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Michael Owen is set to hang up his boots at the end of this season. The one-time teenage phenom has had an illustrious career plagued by injuries. The product of the Liverpool academy, Owen was actually the joint top scorer in his first season in the Premier League with 18 goals. He then repeated that feat the following season and his name stands in the history books as the second highest goals scored by a teenager in the Premier League. Fellow Liverpool legend, Robbie Fowler is the only player to have scored more as a teenager with 23 goals. Owen was Liverpool’s top scorer for eight straight seasons (1997-2004). From the moment he made his debut, to the moment he left the club, Owen led his team in scoring every single year. In 264 appearances for Liverpool, Michael Owen found the back of the net 138 times and notched 7 assists in that time as well.* He became the youngest ever player to reach 100 goals in the Premier League. In 2001, the year Liverpool won the FA Cup, UEFA Cup and League Cup, Owen received the Ballon d’Or and become just the fourth English national to win the award and first since Kevin Keegan in 1979. He was also the first Liverpool player to ever receive the award, and still is to this day.

In 2004, Owen was sold to Real Madrid where he did not find the same success he previously had at Liverpool. His tenure at Madrid did not last long at all, he only made 41 appearances for them and scored 15 goals*. After one season in Madrid, Owen was sold to Newcastle where his injuries really started to take over and we began to see the demise of one of the most clinical strikers of his generation. In his first season with Newcastle he only managed to play 11 games but he scored 7 goals in that short period. Injuries took over and he was sidelined for about 18 months. Upon his return to the field, he was never the same again. His final two seasons at Newcastle he played a total of 57 games and scored 19 goals. Very un-Owen-like as we were used to him scoring about 19 goals per season. In his final year at Newcastle, they were relegated at the end of the season and Owen moved to Manchester United on a free transfer.

At United he was never a major cog in Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans as Owen was now very fragile and was not able to play very much, when he did, it would usually end up in another injury. He managed a total of 52 appearances for United scoring 17 goals*. Now plying his trade at Stoke City, Owen is again spending the majority of his time on the bench. A one-time phenom destroyed by injuries and robbed from becoming an even greater player than what his career will show.

Farewell, Michael. It was a pleasure watching you play in your prime.

*stat from transfermarkt.co.uk

 

 

Please Stop.

My beloved fellow Chelsea supporters,

We have been through a tumultuous roller coaster of a season, fresh off the most glorious season we have ever witnessed. We have come from the highest of highs, only to be followed up with strings of depression, hatred, and misery. Fortunately, things are finally looking better for us and we are hitting a good run of form. We are still in the run for two trophies and are in good position to secure a Champions League spot.

The reason for this article, is to plead with you to please stop calling for the purchase of a big name striker in the off season. We have suffered through the record breaking purchase of Fernando Torres, and we do not need to splash that kind of money in the off season on another striker. We really don’t. We have a 19 year old phenom, out on loan at West Brom, that is cementing his place in the history books already. He has 13 goals and 3 assists in 27 appearances this season for West Brom and will forever have his name next to the likes of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen. At 13 goals this season, Lukaku is only behind Owen and Fowler for the most goals scored in the Premier League by a teenager. Fowler holds the record with 23 goals, and Michael Owen has scored 18 goals twice as a teenager. Lukaku will have to go on an absolute tear to catch Fowler, but the notion of catching up to Michael Owen is not too far fetched. Even if he doesn’t catch up to Owen’s 18 goals, Lukaku’s season will still be very, very impressive. Let’s keep in mind, Lukaku is doing all of this for West Brom, a team that is not blessed with the talent that his parent club is equipped with. The likes of James Morrison, Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt are not really up to par with the likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Victor Moses. Imagine Lukaku with those world class players providing him with service. Opposing defenses will be kept awake at night thinking about how they could possibly try to deal with that. It would be an absolute nightmare for every team that would have to face Chelsea.

