Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s friendly clash between Poland and Latvia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Two teams who failed to earn a direct entry into Euro 2024 close out the year with a friendly on Tuesday, as Poland host Latvia at Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw.
Michal Probierz’s men finished third in Group E to condemn themselves to a spot in the playoffs, while their visitors ended Group D in last place with only three points to their name....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Not since 2004 have Poland been forced to watch a European Championships from home – posting group-stage finishes in 2008, 2012 and 2020 either side of a run to the quarter-finals in 2016 – but the Eagles still have plenty of work to do to punch their ticket to the finals.
On the back of progressing to the knockout rounds of the 2022 World Cup, Group E appeared to be there for the taking for Poland, but eight games and two managers later, Tuesday’s hosts fell to Albania and the Czech Republic’s superiority in the section.
A pair of home clashes with Moldova and the Czech Republic offered Poland a prime opportunity to sneak into the top two, but Probierz’s men were held to 1-1 draws in both contests to finish one point behind the latter in third spot, although they now have the playoffs to fall back on.
Unless Croatia and Italy fail to qualify directly, Poland will enter Path A of the playoffs as the highest-ranked team, but the Eagles should be grateful to have a rest from competitive action this week, having only picked up two wins over the Faroe Islands in their last six Euros qualifiers.
The hosts have only taken part in one friendly this year so far, but it was a worthwhile venture as they overcame Euro 2024 hosts Germany 1-0 under the wing of Fernando Santos, extending their unbeaten run in exhibition matches to seven games since losing to the Czechs in 2018.
Poland’s qualifying campaign may not be done and dusted just yet, but Latvia have been left to reflect on another forgettable preliminary campaign, having taken to the field eight times in Group D and emerging on the losing side in seven of them.
A 2-0 home beating of Armenia is all that the 11 Wolves have had to shout about over the past several months, and they followed up that sole win with back-to-back losses to Turkey and Croatia, succumbing to strikes from Lovro Majer and Andrej Kramaric against the latter on Saturday.
While Poland’s most recent absence from the Euros came in 2004, Latvia coincidentally competed in their only major tournament to date 19 years ago, but a swift group-stage exit – where they failed to pick up a single win – has now preceded five failed attempts to return to the big time.
Not even promotion to Nations League C could save Latvia, as the potential playoff spot reserved for the best-ranked League D team will go to Estonia, and the rebuild for 2024 begins now for head coach Dainis Kazakevics and co.
Latvia did manage to get the better of Poland in a Euro 2004 qualifier en route to the tournament, but the 11 Wolves have since lost four in a row against the Eagles without finding the back of the net once, most recently being trounced 3-0 in 2019 courtesy of a Robert Lewandowski hat-trick.
Poland friendly form:
Poland form (all competitions):
Latvia friendly form:
Latvia form (all competitions):
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As well as losing Aston Villa right-back Matty Cash to injury before taking on the Czech Republic, Poland witnessed another defender in Heerenveen’s Pawel Bochniewicz leave the field after 58 minutes on Friday, having displayed symptoms of sciatica.
The Polish Football Federation have confirmed that Bochniweicz will be sent back to his club to begin his rehabilitation, leaving Probierz with one fewer defender to call upon for Tuesday’s game; Mateusz Wieteska and Patryk Peda are the only alternatives in the heart of defence.
Napoli fulcrum Piotr Zielinski was peculiarly left on the bench for the visit of the Czech Republic last week, and with nothing but bragging rights on the line here, it remains to be seen whether the 29-year-old is thrown straight back into the starting XI.
In contrast, Latvia will be boosted by the return of an experienced international for Tuesday’s friendly, as midfielder Eduards Emsis – who plies his trade in Norway with Raufoss – is eligible to return after serving a one-game Euros qualifying ban against the Czech Republic.
Emsis’s return could spell trouble for Aleksejs Saveljevs’s place in the middle of the park, but Kazakevics should otherwise keep faith with the majority of his starters from the loss to Croatia, as Cambuur’s Roberts Uldrikis spearheads the charge.
Poland possible starting lineup:Bulka; Bednarek, Peda, Wieteska; Frankowski, Zielinski, Piotrowski, S. Szymanski, Zalewski; Lewandowski, Buksa
Latvia possible starting lineup:Ozols; Savalnieks, Cernomordijs, Balodis, Ciganiks; Tobers, Emsis; Zelenkovs, J. Ikaunieks, Daskevics; Uldrikis
We say: Poland 3-0 Latvia
Amid two managerial alterations, Poland’s on-field activities have left something to be desired in 2023, but the Eagles will surely close out a challenging year on a high note.
