This Week in Football

Cameron Storer is joined by Ryan Maher for football debate on This Week in Football.

With Mauricio Pellegrino sacked as Southampton manager following a poor run of form, is Mark Hughes the man to save the 19th placed Saints from the Premier League’s trapped door?

Manchester United’s embarrassing defeat to Seville last night ends their Champions League run but will Chelsea join United and Tottenham at home with an exit in Barcelona tonight?

A rare last 16 exit for Mourinho | Image : Metro

Celtic star Simunovic tears hamstring

Celtic face a defensive nightmare as Jozo Šimunović has withdrawn from Bosnia’s national team due to a torn hamstring.

The centre-back was rested against Hibernian last Saturday but will now miss both World Cup Qualifiers against Belgium and Estonia.

 

Fears are growing as Celtic wait to find out if he will be available for the crucial Champions League double-header against Bayern Munich in a fortnight.

Simunovic has proved an integral part of the Scottish champion’s side, most notably in the 2-0 win at Ibrox this season.

Bosnian FA team doctor Reuf Karabeg said: “Our manager, Mehmed Bazdarevic and I talked to Jozo’s doctor at Celtic and we got access to all the documentation on the injury’s condition.”

“The findings of the scan clearly shows he has a rupture of the hamstring and a hematoma four centimetres long.” [Daily Record]

REPORT: Sporting Lisbon 1-2 Real Madrid

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Celtic may be playing tonight but it was another Scottish representative who played their part in Lisbon on Tuesday. Three goals, two penalty decisions and a red card put Willie Collum into centre stage – to a certain Madeiran’s disgust. Fresh off a Madrid derby hat trick, it was a relatively quiet game from Cristiano Ronaldo on his return to Sporting Lisbon but Real Madrid got the spoils in the end.

 In the early stages, Sporting were matching Madrid with a Gelson raked pass across goal to Bas Dost but it was just over hit; Keylor Navas was scrambling to cover.

A goal followed in the kerfuffle, but not from the homecoming hero. A flat cross from Luka Modric on the right-hand side avoided every Lisbon player. In the confusion, a scuffed Ronaldo touch trickled to a just onside Rafael Varane and the defender had his shooting boots on, hooking it in to open up the scoring.

Whistler Willie Collum was stuck in an awkward place just after as the slippery Gelson slalomed past Marcelo and was clipped. The fans made sure to let him know that they thought it was just inside the box, but after a quick consultation with the assistant on the wing, the referee said it was just outside.  

The freekick from Bruno Cesar was a hair from the top corner, but the home fans cheered thinking that it was in.

Every attacking movement seemed to go down the right with Gelson Martin. Barely into the second half the mere sight of Gelson sprinting past Marcelo, led his knees to buckle and crumble beneath him; the following cross easily intercepted.

It wouldn’t last long before another controversial decision was made by Collum. A boxing-esque face off between Pereira and Kovacic in the corner flag sent the former packing. With that extra gap on the pitch, Madrid examined and prodded at every pocket, calculating where stress could best break the backline. But it wasn’t the Spanish side who scored again.

For Real Madrid, it isn’t much to complain about when you have James Rodriguez, Benzema and Asensio on the bench as back ups, and it would seem that substitutions would make or break this result.

Perhaps left back sub, Fabio Coentrao was trying out for a post-football career as an NFL receiver, or maybe he had put some bets on for a draw, but whatever was going through his head, we will never know. A harmless ball was flapped away in the box and it left the referee with no option. The penalty was clear this time and Adrien Silva took no qualms in dispatching it in the opposite corner away from a diving Navas.

This gave the game an extra bit of feistiness and it looked like momentum had shifted to the other green and white stripes. Karim Benzema was having none of it. After barely touching the ball after his substitution, it took just one deft head flick for it to trickle into the corner or the net. The points and their assured knockout place were theirs.

 Stay up to date and check out @EN4News2016 for more news.

 

 

 

 

 

Our thoughts on tonight’s Champions League games

REPORT: Sevilla 1-3 Juventus

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Juventus scored two goals in the last six minutes to secure qualification for the final 16 of the Champions League.

The Serie A leaders were without Gonzalo Higuaín, Paulo Dybala and Andrea Barzagli for their meeting with three-in-a-row Europa League winners Sevilla last night, and the Spanish team threw everything at them.

Contesting for first place in Group H, Jorge Sampaoli’s men took an early lead after Pareja’s ninth minute strike. Sevilla looked to take advantage of Juventus’ undermined squad and almost kept the Italians behind, until the hosts were reduced to ten men after Vázquez was dismissed for two red cards ten minutes before the break. Eventually a penalty decision went Juventus’ way, which Marchisio converted.

