UEFA Champions League

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Sarri meets with Ronaldo about center forward role at Juve

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In theory, Maurizio Sarri won’t have to do much work to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to buy into his tactical plan.

“Cristiano, buddy, wanna lead a third league in scoring?”

We’re guessing he’ll sign up.

[ REPORT: De Ligt chooses Juve ]

Sarri reportedly has flown to meet with his new player, hoping to convince him to play as a center forward and take a run at the Serie A Capocannoniere. Ronaldo has played the role sparingly over the year, but operated on the left side for most of 2018-19.

Ronaldo finished five goals shy of the league lead last season playing his most league games since 2015-16. He’s led La Liga in scoring and the Premier League. From Football-Italia:

“Multiple sources including La Stampa, Corriere della Sera, Gazzetta dello Sport and more all state that Sarri and director of sport Fabio Paratici flew out to the Cote d’Azur on Friday for a face-to-face meeting with Ronaldo on his yacht. … He intends to speak to the players and adapt his tactics to fit their characteristics, starting with the MVP Ronaldo.”

The goal besides a good relationship was to convince Ronaldo to score all the goals, more or less.

Of course it’s a little less straight-forward than that. Sarri wants to win a scudetto, sure, but that’s the second target right now at Juve. We’re guessing if most fans would welcome Sarri saying the goal is the UEFA Champions League, and we know Ronaldo loves that competition.

There’s no guarantee CR7 will be able to reach the heights of 30 goals as a 35-year-old when the season ends, nor that he’ll play enough minutes in Serie A to tempt any sort of records, but most would expect him to rival anyone in the league should he play a central role in the attack.

Liverpool’s Klopp reflects more on transfer fee explosion

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp can see now that he was wrong in saying he’d quit football when monster transfer fees become the norm.

He’s hinted the same in the past, and he didn’t quit when Liverpool spent as much money as anyone last year (it was clearly a hyperbolic statement anyway), but Klopp expounded on the new climate via Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Rabiot picks Juventus ]

Klopp says that the transfer budget of Bayern Munich when he was manager of Borussia Dortmund felt massive, but that players like his Virgil Van Dijk are being purchased for the cost of that entire budget less than a decade later.

“Maybe things were lost in translation but my point was, if we reach a point where football is solely about money and not football, then I’m leaving; and I still feel the same way about it.

“Liverpool is an ambitious club and if we didn’t spend the same amount of money as others, we wouldn’t be able to compete. Everybody’s splashing the cash, so we have to do the same.”

The European champion is getting there, approaching the point where he admits that the Reds are able to spend as much as any team not called Real Madrid, Manchester City, or Paris Saint-Germain.

We look forward to that, because it’s one of the last unlikable notions held by one of the best managers in the game. He’s a big boy at one of the big boys, and pretending anything different is silly.

Sarri introduced at Juve: ‘Crowning achievement of a very long career’

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Maurizio Sarri feels like he’s just been named CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

He’s home in Italy, atop his game, and leading the champions into a new season.

“Juventus, the biggest club in Italy at the moment, gave me an opportunity to return to Italy,” he said in his introductory press conference.

“It’s the crowning achievement of a very long career. I have never seen such determination from a club when it came to hiring a coach like me. They showed a great attitude which convinced me.”

[ MORE: VAR will not review GKs on PKs in PL ]

Sarri spent one season at Chelsea, and some say his Europa League title and League Cup Final appearance flattered to deceive.

But his arrival at Stamford Bridge was a stop on a long journey through football. He managed 15 years before reaching Serie B with Pescara, getting Empoli promoted to Serie A in 2014, and gave his new club a scare for two seasons at Napoli.

He was asked what he expects from his time at Juve?

“I expect to wake up each morning and study each possible way of winning the matches. It’s not a mechanism: to win again and again is always harder than winning. Juventus have an obligation to always win straight away. There is a need to have clear ideas over two or three players who can make the difference and put them in an environment to express themselves to the maximum. Then the formation will be dictated by that. It’s been a long journey for me made up of gradual steps. I’m happy to be at the most important team in Italy and this is a further step forward after the experience at Chelsea.”

