Champions League: Atlético Madrid conquer Dragão, take 2-1 win from Porto

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Saturday’s win at the Santiago Bernabéu may have been the biggest in Atlético Madrid’s recent history, but seeing Colchonero boss Diego Simeone leap into his assistant’s arms just before full-time on Tuesday, you’d have a hard deciding which result was bigger: This weekend’s 1-0 Derbi win over Real Madrid, or today’s 2-1 victory at Porto? While it’s hard to imagine a more symbolic result than this weekend’s win at the Bernabéu, an airborne Simeone, legs dangling behind his assistant as he was carried down the Dragão’s sideline, cast a compelling visage. Who would have thought a win in Portugal would evoke that kind of emotion?

[MORE: Derbi loss was so much more for Real Madrid.]

The drama certainly helped, Atlético having fought back from a one-goal deficit to claim full points just before time. Jackson Martínez’s 16th minute goal and the confidence it instilled in Porto built that tension, but after halftime, the resiliency Simeone has slowly worked into his team won out.

Off of Gabi’s restart along the right flank, Diego Godiín headed into an empty net in the 58th minute, Helton having misjudged a ball that swung away from him nine yards from goal. Then in the 86th minute, after Atlético had turned Porto’s fortress defense into a salvage operation, a clever restart allowed Ardan Turan to finish high into Helton’s goal, a game-winning score that sent Simeone airborne.

It was the first time in 19 months Porto had lost at home. No Champions League team had won at the Dragão since Chelsea in four years. In league, Porto has gone 75 games without a loss. Yet on Tuesday, Portgual’s champions fell to a team that’s playing as well as any team in Europe.

Whether Atlético stay at this level is a conversation for another place, but coming off back-to-back road wins against Real Madrid and Porto, there’s no team in Europe that’s accumulated a better résumé through the season’s first six weeks. They’re perfect in league, played Barcelona to two draws in the Spanish Supercopa, and after taking full points in Portugal, the Rojiblancos sit alone atop Group G, having won the most-difficult game of their group stage schedule.

source: AP
Arda Turan (right) celebrates after his right-footed blast clinched Atlético Madrid’s 2-1 victory at Porto. Between La Liga and Champions League. Atletíco is now 8-0-0 on the season. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Paris Saint-Germain went to Porto last year and fell. The year before, it was Shakhtar, and the year before that it was Arsenal. Not since Manchester United then Chelsea won at the Dragão four years ago have Porto been beaten at home in Champions League, but today, Atlético joined that group.

For Porto, worn down over the course of 90 minutes, left more tired than distraught as Turan’s goal was pulled from their net, the result will eventually find perspective. If Atlético maintains something close to this form, they’ll go on an win this group easily, leaving the matches between the Dragons and Zenit to decide second place. In that scenario, today’s result won’t matter, much.

But for Atlético, Simeone’s reaction told the tale. It wasn’t just that they beat Porto or have now won two key matches in a row. It’s how it happened, with Martinéz’s early goal providing a heightened test of all the qualities the Argentine boss values most.

Ultimately, all the organization, work, determination, and opportunism paid off. All of the qualities that have allowed Atlético to transcend the pack in Spain and join Barça at the top have translated onto Champions League. On Tuesday, Atletico conquered the Dragão.

Report: Premier League prepare for June return

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The Premier League are supposedly preparing to return to action in June as the current season remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Multiple reports across the UK, including this one from the Daily Mirror, claim that the government has given the Premier League the green light to return to action from June, provided the situation has improved as expected by then.

Per the report, Premier League clubs have been told that they should prepare for games to be played from June 1 onwards behind closed doors and there is a ‘tentative agreement for the top flight to resume behind closed doors after the 20 clubs mapped out a plan with senior officials on a resumption of matches.’

The report adds that ‘in principle, with government health officials hopeful of a coronavirus peak in the UK in the next few weeks, they will sanction games under strict guidelines.’ 

Plans are in place for players to be isolated together and away from the public, as they could begin training in May so they can prepare for the current campaign resuming.

With the situation in the UK deteriorating over the last week and the country on lockdown, these tentative plans can of course change quickly.

Premier League players have had differing views on what should happen to the 2019-20 season and Luke Shaw is the latest to say games should not be played behind closed doors. But if teams play two games per week in empty stadiums or training grounds from June 1, there is the real possibility the season could be finished by the start of July and then FA Cup and Europe competitions could follow.

The overwhelming feeling from Premier League clubs, the league itself and many other individuals is that the 2019-20 season should be finished whenever it is safe to do so. Recent PL club meetings came to that agreement and that is the official stance.

