Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is more than a little surprised at the reports that Spanish star Juan Mata will be leaving Chelsea for a direct competitor in Manchester United.
Wenger’s also doubting the fairness of the move, as Chelsea’s already faced Manchester United twice and will not have to face Mata (while the move hands the Red Devils a boost ahead of a visit to Wenger’s Gunners on Feb. 12).
Some are reading into the following quotes as his calling for the Premier League to look into its fixture-scheduling in the future, as well as seemingly the role the January window plays in the season?
“United could have sold him last week but it opens at least the dates of this transfer window. Some teams have already played twice against one opponent and some others not and I think if you want to respect the fairness for everybody – exactly the same – that should not happen.
“I wouldn’t go as far as that, [Chelsea selling Mata to do damage to rivals]. I just think you would want that everybody is at the same level. I can understand completely what Chelsea are doing, it’s within the rules but maybe the rules should be adapted for fairness.”
Color me a cynic, but is he not saying, “Why do we have to face Juan Mata while Chelsea doesn’t have to worry about him at all?”
Wenger also said Arsenal’s lack of any transfers cooking at this late stage in January coupled with his squad’s health make any new talent coming to the Emirates during the January transfer window unlikely.
“We have Chamberlain back, Bendtner back and I hope next week Arteta and Ramsey back, so I feel overall we have the squad needed. We have Yaya Sanogo coming back into the squad next week as well.
“Overall we have a very strong squad. If something exceptional turns up we will do it but having said that not everybody will strengthen. They buy, but buy does not always mean strengthen.”
So, no Draxler then? Arsenal hosts Coventry City on Friday night for the club’s FA Cup fourth-round tie before visiting Southampton on Tuesday. With suspensions, appointments and injuries, the Saints have plenty of news of their own this morning…
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.