The Old Lady defies the odds as Barca looms….

Against all odds, underdogs #Juventus came from a goal down in Madrid to tie them 1-1 thanks to another goal by #RealMadrid old boy #Morata (how they must be regretting selling a young rising star like him) and win 3-2 on aggregate to go through to the final of the #ChampionsLeague for an epic showdown against favorites #Barcelona, who cantered past #Bayern 5-3 on aggregate even though the Bavarians were able to stage a comeback 3-2 win in Munich.

Juve came into the tie the over-whelming underdog and started with the 2-1 win in Turin last week. #Ronaldo’s away goal last week meant that a 1-0 would have been all Real needed to go through and that in the end might well have been their psychological undoing, because getting to 1-0 via a Ronaldo penalty happened as early as the 22nd minute for the Los Blancos and thereafter they seemed to have lost their edge and were bereft of ideas when it came to unlocking the Juventus defense. The rumors around #GarethBale’s future at Real will just take on more strength now after his rather disappointing performance that included about 3 misses in front of goal that he would have scored at Tottenham a few years ago with ease. The powers that be at Real tend to shoot from the hip and it wouldn’t be surprising to see some knee-jerk reactions to this campaign that has now ended for them in disaster.

Bayern fans will claim that their 3-2 win at home against Barca will have helped reclaim some lost pride for the Bavarians and the difference between the two teams likely came down to the absence of a couple of Die Roten’s star players to injury (#Robben and #Ribery) but the reality is, unfortunately, a little less rosy – had Barcelona not taken their foot of the pedal in the 2nd half of the game yesterday, Bayern would have been lucky to get a draw at best. While messrs #Messi #Suarez and #Neymar were purring at full tilt, Bayern looked like they would concede goals at just about any time. The absence of their aging stars highlighted just how unprepared they are for the inevitable transition they will need to make from the #RibRob era that has brought so much success to Munich.

For now though, the gorgeous city of Berlin and a chance at glory await the plucky Italians or the mighty Catalans and as much as Barcelona go into this one as even more overwhelming favorites than Real did in their semi-final against Juve, they’ll know full well that the tie ain’t over until the Old Lady sings!

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A giant stumbles it’s way back to the top?

With #Liverpool dropping 2 points in a 1-1 draw to Champions #Chelsea, the labored 1-2 win away at #CrystalPalace (thanks largely to the brilliance of #DeGea in goal) means that #ManchesterUnited will all but clinch that final #ChampionsLeague spot and meet their main goal for this season. For the many that dislike the Red Devils, this is bad news. Armed with the riches that will now be at their disposal this transfer season and with elite European Football back at Old Trafford, expect to see 3 or so big stars joining this side, which has been a WIP for #LVG and as labored and toothless as they’ve been at times this season, they’ve shown signs of what this team can become, given the time and new resources, especially in that rubbish defense. #ManchesterCity seem to have some mojo back after crushing now relegated #QPR 6-0, just as rumors of one #JosepGuardiola making his way to them this summer seem to have made the rounds yesterday, especially after mighty #Bayern are looking anything but, with a 4th straight loss in all competitions!

The #LaLiga crown looks like it’s headed back to the Catalan Giants after their 2-0 win over #Moyes’ #RealSociedad was followed by #RealMadrid drawing 2-2 at home to #Valencia (A missed penalty by their talisman #Ronaldo and another frustrated #Bale performance could well cost them a chance at the title and unless they win the Champions League again, trigger happy Real might well bid farewell to #Carlo and Guten Tag to #JurgenKlopp) A much deserved domestic and ChampionsLeague double looks ever so likely for #Barcelona this season!

#PSG all but retained their crown in France as #Lyon were beaten 3-0 by #Caen and the 6 point difference with 2 games left to play with a 7-goal cushion in hand means that the Parisiens will win yet another #LigueA title and will focus now on adding to their team this summer for a more concerted Champions League challenge, perhaps with #Klopp or #Pep or #Pellegrini as their coach?

#Inter may have left their resurgence a little too late as a wonderful away win at #Lazio sees them 3 points off the #Europa qualification spots. But this trend certainly looks promising for them and #Mancini might bring them back to the elites in the next year or two if finances can be made available to him.

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A good ‘ol Catalan spanking!

#Barcelona are on a different planet right now. They’ve been decimating their hapless #LaLiga victims game after game and most expected them to do well against a #Bayern side that hasn’t played well in a very long time – that they’ve practically won the #Bundesliga is more a reflection on the quality (or lack thereof) in Germany right now and not validation of a team that has actually regressed under #Pep since their treble-winning season of 2013. But a convincing 3-0 win for the Catalan giants at home has all but settled this semi-final and it will require an exceptionally rubbish performance from them in Munich next week  to not make the final. And things would have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for the goalkeeping brilliance of #Neuer who saved die Roten from losing this one by 5 or 6, making for a depressing return to the #NouCamp for one of Barca’s favorite sons.

#LionelMessi is pure genius and is back to his best and he showed exactly why, as he scored 2 delightful goals to take his #ChampionsLeague total to 77 goals and 1 past #CristianoRonaldo, who got to 76 yesterday.

