World Cup Preview Group E- Brazil fly as the rest fight for second

Another World Cup and another group that Brazil should win. They have only failed to get out of the group stage on two occasions which were 1930, when the competition held in Uruguay was invitational and in then in 1966. In that the 1966 tournament, they finished third in the group behind group winners Portugal and Hungary.

Brazil have rarely finished either second so it could be inevitable that they end up group winners, especially in a group consisting of Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica.

Switzerland make their tenth appearance at the World Cup finals and will hope that they can reach at least the last 16 like they did in Brazil. Argentina broke their hearts with an extra time winner with two minutes to go. They will hope not to go through that again. They had to come through a play off win after blowing their qualification group lead, but their defeat against Portugual was their only defeat since the penalty shoot out defeat at Euro 2016. Their pre World Cup friendlies have seen a 6-0 thrashing of England’s opponents Panama, a draw with Spain and a win against Japan.

The Swiss will be captained by new Arsenal signing Stephane Lichtsteiner, who will be hoping to not only move level  with Swiss legend Stephane Chapuisat on 103 caps but even move ahead. He has helped to keep the Swiss team tight at the back and hard to break down. They have conceded just eight goals in the last 17 games. He will be joined by fellow England based winger Xherdan Shaqiri, currently of Stoke City.

Switzerland kick off with Brazil, I guess it’s always better to get the big one out the way first, because know nation wants to go into their final game knowing that possible qualification hinges on beating Brazil. Last time out though Switzerland beat the Boys from South America thanks to an own goal from Dani Alves. A repeat of that win will go down well.  They follow up with Serbia where the two nations meet for the first time so it will be interesting to see how they fair against each other. They finish the group with a tie against Costa Rica. The Central American side won’t be pushovers though so things could be close.

Costa Rica in their fifth World Cup finals will be strong contenders to get out their group, but they will need to put their recent form behind them. Since finishing the qualifying period the CONCACAF nation have lost four out of six friendlies and have one final friendly to play against Belgium. Saying that though Costa Rica’s pre World Cup 2014 form was nothing to shout about and they got to the Quarter Finals. A positive result against Serbia in the opening game will give them good stead to progress

Costa Rica will hope that Celso Borges finds his shooting boots again having not scored since 2016 although he will move up to joint third if he plays all three group games. Goals from the strikers have been thin on the ground but if the others can pla their part then that should help them. Marco Urena has bagged four in their last nine, although his international career is fairing better than his recent club career.

Finally it is Serbia,who qualify for their second tournament as Serbia,they had previously played in 2006 as Serbia & Montenegro. Their route to the finals saw them top a group including Wales and the Republic of Ireland. They dominated the group only losing once and drawing three out of the ten games. Aleksandar Mitrovic finished top scorer with ten of his nations goals. He’s been in top form for Serbia bagging 14 goals in his last 19 games. This form helped was enough to also see him bag 12 in 17 games on loan with Fulham.

The Balkan nation go into the finals with two defeats in the last six games although two of those in the last four against Morocco and Chile. Nothing can be really taken from those friendlies especially with wins and defeats against nations from the same continent.

Should one of Costa Rica, Serbia or Switzerland deny Brazil all three points in one game, anything could happen, but I expect Brazil to come through the group.

 

Group Prediction

Brazil win the group, Switzerland sneak second as Costa Rica and Serbia narrowing miss out.

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World Cup Preview – Group D Messi drives Argentina but who will follow

It’s Group D and one of the first trickiest ones to decide, well tricky in deciding who goes through with Argentina. The South American nation will naturally be favourites but in a group that consists of World Cup debutants Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria, it may well be very close to call.

Argentina make their 16th finals competition and lost to Germany in Brazil 2014 final. Their final appearance had previously come against West Germany shortly before the German unification. They go into the finals on the backs of mixed friendly performances. They found themselves beating Russia and Italy, but lost against group opponents Nigeria 4-2 and were on the receiving end of a 6-1 drubbing by Spain. That might be enough to make an Argentinian football supporter feel a bit nervous, but the World Cup will be a different kettle of fish they would hope? Of course it would, but there is one not so good omen that lingers for Argentina in the World Cup. Back in 2002 Argentina were drawn in the same group as Nigeria where the South American nation lost in the opening game. This time they meet at the end of the group stage.

