Category Archives: Soccer

Coverage of various soccer leagues and tournaments.

World Cup 2014: Group B Game-By-Game Predictions

Group B consists of Spain, Netherlands, Chile, and Australia. Here are my predictions, with scores, for each game in Group B.

June 13 – Spain vs. Netherlands,            Draw 0-0

June 13 – Chile vs. Australia,                   Chile win, 1-0

June 18 – Australia vs. Netherlands,       Netherlands win, 2-0

June 18 – Spain vs. Chile,                        Draw 1-1

June 23 – Australia vs. Spain,                  Spain win, 2-0

June 23 – Netherlands vs. Chile,             Chile win, 1-0

That means Chile would win Group B with 7 points, Spain would be second with 5 points, and Netherlands would be third with 4 points.

Group B Prediction

 

World Cup 2014: Group A Game-By-Game Predictions

The World Cup is starting in just a few hours and here are my predictions, with scores, for each game in Group A. Group A consists of Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon.

June 12 – Brazil vs. Croatia,            Brazil win, 3-1

June 13 – Mexico vs. Cameroon,    Draw 1-1

June 17 – Brazil vs. Mexico,            Brazil win, 2-0

June 18 – Cameroon vs. Croatia,   Croatia win, 3-0

June 23 – Cameroon vs. Brazil,      Brazil win, 4-1

June 23 – Croatia vs. Mexico,        Croatia win, 1-0

 

With those results, here is how the Group A table would shake out.

Group A Prediction

 

Champions League Match Day 6 Roundup

The 6th and final match day took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The teams for the Round of 16 are all set in the UEFA Champions League. Here is the Group-by-Group breakdown:

Group A

Manchester United squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk thanks to a Phil Jones goal in the 67th minute. The group’s other match between Real Sociedad and Bayer Leverkusen also ended 1-0. Omer Toprak scored in the 49th minute to ensure Leverkusen moved on in the Champions League.

Manchester United won the group with 14 points, Bayer Leverkusen finish 2nd with 10 points, Shakhtar Donetsk finished 3rd with 8 points, and Real Sociedad finished last with only 1 point. Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen will move on to the Round of 16 in the Champions League. Shakhtar will be placed in the Europa League Round of 32. Real Sociedad are eliminated from European competition.

Group B

Real Madrid went to Copenhagen and won 2-0. Luka Modric scored first in the 25th minute with a wonderful curling strike. Ronaldo scored the 2nd goal in the 48th minute adding to his already impressive total. Ronaldo has scored 9 goals in the Champions League Group Stage, the most ever in this famed competition. The game’s other match between Galatasaray and Juventus was halted in the 32nd minute for weather. After an unsuccessful attempt to restart the game, it was abandoned. The game resumed on Wednesday in the 32nd minute with the score at 0-0. Wesley Sneijder hit an 85th minute goal to give Galatasaray the 1-0 win and the spot in the Round of 16.

Real Madrid won the group with 16 points, Galatasaray finished 2nd with 7 points, Juventus finished 3rd with 6 points, and Copenhagen were last with 4 points. Real Madrid and Galatasaray move on in the UEFA Champions League. Juventus will go into the Round of 32 in the Europa League and Copenhagen are eliminated from European Competition

Group C

The battle for 2nd between Benfica and Olympiacos was in doubt until the last minutes. Benfica rallied from 1-0 down to beat PSG 2-1. Lima had a goal from the penalty spot in the 45th minute. In the 2nd half, Nicolas Gaitan put a goal in the back of the net to give Benfica the needed victory. Olympiacos was at home to Anderlecht and needed to win to make the Round of 16. Javier Saviola got on the score sheet for Olympiacos in the 33rd minute, but that was cancelled out by Sacha Kljestan’s 39th minute goal for Anderlecht. Saviola put Olympiacos ahead for good in the 58th minute, while Alejandro Dominguez put the game beyond doubt with a 95th minute stoppage time penalty goal.

PSG won the group with 13 points. Olympiacos and Benfica both finished level on 10 points, with Olympiacos having the better goal differential of +2 compared to 0 for Benfica. That means Olympiacos will play in the Round of 16 while Benfica will move to the Round of 32 in the Europa League. Anderlecht finished last with 1 point.

Group D

The stunner of the Tuesday games happened in Group D. Bayern Munich looked well on their way to victory after a 5th minute goal from Thomas Muller and a 12th minute goal from Mario Gotze. Manchester City did not give up as David Silva pulled a goal back in the 28th minute to make it 2-1 Bayern Munich. Aleksandar Kolarov hit one home from the penalty spot in the 59th minute, before James Milner made the comeback complete in the 62nd minute. The group’s other match saw Tomas Wagner hit a 90th minute goal from Viktoria Plzen to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1.

Despite the loss, Bayern Munich still won the group with 15 points. Manchester City also had 15 points (worse goal differential vs. Bayern Munich), Viktoria Plzen finish 3rd with 3 points, and CSKA Moscow finished last with 3 points as well. Viktoria gets the nod over CSKA Moscow because they had more away goals in the group stage. Bayern and City were confirmed for the Round of 16 in the Champions League already, but Viktoria Plzen have stolen the Europa League spot from under CSKA Moscow.

Group E

A 10th minute Demba Ba goal was all that separated Chelsea and Steaua Bucuresti in their match. The match between Schalke and Basel turned in the 31st minute when Basel’s Ivan Ivanov got a straight red card to leave his team with 10 men. Schalke took advantage of the extra man in the 2nd half with goals from Julian Draxler in the 51st minute and Joel Matip in the 57th minute. Schalke took all 3 points with a final scoreline of 2-0 over Basel.

Chelsea won the group with 12 point, Schalke finished 2nd with 10 points, Basel were 3rd with 8 points, and Steaua Bucuresti finished last with 3 points. Chelsea and Schalke will move onto the Round of 16 in the Champions League with Basel going to the Europa League and the Round of 32. Steaua are eliminated from European competition.

