Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: 2012 Champions League final preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 19, 2012
UEFA Champions League trophy

Who will get their hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy tonight?

It may not be the “dream final” that the majority of the world’s football fans had craved but for tonight’s UEFA Champions League final opponents, FC Bayern München and Chelsea FC, the culmination of their own dream is so near. FC Bayern, playing in their home stadium tonight, can join the European elite by winning the competition for the fifth time to rank alongside great names such as Real Madrid CF, AC Milan and Liverpool FC. Chelsea, on the other hand, are desperate to claim a maiden title in this competition, especially as their only other final appearance ended in heartache when losing the 2008 final to Manchester United on penalties.

FC Bayern’s European pedigree is without question. Their first continental title came in 1967 when defeating Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers in the Cup Winners’ Cup. The club’s heyday came in the mid-1970’s when the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier helped the club win three European Cups in a row from 1974-76. The Münchener then became only the fourth club ever to have all three European titles in the trophy cabinet when defeating Girondins de Bordeaux in the 1996 UEFA Cup (the other clubs are Juventus FC, Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona). The Bavarians’ most recent European triumph came in 2001 when a nervy UEFA Champions League final against Valencia CF had to be settled on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Milan’s San Siro stadium.

Chelsea’s European success came on the back of two victories in the Cup Winners’ Cup but their regular participation in the UEFA Champions League over the last decade has ensured that they are now regarded as one of the game’s heavyweights despite the lack of success in the main competition. Chelsea’s first Cup Winners’ Cup triumph came in 1971 when they needed extra-time to defeat Real Madrid whilst the second title came at the hands of VfB Stuttgart in the penultimate version of that competition in 1998. As well as the 2008 final, Chelsea have appeared in five Champions League semi-finals in the last decade but if the Stamford Bridge side are to finally get their hands on “Old Big Ears” then this is arguably their greatest opportunity to do so.

FC Bayern have been one of the strongest teams in this season’s competition. The Germans finished top of what was arguably the toughest group in the tournament, finishing above Napoli SSC, Manchester City and Villarreal CF. After easily disposing of Swiss champions FC Basel 1893 in the Round of 16, Bayern reached the final by virtue of eliminating Olympique Marseille and Real Madrid in the latter stages. Chelsea, on the other hand, have often been on the back foot this season. The Londoners, following a Matchday 5 defeat away at Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the group stage, were on the cusp of elimination only for a Matchday 6 victory at home to Valencia CF to save their season. In the knockout rounds Chelsea saw a change of coach midway through their Round of 16 tie against Napoli SSC in which an Andre Villas-Boas led team crashed to a 3-1 first leg defeat but turned it around under the tutelage of Roberto di Matteo when winning the return fixture 4-1 at Stamford Bridge. The Italian has continued to work his magic with subsequent victories over SL Benfica in the quarter-finals and, most famously, over defending champions FC Barcelona in the semis.

After claiming their places in the UEFA Champions League final both teams have completed their domestic campaigns. FC Bayern, normally the dominant force in the Bundesliga, had to be content with second place whilst watching Borussia Dortmund win their second consecutive championship. If that weren’t enough Dortmund thrashed Bayern 5-2 in last weekend’s German Cup final to leave the latter empty-handed domestically for a second successive year. Chelsea, following a poor start, did finish the English football season by claiming the FA Cup for the fourth time in six years when defeating Liverpool FC 2-1 in the final. However Chelsea could only finish sixth in the Premier League meaning that qualification for next season’s Champions League hinges on the result of tonight’s final. Win and Chelsea will displace Tottenham Hotspur as England’s fourth representative next season, but lose and Chelsea will end up in the Europa League.

Much attention has been placed before tonight’s final on those who will be absent, most prominent among them being the Chelsea captain John Terry. Following a stupid off-the-ball attack on Barcelona’s Alexis Sánchez in the semi-final, Terry must sit it out tonight although UEFA have given him permission to lift the Champions League trophy as winning captain should Chelsea prove successful. Terry, along with Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanović, are all suspended for Chelsea whilst FC Bayern must play without the services of David Alaba, Luiz Gustavo and Holger Badstuber. Both sides, though, possess many potential match winners with FC Bayern, in particular, well equipped in this area. The Germans’ front five of Mario Gómez, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos have scored an impressive 94 goals between them this season. The Londoners’ main threat comes from Didier Drogba who has scored eight goals in as many cup finals in his time at Chelsea and was instrumental in his team’s success against Barcelona. Frank Lampard is also a dangerous player, whether it is from open play or from a set-piece, and he is desperate to bring the big one to Stamford Bridge as it is the only major trophy missing from his collection. If Fernando Torres is in one of his big game moods then there is every chance that he can also add to his collection of big game medals alongside those he has won with the Spanish national team.

Although both sides have a very good chance to win the trophy it is FC Bayern who will go into the match as favourites due to their home advantage. Before their 2001 victory over Valencia, Bayern fans held up a banner which read “heute ist ein guter Tag, um Geschichte zu schreiben” (“Today is a good day to write history”). Will it be they who write another chapter into their glorious history or will Chelsea upset the odds once more and write an entirely new chapter of their own? It should prove to be a fascinating final….

