Leicester Staring Down Relegation

Many of the fans of the defeated big names stated that Leicester’s Premier League win last year was a fluke. Perhaps it was just their way of being sore losers… or was it just a fluke. Those who said so last year are perhaps a game or two away from saying “I told you so!” BBC Sports reports on the close brush with relegation that is now Leicester’s reality.

Premier League champions Leicester were plunged deeper into relegation trouble as they were beaten by Swansea, whose vital victory gave their own hopes of survival an enormous lift.

After a cagey start, Alfie Mawson’s thumping volley and an incisive team goal finished by Martin Olsson gave the hosts a commanding 2-0 half-time lead.

Leicester offered more resistance in the second half – substitute Islam Slimani was denied by a fine save by Lukasz Fabianski – but fell to a fifth successive defeat, increasing the pressure on manager Claudio Ranieri.

The Foxes, who are just one point above the relegation zone, are the only side in the top four English divisions without a league goal in 2017.

They are also the first reigning champions to lose five consecutive top flight matches since Chelsea in March 1956 and now find themselves embroiled in a congested relegation battle in which the bottom six teams are separated by just five points.

Leicester in freefall

Winless in the Premier League in 2017 and without a goal in their previous five league outings, Leicester entered this fixture in apparent freefall.

Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel described their faltering title defence as “embarrassing” after last Sunday’s 3-0 home defeat by Manchester United, while Wednesday’s FA Cup replay win over Derby was preceded by a dreaded vote of confidence from the club’s board for manager Ranieri.

The Italian cut a forlorn figure on the touchline at the Liberty Stadium, standing motionless as he watched his side surrender two goals in a potentially defining eight-minute spell at the end of the first half.

There was little Schmeichel could do to stop Mawson’s brilliant swerving volley, but the goalkeeper was at fault for Swansea’s second.

Attempting to launch a counter-attack, the Dane’s throw landed at the feet of Swans midfielder Tom Carroll, who started a slick one-touch passing move which involved Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson and ended with Olsson, whose firm strike Schmeichel should have saved.


As impressive as the goal was from a Swansea perspective, it was indicative of Leicester’s porous defence – a far cry from the solid backline which formed the foundation for their improbable title success last season.


Will they manage to steal victory from the jaws of defeat and keep their hopes alive or will they return to the lower echelons of football in Britain and bask in the memories of their short lived reign? Only time will tell. Can you tell?  Share your views in the comments section. I’d like to hear from you.


The Football Chiefs Meet

The BBC is reporting that the FA chief  and FIFA chief are meeting.

FA chairman Greg Clarke is in Zurich today to meet Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

This is the first formal meeting between the two men and a range of issues are believed to be under discussion.

It’s understood that the meeting has been scheduled for a while but it comes at a time of increased tensions between the two organisations over the poppy row.

A decision on any punishment for The FA (and the FAW, SFA and IFA) concerning displaying poppies before and during Armistice weekend matches will be announced next week.


Air Tragedy rocks the football world|71 dead

Brazilian soccer team’s plane crashes in Colombia; 71 dead

Colombian authorities searched for answers Tuesday into the crash of a chartered airliner that slammed into the Andes mountains while transporting a Brazilian soccer team whose Cinderella story had won it a spot in the finals of one of South America’s most prestigious regional tournaments. All but six of the 77 people on board were killed.

The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane declared an emergency and lost radar contact just before 10 p.m. Monday (0300 GMT Tuesday), according to Colombia’s aviation agency. It said the plane’s black boxes had been recovered and were being analyzed.

The aircraft, which departed from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was carrying the Chapecoense soccer team from southern Brazil for Wednesday’s first leg of the two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin. Twenty-one Brazilian journalists were also on board the flight.

Colombian officials initially said the plane suffered an electrical failure but there was also heavy rainfall at the time of the crash. Authorities also said they were not ruling out the possibility, relayed to rescuers by a surviving flight attendant, that the plane ran out of fuel minutes before its scheduled landing at Jose Maria Cordova airport outside Medellin.

Whatever the cause, the emotional pain of Colombia’s deadliest air tragedy in two decades was felt across the soccer world.

Expressions of grief poured in as South America’s federation canceled all scheduled matches in a show of solidarity, Real Madrid’s squad interrupted its training for a minute of silence and Argentine legend Diego Maradona sent his condolences to the victims’ families over Facebook.

Brazil’s top teams offered to loan the small club players next season so they can rebuild following the sudden end to a fairy tale season that saw Chapecoense reach the tournament final just two years after making it into the first division for the first time since the 1970s. “It is the minimum gesture of solidarity that is within our reach,” the teams said in a statement.

