

Group B

Wales have been one of the hottest teams in the world lately and they sit atop Group B with Belgium sitting in second. Both of those teams are guaranteed a top 3 spot. Israel sits in third but is only two points above Bosnia and Herzegovina with two matches left. Wales are on the brink of qualifying for the European Championships for the first time in their history.

Group C

Spain and Slovakia are tied atop group C, and Ukraine is just three points behind them. These three teams will finish as the top three, but in what order is the question. Next week we see Slovakia and Ukraine face off in Zilina and Spain travels to Macedonia. Then in October, Spain faces Luxembourg and travels to Ukraine, Slovakia hosts Belarus and travels to Luxembourg, meanwhile Ukraine travels to Macedonia before they host Spain.

Group D

Germany established themselves at the top of the group when they beat Poland 4-1 this week. Poland sits in second place in the group and looks set to qualify. The third place spot is down to Ireland and Scotland battling it out.

Group E

England has qualified for the tournament, as a perfect 7 for 7 in the group. Switzerland is in second and has a five-point advantage over Estonia. The battle for third will be between Estonia, Slovenia, and Lithuania. San Marino has yet to score a goal and are the only team not to have scored so far.

Group F

Group F also features another possible new entrant to the European Championships with Northern Ireland sitting atop the group. They have guaranteed at least a top 3 finish in the group. Romania sits one point behind Northern Ireland. Hungary currently is in third, three points back. Finland could also qualify but need some help.

Group G

Austria is on the brink of qualifying for their first European Championships. They did participate in 2008 when they cohosted with Switzerland. Sweden and Russia sit in the next two spots with Montenegro and Liechtenstein sitting on the outside looking in.

Group H

Italy, Norway, and Croatia are all battling it out for the top three spots in Group H. Italy has 18 points, Norway 16, and Croatia 15 points. Italy travels to Azerbaijan and hosts Norway. Norway also hosts Malta. Croatia hosts Bulgaria and travels to Malta.

Group I

Portugal, Denmark and Albania are sitting in the top 3 spots of the final group. They are all guaranteed to finish in the top 3. Portugal hosts Denmark before facing Serbia. Albania hosts Serbia and goes on the road to Armenia. Denmark has just the one game against Portugal.

There is a bit of a wait till the final rounds, but it will be fun to watch some new countries qualify for the European Championships.

Summer Transfer Window Recap

Best Transfer fit of the summer…

James’ Pick – Nathaniel Clyne – Southampton to Liverpool for 17.6 million Euros – After a superb showing for Southampton last season, he now gets an opportunity to play in the big matches. Liverpool seriously needed help at the back line and they couldn’t have done better than Clyne on the left. He will be a cornerstone there for years to come.

My pick – Edin Dzeko – Manchester City to Roma on Loan – the big striker will give Roma a new option and can be the player they need to push Juventus. He was not always a regular with City but did convert when he got the chance. He needed a new scene and this could be the perfect fit for him.

Best Free Transfer of the summer …

James’ Pick – Andre Ayew – Marseille to Swansea – In a few words…Wow. His first couple matches have done nothing but inspire Swansea fans and make every other English team question why they didn’t jump on a free transfer. Fluent up the middle with passes, see his last assist to Gomis, added with the ability to put the ball away in front of the net, he is truly the full package.

My pick – Rafael van der Vaart – Hamburg to Real Betis – He will add a dynamic ability to the midfield and can dictate the pace. While he may be a bit older now, he will be the leader in their midfield. They will need his playmaking ability and he has always been a great quality.

Most Surprising Transfer of the summer…

James’ Pick – Anthony Martial – Monaco to Manchester United for 49 million Euros – I can’t necessarily question his ability as to what he has done in the French league. He has looked strong, is young, and could very well become a true star. Many have compared him to Henry. But could ManU have used the OBSCENE amount of money to address their need at striker as well as other positions? I tend to think so…

My pick – Arturo Vidal – Juventus to Bayern Munich for 37 million Euros – The German champs poached a great midfielder from the defending Italian Champs. Vidal had a great performance at the Copa America and was rewarded with a move to the German champions.

