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Is Courtois ready to replace Cech at Chelsea?

Thibaut Courtois is the best young goalkeeper in the world. At just 21 he has already spent two years starting for Atletico Madrid, where he is on loan from Chelsea; a spell that has seen him break the La Liga record for minutes without conceding and this season on the back of his 20 clean sheets, saw the club lift the Copa Del Rey and secure a Champions League berth. The old flimsy, flaky Atletico defence is long gone, in no small part due to the enormous impact of Courtois.

But Chelsea have a problem. A good problem, one that will be the envy of almost every other team in the world, but a problem nonetheless. The issue is that their own goalkeeper, Petr Cech, has just enjoyed his best season in years and is still only 31. By normal football lore, this is the time goalkeepers are supposed to have their best years. Like Courtois, Cech arrived as a wonderkid goalkeeper but faced only the obstacle of the good, not great, Carlo Cudicini, so he was put straight in. The club bought Courtois as a 19-year-old prospect who they believed they could prepare the take over from Cech a few years down the line, perhaps they even had next summer in mind when they bought him. However, things have gone so well for both Courtois and Cech that they are faced with a decision they probably didn’t expect to make so quickly.

Thibaut Courtois

Remember, in 2011 when the club signed Courtois, Cech’s future was being questioned. He wasn’t the dominant figure of the Jose Mourinho years and there was a feeling he may have been on the downward slope. Perhaps because of the signing of Courtois, Cech has raised his game manifestly since. They also were probably not expecting that Courtois would get so good so quickly, forcing himself in to the equation. They want to keep the Belgian because in two years time he could be the best in the world, but they want to keep Cech because he is already near that level.

In terms of whether Courtois is ready to start for Chelsea, the answer is yes. However, at this stage he and Cech are pretty much level pegging in terms of ability. Both are tall with incredible reflexes, which means they can make saves others can’t, both have phenomenal penalty box presence and command and both are good distributors. The advantage Cech has is experience and leadership. The Chelsea defence is in transition post-Terry and neither Gary Cahill or David Luiz are defensive leaders. They need Cech to organise them and keep them in shape.

Petr Cech

At Atletico, Courtois has been playing behind a defence which has an average age of 28, comprised of four internationals. He has been able to develop his goalkeeping techniques and qualities without the added concern of organising the defence. This is a similar situation to Cech’s own start at Chelsea as he had the pairing of Terry and Ricardo Carvalho in front, who didn’t need him to focus on them.

With this in mind, it would be best for Courtois to stay on loan for maybe another two years. He can return as a four-year starter, confident in his own game, and it gives Chelsea a chance to settle on a defence. It wouldn’t be optimum team-building strategy to put the whole defence in transition and sling in a young goalkeeper. Of course, he is playing in the Champions League for a top La Liga side so it is wonderful experience for him anyway.

The final consideration that makes Atletico his best home for the next couple of years is the expected new Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho. Mourinho builds his teams from the defence out and prefers more experience, and having worked with Cech so successfully will surely favour him initially.

Courtois will be Chelsea’s goalkeeper in a couple of years and should be one of the best in the world by that point. Adding him in to a defence that has worked under Mourinho for two years previously is the best possible thing to do for Chelsea and Courtois.

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Chelsea beware: Five reasons that Bayern Munich are favourites for the Champions League final

Bayern Munich have a date with destiny this Saturday as they face Chelsea in the Champions League final. The Bavarian side have been eyeing this year’s tournament since the venue of the Allianz Arena was decided, and smart football betting tips have the Germans as favourites. Despite a determined opponent in the form of Roberto Di Matteo’s men, here are five reasons why the Bundesliga giants should be victorious.

Home advantage

The chance to play a major final at home is an overwhelming advantage, and the German side will look to make the most of this fact. Jupp Heynckes’ men have been imperious at the Allianz Arena this term in Europe, winning all their fixtures at home, including victories over Manchester City, Napoli, Real Madrid and a 7-0 mauling of Basel.

