Hello weekend! It’s a massive weekend of football. We have a derby grudge match between Lazio and Roma in Italy along with Inter hosting Juventus. In Spain, we have a huge El Clasico that could shake up the title race. And before we get to any of that, we have a Champions League draw to talk about. I’m Mike Goodman and this is Golazo’s Starting XI newsletter.
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📺 Top picks
All times USA/East.
🇮🇹 Serie A: Udinese vs AC Milan, 3.45pm ➡️ Paramount+
🏴🁧کن SPFL: Motherwell vs. Rangers, 8:30 am ➡️Paramount+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Lazio vs Roma, 13:00 ➡️ Paramount+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Inter vs. Juventus, 3:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇦🇷 Argentina: Boca Juniors vs. Institute 6 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇦🇷 Argentina: Sarmiento vs. River Plate, 20:30 ➡️ Paramount+
All times USA/East.
Premier League: Chelsea v Everton, 1.30pm
🇺🇸 MLS: Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC, 4 p.m.
Premier League: Arsenal v Crystal Palace, 10am
🇪🇸 La Liga: Barcelona v Real Madrid, 4pm
Manchester City have an incredibly tough run to the final
We’ve got our own bit of March madness as the Champions League squad is set after Friday’s draw. Boy, did it come with some surprises. For those of you catching up at home, the way this works is that there are eight teams and then UEFA randomly draws them not only for the quarter-finals but also for the semi-finals.
No seeding. WITHOUT LIMITS. Just pure chance.
And here they are quarter-final matches:
- Real Madrid vs Chelsea
- Inter vs Benfica
- Manchester City vs Bayern
- Milan vs Napoli
- Real Madrid-Chelsea winner vs Manchester City-Bayern winner
- Milan-Napoli winner vs Inter-Benfica winner
You can immediately see the problem for Manchester City as they happen to be playing Bayern Munich, the two favorites of the remaining eight teams. For Bayern, this was supposed to be their best chance to get back into contention for the Champions League title. They haven’t reached the semi-finals since winning the whole thing in 2020. For a team as dominant as Bayern, they haven’t really had much consistent success in the Champions League. The year they won the aggregate was their only time reaching the semi-finals since 2017-18.
And then there’s Manchester City. They’ve knocked on the door. They have made two consecutive semi-final appearances, with a heartbreaking loss to Real Madrid last season, where they conceded two injury-time goals in the second half of the second leg to beat them, and a loss to Chelsea in the final two years ago. . Now they’re stuck playing arguably their biggest rival for the crown and the second favorite before the draw, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
But it gets even worse! Because the winner of this match plays the winner of the Real Madrid vs Chelsea match in the semi-finals. These, again, according to Caesars Sportsbook, were the top three favorites to win the tournament before the draw. Only one of them can reach the final now.
Inevitably, one team’s loss is another’s gain. And right now, Napoli certainly seem to be living right. Somewhat. With the three pre-draw favorites safely on the other side of the bracket, Napoli and two Milan teams are on the other side along with Benfica. The red carpet has well and truly rolled out for a team that looks more and more like a team of destiny.
Here are the updated futures contracts, according to Caesars Sportsbook:
- Manchester City: +225
- 🇮🇹 Napoli: +320
- 🇩🇪 Bayern Munich: +350
- 🇪🇸 Real Madrid: +650
- Chelsea: +1400
- 🇮🇹 Inter: +1400
- 🇵🇹 Benfica: +1600
- 🇮🇹 AC Milan: +2000
Be sure to check out all the news from the Champions League draw, along with the Europa League and Europa Conference League draws.
Craving more football coverage? Listen below and follow along House of Championsa CBS Sports football podcast, bringing you top analysis, commentary, picks and more.
And remember, all your soccer needs — from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and more — are available on Paramount+. You can try one month free using the code: ADVANCE.
Reyna returns to the USMNT
The United States men’s national team returns to action next week in Concacaf Nations League action. Their latest roster drop was pretty much as expected. Which means Gio Reyna is back in the fold. Reyna was at the center of controversy after a run-in with former (and possibly future) coach Gregg Burhalter — who was cleared by US Soccer’s investigation — led to his parents texting about incidents from his past to federation. The whole thing is a huge mess. But don’t take me for that, take Christian Pulisic:
- Pulisic: “I think we’ve seen what happens. I think it’s childish — it’s youth football, people complaining about playing time. I don’t want to go too far into it, but I think Greg was extremely unlucky to get into the position he’s in now ».
For a complete breakdown of the roster, be sure to check out Chuck Booth, who looks at the main storylines of this team and why, even though it’s early in the cycle, these games really matter.
And now let’s go to some links:
🔗 We have yours winners and losers from the draw.
🔗 James Benge has your version after the draw Champions League Power Rankings.
🔗 One of the teams not present in the quarters is Liverpool, Benge looks to what’s next at Anfield.
🔗 With three teams in the quarters and two in Europe, Francesco Porzio explains why Serie A is back.
🔗 Let’s stay in the Europa League, where Arsenal went down on penalties afterwards one of the best goals you will ever see from Sporting.
🔗 With Arsenal out of Europa, Benge looks to see if he can make it overcome a growing injury problem.
🔗 Man United progress and Jonathan Johnson says UEL are giving them a chance announce their return to the top of the game.
🔗 Attacking Third: The Washington Spirit are next on the NWSL season preview list.
🔗 House of Champions: The crew discuss all things Champions League draw.
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: Your favorite USMNT retirees break down the latest roster.
🔗 And remember, all your soccer needs — from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and more — are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free using the code: ADVANCE.
💵 The best bets
The world is finally getting back to normal, and you can tell why after a few years, this rivalry is heating up again. For a generation, this match was the greatest in the world, thanks in part to Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. With those two gone, this matchup started to feel like just another game. But not anymore. Barcelona is now submerged amid a corruption scandal and Real Madrid have said they are to sever all ties with the club. Oh, whatever that means. Anyway, the bad blood is back, baby!
All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times US/Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend’s best bets.
- El Clasico: Barcelona v Real Madrid, Sunday, 4pm
💰 THE CHOICE: Barcelona (+130) — What does this mean for the game on the field? Well, Barcelona have simply been the better team than Madrid this season and Madrid are already nine points behind. Meanwhile, in the European competitions, it is Madrid who are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, while Barcelona are on the couch. It is true that Barcelona are slightly better and also that there are good reasons for Madrid to focus elsewhere. If there’s one match where Madrid can go all out against Barca, expect it to be next month’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, where they hold a one-goal lead. Here, expect an intense game, but one that Barcelona ultimately controls.