The toppling of a giant

Football fans, I am sure you have seen the footballing news, and if you haven’t get back under that rock you were living under, but the mighty Barcelona, five-time Champions League winners are out of the Champions League after losing 2-0 to Bayern Munich, and after Christmas will be playing Europe League football.

The two-times they dismantled English Premier League heavy-weights Manchester United in the Champions League final, is now but a mere distant memory. That time, was the greatest that the arguably the greatest British manager of all time Sir Alex Ferguson has seen, but o what has become of it.

In an almost cruel twist of fate, one of the greatest players of that greatest era is now manager in one of the worst Barcelona sides that there have been in recent memory. To change the tone of this piece, Manchester United went down to the Europa League in the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

Not sure if Barcelona knew there was such as thing as a Thursday during the week, but now they will have to get used to the idea, there is use for Luuk De Jong after all! There’s a very dark atmosphere over the Camp Nou, and that was before they signed Barithwaite and the aforementioned De Jong.

It’s easy to poke fun, at these two, but hey look at it this way, even the great Lionel Messi won’t be playing European football on Thursday. King Leo hasn’t been able to do it on a cold night in Rennes just yet, maybe this leaving Barcelona thing was planned and the thought of playing Europe League football and getting marked by Connor Goldson and Helander made him have sleepless nights!

On the other hand, Messi has to face Ramos in training, the definition of a loose cannon in our book, but now they’re friends? O Leo you have gone soft in your old age!

Imagine Leo at Ibrox or the London stadium? Lionel, you’re playing 4d chess with the rest of us! It looks like you jumped ship knowing what you were potentially facing up to, Messers Dawson and Ogbonna, Leo isn’t coming to town . Several quarters see this as the end of Barca (them dropping to the Europa League) , sorry to say so, but the end for Barca as some want to put it, was when they went £1 billion in debt.

Gavi, Fati, Pedri and Araujo to just name some players of the Barca talent line, which shows that there is a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Fiorentina and Rangers are just some teams that immediately springs to mind, when fallen giants come into the conversation.

In these case of these two, they have bounced back again. Barca needs to do the same.

Yes this won’t be easy for Barcelona to deal with playing in the Europa League, something they haven’t done for 17 years, but this is the reality. Barca fans, for things to get better, things will get worse.

On that we love you and leave you . All the best.

Pakistan announce limited overs squads for West Indies series

Pakistan name their limited overs squads for the home series against the West Indies

Hello and good afternoon sports fans; below we share with you the two Pakistan squads for facing West Indies starting 13th December.

Pakistan ODI Squad For The West Indies Series:

Babar Azam (captain) Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Mohammad Hasnain, Usman Qadir, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani.

Pakistan T20I Squad For The West Indies Series:

Babar Azam (captain) Shadab Khan (vice-captain) Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper) Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir

AB de Villiers retires from all cricket

South African legend AB de Villiers announces his retirement from cricket aged 37

For the cricketing family, it’s news that hit us like a whole in the head. Andre Benjamin de Villiers, now former South Africa international, Lahore Qalanders and RCB player has retired from all forms of cricket.

This retirement should have been made easier by the fact that AB retired from international cricket in 2018. But cricket South Africa, did get the hearts racing, where we thought just maybe ABD, just might dust off his green’s and don the green of South Africa again. Sadly it was not to be.

A very capable fielder, in fact more than capable fielder, wicket-keeper and batsmen, Mr 360 retires from cricket aged 37. Sport is often a numbers game and counted by trophies, but to quote a quote we saw posted on social media, this man is a trophy all by himself.

De Villiers played in 114 Test matches, 228 one-day internationals and 78 T20s for South Africa. He averaged more than 50 in both Test and ODI cricket, scoring 22 centuries in the former and 25 in the latter.

In all T20s, De Villiers scored 9,424 runs in 340 matches at an average of 37.24 and a strike rate of 150.13, hitting four centuries and 69 half-centuries. Congrats on your retirement AB, the cricket world will miss you. I am not crying, you are!

Three men who could be Rangers manager

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (pictured) is the bookmakers favourite to take the managers job at Rangers

It’s barely been a day and the ink has barely dried on Steven Gerrard’s signature on his Aston Villa contract, but Glasgow Rangers have the unenviable task of replacing the Liverpool legend and former Reds captain. As Rangers search for their new manager.

Gerrard who agreed to become Villa boss, on a three and a half year deal, replaces the popular Dean Smith. The team here at The Sports Buff offer our three suggestions of who should be the new manager at the helm of The Gers.

Frank Lampard (Favourite)

Former, West Ham, Chelsea, New York City and Manchester City midfielder Frank Lampard who took Derby to the Championship play-off final, only to lose to Dean Smith’s Aston Villa, is a manager we do rate highly.

