Chelsea vs. Steaua Bucuresti

Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg Review: Part 4

Chelsea vs. Steaua Bucuresti

Chelsea vs. Steaua BucurestiThe Champions of Europe had a bad game in Romania, having lost 1-0 to Steaua, but were determined to erase that defeat as they prepared to host the same team in the second leg. Steaua, in the same manner, would have to be looking to score away goals in order to progress. It was to be a crucial game for both teams.

Chelsea started their game better and faster, looking to score early and keep Steaua quiet, with attempts coming in from 11 minutes. Steaua, however, did not just sit back and try to defend as they were also trying to create something for themselves. Cech had to make his first save in the 13th minute when Rusescu tried to get his team an away goal.

Attempts from both teams, who had both lined up strong squads for this match, kept coming in, and it was Chelsea who managed to produce something first. Half an hour into the game, Chelsea’s 24-year-old Spanish International, Juan Mata, produced a beautiful goal facilitated by Ramires to level things between the two teams on aggregate. Tatarusanu had tried to save, but had failed, to the delight of the home crowd.

The home side were even more confident now, but the away side weren’t about to give up. A poor attempt to clear by Chelsea allowed Chiriches to finish what Tanase had started near the Chelsea goal and hit the ball into the roof of the net, putting his side ahead on aggregate.

Chelsea knew they had to score at least 2 more goals in the second half, and, after some good football, managed to get a second through a strong header from their captain, John Terry, assisted by a Juan Mata corner. Chelsea had to score one more to prevent their visitors from going through on away goals at their expense.

A strong attack by both teams continued, until Chelsea finally had their third with 20 minutes still to go, when Fernando Torres managed to collect a fine pass from Hazard and shoot past Tatarusanu. Chelsea now looked to win the game by a good margin when they were awarded a penalty in the 87th minute, but Fernando Torres hit the woodwork, leaving things as they were. Chelsea worked for another one, but it wasn’t going to happen and things ended at just that: Chelsea 3-1 Steaua.

Statistic-wise, Chelsea had a total of 13 attempts against their visitors’ 7. Chelsea had better chances and more possession (66% against 34%). The two goalkeepers made 5 saves each. 4 yellow cards (2-a-side) were issued between the two teams. No players were sent off during this game.

Rafael Benitez an Laurentiu Reghecampf lined up the following squads:

Chelsea Starting XI

Cech, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry (c), Cole, Ramires, Oscar, Mikel, Hazard, Juan Mata, Torres

Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Bertrand, Lampard, Moses and Benayoun

Steaua Starting XI

Tatarusanu, Szukala, Latovlevici, Chiriches, Pintilli, Chipciu, Bourceanu (c), Rusescu, Popa, Tanase, Rapa

Subs: Stanca, Gardos, Filip, Prepelita, Iancu, Leandro Tatu, and Adi Sobrinho

Final Score: Chelsea* 3-1 Steaua Bucuresti (Agg: 3-2)

Juan Mata 34′, Terry 58′, Torres 71′ | Chirices 45+1′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated Steaua, Chelsea are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face Rubin Kazan of Russia as their opponents according to the draw held on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this match at home and the second leg away.

Fenerbahce SK vs. Viktoria Plzen

Fenerbahce SK vs. Viktoria PlzenThe first leg of this game had been very tough for both sides, more so Plzen, who had to overcome the 1-0 deficit in order to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition. Fenerbahce had been tough enough opponents for Vrba and his men, so playing them at home would be even tougher and would demand more for the Czech side who still had a lot to do.

The game started well for the visitors as they looked to score early and even things up, but the hosts started to pick up as well, turning this match into a 50/50 game all the way until the final minutes of the first half. What was to be the only goal of the game for the home side came in the 44th minute from Fenerbahce substitute Salih Ucan (who had come on for Mehmet Topal 9 minutes earlier), with an assist from Pavel Horvath. All Fenerbahce had to do now was hold on for the next 45 minutes.

The second half was better for Plzen, who started stronger and more confident knowing that they still had a chance to win on away goals. Their first one (and what was to be their only one) came in the 61st from Darida, assisted by Kovarik. This goal brought the visitors some hope but the stubborn Fenerbahce defense (and the woodwork just 5 minutes later) prevented them from winning the game on away goals and on aggregate. The last 20 minutes were intense but it was Fenerbahce who managed to only just go through.

Statistic-wise, the visitors had a total of 14 attempts against 11 for the hosts. Both teams had the same number of decent chances, and both goalkeepers were kept busy. A total of 4 yellow cards was issued between the two teams; the home side picking up 1 and the rest going to the visitors. No players were sent off during this game.

Aykut Kocaman and Pavel Vrba lined up the following squads:

Fenerbahce Starting XI

Demirel (c), Irtegun, Yobo, Ziegler, Gonul, Cristian, Sahin, Erkin, Sow, Topal, Kuyt

Subs: Gonuk, Kaldirim, Krasic, Senturk, Ucan, and Korkmaz

Plzen Starting XI

Kozacik, Limbersky, Reznik, Prochazka, Clsovsky, Darida, Kovarik, Kolar, Bakos, Rajtoral, Horvath

Subs: Pavlik, Hejda, Zeman, Adamov, Duris, Fillo, and Tecl

Final Score: Fenerbahce SK* 1-1 Viktoria Plzen (Agg: 2-1)

Salih Ucan 44′ | Darida 61′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated Plzen, Fenerbahce are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face Lazio of Italy as their opponents, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game at home and the second leg away.

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

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Rubin Kazan vs. Levante UD

Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg Review: Part 3

Rubin Kazan vs. Levante UD

Rubin Kazan vs. Levante UDRubin and Levante had had a hard time defeating each other in the first leg of this match, and so the second leg would mean everything to both sides. The game was still very much open and even more so for Levante, who were playing away, capable of killing the Kazan with away goals.

It was a very tight game from beginning to end, and it looked to go to penalties, from what we’d seen in the first leg. Both teams would play the same football, more or less, with the difference being only in what they had decided their key areas would be; for Levante, it would be mainly attack, for Rubin, mainly defense.

This didn’t stop Rubin from going out and looking for goals as well, though, and look for goals they did. Both managers tried everything against each other, both teams had decent chances, but the game remained even and eventually went into extra time.

Rubin Kazan knew that they had to be quicker to manage anything against their Spanish visitors, and they managed to do so 10 minutes into the first half of extra time when Rondon was finally on target, getting past Ballesteros to collect the ball from Natcho and slot home with his left.

