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.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

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Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.