Lack of trophies could count against him here, but in his short tenure in management so far we argue he has helped players develop with a more personal touch. Mason Mount and Fikoyo Timouri (at Derby) benefitted from his management for example.

Out of our list of options, Super Frank is the least experienced, but so was a certain Stevie G and look what happened there. We don’t want to use the word stepping stone, but if Lampard was to succeed here, clubs in England would be coming calling. At 43, for a manager he’s very young indeed.

At time of writing, although it appears that Frank Lampard is poised to take the job at Norwich, with the greatest respect to The Canaries, we think he’s better than that. Even though we’re wrong with this one, we don’t think we should be as we think Lamps could emulate Gerard’s achievements at Ibrox.

Dean Smith (Wild card)

Former Walsall and Brentford manager Dean Smith is on this list, as the 50-year old is a good manager, his achievements with past clubs prove it, and those sides have had the philosophy of playing attractive football.

Smith’s trophy cabinet, may not be full like other managers in world football, but at Ibrox, a with solid base (which he has) we don’t think this choice should be completely far fetched. As a player he wasn’t as high profile as Frank Lampard, which will count against him.

Still having said that, Rangers could do worse by hiring Dean Smith as their new manager. Dean Smith was sacked wrongly by The Villains, a lot of the football community want to see him back in a job as soon as, we think the life long Villa fan deserves it. Maybe a trip down south could help rebuild his reputation? It worked for Brendan Rodgers.

Giovani Van Bronckhorst (Midcard)

The 46-year old Gio Van Bronckhorst, who was a former Ranger player during Dick Advocaaat’s time at Ibrox, is seen by bookmakers as the favourite for the role. Former Aberdeen boss Derek Mc Innes has been touted as Steven Gerrard replacement, but we don’t see it happening.

The former full-back who also played for Barcelona and Feyenord, who he would go on to in the Eredvisie with as manager, has clearly shown he is capable manager. The fact he spent time at the club should work in his favour, shouldn’t it?

We will ask Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about that. We preferred Lampard, but the way it’s looking we think Gio Van Bronckhorst won’t be the worst appointment, but this is our thoughts, what’s yours?

Let us know in the comments.

Australia edge out Pakistan in classic

Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis celebrate after they help Australia beat Pakistan by five wickets and secure a place in the T20 World Cup final in the process.

Five-time 50 over world champions Australia beat 2009 World T20 winners and unbeaten Pakistan in the semi-finals by five wickets to reach Sunday’s final with neighbours New Zealand.

Winning the toss, Australian captain Aaron Finch put Pakistan into bat, in a decision which maybe could have been driven (no intentional cricket pun) by not knowing what would be a good score to defend in Abu Dhabi.

Stats wise, if Pakistan got to a total of 175 + then Babar Azam’s men had a great chance of getting into yet another World T20 final, but matches aren’t always won on stats, controlling your emotions in the big moments and being calm under pressure does.

Babar’s Pakistan side would post 176-4 in their 20 overs , thanks to captain Babar Azam (39) opening partner Mohammed Rizwan (67) and a return to form for Fakhar Zaman (55 not out). The key to Pakistan’s success to get this far is, is that they have been able to get their key players into form.

Mohammed Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali (the batting line-up’s engine room) all making telling contributions this tournament. When it’s not your day, it’s not your day as between these three men, they were only able to make two between them.

Sports matches are settled by the finest margins. Unbeaten Pakistan who would consolidate in the first ten overs and then use that as a platform to launch for the last 10 overs where they would go on an assault of the oppositions bowling attack, is what they tried to do here.

In Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins however, you have bowlers who are masters of the death bowling trade. Pakistan would still eek out 105 runs in the last 10, but this would be lower than their efforts that they scored against Scotland and Namibia (129).

Australia needed 177 to reach the final. First The Aussies needed to over come the twin threat of Imaad Wasim and the jewel in the Pakistani crown, Shaheen Shah Afridi. Just like the 21-year old Afridi did against India, he would again get a crucial wicket early on.

Aussie captain Aaron Finch, would be dismissed for a golden duck, trapped LBW off the bowling of Afridi. Warner and co were up against it, but a nerve steadying 51 run second wicket stand between Warner (49) and Mitch Marsh 28) helped Australia get ahead of the comparative rate.

Game over, some may have thought, but up came vice-captain Shadab Khan, the 24-year old all-rounder and Islamabad United captain. The leg-spinner would take best figures in a semi-final for this format (4-26) and Pakistan were daring to believe of another final.

At 96-5 and with Maxwell, Smith and Warner all back in the pavilion, just maybe even the most passionate of Australian fans were losing hope. But there would be a final twist in the tale as Marcus Stoinis (40 not out) and Matthew Wade (41 not out) combined and put on an unbroken 81 for the sixth wicket.

