Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Juventus 1, Shakhtar Donetsk 1

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Man of the Match: There weren’t very many candidates from a match where everybody played well but few stood out (in a good or bad way). The biggest difference-maker may have been Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira, who got a surprise start ahead of countryman Ilsinho. Coach Mirsea Lucescu seemed to want the faster player to match up against Juventus’s defense, and it worked. Teixeira helped the Ukrainain outfit control the match’s first stanza, eventually scoring the game’s first goal.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Most eyes may have been cast on Cluj, Copenhagen and Lisbon, but Turin hosted Tuesday’s best match: The Italian champions versus an uncommonly strong offering from Ukraine.
  • Shakhtar was dominant at the start, Juventus able to bring few solutions to bear on an attack that saw success playing outside to wingers Willian and Alex Teixiera before cutting back toward goal.
  • That advantage may have been a product of the formation matchup we talked about in the preview. Shakhtar was able to find space behind and around the Juventus wingbacks, stretching out the Juve midfield as they played the ball horizontally. It took Juventus a while to adjust.
  • Teixiera was a surprise starter, but he proved to be a prescient inclusion. Going forward, he proved more dangerous coming in from his right wing position. Tracking back, he was able to bolster the Shakhtar midfield, often getting back as Claudio Marchisio was coming forward for Juventus.
  • In the 23rd minute, Teixiera’s inclusion really paid off. His defending created a turnover that sprung Shakhtar on the counter, and with Juventus’s midfield slow getting back, the Ukranians were able to set up their attack before Juve got back. That allowed Shakhtar to move the ball from the right, to Razvan Rat and Tomad Hübschman on the opposite flank, and eventually in to forward Luiz Adriano. Donetsk’s number nine laid it off for Willian who found Teixiera to the right of goal for an easy opener.
  • It didn’t take Juventus long to respond, and in typical fashion, it took only the slightest opening. Nice play from Mirko Vucinic (good take on a long ball, nice pass into the right of Shakhtar’s area) created a corner. On the restart, Andrea Pirlo rolled a ball to 15 yards out, where Leonardo Bonucci had curled back away from the defensive line for an open one-timer. The Juve defender rocketed a ball into the upper-right corner, evening the score.
  • For the next 30 minutes, the match was even. The game starter to luck like a typical Juventus affair, one which they would eventually snatch in the second half. That’s how it usually works with Juve: Once they’ve figured out what you’re trying to do, they can get busy implementing a plan to beat you.
  • Things changed as the match neared the hour mark. The intensity went up a notch, and the match became more open.
  • The changes left Shakhtar controlling much of the possession but Juventus generating the better chances.
  • In the 80th minute, that almost changed. Fernandinho picked up a loose ball in his half and started a break through Willian. Luiz Adriano eventually laid a ball off to Henrikh Mkhitarayan, who had the ball poked away from him by Giorgio Chiellini. Willian ran onto the ball and fired a 20-yard shot just to the right of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal.
  • And what about Mkhitarayan, who came into this match with 15 goals this season? Aside from an early chance, he was quiet going forward, though he put in good work pressing Juventus’s back line. He also was seen tracking Pirlo occasionally, though Shakhtar declined to give the Juventus regista the same attention Oscar provided two weeks ago.
  • As time ticked away, the match was screaming for one team to make a big adjustment. But that never happened. Juventus swapped out their forwards in like-for-like moves. Lucescu brought on Ilsinho, his own like-for-like. Neither coach was willing to risk a big change and get burnt.
  • As a result, Shakhtar got a valuable road point while demurring on their chance to really shake up the group. Juventus saved face while dropping points. Only two rounds into the stage, both teams may have made the right choice. Their fans, however, should wonder what could have been.
  • With the win, Shakhtar is even on points at the top of the group. Juventus sits two back. Set to close the group with matches versus Chelsea and at Shakhtar, Juventus needs to take full advantage of their impending back-to-back with Nordsjaelland.

