BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer A 6-8-2 season has Brookdale Community College’s men’s soccer coach Mike Costa fired up for next year. Costa, who was hired for the job just before the season began, noted that he had to return to the Lincroft campus next year to make up for ’06. Any thoughts that it might have been a one-year stint to help the Blues out were erased. “I have to do it now,” he said. “I’ve got to do something about this. “It was an introduction to Murphy’s Law, whatever could go wrong does go wrong,” he added. “It was frustrating.” Injuries hit the team early (midfielder Joe Shan before the season even started) and often. The Blues lost their keeper early in the season and had to turn to a field player for the rest of the campaign. Costa found himself still holding tryouts during the season, yet his team remained competitive. It was a decided disadvantage in one-goal games that left the Blues one game short of the Region XIX tournament. “We lost a lot of one-goal games,” Costa said. “We had a tendency to not come back when we fell behind.” Those close one-goal games were a positive indication that the talent-level cupboard at Brookdale is hardly barren. “The kids worked hard and they have great athletic skills,” said Costa, who turned Jackson Memorial into a Shore Conference and state power when he was coaching high school. “There were certain shortcomings that we couldn’t overcome.” Among them, Costa observed were the lack of enough physical players and a strong center halfback. It was a midfielder Helder Andrade (Ocean Township), who was BCC’s best all-around player. “He was our top player all year by far and one of the best in Region,” said Costa. Christian Pozo (Neptune) and Tomas Cholula (Colts Neck) led the Blues in scoring with nine goals each and Mike Baur (Colts Neck), chipped in with seven. Cholula was felled by the team’s injury jinx late in the season. “In a lot of games we had the better of the play,” Costa remarked. “We didn’t score when we needed it.” As an example, Costa pointed to one week in the season where the team lost three straight games -1-0, 1-0 and 2-1. A goal here or there in any of those games could have turned the season around and put them in the playoffs. When the goal-tending position became open, it was Pablo Penagos who was the forward that moved from the field to keeper. “He did a pretty good job,” said Costa. “It was a lot to ask of him.” Penagos did record three shutouts. Costa will spend the off-season building toward 2007. He a good core of freshmen that he can build next year’s squad around. Perhaps most importantly, it will be his team and it will have a full preseason camp with their coach before the season opener. “Next year will be a little easier,” he said. BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer
SEAN BRADY Middletown High School North’s Kim Ridolfi competes in the high jump during the Monmouth County Relays held at Matawan Regional High School on May 2.
The Monmouth University women’s basketball team bounced back from a first round loss to defeat Binghamton University, 60-51, on Dec. 31 in the consolation game of the second annual Hawk Holiday Classic presented by Staybridge Suites of Eatontown. The Hawks improve to 9-3 on the season while the Bearcats fell to 6-6 with the loss.American University won the Classic, defeating Brown University in the final, 56-47, at the Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC) in West Long Branch.The third-place win marked a milestone for Monmouth head coach Stephanie V. Gaitley, who recorded her 450th triumph as a Division I head coach. Gaitley, in her 25th season as a head coach and her third at Monmouth, is now 450-263 overall and 43-30 with the Hawks.“Winning a lot of games means you’re getting old and you have had a lot of good players,” said Gaitley in a press release. “I want to thank all of our current players and all my former players and assistants for being part of this milestone. You’re only as good as those you surround yourself with.”The Hawks were paced against the Bearcats by Alysha Womack’s (Springfield, Pa./Cardinal O’Hara) 19 points and seven rebounds. She connected on 8 of 14 field goals, including 3 for 6 from three-point range. Junior Alexis Canady (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), who was named to the All-Tournament Team, recorded 14 points and five assists, while Erin Rooney (Christchurch, New Zealand/Marian College) contributed 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.Monmouth, which led by as many as 15 points early in the second half, held a 29-18 lead at the half. The Hawks converted 7 of 16 three-pointers in the first half en route to hitting 10 of 25 (40 percent) for the game.The Hawks forced 21 BU turnovers, converting them into 15 points, and out-rebounded their visitors from upstate New York 42-35. Gabby Singer (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) contributed