Manchester United aren't anywhere close to first, yet Moyes retains hopes of the Premier League title

UEFA Champions League recap: Man United, Bayern join Real, PSG as group winners

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Group A: Manchester United (England) 1, Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) 0

Phil Jones’ converted corner kick midway through the first half was all that separated two sides who shared the game’s chances. Shakhtar should have gone up early, yet after 90 minutes, Jones’ goal had sent the Ukrainians to Europa League, the Red Devils through as group winners.

From our recap:

To the rescue has come a less likely figure in Phil Jones, who has finally turned the valve, releasing the enormous pressure that was continuing to build around an atypically wandering season at Manchester United. His 67th minute goal was the difference as Manchester United rediscovered something to smile about, rolling out a win Tuesday over Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League.

So United finish first in its group, a big benefit to a club that now gets to dodge the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona and perhaps some other biggies in the next round of tournament play, the first knockout round.

[MORE: Manchester United edges Shakhtar to stop the bleeding, finish atop Champions League Group A]

Group A: Real Sociedad (Spain) 0, Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) 1

Real Sociedad complete a disappointing return to Champions League with their fifth loss in six games, with the lack of urgency on a 49th minute corner allowing Ömer Toprak to score the game’s only goal, sending them to a 1-0 loss. The victory vaulted Bayer Leverkusen into second place, Sami Hyypia’s team overcoming their 5-0 loss to Manchester United to make the final 16.

Group B: Copenhagen (Denmark ) 0, Real Madrid (Spain) 2

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return from a thigh injury saw the Ballon d’Or finalist score his ninth goal of group stage, a new competition record. In an otherwise meaningless game for the visitors, Real Madrid improved to 16 points in six games and go undefeated into the competition’s knockout round.

[MORE: Cristiano Ronaldo sets record for most UEFA Champions League group stage goals]

source: Reuters

Group B: Galatasaray (Turkey) 0, Juventus (Italy) 0 — Abandoned

Thirty-one minutes, no goals, but a hail storm that redefined our perceptions of Istanbul. The game will pick up in the 32nd minute on Wednesday.

From our post:

Thirty minutes into today’s UEFA Champions League match in Istanbul, players were back in their locker rooms, stars like Didier Drogba, Carlos Tévez, and Wesley Sneijder forced to take a back seat to battalion of anonymous, shovel-laden soldiers. What started as a normal game between two teams contesting a knockout round spot soon put all the weather talk around Saturday’s MLS Cup to shame. Roughly 15 minutes before halftime, a hail storm that created a sheet of ice at the Turk Telecom Arena had rekindled memories of the United States’s snow game versus Costa Rica, only this time the game was stopped.

[MORE: Update: Storm in Istanbul sees Galatasaray-Juventus abandoned in UEFA Champions League]

Group C: Benfica (Portugal) 2, Paris Saint-Germain (France) 1

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva even weren’t in Laurent Blanc’s 18 for PSG’s meaningless match in Lisbon, a status that will make the team’s first loss of the tournament easy to bear. Although the French champions still struck first through Edinson Cavani, they were back on even footing after Lima equalized from the spot just before halftime. In the 58th minute, Nicolas Gaitán scored from five yards out, giving Benfica the lead they’d hold through full time. For the Eagles, it was a must-win game, one that kept pressure on Olympiacos to win in Piraeus to stay second in Group C.

Group C: Olympiacos (Greece) 3, Anderlecht (Belgium) 1

Javier Saviola and Sacha Kljestan swapped goals within six first half minutes of each other, the 1-1 scoreline giving Benfica hope the group’s cellar dwellers could take points in Greece. When Saviola missed an early second half penalty kick, those hopes gained momentum, but the former Benfica forward’s second and a late penalty conversion from fellow Argentine Alejandro Domínguez gave Olympiacos a comfortable win, Anderlecht finishing the match with nine men after two late red cards.

Group D: Bayern Munich (Germany) 2, Manchester City (England) 3

Looking to extend their record Champions League winning streak to 11, Bayern Munich got early goals from Thomas Müller and Mario Götze, building a two-goal lead after 12 minutes. A David Silva score pulled one back for the Citizens before halftime, with Aleksandar Kolarov and James Milner giving Manchester City a record-snapping victory at the Allianz.

From our recap:

Though the 3-2 defeat at the Allianz Arena won’t coast Bayern Group D — FCB’s two-goal win in Manchester giving them the tiebreaker over the Citizens — it was Bayern’s first home loss under Pep Guardiola, the club was without a defeat at home since March’s 2-0 Champions League loss to Arsenal. In all competition, Bayern were unbeaten since their German Super Cup loss to Borussia Dortmund (July 27), today’s loss ending a 27-match undefeated run.

