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Ligue des champions : Manchester City peut-il conserver son titre ?

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Après une saison 2022-2023 historique (championnat, coupe et Ligue des Champions), Manchester City est attendu au tournant à l’aube de cette saison 2023-2024. N’hésitez pas à parier sur les matchs des Skyblues avec le code promo Unibet.

Un effectif peu chamboulé

Après avoir tout raflé la saison dernière, Manchester City a dû faire face à quelques départs importants. Riyad Mahrez et Aymeric Laporte ont filé en Arabie Saoudite, tandis qu’Ilkay Gündogan a rejoint le FC Barcelone.

Toutefois, les Citizens ont compensé ces départs avec les arrivées des milieux Mateo Kovacic et Matheus Nunes, du défenseur Josko Gvardiol et de l’attaquant Jérémy Doku. Les départs estivaux ont donc été remplacés numériquement. Les Mancuniens ont également su retenir Bernardo Silva. Le meneur de jeu portugais était convoité par le PSG et le FC Barcelone. Le club parisien avait même fait du Lusitanien sa priorité du mercato. Finalement, l’ancien Monégasque a choisi de continuer avec Manchester City, une excellente nouvelle pour les hommes de Pep Guardiola.

Manchester City peut donc miser sur la stabilité avec cet effectif extrêmement solide et compétent.

Une concurrence moins rude ?

La Ligue des Champions réserve toujours de grandes surprises. Toutefois, si on doit comparer Manchester City à ses autres concurrents européens, les Mancuniens sont clairement au-dessus. Le Real Madrid semble entrer dans un nouveau cycle avec sa jeunesse incarnée par Vinícius Junior, Rodrygo, Camavinga et enfin Bellingham qui est arrivé cet été.

Le FC Barcelone se reconstruit petit à petit mais semble encore trop léger pour tutoyer les sommets européens.

Le Bayern Munich a réalisé l’un des grands coups du mercato en signant le buteur anglais Harry Kane, mais les Bavarois sont encore à la recherche de certitudes.

Le PSG a réalisé un joli mercato mais doit encore prouver dans les grands matchs même si la première victoire, 2-0, face à Dortmund est encourageante. A voir pour l’équipe parisienne si la solidité va durer après les poules en cas de qualification, le sujet du contrat de Kylian Mbappé risquant de revenir au premier plan en même temps que la deuxième phase de la ligue des champions.

Manchester City semble donc être le mieux armé pour se succéder. Son premier match remporté face au Young Boys l’atteste. Son style de jeu est imprégné depuis plusieurs saisons maintenant, l’effectif est stable et de grande qualité. Et la « culture Europe » semble enfin habiter le club.

Vouloir se remotiver

En 2012, Pep Guardiola avait confié qu’il avait quitté le FC Barcelone car il « ne parvenait plus à motiver ses joueurs », avait-il dit lors de l’Audi Annual Report. Attention donc à la démotivation. Après avoir tout gagné, le risque est donc de voir une certaine lassitude gagner le vestiaire. Avec un risque malgré tout, celui de ne plus avoir aussi faim de titres et de grandes victoires.

Ce sera là le travail le plus important du coach espagnol auprès de ses joueurs cette saison : les garder motivés pour aller chercher d’autres trophées.

Lefootenbref.com

La Premier League, un frein ?

Depuis quelques saisons, Manchester City avait pris l’habitude de survoler la Premier League. La saison dernière, les Skyblues avaient été concurrencés par Arsenal mais avaient quasiment éteint les chances de titre des Londoniens dès le mois d’avril.

Cette saison, la Premier League semble être plus forte que jamais. Hormis Manchester City, Arsenal qui vient de voir Odegaard prolonger son contrat pourrait à nouveau prétendre au titre, Manchester United s’est renforcé cet été même si leur début de saison est plutôt compliqué.

Liverpool, qui fut un concurrent féroce pour Manchester City quelques saisons auparavant, entre dans une nouvelle phase de l’ère Jurgen Klopp.

Newcastle, 4ème l’an passé, souhaite se maintenir dans les sommets de la Premier League et fera du championnat sa priorité. Tottenham et Chelsea veulent se rattraper après une saison dernière décevante. Sans oublier, la remarquable équipe de Brighton et Aston Villa qui visent le top 5.

En clair, la Premier League n’a jamais semblé aussi forte et puissante et Manchester City pourrait bien plus souffrir en championnat que les années précédentes. Et forcément, si les pensionnaires de l’Etihad Stadium laissent plus de plumes en championnat, ils pourraient être moins performants en Ligue des Champions.

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Lamine Yamal’s year of records – can Spain star add one more in Euro 2024 final?

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Not all of Yamal’s appearances so far have come aged 16… because he was 15 when he made his Barcelona debut.

Aged 15 years and 290 days he became Barcelona’s youngest player in the La Liga era when he replaced Gavi with six minutes to go in a 4-0 win over Real Betis on 29 April 2023.