Sportsmanship also prevailed, with Atletico Nacional asking that the championship title be given to its rival, whose upstart run had electrified soccer-crazed Brazil.

Rescuers working through the night were initially heartened after pulling three people alive from the wreckage. But as the hours passed, heavy fog and stormy weather grounded helicopters and slowed efforts to reach the crash site.

At daybreak, dozens of bodies scattered across a muddy mountainside were collected into white bags. They were then loaded onto several Black Hawk helicopters that had to perform a tricky maneuver to land on the crest of the Andes mountains. The plane’s fuselage appeared to have broken into two, with the nose facing downward into a steep valley.

Officials initially reported 81 people were on board the flight, but later revised that to 77, saying four people on the flight manifest did not get on the plane.

Images broadcast on local television showed three of the six survivors on stretchers and connected to IVs arriving at a hospital in ambulances. Chapecoense defender Alan Ruschel was in the most serious condition, and was later transported to another facility to undergo surgery for a spinal fracture. Teammates Helio Zampier and Jakson Follmann also suffered multiple trauma injuries, with doctors having to amputate the goalkeeper Follmann’s right leg.

A journalist traveling with the team was recovering from surgery and two Bolivian crew members were in stable condition, hospital officials said.

The aircraft is owned by LaMia, a charter company that started off in Venezuela but later relocated to Bolivia, where it was certified to operate last January. Despite such apparently limited experience the airline has a close relationship with several premier South American squads.

Earlier this month, the plane involved in Monday’s crash transported Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and the Argentina national team from Brazil following a World Cup qualifier match. The airliner also appears to have transported the national squads of Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela over the last three months, according to a log of recent activity provided by

Before being taken offline, LaMia’s website said it operated three 146 Avro short-haul jets made by British Aerospace, with a maximum range of around 2,965 kilometers (1,600 nautical miles) — about the same as the distance between Santa Cruz and Medellin..

Hans Weber, a longtime adviser to U.S. aviation authorities, said the aircraft’s range deserves careful investigation. He noted that the air distance between cities is usually measured by the shortest route but planes rarely fly in a straight line — pilots may steer around turbulence or change course for other reasons.

Given the model of the plane and that it was flying close to capacity, “I would be concerned that the pilots may have been cutting it too close,” Weber said.

Bolivia’s civil aviation agency said the aircraft picked up the Brazilian team in Santa Cruz, where the players had arrived on a commercial flight from Sao Paulo. Spokesman Cesar Torrico said the plane underwent an inspection before departing for Colombia and reported no problems.

“We can’t rule out anything. The investigation is ongoing and we’re going to await the results,” said Gustavo Vargas, a retired Bolivian air force general who is president of the airline.

Colombian authorities said they hope to interview the Bolivian flight attendant who relayed the fuel concerns on Wednesday.

Moments before the flight departed, the team’s coaching staff gave an interview to a Bolivian television station in which they praised the airline, saying it brought them good fortune when it flew them to Colombia last month for the championship’s quarterfinals, which they won.

“Now we’re going to do this new trip and we hope they bring us good luck like they did the first time,” athletic director Mauro Stumpf told the Gigavision TV network.

The team, from the small Brazilian agro-industrial city of Chapeco, was in the midst of a breakout season. It advanced last week to the Copa Sudamericana finals after defeating some of the region’s top teams, including Argentina’s San Lorenzo and Independiente, as well as Colombia’s Junior.

The team is so modest that tournament organizers ruled that its 22,000-seat arena was too small to host the final match, which was moved to a stadium 300 miles (480 kilometers) to the north, in the city of Curitiba.

The team won over fans across Brazil with its spectacular run to the finals, with some even taking up a campaign online to move the final match to Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium, where the 2014 World Cup finals were played.

The tragedy of so many young and talented players’ lives and dreams cut short brought an outpouring of support far beyond Brazil’s borders. Atletico Nacional said in a statement it was offering its title to the team, saying the accident “leaves an indelible mark on the history of Latin American and world soccer.”

Closer to home, fans mourned the terrible loss.

“This morning I said goodbye to them and they told me they were going after the dream, turning that dream into reality,” Chapecoense board member Plinio De Nes told Brazil’s TV Globo. “The dream was over early this morning.”

Thanks to the AP for this report via Yahoo.


Man U Players With Something To Prove

As the Red Devils begin their preseason schedule under their new manager there are a number of stars who must fight for their futures, starting against Wigan on Saturday.

