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Having been torn to pieces in their humiliating 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, a similar fate befell Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in the post-match post-mortems.
Wenger’s players were variously described as “lazy”, “pathetic”, “arrogant” and “disgraceful”, while the manager himself is under scrutiny once again just three months after signing a new two-year contract.
“Last season, I called them ‘cowards’,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports after Sunday’s match.
“And afterwards maybe I got a little bit of criticism. Maybe that’s a bit too strong and you can’t say that on live TV, but I’ll say it again –- cowards.”
“How can you play like this in a big game for so many of Arsenal’s players?” asked former Manchester United captain Gary Neville.
“Forget not turning up, forget not playing well, but just the general attitude or lack of respect for the shirt from three or four of them in not running back and not bothering is disgraceful.”
Arsenal great Thierry Henry, analysing the game for Sky Sports, confessed: “At one point I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to watch the game anymore. It’s too much to take.”
While it was Arsenal’s defensive shortcomings that were exhibited at Anfield, the player who featured on almost all the British newspapers’ sports pages was star forward Alexis Sanchez.
The Chile international was despondency personified as he traipsed to the dugout following his 62nd-minute substitution.
After the game, he took to Instagram to post a caption-free picture of himself sitting on his haunches on the Anfield pitch and dejectedly gazing at the ground.
Sanchez has been repeatedly linked with a move to Manchester City and Henry said none of Arsenal’s players could be blamed for casting glances elsewhere.
“Everything that you see on the day has been happening for the past 10 years,” said the Frenchman.
“We talk about Sanchez and is he staying, but they are not going to want to be part of this team. That is why players are not renewing their contracts. They can see something is wrong.
“The word I have used for a long time — comfort. Everyone is comfortable at Arsenal. It’s not the same pressure you have at a big club. Everything is… nice.”
The Daily Mirror branded Arsenal “a lazy, arrogant, broken team with no ideas and no hope” and directly blamed Wenger, who last led Arsenal to the title in 2004.
The Sun called Arsenal “lazy” and “pathetic” and said their torment at the hands of Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane represented “a new low”.
The Times called it “unacceptable, unwatchable, unforgivable”.
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AC Milan, joint favourites to win Europa League alongside Arsenal, were drawn against Austria Vienna, Rijeka and AEK Athens.
Matchday one: 14 September
Matchday two: 28 September
Matchday three: 19 October
Matchday four: 2 November
Matchday five: 23 November
Matchday six: 7 December
Round of 32
Draw: 11 December
First legs: 15 February
Second legs: 22 February
Round of 16
Draw: 23 February
First legs: 8 March
Second legs: 15 March
Draw: 16 March
First legs: 5 April
Second legs: 12 April
This season’s final will be held in Lyon empty provider
Semi-finals and final
Draw: 13 April
Semi-finals, first legs: 26 April
Semi-finals, second legs: 3 May
Final (Stade de Lyon, Lyon): 16 May
Here are the group stage in full.
Europa League groups in full
Group A: Villarreal, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Astana, Slavia Prague
Group B: Dynamo Kiev, Young Boys, Partizan, Skenderbeu
Group C: Braga, Ludogorets, Hoffenheim, Istanbul Basaksehir
Group D: AC Milan, Austria Vienna, Rijeka, AEK Athens
Group E: Lyon, Everton, Atalanta, Limassol
Group F: FC Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow, FC Sheriff, Zlin
Group G: Viktoria Plzen, Steaua Bucharest, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, FC Lugano
Group H: Arsenal, BATE Borisov, Cologne, Red Star Belgrade
Group I: Salzburg, Marseille, Vitoria, Konyaspor
Group J: Athletic Bilbao, Hertha Berlin, Zorya, Ostersunds
Group K: Lazio, Nice, Zulte Waregem, Vitesse Arnhem
Group L: Zenit, Real Sociedad, Rosenborg, Vardar Skopje
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]iego Simeone has ended the speculation over his exit from Atletico Madrid.
He has been linked with Chelsea after their humiliating start and sacking of Jose Mourinho.
But, Simeone told El Pasis: “Why can’t I be here longer? Why did I choose a five-year contract? Because I see a club that is ‘virgin’ and Miguel Ángel [Gil Marín, the CEO] and Enrique [Cerezo, the president] have the ability to open up new sources to strengthen in. It’s not easy to leave Atlético.”
Now it’s become more complicate for the Blues. Guus Hiddink appointed for an interim basis and they need to do some magic to bring Pep Guardiola to Stamford Bridge.
Speculation linking Luis Suarez with a move to Spain intensified after the player’s father-in-law stated that the 27-year-old is considering a move to either Real Madrid or Barcelona. Suarez has been subjected to transfer speculation for more than a year now. There has been no respite in the transfer rumours linking him with a move to Spain, despite signing a new four year contract towards the end of 2013. Suarez is now one of the highest earning players in the Premier League with wages of around £220,000 per week.
