Toronto FC 8/11 to beat Montreal Impact and under 4.5 goals for Wednesday’s MLS matchup

Competition: MLS

Market: Toronto FC win and under 4.5 goals

Odds: 8/11 @ 888sport

Hoping to continue on their purple patch at the top of the Eastern Conference, Toronto will welcome a struggling Montreal to an empty BMO Field in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Starting with the hosts, while Toronto might have been disappointed to have come crashing out of the MLS is Back tournament in the quarter-finals last month, it has been a stunning regular-season run for the Reds. Marking their return to Eastern Conference duties in empathic fashion, as they were showing before football’s enforced break, Greg Vanney’s men landed a deserved 1-0 win away at Montreal last week and should be relishing their arrival at BMO Field only four days later. Once again finding their way to the top of the East and the mood in their camp once again at a red-hot high, Toronto have won each of their three contests since the regular-season restart and are yet to pick the ball out of their own net. Picking up the win in each of their last three meetings against Wednesday’s guests, Vanney’s side will be confident of keeping up their recent momentum.

As for the visitors, while Montreal might have enjoyed a real honeymoon spell when French icon Thierry Henry took charge at the Stade Saputo last year, they have continued to show their famous inconsistencies either side of the enforced break. Hit with a deserved 1-0 defeat at home against the Eastern Conference leaders last time out, the Quebec based outfit have lost five of their last seven matchups across all formats and have a reputation from across the MLS for their issues on the road. Including another 1-0 defeat away at Orlando last month, Montreal have remarkably failed to win any of their last seven straight away fixtures and should be in for another overwhelming test in midweek. Given their shocking record against Wednesday’s hosts, including their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Toronto last week, we’re backing a similar outcome on Wednesday.

Bet: Toronto FC 8/11 to beat Montreal Impact and under 4.5 goals for Wednesday’s MLS matchup @ 888sport

Ibrahimovic targets silverware after signing new Milan deal

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has set his sights on bringing Milan back “where they deserve to be” after signing a new one-year contract with the Serie A club. 

The former Sweden captain made a considerable impact following his arrival in January, scoring 11 goals in 20 appearances. 

He has now penned a fresh deal with the club and expects the Rossoneri to challenge for silverware in the 2020-21 campaign. 

“I came here to bring Milan back to their level, where they deserve to be,” he told Milan TV. “I do everything to achieve the goals I set.

“We have to work and sacrifice, but the last six months we have shown we have what it takes to reach certain goals.

“We must not forget, however, that we have not won anything. In my head, the goal is always to win something. This season we have to win.”

Milan ended their 2019-20 Serie A campaign on an unbeaten run of 12 games to finish sixth and secure a Europa League spot, and Ibrahimovic insists those standards need to be maintained. 

“Milan must continue how the season ended, we must work and believe, as we have done recently,” he added.

“We must play with pride and confidence, remembering that when you put on the Milan shirt it’s a great privilege but at the same time a source of pressure.

“The whole team did well and understood what it takes to get to the top. Now, we must work well from the first day.”

The 38-year-old spent two seasons with Milan between 2010 and 2012 and says it feels like home. 

“I have always felt part of Milan, even when I played with other teams,” he explained. “They always treated me well from day one.

“When I first arrived at Milan, I smiled. Something I have never done before in my job. I feel at home and I don’t feel like I have been away.”

LaLiga fixtures: Atleti kickstart campaign in gameweek three against Granada

Atletico Madrid will have to wait until gameweek three to kick off their LaLiga campaign against Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano. 

Atleti’s participation in the Champions League quarter-finals in August means their scheduled first two games against Levante and Sevilla will take place later in the season.

Diego Simeone’s side, who finished third last season, will first face off against Barcelona on the weekend of November 21/22 before a derby clash against Real Madrid on December 12/13.

Should there be no further coronavirus-related delays to the season they will round off their campaign away to Real Valladolid in late May.

The big names who could be on their way to David Beckham’s Inter Miami

While David Beckham’s Inter Miami might have seen their first season in the MLS hindered by the enforced break, America’s latest franchise have already made their intentions clear this summer.

With the former England icon making it no secret that he wants to turn his new project into a soccer powerhouse in the United States, the Miami based outfit also shocked the footballing world with their new arrival earlier in the month.

