Alex Baker

  • Real Madrid's backup plan: Injury replacements who can help Ronaldo

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 12 days ago

    Reigning European champion Real Madrid received more bad news on Tuesday when it revealed that Karim Benzema would be unavailable for Wednesday’s clash with Atletico Madrid due to a sprained MCL in his right knee. With Benzema, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric all lost to injuries in the past few days, manager Carlo Ancelotti has decisions to make as his team heads into the second leg of a crunch-time tie against a side it has failed to beat in seven meetings since winning the 2014 Champions League final last May.

    “We have to find solutions to some absences,” admitted the manager to Radio Anch’io earlier this week.

    [FC Yahoo: Meet the miracle worker of the Madrid derby]

  • Five possible destinations for Jurgen Klopp

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 19 days ago

    Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp dropped a bombshell on the world of international soccer on Wednesday when he announced he would be leaving the club at season’s end. Klopp has spent seven years in charge at Dortmund, guiding it to two Bundesliga titles, one German Cup and a Champions League final.

    [FC Yahoo: The unique relationship between Jurgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund]

    Young, charismatic and capable of turning the sum of his players into something that’s somehow greater than the individual parts, the 47-year-old Klopp has long been among the most sought-after managers in Europe. And unlike Pep Guardiola, he has no plans to take any kind of sabbatical from the sport. So with this unexpected news, several of Europe’s top clubs are assumed to be on alert.

    Here are five possible places where Klopp could end up next.

    1. Manchester City

    3. Arsenal

  • Domestic dominance gives European teams the edge in Champions League

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 20 days ago

    Whether you choose to call it the best league or merely the “most entertaining,” it’s hard to argue that the Premier League isn’t the most exciting soccer competition going at club level. It’s also the one with the most money, the best coverage and the widest distribution of top-level players and managers across the league. But as the Champions League quarterfinals get underway this week, they will do so without a single English team remaining in the competition.

    [FC Yahoo: Champions League power rankings – Who's the team to beat?]

    Instead, we are left with a collection of teams that each basically bestrides its domestic league like a colossus. In Germany, Bayern Munich has been so far out of sight for so long that even Pep Guardiola's side must be bored with a Bundesliga campaign that’s become a foregone conclusion. Juventus, the sole remaining power in Serie A, is currently cruising to its fourth consecutive title. In France, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco have both enjoyed cash-fueled ascendancies to the top of Ligue 1.

  • Real Madrid's BBC vs. Barcelona's Three Amigos – Who's better?

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 1 mth ago

    With Barcelona leading Real Madrid by a mere point atop the La Liga standings, both teams head into Sunday's El Clasico at the Camp Nou playing for more than just pride. The winner could potentially open up a lead that might prove difficult to close this late in the season.

    [FC Yahoo: The exhausting existence of Barcelona and Real Madrid]

    Real Madrid will be looking to its front trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, popularly known as the "BBC," to lead it to victory and regain the top spot in La Liga. But Barcelona has its own power trio up front with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, lately known as the "Three Amigos." Together, the two triumvirates comprise six of the very best players in international soccer. But which set of players has the edge heading into Sunday's potentially title-deciding clash?

    Bale vs. Neymar

    Advantage: Three Amigos

    Benzema vs. Suarez

    Advantage: BBC

    Cristiano vs. Messi

  • Is the window of opportunity for Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid about to close?

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 1 mth ago

    Between 2010 and 2014, Atletico Madrid won seven major trophies at a rate of at least one per season. Having been knocked out of the Copa del Rey and virtually eliminated from the La Liga title race this season, the Champions League represents Atleti’s sole remaining chance of extending that record.

    [Champions League: Scores and Schedule | Group Standings | Teams]

    It all hinges on Tuesday's round of 16 second leg against a Bayer Leverkusen side that nearly played Atletico off the pitch at the BayArena last month. In the first leg, the defending La Liga champions had difficulty coping with the intensity of Leverkusen’s high-pressing game in a 1-0 defeat. Afterwards, Atletico manager Diego Simeone admitted his team had barely "escaped alive."

  • Gedion Zelalem should be wary of getting Julian Green treatment from Jurgen Klinsmann

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 1 mth ago

    Arsenal youth product Gedion Zelalem will go straight into the United States men's national team at senior level if Jurgen Klinsmann gets his way. The U.S. coach told American Soccer Now he thinks the Berlin-born teenager, who just got his U.S. citizenship, is "a special player" and is "already at a level where he can definitely play on the senior team."

    [FC Yahoo: U.S. men continue to fall in FIFA world rankings]

    A wiry 18-year-old with Ethiopian parents, Zelalem attended high school in Maryland before joining the Arsenal academy in 2013. A skillful attacking midfielder, his silky touch has drawn comparisons to Cesc Fabregas, and it’s easy to get excited about such a player representing the USA. However, behind that excitement lurks the sinking feeling that we’ve been down this road before.

    The parallels with Zelalem are enough to give pause.

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  • The 20 greatest players in MLS history

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 1 mth ago

    Major League Soccer’s 20th season kicks off Friday when the Chicago Fire take on the champion Los Angeles Galaxy in Carson, Calif. With America's top-flight competition on the cusp of its third decade, here are our picks for the 20 greatest players to have played in MLS.

    [Major League Soccer: Create your own starting XI – Play Fantasy MLS]

    20. Donovan Ricketts

    One of the most talented goalkeepers to don an MLS jersey, Ricketts has been named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year twice. The Jamaican national has played for three MLS clubs and won the MLS Cup with the L.A. Galaxy. Expansion side Orlando City SC signed him for its inaugural season.

    [FC Yahoo: Twenty storylines to watch during the 20th season of Major League Soccer]

    19. Preki

    18. Mauricio Cienfuegos

    17. Robin Fraser

    16. Piotr Nowak

    15. Eddie Pope

    14. Brad Davis

    13. Carlos Ruiz

    12. Omar Gonzalez

    11. Taylor Twellman

    10. Cobi Jones

  • Tottenham Hotspur no longer haunted by the sale of Gareth Bale

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 2 mths ago

    Despite heading into Sunday's Capital One Cup final against Chelsea as undeniable underdogs, Tottenham Hotspur is finally moving on from its post-Gareth Bale hangover by the mere fact that it will be making the trip across town to Wembley Stadium.

    [Fantasy Sports: New season, new game – Sign up for Fantasy Major League Soccer]

    Over much of the 18 months since selling the Welshman to Real Madrid, the North Londoners appeared somewhat adrift. The money recouped from Bale's transfer, a record fee somewhere in the region of $130 million, was quickly reinvested into the club by then-manager Andre Villas-Boas, but the arrival of seven new players to White Hart Lane did not return immediate dividends.

    [FC Yahoo: Who has the edge in Premier League's race for the top four?]

  • Pedro, the odd man out at Barcelona, ponders a future away from Camp Nou

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 2 mths ago

    Reports in Spain indicate that Barcelona forward Pedro could be on his way out of the Catalan capital with the Premier League looking the most likely destination.

    [FC Yahoo: The irony behind Luis Figo's FIFA presidential campaign for change]

    A product of Barça's famed La Masia academy and a vital component in Pep Guardiola's world-beating side of a few years ago, Pedro became the first player in history to score in six major club competitions during one season. A World Cup and Euro winner with Spain, he is a core member of Spanish football's golden generation, but since Luis Suarez's arrival at the Camp Nou, the 27-year-old can hardly get a game.

    [FC Yahoo: Watch Marcelo's wonder goal for Real Madrid against Schalke]

  • Champions League players under the most pressure to perform

    Alex Baker at FC Yahoo 2 mths ago

    The Champions League returns this week. With the premier club competition on the continent reaching its business end, we take this opportunity to run down a few of the players who, for various reasons, will be under the greatest pressure to perform.

    1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    Despite his incredible trophy haul at club level, which includes an eight-year consecutive streak of winning domestic titles across five teams and three countries, the Champions League remains the one trophy that has evaded Ibrahimovic. Now 33 and leader of a Paris Saint-Germain team that looks as if it was specifically designed to win this competition, Ibrahimovic could be looking at his last chance to get his hands on the "trophy with the big ears."

    [FC Yahoo: Champions League power rankings – Who's the team to beat?]

    2. Cristiano Ronaldo

    It seems absurd to include a player who has won this competition twice, most recently in May, and is also the current Ballon d'Or winner. But recent events have piled pressure on Ronaldo.

    3. Marco Reus

    4. Neymar