Nigeria, looked strong in the World Cup qualifiers winning the group five points clear of Zambia but apart from the African national championship (Not to be confused with the African Cup of Nations)where they got t the final, the post World Cup Qualifying games have not brought much joy. Since March 23rd, they have managed only one win and a draw and four defeats, most recently against the Czech Republic and England.

The Super Eagles appear in their sixth finals and would hope to achieve reaching the  last 16 as they had in 2014 when they were eliminated by France. The Last 16 is the nations best achievement which was their progress in the USA 94 and France 98 tournaments. In the knockout stages they saw  defeat by Italy in 94 and a heavy defeat by Denmark in 98. Should Denmark win their group and Nigeria finish second in theirs, they could once again meet in the last 16. If the African nation are to make it into the knock out stages, then they will certainly have to up their game.

Croatia came second in their qualifying group where they came second to Iceland who are also in Group D. They missed out on winning the group after a penultimate draw at home to Finland and had to play Greece, who they easily brushed aside. They will look to do much better than their 2014 group stage exit, where their only win was against Cameroon. In fact their best performance are in France 98 when they finished second behind none other than Argentina. Could this be a positive omen? Who knows but they will need to be on good form. The post qualification friendlies have like for other nations, brought mixed results. Two defeats against South American opposition in the form of Peru and Brazil, whilst beating Mexico. Their final friendly fixture sees them take on Senegal, who will be a good test as African opponents. They kick off their tournament campaign against Senegal.

Croatia take a strong squad that features 7 Italian based players and four Spanish based player, some of which won trophies this past season. Will this though convert to international glory, who will know. What we do know is that Croatia will meet Nigeria for the first time in their history.

Finally in the group, it is World Cup debutants Iceland. The small island nation came close in 2014 when they reached the playoffs before being eliminated in the playoffs by fellow group nation Croatia. The Icelanders then went on to Euro 2016 where they reached the quarter finals.

It is astonishing that Iceland prior to the World Cup 2014 qualifiers had not won more than 4 games (2002). They will though be hoping that their form going into the finals improves. Prior to their 2-2 draw against Ghana, which the European nation had blown away a 2-0 lead, had lost three straight games and four in eight overall. Defeats against Norway, Peru and Mexico all saw defeats that conceded three goals. Not form or a defence that you want when you are likely to be facing Messi in one game and Mandzukic of Croatia in another.

 

Group Prediction

Argentina take the group, Croatia take second Nigeria 3rd and Iceland 4th in a tight race.

World Cup Previews – Group C For Les Bleus and danskerne

France and Denmark look certain to progress from this group as they face Australia and Peru. Backing the French does come with a warning as we have seen in the past that they are prone to serious lapses. We all remember their dismal defence of the trophy in 2002 when they opened their defence with a 1-0 defeat against Senegal  only a draw against Uruguay gave them a point. Strangely enough their final game of the group came against Denmark. Not a single goal scored from the defending champions.

The French though have formally confirmed their squad and look to fair better than  previously when they were knocked out in the Quarter Finals by eventual winners Germany, after winning their group. Missing out from the squad are Martial  (Man Utd) and Lacazette (Arsenal) whilst taking their place on the plane to Russia is Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman made the team despite only bagging 7 goals this season both for Arsenal and Chelsea, yet Lacazette bagged 14 in 31 and misses out. I’m sure Deschamp has his reasons.

The French squad does have a young feel to it and not as much experience as previous squads but it should have enough to get to the knockout stages. The game against Denmark will be telling.

Denmark return to the finals after missing out in 2014. They were a point off missing the play off round. There was no mistake this time round as they qualified for the playoffs having finished runners-up behind Poland. In the playoff they denied Republic of Ireland with a second leg demolition thanks to a hat trick from Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen. The Danes have lost only three games in three years having missed out on Euro 2016. Their two post World Cup Qualifier games have seen two friendlies against Panama and Chile. One win and one draw, but that could be different in the next two as they face Sweden and Mexico.

The Dane’s shouldn’t have any trouble getting through the group and their final placing will come in the final game which is against France. The two nations have met 13 times but only two in the World Cup where there is a win each. The Danes in their last World Cup lost in the final group game to Japan causing their elimination. They will not likely have to worry about that.

Australia make their fifth finals appearance and fourth consecutive appearance. They will have their work cut out mind you as they look certain to be relying on Tim Cahill and captain Miles Jedinak for goals. The two players in their last World Cup finals have a combination of nearly 70 goals between them with bit part contributions from other squad members.

