How good is Wigan’s Callum McManaman?

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How good is Wigan’s Callum McManaman?

In short, ridiculously good.

Some may find it hard to believe that Wigan hold the keys to one of the Premier League’s next Ferraris but anyone who has really watched McManaman knows that to be the case. With lightning pace, sliky skills and a nose for goal, the 21 year old has the feel of an English Mario Götze and is quickly blossoming into one of the Premier League’s best young players.

After making his league debut against Portsmouth as an 18 year old in 2009, the Wigan product (who was released by Everton as a 16 year old) saw a handful of cameo appearances over the next few years before being sent to Blackpool on loan in the fall of 2011. His 13 match stint for The Tangerines prompted Roberto Martinez to recall McManaman back to the Latics that Spring, handing him three appearances with the club.

This season the Huyton-born winger has broken out after a series of eye-opening performances in the Capital One and FA Cup. The turning point came on March 9th when Wigan romped Everton 3-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Goodison Park. There, McManaman scored a wonder goal when he outsprinted Sylvain Distin and expertly nipped the ball past a sprawling Jan Mucha. His display against the Toffees earned McManaman his first league start in the Latics 2-1 win over Newcastle and he hasn’t looked back since – starting each of Wigan’s next three matches.

Although he has yet to open his scoring account in league, McManaman is very much a goal scorer. On Saturday he turned the Millwall defense inside-out, cutting them up with devastating quickness, ankle-breaking cuts and a Cruyff-esque understanding of space and time. He swept in on goal on numerous occasions, drawing two excellent first-half saves from Millwall’s David Forde. In the 50th minute McManaman’s inside cut was so vicious that it sent two Millwall defenders sliding out of play but the winger’s curled the ensuing shot just over the bar. Redemption finally came in the 78th minute when Jordi Gomez slipped a clever pass through for McManaman, who, with a full head of steam, managed to keep his balance and juke Forde before slotting home into an empty net.

McManaman is infamous for his brutal studs up tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara on March 17th. The ensuing outrage prompted many to depict the Wigan man as a thug, which his manager alleges is completely at odds with the youngster’s personality. “Callum McManaman is a simple guy”, said Martinez. “He is not someone who plays football to feed his ego. He is not someone who is always checking the press and what the media is saying.”

Martinez describes McManaman as a true lover of the game, someone who is happiest so long as he has a football by his side. “When people hear the name, they just get a picture for the wrong reasons,” said the manager. The tackle with Haidara “was just the wrong place at the wrong time.”

By reaching the FA Cup final, Wigan have punched their ticket to next year’s Europa League. It’s a stage where so many young players introduce themselves to the rest of Europe and one that McManaman will certainly be looking forward to. Transfer rumors concerning McManaman have yet to start flying but it shouldn’t be long before everyone in their Premier League is trying to get their hands on Wigan’s young superstar.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”