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Fulham defender Mawson undergoes knee surgery after bizarre injury

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Fulham owns the worst defensive record in the Premier League, and while things have improved under new manager Claudio Ranieri, the club now has to navigate an injury to its best center-back that occurred in bizarre fashion.

Alfie Mawson, who joined this summer in one of the more infamous spending sprees in Premier League history, was withdrawn at halftime of the 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town just before the new year. At the time, Ranieri offered little information on the injury other than it was a knee problem and that he wasn’t sure how long Mawson would be out.

In his pre-match press conference ahead of Fulham’s home match against Tottenham at Craven Cottage this weekend, Ranieri finally opened up on Mawson’s injury, revealing exactly how the defender was struck down…doing one of the most mundane daily tasks a professional soccer player can participate in.

“It was a very strange injury,” Ranieri said. “He changed his boots. It was unbelievable.”

That’s right, London-born defender was injured lacing up new kicks.

Ranieri didn’t offer much more, failing to specify the extent of the injury or even what knee was hurt. Mawson missed the start of the Premier League season as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, but Ranieri did not say whether the new problem was present in the same area. “I don’t know if it was the same knee or the other,” Ranieri said. “It was a very strange injury.”

It’s been a rough season for Mawson, who was inadvertently punched in the face by his own goalkeeper Sergio Rico just two matches earlier, down in a heap and tended to by trainers in a lengthy delay, although he was able to continue and complete the full 90 minutes. The 25-year-old struggled to find a place in the team early in the season as he adapted to his new squad, but eventually found his way into the starting lineup consistently and even became Fulham’s most consistent defender despite the club’s Premier League-leading 49 goals conceded this season.

In addition to Mawson’s ridiculous injury, Fulham has also dealt with turmoil surrounding Aboubakar Kamara, who has clashed with teammates on the field of late. He stole a penalty off designated penalty-taker Aleksandar Mitrovic in the Huddersfield match and proceeded to miss – which drove Ranieri to claim “I wanted to kill him” after the match – and then was involved in an on-field argument with Mitrovic in the 4-1 loss to Arsenal last weekend. Kamara was dropped from the squad for the most recent match against Burnley, and is reportedly set for another game on the sideline this weekend.

The season has been a wild and weird one for Fulham, which fell 2-1 to Burnley last time out on a pair of own-goals despite Burnley failing to record a single shot on target of its own. The club sits 19th in the Premier League table, five points back of safety.

Spanish federation: La Liga will play at least every 72 hours upon restart

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When La Liga returns, get ready for it to return with a fury.

The Spanish Football Federation and Spanish Footballers’ Association agreed to a minimum 72-hour gap between matches after La Liga aimed for a minimum of only 48 hours (which, frankly, seems nuts).

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La Liga president Javier Tebas gave three days between May 28 and June 28 for a possible restart earlier Tuesday, as the return of football in one Europe’s top leagues starts to take shape.

The league and its players reportedly came to terms on a 48-hour gap, but the federation would not stand for that. It seems the players want to get to transfer window quicker, and the league wants a new season worth of revenue to begin as quickly as possible.

There are other concerns for the players, too, given the time of year.

From Marca:

“The Federation thus puts the players’ health above the competition. In addition, during the months of May, June, July and August, it will pay special attention to the hosting of matches in severe heat, solar radiation and humidity which work against the health of the players,” it added.

The report also says that the SFA is unimpressed with FIFA’s idea that contracts will be expanded universally through the end of the season, quoting the players’ group as defending “the individual right of the worker.”

Players had previously rebelled against the idea of government furloughs after talks regarding pay cuts took longer than expected.

As with everything in this COVID-19 pandemic era, the restart is going to take complex navigation. We’re going to have some new temporary concerns as well as a whole lot of “new normals.”

Solskjaer hits out at criticism of players, leagues

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Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the Premier League and soccer in general have become an easy target amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Man United manager joined our partners at Sky Sports in the UK to discuss life during the nationwide lockdown in the UK and was asked about criticism of clubs and players as talks continue about wage cuts.

“For me football is an easy target sometimes,” Solskjaer said. “For me it’s unfair to call on any individual or footballers as a group because I already know players do a great amount of work in the community, and players are doing a lot to help this situation. Discussions are taking place between players and clubs, what kind of contribution they’ll make. It’s not easy for anyone, and to be called out is not fair for me.”

