Skip to content

Look ahead, Europe: Considerations as Champions League approaches

Feb 8, 2013, 5:45 PM EDT

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. Claudio Bravo very impressed by rival Barcelona ‘keeper Ter Stegen

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT

    Bravo Getty Images

    The 22-year-old is giving the 31-year-old all he can handle, and Barcelona looks set to forget Victor Valdes quickly.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Sporting KC 1-1 Philadelphia Union

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:44 PM EDT

    Zusi Getty Images

    Goalkeeping starred in the first half before one a-piece settled the score.

  3. Reports: Geoff Cameron, seeking CB time, draws heavy Premier League interest

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT

    Cameron AP

    Geoff Cameron may no longer fit at Stoke City, and could get a CB role elsewhere.

  4. Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann flies with the Blue Angels

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:04 PM EDT

    Seattle Sounders FC Seattle Sounders FC

    Another Sounders keeper went up in the air, although he couldn’t remain awake for the whole flight.

  5. Watch Live: Sporting KC vs. Philadelphia Union (Lineups and Discuss)

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:56 PM EDT

    KCPhilly Getty Images

    Two Eastern Conference teams on unbeaten streaks meet at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

  6. Wenger says Arsenal defender Vermaelen could be on the move this summer

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT

    Vermaelen Getty Images

    The Arsenal captain saw his games drop significantly last season, and would be a fantastic grab for Manchester United.

  7. Norwich striker Van Wolfswinkel close to St. Etienne loan, manager confirms

    Aug 1, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    VanWolfswinkel Getty Images

    After a very disappointing debut season with Norwich City, the Dutch striker is off to France.

  8. Olave suspended two matches, Cahill and Morales fined for incident Wednesday

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT

    Morales AP

    A head-scratching moment by the New York defender cost him two games, while the ensuing melee dug into the wallets of others.

  9. Learn the chants for every Premier League team!

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    Countdown15

    With helpful videos, NBC is getting you ready for the upcoming Premier League season just days away!

  10. Crimean conflict envelops soccer as Russia and Ukraine each lay claim to clubs

    Aug 1, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT

    Ukraine AP

    Despite reports to the contrary a month ago, it appears the newly-added Crimean clubs will indeed play in the Russian leagues next season.

  11. Reports: Frank Lampard likely to take a short-term loan at Manchester City

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:52 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    After 13 years at Chelsea, there’s a good chance Frank Lampard could play at Stamford Bridge again…in a lighter shade of blue.

  12. Updated team-by-team list of Premier League transfers this summer

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:18 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 2.48.16 PM

    Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham are among the teams who’ve loaded up on talent.

  13. VIDEO: Comedian Mike Myers talks Liverpool love, North American soccer

    Aug 1, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT

    article-2711446-2024907900000578-802_634x402

    Myers and actor Daniel Craig were among the luminaries on hand to watch Liverpool take on Manchester City at Yankee Stadium.

  14. Friday transfer rumor roundup: Latest on Hummels, Lampard’s City loan?

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Frank Lampard AP

    Silly season has reached an absurd level, with even sports books creating rumors out of club links.

  15. US U23 list for Bahamas camp unveiled as Olympic prep continues

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Lee Yong, Luis Gil AP

    Birmigham City defender Will Packwood and Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper are on the list of U-23 stars preparing for the Bahamas.

  16. Guus Hiddink to Netherlands headlines trio of new international hires

    Aug 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    dick-advocaat AP

    Serbia and the Ivory Coast also tab new bosses as the race for continental and world glory continues.

  17. Red card salute, swear jar donations help fund for slain Michigan ref

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Soccerly Soccerly

    Fans of Detroit City FC helped raise money for slain Michigan referee John Bieniewicz via a “swear jar”, then saluting him with silent red card salute.

  18. Europa League penalty miss from Tom Huddlestone is hard to watch

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    York City v Hull City- Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    A great save followed up by an awful rebound, as Hull draws Trencin 0-0 in its Europa League debut.

  19. Jenkinson, Hangeland, Ferreyra all find new Premier League homes

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Brede Hangeland AP

    West Ham, Crystal Palace and Newcastle have all added players for 2014/15, according to reports.

  20. New York City FC could be a proving ground for Man City youth

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT

    NYCFC Lampard Soccer AP

    Would City’s best prospects playing in MLS be a boon for the league, or lend the league a minor league image it’s trying to escape?