Cleat Geeks

UEFA Champions League Matchweek 2 Round Up

Don’t do this if you are currently reading in a public library, but if you’re not…then clap it up for Italy. The 4 clubs representing Italy all collect 4 wins while only suffering 2 collective goals and scoring a total of 11. The revolution is coming as Serie A begins to regain its hold on Europe. Before you know it, the Italian National team will rally behind it on International weeks and I am on board for the ride. Congratulations to the Italian clubs and their respective fan bases, and a big Congrats to the Italian people. Juventus and Roma shut out their opponents while racking up the scoresheet on their home grounds on Tuesday. Paulo Dybala (Juv) and Edin Dzeko (Rom) each netted a hat trick for their clubs. Those were two one-side yet entertaining matches. Napoli and Inter scrapped, fought, and found themselves to be the recipients of the “Hard work pays off” trophy as Inter rallied from their 1-0 losing start to Eindhoven to win 2-1. Napoli put so much pressure on Liverpool and finally broke through with a late 1-0 winner in the 90th minute from Insigne. A much-needed win for newly appointed Napoli boss Ancelloti.

Okay, So Italy is good. Whose bad?

You can narrow down your 0-2 teams and find two teams that might shock you. Those two are Tottenham and Monaco. I had a conversation with my godfather before all the European Leauges began and when PSG destroyed Monaco in a league cup game about the fall of Monaco. This seems to be where the line ends for what seemed to be a very good stretch of success for Monaco. Same goes for Tottenham. I think the Spurs caught lightning in a bottle in the 2017/18 Campaign. Now with the construction of the new stadium and the debt that comes with it, we will begin to see their fall as well. (That’s an awfully beautiful stadium for an English Championship team in 2019….)

I wouldn’t count 0-2 PSV Eindhoven out just yet either. They fought hard against Inter and I still believe they can collect 6 points against the Spurs in the next two matches. They’ve played the second best in the group so far in terms of quality and control. They just need to step up the hunger factor against the Spurs. Hopefully, the next 3 matches they can get in form for the last match against Barca, who might not play all their starters on matchday 6.

In my last article, I mentioned how Bayern Munich were underwhelming. That was the nice way of me saying “over-rated”. I like this team. It saddens me to see the likes of Ribery and Robben bring it down because of their entitlement by seniority. These are old players in a new game trying to dictate playing time over their manager. This back-and-forth has been reported by many European papers and the negative emotions it causes is starting to play out on the field. They’re Mourinho with cleats. Speaking of Mourinho, can’t get it done at home against a Spanish side. No surprise there. The de-evolution of that team is a sad story as well but I won’t dwell on it. Then there is Real Madrid going down 1-0 at the opening in Moscow. Everyone and their grandmother were on their phones live betting Real Madrid to win since the odds probably went up in a favorable value. That Madrid -1.5 was oh so juicy. But I did not buy into it. This Real Madrid team is not the Real Madrid team that dominated the Champions League the last 5 years. They would lose this game trailing for 88+ minutes. This team is looking for a personality. They couldn’t get it together in La Liga when they lost 3-0 at Sevilla and split points at home with Atleti this past Saturday. Los Blancos Manager Lopetegui has a long way to go.

Besides Italy, whose good?

Barcelona. Duh. They travel to London and took down the same Tottenham we watched from last year. Raise your hand if you thought this game would end in a Spurs win….don’t feel ashamed if you did. Spurs fan are no different from Gunners fans…it’s their year until reality settles in. Messi is back to doing Messi things. He is looking to take Ronaldo’s goal-scoring record as a show of good faith to the UEFA community.

