European Pressure Power Rankings: Blatter, Liverpool feeling most heat

4:16 | Planet Futbol
Criminal proceedings against Sepp Blatter impact Michel Platini, FIFA's future
Friday September 25th, 2015

The pattern is the same across European football: one bad month of results can put enormous pressure on all but the most successful of coaches. After examining who was under the most pressure in England last week, we've opened up our Pressure Power Rankings to all of Europe, and in this short-term, what-have-you-done-lately environment, this week's rankings look at who goes into this weekend’s matches needing things to go their way.

Thanks to some recent extenuating circumstances, the face on the top has little to do with the domestic club scene. His problems are far more wide-ranging and grand in scope, the implications of which could be felt all throughout the soccer world. 

Here are the latest Pressure Power Rankings:

European Pressure Power Rankings
Who's under the most heat in Europe?
  • 10
    10Bas Dost
    Wolfsburg forward
    It’s a big week for Wolfsburg, who will want to get the midweek hammering from Bayern out of its system against bottom side Hannover 96, whose own coach Mickael Frontzeck is close to the axe, Saturday. The Wolves face Manchester United at Old Trafford next week and one man hoping to start will be Bas Dost. He drew the anger of coach Dieter Hecking despite coming off the bench to score two late goals against Hertha last weekend.
    “I was pleased for the team that he scored twice, but the way he has been sauntering around here these past few days is egotism and we don't need that here," Hecking told Kicker. “If somebody strolls around for three days as if somebody has taken his toy away then he's got to reconsider his attitude. I'm going to leave him alone for three days, just like he did with the team. Then we will be able to see whether it's a good idea [to start him] or not.”
    Dost did start in Munich but his efforts were rightly overshadowed by Robert Lewandowski’s super-sub cameo of five goals in nine minutes. Dost will never repeat last season’s purple patch of 14 goals in nine games (he didn’t score in his next 14 appearances) but keeping the Wolves in the top three is enough–and keeping Nicklas Bendtner out of the side–is enough for Dost now. The attitude warning was taken on board. Will it last all season?

  • 9
    9Stefano Colantuono
    Udinese manager
    Four straight defeats since beating Juventus on the opening day have left Colantuono needing a win over Bologna Sunday to stop the rumors circulating.
    Ex-Italy coach Roberto Donadoni has already been linked to the club, and Wednesday’s meeting between president Franco Soldati, sporting director Cristiano Giaretta, general director Franco Collavino and three senior players–Antonio Di Natale, Maurizio Domizzi and Danilo–was down-played as normal procedure.

  • 8
    8Rudi Garcia
    Roma manager
    It was only a few weeks ago that Roma beat Juventus, and last week it drew Barcelona 1-1 in Champions League. But modern-day football lives in the short-term and after a 2-2 draw with Sassuolo and a midweek defeat at Sampdoria, Garcia held a "crisis summit" with sporting director Walter Sabatini and some of his players.
    Juan Manuel Iturbe showed dissent when Garcia subbed him off last week, while Francesco Totti’s low-key response to his 300th goal last week raised eyebrows. Some fan groups may even boycott Stadio Olimpico for Saturday’s game against Carpi in protest at the team’s recent displays (seems like they are cutting off their noses to spite their faces with that one).
    Carlo Ancelotti, former Roma player, has been named by the Italian press as a potential successor–but Il Messaggero claims that Garcia’s contract, which has another three years to run, is too expensive for the owners to consider sacking him. The next three games, against Carpi, BATE Borisov and Palermo, will be crucial. The likelihood is Roma will win all three and we will wonder what all the fuss was ever about.

  • 7
    7Rolland Courbis
    Montpellier manager
    How did that happen? Bottom-of-the-table Montpellier was 2-0 up at Monaco at halftime Thursday and managed to lose 3-2 after goalkeeper Jonathan Ligali needlessly conceded a last-minute penalty. It’s not the first time Montpellier has switched off late in a game: it lost on 87 minutes at Rennes and 94 at Caen.
    Courbis was furious after the game: “It’s an appalling situation. If I wasn't an optimist by nature I’d say, ‘What will happen to us in our next match?’” That comes against Lorient Sunday, and defeat will spell the end of the road for Courbis.

  • 6
    6Javi Gracia
    Malaga manager
    Your team is joint-bottom of the table. Your owner has gone on social media and responded to fans’ criticism. After five games, the team has not yet scored a single goal. And Saturday, you are off to the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid, and a Cristiano Ronaldo that is one goal away from the 500th of his career, and three from breaking Raul’s all-time record.
    So is Gracia worried? Actually, not really. He proved last season why he is so highly rated, his side finishing ninth and taking four points from Barcelona, more than any other team. Gracia is following in the footsteps of Manuel Pellegrini: he was youth-team coach under the Chilean at Villarreal, and is now at Malaga, whom Pellegrini took to the Champions League quarterfinal in 2013. That seems a long way off now, but scoring a single goal would be a good place to start.

