Late header from Diego Costa gives Atlético Madrid Champions League edge over Milan

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A 83rd minute goal from Diego Costa allowed Atlético Madrid to take the lead with their first good chance of the night, the Rojiblancos’ 1-0 win at the San Siro giving them a valuable away goal in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie with Milan. Converting off a late corner kick, Atlético were able to overcome a three good first half chances from Milan, to claiming a one-goal edge ahead of leg two at the Vicente Calderón.

That match, which will take place in two weeks, will see Milan start from behind despite one of their stronger performances of the season, an effort that could have seen the Rossoneri claim first half leads through Kaká or Andrea Poli. Instead, the favorites will return home in control of the match up, Clarence Seedorf’s side left with little reward despite their surprisingly strong performance.

[MORE: What we learned from Atlético’s Champions League win at Milan]

Atlético dominated the ball in the match’s opening moments before put on their heals by Milan, who nearly drew first blood when a shot from Kaká from the far right of the penalty area had to be pushed onto the crossbar by Thibault Courtois. The Atlético keeper was called on again minutes later when a header from Andrea Poli drew a sprawling save to keep the shot from finding the lower left corner. When Kaká went inches over the bar later in the half, Milan had their third strong if fruitless chance of the period, all coming before their visitors had seriously tested Christian Abbiati’s goal.

Though the teams reached halftime having put an equal number of shots on target (two each), Milan had outplayed the Colchoneros. Despite being favored coming into the matchup, the best Diego Simeone’s team could do was a near-chance for Diego Costa on a ball sent across the six-yard box. Milan right back Ignazio Abate, having come on for and injured Mattia Di Sciglio mid-way through the half, poked the ball away from the Atlético striker, allowing Abbiati to carry his clean sheet into half time.

[MORE: Bayern Munich grabs control over Arsenal in Champions League matchup of UEFA heavyweights]

Half time adjustments saw Atlético limit Milan’s chances in the second, albeit at the expense of Atleti’s ability to generate opportunities of their own. The result was an initial 25 minutes were neither team presented a significant threat, with Adel Taarabt’s blocked volley from the right of the area in the 71st minute producing the first suspense of the period.

In the 83rd minute, Atlético finally broke through, with Costa giving this team a valuable away goal. Off a near-post corner from Gabi, Abate headed his attempted clearance high and toward the far post. There Costa settled under it before uncoiling onto the dropping ball, getting enough power on this shot to beat a driving Abbiati at the near post. After a half of almost no action, Costa had headed Atlético in front.

[MORE: Three things we learned in Arsenal’s battling defeat to Bayern Munich]

It was the visitors’ only good chance of the match, but thanks to second half adjustments that kept Milan from replicating their early success, Atlético had kept themselves within reach of a winner. Just before the end of regulation time, the Spain international-to-be converted.

On quality of play alone, Milan had just as much right to that break through as their guests, but soccer matches aren’t decided on quality of play. Thanks to Costa’s late finish, Atlético won the only measure that mattered, allowing them to take their one-goal edge back to the Vicente Calderón.

Russia regains FIFA Council seat after Mutko’s ouster

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GENEVA (AP) Russia has regained its place on the FIFA Council, six months after Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was blocked from re-election.

UEFA member federations on Wednesday elected Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, by acclamation as one of their delegates to FIFA’s strategy-setting committee.

The seat, which runs through 2021, was vacant since May when Mutko was formally forced to step down.

Mutko’s candidacy was blocked by FIFA’s then governance committee chairman, Miguel Maduro, because of a conflict of interest with his government work. Maduro, who was ousted by FIFA weeks later, said last week that the world soccer body’s leaders put pressure on him to protect Mutko’s position.

Meeting with British lawmakers, Maduro said he was told that his ruling on Mutko’s eligibility could threaten FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s hold on power and “would be a disaster” for the World Cup.

Sorokin became the eighth of the nine European delegates on the 37-member FIFA Council. The ninth was left vacant in July when long-time Spanish soccer leader Angel Maria Villar resigned as a vice president of FIFA and UEFA after being arrested in a corruption investigation.

