Monthly Archives: August 2017

Southampton signs Wesley Hoedt from Lazio for £15m

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Southampton has announced the arrival of Lazio centre-back Wesley Hoedt for a reported £15m.

Hoedt, a Dutch international, is the second centre-back signed by Mauricio Pellegrino this summer following the arrival of Jan Bednarek for £5.7m in July.

“I’m really happy to be here,” said Hoedt after his official unveiling. “I think Southampton is a really big club, so it’s a good next step for me to come here and to play in the Premier League and try to help the best I can.”

The arrival of both players had increased speculation over Virgil Van Dijk’s future, despite Southampton’s football vice-chairman, Les Reed, reinforcing the chairman Ralph Kreuger’s claim that the defender will stay at St. Mary’s and will “develop alongside” Hoedt, his compatriot.

“Wesley is one of the most promising young defenders in Europe and represents a significant addition to our squad,” Reed said in an official statement.

“We believe he can develop even further here at Southampton, alongside his international team-mate Virgil van Dijk, as well as the likes of Jack Stephens, Maya Yoshida, Jan Bednarek and Florin Gardos. With Wesley joining those players, we believe we have the right amount of quality, depth and flexibility to help us achieve our aims this season.”

However, although he had took part in training with the Saints’ under-23s squad on Monday, Van Dijk is still unavailable for selection after being heavily linked with a summer transfer to bigger clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City and submitting a transfer request earlier this month.

Napoli knocks out Nice with distracted Balotelli arguing on touchline

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Napoli entered the Champions League group stage easily thanks to two 2-0 wins over two legs against Nice, and a distracted Mario Balotelli.

Italian forward Balotelli, who also missed the the first leg through injury, was sluggish, off the pace and never threatened Napoli.

However, several minutes after the interval following a goalless first half, the player went to the touchline and argued with the fourth official over the case of a bracelet that had to be covered with a bandage.

Napoli took full advantage of the player’s absence on the pitch to grab their opening goal; whilst Balotelli was arguing, Marek Hamsik crossed from the left and Jose Callejon, unmarked at the far post, scored easily.

Lorenzo Insigne then wrapped things up in the 89th minute for a 4-0 aggregate score, collecting Faouzi Ghoulam’s pass and firing into the corner.

Lucian Favre, the coach for Nice, reacted furiously to the opening goal while Balotelli continued his discussion with officials, before eventually opting to substitute the player — who was jeered by home fans as he left the pitch.

“I don’t want to comment on Balotelli,” Favre said after the game. “It wasn’t very satisfactory, it was not good enough.” He also complained that Balotelli was too slow in leaving the field when he was substituted.

As for Napoli, their win ended a dismal run for Italy in the final play-off round where Serie A teams have lost at the same stage of the competition in the last three seasons, and it will be the first time since 2013-14 that Italy have had three teams in the group stage.

Coutinho to miss Champions League game amidst heavy Barca interest

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Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho will be absent from the second leg of Liverpool’s Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim on Wednesday with illness.

While Reds manager Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool’s stance to not sell Coutinho had not changed, he had “no idea” when Coutinho will return.

Barca officials are reportedly contemplating a fourth bid for Coutinho, who made it clear that he would like to leave Anfield when he submitted a transfer request.

Their third offer had been worth a guaranteed €90m (£82.3m), plus a staggering €40m in add-ons, representing an increase of €5m and €25m respectively on their previous bids but it remains to be seen whether Liverpool would seriously entertain any further improvements.

Meanwhile, the Reds hold a 2-1 lead into the match at Anfield, and Hoffenheim have never reached the Champions League group stage, while no German side have won a European tie at Anfield. However, the stakes are heavy and odds could play little role as the winners will progress to the Champions League group stage.

“The main difference between last week and this is everyone knows the quality of Hoffenheim,” Klopp said. “I knew before but a lot of people in England didn’t expect the quality of Hoffenheim. Anfield is a main factor. We all know it is a very special place. The crowd are ready to fight and we are ready to fight too.”

“It is half-time,” Klopp added. “That is how I see it. It is half-time and we are in the break. We spoke after the game last week, yesterday, today and tomorrow about Hoffenheim. We want to learn from our mistakes and what we did over there.”

10-men Atletico fights back from two-down to draw against Girona

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A 10-men Atletico Madrid team rallied despite being two-goals down to secure a 2-2 draw La Liga newcomers Girona.

Catalonia-based Girona, who were making their debut in the Spanish Primera division had a dream start against Atletico with two headed goals in the space of three first-half minutes.

Things then went from bad to worse to Atletico when their forward Antoine Griezmann was dismissed in the second half for two bookings, the first for to try to win a penalty and another for dissent.

However, substitute Angel Correa then gave a lifeline to the visitors with a thumping long range strike after a solo run, before Jose Gimenez earned a point for the visitors by heading in Koke’s inswinging free-kick.

Not to be denied, Girona tried to steal an injury-time winner through Olarenwaju Kayode, but the striker saw his header stopped by Atletico keeper Jan Oblak’s quick reactions.

It ended as a lesson fro the home side, as the Catalan team had switched off following a substitution.

Meanwhile, Atletico’s city rivals Real Madrid also had another player sent off in Sergio Ramos, although Los Blancos did secure victory beforehand by three goals to nil against Deportivo.

While Deportivo pressured Real heavily from the start, Gareth Bale scored Real’s first La Liga goal with a tap in against the run of play, and for the third time in three consecutive seasons. Casemiro then followed suit after a 44-pass move, and Bale himself then set up a Toni Kroos goal in the second-half.

Keylor Navas then saved Florin Andone’s penalty late on, before Ramos was dismissed with a second yellow for a high elbow in an aerial challenge, having received his first for shoving Fabian Schar’s face.

The captain’s latest red meant that Ramos, 31, was now sent off 23 times for Real with 18 of those occasions in La Liga, an inglorious record he shares with ex-Sevilla defender Pablo Alfaro and Xavi Aguado, formerly of Real Zaragoza.