Not only do we have Lukaku on our books, but thanks to a fantastic piece of business in the winter window, we got our hands on a proper striker to replace Torres in Demba Ba. Lukaku and Ba are two fantastic strikers that have the ability to take Chelsea to the glory they aim for year in and year out. Of course, two strikers is not enough, as a team that is in as many competitions as Cheslea is in and with the fixture congestion that is always inevitable, we will need more depth. However, that does not mean you fill that need for depth with a 30-50 million signing. A hybrid winger/striker such as Heung-Min Son from Hamburg would fill that 3rd striker hole perfectly as well as provide extra cover/depth in the attacking band of three. Even if it’s not Son, my point is there are options out there, that are both cost-effective and talented options that would fill our needs without breaking the bank.

My beloved fellow Chelsea supporters, let’s get behind our wunderkid striker Romelu Lukaku and believe in his ability to shoulder the load along with Demba Ba and take us back to European and Domestic glory!

Blue is the Color! KTBFFH!

 

The Champions League and Europa League Quarter Finals are set and we have some tasty match ups to look forward to. Let’s start by analyzing the Champions League draws.

PSG vs Barcelona

A mouth-watering draw with the likes of THE Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura taking on the sneaky fast Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. This is going to be an EPIC encounter and will no doubt keep us all on the edge of our seats for all 180 minutes. I’m expecting a high scoring aggregate final with goals galore in both legs. Both of these teams are high energy and are well-equipped with firepower from more than one angle. I will be rooting for PSG to take down the blaugranas, however, I think Barca will be too much for Le Parisiens and when all is said and done, it will be Barca advancing to yet another Champions League semi-final.

Prediction: Barca 5-3 on aggregate

Real Madrid vs Galatasaray

Jose Mourinho will be reacquainted with one of his beloved former players, Didier Drogba. Many will look at this match up and think Real Madrid will cruise past the Turkish giants, but I don’t think it will be so easy. Galatasaray are a very, very, good squad with some elite talent amongst their ranks. The acquisition of Wesley Sneijder has not yet paid off as the Dutchman is still suffering from poor form. After all, he has pretty much been on vacation for a few months, he was not playing at all for Inter Milan before the transfer happened as he was relegated to the bench for not accepting a pay cut. If Sneijder can find his form in the next month, these two legs will be much more interesting. Burak Yilmaz has been on an absolute tear for Galatasary and is the joint top scorer in the competition with 8 goals, tied with Cristiano Ronaldo. Paired up with Didier Drogba, those two give Galatasaray a fighting chance against Los Blancos. However, I am a man of reason, and Real Madrid are definitely on a mission, guided by the great Special One. Mesut Ozil, Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria, that is simply too much attacking prowess for the Turkish giants to overcome. I would like to give some recognition to 19 year old defender, Raphael Varane who has been a revelation in the center of defense for Real Madrid. This young man is going to become one of the worlds best defenders in the very very short future. He is an absolute gem that deserves all the recognition he gets. His play has not gone unnoticed as Deschamps has called his number for the French national squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.

Prediction: Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate.

Malaga vs Borussia Dortmund

Malaga is one of the more intriguing teams remaining in this competition. They are a very talented squad with some real gems in their squad. If you are searching for one of the more promising young talents in world football, look no further than Isco. The Spanish attacker is having a magnificent season and has drawn the attention of some of the biggest clubs in the world, including Chelsea. Malaga realized this and went ahead and restructured his contract during the winter window in order to increase his buy out clause. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Isco will be sold in the summer because Malaga need all the money they can get due to their financial situation. They already sold starting left back Nacho Monreal during the winter window for 10 million euros to Arsenal, and had sold one of their best midfielders in Santi Cazorla during the offseason to Arsenal as well. Santi Cazorla has been fantastic for Arsenal this season, yet despite these moves, Malaga are still having a great season. Manuel Pelligrini has done a fantastic job for Malaga, guiding them to the quarter finals of the Champions League and has the team sitting in 4th place in La Liga. On the other hand, Borussia Dortmund are suffering from somewhat of a hangover from last seasons success yet still find themselves in a great position to reach the semi finals of the Champions League. Dortmund are coming off a double winning season last year, taking the DFB Pokal Championship along with the Bundesliga title. They are already knocked out of the DFB Pokal thanks to Bayern Munich and find themselves 20 points behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. This is their only chance at silverware this year and they certainly have the players to take them the distance. Led by Jurgen Klopp and young phenoms Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, this squad has the potential to lift the holy grail of all trophies.

Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich vs Juventus

The German Giants vs The Italian Giants. This will be a battle of tight knit defense vs high powered offense. In the end, I have no doubts that the Bavarian’s high powered offense will come out victorious. Bayern are still in the hunt for the treble, they have the Bundesliga wrapped up by a long mile, have a great shot at the DFB Pokal after knocking out rivals Borussia Dortmund and are now that much closer to returning to the Champions League final for a second consecutive year. Juventus should cause them a little bit of trouble becaue of their stingy defense having allowed only 18 goals in Serie A, however Bayern’s defense is quite stout in their own right. With the emergence of young phenom Dante and the solid veteran presence of Daniel van Buyten, the ever reliable captain Philipp Lahm and the emergence of David Alaba as one of the elite prospects at LB has led to Bayern only allowing 10 goals in the Bundesliga. Despite Juve’s lack of a prominent striker they have still managed to net 55 goals in Serie A, however, this will be their stiffest test all year. I think Bayern Munich will manage to roll past Juve and advance comfortably to the semis.

Prediction: Bayern Munich 4-1 on aggregate.

 

Europa League

The ugly step sister of European competitions has proven it can still be an entertaining tournament. Inter Milan put forth a valiant effort coming back from a 3-0 first leg deficit against Tottenham and managed to put 3 in the back of the net in the return leg to force extra time. Unfortunately, Adebayor managed to literally fall into a goal in the 1st half of extra time which made Inter’s conquest that much harder. They needed two goals in extra time after that because of the away goal rule, and they almost did it, but fell one goal short. They thumped a Bale-less Spurs 4-1 at the end but did not advance because of the away goal rule. As per usual for this season, Chelsea had another heart stopping game but managed to advanced thanks to the most unlikeliest source, Fernando Torres, granting his team advancement to the next round with a 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham vs Basel

Spurs should advance comfortably to the semi finals, however, nothing is ever a foregone conclusion when it comes to the Spurs as their fans can attest. Basel managed to get by Hulk and Zenit St. Petersburg but this should prove to be a much tougher task. Gareth Bale is in the form of his life and Moussa Dembele has proven to be a fantastic signing for AVB. Basel are heavily reliant on 31 year old countryman Marco Streller for their goals, he leads the team with 12 goals, the next highest scorer on the team is fellow countryman and 33 year old striker Alexander Frei with 6 goals. Tottenham have more talent, better players and should have no problem getting past Basel.

Prediction: Tottenham 4-1 on aggregate.

Chelsea vs Rubin Kazan

Nothing has come easy for the Blues this season and there should be no reason to believe that it will change now. Rubin Kazan’s leading scorer is Israeli international Bibras Natcho with 7 goals, but they also have Venezuela international and former Chelsea target Solomon Rondon with 5 goals and newly acquired midfield enforcer Yann M’Villa. Juding by the line up The Interim One trotted out in the second leg against Steaua Bucuresti, this competition is of high priority and Chelsea are definitely in it to win it. Regardless of the fact that Fernando Torress will be the only available striker for this entire competition, Chelsea should still manage to get through Rubin Kazan and advance to the next round.

Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 on aggregate.

Fenerbahce vs Lazio

Lazio look really good. They thumped Stuttgart 5-1 on aggregate in the previous round but will face stiffer competition here. Libor Kozak, 23 year old Czech striker, had a field day in the 2nd leg of the Stuttgart leg netting himself a hat trick. Fenerbahce barely squeaked by Viktoria Plzen, advancing 2-1 on aggregate. I’m thinking Lazio will continue their good form in the Europa League and will edge out Fenerbahce, but it won’t be as lopsided as their previous round.

Prediction: Lazio 3-2 on aggregate.

