A solid first week of Champions League Round of 16 play as the top team’s basically held serve with PSG and Real Madrid securing 1st leg victories. Huge games on Tues 2:45 Fox Sports channels with Arsenal hosting Barcelona and Messi, and last season’s runner-up Juventus and their world class keeper Buffon hosting German powerhouse Bayern Munich. The US Women face T+T tonite 8:30 pm on NBCSN and probably Canada Sunday in their bid to qualify for the Olympics next summer, while the US Men wait on Sunday Night’s Copa America Centenario Draw live from NY City, Sunday night at 7:30 on Fox Sports2 to see who they will face and who comes to Chicago. FA Cup Action returns in England this weekend as both Manchester teams are struggling – its Chelsea hosting Man City at 11 am Fox Sports 2 with another chance that new America signee defender Matt Miazga could play while John Terry continues to recover.
Games of the Week
8:30 p.m NBCSN 1A. United States Women vs. 2B. Trinidad & Tobago – USA looks to Qualify for the Olympics Final 4
Sun, Feb 21
9:30 am Fox Soccer Plus Bayer Levekusen vs Dortmund – Battle of Top 4 German powers 11 am – Fox Sports 2 Chelsea vs Man City – Chelsea host City in FA Cup Round
5:00 p.m., NBC Universo and NBC Sports Live Extra: USA ? vs. TBD (tape-delayed on NBCSN at 11:00 p.m.) USA looks to Qualify for the Olympics –Finals
7:30 pm Fox Sports 2 — 2016 Copa America Centenario Draw – See who the US plays, who plays in Chicago and the entire layout of the Copa
Tues, Feb 23
2:45 pm Fox Sports 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona – The gunners draw the top team in the world again – must win at home.
2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich – last year’s Final 4 battle it out at Juve.
10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América –huge game for MLS and US Soccer at home –great atmosphere in Seattle
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City- Can City get a point on the road? They have never advanced past this rd.
2:45 pm FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid –Dutch power looks to win at home.
Friday, February 19
2:45 pm beIn Sport Bologna vs Juventus
CONCACAF women’s Olympics qualifying (Semifinals at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas) 5:30 p.m., NBC Universo: 1B. Canada vs. 2A. Costa Rica
8:30 p.m., NBCSN 1A. United States vs. 2B. Trinidad & Tobago
Sat , February 20
8:30 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 1 Arsenal vs Hull City
10 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 2 Reading vs West Brom
12:15 pm FA Cup Fox Sports 2 Bournemouth vs Everton
Sunday, February 21
8:30 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 2 Blackburn vs West Ham United
9:30 am Fox Soccer Plus Bayer Levekusen vs Dortmund
10 am beIN Sport Malaga vs Real Madrid
10 am FA CUP – Fox Sports Regional Tottenham vs Crystal Palace
11 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 2 Chelsea vs Man City
CONCACAF women’s Olympics qualifying (Championship game at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas)
5:00 p.m., NBC Universo and NBC Sports Live Extra: USA ? vs. TBD (tape-delayed on NBCSN at 11:00 p.m.)
7:30 pm Fox Sports 2 — 2016 Copa America Centenario Draw –
Tues, Feb 23 – Champions League
2:45 pm FS 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs) 8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Querétaro vs. DC United
10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City
2:45 pm FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs) 8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Tigres UANL vs. Real Salt Lake
10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Santos Laguna
Thursday, Feb. 25
UEFA Europa League (Round of 32 second leg) 1:00 p.m., TV TBD: Athletic Bilbao vs. Marseille, Kuban Krasnodar vs. Sparta Prague, Lazio vs. Galatasaray, Liverpool vs. Augsburg, Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Fenerbahçe, Rapid Vienna vs. Valencia, Schalke 04 vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
3:00 p.m., ESPN3: Manchester United vs. Midtjylland, Porto vs. Borussia Dortmund
3:00 p.m., ESPN Deportes: Napoli vs. Villarreal
3:00 p.m., TV TBD: Basel vs. Saint-Étienne, Molde vs. Sevilla, Olympiakos vs. Anderlecht, Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fiorentina
Sat, February 27
7:45 am NBCSN West Ham vs Sunderland
9;30 am Fox Sports 2 Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich
10 am beIn Sport – Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid
10 am NBCSN Leicester City vs Norwich
Sunday, February 28
9 am NBCSN – Man U vs Arsenal
11:30 am Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City
2:45 pm bein Sport Juventus vs Inter
Tuesday, March 1
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)
8:00 p.m., TV TBD: D.C. United vs. Querétaro
10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)
8:00 p.m., TV TBD: Club América vs. Seattle Sounders
10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL
Sun, March 6: MLS Opening Weekend
4:30 pm ESPN Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew
7 pm Fox Sports 1 Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
Friday, March 25:
Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier, time TBD (beIN Sports,)
Tuesday, March 28:
United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier, time TBD (ESPN2,-Columbus, OH)
Copa America –Chicago Full Venue Passes Sun, June 5 – C3 vs. C4
Tues Eve, June 7 – United States vs. A3
Fri Eve, June 10 – Argentina vs. D3
Wed Eve, June 22 – Semifinal (read Argentina vs Brazil) Maybe
Champions League-Rd of 16
Tues, Feb 23
2:45 pm Fox Sports 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City
2:45 pm FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
- Zidane content with Madrid
- Marcelo acclaims Ronaldo
- Jonas: Benfica deserved win
- Rui Vitória satisfied with Benfica
- Jonas gives Benfica win
Copa America Centenario is now on sale
We’ve just released tickets to the Copa America Centenario to the general public. These matches will sell out, but you still have a chance to secure your seats today to see the world’s best compete at Soldier Field in these matches:
Sun, June 5 – C3 vs. C4
Copa Venue Passes include a ticket for the same great seat to all matches in a particular stadium (the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey Venue Pass is an exception, as it includes only the first round and quarterfinal matches). Copa Venue Pass purchasers will be entered into a lottery for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the highly anticipated Copa America Centenario Final at MetLife Stadium on June 26.
