Barcelona have completed the signing of French defender Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia, as new boss Luis Enrique continues to stamp his mark on the Catalan club.
Mathieu, 30, is a towering left back or central defender who has played for Valencia since 2009 and he will add a solid core at the back for the Blaugrana. He will be unveiled on Thursday at the Nou Camp.
On paper, this seems like a strange signing but Enrique is moving fast to address his needs.
How many times over the past five, six seasons have we seen Barcelona dominate teams, then come undone to their Achilles heel of failing to defend set pieces or one hopeful cross being knocked home by the opposition? Plenty, is the answer.
Mathieu is known for his aerial dominance and alongside Gerard Pique in the back four, the two will provide Barca with a sensationally solid platform to build off. It would seem as though Mathieu will line up alongside Pique in central defense with Jordi Alba at left back and Dani Alves at right back, as Enrique prefers to go with a fluid 4-3-3 formation in line with Barca’s soccer philosophy.
We know Barcelona possess wonderful attacking talents in Lionel Messi, Neymar and know Luis Suarez, but it is good to see them make more pragmatic and sensible signings. That bodes well for Enrique’s first season in charge as the former Barca midfielder continues to build his own squad primed for success after a trophyless 2013-14 campaign for former Barcelona gaffer Gerardo Martino.
SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.
The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.
Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.
Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.
The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.
Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.
After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.
If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.
The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.
BERLIN (AP) Germany’s players will each receive $410,000 bonus if the team defends its World Cup title next year in Russia.
The German soccer federation says it has agreed to a performance-related bonus system for the team, as it did for the successful 2014 World Cup campaign and the last two European Championships.
Bonuses will only be paid upon reaching the quarterfinals, when each player would receive $90,000. That will increase to $150,000 for reaching the semifinals, $175,000 for third place and $235,000 for reaching the final.
Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) have won back-to-back World Cup titles.
David Moyes has stated his desire to sign Jack Wilshere during the January transfer window, as West Ham United battle relegation and attempt to secure their Premier League status for next season.
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Wilshere, who’s made just five PL appearance (all as a substitute) this season for Arsenal, after spending last season on loan at Bournemouth (27 appearances, including 22 starts), will be out of contract with the Gunners in the summer and it’s looking less and less likely that the 25-year-old has a long-term future at the club. Thus, he would almost certainly be allowed to leave and recoup something — anything — next month.
As such, Moyes, whose West Ham side currently sits 19th in the league table after a disastrous start to the season which ultimately saw Slaven Bilic fired, sees an opportunity to bring in an international-caliber player, on the cheap, at exactly the right time — quotes from the Guardian:
“You’d hope that if you took a player from another Premier League club it’d be much easier for him to go right into the team and play well. Jack Wilshere would be someone who we’d have to look at if he was available.
“I do believe the transfer window could be the difference between relegation and staying up. If we can get the right players, that’s the big part of it.
“I also want to make sure we’re looking at players who’ve got time and who can be at the club for a long period and not just in for a short period. Then there’s also the short-term fix for me which is, how do we get enough wins between now and the end of the season? There’s a balance between that.”
Wilshere’s (waning) chances of making the England team for next summer’s World Cup undoubtedly hinge upon him playing a majority of minutes during the second half of the season and finding a patch of remarkably good form. Suffice to say, he’d likely to be quite interested in a move — especially one that would keep him in London.
Burnley challenging for, and ultimately finishing in, a top-four place in the Premier League would be the most unexpected outcome in England’s top flight since… well, Leicester City won the title 18 months ago.
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While the Foxes might have desensitized us with regards to what constitutes a feel-good story, one cannot simply ignore the astonishing, unexpected nature of the Clarets currently occupying fourth place in the PL table, just shy of the season’s halfway mark.
Sure, all three of Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have a game in hand (all to be played on Wednesday) and would overtake Sean Dyche‘s side with a win, but even then “seventh-place Burnley” is a phrase that is only slightly less remarkable.
Following his side’s 1-0 victory over Stoke City on Tuesday, Dyche something like a romantic, referring to Burnley’s run as a “dream” given those lofty levels of overachievement — quotes from the BBC:
“It’s a run of results and a start which the fans are enjoying and rightly so.
“Football is about realities but also about dreams. It’s a tough task for us winning games at this level, but Leicester blew the roof off dreams in football.”
“We found a way to win and a fine goal. We’re not the real deal, we’re a side that are improving.
“I keep reality because this division will eat you alive. We’re having a real go at what we can achieve this season.”