Euro 2021 Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

Club football and the Champions League have come to an end, and now it’s time for international tournaments. The biggest international tournament this side of the World Cup will occur from June 11th through July 11th, and that’s the UEFA Euro 2021, Europe’s national championship. 

The teams of Euro 2021 are split into 6 groups of 4 teams each, of which the top two of each group and the four best 3rd-place teams will move on to the knockout stages. Let’s break down the six groups. 

NOTE: We’ve listed each group in order of our predicted finish in the standings.

Group A: Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales. 

Italy is the clear favorite in this group, if not one for the whole tournament. The Italian national team has always been great, winning 4 World Cups – good for second all-time- and have made the Euro finals 3 times, winning once in 1968. Today’s group is a mix of old and young, Roberto Mancini has done a great job as manager after the team’s failure to make the last World Cup under Gian Piero Ventura. Some of the team’s top young players include goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma, midfielders Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Barella, and a pair of forwards named Frederico with Chiesa and Bernardeschi. Some of the more experienced players include defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, midfielder Marco Veratti, and forward Ciro Immobile. Mancini has found a formula that works with a 4-3-3 formation that has them competing at a high level again and has earned him a contract extension through 2026.

Key player: Ciro Immobile. Italy has lots of talented players but lacks a superstar, so many players could have been picked here. Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne will be leading the front line and will have to contribute a lot if this team is to go far in this tournament. Immobile is a great striker playing for Lazio and should be the starting number 9, which is usually a pure striker role and one of the most important attackers on the team, if not the most important. If he scores at a high rate as he has for the past 5 seasons, then he is a dark-horse candidate to be the best player of the tournament.

Switzerland is a team that is always tough to play against and always boasts a competent team that can match up against anyone in a standalone game. The defense should be solid with Yann Sommer in goal, the experienced Ricardo Rodriguez at left wing back, with Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji, and Nico Elvedi at the center back spots, and Kevin Mbabu possibly the starter at right wing back. The midfield and attack also have lots of quality players, the main ones being Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Denis Zakaria, Remo Freuler, Steven Zuber, Djibril Sow, Hans Seferovic, Admir Mehmedi, and Breel Embolo. This team should be set to make a deep run and could even cause a few major upsets.

Key player: Hans Seferovic. There could be many players that we include here, but we picked Seferovic because he could be the most crucial in deciding the fate of the team. He will likely be the starting number 9, and has a lot of responsibility if that is the case. Seferovic is very much a hot and cold player, and Switzerland will need to hope that he doesn’t disappoint. 

Turkey will likely end up in the fight for 2nd place, or as one of the 3rd place qualifiers. The team, like Italy, has a good mix of old and young players and could surprise a lot of people by going deep in the tournament. The defense has been shaky in recent fixtures but boasts quality players such as Caglar Soyuncu, Zeki Celik, Ozan Kabak, Kaan Ayhan and Merih Demiral. The best midfielders and forwards for Turkey are Cengiz Under, Yusuf Yazici, Hakan Calhanoglu, Burak Yilmaz, and Enes Unal. This is all without mentioning the dozens of players from their domestic league. Manager Senol Gunes has the tough task of playing a balanced system that can fit in all the good attacking options whilst remaining solid at the back. If the team hits form at the right time, it can go past the group stage and even into the second or third round.

Key player: Burak Yilmaz. A player that deserves a shout-out here is AC Milan attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, a skilled player that is outstanding at set-pieces. But we have chosen Burak Yilmaz as the key player because he was the top scorer in Lille’s unexpected win of the Ligue 1 title. An experienced player who always fights extremely hard, Yilmaz could be a player that becomes the hero of a deep Turkey run in the tournament.

Wales was the Cinderella team of the 2016 Euros, reaching the semifinals after upsetting Belgium 3-1 in the quarter-finals. This was a wonderful run and one that the team will no doubt hope to repeat. But it will be much more difficult, as they have been drawn in quite a tough group. Wales will probably have an outside chance of second place, but more realistically will look to get a spot as one of the best third-placed teams. The squad is mostly average but boasts a few very good players like Ben Davies, Aaron Ramsey, and Gareth Bale. Wales also has experienced players such as Wayne Hennessey, Chris Gunter, and Joe Allen as well as promising players for the future like Joe Rodon, Neco Williams, Ethan Ampadu, Rabbi Matondo, and Daniel James. There is a big question mark going into the tournament, and that’s manager Ryan Giggs, who has been charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend. If this is a distraction that impacts them, it will be tough to get out of this group. 

Key player: Gareth Bale. The easiest choice so far, Wales’ hopes in the tournament depends on how Bale plays. If he plays extremely well like in his early Real Madrid days, then the team can get out of this group and even cause an upset in the knockout rounds. If he plays poorly, like he has in large parts of the last three seasons, then there is really no hope for Wales to go anywhere. There is a huge responsibility on Bale to perform and we’ll have to see if he delivers. 

Group B: Belgium, Denmark, Russia, Finland. 

Belgium isn’t a team of many traditions, but is currently filled with talent and ranked #1 in the world by FIFA. Manager Roberto Martinez has the responsibility of coaching the so-called “golden generation” of Belgium and trying to lead them to their first-ever major trophy. The reason this feels like a crucial tournament for Belgium is that their core of important players is aging and it feels like it could be their last opportunity to win big. The squad is filled with world class players, starting with Thibaut Courtois in goal and the back three of Jason Denayer, Jan Vertonghen, and Toby Alderweireld. The likely starters in the midfield are Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, and Kevin de Bruyne. On the wings and fullbacks, there is Thomas Meunier, Timothy Castagne, Leandro Trossard, Nacer Chadli, Yannick Carrasco, Eden Hazard, and his brother Thorgan Hazard. The two up top will likely be Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens. Again, many quality players and ridiculous depth across the board, the question is if it will all come together. But for now, they should have no problems topping this group. 

Key Player: Kevin de Bruyne. De Bruyne is the best player on this Belgian team and is arguably a top 5 player in the world. His vision is incredible and his intelligence is elite, and he should be the most influential player in a potential run to the title. Honorable mention goes to the wild card Eden Hazard, who a few years ago was one of the best players in the world for Chelsea, but after joining Real Madrid has struggled mightily with injuries. Belgium also needs Hazard at the top of his game to win the Euros.

Denmark are an underrated squad in this tournament and are another one of those teams that can make a deep run if everything breaks right. They have a phenomenal defense, with Kasper Schmeichel in goal alongside Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, Jannik Vestegaard, Joakim Maelhe, Daniel Wass and Joachim Andersen at the back. In the middle, they will probably start Thomas Delaney, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, and Christian Eriksen, a trio of quality players who will be essential to this team. In the rotation for the midfield and attack they have Mikkel Damsgaard, Martin Braithwaite, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Cornelius, Kasper Dolberg, and Jonas Wind. The team is stacked and should be tough to score against, but we question whether they have enough going forward to make a deep run. They will be the favorites to come in second however, and are a tough team to play.

Key Player: Kasper Schmeichel. Schmeichel will need to be on top of his game for Denmark to make a deep run in this tournament, with the goalkeeper being probably the most important position on the field. He is a phenomenal keeper and the son of Man United legend Peter Schmeichel, and is also known for leading Leicester City to their improbable Premier League title in the 2015-16 season. Honorable mention to Christian Eriksen, who needs to be decisive and generate chances for goals for this team.

Russia was host in the 2018 World Cup and went on a great run, losing on penalties in the quarterfinals to eventual finalists Croatia. They remarkably beat Spain in the round of 16, and while the home fans helped no doubt, this was an incredible run by Russia either way. The roster is not incredibly talented, with almost all of the players playing domestically. Manager Stanislav Cherchesov has done a great job in getting the most out of this group. The goalkeeper spot is uncertain, and at the back the main players will be Mario Fernandes and the experienced Yuri Zhirkov. In the midfield and attack, they will once again look for a spark from guys like Denis Cheryshev, Aleksandr Golovi, and Artem Dzyuba in addition to players like Aleksei Ionov, Roman Zobnin, Daler Kuzyayev and Aleksei Miranchuk. These guys will be the leaders if the Russians are going to repeat what they did in the 2018 World Cup.

Key Player: Artem Dzyuba. He is the captain and top goalscorer of the current squad but also finished as top goalscorer of the Russian league the past two seasons, as well as twice finishing as the top assist provider. At the age of 32, Dzyuba is still performing consistently as Russia’s main number 9 and true striker and shows no signs of slowing down. 

Finland enters as the clear underdogs of this group, as this will be their first major international tournament ever. They have nothing to lose, so we expect them to be a harder team than most expect, but also lose out in the end because of lack of talent and experience. Anything for them at this point is a bonus. They should have a quality starting goalkeeper, with Lukas Hradecky in goal. Their hope in the attack will be with Norwich striker Teemu Pukki. Other than those two, there aren’t many known players in that squad, but the Euros will be a spotlight on young and experienced players to show the world who they are.

Key Player: Teemu Pukki. Pukki is a 31 year old striker who has been around several clubs, but settled in very well at Norwich City. There he has an amazing 66 goals in 120 games, scoring consistently both in the Premier League and the Championship, England’s second tier. His record for the national team isn’t bad either, with 30 goals in 90 games. Expect him to be the main focus for Finland up top. 

