England Handed Boost Ahead of UEFA Nations League Clash as Ivan Rakitic Is Ruled Out With Injury

?Barcelona and Croatia star Ivan Rakitic has been ruled out of his country’s crucial UEFA Nations League match against England due to an injury sustained in his side’s victory over Spain.

Group A4 was blown wide open on Thursday evening when the Croats scored a 93rd minute to beat Spain 3-2, but it came at a price as Rakitic was forced off due to injury. 


It’s now been confirmed by Sky S?ports News that the influential midfielder will not be available for the crucial match at Wembley that will decide which way the group will go. 

The news will come as a huge boost to England fans who have already been buoyed by their side’s comfortable 3-0 victory over the USA on Thursday.

??Despite this positive news, England fans will be well aware that their side still has a lot to do to avoid relegation from group A4. The Three Lions need to either beat Croatia or at least make sure they can scrape a score draw in order to avoid relegation. 

While this task looks considerably easier on paper with the absence of Rakitic, Gareth Southgate will warn against complacency on Sunday. Croatia possess a team full of talent and have one of the world’s best midfielders in Luka Modric, they’ll know what’s at stake and will be no pushovers.


Sergio Busquets Claims Spain Are ‘Best Team’ in UEFA Nations League Group Despite Loss to Croatia

?Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets has claimed Spain have the best squad in their UEFA Nations League group, despite suffering their second defeat in four matches at the hands of Croatia on Thursday.

Group A4 consists of Spain, Croatia and England, and the 3-2 loss to Croatia means all three teams are still in with a chance of finishing top of the group. Sunday’s clash between Croatia and England will decide who wins the group and who is relegated, with the only certainty in the group the fact that Spain cannot be relegated.


Speaking after the match, which was decided by a 93rd minute strike from Croatia’s Tin Jedvaj, Busquets admitted he was frustrated with his side’s mistakes. He is quoted by ?Football Espana as saying: “It was a pity that they scored when they did, although a draw wouldn’t have helped us much.

“They came out very strongly. We had some problems in the first half, especially the first few minutes.

“They dropped off physically in the second half and we had several chances, especially in the six yard box.

FC Barcelona v Internazionale - UEFA Champions League

“We deserved more. We deserved to go ahead, but for one reason or another it wasn’t to be. Now we have to hope England and Croatia draw on Sunday because we’re no longer reliant on ourselves.

“It was a very difficult group, with some strong national teams who came in from good showings at the World Cup. We’ve been the group’s best national team, but we’ve been punished by some timely mistakes.”

Both England and Croatia enjoyed a deep run during this summer’s World Cup tournament. The two sides met in the semi-final of the competition, with Croatia advancing to meet France in the final. Spain, however, found themselves eliminated in the round of 16 at the hands of hosts Russia.

FC Barcelona v Sevilla - La Liga Santander

Defeat against Croatia meant that Spain have now tasted defeat at the hands of both of the teams in Group A4, with England having emerged with a 3-2 victory against the Spaniards in October.

Spain are also the lowest-ranked side out of the three on ?FIFA’s latest world rankings. They currently sit ninth in the list, which is four places behind England and five behind Croatia.


Ivan Rakitic Opens Up on How Croatia Used ‘Football’s Coming Home’ Mantra to Beat England

?Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has opened up about his country’s victory over England in the semi finals of the World Cup in Russia, explaining how they bested the Three Lions. 

The Croatians won the game 2-1 thanks to an 109th minute winner from Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic, after Ivan Perisic cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s fifth minute free kick. 

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Speaking to Sid Lowe of the ?Guardian in an in-depth interview ahead of the similarly decisive UEFA Nations League clash between the two on Sunday, Rakitic admitted: “At half-time we had faith. It was a brilliant goal, the game turned their way but we didn’t feel they were better or that it was lost, maybe because of what had happened before.”

The Vatreni had come through two penalty shoot-outs in the wins against Denmark and Russia, and these exploits spurred the team on when it was time for a third consecutive period of extra time.

The midfielder was complimentary of the organised nature of England’s play, and rubbished any talk that they had been lucky to get to the last four, citing last month’s 3-2 victory over Spain as proof – but admitted that the ‘Football’s Coming Home’ fan campaign had given Croatia a little extra motivation. 

