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Slew of international injuries leaves European clubs scrambling

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As Euro 2016 qualification is nearing an end, many international teams are pushing to secure a trip to France next summer. Sometimes that comes at a cost that most clubs are forced to bear.

Manchester City saw injuries to superstar attackers Sergio Aguero and David Silva, their leading goalscorer and leading chance creator, during European play yesterday. Even the deepest squad in England – which Manchester City seems to be – will struggle to replace their contributions.

They can at least rest a little more comfortably knowing they’re not the only ones.

Even just across the way, their arch rivals are dealing with an injury of their own. German midfielder and summer signing Bastian Schweinsteiger picked up a thigh injury during the warm-up before Germany’s 1-0 loss to Ireland on Thursday and could miss their match against Everton next weekend.

Defending Premier League champions Chelsea, who have sputtered to start the season, have lost both Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic for the immediate future to similar injuries. The two are important yet out of form players who individually could use some time off, but the squad will still suffer. The pair of Serbians were injured in their country’s 2-0 win over Albania, with both suffering hamstring injuries just eight minutes apart. Chelsea host Aston Villa next weekend with the Blues already bumbling in 16th place.

Other leagues have seen top players go down as well.

Paris Saint-Germain defender David Luiz felt his knee give way in Brazil’s 2-0 loss to Chile, and was immediately replaced by Marquinhos. He’s out for four weeks, which means he’ll miss a host of Ligue 1 matches plus both legs against Real Madrid in Champions League play. With the club already down starting goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, who pulled a leg muscle in club training Thursday, Luiz will now likely lean on young Marquinhos to cover for him at both the club and country level.

Bayern Munich has lost talented but oft-injured attacker Mario Gotze in the German loss to Ireland for significant time. Gotze tore a groin muscle while reaching for a ball on the touchline and will miss up to three months of play. The Bayern frontman, who has been productive in Champions League play thus far, missed much of last season with ankle trouble.

In Italy, Juventus will be forced to replace Alvaro Morata after the Spaniard’s injury was the only negative part of a 4-0 win over Luxembourg that sealed Euro 2016 qualification. There were fears that he suffered a broken bone in his leg, but instead AS reports he suffered a “traumatic injury” to the calf muscle and will still miss significant time. Juventus, often good with reporting injuries in detail, have not yet released a diagnosis. Morata started the season slowly for Juventus, but was just picking up the pace, owning a goal in each of their Champions League matches thus far and bagging a goal and two assists in a 3-1 league win over Bologna last weekend.

France saw a pair of injuries as Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema went down with a hamstring injury in their 4-0 friendly win over Albania on Thursday and will likely miss time for the La Liga giants as they get ready to face PSG in Champions League play in 11 days. Juventus could be without Paul Pogba next weekend after he sprained his ankle in the match, but the Juventus medical report says he will miss just seven days, leaving him questionable for the visit to Inter.

All this, and there are still more games to be played today, with injuries already striking before any of the matches have kicked off. Ajax, topping the table in the Eredivisie through eight games, will be sweating the fitness of goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen after the 26-year-old was injured in warmups before the Netherlands took on Kazakhstan, with Newcastle’s Tim Krul replacing him in the starting lineup. Krul then was injured during the game, coming off in the 83rd minute.

Lamar Hunt’s legacy looms large over Garber’s HOF induction

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FRISCO, Texas (AP) Back in 1999, NFL team owners Lamar Hunt and Robert Kraft approached Don Garber and asked if he might be interested in serving as commissioner of Major League Soccer.

[ VIDEO: Wayne Rooney swerves long free kick around the wall ]

The domestic soccer league was in trouble in just its fourth year, and at the time Garber was head of NFL International.

Garber mulled the proposition before ultimately taking the job. Now nearing two decades at the MLS helm, Garber is guiding an ever-expanding league that is set to field 26 teams by 2020.

Garber will be enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame at Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas, this weekend. Originally selected for the honor in 2016, Garber put off his addition until now for a simple reason.

Lamar Hunt.

“Probably more important than just his role in bringing me here, Lamar is really one of the true legends in the sports industry. He had such grace and such humility, and such a passion for the sports industry, but really a deep passion for the sport of soccer,” Garber said. “As a young man in my early days at MLS, I was in such awe everything that he was – not just what he accomplished, but how he thought about life, and how he thought about the commitment needed to make the game permanent and indelible in this country.”

[ MORE: USMNT’s Sargent moved to Werder Bremen first team ]

The story goes that Hunt was inspired to promote soccer in the United States after attending the World Cup in 1966. He founded the North American Soccer League in 1967. He was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to the United States in 1994. And he was a founding investor in MLS.

Hunt, who owned the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew, passed away in 2006. One of his last big projects was to open Toyota Stadium. So it was in his memory that his family partnered with U.S. Soccer, the city and Frisco Independent School District and announced plans in 2015 for a new National Soccer Hall of Fame to be built at the stadium.

Garber put off his induction so he could be enshrined at the new Hall of Fame, which also allows him to further honor Hunt.

“When I was told that I was going to be inducted, at that point I knew that the Hall was being built and I just thought it would be a really special opportunity for me, and really, Major League Soccer, to have a close MLS connection with the Hall,” Garber said. “And it would give me an opportunity to honor the memory of Lamar and to really make a strong statement on how indebted I am and how MLS is to the Hunt family overall.”