Germany: Bayern fears as Dortmund claim Double in fine style

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 13, 2012

Borussia Dortmund wrote a new chapter in their history when winning the DFB Pokal (German Cup) last night. Not content with winning the Bundesliga with a record total of 81 points , the Schwarzgelben (black and yellows) routed UEFA Champions League finalists FC Bayern 5-2 to claim the German league and cup double for the first time in the club’s history. Goals from Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels and a hat-trick from Polish striking sensation Robert Lewandowski gave Dortmund the cup for the third time, their first triumph in this competition since 1989, and underlined just how far the balance of power has shifted in German football over the last couple of years.

For a club like FC Bayern to come second is one thing, to come second in such a weak manner shows that Dortmund have made all the right judgements since coach Jurgen Klopp took over the helm nearly four years ago. They have shown great stability, consistency and have transformed themselves from a mid-ranking club back to a footballing power with a team able to mix the virtues of neat attacking football and an honest work ethic. FC Bayern, on the other hand, have allowed themselves to become embroiled in petty team squabbles, particularly between superstars Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, which is in keeping with the derogatory “FC Hollywood” tag with which they have been synonymous for decades.

Many could argue, with some justification, that Dortmund were aided by their early elimination from European competition whilst FC Bayern have had to juggle three competitions throughout the campaign. The longer rest periods inbetween matches has allowed Dortmund to focus their minds more thoroughly on domestic matters whilst the goal of reaching the UEFA Champions League final in their home stadium in Munich has pre-occupied FC Bayern’s campaign. With this in mind it will be interesting to see how FC Bayern will react to their German Cup final thrashing when they appear in their ‘home’ UEFA Champions League final against Chelsea FC next Saturday. Will the pressure and expectation fail Bayern once more, just like in 1999 and 2010, or will they re-group and put domestic misery out of their minds to win a fifth European crown? They certainly have the players and the talent, their performances against Real Madrid in the semi-finals are a case in point, but if the squad allows itself to get distracted before the big game then Chelsea could use that to their advantage especially as they have come back from early season adversity to claim one domestic trophy, the FA Cup, already this season.

It will also be interesting to see how FC Bayern will prepare themselves for next season. Rumours are rife regarding the impending departure of Arjen Robben who, along with Ribery, scored the consolation strikes for FC Bayern in the German Cup final. Champions Dortmund have already signalled their intent for the future by bringing in Marco Reus from Borussia Mönchengladbach and allowing Lucas Barrios, top scorer in the 2010-11 season, to move to Chinese outfit Ghangzhou Evergrande. FC Bayern will also need to bring in some fresh faces and get rid of some dead wood if they are to refresh themselves for future challenges. Whether they do that as European champions and take some of the gloss off Dortmund’s recent achievements remains to be seen.

Germany: Can Dortmund finish off Bayern in Munich?

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 25, 2011
Van Gaal and Klopp

Bayern boss Louis Van Gaal (left) will face off against Jürgen Klopp this weekend

This weekend sees this season’s biggest match in the Bundesliga so far. Rekordmeister FC Bayern München play host to Tabellenführer Borussia Dortmund on Saturday hoping to claw back three points in the chase to win the 2010-11 German championship.

Dortmund, coached by the charismatic Jürgen Klopp, have defied the critics this season by maintaining the impressive form that has seen them rocket up the table. Following their opening day defeat at the hands of Bayer 04 Leverkusen the Schwarzgelben have lost only one game – away at Eintracht Frankfurt in round 17 – and remain undefeated in six games since the resumption of the league after the winter break. With only Leverkusen separating Dortmund from their hosts this weekend the game takes on increased importance to the powerhouses of FC Bayern who aren’t used to having to chase teams down.

In saying that FC Bayern did make a success of hunting down Leverkusen last season. Following a slow start to the 2009-10 season Van Gaal eventually got to grips with the task facing him and overturned a deficit of six points into a lead which saw the Bavarians win a record extending 22nd title by five points over eventual runners-up Schalke 04. This time, though, FC Bayern face a much more difficult task against the league leaders who are, without doubt, the most organised and efficient team in the league. Whereas Bayern have more stars and players of greater individual quality, Dortmund have a much more effective unit who know how to kill teams off when it matters.

This weekend’s match isn’t just anticipated because of the current plight of the two teams but also due to the fact that this is one of the country’s top fixtures. In fact if Germany is to have a fixture to rival some of the other Clasicos of world football then this is it. Although Borussia Dortmund may lag some way behind their Bavarian adversaries in the honours stakes (e.g. Bayern 22 league titles to Dortmund’s 6; Bayern 4-times European champions to Dortmund’s one triumph in 1997) this is a match-up which had the seeds of a real rivalry sown in the early to mid 1990s when Dortmund was a regular challenger to FC Bayern for the Meisterschale (championship trophy). Sadly, after the club celebrated its most recent title in 2002, Dortmund’s flirtation with the stock market and subsequent financial difficulties saw the club have no choice but to get rid of good quality players and sell the stadium, thus ruining all of the good work, allowing Bayern to reclaim their virtual monopoly of German football.

