Celtic’s dominance under Rodgers reaching new levels

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
3 Comments

They’re unbeaten in 29 games, winning 27 of them. They hold a 25-point lead. They’re about to clinch a sixth straight league title this weekend and it’s still not even April.

Celtic’s players have taken their supremacy of Scottish soccer to a new level this season, putting the storied club from Glasgow in the conversation when discussing the most dominant sides in Europe’s domestic leagues in the 21st century.

Celtic will be the Scottish champion again as early as Friday if its closest rival, Aberdeen, loses to Dundee. If Aberdeen wins, Celtic will take an unassailable lead in the Scottish Premiership by beating Hearts on Sunday.

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

There’s been a sense of inevitability about the whole thing since the turn of the year, by which time Celtic had jumped into a 19-point lead. It’s long stopped being called a “title race” in Scotland, more a procession.

Meanwhile, the team coached by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers won the Scottish League Cup in late November and is also through to the semifinals of the Scottish Cup.

With Celtic’s unbeaten run across three domestic competitions currently at 36 games, this might be the most dominant season by any club in the history of Scotland’s top flight.

A glance around Europe shows a few other examples of title monopolies.

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) and BATE Borisov (Belarus) are currently on a streak of 11 domestic leagues titles in a row since 2006. Olympiakos is on course for a seventh straight Greek league title, which would be its 12th in the last 13 years, and Sheriff Tiraspol has won the Moldovan league every year except one since 2000. Basel leads the Swiss league by 17 points and is about to seal a ninth title in 10 years.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

In these lesser-profile leagues, teams can dominate because of the cash they receive from participating in UEFA competitions, which often allow them to outspend their domestic rivals.

Last week, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, attending a conference in Lisbon, spoke of the threats to European soccer in the coming years, including the “decrease in competitive balance within European club competitions and secondary effects affecting domestic competitions.”

There are examples of lopsided championships in Europe’s big leagues, too: Juventus is closing on an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title in Italy and on course for a third straight Serie A-Coppa Italia double; Bayern Munich is on course for a fifth straight Bundesliga title in Germany, which included winning one championship after 27 matches of a 34-round league; Lyon won the French league title seven times in succession from 2002; and Ajax won four straight titles in the Netherlands from 2011-14.

Scotland is widely regarded as a backwater in European soccer these days, mainly because of the uncompetitive nature of its league and an increasing lack of exposure and coverage outside Britain.

What didn’t help was Rangers – Celtic’s fierce crosstown rival and winner of a record 54 league titles – getting demoted to the fourth tier of the Scottish game in 2012 because of financial irregularities.

This is Rangers’ first season back in the Premiership, but it hasn’t been able to challenge Celtic and currently sits 33 points behind in third place. There used to be constant talk of the two “Old Firm” clubs crossing the border to join the English league but that has cooled.

“I want to win (the league) by 50 points,” Rodgers, who is in his first season at Celtic, said last month.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

In any other league, that would be a preposterous comment, but perhaps no longer in Scotland.

The season started so embarrassingly for Celtic and Rodgers, a 1-0 loss to Gibraltarian part-timer Lincoln Red Imps in a Champions League qualifier in July described by some pundits as the club’s worst defeat in its 130-year history.

Now, they are about to lift the league title with eight matches to spare and potentially in the month of March for the second time in four years.

“We want to continue winning, continue the run that we’re on,” Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon said, “and make sure we do that for as long as we can.”

AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and James Ellingworth in Moscow, and Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey in Berlin, Daniella Matar in Milan, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

Steve Douglas is at http://www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

Australia beats Tunisia to boost last 16 hopes

0 Comments

Australia secured a huge victory against Tunisia in Group D to keep their hopes of reaching the last 16 alive.

It was the first win at a World Cup since 2010 for the Socceroos.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

Mitchell Duke’s fine header in the first half was enough to get them past a stodgy Tunisia, as the African nation were spurred on by their huge number of fans in the stadium but they couldn’t find a way past Matt Ryan in Australia’s goal.

[ MORE: Group C standings, schedule, results ]

The victory sets up a huge game against Denmark in Australia’s Group D finale, as a win against the Danes will see them reach the last 16.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub 

As for Tunisia, they now face reigning World Cup champions France in their final group stage game knowing they have to win and hope for a miracle.


How to watch Tunisia vs Australia live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 5am ET, Saturday (November 26)
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Tunisia found it tough sledding to create scoring chances against Denmark, as they came out in a very conservative 3-4-2-1 formation. Midfielder Aissa Laidouni starred in central midfield, though the bulk of his contributions were of the hard-nosed, ball-winning variety. Tunisia will likely find themselves with more possession and the opportunity to take the game to Australia on Saturday, as opposed to playing more of the game against Denmark inside their own half.

Australia were a goal ahead and comfortably the better side after the opening 15 or 20 minutes of their clash with France, before the defending world champions settled in and began to play through Australia’s midfield and defense with ease. Possession was the best form of defense for Les Bleus, who allowed just four shots in total from Australia. To that point, Craig Goodwin’s 9th-minute goal was the Socceroos’ lone shot on target.


