FNR DAILY NEWS
Last night’s La Liga action produced two stunning upsets, with Barcelona going down 2-1 to Leganés while Real Madrid were outclassed 3-0 by Sevilla.
Both Barca and Los Blancos remain in first and second place respectively, however last night proved that La Liga is no longer a two-horse race. More clubs have the chance at becoming champions. Some have said that the La Liga is presently the best league in the world.
Sevilla are well placed for a shot at the title and currently sit fourth. They are only three points behind leaders Barcelona and have only a three less goal difference. If they continue last night’s form, they will be a chance to win their first La Liga title since the 1945-46 season.
Another challenger for the La Liga title this season is Atlético Madrid, who are third with 11 points. They have been successful in recent seasons, winning La Liga in the 2013-14 season and being runners up in the 2017-18 season. Since 2013, they have played in the Champions League final twice and have won the Europa League. They are no longer playing second-fiddle to local rivals Real Madrid.
In 5th and 6th position, Alavés and Espanyol have started the season well and are currently three points behind Barcelona. There are still plenty of matches left, however they have set themselves up well and are every chance to contend for the title.
Last season six points separated 2nd and 4th. In addition, three La Liga clubs made the quarter-finals of the Champions League, with Real Madrid winning their 3rd consecutive crown. Atlético Madrid also won the Europa League, in what was a successful season for Spanish football.
No longer are only two teams expected to win La Liga. The league is as competitive as it has been for a long time.
La Liga is considered to be one of the best leagues in the world, however with what we have seen recently it can certainly be considered as the very best.
On Friday 5th of October 2018, Allianz Stadium in Sydney will host its last ever event. Opening in 1988 as the Sydney Football Stadium, the venue has been home to several memorable moments in Australian football.
Sydney FC have played their home matches at the ground since 2005, while NSL matches have also taken place at the ‘Football Stadium’ throughout the years. The Socceroos regularly played internationals there, including a number of memorable matches.
In 1988 in the Bicentennial Gold Cup match against Argentina, Australia caused the upset of the year with a 4-1 thrashing. This match is known for Charlie Yankos’ stunning free kick, a goal that continues to be replayed.
A year later, the venue was home to heartbreak, as Australia drew 1-1 with Israel in front of 40,320 fans and missed out on the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
The fans were happier in 1993, when Australia overcame a 2-1 deficit against Canada to progress to the next stage of World Cup qualification. It was the match that put long serving goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer’s name into the spotlight, saving two penalties in the shootout to help Australia advance.
Two months later, the stadium hosted arguably its biggest football event ever. Australia battled against a Diego Maradona led Argentina side in the first leg of a World Cup qualifying tie. The massive crowd of 43,967 - the most ever for a football match at the stadium - witnessed a classic match in which Australia matched the South American giants.
Aurelio Vidmar scored for Australia, linking up with his brother Tony in the lead-up to send the home crowd wild. Unfortunately, Australia lost the second leg and failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
The Sydney Football Stadium played a role in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, hosting a number of matches in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. These games attracted strong crowds and included a total of four Australia games across the two tournaments.
The inaugural A-League Grand Final in 2006 was played at the ground, as Sydney FC defeated the Central Coast Mariners 1-0. Steve Corica scored the solitary goal and former Manchester United player Dwight Yorke, who had joined Sydney FC as a ‘marquee’, won the Joe Marston medal for the best on field.
Three more A-League Grand Finals were played at the stadium, most recently in May 2017 as Sydney FC beat rivals Melbourne Victory 4-2 in a penalty shootout, after the match finished 1-1 after extra time.
Allianz Stadium has been the home of many football matches throughout the years, both domestic and international. Despite its short history, there is no doubt that it has provided a number of memorable moments that will never be forgotten.
It is no secret that Manchester United are struggling, with their loss to Championship side Derby County last night in the Carabao Cup being the latest problem to occur.
United fell 8-7 on penalties at Old Trafford, with the match finishing 2-2 in normal time after a Marouane Fellaini equaliser in the 5th minute of stoppage time.
