Losing someone of Philipp Lahm's caliber would be a crushing blow to every single club on the planet. Even to this buoyant Bayern Munich side, unbeaten in all competitions this season, losing their skipper and talisman is more than a slight inconvenience.
The 31-year-old went under the knife on Thursday morning after his untimely ankle fracture suffered in training on Tuesday which will rule him out for three months. He will spend a few days in hospital after having a surgical plate and screw inserted. All being well, "Lahm the Leader" will be back for the Champions League last 16 tie in February next year.
Bayern have coped splendidly with such injuries all season, so now is not the time to sink into depression and feel like the world owes them a break. Pardon the pun. This is exactly where that star-studded squad comes in handy (especially domestically) -- starting with the weekend Bundesliga clash against Hoffenheim.
The visitors have lost two in a row (conceding seven goals) and have never beaten Bayern in twelve attempts. However, Markus Gisdol's side did manage to pick up a point in March on their last trip to Munich during an entertaining 3-3 draw. This was the day that Thiago (and Tom Starke) last played for the club in the Bundesliga after the Spain international picked up an injury. The Bavarians have won their last eight games at home in all competitions (with a goal difference of 23-2), so the Reds should go marching on at the top.
One special player to watch out for in the opposition lineup is Roberto Firmino, who recently made his debut for Brazil. Firmino, an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, is destined for the very top -- probably not while he is with his current employer though.
While the skipper's injury ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Following yet another seemingly endless international break, Cules are counting the very few hours left until the ball starts rolling again at the Camp Nou. After a fortnight in which the media has been firmly focused on off-the-pitch issues, manager Luis Enrique will certainly be delighted to have the chance to take another step forward towards refining his team in the hope of silencing his growing number of critics.
The most heated talking point ahead of the home match against Sevilla on Saturday has been the unexpected doubts that Lionel Messi has cast over his Barca future as a result of these surprising words while on international duty with Argentina. While the Rosario-born forward started his interview by expressing his loyalty to the club he joined over 14 years ago as a teenager, he then went on to show his discontent with the way the club is currently handled and even left the door open for a move elsewhere in the future.
Messi's poor relationship with the current board has been common knowledge for several months now, especially since publicly discrediting current first vice-president Javier Faus last December. His words "Faus knows nothing about football" could have been louder, but certainly not clearer. The initially half-hearted support from club directors when Messi's tax scandal exploded, despite the passing of several months, is likely still as fresh as ever in the footballer's head.
Things aren't looking too bright form a sporting perspective either. Due to Neymar's unstoppable progression and the arrival of Luis Suarez following his infamous ban, coach Enrique is faced with the difficult dilemma of whether to continue to play his No.10 as a false striker or move him away from rival centre backs by placing him deeper into midfield, or even as a right winger with freedom to cut towards a ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
The international break is over, but Dortmund's crisis is not.
The win against Borussia Monchengladbach propelled the Black and Yellows only as far as 15th, still 10 points off the desired Champions League qualification spot. Next up on schedule is SC Paderborn, and in the context of Dortmund's precarious situation, it's the mother of all must-wins.
The two-week pause was worth the wait, as Marco Reus had enough time to recover from his ankle injury and will be fit to play against the newly promoted side. It's a big sigh of relief for Jurgen Klopp, who is aware of the big test that lies ahead.
"We know about the difficulty of the game, but we also see the chance it possesses," he said. "Paderborn is a good example that you can achieve something in football with little money. You need a good idea and make a lot of right decisions. I have the highest respect for everything that is happening over at Paderborn."
On paper, BVB are obviously the favourite, but a closer look reveals that SC Paderborn are not the newly promoted pushover that Greuther Furth or Eintracht Braunschweig were last season. Manager Andre Breitenreiter has instilled a great range of tactical utility in his side. Paderborn can easily switch from deep-lying, counterattacking football to proactive gegenpressing within a game. Whatever they do, they manage to play coherent football, making the pitch appear very small for their opponent.
But it's not only tactical discipline that got the Bundesliga rookies up to ninth place. They made clever decisions in the transfer market over the summer, and with players like Moritz Stoppelkamp, Elias Kachunga and Stefan Kutschke, they got great value for their money. Breitenreiter managed to build a low-budget team into a harmonised unit.
Although there aren't any high-profile players in the squad, Dortmund fans will ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Bayern Munich have been quick to deny a Spanish media report claiming that Real Madrid's Sami Khedira is set to join the Bundesliga champions in the summer of 2015.
On Thursday, Spanish radio station Cedena SER reported that Khedira, 27 -- who has yet to renew his contract at Real Madrid beyond 2015 -- has reached an agreement with Bayern and is set to join the Bundesliga side on a free transfer next summer.
However, Bayern media director Markus Horwick is quoted by kicker as saying: "There is nothing to those reports."
