FBL-EUR-C1-DEN-UKR-NORDSJAELLAND-SHAKHTAR DONETSK

‘Unacceptable’ goal costs Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano one Champions League match

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Last week, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Luiz Adriano screwed up. In UEFA Champions League action, the Brazilian striker took a ball played back to Danish champions Nordsjaelland and scored a goal. He sprinted past a pair of unresponsive central defenders, won a race to the ball that only he was contesting, and dribbled around a bewildered goalkeeper before finishing into an open net.

Today, UEFA has suspended Adriano one match and ordered him to perform one hour of community service for “violation of the principles of conduct” (pasted, below). Shakhtar Donetsk’s owner, Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov, has already said the club will abide by the punishment, calling the behavior “unacceptable.”

The controversy was born from a play we see almost every game. For whatever reason (usually, suspected injury) a ball is played out of bounds or the lead official has stopped play. Be it by throw in or a return ball from a drop kick, the team that had possession is allowed to re-gain it. The event is so common that players rarely have to discuss what’s happening before normal play resumes.

Last week in Copenhagen, somebody should have stopped and talked to Luiz Adriano, because he never stopped playing. Though he conceded after the game that what he thought was a good goal shouldn’t have happened, it’s difficult to believe the thought never occurred to him in real time. Again, this is a play that happens so often that he couldn’t have been caught by surprise. When his team needlessly punted the ball toward Nordsjaelland’s keeper (and nobody on the field reacted), he should have figured it out.

His team certainly did. At least, most of them did. Coach Mircea Lucescu immediately ordered his team to give up a return goal only to see a defender interfere with the concession. The game went on, with Shakhtar winning in Copenhagen, 5-2.

Here’s the goal:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10Rj79yTNo0]

Now Adriano is set to miss next week’s Champions League game against Juventus. Shakhtar, having already secured a place in the knockout round, needs at least a draw to secure first place in Group E (and a much easier route in the knockout round), with a loss giving the packet to Juventus.

That means Chelsea have been hit with some collateral damage from this whole affair. The Blues need to beat Nordsjaelland and have Shakhtar win in order to advance to Champions League’s Round of 16.

In case you’re curious, here are UEFA’s Principles of Conduct — Article 5 of the governing body’s disciplinary regulations:

Article 5 Principles of conduct
1
Member associations, clubs, as well as their players, officials and members, shall
conduct themselves according to the principles of loyalty, integrity and
sportsmanship.
2
For example, a breach of these principles is committed by anyone:
a) who engages in or attempts to engage in active or passive bribery and/or
corruption;
b) whose conduct is insulting or otherwise violates the basic rules of decent
conduct;
c) who uses sporting events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature;
d) whose conduct brings the sport of football, and UEFA in particular, into
disrepute;
e) who does not abide by decisions and directives of the Organs for the
Administration of Justice;
f) who does not comply with instructions given by the match officials;
g) who culpably reports for a match late or not at all;
h) who culpably causes a match to be interrupted or abandoned or who is
responsible for its interruption or abandonment;
i) who inscribes on the match sheet a player who is not eligible to play;
j) who acts in a way that is likely to exert an influence on the progress and/or
the result of a match by means of behaviour in breach of the statutory
objectives of UEFA with a view to gaining an undue advantage for himself or
a third party.
k) who commits an act of assault;
l) who participates directly or indirectly in betting or similar activities relating to
UEFA competition matches, or who has a direct or indirect financial interest
in such activities.

Pep Guardiola: “Maybe I’m not good enough”

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he “may not be good enough” for his players at Manchester City.

Ahead of City’s clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola has been defended his squad after severe criticism from the media.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

City were hammered 4-0 at Everton last weekend, their worst league defeat since 2008 and Guardiola’s worst-ever league defeat as a manager.

With plenty pointing the finger of blame at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and City’s defense, their manager put himself in the firing line.

“They are good players. I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and [people saying] they are not good enough for me. Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said. “They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

Mind games.

Guardiola, 46, is no doubt facing the biggest challenge of his season as City look to at least seal a top four spot in this his debut season in England. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has already “said goodbye to the title” and if they lose against red-hot Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium then more questions will be asked of his tactics and if they can work in the Premier League.

So far the possession-based slow build up style has been hot and cold for City, with plenty of counter-attacking teams in the PL (Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, Leicester etc.) having a field day against a shaky defense.

Despite being 10 points off the pace, Guardiola is sticking by his philosophy. One thing really sticks out to me from his first few press conferences in England: “We will see if my style of play can work in the Premier League.”

So far, it’s not.

Watch Live: Liverpool vs. Swansea City (Lineups, Stream)

SWANSEA, WALES - MARCH 16:  Kyle Naughton of Swansea City is closed down by Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on March 16, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Liverpool host Swansea City to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Reds aiming to stretch their unbeaten run at home in the Premier League to 18 games.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Jurgen Klopp is a little concerned with the number of games his team have had to play over the past few weeks, but a victory against the struggling Swans would momentarily move his side just four points behind leaders Chelsea who play on Sunday.

As for Swansea, new manager Paul Clement knows a win would take his team out of the relegation zone and with new signings arriving that would be a massive boost. It would also be a massive ask for the Welsh side to get anything at Anfield but this may be a good time to play Liveprool after their midweek trip to Plymouth in the FA Cup and the EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton coming up on Wednesday.

In team news Liverpool start with Philippe Coutinho once again, while Joel Matip is on the bench after the Reds finally settled the dispute with Cameroon. Swansea hand debuts to new signings Martin Olsson and Tom Carroll.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino. Subs: Karius, Sturridge, Moreno, Lucas, Origi, Matip, Woodburn

Swansea City: Fabianski; Olsson, Mawson, Fernandez, Naughton; Cork, Carroll, Fer; Sigurdsson, Llorente, Routledge. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Amat, Fulton, Dyer, Borja, McBurnie

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.