Chelsea’s depleted defence

Chelsea have been determined in defence this season, thwarting the likes of Barcelona in getting to the final. However the Blues’ backline will be severely depleted for the game against Bayern. John Terry was shown a red card against the Spanish giants in the semi-finals and thus will be unavailable, and Branislav Ivanovic, arguably the side’s best defender, is also suspended.

Mario Gomez

Finals are often cagey affairs, with the odd goal deciding the fixture in one side’s favour. The predatory and clinical nature of Bayern centre forward Mario Gomez could well be the difference between the teams, as the Germany international looks to continue his rich vein of form. The hitman finished with 26 goals in the Bundesliga this term and with 12 strikes in Europe, Gomez has proved himself as one of the continent’s most lethal marksmen.

Domestic despair

Due to Borussia Dortmund’s domestic dominance in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal, Bayern quite simply must win to salvage their season and avoid two trophyless campaigns. Being crowned as European champions would be sure to take some of the limelight away from Jurgen Klopp’s men and give Die Roten’s fanbase something to cheer about.

Penalty preparation

With two evenly-matched sides competing in this year’s finale, there is every chance that the victors could be decided on penalties. German sides have an enviable record of success when it comes to spot-kicks, especially against English teams, and in Manuel Neuer the hosts have an excellent shot-stopper. Given Bayern’s elimination of Real Madrid on penalties in the semi-finals, and the Blues defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 final, the Germans would fancy their chances if it went down to this stage.

Published – Bundesliga Talk

Manchester United, Liverpool and the biggest Premier League losers of 2011-12

Despite a fantastically entertaining season with a raft of Premier League winners this term, it has been a campaign to forget for some teams and individuals. Euro 2012, the Olympics and the summer transfer window are approaching, and for some 2011-12 could not come to an end quick enough. Here are Ninety Minutes Online’s biggest losers of 2011/12.

Liverpool

Despite lifting the Carling Cup with victory over Cardiff, 2011/12 has been the worst campaign for Liverpool for quite some time. The Anfield outfit’s fans expected their side to be challenging for a top four berth, but a eighth place finish, 17 points adrift of Tottenham in fourth, has been a massive disappointment.

From Fenway Sports Group’s ill-fated home-grown transfer policy, to Luis Suarez’s racism ban, defeat in the FA Cup final to embarrassing home defeats to some of the division’s lesser lights, Liverpool fans will want to forget 2011/12.

Andre Villas Boas

After leading Porto to an unbeaten league title and lifting the Europa League in 2010/11, Andre Villas Boas was heralded as the next Jose Mourinho and the man to lead Chelsea back to the summit of the Premier League. However, an at times bullish squad rotation system saw the senior players at the club alienated, the Blues floundering outside of the top four and Villas Boas given Roman Abramovich’s axe.

The £13 million Chelsea paid Porto for AVB’s services was not rewarded, and the young trainer is still out of work after seeing his stock drop in west London.

Wolves

Wolves have been in a fight to stay in the Premier League over the last number of seasons, but Mick McCarthy has led them to survival and commanded the respect of the squad. Steve Morgan’s decision to sack McCarthy, despite a poor run of form, was an ill-sighted one, and the appointment of assistant Terry Connor a disaster.

The Molineux club reportedly interviewed the likes of Alan Curbishley and Steve Bruce for the role, but were reluctant to offer the experienced pair long-term contracts. The appointment of Connor has backfired, with the club finishing bottom with a woeful five wins all season.

Sir Alex Ferguson

2011/12 will be a season to forget for Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. The Old Trafford outfit are known for their will to win and mental toughness at the business end of the season, but the relinquishing of an eight-point lead is sure to give the legendary Scottish manager nightmares for years to come.

A lame Champions League exit in the group stages, a 6-1 hammering from City at Old Trafford and FA Cup elimination to Liverpool have been hard to take for the defending champions’ fans.

Alex McLeish and Aston Villa

Alex McLeish was a shock appointment at Villa Park last summer given his links to rivals Birmingham City, and the club’s supporters have not warmed to the Scot since. A toothless tally of seven wins, weak defending, a lack of creativity and the division’s second-lowest goal tally have had the Villa fans with their heads in their hands.

