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Looking at the Premier League table one-third of the way through the season, and it seems more unpredictable and wide-open at the top than it has in a long time.
Manchester United are in the title race after manager Erik ten Hag stumbled on a winning formula; Arsenal are top of the table despite doubts over their two senior goalkeepers Aaron Ramsdale and David Raya; Tottenham Hotspur can move level with reigning champions Manchester City with a win at the Etihad on Sunday, despite having lost three successive league games. And then there is Aston Villa, which started the season a with a 5-1 defeat at Newcastle but have emerged as surprise challengers after moving within two points of top spot with a 2-1 win at Spurs at the weekend.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw between City and Liverpool at the Etihad felt like a game between the teams most likely to finish in the top two when the season ends in May, but right now, the 2023-24 title race has become a footballing version of the “Wacky Races” cartoon, with none of the contenders immune to the pitfalls that the best teams are usually able to avoid.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
Even City, last season’s treble winners, have displayed vulnerabilities. Who would have expected Pep Guardiola’s side to lose at Wolves in September and then follow it up with a loss at Arsenal a week later? Meanwhile, Liverpool have perhaps been the most consistent of the expected challengers, losing just once in the league so far — and that came amid two red cards and one of the Premier League’s most controversial moments as VAR disallowed a legitimate goal from Luis Díaz — but they also needed a stoppage-time equaliser to snatch a point at lowly Luton earlier this month as Jurgen Klopp’s side have also displayed vulnerabilities.
It is unusual — possibly even unique — for the top seven teams in the Premier League to be separated by only seven points at this stage. All the teams have now completed more than a third of their season, and nobody has emerged as a clear favourite to end up as champions. It’s been an unpredictable, and at times chaotic, season. The fact that United are just six points off top spot, having made their worst start to a campaign since the 1980s, suggests that while we may be set for a competitive title race, it is one that lacks an outstanding side.
But maybe that is the beauty of this season. Man City’s dominance has been good for them, but nobody else — especially the Premier League as a brand, which projects itself as the most exciting in the world. If Guardiola’s team go on to win the title and become the first in English football history (dating back to the first season in 1888) to win four successive championships, the Premier League will start to earn comparisons with the German Bundesliga and Bayern Munich’s long-term dominance.
The inconsistencies of the leading teams this season add to the spectacle of the Premier League — it just needs one of the clubs to find an extra gear to stop City. It doesn’t seem credible that United could be that side, despite the fact that six points is a minimal deficit to close with two-thirds of the season to come.
United sit on top of the form table, having won five of their last six league games, but even their most ardent supporter would struggle to point to a game they have dominated. Injuries and a loss of form suffered by last season’s key players — Lisandro Martínez, Raphaël Varane, Casemiro and Christian Eriksen among them — have forced Ten Hag to turn to players he was happy to offload, such as Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay. Teenage midfielder Kobbie Mainoo’s outstanding performance in the 3-0 win at Everton on Sunday hinted he will get a sustained run in the side and if Marcus Rashford can start firing again then United could yet make a charge up the table, even if their performances suggest otherwise.
Newcastle, a point behind United in seventh, are capable of beating anyone, especially at home, and thanks to their Saudi Arabian owners they have the financial strength to make significant additions to Eddie Howe’s squad in January. Saturday’s clash against United at St James’ Park will be a key indicator of the prospects of both sides.
Villa should not be discounted either. Unai Emery’s pedigree as a top-level coach is without question, and he has built a confident attacking team in just 12 months at Villa Park. Their squad perhaps lacks depth and the top teams could punish Villa for their high defensive line, but if they can avoid injuries they could sustain a top-four push.
How goal ‘monster’ Haaland made Premier League history
Steve Nicol reacts to Erling Haaland becoming the fastest player to score 50 Premier League goals.
And what of Spurs? The Ange Postecoglou revolution has hit the brakes on the back of three successive defeat as injuries are biting hard, especially with James Maddison and Micky van de Ven facing long-term absences. Postecoglou’s side are so attack-minded that they will surely return to winning ways soon. Though Sunday’s trip to City looks the worst possible place to find some form, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool have attacked City and been rewarded. Spurs could profit by taking the same approach.
The real threat to City is likely to come from Liverpool and Arsenal. Liverpool need to iron out defensive flaws and hope that goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s hamstring injury is not an issue that forces him out for a sustained period. Arsenal, meanwhile, just need one of their keepers — Raya or Ramsdale — to settle down and mute the noise around the position that has been created by manager Mikel Arteta’s mixed messages on who is his No. 1 and why.
City will certainly be concerned that there are so many rivals capable of thwarting them this year, despite the goals of Erling Haaland (18 in 19 games this season) and Rodri’s emergence as the most important midfielder in the Premier League. Guardiola’s side are still favourites, but with so many teams within striking distance, City need to raise their game to keep them at bay.
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Erling Haaland is ready to face Liverpool in Manchester City’s Premier League top of the table clash on Saturday, sources have told ESPN, after returning to training following an injury setback on international duty.
Haaland, who leads the Premier League goal charts with 13 this season, injured his ankle during Norway’s friendly victory against the Faroe Islands last Thursday and was forced to withdraw from the squad for the Euro 2024 qualifier against Scotland due to the problem.
The Norway team doctor said that Haaland was in “so much pain” with the injury, which aggravated a similar problem sustained while playing against Bournemouth earlier this season.
But after returning to City for treatment at the beginning of this week, Haaland returned to training on Thursday to give manager Pep Guardiola a selection boost ahead of the meeting with second-placed Liverpool this weekend.
