Category Archives: UCL And Europa League

Lewandowski on the verge of overhauling Ronaldo’s European record

To think that a 31-year-old Pole is on the verge of overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo’s record haul of Champions League goals in one season.

Yes, it is true and let’s be honest, very few people would have predicted that Robert Lewandowski would have the honour of getting one over the great Ronaldo.

As it stands, Lewandowski is only four behind the great man’s total after picking up a brace as the German Champions beat Chelsea 4-1 on Saturday for a 7-1 aggregate victory.

Ronaldo’s haul of 17 Champions League goals happened in 2013-14 when he featured for Real Madrid. With the strong possibility of Bayern Munich reaching the final in Lisbon, that amounts to three more games for Lewandowski to surpass Ronaldo’s total.

However, he still has a long way to go to get anywhere near Ronaldo as Champions League top scorer. The Portuguese striker tops the list with 130 with Messi in second on 115. Lewandowski stands in fourth place with 66 so far but that aside one has to marvel at just how well the Pole has been playing this season.

Lewandoski’s incredible season can be summed up by his numbers this season. Over the two legs against Chelsea he played a part in all seven Bayern goals in the tie.

His 53 goals in all competitions this season have come in 36 out of 44 matches. Lewandowski’s haul for both club and country this campaign includes four in a Champions League game away at Red Star Belgrade, a hat trick against Schalke in the Bundesliga and another hat trick- this time for Poland away at Latvia- in a European qualifier.

If you add up his total goals and assists in domestic games over the past two seasons, his tally is an impressive 67, only surpassed by the legend called Messi with 95 for Barcelona.

Already the likes of Tammy Abraham have gone on record to say that Lewandowski is the best striker in the world at the moment. Only today, German legend Lothar Matthaus came out and said that he felt the Pole is not only the best striker in the world but best footballer also.

No doubt the likes of Ronaldo and Messi will have something to say about that but you can’t deny that Lewandowski is a world class player, who one day will become a Bayern all time club legend.

As the champions league enters the final 8 stage George Clayton talks about the who co on our YouTube channel Now by clicking the link below

https://youtu.be/lCbgefVH2W0

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.

UEFA confirm Champions/Europa league and Euro 2020 fixture plans

The return of Europe’s top competitions have been discussed at length since domestic leagues confirmed their return plans. Today at last clubs and fans were given details as to how the knockout stages will be played out.

The club tournaments will be completed in August, with the Europa League being held in Germany and the Champions League being held in Portugal. These will take place from the Quarter final stage.

UEFA confirmed that the 12 original host cities will stage matches in next summer’s Euro 2020 finals. The competition will start on the 11th June 2021. The pushed-back play-off matches will be played during the international breaks starting on the 8th October and the 12th November, respectively.

The Champions League will restart with the second-leg matches of the last 16 games left over. These will be played on the 7th and 8th of August. The games yet to be played are: Manchester City at home against Real Madrid, Chelsea away to Bayern Munich, Juventus at home against Lyon and Napoli, who take their impressive 1-1 away result into their home leg, against Barcelona. UEFA said it has yet to decide whether to stage the games at home grounds or at neutral venues.

 

The subsequent knockout rounds will be played over one leg and will be hosted in the city of Lisbon, at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and the Estádio José Alvalade, between the 12th to the 23rd August. The final has been scheduled for 23 August, also taking place in Lisbon.

The Estádio do Dragão in Porto and the Estádio Dom Afonso Henriques in Guimarães will also be added to the Lisbon venues for the Round of 16 should such measures be necessary.

The same applies to the Europa League which will resume the Quarter Finals on the 10th August. The remaining last 16 games will be played on the 5th and 6th of August. The venues will be stationed in Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Gelsenkirchen.

 

Istanbul and Gdansk, the original host cities for the Champions and Europa League finals respectively, will now stage next year’s finals in 2021.

UEFA stated:

“A decision will be made in due course on whether these matches for which the first leg has already been played will be staged at the home team’s venue or in Germany.

“Inter Milan v Getafe and Sevilla v Roma, whose first leg was also postponed, will be played as a single leg at a venue to be confirmed.”

The Women’s Champions League will also be a knockout tournament, in northern Spain between the 21st and 30th of August.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, said:

“I am delighted that we are able to resume almost all of our competitions. I am confident that we will not have to endure the fans’ absence for long and that they will be allowed into stadiums sooner rather than later.”

With many Women’s leagues not returning he was also keen to comment on the return on the Women’s Champions League:

“Particularly with the Women’s Champions League, it was important to send a strong signal that it is possible to complete this season, in a time where women’s sports have suffered substantially. This competition has exciting times ahead with the format change in 2021/2022 and we want to enhance the momentum in the women’s game, not lose it.”

Overall, with the return of the Premier League soon this is even more positive news for fans, so mark the dates in your calendar, the season is beginning to hot up again!

The Web Pod

This week 24/7 Football launched the first of a new podcast series that focuses on our website to discuss recent articles with our brilliant writers. We discussed the changes that the website has gone through, the fact that we’re not just looking to cover the standard four English divisions but also branch into more of the European Leagues, Non-Leagues and Women’s Football. We also discussed What more can be done to support EFL and Non-League Clubs?

The aim of the podcast series is to have one or two writers on the podcast each week to discuss in greater depth what it is they have written about as well as talking points from some of the trending issues in the footballing world.