Their pre World Cup games have brought literally mixed results with one win, one draw and a defeat. The Socceroos were hammered by Norway managed a goalless draw against Colombia and then recently beat the Czech Republic 4-0. Their final friendly involved a trip to Hungary, although not too sure what that give for Australia.

Finally we have Peru and they too are making their fifth World Cup appearance and their first since Spain ‘82. They had to qualify throug the intra continental play off against New Zealand. This was after managing only a draw against Colombia who took the last automatic qualifying place. They go into the finals looking strong and having not lost a game since their home defeat against Brazil in the qualifiers back in 2016. Amongst the pre World Cup wins were Croatia, Iceland and Saudi Arabia.

They look strong going into the competition but I’m not sure they will be strong enough to come inbetween France and Denmark, but they will no doubt give it a real  good go.

Group Prediction

France edge the group on goal difference ahead of Denmark. Peru finish third leaving Australia propping up the table.

 

 

World Cup 2018 Previews – Group B Battle of The Iberians

Group B looks certain to be a straightforward battle to decide who wins the group as football giants Spain and Portugal battle it out in a group containing Iran and Morocco. The Spanish remain unbeaten since their Euro 2016 defeat against Italy and will be looking to get some World Cup joy back after their abysmal 2014 finals display in Brazil, one that saw them thrashed by their 2010 final opponents Netherlands.

Spain’s journey was relatively easy had Italy as their main rivals, but we all know that things can go wrong. The Spanish coach has not been afraid to wield the axe in the chase for World Cup glory. One of the biggest names is Alvaro Morata, whose Chelsea form has seen his place in the Chelsea team disappear. In fact it’s not a good time for a few of Chelsea’s Spanish contingent. Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Marcos Alonso all miss the journey to Russia, but Azpiliceuta does make the plane. It’s not just the Chelsea players missing the cut as Hector Belerin of Arsenal, Vitolo of Atletico and Javi Martinez all find themselves with more time over the summer period.

Andres Iniesta makes the squad in what will no doubt be his last World Cup. The Barca legend who scored the winner in 2010 said goodbye to the La Liga champions and Russia 2018 be his international farewell with a World Cup win. Despite his seven goals in 23 games, former Chelsea striker appears to have done enough to take his place. He is not the only former Premier League player featuring in the Spanish squad. Iago Aspas appears to have reignited his career after his disappointing time at Anfield. Since being back in Spain he found his shooting boots. A loan spot at Sevilla bought him 10 goals in 26 games, but then signing with his old club Celta, he has bagged 55 goals in 101 games. Will their strike force of Aspas, Rodrigo and Costa, get them to the final? We shall have to wait and see.

Portugal, neighbours and rivals of Spain, go into the tournament as European Champions and will hope to join Spain and France as nations to win both tournaments. Portugal looked like finishing second in their group as the Swiss were in control having remained undefeated until the last group game in Lisbon. Whilst the Swiss were winning, they were not bagging enough goals. Portugal were winning and bagging the goals. Cristiano Ronaldo bagging 15 of the 32 goals whilst Switzerland were only managing 23 between them. The World Cup is the only trophy that Ronaldo has yet to win, so can he in what could be his last World Cup and what would be the price of Portugal finally adding the trophy to their association cabinet.

Spain and Portugal meet in the second group game and face each other for only the second time in finals competition where Spain have the edge. Both games coming in the knock out stages. Will Portugal turn things around and beat their neighbours or will Spain make it 3-0 in World Cup final encounters.

Morocco feature in the group, they are at their fifth finals, the first since France 98 were they went out in the group stage that featured Scotland. They will do well to repeat their feat at Mexico 86 when they reached the last 16 following their best third place record. Their path to the World Cup was fairly easy with three wins and three draws. They were the only African nation not to concede a goal but they only managed 11 goals in their six games, of which 6 were netted in one game. Khalid Boutaib was the top scorer with three goals. All those came in one game in a home game against Gabon. In their pre World Cup friendlies the North African nation have managed wins against Serbia and a draw against Ukraine, but they are far from the likes of Portugal and Spain. I think they may well struggle.

Iran complete this look at Group B. The Middle Eastern nation qualify for their fifth World Cup Finals and their first back to back finals following their appearance in Brazil. Iran’s journey to the finals saw an initial group stage which they breezed through unbeaten and six points ahead of second place Oman. They were the best Asian team going into round three and another group round. The group made of six nations saw another unbeaten round and top spot finish, beating South Korea in the process.  The nation currently has a handful defeats in the last three years although that reflects mostly in Asian Federation matches. They did though recently hold World Cup hosts Russia to a 1-1 draw.

