Champions League place at stake for likes of Milan and Arsenal in Europa League

Arsenal's Manager Arsene Wenger attends a news conference in Ostersund, Sweden ahead of the two teams' Europa League clash. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 February 2018
0

Champions League place at stake for likes of Milan and Arsenal in Europa League

LONDON: It’s the only European trophy AC Milan has not won, yet there is more at stake for the Italian powerhouse and some other big teams when the Europa League kicks off its knockout stage this week.
Once treated with contempt by heavyweights, Europe’s second tier competition carries more value since UEFA’s decision to award a Champions League qualifying place to the winner, which started with the 2015-16 season.
After a poor start to the season, heavy spending Milan are showing signs of improvement under new coach Gennaro Gattuso. But still seventh in Serie A, winning the Europa League might be the best option for the seven-time European champions to return to Europe’s top table.
Milan face Bulgaria’s Ludogorets Razgrad in the round of 32 on Thursday.
Milan’s situation might sound familiar to Arsene Wenger, whose Arsenal side are losing hope of making the top four in the Premier League. The London club is in sixth place, seven points from the Champions League places.
“I’m not a great fan of the Europa League being a qualifier of the Champions League,” Wenger said.
But Wenger might want to follow the example of his rival, Jose Mourinho, who changed his negative view of the Europa League after a 2-0 victory over Ajax in the final last year saved his first season at Manchester United.
Arsenal, the only English club remaining in the competition, open the second round against Sweden’s Ostersund.
“Looking at their results in Europe, they have done well so we have to prepare properly,” Wenger said about the club led by English manager Graham Potter, a former Football League defender.
It will be interesting to see if Wenger sticks to his habit of fielding a reserve team for the Europa League matches. What proved effective in the group stage might not be enough in the knockout rounds.
Wenger will have to make changes upfront after his two regular strikers in the group stage, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, left the Emirates Stadium for Chelsea and Everton, respectively.

OTHER GAMES
The competition is spiced up with some big names that dropped down from the Champions League.
Two of them immediately face each other, Italy’s Serie A leaders Napoli and RB Leipzig, the second-placed team in the Bundesliga.
Atletico Madrid, the 2010 and 2012 Europa League winners, were drawn to face Copenhagen.
Borussia Dortmund, who are third in the Bundesliga after two straight wins, face Italy’s Atalanta.
Also, it’s Marseille vs. Braga; Celtic vs. Zenit St. Petersburg; and Lyon vs.Villarreal.
Fifteen of the 16 opening legs will be played on Thursday, with the return games on Feb. 22. In Tuesday’s only match, Red Star Belgrade play CSKA Moscow.


Egypt to complain about match officials in World Cup loss

Updated 22 June 2018
0

Egypt to complain about match officials in World Cup loss

VOLGOGRAD: Egypt is set to lodge a complaint to FIFA about what its federation chairman describes as the “injustice” of the match officials during the team’s World Cup loss to Russia.
Egyptian Football Association chairman Hany Abo Rida says the match officials “did not achieve justice” in the game.
Egypt’s 3-1 loss to Russia, combined with Saudi Arabia’s loss to Uruguay, ended its changes of progressing beyond the group stage at its first World Cup in 28 years. Egypt and Saudi Arabia meet Monday in Volgograd in their last Group A match.
Abo Rida, speaking from the Egyptian squad’s World Cup base in Grozny, Chechnya, did not specify which incident would form the basis of the complaint.
The Egyptians contend that defender Ahmed Fathi was pushed before the ball deflected off him for an own goal that gave the Russians a 1-0 lead. The players also thought forward Mohsen Marwan should have been awarded a penalty when he was brought down inside the box. Both incidents took place in the second half.