Defending champions Saracens will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.

Sarries, who won the English top flight and the European Champions Cup last season, were docked 35 points and fined £5.36million in November for breaching salary cap regulations in each of the past three seasons.

The London club are bottom of the Premiership table on minus seven points but have the joint-best record in the division with six wins in eight matches this term.

However, after talks between the governing body and Saracens in the aftermath of the latter's initial punishment, it has been decided they will drop down to the Championship for next term.

Recently appointed Saracens chairman Neil Golding said: "I acknowledge the club has made errors in the past and we unreservedly apologise for those mistakes.

"I and the rest of the board are committed to overseeing stringent new governance measures to ensure regulatory compliance going forward."

Premiership Rugby has launched an independent review into the salary cap as a result of the Saracens saga, which will be led by former Treasury minister Lord Myners.

Chief executive Darren Childs said: "Premiership Rugby is prepared to take strong action to enforce the regulations governing fair competition between our clubs.

"At the conclusion of dialogue with Saracens about their compliance with the salary cap regulations, it has been decided that Saracens will be relegated at the end of this season."

Childs added: "The actions that we have taken – dealing with breaches of the current regulations and reviewing the system for the future – will help us to build a stronger league and uphold the confidence of supporters."

Six Saracens players started for England in their World Cup final loss to South Africa in November, including captain Owen Farrell, but a star-studded line-up now looks certain to be broken up.

On Sunday, Sarries face Racing 92 in the Champions Cup, where victory will virtually secure progress to the knockout stages.

Farrell is joined in the starting XV by England colleagues Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Mako and Billy Vunipola, and a run in this season's tournament is likely to be a last hurrah for this collective.

Even if they win Europe's top competition for the fourth time in their last five attempts, Saracens' Championship status will mean they are barred from entering next year.

Defending champions Saracens will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.

Leeds United had their promotion hopes dented as they fell to a controversial 1-0 loss at QPR on Saturday.

Marcelo Bielsa's men have only won one of their past seven Championship matches, a streak that started with their astonishing collapse in a 3-3 draw against Cardiff City.

Leaders West Brom can extend their advantage to four points when they host Stoke City on Monday.

Brentford did not take full advantage of Leeds' loss as they drew 0-0 away to Huddersfield Town, meaning Fulham – winners over Middlesbrough on Friday – remain third.

Swansea City's 2-1 home victory over Wigan Athletic saw on-loan Liverpool prospect Rhian Brewster score his first senior goal.

Blackburn Rovers, Bristol City, Derby County, Millwall and Preston North End were the other winning teams, with the 1-1 scoreline between Birmingham City and Cardiff one of only two draws on the day.

 

LEEDS' SLUMP CONTINUES

Nakhi Wells' 20th-minute strike for QPR ultimately proved decisive in London.

Leeds were angry that a handball by Wells as he collected Eberechi Eze's deflected free-kick was not spotted by referee Peter Bankes.

Pablo Hernandez hit the post with a set-piece of his own and Patrick Bamford had a second-half penalty saved by Liam Kelly, who conceded the spot-kick, before Kalvin Phillips received a red card in the closing minutes for a foul on Geoff Cameron.

Leeds' advantage over Fulham has been cut to four points with 18 matches still to play.

 

BRENTFORD HELD AS SWANSEA FIGHT BACK

Brentford started their match knowing a win would put them above Fulham, but they missed the chance to do that and go within three points of Leeds in the process, with Josh Dasilva hitting the post in the closing stages at Huddersfield.

Nottingham Forest have the chance to go level on points with Brentford when they face Luton Town on Sunday, while Swansea sit fifth after coming from behind to beat Wigan.

Nathan Byrne capped a 16th-minute Wigan counter-attack to put the visitors ahead, but Brewster replied inside three minutes before a clever backheel from Andre Ayew after the break won it.

 

WEDNESDAY THUMPED BY BLACKBURN

Wednesday slumped to an astonishing 5-0 home loss against Blackburn, who saw Lewis Holtby score twice.