Electing to leave Juventus after what has been a glittering career across Europe, World Cup-winner Blaise Matuidi announced that he had joined up with Beckham’s side on a free transfer and the 33-year-old could be just the first superstar on his way to America.

With a phone book stacked with some of Europe’s most notable names, who are the other stars that could be on their way to Inter Miami?

Luis Suarez

While Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona might be stealing all the headlines, it appears almost certain that another Catalonia icon will be on his way out of the Nou Camp over the coming weeks.

Informed by new Barca boss Ronaldo Koeman that he is not part of his plans this season, Luis Suarez has been told that he is free to leave the former European champions this summer and the 33-year-old is currently working on a £12million package to have his contract terminated.

On the verge of being allowed to leave on a free transfer, The Independent reported last week that Suarez and his team have already held initial talks with Inter Miami over a potential American switch.

While Suarez has accepted that he will have to take a cut on his whopping €450,000-per-week deal, Beckham and Miami certainly have the funds to lure the former Liverpool striker to the MLS this summer and is currently priced at 9/1 with Betfair to link up with Inter over the coming weeks.

Gonzalo Higuain

Already bringing in Blaise Matuidi earlier in the month, reports are suggesting that Beckham could be on his way back to Juventus in an attempt to lure another one of their biggest names to Miami this summer.

Almost stuck in an identical situation as Suarez at Barcelona, Gonzalo Higuain has been told my new Juve boss Andrea Pirlo that he is deemed surplus to requirements in Turin and he is being encouraged to find a route away from the Allianz with just one-year left on his deal with the Old Lady.

While the Argentina international might have also been linked with a move back to River Plate in his homeland, L’Obs transfer correspondent Abdellah Boulma claimed over the weekend that the 32-year-old is now in advanced talks with Beckham and Inter Miami over a potential deal.

In something that could also be a real boost to Beckham’s chances of landing Higuain, his older brother, Federico, already plays for fellow MLS outfit DC United.

Jack Wilshere

While Jack Wilshere might have featured in a pair of behind closed doors friendlies over the past week, it is no secret that West Ham are desperate to get the former Arsenal starlet off their books after what has been a horror tenure at the London Stadium.

Sat on a staggering £100,000-per-week deal with the Hammers, the 28-year-old has only managed to make six Premier League appearances since joining the East London outfit on a free transfer from Arsenal back in 2018.

Dealing with a never-ending list of injury issues over the past two years and knowing that it is almost impossible for a top side to take a punt on him, The Standard are reporting that Inter Miami are ready to offer Wilshere a chance to kickstart his career in the MLS.

With close ties to the former England midfielder, Beckham has also been handed a real boost in his bid to bring Wilshere stateside with the news that he is open to a potential MLS switch this summer and the chance to work alongside the former Three Lions’ skipper.

La Liga fixtures: Madrid have early chance to steal march in title race

Real Madrid’s defence of their LaLiga title will be delayed slightly, but they will not have to wait long to face their Clasico rivals.

Los Blancos dethroned Barcelona to win LaLiga following the resumption of the 2019-20 season after the coronavirus-enforced hiatus.

Because of their involvement in the Champions League in August, Madrid’s fixture with Getafe – scheduled for matchday one – will not take place until an appropriate date in February or March.

Zinedine Zidane’s men will instead travel to Real Sociedad for a tricky opening clash, with the first Clasico coming just over a month later at Camp Nou as Madrid are provided with an early opportunity to steal a march in the title race.

The return fixture between Madrid and Ronald Koeman’s Barca is scheduled for April 11 and could potentially be decisive in the fight for the championship.

