Brian Sanders navigates the multitude of Serie A results before jumping in and examining the upcoming European adventures and weekend fixtures
Click here to listen
Brian Sanders navigates the multitude of Serie A results before jumping in and examining the upcoming European adventures and weekend fixtures
Click here to listen
After their 6-1 thrashing of Galatasaray on Tuesday, Real Madrid definitely look like UEFA Champions League contenders.
But what about their crosstown rivals?
Last year we saw Borussia Dortmund come from (relative) obscurity to make a run all the way to the final, where they eventually fell to Bayern Munich. Prior to that we only saw five teams compete in the five previous finals. In other words, Dortmund bucked a major trend last season.
Atletico Madrid can duplicate that bit of “magic” if you will. There are several factors in play that set them up nicely for a potential run to the semifinals where just a few lucky breaks are all that’s needed to reach the final match of the most grueling tournament on the planet
Coming Back To The Pack
Those five teams that made up the five Champions League finals prior to Dortmund-Bayern last year were Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Inter, and Bayern.
Inter have fallen off the map and are not in this year’s edition.
Barcelona are off to a good start in La Liga, but have a lot of question marks surrounding their defense and their ability to play from behind. You can trace those concerns all the way back to their knockout round fixture with Paris-Saint Germain last season and they don’t appear to have been addressed over the summer.
Manchester United’s mental toughness will be tested as they adjust to life in the spotlight without the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. They were left with a bitter taste in their mouth after being knocked out by Real Madrid last year thanks in part to a controversial red card. They’ve only added Marouane Fellaini over the summer while the rest of their core of veterans is one year older and one year slower.
Chelsea’s biggest offseason addition was bringing back Jose Mourinho as manager. The Special One has a history of success in the Champions League and he’s brought in Brazilian midfielder Willian along with Samuel Eto’o. They were knocked out of a tough group last year and will be looking for revenge, but they haven’t gotten off to the best start in their domestic league.
Bayern Munich look primed and ready to get back to the final this year, especially after their impressive 3-0 victory over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday. Their biggest question mark is how they’ll adapt to new manager Pep Guardiola, but that doesn’t appear to be an issue so far.
Then there’s teams like Juventus (who drew 1-1 with FC Copenhagen on Tuesday), Paris-Saint Germain (struggling out of the gate in Ligue 1), and Dortmund (who don’t seem to have slowed down too much, but can they duplicate their effort?) who all look like contenders on paper, but haven’t proven themselves consistent Champions League title contenders in recent history.
David Villa’s New Position
Barcelona often tried to use David Villa as an out-and-out striker or a “false 9″ in their preferred 4-3-3. Now that he’s at Madrid, he’s not a lone, central forward but rather an unorthodox winger. He gets out wide and lets Diego Costa run the channels down the middle and so far it appears to have rejuvenated him. Villa has two goals and one assist in Atletico’s first four La Liga matches this season. If he can stay healthy (a BIG if) and continue his good form, it will go a long way in helping Atletico advance through the tournament.
Diego Costa’s New Responsibility
With Radamel Falcao off in Monaco, the scoring burden has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the volatile Diego Costa. Perhaps the only player as polarizing as Luis Suarez, Costa has a history of losing his cool in big moments and many have (rightly) questioned his mental toughness.
But the departure of Falcao seems to have inspired him to let his play do the talking. He has four goals and an assist in Atletico’s first four matches this season and shows no signs of slowing down.
Atletico boss Diego Simeone isn’t exactly talking up his team’s chances ahead of their group play opener at home against Zenit Saint Petersburg on Wednesday.
“(Zenit) have been in the competition much more than us, and are an important team, with big name players and financial power. We are growing, with humility and work, and collective sense that we always have.”
He might be giving the Russian side a bit too much credit considering Zenit have never advanced far into the knockout round, but he seems to trying to instill that “underdog” mentality in his side and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Dortmund played like underdogs last season and rode that momentum harder and harder as the tournament went on. It can be an incredibly powerful motivator, especially with less experienced squad like Atletico’s.
The Belgian goalkeeper is quietly competing with Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet for the No.1 spot with Belgium’s national when the World Cup roles around in June. At just 21, he is already raising a lot of eyebrows and sometimes (as hockey shows us) all you need a hot player between the sticks.
Though they lack Champions League experience, this Atletico side has a lot of experience playing with each other. They are not a team that has shuffled up their roster in the past, despite repeated attempts to dethrone Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga. The defense added Dutch international Toby Alderweireld this summer, but return a core of solid veterans like Luis Felipe, Francisco Juanfran, Miranda, and Diego Godin who does have some Champions League experience. The midfield is comprised of vastly underrated players like Raul Garcia and Arda Turan not to mention Atletico mainstays Tiago, Gabi, and Koke.
Since 2009-10, when they were last in the Champions League, this same group has won the Europa League twice as well as one European Supercup and one Copa Del Rey.
Obviously all of this can go out the window if they don’t manage to escape what is in fact a pretty tough group of Zenit, FC Porto, and minnows Austria Viena. Even if they get out of the group, a tough draw in the knockout rounds can do them in just as quickly and easily. But they do get Zenit at home on Wednesday and you can bet the Vicente Calderon Stadium will be rocking. If they can ride the home crowd to three points against the toughest team in their group, it will go a long way towards setting them up to advance. After that all it takes is one little spark to get through the knockout rounds.
If you’re looking for a plucky upstart like last year’s Dortmund team to not only make some noise but potentially reach the final, look no further than Los Rojiblancos.
Brian Sanders, Adam Uthe, and Sean Maslin review the Champions League Group stage draw picking out the winners and losers
Click here to listen
Brian Sanders and Vincent La Rosa look at the Italian game after two weeks of Serie A, the Azzurri’s two World Cup Qualifiers, the close of the transfer window, and the groups for Italian teams in the Champions League and Europa League
Have a listen here
On the Transfer Debacle
I won’t belabor this and jump on the bandwagon that’s already piling on David Moyes. After signing only Marouane Fellaini for way more than original estimates said he was worth, United seem to have perfidiously gone about sticking it to their fans. Clearly there’s something more at stake than money and legal paperwork when a multitude of things have gone wrong in the so-called pursuit of Tiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Wesley Sneider, Daniele De Rossi, Sami Khedira, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and Mehsut Ozil. Players may indeed be pieces of meat in the eyes of so many agents, owners and managers, but there is already a kind of in-crowd protocol that Messrs. Moyes and Woodward are clearly clueless about. The Glazers were wise enough to leave well alone when Sir Alex Ferguson was running the club. As he was personally responsible for so many of the machinations that allowed the Glazers to step in and make a leveraged purchase, the Gaffer was a good soldier, espousing Knoxian rhetoric about “value in the marketplace” as long as they let him have a little money now and again for players like Berbatov, Van Persie and Kagawa.
An extraordinary man-manager and the last of a breed–along with Arséne Wenger at Arsenal–who was trusted by ownership, Ferguson was a beloved buffer between a bewildered fan base who really wanted to believe the cockamamie fodder he fed them about having the last word in transfers and our being the kind of mortal zombie fans who support Arsenal and other clubs who simply don’t give a shit what they think. None of it matters now, anyway. Clearly the money is there to spend on for someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who will pay back whatever the club forks out for him back in merchandizing spades. Even the likes of Gareth Bale or Radomel Falcao would work for the gluttonous Glazers. Unfortunately, shopping for perceived ‘water carriers’ and prospects seems beyond the scope of Moyes and Woodward.
To be fair to Woodward–a man who has the kind of Mad Men flair that the Glazers can understand and has shown the ability to raise hundreds of millions in sponsorship money–he seems to have been thrown into the deep-end in rooms full of the kind of capricious oligarchs who inherit oil kingdoms, trust funds and laundered money and their lawyers. Woodward’s bargaining mentality, honed and sharpened in boardrooms, but still schooled in a world of old-fashioned bargaining that’s been going on in the Armenian carpet bazaar since the time of Genghis Khan, is out of his league when dealing with the modern football club. In Spain, for example, where clubs were confiscated after the civil war and their ownership given as prizes to amigos who were fellow soldiers or supporters by the dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco, American-style buy low/sell high rules do not necessarily rule the football marketplace. Team lawyers expect suitcases full of laundered oil cash and drug money. Players are more often owned in percentages, not just by clubs who only nominally have their contracts, but also Russian and Colombian gangsters. It’s complicated. Whatever secrets the Gaffer is privy to, he has yet to pass them on to Moyes and company.
Depending on who you believe, United’s credibility has now been smashed into a million pieces. This may be so, but Juventus, for example, and now Monaco have survived far worse. Woodward would probably be fired by most clubs, but as he makes money for his friends (The American golden rule–see The Godfather), I’m sure he won’t. Next time Mr. Woodwood, you need to do your homework properly. Personally, I like Ander Herrera as a player and admire him for keeping his trap shut. Perhaps he’ll still go for it if we try again in January.
As for Marouane ‘Bogbrush’ Fellaini. It warms the cockles of my heart when a player really really wants to play for us, as was also the case with Robin Van Persie. He may be a bit slow, but he’s a gamer with a pair of elephant cojönes who likes contact, can score goals and will protect our sometimes awesome, but positively gutless, Michael Carrick. He’s brave and hard, and, although we let ourselves be suckered into paying 28m quid for him, will prove well worth the investment.
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
It was right out of the Ferguson textbook. “I could see why we were champions today,” Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes said while his head panned the room like a Gorbals thug looking for a wee bit of aggro. “I thought we played really well.”
Right you are, Davey! Better in spades than putting four past Swansea on the opening weekend. Of course, he insisted upon being “more than happy” with the state of the squad. Indeed, should any dealings fail to happen at the close of the transfer window on Monday night he reassured the gathered Fleet Street Sports mavens. “After that performance, I wouldn’t be worried,” he said. “I thought we were really good today.”
“Pull t’other one,” my Gran used to say. “It’s got bells on it!”
Sure, the Gaffer always got dead prickly after a mediocre team performance, but Davey doesn’t own the moxy or luck to be able to run his mouth so contemptuously. Well, not yet. Even though they were clearly the far superior team in the second half, United lost because their central midfield is non-existent. This has been more or less the case since Roy Keane retired and the Champions Cup win of 2007-08 looks, in retrospective, like the Gaffer’s masterpiece, the finest job of papering over the cracks since Chamberlain announced ‘Peace in our time!”
Beyond the frustration United fans feel over the club’s dithering in the transfer market was the gobsmackingly nonchalant, vanilla display of pride in their own mediocrity shown by a gutless Michael Carrick and a painfully overmatched Tom Cleverley in central midfield. Indeed, although a different perspective might say that Carrick’s lack of physical courage may well be solved as a team problem if an enforcer-type player like Marouane Fellaini is signed from Everton to serve and protect him, there is no such hope for Cleverley. Inept in every way, devoid of courage and energy, he is just what the likes of Glasgow Rangers need in their bid to return to the SPL, but is not a Manchester United player.
All is not lost, however. Liverpool were driven on the day. Led by a ruthless, hatchet-faced Steven Gerrard in a way he never has for England, the red scouters were were completely amped up, especially in the first half, quicker to the ball and crunchingly harder in the tackle. Simply put, this fixture meant much more to them because they genuinely hate Us and Our relentless success over them for years.. Over the first 45 minutes, they attacked United relentlessly to which our only recourse was to simulate injury and repeatedly appeal to a disinterested Neville Marriner, who seemed to mistake them for Arsenal or Spurs or Chelsea. Yes, we were better in the second half, but when your two best performers are a knackered old Ryan Giggs and a pumped up Nan, you have no ammunition. Indeed, Nani, who seemed totally delirious just to actually be on the pitch, was so completely pumped up that he blasted a beautiful free kick opportunity high into the crowd. Due to sign a new contract and clearly feeling renewed by having Mr. Moyes woo him, he may yet be kinda/sorta like a new signing.
For a good proportion of the match, United were vapid. Strangely inhibited, unable to get any real momentum going: This kind of listlessness has become something of a recurring theme in their visits to Anfield over recent seasons. Truth be told, United have now lost six of their last seven visits to Anfield, and, as with Moyes’ Everton, they have flinched in just about every one of those matches. Derby rivalry? United just don’t get it! Giggs showed up, but he can’t hold the ball like he used to when faced with a hacking hyena like Lucas Leiva. Poor Paddy Evra tried so hard, but, was repeatedly, unavoidably legless on a day when the usually reliable tandem of Ferdinand and Vidic looked equally elderly and repeatedly made errors. United’s giving up of only a single goal was miraculous. Well, slightly miraculous, but mostly due to the cold-blooded bravery of goalkeeper David De Gea who took a hammering from Sturridge, Aspas and a host of others who were casually allowed a state of nonchalant carte-blanche in United’s box.
