TOUCHLINEUI IS 1!  

They say actions speak louder than words. At Touchlineui, we believe that pictures also speak louder than words. And that is why we find it appropriate to celebrate our 1st year anniversary with pictures that depict all that we stand for here.

Wow! It’s been 12 months of bliss and we give you 12 special pictures. You, our esteemed readers, are the source of this bliss. We cannot be here without you; it is because of you we work day and night and your comments and views keep encouraging us to strive more. These pictures inspire belief and determination and that is what you give to us. This is for you, yes you!

Fig 1: A goal to remember, a moment of pure brilliance from Rooney against Man City

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Fig 2: What do you see? I see the heavens open and the lamb of God..Even in the face of hardship and pain, you keep us going

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Fig 3: When we fall, it’s the point to learn how to rise

Fig 4: O.k, this is hilarious and crazy; for you, we can go to this length (well,maybe)

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Fig 5: Uhm, which is more brilliant, the dive or the goal?.. singing, we’ll catch a grenade for you

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Fig 6: What is there to say, we never give up (though i think he did)

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Fig 7: An headstand, ah! this one is hard

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Fig 8: Our eyes are surely focused; rest assured, we always touchdown here in touchline

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Fig 9: As long as it is for you….

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Fig 10: Even with our eyes closed, we never miss or the goal

 

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Fig 11: We never say never (oops! just did that). O.K, we never say die (now that is better)

 

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Fig 12: This is so good, we had to take it twice. An epitome of all we stand for here. You’ve made us believe that nothing is impossible, no height is unattainable, no feat unrealistic, no jump too hard…

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Happy birthday Touchlineui! Hurray Touchlineui is 1!! Consequently, Touchlineui will be sending out birthday gifts to its faithful readers. To 4 special readers: the first 3 people to comment on this article and the reader with the highest comments overall. Please note that these gifts are only available to those within Nigeria. Kindly drop your phone numbers as you comment. Thanks.

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TOUCHLINE UI:ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS THUS FAR: THE RANKINGS DON’T LIE!

By Samuel Soladoye

 

 

 

At the season-ending tournament in London, the second round of matches in both groups has been concluded with Novak Djokovic’s demolition of Stanislas Wawrinka on Wednesday night. Federer has been in the grove while Novak Djokovic has been on fire. One of the most interesting features of the singles encounters so far decided is that no match has been decided in three sets; in fact, no match has been fiercely contested.The first match of the tourney saw Kei Nishikori topping Andy Murray 6-4, 6-4. The second match of the day saw Roger Federer exert sweet revenge on Raonic following his loss to him in Paris. The 17-time major winner saw off the young Canadian 6-1, 7-6(0).

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In Group A’s opener, Stanislas Wawrinka was in devastating form as he blitzed through his duel with Tomas Berdych dropping only two games; 6-1, 6-1. Novak Djokovic must have been jealous of the Swiss’ feat and finished off Marin Cilic, the US Open Champion, in similar fashion; 6-1, 6-1.’

The first of the second round of matches in Group B featured the winners of Sunday’s matches and Roger Federer demonstrated his superiority over Nishikori winning 6-3, 6-2. In the night’s session, Andy Murray, in what has thus far remained the most competitive of matches at the 02 Arena, saw off Milos Raonic in straights sets; 6-3, 7-5. In Group A, Tomas Berdych revived the hopes of qualification by sweeping aside Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1. In what was anticipated as the blockbuster thus far, Novak Djokovic firmly displayed his dominance by hammering Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-0. Dominance as depicted by the rankings? The players at the tourney are ranked as shown below.