2016 Copa America: USMNT’s prospects for group draw mostly not horrible
The group-stage draw for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which takes place on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET) in New York City, could go a long way toward determining the U.S. national team’s fate at this summer’s tournament to be played in cities across the United States.Just as with the World Cup, a bad draw for the group stage could hand the USMNT three dauntingly difficult fixtures from which they need a minimum of four points to advance to the knockout stage.Fortunately for the USMNT, their worst-case scenario group-stage draw isn’t half as bad — at least on paper — as what we thought they would face at the 2014 World Cup. Having been placed into pot 1, thanks to their host nation status, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will avoid Argentina, Brazil and Mexico until the knockout stage, should they advance that far. Unlike the Chileans, though, who hosted and won the 2015 Copa America, the Yanks’ home-field advantage will be decidedly lessened when facing any nation with a significant population living in the States, which is to say, most nations from the Americas and Caribbean. [ MORE: The very latest on the Tim Howard-to-MLS rumors ] Based largely upon their respective showings at the 2015 Copa America, 2015 Gold Cup and a bit of the eye test, the difficulty (from most difficult to least difficult) of teams making up pots 2-4 looks something like this:
Pot 2: Chile, Colombia Uruguay, Ecuador — Nothing about this pot can spell good news for the USMT. Chile and Colombia are neck and neck at the top of the group, with a slight advantage going to the former as the current Copa holders. Uruguay have the undisputed best player of the four nations, though, in Luis Suarez. Simple math says there’s a 75 percent chance the USMNT gets one of the above South American giants, and a 25 percent shot at Ecuador, a largely disappointing side (failed to advance from the group stage) at last summer’s Copa. [ MORE: Bobby Wood scores in Germany | Fabian Johnson does, too ]
Pot 3: Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti — Competition the USMNT knows very well, and against which they typically perform well. Jamiaca gets the nod ahead of Costa based on, 1) their experience from playing in last year’s Copa, and 2) the massive improvement they showed during the ensuing Gold Cup, where they finished runners-up to Mexico (andbeat the USMNT in the semifinals). Speaking of sides who troubled the USMNT more than a bit last summer, Panama (third-place finishers) and Haiti (outplayed but ultimately fellto the USMNT during the group stage) round out CONCACAF’s representatives.
Pot 4: Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Bolivia — Peru knocked off Paraguay to finish third at last summer’s Copa, buoyed by the tournament’s joint-top scorer, Paolo Guerrero (4 goals), so the USMNT wants little to do with either of those sides, really. As for Venezuela and Bolivia, the former came within a point of advancing from a group that featured Brazil, Colombia and Peru, while the latter snuck out of a group that included Chile, Ecuador and a B-team Mexico side.With that said, the USMNT’s best- and worst-possible draws, in this writer’s opinion, are as follows, while anything else falls somewhere in between based upon the above rankings. [ MORE: Matt Miazga Q&A — Loving life during early days at Chelsea ]
Best-possible draw: USA, Ecuador, Haiti, Bolivia Worst-possible draw: USA, Chile, Jamaica, Peru
After Wednesday’s win over Sporting Gijon, Barcelona lead La Liga by six points and look likely to win their sixth Spanish title in eight seasons. Luis Enrique’s men are now unbeaten in 31 games and, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in rampant scoring form — seemingly every game — you have to wonder if anyone can prevent them winning another treble.
Barca’s former manager might have the best-equipped side to thwart the reigning European Cup holders in the Champions League. Pep Guardiola’s side face Juventus in the Round of 16 first leg next week but, in the meantime, are easing their way to another Bundesliga title. Their latest walk in the park saw them win 3-0 at Augsburg and featured another Robert Lewandowski brace.
They left it late by Simone Zaza’s winner beat Napoli to earn Juventus a 15th consecutive Serie A win and, more importantly, lifted The Old Lady into first place in the standings. It really is remarkable to think that this same squad started the season so poorly. As it stands, Juve are another European power with hopes of a treble.
Laurent Blanc rested key men for the 0-0 Ligue 1 draw against Lille — you can do that when you lead the table by more than 20 points! — but the big names were back against Chelsea and PSG earned a narrow 2-1 advantage. Thibaut Courtois’ saves meant it wasn’t a bigger win but the French side will be confident of scoring at Stamford Bridge.
Doesn’t it seem like a long time ago that Rafa Benitez was in charge at the Bernabeu? Madrid might not be quite at the level of Barcelona yet but there is no doubt that, under Zinedine Zidane, they are getting better. The last week saw wins over Athletic Bilbao and in Rome, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring three times across those two games.
If anyone still had doubts about Spurs’ title credentials before they went to Manchester City on Sunday, they surely don’t anymore. Christian Eriksen’s late winner earned a 2-1 win and, after five straight league victories, Tottenham now sit second in the Premier League. On Thursday, they earned an important away draw vs. Fiorentina in the Europa League.
A week after scoring his 100th goal for the club, Fernando Torres was on target again as Atletico won 1-0 at Getafe. Diego Simeone’s side have stuttered a little in recent weeks and will be looking to rediscover top form soon, given their upcoming fixtures include a Champions League trip to PSV Eindhoven and then, three days later, the Madrid derby against Real.
