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Inter Miami’s Mexican star Rodolfo Pizarro believes playing for Liga MX giant Chivas can propel or sink players’ careers and is adapting to the relatively tranquil life in Southern Florida.

The 26-year-old played for Pachuca, Chivas and Monterrey, joining Inter Miami last month and before the current coronavirus pandemic, Pizarro had noticed the difference off the field in the United States.

“You get more tranquility,” Pizarro said in an interview with ESPN’s Ahora o Nunca. “In the street, nobody bothers you and you can go out to dinner in peace.”

“But you also lose because nobody is looking at you or knows what you are doing,” he added. “You win on on one side, lose on another. There are pros and cons … Here [in Miami] there are the NBA and baseball stars and you’re just one more.”

Pizarro stated that playing for all-Mexican club Chivas, where he became a fan favorite and won the CONCACAF Champions League and Liga MX, was more extreme than anything he has experienced in his career and can take its toll if players aren’t prepared.

“It’s completely different being in Chivas, for better or worse,” said Pizarro. “It can sink your career if you can’t deal with the pressure or it can catapult you to being a name, help you a lot with marketing.

“In Pachuca you score one goal, or two goals, and nobody says anything and in Chivas you score a goal in consecutive games and you are a crack,” he continued. “It’s a lot easier to get to the national team playing with Chivas or America or one of those [big] clubs.”

Pizarro was asked whether Wolverhampton Wanderers’ striker Raul Jimenez or LAFC’s Carlos Vela is the best player in the CONCACAF region right now and he agreed it is between the two.

“I think they are the best,” Pizarro stated. “It’s difficult because Raul Jimenez is scoring goals against Manchester United and Manchester City and Carlos Vela is in the MLS. In talent, everyone knows about Carlos Vela. I think it’s between those two and it’s even.”

Pizarro is living in his friend’s apartment, having moved out from the hotel at which he was staying, and is following advice about staying home during this crisis, training as best he can, but it’s not the same as being out on the field.

“After this [break] we’ll be more ready to run a marathon than to play football,” he said. “It’d be good if they could find a solution to play five a side or something so we’re aren’t going so long without playing with the ball.”

New MLS franchise Inter Miami lost its first two MLS games of the season to LAFC and D.C. United and had its much-anticipated home opener against LA Galaxy on March 14 postponed just two days before it was due to kick off.

MLS has extended its training moratorium due to the coronavirus pandemic through April 3.

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Arsenal’s Premier League match against Manchester City on Wednesday has been postponed after a number of the squad made “close contact” with Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis two weeks ago.

Marinakis, who is also the owner of Championship side Nottingham Forest, announced on Instagram on Tuesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus — 13 days after being present at the Emirates as his side eliminated Arsenal from the Europa League.

The London-based club confirmed in a statement on Tuesday night that the players’ risk of contracting the coronavirus was “extremely low” but the Premier League decided the game should be postponed as a precautionary measure.

“Following yesterday’s news that Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis has recently contracted Covid-19, we have been taking medical advice and tracing any individuals who had what the guidelines define as close contact with him at the game 13 days ago,” Arsenal said in a statement.

“As a result of this exercise we identified that a number of players met the Olympiacos owner immediately following the game.

“The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing Covid-19 at extremely low. However, we are strictly following the Government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact.

“As a result, the players are unavailable for tonight’s match against Manchester City and the Premier League has decided the game should be postponed.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he would rather suspend fixtures than play behind closed doors in response to the coronavirus because it would make “no sense” to carry on without fans.

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the ball was partly to blame for the club’s 1-1 draw with Club Brugge.

Anthony Martial’s away goal has put United in the driving seat to progress in the Europa League but Solskjaer admitted his team had endured a tough night because of the inclement weather and the ball used by UEFA in the competition.

“It was a difficult game against a well organised team in difficult conditions.

“The conditions with the pitch and the ball made it hard. It’s different and difficult to play with, but it’s the same two teams. The conditions weren’t nice,” said Solskjaer, who didn’t expand on what made the ball an issue.

Club Brugge coach Philippe Clement disagreed with Solskjaer’s assessment and insisted afterwards said his team should have been awarded a second-minute penalty in an incident that he believed should have seen goalkeeper Sergio Romero sent off for his challenge on Emmanuel Dennis.

