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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Solari Santiago – the cure? No ratings yet.

Santiago Solari took the reins as Real Madrid manager after the club released Julien Lopetegui the day after the El Clasico debacle.

The inevitable thing happened. Real Madrid appointed new manager after disastrous September and October. Julien Lopetegui was shown the door and Santiago Hernan Solari took his place. Born October 7 1976 in Rosario, Argentina, Solari is a familiar face at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Solari the player

I’m sure by now all football lovers learned his history as a player and as a manager in Real’s youth teams. Extremely talented and smart player, Solari managed to find a lot of playing space in the Galactico era beginning of the century.

By now you all refreshed your memory with his success and the part he played in the goal of the century scored by his predecessor in the hot-seat.

You’ve also read that after over 200 games played for the Madrid giant he headed to Internazionale Milan and spent there 3 years. He won 3 scudetti in Italy however he wasn’t as influential as he was in Madrid.

After the European experience he went back home to River Plate, the club that lunched him in professional football. After a single season he went North to Mexico and eventually ended his playing career in Uruguay with Penarol.

Personally, I have fond memories of him as a player. To tell you the truth I always bought him on Football Manager. A left winger with a lot of creativity, precise crossing and dazzling dribbling abilities but also responsible and not afraid to take the responsibility and shoot when given the opportunity.

You could see that he understands the game and what managers demand from him. He wasn’t publicly exposed as some of his teammates however in terms of football intelligence, class and talent he was rightfully part of that group of players that beside aforementioned Zidane included the likes of Ronaldo, Figo, Raul, Roberto Carlos et al.

Solari

What to expect?

 

It’s hard to predict what to expect from him as a Madrid interim manager.

Solari’s record as a youth team manager is a mixed bag. He didn’t set the league on fire, didn’t achieve headline-grabbing results and didn’t have to deal with international superstars that have no issues in telling the manager to shut up.

For all comparison drawn with Zidane I see some big differences between their coaching paths.

Solari Zidane

Not Zidane

For once, Zidane was Ancelotti’s deputy for a couple of seasons. Daily worked alongside the manager mostly renewed for his human abilities. Ancelotti is a great tactician, proved it on more then a few occasions, however his ability to establish a close relationship with the players and thus getting the best out of them is probably his distinguished quality.

Zinedine had the chance to observe the master at work for a very long time and being an intelligent person picked up some important tips.

Solari has been the club as manager at youth level long enough to learn from both however not on daily basis.

Secondly, Zidane won literally everything as a player. When somebody walks into the Merengue dressing room and wants to be heard needs to have something that back-up his words. Who can have more backing then Zidane?

As said Solari spent 5 years at Madrid and played an important role in the team’s success but was never the standout personality of the team. Collected only 11 caps for Argentina and never won greatest individual prizes.

Thirdly, the Frenchman inherited the squad from a highly unpopular manager among the squad. Getting the team on your side wasn’t that hard.

The Argentinian is succeeding a manager who had a good portion of the team on his side. Lopetegui was even presented to Perez as possible substitution for Zidane by captain Ramos and other Spanish national team players.

Fourthly, Zidane had Ronaldo in the squad. That’s an easy 50 goals per campaign. And the whole team was hungry for success.

Solari is inheriting a team that has unbelievable trouble to score goals. Real is having a lot of shots on goal but can’t seem to hit the net. And doesn’t have a player with 50 goals. Neither 2 of 25.

What are Solari’s chances?

Within the next 2 weeks Real has to nominate the new full time manager, according to La Liga rules.

In these 2 weeks Real will play in Spanish Cup against lower league Melilla, league match against Real Valladolid, CL clash with Victoria Plzen and a tricky visit to Celta Vigo. Even if his team win all of these matches nothing extraordinary would happen.

However, not everything is lost in advance and Santiago has a few aces up his sleeve.

Competition

One of them is that currently available coaches are publicly being discredited by most representative players. Conte has been given for granted however Ramos lately gave significant statements that could prevent Perez from pursuing the Italian.

Conte

Plus Conte has legal issues to solve with Chelsea before he can take over at another club. And his overall requests are quite demanding.

Arsene Wenger is free and could sign immediately but he’s not much of an upgrade from Conte in terms of managing style. Just ask Robin Van Persie why he left Arsenal for Manchester United.

Wenger

Other candidates being mentioned in the media lately (Maurizio Pochettino, Roberto Martinez and even Jose Mourinho) have valid contracts with other employers and having them released so soon isn’t possible. Or at least very hard.

Therefore if Solari manages to avoid embarrassing results in the next few weeks, produces acceptable football style and wins, he might get a chance to see out the season.

Vinicius Junior

Beside lack of valuable alternatives another ace in his sleeve could be Vinicius Junior. The young Brazilian attacker has been overlooked by Lopetegui. Since there isn’t anybody who’s scoring goals a bet on the summer acquisition can’t make things any worse. The youngster certainly has the ability to play on this level and could prove a hit. Validating an investment is always a good thing.

Sentence

He’s been thrown at the deep end but he’s familiar with the environment, expectations and knows how things work at the club.

Had the chance to follow closely, as a player and also manager at the club, how to treat superstars and squeeze out the best of them. He has to learn extremely fast how to apply the knowledge.

Solari 2

His predecessor didn’t set a high standard, squad has a lot of quality and experience, has a prodigy to count upon and the market isn’t offering anything outstanding that can be appointed quickly. And also the opposition he’ll be facing in the trial period isn’t extraordinary so he has a chance to bring home some points.

All in all Solari just might earn the right to manage the team till end of the season. I’m not expecting any Zidane effect but a decent campaign. And if Perez throws in a valuable player or two in January, who knows, we could be surprised.

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