UEFA Champions League Narrowing Down

Two ties on Tuesday and two blowouts on Wednesday. Those were the results of the first round of the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals this week. Paris Saint-Germain defeated Chelsea 3-1, but with a cost. Their star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be out for four weeks due to a hamstring injury. That will hurt PSG’s chances of moving forward in the tournament and in the regular season. Ibrahimovic was the second-best scorer in the entire tournament with 10 goals.

Then there was Real Madrid destroying Borussia Dortmund 3-0. Gareth Bale started the game out strong with a goal in just the 3rd minute and then Isco scored a goal before the end of the first half. Cristiano Ronaldo iced the game with a goal in the 57th minute.

Then on Tuesday, Barcelona tied with Atletico Madrid 1-1 and Manchester United had the same result with Bayern Munich. It is safely assumed that Real Madrid and PSG will advance to the UEFA Semi-Finals, so it is up to the other two intriguing matches to determine who will play these European powerhouses. We will have to wait until April 9th to determine how the rest of the tournament will favor. That’s when Barcelona will get their rematch with La Liga rival Atletico Madrid and when Manchester United battles with Bayern Munich once more.

Cristiano Ronaldo is playing at another level right now. He leads everyone in the UEFA Champions League with 14 goals in just 8 games. Lionel Messi of Barcelona is 3rd with 8. Going back to Ronaldo, he has scored more goals than games played total this year. In La Liga, he has played 27 and scored 28, along with 8 assists. He has always been battling with Lionel Messi to determine who the best footballer in the world is. As for right now, Ronaldo is holding that spot, seeing that his team has been doing great in the Champions League tournament.

As for La Liga, Atletico Madrid is on top of the table, followed by Barcelona and then Real Madrid. Barcelona leads the league in goals scored with 89 and have only allowed 25 scored against them. Real Madrid are second in goals scored, but their goal differential is 10 less than Barcelona’s. With everything moving forward and the Champions Legue dwindling down, this looks like it would be a big showdown between great European teams.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Robert Griffin III

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had an amazing rookie year in 2012, but then had a disappointing sophomore slump last season due to his recovery from his torn ACL. He is looking to rebound this year with the addition of new weapons on offense such as Andre Roberts of the Arizona Cardinals and just recently DeSean Jackson from the Philadelphia Eagles. As for his past, RG3 is the son of military parents, who moved from Japan, to Washington state, to New Orleans and then settled in Copperas Cove, Texas. While at Baylor, RG3 set records and became the first player from that university to win the Heisman. Griffin earned his bachelor’s degree in three years, finishing with a 3.67 GPA in political science and then got his masters in communications. God has entrusted him with a unique combination of outstanding intellect and world-class speed. And he has been an excellent steward of his gifts. Here’s what he has to say about being a Christian:

“I was heavily influenced by my parents to learn discipline,” he said. “But my relationship with God was my most important influence. I’ve been in the church since I was 7. My parents didn’t push it on us but they made sure we grew up in the church, so that’s all we know, that’s what we do.” (Credit: gospellightminute.wordpress.com)

Being the starting quarterback puts a lot of pressure on a young man like RG3. He knows that God is with him to handle the pressure and any other kind of adversity that comes along with it. He also knows that being on a big stage allows you to represent God rather than yourself.

“God gives you the stage to make a difference and not to just talk about yourself, but lift Him up,” he said. “There are a lot of different types of Christians everywhere, but my biggest thing is it’s not our job to judge; it’s just our job to go out, praise Him, let people know what He’s doing, and let people follow if they want to. So I praise God, I thank him for everything. Purposefully, you live every day for Him, and when He gives you the opportunity to speak up for Him or to do something in His name, you do it.”

As a huge Redskins fan, RG3 is one of my favorite players. He is such an explosive athlete on the field and he is always looking to help the local D.C. community along with other great Redskins players. Last year, Griffin helped raise a grand total of $400,000 for cancer research. That’s just one example of what kind of charitable work he does, but the point I’m trying to make is that there are few guys in the NFL that young kids can look up to and be inspired by. Luckily, RG3 is one of those few.

An Unseen Final Four

Well this was not expected. Florida, Kentucky, Wisconsin and UConn are in the Final Four this year. Florida, I saw coming. But Kentucky as an 8-seed was pretty surprising. Wisconsin as a 2-seed was overlooked in this entire tournament. Then there’s 7-seed UConn, the last team to beat Florida and guess who they play in the Final Four? Florida. In one of my brackets, I have Florida winning the whole thing, but I did not have the other three teams in any of my other brackets I filled out. We could see Florida playing Kentucky in the championship game, and this would be the fourth meeting these guys have all year, with Florida winning the last three match-ups. Then again, if UConn could beat Florida, they can do it again. Shabazz Napier has had an up and down year. The senior from Roxbury, Massachusetts has made a lot of big-time plays, but has also been known to turn the ball over many times. In his last game against Michigan State, he had 25 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the upset win. Watch him get the ball in his hands a lot in the game against Florida on Saturday.

Then how about Wisconsin? People thought that they were not worthy of tournament play back when they lost five out of six games from January 14th to February 1st. People forget that they started out the season with a 16-game winning streak and that they have one of the best defenses in the country. Badger center Frank Kaminsky has also been playing great. The seven-foot junior can play great inside and can knock down some outside shots as well. In the overtime win against Arizona, he had 28 points and 11 rebounds. If he can put up that kind of performance against Kentucky this Saturday, the Badgers could be playing for their second national championship. Their last NCAA tournament win was back in 1941! It’s safe to say that these guys don’t know what it’s like to win in recent years unlike the other three teams in this tournament.

One of those other three is Kentucky, who won their last national championship back in 2012. People didn’t think that Kentucky would do good this year because they lost 10 games, three of those games to Florida. But people might not know that Kentucky was ranked 5th in the nation in rebounds per game. They know how to crash the boards and give their team extra possessions. Julius Randle has been very effective for his team, as well as the Harrison twins in the backcourt. Aaron Harrison knocking down that 3-pointer with just 2.3 seconds left in the game shattered the hearts of the Michigan Wolverines. If Kentucky can play with that same kind of emotion and energy, they could look to avenge their last three meetings against their SEC rival.

Credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com
Julius Randle has been phenomenal in this tournament so far. The freshman from Dallas, Texas has had a double-double in every national tournament match-up. Credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

I believe that if Florida loses this game to UConn, it would be the biggest upset in the tournament, even bigger than Mercer beating Duke. The Gators are the best team in this entire tournament and a lot of people (including me) have them winning it all. The way this tournament has been going, I’m not sure I can trust a team to win such a critical game. This last March has truly been nothing but madness.