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Exciting games to look forward to in the UEFA Europa League.

 

 

Persconferentie, FC, logo, uefa, europa, league during a training session prior to the UEFA Europa League match between Slovan Liberec and FC Groningen on October 22, 2015 at Stadion U Nisy in Liberec, Czech Republic.

This may be the year for the Europa League.  Some good teams have found themselves there, and even in the Round of 32 there promises to be some games that even Champions League can’t compete with.  Rather than give my predictions on every single game, today I am just gonna go through and talk about the best.  Let’s not waste any more time!

The team of Borussia Dortmund looks dejected after conceding the loss after the final whistle during the UEFA Europa League Group C match between Borussia Dortmund and PAOK FC at Signal Iduna Park on December 10, 2015 in Dortmund, Germany.

Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Porto

Most people thought Dortmund would be a shoo-in  to win the Europa League this year, as they are normally fierce Champions League competitors.  However, they finished second in their group, and now may pay the price by drawing another Champions League team, Porto.  The Portuguese club is still feeling the loss of striker Jackson Martinez, and after finishing third in their CL group, they now find themselves with a hard game.  Either team could win this one, it really depends on who tries to win.  If Dortmund field a full strength squad they should sweep it, but if they don’t and Porto do than expect Porto to go through.

Joaquin (C) of ACF Fiorentina battles for the ball with Erik Lamela (L) and Vlad Chirinches of Tottenham Hotspur FC during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between ACF Fiorentina and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Artemio Franchi stadium on February 26, 2015 in Florence, Italy.

ACF Fiorentina vs. Tottenham Hotspurs

Two clubs who have Europa League experience, this could actually end up being a pretty low key match.  As both are flying high in their domestic leagues and may get Champions League, neither may try too hard.  Still, player like Harry Kane and Erik Lamela could tip this one for Spurs if they want to.  Since Tottenham could finish top four this season, I would guess they won’t try very hard in the Europa League, while Fiorentina will put more effort.  This round goes to Fiorentina

Adam Lallana of Liverpool competes with Laglais Kouassi of FC Sion during the UEFA Europa League match between FC Sion and Liverpool FC at Estadio Tourbillon on December 10, 2015 in Sion, Switzerland.

FC Augsburg vs. Liverpool FC

Any other time and I would give this one to Liverpool without another thought.  However, Augsburg have been graced with inform striker Raul Bobadilla, who single-handedly  tore teams apart in the group stage.  With Liverpol still getting used to new manager Jurgen Klopp, and Augsburg in such good form, this is another that will be tight.  Maybe the closet of all the matches, I couldn’t decide who I thought was going to win.   Honestly, it depends on whether Bobadilla’s form continues into the new year, and hat his fitness stays high.  Still don’ miss this game, though.

Antonio Candreva #87 of SS Lazio celebrates with his team-mates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and SS Lazio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on December 20, 2015 in Milan, Italy.

Galatasaray S.K. vs. SS Lazio

Maybe not as hyped up as some of the other games, this one still should be very exciting.  Galatasaray are a strong side who should probably still be in the Champions League, and Lazio have some top players like Klose and Candreva.  This one will have some insane fans, which is something for all us outsiders to laugh about, but the real excitement will be on the pitch.  Lazio almost won the Europa League last year, so if I had to hedge my bets I would go with them, but Galatasaray will probably try to save some face by winning at least one round.  Whoever wins, this one will be more exciting than most make it out to be.

Sead Kolasinac of Schalke celebrates scoring the first team goal during the Bundesliga match between FC Augsburg and FC Schalke 04 at WWK Arena on December 13, 2015 in Augsburg, Germany.

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. FC Schalke 04

The Ukrainian Champions challenge one of Germany’s top teams.  Shakhtar, a team well known as a feeder club, as still feeling the los of Douglas Costa to Bayern Munich.  Schalke also lost a key winger, as Julian Draxler joined Wolfsburg.  Still, players like Howedes and Huntelaar will be hungry for trophies, so expect an almost full strength squad to show up from both of them.  My guess?  Schalke go into the next round.

Andre Schurrle of Leverkusen celebrates his goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between SL Benfica and Bayer Leverkusen at Estadio da Luz on February 21, 2013 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Sporting CP vs. Bayer Leverkusan

While Sporting are by no means the best club in the competition, they are highly entertaining, and could upset here.  Leverkusan, despite dropping out of the Champions League, have a team of inform player like Karim Bellarabi, Hakan Calhanoglu and especially Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.  Chicharito, who has hit a ridiculous amount of goals recently, will be looking to add o his European tally, and with Stefan Kiessling finding his feet, Leverkusan should dominate this.  But “shoulds” aren’t always the truth, and they need to watch the upset.  I will be watching this game just to see two exciting teams square off in a match that, even if it is onesided, will be entertaining.

Napoli's Colombian defender Juan Camilo Zuniga (L) vies withVillarreal's midfielder Marcos Senna (R) during the UEFA Champions League second leg football match between Villarreal and Napoli at the Madrigal Stadium in Villarreal on December 07, 2011. AFP PHOTO/ JOSE JORDAN

SSC Napoli vs. Villareal CF

Another case of two teams flying in their domestic leagues, Villareal and Napoli will be a must-watch.  Napoli must be favorites, with Lorenzo Insigne, Marik Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain in their very best form, but Villareal will be looking to upset.  he man o lead that upset will be Robeto Soldado, who is looking really good after a failed stint with Tottenham in England.  Napoli may also focus on the league to qualify for Champions League, while Villareal ma be force to try to win the Europa League to get qualification.  That will only make the game more level, and more exciting.

I hope you guys enjoyed my list of must-watch games.  This year’s Europa League may be better than ever, so don’t forget to watch.  Also feel free to leave your predictions in the comments, and leave a like on this post if you did enjoy.  Also tell me how you like my new system of longer posts on Tuesdays and Fridays, rather than shorter ones everyday.  Have a good day!

The Most Important Players in MLS History.

Today I want to talk about something that I have wanted to for a long time.  As the title suggests, the most important players ever to play in Major League Soccer.  Keep in mind this isn’t the best players, per say, but rather the players who were most influential into building the league as a whole.  This isn’t a countdown either, as I couldn’t really decide in what order they would go.  Without further ado, let’s begin!

Forward Carlos Valderrama #10 of the Colorado Rapids traps the ball during the MLS match against the Dallas Burn at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas on May 18, 2002. The Burn defeated the Rapids 3-1 .Carlos Valderrama

The Colombian maestro was well known long before he came to MLS, but Carlos Valderrama came to be known as one of he greatest players ever o grace America.  The centerpiece of Colombia’s success in the 1990’s, Valderrama’s flashy style of play, along with his bright blonde hair, made him extremely recognizable.  At the end of his career, the 34-year-old joined MLS in its inaugural season, played there for five years.  He immediately became one of the league’s best players, and he went a long way to help improve soccer’s popularity in America.  Even now he is remembered as one of MLS’ most important players, and it owes him a lot for building it up during it’s early years.

Thierry Henry #14 of New York Red Bulls reacts during the game against the New England Revolution during the Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 at Red Bull Arena on November 23, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey.Thierry Henry

Another legend of the game to grace MLS, Thierry Henry came to America straight after starring at Barcelona.  Despite being much slower and older than his fantastic Arsenal days, Henry was one of the first true DPs to come to America.  One of the most celebrated strikers ever, his experience, along with that of a few others who I will talk about later, helped e=improve the quality of MLS as a whole.

