Tag Archives: ucl

Part 1: Fifa19 Challenge: Oldham to the Champions League in Six Years

Hello, I’m Ian, and I’ve been handed the task of taking Oldham Athletic to the Champions League in six seasons!

Yeah, you read that right…six seasons!!

If you didn’t know we put a Twitter poll out of various Fifa19 challenges:

The winner by some distance was Oldham to the Champions League.

So, having last played Fifa17, and not picked up the PS4 pad for a while, I’ve set myself on the professional level – we’ll see how it goes.

Now I have a little system that I feel works for manager type games, and I’m hoping it pays off one more time. I’ve disabled the first transfer window, as I want to see what I’ve got in my team for the first half of the season at least. So no incomings until January, which I’m hoping I don’t need as I bid to build the bank for later seasons.

The board have set the following objectives for the season:

  1. Win League Two
  2.  Get to the last 32 of the FA Cup

My first course of action was to hire two scouts for my youth academy, this is going to be vital in the coming seasons. With the 1.4million budget I’ve got, I need to rely on youth coming through and also start to become a feeder club to bring in the money for when I hit the Championship and Premier League.

I feel like I’ve got two decent scouts to start off with; One with experience and one with judgement. I’ve set them both a 6-month assignment in England and Scotland to find the best out there they can…so we’ll see come Jan.

My formation is going to be determined with the players I have to hand, I like either a 433 or a 442 diamond with my wingers way out wide, a holding midfielder and a player with the free-range behind the front two – a little old school but I prefer it.

I currently have a squad of 27 players, in January I’d like to trim that by a couple. I like to have two in each position, ideally a first-team starter and either a youngster or an older player as a backup. I also like to have 2 utility players who can play a number of roles in defence and midfield.

On first glance it’ll seem two out of my six strikers will be earmarked to go in the winter window, and possibly a left back.

We’ve just entered a preseason tournament with the prize money set at £1.3m. We have Accrington, Antalyaspor and Yeni Malatyaspor in the group stages, I’m quietly confident we can claim one of the two qualifying spots to progress through.

I should have a clearer idea of the formation path I want to go down after the tournament before season one starts…

Let’s get going!

VAR In Review: Three Dreaded Words Man City Fans Don’t Want To See Again

For many years football has asked for technology. UEFA decided to bring VAR into the Champions League in January in order to sort out ‘clear and obvious decisions’.

‘Can somebody please tell me what clear and obvious is?’ said BT Sport Host Gary Lineker to ex ref turned pundit Peter Walton, as TV discussed Danny Rose’s handball from a Raheem Sterling shot in The Champions League first leg quarter final between Tottenham and Manchester City last week.

Lineker’s view echoes what many football fans think. As delirium turned to heartbreak at the Etihad Stadium last night, Man City fans probably wanted the use of VAR to be shelved right back in the wardrobe and never be brought out again. Twelve months ago though, when Guardiola’s side played Liverpool when VAR was inactive, City fans sung loudly from the rooftops for UEFA to be included in European games.

Technology in football is a rather funny thing. If it works in your favour you become a fan, if works against your team fans seem to want nothing to do with the system.

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has always had is reservations where VAR is concerned, on Wednesday night he may just have found a new ally. On the other side of the touchline, Pep Guardiola, leading advocate for video assistance in football, his reaction as referee Cuneyt Cakir disallowed Sterling’s near but not so near winner was one of heartbreak.

Whatever the answer, VAR’s way of clearing up problems is throwing up more heartbreak than anyone may have thought. On another note, the time taken for the whole thing to work needs much looking at in the close season.

The atmosphere inside the Etihad become a church graveyard. All starting when the stadium announcer calls ‘VAR in review’. Then there is silence, pure silence. 54,000 fans cramped in one building and you can hear a pin drop.

Anticipation or dread may well be the answer. But staring at an empty blue screen stating, ‘Goal in review’ can only kill an atmosphere. Twice in one half is quite simply no good for fans, especially when they have no clue what the match day official is being told  or why he has his hand to an earpiece.

