Neymar’s recovery from World Cup back injury “almost 100 percent”

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Barcelona’s attempt to retake La Liga has received a much-needed boost from one of its most important players.

It’s been less than a month since the broken back injury that ‘could’ve’ paralyzed Brazilian star Neymar, but the playmaker says he’s nearly ready to return to the pitch.

[ RELATED: Barcelona reveals record level income of $711 million ]

[ RELATED: Brazil want Neymar to play at 2016 Olympics ]

In Japan to film a mattress commercial, Neymar gave the media thoughts on his fitness and the fortunes of Blaugrana. The club lost Alexis Sanchez, who transferred to Arsenal, but sees the return loanee Gerard Deulofeu from Everton in addition to the signing of midfielder Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla and Luis Suarez from Liverpool.

From the Associated Press:

“It’s all good. My back is improving. It’s almost 100 percent,” Neymar said. “I’m looking forward to joining my (Barcelona) teammates and helping them win the title.”

Neymar’s first World Cup ended in disappointment when he was carried off the field on a stretcher with a fractured vertebra during Brazil’s quarterfinal win over Colombia.

Before his injury, Neymar had scored four goals in five games and was considered one of the standout players of the tournament. Half of Brazil’s goals until then were scored by him.

Barcelona’s season starts on Aug. 24. The club has said Neymar’s recovery was progressing “very well.”

If the club has Neymar back at full health, showing no ill effects, and can manage the four-month Suarez suspension, Barca could make a run for the title in what should be another three-way race with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

New Premier League schedule for April released

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The new schedule for Premier League games in April has been released and plenty of massive games in the title race and relegation battle will take center stage in primetime slots.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Games selected for TV broadcasts have been moved to the new dates, with multiple matches involving Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Man United moved.

Below is the new schedule for April, with plenty of conditions attached if certain teams progress further in the FA Cup and Europe.


Tuesday 2 April
2:45 p.m. ET: Wolves v Man Utd *Because of participation in FA Cup semi-finals

Friday 5 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Southampton v Liverpool

Saturday 6 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Cardiff City *Subject to FA Cup participation

Sunday 7 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Everton v Arsenal
11:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Brighton *Subject to Spurs’ UEFA Champions League match date and FA Cup participation

Monday 8 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v West Ham

Friday 12 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Newcastle

Saturday 13 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v Huddersfield *May move to 14 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Man Utd v West Ham

Sunday 14 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v Man City*
11:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v Chelsea*
*May move to 13 April because of PL clubs’ participation in UEFA Champions League the Tuesday after

Monday 15 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Watford v Arsenal

Saturday 20 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Man City v Spurs
12:30 p.m. ET: Newcastle v Southampton

Sunday 21 April 2019
8:30 a.m. ET: Everton v Man Utd
11 a.m. ET: Cardiff v Liverpool

Monday 22 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Chelsea v Burnley

Wednesday 24 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Man Utd v Man City *Moved due to FA Cup quarter-final participation

Friday 26 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool v Huddersfield

Saturday 27 April 2019
7:30 a.m. ET: Spurs v West Ham *May move to 28 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after
12:30 p.m. ET: Brighton v Newcastle

Sunday 28 April 2019
9:05 a.m. ET: Burnley v Man City *
11:30 a.m. ET: Man Utd v Chelsea *
*May move to 27 April because of UEFA Champions League participation the Tuesday after

Monday 29 April 2019
3 p.m. ET: Leicester v Arsenal *Will move to 12:00 28 April if Arsenal reach UEFA Europa League semi-finals

Martial, Lingard could be fit for Man United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United could be given a huge boost ahead of their battle against bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Rashford to Barcelona?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard are much closer to returning from injury than previously thought.

The star wingers, who have shone under Solskjaer since he arrived as caretaker boss in December, were both injured in the first half of United’s 2-0 UEFA Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Feb. 12.

Speaking to the media ahead of the massive game against Liverpool, a promising update on the duo arrived from Solskjaer.

