Previewing the UEFA Champions League Round of 16

On Monday, fans in Paris and Madrid lost their minds. While Manchester City gets Basel and Bayern gets Besiktas, PSG will face Real Madrid in the Round of 16. After the Whistle previews and predicts the chaos.

Basel vs. Manchester City

Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and Manchester City are 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and get a favor from UEFA. This won’t be close.

Pick: Manchester City

Bayern vs. Besiktas

This is the point where I make an argument for Besiktas.

This is the point where I acknowledge Bayern is going to win by 90 goals.

Pick: Bayern

Roma vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

The Ukrainians were so good in the group stage that Shakhtar eliminated Napoli and pushed Man City for the top spot. Meanwhile, Roma sits at fourth in the Serie A, and doesn’t have Mo Salah to carry the team when Edin Dzeko can’t score. I’ll take the upset here.

Pick: Shakhtar Donetsk

Juventus vs. Tottenham

The Spurs were flying through the first five games. Tottenham then made the mistake of playing red-hot Arsenal in the Premier League, and haven’t beaten a team since, except for Stoke. Juve has surged up the Serie A standings, and run into an Inter Milan roadblock. The team from Torino possesses a little¬†more firepower, and should put up a few goals on a stuttering Totteringham defense.

Pick: Juventus

Porto vs. Liverpool

Vincent Aboubakar will be a handful for Liverpool’s vertically challenged defenders, but Porto isn’t the power they once were. Mohamed Salah’s incredible run of form should continue as the Reds advance to the quarters.

Pick: Liverpool

Sevilla vs. Manchester United

While their weekend performance at Real Madrid didn’t show it, Sevilla is a dangerous side to come up against. Romelu Lukaku’s struggles against high-quality opposition pose problems for MUFC, but Mkhitaryan, Martial, and the on-fire Marcus Rashford will propel Manchester United to a most-needed victory. Too many M’s?

Pick: Manchester United

Chelsea vs. Barcelona

The Blues haven’t been terrific, dropping to third in the loaded Premier League. Arsenal and Liverpool are nipping at Chelsea’s heels, and Antonio Conte might choose to focus on England. Barcelona have no such qualms, as Lionel Messi and Co. are on top of La Liga. This won’t be close even if Chelsea fields their starting XI.

Pick: Barcelona

Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Neymar and Dani Alves face a familiar foe in Spanish giant Real Madrid. Kylian Mbappe’s transformation into superstardom has continued, and the Parisians won’t struggle to light up the score sheet. Defending will be the concern.

Real Madrid has slipped this season, slotting in at fourth in La Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. have focused more on the Champions League, and draw the best team in Europe for their troubles. Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos will have to anchor a surprisingly ineffective defense, while Ronaldo, Marco Asensio, and the attack will have no problem scoring. This should be an amazing two games.

Pick: Paris Saint-Germain ūü§Ď

 

Far too early semifinals prediction: PSG, Bayern, Barcelona, Manchester City

Far too early finals prediction: Paris Saint-Germain over Bayern Munich

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Premier League Gameweek 5 Roundup

Did Romelu Lukaku become the fourth youngest player to score 90 goals in the PL?¬†Could Arsenal keep up with Chelsea without Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez? How would Tottenham perform in their second game at Wembley? We at After The Whistle answer these and many more, as I put my own twist on why Spurs su‚ÄĒer, the week’s happenings. Have fun.

Southampton 1, Crystal Palace 0 

Water is wet. Snow is cold. Crystal Palace still haven’t scored a goal this year.

Water is wet. Snow is cold. Southampton maintained a clean sheet.

In all seriousness, it was a fairly boring game. A moment of magic from Steven Davis spoiled Roy Hodgson’s debut as Palace manager, as the Saints took home all three points.

Huddersfield 1, Leicester City 1

No goals were scored in the first half of this one, and Laurent Depoitre decided to do something. The defender powered into the Leicester penalty box and fired the Terriers in front. The lead lasted four minutes, as Jaime Vardy equalized from the penalty spot.

Bournemouth 2, Brighton 1

Solly March’s 55th minute strike looked to be the game winner for Brighton. . . until Andrew Surman finished spectacularly 12 minutes later, and Jermain Defoe flipped the result on its head. Jordon Ibe was electric, assisting both goals and running the show for Bournemouth.

