A plague of hamstring problems is taking down the world’s biggest stars. First it was Lionel Messi. Then last weekend, Cristiano Ronaldo joined him. Now Philipp Lahm, so important the Bayern Munich’s early success this season, will miss two games after picking up a right hamstring injury during Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League game in Moscow.
Bayern remained perfect through the first five games of their European title defense, downing Russian champions CSKA Moscow 3-1 at Khimki Arena. Lahm, however, was forced off after 26 minutes, marking the first time in his career the German international has been withdrawn before halftime. Javi Martínez dropped back into Lahm’s defensive midfield role, with Thiago Alcántara coming on to play the match’s final hour.
From the Bundesliga’s official web site:
An initial scan revealed tissue damage to his right thigh and after a return to Munich the club confirmed that the 30-year-old will miss Matchday 14’s Bundesliga fixture against Eintracht Braunschweig as well as the DFB Cup game away to FC Augsburg next week.
Bayern shouldn’t have any trouble in either match, but had this injury come earlier in the season, the team would have been in real trouble. An injury crisis in central midfield forced Lahm from his customary fullback’s role into a spot in front of the defense, a position he’s never played before. Pep Guardiola’s confidence in the 30-year-old’s on-field intelligence led him to use his captain in the middle, a spot he has since played for the German national team.
Now, with Martínez and Alcántara back, Bayern Munich has more cover in central midfield. Guardiola won’t be forced into another improvised solution, though with Bastian Schweinsteiger out until the beginning of the year, the defending Bundesliga champions can scarcely afford a third ailment in central midfield before their league’s winter break.
Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”
Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:
“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.
“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.
Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.
[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]
Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.
Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.
That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.
One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.
[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]
Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.
Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.