Thankfully, though, Dortmund are back and are leading the way under coach Klopp who has steadily guided a young, talented team up the table in his first two seasons in charge of the Ruhrpott club and go into this game having won three and drawn three of the last six games. Louis Van Gaal can, at least, be thankful to the fact that Arjen Robben is now back in the team following a six month absence through a hamstring injury and the form of the Münchener has taking a turn for the better as a result. FC Bayern go into this match on the back of a fantastic UEFA Champions League victory away at European champions FC Internazionale, the team who defeated the German champions in the final last May, and have the advantage of playing in front of a sell-out Allianz Arena crowd in Munich on Saturday evening.

FC Bayern still have Ivica Olic out through injury whilst Dortmund will still be without the services of players such as Florian Kringe and Shinji Kagawa. Despite this both clubs will be able to field strong teams this weekend and one can only hope that a classic match awaits.

Super Cup: Bayern, Porto and Trabzonspor lift early season silver (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 8, 2010

The domestic showpiece Super Cup match has been played in three countries this weekend and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews events in Germany, Portugal and Turkey.

After a fourteen year break the DFB Supercup was re-instated back into the German football calendar and it was no surprise to see last season’s League and Cup double winners FC Bayern München lift the first silverware of the 2010-11 season. The game, played in Augsburg, saw the double winners face Schalke 04 who qualified for this match as last season’s league runners-up and who had a new high profile signing in the form of Real Madrid legend Raúl playing for the Königsblauen for the first time. Alas it was FC Bayern who would seal the deal in the last fifteen minutes of the match. Thomas Müller and Miroslav Klose scored the crucial goals which gave the Munich side their first official Super Cup title since 1990.

WATCH DFB SUPERCUP 2010 GOALS HERE:

In Portugal league champions SL Benfica met cup winners FC Porto in the 32nd edition of the Super Cup in the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro which has played host to the two most recent editions of this trophy. FC Porto took the lead very early when Rolando put them ahead after just three minutes with a header just a couple of yards in front of goal. Falcao secured the trophy for FC Porto midway through the second half after he hit the ball home on the half volley following a cross from Silvestre Varela after he’d produced some good work down the left. The victory meant that FC Porto lift the Portuguese Super Cup for the 17th time in the club’s history, ten more than their nearest rivals Sporting Clube.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PORTUGUESE SUPER CUP HERE:

In Turkey Bursaspor, who won their maiden Süper Lig title last season, met cup winners Trabzonspor to determine who would win the first trophy of the new season. The match was held in the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul and it was to be a good day for the team from Trabzon who would run out easy winners of this match by three goals to nil. A hat-trick from Colombian striker Teófilo Gutierrez ensured that the team from Turkey’s Black Sea coast would win their eighth Super Cup title, fifteen years after winning their last one. Bursaspor, however, have a 100% losing record in this competition after losing in their only other appreance in 1986 where they lost to Istanbul giants Beşiktaş. For Trabzonspor the game serves as a confidence booster ahead of their UEFA Europa League play-off round match against English giants Liverpool FC.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TURKISH SUPER CUP HERE:

UEFA Champions League: Semi-Final Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 18, 2010
Ribery and Robben

Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben played crucial roles in FC Bayern München's progression to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals

The UEFA Champions League reaches the semi-final stage and there are two great games to look forward to. There have been fears that the games would be postponed because of the travel disruption that has affected Europe since the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted last week, bringing the whole continent to a standstill. According to the UEFA website on Sunday “the two UEFA Champions League semi-final first legs will go ahead as scheduled this week despite the current restrictions on European air travel due to the volcanic cloud.” Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the two fixtures ahead of the first leg ties which, we presume, will still take place later this week:

INTERNAZIONALE FC (Italy) v FC BARCELONA (Spain)

Both of these teams have already played against each other this season in the UEFA Champions League group stages with FC Barcelona getting the better of their Italian opponents. After the teams drew blank in a Matchday 1 stalemate the European champions made Inter pay at the Camp Nou on Matchday 5 with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Gerard Piqué and Pedro Rodríguez. Inter coach Jose Mourinho has had many battles against the Catalan giants in his managerial career and he will hope that the Nerazzurri can provide him with more cause to celebrate against the club who once employed him as Sir Bobby Robson’s interpreter.

In the quarter-finals FC Barcelona performed amazingly well against an Arsenal FC side who came back well in the first leg to claim a 2-2 draw having been two goals down at one stage. The London side even had the cheek to take the lead in the Camp Nou in the second leg after much-maligned striker Niklas Bendtner gave the Gunners an 18th minute lead. After that the game became a one man show and who else but Lionel Messi was going to step up to the plate? After scoring a hat-trick just before half-time the Argentinian superstar capped off a wonderful performance two minutes from the end of the game with a fourth goal, the first player to score four in one game during the UEFA Champions League knock-out stages. Since defeating Arsenal the Blaugrana have continued their impressive league form including a 2-0 away win at Real Madrid in “El Gran Clásico” and an easy 3-0 win at home to Deportivo de La Coruña before dropping two points in the derby of Barcelona drawing 0-0 against local rivals RCD Espanyol on Saturday.

