Previous
Juventus
Malmo FF
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Olympiakos
Atletico Madrid
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Liverpool
Ludogorets Razgrad
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Madrid
FC Basel
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
AS Monaco
Bayer Leverkusen
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Benfica
Zenit St Petersburg
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Borussia Dortmund
Arsenal
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Galatasaray
Anderlecht
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Philadelphia Union
Seattle Sounders FC
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
AFC Bournemouth
Leeds United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Birmingham City
Sheffield Wednesday
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Blackpool
Watford
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Brentford
Norwich City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Cardiff City
Middlesbrough
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Charlton Athletic
Wolverhampton Wanderers
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Huddersfield Town
Wigan Athletic
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Ipswich Town
Brighton & Hove Albion
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bolton Wanderers
Rotherham United
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Reading
Millwall
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Waterhouse
DC United
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Cruz Azul
Chorrillo FC
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Portland Timbers
Olimpia
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Colchester United
Sheffield United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Doncaster Rovers
Crawley Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Gillingham
Peterborough United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Milton Keynes Dons
Bradford City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Notts County
Leyton Orient
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Port Vale
Bristol City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Preston North End
Chesterfield
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Rochdale
Walsall
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Scunthorpe United
Coventry City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Swindon Town
Oldham Athletic
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Yeovil Town
Crewe Alexandra
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
AFC Wimbledon
Burton Albion
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bury
Stevenage
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Cambridge United
Exeter City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Cheltenham Town
Southend United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Mansfield Town
Morecambe
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Northampton Town
Hartlepool United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Oxford United
Accrington Stanley
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Plymouth Argyle
Wycombe Wanderers
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Portsmouth
Dagenham & Redbridge
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Shrewsbury Town
Carlisle United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Tranmere Rovers
Newport County
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
York City
Luton Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Aldershot Town
Braintree Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Alfreton Town
AFC Telford United
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bristol Rovers
Nuneaton Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Chester City
Southport
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Dartford
Dover
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Eastleigh
Forest Green Rovers
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Halifax
Grimsby Town
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Kidderminster Harriers
Altrincham
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Macclesfield Town
Gateshead
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Torquay United
Woking
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Welling
Lincoln City
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Barnet
Wrexham
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Rangers
Inverness Caledonian Thistle
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Al Hilal
Al-Ain
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Guadalajara
Tijuana
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Mérida
Atlante
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Puebla
Morelia
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Celaya
Necaxa
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Coras Tepic
Zacatepec
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Dorados de Sinaloa
Mineros de Zacatecas
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Monterrey
Santos
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Toluca
UNAM
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Estudiantes La Plata
Gimnasia La Plata
10:00 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Independiente del Valle
Cerro Porteño
10:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Deportivo Capiatá
Caracas F.C.
12:15 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Peñarol
Deportivo Cali
12:30 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
América Mineiro
Bragantino
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Avaí
Sampaio Correa-MA
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Goianiense
América RN
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Náutico
Joinville
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Paraná Clube
Ceará
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Portuguesa de Desportos
Boa MG
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
ABC
AA Ponte Preta
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Icasa
Vila Nova-GO
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Luverdense
Santa Cruz FC
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Oeste
CR Vasco da Gama
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Bidvest Wits
Amazulu
Postp
Game Details
Kaizer Chiefs
Maritzburg Utd
Postp
Game Details
Next

Zaza and Immobile impress

Italy 7 days ago
Read
 Posted by Rory Smith
Aug 16, 2014

Retaining the Premier League title

The ESPN FC panel favours Chelsea to win the Premier League title.

It is one of those things where the math and the history do not quite bear each other out.

First, the math. It is held to be a universal truth in football that it is harder to retain a league title than it is to win just one. The calculation is simple. It is hard enough to win one championship. Double that, then, and you have the level of difficulty required to win two.

History, though, does not quite agree. In the 22-year history of the Premier League, only two sides have managed to repeat their title win of the previous season. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea did it in 2005-06 -- "It's definitely harder to retain it than to win the first," Joe Cole said -- and, obviously, Sir Alex Ferguson managed it with Manchester United.

If all that seems to support the mathematics, then bear in mind that as with so many things, the Scot rather gives the lie to the statistic: In the course of more than a quarter-century at Old Trafford, he did it on six occasions. Twice, he went one better, and produced what is known in American sports -- and, no doubt, will soon enough feature in England -- as a "three-peat": three title wins in a row.

Ferguson won 13 Premier League titles during his reign as Manchester United manager.

