Tag Archive: Celtic

With the UEFA Champions League round of 16 fixtures beginning today, and a few of the ties delicately poised, The Armchair Pundits takes a look at the potential fortunes of the teams involved, and offers predictions ahead of kick-off this evening.

Late twist | Borussia Dortmund celebrate wildly after an equaliser from Mats Hummels levels the tie away to Shakhtar Donetsk. (Image | Daily Mail)

Late twist | Borussia Dortmund celebrate wildly after an equaliser from Mats Hummels levels the tie away to Shakhtar Donetsk. (Image | Daily Mail)

Plenty of ties still hang in the balance, including one particularly mouth-watering clash and one giant looking to overcome a deficit…

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As another sporting year begins there may be a certain feeling that nothing could top the unforgettable year of 2012, which saw a magnificent Olympic Games, the European Championships, a British Grand Slam winner after so long and much more.

Mario Balotelli | Why, oh why is it always him? (Image | Manchester City FC)

Mario Balotelli | Having once again hit the headlines after a row with manager Roberto Mancini in training, we ask: why, oh why is it always him? (Image | Manchester City FC)

However, there are more than enough prizes to be decided over the next 12 months, some of which are fairly easy to predict, while others remain very much open to debate.

The Armchair Pundits, therefore, has taken a look at the calendar and pinpointed five “sure-fire successes”, some of which are bound to be as controversial as Mario Balotelli and about as likely as Tom Daley being handed his own diving-themed show on televi… Oh, hang on.

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For the English clubs, the UEFA Champions League knockout stages probably seem as though they are light years away, with some playing up to nine games prior to the round of fixtures in mid-February.

Über alles? | Arsenal face a tricky tie against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in the knock-out stages. (Image | Bleacher Report)

Über alles? | Arsenal face a tricky tie against runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in the knockout stages. (Image | Bleacher Report)

The draw has thrown up a number of mouthwatering ties, one of which will see Arsenal line up against Bayern Munich.

Arsène Wenger’s side last faced Bayern in 2005, losing 3-2, and will do well to get anything from this tie as the German giants are nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, boasting a remarkable goal difference of +37.

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The Barcelona team of the past few years have established a reputation for themselves as of one of history’s greatest ever sides. However, in the wake of the Catalan outfit’s recent defeat by Celtic in the UEFA Champions League (plus losses to Inter Milan and Chelsea in the past few years), the most common criticism faced by Los Culés has returned.

Swashbuckling | Lionel Messi scores his second goal against Real Zaragoza last weekend in a 3-1 win, which reflects Barcelona’s typically successful strategy, (Image | Independent)

They have been chastised for lacking a “plan B” and being unable to unlock deep defences. Barcelona operate a distinctly possession-based style that the club rigorously keeps faith with, but is there any value in the above complaint?

After all, any team will lose a game from time to time. That is one of the great merits of football: because it is a low-scoring sport, it becomes easier for the underdog to claim victory, even if they are inferior in technical ability.

Therefore, should we really blame Barcelona’s failings on the lack of a “plan B”, particularly when “plan A” is so clearly effective?

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LeBron James’ dominant individual performances in the Heat’s recovery against Indiana doesn’t bode well for the Celtics.

So the NBA’s Final Four, as it were, have been decided. In the West it all seemed over before it began with the San Antonio Spurs going unbeaten in their first two series and the Oklahoma City Thunder only conceding one game en route to eliminating the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.

The East, on the other hand, is where the drama has unfolded. When Derrick Rose went down with a torn Achilles in game one of the Chicago BullsPhiladelphia 76ers series one could predict that the East was not going to fall into place as foreseen.

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Rangers’ appeal to the Scottish Football Association (SFA) against the year-long transfer embargo was rejected yesterday. (Image | FIFA)

The appeal submitted by Rangers Football Club against the season-long transfer embargo imposed by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has been rejected. Six charges had been levelled against the club for the mismanagement of its finances, and former owner Craig Whyte has been banned from Scottish football. Rangers had submitted their appeal on the basis that the club should not be punished for the mistakes of its owner.

Despite the decision, which severely hampers the club in its attempts to continue to assert itself in any way at the top of the Scottish Premier League (SPL), moves by parties interested in purchasing the club continue apace.

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Debt, mismanagement, corruption, lawsuits, missed payments and boardroom crises have finally inflicted the worst damage they can: on what happens on the pitch (Image | The Daily Mirror).

The sorry tale of Rangers Football Club is a sad refrain. In the latest blow to the club and its supporters, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) announced last night that it even considered throwing Rangers out of Scottish football. The same Rangers that has 54 league titles and currently holds the record for the biggest number of trophies won by a UEFA-recognised team. The blame game is well underway, but it is worth revisiting the causes of the club’s all-consuming crisis.

The cracks began to appear with the sale of Rangers from David Murray to Craig Whyte, around this time last year. Although Ally McCoist’s side went on to lift the league title, all was not well. This was confirmed when, on February 13, the Ibrox outfit went into administration, an act which saw Rangers docked 10 points and the title in effect handed to arch-rivals Celtic.

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McLean has been warned that he will be shot following his call up to Giovanni Trapattoni’s side.

Sunderland winger James McLean was recently sent death threats after electing to represent the Republic of Ireland at the European Championships, following several Under-21 appearances for Northern Ireland for the Ulsterman, who was born in Londonderry. 23-year-old McLean is a rising star, having netted five times in 22 games for Sunderland this season. He made his debut for the Republic of Ireland in February, coming on as a 78th minute substitute for Aiden McGeady in a friendly against the Czech Republic.

McLean expressed his delight at being called up for Euro 2012 on Twitter: “Absolutely honoured and couldn’t be happier to have been called up to represent my country at the Euros. No better feeling.” In an interview with the Daily Mail he said: “To be called up to represent Ireland has always been a personal dream of mine and to be associated with players who I have watched myself is very special.

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