Arne Slot may not be Jurgen Klopp’s perfect successor – but Liverpool desperately need his reset button?

Arne Slot may not be Jurgen Klopp’s perfect successor – but Liverpool desperately need his reset button?

While there are question marks over Arne Slot’s credentials as he prepares to take over from Jürgen Klopp, the need for fresh energy cannot be more apparent.


By Jack Lusby, ThisIsAnfield.com


Whoever fills Jürgen Klopp’s shoes will face an almost-impossible job, with the charismatic German embodying the Reds on and off the pitch throughout his nine-year tenure.

Liverpool have become Klopp’s club. He was uniquely qualified for the position back in 2015, and the role has been moulded in his image in the years since. A man who represents not only the values of Liverpool FC, but also Liverpool as a city and a people.

Put simply, Klopp gets what it means to be part of the club – and he has embraced that.

Not only that, but he is of course one of the finest managers in world football. A purveyor of a relentless, attractive style of play that has endeared him to supporters and neutrals alike. It is not lip service when Pep Guardiola describes him as “the best rival I ever had in my life.”

It has been remarked that whoever replaces Klopp will need cajones.

They would need not only the skills, but also the stature to lead a club the size and expectation of Liverpool – but as has been made patently clear since Klopp’s resignation became public, the key attribute required is energy.

There should be no surprise, then, that those considered for the role have all been young, hungry managers with more to prove.

Xabi Alonso was arguably the perfect candidate, but he has since committed himself to Bayer Leverkusen. That has left Liverpool to reassess the situation at boardroom level, with a number of options across the Premier League and beyond mentioned as possible successors.

The collective will of supporters and journalists alike positioned Sporting CP manager Rúben Amorim as the most viable alternative – a must-hire, even – but the news that he instead held talks with West Ham laid clear the reality facing Liverpool.

With the likes of Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi, Wolves’ Gary O’Neil and Bournemouth’s Andoni Iraola all linked with the job, there was a growing sense that the perfect appointment is not currently out there, and that Liverpool were erring closer to the territory they found themselves in when Brendan Rodgers was hired from Swansea in 2012.

That is, that the candidates on Liverpool’s shortlist seemed more suited to becoming the next Brighton manager, rather than leading the Reds out at Anfield.

Feyenoord’s Arne Slot, who is now poised to take over at the end of the season, would arguably fit that description; the 45-year-old has similar credentials to Amorim, as a title-winner outside of Europe’s top five leagues, but there are understandable concerns over whether he can step up.

Those within Liverpool’s boardroom clearly believe he is capable, with Slot impressing both in the data and in interviews with club hierarchy – which will include Fenway Sport Group’s CEO of football Michael Edwards.

His success with Feyenoord – winning the Eredivisie in his second season in charge and, as they settle into second place to earn a Champions League spot, lifting the KNVB Cup this time around – underpins that.

Slot appears capable of outperforming his resources, with Feyenoord a club whose record signing remains centre-back Dávid Hancko, who joined from Sparta Prague in 2022 for just €8.3 million. He has formed a cohesive unit with a defined style of play; intense, attractive, attacking football but perhaps with more control and conservatism than Klopp’s heavy metal.

But while he did reach the Europa Conference League final in 2022 – losing 1-0 to AS Roma – there remain question marks over how transferrable his skills will be to life at Liverpool, largely due to his entire career being spent in the Netherlands.

It is safe to label it a calculated risk by Edwards, who is supported by FSG president Mike Gordon, chief executive Billy Hogan, director of research Williams Spearman, sporting director Richard Hughes and assistant sporting director David Woodfine in a data-led recruitment process.

Whether or not Slot has the immediate gravitas to step into Klopp’s shoes, the events of the past month or so have shown that Liverpool is a club in need of a hard reset.

Any manager who holds the same job for almost a decade may struggle with the sense that his work is becoming stale, and losses to Manchester United, Atalanta, Crystal Palace and Everton highlight the ongoing flaws within the Liverpool squad.

Where before Klopp’s aura could drag the players through difficult times, the acceptance that he no longer has the fight, or even the willpower, to continue to do so has led to a desperate, complacent end to the campaign.

Off the pitch, Liverpool appear to be lacking ideas; on it, they are clearly lacking a cutting edge, with a misfiring attack one of their biggest concerns in this recent run of awful form.

Perhaps a summer of change will serve as the boost Liverpool need, allowing this season to be the building block it was initially viewed as before pre-season began – the belief in a title challenge, let alone a quadruple, only truly picked up steam upon the news of Klopp’s plan to leave.

A new manager, with new ideas and new methods, could be exactly what the Reds are asking for – it is the positive to cling to amid a poor stretch, when even finishing in the top four is not yet guaranteed.


(Cover Image from IMAGO)


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Posted by root in Preview
Preview: Can Mbappé inspire PSG to one more piece of silverware in his final game?

Preview: Can Mbappé inspire PSG to one more piece of silverware in his final game?

The stage is set for the 107th Coupe de France Final, which will see Paris Saint-Germain face off against Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Saturday.


By Zach Lowy


Lyon: Can the Fallen Giants Return to the Promised Land?

Lyon began the 21st century by solidifying a dynasty in French football, winning their first-ever Ligue 1 title in 2001/02 and claiming the next six in a row. Les Gones would go four years without a trophy before beating Quevilly 1-0 in the Coupe de France Final, following that up by edging Montpellier on penalties in the 2012 Trophée des Champions Final.

However, the following 12 years would see Lyon fail to win a single piece of silverware and watch helplessly from the sidelines as Paris Saint-Germain became the top dogs in France, winning the championship on ten occasions and claiming six Coupe de France trophies, the last of which came in 2021. Today, however, they have a chance to put an end to their trophy drought and pull off a major upset against Ligue 1’s number-one side.

Both sides underwent major transformations in the summer of 2023. Paris Saint-Germain would dispose of various high-earning veteran stars such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and Marco Verratti, spending big on up-and-coming prospects such as Randal Kolo Muani and Manuel Ugarte, as well as France internationals like Lucas Hernández and Ousmane Dembélé, and they also replaced manager Christophe Galtier with Luis Enrique. As for Lyon, they found themselves in the midst of a changing of the guard.

The Storm Before the Calm

After purchasing a majority stake in Lyon in December 2022, American businessman John Textor looked set to work alongside Jean-Michel Aulas, who had been in charge since 1987. Instead, Aulas would step down from his honorary chairman role in May 2023 after French football’s financial watchdog – the Direction Nationale du Contrôle de Gestion (DNCG) – decided to monitor Lyon’s wage bill and transfer activity due to insufficient financial guarantees. Textor lamented that Aulas was not completely forthcoming with regards to the club’s debt prior to the sale, prompting Aulas to threaten a defamation lawsuit and order the freezing of his shares in the club. As a result of the DNCG’s intense scrutiny, OL were forced to sell off key players like Castello Lukeba and Bradley Barcola and tighten their purse strings, spending a total of €19.34 million on new players in comparison to the €107.21 million they received in transfer fees.

