Gregory van der Wiel

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Report: Toronto FC to land ex-PSG back Van der Wiel

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What can’t Tim Bezbatchenko do?

The Toronto FC general manager has apparently leapt into the European transfer market to not just replace Steven Beitashour, but upgrade from the intrepid right back as the Reds pursue a CONCACAF Champions League crown.

[ MORE: MLS teen signs for Barca ]

Gregory van der Wiel, 29, is close to a move to the treble-winning Reds, bringing 46 Netherlands caps, four Ligue 1 titles, and two Eredivisie crowns. He also was a part of the Netherlands side that finished second at the 2010 World Cup.

Van der Wiel is currently struggling for playing time at Cagliari, but is a season-and-a-half removed from an important role at Paris Saint-Germain. The Ajax Academy product was the 2009-10 Dutch Young Player of the Year.

No player is a lock to succeed in his first year crossing the proverbial bond, but Van der Wiel seems close to it should the reports come to fruition.

TFC and Colorado square off in the CCL Round of 16 on Feb. 20 and 27.

Beitashour left TFC for a move back home to California with LAFC.

PSG scores two of the most beautiful goals you’ll see… 10 minutes apart (video)

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Whatever Paris Saint Germain had for breakfast, better cook it up again next week.

The Ligue 1 giants treated the Parc des Princes crowd to a pair of beautiful goals courtesy of Gregory van der Wiel and Angel Di Maria.

[ VIDEO: Dele Alli juggles, volleys, celebrates goal of year candidate ]

In the latter’s case, it was a gorgeous bit of individual skill. The former was a team affair of movement, aplomb and wizardry.

We’ll start with that one, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic gives us a cheeky trio of juggles before a flick right that starts a zig-zag-zig spell of passes that ends with Van der Wiel’s finish.

Before that, though, it was the Argentine wizard who acrobatically volleyed home a goal for the gymnastic set.

Whose goal was more spectacular?

Player headbutts PSG’s Thiago Motta in the tunnel, breaking his nose


Video has been released of a shocking incident that took place in the tunnel following Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 Ligue 1 win over SC Bastia.

After the final whistle, as the players walked towards their locker rooms, Bastia striker Brandão waited for Thiago Motta and headbutted him.

The club confirmed today that Motta suffered a broken nose in the incident, which you can watch below.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi thinks because Brandão was clearly waiting for Motta to enter the tunnel and then attacked him with reckless intent, the player should be done with soccer.

“He waited for Thiago Motta in the tunnel and attacked him with a headbutt,” Al-Khelaifi said. “He should be banned for life.”

The injury to their midfielder is just one of a long list of serious injuries the Parisians are dealing with.  The same release also confirmed star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered a torn oblique in his left leg.  #DareToZlatan was removed after just 15 minutes when he stretched to reach a ball played to him and went down in a heap.

If Ibrahimovic is to miss any significant time, it would likely snuff out any remaining rumors of Edinson Cavani’s departure.

Finally, Gregory van der Wiel has a fractured vertebrae which he suffered against Bastia. The injury was sustained, oddly enough, in a challenge with Brandão, although this one was actually during the game.

There is no timetable on a return for any of those players at this time.

Blaise Matuidi will lead PSG to new Champions League heights

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I love watching Zlatan just as much as the rest of you.

He’s really one of the most electric players out there, without a doubt, and would qualify as a pure gamechanger.

But as much fun as he is to watch, and as vital as his goalhawking is (with his brace today he has 10 of PSG’s last 15 away goals in the Champions League) he’s not the French giants’ most important player.

I know, I know, that’s blasphemy, but bear with me.

Despite Zlatan’s spark, the designation must go to the man who gets about 1/1000th of the credit, but makes the team churn – Blaise Matuidi.

In a match where PSG got off to a explosive start and didn’t look back, the 26-year-old midfielder was the linchpin in Les Parisians whirring mechanism.

Taking a look at the first goal, and you see all you need to know about his work rate. Matuidi intercepts the ball on the right touchline, seeing the pass well before Simon Rolfes even knew he was going to attempt it. Then, after dishing to Gregory Van der Wiel, he doesn’t power down his afterburners until he gets the ball back and puts it in the back of the net, shielding off Roberto Hilbert to create space for his run.

Later, Matuidi does all the hard work to construct the foundation for PSG’s third goal, the foundation on which Ibrahimovic – as he has so often this year – builds a masterpiece atop.

source: Getty Images
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the face of PSG, but Blaise Matuidi is their workhorse.

The Toulouse product braced himself against both Omer Toprak and Emir Spahic (who had a nightmarish performance), attempting to make something for himself before realizing he was out of options.  He went to ground but remained calm, reaching out and finding his Swedish superstar at the last possible moment for a special finish.

Matuidi eventually came off in the 67th minute, with Laurent Blanc not wishing to risk a second yellow for his most important player already ahead 3-0.

This match, however, is just one small example of Matuidi’s brilliance this year in the French Ligue 1 and beyond.