“We get the balls from UEFA, so it’s not our ball,” said Clement.

“In the Europa League games it’s the same balls, so I don’t see a problem with that.

“For me it’s a clear penalty if I see the images and in some countries it’s a red card, if you go with two feet forward against the leg of somebody it’s a red card.

“All the circumstances need to go your way if you’re going to beat United and tonight we didn’t get that.”

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Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has said it took just 15 minutes of training to mastermind the win over Manchester United and suggested Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team had got off lightly by only losing 3-1.

City took control of the Carabao Cup semifinal with a comprehensive victory in the first leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

Boss Pep Guardiola sprung a surprise by leaving both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus on the bench and playing without a recognised striker and De Bruyne revealed the plan was only hatched on the morning of the game.

“We did 15 minutes this morning [Tuesday] — that’s about it,” De Bruyne said.

“[On Monday] we didn’t train that, then this morning [Tuesday] we did.

“It’s not like we never did it before so we did it already against teams who prefer to play man against man [in midfield]. We’ve done it a couple of times.”

City scored three times in a blistering 22-minute spell in the first half to put themselves on the brink of a third successive Carabao Cup final despite having a second leg to negotiate at the Etihad Stadium in three weeks’ time.

Marcus Rashford’s consolation in the second half made the scoreline more respectable for United but De Bruyne believes City could have done more damage in the first half.

“I think we should have scored more but in the end 3-1 is a good advantage,” De Bruyne added.

“On the counter, they’re very dangerous. I think they’re more dangerous when they play in that way than when they have the ball, and I think that we pressed them really well and we kept the ball.

“We know it’s not over but obviously it was a good game for us.”

Only Rashford’s goal has given United any hope of producing a miraculous comeback at the Etihad on Jan. 29 and afterwards De Bruyne took responsibility for letting United back into the tie.

“It’s my mistake,” he said.

“I wanted to play it to Rodri and didn’t see the United player. But it happens, we can always look at stupid mistakes and we could have scored three or four more. Another time we would score more, and we limited them, so that’s important.

“You try to be the best possible but always make mistakes in a game. I think overall we played well.”

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Top story: Chelsea scout Werner, Dembele

By now, it’s no secret: Chelsea have a bucket of cash at their disposal, and they’re ready to spend it in January, now that their transfer ban has been rescinded.

The Blues have been linked with a number of defenders and attackers, but the Mail reports that the West London club sent scouts to monitor RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner and Lyon striker Moussa Dembele on Tuesday in the Champions League.

With Olivier Giroud seemingly on his way out and Michy Batshuayi’s form erratic, the Chelsea hierarchy is said to desire another forward who can push Tammy Abraham and provide Frank Lampard a reliable option up front when his XI needs rotating.

Werner is reportedly valued at £52 million — something of a pittance in this market for a 23-year-old Germany international with 20 goals in 22 appearances this season — but the Premier League side will find prying him out of the Bundesliga a challenge as Leipzig sit second in the table and are on course for a serious title fight.


08.28 GMT: Chelsea midfielder Willian says he is in talks with the club with a view to signing a new contract.

The 31-year-old, who has been linked with interest from Barcelona and Juventus, is due to become a free agent next summer when his contract expires and is keen to remain with the club he joined in 2013.

Asked about a possible move to Barcelona, the Brazil international told Esporte Interativo. “Everyone knows I like Chelsea a lot. I identified myself with the club, with the fans, with London.

“My contract is coming to an end and we are talking. We will see what happens and what is best for both parties. But everyone knows how I desire to remain.”

The Brazil international has been a key part of the Chelsea team under Frank Lampard’s management this season, starting 11 matches in the Premier League and all six of their Champions League group-stage fixtures.

08.00 GMT: Former Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti is not on Arsenal’s list of potential managerial candidates, sources have told ESPN.

The Italian was sacked by Napoli despite guiding them to the Champions League knockout stage, following a dreadful run of form domestically, which had seen them plummet to seventh in Serie A.

Arsenal recently parted company with manager Unai Emery and are looking for a replacements, with reports having suggested Ancelotti could become their next permanent boss.

However, sources have told ESPN Ancelotti, 60, does not fit the profile of manager Arsenal are looking for, while they are not convinced by his most recent experiences.