Group C: Netherlands, Northern Macedonia, Austria, Ukraine

The Netherlands has gone through a tough rebuild that has lasted 6 years. But it’s been worth it, as the Dutch national team has been loading up with young talent, with the majority of their team being younger than 28 years old. They are stacked on defense with Matthijs De Ligt, Stefan De Vrij, Joel Veltman, Danny Blind, Denzel Dumfries, and Nathan Ake, have a stellar midfield led by Georginio Wijnaldum, Frenkie De Jong, Marten De Roon, Donny Van De Beek, Teun Koopmeiners, and amazing forwards in Donyell Malen, Memphis Depay, Luuk De Jong, Wout Weghorst, Steven Berghuis, and Quincy Promes. Although they are going through a big rebuild and have missed out on two major tournaments in a row, we think the Dutch will do well. The only question mark is how manager Frank de Boer does. He is not a proven manager, and early results haven’t been promising, but the players are there– so it’s on him if they don’t get the results the country is looking for.

Key player: Memphis Depay. Depay is a great goal scorer and assister and is the team’s essential player. They will be very reliant on his skill throughout the tournament.

Northern Macedonia is the newest entry to the Euros. Although they are debutantes, they have put forth a pretty solid team, with Egzijan Alioski and Stefan Ristovski on defense, Eljif Elmas, Boban Nikolov, and Enes Bardhi in midfield, and their forwards are led by captain Goran Pandev and his partner Aleksandar Trajkovski. They will do well if everyone plays their part. This could be a repeat of Iceland in 2016, a team who in their first Euro appearance made it all the way to the quarterfinals. Macedonia will be the underdogs of the group, but their belief and hard work could be what takes them through to the knockout stages.

Key player: Eljif Elmas. He can score, assist, and has played with Napoli for a fair share of Champions League, Europa League, and Serie A football. If he plays at his best, making key passes and turning them into assists, Macedonia can do well. The only downside is that he is fairly young, so experience is a question mark. Still, Elmas is a vital piece to Macedonia’s World Cup qualifiers success and could do the same here.

Austria is a team who is under the radar despite having a lot of talent. First off, their defense and midfield is absolutely stacked with talented players like David Alaba, Aleksandar Dragovic, Stefan Lainer, Andreas Ulmer, Martin Hinteregger, Valentino Lazaro, Julian Baumgartlinger, Stefan Ilsanker, Florian Grillitsch, Marko Arnautovic, and Alessandro Schopf. Their forward line is a bit weaker, with Marcel Sabitzer and Michael Gregoritsch as the only stars up front.

Key player: Marcel Sabitzer. Sabitzer is the Swiss army knife of this stacked Austria side. Although he is a traditional center-attacking midfielder, he is used as a forward here. If he gets the ball and consistently takes chances, Austria will progress to the knockout stages. 

Ukraine is a once glorious team that has declined sharply and are also rebuilding, bringing in talent from their major academies in Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk, the two biggest club teams in Ukraine. A whopping 23 of the players in the squad are below the age of 28. They don’t have many talents that have a good reputation in domestic leagues outside Ukraine’s own. This could be a problem for them, as many of their players don’t have experience in the biggest stages.

Key player: Ruslan Malinovsky. He’s a young but skilled midfielder playing for Italian club Atalanta, with similar experience to Elmas playing against European giants in the Champions League and Serie A. He is mainly a standard midfielder but has the leg power to bang in goals from afar.

Group D: Croatia, England, Czech Republic, Scotland

Croatia is one of the favorites for this year’s Euros. The 2018 World Cup finalists have with an all-around team with defenders such as Dejan Lovren and Duje Caleta-Car, midfielders such as Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, and a dominant forward line led by Ivan Perisic, Ante Rebic, and Andrej Kramaric. This team should go far in the Euros, and their rematch against England after beating them in the 2018 World Cup semifinals should be a highlight of the group stage.

Key Player: Luka Modric. Modric is an absolute beast in the midfield and was a key factor in Croatia’s 2nd place World Cup finish. If he plays like he did in his Ballon d’Or-winning 2018 campaign, Croatia will be a force to be reckoned with. Without dominant play from Modric, their stability may crumble.

England are a rather weak team, taking into consideration their key players and their comparison to other great football teams like Belgium and Croatia, who both bested England in the World Cup. Still, England will likely do rather well. They have a good defense with Harry Maguire, John Stones, and Tyrone Mings, a solid midfield with Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish, and Phil Foden, and an outrageously exciting forward trio in Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Jadon Sancho.

Key Player: Jadon Sancho. Sancho may be a little bit under the radar for this team, which is crazy considering he is one of the top young players in the world, but we’re choosing him over the many other talented players we could put here. Look for him to score and assist in high numbers throughout the tournament.

Czech Republic are on-the-rise and could challenge the favorites in this group. They have a pair of solid defense and midfield duos with Vladimir Coufal, Pavel Kadeřábek, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Darida, plus an amazing forward in Patrick Shick. This team has potential to do well, especially better than their 2016 Euro campaign where they went home early.

Key Player: Patrick Shick. He’s a dangerous forward that can score goals from practically anywhere. If he gets the ball enough from the midfielders, he can get the Czechs some vital wins.

Scotland are a fairly average team that has good players in every position but don’t have that edge most contenders have. It’s quite simple: put enough pressure on Scotland and they will crumble. It was seen in 2018 World Cup qualifiers against England, where they got an early lead but couldn’t hold on as England kept attacking and attacking. This appearance is Scotland’s first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, and thus probably won’t be a very surprising team. 

Key Player: John McGinn. He’s a skilled and deadly midfielder, this team’s Swiss army knife. As long as he plays to his best, Scotland have a chance to do well and maybe steal a 3rd place qualifying spot from the Czech Republic. Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, and Scott McTominay are also players to watch out for in this Scotland team.

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia

Spain is another favorite for the tournament, they have put forth a very strong squad for the Euros. With key players like Unai Simon, Jose Gaya, Pau Torres, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Marcos Llorente, Alvaro Morata, and Gerard Moreno, they can go very far. This is the first time in history where no Real Madrid player has been featured on the squad, not to mention the shocking news of Aymeric Laporte switching nationality from French to Spanish to get some playing time and immediately getting the call-up. This could be because Luis Enrique, Spain’s current head manager, coached bitter Real Madrid rivals Barcelona 5 years ago. Enrique also left out great players like Sergio Ramos, Isco, and Iago Aspas on the Euro roster, leading to a quite unspectacular roster. This team has fallen mightily from the glory years where they won the World Cup and two Euros in a five year span, from 2008 through 2012. Still, they’re favorites here.

Key Players: Gerard Moreno and Alvaro Morata. Both are in good form, especially Gerard Moreno, who finished as joint top scorer in the Europa League and led Villareal to their first major trophy ever, upsetting Manchester United in the final– and they both need to stay consistent for this team to truly contend.

Sweden made the World Cup quarterfinals three years ago but have since lost lots of talent. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s muscle injury is the biggest blow to their chances in this particular tournament. They have stars in Alexander Isak, Victor Lindelof, and Emil Forsberg but they will struggle and might even exit in the group stages.

Key Player: Emil Forsberg. Forsberg is one of their most underrated players, a deadly midfielder who can do well under stress. The question is if he will be consistent enough to pull Sweden through. If they had Zlatan it would have been easier to advance, but his absence is a major issue and makes Forsberg all the more important.

Poland are constant competitors in the Euros, and made the quarterfinals in 2016. They have a good offense and midfield led by Robert Lewandowski, Kristof Piątek, Piotr Zieliński, Mateusz Klich, Kamil Glik, and Arkadiusz Milik. They can do well in the tournament if the loaded attack can mesh together well.

Key Player: Robert Lewandowski. He is the best striker in the world at the moment. If he stays in form in the Euro, Poland will be deadly.

Slovakia has very few stars outside of Marek Hamsik and Stanislav Lobotka. They won’t have high expectations this year and have a very weak squad. What makes these tournaments magical are the underdog stories, but this one seems quite unlikely.

Key Player: Marek Hamsik. He’s the team’s creative playmaker, and has to carry this team on its back or they won’t get out of the group stage. Formerly of Napoli, Hamsik now plays for Sweden’s IFK Goteborg.

Group F: France, Portugal, Germany, Hungary

Germany will play their last major tournament with manager Joachim Low before turning the page to the next manager Hansi Flick. They will try to look past the 2018 World Cup group stage exit and embarrassing 6-0 and 2-1 losses to Spain and North Macedonia, respectively. They still have an amazing squad that should compete in this tough group and for the tournament as a whole. Hungary will be the heavy underdogs in this group and it will be surprising if they get past this stage. 

France is another favorite for this year’s Euro and will likely top this tournament’s Group of Death. They have the strongest squad in the world and are current World Cup Champions so there are naturally very high expectations. Their talent and squad depth is unmatched by any nation worldwide, with key defenders in Raphael Varane, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, and Jules Kounde. They also have a frightening midfield in Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante, and Moussa Sissoko, and a near impossible to defend offense with forwards like Kylian Mbappe, a returning Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Wissam Ben Yedder, Kingsley Coman, and Marcus Thuram, son of 1998 world cup winner Lilian Thuram. This team is the Euro favorite without a doubt.