McLeish’s position as Villa manager must come under scrutiny this summer, but Randy Lerner must also invest in new players if the team are to have a better 2012/13 – Stewart Downing and Ashley Young have simply not been replaced.

Honourable mentions

  • Venkys – With Blackburn relegated this term, Steve Kean has received most of the flack from the media and the club’s fans. However, the Lancashire outfit’s Indian owners Venkys have not given the Scottish coach any funds to spend, and the side are now reportedly in financial trouble.
  • John Terry – Due to stand a court case in July for reportedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, the Chelsea skipper has lost the captaincy of his country and there is a train of thought that Terry may be excluded completely from Euro 2012. Add to this a sending off against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals for petulantly kneeing Alexis Sanchez, and Terry has had better years.
  • Jermain Defoe – The diminutive striker has proved time and again that he can score goals at the top level, but has simply not been given enough time on the pitch this season. Harry Redknapp’s preference for Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart could cost Defoe a place at Euro 2012.
  • Jack Wilshere – The talented Arsenal midfielder has not seen one minute of action this season, with consecutive knee cruciate injuries keeping him on the sidelines throughout. Wilshere will also miss Euro 2012 due to injury.
  • Joey Barton – Barton is no doubt talented and able when in the correct mindframe, but stupidity, ill-discipline and a terrible attitude have continued to blight his career. A red card against Manchester City on Sunday cost his team the game and his constant abusive and opinionated Twitter comments should see Mark Hughes ditch his troubled ‘captain’ this summer.

Published – Soccerlens

Chelsea’s FA Cup triumph: The collapse of King Kenny as the Blues ride their luck

A resilient backline and a spectacular attacking force made a wonderful day for Chelsea fans and club, as the Di Matteo turn-around was finally credited with a domestic trophy, leaving Kenny Dalglish’s management, once again, under huge criticism.

If there was one way to describe the FA Cup Final this year, it would be a game of two halves, as we saw the first half dominated by the men in blue, until the 60th minute when substitute Andy Carroll scored a revitalising goal that transformed the Anfield outfit into a dangerous attacking force. The first 45 minutes held a sense of déjà vu for Liverpool fans, as they saw a performance lacking creativity, chances, and momentum. Not only were the forwards under-performing, but another weak defensive performance was to blame, when Ramires slotted a strike home in the 11th minute, beating Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina at the near post, who was once again to blame with poor judgement and positioning.

More chances came from the Blues after Salomon Kalou made a steaming run through Liverpool’s defensive third but was stopped by a desperate Martin Skrtel tackle inside the box. Early into the second half another goal came for the west London side as a beautifully measured pass by Frank Lampard saw Drogba into a dangerous position, who in turn hit it perfectly into the far right corner of the net. A few minutes after Chelsea had a great chance to finish it off when a fluid attacking move from the Stamford Bridge outfit saw Kalou into a dangerous position, but the Ivorian put it high and wide, leaving him hoping that he wouldn’t come to regret that opportunity.

The turning point of the game was the substitution of Andy Carroll for Jay Spearing, and many will be wondering why the huge powerhouse did not play from the start. Chelsea’s first scare came half-way into the second part of the game, when the substitute scored a reasonably lucky goal after a tackle by Stewart Downing swooped the ball out from the feet of Jose Bosingwa and favourably into the path of the £35m target man, who converted with an unstoppable shot above Petr Cech. For the last 25 minutes, the Blues were once again playing a back-against-the-wall performance, suffering wave after wave of attacks from a newly-revived Liverpool side. Countless crosses were delivered into the box before another great chance came when Carroll got his head onto a back post ball and thought it was in, but the Liverpool forward was denied by Petr Cech, who made a fantastic goal-line save to keep Chelsea in the game and allowed them to go on and secure their victory.

