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.
Mario Balotelli could soon have a new home, according to the BBC’s Phil McNulty.
The mercurial Italian striker, 26, has one league goal in each of his last two seasons (spent between Liverpool and AC Milan).
Jurgen Klopp is ready for Balotelli to find a home away from Anfield and McNulty says that place could be OGC Nice, where he’d join newly-signed ex-Bayern man Dante. Balotelli also had talks with Sion in Switzerland, according to the report.
The striker was a blazing hot commodity after scoring 17 goals for Manchester City in 2011-12, and again after netting 18 for AC Milan in 2013-14.
Balotelli has 13 goals in 33 caps for Italy, but hasn’t appeared for the national team since 2014.
After months and months of trying to land a big name striker, it seems West Ham has done just that.
David Amoyal of DiMarzio says that Juventus striker Simone Zaza is on his way to the London Stadium for a medical which will seal a $32 million transfer to West Ham.
[ MORE: Chelsea adds EURO champion ]
Zaza, 25, made his name as Sassuolo before moving to Juve last season, and forced his way into the national team. He has 14 caps with one goal, but is perhaps better remembered at this point for missing a penalty — with a creative run-up — in Italy’s final EURO game.
The striker had been linked with West Ham as far back as this time last season.
This move should help insure the Hammers avoid too many goalless outcome moving forward, even with Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew out for a while.
That’ll be music to Slaven Bilic‘s ears. The manager said, “The disappointment is massive” after his side couldn’t break down Astra Giurgiu and dropped out of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Chelsea have added some depth at the very back.
Eduardo’s the name, and the 33-year-old Portuguese backstop arrives at Stamford Bridge with a decent resume, having been on the roster for his country’s EURO 2016 triumph.
[ MORE: Stambouli, Bentaleb reunited ]
USMNT fans will remember him from his time between the sticks for Portugal at the 2014 World Cup. He has 35 caps, and has been with Dinamo Zagreb since 2014.
‘All the colleagues I have always say the dream is to come to the Premier League, where there are the best clubs and the best players, and the opportunity to come here arrived at this moment.
‘I am happy to be here and I hope I meet the expectations people have for me.’
Eduardo certainly won’t be taking over for Thibaut Courtois, but will definitely provide competition for No. 2 Asmir Begovic.
West Ham dominated the game but not the score line against Romanian side Astra Giurgiu, who advanced to the UEFA Europa League group stage with a 1-0 win at London Stadium on Thursday.
Well-traveled French midfielder Filipe Teixeira did the damage for Astra Giurgiu, as the former West Brom and Barnsley man scored in the 45th minute to give the visitors a 2-1 lead on aggregate after the sides went 1-1 in Romania last week.
The Irons carried possession and a wealth of shots, but couldn’t find their way past Romanian international goalkeeper Silviu Lung, Jr.
[ MORE: Stambouli, Bentaleb reunited at Schalke ]
Sassuolo star Domenico Berardi scored in a 1-1 draw with Red Star Belgrade, completing a 4-1 score line.
Elsewhere, a hat trick from Slovan Liberec’s Jan Sykora led the Czech side to a 3-0 second leg win, and 4-0 aggregate defeat of Cypriot side AEK Larnaca.
Gent got a pair of goals from giant Malian striker Kalifa Coulibaly as the Belgians completed a 6-1 aggregate win over Shkendija.
West Ham United 0-1 (agg. 1-2) Astra Giurgiu
Astana 2-2 (agg. 4-2) BATE Borisov
Arouca 1-2 (agg. 1-3) Olympiacos
Midtjylland 0-3 (agg. 0-4) Osmanlispor
Trencin 2-0 (agg. 0-4) Rapid Wien
Lokomotiva 0-2 (agg. 2-4) Genk
AEK Larnaca 0-3 (agg. 0-4) Slovan Liberec
Dinamo Tbilisi 0-2 (agg. 0-5) PAOK
Austria Wien 2-1 (agg. 4-2) Rosenborg
Beitar Jerusalem 0-0 (agg. 1-2) Saint-Etienne
Vojvodina 0-0 (agg. 0-3) AZ Alkmaar
Gabala 0-1 (agg. 3-2) Maribor
Slavia Prague 0-3 (agg. 0-6) Anderlecht
Fenerbahce 2-0 (agg. 3-0) Grasshopper
Panathinaikos 1-1 (agg. 4-1) Brondby
Krasnodar 0-0 (agg. 4-0) Partizani Tirana
Gent 4-0 (agg. 6-1) Shkendija
Istanbul Basaksehir 0-2 (agg. 1-4) Shakhtar Donetsk
SonderjyskE 2-3 (agg. 2-3) Sparta Prague
Sassuolo 1-1 (agg. 4-1) Red Star Belgrade
Goteborg 0-3 (agg. 1-3) Qarabag
Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-2 (agg. 3-3) Hajduk Split