2014-15 Champions League Round of 16 predictions

Hey all, Celsus here. Now with the second leg of these predictions. I give you the UCL Round of 16 predictions, presented by Clutch City Soccer.

UCL R16 drawParis St. Germain v. Chelsea: Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Cashico. Both sides have a total of three losses between them, none of which have come at home. PSG has a solid defense consisting of the likes of Salvatore Sirigu, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, and Serge Aurier. Chelsea more than matches that defense with a strong line of their own, including Thibaut Courtois (who will easily become one of the best, if not the best, keeper in the world within the next 3 years), John Terry, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic. Let’s look at midfield now. PSG has a solid midfield with the likes of Thiago Motta and Lucas. However, Chelsea blows them out of the water with the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Cesc Fabregas. And that’s not even all of their midfielders. Striking may be the only spot where PSG outplays Chelsea, with the likes of Cavani, Zlatan, and Lavezzi up front. Chelsea is no slouch either, with people like Drogba, Diego Costa, and Andre Schurrle up front. We give this to Chelsea, as they field a somewhat stronger team with much more depth.

Prediction: Chelsea def. PSG, 3-1 on aggregate.

Manchester City v. FC Barcelona: Both these teams are very strong. But I’m going to defer to history here. This same matchup happened last season. Barcelona dominated. With an even stronger strike team than before, expect the result to be more or less the same.

Prediction: FC Barcelona def. Manchester City, 4-1 on aggregate.

Bayer Leverkusen v. Atletico Madrid: Both of these teams are surprisingly equal, except in two cases: strikers and managers. First, let me say that I don’t expect this to be a high-scoring affair; with Bernd Leno on one side and Jan Oblak on the other, goals are going to be few and far between. Both teams have strong midfields (Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes for Leverkusen; Arda Turan, Gabi, and Koke for Atletico). However, when you look at strikers, you see Stefan Kiessling going up against Antoine Griezmann, Mario Mandzukic, and Raul Jimenez. Add the fact that Atletico are led by one of the top managers in the world today, Diego Simeone. Expect a good match with Atletico coming out on top.

Prediction: Atletico Madrid def. Bayer Leverkusen, 2-1 on aggregate.

Juventus v. Borussia Dortmund: DO NOT under any circumstances let Borussia Dortmund’s domestic form fool you. If anything, let it frighten you. Nothing is scarier than a Borussia Dortmund with something to prove, especially with Jurgen Klopp at the helm. But Juventus isn’t going to take it lying down. Let’s look at the “tale of the tape”, if you will. Both have strong goalkeepers in Gianluigi Buffon and Roman Weidenfeller. Their defenses are just as solid, with Juventus having the likes of Chiellini, Evra, and Lichtsteiner; while Dortmund field the likes of Neven Subotic (the asshole who should be playing for the USA, not Serbia), a hopefully fit Mats Hummels, Sokratis, and Lukasz Piszczek. Juventus has a very strong midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba (he f**ks your b***h, then wrecks you), Claudio Marchisio, and Italian legend Andrea Pirlo. Dortmund has more than an answer to that; they have more of a successful counterattack, with players like Ilkay Gundogan, Sebastian Kehl, Sven Bender, and Jakub Blaszczykowski (and there are several others; Dortmund simply has more depth in midfield than does Juventus). Juventus has a solid attacking force, with the likes of Carlos Tevez, Sebastian Giovinco (aka “The Atomic Ant”), Alvaro Morata, and Fernando Llorente (yes he scores goals too). Dortmund again matches Juventus with a hopefully fit Marco Reus, along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, new signing Ciro Immobile, and Adrian Ramos. I think this will be a war of midfields, and although Juventus may win a few battles, Dortmund will be the team to reach the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Borussia Dortmund def. Juventus, 3-2 on aggregate.

Schalke 04 v. Real Madrid: I’m sorry, but this isn’t much of a contest. Schalke is a very solid team, but often times we see their domestic form, which is currently below their usual standard, translate into European form. Real Madrid, on the other hand is on a hot streak no matter which way you look at it. With a streak of 21 straight wins (a club record), the defending champions are showing no signs of slowing down, even without star players Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso. Love them, hate them, or even have no opinion on them, it cannot be denied that the Merengues are likely to continue their streak in a dominant fashion.

Prediction: Real Madrid def. Schalke 04, 5-0 on aggregate.