There is no doubt, Kenny Dalglish will be harshly criticised for picking a very wrong starting XI – playing an inexperienced Jay Spearing at the important role of holding midfielder, and assorting themselves in a 4-5-1 formation with Luis Suarez playing a very isolated role upfront. When Carroll came on, it allowed the Uruguayan to drop deeper and play a creative role as a second striker, as well as having the danger-man in the box waiting on those vital crosses – all in all giving Liverpool an eye for goal. Taking nothing away from Chelsea, Didier Drogba had a particularly good game, and was crucial in holding the ball up and bringing the midfielders into play with his awareness and experience; complemented by the creative Juan Mata, and speedy wingers Salomon Kalou and Ramires, the Chelsea forwards were a force to be reckoned with. Their sturdy defence should not be overlooked, with captain John Terry putting in a stunning performance to keep the Blues in the game.

Dalglish will be worrying about his future with the Reds, whilst Di Matteo will be over the moon with his team. Chelsea fans will be hoping that the Blues can ride their luck to Munich in the Champions League final, which will surely be the deciding factor in the Italian’s chances of landing the manager’s role on a permanent basis.

By Jacob Tucker

Bayern Munich v Chelsea – the road to the Champions League final

An unlikely Champions League final of Bayern Munich vs Chelsea is set to be played at the Allianz Arena on May 19th, as the sides have both proved their worth to overcome underdogs tags to make the final. But how have these two sides managed to get to the final?

Bayern Munich

After the naming of the Allianz Arena as the venue for the 2011-12 final, all Bayern eyes have been on this campaign, which has been rightly earmarked as a potential opportunity to end their 11-year drought in winning Europe’s top tournament. With the Bundesliga also a priority but now conceded once more to Borussia Dortmund, the chance of becoming European champions has the ability to redeem the club’s season.

The German team were drawn in the ‘group of death’ along with Manchester City, Napoli and Villarreal, but stellar home form saw Die Roten top the pool. A 2-0 win over the Premier League team set the tone for the group, whilst a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Napoli ensured that the Germans would be dominant. Despite losing their final game at the Etihad Stadium once qualification was already ensured, Bayern’s professionalism and quality in the pool must be admired.

After flexing their European muscles in the pool, the knockout stages has been a story of the club’s determination to reach the final. After a 1-0 defeat to Basel in Switzerland in the first leg of the last 16, doubts over Jupp Heynckes’ men’s credentials were raised and duly squashed with an unprecedented 7-0 triumph in the reverse fixture. The Germans were drawn against an underperforming Marseille in the quarter-finals, and despite the mediocrity of the opponent, a 4-0 aggregate win must be admired.

Real Madrid in the semi-finals was the Bundesliga team’s real test, and over 210 minutes of football and penalty kicks, Bayern proved that they wanted victory more. An attacking outlook in the first game at home had Los Blancos on the back foot, and a plucky last-minute Mario Gomez goal gave them an advantage at half way of the tie. Within 14 minutes of the game at the Santiago Bernabeu fixture the Bavarians found themselves 2-0 down, but the side fought back to 2-1 and eventually won the tie on penalties.

All-in-all, Bayern are a more assured and rounded team than last season, and have had to fight back from difficult positions at times throughout the campaign. In Mario Gomez the side have a forward always liable to pop up with a goal, especially given the quality supply of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. The main development from last term however has been a steadying of the backline, with the summer additions of Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer now looked like excellent business. Add this all-rounded team to a frightening home record (they have won every game this season at the Allianz Arena) and Bayern will take some stopping.

Chelsea

Chelsea have been two contrasting teams in the Champions League this term; one under Andre Villas Boas and one under Roberto Di Matteo. The Italian has rekindled the side’s belief, and ultimately been the man responsible for getting the west Londoners to the final hurdle.

The Blues topped Group E, comprising Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia and Genk, despite a number of shaky moments. A 2-1 defeat to the Germans at the BayArena and a 0-0 draw with the Belgians away from home failed to inspire, but the English team did win all three home games, scoring 10 unanswered goals in the process.

