10 Questions from This Weekend

  1. Who will win the Serie A?

In what has to be the most exciting title race this year, no team has really claimed the front runner spot in Italy.  There have been 6 different teams who have held the top spot this year with only three of them having been in the top spot for consecutive weeks.  The race has been between Fiorentina, Inter, Napoli, and Roma.  Inter is back on top of the table following their 1-0 win over Genoa.  For Inter, this is their league leading 10th clean sheet.  Their defense has really helped carry them this season.  Fiorentina also won this weekend to send them up to second place.  They defeated Udinese 3-0.  Napoli saw their18 game unbeaten run come to an end as they lost 3-2 at Bologna.  Bologna jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first half before Higuain scored a late brace in the game.  Napoli dropped from the top spot to third in the table.  Roma drew 1-1 against Torino this weekend.  They are now 5 points back in fourth place.  Lastly there is Juventus but more on them in a little.

  1. Can Gary Neville keep up the momentum?

Before he even took over as manager, there was a boast from having a new manager as Valencia fought back to draw 1-1 with Barcelona.  Gary will take over this week in a must win Champions League match.  Valencia will advance with a win.  Neville will have his feet right in the fire.  On the flip side, Barcelona could have been up 3-0 in the first 10 minutes but they were not at their best in the game.  The draw moved Valencia up to 8th place in the table.  They are 5 points behind Celta Vigo in fourth. The draw also means that the race at the top is tighter as Real Madrid thrashed Getafe 4-1 and Atletico Madrid defeated Granada 2-0.  Barcelona is now just 2 points clear of Atletico and 4 points clear of Real Madrid.  The title race is really heating up.

  1. Is the German title race back on?

Bayern Munich is no longer unbeaten as they failed to win in Monchengladbach losing 3-1 in the game.  The game was 0-0 at halftime.  Monchengladbach must have had a great team talk as they jumped to a 3-0 lead within the first 25 minutes of the second half.  They got goals from Oscar Wendt, Lars Stindl, and Fabian Johnson.  Franck Ribery came on for the first time this year and in his 15 minutes scored the only goal for Munich.  A healthy Ribery gives Munich almost too many options and headaches for Pep Guardiola.  This result coupled with Dortmund beating Wolfsburg 2-1 means that the title race is on now.  Reus would give them the lead in the first half.  The win looked sealed up going into stoppage time but then Ricardo Rodriguez scored from the spot.  Then on the next attack, Shinji Kagawa brilliantly volleyed in an Mkhitaryan cross to give Dortmund the points.  The difference is now 5 points.

  1. What is realistic for Leicester?

There is a big distinction in my opinion between can and will Leicester win title.  Can they?  Sure why not?  If they win every game the rest of the season, then they are champions.  Will they?  I really struggle to see them winning the title despite being top and being on top form.  The winter period is upon us and between now and January 13th Leicester face Chelsea, at Everton, at Liverpool, Manchester City and travel to Tottenham twice once in the FA Cup and once in the League.  This will be a brutal stretch for them.  If they are in the top four on the 14th of January then we can start to have the will they discussion with more seriousness.  They have been the best story in England all season and have delighted the eye and the heart.  Realistically, the goal was avoid relegation.  That is done.  Now it is to get as high as they can.  Anything in the top half is great.  A place in Europe?  Leicester may burn to the ground in celebration.

  1. Can PSG go unbeaten all season?

With just two games to until the midway point in the season, PSG are currently unbeaten in their 17 games.  They have won 14 games and drawn the other 3.  The answer to whether or not they can go undefeated will be answered in the next 3 weeks as they host Lyon and Saint Etienne and then travel to Caen.  If they can come away unscathed from those three games then there is a chance that they could run the table.  They are scoring for fun this season averaging 2.35 goals per game and allowing .47 goals against per game.  The longest unbeaten streak in Ligue  1 is 32 matches and we are a long way away from that but PSG look set to make a run at that record.

  1. Which Madrid side will finish higher this season?

Both teams came off big wins this weekend and are both poised to challenge for the title this season.  The question is which one will finish higher.  Atletico Madrid is the best defense by far in La Liga having only conceded 6 goals all season.  Diego Simeone seems to have figured out how to return Atleti to the form of two years ago.  They are scoring goals as they have 20 goals this season but are well behind the likes of Barcelona (34 goals) and Real Madrid (32 goals).  Real on the other hand seem one bad result away from a firestorm.  Rafa is questioned at every turn and there is not the sense of team chemistry that Atletico have.  But let’s remember, Barcelona was in a similar spot a year ago and they went on to win the treble.  It should be a fascinating rest of the season and a great title race.