Newcastle vs Benfica

Newcastle barely got by Anzhi thanks to a late injury time winner by Papiss Cisse for the only goal over both legs for either team. Benfica, on the other hand, got by Bordeaux 4-2 on aggregate and will look to continue their run of 31 straight games unbeaten in regular time (they were defeated on penalty kicks against Sporting Braga on Feb 27th in Taca da Liga). Oscar Cardozo and Lima are Benfica’s top scorers and will look to help their team continue their fantastic run of form against the Magpies. I don’t think Newcastle have enough quality to get past the Portuguese giants and I see Alan Pardew’s men bowing out of the competition here.

Prediction: Benfica 4-2 on aggregate.

For the first time in forever, Chelsea actually have a very talented crop of young players coming up in their system. The scouts have done a wonderful job picking out young, raw, talent from around the globe and they have put the club in a very favorable position. Of course, we have the money to go out and buy established elite talent, but now we also have the luxury to promote elite talent from within. The best part is, the elite talent we already have in the squad are all still very young. Eden Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata, Ramires, David Luiz, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, John Obi Mikel, Kevin De Bruyne, Oriol Romeu, Nathan Ake, Ryan Bertrand, and Victor Moses – all of these guys are 25 years old and younger. Not one of them is over the age of 25. All of them are world class and/or on their way to being world class. We have a nice crop of younger players that are either out on loan or plying their trade in the U18-U21 system. Guys like Jeremie Boga, Islam Feruz and Alex Kiwomya are looking primed for an aggressive loan abroad, but are currently helping the youth squad seek more silverware. Tomas Kalas, Patrick Van Aaanholt, Thorgan Hazard, Gael Kakuta, Kenneth Omeruo, Nathaniel Chalobah, Jeffrey Bruma, Josh McEachran, and Lucas Piazon are all out on loans and all are showing great promise. Some of these guys probably won’t get the chance to make it to the Chelsea first team, but a good portion of them very well could.

In the very near future I can see guys like Chalobah, Ake, Omeruo, Piazon, McEachran, Thorgan Hazard, Van Aanholt and Kalas fighting for a spot in the first team. This is a very exciting time for Chelsea and their fans as we are stockpiled with young talent to the point that we could very well be OVERstocked. There are so many players that could fill various roles that it’s going to impossible to include everyone in the first team squad. For example, Chalobah can play CB and DM, Kalas can play CB and RB, Omeruo can play CB and RB, Ake can play CB and DM, Piazon can play LW, AM or as a secondary striker (granted not as effective there), Thorgan Hazard can play anywhere in the band of three, Kevin De Bruyne can play AM, CM and LW, and McEachran can play CM, LM or AM. There will be talented players left out and will probably be forced to sell them because there’s only so many times you can loan a guy out, the day is going to come where you are going to have to either re-up his contract and give him some playing time, or sell him off. On a personal note, I would really like to see Van Aanholt as our starting LB in the near future (once Cole is gone), over Ryan Bertrand. I think Van Aanholt can provide us with more quality. I am going to explore a variety of starting XI’s we can roll out with the guys I believe we will keep using our preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Keep in mind, these are projections at least 2 years down the road.

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Many of you might question the Mikel-Chalobah pivot but I think it could work. They are both excellent defensively and both are wonderful distributors of the ball. They can pick out players and put them in positive positions moving forward. Mid-way through the game we can sub one of them out and give McEachran a run to switch it up and give the defense fits. Of course, another wonderful option at the pivot would be Oriol Romeu who could also come in as a sub for one of them as well start a good amount of games because Chelsea will always suffer from fixture congestion and will need to rest players. Also, since Chalobah can also fill a void at CB if an injury occurs to one of our starting CBs or if Omeruo turns out to be not as good as we think he can be, Chalobah-Luiz pairing at CB will open up a spot for either Romeu or McEachran to start alongside Mikel. Let’s look at another dynamic we can trot out there:

Here, we decided to give Kalas a start at RB and give Ake a run out at CB, while completely changing our attacking trident. This is the kind of rotation we will have at our disposal. The possibilities are endless. I could go on and on with the various line ups we could come up with, it’s ridiculous. If we are blessed with a tactical manager we could even switch to 4-3-3 and not miss a beat. We have already seen Ake play at DM and was fairly successful, granted against lesser competition but nonetheless. We have the option of moving Ake into the pivot and taking out McEachran/Mikel, switch Kalas to CB, and bring in Azpi to cover RB. I will post one more formation and that will be it. All of this is really just to illustrate to all of you just how much talent we have at our disposal and just how young all these kids are.