The English game, including Premier League clubs, have been criticized for applying for the UK government’s furlough scheme which will pay staff 80 percent of their current wages.

Liverpool issued an apology and reversed their decision to furlough 200 staff members and Tottenham and Newcastle have been criticized for using the scheme, while players have revealed various views on whether or not the 2019-20 season should be finished or deemed null and void.

Man United have said they will not use the furlough scheme to pay their staff and Solskjaer defended any mistakes that have been made by certain clubs or owners over the past few weeks.

“Mistakes are being made and have been made by loads of people and that’s how we learn as well. Now it’s about making better decisions, good decisions, I think we all want to help the NHS, the communities, and I think it’s important every single club do what they think is right. We’re all good people, and I’m sure we all want this to be over with as soon as possible. For me it’s about following the guidelines from the government as well,” Solskjaer added.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Sweet 16

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Our Premier League March Madness tournament had a thrilling Sweet 16 stage as there were shocks and drubbings aplenty.

With thousands of votes cast, the Elite Eight is set up perfectly as plenty of heavyweights collide on Wednesday.

The standout results in the Sweet 16 were #12 Everton just holding on to shock #5 Man United, while #9 Arsenal edged out their north London rivals #8 Tottenham with 54.86 percent of the vote.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

#3 Leicester City hammered #14 Southampton in the biggest winning margin with a whopping 79.1 percent of the vote, while #1 Liverpool, #2 Man City and #6 Wolves all advanced with #4 Chelsea battling past a valiant effort by #13 Newcastle.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
Tuesday: Sweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and which teams you should look out for as dark horses over the next few days. His predictions are wild and Arsenal fans will want to prove he is correct and they pick up a first piece of silverware under Mikel Arteta.

Here are the full slate of results from our Sweet 16 matches as our Premier League March Madness tournament continues on Wednesday with the Elite Eight!

FIFA recommends changes to transfer window, player contracts

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FIFA have been working hard to put in place new rules during the coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming transfer window and new player contracts are at the forefront of it.

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The governing body of world soccer formed a task force to cope with the outbreak of COVID-19 admitted that “it is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would” and that transfer windows can be changed to fall between the 2019-20 season ending and the 2020-21 starting.

Current player contracts can also be extended to cover the time period of the current season, as many players across the planet were due to be out of contract on July 1.

Here is the breakdown of the key points published by FIFA:

  • It is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end. This should be in line with the original intention of the parties when the contract was signed and should also preserve sporting integrity and stability.
  • FIFA will be flexible and will allow the relevant transfer windows to be moved so they fall between the end of the old season and the start of the new season.
  • A similar principle applies to contracts due to begin when the new season starts, meaning the entry into force of such contracts is delayed until the next season actually does start.
  • FIFA strongly encourages clubs and players to work together to find agreements and solutions during the period when football is suspended.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino released the following statement as the main points centered around clubs and players working together to find solutions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly changed all the factual circumstances around football for this season. So, FIFA, together with the stakeholders, has come up with some practical ideas and proposals to tackle these new circumstances,” Infantino explained. “Whilst this will not solve each and every problem, it should serve to bring a measure of stability and clarity to football for the foreseeable future. We hope that this collaborative effort, under the leadership of FIFA, can provide a positive example of how football can come together and show unity, solidarity and a spirit of compromise in order to face the challenging times ahead. But before these times come, one thing must be clear to everyone, especially now: health comes first, well before football.”

This is pretty monumental from FIFA and allows a lot more flexibility for players and clubs but also throws up plenty of interesting situations as players set to leave clubs this summer (Hakim Ziyech from Ajax to Chelsea for example) will now remain with their current teams for longer than expected.

The relevant governing bodies across the globe still need to agree to these recommendations, as UEFA and the Premier League can vote and agree to implement these recommendations or reject them.

But there is now a framework in place from FIFA which states that players contracted until July 1 2020 can now have their contracts extended until whenever the 2019-20 season is completed and that the transfer window should open when the 2019-20 season ends.

If there is just a short break between the 2019-20 season ends and the 2020-21 campaign begins, that could be one heck of a transfer window.