Arsenal will be hoping to stand their position at the top of their UEFA Europa League group on Thursday when they visit a struggling Bundesliga side Fc Koln.
Despite drawing somewhat disappointingly at home to Red Star Belgrade on match-day four, a game in which they failed to find the net, Arsenal are in a very strong position at the top of Group H.
The Gunners have won three of their four matches, while they remain unbeaten. A win in this fixture would guarantee Arsene Wenger’s side a place in the knockout rounds.
Unlike the hosts, Koln has made hard work of this campaign. After four matches the German side find themselves bottom of the group, though, all is not yet lost. A win in this match would put Peter Stöger’s men in a reasonable position going into the final match.
Koln may have re-found their feet to beat BATE in the last round, but they still looked weak defensively in doing so, while it is also hard to ignore their overall performance in the group.
Koln has also been in terrible form domestically this season, as they find themselves bottom of the league. With Arsenal coming off the back of a big North London Derby victory at the weekend and knowing that a win here guarantees qualification, it’s easy to see the visitors coming out on top.
Having faced Koln on three previous occasions, Arsenal has a 100% record against the German side. When they met in the reverse fixture, Arsenal won by three goals to one.
Koln have conceded in 100% of their Europa League matches this season
Prediction: Over 2.5
Milan vs Austria Vienna
As things stand, Milan are top of Group D, as you would expect; however, they’ve not exactly been the most convincing at times. Vincenzo Montella’s side might sit top currently but, as they’re only two points clear, the race for 1st place is still on. Fortunately for the Italians, they face an Austria Vienna side that crumbled in the reverse fixture. A similar performance from I Rossoneri would surely see them come out on top in convincing fashion.
Austria Vienna did find life tough against Milan on home soil, so it’s hard to see the visitors making too much headway in this fixture.
The result often doesn’t tell us everything, but the gap in quality was clear in Vienna. On this basis, Milan are indeed expected to come out on top, though, as the Italians haven’t exactly been infallible defensively of late, from an attacking point of view, the visitors can have hope.
The reverse fixture, which saw AC Milan come out on top with a convincing 5-1 victory, is the only previous meeting between these two.
‘Over 3.5 Goals’ has landed in 75% of this pair’s combined Europa League matches this season.
Prediction: Milan Wins & Over 2.5
Athletic Bilbao vs Hertha
When the groups were drawn back in August, Bilbao and Hertha were strongly expected to dominate this pack; however, after four games, that really hasn’t been the case. As things stand, both Bilbao and Hertha are heading out, and so both need a win here. Similarly, neither side are thriving domestically – Hertha are 14th in the Bundesliga, while Bilbao are 15th in La Liga – and so some success in this competition could help boost confidence levels.
A win last time out in this competition has put Bilbao in a much stronger position as far as qualification goes, but José Ángel Ziganda will still be disappointed that his team have managed to accumulate just five points from a possible 12. Fortunately for the hosts, Hertha have been very poor away from home this season, therefore, this is a good opportunity for the Spanish side to register their second win of the competition
The reverse fixture between these two, which ended 0-0, is the only previous meeting.
Athletic Bilbao have won eight (80%) of their last ten home matches in the Europa League
Prediction: Over 1.5
Salzburg vs Victoria Guimaraes
Coming into this matchup, both sides find themselves in with a shot at qualification to the knockout stages. The advantage is certainly in Red Bulls favor as they go into this fixture top of the group on eight points, two points ahead of second-placed Marseille, and four points ahead of third and fourth-placed Vitoria and Konyaspor. A victory for Salzburg would seal their place in the knockout stages and if Marseille were to fail to win, top spot would be theirs too.
Vitoria will be looking to spoil the party as only a win would really do to give them any hope. A win for the Portuguese side would really put the cat among the pigeons and they will be playing with the pressure off as they go into this game.
Both sides have been in good form of late, with Salzburg edging it. Salzburg are unbeaten in their last fifteen matches in all competitions and they are even stronger at home not losing for twenty-five games, a run that stretches back to 2016. With Vitoria the visitors, they will be looking to topple that record as they embark on an upset and give it their last shot for qualification to the knockout stages.
Vitoria have lost only twice in their previous six games, winning three of them. When these two sides previously met earlier in the competition, it finished 1-1 that day. Salzburg were dominant for large parts of the game but were unable to find a winner and will have their eye on going one better here.
These two sides only previous meeting came earlier in the competition, ending in a 1-1 draw.
Salzburg are undefeated in their last nine Europa League fixtures.