I realized I forgot Piazon in the others and that just goes to show you how stacked we are. De Bruyne, Mata, Thorgan, Ramires, Moses are all missing from this line up, yet it is still an extremely strong squad that would be able to compete with the best of them. Oriol Romeu is another I did not include but again you can put him in place of Chalobah and as the great Odemwingie would say “IT DOESN’T WEAKEN NOTHING!”

Chelsea FC might not have any history, but we are on our way to cementing our place in the history books for years to come.

Breaking Down Pivot

Pivot. A word we have heard all too often this season. So much so that I cringe every time I hear it. It has been an area of major concern for Chelsea this season, and the sad part is that it could have all been avoided. The sale of Raul Meireles and subsequent loan of Michael Essien to Real Madrid (seriously, what the fuck were you thinking with that move?) left Chelsea severely thin in the middle of the pitch. This has led to a revolving door of players that do not fit the position being thrusted into a role they are not accustomed to. The most natural option for the pivot is of course, Mikel. Now, I say of course, because it is common knowledge to any sane person with knowledge about the game that Mikel is a very good player and he fits the mold of a pivot player perfectly. However, Rafa Benitez doesn’t seem to think this way. He has left Mikel off line up sheets time after time. Don’t bother asking why, he’s won 9 titles, he clearly knows what he’s doing. The obvious solution to this little predicament we have on our hands is to switch up the formation. If we do not have players to play with 2 pivot players, why not switch the formation to say, a 4-3-3? Silly question, right? I mean, it’s not like the players we have are better suited to that formation or something. For the sake of my sanity, this write up will not explore other formations because our great Interim One will never switch from his beloved 4-2-3-1.

Frank Lampard, bless his soul, is a Chelsea legend. However, the pivot is not his strongest position by any means. He is an attacking midfielder, I would love to see Lampard spell Mata from time to time and take the reins at CAM. Mata is being run into the ground by Rafa, playing Lampard in his position would be something I would love to see. This is what is called rotation. Something Rafa seems to think he is the master of. Clearly, us minions know nothing, we have not won 9 titles.

Ramires is another dynamic player that is being misused in the pivot. He is a fantastic player, however, his skill set is not suited to the pivot. He has endless energy and can finish with the best of them. Unfortunately, due to our lack of depth, he is one of the better options we have to insert in that role. Playing him alongside Mikel would be the ideal combo in the pivot. Mikel will act as the enforcer as Ramires bursts forward. Here’s a visual:

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Now, let’s talk substitutions. If we roll out with this line up that means we have Moses, Lampard, Cahill, Bran, Torres, and Marin on the bench. Let’s pretend for a moment we start making substitutions BEFORE the 80th minute. I know, I know, I’m crazy right? I must be high or drunk or both. What am I thinking? We can take Oscar and Mata off, and bring in Moses and Lampard. Lampard will take Oscar’s spot in the middle and Moses will take his regular place on the wing. I know in the beginning of the article I said Mata plays CAM, which he does under Rafa, but Oscar is not suited to the wing (where Rafa plays him) so that’s why my formation above shows Mata on the wing and not CAM. Here’s how we would look after those subs are made:

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Forgive my sloppiness in placing the players but you get the general idea. I feel this would be a great line up. I don’t know why we have not tried to play Lampard at CAM at all this season. That is his favored position after all. We have a lot of amazing attacking talent on this team and we are simply not utilizing them properly. This is just one option of many that we have at our disposal. The options are endless. For instance, we could push Ramires into Moses’ position and play Luiz alongside Mikel with Cahill taking over CB. Rotation with this squad is really not hard because we have so many players that are so versatile most teams would be envious. Unfortunately, we are stuck with an incompetent has been manager that thinks his tactics rule everything and no one else could possibly know better than him because after all, he’s won 9 titles. Suck it.