Burnley 1, Liverpool 1

A rare inclusion in the squad for Scott Arfield proved to be key, as the left mid buried  a shot in the 27th minute. The lead was short lived, as a wayward Emre Can pass found Mohamed Salah, who controlled it well and stroked it past Nick Pope. No other scores were to be had, though Dominic Solanke had a point blank shot saved.

Newcastle 2-1 Stoke City

Chants of “NEWCASTLE ARE FOURTH!” galloped around the stadium as Matt Ritchie once again ran the show for Newcastle, assisting Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles en route to a defeat of Stoke.

Hey, Xherdan Shaqiri scored. For once.

West Brom 0-0 West Ham

Skip.

Tottenham 0-0 Swansea

Ahaha Spurs dropped points AT HOME to SWANSEA.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Manchester City 6-0 Watford

Watford looked helpless. A Sergio Aguero hat trick led the way to a complete battering of Watford‚ÄĒand Pascal’s FPL team.

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

You would expect us to get blown out without Ozil and Sanchez. Wrong! The defense held up quite nicely as Arsenal did their best West Brom impression. Chelsea couldn’t get anything going. Come on you Gunners!!

Manchester United 133439‚ÄĒer, 4-0 Everton

Romelu Lukaku is indeed the fourth youngest player to 90 goals in the PL. Everton met their bogey team and got DESTROYED!

 

That about rounds it up. I’d just like to take the end to welcome ArsenalFan9 ( the aforementioned Pascal) to the After the Whistle team!

Premier League Gameweek 3 Roundup

Harry Kane still has NEVER scored an August goal. SLUMP ALERT!

It’s the summit of world soccer. Third time’s the charm. What could go wrong? Well. . .

 

Manchester City 2-1 Bournemouth

Oh, this crazy league. Left back Charlie Daniels produced a goal of the season contender in the 13th minute to put the massive underdogs ahead. Gabriel Jesus’s tap-in eight minutes later equalized. This game was destined to be a draw, we all said. Then referee Mike Dean gave ten (!!!) minutes of stoppage time! Raheem Sterling played hero in the seventh minute of these, and was then given a second yellow card and sent off‚ÄĒfor running into the crowd in celebration. Cheers, Mike Dean.

Swansea 2-0 Crystal Palace

Loan signing Tammy Abraham volleyed home a spectacular ball from Leroy Fer to open the scoring just before halftime. From there it was all Swansea, and Jordan Ayew’s goal emphasized it.

Huddersfield 0-0 Southampton

Skip.

Brighton 0-0 Watford

Skip.

Newcastle 3-0 West Ham

This was a special performance from the recently-promoted Newcastle. Matt Ritchie ran the show, picking up a nice assist to pad his stats. Christian Atsu, Alexander Mitrovic, and Joselu all scored, delivering Slaven Bilic one more conundrum to deal with.

Manchester United 2-0 Leicester City

Ah, yes. Romelu Lukaku missed a penalty, making his FPL owners (like me) furious. Henrikh Mkhitaryan also racked up his fifth assist in three games en route to a dominant win for the Red Devils.

Chelsea 2-0 Everton

Alvaro Morata is enjoying playing in London, isn’t he? The striker racked up another goal and another assist, carrying the Blues to three points. The scoreline may flatter them a bit though. Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gueye were both inches away from changing the landscape of this game.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal

Can we just move on?

West Brom 1-1 Stoke

Two boring, park-the-bus sides went up against each other. Both scored crummy goals and parked the bus thereafter. What’s left?

Oh, right. The Baggies signed Kieran Gibbs.

Fun.

Tottenham 1-1 Burnley

Yes, Clarets! New signing Chris Wood buried a pinpoint pass from Robbie Brady to prolong the “Wembley curse” of Tottenham. Harry Kane still hasn’t scored in any August, ever.

 

That will do it for this week! If you would enjoy me berating Arsene Wenger’s infinite ¬†failings, please leave a like! Transfer deadline day is tomorrow, and Arsenal probably won’t sign anybody. What a time to be a Gunners fan, am I right?

2017-18 UEFA Champions League: Reviewing the group stage draw!

Manchester United.

Liverpool.

Manchester City.

Chelsea.

Tottenham.

2017 is the first year in history that five Premier League teams will participate in the Champions League. Some of them were drawn into favorable groups. Some, more average. And two were absolutely shattered. Read on to find out!

