By Tim Stannard (@stannardsports)
1) Pitch concerns increase for Leo Messi as Suarez promises no return to naughty corner
Although Barcelona have a cushion at the top of La Liga that could comfortably house the most impressive of posteriors, the Catalan club will still be fretting and fussing outside football’s school gates as they drop their MSN at the rough-and-tough daycare that is the international break. Perhaps the biggest worry is over Leo Messi who has a fairly tough battle against Chile on Thursday night, followed by a clash in Cordoba against Bolivia on a pitch that looks a little like a post-apocalyptic cabbage patch. “Don't even think about showing the pitch to the Barça doctor, else they won't let Messi come,” said the Belgrano club doctor whose team plays at the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes.
Passion, but with intelligence. That is way forward for Luis Suarez in his role as Uruguay forward, according to the man himself, who returns to the international fold after a nine-match ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup. The first chance for Suarez to get his teeth into something meaty will be against Brazil on Friday. Remember that beIN SPORTS is the home of the South America qualifiers, so tune in to the XTRA from 10PM ET to get all the latest news.
Meanwhile, Ivan Rakitic is expected to be just fine and dandy for the Clasico despite failing a fitness test and being sent home from the Croatia camp.
2) Belgium friendly clash with Portugal cancelled over security concerns, as UEFA VP warns of closed-door Euro 2016
As the people of Belgium’s capital city tried to get back to a normal life on Wednesday after the previous day’s terror attacks, the news broke that next Tuesday’s friendly clash against Portugal had been called off for “safety and precaution,” at the request of the city of Brussels, according to the Belgium FA. The match will be the second-in-a-row for the Belgian national team that has been called off for security concerns. The Portuguese squad did not train on Wednesday.
A UEFA VP has said that the organization has not ruled out the possibility of playing matches at Euro 2016 behind closed doors if security concerns were overriding. Giancarlo Abete claimed that “We can’t exclude the possibility of playing behind closed doors as we cannot exclude terrorism,” adding that delaying or postponing the tournament would not be possible. However, it is possible that Abete was speaking out of line with UEFA swiftly issuing a statement saying that there were no plans to play behind closed doors. “We are confident that all security measures will be in place for a safe and festive Euro.”
Teams in Greece are facing the threat of a ban from European competition, after the government refused a request from FIFA to reinstate the Greek Cup competition, which was cancelled by authorities after violence during an abandoned semi-final clash between PAOK and Olympiakos. The Greek government cites its responsibility to safety and security, whilst FIFA tends to look dimly on what it deems to be “interference” in the realm of football.
3) Late arrival to USMNT roster as Klinsmann continues Guatemala tune-up
Although the much-fancied footballer is still on his sick bed back in Germany, US Soccer has confirmed that Christian Pulisic was called up to the squad with the 17-year-old being available for the return leg against Guatemala next Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, next Tuesday. Pulisic has played in four league games for Borussia Dortmund, currently in second in the Bundesliga, and is set to face Liverpool in the Europa League quarterfinals.
The team is continuing training in Miami, on Wednesday, getting used to both the weather and driving conditions that they will face in Guatemala. Remember to tune into the XTRA on Wednesday night from 10PM ET for the latest from the US camp, as well as a chat with some top playing talent. And of course, the game is exclusive to beIN SPORTS on Friday. Coverage begins from 9PM ET.
Although nothing has been announced by the club itself, at time of writing, Kaka has welcomed the arrival of former Sevilla and Real Madrid forward, Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista to the Orlando City fold via Twitter. The Brazilian international is earning a hefty stack at the Florida club, so it is good to see Kaka mucking out in the PR department, too, and perhaps knocking up some breakfast pancakes for good measure.
4) Complaints and criticism aplenty as players unburden on international break
One of the most fun parts of the international break is that players leave the constraints of their day-to-day clubs and chat away to the local media about their domestic gripes, expecting the aforementioned gripes to not return home to roost. Or something like that. Manchester United’s Memphis Depay is the latest to be caught out after suggesting that not everyone in the Old Trafford hierarchy has his back. Probably because he has been rubbish.
Christian Benteke has said that he might up take the offer of a move to West Ham, over the summer, after admitting to Belgian media that he failed to understand why he was not playing more under Jurgen Klopp.
Gerard Pique does not need any kind of excuse to natter away about everything and everyone, now that he is hooked on ‘Periscope’. The Barcelona man has said that Pep Guardiola fill find the English Premier League easier, compared to the Bundlesliga, once his move to Manchester City and Europa League football, next season, is made.
The Harvard Duesto Business review has released a study on the management techniques of…Diego Simeone and been full with the praise of the Atletico Madrid. Can’t wait for the edition on Florentino Perez.
5) Desperate Djokovic backtracks on equality in tennis comments
Beep! Beep! Beep! That’s the sound of Novak Djokovic wanting to avoid having dead flies put into his sports drink during the Miami Open due to his comments on men being equal to women, but better, in terms of pay. The world number one claimed in a Facebook post that euphoria after winning Indian Wells had got the better of him and that he feels everyone should fight for what they deserve. “I want to apologize to anyone who has taken this the wrong way."