Biggest Transfer Blunder…

James and I both feel it has to be the David De Gea saga. A transfer that seemed for sure to happen this summer went array on the final day, as the teams did not complete the paperwork. Who is to blame? Real Madrid did not get the paperwork done but did they get it in time? If you believe the rumors, then Real Madrid might not have had the money or wanted to spend the money. This was a debacle and the real loser has to be De Gea.

Biggest Waste of Money Transfer …

James’ Pick – Alvaro Negredo – Manchester City to Valencia for 30 million Euros –He did very little at Man City, though I understand he was behind Aguero…but he was hurt!! He had opportunities and I feel he completely underwhelmed. 30Mil to me for this type of player, I am not a fan of it.

My pick – Anthony Martial – Monaco to Manchester United for 49 million Euros – Monaco have to be laughing their way to the bank, as they cashed in the money on a player that had only played a full 90 minutes for Monaco 5 times. He is a very good young talent, but the most expensive teenager ever has a huge price tag to live up to.

Transfer that made no sense…

James’ Pick – Javier Hernandez – Manchester United to Bayer Leverkusen for 13 million Euros – Lots of money for a player that I truly don’t see making a big difference.

My pick – Papy Djilobodji – Nantes to Chelsea for 5.5 million Euros – A player who was left off the Chelsea roster for Champions League, which begs the question why spend the money on a center back. According to Philippe Auclair on the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, he is rubbish but we will see.

Team with the best summer…

James’ Pick – Roma. Smart moves, addressed needs, and early form has shown a complete success. Add in the early win over Juve and you have the team that is the early favorite to take the league.

My pick – Atletico Madrid – Hands down, the best summer for me. They strengthened all three phases of the game and were smart about their purchases. They brought back Filipe Luis from Chelsea, and added Stefan Savic to strengthen their defense. They added Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Bernard Mensah in the midfield. They also added Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto to their front line. Atleti have rearmed and are looking to challenge for the title.

We will be back to our weekly top 5 games pick ‘em on Friday.

Champions League Preview

Die Meister

Die Besten

Les grandes équipes

The champions!

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For those of you who are not sure what this is, it is the chorus to the Champions League anthem. The Champions are back! The draw was last week and the tournament kicks off in two weeks. So in order to get you ready for it, here is my quick preview of each group, the schedule, and James and mine predictions.

Group A: PSG, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmö

This should be a very straightforward group for Real Madrid and PSG. They should finish 1 and 2 with the difference being their two head-to-head matchups. Real Madrid has won the competition the most with their 10 titles. Most recently, they won the title in 2014 beating cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid. PSG is looking to advance to the semi-finals for the first time in their history after three straight trips to the quarterfinals. Shakhtar could be a tricky away trip, but they are playing in Lviv instead of Donetsk due to the civil unrest, so some of the home field advantage will be missing. Lastly is Malmo from Sweden. This will be a big homecoming for Zlatan Ibrahimovic as this was his first ever club.

Schedule…

Sept. 15 – PSG vs. Malmo & Real Madrid vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Sept. 30 – Shakhtar Donetsk vs. PSG & Malmo vs. Real Madrid
Oct. 21 – Malmo vs. Shakhtar Donetsk & PSG vs. Real Madrid
Nov. 3 – PSG vs. Malmo & Real Madrid vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Nov. 25 – Malmo vs. PSG & Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Real Madrid
Dec. 8 – PSG vs. Shakhtar Donetsk & Real Madrid vs. Malmo

My Prediction: PSG, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmo
James’ Prediction: Real Madrid, PSG, Shakhtar Donetsk, Malmo

Group B: PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moskva, Wolfsburg

This group could provide us with some surprises as what could be the weakest pot 1 team, PSV Eindhoven, was matched up with the strongest pot 4 team, Wolfsburg. It will also feature a return home trip for Memphis Depay, as he will face off with his old club, PSV. All of these teams will be confident that they can advance out of the group. Can Manchester United make a better return to the Champions League than Liverpool? How big will that last round game in Wolfsburg be? 