Group Prediction

Spain finish top on goal difference ahead of Portugal. Iran finish third and Morocco fourth.

World Cup 2018 Previews – Group A No Progress for the hosts

The Russia 2018 World Cup finally kicks off next month and things are looking interesting as national coaches name their squads that will see big names miss out and international careers possibly at an end and new players looking to be making a name for themselves on the world stage.

Group A sees hosts Russia battling it out with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay. It looks certain to be a close group. Since the break up of the Soviet Union, football hasn’t been so kind to the Russian national side when it comes to finals performance. Whilst they have qualified with no real problems, the Russian national team have a record of P9 W2 D 2 L5 F13 A13 PTS 8. Whilst only being friendlies, their form has been not so good having lost 6 of their last ten games including the likes of Austria, France, Brazil, Mexico and Portugal. Their only three wins since March 2017 have been against Hungary, New Zealand and South Korea. Not exactly the big guns and their home record doesn’t bode well either with just two wins and leaking goals isn’t the sign of confidence.

Uruguay will be hoping this tournament has no controversy spoiling any World Cup hopes and Suarez keeps his teeth to himself. The South American nation found themselves automatically qualifying and finishing only behind Brazil. It could have all been different had Uruguay not lost three qualification matches in a row as well as two friendlies not prolonged further and sent them to a play off scenario. In fact had they won those three games, they might have even topped the group.

The Uruguay squad though has several players who may well be playing their last World Cup. Muslera, Pereira,Godin, Cristian  Rodriguez, Carlos Sanchez along with Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani will all be around 35 and 36. If there was ever a time to win a World Cup and bow out in glory this is it. It could even be the coach Oscar Taberez’s final World Cup at the age of 71. but whilst it maybe the end of an era for some of Uruguay’s players, there are a number of young players who could help define it’s football future

Egypt came through as group winners ahead of Uganda and Ghana although their recent friendlies form has not been much to speak about with two defeats and one draw, but they are on a high as Mo Salah has not only helped Liverpool to near glory but boosted a nation’s confidence. Salah’s Champions League final injury doesn’t appear to be as bad as first feared and so may only miss the opening game which is Uruguay, who they would have preferred to have had later in the group. This game could ultimately decided 1st and 2nd spots.

Egypt’s coach will no doubt continue his defensive approach although it has been noticeable that they are not as good at defending crosses, which has seen the African nation concede most of its goals in the run up to the World Cup. Expect them though to progress into the knockout stages where who knows what may bring. One thing for sure though is that they will more than likely have one of the oldest players to feature at the World Cup. That man is Essam El-Hadary and should he play will beat the record of Colombia’s Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 at the 2002 World Cup. We will though have to wait and see.

Saudi Arabia go into the World Cup in a mess. They have managed only three wins in seven games in 2018 and sacked two managers in a short space of time. Van Marwijk was sacked  and replaced by Edgardo Bauza, who had only managed five games in total. They are now managed by former Spanish international striker Juan Antonia Pizzi and will do well to last a year based not only his own record but that of the national association. The Saudi national side last qualified in 2006 ending a run of four straight competitions, but it would need a near miracle for them to repeat their USA 94 finals when they reached the last 16 where they lost to Sweden. The Saudi’s will do well to get a point let  alone a win.

 

Group Prediction

Uruguay should come through as group winners with Egypt finishing second. Russia finish third and Saudi Arabia bottom.

 

 

Real Madrid – The Road to Kiev

Real Madrid  as Champions League winners, had automatically qualified for the group stage of the competition. Their group on paper looked like it could be a battle rather than a stroll as they were joined by Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Apoel Nicosia. Whilst the Cypriot side would be the support act, Spurs and Dortmund were expected to make it hard work for the Spanish club. Tottenham took four points from the defending champions including a 3-1 win at Wembley. Dortmund though failed to cause any issues apart from a all but two late attempted comeback in a 3-2 defeat.