Borussia Dortmund are surprisingly good, but their big test comes next. They split two games with Atletico the Madrid. The other really good team I have penciled in to win the competition or at least make it to the finals against Barca. I will hold my thoughts until those two play. That will be on my watch list for Wednesday October 24th. Just a shame Barcelone – Inter, and PSG – Napoli are also on…

PSG played a statement game after going down to Liverpool in the opener. That was no surprise. However, Liverpool ‘s loss to Napoli was quite the surprise. Not that the Napoli win that was surprising, it was Napoli’s 9 shots (4 on target) to Liverpool’s 3 (0 on target). Sounds boring right? Imagine the Red’s fans watching Napoli play the entire game on attack while Liverpool defended and surprisingly had 45% of possession. I guess the time to take free kicks and goal kicks counts for Liverpool’s possession times.

Worth mentioning…

Porto and Schalke got the job done this week. Unless you are a fan of any team in group D, then the interest in this group isn’t all that great. Many don’t see these teams making it to February.

Group F is up for grabs now.  At first glance you would think Manchester City and Lyon are going to walk away with it but City are barely winning games.  Lyon looked shaky against Shaktar who always seem to score enough goals to please the Over betters. I do not have a clue where this is going but that’s the beauty of football. That’s my analysis…no clue.

Roma’s taking group G. They own it. I can’t wait to see what they do when they play Real Madrid on the double. Referees will be blamed for everything as usual.

Juventus have the best opportunity to lock down Group H going back to back against Manchester United. I would bet on Valencia taking advantage here and jumping to a strong hold onto second place. I am just really rooting against Jose Mourinho at any costs. Remember when Man United games were fun? #JoseMoOut

 

Uefa Champions League Week 1 Review (Guess who’s back…)

back again…

Messi’s back…

He is back and better than ever. I told you he was angry about not making the top 3 UEFA player of the year appearance. So he comes out and treats himself to a hat-trick in the opening 4-nil victory at the Camp Nou. My favorite of those goals was Dembele’s cheeky back heel flick that left two defenders in his wake and soon after he sent a net-seeking missile off his right foot. I was lucky enough to watch that goal in live action which lead me to a outstanding O. Before all your minds can go there… I saw the goal, my eyes bulged, pupils dilated, mouth dropped, and “ohhhhhhh wow” was all I could say in reaction to the World Cup Winner’s goal. PSV Eindhoven will need to soon forget that game and move on. PSV almost scored early with a Lozano lead run on a counter attack that looked similar to the one where he scored for Mexico against Germany in the world cup. If PSV can capitalize on those plays, they’ll be okay. They should be glad to have gotten this game out of the way early. I still have faith in PSV to pull through to the next stage. Inter and Tottenham are exactly who we thought they were. Italian teams not named Juventus seem to have upset lady luck. Tottenham’s Erikssen scored a 57 minute floater that had no business of calling itself a goal. But if it’s in it’s in.  Great comeback by Inter with the late 93rd minute corner kick goal. Watch those highlights, or the full second half for fantastic work. One of those teams will do well in the Europa League but I don’t have high hopes for them here. Inter need to bring that same level of play to all 3 of their away games before I can convince myself they’re ready for the next stage.

Admit it, when AS Monaco scored that forceful goal at home to Atletico de Madrid, you thought my “Atleti to the finals” prediction was as good as dead. But that is the beauty of football. One minute your losing, then in 45/halftime you’re predicted winning team is up 2-1 on the road against the crumbling Monaco. You saw Atleti keeper Jan Oblak whip his defenders in line and the team looked much more comfortable playing from behind. They could’ve scored 3 or 4 total if the goals themselves were a little wider as well. Atleti looked to be the stronger team. After watching the other two teams play, it will be very difficult to bet against Atleti in this group.

Dortmund and Club Brugge underachieved in this game which saw it’s one and only late luck deflection turn to goal in the 85th minute. Who scored it? Well, no other than our American Christian Pulisic. He took a fortunate touch which went his way. The ball directed itself towards the net similar to throwing a magnet into an appliance store. The goal was inevitable. Club Brugge did hold their own and had plenty of early chances but Dortmund’s defense stood tall and true. Dortmund hardly left any open lanes for shots or through passes. They were the better team and deserved the game.