However, Suarez’ father-in-law, Gustavo Balbi, hinted that a potential move could not be about money and that the player needs to prove himself in another tough league. According to the Mirror, he said: “Luis has nothing left to prove in England. It’d be the right time to move to Spain.”
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s one team or the other (Madrid or Barcelona). He will not go to another team in England out of respect for Liverpool.”
Despite the talk of Suarez having achieved a lot with Liverpool, the fact that still remains his that he is yet to lift any major title with the club. He has only lifted the League Cup until now. He came close to winning the Premier League last season. Even though Liverpool will once again be playing in the Champions League next season, it may just be a case of wanting to lift more titles. At 27, Suarez is at the peak of his career and top clubs are not likely to show interest in him after a few years.
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]apoli striker Gonzalo Higuain has hinted that he may be ready to join Barcelona in the summer. According to several reports, Barcelona have already agreed a contract with Higuain. They are set to hold negotiations with Napoli over the next few weeks. Higuain came to Napoli only last summer from Real Madrid for just over £ 35 million. He has been one of the finest strikers in the Italian Serie A this campaign after banging in more than 20 goals.
However, Napoli’s inability to challenge for top honours last campaign is thought to have put Higuain in doubt about his future at the club. This coupled with the interest from Barcelona seems to have swayed his mind, as the striker said after Argentina’s 2-1 win over Bosnia that he may be ready to join the Spanish outfit in the upcoming transfer window. He said:
“Yes, of course [I would like to play alongside Messi at Barcelona]. Obviously it would be an enormous pleasure. I am pleased by the Barca interest — any player would be.
“But I am focused now on the World Cup. There will be another time to talk about my future. I am here now, focused on this dream, trying for us all to be able to achieve our objectives.”
Higuain was a major reason in Argentina getting the win from their first group match at the World Cup 2014. He provided the assist from Lionel Messi, who is thought to have a major say in the club’s transfer policy with regard to signing strikers. Barcelona were heavily linked with Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, who is a great friend of Messi. After having been rebuffed in their attempts to sign the former Atletico Madrid man, the Catalans appear to have turned their attention towards Higuain.
His Real Madrid connections may not be enough to prevent him from moving to the Camp Nou.
Real Madrid star Luka Modric has revealed that Barcelona have managed to sign Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic. Barcelona have been holding negotiations with Sevilla regarding the transfer of the 26-year-old for the last few weeks. Since they have been unable to arrive at a conclusion, the deals to sell players like Cesc Fabregas have been taking time. Modric has confirmed that Rakitic to Barcelona is a done deal. It has not been officially announced by the club of the player. Modric says that he wanted Real Madrid to sign the 26-year-old, who played a key role in Sevilla’s Europa League success last season. The club also finished fifth in the league. According to ESPN, Modric said:
“He [Rakitic] has gone to Barca. I am very happy for him — he deserves it. To go to a big club like Barca, with a global dimension, is an important step in his career.
“Everyone has seen this season what he is capable of doing. He is a great footballer who is improving. I am convinced that his performances in the coming seasons will be even better.”
Barcelona have been expected to undergo widespread changes after experiencing one of the poorest campaigns in the last decade. They finished without a major trophy despite the presence of numerous stars like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. Players like Victor Valdes and Carlos Puyol, who have been influential of the club for the last decade, have already left the club. Xavi Hernandez is also expected to move on to play in the MLS or the Qatar leagues.
Rakitic’s signing will also allow Barcelona to sell Fabregas to Chelsea for €33 million. The deal is thought to have been agreed between the two clubs, but Barcelona have been waiting in order to complete the Rakitic deal before selling Fabregas.
Carlo Ancelotti has stated that there will be no signings at Real Madrid during the World Cup 2014. He says that the club may try to bring in a couple of players before the start of the new season. After winning the 10th Champions League title, expectations will be sky-high in the coming campaign. Despite possessing a team that just won the European Cup, Madrid have once again been linked with a few galaticos in the last few weeks.
The most notable name has been Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who was linked with the club even last summer. After a spectacular season with the English club, Suarez has been regarded as one of the strikers in the world. Since Madrid lack a real alternative to Karim Benzema, it has been rumoured that they would try to bring in Suarez. Reports of a £72 million bid from the European champions have been going around the tabloids. Ancelotti said: “We’re in no rush and we don’t need to bring in a lot of players. We have until 31st August.”
Liverpool rejected a £40 million bid from Arsenal last summer and his price would have almost doubled after the stunning campaign in which he won the PFA Player of the Year award by scoring more than 30 goals.
Ancelotti’s target will be to get the league title along with European trophies like the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. Despite being in the title hunt until the end of the campaign, Mariners finished in a disappointing third-place. Ancelotti also hinted that Angel di Maria will stay. He continued: “I have no doubt that he’ll stay”.
With the 2013-2014 La Liga race coming down to “mano a mano” (hand to hand for all the non-Spanish speakers), the Barcelona – Atletico clash this weekend is sure to set the curtain on a scintillating season. In a league where slip ups have granted Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid opportunities to take top spot, there will be no room for mistakes at the Camp Nou this Saturday. There are just two scenarios that will decide the league: a win or draw for Atletico which ends the Real Madrid and Barcelona domination of the La Liga, or a win for Barcelona that will crown the Catalans champions once again.