Inter defeated CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with two 1-0 victories home and away. Diego Milito scored the winning goal for Inter in the first leg whilst Wesley Sneijder scored the only goal in the second leg in Moscow. In Serie A, however, the Nerazzurri have lost top spot to AS Roma despite having taken four points in the two games since defeating CSKA in the second leg. A 2-2 draw away at AC Fiorentina could prove to be the pivotal moment in the domestic season for Inter as the two dropped points allowed AS Roma to overtake them at the top of the table. They have kept the pressure on the capital side though having defeated Juventus FC 2-0 in the “Derby of Italy” on Saturday.

FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany) v OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (France)

FC Bayern are dreaming of The Treble after knocking out English champions Manchester United in sensational fashion in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Olympique Lyonnais are still just about involved in the title race domestically too and took great satisfaction from emerging triumphant in the Battle of France against FC Girondins de Bordeaux, going through with a slender one goal advantage over the two legs.

FC Bayern have seemingly got the 1999 UEFA Champions League final defeat out of their system having put Manchester United to the sword in the last round. After Wayne Rooney gave the Red Devils the lead after two minutes of the first leg in the Allianz Arena, there was late drama which decided the outcome of the match thanks to a deflected free-kick from Franck Ribéry and a last minute winner from Ivica Olić. It was to be Olić who began the comeback for FC Bayern in the second leg at Old Trafford after United had raced into a 3-0 lead on the night after just 41 minutes. Two minutes before half-time Olić struck home from an acute angle to reduce the arrears for the Bavarians and it wasn’t until the 74th minute when Bayern’s Dutch maestro Arjen Robben beautifully struck from the edge of the penalty box to equal the match 4-4 on aggregate which was how it stayed, much to the relief of Bayern who went through courtesy of the away goals rule. Domestically they have taken charge in the race for the Bundesliga title having defeated nearest challengers Schalke 04 away from home as well as picking up a point from suffering Bayer 04 Leverkusen. On Saturday FC Bayern disposed of Hannover 96 in style putting seven goals past their hapless opponents without reply with Arjen Robben scoring a hat trick.

There was much anticipation in France ahead of the battle between Olympique Lyonnais, seven times French champions from 2002-2008, and Girondins de Bordeaux who took OL‘s title away from them in 2008-09. With both teams dropping points in the domestic title race this European clash became more important as they both wanted to be the team that would represent French football going into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. The first leg in Lyon was a fantastically open affair with many chances for both sides, especially in the first half. Lisandro López scored the opening goal on ten minutes only for Marouane Chamakh to equalize just four minutes later for the Girondins in a frantic set of opening exchanges. Olympique Lyonnais regained the lead after Michel Bastos had put them 2-1 up before the break. A penalty from Lisandro López further enhanced OL‘s lead in the 77th minute and it was the men from Lyon who were celebrating going into the second leg. Understandably the return fixture in Bordeuax was a more tense affair with both sides cancelling each other out for most of the first half but then came the breakthrough on the stroke of half time thanks to Maraoune Chamakh scoring the opening goal of the night. Try as they might in the second half Les Girondins just couldn’t find that crucial second goal which they needed to take them through. Olympique Lyonnais won 3-2 on aggregate and will hope to upset the odds against FC Bayern in the next round.

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS (Team on left at home first)

Internazionale FC v FC Barcelona (1st Leg 20th April; 2nd Leg 28th April)

FC Bayern München v Olympique Lyonnais (1st Leg 21st April; 2nd Leg 27th April)

UEFA Champions League: Quarter-Final Preview

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 29, 2010
FC Bayern v Manchester United

FC Bayern München plays Manchester United in a repeat of the 1998-99 UEFA Champions League final

The UEFA Champions League is now at the quarter-final stage and there are four mouth-watering clashes that whet the appetite for the feast of football which lies ahead in the next fortnight. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” looks at the current form guide of each pairing of teams involved in the last eight of the competition:

FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany) v MANCHESTER UNITED (England)

This game brings back memories of United’s famous last-gasp triumph in the 1998-99 UEFA Champions League final where the Red Devils came from behind in second half stoppage time to win a thrilling contest 2-1. FC Bayern have gained revenge since then having knocked United out of this competition at the quarter-final stage in 2000-01, going on to lift the trophy against Valencia CF in that same season. At the moment both teams are, as expected, fighting for their respective national championships with Manchester United topping the English Premier League and FC Bayern just two points behind current leaders FC Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga. However the form of the two teams makes interesting reading as United have won all three of their games (against Fulham FC, Liverpool FC and Bolton Wanderers) since knocking AC Milan out of the Champions League in the Round of 16. In contrast FC Bayern have won only one of their last three league games, losing the last two matches to Eintracht Frankfurt and VfB Stuttgart, although they did reach the DFB Pokal final thanks to a “Traumtor” (dream goal) from Arjen Robben. Two potential classic matches await in this fixture.

OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (France) v FC GIRONDINS de BORDEAUX (France)

During the UEFA Champions League draw in Nyon the reaction of Olympique Lyonnais chairman Jean-Michel Aulas said it all when his team were paired with fellow compatriots Girondins de Bordeaux in the last eight of this competition. After he had laughed off the events of the draw ceremony the serious business of preparing for France’s biggest football contest for many years began. This is a match that will grip the French nation as it will be a fascinating duel between the two teams who have won the last eight championships with Girondins having brought OL‘s fantastic run of seven successive championships to an end last season. Domestically Girondins are hanging on to the lead in Ligue 1 by a thread with no fewer than five teams capable of mounting a realistic challenge to their crown and their European opponents will want to remind Laurent Blanc’s men that there will be psychological points to be scored in this match. Olympique Lyonnais lie two points behind the leaders (albeit having played two games more) and will wish to make a statement in this game in order to sew a few seeds of doubt in the heads of the league leaders. Since the Round of 16 stage FC Girondins have only played two matches, winning one in the league against Lille OSC but losing the first domestic silverware of the season last Saturday in the Coupe de la Ligue final against Olympique Marseille. Olympique Lyonnais have a mixed record since they sensationally knocked-out Real Madrid in the last round, taking four points from their last three games.

FC Barcelona v Arsenal FC

Juliano Belletti scored the winning goal for FC Barcelona in the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League final against Arsenal FC

ARSENAL FC (England) v FC BARCELONA (Spain)

There may be more history in the FC Bayern – Manchester United match but this is the match that all football purists everywhere will be looking forward to. Defending European champions FC Barcelona will hope to put Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal FC side to the sword in a repeat of the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League final and a game which brings Gunners legend Thierry Henry back to his old club. He has publicly stated before this game that he will “always be an Arsenal fan” despite him now sporting the famous Blaugrana shirt of the Catalans. There is a reunion of sorts for Arsenal captain Cesc Fàbregas who will return to his boyhood heroes in the second leg fixture at Camp Nou. With both teams playing arguably the most exciting brand of football anywhere in Europe it should be the most technical and skillful of the four quarter-final match-ups. Both teams are in good form domestically since qualifying from the Round of 16 with Barça winning all three of their games against Real Zaragoza, Osasuna and Real Mallorca to keep in touch with eternal rivals Real Madrid CF at the top of La Liga. Arsenal are currently four points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United having dropped two points in their most recent game against Birmingham City following wins against Hull City and West Ham United.

INTERNAZIONALE FC (Italy) v CSKA MOSCOW (Russia)

Both of these teams pulled out amazing victories in the Round of 16 with Jose Mourinho’s Inter disposing of his former club Chelsea FC and Russian side CSKA Moscow knocking out Sevilla FC who were fancied as outside favourites by many people prior to their elimination in this tournament. Both of these teams played each other in the UEFA Champions League as recently as the 2007-08 season with the Italians having the better of their two games in the group stage beating the Army Men 2-1 in Russia and 4-2 in Italy. Internazionale FC are currently top of Italy’s Serie A but only by one point having dropped five out of the last available nine points in the league. Since knocking out Chelsea the Nerazzurri struggled to a draw against Palermo, beat relegation-threatened Livorno and lost the crucial top-of-the-table clash at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to AS Roma who now lie in second place. The Russian Premier League season is only three games old and the Muscovites have started the season well having taken seven out of nine points to share the lead with three other teams. An opening day win over Amkar Perm and a Matchday 3 victory win over Anzhi Makhachkala sandwiched a goalless draw in the big local derby against Dinamo Moscow.

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS (team on left is home first)

1st Leg 30/03/10; 2nd Leg 07/04/10

FC Bayern München v Manchester United

Olympique Lyonnais v FC Girondins de Bordeaux

1st Leg 31/03/10; 2nd Leg 06/04/10

Arsenal FC v FC Barcelona

Internazionale FC v CSKA Moscow

UEFA: Who will win the UEFA Champions League 2010? (Poll)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 19, 2010

The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals have taken place today in Nyon, Switzerland and there are some very interesting matches to come in the remainder of the competition. Below is the draw for the UEFA Champions League and we have created a poll so that you can vote for the team who you think will be lifting the trophy in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid on Saturday, May 22:

QUARTER-FINALS (1st leg 30-31 March; 2nd leg 06-07 April)

1. OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (France) v GIRONDINS de BORDEAUX (France)

2. FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany) v MANCHESTER UNITED (England)

3. ARSENAL FC (England) v FC BARCELONA (Spain)

4. INTERNAZIONALE FC (Italy) v CSKA MOSCOW (Russia)

SEMI-FINALS (1st leg 20-21 April; 2nd leg 27-28 April)

5. Winner Match 2 v Winner Match 1

6. Winner Match 4 v Winner Match 3

FINAL (Saturday, 22 May)

7. Winner Match 5 v Winner Match 6

UEFA Champions League trophy

UEFA Champions League trophy

UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 Review

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 17, 2010
Samir Nasri

Samir Nasri scored a wonder goal in Arsenal's 5-0 second leg victory over FC Porto giving The Gunners a 6-2 aggregate win.

