Two Top of the Table Matchups

  1. Napoli vs. Inter Milan – Stadio San Paolo, Naples

Monday, November 30th – 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

The two hottest teams in Italy square off in Naples as Napoli hosts Inter.  These two teams are on top of the Serie A table and the winner will take the top spot going into December.  They have the best defenses in the league and are both on long unbeaten runs.  Napoli is unbeaten in 12 games; meanwhile Inter is unbeaten in their last 7.  Neither team has conceded a goal in a while either.  Inter has kept a clean sheet in their last 4 games, while Napoli has gone 7 games without conceding.  Higuain and Insigne have been the best two players for Napoli this season with a combined 17 goals and 6 assists.  Icardi and Jovetic have been the stars for Inter Milan.  Look for both teams to attack and test these great defenses.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Napoli 4/6, Inter 9/2, Draw 11/4

First Goalscorer – Higuain 10/3, Gabbiadini 9/2, Insigne 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Napoli 2, Inter 1: Goals by Higuain, Insigne, and Callejon

James’ Pick – Napoli 3, Inter 2: Goals by Jovetic (2), Perisic, Higuain (2)

  1. Leicester City vs. Manchester United – King Power Stadium, Leicester

Saturday, November 28th – 12:30 pm EST on NBC

In a surprising top of the table clash, Leicester City hosts Manchester United.  The foxes of Leicester are on top of the table after 13 games.  Leicester has won 3 games in a row and four of their last six games.  Jamie Vardy has been the top man after he tied Rudd van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 straight games.  Can he make it 11 in a row?  United comes into the game having won 3 out of their last four games after they drew their last game in the Champions League.  The questions surrounding their attack remain while their defense is the best in the league.  Leicester starts a really tough run of games in which they will either hold their top spot or they will fall off.  Look for United to possess the ball and Leicester to try and catch them on a counter.  If Vardy can get free, look for him to score.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Leicester 21/10, Manchester United 11/8, Draw 12/5

First Goalscorer – Vardy 9/2, Martial 11/2, Rooney 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Leicester 1, United 1: Goals by Vardy and Martial

James’ Pick – Leicester 1, United 2: Goals by Mahrez, Martial, and Mata

  1. Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke 04 –  BayArena, Leverkusen

Sunday, November 28th – 11:30 pm EST on Fox Sports 1

Schalke have been one of the coldest teams in all of Germany, but this week they will get a chance to rebound against Bayer Leverkusen.  These two German teams sit right on the edge of the European places and are both in danger of missing out next season.  Leverkusen won their last game out and will look to build on that win.  Schalke has not won any of their last 4 games, including losing their last two games.  For Leverkusen, Javier Hernandez has been a revolution scoring 6 goals this season.  Leroy Sane and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar have been the biggest threats for Schalke with 4 goals each.  This should be a very interesting game with Leverkusen looking to take advantage of their home field.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Leverkusen 8/13, Schalke 17/4, Draw 16/5

First Goalscorer – Kiessling 15/4, Hernandez 4/1, Mehmedi 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Leverkusen 2, Schalke 1: Goals by Hernandez, Mehmedi, and Sane

James’ Pick – Leverkusen 2, Schalke 1: Goals by Calhanoglu, Bellarabi, and  Huntelaar

  1. Sevilla FC vs. Valencia – Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan, Seville

Sunday, November 29th – 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports CONNECT

At the start of this season, pundits thought that these two teams would be challenging for a top four place.  Both qualified for the Champions League last season but have really struggled this season.  Sevilla will not qualify for the group stage and Valencia is in danger of missing out.  Their Champions League form has matched their league form.  Both teams are looking to string some victories together as they have really faltered.  Valencia has been unsuccessful in Sevilla, not winning a game in their last 14 games in Andalusia.  Sevilla meanwhile has lost two games in a row.  Look for both teams to take some chances and look for three points that could really help their campaign.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Sevilla 3/4, Valencia 10/3, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Gameiro 7/2, Immobile 11/2, Llorente 6/1

Predictions

My Pick – Sevilla 2, Valencia 2: Goals by Konoplyanka, Llorente, Bakkali, and Alcacer

James’ Pick – Sevilla 1, Valencia 2: Goals by Konoplyanka, Feghouli, and Alcacer

  1. Marseille vs. Monaco – Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Sunday, November 29th – 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports CONNECT

Two teams from the Mediterranean coast meet as Marseille hosts Monaco.  Both teams have really interesting home and away records.  Marseille is better away than at home, and Monaco is better away than at home.  This should favor Monaco this weekend, despite them losing two of their last three games.  Marseille has turned their form around slightly since they have won 5 of their last 6.  Marseille will rely heavily on Michy Batshuayi and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou.  Monaco has a long injury list and Jeremy Toulalan will also miss the game with an injury.  Look for Marseille to try to capitalize on the current run of form. It should be an open game with lots of opportunities for teams to score.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Marseille 19/20, Monaco 3/1, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Batshuayi 10/3, Alessandrini 13/2, Ocampos 7/1

Predictions

My Pick – Marseille 1, Monaco 1: Goals by Batshuayi and Moutinho

James’ Pick – Marseille 2, Monaco 0: Goals by Batshuayi and Alessandrini

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Manchester City vs. Southampton – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea – Saturday at 7:00 am EST on USA

West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion – Saturday at 9:05 am EST on USA

Liverpool vs. Swansea City – Saturday at 11:15 am EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Eibar vs. Real Madrid – Sunday at 10:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Milan vs. Sampdoria – Saturday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Palermo vs. Juventus – Sunday at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina – Monday at 1:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Bayern Munchen vs. Hertha Berlin – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Monchengladbach – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

Borussia Dortmund vs. Stuttgart – Sunday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg – Sunday at 11:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

 

10 Thoughts from the Weekend

  1. Barcelona dominate in Madrid.

Barcelona entered the Santiago Bernabeau this weekend looking to come away with a positive result.  Little did they know they would make history.  It started 10 minutes in when Luis Suarez was played in for the opening goal.  Neymar doubled the lead with 6 minutes left in the first half. In the second half, Iniesta put the game out of reach as he connected with a great pass from Neymar.  Then Suarez completed his brace to make it 4-0.  They had a number of chances to make it 5 but could not create.  Barcelona made a statement.  They are 6 points clear of their most hated rivals.  This was also without Leo Messi, who made a cameo for just the last 30 minutes.  Real Madrid came out and said they are keeping Rafa Benitez and there is a lot of season left to play, but it was a big statement from Barcelona.

  1. No Kompany means big trouble for City.

City started the season with 5 straight victories and that has helped keep them near the top of the table.  While they went on this 5 game unbeaten run, they had the same back 4 during each game.  Sagna, Kompany, Mangala, and Kolorov.  The only one missing this past weekend was Kompany and man did it make a difference.  Liverpool was up 3-0 within the first 32 minutes.  They played right through Manchester City and looked more up for the game.  Aguero pulled one back before Martin Skrtel put it out of reach in the second half.  The Brazilian contingent of Firmino and Coutinho really controlled the game.  Firmino played the pass that Mangala put in his own goal.  Then they each set each other up for goals.  Without Kompany, the City defense looked in shambles.  If they want to be serious title contenders they will need to figure out how to play without him.