Sevilla had to adopt a more defensive approach after the red card and it continued well into the second half, with Juventus constantly pressing to find a winner.

Juventus finally found a winner when Bonucci found a winner six minutes before the end, slashing Sevilla’s hopes of reaching top of the group.

The Italians broke through with one final chance four minutes into stoppage time after a tidy effort from Mario Mandžukić.

Sevilla could take the top place in their group providing Juventus lose to Dinamo Zagreb, a team that haven’t won a game or scored a goal in this year’s tournament. There is also a possibility Sevilla might not qualify if Lyon beat the Spaniards by two or more goals in a couple of weeks time.

PREVIEW: PSG vs. Arsenal

PSG and Arsenal will meet at the Emirates Stadium tonight. Both teams have already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League and will now look for a win tonight in order to seal top spot in the group.

Unbeaten in 17 games, Arsenal are three points off the top spot of the Premier League. They qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with ease, while a win tonight would all but guarantee them top spot in the group.

Arsenal drew away from home to PSG in match day one of the Champions League group stages. Arsene Wenger said, “Now we have to finish the job at home. We played a draw there and now it is down to us to win the game.”

There is a slight doubt around Alexis Sanchez with some saying he might be dropped to keep him fit for the Premier League clash at the weekend. The Chilean international has scored eight goals in 16 club appearances. Wenger would not confirm whether the 27 year old would start or not.

Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla will miss the game through injury. Bellerin, who recently signed a new long-term deal with Arsenal, will miss the game with an ankle injury, while Cazorla is still sidelined with an achilles problem.

PSG defender Serge Aurier was refused entry to the UK after a conviction involving an altercation with a bouncer. Paris St-Germain say that the UK authorities decided to allow Aurier to enter the country before going back on that decision.

Arsenal host Bournemouth in domestic duty on Saturday while PSG are away to Lyon.

REPORT: Leicester City 2-1 Club Brugge

BRUGGE, BELGIUM - SEPTEMBER 14:  Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides third goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League match between Club Brugge KV and Leicester City FC at Jan Breydel Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Brugge, Belgium.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Leicester City advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League, topping Group G after defeating Club Brugge 2-1 at the King Power stadium.

The win ensured maximum points for Leicester against Club Brugge in the group, after a comprehensive 3-0 victory in the corresponding fixture in Belgium on the opening day of their European campaign.

Claudio Ranieri’s men took the lead five minutes into the first half from Shinji Okazaki and doubling their advantage through a Riyad Mahrez penalty on the hour mark.

Jose Izquierdo pulled one back for the visitors after his thundering effort left Kasper Schmeichel no chance, but the blues held on for all three points to see them into the next round with one game remaining.

Despite the hosts’ poor start to their domestic campaign, sitting 14th in the Premier League; their European form has been nothing short of ruthless with four wins and a draw from their matches so far.

Leciester will find out their last 16 opponents in a fortnight once the final round of group stage fixtures are completed.

In the aftermath of the jubilant scenes at the final whistle, Claudio Ranieri called for his side’s Premier League form to improve: “We are very close to relegation so we have to play at the same level as in the Champions League. When we want to play for something, we achieve something.

Meanwhile in the, FC Copenhagen and Porto played out a lacklustre goalless draw in the Danish capital.

PREVIEW: Tonight’s other Champions League games

FC Rostov winning the Russian Cup in 2014

Group D of the UEFA Champions League returns to action tonight. Russian outfit FC Rostov are set to host European giants Bayern Munich while Atlético Madrid host PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands. Both Atlético and Bayern have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Atlético have endured a perfect run of four wins from four games earning twelve points, three in front of Bayern. Meanwhile PSV and Rostov are both level on one point and only have the Europa League to look forward to, depending on whoever finishes third in the group.

Bayern will be desperate to become top dog again having been dispatched of their familiar first place standing in the Bundesliga by newly promoted RB Leipzig. The 1-0 loss to arch rivals Borussia Dortmund last Saturday dismantled Bayern’s Bundesliga dominance thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s early strike. Bayern will be looking to redeem themselves against a struggling FC Rostov who sit sixth in the Russian Premier League and have only won one of their last five league matches.

Both Rostov and Bayern Munich previously met on the opening day of the Champions League where Bayern thrashed the visiting Russians 5-0 with a brace from Joshua Kimmich among the goalscorers that included talisman Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Juan Bernat. After last Saturday’s disappointment, Bayern will be looking to make a point against Rostov tonight to let Atlético know they aren’t giving up on top spot.

