Thursday Kickoff: Neymar scores first Barca goal; Arsenal prepare Real Madrid swoop; and more

NeymarBarcelona2-AtleticoMadridSupercopadeEspana (FCB)

By DAN KARELL

It only seemed right with Lionel Messi out of the game that Barcelona new-boy Neymar would step up when his team needed him.

Trailing 1-0 in the 66th minute, Neymar rose high to a ball delivered by teammate Dani Alves and headed home, canceling out former Barcelona forward David Villa’s first-half volley goal. The Neymar goal was the first for the Brazilian in an official match for the Catalan club, and helped give his side a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Still working his way back to fitness from taking the entire month of July off to rest, Neymar entered in the 59th minute for Pedro and certainly made his mark on the left wing.

Messi meanwhile was diagnosed with a left thigh contusion, and will be evaluated more on Thursday. Barcelona play Malaga on Saturday and then Atletico Madrid again on Wednesday, making it probable that Messi is saved for the match in six days time at the Camp Nou.

Here are some more stories to get your Thursday started:

ARSENAL CHASE REAL MADRID PAIR

With injuries and departures decimating the squad, Arsenal is left with likely less than 20 first-team regulars available for the next match, away to Fulham on Saturday.

Manager Arsene Wenger has still nearly 12 days remaining before the transfer window closes, and with the pursuit of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez over, the Frenchman has turned his sights on Spain. According to multiple reports in England, Arsenal are preparing bids for Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema and winger Angel Di Maria, hoping to improve the squad with quality and in numbers.

The deal for Benzema alone could cost a reported £40 million ($62.3 million), as reports in Spain have also confirmed that Arsenal have approached Real Madrid on the availability of the duo. Wenger has long been keen on the Frenchman Benzema, while Di Maria’s performances for Real Madrid and Argentina have likely caught the experienced manager’s eye.

It’s unlikely that Real Madrid sell Benzema however, as Carlo Ancelotti would be left without a classic No. 9 striker, instead being forced to start Cristiano Ronaldo or youngster Alvaro Morata up top.

WEDNESDAY’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUNDUP

Amidst all the negativity in the run-up to Arsenal’s match at Fenerbahce, manager Arsene Wenger must have slept well on Wednesday night, knowing his team provided a capable performance.

The Gunners showed their quality all over the park, dominating the Turkish side, 3-0, in Istanbul, giving Arsenal a huge advantage before next Wednesday’s second-leg match in London. Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, and Olivier Giroud all scored second-half goals for the English side, the final goal coming from the spot as Arsenal held their heads high.

In Germany meanwhile, Schalke 04 settled for a 1-1 draw with PAOK at Veltins Arena.

Schalke’s midfielder Jefferson Farfan gave the home side a great start in the two-legged tie, scoring in the 32nd minute, with forward Adam Szalai providing the assist. But midway through the second half, former Chelsea youngster Miroslav Stoch leveled the scoreline. In addition to the drama on the pitch, police ended up having to intervene in the stands as ultras on both sides nearly came to blows.

Other results in the Champions League on Wednesday included Basel defeating Ludogorets, 4-2, Austria Wien topping Dinamo Zagreb, 2-0, and Steaua Bucharest drawing Legia Warszawa, 1-1.

QUICK KICKS

El Salvador’s Football Federation has provisionally suspended 22 players including Rodolfo Zelaya for match-fixing allegations. (REPORT)

Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva has kept his word, officially signing a one-year contract extension through 2018 with the French club. (REPORT)

Colombian striker Duvan Zapata has completed an €8 million move to Napoli. (REPORT)

Barcelona have acquired Manchester City’s Spanish youngster Dennis Suarez for €1.5 million. He’ll spend this season with Barcelona B. (REPORT)

Sevilla have offered young midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia a new, improved contract to ward off transfer interest from AS Monaco and Arsenal. (REPORT)

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What do you think of this news? Do you see Neymar starting for Barca soon? Do you believe Arsenal can sign Benzema and/or Di Maria? Do you believe that El Salvador could have fixed matches in the Gold Cup?

Share your thoughts below.

