Showdown with fans leads to chaos in Germany

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BERLIN — The German soccer federation’s power struggle with fans escalated dramatically over the weekend when Bundesliga games were interrupted by protests with the threat of being called off.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule  ] 

Fans at several games unfurled banners with criticism of the federation and crude massages for Hoffenheim backer Dietmar Hopp, leading to stadium announcements against the abuse and referees leading teams off the field.

Bayern Munich’s game at Hoffenheim on Saturday ended with the teams passing the ball back and forth in midfield for the last 13 minutes, while Hopp and Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge applauded from the sidelines and the Hoffenheim fans applauded from the stands.

Bayern was already leading 6-0 but no more soccer was played after some of the traveling support had insulted Hopp.

“It’s the hateful face of soccer,” said Rummenigge, one among a host of club officials condemning the abuse.

There were hold-ups, too, at Dortmund’s game against Freiburg, where both sets of supporters displayed banners criticizing the federation, and again on Sunday when Union Berlin fans unfurled banners first accusing the federation of taking “two steps back,” then insulting Hopp while displaying his face behind a cross-hairs. There were similar insults from Borussia Mönchengladbach fans the previous weekend.

Referees were instructed to use FIFA’s three-step procedure for dealing with the abuse, a measure originally developed for combating racism. It almost led to the abandonment of the games in Berlin and Hoffenheim after referees went to Step 2.

The protests were sparked by the federation’s decision on Feb. 21 to ban all Dortmund fans from Hoffenheim’s stadium for two years because of their repeated chants against Hopp.

The 79-year-old billionaire has been a target since Hoffenheim was promoted to the Bundesliga in 2008. Previously in the fifth division, Hoffenheim’s ascent through the leagues was made possible thanks to steep investment from its former youth player, a co-founder of software giant SAP.

Rival fans resent Hoffenheim’s ascent at the expense of another team without a billionaire backer. They also object to Hopp’s opposition to the league’s 50-plus-1 rule, which protects clubs from takeovers by a majority stakeholder. Hopp was granted an exception in 2015 because of his long support of the club.

Hoffenheim has hit back against the abuse. At least 33 Dortmund fans were identified and banned from its stadium in 2018 because of abuse leveled at Hopp the previous season. A club employee also used a high-frequency sound system to drown out Dortmund chants in 2011.

The latest league-wide protests are about more than just Hopp, however. Fans have pointedly accused the federation of reneging on in its 2017 promise to end the “collective punishment” for supporters for misdemeanors after making its sanction against every Dortmund fan.

There are other gripes, too. Monday night games have been scrapped from next season because of repeated fan protests. There has been an ongoing struggle over pyrotechnics at games, banned by the federation, but considered a vital part of game-day experience by many supporters.

Bayern fans have been critical about their own club’s sponsorship links to Qatar, and have campaigned, like others, against issues like homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism and racism.

The Bayern fans who insulted Hopp at Hoffenheim on Saturday issued a statement the following day.

“It is hardly surprising that the (federation) allows itself be influenced by a patron and breaks its promises to refrain from collective penalties,” fan group Südkurve München wrote on their website. “What is significantly more frightening is the accomplishment of Hopp’s 10-year-old demand for criticism of himself and ‘his’ club to be equated with racial discrimination and punished accordingly. On one hand this leads to the trivialization and ridicule of actual racial abuse and violence, and on the other it illustrates the blatant failure of the federation after such incidents.”

The federation’s strong response to the insults against Hopp has left it open to accusations of hypocrisy. Hertha Berlin player Jordan Torunarigha was subjected to racist abuse during a German Cup game at Schalke on Feb. 4, but the monkey chants went unnoticed by the referee and the defender was sent off in extra time for a reaction after getting increasingly upset.

Others pointed to the federation’s treatment of billionaire Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies, who faced no sanction from the league after making racist comments about Africans at a public meeting last August.

Schalke said Sunday that its team would immediately leave the field if there were any defamatory chants made or banners shown during Bayern’s German Cup visit on Tuesday, or Hoffenheim’s visit in the league on Saturday.

BAG, an organization representing fans, criticized the federation for not using the same three-point measures for “any incident of racism, sexism or the like,” and it warned of a “dead end” in the relationship between the federation and fans.

Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper referred to Rummenigge’s “hateful face of soccer” comment, saying that it would be more appropriate when applied to workers building World Cup stadiums and dying in Qatar, or to soccer officials hiding away millions in taxes.

On a weekend when Bayern won 6-0 and opened a three-point lead in the Bundesliga, no one was talking about the soccer played.

Reports: Tottenham Hotspur to hire Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou as next manager

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Multiple reports say that Ange Postecoglou will be leaving Celtic to become the next manager of Tottenham Hotspur.

Celtic had reportedly granted permission for Spurs to speak with their trophy-collecting boss, and things apparently progressed quickly as the 57-year-old looks set to oversee the club’s big rebuild.

[ MORE: Recalling Zlatan’s “unicorn” career ]

Spurs suffered through an inconsistent 2022-23 season with Antonio Conte at the helm, followed by Cristian Stellini and Ryan Mason in interim stints.

Tottenham will not have European football this season and is at risk of losing legendary center forward Harry Kane. The club has eight players including Kane going into the final year of their contracts, including Ivan Perisic, Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, and Hugo Lloris.

Spurs finished eighth last season, 15 points off the top four despite spending much of the season inside of it. The club’s finished fourth just once in the past four seasons despite qualifying for the Champions League the previous four seasons.

Ironically, Celtic is being linked with pursuit of Brendan Rodgers and Jesse Marsch if Postecoglou departs this week.

Who is Ange Postecoglou?

Postecoglou, 57, was born in Greece and moved to Australia at a young age, starring for South Melbourne as a player and earning for caps for the Socceroos.

He is coming off a domestic treble with Celtic and won five of six trophies available to him in his two seasons with the Bhoys.

At Celtic, Postecoglou played with a 4-3-3 for much of the first half of his tenure but played a lot of this campaign in a 4-2-3-1.

Postecoglou won trophies as a manager with South Melbourne, Brisbane Roar, and Yokohama F. Marinos, claiming the Asian Cup during his stint as Australia national team coach.

He said he expects tricky early times wherever he goes.

“Wherever I’ve been, the initial part is always rocky, because my ideas are… well they’re not extreme to me but I can see how they can be seen as extreme from the outside. It takes a while. Usually it can take me six months, it can take me a year to really bed them in, depending on how many opportunities I have to change the playing squad and the staff and all those kinds of things.”

Five players to watch in the Premier League’s summer transfer window

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There’s going to be turnover in the Premier League this offseason, and it seems likely the big boys will again be looking to the top young talents in other leagues to get in when the getting is good.

There will be big price tags attached to some players this summer, but in the case of the players below we may be talking about players just a window away from having unattainably high price tags for most clubs.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Arsenal | Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United ] 

Most of these names have danced through ProSoccerTalk‘s transfer rumor mill at least once during the past season or two, and in one case have been on the radar for a half-decade or so.

Here’s a look at five players who may well find their way to the Premier League in the very near future, and could move somewhere this summer.

Xavi Simons, PSV Eindhoven

At times the teen hype around Xavi Simons coming out of Barcelona’s academy was akin to the recruitment of Martin Odegaard out of Norway so many years ago. But Simons couldn’t break through at Barca and his move to Paris Saint-Germain didn’t take off as expected. So Simons, who just turned 20 in April, landed at PSV Eindhoven. All he did was lead the Eredivisie in goals. PSG has a buyback clause but Simons would have to want to go there… and there are plenty of rumored suitors for the playmaker. Simons chipped in eight assists and was Fotmob’s highest-rated Eredivisie player.

Possible fits: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool

Jurrien Timber, Ajax

Still 21 for a couple more weeks, Timber got Mancunian tongues wagging when he attended the FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Manchester City. The star center back played under United boss Erik ten Hag at Ajax and now has 15 caps for the Netherlands senior team. He has a ridiculous passing and ball progression profile for his position, and has showed enough attacking acumen to get any team excited about him.

Possible fits: Manchester United, Manchester City

Randal Kolo Muani, Eintracht Frankfurt

The 24-year-old has acknowledged dreams of playing in the Premier League following a blockbuster first season at Eintracht, where he scored 23 goals with 17 assists amongst all competitions. Moving to a new country did not slow him at all after his time at Nantes, and he was linked with a number of PL sides even before he admitted his interest in the league.

