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Messi injury? Concern after missed practice ahead of La Liga return


MADRID — One missed practice was enough to raise concerns about Lionel Messi, as a potential injury has hit the headlines.

Messi’s presence in next week’s return of the Spanish league was put in doubt by some Barcelona media after he trained separately from the group on Wednesday.

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Even though Barcelona said there was no reason to worry about Messi, and that he simply underwent an alternative training program in the gym, some reports said there could be more to it.

Catalan channel TV3 said Messi has a minor thigh muscle problem that could keep him from being ready to play in Barcelona’s June 13 match at Mallorca, the team’s first since the league was halted nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.

TV3 said late Wednesday that Messi underwent tests to determine the real extent of the injury. Barcelona did not confirm Messi had to be tested.

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Thursday was a scheduled rest day for the club, with the squad returning on Friday to continue its preparations.

Messi missed nearly two months at the beginning of the season after hurting a calf muscle in the first preseason training.

He is the league leading scorer with 19, five more than Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. Messi also has the most assists, with 12.

Defender Clement Lenglet is set to miss the trip to Mallorca because of an accumulation of yellow cards, but striker Luis Suarez, who underwent right knee surgery in January and was expected to miss the season before the pandemic, has been practicing normally and is expected to be back in action in Mallorca.

Ousmane Dembele is not likely to return as he continues to recover from a hamstring problem.

Barcelona has a two-point lead over Real Madrid with 11 rounds remaining.

Madrid resumes on June 14 against Eibar at Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in the club’s training center. Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is undergoing renovation work for the rest of the season.

The league’s first game will be the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.

Chelsea extends Willy Caballero contract

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Chelsea activated a clause in Willy Caballero’s contract to keep the veteran backstop at Stamford Bridge through the 2020-21 season.

First reported by The Telegraph on Tuesday, Chelsea confirmed the decision one day later.

The move eases the mind of Caballero, 38, should he have held concerns about staying with the club to complete the Premier League season, which would’ve run beyond his June 30 contract expiration.

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Caballero has started nine matches this season including six-straight when Kepa Arrizabalaga fell out of favor with Lampard.

The five-times capped Argentine has been with the Blues since the Summer of 2017, when he arrived from Manchester City.

Caballero spent his youth with Boca Junios before moving to Spain, where he spent long stints as the No. 1 at Elche and Malaga.

He was reunited with Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini and became a teammate of current Chelsea boss Frank Lampard at Man City. Caballero won the League Cup with City and has won the FA Cup and Europa League at Chelsea.

Smart signing of a steady guy, especially as the future of Kepa Arrizabalaga at Chelsea remains hazy.

Juventus’ Dybala finally tests negative for coronavirus

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Paulo Dybala’s prolonged fight with the coronavirus in finally over.

Juventus announced that Dybala tested positive for COVID-19 in late March.

More than a month later, it was announced that Dybala’s fight continued to the tune of four more positive tests.

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Dybala took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce that he has tested negative for the virus, and Juventus says his home isolation is complete.

The Serie A club returned to individual training earlier this week. Juve leads Lazio by a point in the scudetto race, and Dybala’s been a big part of it.

The 26-year-old has 13 goals and 12 assists across all competitions this season. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals for Juve.

Report: Paulo Dybala tests positive four times for COVID-19

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Juventus and Argentina star Paul Dybala has tested positive for COVID-19 four times in the last six weeks, according to a report.

Dybala, 26, announced way back on March 21 that he and his girlfriend Oriana Sabatini had contracted the coronavirus and over six weeks later he has yet to recover.

CNN have some more details on Dybala’s situation, while Juventus have yet to comment.

“He is doing well now, he has no symptoms and is even training. Now he is waiting for the results of the latest two swabs. Dybala has to respect the healthcare system and the time it takes. He is a soccer player and doesn’t get preferential treatment,” the CNN source said.

Per the report, it is unclear when the tests were carried out and Dybala is currently waiting for his latest test results to come back.

Juventus have had three players test positive for COVID-19 but Daniele Rugani and Blaise Matuidi have since tested negative and have made a full recovery.

This news regarding Dybala and his four positive tests is concerning for many reasons, not least because it is unclear how games could return in Italy, or elsewhere, until leagues, clubs and players can be certain all players are not carrying COVID-19 and can spread it to other players and officials. Also, how many testing kits would need to be made available each day just to have leagues return?

How would it be fair to restart a league if certain clubs do not have their full squad of players as several are missing due to having COVID-19?

Serie A clubs are set to return to individual training on May 4 and team training on May 14 but doubts are already arising as to whether the 2019-20 season can continue across Italy’s top-flight.

Zabaleta details challenges of lockdown in Spain

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West Ham United defender Pablo Zabaleta’s coronavirus experience shows the wild challenges provided to players in our international game.

The Argentine and his family live in Spain, but he obviously spends his workweeks in London. So when lockdown hit, West Ham gave him permission to head back to Spain to join his wife and kids. His parents are in Argentina, and many of his teammates in England.

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Zabaleta is allowed to leave the house for a half-hour a day, which is an upgrade on his previous experience of 24-hour lockdown with a spin bike as his only exercise option.

To top it off, he’s got his family under nearly 24-hour lockdown plus concerns with his parents, who are thousands of miles away. And his in-laws cannot come visit despite being just around the corner, relatively speaking.


“I have family in Argentina – my Dad is nearly 70 and of course we all are worried about this virus because my Dad is in a situation where he had a car crash seven years ago, he’s been in intensive care for maybe two months with pneumonia, so he knows and we all know that he has to stay away from people,” the defender revealed. “And the same with my parents-in-law. They are the only people that can probably help us with something [in Barcelona], but we cannot bring them into the apartment and we cannot go to see them with the kids, because of this, so this is what I’m saying.”

Zabaleta also spoke of the sporting side to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This season is set to be his last in the Premier League, but looks unlikely to end with a final match in front of the home fans at the London Stadium or, well, fans anywhere.

And if Zabaleta returns to boyhood club San Lorenzo, there’s unlikely to be another meeting with a club in England (testimonials excluded).

“Realistically, it’s not going to be the same, The Premier League and all the countries I’m sure will try to restart the league, but nothing will be the same,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to finish that season in a different way, playing in front of the fans, having those emotions and that adrenaline you always feel you need for the games. I know this but I will find myself maybe playing in front of empty stadiums with no fans and with different emotions, but that is something I cannot manage myself.”