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Barcelona against haste of bigger Club World Cup

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MIAMI (AP) The president of Barcelona spoke out against the haste to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 ahead of the FIFA Council deciding Friday whether to approve the pilot of the enlarged tournament.

European clubs have publicly resisted FIFA’s bid to replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is played annually in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July.

[ MORE: Analyzing the draw ]

Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu backs a revamp of the competition, just not until the entire calendar for club and national team matches is reconfigured for 2024 and beyond to cope.

“We have to take care of the footballers,” Bartomeu said in an interview with The Associated Press in Miami, where the FIFA Council is meeting. “We have to take care about the way of training and the vacation they need to recover every season that they do. If the calendar is not modified, of course we cannot agree.”

In 2021, FIFA envisages the window for international matches – which is likely to include 2022 World Cup qualifiers – running May 31-June 8. The Club World Cup would be held June 17-July 4, while the African Cup of Nations and CONCACAF Gold Cup could be played July 5-July 31. European club seasons typically start around mid-August.

FIFA believes the proposed 24-team Club World Cup would “promote and grow football for the benefit of all confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs and fans,” according to a task force report on new FIFA competitions seen by the AP.

In the first edition, South America would have six slots – one based on previous performances. Three each would go to teams from Africa, Asia and CONCACAF, which represents North and Central America. Oceania would get one representative. The confederations would decide their own qualification process, whereas now each continental champion qualifies for the Club World Cup along with the host country.

“We know the current form doesn’t work,” FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani told the AP. “The top clubs in the world have fans all over the world. So, I think it’s a natural progression of that competition.”

The expanded tournament would start with eight groups of three, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. Teams would play two to five matches over a maximum of 18 days.

According to a FIFA document seen by the AP, the governing body’s council will be asked on Friday to approve a trial 24-team Club World Cup running from June 17-July 4, 2021. That is the slot previously reserved for the Confederations Cup, which serves as a test event in a host nation a year before the World Cup.

“An opportunity to keep growing the competition will always be accepted from our league and our clubs,” Enrique Bonilla, the president of the Mexican league, told the AP. “It helps to give exposure and it helps to make clubs from other parts of the world to be more competitive, and to grow, and to learn from those great players that are now playing in Europe.”

Also Friday, the FIFA Council will be asked to approve the recommendations of a feasibility study into adding another 16 teams for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

The council will be asked to allow FIFA and Qatar to jointly submit a proposal on using “one or more additional co-host countries” in the Persian Gulf before a final decision in June on enlarging the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.

A document sent to the FIFA Council says its members will be asked if they agree with the report’s conclusion that World Cup expansion is “feasible provided that neighboring countries host some matches.”

The FIFA study seen by the AP says Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with Doha. Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are indicated to be the current possible options identified by FIFA to host games in 2022 but their stadium infrastructure is only briefly assessed in a FIFA report.

Venues in at least one more country would be required to cope with the additional 16 teams and 16 games under the expansion proposal.

“As long as it’s well studied and well thought out, I think CONCACAF would have no issues supporting that,” said Montagliani, who leads the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ayoze Perez hat trick leads Newcastle past Southampton (video)

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  • Newcastle now 10 points clear of 18th
  • Perez scores both Magpies goals
  • Southampton five points ahead of drop zone

Ayoze Perez a hat trick as Newcastle United held off Southampton’s second half charge in a 3-1 win at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Mario Lemina scored a beauty for Saints in a game of high quality goals.

Newcastle goes 12th with 41 points, while Saints remain 16th with 36.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle wanted a penalty when an early shot from Ayoze Perez was blocked by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s arm.

Miguel Almiron took a Salomon Rondon flick and hit a wayward cross that Angus Gunn slapped wide of the goal.

The dam burst near the half-hour mark, when Perez scored both of his goals.

The first came with a fine, physical dribble right which the Spaniard punctuated with a hard shot across his body and inside the far post.

Then it was 2-0 within four minutes, Perez sliding onto the end of a Rondon cross to slap the ball inside the goal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Saints deserved a goal and nearly had one through Maya Yoshida before Lemina answered the bell.

Off the bench, the ex-Juve midfielder scored from 21 yards after Stuart Armstrong and Nathan Redmond combined to set the table.

