FC Barcelona’s 2013/14 pre-season campaign was tarnished with tax fraud allegations against Lionel Messi. As if it wasn’t enough, the mighty Spanish club was then accused of transfer fraud concerning Neymar’s move away from Santos. The intensity of this transfer issue led to the resignation of Sandro Rosell as club president in January.
Problems continue to hurt Barca under new president Bartomeu. On Wednesday, the Catalans were slapped with a two-transfer window ban for “illegal buying and selling of players under 18” according to FIFA.
However, Barcelona vice president Javier Faus is certain that “enemies” are behind all the controversies to fall down the club.
Speaking to the Spanish press on Thursday, Faus boldly declared:
Preview: Benfica and AZ Alkmaar meet for the first time in an official match
Benfica’s current run of form has been fantastic, and they will look to continue that on Thursday night in Holland.
Jorge Jesus’ side is currently sitting top of the Portuguese League with a seven point lead over Lisbon rivals Sporting CP. They continued their fine form at the weekend with a victory over Braga, after coming up short mid-week against Porto in the first leg of the Taça de Portugal quarterfinals.
After getting eliminated from the Champions League in a group that saw PSG and Olympiakos go through, the Eagles are looking to make their way back to the Europa League final.
Preview: Porto try to bounce back after a defeat to Nacional
In comparison to what has been normal for Porto over the last 10 or 20 years, their current campaign has been mediocre at best. They find themselves eight points off second placed Sporting CP, with rivals SL Benfica top of the league, 15 points clear.
The Dragons defeated the league leaders mid-week in the first leg of the Taça de Portugal quarterfinals, but they will now have to get past Sevilla.
Having been defeated in their last domestic match away to Nacional 2-1, interim manager Luis Castro is calling on his players to have their sights set on goal.
Preview: Les Gones take on La Vecchia Signoria as they hope to keep European football hopes alive
Lyon currently sit in fifth place in Ligue 1, six points away from a Europa League spot and nine from third-placed Lille and a Champions League berth, whilst Juventus have already secured European football as the Serie A leaders. However, both sides are coming into the match after losing their respective league matches this weekend and will be keen to put those negative results behind them.
Bianconeri midfielder Claudio Marchisio offered his thoughts on his team's 2-0 defeat to Napoli and slammed reports that the team is now in crisis whilst stating his opinion on their French opponents.
Preview: The USMNT and Mexico renew their rivalry in Arizona
The heated and historic rivalry between Mexico and the USA will continue on Wednesday night in Arizona. When this friendly fixture was announced, it was looked at as an opportunity to make money.
But from how it looks now, both squads will use this friendly to take a look at some players who have still not cemented their place in the World Cup squad.
Mexican club Peubla have earned themselves some negative attention surrounding Wednesday’s friendly. Since this match is not being played on a designated international day, Puebla have not allowed DeMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco to take part in this historic rivalry.
Preview: Los Blancos obliged to fight boos
Real Madrid were one goal away from creating a sensational comeback against Borussia Dortmund last season. After emphatically falling 4-1 in Germany due to the exploits of four-goal hero Robert Lewandowski, “La Remontada” (The Comeback) became the most popular term in Madrid-based paper Marca.
Los Blancos were asked to find motivation from historical records while Jose Mourinho was sweating over the fitness of star man Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese, who netted a goal in the first leg, failed to get on the scoring sheet at the Bernabeu. Late goals by Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos were not enough as the Spanish giants suffered a heart-breaking exit from Europe.
Preview: Blues face stiff test against French Champions
Two unexpected defeats in the last four games have resulted in Chelsea surrendering their lead at the top in the Barclays Premier League.A 1-0 loss at Villa Park on the 15th of March was followed by a defeat at Crystal Palace by the same score line last Saturday and the Blues really need to pull their socks up if they are to achieve anything this season.
However Chelsea have no time to ponder over their league situation as they face a stiff test in the form of a PSG side who are undefeated in their last 13 matches in all competitions and have won their last nine.
