First 14 into Last 32 of Europa

December 2, 2011 — by Rob Kirby

Betting sites had tipped Tottenham to take home the silverware, but the odds are now against them even exiting the group stages.

With two weeks until the final matches of the Europa League group stages, 14 clubs have clinched spots in the knockout rounds of the cup with a game to spare. With the eight teams that finish third in their UEFA Champions League groups transferring over to Europe’s second-tier competition, that leaves 10 spots.

Anderlecht, who alone won all 5 of the first 5 group matches, FC Twente and Sporting Lisbon had already qualified even before Thursday’s matches kicked off, as had PSV Eindhoven and Legia Warsaw before Wednesday’s matches.

Meanwhile, former frontrunner Tottenham’s loss to 10-man PAOK Thessaloniki at White Hart Lane puts makes them unlikely to join the last 32. As punishment, perhaps Jermaine Defoe should write “Panthessaloníkios Athlitikós Ómilos Konstantinoupolitón” 100 times on the blackboard.

First 14:

Anderlecht (Belgium)
FC Twente (Netherlands)
Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
Atlético Madrid (Spain)
Braga (Portugal)
Hannover 96 (Germany)
FC Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine)
PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece)
Standard Liège (Belgium)
Stoke (England)
Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)
Legia Warsaw (Poland)
Schalke 04 (Germany)
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands)

At the beginning of November, Tottenham had been tipped to take home the silverware, but their loss to PAOK on Wednesday made it such that while it’s still mathematically possible if they go on a goal spree against Shamrock Rovers and Rubin Kazan loses, it’s unlikely. For one, Redknapp may not even truly wish to progress. One school of thought says exiting the competition would help them finish in the top 3 or 4 in the Premier League, not playing weekend matches on the heels of Thursday nights in Europe and avoiding overall fixture congestion with all the two-leg showdowns to come.

Currently, odds are on Atlético Madrid to hoist the trophy on May 9 in Bucharest. Other frontrunners include Schalke 04, PSV Eindhoven, Paris Saint-Germain and Athletic Bilbao, despite the latter two having not yet qualified.


Real Madrid best Atletico

November 8, 2010 — by Sean

Carvalho drives to goal. Real continue their 11-year unbeaten streak against their city rivals.

Los Blancos eased passed city rivals Atletico yesterday with the glamor side firing on all cylinders. Strong in defense and quick in attack, Real put Los Colchoneros (an odd name, yes) on the back foot early. The score ended 2-0 but really should’ve been more.

Sadly, Forlan, a favorite from the World Cup, hasn’t scored since September, and while Atletico did look like they’re capable of stringing together potent attacking movement, nothing actually came off in their favor.

We’re about brevity this week, so here’s one audacious play that somewhat sums up the afternoon — outrageousness from Ronaldo, followed by a near miss. (Ps. Benzema, who looked like crap earlier in the season, appears much fitter these days, and has been doing very well coming on in later stages of the game). And as we’re not actually all about brevity, following the video is some public domain description of el derbi madrileño.

Historically, Real Madrid have long been seen as the establishment club. On the other side, Atletico was always characterized by a ‘sentimiento de rebeldía’ (a sense of rebellion) although, during the early Franco years, it was Atlético that was the preferred team of the regime, being associated with the military airforce, until the regime’s preferences moved towards Real Madrid in the 1950s. Franco sought to make political capital out of Real Madrid’s European Cup titles at a time when Spain was internationally isolated – “Real Madrid are the best embassy we ever had”, said one minister. Thus, Atleti fans regularly chanted that Real was “el equipo del gobierno, la vergueñza del país”–the team of the government, the shame of the country—and adopted a more left-wing slant (tempered by the rise of ultras culture and Rayo Vallecano‘s presence as the “true” leftist club) to combat the conservative Real fanbase. BernabeuReal Madrid‘s stadium, is majestic, alongside banks and businesses on the classy andaristocratic Castellana, while Calderon can be found beside a brewery along the river; Real Madrid draw greater support because of its successes, while Atletico has a more working class fan base, which comes particularly from the south of the city.



UEFA Europa League – Matchday 2 Fixtures

September 30, 2010 — by Suman

Balon d'Europa

As we admitted a couple weeks ago (here), we don’t understand the how or why of the Europa League. And after 16 Champions League games over the past two days, we’re not particularly jonesing to watch more pan-European club matches today. But if you are, there are 24 games today (48 teams in the league, recall).

The ones we would watch, if we were forced to sit down and do so, are the following (pulled from UEFA’s Europa League page, “all times are CET“–you do the math for your timezone)

Dortmund 19:00 Sevilla Sevilla FC More »
Referee: Mike Dean (ENG)
Stadium: BVB Stadion Dortmund, Dortmund (GER)
Utrecht 19:00 Liverpool Liverpool FC More »
Referee: Duarte Gomes (POR)
Stadium: Stadion Galgenwaard, Utrecht (NED)
Atlético 21:05 Leverkusen Bayer 04 Leverkusen More »
Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (ITA)
Stadium: Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid (ESP)
Man. City 21:05 Juventus Juventus More »
Referee: Eduardo Iturralde González (ESP)
Stadium: City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester (ENG)


Messi Injury Not So Bad Afterall

September 21, 2010 — by Sean1

It does send shivers down the spine.

At the very end of a pretty entertaining match between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona, Czech defender Tomáš Ujfaluši came in late on everyone’s favorite player Lionel Messi, and stomped on his ankle something awful. Messi went down in agony and held his hands over his face, crying as he was stretchered off the field. Fortunately for fans of the beautiful game, there is no break or dislocation, and the little peanut should be back in about 10 days.

From the live-action shot it looked intentional. Ujfaluši came in very late and from the angle it seemed as if  he came down on Messi’s foot. Upon further inspection it looks like a real ankle breaker. The big man did issue an apology:

“I’m sorry. I would like to publicly apologize, because, honestly, it wasn’t my intention. I tried to go for the ball, but naturally, with the speed he had, he also could not stop and I was unlucky as my foot stepped on his ankle.”

Messi had, of course, been running around the pitch as he pleased before this. The first half was standard Barça—they controlled the ball 70% of the time (actual stat!), and whenever they lost it they seemed to win it back immediately.

The second half was more even, with Atletico clearly trying to wedge themselves back into the flow. They’d never wrest control though, not with Forlan gone missing, and Simão and Kun similarly nonexistent up front. Mainly they played more aggressively (ahem) and pulled off a number of dangerous set pieces before the crushing tackle on la pulga put them to ten men.

It ended 2-1 in favor of the away side, but it really could’ve been more with the chances Barça manufactured. Pep thinks so too, and more:

We are happy with the Atletico win and it could have finished 5-1 with the number of chances we had,” said Guardiola. “However, we are sad about the Messi incident. It is not only Cristiano Ronaldo (of Real Madrid) who needs protecting. The referees should protect all the players.