Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Europa League Match Day 6 Preview

The Europa League Group Stages come to a close this week, and half of the 48 teams will move onto the knockout stages. These 24 teams will be joined by the 8 third placed Champions League teams in Friday’s draw.

Of the 12 Europa League groups, 6 are effectively over already. In groups A, E, F, H, I & L the top two teams have secured qualification regardless of this week’s results. Interestingly, the Italian teams have not been having a good time of things, with Juventus, Palermo and Sampdoria out of the competition, Napoli are the only Serie A team with a chance of going through.

In Group B Atletico Madrid are in a tough situation as they must achieve a better result than Aris Salonika. The Greek side are ahead of Atletico on head to head record after beating them both home and away. Lille are two points away from qualification in Group C and must beat Gent at home on Thursday in order to progress.

Only two points separate the top three teams in Group D, where Villarreal need a point away to Club Bruges to guarantee progression. In Group G, third placed Anderlecht are three points off second and need to win and hope that Zenit St Petersburg beat AEK Athens in Greece.

The most exciting match is potentially in Group J, where Sevilla host Borussia Dortmund at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. PSG have already qualified because of their head to head record against Dortmund, and the runaway leaders in the Bundesliga can only qualify by defeating Sevilla tonight. Finally in Group K, where Liverpool have already secured qualification, Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli currently lie third in the group, but will go through if they defeat Steaua Bucharest tonight at home.

Sadly, of the 32 places available in Friday’s knockout round draw, only 7 remain up for grabs. However, there are still some interesting ties going on and several big European teams may go crashing out over the next two days.

Europa League Tables in full

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Champions League Match Day 6 - Brief Analysis

The Champions League Group stage is now over. 16 teams are through to the knockout stage, 8 will play in the next round of the Europa League and 8 are out altogether. The draw for the next round takes place in one week and is likely to throw up some very interesting ties.

Due to the fact that many teams had already sealed qualification, some of the games unfortunately lacked any real intensity or drive. However, there were some points of interest.

Quality over Quantity
Real Madrid brushed aside Auxerre 4-0 at the Bernabeu on Wednesday but somehow the French side managed to have more shots overall.

Benfica were in an even more wasteful and apparently desperate mood as they managed to lose 2-1 to Shalke despite having 16 more shots at goal than the German visitors.

Barcelona philosophy runs deep
Despite fielding a very young and inexperienced side, Barcelona showed Rubin Kazan that their passing philosophy is so ingrained that the youth can slot right in and be very effective too. Barcelona passed the Russian side to death, completing over 700 more passes in the match.

Valencia’s Possession
An impressive statistic in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between Manchester United and Valencia was that the Spanish side had more possession at Old Trafford. Ever Banega in particular had an excellent night moving the ball around from the centre of the park, completing 25 more passes than anyone on the pitch.

Group Stage Statistics
At the end of the group stage we currently have the following statistics:

Top Goal Scorers
Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan) - 7
Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich) - 6
Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - 6

Top Assists
Carlos Martins (Benfica) - 5
Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur) - 4

Most Successful Passes
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) - 516
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich) - 515
Xavi (Barcelona) - 458

Most Shots on Target
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) - 16
Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - 15

Most Shots off Target
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) - 24
Carlos Martins (Benfica) - 20

Most successful take-ons
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur) - 28
Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - 24

Most Crosses
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur) - 72
Samuel Inkoom (FC Basel) - 48

Diagrams courtesy of the excellent Total Football - Champions League iPhone app

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Chelsea set for a tough December

The English Champions are not enjoying a good run of form in the Premier League at the moment and are now heading into a tough Christmas period. Chelsea have only won one of their last six games in the league, losing to Liverpool, Sunderland and Birmingham. Two 1-1 draws against Newcastle and Everton have not given Chelsea fans any reason to believe that their team is ready to bounce back either.

This lack of form has also come at a particularly bad time for Chelsea, and their next three games could have a significant impact on the outcome of the Premier League. On Sunday, Chelsea will travel to White Hart Lane where they haven’t won since 2005. Tottenham have an excellent home record against the top teams and Chelsea will be in for a tough examination. A week later Chelsea will host Manchester United who are buoyant after their seven goal rout against Blackburn Rovers. Dimitar Berbatov’s five goal glut and the return of Wayne Rooney have lifted spirits at Old Trafford recently, so expect a much more fluid United to arrive on Sunday 19th December. Chelsea’s gauntlet culminates at the Emirates against an Arsenal side which they have found rather easy to beat in recent seasons. However, this time could be very different, as Chelsea have looked unusually shaky at the back. Arsenal could learn from Liverpool and Sunderland’s approaches by shrugging off any intimidation and attacking from the start.

Carlo Ancelotti and his team are set for a season defining test this month, and three wins would give The Blues a massive psychological advantage going into the new year. At the end of the season, these three games could be seen as the turning point for Chelsea. If Chelsea fail the test, they will have a huge task on their hands to drag themselves back into contention. However, this season has already shown that no outstanding team looks ready to run away with things. The Premier League table may become even more congested at the top come 2011.

Tottenham v Chelsea - Sunday 12th December
Chelsea v Manchester United - Sunday 19th December
Arsenal v Chelsea - Monday 27th December