He was sacked by Bayern Munich in 2017 and then Napoli midway through his second season with both clubs languishing outside the Champions League places.

Furthermore, according to ESPN sources, Arsenal have received several applications for the vacant role and in the process of conducting interviews in order to narrow down the list.

PAPER TALK (by Harry Kettle): Manchester United to pay big for Saul

Manchester United will need to pay the big bucks — up to £128 million of them, to be exact — to land Atletico Madrid star Saul Niguez during the January transfer window, Mundo Deportivo reports.

The popular midfielder is believed to be an integral part of Atletico’s first-team squad, to the point that many fans are worried about the prospect of him leaving. Alas, though the money required would likely put a lot of pressure on United, the report says it will come to that only if the club loses Paul Pogba to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Real boss Zinedine Zidane is still invested in the idea of signing the World Cup winner and might go after him as soon as the winter window opens.

Juventus to try to keep Higuain?

Italian giants Juventus are attempting to figure out a deal that would allow them to keep star striker Gonzalo Higuain on the books, Calciomercato reports.

The Argentine has been heavily linked with a move away from the champions once again, despite being viewed by many as one of the most underrated goal scorers in all of Europe. Juve are believed to have begun negotiations with Higuain’s representatives, but there are still quite a few obstacles to overcome.

They want to extend his contract, but alongside that, the Turin club is aiming to reduce his salary, which is currently at €7.5 million per season — with rumours of a return to River Plate still rife.


— Veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan has signed with the LA Galaxy as a free agent, the club announced Wednesday. After a successful five-year stint with Belgium’s Anderlecht, Kljestan spent the past five seasons with New York Red Bulls and Orlando City. He is expected to provide veteran leadership for a Galaxy roster in transition after the departures of its top two goal scorers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Uriel Antuna.

— Roma are expected to go ahead with the sale of Alessandro Florenzi in the January transfer window, Calciomercato reports. The club isn’t willing to look at offers of anything less than €25 million, with the likes of Fiorentina, Inter Milan and Napoli all interested in the man who hasn’t been able to find a consistent place in Roma’s starting XI this season.

— Napoli are preparing for an overhaul of their squad, which will begin during the January transfer window, Corriere dello Sport reports. In addition to bringing in a new manager in the form of Gennaro Gattuso, the aim is for them to sign a left-back, a midfielder and a forward once the window opens, with Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon being linked with moves away from the club.

Gerard Pique Game Jersey

Gerard Pique asked Barcelona’s supporters for some patience after the players were jeered off the pitch following Tuesday’s goalless draw against Slavia Prague in the Champions League.

Barca had the best chances at Camp Nou, with Lionel Messi hitting the bar and visiting goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar forced into a string of fine saves. However, they were unable to break the Czech side down as they failed to score in a home game for the first time since February 2018.

The local fans grew increasingly unsettled as the match drew on. Ousmane Dembele was whistled when he was taken off on the hour mark and even louder whistles greeted the full-time whistle.

“I would ask for a little patience,” Pique told Movistar after the game. “I know the fans want more, we understand that, but we’re working hard to find the solutions. Not so much in terms of results, but in terms of how we’re playing.

“Everyone has their own opinion. I’ve spent a lot of time here now and when the supporters expect things to go better and they don’t, there is some criticism.

“We [the players] are trying to resolve these situations as quickly as possible. We have to keep cool heads. I think we are in a good position. We’re top of La Liga and our Champions League group. We’re not playing as well as we expect. The results aren’t bad, but they could be better. We do have to improve.”

Gerard Pique heard the boobirds at Camp Nou after Barcelona's goalless draw.

Barca have eight points from their four Champions League games so far. A win from either of their last two games, at home to Borussia Dortmund and away to Inter Milan, will see them reach the last 16.

Asked if the Spanish champions are capable of winning the competition the way they’re playing, Pique added: “It’s difficult to say right now but there have been times when we’ve not looked good in the past and we’ve ended up winning trophies.

“With Luis Enrique, it looked like things weren’t working for the first six months and then we won the Treble.”

Coach Ernesto Valverde said that “it’s good that they’re demanding” when asked about the fans’ reaction to Tuesday’s draw, while defender Clement Lenglet said they’re entitled to express their opinions.

