Advertisements

Posts Tagged ‘ Champions League ’

Airtricity League Officially Launched

Players, managers and officials from all 20 teams were at the Aviva Stadium today for the launch of the 2015 SSE Airtricity League season.

The SSE Airtricity League Premier and First Divisions will commence on Friday, March 6, and a total of 330 league and play-off games will be played in addition to matches in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup, EA SPORTS Cup, President’s Cup, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

Among the highlights of the new season will be the return to the Premier Division of Longford Town and  Galway United and the arrival of a new club, Cabinteely, who will compete in the First Division.

Launching the 2015 season, the FAI’S Director of Competitions, Fran Gavin said: “There has been a huge amount of energy and passion going in to pre-season preparations all over the country and I want to compliment the clubs for the hard work being done. Clubs are nothing without their communities, and the energy to really engage the local community is vital all year round from each of our clubs if we are to continue to advance as a League.”

Stephen Wheeler, Managing Director SSE Airtricity, said:  “For the 2015 season we want to focus in on the fans of the league, and use them as the driving force for our new creative #FanPoweredFootball. For us, it is the dedication of the fans, the players and all the clubs, which make the SSE Airtricity League what it is. Each season is filled with excitement and dramatic endings and I am sure this year will be no different.”

Fran Gavin also announced that the FAI is to undertake a consultation process for the SSE Airtricity League which will involve all stakeholders in the domestic game, the clubs, the media, the supporters, the general public and many other groups. The process will be headed Declan Conroy who led the successful Europa League and Euro 2020 bids. It will start next week and, as part of the process, every club will be met individually and the public will also be invited to express their views. The process will take a couple of months to complete and the details will be communicated to clubs on Monday. The pubic consultation will start from Tuesday, March 3.

“There are two objectives: to get views on how the clubs and the league currently operates and also to get opinions on how the clubs and the league can move forward. I am sure there will be lots of different opinions but we want to hear them. This League has a big heritage and we need to work hard and work together if we are to make it strong for the future,” said Mr Gavin.

SSE Airtricity are set to roll out a national advertising campaign which focuses on the availability of live football in Ireland using the slogan “Fan Powered Football” and will use the hashtag #FanPoweredFootball on their social media platforms when referencing the league.  A special promotional video was shown for the first time at today’s launch and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxJBgvU4iok&feature=youtu.be.

RTE and Setanta Sports will also continue their live coverage of matches during the season and RTE has also committed to covering the SSE Airtricity League each week during the season through their popular football programme Soccer Republic which will commence on Monday, March 9, at 11:05 on RTÉ2.

The 12 clubs participating in the 2015 Premier Division will be: Bohemians, Bray Wanderers, Cork City, Derry City, Drogheda United, Dundalk, Galway United, Longford Town, Limerick, St Patrick’s Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers. The eight clubs participating in the 2015 First Division will be: Athlone Town, Cabinteely, Cobh Ramblers, Finn Harps, Shelbourne, Waterford United, Wexford Youths and UCD.

Advertisements

LOI: Clubs Seek To Avoid European Hangover

irishfootball

Bohemians –v- Cork City    7:45

Bohemians host title chasing Cork City at Dalymount Park.

Having not played since the 1-1 with St Patrick’s Athletic on July 13, Bohemians will be looking to get one over on their in-form opponents. Currently in seventh position, the Dublin side will be relatively pleased with their current form but will look to move up the table to as high as sixth by the weekend’s close.

Goals from Billy Dennehy and Mark O’Sullivan gave Cork City a 2-1 win against UCD last week. That win wasn’t enough to put them top as they sit second in the league on goal difference. The leesiders will be out for another three points in order to put pressure on league leaders Dundalk, anything but a win and significant momentum could be lost.

Prediction: Away win Continue reading

Game Review: FIFA World Cup 2014

worldcup (easports)

EA Sports World Cup franchise is back after a four year absence as the party moves onto Brazil with enhanced features, befitting of a samba style party.

The modern FIFA games and the World Cup have long co-existed, with the latter serving as a taster ahead of the new club based game since its inception during World Cup 1998. EA Sports has always managed to capture the sense of occasion of a big event and they follow that up here in true World Cup style, akin to that of the three games that came before this title. Though there are tweaks to FIFA’s core mechanics, it’s the presentation that makes 2014 FIFA World Cup a souvenir piece worth bringing home, making it a stand out game among other souvenir games of our generation such as those titles associated with the Olympics or the Champions League. Continue reading

Champions League Quarter Final Draw Made

ucl

Manchester United have been handed the toughest tie possible in the UEFA Champions League quarter finals as they were pitted against reigning champions Bayern Munich.

