Liverpool FC to face FC Porto in Champions League last 16

Liverpool have been drawn to face FC Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Reds were paired with the Portuguese club during Monday morning’s draw for the first round of the knockout stage, at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland.

Jürgen Klopp’s side earned their place in the pot as a seeded team after claiming top spot in Group E, ahead of Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and NK Maribor.

Due to the rules of the draw, Liverpool could not draw Chelsea nor Sevilla, leaving Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Basel as possible opponents in the Round of 16. Liverpool managed to avoid some of the biggest names, drawing Porto, and what should be a very welcomed trip to Portugal in February.

As group winners, Liverpool have a distinct mathematical advantage.  Since the current format was adopted, group winners have advanced to the quarterfinals 72.3% of the time. One of the advantages is having the second of two legs back within the safe confines of Anfield.

The first leg of the last-16 tie will be held at the Estadio do Dragao, either on February 13th or 14h, or the following week, the 20th or 21st. The return leg will be at Anfield in March, either the 6th or 7th, or the 13th or 14th.

Liverpool and Porto have met four times competitively, with the most recent encounter coming in the 2007-08 Champions League group stages.

After a 1-1 tie in Portugal, the Reds recorded an emphatic 4-1 victory in the return meeting at Anfield.

The sides also went head-to-head in Liverpool’s run to UEFA Cup success in 2001, with Gerard Houllier’s team earning a goalless draw in the award leg before winning 2-0 at home in the fifth-round clash.

Who Liverpool could face in the Champions League qualifying round

Liverpool now know the potential opponents which will await them in their Champions League play-off in August.

AEK Athens booked their place in the fourth qualifying round on Wednesday night, beating Panionios 2-1 to top the Greek Super League play-ff ahead of PAOK Salonika, who lost 3-2 at home to Panathinaikos.

AEK are the 10th team confirmed for the fourth qualifying round, joining the likes of Ajax, Dynamo Kiev, Nice and CSKA Moscow at that stage.

Possible opponents for Liverpool

Liverpool, we already know, WILL be seeded for the play-off round, along with Napoli and Sevilla.

Their opponents will either be one of the five unseeded teams who come through the preceding round, or one of the two unseeded teams already qualified for the play-off round.

So who could they face?

Viktora Plzen (Czech Republic) – finished second, 10 points behind winners Slavia Prague.

CSKA Moscow (Russia) – finished second, seven points behind Spartak Moscow and one point ahead of Zenit.

Club Brugge (Belgium) – finished second, two points behind Anderlecht.

Sporting Lisbon (Portugal) – finished third, behind champions Benfica and second place Porto.

Steaua Bucharest (Romania) – finished second behind Viitorul.

Young Boys (Switzerland) – second to regular pests FC Basel by a whopping 17 points.

Nice (France) – third behind champions Monaco and second-placed PSG.

Hoffenheim (Germany) – fourth, two points behind third-placed Dortmund and 20 behind champions Bayern Munich.

Istanbul BB (Turkey) – second behind champions Besiktas and well ahead of Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.

AEK Athens (Greece) – secured their place by topping a four-team mini-league this week.

As an aside, if Ajax or Kiev failed to get through their play-off round, then Plzen and then CSKA Moscow would move up and become seeds, meaning Liverpool could not draw them after all.

The draw will be made by UEFA on Friday August 4 with the games to be played on either August 16 or August 17, with the return leg a week later on August 23 or August 24.

James Milner makes UEFA list of top 5 players at Euro

James Milner makes UEFA list of top 5 players at Euro

UEFA have announced a list of top players appearing at Euro 2016 this summer in France.  The list includes the ever dependable James Milner.

Even Liverpool fans would be surprised that Milner made it onto the list, let alone earning the fourth or fifth spot (depending on which UEFA-sanctioned version of the list you choose to believe). Milner had a very strong second half to the season, but in a gathering of Europe’s best players at a single tournament, you would have expected to see Toni Kroos, Paul Pogba, and others ahead of Milner.

UEFA was quick to point out that the ranking is the result of lots of very official sounding science, should you not be sure of their methods.

The UEFA EURO 2016 Player Barometer is tracking players’ form in the build-up to and during the tournament. The Barometer runs official player statistics through a specially-designed algorithm to create rankings based on player performances.

Player data from qualifying formed the initial basis for the rankings, which have taken into account performances for club and country from 1 January 2016. This gives a unique and comprehensive evaluation of players’ form when UEFA EURO 2016 kicks off, after which the Barometer will track which players are excelling in the tournament itself.

Regardless of how they arrived at the rankings, it’s a nice boost for Milner ahead of his representing England in his fourth major tournament and second European Championships. Whether he stays on the list will depend on how much of his Liverpool form he can bring to Roy Hodgson’s squad, but by the time the tournament starts, UEFA’s ranking list is likely to be the furthest thing from his mind.

AC Milan walk out after racist chants directed at Boateng

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dBmHQ7wElhw]

Good on Kevin Prince Boateng and AC Milan for walking out on a friendly against Italian lower division club Pro Patria was suspended after players walked off because of racist chants.

Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng picked up the ball 25 minutes into the first half and kicked it into the crowd.  Ghana international Boateng then removed his shirt and was followed from Pro Patria’s home pitch by both sets of players and officials.

There had been appeals for the abuse to stop from the public address announcer.

Former Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur player Boateng later tweeted: “Shame that these things still happen… #StopRacismforever.”

On his way from the pitch, Boateng applauded sections of the crowd, who then reacted angrily towards the corner of the ground from which the chants came.  It was quickly established that play would not restart and AC Milan’s official website said other black players in the Milan side – M’Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari – suffered abuse.

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri told reporters:

“We are disappointed and saddened by what has happened.  Milan play for the right to respect all players. We need to stop these uncivilised gestures.  We are sorry for all the other fans who came here for a beautiful day of sport. We promise to return, and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision.  I hope it can be an important signal.”

Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), called for the Italian FA to take strong action:

“We salute Kevin-Prince Boateng for his actions and his team-mates for their support.  This is the not the first time a player has walked off in Italy – if the situation continues it may not be the last.  Italy, as much as any country in Europe, has a serious problem of racism to deal with. Football infrastructure is in need of renewal and at serious odds with the changing nature of Italian society.  We look forward to strong action by the FIGC (Italian FA).”

In June, Uefa president Michel Platini said that any players who walked off the pitch at Euro 2012 because of racist abuse would be booked.