Things grew more intense for the Spaniards as they continued to look for the one goal that would win them the game. 12 minutes after this goal, another one came, but it came for the home side, leaving Levante devastated as they’d had the better chances. Dyadyun picked up a long pass from his own goalkeeper, Ryzhikov and ran to get it past Navas to keep his side holding on for the 8 minutes that were remaining. Rubin managed to hold on and Levante were gutted.

The home side had been the better squad of the night, having had more possession (56%) than their visitors (44%), more attempts (23 against 17), and better chances. Aleksandar Stavrev, the referee for this match, issued a total of 3 yellow cards between the two teams; 2 to Rubin and 1 to Levante. No players were sent off during this match.

Kurban Berdyev and Juan Ignacio Martinez lined up the following squads:

Rubin Kazan Starting XI

Ryzhikov, Kuzmin, Kaleshin, Marcano, Sharonov (c), Orbaiz, Eremenko, Natcho, Karadeniz, Rondon, Kasaev

Subs: Arlauskis, Eremenko, Tore, Dyadyun, and Kislyak

Levante Starting XI

Navas, Navarro, Juanfran, Ballesteros (c), Lell, Barkero, Iborra, Diop, Zhar, Garcia, Acquafresca

Subs: Munua, Rodas, Karabelas, Lopez, Valdo, Gomez, and Rios

Final Score: Rubin Kazan* 2-0 Levante UD (Agg: 2-0 AET)

Rondon 100′, Dyadyun 112′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated Levante, Rubin Kazan are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face Chelsea of England as their opponents, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game away and the second leg at home.

Newcastle United vs. Anzhi Makhachkala

Newcastle United vs. Anzhi MakhachkalaAfter a tough game in the first leg, leaving the game still very much open, Anzhi and Newcastle prepared well for the rematch, knowing it would even be harder facing each other a second time. Anzhi would have the upper hand, as all they had to do was find the net, even for a draw, to win the game on away goals. This game was one of the tightest ones on the night, and looked like it would go into extra time, but as we’ll come to see, this one only just avoided extra time by a few seconds.

Three minutes into the game and Anzhi captain, Samuel Eto’o, had an attempt that went was just wide. The away side continued to threaten. The home side, however, didn’t even for a minute lose control of the game, and got attempts of their own, courtesy of Marveaux and Cabaye. Anzhi’s Carcela-Gonzalez and Joao Carlos were threatening as well, but there were to be no goals in the first half from either team.

The second half started faster for the home side, Sissoko just missing the target, and the game continuing as it had ended at the half. Newcastle were given an advantage just 10 minutes into the second half when Carcela-Gonzalez picked up a yellow card, and was sent off, giving the Toons a slight edge. Anzhi, however, held strong to prevent their hosts from taking advantage of their numbers, and the game remained level.

Both teams continued to threaten, Anzhi even hitting the woodwork, but nothing came. 4 minutes were added on at the end of the second half, and Newcastle’s prayers were finally answered in the 3rd minutes of stoppage time, when an unmarked Papiss Cisse headed the ball past Gabulov and into the net to win the game for his side on what had been a very tough night.

Statistic-wise, the home side had more attempts (15) than the visitors (11) and better chances. A total of 4 yellow cards were issued between the two teams; 1 to Newcastle and 3 to Anzhi. Deniz Aytekin also issued one yellow card, which went to Anzhi’s Carcela-Gonzalez.

Alan Pardew and Guus Hiddink lined up the following squads:

Newcastle Starting XI

Elliot, Santon, Yanga-Mbiwa, Taylor, Haidara, Sissoko, Marveaux, Tiote, Anita, Cabaye (c), Cisse

Subs: Harper, Perch, Bigirimana, Obertan, Ameobi, Campbell, and Gutierrez

Anzhi Starting XI

Gabulov, Eschenko, Carlos, Zhirkov, Ewerton, Jucilei, Ahmedov, Diarra, Boussoufa, Eto’o (c)

Subs: Pomazan, Tagirberkov, Logashov, Agalarov, Traore, Solov, and Shatov

Final Score: Newcastle United* 1-0 Anzhi Makhachkala (Agg: 1-0)

Cisse 90+3′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated Anzhi, Newcastle United are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face Benfica of Portugal, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game away and the second leg at home.

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

Internazionale Milano vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg Review: Part 2

Internazionale Milano vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Internazionale Milano vs. Tottenham HotspurThe Italian side had one of their worst games at White Hart Lane in the first leg of this fixture, and were determined to right their wrongs in the second leg as they hosted the Spurs. They had created a 3-goal mountain to climb, and were just lucky they hadn’t been away goals, or life would’ve been even harder. Andrea Stramaccioni knew this very well and and wasn’t going to let anything that had happened the first time happen again. Andre Villas-Boas, although his squad were one foot into the quarter-finals, didn’t rule out an Inter comeback, and was aware of the danger before him.

This game, which ended up going into extra time, started very well for the hosts who knew they had to score early to stay alive. 20 minutes after the first whistle, step 1 of 3 was completed for the home side, thanks to a Cassano header, facilitated by a Palacio cross. The home side were even more uncomfortable, but continued to threaten as well.

2 minutes later, they had their own attempt, but Handanovic was there to save for the home side. The home side were on a roll after their first goal, and just 6 minutes later, Palacio almost made it 2-0, but was just prevented by the woodwork to a relieved Brad Friedel. The home side continued to dominate, knowing very well that they had to be the better team.

6 minutes into the second half, Palacio did what he had tried to do a few minutes earlier and, this time, succeeded. 2-0 up and a comeback looked even more possible for Internazionale. Andre Villas-Boas knew an away goal would be needed and wasted no time putting on some fresh legs to intensify his attack; Lewis Holtby in for Jermaine Defoe. The home side had taken full control of the game, and were hungry to get their third, with attempts coming in every other second.

Cambiasso and Zanetti tried to get another one for their team, but failed. A third one did come, however, and it came, unfortunately for the visitors, from one of their own, their captain even. William Gallas, failing to clear, slotted the ball into his own net, and things looked to be going the home side’s way with only just 15 minutes to go. As expected, these last 15 minutes were intense for both sides, and it was going to be a long night with both of them failing to score the winning goal.

Extra time came, and the high-tempo game continued. 6 minutes into extra time, Emmanuel Adebayor  scored what was to be his side’s only goal of the game, putting his side through to the quarter-finals on away goals, having only survived by a whisker. Ricardo Alvarez got one more for his side in the 110th minute, but Spurs managed to hold on and that was that.

Statistic-wise, Internazionale had a total of 20 attempts with only 45% possession, while the Spurs only had 8 attempts with 55% possession. Brad Friedel was busier than his Slovenian counterpart Samir Handanovic in the Inter goal, having had to make 6 more saves than him. Brad had to make 9 saves on the night, while Samir had to make 3. A total of 5 yellow cards were issued between the two teams; 1 going to the home side and the rest to the away side. No players were sent off during this match.