For the Citizens, a team that had already confirmed their knockout round spot, the win does nothing for their position in the competition, but with a short history of pronounced disappointment in this tournament, the result marks City’s biggest win in Champions League. And for a man whose Real Madrid team fell short of glory in Spain at the boots of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, Manuel Pellegrini is sure to savor a victory that quells any notion the Chilean can’t beat his former La Liga adversary.

[MORE: Manchester City comeback ends Bayern Munich’s record run; defending champions still win Group D]

 

Group D: Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 2, CSKA Moscow (Russia) 1

Viktoria’s first points of the competition were enough to push them into Europa League, with Daniel Kolar and Tomas Wágner’s goals after Alan Dzagoev’s dismissal moving the 1-0-5 team into a tie for third. But thanks to their two goals in Russia, Viktoria are through at CSKA’s expense, Leonid Slutsky’s side finishing the match with nine after Pontus Wernbloom’s extra time dismissal. For Pavel Vrba, the future Czech national team coach, the victory sends him out on a high note, the congratulatory celebrations on the Viktoria sideline rejoicing in their coach’s farewell success.

Report: Man United hold talks with Pochettino’s reps

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A report from the Sun newspaper in the UK claims that the representatives of Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino have been approached by Manchester United.

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal to battle for title?

Pochetino, 43, has led Tottenham to second place in the Premier League in just his second season in charge at White Hart Lane and the Argentine coach is seen as one of the brightest young minds in the game. He will likely battle with his good friend Jose Mourinho to take charge of United.

With Louis Van Gaal‘s future at Old Trafford beyond this season still uncertain — he snapped at a journalist when being pushed about his potential exit after the 1-1 draw at Chelsea on Sunday — it seems as though the Red Devils are feeling out the possibility of replacing the veteran Dutch coach at the end of this season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Pochettino arrived in England in January 2013 and took Southampton from a newly-promoted club who were battling relegation to a top-eight team who produced several superb youngsters during his time at St Mary’s. Pochettino has replicated, and perhaps bettered, that success at Spurs with the likes of Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli flourishing under his stewardship and Spurs have a real chance of winning the PL title this campaign as they currently sit five points behind leaders Leicester with 13 games to go.

Having been around Pochettino for a few years now both during his time at Saints and Spurs, he seems like an ambitious and driven character. If they chance to manage United came around, you get the sense it’s something he’d seriously consider. Who wouldn’t want to be THE man who turned around the fortunes of one of the world’s biggest teams and be lauded for returning them to glory?

That said, why would Poch leave Spurs?

He’s nurtured a hugely talented group of young players, the fans love him, he has a long-term contract until 2019 and there’s a bright future for the north London club as a new 60,000 stadium will be built on the White Hart Lane site in the next few years. Although that new stadium would provide Spurs with plenty of extra revenue in the future, Pochettino has urged caution for the upcoming years as he recently claimed a “tough period” would be ahead financially as the new stadium is financed. Talking about finances, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wouldn’t let Pochettino leave without a fight and according to the report he’d likely demand $30 million in compensation for his manager. United may see that as a price worth paying.

Van Gaal, 64, still has a contract through the end of the 2016-17 season but with United currently six points off the top four, it seems increasingly unlikely he will remain in charge after this summer. Ryan Giggs — LVG’s assistant and a legend at United — is too inexperienced in the eyes of many to take charge, while Mourinho continues to be linked with United. After going with David Moyes and Van Gaal since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and neither of the experienced coaches able to return United to the top, maybe hiring a young, hungry manager is the way to go for the Red Devils?

Poch fits the bill.

VIDEO, PHOTOS: Premier League unveils new logo

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The Premier League will have a fresh new look for the 2016-17 season.

[ MORE: North London battle for the title?

Unveiled on Tuesday, a new logo and color scheme has been selected and for the first-time in league history there will be no corporate sponsor of the league.

The change still sees the iconic lion of the league used and it is now more prominent than ever in a simple yet striking design.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

In a statement on the PL’s website Premier League Managing Director, Richard Masters, explained the thought process behind the new look.

“From next season we will move away from title sponsorship and the competition will be known simply as the Premier League, a decision which provided the opportunity to consider how we wanted to present ourselves as an organisation and competition,” Masters said.

Below is a video unveiling the new logo, while you can also see some images of the new color schemes and the different ways the logo will be used.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.