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Metalist Kharkiv disqualified from Champions League after match-fixing

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After an investigation into alleged match-fixing, Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv have been thrown out of the UEFA Champions League.

The Ukrainian Premier League champions will not feature in Europe’s elite club competition for the 2103-14 season, after making it to the play-off round and one match away from the Champions League group stages.

“The UEFA Appeals Body carefully analyzed the statements and documents submitted by the club, as well as the statements and documents submitted by the UEFA Disciplinary Inspector and reached the following decision: FC Metalist Kharkiv are disqualified from the 2013/14 UEFA competitions.”

Their UCL play-off  first-leg match against Bundelisga side Schalke was set for next Wednesday, August 21. But now the UEFA Emergency Panel will hold a meeting later today to decide what will happen next.

What a mess.

This all started on August 6, when European soccer’s governing body announced they would be investigating match-fixing allegations against the club side from Eastern Ukraine, and now they’ve banished them from the most lucrative competition in world soccer.

But what will happen to the open spot now available?

The smart thing to do would be reinstating Greek side PAOK FC who lost to Kharkiv in the third-qualifying round. However, it’s likely that Metalist Kharkiv will be issuing an appeal to the European Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

(MORE: UEFA bans Turkish sides Fenerbache and Besiktas)

Does that sound familiar? It should. Because Turkish side Fenerbache are going through that whole process right now as they aim to play in the Champions League group stages this season. The Istanbul based club has come under similar allegations from UEFA and was banned from European soccer, however they’ve appealed to CAS and their case will be heard on August 28.

But there lies the problem. Fenerbache were drawn against English side Arsenal in the UCL play-off round and will have already played the first-leg of their match before their case is heard by CAS. They will find out their fate on either the day of their second-leg match, or the day before they play the Gunners.

Like I said, all very messy.

However, you have to hand it to UEFA for giving out incredibly hefty bans for any kind of match-fixing or improper conduct. It will likely cost these clubs around $45-50 million and that will make them think twice about doing it again.

(MORE: Arsenal handed tough Champions League draw against Fenerbache)

That said, with two teams in the final stages of UEFA Champions League qualifying embroiled in match-fixing, it doesn’t do much to promote the image of European soccer.

UEFA is trying to clean things up but it could take some time. And it will certainly get cloudier as the weeks and months go by. Stand by, more news on this to come later today.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.