Speaking of better teams; last year’s finalists Liverpool got off to a dramatic start. They took a first half 2- nil lead which PSG quickly responded to before halftime with a Meunier goal. With roughly 10 minutes left in the game, World Cup starlet and French youngster Kylian Mbappe got the opportunity to cross his arms in celebration with the tying goal. The game looked to be an even draw that was well deserved by both until the Brazilian Firmino went ahead and secured the early 3 points that Liverpool earned. Check out those highlights, you won’t be disappointed. After seeing the Napoli – Red Star Belgrade nil nil draw, I only have one message to both of those fan bases. Put the kids to bed before you tune in to watch your clubs play Liverpool or PSG, please.

Group D…the group of cards. I predict that this group will be the scrappiest and most violent of all. I can see more yellow/red combinations out of this group than any other. Galatasaray start off with a 3 nil victory but lost their midfielder Ndiaye to a yellow+red combo suspension. I think Galatasaray should qualify out of this group with 3 easy home victories. That stadium in Turkey is one of the loudest and most intimidating places for visitors. It will be tough for Schalke and FC Porto when they come around. Both of which who split a point in Germany. FC Porto had the opportunity to win but only convert half of their penalty kick goals. I don’t see any team from this group in the round of 8.

This group tugs at my heart. My childhood club that I followed with my Father, Godfather, Grandfather, and Uncle… is SL Benfica. I will always be a Benfica fan first before any other club I follow, and with that being said, it’s been a difficult road these past couple of years. (Look up the curse of Bela Guttman, you will understand my pain.) They held up very well at home against a strong but aging Bayern Munich. This Bayern team should not have a hard time with this group but I am concerned with the likes of Ribery and Robben who are beyond aged and in my opinion have zero business playing 90 minutes. The problem here is who will crack first, the team or the coach. It seems to be a re-occuring theme of Bayern. Dominate the Bundesliga and then underwhelm in the Champions League. If they fall short in this tournament, then I can easily see a rebuild for the 2019 campaign. Ajax looked powerful. I watched this game and saw that they had a little bit of trouble scoring at first but AEK Athens presented little to no danger when they got a few turns to attack. The second half was an easy bet for Ajax to take the win as they pounded three past the Greek club.

Shaktar vs Hoffenheim. Not a bad game to watch the highlights on but I don’t have much input on either team other than the easy cash I took on the total goals over. Oh yeah, that their draw pins Manchester City into last place. MC start their Champions League campaign the same way they ended the last one. Disappointing loss at home to a team that was pronounced dead on arrival. It is too early to kill off the English Premier League Champions just yet and the draw between Hoff/Shaktar could either hurt or help Manchester City as long as they don’t drop 3 points in anymore of their games. Lyon could not have placed themselves in a better position with an away win against the favorite team in the group. That failed transfer of Fekir to Liverpool was the best thing to happen to these boys. Hopefully they take that momentum with them into their Ligue 1 games and move up the field.

The reigning Champions Real Madrid, could not have an easier and more fortunate group. They hosted who should be their toughest opponent AS Roma. Real took care of business in the most Real of ways. 3 nil victory with their #7 putting an exclamation point on the final goal. That number 7 is none other than the re-acquired Dominican starlet (shout-out to my Dominican familia) Mariano Diaz. So far that man is filling in those shoes CR7 left behind quite well. I am certainly an early believer of this young man and this team. They just seem more free without CR7 taking over the left side of the field. Bale and Asensio do such a great job at rotating and confusing defenses, leaving Benzema open usually for easy goals. Plzen and Moscow, who I don’t have much input on, did eachother a favor by splitting the points. Roma needs to dig themselves out of a hole that is completely possible this early in the tournament.

