Fraser Forster or John Ruddy to start for England with Joe Hart temporarily benched

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Joe Hart’s poor form with Manchester City has officially bitten him at the international level too.

With Roy Hodgson having told reporters earlier in the week that Hart will be sat for at least one of England’s two upcoming friendlies in this international break, the England manager confirmed today that he will remain on the bench against Chile on Friday.

That means it will be either Celtic’s Fraser Forster or Norwich’s John Ruddy to don the gloves and try to put pressure on Hart’s place.

Both men are in their mid 20’s and have just one cap between the two – Ruddy’s second-half appearance against Italy in 2012 remains the only appearance for either ‘keeper.

The development is an interesting one, but still doesn’t give us a good enough peek into Hodgson’s mind in regards to the embattled City stopper.  Hodgson has done a complete U-turn in his opinion of Hart’s job security.

Back in October, when Hart was beginning to get national attention for his struggles, Hodgson backed Hart to remain his number 1 between the sticks no matter the situation at City.

‘I’m not blind to the situation, I do realise it is not a good moment for Joe” said Hodgson on October 3 before England’s final round of World Cup qualifiers. “He is a proud man and a very good goalkeeper and I am sure when he is criticisied he is unhappy. I still believe in Joe, I believe he is the right man for the job and I don’t believe he will let England down.”

However, now Hodgson isn’t so sure.  He uses terms like “for now” and “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” when discussing his struggling starter.

source: Getty Images
Fraser Forster’s fine form with Celtic in Scotland has made him the favorite to get the start over the temporarily benched Joe Hart

“Joe has only lost his place one game ago” said the England boss back on Monday. “That might be a more relevant consideration for me in March or February even – if it’s gone three months, he’s been replaced and never gets a game. I’ll have to cross that bridge if we come to it. For now, I’m still picking him.”

Tomorrow’s match with nothing on the line is a good chance for Hodgson to see exactly what he has waiting in the wings.

Fraser Forster has had the most noise surrounding his selection, given his excellent form with Celtic, especially on the biggest stage.  In the Champions League qualification stage, Forster had a blinder, picking up five clean sheets in Celtic’s six matches.

After Celtic drew Barcelona, AC Milan, and Ajax in the group stage – about as difficult as it could have possibly been – Forster has not kept a clean sheet but has only conceded five goals in the four matches.

On the domestic stage, the 25-year-old has three clean sheets in twelve matches as Celtic remain unbeaten thus far into the Scottish Premiership season.

For Ruddy, it’s been a rougher go so far this season as Norwich have underperformed and their manager Chris Houghton has come under fire.  However, the 27-year-old remains a good, experienced choice despite his lack of caps, as opposed to some of the younger options in Jack Butland and David Stockdale.

What Hodgson chooses to do with Hart remains to be seen, but it’s clear he’s starting to lose faith just like Pellegrini, and tomorrow’s friendly against Chile is a perfect opportunity for someone to plant even more doubt in their manager’s mind.

Mourinho slams critics, reveals team news; Fellaini update

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Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are almost back to full strength but he has a few concerns.

The Red Devils host Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Mourinho now having just a handful of injury concerns.

Long-term absentees Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo have all returned to action over the past week, while Mourinho has a small defensive problem with Eric Bailly and Phil Jones out for the visit of the newly-promoted Seagulls.

“They are out. But we are okay because we have [Chris] Smalling, [Marcos] Rojo and [Victor] Lindelof,” Mourinho said.

He also said that Pogba isn’t yet able to play a full 90 minutes as he continue his recovery from a hamstring injury, while Zlatan is improving all the time after jumping off the bench in the victory over Newcastle United last weekend and the midweek defeat at Basel in the UEFA Champions League.

“I prefer him [Ibrahimovic] on the pitch than off the pitch,” Mourinho said. “On the pitch, he’s another option for us and he’s an option of quality. His physicality and his intelligence, the way he moves, the way he plays. But he needs time. We managed to give him 15/20 minutes in both matches, he needs more of that, so hopefully, tomorrow, we play him again.”

Mourinho also took exception to a question about the criticism his team receives about their defensive style of play, with the Portuguese coach pointing towards United’s superb home record this season.

“I don’t know who is more ambitious than us,” Mourinho said. “We played against Newcastle with Pogba, Rashford, Martial, Mata, Lukaku, the full backs are not full backs, everybody knows they are wingers, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. So, I don’t know what you want.”