Group F

The “Group of Death” went down to the final minutes. Napoli got a goal from Gonzalo Higuain in the 73rd minute and then another goal in the 93rd minute from Jose Callejon to make it a final score of 2-0 over Arsenal. Borussia Dortmund were tied 1-1 and on their way out of the Champions League until Kevin Grobkreutz put the German side ahead 2-1. Borussia would not relinquish that lead.

Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, and Napoli all finished on 12 points. However, thanks to goal differential, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal will march on in the Champions League. Dortmund had a goal differential of +5, Arsenal had +3, and Napoli had +1. Napoli will have a slight consolation prize in the Europa League Round of 32. Marseille failed to register a point, but did make things very interesting on this last match day of the Champions League group stage.

Group G

Atletico Madrid already had this group in hand, but still made their case as a darkhorse contender in this Competition with a 2-0 victory over Porto. Atletico got goals from Raul Garcia in the 14th minute and Diego Costa in the 37th minute. Austria Wien got their only win of the group stage in a 4-1 thrashing of Zenit St Petersburg. Aleksandr Kerzhaov put Zenit ahead 1-0 in the 35th minute, but it was all Austria Wien after that. Philipp Hosiner had goals in the 44th and 51st minutes, Tomas Jun had one in the 48th, and Roman Kienast added the final for good measure in the 93rd minute.

Atletico Madrid had already won the group on Match day 4 and they finished with 16 points. Despite their crushing defeat, Zenit hung on for 2nd place with 6 points. Porto and Austria Wien both finished on 5 points, but Porto’s better goal differential of -3 compared to Wien’s -5 sees them finish 3rd. Atletico Madrid and Zenit march on in the Champions League with Porto dropping to the Europa League. Austria Wien will no longer take part in European Competition this season.

Group H

Barcelona completely dominated Celtic from the opening kick, winning by 5 goals, 6-1. Neymar had a hat trick within a 15 minute span and the route was on. The group’s other match between Milan and Ajax ended scoreless despite Milan playing with 10 men for almost 70 minutes. Ricardo Montolivo was sent off for an awful challenge in the 22nd minute.

Barcelona won the group with 13 points, Milan finished 2nd with 9 points, Ajax were 3rd with 8 points, and Celtic finished last with 3 points. Barcelona and Milan move to the UCL Round of 16 while Ajax will play in the Europa League Round of 32. Celtic are eliminated from European Competition.

 

Knockout Stages

The Round of 16 teams are set and here they are:

Seeded Teams Unseeded Teams
Manchester United (England) Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
Real Madrid (Spain) Galatasaray (Turkey)
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) Olympiacos (Greece)
Bayern Munich (Germany) Manchester City (England)
Chelsea (England) Schalke 04 (Germany)
Borussia Dortmund (Germany) Arsenal (England)
Atletico Madrid (Spain) Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia)
Barcelona (Spain) Milan (Italy)

 

The Round of 16 draw will take place on Monday, December 16, 2013. As a reminder, teams from the same association (such as England) cannot face each other in the Round of 16. Also, teams from the same Group (such as Group A which featured Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen) cannot be drawn together.

Be sure to check back when the Round of 16 Draw is complete for my analysis and picks!

Brazil 2014 – Part 3: Odds and Predictions

This is the third post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The first post can be found here and the second post here.

In the first post of this series I posted the odds for each team to win the World Cup prior to the draw (odds were taken from 5Dimes). For a refresher, here is that table:

 

Team Odds
Brazil  +300
Germany  +560
Argentina  +660
Spain  +680
Belgium  +1650
Netherlands  +2150
Colombia  +2350
Italy  +2450
England  +2550
Uruguay  +2850
France  +3250
Portugal  +3450
Chile  +4450
Russia  +10500
Switzerland  +14500
Ghana  +15000
Croatia  +16000
Mexico  +16500
Japan  +17000
USA  +18000
Ivory Coast  +21000
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500
Ecuador  +24000
Nigeria  +29000
Greece  +35000
South Korea  +50000
Cameroon  +70000
Australia  +70000
Costa Rica  +225000
Iran  +250000
Honduras  +250000
Algeria  +250000

As you can see, the top 4 favorites were Brazil (+300), Germany (+560), Argentina (+660), and Spain (+680). All other teams were at +1650 or higher. Now let’s see how the draw affected those odds (again odds from 5Dimes):

 

Brazil   +330
Argentina   +490
Germany   +610
Spain   +775
Belgium   +1550
Colombia   +2150
France   +2250
Netherlands   +2850
England   +2850
Italy   +2850
Uruguay   +2950
Portugal   +3700
Chile   +5350
Russia   +8875
Switzerland   +12500
Ecuador   +13500
Mexico   +15000
Ivory Coast   +16500
Japan   +18500
Bosnia and Herzegovina   +23500
USA   +25000
Ghana   +25000
Croatia   +26500
Nigeria   +28500
Greece   +34000
South Korea   +48500
Australia   +80500
Cameroon   +100000
Costa Rica   +250000
Iran   +250000
Honduras   +250000
Algeria   +250000

 

Brazil’s odds went up to +330 despite the opponents they drew in their group. The slight bump in odds has entirely to do with their possible Round of 16 opponent which will almost certainly be Netherlands, Spain, or Chile. Argentina, which was already a favorite to win, dropped from +660 to +490. This is for good reason too. They got drawn with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria.

Below is a table that shows each team’s odd before and after the draw. Also is a column for the odds change that occurred.