Real Madrid’s fixtures in full:

September 20 – Real Sociedad v Real Madrid
September 27 – Real Betis v Real Madrid
September 30 – Real Madrid v Real Valladolid
October 4 – Levante v Real Madrid
October 18 – Real Madrid v Cadiz
October 25 – Barcelona v Real Madrid
November 1 – Real Madrid v Huesca
November 8 – Valencia v Real Madrid
November 22 – Villarreal v Real Madrid
November 29 – Real Madrid v Deportivo Alaves
December 6 – Sevilla v Real Madrid
December 13 – Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid
December 20 – Eibar v Real Madrid
December 23 – Real Madrid v Granada
December 30 – Elche v Real Madrid
January 3 – Real Madrid v Celta Vigo
January 10 – Osasuna v Real Madrid
January 20 – Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao
January 24 – Deportivo Alaves v Real Madrid
January 31 – Real Madrid v Levante
February 7 – Huesca v Real Madrid
February 14 – Real Madrid v Valencia
February 21 – Real Valladolid v Real Madrid
February 28 – Real Madrid v Real Sociedad
March 7 – Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid
March 14 – Real Madrid v Elche
March 21 – Celta Vigo v Real Madrid
April 4 – Real Madrid v Eibar
April 11 – Real Madrid v Barcelona
April 21 – Cadiz v Real Madrid
April 25 – Real Madrid v Real Betis
April 28 – Getafe v Real Madrid
May 2 – Real Madrid v Osasuna
May 9 – Real Madrid v Sevilla
May 12 – Granada v Real Madrid
May 16 – Atletic Bilbao v Real Madrid
May 23 – Real Madrid v Villarreal
TBC – Real Madrid v Getafe 

Fleetwood Town 10/11 to beat Carlisle in Tuesday’s EFL Trophy matchup

Competition: EFL Trophy

Market: Fleetwood Town win

Odds: 10/11 @ 888sport

Two sides opening their EFL Trophy adventure in midweek, League Two’s Carlisle will welcome Fleetwood to an empty Brunton Park on Tuesday night.

Starting with the hosts, picking up a shock 2-1 victory against Wigan in a behind closed doors friendly last week, Carlisle had managed to show some real signs of life before the League Two campaign was brought to an early halt. However, while Chris Beech’s men might have been last seen on fourth-tier duties picking up a 2-0 win against Newport back in March, the Cumbrians did have a reputation for their continued inconstancies on home soil. Including what turned out to be a 3-0 drumming at the hands of Colchester earlier in the year, Carlisle remarkably managed to clinch just a pair of victories over their final 11 League Two contests Brunton Park. In for what is a tricky return to competitive action, Tuesday’s hosts should be in for another tough test in Cumbria.

As for the visitors, after crashing out of the League One’s play-offs over the summer against eventual winners Wycombe, Fleetwood will simply be looking to pick up an early morale boost on Tuesday night. Although Joey Barton’s men might have struggled to find their best form during pre-season and looking for a response after back-to-back friendly defeats against Blackburn and Port Vale, the Reds had previously gained a reputation for their performances on the road and will also be boosted by what is a rather rampant record against their fourth-tier opponents in midweek. Picking up a 3-1 romp when they made the trip to Brunton Park last year, Fleetwood have landed back-to-back victories against Carlisle and we’re backing a similar outcome when the Reds travel to Cumbria this week.

Bet: Fleetwood Town 10/11 to beat Carlisle in Tuesday’s EFL Trophy matchup @ 888sport

Silva hopes to challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid for silverware

David Silva says his sights are firmly set on winning silverware with Real Sociedad following his switch from Manchester City. 

The 34-year-old, who won four Premier League titles, the EFL Cup five times and the FA Cup twice during his time with City, agreed terms on a two-year deal with the Basque club earlier this month. 

Sociedad finished sixth in LaLiga in the 2019-20 campaign, though they won just two of their 11 fixtures following the restart.

Silva, though, has seen enough to suggest his new side could challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid for honours in the coming seasons 

“I’m really excited to get started here and meet my new team-mates and the club staff,” he told a media conference.

“The team is playing some great football and I hope to add to that here and have some great years at the club.

“I have high expectations in terms of the football we’ll be playing and I think we can compete for silverware.

“I’ll be an important part of the team and in this case, because of my experience, I’ll help the younger players as well.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win a lot of things in my career, I’m very competitive and I’m going to try and do the same here because that’s why I’ve been brought in.”

Silva, who has played for Valencia, Eibar and Celta Vigo in his home country, acknowledged Sociedad’s place in next season’s Europa League was a motivating factor in his decision to join the club.

“Of course, after so many years playing in Europe, you want to continue doing that,” he explained.

