I happened to be in Barcelona last December. (Lovely, lovely place at Christmas time, by the way.)
I remember getting a giggle from the way the city was coming apart because – Gasp! – Real Madrid had assumed a “seemingly insurmountable” lead of eight or so points on Barca. (Sorry, I can’t exactly remember the deficit – I was distracted by amazing tapas).
Well, Real Madrid did go on, as feared by the good Catalan folks, to capture La Liga’s top flight by a total of … yes, nine points. What do I know about La Liga?
Well here we are, in late November. And while Barca does have lots of work ahead to claim another La Liga crown – and a first under new boss Tito Vilanova – it looks increasingly as if Real Madrid is out of this thing. Barca now holds an 11-point cushion on Jose Mourinho’s struggling bunch of highly paid stars; Atletico Madrid, just three points down in the table after 13 rounds, looks to be the bigger bother now to Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and the rest of the talented men of Camp Nou.
So there are two big La Liga talkers today: Is the chase over for Real Madrid following yesterday’s stunning upset to Real Betis?
And from Barca’s side, there Messi’s merry chase of Gerd Muller’s record. The inimitable Argentine attacker hit for two more Sunday as Barca took down Levante, 4-0.
That gives Messi 82 goals (70 for club, 12 for country), three short of the most in a calendar year; Germany’s Muller struck for 85 goals back in 1972.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was tough, but his son might be tougher.
Leicester City shot-stopper Kasper Schmeichel had hernia surgery earlier Monday, and while that seems like it would sideline him for some time, apparently not.
The 29-year-old tweeted from the hospital bed that he is aiming for a return on Sunday – just six days removed from surgery – when his native Denmark takes on Armenia in World Cup qualification.
That’s…ambitious. Not surprising though, given the ambition Leicester City showed last season stunning everyone to win the title.
Schmeichel was injured against Swansea on Saturday in Premier League play when he made a clearance and came up notably uncomfortable. He was replaced in the 57th minute by new Foxes signing Ron-Robert Zieler. According to manager Claudio Ranieri, the club had already planned surgery for this problem even before Saturday’s flare-up due to the recurring nature of the problem.
Sadly, the Wednesday’s friendly against Liechtenstein comes a little too soon for Schmeichel. It will be the first international match he will miss since March of 2015. We’ll give him a pass, considering most of us would still be in post-op then.
According to Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep, the injury that forced Gyasi Zardes to withdraw from USMNT consideration for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers is serious and could have much larger consequences.
Zardes reportedly suffered a broken right foot, and could not just miss the rest of the 2016 MLS season, but the rest of the calendar year, ruling him out of not just the two upcoming matches, but also the beginning of the Hexagonal in November should the U.S. advance to the next round.
The 24-year-old was injured just after halftime in an MLS match against Vancouver on Saturday, when he was brought down by Kendall Watson. It’s hard to see in full-speed what happens, but upon closer inspection, it appears that Watson’s follow-through catches the inside of Zardes’s right foot. He continued to play but looked less than healthy when he was finally substituted off in the 87th minute.
Zardes has been a rare youthful yet important cog in the USMNT machine the past few years. He played every minute of the Copa America run to the 3rd place match, and he has missed just two matches since making his debut in January of 2015, giving him 31 caps already despite a debut just 19 months ago.
The injury is also a serious blow for the LA Galaxy. Zardes had come onto the field in the 31st minute to replace an injured Steven Gerrard, and in-form defender Jelle van Damme had also departed the match with a knee ligament injury which will see him miss 2-3 weeks.
Many were surprised when they saw West Ham winger Michail Antonio on Sam Allardyce‘s first England squad list.
Including Michail Antonio.
In fact, Antonio admitted he thought he was being pranked, or at the very least, the butt of a joke. Then he saw the proof, and began to get emotional.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Speaking with the official England Instagram account, Antonio said, “So literally I’ve done an interview at the end of the game [West Ham’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City on Sunday] and then I’ve come in and the physio’s come over to me and gone ‘you’ve been called up.’ I was like ‘haha funny’ and he’s gone ‘no no seriously’ and I was like ‘good banter!'”
[ MORE: West Ham falls to Manchester City 3-1 ]
The 26-year-old said he stared at the physio for a good 30 seconds before he was shown the official paper, at which point he began “welling up.” The water works came soon after. “So I gave my missus a call, obviously she doesn’t pick up. And then I just got myself mentally ready and waited for it to come out.”
Antonio has two goals in three Premier League games this season, although he struggled in West Ham’s season opener against Chelsea when forced to deputize at right-back. The London-born winger has never played under Allardyce, having joined the Hammers just a few months after Big Sam’s departure from West Ham.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The San Jose Earthquakes fired longtime general manager John Doyle on Monday, replacing him with technical director Chris Leitch on an interim basis.
Coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff remain in place, the team said.
Doyle, who in 2005 was the inaugural member of the San Jose Earthquakes Hall of Fame, had been the general manager since October 2007 and helped bring the franchise back following a two-year absence. He is a former player, assistant coach and color analyst with the organization.
San Jose has a 7-8-11 record for seventh place in the Western Conference and was three points back of Portland for the final playoff berth.