Schedule…

Sept. 15 – Wolfsburg vs. CSKA Moskva & PSV vs. Manchester United
Sept. 30 – Manchester United vs. Wolfsburg & CSKA Moskvov vs. PSV
Oct. 21 – CSKA Moskva vs. Manchester United & Wolfsburg vs. PSV
Nov. 3 – Manchester United vs. CSKA Moskva & PSV vs. Wolfsburg
Nov. 25 – CSKA Moskva vs. Wolfsburg & Manchester United vs. PSV
Dec. 8 – Wolfsburg vs. Manchester United & PSV vs. CSKA Moskva

My Prediction: Wolfsburg, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven
James’ Prediction: Manchester United, Wolfsburg, PSV Eindhoven

Group C: Benfica, Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray, Astana

Group C should be renamed the group of travel. It has the two teams that are farthest apart in the entire competition with Benfica and Astana in the group. Benfica is located in Lisbon on the Atlantic Ocean. Astana is in Kazakhstan. Astana is the first team ever to advance to the group stage from Kazakhstan. Look for the crowds to be huge when they have a home game. These teams also face a trip to Istanbul to face Galatasaray and to Madrid to face the runners-up of two years ago, Atletico Madrid. Atleti have to be the favorite in the group with Benfica a close second.

Schedule…

Sept. 15 – Galatasaray vs. Atletico Madrid & Benfica vs. Astana
Sept. 30 – Astana vs. Galatasaray & Atletico Madrid vs. Benfica
Oct. 21 – Atletico Madrid vs. Astana & Galatasaray vs. Benfica
Nov. 3 – Astana vs. Atletico Madrid & Benfica vs. Galatasaray
Nov. 25 – Astana vs. Benfica & Atletico Madrid vs. Galatasaray
Dec. 8 – Galatasaray vs. Astana & Benfica vs. Atletico Madrid

My Prediction: Atletico Madrid, Benfica, Galatasaray, Astana
James’ Prediction: Atletico Madrid, Benfica, Galatasaray, Astana

Group D: Juventus, Manchester City, Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach

Juventus is the first big name in Group D or the Group of Death. Manchester City seems to always be in the Group of Death, as they are joined by Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach. This is the only group in the competition that features 4 of the big five leagues. The question now becomes, who will be left out of the knockout stages. Juventus went to the final last year where they lost out to Barcelona. Sevilla won the Europa League each of the last two years and will look to make their name now in the Champions League. Monchengladbach is going to be a solid German side. Manchester City will hope that their amazing early season form can carry them to back to the knockout stage after missing out last year. Getting off to a fast start is going to be vital.

Schedule…

Sept. 15 – Manchester City vs. Juventus & Sevilla vs. Monchengladbach
Sept. 30 – Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City & Juventus vs. Sevilla
Oct. 21 – Juventus vs. Monchengladbach & Manchester City vs. Sevilla
Nov. 3 – Monchengladbach vs. Juventus & Sevilla vs. Manchester City
Nov. 25 – Juventus vs. Manchester City & Monchengladbach vs. Sevilla
Dec. 8 – Manchester City vs. Monchengladbach & Sevilla vs. Juventus

My Prediction: Manchester City, Sevilla, Juventus, Borussia Monchengladbach
James’ Prediction: Manchester City, Juventus, Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach

Group E: Barcelona, Leverkusen, Roma, BATE Borisov

Group E is home to the defending champions, Barcelona. Barcelona won their 5th title last year, also winning the treble. They will now look to become the first team to defend the title since Milan in 1989 and 1990. No team has done it since the tournament became the Champions League. They are joined in their group by Bayer Leverkusen, Roma and BATE Borisov. The battle for second place could be very intriguing between Leverkusen and Roma. Roma can make a big statement on the 16th when they host the defending champions. A point there would be a great start for them.