Manchester United begins an exciting new era when the side travels to Wigan on Saturday. But while the start of Jose Mourinho’s reign brings with it new optimism and intrigue, for many first-team players it will represent the need to step up and prove themselves.

The potential debuts of Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will certainly be the more eye-catching appointments for most United fans at the DW Stadium, but it is the need for existing stars to prove their worth to the new manager which will provide the most significant plot line over the first 90 minutes of Mourinho’s spell with the Red Devils.

It is exactly because United was rammed full of mediocrity last season that Louis van Gaal was shown the door and Mourinho handed his prestigious job – and a large number of the Dutchman’s former allies now find themselves with something significant to prove.

The most obvious name that comes to the fore is that of Juan Mata, who has already been discarded by Mourinho once before in January 2014 at Chelsea following a rocky period for the back-to-back club Player of the Year. On that occasion the Portuguese’s arrival led to Mata’s work rate being thrown into the spotlight, and the Spain international seemed to crumble under the new pressure.

His winter move to Old Trafford that season cost United 37.1 million pounds ($49.7 million) and, while his quality on the ball has left a great impression on many fans at the Theater of Dreams, it is fair to say that question marks regarding Mata’s off-the-ball work rate and desire to seek out possession loom as large as they did at Stamford Bridge three years ago.

Daley Blind might have been the closest thing United had to an ever-present last season with his 56 appearances in 59 games, but he will find himself having to prove to Mourinho that he has an outstanding quality that the new boss cannot do without.

His predominant role under Van Gaal in 2015-16 was that of a stand-in center back, and while the experiment worked to some degree thanks to his clever reading of the game, a lack of pace and defensive instinct saw him exposed too often. Mourinho’s first move in the market this summer was to add Bailly in the spot Blind filled last term, and as such the 26-year-old has something to prove all over again in terms of his value in another position.

“I’m more a manager that likes specialists and not so much the multi-functional players,” said Mourinho at his unveiling, “because I’m very clear in my approach so I need specialists for that.” And since nobody more than Blind has shown his flexibility over the past two years, the Wigan friendly provides him with a challenge to show he can be a firm fixture in one particular position. With Bailly’s arrival and Luke Shaw’s return to fitness, that spot could well be the central midfield role he originally filled when signing for United in 2014.

Beyond Mata and Blind, others also have much to prove. Ander Herrera has dazzled only occasionally in his two years at Old Trafford, and his style does not match with the physical, energetic approach to midfield play which has become synonymous with Mourinho midfields.

Memphis Depay has something more akin to the profile of a player who Mourinho could make good use of, but his performance level over the course of 2015-16 was well short and, as such, he may need to hit the ground running to avoid being moved on. Adnan Januzaj falls under the same category having never truly convinced since his breakthrough campaign under David Moyes, and Jesse Lingard must prove himself all over again now that the likes of Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been added to the forward line.

Andreas Pereira will be fighting for recognition following a spell under Van Gaal which produced zero league starts, and players such as Ashley Young and James Wilson will also need to leave an early impression on their new boss.

As other stars return following their involvement at Euro 2016 there will be more futures to solve, with the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian all needing to convince Mourinho that they have a future at Old Trafford, but there are plenty available for action in Wigan on Saturday with cases of their own to present to the Special One.

Will Mata, Blind, Memphis, Januzaj, Lingard et al be a part of Mourinho’s brave new world? We will start to learn the answer at the DW Stadium.



Real Madrid Rejected €80M Offer For Morata

The European champions have decided to keep the 23-year-old striker at the club and have assured him he will be handed a fair crack at a place in their starting XI.

Real Madrid rejected an offer of 80 million euros ($89M) for Alvaro Morata before deciding to keep the striker at the Santiago Bernabeu, Goal Spainreports.

Morata was pursued by Chelsea and Arsenal, among others, after Madrid exercised a buy-back clause to re-sign him from Juventus for €30 million ($33M).

Morata’s agents met with Madrid on Thursday and a €60 million ($66M) bid was turned down. An improved €80 million offer from an unnamed club was dismissed Monday after another meeting.


It was expected that the European champions would immediately sell the 23-year-old for a profit upon his return, but Florentino Perez and Zinedine Zidane have pushed to persuade him he has a future in Madrid.

Zidane and Perez are both fans of Morata and played a significant role in assuring the Spain international that he will be handed a fair shot at breaking into the starting XI next season.

Morata and his representatives were also said to be encouraged by Zidane’s selection of the likes of Lucas Vasquez on the basis of their good form over big-money signings such as James Rodriguez.