“Jesse is looking OK. I hope with Anthony,” Solskjaer said.” Anthony’s was a different muscle, so we think he might be ready and hope that Jesse will. We’ve got two more days so they’ve got to get through these two sessions. They’ve not been part of training yet but they’ve been doing some recovery work.”

Now it is all about one thing: is it worth risking the duo suffering further injury?

Quite likely. The dropoff in United’s display against PSG was stark when Martial and Lingard went off and although the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata have stepped in well in recent weeks, the balance between Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Martial and Lingard just felt right in United’s front four positions.

You get the felling that if Solskjaer has a chance of reuniting that quartet on Sunday, even if it’s only for an hour, he will take it. And when you add in the factor that a win against Liverpool would seriously scupper the title chances of the latter, and it’s safe to say at least one of Lingard or Martial will be in the starting lineup at Old Trafford.

Both Martial and Lingard are essential to the new dynamic Manchester United playing at full throttle.

Report: Barcelona make Marcus Rashford main target

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Marcus Rashford is a local lad who is living his best life by being Manchester United’s main man right now.

[ MORE: Chelsea hit with transfer ban

The 21-year-old is yet to sign a new contract with the Red Devils though, and reports suggest some of Europe’s biggest clubs are sniffing around the United academy product.

A report from Mundo Deportivo says that Barcelona have made Rashford their “dream” target, as the Catalan club look to replace the brilliant but ageing Luis Suarez.

Per the report, it is believed it would cost Barca over $135 million to sign Rashford. If he does sign a new long-term contract over the next few weeks (expected to be worth over $250,000 per week), then we expect that transfer fee to push closer to $200 million.

All in all, this move seems unlikely for Rashford and United. Right now.

Selling the crown jewel from your academy and a local hero who is finally getting a run of games as a central striker and has improved his output under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would cause huge uproar among United’s fans. He has scored 42 goals in 155 appearances for United since making his debut under Louis Van Gaal in 2016. Under Jose Mourinho he was often played out wide and used as a sub, but Solskjaer has rejuvenated the English striker in recent months and he’s taken Romelu Lukaku‘s place in the lineup.

That said, if Rashford does stall on signing a new contract then this could turn into a bit of a saga as his current contract runs out next summer but he has the option to extend it for another year.

Rashford’s searing pace and ability to cut inside and finish from wide positions is clear and under Solskjaer he has become more clinical and has added end product to his game with some wonderful crosses for teammates to score.

His ability as a star of the future for Man United and England is undoubted, and although Barcelona would love to pry Rashford away from his hometown club it is unlikely that is going to happen.

File this rumor under “if it happens, I’ll eat my hat.”

Europa League last 16 draw: Chelsea, Arsenal avoid big boys

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Is it too early to start predicting an all-Premier League final in the UEFA Europa League…

Both Chelsea and Arsenal were handed favorable draws in the last 16 draw of the Europa League on Friday.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

Chelsea will play Dynamo Kiev, while Arsenal will face Stade Rennais for a place in the quarterfinal.

Of course, both Chelsea and Arsenal would prefer to be playing in the UEFA Champions League instead of Europe’s second-tier club competition, but with both teams battling hard to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season, winning the Europa League is becoming a very attractive proposition given the UCL spot for the 2019-20 campaign that the winners receive.

As for the other six games lined up for the quarterfinals, one in particular stands out as Eintracht Frankfurt face Inter Milan. The Bundesliga side have a young, hungry squad full of talent and Inter’s star names speak for themselves.

Below is the full list of fixtures with the games to be played on Mar. 7 and 14.


UEFA Europa League last 16 draw

Arsenal v. Stade Rennais
Chelsea v. Dynamo Kiev
Valencia v. Krasnodar
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Inter Milan
Sevilla v. Slavia Prague
Dinamo Zagreb v. Benfica
Zenit v. Villarreal
Napoli v. Red Bull Salzburg