The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns

December 14, 2017


“The draw for the Champions League round of 16 is set, and even though the first games will not be played for two months, we already know that at least one true European power will be eliminated before the quarterfinals kick off, and a couple more elite clubs could be in trouble. This is because the Champions League draw pitted some of the best teams in the world against each other in early clashes. According to Soccer Power Index, six of the nine best teams to make the knockouts have been drawn against each other. These three matchups — each of which consists of two games, one at each club’s home grounds — should give the Round of 16 a new level of drama. … ” fivethirtyeight, NY Times: Real-P.S.G. and Barcelona-Chelsea in the Champions League, YouTube: The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns

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Tottenham’s staying power in question as economic gravity pulls hard

December 14, 2017

“Gravity can be annoyingly persistent. Mauricio Pochettino, as so often, said all the right things after Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 win against Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday. He is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Manchester City. He is ‘positive’. He promised Tottenham will ‘enjoy it’. They will go to the Etihad Stadium to win. Which is all well and good. Perhaps Tottenham will end both Manchester City’s run of 15 successive league wins and their own miserable record in away games against other top-six sides. Perhaps they will, at least temporarily, return a flicker of excitement to a title race that seems all but run. However, there is a lurking sense that none of it really matters. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Liverpool 0 West Brom 0: Jurgen Klopp’s side fire blanks after Dominic Solanke ‘goal’ is cancelled out

December 14, 2017

“The full-time march from the touchline to referee is becoming frustratingly familiar to Jurgen Klopp. If a contentious penalty decision irked him after Sunday’s Merseyside derby, a handball ruling to deny Dominic Solanke his first Liverpool goal left him cursing another home draw. It is difficult to know who had most trepidation at the final whistle at Anfield: referee Paul Tierney as the Liverpool manager sought his attention; or TV interviewers seeking Klopp’s assessment. In fairness to West Bromwich Albion, they were deserving of their point and would have been considered unlucky had Solanke’s 83rd- minute strike stood. …” Telegraph


Ostersunds FK: Rise of Swedish club under English manager Graham Potter

December 14, 2017


“Rewind to July in Istanbul, and a little-known team from Sweden stand on the brink of history as the clock ticks down on the second leg of their Europa League qualifier against Turkish giants Galatasaray. With five minutes remaining, Ostersunds FK chairman Daniel Kindberg rises from his seat and makes his way down the steps of the Turk Telecom Arena to join his players in celebrating a 3-1 aggregate victory – the biggest result in the club’s history. Kindberg knew the players would have to handle the final whistle right, just as they had the 180 minutes of football that preceded it. …” BBC (Video)


Season of instability will tell us a lot more about Zinedine Zidane

December 14, 2017

“Going into Saturday’s clash with Sevilla, Real Madrid had been experiencing their worst La Liga start since 2008. Questions were being asked of Zinedine Zidane. Despite his incredible European and domestic success in the last two years, there are still those who doubt him. And while the 5-0 thrashing dished out to their hapless weekend visitors was a timely reminder of their capabilities, questions remain about the champions and their manager. …” Backpage Football


Bundesliga Fanatic Exclusive Interview with Mainz attacker Pablo de Blasis

December 14, 2017

“The Bundesliga Fanatic recently had the opportunity for an exclusive interview by Abel Meszaros with 1.FSV Mainz 05’s versatile Argentine attacker, Pablo De Blasis, in late November, 2017. Born in La Plata, the 29 year-old began his career with the famed local club Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, the side founded in 1887 that claims to be the oldest footballing club in South America. Pablo is in his fourth season with Die Nullfünfer, and his known for his runs down the sideline, his durability, intensity and enthusiasm, having now featured in 90 Bundesliga matches. …” Bundesliga Fanatic


Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?

December 6, 2017


A man receives clean syringes after being given methadone at a clinic in Lisbon.
“When the drugs came, they hit all at once. It was the 80s, and by the time one in 10 people had slipped into the depths of heroin use – bankers, university students, carpenters, socialites, miners – Portugal was in a state of panic. … The crisis began in the south. The 80s were a prosperous time in Olhão, a fishing town 31 miles west of the Spanish border. Coastal waters filled fishermen’s nets from the Gulf of Cádiz to Morocco, tourism was growing, and currency flowed throughout the southern Algarve region. But by the end of the decade, heroin began washing up on Olhão’s shores. Overnight, Pereira’s beloved slice of the Algarve coast became one of the drug capitals of Europe: one in every 100 Portuguese was battling a problematic heroin addiction at that time, but the number was even higher in the south. …” Guardian