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A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

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IntoTheTopCorner’s UEFA EURO 2012 Awards

Spain created history on Sunday night in Kiev by winning their third successive major tournament, with a dominating 4-0 win over Italy in the UEFA EURO 2012 final at the Olympic Stadium in Ukraine.

UEFA EURO 2012 has been an exciting and very competitive tournament with some tight, action-packed and mouth-watering matches.  Looking back to last 23 days’ of action, IntoTheTopCorner brings you it’s own UEFA EURO 2012 awards.

TEAM AWARDS

BEST TEAM – SPAIN

Many have criticised La Roja for being boring at times during the tournament, but when it mattered the most they turned on the style and silenced all the critics with emphatic 4-0 win in the final over Italy. Although Vicente Del Bosque’s men have not been at their best throughout the competition, they have done what is needed to win the trophy and ended the campaign with an outstanding performance in the final.

WORST TEAM – REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Some fans expected Ireland to cause some upsets or shocks in Group C, but it never happened. The team had a good blend of players but completely failed to perform when needed. They were completely out of depth and ideas. Giovanni Trapattoni’s men lost all of their three group games, conceding nine goals and scoring just one.

OVERACHIEVERS – GREECE

Most didn’t expect Greece to make it through to knockout stages from Group A, but in the end they were eliminated from the competition along with the likes of England and France. Coming into the tournament as huge outsiders to make it to the last eight, the 2004 winners stunned Russia in the last group game and then scored twice – without their inspiration skipper – against Germany in the quarter-finals.

UNDERACHIEVERS – NETHERLANDS

Group B or the “Group of Death’ was always going to be tough but everyone expected Netherlands to reach atleast the last four if not the finals. The 2010 World Cup finalists came into the Championships with virtually the same squad that was present in South Africa but yet they failed to deliver. The team showed no unity at all with every player playing for himself rather than the team. In the end, the Dutch ended at the bottom of the group with no points on the board.

WORST CHOKERS – RUSSIA

Russia came into the tournament as the favourites in Group A, and they made the best possible start with a win (4-1) and a draw (1-1) in their first two matches. With a point needed from their final group game against Greece, they were surely going through to the last eight. But they choked badly and lost 1-0 to the 2004 champions, which saw them drop down to third – from the top spot – in the group table and that meant they were going back home.

BEST MATCH – GERMANY 1-2 ITALY

Although this tournament has thrown up many great games to watch, the semi-final clash between Germany and Italy was a great game for the neutrals. Germany were the favourites to defeat Italy and progress to the finals, Mario Balotelli struck twice to give Italy a shock two goal lead in the first half. The second half had more end-to-end action and the game could have gone either way but Cesare Prandelli’s men held on to a 2-1 victory and made the final.

WORST MATCH – CROATIA 0-1 SPAIN

UEFA EURO 2012 has had very few matches which were boring or not entertaining, and the Croatia-Spain game was one of them. The final Group C game had a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs but Spain -who started the game without a striker – made it an one side affair by keeping possession with no real threat or penetration. Croatia had a couple of chances in the second half but Spain tired their opponents by keeping the ball and went on to score a late winner.

SHOCK OF THE TOURNAMENT – NETHERLANDS 0-1 DENMARK

There have been quite a few upsets throughout the tournament but this one was perhaps the biggest of them all. Everyone expected the Dutch to perform well in Poland/Ukraine but they were shocked in the first game itself. Netherlands completely dominated the possession and create a lot of chances but just failed to convert one of those chances. While on the other hand, the Danes had a very few chances but were very clinical and scored the only goal of the game in first half, which was enough in the end.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

BEST PLAYER – ANDRES INIESTA (SPAIN)

In the team loaded full of superstars, Andres Iniesta is one of the most underrated player. His control of the ball, accurate passing and deft touches lifts him way ahead of his teammates.   The Barcelona midfielder was the spark that carried his team forward. He was a constant attacking threat for the opposition and with Spain playing without a true centre-forward his penetration and positioning in the last third was very important. Completely deserves the Golden Ball award.

