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Inter Milan have a point to prove in Serie A and UCL after Luka Modric disappointment

Inter Milan are back in the Champions League after six long years in the wilderness, but Thursday’s draw only confirmed that this season is off to a difficult start already.

According to the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday, Juventus and Roma are “in heaven,” while Inter are “in hell” after AC Milan legend Riccardo Kaka and former Inter flop Diego Forlan placed them in a group with Barcelona, Tottenham and a PSV side that has won every game in the Eredivisie this season.

“We have to think positive,” Inter’s vice-president Javier Zanetti said, while also defending his club from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez’s latest attack for daring to try and sign Luka Modric.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Watching Modric beat Cristiano Ronaldo to the UEFA Player of the Year award must have led many Interisti to ponder what might have been: principally because the need for an imaginative playmaker to make their team’s play less predictable is so great.9

Inter may have a few regrets, but the big picture is, as the club’s chief executive Alessandro Antonelli wished to make clear, that “we are back where we belong.” Memories of Jose Mourinho running under the sprinklers, arm out-stretched, his finger pointing to the jubilant away fans at Camp Nou is enough to crack a smile on every Inter supporter’s face.

Their return to the Champions League eclipses, in emotional terms, the trepidation caused by the daunting prospect of facing Lionel Messi and Harry Kane. It is a source of considerable pride for the club and fanbase. While much of the international focus was of course centred on Juventus and their chances of winning the Champions League this year, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo’s reunion with Manchester United, Antonelli couldn’t resist reminding everyone: “We are the last Italian side to win it…”

Zanetti struck a slightly different tone. Rather than hark back to the past, he stayed firmly rooted in the present, acknowledging that “we have been drawn in a very difficult group.” The Argentine just hopes the level of competition will provide the necessary inspiration for Inter to raise their game and smash through another ceiling in the team’s development. “When you face sides like Barça and Spurs you have the chance to improve,” he added. “And that could be important for us.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

If there’s one major takeaway from the opening fortnight in Serie A it’s that Inter need to be better. A lot was expected of Inter after a summer transfer campaign rated 9/10 by Gazzetta and encouraging preseason in which they went to places like Atleti and Lyon and won against full strength sides.

Rafa Benitez being left behind as Newcastle sleepwalk to relegation dogfight

Where does Rafa Benitez go from here? The Newcastle United manager has always divided opinion, but his team’s poor start to the campaign has provoked a storm of criticism. Newcastle have taken a single point in the first three games and on Wednesday were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Nottingham Forest.

Their negative tactics in a 2-1 defeat at home to Chelsea generated widespread scorn. A season of struggle lies ahead on Tyneside and there is little chance of Saturday’s visit to Manchester City offering any respite.

The 58-year-old believes it will take a “miracle” to keep the Magpies in the Premier League. Benitez is no stranger to unlikely events — Liverpool’s Champions League victory in Istanbul after being 3-0 down to AC Milan in 2005 is part of football lore — but top-flight survival with this squad may be beyond even the Spaniard’s powers.

Benitez is not cut out to be a relegation firefighter. He wants to win trophies. The man who won La Liga with Valencia and brought the Champion League to Anfield does not relish scrapping for points at the foot of the table.

The trip to the Etihad highlights a number of Benitez’s problems. He does not have the players to compete with City’s star cast. There is another issue, too. Pep Guardiola has changed perceptions of how the game should be played in the Premier League. The Catalan’s team pour forward and go for the opposition’s throat. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool take the same approach. Guardiola delights in causing chaos — for opponents. City’s shape and positional sense often defy traditional logic, but Guardiola has the players and belief to make things work.cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping

The Newcastle manager has neither. When Benitez works with a squad he does not trust, he moves to his default mechanism: keep things tight, aim for a clean sheet and hopefully pinch a goal. It is pragmatic in the extreme, and it leaves him vulnerable to criticism when things go wrong.7

A simplistic analysis is that the game has moved on and left Benitez behind. It is easy to look at the struggles of his bitter rival Jose Mourinho at Manchester United and group the pair together. Each arrived in English football in 2004 and had a similar impact (if in a very dissimilar style) to Guardiola and Klopp. There is a big difference between the Spaniard and the Portuguese, however: Mourinho is labouring at Old Trafford despite spending almost £350 million and works with a squad full of high-class performers. Benitez is toiling with a largely Championship-level set of players.

