Courtois

The other side to the Thibaut Courtois mess

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Today, UEFA released a statement saying in its eyes, there should be no debate on whether Thibaut Courtois can play for Atletico Madrid against Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals.

That’s all well and good, and the “spirit of the competition” is a nice thought, but one problem remains.

When you boil it down, Thibaut Courtois is a Chelsea player.

Sure he’s played for Atletico Madrid for the last three years, but that doesn’t erase the fact that he remains owned by Chelsea, and there’s a serious possibility in the future that we see him in a Blue uniform for a very, very long time.

With so much money involved in the Champions League these days, it would be a terrible precedent for UEFA to allow the 21-year-old to potentially have a major hand in ending Chelsea’s run in Europe’s top competition.

What if the game goes to penalties and Courtois saves one or two to send Atletico through? There are plenty of ways for him to be at the forefront of the storyline.

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay insists that Courtois “can play” against his parent club, but his quotes don’t do much to suggest the Blues are going to give Atletico a release from the pay clause.

The FA rule that prevents on-loan players from playing against their parent clubs is a sound one, and it’s silly for UEFA not to consider instituting a similar law. The possibility should never exist for a player to have a hand in defeating the club that actually owns them.

Competition-wise, sure, it would be a massive blow for Atletico to lose the ability to field one of the world’s best goalkeepers – but this was a risk they assumed when taking him on loan. Without ponying up the money for a purchase, they know the risks.

On the surface it appears to be a case of the “big guy bullying the little guy” but Chelsea are right to want to prevent their own player from hurting them in a competition, or even knocking them out.

Remember – Atletico agreed to the contract clause in the first place.  For Chelsea to institute a fee is simply taking advantage of the loophole in UEFA’s rules, and the governing body is ultimately at fault for even allowing this situation to be up for debate.

For Courtois to play against Chelsea would be, in my opinion, bad for everyone involved and would set a horrible precedent. It’s highly possible that the Belgian youngster may play, and he could have little to no effect on the match and things would blow over. But if down the road this were to happen again and the rule didn’t change, ultimately bad things could come of it.

It would be better in the short term for fans to be able to watch both teams at full strength, but over the long term and even in this competition, the possibility for something negative to come from this scenario looms.

Report: Atletico’s Fernando Torres has interest from MLS, NASL

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - Copa del Rey: Round of 16
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
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Spanish outlet Marca claims that a number of North American sides are among the clubs chasing Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker has only scored more than 11 goals once since 2009-10, and is uncapped since 2014. But that doesn’t mean clubs from China to to the U.S. and the UAE to Japan aren’t interested in the 31-year-old.

[ JPW: Recapping the top stories from an intense Premier League weekend ]

The Marca report claims three MLS teams are interested and also name drops the New York Cosmos of the NASL, who’ve recently brought Venezuelan legend Juan Arango on board.

It’s hard to imagine anyone outside the MLS rich sides taking a risk on Torres. Maybe Montreal would look to reunite him with Didier Drogba, and Torres certainly has experience combining with New York City’s David Villa. As for the third… Orlando City? Chicago?

Your guess is as good as ours, though it could be moot if this is solely about money. China continues to spend well.

Difficult fixture run looms as Aston Villa aims for great escape

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Joleon Lescott of Aston Villa (3L) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal with a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Villa Park on January 12, 2016 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Gabriel Agbonlahor is riding high, as the Premier League Player of the Week broke his duck this weekend and is thinking “great escape” for his Aston Villa side.

Villa has eight points in its last five matches, doubling its season total to 16. That’s still table bottom, but Remi Garde’s bunch would love to see their way out of the drop zone after a brutal start to the season under Tim Sherwood.

What would it take for Villa to pull that off, and avoid the first Premier League relegation in club history?

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Week ]

Turns out, a lot.

There is no easy match in the next five, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are all on the schedule after that.

Villa next five matches
Feb. 14 – vs. Liverpool
Feb. 27 – at Stoke City
March 1 – vs. Everton
March 5 – at Manchester City
March 12 – vs. Spurs

The Villans do have three relegation six-pointers left, and two of those are at Villa Park with Bournemouth and Newcastle United. Villa also heads to Swansea City.

But Villa has to make up 12 points on the Cherries, 11 on Swans and eight on the Magpies. And while they are within two goals difference of Newcastle, they have eight goals to make up on Bournemouth and 11 to make up on Swansea.

That doesn’t include Sunderland and Norwich, sides four and seven points ahead of the Villans (though both have tricky runs left as well).

If Garde’s club is to make its escape, it will be close to unbelievable. That it will close with a match against Arsenal makes it even trickier, but that would be just the final impressive note in what could only be considered a Garde-conducted masterpiece.

VIDEO: Recapping the top stories from an intense Week 25 in the Premier League

JPW at Stamford Bridge
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What a weekend. Let’s relive it.

Round 25 of the Premier League provided plenty more thrills, shocks and excitement as two unlikely title contenders — Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur — are pushing ahead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Our own Joe Prince-Wright recaps all the major headlines from what could turn out to be a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League news

Click play on the video below to join JPW as he battles the elements and checks in from outside Stamford Bridge in London following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

WATCH: USMNT’s Gonzalez nets first for Pachuca, earns exuberant “Gol” call

Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez
AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
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Come for the goal, stay for the “Gol” call.

Or should we say the “Gol. Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Gol” call.

[ MORE: Angry Louis van Gaal rips journalists for “inventing” stories ]

USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez has opened his account for Pachuca with this 88th minute header, and it’s worth it if just for the auditory performance.

Gonzalez also pulls out the high-capacity weapon celebration, though he’s apparently opted to do the version closer to the “Scarface” finale (Spoiler alert).