Andrea Stramaccioni and Andre Villas-Boas lined up the following squads:

Inter Milan Starting XI

Handanovic, Zanetti (c), Chivu, Juan, Jonathan, Cambiasso, Gargano, Guarin, Kovacic, Palacio, Cassano

Subs: Belec, Pasa, Belloni, Colombi, Avarez, Benassi, and Ranocchia

Tottenham Starting XI

Friedel, Vertonghen, Gallas (c), Walker, Naughton, Parker, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Defoe, Adebayor

Subs: Lloris, Assou-Ekotto, Carroll, Holtby, Lennon, and Caulker

Final Score: Internazionale Milano 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur* (Agg: 4-4 AET)

Cassano 20′, Palacio 56′, Gallas 75′ (o.g), Avarez 110′ | Adebayor 96′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face SC Basel of Switzerland as their opponents, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game at home and the second leg away.

SS Lazio vs. VfB Stuttgart

SS Lazio vs. VfB StuttgartLazio, although ‘sentenced’ to play in an empty stadium, were very pumped for the second leg of this game, shining from a comfortable victory in the first leg. They were to start this game unbeaten in 11 European games, with 7 victories and 4 draws, and with a very good home record as well. They more than had the upper hand.

It took the home side just 6 minutes to put their first one in, having threatened since the first whistle, making life even harder for their visitors. Kozak had his first of the night; a strong shot into the back of the net from a Radu cross. Ulreich’s night got even worse when he conceded another one just 120 seconds later. Kozak was the man again; a brace in just 8 minutes, making it 9 goals in the competition for him.

Lazio caught their guests sleeping and countered perfectly, with Hernanes managing to get the ball to Kozak, who made no mistakes. It was Lazio’s game after this as they’d managed to demoralize a strong Stuttgart side. At the edge of the break, Lazio suffered a blow as Marchetti had to come off with an injury caused by Ibisevic to make way for Bizzarri. Lazio stayed strong, however, and their good play continued.

The same story continued in the second half, although Stuttgart corrected many of their mistakes and were playing a better game despite the scoreline and the aggregate. Just under 20 minutes into the second half, Stuttgart finally managed to get the ball into the net, when Hajnal got past Bizzarri and motivate his side.

Stuttgart made some decent changes and were in the driver’s seat for a short time, but Lazio were the stronger team overall and nothing could be done for the visitors with such little time remaining. Kozak continued to look for a perfect hat-trick and got it when his third goal (header) came on the 87th minute, assisted by Candreva. It was, indeed, a perfect hat-trick; one left-footed strike, another a right-footed shot, and the third one a strong header. Lazio had gone through to the quarter-finals and had done so with class.

Stuttgart had 55% possession on the night, while their hosts had 45%, despite this not showing in results. They had more attempts (16) than Lazio (11), as well as better chances. Stuttgart also picked up more yellow cards (2) than Lazio (1). No players were sent off during this match.

Vladimir Petkovic and Bruno Labbadia lined up the following squads:

Lazio Starting XI

Marchetti, Ciani, Pereirinha, Lulic, Biava, Radu, Onazi, Candreva, Hernanes, Mauri (c), Kozak

Subs: Bizzari, Crecco, Gonzalez, Cataldi, Floccari, Ederson, and Ledesma.

Stuttgart Starting XI

lreich, Sakai, Tasci (c), Niedermeier, Molinaro, Gentner, Holzhauser, Okazaki, Macheda, Ibisevic, Hajnal

Subs: Ziegler, Felipe Lopes, Hoogland, Rudiger, Kvist, Harnik, and Traore

Final Score: SS Lazio* 3-1 VfB Stuttgart (Agg: 5-1)

Kozak 6′, 8′, 87′ | Hajnal 62′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated VfB Stuttgart, SS Lazio are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face Fenerbahce SK of Turkey as their opponents according to the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game away and the second leg at home.

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Basel 1893

Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg Review: Part 1

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Basel 1893

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Basel 1893Zenit had a hard time in Switzerland in the first leg of this match, having failed to score any away goals, which would have been important for them as they prepared to host the same team for the second leg. The Russian side had, hence, created a problem for themselves, as Basel had proved to be a very strong team. Zenit, however, did not lose any hope as they had a perfect home record in the competition, having won all six of their home games by 2-goal margins.

Basel started their game hungry for goals with Stocker threatening a bit at the beginning, before having to be sent off to make way for Fabian Frei after an injury by Zenit’s Kerzhakov. The hosts continued to struggle to get both goals back, and managed to get the first one inside just half an hour and restoring faith in themselves. A Hulk corner, met by Lombaerts, allowed Witsel to get his shot past Sommer in the Basel goal, and the hosts were hoping once more.

Zenit’s work was made easier when Basel’s Diaz picked up 2 yellow cards in the margin of just 4 minutes and got himself sent off right at the end of the first half. The home side were now stronger and threatened more, but none of their last-minute attempts (in the first half) translated into goals.

The second half started well for the home side, although the Swiss visitors were very strong at the back, making their lives even more difficult. Sommer was tested a few times, but he just kept holding on. A strong Streller made way for Sauro, and the 23-year-old Argentinian made sure to reinforce his side’s defense.

Zenit had an opportunity to equalize on aggregate and take the game to extra time when Shirokov was gifted a penalty. Sommer made no mistakes, however, making sure to save and taking his side through to the quarter-finals on.

Statistic-wise, Zenit were, by far, the more threatening side, having had a total of 26 attempts (hitting the woodwork once) against Basel’s 3. Zenit had 68% possession throughout the night, as compared to Basel’s 32%. 4 yellow cards were issued during this game and they all went to the home side. Only 1 red card was issued and it went to Basel’s Marcelo Diaz.

Luciano Spalleti and Murat Yakin lined up the following squads:

Zenit Starting XI

Zhenov, Anyukov, Lombaerts, Hubocan, Shirokov (c), Denisov, Alves, Kerzhakov, Hulk, Witsel

Subs: Baburin, Rodic, Lukovic, Semak, Bukharov, Fayzulin, and Bystrov

Basel Starting XI

Somme, Ho, Dragovic, Schar, Streller (c), Degen, Diaz, Salah, Cabral, Elneny, Stocker

Subs: Vailati, Yapi, Frei, Zoua, Frei, Steinhofer, and Sauro

Final Score: Zenit Saint Petersburg 1-0 Basel 1893* (Agg: 1-2)

Witsel 30′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated Zenit, Basel are through to the quarter-finals of this competition and will face Tottenham Hotspur of England as their opponents, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game away, and the second leg at home.

