adidas Unveil Official Match Ball for 2020 Champions League Final

​adidas have unveiled the all-new match ball will be used at the 2020 Champions League final at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Turkey.

The last 16 of the Champions League is set to get underway on Tuesday, and this ball will be used in every remaining match of the campaign.

Every year, the reveal of the ball to be used in the final is always an exciting occasion, and ​adidas have certainly not disappointed this year, drawing inspiration from Istanbul’s culture to design the ‘Istanbul 20’.

It features a hand-drawn artist’s map of Istanbul in a deep purple colour, contrasted by the bright white stars which are synonymous with the ​Champions League.

Running around the centre of the ball is The Bosporus, a natural waterway which runs through the heart of Istanbul and forms part of the bridge between Asia and Europe.

Built using adidas’ latest technology, the Istanbul 20 is designed to offer better grip and control to players, while the thermal bonding on the star panels is seamless to improve first touch.

Fans will not have to wait long to see the ball in action, with the Istanbul 20 set to be rolled out in both of Tuesday’s last 16 fixtures.

​Borussia Dortmund will welcome Paris Saint-Germain to the Signal Iduna Park, while ​Liverpool will travel back to the Wanda Metropolitano, the scene of their Champions League triumph just a few months ago, to meet ​Atlético Madrid.

The Istanbul 20 will also be seen in Wednesday’s games, so fans of Atalanta, Valencia, ​Tottenham Hotspur and RB Leipzig will be among the first to see the ball in action this season.

The final will be held on 30 May, with defending champions Liverpool looking to make it to their third consecutive Champions League final.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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Rafa Benítez Delivers Opinion on How to Beat Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool

Former Newcastle United and Liverpool manager Rafa Benítez believes he has the blueprint of how to defeat Jürgen Klopp’s runaway league leaders. 

Liverpool are 25 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League and are in the midst of a 43-game unbeaten run in the competition, stretching back to January 2019. Benítez was glowing in his analysis of Klopp’s side but highlighted some area’s which the opposition could exploit to halt this unbeaten run. 

Newcastle United,Jurgen Klopp

Speaking about the previous meetings he’s had with Klopp’s team, Benítez told ​The Athletic: “When our Newcastle United team played ​Liverpool, our quick players weren’t faster than theirs were, so in the end the only way to get something from the game is to be really solid. 

“The problem is that you cannot keep this solidity up forever if they are on top of you all the time. Defending for 90 minutes is impossible, so you have to try to create something on the counter-attack, to be a threat, to give them something to be more worried about.”

The former Real Madrid boss continued: “You have to try and get away from their pressing. To beat Liverpool or City you need speed and skill in the wide areas up front; if not, it just comes down to passing the ball — you will not be better than them at that, and they will usually be faster and stronger than you.” 

Sadio Mane

Benítez likened this Liverpool side to Klopp’s previous team, ​Borussia Dortmund, who the Spaniard faced with Napoli in 2013. 

In preparation for that game Benítez reiterated the importance to bypass the high press employed by Klopp’s teams. He explained: “The biggest thing was to play with simplicity. We told the players, ‘when you regain possession, you have to play simple passes and get away from their press, which will allow you to get behind them’.”

Despite this knowledge, Benítez was never able to claim victory over Klopp’s Liverpool while manager of ​Newcastle, but the current Dalian Yifang boss has certainly provided something for their current rivals to think about.

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Sócrates: A Revolutionary Genius Both On and Off the Pitch

Sócrates is number 29 in 90min’s Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series


Modern footballers are often derided for their lack of intellect and disengagement from the real world. 

In many ways this isn’t their fault. Any whiff of a player taking a stance on a political issue is often shot down, either by their club’s PR team or an onslaught of dissent on social media. 

It was not always this way though. 

One player who certainly does not fit this profile is Sócrates, the legendary Brazilian midfielder who was a genius both on and off the pitch. 

Supporters of Corinthians stand next to

Poised, rangy and wickedly creative, he found football so easy that the stereotypical South American passion when scoring a goal was absent from his game. Why celebrate something that comes as second nature? 

He was also not afraid to stick his head above the parapet politically – even during a time in his country’s history where it was extremely dangerous to do so. 

Named after the famed Greek philosopher, Sócrates began his career at Botafogo. His time at the Rio de Janeiro based club was split between being sent off for showboating (this actually happened) and studying to become a doctor. 

At aged 25, Sócrates made the decision to focus fully on football, putting his medical career on hold until his retirement. He declared himself eligible for selection for the Brazil national team and completed a move to Corinthians. This was when his legend began to form. 

