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10-man Man City fails in bid to clinch Champions League group

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An injury and red card meant Manchester City defender Kyle Walker finished the day in goal for the 10-man visitors in a 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw with Atalanta at Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on Wednesday.

Raheem Sterling scored in the 7th minute of Wednesday’s match in Bergamo, the sort of dispiriting perfect team goal which can make an opposition close up shop.

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But Atalanta did not do that, drawing level through Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic and having a huge opportunity to take all three points when Claudio Bravo, on the pitch because Ederson was injured, was sent off for a DOGSO foul.

City is still sitting pretty with a five-point lead on both Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donestk, but will rue not killing off both sides’ chances of winning the group.

Three things we learned

1. First mission accomplished of season delayed: A win in Atalanta would have clinched a seeded place in the knockout rounds, but City just didn’t have their A or B game in Bergamo. Give plenty of credit to Atalanta, who started the group stage 0-3 and was humiliated by City in Manchester, but Guardiola won’t be happy with the knowledge that a 3-3 draw between 10-man sides Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk opened the door to the possibility of not needing to pay any attention to the final two group stage matches.

2. Kyle Walker can catch: Guardiola took off Ederson at halftime, and Man City almost immediately handed an equalizer to the hosts when Pasalic beat Bravo.

City was not good on the day, and their poor day was further dramatized when Ilkay Gundogan‘s bad giveaway allowed Ilicic 1v1 with Bravo. The referee had little choice but to give the Chilean a red card for a sliding challenge on Ilicic, and Walker entered the fray after a long delay.

Wearing a C. Bravo 1 jersey, Walker bobbled but saved the ensuing free kick and caught the only other shot put in his direction over the final few minutes.

3. Sterling continues Serie A mastery: Sterling played a role in all five of Manchester City’s goals when Atalanta visited the Etihad Stadium the last UEFA Champions League match day, so it’s no surprise he’s brought that form to Italy.

Man of the Match: The answer is Pasalic, who was very good, but you’re nuts if you think we’re not putting this award directly into the hands of Kyle “C. Bravo 1” Walker.


Coming on the heels of his 3-goal, 2-assist performance in Manchester against the Serie A side, Atalanta will be seeing ghosts after Sterling stayed patient with a run into the 18 to fire home.

Sterling knew Gabriel Jesus‘ clever back heel was coming after Bernardo Silva’s incisive pass into the 18, and City will have a commanding five-point lead atop the group is the day’s results hold firm.

And more importantly, a couple more early goals could allow Guardiola to pull Sterling and a few other stars ahead of Sunday’s big match at Liverpool.

That certainly did not happen. Man City’s Gabriel Jesus missed a penalty kick before halftime, and Atalanta tightened up and was probably unfortunate not to find a winner.

Full credit to City for dealing with Walker’s absence, keeping the ball in the corner for most of the final moments of the match.

Chelsea winger Victor Moses moves to Inter on loan

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Thursday morning Inter Milan confirmed yet another acquisition from the Premier League, securing Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea with an option to buy.

Moses has been on loan at Turkish club Fenerbahce for the last calendar year, moving to the Super Lig last winter. The 29-year-old made 23 appearances for Fenerbahce across all competitions, scoring five goals and assisting two more. Fenerbahce finished last season in a disappointing eighth, meaning they did not qualify for European play this season. He has not played much this season, making just six league appearances thanks to a thigh injury.

Moses, who retired from international competition with Nigeria after the 2018 World Cup, had been a consistent presence in the Chelsea lineup under former Chelsea and current Inter boss Antonio Conte, reinventing himself as a wing-back opposite Marcos Alonso in Conte’s 3-CB system. However, he was dropped from the consistent starting lineup at the start of the 2018/19 season and was sent out on loan that winter.

The former Chelsea player becomes the fourth player either sold or loaned to Inter from a Premier League club this season, joining Manchester United trio Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young, with the latter joining this winter as well. It is the first time Conte has dipped into the well of his former Chelsea players. They have also been heavily linked with Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Conte has Inter challenging for the Scudetto this season, with the club sitting second in the Serie A table. However, draws with Atalanta and Lecce in the last two matches have seen them drop to four points back of leaders Juventus after challenging them for much of the season to date.

Chicharito tells father MLS move is “beginning of my retirement”

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Major League Soccer has been fighting the notion that it is a “retirement league” for the better part of the last decade. The business strategy of bringing on European stars in the twilight of their careers is sensible to garner interest in the league, and often those players have gone on to set records and become stars.

Still, many use the label as a derogatory mark, and that has resulted in a significant PR hurdle for the league on several occasions. It has cropped up again just days after Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez signed for the LA Galaxy at 31 years old.

Chicharito was confirmed to be a new LA Galaxy player on Tuesday, and he went on record to say that he was coming to the league to be competitive. “It [MLS] is a very attractive league that is growing, even if some do not want to accept it,” Hernandez told beIN Sports. “Some say I am playing here because I will retire or just have fun. They are completely wrong.”