This happened when PSG played United last month. Before Marcus Rashford tucked away an injury time penalty winner, The crowd inside Le Parc des Princes found no words to describe their emotions as somehow a trio of pitch side officials plus a man by a computer could send the French Champions out of Europe.

Again at Tottenham’s new ground last week in the run-up to Aguero’s penalty miss,  VAR made thousands of excited home fans go silent. Did the eventual decision clear up or answer the question of whether a penalty should or should not have been given. Not really.

Slowing the action down does not mean a decision is correctly awarded. Handball shouts and appeals like Danny Rose, VAR’s use is welcomed, all be it with a pince of salt and a cheesy smile.

Should Solskjaer add David Neres To His Shopping List This Summer?

Manchester United are plotting a £45 million move for Ajax striker David Neres claims The Sun. The Red Devils were the latest to join the transfer race with some of Europe’s elite clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton.

David Neres is a star in the making, a youth product of Brazilian outfit, Sao Paulo, Neres signed for the Amsterdam club in 2017. After making an immediate impact with the reserve side Jong Ajax, the 22-year-old soon was promoted to the main team.

The following season, the Brazilian forward was more effective scoring 14 goals and providing 13 assists in just 32 league appearances. Furthermore, he has been in red hot form this season so far, bagging 12 goals and eight assists across all competitions.

His notable performance came at the Champions League when he scored a goal against the defending champions Real Madrid. Later the Dutch giants were able to eliminate Los Blancos out of the competition in a 4-1 win.

Furthermore, Neres scored a stunning equalizer against Juventus last week in the quarter-finals thus keeping alive his side’s semi-final hopes, who completed the job last night.

Man United were off to an underwhelming start in Premier League this season under Jose Mourinho but dragged themselves back to top-4 four race lately under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The key aspect that went missing with the Red Devils is the lack of attacking prowess up in front, despite Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s decent run, United struggled to find a consistent striker.

With Romelu Lukaku’s fluctuating form and Alexis Sanchez becoming injury-prone, the Old Trafford side ran out of options on several occasions. Neres possesses tremendous dribbling skills, agility and attributes which pertain to a typical Brazilian striker.

Moreover, he is much more effective with the counter attacks and precisive passing inside the boxes that makes him a perfect fit for all the top clubs.

Ed Woodward should seriously consider Neres as their next striker to succeed Belgian ace, Lukaku.

…And Solskjaer Has Won It!

Every Man United fan knows them words, them words created little goosebumps on your arms, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The glorious night back in 1999, the venue was the Nou Camp, two goals in the injury time three minutes to secure the treble for that unbelievable side. It capped off an incredible couple of week for all players, staff and fans.

Solskjaer has been down 1-0 before in the Catalan’s stadium, we all know the outcome. However, 20 years on and things are very different. United simply don’t have the team of ’99, they are also facing a very good Barcelona side who have a certain Lionel Messi in their side. A Barcelona side who are cantering to the La Liga title and a side who could rest 10 players at weekend.

Ole can certainly draw experience from them type of matches, knowing they have to stay in it until the very end – Look at PSG in the last round, albeit a dubious penalty helped them but they still had to be in the position to force the ref to make the call.

United since then have stuttered their resurgence under the Norwegian, and not looked the same side having only won two in six games.

The players will have a point to prove and, a classic European night in one of the biggest stadiums in the footballing world has to force you to up your game.

Ole needs Rashford, Lukaku, Martial, Pogba and even the invisible Sanchez all to show up tonight. They all need to make a statement, one that could define their season. If United do somehow turn Barca over in their own back yard, let’s hope it doesn’t have the same effect as the PSG game in the last round. Otherwise they’ll be in a posiiton of Champions League or bust.

Furthermore, with a very important transfer window on the horizon, Champions League football is a must has they look to overall the squad.

Every Red Devil will be hoping for a 1999 Nou Camp result. What’s your score predictions Man United fans for tonight?

Three Players That Ole Will Hope To Light Up Old Trafford Tonight

Man United face the mighty Barcelona in the Red Devils first quarter-final since 2014, when they were dumped out by Bayern Munich under David Moyes and only the second since 2011.