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Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer

Stanislas Wawrinka

Kei Nishikori

Andy Murray

Tomas Berdych

Milos Raonic

Marin Cilic

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Perhaps, the most intriguing of facts thus far is that no player has beaten an opponent ranked above him (you can do a check with the round up and the rankings). Ever questioned the credibility of the ATP rankings? The ATP defines the rankings as “… the merit-based objective method…” and this stance is quite unquestionable, at least as the displays thus far at the 02 Arena suggest.  It is settled that in a tennis match, like the game of thrones, ‘there is no middle ground’ and the ATP rankings provide the hierarchy. However, the reality is that the hierarchy has never been the static reflection of the abilities of players. Otherwise, the lads battling at the 02 would never have been there. In fact, a Roger Federer would never have risen atop the pack and the Serb, who rules at the moment, won’t be in the race to end the season as number 1 for the third time. It’s high time a remainder was posted that the beauty of sports, sometimes, is found in upsets. If the routine thus far remains the governing norm at the 02, then there is no stopping Novak Djokovic’s triumph over Roger Federer in the final come the 16th day of November. On the 7th of September, Novak Djokovic was brought down to planet earth in shocking fashion by Kei Nishikori in their semi-final match at Flushing Meadows. The 14th ranked Marin Cilic, who emerged Champion at the US Open made it to the final after stunning a certain Roger Federer in straight sets. Wawrinka was king at Aussie Open crushing Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Wawrinka has on several occasions this season fallen to opponents ranked outside the top 20 this season and Federer suffered a fourth round loss at Roland Garros in the hands of Ernest Gulbis; upsets are part of the game and will be around forever. What is unknown is if they will spring up at the 02 and how soon they really will.

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Stanislas Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic have each branded this ‘season career-best’ thus far. I am pretty sure same goes for Milos. I am more certain their bests have not come by an allegiance to keeping the hierarchical order on the South African Airway Rankings. Let’s get the upsets shows on! Till then, enjoy!

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS GROUP B PREVIEW: THE MEN V. THE ROOKIES

By Samuel Soladoye

The 02 Arena in London is ready to host the big guns in the game of men’s singles tennis as the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals come to town from the 9th day of November to the 16th day of November, 2014. It promises great tennis as well as fascinating sights. The stage is set for the showdowns. I will gladly put you through those in Group B; Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. It’s a mixture of experience and its opposite, at this stage, as Andy Murray (5) and Roger Federer (12) have a total of 17 tourney appearances between them while Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori are making their first appearances at the season-ending event; the men are pitched against the rookies. Experience is vital but it wouldn’t be apocalypse if we see a rookie rocking it like it is concert-time at the 02 Arena. The doors to the semis in the group are firmly held wide and ajar. Each of these players is in London due to his fortunes during a very long season. This article, in making a case for the chance of progression of each player, considers their season among other factors.

 

 

 

 

 

ROGER FEDERER

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The Swiss enters the tournament for a record 13th straight year as the most successful man in the history of the tournament. He has won the crown at 02 a record six times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 & 2011). It is particularly more impressive when you get to know he has won five of those six without being beaten as he lost once on his route to the final in 2007; are we still talking tennis? In his 12 visits to the World Tour Finals, he has only failed on just two occasions (2002 and 2008) to make it out of the group stage. He has compiled a total of 44-11 as match record at the Tour finals. The 33-year old, though failed to win a major this year, enters the tourney with the best match record on tour this season with his 68-11 match record. It has been an impressively brilliant campaign for the father of four who has risen from a lowly World No. 8 to within reachable distance of the pinnacle of the ATP World tour rankings as he battles it all out with Novak Djokovic in the race to finish the year as No. 1. He has five titles to show for his successful season with triumphs at Dubai, Halle, Cincinnati, Basel and the hitherto elusive Shanghai Masters. The world No. 2 has only lost once in fifteen matches as his 14-match winning streak was snapped at the Paris Masters by Milos Raonic, a group opponent at this year’s tourney. Talking group opponents, the Swiss hold an advantageous 19-14 (11-11 against Andy Murray, 2-2 to Kei Nishikori and 6-1 against Milos Raonic) match record in total. He has however met Andy Murray thrice at the tourney and has got the better of the Brit on the three occasions. His last match before this tourney saw him lose out to Raonic, young Canadian for the first time in seven matches and he gets the chance to set things straight as he starts out against Raonic later on Sunday.

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The saintly Federer, who was just awarded the ATP Fans’ Favourites for a record 12th straight year will be looking to use his charm on the London crowd once again; the charm which once got him their support over their very own Andy Murray in 2011. Federer is Federer and should all things remain equal, with his impressive indoors record, the trip to the semis should be as easy as the adventure to the net we have become used to in recent times.

