ZURICH (AP) — FIFA lost a key ruling in London on Thursday against its plans to regulate soccer player agents and cap the fees and commissions they earn.
A group of agents and firms representing players challenged the proposed FIFA rules at an arbitration tribunal hearing in September.
FIFA confirmed the tribunal had ruled in favor of the agents, leaving the future of the project in doubt.
In a statement, The Football Forum group of agents congratulated its president Jonathan Barnett — a long-time leading agent whose clients include Gareth Bale — for his role in “this success of paramount importance for all agents.”
The English case was among several national challenges brought across Europe to rules that FIFA wanted to enforce on Oct. 1. FIFA had won a ruling in July at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
FIFA wanted more control and to curb the wilder excesses in an industry it said earned more than $600 million from international transfer deals in 2022.
Elite agencies have earned tens of millions of dollars from transfers for top players in deals typically involving English clubs, such as Erling Haaland's 2022 move to Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund.
Agents countered that most of the industry operated at the other end of the financial market in other countries.
FIFA proposed to cap agent earnings at a maximum 10% of transfer fees when they acted for the selling club.
Agents would also have been limited to taking 3% of a player’s salary when those earnings are more than $200,000 per year, or 5% when the player earns up to $200,000. Those limits would be 6% and 10%, respectively, when the agent acted for both the player and the club signing them.
FIFA also would have prohibited player agents representing both the buying and selling clubs in a transfer.
Fees also would have been paid through FIFA’s Paris-based financial clearing house which aimed to bring more transparency — and potential risks to confidentiality, agents argued — to a global transfer market that historically has had murky elements.
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MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan coach Simone Inzaghi will be hoping for less of a “Pazza Inter” performance when the Serie A leader visits defending champion Napoli on Sunday.
Translating to “Crazy Inter,” the nickname came about after years of spectacular implosions and rollercoaster matches. Even one of the club’s anthems is called "Pazza Inter."
And the Nerazzurri lived up to their long-held nickname in Wednesday’s Champions League match at Benfica where — following a first-half horror show — they came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 and could even have won the match had Nicolò Barella’s stoppage-time strike not hit the crossbar.
“We talked at halftime and we came back out with a different spirit,” Inzaghi said. “If Barella hadn’t hit the woodwork, it would have been a historic victory.”
With Inter having already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, Inzaghi had the luxury of being able to rest several players between two important matches in Serie A and he made eight changes from the 1-1 draw at Juventus.
However, he explained it was Inter’s poor approach to the match that led to its disastrous first-half performance rather than the change of personnel and that was illustrated by the team clawing back two goals before Inzaghi made his first substitutions in the 68th minute.
“We changed the team a lot,” Inzaghi said. “I have the opportunity of having so many starters. Not 11 but 20 and I have to try to use them all.
“I’m happy with our second-half reaction. We all should have done better in the first half, me included. But this team knows where it wants to get to, knows how hard it works every day and I know I can count on the whole squad.”
Nevertheless, it is likely to be a much-changed Inter team that takes to the field at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday evening.
Inter is top of Serie A, two points above Juventus and eight above fourth-placed Napoli. AC Milan is third, six points behind its city rival.
The match has already been billed as a title showdown, even at this early stage of the season.
“It absolutely is, Napoli is a really great team, the reigning Italian champion and deservedly so,” Inzaghi said. “Like us they had a tricky away match, we will both have difficult trips back so we’ll be equal, it will be a great battle, both teams will want to do their best.”
However, Napoli has not played like the defending champion for much of this season and that led to the dismissal of Rudi Garcia — who replaced title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti in the offseason — and the return of Walter Mazzarri.
Napoli beat Atalanta in Mazzarri’s debut before going close in Madrid to an important result.
The match against Inter will be only Mazzarri’s third in charge but already there is a difference in how the team is playing.
“There is a team that is playing together, for the team,” Napoli forward André Zambo Anguissa said when asked what had changed. “Now you can see that the team is playing one for all and all for one.
“There is a coach that has come in and is trying to give his all for the team, to help it understand the strength is in the team, only in the team, and you can see on the field that we are a real team now.”