  • 5
    5Alexander Lacazette
    Lyon forward
    The Lyon forward, top scorer in Ligue 1 last season with 27 goals, scored his first of the season from the penalty spot in last week’s heated 1-1 draw at Marseille. He needed to score, having missed from 12 yards in the last minute one week earlier in Lyon’s disappointing Champions League draw against nine-man Gent.
    It was his first goal in seven games, and he could have doubled it at the Velodrome, but hit the post when one-on-one against Steve Mandanda. Fans turned against their local hero when he stalled over a lucrative new deal from the club before committing to it. And coach Hubert Fournier has not helped: “It's not the same Lacazette as last season," he said last month. "He's not as mobile, and like the team as a whole, he's not making the same selfless runs or working as hard."
    The fear for Lyon now is that without the injured playmaker Nabil Fekir, Lacazette won’t have as many chances. His partnership with new signing Claudio Beauvue has yet to click, and then there are the words of Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas who, boosted by reaching the Champions League group stage, chose not to sell Lacazette or any of Lyon’s promising youngsters, but instead gave them all new deals. “Before, they were a group of friends,” he said of Lacazette, Corentin Tolisso, Anthony Lopes, Jordan Ferri and Samuel Umtiti last week. “Today they are a team of stars with big salaries. I am confident they will prove that I was right to give them this new status.”
    Fournier perhaps gave a more realistic summary: “You can multiply a salary by four, but sadly the player doesn't become four times as good.”

  • 4
    4Mike Dean
    EPL referee
    It’s not easy being a referee and even harder when the regulations prevent the officials ever giving their side of a story. In England, if a referee makes a mistake he can get "demoted" or given a game in a lower division to take the spotlight off him for a while.
    The FA overturned two of referee Mike Dean’s decisions in last week’s controversial Chelsea-Arsenal game: it gave Diego Costa a three-match ban for violent conduct and rescinded Gabriel’s red card for the kick in Costa’s direction (even Arsenal was surprised at that one). The decisions have left Chelsea fuming and suggest that Dean made two mistakes in the incident: essentially sending off the Arsenal player instead of the Chelsea player. With the score goalless at the time, who knows what might have happened in the second half?
    Nevertheless, Dean has not been taken out of the spotlight this weekend: he will be in charge of West Ham against Norwich. He will hope the game passes off without too much drama.

  • 3
    3Marc-Andre ter Stegen
    Barcelona goalkeeper
    This is not about putting the blame for Barcelona’s defensive woes on the shoulders of its young German goalkeeper. Ter Stegen was brilliant in the Champions League last season and could not be blamed for any of Celta Vigo’s four goals in the midweek thrashing. El Mundo’s headline put it: "The defense and ter Stegen, in question." And Barcelona’s defense really has not helped. The numbers do not make for pleasant reading. Ter Stegen’s last clean sheet came nine games ago, in the Champions League semifinal first leg against Bayern Munich. Last season he conceded 16 goals in 21 games. This season: 15 in six, including four or more on three separate occasions (the last time that happened was in 2000).
    The fact that two of the goals conceded have been from 40-yards out or more (Mikel San Jose for Athletic Bilbao in the SuperCup and Alessandro Florenzi for Roma in Champions League) have not helped his case, but these were not mistakes. Ter Stegen plays on the edge of the area for a reason: he is part of Barcelona’s passing game, and some of his distribution led directly to goals last season. More often than not, the reward outweighs the risk.
    The challenge for manager Luis Enrique is to remind ter Stegen of that and to keep him confident. It would also help if the form of the players in front of him improved.

  • 2
    2Fenway Sports Group
    Liverpool Ownership
    The five-year anniversary of Fenway Sports Group taking over Liverpool comes next month, and if you had not been around for that period, you might not think much had changed. The coach is still under pressure, he’s not sure of his best XI (or formation), and a place in the top four looks some way off. Every week new coaches are linked to the post: last week it was Carlo Ancelotti, this week it was Jurgen Klopp, next week it might be Frank de Boer or Ronald Koeman.
    Brendan Rodgers is battling on, and it’s noticeable that this season he has made himself less available to the media and spoken less about himself. In his regular Friday briefing, he gave a good account of dealing with the pressure. “Since I have been here I think there have been 10 managers linked with job and that is part and parcel of the game,” he said. “I have regular contact with the owners and the relationship is always strong. Whether I am here for one day more or one month or whatever I will always have respect for the people here, the owners and Ian Ayre. I will do what I will always do and do the best I can. If you don’t get result the pressure is here but I enjoy challenges.”
    Liverpool plays bogey team Aston Villa Saturday; in recent seasons Villa has come out on top between the two, normally because of Christian Benteke, who moved to Liverpool this summer (he is injured this weekend). Villa is unbeaten at Anfield in five years. A home win may buy some more time for Rodgers, and FSG. But the sense is growing around Liverpool that it is not a question of if Rodgers will survive the season, but when he might go. And then, who might replace him.
    These are questions for FSG. In five years’ time, they don't want to be where they are now.

  • 1
    1Sepp Blatter
    FIFA president
    Will Sepp Blatter still be president next February, when he is slated to "lay down his mandate" for his successor? After the news Friday that Swiss investigators had opened criminal proceedings against the embattled FIFA president, on "suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation," nothing is certain.
    The investigation relates to Blatter violating "his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA." This is believed to relate to Blatter agreeing to sell TV rights to the disgraced former FIFA and CONCACAF heavyweight Jack Warner at below the market rate. The Swiss authorities also said that Blatter is suspected of making a "disloyal payment" of two million Swiss francs–just over $2 million–to the UEFA president, Michel Platini.
    Blatter's right-hand man Jerome Valcke was suspended by FIFA last week after allegations, which he has denied, that he had profited from World Cup tickets sold above face value. Whether Blatter suffers the same fate will be down to FIFA's Ethics Committee. How this latest investigation implicates Platini, who was favorite to replace the Swiss as FIFA president next February, remains to be seen.

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