How did the pea-brained Ashley Young come to make the the fourth minute mistake that led to the corner for Liverpool’s goal, allowing Daniel Sturridge to celebrate his 24th birthday with his third successive winner of the season after steering in a close-range header off a Gerrard corner? Young has worn the United shirt for nigh upon three years now. He has not improved one bit since leaving Aston Villa. Like Cleverley, he does not deserve to wear that shirt. Indeed, when Nemanja Vidic tapped a soft back pass toward goal, it was a minor miracle that De Gea beat a thundering Glen Johnson to the ball. Only twice, you say. That’s not so bad. Better yet, minutes away from the whistle, Carrick passed the ball straight to Daniel Sturridge. The whole stadium gasped. Sturridge seemed so shocked that he hesitated and flubbed it.
Doubtless, United would have been better if Wayne Rooney’s forehead had not been split open by Phil Jones in training the previous day. Yet Rooney’s history at Anfield is not good. Where was Shinji Kagawa when we needed passion and ball control? Robin van Persie was well muffled by Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel throughout, squandering United’s best chance late on.
Reticent congratulations to Liverpool are due after they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of their legendary Scottish manager Bill Shankly. Their current boss Brendan Rodgers is, I read, looking for a top four place fourth place this season and when suspended striker Luis Suarez returns they will be even tougher to beat.
As for United, let us all collectively pray for a few good breaks as the transfer window shuts.
One of the great things about the explosion of soccer coverage in America is that fans of the game are being exposed to new leagues and new teams to follow. One such league is the Eredivisie, otherwise known as the first division in the Netherlands. While Ajax is a household name in American soccer circles, and PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar are also known to some, it is still a foreign league to the sports world in the United States when in comparison to the likes of the English Premier League. With games now being shown on ESPN it is a great time to jump on board with one of the most exciting and entertaining leagues in all of club football.
If the different power countries in club football were to be different movies, then the Eredivisie would be an action movie. Much like a movie that features tons of explosions and makes the viewer go “Ooh” and “Aah,” the Eredivisie is a league that provides goals and more goals. When you look at some of the players that have come through the Eredivisie, it reads like an entire wing of the Soccer Hall of Fame. Names like Johan Cruyff, Denis Bergkamp, Romario, Ronaldo, Marco van Basten, Ruud van Nistelroy, and Luis Suarez all have plied their craft in the Netherlands and used the league to move on to greater success.
The Dutch clubs play a very visually stimulating style of football, obviously influenced by Ajax’s “Total Football” style from the 1970s that is more for the football fan than a football purist. Defending is maybe the second or third priority for most clubs. That is not necessarily a bad thing. While it is great that there are leagues like Serie A that may be more defensive-oriented, there is a need to develop strikers and to develop the fine art of finishing.
Entering into this season the club that is odds favorite to win the title is Ajax. As I mentioned above, if there is only one Dutch club that most soccer fans throughout the world have heard of, it is Ajax. The 24-time champion, and 4-time winner of the UEFA Champions League/European Cup, the Amsterdam club comes back from the offseason having made very few subtractions. With a core of Strikers Siem De Jong and Cristian Eriksen (12 and 10 goals respectively last season,) Left Back Daley Blind, Midfielder Christian Poulsen, and MF Lasse Schone, Ajax should have all of the tools to win their 4th straight league title and a deep run in the Champions League. The one player to really look out for is Viktor Fischer, who at 18 years old scored 12 goals last season. The Danish international is a very promising asset for the club.
With Ajax, and with all of the top teams in the Eredivisie, the question is not a matter of if other European clubs with big pockets will come in and take their players, it is a matter of when. Dutch clubs like Vitesse and AZ Alkmaar were left off of this list because they have already moved their top players like Wilifred Bony and Jozy Altidore to the likes of Swansea City and Sunderland without a definite backup. And while even a club like Ajax seems to be able to trade assets and replace them with ease, they may find it difficult after having had so many successful seasons in a row. We still might see the likes of Eriksen, Poulsen, and De Jong.