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Canada has dropped three places to No. 48 in the latest FIFA world rankings in the wake of its CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal loss to Jamaica.
The Reggae Boyz remained at No. 55 after winning the two-legged series on the away goals rule after a 3-2 comeback win Nov. 21 in Toronto knotted the series at 4-4.
It's the lowest ranking for the Canadian men, who are sandwiched between Greece and Venezuela, since they were 53rd in December 2022.
World Cup champion Argentina remained No. 1, ahead of France. But Brazil dropped two places to No. 5 after back-to-back defeats by No. 15 Colombia and Argentina.
England and Belgium each moved up one rung to No. 3 and 4, respectively. The Netherlands climbed one place to No. 6, dropping Portugal to Nov. 7. Spain, Italy and Croatia completed the top 10.
Just outside the top 10, Uruguay vaulted four spots to No. 11, with the CONCACAF-leading U.S. falling one rung to No. 12. Mexico slipped two places to No. 14, behind Morocco.
Canada remains fourth in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, behind the U.S., Mexico and No. 41 Panama, which was the only team among the top five in the region not to lose ground. Costa Rica dropped six places to No. 52.
The Comoro Islands were the biggest mover, jumping nine spots to No. 119, their highest-ever ranking, after wins over Central African Republic and Ghana. Kosovo (No. 101, up four) also reached an all-time high.
Guinea-Bissau (No. 103, up seven), Azerbaijan (No. 114, up six), Libya (No. 120, up six), Malaysia (No. 130, up seven) and Rwanda (No. 133, up seven) were the other big movers in the November ranking.
Others moving in the right direction were Tunisia (No. 28, up 4), Ecuador (No. 32, up four), Romania (No. 43, up five), Slovakia (No. 45, up five) and Greece (No. 47, up four).
Samoa (No. 187), American Samoa (No. 188) and Tonga (No. 196) re-entered the rankings after months of being out through inactivity.
Peru (No. 35) and Gambia (No. 126) both fell nine places.
FIFA says 118 matches were played in November.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2023
There's been discriminatory chanting in the stands, a team bus pelted with stones, a game called off because of crowd trouble, and precious few goals on the field.
The French soccer league is making headlines for all the wrong reasons this season. And now even the French government is calling for something to be done about it.
After 13 rounds of games this season, the number of incidents is worrying officials who have been dealing with an upsurge of violence in stadiums over the past two campaigns.
According to Interior minister Gerald Darmanin, more than 100 police officers were injured in soccer-related incidents last season, and 870 people were detained. And there is no sign of abatement.
“There’s no other sport with this level of violence,” Darmanin said recently.
In October in Montpellier, a match was stopped in added time after fans threw a firework from the stands that landed next to Clermont goalkeeper Mory Diaw. The Senegal player had to be taken off on a stretcher, but was not seriously injured.
A new nadir was reached a few weeks later in Marseille when the bus carrying Lyon players was stoned by fans outside the Velodrome stadium. The windows were smashed and Lyon coach Fabio Grosso was left with his face bloodied, an injury that required stitching.
Supporters were also targeted, five police officers were injured, and nine people placed in custody, according to Darmanin.
Another episode of violence broke out in Montpellier last weekend when a bus transporting Brest fans back home was attacked as they left the southern city following a 3-1 win for the away team. Their bus was hit by stones reportedly thrown from a motorway bridge.
“What happened was very serious. When you look at the impacts on the vehicle, you quickly understand the violence," said Pascal Robert, the club's managing director. “If the paving stone that was thrown at the front of the bus had fallen two meters lower, the driver would have been hit... I can’t imagine the tragedy that would have ensued with our sixty supporters on board.”
Meanwhile, the league isn't offering up a whole lot in terms of entertainment or suspense.
Paris Saint-Germain once again tops the standings ahead of Sunday’s match at Le Havre, having won nine of the last 11 league titles. With its star-studded team lead by Kylian Mbappe — the league’s top scorer with 14 goals — PSG has no rival on the domestic stage.
Nice, however, has mounted a credible challenge this campaign and lags just one point behind the leader ahead of Saturday’s match at Nantes. But the other 16 teams are not giving their fans much to cheer about. According to the league’s statistics, the average number of goals per game after 12 rounds was lower than in the last three seasons — at under 2.5 — with the number of scoreless draws on the rise.
