Fulham v Manchester United - Premier League

Look ahead, Europe: Considerations as Champions League approaches

Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on the bench. So were Blaise Matuidi and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Paris Saint-Germain’s home game against Bastia would be a rotation opportunity under any circumstances, but with UEFA Champions League resuming next week, Carlo Ancelotti employed a strategy we’re sure to see throughout the weekend from other prominent managers.

Starting Tuesday, Champions League resumes with two Round of 16 first legs: Valencia hosting PSG and Celtic welcoming Juventus to Glasgow. On Wednesday, German champions Borussia Dortmund travel to Shakhtar Donetsk while Manchester United, in the week’s marquee match, visits Real Madrid.

For bosses like United’s Alex Ferguson and Real’s José Mourinho, the decisions will be relatively straight-forward. While both teams host talented teams this weekend (United facing Everton, Real against Sevilla), squad depth makes their compromises easy. Their reserves would be starters for most of their competition.

Other head coaches face more intriguing dilemmas. Take Valencia’s Ernesto Valverde. The former Athletic Club, Espanyol, Olympiacos and Villarreal boss replaced Mauricio Pellegrino at the Mestalla in December. While Los Che have clawed their way back into Champions League contention (only two points behind Málaga for fourth in Spain), a tight race that includes Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad and Levante means there’s little margin of error. Valencia needs to get into next year’s Champions League. Is it worth Valverde resting players Saturday at Celta de Vigo when the team has little chance of winning Champions League regardless?

Jurgen Klopp faces a completely different dynamic. Borussia Dortmund’s not going to defend their title. They’re 12 points back of Bayern Munich in Germany. They’re also likely to safely qualify for next year’s Champions League while having the talent to compete for this one. Hosting mid-table Hamburg ahead of a mid-week trip to Ukraine, Klopp could rotate his squad.

Here’s a quick look at the European weekend. We’ve highlighted the matches with mid-week Champions League clubs (they’re in bold).

English Premier League

Big match: Sunday’s game at Old Trafford gives Everton a chance to steal points. And when I say steal, I mean pick up points where competitors expect them to fall. The late Sunday start guarantees Manchester United will rotate ahead of Wednesday’s match with Real, while Everton won the reserve, season-opening fixture. Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Intriguing: Newcastle has picked up two wins since their latest French invasion. Now it’s Tottenham’s turn to deal with the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Yoann Gouffran, and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Saturday, 7:45 a.m. Eastern.

source: APGerman Bundesliga

Big Match: This match shouldn’t be that close, but when Bayern Munich faces Schalke, it’s going to be Germany’s big game. The Miners have plummeted to sixth place, their mid-December move to replace Huub Stevens with Jens Keller meeting with mixed results. Compounding an already difficult task, Schalke is expected to be without Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Jefferson Farfan, Ibrahim Affelay, Christian Fuchs and Kyriakos Papadopoulos. This may be the weekend’s marquee matchup, but it’s unlikely to be that close. Saturday, 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

Others: Borussia Dortmund vs. Hamburg (Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Eastern).

Spanish Primera Division

Big Match: Málaga’s Champions League success (winning their group) and performances against Barcelona and Real Madrid suggest they have the quality to avoid a battle for Spain’s last Champions League spot, but their stumbles against the rest of La Liga leave them only one point clear of fifth-place Real Betis. Another stumble at Levante, where they have been outscored 6-1 in their last two visits, could see the Andalusians drop out of the top four. Saturday, 2 p.m. Eastern.

Intriguing: The scheduling is more interesting than the matchup. Since La Liga started their Asian-time kickoff last season, we’re used to seeing mildly interesting matchups scheduled for the early Sunday kickoff. This week, Barcelona gets the slot, kicking off at 6:00 a.m. Eastern against 12th place Getafe.