With United currently enduring a torrid season under the tutelage of David Moyes this clash could further highlight their woes or it could yet be the making of The Chosen One, should his charges halt the progress of Pep Guardiola’s  side.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have been paired with Paris St Germain. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co will offer a stern test to the blues, who coasted through against Galatasary in the previous round.

Real Madrid will face 2013 beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund while an all-Spanish meeting between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid completes the quarter final draw.

Draw in full: 

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund

Paris St Germain v Chelsea

Manchester United v Bayern Munich

First-leg ties to be played on 1 and 2 April, with the second legs being played on 8 and 9 April.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

A Beautiful Game No More

ucl

In the last number of weeks, we have been treated to a flurry of high-profile football games, with clashes at the top of the Premier League, big name ties in the FA Cup and the return of the Champions League with the first knock-out round. But did any of those big games bring about a truly enjoyable and competitive game? And if not, why not?

This week’s Champions League ties saw Barcelona take on Manchester City and Bayern Munich against Arsenal. All four teams would have to be considered expansive and attacking in their play, and with both English sides at home, the onus was on them to come out and attack. In theory, we were set up for two classic encounters with sides attacking and counter-attacking constantly. Yet the City game in particular was a huge disappointment. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have averaged 3.5 goals per home game, but ceded ground to the Catalan side from the off, which must have been why Aleksandar Kolarov was picked to play from the left wing. They only looked vaguely threatening and hugely dependent on Yaya Toure to roam forward from midfield and David Silva to create the chances. In fairness, it almost came off when Silva played in Alvaro Negredo, who rounded the goalkeeper only to be driven too wide to apply the finish. By and large though, City were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, and their attacks were few and far between.

They were largely successful in containing Barcelona until their defensive unit were complicit in giving up the lead. Barca won the ball up the field, Vincent Kompany dropped too deep too fast and played on Lionel Messi, and Martin Demichelis brought him down, giving up the penalty and earning a red card, and changing the complexion of the game from then on. It’s almost impossible to play gung ho against this Barca team at the best of times, but with ten men it becomes time to batten down the hatches. It is interesting to note that it was Jesus Navas, as well as Kolarov, who got withdrawn, as he had the genuine pace that could have offered City a swift counter-attacking option.

The Arsenal game was fairly similar, in that it was changed by the red card to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, but really by that time Munich had taken hold of the game. But Arsenal did come out and play hard and fast for the first fifteen minutes, making Bayern look like a ragged bunch of journeymen. This spell culminated with the penalty won and missed by Mesut Ozil, who was presented with the chance to answer the bandwagon jumpers who have blamed him for most of Arsenal’s problems of late. Unfortunately for him and that game, he missed and the belief seemed to transfer from the Arsenal players to Bayern’s almost immediately. Arsenal barely had an attack of note after that, and certainly none after the red card.

In the case of Champions League ties, the home tie is a tricky one, given the importance of away goals. Even though the crowd are roaring you on and looking to take a lead for the away leg, it may suit a lot of teams to come out with a nil-nil, knowing a score draw in the next leg would see them through. For instance, if City had registered a scoreless draw the other night, would it have seemed farfetched that they could have nodded in a couple of goals from corners or free kicks in the Camp Nou, and put the game beyond Barcelona? Down a man, it is obviously pertinent to minimise the damage, and the couple of away goals both sides gave up mean they are highly unlikely to overturn the deficit and win their ties.

Pellegrini clearly has a lot of fear when thinking of this Barcelona side. Who wouldn’t? He has seen this team first hand a little too often for his own good in the last ten years, as he managed Villareal, Real Madrid and Malaga against them in La Liga during their pomp. It is unlikely he didn’t carry battle scars from all those encounters, and they possess great weapons. But Man City went away from their own strengths in the face of all this, when really they might have been better served by trying to put them on the back foot. Going forward, Barca’s most impressive player was Dani Alves, but he was on a yellow card from early on and is not the most accomplished defender on the planet, could they not have looked to exploit him more? Fortune favours the bold, and Man City had the team that could have troubled Barca a lot more than they did.

arsenalmunich

What made these games in particular quite dull affairs was the possession-based game plan of both winning sides. As Bayern and Barca camped out in the English sides halves for the second half of their games, who was visibly enthralled? Toni Kroos smashed in a beautiful goal from outside the box, but Bayern didn’t really carve Arsenal open. Rafinha and Alves as full backs were the most incisive players of the midweek action as they had lots of space when defenders were already sucked in, but Bayern had to resort to lumping on big centre forwards to get the second goal. Nothing wrong with it, but they weren’t exactly cutting holes in the Arsenal rearguard by passing slowly and laterally outside the box. It was dull.