Well, unfortunately for Chicharito, he is one of those people. On the vlog Naked Humans centered around Chicharito and those in his life, the Mexican striker was seen calling his father to tell him the news of signing with the Galaxy. On the call, which was released in Wednesday’s episode around the 26-minute mark, Chicharito seemed initially trepidatious to tell his father the news. “It’s almost certain I am going to LA,” he began. When his father began to be supportive by asking, “So?” Chicharito responded to explain his palpable sadness. “Everything is ok everything is perfect dad, it’s only that, well it’s like the beginning of my retirement, you know?”

Hernandez went on to clarify a bit later, but not by much. When father protested, saying “no it isn’t!” But Chicharito went on to explain a bit further, saying, “No dad, try to understand me…what I mean is that we are saying goodbye to a career that we put a lot of effort into, and we worked, and I know you guys also feel it and we’re going to look at the bright side and it’s going to be amazing. But whether we like it or not, we are retiring from the European dream.”

There is raw emotion and feeling behind Chicharito’s conversation with his father, a man who clearly yearns for his parent’s approval. That makes his words even more genuine, and they do not seem like the words of a player who is excited to enter into a new chapter of his career, but instead sound like those of a downtrodden striker riding off into the sunset resigned to his fate. It’s possible some of this was lost in translation, but overall Chicharito seems to be consoling himself and talking himself into the decision more than actually hoping to reassure his father on the phone.

Hernandez signed for the Galaxy on Tuesday from Spanish club Sevilla, joining as the highest paid player in Major League Soccer. He will go head-to-head with fellow Mexican striker Carlos Vela of LAFC in the cross-town rivalry, hoping to challenge Vela’s single-season MLS goalscoring record set last season.

Report: Man United board continues support of Solskjaer

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The ugly 2-0 loss to Burnley on Wednesday deepened Manchester United’s woes this season and yet again exposed the significant holes in the Red Devils’ squad.

[ RECAP: Man United 2-0 loss to Burnley ]

Despite the negativity surrounding the defeat, however, it appears that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s managerial job is safe for now at Manchester United. According to a report by Sky Sports, the Manchester United board continues to hold support for Solskjaer as they look desperately for consistency at the position. The report states that the club is “not even considering” a managerial change at this point, and that both the players and board “remain fully behind Solskjaer.”

Another report, however, by Miguel Delaney of The Independent, claims that some players have begun to doubt the boss despite his likable personal status in the locker room.

The Red Devils have struggled mightily to recapture the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson since his retirement, and while the team yearns to back a manager through a rebuild like Liverpool has with Jurgen Klopp, the retooling at Manchester United has been far bumpier. The club hired Solskjaer first in December of 2018 as interim manager in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s departure, but then permanently after smashing initial success.

[ MORE: Solskjaer says Man United “mentally tired” in Burnley loss ]

Since his permanent signing, however, the club has won just 11 of its 32 Premier League matches dating back to late last season. The attacking threat has been promising at times but overall inconsistent, while the defense proves consistently porous at the worst possible times. Shockingly, they have won consecutive league matches just twice during that stretch, both coming recently with wins over Spurs and Manchester City in early December before a pair over Newcastle and Burnley through the festive period.

Many fans have heaped blame not on Solskjaer but instead at the feet of Ed Woodward, club chief executive who has ushered Manchester United into a financial golden age but has also flopped hard as head of recruitment. The club has reportedly attempted to bring aboard a Director of Football to assist in player recruitment and lift the weight off the shoulders of Woodward who does not have a sporting background, but so far has yet to pull the trigger, leaving the business executive aboard as the so far unsuccessful head of personnel.

As results continue to spiral downward, however, more pressure has reached Solskjaer’s doorstep, with the club investing significant financial might this summer to bring on the likes of Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka plus the continued development of youngsters Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and Scott McTominay to mixed results. Rashford and McTominay have blossomed this season into some of the best in the league, but Lingard has seen his growth stunted while Andreas Pereira and Anthony Martial also look to have hit a developmental wall.

Injuries have also taken a toll, with midfielder Paul Pogba a significant missing piece for much of the season due to a foot problem and both McTominay and Rashford have been hit by knee and back injuries respectively.

All told, Solskjaer has had little to work with in terms of available talent, and it’s not like he is underperforming given the quality of the squad. However, despite official blame yet to be publicly placed at the feet of Woodward or his bosses, it appears that the board is yet to make Solskjaer a scapegoat for the club’s league struggles. Manchester United sits fifth in the Premier League table, six points back of Chelsea for the final Champions League spot and a massive 30 points behind leaders Liverpool. They have qualified for the Champions League just twice in the last five seasons, and both those times failed to reach past the Round of 16. For a once powerful club, the rot runs deep at the moment, and while Solskjaer is safe for now, he will be wise to remain cognizant of the dangers over his shoulder.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.