FIFA hit Chelsea with transfer ban

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FIFA have banned Chelsea from signing new players until the summer of 2020.

The results of a three-year investigation into the signing of players under the age of 18 have led to FIFA imposing the two-window transfer ban on the west London club, while they have also been fined $600,000 along with the English Football Association who have been fined $509,000.

Both Chelsea and the FA have released statements saying that they will appeal the charges by FIFA, while there is the possibility they can push this case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

While the appeal is ongoing, Chelsea’s ban of signing players for two transfer windows will be delayed so they could indeed sign players in the upcoming summer window to prepare themselves for an inevitable ban.

FIFA stated that Chelsea “were found to have breached art. 19 of the Regulations in the case of twenty-nine (29) minor players and to have committed several other infringements relating to registration requirements for players. The club also breached art. 18bis of the Regulations in connection with two agreements it concluded concerning minors and which allowed it to influence other clubs in transfer-related matters.”

In recent cases involving the improper signing of young players Spanish giants Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were handed transfer bans in 2016, while Barcelona were handed a 14-month transfer ban over the signing of young players back in 2014.

FIFA’s investigation into the signing of 92 youth players at Chelsea revealed issues with 29 of the signings, and the investigation itself focused heavily on the registration of Bertrand Traore who signed his first pro deal at the club at the age of 18 in 2013 but wasn’t registered until January 2014. There are also reports that Traore played for Chelsea’s youth teams when he was just 16 years old.

It is illegal under rules for clubs to sign foreign players unless their family move for non-soccer reasons, the club is within 100km of the players’ home or if the clubs they are transferring to are both in the EU and the player is aged 16-18. In the latter case there are several guidelines which must be followed including housing, education and living fees.

Chelsea’s statement finished by saying that they have “acted in accordance with the relevant regulations and will shortly be submitting its appeal to FIFA.”

“Chelsea FC has today received a decision from the FIFA Disciplinary Committee concerning alleged breaches of the FIFA Regulations that relate to the international transfer of players under the age of 18. The decision imposes a transfer ban of two consecutive registration periods and a fine of 600k Swiss francs. Chelsea FC categorically refutes the findings of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and will therefore be appealing the decision.”

The FA said they “intend to appeal against the decision” and “continue to work with FIFA and Chelsea in a constructive manner to address the issues which are raised by this case.”

The governing body of English soccer added that it has “raised concerns” about some of FIFA’s disciplinary processes.

This situation is far from ideal for Chelsea and their manager Maurizio Sarri, especially as the team is struggling on the pitch in recent weeks and clearly needs a massive overhaul in terms of new players.

Chelsea will still be able to sell players during the transfer ban, but can they really afford to let Eden Hazard leave in the summer if they’re unable to replace him? We now know why the Blues were eager to sign Christian Pulisic in January, and possibly why Gonzalo Higuain’s loan move from Juventus is for 18 months…

Looking at the bigger picture: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich hasn’t watched a game this season amid ongoing visa issues with the UK government and reports suggest he may sell the club after becoming disinterested as he also put a stop to plans to rebuild Stamford Bridge. This issue will likely upset Abramovich further and any potential new owner will be operating with limitations if this transfer ban is enforced.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.

Lampard, Azpilicueta back Barkley after penalty drama

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Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta claims that Willian was encouraging Ross Barkley in the run-up to the latter’s ill-fated penalty attempt in a 1-0 loss to Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

“Ross  is one of the best penalty takers in the team and one who takes them. He had the confidence and he was unlucky hitting the bar. They were encouraging him to have the confidence to score. There was high expectation. They were trying to get him into the best condition. Hopefully next time it goes in.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things ]

That is genuinely amusing from cheeky and likable “Dave.” Let’s take a look at the encouragement, shall we?

Barkley is literally, repeatedly motioning and even saying, “Nah, I got this. I’ll be fine.”

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Barkley was the penalty taker for the game, and doesn’t see the drama in it.

“Ross is a penalty taker and is when he starts games. He took it and missed it. It is a great story to say there is contention between players. If he scores it is not a story. But he took it and missed. That is it. The disappointment to all of us is that we didn’t get chance to win the game. There is no issue in the dressing room.”

Chelsea was the superior team over 90 minutes, but that can mean so little in a tournament where winning at home can be vital to the chances of advancement.