On 20 August, at the age of 16 years and 38 days, he became the youngest player since 1939 to start a La Liga game when he lined up in a 2-0 win over Cadiz.

One week later he became the youngest player to assist a La Liga goal in the 21st century when he crossed for Gavi to head in during a 4-3 win at Villarreal.

He became the youngest player to start a game in the Champions League, at 16 and 83 days, in a 1-0 win at Porto on 4 October.

Four days later he became the youngest goalscorer in La Liga history when he netted in the first half of a 2-2 draw at Granada.

He became the youngest player to play in El Clasico, the youngest player to set up a Champions League goal, aged 16 years and 153 days at Antwerp, and the youngest player and scorer in the Spanish Super Cup.

Yamal also became the youngest player to score in the Spanish Cup this century, the youngest player to score twice in a La Liga game, the youngest player in a Champions League knockout game and a quarter-final.

Unsurprisingly he is the youngest player to make 50 appearances for Barcelona and the youngest player to play 10 Champions League games.

Even Lamal could not match the records of Armand Martinez Sagi, though. He was Barcelona’s youngest ever player and scorer at the age of 14 in the Catalan Championship in 1920 – nine years before Spain had a national league.

Among the few major records he has missed out on are youngest player in the Champions League (Youssoufa Moukoko was 16 years and 18 days for Borussia Dortmund against Zenit St Petersburg in 2020) or La Liga (Luka Romero was 15 years and 219 days old for Mallorca against Real Madrid in 2020).

He has yet to net in the Champions League and will not have the chance to break Ansu Fati’s record as youngest scorer, aged 17 years and 40 days for Barcelona against Inter Milan in 2019, in that tournament now.

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Euro 2024: Why Kobbie Mainoo has ‘wow factor’ and could be one of greats – Rio Ferdinand

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It took Gareth a little while to realise Kobbie is the right man to partner Declan Rice in England’s midfield.

First he tried Trent Alexander-Arnold at these Euros, then it was Conor Gallagher. But Gareth knows now, and so does everyone else. You cannot leave Kobbie out.

I said that straight away after I watched us beat Slovakia in the last 16, which was the first competitive international Kobbie had started.

I thought there was no way Gareth could have watched that game and thought ‘oh, we still need to experiment in midfield’. The kid showed he is the real deal, so that’s it. He has to play.

Kobbie’s age and lack of experience is almost irrelevant. He already plays way beyond his years. He knows he belongs at this level and it is like nothing fazes him at all.

On Sunday, he is going to be playing in a European Championship final as a teenager but there is no way the size of the occasion is going to intimidate him.

We saw that at the FA Cup final, not just with his man-of-the-match performance but also his celebration, or lack of it, after helping Manchester United beat Manchester City at Wembley. A lot of other players his age would be a bit over-exuberant maybe, but he is just so level-headed and calm.

Part of that is down to his background. I spent a bit of time with his family earlier in the tournament, and after the semi-final win over the Netherlands too.

They were enjoying themselves and having a good time, soaking it all up the same way I expect Kobbie is, but without going crazy or getting carried away. They are all really lovely, balanced, grounded, well-rounded people, which is why he is the same and appears to be unaffected by fame.

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Watch: Emslie bundles Scotland ahead in Slovakia

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Slovakia 0-1 Scotland

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Downpour forces players off in Slovakia

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Rain stops play

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Marcelo Bielsa criticises Colombia fans, organisers and media in Copa America rant

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Uruguay manager Marcelo Bielsa says his players deserve an apology from Colombia fans for the brawl that broke out following his side’s Copa America semi-final defeat on Wednesday.

Disorder broke out between a number of Uruguay players – led by Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez – and a set of Colombia fans in the stands at the Bank of America Stadium in North Carolina.

The Colombia fans were seated in an area where many family members of the Uruguay squad were also sitting.

Conmebol. South American football’s governing body, has opened an investigation into the incident, with suggestions that some Uruguay players could face bans for their actions.

“How can you not defend your mother, your sister, a baby?” Bielsa said in a press conference before his side’s third-place play-off against Canada.

“If they did not do it, they would have been condemned by all of us.”

Asked if he feared sanctions for his team, Bielsa said: “The sanction does not have to be for the footballers, but for those who forced them to act like this.

“This is a witch hunt. It is a shame.”

More than 70,000 fans were in attendance in Charlotte, with estimates suggesting more than 90% of the crowd was there in support of Colombia.

More than a dozen Uruguay players climbed into the crowd during the melee, which lasted more than five minutes.

The Copa America is being held in the United States for the second time, as the country prepares to co-host the 2026 World Cup, but Bielsa says not enough has been done to protect his players.

“We are in the United States, the country of security,” he said.

