Barcelona

Three reasons why Barcelona need to win Copa del Rey final vs. Real Madrid

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Ahead of the Copa del Rey final in Valencia on Wednesday, reigning Spanish champions Barcelona are in a rut.

Not a small one, but a big old rut they have to climb out of, fast.

With the first Spanish title of the 2013-14 on the line, two of world soccer’s biggest rivals will square off for the silverware, with Barcelona in much more need of a win than Real Madrid.

(PREVIEW: Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona, Copa del Rey final)

In the midst of two-straight defeats, which has seen their UEFA Champions League hopes ended by Atletico Madrid and their La Liga title ambitions dented after losing to midtable Granada, Barcelona is in free-fall before their cup final with Real.

Here’s three reasons why they have to win at the Mestalla.

To save Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s job

With many focusing on the difficult job David Moyes has had at succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United this season, at the Nou Camp Gerardo Martino has had an equally difficult task. The Argentine manager has tampered and altered the shape of the team, training methods and many of the other factors that have been common place at Barca for many years. It is not easy to replace Pep Guariola and his former assistant Tito Vilanova after their sensational record of success. Yet Martino’s side have looked disjointed and jaded in the last few months. If Tata doesn’t win any silverware this season, he will likely be on his way out. Some Barca fans may think getting rid of Martino is a good thing but we all know continuity often breads success. Chopping and changing rarely does.

Send the veterans off on the right note

Carlos Puyol is racing against injury to be fit for the final, yet even if he doesn’t take part, Barca’s players on the pitch must have Puyol and others on their mind. Puyol’s winning legacy at Barcelona will be remembered fondly for many years but finishing on a high note with a least one trophy to celebrate this season would be a good way to go. Along with Puyol, long -term ‘keeper Victor Valdes had his season ended through injury and he will likely never play for Barca again. The aging Xavi Hernandez may also see his time at Barcelona dwindling in the coming seasons, so this trophy isn’t just another game, it is a chance to grab a final piece of silverware for some of the clubs greatest every players.

Kick start their La Liga campaign

Confidence. It’s massive in soccer. Once you’re playing in a team that’s rolling, it’s difficult to explain that no matter who you’re up against, you know you will win. If Barcelona beat Real Madrid on Wednesday and lift a title in the process, they can be inspired by that with their last five La Liga games coming up. Right now they are four points off leaders Atletico Madrid, but Copa del Rey success could re-ignite the hunger in Barca’s players.

England’s Fabian Delph to miss out on EURO 2016 through injury

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: Fabian Delph of Manchester City looks on during the Capital One Cup Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on December 1, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Fabian Delph will not be playing for England at EURO 2016 after picking up a groin injury in training.

Delph did not travel to Sunderland for England’s friendly against Australia on Friday, with manager Roy Hodgson saying he “probably won’t be in the 23 [final roster spots].”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

Delph’s inclusion in the provisional 30-man roster was met with some criticism, as the Manchester City midfielder managed just eight Premier League starts this season and made only nine appearances off the bench.

This news will now boost the hopes of Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, who are also battling to make the final roster in the center of midfield.

In his press conference on Thursday, Hodgson stated that Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has not trained with the team yet, as his fitness will be closely monitored leading up to EURO 2016. Hodgson also confirmed that Manchester United’s 18-year-old Marcus Rashford will make his international debut against Australia.

Ranking the Copa America Centenario contenders

Copa America trophy — 2015 Copa America
AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo
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Sixteen teams enter next month’s Copa America Centenario tournament, and only one emerges as the champion of North, South and Central America.

Will it be Chile who continues its reign? Will Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay find revenge? Can a CONCACAF side thrive with the tourney in the United States?

[ PREVIEWS: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D ]

There a varying degrees of likelihood that a country rises above the field to win this year’s competition. In this post, we’ll rank the sides from 16 to 1, unlikeliest to likeliest.

16. Haiti — Happy to be there? Circling the Peru match on its calendar.

15. Venezuela — If Salomon Rondon can make things happen, who knows?

14. Bolivia — Lots of work to be done here.

13. Jamaica — Winfried Schaefer’s team has struggled since its strong Gold Cup.

12. Peru — Inexperience will be a problem.

11. Paraguay — Wins have been hard to come by for Los Guaraníes.

10. Panama — Are they primed for a run, or too old to outlast its group opponents?

9. Ecuador — Dangerous but inconsistent, La Tricolor has an easier group from which to advance than most.

8. Costa Rica — If the USMNT falters under the pressure of hosts, Los Ticos will be most likely to benefit in Group A.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

7. United States — Hosting is a big deal, and Jurgen Klinsmann seems ready to take a more orthodox approach to his lineups. The Yanks will run more than a few teams ragged, depending on how the chips fall.

6. Uruguay — Navigating the absence of Luis Suarez, which could last the group stage or longer, knocks them down a peg.

(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

5. Mexico — It’s another golden generation for El Tri, and it’s not far-fetched to imagine Mexico makes a run at everything.

4. Colombia — James Rodriguez goes back to being the focal point of an attack, and will remind us just how good he is while under the spotlight.

3. Chile — Repeating is hard, and Chile had a lot of home cooking good fortune in its hosted run to a first title.

2. Brazil — No the side won’t be fully loaded, but Dunga has shown he knows how to run a side with or without Neymar.

  1. Argentina — This could be Lionel Messi’s year to lift hardware for club and country.

Ferdinand lauds Mourinho hiring: “This winner is now a wounded animal”

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Rio Ferdinand isn’t waiting for Manchester United to make it official, lauding the hiring of Jose Mourinho as his former club’s latest manager.

Ferdinand said Mourinho’s personality is “made for this great club”, as the longtime Red Devils defender took to Facebook to hail the Special One.

[ MORE: Five things United must do under Mourinho ]

Ferdinand, 37, made 455 appearances for United in a 19-year career that included stops at West Ham, QPR, Bournemouth and Leeds.

He says Mourinho will be a motivated and dangerous boss when he takes control in place of fired manager Louis Van Gaal.

“After his recent unsuccessful time at Chelsea in the final year, I can assure you this winner is now a wounded animal which makes him such a mouthwatering appointment. Jose went from winning the League Cup & Premier League to a season of disappointment at Chelsea and I am certain he will want to restore all of that very quickly.”

LISTEN: Copa America drops official song “Superstar” (Pitbull warning)

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Pitbull has joined forces with Becky G to make the official song of the Copa America Centenario, “Superstar”, which they will perform before the final.

I know Pitbull for liking light beer, and Becky G for going on dates with Sebastian Lletget of the L.A. Galaxy.

[ PREVIEWS: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D ]

This, in all its pop glory, has a catchy-enough hook and a stadium-like chant that hopes to catch on like “Seven Nation Army”. The kids should dig it.

That’s all I got. Enjoy the jammage.