We have the 2nd leg of Champions League Sweet 16 action Tues/Wed as Man City and Barca should punch their tickets to the quarterfinals at home. Arsenal is down 2-0 trying to stave off elimination at Barcelona on Wed, while Bayern Munich and Juventus battle in Germany tied at 2-2. Both games on Fox Sports Wednesday at 3:45 pm. Tues 3:45 on Fox Sports – Man City will look to move to their first ever Quarterfinals up 3-1 over Kiev, while Athletico Madrid host Dutch power PSV Eindhoven tied at 0-0. Remember if you miss the games – they are usually played over on Fox Sports 2 and Fox Soccer all night with 30 minute highlight show on Fox Sports 1 between 12:30 and 2 am so set those DVRs. Europa League Action saw Liverpool beat Man U at home, while Dortmund blasted Tottenham in Germany, return legs are Thursday on Fox Sports and ESPN3. Already advancing was Portugal’s Benefica to the Elite 8 for the first time ever, while Real Madrid advance and PSG and Zlatan Ibrahimovic outlasted Chelsea at home 2-0 to advance 4-2 on aggregate. Speaking of Zlatan you have to view this Ode to Zlatan its great!
And speaking of Video’s so its been 10 years since US Forward Clint Dempsey Unleashed his Don’t Tread on Me Music Video – Happy 33rd Birthday to the US Goal Scoring Leader in Europe (57 goals) as he chases Donovan’s US goal scoring record this summer in COPA Centario. The US men have huge games next Friday, Mar 25th – as the Full USMNT travels to Guatamala and the US 23 men face Columbia. The US Men return to World Cup Qualifying Friday, Mar 25 on the road at Guatamala @ 10 pm on beIn Sports and NBC Universal, while the U-23 Men start their 2 game playoff with Columbia at 4:30 pm Fri on Fox Sports 1. No word on where young players like Diandre Yedlin and Jordon Morris will be – although they certainly should be with the U23s in my mind as qualifying for the Olympics this summer in Rio is more important than 1 away game Qualifier for the full team.
Klinsmann talks Copa and answers fans questions
GAMES THIS WEEK
3:45 pm Fox Sport1 Man City vs Dynamo Kiev 3-1
3:45 pm Fox Sports 2 Athletico vs PSV Eindhoven 0-0
3:45 pm Fox Sport1 Barcelona vs Arsenal 2-0
3:45 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs Juventus 2-2
Thurs, Mar 17 – UEFA Europa League (Rd of 16 2nd legs)
1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Villarreal
1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Valencia vs. Athletic Bilbao
4 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Manchester United vs. Liverpool
4 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund
4 p.m., ESPN 3 Lazio vs. Sparta Prague, Anderlecht vs. Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla vs. Basel, Braga vs. Fenerbahçe
Tuesday, March 29:
What to watch out for in this week’s second legs
Published: Monday 14 March 2016, 10.07CET
Can Lionel Messi score his 500th career goal? Can Antoine Griezmann strike in a fifth successive Atlético game? Can Paulo Dybala rescue Juve? UEFA.com teases out the week’s sub-plots.
Can Griezmann make it five from five?
“I play with a lot of freedom – hopefully I can carry on in the same vein,” said Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, who having scored in all four of his Liga outings since the 0-0 first-leg draw at PSV, can make it five from five in all competitions in the rematch. The Dutch side’s ten-game winning streak in the Eredivisie ended with Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Heerenveen, Jeroen Zoet conceding his first goal in 603 minutes in all competitions. “It is a nice detail but I would prefer to win a trophy,” the goalkeeper noted. Atlético v PSV, Tuesday
Agüero chasing City history
Frustrated by Norwich City at the weekend, Sergio Agüero will face injury-sapped Dynamo Kyiv looking to claim his spot in the top ten of Manchester City’s all-time scorers. The 27-year-old has struck 128 times since joining in 2011 and is two goals shy of tenth-placed Frank Roberts, with Billy Gillespie and Fred Tilson on 132 goals in joint eighth. “It would be a major achievement,” said Agüero, whose team are 3-1 up from the away leg. “But I’d rather focus on my next goal rather than the ones I’ve scored and the ones I might score in the future.”