Barring one success over Armenia, performances and goals have been hard to come by for Latvia in recent months, and even if Probierz does shuffle his resources, Poland should emerge triumphant in routine fashion.For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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Newcastle United rise to fifth with deserved win over Manchester United
Newcastle United jump to fifth in the Premier League table with a deserved 1-0 win over Manchester United at St James’ Park.
Newcastle United made it three successive wins against Manchester United in all tournaments for the first time in over 100 years with a deserved 1-0 Premier League victory over the tepid Red Devils at St James’ Park.
A succession of chances came and went for Eddie Howe’s men in the first half, but Man United’s luck ran out when Anthony Gordon fired home early in the second half to sink Erik ten Hag’s team – who were second best all afternoon – although a concerning injury to Nick Pope partially marred the Magpies’ success.
While a decimated Newcastle side put out the exact same XI from their Champions League draw with Paris Saint-Germain, a handful of changes from Ten Hag saw Anthony Martial, Kobbie Mainoo, Diogo Dalot and the returning Marcus Rashford come into the fold....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
However, Ten Hag’s alterations did little to stem the flow of a rampant Newcastle, who saw almost all of the ball in the opening stages and came close in the 18th minute through Miguel Almiron, but Andre Onana was equal to his low effort.
Alexander Isak and Jamaal Lascelles both came close in the few moments that followed; the former had a strike deflected wide by Harry Maguire before Lascelles headed over the bar, which was then shaking in the 40th minute as Kieran Trippier’s free kick landed just an inch too high.
Newcastle’s shot counter displayed a whopping 14 as the referee’s whistle blew to signal half time, but Man United’s clean sheet remained intact, mainly thanks to their hosts’ wastefulness in the final third.
Any harsh half-time words from Ten Hag clearly did not have the desired effect, as Newcastle finally made one of their many forays forward pay in the 55th minute, where Gordon gave the hosts a fully merited lead.
The sloppy Red Devils were punished for losing the ball in the defensive third, allowing Trippier to flash a low ball across the six-yard box, where Gordon was on hand to tap home at the back post.
The ex-Everton man’s opener saw him stretch his St James’ Park scoring streak to four successive Premier League matches, and Ten Hag responded by calling upon Antony and Rasmus Hojlund in place of the ineffective Martial and Rashford.
Man United’s alterations did little to spark any life into the meek visitors, who were indebted to Aaron Wan-Bissaka for making a crucial block to deny Lewis Miley in the 78th minute, but it was Fabian Schar’s turn to deny Sergio Reguilon from scoring a sensational volley with a terrific block of his own four minutes later.
As Pope dived to meet Reguilon’s blocked shot, though, the Newcastle number one injured himself and stayed down as Man United built their next attack, which was stopped in its tracks to allow the stricken Pope to receive treatment.
The Englishman was able to rise to his feet, but he was evidently struggling with his shoulder and slowly trudged off to be replaced by ex-Man United loanee Martin Dubravka.
The Newcastle number two had only been on the field a few moments before an Antony volley flew past him and into the back of the net, but Maguire – whom the ball took a nick off – was in an offside position, and the linesman’s flag came to the hosts’ rescue.
The Red Devils were granted nine minutes of additional time to try to find a leveller, but Newcastle stood firm to leapfrog their visitors into fifth spot in the table, bumping Ten Hag’s men down to seventh in the process.
Newcastle have four full days to rest up before a trip to Everton on Thursday, while Man United will return to their Old Trafford headquarters to meet Chelsea on Wednesday.
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Kobbie Mainoo ‘set to double Manchester United wages’
Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is reportedly set to double his wages at Old Trafford on account of becoming a first-team regular for Erik ten Hag....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is reportedly set to double his wages at Old Trafford following his first-team breakthrough.
The 18-year-old is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the Red Devils’ setup but was denied the chance to make an impression in the early stages of the 2023-24 campaign due to an ankle injury sustained in pre-season.
Mainoo took months to recover from the affliction, but the teenager has since exited the treatment room and was trusted by Erik ten Hag from the first whistle in last weekend’s 3-0 Premier League win over Everton.
Mainoo – who made his debut for the Red Devils against Charlton Athletic in a January EFL Cup clash – received high praise for a performance well beyond his years and was then brought off the bench for his Champions League debut against Galatasaray a few days later.