Tunisia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 30
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified via CAF playoffs (Beat Mali)
Coach: Jalel Kadri
Key players: Ferjani Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni

Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Follow @AndyEdMLS

How can USA qualify for the World Cup last 16?

0 Comments

“How can the USA qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup and make it out of the group stage?”

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock

That is the question you will hear time and time again ahead of their Group B finale against Iran on Tuesday, November 29 at 2pm ET.

[ MORE: Group B schedule, rankings, table ]

As the information below tells you, the equation is now very simple for Gregg Berhalter’s young side.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

After their draws against Wales and England to kick off Group B play, it all goes down to the final 90 minutes against Iran to see whether or not they can reach the last 16 of the World Cup in Qatar.


Group B table heading into final group stage game

1. England – 4 points (+4 GD)
2. Iran – 3 points (-2)
3. USA – 2 points (0 GD)
4. Wales – 1 point (-2 GD)


Group B remaining schedule

Tuesday, November 29: Wales vs England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
Tuesday November 29: Iran vs USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


How the USA can qualify for the last 16

  • Win against Iran

How the USA will not qualify for the last 16

  • Draw against Iran
  • Lose against Iran

Netherlands vs Qatar: How to watch live, stream link, team news

0 Comments

The Netherlands face hosts Qatar in their Group A finale knowing a win could guarantee them top spot.

STREAM LIVE NETHERLANDS v QATAR

Louis van Gaal’s side are level on points (4) and goal difference (+2) with Ecuador and if they better Ecuador’s result against Senegal in their Group A finale, they will go through as winners of the group. However, the Dutch were not impressive against Ecuador and were lucky to get a 1-1 draw. It will be intriguing to see if Memphis Depay is fit enough to start as LVG looks to build up his fitness ahead of the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Group A – Table, rankings, results, schedule ]

As for Qatar, well, they are just playing for pride as the hosts were knocked out of the tournament after just two group stage games. They are only the second host nation in World Cup history to be knocked out of the group stage and they have looked totally out of their depth in defeats to both Ecuador and Senegal. They did score their first-ever World Cup goal through Mohammed Muntari but overall it has been a very disappointing tournament for Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Netherlands vs Qatar.


How to watch Netherlands vs Qatar live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Netherlands know a big win will basically guarantee them top spot and that means they will probably face one of the USA or Iran in the last 16 rather than playing England. Louis van Gaal may not really care about who they play in the knockout rounds but it is clear that Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong are the heartbeat of this team. They need Memphis to be fit enough to start and Cody Gakpo has done his best to fill in with two goals in two games, including a beauty against Ecuador.

For Qatar it is now all about pride and trying to cause a big shock in their final World Cup game. Manager Felix Sanchez has worked so hard to get this team together as a unit but they have made big mistakes at key moments and they only really went for it in the second half against Senegal and they looked much better doing that. They have nothing to lose here so expect to see Qatar go for it from the start.


Netherlands quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong

Qatar quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 49
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 0
How they qualified: As hosts
Coach: Felix Sanchez
Key players: Abdelkarim Hassan, Almoez Ali, Hassan Al-Haydos


Ecuador vs Senegal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

0 Comments

This should be a beauty of a game in Group A as both Ecuador and Senegal still have a chance of winning the group.

STREAM LIVE ECUADOR v SENEGAL

Ecuador is on four points after their impressive draw against the Netherlands and La Tri, led by the three goals of Enner Valencia, have been one of the stories of the tournament. The South American minnows have impressed mightily and a win here could see them get a more favorable path in the knockout rounds. A point is enough to guarantee them a spot in the last 16, however their captain and talisman Valencia was carried off against the Netherlands. It seems like he may be fit for the Group A finale though, which would be a huge boost.

[ MORE: Group A – Table, rankings, results, schedule ]

As for Senegal, they beat Qatar easily last time out and after their spirited display against the Netherlands, they are growing into this tournament sans Sadio Mane. Aliou Cisse knows his side need to win to guarantee their route into the last 16 and the African champions are certainly capable of matching Ecuador. If they can stay solid at the back, they have plenty of talented attackers who can punish and mistake from Ecuador.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Ecuador vs Senegal.


How to watch Ecuador vs Senegal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Enner Valencia has obviously been the main man for Ecuador with his three goals so far but Gonzalo Plata and Michael Estrada have been excellent alongside him in attack. Brighton duo Moises Caicedo and Pervis Estupinan have been superb too, while Angelo Preciado has been electric down the right flank.

Senegal’s defense has looked a bit shaky, even with Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly back there. In midfield Idrissa Gana Gueye and Nampalys Mendy were much better against Qatar and Ismaila Sarr continues to do his best to fill the huge void left by Sadio Mane.


Ecuador quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 44
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 3
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (4th place)
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Key players: Enner Valencia, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan

Senegal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 18
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Beat Egypt in CAF playoff
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Key players: Idrissa Gana Gueye, Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly