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Players are bigger than the club at Paris Saint-Germain

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PARIS (AP) It’s a scenario that has been repeating itself at Paris Saint-Germain.

A scenario where a player becomes bigger than the club, and is basically allowed to do anything he wants.

It used to work that way with Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the Sweden international was the most emblematic figure of the French league. Now it’s Neymar’s turn to call all the shots at PSG, and it does not seem to be a problem for the club’s Qatari owners.

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It was with their blessings that Neymar, the world’s most expensive player who just turned 26, hosted a lavish birthday party on Sunday, less than 48 hours before a French Cup game at Sochaux, and only a few days before PSG’s biggest game of the season in the Champions League.

Neymar invited about 250 guests including all of his teammates as well as PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Many videos of the players partying and dancing late circulated on social media. On one of them, left back Yuri Berchiche appeared to be drunk. The videos drew the ire of Sochaux captain Florian Tardieu, who said it showed a lack of respect toward his team.

For PSG coach Unai Emery, who attended the party, it was not a problem at all. He said the event was a rare joyful gathering for his players. “It’s good for our collective mindset to have shared this moment with Neymar,” Emery said.

Fortunately for PSG, the party had no immediate impact on the team’s results. Neymar – who joined from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($260 million) last summer – was granted permission to skip the cup match, and Angel Di Maria scored a hat trick as PSG eased into the French Cup quarterfinals with a 4-1 win.

But Neymar’s party could come back to haunt Al-Khelaifi if PSG fails to produce a good result at Real Madrid next week when the teams meet in their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie.

In any case, the party organized about a month after PSG stars returned from their winter holidays, once again underlined the players’ power at the club.

When Ibrahimovic was at PSG and Laurent Blanc was coach, everything revolved around the athletic forward. Ibrahimovic could mock journalists and the quality of the French league without anyone at the club publicly finding anything wrong with it. Ibrahimovic was allowed to go back to his native Sweden on hunting trips, while Thiago Silva enjoyed tailor-made modifications to his training program.

[ MORE: Zaha injured ahead of brutal Palace fixtures ]

A serious incident during Blanc’s time spoke volumes about PSG’s lack of authority on its players and stained the club’s image. Just before a Champions League game against Chelsea two years ago, defender Serge Aurier abused Blanc and insulted teammates during a live session with fans on social media. Instead of being fired, Aurier got away with a six-week suspension.

Nothing has really changed under Emery’s leadership. For instance, PSG’s all-time leading scorer, Edinson Cavani, has kept the habit of returning late from his Christmas holidays, doing it again this winter without much consequence.

Emery has failed to make a clear decision on who should be PSG’s first-choice penalty-taker. In September, Cavani and Neymar argued over who should take a penalty kick, and the pair clashed again in November during an 8-0 win against Dijon. That night, PSG was 7-0 up and Cavani needed one goal to become PSG’s outright all-time leading scorer. But instead of showing generosity and letting Cavani take a penalty, Neymar guarded the ball and blanked his teammate when he approached.

Sebastien Tarrago, a reporter who has been covering PSG for years for L’Equipe newspaper, said Emery was not the only one to blame for the anarchy.

“Club officials are obviously the main people responsible for creating the possibility for players to have too much power,” he said. “If club officials were strong, it would never happen.”

Bundesliga preview: Bayern Munich v Fortuna Dusseldorf

Bayern Munich v Fortuna
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Bayern Munich can take another huge step towards winning an eight-straight Bundesliga title when they host Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday at the Allianz Arena and below are details on how you can watch in the USA.

The German giants are now seven points clear atop the Bundesliga table after winning 1-0 at second-place Borussia Dortmund in midweek and Hansi Flick’s squad are now just 12 points away from sealing another title. Four wins from their final six games will guarantee a 30th German title, as they play before title rivals Dortmund and RB Leipzig this weekend.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ]

However, the stakes are high for Fortuna Dusseldorf too. Uwe Rosler’s side launched a stunning comeback to beat Schalke 2-1 in midweek and were 2-0 up in the 88th minute at Cologne last weekend before coughing up two late goals to draw 2-2. Fortuna, who sit in the relegation playoff spot but are just one point behind Mainz in 15th, are direct and dangerous on the counter and Bayern will be wary of an upset at the end of a gruelling week in Germany’s top-flight.

In team news, Bayern will be without midfielders Thiago, Philippe Coutinho and Corentin Tolisso and an intriguing stat centers around top goalscorer Robert Lewandowski, who hasn’t scored against Fortuna in five previous outings. One of the stars of the show since Flick took over has been Canadian teenage sensation Alphonso Davies, who has excelled out of position at left back and was nicknamed ‘Roadrunner’ by Bayern teammate Thomas Muller after another fine display at Dortmund.

Fortuna haven’t beat Bayern in 30 years and Kenan Karaman has scored five times in his last five games to give them hope in their relegation battle. USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales could return for Fortuna but U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen, on loan from Man City, remains out injured.

Below is how to watch Bayern Munich v Fortuna Dusseldorf on TV in the USA this Saturday, while above you can follow the action live, as the three points are so valuable to both clubs but for very different reasons.

