Once-mighty Aston Villa has a reasonable chance of finishing in the Bottom Five of the Premier League for the third consecutive season, a feat the club hasn’t dealt with since the late 1960s.
If the long struggles aren’t enough for a club that qualified for the Europa League in 2009 and 2010, now a mysterious suspension has been handed down to manager Paul Lambert’s top two assistants.
Former Villa player Gordon Cowans and current back-up keeper Shay Given have been “temporarily promoted” after suspensions were issued to assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of footballing operations Gary Karsa “pending an internal investigation.”
Culverhouse and Karsa came to Villa with Lambert from Norwich City.
From The Daily Mail:
Aston Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner was at the club’s training ground, Bodymoor Heath, on Tuesday for talks with under-fire manager Paul Lambert, Culverhouse and Karsa as the club attempt to halt their slide down the Barclays Premier League.
And while the details of why Culverhouse and Karsa have been suspended are yet to emerge, the club have deemed whatever happened to be serious enough to remove two of Lambert’s most trusted backroom staff while Villa fight against relegation.
The Midlands club have picked up just seven points from a possible 30, and are currently on a run of four consecutive defeats.
Faulkner released a statement ahead of Villa’s tough run-in, which features matches against Southampton, Manchester City and Spurs. He called for the club and its supporters to come together:
“Four games ago, on the back of two good home wins, we were looking up the table and feeling confident of a strong, positive finish to the season.
“Since then we have suffered four consecutive defeats and that is hard to take. We are hurting. Fans are hurting, players and the manager are hurting. The frustration is shared by everyone who loves Aston Villa.”
Villa’s remaining fixtures are as follows:
Could Wayne Rooney‘s days at Manchester United be over as soon as the end of the month?
The BBC reports that Rooney’s agent is in China in the hopes of negotiating a contract with a Chinese Super League team.
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The 31-year-old is said to be wanted by Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian. The former club has ex-Chelsea standout Ramires, while the latter is coached by Fabio Cannavaro and boasts Axel Witsel and Alexandre Pato.
From the BBC:
There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.
And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.
Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for both Manchester United and England. While his legacy is secure at the former and the latter, will a move to the CSL end his time under Gareth Southgate at England before another World Cup?
So many questions to unpack as one of the Premier League’s all-timers looks set to leave the country in the next six months.
The lone Wednesday match on La Liga’s docket injected some drama back into the chase for Spain’s crown.
Real Madrid fell 2-1 at Valencia, unable to overcome conceding twice in the first 10 minutes.
The match was one of two matches-in-hand Real held on its rivals for La Liga’s title. Now Real’s one-point lead over Barcelona and three-point advantage over Sevilla seem a bit more manageable.
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Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana netted for Los Che, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 44th minute goal was the only answer the leaders could muster before full time.
Zaza’s goal was a stunner:
Real could rebuild its lead over the weekend, with Barcelona off to Atletico Madrid on Sunday and Sevilla traveling to Betis on the heels of its UCL win over Leicester City.
But for now, life’s a bit more exciting in Spain. Real hosts Barcelona on April 23, and hosts Sevilla on the penultimate weekend of the season.
We still can’t get over Sebastian Giovinco’s omission from the list of finalists for the 2016 MLS MVP Award, and the Toronto FC magician gave us another reminder of his greatness on Wednesday.
Playing a preseason match against Minnesota United on a rain-soaked pitch, Giovinco scored a brace. One of those goals came off an ankle-breaking dribble and finished with rain splashing off the net.
[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Rd of 16 ]
Yeah, he’s still good.
Giovinco turned 30 last month but still looks good money to dance up the statistical leaderboard this season. The Reds open at Real Salt Lake on March 4.
Sevilla probably should’ve put Leicester City to bed.
Thanks to Kasper Schmeichel, the Spanish powers couldn’t do that. Now stubborn Leicester is a 1-0 win away from progressing to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.
[ MORE: UCL wrap-up ]
Credit to Jamie Vardy, too, who put away a rare Leicester chance to give the Foxes a road goal from its trip West, but Schmeichel was magnificent.
And Leicester certainly knows how to defend and hit teams on the break.
“We knew they are better than us, they have high quality in possession. We suffered. They showed their quality but we showed our heart. We showed belief and never game up. That makes me satisfied.
“At the end, if we are a little more calm on the counter-attack, we could have done more. It was very important to match them and every result is still open.”
It certainly wasn’t easy to get to the final whistle. Here’s Vardy.
“Everyone has given 110 percent and everyone has come off absolutely blowing. We knew we had to be patient and take our chances but we knew we could hurt them on the press and that’s what Danny (Drinkwater) did. He got it over to me and I slipped it in.”
Again, we wouldn’t sleep on Leicester despite Sevilla’s dominance at home. King Power Stadium will be riled up come March 14, and one moment of magic could be enough for another miraculous moment for Leicester lore.