Scotland vs England – European Nights

It took extra time at the end of Thursday’s 2nd leg to see EPL side Burnley finally overcome a spirited Aberdeen side at Turf Moor, however let it be said that there was no disgrace in the defeat for the side from north of the border, you could argue that they could even stake a claim for a moral victory.

With both legs finishing 1-1 it was a Jack Cork header and an Ashley Barnes penalty that sent Derek McInnes’ men home, home with their heads held extremely high.

The much maligned Scottish game has been given a further shot in the arm this week with the progression of Celtic, Rangers and Hibs in their respective ties with hope of group stages still burning.

Burnley finished 7th in the “best league in the world” last season banking an estimated £120m.

In comparison Aberdeen finished 2nd in the Scottish Premiership adding a staggering £2.5m to their bank account.

Chris Wood is Burnley’s record signing (£15m) and scored their opener in the 2nd leg. Aberdeen’s starting frontman was a £20k purchase from Carlisle this summer.

Burnley’s Starting XI cost £38.85m vs Aberdeen’s starting XI at £190k

We feel we’ve made our point but just to add further proof, If you look back at the clashes since the 1980’s you’ll probably be surprised by the numbers…

The last 5 ties between Scottish and English club sides in competitive football have all ended as stalemates.

Played 34: Scottish Wins – 7     Draws – 14     English Wins – 13

Aberdeen 0-1 Liverpool, 1980/81 European Cup first round
Liverpool 3-1 Aberdeen, 1980/81 European Cup first round
Ipswich 1-1 Aberdeen, 1981/82 UEFA Cup first round
Aberdeen 3-1 Ipswich, 1981/82 UEFA Cup first round
Nottingham Forest 0-0 Celtic, 1983/84 UEFA Cup third round
Celtic 1-2 Nottingham Forest, 1983/84 UEFA Cup third round
Manchester United 2-2 Dundee United, 1984/85 UEFA Cup third round
Dundee United 2-3 Manchester United, 1984/85 UEFA Cup third round
Rangers 2-1 Leeds, 1992/93 UEFA Champions League second round
Leeds 1-2 Rangers, 1992/93 UEFA Champions League second round
Celtic 2-2 Liverpool, 1997/98 UEFA Cup first round
Liverpool 0-0 Celtic, 1997/98 UEFA Cup first round
Celtic 1-0 Blackburn, 2002/03 UEFA Cup second round
Blackburn 0-2 Celtic, 2002/03 UEFA Cup second round
Celtic 1-1 Liverpool, 2002/03 UEFA Cup quarter-finals
Liverpool 0-2 Celtic, 2002/03 UEFA Cup quarter-finals
Rangers 0-1 Manchester United, 2003/04 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester United 3-0 Rangers, 2003/04 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester United 3-2 Celtic, 2006/07 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Celtic 1-0 Manchester United, 2006/07 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester United 3-0 Celtic, 2008/09 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Celtic 1-1 Manchester United, 2008/09 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Celtic 0-2 Arsenal, 2009/10 UEFA Champions League play-offs
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic, 2009/10 UEFA Champions League play-offs
Manchester United 0-0 Rangers, 2010/11 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Rangers 0-1 Manchester United, 2010/11 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Hearts 0-5 Tottenham, 2011/12 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Tottenham 0-0 Hearts, 2011/12 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Hearts 0-1 Liverpool, 2012/13 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Liverpool 1-1 Hearts, 2012/13 UEFA Europa League play-offs
Celtic 3-3 Manchester City, 2016/17 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Manchester City 1-1 Celtic, 2016/17 UEFA Champions’ League group stage
Aberdeen 1-1 Burnley, 2018/19 UEFA Europa League qualifying
Burnley 1-1 Aberdeen, 2018/19 UEFA Europa League qualifying

It’s about time we put all of this “pub league” nonsense to bed, football in Scotland can provide just as much quality as the game in England. Despite all of the social media rubbish posted by clueless supporters looking for a cheap like or comment.

Money runs the game as we all know – but just try telling that to Sean Dyche who was probably wondering how he would explain a defeat to a Scottish side to the media after their recent scare.

Aberdeen, you did yourselves, your fans and your nation proud.

Huge-security-operation-for-England-v-Scotland.jpg

England & Scotland fan image sourced from; www.mirror.co.uk

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Atletico Madrid – Striking Sensations

With prodigal son Fernando Torres leaving the club at the end of the season and heavy speculation linking Antoine Griezmann with a move away we felt it was worth taking a look at the wealth of striking talent that Atletico Madrid have had, let go, re-signed and will soon be struggling to hold onto!

Now removing the obvious glacticos of Messi, Ronaldo and Mo Salah (he deserves a mention in any footy topic these days) and Atleti have had the best of the rest at one time or another.

Athletico-Madrid-Scorers.jpg

Take a look below and the names on this list and their goals / games ratios:-

Player Games Goals
Antoine Greizmann 205 110
Fernando Torres 397 127
Diego Costa 153 70
Kevin Gameiro 79 26
Sergio Aguero 234 101
Diego Forlan 196 96
Radamel Falcao 91 70
Mario Mandzukic 43 20
David Villa 47 15
Total 1442 634

There is clearly something special about the goal scorers who pull of those famous red and white striped shirts in the Spanish Capital.