 

Team Prior Draw Odds Post Draw Odds   Odds Change
Brazil  +300   +330 +30
Germany  +560   +610 +50
Argentina  +660   +490 -170
Spain  +680   +775 +95
Belgium  +1650   +1550 -100
Netherlands  +2150   +2850 +700
Colombia  +2350   +2150 -200
Italy  +2450   +2850 +400
England  +2550   +2850 +300
Uruguay  +2850   +2950 +100
France  +3250   +2250 -1000
Portugal  +3450   +3700 +250
Chile  +4450   +5350 +900
Russia  +10500   +8875 -1625
Switzerland  +14500   +12500 -2000
Ghana  +15000   +25000 +10000
Croatia  +16000   +26500 +10500
Mexico  +16500   +15000 -1500
Japan  +17000   +18500 +1500
USA  +18000   +25000 +7000
Ivory Coast  +21000   +16500 -4500
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500   +23500 +1000
Ecuador  +24000   +13500 -10500
Nigeria  +29000   +28500 -500
Greece  +35000   +34000 -1000
South Korea  +50000   +48500 -1500
Cameroon  +70000   +100000 +30000
Australia  +70000   +80500 +10500
Costa Rica  +225000   +250000 +25000
Iran  +250000   +250000 0
Honduras  +250000   +250000 0
Algeria  +250000   +250000 0

 

Odds to Win Group

Here I will list each teams odds to win their respective group. As before, these odds are from 5Dimes.

Group A

Brazil   -350
Mexico   +650
Croatia   +875
Cameroon   +2150

Group B

Spain   -130
Netherlands   +200
Chile   +475
Australia   +2700

Group C

Colombia   -135
Japan   +350
Ivory Coast   +460
Greece   +700

Group D

Italy   +160
Uruguay   +195
England   +215
Costa Rica   +4000

Group E

France   -145
Switzerland   +310
Ecuador   +340
Honduras   +2800

Group F

Argentina   -430
Bosnia   +595
Nigeria   +830
Iran   +3000

Group G

Germany   -180
Portugal   +260
Ghana   +1050
USA   +1075

Group H

Belgium   -180
Russia   +230
South Korea   +750
Algeria   +2500

 

Super-Duper Early Predictions

I will pick the finish of each group as I see them right now. These are subject to change many times over until the start of the World Cup.

Group A

1st – Brazil

2nd – Croatia

3rd – Mexico

4th – Cameroon

Group B

1st – Spain

2nd – Chile

3rd – Netherlands

4th – Australia

Group C

1st – Colombia

2nd – Ivory Coast

3rd – Japan

4th – Greece

Group D

1st – Italy

2nd – Uruguay

3rd – England

4th – Costa Rica

Group E

1st – Colombia

2nd – Switzerland

3rd – France

4th – Honduras

Group F

1st – Argentina

2nd – Nigeria

3rd – Bosnia and Herzegovina

4th – Iran

Group G

1st – Germany

2nd – Ghana

3rd – Portugal

4th – United States

Group H

1st – Russia

2nd – Belgium

3rd – South Korea

4th – Algeria

I will skip to the Semi-final match ups where I have Brazil vs Germany in one and Italy vs Argentina in the other. I like Brazil and Italy to meet p in the final with Italy coming out on top. Again this is subject to change (and probably will as we learn more about each team’s squad).

Be sure to check back often for part 4 and other blog posts!

Brazil 2014 – Part 2: A Quick Analysis of the Draw

This is the second post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The first post can be found here.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has been drawn and the groups are now set. I will take a look at each group and give a short analysis.

Group A

Group A is comprised of Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon. Undoubtedly, Brazil are the favorites to win Group A and the World Cup especially after the favorable draw. The battle for second place will be between the other three teams. I see any of the three teams being able to finish 2nd, but it will most likely come down to Croatia and Mexico.

Group B

Group B is mighty interesting considering the 2010 World Cup Final. Both Spain and the Netherlands are draw into this group and as fate would have it, will be playing the opening match of this group. Chile and Australia are also drawn in this group. The rank outsiders of this group are Australia as they have been poor in recent games. I cannot wait to see how Netherlands plays considering they did not win a game at Euro 2012.

Group C

This group contains Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan. Colombia are the favorites to win the group, but after that any of the three remaining teams can win. Greece are probably the 2nd favorites in this group while Ivory Coast have not gotten out of the group stage the last two World Cups. Japan played in the 2013 Confederations Cup, but went winless and showed issues with their back four.

Group D

Another tough group resides here in Group D between Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, and Italy. Uruguay and Italy are the favorites to go through, but expect England to have a say in whether or not that happens. This is a tough spot for Costa Rica to have hopes of making the last 16.

Group E

This group is headlined by the “easiest” seeded team in Switzerland. They will be joined by Ecuador, France, and Honduras. Ecuador look to be favored here with this World Cup taking place in South America. France has a great chance of making the Knockout stages despite a less than stellar qualifying run to get here. Honduras are considered outsiders to make the last 16.

Group F

This group is headlined by Argentina and includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria. Argentina will be heavily favored to win this group. Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Nigeria will battle for the 2nd spot in this group and Iran are considered long shots to make the last 16.

Group G

Arguably the toughest group (along with Group B) will be contested between Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and the United States. Germany are favorites to go through, but any of the remaining three teams can certainly make it through. Ghana has been to the Round of 16 and Quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Portugal have the immensely talented Cristiano Ronaldo and the US have been in good from during 2013. In my opinion, this group is by far the toughest to figure out and that means this should be an entertaining group from start to finish.

Group H

The last group contains the highly talked about dark-horse team in Belgium. They will play in this group along with Algeria, Russia, and South Korea. While Belgium will be favored to win, 2nd place looks like it belongs to Russia. Don’t sleep on South Korea as they made the Round of 16 in 2010 and finished 4th in 2002. Algeria are considered outsiders against this group.

 

This draw gave us a lot of intrigue to look forward to. There is the possibility of Spain and Brazil clashing in the Round of 16. In addition, we could see Spain or the Netherlands not make it out of the group stage. There is even the possibility of Germany struggling and not making it to the knockout rounds (It may be a small chance, but it is possible).

In Part 3 of my series I will look at the odds of each team making it to the Round of 16 as well as the odds of them winning the World Cup courtesy of 5Dimes. I will also give my super-duper early predictions (which are subject to change between then and the World Cup). Until then, enjoy the action and enjoy the World Cup draw banter!