eight points (2 of 5 three-pointers) off the bench for the Hawks, who wrapped up nonconference play with the win. Binghamton was led by all-tournament team member Viive Rebane, who recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Andrea Holmes and Jasbriell Swain added 12 points apiece for the Bearcats, who shot 34.7 percent for the contest.In the loss to Brown from the Ivy League on Dec. 30, the Hawks trailed by 17 points with 15:59 remaining in the contest and staged a furious rally. However, they could never catch the Bears, and fell, 75-71. Womack led all scorers with 21 while Canady and Abby Martin (Maplewood/Columbia High School) each had 18.American University outscored Brown 40- 28 in the second half to erase a 19-16 halftime deficit and win the championship. Liz Leer scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds forAmerican, and Ebony Edward added 13.American, 9-4 on the season, defeated Binghamton, 58-32, in its first-round game.Starting for Brown University at guard is former Colts Neck High School great Lauren Clarke. The freshman netted 11 points in the win overMonmouth and had nine in the final.Clarke is leading theBears (4-9) in scoring (10.8 points per game) and in three-pointers (25).Monmouth will host Quinnipiac in a Northeast Conference game tomorrow in a noon matinee at the MAC. Sacred Heart will make a call inWest Long Branch for another NEC tilt onMonday at 7 p.m.TheHawkswill hit the road for four games before hosting Long Island University on Jan. 29 at 11:30 a.m.
BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent Above: New Jersey Lions head coach Paul Castillo, who played football for Middletown North High School, talks to his players during a practice at its home field at St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, on Jan. 21. The Lions, a semipro football team out of Old Bridge, are seeking to be featured in NFL Films’ “Hard Knocks.” Below: Snow and freezing temperatures didn’t keep the Lions from practicing in preparation for their Jan. 29 game at SJV against another semipro team, the Irish of the Five Star Football League, in a game to be covered by NFL Films. PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff The NFL isn’t the only football league still playing outside in subfreezing temperatures. Some 60 players from the New Jersey semipro football team New Jersey Lions, based in Old Bridge, will have their exhibition game against the New Jersey Irish in chilling temperatures covered by NFL Films for a special program on semipro football around the country, to be aired on its “Hard Knocks” program.The Pride Bowl will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, at St. John Vianney High School’s all-weather field in Holmdel. It pits the Lions of the Big Northeast Football Federation against the Irish of the Five Star Football League and will be taped for highlights. Lions coach and owner Paul Castillo and some of the Lions players will have microphones recording them during the game to give viewers a feel of what’s going on.Film crews were at St. John Vianney on Jan. 21 recording footage of practice and interviewing players. General admission is $7 for the game, and children under 10 will be admitted free of charge. Some proceeds from the game will benefit the Valerie Center Children’s Cancer Hospital in Long Branch.The date and time for the airing of the NFL Films program have yet to be determined.“Most of these guys played in college, and they still have the dream. They play for the love of the game,” said Castillo. “NFL Films wanted do to something on NFL teams, and looked around and heard about [semipro teams], came to two or three of our practices and liked what they had seen.”His team was 10-2 during the season in its second year in the conference, losing in the second round of the North Division playoffs to the Jersey Wolves, 28-22, in overtime. The Lions’only other loss was to the Central Pennsylvania Piranhas, 26-20. The season runs through the summer into November, but the Lions and Irish agreed to play an exhibition game in the frigid January weather.“Theweather is not that bad. You just dress in layers, although it’s better to play without all of that in the warmer weather,” said quarterback Matt Mariano, a former star at East Brunswick High School who went on to play at Delaware Valley College and is one of the players being mic’d up for this game. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not many players actually in the NFLhave a chance to be a part of an NFL Films production. Who knows what can happen from here?”Mariano is working his way back into playing shape after he was medically cleared in December after a shoulder separation suffered early in the season.