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Dani Alves fires back at Diego Forlan

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After Neymar and Edinson Cavani’s penalty drama that has blown up over the last few days and potentially led to Neymar’s exclusion from the PSG squad this weekend, Uruguayan legend Diego Forlan went on sports radio in his home country to not just back his former international teammate Cavani, but also throw a pair of Brazilians under the bus.

Forlan obviously denounced Neymar’s role in the dispute, but he also picked out Neymar’s club and country teammate Dani Alves for favoring his countrymate.

[ MORE: Goalkeeping howler sees Bayern blow lead in draw ]

“What doesn’t make any sense is what Alves does, he doesn’t give the ball to Cavani and then gives it to Neymar as if he were his [explitive]. Cavani deserves respect. He has been scoring goals for years, taking penalties. There has to be respect. Neymar would not have done that with [Lionel] Messi. He didn’t want Cavani to take the penalty. He was like a little boy annoying him.”

Well, as you can imagine, Alves did not take kindly to being sucked into the fray, and fired back as a result. “I don’t know what match you were watching,” Alves wrote on Twitter, “but for your information, I didn’t take the ball away from any of my teammates. It was just the opposite, it was taken from me!

“And also for your information, the last penalty kick for PSG was mine. So shut your trap and stop making drama in my name.”

This whole situation has blown up more than most penalty disputes (which happen relatively often) likely due to the international affiliations. With the decades-old bad blood between Brazil and Uruguay, it’s no surprise that people are taking sides. Forlan swept up another Brazilian in the mix, and understandably he did not appreciate the cheap shot.

Diego Forlan to be a free agent after J-League team decides not to extend his contract

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It may be time to call it a career. Diego Forlan will be a free agent after his J-League second-division team Cerezo Osaka has decided not to extend his contract, the club president announced.

Reportedly worth around $5.8 million, Forlan’s contract expires at the end of July. Relegated last year in his first season with Cerezo, the club is unsurprisingly no longer willing to pay him further big bucks while stuck in the J2-League. Forlan himself has dominated the Japanese second division, but the club has not capitalized in an attempt for a quick turnaround.

Last season, the 36-year-old struggled overseas, managing just nine goals in 33 appearances across all competitions while the team finished next-to-last in the table, and he did not appear in seven of the team’s final nine matches during the relegation battle.

Forlan had started in all 16 matches this season for Cerezo in the second division, scoring 10 goals to lead the league, but the team still sits in ninth place in the 22-team table, seven points off a guaranteed promotion position. The Uruguayan missed his first match of the season for the club this morning, not appearing on the team sheet for a 1-0 win over Ehime.

Since winning the Golden Ball in the 2010 World Cup at 32 years old, Forlan has been somewhat of a nomad. He left Atletico Madrid in 2011, spending a season at Inter Milan before shipping off to Brazil’s Internacional for two years. He made just 34 appearances in two seasons in the Brazilian Serie A before finding a big pay-day in Japan.

Premier League Preview: Hull City vs. Newcastle United

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  • There have been 19 goals in the last five Premier League meetings between these teams.
  • Hull have won just two of their last 12 Premier League home games (D3, L7).
  • The Magpies have gone 10 league games without a clean sheet and they have conceded two or more goals in each of their last five league matches. (BBC Sport)

John Carver did just enough in his four games as caretaker manager.

Following the departure of former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, who left for the managerial vacancy at Crystal Palace, the 50-year-old led the Magpies to one draw and three losses.

The defeats came against Chelsea, Southampton and Leicester City, and the first two results against top Premier League squads certainly were not detrimental to Carver’s incumbent status at the helm.

Now, the Englishman will remain manager until the summer, and he will face his first challenge in this role vs. Hull City on Saturday, where Newcastle will look to improve their mid-table 11th place spot.

[RELATED: Newcastle name John Carver interim manager until end of year]

Hull City haven’t mustered their best form lately, dropping three straight matches up to this point after an excellent victory over Everton on New Year’s Day.

The Tigers sit in danger of relegation at 18th place in the league tables, and any points in this match would help guide Steve Bruce’s side away from the depths of demotion.

[RELATED: Current Premier League standings | Premier League stats]

One target area of Hull in the transfer window has been the forward position, with the aim to bolster depth and scoring possibilities, and rumors linking the club to veterans Diego Forlan and Demba Ba attest to that intention.

Newcastle has trained their transfer eyes on youngsters, while also monitoring the possible departure Moussa Sissoko.

The upcoming match between these two outfits will be available for viewing at 7:00 AM ET on NBCSN, or online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What they’re saying

Hull City manager Steve Bruce on players recovering from injury for match (Tigers official website): “It looks like we might have some back. We’ve been away for four or five days and managed to get some training into [Nikica] Jelavic, [Abel] Hernandez and [Andrew] Robertson. You can add [Gaston] Ramirez to that list too…It’s not ideal and we’d like another week for all of them if we’re being honest, but as long as they come through training today it looks as though they’ll be ok.”

