5 Winners & 4 Losers After Manchester City’s Champions League Ban

​It’s not a great time to be a Manchester City fan. Not only has their reign of domestic terror come to an abrupt end, but they now have to contend with the small matter of a two-year Champions League ban.

As far as punishments go, things couldn’t really be much worse for City, whose status as a global superpower has certainly come under real threat. However, while they’re struggling, plenty around Europe are laughing.

Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from City’s situation.


Winner – Sheffield United

Billy Shar

Before this season, the words ‘​Sheffield United’ and ‘​Champions League’ were never used in the same sentence. Now, with the Blades flying high in the table, it has become a real possibility.

They are firmly in a battle for fifth place, and if ​City’s ban is upheld, then that will be enough to seal a spot in Europe’s elite competition. The ridiculous dream just became ridiculously possible.

No one in the entire world saw this coming, and Sheffield United are loving every second of it all.


Loser – Manchester City

Kevin De Bruyne

An obvious place to start with here. Not only has City’s reputation taken a huge beating, but the possible implications for the future are unreal.

With no Champions League revenue coming in, City stand to make significant losses over the next two years. To avoid that, perhaps City might have to sell some of their stars, with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva linked with exits, while Pep Guardiola might also have to go as well.

The Cityzens are desperate to win the Champions League, but they won’t be doing that for at least two seasons. If they are forced to tear apart their squad, the wait for the trophy might even be a whole lot longer.​


Winner – Chelsea, Tottenham & Man Utd

Jose Mourinho

With fifth place now (probably) good enough for Champions League qualification, the likes of ​Chelsea, ​Tottenham Hotspur and ​Manchester United have all been handed a huge parachute.

The three are all part of the race for fourth spot. Ordinarily, only one of them can win that, but now even the side who come up short should reserve their spot at Europe’s top table. The pressure has been reduced slightly.

They will all still want to finish on top, but coming in second isn’t a bad alternative anymore.​


Loser – Pep Guardiola

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Guardiola has faced plenty of questions about his credentials this season. Having failed to win the Champions League since leaving ​Barcelona in 2011, he has faced accusations that he owes his success to ​Lionel Messi.

He is desperate to prove he can go all the way in Europe without the Argentine, and now he can’t. City now need to win the tournament this season, or else Guardiola could be out of the loop for another few years.

The Spaniard has to figure something out, or else that last Champions League triumph will just get further and further away.


Winner – Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo,Matthijs de Ligt

If Guardiola decides he needs to leave in search of another opportunity to lift the big one, you can guarantee ​Juventus will throw their hat into the ring.

Despite hiring Maurizio Sarri just last summer, the chance to sign someone like Guardiola doesn’t come around too often, and this is perhaps the easiest it has ever been to recruit the Spaniard.

If they’re going to do it, it could be now.​


Loser – City’s Ageing Stars

Fernandinho,Nicolas Otamendi

Playing in the Champions League is every player’s dream, but it’s not something that can be enjoyed forever. When players get older, they naturally lose fitness, and that sometimes sees them drop out of that elite tier.

The likes of Fernandinho (34), Sergio Agüero (31) and Kyle Walker (29) are all approaching the later stages of their career, and some won’t be there by the time City return to the Champions League in the 2022/23 season. Can they afford to wait?

İlkay Gündoğan (29), Riyad Mahrez (28) and Kevin De Bruyne (28) will all have to ask questions as well, and they may soon find themselves forced to look for a new home.


Winner – Liverpool

Fabinho

​We’re all in agreement that ​Liverpool are the best team in England, and we’ve all pretty much accepted that City are the second best. 

Well, if City lose all their stars, then Liverpool’s gap to the rest of the chasing pack could grow even larger. They might not even have to be so good to win the league title next season.

Other teams will likely strengthen, but the idea of your toughest rival taking a real hit can only be seen as a boost.


Loser – Liverpool

Liverpool v Chelsea

While news of City’s struggles will have been met with some real positivity among Liverpool fans, it’s hard not to think about the negative side of it all. Namely, what if City hadn’t cheated?

