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Report: Minnesota United turning to ex-Sunderland GK Mannone

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The goalkeeping competition at Minnesota United was set to be very interesting, with longtime MLS backstop Bobby Shuttleworth and promising rookie Dayne St. Clair joined by a third keep.

The potential identify of that third one makes the competition a little less open.

[ MORE: Man City favored by oddsmakers ]

The Loons will reportedly add former Arsenal and Sunderland backstop Vito Mannone on loan from Reading, says The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter.

Mannone, 30, is behind Emiliano Martinez — on loan from Arsenal — and journeyman Sam Walker has been No. 2 in recent weeks.

The keeper was a bright light for Sunderland in its relegation season two years ago, backing the club from top-to-bottom and staying very active in the community.

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

FIFA hit Chelsea with transfer ban

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FIFA have banned Chelsea from signing new players until the summer of 2020.

The results of a three-year investigation into the signing of players under the age of 18 have led to FIFA imposing the two-window transfer ban on the west London club, while they have also been fined along with the English Football Association.

Both Chelsea and the FA have released statements saying that they will appeal the charges by FIFA, while there is the possibility they can push this case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

While the appeal is ongoing, Chelsea’s ban of signing players for two transfer windows will be delayed so they could indeed sign players in the upcoming summer window to prepare themselves for an inevitable ban.

FIFA stated that Chelsea “were found to have breached art. 19 of the Regulations in the case of twenty-nine (29) minor players and to have committed several other infringements relating to registration requirements for players. The club also breached art. 18bis of the Regulations in connection with two agreements it concluded concerning minors and which allowed it to influence other clubs in transfer-related matters.”

In recent cases involving the improper signing of young players Spanish giants Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were handed transfer bans in 2016, while Barcelona were handed a 14-month transfer ban over the signing of young players back in 2014.

FIFA’s investigation into the signing of 92 youth players at Chelsea revealed issues with 29 of the signings, and the investigation itself focused heavily on the registration of Bertrand Traore who signed his first pro deal at the club at the age of 18 in 2013 but wasn’t registered until January 2014. There are also reports that Traore played for Chelsea’s youth teams when he was just 16 years old.

It is illegal under rules for clubs to sign foreign players unless their family move for non-soccer reasons, the club is within 100km of the players’ home or if the clubs they are transferring to are both in the EU and the player is aged 16-18. In the latter case there are several guidelines which must be followed including housing, education and living fees.

Chelsea’s statement finished by saying that they have “acted in accordance with the relevant regulations and will shortly be submitting its appeal to FIFA.”

“Chelsea FC has today received a decision from the FIFA Disciplinary Committee concerning alleged breaches of the FIFA Regulations that relate to the international transfer of players under the age of 18. The decision imposes a transfer ban of two consecutive registration periods and a fine of 600k Swiss francs. Chelsea FC categorically refutes the findings of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and will therefore be appealing the decision.”

The FA said they “intend to appeal against the decision” and “continue to work with FIFA and Chelsea in a constructive manner to address the issues which are raised by this case.”

The governing body of English soccer added that it has “raised concerns” about some of FIFA’s disciplinary processes.

This situation is far from ideal for Chelsea and their manager Maurizio Sarri, especially as the team is struggling on the pitch in recent weeks and clearly needs a massive overhaul in terms of new players.

Chelsea will still be able to sell players during the transfer ban, but can they really afford to let Eden Hazard leave in the summer if they’re unable to replace him? We now know why the Blues were eager to sign Christian Pulisic in January, and possibly why Gonzalo Higuain’s loan move from Juventus is for 18 months…

Looking at the bigger picture: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich hasn’t watched a game this season amid ongoing visa issues with the UK government and reports suggest he may sell the club after becoming disinterested as he also put a stop to plans to rebuild Stamford Bridge. This issue will likely upset Abramovich further and any potential new owner will be operating with limitations if this transfer ban is enforced.

PL Friday Preview: West Ham, Watford looking to stay in top ten

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European competition next season may be out of reach, but a top-ten finish for West Ham and Watford is a distinct possibility as we head towards the home stretch of the regular season. This week of Premier League action is kicked off with a London derby between West Ham and Fulham and Watford visiting Cardiff City.

[READ: The 2 Robbies discuss Man City and Liverpool in the Champions League]

West Ham v. Fulham — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

One notable name that has been missing from West Ham’s lineup all season could finally be back in the gameday squad. Manager Manuel Pellegrini revealed that Argentine international Manuel Lanzini, along with Samir Nasri, could both feature in West Ham’s match against Fulham on Friday. The 26-year-old midfielder has been out ever since suffering a devastating ACL injury while in World Cup training camp with Argentina.

Whether he’s ready to go 90 minutes is unclear, but West Ham certainly needs him. The squad has lost five consecutive matches in all competitions, with just four goals scored. The strikers haven’t been able to finish very well recently, but the lack of a creative midfielder has really hurt the Irons in the most important sectors of the field.

Fulham meanwhile are in serious trouble with just 12 matches remaining. Fulham is eight points behind Cardiff City in the top spot outside of the relegation zone.

INJURIES: West Ham —  OUT: Jack Wilshere (ankle); PROBABLE: Samir Nasri (calf) | Fulham — OUT: None; PROBABLE: None


Cardiff City v. Watford — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Watford enacted a little bit of revenge last week after defeating former manager Marco Silva and Everton. This week, it’s arguably a tougher task.

Cardiff City supporters have helped will their team to three-straight victories, after the tragic plane crash carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. Cardiff has poked its head out of the relegation zone, and will be desperate for another home victory. Watford, meanwhile, is looking to solidify a place in the Premier League’s top ten.

Interestingly, all ten of Watford’s wins this season have come with Abdoulaye Doucoure in the starting eleven.

INJURIES: Cardiff City —  OUT: None; PROBABLE: None | Watford — OUT: Kiko Femenia (hamstring); PROBABLE: Roberto Pereyra (hamstring), Isaac Success (hamstring), Sebastian Prödl (hamstring and knee)