In addition to the defeat, manager Jose Mourinho reportedly told star player Paul Pogba that it would be the last time that he would captain the side.
This infighting at United, who currently sit in 7th position in the Premier League, has created a headache for the board and the fans, with opinions divided about who is in the wrong.
Both Mourinho and Pogba are quality football people but until the dispute gets resolved, United’s struggles are likely to continue.
Let’s look at both sides of the story:
There is no doubt that he is the ‘special one’. He is a two-time UEFA Champions League winner. He has won the Premier League three times as Chelsea manager. Two Serie A titles also sit next to his name. He has done it before and can do it again.
Some say that he is causing problems at United and should leave. In the 2016/17 season, he won the Europa League, Carabao Cup and the Community Shield with the club. It is not like as if he has achieved nothing at United.
Last season, the Red Devils finished 2nd in the Premier League to their rivals Manchester City, with a point total usually capable of winning the Premier League. This season, they are currently in 7th position, however there is plenty of football still to be played. All hope is not lost.
Despite his success throughout his career, last night’s incident is a poor look and does not help team morale, especially when it involves a star player. However, he has done enough to warrant a stay as manager.
United re-signed Pogba from Italian giants Juventus for £89.3 million in 2016, after he initially left United on a free in 2012.
Pogba is a player of a high calibre, scoring 28 goals in 124 league appearances at Juventus and 13 goals in 66 Premier League matches. He has 62 international caps with 10 goals, winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the process and scoring in the final. There is no doubting his ability.
With a large price tag comes a lot of pressure. Pogba is expected to perform and should not take the full blame for the loss to Derby. All clubs have off nights and Pogba deserves another chance to captain United.
However, no player is bigger than the club and this should be a wake-up call for Pogba. There is still more time for the French superstar to redeem himself and put the night behind him.
It is hard to decide who should be the first to leave Manchester United and whether anyone should leave at all. Both Mourinho and Pogba are fantastic to have at any club.
Should United continue to struggle this season, it will be difficult to see Mourinho remain at the club. On the other hand, Pogba has been linked with a January move to Spanish giants Barcelona.
It is unlikely that the latest incident will lead to an instant departure, however if the rumours come into fruition, United will need to look for a replacement for Pogba.
The Puskás Award has been turned into a popularity contest.
Mohamed Salah has been awarded the FIFA award for goal of the season for a strike which one of his teammates labelled as Salah’s “seventh best of the season”.
Salah’s goal against Everton was deemed better than Gareth Bale’s bicycle kick in the Champions League final, Cristiano Ronaldo’s bicycle kick against Juventus and Australian Riley McGree’s scorpion kick that sent shockwaves across the world.
Ironically McGree’s goal wasn’t considered one of the top three goals of the season.
You may be wondering why McGree’s once in a lifetime strike in the A-League semi-final didn’t make the top three?
Well it’s quite simple. McGree isn’t as popular as Salah.
The Puskás Award is partially decided by public vote. Salah received 38 per cent of the 500,000 votes cast, while Ronaldo (22 per cent) and Giorgian De Arrascaeta of Cruzeiro (17 per cent) rounded out the top three.
It is incredible to think an official FIFA award can be decided by the fans.
When it comes to popularity, no one is going to beat Salah.
The Liverpool winger is considered the most beloved citizen in Egypt, which is a nation with a population of over 95 million.
“This is a country that is obsessed with football,” Egyptian football fan Omar Ashraf told the Liverpool Echo.
“It’s intrinsically linked to politics, culture, and feuds between different cities. Mohamed Salah is quite literally the most unifying Egyptian person in years.
“Mohamed never played for El-Ahly or El-Zamalek, who are the big two in Egypt, before he left for Europe, so there was no reason for either of the massive contingents to turn on him.”
FIFA should have seen the issue coming as Salah has won previous fan-voted awards in unusual circumstances.
In April, Salah was named the Champions League Player of the Week after playing only 53 minutes against Manchester City.
The Liverpool ace did score and assist, but in that same week Cristiano Ronaldo produced a bicycle kick, scored a brace and assisted away to Juventus in 90 minutes of play.