Can he be the man to push over the top in the UEFA Champions League?

UCL, Europa League first round qualifying draws made

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You thought the 2018-19 season had only just finished? Yep, you were right.

But that doesn’t mean the 2019-20 campaign isn’t just about to begin.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

The UEFA Champions League first round qualifying draw was made on Tuesday, as clubs begin their quest to reach the UCL final in Istanbul, Turkey on May 30, 2020, while the Europa League first qualifying round draw was also made as the UEL final takes place in Gdansk, Poland on May 27, 2020.

Scottish champions Celtic will face FK Sarajevo from Bosnia in the UCL first qualifying round, while in the Europa League Glasgow Rangers will face FC Prishtina of Kosovo or St Joseph’s FC from Gibraltar. Fellow Scottish side Kilmarnock will face Connah’s Quay Nomads of Wales and Aberdeen will play RoPS Rovaniemi of Finland.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ] 

The winners of the preliminary round will compete in the UCL first qualifying round proper, as two semifinals and a final will take place on June 25 and 28 to determine which team from Feronikeli, Lincoln Red Imps, Tre Penne and FC Santa Coloma will advance.

Below is the first round qualifying draw for both competitions in full.

UEFA Champions League first qualifying round draw (tied to be played on 9/10 July and 16/17 July)

Group 1 (seeded sides in bold)

Nomme Kalju (EST) v Shkendija (MKD)
Suduva (LTU) v Crvena zvezda (SRB)
Ararat-Armenia (ARM) v AIK (SWE)
Astana (KAZ) v CFR Cluj (ROU)
Ludogorets (BUL) v Ferencvaros (HUN)

Group 2

Celtic (SCO) v Sarajevo (BIH)
Sheriff Tiraspol (MDA) v Saburtalo (GEO)
F91 Dudelange (LUX) v Valletta (MLT)
Partizani (ALB) v Qarabag (AZE)
Slovan Bratislava (SVK) v Sutjeska (MNE)

Group 3

Linfield (NIR) v Rosenborg (NOR)
Valur Reykjavik (ISL) v Maribor (SVN)
Dundalk (IRL) v Riga (LVA)
The New Saints (WAL) v Winners of the preliminary round
HJK Helsinki (FIN) v HB Torshavn (FRO)
BATE Borisov (BLR) v Piast Gliwice (POL)

UEFA Europa League first qualifying round draw (ties to be played July 11 and 18)

Group 1 (seeded sides in bold)

Malmo (SWE) v Ballymena (NIR)/NSI (FRO)
Connah’s Quay Nomads (WAL) v Kilmarnock (SCO)
Breidablik (ISL) v Vaduz (LIE)
Brann (NOR) v Shamrock Rovers (IRL)
Vitebsk (BLR) v KuPS Kuopio (FIN)

Group 2

Ordabasy Shymkent (KAZ) v Torpedo Kutaisi (GEO)
Sant Julia (AND)/Europa (GIB) v Legia (POL)
Gzira United (MLT) v Hajduk Split (CRO)
Radnicki Nis (SRB) v Flora (EST)
CSKA Sofia (BUL) v Titograd (MNE)

Group 3

Maccabi Haifa (ISR) v Mura (SVN)
Debrecen (HUN) v Kukesi (ALB)
Jeunesse Esch (LUX) v Tobol Kostanay (KAZ)
FCSB (ROU) v Milsami Orhei (MDA)
Cukaricki (SRB) v Banants (ARM)

Group 4

Crusaders (NIR) v B36 (FRO)
Inter Turku (FIN) v Brøndby (DEN)
Prishtina (KOS)/St Joseph’s (GIB) v Rangers (SCO)
Cork (IRL) 
v Progrss Niederkorn (LUX)/Cardiff Metropolitan University (WAL)
Molde (NOR) 
v KR (ISL)