Brazil 2014 – Part 1: What to Watch for at the Draw

This is the first post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil.

The pots for 2014 World Cup have now been confirmed by FIFA. This image from ESPN FC best illustrates the breakdown of each pot:

(Again, Thanks to ESPN FC for the picture and they own all the rights to it).

Pot 1 is the comprised of the top 8 seeds for the 2014 World Cup. Pot 2 belongs to the five African qualifiers and the remaining two South American qualifiers. Pot 3 is for North American and Asian qualifiers. Pot 4 is the other 9 European qualifiers. In order to have 4 pots of 8 teams, one team from Pot 4 will be randomly selected and placed in Pot 2 to obtain the eight teams.

Keep in mind that no more than two European teams will be matched up in a group. In addition, no more than 1 South American team will be matched up in group. Finally, Brazil will automatically be placed in Group A.

Watch out for the “Group of Death” which would have the strongest teams concentrated in a single group. Every team wants to avoid the so called “Group of Death” which would be headed by Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, or Uruguay. The idea of a Germany, Ghana, United States and France Group is tantalizing and would be entertaining every match.

Also watch out for what I will coin as the “Group of Ease”. Both Belgium and Switzerland are being perceived as the easiest of the seeded teams to overcome in 2014. I am not sure that there is such thing as any easy group in the World Cup, especially if the top seed is a European team. It could be the “Group of Ease” for either Belgium or Switzerland if the draw the shakes out correctly.

Below are the odds of every team in the 2014 World Cup as of this writing. The odds are from 5Dimes.

 

Team Odds
Brazil  +300
Germany  +560
Argentina  +660
Spain  +680
Belgium  +1650
Netherlands  +2150
Colombia  +2350
Italy  +2450
England  +2550
Uruguay  +2850
France  +3250
Portugal  +3450
Chile  +4450
Russia  +10500
Switzerland  +14500
Ghana  +15000
Croatia  +16000
Mexico  +16500
Japan  +17000
USA  +18000
Ivory Coast  +21000
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500
Ecuador  +24000
Nigeria  +29000
Greece  +35000
South Korea  +50000
Cameroon  +70000
Australia  +70000
Costa Rica  +225000
Iran  +250000
Honduras  +250000
Algeria  +250000

 

I will be tweeting this event live on Friday and you can follow me here. Part 2 of this series will be posted on Friday evening after the Draw has concluded. I will analyze the draw and look at how it affected each teams odds to win the 2014 World Cup. Be sure to check back and enjoy the 2014 World Cup Draw!

Champions League Match Day 5 Roundup

Here is the Roundup for Match Day 3 and the Roundup for Match Day 4. Without further ado, here is match day 5’s roundup:

 

Group A

Both of the games in this group were blowouts as Manchester United leveled Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 and Shakhtar Donetsk destroyed Real Sociedad 4-0. Manchester United got goals from 4 different players including Antonio Valencia (22nd minute), Jonny Evans (66th), Chris Smalling (77th), and Nani (88th). Emir Spahic had an own goal for Bayer Leverkusen in the 30th minute. In the other Group A game, Luiz Adriano started the scoring for Shakhtar Donetsk in the 37th minute and that was followed by Alex’s goal in the 48th minute. Douglas Costa added a brace (68th and 87th) to give Shakhtar the much needed victory. Manchester United are 1st with 11 points, Shakhtar Donetsk jump to 2nd with 8 points, Bayer Leverkusen fall to 3rd with 7 points, and Real Sociedad are in last with only 1 point.

Manchester United is now confirmed for the Round of 16 with today’s victory while Real Sociedad will not be participating any further in European competition after match day 6. That leaves Shakhtar and Bayer Leverkusen battling it out for 2nd. Match day 6 features Manchester United hosting Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad taking on Bayer Leverkusen at home.

The way I see this unfolding is Manchester United winning at home against Shakhtar Donetsk. That means a win by Bayer Leverkusen at Real Sociedad will but Bayer in the Round of 16. Bayer Leverkusen can still go through with a draw, but would need Shakhtar Donetsk to lose by at least 5 goals in order for that scenario to unfold. Even if Shakhtar and United tied, Bayer Leverkusen would still go through with a win. That would mean Shakhtar would go to the Round of 32 in the Europa League.

Group B

As with Group A, this group featured two blowouts. Real Madrid ripped Galatasaray apart to win 4-1 even without Cristiano Ronaldo. Gareth Bale opened the scoring in the 37th minute for Real Madrid, but Umut Bulut did very well to equalize in the 38th for Galatasaray. The 2nd half featured 3 goals from Alvaro Arbeloa (51st), Angel di Maria (63rd), and Isco in the 81st minute. Juventus came to life with a 3-1 victory over Copenhagen that improves of qualification to the Round of 16 immensely. Arturo Vidal had a hat trick for Juventus with goals from the penalty spot in the 29th minute and the 60th minute. Olof Mellberg got a goal in the 56th minute for Copenhagen, but it was to no avail. Vidal added his 3rd in the 64th minute and Juventus was on cruise control from there. Real Madrid have won the group and sit on 13 points. Juventus are 2nd with 6 points, Galatasaray are 3rd with 4 points, and Copenhagen are last with 4 points. Galatasaray are 3rd due to their better goal differential than Copenhagen at -6 versus -8.

The winner of the game between Juventus and Galatasaray will make the Round of 16. Copenhagen cannot finish better than 3rd in this group. Match day 6 features the pivotal winner take all game between Galatasaray and Juventus. The other match is Real Madrid traveling to Parken to take on Copenhagen.

With Real Madrid already through to the Round of 16, I see Juventus as the 2nd place finisher in this group. All they need is a draw to make it through and I see them winning in Turkey on the next match day. It is a tough proposition to see Copenhagen get out of the bottom, but if they get a point and Galatasaray loses to Juventus, Copenhagen will be in the Europa League.

