Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Review of the week’s Champions League matches

With only 16 teams remaining in the Champions League, any team realistically has a chance. So let’s take a look at some of the results from this week. We have already recapped the Manchester United v. Real Madrid match, so it will not be included in this post.

Let’s first take a look at Paris Saint-Germain. The French leaders beat Valencia Tuesday 2-1 away from home. Now PSG will play the second leg at the Parc de Princes. However, they will be without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was sent off in stoppage time. Also, according to ESPNFC, “UEFA’s disciplinary panel will meet at the end of February to decide whether PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be banned for an extra game.” If he is suspended an extra match, that could hurt PSG if they are to advance to the quarterfinals.

Despite an away win for PSG, Juventus claims the best week in the Champions League. Juventus beat Celtic 3-0 away from home, which pretty much puts them in the quarterfinals unless Celtic has a miracle up their sleeve. Celtic manager Neil Lennon was not too pleased with the referee’s performance in the match.

“I thought he was very poor. I thought he was very pro-Juventus. I was disappointed with his performance to say the least,” Lennon said according to ESPNFC. “They were being fouled, manhandled. Every time one of my players tried to move he was held. He should have given a penalty on at least two occasions.”

The final game of the week featured Shakhtar Donetsk v. Borussia Dortmund. This game ended 2-2, with everything to play for in the second leg.

The Champions League always presents exciting matchups and games and this week was no exception. Other than Celtic, every team has a reasonable chance of advancing to the next round, which will set up for an exciting round of second leg matches. Let us know whom you think will advance to the quarterfinals and predictions for what team will win the Champions League this season.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

United - Madrid

Champions League Recap: Manchester United v. Real Madrid

Manchester United was able to secure a vital away goal at the Bernabeu Wednesday. The match between Manchester United and Real Madrid ended in a 1-1 draw, which will ensure an exciting second leg match at Old Trafford. Following the match, Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho said Manchester United did not play to win, a statement many have made of Mourinho’s teams when they face Barcelona.

“They came here to defend well,” Mourinho said according to ESPNFC. “They came here to not concede space and goals, and they did not play to win. But they know they have in attack very important players with great potential that out of nothing can create chances and score goals.”

Real Madrid dominated United statistically outshooting United 28 to 13 in total shots and eight to six in shots on goal. Madrid also out possessed United 61 percent to 39 percent. However, at the end of the day, the result of the game is all that matters. And the final result has United manager Sir Alex Ferguson feeling confident about their chances of moving on to the next stage of the Champions League.

“All in all we created a lot of chances in the match and played some good attacking football at times. I’ve got to be pleased, they’ve dug in to take us back to Old Trafford with a chance. We’ve got a big task but its within our grasps,” Ferguson said according to ESPNFC.

Another big storyline with this game was Cristiano Ronaldo facing his old manager and club. Ronaldo was able to make an impact against his former side, scoring a fantastic header to tie the match and give Madrid a chance in the second leg. Despite scoring, Ronaldo said he did not want to celebrate the goal against his former club.

“I did not want to celebrate the goal out of respect, as I played there for six years. I grew up there, and I have a special affection [for Manchester United],” Ronaldo said according to ESPNFC.

If Real Madrid is knocked out of the Champions League at this stage, it will be a major disappointment to add to their disappointing season in La Liga. There are already questions regarding Mourinho’s possible departure after the season. One of the main reasons Mourinho was brought in at Madrid was to win the Champions League and end the clubs drought in the competition. If he fails to win, you have to wonder if an early Champions League exit will be the deciding factor in his departure from the club after the season.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

De Gea Saves United

For anyone that was lucky enough to see the Champions League match between Manchester United and Real Madrid, there may never be another occasion where the ball is launched at the goal as much as it was during this particular span of 90 minutes. Madrid spent the entirety of the game seemingly intent on testing Davi De Gea and the United defense while United managed to create shots out of very little actual attacking impetus. All of this resulted in an amazing match that saw a set-up being created for a titanic match when the two teams go to Old Trafford.

The only player wearing a Manchester United kit that will believe his performance was worthy of such an important game should be De Gea. The young shot-stopper was called upon constantly throughout the game and he is the main reason United still have a chance of getting through to the next round. Fabio Coentrao could have easily made the game 1-0 in favor of Madrid extremely early in the game if De Gea had not pulled off a finger-tip save and pushed the ball onto the post. Although his proficiency at crosses is still in question, the way that he caught extremely hard shots instead of having to punch or parry them away proves that his pure shot-stopping ability may be top-5 in the world (and he’s only 19).