Madrid could always count on Ronaldo to bag the goals and he did by chipping in 9 of the teams 17 group stage goals, but the Portuguese star was not finished by all means. In the second round, Madrid were drawn against French side PSG in what looked to be a classic encounter. The first leg in Spain saw Ronaldo hand the hosts a 1-0 lead just before half time and a second to restore the lead late in the second half. The Spanish looked to have secured the tie when Marcelo made it 3-1. A two goal margin in this seasons competition would seem unsafe in many game, but the second leg remained goalless until early second half when Ronaldo opened the scoring. PSG pulled one back, but it was never going to be enough and ten minutes from time Casemiro secured a winner on the night and a 5-2 aggregate win.

The Quarter final draw had paired the Italian giants Juventus against Real and a tie that was going to be full of cards over the two legs. The first leg was in Turin and the Italians were relatively stingy in defence at home. They had conceded only one at home in the group stage and two at home to Spurs in the last 16. That would change as the Italians were on the receiving end of a 3-0 pasting from the Spaniards. It didn’t help that they lost Dybala for the second leg with his two yellow card offences.

The second leg, well that turned into a thrilling affair. Juventus knew they had to go at Madrid to have any chance of saving the tie and that was exactly what happened. Mandzukic struck early as he headed home. Mandzukic  grabbed a second in the 37th minute and the game was well and truly on. Real’s grip on the game was becoming a little loose and then on the hour mark, Navas’ fumbled to allow Matuidi to strike home. The Italian’s had appeared to have pulled it off, the game was heading to extra time but could Real hold on? Could Juve snatch a killer fourth goal? Well in the 90th minute Benatia was judged to have fouled Vazquez, referee Michael Oliver awarded the penalty and chaos erupted, Juve players surrounded the English referee as a very angry Buffon remonstrated and pointed at Oliver enough for the Italian to be shown the red card. A twist in the tale it would seem. Juve took off Higuain and brought on Szczesny. Ronaldo stepped up, could he immerse himself even further in football glory or could the former Arsenal keeper become a hero. It would be the former as the Portuguese star drilled the ball home.

The Semi finals brought up German champions Bayern Munich as the opponents for Real. The Germans were always going to be a difficult opponent at home and when they took the lead, we thought the Spaniards may have met their match. Unfortunately the Germans couldn’t take their chances managing five shots on target out of seventeen. It would prove costly as Marcelo netted an away goal just before half time. Ronaldo had also had a goal disallowed for handball. A mistake from Rafinha lead to a break away goal. Having four key players going into the game, losing Robben after 8 minutes and Boateng in the 34th, things couldn’t get any worse for the Germans.

The Germans knew what they had to do and Kimmich struck first blood after 2 minutes, the lead though lasted until the 11th minute when Benzema headed home. It was all even on the night but advantage Madrid 3-2 on aggregate. On any other day and with those missing players available, Real Madrid may well have been fighting for their Champions League survival. Luck was favouring the hosts as a goalkeeping blunder by Sven Ulreich gave the hosts the advantage once more. It was 2-1 Madrid and 4-2 on aggregate. As the game moved on Munich searched for a leveller and they got one through James Rodriguez. One of Madrid’s on loan players levelled on the night. Whoever got the next goal would no doubt secure the tie. Madrid scoring would increase the gap, probably too far, whilst a single goal from the visitors would level the tie on aggregate and send Bayern through on away goals.  The game though finished level and 4-3 on aggregate. Real were heading to another final and yet another defence of their title.

 

Champions League Final – Liverpool’s Road to Kiev

Saturday night sees the Champions League final in Kiev’s between Liverpool and Real Madrid in what looks certain to be a classic in the making. The 63rd final sees Liverpool go in as the underdogs despite having knocked out the likes of Man City and Roma whilst playing some quality football along the way.

Liverpool started their journey back in August with a play off tie against German club 1899 Hoffenheim. A 2-1 in Germany and followed it up with a 4-2 win at Anfield,  the tie being over after 21 minutes when Liverpool cruised to a 5-1 aggregate lead.

The Reds found themselves in the Group stage in with the likes of Sevilla, Maribor Branik and Spartak Moscow. The Reds had a good chance of progression with the Spanish club Sevilla being the club most likely to cause some uncomfortable moments. Sevilla indeed deny Liverpool a win as they took two points off the Merseyside club over the two ties.

Apart from a third draw at Spartak, the Reds dominated the group sticking a total of 23 goals past their opponents, a total only bettered  by Paris Saint Germain who had netted 25.