Others: Celta de Vigo vs. Valencia (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. Eastern); Real Madrid vs. Sevilla (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern).

source: Getty ImagesItalian Serie A

Big Match: Lazio has claimed only one point from their last three, leaving second place to a surging Napoli team that’s pulled league-leading Juventus within three. Tomorrow at the Olimpico, Lazio gets what might be their last chance to salvage their faint title hopes. Given recent losses to Genoa and Chievo (and the absence of Miroslav Klose), Lazio looks unlikely to derail the surging Azzurri, even if Napoli haven’t beaten the Eagles in Roma since 2008. Saturday, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Intriguing: In the wake of his infamous “little n—–“ comment, Paolo Berlusconi tried to make peace with Mario Balotelli mid-week. Milan’s visit to Cagliari will be the club’s first match since their VP screwed up. Sunday, 9:00 a.m. Eastern

Others: Juventus vs. Fiorentina (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. Eastern).

French Ligue 1

Big Match: Lyon’s upset loss at Ajaccio last week fueled speculation that resentment lingers from a contentious transfer window that framed leading scorer Bafetimbi Gomis and others as a potential cost-cutting casualties. Now, OL goes into Round 24 trailing PSG by three points. With the Parisians’ Friday win over Bastia, OL can’t hold out the hope that Champions League considerations will help their cause.

They can, however, keep up by adding to Lille’s misery. When LOSC visit Stade Garland, Les Gones will look to extend Lille’s league road winless streak to seven games.

Sergio Aguero charged by FA, could miss Manchester derby

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 02:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Manchester City at Vitality Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sergio Aguero did not get away with it.

In the second half of Manchester City’s 3-1 win against West Ham United on Sunday Aguero appeared to elbow Winston Reid in the face in an off the ball incident.

As soon as that happened, perhaps Jose Mourinho made a call to his friends at the English Football Association…

The English FA believe it was intentional and Man City’s top scorer from last season has been handed a charge which could lead to a retrospective ban.

That is likely to see Aguero, City’s main man up front, miss the Manchester derby against Manchester United on Sept. 10.

Ouch. Couple with a calf injury, not a good few days for Aguero.

Here is the statement in full from the FA as Pep Guardiola has been dealt a huge problem ahead of his first Premier League showdown against arch rival Mourinho.

Sergio Aguero has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.

The Manchester City forward was involved in an incident with West Ham United’s Winston Reid in the 76th minute of the game on Sunday [28 August 2016].

He has until 6pm on Wednesday 31 August to reply.

Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite match officials.

Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence.

For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

10 deals to look out for on Transfer Deadline Day

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Wilfried Bony of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As the seconds tick away, Premier League teams will become more desperate.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

The summer transfer window for PL clubs closes at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday and there seems to be plenty of business still to be done by all 20 teams.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Below is a look at the top 10 players to keep an eye on in the next 24 hours or so, as deals for them to move elsewhere already seem to be in motion.


  1. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal): English midfielder wants to head out on loan. Juventus, Roma are interested, plus several PL clubs. A mercurial talent who just needs to play regularly.
  2. Wilfried Bony (Manchester City): Out of the picture completely at City, Bony could head to West Ham, Stoke or Everton. Powerful striker who needs to regain confidence.
  3. Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon): Leicester have apparently had a huge bid rejected for the bustling Algerian striker, but should up their offer to bag him.
  4. Saido Berahino (West Brom): This guy is always around on Deadline Day and that’s the case again. Stoke City are now the main contenders with Palace signing Remy and Benteke.
  5. Adrien Silva (Sporting Lisbon): Portuguese national team midfielder has said he wants to join Leicester but Sporting aren’t keen on losing him. Has a $50 million release clause.
  6. Marcos Alonso (Fiorentina): Chelsea could be set to seal the signing of the left back. The versatile Spaniard is good on the ball and had previous PL spells with Bolton and Sunderland.
  7. Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool): Told to go out on loan by Jurgen Klopp, it is believed he turned down a move to Stoke. Could the French international arrive at West Brom?
  8. Samir Nasri (Manchester City): Pep Guardiola lambasted Nasri for being overweight during preseason and although he appeared as a sub last weekend, he could be off to Sevilla.
  9. Lamine Kone (Sunderland): Everton and Chelsea are said to be battling it out for center back who had an impressive finish to last season. Powerful center back, worth over $25 million.
  10. James McCarthy (Everton): Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Leicester are interested in McCarthy with Ronald Koeman not seeing the Republic of Ireland midfielder in his plans.

