Red Star euphoria and Monaco chaos No ratings yet.

Red Star made history in Belgrade by beating Liverpool on Champions League’s match-day 4 in group C. The Serbian side did the same already however it was over 45 years ago.

Champions League doesn’t provide a lot of surprises in terms of winners but in the group stages there are some. And this season we’ve had 1 major surprise every round. But the developments in the Serbian capital on Tuesday night are beyond every immagination – rookie in the competition wins against last season’s runner-up.

Red Star make history

As Napoli already felt in the opening game, there’s nothing to cheer about when you’re visitor in the famous Marakana, now Rajko Mitić stadium. Even if the red and white didn’t have a great game and actually had a lot of luck when earning a point against the Partenopei, they got it.

Red Star Liverpool

Tuesday night, however, the victory was well earned. After shipping in 10 goals in the last two CL trips to Paris and Liverpool you’d be forgiven if you wouldn’t give the Serbs a chance. And after their first choice forward was ruled out, slims chances took another cut.

Milan Pavkov

But in tight situation heroes are born and new hero in the Balkan country is Milan Pavkov. Who? Milan Pavkov.

To tell you the truth I didn’t hear of him either before his heroics against the Reds so more then the obvious I can’t explain.

Red Star Pavkov

He’s been at the club since 2016 but has managed just a few goals in the first season. The ever-demanding football public in Belgrade derided him however club president maintained his faith in the player.

To calm the surroundings the player was sent on loan to Radnički Niš last season where he flourished with 23 goals. That convinced everybody that there’s something in the big target man and he was brought back this summer.

The return wasn’t all roses either and until his double against the English giant he scored 5 goals in domestic league. And that’s much saying much given the quality of the competition.

In the CL preliminary rounds he did have some playing time but without any particular success. Apparently he’s a big occasion player and after his last performance more pitch time is guaranteed and we’ll just have to wait and see if he can deliver with higher expectations.

The game

Anyway, Liverpool opened the game in familiar fashion and after a sitter missed by Sturridge at the beginning it looked as if another high-scoring result is on the cards.

But the home side refused to just roll over and die! After the initial scare went by and some equilibrium was installed, Pavkov rose highest and nodded home an inviting cross from a corner.

Heating atmosphere in the stadium gave even more courage and while the guests were still wondering what happened Pavkov hit again.

This time it was an individual action as his relentless pressing awarded him a ball on the half-way line. He resisted Wijnaldum’s come-back, adjusted the ball on his preferred right foot and fired a thunderbolt past a helpless Alisson from 20 meters.

30 minutes played and 2-0 for the heavy underdog.

Red Star Salah

In little more then 5 minutes 2 strikes and the stadium erupted! If it was hot till then, it must felt like hell for Liverpool since.

The Beatles city team upped the pressure, controlled the game and found a way to be dangerous however I don’t remember any clear-cut chances of miracles from the home side goalkeeper.

Liverpool can be glad that both confrontations between Napoli and PSG ended without winners and actually have still everything in their own hands.

It’s now a very tricky situation in the group standings with 2 games left to play and all teams being within 2 points. Nobody gave Red Star any particular chance in getting any point from the 6 games they got to play and now they’re in with a shot of qualifying for the next stage. Perhaps to optimistic but the chances are there.

Juventus implosion

It might not be such a big surprise as in Belgrade but Manchester United’s victory in Turin against Juventus is surely a contender for top 3 surprises in CL this season.

It didn’t look like that at all at the beginning. The Bianconeri were their usual dominating self, controlling the proceedings and having the English counterpart on the ropes for over 80 minutes.

Chances were coming at will and if there wasn’t De Gea with his saves there was a post of a crossbar to keep Khedira and Dybala at bay respectively.

Juventus

However in the 65th minute Juventus finally got its break-thru with a fantastic finish from the star man – Ronaldo. Bonucci sent an exquisite over-the-top invite and the Portuguese super-star finished with rarely seen accuracy and power to finally give the much-deserved lead for the home side.