Key Players: Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema. They are a pair of skilled and dangerous strikers, and will spearhead the attack well in the likely event that this team wins. Honorable mention to N’golo Kante, the backbone of this team’s defense. 

Portugal are also favorites to win this tournament, as they won the 2016 Euro against France and are thus the reigning champions. Although they underperformed in the World Cup, they have new talent as well as some in their prime. They are full to the brim with superstars, with Jose Fonte, Ruben Dias, and Joao Cancelo on defense, and Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, and Renato Sanches in midfield, and Joao Felix and Andre Silva up front. Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo needs no introduction. This team will do well. 

Key Player: Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes ended his season with 28 goals and 17 assists in 58 games. If he performs as well as he did for Manchester United this year, Portugal will be incredibly successful. Ronaldo is the best player on this team, but Fernandes could be the key to them winning the whole tournament.

Germany is a sleeping giant that has been wounded beyond repair. They are still haunted by their early World Cup exit, losing two games in the group stages. But this year is looking bright. They have brought in new talent, and are back on track. Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels led their 2014 World Cup victory and are back, and that’s incredibly important. They have talent in defense, with Hummels, Matthias Ginter, and Niklas Sule, and their midfield is out of this world with Muller, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, and Leon Goretzka all involved. Finally, their trio of strikers up front will be Serge Gnabry, Kevin Volland, and Timo Werner, 

Key Player: Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos. They are easily the best players on this stacked German team. Thomas Muller has the most assists in the Bundesliga with 18, and Kroos came in 3rd in La Liga with 10. If both of these two can feed Volland and Gnabry through balls towards the goal on a consistent basis, Germany will do quite well. 

Hungary is a team rich in history that has sunken mightily over the years. Many say that Hungary has no chance– and that’s likely true, but it’s largely the fault of the stacked group they find themselves in. They do, however, have a lot of players that could squeeze them through to the knockout stage. A skilled goalkeeper in Peter Gulacsi, good defenders in Gergo Lovrencsics, Willy Orban, and Attila Fiola, a midfield team of Adam Nagy, Laszlo Kleinheisler, and Dominik Szoboszlai, and the captain Adam Szalai with his right hand men Nemanja Nikolic and Roland Sallai up front. There is a chance this team manages to get through, and while it’s unlikely, it would be incredible if it does happen.

Key Player: Adam Szalai. The captain of this team is a consistently solid forward. Although Hungary might not get past the group stage taking into account the group they are in, they might have a chance if Szalai hits his shots– provided he gets enough chances. 

That will do it for our preview of the 2021 European Championship. Lots of interesting storylines and fun games right from the get-go, especially with the headliner in Group F. International tournaments are always fun, as we see big upsets and crazy moments every year. It’ll be exciting to see what the group stage brings when it opens on June 11th. 

Champions League Semifinal Review and Final Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

It’s decision time. We’ve gone from the original 32 Champions League teams all the way down to two that will play on May 29th in Istanbul. The remaining sides are Manchester City and Chelsea. Congratulations to them both for completing such a difficult journey to the Champions League final. But before we talk about that, let’s discuss those semifinals.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

The first leg was played in Estadio Di Stefano in Madrid. Chelsea got a quick start to the first half with a goal by American forward Christian Pulisic in the 14th minute. This lead didn’t last long though, as Karim Benzema equalized in the 29th minute with a sensational scissor kick on Real Madrid’s first real chance of the game. Give Benzema an inch and you will be punished. The first half was exhilarating, but the second was frankly disappointing. Both sides came out very conservatively and appeared to settle for a dras. The game ended at 1-1, with a slight advantage for Chelsea heading to Stamford Bridge, their home stadium, as they had a lead on the away goal tiebreaker. In the 28th minute, a shot by Chelsea midfielder Kai Havertz bounced off the crossbar and into the air where Chelsea striker Timo Werner headed it into the net to grant Chelsea the lead. The first half then quieted down other than a pair of vital saves of Karim Benzema shots by Chelsea goalie Edouard Mendy. The second half got to a slow start, with Real Madrid getting frustrated and getting 3 yellow cards. In the 85th minute, Chelsea had a breakaway on the wing and Christian Pulisic crossed the ball into the box where midfielder Mason Mount was waiting unmarked to score. Real Madrid failed to respond and the game ended 2-0. Chelsea go on to the final on the aggregate score of 3-1 and will play Manchester City in the final. Real Madrid’s full focus now is in the La Liga title race where they currently sit 2 points away from the leading Atlético Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester City

The first leg was played in Parc Des Princes in Paris. PSG got a quick start to the first half with a goal by defender Marquinios in the 15th minute, and the game stayed 1-0 into the half. In the 60th minute, Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne whipped a cross towards the goal that went untouched and went past PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas for the score to tie the game at 1. Shortly after, midfielder Riyad Mahrez then took a free kick through the wall and into the bottom left corner and took the lead for Manchester City, 2-1. A couple of minutes later, things got worse for the home side as midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye tackled Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan outside the box. Gueye got sent off with a straight red card. For the rest of the time, the two teams, especially PSG, were getting frustrated, hacking at each other constantly. Other than that, PSG stalled out compared to the first half and the game ended 2-1 in Manchester City’s favor, with the return leg going to the Etihad in Manchester. At home, Manchester City got a quick start with a goal by Riyad Mahrez. For the rest of the first half, both teams got some shots on goal with nothing to show for it. In the 63rd minute, Mahrez got another chance from a Phil Foden cross and slotted it in. 5 minutes later, Angel Di Maria of PSG got sent off for losing his head in response to a poor Fernandinho tackle. The game ended 2-0, meaning a Manchester City victory on a 4-1 aggregate. PSG had no shots on goal, with Manchester City’s defense holding strong. Manchester City will go onto their first Champions League final in history. PSG will now look to overtake Lille, win Ligue 1, and try to win the Coupe de France which they are in the semifinals of. Regardless of how those competitions turn out, this defeat will be rough for PSG and could have implications for the future of some of their star players, specifically Kylian Mbappe.

Manchester City vs Chelsea Preview 

It’s the last challenge for these 2 teams. All eyes are set on Istanbul, where this historic battle will take place. Manchester City can win their first ever Champions League, and Chelsea can add a second to their collection. In their 2 games played against each other in 2020-2021, both had one win against the other. It’s a really close matchup here. Chelsea have had much success with a heavy defensive game in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 formation. Like Chelsea, Manchester City are a heavy defense team that usually line up in a 4-3-3. Manchester City have the upper hand here, having a well rounded team in general and in great league form. Chelsea have also been in great form, but we don’t see them beating Manchester City. Our early prediction is that Manchester City will win the final 2-1 after extra time and will take home their first UCL title.

Champions League Quarterfinal Review and Semifinal Preview

By Diego De Souza and Lucien Betancourt

The Champions League quarterfinals have come and gone quickly. Across these past two weeks, four teams have gone home and now four remain – Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The semifinals are due to be in the weeks of April 27th and May 4th, and from there we’ll know who will make the final in Istanbul. Here, we will review the quarterfinals and preview the semifinals. We’ll start with the most entertaining of the four games, Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain.

Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain

The first leg of this 2020 Champions League final rematch was played in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. PSG got a quick lead through a goal via superstar forward Kylian Mbappe. Then, in the 28th minute, PSG center-back Marquinhos scored from a beautiful assist from Neymar which doubled their lead for nine minutes until Bayern forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, in for the injured Robert Lewandowski, scored a header. Once the second half got underway, Thomas Muller of Bayern scored a goal in the 60th minute to tie the game. But eight minutes later, Kylian Mbappe scored another goal, which would be the last of the leg as PSG beat Bayern in Munich 3-2, having a significant away lead with the return leg going to Parc De Princes in Paris. Bayern dominated the run of play in this leg with 31 shots to PSG’s 6 but PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas had a great game and was arguably the man of the match. This was a fantastic game and beautifully set up the second leg, in Parc De Princes. PSG looked the better side until the 40th minute, when Eric Choupo-Moting of Bayern scored a header and tied the aggregate score at three. That was the only action of the game as they drew 3-3 on aggregate but PSG advanced on by the away goals rule, scoring three away goals compared to Bayern’s one. Throughout the game, both teams missed some great chances as PSG forward Neymar missed five clear chances at a goal, including 3 shots at the post, whilst Leroy Sane of Bayern Munich for his part missed seven goal scoring chances. Overall, poor finishing in the game by both teams but PSG advance and will play Manchester City in the semifinals. For Bayern, the only competition left for them this season is the Bundesliga, which they will look to win for the ninth consecutive time (currently they are 5 points ahead in first).

Real Madrid vs Liverpool

This was another Champions League final rematch, this one being from the 2018 final where Liverpool lost 3-1. This time, however, many key players were injured on both teams, including both teams’ senior center backs. The first leg was played in the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid scored twice in the first half, goals by Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio, in the 27th and 36th minute, respectively. Both of these goals were caused by errors from Liverpool, with the second goal stemming from an especially bad error from right back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The rest of the first half stayed relatively quiet, but only five minutes into the second half, Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scored a goal and got Liverpool back into the game, only for their hopes to be crushed in the 65th minute by Vinicius Junior, who capitalized from another error by Alexander-Arnold. The game ended 3-1, a big boost for Real Madrid going into Liverpool. In the second leg, the game was slow and frankly boring. Real Madrid were playing rather defensive with a comfortable two goal lead. Liverpool was quite cautious as well, having only four shots on goal, all of which were saved by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Real Madrid’s experience and tactical fouling gave Liverpool nothing and they coasted through. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, meaning that the aggregate score was 3-1, so Real Madrid goes on to play Chelsea in the Semi-Finals. Liverpool will now have to finish top 4 in their league to be back in the Champions League next season.

