Despite what you may think - there’s a world of football outside Aston Villa. Jake’s here to find his voice, air his thoughts and have a glance of the goings on outside of Villa Park.
What a week in footy, craziness all around! On Tuesday, Grealish shows what he’s got in his back pocket as we knock Cardiff out of the automatic promotion spot for the time being, and Fulham jump them, for now (probably for the better). Wolves, rightly so, practically win the league, and then Friday, Villa grab a playoff spot with a win from Leeds (no pun intended for Grabban’s goal), and we win 1-0 to clinch at least a playoff spot.
There’s still a way we can snatch second and go up automatically, but chances are slim. Let’s see if we can do what we need to in the playoffs to go up.
Aside from Villa and the Championship, there was so much excitement. In the Champions League, I said it was looking to be a great set of semi’s between Barca, Bayern, Real, and City. Well, City we knew were going to struggle after their first leg, and we thought the other three were locks...spoiler: they weren’t.
On Tuesday, Liverpool locked down and not only won on aggregate, but actually won both legs, ending the aggregate at 5-1 over the Premier League champions. They got the dream draw too, seeing the other team that won on Tuesday, Roma. Liverpool have seen magic in the Champions League before, can this be another achievement for Salah for this spectacular season?
Like I said, the other team that won on Tuesday was Roma... yep, clean your glasses, refresh your page, do what you need, but after being up 4-1, Barca lost 3-0 at Roma. Roma go through because of the tiebreaker from their one away goal in the first leg. The spectacular result that Barca pulled off against PSG last year when they came back? That just happened right back to them this season, ending their hopes of another treble.
Once again, peeking over to this side of the globe, Toronto FC advances to the finals of the CONCACAF CL, while the NY Red Bulls cannot take advantage of one of their hundreds of chances, and draw 0-0, losing 1-0 on aggregate to Guadalajara. It definitely has set up for a nice Toronto FC-Chivas Guadalajara final though. Time for Giovinco to step up and bring the trophy to a MLS side.
Wednesday was also an exciting one. Bayern was locked in and got the 0-0 draw that saw them through to the semis, and just looking at the scoreboard, seeing Real advance is normal, but it was a game you definitely did not want to miss. Up 3-0 after the away fixture, they returned to Madrid where Juve looked to flip the script early. Mandzukic was in the starting side, assuming because of Dybala’s red card in the first leg, and his replacement was huge. A goal in the 2’ and 37’ made for an exciting second half, especially when Matuidi netted the third on the hour mark, to go up 3-0 and equalize the aggregate. Not gonna comment on the call itself, but Madrid earned a penalty in the 90+ minute, which enraged legend Buffon, who slightly shoved the ref in frustration during his encounter, and earned a red card. On came the substitute keeper and steps up who else but Cristiano Ronaldo. He does what he does best and scores when he needs to, bangs the PK, and sends Real to the semis where they drew Bayern, giving us two legs of the greatest teams in the world. Gonna be a classic for sure.
Slight step down from UEFA CL again, to UEFA Europa League, where Arsenal survive just a tiny scare in Moscow, but then comfortably advance to their semis, in a tournament they need to win unless they want to be right back in it next season.
Also remember last week when I said we wouldn’t get to see a Red Bull semifinals because of Leipzig being up and Salzburg being whooped? Well yeah, soccer is soccer, and the script flipped there too, Salzburg made a crazy 4-goal comeback over Lazio, and Leipzig blew a 3-goal first leg lead against Marseille. FC Salzburg Red Bull advance, while Red Bull Leipzig crash out of Europa League.
In the last quarterfinal Europa matchup, Atletico lost at Sporting in Portugal, but they still won as they advance on aggregate. The semifinal draw mimicked that of the Champions League and put the two top teams together: Arsenal-Atletico. I think whoever wins this tie will absolutely murder whoever they have to face in the final out of Marseille or Salzburg. There are going to be great semifinals in both UEFA tournaments in the Champions and Europa League.
Friday was a relief. Clinching the playoff spot gives us a chance to not really stress too hard as the playoffs approach. Mathematically, we can still grab that second place, but with Fulham’s matchups, I can’t see that being the case. BUT their matchups do benefit us, because it means we won’t have to face them in the playoffs. The other two best teams that will be there are Derby and Cardiff, and we’ve recently proven we can beat at least one of them on any given day, so let’s see what we got!
Saturday, I’ll admit it. I did not wake up at 7:30 to watch the start of Chelsea-Southampton. I did wake up in like the 50’, however. This was honestly best case scenario, I got to see the Saints go up 2-0 with all that hope, and then boom, Chelsea realized who they were, and super-sub Giroud went super-sub Giroud, scoring the first and then the winner, as Chelsea continue to give me a reason to rag on Southampton, who once again look to be going down.
As Saturday was finally a nice day, festivities were happening out and about. Obviously, this didn’t stop those that wanted to watch soccer, from watching soccer. On a little TV, we set up the Liverpool game, and got treated to yet another goal from each of the front three. What a beautiful sight to see, watching Firmino, Salah, and Mane all net goals so often. I really think they can do it against Roma and then in a 90-minute final, anything can happen.
Perfect timing allowed for us to get home and relax right as the Man City-Tottenham game started, and we saw the best of City again. Spurs seemed to barely touch the ball in the first half, and City held onto their 2-1 halftime lead until Sterling sealed it and put the pressure on Manchester United to win, or else City win the league.
Not to lie again, I did not catch any MLS soccer this weekend, but I made sure I watched highlights. The only thing really noting was Zlatan’s header, which ended up being the 1-0 winner for the Galaxy.
Sunday morning I knew watching the Arsenal game would be worth it. Either I would be treated to great footy and see them work Newcastle, or they’d lay an egg and I’d get a good laugh: it was the latter. As the game started, Lacazette’s early 14’ goal had me thinking it was the former, but I was wrong. Yes, it was a B/C squad for Arsenal, but my question is, why? They need rest here and there, yes, but the season is almost over! They don’t have an away win in 2018, this was a chance to get them on track, with not having another game until the next Sunday again, the week would be some rest, but instead, the likes of Ozil and Ramsey don’t even travel, and lackluster Arsenal lose 2-1 to Newcastle, who crack into the top half of the table.
The last Premier League game of the day was an important one but one that seemed like it would not be that big of an issue. Once again, soccer proves how not straightforward it is, as last-placed West Brom went to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. Stakes are this: since City won Saturday, United had to win Sunday, or else City clinch the title. Shouldn’t be a big deal for second-placed United because they have 22 wins, West Brom had 3 all season. Well, West Brom now have 4, they shock Man U and City clinch the title. Knew this back in November, but congrats to goat Pep and his army. Absolutely lethal all season, it was never really in doubt.
Wrapping up the week, kinda/sorta, relegation-looming Stoke travel to West Ham, who are basically safe from relegation at this point. In a predictable snooze-fest, it ended pretty crazily going back and forth. West Ham had three goals called back in the second half, and the long legend, Peter Crouch scored a seemingly-crucial goal for Stoke in the 79’ surely to win it. NOPE AGAIN. Other legend, Andy Carrol goes on for the Hammers and scores the 90’ equalizer to rescue a point and cushion them into safety.
This is the end of the soccer week for me, but some midweek catch-up games for the Premier League will certainly keep us busy, despite no Champions League! Let me know any comments, thanks again for reading and keep an eye out for next week’s SSOM!!