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PSG respond strongly to reports of Thiago Silva’s mental weakness

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Paris Saint-Germain strongly supported captain Thiago Silva after reports in French publication L’Equipe suggested that the Brazilian’s injury problems are not as serious as the club has made them out to be.

According to the often explosive French newspaper, the 32-year-old defender missed the pummeling of Barcelona not because of a calf bruise but was because he was “frozen with fear” ahead of one of the biggest games of his life.

“It’s hard to say if he’s injured,” said an unnamed source L’Equipe referred to as a “regular at the training center.” “Medical examinations did not show much. It looks as though he has tensed up at the approach of the event.” L’Equipe is known for its harsh words and even harsher match ratings, and occasionally seems to embellish otherwise routine stories.

PSG responded with an exclusive in Brazilian newspaper Globoesporte, saying, “Thiago Silva was injured after the Ligue 1 clash with Lille [on February 7th],” the statement from the French champions read. “The diagnosis was heavy bruising on his left calf — he did not play against Bordeaux the week before the Champions League match at home to Barcelona.”

“Thiago Silva is our captain, the man of great games, who is always there through the difficult times and is appreciated by the staff and his teammates. Everyone at the club is shocked by the doubts some have expressed about his motivation.”

The L’Equipe claim doesn’t seem to hold much water. Thiago Silva is an experienced Brazilian international and has played Champions League matches against clubs like Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and even Barcelona twice in the 2014/15 campaign, which both times resulted in a 3-1 loss. He is also known to be injury prone, with the club even pointing out that after the unsuccessful World Cup in 2014, Silva returned to the club early to help them start the season, only to result in an injury in doing so.

After the Lille match where he picked up the injury, Silva missed the following Ligue 1 meeting, a trip to Bordeaux which PSG won 3-0. The article went on to say that the injury is severe enough to keep Silva out of the next Ligue 1 match, a home date with Toulouse, and he is expected to return for the trip to Marseille on February 26th. That would theoretically see Silva fit enough to play in the second leg against Barcelona on March 8th.

Without the captain on the field, manager Unai Emery instead was forced to pair an incredibly young duo of Marquinhos (22 years old) and Presnel Kimpembe (21 years old) in central defense, the latter of whom made his Champions League debut. With the help of successful midfield cover in Adrian Rabiot, he two held Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez scoreless in the 4-0 demolition.

At long last, Butland returns to full training with Stoke

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Stoke City’s long-coming goalkeeping dilemma will come to a head soon, as Jack Butland is back in training.

A year ago today, the Potters confirmed that star backstop Butland would miss EURO 2016 with a broken ankle. He’d need multiple surgeries as recovery dragged on and on.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

That was more palatable thanks to the play of Lee Grant, who arrived on loan from Derby County but became a permanent Potter in January. Grant has been a key part of Stoke’s season.

Butland is contracted to Stoke through 2021, and he’ll ascend to the starting gig sooner rather than later. But Grant is in the catbird seat for now, and at least will have made himself attractive to other clubs seeking a keeper.

Report: Everton linked with $4 million swoop for Canada’s Larin

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The Sun only hits on a few of the many transfer rumors it tosses around, but this one bears a second look for fans of Everton, MLS, and Canada.

Everton is already eyeing replacements for Romelu Lukaku, according to the report, and is hunting for a bargain in Canadian national teamer Cyle Larin.

Larin, 21, was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC after an electric career at UConn.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He’s since scored 35 goals in 63 matches for the Lions, picking up three in his first two matches of the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1 Ontario native has five goals for Canada in 19 caps.

The Sun says Larin would cost close to $4 million, a fraction of what the Toffees will get if they sell Lukaku.

Fan dies after falling off football stadium in Brazil

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SAO PAULO (AP) A Brazilian football fan has died after falling 25 meters from the top of Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo onto a parking lot.

The height is equivalent to an eight-story building.

Bruno Pereira da Silva, aged 23, suffered head injuries and died upon arrival at a local hospital on Sunday.

[ MORE: Complete Panama-USMNT preview ]

He and other fans were attempting to jump to a section of the stadium where they could get a better view of the Sao Paulo state championship match between Sao Paulo and archrival Corinthians. The game ended 1-1.

Friends of da Silva told Brazilian media Silva was attending his first football match.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers: CRC, Honduras get off the mat

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The two traditional CONCACAF powers are riding high following Friday’s round of World Cup qualifiers, while the two other sides to qualify for Brazil 2014 are licking their wounds.

Honduras and Costa Rica both found themselves on the wrong side of shutout losses to the United States and Mexico, while Trinidad and Tobago injected itself into the discussion with a home win over Panama.

[ WATCH: CONCACAF qualifiers on Telemundo ]

What’s cooking for Tuesday? Read on:

Honduras vs. Costa Rica — 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Two sides which love to play physical, on-the-edge soccer meet on the heels of Friday losses. Expect Jorge Luis Pinto’s Catrachos to adapt after a 6-0 beatdown at the hands of the U.S., but they’ll have to do much, much better at home.

The dates at Estadio Morazan have to be the key for Honduras to climb into the Top Three, and it’ll be buoyed by memories of its 3-1 win over T&T two rounds ago. As for Costa Rica, Los Ticos aim to respond from conceding their first two goals of the Hex.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico — 7 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Kevin Molino’s strike gave T&T its first three points of qualifying, but its odds of getting a result against visiting Mexico aren’t nearly as good. The Soca Warriors desperation will be easy to see, as June’s qualifiers include trips to the U.S. and Costa Rica.

El Tri now has wins in two of its trickier Hex matches after adding Friday’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica to its upset of the Yanks in Columbus. Ten points through four matches would be exemplary; A draw or loss leaves the door open for Costa Rica to summit the Hex table.

United States vs. Panama — 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday

Read our extensive preview here, but the upshot is this: The United States can rise into the Top Three by beating Panama, while Los Canaleros will be happy to scoop a draw to stem any bleeding cause by Molino and T&T.