Celtic

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Champions League wrap: Celtic, HJK take decided advantages

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The UEFA Champions League is back (sort of).

Teams that qualified for the qualification stage of the tournament took their next steps on this week with the first legs of the first qualifying round.

FK Sarajevo 1-3 Celtic

Celtic boss Neil Lennon was thrilled with the Bhoys first serious match of a new season.

“We had to fit a few square pegs in round holes because of where we are with the squad,” he said. “I thought [Kristoffer] Ajer was unbelievable at right back. Obviously that’s not a long-term thing.”

Mirko Oremus opened the scoring for the hosts in the 29th minute, but Celtic answered six minutes later through Michael Johnston. Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair finished off the scoring, and the visitors are in fine shape for the second leg in Glasgow.

HJK Helsinki 3-0 HB Toshavn

A 30th minute red card to Faith Friday Obilor wasn’t enough to short-circuit HJK’s chances. Leading 1-0 at the the time on Lassi Lappalainen’s first of two goals, the Finnish side eased into the second leg. Daniel O’Shaughnessy scored the other goal.

Tuesday results

Nomme Kalju 0-1 Shkendija
Suduva 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
Ararat-Armenia 2-1 AIK
Astana 1-0 CFR Cluj
F91 Dudelange 2-2 Valletta
New Saints 2-2 Feronikeli

Wednesday fixtures

Ferencvaros v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Partizani v. Qarabag
Slovan Bratislava v. Sutjeska Niksic
Sheriff Tiraspol v. Saburtalo Tbilisi
Linfield v. Rosenborg
Valur v. Maribor
Dundalk v. Riga FC
BATE Borisov v. Piast Gliwice

LIVE: UCL qualifying rounds begin – Celtic in action

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The first qualifying round of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League kicks off on Tuesday, with Scottish champions Celtic in action.

 [ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

16 games take place across Tuesday and Wednesday, with Neil Lennon’s Celtic heading to Bosnia and Herzegovina to play FK Sarajevo. Celtic are favored, but these early European games are always trick to negotiate.

Some other notable teams in UCL first qualifying round, first leg action on Tuesday include Red Star Belgrade playing FK Suduva, while Welsh side The New Saints play Kosovan side Feronikeli.

Teams still have to get through another three rounds to make the UCL group stage, but Astana, FC Ararat Armenia, FK Shkendija and HJK Helsinki all record first leg victories earlier on Tuesday.

Below is the schedule for Tuesday, while you can click on the link above to follow the action and scores from around Europe.


Tuesday’s UCL first qualifying round, first leg schedule

Astana 1-0 CFR Cluj – Result
FC Ararat Armenia 2-1 AIK – Result
Nomme Kalju 0-1 FK Shkendija – Result
HJK Helsinki 3-0 Havnar Boltfelag – Result

FK Sarajevo v. Celtic
The New Saints v. Feronikeli
FK Suduva v. Red Star Belgrade
F91 Dudelange v. Valletta FC

Transfer Rumors: Arsenal wants defenders, Fernandes odds slashed

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Arsenal is one of the most active Premier League clubs in the current transfer market, if the reports on Tuesday morning are to be believed, as the Gunners look to bolster the back line after conceding 51 goals in the Premier League last season.

According to widespread reports on Tuesday morning, Arsenal is after Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and is hoping to secure a deal worth around $23 million. Both The Guardian and The Telegraph report that Arsenal has already seen a $19 million bid rejected by Celtic and could continue haggling given the club’s high wage bill and tight expenses this summer. However, The Telegraph report states there “is optimism” among the Arsenal negotiation team that the 22-year-old will be moving to The Emirates soon.

Tierney made 20 league appearances for Celtic last season as they won the Scottish Premiership title on their way to a historic “treble-treble” after securing the domestic triple for the third consecutive season. He was a member of the first-choice starting eleven, only seeing his playing time reduced by a hip injury that forced him out for nearly three months through the winter. Otherwise, he racked up over 1,600 league minutes and regained his starting spot after returning from injury in late February.


Another Gunners defensive target has been identified in 27-year-old Italian center-back Armando Izzo. The Italian international, who earned his first and only cap back in March with a substitute appearance against Lichtenstein, currently plays for Torino whom he only joined last summer in a $10 million deal with Genoa. He had a stellar first season with Torino, appearing in all but one league match and completed the full 90 minutes in all but the first and last league games of the campaign, scoring four goals along the way.

Izzo has four years left on the five-year deal he signed last summer, and was asked about speculation on Monday, telling reporters that he is happy at Torino but adding, “Everyone likes to be courted. I don’t like just being called a good player. I’m worth more.”

Most of the reports on Izzo at this point are in the tabloids, with The Mirror saying he could cost around $28 million, a healthy turnaround for Torino after just one season. Everton is also said to be in the hunt and could give Arsenal a run, potentially upping the required bid. Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio has also connected the Gunners to Izzo, saying that Izzo’s agent met with Torino president Urbano Cairo, although di Marzio’s report stated that at this point Cairo is not anticipating a sale, instead hoping to lure Izzo back with an improved contract.


Odds have been slashed on Bruno Fernandes to Liverpool after a string of recent bets, with the Reds now heavy favorites to sign the Portuguese international. Some bookmakers in England have slashed odds to as little as 1/9 with reports that Manchester United are not keen on Sporting CP’s price tag of $89 million.

Still, according to the Liverpool Echo, it’s unlikely that the Reds will be spending that kind of money this summer, with Jurgen Klopp not feeling it necessary to fill that large of gaps in the squad.