A last 16 tie with Napoli, Manchester City’s conquerors, promised to be an exciting match-up and did not disappoint. After being thoroughly outplayed and beaten 3-1 at San Paolo, Villas Boas was replaced by Di Matteo, whose side staged a remarkable and unlikely comeback to beat the Italians 4-1 at Stamford Bridge in the return leg. This was undoubtedly the turning point of the Blues’ season, and the springboard that sees them in the final.

A potential banana-skin tie awaited Chelsea in the quarter-finals, as Benfica, who progressed through their group at the expense of Manchester United, would prove no pushovers. However, an assured performance at the Estadio da Luz saw a 1-0 win for the Premier League outfit, who huffed and puffed to win the return fixture 2-1 also. Brave team selection in the away leg by Di Matteo reaped benefits, and set up a semi-final with Barcelona.

Chelsea had unfinished business against the Catalan giants after previous close calls, and over 180 minutes rode their luck but ultimately did what it took to make the final. Despite being outplayed in the first leg, a 1-0 victory courtesy of a solitary Didier Drogba strike gave the Blues the slimmest of advantages to take to Camp Nou. After 44 minutes of the second leg Chelsea were staring down the barrel: trailing 2-0 and down to ten men after John Terry’s dismissal. However, a deft Ramires chip, stern defensive effort and last-gasp Fernando Torres strike offered up a memorable night for the travelling support.

Over the course of the campaign it is difficult to pick out individuals who have inspired their team to progression, as the upturn in fortunes must be accredited to a collective team effort. Undoubtedly Chelsea’s senior players have led this, and Didier Drogba, out of contract in the summer and facing an exit from the club, must get credit for his goals and leading from the front. Di Matteo’s tactics and man management must also be heralded, and the Italian must surely be given a permanent place on the Stamford Bridge hotseat should his team defeat Bayern in the final.

At times with more grit than guile, Bayern and Chelsea deserve their places in what should be a blood and thunder final. The Bavarians have an exemplary home record, but on current form, if anyone can beat them at the Allianz Arena it may well be the west London outfit.

Published – Soccerlens

England and Euro 2012: Who will be in the squad, and how will they fair in Group D?

England interim manager Stuart Pearce has this week revealed that the nation’s squad for Euro 2012 will be named before the end of the Premier League campaign, whether a new permanent boss is in place or not. With the last game of the season on Sunday 13th May, it is reasonable to expect the successful and unsuccessful players to be unveiled a couple of days before this. With this date only two weeks away, who will be stepping out for the Three Lions in Ukraine and Poland?

Goalkeepers – Joe Hart is a shoe-in, and the Manchester City stopper is an outside shout to be the next national captain. Consistent, agile and assured, Hart is a real attribute to the home nation.

GK to go: Hart, Carson, Stockdale

GK to miss out: Ruddy

Defenders – John Terry’s inclusion or exclusion could well depend on the new boss, with the consideration of Rio Ferdinand also entering into the equation; the Chelsea centre half is to stand court for racially abusing the Manchester United man’s brother Anton. Other central defenders to be included should be Gary Cahill, Phil Jones and Joleon Lescott.

At left back Ashley Cole will travel, whilst Leighton Baines is currently injured but will recover in time. On the right, PFA Young Player of the Year Kyle Walker will expect to be included, as will seasoned international Glen Johnson. Micah Richards has been an outcast under Fabio Capello, but under-21 boss Pearce would surely select his former player, potentially to the detriment of the Liverpool man.

DF to go: Walker, Richards, Cahill, Terry, Lescott, Jones, Cole, Baines

DF to miss out: Ferdinand, King, Johnson, Dawson, Smalling

Midfielders – England will most likely play four across midfield, and this will be the most tightly-contested element of the squad. Scott Parker and Frank Lampard are almost certainties, Steven Gerrard hangs in the balance depending on fitness, Paul Scholes is an outside shout, whilst Tom Cleverley, Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere will miss out through injury.

On the flanks, Ashley Young will travel if he stays fit, as will Stewart Downing despite an inconsistent campaign. Aaron Lennon needs to get back to his best, Jordan Henderson looks unlikely whilst Arsenal team-mates Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may well be in direct competition for a place.