The first knock out stage saw Liverpool drawn against Porto. A Liverpool team that waste now minus Brazilian playmaker Phillipe Coutinho. It was thought that the Reds might suffer without him, but it seemed not to be. The Reds stormed to a 5-0 win in Portugal. The dynamic trio of Mane (3) Salah and Firmino secured the result in Portugal.

Next up for the Anfield club was an all English tie as Liverpool were drawn against Premier League leaders Man City. It was one of the ties that stood out and one that could see either side go far.  The two clubs had already produced 13 goals in the two league ties including an outstanding Liverpool performance at Anfield. So when the two sides met at Anfield in the first leg, wow what a tie that would turn out to be. Klopp’s team crushed City and by half time it seemed game over. Not even the departure of Salah with a possible injury could hinder the reds. The tie was certainly looking like a Reds win but the  game was not over, but given this competition and these two teams, anything could happen.

A week later the Etihad was to host the second leg knowing that anything could happen. City needed a an early goal and they did, Jesus struck early and set the game up. The Reds were up against it in the first half and a second goal would have made things very interesting and shortly before half time City were denied a legitimate goal. It was 1-0 at half time. The second half began with Guardiola sent to the stands.

Liverpool needed something and in the 56th minute they got it. Mane looked like he was felled, but as everyone looked to the ref, that Egyptian wonder Mo Salah took hold of the ball, took it around Ederson and poked it over Otamendi. It was significant and it made it 4-1 on aggregate. After the Premier League game, anything was still possible. Liverpool had conceded goals from being 4-1 up and at the same time they hadn’t beaten an English club away from home in the European Cup.  The visitors had the edge and the tide had seemingly turned. In the 77th minute it was good night City as Firmino capitalised on a City defensive error to make it 2-1 and totally game over. The Five time winners were through and into the semi finals. The next opponents were going to be tough and the Reds found themselves paired with  AS Roma, the team that had come back shocked Barcelona. It was another Anfield first leg and 90 minutes of tantalising football.

Tantalising football was most certainly the case. Liverpool didn’t change a thing tactically against Roma. Having watched Barcelona overcome, Liverpool knew that they Roma weren’t to be taken lightly. For all the talk, it seemed that Roma were the rabbit in the Liverpool headlights. Klopp’s team were running rings around their Italian opponents and should have taken the lead much earlier than they did in the 36th minute. Mane had missed a couple of opportunities but they were forgotten when Mo Salah struck with the first of two quality goals. The Egyptian was facing his former club, but he was certainly not being kind to his former employers. Salah made it 2-0 on the stroke of half time.

The Italians of course were still not out of it even when the Reds went 3-0 up through Mane. The Senegal player finally hit the score sheet. If the home fans were ecstatic at 3-0, they were delirious five minutes later when Firmino scored the fourth. Anfield was rocking and Roma could have been almost 10 down but five it would be when Firmino added goal number two.

Could the first half missed opportunities cost Liverpool in the second leg as Roma stunned Anfield with two late goals one of which was dubious penalty. Things were looking interesting now going into the Rome second leg. Liverpool knew of the risks that Roma could spring but the visitors grabbed an early goal through Mane. Advantage Merseyside, the aggregate score was now 6-2. That soon became 6-3 when a Lovren clearance hit James Milner square in the head and went in.

Liverpool were still in charge of the tie and didn’t really need to do anything stupid.There was no need to worry as Liverpool were back in front on the night and 7-3 ahead on aggregate as Gini Wijnaldum bagged his first ever goal away from  home.  Roma hadn’t just received a bloody nose, but they were on the canvas. Could they recover. They hit shot after shot, but couldn’t break through in the rest of the first half. Roma needed one hell of a team talk, the best half time team talk they needed.

The comeback looked certain to start as Dzeko bagged a leveller to make it 2-2  an 7-4 on aggregate. Could Roma repeat their Barca comeback? Surely not. The Italians were doing their utmost to get back in but it seemed all in vain as time started to run out. Nainggolan though netted Roma’s third of the night and fifth of the tie. Could they do it, could they burst the Red’s bubble? They would come close as Nainggolan converted another fortuitous penalty, it came at the death and all too late, with the ball in the back of the net, the referee blew his whistle and brought the game to a close. A thirteen goal thriller and probably one of the best ties of the knockout stages.

Liverpool were heading to Kiev for a Champions League final, the second European final under Klopp. On 26th May will it be Champions League number 13 for Real or trophy number 6 for Liverpool. Which ever way it goes, we are in for an exciting final.