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. Arsene Wenger concedes Arsenal “maybe not firing on all cylinders” yet

    Aug 27, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC Getty Images

    Why yes, Mr. Wenger, one would have to agree with that assessment. In particular, it’s the finishing that’s killing them, he says.

  2. 2016 Copa America Centenario will be played, but CONCACAF might not be involved

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:13 PM EDT

    Copa America trophy — 2015 Copa America Copa America trophy — 2015 Copa America

    Next summers tournament will go on, but CONCACAF might not participate, which means the Copa needs a new host nation.

  3. Men in Blazers podcast: An afternoon spent inside the mind of Jose Mourinho

    Aug 27, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog talks with Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho about his coaching philosophy, post-match press conferences and football in America.

  4. Done Deals: Liverpool’s Markovic goes on loan, Llorente heads back to La Liga

    Aug 27, 2015, 7:09 PM EDT

    Lazar Markovic, Liverpool FC Lazar Markovic, Liverpool FC

    With the transfer deadline now just four days away, some of these deals are (finally) getting done.

  5. Europa League roundup: Southampton crash out in Europe; Dortmund hang 7, advance

    Aug 27, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT

    FC Midtjylland vs. Southampton FC — UEFA Europa League FC Midtjylland vs. Southampton FC — UEFA Europa League

    Southampton can now fully focus on the Premier League, because they’re officially out of Europe.

  6. Top 5 Premier League storylines ahead of Week 4: Transfer deadline day looms

    Aug 27, 2015, 4:38 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The transfer deadline looms large as the Premier Leagues 20 teams head into Week 4. Who will be the panic buyers of 2015?

  7. College soccer begins its season with an offense-loaded PAC_12; Huskies on the rise

    Aug 27, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    gohuskies.com gohuskies.com

    Yeah, you know Stanford’s Jordan Morris, but Washington’s Mason Robertson and Oregon State’s Timmy Mueller outscored him last year and will look to do the same this season.

  8. PHOTO: Check out the incredible 16-year-old Irish Neymar doppelganger

    Aug 27, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    Source: Limerick FC Source: Limerick FC

    Neymar could be a stunt double for Limerick’s Barry Cotter.

  9. Analyzing UEFA Champions League group stage draw for four Premier League teams

    Aug 27, 2015, 1:41 PM EDT

    chelseaman Getty Images

    UCL draw hands two PL teams favorable groups. As for the other two… woof.

  10. Lionel Messi wins UEFA’s Best Player in Europe award for 2014-15 season

    Aug 27, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona

    Argentine superstar picks up second UEFA Best Player award after stunning treble-winning season.

  11. Arsene Wenger gives injury update on Arsenal duo Koscielny, Mertesacker

    Aug 27, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

    Experienced center backs both missed Liverpool game through injury. Will they return this weekend?

  12. Mario Balotelli hits out at Liverpool after AC Milan loan move: “Now I will play as a man”

    Aug 27, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-QPR-LIVERPOOL

    Super Mario knows he is running out of chances to salvage his career.

  13. Arsene Wenger “confident” of new signing for Arsenal, reveals plan for transfer Deadline Day

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC Getty Images

    Gunners boss says he will be available “24 hours” as Deadline Day approaches.

  14. PHOTOS: Manchester United unveil new blacked-out third jersey

    Aug 27, 2015, 8:28 AM EDT

    Manchester United v Club Brugge - UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg Getty Images

    Back in black, the Red Devils have a snazzy new jersey for their UCL games this season.

  15. 2015-16 Premier League Power Rankings, Vol. I: Taking very early stock with Man City on top

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany celebrates with Manchester City’s David Silva, right, after scoring against Chelsea during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira) AP

    Three matches certainly don’t tell the tale of an entire season, but it’s a decent length chapter in the story of the 2015-16 Premier League.

  16. Martinez: Everton to make “very strong statement” in rejecting Stones’ transfer request

    Aug 26, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT

    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  John Stones of Everton applauds the fans prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park on August 23, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Martinez wants Stones to stay, and says chairman Bill Kenwight isn’t going to cash in this late in the window.

  17. Report: Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City “very nearly complete”

    Aug 26, 2015, 7:56 PM EDT

    In this Nov. 27, 2014 photo Wolfsburg's Kevin De Bruyne plays the ball during the Europa League Group H soccer match between VfL Wolfsburg and Everton FC at the Volkswagen Arena stadium in Wolfsburg, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn) AP

    The Times’ Chief Football Correspondant Oliver Kay says the move should be done soon, and for less than $90 million.

Featured video

Premier League, Week 3 review