United have won all six PL home games this season and have scored 19 goals, conceding just once. So, yeah, he has a point but they only real test they’ve had so far at home was against Tottenham Hotspur.

Aside from an injury update and hitting back at critics, Mourinho also gave an update on Fellaini’s contract situation and revealed he is concerned the Belgian midfielder may leave.

Fellaini, 30, is out of contract at the end of the season and Mourinho has praised the lanky midfielder on numerous occasions over the past few months. Is he worried Fellaini will leave for nothing?

“Yeah,” Mourinho said. “This is a discussion between the player and the board. I’m not involved in contracts, in deals, and I respect both – I respect the player because he has the right to decide his future. So I just wait wishing they will have an understanding, but it’s out of my control.”

Bayern fans unhappy with Champions League ticket prices

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich fans were unhappy with the price of tickets for their team’s match at Anderlecht in the Champions League.

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The fans held banners during Wednesday’s game saying, “Are your necks not full? Is your greed now finally satisfied?”

A Bayern fan group, Club Nr. 12, issued a statement saying Anderlecht had made 85 percent of the tickets available to the German club’s fans priced at 100 euros ($118).

“Even by the standards of the generally high-priced Champions League, this represents a new dimension for a first-round game,” said the statement, which thanked Bayern for supplementing the tickets so fans had could pay 70 euros ($82.50).

Many Bayern fans avoided the trip to Brussels altogether, while 91 percent of more than 2,500 Club Nr. 12 members said in a survey that ticket prices were “completely unacceptable.”

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Anderlecht spokesman David Steegen told The Associated Press that Bayern fans were charged “exactly the same price” as home fans who bought single tickets to the game. He said fans who bought a three-game Champions League bundle were offered a reduction.

UEL roundup: AC Milan advances after big win; Arsenal, Everton fall

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Both Premier League sides fell in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League play, but for one side the result didn’t effect their progression into the next round.

[ MORE: Ex-Brazil forward Robinho handed nine-year prison sentence ]

Arsenal dropped a 1-0 result to Cologne, however, the Gunners still moved into the Round of 32 after their Group H counterparts, Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov settled for a scoreless draw.

Meanwhile, Everton’s 2017/18 woes continued on the day as the Toffees suffered a brutal 5-1 defeat at home against Serie A side Atalanta. The win secures Atalanta’s place in the knockout phase, along with fellow Group E club Lyon — who also won on Thursday.

AC Milan put up five goals of its own in a convincing win against Austria Wien, while Lazio, Nice and Red Bull Salzburg were among the other sides to move into the next round after picking up the necessary results.

Below are all of the scores from Thursday’s Europa League action.

Astana 2-3 Villareal
Konyaspor 1-1 Marseille
Rosenborg 0-1 Real Sociedad
Lazio 1-1 Vitesse
Viktoria Plzen 2-0 Steaua Bucuresti
Lokomotiv 2-1 Copenhagen
Zenit 2-1 Vardar
Red Bull Salzburg 3-0 Vitoria
Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Hertha Berlin
BATE 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
Ostersunds 2-0 Zorya
Koln 1-0 Arsenal
Nice 3-1 Zulte Waregem
Lugano 1-0 Beer-Sheva
Ludogorets 1-2 Istanbul
Braga 3-1 Hoffenheim
AEK 2-2 Rijeka
AC Milan 5-1 Austria Vienna
Lyon 4-0 Apollon
Maccabi Tel Aviv 0-2 Slavia Praha
Sheriff 1-0 Zlin
Partizan 2-1 Young Boys
Skenderbeu 3-2 Dynamo Kyiv
Everton 1-5 Atalanta

Ex-Brazil forward Robinho sentenced to nine years in prison

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Former Brazil international Robinho has been sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of rape on an Albanian woman back in 2013.

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At the time, Robinho was playing for Serie A side AC Milan.

The court decision came down on Thursday after the 33-year-old forward had failed to attend any court hearings in Italy, where the crime reportedly took place.

Robinho is believed to have acted in the crime with five other Brazilians, to which their whereabouts are unknown to this point.

Reuters has reported that Robinho is entitled to up to two appeals and “Italy would only launch extradition proceedings once this legal process is exhausted.”

The Brazilian is known for his club playing days at AC Milan and Manchester City, among other clubs in addition to his time with the Selecao. Robinho took part in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups with Brazil.