Group 5

Levski Sofia (BUL) v Ruzomberok (SVK)
Akademija Pandev (MKD) v Zrinjski (BIH)
FK Zeta (MNE) v Fehervar (HUN)
Shakhtyor Soligorsk (BLR) 
v Hibernians (MLT)
Neftci (AZE) v Speranta Nisporeni (MDA)

Group 6

Olimpija Ljubljana (SVN) v Rigas FS (LVA)
Budapest Honved (HUN) v Zalgiris Vilnius (LTU)
Radnik Bijeljina (BIH) v Spartak Trnava (SVK)
Fola Esch (LUX) 
v Chikhura Sachkhere (GEO)
Alashkert (ARM) v Makedonija Skopje (MKD)

Group 7

Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v La Fiorita (SMR)/Engordany (AND)
Siroki Brijeg (BIH) v Kairat Almaty (KAZ)
Kauno Zalgiris (LTU) v Apollon Limassol (CYP)
Ventspils (LVA) 
v Teuta (ALB)
Cracovia Krakow (POL) v DAC 1904 Dunajska Streda (SVK)

Group 8

Stjarnan (ISL) v Levadia Tallinn (EST)
Barry Town (WAL)/Cliftonville (NIR) v Haugesund (NOR)
Riteriai (LTU) 
v KI (FRO)/Tre Fiori (SMR)
Dinamo Minsk (BLR) 
v Liepaja (LVA)
Norrkoping (SWE)
v Saint Patrick’s (IRL)
Aberdeen (SCO) v RoPS Rovaniemi (FIN)

Group 9

Domzale (SVN) v Balzan (MLT)
Laci (ALB) v Hapoel Beer-Sheva (ISR)
Buducnost Podgorica (MNE) v Narva Trans (EST)
Sabail (AZE) v U Craiova 1948 (ROU)
Pyunik (ARM) v Shkupi (MKD)
AEK Larnaca (CYP) v Petrocub-Hincesti (MDA)

Would Man City, Liverpool accept role reversal?

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Pep Guardiola chases perfection. Jurgen Klopp is driven by passion and excitement. Neither would admit to wanting anything but triumph in every entered competition.

But if you asked supporters of their clubs, Manchester City and Liverpool, if they’d accept the following bargain, I bet they’d answer yes.

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Knowing that silverware is never guaranteed, even for two of the biggest spending clubs in the Premier League, would City and Liverpool be content with swapping their top accomplishments of this season come June 2020?

Why they’d take the deal

— Man City has gained a stupid 198 points the past two seasons under Pep Guardiola, an almost incomprehensible figure. It has never won the UEFA Champions League, and Guardiola has not past the semifinals since 2011, when he claimed his second European Cup with Barcelona. And if City finished a point behind Liverpool based on 1.1 millimeters of a ball? That’s football.

— Liverpool won the European Cup, its sixth all-time, and finished with 97 points in the league. That figure would have won the Premier League in every year of its existence until last season’s 100-point campaign by City. The Reds, however, won their then-record 18th English top flight title in 1990. Manchester United had seven at that point, and now has 20. Liverpool has not added to its total, with zero top flight trophies during the Premier League era. To be second-best, at best, for 30 years would be a tough pill to swallow.

Why they wouldn’t

— Guardiola came within two VAR decisions against Spurs and two subsequent rounds of an unprecedented quadruple, as City claimed Premier League, the FA Cup, and the League Cup. “Impossible” or not, Guardiola will like his chances of making another run at the quadruple as much as anyone, and City is going to be reinforce center mid, left back, and striker this summer. And they may even improve right back.

— Liverpool prides itself on its European Cup prowess, and has a chance to become the second champion to defend its title since 1979. It also has the opportunity to reach three-straight finals, which only Real Madrid and Juventus have done since Bayern turned the trick in from 1974-76. Klopp was relieved to have beaten Spurs. He’ll want to sink his teeth into the experience of a second go-round.