The only thing more uncomfortable on the eyes than Manchester City’s putrid third kit is having to watch Kyle Walker fill in as an emergency goalie for the FOURMIDABLES. Because that happened today in their 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group C match against Atalanta.
Ederson went off at half-time with a reported minor injury. Pep is likely taking precaution there with their Sunday showdown against Premier League leaders Liverpool looming large. Then, back-up keeper Claudio Bravo was sent off with a red card. It provided Atalanta with a free-kick and City in need of an emergency back-up keeper. Enter Kyle Walker.
He did not look happy.
Regardless, City battened down the hatches for about 10 minutes and kept Walker from being challenged. While they drew Atalanta 1-1, dropping their first points of group play in their ridiculously easy and unchallenging bracket, they solidified their spot atop the table. City have not guaranteed advancement yet. However at 10 points, they’re greater than 99% to advance.
Group C Odds to Advance
Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb both sit at five points. Atalanta is shockingly at the bottom with 1. We’ll repost the odds once issued again later tonight. However, expect Shakhtar and Dinamo to both be around even-money as both play Atalanta and City again.
Until then, enjoy more pictures of Kyle Walker in goal.
Barcelona were held to a surprise goalless draw at the Nou Camp by Sparta Prague. The Catalans failed to score at home for the first time in 46 games.
Yet Barca still remain atop Group F by a single point after Borussia Dortmund came from two goals behind to win a thrilling contest against Inter Milan.
With apologies to Group E, here’s a look at where we stand after 4 matches in the real Group of Death.
Champions League Group F Odds
The next few weeks will decide who survives in the group of death. Here’s how oddsmakers at DraftKings NJ see it:
|Slavia Prague||Not offered||+6000|
Valverde’s Team Lacked Cutting Edge
Manager Ernesto Valverde was without the injured Luis Suarez, and Barcelona made a lacklustre start to the game. The team was struggling throughout to really penetrate the resolute visitors.
And things could have been worse for the home crowd if Sparta’s Peter Olayinka had connected to a through ball in the opening few minutes of the game.
The Czechs also had a goal disallowed for a clear offside just before half time.
Lionel Messi’s influence grew as the game progressed. However, this time he was unable to produce a moment of magic that would separate the two teams.
The 17-year old prodigy Ansu Fati was introduced on 65 minutes for Ousmane Dembele, but still the deadlock could not be broken.
The Blaugrana did have 14 shots on target in contrast to their opponents’ four. Although Sparta did have opportunities to threaten from set pieces with nine corners.
The performance left Barcelona defender Gerard Pique questioning whether his team has what it takes to win the UCL after the game. In the last two seasons Barcelona have blown comfortable leads against Roma and Liverpool in the quarter final and semi final stages respectively.
Dortmund Overturn Two Goal Deficit
A second half brace from Moroccan Achraf Hakimi completed a memorable comeback for Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.
In the first half, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan started brightly. Inter were ahead after just five minutes following Lautaro Martinez’s close range strike.
Matias Vecino then doubled the Italians’ lead five minutes before the interval with some brilliant build-up play.
Unreal team goal by Inter 💯
— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) November 5, 2019
The 21- year old Hakimi, who is in his second season on loan from Real Madrid, pulled a goal back after 51 minutes. He then slotted the winner in the 77th minutes after combining in a move with England international Jadon Sancho.
Perhaps surprisingly, the defender has scored four out of the five goals for Dortmund in the UCL so far this season. Hakimi’s brace came either side of Julian Brandt’s equalizer for the hosts.
Two Games to Play in Toughest of Groups
When the draw for the Champions League was made, Group F was instantly christened the “group of death.” Three of the four teams drawn in the pool are historically powerful squads to meet at such an early stage.
Officials from Sparta Prague openly laughed when they found out that such relative minnows would face Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan.
Now with just two games to play, it remains up in the air who will qualify for the second round knockout phase.
- Barcelona lead the group with eight points, one ahead of Dortmund with Inter Milan on four points, and Sparta Prague almost out of contention on two points.
- Barcelona face the toughest run in, as they have to play Dortmund at home and then an even more difficult test away to Inter Milan at the San Siro.
- The games remaining will compound Barca’s disappointment. The result at home to supposedly the weakest team in the group raise further questions about the team’s mentality.
So far Barcelona’s form has been patchy despite still sitting jointly on top of La Liga on 22 points. Barca’s form away from home has especially been suspect. They have three defeats on their travels, the latest one being last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Levante.