“When I was done with college, I thought I was done with football,” he said. “One guy I played high school football with told me about this team, which is not far.”But games are played along the East Coast, and for any game that’s about two hours away or less, players need to figure out their own way to get there. For a few games of longer distances, they charter a bus. After three seasons, the Lions moved from the Regional American Football League, where they averaged 48 points a game in an unbeaten regular season and gave up 6.3 points per game, second best in the league. Last year they finished 14-1, beating the 2007 RAFL and national champion Prince William (Va.) Monarchs, 30-13. In the second round, the Lions beat the New Jersey Wolves, 15-12, with a 105-yard interception return for the game-winning touchdown before the season ended in a 22-21 loss to the Virginia Kings.This season, they scored 36.6 points and allowed 6.7 per outing, second best in their new league in both areas.Most of the players on this team were college players who could not hang up the cleats for good. Just about all of them have professional careers.“This is not for everybody,” said Lions middle linebacker Jeff Castillo, the coach’s brother and a co-owner of the team. “Some look to semipro football as a joke, but not us. We’re in a class with a few other teams that take this seriously. We’re trying to change the face of semipro football, and my brother and his staff of 16 coaches put in so much time to this. It’s their lives. It’s what they talk about away from the field.”Jeff Castillo, an ironworker for New Jersey Local 45, is a former star middle linebacker for Middletown North’s state championship team in 1996. He said he became a co-owner first and then decided to get back on the field. “I wasn’t ready to stop playing yet,” he said. Strong-side linebacker Paul Keator, one of many Jersey Shore-area players, lives in Toms River after a stellar career at Middletown South as a running back. He was recruited by University of New Haven coach Tony Sparano, now head coach with the Miami Dolphins, and left after a year when Sparano also exited. He spent a brief time at Rowan University in 2003 and then left to start his own paving business.“I feel this is better than college,” Keator said. “The time everyone is putting into it, they feel like it’s real football. It’s getting bigger and younger with more guys fresh out of college who feel this is their chance to maybe get noticed by a team [in the NFL].”And with a potentially large audience who may be watching them on their television sets, this is the chance for many of them to live their dream — at least for one showing.For more information, go to njlionsfootball.com or Facebook.com/newjersey lions.
By Patrick JohnstonFIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has dismissed accusations of human rights abuses during his time as Bahrain Football Association head as nasty lies, in comments to the BBC on Tuesday.Salman, head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), submitted his papers on Monday to stand in FIFA’s February 26 election to decide upon a new leader of the world governing body, engulfed in a corruption crisis.But Salman’s declaration came amid an outcry from human rights groups who say that he, as head of the Bahrain Football Association and member of Bahrain’s royal family, had local football players arrested, detained, abused, tortured and publicly humiliated during democracy protests in February 2011.Bahrain was swept by protests during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in which the Shi’ite majority demanded political reforms from the Sunni Muslim ruling family.Salman faced the same accusations prior to his election as AFC president in 2013. He reiterated his previous position on Tuesday that he was innocent.“These are false, nasty lies that have been repeated again and again in the past and the present,” he told BBC Sport, accusing some people of having an “agenda” in making the allegations.“I cannot deny something that I haven’t done,” he said. “It’s not just damaging me, it’s damaging the people and the country.”The Bahraini, who is closely allied with Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in international sports politics and a key figure in the Olympic movement, is one of eight candidates to head FIFA.The 49-year-old Manchester United supporter initially backed Sepp Blatter before throwing his support behind UEFA President Michel Platini to succeed him as FIFA president. Both were suspended for 90 days this month pending a full investigation by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. Both deny any wrongdoing.Salman, expected to be able to call upon the bulk of support among the 47 members in the Asian confederation, said he was the man to fix FIFA, which has been reeling since May when the United States indicted several FIFA officials for bribery, money laundering and wire fraud.Swiss authorities are also investigating the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.“With the support I’m going to get, we’re going to turn it around very quick,” Salman said.
