Mauro Icardi Misses Out as Argentina Name Final 23-Man Squad for 2018 FIFA World Cup

??Inter striker Mauro Icardi has been dealt a huge blow as Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli has excluded him from Argentina’s 23-man squad for the 2018 ?FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Icardi made it to the 35-man preliminary contingent, but Sampaoli has opted to leave him out, having previously aired concerns over both the Inter man and Juventus star Paulo Dybala not fitting his system.

Dybala, though, has been selected as a forward, along with Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain. Icardi, who scored 29 goals in 34 Serie A appearances for the Nerazzurri, will not participate.

?West Ham midfielder Manuel Lanzini has been rewarded for his good performances over the course of last season with an inclusion. 

?Manchester United and ?Chelsea keepers Sergio Romero and Willy Caballero have also been named in the squad, while ?Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi will be heading to Russia as well.


Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Willy Caballero, Franco Armania.

Defenders: Gabriel Mercardo, Cristian Ansaldi, Nicolas Otamendi, Federico Fazio, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico, Marcos Acuna.

Midfielders: Javier Mascherano, Eduardo Salvio, Lucas Biglia, Giovani Lo Celso, Ever Banega, Manuel Lanzini, Maximiliano Meza, Angel Di Maria, Cristian Pavon.

Forwards: Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero.



7 Things You May Have Missed From Europe’s Thrilling Final Matchday This Weekend

As the 2017/18 campaign comes to a close across Europe, we are usually treated to an abundance of sensational showdowns and teary-eyed farewells, and this year has been no different – maybe even more spectacular than any other. 

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the final European football round-up of the season. 

1. A Header From the Heavens: Inter Break Lazio Hearts in Dramatic Fashion

As 78 minutes struck, leading 2-1, Lazio were heading for the Champions League at Inter Milan’s expense. 

However, a Mauro Icardi penalty swiftly followed up by Matias Vecino’s bullet header initiated unadulterated limbs amongst the travelling Nerazzurri following. 

After 38 games, it had come down to a corner 12 minutes from time inside the Stadio Olimpico to secure the San Siro outfit’s place in next year’s European elite competition, and doing so on the head-to-head record between the two sides made it all the more sweeter for the Milan club. 

2. Crowned Again: Celtic Secure Unprecedented Double Treble

Glasgow Celtic have been the dominant force in Scottish football following Glasgow Rangers’ demise in 2012. 

League success has been ever-present – as have other domestic trophies – but on Saturday Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops wrote their name into the history books by securing a somewhat unprecedented double treble; becoming only the third European side in history to do so. 

First half goals from Callum McGregor and Olivier Ntcham were enough to down Motherwell in a repeat of the Scottish League Cup final from earlier in the season and maintain the former Liverpool boss’ record of securing every domestic trophy he has entered since taking over at Parkhead in 2016.

3. Past vs Future: Dramatic Eintracht Deny Bayern

If there were a more fitting cup winning story than Eintracht Frankfurt’s success in the DFB Pokal this weekend, however, I would like to see it. 

Niko Kovac – the man picked to succeed Jupp Heynckes next season in the Bayern Munich dugout after others allegedly turned the job down – stood and watched on in his final game as Die Adler coach as his side denied the Bavarians a domestic double with a scintillating 3-1 victory. 

Ante Rebic’s double would have proved enough to counteract Robert Lewandoski’s strike for the Reds; but a dramatic stoppage-time period, which saw Bayern’s penalty claims waved away and Mijat Gacinovic run the full length of the pitch before slotting home into an empty net, rounded off a sensational afternoon for the unfancied Hessens. 

4. Adios & Addio: A Weekend of Farewells

Although three of this generation’s greats bade farewell to their respective clubs this weekend, none are set to hang their boots up for good this summer. 

However, that did not stop the teary-eyed departures of Andres Iniesta of Barcelona, Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus and Fernando Torres of Atletico Madrid – who scored a brace in his send-off – taking centre stage. 

The significance of the changing of the guard will be felt more at Barca and Juve undoubtedly, as their search to now find suitable replacements for the arguably irreplaceable begins.  

5. Tempers Flare: Legia Warsaw Crowned Champions Amid Crowd Trouble

In a bizarre end of season moment, Legia Warsaw were crowned champions of Poland without actually completing 90 minutes. 

This was due to Wojskowi being awarded a 3-0 walkover after Lech Poznan fans threw flares onto the pitch as Legia went 2-0 up on the 77th minute, forcing the referee to abandon the game. 

Following the contest, the Polish Ekstraklasa league commission granted Dean Klafuric’s side maximum points – meaning they finish up with a three-point buffer over next in line Jagiellonia Bialystok. 

6. Fan Frictions: Sporting Lisbon Suffer Shock Defeat After Attack

In Portugal, Sporting Lisbon suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to relegation survivors Aves in the Portuguese Cup final, just five days after the players were attacked by fans. 

