Barcelona hit by Arthur injury blow as midfielder ruled out for up to four weeks

The Brazil international will miss clashes with Lyon and Sevilla as well as potentially being ruled out of both upcoming Clasico matches in Madrid

Barcelona have confirmed that midfielder Arthur Melo will be ruled out for up to four weeks after suffering a hamstring injury.

The Brazil international has enjoyed an encouraging first season at Camp Nou following his arrival from Gremio, making 27 appearances and becoming a mainstay of the Blaugrana midfield.

Having been handed the No.8 shirt, the 22-year-old has been compared to Andres Iniesta, and alongside Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets the trio have helped Ernesto Valverde’s side build a six-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Arthur now, though, will be forced to watch on from the sidelines as Barca enter a critical stage of the season.

“Tests have confirmed that first-team player Arthur Melo has a muscular injury to the left femoral biceps,” a club statement read.

“The approximate down time is between three and four weeks.”

That means Arthur will certainly miss Sunday’s trip to Athletic Club as well as upcoming Liga fixtures against Real Valladolid and Sevilla.

He will also be forced to sit out the first leg of Barca’s Champions League last 16 tie against Lyon in France, though he should be fit to return by the time the second leg is played in Catalunya on March 13.

Perhaps most pertinently, though, he will almost definitely miss the second leg of Barca’s Copa del Rey semi-final against Clasico rivals Real Madrid on February 27, with the tie neatly poised following a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

He also faces a race against time to be fit for Barca’s Liga clash at Santiago Bernabeu four days later, with that game scheduled for three weeks’ time.

A likelier return date is set to be over the weekend of March 10 when the defending Spanish champions host Rayo Vallecano.

Arthur’s absence means there could be an opportunity for Philippe Coutinho to step into the team should Valverde believe he can provide from a deeper midfield role.

The former Liverpool man has struggled to establish himself in the starting 11 this term, and with Chelsea and Manchester United reportedly keen, he could be set to leave Camp Nou this summer.

Other potential replacements for Arthur could be Arturo Vidal or Sergi Roberto while January signing Kevin-Prince Boateng does have experience of playing in midfield, though he was largely brought in to provide cover up front for Luis Suarez.

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Simeone excited by Griezmann, Costa and Morata trident

The Argentine coach expects his star attackers to develop a partnership as the season goes on, with Thomas Lemar providing extra speed

Diego Costa’s return from injury means Atletico Madrid could use the striker with Alvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann in a front three, says Diego Simeone.

Costa came off the bench after 10 weeks out with a foot injury as Atletico won 1-0 at his old club Rayo Vallecano to move back up to second in La Liga on Saturday.

Morata’s arrival from Chelsea in the January transfer window has boosted Simeone’s attacking options, but it was Greizmann who came up with a second-half winner.

The striker has moved ahead of Fernando Torres to become the fifth top scorer in Atletico’s history on 130 strikes, having hit the winner in three consecutive defeats of Rayo.

Simeone used Greizmann and Thomas Lemar as wingers when Costa was introduced as a central partner for Morata, but he plans to field the three strikers as a trio.

“I love it, but it needs time, work, extraordinary physical condition of the three,” the coach, who signed a new contract this week, told a news conference. 

“I hope that at some point we can use it with more time. Lemar’s entry gave us more speed and dynamism.”

Costa needed surgery to resolve a longstanding foot injury and Simeone was delighted to welcome the striker back to action for the first time since the start of December.

“I see him very strong, it was not easy to enter the game,” he said.

“He joined the team very well, he worked very well defensively and that made me very happy. hey fear him and that strengthens us as a team. He takes the game forward.

“Costa gave Morata more chances to feel more free and comfortable, and as always, Griezmann, who is the important player we have, taking advantage of everything that can happen in front of him.”

Simeone further hailed Griezmann, who has scored eight goals in six appearances against Rayo and took his LaLiga tally for the season to 12.

“Griezmann is an extraordinary player who adapts to all the needs of the team,” Simeone added.

“He has come as an inside player on the left and he has finished playing everywhere, he is a fundamental player and he is in a brilliant moment.”

Guardiola insists Man City did not disrespect UEFA VAR summit

Europe’s elite competition begins again next week and will this year be aided by the use of video technology.

Pep Guardiola has rejected suggestions by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin that he disrespected European football’s governing body by not attending this week’s VAR summit. 

Video assistants will be used to help officiate on contentious decisions during the last-16 ties in the Champions League.

At a summit in Frankfurt on Monday, only head coaches from Juventus, Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain, Roma and Schalke – who face City in the opening knockout round – were present. 

The Premier League champions were among the teams to send another member of staff, however, with assistant coach Brian Kidd in attendance, but this was not deemed acceptable by Ceferin. 

“For me it’s not only a lack of respect for [UEFA’s chief refereeing officer] Roberto Rosetti’s team and the UEFA organisation, but the influence of coaches is huge and if they complain about being refereed they should at least come and see what the experts say about the use of VAR,” Ceferin said. 

“Now they do not have any excuses, especially the ones that did not even come.” 

Guardiola responded to Ceferin’s words on Friday, highlighting his need to prepare for City’s 2-0 midweek win at Everton that sent them back to the top of the Premier League table on goal difference.

“I respect a lot the UEFA president but I don’t agree with what he said, I am sorry,” he told a news conference ahead of Sunday’s home match against Chelsea.

“Brian Kidd was there. He travelled, he was in the meeting and I have on my table the report about the VAR.

“The is problem is on Wednesday we had a game and it’s more important for me to be with my players. On Monday we had a training session and Tuesday we had a training session.

“I would have travelled. I had the tickets. But the Premier League decided we had to play the game against Everton in between Arsenal and Chelsea, so I could not travel.

“Someone went there and we were involved. I’m not talking about Mr Ceferin saying, in that case, that Manchester City was not in that position.”

The Champions League begins again on Tuesday when Manchester United take on PSG at Old Trafford and Roma host Porto. The last 16 stage of Europe’s top competition will last over the space of the next five weeks.

Rebels vs Brumbies: Five things we learned

What are we talking about after the Brumbies win over the Rebels?

1. Plenty of points but no extras

For the second week in a row, a team competing for the  Australian conference top spot has failed to clinch a bonus point. The Brumbies scored five tries to three, one short of the buffer needed to secure that extra point. They have managed just one bonus point this season and with the Waratahs holding a game in hand, it could prove pivotal in weeding out the Super Rugby finalists.

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2. Loophole needs to shut

The Waratahs didn’t know about it last week but the Brumbies were quick to ensure a TMO loophole didn’t cost them a try. Christian Lealiifano scored in the 33rd minute for the Brumbies but  the replay showed a forward pass in the lead up. The Brumbies went for a quick conversion, knowing as soon as they had done that, the TMO couldn’t call it back to make a decision on the pass. TMO George Ayoub wised up to the tactic the second time around, stopping Lealiifano just as he was about to kick for the conversion and the ensuing review reversed the try. At the moment, fair play to teams who know how to take advantage of the rule quirk, but something needs to be done, considering it’s a quirk that could decide the Australian finalist.

3. Cool, calm, collected

The Brumbies have some of the most experienced leaders in the Super Rugby competition and the Rebels might have needed some of that just before half-time. Captain Nic Stirzaker took a risk and chose a tap over a shot at three points and the resulting passage of play ended up in a Brumbies scrum. Though it wouldn’t have won them the game and their keenness to score tries made it a contest, they could have gleaned that bonus point if they went for the points.

4. Rock and maul

They’ve tried to add frills and X-factor this year, to mixed results, but the Brumbies’ maul is a thing of true beauty. Their first real chance of the evening to score off a maul came in the 16th minute and it took them little effort to send David Pocock on to the line. There’s a simple reason it’s become a trademark of the Brumbies – it works.          

5. Surface needs to be turfed

Five weeks out from a Test match at this venue, the AAMI Park surface is still struggling under the weight of the scrums. Divots first came up on the 22 after a scrum in the 15th minute and the patches were still being tended to at half-time. On the opposite side of the pitch, right on the halfway, chunks of grass were being patted down the break. Turf has been a big talking point in Sydney this week but Friday night’s game reminded everyone that it’s not just Sydney that needs to shape up.


Stirzaker returns to Rebels' 23

Melbourne Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker is in line for his first appearance of 2016, named on the bench in the team to face the Sunwolves.

Stirzaker and former captain Scott Fuglistaller (hip) are returning from injuries off the pine, part of four changes to the overall side.

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Rebels coach Tony McGahan has reshuffled the starting side as well, with Pat Leafa starting at hooker and Tamati Ellison (concussion) to start at outside centre.

Rebels rookie Sione Tuipulotu has been rewarded for his impressive debut, with a spot on the bench against the Sunwolves.

McGahan said his side was prepared for the challenge the Sunwolves would pose, after two promising opening performances.

The match will be somewhat of an unknown for the Rebels, who will be the first Australasian team to face the Sunwolves in the new expanded Japanese competition.

“We’re expecting a very passionate, fast paced and technical game from the Sunwolves on Saturday,” he said.

“For a new side, they continue to impress with their development, and we expect nothing less again this weekend, so we’re prepared for a difficult challenge in a new environment for many of the players.”

There will be some familiarity for the Melbourne players, facing off against former Rebels Shota Horie and Keita Inagaki in Tokyo.

The Rebels will be aiming to clinch only their second win outside of Australia in their history.