Les Gones kicked off their season with just one point from three before taking on PSG on September 3. The referee had barely blown his whistle when Corentin Tolisso was robbed of possession at the edge of his box and lunged in to deter Ugarte. Kylian Mbappé duly converted from the penalty spot, whilst Achraf Hakimi, Marco Asensio, and Mbappé again put the game out of reach before the interval in a 4-1 victory. To add insult to injury, the Lyon players were subject to a dressing-down from their embittered fanbase, with one supporter utilizing a megaphone to admonish the squad: “The message is clear: if there are leaders in this dressing room, they no longer have the right to remain silent. You’re the ones who wear the OL jersey. Others before you have worn it and glorified it. You don’t have the right to tarnish it. We expect you guys to respect our jersey and to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps on the pitch.”

It was the last straw for Laurent Blanc, who was sacked after 11 months in charge, with fellow World Cup winner and ex-Lyon player Fabio Grosso assuming the vacancy. Grosso would register just two points from five matches before suffering a gruesome injury on October 29 – as Lyon arrived at Marseille for the upcoming Choc des Olympiques, OM supporters pelted the Lyon bus with bricks and stones. One of the glass shards nearly blinded Grosso, who was forced to get 13 stitches. The Italian manager was back on the touchline the following week as Lyon held Metz to a 1-1 draw before guiding them to their first win of the campaign against Rennes. However, after succumbing to a 2-0 defeat to Lille the following week, he was given his marching orders.

OL’s Turnaround Under Sage

When Pierre Sage became the club’s third manager of the season on November 30, Lyon sat bottom of the table with just 3 points from 12 matches. The 45-year-old rookie manager commenced his spell with back-to-back defeats to Lens and Marseille, before getting a much-needed reprieve on December 10 as Alexandre Lacazette’s hat-trick saw them trounce Toulouse 3-0, following that up with 1-0 wins vs. Monaco and Nantes. However, the storm clouds continued to encircle the Groupama with Lyon beginning 2024 with back-to-back defeats to Le Havre and Rennes. Desperate to avoid their first relegation in seven decades, OL splurged heavily in the January window with a net spend of €56 million, bringing in veteran stars like Nemanja Matić and Saïd Benrahma as well as promising young talents like Gift Orban and Malick Fofana.

Somehow, someway, Sage finally managed to get a tune out of OL, taking four wins out of four in February before falling to a 3-0 defeat at Lens. They would bounce back by taking 13 points from a possible 15, but they were brought back down to Earth on April 21, conceding twice within six minutes and suffering another 4-1 humiliation at PSG. Les Gones would nevertheless close out the Ligue 1 season with four wins on the bounce, sealing a sixth-place finish and qualifying for the UEFA Europa League.

Mbappé’s Last Dance

The last time Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon faced off in the Coupe de France in March 2020, PSG conceded within 11 minutes via Martin Terrier, only to respond immediately with a goal from Mbappé. The French superstar would score a hat-trick to lead PSG to a 5-1 thrashing in Lyon, and just five months later, he spearheaded the club to their first-ever Champions League Final, where they would come up short against Bayern Munich.

It has been a legendary spell in Paris for the 25-year-old forward, who has won a total of 14 trophies with Les Parisiens and racked up an astonishing 256 goals and 108 assists in 307 appearances. However, he has been unable to come away with the elusive Champions League title and failed to make his mark on either leg of this year’s Champions League semifinals as PSG fell to Borussia Dortmund. Seven years after arriving from Monaco for €180 million, Mbappé will depart the Parc de Princes on a free transfer this summer, having made just one trip to the biggest stage in club football.

With PSG cruising to the Ligue 1 title for the entirety of the campaign and Mbappé’s imminent departure proving to be the worst-kept secret in French football, Enrique has sought to wean the club off of their Mbappé dependence by benching the club’s all-time leading scorer on a regular basis in recent months. However, this hasn’t stopped Mbappé from setting a Ligue 1 record by winning a sixth consecutive Golden Boot, with his 27 goals putting him eight ahead of second-placed Alexandre Lacazette and Jonathan David, and it shouldn’t stop him from exploiting Lyon’s backline in Lille and testing Lucas Perri in goal.

Can Lacazette Lead Lyon to Another Comeback Win?

Whilst Mbappé looks set to play a pivotal role for France in this summer’s Euros, Lacazette continues to be overlooked by Didier Deschamps despite his best efforts. Since returning to his boyhood club in 2022, the Lyon captain has led the line with composure and grace with 53 goals and 11 assists in 73 appearances, finding the back of the net in six of his last eight matches, including a brace and a last-second penalty goal on the final day to secure a 2-1 win vs. Strasbourg and a sixth-place finish. When Sage took charge, Lacazette had scored just three goals – he’s since racked up 19 goals and 5 assists and delivered the goods in the Coupe de France, bagging a brace against Valenciennes in a 3-0 victory to lead them to the final.

Sage has managed to find the right balance between youth and experience, with Matić’s defensive prowess and physicality providing the platform for Maxence Caqueret to push forward and weave his way past opponents, whilst Saïd Benrahma and Ernest Nuamah’s arrivals have given Lyon a much-needed boost in terms of creativity, pace and dynamism on the flanks. After plying his trade in England’s fourth tier and Belgium’s second division, Jake O’Brien has emerged as a revelation in OL’s backline and a vital performer in both boxes, protecting his defense with his towering aerial presence and chipping in with 4 goals and 2 assists. Sage has not just found the right formula to get the most out of his new signings, but he’s also proven a shrewd in-game tactician, making use of his squad depth and providing young talents such as Rayan Cherki and Fofana with the chance to take advantage of tired legs and create havoc in the final third.

Lyon erased an early deficit at Montpellier on February 11 and prevailed 2-1 via goals from Lacazette and Caqueret to secure their first comeback victory since May 27, 2023. Since then, they’ve pulled off an additional six comeback wins, with three of those coming against Monaco, Brest, and Lille, all of whom finished in the top four alongside PSG.

This is a rejuvenated Lyon side that has a new lease on life following the arrival of Pierre Sage, and Luis Enrique will have to be wary. PSG’s last two encounters with Les Gones have seen them score four goals apiece before halftime, and they will need yet another attacking masterclass as they look to take care of business against a Lyon side that simply does not know when to quit. They have escaped the doldrums and ended a two-year hiatus from European football, and they have a golden opportunity to pick up their first silverware in 12 years as they take on a PSG side that has dropped points in six of their last 12 league matches.

Pierre Sage’s Lyon have already pulled off one of the greatest escapes in Ligue 1 history – can they spoil Kylian Mbappé’s swan song and put an end to their trophy drought? Stay tuned for what promises to be a thrilling encounter in Lille.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow the final of the Coupe De France live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
What has gone wrong with Manchester United’s tactics this season?

What has gone wrong with Manchester United’s tactics this season?