PSV Eindhoven will look to improve off of last season’s second place finish. The 27-time Eredivisie Champions, and winners of the 1997-1998 European Cup, they have spent the entire offseason retooling a team has had some major departures. Having added Ji-Seung Park in the midfield from Queen’s Park Rangers and Adam Maher from AZ Alkmaar, the club should be able offset the loss of Kevin Strootman, who departed for AS Roma in Italy. I see this season as a rebuilding year for PSV though. Having lost the likes of Strootman, Defender Marcelo, Dries Mertens (Napoli-Italy,) Midfielder Mark Van Bommel (Retirement) and Jermain Lens (Dynamo Kiev-Ukraine) will certainly impact a squad that scored over 103 goals last season (tops in the Eredivisie.) Combined the five accounted for 43 goals and 150 appearances for the club. Being able to make so much may be difficult.
I like what I have seen so far from Zakkaria Bakkali, the 19 year-old Belgian who was added from their youth academy last season. While he is a very young player, he has already shown that he can play at a high level having scored 3 goals in two matches this season. He and Tim Matavaz, who scored 11 goals in 27 matches last season.
While other clubs may place a high emphasis on offense, Feyernoord features one best of the defensive units in the league. Having only allowed 38 goals last season (second only to Ajax,) the Rotterdam-based club employs a four-man backline that is often very difficult to break down. Captain Stefan de Vrij is only 21 years old, yet has over a 150 appearances with the club. He is teamed with Joris Mathijsen, Bruno Martins Indi, and Daryl Janmaat. All four defenders have recently featured prominently in the Netherlands National Team and would certainly be interested in using this European season and the World Cup next year to receive a large transfer to a more prominent club.
Although they do not have a problem scoring per se (they did score 64 goals last season, which was the 4th most in the Eredivisie) they did have a problem keeping up with Ajax (83) and Feyernoord (103). In their matches last season against both teams, they lost by a combined score of 10-3. Their top scorer, Graziano Pelle, has returned after scoring 27 goals in all competitions for the club. Beyond him, though, the cupboard is a little bare. Most other opportunities will go to Ruben Schacken, who has ten goals in 24 appearances for the club. So far they only have two goals this season (both by Pelle and Schacken,) but will need more to compete with the top clubs in the country.
The club from Enschede, which is in the east of the Netherlands started out last season in first place for the first five weeks, while managing to play in the Europa League at the same time, ran out of steam in the end and finished in fifth-place. Much like Feyernoord, they are a team more focused on defense, having only allowed 33 goals last season. The club made very few changes their team from last season, only losing Midfielder Leroy Fer to Norwich City and adding 5 players from their youth team (Midfielders Joey Pelupessey, Quincy Promes, Shadrach Egan Kwesi, Tim Holscher, and Forward Felictano Zschussschen.) Promes, Shadrach, and Zschussschen have all already featured for the club in the first three games, with Promes scoring a goal in the 6-0 pasting of F.C. Utrecht.
The other major cog for Twente will be Luc Castaignos. At 20, he has already had a lengthy career playing for the likes of Feyernoord and Inter Milan in Italy. Last year was a bit of a coming out party for him, scoring 13 goals in 24 matches for the club. He has shown promise before with Feyernoord (15 goals in 29 matches in 2010-2011,) only to fail to live up expectations (1 goal in 6 appearances with Inter.) Still at the age of 20, he should prove to be a dangerous option for Twente in their pursuit for a spot in either of Europe’s top competitions.
3rd: PSV Eindhoven
4TH: F.C. Twente
American to Watch: AZ Alkmaar FWD Aron Johansson. Johansson, who just gained his U.S. eligibility this week despite the protests from his home country of Iceland, is looking to make a late spot in U.S. National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for Brazil. While many will criticize the nature of how he gained his eligibility (yet neglect the many other American players who have dual citizenship status) it is unquestionable that he possesses a ton of talent. In the Bosnia-Herzegovina friendly this week, he came late in the second-half and provided an immediate spark to their offense.
What I liked the most was watching his fearlessness as he took on defenders. For far too many years, American forwards have been too timid on engaging the goalkeeper one on one (I blame the system, not the players for the record.) Aron was consistently made many runs up the field and had a few good shots against Bosnian goalkeeper Marko Begovic. With Jozy Altidore having left Alkmaar this off-season for Sunderland and the English Premier League, Johansson should have all the opportunities to show Klinsmann that he is a viable option come Brazil.