One of the many claims made in the wake of the defeat to Chelsea is that fans at St James’ Park would rather see their team lose 5-4 and play in a flamboyant manner than perform like they did against Maurizio Sarri’s side. Views like this ignore the fact that Newcastle do not have the capacity to get into shootouts against opposition of any quality.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Another component of Benitez’s character that irks his enemies is his reputation for being “political” or “difficult.” He has expressed his unhappiness with the transfer policies of Mike Ashley, the Newcastle owner. At Liverpool a decade ago he became embroiled in an internal civil war at Anfield, and short, unhappy spells at Inter Milan and Real Madrid did little to change perceptions. He is a man of strong convictions and reacts accordingly when he believes promises made at boardroom level have been broken. During his brief time at Chelsea, the club’s hierarchy gave Benitez a clear set of parameters for him to work within. Both sides kept their part of the bargain, and club and manager separated on good terms.

Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber keep D.C. United’s hot streak alive with win over New England Revolution

D.C. United continued their impressive form at Audi Field, earning their third home victory in eight days after a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution on Sunday night.

Luciano Acosta opened the scoring in the 13th minute, collecting a pass across the box from Paul Arriola and firing it in for his fifth goal of the regular season. Acosta has been a major factor in D.C. United’s hot streak, as four of his goals have come in his club’s last three games.authentic nfl jerseys cheap wholesale

D.C. United dominated much of the first half, though New England’s shift to a 4-1-4-1 alignment at halftime helped them create more possession in the midfield. Still, aside from a Diego Fagundez shot off the post in the 55th minute, the Revolution failed to generate much attack, as they managed just two shots on goal and were shut out for the sixth time this season.

The Revolution’s chances at a comeback were hampered in the 73rd minute when midfielder Scott Caldwell picked up his second yellow card of the match, dropping New England to a 10-man lineup. Caldwell will be suspended for his team’s next game Aug. 25 against the Philadelphia Union.10

Substitute Zoltan Stieber iced the game for D.C. United in the 89th minute, scoring on a break after collecting a long pass from Junior Moreno from beyond midfield.

D.C. improved to 5-1 on their new home pitch. With nine of their last 12 games at Audi Field, D.C. United has great opportunity for a late-season push, though they still sit six points outside of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.nfl jersey cheap wholesale china

The seventh-place Revolution are still ahead of D.C. in the table, but New England is now winless (0-5-2) over its last seven matches.

Michael Mancienne made his MLS debut, starting at center back for New England and playing all 90 minutes. The Revolution added Mancienne during the August transfer window, and the English defender began training this week after his paperwork became official.

Philadelphia Union improve playoff standing with shutout of New York City FC

The Philadelphia Union boosted their chances at a postseason spot with a 2-0 win over visiting New York City FC on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.

After an uneventful first half, the Union’s attack broke out in the 57th minute, due in part to some listless marking from New York City. Philadelphia midfielder Borek Dockal had room to send a pass to an also-open Cory Burke on the left side of the box, and Burke finished with a hard shot inside the far post. It was Burke’s team-leading sixth goal of the season, and his sixth goal in his last seven games in all competitions.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho delivered some individual brilliance on the second Union goal, carrying the ball into the box himself in the 76th minute and out-maneuvering three different NYCFC defenders. Ilsinho then completed the highlight-reel goal by firing a left-footed shot into the net before another defender closed on him.

Ilsinho had missed Philadelphia’s last six games due to a groin injury. The midfielder entered the game as a 68th-minute substitute for striker David Accam.6

New York City’s best chances came early in the game, both off the foot of Maximiliano Moralez. In the second minute, the midfielder’s shot within the box required a big leaping save from Union goalkeeper Andre Blake to knock the chance away. Moralez had another opportunity in the 11th minute, taking a chip pass from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi but lofting the shot wide of the net.

