Barcelona v Paris St Germain - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final

Messi saves the day…… again

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While some feel that Barcelona are not too reliant on the genius of Lionel Messi, Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final proved to the world that, quite simply, they are.

With the Spaniards 1-0 down to a top-class Paris Saint-Germain side, thanks to Javier Pastore’s excellent solo goal, Messi was bought into play after 62 minutes. When he was introduced he may have lacked his usual top level, but just his presence on the pitch gave Barcelona a big psychological edge over their French opponents.

Ultimately, Messi played a big part in Pedro’s crucial equaliser, after a typically awesome dribble eventually found the Spaniard via David Villa’s neat set up. As the Camp Nou went wild, it was impossible not to notice the best player in the world’s impact on the game.

Many fans and pundits before the match thought that even without Messi the victory would be routine. With all-star players like Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Fabregas, Pedro and Villa, surely Messi could enjoy a night off?

How wrong they were.


Barcelona look weak in defence on current form, especially without a number of key defensive players, and have managed to sneak through their last two knockout games, against Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. As their opponents get better and better, however, they will get knocked out if they keep playing like they are. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are all far too talented and organised to get beaten by this ever-so-slightly declining Barcelona team.

Lionel Messi can’t keep saving the day, can he?

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.