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 €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 Łukasz 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 Dembéle 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.

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Gold Cup 2017: Predicting Semifinals

At last the four best teams have done their jobs. Some have smashed their way through to the semifinals, and some merely survived. This is where it gets harder to predict.

Costa Rica vs. United States

This is going to be a simply thrilling Saturday night in Phoenix. On one hand you have the sleeping American giant, fresh off absolutely dominating El Salvador. Then you have Los Ticos, who just barely scraped through against Panama. However, El Salvador is hardly on Panama’s level.

Costa Rica is missing four key players to injury, and star goalie Keylor Navas has not been allowed to come to the Gold Cup as he is in Real Madrid’s squad for the club’s preseason tour. The US are also without players that play for a European clubs, as Christian Pulisic, Fabian Johnson, and John Brooks are not able to come. The Americans should be able to get through to the final, as they can exploit Costa Rica’s lack of healthy wingers and second-string goalkeeper. Pick: USA

Mexico vs. Jamaica

Mexico brought their B-team to this Gold Cup, as many players including Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela were subject to CONCACAF’s international playtime restrictions as they had taken part in the Confederations Cup recently. It hasn’t hindered El Tri yet as they face a full strength Jamaican team that made the final in 2015. Mexico’s midfield presence should dominate Jamaica, and the high press they’ve been utilizing should cause problems. Pick: Mexico

 

So what did you think of my predictions? Let me know in the comments below! Be sure to like and follow if you enjoyed!

 

James Rodriguez finally leaves Real Madrid!

Colombian star James Rodriguez has finally completed a move away from Real Madrid, after being linked to Inter, Arsenal, PSG, Manchester United, and others. But he hasn’t gone to any of the aforementioned teams.

Speculation had grown over James’ future after Real manager Zinedine Zidane repeatedly left him on the bench, choosing to play Casemiro in a defensive 4-3-3. The Spanish giants initially demanded close to £75 million for him, which ruled out most clubs as potential destinations for Rodriguez.

Yesterday it was announced that James (Haw-mace) has moved to Bayern Munich! Real Madrid put the correct price tag on the world class CAM. However, sources report that the German club has decided to loan him for two years, with an option to buy. This is the staggering bit: the fee. Bayern will pay £5 million each year of his loan, and then have an option to buy him permanently for only £30 million! Incentives could see the total fee rise to £45.2 million, well below Madrid’s asking price.

This is a ridiculous deal for the Bavarians. Remember when 22 year old James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, scoring in every game? Remember how he took control of the round of 16 clash against Uruguay? (And that ridiculous volley!)

At age 25, the Colombian wizard hasn’t even hit his prime, but has notched 46 goals, 45 assists, and 27 Man of the Match awards in just over 10,000 minutes of game time. The list of active players to go 45/45/25 in 10,000: James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. That’s it.

 

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Real Madrid 4-1 Juventus: Reviewing the Champions League final

A wild game, to say the least.

Cardiff, Wales was the site of the Final of the most prestigious club competition in the world. It’s also Gareth Bale’s hometown. Bale was left on the bench, though, as Real Madrid cemented their place in history, becoming the first team in 27 years to win the Champions League back-to-back years.

Once the—um, interesting pregame show had been cleared, Juventus almost immediately went ahead when Miralem Pjanic’s 20 yard effort in the 6th minute forced a terrific save from keeper Keylor Navas.

In the 20th minute, Real Madrid made them pay for their attacking play. It was a typical Madrid counter-attack: deadly and not wasting time. Karim Benzema fed Cristiano Ronaldo, who then played a sweet one-two with Dani Carvajal on the wing and made no mistake with the 15-yard finish.

Juventus didn’t roll over and play dead, though. On the stroke of halftime, superb build-up play from the Italian giants led to Mario Mandzukic scoring one of the best goals of the year, a terrific overhead kick that Navas’s outstretched fingers couldn’t reach.

In the second half, however, it was all Madrid. Goals from Casemiro, Ronaldo, and 20 year old substitute Marco Asensio sealed Juventus’s fate, though the Asensio goal wouldn’t have come to be if Juventus hadn’t decided to roll over and play dead. They did and it did.

Leave your suggestions, comments, and other feedback in the comments below! Leave a like if you enjoyed this article, and good riddance—I mean goodbye.