Bundesliga schedule

  • TV Channels: FS1
  • Stream Live: Via Fox Soccer
  • When: Saturday, May 30 – 12:30 p.m. ET: Bayern Munich v Fortuna Dusseldorf

La Liga to restart on June 11

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La Liga will restart on June 11, the Spanish sports council have confirmed, and below are details on the new schedule and how to watch on TV in the USA.

Three months after Spain’s top-flight was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic it will return with the full schedule yet to be released, but the plan is to open up with the Seville derby on June 11, Sevilla against Real Betis, then play the full Matchweek 28.

It follows the Premier League restart being confirmed for June 17, while Serie A will return on June 20 and the Bundesliga returned on May 16.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

The Spanish sports council released the following statement following detailed meetings with the Spanish FA and La Liga.

“The Spanish football federation [RFEF] and La Liga have agreed, as part of the Contact Group formed together with the National Sports Council [CSD], the format of the eleven remaining matchdays to complete La Liga Santander and La Liga SmartBank [the first and second divisions].”

Further details revealed the La Liga season will finish on July 17, which means the 11 games would be squeezed into just over a month with games every single day to fit this season in. The majority of games are set to be played late in the evening local time due to the extreme heat in Spain during the summer months, while players will be given at least 72 hours rest between games.

Barcelona currently sit top of La Liga but have a slender one-point lead over arch rivals Real Madrid, while the top four battle is incredibly congested and should lead to some epic battles in the final weeks of the season. The relegation battle is also intense with up to 10 times in danger of being relegated to the second tier. The Spanish second tier will also resume play in mid-June, with Cadiz and Real Zaragoza currently in the automatic promotion spots and Almeria, Huesca, Girona and Elche in the playoffs.

Matchweek 28 will be played from June 12 to June 15 with the full La Liga schedule below, while there are also details on how you can watch on TV in the USA.

La Liga schedule

  • TV Channels: beIN Sports USA
  • Stream Live: Via beinSports
  • When: From June 11 to July 17

June 11
Sevilla v Real Betis

June 12-15
Real Madrid v Eibar
Leganes v Real Vallodolid
Valencia v Levante
Real Mallorca v Barcelona
Celta Vigo v Villarreal
Espanyol v Alaves
Real Sociedad v Osasuna
Granada v Getafe
Athletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid

FA Cup schedule released

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The schedule for the 2019-20 FA Cup has been released with the quarterfinals, semifinals and final now having dates.

All eight teams left in the competition are from the Premier League and FA Cup quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played at weekends and see their respective PL games rescheduled for makeup dates. The Premier League has confirmed it will return from June 17 and the FA Cup will now restart just 10 days later.

The quarterfinals will take place in late June, the semifinals in mid-July and then the final will be on August 1. This decision then allows Premier League clubs still in European action to play in the Champions League and Europa League in August, when UEFA are planning to host those competitions.

In the quarters Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Man United all face tricky away trips to Leicester, Newcastle, Sheffield United and Norwich respectively. It has not been confirmed whether or not the semifinals and final will be played at Wembley Stadium, as usual.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham revealed that the new dates are dependent on safety measures being met.

“The health and wellbeing of players, staff and supporters remains our priority. The competition has been an integral part of the English football calendar for nearly 150 years, and we would like to thank the Premier League executive and clubs for their support in scheduling the remaining matches during this unprecedented time,” Bullingham said.

With so much focus on the Premier League restart, the FA Cup almost became an afterthought but it will carry on and the oldest knockout competition in the world will continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Below is the FA Cup schedule with the planned dates to play the remaining games.


Quarterfinals – June 27-28

Leicester City v Chelsea
Newcastle United v Manchester City
Sheffield United v Arsenal
Norwich City v Manchester United

Semifinals – July 18-19

Final – August 1

Brendan Rodgers reveals he had COVID-19

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Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed he had COVID-19 and has recovered fully from the coronavirus.

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The Premier League manager spoke to BBC Radio Leicester and revealed that he contracted COVID-19 in March and has recovered fully.

“Me and my wife had it just after [the season] broke up. A week later I really started to struggle, I had no smell and no taste. I had no strength, and I really struggled, and my wife was the same as well. I got tested and we both had it. I could hardly walk,” Rodgers said. “It reminded me of climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro, as you climb higher you get more breathless. Walking 10 yards felt very different. I went for a run, and I just couldn’t do it. I felt really weak, had no real appetite, and had a weird sensation for three weeks of having no taste”.

Brendan Rodgers is the second Premier League managed confirmed to have had COVID-19, as Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta tested positive back on March 12, just before the season was suspended.

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All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, with contact training now allowed after a return to small-group training was a success.

The third round of COVID-19 testing saw a slight rise in positive tests compared to the last, as a total of 2,752 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out on Premier League players and staff with a total of 12 positive results. All 20 Premier League clubs have agreed to return to contact training in stage two of the ‘Project Restart’ plan.

The 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17, the league confirmed Thursday, as ‘Project Restart’ is all systems go.

The Premier League held in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs and, among other matters, June 17 emerged as the date games will return. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining.