To Escape Fighting in Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk Takes an Indefinite Road Trip

September 17, 2014

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“Plumes of thick black smoke and a rapid-fire echo of explosions rose into the afternoon sky. Several hundred people from eastern Ukraine, almost all of them men in black T-shirts and balaclavas, were singing nationalistic songs as they threw smoke bombs onto the soccer field in front of them. They were members of the Shakhtar Ultras, a group of hard-core soccer fans who support Ukraine’s champions, Shakhtar Donetsk, anywhere they play. On this sunny August day, they were watching the Donetsk derby between Shakhtar and Olimpik. But the match, like all of Shakhtar’s matches these days, was not taking place in Donetsk, which has been battered by months of shelling. Instead the fans traveled hundreds of miles west to the capital, Kiev.” NY Times


Tactical Analysis: Real Madrid 1–2 Atletico Madrid | The usual pattern flows

September 17, 2014

“The 3rd Derby between the two sides already this season recording an important win for Rojiblancos and a dramatic fail for Real Madrid in their second consecutive game with only 3 points out of 9 conceding 6 goals in two matches. … Every time Real Madrid faces Atletico we’ve seen some characteristic features that both coaches deployed in the match in order to exploit the weakness of the other. Simeone is always trying to make the field very narrow so that none of Real players have much time on the ball whilst Ancelotti responded in attacking from the wings depending highly on fullbacks for stretching Atletico’s narrowness.” Outside of the Boot


Five things we learned this week in Ligue 1

September 17, 2014

“The drought continues – Paris Saint-Germain go three away games without a victory. PSG fans ‘It’s a problem’ replied an abrupt and clearly agitated Salvatore Sirigu in his Canal + post-match interview. The problem of course that the Italian international, who signed a new four-year contract with PSG this week, was referring to is his club’s lack of conviction on away trips this season. So far, PSG have performed impressively in their opening matches of the season, however they have failed to do better than drawing in their first three away matches.” backpagefootball


Bayern Munich are well equipped in midfield with Xabi Alonso’s inclusion

September 17, 2014

“Bayern have no shortage of central midfielders in truth. Bastian Schweinsteiger leads the contingent with Javi Martinez, Sebastian Rode, Thiago Alcantara, Pierre Højbjerg and Gianluca Gaudino, who are outright central mids but are also given support from the two wingbacks, Captain Philipp Lahm and David Alaba. That makes it a total of eight players who can play the CM role, but in truth only two are needed. With Xabi joining the list, it makes it nine. Nine players fighting for two spots when all are fit; that’s the epitome of squad depth, and more.” Outside of the Boot


What to expect in the Champions League this season

September 17, 2014

“Autumn is my favourite time of year. The weather starts to get cooler, the leaves change colours and all that nonsense, but the main reason is clear: the group stages of the Champions League begin. It is a time when hope is high, a time when people will walk into school or to work and brag about how they know that their team will go all the way this year, and claim Europe’s biggest prize. Of course a lot of banter will follow; especially after those first day jitters get out of the way and your team, let’s say Chelsea, succumb to a home defeat for their first game against FC Basel. But that is the fun, and beauty, of the tournament. In the beginning, every team has a chance; every team has that hope, however realistic or utterly unimaginable it may be, that they will make a good run of the tournament. This season, some new faces come into the Champions League, some new, and some very familiar. I will take a look at what we can expect to see this year in Europe’s most prestigious club competition.” backpagefootball


Meet Your Continental European Champions League Contenders

September 17, 2014

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“It’s Champions League time. To help you get set up, we’re going to go on a brief tour around Europe, to get you up to date on all the major non–Premier League teams. Our tour will take us through Germany, Spain, and Italy, with a brief stop in Paris to round things out.” Grantland (Video)


A Generation Lost For the Golden Jaguars

September 17, 2014

“Amidst the usual release of FIFA Rankings recently lay a statistic which only a keen-eyed observer would notice: the biggest drop in places had been awarded to the small nation of Guyana, a Caribbean country geographically located in South America and neighbour to one the most famous footballing nations of all: Brazil. Guyana was a team which only two years ago, reached their furthest ever point in 2014 World Cup qualifiers, and were giving Mexico a run for their money at the Azteca Arena after previously eliminating Caribbean powerhouse Trinidad and Tobago. Yet fast forward to 2014 and the National Team now finds themselves comprehensively losing to St Lucia and St Kitts & Nevis in recent Caribbean Cup qualifiers. The question therefore is: how did this decline occur?” In Bed With Maradona


Liga MX Tres Puntos: Mexico preps for Ronaldinho, Mier hurt, America slips

September 17, 2014

“Eight weeks into the 2014 Liga MX Apertura – otherwise known as the last eight weeks before Ronaldinho Mania takes over Mexico – Club America remains at the top of the table after a hot start. There’s more to that than meets the eye, though. The team seems to be heading in the wrong direction with an attack that has stumbled ever since leading scorer Raul Jimenez bolted for Atletico Madrid.” SI


Usage Rates: A Primer

September 17, 2014

“If there was one over-arching principle for analyzing soccer statistics, it might be “context is king.” For example, Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna averaged 54.5 passes per 90 last year and West Ham’s Mark Noble averaged 53.2 passes per 90. Intuitively, our first reaction is probably that both players exhibit roughly the same level of passing influence—with maybe the slightest of edges given to Sagna. But we are not controlling for the fact that Arsenal led the EPL with 569 passes per game while West Ham was second from bottom, averaging 326 passes per game. To adjust for this disparity we take each player’s passes per 90 and divide it by their team’s passes per 90, thereby creating a pass usage rate for each player.” Statsbomb