Group C

A couple of late goals proved to be the difference in both games of Group C. Benfica got a 90th minute goal Rodrigo to secure a 3-2 away victory over Anderlecht. PSG also got a 90th minute goal via Edinson Cavani to give them all 3 points against Greek side Olympiacos. PSG are 1st in the group with 13 points, Olympiacos is 2nd with 7 points, Benfica also has 7 points, and Anderlecht are last with only 1 point. Olympiacos is 2nd due to a better goal differential than Benfica (0 for Olympiacos to -1 for Benfica).

PSG are now confirmed as Group C winners and therefore into the last 16. Olympiacos and Benfica are both guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd in the group. Anderlecht are eliminated from European competition upon completion of their match day 6 game at Olympiacos. The other game in this group is Benfica taking on PSG at home in hopes of making the last 16.

I see Olympiacos finishing behind PSG for 2nd here. Not only do I see Olympiacos beating Anderlecht, I think PSG will do no worse than a draw against Benfica.

Group D

The first match of this group was played early in Moscow. That game saw Arjen Robben score an early 17th minute goal for Bayern Munich. In the 2nd half Mario Gotze led off the scoring in the 56th minute. CSKA Moscow got a 61st minute penalty, converted by Keisuke Honda. Just 4 minutes later, Thomas Muller slotted home a penalty for Bayern Munich as the game finished 3-1 in favor of Bayern Munich. The group’s other match was also filled with goals in a 4-2 Manchester City victory over Viktoria Plzen. Sergio Aguero had a 33rd minute penalty while Tomas Hofava equalized in the 43rd minute. Samri Nasri gave City the advantage at 2-1 in the 65th minute, but Stanislav Tecl tied it up again at 2-2 in the 69th minute. Negredo (78th minute) and Dzeko (89th minute) gave Manchester City the needed goals to finish off Plzen. Through 5 games Bayern Munich have 15 points and are 1st, Manchester City are 2nd with 12 points, CSKA Moscow is 3rd with 3 points, and Viktoria Plzen sit last with 0 points.

This group is all set for the top two teams as they have both made it through to the knockout stages. Match day 6 features Bayern Munich hosting Manchester City. Manchester City needs to beat Bayern Munich by 4 goals in order to win the Group. The other game in this group features the battle for the 3rd as CSKA Moscow will travel to Plzen to take on Viktoria Plzen.

I see this group finishing the exact way it will start match day 6: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, and Viktoria Plzen. Plzen need to beat CSKA Moscow by 3 goals to finish 3rd, but that is too tall an order with how this defense has performed in the group stage.

Group E

For the 2nd time in this group Basel defeated Chelsea, this time by a score of 1-0. Mohamed Salah scored a wonderful goal in the 87th minute to give Basel the sweep against Chelsea. In the group’s other game between Steaua Bucuresti and Schalke, both teams failed to score leaving them to split the points. Despite their loss, Chelsea are now guaranteed to make the knockout stages of the Champions League. Chelsea sits top of the group with 9 points. Meanwhile, Basel’s wins gives them 8 points and puts them in 2nd place. Schalke are 3rd with 7 points and Steaua are last with 3 points.

The 6th and final match day will see Schalke take on Basel at home while Steaua will travel to London to face Chelsea. Both Basel and Schalke can win the group if Chelsea loses to Steaua and those teams do not draw.

This group comes down to Basel at Schalke to decide which team will move on to the Round of 16. The winner of that game will go into the final 16. If the game ends in a draw, Basel will finish 2nd. I still like Basel to go through. I see Chelsea easily defeating Steaua at home to win Group E. Steaua have officially finished last in this group regardless of their last game in the group.

Group F

An early goal from Jack Wilshere was all Arsenal needed at home against Marseille as they won 2-0. The big game of the group between Borussia Dortmund and Napoli ended in Dortmund’s favor. Marco Reus scored a 9th minute penalty, Jakub Blaszczykowski added a goal in the 60th minute, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished Napoli off in 78th minute as Dortmund won 3-1. Arsenal sit atop the group with 12 points, Borussia Dortmund are 2nd with 9 points (better goal differential than Napoli at +4 versus -1), Napoli are 3rd with 9 points, and Marseille are last with zero points.

Match day 6 sees Borussia Dortmund travel to Marseille to seal up their bid for the knockout stages. The 2nd game of the group has Arsenal traveling to Napoli. It is important to note that none of the top 3 teams have secured their spot in the Round of 16. Both Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund control their fate, while Napoli will need help from Marseille or an epic defensive collapse from Arsenal to make the Round of 16.

Arsenal look good to make the Round of 16. All they need to do is muster a single point against Napoli and they will win the group. They can even make the Round of 16 with a loss as they have the superior goal differential over Napoli (+5 versus -1). For 2nd I have to go with Borussia Dortmund. Marseille has not been able to play the spoiler I thought they would and I expect Dortmund to put a lot of goals in the back of the net. That means Napoli will finish 3rd and go into the Europa League. Marseille are guaranteed to finish last and I think they do so without obtaining a single point.

Group G

The results of Tuesday’s games did not change the table. Atletico Madrid went to Saint Petersburg and drew 1-1. Adrian scored a goal in the 53rd minute, but the score was equalized at 1 apiece after an own goal off of Toby Alderweireld in the 74th minute. The more surprising result of this group was Austria Wien going to Porto and securing a 1-1 draw. The standings remain unchanged from Match day 4. Atletico Madrid are 1st with 13 points, Zenit Saint Petersburg sit 2nd with 6 points, Porto are 3rd with 5 points, and Austria Wien are last with 4 points.

Atletico Madrid secured their spot in the Round of 16 back on match day 4 as the winners of Group G. Zenit and Porto will hope to progress to the last 16 while Austria Wien will finish last. Match day 6 features Austria Wein taking on Zenit Saint Petersburg in Vienna and Atletico Madrid will host Porto.