Last season’s ​Premier League title could have been theirs, as could the 2013/14 trophy, when Steven Gerrard could have finally got his hands on a winner’s medal. Sterling and Luis Suárez might have stayed.

At the end of the day, nothing can be done about it, and the Reds will have the last laugh this season, but what if?


Winner – The Rest of Europe

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Every season in recent years, City are seen as one of the favourites to lift the Champions League. Teams never want to meet City because they are well aware that they could be beaten. Well, not anymore.

The route to Champions League success has now been made far easier because one of Europe’s biggest fish is no longer in the pond. Teams know they do not have to come up against the Cityzens for two years.

Winning the trophy is still a tough task, but knowing that City aren’t there to pick you apart will give teams plenty of confidence.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Juventus 2-0 Brescia: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Bianconeri Go Top Ahead of Lazio-Inter Clash

Juventus returned to the top of Serie A with a 2-0 win over ten-man Brescia on Sunday afternoon at Allianz Stadium thanks to goals from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado.

Brescia did well to stave off the Bianconeri threat in the first half but were undone when Florian Ayé took down Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the box, earning him a second yellow card before the free kick was beautifully converted by Argentine forward Paulo Dybala for the game’s opener.

Adrien Rabiot,Ales Mateju

A neat back heel from substitute Blaise Matuidi allowed Cuadrado to kill off any hope for Brescia, whose tightly-organised defence frustrated Juve for the majority of the game, despite the home side pulling all the strings.

All in all it was a steady enough performance from the reigning Italian champions, but one that fell short of being entirely convincing as they failed to fully dismantle the bottom three side.


JUVENTUS

Key Talking Point

Juve were successful in their bid to return to the top of the table, also gaining some much needed momentum after some inconsistent performances.

Their form has notably faltered in recent weeks, with Juve nine points shy of their tally from this point last season ahead of fellow title contenders Lazio and Inter’s clash on Sunday evening.

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The emergence of a team sheet without Juve talisman ​Cristiano Ronaldo ruffled some feathers before kick off. The match offered a chance to test just how dependent the Bianconeri are on CR7, who has scored in each of Juventus’ last ten league matches. 

And are they? Well, the results are not entirely conclusive.

They succeeded in taking all three points, but they ought to have done better. They struggled for fluency for large portions of the game and the ball was often overturned in the final third before they mustered any serious threat.

With a little bit of that Ronaldo magic, perhaps it could have been five or six.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Szczęsny (8); Danilo (6), Rugani (6), Bonucci (6), Sandro (6); Ramsey (6), Bentancur (8), Rabiot (7); Cuadrado (8), Dybala (9), Higuaín (8).

SubstitutesPjanić (N/A), Matuidi (8), Chiellini (7).


Paulo Dybala

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​Dybala’s curling free kick stopped Andrenucci in his tracks, and it’s hard to think of a keeper who could have stopped it.

He was a constant source of trouble for the Brescia defence. When crosses failed or passages of passes came to nothing, Dybala invaded the six-yard box with intricate dribbles, single-handedly taking the ball into the danger zone for Juve. He also rattled the cross bar in stoppage time.

Without his cleverly placed free kick which carried Juventus into half time with the lead, you wonder whether they would have been able to break the deadlock in the second half. 


BRESCIA

Key Talking Point

Brescia would have been happy to take anything from this tricky fixture, and you can understand why they might have been hopeful given Juve’s recent form.

Mario Balotelli,Daniele Chiffi

They put in a performance any team fighting relegation would be proud of. It was unfortunate that Aye’s recklessness put them on the backfoot, as they certainly had it in them to hold on for a clean sheet.

Brescia can be happy with the events of the afternoon, as they managed to contain the Juventus attack and create a few chances of their own.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Alfonso (6); Sabelli (8), Mateju (7), Chancellor (8), Martella (6); Bisoli (7), Dessena (7), Bjarnason (8); Zmrhal (7),Aye (4),  Balotelli (7).

Substitutes: Andrenacci (9), Ndoj (6), Skrabb (N/A).


