Wednesday, February 18, 2015

UEFA Champions League Preview February 18

Well I guess it is safe to say my Shakhtar, Bayern Munich prediction has been well off. I did not factor the field conditions coming into play(as well as Xabi Alonso getting a red card). 
However, Bayern will be back in more familar territory as they will be back to the Allianz Arena. Today's matchups consists of two teams commonly unknown to the casual soccer fan and another set off teams that are more popular to the world of sports. 
FC Basel vs Porto and defending champions Real Madrid vs Schalke. 
While Schalke may have a tough battle on their hands, the other matchup presents an interesting spectacle that can go either way as Basel and Porto as both teams are not the average clubs you see on everyday television. 
The first day of Champions League play came out in draws, can these two matches provide more excitement?

FC Basel vs Porto

Possible lineups(Basel): Vaclík; Xhaka, Samuel, Suchý, Safari; Frei, Elneny; González, Zuffi, Gashi; Streller.• Out: Ivanov (knee), Schär (suspended)• Doubtful: Gashi (fatigue)

Possible lineups(Porto): Fabiano; Alex Sandro, Maicon, Marcano, Danilo; Casemiro, Herrera, Óliver Torres; Brahimi, Quaresma, Martínez.
• Out: none
Porto boasts a young squad full of flashy and quick players.
Porto have won the Champions League under the management of Jose Mourinho, they have also won four trophies in one season under Andre Villas-Boas, can current manager Julen Lopetegui replicate half the success these past household managers started in Porto? He will certainly hope so as Porto stood the only team undefeated in the group stage.
 Porto boasts a young exuberant squad of players with lively talent. Lopetegui took advantage of the loan market with players such as Casemiro and Oliver Torres from Real and Atletico Madrid respectively.  
Casemiro adds an anchor in the midfield while Oliver is a creative maestro along the lines of a young Iniesta in terms of his play style. 
The wings are dangerous as well for Porto as Brahmi and Quaresma can definitely surge up the flanks and dazzle observers with their flair. Oh and did I forget to say that striker Jackson Martinez has scored 21 goals throughout 25 appearances?

Shkelzen Gashi doubtful today.
Basel are walking to this knockout stage as underdogs, but they are no slouch either. This Switz club is known for giving young players a chance and have seen wingers like Xherdan Shaqiri and Mohamed Salah come up through the ranks. Basel was also famous for upsetting Fergie's Manchester United in 2011 . 
This current Basel team may be without their leading goalscorer Shkelzen Gashi who is battling fatigue. Gashi has 13 goals in the season in only 17 appearances playing from the midfield. 
Basel will still have the leadership provided by Fabian Frei and longtime Basel legend Marco Streller. Basel's top defender Fabian Schar will also be suspended and this may prove the difference for Basel as they never won a Champions League match against a Portuguese side.  

Porto Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Basel Key Player: Fabian Frei
Aggregate: Porto (3-1)

Schalke vs Real Madrid

Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo; Lucas Silva, Kroos, Isco; Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema.
• Out: James Rodríguez (right foot), Khedira (hamstring), Ramos (hamstring), Modrić (thigh)

Schalke: Wellenreuther; Höwedes, Matip, Nastasić; Uchida, Fuchs; Kirchhoff, Höger, Boateng; Choupo-Moting, Huntelaar.
• Out: Fährmann (knee), Kolašinac (knee), Goretzka (hamstring), Draxler (hamstring), Farfán (knee), Obasi (shinbone), Giefer (groin)
Can Real Madrid replicate Champions League success again?
Real Madrid have changed since winning the Champions League trophy, out with Xabi Alonso, in with Toni Kroos, out with Angel Di Maria, in with James Rodriguez (who's injured with a broken foot). Real Madrid are definitely the modern day Galaticos, buying every single player known to man and will sell off a player of lesser popularity to stay under Financial Fair Play. 
Cristiano Ronaldo has been struggling scoring only 4 goals in the last 10 appearances and apparently has been taking boxing lessons 
Even if Cristiano Ronaldo is struggling with form Real Madrid has alot of ammo in their artillery with the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Isco. 

He parked the bus before, will he park it again?
Real Madrid does not have the only manager with past Champions League glory, Schalke manager Roberto Di Matteo won the Champions League in 2012 with his park-the-bus style Chelsea. 
After coming mid season as manager, Di Matteo has brought the German club to fourth on the table. Schalke will be rather unlucky as quite their key players are dealing with injuries, Jefferson FarFan and Julian Draxler will be missed on the flanks. Schalke will also be missing first choice keeper Fabian Giefer. 
Although he is serving a domestic ban, Klass-Jan Huntelaar will be available for the Champions League however they will be missing too much players to injury to stand a chance against the defending champions.

Madrid Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Schalke Key Player(s): Partnership of Matip and Howedes

Aggregate: Real Madrid (5-2)