I still think Zenit will make the Round of 16 as the 2nd place team in this group. One of the things going for Porto is that Atletico Madrid cannot improve their position which may allow Porto to steal a win at Madrid.

Group H

Let’s start with the upset of the day on Tuesday in Amsterdam. Ajax had a 2-0 goal lead at halftime thanks to goals from Thulani Serero in the 19th minute and Danny Hoesen in the 40th minute. Xavi pulled one back for Barcelona from the penalty spot in the 49th minute, but it was not enough as Ajax held on for a 2-1 win. Milan destroyed Celtic 3-0 to bolster their knockout stage hopes. Barcelona are still 1st with 10 points, Milan are 2nd with 8 points, Ajax are 3rd with 7 points, and Celtic are last with 3 points.

Barcelona have secured their spot in the Knockout stages (did so on Match day 4), but have not won the Group yet. Milan and Ajax will battle it out for the second knockout spot in this group on Match day 6 at the San Siro. Barcelona will take on Celtic at the Camp Nou.

I see Barcelona winning at home, thus winning the Group. For 2nd, I have a hard time picking against AC Milan at home, though I would not mind seeing Ajax make the last 16 in the Champions League. As it is, Ajax will finish 3rd in my projections. Celtic cannot improve their position.

 

The 6th and final match day takes place on Tuesday, December 10 (Groups A through D) and Wednesday, December 11 (Groups E through H). Until next time, enjoy the football from whichever country you desire to watch!

Thoughts on MLS Addition of Orlando SC

On Tuesday, November 19, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that Orlando SC will become the 21st Franchise beginning with the 2015 Season. Orlando SC currently competes in the USL Pro Division, which is on the third tier of the United States Soccer Pyramid. This will be the first team in the state of Florida since 2001, when both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion.

It is worth noting that both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion folded after the 2001 season due to financial issues. At the time for MLS, financial woes were rampant throughout the league. This Forbes article by Chris Smith does an excellent job illustrating the early problems for MLS. Also in the article, he talks about the current value of each MLS team as well as providing a chart to show the profitability of each team.

In my opinion, the main concern for any new franchise in the Southeastern United States is the competition it will face. The Southeast is football crazy and is treated like a religion down there. That does not mean Orlando SC will fail, but it will take time for them to get near the backing of some recent MLS Expansion teams (e.g.: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver).

Another concern is the complete lack of any other regional teams. Orlando SC’s nearest competitor will be the Houston Dynamo to the west and DC United to the North. Orlando to Houston is approximately 963 miles according to Google, while Orlando to Washington D.C. is approximately 847 miles per Google. The lack of regional competition may hamper the ability for Orlando SC to flourish. This could be less of an issue if the rumored Miami Franchise comes to fruition.

One further thought on the lack of regional competition is noted by the fierce rivalries that have developed between Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. These three franchises have thrived due in part to the Cascadia Cup that they contest each year. Do not discount the lack of a regional rival as an obstacle.

One final note, with Orlando SC becoming the 21st team it will almost certainly mean another unbalanced schedule in 2015. Adding another team will alleviate this problem, but at this time, it appears that will not happen until 2016 at the earliest.

Overall I think the addition of Orlando SC will help MLS in the long run, but there are some issues they will have to contend with early on. If Orlando SC can build a passionate and devoted fan base as well as be competitive within the football crazy South, they will be just fine.

Champions League Match Day 4 Roundup

The fourth round of Group matches has been completed. Let’s take a look at the action group-by-group.

Group A

Both games in this group finished as scoreless draws, thus all teams maintain their positions. Manchester United are 1st with 8 points, Bayer Leverkusen are 2nd with 7 points, Shakhtar Donetsk sit in 3rd with 5 points, and Real Sociedad are last with 1 point.

Manchester United are now guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd in the group thanks to their 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad. Match day 5 is shaping up as a big one for 1st and 2nd place. Manchester United travels to Leverkusen while Shakhtar stay home to face Real Sociedad.

I still see this group as Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen going through to the Round of 16. Shakhtar would need to upset United in Manchester on Match day 6 to have a serious chance of making the Round of 16.

Group B

Juventus and Real Madrid played to a 2-2 draw in Turin, while Copenhagen scored an early goal and held on 1-0 to defeat Galatasaray. Real Madrid are still in 1st with 10 points, while Galatasaray moved into 2nd with 4 points, Copenhagen moved up to 3rd also with 4 points, and Juventus dropped from 3rd to last with 3 points.

Real Madrid are guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd in the Group. On Match day 5, Real Madrid is home to 2nd place Galatasaray. The other game has Juventus at home against Copenhagen.

Real Madrid will win this group, but 2nd place is up for grabs. Juventus has the most favorable schedule with games left against Copenhagen and Galatasaray, but they have failed to do better than a draw in four games. I’m still going to stick with Galatasaray to finish 2nd. I think Juventus does enough to finish 3rd in the group and go onto the Europa League.

Group C

PSG and Anderlecht played to a 1-1 draw after trading goals in a 3 minute span. Demy de Zeeuw put Anderlecht ahead 1-0 in the 68th minute before Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled the teams even with his 70th minute strike. The other game ended with a 1-0 Olympiacos win over Benfica. PSG are still 1st with 10 points, Olympiacos sit 2nd with 7 points, Benfica is 3rd with 4 points, and Anderlecht are last with only 1 point.

Both PSG and Olympiacos are now both guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd. Those two teams face off in Match day 5 in Paris. Meanwhile, Benfica travels to Anderlecht looking to keep their hopes to reach the Round of 16 alive.

As I said after Match day 3, this group looks to send PSG and Olympiacos through to the Round of 16. Olympiacos gets Anderlecht in Piraeus on match day 6, while Benfica have to deal with PSG in Lisbon. Benfica will lock up 3rd place and go into the Europa League.