Manchester City v Dynamo Kyiv, Tuesday
Dybala giving Juve hope
After getting his first UEFA Champions League goal in the 2-2 first-leg draw with Bayern, Juventus forward Paulo Dybala registered a wonderful goal against Sassuolo on Friday – his 14th of the season in Serie A. “Nobody has shown such a mix of technique and personality at 22,” former Juve coach Fabio Capello told Gazzetta dello Sport. “In Italy he has already established himself as a top player – now he just needs to do it in Europe.” Can he make that mark against a Bayern side with a shrinking injury list, who could afford to rest Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal at the weekend?
Bayern v Juventus, Wednesday
Messi in hungry mood
Lionel Messi has netted 23 times in 18 appearances in 2016, and requires only three more to get to 500 for club and country. Though he missed a penalty in Saturday’s 6-0 mauling of Getafe, he made amends with a superb free-kick. It is not the sort of form that offers Arsenal much hope as they come to Camp Nou 2-0 down. “It’s 95% for them and 5% for us,” manager Arsène Wenger noted of his team’s chances, the Gunners travelling with heads bowed low, having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Watford on Sunday.
Barcelona v Arsenal, Wednesday
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid have won four matches on the bounce following their goalless first-leg draw against their Dutch opponents
Atletico Madrid are full of confidence heading into their Champions League last-16 second leg against PSV Eindhoven at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday, according to Saul Niguez.The first encounter in Eindhoven ended goalless and saw the hosts lose Gaston Pereiro to a second yellow card midway through the second half, setting up a finely poised clash in Madrid.Since then, Diego Simeone’s side have won four successive matches – the latest of which came in a 3-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.Saul’s powerful header opened the scoring and was added to by Antoine Griezmann – converting for the fourth consecutive game – and Angel Correa seven minutes from time.The midfielder thinks the victory has primed Atletico to book a place in the quarter-finals at PSV’s expense.”The team has done a great job and achieved great results. Looking ahead to Tuesday, it gives us a boost,” said Saul.”We kept going until the end and the [late] goal gave us serenity. It was one of the best matches, very complete, without conceding a goal.”I think we played very well and after these three points we go into that key match very confident of winning.”Atletico prevailed on PSV’s only previous visit to the Vicente Calderon – a 2-1 triumph in the group stage of the 2008-09 Champions League – but have lost all four two-legged ties they have contested with Dutch opponents in European competition.PSV are still seeking a first victory in Spain after 12 failed attempts and head into the match having extended their unbeaten run in the Eredivisie to 21 matches in a 1-1 draw against Heerenveen on Saturday.Tuesday signals the start of what could be a pivotal period in the season for Phillip Cocu’s team, with a top-of-the-table clash against Ajax – who missed the chance to overtake PSV at the summit with a 2-2 draw against NEC Nijmegen on Sunday – and a trip to third-placed AZ following Tuesday’s meeting with Atletico.
Goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet’s heroics kept the Dutch side in the first leg, and they will be looking for another big performance from him if they are to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006-07.
Stefan Savic (thigh) and Tiago (leg) are out for Atletico, while Fernando Torres (knee) is a doubt having sat out the victory over Deportivo at the weekend.
Cocu is able to select prolific striker Luuk de Jong, who returns having served a suspension in the first leg, but, along with Pereiro’s ban, there are concerns over the fitness of Andres Guardado (hamstring) and Maxime Lestienne (calf).
