Tag Archive: UEFA Champions League


It is official, José Mourinho has returned. The man whose first press conference in England saw him famously describe himself not as “the special one”, as the press claimed, but “a special one“.

Back for Mour | José Mourinho is back. (Image | The Mirror)

Back for Mour | José Mourinho signed a four-year contract with Chelsea on Monday to return as manager after a six-year absence. (Image | The Mirror)

However, as Mark Twain said: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” For Mourinho returning to Chelsea on Monday is a very good story indeed.

As the most successful manager in the club’s history, adored by the fans and one of few men to win the treble, with Inter Milan, and lift the European Cup twice, what could possibly go wrong?

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When the rumours about Sir Alex Ferguson retiring first surfaced on Twitter late on Tuesday evening, sparked by Daily Telegraph journalist Mark Ogden, I was sceptical.

CAPTION | Words. (Image | The Guardian)

End of an era | Some commentators have dubbed Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement the “fall of the footballing Berlin Wall”. (Image | The Guardian)

After all, Ferguson had planned to retire back in 2001, only to recant. The venerable Scot was such a fixture in British football that the thought of him no longer prowling the Old Trafford touchline, while incessantly chomping on a stick of chewing gum, seemed a too absurd a prospect to countenance.

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With the UEFA Champions League round of 16 fixtures beginning today, and a few of the ties delicately poised, The Armchair Pundits takes a look at the potential fortunes of the teams involved, and offers predictions ahead of kick-off this evening.

Late twist | Borussia Dortmund celebrate wildly after an equaliser from Mats Hummels levels the tie away to Shakhtar Donetsk. (Image | Daily Mail)

Late twist | Borussia Dortmund celebrate wildly after an equaliser from Mats Hummels levels the tie away to Shakhtar Donetsk. (Image | Daily Mail)

Plenty of ties still hang in the balance, including one particularly mouth-watering clash and one giant looking to overcome a deficit…

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As another sporting year begins there may be a certain feeling that nothing could top the unforgettable year of 2012, which saw a magnificent Olympic Games, the European Championships, a British Grand Slam winner after so long and much more.

Mario Balotelli | Why, oh why is it always him? (Image | Manchester City FC)

Mario Balotelli | Having once again hit the headlines after a row with manager Roberto Mancini in training, we ask: why, oh why is it always him? (Image | Manchester City FC)

However, there are more than enough prizes to be decided over the next 12 months, some of which are fairly easy to predict, while others remain very much open to debate.

The Armchair Pundits, therefore, has taken a look at the calendar and pinpointed five “sure-fire successes”, some of which are bound to be as controversial as Mario Balotelli and about as likely as Tom Daley being handed his own diving-themed show on televi… Oh, hang on.

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For the English clubs, the UEFA Champions League knockout stages probably seem as though they are light years away, with some playing up to nine games prior to the round of fixtures in mid-February.

Über alles? | Arsenal face a tricky tie against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in the knock-out stages. (Image | Bleacher Report)

Über alles? | Arsenal face a tricky tie against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in the knockout stages. (Image | Bleacher Report)

The draw has thrown up a number of mouthwatering ties, one of which will see Arsenal line up against Bayern Munich.

Arsène Wenger’s side last faced Bayern in 2005, losing 3-2, and will do well to get anything from this tie as the German giants are nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, boasting a remarkable goal difference of +37.

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When Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez moved to install José Mourinho as head coach, it seemed to be something of a no brainer.

Transformation | Real Madrid head coach José Mourinho appears to have gone from "no brainer" to "no hoper". (Image | The Guardian)

Transformation | Real Madrid head coach José Mourinho appears to have gone from “no brainer” to “no hoper”. (Image | The Guardian)

Mourinho had just delivered an unprecedented treble for Inter Milan, with the coup de grâce being a third European Cup/Champions League title.

This was all the more significant as it was Inter’s first since 1965. Despite their worldwide renown, Inter had long been underachievers in Europe’s top tier competition.

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Chelsea Football Club took the decision on Wednesday to remove manager Roberto Di Matteo from his post after eight months in charge, a period in which the Blues won the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.

Dismissed | Roberto Di Matteo in appropriate pose after his side’s run of two wins from eight games, which brought about his departure from Stamford Bridge. (Image | Blue Champions)

Having made a strong start to the season and recruited exciting new players such as Oscar, Victor Moses and Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s form dipped over the past few weeks and following the 3-0 defeat to Juventus in midweek, the club now stands on the brink of becoming the first European Cup winners to be knocked out of the competition at the group stages the following year.

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Chelsea Football Club took the decision on Wednesday to remove manager Roberto Di Matteo from his post after eight months in charge, a period in which the Blues won the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.

Axed | Roberto Di Matteo looks on as Chelsea slump to a 3-0 defeat by Juventus in midweek, which brought about his sacking as Blues manager. (Image | The Guardian)

Having made a strong start to the season and recruited exciting new players such as Oscar, Victor Moses and Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s form dipped over the past few weeks and following the 3-0 defeat to Juventus in midweek, the club now stands on the brink of becoming the first European Cup winners to be knocked out of the competition at the group stages the following year.

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The Barcelona team of the past few years have established a reputation for themselves as of one of history’s greatest ever sides. However, in the wake of the Catalan outfit’s recent defeat by Celtic in the UEFA Champions League (plus losses to Inter Milan and Chelsea in the past few years), the most common criticism faced by Los Culés has returned.

Swashbuckling | Lionel Messi scores his second goal against Real Zaragoza last weekend in a 3-1 win, which reflects Barcelona’s typically successful strategy, (Image | Independent)

They have been chastised for lacking a “plan B” and being unable to unlock deep defences. Barcelona operate a distinctly possession-based style that the club rigorously keeps faith with, but is there any value in the above complaint?

After all, any team will lose a game from time to time. That is one of the great merits of football: because it is a low-scoring sport, it becomes easier for the underdog to claim victory, even if they are inferior in technical ability.

Therefore, should we really blame Barcelona’s failings on the lack of a “plan B”, particularly when “plan A” is so clearly effective?

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Obsession | Football is as much a part of the British national psyche as queuing, drinking tea and spending hours in the pub. (Image | The Sun)

It is probably fair to say that if the next national census asked whether people considered themselves to be a fan of sport, and then asked them to specify their favourite, the most popular answer would be football. By popular consensus, football is the national sport.

It is a constant talking point in the media and a regular source of conversation in workplaces and public houses. With this in mind: why do such a large number of people seem to know so little about the game?

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