Group A

Benfica, the champions of the Portuguese Liga NOS, were the first team off the board. Featuring the dangerous Goncalves Jonas, they are still a beatable opponent. Most sides would be content with facing them.

Manchester United would like their chances. They have posted two straight 4-0 wins at the start of the Premier League, and the attack of Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford may not be PSG/Barcelona/Atletico Madrid quality, but is still quite fearsome. But. . .

Swiss giants¬†FC Basel¬†were the team from the third pot. The last time the Red Devils faced Benfica and Basel in the same group was the disastrous 2011/12 campaign in which they crashed out of the group in third. Don’t underestimate CSKA Moscow either.

 

Group B

It’s time for “supposedly predictable group with four really, really good teams”, featuring Bayern Munich. The Bavarians added Colombian superstar James Rodriguez from Real Madrid, (more on them later) which adds yet another element to an attack already featuring Robert Lewandowski and Arjen Robben.

The defending German Bundesliga champions were drawn against perhaps the best Pot 2 side in PSG. The Parisians shattered¬†transfer records and shocked the world, acquiring Neymar from Barcelona for ‚ā¨222 million. They also manage to include Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria, and Marco Verratti in what must be an enormous wage budget.

Anderlecht¬†won their 34th¬†title domestically in Belgium last year. Due to Belgium’s rapid rise in the UEFA coefficient rankings, they would be in Pot 1. . . next year. As it stands, everybody is ignoring a dangerous side that features Leander Dendoncker and ŇĀukasz Teodorczyk.¬†Whoever of Anderlecht and Celtic¬†finishes third will likely go far in the Europa League. It’s a shame one of these talented sides has to finish fourth.

 

Group C

How fun! The Diego Costa transfer saga has reached a new height, as Chelsea and Atlético Madrid were the first two teams drawn into the group. Eden Hazard vs. Filipe Luis? Yes, please!

However, they will have a tough time of it. Italian giants AS Roma were in the third pot thanks in part to an awful coefficient. Just to name names, how will the vaunted Blues defense manage against the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Edin Dzeko, and Stephan El Shaarawy? All three of these sides will also have to take the long, loooong trip to Qarabag in Azerbaijan, a place that has become a bit of a fortress as of late.

 

Group D

There will be a high level of quality in this gauntlet UEFA calls a group. First off, Italian champions and last year’s UCL runners-up,¬†Juventus¬†need no introduction. Barcelona¬†don’t either, though it is curious how they will replace the departed Neymar.

Olympiakos are sneaky good. Quality summer signings such as Vadis Odidja-Ofoe add to a side that has dominated Greece’s Superleague for what feels like forever. Are they ready to make the jump and progress to the knockout rounds of the UCL? Not in this group. Not with Sporting CP¬†pushing them just to stay out of the bottom.

 

Group E

Spartak Moscow¬†are probably not going to win their group. The surprise Russian champions occupy the spot that would have gone to Anderlecht if any Belgian side’s goal differential would have been one better last year.

One.

At the moment, star Dutch winger Quincy Promes hasn’t left for a bigger club. They will need him to stay if they have any hope of beating¬†Liverpool¬†and Sevilla.¬†Good luck. NK Maribor¬†likely won’t pose a threat, as they only managed to keep six clean sheets all season in the Slovenian league.

 

Group F

Because Real Madrid won the Champions League and La Liga, and because they are one team, not two. . . the other Pot 1 spot for some reason goes to Shakhtar Donetsk? Not sure how that works, but okay. Having produced the likes of Douglas Costa, the Ukranian side’s academy has propelled them into the UCL. They face a tough task with Manchester City. The three-pronged attack of Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and David Silva has been ripping apart Premier League defenses so far this year. I didn’t even mention Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, or Leroy Sane.

The Napoli are no stranger to the underdog role. They live it every year in the Serie A with Juventus and Roma. But that attack. Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, and Jose Callejon highlight a side that also appreciates the defending of Kalidou Koulibaly and Raul Albiol.

When you beat Ajax and PSV, you’re no joke. When you do it twice? Enter¬†Feyenoord. The Dutch side’s chances in this brutal group start and end with star midfielder Jens Toornstra.

 

Group G

AS Monaco shocked the world last year. Not only did they beat out PSG and Lyon to win Ligue 1, they dominated it. But Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and Tiemoué Bakayoko have all left for the Premier League. Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar are the subjects of massive transfer sagas that seem to have no end. They should get past a weakened Porto side, and an always-underperforming Besiktas.