However, the next big question is whether or not fans will be able to attend games for the rest of the season and this report seems to suggest that is totally off the table and if the current campaign is concluded, fans will not be present.

Luke Shaw: Scrap season and start again

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Man United and England defender Luke Shaw has said the 2019-20 season should be scrapped and started again if games cannot be completed.

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Shaw, 24, was speaking during a FIFA 20 competition which was streamed on Twitch to raise funds for UNICEF’s Combat Corona campaign.

“Scrap it and start again. Start it again, yeah,” Shaw said. “It’s got to be, you know. If we can’t carry it on, it’s got to be void.”

All 20 Premier League clubs remain committed to completing the 2019-20 season whenever ‘safe to do so’ but there’s no resumption date currently lined up.

One option is for games to played behind closed doors, when possible, but Shaw isn’t keen on that either.

“Fans are so important. You realise it even more (now),” Shaw said. “I think the sport is for fans really… I think if you don’t have fans, and you don’t play in front of fans, it just doesn’t feel right. Especially on matchday, the fans are always amazing and always help the team. Whether it’s home or even away, our fans are always brilliant and I feel like they’re always there with us.”

The view of Shaw differs slightly from other Premier League players who have discussed the current suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic but there is a general consensus that they want to move onto the next season as soon as possible. When it comes to Shaw, his views are very interesting as Man United had rallied to be three points off the top four and had plenty of momentum ahead of the final nine games of the current league campaign, as well as being in a great position in the latter stages of the Europa League and FA Cup.

Man City star Kevin de Bruyne wants to move on from the 2019-20 season as soon as possible as he doesn’t think the start of the 2020-21 campaign should be delayed and is concerned about players being injured if they are asked to resume the season quickly.

Other players are fine to wait to see what the Premier League plans but Tottenham forward Harry Kane has also expressed his desire to move on from the current campaign if games cannot be completed by the end of June.

It is intriguing to hear so many differing views from Premier League players on when the season should resume, if at all, but Kane, Shaw and De Bruyne are all saying something slightly different. Therein lies the problem. How will a consensus be reached between PL clubs with so many different ideas and opinions on what should happen next?

If you throw club affiliations and rivalries into the mix, why on earth would a Man United star want the current season to be deemed as ‘void’ when Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table and just five points away from securing the Premier League title…

Son to complete military service in South Korea

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Tottenham have confirmed that forward Heung-min Son will complete his military service in South Korea this month and will return to London in May.

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Son, 27, previously became exempt from the mandatory 21-month military service as he captained South Korea to gold medal glory at the 2018 Asian Games but there is also a four-week stint he needs to complete in the army.

A new rule which arrived in 2018 means that men in South Korea must enlist in the military by the age of 28 and Son turns 28 on July 8.

Spurs released the following statement on Son’s situation, as he recently returned to South Korea as he continues his rehabilitation from a broken arm he suffered in the 3-2 win at Aston Villa in February.

“The Club can confirm that Heung-Min Son will commence his mandatory military service in South Korea this month. The forward arrived back in his home country at the end of March where he is currently in quarantine. Our medical staff are in regular contact as he concludes his recovery after fracturing his arm in our 3-2 win against Aston Villa on 16 February and continues to train.

“Sonny had surgery on his arm in South Korea before returning to the UK at the end of February to continue his rehabilitation, prior to the initial announcement of the professional game in England being suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Premier League has since announced that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is ‘safe and appropriate to do so’ and is under constant review. Son will return to London following the conclusion of his military service in May.”

Pep Guardiola’s mother dies due to coronavirus

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The mother of Pep Guardiola, Dolors Sala Carrio, has died after being infected by the coronavirus. 

Carrio, 82, passed away in the Catalan town of Manresa, 40 miles north of Barcelona, as Manchester City announced they have been left ‘devastated’ by the news as their manager has lost his mother amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The Manchester City family are devastated to report the death today of Pep’s mother Dolors Sala Carrio in Manresa, Barcelona after contracting Corona Virus. She was 82-years-old. Everyone associated with the club sends their most heartfelt sympathy at this most distressing time to Pep, his family and all their friends.” 

Two weeks ago Guardiola donated over $1 million to hospitals in his home state of Catalonia in the battle against COVID-19 and has been a leading figure in calling for people to stay at home to help save lives and stop its spread.

“We miss football. We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses,” Guardiola said. “You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder … and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.”

Spain and Italy have been the two nations in Europe most-impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with both countries on lockdown for lengthy periods of time.