Porto vs Chelsea

This was the least exciting of the clashes in our opinion. This was because Chelsea opened up as huge favorites and were in great form under manager Thomas Tuchel going into this game. The two legs were played in Sevilla due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. In the first leg, with Porto being the “home” team, they went on the attack. They had a number of goalscoring opportunities but Chelsea’s defense held strong. Then, against the flow of play, Chelsea’s attacking midfielder Mason Mount coolly spun off of Porto defender Chancel Mbemba with his left foot and shot with his right foot into the bottom corner. This fantastic turn and finish came at the half hour mark and changed the momentum of the game. Porto then looked for an equalizer but couldn’t find one. Unfortunately for them, Chelsea would go on to double their lead late, when Porto’s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona gave a gift to Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell who then went over to Porto’s keeper and scored. This gave Chelsea a very comfortable 2-0 lead going into their “home” clash, the first leg being an example of how individual mistakes and inability to convert chances into goals will cost you at this level. The second game played out as you might expect, with Chelsea looking to keep a clean sheet and Porto looking for the goal that would halve the deficit. Porto threatened little in this match, and while they would get a goal, a spectacular bicycle kick (rivaling Oliver Giroud’s goal from the last round) by forward Mehdi Tahremi in the 93rd minute, it mattered little in the end. Chelsea go through to the semi-finals 2-1 on aggregate where they will face Real Madrid. Porto will aim to finish in the top 2 in their league to be back in the Champions League next year.

Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund

Heading into this fixture, Manchester City were the huge favorites being that they were 11 points ahead in first place in the Premier League and were still in the running for the quadruple (winning all the trophies they are in play for). In contrast, Borussia Dortmund sit in 5th place in the Bundesliga, seven points out of 4th and face a real danger of missing out on the Champions League next year, when new manager Marco Rose will arrive. Failure to make the Champions League for Dortmund may force them to sell their biggest stars, namely Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho. However, Dortmund gave Manchester City trouble early on, pressing hard in the opening 15 minutes of the match in which they were on the road. Unfortunately for Dortmund, their midfielder Emre Can gave the ball away in the middle of the pitch and City made them pay with a lightning quick counter attack finished by attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne: another example of how mistakes cannot happen in games where you are the underdog. Dortmund would fight back though, and they were absolutely robbed of a goal at the end of the first half when midfielder Jude Bellingham was said to have fouled City keeper Ederson when in reality, it was Ederson who kicked Bellingham. So, Manchester City were fortunate to lead 1-0 at halftime, but they failed to add to that in the second half and Dortmund captain Marco Reus made them pay by scoring an equalizing goal in the 84th minute. This could’ve set up Dortmund very well where they would be in front due to the away goal for the second leg. Unfortunately for Dortmund, they switched off on the defensive end and Manchester City’s Phil Foden gave them the winner in the 89th minute. This gave City the 2-1 lead heading into the second leg, where Dortmund took the surprise lead in the 15th minute on a Jude Bellingham rifle into the top right corner. If it stood, the 1-0 result would mean Dortmund would go through to the semis, and that was the score at halftime. But the whole game changed when Manchester City was awarded a penalty early in the second half, as the ball hit Emre Can’s head and then hit his arm. It was a questionable penalty, and when you add this with the Bellingham disallowed goal in the first leg, Dortmund have a reason to feel slightly robbed. Riyad Mahrez smashed the penalty into the top corner to make it a 1-1 game, putting Manchester City back in front. Phil Foden wrapped it up with a beautiful shot into the bottom corner from outside the box in the 75th minute to send Manchester City through to the semis. The aggregate score ended up being 4-2 and Manchester City will now face PSG. Borussia Dortmund will now have to focus on getting top 4 in their domestic league and will look to finish the season on a positive note if they win the German cup competition known as DFB Pokal.

Semifinals Preview

As stated before, PSG will play Man City and Real Madrid will play Chelsea. Let’s take a look at those games, as well as our takes on who will go on to play in the Final.

Man City vs PSG

This fixture is the tastier of the two. Both of these teams are on fire, both in their domestic league and here in the Champions League. Manchester City has had a near unstoppable run with nine wins and a single draw in their last 10 Champions League games. Although they’ve had the easier road here, they are no pushovers. Paris Saint-Germain has had their ups and downs throughout their season, first having to survive the dreaded Group of Death we talked about earlier this year. Then, they had to go through Spanish and German giants- Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively. They beat both teams away but at home they’ve had their troubles, and in that lies their main weakness. When they get too confident with their lead, they falter and their offense slows down and underperforms. On the contrary, Mbappe and Neymar of PSG, as well as the defenders surrounding goalkeeper Keylor Navas, have been outstanding. Although they don’t have many flashy players in the midfield, they are worth more than the sum of their parts. The first leg will be played in the Parc De Princes in Paris. We predict a large 3-1 win for PSG. The second leg will be played in the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. We predict that Manchester City will win 2-1, but they will ultimately lose on a 4-3 aggregate and PSG will advance on to the finals.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

Real Madrid has been a very difficult team to get a read on this season. They’ve had many embarrassing defeats including losing to Shakhtar Donetsk two times in the group stage and nearly failed to make it through. On the other hand, they are in the semifinals of the Champions League and this is their competition, having won it 13 times in their history, the most out of any team. In the knockout rounds, they made quick work of Atalanta and Liverpool and seem to be in top form at the right time to win a title. They also beat their fierce rivals Barcelona 2-1 this weekend, putting them squarely in the La Liga title race and giving them some momentum as they head into this matchup. Real Madrid are never to be counted out in this competition and their manager Zinedine Zidane will look to win it for his 4th time in 5 tries. Chelsea have similarly had an odd season to this point, starting off really slow with previous manager and club legend Frank Lampard until they replaced him with German boss Thomas Tuchel. Their form has been much improved since, especially on the defensive side. They are now 4th in the Premier League and find themselves in the FA Cup semifinals in addition to the Champions League semis. Tuchel’s work has been impressive for having taken over midseason. In the round of 16, they dominated a poor Atletico Madrid side and in the quarters made easy work of Porto. This will be no doubt their biggest challenge so far. We expect a pretty defensive matchup, with Real Madrid taking the home leg 1-0 and tying the away match 1-1. With this result, Madrid will have won 2-1 on aggregate and will advance to the final as they seek their 14th title.

Wrap-up

Through the past 18 weeks of Champions League football, we’ve seen 32 teams in the group stages get whittled down to four. All four semifinal teams have had uphill journeys to get here (apart from perhaps Man City). Real Madrid had a rough first start to the campaign and barely got past their group but they held on tight with a close win on the final day before moving through the knockout round smoothly. Chelsea had an easy group stage, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 draws before going through the knockout stages.  PSG had a very difficult journey. In the Group Stage they were drawn in the Group of Death with Manchester United, Leipzig, and Istanbul Basaksehir. They got through, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 losses, having to win their last 2 games against Istanbul and Manchester United to scrape through before having to go through Barcelona and Bayern Munich back-to-back. Manchester City had the easiest road here, breezing past the group stage with 5 wins, 1 draw, and 13 goals while conceding only 1 before playing a demoralized Borussia Monchengladbach team in the round of 16. But as the four teams get set to play there can only be one champion, and we won’t have to wait long to find out who. The final will be played on Saturday, May 29th in Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.

Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The Round of 16 of the Champions League has come and gone, with 8 teams advancing: Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Porto, Bayern Munich, and Paris Saint-Germain. The two legs will take place on the weekend of April 5th and April 12th, respectively. Let’s break them down:

Manchester City vs Dortmund

This is a rematch of the 2020 Champions League final, making this the best and most unpredictable draw of the lot. Both teams breezed through their opponents, with Bayern beating Lazio 6-2 and Paris Saint-Germain beating FC Barcelona 5-2, though PSG’s victory was all the more impressive over a powerhouse like Barcelona. These teams have only played each other once in the past 3 years and have changed a lot since then, especially PSG’s hiring of new coach Mauricio Pochettino. The first leg will be played in Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. My prediction is that Bayern Munich will get a 3-1 win over PSG at home, with a 2 goal advantage going away. PSG will have a lot of catching up to do and will score two goals but concede one in the final minutes, with Bayern Munich winning on a 4-3 aggregate. The winner of this draw will play the winner of Dortmund and Manchester City in the semifinals.