The Gunners reignited their Premier League title hopes thanks to their let show against Leicester but must now maintain their momentum if they are to win silverware this season. Their next three games are against Hull in the FA Cup, before they face Barcelona in the Champions League and then travel to Manchester United in league play.
BVB are unbeaten in all competitions since the winter break. Most recently, Thomas Tuchel’s side beat Hannover in the Bundesliga, where they trail leaders Bayern by eight points but have a 13-point advantage over third-placed Leverkusen. Dortmund then beat Porto 2-0 in the Europa League, a competition they are definitely capable of winning.
So close, so close! After taking the lead at Arsenal, Leicester then conceded just once having been reduced to 10 men … until the final minute of injury time when Marcin Wasilewski’s clumsy foul led to the free kick from Danny Welbeck scored the Gunners’ winner. Valiant defeats don’t earn any points but there was still plenty to suggest Leicester won’t go away.Dropping out: Napoli, Benfica.
European football’s new rivalry
Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea have made a habit of serving up richly entertaining affairs and Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 offering followed suit, leaving the second leg at Stamford Bridge on 9 March fascinatingly poised with Laurent Blanc’s men 2-1 up. The French club posted a better result than last season against the Blues – when they went through after two draws – but worse than two years ago, when they lost 2-0 in London after a 3-1 home win.
So it was hard to argue with Guus Hiddink’s take that his Chelsea team’s chances are “50-50”. Nevertheless, both those recent ties were settled on away goals and Jon Obi Mikel’s first-half leveller could yet prove crucial, particularly as the team that scored second progressed in 2014 and 2015.
Goalkeepers catch the eye
It has become a cliche in the French capital to say that Paris finished runners-up in Group A because of Kevin Trapp, the goalkeeper’s mistake at Real Madrid sealing a 1-0 loss. Given that it was the only goal he conceded during the entire group stage, that is a slightly harsh assessment, but the summer signing from Eintracht Frankfurt has also made a handful of errors on the domestic scene and remains something of an enigma.
As an unknown quantity brought in to supplant the popular Salvatore Sirigu, the 25-year-old German was always going to have to work hard to win over supporters, but he turned in a faultless display and his instinctive save onto the crossbar from Diego Costa’s header will endure in the memory. “I’m convinced he’ll play a lot more games of this calibre,” commented Blanc. Trapp’s opposite number Thibaut Courtois was similarly impressive, meanwhile, keeping Chelsea in the tie with fine stops from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Ángel Di María.
Paris forwards prove points
Trapp was not the only player in the Paris ranks under the microscope. Ibrahimović went into this game saddled with a reputation for fading from view when the stakes are high, having managed just seven goals in 36 UEFA Champions League knockout games and three in 18 fixtures against English clubs at this level.
Here, though, he opened the scoring – albeit via a deflection – and played a part in Edinson Cavani’s winner, as the substitute showed what he too can do. Again left out of the starting lineup in favour of the lively Lucas, the Uruguay striker needed just four minutes to coolly slot in the winner after coming off the bench. “I hope this goal will give him confidence,” said Blanc.
Injury-hit Chelsea show grit
Chelsea supporters feared the worst when John Terry was ruled out of this match with a muscle injury shortly after fellow centre-back Kurt Zouma was sidelined for the season. They need not have fretted.
True, the visitors lost for the first time in the 13 matches since José Mourinho was dismissed, but Branislav Ivanović and Gary Cahill were formidable in the heart of defence – at one point throwing themselves in the way of a Blaise Matuidi shot – while young left-back Abdul Baba Rahman would have had an assist were it not for Trapp’s thrilling save from Costa. “We’re very disappointed to have lost the game,” said Mikel afterwards. “I think we deserved more.”
Hazard fluffs his lines
Long courted by Paris, Eden Hazard made waves before the game by suggesting it would be “hard to say no to PSG”. Here, then, was his chance to impress the hosts, who are still hunting a superstar solution on the left side of their attack.
Instead, while Willian and Pedro Rodríguez were the brightest sparks for Chelsea, the Belgian international had a low-key performance in keeping with his low-key season and he was promptly hauled off on 71 minutes. So majestic last term, Hazard has just one goal in all competitions in 2015/16 and will need to turn things around in the second leg – for Chelsea’s sake above all.
Real Madrid have one foot in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after capping a patient display in Rome with a 2-0 round of 16 first-leg victory.The Stadio Olimpico did not witness a shot on target until the 57th minute but it was worth waiting for as Marcelo released Cristiano Ronaldo for a trademark strike, cutting in from the left. Roma rallied yet could not find an equaliser and substitute Jesé rounded off Zinédine Zidane’s coaching debut in the competition in style.The first half soon established a routine, with Madrid content to build up slowly. The Roma rearguard bided their time before pouncing on anything loose and launching a rapid counter. The jet-heeled Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy were the chief outlets, but while they provoked panic, Madrid’s covering defence was rarely unduly stretched.Moments of real quality were conspicuous by their absence, and Wojciech Szczęsny’s decision to wear tracksuit bottoms appeared prudent – he was virtually a spectator. There was one big scare before half-time, however, as Ronaldo flicked the ball inside to the lively Marcelo, who pivoted nicely and whipped a volley just wide.The pair combined again for the opening goal as Ronaldo sprang the offside trap to meet Marcelo’s slide-rule pass. He coolly stepped inside Alessandro Florenzi before lashing a deflected effort high into the roof of the net. Suddenly the game opened up, with chances coming thick and fast at both ends.William Vainqueur flashed a shot narrowly wide and substitute Edin Džeko so nearly muscled his way in. Yet after Ronaldo headed off target, it was another replacement who delivered the killer blow. Four minutes after coming on, Jesé made a powerful run from midfield before slotting in
Key player: Marcelo
The Brazil left-back was a doubt before the match with a shoulder problem but there was little sign of any issue in a typically full-blooded performance. While Salah kept him busy in defence, it was going forward that Marcelo came alive, going close to a goal himself before unlocking the Roma back line for Ronaldo.