RB Leipzig¬†are a Pot 4 team. Why? They’ve not been in the Champions League since the club was founded in 2009. Apparently that trumps having the likes of Naby Keita, Emil Forsberg, and Timo Werner in a side that beat out Borussia Dortmund to finish second in the Bundesliga.

I don’t get it either.

 

Group H

Just what is this group?!?!?!?

Title holding¬†Real Madrid don’t need any introduction. What does is how screwed they were with this group. Borussia Dortmund¬†actually finished above Madrid in last year’s group stage, but they have lost Ousmane Demb√©le to Barcelona.

Tottenham¬†finished second in the Premier League last year behind Golden Boot winning Harry Kane and Young Player of the Year Dele Alli. The added burden of the UCL will be more difficult for them, especially in this group. Don’t dismiss¬†APOEL Nicosia, as the Cypriot champions usually pull a surprise or two.

Premier League Gameweek 2 Roundup

You readers absolutely smashed that like button last time out. So of course I have to review Gameweek 2, which took place this past Saturday‚ÄďMonday.

Manchester United 4-0 Swansea   

Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba may have stolen the headlines, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s creativity crushed Swansea. The Armenian wizard assisted two of the Red Devils’ four goals, bringing his season tally up to four. The next highest players have two.

Southampton 3-2 West Ham

There goes the vaunted Southampton defense. The Saints went up 2-0, but two goals from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez equalized before a dramatic last minute penalty converted by Charlie Austin granted Southampton the victory.

Watford 2-0 Bournemouth, Leicester City 2-0 Brighton

The less said about these games, the better. Watford and Leicester dominated and Bournemouth and Brighton were dreadful. Leave it at that.

Liverpool 1-0 Crystal Palace

For most of the game, one would think it was Liverpool who shipped three goals to Huddersfield last week. A last-gasp goal from Sadie Mane carried the Reds to victory, and disappointment reigns for Palace, who had every chance to finish it off.

West Brom 1-0 Burnley

Tony Pulis’ favorite type of victory, isn’t it?

Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal

There are bogey teams. Bayern Munich has Atletico Madrid, Liverpool has anyone who can score, and Arsenal has Stoke. A wonderful strike from debutant Jesé Rodriguez, coupled with a disastrous mistake from the assistant referee on an Alexandre Lacazette goal incorrectly ruled offside, delivered the Potters the three points.

Huddersfield 1-0 Newcastle

The Terriers did it again! Picked against by the world, Aaron Mooy curled in a terrific strike. Disappointment for those fantasy managers that transferred in Steve Mounie (me), but what a start it’s been for Huddersfield!

Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham

There’s the Marcos Alonso we know so well! Harry Kane hit the post twice, but the left back was more clinical, scoring both of the Blues’ goals.

When a left back saves your attack. . .

Manchester City 1-1 Everton

Lovely end-to-end stuff at the Etihad. Wayne Rooney’s 200th goal in the Premier League was cancelled out by a late volley from Raheem Sterling. In all fairness, he shouldn’t have had the chance. A disastrous header from Mason Holgate went straight to the winger’s foot. Dominic Calvert-Lewin looks like a star in the making. The City defense couldn’t deal with his rare blend of speed and skill.

Premier League Gameweek 1 Roundup

Photo courtesy of premierleague.com

 

 

It’s been a long three months, but the Premier League is back with a bang. An entertaining Gameweek 1 featured only one goalless draw, and had its share of surprises.

 

Arsenal 4-3 Leicester

Coming into the first game of the week, Arsenal were missing all of their starting center backs. The result? Sead Kolasinac moved over from wing back, Nacho Monreal was stuck in the center, and poor Rob Holding was the only actual center back playing at center back. For Leicester, Shinji Okazaki surprisingly started alongside Jaime Vardy instead of new signing Kelechi Iheanacho.

As an Arsenal fan, this game was just pure stress. For the neutrals it must have been fantastic. Record signing Alexandre Lacazette put the hosts in front after just two minutes with a sublime header, only to see Leicester pull ahead through Okazaki and Vardy. Right before the break, Sead Kolasinac kind of/sort of/shouldn’t have found Danny Welbeck for the equalizing goal.

In the 56th minute, Jaime Vardy found the back of the net to put Leicester back in front, 3-2. Arsene Wenger immediately decided to throw on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. They both scored, Arsenal won, and you all probably watched it anyways.

