Category Archives: European Football

Champions League, Europa League draw

Manchester City will face Juventus or Lyon in the Champions League quarter-finals if they knock out Real Madrid in their delayed last-16 second-leg tie when the competition resumes in early August. Pep Guardiola’s side, who will learn the fate of their appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA club competitions for Financial Fair Play rule breaches on Monday, hold a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Madrid back in February.

Chelsea, the only other remaining Premier League club left in Europe’s top-tier competition, trail Bayern Munich 3-0 ahead of the return leg in Germany, with the winners drawn to meet either Napoli or Barcelona.

RB Leipzig, who defeated Tottenham to reach the last eight of the Champions League for the first time, will meet Atletico Madrid while Atalanta, playing in the Champions League for the first time, have drawn French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

On Thursday, UEFA announced the remaining last-16 second-leg ties in the Champions League will be single-leg fixtures and are set to take place in Lisbon, Portugal at either Sporting’s Estadio Jose Alvalade or Benfica’s Estadio da Luz between August 12-23.

Quarter and Semi-final draw in full
  • Real Madrid or Manchester City (1-2) vs Lyon or Juventus (1-0)
  • Winners to play Napoli or Barcelona (1-1) vs Chelsea or Bayern (0-3)
  • Atalanta vs PSG
  • RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid

Meanwhile Manchester United will play Copenhagen or Istanbul Basaksehir in the Europa League quarter-finals if they overcome Austrian side LASK.United are in a strong position to reach the next stage of the competition as they hold a 5-0 first-leg lead over LASK with the second game still to be played.

Wolverhampton Wanderers will face Sevilla or Roma if they progress in their tie against Olympiakos, which finished 1-1 in the first leg in Greece. The winners of those two quarter-final ties will then meet in the semi-final, meaning an all-Premier League contest in the final four could take place but unlike last season no all-Premier League final is possible.

A game against Inter Milan or Getafe awaits Rangers, but they must overcome a 3-1 deficit against Bayer Leverkusen with the second leg to come in Germany.

 

The race for europe

As the Premier League Table shows the race for European Football next season has heated up, It seemed before the restart that Chelsea and Leicester City were pretty secure in the Top 4 but their form and the impressive way in which Manchester United in particular have restarted have tightened it up. United have Won all but one of their Matches , Leicester have only won one which was their last outing, leaving United only 2 points behind Chelsea and 3 Behind Leicester. Wolves suffered a damaging defeat to Arsenal on Saturday which sees them 3 points of a Champions League place.

We asses who is best placed to qualify based on the remaining fixtures and current form.

Leicester have what looks like a tricky run in starting with a trip to Arsenal, who are in the race for at least a Europa League place. Then they face a Bournemouth side with everything to play for followed by games against another two sides with european qualification hopes in Sheffield United and Totenham before finishing against Manchester United in what could be a pivotal match.

Chelsea have play Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Norwich, Liverpool and Wolves. They should be confident of picking up enough points for Champions League Next season.

Manchester United are away at relegation battlers Aston Villa, before hosting Southampton and travelling away to Crystal Palace before finishing with West Ham (H) and Leicester (A).

Wolves start their run in away at fellow european contenders Sheffield United, Then Everton at home and Burnley Away who haven’t ruled themselves out of Europa League contention. Their final two matches are at home to Crystal Palace and away Chelsea.

As it stands with a Top 5 finish enough to qualify for the Champions League I’d predict the current top 5 staying as they are with Wolves having just to much ground to make up.

We now turn our focus to Europa League qualification with Wolves almost certain to at least take one spot Arsenal, Sheffield United, Burnley, Totenham are the main contenders for the remaining two spots.

Arsenal have a key next 3 matches as they face Leicester, Totenham and Liverpool before a double header against relegation threatened Aston Villa and Watford.

Sheffield United had a poor restart until a 3-1 win against Totenham, this run has pulled them out of Champions League Contention however Europa League is still likely on their first season back in the premier league. Although their run could prove problematic as they play Wolves, Chelsea then Leicester before Everton and Southampton.

Burnley are in contention following a good restart and they face a West Ham who are improving in their battle to stay up and champions Liverpool in next 2 games. Before playing Wolves, Norwich and Brighton.

There is a key match in the race tonight as Totenham play Everton with the winner in a good position. After this match Spurs play Bournemouth, Arsenal, Newcastle, Leicester and Crystal Palace. whilst Everton play Southampton, Wolves, Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Bournemouth.

