Skip to content

Look ahead, Europe: Considerations as Champions League approaches

Feb 8, 2013, 5:45 PM EST

Fulham v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on the bench. So were Blaise Matuidi and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Paris Saint-Germain’s home game against Bastia would be a rotation opportunity under any circumstances, but with UEFA Champions League resuming next week, Carlo Ancelotti employed a strategy we’re sure to see throughout the weekend from other prominent managers.

Starting Tuesday, Champions League resumes with two Round of 16 first legs: Valencia hosting PSG and Celtic welcoming Juventus to Glasgow. On Wednesday, German champions Borussia Dortmund travel to Shakhtar Donetsk while Manchester United, in the week’s marquee match, visits Real Madrid.

For bosses like United’s Alex Ferguson and Real’s José Mourinho, the decisions will be relatively straight-forward. While both teams host talented teams this weekend (United facing Everton, Real against Sevilla), squad depth makes their compromises easy. Their reserves would be starters for most of their competition.

Other head coaches face more intriguing dilemmas. Take Valencia’s Ernesto Valverde. The former Athletic Club, Espanyol, Olympiacos and Villarreal boss replaced Mauricio Pellegrino at the Mestalla in December. While Los Che have clawed their way back into Champions League contention (only two points behind Málaga for fourth in Spain), a tight race that includes Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Levante means there’s little margin of error. Valencia needs to get into next year’s Champions League. Is it worth Valverde resting players Saturday at Celta de Vigo when the team has little chance of winning Champions League regardless?

Jurgen Klopp faces a completely different dynamic. Borussia Dortmund’s not going to defend their title. They’re 12 points back of Bayern Munich in Germany. They’re also likely to safely qualify for next year’s Champions League while having the talent to compete for this one. Hosting mid-table Hamburg ahead of a mid-week trip to Ukraine, Klopp could rotate his squad.

Here’s a quick look at the European weekend. We’ve highlighted the matches with mid-week Champions League clubs (they’re in bold).

English Premier League

Big match: Sunday’s game at Old Trafford gives Everton a chance to steal points. And when I say steal, I mean pick up points where competitors expect them to fall. The late Sunday start guarantees Manchester United will rotate ahead of Wednesday’s match with Real, while Everton won the reserve, season-opening fixture. Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Intriguing: Newcastle has picked up two wins since their latest French invasion. Now it’s Tottenham’s turn to deal with the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Yoann Gouffran, and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Saturday, 7:45 a.m. Eastern.

source: APGerman Bundesliga

Big Match: This match shouldn’t be that close, but when Bayern Munich faces Schalke, it’s going to be Germany’s big game. The Miners have plummeted to sixth place, their mid-December move to replace Huub Stevens with Jens Keller meeting with mixed results. Compounding an already difficult task, Schalke is expected to be without Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Jefferson Farfan, Ibrahim Affelay, Christian Fuchs and Kyriakos Papadopoulos. This may be the weekend’s marquee matchup, but it’s unlikely to be that close. Saturday, 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

Others: Borussia Dortmund vs. Hamburg (Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Eastern).

Spanish Primera Division

Big Match: Málaga’s Champions League success (winning their group) and performances against Barcelona and Real Madrid suggest they have the quality to avoid a battle for Spain’s last Champions League spot, but their stumbles against the rest of La Liga leave them only one point clear of fifth-place Real Betis. Another stumble at Levante, where they have been outscored 6-1 in their last two visits, could see the Andalusians drop out of the top four. Saturday, 2 p.m. Eastern.

Intriguing: The scheduling is more interesting than the matchup. Since La Liga started their Asian-time kickoff last season, we’re used to seeing mildly interesting matchups scheduled for the early Sunday kickoff. This week, Barcelona gets the slot, kicking off at 6:00 a.m. Eastern against 12th place Getafe.

Others: Celta de Vigo vs. Valencia (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. Eastern); Real Madrid vs. Sevilla (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern).

source: Getty ImagesItalian Serie A

Big Match: Lazio has claimed only one point from their last three, leaving second place to a surging Napoli team that’s pulled league-leading Juventus within three. Tomorrow at the Olimpico, Lazio gets what might be their last chance to salvage their faint title hopes. Given recent losses to Genoa and Chievo (and the absence of Miroslav Klose), Lazio looks unlikely to derail the surging Azzurri, even if Napoli haven’t beaten the Eagles in Roma since 2008. Saturday, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Intriguing: In the wake of his infamous “little n—–“ comment, Paolo Berlusconi tried to make peace with Mario Balotelli mid-week. Milan’s visit to Cagliari will be the club’s first match since their VP screwed up. Sunday, 9:00 a.m. Eastern

Others: Juventus vs. Fiorentina (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. Eastern).

