Wednesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fred to Man City, Matic to Chelsea

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Manchester City are set to turn their attention to Brazil’s Confederations Cup hero Fred, after City cooled their interest in bringing Edinson Cavani to the Etihad. The powerful striker excelled as Brazil lifted the title, as Fred scored five times and netted a double in the final against Spain. The former Lyon striker could cost only $11 million, after Brazilian side Fluminense picked up the 29-year-old on a free transfer. Fred would be the cheaper option, and as he looks set to spearhead Brazil’s attack in next summer’s World Cup, he will no doubt be hungry to keep producing the goods. (Mirror)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be on his way out of Paris Saint-Germain, with the Swedish striker keen on a move to Real Madrid. Ibrahimovic, 31, wants to follow former manager Carlo Ancelotti to the Santiago Bernabeu and could cost just $ 28 million as PSG look for a fast sale. With Gonzalo Higuain on the move, a strikers spot seems to be opening up at Madrid. Is Zlatan the man to help wrestle the Spanish title from Barcelona? Madrid fans may think so. Although his status as former Barca may not help him out, but he did fall out with the Catalan club, so he is likely to be accepted by Madridistas. (Punto Pelota)

Chelsea and Real Madrid are battling it out for Benfica midfielder Nemanja Matic, with the 24-year-old impressing in the Portuguese sides run to the Europa League final last season. Matic is interesting Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, and the Serbian midfielder has a release clause in his contract of $60 million. Whether or not the two European giants are willing to splash that much out on him remains to be seen, especially as Chelsea let him leave Stamford Bridge two season ago. But his quick feet and incredible engine would see him dominate the midfield, wherever he ends up. Chelsea have a good relationship with Benfica, after taking Ramires and David Luiz from them in recent times. Could Matic be next in line? (Metro)

Liverpool now face competition from Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund for Henrik Mkhitaryan. The 24-year-old Armenian star has long been admired by Brendan Rodgers but Shakthar Donestk have claimed no bid matching his valuation. With Dortmund now involved, Liverpool may up their bid to try and land their man before the start of preseason really kicks in. Mkhitaryan scored 25 goals from midfield last season and his slick passing style has seen interest flood in. Liverpool would be a great setting for his talents. But can the Reds afford him? (Goal.com)

Gareth Barry is set for a move to either Arsenal or Tottenham, as the Manchester City midfielder has been told he can leave the Etihad. Barry, 32, has spent four seasons at City after leaving Aston Villa. But perhaps now is the time to leave after a disappointing season last year. However he has plenty of options. His great range of passing and composure make him a good fit for Arsenal. But will he start for Arsene Wenger’s side? And with Spurs buying Paulinho, Barry’s best option could be with the Gunners. However his $150,000 a week wages are a big stumbling block. (The Sun)

More: Tuesday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup, El Shaarway to Chelsea, Cavani to PSG

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.”