  1. Strong second half extends lead at the top for Bayern.

In a game that featured two of the better sides in Germany, Munich needed a strong second half performance to maintain their unbeaten run in Germany.  Munich went ahead thanks to a Leon Goreztzka own goal in the first 10 minutes.  However, within 10 minutes Leroy Sane connected with Max Meyer and he put the hosts level.  Then in the second half, Javi Martinez went on to score the winner on a nice ball in from Robben.   Javi headed in the winner with 21 minutes to go.  Thomas Muller added a late goal to take his total to 12 goals in 13 games.  The win give Bayern their 12th win of the season and places them now 8 points clear at the top.

  1. Inter and Napoli set each other up for top of the table clash.

Both teams were the only two of the top four to get all three points this weekend.  Fiorentina was on top of the table when they hosted Empoli this weekend.  The Florence side fell 2 goals behind before Nikola Kalinic earned them a point with his brace.  Roma traveled to Bologna and also drew 2-2. This was a game of penalties and 3 of the four were scored from the spot.  That meant that the door was open for Napoli and Inter to grab the top spot.  Napoli scored two second half goals from Insigne and Higuain to earn all three points.  Inter went on to score 4 goals against Frosinone.  The most all season for them.  This sets up a top of the table clash between the two hottest teams in Italy as Inter travels to Napoli.  It should be a big game next weekend.

  1. PSG remain unbeaten.

They are one of the two unbeaten teams in the big 5 leagues and they are still unbeaten after winning 2-1 at Lorient.  They jumped out to an early 2 goal lead thanks to Hervin Ongenda and Blaise Matuidi.  Ongenda scored his first goal in the league this season in his first start of the season.  Lorient pulled one back but it was not enough as PSG went on to win their 8th game in a row.  The Parisians are now 13 points ahead of Lyon.  They have averaged 2.4 goals per game while averagimg 0.5 goals against per game.  They are on pace to win their fourth Ligue 1 title in a row.

  1. Dortmund stumbles in Hamburg.

With their closest rivals steamrolling most of the Bundesliga, Dortmund could not afford to drop that many points.  Well this weekend did not start well for them as poor control by Sokratis lead to quick break for Ilicevic, and then he was taken down in the box by Burki. Lasogga finished off the penalty.  Just before half-time, Hamburg doubled their lead as Lewis Hotlby calmly placed his shot in the net.  Things got worse for Dortmund in the second half when Mats Hummels played the corner into his own goal.  Aubameyang got one back in the 86th minute but it was too little too late.  The points would go to Hamburg and the distance grows between Munich and Dortmund.

  1. Can Leicester really finish in the top 4?

One year ago, Leicester was on the bottom of the Premier League table.  Now they are on top of the Premier League.  They have won 4 games in a row in the league and are being led by Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.  Jamie Vardy is the talk of England as he has tied Ruud Van Nistelrooy record of scoring in 10 straight games.  I hope you have him in your fantasy league team.  Now the question is can they make it last.  Last year, West Ham was in the top 4 at Christmas and was nearly relegated.  I am not saying that is going to happen to Leicester, but let’s not crown them yet.  Vardy opened the scoring this weekend.  Then Ulloa and Okazaki both added second half goals to win 3-0 at Newcastle.  They are 1 point ahead of Manchester United and two points clear of Manchester City and Arsenal.  Here is to hoping that Cinderella can keep their spot at the top.

  1. Atletico Madrid go second in the league.

While the big two in Spain faced off in Madrid, Atletico traveled to Sevilla to face Real Betis.  They went on to win the 1-0 in typical Atleti fashion.  They got an early goal from Koke and then held on for a 1-0 win.  Torres started up front while Jackson Martinez is injured.  Luciano Vietto could only take a settle for a place on the bench.  Atletico are now 4 points behind Barcelona and sit in second place.  They are two points ahead of their crosstown rivals, Real Madrid.  Their defense has always been a staple of their team under Diego Simeone.   This year is no exception as they have the best defense in the league, averaging just 0.5 goals against per game.  If they can keep this defense up then they will be able to challenge for their second title in three years.

  1. Don’t look now but Juventus are 6th in the league.

Just like that, Juventus have climbed right back up the table as they have won 4 out of 5 games in a row.  They won their third in a row this past weekend when they defeated Milan 1-0 at home.  The game was not the best watch, but in the end it was 3 points for Juventus.  The points were won by Paulo Dybala who sweetly controlled a nice pass in from Alex Sandro and calmly beat the goalkeeper.  This means that Juventus have jumped AC Milan in the table and are now just 7 points behind the Champions League spots and 9 points behind the leaders, Inter Milan.  The goal was to be in the title race by the start of the New Year and that is looking like a bigger possibility every week.

  1. Lyon slip up in Nice.

The second place team in France traveled to Nice this weekend looking to keep pace with PSG.  They had been on a great run of form lately having won 3 in a row in the league before this weekend.  20 minutes into the game, Nice went ahead as Valere Germain scored the opener.  It went from bad to worse for Lyon in the second half as Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa scored an own goal.  Vincent Koziello sent the home fans into frenzy as he scored the third goal of the game.  Nice won the game 3-0.  They are now just one point behind Lyon and Caen.  This win puts them in the hunt for a Champions League place next season.  Lyon meanwhile is now 13 points behind PSG.  The title race may be over, but now Lyon needs to focus on their Champions League spot for next season.

Picture of the Week

#PrayforParis

IMG_5318

Goals of the Week

My Pick – I am going to pick from El Clasico this weekend and go for the third goal from Andres Iniesta.  A wonderful 1-2 led to him smashing the ball past Navas and really putting no doubt in the game.

Champions League Round 5

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Barcelona vs. Roma – Camp Nou, Barcelona

After a 1-1 draw on the opening day, these two teams face off with Barcelona looking to qualify for the knockout stage and Roma looking to gain some distance between them and Bayer Leverkusen.

Other Games on Tuesday

BATE Borisov vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Borisov Arena, Barysaw

Arsenall vs. Dinamo Zagreb – Emirates Stadium, London

Bayern Munich vs. Olympiacos – Allianz Arena, Munich

Porto vs. Dynamo Kyiv – Estadio d0 Dragao, Porto

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Chelsea – Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Valencia – Petrovsky  Stadium, Saint Petersburg

Lyon vs. Gent – Stade de Gerland, Lyon

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Astana vs. Benfica – Astana Arena, Astana

This game features the furthest west team and the furthest east located team in the competition.  The two teams are 3,790 miles apart.   How will the travel impact the top team in the group?  Astana have drawn both of their home games so far.  Can they send their fans off with a win?

Other Games on Wednesday

Malmo vs. Paris Saint-Germain – Swedbank Stadion, Malmo

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Real Madrid – Arena Lviv, Lviv

CSKA Moscow vs. Wolfsburg – Arena Khimki, Khimki

Manchester United vs. PSV Eindhoven – Old Trafford, Manchester

Atletico Madrid vs. Galatasaray – Vicente Calderon, Madrid

Juventus vs. Manchester City – Juventus Stadium, Turin

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Sevilla – Stadion in Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach

 

El Clasico Weekend

Let me start by saying that my heart is with all of France and Paris after the horrible attacks of last Friday.  May the return of league football be a much needed comfort and distraction.

  1. El Clasico – Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Saturday, November 21st – 12:15 pm EST on beIN Sports USA

This has been a date circled on many calendars across the world as the two biggest teams in Spain, if not the world, face off in the Madrid this Saturday.  Barcelona is looking to maintain their spot on top of the league, but the buildup has been focused on Rafa Bentiez.  He is under a lot of pressure, despite his team suffering their first loss of the season in their last match.  His tactics have come under scrutiny and nothing but a win will be looked as a good result.  Meanwhile, Barcelona is getting Mascherano back and Messi is close to returning.  He has been training with the team this week but will most likely start from the bench.  Barcelona has struggled defensively on the road.  Can that come back to haunt them in Madrid?  Look for a feisty game that could end with the two teams level after 90 minutes.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Real Madrid 6/4, Barcelona 7/4, Draw 13/5

First Goalscorer – Ronaldo 10/3, Neymar 4/1, Messi 4/1

Predictions

My Pick – Real Madrid 2, Barcelona 2: Goals by James, Ronaldo, Neymar, and Suarez

James’ Pick – Real Madrid 3, Barcelona 2: Goals by Benzema. Ronaldo, Bale, Suarez, and Neymar

  1. Manchester City vs. Liverpool, Ethiad Stadium, Manchester

Saturday, November 21st – 12:30 pm EST on NBC

The big game in England this weekend takes place in Manchester.  Raheem Sterling faces his old club for the first time since he left in the summer, as Jurgen Klopp faces his second big test with a trip to the Ethiad.  Manchester City has won the last two matches in Manchester as they look to stay at the top of the table.  Liverpool will hope to rebound after suffering their first defeat under Jurgen Klopp.  Liverpool looked very good at Chelsea under Klopp.  Can they repeat the magic in Manchester?  Sergio Aguero is back in contention to start, but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.  Kompany, Silva, Nasri, Bony, Zabaleta, and Delph are all most likely out.  Henderson is training but still out, Sakho is also out for two months now.  James Milner could face City for the first time since his summer move.  City is the stronger team and will be on the attack during the game.  Look for them to take the game to Liverpool, but Liverpool will look to counter.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Man City 7/10, Liverpool 9/2, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Sergio Aquero 3/1, Iheanacho 5/1, De Bruyne 11/2

Predictions

My Pick – Manchester City 2, Liverpool 2: Goals by Toure, Sterling, Benteke, and Coutinho.

James’ Pick – Manchester City 2, Liverpool 0: Goals by Sterling, and De Bruyne

  1. Saint-Etienne vs. Marseille, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne

Sunday, November 22nd – 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

Two teams that were supposed to be fighting for the title are now looking to get into the race for a spot in Europe.  Saint-Etienne is sitting 2 points behind 3rd place Nice and just 3 points behind Lyon who sit in second.  Marseille are in the bottom half of the table.  They have lost 6 games this season but won 3 in a row before their loss to Nice before the international break.  Saint-Etienne should be confident coming into the game, as they are in much better form this season.  They will also be looking to put the devastating derby loss to Lyon.  This should be a really tight match with Saint-Etienne in control of the ball.

Betting Odds

Match Result – St-Etienne 7/5, Marseille 21/10, Draw 9/4

First Goalscorer – Batshuayi 4/1, Beric 4/1, Roux 7/1

Predictions

My Pick – St-Etienne 2, Marseille 1: Goals by Hamouma, Roux, and Batshuayi

James’ Pick – St-Etienne 2, Marseille 1: Goals by Roux, Hamouma, and Batshuayi

  1. Juventus vs. Milan, Juventus Stadium, Turin

Saturday, November 21st – 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports USA

Juventus have started to turn their season around lately, winning three of their last five games.  They climbed to 7th in the table and are just 8 points back from a Champions League spot.  This weekend they host Milan who struggled at the start.  Milan has earned 11 points in their last 5 games to be in 6th place.  A win for either team will take them one step closer to being in the title race.  Juventus are trying to be in the race by the end of the year.  Look for Juve to try to take control and send a signal to their rivals.  They are almost back in the race and a win this weekend will make a nice statement.  Lichsteiner and Buffon will face late fitness tests.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Juventus 8/13, Milan 11/2, Draw 13/5

First Goalscorer – Mandzukic 15/4, Dybala 9/2, Morata 5/1

Predictions

My Pick – Juventus 2, Milan 1: Goals by Dybala, Morata, and Cerci

James’ Pick –  Juventus 2, Milan 1: Goals by Pogba, Dybala, and Bonaventura

  1. Schalke 04 vs. Bayern Munich, Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen

Saturday November 21st – 12:30 pm EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Schalke will bid to be the first team in Germany to take 3 points from Bayern Munich this weekend when the Bavarians travel to northern Ruhr.  Munich has won three of the last four in Gelsenkirchen.   They have a plus 33 goal differential in just 12 games and only conceded one away goal all season.  Bayern is in a very good run of form and will look to dominate from the outset.  Schalke need to improve their defensive shape if they are to take any points away from this game.  This could be tough as Benedikt Howedes is still recovering from a hand injury.  Johannes Geis is out suspended as well.  Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg could face his home club in his place.  Schalke will hope they can keep it close and maybe get a point.

Betting Odds

Match Result – Schalke 12/1, Munich 2/9, Draw 11/2

First Goalscorer – Lewandowski 12/5, Muller 15/4, Robben 4/1

Predictions

My Pick – Schalke 0, Bayern 2: Goals by Muller and Lewandowski

James’ Pick – Schalke 0, Bayern 4: Goals by Lewandowski, Muller (2), and Costa

European Qualifiers Recap

Hungary was the first team to qualify for the Euros via the playoff as they beat Norway 1-0 in Oslo and then followed that up with a 2-1 win at home.  The Republic of Ireland became the second team thanks to a great performance in Dublin by Jonathan Walters.  He scored 2 goals to give them a 2-0 win.  In Zenica, the teams drew 1-1.  The next team to qualify was Sweden.  They won the first leg 2-1 at home thanks to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty.  Then in Denmark, Ibrahimovic gave Sweden a 2 goal lead before Denmark scored two goals in the last 10 minutes.  Sweden took the third ticket to France.  Finally, Ukraine was the last team to advance thanks to their 2-0 home win and then a 1-1 draw in Maribor.  The field is set and the draw is in a couple weeks on December 12th in Paris.

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League

Watford vs. Manchester United – Saturday at 7:45 am EST on NBCSN

West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on USA

Chelsea vs. Norwich City – Saturday at 10:00 am EST on NBCSN

Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United – Sunday at 11:00 am EST on NBCSN

Crystal Palace vs. Sunderland – Monday at 3:00 pm EST on NBCSN

Spain – La Liga

Getafe vs. Rayo Vallecano – Monday at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

Italy – Serie A

Bologna vs. Roma – Saturday at 12:00 pm EST on beIN Sports

Hellas Verona vs. Napoli – Sunday at 6:30 am EST on beIN Sports

Fiorentina vs. Empoli – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Internazionale vs. Frosinone – Sundat at 2:45 pm EST on beIN Sports

Germany – Bundesliga

Wolfsburg vs. Werder Bremen – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Soccer Plus

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Saturday at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Hertha Berlin vs. Hoffenheim – Sunday at 9:00 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Ingolstadt vs. Darmstadt 98 – Sunday at 11:30 am EST on Fox Sports 2

France – Ligue 1

Rennes vs. Bordeaux – Sunday at 11:00 am EST on beIN Sports

Euro 2016 Qualifying Playoffs

The Euro 2016 qualifying playoff round begins tomorrow, as 8 teams battle for the final four spots in the tournament this upcoming summer in France.  Here is a quick reminder of who has already qualified for the 15th edition of the European Championships: France, England Czech Republic, Iceland, Austria, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Wales, Romania, Albania, Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Croatia and Turkey.  The field has been expanded this year to have 24 teams. That means that there are four spots left.  Over the next 6 days, we will know who has one of those 4 spots.  Each of the teams will play a home and away game with another country; winner gets the spot, loser watches from home.  Here is just a quick preview of each team and the match-up for you.

Ukraine vs. Slovenia

First Leg – November 14th at Arena Lviv, Lviv, Ukraine

Second Leg – November 17th at Ljudski vrt, Maribor, Slovenia

What to know about Ukraine – Ukraine had a very good qualifying round and narrowly missed out on the second spot in Group C.  They conceded just 4 goals in 10 games.  They were led by Andriy Yarmolenko with his 4 goals.  They are really driven by their midfield and will look for them to take charge over the two legs and be the difference.

What to know about Slovenia – Slovenia barely made it to this stage as they were tied for the fewest points of all third-place sides.  That doesn’t mean that they cannot be a surprise team again this year.  This could be their second ever appearance in the European Championships.  They made it to the summer tournament in 2000 when they won in the playoff rounds against Ukraine.  They won the first round at home then drew in Ukraine.  Can they do the same this week?

Player to Watch –Yevhen Konoplyanka, this Sevilla winger is finally getting his feet set for Sevilla and has been playing some really entertaining football.  He will be the difference for Ukraine and one of the most talented players on the field.

Prediction – Ukraine should have just too much talent on the field and easily advance.

Sweden vs. Denmark

First Leg – November 14th at Friends Arena, Solna, Sweden

Second Leg – November 17th at Telia Parken, Copenhagen, Denmark

What to know about Sweden – To say Sweden is not carried by Zlatan would be an understatement.  The PSG man has scored more than half their goals in the qualifying rounds and will be the focal point through which they attack.  Erkan Zengin did chip in with 3 goals.  Sweden is at an interesting time as their best players are getting to the 30 year old mark.  It will be time to see players like John Guidetti, Emil Forsberg, and Jimmy Durmaz show their quality now.

What to know about Denmark – This is the last hurrah for long time manager Morton Olson as he announced that he will retire after the campaign following 15 years in charge of Denmark.  His side will be led by Christian Eriksen.  The creative midfielder has been great for Tottenham this season and will look to carry his side to the summer tournament.  Nicklas Bendtner was their leading scorer in the qualifying rounds with 2 goals.  Denmark won this tournament in 1992 in Sweden.  Can they find some more magic in Sweden to advance to the tournament?

Player to Watch – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, The big Swede has been on fire for Paris Saint-Germain and this could be his last chance at European glory.  Zlatan tied for third in terms of qualifying goals with 8 goals during the qualifying matches.

Prediction – Both teams will look to be strong at the back and then have one or two players create the goal scoring chances.  It might come down to who finishes the chances they are given between Zlatan and Bendtner.  I am going with Sweden to advance.

Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Republic of Ireland

First Leg – November 13th at Bilino Polje, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Second Leg – November 16th at Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland

What to know about Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnia has become one of the most enjoyable sides to watch in the world in recent years.  They qualified for the group stage in the 2014 World Cup for their first ever tournament.  The question is now can they qualify for the countries first ever European Championships?  They are led by captain Edin Dzeko and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.  In the midfield they have free kick specialist in Miralem Pjanic.

What to know about Ireland –  Robbie Keane has led his country back to the playoffs and hopes to get one final shot at European glory.  Ireland was close to qualifying automatically when they knocked off the World Champions, Germany.  They had a chance to advance if they could beat Poland on the last match day but came up just short.  Keane scored 5 goals, but his teammate Shane Long probably scored the biggest goal of the round when he scored against Germany.  Can they make their third European Championships?

Player to Watch – Edin Dzeko, the Bosnian striker scored 7 goals in the qualifying round and will lead the line for Bosnia Herzegovina.  He will most likely have chances in the two games, and if he takes them then look for them to advance.

Prediction – Bosnia and Herzegovina should qualify for their first ever European Championships.

Norway vs. Hungary

First Leg – Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, Norway

Second Leg – November 15th at Groupama Arena, Budapest, Hungary

What to know about Norway – They have been built by Per-Mathias Hogmo as a young talented team that is getting ready to challenge the bigger sides.  They are looking to qualify for their second European Championship.  They are led by Captain Per Cijan Skjelbred and Norwich City midfielder Alexander Tettey.  Hogmo was in need of goals, as his side only scored 13 goals in their 10 games.  The manager called in Marcus Pedersen into his side.  Goals might be an issue, but Norway is an exciting team to watch.  Martin Odegaard, the Real Madrid B prospect is also in the side.

What to know about Hungary – Hungary were minutes away from qualifying for their first European Championship since 1972.  They have qualified for two tournaments in 1964 and 1972.  In these two they finished in third and fourth place, respectively.  Daniel Bode was the leading scorer for Hungary with 2 goals.  One name that might sound familiar in the states is Krisztian Nemeth, as he plays for Sporting Kansas City. Nemeth also scored two goals in qualifying matches. Hungary will play a solid team game and will hope to end their tournament drought.

Player to Watch – Alexander Tetty, if Norway is to advance, then it will come down to how Tettey plays.  The midfielder is given a more creative role with this Norway team and could be the difference.

Prediction – The wait for Hungary will continue as Norway will get goals from somewhere and advance.

Enjoy the games this week and I’ll be back next week to preview the games the following weekend.

10 Questions From The Weekend

  1. Are Sevilla only giant killers?

Real Madrid is no longer unbeaten and they lost in the same spot as Barcelona when they traveled south to the Andalusian capital of Sevilla.  Both teams ventured down there and came away with no points.  Sevilla has won five games this season in all competitions, all at home.  They have beaten Monchengladbach, Vallecano, Barcelona, Getafe, and lastly Real Madrid.  Madrid did not go down easy, they jumped out to a lead.  Ramos scored a great overhead kick to give Real the lead but it was at a cost.  Ramos injured his shoulder on the kick and tried to carry on but needed to be subbed off in the 31st minute.  Five minutes after he left, Sevilla sent in a corner that fell to Immobile on the back post and he smashed it into the net.  In the second half, Sevilla took the lead when Ever Banega found the net.  Then Fernando Llorente clinched the points with his 3rd goal for his new club.  Real Madrid pulled one back late when James Rodriguez scored on a great strike from outside the box.  Sevilla have now beaten both of the big boys in Spain at home.  For Real Madrid, it means that they are now 3 points behind Barcelona ahead of El Clasico.

  1. How many games will Chelsea lose this year?

With Jose Mourinho serving his 1 match ban, Chelsea was looking to right the ship as they traveled to Stoke City.  However, things didn’t go quite as planned as Chelsea played better but could not find the back of the net.  Marko Arnautovic scored the only goal in the game that meant Stoke would get 3 points.  At the final whistle, Chelsea sat in 16th place in the table with 7 losses.  They have lost more than half their games this season.  This was also their third loss in a row.  No defending champion has lost 7 games in the following season until now.  They still have to play Tottenham and Manchester United twice, plus trips to Arsenal, Liverpool, and Southampton, and they host Manchester City.  How many games will they lose?  It could be double digits by the end of the season.  But don’t count them out for that fourth spot if they can figure it all out.

  1. Is Germany back to the duopoly?

Both Munich and Dortmund won this week as Bayern beat Stuttgart 4-0 and Dortmund beat Schalke 3-2.  These wins coupled with the Wolfsburg and Schalke loses, means the gap from second to third is now 8 points.  The gap from first to second remains at 5.  Both of these teams look dominant and are set to battle for the title for years to come.  Can a third team get back in the mix?  Wolfsburg looked close last year but is struggling as of late losing 2-0 this weekend to Mainz.  Bayer Leverkusen was also expected to challenge for the top 4 but they sit in the middle of the table.  Is this becoming the new Spain?

  1. How long will Napoli’s unbeaten run go?

The Naples side is currently on an 11 game unbeaten streak.  They started the season with a road loss to Sassuolo but have not lost since.  They have won 7 of their last 9 games and are now in 4th place, just 2 points behind the leaders Fiorentina.  They have beaten Lazio, Juventus, Milan, and Fiorentina during this run.  They are being led by Gonzalo Higuian, who leads the league with 9 goals.  Allan has really stepped in the midfield and Napoli is a team to watch as the season continues.  As we are almost a third of the way through the season, Napoli will hope their form can continue as they host Inter Milan at the end of the month in what could be a huge 6 pointer.

  1. How long can Leicester stay in the top 4?

Leicester City has been amazing this season and the surprise team of the season.  They are currently 1 point behind leaders through the first 12 games of the season.  They have 25 points this season, and that is a big improvement from last season.  They were flirting with relegation last season and are now flirting with European competitions for next season.  The main reason for this has been Jamie Vardy.  He is the leading scorer in the Premier League with 12 goals.  He has now scored in nine consecutive Premier League games.   He is the second player ever to do this in the English Premier League.  Can they stay in the top 4? Can they stay in the European places?  I hope so, as they have been fantastic to watch.

  1. Can Lyon now push on to challenge PSG this season?

Lyon really stepped up and played a great game this weekend as they beat rivals St. Etienne 3-0.  Alexandre Lacazette took his goal total to 5 on the season as he scored his first hat-trick of the season.  This was an impressive performance from Lyon as they dominated possession and shots in the game.  Lacazette may finally be heating up and can be the force to drive Lyon.  Last season he was the top scorer in Ligue 1 with 27 goals.   He has really struggled this season before today and this has hurt Lyon.  Now that he seems to have kicked on, maybe they can challenge for the title.  However, it might be too late, as PSG remain one of the two teams left to have not lost a match in a top 5 league.  They are 10 points clear right now and beat Toulouse 5-0 this weekend.  PSG will not be caught this season, but maybe Lyon can make it a bit more interesting.

  1. How much longer does David Moyes have?

The former Manchester United manager might have lost his job by the time you read this as his Real Sociedad team have really struggled.  This weekend, they lost 2-0 to Las Palmas.  They are now level on points with Malaga and Las Palmas and only not in the relegation zone due to goal difference.  They have not been playing the brand of football that we have come to expect from Sociedad and Moyes looks set to pay the price.  He got off to such a great start last season but may struggle to reach a year at the club.  He has been the manager for 364 days as of today, so he might make it to 365 but most likely won’t finish the season.  Can he find some success after two rough jobs following his success at Everton?

  1. Will Augsburg go from a European spot to relegation?

The struggles for Augsburg continue as they lost their 8th game this past weekend of the season.  They hosted Werder Bremen this weekend and fell behind in the second half, 2-0.  They did get a late goal to make it 2-1, but that was not enough.  They have the second worst defense record in Germany and have really struggled.  They will need to start getting some points since they only have 1 win all season.  They are four points from safety, as only the bottom 2 gets automatically relegated.  The team in 16th place faces the third place team in the 2. Bundesliga.  They might miss out on the knockout stages of the Europa League, but they may benefit from that.

  1. Is Fiorentina for real?

La Viola sits on top of the table as they collected their ninth win in 12 games.  That is the most in all of Serie A.  They are yet to draw a game, but have lost 3 times.  Nikola Kalinic has been fantastic this season.  He has scored 7 goals which is good enough for third most in Serie A.  Josip Illicic has chipped in with 4 goals and 3 assists.  Fiorentina has the second best offensive record and the highest goal differential of the season.  While they failed a couple of big tests recently, they do remain on top with 12 games to go.  They are on a 3 game win streak in the league.  Their next goal has to be top on Christmas.

  1. Are two recent Ligue 1 champions in trouble?

The two teams to last win the title that are not Paris Saint-Germain are struggling.  Lille (2010-11) and Montpellier (2011-12) are in some trouble this season.  They are currently 16th and 17th in the table.  This weekend, they both needed some late help.  Lille were down 1-0 when Sofiane Boufal was shown a red card when he left his foot in and came down on Mathieu Peybernes.  Despite being down 1-0 and down a man, Lille continued to fight and leveled the score with 3 minutes left when Sidibe was played in and beat the keeper at the far post.  Montpellier took the lead 12 minutes in, then Nantes scored the equalizer just after the hour mark.  Then in injury time, Vitorino Hilton scored the winner following a nicely placed free kick and a bit of luck.  Montpellier is only outside of the relegation zone due to goal difference.  Lille is one point clear.  They should be able to survive, but they might be in trouble.

Picture of the Week…

The unbeaten season is over.

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Goals of the Week…

My Pick – There were a ton of spectacular goals this weekend but I have to go with Neymar and his spectacular flick over the defender and then volley into the back of the net.

James’ Pick – The goal from the man bun that made it 3 losses in a row for Chelsea and 7 for the season.

This upcoming weekend is the November International Break.  On Wednesday, I will break down the 4 playoff match ups for the final 4 spots in this summer’s European Championships.

Also to all the readers, yesterday was our 1 year anniversary of the blog.  Thanks for all of your time!  I hope you enjoy the blog and spread the word about the beautiful game!

5 Games, 4 Derbies. Lots to Watch

  1. Arsenal vs. Tottenham, Emirates Stadium, London

Sunday, November 8th at 11:00 am EST on NBCSN

The North London derby takes place this weekend as one team is looking to really challenge for the title and the other is hoping to make it to the top 4.  Arsenal has been in great form in the league, winning their last five.  However they have lost two of their last three, including a huge defeat in Munich.  They will need to bounce back quickly if they want to maintain their title challenge.  Tottenham are unbeaten in 10 games in the league and have won their last two league games.  These two teams are quite familiar with each other so it should be a good game.  Look for Arsenal to take the game to Tottenham and Pochettino to set up his side to counter.   This has all the making of either a close tight draw, or a goal fest as both teams try to land that knockout blow.

Match Result – Arsenal 8/11. Tottenham 4/1, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Giroud 15/4, Sanchez 9/2, Iwobi 6/1

Predictions

My Prediction – Arsenal 2, Tottenham 1: Goals by Sanchez, Campbell, and Kane

James’ Prediction – Arsenal 2, Tottenham 2: Goals by Giroud, Sanchez, Kane, and Erikson

  1. Sevilla vs. Real Madrid, Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla

Sunday, November 8th at 2:30 pm EST on beIN Sports

In the final league match before El Clasico, Real Madrid faces a trip to Andalusia to face struggling Sevilla.  Real Madrid has won 3 straight and are unbeaten this season.  Sevilla on the other hand have been in a slump since they beat Barcelona, having won just once since then.  Can they repeat that magic with Real Madrid?  Real Madrid is in fabulous form and should be on the attack.  The only hiccup might be what is going to happen with Karim Benzema.  He was arrested in France this week for a black mail scandal involving Mathieu Valbuena.  He is back in Madrid and claims to be innocent, but his involvement is still unknown so let’s reserve our judgment.  Will this be a distraction for Real?  Can Sevilla remind us of the good team they were last year?

Match Result – Sevilla 13/5, Real Madrid 10/11, Draw 3/1

First Goalscorer – Ronaldo 11/4, Vazquez 11/2, Bale 11/2

Predictions

My Prediction – Sevilla 1, Real 1: Goals by Llorente and Ronaldo

James’ Prediction –Sevilla 1, Real 3: Goals by Gamiero, Ronaldo (2), and Bale

  1. Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund

Sunday, November 8th at 9:30 am EST on Fox Sports 1

Another derby takes place in Germany.  This weekend is the Ruhr Derby named for the Ruhr region of Germany in which both Schalke and Dortmund are located.  Dortmund is caught in a tricky spot in the table.  They are currently 5 points behind the best team in the world right now in Munich and 5 points ahead of Wolfsburg in third place.  They will need to keep pace with Munich if they want to get back into the title race, or they could slip up and get drawn into the race for the top four spots.  This weekend they face one of those rivals that are currently chasing Dortmund in Schalke.  Schalke are 6 points behind them.  Dortmund is really performing well under Thomas Tuchel and he should have his first choice XI for the game.  Schalke have struggled lately, especially defensively.  Expect Dortmund to show their class and show they are a level above their chasing rivals.  But when it comes to a derby, you never know.

Match Result – Dortmund 3/10, Schalke 15/2, Draw 5/1

First Goalscorer – Aubameyang 3/1, Reus 4/1, Ramos 9/2

Predictions

My Prediction – Dortmund 3, Schalke 1: Goals by Aubameyang (2), Mkhitaryan, and Meyer

James’ Prediction – Dortmund 3, Schalke 1: Goals by Aubameyang (2), Mkhitaryan, and Sane

  1. Roma vs. Lazio, Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, November 8th at 9:00 am EST on beIN Sports

The third derby of the weekend is the Derby della Capitale, or the Derby of the Capital City, or Rome.  This match has Roma face off with Lazio.  Both teams are coming off wins in Europe, but Roma has had more success in Serie A.  Roma are one point behind the leaders Fiorentina.  Lazio sit 5 points behind Roma.  Roma come into the match without some key pieces, as Florenzi and Maicon are out injured and Pjanic is suspended.   Look for this to be a typically tough derby with both teams very emotional and playing with a lot of passion.  Throw form out the window and look for a fantastic match.

Match Result – Roma 10/11, Lazio 16/5, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Dzeko 4/1, Gervinho 11/2, Soleri 6/1

Predictions

My Prediction – Roma 2, Lazio 1: Goals by Gervinho, Salah, and Anderson

James’ Prediction – Roma 2, Lazio 1: Goals by Salah, Gervinho, and Anderson

  1. Lyon vs. Saint Etienne, Stade de Gerland, Lyon

Sunday, November 8th at 3:00 pm EST on beIN Sports Connect

In another local regional derby, Lyon faces Saint Etienne.  This is the Derby Rhone-Alpes, as both teams are located in the Rhone-Alpes region of France.  Both of these teams were supposed to challenge PSG for the title this year, but now they are fighting for the final Champions League spots.  They are both level on 22 points, 10 behind PSG.  A win this weekend will give one of these teams some breathing room.  Lyon is really struggling in the Champions League and they will not qualify for the group stage.  This will be the last derby in the Stade de Gerland since Lyon moves to their new stadium next summer.  It should be a very emotional game for both sides and the fans.  Saint Etienne could take advantage of this, but it will be very very tight.

Match Result – Lyon 19/20, St. Etienne 3/1, Draw 5/2

First Goalscorer – Lacazette 15/4, Beric 5/1, Beauvue 11/2

Predictions

My Prediction – Lyon 2, St. Etienne 2: Goals by Lacazette, Valbuena, and Beric (2)

James’ Prediction – Lyon 1, St. Etienne 2: Goals by Beauvue, and Beric, Homouma

All odds provide by bet365

Other Games on TV This Weekend

England – Premier League
Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBCSN at 7:45 am EST on Saturday
West Ham United vs. Everton – USA at 10:00 am EST on Saturday
Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion – NBCSN at 10:00 am EST on Saturday
Stoke City vs. Chelsea – NBC at 12:30 pm EST on Saturday
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City – NBCSN at 8:30 am EST on Sunday

Spain – La Liga
Celta de Vigo vs. Valencia – beIN Sports CONNECT at 10:00 am EST on Saturday
Barcelona vs. Villarreal – beIN Sports at 10:00 am EST on Sunday

Italy – Serie A
Milan vs. Atalanta – beIN Sports at 2:45 pm EST on Saturday
Torino vs. Internazionale – beIN Sports at 6:30 am EST on Sunday
Napoli vs. Udinese – beIN Sports at 12:00 am EST on Sunday

Germany – Bundesliga
Bayern Munchen vs. Stuttgart – Fox Sports 1 at 9:30 am EST on Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Koln – Fox Sports 2 at 9:30 am EST on Saturday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Ingolstadt – Fox Soccer Plus at 9:30 am EST on Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Hamburger SV – Fox Sports 2 at 12:30 pm EST on Saturday
Augsburg vs. Werder Bremen – Fox Sports 2 at 11:30 am EST on Sunday

France – Ligue 1
PSG vs. Toulouse – beIN Sports at 11:00 am EST on Saturday

Jose Mourinho

My topic for this week is Jose Mourinho. He is the current manager of Chelsea Football Club in London, England. He is one of the most talked about people in the world, and is currently making all the back pages around the world for all the wrong reasons. His Chelsea side is off to a historically bad start and Mourinho is under fire. But for those of you who don’t who he is, Jose Mourinho a winner. He has always been a winner and has won everywhere he goes. That, of course, does not mean he is always well liked, or that he cares if you like him because in the end he wins. But let’s take a look at his career and why he is equal parts infamous and famous.

