Memphis

Photo by Thomas Eisenhuth/Getty Images

Champions League wrap: Barcelona, Napoli hold group leads

Leave a comment

Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan got a necessary win, while several other notable teams had a lot of work on their hands on the way to three points in the UEFA Champions League.

Lionel Messi set another record, Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg put another scare into a big name, and both Lille and RB Leipzig puts difference-making wonder strikes on the board.


[ MORE: Genk 1-4 Liverpool | Ajax 0-1 Chelsea ]


Slavia Prague 1-2 Barcelona

Lionel Messi’s third minute goal didn’t send the Czech hosts running for cover, and Slavia Prague got a leveling goal through Jan Boril. It was deserved, too, with the hosts taking double the shots as their visitors when they made it 1-1. An own goal finished off the scoring in Prague.

Messi’s goal made him the first player to score in 15 Champions League tournaments. He’s good.

Red Bull Salzburg 2-3 Napoli

Jesse Marsch’s men know a bit about comebacks after last month’s memorable match in Liverpool, and Erling Braut Haland scored to make it 1-1 after Dries Mertens gave the favored visitors a lead. Haland answered another Mertens goal but the magic ran out for the hosts after Lorenzo Insigne provided the winner.

Lille 1-1 Valencia

Russian winger Denis Cheryshev looked like he’d see his goal stand up as a winner despite a late Valencia red card, but my goodness this equalizer from Jonathan Ikone:

Inter Milan 2-0 Borussia Dortmund

Make it six goals for Lautaro Martinez in 11 appearances for Inter Milan, who looked well-drilled at home under Antonio Conte. Roman Burki was sensational to keep the score 1-0, saving a penalty amongst several other timely interventions, but BVB couldn’t muster a goal. Antonio Candreva added the consolation marker.

Benfica 2-1 Lyon

Rafa Silva was in the right place to deposit a fourth minute goal, and Benfica rode the lead until Memphis Depay leveled in the 70th minute. Enter Pizzi, who scored with five minutes left to give Benfica a needed win. Last place Benfica is three points back of leaders RB Leipzig.

RB Leipzig 2-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Yaroslav Rakitskiy gave the visitors a halftime lead against the run of play but Konrad Laimer leveled the score line and then — clear the deck — Marcel Sabitzer did this:

Can Man United buy its way back to glory?

Manchester United
2 Comments

By all accounts, Manchester United is having a woeful start to the Premier League season. However, the front office reportedly believes it can solve the crisis at the club with strategic purchases over the next two seasons.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Manchester United is looking to make eight signings spread through the next two summer transfer windows. The report claims they’ve already created a shortlist of targets and one may even be acquired in the upcoming winter transfer window in January. Players like Leicester City’s James Maddison and Ben Chillwell have been rumored to be on Man United’s radar in recent days, as it looks to improve its squad.

[READ: Maddison pulls out of England squad]

There’s no doubt that Man United’s team is in dire straights. From the days of Sir Alex Ferguson where the team had Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and many others, the current squad absolutely pales in comparison.

This summer was supposed to be a massive one for the club after another season outside the top four. And yet, the only major signing was Harry Maguire. Ironically, one of the summer’s first signings for current manager – for how long, who knows? – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Daniel James, has been very good when fit.

While on defense Man United is decent, in the final third, the Red Devils are woeful. With Anthony Martial still out injured and the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this summer, Marcus Rashford looks too under pressure to handle all the responsibility right now. Man United has only scored one goal from open play in the last five games, and it’s not looking like things will improve that much even when Paul Pogba and Martial return from injury.

So it raises the question: Can Man United buy its way out of trouble? The answer, is maybe.

Manchester City spent boatloads of money, and it did end up with a first Premier League-era title in 2012. Only Micah Richards was from the club’s youth system in the squad. The latest smart purchases from Man City has put the club on a path to long-term success.