Watford 3-3 Leicester

Many things are constant in the red half of Liverpool. The first is signing Southampton players. The second? They are really, really bad defenders. Goals from Stefano Okaka, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and a dramatic last-minute equalizer from Miguel Britos offset strikes from Liverpool.

Burnley 3-2 Chelsea

No, that’s not a typo. Sam Vokes (twice) and Stephen Ward propelled Burnley to a shocking 3-0 lead over the defending champions at Stamford Bridge. Alvaro Morata and David Luiz managed consolations for the box score, but one question lingers.

What is going on with the Blues?

Crystal Palace 0-3 Huddersfield

Look at the Terriers! Picked to finish last by the whole world, Steve Mounie’s brace thrusted them to the top of the early table. An abysmal showing by Frank de Boer’s side, especially in defense, certainly opened the door. Mounie ran through it.

Everton 1-0 Stoke

There’s not much to say, is there? Wayne Rooney’s header was the only time Everton weren’t just playing it around the back like they didn’t care, and Stoke obliged them.

Southampton 0-0 Swansea

The Saints had 29 shots. Twenty nine! Only two were on target.

Just. . . just move on.

West Brom 1-0 Bournemouth

Tony Pulis grabbed the most Tony Pulis of victories. A header from Ahmed Hegazi put the hosts in front and West Brom promptly spent the rest of the game trying to send long balls to Jay Rodriguez.

Manchester City 2-0 Brighton

Kevin de Bruyne —> David Silva —> Sergio Aguero goal.

de Bruyne—> Silva—> Lewis Dunk own goal

A typical win at the Etihad. Or in Brighton. Either way, it was BORING.

Tottenham 2-0 Newcastle

Dele Alli and Ben Davies scored in the second half to deliver an away win for the Spurs. Newcastle were content to defend, getting booked left and right. It didn’t work.

Manchester United 4-0 West Ham

West Ham were very poor defensively, and Romelu Lukaku took advantage, scoring two . Nemanja Matic seems to have unlocked Paul Pogba’s center midfield potential, as they dominated the Hammers. Hammered them, in fact.

 

That’s all for today! Next week I will round up Gameweek 2, and the article will likely be out on Tuesday. Until then, don’t destroy your FPL teams ūüėÄūüėéūüôĄ

Premier League Predictions III: The Top Four

Today I predict the top four of the Premier League. If you missed the first two parts of my EPL predictions, please go back and read them.

Arsenal. Liverpool. Chelsea. Manchester City. Those four teams will make up the top four, starting in the fourth spot with. . .

Liverpool. The Reds bolstered their attacking lineup with the ‚ā¨42 million capture of Mohamed Salah from Roma. The problem is, as Arsenal fans like me painfully learned with Mesut Ozil, attacking players tend to get pushed around for about half a season before they become accustomed to the Premier League’s version of the world’s game. Playing Philippe Coutinho in the center of midfield won’t help their playmaking either.

What is left to be said about last year for Arsenal? Their record 19 year streak of finishing top four was broken and the Gunners will compete in the Europa League this year. Fans changed their tune when Arsene Wenger signed some striker (!) named Alexandre Lacazette. This Lacazette guy is actually very good. Mesut Ozil is going to break every assist record imaginable this‚ÄĒoh wait, he did that two years ago.

Mesut Ozil is going to break all of his assist records this year if Alexis Sanchez stays. Arsenal could finish even higher if not for second-placed Chelsea. When John Terry is your worst departure, you’ve had a pretty solid transfer window. When Alvaro Morata and Tiemou√© Bakayoko come in to South London? ¬†Unheard of. Look at what happened to the last five champions of the Premier League. They got off to abysmal starts the year after. Add the fact that Eden Hazard will miss the first month of the season. Chelsea should be on fire late a l√° Arsenal 2015, but it won’t be enough to top. . .

Champions Manchester City. Has Josep “Pep” Guardiola finally assembled the team he has wanted at the Etihad? New signings Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker will start on either side of the defense. Danilo won’t even start. Bernardo Silva and Ederson Moraes have been signed to start at right mid and goalkeeper respectively. Considering that Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva are the other attacking midfielders, this side will score goals. Lots of them. In defense, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany form a formidable center-back partnership. If they’re healthy.

 

Did you agree with my predictions? Perhaps you thought something different. Let me know in the comments!