BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Having fully recovered from a groin injury, Barcelona star Lionel Messi was named on Friday in Argentina’s squad to face Brazil and Colombia in the next round of World Cup qualifiers.
Messi has been in fine form for Barcelona since coming back from his latest niggling injury, scoring four goals in two matches, including a superb hat trick against Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.
He has not played for his country since scoring the winner in a 1-0 win against Uruguay on Sept. 1.
In his absence, Argentina drew 2-2 away to Peru and lost 1-0 at home to Paraguay, putting it in fifth place and out of the top four positions that ensure a direct spot for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Messi’s return will be in Belo Horizonte against leaders Brazil, which has won its four first matches under new coach Tite.
Five days later, Edgardo Bauza’s Argentina side hosts fourth-place Colombia.
Goalkeepers: Nahuel Guzman, (Tigres), Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Geronimo Rulli, (Real Sociedad).
Defenders: Martin Demichelis (Espanyol), Mateso Musacchio (Villarreal), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Gabriel Mercado, (Sevilla), Facundo Roncaglia (Celta Vigo), Emanuel Mas (San Lorenzo), Pablo Zabaleta, (Manchester City).
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Guido Pizarro (Tigres), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ever Banega (Inter Milan), Enzo Perez (Valencia), Nicolas Gaitan (Atletico Madrid), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Julio Buffarini (Sao Paulo), Marcos Acuna (Racing Club).
Strikers: Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Lucas Pratto (Atletico Mineiro).
Neither was in the starting lineup for the Champions League loss to Barcelona, with Kompany not even in the 18. But according to Guardiola, he had his reasons for both.
“Vincent was not perfectly fit,” Guardiola said. “Sergio, I said after the game, was a tactical decision. If Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision.”
The former Barcelona manager played a striker-less formation against the La Liga giants, employing Kevin De Bruyne as a false 9. It failed, with Barcelona storming through en route to a 4-0 win, with Lionel Messi scoring a hat-trick.
Kompany has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, missing all of this season so far, half of last year, a healthy portion of the previous campaign with various injuries from hamstring problems to calf tweaks to groin pulls. According to Guardiola, it has left a permanent mark on the Belgian defender’s psyche.
“One day, in the training session, he said: ‘I didn’t feel like this [good],’” Guardiola said. “In that moment, when his head is not ready and with what happened in the last two years, it is better to stay out. I don’t want to put a lot of pressure about how many games we want him to play or set big, big targets. So it’s just try to train good and after a week of training no injuries, we’ll play a game, and after that another one. And after that we’ll see.”
Hamburg may have made a coaching change, but that didn’t change their immediate fortunes.
Bobby Wood and company fell to fellow USMNTer Timmy Chandler and Frankfurt 3-0 at Volksparkstadion. It was a rough home opener for new Hamburg manager Markus Gisdol, as former Fulham and Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby opened the scoring with an unfortunate own-goal after an ugly giveaway.
Things got worse as Dennis Diekmeier picked up his second yellow card shortly after halftime, and it was gravy from there for Frankfurt as Shani Tarashaj and Haris Seferovic bagged goals to secure the win.
Hamburg, a club that narrowly staved off relegation in a playoff last season, has just a measly two points through eight matches. They fired manager Bruno Labbadia after just a month, but it hasn’t gone much better for Gisdol as a road draw with Borussia Monchengladbach is the only salvageable result through three thus far.
Bobby Wood’s honeymoon start to the league season for Hamburg is long gone. He scored two goals in two games to start the year, but hasn’t hit the back of the net since.
Timmy Chandler, on the other hand, he’s played the full 90 minutes in every game for Frankfurt since the opener, assisting a goal in the 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich last weekend. He’s helped Frankfurt move to fourth in the league, three points behind Bayern and Koln and Red Bull Leipzig between them (what?!).
With Manchester United set to visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the Special One will be returning to his former stomping grounds, a place where he spent six tumultuous seasons spread across two separate reigns.
While Jose Mourinho insisted he has “no hard feelings” for his former club and the way things ended, but did not mince words the subject of his former boss came up.
While Mourinho insisted he has “respect” for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, telling Sky Sports, “We were never friends. We were never close to each other. So he is just a person that I keep very respected.”
Mourinho also said that, even if The Blues wanted to, “They couldn’t delete me from Chelsea history. They belong to my history too. No bad feelings,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. The owner, he decided to sack me…the fans, they have no power. They show day by day, match after match, that they wanted me, but in this profile of club, the fans have no power. In some clubs, especially in some Latin countries, the format of the club, the fans have real power on the board and with the president and owners, but here they have no power so Mr Abramovich decided to sack me, but I left with not one bad word about anyone or anybody at the club.”
The 53-year-old said the titles he won at Chelsea were proof that “I did my job.” He finished by saying that no matter the treatment from fans, he will always hold Chelsea as he does all his other stops. “From me, you are not going to have, ever, a bad word about any one of my previous clubs,” Mourinho said. “I keep always a very good feeling. It doesn’t matter what is going to happen. But, it is my nature. It is my job. It is my new club. On Sunday I will go there to try and do my job.”