City’s official X account has this evening posted a picture of Haaland in action at the club’s training ground to highlight the 23-year-old’s return to fitness.
Guardiola is expected to give an update on Haaland’s recovery when he holds his prematch press conference on Friday.
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Manchester City scored two goals barely a minute apart to beat Manchester United 3-1 and spoil the home side’s night at Old Trafford in the Women’s Super League derby on Sunday.
City climbed over United into third in the WSL standings on 13 points after seven games, six points behind leaders Chelsea, while United have 12 points.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
The crowd of 43,615 smashed United’s previous attendance record of 30,196 for a WSL game at Old Trafford set in 2022 against Aston Villa.
Captain Katie Zelem put United ahead with a penalty in the 21st minute after Alex Greenwood’s handball, but Jill Roord and England international Lauren Hemp scored in the 34th and 35th minutes in a breathless first half.
United gifted City a goal when England keeper Mary Earps hesitated to meet a soft pass back from Maya Le Tissier. Earps’ attempted clearance ricocheted off an onrushing Khadija Shaw and into the net, leaving United’s keeper angrily yelling about the error.
City were reduced to 10 players in the 72nd minute when Laia Alexandri was shown a second yellow for a foul on Lucia Garcia, and while United dominated with a flurry of chances in the final few minutes, City held strong and their fans were singing “Blue Moon” by the final whistle.
Arsenal beat Brighton earlier on Sunday for their fifth successive WSL victory with goals from Stina Blackstenius, Caitlin Foord and Frida Maanum. Arsenal climbed to within three points of leaders Chelsea.
Chelsea, the only undefeated team, had moved six points clear atop the table on Saturday with a 5-1 win over Liverpool that featured a Lauren James hat-trick amid their quest for a fifth successive WSL title.
England international Rachel Daly scored in added time to lift Aston Villa to a thrilling 3-2 victory at West Ham United. Anna Patten and Canadian international Adriana Leon also scored before Daly hooked in the winner from inside the box for Villa, who are ninth with just two wins.
Celin Bezit scored a second-half equaliser to ensure Tottenham left the King Power Stadium with a point in a 1-1 draw against Leicester City. Tottenham are fifth, two spots ahead of Leicester.
Amalie Thestrup scored in the 82nd minute to salvage a 2-2 draw for Bristol City at Everton. Everton are 10th in the table, two spots ahead of bottom side Bristol City.
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Rob Dawson, CorrespondentNov 15, 2023, 11:28 AM
Richard Arnold will leave his role as Manchester United CEO ahead of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s imminent arrival as a minority shareholder.
United released a statement confirming the news on Wednesday afternoon.
“It has been an incredible privilege to serve this great football club for the past 16 years,” Arnold said.
“Through highs and lows, the constant has been the dedication of our employees and fans. I would like to thank all of them for their loyalty and commitment, and wish everyone associated with the club the very best for the future.”
Current chief legal counsel Patrick Stewart will replace Arnold as interim CEO.
“Together with my leadership team colleagues, my job will be to ensure that the club’s foundations remain stable while we embrace changes that can make us stronger over the long term, on and off the pitch, and to support the search for a new permanent CEO,” Stewart said.
Ratcliffe’s £1.3 billion investment for a 25% stake in the club is close to being finalised.
Sources have told ESPN that football director John Murtough’s position is also under threat with Ratcliffe keen to bring in INEOS director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford.
Murtough was appointed in March 2021 and was heavily involved in the decision to bring in Erik ten Hag as manager in 2022. Paul Mitchell is one of the names in the frame to replace him.
Arnold took over the role of United’s most senior executive from Ed Woodward in February 2022.
His departure from the club will have to be announced to the New York Stock Exchange.
Ratcliffe is set to become a minority shareholder nearly a year after owners the Glazer family announced they would consider “strategic alternatives” including a full sale of accepting minority investment.
Ratcliffe is set to have influence over the football side of the business once his investment is confirmed.
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Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane scored twice in their 4-2 victory over Heidenheim on Saturday to lift them provisionally into top spot in the Bundesliga while extending his own record-breaking scoring run in Germany.
Kane, who has now bagged 21 goals in 15 matches in the Bundesliga and the Champions League for Bayern, opened his account in the 14th minute with a superb turn and shot in the box.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
The England captain then struck again with a powerful header a minute before the break to become the first player in Bundesliga history to score 17 goals in the first 11 matchdays of a season.
He is now the first player in Bundesliga history to score 17 goals in the first 11 matchdays of a season.
Kane had scored back-to-back hat-tricks in the league against Darmstadt 98 and last week’s 4-0 demolition of Borussia Dortmund before netting twice more in their mid-week Champions League win over Galatasaray.
He now has more league goals after 11 league matches than last season’s top Bundesliga scorers had in the entire 2022-23 campaign, with questions about whether he can break the league record of 41 goals now almost inevitable.
“Good question, I’ll probably be asked about that all season,” Kane said. “But there’s still a long way to go.
“We showed a great reaction after their equaliser. I’m just enjoying playing with the team,” he added. “My body is used to the strain from the Premier League, but it was a tough week.”
Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel was not happy, though, with his team’s sloppy defending which allowed Heidenheim to roar back in the second half and score twice in four minutes to draw level.
Tim Kleindienst cut the deficit after Bayern were caught napping on a Heidenheim counter attack and Jan-Niklas Beste equalised after yet another defensive error in the 70th.
