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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Champions League Round of 16 - Real Madrid Draw Manchester United, Barca Tackle Milan as Arsenal Clash with Bayern Munich

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo will have his first chance to face his former employers Manchester United after the two teams were drawn to face each other in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

United, who topped Group H, will travel to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first leg in February to face Jose Mourinho’s men in what will be Cristiano Ronaldo’s first match against the club he for £80 million left three years ago.

Another mouthwatering encounter will see Barcelona face off with Italian giants AC Milan. The two teams have met 15 times before with the most recent being in last season's competition when the Catalans prevailed with a 3-1 aggregate win. Arsenal who finished second in Group B will tackle Group F table toppers Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga leaders will be aiming to avoid another heartbreak at the hands of an English opposition following their defeat against ousted defending Champions Chelsea in the May final.

Glasgow giants Celtic face a stun test against Serie A runaway leaders Juventus. The last time the two teams met was in 2001 with the Scottish side winning 4-3. 

High spending Paris Saint Germain have a tricky Valencia side to overcome as they aim to progress beyond the last 16 in their maiden Champions League appearance.

Borussia Dortmund, the in form team in the competition so far have a fairly easy task in the shape of Shakhtar Donetsk while their Bundesliga counterparts Schalke 04 have been drawn to play against Greek outfit Galatasaray. Porto and Malaga complete the draw for the round of 16.

The first leg matches will be played on the 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th February, 2013 with the return legs set for March 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th.

Real Madrid    v          Manchester United
Arsenal          v        Bayern Munich
AC Milan        v          Barcelona
Celtic               v          Juventus
Galatasaray     v          Schalke 04
Shakhtar          v          Borussia Dortmund
Valencia          v          Paris Saint Germain
Porto               v          Malaga

And That's thesteifmastertake!! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Is Liverpool Talisman Steven Gerrard a Spent Force?

When Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers took over the reigns at Anfield following the dismissal of club icon Kenny Dalglish, he was quick to admit that it would take a fair share of time for the club to turn round its fortunes and regain its standing as one of England and Europe’s elite clubs. With him came a new football philosophy; a possession-based one where the ball is passed around to wear down opponents before the ball hits the back of the net. In a supporters’ mind, every goal would be accompanied by the words ‘sheer class’ from a commentator. Well, more often than not.

But while the former is continually being manifested week in, week out, the latter, and perhaps the most important element has been the most wanting. The Reds have been creating multiple chances but the cancerous profligacy that marred the season past is still ghosting on the Merseyside club. A failure to sign a proven striker during the last transfer window has been well documented and the manager as well as the club’s owners are both in consensus that that was a wrong that must be made right come January.

Liverpool’s latest loss against Aston Villa was described as ‘self-inflicted’ by Brendan. And self-inflicted it was. The L4 club created numerous chances in the game but failed to convert. But when the opposition did create their own few chances, they, (read Christian Benteke), converted. It can’t any more frustrating than that. Can it?

It’s games like these that one Liverpool player used to feed on; Steven Gerrard. But gone are the days when the talisman would take the game by the scruff of its neck and rally his men to salvage not one, but three points when it all seemed lost. But in this and over the past couple of seasons, the Whiston-born midfielder hasn’t looked a bit of his former self.

Blame it on his age or the supposed change of footballing philosophy at the Merseyside club but the fact still remains that Steven Gerrard is no longer the Steven Gerrard of the old. There’s hasn’t been no lung bursting runs down the middle of the pitch, neither has there been those vicious shots goalkeepers like former West Ham custodian Shaka Hislop dreaded. Even the distinctive Stevie G tackles have been much less, and even when executed, they are time and again more of a miss than a hit.

Everything has been all too average for the man who’s inarguably the club’s best product to come out of the Melwood academy. He scored the consolation goal against Paul Lambert’s men but it’s hard to point out what much else contribution he made that would have changed the scoreline. In games gone past, he would score that one goal and then you would see in his body language that there was some belief. That he wanted to rally his troops in their quest to salvage something out of a game looking long gone. But in the Villa match, his body language was flat, his entire body looked withdrawn and his face frowned with frustration.


Only two goals in the league midway into the season is surely a statistic that the England captain, the club's fans as well as the manager can’t be proud of. But that’s an exact reflection of the contribution he has made at the club thus far in the season.

It’s hard to imagine the legendary Englishman being relegated to the bench. But even if that was to happen, there seems to be no player ready to step up and perform the captain’s role like Captain Fantastic so used to. He is still the only man who can do what he used to. Problem is, he is not doing it at the moment.

Liverpool fans can only wish that the captain is a wee bit out of form, in some sort of a blip, but that his class will see him regain his mojo and he will rise and come out of the current obscurity.

However, one this is for sure; Liverpool need their captain back!!

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Defending Champions Chelsea Crash Out as Celtic Make Last 16

Disinterested - Chelsea's Mata, Torres and Hazard celebrate Nando's goal against Nordsjaelland

Chelsea became the first defending Champions in the history of the UEFA Champions League to be knocked out at the group stage. The Blues cruised 6-1 past Danish whipping boys FC Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge but their fate depended on Juventus losing to Shakhtar. However, the Italian champions won 1-0 courtesy of an own goal from Shakhtar’s Olexandr Kucher.

Spanish forward Fernando Torres ended his 10-hour goal drought scoring a brace for the Blues with David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata and Oscar all on the scoresheet. Joshua John scored the only consolation for the Dannish side.

The win was the first for caretaker boss Rafa Benitez in four attempts in all competitions but his reward will come in the shape the less alluring Europe’s second tier club competition, the Europa League.

Juventus leapfrogged their Ukrainian counterparts to Group E top spot.

Meanwhile Scottish side Celtic booked their slot to the knockout stages for the first time in four years with a 2-1 home win over Spartak Moscow. Gary Hooper put the Bhoys ahead in the 21st minute but Brazilian Ari leveled for the Russian side six minutes before the interval. With Benfica also drawing away to second-string Barcelona side at half time, Celtic needed a win to assure them of progress to the last 16.

With clock ticking towards 90minutes, the Scottish giants got a reprieve in the 81st minute when their top scorer in the competition Georgios Samaras went down in the penalty box under minimal contact and German referee Felix Brych awarded him a spot kick. Kris Commons stepped up and slotted home the winner that assured the Scots of second spot and a slot into the last 16. Benfica could only muster a barren draw against Barca at Camp Nou.

The last of the three qualification slots remaining by Wednesday night was grabbed by Galatasaray who joined Group H winners Manchester United into the next round thanks to a 2-1 win away to Sporting Braga. Marcio Mossoro gave the hosts a 32nd minute lead but Burak Yilmaz drew the Turkish side level and Aydin Yilmaz netted the winner 10 minutes before the final whistle.

Luis Alberto scored a second half stunner for Europa League-destined CFR Cluj as they claimed a famous 1-0 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford. However, Sir Alex Fergusson’s side had already claimed their spot to the next round.

Bayern Munich and Valencia both won their Group F fixtures with the Spaniards settling for second spot following their 1-0 win over Lille as the Bavarians topped the group with a 4-1 win over BATE Borisov.

The draw for the round of 16 will be held on 20 December 2012. The first legs will be played on the 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th February, 2013 and the second legs on the 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th March 2013.

Last 16 Qualifiers

Group A – Paris Saint Germain, Porto

Group B – Schalke 04, Arsenal

Group C – Malaga, AC Milan

Group D – Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid

Group E – Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk

Group F – Bayern Munich, Valencia

Group G – Barcelona, Celtic

Group H – Manchester United, Galatasaray

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

UEFA Champions League - Manchester City Miss out on Europa League as PSG Top Group A

Reigning English Premier League champions Manchester City were bundled out of European club competition altogether after going down 1-0 away to Borussia Dortmund in their last game of the UEFA Champions League group stages which saw them finish last and miss out on a Europa League spot.

The Citizens needed to beat the Germans and hope Ajax lose at the Bernabeu but while the latter happened, Julian Schieber’s 57th minute strike for Dortmund saw Jurgen Klopp’s men claim a 1-0 win which propelled them top of the group while City ended their miserable campaign finishing last and failing to register a single win in the group.

Dutch giants Ajax qualified for the Europa League in spite of getting a 4-1 drubbing from Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka both found the back of the net either side of Jose Callejon’s brace as Los Blancos saw off Ajax in emphatic fashion in their way to finishing second in Group D behind Dortmund.

French Ligue 1 spendthrifts Paris Saint Germain beat Porto 2-1 to leapfrog the Portuguese side to Group A top spot. Thiago Silva opened the scoring for PSG at the hour mark with a powerful header but the lead lasted only four minutes with Jackson Martinez’s header drawing Porto level. However, a goalkeeping cock-up from Porto custodian Helton gave PSG the winning goal at the hour mark as they Ligue 1 side topped the group meaning the will avoid teams like Barcelona and Dortmund in the knockout stages.

In the other match in the Group, Dinamo Zagreb and Dynamo Kiev shared a 1-1 draw in a dead rubber match since Kiev had already booked their Europa League slot.

Greek side Olympiakos came from a goal behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 in Piraeus. Czech captain Tomas Rosicky opened the scoring for the Gunners seven minutes before the interval but two second half goals from Giannis Maniatis and Konstantinos Mitroglou secured maximum points for Olympiakos but saw Arsene Wenger’s men miss out on Group B top spot which was secured by German side Schalke who drew 1-1 in Montpellier.

Zenit St Petersburg secured Europa League spot with a 1-0 win over AC Milan at the San Siro. Portuguese midfielder Danny scored the only goal in the game but the loss was nevertheless non-influential on the Rossonerie’s position as they had already booked their last 16 slot together with Malaga. The Spanish outfit were held to 2-2 draw by Anderlecht.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!