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Europa League: Chelsea rolls, Lazio tops Marseille, Milan falls

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The Europa League returned on Thursday for Group Stage matchday 3 and moves were made around the groups from top to bottom.

There were two Premier League teams in play as Arsenal and Chelsea both triumphed in their contests. The Gunners had the tougher task on the road in Portugal against Sporting CP, and came away with all three points thanks to Danny Welbeck‘s 77th minute goal. Arsenal was the better side throughout the match and was rewarded 13 minutes from time on the break to earn its 11th straight win across all competitions.

[ FULL RECAP: Arsenal tops Sporting CP 1-0 ]

Chelsea, meanwhile, also picked up an important win, defeating BATE Borisov 3-1 behind a hat-trick from Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Making just his second start of the season – both in Europa League play – the 22-year-old was sensational, scoring his first two goals both inside the opening 10 minutes, and capping things off in the second half. His first was hit with authority just two minutes into the game, showing up unmarked in the box near the penalty spot and crashing Davide Zappacosta‘s cross into the far corner.

For the second, he poked in a corner in the 8th minute, beating Olivier Giroud to the ball to put a wry smile on his teammate’s face. Just before the hour mark, Loftus-Cheek completed the milestone with the best of the three, a low whipped shot tucked inside the far post.

The win moves Chelsea further clear at the top of the table with nine points, six clear of anyone else as all three other teams are level with three points each.

French side Marseille slumped to a 3-1 defeat to Serie A contenders Lazio as the visitors at the Orange Velodrome made the most of their chances, while the hosts did not. Lazio got off to a great start as Brazilian defender Wallace rose highest to meet a corner and head it into the back of the net just 10 minutes into the match. In the second half, Lazio doubled its lead on the hour mark with Felipe Cacideo there to finish off an absolutely delicious through-ball by Ciro Immobile. Dimitri Payet brought Marseille back with just four minutes to go with a wonderful free-kick, but it wasn’t enough as Adam Marusic finalized the scoreline with an outstanding finish.

Sevilla obliterated Turkish side Akhisar Belediyespor 6-0 on goals from five different finishers plus an own-goal to round things off.

AC Milan fell at home to Real Betis thanks to Giovani Lo Celso’s incredible left-footed curler for a 2-1 victory. The Argentinian is on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, and has been a wonderful addition to the Betis midfield. The Spanish side now leads Group F after its second victory in three matches.

The bevy of incredible goals continued as Ukranian side Dynamo Kiev went to France and topped Stade Rennais 2-1. Tomasz Kedziora ripped a rocket to give Kiev the early lead, and while Rennais would equalize just before halftime, the visitors would earn all three points in the 89th minute despite being reduced to 10 men just minutes before.

German side RB Leipzig topped Brendan Rodgers and Celtic 2-0 in Leipzig. Both goals were scored just four minutes apart soon after the half-hour mark. Celtic somehow allowed a cross to skip by 3 defenders and find Matheus Cunha with space to turn and shoot, opening the scoring in the 31st minute. Four minutes later, Bruma pounced on a loose ball in the box to double the lead and finish things off.

Bayer Leverkusen’s struggles continued as they fell 3-2 on the road at FC Zurich. The German side has just one win since September 26, coming over Cypriot club AEK Larnaca. Karim Belrabi scored a four-minute brace out of halftime to give his side the lead, but they collapsed and let Stephen Odey leak behind the defense on 78th minute breakaway for the winner.

