Belgium coach Marc Wilmots kept Romelu Lukaku out of the starting lineup for Belgium’s final warm up game, but that didn’t stop the striker from falling prey to injury in the win over Tunisia.
Wilmots elected to start 19-year-old Divock Origi in Saturday’s friendly in Brussels, but with Belgium held scoreless after an hour, replaced him with star forward Lukaku. Dries Mertens gave Belgium with win with a goal in the 89th minute, but the triumph shortly turned to dismay. Lukaku limped off with an apparent ankle injury in the final moments of the match.
“For now it looks like a severe sprain, but of course there will be further tests tomorrow,” Wilmots said. “As it looks now, Romelu will be out for three or four days. Let’s hope it stays that way.”
Belgium will be crossing their fingers that the World Cup Injury Plague hasn’t touched their team once more. Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke ruptured his Achilles during training in April, ruling him out of the tournament. That leaves Lukaku as the only center forward with real experience (Origi has just two caps for his country).
While the Belgium midfield is bursting with talent, and the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas and Kevin De Bruyne can certainly score goals, Wilmots is not one to set up his side without a target man. And with Lukaku having already scored four goals in Belgium’s last two games, they’ll certainly want his presence up top.
Belgium’s first match is on Tuesday, June 17 against Algeria. Should tests reveal Lukaku’s injury to be a minor one, he should be set to play the opener. If not, their World Cup hopes may plummet to the ground.
Monaco has slapped a massive price tag on Bernardo Silva, and The Times says that isn’t stopping Chelsea.
Antonio Conte is trying to land the 22-year-old Portuguese attacker according to the report, which says that the Blues are already chatting up the Ligue 1 outfit.
[ MORE: Wenger’s Sutton pitch worry ]
Silva has six goals and seven assists in France’s top flight this season, adding another three in the UEFA Champions League. He did not appear at EURO 2016 thanks to a hamstring injury, as Portugal won the Henri Delaunay Trophy.
Chelsea is ready to spend $88 million on the right winger, who can also play in a attacking center mid role. From The Times:
Monaco would like to secure a minimum of €80m (£68.4m) for Bernardo, who is comfortable operating on either the left or right wing or as a number 10. With Barcelona, Real Madrid and both Manchester clubs also expressing their interest Monaco, who play Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday, believe a money-spinning auction may develop.
Transfer prices can be hard to predict, but is Silva the sort of talent that will tempt nine figures? We’ve been surprised before, and at his age it’s possible, but color us skeptical.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.
[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]
Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.
Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.
Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.
PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.
Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.
[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]
PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.
[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]
Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.
PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.
Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.
Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.
The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.
[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]
However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.
Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.
“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.
In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.
“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.
“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”