Portuguese international Pepe faces battle with muscle injury

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Real Madrid announced today that center-back Pepe has a grade 1 calf strain that he suffered during the draw with Valladolid on Wednesday.

According to reports, the muscle injury has a typical recovery time of 15 days, meaning he could very well miss the rest of the season, including the Champions League final on May 24, depending on how he progresses.

A humorous bit of translation on the English version of the Real Madrid official site says, “Pepe was diagnosed with a grade 1 injury in the soleus muscle of her left leg. The player’s progress will be monitored.”

Hopefully for Real Madrid, “her” left leg recovers in time for some big games down the stretch, with the Los Blancos four points back in the La Liga title race and two to play. Backup center-back Raphael Varane is also struggling with an injury, so the position is in limbo.

It’s also something to monitor for the Portuguese national team, who are hoping Pepe’s injury won’t extend into any preparation for the World Cup.  Portugal, who are in the United States’ group, are also dealing with a slight injury to star forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who limped off after just eight minutes against Valladolid with a hamstring injury.

With the Champions League final looming, those two big injuries aren’t all Real Madrid is faced with. Gareth Bale was also ruled out of the match against Valladolid with a slight knock.  Both Bale and Ronaldo reportedly returned to training yesterday, but it remains to be seen how fit they actually are.

Nagging muscle injuries could certainly affect a player over the coming months, especially if he (or she?) looks to return too early and aggravates the problem. That’s certainly possible at this point in the season when teams like Real Madrid need all their best players in every games down the stretch.

News on Ronaldo’s injury against Valladolid was that he was seen limping in the days leading up to the match but Carlo Ancelotti decided to play him anyways, and the result was the injury.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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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.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia