Monday Kickoff: Vilanova set to return; key players out of World Cup qualifiers; and more

TitoVilanova2 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

Barcelona will finally get their manager back.

After over two months away, the Spanish club announced on Sunday that Tito Vilanova will be returning to Barcelona this week from New York City, where he was undergoing chemotherapy in his battle against cancer.

Caretaker boss Jordi Roura and assistant coach Aureli Altimira both flew to New York last Friday to meet with Vilanova and prepare him to come back to Barcelona by the end of this international break. Vilanova last managed the Barcelona first team on January 19, in a 3-2 loss to Real Sociedad.

Barcelona have continued their great form this season in La Liga despite the temporary loss of Vilanova. The Catalonian club currently sit 13 points ahead of second-place Real Madrid, with 10 matches remaining.

Here are some more stories to get your Monday started:

KEY PLAYERS OUT FOR UPCOMING WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Holland, Spain, Portugal, and Argentina will all be missing important players ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

Wesley Sneijder pulled up with a groin injury during The Netherlands’ 3-0 win against Estonia on Friday, being forced off in the 36th minute. The Dutchman has now been ruled out for the upcoming match against Romania, and could miss significant time for his club, Galatasaray.

Spain have been handed another blow, as Jordi Alba will be sidelined for seven days with a right leg injury, leaving the Iberian nation shorthanded as they head to Paris for a crucial match with France. Argentina will be without Fernando Gago due to injury and Gonzalo Higuain due to yellow card accumulation ahead of their match in the mountains of Bolivia.

And finally, Portugal will be without Cristiano Ronaldo in their must-win tie against Azerbaijan, due to yellow card accumulation. Despite the suspension, Ronaldo has decided to travel to Baku to support his country in the match.

ROONEY BACKED BY TEAMMATES TO KEEP HIS COOL

The last time Wayne Rooney played in Podgorica, Montenegro, he was sent off for a slide tackle that earned him an eventual two-match suspension from UEFA, causing the forward to miss two of England’s four matches at the European Championships last summer.

Now, Rooney is being backed by his England teammates, with defender Jolean Lescott confident that Rooney won’t lose his head this time. The Three Lions are desperate for a win against Group H leaders Montenegro, knowing that a loss could make it very difficult to qualify to the 2014 World Cup.

Rooney scored in the 54th minute of last Friday’s 8-0 win over San Marino, and will be relied on to give England a chance to go atop of the group. A win over Montenegro would put England at 14 points from six matches.

QUICK KICKS

Eintracht Frankfurt manager Armin Veh has closed speculation on a switch to Schalke, signing a one-year contract extension with his current club. (REPORT)

David Beckham is ready to get back on the field with his PSG teammates after a five-day tour of China. (REPORT)

Montenegro and Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic is interested in a move to the Premier League. (REPORT)

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has decided that he will start Stephen El Shaarawy alongside Mario Balotelli up top against Malta. (REPORT)

Alessandro Del Piero believes he made the right choice in moving to Sydney FC last summer. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? Do you feel Vilanova’s return will give the side enough of a boost to win the league? Do you see Argentina struggling without Higuain and Gago? Do you believe that Rooney will play the full 90 against Montenegro?

Share your thoughts below.

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6 Responses to Monday Kickoff: Vilanova set to return; key players out of World Cup qualifiers; and more

  1. Sly says:

    Malta will have it rough.

  2. EasyE says:

    Bring Jovetic to Arsenal! He would become an even bigger star at the Grove!

  3. WK says:

    UEFA needs to change their WC qualification process. It’s unbelievable really that this many minnows are still around at this stage of qualification.

  4. bottlcaps says:

    Robbie Keane will be out of the Irish team’s WCQ tie against Austria, due to a calf injury! Why has no one made mention of that? It has more implications for the LA Galaxy. A sever strain could leave him unable to play for the Galaxy against Monterrey in the CCL.

  5. Chupacabra says:

    Wayne Rooney. LOL

    You don’t have to even the tell the joke. Just say his name and laugh.