City midfielder has been a star performer and is keen to send the Ukrainians out of Champions League
Fernandinho has urged his Manchester City to grasp the opportunity of claiming a Champions League quarter-final place when they host Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.Manuel Pellegrini’s men are strongly positioned to reach the last eight of the tournament for the first time following an impressive 3-1 first-leg triumph in the Ukrainian capital, where Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure were on target.Fernandinho’s midfield colleague Toure is a doubt for the match with a heel injury but, when set against the experience of nursing last-16 deficits before being knocked out by Barcelona in each of the past two seasons, the Brazil international knows Manuel Pellegrini’s team have been dealt a favourable hand.”Of course, this is the first time we have a chance to go forward to the quarter-finals,” he told City’s official website. “This is a big step for the club, for everyone here.”This should give us more motivation to play very well on Tuesday.”In contrast to previous European campaigns, where City have struggled to match strong domestic performances, their best displays this term have arguably come on the Champions League stage – most notably in wins at Sevilla and last time out in Kiev.Their bid to win a third Premier League win in five seasons has stalled badly alongside these highs, with Saturday’s dispiriting 0-0 draw at struggling Norwich City leaving Fernandinho to concede that the Champions League represents a more realistic chance of further silverware this term for the League Cup winners.”We will see what happens with other results but it is tough to drop points like we did,” he said.”We have nine [Premier League] games to play and even if you don’t have chance to fight for the title, the most important thing now is to fight for the top four.”
Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph will all remain on the sidelines until after this month’s international break, although Pellegrini should still be confident of seeing off opponents who have failed to win in 13 competitive visits to England – losing 11 of those matches.
Speaking after Friday’s 2-1 Ukrainian Premier League win at Karpaty Lviv, a victory that helped send them three points clear at the top, Sergei Rebrov confirmed Mykola Morozyuk would remain on the sidelines for “a month or two” due to a “serious” knee injury.Dynamo defender Yevhen Khacheridi is keen to at least restore some of the pride lost on home turf against City.”We don’t want to make same mistakes we had in Kiev. It will be difficult to win, but we’ll try to do that,” Khacheridi told Komanda.
- Manchester City have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the third consecutive season. They have never made it past the Last 16 though, being knocked out by Barcelona in each of the last two campaigns.
- Dynamo Kiev hadn’t reached the knockout stages of the Champions League since 1998/99. They were eliminated by Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.
- Among the 16 teams left, Manchester City are the only side yet to register a clean sheet in the Champions League this season.
Counting down to USMNT vs Guatemala
returns to action two weeks from Friday with a World Cup qualifier at Guatemala on March 25. That means USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s next round of call-ups should come in barely a week’s time.As has so often been the case during his time in charge, there’s ample space for intrigue in this selection process. The absence of Jermaine Jones serving an MLS suspension that carries over into National Team duty, injury doubts in several positions, and Klinsmann himself noting that the timing of the MLS season influences his selections here adds up to a recipe for change. That leaves room for a surprise or two, in the roster as well as the lineups.Here’s a look at a few areas where the USMNT technical staff have to make tough decisions
Selection: Who’s a kid this month, and who isn’t?
On the same dates the senior squad play Guatemala, the US U-23s face Colombia in the home-and-home playoff series that will determine who earns the final spot in the Olympic soccer tournament in Rio this summer. With that in mind, underage players made up a substantial chunk of the January camp invites, an experiment that seems to have gone well.In some cases all this would lead to the obvious conclusion. Anyone in the USMNT player pool who’s age-eligible plays for the U-23s. Klinsmann picks from the rest, even for a World Cup qualifier.As always seems to be the case under Klinsmann, it’s not so simple.Klinsmann is quite fond of several of his youngsters, including Jordan Morris, DeAndre Yedlin, and to some extent even Jerome Kiesewetter. Will he consider them essential to the task of beating Guatemala? Is their time better spent salvaging Olympic qualifying, something all involved in US Soccer have stressed as a major priority for more than a year?
