Will memories of ’97 haunt The Old Lady?

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Juventus - Borussia Dortmund

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Tuesday night sees a rematch 18 years in the making when Juventus host Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 clashes. The last time these sides met they were vying to lift the famous trophy in the 1997 final in front of 59,000 fans in the Olmpiastadion, Munich.

The fall and rise of Borussia Dortmund

On that faithful night on the 28th May 1997, it was the underdogs, Dortmund, who came away with a 3-1 win and clinched their one and only Champions League title. That squad included former Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert, who provided the assist for the first goal of the match.

Since that night in Munich, both sides have faced turbulent times. In 2003, the German side were very close to bankruptcy and becoming extinct. Had they not received a €2 million loan from rivals Bayern Munich, the Ruhr club may not be around today. It was a fall from grace for a club that had won six Bundesliga titles up to that point and had to watch on while their fierce rivals went on to win five of the next eight titles until Dortmund regained the title in the 2010-11 season.

The side worked its way back up to the top of the Bundesliga mountain but hit some stumbling blocks including another period of financial uncertainty in 2005 and relegation battles in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

It wasn’t until a relevantly young manager named Jürgen Klopp, took over at the end of the 2007-08 season that Dortmund became a force once again, winning 2 Bundesliga titles (2010-11 and 2011-12), 2 German Super Cups (2013 and 2014) and 1 German Cup (2011-12) so far under the charismatic manager’s reign. They also reached their second Champions League final in the 2012-13 season. They faced a common enemy in Bayern Munich but the side were denied a fairy tale win, losing 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.

Juventus and the Calciopoli scandal

After the shock loss to Dortmund, Juventus went on to appear in two more Champions League finals, losing both matches, 1-0 to Real Madrid in 1998 and on penalties to AC Milan in 2003. During this period, ‘The Old Lady’ of Serie A was going through one of its most successful periods in its history, mostly under the reign of Marcello Lippi. In the 12 years between Lippi initially taking charge to the 2006 match fixing scandal, Juventus won the Serie A title seven times and were runner-ups three times. The two latter titles in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 were later stripped from the club due to their participation in the scandal (the 2005-06 title was later handed to Inter Milan, while the 2004-05 title was unassigned).

The match fixing scandal known as the ‘Calciopoli’ scandal rocked Italian football to its core in the early part of the summer of 2006. Five teams were implied in the scandal; Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina. All received substantial punishment. Juventus were originally relegated to Serie C1 with a 30-point deduction making straightforward promotion all but impossible. However, on appeal, their punishment was changed to relegation to Serie B and a nine-point deduction, along with their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles stripped, they were kicked out of the 2006-07 Champions League and they had to play three home games behind closed doors.

Their relegation resulted in numerous players leaving the Turin side including Fabio Cannavaro and Zlatan Ibrahimović. However, some players decided to stay and help the Bianconeri return to Serie A in their first attempt. They did just that with the help of the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, David Trézéguet and Gianluigi Buffon. Del Piero ended the 2006-07 Serie B season as top scorer with 20 goals.

Since their return to Serie A in the 2007-08 season, Juventus have only failed to finish outside the top three positions twice (seventh in both 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons). They clinched their first Serie A title in nine years in 2012 and have won it every season since.

Head-to-Head

These sides have met seven times in European competition including two finals (the 1992-93 UEFA Cup final was played over two legs). Juventus have 4 times, including both legs of the 92-93 UEFA Cup final, while Dortmund have defeated their Italian rivals twice and there has been the single draw.

The 1997 Champions League Final, is the match that everyone will be talking about though. It was arguably one of the biggest upsets in recent Champions League history. Two goals from striker Karl-Heinz Riedle and a beautiful long distance chip from Lars Ricken, 16 seconds after coming onto the pitch sealed victory for the German side with Del Piero adding a consolation goal for the Italians. Ricken also became the youngest goal scorer in a Champions League final at 20 years old with his sublime effort.

The 2014-15 squads paint a different picture though. Juventus are sitting atop of Serie A with a nine-point gap ahead of second place Roma. The Turin side have yet to lose at home this season, so the German side do have a challenge on their hands. The Old Lady have won three and drawn two in their last five fixtures.

They finished second in Group A behind Atlético Madrid and suffered a shock 1-0 loss on match day three away to Olympiacos. They also failed to defeat their Spanish rivals in two attempts, losing 1-0 at Estadio Vicente Calderón and drawing 0-0 at Juventus Stadium.

Their Serie A form has been exceptional. They have won 17 of their 24 games, drawing six and losing just once to Genoa back in October. They have scored 53 goals, conceding only 13.