The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 phase is over and the eight clubs who have qualified for the quarter-final stage can look forward to the draw at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday. With the draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals taking place each club will be assessing all potential routes to the final to be played in Madrid on Saturday, May 22nd. Here is a round-up of who qualified and how they got on in their last 16 encounters:

ARSENAL FC (England)

Arsène Wenger’s side gave away two sloppy goals in the first leg in Oporto which gave the Portuguese side the ascendancy. However Sol Campbell’s header in the first half of the first leg gave The Gunners hope that they could turn things around at The Emirates stadium which they did in fine style. Niklas Bendtner, who had been lambasted by all his critics for missing a hat-trick of gilt-edged chances in a league game three days earlier, would silence his doubters with a hat-trick of goals in the second leg, sealing the game with a penalty in stoppage time. Emmanuel Eboue and, most famously, Samir Nasri completed the scoring as Arsenal completed a 6-2 rout of their hapless opponents.

FC BARCELONA (Spain)

European champions Barcelona march on into the quarter-finals with a 5-1 aggregate victory over VfB Stuttgart whose solid performance to secure a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg seemed a distant memory after just 22 minutes in Wednesday’s second leg at Camp Nou. Cacau, who scored in the first leg for Stuttgart, was a frustrated figure along with with his team mates as Messi and co began to run riot over the Swabian side. Messi scored two great goals from outside the box in this game (13 and 60 mins) and was the pivotal figure in a game which Barça totally controlled. Young guns Pedro (22 mins) and substitute Bojan, who scored with his first touch of the game on 89 mins, secured a 4-0 second leg win and means that Barcelona are the team that the other seven will want to avoid in Friday’s draw.

FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany)

Having easily negotiated their way past Juventus in the group stage FC Bayern found a much tougher challenge in their two-legged affair with AC Fiorentina. The first leg, which finished 2-1 to Bayern, ended in controversy as Miroslav Klose’s 89th minute winning goal was scored whilst he was clearly in an offside position which went unnoticed by the officials. In the second leg Bayern had a real fight on their hands as the Italians took a 2-0 lead early in the second half which left the Münchener trailing overall in the tie, however Mark van Bommel scored on the hour to level the tie 3-3 on aggregate. Four minutes after van Bommel’s goal though Fiorentina took a 3-1 lead on the night to give themselves the advantage thanks to their player of the season Stevan Jovetić but Dutch sensation Arjen Robben scored one of the goals of the tournament just one minute later to level the aggregate score at 4-4. Bayern’s two away goals meant that the Viola had to find another goal from somewhere but Bayern’s defence held firm for the remaining twenty five minutes of the tie.

CSKA MOSCOW (Russia)

Perhaps the surprise team left standing in the last eight of the competition. Russian side CSKA have only just returned to domestic action after a three month winter break and were out of match practice before their two-legged tie with Spanish side Sevilla CF. In the first leg Chilean winger Mark González scored a wonderful long range effort to restore parity in the 66th minute after Sevilla’s Álvaro Negredo had given the Andalucians a deserved lead on 25 minutes. In the second leg the Russians scored first thanks to Tomáš Necid but their lead lasted for only two minutes as Diego Perotti levelled for the home side. The crucial event over the two legs was Keisuke Honda’s strike ten minutes into the second half which gave CSKA  a second away goal meaning that Sevilla had to score two more goals without reply in order to qualify for the last eight but it wasn’t to be. The Russians held out comfortbaly and will hope to surprise further in the quarter-finals.

GIRONDINS de BORDEAUX (France)

The French champions had a fairly comfortable 3-1 aggregate win over perennial Greek champions Olympiakos in this Champions League tie. Michaël Ciani scored the only goal in the first leg in the Greek port of Piraeus to leave Bordeaux in a very good position ahead of the second leg in France. Yohan Gourcuff scored after just five minutes in the second leg to leave the French side in a commanding position. Olympiakos did pull a goal a goal back on 64 minutes thanks to their top scorer Konstantinos Mitroglu, the goal came just four minutes after Olympiakos’ Matt Derbyshire was shown a red card for a second bookable offence. The game did even up in terms of players as Bordeaux had Alou Diarra sent off on 69 minutes and the Greeks belatedly began to believe that a second away goal was possible. However Bordeaux eventually sealed the deal when Maraoune Chamakh scored a header on 88 minutes leaving just enough time for Olof Mellberg to be the second Olympiakos player shown the red card deep into stoppage time.

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho, aka The Special One, masterminded a win over his old club Chelsea FC with Italian champions Internazionale FC

INTERNAZIONALE FC (Italy)

All of the coverage before this game was centred on Inter coach Jose Mourinho, which was perhaps a preconceived tactic by the man himself to avoid any unneccessary scrutiny of his team before the games with Chelsea FC. If this was a deliberate tactic from The Special One then it worked a treat for the Nerazzurri who have qualifed for the last eight for the first time since the 2005-06 season. The first leg in the San Siro stadium was a sell-out and the home fans were celebrating inside three minutes thanks to a great strike from Diego Milito. However Chelsea FC gradually upped-the-ante and were rewarded after 51 minutes when Solomon Kalou’s shot from distance was deflected in and the small contingent of fans from London were celebrating high in the stands…but not for long. Inter regained the lead just four minutes later thanks to Esteban Cambiasso and the tie was set up nicely for the return match at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium. However much of the game failed to live up to the hype due to Inter’s fine execution of Mourinho’s strategy in the first half which saw few chances created and the home fans left frustrated. Inter became more offensively involved in the second half and were celebrating in the 75th minute when Samuel Eto’o proved Chelsea’s nemesis, not for the first time, with a well struck shot low into the corner of the goal to give the Italian champions a deserved win.