Fan votes are known to lead to popularity contests, as in the 2015 Premier League season. The BBC’s goal of the season poll was spoiled by Arsenal fans who voted in mass to elect Jack Wilshere’s strike against West Brom as the goal of the season.
After the saga, the BBC stopped allowing fans the opportunity to vote, opting to allow their panel of pundits to select a winner from a fan-voted top three.
Maybe FIFA can take a leaf out of the BBC to prevent this issue happening again.
It’s gone from bad to worse for Roma. A pre-season title hopeful, the Giallorossi currently find themselves in the bottom half of the table, with just one win to their name.
Roma suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a clinical Bologna, with goals to Federico Mattiello and Federico Santander.
While a loss is never pleasant, a loss to a team that had no wins or goals prior to the match is much worse.
It is this result which is emblematic of a broader period of malaise for Eusebio Di Francesco’s men. A 2-2 draw with the rock bottom Chievo after leading 2-0 was preceded by a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Before that, there was a 2-1 loss to the currently 12th-placed Milan and a lucky escape with a point against the currently 13th-placed Atalanta – who the Giallorossi trailed 3-1 at home before finding two goals.
The fall has been swift for Roma. In May this year they beat Liverpool 4-2 in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, ultimately losing 7-6 on aggregate and missing out on the final by one goal. Only 144 days later, Roma are 14th in Serie A with only five points on the board.
On Afternoons on FNR, the panel believed the summer departures of Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan to Marseille and Inter respectively has “killed the team”.
“Unfortunately they have not been able to fill the void left by Strootman and Nainggolan,” said Adriano Del Monte.
The next two games for Roma will be of vital importance. A midweek match against Frosinone, another side who have yet to score let alone win, followed by the Derby della Capitale. Losing either match will be unacceptable.
Positive results in these two games could not only alter the course of Roma’s season, but also help decide whether or not Di Francesco will make it through the season as coach.
Victorian NPL side Avondale FC gave A-League Premiers Sydney FC an almighty scare last night in their FFA Cup Quarter-final match at ABD Stadium.
The ‘Avengers’ came from 2-0 down, forcing the game into extra-time and pushing the Sky Blues in the second half, despite coming off the back of a 120-minute match the week before.
Many fans were expecting Avondale to cause another ‘cupset.’
It was another magnificent performance by the Victorian NPL side, who finished their season in third place for the second-consecutive time and now face Premiers Heidelberg United in the NPL Victoria Grand Final on Sunday at AAMI Park.
And for the second match in a row, Avondale fought hard to produce a remarkable comeback.
Just last week in their NPL Victoria semi-final against Bentleigh Greens, Avondale fight back from 3-1 down late in the second half of extra-time to somehow win the match 4-3, in an
unbelievable finish that went viral.
This was not even the biggest story of the week involving them, as they were linked with Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo for their FFA clash.
Not bad for a club based in Melbourne’s north.
So what has contributed to Avondale’s rise in Victoria?
The club features a handful of players with A-League experience, including Jonatan Germano, Stefan Zinni, Ramazan Tavsancioglu and Joey Katebian. Striker Kaine Sheppard was picked up by A-League Grand Finalists Newcastle Jets on the day of the game as well. Their experience has been valuable for their success this season.
Finding the back of the net has not been an issue either this season, scoring the second-most amount of goals in the league this season with 57. A 5-2 win over Hume City, a 4-3 victory over Melbourne Knights and a 6-2 triumph over South Melbourne all stand out.
Defence has also not been a problem for them, either, conceding only 32 and keeping nine clean sheets all season.
It has been a fantastic season for the side that only made their top-tier debut in Victoria in 2015.
A battle with Heidelberg United, who have been outstanding this season, awaits them now at arguably Victoria’s top football stadium.
Going by the last few weeks, the ‘Avengers’ are a great chance of lifting silverware on Sunday night.
And do not rule them out if they are down either
It was arguably the most controversial moment in European football this season, which will inevitably be spoken about for weeks to come.