United will need to place more emphasis on their defense and in the center of midfield once the tie at Old Trafford takes place. Although many were pleased that Sir Alex had chosen such an attacking line-up for the trip to Spain, United seemed constantly outnumbered in the midfield and they were only allowed a few actual sequences where they were able to build into the attack. In fact, most of United’s actual chances were from an occasional defensive lapse or a quick counter attack.

Although United will hope to finish off the tie at home, they should realize that if Angel Di Maria stays on the post during corner kicks, they would not have scored. Considering how many attack-minded players they had on the field, this is somewhat discouraging. Although the score ended in a draw, Madrid will certainly feel that they have the upper hand going forward. Considering that a large contingent of the team has either played at Old Trafford or in other English football stadiums before, home-field advantage may not be enough for Rooney and co. to progress this season.

Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com

Europa League Places at a Premium in EPL

The English Premier League continues to grow in strength throughout their table. Where a few seasons ago any light follower of the EPL could predict places 1-7 as soon as the first ball was kicked in the season, the EPL now has the talent pool and the coaching talent to provide shocks, surprises, and quality play from top to bottom. With the way the EPL is growing, will the battle for Europa League spots become as heated as making the top-four once was?

This year, if we have a situation like last season where top four clubs win the continental club cups, the Europa League spots will be fought over by six to seven clubs. Although either Tottenham or Arsenal will probably end up in the top four when the final game is over, the teams that will be in the hunt for the Europa spots include Everton, Liverpool, Swansea, West Brom, and Stoke City. Considering teams like West Brom and Swansea have rarely ever been in a situation to be involved in European competition, this is making for a fascinating race.

European competition adds serious money to any team’s coffers. Although you will only be making a fraction that the Champions League provides, entry into the Europa League still provides your squad with a definite addition to your bankroll. Teams like Everton and Liverpool would prefer to be in the Champions League, but their coaches and players will start to look towards the Europa league once they realize that CL qualification is out of their reach.

Swansea is definitely a club that would be great to see in European competition. Their nickname of Swansea-lona is very apt and their passing would provide some fantastic football for the entirety of Europe to enjoy. Swansea may also find their qualification route through winning the League Cup, so they definitely have the most likely pathway of the smaller clubs.

West Brom has started to fall off their early season hot-streak that saw them sitting in the top four for a large portion of the season, and a fixture against Liverpool will definitely define the direction that the rest of their season will be heading in. Steve Clarke has done wonders with the club, and Europa qualification would be a dream-realized for a club the size of West Brom.

Liverpool and Everton will both want Europa qualification merely so that they can hold it over the head of their rival. Although Everton have been consistent this season, they are experiencing a similar situation to West Brom and the nagging injury that star-man Fellaini continues to play with may end up costing them in the long run. Liverpool, however, have shown that they are coming back to prominence by collecting draws against Arsenal and Manchester City.

Although this will definitely take a better shape in the next few weeks, the depth of the EPL is providing excitement across the entirety of the table. For all we know, the battle for Europa qualification may soon become something that clubs start to target at the beginning of a campaign. All I know is, I am loving this!

Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com

Nike Mercurial Veloce AG Video Review

Ronaldo and Manchester United At Full Strength for Champions League Clash

The tie of the Round of 16 has to be the match between Manchester United and Real Madrid. Although the tie would typically garner a ton of respect and TV viewers just because of the history that these two teams possess, this tie gets the added benefit of seeing one of the world’s greatest players going up against the club that he became a household name with. Cristiano Ronaldo will be going up against a United team that houses many of the players that were with him as he burst onto the world scene.

Manchester United will have the most complete scouting report available when it comes to CR7. Most of the players that will be on the pitch for Manchester will have spent a significant amount of time with the Portuguese playmaker and they will be completely aware of the danger he possesses. However, CR7 is never the same player from year to year and his talent continues to grow as he gets older. If United hope to keep Ronaldo at bay, a combo of Valencia and Raphael would probably be the best method that United have. Both are fast and can perform relatively thorough defensive duties, but even that might not be enough to hold CR7.

The worst news for United is that Ronaldo is in a deep vein of scoring form. A hat-trick against Sevilla in his last match will mean that United will face Ronaldo at a level befitting a player of his potential. The worst part is that the more focus Ronaldo is able to garner and the more United have to focus on the Portuguese winger, the more likely one of the other Madrid stars is to pop up and snag a goal for the Spanish giants.