“I also came because I like the style of football the team plays. I also came for the relaxed way of life here which I was already familiar with having lived in the Basque Country years ago.”

Grealish handed England call-up, Rashford and Winks withdraw

Jack Grealish has earned a first senior England call-up for the Nations League clashes with Iceland and Denmark, while Marcus Rashford and Harry Winks have withdrawn from the squad.

Grealish was initially overlooked for the Group A2 encounters with Iceland in Reykjavik on Saturday and Denmark in Copenhagen three days later.

The Aston Villa captain has now been drafted into the squad by Gareth Southgate, who came in for criticism for omitting the midfielder last week.

Grealish represented England at under-21 level and played in Southgate’s 2016 Toulon Tournament-winning squad.

Manchester United forward Rashford misses out with an ankle injury, while Tottenham midfielder Winks is also unavailable due to injury so Southgate is down to a squad of 24.

Rashford tweeted on Monday: “Never want to let this team down but these fixtures just came a little too soon for me.

“I tried my best but I have to focus on starting the season at my strongest for club and country. Good luck boys, I’ll be cheering you on from home.”

Southgate also called-up uncapped Wolves defender Conor Coady and versatile Arsenal’s versatile 23-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles at the weekend.
 

 

No going back on Messi exit, says Barca presidential candidate

Lionel Messi’s exit from Barcelona is “irrevocable” according to prospective Camp Nou presidential candidate Toni Freixa, who expects the superstar forward to join Manchester City.

Messi shook world football last week by handing in his notice to leave Barcelona, who he joined as a 13-year-old.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s future could now become the subject of legal wrangling, with the Messi camp believing he is entitled to walk away from the final year of his Barca deal for free, while LaLiga issued a statement on Sunday to confirm its stance that the player’s mammoth €700million release clause is still valid.

Messi did not show up for Barcelona’s pre-season coronavirus testing on Sunday and is not expected to attend the first training session under newly installed head coach Ronald Koeman on Monday.

City are widely viewed as the frontrunners for Messi’s signature and, once the considerable dust from the affair has settled, Freixa believes the 33-year-old will be reunited with his former coach Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

“As I have heard from several sides, the decision in the player has matured over several years and is irrevocable. I don’t believe that there is any going back,” Freixa told Goal.

“I think a move to Man City is likely. With Pep, Messi experienced his most brilliant years in Barcelona.

“It would only be logical if both of them worked together again. City, like almost all English clubs, also has the financial means to build a team that can win anything.

“Messi is a player who strives for maximum success. He alone cannot achieve maximum success, he needs a team for that. He does not have one.

“Since the treble in 2015, [Champions League] success is missing. That is what concerns him. His decision is due to the negative sporting development in recent years.”

Freixa told Radio Marca last week he was “disappointed” by Messi’s unilateral move to end his Barcelona career, claiming it was made “without respecting” the club.

However, he believes incumbent president Josep Maria Bartomeu must take a hefty share of the blame for a situation he views as “a disaster”.

“The president is the main person in charge and primarily measured by the team’s successes on the pitch. If these fail to materialise and an important figure such as Messi then thinks he can be more successful elsewhere, this naturally falls back on the main person responsible,” he said.

“Bartomeu is certainly partly to blame for the situation, because a president also has the task of establishing a close relationship with the team’s protagonists, with the coach and the captains.

“Over the years, he has not succeeded in this. He could not prevent Messi from seeing a change of club as the only alternative for himself. That is a disaster. However: there is never just one guilty one.”

The Messi saga continues a tempestuous couple of weeks for Barcelona in the wake of their humiliating 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Head coach Quique Setien followed sporting director Eric Abidal out of the door, while Luis Suarez is one of a number of senior players Koeman is thought to have deemed surplus to requirements.

Zielinski gets new four-year Napoli deal

Piotr Zielinski has signed a new contract at Napoli, keeping him at Stadio San Paolo until 2024.

The Poland international joined Napoli from Udinese in a reported €16million move in 2016 and has since become a mainstay in the Partenopei midfield.

Zielinski, 26, featured in 37 of the club’s 38 Serie A games last season, scoring twice.

And he has now committed his future to Napoli, who are set to lose midfield colleague Allan to Everton.