PSG Fighting For Championship

Paris Saint GermainAs they prepare for their showdown with reigning English champions Chelsea in the last 16 of the competition, French champions Paris Saint Germain have been scrambling to make their mark of 2016’s Champions League.  PSG boss Laurent Blanc has already stated that the French team’s whole campaign will be judged by their European campaign, but despite a poor domestic campaign Chelsea seems unlikely to be an easy match.

PSG are in an odd position in the Champions League hierarchy.  They’ve spent huge amounts of money, which has helped them win their annual domestic league championship.  However, the Champions League crown is ultimately what’s on everybody’s mind, including PSG.  Standing in their way is Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, all of whom have more experience and quality to their names.  Real Madrid has already won five European Cups even before PSG existed, while Bayern had claimed three European Cups in the six years before PSG’s formation.  Barcelona’s five European Cup triumphs have come in the last 25 years, yet they’re considered to be the best club team in the world, learning how to win the Champions league through picking-up experience.  Soccer trends have seen teams go through troughs of form, yet those three teams have been the top trophy challengers for the last 25 years.

PSG are just below that group of teams with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, which are dangerous yet not still good enough to match the talents of Spain and Germany.  So far, PSG’s playing in Europe has been successful, and the fact that PSG conceded just one goal in the group stages shows that they’re a difficult team to break beat.  Thanks to their recent growth on the European stage, they’ll be heading into tonight’s game against Chelsea as favorites.

Without a doubt, PSG have been growing as a club and team under the tutelage of Laurent Blanc.  Yet whether or not they’re ready to go toe-to-toe against the heavy hitters on the European stage remains to be seen.  Blanc’s side performed well against Real in the group stages, but still failed to come out on top.

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MLS in Minnesota

ITodd Proa Minneapolis Unitedt looks like soccer fans in Minnesota are in luck.  At a news conference today at Target Field, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made an official announcement: Minneapolis was awarded an expansion franchise.  Holding up a Minnesota United scarf, he welcomes the state to Major League Soccer.  Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire spoke soon after, getting emotional while thanking various people, including fans, without whom this monumental moment wouldn’t have been possible.  Previously, Minnesota had been playing in the North American Soccer League, one level below MLS.  McGuire purchased the football club after the 2012 season.  After talking to fans after the purchase, he set out to make the team “bigger” than it ever was before.  Since purchasing the team, McGuire has become “an avid and passionate lover” of soccer.

According to Commissioner Garber, Minnesota offers the “perfect recipe for success” in MLS.  What remains unclear, however, is the team’s stadium plan, and how United plans to finance a new facility near the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.  While Garber mentioned a “great plan” for the stadium, he didn’t offer any specifics.  Some of McGuire’s partners include the Pohlad family, who own the Minnesota Twins, and Glen Taylor, owner of both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Star Tribune.  Using flowery language, Garber described a downtown outdoor stadium in Minneapolis serving as a “cathedral for our league”.  McGuire’s group was chosen over a group led by the owners of the Vikings, who would have had the team play in the Vikings’ new indoor stadium.

While soccer has an avid fanbase outside of the US, its popularity in America itself has been fairly limited for a while now, shadowed by Americans’ intense love of sports such as football and baseball.  It’s really only been in the past 20 years or so that soccer has really gained that much popularity among mainstream American sports fans, and even today it very much remains a fringe sport in comparison with other sports.  America cares every summer the World Cup shows up, but the passion seems to fade away at the start of football season.  Nonetheless, every year, soccer’s fanbase in the US seems to be growing, and this recent announcement in Minneapolis only seems to confirm that.

U Wisconsin is Looking for Another Head Coach

It seems as though the renowned University of Wisconsin football team, the Badgers, are having issues with keeping head coaches in one place. For the second time in three years, the Badgers have lost their head coach to another university’s football program; one that isn’t even as highly ranked as the Badgers are. It began when three years ago, after a string of three straight Big Ten Division championships, head coach Bret Bielema left to take a job at Arkansas even though the team was towards the bottom of their division. Now Gary Anderson has left for Oregon State, a team that is happy to finish above .500. Clearly the coaches aren’t leading for better teams and so the question is what exactly about the Wisconsin program is driving all of these head coaches away?

On paper, the Wisconsin Badgers are a solid team that has been able to hold their own and even succeed in the Big Ten Conference, one of the most competitive in the college football world. While some claim that they have been able to take advantage of the weakness of other teams in the division as an excuse for their recent success, there is no denying that the team played well and deserved their victories. While there doesn’t seem to be a clear excuse for the sudden drop in Wisconsin’s playing ability (they ended in the bottom half this season) or the loss of their coaches, there are some theories floating that can shed light on the situation.

The first is that, quite simply, Wisconsin can’t afford to pay high-level coaches the salaries they want. While a salary of $2,368,600 seems like a lot of money, it actually ranks 40th in the nation when it comes to college football coaches and so the desire for higher pay is a very real one that should be considered. Some other theories are that Wisconsin was never a football powerhouse to begin with and the recent record has been a fluke and also that personal reasons have led to coaches leaving. No matter the reason, Wisconsin both needs a new head coach and needs to figure out why their coaches keep leaving.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

Lewandowski Denies Punching Fan

Recently, Polish soccer player Robert Lewandowski was accused of hitting a teenager in the face who taunted him and made offensive gestures at him.  However, according to a recent article on Soccer News, Robert denies the accusations made against him.

Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski, the Polish soccer player who has been leaving his mark on Germany.

Lewandowski currently plays for Borussia Dortmund, a German soccer team.  However, he recently signed to join FC Bayern, another German team with whom Borussia Dortmund has a fierce rivalry.  This has angered many fans of Borussia Dortmund, who feel betrayed that one of their star players has joined their greatest rival.  Lewandowski isn’t the only one of Dortmund’s players to leave FC Bayern; last summer, player Mario Götze also joined Bayern.

On Thursday, while Lewandowski was driving through Dortmund, a teenage fan began yelling at him and throwing “offensive gestures”.  Lewandowski then stopped his car and got out to confront the 17 year-old.  The teenager then filed a complaint with the Police, claiming that the soccer player then punched him in the forehead.  Lewandowski has vehemently denied these accusations; according to him, he has “no intention” of teaching teenagers how to behave, but he nonetheless will not allow for himself or his family to be insulted.  He claims that he only got out of the car to yell at the fan, nothing more.

Dortmund backed their player and supported his statement; according to their CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke, if Lewandowski claims that he never punched a fan, then they will stand by his claim.

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