Month: March 2018

Lionel Messi trains ahead of Sevilla game despite injury doubt

Lionel Messi remains a doubt for Barcelona’s La Liga trip to Sevilla on Saturday after he joined training but was unable to play a full part in the session.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde suggested that Messi could be a doubt for Saturday’s La Liga game at Sevilla while adding that the Argentine star would require a fitness test on his return from international duty.

The Catalan club had also since confirmed in a statement that Messi trained on Thursday, but only for part of the session.

“The session took place on the Tito Vilanova pitch, with Leo Messi working with the group for part of the session and Barca B’s [Carles] Alena making up the numbers,” the club said.

In the past week, Messi had missed both of Argentina’s friendlies during the international break due to a minor hamstring issue.

While the nation fared well against Italy in a 2-0 victory on Friday, a match up against fellow World Cup hopefuls Spain in Madrid on Tuesday resulted in humiliating 6-1 loss.

It is an entirely different story for Messi on club level, however, as FC Barcelona holds an 11 point edge on Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table heading into Saturday’s match and a very busy two weeks upcoming, the team may play it safe with their talisman.

Still, they face a challenging series of fixtures after the visit to Sevilla, Barca return home to face Roma in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie Wednesday. That is followed by a match against Leganes on Saturday at the Camp Nou and then the second leg of the tie with Roma on the next Tuesday.

UEFA introduces new rule to allow new players represent new clubs

UEFA has changed their ruling in order to allow players represent two different clubs in the same European cup competition from next season.

The current ruling enforces that January signings cannot play for a second club in the Champions League or Europa League if they have already featured in that competition, but by next season a club may register three new eligible players without any restrictions after the group stage.

“This is in line with the existing regulatory situation in the different domestic leagues,” UEFA added, “which does not impose restrictions on the eligibility for competitions of players registered for a new club during the winter transfer window.”

The current ruling saw FC Barcelona being unable to select Philippe Coutinho for their Champions League knockout ties because he featured earlier in the competition for Liverpool.

The same goes for Arsenal as striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cannot play for the Gunners in their Europa League campaign because they were in the same competition as Borussia Dortmund, for whom he played in the Champions League before Christmas.

Other ruling UEFA added include the allowance of a fourth substitute but only in extra time of knockout ties, while up to 12 substitutes can be named in the finals — meaning that teams contesting the Champions League and Europa League finals, plus the UEFA Super Cup, can name a matchday squad of 23 players instead of the 18 allowed in the rest of the competition.

Additionally, a number of Champions League group games will kick off earlier — at 17:55 BST/GMT, although all knockout ties will keep with their kick off time at 20:00 BST/GMT.

As for the Europa League, matches from the group stage until the last 16 will kick off at 17:55 and 20:00. Starting from the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, fixtures will all kick off at 20:00.

PSG and Antonio Conte’s representatives hold talks over possible move

Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with Antonio Conte’s representatives in an attempt to convince the Italian to leave Chelsea this summer.

It is heavily insinuated that the Ligue 1 club is prepared to part company with Unai Emery at the end of the season when his contract expires, and Conte is one of four managers the PSG president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is considering as a replacement.

PSG has approached Conte in the knowledge that he is frustrated at Chelsea and possibly looking for a new challenge.

However, a return to coach the Italy international squad would be another option for the 48-year-old, should he part company with the London club in the summer even as Chelsea board is set to discuss Conte’s future next month.

PSG would be able to offer Conte a small increase in salary and the initial talks were positive, although they are also currently withholding a formal approach and are still considering their options.

Previously, the French club hired Emery in 2016 after he had won an unprecedented third Europa League in a row with Sevilla.  

But despite PSG’s hopes Spaniard’s European  experience would help them finally lift the Champions League, Emery’s first year in charge saw them going out to FC Barcelona in the last 16 despite having won the home leg 4-0, while this season they were again eliminated in the first knockout round, this time Real Madrid progressing 5-2 on aggregate.

Conte, on the other hand, showed at Chelsea that he is capable of creating a team that can overcome the odds and win titles.

The Blues won the league in his first season at Stamford Bridge and although his second campaign has not been as successful there is recognition in Paris that he was not backed in the summer transfer window and that the squad has lacked the required depth and quality to compete in Europe and domestically.