Hello weekend! It’s a massive weekend of soccer. We’ve got a grudge match derby between Lazio and Roma in Italy along with Inter hosting Juventus. In Spain, we’ve got a massive El Clasico that could shake up the title race. And before we get to any of that, we’ve got a doozy of a Champions League draw to talk about. I’m Mike Goodman, and this is the Golazo Starting XI newsletter.
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📺 Top picks
All times U.S./Eastern.
🇮🇹 Serie A: Udinese vs. AC Milan, 3:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🏴 SPFL: Motherwell vs. Rangers, 8:30 a.m. ➡️Paramount+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Lazio vs. Roma, 1 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Inter vs. Juventus, 3:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇦🇷 Argentina: Boca Juniors vs. Instituto 6 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇦🇷 Argentina: Sarmiento vs. River Plate, 8:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
📺 Elsewhere …
All times U.S./Eastern.
🏴 Premier League: Chelsea vs. Everton, 1:30 p.m.
🇺🇸 MLS: Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC, 4 p.m.
🏴 Premier League: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m.
🇪🇸 La Liga: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 4 p.m.
Man City draw incredibly tough path to final
We’ve got our own bit of March Madness as the Champions League bracket is set following 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 together not only for the quarterfinals but also for the semifinals.
No seeding. No restrictions. Just pure chance.
And here are the quarterfinal matchups:
- Real Madrid vs. Chelsea
- Inter vs. Benfica
- Man City vs. Bayern
- AC Milan vs. Napoli
- Real Madrid-Chelsea winner vs. Man City-Bayern winner
- AC Milan-Napoli winner vs. Inter-Benfica winner
Right away you can see the problem for Manchester City since they happen to be playing Bayern Munich, the two favorites of the eight teams left. For Bayern, this was supposed to be their best chance to get back to contending for the Champions League title. They haven’t made it to the semifinals since they won the whole thing in 2020. For a team as dominant as Bayern, they haven’t actually had a lot of sustained Champions League success. The year they won the whole thing was their only time making it to the semifinals since 2017-18.
And then there’s Manchester City. They’ve been knocking on the door. They have two straight semifinal appearances under their belt, 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 get knocked out and a loss to Chelsea in the final two years ago. Now they’re stuck playing arguably their biggest competitor to the crown and the second favorite before the draw, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
But it gets even worse! Because the winner of that match plays the winner of the Real Madrid vs. Chelsea match in the semifinals. Those, again, according to Caesars Sportsbook, were the three biggest favorites to win the tournament before the draw. Only one of them can even make the final now.
Inevitably, one team’s loss is another’s gain. And right now, Napoli sure seem like they’re living right. Somehow. With the three pre-draw favorites safely on the other side of the bracket, Napoli and two the Milan teams are on the other side along with Benfica. The red carpet has been well and truly rolled out for a team that’s increasingly looking like a team of destiny.
Here are the updated futures, according to Caesars Sportsbook:
- 🏴 Manchester City: +225
- 🇮🇹 Napoli: +320
- 🇩🇪 Bayern Munich: +350
- 🇪🇸 Real Madrid: +650
- 🏴 Chelsea: +1400
- 🇮🇹 Inter: +1400
- 🇵🇹 Benfica: +1600
- 🇮🇹 AC Milan: +2000
Make sure to check out all the news from the Champions League draw, along with the draws for Europa League and Europa Conference League.
Craving more soccer coverage? Listen below and follow House of Champions, a CBS Sports soccer podcast, bringing you top-notch analysis, commentary, picks and more.
And remember, all of your soccer needs — from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and so much more — are available on Paramount+. You can try one month free by using the code: ADVANCE.
Reyna returns to USMNT
The United States men’s national team is back in action next week in Concacaf Nations League play. Their latest roster drop was more or less what was expected. Which means Gio Reyna is returning to the fold. Reyna has been the center of controversy after a fallout with previous (and maybe future) coach Gregg Berhalter — who was cleared by U.S. Soccer’s investigation — led to his parents sending text messages about incidents from his past to the federation. The whole thing is a giant mess. But, don’t take my word for it, take Christian Pulisic’s:
- Pulisic: “I think we have seen what has been going on. I think it is childish — it is youth soccer, people complaining about playing time. I do not want to go too far into that, but I think Gregg has been extremely unfortunate to get into the position he is in now.”
For a full breakdown of the roster, make sure to check out Chuck Booth, who looks at the major storylines from this group and why, even though it’s early in the cycle, these games really matter.
And now let’s get to some links:
🔗 We’ve got your winners and losers from the draw.
🔗 James Benge has your post-draw edition of Champions League Power Rankings.
🔗 One of the teams not present in the quarters is Liverpool, Benge looks at what’s next at Anfield.
🔗 With three teams in the quarters and two in Europa, Francesco Porzio explains why Serie A is back.
🔗 Let’s stay in Europa League, where Arsenal crashed out on penalties after one of the best goals you’ll ever see from Sporting.
🔗 With Arsenal out of Europa, Benge looks at whether they’ll be able to overcome a growing injury problem.
🔗 Man United advance, and Jonathan Johnson says UEL gives them a chance to announce their return to the top of the game.
🔗 Attacking Third: The Washington Spirit are next up on the NWSL season preview list.
🔗 House of Champions: The crew chats all things Champions League draw.
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: Your favorite retired USMNTers break down the most recent roster.
🔗 And remember, all of your soccer needs — from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and so much more — are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free by using the code: ADVANCE.
💵 Best bets
The world is finally going back to normal, and you can tell because after a few down years, this rivalry is once again heating up. For a generation, this matchup was the biggest in the world thanks in part to Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. With those two gone, this matchup began to feel like just another game. But not anymore. Barcelona are now mired in the middle of a corruption scandal and Real Madrid have said they’re going to cut all ties with the club. Whatever that means. Regardless, the bad blood is back, baby!
All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend’s best bets.
- El Clasico: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, Sunday, 4 p.m.
💰 THE PICK: Barcelona (+130) — What does that mean for the match on the field. Well Barcelona have simply been the better team than Madrid this season and Madrid are already nine points back. Meanwhile in European competitions it’s Madrid who are in the quarterfinals of the Champions League while Barcelona are home on the couch. It’s both true that Barcelona are a little better and also that there are good reasons for Madrid’s focus to be elsewhere. If there’s any match that Madrid might go all out for against Barca, expect it to be next month in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal, where has a one goal lead. Here, expect a feisty game but one that Barcelona ultimately controls.