24/04/13 – Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid (Champions League Semi Final)

Borussia Dortmund vs Real Madrid (Champions League Semi Final)Mats Hummels is finally fit enough to return to Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League starting XI at the expense of Felipe Santana. Elsewhere Sven Bender is likely to play ahead of Sebastian Kehl in what should be Jurgen Klopp’s first choice line-up.

A suspension to Alvaro Arbeloa will mean Jose Mourinho is in need of a full back: Sergio Ramos may move from centre back rather than Michael Essien coming in. Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain continue to tussle for the forward position, although the Frenchman’s weekend goal may give him the edge.

These sides met in the group stage, Dortmund winning 2-1 at home before earning a 2-2 draw in the Bernabeu with a mixture of intelligent defence and quick counter attacks… (Read more)

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23/04/13 – Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Champions League Semi Final)

Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Champions League Semi Final)Bayern are missing a few first team players, but their strength in depth should allow them to replace quality with quality. Jupp Heynckes is without the injured Toni Kroos, meaning Thomas Muller will continue in the central role and Arjen Robben will play on the right wing, while in attack Mario Gomez will replace the suspended Mario Mandzukic.

Tito Vilanova has more troubling absentees. Injuries to Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano and a suspension for Adriano deprive Barcelona of three senior centre backs, meaning either young Marc Bartra will deputise or Eric Abidal will make only his second start of the season after returning from injury. Meanwhile Lionel Messi is likely to be risked despite not being fully fit.

With Bayern on course for a record points haul in the Bundesliga and a possible treble of German League and Cup to go with the Champions League, Barcelona are aware that they enter a European tie as underdogs for the first time in four years… (Read more)

15/04/13 – Lazio vs Juventus (Serie A)

Lazio vs JuventusVladimir Petkovic is without several first choice defenders, with Abdoulay Konko, Andre Dias and Bruno Pereirinha injured and Giuseppe Biava suspended, so Alvaro Gonzalez is likely to continue at right back. His place in midfield will be filled by either Stefano Mauri or Honorato Ederson. Lazio have struggled without Miroslav Klose in attack following the German’s long injury layoff, but after appearing from the bench in midweek the forward may return to the starting XI.

With Lazio having knocked Juventus out of the Coppa Italia, and their Champions League dream ended by Bayern Munich, Antonio Conte only has Serie A to play for and can field his strongest side. Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic are the current incumbents of the forward positions.

Lazio will be desperate to recapture the form they showed prior to Klose’s injury, having won just 1 of the 6 league games without him. This run has seen them drop out of the Champions League places, and with Roma and Inter Milan not far behind there is a chance they could fail to qualify for Europe all together. For Conte the league is not yet assured. Having suggested that Italian football needs to adapt to challenge in Europe, it is surely in Juventus’ interest to secure the title as quickly as possible to allow for experimentation towards the end of the campaign… (Read more)

 

14/04/13 – AC Milan vs Napoli (Serie A)

AC Milan vs NapoliMario Balotelli’s suspension will see Giampaolo Pazzini lead the line for AC Milan, while Kevin-Prince Boateng continues to be preferred to M’Baye Niang on the right side of attack. Aside from Riccardo Montolivo, Massimiliano Allegri has rotated his midfielders throughout the season but Sulley Muntari and Mathieu Flamini currently appear to be in favour. Similarly Mattia De Sciglio now appears to be first choice left back ahead of Kevin Constant.

Walter Mazzarri has no absentees, but will continue to choose between Miguel Britos and Alessandro Gamberini in defence, and Blerim Dzemaili and Gokhan Inler in midfield.

With seven games to go in Serie A both sides appear secure in the remaining Champions League places, with Milan possessing a 6 point lead over 4th placed Fiorentina, yet neither team can either expect to mount a serious challenge to Juventus, who have a 9 point lead at the top. Nevertheless Napoli will hope a victory can take advantage of any negative reaction to Juventus’ Champions League exit, whilst Milan won’t want to lose ground to the chasing pack… (Read more)

13/04/13 – Schalke vs Bayer Leverkusen (Bundesliga)

Schalke vs Bayer LeverkusenJens Keller is without Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jefferson Farfan, Tranquillo Barnetta and Ibrahim Afellay, so Raffael should come in behind Ciprian Marica in attack, with Julian Draxler moving to the right wing. Marco Hoger will replace the suspended Roman Neustadter in midfield.

Bayer Leverkusen’s management team of Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski are without the suspended Stefan Reinartz, so Gonzalo Castro is likely to drop back into midfield, with Sidney Sam replacing him in attack. In defence, Michal Kadlec will replace the also suspended Sebastian Boenisch at left back, while Daniel Schwaab may continue to get the nod ahead of Omer Toprak.

With six games to go in the Bundesliga the title may be over but the competition for Champions League places is still alive. Leverkusen in 3rd currently have a 4 point lead over 5th placed Freiburg, who are level on points with Schalke but trail on goal difference. With Freiburg having played a game more, Schalke can put clear air between themselves and 5th place with a victory, whereas a win for Leverkusen would give them a 7 point cushion and all but confirm their place in the top four… (Read more)

11/04/13 – Basel vs Tottenham (Europa League Quarter Final)

Basel vs TottenhamBasel can welcome back Marcelo Diaz, Park Joo-Ho and Phillip Degen from suspension and all three are likely to come in for the second leg against Tottenham. Murat Yakin will have to choose between the 4-2-3-1 shape that succeeded in securing an impressive 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane or reverting to a more conservative 4-1-2-3 shape.

In contrast Tottenham are currently struggling with injuries, most notably to star man Gareth Bale, although the loss of Aaron Lennon is equally destabilising. Andre Villas-Boas’ lack of wide options means a narrow trio of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lewis Holtby and Clint Dempsey behind Emmanuel Adebayor. In defence Villas-Boas has a dilemma – does he persist with selecting Benoit Assou-Ekotto at full back, when Jan Vertonghen has looked so dangerous going forward in the Premier League or leave the Belgian at centre back alongside Michael Dawson? A similar problem may be in goal. Villas-Boas has remained loyal to Brad Friedel through the Europa League campaign, but as Tottenham reach the business end of the competition there must be an urge to start selecting the impressive Hugo Lloris.

Anybody who remembers Basel’s impressive displays in the Champions League against Manchester United a few years ago will understand what an accomplished side they are, and Tottenham face a tough ask if they are to advance… (Read more)

11/04/13 – Rubin Kazan vs Chelsea (Europa League Quarter Final)

Rubin Kazan vs ChelseaKerban Berdyev’s Rubin Kazan can field the same team as in the first leg, although Salomon Rondon is likely to replace Vladimir Dyadyun.

Rafael Benitez continues to rotate in Europe, and may feel that progression should be comfortably secured. John Terry, Frank Lampard and Victor Moses have all become regulars in the Europa League and are likely to come in again.

Chelsea’s two goal lead forces Rubin to attack, although they are a naturally conservative side, as only 29 goals in 23 league games will testify. Berdyev will either need to hope for a stand-out performance from his players or look to identify weakness in Chelsea that his team can exploit. Benitez will surely feel an away goal will be enough to guarantee progress to the semi final… (Read more)