Depression….

I don’t know what to say anymore. This season has been one of the most depressing seasons ever as a Chelsea fan. One year removed from the most triumphant season, we are treated with this as an encore. Absolutely atrocious. The squad that was rolled out against Steaua Bucuresti was a very strong team. The Interim One even said “the priority for this is one”. Well, you could have fooled me, fat one. The team looked disinterested and out of sync. Even our best players that are usually the exception to the rule, i.e. Hazard played with no heart and no passion and frankly, no skill. It is becoming harder and harder to muster up the energy to sit and watch this team play. It seems like forever ago that I was truly excited and looked forward to a Chelsea match. Now, I dread the day.

Granted, this leg is far from over. We are only down 1-0 going to Stamford Bridge and we most certainly can take care of business at home and win 2-0. Even though our performance was abject it took a Ryan Bertrand brainfart that led to our defeat. Bertrand did not position himself properly in the box and as a cross came flying in he took down Bucuresti’s most dangerous player, Rusescu, and the ref did not hesitate to point at the spot and hand Bertrand a yellow card. Rusescu stepped up to the spot and struck home the penalty just past Cech. Saint Petr almost bailed Chelsea out with a great save but he just barely missed it.

One would think the Blues would answer back and dominate the game from there on out but we were all sadly mistaken. The only chance the Blues had was a Yossi Benayoun weak effort that was pushed away by the opposing goalkeeper. Yossi really should have done better and he should have buried his shot into the back of the net but he showed just why he is so bad at the game of football. Tell me why he was starting again oh Interim One?

Going into the FA Cup clash against Manchester United both teams are coming off tough defeats. The difference is, one team actually looked dangerous and played well even with just 10 men, while the other team was completely invisible. Can you guess which team is which?

At the hands of the one and only Special One, Sir Alex Ferguson and his Red Army were defeated on their home soil. The first half was edgy and United looked the better side for most of the half with Mourinho’s men on their heels. As the first half came to a close, Madrid suffered a set back when Angel Di Maria went down injured and was unable to continue. Kaka was forced to come on for him and did not really provide much of anything for Madrid throughout the entire game. The loss of Angel’s ability to take advantage of the United defenders on the wings and his ability to cut into the middle would be sorely missed. Just ask Carles Puyol what he thinks about man marking Di Maria in the box. Di Maria made Puyol look like a complete fool with a nasty step over that resulted in a Madrid goal in El Classico.

The second half is where all the magic happened. It started with a Sergio Ramos own goal in the 48th minute. Just like the first leg, Madrid would see themselves working from behind (insert sexual joke here). Just like the first leg, Madrid would come roaring back. This time they received a little help from an unlikely source. Nani decided it would be a good idea to conduct a flying high kick (best watched to the tune of “everybody was kung fu fighting”) to Arbeloa’s ribs. To his surprise, Nani was not declared the undisputed lightweight champion of the world, instead he was shown a shiny red card and was instructed to kindly get the fuck off the pitch you stupid, stupid, boy. Just like that, the match was turned on its head and Madrid looked to capitalize on this wonderful opportunity. The Special One smelled the game was there for the taking and he subbed off Arbeloa and brought on Luka Modric. A change that turned out to be simply magnificent.

It did not take long at all for Luka Modric to reintroduce himself to the United faithful when he brilliantly struck a swerving ball off the side of the post and into the back of the net. It really was a magnificent strike that had me in awe. Madrid knew their job was not done just yet, they needed another goal to wrap up the victory and three minutes after Luka’s wunderstrike, a moment of brilliance from the Madrid players resulted in Cristiano Ronaldo sliding in to slot home the winner. The build up to the goal was what was truly remarkable. A lovely backheel from Ozil to set Higuain loose inside the box on the wing and Higuain drilled in a low cross across the face of goal for Ronaldo to cooly slide in and punch it home. Classy Ronaldo refused to celebrate his goal and simply basked in the glory of knowing he’s not only devilishly good looking, but his team just knocked off his former employer to advance to the next round of the Champions League.