Lorenzo Andrenacci

Third choice keeper Andrenacci might have had his sights set on heroics as he warmed up in the tenth minute of the game.

With Brescia’s preferred keeper injured, second choice Alfonso started between the sticks before leaving the field with what looked like concussion early in the first half.

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Andrenacci came on and produced a calm and impressive performance, making several vital stops to keep Brescia in the game, including an incredible diving save to stop Rabiot in the dying moments in the first half. 

His key contributions protected the Biancazzuri from total collapse. ​


Looking Ahead

​Juve have an away trip at SPAL to look forward to next week, before the first leg of their last 16 ​Champions League tie with Lyon.

Brescia have ties with Napoli and Sassuolo up next as they look to move further away from the relegation zone.

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Lazio & Inter Are on the Cusp of Glory – But Only One Can End Juventus’ Title Monopoly

On September 25, Lazio lost their second game in the opening five league matches, falling to a 1-0 defeat to a new-look Inter side.

It would prove to be their final league defeat of the calendar year. Almost five months on, Le Aquile have risen to within a point of Inter, and on Sunday evening, they go toe-to-toe with I Nerazzurri in a top-of-the-table six-pointer. But how did we get here? 

It’s been somewhat of a Scudetto monopoly in Italy over the past eight years, with top dogs Juventus hoovering up title after title. But finally, a new challenger has entered the ring. Well – make that two. 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Almost a decade has passed since Inter last climbed to the Serie A summit under the Special One, but since then the Italian giants have rarely threatened powerhouses Juve for success. But I Nerazzurri went all out in the summer to rectify this drought, and the arrival of serial winner Antonio Conte has brought a new mental strength to the Milan side.

After a lightning start – and a winter wobble – ​Inter are back on song, and having invested heavily once again in the January transfer window, Conte’s side looks far more balanced across the pitch.

The team possesses bags of goals in ​Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, and the winter signing of ​Christian Eriksen will provide the spark needed to eke out wins in the tighter matches. At the back, Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni form a fierce barrier in front of the brick wall Samir Handanovic.

Title-winning stuff. 

But if Conte’s warriors want to do battle with the Old Lady for that top spot, they’ll have to get past the true underdogs of the title race first. 

Across in the Italian capital, something special is on the brink of eruption. 

Breaking clear of the chasing pack and firmly solidifying their place in the final sprint to success, SS Lazio have emerged from the fog as genuine title contenders. Simone Inzaghi’s men have gone on an incredible 17-game unbeaten run, and now find themselves only a point behind joint-leaders Inter and Juve. 

SS Lazio v SPAL - Serie A

Le Aquile are a fun and exciting team to watch, with Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic feeding Serie A’s irrepressible top-scorer Ciro Immobile, who has notched an unbelievable 25 goals in 23 matches.

If Inter’s decade dry spell has been tough on supporters, spare a thought for the Lazio faithful, who will be celebrating 20 years without title success at the end of this season. Or will they? 

Lazio host Inter on Sunday night in what may prove to be a straight shootout for a swing at the king of Italy, Juventus, in this title race. Victory for the in-form Rome club would see them leapfrog their opponents for a place in the top two, and depending on I Bianconeri’s result against Brescia, Inzaghi’s side could be top of the league by the end of the evening. 

But while this Lazio team is full of attacking vibrancy and a relentless energy, there still remains an air of naivety and inexperience at the highest level throughout the squad. A title race is a gruelling pressure-cooker, waiting to explode at any given moment.

And no one knows this better than Conte.

Antonio Conte

Although Inter have been known to stumble and crumble at the final hurdle in recent years, their new boss, quite simply, has not. The ​ex-Chelsea man was brought in to provide a new steel both on and off the field, and this has never been more evident than in their derby triumph. 

Trailing 2-0 at half-time to bitter rivals ​Milan, I Nerazzurri’s title hopes were hanging in the balance. But an inspired team talk from their coach injected some vim and vigour into the mis-firing stars, and Inter ran out 4-2 winners in one of the games of the season. 

