Champions League: Picking a Combined XI From Teams in Group B

?Group B in the Champions League will see last season’s finalists Tottenham Hotspur come up against Bayern Munich, Olympiacos and Red Star Belgrade.

There is undoubtedly plenty of talent on show in this group, and the bigger teams will certainly know that they cannot afford many slip-ups if they want to make it to the next round.

The group certainly promises real excitement, and here’s a combined XI of players from the four teams in Group B.


Goalkeeper & Defenders

Manuel Neuer

Manuel Neuer (GK) – Hugo Lloris comes close, but we’ve gone with ?Neuer. The ?Bayern man has long been one of the game’s best goalkeepers, and his ball-playing abilities make him one of the most versatile shot-stoppers around.

Joshua Kimmich (RB) – Kimmich’s versatility means you’ll likely see him deployed further up the field, because he’s good enough to make an impact wherever he plays. A powerful athlete with incredible technical ability, Kimmich can really do it all.

Toby Alderweireld (CB) –? Ever since joining ?Spurs, ?Alderweireld has gone from strength to strength. Not only an elite defender, the Belgian also knows how to pick out a stunning pass or two, and he loves being the catalyst for Spurs’ attacks.

Niklas Sule (CB) – Once seen as one of the finest young centre-backs around, Sule has easily lived up to that potential with Bayern. At just 24 years old, he still has plenty of time to improve and get even better, which is a terrifying prospect.

Lucas Hernandez (LB) – Is he a left-back? Is he a centre-back? Nobody really knows. Lucas has played in both positions since his lucrative move to Bayern, and he has been dominant in each. It takes a special player to star in two separate roles, but that’s Lucas for you.


Midfielders 

Christian Eriksen

Christian Eriksen (CM) – Spurs managed to keep hold of ?Eriksen during the summer, and it’s easy to see why they were so desperate to do so. He is one of the most creative players in the ?Premier League, and he will want to make a real impact on Europe this season, perhaps to earn himself a move away from the club.

Tanguy Ndombele (CM) – Olympiacos duo Kostas Fortounis and Mady Camara were both in with good shouts here, but Spurs’ record signing Ndombele deserves his place. The Frenchman’s impressive box-to-box abilities have been on show in the ?Champions League in recent seasons, and it’s time for him to deliver with Spurs.

Thiago (CM) – Thiago is a fantastic midfielder. Not only is his passing second to none, but he is solid defensively and can help dictate the tempo of any game. There are few midfielders quite like the Spaniard.


Forwards

Serge Gnabry,Lukas Klostermann

Serge Gnabry (RW) – There’s a few good options on the wing. Bayern’s Kingsley Coman deserves a shout, but ?Gnabry just edges him out. The German has turned into a different animal since leaving ?Arsenal, but he will certainly still remember the importance of beating Spurs.

Harry Kane (ST) –  ?Kane is one of the world’s best strikers, and he needs to be to fend off competition from Robert Lewandowski here. Red Star’s Richard Boakye, who was on ?Chelsea‘s radar just one year ago, is no slouch either, but Kane will certainly want to outscore them both.

Son Heung-min (LW) –? Some fans would even argue that ?Son is more important to Spurs than Kane, and there’s definitely some truth to that. The South Korean’s goals were vital to Spurs’ run to the final last season – can he do it again?


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The Jerry Seinfeld 2019/20 UEFA Champions League Preview

‘What’s going onnnnn?!!!’

I’ll tell you what’s going on Jerry, the UEFA Champions League is back this week, and it’s been confirmed that your sitcom – Seinfeld – is set to hit Netflix in 2021. 

And to celebrate these two great bits of news, we’ll pour out ?a little bit of the bubbly, and re-work/butcher some of the Jerry Seinfeld’s best jokes to preview each of the eight ?UEFA Champions League groups. 


Group A

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Club Brugge, Galatasaray, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid

My theory is 98% of all football played in Group A is merely killing time. 