Klinsmann generally writes Jones’s name in ink when he’s available, so captain Michael Bradley will have an alternate partner – maybe even two – in the engine room for this month’s back-to-back clashes with Los Chapines.Reading standout Danny Williams might provide a reasonable facsimile, but a like-for-like replacement seems difficult here. There’s no one else quite like Jones in the player pool, in terms of personality, mentality and skillset. That fact might seem to nudge the coaches’ hands towards a five-man midfield where two players could assist Bradley instead of just one.Given Guatemala’s tendency to sit deep and defend stubbornly, often downright cynically, a creative attacking presence like Mix Diskerud or Lee Nguyen would be useful. However, with Klinsmann emphasizing experience in his recent remarks to the media, will he consider Nguyen ready for a start in the qualifying cauldron? You can say the same of Darlington Nagbe. Yet here we have an ideal opportunity for the coach to prove his trust, against a relatively manageable opponent, in players who’ve brought something different and useful to his squad.
Positioning a pure #6 to stand guard behind Bradley can sometimes have a liberating effect for the captain, and he’s quite familiar with Kyle Beckerman in that regard. At USMNT level, “KB5” has prospered against reactive opponents who allow him time to distribute the ball and dictate the tempo of the game, and his advancing years have only sharpened this intellect.
Anyone can play left back, or so said Klinsmann in a lighthearted moment earlier in his tenure. Yet in practice, the search for an optimal option at this problematic spot hasn’t been so easy for him. He coaxed DaMarcus Beasley out of international retirement to keep the role filled last year, plugged Tim Ream in during the fall, and started young Kellyn Acosta there in both of this year’s friendlies. Ream isn’t normally a left back and Acosta plays in midfield at club level.Yedlin’s rapid rise would seem to have provided the US with a regular starter on the right defensive flank for years to come. Still, his National Team coaches seem persistently skeptical of his suitability as their right back, deploying him in a more advanced wing role more often than not. Fans may be accustomed to seeing a revolving door at left back, but stability was also fleeting on the starboard side last year. 2015 saw Birnbaum, Yedlin, Chandler, Evans, Orozco, Cameron, and Johnson filling the role.Fabian Johnson has spent lots of time on both sides of the USMNT defense. But his explosive attacking exploits for Borussia Monchengladbach this season have forced Klinsmann to admit that the versatility of “FabJo” has at times kept those creative traits from being exploited to the fullest for his country.”Obviously you like to kind of continue having a player play at the same role in the national team that he’s playing in his club team to just keep him consistent, keep him confident. But sometimes it’s not doable because of maybe problems in other positions,” Klinsmann said in a recent Q&A with ussoccer.com. “You know [Johnson] can play right back and left back as well, and on the wing in midfield both sides as well. That gives us a good feeling that we can switch over to that role.”Johnson played on the left side of midfield in the first two qualifiers of the current round. The time may have come to let him become a master of one trade rather than a jack of all.Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:firstname.lastname@example.org. Fo
U.S. Hot List: Bobby Wood in scorching form; Tim Howard fading
With a new Major League Soccer season finally underway, we mark the return of the U.S. national team Hot List, which will become a weekly feature in this space right up until Jurgen Klinsmann names his squad for this summer’s Copa America Centenario in May.
While that high-profile tournament looms on the horizon, there are more pressing matters at hand (foot?) for the Americans. After a four-month break, the U.S. resumes its qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia later this month with an important home-and-home series against Guatemala.
A number of players have put themselves in position to merit strong consideration for minutes in those games alongside lineup shoo-ins like Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson, based on strong recent club performances. Others are struggling in their day jobs, which is significantly reducing their chances of seeing the field. With less than two weeks to go before Klinsmann picks his next roster, here’s a look at whose stock is rising and falling right now.
Matt Besler, D, Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
Why he’s here: The 2014 World Cup starter helped Sporting KC keep a clean sheet on the road in Sunday’s 1-0 win over the 10-man Seattle Sounders.