Suddenly, it does not look quite so difficult. Indeed, holding onto the league title seems to be rather easier -- in England, anyway -- now than at any point in 70 years. In a little more than two decades, the reigning champions have defended their title seven times. Between the resumption of the Football League in 1946 and the start of the Premier League in 1992 -- not far off 50 years -- it only happened seven times in total.

This same phenomenon, of course, applies to the domestic double, that achievement that was once the a hen's teeth of a rarity but, ever since United started doing it with increasing frequency -- three times in all -- in the 1990s, it has been devalued to the extent that there have been years when finishing as league and FA Cup champions has been seen as a disappointment.

There are many reasons for that, including the loss of competitive balance in English football, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the elite and the emergence of the super-club.

The most crucial, though, is probably the presence of Ferguson, by most measures the greatest manager the British game has ever seen, and a man who made the impossible seem ordinary. Ferguson was an outlier, in countless ways. Just because he has done it does not mean others can easily mimic his success.

When Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager, said this week that defending the championship they won last season is a "great challenge" for his players, he was perfectly correct and for a whole raft of reasons. Some of them linked to the team trying to retain the title and others that apply to their opponents.

Captain Vincent Kompany and manager Manuel Pellegrini with the Premier League trophy.
Will Pellegrini and his men be celebrating again at the end of the season?

There is the fact that it is far more complicated for champions to strengthen their side than it is for their rivals. Winning the league is a veil; it means that even a flawed team has a legitimacy, that even those players whom a manager might believe might be improved upon most easily have a right to keep their place. Football has always believed that you do not change a winning formula, that if something is not broken, you do not fix it, even when actually it might be rather more broken than it first appears.

That was certainly a source of frustration -- and perhaps intimidation -- to David Moyes last year. He felt that moving Manchester United players on who had won a league title the previous season was impossible.

The best example, though, may well be Barcelona, who have found it almost impossible to alter the structure of their side despite the fact that the weaknesses in their squad are many and varied.

Then, of course, there is the desire of your rivals to shoot you down, to catch and overhaul the team that beat them the previous year. That is a powerful emotional impulse, particularly when combined with a freedom to change your side to address their problems.

Jose Mourinho's Chelsea have not just been more active in the transfer market than City this summer; the Portuguese's team talks and the atmosphere he forges in his squad, is probably more conducive to ambition, too.

But the most interesting (and probably the most crucial) is the ability of the players and the manager to -- borrowing Steven Gerrard's phrase -- "go again." This is a fascinating psychological phenomenon, one of which Ferguson was undoubtedly the master.

Managers often talk about a hunger for trophies. Brian Clough always said that the most important triumph in his time at Nottingham Forest was not the league title or the European Cup, but the 1977 Anglo-Scottish Cup, because that was the one that set the team on the way to further glory, which included two European Cups. That first gave them a taste for success.

This is called the "Champagne Effect." Mourinho felt it, too, ruthlessly targeting the Carling Cup in his first season at Chelsea to give his players a sense of what it was like to win tournaments. He believed it was that victory in the early part of 2005 that led immediately to two successive championships.

- Most valuable Premier League kits
- Marcotti: Premier League storylines
- Brewin: Man City's priority? The Champions League

Ferguson's approach is almost diametrically opposed. To listen to him, it is almost as though the teams that are best-placed to repeat their victories are the ones who do not particularly enjoy the taste of success, who are prepared to forget all they have done almost as soon as they have done it.

"Winning a trophy does not really mean anything to me after it has gone," Ferguson once told FourFourTwo. "At the time, it is the most cherished thing. As soon as it's over, it's forgotten. Not forgotten, but it evaporates. Your next step is the important one, and the mentality here is of that nature. The players are brought up to go for the next thing."

Ferguson believed he could teach his players to be hungry, but that to do so he needed a careful balance between youngsters brought up through his club and strategic reinforcements from outside. The former taught the latter the mentality that had been instilled in them; the latter ensured that the former did not rest on their laurels.

He gave his players champagne, in other words, but he denied them the chance to pick up a hangover. That was the key to constructing not just victorious campaigns but dominant dynasties, doing what Arsene Wenger, for example, never managed to do. Maybe his wonderful, beautiful Arsenal teams were rather too taken with their status as champions; maybe they enjoyed it a little too much, forgetting that they still had something to prove. They exulted in their success.

Ferguson was different. His teams practised a form of almost wilful denial. He did not want addicts to success. He wanted players for whom the next time was always the first time. That was what enabled him to do what nobody else has done, to make the impossible seem ordinary.

Rory Smith

A Spanish speaker, Rory is a well-respected football writer for The Times and has previously worked for the Daily Telegraph and the Independent.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.