Ronaldo ruins Roma’s plan
Luciano Spalletti said on the eve of the game that he was not going to assign one player to mark Ronaldo; rather it would be a team effort. For 57 minutes it worked a treat but then Ronaldo cleverly isolated Florenzi – and once he had collected Marcelo’s pass there was only one outcome.
Good time to end hoodoo
Two seasons ago Madrid travelled to Schalke at this stage seeking just their second win in 26 trips to Germany. A 6-1 victory did the job, laying the platform for the Décima. Zidane’s side are now well placed to end another hex: Madrid have lost their last eight two-legged ties against Italian opposition.
Arsenal will be seeking a positive first-leg result against Barcelona in London as they bid to avoid a third knockout defeat by the UEFA Champions League holders this decade. Arsenal FC hope it will be a case of third time lucky when they host FC Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.• The Premier League side have lost their two previous two-legged knockout ties against Barcelona, who also won in England at this stage of the competition in 2014 and 2015.
• Arsenal came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 when the teams last met in London in the 2010/11 round of 16, Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin overturning David Villa’s first-half goal.
• Barcelona recovered with a 3-1 second-leg success in which Lionel Messi scored twice. Sergio Busquets had briefly given Arsenal hope with an own goal that made it 1-1.
• The lineups for the first leg at Arsenal on 16 February 2011 were:
Arsenal: Szczęsny, Eboué, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Song (Arshavin 68), Wilshere, Fàbregas, Nasri, Walcott (Bendtner 77), Van Persie.
Barcelona: Valdés, Dani Alves, Piqué, Abidal, Maxwell, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta (Adriano 89), Pedro, Messi, Villa (Keita 68).
- The previous season Messi had scored all four Barcelona goals in a4-1 second-leg quarter-final triumph over Arsenal. Arsène Wenger’s men had given themselves hope in the first leg by coming from two goals down todraw 2-2 through Theo Walcott and Cesc Fàbregas (penalty).
- Barcelonabeat Arsenal 2-1 in the 2006 finalat Stade de France with Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti scoring late on to overturn Sol Campbell’s strike for an Arsenal side reduced to ten men by the first-half dismissal of Jens Lehmann.
- Luis Enrique scored in both matches when the clubs met in the 1999/2000 first group stage. The Barcelona coach found the net in his side’s 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou and again in a 4-2 win at Wembley.
- They reached the knockout stage for the 16th season running thanks to a3-0 win at Olympiacos FCon 9 December. They had lost three of their first four group games but finished as group runners-up thanks to a superior head-to-head record against Olympiacos.
- Arsenal have lost the first leg at home in each of their last three round of 16 ties – against FC Bayern München (2013,2014) and AS Monaco FC (2015).
- Arsenal’s home record against Liga opposition is W8 D3 L2.
- Arsenal have won five of their eight previous two-legged ties against Spanish clubs in UEFA competition. Their last success was a4-1 aggregate quarter-final victoryover Villarreal CF in 2008/09.
- Aside from the 2006 loss to Barcelona, Arsenal have also lost European finals against Real Zaragoza (1995 European Cup Winners’ Cup) and Valencia CF (1980 European Cup Winners’ Cup).
- The Catalan club are looking to reach the quarter-finals for the ninth consecutive season.
- Barcelona won at Manchester City FC in the round of 16 first leg in each of the previous two campaigns –2-0 in 2014and 2-1 in 2015.
- Barcelona’s overall record away to English clubs is W8 D8 L14.
- In two-legged ties against English opposition in UEFA competition, their record is W13 L10.
- As well as overcoming Arsenal in the 2006 UEFA Champions League final, Barcelona also beat Manchester United FC in the2009 (2-0)and 2011 (3-1) finals. They lost to United in the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup final (1-2).
- Alexis Sánchez made 141 appearances for Barcelona (2011–14), scoring 47 goals. His honours with the club included the 2012 Copa del Rey and 2013 Spanish title.
- With Chelsea, Petr Čech faced Barcelona in two UEFA Champions League semi-finals,losing in 2008/09– when beaten by a last-minute Andrés Iniesta goal – but winning in 2011/12. He also faced them twice in the round of 16, winning in 2004/05 but losing in 2005/06.
- Čech has not been beaten by Messi in six previous meetings between the pair.
- Mesut Özil faced Barcelona 16 times as a Real Madrid CF player (W4 D6 L6), including a 1-0 victory in the 2011 Copa del Rey final. He scored against them in the first leg (2-2) of the 2011 Spanish Super Cup but was sent off in the second leg (2-3).
- Nacho Monreal was sent off playing for Málaga CF in a Copa del Rey tie at Barcelona in January 2013. He won only one of ten matches against the Azulgrana with CA Osasuna and Málaga , suffering seven defeats.
- Santi Cazorla scored after two minutes of Villarreal’s 3-1 Liga victory over Barcelona in October 2007. His overall record against the Blaugrana with Villarreal and Málaga was W2 D2 L9.
- Cazorla faced Claudio Bravo when his Spain side – also including Jordi Alba, Busquets and Iniesta – had their 2014 FIFA World Cup elimination sealed by a 2-0 reverse to Chile.
- Héctor Bellerín started out in Barcelona’s youth academy before joining Arsenal in 2011. Mikel Arteta is another graduate of La Masia but left in 2001 for a loan spell at Paris Saint-Germain before signing for Rangers FC.