United haven’t fared well in the Champions League, after a purple patch of reaching the final three times in four years. Coincidentally losing two of those finals against tonight’s opponents Barcelona. At that time the Catalan outfit were THE team in Europe under Pep Guardiola, as they changed the footballing landscape with their brand of tiki-taka style.

Barca added to their Champions League tally last in 2015, beating Juventus 3-1 in the final.

The Red Devils have only beaten Barcelona once in the Champions League era, in that memorable Paul Scholes 1-0 win back in 2008. Barca have won three times, with the teams drawing on four occasions including back-to-back 3-3 draws.

If United are to get themselves a leg up to take to the Camp Nou, we’ve identified three players that need to be on their game tonight…

Paul Pogba

The Frenchman’s performances have tailed off lately and after an impressive start under Ole. However, Pogba is more than capable of changing the momentum of the game.

He can go missing in the big games, but tonight Solskjaer will be hoping for Pogba to bring his A-game and control, what will be a fascination midfield battle.

Chris Smalling

Smalling seems to be one of Ole’s first choices in the defence. Smalling can make United fans nervous at times, and often looks like bambi on ice. However, when he wants to, he can defend with the best of them but it’s that inconsistency within games that United fans can’t put there full faith and confidence in the English defender.

Anthony Martial

The Frenchman can light up the stands at times. His goalscoring form has certainly taken an upward trajectory this season, there was point in the season he was simply undroppable.

Unfortunately, injury derailed this and he’s struggled to re-find his groove. Martial can get Old Trafford up on their feet, and set the tone for the evening.

TWO EPL Fixtures That Man City Must Win In April To Keep Title Dreams Alive

Man City’s quadruple hopes are still very much alive, and they face a season, if not history defining April. In which, they have Premier League, FA Cup semi-final and a two-legged all English Champions League quarter final to overcome.

It’s been a toe-to-toe battle with Liverpool this season, with both sides edging in front at different times of the campaign. City currently trail Liverpool by two points, but they do have a very important game in-hand over their North West rivals against no other than their Manchester neighbours United.

While Pep will no doubt be in the hunt for all three remaining trophies, however, retaining the Premier League for the first time would be a huge achievement. In order to keep in the hunt and on Liverpool’s tails, City have some tricky and big matches throughout April.

They entertain Spurs home and away in the Champions League fixture in April, with a FA Cup semi-final against Brighton near the start of the month alongside five Premier League matches – including a mouth watering Manchester derby.

However, there are two matches that are a must win for the Citizens in order to strengthen their chances of retaining their title come the end of the season.

Let’s take a look at the two fixtures in question…

Retro Football Cushions

Away v Crystal Palace – 14th April

Always a tricky place to go to and one that could be a potential banana skin for Pep’s City side – We all remember Liverpool under Rodgers!?

Pep will not want a similar story to be the headline come May. Palace on their day can mix it well with the big boys as well as City know, especially after the 3-2 defeat back in December.

A win away at Selhurst Park will make a huge statement in April and one that could go a long way in the title race.

Away v Man Utd – 24th April

It’s a tough call between this match and the Spurs match. However, as this is the game in hand over Liverpool and a Manchester derby – it edges it.

Away at a rejuvenated United side is going to be a tough fixture, but one that City have to win in order to keep either keep the pressure on or keep the distance between them and Liverpool – given the situation at the time.

This game in hand could be the title defining game. It’s going to be a tough test for City, but every game throughout the month are tough tests that Pep and his players have to overcome in order to write their name in the history books once again.

TWO Fixtures That Man Utd Must Win In April To Reach Top Four

After the much anticipated news of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial position being made permanent by the club, the first target, and the target for all of his short tenure is to reach the top four.

A quarter-final of the Champions League against Barcelona is a nice distraction but qualification for next season’s Champions League is the number one priority for Solskjaer. Especially if he has desires to challenge for the Premier league title next season.

To attract the type of players needed to help in his bid to be the first post-Fergie manager to win the league, Champions League football is a must.

To get within touching distance of the top four, after what was an awful first half of the season under the old regime is an achievement within itself – but not enough for the trophy focused Solskjaer.