But Matt Ritchie‘s diving header was redirected by Perez for an 87th minute insurance goal and the completion of a fine hat trick.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Pellegrini ready for VAR after West Ham draw Leicester City

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West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini knows his side played well enough for three points in its 2-2 draw with Leicester City, but also is well aware that the Irons should’ve had three goals before the Foxes’ nabbed their second equalizer of Saturday’s match at the London Stadium.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-2 Leicester ]

Lucas Perez’s would-be brace wouldn’t stand when the linesman’s flag was raised for what should’ve been an insurance goal for the hosts, who were very good on the day.

But Leicester would score through Harvey Barnes in stoppage time to eke out a point in London.

“I think we deserved more than a draw,” Pellegrini said.

“We should have been leading 3-1 but it was a mistake of the linesman. Yes, I’ve seen the goal again and he was one meter onside. There is nothing you can do about that. Next season when we have VAR it can be more fair.”

Still two switched-off moments cost the Irons a win nearly as much as the linesman’s flag.

“We generally played well but you cannot concede two goals.”

Fulham win second-straight, beat Bournemouth (video)

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  • Mitrovic’s penalty kick the winner
  • Second-straight win for Fulham
  • 3 defeats in 4 for Bournemouth 

Already-relegated Fulham beat Bournemouth 1-0 at a sunny Vitality Stadium on Saturday, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the only goal of the game to secure Fulham’s first away win of the season.

Mitrovic’s penalty kick came in the second half, as an even game saw the Cottagers edge it and caretaker boss Scott Parker has done his chances of getting the full-time job no harm at all with back-to-back PL wins against Everton and Bournemouth.

With the three points Fulham remain in 19th and are on 23 points, while Bournemouth sit in 12th on 41 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Callum Wilson raced in on goal early on but lifted his effort over the bar, and Bournemouth did all the pressing as Fulham struggled to get out of their own half and Josh King then fired over when it looked easier to score.

At the other end Nathan Ake cleared a header from a corner off the line, then Mitrovic flashed a shot over the bar but was offside.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Ryan Fraser forced Sergio Rico into a smart stop across his goal after a trademark surging run forward, as Bournemouth turned the screw. Bournemouth were forced into an early change as Junior Stanislas (who only replaced Adam Smith in the team just before kick off) went off with a knee injury and youngster Jack Simpson replaced him.

Mitrovic was then denied by a great last-ditch tackle by Steve Cook as Fulham improved, and from the resulting corner Denis Odoi‘s flicked header was saved well by Artur Boruc.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

At the start of the second half Fulham went ahead, as Simpson clattered into Mitrovic to give away a clear penalty kick. Mitrovic stepped up and sent Boruc the wrong way to end his drought of nine games without a goal and put Fulham 1-0 up.

Ryan Sessegnon weaved his way into the box and forced Boruc into a save at his near post as the visitors dominated the play in the second half.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Fraser flashed a shot just wide and Bournemouth threw everything at Fulham late on, with Rico denying Wilson and then Maxime Le Marchand coming up with a huge block.

David Brooks‘ cross hit the top of the crossbar and then Lys Mousset sent a late header straight at Rico, and that was as close as Bournemouth came to an equalizer as boos rang out from the home fans at the final whistle.

Barnes saves Leicester point at West Ham (video)

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  • Antonio gives Irons halftime lead
  • Vardy answers
  • Perez, Barnes trade late goals

Harvey Barnes used stoppage time to score his first Premier League goal as Leicester City twice came back in a 2-2 draw with West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday.

Michail Antonio and Lucas Perez scored for West Ham, while Jamie Vardy had Leicester’s other goal.

Leicester moves to 48 points, one back of seventh place Watford, while Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons have 43 and sit 11th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham were better money for an early goal, and Ricardo Pereira got to Michail Antonio just ahead of Marko Arnautovic‘s splendid 26th minute cross to deny the Irons an opener.

Robert Snodgrass stole a pass and fed Felipe Anderson for a shot which looked headed for the far post but smashed Antonio in the chest from close range.

Antonio got a deserved goal of full intent when he collected a Mark Noble crosss and turned a header beyond the reach of Kasper Schmeichel.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Vardy scored for Leicester out of nearly nothing, with Vardy cutting in front of Fabian Balbuena to knife a Ben Chilwell cross inside the near post.

Balbuena made some amends with a fine block of a James Maddison chance cued up by Harvey Barnes.

Substitute Pedro Obiang cranked a shot off the post that clattered onto the path of Perez for the goal.

Barnes then struck in the second of five minutes stoppage, rolling across and under Lukasz Fabianski following a Youri Tielemans through ball.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]