FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna - La Liga

Messi set to miss Barcelona’s remaining games

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It has been revealed this morning that Lionel Messi is unlikely to feature again for Barcelona this campaign, after the Argentine forward has struggled to recover from an injury to his right hamstring.

Messi has been hampered by the injury for almost six weeks now, as he missed crucial games in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages and La Liga.

However, with the Spanish title secured and after the humbling European exit to Bayern Munich, Messi can now rest up after another scintillating season.

Barca’s website confirmed that the injury could see him out for “between 2 to 3 weeks” after he limped off at the Vincente Calderon against Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

The Catalan club have four games remaining and are due to end their season on June 1. But for the Blaugrana, it is simply not worth risking the four-time FIFA World Player of the Year. That said, Argentina deeply require his services as they continue to edge cumbersomely towards qualification for the 2014 World Cup. Some key CONMEBOL qualifiers are heading Messi’s way this summer.

(More: Messi injury hampers Barcelona’s chances of victory over PSG)

So let’s take a quick look back, if we can, at the records and stats the 25-year-old South American compiled during the 2012-13 season.

In 48 games across all competitions, Messi has scored 58 goals. He has created another 64 and has helped Barca win 33 out of the 48 games he has played. Words can’t really describe how monumental that is.

Previously he broke Gerd Müller’s record of 85 goals scored in a calendar year, by scoring 91 goals through the second half of the 2011-12 season and the first half of this season. Surely that feat will never be matched.

(More: Messi scores 85th, 86th goals of year, passes Gerd Müller)

On January 7 2013, Messi became the first-ever player to win the Balloon d’Or four times. Winning all four in a row.

We could go on all day. Seriously. But with his season coming to a premature end, we must salute his incredible talent and wonder, can he ever top this?

I’d like to think he can but with a new era being ushered in at Barca and German football flexing its muscles to try and grab hold of the European game, Messi’s main challenge now must be to bring Champions League glory back to the Camp Nou. Three years without winning Europe’s greatest trophy would not sit well with Messi or Barca’s adoring fans.

Rest up Lionel, you deserve it. Better bring your ‘A’ game next season… If not, the same as this season would probably suffice.

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.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia