AP Photo/Lalo R. Villar

Dembele returns for Barcelona in 1-1 draw at Celta in Copa

Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Ousmane Dembele made his return from a long injury layoff as a second-half substitute in Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

The 20-year-old France forward ruptured a thigh tendon in his left leg on Sept. 16 in his third appearance with the team after his transfer set a record for the Spanish club.

His move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer could potentially cost nearly 150 million euros ($180 million) as Barcelona seeks to fill the void in its attack left by Neymar after he forced his exit to Paris Saint-Germain.

[ MORE: Grading every PL club’s festive season ]

Dembele went on in the 72nd minute for reserve team striker Jose Arnaiz, who opened the scoring. Dembele took over as Barcelona’s center forward, but offered little more than a shot that drew a save from goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez in the 78th.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde fielded a starting 11 with few regular starters, allowing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta to have extra rest, tacked onto the end of the short winter break.

Arnaiz struck for Barcelona in the 15th minute when he drilled in a low cross from Andre Gomes, who started the counterattack by recovering possession. It was the 22-year-old Arnaiz’s third goal in three cup matches this season for Barcelona.

Celta forward Pione Sisto leveled in the 31st after a long team buildup that appeared to have finished in a shot by Iago Aspas that hit the post. But the ball ricocheted off the woodwork and the leg of goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen before falling to Sisto, who fired it over the goalkeeper from a tight angle.

Denis Suarez missed a great chance for Barcelona in the 58th when Nelson Semedo found him arriving all alone at the far post, and Sergio Busquets hit the crossbar with a shot from distance moments later.

Barcelona’s unbeaten streak reached 26 straight matches.

Celta also held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou in the Spanish league last month.

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

[ MORE: Bundesliga scores ]

“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

Getty Images
1 Comment

The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.