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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.

 

Should ex-pros help out VAR officiating?

VAR,  not for the first time this season, once again appeared in the spot light  following more controversy surrounding no less than three different incidents this week.

Incorrect penalty decisions were made by the video assistant referee in all three of Thursday’s Premier League games.

Tottenham should have had a penalty when Joshua King clearly shoved Harry Kane in the back, in their goalless draw with Bournemouth.

Bruno Fernandes won a spot kick, which should not have been given against Aston Villa.

James Ward-Prowse hit the bar after being awarded a disputed penalty against Everton.

With so many talking points raised about VAR, there has been a suggestion by former footballer Tim Cahill, than an ex-player should be involved to work alongside the VAR officials at Stockley Park.

Going forward, it would appear to make sense that somebody who has played the game professionally, and knows how players react in circumstances during a game, would know more than a referee, who in most cases would never have played the game before.

The only downside to this in my opinion would be would the VAR officials listen to what that person would have to say, take on board and put into practice.

Overall, on debatable decisions I am sure they would like some impact from the ex pro, but I fear that the final say on the decision would be down to the VAR official.

I am still unconvinced that they would generally be swayed by expert advice from somebody who has played and understands the game more.

It hurts me to say that I genuinely believe quite a few referees don’t know the game of football. It is not just about knowing the laws of football; it is also about knowing the game.

To simplify and eradicate even more controversy going forward, surely the on field official should be allowed to go and check the pitch side monitor, and then make his own decision.

All too often the man in the middle never goes ahead and puts this into practice. It is the VAR crew who in turn make their own decision, therefore undermining the person who is supposed to be referring the game.

My own solution to this mess would be simple really.

When an incident should be reviewed, let VAR tell the on field official how they see it.

The referee should then go straight to the pitch side monitor to make up his own mind and then decide what decision to go with.

The referee who is officiating the actual game must be the sole person in charge of events on and off the field, in my opinion.

Currently, it is a case of somebody many miles away making decisions that really should be made closer to home.

Orlando City score late-winner against Inter Miami on MLS return

It had been exactly four months since the last MLS game, when LAFC and the Philadelphia Union battled it out for a 3-3 draw. This season was supposed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the league but it turned out to be a disaster courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the league’s first match in 122 days, Orlando City were able to beat their in-state rivals, Inter Miami, 2-1. This was the first MLS match between two teams from Florida since May 26, 2001, when the Miami Fusion annihilated the Tampa Bay Mutiny 4-0 in Tampa.

The first half for both clubs was rather scrappy but it gave a chance to shake off the rust after not being able to play a competitive match since March. It was The Lions, however, that seemed to look sharper throughout the opening 45 minutes.

Two minutes after the start of the second half, Victor Ulloa delivered a brilliant cross to Juan Agudelo, who was able to find the back of the net. 

 

However, things took a turn for the worse for The Herons as they lost one of their defender’s in a scary moment. 

Miami’s Andrés Reyes collided with Orlando’s Dom Dwyer, a former youth player for Norwich City, Staines Town, and King’s Lynn, in the 51st-minute. This caused the Colombian international to have shortness of breath and had to leave the match on a stretcher.

After the match resumed, Orlando City were able to level the score at 1-1 in the 70th-minute, when Nani crossed the ball to Chris Mueller, who was able to score despite the ball touching goalkeeper Luis Robles’ hands.

 

With 10 minutes of extra-time added on due to Reyes’ injury, The Lions were able to take advantage.  Nani, who has won several trophies with Sporting CP, Manchester United, and the Portuguese national team, was able to score in the seventh minute of stoppage time to seal the victory for the hosts. 

 

Although the circumstances are not ideal with the games being played with in front of an empty field at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, fans can be excited to have soccer back in North America. In fact, the MLS has the privilege to be the first men’s pro sports league to return.

See full report on the NWSL return below:

https://247-football.com/2020/06/27/north-carolina-courage-defeat-portland-thorns-in-opening-match-of-nwsl-challenge-cup/

Aussie International signs for Arsenal Women

Arsenal Women have signed Australian defender Steph Catley from Melbourne Victory.

This past week the North London side have also signed Swiss midfielder Malin Gut.

In regards the Australian defender, however, the 26-year-old full back, has also played for the Portland Thorns, OL Reign and Orlando Pride in North America.

Catley, who has 82 caps for the Matildas told Sky Sports News she had her heart set on joining Arsenal after experiencing women’s football in Australia and the USA:

“I feel like I have experienced everything I can in the American League and now I want to challenge myself at one of the best clubs in the World.”

“If you look at all of the English clubs, they are all making big signings. Some of the best female players in the world are looking to come here.”

The Australian ultimately decided on joining Arsenal Women due to the manager Joe Montemurro and recent acquisition Caitlin Foord, who played a big part in convincing Catley to relocate to London.

