It was the type of game that could lead you to ironically claim “the Bundesliga is back,” Germany’s top division returning from its winter break with a shootout in Gelsenkirchen. But the league would have been back even if Schalke-Hannover finished 0-0 (a result that’s never happened in league between the two teams). That instead we got nine goals in our first Bundesliga match in 33 days prompts the irony:
The Bundesliga is back, baby!
For 43 minutes, that two clubs failed to match the output that’s produced 21 goals in their last six meetings. Then the explosion started. Just before halftime, Peruvian Jefferson Farfan (pictured) broke the deadlock, priming the teams for an eight-goal second half that left Jens Keller’s team 5-4 winners. Schalke got goals from future Spur Lewis Holtby and 19-year-old Julian Draxler while Hannover was pushed by a double from former Zenit attacker Szabolcs Huszti.
There is a minority of fans under the misconception that this result isn’t that uncommon in the Bundesliga. On the contrary, it’s rare enough to justify a “let’s stop and look at this” post. Nine goals to usher the league back in from break? It’s practically a declaration of intent.
Here are the highlights:
The result temporarily pushes Schalke fifth, on track to regain a Champions League spot after the downturn that cost Huub Stevens his job. For a Steve Cherundolo-less Hannover (out injured), the loss keeps them 11th, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. They’re only five back of Schalke.
As Real Madrid prepares its bid to become the first three-peat winner of the European Cup since the mid-1970s, the Spanish giants still carrying the spirit of an outside, almost like an underdog.
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You can hear it in Zinedine Zidane’s comments on himself, as he casually mentions that he’s not a great tactician.
There’s almost a feeling like he’s building up all of Madrid, including his players, to think of beating Liverpool in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League Final in Kiev like an upset.
And it comes off especially true when he discusses any criticism of his serial Ballon d’Or chaser, Cristiano Ronaldo:
“A player can go through some hard times, but when he does not score he does not get wound up. He knows that the next game he could maybe score two or three goals. That is what happened this year. That’s what makes him the best. There are players that do not thrive under pressure but some do thrive. He is one of those that does. The more you criticize him, the more you should beware. I am a quiet person and in the end, it is better to have Cristiano Ronaldo by your side because he shows year in year out that he is top dog. He will be vital, because he is the best there is.”
Zidane also said Real’s status as a two-time reigning champion, and Liverpool’s 11-year break between UCL finals, are “irrelevant.”
“We must prepare for the game, look at our opponent’s flaws and try to hurt them. It is one match and we are both playing away from home. We are ready and experience will not give us any edge at all. It’s a football match and we have to show that we want to win it.”
Just days after winning his first Premier League title, Pep Guardiola is already on the road, scouting for new signings.
One of these players that Manchester City is reportedly scouting – likely along with many European clubs – is Ajax’s young defensive wiz Matthijs de Ligt. Just 18-years old, de Ligt finished his second full season in the Ajax first team, playing 39 games across all competitions and scoring three goals.
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The youngster was even fast-tracked into the Netherlands National Team, starved of quality defenders as they are, but he made some crucial errors that led to the Oranje missing the World Cup and a second-straight tournament.
Guardiola is eying de Ligt as the eventual replacement for Vincent Kompany, but there’s a chance Guardiola could wait to sign him with Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones ahead of de Ligt in the pecking order. However, considering how well Davinson Sanchez has done in his time in England this season, de Ligt could in theory have a similar performance, assuming he adjusts physically.
Either way, should de Ligt join Man City, they’ll have two of the brightest young defenders in European football.
Here’s a look at some other transfer rumors across the Premier League and Europe:
New York City FC’s fantastic start to 2018 will have to continue without its manager, as Patrick Vieira is set to move overseas.
Multiple sources have told Pro Soccer Talk that Vieira’s move to Ligue 1 side OGC Nice –which was reported by PST over the weekend — has been finalized.
The deal is for a two-year contract with the French club, who finished eighth place in Ligue 1 during the 2017/18 campaign.
French outlet L’Equipe has reported that NYCFC won’t receive a buyout for the remainder of Vieira’s contract, which was set to run through the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season in December.
Vieira was at NYCFC training on Tuesday, and is expected to be once again on Wednesday, per a source familiar with the situation.
Tomorrow’s training session will likely be Vieira’s last though, and he won’t travel to coach NYCFC for the team’s MLS match on Friday night against the Houston Dynamo.
There aren’t any indications to this point as to whether or not NYCFC has an interim manager in mind to replace the outgoing Vieira.
The 41-year-old manager has spent the last two-plus seasons in New York City, guiding NYCFC to back-to-back second-place finishes in the Eastern Conference. He took over at the team in 2016, following the firing of the team’s first-ever manager Jason Kreis (now at Orlando City).
Vieira will be replacing Lucien Favre at Nice, who recently left the club at the conclusion of the Ligue 1 season. Favre has since taken the vacant managerial position at Borussia Dortmund.
Over recent months, Vieira has been linked to several other European jobs, including Saint Etienne (Ligue 1) and Southampton (Premier League), neither of which escalated to a serious level of interest.
ZURICH (AP) FIFA says there is insufficient evidence any players in Russia’s World Cup squad have previously doped.
The governing body has been assessing information from the World Anti-Doping Agency, samples recovered from the Moscow lab, and information from its former director Grigory Rodchenkov.
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Russia last week named a provisional 28-man squad, plus seven reserves for the World Cup, which kicks off in Moscow on June 14.
After investigating the players, FIFA says “insufficient evidence was found to assert an anti-doping rule violation. FIFA has informed the World Anti-Doping Agency of its conclusions, and WADA in turn has agreed with FIFA’s decision to close the cases.”
FIFA did not provide information on the status of investigations into players who are not in the World Cup squad.