Last week we got to watch the Mancs come to Liverpool and play the shittiest brand of soccer ever, then mid-week they did it again. Liverpool also managed to figure out how to put the ball in the back of the net and Tottenham went to Real Madrid and secured a point on the road, which was highly unexpected. We also got the UEFA World Cup Draw for the last four spots from Europe.
UEFA World Cup Playoff Draw
Northern Ireland v Switzerland – Switzerland are the seeded team in this pairing and should go through to Russia in 2018. The Northern Irish have not qualified for the World Cup Final since Mexico in 1986, Switzerland has qualified for the last three. The Swiss squandered a chance at directly qualifying with their loss to Portugal on the last matchday. The Northern Irish are the highest ranked of the unseeded teams and had to deal with the juggernaut that is Germany. The Northern Irish are made up of a lot of Championship and West Brom players, while the Swiss squad is headlined by Shaqiri.
Croatia v Greece – Ugh, these two matches are going to be drab affairs. Croatia is the seeded team. Croatia has qualified for all but one World Cup Final they’ve competed in. The Greeks have qualified for the last two. One of these teams is going to end that streak. An interesting note on the most recent Greek squad is that their keeper and all of their defenders currently do not ply their trade in the Greek League. In group qualifying, Croatia couldn’t quite overcome Iceland and Greece finished behind Belgium. The Croats are captained by Luka Modrić and the frontline is led by Mario Mandžukić. No one from Greece has ever scored more than 10 goals.
Sweden v Italy – This is the matchup that every one is looking forward. Sweden finished just behind France and Italy behind Spain for automatic qualification. Italy has qualified for every World Cup since 1958 (which oddly took place in Sweden). The Swedish have not qualified since Germany in 2006. Sweden is a bunch of hard working role players where the sum is much better than the parts. The Italians have medaled in 7 WC Finals, including 4 Championships. This is the last hurrah for Gigi Buffon and but for three EPL players the entirety of the Italian call-ups are from Serie A.
Denmark v Ireland – The Irish play a very defensive game and will be hoping for a smash and grab in this two-legged fixture. Denmark last qualified for the Final in 2010 in South Africa. The Republic of Ireland’s last appearance was in 2002 in South Korea where they made a run to the Round of 16. Kasper Schmeichel and Christian Eriksen are the players most well known to EPL fans, but the Danes have a very well-rounded squad. All of the Irish players ply their trade in the EPL and the Championship. This is a defensive-minded team that is very physically strong and should be up to the challenge.
Here are the matchups:
Northern Ireland v Switzerland – 1:45pm CT
Croatia v Greece – 1:45pm CT
Sweden v Italy – 1:45pm CT
Denmark v Ireland – 1:45pm CT
Switzerland v Northern Ireland – 11:00am CT
Greece v Croatia – 1:45pm CT
Italy v Sweden – 1:45pm CT
Ireland v Denmark – 1:45pm CT
What Happened Last Weekend
Chelsea 4 – 2 Watford – Watford held a 2-1 lead for nearly 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge before Antonio Conte’s men realized that they were playing Watford. Watford has looked decent against some of the top squads in England (including a 3-3 last minute draw against Liverpool at the start of the year) and currently sit 5th in the EPL. Michy Batshuayi came on as a second half sub and snagged a brace. Watford should feel hard done by the officials on the first goal by Pedro (which was a terrible corner call), but have no one to blame but themselves for missing a wide open net when up 2-1.
Frankfurt 2 – 2 Dortmund – Dortmund, about a month ago, were five points clear of Bayern Munich. Well they’ve squandered that lead and now are tied atop the Bundesliga with Bayern thanks to dropping points in Frankfurt on Saturday. And this is definitely points dropped as they were up 2-0 with the match seemingly in hand until a penalty in the 64th minute and the equalizer four minutes later. Frankfurt currently sit in 7th in the Bundesliga.
Napoli 0 – 0 Internazionale – Perfect no more! Napoli was the last team left without a blemish on their record as they drew at home with second place Internazionale. Inter entered the match with one mission: to keep Dries Mertens off the score sheet, and it worked. Inter was more than comfortable sitting back and absorbing pressure and as the game went on were even more confident in their ability to shut Napoli down. A big win last week against AC Milan and this result on the road should bolster Inter’s thoughts of challenging for the Serie A title.