 

#7 Robbie Keane of LA Galaxy during the MLS match between Los Angeles Galaxy and New York City FC at StubHub Center on August 23, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane, a former Tottenham, Liverpool, and Inter Milan striker, was one of the first big players to swap Europe for America.  At age just 30, Keane left Tottenham, where he was captain, to play for the LA Galaxy.  Keane, who is captain of the Republic of Ireland, their record goalscorer and highest capped player, as well as the highest scoring player in Euro qualifying, was made captain a few years later, not long after earn the MLS MVP award.  During his time in LA, he has won three MLS Cups and one Supporters Shield.  Even at age 35, Keane is still one of the league’s best players

David Beckham

David Beckham is, to put it simply, a phenomenon.  The former England, Manchester United, and Real Madrid player is known as well off the pitch as he was on.  Joining the LA Galaxy straight from Real Madrid in 2007, he was immediately made captain, he led them to back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012.  Even more impressive was his off field contribution.  Sales in everything, from tickets to jerseys, spiked as soon as he joined, and attendance all around America started rising.  He was a player even those who didn’t follow soccer could recognize, a star, and here was a chance for Americans to see him in action.  He was like Pele from the 70’s, as games where he played always at least doubled in attendance.  His contributions continued after he retired as well.  His Miami expansion team is set to join MLS in few years, and his influence can only expand from there.

Landon DonovanLandon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy paces the ball on the attack against the New England Revolution during 2014 MLS Cup at StubHub Center on December 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Galaxy defeated the Revolution 2-1.

Where do you begin with Landon Donovan?  The man often considered the greatest American ever, as shown by his records of most goals and assists for them, graced MLS for 11 whole years.  One of the few Americans who could be considered among the best, he proved that MLS could be the home of big players, especially American ones.  Winning a record six MLS Cups, numerous MLS Best IX, MVP, All-Star, MLS Cup Final MVP, and being named to the MLS All-Time IX, awards are not an issue.  His influence was so huge that when he retired last year, the MVP Award was renamed the Landon Donovan MVP Award.  Someone who affected MLS more than maybe anyone else

KakaKaka #10 of Orlando City SC chases a loose ball during a MLS soccer match between the Chicago Fire and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on August 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Severe weather in the area has caused multiple delays in the game, the match has been suspended at the 18:42 mark as officials check for more lightning in the area.

Despite only having joined the league last season, Kaka is proving that MLS can revive careers.  After becoming the best player in the world at AC Milan, his career took a turn for the worst after a poor few seasons at Real Madrid.  After moving to new MLS club Orlando City SC, though, he may be back to his best.  He was immediately an important part of the new club, scoring many goals and almost leading them to the playoffs.  Most impressive though, is how he was called back to the Brazilian national team, after almost a year away.  He has now made several appearances for them, and at only 33, he could have a successful few years ahead of him

Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC in action against the New York City FC during a soccer game at Yankee Stadium on July 12, 2015 in the Bronx borough of New York City.Sebastian Giovinco

Last but not least, the player who has only been with Toronto FC for a year.  After playing on and off for Juventus for years, the then 27-year-old made a shock move to the MLS.  He took them by storm, breaking the record for most goals scored and assists in a season, winning the MLS Golden Boot and MVP Award, and taking Toronto FC to the playoffs for the first time in their history.  He also earned a recall to the Italian National Team, although he couldn’t play due to injury.  Giovinco has proved that players in their peak can be stars in MLS, as proven by an attempt by Barcelona to buy him.

While many of these players were or are stars, they also all had something in common.  They helped, or are helping, to build the league into what it is today.  We can hope that more of these players join the league in the coming leagues, so that it can continue to expand into one of the best leagues in the world.


 

 

 

Champions League Round-of-Sixteen Predictions

The UEFA Champions League Round-of-Sixteen matches have just been announced, and there are some big games here.  With sitters like Manchester City vs. Dynamo Kyiv, to intense games such as Juventus vs. Bayern Munich.  I figured I would throw my two cents in to the mix.  Here are my predictions for the Round-of-Sixteen.