Their reward? A trip to the most in-form team in Italy. Inter have fond memories of facing Lazio at Stadio Olimpico, most notably in May 2018, when the pair faced off in a winner-takes-all clash for a spot in the Champions League. 

Inter snatched a dramatic 3-2 win on the final day of the season, coming from behind as Lazio had two men sent off and imploded before a stunned home crowd.

It was proof of just how far Le Aquile had come, but how much further they had to go to consider themselves on a par with the league’s elite. Less than two years later, and Inzaghi and co face another trial by fire. 

Only the potential prize on offer is much grander this time round, and the stakes are unequivocally higher.

Simone Inzaghi,Marco Parolo

Victory for Inter would help them retain top spot for another week, and – more importantly – open up a four-point gap over Sunday’s hosts. It wouldn’t be the end of the race for Lazio, but it would be a serious psychological blow to a team running on momentum.

For the victor, the minor matter of the big bad boss awaits. And both teams are ready for that final hurdle. ​Juve may finish the weekend on top, but Maurizio Sarri’s side is in for one hell of a bumpy ride. 

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Maurizio Sarri Responds to Jurgen Klopp’s Claim That Juventus Are Champions League Favourites

Maurizio Sarri has dismissed Jurgen Klopp’s claim that Juventus are the favourites to win this season’s Champions League.

Klopp said that the Italian champions were best equipped to win the European Cup this time around, despite the fact that he doesn’t watch much of them.

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​Juventus were my favourites before the season started but obviously I don’t watch Italian football enough because I cannot work out why they are not 10 points ahead at the top of Serie A,” Klopp said, quoted by The Guardian“They have the biggest squad I have ever seen in my life; quality players too, it’s crazy.”

However, Sarri has laughed off the suggestion that his side should be running away with the Serie A title and that they are most likely to win the ​Champions League, insisting that Klopp’s trying to shake off the pressure that’s on him to retain it.

“Jurgen also said that he doesn’t watch much Italian football, so that explains his confusion! Jurgen is one of the smartest and funniest people I’ve ever known and what he’s doing here is shaking off the burden of being the favourites,” Sarri said, as quoted by Football Italia.

Maurizio Sarri

Juventus face Lyon in the round of 16 as Sarri looks to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time.

The Bianconeri haven’t been past the quarter-final stage themselves since they reached the final in 2017, falling to ​Real Madrid at the last eight stage in 2018 and Ajax in 2019.

Their signing of ​Cristiano Ronaldo was with winning the Champions League in mind, and their window of opportunity is closing on making the most of the Portuguese star.

​Liverpool, meanwhile, will face ​Atletico Madrid in the last 16 as they look to continue their quest for a seventh European Cup, which would tie them with ​Milan for the second-most Champions League titles.

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6 Big Clubs Who Were Relegated for Off-Field Issues & How They Got On

​Manchester City are in a right old mess.

After years of a seemingly uninterrupted upward trajectory under Sheikh Mansour and the City Football Group, the reigning Premier League champions have been brought back to earth with a bang after being slapped with a two-year ban from all UEFA competitions for breaches of Financial Fair Play.

There’s also the looming ​possibility of a points deduction in the Premier League for their alleged sins, and that’s just what we know right now. 

While an ​appeal could see the ban reduced or even overturned, things could also get significantly worse for ​City.

Gabriel Jesus

The term ‘automatic relegation’ has even been whispered in some quarters, as a potential worst-case scenario.

It seems extreme but it wouldn’t be the first time, you know.

Here’s a look at six successful clubs who were sent tumbling down the divisions, and how they fared following their demotion.


Juventus

Juventus' forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic cel

The Fabio Capello era started so, so well at ​Juventus, with the coach leading I Bianconeri to consecutive ​Serie A titles in his first two campaigns, taking their overall tally to 29. Then Calciopoli happened…

At the end of the 2005/06 season, Juve were stripped of both Scudetti they’d won under Capello following an investigation by police forces. Club officials had been caught pressuring referees to show favour to the Turin side, and the league’s governing body were not best pleased.

Juventus were relegated to Serie B after appeal, while they started the new campaign on -9 points. 