Full results

Chelsea 3-1 BATE Borisov
Sporting CP 0-1 Arsenal
Marseille 1-3 Lazio
Sevilla 6-0 Akhisar Belediyespor
Stade Rennais 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Villareal 5-0 Rapid Vienna
RB Leipzig 2-0 Celtic
FC Zurich 3-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Anderlecht 2-2 Fenerbahce
Rangers 0-0 Spartak Moscow
Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 Apollon Limassol
Besiktas 2-4 Racing Genk
F91 Dudelange 0-2 Olympiakos
Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 Bordeaux
FC Spartak Trnava 1-2 Dinamo Zagreb
FK Qarabag 0-1 Vorskla
FC Salzburg 3-0 Rosenborg
FC Copenhagen 0-1 Slavia Prague
AEK Larnaca 1-1 Ludogorets Razgrad
Sarpsborg FK 1-1 Malmo FF
PAOK Salonika 0-2 Vidi

FIFA propose salary cap, transfer fee talks

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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed talks with leagues across the globe about potentially implementing a salary cap and limits on transfer fees as the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The leader of soccer’s world-governing body released a lengthy video statement Saturday, in which he also asked league associations to work together to find the best solutions for the club and international calendar moving forward.

Last week he said FIFA wanted a ‘common sense’ approach to players who are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and that players showing messages of support should be ‘applauded and not punished’ despite FIFA’s previously strict rules around players sharing political, religious or personal messages during games.

FIFA are working on a financial package which they hope to discuss with members and finalize in their next council meeting later this month but recent talks with associations across the globe have suggested a salary cap or transfer fees limit could work.

Here is what the FIFA chief had to say specifically when it comes to soccer adapting to the changing financial environment.

“On the financial and governance aspects, I also heard some interesting proposals on a wide range of topics,” Infantino said. “From salary caps to transfer-fee caps or other taxation mechanisms, to the possible obligation for governing bodies, competition organisers and clubs to build reserves or to contribute to a reserve fund which can be of assistance in hours of need such as now.

“I personally advocate for clearer and stricter financial regulations, imposing full transparency and good governance principles, and not only limiting this to the transfer system, but to the entire football ecosystem. FIFA is doing already a lot of work on this area, even if we face some strong vested interests who fight against our plea for a better global governance in our sport.

“Dear friends, we will need your full support and commitment to move to the next level of good governance in football globally. I think that these and other measures, projects and ideas should be discussed at all levels. I know that this is something that will spark intense debate, but debate is healthy, and we should speak about it all together – as we stand together during this difficult period.”

Quite how a salary cap or a limit on transfer fees would work remain to be seen but given the huge financial burden places on clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, it is a very plausible solution to help stop clubs from going out of business.

With governing bodies such as UEFA placing strict financial fair play rules on clubs to stop them from spending beyond their means, FIFA doing something similar would be possible.

Would clubs, leagues and associations sign up for these new rules? In the short-term, probably. Long-term, it would be tough. Nobody knows how long sports, and society, will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and even if a vaccine is found and fans can return to stadiums and things go back to relative normality, the financial implications of the past four to five months is likely to be felt for years to come.

The salary cap system will not work for every league or even every region but as we’ve seen in Major League Soccer, it can bring stability and certain leagues need that across the globe.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that there were zero positive results out of 1,195 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday June 4 and Friday June 5.

The last three rounds of testing has now seen one positive result as Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the individual that tested positive earlier week was one of their players or staff.

With the sixth round of testing now completed in the Premier League, a total of 6,274 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 13 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full on the latest result:


The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 4 June and Friday 5 June, 1,195 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.
Round 4: 28-29 May – 1,130 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 5: 1-2 June – 1,197 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 6: 4-5 June – 1,195 tested, with zero testing positive


Watford season restart preview

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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they are at ahead of the final nine weeks of the season as Watford are up next.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Focusing on Nigel Pearson’s Watford, they have battled back from an awful first half of the season (which included having three different managers) to drag themselves out of the relegation zone as things stand. However, there is plenty of hard work ahead for the Hornets as they try to preserve their Premier League status.