But Raphael Guerreiro quickly restored the hosts’ lead in the 72nd and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting headed in their fourth goal in the 85th to lift them into top spot on 29 points.
Kane’s performance also earned praise from Heidenheim coach Frank Schmidt, Germany’s longest serving club coach.
“He has unusual quality, you saw it today,” Schmidt said. “Just the way he plays, his game is that of a great player.”
Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, on 28, host embattled Union Berlin on Sunday. VfB Stuttgart are third on 24 after a 2-1 victory over fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund, who have 21 points.
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Alejandro Garnacho has avoided a disciplinary sanction by the English Football Association (FA) for an Instagram post directed at Manchester United teammate André Onana, but the player has been warned about his use of social media.
Argentina winger Garnacho posted a picture of Onana accompanied by two gorilla emojis after the goalkeeper saved a stoppage-time penalty against FC Copenhagen which sealed a 3-2 Champions League Group A win last month.
Garnacho’s post prompted widespread criticism on social media and led to calls for the player to be charged by the FA for using a racial stereotype in his post about Cameroon international Onana, who quickly defended his teammate by saying he had not been offended by the message.
The FA has in the past issued suspensions and fines to former United forward Edinson Cavani and Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva for their use of what was judged to be racially-loaded language on social media.
But after studying the post and communicating with Garnacho, the FA has now confirmed that no action will be taken against the player.
“We have concluded an investigation in relation to a recent post on Alejandro Garnacho’s social media. We sought the player’s observations as part of our investigation, and he explained that the use of two gorilla emojis was intended to highlight the strength and power of his teammates — specifically André Onana and Harry Maguire — following the pivotal roles that they played in Manchester United’s win over FC Copenhagen,” an FA spokesperson said.
“We are satisfied with Alejandro Garnacho’s explanation and the context that it provides, so we will not be issuing disciplinary proceedings on this occasion.
“However, we have reminded the player of his responsibilities around social media posts and the use of emojis in particular which can be interpreted in different ways.
“We also intend to liaise with Kick It Out and the PFA to discuss other potential issues around the use of emojis and similar forms of messaging, and education that can be provided about them.”
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Luis Miguel Echegaray, ESPNNov 3, 2023, 02:51 PM
Welcome to Onside/Offside! Each week, Luis Miguel Echegaray discusses the latest from the soccer world, including standout performances, games you might have missed, what to keep an eye on in the coming days and of course, certain things that probably deserved extra love and criticism.
This week, we have lots of previews! From the Premier League, where Mikel Arteta’s undefeated Arsenal visit Eddie Howe’s high-scoring Newcastle United to MLS and a tasty Copa Libertadores final. Plus, what does Saudi Arabia’s sole bid for the 2034 World Cup mean for the future of the sport?
Newcastle vs. Arsenal: The unbeaten against the goal scorers
This matchup is set to be entertaining: two teams with a clear identity under young, ambitious managers eyeing legitimate objectives while possessing tremendous, eye-catching talent.
Let’s begin with Newcastle United, who alongside Aston Villa, are the current highest scorers in the Premier League. When they’re on, they’re a complete team in the sense that they work as a unit, no matter the XI. They showed it midweek against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup when manager Howe started out with a rotated squad and no discernible striker aside from Joelinton, who now plays as a box-to-box midfielder. The outcome? 7,000 from the Toon Army witnessed a 3-0 destruction.
Newcastle’s biggest strength is that it’s all about the collective. At their best, they are fluid and aggressive, and thanks to the likes of Anthony Gordon, Miguel Almirón and Callum Wilson, there is a single-minded, no-nonsense approach to entering the final third.
But as we shift to the other corner, Arsenal — who like Tottenham are still undefeated in the league — will prove to be a difficult test. They are coming from a 3-1 loss against West Ham in the Carabao Cup, but something tells me that this is a relief for manager Arteta as the Premier League and the Champions League are of greater importance. There’s also recent history to take into consideration when talking about Arsenal vs. Newcastle. From the past 22 meetings in all competitions, Arsenal have won 19 of them, which clearly says that they have Newcastle’s number. They are the Magpies’ bogey side.
But this match is difficult to predict because of both sides’ strengths but most notably, their vulnerabilities. I haven’t even mentioned the injuries and absences (Sandro Tonali being the most prominent for Newcastle.) With Gabriel Jesus injured and Kai Havertz proving largely ineffective, Eddie Nketiah is entering the most important chapter in his career with Arsenal. He has to be the guy right now.
Wilson, meanwhile, who has scored seven goals this season and is netting a goal every 60 minutes for Newcastle, also has to carry a larger responsibility because of Alexander Isak’s temporary absence. Will Arsenal remain undefeated? Can Newcastle take full advantage of St. James’s Park’s support and produce a victory? All I know is that I am excited to watch this one.
Argentina and Brazil’s contrasting styles on show in Copa Libertadores final
There are many angles and talking points you can take from Saturday’s Copa Libertadores final, which will be played at Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro. First, this is the first final between Argentina and Brazil since 2019, as the last three editions have been dominated by Brazilian teams. Second, Fluminense, managed by Fernando Diniz (also interim manager of the Brazil national team), are looking to win this trophy for the first time. Third, this is a chance for Boca Juniors to earn some redemption after losing in the violence-ridden 2018 edition against River Plate, which was eventually played in Madrid.
Boca are the second-most successful club in this competition behind Independiente, but have not won it since 2007. Fourth, aside from the obvious distaste toward one another because of nationality and cultural differences, Fluminense and Boca Juniors are also different in style.