The peak remains tantalisingly close for Serena Williams but negotiating the final incline to a record-equalling 22nd grand slam singles title is proving the trickiest of all.American veteran Williams gets another chance to match Steffi Graf’s professional era benchmark at Wimbledon when the championships start next week, having proved uncharacteristically vulnerable when it matters.Had it not been for defeat by Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open final and Garbine Muguruza at the same stage in Paris, 34-year-old Williams would have already passed Graf and would be set to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.Instead, it has all become a bit of a struggle.Add in her US Open semi-final defeat by Roberta Vinci last year when a calendar slam seemed in her pocket, there are doubts about her finishing skills — and her nerve.“Something is holding her back, and it could be nerves,” 18-times grand slam champion Chris Evert said.“Especially against Kerber and against Muguruza, she wasn’t able to dig herself out of the hole like she has in past years.“She’s been famous for finding that next gear, that next level, when she’s down.”Three-times Wimbledon champion John McEnroe tips Williams to win a seventh All England Club crown, but says self-imposed pressure could be mounting.“It’s not easy to try to do what she’s doing, to make history at this stage,” he said.“There’s not that many people that wouldn’t pick her here. If she’s playing well, she’ll win the tournament.”Of the challengers, they come in two distinct categories.The power hitters such as Spain’s Muguruza, twice champion Petra Kvitova, former world number one and rising American Madison Keys. Sadly Victoria Azarenka withdrew with injury.Then there are the scramblers like world number three Agnieszka Radwanska, Kerber and Simona Halep.World number two Muguruza pushed her hard in last year’s final and overpowered her in the French Open final with a fearless display of attacking tennis.Whether or not the 22-year-old can make the quick switch from clay to grass and deal with the new-found expectation is questionable though, according to Evert.“I’m curious to see how she does that,” the American, who will be commentating for ESPN, said in a phone conference.On her day Kvitova can be unplayable, especially on grass, although the Czech, winner in 2011 and 2014, is still prone to puzzling off-days and she played down her chances after losing to Johanna Konta at Eastbourne.“I’m not personally seeing chances, unfortunately. I will be very happy if I can show up in the second week,” Kvitova, who will be seeded 10th, said.Keys, seeded ninth, reached the quarter-finals last year and warmed up for Wimbledon by winning the Birmingham title on grass. She also won the Eastbourne title in 2014.Evert believes the 21-year-old is now ready to mount a serious Wimbledon challenge.“This girl can play on grass. Her serve I think matches Serena’s,” Evert said. “I think she’s going to win some majors. I don’t have any doubt in my mind.”
Roger Federer continued his recent mastery of Rafa Nadal when he beat his great rival 6-3 6-4 in the final of the Miami Open on Sunday.Federer, peerless this year after returning from a six-month injury absence, broke once in each set on the Crandon Park hardcourt for his fourth consecutive victory over the Spaniard.Nadal still leads their career head-to-head record at 23-14, due entirely to his superiority on clay, but Federer now leads 10-9 on hardcourt.Federer improved to 19-1 this year, winning the Australian Open in five sets over Nadal, and Paribas Open in straight sets over Stan Wawrinka.His only loss was at the hands of Russian Evgeny Donskoy in the second round in Dubai.