1. Toby Smith

2. Pat Leafa

3. Laurie Weeks

4. Luke Jones

5. Lopeti Timani

6. Jordy Reid

7. Sean McMahon (captain)

8. Adam Thomson

9. Ben Meehan

10. Jack Debreczeni

11. Tom English

12. Mitch Inman

13. Tamati Ellison

14. Dom Shipperley

15. Jonah Placid


16. James Hanson

17. Cruze Ah Nau

18. Jamie Hagan

19. Sam Jeffries

20. Scott Fuglistaller

21. Nic Stirzaker

22. Dan Hawkins

23. Sione Tuipulotu

Larkham makes five changes for Lions clash

Stephen Larkham has rolled out the reinforcements as the Brumbies look to kick start the second half of 2017 against the Lions.

Ben Alexander, Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler, Kyle Godwin and Aidan Toua are all back in the starting XV for Friday night’s clash.

In the forwards, Alexander starts ahead of Nic Mayhew, Butler replaces Chris Alcock and Smiler slots in ahead of Lolo Fakaosilea.Godwin will join forces with Tevita Kuridrani, while Toua resumes his role at fullback ahead of Tom Banks.

The Australian Conference leaders recorded their third straight loss in a sub par performance against the Blues so the return of five top line players is a timely one.

But the advantage of resuming after a week’s break is offset by the form their opponents are in.

After fumbling their way to a win against the Force, the Lions looked to be back at their very best against the Rebels.


Brumbies team to take on the Lions

1. Ben Alexander

2. Josh Mann-Rea

3. Allan Alaalatoa

4. Rory Arnold

5. Sam Carter (c)

6. Scott Fardy

7. Jarrad Butler

8. Jordan Smiler

9. Joe Powell

10. Wharenui Hawera

11. James Dargaville


12. Kyle Godwin

13. Tevita Kuridrani

14. Henry Speight

15. Aidan Toua


16. Robbie Abel

17. Nic Mayhew

18. Leslie Leulua’ial’i-Makin

19. Blake Enever

20. Ben Hyne

21. De Wet Roos

22. Jordan Jackson-Hope

23. Tom Banks

Dagg decision to come in days

The rugby world should know in the coming days what Israel Dagg’s plans are for his future, and it looks like good news for New Zealand.

Dagg is off contract in 2017 and the last of three high-profile All Blacks in negotiations ahead of the season, along with Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith.

Cruden was the first to declare his intention, signing a three-year deal with Montpellier for a reported $3.6 million, while Smith confirmed he was staying put earlier this week.

Dagg’s good friend Cory Jane seemed to accidentally let slip the news that Dagg might be leaning towards staying in a recent radio interview, when discussing Smith’s retention, and Dagg spoke like a man staying in Christchurch on Friday.

The 28-year-old told that everyone would know his plans in the next few days, after months of rumours about his choice.

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That his biggest rival for the New Zealand fullback spot in Smith has re-signed would not change his thinking, Dagg said, happy to play any role alongside a player he rates as ‘the best in the world’.

In 2016, Dagg and Smith interchanged between wing and fullback, in a team stacked with outside back depth and Dagg seemed to draw a parallel between the pair’s life stage when discussion Smith’s new contract.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for ‘Bender’ – he’s the best player in the world, he’s quality, he’s a great man,” Dagg said.

“If I stay, I’ll hopefully be playing with him, he’ll be there and hopefully I can be there.

“If I go then, I just I don’t know.

“He’s signed, it’s a great thing for New Zealand rugby and a great thing for his family. I’m about to have a family as well.”

Dagg said he wasn’t distracted by the constant contract speculation, focused on simply following on from a 2016 in which he found his way back to the top of the Kiwi tree.

“It is pretty tough but it is what it is and I’ve just got to focus on playing good footy because if you’re not playing good footy, no one will want you,” he said.

“The main thing for me is just playing well and I really want to do well for this franchise, Crusaders.

“They’ve done a lot for me but I’ve never won a championship, so hopefully I can turn that around this year and do that and just see what happens.”

The Crusaders front office have been openly optimistic about retaining Dagg and new coach Scott Robertson was similarly positive on Friday.

“He’s a great personality, he’s loved by all and he creates a lot of attention,” he said.

“He’s such an important Crusader and he hasn’t won a title, so he’s got that in the back of his mind and we’re really hopeful [he’ll stay].”

The Crusaders take on the Reds, Samoa and the Blues in their Brisbane Tens pool, though Dagg won’t be featuring due to an NZR mandated 12-week off-season break.

Rebels sign Bath second rower

The Rebels have added the last of their international marquee players for 2017, signing Welsh international Dominic Day for next season.

Melbourne has moved to again bolster its second row stocks with Day, who has played for Scarlets in the Pro12, Bath in the Premiership and Toyota Verblitz in the Japanese Top League and has played three Tests for Wales.