$280m? Who cares? Salah is the rare “unsellable” player


The gossip reports are out there, with lofty claims that Real Madrid and Barcelona are willing to pay as much as $280 million dollars for Mohamed Salah.

Normally that figure triggers something in my brain that screams, “Sell! Sell! Sell before they realize what they’ve offered!”

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That’s not happening with Mohamed Salah.

This isn’t an inflated fee for a young English player like Ross Barkley or John Stones, nor is it a club throwing a lofty and desperate figure at a very good but supremely overvalued player like Philippe Coutinho. Even Raheem Sterling, who I advocated selling, has proven replaceable.

In the case of Salah, his Golden Boot figure is likely to dwarf any in the Premier League era. He’s at 28, three behind Luis Suarez’s 31. Cristiano Ronaldo has bagged 31 once Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hold the modern record with 34.

Salah needs six to tie Shearer. Here’s Liverpool’s run-in: Crystal Palace (A), Everton (A), Bournemouth (H), West Brom (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A), Brighton and Hove Albion (H).

Five of those teams absolutely hemorrhage goals. Would you bet against Salah?

By the way, Salah has 10 assists, too. Sure Jurgen Klopp deserves credit for buying and deploying the Egyptian wizard, but

When Klopp argued that Liverpool was not a selling club, this is the exact example to follow. Selling Coutinho — again, not trying to poke the bear that is ornery overvaluing fan — is fine in a world where your club has Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah

But selling one of Europe’s leading scorers is almost never okay for a club challenging for a Champions League crown and with the clear caliber of a Premier League title hunter.

I’d argue that for this club, one who has sold Coutinho and Suarez, there is not a fee that meets Salah straight-on.  He’s 25 and living in the air just below Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The Messi comparisons I keep reading are fun but still unbelievably premature by every stretch of the imagination. By the time Messi was Salah’s age he had league seasons of 34, 31, 50, and was en route to a 46-goal mark. He posted 68 combined assists over those four seasons.

If this is somehow an aberration, and Salah cannot find this form ever again, well, that’s bad luck and a risk worth its weight in standard setting.

There is not a replacement player.

There is no fee.

Say it again now.

Dangerous playmaker Silva joins Montreal Impact (video)

Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Alejandro Silva’s got a creative mind, and that’s something Montreal will welcome with open arms.

The Uruguayan signed with the Impact this week, joining Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider as playmakers in Quebec.

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Silva, 28, is a right-sided and forward-playing attacker who can also play right back if necessary.

The Impact lost two of three to start the season, winning this weekend’s 401 Derby versus Toronto FC to put a number in the win column.

Lanus has been a fertile ground for Major League Soccer clubs in recent years, with Lucas Melano (Portland Timbers) and Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United) making the move to North America.

The South American club has also sent Gustavo Gomez to AC Milan and Oscar Benitez to Benfica.

Kante squashes PSG rumors: “I am at home” with Chelsea

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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At least one and erhaps two big Premier League clubs are going to finish outside of the UEFA Champions League this year.

As it stands now, those clubs are Arsenal and Chelsea. The former could still seal a spot in the UCL via winning the Europa League but Chelsea needs wins and help from the field to find a way into the fray.

[ MORE: Best PL summer buys ]

An absence for either side will send UCL-bound vultures over the rosters of the failed clubs, hoping to woo the best players with Champions League dreams.

N'Golo Kante has been a name bandied about as a potential departure should Chelsea miss its mark, with the French star mentioned as high atop Paris Saint-Germain’s wish list.

The midfielder, who turns 27 at the end of the month, has moved to squash those rumors (from The London Evening Standard):

“I am at home. It is my club, I am a Chelsea player.

“We will fight until the end to finish in the top four and to get in a Champions League position. We also have the FA Cup to play for – it is a good competition. Last season we failed in the final. It is the only trophy we can win this season, so we have to give everything to get to the final and win it.”

That’s good, because we’re looking forward to seeing what a midfield with Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko could do with an offseason together.

