Champions League Recap, Messi and Ronaldo Need to Chill (Mane is Good Too) – Europa League Predictions

Ronaldo’s aerial ability, leadership, and sheer athleticism dominated his forever rival Atletico Madrid. Juventus were down 2-0 after the first leg, but a Ronaldo hat-trick erased that deficit.

I mean what more can be said about this man. Juventus signed him to win these games and he does more than enough for the team. Szczęsny and Bernardeschi were amazing as well, but Juventus doesn’t move on without Ronaldo. I’m on team Messi in this great debate, but Jesus, Ronaldo makes it hard to hate him with performances like this. Diego Simeone’s “showing” of his team’s big balls was awesome in the first leg, but Ronaldo got the last laugh.

Man City beat Schalke 9-2 on aggregate. Pep has nothing but respect for Ronaldo and knows that he has to go through him or an equally amazing person to get his first Champions League title with Manchester City….

That equally amazing person… Lio Messi. Barcelona did not score in the away leg at Lyon. They scored at the Camp Nou though and won 5-1 on aggregate. Messi didn’t get a hat-trick like Ronaldo.. he only had 2 goals and 2 assists.

I honestly just feel blessed that I get to watch these two in their prime. I was too young to watch Michael Jordan in his prime and got stuck with this Lebron guy, but Messi and Ronaldo show GOATness every time they get on the pitch.

Bayern tied Liverpool 0-0 in Liverpool in the first leg, but that clean sheet was not enough for Bayern as they lost 3-1 at home in the second leg. Messi and Ronaldo are the two best players in the World, but Mane is 3rd in my opinion. Step aside Salah, Hazard, Modric, Kane, Lewandowski, De Gea, and whoever else.

Mane’s first touch on his first goal is simply sublime. He is the best in the world at the first time touch that goes backwards a few yards. Every time he does it, it seems so calculated. Klopp is my favorite manager right now. He won me over when he first joined Liverpool with this interview.

Little did I know he would take this Liverpool team to greatness. Salah, Mane, van Dijk, Alisson, Henderson, and many others are playing at their best under Klopp. There are some great managers left in the Champions league and he is certainly one of the best of this elite group. Manuel Neuer seemed to be playing as a centre-back for most of the game. Not wise against Liverpool’s fantastic forwards.

I doubt Europa can surpass what we saw in Champions league over the past few days simply because this competition lacks Messi, Ronaldo, and Mane; however, with 8 teams getting knocked out of Europe today, drama will happen.

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“I’m blowing ganja, so much work they call me old school, I remind ya” It’s always a winning day when new Schoolboy Q comes out.

Rennes +2 at -144 for 8 units. Arsenal will be without Bellerin, Holding, and Sokratis in this game. That means Mustafi will start. That is a plus for Rennes. Rennes won the first leg 3-1. Rennes were not supposed to beat Real Betis and they definitely are not supposed to beat Arsenal, but Rennes don’t care bout that. The French side backed their first leg victory with a 3-1 result against Caen over the weekend. Rennes have scored in 13 of their past 14 away games. Benjamin Bourigeaud has scored in each of his last 3 games for Rennes. Sarr, Ben Arfa, and Grenier each have more goals in this competition than any player on the Gunners. Arsenal have to win by 2 or more, but they won’t get it done. Arsenal gets knocked out of Europe today.

Sevilla at +103 for 6 units. Slavia Prague tied the first leg in Sevilla 2-2. Prague have not lost at home since August. The absinthe and pub crawls in that city are wild, so I can only imagine how crazy Prague will be with 3-time-Europa-League-Champs-Sevilla coming to town. Sevilla are not as strong on the road, but they have 40 goals in 15 European games this season. Ben Yedder, Sarabia, Jesus Navas, and Promes all played great over the weekend in Sevilla’s 5-2 victory over Real Sociedad. The Spanish club seemed to have figured out their final third product that was lacking, even with the 2 goals, in the first leg. Taking the better team at plus money here.