The punishment

Since the Red Devils have looked uninspired and unmotivated, their usual self this season, few could have predicted what followed.

The goal shook the visitors but the reaction needed some more time to be seen. Eventually Mata scored from a free-kick in the 86th minute and even a draw would be too much for the performance.

However, shocks weren’t over yet.

We’ve already learned that Juventus is so dominant this season that a lack of challenge brings the worst out of them. It happened against Genoa in Serie A a few weeks ago and it happened again last night.

Just a few minutes after the equalizer Manchester took advantage of Italian champions’ relaxation and scored again! Well, they didn’t have to because Bonucci and Alex Sandro took care of it by scoring an own goal in comical circumstances.

It’s hard to explain what happened but in the end doesn’t even matter too much. Mourinho and his team got an important win and reminded Allegri and his squad of a crucial moment in football matches. IT NOT OVER UNTIL THE FINAL WHISTLE IS BLOWN!

You’d expect such an experienced team to learn their lesson and see out games they deserved to win with greater authority. However, over-confidence obviously got the better of much-needed humility and fooled them. Again!

Proposal to Mourinho

This season his team has decided to play only in second half. I’m not sure if it’s a strategy, a necessity or just happens but in majority of first halves Manchester United was horrific. Against Juve, Chelsea and numerous other times United just stood there the first 45 minutes and let the opposition run them ragged.

Mourinho

Since it’s a trend this year Mourinho should have his team play an internal game for 45 minutes before the official match kick-off. In that way when the actual game starts they’d be already playing 2nd half . Perhaps in this way they would play the whole match on expected level. Even if in the later stages of the game Mourinho’s team would be a bit tired by then the result would probably be gained and could let the opposition chase the result.

Perhaps it’s an idea worth exploring.

Monaco chaos

AS Monaco is a club with rich tradition and with some success along the way. As far as last season played perhaps the most entertaining football on the continent and more importantly gained results.

This season it’s in complete chaos! On-field performances are bordering on the ridiculous and the league table clearly shows it. 

Coach change is inevitable in such situations however it didn’t bring any positive effect. Thierry Henry is a legend and his football knowledge is beyond doubt. However leading a demotivated and seemingly tense group of players appears to be a bridge too far for a managerial debut on the highest level.

Henry

Owner’s arrest and suspicion of fraud doesn’t help either and I wouldn’t be surprised if a talent exodus would be on the table in January. The talent is there and there won’t be any shortage of suitors. But given the club’s situation many of them could be sold way bellow market value.

Goals conceded against Club Brugge demonstrate current atmosphere in the camp. No focus, no idea what’s going on and no vision. Just confusion, lack of concentration and general state of shock!

The rest

Of the rest no stand-out results.

Inter got an undeserved point at home against Barcelona with the usual Icardi finding a way past Ter Stegen. At the end both will take it without stress as the result helps both clubs closer to the objective.

Tottenham got a laboured victory against PSV to keep the hopes alive. However, to secure progression they need to stop giving away early and cheap goals.

Napoli also got an undeserved point but because should got all 3 of them against timid PSG. The French champions will be glad with the result but they must improve drastically if they wish to advance to the next stage.

Manchester City fired 6 past Pyatov at the Etihad stadium. The performance was as dominant as ever but the game will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s hard to explain, you have to see for yourself.

However, in Sterling’s defence, the goal he scored beginning of the 2nd half was simply brilliant.

Bayern Munich won against AEK to book its place in the knock-out phase but can’t be considered out of crisis. What the demanding public has to watch at the Allianz Arena isn’t worth of the glorious history the club carries and the squad assembled.

Ajax got and important point in Lisbon in their quest to make it in the next round.

Roma did the same in Moscow.

And Real Madrid’s resurrection under the guidance of Santiago Solari continues. 3 games, 3 wins, 11 goals scored and 0 conceded. That’s a record suitable to Real’s fame. The opposition wasn’t exactly world-beaters however neither was Real lately. And the fact that Benzema still remembers where the goal stands and started to hit it is a very good sign.

