Manchester City v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Can Manchester City oust struggling Barcelona in UEFA Champions League?

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First up, let’s just say it hasn’t been a great weekend for Manchester City or FC Barcelona.

Both teams lost to opponents they should’ve really wiped the floor with, as they head into a UEFA Champions League showdown at the Nou Camp on Wednesday low on confidence and struggling for form.

Although City lost shockingly at home to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarterfinal on Sunday, Barcelona’s defeat to La Liga basement boys Real Valladolid on Saturday was arguably more damaging.

Barca’s new coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as the Blaugrana have stuttered their way through the domestic campaign. Like David Moyes has found at Manchester United, Martino has found it difficult to kick start and rebuild a global soccer dynasty. Under Pep Guardiola and then Tito Vilanova, that’s what Barca had become. After their defeat to Valladolid they are now four points behind leaders Real Madrid, while if City win their three games in hand over Chelsea they go joint-top of the PL.

(MORE: How things stand in Champions League after first legs of knockout games)

This season — especially lately in the league as they’ve lost two of their last three games — there seems to be a little something missing from Barca’s play. Sure they went to the Etihad and won 2-0, giving themselves an extremely healthy cushion ahead of Wednesday’s second leg. However it wasn’t as if Barca outclassed City, rather that City handed victory to the Catalan club on a plate after a second half implosion that saw the Spanish side gratefully accept a penalty kick opener and a red card to City’s Martin Demichelis.

source: AP
Demichelis’ tackles which earned him a red card and gave Barca a PK which Messi converted. But did City deserve a 2-0 defeat in the first leg?

The rhetoric emanating from Barcelona before this game has been all about how City will now be facing a fully-fit Lionel Messi, as the Argentine star was apparently nowhere near 100 percent when the sides squared off at the Etihad in February. Well, that’s just fine. But what about Barca’s somewhat shaky defense coming up against a fully-fit Sergio Aguero?

In the first leg Barcelona didn’t have to deal with Messi’s good friend and predatory striker partner for the Argentine national team, Aguero. With the 26-year-old forward raring to make up for last time after suffering an ill-timed hamstring injury, expect City to come flying out of the traps at the Nou Camp with their diminutive top scorer — who has 26 goals to his name in 27 games — leading the line.

All the pressure is on Barca to kill off any City comeback effortlessly and put on a show. But as we’ve seen in recent seasons at the Nou Camp, they’ve failed to break down the likes of Inter Milan and Chelsea who came to defend. But this time they will be facing a team hell bent on attacking and trying to make up for their two-goal deficit as quickly as possible. Will that play into Barca’s hands, who knows? With makeshift center back Javier Mascherano easily overpowered by Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo, plus Aguero likely to run a few rings around Baca’s other central defender Gerard Pique, I fancy City’s chances to go and score a few in Barcelona… but can they keep a clean sheet at the other end?

City do not deserve to be two goals down from the first leg, but will Barcelona make them pay for one mishap in the second half of the opening match that spun the tie on its head? Or does Barcelona’s poor form heading into the much-anticipated encounter really mean anything at all?

On Wednesday we will find out. But it’s sure to be an intriguing game between two teams searching for form, one with nothing to lose, the other with everything to lose.

I know which position I’d rather be in. He who dares, wins.

Replacement for Mahrez? Leicester linked with Polish winger Kapustka

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 21: Ruslan Rotan of Ukraine and Bartosz Kapustka of Poland compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Ukraine and Poland at Stade Velodrome on June 21, 2016 in Marseille, France.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Leicester City have been linked with a move to Polish international winger Bartosz Kapustka following his impressive form in the European Championships this summer.

Kapustka played in four of Poland’s five games at EURO 2016 and was suspended for their Round of 16 win against Switzerland.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC

Sky Sports believe that the Foxes have made a bid of $7 million for Kapustka and have been in talks with his club side Cracovia since he starred at EURO 2016 for Poland. Last season he had a breakout year in Poland’s top flight, scoring four goals in 33 appearances.

Just 19, Kapustka shone out wide with his speed, trickery and eye for goal.

Sound like someone else?

[ MORE: Pro, cons of winter break in the PL ]

Now, the biggest thought which comes to mind when you think about Leicester bidding for a promising, skillful winger, is that they could potentially be lining up a replacement for Riyad Mahrez.

Of course, Claudio Ranieri has insisted that Mahrez is going nowhere despite interest from Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Barcelona among others, plus he could just be bolstering his squad ahead of their UEFA Champions League campaign this season. With Jeffrey Schlupp linked with a move to West Bromwich Albion, maybe Ranieri just wants an extra wide player around at the King Power Stadium?

Regardless, reported interest in another winger will only add further tension to a situation Leicester’s fans will no doubt want clarified before the new season begins.

Multiple reports suggest Mahrez has been offered a new long-term contract at Leicester but he’s yet to sign it. With N'Golo Kante signing for Chelsea this summer, the Algerian winger may be reluctant to lock down his long-term future with Leicester. Maybe he will stay with the Foxes until January to see how their UCL campaign and PL title defense starts?