“Well, we all saw Football’s Coming Home,” Rakitic said, adding, “Offended? No. It’s something positive you created around the team that wasn’t [designed] to offend, although we thought: ‘Yeah, but you still have to play us.’ I understand that a country – the football country – had that desire, and England came close. It was good marketing, and we tried something similar with our hashtag #family, but we thought: ‘Now more than ever, we want it to be coming home to us’.”

But, returning to the conclusion of that balmy night at the Luzhniki Stadium on the 11th of July, the 30-year-old confirmed: “We could see it in those first 15, 20 minutes when, honestly, they didn’t know what to do.

“You feel the control, you feel happy, comfortable. They’re finding it harder to reach your goal and you’re getting closer to theirs. You even think: ‘Extra time? Fine, no problem.

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

“There was a bit of luck with our second goal, it fell to Mario Mandzukic, but there was [already] this feeling: no pasa nada.”

The? Barça man even added that he was ill leading up to the game: “I played with fever – I had a virus – but it gave me great strength knowing we were in a good place.”


‘I Wouldn’t Have Played’: Barcelona Star Clement Lenglet Reveals He Rejected Move to Juventus

?New Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet has stated that he could easily have joined Juventus back in 2012, but decided against the move as he felt he would not get enough playing time to develop.

The Frenchman eventually ended up in Spain, and following a summer move to Barcelona he has enjoyed a reasonable start to life at the Catalan club, featuring heavily for the side with Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen both suffering from injuries throughout the early stages of the campaign. 


As reported by ?Football Italia, the 23-year-old centre back claimed he didn’t want to join ?Juventus back in 2012, saying, “I wouldn’t have played or developed.”

 Spells at Nancy and Sevilla followed for the Frenchman, however Lenglet admitted that his career could have turned out very differently had he been tempted by the Italian giants all those years ago.

“I was at Nancy and I’d only played three months in the French second division when Juventus came in to sign me,” he said. 

“However I was 18 and I only had a few months of professional football behind me. With the defence Juventus had back then, I wouldn’t have played or developed. It wasn’t a good time to leave my club. I’m very happy with the decision I made because I joined a very big club anyway.”

??Lenglet signed for ?Barca on the 12th of July 2018 when his €35m buyout clause was triggered by the reigning ?La Liga champions.

So far, the defender has featured 13 times for his new side, even managing a goal in his single Copa del Rey outing back in October, when he scored a last gasp winner to knockout Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32. 

FC Barcelona v Real Betis Balompie - La Liga

It was a brave decision to reject a team with the stature of Juventus, but currently it looks to have been a wise one. 


Barcelona Beat European Rivals to the Chase as They Hold Talks With Dinamo Zagreb Winger Dani Olmo

Representatives from Barcelona have met with the agent of Dinamo Zagreb star Dani Olmo, as the club considers re-signing their former youth player, according to reports.

The 20-year-old winger has been on the radar of a number of clubs across Europe, including teams from the Premier League and the Bundesliga.


But it is Spain’s big two who are leading the pack for Olmo this season, and Mundo Deportivo claim that a Barcelona entourage of sporting director Pep Segura, director of football Éric Abidal and Ramón Planes (Abidal’s assistant) have already held talks with the player’s agent.

Barça officials were also in attendance when Olmo’s Spain Under-21 side thrashed Denmark 4-1, courtesy of Borja Mayoral’s hat-trick and Jorge Meré’s late first-half strike.

Real Madrid are also heavily interested in signing Olmo as they make a drastic U-turn on their former Galácticos transfer policy.

Manchester UnitedManchester City and Bayern Munich have also enquired about signing the Dinamo Zagreb prodigy. Pep Guardiola is known to be looking for young players with the ‘Barcelona DNA’, however, Spain’s top dogs are still leading the race for Olmo’s signature.

Croatian giants Zagreb rejected a €20m transfer for Olmo during the summer, but it is understood that they will listen to any offer over €25m for the Spain Under-21 international.

Olmo’s popularity among Europe’s biggest clubs has only increased this season thanks to his performances in the club’s Europa League campaign.

In four matches this season, Olmo has scored one goal – which came on matchday one against Fenerbahçe – and claimed three assists.