[ MORE: Every PL season restart preview ] 

Let’s take a closer look at all things Watford when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Watford were rock bottom and looked doomed heading into December but the turnaround since Nigel Pearson arrived has been remarkable. They won once in their opening 17 Premier League games of the season as first Javi Gracia then Quique Sanchez Flores were sacked, and Nigel Pearson arrived to bring organization and defensive stability. He has done more than that as home wins over Man United, Aston Villa, Wolves and Liverpool has breathed new life into their season. Now, Watford are still only out of the relegation zone on goal difference (one goal, to be exact) and if Aston Villa win their game in-hand they are back in the bottom three. That said, any Watford fan would have bitten your hand off in December had you offered them this scenario heading into the final nine games of the season. Their home form should see them over the line but there are plenty of tetchy games coming up between now and late July for Watford. If Troy Deeney can return to training and action, that will be a big boost, but losing Gerard Deulofeu to a serious knee injury just before the suspension was a cruel blow as he’d been the catalyst to turn their season around.


Tactical analysis: There’s no doubt Watford have the talent to be further up the table, just as it showed last season when they were battling in the top half for most of the campaign (before their famed second half of the season slump hit) and reached the FA Cup final. Putting players in the right positions is key and Abdoulaye Doucure has been vital to their turnaround in form. His surging runs from midfield were not impacting play enough earlier this season but Pearson has moved him into almost a No.10 role and he’s flourished. With Etienne Capoue and Will Hughes in deeper central midfield roles behind Doucoure, they have found the right balance in the engine room. The French midfielder causes havoc and has defenses dropping off, which allows the wingers and forwards around him to find space. Defensively, Ben Foster has been great all season in goal and Pearson is very good in setting up his teams to be tough to break down in two solid blocks and then lethal on the counter. Ismaila Sarr has settled down in his first season in the Premier League (Liverpool know all about that) and he will have a big say in their battle against the drop as he will cut in from the right flank. Watford are now sturdy and if Andre Gray can hold the ball up in Deeney’s absence, Sarr and Doucoure will give him plenty of support in attack.


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Foster —–

— Feminia — Cathcart — Kabasele — Masina —

—- Capoue —- Hughes —- 

— Sarr — Doucoure — Pereyra —

—– Deeney —–


Remaining schedule:
Home: Leicester, Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Man City
Away: Burnley, Chelsea, West Ham, Arsenal

Predicted finish: They don’t have the easiest run-in but given the fact they’ve beaten Man United and Liverpool, we know this Watford side under Pearson has a shock up their sleeve. Wins against relegation rivals Norwich and West Ham will be key and they will likely need two more wins from their other seven games to have a chance. That is doable and I think with Bournemouth and Aston Villa having a very tough run-in, Watford will just stay up. Just. No matter what happens, Pearson has done a fine job to organize them and he is a master at orchestrating great escapes against relegation.

Dortmund beat Hertha on day of Bundesliga protests (video)

Dortmund Black Lives Matter protest
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Borussia Dortmund beat Hertha Berlin 1-0 in a hard-fought encounter at the Westfalenstadion, as Saturday saw Black Lives Matter protests and messages of support take place across the Bundesliga in Germany.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule

Dortmund and Hertha led the protests, as players and staff from both teams knelt as one before kick off to show support for the movement sweeping across the USA, Europe and now the world.

After Bayern Munich’s players wore armbands which read ‘Black Lives Matter’ and had warm-up shirts which called for an end to racism, while Dortmund had warm-up shirts on which read ‘No Justice, No Peace’ among other messages of support after widespread protests in the USA.

As for the action once the game started at Dortmund, Jadon Sancho (who last weekend paid tribute to George Floyd) went close on several occasions throughout but a battling and in-form Hertha came close to taking a shock lead in the second half but Alexander Esswein dragged his shot inches wide.

Moments later Dortmund finally broke through as Sancho clipped the ball into Julian Brandt who nodded down for Emre Can to calmly slot home and seal all three points.

The victory means Dortmund are steady in second place but are seven points behind leaders Bayern Munich with four games remaining. Hertha lost for the first time since the restart but remain well in the hunt for Europa League qualification.

Below are videos of the protests from both clubs, plus the game-winner for Can which just about keeps Dortmund in the title race.