Manchester United take on Manchester City on Saturday in the FA Cup final in a game that could help them end the season on a high. But will that be enough to put some gloss on what has otherwise been the worst season in recent memory?


By Kaustubh Pandey


The way United’s Premier League season ended was rather fitting. Despite a rather desolate performance during the game against Brighton, Erik ten Hag’s side scored twice and picked up all three points. While there was no late drama that has been a defining feature of the season, United managed to get a win despite obvious issues.

And those are issues that have existed through the entire season and they have persisted in pretty much every game, prompting a change that hasn’t quite come about. 

There is a certain sense of randomness to United’s matches, as they often turn into basketball games. That randomness has led to them winning some games or picking up points they probably shouldn’t and that might well help them win in the FA Cup final. But that will not change how the entire season has paned out and a trophy would only be a thin papering over the cracks.

The Red Devils, after all, ended the season at tenth when it comes xG generated and finished below the likes of Brentford and Brighton. They scored 57 times from an xG of 56.9, which is a rather fair account of their struggles and performances too. But it doesn’t end there.

Ten Hag’s side finished a shocking fifth bottom for xG conceded, which was worse than Wolves and Fulham, and close to relegated Burnley.

Having said that, those numbers are simply an after affect of other issues that have existed in the side and at the club this season. As United prepare to take on City in the final, we look at what has held them back this season.

Injuries

As per BBC figures, Man Utd picked up the most number of injuries in the Premier League this season (45) and those injuries affected multiple key players too. Be it Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martínez, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Rasmus Højlund, Marcus Rashford, or the much-troubled Mason Mount, the campaign was a walking injury crisis in itself.

As a result, United could never really field a consistent XI in consecutive games and even if they did, players that were key for Ten Hag’s approach last season were sorely missing. This also made sure that the Dutchman could not take forward the foundations that were laid last season into something better, even though a signing such as that of André Onana was expected to make United better in possession.

Poor defensive structure

Ten Hag’s side had the second-best defensive record in the Premier League last season as they conceded as many goals as second-placed Arsenal and there was a point when they were actually in a potential title race. 

They played in a deeper block and while they did press, it was controlled and limited. This season, things have changed, but only for the worse. 

A constant problem has been a dysfunctional press with a higher line. There is generally a huge gap between the pressing four or five and the backline, which recedes and offers the opposition a lot of space on the transition. As a result, it isn’t a surprise that United concede a lot of goals from cut-backs and find themselves outnumbered during transitional moments.

Because of that, United concede a huge number of shots in every game. Brighton had 17 shots on goal and Newcastle, who lost 3-2 at Old Trafford, managed to have 21 shots. 

It is a structural flaw which has repeated itself and to many, defending in transitions was also a problem for Ten Hag during his time at Ajax. With the time at United seemingly of the essence, the issue has risen to the fore once again.

Ten Hag’s failure to adapt

Ten Hag showed last season that he is great at adapting to problems in the side and he was constantly creative with positional and tactical changes. This season, that hasn’t quite been the case, as despite obvious problems in the setup have existed for the entire season.

Instead of making changes that addressed the issues, Ten Hag has doubled down on a flawed approach and that has complicated things for everyone on the pitch. Even though players do not suit the setup, he has persisted with it.

As a result of the flawed setup, United have had only the 8th most touches in the opposition’s box this season.

There have been times when Ten Hag has made some changes to the side to accommodate the strengths of individual players, but it has negatively impacted the side. Scott McTominay’s usage is an example.

The Scotsman has seven goals in the league but that doesn’t mean that he has had a great season.

Due to McTominay’s general guarantee of goals and good form, there were times when he was used higher up in the final third. While that might actually turn out to be his best position because he does have a very good ball-striking ability, it has pushed Bruno Fernandes back in midfield.

It essentially came at the cost of reducing the strengths of arguably United’s best player and one of the best on-the-ball creators in the game. Goals were, for United, much needed at that point but the plan was actually used over a large number of games and it negatively impacted Rasmus Højlund’s goal scoring tally.

Drop-off for individual players

A strong case can be made of the fact that even though Ten Hag had laid down some foundations of a playing style last season, some impressive individual performances helped United quite a bit. Marcus Rashford had hit supreme form and Casemiro was extremely vital in winning the ball in midfield.

Both players have witnessed a drop-off this season and while the setup has had a role to play in that drop-off, it has impacted the team’s general output.

For Casemiro, it seems like a case of him turning into a much more cautious player than he was last season due to the number of bookings he picked up. Even towards the end of last season, his performances had dipped and it seems as if he has never recovered, with the poor transitional defending setup making sure that he has had to cover an impossible amount of space.

The above infographic is a representation of Casemiro’s defensive numbers from this season and a comparison with the infographic from last season below shows the extent of the defensive fall-off.

As for Rashford, it can be argued that while he himself has been at fault, United’s attacking plan is riddled with uncertainty, making sure that the Englishman has to rely on extreme precision to make things happen.

He has had to dribble more this season (1.9 dribbles per 90) than he had to last season (1.5 dribbles per 90 minutes) because the system has relied on individual ability more often than not. But the end product has been missing and even though a part of it is Rashford’s problem, there has been no certainty in movement in the United attack. 

If one compares how inside forwards operate at other clubs and how they have the certainty of movement from specific players, it paints an even darker picture for the lack of an attacking plan at United under Ten Hag.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every Manchester United game on FotMob – with deep stats, xG, and players ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Preview: The second all-Manchester FA Cup Final

Preview: The second all-Manchester FA Cup Final

Manchester derbies have a habit of taking place at Wembley these days. It was only 12 months ago that Manchester City and Manchester United faced other in the FA Cup final and the two rivals will meet once more this weekend to fight for the final piece of silverware of the English domestic season. 


By Graham Ruthven


City got their hands on the trophy last year and are firm favourites to do so again on Saturday. Pep Guardiola and his players might not be chasing a historic Treble like they were last time, but the Etihad Stadium side are fresh from clinching a record fourth-straight Premier League title. No other English team is as well-practiced at winning big matches.

United, on the other hand, will metaphorically stagger on to the pitch at Wembley after a bruising end to the season which saw Erik ten Hag’s team fall to eighth in the Premier League table. Defeat to Manchester City would see the Old Trafford outfit miss out on continental qualification for the first time in a decade.

Saturday’s game could expose the gulf between City and United once more. The blue side of Manchester have been victories in each of the last three derbies, including last season’s FA Cup final which was much more one-sided than the 2-1 scoreline suggested. The two teams might play in the same league and the same city, but a Manchester United win would represent an upset.

Lisandro Martínez’s recent return to action has improved United’s slim chances. The Argentine has missed much of the campaign through injury and is frequently the only source of aggression in Manchester United’s backline. To stand any chance of keeping the likes of Erling Haaland and Phil Foden at arm’s length, ten Hag’s team need Martínez to be in top form.

Foden has certainly been in top form recently, scoring nine goals in his last nine games including a brace in the final day victory over West Ham that ultimately clinched Manchester City the Premier League title. The 23-year-old has already found the back of the net three times against United this season and will be a threat again at Wembley.

At the Etihad Stadium in March, ten Hag adopted a similar approach to the one that worked more than once for Ole Gunnar Solskjær at the home of United’s closest rivals. Indeed, the Dutchman set up his team to stay deep and hit City on the counter attack – and this saw United take the lead through Marcus Rashford.

Ultimately, City had the quality to play through United over the course of 90 minutes, but ten Hag could re-use this tactical template on Saturday. His options are limited due to the likelihood that United will be picked off if they attempt to go toe-to-toe with the recently crowned Premier League champions.

Right now, the two Manchester clubs find themselves in contrasting situations. Manchester City’s success has been underpinned by a clear and coherent strategy that has been years in the making. Guardiola continually evolves City’s approach to keep things fresh, but the principles of possession football remain the same.

Meanwhile, Manchester United have no principles as a club and a team. Ten Hag has failed to impose a possession-orientated game since arriving from Ajax two summers ago with United also one of the poorest sides defending against the ball. After 18 years of Glazer ownership, there is no part of the Old Trafford club that is functioning well.

Things might finally change with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS in the door as minority owners, but United face a pivotal summer in their efforts to return to the top of English football. Dan Ashworth has been poached from Newcastle United as the club’s new sporting director with a new technical director and CEO also hired. 

United could be in the market for a new manager too if Saturday’s result goes against ten Hag. While one Manchester club has been forged in the image of their manager, the other is still deciding whether or not they want to hand the reins to someone else. FA Cup glory might not be enough for ten Hag to prove himself. 


(Images from IMAGO)


You can follow every game in the FA Cup with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
FIVE games to follow this weekend: The Cup Final Special

FIVE games to follow this weekend: The Cup Final Special

In this weekend preview we summarise the best five games to follow on your match feed. And make a couple of suggestions for matches that you may otherwise miss.


By Bill Biss


🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 FA Cup Final: Manchester City vs. Manchester United

Saturday promises to be an epic day of Cup Finals around Europe, so we’ll start with the oldest cup of them all, where Manchester City and Manchester United compete in the final of the 143rd edition of the FA Cup, a tournament which is now in it’s 153rd year (note: the competition was not held through the majority of the war years).

This is a repeat of last year’s final and is therefore the second ever Manchester Derby final to be played in this competition at Wembley Stadium. City won that game, and they also completed a league double over United (by an aggregate score of 6-1) on the way to winning what was their fourth straight Premier League title last weekend.

United struggled to an eighth placed finish so need to win this game in order to qualify for European football next season, with the FA Cup win guaranteeing a place in the Europa League if your side has not already qualified via their league position. Whether this proves to be Erik ten Hag’s last game in charge of the team remains to be seen but that would be a respectable achievement to sign off on after a difficult season.

Thanks to last weekend’s 3-1 title-sealing victory over West Ham, a game that starred Phil Foden, a player that also scored in both league derby games this season, City are now unbeaten in 28 domestic matches, a run that dates back to late November. For their part, United have won just three of the eleven games that they’ve played since the epic 4-3 semi-final victory over Liverpool that saw them qualify for this final.

North of the border, we should also mention that the final of the Scottish Cup takes place, this being the second oldest Cup competition in world football. Glasgow rivals Celtic and Rangers meet in the final, a pairing that is far more common, but has not actually happened since 2002! In total, this will be the 15th time that the two clubs have met in the final.

🇫🇷 Coupe De France Final: Lyon vs. PSG

On to mainland Europe now, and the final of the Coupe de France, which takes place in Paris on Saturday evening. Here, second-half of the season surprise package Lyon take on perennial finalists PSG. The French league champions have reached seven of the last 10 finals, winning six of them, but actually haven’t featured in the tournament’s showpiece game since 2021, with Nantes and Toulouse the two most recent Cup winners.

With PSG only having been in existence since 1970, there has only been one previous final played between these two sides, and that came when Lyon were at their dominant best in the 00s, with Sidney Govou scoring the only goal of the 2008 final.

For the majority of the first half of this season, Lyon looked distinctly like relegation candidates, and it took their third managerial appointment of the campaign to steady the ship. But as we detailed in another article – today – Pierre Sage, who was promoted from within the club, has gone on to do far more than that. Lyon went from being in the bottom three in December to sealing a top six finish on the final day of the Ligue 1 season. Not to mention this Cup final appearance. In fact, no one, not even Luis Enrique’s title winning PSG side picked up more points in the second half of the year.

Having said that, PSG were one side who could halt Lyon’s Sage-inspired train, following up September’s 4-1 thrashing of OL with a matching 4-1 drubbing as recently as late April. And with club talisman Kylian Mbappé set to play his final game for his hometown club in this final, it would not be a surprise to see the Parisians once again raise their performance for the meeting with Lyon.

Mbappé was rested for PSG’s final two league games – once the title was already won – presumably with one eye on this fixture prior to his long anticipated summer move to Real Madrid. Should PSG lift the cup, it will be the French International’s 12th major honour with the club.

🇩🇪 DFB Pokal Final: Kaiserslautern vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Also taking place on Saturday is the 81st final of the DFB Pokal, German football’s main cup competition. Here, some of the fanfare surrounding the final, at least outside of the country, has now died down following Bayer Leverkusen’s defeat to Atalanta in Wednesday night’s Europa League final – a game we reviewed here.

The newly crowned Bundesliga Champions started the week unbeaten and looking to secure a historic treble but have now seen their 51-game streak ended in no uncertain terms. But there is, at least, the opportunity to win a domestic double, something the club have never previously achieved in their long history.

This will be Leverkusen’s fifth final appearance, with the side only having won the Pokal once, back in 1993 before finishing as runners-up in 2002, 2009, and 2020. They face unlikely opponents, with second tier Kaiserslautern the finalists from the other side of the draw.

That might be unfair, FCK do have some pedigree in this competition – winning it twice in the 1990s – but they have been outside of the top flight since 2012 and were playing third division football as recently as 2022. This year was another year of consolidation for the fallen giants, with a 13th placed finish now on the books. In their cup run, they’ve only faced one Bundesliga side so far, beating the now-relegated FC Köln back in Round 2.

A #Cupset therefore seems unlikely here, particular because Xabi Alonso will be demanding a response after Leverkusen’s disappointing showing in the Europa League.

🏆 Women’s Champions League Final: Barcelona vs. Lyon

Keeping the Cup final theme going, we’re next showcasing the final of the Women’s Champions League, which takes place in Bilbao on Saturday. Here, we have the gargantuan clash between perhaps the two best women’s club teams in the world as Barcelona take on French giants Lyon.

The record winners of this tournament have just romped home in their domestic league, winning a third straight title by a margin of 11 points and finishing with a morale boosting 2-1 win over main rivals PSG. Yes, Lyon are very much back on top. And they’ll be looking to do the same in Europe having last won the Champions League in 2022 (against Barcelona) but failing to make it past the quarter-finals last season.

In total, Lyon have seven European titles to their name, with five of them coming in consecutive years from 2016 onwards. A marker that Barcelona, and their current set-up would very much like to emulate.

Barça also dominate on the domestic front and have already sealed what is their fourth straight Liga F title in Spain. With two games to play, they remain unbeaten, and boast an 18 point lead on Real Madrid. And now they’re looking to go back-to-back in the Champions League having won last year’s final against Wolfsburg.

That was the club’s second European honour, having lost in the final against Lyon on two occasions – in 2019 and 2022. Could revenge be in the air?

📈 EFL Championship Play-off Final: Southampton vs. Leeds United

Now it’s time to break this week’s theme as on Sunday, we see one of the most important games of the season in English football, the EFL Championship play-off final that decides the final promotion place to the promised land of the Premier League.

Meeting in the final are Southampton and Leeds United, two of the three sides who were relegated at the end of the 2022/23 season. Leeds finished that season 19th in the league, six points better off than the bottom placed Saints. This season, they again placed next to each other, with Leeds coming third in the Championship, with three points the difference to fourth placed Southampton.

Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say, and there may be some of that on show here, as the two sides also met in the final round of the regular season, with the Saints running out 2-1 winners at Elland Round just a couple of weekends ago. That completed a league double for the South Coast club.

In the interim period, Southampton defeated West Bromwich Albion in the two-legged semi-finals, beaten them 3-1 at home following a 0-0 draw in the first leg. And Leeds similarly drew their opener against Norwich City before thrashing them 4-0 at home in the return game.

All that suggests that this match, sometimes known as the richest game in football, could well be too close to call.


Plus two further suggestions from a little deeper in your match feed…

🏆 CAF Champions League Final, second leg: Al Ahly vs. Espérance

Away from European football, you may be interested to know that two continental competitions come to a conclusion this weekend. On Saturday, we’ll see a straight shootout between Egypt’s Al Ahly and Tunisia’s Espérance in the second leg of the CAF Champions League Final.

The first leg of African football’s biggest club game ended in a goalless draw in Tunis, and we’re now back to Cairo for what many expect to be a home victory for the record winners of this tournament. It might not be a procession for Al Ahly, but the defending champions start as favourites to lift what would be their 12th title in this competition.

🏆 AFC Champions League Final, second leg: Al Ain vs. Yokohama F. Marinos

In the AFC region, Saturday also sees the second leg played in the Asian Champions League final. Here, J. League side Yokohama F. Marinos, managed by former Socceroo, and Premier League star Harry Kewell, are looking to defend a 2-1 lead when they go to Al Ain, in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Al Ain, the UAE’s most decorated club, were 1-0 up after just 12 minutes in that game but were undone late in the second half as the Japanese side’s dominance eventually shone through, with substitute Kota Watanabe scoring the winner in the 84th minute.


If you want to follow any of the games mentioned above, click on the relevant link and tap the bell icon to receive all the key match updates.

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Images from IMAGO

Posted by Bill Biss
From Chaos to a Cup final: The story of Lyon’s season

From Chaos to a Cup final: The story of Lyon’s season

The first half of this season was nothing short of a nightmare for Olympique Lyonnais. The French side made their worst ever start to a Ligue 1 campaign, sacked two managers, and were rooted firmly to the bottom of the table in December. However, the arrival of boss Pierre Sage soon transformed Les Gones’ season, with no side winning more points than them in Ligue 1 following his appointment (46).


By Luke Bissett


After claiming just one win in their opening 12 league games, OL seemed destined for a fierce relegation battle. Both Laurent Blanc and Fabio Grosso had been dismissed from their managerial posts, while the club were in turmoil on and off the pitch. Grosso’s spell in charge at the Groupama Stadium was the shortest managerial reign in Lyon’s history.  

With just three points from their first 12, it was the French giants’ worst ever start to a Ligue 1 campaign. They also shipped a staggering 21 goals, their most at that stage of the season in over 40 years (22 in 1979-80). Five points adrift of safety, Les Gones were staring into the abyss. It  was the first time that they had been bottom of the Ligue 1 table after five or more games since 1982-83 – the last time they were relegated from the top-flight.

The club then turned to academy manager Pierre Sage as interim boss at the end of November. Propelled into his first senior managerial role, the 45-year-old quickly surpassed all expectations. Despite a shaky start, which included defeats at both Lens and Marseille in Sage’s first two games, OL soon began gaining momentum.

A run of three consecutive victories to conclude the calendar year saw Lyon climb out of the relegation zone for the first since August, while it was the first time that they kept a clean sheet in three consecutive league games since April 2018. Tasked with avoiding relegation upon his appointment, Sage was soon looking up, rather than over his shoulder at the relegation dogfight.  

Les Gones grew from strength to strength following the turn of the year, winning more points than any other side in Ligue 1 across 2024 (37). Sage was swiftly rewarded with his ‘interim’ title being removed from his job role. The team’s success was coupled with an extremely impressive winter transfer window. Nemanja Matić, Malick Fofana, and Gift Orban (previously teammates at Belgian side Gent) were just some of the names that arrived at the Groupama Stadium in January, and there was little time wasted in  integrating the new additions into the side.  

OL’s ascent showed no signs of slowing down either. They won 12 of their 17 league games this year, more than any other Ligue 1 outfit. The side also embarked on a terrific cup run, dispatching both Lille and Strasbourg in the earlier rounds to reach tomorrow’s Coupe de France final. It marks Les Gones’ first chance to win major silverware since 2011-12, when they defeated Quevilly-Rouen Métropole in this very competition. Sage’s impact has been greatly felt throughout his hometown Lyon. In fact, he has the highest win percentage of any previous OL boss in the top-flight (68.2%). 

The 44-year-old has released the shackles from his charges, encouraging a more aggressive style of play than the pragmatic approach that had come before him. Sage referred to this following a 3-2 defeat to Rennes at the end of January. “I told them to stop playing cello and start playing electric guitar,” he said. And his side were very promptly in tune. They averaged 1.82 goals per game under the Frenchman, a drastic improvement from under both Grosso (0.86) and Blanc (1.59). 

Sage nominally uses a variation of a 4-3-3, with his set-up orientated towards transitions and quick counter-attacks. Inevitably, Les Gones reaped the rewards of their more gung-ho outlook. Only Monaco (630) had more touches in the opposition box than Lyon in Ligue 1 following Sage’s arrival (604), while his outfit also boasted the third most shots on target in the division across this period (112).  

Another key factor in the side’s rise was their ruthlessness in front of goal. OL had the lowest shot conversion rate in the French top-flight prior to the 44-year-old’s appointment (5.4%), whereas only champions PSG (15.8%) had a higher ratio than them under his guidance (14.5%). The French giants also visibly grew in confidence under Sage. They have gained 22 points from losing positions under Sage – the most of any side across the big five European leagues in that timeframe. Following his arrival in the Groupama Stadium dugout, OL’s substitutes have contributed to 18 goals off the bench (10 goals, eight assists), more than any other side in the French top-flight.  