Boca manager Jorge Almirón (a former defensive midfielder) has had to rely on resiliency and defensive prowess to get here (they have conceded only five goals). They have also made it through to the final thanks to penalty shootouts in every round. But goals have been a problem. Even with the arrival of Edinson Cavani in July, they have only scored 12 times in the entire tournament.
In the other corner, Fluminense have also scored 12 goals — in the knockout stages alone. In total, Diniz’s side have netted 22 goals in the competition and partly thanks to their Argentinian striker German Cano, they are lethal as much as they are attractive to watch. Diniz wants to bring back the “Joga Bonito” aspect to the Brazilian game as his Fluminense side usually play attractive, quick and short-possession based football, something he hasn’t mustered with the national team just yet.
Watch out for André, too, their 22-year-old defensive midfielder who was reportedly approached by Liverpool in the summer, but Fluminense held on to him for this very reason, to make it in the final. I expect this to be his last season with Fluminense. On Boca’s side, 19-year-old Valentin Barco is also reportedly attracting a lot of attention and this could also be his final campaign in Argentina as Premier League and Bundesliga sides have been keeping tabs on him.
But it’s not just about youth! How about Marcos Rojo or Sergio Romero, Man United fans? The former will miss the game due to being sent off in the semifinals against Palmeiras, but the goalkeeper will be key on Saturday. And then there’s Marcelo for Fluminense. The former Real Madrid star returned to his first club earlier this year and will look to add a Libertadores medal to his five from the Champions League.
No Messi? No problem. The three MVP candidates in MLS
The MLS playoffs are in full effect and this weekend features the second matches from the best-of-three series in Round 1. Just because Inter Miami and Lionel Messi are not involved doesn’t mean there isn’t great action to watch. MLS continues to grow (they recently recorded a highest-ever total attendance of 10.9 million for the season) and provide great moments of entertainment, with or without the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner.
So let’s talk about the three MVP candidates. First off, Denis Bouanga, the Golden Boot winner from LAFC, is in ridiculous form. The Gabonese striker scored 20 league goals and created three assists in the regular season and helped his club take the lead in the first round with a 1-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps. He arrived from Ligue 1’s Saint-Étienne for $5 million in 2022 and at 28 years old, it was definitely a bargain for the club from Los Angeles.
Then there’s Luciano Acosta, who started his career with Boca Juniors and went back and forth between MLS and Liga MX before finding his home with FC Cincinnati. Lucho is the ultimate No. 10 for Cincy, creating 29 league goal contributions this season (16 goals, 13 assists) and in the first playoff match against the New York Red Bulls, he was everywhere, scoring one and assisting another. He’s probably winning the MVP award.
Finally, Thiago Almada, a man I have wanted for Aston Villa for a while (sorry, Atlanta United fans) — 11 goals and 16 assists (the most in the league) in the regular season are only part of the story. He is a dynamite, much in the mold of Paulo Dybala but with a better eye for long-range finishes and set pieces. He didn’t play in Atlanta’s loss against Columbus Crew on Wednesday due to suspension, but will return for the second match next week.
If you’re asking me who’s winning the MLS Cup this season? I think all roads lead to Lucho Acosta and Cincy, who would lift their first title since joining the league from USL in 2019.
A special mention to Cucho Hernández, who scored a brace in Crew’s 2-0 win against Atlanta on Wednesday night. He scored 16 goals and recorded 11 assists in the regular season and will be a force in the postseason.
Fans clash ahead of Copa Lib final
I wish I could have left the Copa Libertadores final as an “onside” but sadly I have to also include this. On Thursday night at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Fluminense fans clashed with Boca Juniors supporters. By the time police responded, things had continued into the early hours.
CONMEBOL came out with a half-efforted statement asking for things to calm down (that will do the trick) which prompted the Argentinian ambassador in Brazil to ask for more. “I saw the statement and the truth is that it demands greater firmness and rigor,” said Daniel Scioli. “I am worried because tomorrow a very tough group of fans will arrive.”
In 2018, the Copa Libertadores final had to be suspended and moved to Madrid. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that this time around. One day, CONMEBOL will get it together and realize that these finals require a tremendous amount of infrastructure and protection for fans and their families who just want to enjoy their team in a final.
What do Saudi Arabia want?
Saudi Arabia’s sole bid for the 2034 World Cup was always going to be on the cards, for several reasons. For one, from a calendar perspective, the plans were carefully assembled by FIFA last month when it announced the rotation policy for hosts and — wouldn’t you know it — the 2034 edition was guaranteed for a nation from Asia or Oceania. Enter Saudi Arabia, uncontested after Australia pulled out hours before the deadline because it knew the obvious truth: money talks.
Second, there is the indication of Saudi’s continuous influence on global sports. From PIF’s control of Newcastle United — and consequently the top four clubs in the Saudi Pro League — to Formula 1, boxing, golf and December’s Club World Cup — Saudi Arabia has carefully created a path of sporting impact on the world stage. So, now that we know that this was going to happen (and Qatar setting a new precedent of saying “sorry, not sorry” to Europe with a winter World Cup), the question is: why does Saudi Arabia want this so much and what do they want out of it?
The first part of the question has been answered as there is a clear intention of the Saudi kingdom’s need to attract tourism and create a new identity for the Middle East. How about accusations of sportswashing, where sport is being used to cover and detract from the bigger issues at hand (human rights violations, criminalization of homosexuality, women’s rights abuses, free speech restrictions, the war in Yemen and the 2018 death of Jamal Khashoggi).