Preview: Giallorossi take on Europa League hopefuls Parma at home in a replay match
The clash between Roma and the Crociati was scheduled to take place exactly two months ago on 2 February, only to see Mother Nature have other plans and as a result, was suspended due to a downpour. As is the case in football, both sides will play out the remainder of the game rather than restarting at the full 90, but their objectives could not be any more different.
For Rudi Garcia's men, they will be looking to keep out of range of a hungry Napoli side and ensure they keep their lock on second place and automatic Champions League qualification. Meanwhile, for Roberto Donadoni, his team, are hoping to get back on track after their impressive 17-game winning streak snapped by Juventus. Interesingly, the Bianconeri have halted their winning runs twice this season: first ending a 7-match one in the first half of the season followed by the result on 26 March.
The USMNT’s pre-World Cup 2014 agenda is eclectic. It begins with old foes Mexico a day after April Fool’s day and continues with a rather easy matchup against Azerbaijan in May.
Note that the Azeri national team lost 3-0 in Portugal before going down 2-0 in Baku during the UEFA World Cup qualifiers. The United States will want to emulate their Group G rivals by recording a straightforward win as well against Azerbaijan.
To prepare for their opening game against African giants Ghana in Brazil this summer, the Americans will host AFCON titleholders Nigeria in June.
This final friendly match ahead of the World Cup will be preceded by a showdown against Turkey the same month.
ESPN will air each of USA’s 2014 FIFA World Cup matches live on TV before the broadcast info for the Czech Republic vs USMNT friendly match in early September 2014 is announced.
Channels to pin down are:
USMNT Live Stream & TV schedule – ESPN and other channels
Click on the following links to find updated and worldwide information:
Preview: Can Manchester United spring a surprise?
In 2010, the situation was reversed. United had won the “cup with the big ears” in 2008. They had reached the final in 2009, losing out to Pep’s Barcelona. Bayern had not been to the semifinal stage of Europe’s premier competition since 2001, suffering many quarterfinal defeats since. After winning the first leg in injury time, 2-1, thanks to Ivica Olic, Bayern came into Old Trafford looking to defend their lead. Not many said they would be able to do so.
Indeed, Bayern conceded three times within the first half but pulled one back through Ivica Olic. A red card to Rafael in the second half opened the game up more for Bayern. A wonderful strike from Arjen Robben, perhaps one of the best in the history of the UEFA Champions League, sent Bayern through to the semifinals on the away goals rule.
Preview: Spanish League rivals lock horns in Champions League
Atletico have defied all odds by rising to the top of the La Liga table and with just seven matches to play in the league, Atleti will be confident of their chances.
However the league leaders are closely tracked by their opponents on Tuesday who trail Diego Simeone’s men by just a single point. But both the teams will have to keep their league affairs at the side for now as they concentrate in clinching qualification to the last four of the Champions League.
Preview: Partenopei look to close gap on second-placed Roma against the runaway Serie A leaders
On Wednesday, a double from Carlos Tevez was enough to give the Bianconeri yet another three points and set a new Serie A record of 15 straight home wins in one season. The victory also ended Parma's 17-match unbeaten run and moved the Bianconeri to a comfortable14-point lead with eight matches remaining.
With Antonio Conte's men comfortably cruising towards a third successive Scudetto, the focus for the other teams is to secure second place and automatic Champions League football next season. Whilst Roma presently occupies that spot, with 67 points and a game in hand, Napoli will be keen on closing that six point difference.
Preview: Reds eyeing the top spot in the Premier League
Favorable results for Liverpool have provided them with a wonderful opportunity to end this week as the league toppers. Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace has left the door wide open for Brendan Rogers’ men who with a victory on Sunday can take their tally to 71 points and thereby occupy the top spot in the table.
The situation could not have come at a better time with the current season only six weeks away from conclusion. Liverpool have been rampant in recent weeks having won seven games in a row and are very close to clinching only their first league title in the Premier League era. The mood has definitely lifted at the Anfield but Brendan Rodgers has insisted that the kop faithful must stay calm and support the team in every circumstance.