Let’s face it, we don’t really want to watch Club Brugge or Galatasaray play football, do we? 

‘F**k no.’

That’s what I thought. 


Group B

FBL-ENG-PR-TOTTENHAM-CRYSTAL PALACE

Bayern Munich, Red Star Belgrade/Crvena Zvezda, Olympiacos, Tottenham Hotspur

Jerry Seinfeld once said: “there’s no such thing as fun for the whole family”, and he was WRONG, because Group B really is fun for the whole family.

We have the blockbuster heavyweight clash between ?Bayern Munich and ?Tottenham Hotspur for your Dad and his tin of Carlsberg.

Crvena Zvezda for your hipster son to try and pronounce and pretend he’s heard of.

Mauricio Pochettino as eye candy for your mother.

And the wonderful city of Athens for your daughter, just back from interrailing, to cite as the ‘third nicest city’ she was in during the summer. 

Fun for the whole family. 


Group C

Pep Guardiola

Atalanta, Dinamo Zagreb, Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk

Men don’t care about what’s happening in Group C, they care about what’s happening in Group D. So, moving on…


Group D

Cristiano Ronaldo

Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus, Lokomotiv Moscow

I tell you what I like about ?Atletico Madrid, they’re hanging in there with the park the bus football, aren’t they? You know they’ve seen the Gegenpress. They’re staying with the bus. I’m impressed by that.

I tell you what I don’t like about ?Juventus, they’re chopping and changing at every opportunity, aren’t they? You know they’ve seen how continuity breeds success. But they’re staying with the reactionary decision making. I’m not impressed by that. 


Group E

FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-NEWCASTLE

Genk, Liverpool, SSC Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg

The Gegenpress is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that football managers are still thinking for themselves. 

Jurgen Klopp is one of the only managers in world football that’s not trying to copy Pep Guardiola, and you have to respect that. 


Group F

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Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter, Slavia Prague

Group F is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have the top for it. Anything can come out of it at any point in the near future…except for Slavia Prague. Obviously.


Group G

Timo Werner

Benfica, Olympique Lyonnais, RB Leipzig, Zenit St Petersburg

It’s incredible that everything that could possibly happen in Group G can be summed up in exactly two words: 

Who cares? 


Group H

Tammy Abraham

Ajax, Chelsea, LOSC Lille, Valencia

Group H is thought of by many as the most competitive, and therefore best, of all of the UEFA Champions League groups this season. So if Group H is the best group, why are you watching E instead? 


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Philippe Coutinho Compares Life at Liverpool to Bayern Munich as He Discusses New Club

?Philippe Coutinho has claimed that Bayern Munich is a ‘more familiar’ club than any of his former sides, including Liverpool.

The Brazilian was shipped out of Barcelona on loan in the summer, joining the Bavarian giants on a season-long deal that also includes an option to buy.

The 27-year-old was linked with a return to England, with the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and even Liverpool, rumoured to be interested. However, he previously claimed he would find it difficult to play for another Premier League club besides the Reds and found himself a new challenge in Germany.

Philippe Coutinho

Despite a successful spell on Merseyside, a stint that included 41 goals and 35 assists in 152 Premier League games, Coutinho, when asked by Sky Sports in Germany if Bayern is ‘more familial’ than his former clubs, said: “Definitely. That’s exactly what I thought.

“Everything here is very familiar. I know that from Liverpool a bit, but here it is even more familiar.

“It’s been very nice. In the first days, I was shown all the facilities first. I met the teammates and of course the coaching team. Every day I feel a little better, I am very happy.”

Hasan Salihamidzic,Karl-Heinz Rummenigge,Philippe Coutinho

The former Liverpool man went on to praise the warm welcome he received by the Bayern faithful.

He added, as quoted by The Mirror: “The fans were incredibly nice to me, it’s great to feel the positive energy of them very close.

“Many children are always there, I see the radiance in their eyes and that makes me happy.”

