Roma dealt double blow with Destro banned, Benatia injured

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Roma’s slim chances at a Serie A title were hampered further as Mattia Destro was given a three-match ban and defender Mehdi Benatia was ruled out for a month with a muscle tear.

Destro was sanctioned by the league for a punch on fellow Italian international Davide Astori.  He was not punished by the referee in the match but the league handed down the punishment following the match.

A yellow card for a later incident also means Destro will miss one more match for caution accumulation, meaning he will be out for the next four Roma league games.

“Destro is not a violent player,” Roma manager Rudi Garcia told Italian media ahead of this week’s match with Atalanta. “Football is a contact sport and these actions take place. It’s true that he hit his opponent in the face but the referee saw everything.”

The club is appealing his suspension, arguing that the referee had seen the incident and decided not to take action. If that is the case, the league is not allowed to hand down a ban and change punishment for an incident the referee judged to be fair.

“In such cases, the rules clearly state that if the official saw the action there is no need for TV evidence to be used to determine the punishment,” Garcia said. “We are hopeful that his ban will be reduced.”

Thanks to the yellow card suspension, Destro will miss the Atalanta match this weekend for sure, and the Serie A panel will have time to review the club’s appeal.

In what would be a serious shame, Destro could now be overlooked for the Italian World Cup squad. Manager Cesare Prandelli is known for holding players to a high standard both on and off the pitch, and Destro was already just barely working himself into the picture with good form.

Benatia will also be out a similar timeframe and could miss the rest of the year after the central defender tore a muscle in his left thigh.

The 26-year-old Moroccan has been a warrior for Roma this season, playing 2,664 of Roma’s 2,880 minutes thus far and was at the forefront of their blistering start to the Serie A season. He played the full 900 minutes during their 10-game win streak to start the year in which the club conceded just a single goal. Roma have allowed a Serie A-low 18 goals this year.

It’s thanks to this amazing form that has attracted interest from Manchester United as they look to replace Nemanja Vidic at the back.

Roma sit eight points back of Serie A leaders Juventus with six matches remaining.

Rapids add longtime Bundesliga winger Aigner from 1860 Munich (highlights)

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The Colorado Rapids are hoping for an injection of offense from veteran Bundesliga right winger Stefan Aigner.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old has played 274 games between the first and second tiers of German soccer, with 25 goals and 25 assists in Bundesliga play and a further 31 and 25 in the second tier.

Most recently with 2.Bundesliga side 1860 Munich for a third time, he’s played most of his career between Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.

[ MORE: BVB’s Merino to Newcastle ]

Aigner has the resume to succeed and perhaps star in MLS, especially if he wasn’t slowed too much by a knee injury last season (He returned and produced at the 2.Bundesliga level).

Here’s what Rapids interim general manager Padraig Smith said:

“We’re excited to add a player of Stefan’s caliber to our roster for the next three-and-a-half years,” said Smith. “As an organization we are committed to fielding a forward-thinking side and bringing in Stefan – a technical and versatile player who can excel in multiple attacking roles – will help us achieve that vision.”

UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic held; U.S. GK Horvath busy

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It was a busy night in the UEFA Champions League, with clubs battling for berths in the playoff round where they could draw big names Liverpool, Napoli, Sevilla, Sporting CP or Hoffenheim.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 


Club Brugge 3-3 Istanbul Basaksehir

American backstop Ethan Horvath was under siege at home, but his Club Brugge side overcame throwing away a 2-0 deficit to claim a 3-3 draw with İstanbul Başakşehir. The three road goals will give the Turkish visitors every reason to feel good about the Aug. 2 second leg.

Celtic 0-0 Rosenborg

Brendan Rodgers‘ Scottish champions outshot the visitors 12-8, but couldn’t find a way into the goal. Now the Bhoys will have to score in Norway to advance to the next round.

Nice 1-1 Ajax

Mario Balotelli‘s 32nd minute staked Nice to a halftime lead, but the UEFA Europa League finalists snared an away goal through Donny van de Beek to send Ajax back to Holland with a slim advantage.

UCL first legs

Tuesday
Qarabag 0-0 Sheriff
Slavia Prague 1-0 BATE Borisov
AEK Athens 0-2 CSKA Moscow
Steaua Bucharest 2-2 Plzen
Vardar 1-0 Copenhagen
Partizan Belgrade 1-3 Olympiacos

Wednesday
Astana 3-1 Legia Warsaw
Dynamo Kyiv 3-1 Young Boys
RB Salzburg 1-1 Rijeka
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-0 Ludogorets Razgrad
Viitorul 1-0 APOEL Nicosia
Maribor 1-0 FH

Terim steps down as Turkey manager after restaurant fight

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) Turkey’s soccer federation says it has parted ways with national team manager Fatih Terim.

The announcement on Wednesday came weeks after Terim and his two sons-in-law were involved in a fight with a restaurant owner.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 

The Turkish Football Federation statement said Terim, 63, and the federation agreed that “it would be healthier for both sides to part ways,” saying non-football related issues were harming both Terim and the federation.

It also thanked Terim, who has headed the national team since 2013, for his services.

Terim previously managed Galatasaray, Milan and Fiorentina. There was no word on who would replace him.

BVB mid Merino reportedly undergoing Newcastle medical

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It’s been a wild year for Mikel Merino, and now the Spaniard is close to playing for a legend from his home country.

Merino joined Borussia Dortmund from Osasuna last summer, and the 21-year-old had a hard time getting playing time under Thomas Tuchel.

[ MORE: Gold Cup Final preview ]

A defensive midfielder who also plays center back and a bit further up the pitch, Merino is set to join Rafa Benitez on loan at Newcastle United for the club’s return to the Premier League next month.

Merino was photographed in Newcastle on Wednesday, and would join a central midfield with Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden. Both players thrived in the Championship last season.

The Magpies turned Christian Atsu‘s loan permanent to start the summer, and then purchased Florian Lejeune, Jacob Murphy, and Javier Manquillo.