Massimo Luongo was sent off after Holtby's opener and Wednesday fell apart from there.

Patrick Bauer headed the winner as Preston came from behind to beat Charlton Athletic 2-1 at Deepdale, Josh Harrop having scored a superb leveller.

Millwall are only outside the play-off positions on goal difference after a 2-0 home win over Reading while Derby beat Hull City 1-0, with Bristol City getting the better of Barnsley by the same scoreline after Niclas Eliasson's dramatic winner.

Fulham moved to within four points of the Championship's automatic promotion places as Anthony Knockaert's early goal proved enough to see off Middlesbrough 1-0.

Scott Parker's side were dominant throughout at Craven Cottage, though wasteful finishing – in the absence of the injured Aleksandar Mitrovic – prevented them from adding to the lead, which Knockaert gave them when he tucked home Joe Bryan's sixth-minute cross.

Josh Onomah and Ivan Cavaleiro spurned great chances shortly after Knockeart's opener, though Boro almost levelled when Hayden Coulson's deflected cross hit the bar.

Denis Odoi had a goal disallowed for offside with 17 minutes remaining, yet Boro could not make the most of their good fortune as Fulham – at least temporarily – moved above London rivals Brentford into third.

Derby County have confirmed they will contest the breach of spending rules they have been charged with by the English Football League (EFL).

The Championship club are accused of recording excess losses over a three-year period ending June 30, 2018.

However, Derby insist the charges – which relate to the £80million sale of their stadium Pride Park to the team's owner Mel Morris and the club's amortisation policy on player contracts – are unfounded.

According to a statement on Derby's official website, the EFL agreed to the sale of Pride Park and have not previously raised an issue over player amortisation.

"As a matter of law, the EFL is not entitled to bring either of the charges, having previously agreed to all of the arrangements surrounding the stadium sale and never having raised the issue of player amortisation before," the statement read.

"At all times, the club has acted transparently with the EFL and, in respect of the charges above, had received written approval for all of its submissions in respect of this legislation. No allegation has been raised to the contrary by the EFL. Rather, the EFL now claims that it made a 'mistake'.

"Had the EFL not given the green light in writing in respect of both charges, the club would have reacted accordingly. The club cannot re-trace the steps of the actions it legitimately took in good faith as a result of EFL approval of both matters.

"The EFL can choose to correct what they now see as an error in their decisions. However, it cannot punish the club for its own errors. The club shall therefore vigorously contest the charges and the EFL's legal right to bring them."

An independent disciplinary commission will hear representations from the EFL and Derby.

Last season, Derby's fellow Championship club Birmingham City were docked nine points following a similar charge from the EFL.

The Rams – who last year secured the signing of former Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney – sit 10 points above the relegation zone.

Cardiff City and Swansea City shared the spoils in a cagey goalless draw in Sunday's south Wales derby.

In a match that produced few moments of quality, it was Swansea who went closest to opening the scoring in the first half at the Cardiff City Stadium when Bersant Celina bent a low effort against the left post.

Tempers briefly boiled over between the fierce rivals when Cardiff striker Robert Glatzel took exception to a late challenge from Ben Cabango, with each man booked.

Cardiff also hit the woodwork when Callum Paterson headed Josh Murphy's delivery against the crossbar in the only chance of note in the second half.

A draw means Swansea stay seventh and only outside the play-off places on goal difference, while Cardiff are 12th but just four points adrift of sixth-place Sheffield Wednesday.

West Brom edged above Leeds United to the top of the Championship on Saturday after Marcelo Bielsa's men were beaten at home by Sheffield Wednesday.

Two late goals saw Leeds fall to a 2-0 Yorkshire derby defeat at Elland Road, which meant West Brom moved to the summit despite dropping points in a dramatic 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic.

Brentford and Fulham are third and fourth respectively after wins over QPR and Hull City, with Nottingham Forest dropping to fifth after they were held to a last-gasp 1-1 draw at Reading.

Bristol City, Birmingham City and Barnsley were the other winners, while there were draws when Blackburn Rovers hosted Preston North End, Middlesbrough took on Derby County and Stoke City faced Millwall.


