Friday, August 6, 2010

Champions League Draw Preview: The Big Guns Enter


At 12:00 CET on Friday 6 August 2010 the draw for the play-off round of the Champions League 2010-11 will take place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The results will be given as they happen on this article.

As per Michel Platini's overhauls since taking over as FIFA chief, there are two routes to this play-off draw. Ten teams will enter the Champions route, which will see two seeded pots drawn to face each other, with the five winners each taking a place in the group stage.

Then there are ten teams, mainly from larger nations, in the Non-Champions route, who must undergo the same test.

These teams will join twenty-two other clubs in the Champions League group stage, which is to begin on the 14 September, following the draw on August 26.

But what have we to look forward to?

Unsung Heroes

For the Champions, it's a chance for lesser-represented countries to make their mark on the European stage. Debrecen and APOEL found themselves in the group stage last year, and players around modest clubs such as Zilina are hoping for the same.

Meanwhile the lowest-ranked team left, Sheriff Tiraspol, are hoping to bring Champions League football to the Moldovan league for the first time. In their impressively modern Sheriff stadium this wealthy club has aspirations beyond their locality, but first must face the likes of Anderlecht or Hapoel Tel-Aviv.

Meanwhile Sparta Prague just squeeze into the seeding section, but could still face a tough test: on-form RB Salzburg and Norwegian giants Rosenborg are both seasoned European competitors. Basel, meanwhile, are top dogs, while Partizan Belgrade enter in the non-seeded stage.

Tough Test For Big Dogs

Stat Shot

Champions League
Teams Remaining:
Round 1Q: 76
Round 2Q: 74
Round 3Q: 57
Playoff: 42 Then there's the non-champions route, which many would argue is actually stronger. Sevilla are recent European heavyweights; Werder Bremen need no introduction; Tottenham Hotspur come from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League; Zenit are Europa League winners; and Ajax won this contest just over a decade ago.

And that's just the seeded teams! In the other pot are Dynamo Kyiv, an Eastern force, while Sporting Braga shocked all in Portugal to finish second and earn their spot at Europe's top table. Sampdoria ousted the likes of Juventus to end up fourth in Italy, while France's Auxerre and the Young Boys of Bern both have quality midfields.

It's hard to say whom the seeded teams would most like to avoid. Sampdoria, led in attack by the unmistakable Antonio Cassano, are decent contenders for that title, but it's fair to say that they do not have quite the same sheen that they did at certain points last season. Braga, while vanquishing Celtic to arrive at this stage, similarly lack continental pedigree. Dynamo Kiev cannot rightly any longer be called a trip into the unknown - they are very much renowned and their players well-studied - but that's a title that could go to Young Boys. Meanwhile Auxerre have been largely out of European contention for some time but have stormed back from recent poor seasons to become a French force.

For those unlucky teams in the unseeded pot, there's scarcely an appealing tie in the lot. Ajax, far from their glory days, are maybe the easiest side - not just as far as seedings go, but also because their recent continental adventures have ended in disaster. Nonetheless they have quality throughout the side - needless to say, so do the other four.

It's set to be quite a draw, and you can follow it all here...


Champions Route (PRE-DRAW)

Teams will be drawn from the left pot and right pot against each other at 12:00 CET.

Seeded Unseeded
FC Basel Rosenborg
Anderlecht RS Salzburg
FC Copenhagen Partizan Belgrade
Hapoel Tel Aviv
Zilina Sparta Prague
Sheriff Tiraspol

Non-Champions Route (PRE-DRAW)

Teams will be drawn from the left pot and right pot against each other at 12:00 CET.

Seeded Unseeded
Sevilla Dynamo Kyiv
Werder Bremen Sporting Braga
Zenit St. Petersburg Sampdoria
Tottenham Hotspur Auxerre
Ajax Young Boys


One team from each of the two-legged ties will progress, meaning five from each path and ten in total. Ties will be played on 17-18 and 24-25 August 2010.

These ten teams will then be drawn as part of a seeded group stage, comprising eight pools of four, along with the following clubs:

Inter Valencia Lyon CFR Cluj
Chelsea Roma Rubin Kazan Benfica
Man Utd
AC Milan Spartak Moscow Bursaspor
Arsenal Bayern Munich Shakhtar Donetsk Panathinaikos
Barcelona Schalke Twente Rangers
Real Madrid Marseille

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mourinho = " The Special One "


Mourinho proved it again! He can now leave Inter Milan with head high as he earned his carrier second CHAMPIONS LEAGUE with a competent squad. There has been numerous speculations about the former Chelsea coach being called " The Special One" . Many complained about his defensive mind set and tactical approach to game instead of the free flow of football. But the players whom he coached loved it actually. Thats what evident from the emotions shown earlier by Chelsea players and now Inter ones when "Mou" says good bye to Italy conquering all that he can in Italy.