WORST PLAYER – ARJEN ROBBEN (NETHERLANDS)

After coming from a poor season with Bayern Munich, everyone expected Arjen Robben to show his true colors for his country in Poland/Ukraine but it didn’t happen so. The former Real Madrid and Chelsea winger was a complete failure and at times was very selfish. His behavior was no good and his worst moment came when he was substituted off against Germany. Rather than cross the pitch and complete the substitution normally, he merely stepped over the nearest touchline, ripped his shirt off and walked angrily around the side of the pitch.

BEST MANAGER – CESARE PRANDELLI (ITALY)

This one was a tough choice but the former Fiorentina boss deserves credit for his work with Italy. He dragged a team made up of players past-their-peaks and misfits all the way to the final. He did this with a combination of tactical innovation and expert man-management. Reinvented Italy as an attractive, attacking team, and showed himself to be a thorougly decent man on and off the field.

BEST YOUNG PLAYER – MARIO BALOTELLI (ITALY)

Mario Balotelli was already hyped for his on-and-off field antics prior to the tournament, but he showed his real talent and class on the field with his performances in Poland/Ukraine. The Manchester City man was not so impressive in the first two games but scored a classic volley against Ireland in the last group game and then put in a solid performance against England in the quarter-finals. His real moment came against Germany in the semi-finals, when he displayed his true talent, potential and class and also scored both the goals that helped his side reach the final.

BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE – CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL 2-1 NETHERLANDS)

After being heavily criticsed for his below-par performances in the first two games of the tournament against Germany and Denmark, the Real Madrid man came to life when it mattered the most. In the final group game against the Netherlands, Portugal needed a win to make it through and the former Manchester United star put in a man-of-the-match performance and scored twice which ensured his side won 2-1 after the Dutch had taken an early lead.

BEST GOAL – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (SWEDEN 2-0 FRANCE)

With Sweden already out of the tournament with defeats to Ukraine and England in their first two games, the Scandinavians were playing for pride in their final Group D game against France. The AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of the stars of the tournament and he ended his tournament in style with an acrobatic volley past keeper Hugo Lloris from the edge of the area, which helped his side to a shocking 2-0 win.

BEST PENALTY – ANDREA PIRLO (ENGLAND 0-0 (2-4P) ITALY)

With Ricardo Montolivo already having missed one of Italy’s penalty during the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against England, the Juventus playmaker Andrea Prilo stepped up to the mark. With Joe Hart jumping around and making faces to put his opponent off, the former AC Milan midfielder causally chipped his spot-kick down the middle and completely fooled the Manchester City keeper who dived to his right.

BEST SAVE – IKER CASILLAS (CROATIA 0-1 SPAIN)

May not be the best save of the tournament, but surely was the most important one. Just after the interval, Luka Modric put in a cross from the outside of his right foot, which was perfectly met by the head of Ivan Rakitic from 6 yards, but the Real Madrid and Spain skipper produced a great reflex save to deny the Sevilla man from scoring the goal which could have knocked out the defending champions in the group stages itself.

BEST GOAL CELEBRATION – MARIO BALOTELLI (GERMANY 1-2 ITALY)

Having already scored the opener against Germany in the semi-finals, Mario Balotelli rifled the second past Manuel Neuer – which turned out to be the winner in the end – before running away towards the edge of the area, taking his jersey off and showing his upper body in Hulk style.

WORST MISS – CRISTIANO RONALDO (DENMARK 2-3 PORTUGAL)

With the Denmark-Portugal game finely balanced, the Portuguese skipper Cristiano Ronaldo had a glorious chance to gives his side 3-1 lead when he was one-on-one with the Danish goalkeeper Stephen Andersen.However, very unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, he placed his effort well wide of the right-hand post.

OTHER AWARDS

HIGHLIGHT OF THE TOURNAMENT – ENTERTAINING FINAL

Everyone expected the Spain-Italy final to be a cagey affair with both teams trying to keep the possession a lot and defend, but the it was anything but that. The game was an open, end-to-end affair with Spain – as expected – dominating the game with a lot of possession, but at the same time playing some attacking football and creating a lot of goal scoring chances. Italy, on the other hand, also had chances to score but they failed to do so. In the end, as the scoreline shows the final was an entertaining affair and the defending champions completely outclassed their opponents.

