Champions League Semi Final Draw Not Kind to The British Clubs

The Champions League Semi Final draw has paired Britains best hopes Chelsea & Manchester United guaranteeing an English presence in the last 4, but probably dashing any hope of an al English final. The final 8 are comprised of 3 English Clubs, 2 Spanish, and one each from Italy, Germany and the Ukraine.

Looking at the ties objectively we expect the final four to comnprise Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid & Chelsea, although with teams of this quality anything can happen and some exciting football looks instore.

The Ties: 

Inter Milan v Schalke 04
Real Madrid v Tottenham
Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk
Chelsea v Man Utd

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Late Goal Grabs Champions League Win For Tottenham

A late Peter Crouch goal gained Tottenham one of their most memorable wins in recent history last night, as they beat Italian Giants AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro. This sets Spurs up nicely for the second leg on 9th March and they are now favourites to progress to the last eight in their first Champions League season.

The match was marred by bad tempered incidents and Gennaro Gattuso was the worst offender clashing on the sidelines with Joe Jordan on more than one occasion. At the end of the game he appeared to headbutt the Spurs assistant manager and he will likely face some sanctions for his actions.

On the pitch Milan looed a bit lethargic for much of the first half and although they came into the game more in the second half Tottenham were good value for their win, secured in the 80th minute when Arron Lennon’s run and cross was neatly slotted home by Peter Crouch. This led to a storming finish and AC  Milan had a late equaliser disallowed when Ibrahimovic appeared to push Michael Dawson before scoring.

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Tottenham To Face AC Milan Without Key Players

Tottenham face AC Milan in the Champions League tonight without several key players including Influential Welshman Gareth Bale, who has been one of the stars of the Champions League so far this season.

Alos missing will be long-term absentees Tom Huddlestone, Ledley King and Younes Kaboul, and Peter Crouch &  Luka Modric are both doubtful.  Jermaine Jenas will also miss the match due to suspension.

Some good news is that Rafael van der Vaart will probably be fit and on the other side AC Milan will not be able to field January signings Antonio Cassano, Mark van Bommel and Urby Emanuelson.  Milan will be missing midfield duo Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini.

So no side will really benefit from the others misfortune injury wise and there is sufficient talent available to make this a game to watch. This is a difficult game for Spurs and they will be very pleased to leave the San Siro with a narrow one goal defeat. A repeat of the 4-3 scorline against Inter on their last visit to Italy would set up a great night at White Hart Lane on the 9th March.

The nights other tie is between Valencia & Schalke 04 and given the German side are struggling at present its hard to see them getting anything from their trip to Spain.

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Champions League Round Up Part 1

Wappen of Schalke 04
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We now know Thirteen of the last 16 in this years Champions League who are :

Tottenham Hotspur who qualified a group winners with some very impressive attacking displays. Gareth Bale has come of age in this competition and with a kind draw a Quarter Final place is a distinct possibility.

Inter Milan will be disappointed at finishing runners up and it is clear to see that Rafeal Benitez’s lack of management skills was no flash in the pan at Liverpool as he has taken charge of last seasons Treble winners and managed to make them look pretty ordinary. Anything is possible but on last nights performance its impossible to see them defending their crown, or for Benitez to keep his job for that matter.

Schalke 04 won a fairly weak group B thanks to a good win in Benfica. They have scored a few goals and could pose problems but they could struggle in the last 16 if they don’t get a very kind draw. Still this has been a great achievement for one of Germany’s lesser known clubs; Schalke have not won their domestic title since 1958.

Lyon finished runners up and look like one of the teams every group winner will be hoping to get. They don’t look anywhere near as good as their sides of recent seasons and will probably be focusing on the French League after the knock out stages.

Manchester United cruised through with the minimum of fuss with 4 wins and 2 draws in their 6 games. Nobody will fancy drawing them in the knockout round.

Valencia finished second almost by default given the groups structure. They look sharp and no one will fancy meeting them in the knockouts.

Barcelona as expected qualified with the minimum of fuss drawing a couple of games but overall never really looking extended. They are justifiably one of the favourites and look destined for the last 8 at least.