MF to go: Young, Downing, Barry, Parker, Lampard, Gerrard, Scholes, Walcott

MF to miss out: Wilshere, Rodwell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lennon, Henderson, Joe Cole, Cleverley, Carrick, Milner, A.Johnson

Strikers – Although Wayne Rooney will be suspended for the first two group games of the tournament, it will take a brave manager to leave out the Manchester United forward. Darren Bent faces a risk against time due to his knee injury, whilst Andy Carroll will need a strong end of season to convince the selectors. Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge should be included, whilst Jermain Defoe is a 50-50.

ST to go: Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge, Defoe

ST to miss out: Bent, Carroll, Crouch

Group Games

England vs France, June 11: Old enemies renew their rivalry in the Group D opener, and these two will be favourites to progress. Without Rooney England may lack direction in attack, and will need to be regimented to stave off the advances of Ribery, Benzema and Remy.

Prediction: 0-0

England vs Sweden, June 15: The Three Lions have suffered disappointment against the Scandinavian nation in international competitions in the past, and Sweden are a slightly unpredictable entity. Led by AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedes will be no pushover.

Prediction: 1-1

England vs Ukraine, June 19: With a tight group likely to go down to the wire, England will face co-hosts Ukraine in the last round of fixtures in what will be a test of their character and resolve. Rooney’s return will be a boost, but England must be at their best to quell a pumped-up opponent and crowd.

Prediction: 2-1 win

Published – Soccerlens

Can the Chelsea oldies possibly stop Barcelona and the mighty Messi?

Chelsea’s rejuvenation under former midfielder, now temporary Abramovich plaything, Roberto Di Matteo has been quite the story. There has been improvement in the league (they even beat current form team Wigan!!), an FA Cup semi-final demolition of sorry Spurs thanks to Juan Mata hitting the back of the net and progression to the Champions League semi-finals; Chelsea are on a roll. Big time. However, they have just hit a snag. They, very sillily, have been drawn against Barcelona. Whimper.

But wait! Chelsea are in great form I hear you say. They even beat Napoli and Diddy Drogba is red-hot and Fernando even scored at one point. Plus, the Blues have Roberto ‘mastermind’ Di Matteo, I scored the quickest ever goal in an FA Cup final, at the helm. Branislav ‘Rocky’ Ivanovic can play, and David Luiz is injured – what more could the Stamford Bridge club ask for?

Plus! Don’t forget that Chelsea almost beat Barcelona back in 2009. They drew 0-0 at the Camp Nou and were a west London whisker of making the final only for Andres Iniesta and the referee to conspire to steal the glory of losing to Manchester United in the final away from them.

Also! Former West Brom boss Robbie Di Mat has a masterplan. So you like to play tic-tac football eh? Pass the ball to each other 1000 times in a game eh? Got Xavi and Iniesta eh? And Fabregas, shit I forgot about him! Doesn’t matter – Chelski have a plan. Crowd the midfield. It’s devilish.

An inside source from the Blues has let me know that Roman Abramovich has instructed Robby DM to crowd the midfield or face 1000 lashes. So, the Blues are going to play a six-man central midfield to stop the constant, soul-destroying passing of Pep Gorgonzola’s showponies. Ramires, Mikel, Oriol Romeu (ex-Barcelona don’t you know?), Lampard, John Terry and Dennis Wise are all going to play in the middle of the pitch and run around kicking people up in the air; pass around that!!!

You are starting to get a bit more confident aren’t you? The plan, it could work; it might work. Ah, just wait. What about Lionel Messi?

Single John Terry Champions League final 2008 tear runs down the face.

Messi was pretty good back when Chelsea last played the ticcy-tackers, now he is, well, sub human. He has scored 60 goals this season. 60. All by himself. He is the new Barcelona all-time top goalscorer at the mere age of 24; that makes him better than Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Mark Hughes all put together. Rumours are rife that Messi is about to form a one-man Harlem Globetrotters football team of just him to play a World XI, but no-one wants to play in the World XI cos they’re all too scared.