According to Squawka statistics, Matuidi has a 92% pass completion rate, including a sparkling 86% (57/66) on long balls. His superb strength also helps him defensively, completing 64% of his tackles successfully in the midfield.

In today’s match, he wasn’t needed defensively as much with PSG dominating possession until Matuidi’s exit (not a coincidence).  However, he still chipped in with a successful tackle in his only attempt, as well as three interceptions, two blocked crosses, and a successful clearance.

And while his numbers in Ligue 1 play are great, he leaves his A+ game for the biggest stage – with today, he now has a goal and three assists in the Champions League, while racking up three goals and two assists in 24 Ligue 1 matches.

Ibrahimovic may get all the international headlines, highlight videos, press coverage, and fan love – and rightly so, the guy’s both a beast on the pitch and marketable off it – but Blaise Matuidi’s importance to this PSG side cannot, and should not, be understated.

With Matuidi’s guidance (along with Marco Verrati’s service and, obviously, Ibra’s flair), this team has the very real possibility of finding themselves in the Champions League final four, no question possessing the potential to shock the world with an upset or two along the way.

It’s a bit late, but I’m officially on the PSG bandwagon, and you should be too.

Champions League teams make big changes for weekend matches

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With most domestic races in Europe long decided, it’s interesting to note the huge changes Champions League teams made in league action. Six of the eight teams chancing the European Cup made seven changes on Saturday. Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich was one of two teams to keep over half their lineup in place, making only five changes, while Turkish leaders Galatasaray returned seven players who started Wednesday’s match at the Santiago Bernabeu.

For a veteran team like Juventus, the changes are necessary. An aging squad can’t play three games in nine days (which is why it was so curious that Antonio Conte started a full-strength team last Saturday at Inter Milan). For teams with younger legs, there are two schools of thought. You don’t want to do anything to disrupt whatever rhythm or momentum your team’s built; however, fatigue and injury have to be considered. If you’re facing struggling opposition in a game that won’t influence your league fortunes, the benefits of maintaining a routine don’t outweigh using caution.

Some of this weekend’s moves were forced by fitness. After a mid-week injury, Toni Kroos is out for much of the rest of the season, as is Javier Mascherano. Lionel Messi, a doubt for Wednesday against Paris Saint-Germain, was out this weekend.

Here are the ins and outs for each team on Saturday. Players in italics came on as substitutes:

Changes Club Out In
7 Barcelona

in progress

Jordi Alba
Sergio Busquets
Xavi Hernandez
Javier Mascherano
Lionel Messi
David Villa
Victor Valdes
Thiago Alcantera
Marc Barta
Cesc Fabregas
Martin Montoya
Pedro Pinto
Alexander Song
Cristian Tello
Borussia Dortmund

won vs. Augsburg, 4-2

Mario Gotze
Ilkay Gundogan
Sebastian Kehl
Robert Lewandowski
Lukasz Piszczek
Marco Reus
Roman Weinfeller
Sven Bender
Leonardo Bittebcourt
Jonas Hofmann
Moritz Leitner
Nuri Sahin
Julian Schieber
Marcel Schmelzer

won vs. Pescara, 2-1

Andrea Barzagli
Gianluigi Buffon
Giorgio Chiellini
Claudio Marchisio
Alessandro Matri
Andrea Pirlo
Fabio Quagliarella</td>
Kwadwo Asamoah
Emanuele Giaccherini
Sebastian Giovinco
Luca Marrone
Poul Pogba
Marco Storari
Mirko Vucinic

lost at Real Sociedad, 4-2

Julio Baptista
Willy Caballero
Martin Demichelis
Javier Saviola
Jeremy Toulalan
Ignacio Camacho
Sebastian Fernández
Carlos Kameni
Diego Lugano
Pedro Morales
Francisco Portillo
Roque Santa Cruz
Paris Saint-Germain

won at Rennes, 2-0

David Beckham
Christophe Jallet
Ezequiel Lavezzi
Lucas Moura
Javier Pastore
Thiago Silva
Zoumana Camara
Clement Chantome
Kevin Gameiro
Jeremy Menez
Mamadou Sahko
Marco Veratti
Gregory van der Wiel
Real Madrid

won vs. Levante, 5-1

Fabio Coentrao
Angel Di Maria
Michael Essien
Sami Khedira
Mesut Ozil
Cristiano Ronaldo
Raphael Varane
Alvaro Arbeloa
José Callejon
Gonzalo Higuain
Luka Modric
5 Bayern Munich

won at Eintracht Frankfurt, 1-0

Luiz Gustavo
Toni Kroos
Mario Mandzukic
Franck Ribery
Daniel van Buyten
Jerome Boateng
Mario Gomez
Xavi Martinez
Arjen Robben
Xherdan Shaqiri
4 Galatasaray

won vs. Mersin Idmanyurdu, 3-1

Emmanuel Eboue
Selcuk Inan
Semik Kaya
Albert Riera
Hakan Balta
Emre Colak
Sabri Sarioglu
Gokhan Zan