FC Copenhagen have the honour of becoming the first Danish side to reach the last 16 of the Champions League and showed when holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw that they are capable of giving anyone a game on their day. Its hard to see them progressing to the last 8 although if they were to draw Schalke 04 or possibly Shaktar then it could be close. Anyone else and they will bow out having probably exceeded their own expectations.

Bayern Munich, last seasons beaten finalists have qualified with a game to spare admittedly from an easy looking group. They will be hoping for one of the weaker second place teams as they attempt to go one better this year.

Chelsea have strolled through their group winning all 5 matches so far and  have racked up an impressive 14-3 goal difference in the process. Tonight’s match against Marseille is somewhat academic give both  have qualified and Chelsea are guaranteed top spot.

Marseille are guaranteed second spot and after a slightly shaky start look quite good. No one will looking forward to facing them in the last 16.

Real Madrid were second seeds and have comfortably qualified from what looked like a group of death. They have made it look kind of easy and the self proclaimed Special One Jose Mourinio could be on his way to the Final again. He could now face his old side Inter Milan in the last 16 which would be quite a spectacle.

AC Milan have also qualified with a game to spare and although they were clearly second best to Real Madrid they cant be written off. Some poor group winner will be unlucky enough to draw them and that could end their campaign. Hopefully it will not be one of the English clubs.

Group H is still wide open although Arsenal & Shakhtar Donetsk should fill the final two places barring an unthinkable set of results. The unlucky team will be FC Braga who have improved as the group went on and with this experience under their belts they could go a long way in the Europa League.

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Tottenham Come Of Age In Champions League

Gareth Bale
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A tremendous performance by Gareth Bale inspired Spurs to a monumental 3-1 win over defending champions Inter Milan last night and moved them to within touching distance of a place in the last 16. Now a win at home to Werder Bremen on 24th November will secure them a place as they are ahead of FC Twente on group results. Gareth Bale was outstanding again and a repeat of last nights display will be sufficient to secure the dream.

In the other games involving British clubs Manchester United had an easy win in Turkey against Bursapour while Rangers were well beaten in Valencia. Now Rangers will need a miracle to qualify although a place in the Europa league looks probable thanks to United’s win.

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Tottenham almost stage the Comeback of The CHampions League Season

Gareth Bale
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Tottenham despite being down to 10 men almost staged one of the most amazing comebacks in recent Champions League history when battling back from 4-0 down to 4-3 against last seasons Champions and Treble winners Inter Milan.

Things didn’t start well for Spurs with Inter taking the lead in the second minute through Zanetti and while they were still reeling from the shock things got worse when Gomez collected a red card for a clumsy challenge which led to Inter going 2-0 up with the resulting penalty.

Thereafter the 1st half was largely one way traffic and it was not a great surprise when Inter stretched their lead to 4-0 by half time. Their dominance was emphasised during the break with Bet365 offering 12-1 for it being 7-0 in their customary TV advertising. With Inter leading the attempts at goal tally 12 to 1 it probably attracted a few bets.

However after the break Inter seemed content to sit on their lead and even when Gareth Bale pulled it back to 4-1 with a jinking run it failed to stir them.

The main drama was reserved for the final 2 minutes when Bale hit two more in injury time, completing his hat trick and adding a veneer of respectability to the result which probably wasn’t warranted.

It is hard to decipher where Spurs are in the football hierarchy on this display however Harry Redknapp will struggle to keep Gareth bale if he continues to play like this and his comments that Spurs are only 2 world class players away from winning the Premier League do look a bit tongue in cheek after watching this.

One thing is for sure though – the return match at White Hart Lane will be a sell out.

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Great Night For British Teams In Champions League

In what was a great night for the British teams involved in the Champions League Tottenham, Manchester United and Glasgow Rangers all recorded good wins.