- Luis Suárez scored twice in five visits to Arsenal with Liverpool FC – in a 2-0 win in August 2011 and a 2-2 draw in January 2013.
- Thomas Vermaelen played for Arsenal between 2009 and 2014, making 110 Premier League appearances.
- Players who have played together:
Santi Cazorla & Jordi Alba, Marc Bartra, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta (Spain)
Mesut Özil & Marc-André ter Stegen (Germany)
Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud & Jérémy Mathieu (France)
Alexis Sánchez & Claudio Bravo (Chile)
- Arsenal have lost only two of their last 17 matches in all competitions, winning 11 of them.*
- Making his first appearance since 26 April after overcoming a knee injury, Danny Welbeck headed the winning goal as title rivals Leicester City FC were beaten 2-1 at home on 14 February.
- On 5 February, Tomáš Rosický was ruled out for up to three months with a thigh problem. He sustained the injury against Burnley FC on 30 January – his first outing for club or country in seven months.
- January signing Mohamed Elneny made his Arsenal debut in the 2-1 FA Cup triumph over Burnley.
- Barcelona are 31 matches unbeaten in all competitions, since a 2-1 loss to Sevilla FC on 3 October.*
- On 10 February, the Azulgrana made it a club record 29 games without defeat – bettering the mark set by Josep Guardiola’s 2010/11 squad – when a much-changed side drew 1-1 at Valencia in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final.
- Four goals from Suárez helped the holders to their biggest win of the campaign, 7-0, in the first leg.
- Suárez has scored 14 goals in his last eight appearances in all competitions.*
- Barcelona will face Sevilla in their sixth Copa del Rey final in eight seasons.
- Messi surpassed the 300-goal mark in the Liga with a double in the 3-1 success at Real Sporting de Gijón on 17 February.
- Enrique brought up 100 fixtures in charge of Barça with a 2-0 win, his 80th victory, at Levante UD on 7 February.
- Rafinha (knee), injured on matchday one, was ruled out for six months after undergoing surgery on 22 September.
- Barça rounded off a splendid 2015 by winning the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, defeating Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC and CA River Plate 3-0.
UEFA Champions League squad changes
• In: Adrian Ortola, Aleix Vidal (Sevilla FC), Arda Turan (Atlético Madrid)
• Out: David Babunski, Juan Cámara, Alejandro Grimaldo (Benfica), Gerard Gumbau, José Aurelio Suárez
Miazga Q&A, as USMNT defender is loving life at Chelsea
USMNT youngster Matt Miazga joined Chelsea in January as the former New York Red Bulls star has joined one of the biggest clubs in the world.So far, it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind but Miazga, 20, is settling in well and is already raving about the “more professional” setup in the Premier League and spoke of his dream to always move to Europe in the Q&A below.In an exclusive partnership with Chelsea Football Club, NBCSports.com provides even more access to life at Stamford Bridge.Sign up to the Chelsea Fan Club Plus now to read the full edition of this month’s Chelsea magazine. Members also gain access to Chelsea TV featuring behind-the-scenes action from the Chelsea training ground and exclusive interviews with Guus Hiddink and his players.
Below is a Q&A with Miazga from Chelsea’s magazine.
It must be an exciting time for you, having just moved across the pond to start your Chelsea career.
This is a great opportunity. My goal was always to go to Europe to test myself against the best players in the world and against top-level opposition. This is the best league in the world so I’m looking forward to the higher level, getting better as a player and developing.
How would you describe yourself as a player?
I’m a defender so I like to win headers. I’m aggressive, I’m not scared to play out from the back and I like to use my passing range a lot. I try to communicate with the other defenders and be a leader on the field.
What do you expect from the Premier League?
Watching it since I was a young boy, everyone knows the league is very competitive and any team can beat any team, so the competition is very high and everyone is going all out to win their games. It is a very exciting league and I look forward to it.
Football really seems to be on the rise in the United States now…
It definitely is, especially after the World Cup in 2014 when we made it out of the group of death. Everybody became big fans and it is growing now, you can tell.
Coming from a Polish family must have helped your interest in the game along…
When my dad was younger, growing up in Poland, everyone played football so he gave me his tips and advice. Every year as I got older, I would play with different travel teams and different coaches would take control and help me, but my dad has always been there for me, giving me advice and keeping my mentality strong.
You have a full United States cap now and you also had an impressive tournament at the Under-20s World Cup, didn’t you?
It was a great experience. Playing with some of the best players your age is a great experience. Going past the group stage was another one – playing for your lives, everyone gives it their all, game are full of emotions and there’s a lot of passion. You are representing your country so you want to give it your best and everyone is watching back home. Obviously, it is not the full World Cup and that is definitely a goal of mine, but it is definitely a stepping stone in my career. We did fairly well for an American side, we got to the quarter-finals and lost to the eventual champions, Serbia, on penalties.
Is it fair to describe last year as your breakthrough season, given that you made 30 MLS appearances for New York Red Bulls?
Yes, I would say so. As a young player, to become a full-time starter and get all those significant minutes, that is a definitely a breakthrough season. From the start I wasn’t pencilled in as a starter. I talked to my manager and he wanted to slowly integrate me and establish me as I was 19 at the time, but there was an injury so I was forced into the line-up anyway. Ever since that first game I just played really well and stuck with it.
You played against Frank Lampard in a game against New York City, as well as David Villa and Andrea Pirlo. What was that like?
Yes, we played them in the Red Bull Arena. There were obviously some world-class players and every time you step on the field against them you want to do well. It was a good experience playing against top players like that – meeting them and competing against them. Lampard actually had some chances arriving at the right time in the box. He didn’t put them away and we were lucky he didn’t. He obviously had good quality on the ball.
