With five games to go in the Spanish season, the defending champions have lost two of their starters. During Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final, Barcelona’s Neymar and Jordi Alba picked up injuries that will sideline the pair for a month, dealing a blow to the Catalan’s hope of retaining their La Liga title.
Barcelona enters this weekend’s 34th round four points back of first place Atlético Madrid, but without their two starters along the left side, the 22-time Spanish champions look less likely to overcome both Atleti and second place Real Madrid. Neymar will be sidelined with a left foot contusion, while Alba suffered a muscle tear in his right leg.
The fall off at each position isn’t drastic, but the lack of depth could prove costly over the season’s final month. In attack, Gerardo Martino can choose from Pedro Rodríguez and Alexis Sanchez, the duo having combined for 31 goals this Spanish season. At the back, Brazilian Adriano can resume his place at fullback, where he’s made 22 all competition appearances this campaign.
Perhaps the real relevance of these injuries will be on the World Cup. By the time each player is healthy, they should be able to join their national teams as they begin preparation for this summer’s tournament. If, however, either suffers a setback, their national teams could be forced to adjust.
Neymar is the key player for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil team, with host nation’s side among the favorite to win this summer’s tournament. Alba is the first choice left back for Spain, a team hoping to defending its first world title.
Some Manchester United supporters persisting in singing a chant glorifying Romelu Lukaku which has been deemed racist by many for its depiction of the player’s penis size.
Lukaku was among those to ask that fans stop singing the song, as did the club, but it was heard from the away end at St. Mary’s during Manchester United’s 1-0 win on Saturday (where Lukaku scored the winner).
[ WATCH: Coutinho’s gorgeous free kick ]
United responded with vigor after the match, releasing a statement claiming it would request closed circuit footage of the fans in attempts to ban those singing the song based on The Stone Roses’ “Made of Stone.”
Minutes after setting up Mohamed Salah for a back door header for a 1-0 lead at Leicestwer City, Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho tacked on a goal of his own.
WATCH LEICESTER-LIVERPOOL ONLINE, HERE
Coutinho scored a beauty in the 23rd minute, as the Brazilian lorded over a free kick before spinning a goal just off the top of the wall and past a flying Kasper Schmeichel.
It looked like it was headed for the upper 90 even had it not taking its tiny deviation. The kick was a masterful effort from Coutinho.
A quiz for you. Oumar Niasse‘s two goals:
- A) Saved Ronald Koeman‘s job
- B) Led Everton’s come back win
- C) All of the above
Koeman admitted “there were a lot of emotions” in Everton’s 2-1 home win over Bournemouth on Saturday, as the Toffees got off the mat to post their first Premier League win since Aug. 12.
[ RECAP: Everton 2-1 Bournemouth ]
After a summer of spending, the Toffees were expected to compete for another berth in a European competition. Instead, a murderer’s row of early fixtures had Everton very low on the PL table.
Was Koeman able to stay calm as his team struggled at home against Bottom Three side Bournemouth?
“Calm after the game, yes. There were a lot of emotions. It was a difficult game, we did not create many chances and we took the right decision after 1-0 down to try something different – play two strikers and go more direct.
“It is a totally different world after winning. You have key moments during the season and this was a big win that will give everyone a boost.”
Apollon Limassol is next for the Toffees, followed by matches against Burnley and Brighton.
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho saw his side battle to a 1-0 win away at Southampton on Saturday as they kept their unbeaten start to the Premier League season going.
Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal of the game after 20 minutes and although Saints had the better of the play in the second half, United’s defense held firm.
Towards the end of the game Mourinho was sent to the stands by referee Craig Pawson for encroachment as he stepped onto the pitch during the action.
“I don’t know, you have to ask the referee,” Mourinho said.
He then wasted more time by shaking the hands of every member of Southampton’s coaching staff before he briefly went into the stands before the final whistle was blown.
It remains to be seen if he will face a touchline ban or fine for his actions but speaking to Sky Sports, Mourinho focused on the performance of his team.
“It is not always possible to operate at high quality but fought hard. We did what many teams in the Premier League do for 90 minutes, which was play with five defenders at the back. Credit to Southampton, they tried to play. Pellegrino changed the team and sent on another striker to play more direct.
“It was a hard game but I am really happy. Romelu Lukaku’s work is so important for us. He scored his goal and worked hard like everybody else. Nobody feels the pressure to play always attacking football because so many teams play always defensively. I felt some of the boys were not sharp. I didn’t feel like we could score three or four goals like we sometimes do so the option was to make sure we got the points.”