There is a trend in football now, largely thanks to the successes of Barcelona in the last decade, to play possession-based attacking games. Hog the ball, wear down your opponent, wait for your moment when the concentration levels drop, then pounce.  This has seen the rise of the offensive full-back, who is seemingly the player with the most space available to them. In turn, it now seems the centre-back is the new full-back, as the wider areas are closed down and the middle is where the space lies, so if you are lucky enough to have a centre-back with good ball skills they can drive forward and pick a pass, allowing your team to recycle possession effectively. But it is this type of dominant attacking that is making games less open. Opponents are generally pinned back and have to play with a defensive mind-set. There have been examples of teams capable of getting results with strong counter-attacking, such as Gareth Bale’s Spurs (no offense, AVB) and Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan team. These sides were able to take advantage of the major weakness of teams like Barca and Bayern, which is the defensive side of the game. Inter were able to knock out Barcelona and eventually win the Champions League by attacking when the moment was right, and defending solidly otherwise. But teams down the bottom of the league rarely have the speed of thought found in that Inter team’s Samuel Eto’o or Wesley Sneijder, nor the clinical finishing of Diego Milito. Thus, they spend the whole game defending and more or less awaiting the inevitable.

Even away from the elite teams in Europe, this trend can still be the case. The Europa League game between Swansea and Napoli had a similar plot. Swansea were always going to enforce their possession game too, but with all due respect they are not at the same standard as Barca or Bayern. The Napoli line-up was also one that boasted great talent, particularly going forward with the tremendous Gonzalo Higuain and the high profile Marek Hamsik, as well as winger Lorenzo Insigne who has played for Italy and Jose Callejon, who came through the ranks for Real Madrid before making a summer move to Naples. Add in counter-attacking away-leg specialist Rafa Benitez (see; any successful Liverpool European tie during his reign), and this should have been a rip-roaring tie with back and forth attacks. Unfortunately, not the case. Swansea played well but didn’t create too many clear chances, while Napoli were quite poor and resigned themselves to defending from early on.

Liverpool have played Arsenal twice in the last few weeks, with the first game a one-sided slaughter as Liverpool exposed Arsenal’s defence repeatedly in the first twenty minutes. The game was over after those early exchanges, and the second game could have gone the same way, with Daniel Sturridge having two great chances early on. Admittedly, the FA Cup game was a much more competitive game than any of the others mentioned, particularly in the second half. But it still wasn’t an end to end kind of game, as Liverpool dominated possession while pushing for an equaliser. The dross served up in the Arsenal versus Manchester United fixture was perhaps explainable by the frailty of both sides. Arsenal were just coming off the hiding at Liverpool, while United have struggled all year as a particular game plan and style remains unclear.

This is not to say anything is wrong with being a strong defensive side. Some of the best games in history have been based on a strong defensive effort defying a ferocious attack, like the Italian win over Brazil in the 1982 World Cup. There is certainly an art to defending, and it seems to evade the Pep Guardiola inspired teams like Munich and Barcelona. But if opposing teams are unwilling or unable to launch attacks and get at their back four, they will continue to get steamrollered. A fascinating encounter (not unlikely after the first leg results) would be a two-legged affair between these two teams down the Champions League line. None of the other games mentioned were uninteresting in their own right, but a tie between Bayern Munich and Barcelona might give us the furious, frenetic end to end game we’d all love to see.

Images courtesy of uefa.com, uefa.com/AFP/Getty Images

Hibs Suffer Narrow Defeat To Champions Celtic

hibs badge

A brave performance by Hibs was not enough to secure a share of the points against champions Celtic at Parkhead today.

Manager Terry Butcher made two changes to the side from last weekend’s home draw against Partick Thistle with Michael Nelson returning from injury and Scott Robertson resuming his place in the middle of the park following suspension. Continue reading

Twitter Reveals Most Talked About Topics Of 2013

US-ENTERTAINMENT-PAUL WALKER

Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, Manchester United losing to Real Madrid and New Year’s celebrations were among the big Twitter moments throughout Ireland and the UK in 2013.

But it was the death of two showbiz stars, Cory Monteith and Paul Walker, that pulled in the most retweets globally. Continue reading

Advertisements
Advertisements