Roma dealt double blow with Destro banned, Benatia injured

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Roma’s slim chances at a Serie A title were hampered further as Mattia Destro was given a three-match ban and defender Mehdi Benatia was ruled out for a month with a muscle tear.

Destro was sanctioned by the league for a punch on fellow Italian international Davide Astori.  He was not punished by the referee in the match but the league handed down the punishment following the match.

A yellow card for a later incident also means Destro will miss one more match for caution accumulation, meaning he will be out for the next four Roma league games.

“Destro is not a violent player,” Roma manager Rudi Garcia told Italian media ahead of this week’s match with Atalanta. “Football is a contact sport and these actions take place. It’s true that he hit his opponent in the face but the referee saw everything.”

The club is appealing his suspension, arguing that the referee had seen the incident and decided not to take action. If that is the case, the league is not allowed to hand down a ban and change punishment for an incident the referee judged to be fair.

“In such cases, the rules clearly state that if the official saw the action there is no need for TV evidence to be used to determine the punishment,” Garcia said. “We are hopeful that his ban will be reduced.”

Thanks to the yellow card suspension, Destro will miss the Atalanta match this weekend for sure, and the Serie A panel will have time to review the club’s appeal.

In what would be a serious shame, Destro could now be overlooked for the Italian World Cup squad. Manager Cesare Prandelli is known for holding players to a high standard both on and off the pitch, and Destro was already just barely working himself into the picture with good form.

Benatia will also be out a similar timeframe and could miss the rest of the year after the central defender tore a muscle in his left thigh.

The 26-year-old Moroccan has been a warrior for Roma this season, playing 2,664 of Roma’s 2,880 minutes thus far and was at the forefront of their blistering start to the Serie A season. He played the full 900 minutes during their 10-game win streak to start the year in which the club conceded just a single goal. Roma have allowed a Serie A-low 18 goals this year.

It’s thanks to this amazing form that has attracted interest from Manchester United as they look to replace Nemanja Vidic at the back.

Roma sit eight points back of Serie A leaders Juventus with six matches remaining.

Fulham owner withdraws offer to purchase Wembley Stadium

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Wembley Stadium is set to stay in the FA’s hands.

[READ: USMNT 1-1 Peru: Player Ratings]

The FA announced in a press release Wednesday that Fulham owner Shahid Kahn had withdrawn his offer of $790 million to purchase Wembley Stadium. Kahn first became interested in buying the stadium in February 2017, when he and FA CEO Martin Glenn met at the Superbowl. What followed was an informal offer to the FA Board of Directors before a formal offer was made.

The offer has been valued at anywhere from nearly $800 million to nearly $1.2 billion. In a statement, Kahn said that his goal to purchase the stadium was to provide the FA with a large amount of capital which it could use to improve grassroots soccer around the country.

“The intent of my efforts was, and is, to do right by everyone in a manner that strengthens the English game and brings people together, not divides them,” Khan said. “Unfortunately, given where we are today, I’ve concluded that the outcome of a vote next week would be far from sufficient in expressing the broad support favored by the FA chairman to sell Wembley Stadium.”

The FA council was set to vote on the sale next week.

Although it cost the FA and British government more than $1.4 billion (adjusted for inflation) to renovate and rebuild Wembley Stadium, the arena hosted 33 events between July 2016 and June 2017 and in its latest published financial records, the FA recorded an after-tax profit of $21 million. So it seems that along with the sponsorships and broadcast deals, Wembley Stadium is a money maker, which makes it important for the FA to hold on to.

That being said, it’s hard to turn down a deal worth close to $1 billion, even if that’s a lump sum and they won’t receive further investments from stadium revenues in the future. In the future, maybe Kahn or another owner may make another offer, one that the FA council could accept.

Report: La Liga chief going to court to compel U.S. based games to happen

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The head of La Liga is considering taking extraordinary action to ensure that a planned match this year in the U.S. goes off as expected.

[READ: What did we learn about the USMNT?]

According to Spanish radio station Cadena Cope, La Liga president Javier Tebas is set to bring a lawsuit against the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and its chief, Luis Rubiales to compel the federation to approve Barcelona’s match against Girona on January 26, which has been scheduled to be moved to Miami, Fla.’s Hard Rock Stadium.

In a way, it makes sense that Tebas and the Spanish league is considering every possible avenue to ensure that their 15-year marketing rights agreement with Relevant Sports, including league matches played abroad, can move forward as expected. However, it was clear after the announcement in August that all parties involved – especially La Liga, had not thought this through. FIFA, the RFEF, local fans and the Spanish league’s player’s union have all opposed the news, and on Wednesday Real Madrid formally sent a letter of it’s disapproval in moving La Liga matches abroad.

Tebas and La Liga would prefer for this to be resolved legally sooner rather than later, so they can market the Barcelona match in Miami and begin negotiating with the other federations that need to approve. But there’s a decent chance that the other parties – FIFA, and U.S. Soccer – could fail to rubber stamp what would be a first-of-its-kind event. In any case, watch this space.

What did we learn about USMNT during international break

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The U.S. Men’s National Team finished the October FIFA international slate with a somewhat demoralizing loss and an uplifting draw, if there is such a thing.

The young U.S. core continues to show flashes of great talent, but overall the team still seems to be stuttering along under caretaker manager Dave Sarachan, who just managed his 10th game and could likely finish out the calendar year as USMNT boss.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Below is a look at the key takeaways from the USMNT’s October friendlies:


(more…)

Wenger: I want to return to management in January

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Arsene Wenger could be back to barking orders from the sideline once the calendar flips to 2019.

In an interview with German publication BILD, Wenger admitted that he’s received job offers all over the world and aims to return in January. Wenger hinted as well at his future, stating he was open to either international or club management.

Wenger has been without a job since parting ways with Arsenal at the end of last season, a second successive in which the club finished outside the top four.

Even with his disappointing end to life at Arsenal, it’s clear Wenger is still passionate and ready to coach again in the future. Come January, there will likely be a few Premier League openings as well as opportunities in other leagues (AC Milan? Bayern Munich? Real Madrid?). However, most of the domestic options would see Wenger take over a team likely in a relegation battle, something Wenger doesn’t really have experience with. In addition, outside of Mexico and U.S. Soccer’s ongoing coaching search, it’s unlikrly there will be a major national team opening come January.

Wenger previously said would make up his mind about his future in September, but since missing his deadline he’s continued to move the date back. Perhaps a year away will fully rejuvenate the wise manager.