MISFIRING LEEDS SLIP UP AGAIN

Leeds have only won one of their last seven games in all competitions and now trail West Brom by a point, with Brentford only six points adrift in third.

Bielsa's side looked like they would have to settle for a goalless draw but it got worse when Jacob Murphy scored a goal that goalkeeper Kiko Casilla will not remember fondly with three minutes left.

Atdhe Nuhiu, who had set up the opener, then made the points safe in stoppage time as Wednesday moved up to sixth.

Patrick Bamford had earlier missed a good chance as well as having a strike disallowed for offside, while Jack Harrison was also guilty of not converting a clear opening.

West Brom twice led against Charlton at The Valley but had to settle for a draw courtesy of Josh Davison's first career strike and an own goal from keeper Sam Johnstone, who was trying to keep out Tom Lockyer's header. 

Albion's goals came from a superb Kenneth Zohore effort and a deflected strike from Hal Robson-Kanu.

The two teams also drew 2-2 in the reverse fixture in October, Charlton coming from behind on that occasion too.


BRENTFORD AND FULHAM KEEP UP PRESSURE

Brentford raced into a three-goal lead after 33 minutes at home to QPR, Ollie Watkins heading in his 18th league goal of the season in a 3-1 derby victory at Griffin Park.

An excellent long-range strike from Ivan Cavaleiro, who joined Fulham permanently from Wolves this week, put Scott Parker's men in front against after 29 minutes and that proved to be the only goal of the game.

Forest are a point and a place behind Fulham after a dramatic conclusion to their game at Reading. 

Ben Watson appeared to have given Forest an away victory six minutes into stoppage time but Reading went straight up the other end and Jordan Obita's cross resulted in a costly own goal from Tobias Figueiredo.

Luton Town remain bottom of the table after Gary Gardner's strike earned Birmingham a 2-1 away win. Wigan Athletic lost 2-0 at home to Bristol City and remain in the bottom three along with Barnsley, who won 2-1 at home to Huddersfield Town to move within a point of safety.

One story is dominating the sporting agenda in Spain on Saturday: Xavi's potential return to Barcelona.

The Catalan giants have reportedly earmarked the club great to take over from the under-pressure Ernesto Valverde at the end of the season, and held informal discussions with him on Friday in Doha.

Xavi, 39, is currently coach at Al Sadd but would likely relish a return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during a glittering playing career.

A strong affinity with a club is not a guarantee of success, however, and we have taken a look at eight other examples of players returning to manage teams they starred for.

 

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job. He is now back in Serie A and thriving with the Old Lady's bitter rivals Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Like Lampard, Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for AC Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league finish in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster has joined Swansea City on loan for the rest of the season.

The 19-year-old reunites with Swansea boss Steve Cooper, under whom he won the Golden Boot with England at the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

Brewster has made only three appearances for Liverpool in 2019-20, most recently as a substitute in the 1-0 FA Cup third-round win over Everton at Anfield last Sunday.

The forward will be available to make his debut in the all-Welsh clash with Cardiff City on January 12.

Swansea sit sixth in the Championship after 26 matches.

Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster has joined Swansea City on loan for the rest of the season.

The 19-year-old reunites with Swansea boss Steve Cooper, under whom he won the Golden Boot with England at the Under-17 World Cup in 2017.

Brewster has made only three appearances for Liverpool in 2019-20, most recently as a substitute in the 1-0 FA Cup third-round win over Everton at Anfield last Sunday.

The forward will be available to make his debut in the all-Welsh clash with Cardiff City on January 12.

Swansea sit sixth in the Championship after 26 matches.

Ezgjan Alioski rekindled the rivalry between Leeds United and Manchester United by claiming the Championship leaders could beat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's under-achieving side.

As Leeds prepare to face Arsenal in the FA Cup third round on Monday, Alioski was asked whether they could announce themselves to the Premier League by beating a team who triumphed over the Red Devils 2-0 on New Year's Day.