 

KEI NISHIKORI

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The 24-year old Japanese is in London after a great season which sees him ranked No. 5 in the world. His qualification makes him the first Asian player to ever qualify for the Tour Finals. He boasts of a 52-12 match record this season with four titles this season for his tourney-conquests at Kuala Lumpur, Memphis, Barcelona and Tokyo. The Japanese made it to the finals of the US Open losing to Marin Cilic in straight sets. He starts out against Andy Murray against whom he has never won in three attempts. It must be mentioned though that their most recent meeting was at Brisbane in 2013 and the gap between both players has since being breached and if the rankings are to be put into consideration, the Scot is quite well behind Kei. He has a total match record of 6-6 against group opponents as he is tied with Federer on 2-2 and holds an impressive 4-1 record over Milos Raonic. It is up to the young gun to justify his place on the rankings when he takes to court in the first singles’ match of the tourney.

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ANDY MURRAY

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The 27-year old who missed out on this tournament due to a back surgery last year endured a frustrating season prior to the fall. He seems to be rediscovering the form that got him as high as world No. 2 and two grand slam titles. It is his 6th appearance at the Tour finals having made it five consecutive appearances before missing out on last year’s. His best result at the 02 Arena has been in the form of semi-final appearances in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Murray’s greatest challenge will be Roger Federer, whom he has lost to thrice at the 02 Arena and if he must conquer the Swiss maestro, he knows he needs the crowd. Since the US Open, he has compiled a massive 20-3 match record and has titles at Shenzhen, Valencia and Vienna to show for his efforts. His cumulative match record against group opponents is at a modest 15-14 as he is 11-11 against Federer, 3-0 against Kei Nishikori and 1-3 against Milos Raonic. Andy’s fine form must continue if he is to proceed from this group and his first match against Kei Nishikori, to me, presents him perfect opportunity to bag a win; it should be quite safer from there.

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MILOS RAONIC

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The young Canadian will be hoping his serving prowess will come in handy as he makes his debut at the Tour Finals. He is at the tournament after a career-best season with a match record of 48-18 and an ATP 500 tour title at Washington D.C. the 23-year old has little or nothing to lose and his experience here will be of great use in the promisingly future that looms ahead of him. He must however be ready and who says that “future” cannot start this week? The semi-finalist at Wimbledon will be hoping his deficit 5-11 cumulative record against his group opponents will be mere numbers. He starts out against the great Roger Federer and will be hoping to carry on from his giant-strangling win over the Swiss in Paris, the first and only win in 7 matches. Perhaps, another interesting point is the hold he has got over Andy Murray who he has bossed on three out of four meetings, a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win at Indian Wells their most recent encounter. Against Kei Nishikori, he has won just once in 5 meetings and will need to improve if he is to make a mark at the season-ending show.

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The stage is set and the men are raring to go. You might disagree as you have the right to but I believe it is just a matter of days before the men are separated from the lads; my picks for the semis are ROGER FEDERER and ANDY MURRAY but the young shall grow someday.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.atpworldtour.com

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS GROUP A: TOUCHLINE UI PREVIEWS THE SLAM-WINNERS’GROUP

By Samuel Soladoye

It is the season-ending tourney where the ATP World Tour Rankings’ top Eight (8) players at the end of an always fun-filled, gruelling and brutally scheduled ATP season battle it all out for the crown at the 02 Arena between the 9th day of November and the 16th day of November, 2014. It is the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and this piece previews and predicts the robin round matches of Group A which features Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic; you can as well bank on it to be a great showpiece. Group A is the group for the Slam winners this year. Group B does not feature a winner of a major in 2014. The only slam conqueror absent from Group A, Rafael Nadal, is absent from the tourney all together. The chances of each player to progress from the group stage are presently considered. These are the best guys on tour and be sure to be served the best of tennis over the course of the coming week.