Finally, you have the finally and by far the one group with the most controversy, Group H. Ronaldo’s debut in the Champion’s League ended short with a suspect red card in the 30th minute. I could go on all day on the issues at hand leading up to Ronaldo’s return on Spanish soil against Valencia, but I won’t. We could discuss paying Spanish taxes and a hat trick in the World Cup opening match….but if you want to discuss it, just @ me on twitter. Great win for bettors who took Juve against the spread. Pjanic converted 2 penalties which could have easily of been CR7’s opening goals for the Italian giants. Either way, they got the 2 nil win with 10 men away from home. Talk about clutch. Here’s the unfortunate story, no Ronaldo in Old Trafford when Juventus plays Manchester United away next. It should still be a great game regardless. It’s just a shame Ronaldo will miss playing against his former club and manager. A club which also secured an easy 3 points on the road against Young Boys. This group should be fun to watch even if we already have our expectations set with who will advance.

This was fun, I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave some feedback, I’d love to have a discussion with my readers.

Folks, The UEFA Champions League Is Better Than The FIFA World Cup…

Well, now that I have your attention. I will start off with the fair fact that the UEFA Champions League (UCL) is not better than the FIFA World Cup (FWC) in monetary or viewership numbers terms. FWC happens every four years similar to the Olympics and it involves 32 World Nations which are followed and cheered by citizens, immigrants, family, and friends of those respected nations. Therefore, everyone (family, loved one, friend, co-worker) will passionately tune into the FWC when it comes around deeming it the greatest and most watched game in the milky way galaxy.

Although, I argue that the FWC is not better than the UCL. The UCL tops it in 3 massive ways that I will describe which will hopefully turn you into a UCL fans like I am. The first way UCL tops the FWC is simple. We get it every year. The way I follow the tournament is similar to how college basketball fans go wild for march madness. You know that first Thursday/Friday where you practically get nothing done at work while crossing off and tearing up your busted brackets.  Just imagine that excitement every other Tuesday/Wednesday in the fall. It’ll trickle into the beginning of the winter. Then after that we have ourselves a bracket that will carry us through the winter into spring. Then the 1 game final in the end of May. Just in time to vacation in the summer…

The second way the UCL tops the FWC is that there are twice the amount of games. 8 groups of four teams must play one another twice. One on their respected home field and one at the opponent’s home field. So that is 6 games per 32 teams to qualify for the bracket. 192 group stage matches. Same rule applies in the brackets themselves. Teams drawn will have to face each other twice; once at home and away. The total accumulated goals determines who goes through. I won’t dwell on other rules. That is not the point of this. Only the Final is a 1 game on a pre-selected neutral Stadium. This year it will be in the brand new Atletico de Madrid Stadium, the newly constructed Wanda Metropolitano. Look up the photos, too many beautiful shots to only pick one. I’ll wait.

The third way the UCL tops the FWC is my strongest point here. The individual and team star power. We watched a WC 2018 without the likes of Chile, USA, Italy, and the Netherlands. That left out players such as Vidal, Sanchez, Pulisic, Buffon, Cheillini, Robben, and more. You get to watch the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Salah, Aguero, and other greats play with their full-time teammates. It’s much more of a quality match when Messi is on Barca rather than Argentina. Same can be said about CR7 when he was on Real Madrid rather than Portugal. I don’t know about you but a possible Barcelona versus Real Madrid, even substitute out one of those for Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern Munich and I will watch that with more much attention and enthusiasm than Portugal vs. France (Euro2016) or Croatia vs. France (FWC2018). Believe me, the passion is there for UCL.

If you made it this far, then I hope you somewhat agree on one of those view points if not all of them. I will be following up with the UCL as it happens and update the geeks with some insight. I will research what I can without having to learn all European languages, because that just seems like overkill. The first matches are set for September 18th and the 19th. We are about one week away. I will write a summary of each group as we head towards the opening. I’ll try to keep them brief. I’ll be looking for which teams can advance and which players we should watch for. New stars will arise and others will be a flash in the pan. So this will be a busy time. I might even share some of my “entertainment purposes only” wagers on futures and individual matches. stay tuned for the Preview of Group A.

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