The key to Atletico’s success thus far has been their stellar home form. They have not lost a home league game in the Vicente Calderon, and Los Rojiblancos have a +39 goal differential for their home league games. For both Real Madrid and Barcelona, each team has two and one home losses respectively.
To quantify the importance of an Atletico draw or win, think of it like this: since 1995-1996 (when Atletico last won the league), only one four other teams have won the league, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Deportivo la Coruña. The latter two just won the league a combined three times in that period – all other titles have been shuffled between Real Madrid and Barcelona. But enough about the top, let’s look at the bottom.
As always, the bottom of the table isn’t so clear. Betis is already on its way to the Segunda Division, but for fellow compatriots Osasuna and Valladolid, there is still hope. For Valladolid will visit Granada, who are just one point above the drop zone, and both teams will grind out a result – winner takes all style. Osasuna will host already relegated Real Betis, and assuming Osasuna wins, this will put them on level with Valladolid with 39 points. Here’s where it gets tricky – Osasuna holds the deciding factors when on level points. In La Liga, this is head to head matchups, not goal difference as many would assume. So, if both Valladolid and Osasuna win, Valladolid will still hit the drop zone.
Regardless of what happens during the last round of the league, Atletico, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao will represent Spain in the 2014-2015 edition of the European Champions League. Likewise, Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Villareal will represent Spain in the Europa League.
In terms of individual awards, Ronaldo seems to be on track for the Pichichi Trophy, which is awarded to the top scorer in the league. Currently, the Portuguese has 31 goals and will seek to extend this tally this weekend at home against Espanyol. Messi and Costa follow with 28 and 27 respectively.
Regardless of what happens this weekend, the 2013-2014 edition of La Liga has been a joy to behold, and be sure to stay tuned to this weekend for all of the end of season antics.
The Real Madrid Left-back claims that his side has made a steady progress since the start of the season and is hopeful of ending the season with La Decima.
Marcelo Vieira, the Brazilian left back, believes that his team’s performance is up to the mark and hence Carlo Ancelotti’s men could come out with flying colors in this week’s champions league encounter against FC Copenhagen.
“Over the past five or six matches we have really improved. We are much better now. Of course, there are always things we can improve, but we are much better now than we were just a few matches ago,” the Brazilian told the official Uefa website.
“We are playing well at the moment and our aim is to win every match and continue to show Real Madrid in a favorable light.”
Los blancos qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions league, without losing any match of their two away-home fixtures with Galatasaray, Copenhagen and Juventus each. Cristiano Ronaldo , who became the first player to score nine goals in the group stages of UEFA Champions league , has been the key player for Real Madrid, and Marcelo has only words of praise for his team mate.
“Right now, Cristiano Ronaldo is for me, and I think of many other people, the best. For a long time he has been at the same level. He scores goals and plays impressively. The guys up front put a lot of pressure on opponents, and that gives us [defenders] more space and more potential to relax.”
Meanwhile, a number of reports and rumors have been suggesting towards the bad relationship between the defender and the Portugese winger. But Marcelo has brushed off the hoax and said that there is nothing wrong between the two team mates .
“I do not have a problem with Cristiano. These rumors are wrong. I never had any problems with him,” the left-back stressed when questions about his relationship with the Portugal star at a press conference. People are creating things that are not there. If anything, I have an excellent relationship with Cristiano.”
Marcelo has missed few La Liga games due to injury after being diagnosed with arthritis in his left knee on November 9th , but has recovered since then appearing 9 times in La Liga and 5 times in the Champions League.
Former Real Madrid assistant coach has revealed that Iker Casillas was replaced by Diego Lopez as the first team goalkeeper due to his poor performances last year and insisted that there was no misunderstanding between the No 1 and Mourinho.
The new Middlesbrough manager, Aitor Karanka , explained that the Spain International was not forced out of the Los blancos first team by Jose Mourinho due to any fight or misunderstanding between them. Karanka has cleared that Iker Casillas was not playing up to his full potential and was benched due to his bad form. On the contrary, Spanish media reported that Jose and the goalkeeper did not get along well.
“We thought a lot about his situation because we knew he was not just any player. We thought he should be performing better,” he told.
“I don’t know if Iker understood why he was benched. The same thing happened with [Fernando] Hierro, [Manuel] Sanchis and Raul. I think that he must have understood the situation. We were friends. We don’t have that relationship now because I left the club, and in all honesty, during those three years, especially towards the end, our relationship wasn’t great,” he added.
Iker Casillas was injured last December and the team needed an experienced goalkeeper in order to achieve their La Decima dream. In order to place tough hands between the sticks, Real Madrid bought Diego Lopez from Sevilla . The former Villarreal goalkeeper displayed great performances during Casillas’s absence and became Real Madrid’s regular. Casillas, on the other hand, was doubted to gain his full potential back and did not feature in any of the matches in the remainder of the season.