His time at the People’s Team was marked with a number of defiant gestures against the country’s military government. As a boy, Sócrates has experienced the oppressive nature of the ruling elite in Brazil, as his father was forced to destroy philosophy books that could have led to severe punishment after the coup d’etat of 1962. 

Now, with a platform to challenge this injustice at a club with a strong history of political activism, the Doctor helped coordinate a new way of organising a football club now known as the Corinthians Democracy. 

It represented a radical break from the status quo, with football club governance in the 1970s and 1980s mirroring the country’s authoritarianism. Club executives held absolute power over their players, even confining them to their hotel rooms in the days leading up to a game to prevent any mishaps. 

Sócrates, alongside a few teammates, pioneered a new system whereby players were afforded a vote on any issue that affected them – no matter how big or small. Although this may seem trivial it was a significant challenge to the military junta and the movement received endorsement from the nation’s intelligentsia. 

Graeme Souness,Socrates,David Narey

It is now credited by academics as a key moment in Brazil’s path to democracy. 

The apex of Sócrates radicalism came in 1984, when he addressed a rally of half a million people and stated that unless the government reinstated free presidential elections he would be moving to Italy. They did not, and the midfielder stayed true to his word, signing a deal with Serie A side Fiorentina. 

The fact that Sócrates had the platform to make such a gesture was partly down to his performances in the 1982 World Cup. 

Prior to the tournament, the heavy smoker and drinker cut down significantly on both of his vices to ensure that he was in tip top condition to captain his country. The Brazil team at that tournament is widely acknowledged as the best side to never win the World Cup.

Set up in a 4-2-2-2, the two holding midfielders Falcao and Toniho Cerezo provided the solidity for Selecao’s offensive foursome to wreak havoc. Zico provided the flair, Sócrates the intelligence, Serginho the strength and Éder the power. 

Brazil breezed through the first group stage with Sócrates scoring their first goal of the tournament in their 2-1 win over the Soviet Union. Victories over New Zealand and Scotland followed to set up a second stage ‘Group of Death’ including Diego Maradona’s Argentina and Paolo Rossi’s Italy. 

Brazil managed to defeat their continental rivals 3-1, meaning only the Azzurri stood in the way of a place in the final four. Tragically, Sócrates would fall short in one of the greatest World Cup games of all time. 

He would play his part, effortlessly slipping in behind the Italian defence via a sumptuous one-two with Zico before smashing it past Dino Zoff. It was not enough though, with a Paolo Rossi hat trick earning Italy a 3-2 win. 

Though they did not clinch the World Cup trophy, Brazil won people’s hearts with their performance. The summer of 1982 was an orchestra of attacking, team football and their captain was the conductor. 

It was a story indicative of his career. Sócrates did not win a huge amount silverware but will always be remembered for his cultured playing style, remarkable impact on football and fight to democratise Brazilian society. 


For more from Matt O’Connor-Simpson, follow him on Twitter!

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Olympiacos vs Arsenal Preview: How to Watch on TV, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

​Arsenal will look to take a decisive lead back to north London when they take on Olympiacos in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie on Thursday night.

The Premier League side advanced in the competition having won Group F, while their opponents qualified by coming in third place in their Champions League group.

Mesut Ozil

The Gunners warmed up for the match with an emphatic 4-0 win at home to Newcastle United, and currently lie six points off the top four in tenth place.

Likewise, the Greek side also won 4-0 against bottom-of-the-table Panionios to maintain their two-point lead at the top of the Super League.


Where to Watch

When is Kick Off? ​Thursday 20 February
What Time is Kick Off? ​20:00 (GMT)
Where Is it Played? ​Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis
TV Channel/Live Stream? ​BT Sport 2
Referee?

Team News

​Arsenal will be travelling to Greece with several injury concerns. Defenders ​Calum Chambers (knee) and Kieran Tierney (shoulder) are long-term absentees, and are joined by new signing Cedric Soares, who is still recovering from a knee problem. Youngster Reiss Nelson is a doubt having missed the Newcastle win with a hamstring issue.

Mikel Arteta

Olympiacos on the other hand have close to a fully-fit squad to choose from. Algerian winger El Arbi Hillal Soudani is the only player to miss out with a knee injury. 