Red Star produced the shock of the round this time. That’s the beauty of the Champions League. Let’s hope leaked changes in the making don’t ruin the beautiful game.

Full results:

Group A

 Monaco 0 – 4 Club Brugge

 Atletico Madrid 2 – 0 Borussia Dortmund

Group B

 Inter 1 – 1 Barcelona

 Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1 PSV Eindhoven

Group C

 Red Star 2 – 0 Liverpool

 Napoli 1 – 1 Paris Saint Germain

Group D

 FC Porto 4 – 1 Lokomotiv Moscow

 Schalke 04 2 – 0 Galatasaray

Group E

 FC Bayern München 2 – 0 AEK Athens

 Benfica 1 – 1 Ajax

Group F

 Lyon 2 – 2 Hoffenheim

 Manchester City 6 – 0 Shakhtar Donetsk

Group G

 CSKA Moscow 1 – 2 Roma

 Viktoria Plzen 0 – 5 Real Madrid

Group H 

 Valencia 3 – 1 Young Boys

 Juventus 1 – 2 Manchester United

Group standings

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UEFA Champions League – game over? No ratings yet.

UEFA Champions League is regarded as world’s top football competition. Even better then the World Cup. And now it’s coming to an end.

Footballleaks made public documents where it is clear that some of the biggest clubs in Europe decided to part ways with the sports continental governing body and start a competition that they’ll run as they deem appropriate.

What’s the idea?

Real, Bayern, Juve, Barca

The idea is to have a league of 16 clubs from Europe’s most infuential countries playing in the Super League.

Historical continental heavyweights such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Bayern Munich decided that they have the right to confront the best in the continent no matter what some criteria might say.

Newly great clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG, with their economical power are welcome to join the elite even if there are no traces of them in the history of international competitions. OK, Chelsea won the CL in 2012 but that’s recent history, after multi-million take-over. You might argue the same even for Arsenal but the London club at least won the Cup Winner’s Cup in the 1990’s so there is at least some trace of them.

If you want to organize a league you need sufficient participants.

Super League

Can’t be hard to find somebody to participate in a league where the big boys play so Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, AS Roma and Olympique de Marseille accepted the invitation.

Ironically Olympique Marseille won the first edition of the UEFA Champions League, and the only for France, and Inter Milan is the last Italian club to lift the famed trophy but they’re not in the founders circle.

The competition would be very similar to the current format of the Champions league but with a closed circle of constant participants and carefully selected others to fill the blanks. No more lucky entries from Europe’s eastern countries who steal the show such as Steaua Bucharesti, Crvena Zvezda Belgrade, Dynamo Kyiv,…

Proof that the league has nothing to do with historical achievements, results or performances. It’s all about money!

What about the other historicaly big clubs in Europe?

There are some clubs from other countries that made football history. Clubs like Glasgow Rangers and Celtic from Scotland, Benfica and Porto from Portugal, AFC Ajax and PSV Eindhoven from Netherlands, Anderlecht from Belgium.

Well, the idea is to have also Super League 2, or whatever it would be called, in order to have promotions and relegations, just to make everything more interesting. Naturally, league’s founders couldn’t be relegated.

Which clubs would be there isn’t clear yet but my guess is that clubs such as Sevilla, Valencia, Napoli, Lazio, Tottenham, Zenit and Shakhtar Doneck would be added to some of the other teams that made history in the game.  

What does UEFA think of it?

It’s not something new. UEFA changed the competition’s formation several times and increased prizes in order to please the biggest money-makers is the sport.

In 1992 started the competition as we know it today, the Champions League. Before it was named Champions Cup and included only domestic league winners. Since the richest clubs wanted to compete in the top European level every year, UEFA had no chance then to make it happen. And duly organized a competition that didn’t include only the winners but also other top-seeded teams from respective countries.

Number of teams from each country was decided by UEFA’s coeficient which is calculated based on success in international competition in last 5 years.

It silenced the elite for a while but once Germany surpassed Italy in the ranking and got 4th club in the competition at the expense of the Italians, again everything was wrong.

So UEFA decided that the most influential countires would have guarenteed number of spots in the competition.