Frankfurt +0 at +136 for 4 units. Frankfurt average over 2 goals in away European matches this season. Ivan Perisic has never lost to Frankfurt and they were the last team he scored against before leaving the Bundesliga. Sorry Perisic, but I think that run ends today. Icardi, Miranda, and Nainggolan are all less than 100% for Inter even if they play. Asamoah and Martinez are out due to card suspensions for Inter. Jovic, Haller, and Gacinovic of Frankfurt are too much offense for Inter to handle in this one.

Arsenal/Rennes over 3 at -142 for 3 units. Arsenal have to beat Rennes by more than two and are missing 3 defenders. This game will see goals.

Valencia +0 at -149 for 2 units. Valencia are scoring more than they are drawing lately, which is saying a lot because they seem to love ties more than Ronaldo loves scoring hat-tricks in the Champions League… That’s how you make an article come full-circle ladies and gentlemen.

 

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Sunday Soccer – Manchester United at Arsenal and Leverkusen at Hannover

Battle for 4th place takes place in the Premier League today with 4th place United against 5th place Arsenal. Also, 6th place Chelsea plays 7th place Wolves. Tottenham’s loss to Southampton opens the door for a different top 4 than the beginning of the year foretold. Arsenal are undefeated in home league games this calendar year. United has 9 away wins in a row under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. He hasn’t lost on the road since being appointed manager. United are missing Mata and “Arsenal Killer” Lingard. Holding and Bellerin are still out for the Gunners. Holding’s reading of the game and Bellerin’s pace could be missed in this one against Lukaku, Pogba, and Rashford. My lean is towards Man U.

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Bayern Leverkusen -1 at -166 for 10 units. Hannover might be the most injured team in European football. Hannover have given up 11 goals over their past 3 games. Leverkusen missed a penalty and couldn’t take advantage of Felipe’s 57th minute red card in their 2-2 draw at home against Hannover earlier this season. Bellarabi scored in the 94th minute to secure that draw for Leverkusen. Julian Brandt is in great form and is scoring, as well as creating lately. The Over/under is set at 3.5. This game will have goals. Leverkusen have the better defense and better attacking options. This one could get ugly for Hannover’s goalkeeper Michael Esser.

Saturday Soccer

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Leicester City at -172 for 10 units. Fulham have secured only 2 points on the road all season. Tielemans has been a great addition so far for Leicester. He has an assist in their last two games from the midfield. Fulham give up over 2 goals a match. Leicester haven’t lost a match this year that David Coote has refereed (1 win and 1 draw). Vardy will score if he starts, but if Grey starts he will score. Like this spot.

Espanyol at Athletic Bilbao and Schalke at Werder Bremen Previews

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Athletic Bilbao at -152 for 3 units. Borja Iglesias has been one of the few bright spots this season for Espanyol, but he is out on yellow card suspension in this one. Sergi Darder, one of Espanyol’s better midfielders is also out on yellow card suspension. Espanyol are tied with Eibar as the worst away teams in the league (8 points gained on road games this season). Raul Garcia, Inaki Williams, and Iker Muniain have all been solid this season for Bilbao. Garcia has scored their last 3 goals. Espanyol suck on the road and are missing multiple key players. Line should be closer to -230 IMO.

Bilbao/Espanyol over 2 at -142 for 3 units. 11 of Espanyol’s past 12 games in all competitions have pushed or gone over this number. The one that didn’t go over, was a nil-nil game against Valencia. Valencia barely score a goal a game and have 15 draws in La Liga this season, so that is an outlier. Bilbao score at least 2 by themselves in this one.

Werder Bremen at +114 for 3 units. Schalke haven’t scored in the league in over 330 minutes. Eggestein and Kruse do enough for Werder Bremen here.

Europa League Playoffs – Should Teams Focus on Their Domestic Campaigns or Winning Europa?

