Tito Vilanova’s full resignation letter – a thank you to Barcelona

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Sticking with the Tito Vilanova story, the 44 year old has published an open letter to Barcelona’s fans regarding his decision to step down as he undergoes further treatment in his fight against cancer.

The letter reads:

“Thank you Barcelona, thank you everyone.

“After five marvellous years as part of a team that would make any trainer’s dreams come true, the time has come for me to deal with a change in my professional life in order for me to devote my strength and energy to continuing to treat the illness I was diagnosed with 18 months ago.

“In the opinion of the doctors, the treatment I must now follow does not recommend me to devote one hundred per cent of my time to the tasks involved in being in charge of a club with the demands of FC Barcelona. However, I will continue to be close by and I will continue to work with the club I love so much in other sporting areas.

“Leaving a group of such special people is not easy, the players, colleagues and friends that I have shared so many unforgettable experiences with. I will be eternally grateful to them for everything they have given me and what they have shown me. The human and footballing quality of this team is up to any test and I’m convinced that it will face the new sporting challenges, which should be exciting for everyone, with all the ability it possesses.

“I would also like to give special thanks to the president, the board of directors and the sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, for the confidence they have shown in me and, most importantly, their unconditional support on a sporting and personal level.

“What is equally important to me is the medical and human support I have received from doctor Ramon Canal and his team of doctors at my side. I know I’m not playing this match alone, I’m part of a supportive club that will help me move forward in this long process, exactly as they have done until now.

“I would also like to thank all of you, members and fans of Barca, from the bottom of my heart for the support and affection you have shown, not just now but throughout the past few months. I just want to let you know that I feel calm and strong, and I’m dealing with this new stage in the process of my illness fully confident that everything will be OK.

“Thank you football fans, colleagues in the profession, clubs, sportsmen and women, the people I know, and people I don’t, for all your messages of support that have comforted both me and my family.

“These are difficult times for those close to me, which is why I have asked the media for respect and understanding. Now that I am no longer the trainer of Barcelona I hope to be able to have the peace and privacy that my family and I require at this moment in time.

“I did not want to finish this letter without wishing luck and every success to the new trainer of the best team in the world.

“Thank you everyone.

“Tito Vilanova.”

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Nice-Napoli headlines action

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With Celtic (just about) booking their spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday, four more teams will join them.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Napoli, Olympiacos, Sevilla and Hapoel Be’er Sheva all have narrow leads heading into the second legs which sets things up rather nicely for the winner takes all second legs. Olympiacos and Be’er Sheva will be feeling particularly nervous after conceding at home in the first leg.

On Wednesday five more ties takes place across Europe with Liverpool looking to book their spot in the UCL group stage against Hoffenheim.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all four matches.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff second legs

Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Astana 4-3 Celtic (Celtic advance 8-4 on aggregate)
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel Be’er Sheva lead 2-1 on aggregate)

LIVE – Premier League clubs enter League Cup

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Seven Premier League teams enter the League Cup second round on Tuesday with plenty of potential upsets lined up.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

All 13 PL clubs (six more are in action on Wednesday) face teams from the lower leagues with the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Swansea City all on upset alert.

U.S. national team players to watch out for include Lynden Gooch who starts for Sunderland and Emerson Hyndman who is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Below is the schedule for the League Cup games on Tuesday with all games to kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 2:30pm
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
QPR vs. Brentford
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Doncaster vs. Hull City
Grimsby Town vs. Derby County
Brighton vs. Barnet
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Watford vs. Bristol City
MK Dons vs. Swansea City
Reading vs. Millwall – 3pm
Bolton vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 3pm

Celtic qualify for UEFA Champions League group stage

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Celtic survived a scare in Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second season on the trot.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Brendan Rodgers‘ side beat FC Astana 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff last week at Celtic Park but the trip to Kazakhstan proved much trickier with Astana leading 4-1 late in the game which had pulled the score back to 6-4 on aggregate.

However, Scott Sinclair had scored a priceless away goal to make it 1-1 at half time and despite a late flurry of goals for the hosts Olivier Ntcham scored a deflected effort and Leigh Griffiths wrapped things up late on as Celtic lost 4-3 on the night but went through 8-4 on aggregate.

Last season the Scottish champions went out in the UCL group stage after being drawn with Manchester City, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time around.

Premier League clubs on League Cup upset alert

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The second round of the League Cup (known as the Carabao Cup in 2017-18 for sponsorship reasons) kicks off on Tuesday with 13 Premier League clubs in action.

[ MORE: League Cup scores live ]

All 13 have been drawn against lower-league opposition and those klaxons you can hear signify upset alerts.

Below is a look at how each Premier League club will get on as they enter the competition on Tuesday and Wednesday with a ranking on each game out of 10, with 10 being the most likely for an upset to occur.

Remember: the seven PL teams in European competition will enter the League Cup in the third round.


Upset alert ranking for PL clubs

Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 8/10
Brighton vs. Barnet – 4/10
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom – 7/10
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City – 6/10
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth – 7/10
Watford vs. Bristol City – 5/10
MK Dons vs. Swansea City – 5/10

Wednesday
Newcastle United vs. Nottingham Forest – 6/10
Southampton vs. Wolves – 7/10
Huddersfield Town vs. Rotherham United – 7/10
Cheltenham vs. West Ham United – 8/10
Stoke City vs. Rochdale – 6/10
Blackburn Rovers vs. Burnley – 6/10