Possible fits: Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United

Sepe Elye Wahi, Montpellier

The 20-year-old nearly scored as many goals as his age in his third season with Montpellier’s first team, and has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, and Chelsea amongst others. Wahi is still very raw when it comes to passing the ball but part of his statistical deficiencies could have to do with his club’s relative struggles. A eager presser, his best traits are finishing and that’s the stat that drives the bus for him.

Possible fits: Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal

Gabriel Veiga, Celta Vigo

Here’s another playmaker linked with Arsenal, but you can see why he could fit in Mikel Arteta’s system. His 11 goals were 13th in La Liga this season and his four assists means he had a goal contribution on 15 of Celta’s 43 league goals. An eager dribbler, he delivered 80 shot creating actions this season and ranked in the 99th percentile for midfielders when it came to non-penalty goals.

Possible fits: Newcastle, Arsenal, Man CIty

How many times has a team won the treble? Man City goes for history

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There’s been a lot of treble talk these days, talk that’s found a new level of buzz since Manchester City moved within one win of joining the club.

It’s an elite club, by the way, of teams that have won their domestic league, top domestic cup, and the European Cup.

Nine times in history has a team won the treble, and only once has it been done by a Premier League club.

[ MORE: Recalling Zlatan’s “unicorn” career ]

That’s why Man City’s defeat of Manchester United earlier this month in the FA Cup Final rings so true for the Citizens; The blue side of Manchester would join the red side as treble supporters, as United won the treble in 1998-99.

Man City goes for the third jewel of its treble crown on Saturday versus Inter Milan in Istanbul when it kicks off the UEFA Champions League Final.

For more treble trivia, head below the jump.

How many times has the treble been won?

Bayern Munich and Barcelona have each done it twice, with Bayern doing it in 2012-13 and 2019-20 and Barca pulling it off in 2008-09 and 2014-15.

Celtic was the first to win a treble, doing it in 1966-67, while Ajax was the next in 1971-72.

PSV Eindhoven then won it in 1987-88 before Man United made it happen 11 years later. Inter Milan is the only Italian team to pull it off, winning in 2009-10.

(UEFA.com)

Manchester City vs Inter Milan: How to watch Champions League Final, odds, predictions

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Manchester City is on the chase for a historic treble and standing in the way is Inter Milan, one of Europe’s precious few clubs to claim such an honor.

[ LIVE: Manchester City vs Inter Milan ]

The Premier League winners three times running have an FA Cup under their belt after beating Manchester United on June 3 and the final jewel in their treble crown awaits with a win in Istanbul on June 10.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Pep Guardiola could lead a second club to a treble after he did it with Barcelona in 2008-09, and they would give heated rivals United domestic company on the treble stage right down the road.

Guardiola says it’s now okay to talk about the treble. We agree, and we’ve laid out why the achievement is so special after the jump.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester City vs Inter Milan.


How to watch Manchester City vs Inter Milan live, stream link and start time

Dates: 3pm ET June 10, 2023
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: TUDN, Paramount+


What Premier League clubs have won the treble?

Manchester United won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in 1998-99.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils are the lone Premier League club to win it.

That’s it. For now.


How many times has the treble been won?

Nine times in history has a team won its domestic league, top domestic cup, and the European Cup.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona have each done it twice, with Bayern doing it in 2012-13 and 2019-20 and Barca pulling it off in 2008-09 and 2014-15.

Celtic was the first to win a treble, doing it in 1966-67, while Ajax was the next in 1971-72.

PSV Eindhoven then won it in 1987-88 before Man United made it happen 11 years later. Inter Milan is the only Italian team to pull it off, winning in 2009-10.

(UEFA.com)


Champions League Final odds (Betting odds provided by our partner, BetMGM )

BetMGM is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on BetMGM for the first time after clicking our links. 

Man City (-250) vs Inter Milan (+625) | Draw over 120 mins (+380)

Over 2.5 goals (-160). Under 2.5 goals (+110)


Champions League Final predictions

Joe Prince-Wright: Man City 2-1 Inter Milan
Andy Edwards: Man City 3-1 Inter Milan
Nick Mendola: Man City 2-0 Inter Milan


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: None

Inter Milan team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Joaquin Correa. OUT: Dalbert.