 

DraxlerVsManU

Game 1 – Gent vs. Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg had the benefit of finishing top of there group, and it paid off.  A draw against Belgian champions Gent should prove to be little issue.  While form has been a little concerning for the Wolves, it shouldn’t be an issue here and unless something major happens, Wolfsburg’s fantastic Champions League form will continue. Continue reading “Champions League Round-of-Sixteen Predictions”

Serie A, the most exciting league in Europe

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Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus’ captain and goalkeeper

It has come to my attention that the Italian Serie A has gone from being the worst league in Europe to one of the best.  For the last few seasons, one team, usually Juventus, has dominated, with there being no title race at all.  That all changed this year, and the Serie A now looks to be one of he most watchable leagues of the season.

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Gonzalo Higuain, Serie A’s top goalscorer

Juventus started the season so poorly that many other teams have come to the fore.  Napoli, lead by stars like Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne, currently sit top, but it is very close.  Inter Milan’s great defense has made up for a lack of goals, and they are now second.  Fiorentina are exciting and attacking, using strong wingers, and are now just two points behind Napoli.  Roma, last season’s runners-up, are fourth, and are helded by big names like Edin Dzeko, Gervinho, and Miralem Pjanic.  Juventus have started to regain form, and sit in fifth place, seven points off the top.

You never know who is gonna be top of the table from week-to-week, and it is good to see a league normally considered boring and defensive becoming one the Europe’s most exciting.  Who will win he league is anyone guess, but it now seems time for some other leagues to move over for the Serie A.

Bayern Munich crush Arsenal as the Champions League continues

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern’s star striker

After shocking Bayern Munich 2-0 at the Emirates a fortnight ago, many people thought the stood a chance at the Allianz Arena.  Sure, Theo Walcott and Laurent Koscielny were out injured, but they have inform Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, along with Petr Cech, a top class goalie.   They could definitely shock Bayern again.  Boy were they wrong… Continue reading “Bayern Munich crush Arsenal as the Champions League continues”

Chelsea flop again against West Ham

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will be worried about getting sacked after this loss  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will be worried about getting sacked after this loss
(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

After a horrific start to the season which saw Premier League champions Chelsea fall to 15th place, they had what on paper looked like a winnable game against fellow London club West Ham.  With the Manchester Derby going on, this was a chance for Chelsea to gain some points over their rivals.  Instead they fell to one of the most embarrassing defeats of the season. Continue reading “Chelsea flop again against West Ham”

Thomas Muller deserves more respect

Thomas Muller playing for Bayern Munich in 2013

The whole world has been raving over Robert Lewandowski, with how many goals he has scored recently.  Yes, he does have 16 goals in just 12 appearances for Bayern Munich, but eventually his goals will run out.  People forget that at the beginning of this season he was on the bench for lack of goals.  A player who never goes on the bench though, and who many people forget about, is Thomas Muller. Continue reading “Thomas Muller deserves more respect”

USA fall to Mexico in awesome CONCACAF Cup.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez finally scored against the U.S.

The United States lost out on a chance to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup, by losing 3-2 to Mexico in overtime.  After failing to get to the 2013 Confederations Cup, instead Mexico went, this was a big chance for the Americans.  Jurgen Klinsmann job was under scrutiny, and Mexico’s old boss had just been fired and replaced by an interim boss.  So the stage was set for one of the biggest matches in CONCACAF history, watched by 90,000 people in the Rose Bowl. Continue reading “USA fall to Mexico in awesome CONCACAF Cup.”

Is Jurgen Klinsmann the right man for the USMNT?

Jurgen Klinsmann in 2013

Jurgen Klinsmann’s job is under some scrutiny after the U.S. finished fourth at the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, with many saying the German’s time has past.  With the game against Mexico to qualify for the Confederations Cup on the horizon, we may be seeing the back of him soon.  Several people are capable of taking over from him, but is it really time to say goodbye?  I don’t think so. Continue reading “Is Jurgen Klinsmann the right man for the USMNT?”

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