Juventus goalkeeper Buffon wonders about Celtic’s “peculiar situation”

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Ahead of today’s Champions League contest at Celtic Park, legendary Italian and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is voicing what we all might be wondering: What is the effect on Celtic of losing those bitterly contest, heart-hardening, character-building rivalry matches with Rangers?

The stunning financial collapse of Celtic’s historic antagonist – the Celtic-Rangers matchup is truly one of the world’s showpieces when it comes to contentious rivalries in the game – has stripped away the very contests that serve to steel the men in the famous green and white.

Buffon talked about the “peculiar situation” at yesterday’s news conference prior to today’s contest at Celtic Park.

He certainly has a point. Celtic’s 18-point lead in the Scottish Premier League is no surprise. (Once again underlining the odd disparity that rules Scotland’s top tier league, but that’s another story.)

Neil Lennon’s team is rarely, truly stretched in SPL matches. Since a 1-0 loss to Hibernian to finish calendar 2012, Celtic has won its five subsequent  SPL contests by a combined score of 16-3.

Said Buffon:

This is a very peculiar situation this year,’ he said, when asked about the absence of Old Firm games in Scotland. It would change from player to player, not having the psychological impact of so many high-tension matches. We often have high-pressure matches and, if you don’t for two or three weeks, you can let your guard down and it is very difficult to get that level of tension back again.”

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.