Currently boasting an attacking force of Griezmann, Torres, Costa and Gameiro they are gunning for Europa League glory with only Marseille standing in their way.

Their prior goal machines will equally be household names to many.

Aguero, Forlan and Falcao have had stints in the Premier League with mixed fortunes and the world Cup winner David Villa was captured for under £5m to see out his final years in La Liga.

Rewind to the end of the previous decade and you’ll find the days of Christian Vieri and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, these two had a combined record of 62 goals in 75 appearances in the late 90’s.

Not to mention a cost-cutting measure of closing their youth academy cost them Real legend Raul!

They have recently moved to the Wanda Metropolitano and will be hoping their frontmen feel equally at home here as they used to be at the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid striker image sourced from; goal91.com

Premier League – European Nights Proving too much?

It feels like it’s been a lot longer than 4 years since Chelsea lifted the Europa League, an English sides’ last triumph in any European competition. Whilst Man Utd have a reasonable opportunity to win the same competition this season, not many could have predicted such a sharp decline in the performance of the teams from the richest league in the world under the floodlights across the continent.

Allow me to explain…

Since the 1999-2000 season there have been 64 finalists spread over The Champions League & Europa League, the top representatives by country of origin: –

  • Spain – 23
  • Portugal – 7
  • England – 14
  • Italy – 6
  • Germany – 8

Are we accepting that a little over 20% of finalists being from the “money machine” that is the Barclays Premier league is acceptable?

Of the 14 English clubs who have made it to the various finals, only 4 have prevailed, Sevilla alone have won on 5 occasions and they would not usually be mentioned in the same breath.

It is also worth remembering that even the much maligned Scottish Premiership has provided 2 finalists within the same period (Celtic 2003 & Rangers 2008).

Tottenham-vs-Gent-Image

The afore mentioned Man Utd could break the recent trend this season and lift the Europa League, however loses to Feyenoord and Fenerbache accompanied by drab draws against FC Rostov and Anderlecht would hardly see them as worthy winners.

In fact, this season has seen English Premier League sides (Spurs & Man Utd) face opposition from Belgian First Division A (KAA Gent & Anderlecht) over four legs and only produce a solitary England win…A 2-1 extra time win.

Other such failings in recent seasons have included:-

  • FA Cup winners Wigan prop up their Europa League group
  • Hull City defeated by Lokeren in the qualifying rounds
  • Everton take 5 from Dynamo Kiev
  • Southampton 1-2 Midtylland
  • Liverpool losing out to Basel in 2014-15
  • Man Utd slipping to 3rd in a group of Wolfburg, PSV & CSKA
  • And who can ignore Arsenal’s recent meetings with Bayern…

Football is football and that’s why we love the game and yes the odd surprise defeat can occur, however these are over 2 legs, or in group stages containing multiple games, EPL sides should NOT be crashing out under these circumstances.

Are Stoke better than Schalke, could Bournemouth batter Bordeaux or would we see Everton ease past Espanyol?

I think the honest answer has to be a resounding no to all of the above.

The self-proclaimed “best league in the world” is being outshone by sides from divisions on which they look down on as being not worthy of sharing their pitches.

The EPL and its member clubs need to raise the bar to a whole new level to re-assert itself as a provider of dominant club sides when competing in European competitions or risk falling further behind.

Champions-League-Group-Stage

Tottenham vs Gent image sourced from; www.fourfourtwo.com
Champion’s League group stage image sourced from; www.goal.com

The Europa League just got Interesting!

Last week saw the draw for the last 16 of the Europa League and what a draw it was!

Europa-League-Draw

Of the remaining 16 teams, 3 have won European Cup / Champions League with 5 having contested finals.

With the Europa now offering a coveted place in the top competition it is more than worth winning.

Thursday’s look like they are about to provide a spectacle worthy of Europe’s 2nd competition. For too long the we have mostly ignored Coupe UEFA for a reason we actually can’t answer.

Perhaps the competition is too long? Maybe we don’t understand the 18:00 kick off times? You could argue there are too many teams we don’t know? Or are just blinded by the glamour of the Champions League?

We are looking at Liverpool v Man United for the 1st time in a non-domestic meeting. 180 minutes of packed European nights at 2 of the most iconic stadiums in world football. One of the most intense rivalries brought together on a stage we wouldn’t expect.

Throw in the bonus element of small travel time and a St Patrick’s day 2nd leg at Old Trafford, the Guinness will be flowing in the North West that’s for sure.

Add in high flying Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund, an all Spanish clash of Athletic Bilbao v Valencia and Sevilla going for a 3rd successive title…you have one hell of a competition remaining!

Realistically of the remaining sides who could honestly say they don’t want, or in some cases need, to win this trophy.

Which fan wouldn’t want to travel to a European final ?

Sevilla

We will be tuned into the latter stages with a keen eye on the outcomes of the afore mentioned ties.

Put aside the “Thursday – Sunday” debate and embrace it as an additional midweek game to watch.

So let’s all take a positive outlook into the remaining games, after all who knows…Mr Guardiola may just be strutting his stuff here next season if recent form continues.

Europa League draw image sourced from; http://www.uefa.com
Sevilla Europa Cup winners image sourced from; http://worldsoccertalk.com