Between Saturday’s result and last weekend’s 3-2 win over the New England Revolution, the Union have now won consecutive matches for just the second time this season. Philadelphia remains in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, creating a bit more distance in the table in front of Montreal and New England.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

The Union recorded their sixth clean sheet of the season, while high-scoring NYCFC were shut out for just the third time this season. All six of New York City’s losses have taken place in away games.

New York City defender Ronald Matarrita received a straight red card in the match’s final seconds for a violent kick at Ilsinho. Matarrita will be suspended for at least one game, missing Wednesday’s derby game against the New York Red Bulls.

Premier League helped by early deadline but were teams ready to play?

The English top-flight always commences in mid-August but, after a significant change to the structure of the transfer window, the new campaign will not feature the disastrous three-week period, in which clubs and media were focused more upon moves than matches. Now deadline day has already passed, the games themselves dominate.

In years gone by, the first month has been compromised by numerous teams not appearing to be properly equipped. Last season, for example, the Premier League began on Aug. 11 but clubs had another 20 days of transfer activity. At that point, with squads eventually finalised, we were forced to endure an international break, so the season only began properly on Sep. 9, nearly a month after the first game.cheap authentic nfl jerseys

It is worth remembering precisely why the Premier League found itself in this situation. Until 2002-03 there was no transfer window, as such, in England, aside from a deadline day on March 31 that was essentially to stop teams artificially boosting their squads with late-season additions. Otherwise, they were free to trade as they liked.

The introduction of a transfer window was effectively forced by the European Commission and the summer deadline day was generally in line with those of Serie A and La Liga, i.e. the end of August. However, there was a problem: While the leagues were in harmony as regards the end of the window, they were not when it came to the date on which the season began.10

Opening day in 2002-03 was Aug. 17 in England, Sep. 1 in Spain and Sep. 15 in Italy. Therefore, the latter two leagues effectively operated within the system the Premier League has now unilaterally enacted: Transfer window and league campaign did not overlap.

The pattern broadly continued for the next few years. La Liga’s season crept forward into the last week of August, meaning one week of overlap, while Serie A’s alternated between that date and an early-September start.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

But the Premier League has remained relatively consistent in its mid-August commencement, usually resulting in three rounds of matches with the window still open; it is a reason why the deadline-day silliness that is somewhat unique to the Premier League has meant matches have been played under a cloud.

 

Colorado Rapids rally for 2-2 draw with LA Galaxy

For a second consecutive game, the LA Galaxy twice gave back a one-goal lead in the second half and was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw at home, this time against the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Edgar Castillo scored and then assisted on Niki Jackson’s goal for Colorado. With a tie following two victories, the Rapids have strung together a three-match unbeaten run for just the second time this season.cheap youth nfl jerseys

Sebastian Lletget scored in his second consecutive game and Ashley Cole also scored for the Galaxy. LA still moved up one spot to fourth in the Western Conference standings on a night when everyone else was idle.

The Galaxy also saw two players depart injured by halftime for a second consecutive match. This time, midfielder Jonathan dos Santos left in the 34th minute with groin soreness before defender Michael Ciani followed at halftime with an undisclosed ailment.

Winger Romain Alessandrini and attacker Giovani dos Santos both departed the Galaxy’s 2-2 draw against Minnesota United last weekend and were unavailable Tuesday.9

Colorado endured its own unforeseen loss five minutes after the break, when Kellyn Acosta left due to illness shortly after vomiting on the field.

Cole had not scored since July 4, 2017, but the defender opened the scoring with the style of a forward in the 59th minute. Cole took Chris Pontius’ pass and sliced to the other side of one defender with his first touch, split two defenders with his second and chipped on-rushing goalkeeper Tim Howard with his third.

Castillo tied it in the 74th minute when he reached a clearing header from a Galaxy defender outside the penalty area, took a couple touches into the area and then unfurled a quick strike that beat diving goalkeeper David Bingham to his left.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Lletget put the Galaxy in front again four minutes later. After Colorado failed to clear a long cross toward the penalty area, Ola Kamara played a square ball toward Lletget that may have also grazed Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Lletget fired a first-time shot with his left foot, curling it beyond Howard and into the side netting.

However, Jackson had the final word, taking a pass from Castillo and firing a shot from the left corner of the penalty area that caromed off the leg of an LA defender and badly fooled Bingham as it knuckled into the net.

Atlanta-Toronto matchup represents a changing of the MLS guard

That might feel a bit like 20/20 hindsight about the 2016 team that won neither the Supporters’ Shield nor MLS Cup, burdened as it was by playoff failures past. Each of that year’s New York sides was flawed in its own way, Mauro Diaz’s knee injury blew open the Western Conference and no team had anybody like Sebastian Giovinco. But last season’s Toronto was a destroyer of worlds, the first club in MLS history ever to win a domestic cup, the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same calendar year.

The point is that Toronto has for a while now been the default answer when any rational fan is asked who was likeliest to lift silverware in the end.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

That is no longer the case. And the team that has picked up that mantle looks primed and ready to run TFC off the field on Saturday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta vs. Toronto (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) feels significant both as a marker of the changing of the guard and of shifting eras.

To clarify: I’m not writing off the Reds entirely. Two straight victories have them heading into the weekend six points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot, a formidable but not impossible hill to climb. With this team’s pedigree, and the amount of talent still packed into the roster, it wouldn’t be shocking if Toronto not only surged into the postseason but made some serious noise once there.

The team TFC faced in each of the past two Cup finals has mastered this kind of trajectory. Seattle is at it again, unbeaten in six following a dreadful spring and early summer, suddenly right in the thick of the hunt as if the first four months never happened.12

That’s part of the reason, however, why league observers outside of the Pacific Northwest are likely to remember this recent era as belonging to Toronto, not Seattle, even if the two clubs ended up with a championship apiece.

Standalone silverware is enough to appease your fan base, but in order to stand out in league history, the regular season does matter. Start-to-finish dominance does matter.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

And that’s what I mean when I say that Atlanta has picked up Toronto’s mantle: Even if it doesn’t ultimately go on to win the title, when you look back on the 2018 MLS season a few years from now, United’s breakout story is the one that will have stayed with you.

The numbers tell a convincing enough story on their own. Atlanta leads the league in wins (14), goals (48) and goal differential (plus-22). Forward Josef Martinez could get injured right this second, with 11 matches left to play, and he’d still probably win league MVP — his 24 goals are three shy of the MLS single-season record and we’ve only just come out of the All-Star break.

More than the stats, and something it shares with the TFC of 2017 specifically, Atlanta makes you feel every time they play. Tata Martino’s charges press high and counter at speed. They’re in your face, freewheeling and so, so fast, playing in front of capacity crowds larger than MLS has ever seen. They might not be the very best, but they’re as fun of a team as has ever called the league home.

Malcom a surprise signing by Barcelona but one that makes sense

His parents named him after Malcolm X, FC Barcelona scribbled out his name, hurriedly writing Silva where it originally said something else, and AS Roma didn’t name him at all. It was a joke, albeit a rather pointed one that quite a lot of people didn’t find very funny. Meanwhile, Ernesto Valverde couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t called Willian.

As for Hristo Stoichkov, he called him the new Hristo Stoichkov. Well, sort of. His full name is Malcom Filipe Silva de Oliveira, but everyone calls him just Mal cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Is it too late to do the “Malcom in the Middle” joke? It is? OK, but he was. A week ago, Malcom was on his way to Rome — fans had gathered at the airport to welcome him — only to end up at Barcelona instead. A deal had been done but not signed with the Italians, and yet, the next thing they knew, there he was kissing the Barcelona badge instead. It was, he said, a “dream come true.” For Roma, it was a nightmare. The president said he would never forgive the Catalan club… unless they sold him Messi.

Asked what he thought of Malcom a couple of days ago, Stoichkov said, conspiratorially: “He reminds me of a Bulgarian striker who came to Barcelona in 1990, ready to ‘eat the world.’ Things didn’t go too badly for him.” The Bulgarian was happily handing over his number, if not actually his name.11

“[Malcom is] daring and has personality: give him Stoichkov’s No.8!” Stoichkov implored his former club.