Tottenham in particular stood out winning 4-1 over fellow Champions League debutantes FC Twente despite going down to 10 men in the second half when Van der Vaart was sent off for a second Yellow card. It was an eventful night for Van der Vaart who missed a penalty and then opened the scoring before getting his marching orders.  Overall the refereeing decisions were kind to Spurs and they had another two penalty decisions go their way, the second of which practically killed off any hopes FC Twente had of staging a comeback.FC Twente actually created 22 attempts at goal and will feel the scoreline flatters Tottenham, however when things go your way you have to take advantage, and Spurs certainly did. This result coupled with Werder Bremen’s drubbing against Inter Milan has put Spurs in a strong position even at this early stage of the group.

Manchester United weathered the storm in Valencia and came away with a famous victory thanks to an 85th minute goal from substitute Javier Hernandez. This is only the second time they have won away in Spain and with winnable games against Bursaspor coming up they should go into the Rangers game in late November with qualification all but sewn up.

Rangers finally managed a Champions League group game win last night against Turkish champions and group stage new boys Bursaspor thanks to an early Steven Naismith goal. It was a close encounter and with Rangers playing the same 5-4-1 formation which grabbed a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in their previous game goals were always going to be at a premium. Still it finally looks like they have found a way to compete at this level and with their comparatively limited resources picking up 4 points in their opening two games is very credible indeed.  They face Valencia in their next two group games and if they can scrape draws in those they could yet qualify from this group.

All five British representatives are unbeaten at this stage of the competition with Chelsea & Arsenal both winning last night.

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Tottenham & FC Twente Make Impresive Champions League Debuts

FC Twente emblem
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Tottenham Hotspurs and Dutch champions FC Twente both had credible results in their Champions League Group stage debuts last night. Tottenham raced into a 2 goal lead in Germany against Werder Bremen, however they couldn’t hold out and ended up being pegged back to 2-2. Overall Werder Bremen cheered on by a 40,000 crowd did create enough chances to win the game and Spurs will be very pleased to have effectively taken the edge against their rival in what looks like being a pretty competitive group.

The other debutant FC Twente also took the lead at home to holders Inter Milan before they were also pegged back to 2-2. This was another impressive performance and the forthcoming between these two, even at this early stage looks like being highly significant in the battle to qualify for the next stages.

Both the other debutant teams found life a bit harder with Turkish champions Bursaspor losing 4-0 at home to Valencia, and Hapoel Tel-Aviv faring little better in a 2-0 defeat against Benfica.Neither look likely to progress in the competition.

Tonight the remaining two teams also have pretty tough tasks with FC Braga facing Arsenal and MSK Zilina taking on Chelsea. It will be a major shock if any of this years group stage “new boys” manage to kick off with a win now.

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Champions League Draw Throws Up Some Tough Groups

Although there are no easy games at this level of the Champions League some of the seeded teams will be decidedly happier than others with the way the draw panned out.  Of the five remaining British representatives Manchester United and Chelsea will be quietly confident of progressing as group winners, while Arsenal barring a major form collapse should at least qualify. Sadly the same cant be said for both Spurs and Glasgow Rangers, both of whom would have been hoping for a kinder draw.


Crouch Hat Trick Does The Job For Spurs In Champions League

Jermain Defoe
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Having been 3-0 down at one stage Tottenham Hotspurs comfortably negotiated the Champions League knock out stages to earn their first ever group stage appearance.

Trailing 3-2 from the 1st leg, a game in which Young Boys really should have been out of site in by half time, Tottenham knowing what was needed set about the task well and it was no surprise when Crouch leveled the aggregate scores after 5 minutes.  Then when Defoe added a second with the help of a blatant hand ball you knew it was going to be spurs night. Peter Crouch put the tie beyond their Swiss opponents with a third early in the second half and then duly completed his hat trick from the penalty spot.

Spurs will now join the group stages in the third tier ensuring they don’t get an easy ride to the next stages. Still with over £11m assured now the pressure is off to a degree. They will know their fate today when the groups are drawn and although they cant meet any of the other English clubs at this stage they could end up with Inter Milan, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Real Madrid are in pot two so the could also end up with them in what would be the competitions group of death.

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