Schedule…

Sept. 16 – Leverkusen vs. BATE & Roma vs. Barcelona
Sept. 29 – Barcelona vs. Leverkusen & BATE vs. Roma
Oct. 20 – BATE vs. Barcelona & Leverkusen vs. Roma
Nov. 4 – Barcelona vs. BATE & Roma vs. Leverkusen
Nov. 24 – BATE vs. Leverkusen & Barcelona vs. Roma
Dec. 9 – Leverkusen vs. Barcelona & Roma vs. BATE

My Prediction: Barcelona, Roma, Leverkusen, BATE Borisov
James’ Prediction: Barcelona, Roma, Leverkusen, BATE Borisov

Group F: Bayern, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb

Group F has another one of the early favorites to win the whole competition in Bayern Munich. Munich has won the competition 5 times in the past, with their most recent title coming in 2013. Pep Guaridola will hope to win his third Champions League title as a manager and fourth overall. Arsenal, Olympiacos, and Dinamo Zagreb join them. Dinamo are returning to the group stage after two years away. This is a solid team that will attempt to take advantage of their home crowd. Olympiacos has been to the knockout stage on several occasions and even made it to the quarterfinals in 1999. Arsenal has never won the competition, but they have reached the final. This is the one major trophy that has eluded Arsene Wenger. Is this the year?

Schedule…

Sept. 16 – Dinamo Zagreb vs. Arsenal & Olympiacos vs. Bayern Munich
Sept. 29 – Bayern Munich vs. Dinamo Zagreb & Arsenal vs. Olympiacos
Oct. 20 – Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich & Dinamo Zagreb vs. Olympiacos
Nov. 4 – Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal & Olympiacos vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Nov. 24 – Arsenal vs. Dinamo Zagreb & Bayern Munich vs. Olympiacos
Dec. 9 – Dinamo Zagreb vs. Bayern Munich & Olympiacos vs. Arsenal

My Prediction: Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb
James’ Prediction: Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb

Group G: Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kyiv, Maccabi Tel-Aviv

This group should be the renamed the Jose Mourinho group, since the Portuguese manager returns to face the club that he first won the competition with. He is still trying to win the competition with Chelsea, but this manager has won it with Porto and Inter Milan. He is looking to join Carlo Ancelotti and Bab Paisley by winning his third Champions League title. He would be the first to win with three different clubs, as Ancelotti won with AC Milan and Real Madrid and Paisley won all three with Liverpool. It will also see Jose face Iker Casillas for the first time since he was manager of Real Madrid. Dynamo Kyiv and Maccabi Tel-Aviv round off the group, which should be very straightforward for Chelsea.

Schedule…

Sept. 16 – Dynamo Kyiv vs. Porto & Chelsea vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Sept. 29 – Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Dynamo Kyiv & Porto vs. Chelsea
Oct. 20 – Porto vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv & Dynamo Kyiv vs. Chelsea
Nov. 4 – Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Porto & Chelsea vs. Dynamo Kyiv
Nov. 24 – Porto vs. Dynamo Kyiv & Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. Chelsea
Dec. 9 – Dynamo Kyiv vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv & Chelsea vs. Porto

My Prediction: Chelsea, Porto, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Dynamo Kyiv
James’ Prediction: Chelsea, Porto, Dynamo Kyiv, Maccabi Tel-Aviv

Group H: Zenit, Valencia, Lyon, Gent

Last but not least, well maybe… is Group H. Valencia made history when they qualified for the group stage, as no country has ever had five representatives before. Lyon is a tough team that seems to be finding their form. Zenit are the champions of Russia and no one will want to travel to St. Petersburg in November or December, especially not Valencia on November 24th. Gent is the final team and the only Belgian team in the competition. This group is very up for grabs but look for a lot of goals and some great attacking football.

Schedule…

Sept. 16 – Valencia vs. Zenit & Gent vs. Lyon
Sept. 29 – Lyon vs. Valencia & Zenit vs. Gent
Oct. 20 – Zenit vs. Lyon & Valencia vs. Gent
Nov. 4 – Lyon vs. Zenit & Gent vs. Valencia
Nov. 24 – Zenit vs. Valencia & Lyon vs. Gent
Dec. 9 – Valencia vs. Lyon & Gent vs. Zenit

My Prediction: Lyon, Valencia, Zenit, Gent
James’ Prediction: Valencia, Lyon, Zenit, Gent

The road to Milan is just getting started, so enjoy it as the Champions League is back!!!!