She has also worked with Montemurro at Melbourne, where she made 51 appearances in five seasons, scoring seven goals.

The defender had a season at Portland Thorns FC, where she made 17 appearances, before returning back to Melbourne on loan for a further season.

In December 2015, Portland traded Catley to Orlando Pride in exchange for goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

Catley signed two other loan agreements with Melbourne City for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, where she captained the side to two Grand Final Championship wins.

A low point of her career happened prior to the 2018-19 season where she underwent knee surgery. She recuperated, and went on to play seven games for City.

Her international career has seen her feature for the Matildas during the 2016 Rio Olympics and last year was rewarded with her performances by being named vice captain in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Said Benrahma- The Algerian whose taken the Championship by Storm

Said Benrahma is the name on every Championship fan’s lips this season as a series of sparkling displays have highlighted just how talented the 24 year old is.

A quick search of his name on YouTube and you’ll find some of the finest highlight reels in football, including an ingenious double nutmeg on Middlesbrough’s Lewis Wimg this term.

He is so good at sliding the ball through a player’s legs that Brentford B coach Sam Saunders recently told the Guardian:

“He could nutmeg a mermaid.”

Yet, Benrahma is so much more than just a tricky winger.

He has been the Bees creative force this season, forming an impressive attacking trio alongside Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins (who have been christened Brentford’s BMW) netting fifteen goals and providing six assists in the league.

Routinely deployed on the left wing, Benrahma loves to cut inside on his right foot and deliver a cross or have a shot on goal. He is one of the most technically gifted players in the division, with his dribbling often leaving defenders in knots.

His contribution to Brentford’s promotion push since the restart has underlined his importance to the Bees, scoring five and assisting one as Thomas Frank’s side have won all of their games since the break to sit just two points behind second place West Brom.

Three of those strikes came in the weekend’s game against Wigan, with the winger clinically dispatching the relegation threatened side with relative ease. His first was a well timed volley, the second an inch perfect cross come shot after he had tormented Byrne and the third a well placed shot into the far corner giving Marshall in goal, no chance.

Manager Thomas Frank was full of praise for the winger’s display, stating in his post match press conference:

“I think in general he has had a good season so far, but he has absolutely hit the ground running after this coronavirus break.

“He has added extra to his game, such as arriving in the box, and these last four games he has been getting better and better,  with his passing and his finishing.

“I have to praise him for his work ethic. He worked extremely hard. He has been good, he needs to keep it up.”

A Benrahma inspired Brentford then came from behind against Charlton at Griffin Park to continue their march towards promotion with a 2-1 win. Benrahma won and coolly converted a penalty to equalise before the Bees scored a second to pick up all three points.

He caused problems for Charlton all evening as he occupied a more central role, picking the ball up in between the lines and playing neat interchanges with Watkins.

His form this season will come as no great surprise to those who watched him at Griffin Park in his maiden campaign in England last season. He managed ten goals and fifteen assists last year as Brentford finished 11th but Benrahma has taken his game to new levels this year.

He represents another shrewd bit of business from the London club, as he was picked up in the summer of 2018 from Nice for a fee of £2.8 million, after catching the eye on loan in Ligue 2.

Having come through the youth ranks at Algerian side NRB Bethioua, Benrahma moved to France, linking up with Balma SC Colomiers and then moving on to Nice. He made his debut for the first team in 2013, aged just 18 but spent the majority of his time at the club in the reserve side before going out on loan. He left Nice having made 17 appearances, scoring three goals.

His first loan spell came in Ligue 1 with Angers, then he dropped down to Ligue 2 and had stints with Gazélec Ajaccio and Chateauroux. It was at the latter, which he first started to show his undoubted potential and came to Brentford’s attention. He scored nine goals in 31 appearances, aged just 22 and Brentford decided to take a risk and snap him up that summer.

He hasn’t looked back since and the Algerian is now surely worth at least ten times the fee Brentford paid for him. With a host of Premier League clubs sniffing around him, Benrahma is likely to leave if the Bees don’t make it out of the Championship this time around, having already talked of his desire to play in the top flight.

A full Algerian international, Benrahma has won three caps for his country and comparisons are often drawn between him and compatriot Riyad Mahrez. Both started their journey in Ligue 2 before lighting up the Championship and both are silky wingers who enjoy nutmegging opponents and creating chances.

If Benrahma, who was nominated for the Championship Player of the Year, manages to emulate Mahrez’s career trajectory he may well go down as one of the best bargain signings the Championship has ever seen.

For now, his focus will be on finishing the campaign strongly and propelling Brentford to the big time.

With just four games left of the regular season and potential play off dates to come if Brentford can’t pop West Brom to second place, now is the time for Benrahma to show his quality and provide for Brentford when they really need him.