A 50-strong group of hooded supporters attacked players and officials at Sporting’s training base on Thursday – leaving doubts over the participation in their final. 

However, after deciding to go ahead, Aves, a side who have spent just three years in the Portuguese top-flight since 1930, secured the silverware through Alexandre Guedes early on before Oeiras added a second 15 minutes from time. 

As the underdogs netted their second, Sporting fans were seen clashing with police as they made their distaste known.  

7. ‘I’ll Be Back’: Parma Secure Third Straight Promotion

However, always wanting to leave on a high note, Parma are back in Serie A three years after they were declared bankrupt following a dramatic third successive promotion. 

Despite leading 2-0 against Spezia, Frosinone’s 2-1 lead over Foggia was expected to condemn the former Uefa Cup winners to the promotion play-offs. 

But in the 89th minute, Foggia managed to net a dramatic equaliser, meaning Parma secured second spot in Serie B via their head-to-head record with Frosinone. 


End of Season Review: Barcelona’s Report Card From the 2017/18 Campaign

In what was expected to be a tough campaign for Barcelona following their humiliating defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana back in August, not many could have predicted the success Ernesto Valverde would secure during his inaugural campaign. 

Domestically, Barça’s dominance was unparalleled, shattering several records along the way as well as being an overall joy to watch. 

So, following the conclusion of the 2017/18 Spanish campaign, here is a look back at La Blaugrana’s year. 

1. League Performance

One defeat in 38 games should offer a brief overview of how impressive Barcelona were in La Liga this season. 

Undoubtedly, the crazy 5-4 defeat to Levante during the penultimate weekend removed a touch of gloss from the campaign, but in no way did it take away the achievement of Valverde’s men. 

36 games unbeaten – 43 including last season – showcased how commanding the ‘weakened’ Barça were, and with a 3-0 victory inside the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to effectively end Real Madrid’s title chances to boot, overall, it was a scintillating campaign in Catalonia. 

2. Domestic Cup Performance

Again, similarly to the league, just one defeat throughout Barcelona’s run to their fourth successive Copa del Rey success proved how clinical the double champions could be – although the loss to close rivals Espanyol will have hurt a little. 

But if there was 90 minutes which summed up how truly devastating Blaugrana had the capability of being, it would be the final; in which they dispatched Sevilla, a side who had reached the Champions League quarter-finals, 5-0 with an overpowering display. 

That night in Madrid; hearing ‘El Cant del Barça’ ring out in the Spanish capital, it will be remembered for some time.   

3. Continental Cup Performance

However, despite Barcelona’s overwhelming dominance domestically, they struggled to find such form in the Champions League – particularly in the latter rounds. 

The 3-0 defeat to AS Roma, which brought a shocking end to Barça’s European escapades for another year, was merely the result of warning signs that had come before. 

In no continental clash this year did Blaugrana find their rhythm, as could be seen against the likes of Chelsea and Juventus – despite dumping the Blues out of the tournament. 

Maybe Valverde’s naivety played a role in their disappointing run, or perhaps the blame lies with the players for their showing in the Stadio Olimpico – either way, there is much to address if the Catalonians are to improve in the competition next year. 

4. Best Player

No real surprise, Lionel Messi. Without the Argentine, Barcelona looked a team lost at sea at times, although Philippe Coutinho certainly went some way in reducing the deficit as the term wore on. 

Claiming the Pichichi and the European Golden Shoe only tells half the story of the 30-year-old’s campaign, with the maestro finishing up with La Liga’s joint most-assists (only the second time a player has been top of both goals and assists charts), most chances created, most take-ons completed, most through ball chances created, most goals from outside of the box and most free-kick goals. 

It really was another incredible campaign for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. 

5. Worst Player

Andre Gomes indeed had a year to forget this year, making only six starts in Spain’s top flight as his confidence plummeted throughout the term. 

The Portugal international’s lack of self-belief came as no surprise when looking over his stats, however, with only three chances created in 16 league outings – none of which led to an assist – and failing to provide or find the back of the net himself in any of his 29 showings. 

It would not be surprising to see the 24-year-old lead the exits from Camp Nou this summer, with the player offering very little in any aspect. 

6. The Manager

Despite unrest within the Barcelona faithful and his side’s showing in the Champions League this season, Valverde must be heavily praised for the job he has done in Catalonia this year. 

After the aforementioned Supercopa de Espana nightmare early on, many predicted a somewhat destitute campaign, yet an almost unbeaten term and two additional pieces of silverware to add to the already stacked trophy cabinet cannot be seen as anything but an overachievement. 

7. Overall Grade

For some reason, despite Barcelona’s sensational domestic campaign, their Champions League failings continue to haunt. 

