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UEFA considers Champions League seeding change; Ferguson uninterested


As we told you last week, UEFA has considered changing its seeding structure to reward teams which win their domestic leagues, but has not yet decided whether to make a move after a “two-day UEFA meeting of top club coaches”.

Currently, the seeding is based off a club’s success in the last five cycles of UEFA Champions League play, something that has benefited clubs like Arsenal and Porto while hurting champions like Manchester City, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

[ RELATED: Champions League groups set ]

The meeting was chaired by  UEFA coaching ambassador Alex Ferguson. The former boss of Manchester United thinks it doesn’t matter where a club is seeded due to the depth of quality across Europe.

From the Associated Press:

“I don’t necessarily think the seeding plays a great part,” said Ferguson, a two-time Champions League winner with Manchester United.

In last week’s draw, Man City was drawn into a group with Bundesliga winner Bayern Munich, and Juventus got Spanish champion Atletico Madrid. PSG’s group includes top-seeded Barcelona.

Still, Ferguson believes the depth of some groups in this season’s draw means there is little difference in quality.

“You take what you get and your performance is the most important thing,” said Ferguson, who led former clubs Aberdeen and Man United to win a combined four European club competitions. “Does it matter if one is the top seed or second seed or third seed?”

The review comes after last week’s UEFA Champions League group draw left several reigning clubs in difficult spots and some lesser performers with easier paths to the knockout rounds.

To be honest, it feels like Ferguson is full of baloney and would be up-in-arms if his club were in the positions of his noisy neighbors; Manchester City is in a group with No.1 seed Bayern Munich, No. 3 CSKA Moscow and No. 4 Roma instead of dodging Bayern altogether by being a No.1 seed.

If the UCL seeding continues to be based on UCL success, it behooves a team to focus on the competition rather than a weekend matchup in league play. For the ‘good’ of UEFA, it makes sense to keep the system in place, but — and a big but — is there any question that Porto and Benfica sitting as No. 1 seeds is a tad unfair, and will perpetuate their standing? Portugal is the fifth-ranked UEFA nation but has two spots in the top 8, while Germany (third) has one team and Italy (fourth) was blanked.

But while Man City faces a tough draw, so does Arsenal. The Gunners are the main non-Portuguese beneficiaries of the current seeding, as they haven’t placed higher than third in the Premier League since 2005 yet continue earning Pot I status.

A change to the seeding process seems like a good idea. What do you think?

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.