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‘Minor’ abdominal surgery leaves Theo Walcott out for Arsenal, England

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Theo Walcott, who was a miss for Arsenal during Sunday’s 3-1 win over visiting Stoke, will miss the next three weeks of action, the England international set to have abdominal surgery Wednesday in Germany. Set to undergo a procedure the club described as “minor,” Arsene Wenger’s first choice right wing will miss Wednesday’s League Cup match at West Bromwich Albion, Premier League games at Swansea and West Brom, and the Gunners’ Oct. 1 Champions League tie against visiting Napoli.

The procedure means Walcott will also miss England’s last two World Cup qualifiers. The Three Lions, currently first in Group H, close their qualifying campaign with home matches against Montenegro (Oct. 11) and Poland (Oct. 15).

The club announced the news on their web site earlier today:

The winger missed Sunday’s win over Stoke City after developing slight damage to his posterior abdominal wall. As a result, it has been decided that Theo should undergo the minor procedure, which will enable him to start his recovery immediately afterwards.

Speaking to Arsenal.com, Arsène Wenger said: “Theo will be out for a few weeks. He has developed some damage to his posterior abdominal wall. It’s not a hernia, but it’s a little structural problem in his abdomen.

“He will have the procedure in Germany on Wednesday and, because it’s so minor, we can begin his rehab immediately. We are pleased it’s being dealt with quickly and he shouldn’t miss too many Arsenal matches. But he will miss the forthcoming international matches with England.”

In five all-competition appearances this season, Walcott has a goal and an assist, with his second half goal at Marseille last Wednesday opening the scoring in Arsenal’s 2-1 Champions League win. That production’s been a step own from last season’s break-out, when Walcott posted career highs in goals (21) and assists (14). Thanks to tomorrow’s surgery, Walcott will have to wait until at least Oct. 19’s visit from Norwich City to try to re-capture his form.

More broadly, the injury will further delay Wenger’s opportunity to play his first choice midfield together. Since Mesut Özil’s debut at Sunderland, Santi Cazorla’s been out, the Spaniard having picked up an injury on international duty. While Cazorla may return as early as next Tuesday, we won’t know how Wenger will setup his choice team until after Walcott’s fully healthy.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.