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Andrés Iniesta accuses Jose Mourinho of damaging Spanish football

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It’s rare to hear soundbites from Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta but when they come, they’re typically cautious, soft-spoken comments that rarely spark controversy.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday when El Pais newspaper quoted Iniesta as saying that Jose Mourinho did more harm than good to Spanish football during his three-year tenure at Real Madrid.

“You just have to look at the facts,” Iniesta told El Pais. “Yes he damaged Spanish football, in general more harm than good. But I don’t like talking about that person at all. So if you don’t mind, we’ll leave it at that.”

Mourinho and Madrid agreed to mutually part ways back on May 20th after a tumultuous 2012-13 campaign where the Portuguese manager failed to claim Los Blancos a major trophy. Mourinho has since put pen to paper on a deal to return to Chelsea, where ‘The Special One’ feels “loved” after famously managing the side to two Premier League titles from 2004-07.

Mourinho’s three year stint at Madrid was filled with a series of ugly incidents, which included eye-gouging Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova on the touchline of a Madrid-Barcelona match in 2011, benching club captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas and most recently claiming that Cristiano Ronaldo can’t be coached because he “thinks he knows it all.”

That being said, is Iniesta’s criticism of Mourinho valid? Or are these just sour grapes remaining after three years of El Clásico fixtures?

It’s tough to say without hearing more from Iniesta. But at the very least, accusing Mourinho of “damaging” Spanish football seems a bit rich. If anything, many would claim that Mourinho’s presence and antics only added to the drama surrounding the El Clásico, solidifying its reputation as the most watched rivalry in world football.

The argument that Mourinho’s antics – while at times, childish and crude – soiled the purity of El Clásico feels a bit over-stated. After all, it’s not like that match has not had its fair share of notable events, including, team buses being pelted with bricks, a long rap sheet of racist incidents and dangerous projectiles being thrown onto the pitch (including a pigs head that was thrown at the feet of Luis Figo in 2002).

Iniesta’s argument feels even less valid when one considers the financial state of La Liga. If anything has “damaged Spanish football” it’s the financial mismanagement (not to mention the outright corruption) that the league suffers. This year alone, eight out of 20 La Liga clubs are either in administration or have had to drastically restructure their debt.

Much of that blame is due to a system that allows clubs to sell their television rights individually, which disproportionately favors Madrid and Barcelona, leaving smaller clubs in shackles.

Of course, Iniesta’s comments could simply be referring to the mental strain that Mourinho inflicted on Casillas by benching him at Madrid. We’ll see much of a toll the benching has taken on Casillas later this month when La Furia Roja heads to Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Vincent Kompany forced off just nine minutes into Man City’s UCL semi

MADRID, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Pepe of Real Madrid checks on the injured Vincent Kompany of Manchester City  during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Vincent Kompany managed just nine minutes in Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid before going down with a thigh injury.

The City captain pulled up around midfield and immediately went down, replaced by Eliaquim Mangala.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Real Madrid vs. Man City ]

Earlier this season in the Champions League, Kompany lasted just six minutes before leaving the pitch with a calf injury against Dynamo Kiev.

At 30-years-old, injuries have been Kompany’s biggest enemy this season, with the Belgian center-back managing just 13 starts in the Premier League.

Anfield nights: Liverpool prepares for second leg vs Villarreal

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 04:  Dejan Lovren (L) and Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool arrive for a press conference ahead of the UEFA Europa League Semi-Final Second Leg match against Villarreal at Melwood Training Ground on May 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images
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Denis Suarez found Adrian Lopez on a streaking counter attack in the last gasps of stoppage time, breaking 90 minutes worth of stern resilience from Liverpool.

What a difference a minute can make.

Villarreal enters the second leg of its UEFA Europa League semifinal against Liverpool with a 1-0 lead and the knowledge that a draw or one-goal scoring loss will put it into the final.

[ PL PLAYBACK: What does Leicester’s title say for the future? ]

For their part, the Reds will be amped up by the Anfield faithful on Thursday, and Jurgen Klopp will hope to make amends for a Starting XI and substitution set that left Liverpool fans asking, “Why no Sturridge, boss?

Liverpool won’t be too worried, though, given its Europa record when in need of a comeback. The Reds came back to topple Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals, one of the most enthralling matches in recent memory.

Suffice it to say that Reds don’t want to go down 2-0 again, and expect a bit more of a chess match this go-round. Here’s Dejan Lovren, from LiverpoolFC.com:

“[It will be] maybe even more than 90 minutes, so like I said – we need to be clever enough. We don’t just have 20 minutes to play the game, we have 90 minutes so everything is possible. The fans know and are expecting a massive game, but we will take it smarter than the last time [against Dortmund]. It would be a great season for us if we go to the final and win it.”

Klopp opted to rest several regulars in Sunday’s loss to Swansea, with names like Smith, Stewart, Ojo, Chirivella and Ward on the pitch. Those will likely give way to more established names Mignolet, Lucas and Lallana come Friday.

Villarreal is coming off a 2-0 win over Valencia, and holding onto a shutout streak of more than three matches (including Thursday’s win over Liverpool). They’ll have to do very well to hold Liverpool scoreless, but perhaps a road goal will be all “The Yellow Submarine” needs to advance to the final in Basel.

UCL FOLLOW LIVE: Man City looks to upend Real Madrid in Spain

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Pepe of Real Madrid CF battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Manchester City FC and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on April 26, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Real Madrid needs a win at home against Manchester City to give the UEFA Champions League its second Madrid Derby final in three years.

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET from the Bernabeu and, unlike the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the lineup for Real Madrid.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

Man City has Yaya Toure back in the fold, and Vincent Kompany will captain the unit.

To follow live, click here.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Jese, Isco, Ronaldo. Subs: Casilla, Varane, James, Kovacic, Lucas Vazquez, Danilo, Borja Mayoral.

 Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, De Bruyne, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Mangala, Kolarov, Delph, Sterling, Bony, Iheanacho.

Reports say Wambach entering the fields of broadcasting, reporting

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  America soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach  attends the 2016 MAKERS Conference Day 2 at the Terrenea Resort on February 2, 2016 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL)
Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for AOL
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She’s dipped her toes into the pool during the FIFA elections, and now USWNT soccer legend Abby Wambach may have found her second career.

The all-time leading goal scorer in international competition, Wambach will be branching into the media field.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

The Associated Press’ Anne M. Peterson says it’ll be as an analyst and contributor, while Sports Illustrated media mastermind Richard Deitsch expects her to dig a bit deeper into the reporting world.

Many athletes have succeeded in becoming broadcasters, but true reporting is a different animal. This will be an interesting story to follow.

Wambach’s name was in the news earlier this year when she plead guilty for a DUII charge. She retired from the playing field in December.