The Champions League revamp announced this past August, with Europe's four top-ranked leagues guaranteed 16 of the 32 spots, caused many to complain about polarization, greed and the one-percenters sticking it not just to the little guys (that happened a long time ago), but to the game's middle classes as well.
UEFA were caught between a rock (Europe's big clubs wanted even more allowances from wild card entries to games on weekends) and a hard place (if they didn't get what they wanted, some...
In a different context, Cristiano Ronaldo's travails against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday could have been written off as 'one of those days'. The forward somehow unleashed 11 fruitless attempts, seven from inside the box, and could only be relieved to see Alvaro Morata pounce late to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win. Certainly, given how one thumping strike swooshed just wide and another flick went close, you could say Ronaldo was unlucky. Next time, he will surely score.
But that would have been far easier to do had his display not fit into a larger trend, one that may give Madrid some cause for concern. Ronaldo has started the season unusually slowly and has now walked off the Santiago Bernabeu grass four consecutive times without scoring. That has never happened before. So desperately did he want a goal Sunday that he twice ignored teammates in better positions only to squander the chances himself. That triggered accusations of selfishness and boos from his own supporters.
His record in La Liga this season is dreadful. He has 39 attempts and two goals; a conversion rate of 5.1 percent. The goals have come in a 5-2 win over Osasuna and a 6-1 hammering of Betis. His expected goals average (xG) against Athletic ticked in at 2.03, which is more than what all but three of the Spanish top division clubs have averaged per game collectively. On top of that, Madrid's last four home games have been against a weakened Athletic side, plus Eibar, Villarreal and Legia Warsaw.
"He is not taking his chances now, but he will soon, and with calmness," manager Zinedine Zidane assured on Sunday, according to Diario AS.
But will he? Or is the form part of a permanent decline?
The live transmission of Sportfreunde Lotte vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a DFB Cup second round tie pitting a third division side from a provincial town mostly known for its Autobahn interchange against one of the Bundesliga's least-supported top teams, would not have raked in millions of viewers in Germany on Tuesday night. But one man was certainly watching.
Bayer coach Roger Schmidt decided to follow the game on TV screen from the confines of the 04 team bus, having been banned from entering the...
Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken about his regret at missing out on taking Manchester United to the 2002 Champions League final in Glasgow.
The former United manager -- who was born in Govan, Glasgow -- admitted that the club should not have tempted fate by checking out hotels for the final beforehand.
Ferguson, who was speaking as Glasgow launched preparations for being a Euro 2020 host city, said: "The whole build-up [in 2002] was about taking Manchester United back to the final [at Hampden Park]...