Some supporter groups are finding other ways to stay entertained.
Before the match between Marseille and Lyon was ultimately called off, fans from both teams remained in the stadium and exchanged insults as they waited for play to resume.
Taunting their Marseille rivals, some Lyon fans were filmed making Nazi gestures and mimicking monkeys.
Vicent Labrune, the French league president, believes the violence reached a new high after stadiums welcomed supporters back again following the COVID-19 pandemic during which games were played with no fans.
With the reopening of venues, violent individuals who had served stadium bans during the interruption were allowed back, he said.
“The guys had served their time. We ended up with a completely above-average number of crazy people," Labrune said during a hearing with French lawmakers this month.
Labrune estimated that about 50 violent fans at each French league club are causing trouble.
“If we manage to get them out of stadiums, the situation should improve,” he said.
Labrune added that the “zero tolerance” policy implemented by the league — with point deductions and the closure of stadium sections — is needed to improve the situation. But he seemed under no illusion that the violence can be eradicated without a bigger change in mentalities.
“Football is a reflection of society, we’re not going to stop it all on our own,” Labrune said.
Faced with an increasing number of homophobic chants in stadiums, Labrune also called for matches to be systematically stopped as soon as the first offensive chant can be heard.
“We’re prepared to go as far as we can,” he told lawmakers. “I find questions of discrimination in general intolerable, and questions of homophobia drive me crazy. We have to stop the match, this is an appropriate measure.”
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BERLIN (AP) — Borussia Dortmund’s success in the Champions League is giving it confidence it can recover its faltering Bundesliga campaign.
Dortmund defeated AC Milan 3-1 away on Tuesday to reach the knockout stage of Europe’s premier competition despite a poor start to what many regarded as the toughest group with big-spending Paris Saint Germain and Newcastle.
The German team lost 2-0 at PSG in its first game, followed up with a scoreless draw with Milan at home, but recovered with back-to-back wins over Newcastle before Tuesday’s win in Italy.
“It’s a real statement to qualify from the group already in the fifth match-day,” Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said. “Not many believed we could do it.”
Part of the reason for that is Dortmund’s patchy form in the Bundesliga so far this season. The team ended a run of three games without a win in the league last weekend with a 4-2 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach, but had looked set for more disappointment after finding itself 2-0 down after 28 minutes.
Instead, hopes are high again after two consecutive wins including Tuesday’s success in Milan.
But Dortmund next faces a trip to unbeaten Bundesliga leader Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday — a team that has averaged more than three goals a game so far and is already 10 points clear of Dortmund after just 12 rounds.
Leverkusen leads 11-time defending champion Bayern Munich by two points. Bayern can move provisionally top on Saturday with a win at home over struggling Union Berlin — a team that hasn’t won any of its last 15 games across all competitions.
Leverkusen faced Swedish team Häcken away in the Europa League on Thursday.
Before that game, Leverkusen had won every match across all competitions this season with one exception – a 2-2 draw at Bayern in the fourth round of the league.
Since Xabi Alonso took charge of the team in October last year, Leverkusen has only failed to score in its own stadium once — against Dortmund last season in a 2-0 loss in January. That defeat ended Leverkusen’s five-game winning run.
But Alonso’s team seems to have more resilience this season — Leverkusen has the second-best defense in the league with 10 goals conceded compared to Bayern’s nine. Both teams are the only unbeaten sides after 12 rounds.
“I think we are more mature as a team this season, both with the ball and without the ball,” Leverkusen’s Ivorian defender Odilon Kossounou said, looking ahead to Dortmund’s visit. “It will be an open game. We will play the same way we have all season. I think if we stick to our strengths and respect the challenge, we can pick up a positive result.”
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid wasn’t supposed to still be this good after losing its top scorer this summer and being decimated by injuries.
But in came Jude Bellingham and the England midfielder has kept Madrid on course to compete for titles this season.
Madrid is leading the Spanish league and is the only team other than Manchester City to have won all five of its games in the Champions League.