Next Monday, I will be back with a quick recap of the transfer window and the insanity that was David De Gea! Enjoy the international break!

What Did We Learn During Week 4!

10 Things We Learned This Weekend!

  1. Roma has a mental advantage in Serie A.

Roma got a huge three points when they beat Juventus 2-1 this Sunday.  This means that Roma is now 4 points ahead of Juve.  Roma looked the better team from start to finish and if not for the great goalkeeping of Gigi Buffon, would have been up earlier.  Pjanic was able to strike a beautiful free kick just after the hour mark.  Then Evra was shown two yellow cards in the period of 4 minutes and sent off.  Edin Dzeko then scored his first, to give the home side a solid 2-0 lead with 11 minutes to play.  Paulo Dybala was able to get one back but Juventus never looked the stronger side.  Juventus is still yet to get a point as they have lost both their games this season.  Could their misery continue when they host top of the table Chievo Verona after the international break?  While this in no means that Roma will now win the title, it is an important three points and more importantly can give Roma a great energy boost.

  1. Real Madrid showed their teeth.

While facing their second newly promoted team of the season, The Royal Whites got off the mark quickly as Gareth Bale headed in a beautiful pass from James Rodriguez.  Then James Rodriguez would go on to score two beautiful goals.  His first was a stunning strike from a free kick.  The second was a magical overhead kick.  In between these goals, Karim Benzema scored a wonderful header on a cross from Bale.  Bale then added his second on a superb strike from outside the box.  Real Madrid really showed their attacking prowess in this game.  It is something they will need this year.  Quick side note, Ronaldo was a bit absent during the game.

  1. PSG is off to the races.

This weekend, PSG told the world that they are here to win the league and more as they traveled to Monaco and won 3-0.  Monaco was set to be their closest rival this year and looked off the paces.  Cavani continued his great form with two goals and Lavezzi added the third.  Di Maria was great off the bench and the team looks set to win potentially another French treble.  They have scored 7 goals this season and are yet to concede a goal.  They have a 3 point lead on second place Reims.  Monaco is now 7 points back.  Could the title race be over before Christmas?

  1. Red is the color of the weekend.

This weekend there seemed to be a large number of red cards given out.  There were three teams that received two cards and one game in which both teams saw a red card.  In total there were 18 red cards.  The breakdown is France 4, Italy 3, Germany 3, Spain 2, and England 6. Bastia, Juventus, and Stoke all saw two players sent off.  Is this going to be a trend this season?  Were they all the right decision?  Some of them might have been a little harsh, but players need to be careful as a ban can really hurt their team, like Coutinho and missing the United match.

  1. Lyon looked back at their best.

After stuttering out of the gate, drawing their first game and losing their third game, Lyon finally looked like a team worthy of challenging PSG.  Nabil Fekir scored a hat trick and assisted another goal as they beat Caen 4-0.  While PSG seem looking for someone to challenge them, Lyon seem to be the last team standing and could be finally finding their form.  Lyon now has 7 points.  They are 5 back of PSG.  They will need to maintain the form they showed this weekend if they want to catch up to PSG or make a deep run in the Champions League.

  1. Stevan Jovetic is happy to be back in Italy.

While I am not ready to say that Inter are a title contender just yet, Stevan Jovetic looks happy to be back in Italy.  While at Manchester City, Jovetic struggled to find game time and the back of the net.  In his two seasons there, he scored just 8 league goals and a total of 11 in all competitions.  For Inter Milan, Stevan has scored a total of 3 goals in 2 games.  He is really finding his feet fast and has helped get Inter off to a perfect start.

  1. Germany could be a three horse race.

In what has typically been a one horse race, Germany looks poised to be a three horse race this season. Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund appear ready to join Bayern Munich.  Dormund just gave up their first goal of the season sitting on top of the table following their 3-1 win over Hertha.  They have been playing some beautiful football.  Wolfsburg is really starting to play well and they have just lost two very important players in Ivan Perisic to Inter Milan and Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City.  They are not sitting on their hands though, as they are close to adding Julian Draxler from Schalke and Dante from Bayern Munich.  Bayern Munich looked very strong this weekend as well.  It should be a fascinating season and I am glad this could be a great three horse race.