United have a home and away fixture against Barcelona in April, alongside five Premier League matches – including a mouth watering Manchester derby.

However, there are two matches that are a must win for the Red Devils in order to strengthen their chances of Champions League qualification come the end of the season.

Let’s take a look at the two fixtures in question…

Retro Football Shirt Cushions

Away v Wolves – 2nd April

Having lost the FA Cup tie a couple of week ago with a lacklustre performance that United fans haven’t seen since Solskjaer took over the wheel. The Red Devils will be looking for a better result against a very good Wolves side, and one that, although are not a direct threat to United in terms of the top four, are a team that have done very well against the top six sides this season.

A tricky away tie at the start of the season could set the tone for what is a difficult month ahead.

Football Art, Design & Culture

Home v Chelsea – 28th April

United end the month with a home match against rivals Chelsea. Lucky it’s not away, as United’s record at Stamford Bridge is very poor.

Should Man United be either in the top four or on the cusp of it, this tie should all but indictate where they will finish come the end of the season.

Chelsea are always a tough side to beat, however, United have beat them recently in the FA Cup – coincidently at Stamford Bridge. This should give Ole’s men a confidence and experience to draw on, in what could be a season defining tie.

Thumping Win Shows Man City’s Champions League Credentials

I imagine many City fans were fairly optimistic of a win in Tuesday nights Champions League fixture, Schalke are in freefall, having conceded more than three goals in every game since the 16th of February, and now facing a potential relegation battle. However, I don’t think anyone was expecting the scoreline they ended up with.

After an initially frustrating half an hour, City finally got the breakthrough they needed with a confident and composed penalty from Aguero. The floodgates then opened, with Sane fantastic against his old club, Sterling continuing his fantastic run of form, Jesus benefitting from both a sharp strike and a bit of poor goalkeeping and City darling, Phil Foden showing composure well beyond his years to become one of the youngest ever English players to score in a Champions League game.

Overall putting seven past the West German side, equalling the record for the knockout stages in the Champions League.

Schalke looked like lower league opposition, not a Champions League side at all.

Schalke are probably not the side everyone is worried about at the moment, but this was a real statement from City. Showing that the old guard are good as ever, the younger players are improving at a rapid rate and they are doing this without the likes Kevin De Bruyne, who, I feel City in previous seasons have been slightly overly dependent on. The starting line up with him back in the squad is probably even more a troubling prospect for opposition teams.

A few of the bigger teams have dropped out at an unexpectedly early stage this year, which perhaps means the freight train which is Manchester City in full flow will be harder to stop. This is Manchester City’s best chance in reaching the final, well, ever, they are looking sharp, ruthless and utterly intimidating. If the sort of sharp shooting, robust defending and assured goalkeeping we saw last night can become the norm, City could well be going all the way.

Ole’s at The Wheel and Is Rekindling The Spirit Of 1999

It was one of the those classic European nights, one that United fans haven’t witnessed or felt for a very long time. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s turnaround at the Red Devils has been immense since taking over from Jose Mourinho.

Having only one loss on his Old Trafford record against last night’s opponents in the first leg, Solskjaer went to the Parc de Princes in old fashioned United blind belief. An early goal gave the fans an instant jolt of ‘We can do this’ followed by the PSG goal which made the task the same as at the first whistle.

Solskjaer’s in-game management was there for all to see, after Lukaku’s second goal – his 6th in the last three matches – United changed shape and it seemed like a clear plan to stay in the game, snuff PSG out until the final 10 mins and then in true Fergie style, throw the kitchen sink at them.

United pressed forward, some decent play in the final third presented Dalot with a chance to shoot. The ball deflected off the defenders arm and out for a corner, before VAR got involved and finally after some serious thought, gave a 94th minute penalty. Rashford stepped up, cool, calm and collected and slotted home from 12 yards.

At the final whistle three things became clear – The first being the players instantly sprinting towards the away section to join in the celebrations, shirts thrown into the crowd and a real sense of togetherness between the playing staff and the fans was there for all to see.

Secondly, Lukaku’s gester to the TV camera’s about writing and speaking before an embrace with Paul Pogba, again showed another sign of togetherness and that not all is what it seems if you are to believe the press this week.

