Monthly Archives: October 2011

Champions League Update

GROUP A       Standings

Villarreal is all but out, despite having two games at home, while, with the way Bayern Munich are playing, they are a lock to make the next stage, even in this tough group.

Manchester City have a killer schedule, with two games away, before hosting Bayern. They are likely to play for the draw at Napoli, which means it will all come down to the final Matchday. Meanwhile, Manchester City’s attention turns to the small matter of a Manchester derby.

Prediction: Bayern Munich, Napoli, Manchester City, Villarreal

 

GROUP B      Standings

Despite Inter’s horror show against Trabzonspor, they are comfortably leading this group, because the other teams are knocking each other out. CSKA Moscow appear to be their biggest challengers, but Inter should already have clinched advancement by the time they meet.

What happened to the Lille of last year? They are still in the race for 2nd, but might not be for long. They play Inter next, while CSKA get Trabzonspor, before Lille have to travel to Russia. Then again, Inter just lost to Catania, while Trabzonspor is a tough team to travel to.

Prediction: Inter, CSKA Moscow, Trabzonspor, Lille

 

GROUP C       Standings

A three way race, with Otelul Galati out. Basel is the most likely to get upset by Otelul, at home and looking for their first CL win, while the glamour tie is undoubtedly Benfica’s excellent offense visiting Old Trafford.

Prediction: Manchester United, Benfica, Basel, Otelul Galati

 

GROUP D       Standings

Real Madrid firmly in control. It looks like three unimportant matches and Lyon-Ajax, although Lyon-Real Madrid could be interesting too, given Real’s recent struggles with Lyon. The French team should advance, with both key games at the Stade de Gerland.

Prediction: Real Madrid, Lyon, Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb

 

GROUP E       Standings

Valencia isn’t as far behind Leverkusen as the standings make it look. They host the German side on November 1st, followed by a relatively easy game vs. Genk, who looked terrible yesterday against Chelsea. In Valencia’s last game, they visit Chelsea, who will probably have nothing to play for.

Prediction: Chelsea, Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen, Genk

 

GROUP F       Standings

 

Arsenal and Marseille, two struggling clubs, handed a blessing. The storyline will continue to be Dortmund’s learning curve.

Prediction: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Olympiakos

 

GROUP G       Standings

Anything could happen in the tightest group in the competition:

The 2-2 draw between Shakhtar and Zenit was expected to be very defensive, and both teams should drop back in the return. A draw would put Shakhtar in a precarious position. They will be counting on facing a poor Porto team.

Porto lost 3-1 in their first trip to eastern Europe, and the second one, at Shakhtar, should be no different, meaning a lot rides on the APOEL-Porto game on November 1st.

On the last Matchday, Zenit and Shakhtar Donetsk would be favored at a neutral site, but both teams are away.

 

Alternatively, Porto could find their form from last year, and run away with the group.

Either way, it goes well for the astonishing underdogs from Cyprus, APOEL Nicosia, who would be very well place with a draw at Zenit.

Prediction: Zenit St. Petersburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, APOEL Nicosia, Porto

 

GROUP H      Standings

 

Barcelona and Milan each get two more cake-walks. The only questions left: Who wins the group, and who finishes third, thus advancing to the Europa League. It will all be decided on November 23rd.

Prediction: Barcelona, AC Milan, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Euro 2012 Qualifying: Final Day Predictions

Ireland 0-1 Armenia: Ireland seem likely to play a defensive 4-4-2, something Giovanni Trapattoni has done 33 time in 36 games as Ireland manager. If Armenia are smart, they will put 5 in the midfield, won’t give away free kicks, and move the ball around, something Russia was really successful with as they dominated Ireland at home, but failed to score.

And Armenia can play: witness the 4-0 win over Slovakia. They won’t sneak up on anybody tomorrow, but everything seems to conspiring against the Irish. Armenia is hitting their top form, just as Ireland lose influential forward Robbie Keane.

Still, it should be a tight and tense game in Dublin, with Ireland only needing a draw to keep the playoff spot from Armenia.

Germany 3-1 Belgium and Turkey 1-0 Azerbaijan: Belgium’s bigger need seems unlikely to help them here, as the Germans always come motivated. Tomorrow, they’re playing for a perfect record in qualifying. It means Turkey won’t need to get points against Azerbaijan, whom they lost 1-0 to in an earlier fixture.

Sweden 1-2 Netherlands: The match-up favors the attacking Dutch, as Sweden will want to push forward. Holland is inconsistent, but without Ibrahimovic, how will Sweden score enough to keep up with Holland’s high-power offense?

Denmark 3-1 Portugal: Expect lots of goals. The Portuguese defense isn’t the same without Carvalho. At the other end of the pitch, they have averaged 2.9 goals a game under Paulo Bento. Denmark’s excellent defense allowed three.

Of course, any game with Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is struggling with an injury, will have some goals. Another injury problem for Portugal: Pepe, a huge part of their defensive game-plan.

Slovenia 0-0 Serbia: Serbia is likely to win. They are more talented, and absolutely need to win, while Slovenia hasn’t been great at home. However, the defensive mindset of both teams could be enough for huge underdogs Estonia, who must simply sit and watch. If Estonia hadn’t lost to the Faroe Islands, we would be robbed of another tight group finish.

France 1-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina: Hard to argue with Edin Dzeko’s form.

Georgia 0-1 Greece: The Greeks, unbeaten in 15 games, could find Georgia a lot tougher then they expect. But the bottom line: Greece won’t allow a goal, thus ensuring qualification to Euro 2012, and putting Croatia into the playoffs (or into the Euro as the best second-place finisher).

Czech Republic 0-0 Lithuania and Spain 4-0 Scotland: The Czechs won’t have any trouble holding Lithuania, who have not won at home yet (and one of their three matches was against Liechtenstein), goalless. Jiracek, who just earned his first national team call-up last month, was inspirational against Spain. They might have more trouble scoring, with Baros out of form, but it won’t matter, because Spain doesn’t know how to turn off, and they are hosting a limited Scottish team.

MORE PREDICTIONS: 6 KEY WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Thailand 1-1 Saudi Arabia

Bolivia 0-0 Colombia

Indonesia 0-2 Qatar

Paraguay 0-2 Uruguay

Chile 3-2 Peru

Venezuela 1-4 Argentina