Beckham will start again versus Barcelona, Ancelotti says

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Paris Saint-Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti pledged today that David Beckham will “definitely start” against Barcelona next week.

The former Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder started in the Champions League for the first time in three years in Tuesday’s 2-2 quarter-finals, first-leg tie at Parc des Princes.

He was withdrawn with 20 minutes to go – playing top-level club soccer against the best team on the planet aged 37 can be tiring, we imagine – and his performance drew criticism from some sections of the French media. (What are they complaining about? The guy’s playing for free! Can’t beat that for value.)

But Ancelotti said that the bad reviews were “unjust“, “not normal” and that Beckham had “a really good match”. The Italian also denied that PSG’s brand-aware Qatari owners had ordered him to pick the ex-England captain. All set for a repeat next Wednesday at the Nou Camp, then.

All in all, matters ultimately went PSG’s way on Tuesday. Not so much this afternoon as their lead at the top of Ligue 1 was cut.

Andre-Pierre Gignac’s 41st-minute goal was enough for Marseille to beat mid-table Bordeaux 1-0 at the Stade Velodrome.

That win reduced PSG’s advantage over their great rivals to four points, though Ancelotti’s side have played a game fewer. And their fixture list is highly favorable down the stretch, with only a trip to third-placed Lyon likely to tax them significantly.

With eight games still to play for most teams, there’s a while to go. Beating Barcelona is surely a long shot. But it looks highly likely that all the Middle-Eastern investment in the club will finally pay off, and – somewhat remarkably for such a famous club in France’s biggest city – PSG will claim their first domestic league title since 1993-94. After his success in MLS Cup with L.A., it’d be Beckham’s second championship in six months.

Mendy a doubt for start of Man City’s Premier League season

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High-flying left back Benjamin Mendy‘s Manchester City takeoff has been delayed by a thigh injury.

Pep Guardiola revealed Thursday that Mendy is doubtful for City’s Aug. 12 Premier League opener at Brighton and Hove Albion despite passing a medical to push through a $68 million move from Monaco.

Saying Mendy is “a little bit injured,” Guardiola said to expect an absence of two to three weeks.

[ MORE: LAFC hires Bob Bradley ]

The depth chart behind Mendy is incomplete, though City has added two right backs this offseason in Kyle Walker and Danilo.

The latter would be the front-runner to start in Mendy’s place, as he did in a 3-5-2 as Man City beat Real Madrid 4-1 on Wednesday.

Man City follows its opener at Brighton with a visit from Everton and a trip to Bournemouth.

Roma gives new 4-year deal to Premier League target Nainggolan

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Hard-nosed midfielder Rajda Nainggolan has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea for some time, but Thursday linked up long-term with his present club.

Nainggolan, 29, signed a new deal with AS Roma through the 2020-21 season, putting the Belgian box-to-box mid at the heart of i Lupi‘s plans to chase down Juventus.

[ MORE: Chatting with De Rossi ]

Nainggolan has been in the last two Serie A Best XIs.

The 29-times capped Belgian has six goals for his national team, and has 255 Serie A appearances between Cagliari and Roma. Nainggolan has 31 goals and 18 assists in those matches, scooping 62 yellows and two send-offs but never being handed straight red.

While it’s a perceived blow for his Premier League suitors, it’s a welcome retention for Roma. He’s arguably the reason Roma was ready to part with Michael Bradley in 2014, and you can see why: He plays right up to the line but knows right where it lies.

Too many fans: Udinese vs. Hannover friendly called off

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ST. VEIT, Austria (AP) Local authorities in southern Austria have called off Sunday’s friendly match between Udinese and Hannover as the estimated number of spectators exceeds the capacity of the stadium.

The city of St. Veit says about 4,000 fans, including 280 potential football hooligans, were expected for the game at the ground of local amateur club FC Alpe Adria, which has a capacity of 2,430.

St. Veit mayor Gerhard Mock says “it’s a shame … but security comes first.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the match between the Italian and German top-flight teams can be moved to a larger venue. Both Udinese and Hannover are having their preseason training camps in the province of Carinthia.

LIVE – Everton kick off Europa League campaign

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Wayne Rooney will play his first competitive game for Everton in 13 years.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores

That storyline will dominate Everton’s return to Europe as they kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Europa League campaign in front of a packed house at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The Toffees welcome Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok for the first leg of the third qualifying round as they aim to make it back to the group stage for the first time since 2014-15.

Click on the link above to follow not only Everton’s game but all of the Europa League qualifiers going on across Europe this afternoon with the likes of AC Milan, Fenerbache, PSV, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao all in action.

If Ronald Koeman‘s side successfully navigate their way past Ruzomberok then they will be in the play-off round which is the final hurdle before the group stage.