FNR DAILY NEWS
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.
There were plenty of Aussies playing abroad this weekend. Here are the highlights from around the globe.
Alex Chidiac got her first start for Atletico Madrid in La Liga Iberdrola. The 19-year-old grabbed a goal and an assist in Atleti’s 6-0 win.
Over in Germany, Robbie Kruse was heavily involved in VfL Bochum’s 6-0 win. Kruse scored a goal and was heavily involved in two other goals, providing an assist and a secondary assist.
In America, the NWSL finals saw Aussies come up against each other. Ellie Carpenter, Caitlin Foord and the Portland Thorns defeated Steph Catley, Lydia Williams and Seattle Reign in an NWSL semi-final.
The Thorns will be heading to their second straight championship decider and may come up against Sam Kerr. Her Chicago Red Stars play North Carolina Courage in the other semi-final mid-week.
Australians in Scandinavia had a big weekend. In Norway, Matildas duo Mackenzie Arnold and Tameka Butt were in the winner’s column with their respective teams. Butt scored her seventh goal for the season in Klepp’s 5-3 win, while Arnold was in goal for Arna-Bjørnar’s 6-2 victory.
Over in Sweden, Elise Kellond-Knight’s Hammarby were 3-1 winners, while in Denmark there were mixed results. Awer Mabil’s cross into the box found the head of a team mate as Midtjylland won 3-1 over FC Copenhagen.
The news wasn’t as good for Mustafa Amini whose early assist was cancelled out by his red card; his side AGF ultimately lost 3-2.
Danny Vukovic kept a clean sheet for Genk against Anderlecht in Belgium while Jackson Irvine scored Hull’s second goal in their 2-0 win over Ipswich Town in the Championship.
After an impressive season both domestically and continentally in 2017-18 and a blistering start to the Premier League season, Liverpool will look to keep that good form and better it in 2018-19.
Football is a marathon, not a sprint, but the next seven games in all competitions could very well set the tone for the rest of the Reds’ season depending on the results.
Not only do Liverpool have a large quantity of games, but the quality of the opposition is high class with perennial Premier League title threats and the French champions among their opponents.
Jürgen Klopp’s men sit top of the Premier League with four wins from four games. His side has conceded just one goal – the best defensive record in the league - and are scoring plenty as well.
Their jam-packed schedule begins with what Optus Sport pundit Michael Bridges describes as “a classic”: Tottenham at Wembley. With no Hugo Lloris and Spurs still unable to play at White Hart Lane due to redevelopment delays, Bridges thinks it’s “advantage Liverpool.”
After fifth-placed Tottenham, it’s on to Champions League with a visit from PSG midweek followed by Southampton at Anfield.
A Cup/League double against Chelsea ends September before a trip to Napoli and a clash with Manchester City take the Reds up to the next international break.
It’s the kind of hectic schedule that would be seen around the Christmas and New Year period and has both its positives and negatives.
“It’s tough for the players and coaching staff but great for fans” Bridges told the Afternoons on FNR crew. While man management and squad rotation will be critical, the plethora of games will also present opportunities for fringe players.
You can watch Liverpool take on Spurs, live on Optus Sport with kick off at 9:30pm AEST.
It is the competition that required explainer articles and videos breaking down just exactly how it works. But with one round of fixtures remaining in this international break, the UEFA Nations League has managed to convince some of its doubters, after producing spectacular goals, controversial moments and compelling stories.
Once you wrap your head around the format, the promotion and relegation between leagues and how Euro 2020 qualification factors in, the Nations League has livened up the international break.
The benefits of having an actual competition, as opposed to a plethora of friendlies has been obvious. These games all have something riding on them. Teams are taking them seriously.
Thanks to the league set up, countries are playing others at their level creating competitive games.
Fans have been treated to some spectacular goals; from Giorgi Chakvetadze’s historic goal for Georgia – the first in the tournament’s history, to Gareth Bale’s belter for Wales against Ireland, to Olivier Giroud’s 878 minute drought breaking stunner.
There have been contentious calls with the Netherlands seemingly denied a penalty in the match against France.
Meanwhile, Wales conceded a penalty against Denmark that raised questions over the interpretation and application of the handball rule.
The Nations League has ensured that the joy of international matches is combined with something more tangible, whether that be making it to the Nations League Finals, getting promoted to the next league or eventually earning a place at EURO 2020.
The League also benefits from a regular string of international breaks to end the year. Once the mid-September window is over, the competition will continue during the next two breaks in mid-October and mid-November respectively.
The frequency of fixtures lends credibility to the League and is helping to embed itself into the minds of football fans. Once we progress pass this group stage, however, the pauses between match days becomes longer.
The last group stage match day is in mid-November, but the actual finals won’t be played until early-June 2019. Additionally, the Euro qualification play-offs won’t be drawn until November 2019 and aren’t played until March 2020.
Whether these pauses help or hinder how the League is perceived and respected remains to be seen, but the early signs are positive.
Has the UEFA Nations League been a success? Have your say @FNR_Radio
Spanish players and fans will be getting their passports ready as La Liga aims to wins the hearts of fans across the Atlantic.
La Liga and Relevant, the International Champions Cup organisers, have signed a 15-year deal to promote the league. The centrepiece of the deal will be one game per season taking place in North America.
La Liga president Javier Tebas believes the deal will benefit the league’s bottom line with broadcast and sponsorship opportunities.
Naturally, the move has its critics, none more so than the players.
The president of the Spanish footballer’s union (AFE) David Aganzo spoke of their concerns.
"The players are outraged, very surprised, and are all against it. It's unanimous," he said.
"The players don't want to play overseas. Things have to be done in a more coherent way and with common sense.
"A decision of this magnitude, that affects players, referees and fans, was taken unilaterally and is a lack of respect.”
Aganzo also noted that some clubs were not against strike action while others were.
“We are going to try to see that it doesn't reach that extreme,” he said.
“But we are willing to go right to the last option if it is necessary."
There have been reports that the Girona v Barcelona match scheduled to take place on January 27 will now be moved to Miami. Girona has publicly acknowledged the reports but says nothing has been confirmed as yet.
The BBC has reported that potential compensation for fans and season ticket holders in the form of flights and accommodation to the match is on the cards.
While Catalan paper Sport has reported that discounted season passes and tickets to the Barcelona v Girona match at the Nou Camp are also possible.
The Afternoons on FNR panel have discussed this game at length. The main question is: if there are 38rounds, with 10 fixtures per round and 380 games total, is one game offshore that big of a deal?
From a marketing perspective, the team thought it was a great idea with the sheer number of eyeballs on the game and consequently the league creating a boost in brand awareness and exposure.
However, from the football purist’s perspective, the belief that the Spanish La Liga should have all its games played in Spain was strong. The concerns of the players – and particularly the fact that they weren’t consulted regarding this decision – was also a big con.
The match presents a potential logistical nightmare with the teams’ domestic and continental schedules having to take precedence over this game.
With the inclusion of Barça, the American public is sure to get on board and make it a sell-out. The financial benefits could be massive and the hope would be that the dollars brought in justify the whole exercise.
The move is not out of character for La Liga president Javier Tebas who has previously made decisions to benefit international fans.
Last December’s El Clasico was moved to midday local time to make it friendly for the Asian market, while this season, matches will kick off at 10:15pm local time, again with the intention of appealing to overseas fans, irrespective of the inconvenience for local fans.
What do you think? Are you for or against the La Liga match in the United States?