The key to the ongoing success of the 14-time European Cup winners can be boiled down to the depth and overall talent of its squad, and the incredible impact that Bellingham has made since arriving from Borussia Dortmund.
Bellingham led Madrid to another commanding victory on Wednesday when he scored his team-high 15th goal of the season to help beat Napoli 4-2 and remain perfect in the Champions League group stage.
Madrid is also leading the title fight in Spain, where it is in first place, level on points with Girona before hosting the relegation-threatened Granada on Saturday.
“He’s been a wonderful signing,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said about Bellingham on Wednesday, before he dug deep to find a supposed flaw in his new star. “He needs to improve his Spanish, because like I have said, nobody’s perfect.”
Madrid lost the pillars of its attack and defense when Karim Benzema, its top scorer for the five previous seasons, was lured with other European players to Saudi Arabia in June and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois tore a knee ligament just before the season kicked off in August.
Then came more season-threatening injuries. Éder Militão, the team's best central defender, ruptured his ACL in the season opener, and Eduardo Camavinga, Madrid’s most versatile midfielder, tore a knee ligament while training with France this month.
Vinícius Júnior also went down during the most recent international break when he tore a leg muscle with Brazil, an injury that will keep him out of action for the remainder of the year.
Toss in minor injuries to Kepa Arrizabalaga, who came in to replace Courtois, veteran leader Luka Modric, and starting holding midfielder Aurelien Tchouaméni, and it seems Madrid should have struggled against Serie A champion Napoli.
Instead, it rolled over the Italian club just like most of its rivals this campaign. Its only loss this season came at Atletico Madrid in the domestic league in September.
Bellingham leads the Spanish league with 11 goals, two more than Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann.
Madrid also got a boost recently from Rodrygo. The Brazil forward is on a four-game scoring streak, during which he has netted six goals as he fills the void left by injured countryman Vinícius.
“We’re all playing well. We’re scoring a lot of goals and defending well too. I think we’re at our best at the moment,” Rodrygo said after scoring in the win over Napoli.
Rodrygo finished Wednesday's game with cramps but he said he should be fine for the game against 19th-placed Granada.
Ancelotti said that he hopes to have Modric back for a visit to Real Betis the following round.
“We can’t get anyone back for Granada, but I think that Modri? will be able to play against Betis,” he said. “We’ll prepare for the match against Granada with these players.”
FIGHT FOR THIRD
Barcelona hosts Atletico on Sunday with third place on the line and the loser in danger of falling behind in the title chase.
The two are tied at four points behind Madrid and Girona, which hosts Valencia on Saturday.
Atletico also has a game in hand to play.
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DETROIT — Danny Dichio, who scored the first goal in Toronto FC history, has been named head coach of the USL Championship's Detroit FC.
The English forward played three seasons for TFC and became part of club lore May 12, 2007, when he scored in the 24th minute of a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire at BMO Field.
The goal came from an Edson Buddle cross, raked into the goal by a falling Dichio at the edge of the six-yard box to end the expansion franchise’s 384-minute scoring drought.
Toronto had opened life in Major League Soccer with road losses to Chivas USA, New England and Sporting Kansas City followed by a home defeat to Kansas City. All were shutouts.
The goal triggered a sea of Frisbee-like commemorative seat cushions hurled onto the field by jubilant fans like rice at a wedding.
Dichio, now 49, retired after the 2009 season, the final chapter in a lengthy football career that included stints with England's Queens Park Rangers, Welling United, Barnet, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, Derby County, Millwall and Preston and Italy’s Sampdoria and Lecce.
After 59 league appearances for Toronto, he transitioned into an ambassador role for the club and took up a position on its academy coaching staff in 2009. Dichio spent more than a decade in the TFC youth system before joining Sacramento Republic FC as an assistant coach ahead of the 2022 USL Championship campaign.
Dichio succeeds Trevor James, who has moved into the Detroit front office as sporting director.
"Danny’s football philosophy and strong commitment to accountability and personal responsibility match up perfectly with the identity we want our team to continue to embody," James said in a statement.