Sofyan Amrabat was given the nod in Europe instead of Mainoo, but the Fiorentina loanee was overlooked for the youngster in Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United, where the Red Devils fell to a 1-0 defeat.
Amid Man United’s indifferent form on the field and protracted takeover saga, Mainoo has been a shining light for the 20-time English champions, and his rapid rise is now set to be rewarded.
According to the Daily Star, Mainoo is currently on a modest £10,000 per week at the Theatre of Dreams, but his salary will soon double to £20,000 per week owing to a clause in his contract.
Back in February, the Red Devils tied the 2005-born lynchpin down to a new long-term deal until the end of the 2026-27 campaign, with the option of an additional 12 months.
Rather than Man United agreeing another fresh deal with Mainoo, the midfielder’s existing terms apparently include a clause stipulating that his wages will double in size once he becomes a first-team regular.
The report adds that Mainoo’s salary increase has not been triggered just yet, but he is “close” to taking home an extra £10,000 per week, and he would already be on a higher wage had he not spent a couple of months in the treatment room.
The 18-year-old – who has been with the club since the age of nine – completed 80 minutes of Saturday’s showdown with Newcastle, which was his sixth first-team appearance for the Red Devils.
However, Mainoo and his Man United teammates were run ragged by Newcastle, who deservedly picked up a 1-0 win in freezing temperatures thanks to a second-half Anthony Gordon goal.
Having also been beaten by the Magpies in this year’s EFL Cup and a 2-0 loss at St James’ Park in the 2022-23 Premier League, Man United have now suffered three successive defeats to Newcastle in all competitions for the first time since January 1922.
The Red Devils’ sixth league loss of the season has bumped them down to seventh place in the Premier League table, and the visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford is next up for Ten Hag’s troops on Wednesday.
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Xavi reveals he wanted to sign Alvaro Morata for Barcelona
Barcelona head coach Xavi reveals that he was keen on bringing Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata to Camp Nou....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Barcelona head coach Xavi has revealed that he was keen on bringing Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata to Camp Nou.
For the past one-and-a-half seasons, the Blaugrana line has been led by Robert Lewandowski, who topped the La Liga scoring charts with 23 strikes en route to the top-flight title last season.
The former Bayern Munich man has already managed a respectable seven goals in the current top-flight campaign, although four players have netted more, including 11-goal leader Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid.
With a total of 27 strikes from 14 matches so far, Barcelona are the lowest scorers inside the top five of the La Liga table and have a seven-point gap to make up to Real Madrid and Girona.
Xavi’s side did strengthen their attack over the summer with the loan capture of Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid, while Raphinha, Ferran Torres and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal are alternative options in the final third.
However, Lewandowski is the only out-and-out senior centre-forward at the club, and speaking to reporters at a recent press conference, Xavi revealed that conversations were held with Morata.
The Barca boss waxed lyrical about Morata’s individual qualities and “world-class” connection with Antoine Griezmann, but he conceded that a summer transfer was not feasible.
“It’s true that I wanted to sign him. There was that possibility. I was talking to him and I wanted him in the team, but it couldn’t happen,” Goal quotes Xavi as saying.
“He’s a forward that I really like. Morata is a great forward. He is a generous footballer, who works a lot for the team, he works a lot.
“He goes very well into spaces and helps his teams a lot. I really like him a lot. With him and with [Antoine] Griezmann, Atletico has a world-class forward line.”
The well-travelled Morata has struggled to settle at various clubs throughout his career, enduring mixed spells with Real Madrid and Chelsea, who sent him on loan to Atletico for 18 months in 2019.
The 31-year-old’s switch to Wanda Metropolitano was made permanent for £30m that same summer, but he was loaned back out to Juventus for two years and missed the majority of Atletico’s 2020-21 La Liga title triumph.
However, Morata amassed a respectable 15 goals in all tournaments for Diego Simeone’s team last season and has begun the 2023-24 campaign strongly with 12 goals and three assists from 17 matches.
The Spain international has come up with a joint-high five goals in this season’s Champions League, level with Manchester City’s Erling Haaland and Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund, and his total for Atletico now stands at 49 goals and 12 assists from 123 games.
Morata’s contract with Atletico runs until the summer of 2026, and the striker will pit his wits against Barcelona in Sunday’s blockbuster La Liga clash at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.
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