It all began when he became the translator for Bobby Robson at Sporting CP in his home country of Portugal in 1992. In 1993, the pair moved to FC Porto where Mourinho became more and more of a coach rather than a translator. In 1996, Mourinho’s life changed as Robson became the manager of FC Barcelona. Here is where Mourinho really got his chance to shine. Robson focused on the attacking style while he let Jose worry about the defense. He became a prominent figure of the staff and would be seen translating press conferences and working with the players at training and during the games. When Robson left the club 1997, Mourinho did not follow him. Instead, he joined Louis Van Gaal’s coaching staff. He really learned his trade with Van Gaal and even took charge of the first team some times. All of this led to his first chance to be a first team manager. The one thing that has been interesting throughout his career is the names he worked under at the start.

His first job was with Benfica, where he was promoted from assistant manager when they replaced manager Jupp Heynckes. He did not last long, as he had some difficulties with the board. He found a new job as manager of at Uniao de Leiria and his success there led to a job with FC Porto. He started in January of 2002. From then until the end of the 2004 season, he would go on to win 6 trophies. In his first full season, Jose Mourinho won his first treble. He won the Primeira Liga with a record number of points, the Taca de Portugal (Portuguese Cup), and the UEFA Cup (Now the Europa League). In his next season, he would take Porto to new heights. In his second season, he would win the Portuguese Super Cup, the league again, and the UEFA Champions League over Monaco 3-0. His Porto side was on top of the world, and Jose left that summer to join Chelsea.

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m a European champion and I think I’m a special one.” These are the famous words that dubbed Jose “the Special One.” In the summer he was the big signing for Russian owner Roman Abramovich, who wanted to take his Chelsea side to a new level in Europe and he felt he had found the man to do it.   Before Jose arrived in London, Chelsea had managed only one First Division title and that was in 1955. The success was immediate, as he won the League Cup first and then the Premier League in just his first season. He would go on to win his fourth league title in a row the next season. But in his third season, friction between Mourinho and Abramovich started to grow over the signing of Andriy Shevchenko. This tension would not stop the winning, as Chelsea won the League Cup and the FA Cup that season. However, it was the beginning of the end. Shevchenko was left off the squad for the semi-final at Anfield, which Liverpool would go on to win. In 2007, Mourinho would leave the club by mutual consent. The only thing that Mourinho had failed to do was win the Champions League, but he would not have to wait long before he would do that again.

His next stop was Inter Milan. He coached there for 725 days. During his time there, he won the league in his first year and his second treble in his second year as he won the Serie A, Coppa Italia, and his second Champions League trophy. This was Inter’s first European Cup since 1965. He became the third manager at the time to win the trophy with two other clubs. So far, Jose’s career had been a rocket ship of success. The day after winning the Champions League, Jose hinted that the end was near as the biggest job in the world came calling.

In May of 2010, Jose Mourinho took charge of his 6th different club since he first started at Benfica in 2000. However, he brought with him a history of winning, as he had won 6 league titles in those 10 years, 6 different Cups, 2 Champions League trophies and 1 UEFA Cup. Real Madrid wanted two things from him, to knock off Barcelona and win La Decima. In his first season, he was able to defeat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, but they were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Champions League by their Catalan rivals. In his second season, Mourinho was able to knock Barcelona off their perch of the league and win the league title. During the third season, Mourinho was able to win the Supercopa de Espana over Barcelona. This meant that he was the first coach to win the League, Cup, and super cup in four different countries, doing it at every stop along the way. That would be the only trophy he would win that season.

“Call Me The Happy One.” The following summer Jose would return home as he returned to London to manage Chelsea. In his first season, he would not win a trophy of any kind for the first time since he managed Uniao de Leiria. In his second season, he won his 5th double and fourth with Chelsea as they would win the League Cup and the League, just as he did in his first year with the club 10 years prior.

But the reason I am writing about him is not to remind you that he is a winner, because he is. His winning percentage is 66.23 as a manager. I am writing this because at times, and my friend Buzz will attest that it is most times if not all, I cannot stand his antics. He has a way about him that to me is not what I would want the manager of my club to say. I mentioned that he was equal parts infamous and famous. So far it seems like it should be all famous, but Jose had his controversies. He had touchline bans, fines, and disagreements with the board, referees, and the media throughout his career. In 2011,   during the Supercopa de Espana, Mourinho poked Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova in the eye during a brawl between the benches. Mourinho claimed to not know who “Pito” Vilanova was after the match. If you are curious, pito is a Spanish slang for parts of the male anatomy. This season, Jose has repeatedly taken on the officials and the media on multiple occasions and his press conferences have become almost more entertaining than his team’s play. Jose has always been like this with the media so I am not surprised that this season, is nothing different. Or is it? While he lost the dressing room at Madrid, is he really losing it at Chelsea with “his” players? Is it really just the three year rule in which after three years he has to leave because his message wears out or he needs a new challenge? Whatever it is, Jose needs to stop blaming the referees or the media and start looking in the mirror. He needs to remember his history and that he is a winner. He can turn it around, but only once he stops with the madness. Sometimes the breaks don’t go your way, but that is soccer and that is life. Chelsea has the right man for the job right now. The only remaining question is will Roman Abramovich let him have a chance?

10 Questions from the Weekend

  1. Can Fiorentina stay on top now?

After two weeks in a row not on top of the table, Fiorentina is back on top after beating Frosinone 4-1.  They overtook Roma following their 1-0 loss to Inter Milan.  Inter, Roma and Fiorentina have all shared the top of the table this year for multiple weeks.  With Juventus stumbling out of the gates, there has been an opening at the top of the table.  No team right now seems to want to grab that top spot and hold on to it.  It should be a very exciting race now with those three teams just separated by 1 point.  Napoli had the chance to go top this weekend as well, but they struggled at Genoa and could only manage a 0-0 draw.

  1. Can Dortmund get back in the title race?

Bayern Munich dropped points this weekend for the first time.  Dortmund responded with a 3-1 win over Werder Bremen.  Dortmund has only lost one game this season and has dropped a total of 7 points.  Munich has now dropped 2 points.  Dortmund is able to get back into the race, but they will need help.  They still have a game in Dortmund against Munich, so if Munich drops any more points, the door might be opened.  They have been scoring goals for fun, as they have the second best attack in the league with just one less goal scored than Bayern Munich.  Their defense is very much improved as well.  They will need some help but here is to hoping they get some help.