Well, it’s not really a concern, as clearly stated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by 1%, then we’ll continue doing sportswashing. … I have 1% growth in GDP from sport and I am aiming for another 1.5%. Call it whatever you want — we are going to get that 1.5%,” he said to Fox Sports in September.
In the end, a lot of question marks remain about the 2034 World Cup bid and how far Saudi Arabia will go to attain what it wants in the sporting market in order to clean its global reputation. But this is not just about Saudi Arabia’s intentions, as we continue to learn that FIFA’s gluttony has no limits.
Novak Djokovic and Ballon d’Or’s clueless decision
On Monday, Aitana Bonmatí received her first ever Ballon d’Or Féminin after an incredible season of success with Barcelona and the Spanish national team. There was a video right after the announcement describing her journey, which started with CD Ribes and CF Cubelles. Her speech was passionate and inspiring, encouraging other teammates to keep fighting (specifically talking about everything the Spanish women’s team has had to do for equal pay, against sexual harassment and of course, the Luis Rubiales incident) and living by example.
Bonmati ‘proud’ to win Ballon d’Or Feminin after difficult year for Spain
Spain midfielder Aitana Bonmati says she is speechless after winning the Ballon d’Or Feminin and now wants to focus on football after the World Cup controversy.
So why, may I ask, would the Ballon d’Or organizers arrange for Djokovic to present Bonmatí with the award? This is Djokovic, one of the greatest men’s tennis players in the history of the sport but who also once argued against equal pay and said male tennis players should be paid more than women. After winning the Indian Wells Masters in 2016, Djokovic was asked about his views on equal pay and said men “should fight for more” and “be awarded more” because they proved to attract larger attendances at tennis matches.
I mean, this is hardly a champion for women’s sports. If you have to have a tennis player present this award (which still baffles me), why not a woman? I’m sure Serena Williams, Coco Gauff or even Bonmatí’s compatriot Sara Sorribes Tormo, the current, highest-ranked Spanish player in the world would have been more than happy to attend.
In addition, the event was held during an international window in women’s football so most nominees couldn’t attend. France Football also don’t offer awards for the women’s best young player, goalkeeper or striker, which were all featured for the men. It may have been a great night for Messi and the men’s game, but once again, much more could have been done for the women.
What happens when Goliath meets David? Bayern Munich found out on Wednesday in the German cup, courtesy of third division side Saarbrucken who are 15th in the table but it didn’t bother them one bit as Marcel Gaus scored in the 96th minute to secure a historic victory against the Bundesliga champions.
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Real Madrid winger Vinícius Júnior vowed to keep speaking out against racism in world soccer after receiving the Socrates Award on Monday at the Ballon d’Or ceremony for his contribution off the field.
Vinícius, who has been racially abused repeatedly in LaLiga games over the last two seasons, was recognized for starting a foundation that is building schools in impoverished areas and investing in education in Brazil.
“I will remain strong in the fight against racism,” said the Brazilian, who received the award from the Prince of Monaco. “It is a very sad thing to talk about racism nowadays, but we have to continue in the fight so that people suffer less.
“Very happy to receive this award and to help many children in Brazil. I had little chance of getting where I have coming from where I came so it is a pleasure for me to help as many kid as I can so they can have a chance.”
The 23-year-old was the only Brazilian in the top 10 of the ranking for this year’s Ballon d’Or after scoring 23 goals in all competitions for Madrid last season.
The forward was also part of an emotional tribute to Pelé, the Brazil great who died in December last year at the age of 82.
“Pele is a god for me and if I am here today, it is thanks to him. He put Brazil on a different level and people respect Brazilian players thanks to the great legacy he left,” Vinicius said.
The Vini Jr. Institute, created in 2020, aims to use the popularity of football to help innovations in teaching and learning in Brazilian public schools.
The project claims up to 15 schools and 10,000 students will benefit by the end of 2023, with more than 500 teachers employed.
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Oct 26, 2023, 09:55 PM
The summer transfer window has closed throughout Europe, but there are still moves in the works and plenty of gossip swirling around.Transfer Talk brings you all the latest buzz on rumours, comings, goings and, of course, done deals!
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The international break is over and club football came roaring back this weekend. If you had checked the box scores, you’d think there were few surprises as the weekend’s action got underway, but those full-time figures tell only half the story.
We saw Manchester United defeat Sheffield United 2-1 on an emotional day following the passing of club legend Sir Bobby Charlton, while Manchester City achieved an important 2-1 win against Brighton & Hove Albion to stay firm in the race for the Premier League title. In Germany, Serhou Guirassy continues to break all the records at Stuttgart, and Bayern Munich charged to retain their Bundesliga title following their 3-1 win over Mainz.
In France, Kylian Mbappé scored again as PSG remain in the Ligue 1 race. In Spain, Real Madrid dropped points in a 1-1 draw against Sevilla to leave the LaLiga title race wide open. And finally, we saw some Women’s Super League action as Manchester City earned an important 1-0 win at Leicester City.
Sunday added some more big twists and turns, including a teenage academy product saving Barcelona (again), a match-up between AC Milan and Juventus with four American starters and more.
Here is your look back at all the fun from this weekend.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
The Sunday lead: 17-year-old Guiu saves Barca in his debut
Struggling to break down your opponent? Missing your star striker and a handful of other regular starters through injury? No problem, just turn to the academy again.