On the flip-side, the men in Manchester United jerseys are dominating in their domestic league and they are showing all the signs of a truly dominant United squad. In their most recent fixture against Everton, Rooney looked great attacking and defending, De Gea was stopping anything and everything, and Robin Van Persie still seems to be scoring at the slightest chance.

Although I’ve never been one to grasp at phrases, we definitely seem like we are about to witness two immovable objects crashing against each other. For United, a victory over Madrid would only solidify their success this season. For Madrid, continued success in the Champions League would be the only thing to have their season be seen as a success. One thing is for certain, this titanic tie will provide some fantastic football…make sure you are watching.

Written by: Andrew McCole, guest contributor, SoccerProse.com

Portugal Away Jersey - 2013

Nike Portugal Away Jersey – 2012/13

Nike has recently released some new national team jerseys that look great. Despite some nice looking jerseys, the one that sticks out the most is the new Nike Portugal away jersey. When you have one of the best players in the world playing on your team, you need to have a stylish jersey to match his stylish play.

Portugal’s last away jersey was predominantly white with a green and red cross displayed in the center to tie in Portugal’s national colors. With this new jersey, Nike has kept the same general design. This away jersey keeps the cross design that is predominantly displayed in the center. However, instead of red and green, this has a gray cross. The whole jersey is sleek black now instead of white. This change in color looks fantastic and is, in my opinion, one of the best looking national team kits available right now.

The Portugal crest is stitched on the left chest and the Nike swoosh is stitched on the right chest in white. Not only does this jersey look great, it also feels great so you can cheer your favorite national team on while remaining comfortable.

This jersey is made of 100 percent polyester and features Nike’s Dri-Fit material. This keeps you dry and comfortable as you cheer on Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese national team.

This jersey is currently available at SoccerPro.com, so head over there today if you want this sleek jersey. You can wear this and channel your inner Cristiano Ronaldo as you show your skills on the pitch, or just wear it while you cheer on the national team. The choice is yours.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Roberto Mancini

Can the Premier League title race be reignited this weekend?

Earlier this week, we posted about the possibility of Manchester United having already secured the Premier League title. With a nine-point lead and the fact United has not lost since Nov. 17, United seem to be cruising. However, Manchester City’s manager does not think the title is locked up and neither does United striker Wayne Rooney.

“They have nine points more than us because they did better than us. But in three months, everything can change like last year. If we can recover eight points in six games, I think to cover nine points in 13 games will be easy,” Mancini said according to ESPNFC.

“Results are the most important thing now. Look at Manchester City against QPR. They should have got the win, had a lot of chances but ended up dropping points,” Rooney said according to ESPNFC. “Once it comes down to the last four or five games, then we will see what position we are in and work out what we have to do.”

If City is looking for a chance to get back into the title race, this weekend is the perfect opportunity. Everton head to Manchester United this weekend while Manchester City head to Southampton.

In the two clubs first match of the season, Everton beat Manchester United 1-0 at home. This second matchup could have huge ramifications for each team depending on the result. Manchester United are trying to maintain their nine point lead atop the table and Everton is currently three points behind Tottenham for the final Champions League qualifying spot. Everton has not been on quite the same run of form as United, however, Everton has not lost a game in the Premier League since Dec. 30.

Manchester City, on the other hand, will not have as difficult of a game this weekend as league leaders United. Southampton is currently in 16th in the Premier League, only three points above the relegation zone. Even though Southampton has been struggling to get points, they have been a hard team to beat at home. This season, they have won three games, drew five and lost only four games playing at St. Mary’s Stadium. In their past four matches, Southampton has tied Chelsea, Everton and Wigan and only lost to Manchester United 2-1. When these two clubs met earlier in the season, Manchester City won narrowly 3-2.

Even though the quality of opponent is much lower for Manchester City than Manchester United this weekend, neither game will be easy for the teams from Manchester to win. However, for City, if United is to lose this weekend, you cant get a better opponent than Southampton to try and pick up points against. With a United loss and City win, the lead at the top of the table will be cut to six and make the title race exciting once again.

Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com

Nike Mercurial Veloce Review and Tech Rundown…(Video)

Wondering how the new Nike Mercurial Veloce looks, fits, and feels. Well Nike have released this handy video to help answer those questions for you.