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Chinese Super League announces decrease in foreign spending

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The Chinese Super League has shocked the soccer world by spending huge sums to attract star foreign players but new rules introduced for the start of the 2017 season will have a significant impact on the game in China, Asia and perhaps around the world.

On a statement on its official website on Monday, the China Football Association (CFA) outlined its plans to change the rules for the new season, which is less than two months away.

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“In order to realize `The General Plan of Chinese Football Reform and Development’ and to benefit the overall development of Chinese football and Chinese local players, to enhance the quality of the national team and to keep the professional league on a healthy, stable and consistent track, the CFA has adjusted the regulations of the 2017 Chinese Super League,” the statement said.

Under the existing rules, all 16 teams in the Chinese Super League are allowed to sign a maximum of 5 foreign players. All five can be named in the 18-man match-day roster but only 4 can take the field at any one time, and 1 of those players has to be from an Asian nation.

Under the new regulations, teams can still sign 5 foreign players, now from anywhere in the world as the `Asian quota’ is abolished, but only 3 can be included in match-day rosters.

Player agent Kim Dong-jun, who is based in Seoul and represents some Chinese players, said the new rules will turn the spotlight back on the locals.

“The teams that have the best Chinese players will be successful and the value of Chinese players is going to rise,” Kim told Associated Press.

The value of Chinese players is already rising. On Friday, newly-promoted Chinese Super League team Tianjin Quanjian broke the domestic transfer record by paying around $10.6 million for goalkeeper Zhang Lu to Liaoning.

The elimination of the rule where teams have to have a foreigner from another Asian country will likely have the biggest impact in South Korea, according to Kim.

“K-League teams have lots of experience in selling players to China for lots of money,” said Kim. “They have been doing this for three or four years, including smaller K-League teams that have smaller budgets. These changes will reduce the number of Koreans who go to China and could have a big financial impact on Korean clubs.”

There are also some Australians likely to be effected. Adelaide United had agreed to sell James Holland to Liaoning. The move has been placed on hold and there is also uncertainty over the transfer of Robbie Kruse to the same club.

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Also in 2017, each team will have to include one Under-23 player in the starting 11 and another in the match-day squad. On social media, Shanghai SIPG assistant coach Mads Davidsen expressed his surprise at the timing of the announcement but said that local players would benefit from the rule. “The U23-rule is very positive, plus one on the bench giving them all a chance. 5 (overseas players) are allowed in the squad, so no one has to leave.”

The planned introduction of new rules has not had an immediate impact yet, with several teams spending up big in the transfer window, which opened on Jan. 1. Shanghai SIPG signed Brazilian midfielder Oscar from English Premier League leaders Chelsea for a reported figure of around $60 million to link up with fellow international Hulk. Shanghai Shenhua has recruited Carlos Tevez and has reportedly made the Argentine the highest-paid soccer player in the world.

Not everyone is happy with the huge amounts of money on offer though and earlier this month, the country’s General Administration of Sport issued a warning to clubs that were spending large sums on foreign talent.

A spokesman said that the government, which under president Xi Jinping has been encouraging the growth of the sport in a bid to become a global soccer powerhouse by 2050, would “regulate and restrain high-priced signings and make reasonable restrictions on players’ high incomes.”

European teams are also wary with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte expressing his concern.

“The Chinese market is a danger for all,” he said last month. “Not only for Chelsea, but all the teams in the world.

“But I think we must concentrate on our work, not think that in China there is a lot of money and they can arrive to take the players there.”

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly.

Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United. “Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?”

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.