The Hall of Fame was established in 1979 and for a time was located in Oneonta, New York. It was closed in 2010, but inductions continued. The collection was stored in North Carolina.

“We just thought it would be a fitting way to honor everything he did for the sport, while also giving the sport of soccer and the Hall of Fame, that celebrates all the great players, a really outstanding home,” eldest son Clark Hunt said.

Garber tells the story of seeing Hunt at the 2002 World Cup match between the United States and Portugal. Hunt was seated in the stands and following the U.S. upset victory, Garber glanced over and saw Hunt had a tear in his eye.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

“When we were both leaving the stadium I said, `Boy, Lamar, you looked quite emotional.’ And he said it was one of the great sporting experiences of his life. And this was a guy who won the Super Bowl,” Garber said.

Garber asked Clark Hunt to introduce him at the induction ceremony Saturday.

“Our family does have a 30-year relationship with Don, going back to his time with the NFL,” Clark Hunt said. “He and my dad were very close, and my dad played a critical role in luring him from the NFL over to Major League Soccer, where he became commissioner. And I know he’s very excited that the Hall is going to be associated with one of the stadiums and teams my father was involved in.”

In addition to his role as commissioner, Garber is also CEO of Soccer United Marketing, the exclusive marketing partner of U.S. Soccer, and a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors.

Joining him in the Hall of Fame this year is a trio of former U.S. national team players, Tiffeny Milbrett, Brad Friedel and Cindy Parlow Cone, as well as former U.S. Soccer President Bob Contiguglia. Veteran broadcaster JP Dellacamera is the 2018 Colin Jose media award recipient.

The new Hall opens to the public on Nov. 2.

Dyche: Hart has “nothing to prove” in return to Man City

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Anytime a player faces his former club, there exists a certain edge and desire within the player to get one over on his former team — especially when said player was driven out of the club the way Joe Hart was done at Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

Players and managers can — and typically do — say there’s no animosity and that they only have fond memories of those earlier days of their career, but, assuming that top-level athletes are indeed still humans, rarely should they be believed. Especially when that player is Joe Hart.

Alas, ahead of Hart’s clash with Man City on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold), Burnley manager Sean Dyche insists that Hart “has no point to prove” and that his first trip back to the Etihad Stadium after 12 years at the club will be just another outing in Hart’s 15-year career — quotes from the BBC:

“He has no point to prove. He just wants to get on with it.”

“I was pretty sure he was still a top-class keeper. There can be different reasons why you play well at some places and not others. Sometimes you just fit naturally. You can sense it.

“For keepers, sometimes what is in front of you helps. He wants a defensive unit he has faith with. I think there is a nice connection here. Possibly at other clubs he didn’t find that connection.

“But a lot of credit goes to him for finding his way again.”

Hart was welcomed back to the Etihad on Thursday, when a small ceremony was held to honor his return and a training field, bearing a mosaic of Hart from his time at the club, was named after him.

Report: Martial rejects “several offers” of new Man Utd contract

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Anthony Martial‘s Manchester United future has been in doubt ever since the summer, when Phillipe Lamboley, the 22-year-old’s agent, announced that his client wanted to leave the club.

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

Since that time, Man United reopened negotiations with the French international over a new contract — the key concern of his desire to leave — but a report from French news outlet RMC Sport, the same outlet that was first on the scene when Lamboley began making demands, indicates that those negotiations are not going well.

According to the report, Martial and Co., have rejected “several offers” of a new contract in recent weeks. Martial’s current contract expires at the end of this season, though the club has an option to extend the pact an additional year.

[ VIDEO: Wayne Rooney swerves long free kick around the wall ]

While the expectation remains that a new contract will be agreed, United have just two and a half months before clubs from outside of England can discuss pre-contract terms with Martial as an impending free agent. At that point, United would undoubtedly exercise their option for the 2019-20 season, but that’s a situation they’d certainly like to avoid — for the sake of the player’s happiness and willingness to sign a long-term contract after months of failed negotiations.

Martial has scored 38 goals (in 144 appearances) during his three-plus seasons at the club. Nearly half of his goal haul — 17 — came in his debut season of 2015-16.

Salah, Van Dijk updates following injuries on int’l duty

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Mohamed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk are expected to be available for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Huddersfield Town (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

The Egyptian and the Dutchman each suffered an injury during the most recent international break, but both returned to full training on Wednesday and Thursday. Jurgen Klopp is expected to name both his star winger and star center back in the starting lineup at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Salah suffered an undisclosed muscular injury to his leg during Egypt’s 4-1 victory over Swaziland last Friday and missed altogether the Pharaohs’ following game three days later.

[ VIDEO: Wayne Rooney swerves long free kick around the wall ]

Van Dijk carried a pre-existing rib injury into the international break, thus the 27-year-old was held out of the Netherlands’ friendly with Belgium on Tuesday. He played all 90 minutes, and scored a goal, in the Oranje‘s 3-0 dismantling of Germany on Saturday.

The latest updates on Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and James Milner, however, aren’t so positive. Mane (thumb) and Milner (hamstring) aren’t expected to travel for Saturday’s fixture, while Keita (thigh) could be out for two weeks.