Preview: Sad return to the Bernabeu for third-placed Real Madrid
The home crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu will be asked to multiply their voices and get behind the players. At such a tough period, the efforts of supporters are as much needed as the efforts of the players and the intelligence of the technical team. However, Marcelo who captained Los Blancos in the absence of red-carded defender Sergio Ramos against Sevilla believes that it is up to the players to make the first step and revive the spirits of Madridistas worldwide.
“We must apologise to Real Madrid's fans. We'll keep fighting,” he said following Real Madrid’s problematic 2-1 loss away to Sevilla on Wednesday.
Preview: Arsenal face final title chance against Manchester City
Manuel Pellegrini leads his side into the Emirates for an important title match, against an Arsenal side that has struggled of late. With just two victories in their last seven Premier League fixtures, Arsene Wenger’s side have one last shot at the title race on Saturday.
The Gunners suffered a heavy defeat at Stamford Bridge last weekend, leading many, if not all writing them off. Saturday’s meeting with City could keep their title hopes alive, if they come away with the victory.
Preview: More goals and another clean sheet for Chelsea?
Here is a chance for the Blues to make another step towards the 2013/14 English Premier League title. Jose Mourinho is aware of how tight the race is, given the fact that Manchester City could mathematically bypass them by three points by the time both teams would have played the same amount of games. For now, Chelsea occupy the top spot with a single point advantage over Brendan Rodger’s Liverpool and a three-point gap over the Citizens.
Crystal Palace are definitely not the scariest opponents, having last won a match on February 8 to fellow relegation fighters West Bromwich Albion. Since picking up that vital 3-1 win, Palace have failed to record a goal in four out of five matches. They have grabbed only two points in the process.
Preview: Barcelona can go top of La Liga, before their rivals take the pitch
Just a week ago, claiming the La Liga title looked very difficult for Gerardo Martino. After an important victory over Real Madrid, and three points mid-week against Celta Vigo, the Blaugrana are ahead of the Merengues, and just one point back of Atetico Madrid.
On Saturday, Barcelona will be without Victor Valdes. The Spanish goalkeeper was stretchered off against Celta Vigo, and was ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury.
Preview: Will Bayern Go For the Jugular against Hoffenheim?
Bayern has already created history by becoming the first team in the history of the German top flight to win the title with seven games in hand. A great indicator, as many in the press have pointed out, about how impressive Bayern has been this season is simply the weather. The temperatures still remain low across the country; no team has secured the Bundesliga title when temperatures have been close to zero.
Pep Guardiola, as we have come to learn in his days at Bayern, is quite the perfectionist. He is not prepared to let his team simply move casually through the remaining seven matches. However, he will know more than anybody, that his side can now focus on the two other competitions, the DFB Pokal and the UEFA Champions League. Bayern is trying to defend their crowns on those two fronts.
Preview: Moyes hoping to relieve pressure with a win
Pressure seems to be mounting on United’s Scottish manager David Moyes who has guided the Red Devils to their worst campaign in the Premier League era. The defending champions are currently 18 points behind league leaders Chelsea and are 12 points shy of a place in the top four. Moreover United’s 3-0 loss to arch rivals Manchester City was their 10th defeat of the season, another first for a club which has won the league title a record 20 times.
Man United are now on the verge of ending the season with their lowest points total since the inception of the competition back in 1992. Their previous worst 75 points was enough to win them the title in 1997 and third place in 2004. However a place in the top four now seems a very distant dream.
Preview: Real Madrid’s spirit to be tested
Having failed to win any of their clashes against their closes rivals, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, Los Blancos find themselves in an extremely insecure situation. At the end of Matchday 29, they conceded the top spot to the Rojiblancos on a head-to-head basis, with both teams counting 70 points. The Catalans, meanwhile, are only one point behind.
The three-horse race remains tight for Real Madrid. With nine matches to go and only, they must overcome pressure to remain ahead of Barca and hope that Diego Simeone’s men drop a few points. Managing anxiety for Carlo Ancelotti and his men would begin with bouncing back from last Sunday’s controversial home defeat in El Clasico.