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.

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern wins it late, Leverkusen goes second

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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It looked like Bayern Munich was on pace to drop points for just the fifth time this season, but then the club’s star striker stepped up in the biggest of moments.

[ MORE: TFC on the brink of adding Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ager Aketxe ]

The German leaders came back to pick up a 2-1 victory on the road at Wolfsburg after Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick in stoppage time.

Sandro Wagner’s second-half header had pulled the match level off of an Arjen Robben cross in the 64th minute. Robben atoned for an earlier penalty-kick miss, which would have tied the match ten minutes prior.

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke were each big winners on the day, with the two clubs moving into the top four.

Leverkusen’s 2-1 win on the road against Hertha Berlin saw Heiko Herrlich and his side move up to second place in the Bundesliga, albeit a lengthy distance behind leaders Bayern.

Schalke took care of business at home against Hoffenheim, bringing the Miners one step closer to the top four. The side is now level on 37 points with Borussia Dortmund for fourth, but the Christian Pulisic and Co. currently boast a superior goal differential.

Below are all of Saturday’s scores from around Germany’s top flight.

Cologne 1-1 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg 1-0 Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg 1-1 Bayern Munich
Schalke 2-0 Hoffenheim

Rodchenkov to AP: Russian footballers immune from drug bans

60 Minutes
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Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claims he helped soccer players in the country to avoid being caught doping after he followed government orders to ensure cheating was covered up.

[ MORE: Mourinho denies Pogba exit rumors ]

The former Russian anti-doping laboratory director told The Associated Press in response to questions through his lawyer that an instruction to avoid scandal came from Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is the former Russian sports minister who serves as deputy prime minster despite being at the center of the doping deception controversy exposed by Rodchenkov.

The focus is sharpening on doping practices in Russian soccer with the World Cup kicking off in Moscow in four months.

Rodchenkov says “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

Rodchenkov claimed Mutko said “avoid any scandal by hiding positive results” and that “doping would be handled internally”.

Video: Rondon’s exquisite volley not enough to save West Brom

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Salomon Rondon’s second-half volley was not only a beauty, but one of tremendous difficulty.

Unfortunately for he and his West Bromwich Albion side, though, it wasn’t enough for the Baggies to survive in this season’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Southampton.

[ MORE: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in for Barcelona opener ]

The Saints progressed to the quarterfinals on Saturday behind goals from Wesley Hoedt and Dusan Tadic, and join fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Brighton & Hove and Leicester City in the final eight.

Tadic’s goal came in the 56th minute, doubling the Southampton lead, but Rondon’s quality volley two minutes later provided West Brom with a temporary moment of relief (below).

Video: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in on goal

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With a blockbuster UEFA Champions League clash against Chelsea right around the corner for Barcelona, the Spanish league leaders look on pace to extend their perfect La Liga record.

[ MORE: Willian dazzles for Chelsea in FA Cup win over Hull ]

Despite rumors that Lionel Messi and some of Barcelona’s biggest stars would be rested ahead of Tuesday’s match against the London side, the Argentine superstar not only started at Eibar on Saturday, but made a brilliant impact in the 17th minute.

Messi linked up with Luis Suarez after playing the Uruguayan through towards goal from a tremendous defense-splitting pass that sent the striker in for the 1-0 lead.

Barcelona has yet to lose in domestic competition this season, boasting an 18-5-0 record heading into Saturday’s meeting with Eibar. Additionally, Messi and Co. currently hold a plus-49 goal differential, which was lifted to plus-50 with Suarez’s finish.

The Blaugrana are the last team in Europe’s five major leagues to remain unbeaten in league play.