Manchester City vs Dortmund

Manchester City are on a roll right now, having won 24 of their last 25 games across all competitions. They are currently top of the Premier League by 14 points with 8 matches left to go, meaning they can now turn their attention fully to the Champions League. They are chasing a rare sweep of titles, looking to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, and the Champions League in the span of a year. The Champions League is a competition that they have never won, despite having very quality teams in the last few years. They have lost in the quarterfinals in the past 4 seasons which gives hope to Dortmund. Still, they will be the strong favorites to advance from this and a failure to do so will be seen as a huge disappointment for them. Borussia Dortmund should not be overlooked though, as they have started to improve this season after a disappointing start. They are currently 5th in the Bundesliga, battling for a top 4 spot needed to return to the Champions League in 2022. Dortmund has the potential to beat anybody, even Manchester City, as on their day they are unstoppable. 2 players to watch out for on Dortmund are Erling Haaland, the current top scorer by far in the League, and Jadon Sancho, who has something to prove playing his former team which he left because he was given no playing time. At Dortmund, he has become one of the best wingers in the world. Both can make a difference and help Dortmund to the upset. My prediction is a 2-0 win for Manchester City at home and a 2-1 win for them away, helping them win on an aggregate score of 4-1. As mentioned, the winner of this matchup will take on the winner of Bayern Munich and PSG.

Real Madrid vs Liverpool

This draw should also be incredibly entertaining to watch. This is a rematch of the 2018 Champions League final, where Real Madrid won to take their 13th title. As for this draw, it will be pivotal for both teams’ seasons. Real Madrid currently sit 3rd in La Liga, 6 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid. While they can overcome that deficit, the Champions League is their competition and likely presents them with their best chance of winning a trophy this year. The Champions League is Liverpool’s only chance of winning a trophy, as they are currently sitting in eighth in the Premier League. If they can’t make the top 4 in the Premier League, they have to win this competition to be back in it next year. I expect a very close, tense battle in both legs, and it is very hard to pick a winner. My prediction is a 2-1 win for Real Madrid at home in the 1st leg and a 1-1 draw at Anfield in the 2nd leg, with Real Madrid going through with an aggregate score of 3-2. The winner of this draw will play the winner of Chelsea and Porto in the semifinals.

Chelsea vs Porto

Both are underdogs in this year’s Champions League. Chelsea came off of an easy win against Atletico Madrid, while Porto had to beat Italian giants Juventus, as well as playing against one of the greatest players of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo. The first leg will be played in the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal. As for our predictions, Porto will win 2-0 at home, with their strong and centralized defense holding strong. The second leg will be played in Stamford Bridge in London, England. Chelsea will win 2-1, but that away goal will be the key to Porto securing a 3-2 victory on aggregate and advancing to the semifinals.

Champions League: Round of 16 Review

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The round of 16 has come to an end. Through this 4 week span, we’ve seen upsets, feats of persistence and perseverance, and lackluster performances. Let’s start with the first match of the bunch and arguably the most entertaining. 

Porto vs Juventus

The perfect case of a comeback story gone wrong. The first leg was played in the Estadio de Dragao in Porto, Portugal. After a goal right after kickoff and right at the start of the second half, Porto came away with a vital win at home and a good lead despite a late goal for Juventus. The second leg was set to be played in Turin, Italy, the home of Juventus. Like the first leg, Porto got a quick first-half goal from a penalty and put Juventus in a bad position. However, forward Mehdi Taremi was stupidly sent off in the second half. It was a second yellow for kicking the ball away in frustration. Juventus needed to score 2 goals and concede no more goals to send the game into extra time. Federico Chiesa of Juventus, the same player who scored their lone goal in the first leg, scored 2 goals and sent the game into extra time (which is 30 minutes with 15-minute halves). The score didn’t change after the first 15 minutes of extra time. Then, in the 115th minute, Sergio Oliviera of Porto, scored from a free-kick. Porto regained the lead and Juventus needed to score 2 goals to win the game. There were only 5 minutes left when Adrien Rabiot of Juventus got the goal they needed. The comeback was back on. Juventus continued to attack but the iron wall of Porto, led by their captain and veteran Pepe, held firm. After 5 minutes of extra time, the game ended in the 125th minute. Even though the score was tied 4-4 on aggregate, Porto went on because of the away goal tiebreaker, since they scored 2 goals at Turin, while Juventus only scored 1 in Porto. Porto toppled an overwhelming favorite, and will advance on to the quarterfinals. Lots of questions will now be asked about Andrea Pirlo (Juventus’ manager), Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus, who completely flopped in the Champions League again.

Barcelona vs Paris Saint Germain

This was one of the better games of this round, at least on paper, with two European giants going head-to-head. PSG were the better team from the start, taking a 4-1 win from Barcelona at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. Kylian Mbappe bagged a vital hat-trick which helped PSG get a big away win and a big lead ahead of the second leg in their own stadium. The second leg played in the Parc-Des-Princes in Paris was much less interesting, as Mbappe scored a penalty and Messi missed one, though he did score a ridiculous goal shortly before his miss. Barcelona was completely out of it for the entire round, but PSG were perhaps a little too careful with the lead. Still, they’re on to the quarterfinals. After the elimination, speculation abounded that this could be Messi’s last Champions League game for Barcelona. That will be an answer for which we must wait.

Dortmund vs Sevilla

Sevilla were probably the favorites in this match because of their recent performances in La Liga under ex Real Madrid manager Julien Lopetegui, but I picked Dortmund as they have slightly better players, especially when it comes to their forwards, although they have been very inconsistent in the Bundesliga this year with interim manager Edin Terzic. Sevilla actually started in front in the first leg with a very early goal by forward Suso, but from there, it was all Dortmund. Mahmoud Dahoud scored to tie the game up, and the goal machine Erling Haaland made it 2-1 at the 30-minute mark. He then scored a second goal right before halftime and gave Dortmund a very comfortable 3-1 away lead. Luuk de Jong would score a beautiful free-kick near the end of the game to cut Dortmund’s lead to 3-2, which is where it stayed. In the second leg, knowing they would need to score at least two goals, Sevilla was pushing for an opener and dominated the first half-hour. After that, Dortmund went on a beautiful counter-attack which was put away by Haaland. Now Sevilla needed 3 goals to win, so the tie was pretty much out of reach. Haaland would go on to score a penalty early in the second half, which brings his total in the UCL this season to 10 goals in 6 games. What a machine! Youssef En-Nesryi would score a penalty in the 68th minute and a consolation goal in the 96th minute, but it meant nothing. Dortmund go through to the quarter-finals, and if they continue playing like this they have the potential to be one of the dark horses that can win the Champions League. Sevilla were very disappointing in this tie, especially their two young center-backs in Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde. After their collapse against Barcelona in the Spanish Copa del Rey, their season is basically over.

Liverpool vs Leipzig

Similar to Dortmund and Sevilla, these two teams played quite differently in their domestic leagues. RB Leipzig are currently 2nd in the Bundesliga, giving Bayern Munich some competition for the title. Liverpool on the other hand are currently eighth in the Premier League, in large part due to the crazy amount of injuries that they have had, especially on defense. It has been a roller coaster season for them after winning the Premier League last year, but this year they have collapsed. Given this, you would probably think that Leipzig would win this, right? Wrong. Liverpool put their domestic woes aside and got a very impressive 2-0 away win in Budapest, this match’s temporary home due to COVID travel restrictions. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scored a goal each early in the second half and coasted to an easy win. Still, Liverpool had to finish the job in the second leg. Very similarly, Salah and Mane scored within 5 minutes of each other to punch Liverpool’s ticket to the quarter-finals. These two players are among the top 10 best in the world when they’re on, they just have to play their best more often. RB Leipzig should be very disappointed in themselves, as they could not have picked a better time to play Liverpool yet were thoroughly outplayed. In the first leg the two goals were due to mistakes on defense, specifically Marcel Sabitzer and Dayot Upamecano. They barely made Liverpool keeper Alisson work in either leg. Now, Leipzig will look to win the German DFB Pokal and maybe catch Bayern in the Bundesliga, though that’s unlikely. Liverpool will march on to the quarter-finals but it is hard to really predict how far they can go at this moment in time. We’ll have to wait to see who they’ll play and what state they’re in come the next round. In the meantime, they have to drastically improve their league form or they won’t be in this competition again next year.

Real Madrid vs Atalanta 

Real Madrid and Atalanta are two teams of completely different sizes. Real Madrid are a European giant, the most successful team in the history of the Champions League by far, with 13 titles (almost doubling any other team). Atalanta are the underdogs but have been punching above their weight in the last few years. The expectation was for Real Madrid to win, but Atalanta did have a chance. They came so close to making the semifinals last year and were looking to make a similar run again this year. The first leg had a questionable red card in the 17th minute against Atalanta’s Remo Freuler. From there, Real Madrid had almost all of the possession and in the 86th minute they finally broke through with a beautiful Ferland Mendy goal. This gave them a 1-0 lead going back to Spain. Atalanta actually started the second game reasonably well but it all went out the window when Atalanta’s goalkeeper, Marco Sportiello, gifted Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema the opening goal. Real Madrid were up by two goals and were in complete control. In the 56th minute, Real Madrid’s captain Sergio Ramos converted a penalty to put the series to bed. Luis Muriel would grab a consolation goal on a beautiful free-kick for Atalanta in the 83rd minute– though it was quickly canceled out by super-sub Marco Asensio’s goal one minute later on only his second touch of the match. Real Madrid march on and should never be counted out in this competition. The fairytale story ends for Atalanta this year in the Champions League but they will now focus on getting top 4 in their league to get back to the UCL and also look ahead to the Coppa Italia final vs. Juventus, which will be one of the biggest games in the club’s history. They have only ever won the Coppa Italiana once, so perhaps this loss is only setting up a major victory.

Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid have had a great start to their season, sitting at the top of La Liga. On the other hand, Chelsea have had a very up-and-down season, which started with the firing of manager Frank Lampard. Since then, Thomas Tuchel has taken over and righted the ship, particularly on the defensive end. As for this matchup, it was a tough one to predict,  as Chelsea came into this in great form and Atletico, despite their great start domestically, have dropped some games as of late. In the first leg Atletico came out flat, with Chelsea taking most of the possession in what was ultimately quite a boring game. The difference was a phenomenal bicycle kick goal by Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud, which was initially ruled offside, but eventually was awarded as it had touched an Atletico defender on the way. Chelsea went into the second leg up 1-0. In the second leg, Atletico’s task became a lot harder when Hakim Ziyech converted a beautiful counter-attack for Chelsea in the 34th minute. Down 1-0 at half-time and 2-0 on aggregate, Atletico Madrid’s likelihood of coming back was almost zero, given how Chelsea had only conceded two goals in their previous 12 games. Chelsea would hang on for the victory, and would get an extra goal in the final minutes to complete a dominant performance against Atletico over the two legs. A great start for Thomas Tuchel, whilst Diego Simeone’s Atletico crash out of the Champions League once again. Atletico’s season will now depend fully on if they can win La Liga for the first time since 2014.

Manchester City vs Borussia Monchengladbach

Coming into this match, Manchester City were clear favorites to win, being on a 10 game winning streak and the top of the Premier League, while Borussia Monchengladbach were struggling in the Bundesliga, currently sitting in 7th. The first leg was played in Hungary’s Puskas Arena, a neutral site due to the aforementioned COVID regulations. Manchester City had a quick start with a goal by Bernardo Silva in the 29th minute of the first leg. Later in the 2nd half, Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City scored a goal in the 65th minute, and the leg finished with the English side up 2-0. Borussia had trouble completing passes and getting up the field to score a goal. This could be due to the announcement of their coach, Marco Rose, leaving for their German rivals Borussia Dortmund after two years of rebuilding, which was quite a backstabbing. In the second leg, Manchester City got a pair of early goals in the 12th and 18th minute by goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, respectively. Borussia could not get going on the attack, having only 30% possession and only 400 passes compared to Manchester City’s 850 passes and 70% possession. Manchester City advanced on with an aggregate score of 4-0, with Borussia receiving their 10th straight loss. Very dominant win for Manchester City, who continue their amazing form. They are probably one of the top two favorites (with Bayern Munich) to win this competition. Maybe this is finally their year.

Bayern Munich vs Lazio

This was probably the least interesting of all the matchups. Bayern Munich were going to win without a doubt, as they were the defending Champions League winners, whereas Lazio had the worst defense of the 16 knockout stage teams. The first leg was played in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, home of Lazio. Bayern started off with a quick goal in the 9th minute by Robert Lewandowski, with Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane following up with 2 goals in the 24th and 42nd minute. In the 47th minute, Francesco Acerbi of Lazio scored an own goal, giving Bayern a 4-0 lead, though that was quickly remedied by a Joaquin Correa goal two minutes later. The rest of the game was relatively quiet and ended 4-1. The second leg was played in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Bayern got another early lead through a Robert Lewandowski penalty kick. They got a second goal in the 73rd minute through Eric Choupo-Moting, and while Lazio scored late in the 82nd minute, there was no upset here. While the games were a bit disappointing, the result was not shocking. In the end, Bayern advanced to the quarterfinals on an aggregate score of 6-2.

The Round of 16 games are now over, with some upsets but ultimately the majority of the bigger teams going through to the quarter-finals. Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Porto, Liverpool, Chelsea and PSG will advance. Next time, we’ll be previewing the next round.

Champions League Knockout Stage Preview

By Diego De Souza and Lucien Betancourt

The matchups for the Round of 16 of the Champions League were released on December 14th, and they’re listed here. 

(Teams in bold will play their home leg first, then the teams underlined will play their home leg second)

Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Lazio vs Bayern
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
Porto vs Juventus
Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain
Sevilla vs Dortmund
Atalanta vs Real Madrid

Now, let’s break the matchups down before they begin on February 18th:

Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City

This is an interesting matchup strategically, as it’s a showdown between counter-attacking (Borussia Monchengladbach) and possession play (Manchester City) football. Borussia’s style of play is rather defensive, relying on absorbing pressure from the attacking team and counter attacking quickly down the flanks, hence their 4-2-3-1 formation. Manchester City is the opposite, with a possession-heavy game that relies on short and quick passes, as well as heavy pressing. Manchester City could use this heavy pressure to overload Borussia’s defense and create chances through the middle. Borussia, on the other hand, could continue using their game plan that has been working really well for them: absorbing the opponent’s heavy pressure and counterattack swiftly. Both teams are struggling in their respective domestic leagues, both in 8th place on their tables, good for around the middle of the pack. Borussia has also faced more difficult opposition, beating Bayern Munich in the Germany’s top pro league, the Bundesliga, 3-2 on January 10th. This will be an interesting matchup, but we predict Borussia will take their home win 2-0, after which Manchester City will come back home and win 3-1. The conceded away goals will hurt Manchester City and they’ll lose out to Borussia on that tiebreaker. Borussia will prevail utilizing their play style that got them this far, and with their Coach Marco Rose’s heavy defensive game, they have a good shot at upsetting Manchester City. 

Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea

This is a great matchup that won’t disappoint, with two great managers in Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid vs Frank Lampard of Chelsea, playing defensive and offensive football respectively. Atletico Madrid’s play style is defensive, with a 4-4-2 formation. Luis Suarez and Diego Costa make up the bulk of their offense, with midfielders like Saúl and Koke supporting them. They are a possession-heavy, defensive team similar to Borussia. They also play wide to open the field up for the wingers on attack to create a temporary 4-2-4 formation. Chelsea, on the other hand, are a more offensive team who rely on their speed and offensive capabilities on the wings, specifically with Ben Chilwell and Reece James. They line up in a 3-4-3, with Kante dropping back into a center back role. Werner, Ziyech, and Pulisic go up front and have Havertz and Kovacic in support. Atletico is playing at home first, and because of Simeone’s genius, we predict they will take a 3-0 win. They will then travel to Stamford Bridge, where defense will prevail and Chelsea will win 2-1, but lose on aggregate to the advancing Atletico Madrid. 

Leipzig vs Liverpool

Another interesting matchup where two attack-centric teams go head to head. Leipzig are off of two fabulous wins where they scored 7 goals, while Liverpool are coming off a loss and draw. While Liverpool finished strongly with a record of 4-1-1, they are weakened by injuries to their defense, losing Van Dijk, Matip, Joe Gomez, all three of their best center backs. Leipzig, on the other hand, have revamped their offense, with Angelino, Haidara, Sabitzer, Szoboszlai, Olmo, Kluivert, and Poulsen, all of which will surely threaten Liverpool’s already weak defense. Leipzig plays at home first, so they’ll take an easy 2-0 win but at their home, Liverpool will prevail and win 3-0. The series would end in a 3-2 aggregate, with Liverpool advancing on. 

Lazio vs Bayern Munich

This matchup is less interesting than the other for 6 main reasons: 1. Bayern Munich is off of an incredible run to the Champions League title. 2. Bayern’s attack, led by Lewandowski and Muller, is unstoppable, scoring 18 goals in 6 games. 3. Bayern’s defense is outstanding, conceding only 5 goals in 6 matches. 4. They have the experience: Lazio joined the Champions League for the first time in 13 years this season. 5. Lazio has done absolutely terribly for being one of the clubs in the top 5 European leagues. 6. Lazio’s defense is terrible and often loses leads quickly or fails to impress like most of the big teams. Let’s get this prediction out of the way. Lazio will play at home first and will draw 2-2. Then to the Allianz Arena in Munich, Bayern will win 4-1 to end the series with a 6-3 aggregate lead to advance on.

FC Barcelona vs Paris St. Germain

This, on paper, is the best matchup of the lot. We have Barcelona, who have struggled domestically this year but were on track to win their Champions League group until they got absolutely smoked by Ronaldo and Juventus in their home stadium. Now, they have to face Paris-Saint Germain in a far harder draw than what would’ve been Porto. PSG, in contrast, looked at one point like they were going out after losing to Manchester United and Leipzig before turning around and winning their final 3 games to win their group. But it is probably the hardest team they could’ve faced. Still, we would give PSG the slight edge, based on the current state Barcelona are in. The big storyline in this one is PSG star Neymar against his former club. He’s currently dealing with an ankle injury but hopefully looks to be back for this one. PSG have also just sacked former manager Thomas Tuchel and hired ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pocchetino. He did a good job at Tottenham and it will be interesting to see how he does in this matchup, given that the Champions League is all that matters for PSG. PSG won the Ligue 1 and made the Champions League final last year but failed at the final hurdle, losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich. They will be hungry to get back to the final and win it this time. Barcelona’s boss Ronald Koeman is under a lot of pressure, and we think that if he loses this tie he will get fired. It could go either way, but we think PSG will edge it out, 3-2 on aggregate. But never count out Barcelona– at least while they still have Lionel Messi. 