 

 

 

 

 

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

He has undoubtedly been the best player on tour for the past four seasons since his amazing breakthrough year in 2011. The Serb became a father recently and what effect fatherhood would have on the gluten-free World No. 1 is as yet unclear as life itself. It is still early days but if his form at the Paris Masters, his first tournament after Stephan’s birth, is anything to go buy, there could just be an unlikely extra motivational weapon added to the arsenal of the mentally-astute man from Belgrade. Another point worthy of note is that he is still in the battle with Roger Federer to end the year as No. 1 though it is pretty much closer to being in the bag after his triumph in Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

With Djokovic head-to-head record against his group opponents, it would seem improbable as it sounds that the two-time defending champion will fail to make it to out of the group stage. He holds a flawless 10-0 lead over Marin Cilic, 15-3 advantage over Stanislas Wawrinka as well as a whooping 16-2 record over Tomas Berdych. The sum total is a 41-5 advantage over his group opponents; Quite massive?  He has won the tourney on three occasions, the last two years and the 2009 event. Also, the 27-year old in on a 27-match win streak indoors and with Wimbledon, five other titles including his recent conquest at the Paris Masters and a 57-8 match record to show for his efforts so far this year, it is highly impossible to predict that he would stumble on his path to the semis.

 

 

 

 

 

STANISLAS WAWRINKA

The 29-year old will be hoping to cap up a year which started out amazingly for him in the most befitting fashion. His total head-to-head against the group which stands at 19-22 is at deficit largely due to 15 losses suffered against a certain Novak Djokovic. He holds a surplus with his 9-5 match record over Tomas Berdych while he enjoys a 7-2 advantage over Marin Cilic.  He has an incredibly brilliant 6-1 record over top 10 opponents this season but has struggled to bring the goods against players of lower rankings. Well, he is saved that trouble for now.

 

 

 

 

 

The Swiss comes to London for the 2nd time and second consecutive year, despite the inconsistent displays that have plagued his season, on the back of a successful campaign with 3 titles in the bag underlined by his triumphs at the Australian Open and Monte Carlo. The Davis Cup finalist also won the Chennai title and holds a 36-15 record on tour. The Swiss needs to rediscover his early season form to stand any chance of progressing. Last year, it was a semi-final finish which was ended by Novak Djokovic, the eventual champion. It is hard to tell which of the “Stans will show up in London; the erratic Stan or the champion at “Down Under”?

TOMAS BERDYCH

 

 

 

 

 

The Czech is in London for the fifth straight year and enters the draw on the back of a largely frustrating campaign with a 54-20 match record and two titles at Stockholm and Rotterdam where he dispatched Marin Cilic in straight sets. He is the only player in the group who has failed to win a slam this season or ever. In his four appearances thus far in London, he piled up a record of 5-8 at the tourney. He has made it past the group stage just once and fell at the semi final stage in 2011 to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. He has lost to all his group opponents this season. A more interesting statistic is the fact that he comes into the tourney having suffered a loss in each of his last encounters against each opponent. He lost to Djokovic at the China Open (0-6, 2-6), to Stanislas Wawrinka at the Aussie Open (3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-7) and to Marin Cilic at the US Open (6-2, 6-4, 7-6). He has a 12-29 total head-to-head record against his group opponents no thanks to Novak Djokovic (2-16 against Djokovic, 5-4 against Cilic and 5-9 against Stan). I however believe the favour done to the 29-year old is the schedule of his matches. He starts on Monday, 10th November, 2014 against Stanislas Wawrinka who he is, interestingly, 4-0 against indoors. Just as he admitted on Friday, it is just the other spot to play for and it must be big relief he is not starting out against the man he claims has owned a spot for himself.