In his first Champions League appearance for Juventus, on his return to Spain, Cristiano Ronaldo received a red card for an off the ball incident with Valencia defender Jeison Murillo.
Ronaldo looked to have made contact with the defender’s hair, and many fans around the world believe the decision was a wrong one.
In the wash up, VAR has again come into conversation, with the Champions League not featuring it this season.
Had the VAR been used as was the case at the World Cup, Ronaldo may very well have remained on the pitch.
“Unfortunately a player who was clearly determined & motivated to perform well on his return to Spain, his return to the Champions League with his new Juventus club, was spoiled by a poor official making a poor decision,” Football Nation Radio’s Adriano Del Monte said on Afternoons on FNR.
“Keep in mind, this is the same official who officiated one game at the World Cup. The one game at the World Cup was the Serbia Switzerland game, the infamous ‘bear hug’ game and he was sent home after that.”
Replays show Ronaldo battling with Murillo and touching his hair, with Murillo going to ground following the exchange.
Referee Felix Brych then consulted with the goal-line assistant and brandished the red card. A bemused Ronaldo was in tears as he received his marching orders.
Whether or not Ronaldo was deserving of the red card, his suspension to come has big ramifications.
The Portuguese superstar will miss one match automatically, however UEFA may decide to extend the suspension.
Following their next Champions League match against Swiss side Young Boys, Juventus will face English giants Manchester United, which would be a return for Ronaldo to Old Trafford. A two-game suspension would ruin that story, while a three-game ban would end his chance of playing against his former club altogether.
It will be a very interesting couple of days that will no doubt interest football fans around the world, as one of football’s best players receives his punishment for a controversial decision
Amongst many changes, the beginning of this season’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League has seen the introduction of earlier kick off times.
Rather than the traditional 7:45pm start, matches will be split into 5:55pm and 8pm timeslots, allowing fans to watch more matches and broadcasters to capitalise on their investments.
It is no surprise that since the election of Gianni Infantino as FIFA President and Aleksander Ceferin as UEFA President in 2016, UEFA have been changing the European football landscape.
Kick off times are just one aspect of the game that have been impacted.
The adjustment to the UCL group stage for the 2018/19 season adds to the modification of European football. The winners of the Champions League & Europa League from the previous season now qualify directly for the competition, while champions from the top six European leagues (based on their coefficient ranking) are also automatically allocated a Pot 1 place in the draw.
Eyebrows were raised as Lokomotiv Moscow entered the recent UCL draw as a Pot 1 club on the back of their Russian Premier League heroics, with that competition currently occupying sixth place in European league rankings. Had it not been for that, Lokomotiv would have been alongside Young Boys, Viktoria Plzeň and co in Pot 4.
Internationally, the implementation of the UEFA Nations League is another example of UEFA’s desire for modernisation. The competition allows countries to face others at similar levels, reducing the amount of insignificant friendlies, while enhancing the international spectacle.
Euro 2020 will be played in 12 different countries across Europe, marking a break from tradition, with single and dual bids no longer the norm. An array of cities will have the chance to host Europe’s largest event and unite the continent as one.
Despite all the scrutiny UEFA have received in recent seasons, this revolution to European football is a sign that the sport is progressing in Europe.
The FFA Cup returns tonight and yet again there are some mouth-watering clashes.
ABD Stadium in Melbourne’s northern suburbs plays host to the key match-up tonight, as NPL Victoria side Avondale FC take on reigning FFA Cup winners Sydney FC, a game likely to draw a large crowd.
This match will add to the long list where NPL teams have battled A-League outfits in this competition, having occurred 48 times so far. Judging by this list, this match has what it takes to be a cracker.
The FFA Cup gives the fans and the NPL clubs a chance to match it with the big boys, as Adelaide City did when they defeated A-League Grand Finalists Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 in the very first round of the inaugural FFA Cup in 2014
Later that year in the round of 16, a local derby between NPL powerhouse Sydney United and A-League giants Sydney FC was played in front of a crowd of 8,125 at the Sydney United Sports Centre - the Sky Blues prevailing 3-1.
The fans continued to embrace the FFA Cup in 2015 and the quarter-final brought another local derby. Heidelberg United hosted Melbourne City in front of a strong crowd of 11,372 at Olympic Village, as City were far too strong in a 5-0 rout.
There were two ‘cupsets’ in as many days in the 2016 Round of 32, after NPL Victoria's Green Gully defeated the Central Coast Mariners 2-1, which provided one of the goals of the year by Gully player Liam Boland in second-half injury time. The next day, NPL Queensland side Redlands United beat A-League champions Adelaide United 2-1 in extra time, after Redlands dramatically equalised in the 94th minute.
Heidelberg United was again in the limelight in 2017, beating A-League side Perth Glory 1-0 and showcasing the skills of current Melbourne Victory striker Kenny Athiu.
This year’s FFA Cup has already provided four ripping matches between NPL and A-League sides, with two ‘cupsets’ and two occasions where A-League teams got out of jail. APIA Leichhardt’s incredible 3-2 win over A-League champions Melbourne Victory stood out, showing that the NPL sides should not fear A-League opposition.
Tonight’s clash between Avondale FC and Sydney FC may not result in a ‘cupset’, however it will add further history to this competition.
And who knows? Maybe the ‘magic of the cup’ will be on display once more.
The 2018/19 Champions League season marks 11 years since Manchester United defeated Chelsea in the Champions League Final.
The final marked the third successive year a Premier League team had made the final.
The Premier League was established in 1992 to professionalise the game in England and allow British clubs to compete with the best teams in the world.
The 2008 Champions League Final signalled that the Premier League had reached the pinnacle of European football by housing the two best teams in Europe.
After the victory in Moscow, United would lose two UCL finals to Barcelona in 2008/09 and 2010/11, while Chelsea would win the trophy in 2011/12.
But since Chelsea’s heroics in Munich, Premier League sides have had to play second fiddle to Spanish, Italian and German teams.
Real Madrid’s victory earlier this year was their fourth Champions League victory in five years and the fifth year in a row the trophy was won by a Spanish side.
Last season Liverpool became the first English team to reach the final since Chelsea in 2012.
With Real Madrid in transition period this year following the departure of the Cristiano Ronaldo, the Champions League title race is a wide-open.
Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint Germain and Real will still be the favourites for the crown this season, but all four teams have shown vulnerabilities in the tournament in recent years, which is good news for Premier League teams.
Liverpool reaching the final last season resurrected confidence in Premier League sides competing in the Champions League.
The Reds attacking, free-flowing style saw them score 46 goals in the 2017/18 edition.
The front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane combined for 31 goals, making them one of the most lethal attacking trios in world football.
The Reds hopes of winning the final was hampered by a shoulder injury to Mohamed Salah and two errors by goalkeeper Loris Karius.
Since the defeat in the final, the Reds have boosted their squad by adding Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri.
The added depth to the squad has helped Liverpool sit top of the Premier League table with five straight victories.
Another Premier League team set to take the Champions League by storm this season is Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s side are one of the most potent teams in world football. City won the 2017/18 Premier League title by a record 19 points and scored 106 goals.
City was also dominant in the Champions League, until they were bundled out in the quarter finals by Liverpool.
The Sky Blues have once again started the Premier League season strongly and have only dropped two points in their opening five games.
Guardiola has won the Champions League twice as the manager of Barcelona in 2008/09 and 2010/11 but has failed to progress past the semi-final stage in the last seven years.
But with the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, City will be one of the strongest sides in this year’s competition.
Manchester United and Tottenham and the final two Premier League teams in the Champions League. Both sides on their day have the potential to be dark horses for the crown.
Tottenham recorded victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in last season’s competition, before being eliminated by Juventus in the Round of 16.
Manchester United were also eliminated in the Round of 16 by Sevilla last season, but with manager Jose Mourinho winning the final on two occasions with Porto and Inter, United are well equipped to go deep in the tournament.
While other European teams are in a midst of transition, Premier League teams are well equipped to win Champions League silverware.