Blog Post

Alexis Sanchez will benefit from Jose Mourinho’s mentality in Europe

Check out the key stats and big stories before Sevilla and Manchester United square off in the last 16 of the Champions League. Alexis Sanchez will play in his first Champions League game for Manchester United on Wednesday when they take on Sevilla in the first leg of the round of 16. The Chilean’s last appearance in the competition was when he came on as a second half substitute in Arsenal’s humiliating 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich, which took the aggregate score to 10-2. Before those games, Sanchez had reportedly been open to extending his contract with Arsenal, but the manner of the defeat sparked him in to action. He knew he had to find a new club. At United, he is playing for a manager who has won the Champions League twice for two different clubs. Neither Porto or Inter Mi...

Europa League position gives Wenger opportunity to test youth

Arsene Wenger says winning Europa League is not how Arsenal want to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Arsene Wenger credits Arsenal for taking the game to a ‘nervous’ Ostersunds side and navigating the weather conditions in their comprehensive victory. Arsene Wenger hasn’t ruled out Aaron Ramsey for the Carabao Cup final and remains hopeful the midfielder will be available against Man City. Arsenal take on Östersunds FK at the Emirates on Thursday from a strong position. They won the first Europa League leg in Sweden 3-0 and it means that Arsene Wenger can rotate his squad with Sunday’s Carabao Cup final in mind. While still taking the game seriously to avoid what he calls a “bad surprise,” he will want to keep his key players fresh. That...

Conte’s tactics vs. Barcelona speak volumes about what Chelsea need

Lionel Messi scored his first goal against Chelsea in nine matches as Barcelona returned to the Camp Nou ahead on away goals. The FC panel answer your tweets on how Chelsea should line up in their second leg at Barcelona, if Tottenham or Chelsea looked more impressive in their UCL first legs and more. Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata tried his best to distract teammate Pedro while he was being interviewed after the Blues’ 1-1 draw with Barcelona. Steve Nicol and Ross Dyer preview Chelsea’s upcoming tough run of fixtures and how it will set them up for the rest of the season. Relive the best of Tuesday’s Champions League action, as Bayern Munich routed Besiktas and Lionel Messi silenced Stamford Bridge. Antonio Conte said last night that his team had been “close to perf...

Morata’s fitness, confidence issues have Chelsea searching for solutions

Lionel Messi scored his first goal against Chelsea in nine matches as Barcelona returned to the Camp Nou ahead on away goals. Lionel Messi scored his first goal against Chelsea in nine matches as Barcelona return to the Camp Nou ahead on away goals. The FC boys break down all the talking points between Chelsea and Barcelona, including Conte’s squad selections and Barcelona’s underwhelming performance. Lionel Messi put an end to his Chelsea curse in his ninth meeting with the club, finally scoring against the Blues to bring Barcelona level at Stamford Bridge. LONDON — There were seven minutes left of Chelsea’s Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Barcelona when Alvaro Morata trotted onto the pitch as a late replacement for Pedro. Chelsea’s £58 million...

Liverpool know treble’s elusiveness and can use it against Manchester City

Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook says his League One team didn’t even look at the draw for FA Cup quarter-final before knocking out Premier League leaders Manchester City. Wigan’s shocking 1-0 FA Cup win over Manchester City ensured Pep Guardiola’s team cannot secure a clean sweep of trophies. In the often petty world of football fandom this was good news for rivals Manchester United and Liverpool, who despite their own unrivalled success had never achieved that either. The best any English club has won is three trophies in a season: United in 1998-99; Liverpool in 1983-84 and 2000-01. It demonstrated once again that talent alone isn’t enough. Few fans around at the time who watched Joe Fagan’s team win everything but the FA Cup — thanks to a defeat at S...

MLS homegrown minutes go up but chances for young U.S. talent limited

Tyler Adams, Kellyn Acosta and Wil Trapp are homegrown success stories, but are there enough more to come? As Major League Soccer grows older, its players continue to skew younger. Teams in the domestic first division, which kicks off its 23rd season on March 3, signed 73 players during the offseason. Those men boasted an average age of 24 and three-quarters. The nine designated players, led by 19-year-old Uruguayan Diego Rossi, were even greener at just over 22-and-a half years old. MLS, saddled by a reputation as a league for aging stars, is becoming something else. The youth movement extends to domestic players as well. According to league officials, MLS spent more than $40 million in each of the past two seasons on youth development, improving training facilities, bolstering academies ...

Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon to launch singing career?

With his 40th birthday now come and gone and the joints beginning to creak, it would appear that Gianluigi Buffon is beginning to prepare for a career beyond football. Indeed, the veteran Juventus goalkeeper shared a photo on Instagram of himself in a recording booth along with the intriguing caption: “Coming soon.” If there’s any justice in the world, then we’re about to be treated to Gigi’s debut pop single, which would presumably be a haunting power ballad about keeping clean sheets, etc. Alternatively, judging by the inclusion of a “clapperboard” emoji, there’s also a chance Buffon may be lending his voice to an upcoming movie or animated short. Only time will tell. Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.

Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri to get own smoking room at RB Leipzig

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri reportedly smokes 60 cigarettes a day. Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri will be given his own designated smoking area at the Red Bull Arena for the Italian club’s Europa League visit to RB Leipzig. Sarri is reported to smoke 60 cigarettes per day and, when Leipzig host the Serie A leaders on Thursday, the 59-year-old will receive a special welcome gift inside the dressing room. The Bundesliga side have made a makeshift smokers’ lounge in the booth usually used by physiotherapists, and uninstalled all smoke detectors. The extra cost of €1,200 will be covered by Napoli, while Sarri will need to spend around €18 for his daily dose of cigarettes. Anti-smoking laws have turned many stadiums in Europe into non-smoking areas. While in Germany those laws might no...

Transfer Rater: Hector Bellerin to Real Madrid, Amadou Diawara to Spurs

The latest transfer rumours from around the world. Things change in the blink of an eye in football. The Football Whispers Index takes the latest transfer rumours and gives them a score out of five; the higher the score, the more realistic and reliable the whisper. Here are today’s top five emerging whispers. And keep an eye on Transfer Talk for all the latest gossip. Hector Bellerin to Real Madrid According to various reports in Spain, Real Madrid are putting together a blockbuster package in an attempt to lure Bellerin to the Bernabeu. The Arsenal right-back has been a long-term Barcelona transfer target and was expected to return to the club having been a product of the La Masia academy. However, after seeing his team struggle this season, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez wa...

Lionel Messi finally finds ruthless edge vs. Chelsea, Paulinho struggles

Lionel Messi scored his first goal against Chelsea in his ninth match to earn a draw for Barcelona. In Germany, Bayern Munich took a giant step toward the quarterfinals against Besiktas. Lionel Messi scored his first goal against Chelsea in nine matches as Barcelona return to the Camp Nou ahead on away goals. Lionel Messi scored his first goal against Chelsea in nine matches as Barcelona returned to the Camp Nou ahead on away goals. The FC boys break down all the talking points between Chelsea and Barcelona, including Conte’s squad selections and Barcelona’s underwhelming performance. Relive the best of Tuesday’s Champions League action, as Bayern Munich routed Besiktas and Lionel Messi silenced Stamford Bridge. Lionel Messi broke his duck against Chelsea on his ninth att...

Zinedine Zidane should use La Liga to groom, rebuild the confidence of ‘Real Madrid B’

Zinedine Zidane suggests that Cristiano Ronaldo needs a break ahead of Real’s La Liga game at Leganes. Steve Nicol explains why Real Madrid’s defence remains a cause for concern despite the club’s victory at Real Betis. Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane feels his side can replicate their 3-1 first leg win in Paris and that it will give them confidence to correct their form in La Liga. Zinedine Zidane’s tinkering with his team started and ended with a 1-1 draw with Levante back in September. It was just the third game in La Liga, and Zidane quickly discovered that his “B team” of this year was inferior to that of last year’s. Zidane made six changes to his starting side that day, with Kiko Casilla, Nacho Fernandez, Theo Hernandez, Marcos Llorente,...

L.A. youth academy bringing together Latino heritage while growing U.S. game

Within the heart of thousands of Latino immigrants, lies the dream of one day being able to wear the United States soccer jersey. LOS ANGELES — In a city known for realizing and breaking dreams, Los Angeles is home to nearly 5 million Latinos, or about 9 percent of the Hispanic population of the United States, according to Pew Research. Amid the melting pot, Alberto Villegas wanted to add something from his native Mexico after he immigrated to California. Villegas saw an opportunity in building soccer pitches, laying the foundation for a soccer academy. “It was the biggest challenge for me. Not only coming into this country but also bringing this culture into youngsters,” said Villegas as his athletes got ready for practice. “Soccer is not experienced in the United ...