MARIN CILIC

 

 

 

 

 

The Croat bagged his place at the Tour Final for the first time but he is not new to ‘first things’. He recently became the first Croat to win a grand slam title since his coach Goran, Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon in 2001 by winning the 2014 US Open, beating fellow Tour finalist Kei Nishikori in straights sets. Also, he became the first man ranked outside the top 10 since Pete Sampras to win the US Open and he is the first no. 14 seed to win a grand slam in the Open Era. He has won 13 career titles and promisingly, 6 of those titles have come on indoor hard courts. He is on a total record of 6-22 against group opponents having not beaten Djokovic in ten attempts; quite worrisome news as he starts off against the Serb. He has compiled a 54-18 record on tour this year and has an impressive return of 4 titles (Zagreb, Delray Beach, US Open and Moscow) to flaunt for his efforts. “Chila” who has a deficit in his match records against all his group opponents will have to deny odds to make it through to the semis. And if you are wondering if he could an odd-defying stunt, his triumph at Flushing Meadows answers you in the affirmative.

Your curiosity will be dispelled in days!

MY PICK FOR THE SEMIS: NOVAK DJOKOVIC, TOMAS BERDYCH

Till then, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.atpworldtour.com

TOUCHLINEUI: UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCHDAY FOUR TALKING POINTS (GROUP A-D)

Tuesday’s match day four fixtures of the UEFA Champions League had a total of 27 goals, comebacks, mauling, anxious moments and of course talking points. TOUCHLINEUI will examine the talking points of what was a thrilling night of European top tier football. We’ll examine it on a group-to-group basis.

 

 

 

 

GROUP A

WELCOME TO THE 100 CLUB

 

 

 

 

Tuesday’s matchup between Italian Champions, Juventus and Greek giants, Olympiakos saw Andrea Pirlo become the 29th player to make 100 or more appearances in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League Competition. The Italian joins the likes of Maldini, Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Xavi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Oliver Kahn, Carles Puyol, Edwin Van Der Sar, Iker Casillas, Petr Cech, Victor Valdes, Roar Strand, Luis Figo, Raul, Roberto Carlos, Andriy Shevchenko, David Beckham, Javier Zanetti, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Clarence Seedorf, Gary Neville, Ashley Cole, Fernando Morientes and Oleksander Shovkovskiy in the exclusive list. To mark the occasion, the deep lying playmaker celebrated the occasion by scoring a sublime freekick that briefly put the Turin side ahead. Congrats Andrea Pirlo!

Teaser: Out of the 29 players, how many achieved the feat with a single club?

 

 

 

 

ATLETICO MADRID IN CONTROL OF GROUP A

After a shock opening day defeat in the hands of Olympiakos, questions were raised as to how Diego Simeone’s men will respond. How did they respond? The Atletico way! Since the defeat in Greece, Los Colchoneros have won their next three games, scoring 8 goals and conceding none. Another victory at home to Olympiakos will guarantee their European adventure into February and should Juventus drop points away to Malmo, then the clash between Juventus and Atletico Madrid on match day six will be a dead rubber for the Los Rojiblancos. It is still too early to say whether they will replicate last season’s run to final but at this rate, it will take some beating to stop them.

 

 

 

 

FLEXIBLE JUVENTUS

While Juventus have in recent years dominated domestically, they have been far from it on the continent. Quarter final exit to Bayern Munchen in 2013 and a group stage exit last term have seen them labeled with the unwanted tag of “local champions”. This was however partially due to the refusal of then coach, Antonio Conte to tinker with his favored 3-5-2 formation to suit the demands of European football. The formation, though brilliant, could be exposed by teams who overload the flanks. Bayern with Ribery/Alaba and Robben/Lahm exposed it in 2013 while Real Madrid with Marcelo/Ronaldo and Bale/Carvajal exposed its flaws last year. Yesterday’s match against Olympiakos saw new coach, Allegri switch to the 4-4-2 formation and it resulted in a 3-2 comeback win for the Old Lady. While it will take some time to get used to, it provides a number of variables for the Italians and makes the Bianconeri less predictable.

 

 

 

 

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD

Juventus 3-2 over Olympiakos was a much needed one but it has put Bianconeri in a tight corner. Should Juventus and the Greek side finish level on points after the group stage; the Greek giants will advance based on the infamous head to head rule. Olympiakos beat Juventus 1-0 at the Karaiskakis Stadium and subsequently scored two away goals at the Juventus Stadium which puts the Thrylos at an advantage should they be tied on the same points after match day six.

