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How today’s Barcelona fares vs. Guardiola’s best — not too well

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Pep Guardiola, the managerial mastermind who led Barcelona to 14 of 19 possible titles in four seasons, is returning to Camp Nou.

This time he will be at the helm of Manchester City as he faces his boyhood club in the Champions League on Wednesday.

But how does the best of the teams Guardiola coached from 2008-2012 stack up against the current Barcelona side?

Here is a comparison of Barcelona’s current players with those led by Guardiola in 2008-09, the team that started the club’s winning era by becoming the first Spanish club to win the Champions League, Spanish league and Copa del Rey in the same season.

Barcelona repeated that rare feat of winning the treble of titles two seasons ago under present coach Luis Enrique.

Messi/Eto’o/Henry (2008-09) vs. Messi/Suarez/Neymar (now)

A budding star at 21 years old, Lionel Messi fully blossomed under Guardiola.

The Argentina star won his first of a record five Ballon d’Or awards in 2009, after having scored important goals such as his double in a historic 6-2 win at Real Madrid and the second goal in a 2-0 win to beat Manchester United in the Champions League final.

Guardiola got one more superb season from striker Samuel Eto'o, and squeezed out some of the last vintage goals that Thierry Henry had to offer.

Hard to top that, right?

Just look at Messi’s present partners in attack.

With Messi moving away from a pure scorer to becoming both scorer and playmaker, Luis Suarez and Neymar have proven to be perfect fits up front. Suarez is the voracious goal-taker that Messi needed to focus on orchestrating, while Neymar’s dribbling skills and speed are almost unstoppable. The trio broke scoring records in each of the last two seasons.

ADVANTAGE: Luis Enrique’s current attack.

Xavi/Toure/Iniesta (2008-09) vs. Rakitic/Busquets/Iniesta (now)

Both teams enjoy the devilry of Andres Iniesta, but the 2008-09 side had both Yaya Toure and an upstart Sergio Busquets sharing time in front of the defense, as opposed to the current team’s reliance on Busquets as a holding midfielder.

The major difference, however, is the downgrade from Xavi Hernandez to Ivan Rakitic.

Rakitic is more athletic and a better tackler than Xavi, but that cannot trump Xavi’s vision, poise and control of the match. The World Cup winner was Guardiola’s on-pitch general of a possession-based passing attack that bewildered opponents.

In other words, it’s a no-brainer.

ADVANTAGE: Guardiola’s 2008-09 midfield.

Dani Alves/Puyol/Pique/Abidal (2008-09) vs. Roberto/Pique/Mascherano/Alba (now)

Always at the service of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, Barcelona’s defense under Guardiola was easy to overlook.

But that 2008-09 team enjoyed Dani Alves and Eric Adibal in their prime, a fully fit Carles Puyol before he was diminished by injuries, and a Gerard Pique hungry to come into his own.

Pique now anchors a back line that is under transition.

Jordi Alba offers blistering pace on the left flank, but its other two positions are in flux.

Sergi Roberto, a converted midfielder, has impressed as Dani Alves’ replacement so far, while the other central defender position is in dispute between an aging Javier Mascherano and newcomer Samuel Umtiti.

ADVANTAGE: Guardiola’s 2008-09 defense.

Valdes (2008-09) vs. Ter Stegen (now)

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has just inherited the full-time goalkeeping responsibilities from Claudio Bravo. Despite his passing skills and ability to make spectacular saves, the German needs to improve his decision making to reach the level of Victor Valdes from 2008-09.

ADVANTAGE: Guardiola’s 2008-09 goalkeeper.

Even though this Barcelona side should be favored over City, it has a way to go to equal the overall excellence of Guardiola’s first Barcelona squad.

Ighalo nears reported loan extension at Manchester United

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Odion Ighalo may get his wish to continue playing for his favorite club a bit longer.

Shanghai Shenhua is reportedly close to agreeing a loan extension for the Manchester United striker hours before the end of his initial loan to Old Trafford.

[ PREMIER LEAGUE: Remaining schedule | Reaction to return ]

Ighalo turns 31 on June 16 was linked with a Shanghai return earlier this week but has been keen on staying with United. The reported problem is that Shanghai wanted a permanent transfer.

United, understandably, didn’t need that from a striker of his age, especially with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Mason Greenwood in the strike corps.

From The Manchester Evening News:

Sources close to the player have said negotiations are continuing between United and Shanghai Shenhua on Sunday but an extended loan deal until January 30 is now “looking most likely”.

