Bit of a damp squib this game. When one team needs to only play at 70% to win, it’s never a good look for a final. Nevertheless, some thoughts below.
The Football Podcast with Wasim Parkar welcomes its first guest as renowned football journalist Philippe Auclair joins Wasim to preview the 2017 Coupe de La Ligue final between Monaco and PSG. Philippe and Wasim also talk about football journalism and the general state of affairs in Ligue 1.
The quarterfinals weren’t special, but Wasim believes we’ll see the magic of the FA Cup in the semis and the final as Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City duke it out for honours in the world’s oldest cup competition.
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The football calendar rolls on with more action in the middle of the week after another thoroughly entertaining weekend of goals and upsets. Here are my picks for the matches that you should keep an eye on today.
Wolfsburg vs Borussia Dortmund
Not many teams in the upper echelons of European football win matches 6-0, let alone twice consecutively across the Champions League and their domestic league. That’s precisely what Dortmund have done this past week in dispatching Legia Warsaw and SV Darmstadt. Most encouragingly for Thomas Tuchel, the twin thrashings featured excellent performances by the club’s youngsters – both, newcomers and academy graduates. The likes of Raphael Guerreiro, 22, Julian Weigl, 21, Ousmane Dembélé, 19, Emre Mor, 19, and Christian Pulisic, 18, put in sparkling displays as Dortmund pulled their opponents apart.
Wolfsburg though, are a different class of opponent. The Wolves have yet to concede a goal in the new Bundesliga campaign, as the defence has automatically improved with the departure of Dante. Up front however, they have scored only two goals, this despite Mario Gomez and Julian Draxler missing a host opportunities in the last match against Hoffenheim.
Last season this fixture was a tremendous match that was decided in favour of the visitors thanks to an injury time winner by Shinji Kagawa. We’ll be in for a treat if we get half as good a match this time around.
AC Milan vs Lazio
Two of Italy’s historic clubs have already participated in entertaining matches in this nascent season. Games featuring have AC Milan and Lazio have seen 13 goals each in just four rounds of action. Lazio have regained their attacking verve under the tutelage of Simone Inzaghi, with Felipe Anderson in particular displaying the form that made him a hot property in the 2014-15 season.
Meanwhile Vincenzo Montella still hasn’t got all the parts moving together at the San Siro, with the defence still vulnerable to soft goals. However, with a striker like Carlos Bacca, Milan can win matches without even playing reasonably well, as was witnessed in their 1-0 win over Sampdoria on the weekend. Whether that will be enough against a fluid Lazio attack remains to be seen.
Leicester City vs Chelsea
On their list of priorities for the season, I doubt Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte have winning the League Cup EFL Cup at the top. Nevertheless, there is a fair amount of intrigue around the marquee tie of the round. Will Ranieri actually make a better fist of cup competitions this time around as league success is unlikely to be replicated? Will Conte rotate his first eleven and give some of his bench players a chance to stake a claim after two disappointing league results? These and many other questions will be answered in what is bound to be a cracking cup tie at the King Power Stadium.
Sevilla vs Real Betis
The Derbi Sevillano is always must-watch football. The two hated rivals face off at the Sanchez Pijuan and adding to the occasion is the presence of two new South American faces in the dugout.
Jorge Sampaoli has brought his brand of pressing to the Europa League winners, resulting in an unbeaten start, though Sevilla have yet to cure their away day hex in the Liga. Sampaoli has shown that he is a versatile tactician. At times, Los Rojiblancos have been irresistible going forward with as many as six attackers on the pitch, as witnessed in the crazy season-opening 6-4 win over Espanyol. On the other hand, their stalemate away to Juventus in the Champions League was an exhibition in defending from the front.
Gus Poyet on the other hand has encouraged his men to take the attack to the opposition, although this has led to Betis conceding few too many goals. Veteran striker Rubén Castro continues to belie his age as he racks up the goals and assists. Whether Poyet can come up with a tactical alteration to stifle Sevilla will probably end up being the key factor in the derby.
Sampaoli’s tactical nous and the backing of a vociferous home crowd should see Sevilla take the three points, but anything can happen in a derby, especially with a poacher like Castro in the opposition.