Predicted Lineups

Olympiacos José Sá; Elabdellaoui, Semedo, Ba, Tsimikas; Valbuena, Guilherme, Bouchalakis, Camara, Masouras; El-Arabi
Arsenal ​Martínez; Bellerín, David Luiz, Sokratis, Saka; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Aubameyang, Özil, Martinelli; Lacazette

Head-to-Head Record

Both sides match up well, having each won four of their last eight encounters against each other. Their most recent fixture in Greece featured ​Olivier Giroud scoring a hat-trick for the English club as they won 3-0 in 2015, with only Bellerín and ​Özil presently remaining from the team that played that night.

FBL-EUR-C1-OLYMPIACOS-ARSENAL

However, prior to this game Olympiacos had won the previous three games at home to the Gunners. They also managed to hold fellow ​Premier League side ​​Tottenham Hotspur to a 2-2 draw earlier this season, suggesting they are not an easy team to beat on the road.


Recent Form

Arsenal are coming off an eight-game unbeaten run, having beaten ​Bournemouth 2-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup, before failing to score in a goalless draw at ​Burnley earlier this month. They most recently warmed up for the trip to Piraeus with a comfortable ​4-0 win at home to Newcastle.

FBL-EUR-C1-OLYMPIACOS-CRVENA

Meanwhile, Olympiacos have their own unbeaten streak, having not tasted defeat since their 4-2 loss at Spurs in November. A slender 1-0 win away at Atromitos was followed by a close 3-2 victory against Lamia in their Greek Cup quarter-final. They decisively put away strugglers Panionios 4-0 to set themselves up nicely for Thursday’s clash.

Here’s how both sides have fared in their last five games.

Olympiacos Arsenal
Olympiacos 4-0 Panionios (15/2) Arsenal 4-0 Newcastle (16/2)
Olympiacos 3-2 Lamia (12/2) ​Burnley 0-0 Arsenal (2/2)
​Atromitos 0-1 Olympiacos (9/2) ​Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal (27/1)
​Lamia 0-0 Olympiacos (4/2) ​Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal (21/1)
Olympiacos 3-1 Xanthi (1/2) Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United (18/1)


Prediction

Both sides are coming off impressive wins and recent form suggests there will certainly be goals in this tie.

Interestingly, Arsenal have failed to win away in Europe this season since the 3-0 win at Frankfurt back in September, while Olympiacos have not lost at home at all this season except for the 3-2 defeat to ​Bayern Munich in October.

Alexandra Lacazette

All signs point to this being a closely contested but entertaining game, and will likely end in a draw to leave the tie evenly poised before the return leg in London.

Prediction: Olympiacos 2-2 Arsenal

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Martin Braithwaite’s Agent Arrives in Barcelona to Negotiate Transfer

​The agent of Leganés forward Martin Braithwaite has arrived in Barcelona to negotiate the 28-year-old’s potential move to Camp Nou.

On Monday, Barcelona were ​granted permission to sign an emergency forward following news of Ousmane Dembélé’s six-month injury layoff, and Braithwaite was soon suggested as the most likely arrival.

CD Leganes v RCD Espanyol  - La Liga

It looks like ​Barcelona are committed to the Norwegian, as Gerard Romero of ​RAC1 revealed that his agent Ali Dursun is already in Barcelona to negotiate the transfer.

Dursun has enjoyed plenty of success negotiating with Barcelona this season. Not only did he broker Frenkie de Jong’s big-money move to Camp Nou, but he also managed to convince La Blaugrana to offer his son, Mike van Beijnen, a two-year contract to join Barça B.

Van Beijnen managed just six months before being released in January, but it’s clear that Dursun has got Barcelona eating out of the palm of his hand.

Ali Dursun

Barcelona’s decision to pursue Braithwaite has been met with some confusion. He has a €18m release clause and has managed six ​La Liga goals this season, but Barcelona have still opted to pursue him over Getafe’s Ángel Rodríguez.

Ángel, who has netted ten goals this year, is available for €10m, so it looks like Dursun has managed to pull off yet another magic trick by forcing Braithwaite to the front of the queue.

As noted by ​Sport, the hope is that Braithwaite’s move could be finalised on Tuesday, which would allow the striker to join up with the squad for training later that evening.

Quique Setien

Quique Setién expects to have a new forward at his disposal by Wednesday morning at the absolute latest, because he wants to have more options for Saturday’s meeting with Eibar.

He is keen to bring in a versatile option who can play centrally, both as a striker or at the tip of the midfield and as a winger, and it is thought that Setién is incredibly keen on ensuring the move for Braithwaite gets done.


For more from Tom Gott, follow him on Twitter!

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