Arsenal and Chelsea are 5th and 6th respectively in the Premier League. Arsenal are one point behind Manchester United for the 4th Champions League spot. Chelsea are two points behind. Sevilla and Valencia are 6th and 7th respectively in La Liga. Sevilla are 5 points away from the Champions League spot. Valencia are 6 points away. Similarly, Frankfurt are 3 points out of the Champions League spots in the Bundesliga. The question for their managers are, do we rest in the first leg and focus on the league, dominate the first leg and then rest, or just rest and then focus on the Champions League spots in the league? Not an easy spot for coaches. Anyway, onto today’s games..

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Sevilla -1 at -132 for 4 units. Sevilla are outscoring opponents 24-1 at The Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in European play. I have been to a few games there in Sevilla and was disappointed that the beer was alcohol free… but Sevilla’s product on the field was great. Slavia Prague have never made it to this stage. Sevilla have won this competition 3 times. Ben Yedder and Sarabia are starting, which I love. Andre Silva is not starting for Sevilla, which I also love. Munir is getting another chance. Sevilla will want to dominate this game so they can rest a little in the second leg and focus on the league. I think they achieve that goal.

Villarreal/Zenit over 2 at -129 for 3 units. Zenit’s home games average over 2 goals a game in this competition. Zenit have been scoring most of their home goals after halftime lately.. so don’t get all nervous on me at halftime. Sardar Azmoun has found fine form since arriving in St. Petersburg recently. Dzyuba is always a threat. Villarreal’s last 4 games have all seen at least 2 goals. First legs overs are always a little dicey, but I like this one.

Arsenal Vs. Rennes over 2/ Inter Vs. Frankfurt over 2/ Chelsea Parlay risking 3 units at +140. Arsenal’s defense has been lacking ever since Holding went out with injury. Ben Arfa has been great this calendar year for Rennes. Aubameyang, Ozil, and Iwobi should provide enough creativity and pace to get a goal. Rennes’ last 7 games have all seen at least two goals. Rennes impressed me against Real Betis. If you don’t know why I love Frankfurt overs, then you haven’t been reading me. The Recap: Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller.

Chelsea winning this competition would do wonders for Maurizio Sarri and his job security. Granted, winning this competition only kept Mourinho around in Manchester for a little while longer. I personally don’t think Chelsea will finish in the top 4 with road games at Liverpool and United still on the schedule. Also, I’m 100% sure Hazard will leave for Real Madrid or other greener pastures this offseason if Chelsea do not make Champions League. They go for it and get the win at home today against Dynamo Kiev. Kiev won the easiest group and then beat Olympiakos to get to this stage. Their “luck” runs out today.

Champions League Play Offs Recap – Manchester United and Ajax Both Make Historic Comebacks

Tottenham were up 3-0 on Dortmund after the 1st leg. They won the 2nd leg 1-0 behind this Harry Kane goal. He doesn’t miss those. Dortmund need to figure out their defense quickly if they want to win the Bundesliga. They are beating Bayern on just goal difference after being up in 1st for pretty much the entire season. Dortmund have gone from the hottest team in Europe to possibly no trophies this season. Wild. Tottenham barely made it out of the group, but now they seem to be rolling in this tournament.

Ajax played better than Real Madrid in the 1st leg, which I wrote about previously; however, they did not get the result they needed losing 2-1 at home. Allowing Real Madrid to get 2 away goals made many think they dug themselves too deep of a hole against the 3 time defending champs. Ramos couldn’t play because of a card suspension and Ronaldo is in Italy. Ajax didn’t care.

Ajax won the game 4-1 behind Tadic, Ziyech, Neres, and all their youngsters. Tadic’s 2 assists were simply sublime. Assist 1. Assist 2. Oh yeah, and then he scored his own. Varane missed an easy early header that hit the post and before you know it Ajax were up 2-0. Lucas and Junior Vinicius had to be subbed off early due to injury, which spelled doom for Real Madrid. Real Madrid pays more for Gareth Bale than Ajax does for their entire first team squad… and reserves… and youth team combined. Unreal stuff from the great young Dutch team.

Schone’s silly good free kick was just icing on the cake for Ajax and their fans.