What are your first impressions of Chelsea, having just arrived here?
It’s definitely more professional. It’s a huge club, so there are staff that take care of you and people within the club who try to make it an easy transition and make you feel comfortable. Your job, then, is only to work on the pitch and give your all. You can tell the magnitude of the club when you walk in, with the facilities here.
In November, Jurgen Klinsmann summoned goalkeepers Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Bill Hamid to the U.S. national team ahead of two World Cup qualifiers. Howard and Guzan interrupted their Premier League work, while understudy Hamid arrived after another sterling MLS season.Three months later, the most stable of positions in the U.S. program is showing cracks.Howard is struggling to regain his Everton job, Guzan has dropped to second choice with last-place Aston Villa and Hamid is recovering from a knee operation that will keep him out of D.C. United’s lineup for months.If there was one area American soccer has never had to fret about, it was goalkeeper. Since 1990, when the United States ended a 40-year absence from the World Cup, the job has been in good hands: notably those of Tony Meola, Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and, for the past several years, Howard and Guzan, with Nick Rimando as a reliable reserve.But when Klinsmann gathers his squad late next month for a pair of qualifiers against Guatemala, the shot-blocking function might, for the first time in recent memory, come with concerns.[How Americans abroad fared this weekend]
This is not to suggest American soccer’s world-class strength is now a weakness. Even if they remain in reserve in England, Howard and Guzan carry years of international experience and remain among the finer netminders in the CONCACAF region and beyond. Without the fitness demands of outfield players, goalies do not necessarily need to play every week in order to maintain quality form and, in their cases, remain in Klinsmann’s good graces.Clearly, though, Klinsmann would prefer to have one or both of his top keepers in rhythm before camp opens ahead of the March 25 qualifier in Guatemala City and the March 29 rematch in Columbus, Ohio.Regardless, both are almost certain of receiving invitations. The third slot might return to Real Salt Lake’s Rimando, who missed the November qualifiers and winter camp after undergoing surgery to repair meniscus damage.Whether Howard and Guzan regain starting jobs in England will undoubtedly claim some of Klinsmann’s attention. Howard, 36, has not been at his best this season and, after suffering a minor knee injury last month, yielded the job to Spain’s Joel Robles. Although Howard is healthy again, Robles has remained in the lineup.[Lloyd scores game-winner for USWNT against Mexico] he shift comes amid speculation that, despite two years left on his contract, the 2014 World Cup hero will return to MLS this summer after 13 Premier League seasons. ESPNFC.com reported that the Colorado Rapids are his primary suitors.This week, Everton Manager Roberto Martinez spoke as if Howard was nearing the end of his phenomenal run at the Liverpool-based club.“We will have to take a bit of time to consider his best moments and what he has done for this club,” he told British reporters. “We should appreciate that and give him that warmth between now and the end of the season. I think it’s important that Tim doesn’t feel that all his good work has been forgotten.”Guzan, 31, had started all but six of Aston Villa’s league matches the previous three campaigns and the first 20 this season before falling out of favor last month. He has since backed up Englishman Mark Bunn in league play and started two FA Cup matches.Villa, a 6-0 loser at home against Liverpool on Sunday, is headed for relegation to the second tier next season after 28 years in the top flight.Aside from Guzan’s playing form, his relationship with disgruntled supporters has also deteriorated: Last month he and a teammate were accused of shouting obscenities at fans behind the bench during an FA Cup match.Hamid would have been Klinsmann’s top choice at the winter camp, which featured almost exclusively MLS players. But the Annandale native reinjured his knee before the report date, sidelining him four to six months.Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls) and David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes) started in the friendlies against Iceland and Canada, respectively. They have a combined three international appearances.Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer.
FRISCO, Texas — Alex Morgan recalls most everything about her first appearance for the United States women’s national team. She remembers then-coach Pia Sundhage informing her the night before, a relief after weeks of training with the team. She remembers the bus ride to the stadium and watching from the bench in the first half, thinking, planning how to contribute and play to her strengths. And Morgan, who was born at the height of summer, raised in Southern California and scored the biggest goal of her life to that point under sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s in the Southern Hemisphere to win the Under-20 World Cup, remembers the snow that day in Utah.Snow had not been part of her preparation for that moment. The two of them did not get along particularly well that day.There was jest in her words, the memory an easy one to playfully rue six years, 103 caps, 59 goals and Olympic and World Cup gold medals later.And yet history has a way of repeating itself.While she will never forget 2015, a year that brought her the aforementioned and career-defining World Cup medal and a ticker tape parade, too, it might also fit the description of the best year of her life that she wouldn’t choose to relive.It was a year of injuries and personal frustration wrapped around a brief interlude of unadulterated communal joy.”I felt like, in a way, I was held back a little bit, and I didn’t reach my personal expectations or goals, even though it was probably one of the best years of my career,” Morgan said. “So it’s interesting in the fact that I feel like I could have performed better at the World Cup. If I had been healthier throughout the year, consistently, I could have made a bigger impact for my club team and for my country.”But at the same time, I don’t want to complain because it was a great year, and a lot of things went my way and went the team’s way.”The 26-year-old Morgan begins the new year healthy and partnered with Carli Lloyd at the top of a American attack moving on without Abby Wambach for the first time in almost 15 years. Morgan is new to the role of team elder, if not yet in years than as one of only four players who began Olympic qualifying with 100 caps. That seniority brings with it newfound opportunity for activism. And she is the face of the NWSL’s newest franchise in Orlando, Florida, where she begins a new phase of life with husband Servando Carrasco of the city’s MLS team.All of it is why Morgan has never been more interesting than she is at the dawn of 2016. Excellence is entertaining, but complexity is compelling.We saw the first act of her career, were introduced to a protagonist of remarkable talent and unmistakable appeal. We sat through the second act, too, wherein the adversity necessary in any drama slowed her ascent, or at least her goal-scoring rate, and left her a frustrated figure.But the third act is the good stuff. It is where Romeo proclaimed himself fortune’s fool and Hamlet pondered to be or not to be.So the curtain rises on Morgan’s third act in 2016.It helps that she is on stage. Ankle and knee injuries during the past three years limited her availability for both club and country, and 2015 seemed to sum up the state of affairs. While she appeared in 22 of 26 national team games, her year seemed defined by the wait to see if her left knee would be ready for the World Cup and news after the tournament that she would undergo arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. The