That’s exactly what Barcelona did Sunday against Athletic Bilbao, throwing 17-year-old forward Marc Guiu on for his debut in the second half. Within about 30 seconds, he had scored the winning goal, beating goalkeeper Unai Simón after being fed by João Félix to give Barça a 1-0 victory.
The win moved the Blaugrana within one point of joint leaders Real Madrid and Girona. It sets up next weekend’s Clásico quite nicely. (Stream it live: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, Oct. 28, 10 a.m. ET on ESPN+.)
With starters Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Jules Koundé and Raphinha all watching from the stands with knocks, Barça had struggled to break down an impressive Athletic side managed by their former coach Ernesto Valverde. Felix had come close, hitting the bar, and Simon also produced a good save from Fermín López, another youngster who has emerged from nowhere this season for Barça.
Athletic were more than their match at the Olympic Stadium, though. Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen was in inspired form to twice keep out Iñaki Williams, whose brother, Nico, was also causing problems on the left flank.
And so, with just over 10 minutes to play and having already brought on 16-year-old Lamine Yamal to play alongside fellow academy graduates 20-year-old López, 20-year-old Alejandro Balde and 19-year-old Gavi, manager Xavi Hernandez’s final role of the dice was Spain U-17 international Guiu. It could not have gone any better. Within seconds, he latched onto Felix’s pass to score a goal he will never forget. Barça can always rely on La Masia.
It leaves the top of LaLiga looking very tasty after 10 matches. Madrid and Girona — who beat Almeria 5-2 earlier Sunday — have 25 points, Barça 24 and then come Atletico Madrid with 22 and a game in hand. — Sam Marsden
Sunday talking points around the leagues
Man United hand Toffees humiliation in WSL
With little time to dwell on their midweek loss to PSG that knocked them out of the Champions League before the group stages, Manchester United showed some of their better football to claim a hearty 5-0 win against a struggling Everton team.
The visitors being the team with more bite going forward, Melvine Malard’s header was the highlight of the first half for United but it wasn’t until Nikita Parris doubled the advantage just before the hour that the game fully titled towards the Red Devils. It took just 16 minutes for United to score their last three with Rachel Williams’ brace the body blows to beat the Toffees into submission before Parris added the last in stoppage time.
For United, who were without enigmatic attacking duo Geyse and Leah Galton, the added depth told as new and different combinations worked on the pitch to cut through the hosts. Williams scoring off of the bench is all but part of the script for United but from Irene Guerrero marking her debut with an assist to Malard’s habit of finding the back of the net, United are offering more virtuosity this season.
For Everton, whose defence took a sizable hit over the summer with the departures of Rikke Sevecke and Gabby George, there was a growing capitulation at the back as the goals started to rain in. The team in blue reverting to getting pushed around on the pitch, unable to dictate the tempo or come close to building on their derby win over Liverpool last time out. — Sophie Lawson
Americans Abroad: Pulisic gets the hook as Milan fall to Juventus
If Saturday wasn’t anything to write home about for U.S. men’s national team players in Europe, Sunday was only a bit better. Four Americans started as AC Milan hosted Juventus, making it a high-profile fixture for USMNT fans, but it was a slog.
After a red card to AC Milan’s Malick Thiaw at San Siro, a visibly frustrated Christian Pulisic was sacrificed, subbed off in the 42nd minute so centerback Pierre Kalulu could come on and try to keep the score at 0-0. For Pulisic, it was certainly not the match he was hoping to have. Fellow forwards Rafael Leão on the opposite wing and Olivier Giroud up top had just been far more dangerous on the day, so it’s easy to see why manager Stefano Pioli opted to remove the American from the attacking line.
On the other side of that fixture, Weston McKennie and Timothy Weah didn’t have standpoint performances either, despite Juventus having the man advantage for most of the match, eventually winning 1-0. Weah was technically awarded the assist for passing the ball to Manuel Locatelli before his goal, but the effort came down to Locatelli’s long-range strike that took a wicked deflection. McKennie and Weah did combine for a nice one-two in the 67th minute, but McKennie put his shot wildly off-target.
Weah came off in the 84th minute after walking away gingerly from a collision. In the first half, USMNT teammate and Milan midfielder Yunus Musah delivered a crunching tackle to Weah that sent him into the advertising boards.
With the win, Juventus closed the gap to second-place AC Milan to one point and inched within two points of first-place Inter Milan.
Elsewhere in Europe on Sunday, striker Folarin Balogun played 89 minutes for AS Monaco and mustered up just one shot in a 2-1 win over Metz. — Caitlin Murray
News of the day
The saga around who will own Manchester United continues, and a star from the world of golf wants a piece of the action. Four-time major-winning golfer Rory McIlroy, fresh off his recent investment in the Alpine Formula One team, has expressed interest in a bit of Man United.
And finally, on Sunday …
Jose Mourinho continues to become the gift that keeps on giving. The Roma manager was sent off towards the end of his team’s 1-0 win against Monza on Sunday for making a crying gesture.
“I don’t know why I got the red card, I only made a gesture to the bench, not a single word,” Mourinho said post-match. “The Monza bench put a lot of pressure on the referee; they shouldn’t have behaved like that.”
With this red card, it means he will not be on the touchline for their important clash against Serie A leaders Inter next Sunday. Never change, Jose. — Roberto Rojas
Jose Mourinho did this to the opposition bench shortly after Roma scored a stoppage time goal to take the lead against Monza.
He received a red card and will miss Roma’s next Serie A match against Inter Milan.
Missed the action on Saturday? Keep reading for all the talking points.