Porto were down 2-1 after the 1st leg against Roma, but they won the second leg at home 3-1 in overtime to move on. This was the “weakest” matchup at this stage, but Porto has enough attacking options to cause some trouble in the next round. Pepe and Dzeko had this comically cute moment. I like Dzeko, but that is embarrassing.

Manchester United lost to PSG 2-0 at Old Trafford and the comeback in Paris seemed insurmountable with no Darmian, Herrera, Jones, Lingard, Martial, Mata, Matic, Pogba, Sanchez, or Valencia. Manchester United started a midfield of Fred, McTominay, and Young and beat PSG 3-1 to advance. Rashford and Lukaku outplayed Mbappe and Di Maria. I do feel a little bad for Di Maria going out against his former club here. He did not have a good time in Manchester (house got robbed, wife was unhappy), but United fans really seem to dislike him too much IMO. I am United fan simply because Ibra played for them… But Ole Gunnar Solskjær is making me more and more of a fan by the day.

How the hell was Mourinho’s United not scoring goals in bunches with Rashford, Pogba, and Lukaku? Lukaku scored the first goal with great pace and betting finishing. You could tell PSG were nervous after that.. Lukaku then scored a second on Buffon’s poor goalkeeping. It is almost like Buffon doesn’t want to win this competition. Fitting that PSG signed him really. Finally, United were awarded a penalty for this, which Rashford put home. Absolutely amazing week of Champions League football. Until next week…

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“Too Much Soccer” – Future

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AC Milan at -194 for 5 units. Milan is on an 8 match unbeaten run. Milan beat Sassuolo 4-1 the last time they met. That was before Krzysztof Piątek arrived in Milan. Krzysztof has 7 goals in 7 appearances for AC Milan. The ‘Rossoneri’ have only lost twice at home all season. Castillejo, Kessie, Suso, and others are finding more pace since the addition of Piątek. Milan stay hot at home.

Bayern Leverkusen at -222 for 3 units. Leverkusen have been playing great football of late, but the results just haven’t quite been there. They lost on away goals to Krasnodar in the Europa League and to Dortmund in the league 3-2, which has exemplified this problem with not getting the result. Now that they are bounced from Europa, they can focus on getting top 5. They are two points out of that Europa Group spot as of writing. Volland, Bailey, Brandt, and Havertz are all fun to watch for Leverkusen. Freiburg have not lost in over 2/3rds of the games that they are an underdog in… Going against that stat here.

Sevilla at -103 for 3 units. Huesca and Sevilla are not on the same level. Sevilla > Huesca. The reason this line is so “good” is well because, even though it pains me to say as a Sevillista, Sevilla sucks on the road. Truth hurts. Sevilla have to win these games if they want to make the Champions League spots. Sevilla could just win the Europa again, but beating Huesca seems like the simpler task. Andre Silva’s 35-million-Euro-buy-option was declined by Sevilla for this summer and he will return to AC Milan. Piątek makes that awkward for him. Silva will 100% end his cold streak and score here if Pablo Machin plays him now that Sevilla has moved on.

Monaco at +137 for 2 units. Monaco are hot. New year, New Club.

Manchester United/Manchester City Parlay at -133 for 2 units. Lingard, Mata, and Herrera all have thigh injuries for United, but they still have a more talented squad than Southampton. 6 of the 8 league goals Paul Pogba has scored since Ole Gunnar Solskjær came along, have been at Old Trafford. United have only lost to PSG since Ole Gunnar was appointed in December. Southampton lack the defense to stop United’s options. City did not impress me in their last game against West Ham, although if Silva buries his relatively easy chance in the 3rd minute, that game is completely different. Vegas has them favored by a lot though so I will trust Vegas on this one. Also, Arsenal just dropped la bomba de cinco on Bournemouth. City will score.

Copa Del Ray Semifinals – El Clásico – Barcelona at Real Madrid

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Barcelona at +142 for 7 units.

Barcelona to advance at -131 for 9 units. One team has Messi and one doesn’t. Real Madrid tied the first leg at Camp Nou 1-1, but Messi didn’t start. Messi started against Sevilla this past weekend… Here is a video of Messi’s highlights in that game. I’m convinced Tommy Wiseau, Messi, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are from different planets.