  1. Can Juventus really win the Scudetto this year?

Juventus have absolutely dominated Serie A for the last four seasons.  They won the league by 17 points each of the last two seasons and it has never really been close.  This season was supposed to be a fifth title in the row.  They had reached the finals of the Champions League last season and were looking to push on from there.  Then the summer happened and many of their top players transferred away from the club.  In the first six games of the season, Juventus won 1 game and drew 2.  They had a total of 5 points and were looking up the table with a long way to climb.  Now they have won 5 games in a row with their 2-0 win over Lazio.  They are just 6 points off the top and are poised to continue their run.  They are going to give it their all and in an extremely exciting Serie A, they may just have what it takes to win their fifth in a row.

  1. How long does Jose really have?

It is strange to think that right now Jose Mourinho is closer to the relegation zone than he is to the top half of the table.  It is looking more and more likely that Chelsea will miss out on the Champions League next season.  Their only hope now is to win the competition this year.  However, they need to qualify for the group stage first.  They could drop down to the Europa League and win that competition as well but we are getting ahead of ourselves.  They really need to fix themselves first.  Chelsea has conceded the most goals this season in the last 15 minutes.  This trend continued as they lost 1-0 at home to Bournemouth thanks to a late Glen Murray winner.  They have given up more than a goal a game this season.  The trouble is not just the defense as they have only scored 17 goals.  Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, and Eden Hazard seem to have gone missing.  The team needs a big result in the Champions League as a defeat could see them out of the group stage.  The answer to the question is simple.  If he doesn’t qualify for the group stage he is out soon.  If he does then he could have a long stay at Chelsea.

  1. Is Angers for real?

It had been 21 years since Angers was in the top flight of French football and now they are the closest rivals to the French leaders, PSG.  While they sit 15 points behind them, they are in second place and just defended their place brilliantly with a 2-0 win over Lyon.  Not many would have seen this coming from this newly promoted side.  The team has one of the best defenses in Ligue 1.  This week, they knocked of Lyon and sent Lyon down to 5th place.  They are four points ahead of the side that was supposed to challenge for the title.  Their lead is not big as Caen and Monaco sit 1 and 2 points back respectively.  And while this run is amazing and we should all be cheering for Angers.  An interesting thought is that the difference between Angers and PSG (15 points) is the same as the distance between them and Toulouse in 19th place.  It is very tight between 2nd and 19th but for now Angers could be hosting Champions League football next fall.

  1. Congrats to Portland?

This weekend was the MLS Cup.  I must say congrats to Portland on winning their first ever MLS Cup.  This team was fun to watch this season as they went on to win the title 2-1 over the Columbus Crew.  The game was held in Columbus and was officiated very open and loose.  This was no more evident than for the second goal when the ball clearly traveled out of bounds in the 7th minute but the Timbers did not stop playing and went on to score just a couple passes later.  By out of bounds, I mean at least a foot out of bound.  I have no idea how this was missed.  It was a rough day for the assistant referee.  However, the Timbers probably deserved to win and might have anyways.  It was a bad call but went the way of the Timbers so congrats to them and their first ever MLS Cup.

Picture of the Week

Is this the dirtiest move by a goalkeeper ever?

IMG_5489IMG_5493IMG_5495

Goal of the Week

My Pick – Shinji Kagawa’s goal in the 4th minute of stoppage time to give Dortmund all three points and bring them within 5 of Munich.

Champions League Update

Group A – Real Madrid and PSG have both advanced to the group stage.  Real Madrid should win the group.  Shakhtar Donetsk is in line to advance to the Europa League over Malmo.

Group B – The only thing we know for sure is that CSKA is out.  If PSV Eindhoven beat CSKA then they advance.  Wolfsburg needs one point to advance.  Manchester United will advance with a win or any results other than a PSV win.

Group C – Benfica and Atletico Madrid have advanced to the group stage and play a win take all for the group in Lisbon.  Galatasaray and Astana play for the Europa League spot with Astana needing a win.

Group D – Juventus and Manchester City have advance to the group stage.  Juventus will win the group if they defeat Sevilla.  Borussia Monchengladbach will advance to the Europa League is they defeat Manchester City.

Group E – Barcelona has won the group and will rest players in the final game against Leverkusen.  If Leverkusen win and Roma stumble against BATE Borisov then they will advance.  BATE Borisov can advance with a win over Roma and a Barcelona win.  Roma will advance with a win.

Group F – Bayern Munich tops the group and has advanced to the group stage.  Olympiacos and Arsenal face off in Greece in a winner takes all match for the second spot in the group stage.  Arsenal needs to better the result of the reverse game where Olympiacos beat Arsenal 3-2.

Group G – This group is another three way race between Porto, Chelsea, and Dynamo Kyiv.  If Dynamo Kyiv defeats Maccabi Tel Aviv then they will advance to the group stage.  If they do not win then it is Porto and Chelsea.  Chelsea just needs a point in Porto to qualify for the group stage.  Porto needs to win at Chelsea to guarantee they qualify.

Group H – The only perfect team remaining is Zenit Saint Petersburg as they are 5 wins out of 5.  They have won the group.  Gent needs to win at home against Zenit to qualify.  They will also qualify is Valencia fails to win.  Valencia must win at home and hope that Zenit can get at least a point.  Lyon are eliminated.

 

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