 

 

 

 

GROUP B

CAN ANYONE STOP REAL MADRID FROM RETAINING THE CUP?

Real Madrid’s hard fought 1-0 win on Tuesday extended their winning streak to twelve (47 goals scored and 7 conceded). At the moment very few teams can keep up with the frightening talent in the team. After the sale of Alonso and Di Maria, most pundits and fans feared the worst but credit must however be given to Carlo Ancelotti for steadying the ship after a rocky start. In the Blancos twelve match winning run, they have taken scalp of teams like Barcelona and Liverpool (twice), the latter being the latest victims. Unlike Bayern (the defending champions last year) that looked vulnerable at the back, it is hard to point out any weaknesses in this Madrid team. The lack of a pivot was pointed out as a potential weakness but the 3-1 Clasico win has shown that the likes of Modric and Kroos can play against the very best in the middle of the park. At the back, Casillas, for all his gaffe of recent, is still a very fine shot stopper; Carvajal, though raw, has improved; Ramos is arguably the best centre back in modern football while Pepe and Varane are fantastic sidekicks; at the left back, Marcelo has been brilliant and Coentrao is also a decent option. In the midfield, Kroos and Modric have developed a fine partnership with Khedira and Illara waiting in their wings. Upfront, Rodriguez is gradually churning impressive performances after an underwhelming start to his Madrid career. Then the BBC! Ah, Benzema is at the moment the best striker in the world and he is also Madrid top scorer in Europe this term, Bale is threat down the flanks and can score goals and let’s not forget the World’s best Player, Cristiano Ronaldo who already has twenty-two goals and just keeps getting better.

 

 

 

 

The question now is CAN ANYONE STOP THE MERENGUES? On current form, it looks a tall order. However, history has shown that no one has ever retained the UEFA Champions League. Will they become the first to break that jinx? Time will certainly tell.

RONALDO HAS TO WAIT!
Cristiano Ronaldo went into the game against Liverpool on 70 Champions League goals, one shy of equaling the record set by Spain and Real Madrid legend, Raul. However it was not to be his night as he was thwarted by Mignolet, Toure, poor finish and control. The Portuguese seemed too eager to equal the record and he tried too hard to etch his name in glory. The 29 year old will have to wait till the 26th of November when Real plays Basel.

 

 

 

 

LIVERPOOL RESERVES GIVE RODGERS FOOD FOR THOUGHT

I have been surprised by some of the criticism Rodgers has gotten over his team selection. I feel it was the right thing to do considering the fact that their hopes did not lie on the match. Their Champions League fate lies on their next two games away to Ludogorets and the home clash against Basel. With a blockbuster clash against Chelsea on Sunday, which they can win and move up in the table, why not give the non-starters a run-out and rest the likes of Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling, Coutinho, Lovren, Glen Johnson and Balotelli a break especially when you consider the fact that six of those players rank in the top ten of Premier League minutes played this season.

 

 

 

 

Despite the uproar the former Swansea boss’ selection caused, credit must however be given to the lads that came in. Kolo Toure was exceptional, denying Cristiano Ronaldo a couple of times. Lucas Leiva and Emre Can and Joe Allen were sound defensively and stuck to their guns. Up front Markovic had a decent game though his decision making let him down while Borini and Lallana worked their socks off. These players have given Rodgers a food for thought going into Sunday’s clash which is a welcome problem especially with some of the regulars flattering to deceive this season.

KOLO TOURE’S GAME BY NUMBER

Tackles won: 100%

Clearances: 6

Blocks: 7

Interceptions: 1

Squawka Football @Squawka

Great job boys, up next, Chelsea!

 

GROUP C

 

 

 

 

ALL TO PLAY FOR

Bayer Leverkusen’s win in Russia saw them move four points off their nearest challengers, Monaco, meaning they have a foot in the next round. However, there is still a lot to play for the likes of Monaco (5 pts), Zenit (4pts) and Benfica (4pts) with two rounds of fixtures to go. Talisca’s late goal for Benfica against Monaco put them back in the mix after a poor start to the campaign. With nine points, Leverkusen is almost there and with a home game to come against Monaco, they will fancy their chances. Zenit will host Benfica on the 26th of November as the Russians look to bounce from a disappointing home loss on Tuesday. The group has been called the Group of Even Sides and with two match days to go, it is living to that billing.