“The supporters have the right to express what they feel and we have to accept what they say,” the French defender told reporters. “We’re going through a difficult moment.”

Barca host Celta Vigo in La Liga on Saturday before the next international break. They are sweating on the fitness of Jordi Alba (hamstring) and Sergio Busquets (stomach problem), both of whom were unable to finish the match against Slavia.

Luis Suarez, who sat out the game against the Czechs, is also a doubt with a calf injury.

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Arda Turan is on loan at Istanbul Basaksehir from Barcelona.

Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan, on loan with Turkish club Basaksehir, has been handed a suspended prison sentence for firing a gun to cause fear and panic, illegal possession of weapons and intentional injury.

The court sentenced Turan to two years and eight months in prison, but he will not serve that term unless he commits a crime in the next five years.

Turan was involved in a fight with Turkish singer Berkay Sahin in an Istanbul nightclub late last year, leaving the singer with a broken nose. Turan later arrived at the hospital with a gun which he fired at the ground, causing panic.

Basaksehir said they had fined the 31-year-old 2.5 million Turkish lira over the incident.

He joined Barcelona from Atletico Madrid for €34m in 2015, winning four trophies, making 55 appearances and scoring 15 goals for the Catalan club.

Turan has played for Turkey 100 times and scored 17 goals for his country.

Maxime Chanot Jersey

Whether it is on the training ground or following a match, Maxime Chanot always leaves the field the same way. The New York City FC center-back, one of the longest-tenured players on the team, drops to one knee and lifts his eyes toward the heavens. What follows for Chanot is an intricate ritual that lasts several minutes, a prayer in which he thanks God not just for the game of soccer but for the path it paved for him to escape poverty.

NYCFC in turn should be thankful for Chanot, a fixture of its defense who has played every minute of this season and turned in several dominating performances so far.

The 29-year-old’s rugged defending and crisp distribution in transition haven’t grabbed the headlines of the former face of NYCFC, David Villa. Now in his fourth season in MLS, Chanot has become a constant at the club — even serving as captain last year when Villa was injured — and his emergence this season as one of the league’s best center-backs has helped propel NYCFC in recent weeks.

A team once known for fielding stars is now effectively navigating MLS via its back line, and the Luxembourg international is the centerpiece of a very solid defensive group. It’s working, too: New York City’s 15 goals conceded are the fourth fewest in the league.

Familiarity has been a key component to that success, with Chanot and central defensive partner Alexander Callens now in their third season together. Their understanding is paving the way: NYCFC is unbeaten in its past nine games and has conceded just seven goals in that span. After a rough start to the year, it’s back among the Eastern Conference playoff places where it belong.

When asked about his form, Chanot is quick to credit his teammates and the stability of the back line, but he also talks about how MLS has forced him to become a more complete player, growing beyond simply man-marking and winning balls.

“I have to be honest with myself and improve on the ball since I’ve been in New York,” Chanot told ESPN FC. “If I compare myself this season in 2019 and compare them before I came here … I’m more comfortable with the ball. It makes me better as a football player.”

That a player capped 32 times by his country has experienced growth in MLS runs counter to the narrative that it’s a retirement league. Chanot embraces the idea that Major League Soccer has aided his development as a player. Having played in the first or second divisions in England, France and Belgium prior to his move to the U.S., Chanot points to MLS as the place where he began to grow beyond simply defending.

Maxime Chanot says his game has improved since signing with New York City FC in 2016.

In Belgium, Chanot was told by a coach that “defending is hard, so just focus on defending.” Playing in a system in which the center-backs are expected to be a part of the possession meant that Chanot had to not just adapt but evolve.

“At this club, we like to play out of the back. You need to not only be a good defender but be a good attacker, if I can say, with the ball,” Chanot said. “It’s a little bit tougher than over in Europe, because in Europe, I only focused on my defending side. In New York, we have to do both.

“I’m happy to play the game the way we do in New York, and it makes me improve myself.”

More than his fitness in 2019 — Chanot has yet to play more than 19 matches in his three full seasons in MLS, but he’ll likely eclipse his MLS single-season bests in matches and minutes played by July — is his versatility that’s helping NYCFC. Head coach Domenec Torrent lauds his ability to play three different spots along a three- or four-man back line. Torrent calls Chanot “a leader” who with Callens “are maybe the best center-backs in the league … that’s my opinion.”

