The stakes are high as Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and star defender Gerard Pique smooth over their differences – if there really are any – ahead of Tuesday’s huge Champions League semifinal.
Spanish media have reported problems between the two. If there are, Pique is hiding it well, calmly revealing to assembled writers and broadcasters Monday that he truly wants what’s best for the team. “For me, the important issue isn’t whether I play tomorrow,” he said. “Probably for the press it is. For me, the main thing is that we win and reach the final.”
The smooth center back has been an important part of Barcelona success for most of the last four years but recently lost his starting spot. Pique hasn’t started in five matches, last appearing in the Champions League quarters against AC Milan. He has recovered from a thigh injury suffered that night but is now watching as Guardiola prefers Javier Mascherano alongside Carles Puyol’s on the Nou Camp back line.
Guardiola has to get it right, as Chelsea’s main strike threat appears healthy enough to play. Didier Drogba’s presence means Barca may require the bigger to Pique to handle him.
Pique, by the way, is defending Drogba, who spent much of last week’s game eating away precious minutes and infuriating Blaugrana players and supporters.
The Chinese Super League continues to buy top talent, as Obafemi Martins looks set to join Shanghai Shenhua.
According to a report from the BBC, the Seattle Sounders’ striker will leave Major League Soccer for a “multi-million dollar deal” in China.
Should this deal go through, Martins would join a list of top talents who have moved to the Chinese Super League this winter, including Chelsea’s Ramires.
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Martins has scored 43 goals in 84 appearances for Seattle since joining the club in 2013, named to the MLS Best XI in 2014 and the All-Star team in 2015.
If the 31-year-old was to leave, it would open up a potential starting spot for the USMNT’s Jordan Morris, who signed a record-breaking homegrown player contract with the Sounders last month.
[ MORE: Player ratings from Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Leicester City ]
Before moving to America, Martins played throughout Europe, spending most of his career with Inter Milan and Newcastle. He has earned 41 caps for the Nigerian national team.
At Shanghai Shenhua, Martins would line-up alongside former Premier League players Tim Cahill and Demba Ba, as wells as Fredy Guarin, who joined Shenhua in January from Inter Milan.
Barcelona is really, really good.
With their last loss coming all the way back on October 3, Barca remained unbeaten and put on a Sunday show in La Liga action, thrashing Celta Vigo, 6-1.
[ MORE: Premier League roundup ]
The highlight of the match came in the 81st minute when Barcelona was awarded a penalty. Lionel Messi stepped up to the spot, and did this:
The classic Cruyff penalty kick, it looks so good when it works, but is very risky and could end in disaster. Just ask Robert Pires…
The goal gave Luis Suarez a hat-trick and showed the ridiculous amount of confidence this Barcelona side has right now, as no one in the world has an answer for the Messi-Neymar-Suarez trio.
Manchester City fell 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday in a massive battle in the Premier League title race.
[ RECAP: Man City 2-1 Spurs ]
While Christian Eriksen‘s late winner was the game’s deciding goal, it was Harry Kane‘s opener from the penalty spot that has caused some controversy.
Tottenham’s Danny Rose whipped in a cross that was blocked away by a jumping Raheem Sterling in the 54th minute. Sterling had his back to the ball, but the cross took a deflection off his elbow and referee Mark Clattenburg signaled for a penalty.
Speaking after the match, City boss Manuel Pellegrini was extremely angered by the decision, saying City were the better side until the penalty changed the flow of the match. Pellegrini also thought back to Tottenham’s win over Man City in September when the same official was in charge when Spurs scored two goals that looked to be offside.
It was a penalty that referee Mark Clattenburg wanted to sign for and he gave the sign. It was absolutely the wrong decision, it hit the back of Raheem Sterling then his elbow. Sterling was not even seeing the ball. It was the same referee in the first game where there were two clear goals in offside and we lost 4-1.
It was the key moment that decided the game; before that they did not shoot towards our goal and did not have any chances. We took the risks, the spirit of the team was good but it was not enough.
The rules regarding a hand-ball have been the topic of much conversation this season, as there seems to be a gray area where officials are forced to make judgement calls, with this decision very harsh.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Tottenham’s win over Man City ]
Now six points behind leaders Leicester, Manchester City will take a break from Premier League action and play a string of important cup ties. First up is a fifth-round FA Cup match against Chelsea before a long trip to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League, followed by the League Cup final against Liverpool.
Canada and Trinidad & Tobago face off for the top spot in Group B in CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifying today in Houston.
[ WATCH LIVE: T&T vs. Canada ]
With wins in their opening matches, both sides are tied on three points and will look to take sole possession of first place on the Road to Rio.
Canada started off qualification with an easy 5-0 win over Guyana, while Trinidad & Tobago needed two late goals to beat Guatemala 2-1.
[ WATCH LIVE: T&T vs. Canada live online via NBC Sports Live Extra ]
After taking home the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics, the Canadians will be favorites along with the United States to qualify for the Rio Games from CONCACAF.