This is probably Víctor Valdés’s last year at Barcelona, and with the 31-year-old Spanish international seemingly improving with age, his last moments with the Blaugrana are becoming precious – a time to reflect on a 12-year, 13-major trophy run. Unfortunately, thanks to an injury incurred during Spain’s Tuesday loss in South Africa (yes, you read that right), Barça’s number one could be looking at six weeks on the sideline, the free agent-to-be having suffered a suspected torn calf.
With neither Real nor Atlético Madrid on their upcoming schedule, and given Barca’s Champions League group is under control, this is as good a time as any for Barcelona to lose there’s number one. Although Valdés has played every minute in both La Liga and Champions League, there’s nothing on the upcoming fixture list that Jose Manuel Pinto can’t handle, provided the volatile veteran stays on the field. With the Barcelona’s stiffest upcoming challenge being Villarreal on Dec. 14, Pinto should have plenty of time to shake off the rust before a visit from the Yellow Submarine.
Injury accumulation, however, is a small concern for Barcelona, the strain of seasons on seasons of overloaded schedules potentially catching up to them. Lionel Messi will be out until the new year with a reoccurrence of his hamstring problems. Left back Jordi Alba has been out since early in the season, Cristian Tello is expected to miss this weekend’s game, and Xavi Hernandez is still a doubt. Though a Barcelona squad that has more depth than the Pep Guardiola years is better equipped to deal with these absences, the threat of another season compromised by injuries is starting to rear its head. If Messi (in particular) doesn’t get healthy, there may be no additions to Barça’s trophy case this season.
But like Valdes, Messi’s expected back in January, though you wouldn’t begrudge head coach Gerardo Martino taking a red Sharpie to the Jan. 11 box on his calendar. That’s the day Barcelona makes their annual trip to the Vicente Calderon, where Atlético will pose a legitimate title threat.
With Messi and Valdés, Barcelona should be ever so slight favorites to win that match. Without either, Barça become much more vulnerable in a game that could not open the door for Atleti. It could also bring Real Madrid back into the title race.
NYON, Switzerland (AP) Turkey has given UEFA its hosting plan for the 2024 European Championship, citing “unprecedented state support” to help beat Germany to stage the 24-team tournament.
Turkish soccer federation president Yildirim Demiroren says the latest attempt is “our best bid ever.” Ten stadiums proposed include two in Istanbul.
Turkey bid with Greece for EURO 2008, then alone for the 2012 and 2016 editions.
[ MORE: TFC’s “heart has been ripped from chest” ]
Before UEFA chose a multi-nation EURO 2020 hosting plan, Turkey was strongly favored before focusing on Istanbul’s failed 2020 Olympic bid.
Turkey has never hosted a major soccer tournament. West Germany hosted the eight-team EURO 1988 and a unified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup.
The UEFA executive committee will pick a winner on Sept. 27 in Nyon.
A pivotal weekend in the Premier League is coming up, especially in the race for the top four and battle against relegation.
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The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.
Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.
[ STREAM: Premier League live here ]
You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.
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If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.
Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.
FULL TV SCHEDULE
7:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Stoke City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Bournemouth – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. West Bromwich Albion – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Brighton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Chelsea – NBC [STREAM]
9:15 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Watford – NBCSN [STREAM]
One of Morocco’s best young players isn’t going to get ideal World Cup preparation, and could even lose his place in the team if things don’t turn around at Southampton.
Southampton’s one-time record signing Sofiane Boufal has been banished to the U-23 side after refusing to warm up in Saints loss to Chelsea last weekend.
[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]
The refusal reportedly led to a dust-up with manager Mark Hughes in the dressing room after Saints came-from-ahead to lose 3-2.
Hughes says everything is better now, but there needs to be punishment for Boufal’s actions. This means one of Saints’ most talented attackers won’t be a part of their desperate battle to overcome relegation (at least not soon).
From the Guardian:
“Given where we are at the moment, he’s probably best served training with a different group just to make people aware the situation we found ourselves in wasn’t what should have happened. He understands that now. He probably needs to rebuild a bit of trust with us and his team-mates. That’s what we’re working on. He won’t be involved this weekend. We’ll have to wait and see [whether he can return this season].”
“He’s remorseful about it, which he needed to be, and we’ll build him back up to be in the group again. But the time for that isn’t now. It’s about him biding his time, doing the right things, until he’s reintegrated.”
Boufal has two goals and two assists in 26 games (11 starts) since arriving from arriving from Lille for around $22 million. He has six caps for Morocco.
There was a terrible incident in Liverpool on Tuesday when a Reds supporter was set upon by Roma fans and left in critical condition.
Sean Cox, 53, was attacked outside a pub before Liverpool’s 5-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.
[ MORE: LFC 5-2 Roma | Klopp reacts ]
Liverpool has released its plans to keep supporters safe should they be among the 5,000 with tickets in Rome on Wednesday (via LiverpoolFC.com), pledging the “most comprehensive safety and security advice.”
The club has taken the exceptional measure of requesting an extraordinary meeting in the Italian capital, which will take place on Friday April 27. … At the behest of Liverpool, club officials will join AS Roma, UEFA and the relevant Italian police and security services to discuss specific ongoing concerns.
Merseyside Police chief superintendent Dave Charnock backed up Roma’s police demand that Liverpool fans without tickets skip the trip to Italy. According to the BBC, Liverpool was asked to put fans names on their tickets to the game.
“While we understand and appreciate that many Liverpool fans will want to travel to Rome, I would encourage fans who do not have tickets to not travel,” he said.
AS Roma, for its part, posted a photo of Cox with the statement, “His recovery and the safety of all fans attending football matches, is the only thing that matters now.”