Villar was detained along with three other soccer officials, including his son, on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Interim replacements for Villar were to be confirmed later Wednesday at a meeting of the UEFA executive committee.

Predicting the FIFPro World XI for 2016-17

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With the World Players’ Union, FIFPro, releasing the 55 players who received the most votes from over 25,000 professional players from across the globe based on their play in 2016-17, plenty of usual suspects have been selected as the top players on the planet.

But who will make the final XI when it is announced in London on Oct. 23?

[ MORE: FIFPro nominees in full ]

With one goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards selected by each professional surveyed, it is quite likely that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will make the team for the 10th straight season. Because, well, they’re Ronaldo and Messi.

Elsewhere there is plenty of debate as to who will make up the defense and midfield and even in goal.

Below I select my XI and I urge you to do the same in the comments section below.

Remember: we can’t always agree on everything but let’s get along…

JPW selects his FIFPro World 11

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Marcelo (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Neymar JR (Paris Saint-Germain)

Karim Benzema signs new contract at Real Madrid

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Karim Benzema has signed a new four-year contract at Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sargent to Werder Bremen

The French striker, 29, has become the latest star name to commit their future to the two-time reigning European champions with Marcelo, Isco and Dani Carvajal all signing new deals over the past week.

Benzema will now remain at Real until June 30, 2021, with the Frenchman scoring 181 goals in 371 appearances as well as winning two La Liga titles, three European Cups and two Copa del Rey trophies during his time in the Spanish capital.

It is believed this new deal has a release clause of over $1.35 billion as Spanish clubs are now becoming increasingly wary of losing their star players a la Neymar leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite his expulsion from the French national team for over 18 months due to his alleged involvement in a blackmail case involving a sex tape and former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, Benzema has been in fine form for Real since Zinedine Zidane took charge in 2015.

Benzema scored 19 goals in 48 games in all competitions last season and 28 in 36 games the season before that as his hold up play and ability to drift out wide or drop deeper crucial to getting the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Co.

That said, Benzema has scored just once in six appearances this season but Real are obviously happy with what he is producing aside from goals.

With question marks over the future of Bale at the Bernabeu, locking down Benzema shows just how important he is to Zidane’s attacking unit as they seek to seal a third-straight UEFA Champions League title.

FIFA open investigation into Chelsea’s youth transfer policy

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Chelsea could be in big trouble.

FIFA have confirmed they’re investigating Chelsea’s youth transfer policy yet again, specifically over the recruitment of foreign players under the age of 18.

What could the punishment be? The worst-case scenario is that Chelsea would be banned from signing any new players across its senior or youth levels but it is believed this situation isn’t as serious as previous investigations involving Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Via the Telegraph, FIFA had the following to say about the investigation: “As the investigation is ongoing, no further comment is possible for the time being.”

Chelsea released a short statement saying: “Chelsea FC complies with all FIFA Statutes and Regulations when recruiting players.”

It will be the third time in eight years that world soccer’s governing body have looked at Chelsea’s youth policy and back in 2009 they were handed a transfer ban for two transfer windows over the signing of French teenager Gael Kakuta from Lens in 2007 but that was later overturned after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was successful.

Chelsea were also investigated last year over the signing of Bertrand Traore after images emerged of him playing for the club as a 16-year-old, before international clearance had arrived.

Spanish clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have been found guilty after similar investigations took place with Barca banned from signing players for two transfer windows and the same happening to Atletico who can’t sign any new players until January 2018, while Real Madrid had their ban reduced to one window after an appeal.

In the UK both Liverpool and Manchester City have recently been handed fines and bans for not following rules over recruiting young players domestically.

For foreign players signing for a team in another country there are strict rules in place.

Their family must either be relocating for non soccer reasons to the country where the new club is based, they must live no further than 50km from a national border and the club with which the player wishes to be registered with is within that 50km radius, or if they sign between the age of 16-18 the new club must provide them with housing, access to education and a soccer education.