Dichio has signed a two-year contract with Detroit, which finished eighth in the USL Championship Eastern Conference last season at 11-15-8.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023
NEW YORK (AP) — FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga was suspended three matches and fined an undisclosed amount Wednesday by MLS for misconduct following a game against the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4.
Miazga also will undergo a behavioral assessment through the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. He can petition for a reduction in suspension if he complies with any recommended treatment programs.
Miazga will serve the suspension during the remainder of Cincinnati's games in the MLS Cup. Any matches that remain will be served during the 2024 regular season.
MUNICH (AP) — Manuel Neuer made a late double save to preserve Bayern Munich’s record unbeaten run in the Champions League group stage with a 0-0 draw against Copenhagen on Wednesday.
Neuer denied Copenhagen forward Mohamed Elyounoussi in the 87th minute, then followed with another save to thwart Elyounoussi again from the rebound as Bayern stretched its group-stage unbeaten run to 39 games.
But the Bavarian powerhouse’s competition record 17-game winning streak in the group stage was ended by a Copenhagen team that kept its hopes of reaching the last 16 alive.
“We didn’t risk enough,” Thomas Müller said.
Bayern, already assured of topping Group A, had no need to force the initiative with only pride at stake.
“I actually thought that we would play a little more freely because we were already first, because we really had nothing to lose,” Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel said.
Müller had an effort saved by Copenhagen goalkeeper Kamil Grabara, and Mathys Tel went close for the home team. Roony Bardghji went closest for the visitors in the first half.
Referee Stephanie Frappart awarded Bayern a penalty for handball in stoppage time, then withdrew it after consulting video replays and deciding Copenhagen defender Peter Ankersen could do little about the ball rebounding under his arm.
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GENEVA (AP) — Arsenal scored six to advance in the Champions League as a group winner on Wednesday and Manchester United stayed last in its group despite again scoring three times away from home.
Arsenal’s 6-0 rout of Lens ensured second-place PSV Eindhoven also advanced from Group B to the round of 16. PSV's second-half rally to win 3-2 at Sevilla was clinched by United States forward Ricardo Pepi in stoppage time.
There are now 12 confirmed teams in the round of 16 draw on Dec. 18 and Man United is in serious danger of missing out.
The three-time European champion led by two goals after 18 minutes at Galatasaray and 3-2 early in the second half but was pegged back again in a wild 3-3 draw.
United only does topsy-turvy road games in Europe this season after 4-3 losses at group winner Bayern Munich and second-place Copenhagen.
“As a team, we have to learn from it because we are conceding too many goals and it is unnecessary and avoidable," United manager Erik ten Hag said.
A hat trick of three-goal games on their travels has brought just a single point back for ten Hag’s players, who need to beat Bayern at Old Trafford in two weeks’ time.
Only four other Champions League teams this season have scored more than United’s 12-goal total and they all top their groups and have advanced to the knockout phase.
Real Madrid is one of them after a 4-2 win over second-place Napoli ensured the record 14-time champion will finish atop Group C.
Teams that top their standings are seeded in the round of 16 draw on Dec. 18 and avoid other group winners like defending champion Manchester City. Teams also cannot be drawn against an opponent from their own country.
Bayern drew 0-0 with Copenhagen, one of two games with no goals on a night when the other six games delivered 31.
Real Sociedad was held 0-0 by Salzburg to set up a last-game showdown with second-place Inter Milan at San Siro for the top spot in Group D. Both Sociedad and Inter already advanced three weeks ago.
Inter produced the night’s other second-half fightback in a 3-3 draw at Benfica, which wasted a three-goal lead at halftime earned by João Mario’s hat trick against his former club.
Braga drew 1-1 with Union Berlin and can still advance by winning at Napoli on Dec. 12.
Jude Bellingham was a standout again for Real Madrid in what is becoming the 20-year-old England star’s routine excellence this season.
Bellingham scored Madrid’s second goal against Napoli to make it four goals in four Champions League games for his new club and provided an assist for Joselu in stoppage time.
“Bellingham is a gift to football, not just this club,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “The world’s delighted to see a guy with this talent, potential, promise and hopefully, he’ll just continue as he is.”
Bellingham now has scored 15 goals in his first 16 matches with Madrid wearing the No. 5 shirt of the great Zinedine Zidane.
“Bellingham has surprised everyone. No one could have expected this,” Ancelotti said. “He’s got to improve his Spanish but as I always say — nobody’s perfect.”
Andre Onana’s goalkeeping errors have cost Manchester United in losses at Bayern and at home to Galatasaray, and almost led to another defeat Wednesday in Istanbul.
For each of Hakim Ziyech’s two goals from free kicks, Onana’s positional play or handling could be faulted.
“We win and lose together,” Ten Hag said when asked about Onana who he also coached at Ajax. “He is OK. As I said, it is not about individuals. Of course, individual errors in football can make a difference and you take responsibility for it but it is always about the team.”
PLAYING FOR THIRD
Third place in a Champions League ensures European games into the new year, albeit in the second-tier Europa League.
The eight third-place teams when group play ends in two weeks’ time enter the knockout playoff round against runners-up in Europa League groups. Those pairings are drawn on Dec. 18.
Man United could end up third even if it beats Bayern on Dec. 12, the same night Copenhagen hosts Galatasaray.
Salzburg needs only a draw at home to Benfica in two weeks to clinch third place in Group D
Europa League title holder Sevilla can rise off the bottom of Group B by winning at Lens on Dec. 12 and getting back into the competition it won seven times in the past 18 seasons.
Winning the Europa title also is a ticket back to the Champions League next season.
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BRAGA, Portugal (AP) — Union Berlin failed to take advantage of having a player more in coach Nenad Bjelica’s debut on Wednesday as 10-man Braga fought back to draw 1-1 in the Champions League.
Union’s winless run stretched to 15 games across all competitions. Unable to finish in the top two, Union needs to beat Real Madrid at home in their final group stage match on Dec. 12 to have any hope of remaining in European competition this season. Union has drawn two and lost three of its five group games so far.
Madrid, which was already assured of its place in the last 16, beat Napoli 4-2 to win Group C.
Bjelica made his debut three days after he was unveiled as Urs Fischer’s replacement. Union enjoyed unprecedented success in 5 1/2 seasons under Fischer, but this season has not gone to plan.
Braga dominated the early exchanges Wednesday with Jérôme Roussillon blocking Simon Banza’s effort, before Álvaro Djaló headed just wide in the 28th.
Referee Clement Turpin booked Braga defender Sikou Niakaté for catching the back of Kevin Behrens’ heal with his boot, then revised the decision and showed a red card in the 30th after a VAR check.
It gave Union all the encouragement it needed to push forward. Roussillon played the ball in for Robin Gosens to score in the 42nd.
Union goalkeeper Frederick Rønnow saved José Fonte’s effort and both Serdar Saatç? and Djaló had shots off the line as Braga sought a response before the break.
But Braga didn’t let up after it, either. Ricardo Horta played the ball through the visitors’ defense for Djaló to equalize in the 51st.
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SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain (AP) — Real Sociedad was held 0-0 at home by Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday but stayed top of Group D as Inter Milan also failed to win.
Salzburg goalkeeper Alexander Schlager’s saves denied Sociedad in a less lively game than Inter’s three-goal second-half rally for a 3-3 draw at last-place Benfica.
Sociedad and Inter both advanced to the round of 16 three weeks ago and will meet at San Siro on Dec. 12 in a match which will decide the group winner. Sociedad needs just a draw because it holds the tiebreaker over Inter on overall goal difference in the group.
Teams that top their standings are seeded in the round of 16 draw on Dec. 18 and avoid other group winners like Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Coach Imanol Alguacil was able to rest Spain internationals Robin Le Normand and Mikel Merino to face Salzburg which his team beat 2-0 in Austria last month.
Austria international Schlager saved well in the second half to deny Sociedad’s Brais Méndez, Russia midfielder Arsen Zakharyan, and Umar Sadiq.
In stoppage time, Schlager produced another leaping stop from Japan international Take Kubo’s free kick.
Salzburg hosts Benfica in two weeks’ time needing a draw to secure third place and advance to the Europa League knockout playoffs round in February. Those playoffs also are drawn on Dec. 18.
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