MANCHESTER UNITED (England)

The English champions went through yet again to the last eight of the Champions League to keep up their impressive record in Europe’s elite competition and once again it was Wayne Rooney who inspired the Red Devils to victory scoring four goals over the course of their two-legged encounter with seven times European champions AC Milan. In the first leg Ronaldinho scored early to shock United and the Italians could’ve had at least four goals in the first half but the Rossoneri were wasteful in front of goal and they were to regret their lack of firepower when Paul Scholes scored a fluke equalizer in the 36th minute. Rooney then took charge scoring twice in the second half before Clarence Seedorf’s late consolation gave Milan hope in the second leg by reducing the arrears to 3-2. The second leg at Old Trafford, however, was no contest once Rooney (who else?) opened the scoring on 13 minutes. Further strikes from Rooney, Park Ji-Sung and Darren Fletcher sealed a comfortable win for United who hope to reach a third consecutive Champions League final.

OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS (France)

In what was the shock of the round Olympique Lyonnais disposed of los Galacticos of Real Madrid by securing a 2-1 aggregate victory over the nine time European champions whose dreams of a tenth triumph in their home stadium on May 22nd now lie in tatters. After Jean Makoun had given the French side a 1-0 first leg victory with a splendid long range strike in Lyon, Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal after six minutes in the return leg had all Madridistas hoping that the floodgates would open early. But after Real had missed a glut of further chances throughout the game it was to be Miralem Pjanić who would spoil the party when his 75th minute away goal meant that Real had to score another two goals to secure their passage to the last eight but it wasn’t to be.

UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 preview 2

Posted in European Football by peterbein on February 16, 2010
FC Bayern

FC Bayern have been celebrating a lot in the German Bundesliga recently. Will this continue in the Champions League against AC Fiorentina?

The UEFA Champions League is back! “Stoppage Time” continues its preview of the Round of 16 games with a focus on those matches taking place on Wednesday with the second legs on Tuesday, March 9th:

FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN (Germany) v AC FIORENTINA (Italy)

Whereas Italian side AC Fiorentina had a comfortable ride in Champions League group E disposing of Olympique Lyonnais, Liverpool FC and Debreceni to finish top, German Rekordmeister (record champions) FC Bayern had to go to Turin and win away at Juventus to claim the second qualification spot in their group. At the time FC Bayern were struggling for consistency under new coach Louis van Gaal but a heroic 4-1 win against Italy’s Old Lady signalled a change in fortune for the Bavarian giants. Since then FC Bayern have been faultless in the Bundesliga while AC Fiorentina have slid down the Serie A table and are now finding it difficult to qualify for European competition next season.

Since the conclusion of the Champions League group stage FC Bayern have gone from strength to strength having won their last eight games in the league and are now level on points with joint leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen, trailing behind the Werkself (Work’s Eleven) by virtue of goal difference. Having also qualified for the DFB Pokal (German Cup) semi-finals all is rosy at the Allianz Arena, at the moment, with the German side quietly contemplating a chance at going for a treble similar to what FC Barcelona accomplished last season. AC Fiorentina, on the other hand, have struggled with form and injuries since sealing their place in the knockout stages. The Viola have won only two of their last eight games in the league (against Bari and bottom club Siena) and from the heady heights of fourth have gone sliding down the table to their current rank of eleventh leaving them seven points from a UEFA Europa League place.

Although Mario Gomez has hit 14 goals so far in his maiden season at FC Bayern all of the fans’ expectations rest on the shoulders of Arjen Robben, who has been a revelation since his two goal introduction to German football against champions VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 4 of the Bundesliga. The Dutchman is backed up by a returning Franck Ribéry who is desperate to show the fans the sort of form which led him to the German Footballer of the Year award in 2008. AC Fiorentina will hope that Stevan Jovetić, who impressed with his performance against Liverpool earlier this season, can once again perform on the European stage having scored three times in the tournament so far this season. However the Florentines have suffered with injuries this season and the news that defender Alessandro Gamberini will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury is bad news for the club. With the Italian side having never won a competitive fixture in Germany before the omens are against Fiorentina but at least they will be at home in the second leg so it is imperative that Fiorentina can score an away goal tomorrow night.

FC PORTO (Portugal) v ARSENAL FC (England)

Two-time European champions FC Porto will be hoping to continue their good form in the UEFA Champions League this season as they have struggled in their defence of the championship back home with both SL Benfica and surprise team Sporting Braga out in front. The Dragões (Dragons) progressed in second place from group B two points behind Chelsea FC and nine points ahead of both Atlético de Madrid and APOEL Nicosia. Arsenal usually progress with ease to the knockout stages in this tournament but find the tough going when the business end of the season arrives. Five years without a trophy would be a disaster for Arsenal fans who still lament how close they came to winning the trophy in 2006 when they were losing finalists to FC Barcelona. However they topped group H ahead of Greek champions Olympiakos and will hope that they can kick-start their season again in Europe.