RUSSIAN DISAPPOINTMENT IN EUROPE

 

 

 

 

Zenit’s hopes of qualification took a huge blow on Tuesday thanks to a disappointing home loss to Leverkusen. Apart from the qualification blow the defeat landed, it also showed how far Villas Boas men are from the zenith. After a brilliant start in which they beat Benfica 2-0 in Portugal, the Gazprom sponsored side has picked up just a point from the following three games. Thankfully, no one has run away with the group. This contrasts with their domestic form where they are undefeated, having won ten out of their opening twelve fixtures. They are currently four points clear of another Champions League struggler, CSKA Moscow. Local Champions you call them? You are not far from the truth.

GROUP D

 

 

 

 

BRILLIANT DORTMUND!

On Tuesday, Borussia Dortmund became one of the two sides, the other Real Madrid, to extend their Champions League campaign to February thanks to a comprehensive 4-1 win over Galatasaray at
the Signal Iduna Park. The victory also means they need a win from their next two games (away to Arsenal and at home to Anderlecht) to secure top spot and a favorable draw in the knockout. They are one of the three sides, the others Real Madrid and Bayern Munchen, with a 100% percent record. The Blacks and Yellows have found the back of the net thirteen times and have let in just one, which was on match day four.

 

 

 

 

This however contrasts with their terrible domestic form where they lie 17th on the log with just 7 points from a possible 30! Klopp’s men have the longest losing run which stands at five and they have won more games in the Champions League (4) than in the Bundesliga (2). Strange! Despite their poor form in the German division, their Champions League form suggest that they are still very much up there with the best and at full strength can go toe to toe with the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munchen, Chelsea and Barcelona. Another 2013 mazy run in the offing?

WAS IT THE EMIRATES OR ISTANBUL?

 

 

 

 

Arsenal also went into Tuesday’s round of fixtures knowing a victory against Anderlecht coupled with a victory for Dortmund will ensure their qualification to the next round and make their home clash against Dortmund on the 26th of November a final. A Mikel Arteta penalty and an Alexis Sanchez volley after his free kick put the Gunners in control and left the Belgians stunned. A second half finish from the Oxlade looked to have Wenger’s men in full control until the unthinkable happened. A Vanden Borre finish, though clearly offside, looked a consolation until Monreal for best reasons known to him presented a penalty gift to Borre who took it with all gladness and put the Belgians on a comeback trail. Still it looked the Gunners would hold out but the Purple and Whites had other ideas and completed the comeback with a superb header from Aleksander Mitrovic.

Credit must be given to Anderlecht for staging such a comeback but what however surprised me is the way the Gunners collapsed in the space of thirty minutes. The first goal, though offside, was as a result of failure to pick up your man in the box, the second goal shows everyone why Monreal is not a central defender and why Wenger should or should have dipped his hands in the market during the summer window and buy a centre back, the third goal resulted from Per Mertesacker’s failure to keep to a simple training rule which is-do not allow your opponent run ahead of you. Another thing that surprised me is Wenger’s willingness to play a highline despite the fact Mertesacker does not ring a bell as a fast defender. While playing a highline pushes the opposition back, it leaves the attacking prone to being caught on the break or through balls played behind the defence. Fabregas assist for Diego Costa goal against Arsenal and Chelsea’s 6-0 demolition of Arsenal last season shows the flaws of a highline. A team with a better strength upfront would have exposed Arsenal’s defensive vulnerabilities. Also, why would Wenger bring in Podolski and Rosicky when it was in 3-2 instead of trying to see out the game?

 

 

 

 

Arsenal’s 30 minute collapse means their match day home clash against Dortmund will no longer be the final fans dreamed of but a potential dead rubber. With the Germans playing Anderlecht at home on match day six, it will take something special for Arsenal to top Group D. If Arsenal can lose concentration against Anderlecht, then you wonder if the Gunners are ready to take on the big guns.