Everton 2 – 5 Arsenal – Oh Ronald Koeman, we hardly knew ye. After spending an ass load of money on a bunch of players, including Gylfi Siggurdsson, they are currently in the relegation zone. You will not get any tears from me as I support the red side of Liverpool, but an EPL without Everton will be really fucking weird. Arsenal continued their standard beating the hell out of crap teams.
Tottenham 4 – 1 Liverpool – Dejan Lovren was so bad that he was subbed off just after the 30th minute in the first half. That pretty much sums up the match for Liverpool. The Reds have dominated this match for quite some time, so a commanding win at Wembley should raise the Spurs shots at winning the title. Spurs also set an attendance record for this match and the fans got quite a show.
Feyenoord 1 – 4 Ajax – Ajax rolled into Rotterdam and spanked Feyenoord. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored early for Ajax and then his replacement Kasper Dolberg bagged a brace. Ajax stays in second place with the win. Feyenoord drop to fifth.
Galatasaray 0 – 0 Fenerbahce – This game appears to have sucked balls. Galatasaray managed 3 shots on frame, but Fenerbahce could manage none. Galatasaray ended the match with 10 men, but clearly nothing could be mustered from it.
Marseille 2 – 2 PSG – Maybe the best match of the weekend, a #4 v #1 matchup ended all square. Marseille actually had the lead early and late and almost won it, but for an Edinson Cavani curler in stoppage time. Neymar scored and got a red card (yellow accumulation), and PSG stayed at the top of Ligue 1 table.
What’s on tap?
Mid-week Cup Competitions
English Carabao Cup
Swansea City v Manchester United (Tuesday) – Swansea City will be fielding a weakened lineup as they have added a bunch of players to the injured list. Manchester United is also hit by the injury bug as Phil Jones went out injured in the Huddersfield Town disaster on Saturday.
Chelsea v Everton (Wednesday) – Chelsea are home at Stamford Bridge where they drew Roma last week and beat Watford on the weekend. Everton, as noted earlier, are in a relegation battle early in the year. They just sacked Ronald Koeman and are in an absolute freefall.
Tottenham v West Ham United (Wednesday) – The Spurs are on a good run of form. West Ham beat Spurs late last year and the Spurs beat West Ham earlier this year. The best shot that West Ham has is that the Spurs have Champion’s League and probably do not care at all about this competition.
German DFB Pokal
RB Leipzig v Bayern Munich (Wednesday) – Leipzig host Bayern Munich for their first meeting in the DFB Pokal. Both Leipzig and Munich are on winning streaks and Leipzig has never beaten Munich (they’ve only played twice). They did play a barn burner of a match back in May with RB Leipzig losing 4-5 at home, effectively scuttling their title chase.
Werder Bremen v TSG Hoffenheim (Wednesday) – A much less sexy, but also pivotal match for two teams who want to try and win some silverware. Both teams have higher aspirations and Hoffenheim are having trouble in Europa after getting knocked out of Champion’s League by Liverpool. Bremen is without a league win and are right on the cusp of a relegation battle.
Aberdeen v Celtic (Wednesday) – Aberdeen and Celtic are #2 and #1, respectively, in the Scottish Premiership, and both are six points clear of third place Rangers. Aberdeen hasn’t beaten Celtic in their last five matches.
Mainz v Eintracht Frankfurt (Friday) – The home side has won this match all the way going back to 2014. Mainz and Frankfurt are both solid mid-table teams so the points here are very valuable to both teams. Frankfurt is coming off a come from behind draw at home against Dortmund. Mainz is coming off a loss at Schalke on the weekend.
Paris Saint-Germain v Nice (Friday) – PSG are coming off a draw against Marseille while Nice lost at home, to near bottom of the table, Strasbourg. Nice actually got the better of PSG last year, snagging a 2-2 draw at home and winning 3-1 at home. PSG will be missing Neymar due to a suspension, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
Enjoy all of your mid-week soccer matches, we’ll be back next week with some hot domestic league action!