Group D

An eventful and historic day in Group D as Manchester City thrashed CSKA Moscow 5-2 and Bayern Munich used a 65th minute goal from Mario Mandzukic to win 1-0 over Viktoria Plzen. Bayern Munich are 1st having secured the maximum 12 points thus far while Manchester City are 2nd with 9 points. CSKA Moscow are 3rd with three points and Viktoria Plzen have yet to register a point and are last in the group.

Both Bayern Munich and Manchester City became the first two teams to qualify for the Knockout Round of 16 in this year’s Champions League. Manchester City qualified for the first time after failing the previous 2 seasons. Match day 5 will bring us what appears to be easy wins for the top 2 teams. CSKA Moscow will host Bayern Munich while Manchester City play home to Viktoria Plzen.

As predicted, Bayern Munich and Manchester City have both qualified for the Round of 16. 1st place is still in play and I expect both of these teams to stay competitive. CSKA Moscow still looks good to finish 3rd, while Viktoria Plzen have failed to obtain a point and need to show a lot more to even think about finishing 3rd.

Group E

 Chelsea’s 3-0 victory made it three wins in a row after their shock loss to Basel on Match day 1. The Group’s other match between Basel and Steaua Bucuresti ended 1-1 after a late equalizer from Giovanni Sio of Basel. Chelsea is now in sole possession of 1st place with 9 points, Schalke is still 2nd at six points, Basel is 3rd with five points, and Steaua Bucuresti is last with two points.

Chelsea are now guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd. Match day 5 will see Schalke travel to Bucharest to take on Bucuresti while Chelsea will travel Basel. Chelsea lost at home on Match day 1 when they last faced Basel.

Chelsea are in a great position to make it to the Knockout Round of 16. Schalke and Basel will duke it out for 2nd but Basel have but themselves in a precarious position after their draw against Steaua. I still think Basel can make it through to the Round of 16, but Schalke controls their own destiny. Even Steaua have an outside chance to make the knockout stages, but I see them finishing last at this point.

Group F

Aaron Ramsey’s goal in the 62nd minute was the difference between Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal. Napoli and Marseille played a back and forth affair with Gonzalo Higuain’s 75th minute goal being the difference in a 3-2 Napoli victory. Arsenal and Napoli are tied for 1st with 9 points (Arsenal has a +3 goal differential compared to +1 for Napoli). Borussia Dortmund dropped to 3rd with six points and Marseille have yet to tally a point despite some good efforts.

Arsenal and Napoli are guaranteed to finish no worse than 3rd. Marseille cannot qualify for the Knockout Stages of the Champions League, but can still make it into the Europa League. Match day 5 proves huge yet again in the “Group of Death” as Arsenal play home to Marseille and Borussia Dortmund take on Napoli in Dortmund.

I thought Arsenal would struggle in their game at Dortmund and I was wrong. They look good to make the Round of 16 if they can beat Marseille and the Dortmund-Napoli game ends in a draw or Napoli win. I still like Dortmund to get through to the Round of 16 by winning their final 2 games. Marseille need a miracle to finish better than last and I don’t see that happening.

Group G

Zenit St Petersburg and Porto played to a 1-1 draw that saw Hulk have a crucial penalty saved. Atletico Madrid crushed Austria Wien at home 4-0 and that gives Atletico 12 points. Zenit St Petersburg is 2nd with five points, Porto is 3rd with four points, and Austria Wien sits last with only 1 point.

Atletico Madrid have secured their spot in the Round of 16 and, in fact, they will be the winner of Group G regardless of how the last two mach days shape out. Match day 5 will see Atletico Madrid travel to Zenit St Petersburg in a crucial match for Zenit. The other game will be between Porto and Austria Wien that could see Porto move into 2nd by the end of the match day.

With Atletico Madrid already through, I see Zenit St Petersburg joining them. They do have a tough contest against Atletico on the next match day, but they have Austria Wien on the docket on Match day 6. I see Porto finishing 3rd and Austria Wien finishing 4th.

Group H

Barcelona cruised to a 3-1 victory of AC Milan to secure their place in the Knockout stages. Ajax won 1-0 over Celtic thanks to a Lasse Schone goal in the 51st minute. Barcelona sits on top of the group at 10 points, followed by AC Milan in 2nd (5 points), Ajax (4 points), and Celtic in last (3 points).

Barcelona became the 4th team to qualify for the Knockout Stages of the Champions League. Match day 5 features Celtic taking on Milan in Glasgow and Barcelona going on the road to the Amsterdam Arena to face Ajax.

I still think AC Milan will do enough to join Barcelona in the Round of 16. Milan has Celtic and Ajax left while Celtic and Ajax both have to face Barcelona in their remaining 2 games. The battle for 3rd is tough to call, but I have to change course and say Ajax will make it through. I see both teams losing their remaining games meaning Ajax will have 4 points to Celtic’s 3.

The next match day takes place on Tuesday, November 26 (Groups E through H) and Wednesday, November 27 (Groups A through D). Until next time, enjoy the domestic action as well as the World Cup Playoffs!

Champions League Match Day 3 Roundup

Another exciting week of UEFA Champions League has action drawn to a close. The theme of the week was big wins. Six teams won by at least two goals (Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, PSG, and Bayern Munich) with the last four happening on Wednesday. Here is a recap of match day 3 and my forecast of how each group will finish.

Group A

Manchester United obtained sole possession of the top spot thanks to an own goal from Real Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez. Manchester United won the game 1-0 and has seven points . Bayer Leverkusen blitzed Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 to move into 2nd place with six points. Shakhtar dropped to 3rd place after their blowout loss, but remain in striking distance with four points. Real Sociedad remains pointless in the group after three losses.

I see Bayer Leverkusen getting through to the Round of 16 along with Manchester United. It sets up well for both teams to make it through. I see Shakhtar finishing 3rd, though I could be wrong if they can an upset of the top two. Real Sociedad will probably finish last as their defensive performances will not be enough to jump any teams.