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40 Responses to Thursday Kickoff: Neymar scores first Barca goal; Arsenal prepare Real Madrid swoop; and more

  1. Kevin_H says:

    Gross. What’s with Barcelona’s McDonald’s-looking jerseys?

  2. Puffer says:

    Getting Denis Suarez from Man City for 1.5 is a steal.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      reports are that barca must pay another 1M when suarez graduates to the A squad, and then another 0.8M for every 10 matches he plays for the full team (total not-to-exceed 8M).

      makes the purchase a little less of a steal, right? :)

      • CplDaniel says:

        Well, maybe it’s still looks like steel, but it’s dragging it’s weight in gold behind it.

  3. doug says:

    Neymar is going to be huge this season. You gotta think that with Messi’s thigh injury, going into a World Cup in 11 months, Leo might have one eye towards Brazil. On another note, Martino lucked out with the Messi injury so now Neymar can play from the start instead of dodging questions about being in Messi’s pocket. Soon as Neymar learns the Barca way offensively, he will be as unstoppable as Messi is. There were a couple instances yesterday where Neymar held the ball a little too long or dribbled instead of the tika-taka and it broke the offensive move down but all and all, a good job in what was the first “real game” of their season. Levante doesn’t count

  4. biff says:

    Brendan Rodgers is quoted saying Liverpool wants to sign a center back by the end of the transfer window. Could this be the time for Besler to make the big move?

    • Paul says:

      …OR he could bid for one of the proven EPL Stoke CBs rather than wait until January for an unproven, but good, MLS CB.

    • Dudester says:

      After the WC is when I would make the move.He will have the most leverage to get offers from a top four league.At 27 he can still have a good run of years in Europe.

  5. Hogatroge says:

    Ramsey scored… keep an eye on the obituaries!

  6. biff says:

    Also a report from a well-placed US writer saying three Serie A teams have inquired about Landon Donovan and a fourth team, AC Milan, might make a move next week if they advance to the next round of the Champions League, but only if they can have Donovan now and not have to wait until January.

  7. RK says:

    There’s going to be a bidding war for Di Maria once RM gets Bale.

  8. Roberto says:

    Arsenal really make me laugh , Benzema is a horrible player and missses more goals than he scores, as for Wenger he hasn’t won anything in this life, you Americans and brits are so easy to fool, thats why you two will NEVER EVER win a world cup you are just too naive and in awe of the wrong things. as for Wenger… This guy hasn’t won Sh**. and the invincibles team….any coach even a high school coach can win with the calibre of those players (henry, Vieira ,Bergkamp) in their prime.

  9. Jacknut says:

    In other news, I’m sure the Chicago Fire communications director position will be open soon.

    • Mike E. says:

      What happened?

      • Nate Dollars says:

        check out their website’s front page.

        • Mike E. says:

          Haha, wow. Is that a joke? I might as well send my CV in since they clearly have no hiring requirements.

        • SanFran415 says:

          That is really something. It is amazing that he admits to not even liking the team before being hired as the Director of Communications.

          He takes a shot at fans saying he was a poor hire? He was a poor hire. Why would you hire someone to direct your sports team’s communications department that knows nothing about your team?

          That whole thing was just cringeworthy.

          • Nate Dollars says:

            ‘Why would you hire someone to direct your sports team’s communications department that knows nothing about your team?’

            maybe because he’s good at directing communications? i’ve had a couple of jobs where i’ve done well, not because i had any previous affinity for the organization, but because i was good at what they paid me to do.

            and considering how much publicity the team has gotten from his post, i’ve got to give him a little credit.

  10. bryan says:

    i seriously wish Madrid would just flat out say Di Maria is not for sale. and there is no way Benz leaves. Morata is a great prospect, but he is just starting to get first team minutes. CR could play up top, but i’d still like to have Benz.

  11. bryan says:

    also, sounds like Dolo is fine and will be back soon. German reports were wrong.

  12. Tensnake says:

    Johannsson just scored a nice goal.

  13. dsgntd_plyr says:

    “With injuries and departures decimating the squad, Arsenal is left with likely less than 20 first-team regulars available for the next match, away to Fulham on Saturday.”

    Remmeber a few years ago when Arsene said the EPL’s 25 man squad limit would have no impact on “big clubs” like Arsenal? Lol indeed.