Influential defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets was missing in all of those reverses, highlighting how important he is in certain games. The 31-year-old with two UCL winners medals will be first on Valverde’s team sheet protecting the back four when they visit Milan.
Inter Milan have been in fine form this season. Ironically, they have won every away game they have played in this season, apart from the 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in the Nou Camp early last month.
Romelu Lukaku has made a blistering start to life in Italy following his move from Manchester United. So far, he has repaid Conte’s faith in paying £74 million for his services. And his pace and power could be very dangerous to Barcelona’s more technical centre half pairing of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet.
Dortmund will be looking to win at least a point in their clash with Barcelona, before their final game in group at home to Sparta Prague. They will be confident they can beat the Czechs having overcome them 2-0 in Prague.
Despite their comeback against Inter Milan, if they finish on the same points as the Italians then they would be leapfrogged in the group table by them. Inter beat them 2-0 at the San Siro, leaving them with a better goal difference head to head.
Who: Manchester United vs Brighton Hove & Albion
When: Sunday, November 10th @ 09:00am ET
Line: Manchester United -177 | Draw +280 | Brighton +575
Just when things started looking upwards for Manchester United, the drab defeat to Bournemouth brought everything crashing down. The Cherries hadn’t scored a goal/won a game in October, but against United managed to do both. Because of course they did!
It’s one step forward, two steps back for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. At this point, I feel like these types of setbacks will be a regular thing this season. With the International break approaching, a win to calm the nerves would be ideal.
A very competitive Brighton Albion & Hove visit Old Trafford. They’re actually above United in the Premier League table. Not only are they defensively strong, but they’re fearless going forward with quality attackers.
The upside for United is they haven’t won away from home since the opening matchday. As long as they keep a strong defensive shape and convert their chances, a hard-fought win should arrive for the Red Devils.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams, McTominay, Fred, Pereira, James, Martial, Rashford.
Paul Pogba remains a long-term absentee and Luke Shaw doesn’t seem capable of returning anytime soon. Axel Tuanzebe & Nemanja Matic are also definitely out, but Brandon Williams should start in place of the lacky Ashley Young.
Brighton Likely XI
Ryan, Montoya, Webster, Dunk, Burn, Gross, Propper, Stephens, Trossard, Maupey, Connolly
Brighton don’t really have many injuries, with Jose Izqueidero being the only absentee. Expect them to bring their best to Old Trafford.
Manchester United vs Brighton Hove & Albion Preview
The defeat to Bournemouth wasn’t only United’s 4th this campaign (their worst ever start in Premier League history), but it’s the third time they weren’t able to score! With all due respect to the Cherries solid defending, OGS’ side had enough quality to win the match even without Pogba.
The Norwegian has acknowledged a creativity issue, but there are too many problems to single out. With the churn of away games out of the way, United must work hard into improving their home form.
The Old Trafford faithful always act as their 12th man. However, it’s the responsibility of the players to do the work on the pitch. Marcus Rashford & Anthony Martial have created a buzzing partnership upfront. They must look for ways towards linking up better, getting into promising positions as well as really harrying opposition defenders with their unpredictability.
Rashford gets bullied out of games on occasions. He must be stronger. Martial doesn’t work hard enough to grind out goals. He must add more energy to his game to compliment his trickery. The more the weeks go by, the more Daniel James proves an amazing investment for United.
However, the Welshman’s quick running, looping crosses often go in vain. The major issue is United aren’t creating that many chances. As the #10, Andreas Pereira must be more composed picking out those killer passes. Even Fred needs to calm down to see creative opportunities ahead.
While Trent Alexander-Arnold & Andy Robertson are winning games for Liverpool, United’s fullbacks are barely effective. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a colossal defensively (even withstanding his recent mistake), but lacks that fire going forward. Ashley Young is past it. Williams is a tenacious, clever kid who must be encouraged to create more.
But unless United start creating more, Brighton could easily get something out from Old Trafford. Graham Potter’s men are fearless in their own right, loving to control games & work their way into creating.
With new signings Leandro Trossard, Neil Maupay creating the unpredictable cloak around them, youngster Aaron Connolly’s taken the goal-scoring duties off Glenn Murray too. The Seagulls won’t hesitate taking the game to United, attacking with fierce pace & rhythm.
Of course, their attacking mentality can play into United’s hands. The Red Devils love counter-attacking football and their attacking trio are lethal in swift-breaks. However, Potter won’t make it that easy for them. Adam Webster & Lewis Dunk are defensively compact, while their physicality can also cause United all sorts of problems.
