“Spartak Moscow headed into the match with a lot of injury trouble. Quincy Promes – arguably their best attacker – was confirmed to be unavailable just days before the match. Before the Dutch, Roman Zobnin, Denis Glushakov – the captain -, and Ze Luis had been also confirmed to be out. The injury record and the fact that Spartak are currently ranked 8th, raised the pressure bar on Massimo Carrera. So, the match against Liverpool, for sure, was a real test for Carrera and his troops. …” Outside of the Boot
“As World Cup qualification reaches its final stages, a number of major nations find themselves in danger of missing out on Russia 2018. As Argentina, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana struggle to make it, and with reigning African champion Cameroon already eliminated, we look back at the most shocking failures to qualify in World Cup history. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson
“In November’s Fifa rankings, Macedonia FYR fell to 155th place, the worst position in the country’s history. Their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup have all but disappeared, the national team reflecting the desperate state of Macedonian football. Milko Djurovski is a former Yugoslavia international and the brother of the former Macedonia FYR head coach Boško. …” The Blizzard
“It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast between performance and outcome than England’s 1-0 victory over Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday night. The narrow win, sealed by Harry Kane’s last-gasp goal, didn’t really mask an uninspiring performance from manager Gareth Southgate’s side. But ultimately it means England have qualified for next summer’s World Cup. Preparation starts now: The FA immediately announced home friendlies against Germany and Brazil next month, knowing those dates wouldn’t be needed for playoff matches, while Sunday’s trip to Lithuania effectively has become another friendly, a chance for experimentation. And experimentation is crucial if England have any chance of reaching the latter stages in Russia next year. …” ESPN
“The letter was out of the blue and did not mince its words. From the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, there was something sinister about the instructions, albeit offset by the reassuringly bureaucratic tone. …” The Set Pieces
Romelu Lukaku scores Manchsester United’s winner past the despairing dive of Fraser Forster.
“For more than half an hour, José Mourinho sat waiting on the Manchester United team coach outside St Mary’s doubtless basking in the comfort of a job well done after extending his side’s unbeaten run to eight matches. They displayed a callous efficiency and a charming stubbornness in an unforgiving and occasionally ugly performance that earned United victory and a fifth clean sheet in six Premier League matches. Romelu Lukaku, though, was still stationed inside in doping control, and, such is the ruthlessness of this United team at present, they left for Southampton airport without him. …” Guardian
“Rough translation of the Serbian colloquial proverb offers a descriptive insight into efforts that have seen the football regulatory bodies of the former Yugoslav countries come together to form a unified regional Balkan League. Such a league would be built around a similar model, which had been successfully adopted in basketball and is expected to follow in other sports such as boxing.” futbolgrad (Video)
Could A Balkan Football League Ever Work?
“The idea of a united Balkan league is not a new one. At a conference in July 2007 delegates from Slovenia, Romania, Russia and Serbia discussed the practicalities of a Central and Eastern European league and the lower league structure by which it would be underpinned by. The now disgraced Michel Platini has also been open to the idea, as he feels that such a structure could reduce the gap between the Western European elite and their eastern counterparts…” In Bed With Maradona
“The Balkans Cup was an international football competition for clubs from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. It was introduced in 1961 and was very popular in the 1960s (the 1967 final attracted 42,000 spectators), being the second most important international club competition for clubs from the region (after the European Champions’ Cup in which the champions could play; the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup originally attracted few teams from the region as many did not organise domestic cups regularly and only Yugoslavia had significant representation in the Fairs Cup). …” Wikipedia