French Ligue 1

Big Match: Lyon’s upset loss at Ajaccio last week fueled speculation that resentment lingers from a contentious transfer window that framed leading scorer Bafetimbi Gomis and others as a potential cost-cutting casualties. Now, OL goes into Round 24 trailing PSG by three points. With the Parisians’ Friday win over Bastia, OL can’t hold out the hope that Champions League considerations will help their cause.

They can, however, keep up by adding to Lille’s misery. When LOSC visit Stade Garland, Les Gones will look to extend Lille’s league road winless streak to seven games.

Latest Posts
  1. Jose Mourinho to Schalke after Chelsea’s 5-0 win: “It’s not your fault”

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:00 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-SCHALKE-CHELSEA Getty Images

    “I think they have to accept we were too strong for them,” added Mourinho.

  2. Bob Bradley’s talks with a Swedish club have broken down; Staying at Stabaek?

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:16 PM EST

    Digitalsport.no Digitalsport.no

    We’ll be following who else comes calling for the Princeton man.

  3. Manchester United assistant Ryan Giggs thinks Chelsea’s the top dog, compares Louis van Gaal to Alex Ferguson

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:05 PM EST

    Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Giggs calls the Stamford Bridge club “head and shoulders above the Premier League” on the strength of their back four.

  4. New York City FC rolls out jet black road jersey; How’d they do?

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:13 PM EST

    @NYCFC @NYCFC

    These will be hot in the summer. But are they hot now? What do you think?

  5. Out with the old? Colorado declines options on Buddle, Wynne, LaBrocca, but won’t rule out returns

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:51 PM EST

    Colorado Rapids v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Eleven players had their options declined on Tuesday, but Colorado says they could be back with the club in January.

  6. UEFA Champions League roundup: Chelsea win group, Man City’s late show, classy PSG

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:03 PM EST

    Recapping all the action from around Europe after a pivotal matchday in UCL play.

  7. West Brom, England striker Saido Berahino arrested for drinking and driving

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:55 PM EST

    Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Berahino scored in the next match after his arrest, but has since gone cold.

  8. VIDEO: Robbie Rogers discusses new book, coming out on NBC’s “Today”

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:32 PM EST

    Robbie Rogers, Micheal Azira AP

    Rogers talked about how working with gay and lesbian youth organizations made him realize the impact he could make as an openly-gay player.

  9. Manchester City ready for almighty clash with AS Roma for last 16 spot

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:22 PM EST

    Frank Lampard Frank Lampard

    City’s late show sets up pulsating clash in the Italian capital next month.

  10. Manchester City 3-2 Bayern Munich: Aguero’s hat trick hands Citizens lifeline

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:46 PM EST

    Sergio Aguero Sergio Aguero

    Citizens grab last-gasp win to boost their chances of making the last 16.

  11. Schalke 0-5 Chelsea: Blues with an untouchable performance against old boss

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    Five different players netted as Chelsea picked up its largest road Champions League win since 1999.

  12. VIDEO: Luis Suarez scores first goal for Barcelona

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA

    Suarez is off and running for Barca with a goal of exceptional class. What else did you expect?

  13. Lionel Messi breaks Raul’s record for Champions League goals (video)

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:46 PM EST

    FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The only other active players in the Top Ten are Chelsea’s Didier Drogba (44) and Thierry Henry (50), who obviously isn’t active with a UEFA Champions League club.

  14. João Moutinho reportedly hands in transfer request at Monaco

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Moutinho Getty Images

    With top-quality players hardly ever available in January, the Portguese international could be a hot commodity in England.

  15. Pele returns to the hospital days after kidney surgery

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:33 PM EST

    Pele AP

    A urinary infection has Pele in the hospital just 10 days after being released following surgery.

  16. LIVE – Champions League: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich, Chelsea to Schalke

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:55 PM EST

    Can Toure shine against Chelsea? AP

    Follow the latest batch of UEFA Champions League matches, right here.

  17. Toronto FC reveals more details of BMO Field expansion

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:05 PM EST

    BMO Field

    To be completed in two phases,

  18. Chad Marshall wins 2014 MLS Defender of the Year award

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:11 PM EST

    Marshall AP

    “Air Marshall” not only earned his nickname, but helped to solidify an otherwise shaky back line.

  19. Report: Sony will not renew sponsorship with FIFA over future World Cup shroud

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:23 AM EST

    Sony2 Getty Images

    Another major move in the world of money, which is clearly what FIFA is most concerned with.

  20. Report: Victor Wanyama victim of burglary during Southampton match

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:41 AM EST

    Wanyama AP

    While away with the team on a road trip, the Southampton midfielder’s house was ransacked and multiple valuables stolen, including his car.

Featured video

Week 12: Premier League recap