  1. Increased money in the EPL has strengthened the middle of the table.

Last season, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Leicester, and Swansea were in the middle of the table.   Now they are running up the table and claiming some big scalps.  This weekend Crystal Palace went to Stamford Bridge and came away with all three points.  They were strong and not afraid.  In Jose’s 100 home premier league games, he lost just his second game.  Bakary Sako gave the Eagles the lead.  Falcao scored his goal for Chelsea to level the score.  However, this did not last long as Joe Ward put Crystal Palace back in front.  West Ham United has now beaten both Arsenal and Liverpool at home following their 3-0 win over Liverpool.  In what was an awful game for Liverpool, West Ham looked great on the counter.  Lastly, Swansea defeated Manchester United 2-1.  Swansea fell behind to United but was able to keep going.  A great tactical change from Gary Monk really changed the game.  Leicester also sits in the top 4, but is yet to play any of the big teams.  Is this the year that a new team cracks the top 4?

  1. Atletico Madrid put down marker.

In La Liga, there are five teams that are tipped for the top 4 spots.  In the first match between two teams in that group of five, Atletico Madrid laid down a nice marker.  They beat Sevilla 3-0 in Andalusia.  Koke opened the scoring.  Then Gabi and Jackson Martinez added goals in the second half.  A solid 3-0 win is exactly what Diego Simeone wants.  Sevilla had plenty of possession but created just as many shots on goal as Atleti.  Atleti was able to make their shots count.  With Barcelona next on the schedule, this was a perfect match for Madrid.  While we will learn more about their title hopes next week, they maintained their perfect start.

  1. Chelsea could really be in trouble.

While I should say I fully expect them to be in the title race and finish in the top 4 at the worst, Chelsea might be in some trouble.  Some of their best players are really having off years.  Matic looks really off the pace.  Cesc is too deep in the midfield.  Terry is actually looking his age.  But for me, the issues start with Hazard.  Hazard does not look like the player he was last year when Mourinho said he was as good, if not better than Ronaldo and Messi.  He is not tracking back as much as he was last year and his defensive work is really missing.  This could be the difference for the team.  Can Jose correct these errors?  Will Chelsea panic buy on deadline day?

Picture of the Week

When you have that moment of WOW!!!

IMG_3184

Goals of the Week

James’ Pick – James is going with James Rodriguez’s second goal.  The shot came in from Toni Kroos.  James stuck his foot out popped the ball up and finished it off in amazing style.

https://vine.co/v/eIQz2LjTEUF/embed/simple

My Pick – I am going with Miralem Pjanic’s beautiful free kick.  With the game poised at 0-0, Pjanic stepped up and finished off a beautiful free kick to give Roma a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute.

https://vine.co/v/MvelLMbZHdd/embed/simple

This weekend is an international break.  I will give you a quick glimpse at some games on TV this week and weekend.  I will also be putting out my Champions League Preview this week, as well as a transfer deadline round up.

Games on TV This Week

Thursday September 3rd

European Qualifying

2:45 pm EST – Italy vs. Malta – Fox Sports 1

2:45 pm EST – Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina – Fox Sports 2

2:45 pm EST – Czech Republic vs. Kazakhstan – Fox Soccer Plus

Friday September 4th

European Qualifying

2:45 pm EST – Germany vs. Poland – Fox Sports 1

2:45 pm EST – Hungary vs. Romania – Fox Sports 2

World Cup Qualifying

4:14 pm EST– Grenada vs. Haiti – beIN Sports

7:00 pm EST – Curacao vs. El Salvador – beIN Sports

9:00 pm EST – Jamaica vs. Nicaragua – beIN Sports

Friendly

4:45 pm EST – Portugal vs. France – Fox Soccer Plus

7:30 pm EST – USA vs. Peru – Fox Sports 1