LOWLIGHT OF THE TOURNAMENT – RACISM AND UEFA FINES

Despite it being a good tournament played in the right manner generally, ugly incidents of racism reared their ugly heads at times. No place for this in society or the beautiful game. Another low point of the tournament was the ridiculous fines by UEFA. Most of the racist fans of various countries were fined way less than Nicklas Bendtner for showing the sponsors on his underpants.

BEST FANS – REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Republic of Ireland didn’t give their fans much to cheer about in terms of performance or goals, but the travelling Irish fans created quite the noise at their side’s Group C games and at the same time were not involved in any trouble in and out of the stadium.

BEST TATTOO – DANIELE DE ROSSI

While most of the footballers opt to ink their wives’ or children’s names, tribal symbols or pair of angel wings on their skins, Daniele de Rossi’s road-sign design tattoo to leave his opponents in no doubt as to what is in store was by far the best tattoo and a true innovation up to which the rest of the football world show now be aiming to live.

WORST HAIRSTYLE – RAUL MIERELES

The Portugal and Chelsea midfielder’s pathetically scruffy skull-fuzz, stuck halfway between a total shave and a Mohican with the style points of neither, combine with his off-putting wall of tattoos on his whole body put him only one step away from the ‘Derelicte’ range of homeless fashion as invented by Will Ferrell’s Mugatu in ‘Zoolander’.

BIGGEST GAFFE – RUSSIA DAY CELEBRATED IN WARSAW

Biggest blunded was by the person who allowed 20,000 Russia fans to march through Warsaw to celebrate ‘Russia Day’. That’s 20,000 Russians marching through the Polish capital. What could possibly go wrong? It resulted in 183 arrests in the biggest incidence of hooliganism for decades.

Predicting Denmark v Portugal And Netherlands v Germany

The second round of group games kicked off yesterday with Czech Republic beating Greece in Wroclaw followed by the co-hosts Poland drawing with Russia in Warsaw. Today we see the likes Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal back in action in the Group of Death.

The first match of today is between Denmark – who stunned the Dutch with a 1-0 win in the first match – and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Lviv, followed by the do-or-die encounter for Netherlands against their fierce rivals Germany in Kharkiv. Here is our predict for the two huge matches to be played today.

Date – 13th June, 19:00 GMT

Stadium – Lviv Arena, Lviv

Prediction – It’s an easy equation for Portugal as they go into this match, they have to win our face the prospect of going out in the group stages. The Portuguese face a tough Danes side – who are just coming from beating the Dutch in the opening game. The game is expected to be an open game with Portuguese going for the win and attacking the Danes. The Danes on the other will look to keep their defence organised and discipline as it was against the Dutch and try and hit the Portuguese on the counter or on the break. Cristiano Ronaldo will give his side the lead through his trademark freekick and then his former Manchester United teammate Nani will make it two just before half time. Nicklas Bendtner will get one goal back for the Danes in the second half, but in the end it would be no more than just a consolation. The win will be huge for Portugal as they go into the final match hoping the Dutch lose to the Germans later, while for the Danes they will have to get atleast a point against the Germans in their last match, if they have to stand a chance of qualifying from the group.

Predicted Final Score – Denmark 1-2 Portugal (Bendtner ; Ronaldo, Nani)

Date – 13th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv

Prediction – Like for Portugal, this match is a do-or-die game for the Dutch, who were stunned by the Danes in the first match. Germany on the other hand will play without pressure in this game, having won against Portugal the other night. The match is expected to be a high tempo affair with the Dutch going for the win, but even the Germans won’t sit back and let them attack. The Dutch will attack and try and go for an early goal before the Germans settle in the game and they will succeed. It will be the Bayern Munich winger, Arjen Robben who give the Dutch the early lead. The Germans will dominate the game once they settle in and just before half time Thomas Muller will equalise with a header from a Mesut Ozil corner. The German will continue to dominate the possession in the second and with just ten minutes remaining on the watch substitute Miroslav Klose will grab the winner and send the Dutch on the brink of  a group stage exit. Netherlands will have win against Portugal in their final game if they have to qualify and hope Germany beat Denmark in their game.