Moroccan Right Back Achraf Hakimi Signs for Inter Milan

Italian giants Inter Milan have secured the signature of highly rated 21-year old defender Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid.

Hakimi, who made 17 appearances for Los Blancos after rising through their youth ranks, has penned a five year deal with Antonio Conte’s side, who currently sit third in Serie A.

Dani Carvajal currently occupies the right-back spot at Los Blancos so Hakimi was unwilling to take a back seat after an impressive loan spell in the Bundesliga. This caused the Real Madrid youth product to request a move away from the Bernabeu.

Subsequently, Inter paid €40 million (£36 million) with €5 million add ons for the CAF Young Player of the Year winner. He was pictured in Milan for his medical on Tuesday, and confirmed the move on his official Instagram account this evening.

Real Madrid also released a statement on the departure of Hakimi saying:

“The club want to thank Achraf for all these years of dedication, professionalism and exemplary behaviour since he arrived at our academy in 2006 and wish him luck in this new stage of his career.”

Hakimi has spent the past two seasons on loan in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, where he played 70 games, scoring 12 goals and striking up a potent partnership with Jadon Sancho on the right flank.

He put in some particularly impressive performances in the Champions League, providing a hat-trick of assists against Atletico Madrid last season, before scoring braces against both Slavia Prague and his new employers Inter in this year’s group stages.

Lucian Favre tended to use Hakimi as a right wing-back in a 3-4-2-1 formation, given his ability to attack at pace and deliver pin-point crosses. He is also defensively, very sound, adept at playing long balls which open up opposition defences.

It is likely Conte will utilising the Moroccan in a similar role, given his reputation for setting teams up to play with a three at the back and having creative wing-backs as attacking outlets.

Hakimi is equally capable of playing as a winger, having featured there during his days in Real Madrid’s academy, whilst he can also slot in at left back.

At just 21 years of age and with over 100 senior appearances to his name, Hakimi is certainly a very exciting signing for Inter as they look to challenge Juventus.

The Nerazzurri have not won the league title since 2010 and acquiring a new superstar in Hakimi will certainly make them a formidable opponent in Serie A next season.

Written by Lauren McCann and Jonathan Abraham

League of Ireland Given Green Light to Resume On 31st July

The FAI have announced that League of Ireland is set to return on 31st July after a vote by clubs this week.

The 2020 League of Ireland season had been suspended after just five games as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, with Shamrock Rovers sitting top having won all their games to date, three points ahead of last year’s winners Dundalk.

Sligo Rovers are bottom of the table, having failed to pick up any points in their first five games, while Cabinteely are the current leaders of the First Division.

All teams will play 18 games, including those which have already taken place, a condensed version of the 36 game season in the Premier Division, with 27 games taking place in the First Division.

Promotion and relegation are still in place, including play offs, after clubs chose this out of the four options presented to them from the National League Executive Committee, as the best format to continue the season.

There will be automatic promotion and relegation whilst the ninth placed team in the Premier Division will face the winner of the playoffs (comprised of the second, third fourth and fifth placed teams) from the First Division, the first time this has been introduced, after it was proposed ahead of the start of the current campaign.

The sticking point surrounding the restart of the league was largely the relegation proposition, with many clubs unhappy at the prospect of two teams being relegated in a reduced 18 game season.

The Premier Clubs Alliance yesterday wrote to the FAI on behalf of the majority of the clubs in the Premier Division to express their dismay at the promotion and relegation scenario in the current option taken to restart the season.

They believe the National League Executive Committee, who made the controversial call, was ill advised and called for an immediate investigation into their decision from the FAI.

Waterford and Sligo, were two of the clubs to publicly criticise the proposal, with Sligo releasing a statement which reads:

“This format was of particular disappointment to the club and is something we sternly object to. We believe it is grossly unfair, unjust and do not see the matter as concluded.”

Fixtures for the return are still to be announced and it is not yet clear whether spectators will be allowed in the stadium.

The government have said that outdoor gatherings of up to 500 people will be permitted in the Republic of Ireland from the 20th July, which could open the door to a limited number of fans being allowed to attend games.

Many clubs have been training since the start of June, in staggered groups. In accordance with FAI guidelines, they can schedule friendly matches from the 11th July, 10 days before the proposed restart.