Atalanta vs Real Madrid

In this clash, we have the dark horse from Bergamo, Italy, in Atalanta, and the European heavyweights in Real Madrid. This matchup should be interesting to see. On one hand, we have an Atalanta team who are capable of beating anybody with their attacking style under manager Gian Piero Gasperini. They proved this by beating Roma 4-1, crushing Sassuolo 5-1 this past weekend, and beating Liverpool 2-0 at their home stadium of Anfield. Their risky style of play can go wrong though, like their other matchup against Liverpool, a 5-0 loss at home. Real Madrid has had a weird season but has been in better form as of late. Real will be the heavy favorites in this matchup, but it would not shock me to see Atalanta go through. Real only barely got out of their group, leaving it to the last matchday where they got a clutch 2-0 win vs Borussia. Atalanta also advanced at the last matchday, winning 1-0 away at Ajax. Overall, look out for tons of goals as both defenses have been shipping a lot of goals. We expect Real to beat Atalanta 5-4 on aggregate. 

Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund

This tie is probably the hardest one to predict given how each team has been playing. Sevilla won the Europa League and finished 4th in La Liga last year, making it a successful first season for manager Julien Lopetegui. This year, however, they have been quite average domestically and got smashed 4-0 at home against Chelsea in this year’s group stage. Still, they are usually a force in Europe and the signing of ex-Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic will be huge for the experience and morale of the team. Dortmund, on the other hand, has been infuriating to watch. At times they play beautiful football, beating teams by 4 or 5 goals. Other times they lose games they should win. This season alone they have lost 2-0 to Augsburg, 2-1 to Koln, 5-1 to Stuttgart and 2-1 to Union Berlin, all teams that should be fighting to avoid relegation. They also lost in this very round of the Champions League for the past two seasons. These poor results have made Dortmund sack manager Lucien Favre, hiring Edin Terzic in the interim. It is so hard to say how they will be playing by the time this fixture arrives. But Dortmund has a lot of potential, and they have better players than Sevilla. For this reason, we will say they will scrape by, specifically by an aggregate score of 4-3. 

Porto vs Juventus

Finally, we have Porto and Juventus. Juventus was in an easy group and they managed to top it, in large part because of a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou, Barcelona’s Stadium. Porto went through as runners-up to Manchester City in their group, playing pretty well. In this clash Juventus should be the huge favorites, not just because they have Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world, but because they have more quality and depth than Porto in almost every position. Porto will have to rely on a solid defense, led by ex-Real Madrid center back Pepe, and will need to score goals with their attack of Mehdi Tahremi, Mousa Marega and Felipe Anderson. They will have to play nearly perfect to win. Juventus have won the last 9 Serie A titles, and even though they have been inconsistent this season and even though they got upset in the Round of 16 last season against Lyon, we think they have the experience to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Champions League Group Stage Recap

By Lucien Betancourt and Diego De Souza

The group stage of the Champions League has officially come to an end. The 16 teams that will go on to the Round of 16 are set, and the 8 third-place teams that will head to the Europa League (the second tier of European champion soccer) are set as well. Everything is set to go for February, where the Round of 16 games will occur. In these games, each team has a turn to play at home, meaning 2 games per group. The winner of either more games or the scorer of more goals advances to the next round. The group stage was very interesting, with huge upsets, Cinderella stories, and an improbable ending. Here, we will be reviewing how the Group Stage went for every club and what went right or wrong. 

Groups A-D (Diego):

FINAL TABLE: Group A

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Bayern Munich165-1-0+1318/5
2Atletico Madrid92-3-1-17/8
3RB Salzburg41-1-4-710/17
4Lokomotiv Moscow30-3-3-55/10

The expectation for this group was that Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid would go through, and there were no surprises in that department. Bayern are the current treble winners, winning the league, domestic cup, and Champions League and are the favorites to repeat as the winners of the Champions League. They absolutely stormed through this group, including a very impressive 4-0 win against Atletico Madrid. Last year, they were the only team in Champions League history to win every single game. That won’t happen again, as they dropped the second game to Atletico but it was a game that didn’t matter, as they were so good that they had already won the group in 4 games! Atletico Madrid actually struggled to advance, losing the aforementioned 4-0 game to Bayern and drawing twice with Lokomotiv Moscow. But in the last game vs RB Salzburg, they won 2-0 to go through. American coach Jesse March’s RB Salzburg are a thrilling side to watch, and they played very well despite not managing to move on. Despite what the score lines might say, they played well vs Bayern Munich both times. 3rd place is a decent achievement for them, and I’m excited to see them in the Europa League. Last and definitely least, Lokomotiv Moscow did have some decent moments, such as two draws vs. Atletico, but they don’t have a good enough squad to compete with these teams, and they finished in 4th.

FINAL TABLE: Group B

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Real Madrid103-1-2+211/9
2Borussia Monchengladbach82-2-2+716/9
3Shakhtar Donetsk82-2-2-75/12
4Inter Milan61-3-2-27/9

This group was absolute madness, as detailed in Lucien’s article about how it was a perfect storm. First, there was Shakhtar Donetsk, who shocked the world by beating Real Madrid 3-2 in Madrid despite having over 10 players missing with COVID-19, and then beat them again 2-0 in an insane series. They also got two draws against Inter Milan. But all of that was for nothing, as they got crushed by a combined 10 goal against Borussia Monchengladbach and crashed into the Europa League. Monchengladbach surprisingly went through, in large part because of those two games. They also tied once vs Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Inter Milan were a huge disappointment in this group. Not only did they not qualify but they finished in 4th. Their only hope to advance was beating Shakhtar Donetsk, But they couldn’t do it. They drew 0-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk. Finally, we have Real Madrid, who had one of the craziest group stages I have ever seen. They lost twice to Shakhtar, as mentioned before, but won twice vs Inter Milan. They tied Monchengladbach the first time in the last minute, so entering the last matchday they needed a win to advance. Somewhat surprisingly, they won comfortably vs Monchengladbach and somehow won this surprisingly crazy group. 

FINAL TABLE: Group C

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Manchester City165-1-0+1213/1
2Porto134-1-1+710/3
3Olympiacos31-0-5-82/10
4Olympique Marseille31-0-5-112/13

In this group, Manchester City, as expected, dominated the competition. They won 5 out of their 6 games, with their only blemish being a 0-0 draw with Porto which was enough to clinch top spot in the group. Porto also went through without much of a problem, smashing Marseille and Olympiacos in all 4 of their games against them. The latter two sides really didn’t have much to offer. Marseille in particular were really disappointing, only scoring 2 goals and going 1-0-5. Olympiacos gets third place and a Europa League spot due to goal differential.

FINAL TABLE: Group D

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Liverpool134-1-1+710/3
2Atalanta113-2-1+210/8
3Ajax72-1-307/7
4Midtjylland20-2-4-94/13

When this draw was made, the biggest question of this group was who would go through between Ajax and Atalanta. Liverpool were the big favorites to win the group, let alone advance, and they did so comfortably despite having many injuries. New side Midtjylland were in the Champions League for the first time in their history and were naturally huge underdogs in every game they played. They did reasonably well by getting two draws, but still got 4th in the group. As was suspected, it came down to the final matchday between Atalanta and Ajax, where Atalanta won 1-0. Gasperini’s Atalanta will progress and will try to repeat some of last year’s magic, where they nearly made the semifinals. Ajax will drop down to the Europa League for the second year in a row, and I think they have a good shot at winning it. 

Groups E-H (Lucien):

FINAL TABLE: Group E

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Chelsea144-2-01214/2
2Sevilla134-1-119/8
3Krasnodar51-2-3-56/11
4Rennes10-1-5-83/11

Here we have Group E, a rather easy group for both European Giants Sevilla and Chelsea, no surprises here. That said, Sevilla’s defense is an issue, and it shows. Sevilla conceded 8 goals in just 6 matches, which in the grand scheme of football, isn’t a lot. But half of those goals were against Chelsea, where they got hammered 4-0 at home. Their offense is also shaky. But this is classic Sevilla, they show less than what they really are, and other teams know this. Sevilla will be no pushover, especially after their incredible run last year in the Europa League, winning the whole thing against Inter Milan. In some way or another, they’ll manage to do well. Now to Chelsea. They stocked up on players this Champions League campaign, and can go far as one of the strongest teams in the league. Last year’s loss to Bayern is in the past. Their defense is 100 times better, and their offense now has an identity. With Krasnodar, they’ve been expected to crash out completely. But they made it to Europa league, so good for them. Finally Rennes, as debutantes of the Champions League, there’s no surprise they got hammered by every team they faced. Extremely poor showing from them, especially for a team who came third in Ligue 1, the top tier of French football. Everything went wrong.

FINAL TABLE: Group F

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Dortmund134-1-1712/5
2Lazio102-4-0411/7
3Club Brugge82-2-2-28/10
4Zenit 10-1-5-94/13

Just like Group E, no surprises here. Dortmund’s offense and defense are stronger than ever, and they will be contenders this year if Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland can keep form. Lazio are not as strong as many thought they were. Their offense is strong, with Ciro Immobile, Milinkovic Savic, and Luis Alberto leading the reins, but their defense is an issue, conceding 7 goals to their opponent, leading to their staggering 4 draws. Club Brugge almost ran away with an upset against Lazio to go on to the Round of 16, but are now in the Europa League, where they are most certainly one of the stronger teams. A few more pieces on defense and they will be a true force to be reckoned with. Lastly, and most disappointingly, let’s talk about Zenit St. Petersburg. Zenit are the strongest team in the Russian Premier League, and they have a well rounded team. However, their attack stalled and their defense was no match for the likes of Lazio nor Dortmund. It’s disappointing that they couldn’t even make the Europa League.

