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Argentina predicted lineup vs Poland

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Goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez finally got Argentina’s World Cup campaign up and running against Mexico, just in time for their clash with Poland.

Lionel Scaloni’s side lost in matchday one but can now leapfrog Poland atop of Group D by beating them on Wednesday night.

Many tipped Qatar to be the place where Argentina went all the way, but their performances thus far have left a lot to be desired.

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Here’s how they could set up in order to set alight a slow burning start.

Enzo Fernandez

A star has been born / Dean Mouhtaropoulos/GettyImages

GK: Emiliano Martinez – Produced a handful – pun intended – of smart saves as Argentina beat Mexico, including catching a well-placed free-kick in a diving effort.

RB: Nahuel Molina – Was brought in off the bench last time out and could earn a spot in the starting XI as a result.

CB: Nicolas Otamendi – Yes, he’s still going. The 34-year-old has the chance to earn a century of Argentina caps if they go deep into the tournament.

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CB: Lisandro Martinez – Was brought into the starting XI after sitting on the bench in matchday one and put in a brilliant performance. ‘The Butcher’ has surely done enough to keep his place.

LB: Marcos Acuna – Was plagued by a bout of cramp in the closing stages against Mexico, but the 31-year-old should be fine to start once again in a key game.

RM: Angel Di Maria – Saving himself for the World Cup seems to have had the reverse effect on Di Maria, who is very evidently not match sharp. However, in a tournament where moments win games, he’s capable of providing one.

CM: Rodrigo De Paul – A boundless energy source in the middle of the park, don’t expect him to lose his place.

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CM: Enzo Fernandez – Benfica’s midfield starlet became the youngest Argentine to score at a World Cup since Lionel Messi in 2006, and what a strike it was. When they needed a hero, Fernandez stepped up from the bench. Has to start.

LM: Alexis Mac Allister – Made his World Cup debut vs Mexico and impressed for the most part. Should continue again given his efficient display and technical prowess.

ST: Lautaro Martinez – There’s a case to be made that argues in favour of dropping Martinez for a Paulo Dybala or similar, but the Inter striker has four goals from six games for his country in 2022 and seems to have the trust of Scaloni.

ST: Lionel Messi – The showstopper strikes again. Quiet against Mexico, until he ghosted his way into possession and rifled home his first goal of the tournament. Don’t be surprised if he does similar against Poland.

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Is there a salary cap in MLS?

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It’s fair to say that the US likes to do sport their own way, and who can blame them? The MLS is very much part of that, and a key difference it has to global soccer is that there is a salary cap in place.

At least, that’s the simple version. There are various layers, exceptions and nuances to it, though.

So, let’s explore the MLS salary cap and explain what it’s all about.

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The reason is very simple: because the US demands a level playing field for all its sports teams.

In Europe things are obviously very different. The super clubs have much higher commercial revenues than the rest, leverage that into paying the best salaries, which then (usually) translates into dominance on the pitch.

The MLS, and US Sport in general, want nothing to do with that kind of thing. They want fair and even competition in which sporting prowess is the deciding factor, not money.

US Sports have other mechanisms for preserving the level playing field too, such as the draft system. Unlike Europe where, again, the richest clubs often pick and choose the best young talent, in the US the worst performing teams have the first picks of the most talented college players.

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The salary cap is the maximum amount of money each team can pay on wages. They don’t have to spend it all, but they can’t go above it. It’s also a hard cap, meaning it’s the same for everyone rather than a percentage of revenue.

In 2023, that cap is $5.2m, although there is an additional $1.9m available to GAM (General Allocation Money) and TAM (Targeted Allocation Money), but more on that later.

Additionally, there are minimum and maximum wages for players set annually by the MLS.

That money has to be spread across a maximum of 20, and minimum of 18, players in the senior team. However, Supplemental Roster players do not count towards the cap.

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General Allocation Money is cash each club receives from the league. It is there to compensate clubs for losing players in expansion drafts or losing players to non-MLS clubs and that kind of thing. GAM can actually be traded between clubs, though.

David Beckham

David Beckham – US soccer wanted him so badly they invented a new rule to get him / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Designated players are players who are outside of the salary cap and are reserved for special talents.

Generally they are big-name players from Europe, such as David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry, or big-name US players returning from Europe, for example Landon Donovan.

The rule is sometimes called ‘The Beckham rule’ as it was created specifically to help him come and play in the US when the salary cap would ordinarily not have allowed it.

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Each club gets three designated player slots in their squad to fill.

If a team wants to retain a designated player and convert them to a normal roster spot with a reduced salary, then TAM is how they do it. It’s essentially parachute payments for clubs who want to keep designated players after the star has waned a little.

In 2023, the TAM is $2.7m, but there are strings attached. For example, if TAM is used to convert a designated player to a normal roster spot, the designated player slot must then be filled by a player of equal or greater value.



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Enzo Fernandez: Is he worth £115m?

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With the January transfer deadline day throwing up all sorts of interesting and unexpected deals, the one making the most headlines is a move that has been on the cards since before the window opened.