And yet, it’s not like Man United hasn’t spent a ton of money over the last decade chasing success. Since Ferguson retired, millions were spent on signing so many players, some of whom turned out to be good, but none turned out to be great. There was Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. Then Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, and Angel Di Maria. Then Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Anthony Martial. Soon after it was Pogba and Eric Bailley and don’t forget Henrik Mkhitaryan. How much did Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Sanchez cost Man United?

I could go on even further, but the point is made. Man United has spent tons, and it seems like with no plan.

The only way this new plan works is if they buy smart and buy players who fit well in a system, not just the ones who are shining in other systems.

UCL wrap: Suarez leads Barca comeback; Ajax rocks Valencia

Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League has completed two rounds, and we have some surprise names atop the groups in Europe.

You could say they go from A to Z.

Ajax and Zenit Saint-Petersburg top their groups after two matches, while Borussia Dortmund has managed a tiebreaking lead over Barcelona.

Lille 1-2 Chelsea — RECAP

Liverpool 4-3 Red Bull Salzburg — RECAP | Salah reacts

There’s plenty of time to play, but the UCL showed us some more fun on Wednesday.

Barcelona 2-1 Inter Milan

Inter took an early lead at the Camp Nou, threatening to thrust Barcelona deeper into internal turmoil, but Luis Suarez showed that he’s got plenty in the tank.

The Uruguayan scored twice, the second off a Lionel Messi assist, to offset Lautaro Martinez’s second minute goal and send Barca level on points with Borussia Dortmund.

RB Leipzig 0-2 Lyon

Memphis Depay and Martin Terrier scored with Lyon’s only shots on target, a pretty fortunate win against Bundesliga opposition.

Zenit Saint-Petersburg 3-1 Benfica

Artem Dzyuba and Sardar Azmoun scored, with Zenit also collecting an own goal en route to a three-goal lead. Raul de Tomas scored late, but the damage had bene done and Zenit joined Lyon on four points.

Valencia 0-3 Ajax

Ajax sent a statement in Spain, getting goals from Hakim Ziyech, Quincy Promes, and returning Donny van de Beek to move to 2-0 on the campaign despite selling some top talents this summer. Dutch-American teen Sergino Dest went 90 minutes at right back for the visitors.

Genk 0-0 Napoli

Thirty-one shots produced nothing on the score board, as Genk joined Salzburg in telling the big boys that Group E isn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Slavia Prague 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

The Achraf Hakimi show saw the 20-year-old Moroccon cap off two lightning quick counters to move BVB onto the same footing as Barcelona after two match days.

Dest takes time to decide: USMNT or Netherlands?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A Dutch-American defender not being called up to the U.S. men’s national team squad for their October games is causing quite a stir.

[ MORE: Full USMNT October squad ]

After making his USMNT debut last month Sergino Dest, 18, was not expected to be included in Gregg Berhalter’s squad for their CONCACAF Nations League games against Canada and Cuba this month.

The matches against Canada and Cuba are competitive, so if the Ajax academy product played he would be tied to the USMNT at international level.

[ MORE: Pulisic talks to JPW about Chelsea frustrations

It has been revealed that Dest and Berhalter have spoken at length about the situation and reports suggest that Dest said he would turn down a call-up for the October international window to keep his options open.

“I understand there is going to be a lot of attention surrounding the availability of Sergino in this next camp,” Berhalter said. “I’ve had conversations with Sergino, the conversations were positive, and the content of these conversations is going to remain private.”

The Netherlands are said to have spoken to Dest at length in recent weeks, with head coach Ronald Koeman meeting with him in Amsterdam.

Dest has played for the U.S. throughout youth international level, and his versatility has been key for both the U17 and U20 teams.

He has burst onto the scene this season for Ajax, becoming the starting right back for the Dutch champions.

With the Netherlands ranked 13th in the world and runners up in the UEFA Nations League tournament over the summer, the pull of playing alongside Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt for the foreseeable future may be too good of an opportunity to turn down.

Dest was born in the Netherlands but obviously has a strong affinity to the U.S. so this is not an easy decision. At all.