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Pogba’s move stalling due to agents fee

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United looks on during Paul Scholes' Testimonial Match between Manchester United and New York Cosmos at Old Trafford on August 5, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Paul Pogba to Manchester United is inching closer but Sky Italy is reporting a major snag is holding up the deal.

According to Sky Italy, Juventus and Manchester United are still disputing the transfer fee for Pogba, 23, with United offering $120 million for the French international midfielder with add-ons but Juve want over $130 million plus another $13 million in add-ons.

[ MORE: Winter break pros and cons for PL ]

However, the major point of contention isn’t the transfer fee: it is the fee paid to Pogba’s agent.

Pogba has been seen laughing and joking on vacation in Miami with his agent, Mino Raiola, but it is believed that deal is being held up due to the teams not agreeing on who should pay the reported agent fee of up to $22 million.  No wonder Raiola is having a good time…

Until someone steps down, the fee is waived or another solution is reached, it seems like an impasse has been reached in the Pogba deal. Even though Juve sealed the $98.7 million transfer of Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli on Tuesday which would suggest they are expecting to receive some very serious cash very soon.

With Jose Mourinho talking about other players available to United, maybe they will instead move for Blaise Matuidi who would deliver defensive solidity as well as marauding runs from midfield. He’d be much cheaper and even though he’s six years older than Pogba, is the asking price from Juve and the agents fee just getting a bit too insane even for a club as rich as United?


With Napoli all but sealing star striker Higuain to Juventus, another player could be leaving the side who finished second in Serie A last season: Kalidou Koulibaly.

According to his agent, via RMC, Koulibaly is apparently leaving Napoli this summer. Both Everton and Chelsea have been linked with a move for the powerful central defender and the Senegal international is certainly capable of slotting straight into either team.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC

Chelsea have John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Matt Miazga as central defensive options, plus Kurt Zouma who is continuing his comeback from a horrific knee injury suffered against Manchester United last season. As for Everton, they have Phil Jagielka, Ramiero Funes Mori and John Stones. The latter has been linked with a move to Manchester City this summer so Ronald Koeman is said to be on the lookout for another central defender as Jagielka is now 32 and was riddled by injuries last term.

Koulibaly, 25, would cost in excess of $60 million if he was to move from Napoli which could be a huge stumbling block as Napoli look to make it difficult for him to leave.

Lyon rejects bid of $38.5 million for Lacazette from Arsenal

LISBON, PORTUGAL - JULY 23: Lyon's forward Alexandre Lacazette reacts during the Friendly match between Sporting CP and Lyon at Estadio Jose Alvalade on July 23, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
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LYON, France (AP) Lyon has refused an offer of 35 million euros ($38.5 million) from Premier League side Arsenal for striker Alexandre Lacazette.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC

Lyon says “Lacazette is irreplaceable and one of the main leaders” in coach Bruno Genesio’s team.

The 25-year-old Lacazette top-scored with 27 league goals in the French league two seasons ago – outscoring even Zlatan Ibrahimovic – and netted 21 last season.

[ MORE: Pros, cons of winter break ]

He is under contract at Lyon until 2019.

In a statement on its Twitter page, Lyon denied a local newspaper report saying it turned down a higher offer of 48 million ($52.9 million) from Arsenal.

Higuain to seal $98.7 million Juve move; Pogba to Man United closer?

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 22:  Paul Pogba of Juventus is tackled by Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli during the 2014 Italian Super Cup match between Juventus FC v SSC Napoli at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on December 22, 2014 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
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A major domino has fallen in the summer transfer window pack.

Gonzalo Higuain has completed his monster move from Napoli to Juventus in Serie A.

Juventus confirmed the deal for Higuain has been completed with the Argentine ace arriving in Turin for a transfer fee of $98.7 million (his release clause) and on a four-year contract believed to be worth over $8.2 million per season.

[ MORE: Spurs lose to Juve in ICC

Higuain, 28, scored 36 goals in 35 games for Napoli last season and has scored 71 goals in 104 Serie A appearances since arriving from Real Madrid in 2013. Obviously he can score goals but is he worth $98.7 million? At his age, maybe not, and especially with Juve making so many impressive signings already this summer as Miralem Pjanic, Mehdi Benatia and Dani Alves all on board, plus Paulo Dyabla looking razor sharp in preseason.

That $98.7 million transfer fee would make Higuain the third-most expensive signing of all-time, although he could be overtaken by one man very soon: Paul Pogba.

Apparently Juve are locked in talks with Manchester United to try and finalize a move for Pogba, 23, and this huge outlay of cash on Higuain could suggest they’ve agreed the reported $130 million transfer of the French international midfielder.

[ MORE: Winter break pros and cons for PL ]

Pogba has been seen laughing and joking on vacation in Miami with his agent, Mino Raiola, but it is believed that deal is being held up due to the teams not agreeing on who should pay the reported agent fee of up to $22 million. No wonder Raiola is laughing.

Seriously, though, let’s see how this plays out but it is highly unlikely Juve would’ve dropped that much cash on Higuain if they didn’t have some major cash coming in from selling a certain player.

We all know who that is…