Girondins de Bordeaux vs. SL Benfica

Girondins de Bordeaux vs. SL BenficaHaving managed to hold Benfica, and only just conceded one goal, Bordeaux’s mission in the second leg wouldn’t be too tough, given they had a strong team planned. All they needed to take the game to extra time was 1 goal, which they were confident they would get. They would, however, only go through if they managed to prevent a strong Benfica from scoring any away goals.

This match started well for the home side, who were looking to erase their opponent’s goal with early attempts from Diabate and Saivet. Carrasso wasn’t too bothered in the Bordeaux goal for the first 20 minutes, but slowly, the away side picked up on their pace and started to counter much more confidently.

30 minutes in, the away side had their first goal, adding to their tally significantly, and making their hosts more uncomfortable. A corner from John found Jardel, who was able to head the ball into the net to make it 2-0 on aggregate. The home side now had to up their game even more.

The second half came and the home side played with more urgency, managing to scare their visitors a few times before they could respond. It was an all-Bordeaux game until Jorge Jesus decided to make a very important change to his side’s attack; Oscar Cardozo in for Rodrigo.

Some balance, however little, was established between the two teams as time continued to run out for the French side. The hosts regained a little hope just 8 minutes later when Diabate finally got one in for his hard work. Henrique’s long ball forward was met by the 24-year-old Malian who managed to put it past Artur with class.

The home side’s joy was short-lived, however, when just seconds later, Oscar Cardozo did the same thing for his team. Carrasso had no chance against the Paraguayan striker. Hope was once again lost for Francis’ side. 4 minutes were added on at the end of this game, and 2 goals were scored during this time. The first was to the home side when Jardel accidentally put the ball into his own net, and the second was another marvelous strike from Oscar Cardozo to end Bordeaux dreams of going to the next round.

Statistic-wise, the home side had a total of 15 attempts, the away side managing only 6. Both sides were close, having each gotten 4 corners, 1 good attempt, and almost equal possession (Bordeaux had 52% possession against Benfica’s 48%). Ovidiu Alin Hategan issued a total of 6 yellow cards (3-a-side) between the two teams. No players were sent off during this match.

Francis Gillot and Jorge Jesus lined up the following squads:

Bordeaux Starting XI

Carrasso, Henrique, Sane, Tremoulinas, Plasil (c), Mariano, Sertic, Obraniak, Diabate, Saivet, Maurice-Belay

Subs: Olimpa, Marange, Planus, Poundje, Sacko, Poko, and Khalfallah

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Roderick, Jardel, Andre Almeida, Salvio, Gaitan (c), Matic, Perez, John, Melgarejo, Rodrigo

Subs: Paulo Lopes, Miguel Vitor, Aimar, Lima, Oscar Cardozo, Carlos Martins, and Maxi Pereira

Final Score: Girondins de Bordeaux 2-3 SL Benfica* (Agg: 2-4)

Diabate 74′, Jardel 90+1′ (o.g) | Jardel 30′, Oscar Cardozo 75′, 90+2′

Quarter-Finals

Having eliminated Bordeaux, Benfica are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face Newcastle United, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game at home, and the second leg away.

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

Steaua Bucuresti vs. Chelsea

Europa League Round of 16 First Leg Review: Part 4

Steaua Bucuresti vs. Chelsea

Steaua Bucuresti vs. ChelseaThe Champions of Europe traveled to Romania on the back of an important win against West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League, meaning they would be confident having eliminated a strong side in Sparta Prague. Their hosts and current league leaders (Romanian Liga 1), Steaua Bucuresti, also went into this game on the back of a comfortable 3-0 win against Gaz Metan Medias in the Liga 1 the previous weekend. They had also made a great comeback against AFC Ajax in the Round of 32, making them the only side to have gone through to the round of 16 having lost in the first leg, and so they had every reason to be confident.

This match started well for the home side, who had their first corner inside only the first minute, their second in the sixth, and their third in the thirteenth, all before Chelsea even had their first. They were in control of the game for most of the first half as Chelsea struggled to settle into the game. Chelsea had their first attempt in the 24th minute when Branislav Ivanovic had a chance to direct a Frank Lampard corner into the net. Oscar had a chance to get an important away goal for his side, but failed as well. What was to be the only goal of the match came in the 34th minute when Ryan Bertrand was penalized for a pull on Raul Rusescu inside the penalty area to earn Steaua a penalty. The Romanian 24-year-old made no mistakes as he drove a strong shot past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal to put his side ahead. Yossi Benayoun was determined to clear Steaua’s goal by scoring one for his side, but Tatarusanu didn’t think so. Fernando Torres also missed the target as Chelsea desperately looked for an equalizer that didn’t come.

The second half was even more challenging for the defending Champions of Europe as their hosts came out stronger and tougher. Laurentiu’s decision to put Prepelita on for Pintilli was responded to by a Rafael decision to put a fresh Juan Mata on for an off-target Benayoun, strengthening the away side’s attack. Eden Hazard had a chance to get an equalizer for his side, but missed the target and was replaced by Marko Marin just minutes later. Things continued to be tight all the way to the last minute, and Steaua would have a advantage when they would head to West London for the second leg the following week.

Statistic-wise, Steaua had a total of 8 attempts, while Chelsea had 9. The home side had overall less possession than their English visitors (48% and 52% respectively). A total of 3 yellow cards were issued; 1 going to the home side, and 2 to their visitors. No players were sent off during this game.

Laurentiu Reghecampf and Rafael Benitez lined up the following squads:

Steaua Starting XI

Tatarusanu, Szukala, Latovlevici, Rapa, Chiriches, Rusescu, Chipciu, Bourceanu (c), Pintilli, Popa, Tanase

Subs: Stanca, Filip, Iancu, Sobrinho, Prepelita, Tatu, and Gardos

Chelsea Starting XI

Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry (c), Bertrand, Lampard, Oscar, Mikel, Hazard, Torres, Benayoun

Subs: Turnbull, Cole, Ferreira, Cahill, Mata, Marin, and Azpilicueta

Final Score: Steaua Bucuresti 1-0 Chelsea

Rusescu 34′ (pen)

Viktoria Plzen vs. Fenerbahce SK

Viktoria Plzen vs. Fenerbahce SKFenerbahce traveled to the Czech Republic on the back of a defeat to Besiktas in the Turkish Super Lig just 4 days earlier, but they were still as confident as they were supposed to be, having failed to concede while playing away in their previous 3 fixtures. The home side would go into this game on the back of a draw against Banik Ostrava in the Gambrinus Liga the previous weekend. They were also on a 7-game winning run at home in Europe this season, so they would also be very confident going into this game.

