Big Ten: Pressure time

first_imgAs November rolls in the pressure is on.With just three weeks remaining in the Big Ten season, the conference frontrunners –particularly No. 15 Michigan — feel the weight of the trap games ahead, as the rest of the conference feels the heat of trying to move up in the standings or gain a bowl game bid with that elusive sixth win.The situation at hand is a game between in-state rivals: Michigan versus Michigan State. “I think that pressure is something that young people in college football deal with every single week, whether you’re an undefeated football team right now playing, whether you’re looking for your sixth win or whether you’re trying to move in that direction such as Michigan is,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said during Tuesday’s Big Ten Teleconference.Michigan State has the No. 3 scoring offense, third-leading rusher in Javon Ringer and top receiver in Devin Thomas. Despite all this, the Spartans are losers of two straight and sit at 1-4 in the Big Ten and 5-4 overall.“What we have to do is make sure our players stay together and we come out and continue to work throughout the week and be emotionally prepared Saturday,” Dantonio said.The problem for Michigan State has been its inability to come through in close games. As frustrating as it may be, Dantonio wants to make sure that his players don’t beat themselves.“We need to build up our young people, not tear them down, and we’ll continue to do that, and I think we’ll learn from these things,” Dantonio said. “And ultimately when we start to win these games, we’ll begin to believe that when it comes down to crunch time we’ll win it.”After missing the past two weeks and a combined five games this season due to injury, quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart are practicing again this week. Still, Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr won’t know until later in the week whether his two offensive stars will be available Saturday.In order to remain neck-and-neck in the battle with Ohio State for the Big Ten title, Michigan will likely need those two players healthy.Northwestern failed in its quest last week to secure a bowl bid, losing 35-17 against Purdue. After finishing 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten last season, the Wildcats are 5-4, 2-3 this season. Running back Tyrell Sutton returned last week for Northwestern. The Wildcats will need Sutton to play to his potential as they make a push for their first Bowl game in two years. “It was just great to get him back out there,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “He just adds some more fuel to our fire.”Northwestern will face an Iowa team which pulled off an overtime win over Michigan State last week to also remain in the hunt for a bowl berth with a 4-5 record.For three straight weeks, Indiana has tried and failed to win a sixth game. Given that the program hasn’t appeared in a bowl game since 1993, and it dedicated the season to the late Terry Hoeppner, people may think that the Hoosiers and quarterback Kellen Lewis are playing a little anxious right now. But that’s just not the case.“Just because we’ve gotten beat in the last couple of weeks, I don’t think it changed our kids,” Indiana head coach Bill Lynch said. “I think the reality of it is we’ve played three pretty good football teams and we didn’t play well enough to win.”So unlike Michigan State or some of the other teams on the brink, Indiana isn’t getting bogged down.“I don’t think it has been a case where our kids feel pressured in anyway,” Lynch added.Indiana will go out of conference this weekend to face Ball State.Adding more conference gamesA thought has come up in the conference of removing two nonconference games out of the regular season schedule and adding two more Big Ten games. This would allow each team to face the entire conference.“I think there’s the advantage that the Big Ten Championship would be determined on the field and it would impact your home schedule, and that’s really the reason for the 12th game anyway — trying to get an additional home game to generate revenue,” Carr said.While it certainly would help the top teams separate themselves from the middle of the pack, it would also affect BCS standings as each team would face a higher chance of picking up a loss along the way, so the odds are that the notion won’t come to fruitionlast_img read more

UCL Preview: PSG, Real Madrid set to entertain, Manchester clubs face tricky tests

first_imgParis Saint-Germain have won five games on the trot, and will certainly send out more pure attacking talent than anyone Real Madrid’s faced this season. Headlining their attack are household names Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, who have six goals apiece this season. Zlatan, 34 now, is not the physical specimen he once was, but the man still holds his unreal ability to find the net from nearly anywhere. Meanwhile Cavani has taken a dip of form following an electric start to the season, having not scored since September.PSG’s midfield is really where their magic happens. With Matuidi, Motta, and Verratti, PSG’s had no problems creating chances (6 per match) for their targetmen. But PSG, too, felt the undying wrath of the international break, with Matuidi, Verratti, Angel Di María, and keeper Kevin Trapp all nursing injuries. Though the severity and duration of their players’ injuries pales in comparison to Real’s. Trapp will miss the match for certain, and the rest of them should be ready to go.Where to even start with Real Madrid’s injuries?Gareth Bale has been ruled out with a thigh injury. Luka Modrić and Karim Benzema are hopeful to play against PSG, but one could argue it might be better to let them take their time. Modrić and Benz are vital to Real Madrid, and to rush them back from muscle and hamstring injuries, respectively, would be short-sighted. Pepe and James are unlikely to make the trip.Sergio Ramos seems to be ready to go, so yay. Juventus vs. Borussia Monchengladach is indeed a top-of-the-table vs. bottom-of-the-table situation. And, for all intents and purposes, if Juventus do win on Wednesday night, they will be sitting pretty atop the group with nine points — exactly what you want after three Champions League group stage games and two of the next three away from home.That sounds like a pretty good spot to be in, doesn’t it?Easier said than done, sure, but as we have come to know about this version of Juventus, they certainly look the part when playing against European competition. That might not always be the case in Serie A — although Sunday’s derby draw was a step in the right direction — but it’s been true in the Champions League. They got the job done on the road at Manchester City. They dispatched of Sevilla rather easily, and now we look for them to get three more points at home against the only club in the group yet to win a game.Manchester City have the opportunity to move into the top two in Champions League Group D when they welcome Sevilla to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.City face the first of back-to-back Champions League fixtures against the La Liga side, but come into the game in excellent goalscoring form after hitting six past Newcastle and five past Bournemouth in their last two Premier League matches. Unai Emery’s Sevilla have failed to match the form that led to fifth place in La Liga last season, and currently have just nine points from their opening eight league games.Inconsistency has been their main concern, with impressive wins over Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach followed by disappointing performances against Celta Vigo and Eibar.On a sodden night in the Russian capital seven years ago, Rooney and his team-mates defeated Chelsea on penalties to clinch United’s third European Cup.The venue may be different – CSKA Moscow play in the Khimki Arena, not the Luzhniki Stadium – but the feeling of going back to Moscow remains the same for Rooney ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League Group B encounter. The 29-year-old, speaking to the English press aboard United’s chartered flight east, recalled that night in Moscow with a warm smile.“It was the highlight of my career,” the striker said. “It is a massive competition to play in, to win the trophy it’s obviously great memories.”The Champions League has brought Rooney pain in his career too, including last year when he had to watch it from the sidelines because of United’s failure to qualify under former manager David Moyes.“We want to get back to winning trophies, of course. That is why you play football – to try and be successful, certainly at this club,” Rooney said. “In the last few years we haven’t been good enough.“There has been a big change in the club over the last few years and it’s now starting to settle back down into a good rhythm with what the manager wants from us and we are improving. “If we keep going the way we are, keep improving the way we are, then we will have a good chance of being successful.”Meanwhile, CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is hoping to avoid another “horrible” night against United.The last time United came up against CSKA was six years ago. United won 1-0 in the Russian capital, but in the opposing fixture CSKA came within a whisker of recording a historic win.CSKA established a 3-1 lead over the hosts, but Paul Scholes pulled one back and Antonio Valencia scored in the 92nd minute to snatch a draw for the Red Devils. Catch all Champions League games and highlights from SuperSport today.–Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @Joy997FM. Our hashtag is #JoySportslast_img read more