 

Speaking of form, Real Madrid are in solid form. They have won 11 and lost 3 this calendar year. Casemiro, Kroos, and Modric are still one of the best midfields in the World. There are a couple reasons I don’t like Madrid today: Ajax were able to press Real Madrid to death in the first half of their Champions League game. Ajax had nothing but an offsides goal and a strike that went off the post to show for it though. If Real are that sloppy and unable to play out of the back against Barca, buenas noches. Caravajal was especially poor in that game in defense. If Marcelo starts over Reguilon, Messi is going to feast. Secondly, Messi and Suarez found their form in their last game vs Sevilla. Suarez has been in a bit of a rut away from home (hasn’t scored in Champions league away since Obama was President), but that is why that late goal vs Sevilla was big for him. Vinicius Junior will have his moments, Benzema is clincal, and Varane/Ramos can thwart most attacks away; however, Barcelona’s ability to attack out-wide and Messi will see them through.

Messi Stats vs Madrid: 39 games 26 goals 14 assists

 

What is Going on at Chelsea FC? + Monday Bundesliga Action

If you missed the EFL Carabao Cup, don’t feel too bad for missing the first 2 hours. It got real exciting after that though. Chelsea’s manager Sarri tried to take off Kepa Arrizabalaga right before Pks. Kepa was simply like nah fam I’m good. Willy Caballero was the keeper Sarri wanted to come on for penalties. Caballero used to play for Manchester City, so he knows some of their penalty tendencies presumably. Also, Caballero saved penalties for City to win this very tournament in 2016. Kepa is one of the most expensive keepers in the World. Keepers of his quality don’t grow on trees, but I have never seen a player just refuse a manager. Kepa didn’t save this pk after refusing to go off… Aguero knows he got lucky. Manchester City win the trophy. I was actually cheering for the underdog Chelsea in this one… Oh Chelsea also have an incoming transfer ban on the way for “international transfer of minors”. Fun times at Chelsea.

Onto today’s match:

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Red Bull Leipzig at -123 for 5 units. Leipzig’s defense is too good for Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim scored 3 goals in the last 15 minutes against Dortmund. Leipzig are well-equipped to defend against Hoffenheim’s long balls and crosses that haunted Dortmund. Hoffenheim do score a large portion of their goals off of those type of plays. Leipzig have won 4 in a row (3 clean sheets in that span). Leipzig have won 7 games at home this Bundesliga season, scoring first in all them janks. Poulsen, Werner, and Sabitzer have 26 of Leipzig’s 41 goals on the season. Poulsen has scored twice in each of the last 4 Bundesliga games he scored in. Hoffenheim are a solid away team, but they just don’t matchup well with Leipzig.

Europa League Second Leg Predictions

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Not losing 3 days in a row. I won’t have it. All 3 of these teams should be more heavily favored IMO.

Frankfurt -1 at +189 for 3 units.

Frankfurt +0 at -212 for 5 units. Frankfurt have drawn 5 matches in a row against solid competition. Frankfurt were up a man almost all of last game against Shakthar and only pulled out the draw. Frankfurt did give up a pk. The game will play out differently in Germany. Luke Jovic and Sebastien Haller should do enough to secure the win for Frankfurt. I like the -1 because if Frankfurt gets up, Shakhtar will send more men forward, leading to a possible 2 or 3 goal win for the Germans.

Real Betis at -169 for 6 units. Betis dominated the first leg away, but only tied the game 3-3. Rennes looked poor in their only game since then. Betis is the better team and that should show up in Sevilla tonight. Giovani Lo Celso has 11 goals this season for Betis and the “Mexican Messi” Lainez has been coming into form.

Bayern Leverkusen at -234 for 5 units. Leverkusen have only lost 3 matches since the beginning of December. ‘Die Werkself’ are in great attacking form. Krasnodar have lost the last 3 times they have traveled to Germany. Havertz, Wendell, Brandt, Volland, and Bailey will be too much offense for Krasnodar.