Shakhtar Donetsk v. Bayern Munich: This is a matchup I hate to have to call. As a Dynamo Kyiv fan, I normally hate Shkahtar Donetsk, but in light of recent events, there is more a feeling of solidarity for the other great Ukrainian club. Bayern is a powerhouse, however. Bayern is strong in everything; usually, the team that beats Bayern becomes the new favorite to win. Shakhtar’s odds are very small. Despite Shakhtar having a very strong midfield containing the likes of Bernard, Wellington Nem, and Douglas Costa, a back lie led by veteran Darijo Srna, and Luiz Adriano (a.k.a. the goal machine of this tournament) up front, expect Bayern to earn a hard-fought, but convincing, victory.

Prediction: Bayern Munich def. Shakhtar Donetsk, 4-2 on aggregate.

Arsenal v. Monaco: Honestly, I was surprised at this matchup, mostly because it wasn’t Bayern Munich. Monaco is not a team one would expect to be at this stage, especially after their financial backer bailed on them. But they still have a balanced team, with players like Joao Moutinho and Dimitar Berbatov up front, Bernardo Silva (on loan from Benfica) and Lucas Ocampos in midfield, and Stekelenburg in goal. A team with surprisingly good chemistry, they can pull the upset over a favored Arsenal. But Arsenal aren’t the favored team for no reason. With David Ospina in goal, a strong midfield containing the likes of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, and Santi Cazorla, and a strike team that includes Yaya Sanogo, Olivier Giroud, Joel Campbell, and former Barcelona player Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal not only have a strong team, they have the depth that can see them to the next round of the knockout phase.

Prediction: Arsenal def. Monaco, 3-1 on aggregate.

Basel v. Porto: Basel, despite still topping the Swiss Super League, have lost a fair number of star players over the past couple of years, including keeper Yann Sommer and midfielder Mohamed Salah. However, with longtime striker Marco Streller providing a strong leadership role, and newcomer Shkelzen Gashi having a superb eye for goal, Basel, despite not having many strong names in terms of talent, has proven it can still contend with the best. However, Porto, as is the case with any of Os Tres Grandes, knows how to make any team successful, regardless of how young or unknown. However, this is one of the years where the word “unknown” may only suit possibly their goalkeeper Fabiano, who’s been named as the new starter for the season. Porto also boasts a strong back line with vice-captains Maicon Roque and Danilo, newcomer Bruno Martins Indi, and Alex Sandro. In their midfield you can find the likes of Mexico regular Hector Herrera, Colombian youngster Juan Quintero, and youth product Ruben Neves. Up front, there is no question about the talent present. They have young talent on loan from La Liga, including Barcelona’s Cristian Tello and Atletico Madrid’s Oliver Torres, both of whom are very likely to make it big within the next few years if they keep up what they’re doing now. Their front line also includes returning club veteran Ricardo Quaresma, who returns to the club after leaving in 2008. This attacking side, and the team as a whole, is led by captain Jackson Martinez, who, despite it being only his third season with Porto, has shown an absurd amount of dedication to the club. And he isn’t captain solely because of his loyalty; he’s been the Portuguese Liga’s top scorer for the past 2 seasons, earning a fair number of Player of the Month awards along the way. Expect Basel to fight hard. However, you should also expect them to be outmatched by the Dragoes.

Prediction: Porto def. Basel, 3-2 on aggregate.

Have a different opinion? Leave a comment!

2014-15 Europa League Round of 32 Predictions

Hey all, Celsus here again. Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve last written anything, but with school and other time commitments, it’s been tough for me to contribute as often as I’d like. But in the holiday from both school and European soccer, we’d just like to cover our predictions for the 2014-15 Europa League Round of 32 (the UCL Round of 16 will come later).

Europa League R32

Young Boys v. Everton: At first glance, people might think Young Boys stand a chance, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. Young Boys fared rather well in their group (which also had Napoli, Czech champions Sparta Prague, and Slovak champions Slovan Bratislava). However, for Young Boys, their place in the knockout phase only became a reality after the final matchday, and mostly because Sparta Prague failed to beat group champions Napoli while Young Boys essentially got a free pass against Bratislava, who failed to gain a single point in the group. On the other side, Everton’s place as top of their group (another strong group containing Wolfsburg, FC Krasnodar, and Lille) was never in doubt. In fact, their only loss (to Krasnodar) was at a time when they were already guaranteed the top spot in their group. However, that could possibly create a feeling of complacency, something that could prove fatal in the knockout phases. Expect this matchup to be scrappy, and very close.

Prediction: Everton def. BSC Young Boys, 4-3 on aggregate.