The striker will compete directly with Karim Benzema for the center forward role between star wingers Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.  – Alberto Pinero


Neymar to finalise new Barcelona contract in ‘next few days’

According to the ESPNFC Neymar will sign a new five-year Barcelona contract in the next few days, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said.

neymartweeterNeymar’s current deal with Barca ends in June 2018 and talks over an extension have been ongoing for some time amid regular rumours that potential suitors such as Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester United could pay the 24-year-old’s €200 million release clause this summer.

However, Bartomeu told a news conference on Thursday: “Neymar is not leaving Barca. He is not going to leave.

“The socios [club members] know this, and that is why — and I don’t know whether it will happen tomorrow or the day after — Neymar is going to sign for five seasons.”

Neymar’s former agent Wagner Ribeiro had recently said there was interest in the Brazil international from “three big clubs” but that he was happy at the Camp Nou, and the forward’s father subsequently stressed that there was “zero chance” of a move to Madrid.

Neymar joined Barca from Santos in 2013 and has won La Liga and the Copa del Rey on two occasions as well as the 2015 Champions League

However, his arrival has prompted off-field problems due to the complicated nature of the transfer, with the club recently reaching an agreement with the Spanish authorities to pay €15m in back taxes and a €5.5m fine.

Bartomeu added: “It is normal that other clubs are interested in him, but I am saying this clearly: Neymar has never told us that he wants to leave.

“He wants to stay here and we want him to be here, and that is why the club’s lawyers and Neymar’s lawyers are working to finish this renewal and we hope it will be done over the next few days.

“But we are coming from a tax case with the Spanish revenue service and the prosecutor, and so we must write the contract very carefully. He will continue here for five years.”


Spain Fall Short

PARIS — The answer to what has happened to Spain lies with Xavi Hernandez. And not just his absence from the national team, for that would be awfully simplistic.

Xavi said in more than one interview that “because [Spain] tend to be a small, slight team, we have to be at our absolute utmost, in form, fit and passing well, in order to compete against a series of teams who are bigger, faster and stronger than us.”

While Spain ruled, they did so not simply because they were technically exquisite, nor even just because they had a clutch of historically good and inspirational footballers — think Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Iker Casillas — but also because they spent the vast majority of the period between 2007-13 training, preparing, thinking and then performing at their absolute maximum.

To paraphrase the now internationally-retired Xavi, the advantage of being better at football and better on the ball than most of their rivals wasn’t enough on its own.


Iceland take stunning lead over Englnad

Iceland take stunning 2-1 lead

A goalkeeping error by Joe Hart has put Iceland 2-1 up vs. England in Nice. Wayne Rooney gave Roy Hodgson’s side the lead from the penalty spot before Ragnar Sigurdsson’s equaliser two minutes later


Fifa To Manage Argentina Federation Affairs

ZURICH — FIFA says it has taken control of Argentina’s football federation from the current leadership and will help pick an emergency panel to manage its affairs.

FIFA announced the decision Friday, two days before the Lionel Messi-led Argentina team plays the Copa America Centenario final against Chile in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

On Thursday, Argentina soccer body president Luis Segura — a member of FIFA’s ruling council — was charged with fraud related to TV broadcasting rights.

Led by Julio Grondona since the 1970s, the federation has been in turmoil since the late FIFA senior vice president died in 2014.

FIFA says a so-called “normalization committee” of up to seven members “will be in charge of running the daily affairs” of the Argentine body.

Elections must be organized by July 2017.


Barca and Man City battle over Jesus Gabriel

According to our source at Transfer Talk:

City, Barca in fight for Brazilian star

It appears battle lines have been drawn for a player considered by some in Brazil to have the potential to be the new Neymar.

In one corner, Barcelona. In the other, former Barca boss Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. The player? Gabriel Jesus.

Let’s start with City: The Sun reports that Guardiola has offered £16.7 million for the Palmeiras forward.

It adds that the 19-year-old has two release clauses in his contract, with one allowing City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid to sign him for that amount.

The other, applicable to any other club caring to bid, is for £27.8m.

With Gabriel Jesus having attracted the attention of “a host of European giants,” City “have made the first real move,” the Sun says.

But hang on — Barcelona have also made an offer and have started talks with Palmeiras, Spanish outlet Sport says.

Negotiations, according to its report, “could progress over the coming days,” with Barcelona scouts believing a move for the teenager would be “a safe bet.”

Palmeiras are reportedly resigned to the fact that they will lose Jesus this summer — and it appears only to be a question of to which club