Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF poses with his five Golden Ball (Ballon d'Or) trophies. Photo by Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Big money clubs saw their investments pay dividends over the weekend in both Europe and North America. Manchester City grew their stranglehold in the Premier League race while Toronto FC and Tigres won their respective leagues.
UEFA Champions League
The last matchday of the group stage took place in Europe’s marquee competition and, while advancing teams were all but set in stone, there was some drama on the final day of activities. Already qualified Manchester City took their first blemish of the season in a 2-1 loss at Shakhtar Donetsk, sending the Ukrainian side to the knockout stage and—in a surprising turn—relegating Napoli down to the Europa League.
Bayern Munich gave Paris Saint-Germain it’s second consecutive loss in a week and redeemed themselves for their 3-0 loss at PSG earlier in the year. Liverpool, Tottenham and Barcelona all had comfortable wins while eliminated Dortmund went down swinging in a 3-2 loss at Real Madrid. The biggest implications where between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid as the draw limited Chelsea to only three options in the next round, which ended up being FC Barcelona.
Round of 16 matchups:
Juventus vs. Tottenham / Basel vs. Manchester City / Porto vs. Liverpool / Sevilla vs. Manchester United / Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain / Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma / Chelsea vs. Barcelona / Bayern Munich vs. Beşiktaş
UEFA Europa League
Activities also resumed in the Europa League as teams solidified their standing as first and second in their respective groups. The advancing teams along with the third place Champions League teams will contest the knockout stage in February. The Europa League champion clinches a spot in next year’s Champions League so there is plenty left to play for.
Round of 32 matchups:
Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta / Nice vs. Lokomotiv Moscow / Copenhagen vs. Atlético Madrid / Spartak Moscow vs. Athletic Bilbao / AEK Athens vs. Dynamo Kyiv / Celtic vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg / Napoli vs. RB Leipzig / Red Star Belgrade vs. CSKA Moscow / Lyon vs. Villarreal / Real Sociedad vs. Red Bull Salzburg / Partizan vs. Viktoria Plzeň / Steaua București vs. Lazio / Ludogorets vs. A.C. Milan / Astana vs. Sporting CP / Östersund vs. Arsenal / Marseille vs. Braga
Derbies dominated the attention in England this weekend, the main one being between the top two sides in the table. It was Manchester City who got the last laugh over their crosstown rivals in a 2-1 win over United at Old Trafford. With the win, the Citizens extended their lead at the top of the table to 11 points and look unreachable in the title race.
Liverpool and Everton fought to a 1-1 draw at Anfield while West Ham managed a 1-0 win over fellow London club Chelsea. The biggest advantage was taken by Tottenham who beat Stoke City 5-1 to climb to within a point of the top five, building on the four teams in front of them failing to win this weekend.
Top 5: Manchester City (46), Manchester United (35), Chelsea (32), Liverpool (30), Arsenal (29)
The top four maintained their form by each picking up three points. Real Madrid, fourth in the table, defeated fifth place Sevilla to keep them from challenging for the Spanish crown. The race is heating up mid table between places six and thirteen where the separation is a three-point difference. These are the clubs likely battling for a spot in next year’s Europa League.
The 5: Barcelona (39), Valencia (34), Atlético Madrid (33), Real Madrid (31), Sevilla (28)
Another week, another Bayern Munich win. Add to that a Leipzig 2-2 draw against Mainz, Schalke and Mönchengladbach drawing 1-1, and Dortmund losing again. It certainly looks as if the title is sealed for Bayern Munich, baring a catastrophic meltdown farther ahead in the season. The other winner this week was Bayer Leverkusen, now three points out of the second place spot.
Top 5: Bayern Munich (35), RB Leipzig (27), Schalke 04 (26), Mönchengladbach (25), Bayer Leverkusen (24)
Paris Saint-Germain didn’t have a good week, with a loss in the league last week followed by a midweek loss at Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Luckily for them, the remedy came in a 3-1 win over Lille this week in Ligue 1. Di Maria, Pastore and Mbappe had the goals and PSG is back at ease with a nine-point lead in the table. Lyon, Monaco and Marseille all won to keep pace in the race for second.
Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (44), Lyon (35), Monaco (35), Marseille (35), Nantes (27)
Last week, Inter Milan took hold of the top spot in Serie A and held on for good measure this week. Juventus were the ones who dethroned Napoli last week but could not come up with a result against Inter this week, with that encounter ending in a nil-nil draw. The bad news came for Napoli who, after being ousted in the Champions League, could not retake the top spot with a nil-nil draw against Fiorentina. Roma also picked up three points and so did A.C. Milan—their first under new manager Gennaro Gattuso.
The top 5: Inter Milan (40), Napoli (39), Juventus (38), Roma (35), Lazio (32)
Major League Soccer
The 2017 MLS season culminated with the first Canadian champion in the league—and Canada’s first professional sports title in a major sport since 1993. Toronto FC got revenge over Seattle Sounders FC in a rematch of the 2016 final. Jozy Altidore and former FC Barcelona midfielder Victor Vazquez etched their names in Toronto sports history by supplying the winning goals.
What’s sweeter than winning a championship? For Tigres fans it was seeing their team lift the cup in the house of their crosstown rivals. The most expensive team in Mexico, Tigres, defeated Rayados 2-1 in the second leg to secure their sixth league title. The win also denied their Monterrey rivals tying them at five titles a piece.
A goal from Eduardo Vargas offset Dorlan Pabon’s 2nd minute goal and Francisco Meza’s goal in the 35th minute officially won the title. This series, however, will be remembered by Aviles Hurtado’s missed penalty in the second half, leaving Rayados fans wondering what could’ve been.
FIFA Club World Cup
The 2017 FIFA Club World Cup is underway where continental champions meet to officially crown the best in the world. Mexico’s Pachuca, champion of CONCACAF, defeated African champion Wydad Casablanca on Saturday to secure their spot in the semifinals. United Arab Emirates Al Jazira, in this tournament as the host, eliminated New Zealand’s Auckland City in a playoff and followed it up with a win over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds. They face European Champion Real Madrid on Wednesday for the other ticket to the final.
MVP of the Week - Cristiano Ronaldo
CR7 had the best week of anyone in soccer. His goal midweek for Real Madrid against Borussia Dortmund made him the first player to score in all six group stage matches of a UEFA Champions League. Later on in the week, he was named the winner of the Ballon d’Or—given to the player voted best in the world—tying a record of five with Barcelona’s Leo Messi.
The Portuguese is undoubtedly heading into the declining side of his prime—and even then is better than anyone not named Leo Messi. At 32 years of age, we may soon see the last of one of the greatest to play the game. But for now, sit back and enjoy because there may not be anyone more competitive, and his last chance to win a World Cup likely comes next summer.
Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):
Wednesday, Dec. 13:
11:00 a.m.- Al Jazira vs. Real Madrid (Telemundo / FOX Soccer Match Pass)
11:30 a.m.- Hoffenheim vs. Stuttgart (FS2)
1:30 p.m.- Bayern Munich vs. Cologne (FS1)
1:30 p.m.- Schalke 04 vs. Augsburg (FS2)
2:00 p.m.- West Ham vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)
Friday, Dec. 15:
1:20 p.m.- Monchengladbach vs. Hamburg (FS2)
Saturday, Dec. 16:
6:30 a.m. - Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace (NBC Sports)
8:00 a.m.- FIFA Club World Cup Third Place (NBC Universo / FOX Soccer Match Pass)
8:30 a.m. - Arsenal vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)
8:30 a.m. - Stuttgart vs. Bayern Munich (FS1)
8:30 a.m. - Frankfurt vs. Schalke 04 (FS2)
11:00 a.m.- FIFA Club World Cup Final (Telemundo / FOX Soccer Match Pass)
11:30 a.m. - Manchester City vs. Tottenham (NBC)
5:00 p.m. - “Kick In For Houston” Celebrity Soccer Match Benefitting Harvey Victims (FS1)
Sunday, Dec. 17:
8:15 a.m. - West Brom vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)
8:30 a.m. - Hannover 96 vs. Bayer Leverkusen (FS1)
10:30 a.m. - Bournemouth vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)
11:00 a.m. - Leipzig vs. Hertha Berlin (FS2)
1:45 p.m. - Barcelona vs. Deportivo La Coruña (beIN Sports)
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.