  1. Is this the start of something bigger for Jurgen Klopp?

Liverpool won their first league game under Jurgen Klopp this weekend 3-1 over Chelsea.  That is now two wins in a row following their League Cup win over Bournemouth.  Now I could have gone with the easy question of how many games does Jose have left, but let’s talk about Liverpool in this game.  With Chelsea continuing to slip up, there is a top four spot open.  Jurgen has a lot of work to do with this Liverpool side, but he seems to have changed their mentality quickly.  The team is fighting for him and fighting for each other.  They are really trying to implement his pressing system.  After falling behind 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, they battled their way back and got the win.  The road does not get easier for Jurgen, as they face a trip to Kazan, Palace at home, and then a trip to Manchester City.  This might be the start that Liverpool and Jurgen needed.

  1. Can Sevilla recover from their poor start?

Coming off winning the Europa League last season, Sevilla were expected to take the next step and maybe challenge Atletico Madrid for the third spot in Spain and definitely challenge for a top four spot.  They started off the season with only 2 points from their first five games.  Since then, they had won a couple of games and have been working their way up from the bottom of the league.  They were temporarily in the top half of the table before they lost this weekend to Villarreal.  They have a very talented team but are still working to figure out how they are going to play together.  Can they figure this out in time? They are eight points behind Atleti for fourth place.

  1. Who will lose first…PSG, Bayern Munich, or Real Madrid?

There are only three teams left in the big five European leagues without a loss.  They are Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid.  So who will lose first?  Bayern Munich dropped points for the first time this weekend when they drew 0-0 with Eintracht Frankfurt.  They are in the middle of a large run of games.  Since the 17th of October, Munich have played a game almost every three days, which continues with a game this week against Arsenal and then against Stuttgart on the weekend.  I am not sure when they will face a team that can beat them in the league.  I would look to the November 21st when they travel to Schalke. PSG have been dominant in France.  This weekend they beat Stade Rennais 1-0 thanks to a late goal from Angel Di Maria.  They have won 10 of their first 12.  They do face Lyon at home in December and they might remain unbeaten until then.  Lastly there is Real Madrid.  They are currently on top of the Spanish table.  Rafa Benitez has really settled their defense as they have only conceded 4 goals in 10 games.  They are one of the strongest teams in the world and will look to remain unbeaten heading into El Clasico in two weeks.

  1. Who is the front runner for the final two Champions League places in France?

The underdog story of Angers took a big step back as they lost this weekend to Monaco.  This means that they are no longer second after three straight weeks there.  They are still two points above Monaco but have been caught by Lyon.  Right now Lyon, Angers, and Saint Etienne are all level on 22 points.  Caen has 21, and Monaco has 20 points.  While the title race might be over since PSG are 10 points clear at the top, Lyon and Monaco were favored to push PSG.  You would imagine they should be the favorites for the other two spots.  Can Angers and Caen maintain the pace?  I do not think so and imagine that it will be a three horse race for the final two Champions League places.

  1. Is Wolfsburg the favorite for third?

While the top two in Germany have created some distance for themselves, the race for third is really heating up.  The past weekend featured a match between fourth and sixth place in the table.  Wolfsburg hosted Bayer Leverkusen and went on to win 2-1.  Wolfsburg has been shifting around between 3rd and 6th place all season.  They have been billed as the third best team in Germany and are really starting to show this.  They will need to continue on their three wins in a row.  Schalke seems to be their biggest rivals, as they are sitting in fourth place just one point behind them.  Schalke has had some struggles but have been in the top four for the last 7 weeks.  The dark horse in this is Borussia Monchengladbach.  They have battled their way from 18th place during week 5 to 5th place now.  They have won 6 league games in a row, including a win over Wolfsburg.  The top four all make it to Champions League.  Two of these three will make it there, who will it be?

  1. Is Manchester United boring?

Manchester United beat Everton 3-0 on October 17th.  Since then, they have scored just 1 goal in four games and have not won a game. United drew against Manchester City in one of the worst games to watch in a long time.  They scored their only goal in Moscow as they drew 1-1.  In the League Cup, they drew 0-0 at home against Middlesbrough and then lost on penalties.  This weekend, they drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace.  In their last games they have managed 7, 6, 15, and 5 shots with only 3, 1, 7, and 1 of those shots being on target.  The one outlier is the match against Middlesbrough.  They might be dominating possession in each of these games, but they are not the exciting team that played under Sir Alex.  Is this the same Louis Van Gaal that managed Ajax or Barcelona?  Does he have the ability to change the team or is this how they will play all season?

  1. Can Atletico mount a serious title challenge?

Atletico Madrid was poised to mount another serious run at the title again this season.  They had a great summer transfer window and were expected to be right with Barcelona and Real Madrid all season.  They have not had a bad start to the season and are currently sitting four points behind the big two.  Atleti lost to Barcelona and Villarreal.  They were able to draw with Real Madrid, but is that enough?  This weekend they drew against Deportivo La Coruna.  They have a run of about four games in which they should take 12 points.  During this run is El Clasico, so there is some hope that they can get even closer to the big two and make their run.

  1. Can Juventus get back into the race for the Scudetto?

They started off with two straight defeats but have now won 2 out of their last 3.  Juventus have been in the bottom 10 of the table all year until now.  They are currently in 10th place.  In fact, they are now only 9 points behind the leaders.  There are still 27 games so anything is possible with Juve.  They have had great success in the past and have many players who know what it takes.  That, coupled with the fact that the other teams have not run away from Juventus.  I think they might be back in the race if they can win three or four in a row and get a big win against Fiorentina in December.

Picture of the Week

Klopp is a happy man

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Goals of the Week

My Pick – I am going with Arouna Kone’s third goal of the game.  To be honest the main reason is the peach of a pass from Romelu Lukaku.  This was goal number 3 for Kone and 6 for Everton as they beat Sunderland 6-2.

https://vine.co/v/e32MUXpdIOq/embed/simple

Champions League Week

Game to Watch This Tuesday – Real Madrid vs. PSG – Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid – This game will go a long way in deciding who will win the group and who will be runner up.

Other Games on Tuesday

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Malmo FF – Arean Lviv, Lviv

Manchester United vs. CSKA Moscow – Old Trafford, Manchester

PSV Eindhoven vs. Wolfsburg – Phillips Stadion, Eindhoven

Astana vs. Atletico Madrid – Astana Arena, Astana

Benfica vs. Galatasaray – Estadio da Luz, Lisbon

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Juventus – Stadion Im Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach

Sevilla vs. Manchester City – Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, Sevilla

Game to Watch This Wednesday – Chelsea vs. Dynamo Kyiv – Stamford Bridge, London – This is a huge game for Jose and his Chelsea team.  Can they get three points and back to winning ways this weekend?

Other Games on Tuesday

Barcelona vs. BATE Borisov – Camp Nou, Barcelona

Roma vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal – Allianz Arena, Munich

Olympiacos vs. Dinamo Zagreb – Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Porto – Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa

Lyon vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg – Stade de Gerland, Lyon

Gent vs. Valencia – Ghelamco Arena, Ghent

I am going to be starting something new this week.  Each week, I will be doing a short editorial on some story from the world of soccer.  My first one will be on Jose Mourinho.