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England 2-1 Republic of Ireland: Russell goal ‘huge’ for Irish – Gleeson

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Courtesy of being in League A, the Irish are guaranteed a play-off in their bid to reach the Euro 2025 finals in Switzerland next summer.

Russell’s goal helps the Republic’s goal difference as they look to improve their seeding ahead of the play-off draw on 19 July.

But the Irish made a bad start in Norwich as Arsenal forward Russo opened the scoring within five minutes.

Stanway converted a penalty in the 57th minute after Niamh Fahey brought Lauren Hemp down in the area.

“Obviously we conceded an early goal which is what we didn’t want to do,” Gleeson added.

“We had a bit of a shaky start but we settled.

“In the first half we weren’t really offering a lot up top. We got into good positions two or three times in the first half but the final quality wasn’t good enough.”

Gleeson introduced Russell and Liverpool forward Leanne Kiernan for fresh legs, and she said that had a “huge impact” on the game.

Russell got on the end of a flick-on by Caitlin Hayes to volley home as the Irish pressed for a consolation.

“They were energetic and they hassled,” Gleeson added.

“They were really positive changes, and I thought Aoife Mannion was solid and Megan Campbell came on. Yeah, the throw helps but they were great. It was really commendable from the girls.”

The Republic round out their qualifying campaign at home to France, who have already qualified, on Tuesday in Cork.

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Football gossip: Calvert-Lewin, Lukaku, Balotelli, Williams, Calafiori

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Newcastle still want Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Napoli remain interested in Romelu Lukaku, free agent Mario Balotelli in talks with Corinthians.

Newcastle are prepared to launch another attempt to sign 27-year-old English forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin after initial talks with Everton broke down. (Football Insider), external

Napoli remain interested in signing Chelsea‘s 31-year-old Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku. (Sky Sports), external

Former Italy, Manchester City and Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli, 33, is in talks to join Corinthians as a free agent, says a youth director at the Brazilian club. (ESPN), external

Barcelona are close to being in a financial position that would allow them to target Athletic Bilbao‘s 22-year-old Spain winger Nico Williams, according to La Liga boss Javier Tebas. (Sport – in Spanish), external

Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal for 22-year-old Italy and Bologna defender Riccardo Calafiori. (Football Insider), external

Chelsea‘s Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, 29, is in talks with Al-Ittihad over a move to Saudi Arabia. (Athletic – subscription required), external

Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc is set to be named Al-Ittihad manager until June 2026. (Fabrizio Romano), external

Tottenham and Republic of Ireland striker Troy Parrott, 22, is set to have a medical before his move to AZ Alkmaar. (Football Insider), external

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England Women: Alessia Russo and Sarina Wiegman want more from Lionesses after beating Republic of Ireland

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Russo scored England’s opening goal after five minutes, rounding goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan and slotting into an empty net after a smart first-time pass from Beth Mead.

Georgia Stanway made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the second half, before Julie Russell grabbed a goal late on for the Republic of Ireland.

Jess Carter, Lauren Hemp and Mead were all denied by Brosnan early on and several players opted not to shoot in strong positions.

“We have been training on that a lot,” said Wiegman, when asked why her players appeared hesitant to shoot, particularly in the first half.

“Sometimes when you work on things you might exaggerate the other way on the other options you have. We did say at half-time: ‘If you have the opportunity to shoot, please shoot!’

“The team are really working hard on it, but you still want to make the right decisions.”

Wiegman added: “We dominated the game. We became a little bit more sloppy [after the first goal].”

England sit second in their group after leaders France beat Sweden 2-1 in Friday’s other match, while the Republic of Ireland are bottom.

The top two teams in each League A group qualify automatically for Euro 2025. The other two sides drop into the play-offs.

Wiegman’s side will guarantee their spot at the finals in Switzerland if they avoid defeat by Sweden in Gothenburg.

“Of course playing against Sweden – whether it’s a friendly or not – is a big game. This is fighting for a spot in the Euros,” added Wiegman.

“If you don’t get a result, you’re in the play-offs, which they don’t want and we don’t want. We need to be at the top level and so do they.”

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Euro 2025: France, Iceland and Denmark secure qualification

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Denmark, meanwhile, took an impressive 3-0 win away to Belgium, meaning they will progress from Group A2 alongside Spain.

A Janice Cayman own goal after an hour was followed by strikes from Pernille Harder and Sara Holmgaard.

Meanwhile Group A1 is wide open, with all four sides still able to qualify automatically from the pool.

Just three points separate the teams, with the Netherlands on eight, ahead of Norway and Italy with six, while Finland have five.

Finland kept alive their hopes with Emma Koivisto’s 98th-minute equaliser to draw 1-1 with Norway, while Italy held the Dutch to a 0-0 draw in Sittard.

The top two finishers in each League A group qualify automatically, while the bottom two go into the play-offs against sides from Leagues B and C.

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Watch: Crazy deflection extends Scotland lead

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Slovakia 0-2 Scotland

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