Messi is unstoppable. We have Jose Bosingwa and Paulo Ferreira in our team, it’s not fair. At least Chelsea will win the midfield battle though.

Published – Danger Here

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Inter, Bayern and Real Madrid with work to do

The Champions League quarter final contestants will be decided this week, as the final four fixtures of the round of 16 take place on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. After stellar performances from the underdogs in the respective first legs, four favourites have work to do to make the last eight.

Chelsea vs Napoli

Since the 3-1 first leg defeat to an in-form Napoli in Italy, Chelsea have sacked Andre Villas Boas and will need to up their game if they are to stand a chance of progression; despite domestic wins of late, Walter Mazzarri’s men will pose a more stern test. The hosts need an attacking outlook, but with Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik ready to pounce, John Terry’s role at the back is equally as important as the team’s attackers. Napoli have goals in them, but are also susceptible at the back; this was showcased in their 6-3 win over Cagliari on Friday night. Away goals could decide this tie.

Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow

Real Madrid were expected to walk all over CSKA in the first leg, but the Russians put up an ardent fight to get a 1-1 draw at the Luzhniki through an injury-time equaliser. Jose Mourinho’s men are still in a dominant position to progress, with Cristiano Ronaldo in superb goal-scoring form; the Portugal international has 45 goals already in all competitions this term. The travelling support will pin their hopes on promising attacking duo Alan Dzagoev and Seydou Doumbia, but anything other than Madrid progression would be a massive shock.

Inter vs Marseille

Marseille take a slender 1-0 advantage to the San Siro on Tuesday, after a last-gasp Andre Ayew header gave the French side victory at the Stade Velodrome in the first leg. Claudio Ranieri has come under increasing pressure due to domestic inconsistency, and if Inter are eliminated the head coach will fear for his future. Didier Deschamps’ men are not in good form either however, and have lost all four Ligue 1 games since beating Inter in February. The midfield battle will be key to deciding the fixture and should be a pulsating watch, as Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano face Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder.

Bayern Munich vs Basel

Bayern have high hopes for this season’s Champions League as the final will be held at the Allianz Arena, however Jupp Heynckes’ men have stuttered of late and are 1-0 down against Basel after the first leg. The Bavarian giants did have ideal preparation for the second leg by beating Hoffenheim 7-1 on Saturday, with Mario Gomez grabbing a hat-trick. The Swiss champions will look to their excellent showing at Old Trafford earlier in the season as motivation, with Bayern-bound Xherdan Shaqiri the visitors’ fulcrum of attack.

With AC Milan, Barcelona, APOEL and Benfica already in the quarters, four close games will decide the remaining participants. Madrid should overcome CSKA, whilst Chelsea will most likely be eliminated by a classy Napoli outfit. Marseille have the quality to compound Inter’s misery and Bayern should fight back to knock out Basel – just.

Published – Soccerlens

The John Terry controversies – a complete list

John Terry on his day is one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and certainly an important player for Chelsea and England.

However, the 31-year-old is in danger of missing out on Euro 2012, after being stripped of his nation’s captaincy due to the ongoing allegations of racism against the Barking-born man. This, for sure, is not the first controversy to blight Terry’s career, as the following rap sheet shows.