But as UEFA always promoted equal chances for everybody had to introduce fair-play regulations. Primarly regarding finances in order to maintain a level of competitivity between the rich and the others. The principle was to spend what you earn.   

However at every opportunity helped cutting corners to giants and ruthlessly slammed the others. Just ask Rubin Kazan about the punishement for not sustaining to the FFP rules. And what was the treatment of PSG and Manchester City?

AC Milan was also under investigation last summer and threatened with international exclusion but somehow convinced the authorities that everything will be fine.

UEFA basically did everything the giants requested and yet could be cut out from a multi-billion business.

UEFA, Čeferin

What can UEFA do?

That’s a good question. The clubs that desire to compete in the international competitions need to apply and follow some strict rules regarding infrastructure (stadium) and organization (youth sector).

If the biggest clubs don’t send their application, what can UEFA do? Exclude the club? Well, they already auto-excluded themselves so it’s not an option.

Penalise the national assosiation? For what? If a club doesn’t want to participate in a competition you can’t force it. Even if you could, they could play the reserve team. And then what?

Could they ban the related countries from the next European championships? Perhaps, but who would be at a loss? Who could prevent the assosiations to organize a Super League for national teams?

UEFA already organized the Nations League to satisfy the biggest countries. To save them from travels to the end of the world and possible humiliation of defeat to footballing excotics. It’s OK for now, but what will happen once a heavy-weight will be relegated to 2nd or even 3rd tier?

When would Super League start?

In 2021 the current agreement with UEFA on the CHampions League format and revenue sharing expires. The best time to start something new is when the existing is over.

Leak or strategical PR and negotiating advantage?

Is this really leak of confidential information or a strategical move? Perhaps initial discovery was the help from FIFA and UEFA to oil magnates in pumping the money into PSG and Man City not caring about FFP and the Super League story serves as a distraction?

Al-Khelafi

Perhaps it is strategical PR in preparing the audience for something new and exiting? Building the expectation and turning on the heat? In ideal circumstances UEFA’s revenues would drastically decrease due to these rumors and elite clubs would come as the Mesiah’s to the sport.

Could be that the clubs are looking for a better negotiationg position? Bigger slice in the next agreement?

Real Madrid won the last CL and got app. 80 mio € from the continental top organization for their effort. In the Super League their share could rise up to over 500 mio € per season.

Only Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich denied any implications, probably because the story was lunched by a German media, Der Spiegel.

And by rejecting the idea of an exit from the Bundesliga are they sending a message to the German national football association?

Rummenigge

A lot of questions are arising due to the leaks and surely the dust won’t settle for some time. And while everybody’s discussing about it, what other surprises are being prepared?

Whatever the truth behind these leaks is it won’t change the one that makes the world go round; rich will get richer on the back of the poor who’ll get poorer.

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Barcelona vs Real Madrid No ratings yet.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid, the game of all games. El Clasico has become more than a football match a long time ago. And it’s a long time since its meaning and influence has outgrown the Spanish borders.

In the general Franco era the Barca stadium was one the the very few places where catalans could be, well, Catalans. Probably this is one of the reasons of the clubs motto mess que un club. And what better way to promote it then when you play the capital representative?

History of the El Classico

First game was played in Madrid in 1902. The occasion was a tournament organized by King of Spain Alfonso XIII and it included the Basque club Vizcaya. Barca won against then-called Madrid FC 3-1 but lost in the final against the Basques.

First league match was played in 1929 when the Spanish domestic competition started. Real payed visit to Barcelona on match-day 2 and won 2-1. On the reverse fixture Barcelona returned the favor and won 1-0 in Madrid clinching the title in the process.

Games played over 100 years ago mean nothing for today’s outcome however last game was some 6 months ago and still meant next to nothing as too many changes happened since. It ended 2-2 at Camp Nou with the home side down to 10 men for the whole second half. Interestingly, in that match both teams scored very similar goals. One from a nice team move and the other an individual effort from Messi and Bale from the edge of the area.