Prediction: Salzburg Wins & Over 1.5
Everton vs Atalanta
The Toffees are already out with two games to spare. In contrast, Atalanta’s qualification hopes are very much alive; just a point from this match would guarantee the Italian side a place in the next phase of the competition.
Atalanta have of course done far better than Everton in this competition, and they will almost definitely be gracing the knockout rounds with their presence; however, the Italian side’s form on the road hasn’t been outstanding, far from it.
Having drawn away at both Lyon and, more surprisingly, Apollon, Atalanta have struggled to match what is strong home form on their travels.
In addition to Atalanta not quite finding their feet away in this competition, Everton probably hasn’t performed as badly at home as their results might suggest. The Toffees were a tad unlucky in drawing to Apollon initially, while they didn’t exactly enjoy the rub of the green when losing narrowly to Lyon in their most recent UEL match at Goodison. Since that defeat a managerial change has at least sparked some improvement, and, as they come here unbeaten in two, Everton are fancied to, at the very least, match an Atalanta team who’s on the slide.
The reverse fixture, which saw Atalanta win by three goals to nil back in September, is the only previous meeting between these two teams.
Atalanta have never won away from home in Europa League, while Everton have only lost four of their 21 historical home matches in this competition
Prediction: 12 & Over 1.5
Braga vs Hoffenheim
Considering that they managed to not just avoid defeat but win in Germany, it is surprising that Braga aren’t considered favourites ahead of this match. Hoffenheim really haven’t found their feet in the Europa League this season, and so the hosts should fancy their chances. Backing the hosts on the ‘Double Chance’ market really stands out.
Braga may well have lost their last UEL home match – which turned out to be a 0-2 defeat to group leaders Ludogorets – but too much shouldn’t be read into that result. Instead, their 2-1 win away in Germany is the result to focus on. Against Hoffenheim in that reverse fixture, Braga really did put in a typically astute counter-attacking performance.
If we consider that the visitors must attack, such is their position, it’s not hard to see the hosts executing something similar. Defensively, Braga haven’t been outstanding, so a Hoffenheim goal wouldn’t be out of the question, but with the way this one is set up – with Hoffenheim needing to make the running so to speak – Braga really should be able to utilise the counter to good effect.
The reverse fixture, which saw Braga walk away with a 2-1 victory away from home, is the only previous meeting between the two teams.
Hoffenheim have both scored and conceded in 100% of their Europa League matches this season.
Prediction: 12 & Over 1.5
Zenit vs Vardar
Coming into this game both sides find themselves in completely contrasting situations. Vardar come into this game playing only for pride. They are yet to gain a point out of the first four group games, losing each game.
They can come into this game with nothing to lose whilst looking to cause an upset in the group. Zenit find themselves in a commanding position in the group, in top spot. With ten points already, they are unbeaten in the group and are one point ahead of group rivals Real Sociedad. A win would potentially seal top spot and qualification to the knockout stages, depending on the other group result. As they are facing such a struggling side in Vardar they would see this as the perfect opportunity to seal their fate going into the final game week of the group stages.
Form suggests this could be a tough day out for Vardar. Zenit’s current home form has been really good. The Russian side have won a total of seven games in their last ten at home and will look to extend that run here. They will also take confidence in the fact that Vardar have won only one game in their last six away from home. To add to the Macedonian sides woes, they have also lost eight out of their last ten games in the Europa League.
The only previous meeting between these sides came earlier in the group stages where Zenit won 5-0.
Zenit have won 70% of their last ten home games, whilst Vardar have lost 80% of their last ten matches in the Europa League.
Prediction: Zenith Wins
Super League: Respect & Dialogue Needed To Restore Normality
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, disapproving the concept of Super League
President Gianni Infantino has called for respect and dialogue as he expressed FIFA’s strong disapproval of the proposed European Superleague project, and has requested that the concerned parties consider their position in line with respecting the institutions that exist to protect the interest of national, European, and global football.
“FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport,” said the FIFA President in his address to the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
“It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove of the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.”
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, and a model that he promoted in his 16 years at UEFA:
“FIFA is here, and I am here today as FIFA President, to bring full support to European football, to UEFA, and the 55 member associations of UEFA and of FIFA, to the leagues, clubs, players, and to fans. To all the fans, all over Europe, and actually all over the world as well.”
“We can see that there is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some,” the FIFA President added. “People need to think very carefully, they need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, but they need to think about all the people, of all the fans, of all those who have contributed to making European football what it is today. It goes back not only decades, it goes back more than one hundred years. People – with love, with passion, with commitment – have created all this. And we need to protect this. It is our task.”
“FIFA is a democratic organization, an organization that is open,” the FIFA President concluded. “Everyone can bring ideas and proposals, but always with respect for the institutions, leagues, associations, UEFA, and FIFA.
With respect for the history and with the respect for the passion of so many people around the world. I understand as well that on these particular days, emotions are very high, but we need to always keep the line. Football is hope, and it is our responsibility to make hope a reality. So we hope that everything will go back to normal and that everything will be settled, but always with acting responsibly, with respect, with solidarity, and always in the interest of national, European, and global football.”
2 Potential Manager To Replace Hansi Flick
Hansi Flick awesome reign with the Bavarian giant is gradually winding down, as it’s looking likely that he may not further manage the Die Roten next season.
Bayern Munich’s quest to win the Champions League consecutively came to end on Tuesday night, via the UEFA’s away goal rules having lost the first leg at home to Paris Saint Germain in the quarter-finals despite being the better side at home.
The Bavarian giant will now focus on league duty and they’re no doubt the team in pole position to win the Bundesliga, as the 2020-21 campaign is gradually coasting home with fewer games left to be played. In that regard, there is a great need for Die Roten to start preparing for next season administration and coaching wise.
The friction relationship between Hansi Flick and the Sports Director has broken down to such as extent that the manager has decided to terminate his current contract.
Hansi Flick sent shock waves through German football on Saturday after a 3-2 win over Wolfburg which keeps the Bavarian in pole position to retain the league title. Hansi Flick issued a statement about his decision to exit when the current campaign draws to a close.
“I told the team today that I informed the club during the week, after the game in Paris, I would like to terminate my contract at the end of the season.
“It was important to me that the team learn this from me because there was already a lot of hallway rumours going around.
“We’ve done a great job together for almost two years. I’m absolutely impressed with this team, their quality and their attitude.”
He added: “I also want to thank the club that gave me the chance to manage this incredible team.
“This decision was not easy for me. I’m a fan of this club. Gerd Müller, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge all were childhood idols for me.
“I’m eternally grateful to the club for the chance they gave me to become head coach here.”
It’s quite evident that a new manager would be appointed to pave way for a new rebuild of the team especially with the looming departure of David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, and Javi Martinez.
Two potential top managers that could succeed Hansi Flick, should he accept Die Mannschaft managerial position.
- Julien Nagelsmann – (RB Leipzig)
Nagelsmann has been rumoured as a possible replacement to succeed not one but many managers in Europe’s top-flight leagues whose future with their respective clubs are not guaranteed. This time around, the 33-year-old has been rumoured to be one of the possible potential managers to succeed Hansi Flick.
It could be argued that Nagelsmann is the tailor-made manager to take over the reins at the Allianz Arena, and there is no doubt RB Leipzig manager would certainly harbour the dream of managing one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Nagelsmann is presently focusing on the job at hand with RB Leipzig, plus the fact that he’s still under contract with his employers until the end of the 2022-23 season.
With RB Leipzig and Nagelsmann flying high in the Bundesliga in terms of team performances, with next season European football spot already secured, the club’s Executive Director Oliver Mintzlaff may consider letting him leave to join their rival.
However, it’s left to be seen how things would shape up at the end of the campaign.
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- Jurgen Klopp – (Liverpool)
The relationship the German tactician has achieved thus far with Liverpool started in 2015 when he joined the Kop from Borussia Dortmund, since then he has achieved quite an incredible success with the Reds winning their first league title after thirty years and a Champions League triumph.
Liverpool were eliminated early in both domestic cup competitions and failed to progress past the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and it’s quite impossible to say that the Kop will defend their title with their current epileptic form in the Premier League especially when it’s looking done and dusted that the cityzen would clinch the title.
Having used close to six years with Liverpool since he joined the Anfield side, this could be the perfect time for the former Borussia Dortmund manager to take up a new challenge. However, despite Liverpool’s unpalatable 2020-21 campaign, the German has often reiterated that he is in no way finished at Liverpool, despite been link to the Bayern Munich and Die Mannschaft managerial position.
Given his incredible success with BVB, it’s quite evident that he would one day go on to manage either Die Roten or Die Mannschaft. Should Bayern secure the service of Klopp, he would certainly be the right and wise choice for the Bavarian giant.
At the end of the campaign, there would be a breath of fresh air in the Bavarian giant camp, with the new CEO Oliver Kahn taking the mantle of leadership from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. In that sense, it’s left to be seen if the incoming leader would sanction the appointment of a new manager or stick with Hansi Flick. Only time would tell.