Mourinho's Inter was been in the best of their forms last two years and they have conquered almost everything. And now that the Champions League is also in their bag , Mou is left with nothing to look at. So he is flying high to conquere another domain - The Spanish League , that too with the most prestigious post " COACH OF REAL MADRID" .

Mou won Champions League with his PORTO side years back and then EPL three times with his Chelsea men and now Seria A twice and Champions League with Inter. His acheivements so far justifies why all call him as " The Special One" . No doubt , he is the best tactician in the football world now.

Now that he announced his good bye to Milan and set to join Real Madrid , we will wait and watch how he is going to pull the triggers against the mighty Barca next season.



Bayern Munich 0-2 Inter

Inter have been crowned champions of Europe after they emerged victorious against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Diego Milito scored twice either side of half time.

The Nerazzurri started on the front foot, trying to take the game to the Germans, but the danger of FCB was evident when Arjen Robben led a counter-attack in the third minute and was quickly brought down by Walter Samuel.

The Argentine then had to make an excellent defensive header to keep Ivica Olic from heading in from close range, before the Italians went on the counter-attack but Wesley Sneijder's through ball crept away from Goran Pandev.

Bayern looked the more comfortable team in possession, biding their time as they looked for an opening. After 10 minutes, Robben was again the instigator of an attack as he took the ball past Cristian Chivu and Walter Samuel before cutting the ball back for Olic, but he couldn't get a shot on target from close range.

Robben was at the centre of most of the early action, and it was the Dutchman's cross on 15 minutes that led to the first major penalty appeal of the evening. Maicon's arm appeared to beat the ball into the box away, but Howard Webb ignored FC Hollywood's protests.

Sneijder brought a good save from Hans-Jorg Butt with a long-range free kick moments later, before Esteban Cambiasso's close-range volley was blocked. The tempo of the game dropped as both teams adopted a more patient approach, but Robben was impatient midway through the half as he snatched at his shot as the ball broke to him on the edge of the box.

With 35 minutes gone, the deadlock was broken emphatically. Julio Cesar's long ball was flicked on to Sneijder by Milito, and the Dutchman played it back to the Argentine who raced into the penalty area, held off two players and clipped the ball over Butt into the roof of the net.

Just before the break, the duo combined again when Sneijder fed Milito as Inter counter-attacked at pace. The striker drew Martin Demichelis towards him before picking out his team-mate in the penalty area with a perfect pass, but Sneijder's shot was straight at Butt.

Bayern should have equalised only seconds after the restart as the Nerazzurri's defence fell apart. Altintop squared a great ball across the box for Thomas Mueller to shoot from 12 yards but Julio Cesar made a good save to parry the ball out.

Barely a minute later, Milito cut the ball back for Pandev to shoot from just inside the penalty area but Butt made a superb save as he flew to his left to tip the ball over the crossbar.

The second half had started in electric fashion; Bastian Schweinsteiger found himself in space 25 yards from goal but chose to pass instead of shoot before Sneijder curled a free kick over the bar from 20 yards. Altintop pulled a shot wide following an error by Lucio in the 54th minute as FC Hollywood tried to get back on level terms as soon as possible.

Little was happening for them in the final third though as they wasted a number of corner kicks, with the pressure of the situation beginning to show. Inter had every man behind the ball when the Germans attacked, forcing them to try and play the perfect pass to open them up.

Bayern had another set piece opportunity when Robben was brought down on the hour mark by a combination of Chivu and Pandev on the edge of the box. The Dutchman's shot was blocked by the cluster of players in the six yard box, and Mueller's follow-up shot also failed to reach Julio Cesar as Cambiasso headed the scuffed effort away.

The Brazilian had to make a save five minutes later though when Robben curled a shot from 20 yards towards the top corner, only to see the keeper tip the ball away magnificently. Daniel van Buyten then showed equally proficient defensive prowess as he stretched his leg to its limit to hook Sneijder's clipped ball away from the onrushing Milito in the penalty area.

Van Buyten could do nothing in the 70th minute, however, as Inter doubled the lead. Eto'o picked out Milito 30 yards from goal, and the Argentine jinked past the defender before opening his body and curling his shot past Butt into the far corner.

Time was rapidly ticking away from van Gaal's side as they struggled to break down the Beneamata's resilient backline. Lucio and Samuel were confidently dealing with the balls into the box, while Zanetti was more capable of dealing with Robben than Chivu after he was moved to left back.

