Wayne Rooney
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Rooney proposes wintry change to help seasons delayed by coronavirus

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Derby County captain Wayne Rooney says players will be happy to play it extra safe when it comes to the coronavirus’ effect on their seasons.

Rooney says there’s a solution for everything, and that the Premier League season could find resolution in the calendar thanks to the winter World Cup scheduled for 2022.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

While of course theoretical and requiring developments in the treatment and control of the virus, Rooney says European seasons could finish by September

“The next World Cup is in November and December 2022, so you could actually use this situation as an opportunity and say we’re going to finish the 2019-20 season later this year, then prepare for 2022 by having the next two seasons starting in winter.”

There’s a lot of common sense to Rooney’s proposal on the surface level, though obviously there are myriad contractual and legal avenues that may make it improbable.

The big question would be what to do after that 2022 World Cup, as waiting from January to August to start a new season would be a bit wild. Maybe each successive season would change by one month until it reached the traditional start date?

And, honestly, it’s intriguing to wonder if European football adopting a “warmer weather” schedule and international football hosting its events in the Fall would improve an already terrific thing.

Rooney was also critical of the delays in putting Football League matches on hold, saying players were watching other sports close down and unable to focus on their personal coronavirus concerns.

He claimed it “almost” felt like footballers were being treated “like guinea pigs.”

More coronavirus connections to soccer:

Bayern Munich – Chelsea: How to watch, team news, prediction

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea: This is a bold statement, but Chelsea overturning its 3-0 first-leg deficit over Bayern Munich on Saturday would be a bigger flip than what Liverpool did to Barcelona in last season’s Champions League.

Yeah, Liverpool’s 4-0 second leg win over Barcelona came against a Messi-led team but Chelsea would be doing it to a Bayern team which hasn’t lost in ages and has three away goals heading into the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Does Man Utd need Sancho? ]

Bayern is on a 26-match unbeaten run with just one draw, though Hansi Flick’s men have been away from serious match action since a July 4 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup Final.

Team news

Chelsea’s disadvantage is made more severe by who isn’t available to Frank Lampard. Marcos Alonso and Jorginho are suspended, while Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta limped off the pitch at the FA Cup Final and Billy Gilmour is a long-term absence. Plus, N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are doubts and who knows what’s happening with Willian (though he seems likely to at least be in the 18).

Benjamin Pavard is out for Bayern Munich, while questions surround the status of Kingsley Coman.

First leg

February’s first leg at Stamford Bridge looked more like a London vacation for Bayern, Robert Lewandowski setting up ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry for two of the Bavarians’ three goals in a clean sheet win for Manuel Neuer.

Bayern Chelsea
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 25: Serge Gnabry after scoring the first goal in West London (Photo by Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images)

Odds and ends

Chelsea is +700 to win the leg, let alone the tie, and Bayern is -278 to grab a second win over Chelsea, according to DraftKings. Bayern is a wild minus-10000 (yes, four zeroes) to advance compared to Chelsea’s +5300.

Prediction

Shorthanded Chelsea will still be firing a bit more early and should find a way onto the score sheet. Bayern will figure it out, though, and we see a 1-1 draw on the cards (if not a 2-1 Bayern win). The Bundesliga side is very, very good.

How to watch Bayern Munich – Chelsea

When: 3 pm ET Saturday
Stream: CBS All Access

Transfer news: Updates on Silva, Hojbjerg; Leeds chase defenders

Silva to Lazio
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There are updates on David Silva to Lazio, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to Tottenham, and more in Thursday’s Premier League transfer rumors.

[ MORE: Does Man Utd need Sancho? ]


Silva to Lazio latest

Last week’s report keeping David Silva in sky blue, albeit in another country, has been buttressed by Thursday news out of Italy.

Sky Sports says Lazio is increasingly confident of bringing the living Man City legend to Rome.

Silva is set to star in Friday’s UEFA Champions League second leg against Real Madrid, a result and three more wins from a European Cup to add to his World Cup, two EUROs, Copa del Rey, and 15 trophies with City.

Lazio faded down the stretch after challenging Juventus for the scudetto for much of the 2019-20 season. The club has rumor mill mainstays Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic under contract as well as Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa, the quartet combining for 58 goals and 30 assists.

Silva’s not going to hurt that production, given six goals and 11 assists for Pep Guardiola this season.

Leeds linked with defenders

Marcelo Bielsa is readying his back line for the test of 19 other Premier League attacks, one with an eye for the future.

Fulham teenager Cody Drameh and Rangers veteran left back Borna Barisic are being linked with a move to the Peacocks.

Barisic, 27, has surged back into the Croatia set-up since arriving Glasgow from NK Osijek in 2018. He had two goals and 14 assists for Steven Gerrard last season.

Drameh is just 19 and yet to make his first team debut for Scott Parker’s also-promoted Cottagers. An England U-18 right back, he registered seven assists in 17 PL2 appearances for Fulham last season.

Barisic to Leeds
Rangers’ Borna Barisic (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group via Getty Images)

Hojbjerg to Tottenham, Walker-Peters to Southampton update

There are 18 million reasons for Southampton to be okay with wantaway former captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg taking the next step in his career.

That’s the transfer fee reportedly set for St. Mary’s as Spurs purchase the Danish midfielder.

The Express says that Everton had a $33 million bid accepted for Hojbjerg but that Tottenham interest swayed the player.

Spurs have also agreed a fee with Saints over Kyle Walker-Peters, who spent the second half of the 2019-20 season on loan to Southampton.

For some reason, the clubs wanted the deals kept apart, though it’s difficult not to read them as basically a swap given Walker-Peters’ reported $15 million deal.