Predicted Final Score – Netherlands 1-2 Germany (Robben ; Muller, Klose)

Netherlands v Germany Preview

Netherlands meet Germany in today’s do-or-die Group B clash in Kharkiv, knowing that another defeat will mean the end an early exit in the group stages for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist. 

Bert van Marwijk’s side have to pick themselves up after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Denmark, in a match the Dutch had largely dominated but were very wasteful. They now have to beat rivals Germany at the Metalist Stadium, then Portugal on Sunday to be sure of qualifying from the group, which has been dubbed ‘The Group of Death’. While the Dutch will be fighting for survival, Germany know another win will put them in the quarter-finals following their 1-0 victory over Portugal.

Clashes between Holland and neighbours Germany are amongst the biggest in world football and always tend to be spicy affairs and there will be no quarter given when they renew their historic rivalry. This will be the eighth time the teams have met at a finals tournament and the fifth occasion at a European Championship. Germany have three wins against two for the Dutch and two draws. And there have been some classic matches between these countries such as the 1974 World Cup final, when Johan Cruyff’s team scored an early penalty, only to lose 2-1 to the Germans in Munich. The Euro ’88 semi-final in Hamburg was a special moment for the Oranje Army as Marco Van Basten scored a last minute winner to beat the hosts 2-1. And then there was the tempestuous 1990 World Cup second round encounter at the San Siro in Milan which Germany won 2-1, after their striker Rudi Voeller and Dutch stalwart Frank Rijkaard were sent-off before Andreas Brehme curled home a late winner.

TEAM NEWS

Netherlands

Netherlands have received a boost with the return to fitness of veteran defender Joris Mathijsen ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Euro 2012 showdown with Germany. The Malaga centre-back missed the 1-0 defeat to Denmark with a hamstring problem but looks set to return to the Dutch lineup in place of Ron Vlaar. Midfielder Wesley Sneijder should feature despite sustaining a minor knock, while coach Bert van Marwijk will have to make a very big decision of either playing Robin van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar or maybe both.

Germany

On the other hand, Germany boss Joachim Low has no pressing injury concerns but could make changes to liven up his attack after a low-key performance against Portugal. Andre Schurrle, Marco Reus and Mario Gotze are all vying for starting berths, with Lukas Podolski or Thomas Muller likely to make way.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 38
Netherlands Wins – 10
Draws – 14
Germany Wins – 14

FORM GUIDE

Netherlands – LWWLL
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 0-1 Denmark
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 6-0 Northern Ireland
31-May-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia
26-May-12 – Friendly – Netherlands 1-2 Bulgaria
23-May-12 – Friendly – Bayern Munich 3-2 Netherlands

Germany – WWLLW
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel
26-May-12 – Friendly – Switzerland 5-3 Germany
01-Mar-12 – Friendly – Germany 1-2 France
16-Nov-11 – Friendly – Germany 3-0 Netherlands

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
The Inter Milan playmaker was impressive in the first game against Denmark but yet he was on the losing side. Sneijder was Netherlands’ star at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa helping them reach the finals, but ever since the final against Spain he has not produced the same kind of form. He has been troubled by injuries and has had a very poor season for Inter Milan. If Netherlands have to progress from the so called ‘Group of Death’ then Sneijder will have to be in top form today.

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Like Sneijder, Arjen Robben is very important to Netherlands success this summer. The Bayern Munich winger reached the Champions League final and ended runners-up in the Bundesliga this season, but the reality is that Robben has been less than impressive. The former Chelsea man missed a penalty against his old employees in the Champions League and was too selfish the other day against Denmark. Robben will have to be at his very best against a very strong German defence and especially Philipp Lahm to help his country reach the quarter finals.

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid playmaker has had a very successful season both personally and as a team. The 23-year-old has made his mark in world football and is now one of the best attacking midfielders around. The elegant midfield provides guile and craft to the German midfield and his probing passes are sure to test the Dutch backline, which looked vulnerable against Denmark. The former Werder Bremen star hardly losses possession and enjoyed a lot playing in the possession-heavy style adopted by Joachim Low.

Mario Gomez (Germany)
The Spanish origin striker is Joachim Low’s first choice striker ahead of the veteran Miroslaw Klose and is expected to start again today after the scoring the winner against Portugal the other night. The former Stuttgart hitman has been in top goal-scoring form for Bayern Munich this season scoring 41 goals 52 matches and has also netted ten goals for his country in the past one. His ability of being in the right position and at the right time will be the key and a threat to deal with for the Dutch defence.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Netherlands (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van der Wiel, Joris Mathijsen, Johnny Heitinga, Jetro Willems; Nigel De Jong, Mark van Bommel (C); Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

With Joris Mathijsen fit, the Malaga man will be back in the side in place of Ron Vlaar, who had a poor game, in the center of the defence alongside Heitinga. The young Jetro Willems impressed many the other day and he will keep his position in the side with Van der Wiel on the right. The experience of Nigel De Jong will see him get the nod ahead of Kevin Strootman along side Mark van Bommel, while Ibrahim Afellay who had a poor game against Denmark in the Group B opener, will be demoted to the bench and Robin van Persie will be moved out on the left wing. The top scorer in the qualifiers, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will lead the lineup for the Dutch with Wesley Sneijder just playing behind him and Arjen Robben on the right wing.

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm(C); Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mari Gomez.

Joachin Low said in his pre-match press conference that he is not afraid to chance winning team, but I don’t think there will be any chances for this game especially against the Dutch. This is Germany’s best team and Low will stick with it. Gomez will lead the line with Muller and Podolski join him from the wings. Ozil will operate just behind them and will try and find the killer through balls. Schweinsteiger and Khedira will play center of midfield connecting the defence and attack. Lahm will again start on the left-back with Jerome Boateng on the right-back and the pair of Hummers and Badstuber, who looked well organised against the Portuguese, in the heart of the defence. The ever safe hands of Manuel Neuer will be in the between the sticks for the Germans.

MATCH ODDS

Netherlands 19/10 Draw 23/10 Germany 7/5

PREDICTION

With the Dutch having to win this game to stay in the tournament, they will attack from the start. On recent form, one has agree the Germans are favourites to win and with a settled side & an opening game victory under their belt, the German players will play with less pressure compared to their opponents. The Dutch will need their star players to perform and play as a team. The 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist have a huge task of beating Germany – who have one the most settled units and the best defence in the tournament – and so we are going for a narrow win for the 2008 UEFA European Championship finalist.

Predicted Score – Netherlands 1-2 Germany

Predicting Netherlands v Denmark And Germany v Portugal

Yesterday’s two Group A matches kicked off the 14th edition of the European Championship in style, and it’s time for the Group B matches today. The Group B is rightly called the ‘Group of Death’ and is the hardest group among all the four, consisting of Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark.

Today, we predict the outcome of the match between 2010 FIFA World Cup runners-up Netherlands and the 1992 European Championship winners Denmark which will take place in Kharkiv, followed by the mighty German taking on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Lviv.

Date & Time – 9th June, 19:00 GMT

Stadium – Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv

Prediction – The Netherlands are one of the favourites of the tournament and they will surely be facing some pressure to perform against the weakest team in the group – atleast on paper. With all the attacking quality that the Dutch possess, they will start the game with a very high tempo and completely dominate the opening stages. The Danes on the other hand would look to sit back and soak in all the pressure and attack on counter. Arsenal’s inform striker Robin van Persie will continue his brilliant club form and score the opener in the first half. The Dutch will lead at half time, but just after the interval Nicklas Bentdner will equalise for the Danes after some impressive work by Christian Eriksen in the midfield. The Netherlands will continue to put pressure on the Danish defence, and finally will get their winner in the last 15 minutes of the game, thanks to an Arjen Robben goal.