With a lunch-time kickoff, both clubs under Chinese ownership and only a place in the much-maligned Europa League to play for, Saturday’s Milan derby will be like none of the previous 217 fixtures between the old rivals.Whether it heralds a brave new dawn for fallen giants Inter Milan and AC Milan, or yet more seasons of transition and uncertainty, remains to be seen.The game at San Siro will take place less than 48 hours after Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi finalised his sale of AC Milan to a Chinese-led consortium on Thursday for 740 million euros ($788 million).It means both clubs are now under Chinese ownership, after retail giant Suning Commerce Group’s purchase of Inter last June.For the first time ever, the fixture will be played at 12.30 p.m. local time, a move likely to appeal to Asian viewers, but widely criticised by local fans on social media.It will also feature two teams who have become sad shadows of their former selves.The Derby Della Madonnina used to be one of the world’s great fixtures and a centrepiece of the Serie A season but the indifferent form of both teams in the last few years has stripped it of its gloss.Recently, with neither side in the Champions League or the running for the Serie A title, it has struggled to be billed as the top match of the weekend, let alone of the season.Milan go into the match in sixth spot with 57 points, with Inter one place and two points below.Both teams appear to be out of the running for a top three finish, which would earn a place in the Champions League next season, and are instead aiming for fourth to sixth places, which would take them into the second-string Europa League.It is hardly a great prize but seven-times European champions AC Milan have not even managed to do that in the last three seasons after finishing eighth, ninth and seventh.“I want to go into Europe, regardless of what Inter do,” said AC Milan coach Vincenzo Montella.Inter Milan have qualified for the Europa League in three of the last five seasons but, embarrassingly, have failed to get beyond the round of 16 and were eliminated in the group stage this season.Inter’s experience since the Suning takeover has been anything but plain sailing.Coach Roberto Mancini resigned two weeks before the start of the season and his replacement, Frank de Boer, was fired after just 85 days following a miserable start.Replacement Stefano Pioli oversaw an improvement, including a run of eight successive wins, but is back under pressure after a 2-1 home defeat by Sampdoria and Sunday’s loss to humble Crotone.“There’s been a decline and it wasn’t expected,” Pioli said. “It’s important to learn from hard lessons like these and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The 21-year-old from Central – Kairuku and Malalaua in Gulf province is just new on the international scene, but is slowly making her mark.Ovia started playing netball at the age of six and growing up said she looked up to Pepes veteran, Kilala Owen.Her first taste of playing at an international level was at the Mission Foods Nations Cup 2016 last month in Singapore where Ovia got to play alongside Owen.Ovia, who plays goal keeper or goal defence, was thrown into the deep end in the Pepes first match of the Nations Cup against Canada. But she was up to the challenge and helped guide her country home to a 73-30 win.After the Nations Cup, Ovia was automatically selected into the U21 PNG side that took part in the Oceania Netball World Youth Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand at the end of September.“It was nerve wrecking for me in the first few games but this eventually subsided.“It was a great experience for me. I learnt a lot as a defender about how to better work around the shooters and keep them from scoring,” said Ovia.The eldest of five children, Ovia was asked who has had the biggest influence in her life.She responded saying it is her mother Michelle Ovia.“My mother always reminds me, ‘no pain, no gain’ and to apply this to sports and to life as well,” said Ovia.Outside of netball, Ovia is a first year student at the Port Moresby Business College studying Business Management.“It was a hassle at first but I’ve learnt how to balance both sports and school. But I think education should always come first. It’s a priority,” said Ovia.With her eyes now set on making the PNG team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Ovia had this advice to give to youths.“There are lot of sacrifices to make if you want to achieve something, but if it’s your heart’s desire, then pursue it with everything you have,” said Ovia.Photo credit: Netball Singapore
Top seed Rafael Nadal stormed into the fourth round of the Australian Open with a bludgeoning 6-1 6-3 6-1 defeat of Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur on Friday.Melbourne’s heatwave had relented by the time the Nadal walked on Margaret Court Arena, but the Spaniard was on fire as he battered the 28th seed into submission.The sole blemish was a dropped service game early in the second set but it only briefly slowed his charge.Nadal finished the job in one hour 50 minutes to reach the last 16 here for the 11th time where he will face Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.
England will adopt an aggressive approach to their World Cup fixtures and tackle the tournament “head on” as Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad hopes to make its mark in Russia, captain Harry Kane has said.The 24-year-old Tottenham striker hopes that an inexperienced squad will be motivated by the biggest stage, on which the national team has repeatedly disappointed since lifting the trophy in 1966.“The aim is to be aggressive and brave in possession,” Kane told British media. “We want to take this tournament head on.“There will be tough moments, and ups and downs. Sometimes going into a big tournament is about not losing and being passive but, for us, it’s about playing attacking football.“We are aiming to win the first game, then to target the second, and take that attitude to the World Cup.”Kane, who scored 41 goals for Tottenham Hotspur in all competitions last season, will also be hoping to find the net for the first time at a major tournament.He struggled for form during England’s dismal Euro 2016 campaign when they were knocked out by Iceland in the Round of 16.“Personally, that (scoring) record is something I want to change, and hopefully will this summer,” Kane added.England face Tunisia in their opening Group G fixture on Monday, before taking on Panama and Belgium.