Philippe Coutinho,Ivan Rakitic

After his dream move to Barcelona ended in failure, as he fell out of favour at Camp Nou. He now has the opportunity at Bayern, in his prime, to rejuvenate his career and rediscover his Liverpool form.

Coutinho has made three appearances in the Bundesliga thus far and came on as a late substitute in his side’s 1-1 draw at Leipzig on Saturday.

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90min’s Definitive European Player Power Rankings: Week Five

After an international break full of the kind of nothingness international football has practically patented (this is just a joke to impress you guys, I actually like international football), club football came back with a bang this week.

Which is why we at Power Rankings HQ had to respond with similar firepower (‘Daddy‘!*). Luckily we found it, with one of the greatest tv shows of this decade, hell, this century: ‘Atlanta‘. And seeing as it ain’t Robbin Season just yet, we’re hitting you with Season One of this Donald Glover-helmed modern classic. 

*This joke will become clear by number four.


15. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (New Entry)


“What? This is a great environment for you!”

This could be taken in the sarcastic vein that it is delivered in the show, as a means to show just how badly Henrikh Mkhitaryan was suited to his surroundings at Manchester United and Arsenal. 

But it could also be taken at face value where Roma is concerned, with the Armenian netting a fine goal on his Italian bow to cap off a finer-still display in the 4-2 win over Sassuolo. As you will see, Arsenal rejects scoring on their debut, just as the Gunners’ were themselves faltering in Watford, was a theme this week. As was Arsenal affiliates letting themselves down with their own hubris. See the above tweet and Mateo Guendouzi.


14. Robert Lewandowski (Re-Entry)

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“Well, why would I shoot at a human target?”

While it ultimately wasn’t to be for Bayern against a valiant/luck-riding RB Leipzig side, Robert Lewandowksi’s goalscoring heroics continued, thanks to a consummate finish inside just three minutes. 

Asked how he’s so darn accurate in front of goal, the Pole’s response is quoted above. 


13. Stefano Sensi (New Entry)

Stefano Sensi

“Can I measure your tree?”

With several feet, let alone inches, between Stefano Sensi and Udinese’s covering defender, you can image Antonio Conte and co’s surprise when the diminutive playmaker snuck ahead of him to sneak in a gloriously taken header into the net via the underside of the bar. 

Inter’s 2019 breakout star can head a ball, and he’s barely breaking 5ft.


12. Nacho Monreal (New Entry)

Nacho Monreal

“You look like a fake Ellen Degeneres. A Felon Degeneres.”

Yes, you guessed it (did you?), Nacho Monreal was the second Arsenal reject to score on his debut this weekend, and it came in one of the results of the weekend, with Real Sociedad blotting Atletico Madrid’s unblemished record with a hard-earned 2-0 victory. 

He may look like a BTEC Ellen Degeneres (at least enough for this bit to work…?), but the man can finish his dinner and, in keeping a clean sheet against Diego Simeone’s men, he proved he’s not all forward-thinking, either. 


11. Dries Mertens (Re-Entry)

Dries Mertens

“If you could use a rat as a phone, man, that’d be genius.”

Just as the above observation from Darius was met with derision, many pundits baulked at the use of Dries Mertens as a number nine all those moons ago. Look at him now. Bagging braces against Sampdoria like it’s nothing, and making Fabio Quagliarella (of all people) look blunt. 


10. Duvan Zapata (New Entry)

Genoa CFC v Atalanta BC - Serie A

“Hello, cousin. How are you today?”

Not only did Duvan Zapata nab Atalanta (eerily close to ‘Atlanta’, I hear you say!!) all three points with a 95th-minute thunderbolt against Genoa, he also won a penalty for his side by doing his cousin, Cristian, all ends up. 


9. Karim Benzema (New Entry)

TOPSHOT-FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-LEVANTE

“I don’t know, man, I like Flo Rida. I mean, moms need to enjoy rap, too.”