Group B

Real Madrid used two goals from Ronaldo on either side of Juventus’ Llorente to win 2-1 and stay atop the group. The win, combined with other results, means Real Madrid can finish no worse than 3rd place in the group. Galatasaray crushed Copenhagen 3-1 in the other match as they moved into 2nd with four points. Juventus dropped to 3rd place and have two points and Copenhagen are last with one point.

Real Madrid have a hammerlock on this group and I do not see that changing. The battle for 2nd place is intriguing to say the least. I will call for Galatasaray to finish 2nd because Juventus has disappointed in the CL thus far. The Copenhagen-Juventus game from match day 2 spoke volumes to me. In last, we have Copenhagen who have truly have underwhelmed in both the Danish Superliga and Champions League.

Group C

PSG continued their obliterating ways, this time it was Anderlecht on the receiving end of a 5-0 loss. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had four goals including one wonder volley that made the Anderlecht fans stand and applaud. As with Real Madrid, PSG cannot finish worse than 3rd in the group and have nine points thus far. Olympiacos and Benfica drew 1-1 in Lisbon that maintained their positions in the table. Both teams have four points but Olympiacos is ahead on goal differential at 0 compared to -1 for Benfica. Anderlecht is bottom of the table with zero points and zero goals.

PSG is on cruise control right now and are headed for the Round of 16. I forecast Olympiacos joining them there due to their next match at home against Benfica. That leaves Benfica as the 3rd team in the table and they will get to play on in the Europa League. Lastly, Anderlecht have a lot of work left to do if they want to obtain a point. They have lost by at least two goals in every match in this group.

Group D

Bayern Munich thrashed  Viktoria Plzen 5-0 at home to maintain their perfect record, leaving them atop Group D with nine points. Manchester City went into Russia and won 2-1 over CSKA Moscow to take sole possession of 2nd place with six points. CSKA Moscow falls to 3rd place with three points while Viktoria Plzen have failed to record a point thus far.

The Title Holders of Bayern Munich are on their way to the Round of 16. I see Manchester City finally getting over the hump and making the Round of 16. They should win both of their next two games at home against CSKA Moscow and Plzen which will be enough to get them into the Knockout stages. The real question is can they challenge Bayern Munich? I have CSKA Moscow doing enough to hang onto the 3rd spot and moving them into the Europa League. Plzen will finish last unless they fix their defense which has given up at least three goals in each CL match so far.

Group E

Chelsea used a brace from Fernando Torres, of all players, to cruise past Schalke 3-0. Due to this result, both Chelsea and Schalke are tied on points at six, but Chelsea holds the better goal differential (+6 compared to +1 for Schalke). Meanwhile, Steaua Bucuresti and Basel drew 1-1 thanks to a late goal from Leandro Tatu of Steaua. Basel is 3rd in the group with four points while Steaua Bucuresti is the low team with only one point.

At this point, I would give the nod to Chelsea to make it through to the Round of 16. I am going to go with Basel to take the 2nd spot in this group. I think they go on the road to Schalke on Match day 6 and beat Schalke. That means Schalke as the 3rd team in the group and go into Europa League while Steaua will finish last.

Group F

The Group of Death has lived up to the excitement as Match day 3 proved. Borussia Dortmund went to London, England and used an 82nd minute goal from Robert Lewandowski to win 2-1 and put them in a tie for 1st place with Arsenal. In the other game, Napoli won by the same score of 2-1 and make it a three way tie atop the group. Marseille are languishing in last with zero points.

Due to the three way tie between Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, and Napoli, total points and goal differential between the teams in the matches they have played come into effect. All teams have three points while Arsenal has a +1 goal differential, Dortmund with 0, and Napoli has -1.

This group is tough to call but I will go with Borussia Dortmund to win it at this point. They have the experience in tough groups (see 2012-13 season) and their remaining home games are against Arsenal and Napoli. For 2nd place I see Napoli finishing in that spot. They too have two games remaining at home (Marseille and Arsenal). It’s hard to put Arsenal in the 3rd spot especially considering the way the have started both the Premier League and the Champions League, but I am going to take a chance and say it will happen. They could just as easily finish 1st, but that is why they call it the Group of Death. Marseille appear destined for the bottom spot in this tough group, but I have a feeling they will be the reason one of the other three teams will be in the Europa League. I see Marseille winning at least one game, but it won’t be enough to get them out of the basement.

Group G

Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win at Austria Wien has put them in a dominant position heading into the last three CL games. Atletico have obtained all nine of the maximum points possible. Zenit Saint Petersburg went on the road against Porto, got a late goal to win the match 1-0, and took 2nd place with four points. Porto sit in 3rd with three points and Austria Wien are last with one point.

It is difficult to see a scenario in which Atletico Madrid do not make the Round of 16 and they could have that berth sealed by the end of Match day 4. I will call for Zenit to hold on for 2nd due to them having Porto and Atletico Madrid in Russia the next two games. Porto are capable of finishing 2nd, but I see them landing in the 3rd spot and thus into the Europa League. Finally, we come to Austria Wien who are not mathematically eliminated from contetion, but need to show more if they want to contend for even 3rd place and the Europa League slot.

Group H

Milan and Barcelona played to a 1-1 draw after goals from Robinho and Messi. The result left Barcelona top of the table with seven points and Milan stayed 2nd with five points. The group’s other match between Celtic and Ajax ended 2-1 in favor of Celtic. That win gives Celtic three points and they sit 3rd. Ajax are bottom of the group with one point.

This group looked like it would be Barcelona and Milan before the games were played and it still looks that way now. It would take a lot of upsets to see either Celtic or Ajax finish in 2nd place. As for 3rd place, I see Celtic going to the Europa League. If Celtic can win or draw in Amsterdam or pull an upset or draw against Milan, I think they will be all but guaranteed 3rd.

 

The next match day takes place on Tuesday, November 5 (Groups A through D) and Wednesday, November 6 (Groups E through F). Be sure to enjoy the action!