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Ailing Mihajlovic coaches Bologna during leukemia treatment

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ROME (AP) A hospital band was on his right wrist and a bandage was visible on the left side of his neck.

Sinisa Mihajlovic was visibly thinner and his face was drawn, too.

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The once robust Bologna coach’s determination remains, though, and that was clearly apparent when Mihajlovic surprised his team by showing up for the squad’s Serie A opener Sunday in his first public appearance following a month of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with leukemia.

“He had promised us he would be here but when we saw him in the hotel, we couldn’t believe it,” Bologna midfielder Andrea Poli said after the 1-1 draw at Hellas Verona.

There was speculation that Mihajlovic would coach the team from a special box in the tribune but he spent nearly the entire game on the touchline, leaving a minute before the end to be shuttled back to the hospital.

“He spoke to us via video conference during the week and said he wasn’t 100 percent. He told us a month ago that he wanted to be here for this game, but we didn’t think he really would be,” Bologna winger Riccardo Orsolini said.

“It was a big boost. We’re just sorry that we didn’t give him the victory,” Orsolini added. “He’s lost a bit of weight, but the grit, determination and passion were the same as always.”

Mihajlovic yelled at his players as usual and gestured with his hands in protest to the officials.

“Sinisa wasn’t very happy at the end,” Bologna sporting director Riccardo Bigon said. “Actually he was angry (over the result).”

The 50-year-old Mihajlovic was a standout player for Sampdoria and Lazio – he still shares the Serie A record for free-kick goals at 28 with Andrea Pirlo – before beginning his coaching career a decade ago in his first stint at Bologna.

Mihajlovic was rehired by Bologna in January to replace Filippo Inzaghi and engineered a complete turnaround for a team that was battling off relegation, leading the club to a 10th place finish.

When Mihajlovic announced in July that he had an acute form of leukemia, the club said it would still keep him in charge.

Up next for Bologna is its home opener against Spal on Friday and it remains to be seen if Mihajlovic will appear at that match.

PENALTY ERROR

Referees director Nicola Rizzoli has acknowledged that Napoli should not have been awarded a penalty in its wild 4-3 win at Fiorentina on Saturday.

The penalty was awarded after Napoli forward Dries Mertens theatrically dragged his leg as he jumped over a defender who was already on the ground.

Lorenzo Insigne converted the ensuing penalty to put Napoli up 2-1.

“Something didn’t work in the collaboration between the referee and the VAR,” Rizzoli said Monday. “Clearly everyone has seen the error.”

Rizzoli added that he would review whether the referee and VAR official involved would sit out next weekend.

“A coach uses the players who are in the best form and the moves that we make will go toward putting them in the best condition to officiate,” Rizzoli said. “We’ll evaluate their psycho-physical conditions.”

NO FEMALE REFS

While French referee Stephanie Frappart recently directed the UEFA Super Cup in the highest-profile men’s game for a female referee, don’t expect to see any women on the pitch in Serie A soon.

“I hope it happens in two or three years,” Italian referees association president Marcello Nicchi said last week when he presented the 21 referees – all male – for this season.

Rodrigo TO RODRIGO

Rodrigo Becao’s first profession goal was all Udinese needed for a 1-0 win over AC Milan.

The tall defender headed in following a corner from fellow Brazilian Rodrigo De Paul, whose assist came on his first touch of the season – 25 seconds after coming off the bench.

Milan had no shots on goal and lost its opener for the fifth time in the last eight seasons.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

NWSL announce return; first pro league in US to restart play

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The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will return to play on June 27 with a new exciting tournament, becoming the first professional sports league in the U.S. to announce a date to return to action.

Did somebody say tournament soccer? That’s right, things are about to get very fun in the NWSL season as the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup has arrived.

All nine NWSL clubs will feature, as a 25-game tournament will by held in Utah from June to July to mark the 2020 season.

Each NWSL club will play four games in a preliminary round in Herriman, Utah to determine seeding, with the top eight teams then moving on to the quarterfinals as the tournament will become a knockout competition.

The semifinals and final will then be held at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, with the Championship match to take place on July 26. The tournament is hosted by Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen, as all housing, training, and competition needs for the league’s nine teams will be taken care of in Utah as an “NWSL Village” will be created to control the environment for players and staff.

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird confirmed all games will be played in empty stadiums, while adding that they are excited to mark the return of pro soccer, and sports, in the USA.

“As our country begins to safely reopen and adjust to our collective new reality, and with the enthusiastic support of our players, owners, as well as our new and current commercial partners, the NWSL is thrilled to bring professional soccer back to the United States,” Baird said. “This exciting month-long tournament will showcase our league’s talented players and provide our fans the type of world-class entertainment they’ve come to expect from the NWSL.”

The NWSL were in preseason and due to start the 2020 regular season on April 18 but that was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Per the league statement, health and medical officials at each club have worked tirelessly over the last nine months to come up with a safety protocol.

“Each player, official, and essential staff member will be tested 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and upon arrival and will be subject to consistent testing, temperature readings, and symptom review throughout their stay in Utah.”

