Arturo Vidal hat trick gives Juventus first win of Champions League, vaults team second in Group B

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It may have taken five matches, but after an Arturo Vidal hat trick at Juventus Stadium, the two-time defending Serie A champions have their first win of this year’s UEFA Champions League. With penalty kicks on each side of half time followed by a 63rd minute header, the Chilean international helped his team to a 3-1 win over visiting FC Copenhagen, his third, fourth, and fifth goals of the tournament vaulting Juve into second in Group B.

If they can protect that position in their final group stage match on Dec. 10, Juventus will be into the competition’s round of 16 despite sitting last through four rounds. That position meant last year’s quarterfinalists would be unable to advance if they lost to Wednesday to Copenhagen. Instead, in a controlling performance that saw the Old Lady outshoot their guests 20-7, Juventus leapt into second place, Galatasaray’s loss in Spain to a 10-man Real Madrid further helping the Italians’ round of 16 hopes.

Closing their group stage with a trip to Istanbul, Juventus need only a draw at Turk Telekom Arena on Dec. 10 to advance to the knockout round. Copenhagen, however, can not advance after tonight’s loss, their best case scenario being third place and a Europa League spot.

Though the teams shared possession for much of the first half, the bulk of the first period’s action took place in Copenhagen’s half, action that started in earnest with a sixth minute shot from Paul Pogba. From there, the opportunities FCK saw on the ball usually culminated with a speculative play into Juve’s end, plans which usually ended with the bianconeri on the ball. Over the first 45 minutes, Copenhagen never put a shot on Gianluigi Buffon despite holding 48 percent of possession.

Juventus wasn’t not so ineffectual. Stretching the Copenhagen defense by playing flank-to-flank, the hosts eventually broke through when a ball lobbed for Pogba in the left of the penalty area fell on the arm of FCK right back Lars Jacobsen. Referee Jonas Eriksson was given little choice but to point to the spot, where a blast into the left of goal from Vidal beat Johan Wiland for the Chilean’s third goal of the tournament.

Pogba nearly added a second in the 41st minute, his blast from just outside the left post going into the crown. Four minutes later, Juventus was walking into the dressing room up 1-0, a controlling half leaving the team 45 minutes from climbing out of Group B’s cellar.

Eleven minutes into the second half, however, Juventus were back where they started, their inability to defend a long throw leaving it 1-1. After an innocuous start to the half, a throw in deep down Copenhagen’s right presented trouble after a poor clearance from Vidal. When two Juve defenders failed to win an ensuing aerial battle with Ragnar Sigurdsson, Olaf Mellberg was allowed to clean up. His right-footed volley from near the penalty spot beat Buffon to level the score.

That even-footing lasted all of five minutes, with Mellberg doing his best to give the goal back at the other end. His two-armed takedown of Fernando Llorente inside Copenhagen’s penalty area drew another whistle from Eriksson, with Vidal scorching the left-side netting to give Juventus their second converted penalty of the night.

Within two minutes, the hat trick was complete, Vidal pushing his tournament total to five goals after a cross from Pogba found him unmarked attacking the right (far) post. His arcing header into the left of goal gave left Wiland flat-footed, a Copenhagen goalkeeper racing back across goal unable to stop his momentum in time to prevent Juve’s third goal.

Up two, Juventus clicked it into neutral, only giving up one more shot on target after Mellberg’s goal. Finally putting in the type of performance most expected in their first four games, Juve claimed the Group B place they were supposed to occupy all along. Though they’ve won once in five matches, that may be all they need to advance to the round of 16. A draw at Galatasaray in two weeks will clinch second place and put them into the knockout round.


Juventus: 29′ Arturo Vidal (p.k.), 61′ Vidal (p.k.), 63′ Vidal

Copenhagen: 56′ Olof Mellberg


Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Martín Caceres; Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Simone Padoin (69′ Claudio Marchisio), Arturo Vidal (83′ Angelo Obinze Ogbonna), Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Kwadwo Asamoah; Carlos Tévez (81′ Mirko Vucinic), Fernando Llorente

Unused substitutes:  Marco Storari, Federico Peluso, Fabio Quagliarella, Paolo De Ceglie

Copenhagen: Johan Wiland; Lars Jacobsen, Olof Mellberg, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Pierre Bengtsson; Christian Bolaños (61′ Thomas Kristensen), Claudemir, Thomas Delaney (76′ Danny Amankwaa); Rurik Gisiason, Nicolai Jørgensen, Youssef Toutouh (81′ Marvin Pourie)

Unused subs: Christoffer Remmer, Jakob Busk Jensen, Georg Margreitter, César Santin

$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.

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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.

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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.