Champions League draw analysis: Picks to make it out of each group

August 29, 2015

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, left, and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, right, remove the balls containing the names of the soccer clubs, during the draw for the Champions League 2015/16 play-offs, at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
“There was a twist to the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco Thursday. UEFA’s new seeding regulations meant that only reigning champions would be picked from Pot 1, leaving some dangerous contenders in the lower pots. And so it proved, as Manchester City was drawn with Juventus and Sevilla while Real Madrid drew Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk. The draw resulted in some intriguing individual storylines, powerhouses going up against one another and the first steps on the road to the San Siro.” SI (Video)


How West Brom secured Salomón Rondón thanks to Vladimir Putin’s protectionism

August 11, 2015

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Salomón Rondón’s move from Zenit St Petersburg to West Bromwich Albion began with a phone call from Tony Pulis to André Villas-Boas asking him if there was any talent in Russia he should be looking at. The Zenit manager replied that because of new restrictions on foreign players – a direct diktat, it is said, from Vladimir Putin, concerned by the national side’s poor performances in qualifying for Euro 2016 – he was having to offload Rondón. The 25-year-old Venezuelan, he believed, would thrive in the Premier League.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Kuban, Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko: Three Parties in Need of a Reignited Spark

August 9, 2015

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“The end of the 2014/15 season saw two Russian legends leave their clubs to become free agents. Since returning to Russia from the English Premier League both Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko have failed to live up to the fans’ expectations, and this summer they both found themselves without clubs as their contracts expired. Now a couple of months later they have the chance to shine for Kuban Krasnodar, with the pair linking up for the first time since August, 2012, when they both played in a friendly for Russia against Côte d’Ivoire, Fabio Capello’s first match in charge after the dissapointing Euro tournament in 2012. Arshavin hasn’t played for the national time since, and Pavlyuchenko retired from international football in 2013.” Russian Football


Partizan Belgrade succumb in the Sandzak Republic

August 7, 2015

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“Saturday was a historic day for Torcida Sandžak, Serbia’s only Islamic ultras group. They’d witnessed their team, Novi Pazar, go a goal down in the opening fifteen minutes, miss a penalty and concede a second in first half stoppage time. All of that came in one of the biggest games of the season, the home fixture with Partizan Belgrade; last season’s champions who had won their opening two matches 4-0 and 6-0. Novi Pazar, by contrast, had lost their opening game at home to newly promoted Javor Ivanjica. And yet somehow they emerged victorious, recording their first ever win over Partizan.” backpagefootball


Tactical Philosophy: Andre Villas-Boas

July 27, 2015

“André Villas-Boas is still only 37, but it feels like he’s been a football manager for a very long time. Indeed, the 25th of October, 2015 will only be the 6th anniversary of Villas-Boas’ first game in charge of a senior, professional football team, discounting a brief stint as Technical Director of the British Virgin Islands at the age of 21. Villas-Boas has taken first team management roles in Portugal, with Académica de Coimbra and his beloved FC Porto, then in London, with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, and he is now currently working for Zenit St. Petersburg, in Russia.” Outside of the Boot


Russian Premier League beauty contest winner stripped of crown over racist postings

July 22, 2015

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“Anti-racism campaigner Piara Powar has attacked Russian football’s record on racsim after it emerged that a winner of the official Russian Premier League annual beauty pageant had posted neo-Nazi messages on social media. The latest racism story to emerge from the 2018 World Cup hosts comes days Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off for gesturing towards abusive Spartak Moscow fans. The Russian Football Union later ruled there was no evidence to prove that Frimpong had been targeted by racists and the player’s two-match ban for being sent off was upheld.” World Soccer

The soccer world continues to condone Russia’s racism
“With all the outrage surrounding the 2022 Qatar World Cup, it’s easy to forget that, in just three years, Russia will be hosting the 2018 World Cup. Yes, the same Russia where players regularly get racially abused at Russian Premier League games for sport. That should be comforting to players and fans, particularly those who may be of a similar hue to those who get abused on a weekly basis. I mean, welcome to Russia 2018, amirite? Save up for your bananas. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Brazilian striker Hulk said yesterday that he faces racial abuse in ‘almost every game’ in the Russian league. That’s a hell of a statement and, to be fair, a remarkable level of consistency and dedication from Russian fans.” Fusion

Red Star and the land of great knights
“As an English football fan, I’m surprisingly comfortable with the notion of congregating into the symbolic centre of a town far away from where I live and belting out messy, off-key renditions of self-written songs. Those obnoxious little ditties glorifying my own roots at the expense of others are usually characterised by puerile language and an awkward cocktail of self-deprecating humour mixed with the most ridiculously aggrandising boasting.” Football Pink


Tactical Philosophy: Besnik Hasi

July 17, 2015

“Born in Gjakovë, Kosovo on 25th December 1971, Besnik Hasi started his football career at Liria Prizren (then a team playing in the Superliga of Kosovo), before moving to many different clubs in Balkan leagues, and then in 1994, found as he recalls his 2nd home: Belgium. In 1994 he signed for the KRC Genk, where he played 141 games, winning the Belgian Pro League and Belgian Cup once each.” Outside of the Boot

Tactical Philosophy: Andre Breitenreiter
“Andre Breitenreiter, the footballer, was horribly unlucky. His luck started out undeniably positive as at only 17 years old, he lifted the Deutscher Pokal in 1992 with Hannover 96. Then plying his wares in the second tier, Breitenreiter became an overnight sensation. ‘The Lightning Bomber’ as he was known in Germany, made the jump to the Hamburger SV in 1994 and at 19 years of age, scored a 19 minute hat-trick in the now defunct Inter-Toto Cup against Danish side Ikast FS. His Bundesliga debut came against, of all the sides, Bayern München. His brace helped Hamburger SV to the victory. Andre Breitenreiter, the footballer, had arrived and tragically his luck decided to strike two days after that momentous victory over Bayern when he broke his cheekbone and jaw and was sidelined for the rest of the season.” Outside of the Boot


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