Lionel Messi and Carles Puyol chat up Gerard Martino as next Barcelona manager

Leave a comment

It’s looking more and more like Gerard Martino will be the next manager of Barcelona Football Club.

Lionel Messi and Carles Puyol have spoken favorably about Martino as the Argentine manager has emerged as the favorite to succeed Tito Vilanova at the Camp Nou.

Messi told Diario Ole: “I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. He gets his teams playing well and we all respect him.”

The World Player of the Year and Martino share a few notable connections, the biggest being that the pair are both from the city of Rosario. In addition, Messi began his career in the youth ranks at Newell’s Old Boys, the Argentinian side where Martino starred as a player and managed to the Argentinian Clausura title this past season.

Martino, who is out of contract at Newell’s, is currently holding talks with Barcelona’s sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, in Buenos Aires. Puyol discussed Martino in a post-training news conference on Monday noting that the 50 year old’s philosophies chime well with Barcelona’s playing style.

Puyol said in a post-training news conference that he was sure sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and the club’s board would hire a coach able to adapt to Barca’s possession-based ethic.

“We know about his career, he is a very good coach,” the Blaugrana captain said. “He likes Barcelona’s playing style.” Puyol went on to add that when Spain met Martino’s Paraguay in the 2010 World Cup, which La Furia Roja won 1-0, he recalled in being “a very difficult, very hard game.”

Besides Martino, the candidates favored to succeed Vilanova include Luis Enrique, Frank de Boer, Rubi, Michael Laudrup, Jurgen Klopp, Marcelo Bielsa and Roberto Mancini. Jupp Heynckes and Feyenoord’s Ronald Koeman have both ruled themselves out of the position.

2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist revealed

AP Photo/John Raoux
Leave a comment

The 2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist is up, and fan voting counts.

Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Christian Pulisic are among the nominees for Men’s Player of the Year. Philadelphia Union’s Jamaican backstop, Andre Blake, is also on the list along with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and others.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

The Female Player of the Year is predictably American-heavy, with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz, Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, and Tobin Heath competing with a trio of international players.

Tim Howard is the only American up for Male Goalkeeper of the Year, though Blake is again in the running. The female side has American backstops Adrianna Franch, Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, Jane Campbell, and Nicole Barnhart.

The full ballot, including Best XI, coaches, referees, and goals, is up for your votes here.

UCL: Chelsea advances vs. 10-man Qarabag (video)

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Leave a comment
  • Chelsea into knockout rounds
  • Willian draws two penalties, scores two more
  • Hazard, Fabregas score

Willian scored two goals from the run of play and drew a pair of penalties in Azerbaijan, as Chelsea beat 10-man Qarabag 4-0 on Wednesday.

His second goal was a fantastic thump from atop the arc, and further iced the result in the 85th minute.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Qarabag hung tough for the first 20 minutes, but saw its odds of getting a point take a hit with a penalty and red card.

Rashad Sadygov made contact with Willian inside the 18, and Portuguese referee Manuel de Sousa awarded a penalty. That was understandable, but surprisingly he produced his red card to send Qarabag down a man.

Eden Hazard converted his low penalty, wrong footing keeper Ibrahim Sehic, and Chelsea took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

Willian would score a goal of his own in the 36th, part of a terrific team goal with Hazard and Pedro.

The Blues were largely content to let Qarabag have the ball early in the second half, but resumed control around the hour mark and Sehic made an outstanding stop on Hazard before substitute Alvaro Morata dragged a shot wide of the far post.

Willian drew a second penalty in the 71st minute, as Maksim Medvedev tugged on the Brazilian’s jersey on a dribble into the 18. Yellow card for this foul.

Cesc Fabregas scored but two Chelsea players infringed on the 18 thanks to the shooter’s stuttering — and stopping — PK. He finished the second as well as the first. 3-0.

Willian added the fourth with a vicious strike five minutes from the end of scheduled play.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia fires coach Edgardo Bauza

Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia has fired coach Edgardo Bauza nine days before the draw.

The Saudi Arabia Football Federation announced the Argentine coach’s exit after only five friendlies in charge. The team lost to Portugal and Bulgaria this month.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

Bauza has been fired twice this year by teams in the World Cup lineup. He lost the Argentina job in April, after eight months in charge, when the two-time World Cup champions risked missing out on qualification.

In September, Bauza was appointed by Saudi Arabia to replace Bert van Marwijk, who was fired despite leading the team to its first World Cup since 2006.

Saudi Arabia joins Australia without a coach for the World Cup draw in Moscow on Dec. 1.

FOLLOW LIVE: Man Utd in Champions League

Martin Rickett/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Manchester United is in Basel as one of six 2:45 p.m. ET Wednesday kickoffs, as the Red Devils can qualify for the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League.

Jose Mourinho’s men line up like this: Romero; Darmian, Rojo, Smalling, Blind; Pogba, Herrera, Fellaini; Lingard, Lukaku, Martial

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Champions League scores ]

There was a Premier League side in action to kick off another day of UEFA Champions League action.

Chelsea picked up a 3-0 win versus Azerbaijan side Qarabag in Baku on Wednesday, boosting the Blues into the knockout rounds. CSKA Moscow beat Benfica in Russia at the same time.

Full schedule
Qarabag 0-4 Chelsea — RECAP
CSKA Moscow 2-0 Benfica — Shchennikov scores winner
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Celtic — 2:45 p.m. ET
Juventus vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. Roma — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon vs. Olympiacos — 2:45 p.m. ET
Anderlecht vs. Bayern Munich — 2:45 p.m. ET
Basel vs. Manchester United — 2:45 p.m. ET