The NWSL is leading the way for professional soccer, and sports, to return to the US in some format this summer.

With the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS all exploring similar options of hosting games in a tournament format in fixed, neutral sites, all eyes will be on the NWSL to see how they pull it off.

Premier League clubs vote for contact training return

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Premier League clubs voted unanimously to return to full contact training as a key step on the road to restarting the 2019-20 season arrived.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The league released a statement confirming that clubs are now allowed to return to contact training and said they are on track to restart the season when it is safe to do so.

It is hoped the Premier League could return as early as June 12 but it has been reported that date could be pushed back by at least one week with managers wanting more time to work on the fitness of their players after over two months off.

The Premier League season was suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This vote is a big, big step in the final 92 games of the season actually being completed as players and managers now appear comfortable with the strict safety protocols in place after a week back training in small groups at training grounds. Plus, if they are happy to resume contact training then they are essentially happy to resume games, as long as strict health and safety protocols remain in place.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:


Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training, marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so.

Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact.

The Premier League’s priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants.

Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

Stage Two of the Return to Training protocol has been agreed following consultation with clubs, players, managers, the PFA, LMA and the Government.

Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when conditions allow.


The Premier League confirmed over the weekend that from 1,744 tests on players and staff across the first two rounds of COVID-19 tests, eight positive tests have been recorded with players from both Watford and Bournemouth confirmed to have the virus.

Several Premier League stars and managers have revealed their angst about returning to training but those fears seem to have evaporated, for the most part, as contact training resumes.

What’s next?

Premier League clubs are due to meet on Thursday to discuss a possible restart date and a curtailment plan, just in case unexpected obstacles arise over the next few weeks.

Make no mistake about it, a return to contact training is a huge step forward for the Premier League restarting.

PSG’s Mbappe praises Klopp, Liverpool in recent interview

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This is going to delight the Anfield set.

Paris Saint-Germain mega striker Kylian Mbappe has admitted admiration for the way Liverpool plays, as conversations continue regarding his future.

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Mbappe, 21, may be the most valuable commodity in the world given his position, accomplishments, and skill set. For France, he has a World Cup to go with 34 caps, 13 goals, and 10 assists. For PSG and Monaco combined, he’s scored 117 goals and 65 assists in 180 appearances.

He doesn’t turn 22 until December.

But there’s long been a thought that the World Cup winner will eventually have to leave PSG to cement his legacy given the relatively shallow competition in the league.

“This season, Liverpool have been a machine in the Premier League,” he told The Mirror. “They have made winning look easy but the truth is that it is never easy. Performances like they have been having don’t just happen.

“To be as ruthless as they have been would come from lots of hard work in training and from having a very good manager.”

Liverpool fans will be nodding along, beckoning the center forward with arms extended and hands waving him to them.

Real Madrid has often been the rumored destination, and we’ve argued that there’s no fee too high for this player considering how many years he has ahead of him.

With transfer fees possibly ducking low this summer after a wake-up call from the coronavirus, could Liverpool upgrade its dangerous front three with one of the top center forwards in the game?

The fact that the Reds reportedly negotiated a percentage of jersey sales into their new apparel deal could help, because it’s easy to imagine red Mbappe jerseys all around the world.

Canada’s Davies shines again as Muller brands him Roadrunner (video)

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Alphonso Davies sees your expectations and he moves past them with vigor.

The Canadian phenom again took the international spotlight and ran with it, past it, and over it on Tuesday as Bayern Munich put one hand on its eighth-straight Bundesliga title with a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news | Current table ]

We’ll get to the stats and the style in a bit, but let’s start with some video that showcases the elite physical package he’s built.

Davies isn’t grinding here and he’s actually a bit slow to recognize the danger as Erling Haaland works over David Alaba.

Haaland isn’t at top speed and balance, too, but it doesn’t matter. Davies is there in a hurry. And it’s also about what he does when he get there. There are plenty of speed merchants in the game, not all of them can tackle Erling Haaland.

[ RELATED: Real Madrid targeting Davies as Marcelo replacement ]

That’s why this viral soundbite from Thomas Muller is gaining a lot of traction (also because it’s funny).

The roadrunner quip is the main attraction, but hidden in it is the implication that Davies has these elite make-up skills but is only going to get better with experience and awareness. He’s cutting out Haaland a minute earlier.

Before you watch that, though, here’s what Davies said on the play.

“Obviously being a young player I get caught out of position a lot and I’m happy to have the speed I have. That’s a factor in my game that I use very well, but I think over the years going forward with this team I will definitely learn more about my position, better positioning so it doesn’t look like I’m out of position just running back as fast as I can to catch up.”

Davies moved from Vancouver Whitecaps to Bayern just last year, but is already the undisputed best player for the Canadian national team with five goals and eight assists in 17 caps.

His 54 tackles are tied for 16th amongst Bundesliga players (Remember: He’s 19).

His 72 dribbles are top in the league (Again: 19).

Only three players have won more duels than his 180 (Not 20 until November).

And his two professional matches of left back experience before October were with Bayern II in 3.Liga this Fall. That’s bonkers.

Meep-meep.