Harry’s Back: Redknapp named manager at QPR

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It seems like he’s been gone for a while, but in reality, new Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp has only missed four months’ worth of matches. Dismissed by Daniel Levy and Tottenham Hotspur this summer, the former West Ham, Portsmouth, and Southampton boss is back on the sidelines at Loftus Road just in time for a transfer window, a great service to Sky Sports News producers expected to shoot a deadline day Redknapp through a Benz’ window.

It’s all part of the surreal comedy that surrounds one of England’s best managers. Perhaps he’s not quite the coup that QPR’s release claims (after all, where there really any better options for him?), but he’s about as good as Rangers could have hoped to land. Judging by his success as Spurs, where he guided Tottenham to two top four finishes, he’s certainly an upgrade over the man they let go. Instead of being run by someone perpetually weighed down by a perceived lack of respect (and attitude that extends back to Mark Hughes’ playing days), QPR gets a man with clear shoulders.

They also get a bit of a media whore. And Redknapp’s sure to make bids for Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe in the January window. Now QPR fans are the ones that get to make jokes about `Arry throwing 11 guys out there and seeing what happens, though his self-proclaimed tactical agnosticism has long been debunked. The smarmy relationship with the press that creates a tabloid boardroom – it’s all part of his charm. Redknapp will give Rangers fans plenty to talk about off the field should he fail to change fortunes on.

Those fortunes have left QPR without a win, the only Premier League team that’s failed to claim three points all season. They have the worst goal difference in the league and are six points away from safety, albeit with 26 matches left in the season. It’s a record that leaves few questions about whether Hughes deserved to stay on; rather, it’s unclear what took chairman Tony Fernandes so long to make a move. As bold as QPR have been with their checkbook, they were far less so when it was time to make a change.

But that checkbook has left a stocked cupboard for Redknapp. It’s a team that can challenge for more than a mid-table position, but there’s no reason a squad with the likes of Julio Cesar, Ndeum Onouha, Jose Bosingwa, Esteban Granero, Alejandro Faurlin, Park Ji Sung, Adel Tarrabt, Junior Hoillett and Bobby Zamora should be in this position.

QPR’s main problem has been in attack, where they’ve scored only nine goals though 12 matches. Redknapp’s teams have always been capable going forward, so their dearth of goals should end soon, especially since the mere absence of Hughes should help. All season, Rangers have looked weak and dispirited, an extension of the cloud surrounding their former manager. For QPR’s attack, there’s as much subtraction going on as addition with this managerial switch.

That switch will take full effect on Tuesday when Redknapp mans the sidelines at the Stadium of Light. Today, at Old Trafford, he’ll be on the sidelines as his new squad faces Manchester United.

Redknapp’s managerial record:

Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Bournemouth 19 October 1983 9 June 1992 7002457000000000000457 7002180000000000000180 7002107000000000000107 7002170000000000000170 700139390000000000039.39
West Ham United 10 August 1994 9 May 2001 7002327000000000000327 7002121000000000000121 700185000000000000085 7002121000000000000121 700137000000000000037.00
Portsmouth 25 March 2002 24 November 2004 7002116000000000000116 700154000000000000054 700126000000000000026 700136000000000000036 700146550000000000046.55
Southampton 8 December 2004 2 December 2005 700149000000000000049 700113000000000000013 700121000000000000021 700115000000000000015 700126530000000000026.53
Portsmouth 7 December 2005 26 October 2008 7002128000000000000128 700154000000000000054 700129000000000000029 700145000000000000045 700142190000000000042.19
Tottenham Hotspur 26 October 2008 13 June 2012 7002198000000000000198 700198000000000000098 700150000000000000050 700150000000000000050 700149490000000000049.49
Queens Park Rangers 24 November 2012 Present 50000000000000000000 50000000000000000000 50000000000000000000 50000000000000000000 !
Total 70031274000000000001,274 7002520000000000000520 7002318000000000000318 7002437000000000000437 700140820000000000040.82

LIVE, UCL – Sevilla vs. Man United, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma

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Jose Mourinho has created a splash this morning by benching Paul Pogba despite utilizing a 3-man central midfield formation as Manchester United heads to Spain to take on Sevilla in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg meeting.

Pogba was left out of Saturday’s win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup due to illness, but having made the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad, it seems his omission is instead due to tactical reasons. 21-year-old academy product Scott McTominay starts in Pogba’s place alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, with the Frenchman on the bench among the substitutes.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

The decision is surprising given Manchester United’s 16-point deficit in the Premier League table as they trail runaway favorites Manchester City, leaving the Champions League as the best competition remaining that the Red Devils have a shot to win.

Up front for Manchester United, Alexis Sanchez carries the creative load along with Juan Mata, with both supporting Romelu Lukaku at the striker position. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof continue to work as the central defensive partnership, while Antonio Valencia captains the side as full-back, mirrored by Ashley Young on the other edge.

In the other matchup, Roma heads to the Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk, who finished 2nd in Group F three points behind Manchester City. The Ukranian side has only just returned from its winter break, with just a single game played since December 10th.

Roma, meanwhile, has pulled itself out of a rut just in time for the return of Champions League play, with three straight Serie A wins coming on the heels of a five-match winless run. They have scored eight goals over those three wins, with a pair of road clean sheets among the group. 20-year-old Turkish winger Cengiz Under is on fire over the win streak, scoring four goals over that span.