Netherlands scored twice in the last five minutes to recover from two goals down and earn a 2-2 draw against relegated Germany in the Nations League on Monday to secure a spot in next year’s finals ahead of world champions France.Virgil van Dijk struck a close-range volley in stoppage time to equalise for the visitors after Quincy Promes had cut the deficit in the 85th minute with the Germans having led through early goals from Timo Werner and Leroy Sane.Switzerland, England and hosts Portugal had already qualified for the four-team finals in June.The Germans, who suffered a shock first-round exit at the World Cup in June and lost a German record six times this year, are in last place in League A Group 1 behind France, who just missed out the finals, and the table-topping Dutch.Monday’s Nations League Results:Andorra0Latvia0Georgia2Kazakhstan1Germany2Netherlands2Bulgaria1Slovenia1Cyprus0Norway2Liechtenstein2Armenia2Macedonia4Gibraltar0Czech Rep1Slovakia0Denmark0R. of Ireland0
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has hailed the appointment of France’s Stephanie Frappart as the first woman to referee a major UEFA competition final as a “historic moment”.Frappart will take charge of the Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea on Wednesday, and she vowed to prove female officials are just as effective as their male counterparts.Asked for his verdict on the decision, Klopp gave it a resounding thumbs-up.“Finally – it’s time. I’m happy to be a part of this historic moment. It’s a smart decision to have women referee a very, very important game. It’s the first time, but I hope it’s not the last,” said the German, who guided Liverpool to their sixth European Cup title last season.“Obviously we’re not smart enough to make all the smart decisions, but this is a smart decision.“I’m really sure we will try to not make the game any more difficult than it will be (for the officials). I will show my best face if possible, otherwise my mum would be angry,” he joked.Frappart, 35, will be assisted by her French compatriot Manuela Nicolosi and Ireland’s Michelle O’Neill.The trio have worked together at bigger matches – they were in charge of this year’s Women’s World Cup final in France – but there is no doubt they will be under intense focus at Istanbul’s Vodafone Park.Asked if she was afraid of being “double criticised” for any mistakes made, Frappart said it was time for female referees to show they are as good as the men.“We have to prove ourselves technically and physically that we are the same as the men. We are not afraid about wrong decisions. We are ready,” she told a news conference.Frappart, who in April became the first female referee in France’s Ligue 1, also dismissed the idea that it was more difficult to officiate a men’s game.“I think there is not a lot of difference because football is the same. It’s the same rules so I will do the same as the women’s game,” she added.Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said he was pleased to be part of a moment in history.“I think the game has come on a long way in many ways, in terms of the women’s World Cup which we all watched this summer, in terms of how much respect the game’s getting, how many people are watching it and the interest in the game,” he said.“I think we were very slow everywhere on this and now we are trying to make strides, and there’s still a long way to go but in terms of tomorrow I think it’s a huge moment.“Its a historical moment that is one more step in the right direction.”The Super Cup is an annual match played between the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League. Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final last season while Chelsea defeated Arsenal in the Europa League final.Fourth official and Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir supported the trio, saying: “They are brave, they have courage, they don’t hesitate to give unpopular decisions – you will see tomorrow.”UEFA said separately that it had also invited to the game two Italian women referees, Annalisa Moccia and Giulia Nicastro, who had experienced sexist behaviour at recent domestic matches.“We strongly condemn any form of sexist, discriminatory, derogatory or abusive conduct towards female referees,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin in a statement.
