Draw with Getafe may end Barcelona’s title defense

Leave a comment

Barcelona took another step toward confirming its first trophy-less season in six years, with a surprise draw against visiting Getafe leaving the team’s already faint hopes of retaining Spain’s title on the edge of extinction. Despite goals from Lionel Messi and Alexis Sánchez giving the home side two separate leads, a double from Ángel Lafita, including a second equalizer in the 92nd minute, cost Barcelona two points at the Nou Camp, leaving Gerardo Martino’s team three points behind league-leading Atlético Madrid after its 2-2 draw.

The Colchoneros play their Round 36 match tomorrow at Levante, while Real Madrid, who have a game in hand on the league’s other title contenders, host Valencia. The Merengues are currently six points off the top.

After a prematch ceremony in memory of Tito Vilanova, Barcelona went up in the 24th minute through Messi, who finished a Dani Alves cross into the top of the Getafe goal. Fourteen minutes later, Lafita sent the teams into halftime even, converting off a Pablo Sarabia restart.

The home side went up again in the 67th minute when Getafe’s block of a Cesc Fábregas shot fell to Sánchez, who gave Barça a 2-1 lead. Two minutes into stoppage time, however, Lapita headed home his second of the game, allowing Getafe to become the second team to leave the Nou Camp with points this La Liga season.

The result gives Getafe, now three points above the drop, extra security against relegation, though season-ending matches versus Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano leave the club in danger of being caught by Almeria and Real Valladolid. Almeria, hosting relegation-confirmed Real Betis on Sunday, are only three points back of Getafe, while Valladolid, four points back, came into the weekend with a match in hand.

The result’s bigger impact is at the top of the table. With two games left, Barcelona’s maximum number of points is now 91. If Atlético wins out, the leaders will finish at 97, while Real Madrid could still get to 94. With two matches left in the season, Barcelona may have hit its last, defense-ending banana peel.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
Leave a comment

Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
Leave a comment

Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.