Chelsea’s pursuit of Argentinian midfielder Enzo Fernandez has been as thrilling as it has been baffling. The figures reported are a product of both the spiralling football transfer market, and also the gung-ho attitude of Chelsea under the stewardship of new owner Todd Boehly.

They have been throwing cash around all month long with an outlay of over £200m pounds already – unheard-of figures for a January window. They could add another £115m to that number if they get the Fernandez deal over the line.

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It was reported by 90min earlier on deadline day Chelsea have agreed the £115m deal with Benfica for Fernandez with a medical planned in Portugal. £105m is the player’s release clause and with the other add-ons, the deal will rise to £115m.

That will set a new British transfer record, beating the £100m Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish in the summer of 2021.

If we’re thinking very literally about how much he has played and shown during his career, no. Fernandez is not worth £115m. That is not all that goes into a transfer of this sort, though, as Chelsea are essentially paying for his potential.

They are paying for the fact Benfica clearly hold the opinion that he will become a far greater player than he is right now. Chelsea are also paying over the top as Benfica are losing a key player in the January window.

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On top of all of that, just over a month ago Fernandez was an important part of a World Cup-winning side. There is however much you feel the player is worth right now, and then there is all of that added tax which makes up a football transfer. Another added tax is that everyone knows Chelsea are loaded and they aren’t concerned about forking out.

With the way the market continues to inflate, there is every possibility that this deal does not look too outlandish within the next few years, providing he performs.

If you prefer a more binary approach, Transfermarkt valued Fernandez at €55m in December 2022.

Coming into the tournament, Fernandez’s name was already starting to carry some weight as many tipped the now-22-year-old to be one of the breakout stars of the Qatar World Cup. That is exactly how it panned out.

He did not start the first game against Saudi Arabia but came on and looked impressive even as Argentina fell to defeat. He then played half an hour against Mexico and scored, before playing 79 minutes against Poland and getting an assist.

That was enough for Lionel Scaloni to give him all 90 minutes against Australia in the last 16 and he played every minute of the tournament thereon in. The experience he will have gained at the highest level will be crucial should he be tasked with saving Chelsea’s season from February onwards.

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It is very hard to work out just how Chelsea play at the moment as results go up and down as new players come into the team. Manager Graham Potter is a million miles away from knowing what his best XI is at this stage. One thing is sure though; Boehly will expect Fernandez to play straight away.

He could be used in a two-man midfield as part of the 4-2-3-1 formation, as has been the case predominantly for Benfica. That would mean partnering him likely with Mateo Kovacic given Jorginho is on his way to Arsenal.

If Chelsea wanted to use a midfield three, playing Fernandez on the right of that three would suit him very well, it’s just a case of whether Chelsea have the right players to accommodate that. It won’t be easy for Potter but he must find a way to use the expensive star.





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Why Man City fans boo the Champions League anthem

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Manchester City have been regulars in the Champions League for many years now following their 2008 takeover and they even reached the final in 2021, which was lost to Chelsea.

Despite this, they have an odd relationship with the tournament.

They have never won it, despite it so blatantly being the missing jewel in their crown. As well as that, their fans always boo the UEFA Champions League anthem when it is played before their matches.

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They are not the only club in Europe too have done this, but they are the most prolific with it.

The booing stems back to the 2011/12 season. City were playing against Porto and Mario Balotelli was racially abused by the fans. Porto were fined €20,000. A month later though, City were playing against Sporting CP and were fined €30,000 for being 30 seconds late onto the pitch.

The relationship soured further when City were set to play CSKA Moscow away from home, but the Russian club were ordered to play behind closed doors following racial abuse by fans. That means City fans could not go either even though thousands had flights, tickets and accommodation already paid for. Some CSKA fans were also then allowed into the stadium.

The next incident was in 2017 when City were set to play Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine. The game was ordered to be played behind closed doors so City fans did not make arrangements, and then just weeks before the fixture, the decision was reversed, at which point it was too late for fans to go.

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Alongside all of this was the fact that City have been regularly investigated and once found guilty of breaking UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. They were fined £49m in 2014 and made to name a smaller Champions League squad than usual as punishment.

They were found guilty of another breach in 2020 and were banned from the tournament for two years, which was then overturned on appeal.

Overall, many City fans feel they have been targeted by UEFA for their newfound wealth which comes from outside of Europe.

City had just one campaign in the old European Cup back in 1968/69, in which they were knocked out in the first round. That was it until the investment from Abu Dhabi arrived and they qualified for the Champions League in 2011. Despite going on to win the Premier League title in 2011/12, they were knocked out in the group stage that year and also the following year.

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They have made the group stage every single season since. In 2013/14 and 2014/15, it ended at the Round of 16, whilst 2015/16 was a run to the semi-finals. The next four seasons did not go beyond the quarter-final stage before reaching the final for the first time in 2020/21.

That felt like a major opportunity for City to finally realise their European dream, despite UEFA’s perceived adversity towards them. But Kai Havertz’s goal was enough to secure the win for Chelsea

Last season, they were knocked out in the semi-finals by Real Madrid after chucking away a commanding lead in dramatic late fashion.



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