Karim Benzema is the Flo Rida of football. Think about it.


8. Neymar (Up 3)

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“The price is on the can, though.”

With Kylian Mbappe sidelined, it was all about the return of the banner-provoking Brazilian forward Neymar this weekend. 

And, after some initial stuttering against Strasbourg, he delivered in a big, big way, with a 91st-minute bicycle kick to win it. Special stuff. I’d also like to add that PSG are the Arizona Iced Tea (the ‘can’ in question) of football and, as the slogan goes, the price is there for all to see. It’s right on the can. It is. 


7. Marco Reus (New Entry)

Jadon Sancho,Marco Reus

“You want to manage a rapper but you can’t do business high?”

You are Bayer Leverkusen. You want to beat Borussia Dortmund away from home, you have 67% of the possession, three more shots than they do, but you don’t mark Marco Reus? 

Weird.


6. Sadio Mane (Re-Entry)

Sadio Mane

“Money is an idea.”

This is unequivocally true.

Here’s another idea, just off the top of my head. Sadio Mane is world-class. Real Madrid wanted him, but wouldn’t cough up. So here’s the idea: cough up. Whether Mane wants to join the Santiago Bernabeu circus remains to be seen, but at least test some Liverpudlian resolve. The man’s worth all you got, Zizou.


5. Son Heung-min (New Entry)

Heung-Min Son

“This here’s a lightsaber – Luke Skywalker’s.”

Son Heung-min is Tottenham’s Luke Skywalker, here to return the club to the light after some dark times. 

The fact that this is uttered by a bumbling (and potentially homeless?) man who’s set up his own impromptu, and very much unofficial, parking lot should not take away from the initial point. 


4. Luis Suarez (New Entry)

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[while polishing his gun] “Man, I ain’t scared of nothing. I got Daddy right here.”

Not that Barcelona needed to be scared on Saturday against Valencia, considering their current chaos, but if any Copa del Rey Final flashbacks did occur, they knew they had the sharpshooting Luis ‘Daddy’ Suarez right there just in case.

And, though he wasn’t necessarily needed from the bench, he was used, springing straight into the action to nab a 20-minute brace. And, if you object to the use of ‘Daddy’ here, well, then, have another quote from this very exchange:

“Yo, you not gonna see this, but your assumed perversion of the word ‘Daddy’, I think that’s stemming from the fear of mortality, man. What you call your gun?”

Yeah. What do you call your ageing strikers?


3. Tammy Abraham (Re-Entry)

Tammy Abraham

Is Paperboi Atlanta’s 2Pac? They said no. But apparently John Boyega is the new Magic Johnson.”

Is Tammy Abraham Chelsea’s second coming of Didier Drogba? No. As previously established in these here rankings, Tammy Abraham is the new Magic Johnson. Move over, Boyega. 


2. Teemu Pukki (Up 3)

Teemu Pukki

“I just think we need a chance as humans to fail in order to discover what actually works, you know? People don’t think there’s a process to being happy.”

Teemu Pukki is the living embodiment of this quote, and he’s now reaping the rewards from this time-honoured policy, pulling the strings in the result of the weekend from across Europe. 

He is also now the only man to maintain his spot across the first five weeks of these rankings, which makes him a winner in his own right. So why, you ask, is he not the outright winner this week? Well, he’s not 16.


1. Ansu Fati (New Entry)

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-VALENCIA

“AIDS was invented to keep Wilt Chamberlain from beating Steve McQueen’s sex record. And by ’69 he was already number three on the all-time list. By ’71 he would’ve been that boy for sure.”

Has Ansu Fati been invented to keep Lionel Messi from beating Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League goalscoring record? I can’t say it with the same certainty as ya boy Darius above, but the precocity of Barca’s youngest ever goalscorer sure does beg the question. 

And that’s not the only record he’s broken, as he became the youngest ever play to record a goal and an assist in the same game in La Liga history against Valencia.