Predicted Final Score – Netherlands 2-1 Denmark (Van Persie, Robben ; Bendtner)

Date & Time – 9th June, 21:45 GMT

Stadium – Arena Lviv, Lviv

Prediction – The Germans enter the tournament as the favourites to win it along with Spain, but they don’t have an easy task in hand. They face the under-performing Portuguese side and then arch-rivals Netherlands in their first two games of the tournament. In their first match against Portugal, the youthful Germans start the game as expected – dominating the possession and playing some eye-catching free flowing football. Thomas Muller, who has a great habit of scoring goals in important matches, scores the opener before the half hour mark from a Mesut Ozil pass. Portugal attack from the wings via Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo but Germany hold on and take the lead into half time.In the second half, Portugal come out and attack, as they look for the equaliser but some brilliant keeping from Manuel Neuer keeps Germany’s lead intact. The Portuguese – who qualified via the play-offs – continue to go forward and attack in numbers, but the Germans hit them on the counter and Mario Gomez wraps up all the three points, with a poacher finish in the last quarter of the game.

Predicted Final Score – Germany 2-0 Portugal (Muller, Gomez)

Champions League Final In Pictures

What a Saturday Night it was in Munich as Chelsea created history by winning the Champions League for the first time ever in their history by defeating the hosts Bayern Munich.

The Germans dominated the game completely but in end it were Blues from west London who walked out as winners. Want to relive it again? Then, take a look below as we recap the final in pictures. Note: Click on the Images to view in Bigger Size. 

General view of the stadium some one hour before kickoff. And it’s already packed!
The trophy for which the two teams will play for, is up for display in the stadium ahead of kickoff.
The teams are out and going through the formalities before going head-to-head for the greatest prize in club football.
The Bayern Munich supporters show their support to their team during the opening ceremony before kickoff.
Chelsea fans have their own banner, they are the pride of London tonight as the world watches on.
The action begins. Bayern start to apply pressure on nervous Chelsea. Mario Gomez tries to win a header over David Luiz.
Bayern skipper Philipp Lahm tries to get past Chelsea’s Champions League debutant Ryan Bertrand as Bayern stay on offensive.
Bayern Munich and Mario Gomez rue a hat full of chances in the first half and second half is no different.
Bayern supporters light up the arena with flares, there’s a lack of flair on the pitch at the moment as the game remains in deadlock.
Franck Ribery finally puts the ball in the back of the net, but he is offside. TV replays show it’s very close.
Bayern’s number 25 sneaks in at the far post to meet a cross from Toni Kroos. Muller heads the ball hard into the ground and it bounces up over Cech.
Bayern get their goal finally in the 83rd minute. Frank Lampard looks on as the Bayern players celebrate a possible winner.
With just minutes on the clock. Juan Mata’s corner is headed by Drogba into the back of the net. Manuel Neuer could just palm the Ivorian’s powerfull and well-directed headed into the top corner.
Remarkable!! Match is not over yet. Drogba – man for the big finals – celebrates his equaliser with his Chelsea team-mates as the match goes in extra time.
In extra time. Drogba undoes his hard work and gives away a cheap penalty by fouling Franck Ribery in the box. But Petr Cech to the rescue, as he guess the right side and saves Arjen Robben’s penalty.
The challenge from Drogba ended Franck Ribery’s night. The Frenchman is substituted by Ivica Olic, who misses a glorious opportunity in the second half of extra time. The match goes in penalties.
Philipp Lahm scores Bayern Munich’s first penalty but Juan Mata misses for Chelsea.
The German side look happy as their keeper makes the first save. Advantage Bayern!
David Luiz, Mario Gomez, Frank Lampard and Manuel Neuer all score before Petr Cech saves Ivica Olic’s penalty. Ashley Cole scores the next penalty to level the things.
Petr Cech makes yet another penalty save as he denies Bastian Schweinsteiger, who scored the winning penalty in Madrid. It’s advantage Chelsea!
It’s written in the stars that Didier Drogba should step up to score the winning penalty for Chelsea.
The Ivorian calmly sends Neuer the wrong way and wins it for Chelsea.
Wild celebrations follow as Chelsea win their first ever Champions League title in history.
The big scoreboard in the stadium display Chelsea are the Champions Winners 2012.
Frank Lampard and the suspended skipper John Terry lifts the Champions League trophy and celebrates with the team.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich finally holds the Champions League trophy high, which he most wanted.
While Chelsea celebrate, Bayern Munich players lay on the pitch sad and dejected after losing on penalties.
Chelsea are the Champions of Europe and the celebrations continue as they pose with the trophy.

