Barstool’s Champions League (y Dos a Cero) Preview
Sam’s Champions League (y Dos a Cero) Preview
January, March and October get a lot of love for being big sporting months (thanks to football, basketball and baseball, respectively), but I sometimes feel like April gets overlooked a bit. Champions League quarterfinals, USA vs Mexico and Blackhawks playoff hockey all in a 24-hour span this week? Be still my heart.
I’ll leave the Hawks discussion to my boy Chief, but as Barstool’s officially designated resident expert on Euro-hipster/wussy sports, it is my responsibility to get your mind right for this week’s soccer action so let’s get to it.
We have reached the quarterfinal stage of this year’s Champions League, or as I like to call it: nap time for the EPL.
The final eight clubs will be cut down to four over the next two weeks, with the first leg matchups looking like this:
Atletico Madrid (+185)
Real Madrid (+150)
Quick: how many of the six Madrid dærbies played this season (two in the league, two in Super Cup and two in Copa del Rey) have Los Blancos won? Answer: None.
I’m not good at math but zero wins in six games is bad (even for one of KFC’s teams) and it includes a 4-0 ass-whupping Real endured when last these two faced off in February. Saying the club is out of sorts is an overstatement considering they are only two points behind Barcelona in La Liga with seven games still to play. But there are – or at least had been – some cracks emerging in what once looked like an impenetrable edifice as Real is coming off an embarrassing showing in the last round of the Champions League when they managed to barely sneak through against Schalke, and there is the small problem that literally everybody in Spain suddenly loathes Gareth Bale.
Unfortunately for Atelti, the club is not in fantastic form itself at the moment as it comes off a 2-2 draw against Malaga after which coach Diego Simeone all but admitted that fending off clubs like Sevilla and Valencia and holding on to its third place finish was a more realistic goal this season than attempting to catch Real and/or Barça to defend its title.
So who will take tomorrow’s matchup? I can’t get over the fact that Real has been lights out over the past few weeks, winning its last three by a combined score of 14-1 (albeit against marginal opposition), and will benefit from the return of players like Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and James – all of whom were out when the club got spanked by Atleti last time out.. Gimme the “Madridistas” in this one. I am going with Real Madrid to win 3-1.
AS Monaco (+750)
Keep in mind that I don’t watch the non-EPL European league games as religiously or zealously as I do with EPL, and while I try to stay abreast of what is going on in the other leagues, I always feel a little less confident with my picks outside of England. With that as an important caveat, I really like the value that Monaco offers in this game. The club has shown it can go on the road and pick up a result against very good teams (just ask Arsenal), and Juventus is coming off an embarrassing 1-0 loss against Parma – yes, the club that is so broke it has been paying its players in spaghetti sauce for much of this season.
Is Juventus likely the better team? Yes, but so was Arsenal (probably), so as far as value goes you probably won’t find anything more enticing than the Frenchies in this puppy. Gimme Monaco to win 2-1.
PSG is more stacked than a lot of people seem to realize, and came up with one of the more impressive wins I’ve seen anywhere in Europe all season when they came back from a deficit on the road AND down a Zlatan to overcome Chelsea in the Round of 16 second leg. Based on that I might actually consider giving them the benefit of the doubt and saying the Parisians somehow manage to snag a draw or even a win… buttttttttttttttt the club is going to be without the services of Zlatan, Marco Veratti, Thiago Motta and David Luiz, so suffice to say that hanging with Barça – which was never going to be easy – suddenly looks damn near impossible. I think they’ll keep it closer than some might think, but still expect Barça to win 2-1.
Bayern Munich (-130)
Two things about the Portuguese side: (1) they are better than people give them credit for, but (2) they have enjoyed a comparatively simple path through the Champions League so far. In fact, their list of opponents in the tournament this season include Lille, BATE, Shakhtar, Athletic and Basel, which is the type of “kind scheduling” usually reserved for the Real Madrids and Manchester Uniteds of the world.