Bayern piled forward in the last 10 minutes in an attempt to salvage something from the final, and in the 82nd minute Schweinsteiger won a free kick 25 yards out in a central position. Robben stepped up to take it, but it was straight into the wall and Inter were able to reorganise.

As the final whistle neared, Mueller tried to take matters into his own hands and clipped a neat ball over the top for Miroslav Klose to head towards goal but it just evaded the substitute and bobbled out for a goal kick.

The referee signalled for three minutes of added time, halfway through which Milito was replaced to a standing ovation from the travelling Inter fans. His brace made the difference on club football's biggest stage, and the final whistle marked the start of a long night of celebrations for the Nerazzurri.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inter Milan 3-1 Barcelona Highlights


Inter 3-1 Barcelona: The Nerazzurri Storm Back To Stun Holders


Inter came from a goal behind to record a famous victory over European Champions Barcelona at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, as the Italian giants move into pole position to reach the Champions League final.

Pedro had given the Blaugrana an early lead, but the Nerazzurri roared back thanks to goals from Wesley Sneijder, full-back Maicon and Diego Milito, and it is advantage Jose Mourinho heading into the second leg next week.

The pre-match team news saw Pep Guardiola offer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a return to his former stomping ground for the second time this season, after proving his fitness, and the Swede partnered Lionel Messi and Pedro in attack.

Jose Mourinho, meanwhile also employed an offensive formation, with Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o offered capable support by the roving Wesley Sneijder.

The atmosphere crackled from kick-off, and was befitting of the occasion. The Giuseppe Meazza positively rocked, but the home support was left frustrated by a pair of debatable calls in the opening ten minutes.

Firstly, the wily Milito looked to have timed his run perfectly to spring Barcelona’s offside trap, but the assistant referee’s eventual flag for offside was met by a chorus of disdain from the Nerrazzuri faithful. Moments later, they were up in arms once more, as Eto’o looked to have legitimately robbed Maxwell of possession, and he was shown an early booking for kicking the ball away in disgust as play was halted.

Then, we had the first sight of goal of the contest. Samuel Eto’o picked up the ball on the edge of the area, and his curling effort could only be beaten away by Victor Valdes. However, Milito on the follow up slammed his effort straight across goal.

But for their vibrant start, you just cant afford this Barcelona team chances, and the reigning champions hit a hammer blow on the 19th minute.

Maxwell, a former Inter player, was allowed to roam freely to the by-line almost unchallenged, and his cutback landed perfectly at the feet of Pedro, who coolly slotted home from 15 yards.

It was the young winger’s 20th strike of a hugely fruitful campaign, and even this early in the tie, Inter faced a monumental task. They had failed to score against the Blaugrana in the last four meetings, and now they would be forced to chase the game.

However, to the credit of Mourinho’s side, they were undeterred from their game plan. Milito should have perhaps looked to pick out Eto’o but instead curled wide of the post from the corner of the six-yard area.

Moments later, though, The Argentine showed inspired awareness to divert Eto’o’s low cross into the path of Sneijder, who beat Valdes calmly from just inside the area, and the match was level on the half-hour mark.

It was a frenetic opening 45 minutes, in contrast to the closely-fought tactical tussle many had foreseen, but Guardiola’s side sought to slow down the contest as the interval approached. The Catalan side enjoyed a spell of possession, with Xavi at the heart, probing and searching for the slightest gap, but Inter stayed resolute.

At the beginning of the second half, Inter immediately appeared to press further up the pitch in an attempt to allow Barcelona less time to control the pace of the game, and Mourinho watched in satisfaction as his team turned the match on its head.

Milito again peeled away from Pique to pull out wide, and provide the pass into the feet of Maicon. The Brazilian still had plenty of work to do, but his control and volleyed finish was perfect, and he nestled his effort into the corner.

Inter were most definitely in the ascendency, and Barcelona, uncharacteristically, appeared shaken.

However, there was almost an instant response, as the incessant tempo of the match continued unabated. Firstly, Messi stung the gloves of Julio Cesar with a long range shot, then Sergio Busquets somehow headed straight at the Brazilian number one from just six yards out.

But Inter were hugely impressive throughout the contest, and their comeback from going behind so early on was complete when Diego Milito added a deserved third.

Thiago Motta started another Inter counter-attack from deep in his own half, picking out Samuel Eto’o on the wing. His cross found Sneijder arriving late, but while his effort looked to be heading off target, Milito was in the right place to simply nod into the net past the exposed Valdes.

It was 3-1 – Barcelona’s players looked around in disbelief; it was the first time this season they have conceded more than twice in a single match.

Guradiola’s response was to remove the utterly ineffective Ibrahimovic, who barely touched the ball during the entire match, and bring on Eric Abidal and reshuffle his side.