Les Gones have grown a fine reputation for their fearless displays and never-say-die attitude under Sage. This was ultimately evidenced in their final league game of the season, as they netted a 96th minute winning penalty over Strasbourg to secure a sixth-place finish and Europa League football for next season. Remarkably, they are the first ever side to finish inside the top six in Ligue 1 after having just three points or fewer after 12 games. 

The achievement marked a tremendous conclusion to the season for Lyon, who have lost just one of their last 11 games in all competitions. Just one game remains in their fantastic turnaround season, a meeting with PSG in this Saturday’s Coupe de France final. Yet irrespective of the final outcome, Lyon have already far exceeded all expectations this season. Sage and his electric guitar have certainly hit all the right notes so far. 


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow the final of the Coupe De France live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Man City vs. Man United: Local Derbies remain a rarity in FA Cup Final history

Man City vs. Man United: Local Derbies remain a rarity in FA Cup Final history

Manchester Derby FA Cup finals, it turns out, are rather like Manchester buses. You wait more than a century for one to come along, then two turn up at the same time. Considering the ascent of City in recent years, it’s probably not that surprising that this run should have ended at this time, but what is surprising is just how few true local derbies have ever been played as FA Cup finals.


By Ian King


In football’s early days, when there were fewer professional clubs than there are now, there were more of them. West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa played each other in 1887, 1892 and 1895 (with Villa winning two and Albion the other one), while Nottingham Forest beat Derby County 3-1 in 1898. 

At that time there were 32 teams in the Football League. Within thirty years there were 88, almost three times as many, and the likelihood of two local rivals meeting each other in the Cup Final started to diminish. From time to time something would come close – Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers played each other in 1904 and 1926, while Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers in 1953. 

But none of these quite scratch the itch of being derby matches. West Brom’s fiercest rivals are Wolves, for example, but they’ve never played each other at Wembley. Inversely, Manchester United and Liverpool have played each other at Wembley in both FA and EFL Cup finals, as have Spurs and Chelsea, but while these are obviously huge grudge matches, they’re not quite local derbies. 

Liverpool and Everton met in the FA Cup finals twice in the 1980s, but under very different circumstances to each other. In 1986 celebration was in the air, with Liverpool having just won the league title and Everton having done so a year earlier. But when they met again in 1989 the occasion was considerably more sombre, a city united in grief following the tragic events which had unfolded at Hillsborough just a few weeks earlier. 

Manchester United and Manchester City not having played each other in an FA Cup final, then, isn’t really a rarity or even that much of a statistical quirk. Spurs and Arsenal have played each other twice at Wembley in FA Cup semi-finals, but have never met in an FA Cup final. The two Sheffield clubs did the same in 1993. Sunderland and Newcastle have never met in an FA Cup final, and neither have Aston Villa and Birmingham City or Portsmouth and Southampton. 

When the two clubs first met in the FA Cup in October 1890 United were still called Newton Heath and City were still called Ardwick. Newton Heath won that match 5-1, but they didn’t beat them again in this competition until a 3-0 win in the Fourth Road in January 1970. This time it would be City’s time to wait for decades. United won the next three in a row, in 1987, 1996 and 2004, all at Old Trafford, and it wouldn’t be until the 2011 semi-final, the clubs’ first ever meeting at Wembley in any form, before beating them again. In January 2013, United beat City at The Etihad, and that takes us up to last year and City’s 2-1 win at Wembley.

The omens for Manchester United appear mixed. They’ve failed to win a cup tie overall against City since 2016, but they have remained a more than occasional thorn in City’s side over the years of oil money dominance, having recorded eight wins against them since the first Premier League title of the modern era at City in 2012. It’s not the record that Manchester United would have wanted from this time period. This remains a club which expects dominance. But it’s better than most other clubs.

This is an FA Cup final that is loaded with symbolism. Manchester United have just completed their league season in 8th place in the Premier League, their lowest final league position since 1990, and only winning this match will get them into Europe for next season. That’s a big deal, when you consider that the last time they failed to qualify for Europe (other than the post-Heysel ban years) was 1981.

The match also matters to Manchester City who, for all the talk of their imperiousness, were beaten in the Champions League by Real Madrid and in the EFL Cup by Newcastle. Sure enough, they won the European Super Cup last summer and the World Club Cup just before Christmas, so it’s hardly as though they’ll be sweeping many cobwebs from their trophy cabinet soon, but they played precisely three games for those two trophies.

Furthermore, this is an opportunity for City to do The Double. United have done it three times, in 1994, 1996 and 1999. Should City win this one, they’ll have done it three times too, on top of last year and 2019. United’s historical successes mean that it could still only be years before City overhauled United’s trophy hauls completely, but bit by bit those records are being chipped away. 

Manchester City have been better than Manchester United this season, but it may just be that the local derby nature of this final will play into United’s hands. Derby matches always offer the possibility of an upset and it is really a reflection of where both clubs are today that United beating City in an FA Cup final would be considered something of one. 


(Images from IMAGO)


You can follow every game in the FA Cup with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss
Liverpool’s five best players of the 2023/24 season – and the stats that prove it

Liverpool’s five best players of the 2023/24 season – and the stats that prove it

With the curtain closed on another emotional season for Liverpool, we take a look at their five best players for 2023/24 and the stats that prove it.


By Jack Lusby, ThisIsAnfield.com


5. Alisson

Were it not for missing a large chunk of the season through injury, which meant he made the fewest appearances in a single campaign since joining Liverpool (32), Alisson would likely have ranked higher.

But despite his frustrating absence – made up for by the excellent performances of Caoimhin Kelleher as stand-in – the Brazilian remained at his world-leading standards when he was available.

Liverpool’s No. 1 ended the season with the highest save percentage in the Premier League, at 73.5 percent, having been left to take his helpless frustration out on a leaky defence on a number of occasions.

His stunning stop to deny Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron was nominated for the Save of the Season award – a fitting example of Alisson’s superhuman ability.

4. Mohamed Salah

Consider the final months of the season, rocked by the longest injury of his career and the mounting pressure of signing off on Jürgen Klopp’s reign on an impossible high, and few would consider Salah to have stood out.

The impact of a hamstring tear picked up at the Africa Cup of Nations was concerning, but measure the season as a whole and Salah remained one of Liverpool’s best performers.

He ended the season as the club’s top goalscorer (25) and assist-maker (14), as well as creating the most big chances of any player in the Premier League (22) despite the struggle he endured after injury.

Salah averaged a rate of 1.02 xG and xA per 90 minutes in the Premier League, which is behind only Erling Haaland (1.11), though his rate of big chances missed – 17, second to Darwin Núñez’s 27 for Liverpool players in the league – shows room for improvement in 2024/25.