Today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Sevilla vs. Manchester United – 2:45 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma – 2:45 p.m. ET

Reports: Mourinho to leave Paul Pogba out of Champions League lineup

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According to multiple reports across England, including the BBC, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is ready to leave Paul Pogba out of his starting lineup for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Sevilla despite utilizing a 4-3-3 formation with three central midfielders.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The reports state that Pogba will be left on the bench in favor of youngster Scott McTominay, who will start alongside Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. Mourinho has spoken highly of McTominay recently, saying three days ago, “I think Scott deserves more than what he is getting.”

“Maybe it’s because he’s this kind of kid profile: a normal haircut, no tattoos, no big cars, no big watches, humble kid, arrive in the club when he was nine or 10,” Mourinho said in what many perceived to be a thinly veiled slap at Pogba.

Mourinho has held back from publicly criticizing his $125 million midfielder in the media, but his actions on the field suggest otherwise. The 24-year-old has failed to record 90 minutes in three straight Premier League matches, seeing his manager yank him before the full-time whistle in two and failing to make the starting lineup in the other, leaving many to speculate a rift between the two.

The decision is especially surprising given Juan Mata‘s comments earlier Wednesday that suggested Manchester United is prioritizing the Champions League, given their 16-point deficit to Manchester City in the Premier League table.

Pogba missed the 2-0 FA Cup win over Huddersfield on Saturday due to illness, but it’s hard to imagine that four days later that keeps the French superstar on the bench, especially given his ability to make the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad.

Leicester City settles Financial Fair Play dispute with Football League

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Leicester City will owe the Football League a reduced fine after coming to an agreement with the English lower-league governing body over a dispute regarding the 2013/14 season.

The Foxes, who won the Championship that season and were promoted to the Premier League, were handed an official breach of Financial Fair Play rules after accruing a loss exceeding the allowed $11 million amount. However, Leicester City argued that the deficit was due to “allowable” amounts regarding promotion and academy costs.

After talks between the two parties, the EFL announced Leicester City will owe a reduced amount of $4.33 million. They could have owed up to $18 million, the differential between the allowed amount and their actual posted loss of $20.8 million.

In an official release, the EFL announced, “The EFL acknowledges that [Leicester City] did not make any deliberate attempt to infringe the Rules or to deceive and that the dispute arose out of genuine differences of interpretation of the Rules between the parties.”

After initially receiving word of the notice back in 2014, the Foxes had legally challenged the fine, but that had been put on hold after litigation began in 2015 between the EFL and Queens Park Rangers for a similar dispute. Bournemouth was also fined after incurring a significant loss in their 2014/15 promotion season. Teams that breach rules but are not promoted face transfer bans, such as Fulham, Bolton, and Nottingham Forest received through the 2014/15 season.

Who’s to blame? A closer look at Chelsea’s blunder late vs. Barcelona

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As our very own Joe Prince-Wright explained yesterday in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, Antonio Conte could not have set his team up better for success at Stamford Bridge.

And yet, they walked away from the first leg with a disappointing result, one that could set up Barcelona with the advantage as they head to the Camp Nou in two weeks time.

So where did it all go wrong? That pass from Andreas Christensen, obviously – the one that gifted Lionel Messi a late goal. But is Christensen to blame? Or were there other culprits?

Clearly, the pass was ill-advised. Christensen sends the ball across his own box parallel to the goal mouth, which Andreas Iniesta easily pilfers and sends to Messi for his first goal against Chelsea. It was a pass they teach 7-year-olds not to make, one that even the youngest of dedicated soccer players knows to avoid.

Christensen makes an easy target, given that he is just 21 years old, has only just recently earned his way into the Blues starting lineup, and was the most obvious culprit having made the fateful pass.

However, upon closer inspection, it may not have even been meant to reach the far side of the field.

Christensen’s exasperated reaction suggests the pass was likely intended for Cesc Fabregas who sat at the top of the box under little pressure. Christensen was closed down on the far touchline with little room to operate, and his outlet to Fabregas in the middle of the field was a good option, even if the general idea of a pass in that direction is usually frowned upon. However, Christensen’s pass was just slightly behind Fabregas, and the Spaniard ultimately decided to let the ball go instead of chasing it down, leaving it for a less populated area of the field.

Unfortunately, with his back turned to the eventual destination of the pass, Fabregas was unaware that Iniesta had anticipated its flight path and was already making a run to steal the ball. When the veteran Barcelona midfielder reached the ball, he was challenged by a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta, who completely whiffed. While Christensen and Fabregas were culpable of putting the team in a dangerous situation, Azpilicueta’s tackle was an abomination. Azpilicueta actually reached the ball first, but inexplicably failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Iniesta to easily evade the slide and still take charge of the ball.

Andreas Christensen is the clear perpetrator, but Fabregas and Azpilicueta both contributed negatively to the situation, leaving Chelsea at a slight disadvantage heading into a hostile environment despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts. Sadly, Conte will be the one to shoulder the accountability at the end of the season if Chelsea goes out of the Champions League, even though he received top marks for the match, and his players let him down.