Newcastle United interim boss John Carver on aims for season in charge (ESPN FC): “I’ve got enough belief in my ability…I think Lee [Charnley, chief executive] has come out and said our goal is to finish in the top 10. If we get ninth, eighth, or seven at a push, why not? We’ve got 16 games left and I’ve seen enough in the last three or four games, taking the cup game out of it, for us to go on a run.”

Match injuries/ absences

In some capacity, Hull City strikers Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez are ready to take the pitch following injury absences. Andrew Robertson and Gaston Ramirez should also be available, while Alex Bruce (thigh) and James Chester (shoulder) are sidelined.

If fit enough to go, Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse will join his side after his country was knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations. The Toons have Mehdi Abeid, Davide Santon and Gabriel Obertan back from injuries, too, as left-back Paul Dummett will probably sit out due to hamstring trouble.

Prediction

Assuming that Hernandez and Jelavic see limited roles in this one, the pacey Magpies have their best opportunity to snag three points since their contest against Burnley at the start of 2015. Hull City 1-2 Newcastle.

El Clasico: Luis Suarez, Barcelona and Real Madrid together at last

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Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has confirmed what many have suspected, that a more notorious Luis will play a role in Saturday’s incredibly-anticipated El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Yes, Luis Suarez. You remember him. Despite his long suspension for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup, the Uruguayan attacker has managed to stay in the headlines on a weekly basis. Whether through appeals, apologies or closed-door scrimmages, Suarez has hung around.

And Saturday he’ll enter the fray of what is perhaps the world’s greatest sporting rivalry, one so intense it inspired a tremendous book by Sid Lowe. To read it is to marvel at the intermingling of sport and government, individuality and team.

El Clasico is upon us, and my goodness will it be a doozy.

[ MORE: Top European clubs prefer to play Qatar World Cup in May ]

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Consider that Suarez’s addition to the rivalry means this match will feature every player to win the European Golden Shoe since 2008-09, the last time someone not named Suarez, Messi or Ronaldo won the award (Diego Forlan, for the trivia buffs). Throw in Andres Iniesta and Xavi, and you have four of the last five Ballon D’Or nominees in the building.

Then there’s the always-simmering tension between the two clubs, ratcheted up by the fact that neither won La Liga last season. Oh, and Real Madrid captured “La Decima” last season, its 10th UEFA Champions League title and its first since Barcelona claimed three between 2006-11.

Yet Barca has roared out of the gates this season, dominating La Liga to the tune of not conceding a single goal through eight games. Worth reading again: not a single goal allowed. The Blaugranes have watched as their favorite team has won 7 of 8 matches, scoring 22 goals. They have a 3-point lead on No. 2 Sevilla and a 4-point lead on rival Real Madrid (Atletico Madrid is five back, in fifth).

Real is also pretty good, you know, despite conceding a pair of head-scratching defeats early in the season (4-2 at Real Sociedad and 2-1 home to Atleti). Cristiano Ronaldo has been a one-man wrecking crew, though he doesn’t need to be. Real’s collection of superstars have posted 5 or more goals on four separate La Liga occasions, including a 8-2 thumping of Deportivo.

And they are rolling in the Champions League as well, thoroughly out-classing Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday. Barca rolled over Ajax 3-1, too, but sit a point behind Paris Saint-Germain in Group F.

[ MORE: Liverpool can’t cure Suarez hangover | Reds reality check ]

So what we get what we have here this week, which is the way we want it. Well, we get it. And I like it just as much as you folks. A trip to the Santiago Bernabéu with so much power hanging in the balance, and so many absurdly-juicy questions.

source: Getty Images– Can Barca possibly keep its season-long clean sheet untainted against such a majestic group of offensive superstars?

– Can Real Madrid potentially limit Lionel Messi from the two goals he needs to break Telmo Zarra’s all-time La Liga goalscoring record in their building?

– Moreover, can Real stop Neymar, a player realizing his potential to join the truly elite?

– With Sevilla facing a test in Villarreal, can Barcelona finish the weekend with a five-point lead on the entire table?

We can’t wait to find out.

FIFA announces Golden Ball nominees: Four Germans, no major snubs

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The 10 players in the mix for the World Cup’s Golden Ball award have been announced, and there are few surprises in the running for the honor.

So who will join Diego Forlan, Zinedine Zidane, Oliver Kahn, Ronaldo, Romario, Salvatore Schillaci, Diego Maradona, Paolo Rossi and Mario Kempes as the players judged to be the best at a World Cup?

Your nominees:

That’s three Argentines (Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano) and four Germans (Mats Hummels, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos) with token appearances from Brazil (Neymar), Colombia (James Rodriguez) and the Netherlands (Arjen Robben).

Anyone get a raw deal from the nominating committee? An argument could be made for Keylor Navas of Costa Rica, while Robin van Persie, Karim Benzema and Andre Schurrle all scored thrice and were imperative to their teams limited runs. And of course there are myriad defenders who played integral parts in their nations’ tournaments, but there have been no major slights here.