What this means: Fellow left center back John Brooks remains ahead of Besler in the eyes of Klinsmann, who has suggested that with MLS players yet to hit full stride, he’ll go with a Euro-heavy lineup in Guatemala City. Still, Besler has crucial experience playing in away CONCACAF qualifiers, while Brooks, despite his Bundesliga pedigree, does not. That should not be overlooked by the coach.
Geoff Cameron, D/M, Stoke City (England)
Why he’s here: After missing almost two months with an ankle injury, the 30-year-old returned to Stoke’s lineup on Feb. 27 and has gone the distance in the Potters’ past three games — twice in central defense and once at right-back.
What this means: Cameron’s timing couldn’t be better from a national team perspective. Where exactly he’ll play isn’t clear, but expect the Massachusetts native to reclaim the starting U.S. job he won at the end of 2015 later this month against Guatemala.
Brad Guzan, G, Aston Villa (England)
Why he’s here: Guzan lost his starting job for relegation-bound Villa in early January but now appears to have won it back, playing in the last-place Premier League side’s two most recent games.
What this means: With Tim Howard riding the bench at Everton (more on Howard below), Guzan will have the inside track for the U.S. job when World Cup qualifying resumes, if he keeps getting games at club level.
Omar Gonzalez, D, Pachuca (Mexico)
Why he’s here: The big Texan has played all but 22 minutes of the nine games he’s appeared in since transferring from the LA Galaxy in late December, helping the Tuzos concede just nine goals — the fewest in Liga MX this season.
What this means: Gonzalez’s instant success south of the border has not gone unnoticed by Klinsmann, who could use the 27-year-old in central defense if he opts to deploy Cameron at right back or defensive midfielder against the Guatemalans.
Bobby Wood, F, Union Berlin (Germany)
Why he’s here: With seven goals in his past six 2.Bundesliga matches — including two against FSV Frankfurt on Saturday — no U.S. striker is hotter right now than Wood.
What this means: The 23-year-old Hawaiian could trade his super-sub role for a starting job against Guatemala if Jozy Altidore’s hamstring hasn’t recovered in time.
DeAndre Yedlin, D/M, Sunderland (England)
Why he’s here: The 22-year-old Seattle native has started Sunderland’s past four Premier League games at right-back, helping the Black Cats go 1-1-2 and climb out of the relegation zone during that span.
What this means: The trust that manager Sam Allardyce has shown in the Tottenham loanee has been rewarded, as Yedlin’s sometimes suspect defensive game has improved substantially in recent weeks. Will it be enough to convince Klinsmann to play the speedster on the back line rather than the wing later this month? Maybe.
Jozy Altidore, F, Toronto FC (MLS)
Why he’s here: Despite dropping weight and changing his training routine in an effort to avoid the hamstring injuries that have, uh, hamstrung him at three of the Americans’ past four major international tournaments, the 26-year-old missed TFC ‘s season opener with a recurrence of the ailment.
What this means: While Altidore — who scored in the national team’s first two games of 2016 — is expected to return to the Reds’ lineup before the Americans’ two qualifiers, the layoff is sure to cost him crucial match fitness ahead of the qualifiers.
Tim Howard, G, Everton (England)
Why he’s here: After a decade as the Toffees’ undisputed No. 1, Howard, who turned 37 on Sunday, lost his starting job to Spaniard Joel Robles last month.
What this means: Klinsmann had planned to rotate his keepers heading into this summer’s Copa America Centenario, but it’s hard to see Howard getting the nod for this month’s games ahead of Guzan if the latter keeps on playing in the Premier League.
Jermaine Jones, M, Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Why he’s here: Jones signed with the Rapids last week, officially beginning the six-game suspension that will rule him out of both March qualifiers.
What this means: While he won’t be available for the U.S. this month, the 34-year-old German-American remains one of Klinsmann’s most trusted veterans. As long as Jones can stay healthy and keep his hands off referees, he’ll be on the Copa squad (and likely on the field).