Torino v. Athletic Bilbao: OK, people, is this really a question? Let’s look at the numbers here. Torino finished second in their Europa League group which, in all honesty, wasn’t that strong a group, consisting of Belgian side Club Brugge, Finnish club HJK, and Danish club Copenhagen. While these three teams are good, they are not amazing. Bilbao finished third in a Champions League group that saw powerhouses Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Porto finish ahead of them. And the thing is, it was actually close, with Bilbao only 2 points behind Shakhtar at the end of the group stage (Bilbao had 7, Shakhtar had 9). There is always the chance of an upset. However, that chance is very slim here. Bilbao is a stronger team that has fought stronger opponents to get to this point, and they will get a convincing win.

Prediction: Athletic Bilbao def. Torino, 5-2 on aggregate.

Borussia Monchengladbach v. Sevilla: You have one of the strongest teams left in the competition. The other team is the defending champion. Both of these teams had equally difficult roads to make it here (perhaps Borussia only slightly more so because they had to go through qualifiers). Sevilla has a different team than they did last season, losing a number of important players, including former captain Ivan Rakitic. Monchengladbach may have lost star keeper Marc Andre ter Stegen, but they immediately found a strong replacement in Yann Sommer. Expect this to be a close affair.

Prediction: Borussia Monchengladbach def. Sevilla, 1-1 on aggregate; Borussia Monchengladbach proceed on away goals.

Wolfsburg vs. Sporting CP: OK, now this is going to be a candidate for best matchup of the round. Wolfsburg has proven it can stay at the top of European competition, finishing second only to Everton in a strong group. With a strong selection of midfielders and strikers, defenses should be ready for a powerful attack. However, they may have met their match in one of Os Tres Grandes, Sporting CP. Sporting was only a point away from being the Champions League Round of 16, narrowly missing out to German powerhouse Schalke 04; oh, and did I mention that Chelsea was in their group? Sporting is known for fielding strong teams, and with a midfield that includes the likes of Nani and William Carvalho, Fredy Montero on the attack, and a defense led by Portugal’s number 1 keeper, Rui Patricio, it’s difficult to see Die Wolfe moving beyond this point.

Prediction: Sporting CP def. Wolfsburg, 3-1 on aggregate.

Ajax v. Legia Warsaw: Why is it that I almost always see Ajax dumped into the Europa League after the group stages? In this case, they were absolutely wrecked, only taking 5 points from six matches, and 10 points behind group leaders Barcelona. Legia, on the other hand, have been on a hot streak, taking 15 points from 6 matches, losing only one. Hell, they even won a match in Turkey (which is actually impressive, considering how hostile Turkish fans are). Taking nothing away from Ajax, a very strong club with an even stronger history, but momentum is on the side of the Polish champions here.

Prediction: Legia Warsaw def. Ajax, 3-0 on aggregate.

Aalborg BK v. Club Brugge: In terms of talent, there isn’t much to differentiate these two sides, except for that Club Brugge plays in a stronger league than Aalborg. The thing is this: Club Brugge topped a relatively mediocre group, where the only real competition was Italian side Torino. Aalborg finished second in their group, but theirs was a group containing Portuguese Cup runners-up Rio Ave, Champions League regulars Steaua Bucuresti, and Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kyiv. And get this: Aalborg actually handed Dynamo Kyiv their only loss thus far in the competition. We give this one to the Danish champions.

Prediction: Aalborg BK def. Club Brugge, 4-1 on aggregate.

Dynamo Moskva v. Anderlecht: Dynamo Moskva doesn’t score often, but when they do, know that they’ll probably win. Despite having scored only 9 goals in the competition so far, Dynamo Moskva was the only team in the Europa League to win all six group matches. Their strong defense and frightening counterattack is something to be feared. Anderlecht, on the other hand, managed to beat out Galatasaray for the Europa League berth from their Champions League group, being too far behind Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal to even hope to qualify for the UCL Round of 16. Anderlecht seems to have that annoying habit of tying every single away game they’ve had in the Champions League thus far. However, their inconsistency will cost them against the no-nonsense, defensively driven style of Dynamo Moskva.

Dynamo Moskva def. Anderlecht, 3-2 on aggregate.

Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk v. Olympiakos: In what was supposed to be an easy group for Dnipro, they ended up struggling and barely making it into the knockout phase. Put simply, if they had not scored their (very) lucky goal against St-Etienne, they wouldn’t be part of this conversation right now. Meanwhile, in a UCL group containing Swedish champions Malmo FF, Italian champions Juventus, and Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, the Greek champions acquitted themselves well, finishing only a point behind Juventus and handing Atletico their only loss thus far in the competition. This isn’t going to end well for the Ukrainian club.

Prediction: Olympiakos def. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, 5-1 on aggregate.