Bayern Munich have been devastating in the past with high tempo, high pressing and super fast transitions. The Pep way isn’t in their core DNA and you can see them struggle (sure, they have some of their stars injured) in what seems like split personality – playing the way they know and playing the way their coach is used to. But even in their defeat (and what seems like a guaranteed exit now) they didn’t park the bus in Barcelona. One #JoseMourinho will argue that they did wrong by themselves and the Club. The neutral spectator though, is very grateful, because they didn’t play it like an away game and it was one of the best CL games in a long time. So there’s atleast that 🙂

A second all-Spanish final could well be on the cards.

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The Old Lady dares to dream…….

The grand old lady of Turin #Juventus put on a spirited display at home and deserved their 2-1 win in the 1st leg of their #ChampionsLeague semi-final against #RealMadrid thanks to goals by old-madrid boy #Morata (how often does that keep happening – there should be a word to define the concept) and the underrated #Tevez. As wonderful as this season has been for them, they will however rue the away goal scored by #Ronaldo (who else?) because it’s going to be very difficult for Juve to keep Real at bay next week in Madrid and even a simple 1-0 will be enough to give LosBlancos an away goal progression to a consecutive final. More worrying though was how many chances the Bianconeri did allow the visitors to create, include a goal mouth headed miss by #James that should not have hit the bar from where he headed it from. You can multiply the chances by 5x back in Madrid and #Allegri will have to channel an ‘ol fashioned Italian defensive masterclass to steer Juventus to their first Champions League final in a long time – their last was 2002-2003!

For Italian Football though, this is a great result. After being in the wilderness for such a long time (#Inter’s triumph over #Bayern in that 2010 finale) it’s exciting for them to have a team in the elite again. The sobering reality though is that Juventus are a million miles ahead of any of the other Italian Clubs and it will take some time before the powerhouses like Inter and #ACMilan and #Roma can beat a Real or Barcelona in the CL.

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Who’s cockier now?

A near perfect campaign by #Chelsea came to it’s near perfect end today as a slim 1-0 win (thank to another goal by PFA Player of the Year winner #EdenHazard) over #CrystalPalace won #Mourinho and his very brave men, the #EPL title for the 2014-2015 season. That they deserved to win it is absolutely undisputed – they were the best balanced side in the Premiership this season by a country mile, right from day of the transfer season, where they wrapped up their business quickly, thoughtfully, astutely and with genuine purpose (and profit – the first title winning team to actually make money in the transfer season) to the way they attacked in the first half of the season while #Costa was fit and #Fabregas was at full tilt, the way Hazard dominated teams all through the season, #Matic’s brilliant midfield enforcement, the way #JohnTerry was a colossus in the back through each and every game and marshaled his incredible back-line of #Ivanovic #Cahill #Azpilicueta and the young #Zouma and finally the way Mourinho managed his team, demolished certain opponents and parked the bus (much to the neutral’s chagrin) against others to grind out results when his team deserved to lose – they just got ‘almost’ (their #ChampionsLeague loss to #PSG) everything right and as much as they are often terribly frustrating to watch and genuinely hard to love, they deserve every bit of this title win, their first since 2010. What this does though, as was evident in Jose’s post match interview where he spoke about just how incredibly great he is because unlike other managers he goes to difficult leagues and wins titles (or something to that effect), is that it makes him even more cocky and arrogant than before (and most would say that is not possible). Much like good ‘ol #Floyd, who now believes he is greater than even he thought he was (!) after his convincing 12-round win over a confused (he thought he was winning, so he let off?) #Manny.

Speaking of giant egos, #LVG and his #ManchesterUnited side on the other hand are once again headed in the wrong direction after a 3rd straight defeat, this time to lowly #WestBrom at #OldTrafford in a game that the Red Devils again dominated but didn’t look like they could score (even from an #RVP penalty) at any time (they’ve gone 3 games without finding the back of the net) and look shorn and bereft of ideas. Playing #RVP as a midfielder (really??) and #Fellaini as the only striker, to the absolute rubbish football that #DiMaria is now peddling, this side will be lucky to cling onto 4th, with #Liverpool winning it’s game against #QPR and now just 4 points behind them. The battle for 2nd will go to the wire between #ManchesterCity (they won 0-1 against #Tottenham today) and #Arsenal who sit 3 points behind them but have 2 games in hand.

#BayernMunich’s preparation for their semi-final against #Barcelona continues to take a dive for the worse, after they were beaten 2-0 at #Leverkusen, while the catalans are just going from strength to strength after they destroyed #Cordoba 0-8 and have now scored 14 unanswered goals in their last 2 games! Unless something changes drastically, the Bavarians will feel much like they did last year at this stage at the hands of the other Spanish giants.

#Juventus finally completed their inevitable march to their 4th consecutive #Scudetto with a 0-1 win at #Sampdoria and now can focus their attention and energy (they’ll need all they can get) to their semi-final against #RealMadrid who kept within touching distance of #LaLiga leaders Barca with a hard fought 2-3 win away to #Sevilla thanks to yet another #CristianoRonaldo hat-trick!

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