The 30-year-old will bring some crucial experience to the Rebels, with more than 200 games of professional rugby, including a stint as Bath captain.

Day will join the Rebels after the end of the Top League season next year.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan said the 198cm, 116kg forward would bring some extra abrasiveness to his team.

“Dom is an experienced lock and an accomplished line out caller who brings a physical presence to his game,” Melbourne Rebels Head Coach Tony McGahan said.

“He has leadership qualities having captained Bath and displays the consistent behaviours and work ethic that will be well suited to our club. Dom will assist developing and strengthening our game.”

Day said he was looking forward to the challenge of Super Rugby.

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“I’m really excited about the challenge of playing for the Rebels,” Day said.

“Playing overseas in the Pro12 and Premiership I would always watch Super Rugby and enjoyed the attacking style. I think it’s the most exciting competition in the world.

“Super Rugby has some of the best and most skillful players in the world and I want to test myself in that arena.

“I’ve heard Melbourne is an amazing city and I look forward to being a part of the Rebels.”

Rona fixed on the future

Curtis Rona opted to stay in rugby to embark on some unfinished business and the former Force centre is in the swing of doing just that in Sydney.

Rona opted to sign with the Waratahs after the Western Force’s axing, with a view to being a part of Michael Cheika’s 2019 Rugby World Cup squad, and linked up with his new teammates at the start of January.

The move marks the beginning of a new, but familiar, chapter for Rona, who lived in Sydney during his three-year NRL stint.

Though the idea of moving his family across the country for the second consecutive year was not that attractive, Rona has moved his focus firmly forward with the Waratahs.

“My idea was trying to play in Perth for two years,” he said.

“It wasn’t the case with the culling of the Force and I was pretty disappointed in the result for me personally.

“I grew up in WA and loved playing rugby over there and my wife’s family’s there and everyone’s settled and to get back up and move again was pretty hard.

“I know Sydney pretty well and all the boys have been more than welcoming at the Tahs and the coaching staff have gone over and above for me and helping me out wherever I need it.”

Rona had a taste of Test rugby in 2017, with three Tests for the Wallabies, including a brutal initiation in the first Bledisloe in Sydney, and the former Canterbury Bulldogs wing is desperate for more.

“When I put on the gold jersey it was a massive achievement and I didn’t want to let that slip away again, I just wanted to regain a spot in the Wallabies team and by doing that, coming to the Tahs and staying in rugby was the only option,” he said.

Rona is likely to slot into 13 for the Waratahs, combining with the enigmatic Kurtley Beale,  keen to push his credentials for that spot at Test level down the track.

“I’ll play centre here for the Tahs and ultimately nail a spot down this season and that’s one of my main goals for this season, making sure I put my best foot forward and get myself ready for the up and coming Super Rugby season.

The 25-year-old is making the most of a chance to train alongside Israel Folau as well, a man he counts as one of his strongest influences at his new club.

“He’s definitely an awesome guy and he’s got a lot of time for people and he’s in a similar position as me in the outside backs,” he said.

“It’s a lot easier to connect with somebody in the same positions and he’s been really good for me, whenever I’ve needed help getting around and helping me out on the field.”

The Waratahs open their Super Rugby season against the Stormers on Saturday February 24, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.

FOX SPORTS brings new innovations to Super Rugby broadcasts

If you noticed more coach involvement in Thursday night’s Rebels vs Blues broadcast, you weren’t deceived.

The opening match of the Super Rugby season kicked off some new innovations by broadcasters, FOX SPORTS, involving players and coaches.

Each Super Rugby coach will wear a heart rate monitor during games this season, with fans able to see a reading at critical match moments.

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Rebels fans would have noticed Tony McGahan on the microphone through the game on Thursday, a feature that is set to become a regular occurrence, as FOX try to bring fans closer to the action.

FOX SPORTS CEO, Patrick Delany said they hoped the Super Rugby public enjoyed the behind-the-scenes view.

“Our philosophy will be crystal clear in this year’s Super Rugby coverage with a wave of new ideas and approaches on screen only made possible through ground breaking partnerships with the Australian clubs and the ARU.

“More in-game coverage innovations plus an expanded commentary line-up will see us work with clubs to open the doors into Rugby’s inner sanctum and give fans fresh insight into the game they love.”

ARU CEO Bill Pulver said the moves would help unveil some of rugby’s personalities.

“We have some great characters in our game, and this year’s Super Rugby coverage will allow fans to get to know our coaches and players on a whole new level,” he said.

“FOX SPORTS have always been leaders in broadcast innovation, and we’re delighted to be working with them to ensure the 2017 Super Rugby season will be the most entertaining ever for fans watching at home.

“I have to thank our Super Rugby teams who have really driven this innovative approach for 2017.”