3. Harvey Elliott

“If I regret one thing a little bit it’s that Harvey didn’t play often enough,” Klopp reflected before his departure as Liverpool manager.

Elliott ended the season having made the second-most appearances for Liverpool across all competitions, with 53, but only clocked the ninth-most minutes as he found himself pigeonholed as ‘Supersub’.

No Liverpool player was subbed on more frequently than Elliott (26 times), but the 21-year-old earns his place on this list for the remarkable impact he was able to make despite often limited opportunities.

In all competitions, Elliott made 15 goal contributions, the most of any player outside of the five senior forwards – Salah (39), Núñez (31), Cody Gakpo (22), Diogo Jota (19) and Luis Díaz (18) – he came third in terms of assists (11).

When it comes to the Premier League, the youngster finished the campaign with the most xA per 90 (0.31) and most times winning possession in the final third per 90 (1.3), underlining his value as a hard-working, creative midfielder who could become increasingly key under Arne Slot.

2. Virgil van Dijk

Van Dijk himself admits he suffered an identity crisis in the 2022/23 campaign, unable to reach the levels he and those around him expect, with genuine doubts over whether he could regain his pre-injury form.

But inheriting the captain’s armband from Jordan Henderson, the Dutchman responded with an emphatic return to elite levels, as one of the best centre-backs in European football once again.

Van Dijk restored himself as Liverpool’s rock at the back, producing the most accurate passes (74.4), clearances (4.0) and blocks (1.0) per 90 for his side in the Premier League, as their platform to build in possession and a no-entry sign in defence.

He was dribbled past just two times in the league – at a lower rate per 90 (0.1) than any player relative to his minutes played.

The 32-year-old, who clocked more minutes than any other Liverpool player across all competitions (4,072), also chipped in with four goals, including the winner in the League Cup final.

With only 12 months left on his contract as of this summer, those in the Anfield hierarchy face a big decision over a player now into his 30s – but on this season’s evidence, Van Dijk should be a mainstay for years to come.

1. Alexis Mac Allister

Arriving from Brighton for a bargain fee of just £35 million, Mac Allister quickly became a favourite among fans – and certainly the manager, with his midfielder earning the nickname of ‘Klopp’s son’ within the Liverpool squad.

The World Cup winner deserves all the praise he gets, having stepped into a new-look engine room and helped transform Liverpool’s biggest weakness into one of their main strengths.

He often did so while operating uncomfortably out of position as a No. 6, which explains how only one player, Brentford’s Mathias Jensen (69), was dribbled past more often than Mac Allister (66) in the Premier League.

That statistic is symptomatic of the role, with the fact that the Argentine also made the most successful tackles per 90 of any Liverpool player (1.9) as well as the second-most interceptions per 90 (1.2) showing how impressively he took to duties at the base of the midfield.

It was when unleashed in his more natural position as a No. 8 that Mac Allister truly excelled, particularly in a run of five goals and five assists in 10 games between February and April, including a stunning strike against Sheffield United.

“I’m a team player and I will try to bring that to this club,” Mac Allister explained on his arrival on Merseyside – and he certainly proved that throughout an MVP season at Liverpool.


(Images from IMAGO)


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Posted by Bill Biss
The chase to sign Bojan Miovski heats up as the arch-rivals join the queue

The chase to sign Bojan Miovski heats up as the arch-rivals join the queue

At least five clubs are vying for the Macedonian striker and more are expected to join


By Filip Mishov


As the curtain came down on the Scottish Premiership’s season last Sunday, the race for the signature of Aberdeen No. 9 Bojan Miovski began. As one of the most prolific strikers over the past couple of years in Scotland, the Pittodrie favourite has scored 32 league goals (44 in all competitions) since his arrival, and only two centre-forwards (Kyogo Furuhashi, Lawrence Shankland) have found the back of the net on more occasions in the SPFL over that period.

FotMob understands a host of clubs across the European continent are closely following the Macedonian forward with at least five of them expressing serious interest in signing him and an additional 15 on his tail. The Dons are aware of the situation and are expected to ask for a club-record fee when the interest materialises in the 24-year-old whom they signed on a four-year deal until 2026 for around £500,000 from MTK Budapest back in 2022. Furthermore, FotMob understands that the striker’s preference is to move to the English Premier League, but also that he wouldn’t be against the idea of playing in any of the big five leagues in Europe.

But who are the five clubs which have shown the strongest interest in signing Miovski and why do they want him? FotMob analyses the possible destinations of Aberdeen’s Player of the Year as well as Players’ Player of the Year, and how he might fit in.

1. Bologna (Serie A)

It has been a historic season for the Emilia-Romagna-based club who are destined to finish among the five-best ranked teams in the Italian top-tier and have thus, clinched a place in the Champions League for the first time since 1964/65. However, the Red and Blues have a young and talented striker of their own called Joshua Zirkzee, who has caught the eye of the Europe’s best and with the Dutchman strongly linked with a big-money move, they will need a replacement.

With the uncertainty hanging over Zirkzee’s future, FotMob understands that Bologna have closely followed Miovski’s development. Tall (189 cm), strong in the air and with impressive technical ability, he might prove to be the answer to Bologna’s search for a replacement and even if Zirkzee decides to stay for another season, they can also play together as Miovski has shown that he can lead the attacking line alone or play next to another forward, like he has with Duk at Aberdeen, for example.

Finally, Bologna’s scouts are no strangers to the training grounds in Scotland as the Italian club has snatched up some of the Scottish Premiership’s best assets over the past few years – Lewis Ferguson is their club captain, a midfielder whom they signed from Aberdeen back in 2022, and they also had former Hearts player Aaron Hickey in their ranks.

2. Southampton (Championship/English Premier League)

St Mary’s was one of the destinations first touted when Miovski’s red-hot form saw him linked with a move prior to the winter transfer window and FotMob understands that the Saints came very close to signing the Macedonian striker in January, but the move fell through. However, their interest hasn’t cooled down and they are still interested in signing the 24-year-old.

Now, Russell Martin‘s side is on the brink of securing a promotion back to the English Premier League if Southampton defeat Leeds United in the Championship’s play-off final at Wembley on Sunday and regardless of whether they play in the top or the second-tier next season, the squad desperately needs attacking reinforcements. Despite Adam Armstrong‘s excellent campaign, Ché Adams is set to leave upon the expire of his contract, while Sékou Mara has had a subpar season and last but not least, Ross Stewart has just returned from a long-term injury.

With the Scottish coach nurturing a dynamic and possession-based style of play, Miovski could be the ideal striker to bolster Southampton’s attack as he is a modern forward who offers as much on the ball as off the ball and likes to be involved in the build-up play, although he needs an improvement in his passing accuracy. At the same time, Russell Martin could be the coach to help him reach the next level and add assists to his repertoire, which would make him even more complete striker, just like he helped Armstrong who is on double-digits this season, both in goals scored and assists.