“For me, [Chanot] is much better than last year,” Torrent said. “[Last year] he had a lot of problems. He had pain in the back all the time. He’s not 100 percent sometimes, but when his back is better, he has more confidence.”

Chanot also feels “at home” with this club, turning down offers from Europe to stay in MLS.

“It was a move forward for me, from Belgium to MLS,” Chanot said. “I am very happy with this league, with the way that I’ve grown.”

“What initially drew Chanot to NYCFC in 2016 was the opportunity to play alongside the likes of Villa and Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. None of those three are still with the club, but Chanot has been an anchor amid plenty of change as the team has shifted away from being built upon superstar signings.

“I have [had] the chance to play in the Premier League and a championship team in England with Sheffield [United]. I had the chance to play in France with a first- and second-division team. I had a chance to play in Belgium. From Belgium, I think MLS is better.”

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Lionel Messi, left, congratulates Arturo Vidal after scoring a goal for Barcelona against Getafe.

Spanish champions Barcelona beat top-four chasing Getafe 2-0 in front of a subdued and near half-empty Nou Camp on Sunday in their first La Liga game since a humbling defeat by Liverpool sent them crashing out of the Champions League semifinals.

Sunday’s result meant little to Barca, who clinched an eighth Liga title in 11 seasons two weeks ago, but it could prove fatal to Getafe’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time as they dropped one place to fifth.

Valencia leapfrogged Getafe into fourth due to their superior head-to-head record after beating Alaves 3-1 and will snatch the final Champions League spot if they win at Real Valladolid in their final game of the season next week.

Barcelona’s Chilean Arturo Vidal opened the scoring near the end of the first half, poking a loose ball home after Gerard Pique’s flicked header was parried by Getafe keeper David Soria.

Barca’s second came in the 90th minute thanks to an own goal after captain Lionel Messi combined with Sergi Roberto and beat two players before his shot got a final touch off Djene Dakonam.

Only 57,000 people turned up at the 99,000 capacity ground for the game, which turned into a forum for fans to vent their frustrations at Barca’s 4-0 surrender at Anfield on Tuesday.

Forward Philippe Coutinho suffered the bulk of the whistles and boos after his poor display against his old club Liverpool while veteran midfielder Sergio Busquets was also subjected to the same when he misplaced several passes in the first half.

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Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has said he does not want to sign a midfield alternative to Jorginho but would like to make Mateo Kovacic’s loan from Real Madrid permanent.

Since the January sale of Cesc Fabregas, the coach said Kovacic is the only other player in his squad capable of filling in at the base of midfield.

“You know very well that, in that position, we have some problems because we have only Jorginho,” Sarri, whose side face West Ham at home on Monday, told a news conference.

“In my opinion, Kovacic could become a very good central midfielder.

“Of course he is not a defensive midfielder but, as you know, in that position I prefer a very technical player. For us it’s very important for us to have big quality in that position. Big quality not for the last pass, but big quality in terms of moving the ball.”

Asked whether he would like to see Chelsea sign someone else to play the role, Sarri said: “No, I want to try with Kovacic. He is only on loan, of course. I’d like very much that Kovacic will stay with us.”

Sarri praised former Chelsea academy player Declan Rice, who has starred at the base of West Ham’s midfield and made his first England appearance last month.

“I think he’s a very good player, very good in the defensive phase because he’s very able to recover the ball,” Sarri said.

“He usually plays very close to the defensive line and, in the first match against West Ham, he was really a very big problem for us.”

Chelsea face three matches in six days, with games against West Ham and Liverpool either side of a trip to Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarterfinals, and Sarri said he felt the Premier League could have been more flexible with their scheduling of fixtures.

“I am not able to understand the decision of the Premier League because we have to go to Prague as an English team,” he said. “So I’m not able to understand why we have to play on Monday. It’s very strange.

“I think they could have done more for the English teams in Europe. In Serie A, teams play on Friday. Teams involved in the Europa League away from home, they can ask to play their next Serie A match on Monday.

“So we need to have very strong players. But the Premier League was able to sell in the best way possible the Premier League [TV rights], so in England we are lucky.

“We can buy the best players in the world, and so we have to accept we have to play every three days.”