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. Inside Look: Not much separating Red Bulls, Revolution ahead of Eastern Conference Championship, leg 1

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:45 PM EST

    Thierry Henry, Ambroise Oyongo Thierry Henry, Ambroise Oyongo

    You could try to use the Red Bulls’ 2014 season to make inferences about what will happen Sunday against the Revs, but it’d be a huge waste of your time.

  2. VIDEO: LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane likes to show off, lob dead balls at moving cart

    Nov 21, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    Robbie Keane Robbie Keane

    Go ahead and try to be as good as Robbie Keane. Give it your best shot. Good luck, you’re going to need it.

  3. Spanish court comes to senses, lifts Real Madrid reserve manager Zinedine Zidane’s coaching ban

    Nov 21, 2014, 9:20 PM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGAB-REALMADRID-ZIDANE FBL-ESP-LIGAB-REALMADRID-ZIDANE

    Zinedine Zidane can return to coaching after his nonsensical coaching suspension was lifted on Friday. Perhaps “qualified” needs redefining.

  4. VIDEO: Louis van Gaal calls Wayne Rooney “not a typical striker,” praises versatility ahead of Arsenal showdown

    Nov 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    Manchester United Press Conference Manchester United Press Conference

    Louis van Gaal has called Wayne Rooney “not a typical striker,” but a “fantastic player” nonetheless before Arsenal showdown.

  5. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 12

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:30 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every single PL game in Week 12.

  6. Inside Look: LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders to square off in Western Conference Championship, leg 1

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:15 PM EST

    Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Jaime Penedo Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Jaime Penedo

    It’s tempting to look ahead and crown the LA Galaxy MLS Cup champions already. A word of warning: Don’t do it at the Sounders’ expense.

  7. MLS Cup Playoffs Preview: Red Bulls vs. Revolution, Galaxy vs. Sounders in Conference Championship first legs

    Nov 21, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy

    The 2014 season is nearly finished, as the MLS Cup Playoffs resume this weekend. A few facts and stats to excite ahead of Sunday’s action.

  8. Jermaine Jones hears all the New England Revolution’s haters, thanks them for their motivation

    Nov 21, 2014, 4:45 PM EST

    Bernardo Anor, Jermaine Jones — AP AP

    Dear haters: Jermaine hears you, is not bothered by you and still loves you. Look out, Red Bulls.

  9. MLS: Orlando City coach Adrian Heath signs extension through 2017

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Orlando_City_2014.svg

    The English-born coach has had big success in Orlando since the club began play in 2011, winning the regular season title in three of four seasons.

  10. Vancouver announces USL PRO team, expansion of training facilities

    Nov 21, 2014, 2:20 PM EST

    Whitecaps FC2

    Whitecaps FC 2 will compete in metro Vancouver at Thunderbird Stadium inside of the University of British Columbia.

  11. English PFA chief wants mandated minimum 3 players in Premier League starting lineups

    Nov 21, 2014, 1:35 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The quota request comes after the BBC conducted a “State of the Game” survey that dug into the international representation in the Premier League.

  12. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:50 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-WEST BROM Getty Images

    Can the Baggies improve on last year’s point at Stamford Bridge?

  13. Batman vs. Valencia; DC Comics suing La Liga club over new crest

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    Valencia v Elche - La Liga Getty Images

    I’m a fan of Batman, but seems to me “The Dark Knight” should consider rocking Valencia’s bat rather than his own. Looks slick.

  14. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:45 AM EST

    Here’s how PST’s lead writer and editor sees things panning out this weekend.

  15. These deserving nominees are the biggest snubs of MLS Award season

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:05 AM EST

    Bradley Wright-Phillips, Tim Cahill, Lloyd Sam AP

    So to the MLS players, coaches and “media members who regularly covered the league”, sit back and enjoy your biggest screw-ups.

  16. Former Man Utd teammates Welbeck, Rooney prepares for “weird” match as Arsenal hosts Red Devils

    Nov 21, 2014, 10:14 AM EST

    Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck AP

    Welbeck is used to being on the side of the favorites in this matchup, as Manchester United has dominated the series in recent years.

  17. Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United

    Nov 21, 2014, 9:25 AM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Danny Welbeck’s first Premier League game against his former team is just one subplot as the Gunners host the Red Devils.

  18. Americans Abroad preview: Chandler vs. Johnson headlines European action

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:41 AM EST

    Eintracht Frankfurt v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    All Americans plying their trade in the Premier League have a decent look at points, while two in the Championship will opening things up with Friday matches.

  19. Trophée des Champions returning to North America to kick off 2015-16

    Nov 21, 2014, 7:49 AM EST

    Trophée_des_Champions

    Paris Saint-Germain has claimed the last two Trophées with wins over Bordeaux and Guingamp, but this year’s table is clustered.

  20. Swansea City rolling: Garry Monk says sense of ‘togetherness’ has been crucial

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:17 AM EST

    Swansea City v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Swansea manager Garry Monk is hoping for the best as the Swans journey to play Manchester City at the Etihad this weekend.

Featured video

Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United