Khedira has made a total of 150 appearances for Los Blancos since joining from Stuttgart in 2010, but missed large parts of last season with an anterior cruciate ligament tear suffered in November 2013.
He returned to action in time for the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid and the 2014 World Cup, where he was part of the triumphant Germany squad.
In late August, Khedira suffered an injury setback, and having only returned to the pitch recently, he is set to replace the injured Luka Modric in the Real's starting XI.
The 27-year-old only recently told German football magazine kicker that he is not ruling out staying at the Bernabeu beyond 2015, saying: "I see no reason to leave the club in the winter."
Los Blancos coach Carlos Ancelotti has also recently stated that he wants the midfielder to stay, adding: "We consider him a reliable player, who is serious and professional."
Khedira had already been linked to Bayern in the summer following the injuries of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, but the Bundesliga champions instead convinced 32-year-old Real midfielder Xabi Alonso to join Pep Guardiola's side.
At that time, Guardiola said that Khedira's playing style does not fit into the Bayern system, and there had also been reports of a rift between the Germany midfielder ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
It's been quite a week for Cristiano Ronaldo.
His goal against Rayo Vallecano in Real's 5-1 victory on Saturday ensured that his side went into the international break top of La Liga and, on a personal level, the Portuguese's goal racked up yet another milestone in an extraordinary career: Ronaldo has scored in every real Madrid home league game for over a calendar year. The last time he failed to find the net in the Bernabeu was against Malaga last October -- 16 consecutive matches.
A few days ago Ronaldo picked up his third European Golden Shoe for scoring 31 league goals last season, an award shared with Luis Suarez. On Monday, Ronaldo dusted off his tux to pick up a couple of more trophies at the MARCA awards, where he was handed the Pichichi trophy for being the top scorer in the 2013-14 domestic campaign and the Di Stefano award as the league's best player. At both he reiterated his desire to continue winning individual prizes. And why shouldn't he?
There is a tendency in modern football to frown upon any expression of individual ambition. It's about the team, after all. Football is a team sport, and trophies won by the collective will always mean more than individual recognition in an era when the sheer number of personal awards on offer must be difficult for even the nominees to keep up with. Apologies if this is a minority view, but do we really need the Golden Foot, for the player of the year aged 28 or over? It smacks a little of the Academy Honorary Award. Andres Iniesta won this year's "foot." I suspect he would have preferred the 2010 Ballon d'Or, which would have been well deserved.
Peter O'Toole summed up the arbitrary nature of acting's olive branch when he was awarded ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Three weeks ago, Edinson Cavani could not buy a goal for Paris Saint-Germain. The Uruguayan was attracting all sorts of criticism from supporters and journalists alike for being too much of a team player and not selfish enough in front of goal. Now, five appearances later, El Matador is back in favour in Paris after scoring in each of those five matches.
Cavani headed in a late second in PSG's 2-0 win over bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille in Le Classique last Sunday to move the French champions to within a point of Marcelo Bielsa's Ligue 1 leaders. The goal also confirmed his most prolific spell of form since arriving in Paris, but now the supporters and critics are saying the opposite of what they were saying a few weeks ago.
Now, the 27-year-old is too single-minded and he is not working hard enough on the pitch, yet he is scoring the goals that are winning PSG games. There is no pleasing some people. Without Cavani's goals, Les Parisiens would not have beaten APOEL twice in the UEFA Champions League -- thus not sewing up qualification for the latter stages just yet -- nor would they have seen off FC Lorient in Ligue 1 the week before the big Marseille clash.
While none of those performances have been particularly impressive from Cavani or his teammates in a collective sense, they have started to grind out the wins as they did during last season's march to a second consecutive French title. Coach Laurent Blanc has finally got his team functioning efficiently without star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic -- who came on for the final 25 minutes against Marseille -- and Cavani is a key reason for that.
Much has been made of the South American's inability to step up in his strike partner's absence in recent ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Nov 11 2014
David Moyes has been named as the new coach of La Liga side Real Sociedad on a year-and-a-half deal.
Moyes, who was axed by Manchester United in April following a dismal first season in charge at Old Trafford, has been handed a contract until June 2016 with the Spanish outfit.
"The Royal Society has reached an agreement with David Moyes to be the first team coach until 30 June 2016," a statement on Sociedad's official website read.
Moyes left United just 10 months into a six-year contract after being named as the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2013.
At the time of his departure, United, the defending champions, were seventh in the Premier League and 23 points behind leaders Liverpool.
Moyes also left the 20-time title winners with a host of unwanted records broken during his tenure, including failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in almost two decades.
Moyes, who became the third shortest-serving manager in the club's history, won 27, drew nine and lost 15 of his 51 games in charge of United.
All that came after Moyes had enjoyed 11 critically acclaimed years at Everton, leading the club to five top-six finishes. The Toffees qualified for the Champions League for the first time under Moyes' stewardship -- although they lost in the qualifying stages of the competition -- and he also took the Merseyside club to the FA Cup final in 2009.
The former Preston boss takes over a Sociedad side who moved out of the Primera Division relegation zone on Sunday night with a 2-1 home win over champions Atletico Madrid.
Asier Santana, Sociedad's B team coach, was in charge for that match following last week's sacking of Jagoba Arrasate.
Arrasate was dismissed in the wake of a hugely disappointing start to the campaign which saw Sociedad ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
As is often the case with football fans, there are certain players who will always split the opinion of the supporters.
In the 2010-11 season, Dimitar Berbatov was the Premier League's top scorer, having scored more hat tricks by the turn of the year than Wayne Rooney had goals as Manchester United went on to claim that record-breaking 19th title. Huge sections of the club's fan base wanted rid of the "lazy" Bulgarian, though, with Old Trafford rarely singing his name and his goal tally being dismissed because he scored five in a single match against Blackburn.
Something strange occurs when a group of fans set upon a player, dishing out unfair and exaggerated criticism, and then a counter-group forms, one that lavishes unwarranted and magnified praise. Depending on who you spoke to, Berbatov was either the best striker in the league or one of the worst to have played for the club.
A similar situation can be found with Rooney this season, although the cause for complaint is not his laziness. If there was ever to be an insult thrown at the United and England captain, it wouldn't have anything to do with his lack of effort.
This week, Rooney described himself as the most competitive player at the club, and he's probably right. He will cover the length of the pitch, sprinting all the way back to his own goal if he believes there's even the smallest chance of him putting in a tackle that prevents United from conceding. Rooney throws himself into challenges, gets furious with his teammates when they make a mistake and is always disappointed to be substituted off the field.
For all those winning qualities, United supporters are entitled to be disgruntled over a few things with their new captain. For example, while many supporters would rather gloss over ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
As he sought positives in suffering a third defeat in a week, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers chose to pinpoint a tactical victory against Chelsea.
"We were playing a game plan which was to look to keep Cesc Fabregas quiet because he's a big player for them," said Liverpool's manager on Saturday.
"For that, we had Jordan Henderson in a marking role and he did it very well."
By this point, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho had already revealed that Fabregas had played at Anfield with a hamstring problem. Chelsea had won the midfield battle anyway, for which Mourinho signposted the dominant contribution of another of his players. Step forward Nemanja Matic.
"At this moment, he's a giant," said Mourinho of the Serbian. "Not for his size but for the way he plays. The man is a giant."
The player's importance to the Chelsea cause is suggested by Mourinho's choice of him to do the team talk prior to the win at Anfield. It is a regular practice of Mourinho to choose a member of staff to try and hit the correct motivational note before big matches. Last season at Manchester City, masseur Billy McCulloch performed the function. By the looks and sounds of it, Matic delivered inspirational rhetoric ahead of a victory that underlined Chelsea's standing as Premier League champions-in-waiting.
"Nemanja said that if we wanted to be champions we had to win," revealed Cesar Azpilicueta. "He said it would be really hard but we have to do a great job -- and we have to win."
"It was very inspiring," agreed John Terry. "He's been different class since he came back from Benfica and he's a real player for the team. He's been at the heart of some great team performances."
It is in making a successful return to Chelsea that the depth of Matic's class and character ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says he has been pleased and surprised by how quickly summer signing Toni Kroos has taken on the role filled by Xabi Alonso last season.
Kroos joined Madrid from Bayern Munich in a 20 million-euro deal just weeks after winning the World Cup with Germany before Alonso moved the other way to join the Bundesliga champions.
Kroos has been a fixture in Alonso's deep-lying role in midfield during the first three months of the season, and was widely praised in the Spanish media following a superb performance in Saturday's 5-1 La Liga win over Rayo Vallecano, capped by his first goal for the club.
Ancelotti told Al Primer Toque that the 24-year-old's controlled displays in the middle of the pitch would be difficult to improve on.
"Kroos is another professor," Ancelotti said. "He has graduated from Xabi Alonso's university very quickly. He surprises me because he is never worried. If he is under pressure or not, his play is always the same.
"I do not know his best position. He can always improve in the position he is playing, but at this moment it is not easy to see how. He plays the ball quickly, always the right pass, he does not give the ball away, he wins it back. [Luka] Modric is also there -- another complete midfielder."
Kroos' fellow summer arrival James Rodriguez had a more mixed game against Rayo, taking the corner from which Sergio Ramos scored Madrid's second but also misplacing a pass that led directly to the opposition's consolation goal.
Ancelotti, though, said he was happy with the Colombia international's performances so far.
"[James] has surprised me more with his sacrifice for the team than with his quality," Ancelotti said. "He cannot just play as a forward, but also as a midfielder. He and [Angel] Di Maria are ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)