The Saturday lead: Onana, Dalot deliver a much-needed Man United win on emotional day following Sir Bobby Charlton’s death
For the first time in his short Manchester United career, André Onana has won back-to-back Premier League games and he played his part in the victory over Sheffield United on Saturday. It’s been a difficult start to life at Old Trafford for the Cameroon goalkeeper but this was the type of performance that should give him confidence he’ll be able to get through this sticky spell.
United were poor in the first 25 minutes at Bramall Lane and Onana was needed to make low saves from Oli McBurnie and Cameron Archer. It didn’t require anything spectacular but Erik ten Hag will settle for Onana doing the simple things well after a number of costly mistakes since his summer move from Inter Milan.
United are still struggling to score goals and all four of their Premier League wins so far this season have come with a one-goal margin but if Ten Hag can get his team to defend better, then they will start climbing the table. It begins with the goalkeeper and Ten Hag will have enjoyed a post-match news conference during which he wasn’t forced to defend Onana. He still has work to do to win over some United fans but a quiet night and a win at Sheffield United is a good place to start. — Rob Dawson
Saturday talking points around the leagues
Manchester City bounce back from back-to-back defeats
Manchester City don’t need any luck or help to win matches and they got it anyway as they avoided losing three Premier League games in a row for the first time since 2016. Under Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton are set up to win this type of game but they never gave themselves a chance to put City under pressure and were behind at the Etihad Stadium after just seven minutes when Julián Álvarez scuffed a shot which looped in over Jason Steele.
If that was their slice of luck, the help came from Brighton’s Carlos Baleba. Not long after Alvarez’s opener, the Brighton midfielder played a blind pass which Erling Haaland and, four touches later, the ball was in the net. It was the Norwegian’s first City goal for nearly a month but it wasn’t the finish — rifled into the corner from outside the penalty area — of a man out of form.
Rodri back from suspension, John Stones fit enough to make his first start of the season and Haaland back scoring goals; it was a good afternoon for Pep Guardiola, only spoiled slightly by a late red card for Manuel Akanji. It was, however, a day to forget for James Milner. The 37-year-old was picked at right-back and tasked with stopping 21-year-old Jérémy Doku but only lasted 45 minutes which consisted of watching Doku set up Alvarez and then twice ploughing into the Belgium winger.
After back-to-back defeats to Wolves and Arsenal, Brighton at home felt like a dangerous game — particularly because they’ve beaten Newcastle and Manchester United and drawn with Liverpool already this season — but it was navigated by City with minimal fuss and despite their small blip, they’re only two points worse off than they were at this stage last year. — Dawson
Ramos stars but can’t score dream winner against Madrid
In the 94th minute, with Sevilla and Real Madrid level at 1-1, Sergio Ramos’ moment arrived. Sevilla had a free kick on the edge of the Real Madrid box. There was only ever going to be one target. Suso floated the ball in, Ramos rose to meet it … and headed over the bar.
Ramos was always going to make headlines when Sevilla hosted Madrid at the Sanchez Pizjuan; it was just a question of how. Would he score against his former club? How about an own goal? Or a characteristic red card? Instead, it was more straightforward than that: Ramos was excellent, arguably the best player on the pitch. With all the noise around Ramos, it’s easy to forget the obvious: this is an exceptional defender, even at 37.
The highlight of his performance against Madrid came in the 34th minute, blocking what looked like a certain goal with an instinctive, outstretched leg. He went close to scoring in the 80th minute too, with a header well saved by goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Otherwise, Ramos was efficient and effortless. He had 78 touches, as many as any Sevilla player. He completed 61 of 65 passes, with seven recoveries and five clearances. There were moments of controversy too: a first-half face-off with Antonio Rüdiger in which he appeared to pinch the German’s cheeks, and an 86th-minute bust-up involving multiple players, Ramos at the centre of it.
The 1-1 scoreline wasn’t too much of a disappointment for LaLiga leaders Real Madrid — although they lamented referee icardo de Burgos Bengoetxea’s decision to rule out two early goals — and it was a positive start for Ramos and Sevilla, under new coach Diego Alonso. — Alex Kirkland
Kane shines as Bayern earn crucial win over Mainz
After Leverkusen, Stuttgart and Dortmund had won their respective games, Bayern Munich had to follow suit as the record champions took on Mainz in the Bundesliga’s Saturday evening game. The Moroccan right-back Noussair Mazraoui, who had attracted attention by posting anti-Israel sentiments on social media recently, was left out of the squad because of a muscle injury.
Meanwhile, Israeli goalkeeper Daniel Peretz was once again the backup for Sven Ulreich, who might have made his last start in the Bundesliga for the time being, with Manuel Neuer being expected to return to action next weekend.
As for the game at Mainz’s Mewa Arena itself, the home team neutralised Bayern’s build-up with their three-man high press in the early stages. Unluckily for the hosts, they did not take advantage of forced turnovers near Bayern’s penalty area, and it seemed that the goals scored by Kingsley Coman and Harry Kane during the opening 15 minutes may take the air out of the stadium.
But Mainz continued to fight and play admirably, as they managed to visit Bayern’s penalty area frequently. Shortly before the halftime break, Leroy Sané lost the ball in midfield, which allowed Brajan Gruda to move it forward before Anthony Caci scored Mainz’s first goal with a beautiful strike.For a while, an upset was in the air, but Caci went from hero to zero when he tried to dribble close to the hosts’ box, losing the ball and thus inviting Leon Goretzka to score the deciding third goal for Bayern.