combination of injuries and international duty limited her to four appearances for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns FC.Asked if there is any question she would rather never hear again than that about her health, Morgan countered that she would settle for the frequent inquiry merely serving as something other than introduction. “How are you doing,” long ago ceased to be amiable small talk.”If I could never have that question be the very first question I’m asked, that would be great,” Morgan said. “But I do feel great. I feel 100 percent, I feel healthy. I think I made big strides in January camp with fitness and with physically being able to train every day. Now I’m just looking forward to getting a lot more games under my belt.”Her play thus far does not betray the optimism. She scored a goal against Ireland in the first game of the year, her 100th international appearance, before adding two more in the first Olympic qualifier against Costa Rica. She also set up Lloyd for the first two goals the United States scored in that friendly against Ireland. The first assist was intentional, a well-placed cross across the box. The second was serendipitous, Morgan’s header saved into Lloyd’s path. The sequences, albeit not against the caliber of opponent that will stand in the way of Olympic gold, showed what there is to like about the arrangement. The two work well in tandem, but they also pull apart defenses individually in a way that frees the other.”It’s different than the Abby-Alex combo that was there for such a long time,” Lloyd said. “I think what she does great is getting in behind the back line, she’s able to make defenders kind of open that pocket and that space for me.”U.S. coach Jill Ellis, whose history with Morgan goes back more than a decade to college recruiting days, has stressed the idea of different than what came before. Her message to Morgan is that the present isn’t about reclaiming 2012, when the forward scored 28 goals in 31 appearances for the Olympic gold medalists. It is instead about moving ahead with 2016 and using the time that has passed.”I think her movement, her sophistication of runs, I think that has gotten better and better and better,” Ellis said. “I’ve seen it. For her to not just finish her chances, which she’s starting to do and she’s gaining confidence with that, it’s I think she’s just going to terrorize back lines with her movement, her sophistication.”If the new year is about evolution more than restoration on the field, it is only in keeping with the rest of Morgan’s life.Consider the following timeline. The United States won the World Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5. The team rode through a ticker tape parade in New York on July 10. Morgan had the procedure on her knee in Los Angeles on July 17. Then, as she was finally preparing for a few days at home, Carrasco was traded from Houston to Orlando on July 20 and they were on the move again. None of which even takes into account that her other place of employment at the time, in addition to the national team, was in the Pacific Northwest.There are nice perks to being a global sports star, albeit oneSepp Blatter doesn’t recognize, but appearing as the first woman on the cover of a cultural touchstone video game and authoring a New York Times bestseller don’t make a nomadic life or the new realities of long-distance marriage any easier.”It’s hard to not have any sort of consistency,” Morgan said, “In terms of my own life, but then when I bring someone else into my life, with my husband, and creating a life together and having different lifestyles, in the fact that I’m at a hotel 70 percent of the year. We don’t see each other often. I pretty much live out of a suitcase. I think for anyone who is living this lifestyle on this team, it’s difficult in itself to stay mentally strong, to be able to enter into a new environment week in and week out and have your diet be consistent, have your sleep patterns be consistent, be able to mentally and emotionally be stable and positive. It’s not easy.”Her own move to Orlando, which admittedly paid a steep price in talent to acquire her, provides at least a modicum of stability. It is also a professional challenge, as the face of a franchise that hews to a developing sense of self, or at least a confidence in expressing herself.Mia Hamm was already 24 years old when the United States won gold in the 1996 Olympics, 27 when the national team had the stage to itself in the 1999 World Cup. Wambach was 24 when she won her first major title in the 2004 Olympics. Morgan was 22 when she scored her first World Cup goal in 2011 and a full-fledged mainstream star in the social-media world soon thereafter. This isn’t new ground to cover, but it remains true that Morgan dealt with a level of stardom rarely seen in women’s team sports and did so at a younger age than anyone in the discussion.”I remember still my first interview I had, and Abby just told me, ‘Just be honest, just speak from your mind.'” Morgan said. “I feel like I blacked out during the interview, and it was like a basic interview. But then you live and you learn.”The mental image of that conversation is almost comical, one of the most unguarded and extemporaneous public talkers in sports telling a young Morgan, by her own admission deathly afraid of public speaking, to just let it rip. Even now, Morgan talks about forming thoughts she knows will be written down and distributed word for word. If the existential oddity of that arrangement ever occurred to Wambach, it certainly never slowed her. That isn’t Morgan. It won’t ever be Morgan. But where the filter cuts off and the bully pulpit begins is one more part of the evolution.For instance, it was Morgan, along with Christine Sinclair, who a year ago raised the issue of substandard hotels for NWSL teams to a national debate within the soccer community and spilling over into mainstream media. When she spoke, the league had to listen.”I think it’s always about picking your battles and picking when the time is right,” Morgan said, also pointing to her choice to speak out regarding the substandard artificial turf in Hawaii that led to the cancellation of a game this past December. “I just feel like there should be more gender equity and more opportunity globally for women and women should be respected on a higher level. On those fronts, I have grown into what I feel most comfortable speaking about, what I’m most passionate about. So I hope that what I do on the field gives me the most leverage to be able to do something good in this world [in regard to gender equity issues] that I’m passionate about.”Even as Ellis rattled off all the ways in which Morgan helped the team during the World Cup beyond her lone goal, Ellis eventually came back to the inescapable truth that, “Ultimately a goal scorer is always going to measure themselves by goals.” The rest of us are no different. Morgan’s year will ultimately be judged on how healthy she remains and how many goals she scores for club and country. In that there is no nuance. But in every other way, someone who at 22 seemed as two-dimensional as most superheroes, is at 26 a more fully formed and fascinating three-dimensional character.As we watch that unfold, so do her teammates, so many of them now her junior.”I admired her a lot for that last year,” Morgan Brian said of what her teammate experienced in 2015. “Especially as a younger player, I tend to watch a lot and just see and observe my teammates and especially the older ones — the more experienced ones. For me, she did go through a lot of challenges with injuries and getting back and then having another setback. She always kept her head down, she worked hard, she did what she was supposed to do to get herself back on the field and healthy.”She’s used to playing and scoring goals for us. It’s a different role sitting on the sideline because you’re injured. I think she handled it the best way possible, and that’s a testament to her character.”So arrives the third act of Alex Morgan. The one that is always worth watching.