Trabzonspor v. Napoli: There really isn’t much to say. Trabzonspor is strong at home. Napoli won a group that was more difficult than that of Trabzonspor. Napoli is also in a more competitive domestic league. It’ll be a good matchup, but the winner is clear.

Prediction: Napoli def. Trabzonspor, 4-2 on aggregate.

Guingamp v. Dynamo Kyiv: Really, people? Really? Should there even be discussion here?

Prediction: Dynamo Kyiv def. Guingamp, 6-1 on aggregate.

Villarreal v. Red Bull Salzburg: Villarreal has a very strong team, especially in midfield (two words: dos Santos). With a strong young squad, they have pushed hard against many teams that they have played. In the case of Red Bull Salzburg, I just have one word for you: Goals. RB Salzburg, with a strike team headed by Jonatan Soriano (who should be called up to the Spanish national team) and Alan (who should be called up to Brazil; hell, anyone would have been better than Fred), set a Europa League record by scoring 21 goals in the group stage. We believe Villarreal will put up an amazing effort as they always do, but the strike power of Salzburg will the end the Yellow Submarine’s European adventure.

Prediction: Red Bull Salzburg def. Villarreal, 5-4 on aggregate.

Roma v. Feyenoord: Don’t get me wrong, Feyenoord is good. It’s just… Roma’s a heck of a lot better.

Prediction: Roma def. Feyenoord, 4-1 on aggregate.

PSV Eindhoven v. Zenit St. Petersburg: Yeah… PSV? You have the same problem as Feyenoord. You’re good. It’s just that your opposition is so much better than you.

Prediction: Zenit St. Petersburg def. PSV Eindhoven, 5-0 on aggregate.

Liverpool v. Besiktas: Liverpool is a very solid team with a strong European pedigree. However, they’re in a major slump of form right now. Besiktas, on the other hand, is on top of the Turkish Super Lig, and topped their Europa League group. Momentum is on the side of the Turks. Also, if you don’t think Liverpool will lose, I have two words for you: Demba Ba.

Prediction: Besiktas def. Liverpool, 2-1 on aggregate.

Tottenham Hotspur v. Fiorentina: This matchup comes down to depth of squad. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Spurs actually win out on this one. The teams are relatively even when it comes to starting XI, with Tottenham having a slight edge. However, when you look at the bench, you see a far stronger Spurs side. Expect the final twenty minutes of each leg, and the impressive goal scoring ability of the likes of Kane, Lamela, and Soldado, to be the downfall of the Viola here.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur def. Fiorentina, 3-2 on aggregate (a.e.t).

Celtic vs. Internazionale: OK. Inter might have had a thinning of the herd (translation: Zanetti retired and Cambiasso left), but they are still the team they once were. Which is good, meaning they have pedigree and a team that works well with each other. It’s also bad, seeing as they’ve kept essentially the same style always since Jose Mourinho left. However, with new manager Roberto Mancini, and probably one of the best back lines in the Serie A (Vidic and Handanovic. Need I say more?), along with a solid midfield, Inter look to be contenders this season. Meanwhile, Celtic has suffered a loss of form since losing manager Lennon, coupled with a sort of exodus of top players to the Premier League. Despite still being one of the top teams in Scotland, don’t expect them to compete with Inter here.

Prediction: Inter def. Celtic, 2-0 on aggregate.

Have a different opinion? Leave a comment!

2014-15 Champions League Playoff Round Predictions

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Hey everyone. You’ve seen our predictions for the Europa League playoff round. Now it’s time for the big one: the Champions League playoff round. Here, it’s decided who goes on the biggest stage in Europe, and who gets shunted to the secondary league in Europe. We got together and made our predictions for the ten matchups of this playoff.

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Houston 0-2 Seattle Match Report

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Daniel:

After Brad Davis failed to convert a penalty in the first half, Houston was never able to capitalize on offense and Tally Hall’s performance was again not a good one.

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MLS Expansion

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Scot here with my thoughts on where MLS will expand.  For those who don’t know, Don Garber has announced that by 2020, MLS will be at 24 teams.  Some think this is the permanent end to expansion, thought the prevailing opinion is that MLS will simply pause for breath at 24 before continuing.  Currently, franchises 20 and 21 in New York City FC and Orlando City SC are slated to join next season.  Atlanta has also been guaranteed a spot in 2017.  Beckham has an option to get an expansion team at a serious discount and has been scoping out options in Miami to limited success.  That leaves one spot totally unspoken for and Beckham’s option still somewhat up in the air.  Without further ado then, let’s dive into potential expansion candidates.

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