The Macedonia international's response would have been music to the ears of the Leeds faithful, and it came 10 years and a day after the club - then in League One - claimed a famous 1-0 FA Cup victory at Old Trafford.

Alioski told reporters that Arteta's achievement in beating Solskjaer's men left him undaunted, saying: "Of course, I saw the result against Manchester United.

"But this Manchester United from this year, even we can beat them."

Alioski said a return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence would restore Leeds' status as one of England's top clubs and underlined his team-mates' commitment to the philosophy of head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

The former Argentina, Chile and Marseille boss has delivered the most attractive football Elland Road has enjoyed since the club was in the Champions League, and Alioski attributed the transformation to the 64-year-old.

"If we were in the Premier League, Leeds would be one of the biggest clubs," Alioski opined. "The only difference is they [Arsenal] are in the Premier League and we are in the Championship.

"We are going to go there to play this football that Marcelo Bielsa wants. Since he has arrived, Marcelo Bielsa has let Leeds dream again.

"I arrived two-and-a-half years ago. Mostly the same team is here, Marcelo Bielsa kept the same team and everyone can see what Leeds changed and how we improved with him."

Manchester City have cut short Lukas Nmecha's season-long loan to Wolfsburg, instead sending the striker to Middlesbrough after he failed to score in Germany.

The 21-year-old, who has played for both England and Germany at youth level, joined Wolfsburg at the start of the season but struggled to make an impact.

Nmecha made 12 appearances for his loan club in all competitions but started only once and did not find the net.

City recalled the striker on Friday and loaned him back out to Championship side Boro, where he joins Patrick Roberts - a team-mate in Manchester who endured a similarly tough stretch at Norwich City.

Nmecha spent the 2018-19 season on loan at Preston North End, having appeared three times for City in the previous campaign.

"We're delighted to bring Lukas to the club," said Boro head coach Jonathan Woodgate. "He is a terrific young player who has the benefit of a year's experience of Championship football.

"He is another young, hungry player of real quality, and it's great that we've been able to get him.

"In Lukas and Patrick, we have signed two very good players, and we've been able to bring them in early in the transfer window, which is a real bonus."

Wayne Rooney inspired Derby County to a 2-1 win over Barnsley on his debut for the Championship club.

The 34-year-old, who is England and Manchester United's record goalscorer, made his long-awaited maiden outing for the Rams having agreed to join as a player-coach back in August.

Phillip Cocu's side were evidently buoyed by Rooney's presence as the five-time Premier League winner pulled the strings at Pride Park.

Rooney laid on the opener for Jack Marriott on the stroke of half-time, delivering a fine free-kick from the left that only needed a helping touch in the right direction.

Substitute Elliot Simoes levelled for struggling Barnsley five minutes into the second half but Rooney was involved again as Derby reclaimed the lead.

His cross-field pass found Andre Wisdom, who then picked out Martyn Waghorn to sweep home the winner.

It was Derby's second win on the bounce, with Cocu's men having overcome a Charlton Athletic side who endured mixed fortunes on Thursday.

Having earlier been taken over by East Street Investments, bringing an end to the controversial reign of Roland Duchatelet, the Addicks fell to a 1-0 loss against Swansea City.

Yan Dhanda's 14th-minute goal settled matters as the Swans climbed to sixth in a fiercely competitive table.

Wayne Rooney will captain Derby County on his Rams debut after being named in their starting XI for Thursday's Championship clash at home to Barnsley.

Rooney's return to English football comes after the former Three Lions skipper ended his spell playing for MLS side DC United.

Manchester United and England's all-time leading goalscorer has been handed the armband after being included in the Derby team by his new boss Phillip Cocu.

Ex-Everton forward Rooney signed for Derby last August and has been training with the Rams since his contract with DC came to an end when they missed out on the 2019 play-offs.

Derby beat Charlton Athletic 2-1 at Pride Park on Monday to end a poor run of seven Championship games without a win.

The Rams are 17th in the table and will be hoping Rooney, who is also a coach on Cocu's backroom staff, can inspire a rise up the league.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.