  • Fined two weeks wages for drunkenly mocking American tourists in Heathrow Airport in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
  • Charged with assault and affray after a confrontation with a nightclub bouncer in January 2002, Terry was suspended from England duty and subsequently missed out on the 2002 World Cup. He was later cleared of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, unlawful wounding, possessing a bottle as an offensive weapon and affray.
  • In February 2002 Terry was caught on CCTV urinating into a beer glass and dropping it on the floor of an Essex nightclub.
  • Fined £60 for parking his Bentley in a disabled bay.
  • In 2004, Terry was reported to have gambled up to £40,000 a week on horse and dog racing with Wayne Bridge and Scott Parker.
  • Sent off against Tottenham in November 2006 at White Hart Lane, and accused of racially abusing Ledley King. Questioned the integrity of referee Graham Poll, and was later fined £10,000 for inappropriate conduct.
  • Before marrying Toni Poole in 2007, admitted to cheating on his partner up to eight times. Jenny Barker, 17, claims that Terry cheated on Poole with her in a public car park.
  • Investigated by Chelsea and the FA for reportedly accepting a £10,000 bribe to show a reporter around the London club’s training ground without permission in 2009.
  • In 2009 the centre back’s father Ted Terry was filmed allegedly selling cocaine to an undercover reporter, months after his mother, Sue, and mother-in-law had been cautioned for shoplifting.
  • In January 2010 Terry was alleged to have had a four-month affair with Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel. Bridge was deemed as one of Terry’s best friends, and Perroncel was the mother of the left back’s child. Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the England captaincy due to the scandal, handing it to Rio Ferdinand.
  • Accused of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in a 1-0 defeat for Chelsea at Loftus Road in October 2011. Investigated by the FA and police, Terry will stand trial in July 2012. Stripped of his country’s captaincy for the second time.

Terry may well look back at the above list with shame and regret once his playing days are over, as the constant controversies in his life have taken away from his ability on the pitch.

With England producing some exciting young defenders in recent times, Euro 2012 could be Terry’s last swansong at a major international tournament, but his involvement is now not assured due to his July court date.

Published – Soccerlens

England vs Bulgaria: Three Points A Must For Fabio Capello’s Men

England continue their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign this week with fixtures against Bulgaria and Wales promising to give the fans a better idea of the nation’s chances of competing in Poland and Ukraine next year. With Fabio Capello’s men locked at the top of Group G on 11 points with Montenegro and an away day in Podgorica still to come, the Three Lions can ill-afford many more slip-ups.

The Italian coach has selected a number of promising youngsters in his squad for the match in Sofia, and it will be interesting to see whether the likes of Manchester United pairing Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley are trusted to start the match. Chris Smalling has impressed the former Real Madrid coach thus far this term, and should also pick up his international debut at right back. With no Rio Ferdinand to call upon, it will be a toss up between Jones, Lescott and Cahill to who partners skipper John Terry in the heart of the English rearguard.

In attack Wayne Rooney will harbour the responsibility of getting the goals to win the match, and the United striker has started the season in blistering form, with a hat-trick against Arsenal last Sunday ensuring the 25-year-old goes into the game full of confidence. Darren Bent is an injury concern so Andy Carroll may accompany the former Everton man up front.

Bulgaria were put to the sword at Wembley in the return fixture back in September 2010, with Jermain Defoe scoring three in a comfortable 4-0 win. The away match will be no walk in the park however, as the luxury and familiarity of Wembley will be traded in for the hostility of the Stadion Vasil Levski.

The home side no longer have all-time top goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov to call upon, who quit the international set-up back in May 2010, but despite this Bulgaria will have some strong players on show come Friday. Stiliyan Petrov will be a familiar face for the away midfield, and the likes of Scott Parker or Gareth Barry will need to get close to the Aston Villa midfielder, who has the ability to shoot from distance or create chances for others. Former Manchester City forward Valeri Bojinov has not been selected in the squad, but Bolton’s Martin Petrov may feature.

The match will be given an extra bite by the fact that the home coach Lothar Matthaus has been vocal in the media this week and will motivate his players to get three points on Friday. The former Germany international got the better of England in his playing days, and will look to replicate this in his managerial tenure, despite the fact that Bulgaria are almost assured of missing out on Euro 2012.

A win would go far to alleviating fears of a do or die game in Montenegro next month, a draw is not ideal but would be acceptable and a loss would put the nation’s chances of competing in the European Championships in jeopardy. Expect a hostile reception from a passionate home faithful, and Bulgaria to come out of the blocks quickly, but if England can weather an early storm they should have the players and the experience to see them home.

Published – http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/opinion/85363/england-vs-bulgaria-three-points-a-must-for-fabio-capellos-men.html

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