Cricket is a cruel game sometimes and none so more for Hassan Ali. Ali who spear headed Pakistan to 2017 Champions trophy glory, struggled in this tournament and did so here too (0-44 from four overs).

A dropped catch off the bowling of Shaheen Shah Afridi, did give Matthew Wade a reprieve, but in reality the game was over by then. Wade, would duly end proceedings with consecutive sixes off the bowling of Afridi.

Trolls will criticise Hassan Ali for the drop catch, it wasn’t an easy catch for the 27-year old but these small margins make a big difference and catches win matches. Let’s hope this experience makes him better and for the 21-year old Shaheen too.

Australia play New Zealand in Sunday’s final at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai.

New Zealand beat England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 in classic

New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson leads New Zealand to yet another World Cup final after beating favourites England by five wickets.

Australia to tour Pakistan in 2022

Ramiz Raja (second left) pictured with his opposite number Tom Harrison (second right) as both me discuss details of the rearranged tour.

Former World Champions Australia have announced that they will be touring Pakistan in 2022.

The Baggy Green outfit who will be touring the country for the first time in 24 years, will be in Pakistan for March and April 2022.

Since the announcement by Australia to tour Pakistan, news emerged that Tom Harrison (ECB chief executive) was coming to Pakistan, to speak to current prime minister and 1992 World Cup winning captain Imran Khan and PCB chairman Ramiz Raja.

Having initially pulled out of a tour to Pakistan, only for agreeing to tour Down Uder for The Ashes, Harrison and co have since gone to the PCB to repair broken cricketing bridges.

The men’s side will now play seven T20s in Pakistan in September and October 2022. They will return to Pakistan for three Tests in November and December after the next T20 World Cup in Australia.

Mr David White and Mr Martin Snedden, shall I get you Ramiz’s number so you can call the PCB too?

Three names Aston Villa should consider for next manager

Dean Smith (left) was Aston Villa manager for over 1,000 days and enjoyed more highs than lows with his boyhood club.

After Aston Villa, who are now on a five game losing streak , sacked the popular Dean Smith, a life long Villa fan, the team here at The Sports Buff look at three men who could take the helm at Villa Park

(Favourite) Frank Lampard

Media reports will say that Denmark national coach Kasper Hjulmand is the favourite for the job at Villa Park.

This report is stemmed from Villas Danish connections at board level (Johan Lange). The team here at The Sports Buff hopes that kind of thinking doesn’t happen.

Hjumland’s Denmark did impress of course in Euro2020/1, but the 49-year old hasn’t managed outside his homeland, for that reason a massive risk.

We think Frank Lampard should be given the job. Unproven at Premier League level arguably, yes but the Chelsea legend didn’t do that bad at Stamford Bridge as some want to think.

Currently an injury hit squad, and with the former Chelsea managers Premier League experience, The Villains board should give super Frank a call!

The former West Ham and Chelsea midfielder we feel will suit the project for Aston Villa. Young, hungry and his teams play good football.

Midcard (Paulo Fonseca)

Former Shaktar Donetsk and Roma manager Paulo Fonseca has been a man in demand this summer by a couple of Premier League teams.

First came the approach by Tottenham for the 48-year old and Fonseca would have been in the Spurs dugout if it wasn’t for the circus that surrounded the news.

Newcastle were an option too, after The Magpies sacked Steve Bruce, but again Portuguese manager Fonseca was snubbed.

A Europa League semi-finalist with Roma and a would have been finalist if it wasn’t for David DeGea’s heroics in the second leg at the Stadio Olympico.

Paulo Fonseca’s sides play good football, surely Eden’s and co should consider him?

The outsider (Reuben Amorim)

Former Benfica midfielder and current Sporting Lisbon manager Reuben Amorim is arguably Portugal’s answer to Julien Nagelsman.

Quite a comparison some may say, but the former Portugal international, who was team mates of a certain CR7 in the 2014 World Cup, did lead Portugal’s capital club to the Primera Liga title after a 19 year wait.

To further highlight an impressive achievement, 36-year old Amorim did this with his Sporting Lisbon side remaining unbeaten last season.

An honourable mention must go to Lucien Favre for the Villa job , but the former Dortmund manager’s lack of Premier League experience will count against him no doubt.

Hopefully for Dean Smith’s sake he will be back in management soon as he’s been tipped to get the Norwich managers job, ahead of Frank Lampard.

Personally we think Villa’s owners Nassef Sawiris Wes Eden’s got it wrong by sacking the former Brentford manager Dean Smith, but that’s what Chelsea fans said about Lampard, when he was replaced by Thomas Thomas Tuchel. We all know what happened there.

Here’s to hoping Villa get their equivalent of Thomas Tuchel.