Yet is there anyone out there doubting Kante’s intentions?

Who’ve been the most impactful Premier League summer buys?

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It’s been a heck of a season for Premier League transfer buys, and that includes a bevy of intra-league purchases.

So who’ve been the best imports? Probably a safe bet to set some parameters.

[ MORE: Alonso, Pedro have Morata’s back ]

We won’t count players like Aaron Mooy, who’s Huddersfield Town purchase was formalized after a loan, or those who returned from loan like Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen or Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.

We’ll also opt against a couple Chelsea loanees signings, if just to whittle our list. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was magnificent before a long-term injury at Palace, and Kurt Zouma probably just sits beyond the Top Ten.

Mainz loanee Jonas Lossl of Huddersfield Town fits the bill, too. And for injuries: Who knows how high  Benjamin Mendy would’ve surged up this list?

Stats culled from WhoScored and Squawka.

Honorable mention – Antonio Rudiger, Mario Lemina, Richarlison, Alexandre Lacazette, Mat Ryan, Bernardo Silva, Steve MounieKyle Walker, Alvaro Morata, Florian Lejeune.

10. Jordan Pickford, Everton — Under siege at Sunderland for most of last season, Pickford probably expected smoother sailing than this: the Everton backstop has been forced into making the most saves in the Premier League (95). Fifty-four of those required him to dive. Only four teams have allowed more goals than Everton, which explains why some of you might be scratching your head at his inclusion.

9. James Tomkins, Crystal Palace — I thought the signing was silly, but Tomkins is nearly unrivaled in terms of interceptions per game in league play. Palace hasn’t been a defensive powerhouse, but his former club West Ham looks terrible since he moved across London.

8. Davinson Sanchez, Tottenham Hotspur – There have been bumps along the way — Sanchez is 21 — but he’s blessed with the speed to make up for his and others mistakes. A fine passer, Mauricio Pochettino should only further benefit from his career progression.

7. Ahmed Hegazi, West Bromwich Albion — Hegazi’s 2757 minutes played are the most amongst field players in the Premier League (though Alfie Mawson, Harry Maguire, Jack Cork, and Lewis Dunk could pass him by playing more than an hour in their match-in-hand).

6. Harry Maguire, Leicester City — The Foxes badly needed to lower the age of their center back corps, and can count their purchase of Maguire from Hull City as a coup. Perhaps no player other than Wilfred Ndidi has been as influential for Claude Puel‘s bunch.

5. Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United — Lukaku started dispelling myths about his production versus big teams when he was one of the lone stars in United’s Super Cup loss to Real Madrid. While he’s been up-and-down in terms of goals in said contests, his hold-up play and work ethic have been better than expected. His 21 key moments (14 goals, seven assists) are even with Roberto Firmino and trail only Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, and Leroy Sane. Anthony Martial is the closest United comparison, and he has 14. Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard have 12.

4. Pascal Gross, Brighton and Hove Albion — The Ingolstadt transfer’s promise was quickly realized, and he’s posted five goals and eight assists. On a team with the fourth-lowest goal total in the league, that’s impressive. The only players with more PL assists: De Bruyne, Sane, Dele, David Silva, Salah, Pogba. Gross also ranks third in the league in crosses per game.

3. Nemanja Matic, Manchester United — It’s hard to fin the numbers to meet the eye test, but Matic flat out makes his team better. Maybe it’s organization, maybe it’s toughness, but there’s little doubt United is better in the middle of the park while former club Chelsea has struggled to find the same form since he skipped town. Advantage: Mou.

2. Ederson, Manchester City — Look only to last season’s status of City net minders to know how important the sweeper-style passing keeper is to Pep Guardiola‘s side. The Brazilian has pushed himself into competition for the starting gig at one of the World Cup favorites.

1. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool —  There is no other answer here, and Harry Kane’s injury essentially gift wraps the Golden Boot to the Egyptian. There was a question as to whether he’d bring his Serie A flourish over to England, and that seems absurd now.