It is smart for him to take his time, and he isn’t likely to play for the USMNT again until March when their next friendly games roll around.

Sergino Dest may well end up being the ‘one that got away’ and USMNT fans will be muttering his name under their breath in years to come as their lack of depth defensively and in the full back areas is a real issue.

But just like Giuseppe Rossi playing for Italy, or on the flip side Jermaine Jones, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson playing for the USMNT, it is all about where Dest sees the best fit for him.

There’s no getting away from the fact that if he chose to play for the Netherlands it may take him a little longer to become a regular with Denzil Dumfries their starting right back. If he chooses to play for the USMNT he will be a regular for the next decade if his career continues on the current trajectory.

This isn’t an easy decision. But what would you do if you were Dest?

Play for one of the most storied national teams in history who look to be on the cusp of a golden generation with Memphis Depay, de Ligt, van Dijk and Frenkie de Jong all alongside you?

Or take a chance on a team which may well struggle to reach the 2022 World Cup and are probably as far away from being competitive on the world stage as they have been at any point in the last two decades?

If you back yourself to become a world-class center back, you pick the Netherlands.

UEFA Champions League group stage predictions

Photo by VI Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

To have our crew predict it, the UEFA Champions League group stage should prove to be fairly straight-forward.

[ MORE: UCL score predictions, Wk 1 ]

Our three consulted staffers at Pro Soccer Talk have predicted 18 teams for the 16 spots in the group stage, including a healthy three seeded spots for Premier League sides.

GROUP A

Joe Prince-Wright: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Nick Mendola: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Kyle Bonn: Real Madrid, PSG, Galatasaray, Club Brugge

Zinedine Zidane to bring the UCL magic touch back to Spain? One of our three think so, while JPW and Nick both figure Mbappe and Neymar will be too much for the group.

GROUP B

Joe Prince-Wright: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star
Nick Mendola: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star  
Kyle Bonn: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Red Star, Olympiacos

There’s a gulf in class between the top two and bottom two, but be careful with overlooking Olympiacos; The Greek club was very difficult to break down in qualifying.

GROUP C

Joe Prince-Wright: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Nick Mendola: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Kyle Bonn:  Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb

The only team in the world averaging more shots per game than Manchester City this early season is Atalanta. Colombian attackers Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel have combined for six of the side’s seven Serie A goals this season.

GROUP D

Joe Prince-Wright: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow
Nick Mendola: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen
Kyle Bonn: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow

While it’s certainly more complex than Joao Felix against the previous Portuguese generation’s Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid will hope its young wizard has the goods to break down Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juve.

GROUP E

Joe Prince-Wright: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Nick Mendola: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Kyle Bonn: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk

The order of this group isn’t as interesting as the performances, as American eyes will be watching how Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch manages to get on versus two of Europe’s best.

GROUP F

Joe Prince-Wright: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Nick Mendola: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Kyle Bonn: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague

Is Inter Milan’s renaissance for real? Nick and JPW thinks so, while Kyle Bonn thinks Lucien Favre’s BVB will keep humming past the Serie A giants.

GROUP G

Joe Prince-Wright: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Nick Mendola: RB Leipzig, Lyon, Zenit Saint-Petersburg, Benfica
Kyle Bonn: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Anything could happen here, and only Nick believes Timo Werner and RBL can outlast Memphis Depay, Moussa Dembele, and Lyon to win a seeded place in the knockout rounds.

GROUP H

Joe Prince-Wright: Chelsea, Ajax, Lille, Valencia
Nick Mendola: Chelsea, Valencia, Lille, Ajax
Kyle Bonn: Chelsea, Lille, Ajax, Valencia

Massive names with equal-sized questions. In other years, this would look like a group of death, but Lille earned its place via now-sold Nicolas Pepe and Ajax sold a good part of a golden academy generation to Barcelona, Juventus, and others. Chelsea, oddly enough, may be counting its blessings.