On the other hand, Borussia Dortmund’s results have been mixed so far this season. They have performed particularly well in the Champions League but their Bundesliga form has been poor but has been picking up in recent weeks.

The German side topped Group D ahead of Arsenal. Dortmund stunned the Premier League side on match day one with a 2-0 win at the Westfalenstadion. The side won four games, only losing away to Arsenal 2-0 and drawing 1-1 at home to Belgian side Anderlecht.

Die Borussen currently sit in 12th position in the Bundesliga, 30 points behind leaders Bayern Munich and 10 points behind a Champions League position. Their domestic campaign has been poor to say the least. New signings, Ciro Immobile and Adrián Ramos still seem to be adapting to the side with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus contributing most of their goals in Bundesliga.

However, the new signings have scored seven of Dortmund’s 14 Champions League goals so they may be called upon for this fixture. The Italian striker is a doubt for the game after contracting the flu that has struck other members of the squad including captain Mats Hummels but will be assessed before the match.

This is fixture is definitely a must watch for all those football hipsters. Sadly, UEFA decided to put it on the same day as the Manchester City and Barcelona clash, taking somewhat of the shine away from this affair. Nonetheless, it should be an interesting clash and one that may see the result slightly favour the home side in the first leg ahead of the return leg to Germany in three weeks time.

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St. Pat’s continue perfect pre-season with Shels win

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St.Pat's Celebrating

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

St. Patrick’s Athletic came away from Tolka Park with a deserved victory but were made to work for it by a resilient Shelbourne side. The deadlock wasn’t broken until deep in the second half but both sides had chances early in the game to take the lead.

Ciaran Kilduff should have put his side into the lead 30 minutes in after teammate Conan Byrne worked his way in to the Shelbourne box. His lob met Kilduff’s head but went inches over the bar. Kilduff also had a good chance to put his side ahead on the stroke of half time after connecting with James McGrath’s cross. Again, his effort sailed over the crossbar.

Shels also had a number of attempts at goal in the first half. The best chance was left to Conor Earley. The midfielder was put clean through on the 10th minute but his effort was tipped away by Brendan Clarke.

St. Pat’s nearly got off to a flyer after the restart. Greg Bolger nearly put his side into lead. His effort just went over the crossbar but it should have resulted with the opening goal of the game.

Pat’s continued to press up the field and had numerous chances to go in front but could not connect with the finish on any of the attempts at goal.

Things started to boil over late into the game with scuffles breaking out between both sides. The first incident saw Pat’s substitute Christy Fagan and Shels’ defender Alan Kehoe each receive a yellow card for clashing after a tussle for possession. The second incident involved some pushing and shoving between Craig Walsh and James Chambers but quickly broke up and wasn’t noticed by the referee.

It was Fagan who finally broke the deadlock on the 76th minute. Ian Bermingham sent a cross into the box, which landed to the Saints number nine. His shot deflected off a Shelbourne defender and all goalkeeper, David Ryan could do was look on as the ball landed in the bottom right of the goal.

It took the Inchicore side only three minutes to double their lead. Byrne crossed from the right flank in towards Kilduff, who lifted the ball past Ryan into the top of the net. That was the game sealed and both sides took their feet off the accelerator for the last 10 minutes as the game drifted towards full time.

Liam Buckley will undoubtedly be the happier of the two managers. His side has now scored 16 goals in four games and have yet to concede a goal. They will look ahead to their next fixture, The President’s Cup, on Saturday week against Dundalk in Oriel Park.

Kevin Doherty is still tinkering with his team ahead of the new season. His side have lost three and drawn one in their games so far, scoring four and conceding nine. However, he will look to Sunday’s Leinster Senior Cup fixture against Newtown Untied to kick start his side’s season and come away with their first win of 2015.

SHELBOURNE: Ryan, Dixon, Kehoe (Gannon 87′), Heaney (O’Connor 45′), Andrews, Crowe (Walsh 51′), O’Sullivan (Rodriguez 64′), Donnelly (Robinson 71′), Sandford (Hughes 69′), Coughlan (C) (Osam 61′), Earley (Keegan 61′)

Substitutes: Brady
Yellow Cards: Kehoe (71′)

ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke, McGuinness, Bermingham (C), Bolger, Byrne, Kilduff (Markey 80′), Chambers, Browne (Brennan 45′), Forrester, McGrath (Fagan 64′), McCormack (Verdon 64′)

Substitutes: Desmond, Jennings
Goals: Fagan (76′), Kilduff (79′)
Yellow Cards: Fagan (71′)

Referee: Dave McKeon