And what a goal and an assist they were, the former being an oh-so-composed first-time finish after a bursting run into the box inside just two minutes of action, the latter comprising a mazy run down the left flank, the retiring of Ezequiel Garay and an expertly placed cut-back for Frenkie de Jong just five minutes later. 

By the 15th-minute mark he was centimetres away from a brace, and moments after that he should have had a penalty. Need I remind you that this kid is 16 years old, and just two weeks ago was a mere unknown.

Now he’s spreading his arms to the Camp Nou crowd, soliciting the kind of response that – yes, I’LL SAY IT – only Messi himself can garner in modern times. Hence the €100m release clause, and hence the placing atop these prestigious rankings.

Remember the date, remember the name.


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Arjen Robben: The Flying Dutchman Who Became a Modern Legend at Bayern Munich

Arjen Robben is number 20 in 90min’s Top 20 Greatest Footballers of the Decade series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next four weeks.?


When you play at the same venue at five-a-side for long enough, you start to get familiar with your opponents.

After a few league seasons – which tend to only last a couple of months each – you’re defending as part of a two-player rearguard, when you spot a similar face.

Suddenly, you recall that the player you’re trying to usher towards the touchline actually has a wand of a left foot.

FBL-EUR-C1-MAN UTD-BAYERN MUNICH

You remember this as that player has sprinted away from you in previous games with the agility of a cat before bending shots into the top corner.

Each time it happens, you puff your cheeks out and think: 

“I knew what he was going to do. We all knew what he was going to do. Why didn’t I stop it?”

Funny enough, the problem is there’s a difference between identifying a strength in a baller’s game and actually stopping them playing to that strength.

And that’s why, over the last 15 years or so, defenders across Europe struggled to deal with Arjen Robben.

No one figured out how to stop the Dutchman from shifting the ball on to his left foot from the right wing and curling goal after goal into the far corner. 

Arjen Robben

Robben was lightning quick at the start of his career but as that pace declined once he started to reach the twilight of his career, he would find new ways to find that yard of space for a shot. He was a genius who, despite being plagued by injuries throughout his career, has left an indelible mark on European football; particularly in Germany’s Bundesliga.

But let’s tone it down a bit for now, and get to his legacy later.

Robben was born in a satellite town in Groningen, and broke into the Eredivisie club’s first team in the early 2000s. Recognition and admiration followed, resulting in a move to Dutch giants PSV.

Robben played league football in four countries, and won the top flight title in each nation. With PSV, he scored his first in 2002/03, a season in which he netted 12 Eredivisie goals as part of the ‘Batman and Robben’ partnership with Mateja Kezman. The Serbian scored an unbelievable 35 league goals that year, but he’s not the one we’re focusing on right now.

?The following season brought a second place finish and talk of a move to Manchester United – however, Sir Alex Ferguson and co. lowballed PSV and Chelsea swooped in instead in March 2004 to sign the Dutchman, but he couldn’t make his competitive debut for the Blues until November later that year, having been injured in a pre-season friendly against Roma.

Pesky injuries.

Damien Duff,Eidur Gudjohnsen,Frank Lampard,Arjen Robben

However, whenever Robben did play, he made sure those who watched him wouldn’t forget him in a hurry.

Under Jose Mourinho, Robben made Stamford Bridge his playground, alongside Irish hero Damien Duff. The pair ran riot on the wings, providing for striker Didier Drogba whilst other Blues stars like Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho ensured everything went smoothly behind the frontline. 

It usually did, and in the three seasons Robben spent in south west London he would win two Premier Leagues, one FA Cup and two League Cups.

That sort of record usually gets some of Europe’s heavyweights interested, and Real Madrid eventually lured him to Spain when Chelsea accepted an offer of £24m for their flying Dutchman.

Real Madrid's Dutch midfielder Arjen Rob

Just one La Liga and a Supercopa de Espana came Robben’s way with Los Blancos and he was shipped off after just two years as the club went big on marquee signings, attracting Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo in the same window.

