European Finals To Be Available Free

BT have announced today that both the Champions League and Europa League finals will be free to watch on TV, online and on YouTube. This follows suit from last year, where this was also the case.

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Image: WalesOnline

The Europa League final will be broadcast from 7pm on Wednesday 24th May, and will feature the clash between Manchester United and Ajax. The Champions League final will be played in Cardiff on Saturday 3rd June, and will feature European heavyweights Real Madrid and Juventus. Coverage of the final will start at 6pm.

Both games are available on YouTube (YouTube.com/BTSport), on the BT Sport app, online at BTSport.com and on the BT Sport Showcase HD TV channel, and are available completely free.

Celtic embarrassed in Rogers’ first game

Brendan Rogers suffered a first game to forget as his Celtic team slumped to a 1-0 loss to semi-professional Lincoln Red Imps. Lee Casciaro gave the Gibraltarian champions the victory in a game which could well go down as one of the worst defeats in the Scottish club’s history.

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Rogers suffered a humiliating loss against the semi-pro outfit in his first game in charge. Image: BBC Sport

Celtic dominated possession, controlling the first half, but for all their possession they rarely troubled Lincoln ‘keeper Raul Navas. The Bhoy’s were perhaps unlucky not to go in to the break with the lead, as Scott Brown’s free kick was nodded in by debutante Moussa Dembele. However the referee deemed that Dembele had unfairly challenged the Red Imps ‘keeper, so the goal did not stand.

Efe Ambrose had already looked shaky at the heart of the Celtic defence, and it was his mistake that allowed Casciaro to latch on to a long ball forward and slot the ball past Craig Gordan at the start of the second half. It could have been even worse for Celtic, as Antonio Calderon fired just over after cutting in from the right of the penalty area, and Gordan was forced in to a smart save from Liam Walker.

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Lee Casciaro added to his goal against Scotland with the winner against Celtic. Image: BBC Sport

As they chased the game, Celtic were able to conjure up a number of chances, but were unable to take them. Leigh Griffiths had one close-range effort deflected on to the bar, whilst he also struck the woodwork from a free kick. Substitute Nadir Cifti had the best chance for Celtic, as he met Kieran Tierney’s cross and forced Navas in to a fantastic low save.

But the Gibraltarians were able to hold on for a famous victory. Rogers will certainly be looking for an improvement in his first home game in charge, with the second leg taking place on the 20th July.

Is Champions League a reality for Saints?

There has been a lot of media hype over this Southampton side, and rightly so based on their current position. Widely tipped for a relegation battle, Ronald Koeman’s team have surpassed all expectations so far by sitting in second, just six points below leaders Chelsea. But do they have the ability, temperament and squad depth to maintain this run and break in to the top four.

Graziano Pelle has 6 goals and 4 assists in the Premier League

Graziano Pelle has 6 goals and 4 assists in the Premier League

The Saints have looked on fire this year, taking 8 wins from their opening 12 games. They’ve scored the joint-second highest amount of goals whilst conceding the least, 5 less than their nearest challenger. The additions of Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic are seen as the key reason for the boost in attack, boasting 7 goals and 11 assists between them. At the back, Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne have been outstanding, both offensively and defensively, whilst Toby Alderweireld and Jose Fonte have built a solid central partnership.

But do they have the depth to maintain this position. Last year, Pochettino led Southampton to a similar position at this stage, until a defeat at Arsenal led to a dismal run of one win in nine. The inability to cover the injured Victor Wanyama and Artur Boruc can be viewed as the reason Saints dropped to finish in 8th. This year though, the team seems to have greater depth. Centre back has always been a problem area, but this season Koeman has four internationals to pick from. Central midfield is very strong, with Steven Davis, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama, Jack Cork, James Ward-Prowse and Harrison Reed all battling it out for a first team spot. Concerns have been voiced about if Bertrand or Clyne gets injured, but Matt Targett has played well in his League Cup appearances, and either Alderweireld or Cork can prove adequate cover for Clyne. Realistically, Saints only really lack depth in goal, with Artur Boruc out on loan, and up front, as their appears to be only Shane Long as a proven replacement for Pelle.

Ronald Koeman appears to have taken Southampton to the next level

Ronald Koeman appears to have taken Southampton to the next level

With United, Arsenal and Liverpool floundering this year, a Champions League place looks to be up for grabs. Saints face Manchester City at home, a trip to Arsenal and Manchester United at home in the next week, in a real test of their credentials. But could Southampton be classed as bottlers this season? They have lost the two games against teams that finished above them last season, carrying on from last season’s poor two wins from 14 against the seven sides that finished above them. To reach European football next season, Saints will have to pick up some points from this coming week, especially in their two home games. All three opponents have struggled defensively, so Saints should aim to get at them rather than being star-struck and standing off them.

Wenger’s tarring the Premier League with his own mess

Arsene Wenger claims that this season’s Champions League is a “wake-up call” to the Premier League. It’s the first time in 17 years that no English clubs have reached the Quarter finals of the competition. Post-match, Wenger said that “the rest of European football has caught us”. But based on recent history, Wenger has no right to speak on behalf of the league as a whole. Less than 12 months ago, Chelsea lifted the trophy. In fact, this season will only be the second time since 2004 that an English team hasn’t reached the final, the other being 2009-10, with the 2008 final being an all English affair.

Arsenal have failed to reach the quarter finals on the past 4 occasions, and look doubtful to even qualify for next year’s competition. So if anyone is being caught up by the rest of Europe, it is Arsenal. Both Chelsea and Manchester City fell at the first hurdle, but it was hardly surprising with Chelsea in turmoil and City being headed by a man who has failed in Europe at every club he’s managed. Then Manchester United lost their heads in the next round after a controversial refereeing decision. That left Arsenal to fall just a week later after an embarrassing first leg defeat at home, and an unconvincing victory over a Bayern team who assumed that they were already through. Captain Philipp Lahm even went as far as saying “I hope we face Borussia Dortmund in the final” on the Monday before their game with Arsenal, showing the confidence of the Bayern team that their place in the Quarter finals was booked.

Wenger claiming that the Premier League is weakened compared to the rest of Europe is completely nonsensical. Is he seriously saying that the Turkish League is stronger that the Premier League as Galatasary are in the draw. It is just a one-off season and I would be surprised if there isn’t at least one English side that reaches the semi-finals next season.

Roo’s going nowhere

Ever since United’s game with Real Madrid, the papers have been full of stories that Wayne Rooney is on his way out of Old Trafford, with PSG, Man City and Chelsea just some of his likely destinations. However, these reports are based on the fact that he was benched on Tuesday. Why he was left as a substitute is unknown, with some pundits suggesting that Sir Alex doesn’t trust him in the big games, in spite of the fact that Rooney has played in 14 out of United’s 16 games against the other members of the top 5 since the beginning of the 2011/12 season. This doesn’t show a lack of trust from his manager.

The reason he was left on the bench against Madrid was because of the system United played. Ferguson set up to be resilient and then to counter attack at pace. Pace is a trait that Rooney does not possess, so if he were to play, he would have to replace the talismanic Robin Van Persie. Although his recent form is questionable, Van Persie has almost single handedly dragged United through on many occasions this season, such as at St Mary’s with his sublime hat-trick. Welbeck and Nani possess a great amount of pace, and it really showed. United were in control and apart from a few opportunities, Madrid didn’t look like scoring. Welbeck had a couple of chances to score after breaking through, however he lacked the composure to finish. But that will come with time. Rooney was simply left out to avoid shoehorning him to a position that wouldn’t see him produce his best.