That didn’t stop the Old Lady from roaring back at the first time of asking, with many of their best players (Gianluigi Buffon. Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved) opting to stay despite the embarrassing relegation.

After a few years in the (relative) wilderness, they’re once again the Godfathers of Italian football, with 2010/11 the last season which didn’t end with Juve as Serie A champions.


Rangers

Barrie McKay

54 Scottish league titles, 60 domestic cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup had brought fame and fortune to Rangers for much of their history, yet financial mismanagement in the 21st century would undo all their good work.

Placed into administration in February 2012, the Ibrox outfit succumbed to their monetary issues just four months later as they went into liquidation. 

Of course, the fan-base stuck by their side, who were reborn as a new legal entity. However, many of the players decided to up sticks and look for work elsewhere.

Unfortunately for Rangers and their supporters, the phoenix club were forced to begin the rebuilding process in the fourth tier of Scottish football. It took just four seasons for them to get back to the top-flight, by which point Celtic had taken a stranglehold on the Scottish Premiership.

The Bhoys have collected all 10 major trophies in the country since Gers returned to the big time, highlighting the gulf that still exists between the fierce rivals.


Marseille

Rudi Voeller of Marseille and Lorenzo Staelens of Club Brugge KV

To ensure their players weren’t sapped of energy ahead of the 1993 ​Champions League final, Marseille’s president and general manager went and used some very dubious tactics.

Bernard Tapie and Jean-Pierre Bernes tried to bribe several members of Valenciennes’ squad, asking them to deliberately underperform

The two clubs were due to meet six days before Marseille’s showdown with ​Milan in the European Cup, but OM couldn’t afford to take their foot off the gas in Ligue 1, given Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain were in hot pursuit.

Tapie and Bernes’ plan fell apart when one of the men they’d attempted to bribe spoke out, leading to an investigation that saw Marseille relegated to the second division in 1994/95. 

They’d lifted league titles for four straight seasons, but this had a significant impact on their reputation and finances. While still a dominant force in French football, Les Olympiens have only added one more top-tier trophy to their cabinet since promotion in 1995.


Parma

Bellaria Igea Marina v Parma Calcio 1913 - Serie D

The start of the new millennium brought trouble for Parma, though they did seal their third Coppa Italia success in a decade in May 2002.

That was the only thing they had to celebrate, a lack of money meaning the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro had to be sold. It backfired massively, with poor performances dragging them deeper into financial turmoil.

Parma couldn’t pay off their debts, living an uncertain existence for several years, until they were liquidated and sent into the fourth tier in 2015. 

That proved to be a turning point as I Ducali gathered momentum in the lower leagues, the club securing three back-to-back promotions to gloriously return to Serie A in 2018.


Boavista

Boavista's goalkeeper Carlos Fernandes r

Seven years after their maiden Primeira Liga crown, Boavista found themselves being demoted by the authorities, who had found them guilty of bribery and referee coercion.

That wasn’t the end of the matter, however. The Portuguese club were handed a second successive automatic relegation in the summer of 2009, their first season in Liga de Honra, despite placing 15th in the standings.

Boavista yo-yo’d between the second and third-tier for several campaigns, before their incessant appeals against their punishment were finally heard in 2014, the side instantly reinstated in the Primeira Liga.

They’re yet to lose their status among the nation’s best, though As Panteras are no longer vying for silverware.


Steaua Bucharest


There was once just CSA Steaua, founded as a section of the Romanian army. Then, in 1998, CSA Steaua Bucuresti split from the parent club, styling themselves as a purely footballing entity.

Nothing happened for a long time, until the military side lodged a legal complaint about the new team’s name in 2014. CSA became FC Steaua Bucuresti, with the original name belonging to the army.

Having reclaimed their moniker, the ‘real’ CSA Steaua Bucuresti reentered the footballing world in 2017, but they had to start from the fourth division on Romanian football, where they still are today.

Unsurprisingly, both clubs claim to have the 1986 European Cup amongst their list of trophies, along with all the other titles that came before the split. It’s complicated…


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter

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