FC Porto lie in third-place in the Portuguese Liga Sagres nine points behind leaders SL Benfica having played a game less than the Lisbon side. In their seven games since the group stage FC Porto have won four of them but have suffered a solitary defeat in that time to Benfica which has left them trailing in their wake. The Dragons have found consolation in the Carlsberg Cup (Portuguese League Cup) having qualified for the final to be played next month against…..Benfica. Arsenal have won seven of their twelve Premier League games since the group phase but have suffered a recent dip by losing to their two challengers for the title, leaders Chelsea FC and champions Manchester United. They did recover by beating Liverpool FC at home in their most recent league encounter so are still third in the table only six points behind first place. However defeats in the two domestic cup competitions to Stoke City and Manchester City means that Arsène Wenger’s men only have the domestic championship and Champions League to play for.

FC Porto’s danger man is Falcao who, since moving to the club from Argentine giants River Plate, has scored 17 goals (3 in the Champions League) so far this season. If he can link up with Brazilian striker Hulk then the Arsenal defence may just have problems against such a strong forward line although the Portuguese do miss two key players in Ruben Micael and Ernesto Farias. Arsenal’s inspiration usually comes from captain Cesc Fabrègas and the Gunners will rely on him more than ever as they suffer from a list of injuries including the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Robin van Persie, Eduardo and William Gallas, to name but four.

REMEMBER: the other four quarter-finals ties play next week so we will continue with the previews from next Monday, February 22nd.

Bundesliga Preview: FC Bayern not such big fans of The Hoff

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 15, 2010
FC Bayern v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Ivica Olic quietens the crowd as he scores in the 1-1 draw between Hoffenheim and FC Bayern on the opening day of the 2009-10 Bundesliga

Thankfully, for all fans of Baywatch, FC Bayern have not taken a dislike to cult hero David Hasselhoff. After a shorter than usual winter break the German Bundesliga returns tonight with a modern day rivalry between FC Bayern and nouveau riche club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Since the promotion of the latter into the First League in 2008 there has been no love lost between the two clubs who indulged in public spats last season as both teams were hoping to challenge for the title. Despite winning the unofficial “Herbstmeister” (Autumn champion) title, upstarts Hoffenheim gradually fell away in the second half of the 2008-09 season but, generally, had given the Bundesliga a shot in the arm. Ultimately both clubs had to take a back seat while surprise team VfL Wolfsburg won the title. However, after a slow start this season, both clubs are in a healthy position going into the “Rückrunde” (latter half of the season). The bad blood from last season has been replaced with words of respect from both coaches Louis van Gaal (Bayern) and Ralf Rangnick in a game both teams must win if they’re to build on any hopes of a title challenge. FC Bayern could go top for the first time in 51 matchday rounds (since May 2008) whilst a win for Hoffenheim would see them go into joint sixth with Werder Bremen (seven points behind leaders Leverkusen) before the weekend’s other games.

On Saturday the current “Herbstmeister” Leverkusen will hope to retain the unbeaten record they had at the midway point of the season (Played 17, won 9, drawn 8, points 35) but will have it tough against the league’s surprise package 1.FSV Mainz 05 who have hopes of fighting it out for a European spot. Fourth place Hamburger SV are looking for a third consecutive victory as they face lowly SC Freiburg whilst Werder Bremen will hope to gain revenge for an opening day defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt whose coach, Michael Skibbe, has threatened to quit the club at the end of the season after he accused his employers of lacking ambition due to the lack of funds available for new players during the January transfer window. Ex-Frankfurt coach Friedhelm Funkel has his work cut out at bottom club Hertha BSC who accumulated the lowest number of points ever after 17 games (a measly six) and is up against Hannover 96, a team still suffering from the death of goalkeeper Robert Enke, and who are in danger of being dragged into the “Tabellenkellar” (relegation zone) as they lie in 14th place, five points away from 1.FC Nürnberg in the second automatic relegation spot. Borussia Mönchengladbach will hope to keep up their good form, 13 points from the last seven games, against a VfL Bochum side who currently lie in the relegation play off 16th spot. In the Saturday night game Armin Veh, who has a mixed record since taking over at champions VfL Wolfsburg, will hope for three points at his old stomping ground in Stuttgart, who he led to the 2006-07 championship. Now under new management following the dismissal of Markus Babbel, Stuttgart and their new coach Christian Gross will hope to start ascending up the league to the relative safety of mid-table.

In the Sunday games Felix Magath will hope to keep up the pressure on the top teams as his Schalke 04 side play at home against struggling 1.FC Nürnberg whilst Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund travel to 1.FC Köln, for whom local hero Lukas Podolski has only scored one goal in the Bundesliga following his much publicised return from FC Bayern at the start of the season. No wonder then that “Die Geißböcke” (Billy Goats) find themselves as the league’s least prolific team in front of goal having only scored ten times in 17 games.