Lastly, in the post match interview with Rashford and Lukaku there seemed a glimpse of a partnership developing between the two. Their words of each others play, the understanding that if one strikers does X, the other does Y. It instantly took me back to a budding Cole/Yorke feel.

With the last minute winners, the counter attacking play, the freedom in which the players play and the crowd bring the atmosphere again – it’s all got the feeling of ’99.

United fans will be hoping it can yield some of the same results.

Mourinho Eyeing Up Reunion in Today’s Champions League Draw

Jose Mourinho will consider it a successful job done with United qualifying for the last 16 in a group that could have caused problems. However, he will be looking to go further than they did last year, after exiting at the round of 16 stage to Sevilla.

Firstly I will discuss all the possibilities for United to draw, before highlighting what I believe will be Mourinho’s preferred choice.

Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund are currently top of the Bundesliga and no side will relish drawing them at the moment, with their attacking brand of football drawing yet more plaudits and good results.

Dortmund last faced United in the 1997 Champions League and have won 2 of the 6 matches they have faced off against each other, with 1 of the games finishing a draw and Man Utd winning the other 3.

Barcelona

Barcelona are top of La Liga but haven’t been as convincing as they have in previous years. Still, with Messi still at the peak of his powers, they are a real danger and a danger United will want to avoid.

Yet again United’s record against Barcelona is very close, having played them more recently in 2 Champions League finals in 3 years back in 2009 & 2011. They have won 3 games between the sides with Barca winning 4 and 4 of them ending in draws.

Paris Saint-Germain

PSG are absolutely steamrolling their domestic league as they are 10 points clear with 2 games in hand already. As Liverpool proved in the group stages they aren’t unbeatable. I think United would fancy an easier tie than coming up against Neymar, Mbappe and co.

I can’t find any evidence of these two sides facing each other competitively, only managing to find a game in an International Champions Cup friendly tournament back in 2015, which PSG won 2-0.

Real Madrid

The European heavyweights have won the past 3 editions of the Champions League and 13 altogether. They are having somewhat of a poor season by their standards, having already sacked and replaced Zidane’s replacement, who himself resigned after last seasons Champions League win. For whatever reason, they are just off the pace and this game represents a potential reunion for Mourinho. One I don’t think he will want as they still possess quality, despite selling talisman Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer.

Real Madrid also have a good record against Man United winning 5 of 11 games against them and drawing 4. Losing only twice. They remain one of United’s major thorns in Europe.

Bayern Munich

Another club who after replacing a manager who walked away last season, things haven’t gone to plan for. If there was ever a time to play the German heavyweights it was now, with them struggling for consistency domestically. Finding themselves 9 points off the top of a league they are so used to winning.

Rumours the players aren’t buying into Niko Kovač’s methods are possibly impacting results with certain players such as Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery no longer operating at the level they once did – making them look an attractive opponent for United.

Bayern like Real Madrid, however, hold a positive competitive record against United, with Man Utd coming out on top in only 2 of their 11 matches, 5 ending in draws and Munich winning the other 4. However United enjoyed perhaps the best win over the side in the dramatic 1999 Champions League Final.

Good times that look a long time away for the club currently.

FC Porto

Last but not least, the tie I believe will be the one most kind to United and the one Jose will be favouring. Due to failing to win the group with a loss in Valencia in the final group game, United have given themselves a harder task of advancing here – with them facing the group winners which as you can see is some of Europe’s elite.

With no disrespect to Porto, they are debatably a level below the other potential opponents and they had by far the easiest group to qualify from, and to their credit, as they can only play whose in front of them. They won the group convincingly only dropping 2 points in all 6 games and, finishing 5 points clear of 2nd place Schalke.

Man United have faced Porto 8 times, with 6 of those games in the Champions League and 2 of them in the old Euro Cup Winners Cup.

Their record is actually fairly equal with Porto winning twice, the latest when Mourinho was in charge of Porto back in 2004 in the Champions League knockout stages, he went on to win it that year and arguably launch his career.

There has been 3 draws between the sides and United have won 3 of the games. This reunion could be the one Jose will most want.