Man City v. Real Madrid preview: Team news, start time, odds, prediction

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Manchester City – Real Madrid should be an absolute classic in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg on Friday (start time, 3pm ET) at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola and Man City have a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Madrid back in late February before the coronavirus pandemic paused play, as Kevin de Bruyne put in a masterful display in the Santiago Bernabeu to give City the edge. Since then Man City have had their Champions League ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and Real have won La Liga as Zinedine Zidane’s side were in imperious form after the restart.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

With midfield and attacking stars set to dazzle on both teams, this is not a game you want to miss as the quarterfinal stage onwards will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. Man City are favorites to win the Champions League, their holy grail, but the most successful team in the history of the competition stands in their way.

Check out the latest Manchester City – Real Madrid team news, betting odds, how to watch and stream, score prediction and more below.


Team news

Man City have no fresh injury concerns, as Sergio Aguero remains their main absentee up top after undergoing knee surgery in June. Guardiola is hoping his star striker is fit enough to play later this month if Man City reach the semifinals and final in Portugal. Benjamin Mendy is suspended, so Joao Cancelo is likely to start at left back.

Real Madrid have named their 24-man squad and Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have been both left at home by Zidane. Captain and legendary center back Sergio Ramos is suspended from the first leg but will travel with the team to Manchester. Mariano Diaz will not feature after testing positive for coronavirus.


What they’re saying

Man City midfielder Rodri is full of confidence ahead of facing Real: “I am really confident. They are a great team and they can beat you, because they are Real Madrid, but we have to show them we are a better team. We showed them at their home, but we need to be ready because you never know what is going to happen. We have to be focused. They are the greatest team in La Liga and they have shown that this year. We need to do our best to get to the next round.”

Raphael Varane on Real’s big-game experience being key: “We’re aware of the excellent work we’ve done over the past few years. It doesn’t happen often. We try to remember those days to keep working hard and try to take something out of that experience. We know that little things can make a difference in games like this. We’ve got a lot of experience in these big matches, so we can feel confident. We’re just as determined as before. Our goal is to win, and that’s partly due to the DNA of this club. We always want to put the past aside, move on and win.”


Odds and ends (full Champions League odds)

The bookies believe hosts Manchester City (-139) are the favorites but beware of a Real Madrid side (+320) with nothing to lose and everything to gain, especially with Hazard, Benzema and Rodrygo looking so good in recent weeks. The tie at +340 looks like the best bet here.


Prediction

This is a really tough one to call. Man City were superb after the restart in the Premier League but lost to Southampton and Chelsea, plus lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinal. Defensive issues remain the key problem for Guardiola and Real’s star attacking lineup could expose that weakness. Real Madrid have been better defensively and ground out wins galore on their way to winning La Liga, but Zidane’s boys have to go for this and that will leave plenty of gaps at the back, especially without Ramos. I’m going to go for a 2-2 draw which will just see Man City squeeze through.


How to watch, stream Manchester City – Real Madrid

Date: August 7
Location: Etihad Stadium, Manchester – Round of 16 second leg (Man City lead 2-1 from first leg)
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: Here at NBCSports.com

Premier League announces substitution, VAR decisions

Premier League three subs
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The Premier League has voted to revert to three substitutions per team per game for the 2020-21 season, one of several changes coming from Thursday meetings.

Traditionalists have won out after the PL returned for Project Restart with an unusual five subs rule.

[ MORE: Does Man Utd need Sancho? ]

There was seemingly minimal change to the art of the game, at least less so than the once-per-half water breaks that allowed coaches the chance to impart in-half tactical instructions to their squads.

It was one of several changes.

Back to three subs

The subs rule was changed for Project Restart as the unprecedented fixture congestion demanded a lot out of pandemic-affected clubs.

Opponents of keeping five subs said it would favor deeper, richer squads, while proponents acknowledged the opportunity to get younger players more time on the pitch. The Premier League announced Thursday that 62 homegrown players debuted this past season, up 21 from the 2018-19 season.

One good thing about the decision is that we won’t have to hear pundits complain about a change that affected the games minimally aside from the chance for more players to get time on the pitch. The less hand-wringing, the better.

That said, the minimal nature of the change is also an argument to go back to the system that’s been in place for ages.

VAR changes

As expected, Video Assistant Referee’s roller coaster season has led to changes for the 2020-21 campaign.

VAR was rolled out to much success early, but became increasingly difficult to understand later in the season.

Control is being handed back to the on-field referee, which was suggested but not always followed in the second half of the PL campaign.

There are also changes in goalkeeper and player actions during penalty kicks, and offside rules are largely staying the same.

Here’s what’s new, via PremierLeague.com:

  • Referee Review Area (RRA): Increased use of the RRA, which will be used for subjective decisions in the three key areas – goals, red cards and penalty kicks
  • Goalkeeper encroachment on penalty kicks: The protocol does not allow for tolerance levels, so if the goalkeeper saves a penalty and his foot is over the line then VAR will advise it is retaken. If the goalkeeper is off his line and the ball hits the post or goes over, it won’t be retaken unless the ‘keeper has a material impact on the kick being missed
  • Player encroachment on penalty kicks: It is now judged on any part of a player’s body that is on the ground when the kick is taken. So if any part of the foot is on the penalty area or arc line it is encroachment. The player must still have a material impact on the outcome of the kick
  • Offsides: The protocol does not allow for tolerance levels.
  • Keeping the flag down for tight marginal offside offences: When an immediate goalscoring opportunity is likely to occur, the assistant referee will keep their flag down until the passage of play is completed. Once the goalscoring opportunity is complete, either a goal is scored or the chance is gone, the assistant will then raise the flag to indicate the initial offence. If a goal is scored the VAR will then review the offside judgement