In a statement, FAI Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn said:

“It’s good that we can now start to look towards a return date and also that we have clarity on what the fixture list will look like and the plan for the rest of the season.”

The FAI also declared that they are committed to playing out the 2020 FAI Cup, albeit in a slightly different format.

Quinn explained:

“What we’ve discussed at this point is that the eight quarter-finalists will complete the FAI Cup after the SSE Airtricity League season has ended, and they will be rewarded for getting to that point, to help them financially for the remaining Cup matches and the longer season.”

Are Real Madrid now La Liga favourites?

Due to Liverpool’s Premier League dominance this season, many fans have cast an eye over European football in the search of a title race. It looked like a fantastic one was forming in Germany, with Bayern Munich stumbling through the campaign and all of Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach showing impressive form.

Unfortunately, the appointment of Hansi Flick by the Bavarians turned out to be a stroke of genius, as they put together an incredible run only losing twice in the Bundesliga between 9th November and the end of season. The 1-0 win over Dortmund after the season’s restart all-but-killed the title race with six games to go.

Serie A was also shaping up very nicely, with Inter Milan and Lazio giving Maurizio Sarri’s ailing Juventus side a run for their money. Juve have since improved slightly but that tile race is very much still on. It’s Juve’s to lose, however, as they’re now four points ahead of Lazio with 10 games to go and eight points ahead of Inter.

The closest major title race now appears to be in La Liga. Unfortunately, it’s only a two-horse race and it’s between two of the biggest teams in the world. In a similar style to Bayern, Real Madrid started the season horrendously but now appear to have found some impressive form.

They sit two points ahead of Barcelona having played the same amount of games. Los Blancos have won their last five La Liga fixtures and put themselves in a great position to win their first title since 2016/17. It would also serve to keep Barcelona at arms-length in the fight to have the most La Liga titles in the history. If Zinedine Zidane’s men can deliver the title this season, they’ll have 34 titles in comparison to Barcelona’s 26.

In terms of the run-in, Barcelona have a very tough couple of games coming up. They’re home to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night and then have an away trip to sixth place Villarreal. After that, however, the fixture list looks more desirable. They have the derby vs bottom-side Espanyol at the Camp Nou, followed by a trip to 14th place Real Valladolid. Next up is a home game vs Osasuna who sit in 11th and they round off the campaign away at 16th placed Alaves.

Real probably have the toughest fixture list out the two sides but not by a clear margin. They have three games that could be very difficult. The first is at home to fifth placed Getafe. That game is followed by a trip to San Mames to play Athletic Bilbao. A more appealing home match against Alaves is followed by the visit of Villarreal to the Santiago Bernabeu. They finish the season away at Leganes.

Barcelona have made a stuttering restart to the season, with draws against Sevilla and Celta Vigo allowing Real to claim top spot. Quique Setien’s inability to get the best out of Antione Griezmann is starting to cause fractions at the club. As well as this, the recent swap deal involving Arthur and Miralem Pjanic now means that one of Barca’s key midfielders is likely disgruntled at being forced out the club that he had no initial interest in leaving.

Beyond this title race, Barca seem to be a club in turmoil. Their recent transfer dealings have been questionable to say the least. Their wage bill is full of wasted talent that it will be hard to offload in a Covid-19 effected transfer market. Lionel Messi seems to look more unhappy game by game and the majority of the first choice eleven are heading well into their mid-30’s. It’s this ageing squad factor that makes the Arthur and Pjanic swap deal even more unusual. Arthur is 23, and Pjanic is 29.

Less and less players seem to be graduating from La Masia to any great effect in the first team, with Ansu Fati the current exception. Just in the past few days it’s been announced that promising academy full backs, Marc Cucurella and Marc Jurado, will be leaving the club.

Real Madrid seem to be riding the crest of a Karim Benzema’s inspired wave right now. The French forward has come into his own as the club’s main man since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. The return of Marcos Asensio from a lengthy injury spell has given them a new attacking option, and the youthful Vinicius Junior is starting to fulfill his considerable potential.

If Barcelona were to deliver a third successive title to Catalonia, there’s a very real chance that it would merely paper over some very big cracks at the club. Setien hasn’t settled in as expected, and the squad is in need of a major overhaul.

A title for Real on the other hand may be the springboard for another era of dominance. While their squad still has some players the wrong side of 30, it looks in better shape than their fierce rivals.