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.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.