Whether the Camp Nou’s obsession in some way derives from Real Madrid’s recent success in the competition remains to be seen, but that night in Rome has taken away some of the shine on what should be looked back on as a glorious season. 

But if the performances from Ousmane Dembele and Coutinho during the latter stages are anything to go by, as well as the rumoured move for Antoine Griezmann, Blaugrana could be an almost unstoppable force once again next year, even without Andres Iniesta. 

Overall Grade: A-


Barcelona 1-0 Real Sociedad: Philippe Coutinho Stunner Adds Class as Andres Iniesta Bids Farewell

Andres Iniesta rounded off his highly decorated ?Barcelona career on Sunday evening with a vintage display during his side’s La Liga curtain closer as they overcome Real Sociedad 1-0 in a teeming Camp Nou. 

Despite the moment seemingly set for the midfield magician to show his magic one more time, Philippe Coutinho provided his instead, with the Brazil international’s 25-yard curling stunner the difference between the Catalonians and the travelling Basque Countrymen.

It was a fitting way to sign off such a memorable campaign for Blaugrana, who secured their eighth domestic double and tasted defeat just once in a league term that will live long in the memory of the Barca faithful. 

A touching mosaic dedicated to arguably Spain’s greatest midfielder of all time, reading ‘Infinit Iniesta’, reached from floor to sky throughout Camp Nou as Real Sociedad welcomed the hosts through a guard of honour onto Catalonia’s hallowed turf for the final time this season. 

Almost testimonial-like, an orchestra of appreciation met the recently-turned 34-year-old as the ball graced his boots, with supersized banners above the ultras reading a simple message of thanks to the Barcelona legend for his 22 years of service.

And despite a somewhat controlled opening from Ernesto Valverde’s men – with the visitors fashioning arguably the best chances of the opening quarter through Willian Jose and Adnan Januzaj – Ivan Rakitic had the opportunity to fire his side into the lead. 

The midfielder should have done better with his free header around 12 yards from goal midway through the first half, but the 30-year-old could only spear the attempt wide. 

As half-time closed in, the 84,000-strong party atmosphere surrounding Camp Nou turned to anger and concern as Ousmane Dembele found himself on the receiving end of a terribly timed challenge which could have quite comfortably ended the 21-year-old’s evening and potentially his summer trip to Russia.

However, luckily for the France international, the studs-up lunge seemed to do less damage than initially thought, and following the booking of Raul Navas, as well as Luis Suarez for his protests for a more severe repercussion, referee Jose Munuera Montero brought the first 45 to a close. 

After the break, Dembele lasted only eight minutes before being replaced by the in-form Denis Suarez, and the balance the 24-year-old brings had a swift effect as Coutinho netted an absolute stunner from range to hand Barcelona the advantage and head into double figures in Barca colours.

The Brazilian picked up the ball midway inside Sociedad’s half before utilising the decoy run of Gerard Pique to his left to craft enough space to unleash a strike seen so often from the 25-year-old, which left goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya stranded before rippling the net after initially finding the inside of the woodwork.


However, despite the former ?Liverpool man’s sensational finish and the spell-binding football following the introduction of Lionel Messi, undoubtedly the moment of the second half came as Iniesta bid his final farewell to Blaugrana.

A departure which started with an embrace with his Argentine teammate as he passed over the captain’s armband was followed by a slow, teary-eyed, applause-soaked stroll as each Barca player, supporter and coach showed their eternal gratitude towards the Catalan legend. 

As the final moments wound down, a continuous chorus of chant held only one name; Iniesta, and the World Cup winner’s solo inclusion could not have been more fitting – as Camp Nou finally came to terms that there will never be another Andres Iniesta. 




Real Madrid Captain Sergio Ramos Posts Emotional Twitter Tribute to Legendary Trio

?Sergio Ramos took to Twitter on Sunday to send a farewell message to departing greats Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta and ?Gianluigi Buffon as the three stars played their final games for their current clubs over the weekend.

The Real Madrid and Spain captain put rivalry aside in order to pay tribute to the era-defining trio as they leave ?Atletico Madrid, ?Barcelona and ?Juventus respectively to start the next stages of their careers before hanging up their boots.

As Ramos steps up his preparation for the Champions League final between ?Real Madrid and ?Liverpool in Kiev, he took a moment to send a heartfelt message to the departing stars who have made such an impact on the competition: “You have all made the battle more beautiful and football much bigger.”

This weekend saw the last round of fixtures in both La Liga and Serie A and with that were a number of farewells, the aforementioned trio being the most notable. 

All three ended their time at the clubs that made them legends on a high. Atletico Madrid’s ?Europa League win on Wednesday was the first trophy that Torres has won with the club after spending a total of nine years in Madrid, while Iniesta and Buffon both claimed domestic doubles in their final seasons.