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has been ruled out of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool while goalkeeper David De Gea faces a scan and is a major injury doubt.Pogba has been battling an ankle problem and United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed that the 26-year-old has suffered a setback in his recovery.Solskjaer told Sky Sports: “Paul had an injury, he came back, he worked really hard. He came back and played a couple of games, maybe played through the pain barrier.“He had a scan after the Arsenal game and maybe needed a few weeks’ rest in a boot so hopefully he won’t be too long, but he won’t make this game, no.”De Gea was forced off in Spain’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Sweden on Tuesday night and Solskjaer admits he is also likely to miss the Liverpool clash at Old Trafford.“I think he’ll be out. It certainly looked like it anyway judging on last night so it’s just one of those things,” Solskjaer added.The PA news agency understands De Gea is set to undergo a scan on a suspected groin injury.United sit 12th and are 15 points adrift of fierce rivals and league leaders Liverpool ahead of Sunday’s showdown.Solskjaer was battling a lengthy injury list before the international break and De Gea’s issue further adds to those problems.But the Norwegian is hopeful Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Anthony Martial may be fit to play some role at Old Trafford.“I can’t tell you 100 per cent [who] is going to be fit as something might happen,” he added.“But hopefully Aaron and Anthony will last the training this week and be available for selection. If it’s for half a game or 30 minutes I don’t know but let’s see where they’re at.”Midfielder Juan Mata believes United can kickstart their season with victory over their arch-rivals.Writing in his blog on the club’s website, Spaniard Mata said: “On Sunday we have a great chance to change the dynamic and we are all very motivated to take the win.“We are United, we are playing at home and we will give everything to be able to take the victory that our fans deserve in such a special game.”Mata said of De Gea’s injury: “The bad news from that game was that David wasn’t able to finish the match due to an injury problem after making some great saves. I hope that it won’t be anything major and he can be back with us soon.”
Some clarity on how football leagues in Europe plan to complete seasons that have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic is expected this week but there is likely to be a mixed bag of solutions with countries tugging in different directions.Meetings set for the next few days will study how to resume the suspended campaigns, even though it will be difficult to come up with a definitive roadmap while the continent remains in the grip of the fast-spreading virus.UEFA will discuss this season’s Champions League on Wednesday while the Premier League will hold a conference call on Friday with suggestions they are considering re-starting the season in early May to avoid losing broadcast revenue.One option on the table is resuming the season behind close doors in order to finish by July 12, thereby avoiding millions of pounds of penalties in their television contracts.They will also want to settle promotion and relegation issues to avoid potential legal battles, like the one threatened by non-league clubs whose season has already been curtailed.In Italy, which has been in lockdown for over three weeks and has a COVID-19 death toll approaching 12,000, there is growing sentiment that the season should be abandoned.“Let’s think about health now, we’ll talk about football later,” Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso said.German clubs were meeting in Frankfurt on Tuesday with several stark options on the table.The German football league (DFL) will hear proposals to resume the Bundesliga in either mid-may or mid-June and finish the season in late July.It has also been suggested by some clubs that a 16-day tournament be organised, with several matches each day and clubs playing every two days in order to complete the 82 remaining matches by June 30, including the German Cup semi-finals and final.“We should definitely end this season. For reasons of fairness but also to limit the economic damage,” said Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.UNDER PRESSUREBut the prospect of La Liga clubs in Spain playing every second day was a non-starter for Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu.“The scenario we are looking at now is to play a game or two before June 30 so we can end the season in July or August. We have no problems in doing that,” he said on Tuesday.“What we don’t want is to play games behind closed doors or every 48 hours.”Ligue 1 in France is also under pressure to return after broadcaster Canal Plus said it would not pay the next instalment of their contract after the suspension of matches.Dutch clubs are awaiting an announcement on Tuesday of a possible extension of the ban on gatherings past June 1.In Belgium, the league’s leadership will meet on Thursday after a call from the majority of first and second division clubs to call off the rest of the 2019-20 campaign.FIFA plans to allow player contracts that end on June 30 to be extended until the season is completed.Wednesday’s UEFA video conference will involve the general secretaries of its 55 member associations but is unlikely to make any firm decisions, insiders said.Instead it will offer various scenarios, including the possibility of completing the Champions League in July and August.No matter what is discussed or agreed this week, the only thing that remains clear is that the situation will remain fluid for the foreseeable weeks ahead.