Beer of Choice: Tillburg’s Dutch Brown Ale
While of course everyone would think that the best option would be a Heineken, I just cannot stand it. Having had many Heinekens in my lifetime, mostly in my semester abroad in Budapest, I have found that the only time that I can drink the stuff is when it is very cold and strapped to a bungee cord outside of my hotel apartment (mini-kegs do not fit into a mini-fridge, college kids.)
My first rule of thumb for any person who goes into a country and does not know what beer to have is to always go with the Brown Ale. Lagers can be light and IPA’s and Stouts may be too heavy, but a Brown Ale is just the right amount of hoppyness, but not enough to give you a bitter beer face. The Tillburg’s Dutch Brown Ale has a very similar consistency to that of the Newcastle Brown Ale and has a bit of sweet taste to it.
My brother and I first tried this at a Belgian bar called Granville Moore’s. I know its heresy when you are talking about the Dutch to bring up a Belgian bar, but their mussels and beer selection are amazing. It is a great beer when watching one of the best derbies in the world, Ajax-PSV, or if you just want to kick back and sample a good beer on your porch.
Hebben een geweldige week en geniet van het voetbal!
When London’s Wembley Stadium welcomes Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund on Saturday May 25 for the UEFA Champions League final, there will be plenty of history being made.
This will be the first time two German clubs have met in the final of Europe’s most prestigious club competition; format not withstanding. It’s also the first time one venue will have hosted two finals in three years. 2011 saw Barcelona reach the peak of their proverbial power by defeating Manchester United at Wembley by a score of 3-1, but more on that in a moment.
Let’s take a look back at the other finals that have been played at Wembley.
1963-Milan 2-1 Benfica
58′-Jose Altafini (Milan)
66′-Jose Altafini (Milan)
The European final has been particularly cruel to Benfica and Portuguese legend Eusebio. He scored the opener in the first half, only to be outdone by Milan’s Brazilian forward Jose Altafini. It was the first title for one of Italy’s premier sides, but only 45,700 turned out to see the match that was officiated by English referee Arthur Holland.
1968-Manchester United 4-1 Benfica
53′-Bobby Charlton (Manchester United)
93′-George Best (Manchester United)
94′-Brian Kidd (Manchester United)
Ten years after the tragic Munich air disaster, Manchester United rose to power thanks to a “golden generation” of British talent. After a lackluster first half, Sir Bobby Charlton opened the scoring only to have the Portuguese side 22 minutes later. From there it was more stalemate action as the Red Devils kept the legendary Eusebio on lock down.
Then extra time came and Benfica (once again) found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline. This was all prior to the “golden goal” rule so Manchester United would go on to tally three extra time goals courtesy of the great George Best, newly turned 19 Brian Kidd, and a second for good measure from Charlton.
92,225 fans passed through the turnstiles that day.
1971-Ajax 2-0 Panathinaikos
5′-Dick van Dijk (Ajax)
87′-Arie Haan (Ajax)
Panathinaikos became the first Greek side to reach a European final in club competition and they were quite the plucky underdogs in this match going up against the Johan Cruyff and the birth of “total football”. Unfortunately, there was no fairy-tale ending in this one as Ajax forward Dick van Dijk (no, not THAT Dick van Dyke) scored in the fifth minute and put the Greek side on their heels from the get go. Midfielder Arie Haan, who came on after halftime as a substitute, added a second for good measure just before the final whistle blew.
A solid crowd of 83,179 turned out for this one and there was still an English presence on the field as Jack Taylor oversaw the match as head official.
1978-Liverpool 1-0 Club Brugge
64′-Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool)
Once again, an English side was at the peak of its power when the final returned to Wembley. This time it was Liverpool representing the host nation and they searching for their second in a row after defeating Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in 1977.
The Belgian side made its first appearance in a final, but it was ultimately Liverpool who won thanks to a Kenny Dalglish strike midway through the first half. The match was hardly entertaining and both sides essentially blamed the other for the lackluster display. Still, 92,500 showed up to see the Reds clinch back-to-back titles.
1992-Barcelona 1-0 Sampdoria
111′-Ronald Koeman (Barcelona)
After a bit of hiatus, the European final returned to Wembley in 1992, just several months prior to one participant (Barcelona) hosting the summer Olympics. The Spanish side would go on to win in extra time thanks to Dutch defender Ronald Koeman’s free kick effort.