But that’s not to say Robben was a failure at the Bernabeu.

In a Clasico when Real had already wrapped up the league title, Barcelona formed a guard of honour for their bitter rivals and were then smashed 4-1, Robben scoring the second goal.

When the inevitable departure came, Robben admitted he didn’t want to leave and cited the club’s desire to sell him as the key reason for his departure.

Sure, at the time Robben might have been slightly disappointed to swap Real Madrid for Bayern Munich, even if there’s barely a smidge separating the two clubs’ stature, but there’s no doubting the switch had to happen for Robben to cement his place as one of the modern greats.

After all, he had picked up four leagues titles in his time with PSV, Chelsea and Real Madrid, but the Champions League proved elusive.

But before all that, Bayern had a Bundesliga title to reclaim, having missed out to Wolfsburg the previous season.

And Robben would play a key role in that campaign’s title success, scoring 16 goals in 24 Bundesliga appearances, finishing as the club’s top scorer in all competitions with 23.

He also scored perhaps the most famous goal of his career in that season, connecting in emphatic fashion from the edge of the area to pummel home Franck Ribery’s floating corner in a topsy-turvy Champions League tie against Manchester United; with Bayern reaching the semi finals courtesy of away goals.

Arjen Robben

But the following season was a disaster for both Robben – despite his impressive individual performances – and Bayern. At no point during the 2010/11 season did Die Roten lead the Bundesliga title race. Instead, a Jurgen Klopp led Borussia Dortmund finished ten points ahead of Bayern, who finished third behind second placed Bayer Leverkusen.

Robben actually managed 12 goals in 14 league appearances, but Bayern struggled without the Dutchman, who hadn’t properly recovered from a hamstring problem after playing in the 2010 World Cup, resulting in the winger missing the opening months of the campaign.

More heartbreak would follow the next season, Bayern being pipped again to the league title by Dortmund before being beaten by a ‘Written in the Stars’ Chelsea side in the Champions League final on penalties at the Allianz Arena.

Thankfully for Robben, however, Bayern would reach the final again the next season, and the winger would have a huge say in deciding the outcome.

At a packed Wembley, Robben put on a show.

Some marvellous play on the left saw him set up Mario Mandzukic for a tap in for the game’s opener in the 60th minute.

Dortmund were back on level terms eight minutes after thanks to an Ilkay Gundogan penalty, but it was Robben who mended Bayern’s broken heart with a career-defining goal.

In the 89th minute, Robben galloped on to ‘Robbery’ partner Ribery’s flick, slaloming through the Dortmund defence and scuffing a left footed shot past Roman Weidenfeller to win Bayern their fifth European Cup -12 years after their fourth.

Arjen Robben

It was probably one of the Dutchman’s uglier goals in a career filled with absolute peaches, but the strike remains of his more picturesque, just for the jubilant scenes that followed.

Domestically, Robben ended his Bayern career with eight Bundesliga titles, cementing his status as a true club legend.

Internationally, Robben lit up two World Cups, finishing second with the Netherlands in 2010 before going one worse in 2014. The national team fluctuated in terms of quality during Robben’s career but he still served his nation with distinction, scoring 37 goals in 96 international appearances, making him the fifth highest goalscorer in Netherlands history.

Alongside a handful of other players, Robben was responsible for bringing Bayern out of a relatively dark place – especially after the two season league losses to Dortmund – and making the club the best in the land again.

Arjen Robben

His trademark cut-in and shoot manoeuvre, gleaming bald head and stacked trophy cabinet will not be forgotten. Neither will his sometimes silly diving theatrics, but hey, we’re concentrating on the positives here.

Bayern currently have wingers like Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry who can become greats themselves at Germany’s biggest club, but there’s no doubt that since his retirement the Bundesliga has lost an awful lot of swagger and an absolute wand of a left foot.

Thanks for the memories, Arjen. Hopefully the next great inverted winger is just around the corner.


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