This week we have Peter Moore joining us who talked us through his experience.

 

Watch Here:

How has VAR affected football and can it be changed?

VAR. The three letters that have sparked the biggest debate in football, in particular the Premier League, and caused many fans to coin the question “Is it football anymore?” into the plethora of chants at their disposal. It has been widely covered by the press and pundits alike with many decisions being called as too close or even inconclusive. Fans have voiced their concerns over the time taken to make decisions and the lack of clarity about the system’s use while attending matches live.

Many will look to the other top European leagues (Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and La Liga) for examples of how to use it but even they have had seen similar problems. A common theme for each league has been teething issues. The Bundesliga introduced VAR in 2017 and had issues with the time taken to make decisions and the lack of clarity within stadiums (sound familiar?) but have allowed the implementation of screens to help offload the time taken.

Although they were overused at first, it seems as though the league has seen the positive impact of it now with hardly any controversy surrounding its decisions. Serie A and La Liga had exactly the same issues when VAR was introduced to them in 2018, slow decisions, fan frustration and general displeasure led to changes being made within each system. In La Liga they stuck true to the ‘clear and obvious’ rule (more on that later) where if a decision is too close or is taking too long, they simply forget it and move on. This allows for quicker and more legitimate calls to be made. Serie A had mixed issues when they changed their system from a local VAR referee to a team of people in a centralized location – like Stockley Park here. Whilst their system is generally a lot quicker they still have some issues with misinterpretation of decisions between the two teams of officials. Of course any level of human error is met with a lot of annoyance from fans. Ligue 1 is probably where it has been implemented the worst, and where it is most similar to the Premier League.

In an interview with the BBC Sport (2019) football writer Jeremy Docteur Stated:

“This season is even worse than last season. It is good when it changes obvious errors and it is fair if a player is offside by two or three metres.

“We are judging offsides badly. The point is not to overturn a goal if a player is one centimetre offside, they draw a line and rule out a goal if an armpit or chin is offside. Football is supposed to be a human sport, but there are huge stoppages and they are reviewing everything, including ridiculous calls for handball.

“I was never pro-VAR but it’s creating even more problems than before. They need to have a meeting and discuss this. A lot of players have come to to say it is not working well and we have to listen to the people actually playing the game.”

As you can see this strongly conforms with many people’s opinions here of how VAR works as a system. The question we must ask ourselves is, of course, has VAR changed football for the better? At the moment you would have to say yes for most of Europe, but for the Premier League and Ligue 1 it is certainly a resounding no. So how can they improve their systems?

We can first look at the phrase that has been branded about all campaign – “Clear and Obvious”. We’ve heard it so many times it’s almost second nature to us football fans to refer to it in any VAR discussions. Yet its continuous use still hasn’t made it any ‘clearer’ as to what it means (no pun intended). Another common theme is the lack of consistency in decision making and confusing rules that even the players sometimes don’t understand.

When looking at the Premier League there are almost too many decisions to count. Some of the most controversial being Pedro Neto’s disallowed goal against Liverpool when Jonny’s hand was judged to be an inch offside, or when Liverpool had a goal scratched off for a ‘foul’ on David De Gea by Virgil Van Dijk when it looked to be an obvious 50/50 aerial duel. You could even point out how VAR didn’t spot a clear foul on Gerard Deulofeu that denied Watford a penalty against Spurs early on in the season. The list itself could be an article.

The biggest issues surrounding the system are ones that need to be fixed ASAP if the controversy is to end. The offside rule has been reworked to the point where a fingernail could chalk off a goal, many fans and pundits have said it ruins the human aspect of the sport. The debate has raged on about how science and calculations is taking the integrity of football away.

This in mind, it would be worth looking at how La Liga used their system for ‘clear and obvious’ decisions. One suggestion has been to set a 30 – 45 second timer on decision making- if it cannot be figure out within the limit it shouldn’t be deemed as clear and obvious and we should let the game play on. It would certainly be worth trialling considering the positive effect this brisk nature of thinking has improved the fluidity of the game in Spain. The debate on offsides would also be simplified and I’m sure the players would appreciate a change in the rulings. After offsides we then have consistency, which in itself is a different beast all together. With VAR checks taking place in Stockley park having different officials at each stadium for each game it would certainly be a positive start. This could allow for better and quicker decision making as communication would be easier and of course the VAR officials would get a feel for the match. Italy’s Serie A  saw success with this method in their initial season with this system.

Another step for change would be getting more experienced referees to manage the decisions with VAR, rather than having younger referees do it. This one is pretty self-explanatory, we don’t want better/more experienced officials being swayed by inexperienced ones – it just doesn’t make any sense.

Finally we have monitors; fans have been crying out all season for monitors to be used pitch-side like in many other leagues. For some reason the Premier League didn’t start to implement this until towards the end of the current season pre-outbreak. A more consistent use would surely help referees and speed up the time taken. With the season due to return in less than a week it is paramount that there is a solid plan going forward. We are all eager to see the league return on the 17th June, however, fans could soon be reminded of what they didn’t miss should mistakes crop up again.

Overall, VAR has the potential to make a huge positive impact. As seen in Germany. Spain and Italy it has taken some time to get going but it appears they have gradually built a solid way of using VAR. The Champions and Europa League have also seen a more consistent use for it. Both Ligue 1 and in particular the Premier League some tweaks would certainly provide a much needed improvement for VAR going forward. For now we can only hope!