Barcelona were the dominant force in the closing stages, knowing that another away goal would swing the pendulum back in their favour. Gerard Pique camped in the Nerazzuri penalty area, causing havoc, and on a number of occasions almost found the killer touch to net a vital consolation.

Then, controversy. Daniel Alves stumbled under the challenge of Wesley Sneijder, and it appeared to be a cast-iron penalty kick. However, the referee booked Alves for simulation, to the disbelief of the Brazilian.

Barcelona continued to attack, throwing forward wave after wave, but the damage had already been inflicted, and in the end it was a famous night for Inter and their coach Jose Mourinho.

However, this tie is far from over yet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who is it gonna be Mourinho or Guardiola ?


As Inter Milan and Barcelona meets each other on 20 th April at Camp Nou for first leg of Champions League semi finals , all eyes will be on two charismatic managers of the season Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Guardiola have been leading the invincible Barcelona squad last two seasons with alot of glory. While Mourinho who joined Inter last season is gleaming with confidence as his side defeated his previous club Chelsea in the pre quarters and CSKA Moskov in the quarter finals.

                                              The Barcelona side has a mental edge as they are coming after a 2-0 comprehensive victory against Real Madrid in the El Classico meet and also thrashing Arsenal for 4-1 in the second leg of quarter finals. With Messi and Xavi at the best of their form , Pep Guardiola expects his side to secure its place in finals or the consecutive second time.

                                                               But the task won't be that easy as Barcelona has to face "The Special One's " Inter Milan. Mourinho has been famous for his tactical brilliance and grace that he transfers to his team. But the recent failures in Serie A could make some amount of tension in the Italian Squad. Mou is very much confident about his side and he beleives the former Barcelona man Eto is going to be the key. Also the in form Snjider can pose a great threat to Barcelona defence.

                                                                    Who ever wins , it is going to be a great football match we are going to watch on April 20th. Lets see who over takes whom.

Key Players :
Barcelona :
        * Messi
        * Xavi

Inter Milan
         * Eto
        * Snjider

United buckle under Bayern strain


Manchester United 3-2 Bayern Munich

FC Bayern München fought back from three goals down on the night to oust Manchester United FC from the UEFA Champions League on away goals.

On a pulsating evening, United stormed into a three-goal lead through Darron Gibson and a Nani double. Yet Ivica Olić's goal just before the break raised Bayern hopes and after Rafael's 50th-minute dismissal, the Bundesliga leaders capitalised on the extra man thanks to a stunning Arjen Robben volley 16 minutes from time.

It was a repeat of the Dutchman's decisive goal in the identical away-goals win against ACF Fiorentina in the last 16 and means Bayern can look forward to their first semi-final since 2001, the year of their last European crown when they also beat United at this stage.

The home fans had a lift before kick-off with the news that Wayne Rooney would be starting, just days after Sir Alex Ferguson had said he faced "two to three weeks" out with the ankle injury sustained in the first leg.

United then made a dream start with a third-minute goal involving two other surprise names on the team sheet. Rafael, in for Gary Neville, dispossessed Franck Ribéry and played the ball to Rooney, who laid it on to Gibson. The Northern Irishman, making only his second start of 2010, side-footed a low shot inside the near post from the edge of the box for his first UEFA Champions League goal.

By the seventh minute United were two up. Antonio Valencia teased Holger Badstuber out on the right before driving in a low cross that Nani, ghosting beyond the Bayern back line, turned in with a cute flick of his heel. Michael Carrick, with a shot, and Rooney, a header, then went close with Bayern struggling to live with the pace of United's play, even with Rooney now hobbling. They duly made it 3-0 as Valencia broke down the right and crossed for Nani to drive the ball high into the net.

Two minutes later, however, Bayern pulled a goal back through Olić, their first-leg matchwinner. Latching onto Thomas Müller's flicked header, the Croatian shrugged aside Michael Carrick and beat Edwin van der Sar from a tight angle. Louis van Gaal sent on Mario Gómez for Müller at the interval and within minutes Bayern found themselves with a man advantage when Rafael collected a second yellow for pulling back Ribéry.

With Rooney making way for John O'Shea, Bayern pressed for a second and Van der Sar punched clear a Ribéry drive just before the hour before Gómez skimmed the crossbar with a header. It was not all one-way traffic, not with United's counterattacking threat – twice Butt saved well from Nani, while Carrick and Gibson spurned half-chances.

With 16 minutes remaining, though, Robben broke United's resistance by levelling the aggregate scores at 4-4. Ribéry's corner found him on the edge of the box and the Dutchman drove the ball on the volley across a helpless Van der Sar and into the far corner. For United, the dream of a third successive final was over.

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