Five Stars And Flops From The Champions League Final

Chelsea won the Champions League for the first time ever in their history on Saturday after beating Bayern Munich on penalties in the final at the Allianz Arena in Munich.

Bayern had looked headed for victory after Thomas Muller had nodded them ahead in the 82nd minute, only for Didier Drogba to draw the Blues level with a powerful header of his own six minutes later. Arjen Robben then wasted a glorious opportunity to win the game when he saw his penalty saved by former team-mate Petr Cech in the first half of extra-time, and with neither side able to find the back of the net again, the match went to the dreaded penalty shootout. Following misses by Juan Mata and Ivica Olic, the score was evenly poised at 3-3 when Bastian Schweinsteiger saw his effort being saved by the fingertips of Petr Cech and onto the post, setting the stage for Drogba to win the match for Chelsea with a well-struck effort into the bottom corner.

Here, Into The Top Corner takes a look at the five stars and flops from last nigh’s Champions League final at the Allianz Arena.

Flops

5. Salomon Kalou – 6/10

Was given an advanced role in midfield but was ineffective for the most of the match. Squandered dangerous counterattacking opportunities by wandering needlessly offside. Hit Chelsea’s best effort on target in the first half but was rightly replaced by Fernando Torres in the second half. 4.

Juan Mata – 6/10

Showed glimpses of his technical excellence but the Spaniard was a completely peripheral figure in this encounter. On the rare occasion Chelsea attacked in numbers, the ex-Valencia man looked dangerous, but this occurred on only a couple of times. Missed his penalty which summed up his evening.

3. Jose Bosingwa – 5.5/10

Nearly scored an embarrassing own goal midway through the first half when Frank Lampard played him an awkward pass along the six-yard box. Was exposed a lot throughout the game by both Ribery and Cotento on the left flank.

2. Arjen Robben – 5/10

Missed the penalty which could have won the game for the hosts. Looked selfish on many occasions and miscued many crosses. The Dutchman probably had the maximum touches of the ball in the whole game but made a meal of the individual possession. He was expected to be Bayern’s star for the night but was way far from it.

1. Mario Gomez – 5/10

For a player who has scored 13 goals in the Champions League this season, some of the missed opportunities seemed rather unblievable. He had Bayern’s biggest chance in the first half but he shot well over the bar and it was just a night where he failed to have his shooting boots on. The Bundesliga top scorer did, however, to convert his penalty to give his team a 2-0 lead in the shootout but in the end the missed chances will haunt him more.

Stars

5. Thomas Muller – 7.5/10

Muller was fairly anonymous in the first half but came to life in the second period when Jupp Heynckes shifted him out to the right of the attack. Following the switch, the 22-year-old started to make his way into more attacking positions, and opened the scoring when he made one such run in behind the Chelsea backline and nodded past Cech.

4. Philipp Lahm – 7.5/10

Lahm put in a real captain’s display on the night, defending well against his direct opponent and also providing his team with plenty of attacking run. He played in a couple of sublime crosses that were unfortunately wasted by Gomez and company.

3. Ashley Cole – 8/10

Just proved to the world why he is the best left-back at the moment. Even though his lapse of concentration led to the opening goal, he was very solid at the back and defended his heart & soul out. He made a couple of vital blocks from Robben (one cross and one shot) and later went out scored a well  placed penalty during the shootout.

2. Didier Drogba – 9/10

Drogba was absolute immense on the night as he toiled manfully on his own in attack, and eventually pulled his side level with a powerful header two minutes from time. And when it mattered most, he showed real composure in the shootout to send Neuer the wrong way and win the Champions League for Chelsea.

1. Petr Cech – 9.5/10

Drogba was the official Man of the Match for the game but Cech was our star of the evening. While he hasn’t had the best of seasons this year, he showed why he’s still regarded as a world-class keeper by producing the goods on the biggest of stages. The Czech international came up with a number of excellent stops in the 120 minutes, none better than when he kept out Robben’s penalty, a feat he went on to better in the shootout when he got the slightest – but most vital – of touches to push Schweinsteiger’s effort onto the post.