The away side started stronger and quicker with their passes, but the home side were playing very comfortably and were able to keep their opponents from doing too much. Kozacik had to make his first save after Fenerbahce had started to threaten but his side weren’t giving their visitors a good time either. The away side, however, were dominating at this stage and so Irtegun and co. had to be very awake. The home side finally got something for their hard work, but Rajtoral hit the woodwork, leaving this very tight between the two teams. Plzen desperately tried to get something before the end of the first half with decent attempts from Horvath and Darida, but it just wasn’t going to happen.

The same game continued in the second half, but the away side seemed hungrier, and this continued for the remainder of the game. Sow, who had been very good on the night made a decent attempt, forcing a Kozacik save once again. Bakos made way for Tecl as the home side became more and more vulnerable. It was all 50/50 from there until Fenerbahce’s break came at just 9 minutes to full time through Webo, having picked up the pieces off a Sow attempt that Kozacik had saved. The away side got just what they had wanted and the Czech side was stunned.

Statistic-wise, Fenerbahce had a bigger slice of the possession (55% against 45%) and overall more attempts (18 against 6), meaning that Kozacik had to make more saves (7) than his Turkish counterpart, Demirel (0) in the Fenerbahce goal. Only 1 yellow card was issued during this game, and it went to the Turkish side. No players were sent off during this match.

Pavel Vrba and Aykut Kocaman lined up the following squads:

Plzen Starting XI

Kozacik, Reznik, Prochazka, Rajtoral, Clsovsky, Kolar, Horvath (c), Darida, Kovarik, Bakos, Duris

Subs: Pavlik, Koncal, Zeman, Adamov, Tecl, Fillo, and Hejda

Fenerbahce Starting XI

Volkan Demirel (c), Irtegun, Yobo, Ziegler, Gonul, Cristian, Sahin, Webo, Sow, Kuyt

Subs: Gunok, Kesimal, Ucan, Sentur, Simsek, Erkin, and Topuz

Final Score: Victoria Plzen 0-1 Fenerbahce

Webo 81′

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

Anzhi Makhachkala vs. Newcastle United

Europa League Round of 16 First Leg Review: Part 3

Levante UD vs. Rubin Kazan

Levante UD vs. Rubin KazanThe Spanish side traveled to Russia on the back of what had been an okay game for them at Valencia in the Spanish Liga BBVA the previous weekend. This meant that Juan Ignacio’s side would still be confident as they prepared to face the team that eliminated defending champions, Atletico Madrid. Their good European record also allowed Levante to believe they had a good chance when they traveled to Kazan.

The Premier Liga side went into this match on the back of a not-so-significant loss to the defending champions, Atletico Madrid (although they won the match on aggregate), meaning that they would be confident as well. Kurban Berdyev was looking to prove that his side’s victory against the defending champions was not just lucky.

This match started on a balanced note, whereby the two teams shared possession and played the same kind of game. Inside 4 minutes, however, Ryzhikov had to make a save to prevent the home side from taking an early lead through Levante’s captain, Ballesteros. Obafemi Martins made another attempt a few minutes later, but the big Russian in the Rubin goal saved once again. Rubin’s first attempt came in the 15th minute when R. Eremenko had a chance but missed the target. The home side had a slight edge over their their opponents for most of the first half, although the Russian side had a few decent attempts for the first 45. Levante were stronger at half time, but the score sheet was still blank.

The second half started faster for the away side, who had an attempt just seconds after the referee had blown the whistle. Natcho, however, missed the target, to the relief of the home crowd. Things continued as they had ended in the first half as the home side regained control. Levante were given an even bigger advantage when Rubin’s Ansaldi picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Ballesteros and was sent off. It was now 11 against 10 with more than half an hour still to play. Juan Ignacio Martinez had to make changes and introduce some fresh legs at this point, but chose not to. Kurban Berdyev, instead, made the first change; Kaleshin on for Kasaev, to enforce the away defense a little bit more.

Rubin got their work reduced, as just 2 minutes after Ansaldi’s sending off, the numbers were made equal when Michel suffered the same fate when a bad foul on Karadeniz got the Spanish 24-year-old sent off. It was now 10 against 10 with still more than half an hour left to play. This continued as they had started, although the away side had woken up a little bit more. Levante’s first change came at 68 minutes when Rios came on for Diop. Rios almost proved to be a super-sub, but just missed the target. It started to look more and more like it would end in a goalless draw as the minutes started to end. Rondon almost got his side a significant away goal, but just hit the woodwork and the game ended, as expected, in a goalless draw. Levante’s unbeaten run in home games (in European competitions) had continued.

Statistic-wise, the home side had 12 attempts, while their visitors had 10. Both teams had equal chances, although the home side were more accurate in their attempts. Sergei Ryzhikov had to make 6 saves compared to his Costa Rican opponent, Keylor Navas, who only had to make only 2. Rubin Kazan hit the woodwork twice during this match. 7 players went into Antony Gautier’s book on the night; with the home side picking up 1 yellow and 1 red, and the away side 5 yellows and 1 red. 2 (1-a-side) players were sent off during this match; Rubin’s Ansaldi (2 yellow cards), and Levante’s Michel (straight red).

Juan Ignacio Martinez and Kurban Berdyev lined up the following squads:

Levante Starting XI

Navas, Navarro, Juanfran, Ballesteros (c), Lopez, Barkero, Iborra, Michel, Diop, Garcia, Martins

Subs: Munua, Rodas, Karabelas, Valdo, Acquafresca, Gomez, and Rios

Rubin Kazan Starting XI

Ryzhikov, Kuzmin, Ansaldi, Marcano, Sharonov (c), Kasaev, Orbaiz, Eremenko, Karadeniz, Natcho, Rondon

Subs: Arlauskis, Kislyak, Eremenko, Gokhan Tore, Dyadun, and Kaleshin

Final Score: Levante UD 0-0 Rubin Kazan

Anzhi Makhachkala vs. Newcastle United

Anzhi Makhachkala vs. Newcastle UnitedAnzhi Makhachkala looked to keep their 100% record on Russian soil as they anticipated the Tynesiders’ arrival. They were pretty confident of a win (and why not?!), as they had beaten tougher opponents (going by this season’s form) in Hannover 96.

Newcastle United went into the match on the back of a loss at the Liberty Stadium in Wales the previous weekend in the English Premier League, but this wasn’t going to stop hold them back as they traveled to Moscow. They did, after all, have a much better European record than Anzhi overall! The most predicted result for this match was a draw, as both teams were equally strong.

