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.

FA Cup: Man Utd drawn vs. Brighton in QF; Chelsea to face Leicester

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Three more Premier League sides joined Chelsea and Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Saturday, followed by the draw for the final eight…

[ WATCH: Lionel Messi finds Luis Suarez with a brilliant through ball ]

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United

Romelu Lukaku‘s first season at Man United has been, on the whole, quietly fruitful (12 PL goals, plus another 8 in other competitions), though his $96-million price tag continues to loom large. On Saturday, the big Belgian fired the Red Devils into the final eight with a brace against fellow Premier Leaguers Huddersfield.

It was 1-0 after just three minutes, when Lukaku slotted home to finish a quick counter attack set forth by a brilliant through ball from Juan Mata.

Mata made it 2-0 just before halftime, but the goal was wiped away after utilizing the video-assistant refereeing system. They don’t get much closer than this one.

United’s second came 10 minutes into the second half, when Alexis Sanchez took his turn playing Lukaku into acres of wide open space.

When the draw was made following the conclusion of Saturday’s game, we learned that United will host another PL side, Brighton & Hove Albion, in the next round.

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Coventry City

That’s because Brighton brushed aside League 2 side Coventry City to reach their first quarterfinal since 1986.

Jurgen Locadia, Connor Goldson and Leonardo Ulloa bagged the goals for the ‘Gulls.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Southampton

Southampton are also through to the quarterfinals, thanks to their 2-1 victory away to West Brom. Salomon Rondon’s stunning volley undoubtedly stole the headlines (WATCH HERE), but Saints are the ones to advance, thanks to goals scored by Wesley Hoedt (11th minute) and Dusan Tadic (56th).

In the next round, Southampton will be away to the winner of Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City (Monday, 2:55 p.m. ET).

Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Swansea City

The last thing relegation battlers Swansea City would have wanted is for a replay to be shoehorned into their remaining schedule, but Carlos Carvalhal’s side was unable to best Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, thus a replay at the Liberty Stadium on a yet-to-be-determined date over the next month.

Full quarterfinal draw

Sheffield Wednesday/Swansea City vs. Rochdale/Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Leicester City vs. Chelsea
Wigan Athletic/Manchester City vs. Southampton

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Rochdale vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City — 2:55 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern wins it late, Leverkusen goes second

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It looked like Bayern Munich was on pace to drop points for just the fifth time this season, but then the club’s star striker stepped up in the biggest of moments.

[ MORE: TFC on the brink of adding Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ager Aketxe ]

The German leaders came back to pick up a 2-1 victory on the road at Wolfsburg after Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick in stoppage time.

Sandro Wagner’s second-half header had pulled the match level off of an Arjen Robben cross in the 64th minute. Robben atoned for an earlier penalty-kick miss, which would have tied the match ten minutes prior.

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke were each big winners on the day, with the two clubs moving into the top four.

Leverkusen’s 2-1 win on the road against Hertha Berlin saw Heiko Herrlich and his side move up to second place in the Bundesliga, albeit a lengthy distance behind leaders Bayern.

Schalke took care of business at home against Hoffenheim, bringing the Miners one step closer to the top four. The side is now level on 37 points with Borussia Dortmund for fourth, but the Christian Pulisic and Co. currently boast a superior goal differential.

Below are all of Saturday’s scores from around Germany’s top flight.

Cologne 1-1 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg 1-0 Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg 1-1 Bayern Munich
Schalke 2-1 Hoffenheim

Rodchenkov to AP: Russian footballers immune from drug bans

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Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claims he helped soccer players in the country to avoid being caught doping after he followed government orders to ensure cheating was covered up.

[ MORE: Mourinho denies Pogba exit rumors ]

The former Russian anti-doping laboratory director told The Associated Press in response to questions through his lawyer that an instruction to avoid scandal came from Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is the former Russian sports minister who serves as deputy prime minster despite being at the center of the doping deception controversy exposed by Rodchenkov.

The focus is sharpening on doping practices in Russian soccer with the World Cup kicking off in Moscow in four months.

Rodchenkov says “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

Rodchenkov claimed Mutko said “avoid any scandal by hiding positive results” and that “doping would be handled internally”.

Video: Rondon’s exquisite volley not enough to save West Brom

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Salomon Rondon’s second-half volley was not only a beauty, but one of tremendous difficulty.

Unfortunately for he and his West Bromwich Albion side, though, it wasn’t enough for the Baggies to survive in this season’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Southampton.

[ MORE: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in for Barcelona opener ]

The Saints progressed to the quarterfinals on Saturday behind goals from Wesley Hoedt and Dusan Tadic, and join fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Brighton & Hove and Leicester City in the final eight.

Tadic’s goal came in the 56th minute, doubling the Southampton lead, but Rondon’s quality volley two minutes later provided West Brom with a temporary moment of relief (below).