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FIFA sends 1,300-page corruption probe to Swiss prosecutors

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA has sent 1,300 pages of internal investigation reports into suspected bribery and corruption to Switzerland’s attorney general.

However, FIFA said Friday it was legally barred from publishing the full reports or commenting on the evidence or conclusions.

The documents complete a 22-month probe by legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which FIFA retained in the fallout from United States and Swiss federal prosecutors revealing their sprawling investigations of soccer corruption in May 2015.

[ MORE: What’s left for each PL club? ]

FIFA has said the U.S.-based law firm, whose hiring helped add $30 million to its published legal costs in 2015, is key to helping retain its institutional status as a victim of corruption and not an accomplice.

“FIFA understands and has agreed that the reports will also be made available to the U.S. authorities,” FIFA said in a statement.

In a case identified with former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the FIFA-commissioned reports will arrive at the U.S. Department of Justice and Brooklyn federal prosecution under new leaders in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Switzerland attorney general Michael Lauber remains in control of his office’s investigation, which already opened proceedings for suspected criminal mismanagement against former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his former right-hand man, Jerome Valcke.

[ MORE: Crew, ‘Caps swap Tchani, Manneh ]

Blatter and Valcke, FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general since 2007, were both suspended from office in September 2015 and later banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee.

It is unclear which other senior FIFA staffers or soccer federation leaders worldwide could be implicated and ultimately indicted on the basis of the investigation reports.

In an interim finding last year, FIFA accused Blatter, Valcke and long-time finance director Markus Kattner of self-dealing in agreeing to each others’ contracted salaries and World Cup bonuses totaling $80 million. FIFA fired Kattner last May.

In the documents, FIFA does not make a judgment on which individuals could or should be prosecuted, according to a person briefed on the contents. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the reports are confidential, also said some key witnesses refused to speak.

Still, Lauber’s office has “acknowledged FIFA’s close and consistent cooperation,” FIFA said in its statement.

Lauber is also key to sealing the contents of FIFA’s more than 1,300 report pages and more than 20,000 pages of evidence to preserve the integrity of his team’s investigation.

[ MORE: FIFA announces World Cup expansion details ]

The Swiss lawyer’s office criticized the German soccer federation last year when it released in full a 361-page report into suspected corruption linked to organizing the 2006 World Cup. By publishing so much evidence, the “risk of collusion” by suspects, including soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, was increased, the Swiss federal department said then.

The Swiss investigation of Germany’s World Cup organizers spun off the broader FIFA case, which was formally launched in Switzerland in November 2014. Then, Blatter and FIFA ethics committee judges sent Lauber reports from an investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests led by former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia.

Swiss prosecutors have examined at least 172 suspected money-laundering transactions through Swiss banks in a case that Lauber’s office has said proceedings could take up to five years.

The U.S. case was launched years earlier and had a first star witness in former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, the most senior American in world soccer during Blatter’s presidency. Blazer ran CONCACAF, the North American soccer body, from apartments in Trump Tower in Manhattan and rarely filed tax returns.

U.S. federal authorities have indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 soccer and marketing executives, and marketing agencies, including several former FIFA vice presidents from the Americas.

The case mostly involves bribery linked to regional tournaments and World Cup qualifying games in Latin America, plus a direct link to FIFA in payments totaling $10 million through its accounts, signed off by Valcke in 2008.

Prosecutors using Blazer’s testimony allege the money was bribes funneled from South African organizers of the 2010 World Cup in exchange for hosting votes from CONCACAF delegates on the FIFA executive committee.

Forfeits totaling more than $200 million have been agreed to by people who admitted guilt to U.S. authorities.

FIFA last year made a restitution claim for a share of the money, including for enforced legal costs, based on “harm to its business relationships, reputation and intangible property.”

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”