This match started on a not-so-lively note, as most of the game happened in midfield. The first change of the game was made by Anzhi inside just 23 minutes when an injured Willian (ankle injury) made way for Lacina Traore. Not too many attempts were made in the first half by either team, but probably more noticed was a Samuel Eto’o chance nearing the end of the first half. Elliot was able to save this one to keep his side hoping.

The second half was definitely faster and more lively even on a cold night, as attempts from the home side kept coming in. Elliot, at this point, had to have a better defense in front of him, as the home side continued to threaten. Hatem Ben Arfa had a decent chance in the 64th minute, but Gabulov was there to save. Hatem Ben Arfa, moments from then, made way for Shola Ameobi; Alan Pardew now much more eager to get an away goal.

Anzhi tried a few things in front of goal, but none of their efforts paid off. They threw away a few chances as well, but it seemed Guus Hiddink would be comfortable with even a draw. Both sides made a few late changes, including an introduction of Carcela-Gonzalez into the Russian side, but nothing happened for either side as the game ended as had been predicted by the majority of neutral viewers that night.

Statistic-wise, the home side had a total of 9 attempts, compared to their visitors’ 4. The home side had overall more possession (53% against 47%), although the game was more or less balanced throughout the night. Only 1 yellow card was issued during this match, and it fell to the away side. No players were sent off during this match.

Guus Hiddink and Alan Pardew lined up the following squads:

Anzhi Starting XI

Gabulov, Joao Carlos, Zhirkov, Ewerton, Eschenko, Jucilei, Ahmedov, Diarra, Shatov, Eto’o (c), Willian

Subs: Pomazan, Tagirbekov, Gadzhibekov, Smolov, Traore, Carcela-Gonzalez, and Logashov

Newcastle Starting XI

Elliot, Simpson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Perch, Haidara, Anita, Sissoko, Marveaux, Obertan, Cabaye, Arfa

Subs: Alnwick, Santon, Bigirimana, Campbell, Ameobi, Tiote, and Taylor

Final Score: Anzhi Makhachkala 0-0 Newcastle United

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

VfB Stuttgart vs. SS Lazio

Europa League Round of 16 First Leg Review: Part 2

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Internazionale Milano

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Internazionale MilanoLabeled to be probably the most exciting fixture of the night and of the competition (until now) as well, this match was taken really seriously by both sides, with both managers confirming they were very aware of each others strength. In the first leg, being played at White Hart Lane, Andrea Stramaccioni was to create more of attacking game (in order to score as many away goals as possible), because he knew that anything could have happened in the second leg; the Spurs being a strong squad. Andre Villas-Boas, in the same manner, selected a squad he knew would create better chances and score many significant away goals; Gareth Bale being the main man under the spotlight. The Portuguese manager also made sure to pick an experienced Brad Friedel over Hugo Lloris (who would have to be 100% fit for their game the coming Sunday), knowing how big of a threat Inter would be.

The Spurs didn’t allow their opponents any time to settle to White Hart Lane, and started the game as they would start if any other English club were playing. They caught their visitors sleeping and netted their first goal inside only 6 minutes when Gareth Bale found a Gylfi Sigurdsson cross and headed home. The visitors were still shaken and almost conceded a second goal just a few minutes later had Handanovic not gotten in the way of a Defoe shot. Gareth Bale had a chance to get the fastest brace in the competition’s Round of 16 just moments later, but once again, Handanovic saved. Handanovic was, however, rendered helpless when Sigurdsson got one for himself in the 18th minute with an assist from Defoe.

The second goal seemed to have woken up the visitors as Friedel started having to make saves all of a sudden. But the period of dominance from the visitors wouldn’t last long, though, and things went back to how they had started out. What was to be the last goal of the night (although it seemed there might have been more on the night) came in the 53rd minute when an in-form Vertonghen headed from a Bale corner to make it 3-0 for the Lily whites.

Nothing seemed to work in the remaining minutes for the Milan side, who had been very poor overall. Some decent attempts were made, but it just wasn’t their night.

Andre Villas-Boas and Andrea Stramaccioni lined up the following squads:

Tottenham Starting XI

Friedel, Vertonghen, Gallas, Walker, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Parker (c), Bale, Sigurdsson, Dembele, Defoe

Subs: Lloris, Dawson, Caulker, Carroll, Livermore, Holtby, and Naughton

Inter Starting XI

Handanovic, Zanetti (c), Ranocchia, Chivu, Pereira, Alvarez, Cambiasso, Gargano, Kovacic, Cassano, Juan

Subs: Belec, Mbaye, Benassi, Pasa, Palacio, Guarin, and Jonathan

Final Score: Tottenham Hotspur 3-0  Internazionale Milano

Bale 6′, Sigurdsson 18′, Vertonghen 53′

VfB Stuttgart vs. SS Lazio

VfB Stuttgart vs. SS LazioStuttgart had had an exciting Round of 32 and were now looking to advance even further when they played Italian club, Lazio. Vladimir Petkovic and his side, in the same manner, were aiming to go even further into the competition by getting as many away goals as possible in a game that would be tougher than predicted. Although having had the upper hand before the game (with a great record in European competitions this season, having avoided a loss until now and conceding only one goal at home-W6 D4), Lazio didn’t underestimate their hosts,not one bit, not even with Stuttgart’s poor home form in this season’s competition (D3 L1)!

The home side started well and a little bit more confident than their visitors, who were still slowly adjusting to playing in Germany. They had a few decent attempts, but Marchetti was there to save. 21 minutes in, however, the tables began to slowly turn, as the home defense was caught off-guard by Lazio samba boy, Ederson. Ulreich could do nothing to keep it out, and Lazio had their first away goal, which was just what they needed to motivate them on the night. The hosts kept searching for an equalizer in the minutes that followed, but Lazio’s defense was just too stubborn.

Just as the two teams prepared to go to half-time, the hosts suffered a huge blow when Maxim had to be taken off with a bloodied nose. Bruno decided that Hajnal would be the man to take his place for the rest of the game. A change that brought immediate impact, well almost! Hajnal just missed the target as soon as he’d settled into the game, and his side were still trailing at half-time.

The second half wasn’t too eventful, save for a few near-goals and a second Lazio goal (courtesy of Lazio’s strong Nigerian, Onazi just 11 minutes into the second half; once again facilitated by the home side’s poor defense), but both teams held almost equal possession. The home side had, once again, failed to get a home win in the competition in probably the last chance they were to have this season.

Both teams had 14 attempts each, although the home side had better chances. Svein Ulreich had to make 3 saves, as compared to Marchetti’s 7. Alexandru Dan Tudor, the referee on the night, issued a total of 5 yellow cards between the two teams; the home side picking one less than their visitors. No players were sent off during this match.

Bruno Labbadia and Vladimir Petkovic lined up the following squads:

Stuttgart Starting XI

Ulreich, Sakai, Tasci (c), Boka, Rudiger, Traore, Gentner, Okazaki, Macheda, Maxim, Kvist

Subs: Ziegler, Felipe Lopes, Molinaro, Holzhauser, Hoogland, Hajnal, and Harnik

Lazio Starting XI

Marchetti, Ciani, Pereirinha, Lulic, Radu (c), Onazi, Cana, Candreva, Hernanes, Ederson, Kozak

Subs: Bizzari, Andre Dias, Biava, Ledesma, Lombardi, Gonzalez, and Floccari

Final Score: VfB Stuttgart 0-2 SS Lazio

Ederson 21′, Onazi 56′

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

Basel 1893 vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg

Europa League Round of 16 First Leg Review: Part 1

Basel 1893 vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg

Basel 1893 vs. Zenit Saint PetersburgZenit cruised through to the Round of 16 thanks to a great performance against Liverpool in the Round of 32, but their run of luck seemed to have come to an end when they traveled to Basel for the first leg of this tie. Basel, having managed to get past a tough Dnipro, were still determined to go for the title.

This match started well for the home side, who had an opportunity to go forward early, had Diaz not missed the target. The Russian visitors were by no means asleep during this game, and so they also went out and got an opportunity for themselves, but Basel were not going to concede early.

It was still anyone’s game; the first half having been a 50/50 game. Both teams held each other quite comfortably and there didn’t seem to be a goal coming at all. The team with possibly the better attempts and more possession was the home side, but Zenit held strong looking for an away goal.

The second half saw Luciano Spalleti introduce the fresh legs of Fayzulin on for a hardworking Semak. Hulk was more or less released now, and was able to make a few attempts, but Basel just wouldn’t let him. Steinhöfer then came off for Degen, and soon after that, Serey Die made way for Elneny. The game still looked tied and it didn’t seem like we would see a goal from either side for the first leg, not with the kind of defense Zenit had!

Murat Yakin put Frei on for Zoua, bringing a little more edge to the Basel game. 4 minutes later, Basel finally got their hard-earned goal when a Mohamed Salah effort paved the way for his teammate to get back a strong Malafeev. The home side didn’t think that one goal was enough for the 90 minutes and kept searching for one more into the 4 minutes of added time after the game. An opportunity to add to their tally came right at the end of the game, when Luis Neto fouled Salah in the box, granting Basel a last-minute penalty. Frei didn’t waste this chance for his team and put the ball into the net for a second Basel goal from the spot.

Basel had a total of 21 attempts against Zenit’s 11; the home side had much better attempts as well. A total of 4 yellow cards was issued between the two teams; the away side only picking up 1. Zenit’s Luis Neto was the only player to be sent off during this match and will miss the second leg.

Murat Yakin and Luciano Spalleti lined up the following squads:

Basel Starting XI

Sommer (c), Park Joo Ho, P. Degen, Dragovic, Schar, D. Degen, Diaz, Salah, Cabral, Serey Die, Zoua

Subs: Vaillati, Voser, Sauro, Stocker, Elneny, Frei, and Steinhofer

Zenit Starting XI

Malafeev, Lombaerts, Luis Neto, Hubocan, Rodic, Shirokov (c), Denisov, Witsel, Semak, Hulk, Danny

Subs: Zhenov, Bruno Alves, Lukovic, Bystrov, Bukharov, Kerzakhov, and Fayzulin

Final Score: Basel 1893 2-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg

Diaz 83′ | Frei 90 + 4′ (pen)

SL Benfica vs. Girondins de Bordeaux

SL Benfica vs. Girondins de BordeauxHaving overcome tough ties against Leverkusen and Kyiv, Benfica and Bordeaux had an even tougher game to play against each other in the Round of 32. The first leg being played in Portugal, the French side were to make it their mission to take each and every chance as it would come and use it to score as many goals as possible.

Benfica, in the same way, were to avoid conceding at all costs, knowing how tough their opponents are known to be domestically. That said, both manager, (with teams seemingly of the same strength) played more or less the same kind of players on the night.

As soon as Alon Yefet blew the first whistle, the home side were already starting to threaten Carrasso in the Bordeaux goal; hoping that an early goal would demoralize their visitors and prevent them from getting any away goals. 12 minutes in, however, Bordeaux had their first shot, courtesy of Obraniak, but Artur saved it. And a 50/50 game went on.

What was to be the only goal in this game came in the 21st minute, thanks to a powerful shot by Rodrigo; onto the crossbar (with a touch from Carrasso’s back) in an embarrassing manner (for Carrasso), all to the delight of a Portuguese crowd.

The 50/50 game continued all the way to the final whistle, and Benfica would have the upper hand when they would visit France. Although there were some decent attempts from both sides in the second half, Carrasso, Artur, and both sides’ defenders prevented any other goals from getting in.

Statistic-wise, Benfica had a total of 8 attempts; 3 of them being off target. Bordeaux had a total of 11, 3 of which were off target as well. Both Carrasso and Artur were tested equally, both of them having made 3 saves each. More than 60% of this game was played in midfield. The home side had better chances on the night. Alon Yefet only issued 2 yellow cards on the night, both of which went to the home side. No players were sent off during this game.

Jorge Jesus and Francis Gillot lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Roderick, Luisao (c), Garay, Almeida, Gaitan, Martins, Rodrigo, Melgarejo, John, Cardozo

Subs: Lopes, Pereira, Jardel, Aimar, Lima, Salvio, and Perez

Bordeaux Starting XI

Carrassso, Sane, Marioano, Tremoulinas, Plasil (c), Sertic, Maurice-Belay, Faubert, Obraniak, Rolan

Subs: Keita, Marange, Planus, Poundje, Ben Khalfallah, Traore, and Bellion

Final Score: SL Benfica 1-0 Girondins de Bordeaux

Carrasso 21′ (o.g)

Written by @TrueBlueFemale

The Highs and Lows of Arsenal’s Season So Far

There is no denying that Arsenal are not at the level they used to be. The Golden Age of Henry, Bergkamp, Dixon, Wright, and Adams are behind us, and the new generation of Arsenal players are with us. Despite the addition of these new, young talents to the club, this new team hasn’t performed as well as fans were expecting.

Premier League

ArsenalArsenal are currently 5th in the Premier league with a game in hand against 4th placed Tottenham. They are currently 4 points behind the Spurs, yet their current run of form means that it will very challenging just to reach 4th place before the season’s end.

Arsenal currently has the best defensive record away from home in the league, yet at home, their defense is ranked in the bottom 8 of the league. You can now see why Arsenal’s defense gets such a torrid time.

Champions League

Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions league by Bayern Munich in the last 16. Admittedly, they were knocked before the second leg had even started after a poor performance in the first leg, losing 3-1 at home. However a valiant display in the second leg is surely one of the highlights of the season for Arsenal fans.

Domestic Cups

Arsenal were famously knocked out of the League Cup by League 2 minnows Bradford City. Bradford did eventually go on to reach the final, but lost 5-0 to Swansea. However, the worst thing about their performance was that Arsene Wenger fielded a very strong side. The likes of Cazorla, Podolski, Wilshere, and Vermaelen all started that game.

Arsenal also lost in the FA Cup to Blackburn. A quarter-final match, which Arsenal were expected to ease through, didn’t go to plan; yet another game that Arsenal should have won.

What Needs to Change?

Cesc Fabregas and Robin van PersieArsenal lack star power, having lost the likes of van Persie, Fabregas, and Song in recent years. A star needs to be brought in, someone who can change a game with a touch of class.

Arsenal also need a pacy center back to keep up with counter attacks. With Mertesacker, there is no pace, and often players can run in behind the defense.

Who Should be Signed?

Mario Götze has been outstanding for Borussia Dortmund and has showed his class and flair all season. His dribbling and creativity is exactly what Arsenal are missing.

Another option for Arsene Wenger is Edison Cavani, who like Götze, has been attracting attention by big clubs across Europe. Cavini is currently the top scorer in the Italian Serie A with 22 goals. His best traits are his impressive work rate and outstanding heading and finishing.

Plenty of rumors have been linking both these players to the club, and both Cavini and Götze have what Arsenal is missing. They would create and score lots of goals as well as having the star power they lacking at the moment.

Best and Worst Players

For me Santi Cazorla has been Arsenal’s best player this season by far. He has scored 12 goals in the Premier League as well as creating 7 assists. He commands games with his skill on the ball and his vision. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, and Lukas Podolski came close but couldn’t quite beat Cazorla. Jack Wilshere could have beaten Cazorla if he hadn’t been injured for much of season.

Andrei Arshavin has been very poor for Arsenal this season. He looks bored when he is playing and lacks a desire to create anything remotely decent. When he joined Arsenal in 2009, he was brilliant. He showed pace, skill, and a lethal shot, but now he just looks lazy. Gervinho ran Arshavin close, but his recent performance against Reading showed he still has what is needed to perform well.

Young Talent

Jack WilshereArsenal’s academy is still one of the best in England, and new talent is constantly arriving. The likes of Wilshere and Gibbs came through the ranks at Arsenal, and many new players have the potential to do the same. Recently watching a U21 game, the one player that stood out was captain Ignasi Miquel. He towers over the other players at 6 feet 4 inches, yet is so agile and good with the ball at his feet.

Another name for you to remember is 20 year old Thomas Eisfiled. The young German is said to be the new Götze because of his excellent play-making abilities.

Summary

This season has been disappointing for Arsenal fans and well below Arsenal’s usual standards. At times, the football has been great to watch, but the results have not been good enough. Players must be brought in to change the team for the better. On the plus side, there are plenty of new stars in the academy ready to come up and create a new generation of Arsenal players.

Written by Eleanor Martin (@EleanorMartin58)

Against Modern Football: A Movement to Improve the Beautiful Game

Against Modern Football is a movement that has been around in Europe for about 10 years and only in these past couple of years has started to creep into Britain; hopefully for the better good. The whole idea of the Against Modern Football movement is based on several parts of the current ‘new’ and ‘modern’ game:

  • Prices of Football Matches
  • Leveraging of Debt
  • Drop in Atmosphere

The Rise of Ticket Prices

Against Modern FootballTicket prices have rose over 1000% in the past two decades, which is truly ridiculous. The idea of a fan supporting a team back in the 1950s-1960s was watching your team every week, but the constant rise of prices hinders this. We are living in a economy who have gone through a double-dip recession, 1000s of business closures throughout Europe and millions have lost jobs.

Especially for a young football fan 18-22 who would not be on a high wage bracket in their working establishment, the prices they would be paying are completely unfair. In 1989, the cheapest price for a ticket to watch Manchester United cost £3.50, which, with inflation, should cost £6.20 in today’s money. In fact, the least fans can expect to pay today is £28. The picture is worse at Anfield where tickets were £4 and now the minimum is £45; a rise of 1025%.

In a Daily Mail article it quotes the following:

‘They are beyond the reach of many younger people who used to have access to football and now, if they are interested, they are watching the game in the pub.”

“Football, by tradition, was always accessible to almost everybody, and in the current economic climate, with jobs and standards of living under threat, there is a great danger an increasing section of the community will be priced out.”

Debt

Debt in football is a constant problem and it is also linked to the problem of clubs spending money they don’t have. Financial Fair Play is slowly being introduced, but clubs are said to possibly find their way past it, but we shall see.

The idea of Financial Fair Play is that clubs cannot spend more than their turnover over a net year. Last season, 8 of the 20 Premier League clubs made a profit, while Manchester City, whose lavish funding by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan has just won them the league title, reported the greatest financial loss in the history of football: £197m.

Manchester City were also the only Premier League club whose wage bill (£174m) exceeded their turnover (£153m). Manchester United have by a clear margin the largest debt, which at this current point (April 2013) stands at an est. £300m. United also have the largest turnover in the Premier League and have had so over the past 15-20 years.

Drop in Atmosphere in English Football

Borussia Dortmund AtmospherePersonally, this is the most frustrated and disappointing area currently in English football. England clubs atmosphere has remarkably dropped over these past 10 years, and the points I made at the start all lead to this.

Currently, a fantastic example in Europe of great atmosphere is Germany and German football. Why has Germany got such a great atmosphere? 3 things: fan ownership, safe standing, and cheap tickets. There is no doubt if more clubs in Europe adopted this style we’d notice an increase in atmosphere.

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the two current best teams in Germany, offer season ticket prices between £60-£100! An Arsenal season ticket costs between £800 - £1000; the same Arsenal football club who have went 8 years without a trophy.

There are different forms of safe standing, the first of which are modern terraces. Morecambe FC’s Globe Arena have standing for over 4,000 spectators. Bolt-on, Fold-away, and Rail seats are the type of seats used in the Bundesliga. All German Bundesliga grounds permit standing and many have very large standing areas.

Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park provides standing accommodation for 27,000 fans. The problem of safe standing being introduced in England is that of health and safety, which seems to be the cause of a load of issues.

Written by @UtdMancunian