That will allow Ighalo to complete the season with United and while the 2020/21 calendar remains up in the air, he will almost certainly spend the first few months of that campaign with the club as well.

Ighalo has fit the bill as a fill-in striker for the Red Devils, who had lost Rashford to injury. He has four goals in eight appearances for United after 46 goals in three seasons abroad.

Shanghai lost more than a bit of its power once United made it clear that it wouldn’t be held hostage over a veteran striker. United has at least one FA Cup match and three more Europa League legs to contend with on top of its PL slate, so any additional veteran savvy will be useful.

LIVE, Bundesliga: Gladbach, Dortmund face desperate Union, Paderborn

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Top four contenders Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund meet relegation-threatened Union Berlin and Paderborn, respectively, as Weeek 29 in the Bundesliga hits Sunday.

Dortmund needs a win to keep pace with presumed champions Bayern Munich, which has a 10-point lead entering Sunday, while Gladbach can climb into third with a win.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores | Saturday roundup | Bayern blowout  ] 

Union opens the day just four points clear of the drop zone, while bottom-dwelling Paderborn has been playing much better but remains nine points back of safety.

Matchweek 29 in the Bundesliga will again see games played in empty stadiums, which is the plan for the rest of the season and beyond. If you’re new to Germany’s top-flight, here’s a guide to help you pick a club to support.


  • Gladbach v. Union Berlin — 9:30 a.m. ET
  • Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund — Noon ET

How to Watch the Bundesliga

  • When: Friday, May 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • USMNT or eligible players in action: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund), Julian Ryerson (Union)

You can check out the full schedulestandings and find out how to watch the action, while we will have you covered right here on ProSoccerTalk with analysis, reaction and more.

[ MORE: Takeaways from Week 28 of the Bundesliga ]

Transfer news: Werner to Chelsea; Sanchez to Inter

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In the latest transfer news Timo Werner is reportedly being chased by Chelsea, while Alexis Sanchez could be staying at Inter Milan instead of returning to Man United.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, a juicy report from Bild says that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is trying to convince his Germany teammate and close friend Timo Werner to join hm at Stamford Bridge.

Werner, 24, has dazzled at RB Leipzig this season (31 goals in 40 games in all competitions) and is widely expected to leave with Liverpool, Man United and many others clubs across Europe chasing his signature. Per the report, Chelsea have Rudiger working hard to convince his friend and former Stuttgart teammate that west London is the place for him.

The release clause on Werner’s current contract is said to be $60 million and Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a healthy transfer budget as they had a transfer ban for a whole year and Frank Lampard has just spent $44 million on one new signing so far, bringing in Hakim Ziyech who will not arrive until later this summer.

Werner is exactly what Chelsea need. They have created so many golden goalscoring opportunities and although Tammy Abraham was putting them away at the start of the season, his form and fitness was a concern in the last few months before the suspension.

Olivier Giroud is their only other forward option and Werner would be perfect to finish off the chances this attack-minded Chelsea team create. Even better for him, he would actually play at Chelsea which may not be the case at Liverpool and Man United given their stacked attacking lineups.

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Heading to Manchester, it appears Alexis Sanchez may not be going back to his parent club next season.

Sanchez, 31, is on loan at Inter Milan for the 2019-20 season and the Daily Express claim that he could stay at Inter rather than heading back to Old Trafford despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously saying he was open to the idea. Per the report, Man United are keen to loan Sanchez out to Inter once again on a similar arrangement and the Serie A side are willing to see how Sanchez does when the season restarts in a few weeks. With Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and others around at Man United, he may struggle for minutes at Man United.

Would another loan be a good move for Inter?

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been their main strikers this season under Antonio Conte, with Sanchez out injured for large chunks of the campaign and then doing okay when he did play. However, with Martinez chased by Barcelona, if they do sell the Argentine forward for over $115 million, having Sanchez around on loan would soften the blow.

The main problem with Sanchez is that over the last three years he has picked up consistent injury problems. If he can shake those issues off, we all know he is capable of scoring goals and creating havoc. Given this recent track record though, that’s a big if, as he’s scored just one goal and added three assists in 15 outings for Inter this season.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that zero out of 1130 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday and Friday have come back positive.


The fourth round of testing is the first time that no positive tests have come back, as a total of 3,882 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 12 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:

The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1130 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.

This is more good news for the Premier League as the UK government gave the green light for elite sport in the UK to return from June 1 in empty stadiums, as the top-flight of English soccer continues to clear each hurdle in its way to finishing the final 92 games of the 2019-20 season.

With just over two weeks to go until the action returns, Premier League clubs will have to keep these test results low for the restart to take place.