Persuading Stoichkov to join Barcelona back then was quite easy: all he wanted was a red sports car. “I signed for that,” he said. “An Audi.” He didn’t yet have a Spanish licence so he couldn’t drive it, but still, it was enough. Persuading Malcom was easy too, even with a deal basically done. And €41 million was enough to persuade Bordeaux to break from Roma.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“That’s normal,” their coach Gus Poyet told ESPN. “Barcelona appeared, improving the deal, and the club and the player decided. If Barcelona call you…”

Persuading everyone at Barcelona that he is the right signing might have looked a little more difficult, but it has happened surprisingly quickly. For now, at least.

On one level, that shouldn’t surprise. Barcelona had watched him for a couple of years while there were suggestions, not entirely tongue in cheek either, that they did the safe thing: wait to see what Roma sporting director Monchi was up to and then hijack his deal. Imagine, by the way, the mischief Monchi could have with that…

Roma join Manchester City in pursuit of Australia’s Daniel Arzani – sources

Roma are rivalling Manchester City for Australian teenage sensation Daniel Arzani, sources have told ESPN FC.

Melbourne City star Arzani is one of the hottest properties in world football after impressing for club and country during the last 12 months.

The skilful attacker burst onto the scene halfway through last season’s A-League campaign and his performances saw him win a call-up to Australia’s World Cup squad.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

The 19-year-old was the youngest player at the World Cup and his featured in all three games during Australia’s World Cup campaign.12

Arzani made a positive impression during his cameo appearances at the World Cup and his performances have brought him to the attention of a number of Europe’s top clubs.

Manchester City have been leading the race for Arzani as Melbourne City are the Premier League champions’ sister club under the City Football Group umbrella.

City plan to sign Arzani and then possibly loan him out like they did with Aaron Mooy before eventually selling him to Huddersfield Town.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

However, Roma are monitoring Arzani’s situation at Melbourne City and they are ready to offer the forward a pathway to first-team football in the Italian capital.

Roma have shown they are shrewd operators in the transfer market having signed young talents like Justin Kluivert from Ajax this summer and they see Arzani as a potential star in the making.

U.S. Open Cup: Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia Union book places semifinals

Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas each scored twice, accounting for three second-half goals within 22 minutes, as the host Houston Dynamo overcame an early deficit to storm past Sporting Kansas City 4-2, sending the defending U.S. Open Cup champions out in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

SKC’s Johnny Russell got the champs on the board first at BBVA Compass Stadium with a goal in the second minute. The lead held up for more than a half hour, until Quioto evened it up in the 35th minute. Twenty minutes after intermission, the floodgates opened.

Quioto scored his second goal in the 66th minute to give the Dynamo a 2-1 lead. Three minutes later, Manotas made it 3-1. He made it 4-1 with an 88th-minute goal to put the game away. Yohan Croizet scored in the third minute of stoppage time — with an assist from Russell — to make it 4-2.

SKC’s loss also means the U.S. Open Cup will once again fail to have a repeat winner since Seattle won three in a row from 2009-11.11

Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya scored in the fourth minute, and the Philadelphia Union kept Orlando City out of the net to advance to the semifinals with a 1-0 win at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa.

After Orlando keeper Earl Edwards Jr. made the save off a Fafa Picault header, Bedoya put the rebound into the net to move the Union to within a win of their third U.S. Open Cup final. They have never won a trophy, having lost in the championship match of this tournament in 2014 and 2015.

The win also stretched the Union’s streak of U.S. Open Cup matches without an official loss to 13 — the Union’s last three losses in the event have been on penalty kicks, which don’t count as official losses. Orlando has never reached the U.S. Open Cup semis.

The Chicago Fire had little trouble with their USL foe Louisville City, scoring early and often in a 4-0 win at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., to easily advance to the semifinals. They will play Philadelphia on Aug. 7 or 8 for a spot in the championship match.

Four different players scored for the Fire: Nemanja Nikolic, Aleksandar Katai, Diego Campos and Elliot Collier. Chicago is a four-time U.S. Open Cup champion but has not been to the final since losing to Seattle in 2011.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

An own goal off Portland Timbers midfielder David Guzman opened the scoring in the 33rd minute and ultimately proved to be the difference as LAFC advanced to the semis with a win at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.