3. Celtic (Scottish Premiership)

The Scottish champions haven’t remained immune to Miovski’s talent and how could they, when the striker who has made the PFA Scotland’s Premiership team of the year has netted three goals in seven matches against them during his time with the Dons. Even though Brendan Rodgers‘ squad successfully defended the title ahead of Rangers, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Celtic and they are looking to add more firepower ahead of next season.

The Aberdeen no. 9 has outscored every Celtic forward in the Scottish Premiership this season, apart from Matt O’Riley, which has left the Glasgow-based club hugely impressed given the fact that Miovski was part of a struggling team with limited service and yet, he has even better output than their main striker, Kyogo Furuhashi.

With another Champions League campaign on the horizon for The Hoops next season, they will need a much-deeper squad depth and FotMob understands that Celtic are ahead of arch-rivals Rangers in the race for Miovski.

4. Feyenoord (Eredivisie)

The Rotterdam-based club are on the lookout for a new head coach after Arne Slot left his post to replace Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, but the Dutch club might soon be on the lookout for a new starting centre-forward too. The Mexican striker, Santiago Giménez has drawn huge attention by leading Feyenoord to the second place in Eredivisie and the 23-year-old might be on the move this summer with the Europe’s big guns circling, and FotMob understands that Bojan Miovski is high on the list of possible replacements for Giménez.

Scouts from the Dutch club have been closely monitoring the Dons’ fan-favourite and will have left with positive reports about the Macedonian’s qualities. Feyenoord are another side who can offer Champions League football in the race for Bojan’s signature and additionally, they boast the second-highest scoring squad in the Netherlands, which speak volumes about their attacking style of play.

5. Rangers (Scottish Premiership)

Just like their arch-rivals, the Gers have been victims of Miovski’s heroics during the past couple of seasons, with the deadly forward scoring four goals in nine matches against them. With Rangers looking to close the gap on Celtic and finally put an end to their current run in the Scottish top-tier, FotMob understands that Miovski could be the talisman to aid their title bid next season – although Aberdeen’s asking price could prove to be a stumbling block for any move to materialise.

Even though James Tavernier (17) and Cyriel Dessers (16) have combined for 33 league goals this season, the Shtip-born forward has still outscored every Rangers’ player with Miovski netting 26 goals in all competitions. Furthermore, Phillippe Clement’s squad is desperately lacking a big game player who seizes the occasion and having experienced that firsthand, Miovski falls in that bracket as he has been regularly on the scoresheet against the Old Firm. Last but definitely not least, the Macedonian forward has also scored against each and every opponent that he has faced in the Scottish Premiership since his arrival, which is no mean feat.

Summary

With Bojan Miovski in ever-growing demand, FotMob understands that the most likely scenario is for the Macedonian striker to leave Pittodrie for a club-record fee over the summer transfer window with all parties involved believing that rival bids will soon materialize. Also, it may represent the best chance for Aberdeen to cash in on the talisman as with two years left on his contract, his value will only decrease if he ends up staying without signing a new deal. Finally, it was no coincidence that the 26-goal forward was only used from the bench in the final couple of matches of the season, with the club looking towards the future with Ester Sokler given the nod over Miovski, and more importantly, looking to protect its most valuable asset and keep him injury-free ahead of any potential move in the coming weeks.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


Posted by Bill Biss
Jesse Marsch appointment intensifies the US / Canada rivalry ahead of Copa America

Jesse Marsch appointment intensifies the US / Canada rivalry ahead of Copa America

Jesse Marsch could have been preparing for this summer’s Copa America as the USMNT’s new head coach. Widely considered one of the favourites for the role following the 2022 World Cup, the former Leeds and RB Leipzig boss interviewed for the job. Ultimately, though, US Soccer decided to retain Gregg Berhalter in the position he’s held since 2018.


By Graham Ruthven


This experience might have pushed Marsch towards the international management he would ultimately take with the 50-year-old named Canada’s new head coach last week. “I wasn’t treated very well in the process,” said Marsch when recalling interviewing for the USMNT position. “And so, whatever man, that’s in the past now. The minute it was done I was like, ‘OK, I’m moving forward, and I’m going to figure out what’s right for me.’”

Marsch stopped short of calling his Canada decision a revenge mission, but the narrative has already been established whether he likes it or not. The rivalry between Canada and the USA is already one of the fiercest in international football, but Marsch’s move north of the border will only increase the tension.

Having been drawn on opposite sides of the bracket, Canada and the USA won’t meet at this summer’s Copa America unless both nations make a run to the final. “I’m sure we’ll play the US a few times before the World Cup comes around so I’ll be looking forward to those matches,” Marsch said about facing the USMNT. “Familiarity with things brings out competitive juices.”

That Canada Soccer was able to lure Marsch was surprising to many. The 50-year-old had hinted several times that his next job would be in Europe – and that he wanted to return to club football. Reports that South Korea had spoken to Marsch suggested for the first time that he would be open to an international job, but Canada stole a march on the Taegeuk Warriors.

As Canada manager, Marsch will have plenty to work with on the pitch. After decades in the CONCACAF wilderness, Canada finished top of the final round of 2022 World Cup qualifying, ahead of regional superpowers Mexico and the USA, and while the tournament itself was something of a disappointment, a certain standard has been set.

Talent won’t be an issue for Marsch in his new job. Alphonso Davies is a key figure for Bayern Munich and could be on his way to Real Madrid this summer with the Spanish giants on the lookout for a new long-term left-back. For Canada, though, Davies usually players higher up the pitch. 

Jonathan David has a claim to being the best centre-forward in CONCACAF right now while Porto’s Stephen Eustáquio is proven at the highest level. Tajon Buchanan continues to catch the eye for Inter after joining the Serie A club in January while Cyle Larin is making an impression for Mallorca in La Liga. Then there’s Ismaël Koné who is developing in the Championship with Watford.

Under John Herdman, Canada played a quick-transition game. There were elements of ‘Red Bull football’ in the way they qualified for the 2022 World Cup and that should suit Marsch who coached the New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg, and RB Leipzig. Marsch’s style of play is surely one of the things that led Canada Soccer to hire him. 

Off the pitch, Marsch might face a greater challenge. Canada Soccer has suffered financial peril in recent times thanks to an ill-judged commercial deal that limited what the revenue its national teams could generate through TV rights, ticket sales and shirt sales. It was a situation that culminated in Canada’s women’s national team going on strike.

The hiring of Marsch has been partially funded by Canada’s three MLS clubs – CF Montreal, Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps – in a move that underlines the lack of finance at federation level, but also highlights the opportunity in front of the national team. This could be a golden era for Canadian football with the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

Naturally, Canada measure themselves against the USMNT. They certainly had the measure of their rivals from the south in the last World Cup qualification campaign and they now have a new head coach who could have been on the other side of the divide. Success with Canada would be the perfect way for Marsch to prove a point.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every game from the Copa America live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including xG, shot maps, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Posted by Bill Biss