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Real Madrid’s public spat with a mayor after game postponed

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s only opponent this week has been off the field.

Unable to play over the weekend because its Spanish league game at Celta Vigo was postponed by bad weather, Real Madrid traded blows with a local mayor who accused it of improperly pressuring to play the game despite security concerns.

Upset with the mayor’s comments, Madrid released an official note condemning the “inappropriate” and “totally inaccurate” statements.

Sunday’s match was called off after Vigo authorities deemed Balaidos Stadium unsafe for spectators because of damage caused to the roof by heavy wind.

“I expected cooperation from a team of Madrid’s grandiosity, not pressure,” Vigo Mayor Abel Caballero said Monday. “It’s only a football match. Even for Madrid, it’s only a football match. In my opinion, there was an improper controversy prompted by Real Madrid.”

The postponement created problems for Madrid because of an already tight schedule that includes decisive games in the Spanish league and in the last 16 of the Champions League. The club already had a game in hand in the league, at Valencia, because of its participation at the Club World Cup in December.

“Real Madrid regrets the unfortunate statements made by the mayor of Vigo, in which he states that this club disregarded the security measures required for the (match) to go ahead,” the club said. “Not only are the mayor’s comments inappropriate, they are also totally inaccurate, because at no point in time did Real Madrid question the security measures in place at Balaidos.”

Madrid said it merely proposed alternatives to avoid having the game postponed, including closing the affected seating section under the damaged roof and looking at playing at a nearby stadium.

“These proposals were made with a view to avoiding the postponement of the fixture from negatively impacting upon the four competitions, given the knock-on effect it would cause between them, as well as the massive financial losses suffered by television channels from around the world, which will have an impact on future tenders for the sale of broadcasting rights,” Real Madrid said.

Celta was also affected by the postponement because it is playing in the Europa League and in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey. Celta was expected to use its second-stringers against Madrid in the league, however, so a new date could play into its advantage.

“Madrid isn’t happy because we eliminated them in the Copa (quarterfinals),” Caballero told the Spanish sports daily Marca on Tuesday.

Celta coach Eduardo Berizzo said the club obviously would rather play a team other than Madrid, but dismissed the notion that the game was called off because of that.

“The game would have been suspended regardless of the opponent because it was unsafe for the fans,” Berizzo said. “I still don’t have the ability to make it rain.”

Celta’s opponent in the Copa del Rey, Alaves, also complained of the game’s postponement, saying it gave its rival an unfair advantage because it didn’t have to play any matches after last week’s first leg in Vigo, which ended 0-0. It wanted Wednesday’s second leg played at a different date so “both teams would play under equal conditions.” Its demand was not granted.

The Spanish league defended all the decisions taken regarding the game in Vigo, saying they were based on requests made by local authorities and with the safety of players and public in mind.

“Abel Caballero said the game couldn’t be played and gave his reasons for it,” league president Javier Tebas told the daily AS. “Those who have doubts about the mayor’s decision can make a complaint against him.”

The match between Celta and Madrid wasn’t the only one that had to be suspended because of bad weather in northern Spain. Friday’s match between Deportivo La Coruna and Real Betis also had to be called off because of damage caused by heavy wind at Deportivo’s Riazor Stadium.

The games have not yet been rescheduled.

“The calendar is very tight,” Tebas said. “But we will find a solution.”

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.