Q&A WITH THE BYB
Supporters group members talk offseason reactions, plans for 2016 & moreFeb 3, 2016
Present at every game at Carroll Stadium, the Brickyard Battalion stands, singing, battered in blue and waving their scarves with pride. You hear them, screaming at the top of their lungs as the opposition wavers, chanting loud and proud for the players on the pitch. The Brickyard Battalion is the best supporters section in the NASL – and the loudest and proudest.With the 2016 season slate beginning in April, the biggest and best supporters group in the NASL is already churning up the excitement for their “Boys in Blue.” IndyEleven.com recently took the opportunity to poll some BYB Board members to get their thoughts on what the team has done in the offseason and what might be in store from the West End Stand (and beyond) this season.
- Does the BYB have anything special in store for the 2016 schedule?
Andrew Retz: We are going to continue to improve our tailgate experience. Unfortunately due to Indiana’s liquor laws, giving away beer is a challenge. However, the tailgate improvement initiative led by James Cormack created what we like to call “Tent City.” We set up a few canopies, fellow supporters set some up as well and we create sort of a bazaar of different tables lead by Brickyard Battalion, Slaughterhouse-19, and other Indy Eleven supporters. You’ll be able to find anything from food, beer, BYB/SH19 centric merchandise, and good discussions with fellow supporters (and traveling away support). BE WITH THE BYB! Get FREE Gold membership, save on seats with season tickets
ric Knoll: We always go big on the home opener, so expect something good then. At some point we’re hoping on doing some sort of Peter Wilt related tifo too, but not sure when.
- What offseason signing are you most looking forward to seeing at Carroll Stadium?
James Cormack: Looking forward to seeing all of the players honestly, but I think Eamon Zayed for me will be interesting to watch. He has an incredible scoring record and this will be his first time in the USA, whereas most of the other players we know about or have experience in [American] soccer. If he can blend in quickly and hit the ground running I think we could see a lot of goals from him. He is a physical player who I think will fit well in the NASL and if we can provide the service, he will score, and I think we have players who can do that. Carmel FC Coach – Joshua Mason: For me it’s the chemistry of this entire new roster. I’m really pleased with all the new additions and very thoughtful as to what they can bring to the pitch. I am really hoping scoring is something than can be more consistent with Zayed, and that back line is one of the best in the league.
- A lot of experience has been brought in since the end of last season. Are you excited about where this team is headed?
Knoll: It’s very exciting to see the team bring in much higher quality of players with more notable experience. The only worry you have is injuries playing a part.Retz: Absolutely. Collectively this is certainly the best team we’ve ever had on paper. Instead of signing that one big star, we’ve spread the wealth out among multiple MLS and NASL veterans. After all, this is a team game of 11 players. The more quality you can have at each position should translate on the field and show itself in games where we would have lost or drawn in the past.
- What kind of road trips are in sight for this year, and where?
Cormack: Looks like we will be heading to OKC in April. Will be interesting to see their setup as they are starting to roll late and are competing with a USL team for support. So, we’ll be looking to bring enough people there to be louder than them. I think there will be some people heading to Tampa for the first game and also to Puerto Rico for our first game [of the Fall Season] in July.Retz: Our first big road trip will be to Rayo OKC for the weekend of April 30th. We are putting together plans as we speak, including 15-seater vans, hotels, and match day tickets.The Fall season leads to many more opportunities for travel. There is a contingent interested in going to the Indy Eleven game in Puerto Rico to see PRFC’s first league game. We are also looking at returning to Minnesota and Carolina. Ultimately, if the match in October against Rayo OKC has playoff implications, expect us to take a group there as well.Our travel planning in the truest form of “Do It Yourself” … it may not be pretty, but we’ve lead some pretty successful trips in the past two seasons. If you’re interested in any of our away trips, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the trip to Rayo OKC will be released in the coming days.
- What can we expect out of the most passionate fan base in the NASL?
Cormack: The most passion! We will be loud and proud even at the lowest and highest of points, we never give up on the guys even if things are not going so well. That is why we are called supporters, we support, and we’ll continue to be the best support out there for our team, coaches and staff. Knoll: Just that we’ll be there every single week. Everything we do, we do it every week – singing, chanting, and jumping, with smoke. It doesn’t matter if we’re winning or losing, we don’t stop and we show up.
The Old Ballcoach – Coach Shane Best