Mexican referee in charge with 8 U.S. players on warnings, Mexico up next

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Eight players on yellow cards loom among other concerns for United States head coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s squad heading into Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica. Another is Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodríguez, who will officiate the game before the U.S. takes on Mexico.

“I don’t doubt that Marco Antonio Rodríguez is a great referee,” Klinsmann told Radio Fórmula on Wednesday. “Without a doubt, he applies the rules well, but at the same time, it’s something I can’t get out of my head. I have eight players on yellow cards, and four days later, we play Mexico. Truthfully, I don’t like it.”

Klinsmann reiterated to American media on Thursday that he found the assignment “unfortunate.”

Rodríguez — who has come to be known by the nickname Chiquidrácula, or Chiquimarco after the Protestant priest objected to the name because of his Christian faith — is known for his propensity to dish out cards indiscriminately. In four World Cup matches he has officiated, Rodríguez sent off three players, including Australian Tim Cahill in what was a highly questioned decision.

In Liga MX, he was once suspended for five matches after issuing two yellow cards at the same time, one in each hand, during a January 2012 playoff series between Tigres and Santos:

During the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup, Rodríguez took charge of AC Milan’s 4-2 win over Boca Juniors, where he showed five yellows and two red cards.

The knowledgeable site Transfermarkt has Rodríguez handing out a steady five yellow cards per game over 70 games in eight seasons. His 20 straight red cards during that time rank top of the table in Liga MX.

Premier League sets start date for 2019-2020 season

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Mark it down.

The Premier League announced that the 2019-2020 season will begin on Saturday, August 10. That’s just 90 days after the 2018-2019 season will finish on May 12.

In addition, the Premier League is continuing with closing their summer transfer window before the start of the season. August 8, at 5 p.m. local is the next transfer deadline day.

Additional news about next season’s schedule is expected to be announced in the coming months.

Manchester United opened the 2018-2019 season on Friday, August 10 with a 2-1 win over Leicester City.

Arsenal, Chelsea cruise into Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal looked right at home back in the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium.

After losing twice on the road this month, including a surprise 1-0 defeat last Thursday to BATE Borisov, Arsenal took care of business at home. The Gunners defeated BATE, 3-0 on the night (3-1 on aggregate), with goals from centerbacks Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulous, while BATE’s Zakhar Volkov scored an own goal early to tie the scoreline between the two legs.

[READ: Premier League Power Rankings]

South of the Emirates Stadium, Chelsea built on their 2-1 aggregate lead over Malmo FF with a resounding 3-0 win. Malmo finished with ten men and the game was highlighted by goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and a Ross Barkley free kick.

With the wins, both Premier League sides advance to the Europa League Round of 16. The draw for the Round of 16 will be held on Friday, with matches taking place March 7 and 14.

Arsenal took an unexpected lead in the fourth minute of the match. A seemingly harmless cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was somehow turned into his own net by BATE centerback Zakhar Volkov. After some shaky moments early, Arsenal settled in and controlled the match, leading to the go-ahead goal. Granit Xhaka played the first of his two assists as Mustafi got on the end of a corner kick to head the ball in for a goal.

In the 60th minute, Sokratis’ header off a corner kick put the game away and allowed Arsenal fans to relax for the final half-hour of play.

Chelsea, meanwhile, didn’t get the early goal like Arsenal but didn’t end up needing it.

Maurizio Sarri sat Jorginho, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso and it led to a better defensive performance, albeit Malmo isn’t a world beater. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in the 55th minute with a tap-in after great work from N’Golo Kante and Willian. It was Giroud’s sixth Europa League goal this season.

Barkley delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd with a terrific free kick from the edge of the box in the 74th minute and Hudson-Odoi put the cherry on top with a right-footed strike ten minutes later.

Former Premier League midfielder Diarra leaves PSG, announces retirement

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PARIS (AP) Veteran midfielder Lassana Diarra announced his retirement on Thursday, hours after he terminated his contract with French league leader Paris Saint-Germain by mutual agreement.

The 33-year-old Frenchman joined PSG in January 2018 and his contract was set to expire in June. Diarra’s career ends after 15 years and many high profile stops. He played for Arsenal, Chelsea and even Portsmouth in England, as well as spending three strong seasons with Real Madrid.

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Le moment est venu de « raccrocher les crampons » comme on dit . Pour le football , j’ai beaucoup donné . Grâce au football , j’ai énormément reçu . Le sport de haut niveau est une véritable école de courage , de persévérance et de respect . Il ne s’agit pas de faire l’unanimité mais d’honorer , en professionnel , avec volontarisme et loyauté la confiance que l’on vous accorde . Je ne dis pas que j’ai tout fait parfaitement mais je l’ai fait avec coeur , passion et bienveillance . Merci à tous ceux et toutes celles qui m’ont encouragé tout au long de ma carrière sportive . Une pensée pour les clubs , entraîneurs , éducateurs et coéquipiers qui ont fait partie de mon quotidien pendant toutes ces années . Je n’oublie pas ma première sélection avec la France en 2007 . Porter le maillot de la sélection nationale est le rêve de tous les footballeurs . Je tourne donc la page mais je n’oublie rien . Je vais continuer à œuvrer avec enthousiasme , détermination et sincérité dans mes nouveaux projets . Amitiés LASS

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After Real Madrid, Diarra became a journeyman, playing two seasons in Russia and part of a season in the United Arab Emirates. With PSG, Diarra made 10 league appearances last season under former coach Unai Emery, and has made only three in the league this season in Thomas Tuchel’s team.

Diarra made 34 appearances for France and was a regular starter during the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup.

Europa League, LIVE — Chelsea look to close out Malmo at home

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Chelsea did themselves plenty of favors by winning 2-1 away to Swedish side Malmo last week in the Europa League round of 32, leaving themselves a straightforward job to do in Thursday’s second leg.

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With an aggregate lead, plus two away goals in hand, Maurizio Sarri‘s side can perhaps bounce back from a rough run of results in recent weeks. With fans calling for him to be fired, the Italian will take any boost he can get.

Elsewhere, Arsenal have done well to overturn their 1-0 deficit to BATE Borisov and lead 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the day’s early round of games.