The German champions are currently dealing with defensive issues which cannot solely be attributed to injury woes. There are systematic shortcomings that manager Thomas Tuchel needs to fix in the upcoming weeks.
Otherwise, Bayern’s attacking firepower might not be enough in some games. Perhaps the return of Neuer could stabilise the defence to an extent since the 37-year-old is not just an experienced shot-stopper but also someone who can guide a back line from behind. — Constantin Eckner
Remembering Sir Bobby Charlton
Alexis Nunes and Mark Ogden reflect on Sir Bobby Charlton’s impact on Manchester United, England and football in general after his death at the age of 86.
Mbappe stellar in PSG’s win over Strasbourg
After four games without scoring for PSG and some unusually underwhelming performances, Mbappé was back to his best on Saturday at the Parc des Princes against Strasbourg. A goal and an assist set his team on the road to a 3-0 victory in a game totally controlled by the Parisians.
The last time PSG came back from the international break with a home league match was in September when they were beaten by Nice (3-2). This time, there were no bad surprises.
Despite a big turnover from Luis Enrique, Paris were dominant and convincing. The Spanish manager rested many key players (Ousmane Dembele, Manuel Ugarte, Warren Zaïre-Emery, Randal Kolo Muani, Achraf Hakimi) and their subs took that opportunity to show what they could do. Carlos Soler and Fabián Ruiz scored and Ruiz is proving that he could be a decent alternative in midfield. Lee Kang-In also started after being out of the picture for a month while winning the Asian Cup with South Korea and can bring creativity and a different profile.
Four days before the huge Champions League clash with AC Milan in the French capital, Saturday was just what the doctor ordered for PSG. — Julien Laurens
Man City earn crucial win over Leicester to go top of the WSL
The last time Manchester City travelled to the King Power Stadium, in February, they were chasing down the top of the pack, desperately making a bid for a Champions League finish. Their opposition were making their own desperate charge, hoping to stave off relegation, the team in a far better place now under new manager Willie Kirk.
That match ended 2-0 to City with the visitors outshooting Leicester 32 shots to four as they boasted 74 per cent of the possession over the 90-minute match. This season, things could not be more different and heading into the fourth matchday of the WSL season, the narrative was set at a top-of-the-table clash.
Indeed, the stats from the game are the best marker for the rapid development and growth the Foxes have shown this season, the two teams splitting the possession, Leicester with six shots on target to City’s eight. The crucial moment came ten minutes in when Jill Roord slipped the ball between Julie Thibaud’s ankles to feed Chloe Kelly with the England international’s tame shot managing to squirm under Janina Leitzig.
There was no dropping of heads from the hosts, however, and it wasn’t long until they were pressuring the City backline although the hosts could not get the better of Khiara Keating in the away goal. The match was a fair contest until the final whistle, with both sides well-matched, something that wouldn’t have even been conceivable eight months ago.
From both a Leicester and Man City point of view, the game has further hammered home how well each team has started the season, as well as the gaps across the league that are finally being closed. As it is, City are top of the table and at this early stage of the season, looking like the team to beat. — Lawson
Americans Abroad: A rough one for USMNT stars
Following the international break that saw the United States lose to Germany and defeat Ghana, numerous players were back in action this weekend in their respective leagues.
Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna played 28 minutes in Friday’s 1-0 win over Werder Bremen to see them firmly in the Bundesliga title race while Ricardo Pepi played 11 minutes in PSV Eindhoven’s 3-1 win over Fortuna Sittard as they stay top of the Eredivisie table with 27 points after nine matches.
It was a poor day between the sticks for goalkeeper Matt Turner though as Nottingham Forest gave up a 2-0 lead against newly promoted side Luton Town. Chris Wood scored a brace to put Forest up, but Luton had the last laugh as they scored twice in the last seven minutes to snatch an important point at the City Ground. — Rojas
News of the day
Manchester United and England legend Sir Bobby Charlton has passed away on Saturday at the age of 86, following a statement announced by the club. Charlton was part of the 1966 England squad that won their first and only FIFA World Cup on home soil and played a important part that helped Manchester United win their first ever European Cup at Wembley in 1968. A club statement read “Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world.”
Everton manager Sean Dyche slammed the “bizarre” refereeing decisions in his team’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Saturday. “It’s a bizarre nature of the modern game,” Dyche said post-match. “There’s no point. I’m going to get myself in trouble. I don’t know how I got yellow carded. All my staff got yellow carded. It’s impossible that we could get yellow carded with that performance but anyways, we did.”
And finally, on Saturday …
The Serhou Guirassy show continues as the Guinean striker netted yet again in Stuttgart’s 3-0 win over Union Berlin, putting his name into the history books with his 14th goal in eight Bundesliga matches.
Not only does that put him atop the goalscorer race by a huge margin (Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane is in second with nine goals), but Guirassy also set a new record by becoming the first-ever player to score that amount of goals after eight matchdays of a Bundesliga season.
Serhou Guirassy is the first player to score 14 goals on the first eight matchdays of a Bundesliga season 😮💨📈
To show how impressive that stat is, Guirassy only needs two more goals to equal the amount of last season’s top scorer in the Bundesliga, when Niclas Füllkrug and Christopher Nkunku both scored 16 goals.
This also means that Stuttgart, now in second place, continue their charge in the Bundesliga title race with 21 points, having now won six Bundesliga games in a row. Who knows if Guirassy will continue his hot streak but it’s been a remarkable start for Die Roten. — Rojas