Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez lead tributes as football stands with Barcelona

17 August 2017 21:55

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the football stars to post messages of solidarity on social media following the terror attack in Barcelona on Thursday.

Catalonia interior minister Joaquim Forn confirmed that 13 people were killed and at least 50 injured when a van drove into pedestrians on Las Ramblas, a packed street in the city popular with tourists.

Local police confirmed two people had been arrested in connection with the incident, which they said they were treating as an act of terrorism.

Barca star Messi was among the first players to respond, writing via his official Instagram page: “I want to send my condolences and all my support to the families and friends of the victims of the terrible attack in our beloved Barcelona.

“We are not going to give up. There are many more of us who want to live in a world of peace, without hate and where respect and tolerance are the bases of living together.”

Quiero mandar mis condolencias y todo mi apoyo a las familias y amigos de las víctimas del terrible atentado en nuestra amada Barcelona, además de rechazar totalmente cualquier acto de violencia. No nos vamos a rendir, somos muchos más los que queremos vivir en un mundo en paz, sin odio y donde el respeto y la tolerancia sean las bases de la convivencia.

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi) on Aug 17, 2017 at 11:34am PDT

Striker Luis Suarez, defender Gerard Pique, Madrid forward Ronaldo and club captain Sergio Ramos also expressed their condolences.

“Dismayed at the news coming out of Barcelona. All support and solidarity to the families and friends of the victims,” Ronaldo wrote.

There were similar messages from the official Twitter accounts of clubs across Spain and the world, including Barca, Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar, who left Barca to join PSG in a world-record deal this month, tweeted: “May God comfort all the families. I love you Barcelona.”

The Royal Spanish Football Federation has suggested a minute silence be held prior to matches in all domestic competitions over the coming weekend.

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Sturridge fit for Palace clash

17 August 2017 16:05

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is set to return for the visit of Crystal Palace on Saturday after shaking off a thigh injury sustained in pre-season.

Jurgen Klopp confirmed the 27-year-old’s availability for the Reds’ first home game of the Premier League campaign, reinforcing an attack which looked lively in the 3-3 draw with Watford.

Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and debutant Mohamed Salah all scored at Vicarage Road as Klopp’s side settled for an entertaining point.

With Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho still sidelined by a back injury, Klopp is optimistic of restoring Sturridge to his attacking arsenal.

“Daniel, yes I would say [he will be ready],” Klopp said.

“Yesterday he was part of the complete session and looked really good.

“But always after injuries you have to wait to see how a player reacts to this intensity.”

Liverpool’s opening-day draw intensified the scrutiny surrounding their defensive deficiencies and Klopp refused to rule out further signings before the end of the transfer window.

Southampton have rejected two bids for Virgil van Dijk, leaving full-back Andrew Robertson as Liverpool’s only defensive acquisition to date.

“Unfortunately my English is not good enough to give 500 different answers to the same question,” Klopp joked.

“But if the transfer window had ended yesterday we already have a team which I like.

“The transfer window is a very important time, but it’s also important what we do with the actual team.

“A few things can happen on both sides. Everything leads to the 31st of August. It’ll be a busy day, I don’t know if we will be involved.”

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The Editors’ Premier League Betting Battle 2017/18: Round 2

Just the one winner from the opening weekend in the Battle as new boy Harry Phillips started with a bang as his Over 3.5 Goals bet landed. With the other four already playing catch-up, here's where the tenners are headed this weekend...

Bundesliga 2017-18: Ancelotti angst, Bosz bottle and VAR all under scrutiny as new season kicks off

17 August 2017 10:00

Bayern Munich kick off the new Bundesliga season on Friday when Bayer Leverkusen visit the Allianz Arena, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side chasing a record sixth title in a row.

They started the campaign by winning the DFL-Supercup but their poor pre-season showed signs of fallibility and will have given hope to Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig for the title race to come.

At Hoffenheim, Julian Nagelsmann’s thriving coaching career will face the fresh complication of balancing European football with domestic challenges – something Leipzig must also cope with.

With sweeping rule changes introduced, including the use of VAR, and the promotion of their first female referee, there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding the start of Germany’s top flight in 2017-18…



Bayern were pushed hard by surprise package Leipzig last season before eventually claiming a record fifth title in succession, but few would consider Ancelotti’s first season in charge to be a resounding success.

They exited the Champions League at the quarter-final stage against Real Madrid, albeit amid some controversial refereeing decisions, and Dortmund got the better of them in the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal.

There were signs that the team was beginning to take Ancelotti’s desired shape as Corentin Tolisso and James Rodriguez arrived, but their pre-season was frankly miserable. They lost to AC Milan, Inter, Liverpool and Napoli without scoring, and even their 3-2 win over Chelsea was mitigated by the fact that they nearly let a three-goal lead slip.

The penalty shoot-out win over Dortmund in the Supercup was a welcome shot in the arm but doubts persist over this Bayern team. Douglas Costa’s exit puts further pressure on the ageing frames of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, Jerome Boateng continues to struggle with injury and there seems to be no cure in sight for the peculiar affliction of Thomas Muller, who is so very far from his very best form.

Leverkusen were narrowly beaten at the Allianz Arena last November and they represent a difficult opening test for Ancelotti’s side. He really needs a strong statement from his players if he is to keep the critics at bay for the time being.