Following the 24-year-old’s excellent club season that saw him score 20 goals in 33 league matches, Fernandes then went to join up with the Portuguese national team where he played a significant role in helping the team secure the inaugural Nations League crown.


According to a report by the BBC, Brighton & Hove Albion is close to a move for Genk winger Leandro Tossard. The 24-year-old made 24 league appearances last season, scoring 11 goals and assisting four more. He struggled with hamstring problems that saw him struggle down the stretch of the season, but he scored six goals in the first eight games of the campaign to bolster his numbers.

The report does not give a specific total value of the deal, but does say that the cost of signing Tossard will not eclipse the club record of $21.6 million needed to sign Alireza Jahanbakhsh last summer. The deal will make Tossard Brighton’s second signing of the summer after securing Matt Clarke from Portsmouth.


Chelsea has just a week to decide whether to sign Mateo Kovacic on a permanent deal or send him back to Real Madrid, and there is no indication yet what that decision will be.

Because the 25-year-old is already registered with the club after spending last season on loan, the transfer ban does not affect his ability to sign with the club permanently. With Frank Lampard expected to be named manager within the next 48 hours, a decision on Kovacic is likely to be one of the new boss’s first actions. Kovacic made 32 Premier League appearances under Maurizio Sarri, but with the Italian having departed the club after just one season, it’s unclear how Lampard will view the Croatian.

It does not appear there is a clause in his loan to make the signing permanent, but reports indicate that Real Madrid does not see Kovacic as a first-team player and therefore would be willing to negotiate a deal in the range of $56 million. However, once Kovacic’s loan expires, his registration with the Chelsea squad is nullified and his ability to sign with the Blues disappears as the transfer ban takes effect.


Aaron Wan-Bissaka‘s potential Manchester United deal has dominated the headlines over the past few days, and it seems there’s still work to do on that front.

According to the Evening Standard, the two sides are nearing a deal worth around $76 million, which would be a record transfer value for a British defender.

However, according to BBC reporter Simon Stone, the “talks continue” and no fee has yet to be agreed upon. That idea was corroborated by Press Association reporter Simon Peach who said both sides are motivated to complete a deal before the upcoming start of pre-season but nothing is secured just yet. Peach noted that the massive growth in financial power of the Premier League means that even smaller top-flight clubs in England have “financial muscle” and it’s harder for top clubs to “bully” them than it was even two years ago.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT back on the move in England

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Left backs! Get your left backs here!

We’ll learn a bit more about how much a Premier League club values an American asset in the next couple of weeks.

Everton left back Antonee Robinson spent last season on loan at Wigan Athletic, and the Latics are said to have bid to bring the seven-times capped 21-year-old from Merseyside to Greater Manchester.

Robinson is yet to appear for Everton on a senior level, but has made 60 appearances between Bolton Wanderers and Wigan on loan the past two seasons.

[ MORE: USMNT faces T&T for first time since Couva ]

He was third on Wigan in tackles-per-game and second in interceptions-per-game.

Everton has 25-year-old Lucas Digne as the easy first choice left back following an incredible season at Goodison Park, and coverage from Leighton Baines. Will it be a sale or a Premier League loan for Robinson this season?

Let’s stay with left backs, and look to a team with one of the best in the Premier League. Liverpool have Andy Robertson, but Jurgen Klopp may be ready to pay nearly $58 million to secure depth at the spot.

The name is Junior Firpo, and the Real Betis man has that figure as his release clause. The Dominican Republic 22-year-old has 43 appearances for Betis and has scored five times with seven assists. He’s also played left mid.

Meanwhile, Arsenal is also looking to improve at left back but went a bit low with their opening salvo to Celtic over Bhoys star Kieran Tierney.

Tierney, 22, has 170 appearances at his young age, having scored eight times with 37 assists. Arsenal apparently bid just under $20 million to bring him to the Emirates Stadium.

Consider that Liverpool bought fellow Scottish left back Robertson from Hull City for around $10 million in 2017, and that Robertson captains the Scotland national team while Tierney is not a regular.

The price for players has leapt since that point, and we imagine the deal won’t get done for under $25-30 million if it’s done at all.

Celtic win Scottish Cup to secure unprecedented domestic treble-treble

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Celtic came from behind to top Hearts 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final, completing an unprecedented “treble-treble.” They are the first team in Scottish top flight history to win each of the league title, Scottish Cup, and League Cup in three straight seasons.

After a scoreless first half, Ryan Edwards put Hearts in front in the 52nd minute, pouncing on a messy backheel from Sean Clare and scoring the first goal Celtic had conceded all competition.

That jumpstarted the Glasgow giants, with an Odsonne Edouard double leading the way. His first came from the spot in the 62nd minute, just sneaking his penalty past Zdenek Zlamal for the equalizer before he won it with eight minutes to go. The moment came off a powerful Mikael Lustig header from near the halfway line that sprung Edouard free on goal, and the 21-year-old buried the one-on-one.

The victory gave Celtic its third major domestic trophy of the campaign for the third consecutive season, marking the historic achievement. Earlier in the season they had secured the league title by an eight-point margin and beaten Aberdeen 1-0 in the League Cup final, all despite losing manager Brendan Rodgers midway through the year to Leicester City, with Neil Lennon taking over and leading the finish.

Celtic has now won the Scottish Cup a record 39 times, with 50 league titles and 18 League Cups to go along with it.