When Manchester City step onto the turf at the Etihad Stadium for today’s match against Barcelona it will mark the first time the Citizens have ever played a Round of 16 contest in the Champions League.
For City midfielder David Silva, winning the match would represent a landmark victory for the club.
“It will be difficult, but beating Barcelona would be like a coming of age for Man City, very important for our confidence and international recognition,” Silva told the Manchester Evening News.
“It is a pity that we are without Sergio Aguero and possibly Fernandinho, who is very important for us in midfield. Sometimes we get a bit broken in midfield, there is too much separation between lines when we go forward, and are susceptible to the counter attack.”
While Aguero has been deemed out for the match and Edin Dzeko remains hampered by an ankle injury, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic are likely to start up top. Since scoring in the 5-1 rout of Tottenham on January 29th, Jovetic has started the 0-0 league draw with Norwich and the 2-0 win over Chelsea in last weekend’s FA Cup. The Montenegrin international scored and was fantastic against the Blues, proving that his early season injury issues are well behind him.
Fernandinho will be a late fitness test after taking part in training at the Etihad Stadium on Monday morning. The Brazilian has been suffering with a muscle injury since the end of January.
Of equal importance to Fernandinho is City’s center-back pairing. With Matija Nastasic’s knee injury, Vincent Kompany will pair with either Joleon Lescott or Martin Demichelis. Lescott, who fell out of favor earlier in the season, had a terrific return to the starting XI in Sunday’s win over Chelsea and looks the favorite to get the call against Barcelona.
No matter what the lineup permutation, for Silva the winning prescription remains the same: “The key is to keep up the pressure for 90 minutes, to avoid silly mistakes and take advantage of the chances.”
PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.
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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”
His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”
Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.
Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.
In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.
He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.
Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.
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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.
“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.
“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”
Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.
PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.
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Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.
Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.
There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.
Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.
Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.
Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.
Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.
The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.
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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.
With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.
According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.
“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.
“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”
Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.