After falling off the top-four race again, a win is essential for United to keep up with the top-7. Brighton aren’t the easiest to break down, but the wounded Devils must tap into their ultimate potential to get Old Trafford roaring again.
I think this will be a pretty cagey yet competitive encounter. Knowing Brighton’s struggle away from home & United’s solidity at Old Trafford, I’m calling this to go a 1-0 win for OGS side.
A new HPS MLS Pod is up!
Joining host Harrison Hamm is ex-Seattle Sounders winger and current broadcaster Steve Zakuani. During his time at Seattle (2009-13), Zakuani made 80 appearances and scored 17 goals. Zakuani is also the subject of a 2019 documentary, “Unbreakable,” highlighting his recovery from a horrific tibia and fibula injury.
He’ll provide insight into the Seattle vs Toronto FC MLS Cup final match-up.
- Why Brian Schmetzer has been so successful as Sounders coach
- What it’s like to play with Nicolas Lodeiro
- The tactical battle between Seattle and Toronto
At the end of the day, the oddsmakers were probably right. They’re almost always right.
While matchday 1 results suggested Liverpool could be in trouble and Red Bull Salzburg may surprise, it hasn’t exactly worked out like that over the past two month. It’s not a lock yet–but Liverpool and Napoli–just as the original odds suggested–are comfortably positioned to advance to the knockout round.
As we saw today though, crazy things can and usually do happen in the Champions League.
Here’s a look at what Liverpool and Napoli need to do to secure the top seed in Group E and how Red Bull Salzburg can still crash the party.
Champions League Group E Standings
|Red Bull Salzburg||1||1||2||2||4|
Red Bull Salzburg certainly have had their chances. They made an impressive comeback at Anfield to nearly pull a draw off Liverpool. And they had an early lead at Napoli that ended in a disappointing draw. With a little luck in either of those matches, they’d be on solid footing to advance.
Napoli’s draw at Genk did nothing to dampen their chances at advancement. They’re the only club in the group without a loss yet. However, the Genk draw gave Liverpool the edge of advancing as the #1 seed.
Champions League Group E Winner Odds
Over at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ, Liverpool have pulled away as the favorite to claim the group.
- Liverpool: -390
- Napoli: +250
- Red Bull Salzburg: +10000
Champions League Group E Probabilities
Over at FiveThirtyEight, their probability models suggests Liverpool and Napoli are locks. RBS has only a 10% chance to advance.
However, despite being atop the group, 538 gives Liverpool a slightly lower chance of advancing to the round of 16 (94%) than Napoli (96%). That’s due to Napoli still having a home match vs Genk. A win there, which would bring Napoli to 11 points, and they’re 100% in.
Scenarios That Could Change the Group
First, it’s important to know the Champions League group stage tiebreakers, as they may come into play:
- Points in head-to-head matches among tied teams
- Goal difference in head-to-head matches among tied teams
- Goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams
- Away goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams
With that in mind…
Much of the drama could be sucked out of the group on matchday 5 (November 27th) as Napoli visit Liverpool. A Liverpool win means they’ll advance as top seed. Napoli couldn’t catch them on points. If Liverpool were to lose or draw vs Napoli, things could still be very interesting.
For Napoli, a win at home vs Genk on matchday 6 (bringing them to 11 points) assures their advancement regardless of the Liverpool match.
But about that November 27th game at Anfield. If Napoli secure any points against Liverpool, they just need to beat Genk at home to come out of Group E as top seed. They’ll have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Liverpool.
Red Bull Salzburg
Realistically, RBS have virtually no shot to win Group E.
- That would require Napoli drawing Liverpool and losing to Genk.
- AND Liverpool drawing Napoli and losing to RBS in Austria.
- While RBS winning out (obviously).
If the above scenario happened, RBS would have 10 points. Liverpool would have 10 points. And Napoli would have 9.
Then it goes right back to the tiebreakers for top seed between RBS and Liverpool.
- RBS and Liverpool would be tied in head-to-head points
- If it’s a one-goal game, they’d be tied again. If RBS beat Liverpool by two, they’d have the edge
- Goals scored in head-to-head matches likely goes to RBS as well
- And their 3 away goals at Anfield would almost assuredly win the day if all of the above were tied
So with potential edges in goal difference, goals scored, and away goals, Red Bull Salzburg still have a fleeting hope of not just advancing, but as a number 1 seed. It’s not likely at all, but it’s possible.