Christian Pulisic, M, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Why he’s here: The 17-year-old captured the imagination of American fans when he appeared in four consecutive Bundesliga games (one start) in January and February. But Klinsmann is wisely preaching patience with the youngster, who has since been returned to the German power’s under-19 squad.
What this means: Pulisic remains the brightest talent in the American youth ranks, but there’s no need to rush him into the senior team right now. However, Pulisic could well be with the U.S. U-23s for their two-leg Olympic playoff against Colombia later this month if coach Andi Herzog receives Dortmund’s blessing.
Tim Ream, D, Fulham (England)
Why he’s here: The former New York Red Bull’s run of 20 consecutive starts for Fulham ended in January. Since then, Ream has appeared in the Cottagers’ lineup just once.
What this means: Ream started the Americans’ final two matches of 2015 at left back, but it’s hard to see him reprising that role this month given his lack of recent playing time. Look for Johnson to get the nod there instead.
Ian Darke to remain ESPN’s lead soccer broadcaster through 2020
Ian Darke has signed on to stay with ESPN as its lead soccer broadcaster in the United States through 2020 as the rights for the World Cup shift to Fox. Hired by ESPN in 2010, Darke will remain as part of the network’s primary commentary team for U.S. men’s and women’s national team matches and for this year’s European Championship, which runs from June 10 to July 10.He has signed a multi-year contract, ESPN announced on Tuesday. “Ian is one of the finest English-language commentators in the world and his work has elevated our overall presentation of soccer since he joined ESPN,” ESPN’s senior coordinating producer Amy Rosenfeld said. “Ian has become a destination listen and has the proven ability to appeal to a wide audience. We are thrilled he will continue as an integral member of our team for years to come.”ESPN is also working to complete a deal for U.S. English-language rights to the 2020 Euros plus European qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup, the 2020 Euros and the other international matches involving UEFA teams on FIFA dates.”I don’t see any point in moving,” Darke said last weekend in a production trailer outside blustery Upton Park in London, where he was preparing to call West Ham’s Premier League match against Sunderland for BT Sport. “I love covering the U.S. games. ESPN have been one of the best things that have happened in my career, really.”Darke gained prominence for his call of Landon Donovan’s injury-time goal against Algeria in 2010 that advanced the Americans to the World Cup knockout stage. ESPN made him its lead broadcaster three months later, and he announced weekly Premier League matches for ESPN through 2012-13. He switched his England base to BT when NBC took over Premier League rights. arke thinks switching back and forth from a European network to an American one is a seamless transition.”The audience is that much more sophisticated in the United States now. People know what they’re watching; they’re watching the European leagues every week,” he said. “I think it would be an insult to the audience to try to sort of tailor it in some kind of dumbed-down way. They appear to appreciate the way we do it, anyway. So absolutely no need to change.”He does enjoy the greater comfort of broadcast booths in U.S. stadiums.”Today I will have to sort of almost like vault over a sort of a little metal fence to get into our commentary position,” he said. “We’re always outdoors and there’s never luxurious desks. There’s never enough place to put your notes, and there’s wind and rain. He will be back in the U.S. to call the Americans’ World Cup qualifier against Guatemala on March 29 at Columbus, Ohio. He gets up to speed before U.S. matches when ESPN meets with coach Jurgen Klinsmann.”I do think the team is in a bit of a difficult place,” Darke said. “I do think the qualifying will be harder than it’s been for some time because the young players who he is bringing through, not enough of them really so far have proved themselves up to performing at the kind of level that the team was used to when they had Donovan and [Clint] Dempsey and Tim Howard at his peak. They’re kind of looking to rebuild and find a new generation of stars.”While Fox has U.S. rights to the next three World Cups through 2026, ESPN is maintaining its hold on the Euros. The 2020 tournament will be played in 13 cities in 13 different UEFA members.”It’s going to be like a tour of European capitals,” he said. “We’re going to feel kind of like tourists.”