The most valuable trophy in European football got a little closer for eight teams this week. The draw for the quarter finals of the Champions League was made last Friday night (NZT) by a bunch of UEFA officials and Luis Figo (the legendary Portuguese player). It was Figo who drew the little plastic footballs out of the bowl, and this is what he ended up with. The first legs are on April 9th & 10th NZT, and we cannot wait!
Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona
Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund
Paris Saint-Germain vs Chelsea
Manchester United vs Bayern Munich
English Premier League
Congratulations to Arsene Wenger, who is in his 18th year of managing Arsenal, after he reached 1000 games in charge this week. Opponents Chelsea have been through 12 managers in the time since Arsene was appointed. The next longest serving manager in the Premier League is Alan Pardew, who has been at Newcastle only since December 2010, and in the entire English Football Association, League Two team Exeter’s Paul Tisdale (June 2006) is the second longest active manager – almost an entire decade shorter than Wenger, who this year also broke the record for the most Premier League matches as Manager (although Sir Alex Ferguson was at Manchester United before the formation of the EPL, when it was still called the First Division):
- Arsene Wenger 666 Premier League matches
- Alex Ferguson 638
- Harry Redknapp 530
- David Moyes 455
- Sam Allardyce 389
Things did not go to plan in the milestone game though. In fact, they could not have gone worse. After 17 minutes, Chelsea were 3-0 up, and Arsenal reduced to ten men after Kieran Gibbs was sent off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s handball in a refereeing howler. It was clearly a red card, but sending off the wrong person! Madness! Ox even said that it was his foul, but at least neither will face suspensions. This was a massive match in the title race, and Arsenal could not have done worse, losing 6-0 in the end. Fellow challengers Liverpool and Manchester City both had huge wins, Liverpool riding a Suarez hattrick to a 6-3 win over Cardiff, and City beating Fulham 5-0. Manchester United beat West Ham 2-0 thanks to one of the goals of the season from Wayne Rooney, while Spurs beat Southampton 3-2 despite the Saints getting off to a 2-0 head start.
There were big wins at the other end of the table for Hull and Norwich (check out Alexander Tettey’s stunner for the Canaries below!), but the rest of the relegation contenders all lost, making the midweek games really important for the likes of West Ham and Sunderland.
Those midweek games started with Manchester City beating rivals United in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford for the third time in a row. Edin Dzeko scored the first goal after just 44 seconds! After that, Manchester United got a little more comfortable, but were never able to threaten City's great defence, and a second Dzeko goal, followed by a late Yaya Toure one gave them a 3-0 win, and 3 valuable points which moved them up to second place. Arsenal only drew with Swansea, 2-2, after Mathieu Flamini scored an own goal near the end. At the same time, Everton easily beat Newcastle 3-0, this Ross Barkley dribble the best of the goals, meaning Everton are only 6 points behind Arsenal now, and still in with a shot of catching them for the last Champions League place. Tomorrow morning West Ham host Hull City, and Sunderland travel to Liverpool, with all four teams needing points.
El Clasico. Or as it would be called in English: The Classic. Things sound better in Spanish, don’t they? Well, if you like your footy games with lots of goals scored, this was a thriller. Andres Iniesta opened the scoring early, before some slack defending let Karim Benzema in for a double, putting league leaders Real Madrid well in the box seat. Lionel Messi popped up to equalise however, before the referee took a hold of proceedings by awarding three penalties in the second half. First, Ronaldo won one for a foul that was probably outside the box, but stepped up himself to make it 3-2. Then Neymar got some revenge, taking a little bit of a dive in the box, for which Sergio Ramos was sent off. Messi converted the spot kick, and with just over 5 minutes left on the clock, he did it again after Iniesta won a penalty trying to squeeze between a couple of defenders. 4-3 final score, and Barca win back three valuable points. Messi is now the all-time leading scorer in El Clasico, with 28 goals. Atletico Madrid won 2-0 away to Real Betis, so there is now just 1 point separating the top 3 clubs in La Liga. Atletico sit on 70, as do Real Madrid, with Barca on 69. Atletico Bilbao are next with 55 points and Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Valencia are all hoping to catch Bilbao for that final Champions League spot. With 9 games remaining, this one is going to be a close finish. Could we see a non-Clasico team winning La Liga for the first time since Valencia a decade ago?
The Rest of Europe
It's all Juventus in Italy. Carlos Tevez is leading the way with 16 goals for the season and once again scored Juve's 1-0 win over a 10 man Catania side. It's hard to see anyone beating Juve for the Scudetto. Below them, AS Roma look a certainty for second place as they beat Chievo 2-0. Fourth place Fiorentina managed to get up over third placed Napoli 1-0 thanks to a late header from Spanish winger Joaquin. Both Milan clubs are struggling mid table but a clash between Fiorentina and AC Milan is definitely one to watch, same with Juventus taking on Parma who are four spots below the league leaders.
Seven weeks remain in the Bundesliga, but it's all a victory lap for the mighty Bayern Munich who sealed the deal on another domestic championship this morning by beating Hertha Berlin 3-1. Bayern Munich have dropped just 4 points in 27 league games, and are completely unbeaten in the Bundesliga. In fact their only two losses in all competitions have come against Dortmund in the German Super Cup, and Manchester City in a meaningless Champions League group stage game. Dortmund won comfortably away on the weekend, and drew 0-0 with Schalke, which keeps Dortmund in second 1 point above Schalke, while Bayer Leverkusen are now just clinging to the final Champions League spot, having now gone 9 games without a win in all comps. They play tomorrow.
It's a similar story in France with PSG likely to emerge champions as they are 10 points clear. They beat a mid table Lorient team 1-0 and appear to have the title all but wrapped up. Below them Monaco and Lille sit second and third after a 1-1 draw was played out between the two over the weekend. This means that Monaco dropped back in the race to catch PSG while also allowing Lille some hope in catching Monaco.
The Wellington Phoenix were easily beaten on the weekend, 5-0 by Newcastle. It has been tough for the Nix after a terrible start, and then just too many injuries ever since. Carlos Hernandez was missing again for this game. The loss means that the Phoenix probably need to win all of their final three games to make the playoffs. They host Adelaide on Sunday. Elsewhere, Brisbane continue to look like favourites, beating Melbourne Victory 1-0 thanks to a very late Luke Brattan goal. Adelaide climbed into a playoff spot by winning 3-1 over Sydney, who drop to 7th, Western Sydney moved up to second by easily seeing off a struggling Perth team, and Central Coast did their playoff chances a big favour by coming back from a goal down to beat Melbourne Heart 2-1, though it was Orlando Engelaar's opening goal that stole the headlines. How good is this!
Completely Flukey Goal of the Week
There were some great goals this week, some of the best we've ever seen! But how about this one from the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, scored by Al-Wehdat striker Motaz Salhani.