Thomas Tuchel’s time at Dortmund ended in fairly unsavoury fashion, with CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke hinting at a lack of respect on the part of the head coach as he left only three days after winning the DFB-Pokal.

BVB turned to Peter Bosz as his replacement after being impressed by the brand of football produced by his Ajax side, but the 53-year-old comes into the new season with plenty of doubts around his credentials.

Granted, Ajax were one of the tournament’s most exciting teams as they reached last term’s Europa League final, but they were swept aside in routine fashion by Manchester United. Bosz later complained of Jose Mourinho’s long-ball tactics, prompting the Portuguese to respond with the eternally-quotable “Poets don’t win titles”.

He raised a valid point. Ajax were entertaining last term but ended up with nothing to show for it, Feyenoord beating them to the Eredivisie title and Cambuur knocking them out of the domestic cup. Dortmund prize thrilling football but the fans won’t be content if the trophies do not follow.



Last season saw refreshingly brilliant performances from Hoffenheim and Leipzig, although only one was greeted warmly by German football fans.

The antipathy towards Leipzig, fuelled by the organisation of the club and its funding by Red Bull, only grew as they mounted a shock title challenge and qualified for the Champions League in their first term in the top flight.

Hoffenheim won far more admirers as Nagelsmann, the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history, steered them to a fourth-place finish at the end of a season in which they didn’t lose a league game until January 28 (against Leipzig, no less).

It will be difficult for these sides to balance European and domestic commitments in 2017-18, as neither boast squads to match the size of Dortmund or Bayern. But it’s safe to say that a number of Bundesliga followers would be happy if only one of them managed to do so.



The Bundesliga prides itself on being at the forefront of the modern game and the announcement that video referee systems would be introduced for 2017-18 was greeted with general acclaim.

VAR is facing an uncertain future, though. A less-than-smooth trial at the Confederations Cup in Russia threw up more concerns about the process of referring incidents to video assistants; Germany boss Joachim Low described one such moment in their final win as “quite a mix-up”.

The process in the Bundesliga will involve all 23 referees also serving as video assistants on matchdays and they will intervene on major incidents, including goals, red cards, penalty calls and cases of mistaken identity.

But with the decision to refer the incident still in the hands of the official on the pitch, it’s hard to see the roll-out being an entirely successful one. And with clubs now allowed to show matches on big screens in the ground, parallel to the action on the pitch, it sounds like a thankless task for those in the VAR van.



Bibiana Steinhaus will become the first female referee to officiate a Bundesliga match this season, with her promotion from 2.Bundesliga duties confirmed in May.

The 38-year-old is vastly experienced in German league football and officiated the women’s gold medal match between Japan and the United States at the London Olympic games in 2012.

It’s a commendable decision by the Bundesliga and the highlight of a host of changes to regulations in the division.

Along with VAR and big-screen footage being introduced, clubs will also be required to ensure that every seat in the stand is covered, guaranteeing that, as the Bundesliga put it, “only the players will be rained on at matches from now on”.

Games are being more evenly split between Sunday and Monday to ease the burden on clubs in the Europa League, too, and even a change in the way numbers are entered into the electronic board prior to substitutions has been brought in, in order to allow the fourth official to stay focused on matters on the pitch.

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Pique: This is the first time I´ve felt inferior to Real Madrid

17 August 2017 03:27

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique conceded he feels inferior to Real Madrid for the first time during his career at the club.

Pique and Barca were outclassed by LaLiga and Champions League titleholders Madrid, who cruised to a 2-0 win in the Supercopa de Espana on Wednesday and a 5-1 aggregate victory.

The outspoken Spain international has won six LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies among others at Camp Nou but he made the agonising admission as Barca struggle without Neymar following his world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain.

“The season is very long and there is room for improvement,” Pique said. But in nine years at Barcelona this is the first time that I have felt we are inferior to Madrid.

“It is true that they won the Champions League last year, but we came here and won not long before that.”

Pique added: “We are not in the best moment as a team or a club.

“We must remain as close as possible and try to keep paddling forward.

“It is important for us to live with the defeat and accept that Madrid were better.”

Barca – led by Ernesto Valverde – have the opportunity to bounce back when they host Real Betis in their LaLiga opener on Sunday.

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Montreal Impact 3 Chicago Fire 0: Piatti double sinks slumping visitors

17 August 2017 04:15

Montreal Impact extended their winning streak in MLS courtesy of a 3-0 victory as Chicago Fire crashed to back-to-back defeats.

Ignacio Piatti scored twice and Matteo Mancosu was also on target in the first half as the Impact won their third consecutive game on Wednesday.

The Fire had the chance to move back within three points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC but they were no match for an impressive Impact outfit in Montreal.

Montreal made a dream start at Stade Saputo thanks to Piatti, who broke the deadlock in the sixth minute.

Benefitting from a kind bounce, Piatti ran through on goal and scooped the ball into the net.

Mancosu doubled the lead from the penalty spot eight minutes before half-time after he was fouled inside the area.

Piatti put the result beyond doubt a minute later with a stunning goal as he curled the ball beyond Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson.

The Impact are seventh in the east, two points adrift of Atlanta United, while the Fire are third and six points behind Toronto.

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