FINAL TABLE: Group G

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Juventus155-0-11014/4
2Barcelona155-0-11116/5
3Dynamo Kyiv41-1-4-94/13
4Ferencvaros10-1-5-125/17

Still no surprises here. Both of this group’s giants, Juventus and Barcelona, have gone through with minimal issues. Both have good defenses and fantastic offenses, even for a Barcelona team who is struggling in the League. Dynamo Kyiv barely scraped together 4 points but it was enough for Europa League. As for Ferencvaros…  no comment.

FINAL TABLE: Group H

#TeamPointsRecordGDGF/GA
1Paris Saint-Germain124-0-2713/6
2RB Leipzig124-0-2-111/12
3Manchester United93-0-3510/5
4Basaksehir31-0-5-117/18

Finally, Group H. Considered by many to be the real “Group of Death” this year, it came down to the last game of the stage. RB Leipzig had to beat Manchester United to advance on, and Paris Saint-Germain breezed through Basaksehir. Leipzig prevailed once again, coming back from a 5-0 loss at Old Trafford to shock Manchester United, reach the 2nd place spot, and go on to the knockout stage. Manchester United could have made an improbable run to the round of 16 but yet again, disaster struck. They lost 3 straight games and bounced out on their way to the Europa League. Istanbul Basaksehir could have ran away with a win against RB Leipzig, but faltered because of their incompetence to close out games whilst holding a lead. They can potentially build on this in the future but for now, they should focus on their domestic league. 

Champions League Group B is a Perfect Storm

By Lucien Betancourt

Champions League football is back and the group stages are in full swing, where exciting upsets and disappointing performances abound! In case you don’t know, the Champions League is a European football league where the top clubs in every league that is a part of UEFA (or, Union of European Football Associations) play in a tournament where four teams are divided into eight groups. The top two teams of each group go on to the knockout stage and compete for the Champions League trophy. Currently, the group stages are in their three-week break until matchday four starts again on November 24th. As of now, multiple groups have two clear favorites to advance on to the Knockout Stage. However, some groups have been competitive amongst three of the four teams. These are labeled as “Groups of Death,” or groups where there are really strong teams throughout. In these groups, any team may take the top spot. Every point, every goal scored and conceded, every chance created, and every shot on goal matters. One such group is a competition between Group B, which is arguably the most heated of the groups. As of this writing, the group is as follows:

Group BW-D-LPoints
Borussia Monchengladbach 1-2-05
Shakhtar Donetsk1-1-14
Real Madrid1-1-14
Internazionale Milan (Inter Milan)0-2-12

Notice that all four teams are within three points of each other. Each of these teams in the group has unique styles of play and tactics to try and counter each other, which has led to intense competition among these four teams. Every team is capable of topping the group or at least finishing in the top two. Now, for the statistical outcomes for each team’s chances to reach the knockout stage, I’ll be looking at each team’s overall possession, goals scored/goals against, shots on goal/shots on target, and passes completed. I’ll also be analyzing every team’s theoretical outcomes for the next three games using these statistics, as well as their chances at the Champions League trophy.

Borussia Monchengladbach

Joining the Champions League for the first time since 2016, they have put on a show, beating Group B favorites Real Madrid and Internazionale (or Inter) Milan. They also shocked Shakhtar Donetsk with a 6-0 battering of a team that was good enough to beat Real Madrid. With 10 goals scored and 4 goals conceded, they boast the 2nd best offense in the league after their Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich. With 384.66 passes per game out of 496 passes attempted, a 40.33% possession rate, and 77.53% completion rate, their attack works well on counterattacks and quick pass plays from their defensive third to the midfield and wings of the offensive third. With their favorable 4-2-3-1 formation (two defenders, two center defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders, and a lone forward), they rely on a defensive game that scores goals with little possession. This gives them the advantage in the offensive third as the opposing team presses high, while the defenders give ground. Their chance of going through to the knockout stage in this Group of Death is relatively high at 73% because of their playstyle perfectly countering their opponents and forcing draws and wins against them. Their chance of winning the Champions League, however, is low, at a mere 24%. They have the capabilities to exploit gaps in these weaker European giants but they are little to no match for teams such as FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, or Juventus. Those teams have a well-rounded offensive and midfield play that know how to counter this exploit with a dominant defense that knows how to deal with these types of plays. Even though some of these giants are missing key players, they have adequate subs to fill in that specific role and the knockout stage doesn’t start until January, so they’ll be ready to go.

Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar Donetsk are regulars in the Champions League. Their winning of the Ukrainian Premier League for the past six years has given them an automatic placement in the group stage during that span. They have had experience facing tough European giants such as Manchester City, so they prove to entertain as underdogs. This year was no different. In the first game of the season, they upset Real Madrid in their home stadium 3-2. What made it even more incredible was how many of their starters were out on injury or sick leave, so the B-team faced and beat Real Madrid for them. They then hosted Inter Milan and drew 0-0. Unfortunately, their Cinderella story met its match against Borussia Monchengladbach, where their returning starters were crushed 6-0 at home. Alassane Plea scored a hat trick and their defense was torn apart by Borussia’s unique style of football that favors counter-attacks. Despite what their goals scored/conceded ratio of ⅜ might say, they are otherwise pretty impressive. They have an 85.2% passing completion rate, completing 439.66 passes per game out of 516 attempts per game, and have a 45.66% average possession rate. They depend on possession to win games, as most of theirs lies in the midfield third. This can also be the reason for why their playstyle didn’t work against Borussia. With this loss, Shakhtar Donetsk’s chance of going to the knockout stage is at just 40%, not just because of their loss to Borussia, but also because Real Madrid is back at full strength. They also don’t have the flexibility to adapt to new play styles on the fly so they will likely falter against Borussia again. Their chance to win the Champions League is almost non-existent, at 6%

Real Madrid

Real Madrid are common favorites for the Champions League throne, as they are one of the largest teams in the world and are the current champions of La Liga, the highest tier of Spanish soccer. They were favorites to top Group B this year, but the start to their campaign was a terrible one. They lost 3-2 to the aforementioned injury-plagued Shakhtar Donetsk team and fell to the bottom of Group B. Across their last three games, they’ve had a combined total of both 7 goals scored and conceded, which is a perfect 1:1 ratio but not good by their standards. They have had a total of 1,871 passes completed of 2,158 attempts and an 85.53% completion rate. They have also had an average of 60.33% possession across their games, boasting the highest possession rate in the group. Their playstyle is fairly standard, passing from the back and using the wing-backs as wide midfielders to slowly move the ball up the field. This tactic usually works against teams that try to control the midfield, such as Inter Milan. But this tactic was nullified by Shakhtar Donetsk’s hard-nosed defensive mentality as well as Borussia Monchengladbach’s shallow play and counterattack focus. Their failure is also due to how Sergio Ramos, their key center back, was out injured for their first game, which was a loss. His impact was shown when they played Inter Milan on matchday three, where they escaped with a win and three points. Their failures are also due to their incapabilities to adapt to new players on the fly, as well as their already weakened defense that is missing Ramos, Varane, and Carvajal, their three starting defenders, among other key players, to injury. With this, their chance of advancing to the knockout stage is also relatively low at 45%, just a bit higher than Shakhtar Donetsk’s because of goal differential. Their chance of winning the Champions League is around 30%, and I’d put it at 32% if they get to full strength by January. If not, they will struggle and be eliminated.

Inter Milan

Inter Milan came in as second place in Serie A behind the champion Juventus. They had high hopes of going far in the Champions League but as of matchday three, they are the most disappointing team in the group. Being favorites alongside Real Madrid, they were expected to go on to the knockout stage. But now, their hope of even making it is grim. With only two points and a goals scored/conceded ratio of ⅘, they are performing poorly, especially when they are expected to be an elite club. They have 1452 passes completed out of 1745 attempts, with an 82.63% completion rate. They also have an average possession of 53.66% across their three games. Inter Milan’s playstyle is midfield-heavy, as they play in a 3-5-2 formation, with the midfield creating a W formation and the wide midfielders dropping back as wing-backs or going up as wingers. This, along with coach Antonio Conte’s poor choices in the midfield, are the major causes for their failures. While the 3-5-2 formation works against teams with a hard defensive line, it doesn’t work against teams like Shakhtar Donetsk or Borussia Monchengladbach, who use long crosses to exploit Inter’s weak back 3. Not only that, their defenders are slow and lack that vital wing-back role to counter this exploit. Other than that, their offense has been decent, at the very least better than their subpar defense and midfield. Their chance to advance is low at 27% due to the strength of the group. They will either finish last in their group or perhaps head to the Europa League, the second tier of European football. Their chance to win the overall tournament, like Shakhtar Donetsk, is extremely low at 2%. 

Conclusion

There are still three more games to be played to reach match day six on December 9th. On that day, the standings would be set in stone, along with knockout stage and Europa League spots. There’s still plenty of time for teams to turn things around. Some may rise, some may fall, but for Group B, it will be a matter of who scores the most goals and concedes the least. Whatever happens, this group will end in a thriller.