Jose Mourinho predicts “trouble” ahead for Man United

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Despite Manchester United being on a 16-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho is not a happy man.

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With severe fixture pile-up on the way, United’s manager is concerned about the “many, many problems” his side will face in the coming weeks as they play in the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, EFL Cup final and the Premier League.

As the battle to finish in the PL’s top four intensifies, Mourinho is right to be worried.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of United’s Europa League Round of 32 first leg clash against St. Etienne on Thusday at old Trafford, Mourinho isn’t looking forward to playing four cup games in the next 10 days and said the congested fixture list will cause his team “many, many problems” between now and the end of the season.

“If we progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble,” Mourinho said. “We know our situation is really complicated. The Europa League is a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult for us. With the accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup and match postponed it is really hard for us. If you progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble in April and May. But we cannot choose competitions so we play to win.”

Mourinho went on to state that “The Europa League is a not a competition we want to play” but he remains upbeat that his team will try and win everything they can.

United face St. Etienne on Thursday, Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday, then St. Etienne away next Thursday before the EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley Stadium next Sunday. If they make it through in the Europa League and FA Cup, they will then have a further four games in 12 days from Mar. 4 onwards.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

He has a point about the massive number of games, with United already playing 38 games this season. But with his large squad and more games meaning more success in the cup competitions, should Mourinho really be complaining?

Of course every manager wants more time to spend on the training ground bedding in his methods and getting his philosophy across to the players. That is especially the case with Mourinho being a manager in his first season at a new club and a top four finish in the Premier League is seen as the minimum requirement.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

But, if he wins the EFL Cup next weekend, gets to the quarters of the FA Cup and makes it into another round of the Europa League won’t everyone be happy? Probably not. Getting back into the UCL is what everyone craves at Old Trafford and that’s why Mourinho was brought in and given the money to sign Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

With four of the current top six in the PL to play in their final 13 games of the league season, Mourinho knows his side could well be jaded by the final month of the season.

As the battle to finish in the top four cranks up a few notches with just four points separating second-place Manchester City and sixth-place Manchester United, having all of these games is a massive headache for Mourinho.

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern wins it late, Leverkusen goes second

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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It looked like Bayern Munich was on pace to drop points for just the fifth time this season, but then the club’s star striker stepped up in the biggest of moments.

[ MORE: TFC on the brink of adding Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ager Aketxe ]

The German leaders came back to pick up a 2-1 victory on the road at Wolfsburg after Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick in stoppage time.

Sandro Wagner’s second-half header had pulled the match level off of an Arjen Robben cross in the 64th minute. Robben atoned for an earlier penalty-kick miss, which would have tied the match ten minutes prior.

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke were each big winners on the day, with the two clubs moving into the top four.

Leverkusen’s 2-1 win on the road against Hertha Berlin saw Heiko Herrlich and his side move up to second place in the Bundesliga, albeit a lengthy distance behind leaders Bayern.

Schalke took care of business at home against Hoffenheim, bringing the Miners one step closer to the top four. The side is now level on 37 points with Borussia Dortmund for fourth, but the Christian Pulisic and Co. currently boast a superior goal differential.

Below are all of Saturday’s scores from around Germany’s top flight.

Cologne 1-1 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg 1-0 Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg 1-1 Bayern Munich
Schalke 2-0 Hoffenheim

Rodchenkov to AP: Russian footballers immune from drug bans

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Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claims he helped soccer players in the country to avoid being caught doping after he followed government orders to ensure cheating was covered up.

[ MORE: Mourinho denies Pogba exit rumors ]

The former Russian anti-doping laboratory director told The Associated Press in response to questions through his lawyer that an instruction to avoid scandal came from Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is the former Russian sports minister who serves as deputy prime minster despite being at the center of the doping deception controversy exposed by Rodchenkov.

The focus is sharpening on doping practices in Russian soccer with the World Cup kicking off in Moscow in four months.

Rodchenkov says “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

Rodchenkov claimed Mutko said “avoid any scandal by hiding positive results” and that “doping would be handled internally”.

Video: Rondon’s exquisite volley not enough to save West Brom

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Salomon Rondon’s second-half volley was not only a beauty, but one of tremendous difficulty.

Unfortunately for he and his West Bromwich Albion side, though, it wasn’t enough for the Baggies to survive in this season’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Southampton.

[ MORE: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in for Barcelona opener ]

The Saints progressed to the quarterfinals on Saturday behind goals from Wesley Hoedt and Dusan Tadic, and join fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Brighton & Hove and Leicester City in the final eight.

Tadic’s goal came in the 56th minute, doubling the Southampton lead, but Rondon’s quality volley two minutes later provided West Brom with a temporary moment of relief (below).

Video: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in on goal

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With a blockbuster UEFA Champions League clash against Chelsea right around the corner for Barcelona, the Spanish league leaders look on pace to extend their perfect La Liga record.

[ MORE: Willian dazzles for Chelsea in FA Cup win over Hull ]

Despite rumors that Lionel Messi and some of Barcelona’s biggest stars would be rested ahead of Tuesday’s match against the London side, the Argentine superstar not only started at Eibar on Saturday, but made a brilliant impact in the 17th minute.

Messi linked up with Luis Suarez after playing the Uruguayan through towards goal from a tremendous defense-splitting pass that sent the striker in for the 1-0 lead.

Barcelona has yet to lose in domestic competition this season, boasting an 18-5-0 record heading into Saturday’s meeting with Eibar. Additionally, Messi and Co. currently hold a plus-49 goal differential, which was lifted to plus-50 with Suarez’s finish.

The Blaugrana are the last team in Europe’s five major leagues to remain unbeaten in league play.