As for Wednesday, this game has “cagey affair” written allllllll over it. Among the words I would use to describe someone comparing Bayern’s team sheet to Hope Solo from The Fappening are “rude” and “crude” – not among those words would be “incorrect” though as the list of injuries includes Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery, while Philipp Lahm and Thiago Alcantara look likely to play but are unlikely to be anywhere near 100% fit. Porto, on the other hand, will miss winger Cristian Tello and striker Jackson Martinez, meaning any offensive production will have to come from Yacine Brahimi, Vincent Aboubakar and perhaps – gulp – Ricardo Queresma (yes, he of Inter Milan infamy).
One interesting stat that a lot of gamblers will not doubt hang their hat on: during this season’s UCL, Porto drew with Shaktar twice (2-2 away and 1-1 in Portugal) while Bayern drew 0-0 away before doing what Rick Reilly would no doubt describe as a blitzkrieg all over the Ukrainian club’s face in their last match, eventually settling for a 7-0 win. An important mitigating factor to Bayern’s relatively annihilation of their common opponent was the fastest red card in competition history (3rd minute) shown to Shakhtar’s captain and central defender.
Yes, Bayern’s B-squad would probably make the knockout stage of the World Cup, but I still think Porto is going to give them trouble at home this week, particularly if (as seems likely) Pep tells the German team to play more to contain the Portuguese side and take a close score back to the Allianz where Bayern will hope to run rampant. As with Monaco, I’m going with the value play on this one. A draw would perhaps be the smart move, but no guts no glory. Gimme Porto to win 1-0.
USA vs MEXICO
Whoooooo’s ready for an incredibly important/unimportant friendly for all/none of the marbles! Cause that’s what we get with Wednesday evening’s game against El Tri at The Alamo. (Subtle irony!)
Klinamann’s 22-man roster for the game is heavily slanted towards North American-based players, which makes sense since this is not an officially sanctioned “international data”, so the only players making the trek over from Europe for the game are Hamburg’s Julian Green and my baby boo DeAndre Yedlin.
The main things to watch for will be:
- Who does JK play up top, and can they actually manage to look dangerous here and there?
With Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey not making the trip, our attack will be seen as something of makeshift, though in truth it should be an incredibly useful game for seeing whether Agudelo or Zardes can differentiate himself from the other contenders. What’s more, America hasn’t had a chance to see much of this Jordan Morris kid that Klinsmann is so in love with, so it would be nice to see something out of him at some point. Oh, and Wondo. Always Wondo.
- Yet another chapter in the Brek Shea experiment. Yay.
I soured on Shea a while back because he never blossomed into the player I always thought he was going to be after watching him play coming up. He’s got a lot of physical tools but his decision making has always been questions, plus he’s never really grabbed a position and made it his. JK is now trying him in defense, which gives me nightmares just thinking about, but to Shea’s credit his free kick against Switzerland did elicit this face from every single fan watching:
It will take a HELL of a lot more than that for me to consider him anything more than a stopgap, but his ability to avoid mental lapses, not give the ball away cheaply and actually use his speed to run at defenders are worth watching out for.
- Has JK weaned himself off his Rimando addiction?
It’s not that I don’t like Nick Rimando. He’s been a good soldier. However, he is 35 years old, meaning five years older than our heir apparent in Brad Guzan, and old dogs/goalkeepers don’t suddenly become a lot better. So why is Klinsmann refusing to give more time in net to guys like Bill Hamid or William Yarbrough?
To be fair, Mexico will be fielding a less-than-best-XI squad as well, but with important tournaments like the Gold Cup (and Copa America for El Tri) coming up, the importance of this game for fringe players of both teams can’t be overstated, which is actually a great thing for fans.
My prediction? Shame on you for even asking. 2-0 win for USA – por supuesto.
So there we have it. Full rundown of this week’s Champions League quarterfinals and preview of the all-(un)important yet incredibly not (un)important USA vs Mexico friendly on Wednesday evening. Check y’all on Friday.
Samuel C. Army