Meanwhile Atlético go into their match against PSV Eindhoven eager to avenge last year’s disappointing defeat in the Champions League final at the hands of arch rivals Real Madrid. Both Atlético and PSV met on the opening day with Atlético earning a 1-0 victory thanks to Saúl Niguez’s goal just before half time.

Both teams have had contrasting league form with Atlético sitting sixth in La Liga having lost two league games on the trot, including a 3-0 defeat last Saturday at the hands of Real. PSV meanwhile have lost just once in thirteen Eredivisie matches and currently sit third in the Eredivisie.

A win would keep Atlético at the top of Group D going into the final game in the group against Bayern Munich in two weeks’ time. Both teams are favourites to win their respective games tonight so it’s likely that in two weeks’ time when they next meet, it will decide who finishes first and second in the group.

The European Struggle

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Ten years ago, British football teams were regularly finding themselves in European finals. Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal could be seen playing at the end stages of Europe’s elite club competition on a yearly basis. So what has changed in the last ten years? Why do British teams not perform in European competition as they once did? If the English Premier League truly is the ‘best league in the world’ then why are Britain not producing teams who can challenge for the Champions League?

If you look at the very top level of world class players, it has to be said that most of them are playing in La Liga or the Bundesliga. A player considered to be the best in the world these days will always look to play for Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. World class players still exist in the Premier League in people like Sergio Aguero and Eden Hazard. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the best players in the world now play in about three or four teams.

While Celtic usually have a run in European Competition, whether it be the Champions League or the Europa league, Scottish football teams rarely progress past preliminary qualifying rounds. Aberdeen, who have been finishing second in recent years, have failed three years in a row to make it to the group stages of the Europa League and Hibernian who won the Scottish cup last year also failed.

Many British managers put these European shortcomings down to the intense nature of British football and the amount of games played. While many European teams get a winter break between December and January, an average British team will play ten games in that time. However it is also British teams’ inability to get their tactics right that causes their lack of success on the continental stage. British teams seem unable to change their tactics when they are playing stronger opposition, and they concede far too many goals as a result of this.

Arguments about the lack of homegrown players and the competitive nature of the Premier League simply shift the focus from the real problem of teams and managers ignoring the importance of defensive organisation and discipline in Europe.

The vast wealth created by the Premier League is spread so evenly between the twenty teams in the league that the league is always getting more competitive. It is easy to dismiss this as an excuse by the British media to deflect from poor performances. However, when managers of such experience as Mourinho and Wenger claim this puts British teams on the back foot before the competition has started then we may have to look at the way our game is played.

REPORT: Borussia Dortmund 8-4 Legia Warsaw

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Borussia Dortmund and Legia Warsaw contributed towards the highest ever scoreline at a Champions League game as the German team punted eight past the determined Polish side.

The tally surpassed the record previously held by Monaco’s 8-3 win over Deportivo La Coruna in 2003.

Legia Warsaw initially took the lead after 10 minutes when Aleksander Prijovic’s right-footed shot struck the top left hand corner.

It didn’t take long for Dortmund to respond in dominating fashion with three goals in quick succession – with Shinji Kagawa scoring the quickest double in Champions League history – before Warsaw responded again in a more significant game of football-pinball.

Legia Warsaw’s persistence didn’t wear off as, after a stint of Dortmund’s intrepidity, they responded with another Prijovic goal.

With the prospect of a Warsaw comeback looming, their hopes were dashed after another two quick goals from Dortmund – which was reminiscent of the last tie between the two teams.

Nobody could have predicted the final result as the half-time score stood at 5-2.

At the start of the second half, it looked as if it would contrast the intense first half. It didn’t take long for Marco Reus to slot away his second goal of the night and Dortmund’s sixth, with the midfielder now on a goal-scoring streak after his returning from a six-month injury.

The game began to settle down as it approached the hour mark, yet the last ten minutes produced more nail-biting moments for each side. Felix Passlack put away a header after a fast counter-attack at the 81st minute.

It was only two minutes later when a goal was scored again, this time at the other end of the pitch. Nemanja Nikolic’s right footed shot pelted the left hand side of the goal.

With the scoreline at 7-4, on par with the record held by Monaco and Deportivo, Dortmund managed to slot one final goal away – this time an own goal by Jakub Rzezniczak in stoppage time.

Borussia Dortmund have now scored 14 goals against Legia Warsaw in this year’s Champions League campaign, the most by any team against an individual opponent in the competition’s history.

It is also the first time that eight players have scored in a single game in the tournament.

Dortmund now sit two points ahead of Real Madrid in Group F, with both teams playing each other in a couple of weeks time to decide the all-important first place spot.

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