Lionel Messi available to return Wednesday against Getafe

Leave a comment

Barcelona team doctors have cleared Lionel Messi to return from injury for Wednesday’s Copa del Rey match against Getafe.

Messi has spent the last two months sidelined with a hamstring tear suffered on November 10th in the 4-1 win over Real Betis.

Last year’s Balon d’Or winner has endured an injury-plagued season but returned to training at Barcelona last week after an extended rehabilitation stint in his native Argentina.

While he remains available to feature, Messi’s status as a starter or substitute has yet to be determined as manager Gerardo Martino noted Tuesday the playmaker ‘”feels fine” but failed to discuss his plan.

“Messi rehabbed well and has trained like the rest of the team,” Martino said. “Maybe he lacks some playing time, but with Leo I don’t think that will be a problem. Messi gives us all a boost of confidence. With him at our side, we all feel more secure.”

Following Messi’s injury last November, Barcelona defeated Granada before losing 1-2 to Ajax in the Champions League and 0-1 to Athletic Bilbao in La Liga. Since then, the Blaugrana have ripped off six straight victories in all competitions.

That form has ensured Barcelona top spot in La Liga (tied on points with Atletico Madrid but with a five goal advantage) and a Round of 16 place in both the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

Wednesday’s home match against Getafe is the first of the two-legged affair, with the return leg set for the Coliseum Alfonso Perez on January 16th.

Mendy a doubt for start of Man City’s Premier League season

Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Leave a comment

High-flying left back Benjamin Mendy‘s Manchester City takeoff has been delayed by a thigh injury.

Pep Guardiola revealed Thursday that Mendy is doubtful for City’s Aug. 12 Premier League opener at Brighton and Hove Albion despite passing a medical to push through a $68 million move from Monaco.

Saying Mendy is “a little bit injured,” Guardiola said to expect an absence of two to three weeks.

[ MORE: LAFC hires Bob Bradley ]

The depth chart behind Mendy is incomplete, though City has added two right backs this offseason in Kyle Walker and Danilo.

The latter would be the front-runner to start in Mendy’s place, as he did in a 3-5-2 as Man City beat Real Madrid 4-1 on Wednesday.

Man City follows its opener at Brighton with a visit from Everton and a trip to Bournemouth.

Roma gives new 4-year deal to Premier League target Nainggolan

Rick Osentoski/AP Images for International Champions Cup
Leave a comment

Hard-nosed midfielder Rajda Nainggolan has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea for some time, but Thursday linked up long-term with his present club.

Nainggolan, 29, signed a new deal with AS Roma through the 2020-21 season, putting the Belgian box-to-box mid at the heart of i Lupi‘s plans to chase down Juventus.

[ MORE: Chatting with De Rossi ]

Nainggolan has been in the last two Serie A Best XIs.

The 29-times capped Belgian has six goals for his national team, and has 255 Serie A appearances between Cagliari and Roma. Nainggolan has 31 goals and 18 assists in those matches, scooping 62 yellows and two send-offs but never being handed straight red.

While it’s a perceived blow for his Premier League suitors, it’s a welcome retention for Roma. He’s arguably the reason Roma was ready to part with Michael Bradley in 2014, and you can see why: He plays right up to the line but knows right where it lies.

Too many fans: Udinese vs. Hannover friendly called off

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ST. VEIT, Austria (AP) Local authorities in southern Austria have called off Sunday’s friendly match between Udinese and Hannover as the estimated number of spectators exceeds the capacity of the stadium.

The city of St. Veit says about 4,000 fans, including 280 potential football hooligans, were expected for the game at the ground of local amateur club FC Alpe Adria, which has a capacity of 2,430.

St. Veit mayor Gerhard Mock says “it’s a shame … but security comes first.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the match between the Italian and German top-flight teams can be moved to a larger venue. Both Udinese and Hannover are having their preseason training camps in the province of Carinthia.

LIVE – Everton kick off Europa League campaign

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wayne Rooney will play his first competitive game for Everton in 13 years.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores

That storyline will dominate Everton’s return to Europe as they kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Europa League campaign in front of a packed house at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The Toffees welcome Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok for the first leg of the third qualifying round as they aim to make it back to the group stage for the first time since 2014-15.

Click on the link above to follow not only Everton’s game but all of the Europa League qualifiers going on across Europe this afternoon with the likes of AC Milan, Fenerbache, PSV, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao all in action.

If Ronald Koeman‘s side successfully navigate their way past Ruzomberok then they will be in the play-off round which is the final hurdle before the group stage.