Several future high profile managers could be found on the field in this match including Swansea’s Michael Laudrup, former Barcelona/soon-to-be Bayern Munich manager Josep “Pep” Guardiola, and now former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.
This was Barcelona’s first European conquest and a meager 70,827 would wind up turning out to see. If only they knew what was to come.
2011-Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
34′-Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
54′-Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
69′-David Villa (Barcelona)
Sometimes knockout tournaments don’t allow for the two best teams to meet in the final. This was not the case in 2011 as the eventual champions of Spain and England went head to head in front of 87,695 people. Pedro opened the scoring midway through the first half, but Wayne Rooney gave the Red Devils hope when he equalized in the 34th minute.
But this was Barcelona at the peak of their power of Pep Guardiola and second half goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa saw the Catalan side earn their fourth European title. They also defeated United in 2009 in Rome by a score of 2-0.
*If you’re looking for a place to stay for this year’s final, Holiday Inn has several outstanding locations for to choose from. Check out the individual location pages below to see which one best fits your needs.*
Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum - www.hikensingtonforumhotel.co.uk/
Holiday Inn London Brent Cross - www.hilondonbrentcrosshotel.
Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury - www.hilondonbloomsburyhotel.
Holiday Inn London Regents Park - www.hilondonregentsparkhotel.
Holiday Inn London Mayfair - www.hilondonmayfairhotel.co.uk
Brian Sanders, Adam Uthe, and Brent Atema look at the Semifinals of the Champions League with much excitement.
Click here to listen
Lionel Messi has his detractors. Everyone loves to hate Cristiano Ronaldo. The same holds true for Manchester United, AC Milan, and countless other powerhouse European clubs.
Who hates Borussia Dortmund?
(Well…outside of supporters of any other German club…)
I’ve been active on Twitter for about three years. While it’s not exactly a “scientific” indicator, I have never seen anyone on Twitter speaking out passionately against the black and yellow club. But that’s only half the battle. It’s not enough to have a minimal number of naysayers; you have to have positive attributes as well.
Here’s a rundown of why I believe Borussia Dortmund to be the most “likeable” club in all of Europe.
Their passion is unrivaled.
Show me another club whose fans are capable of this…
And just to show you how they do away from home…
No Oil Money Necessary
In a time when clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, and most recently Paris-Saint Germain rise to prominence because a wealthy oil baron(s) fell into their lap, Borussia Dortmund’s success has been the result of good old fashion “buy young, sell high”.
Perhaps their best player, Mario Götze, is only 20 years old and comes straight from Dortmund’s youth ranks. The same can be said for fullbacks Marcel Schmelzer (age 25) and Marc Hornschuh (age 22). They’ve also brought in talented youngsters Marco Reus (Borussia Monchengladbach) and talented center back duo Neven Subotic (Mainz) and Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich) from outside their ranks without drastically overpaying.
It’s very refreshing to watch a championship caliber team be built with smart purchases and an outstanding youth system.
Sometimes all it takes is an unlikeable manager to make or break a club’s reputation. Fortunately for Dortmund, Klopp is very candid in interviews (he’s done some time as a TV analyst) and at the (somewhat) young age of 45 he doesn’t take himself too seriously in general. He also has a son who plays for Borussia Dortmund’s b-team and lives in the same neighborhood as many of his players.
Talk about devotion to the club!
There’s no distinct about the way they play; they are simply fun to watch. Marco Reus is one of the finest dribblers in the world, Götze can pass as well as anyone, and guys like Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski work tirelessly without any semblance of selfish or indignant behavior. Fullbacks Lukasz Pizczek and Marcel Schmelzer love to go forward as much as anyone.
There are no “superstars” or “divas” on this team and that is also very refreshing in the current times in which we live.
Okay, so I’m partial to this last one as a Columbus Crew supporter.
But I did take a graphic design class once in college and I learned that yellow and black is the single most effective color combination to use when you want people to retain your “message”.
Many of the world’s finest clubs have at least one glaring attribute that causes a certain segment of the neutral fan population to hate them. But I’m not sure you can find such a flaw with Borussia Dortmund. There’s too much energy, too many positive vibes surrounding this team.
Will it last forever? Who knows. But I’ll always be a fan until they give me a reason to feel otherwise…
Brian Sanders, Vincent La Rosa, and Luis Palmitesta all discuss the Champions League, Europa League, Rome Derby, and the rest of the Serie A.
Click HERE to listen