Hull City sign Ryan Mason in club record deal

FBL-ENG-PR-TOTTENHAM-SWANSEA
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hull City have finally got the green-light to sign new players and this one is a biggie.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Ryan Mason, 25, has signed from Tottenham Hotspur in a club-record deal believed to be for a fee of around $17 million. Sunderland had also been in for Mason but he chose to sign for Hull on a three-year deal.

Mason has seen his playing time dwindle at Spurs over the past 12 months and the energetic two-way midfielder has moved to the KCOM Stadium to reignite his career as he enters his prime.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]   

Following in the footsteps of former Tottenham players Michael Dawson, Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone in switching Spurs for Hull, Mason is ecstatic to join the Tigers.

“I’m delighted and excited to be here,” Mason said. “I can’t wait to get started and I see this as a massive opportunity for me.”

Mason will provide a calming influence in midfield as the Spurs academy product is comfortable on the ball and able to time his runs from midfield well when he gets forward. He has one England cap to his name and has experienced Europa League action with Tottenham after joining them as an eight-year-old.

Starting the Premier League season with just 13 fit senior players, caretaker boss Mike Phelan has finally been able to add to his squad and it is the biggest indicator yet that Phelan will be handed the job on a permanent basis when the sale of the club from the Allam family to Chinese investors is ratified in the coming days.

Goalkeeper David Marshall arrived earlier on Tuesday from Cardiff City and it is expected that striker Will Keane will come in from Manchester United, plus others could arrive.

After two wins from their opening three games of the PL season, these signings further lift any gloom which was hanging over the Yorkshire club following a tumultuous summer as manager Steve Bruce walked out and their owners were heavily criticized for not adding reinforcements.

Man United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger admits MLS “an option”

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - JULY 02:  Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany celebrates victory after winning  the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Germany and Italy at Stade Matmut Atlantique on July 2, 2016 in Bordeaux, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Bastian Schweinsteiger has not given up on playing for Manchester United again but the captain of the Germany national team already seems to be looking ahead to the future.

[ VIDEO: Hope Solo loses it ]

Schweinsteiger, 32, only signed for the Red Devils last summer but following Jose Mourinho’s arrival as boss the legendary German midfielder has found himself training with the reserve squad and surplus to requirements.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal?

Speaking ahead of his final game for Germany, a friendly against Finland in Dortmund on Wednesday, Schweinsteiger revealed that although a move to Major League Soccer isn’t an option right now, it will be in the future.

“The transfer window there is already closed. That’s why it’s not possible now,” Schweinsteiger said. “My dream still is to play for Manchester United. If I get a fair chance, I believe in it. I believe in my abilities. Until my suspension it went really well last year, after that the two injuries happened. But America is naturally an option.”

So, Schweinsteiger to MLS in 2017?

It certainly seems to be a possibility, especially if United waive any transfer fee for the German midfielder so they can get his hefty $262,000 weekly salary off their wage bill.

Looking at Schweinsteiger’s options, both Minnesota United and Atlanta United will join MLS in 2017 and could be interested in signing a high-profile Designated Player to ramp up interest about their arrival in North America’s top-flight. Frank Lampard will be out of contract at New York City FC this December, as will Steven Gerrard at LA Galaxy.

If some of the big boys in MLS are looking for a marquee signing who can sell shirts and provide veteran leadership in midfield, Schweinsteiger may well be their man.

Even if Mourinho doesn’t think he can still do it, Schweinsteiger put in some decent displays for Germany as they made the semifinals of EURO 20016 and when he was fit last season at United he certainly didn’t look out of place sometimes the pace of the Premier League caught him out.

Let’s not forget, 18 months ago Schweinsteiger was still a regular for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and played an important role in several runs to the UEFA Champions League semifinal stage.