In total 238 clasicos were played with Real in slim advantage. 95 wins for Los Blancos against 93 for Barcelona. 50 matches ended in a draw. 

El Clasico nr. 239

El Clasico

Much publicized Ronaldo and Messi absence threatened to take away all the stardust from the encounter. However both teams posses enough talent in their ranks to offer us an entertaining match. At least Barca do!

It all started in pretty familiar fashion; Barca kept the ball and Real chased it while trying to keep it tight in defence. It didn’t work! Already in the first real attack Barca got the lead. Rakitič found Alba with a thru ball, the Spaniard went undisturbed till the goal-line and cut back a pass that Coutinho just couldn’t miss; 1-0. Real barely held any possession and already had to chase the game.

Coutinho goal

The goal apparently shook the European champions as couldn’t calm down and in the space of just a few minutes Ramos gave away the ball on two occasions that could cost the visitors dearly.

It was only in 24th minute that Real managed a prolonged possession. And when it happened, well, Barca doubled the lead.

As everybody likes to hold statistics for first times, this El Calsico provided another first time; VAR penalty.

Alba won space for a cross again, Suarez got in front of Varane who inevitably brought him down. The referee had to be warned by his assistants in the studio to check the video. For the majority of the fans in front of the screens it was clear; penalty for Barca.

Suarez took it expertly and even if Courtuois was close the ball hit the net; 2-0 and virtually game over.

Suarez goal

In the first half Real managed to test Ter Stegen’s awareness. In fact Bale, Marcelo and Ramos just checked if he was awake at all! It looked as if the trio had an internal bet on who can take a shot from greater distance! Bale dared from some 22 meters in complete imbalance, Marcelo from 25 with his right foot and Ramos from over 30 meters.

No Ronaldo – big problem

And that was pretty much everything Real prepared for the first half.

After the second goal Barcelona seemed to leave the initiative to Real and was happy to wait for mistakes to exploit all the space in behind the visitor’s back-line. And duly got into some interesting positions that had to be taken!

Rafinha with an over-powered thru ball, Coutinho with a mistimed jump and Suarez with a completely missed cross, didn’t react as top class players as they are.

So what conclusions could be taken at half time?

Barca was 2-0 up and could be at least 4 or 5-0. Real was catastrophic!

Couldn’t hold possession, couldn’t get the ball into dangerous areas, couldn’t defend, couldn’t press with purpose, couldn’t … anything!

Modrič didn’t have a kick, Isco couldn’t find any space between the lines so he came very deep to get on the ball. Nacho was being torn apart on the flank, Casemiro couldn’t even count the opposition much less get close to it. Ramos misplaced few bloody passes, Varane wasn’t focused, Benzema… was he even there?

In short, nothing worked!

Second half

Whatever Lopetegui would come up during the interval would be better then the first half. And he came with a big surprise!

The move that he made I wouldn’t guessed in 100 years! And I’m sure very few would! He brought on Lucas Vasquez for Varane!

The change required also a formation change that could be interpreted in various ways; perhaps it was a desperate move from a desperate man. Maybe he’s already preparing the team to Conte’s preferred formation. Possibly it was to prove to his boss and everybody else that he’s capable of tactical twists. 

Whatever the reason, it worked! Well, at least for 15 minutes.

Lucas went to the right-wing slot, Casemiro stepped in-between Nacho and Ramos, Kroos took the Brazilian’s place in front of the defence and Marcelo hugged the left-hand line. This allowed more space for Modrič and Isco in the central areas to search for pockets of space from where they could hurt the opponent.

It looked as a 3-4-1-2 or a 3-5-2, very unusual for the team from the capital.

Lopetegui

And after Suarez gave the ball to Ramos in a 5 on 4 situation, Real collected the fruits of the change. Lucas found space on the right flank, served Isco in depth who immediately cut the ball back into the area. Lenglet could only deflect it and the sphere flew straight to Marcelo in the middle of the area. The flamboyant full-back calmed the ball on the chest and in an elastic stretch re-opened the game. With his right foot. Again!

Lifeline?

