The ‘Two Worlds’ of the Champions League Keep Drifting Apart

February 22, 2018


Sadio Mané and Liverpool put five goals past F.C. Porto last week.
“As he readied his players to face Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League last week, F.C. Basel Coach Raphaël Wicky realized he had a problem. Ordinarily, Wicky would dedicate one training session shortly before a game to a shadow match: On one side, his likely starting team, and on the other, 11 squad members slotted in to simulate Basel’s forthcoming opponent. They would line up in the same system, adopt the same style, play in the same patterns. The aim of the exercise is to familiarize the first team with the challenge that lies in wait. …” NY Times

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From Marseille to Leeds United, what’s the future for football’s fallen giants?

February 13, 2018


Leeds take on Bayern Munich in the 1975 European Cup final
“‘Give your blood!’ demands a banner behind a goal. But on a chilly Mediterranean winter night, Olympique Marseille’s Stade Velodrome (capacity: 67,000) is scarcely half-full for the game against Troyes. ‘OM’, as Marseille are popularly known, were European champions in 1993. (Their triumph was later tarnished when they were stripped of their French league title that year because of match-fixing, but few locals worry about that.) These days, though, OM have been left behind by their hated rivals, Qatari-funded Paris Saint-Germain. This month, while PSG meet Real Madrid in the Champions League, Marseille face little Braga of Portugal in the unglamorous Europa League. …” FT – Simon Kuper


St Étienne’s unlikely band of misfits may keep them in Ligue 1

February 9, 2018

“Three months have passed since Lyon visited the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and destroyed St Étienne 5-0, a mauling that will go down as one of the worst defeats in the club’s 99-year history. Ôscar Garcia, who was only appointed manager in the summer but had clashed with the board over transfer targets, resigned soon after the defeat – and the man brought in to replace him, Julien Sablé, proved to be a disastrous appointment. …” Guardian


Racing to the bottom – RC Paris and the failed quest for glory

February 4, 2018

“Fast cars, fast planes and deadly weapons all led one French business magnate to football, and his dream of elevating a small club to the pinnacle of the sport, as MARK GODFREY explains. As egotistical multimillionaire French businessmen with an interest in sport go, Bernard Tapie pretty much broke the mould. The former owner of Olympique Marseille, famous for buying the club unprecedented glamour and success in the early nineties – including the 1993 Champions League – saw it all come crashing down around him after the match-fixing scandal which resulted in OM being relegated from Ligue 1 as punishment. …” Football Pink


No Ne-exit For Neymar

January 30, 2018

“1) Neymar pledges PSG future. Time for a bit of a giant media reverse with beep-beeping and hazard lights in full effect. Neymar is going nowhere next summer except to Russia for the World Cup and no doubt a lengthy vacation in Brazil. His club boss says it, his manager says it, the footballer’s ‘people’ say it and heck, the football says it too. The player is ‘2000% percent’ going to be playing with PSG next season, whether the French club wins the Champions League or not. ‘I’m happy with my team-mates and I’m happy at PSG,’ was Neymar’s message after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Montpellier. So back off, Real Madrid and pack away any sneaky ideas in a bag marked, ‘not in a million years’.  …” Bein-Sports (Video)


If You Like Phibsborough You’ll Love Paris…

January 26, 2018

“The night before had quickly, and without invitation, morphed into the morning after; and throwing twenties at the barman for two European-sized bottles of Heineken in an all-night bar along the River Seine that was a mash up of Fibbers and Bruxelles was becoming less appealing as the weak winter Parisian sun chased the night through Boulevards and side streets. Leaving, I waded through the flea markets near Bastille weaving my way through the early rising selfie taking couples and back to my temporary abode. Paris needs no introduction. …” Pog Mo Goal


From Pogba to Mbappe: Why Greater Paris is the world’s top talent pool

December 29, 2017

“PARIS — Nearly a decade ago, Arsene Wenger ranked the Paris region as the second-best talent pool in soccer after Sao Paulo in Brazil. But by now, the French capital surely ranks top. Here are just a few of today’s players raised in Greater Paris: Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, N’Golo Kante, Kingsley Coman, Blaise Matuidi and Kylian Mbappe, plus three other regular Paris Saint-Germain starters, the Algerian internationals Riyad Mahrez and Yacine Brahimi, and various Senegalese and Moroccan internationals who will play at the coming World Cup. In fact, the Ile-de-France (as Greater Paris is known) probably produces more talent than Asia, Africa and North America combined. Why? I ask myself that question every weekend. …” ESPN – Simon Kuper