I wrote that Real can’t depend on the Brazilians weaker foot to get the goals but apparently they have no other option considering the form of the attackers.

It was 49th minute and at last there was a game to be played! And after Modrič hit the post just 5 minutes after Marcelo’s goal it looked as if Real was ready to produce a historical come-back!

That was a period where Barcelona had big trouble coming over the half-way line, couldn’t keep possession and couldn’t hold Madrid’s attacks at bay.

Real’s resurrection was short lived. Soon after Modrič missed to level the game Barca found the rhythm, organized the pressing and stopped chasing shadows.

Blanco’s dominance ended already in the 60th minute when Barca had prolonged possession and finalized it with a fantastic team move that brought Suarez to hit the post too.

Before the game went completely out of reach for the visitors Benzema showed why they miss Ronaldo so much. Lucas again broke free on the right side and provided an exquisite cross. The Frenchman was some 4 meters from the goal with the ball on his head but managed to send it over the bar, for the relief of the Blaugrana fans and players alike.

Valverde, who saw that the opposition is growing and finding too much space to play in, went for additional cover. In came Nelson Semedo for the uninspired Rafinha. Anyway, the results of this change were yet to be seen when Real had its last moment.

Valverde

Good pressing forced Ter Stegen to anticipate the kick. The ball ended in central midfield, worst place it could finish when you’re pressed. Real regained possession and Isco served a golden ball to Benzema only for the under-fire (ex)striker not being ready when it mattered most, again!

No Messi – no problem

On the other side Suarez is always ready! Sergi Roberto, who moved up the pitch with the introduction of Semedo, swerved an inviting cross for the Uruguayan striker. Unlike his counterpart, Suarez hit a perfect header and left Courtois with no chance. Some 12 meters out! 3-1 to Barcelona and game over. Again!

Lopetegui tried last joker he had in his sleeve, Marco Asensio. The Spanish next big thing came on for the inconclusive Bale, the supposed star of the team after the Portuguese super-star left Santiago Bernabeu.

Right after coming on Asensio had a shooting chance but he sent it over. Right after another promising situation went down the drain, the home side decided that they won’t allow any more surprises.

Ramos miss-controlled a simple ball, Sergi Roberto bounced on it and served the hero of the night in space, free on goal.

The Uruguay striker just got third child in midweek, Lautaro, and had to celebrate family increase with a personal hat-trick. Once in front of the Belgian in Madrid’s goal he went for a soft chip. Deft touch that cleared all doubts.

Minute was 83rd and you’d think that the home side had enough but when it comes to crushing the rivals from the Spanish capital, it’s never enough. And duly produced another reason for joy to the fans.

Dembele, who came on for Coutinho, got away from Nacho on the left with incredible ease and chipped in a ball that was begging to get nodded in. Timely came across another reserve player, Vidal, who accepted the invitation. 5-1!

Out of Benz

And if there were any hopes for Benzema to prove that he can secure part of the goals Ronaldo did, they all died in the 90th minute. Lovely one-two with Mariano, on for the injured Marcelo, on the edge of the box freed him in front of Ter Stegen. Nice move but ugly finish. The story of Real under Lopetegui.

Benzema

The last 10 years or so Real got used to this kind of treatment at the Camp Nou. With some honorable exceptions, they always get beat. Hard!

And now Barcelona is just a win shy of Real in overall head-to-head counting!

What next, Perez?

If this result doesn’t bring an end to Lopetegui’s reign in Madrid I don’t know what will. However, his dismissal will only serve to mask the faults of the board and the president over the summer.

Antonio Conte has been heavily tipped as the next on the hot-seat. Excellent coach with proven winning mentality and results to back up his uncompromising rhetoric when it comes to justify team selection and under-par performances.

After years of success in international football Real will need bigger change then just the manager. The current squad has been together for some time now and fresh blood is needed in order to regain the hunger needed to achieve great results. And high quality in the end zone also!

Barcelona vs Real Madrid ended in familiar fashion, Barca demolishing the opposition, and it’s not funny any more. For nobody!

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