Friday Kickoff: Neymar to miss time with ankle sprain; Balotelli set for medical; and more

NeymarBarcelona2-Ajax (Getty)

By RYAN TOLMICH

Just days after returning from the back injury that ended his World Cup, Barcelona forward Neymar appears to be headed back to the sidelines.

The club announced Friday that the 22-year-old picked up a left ankle sprain Thursday in training, just three days after making his return to action in a friendly with Club Leon.

“Following the Thursday training session Neymar Jr. complained about some pain in his left ankle, and tests have confirmed that the player has a Grade 1 ankle sprain,” the statement said. “The club’s medical team has indicated that his return to training will depend on how the injury treatment evolves.”

Barcelona’s first game of the 2014-15 La Liga campaign comes Sunday when the club hosts Elche in the Camp Nou.

Here are some more news and notes to kick off your Friday morning:

BALOTELLI SET TO UNDERGO LIVERPOOL MEDICAL FRIDAY

A simple medical check is all that stands between Mario Balotelli and a return to the Premier League.

The Italian forward is reportedly set to undergo a medical on Friday ahead of a move to Liverpool, which reportedly agreed to a $26.5 million fee with AC Milan to acquire the 24-year-old striker.

The two sides reportedly agreed on personal terms early Friday, with Balotelli signing off on a series of behavioral clauses that were included in Liverpool’s proposal.

Balotelli scored 18 goals in all competitions for AC Milan last season and scored the game-winning goal in Italy’s clash with England at this summer’s World Cup.

DESPITE FEELING UNDERVALUED, ALVES TO REMAIN WITH BARCELONA

Having been named to the FIFPRO World XI four out of the past five seasons, you would think Barcelona defender Dani Alves would feel valued by his own fans.

But Alves stated Thursday that he feels underappreciated by both Barcelona fans and the club itself, which he feels has done little to stand up for him in the face of public criticism.

“I haven’t felt that I have had support when I have had to defend myself in the face of everything that comes out in the press,” Alves said. “Publishers need to sell newspapers and there will always be speculation in the press but I have read articles about the club looking for a substitute for me. I have always been clear that my plan is to stay here because I am still under contract.

“When the time comes, I hope I can leave knowing that I have lived up to everything that was asked of me and not that I haven’t got anything to give because I have a lot to give this team.”

Despite the criticisms, Alves insists he is ready to do his best for Barcelona until his contract expires in 2016.

“Sometimes it’s as though everything that goes wrong is my fault,” Alves said. “Now we have a new challenge ahead of us, and that motivates me. My contract expires in 2016 so I have this season and then the next and if there are no changes then that’s what’s left to run on my contract.”

“My desire is the same as ever, whatever nonsense is said about me. I want to win and Barça to be the best, although doing that gets harder every year. We’re ready to confront all of the challenges that lie ahead.”

QUICK KICKS

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal is set to meet with Danny Welbeck to discuss the forward’s future with the club. (REPORT)

French national team manager Didier Deschamps has left the door open for a Franck Ribery return to the international game. (REPORT)

West Bromwich Albion added former Celtic striker Georgios Samaras on a free transfer. (REPORT)

QPR signed Chilean forward Eduardo Vargas on a season-long loan from Napoli. (REPORT)

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How will Barcelona fare without Neymar? How far can Liverpool go with Balotelli? Where do you rank Alves among the world’s best?

Share your thoughts below.

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13 Responses to Friday Kickoff: Neymar to miss time with ankle sprain; Balotelli set for medical; and more

  1. Increase0 says:

    Alves can’t really defend. That’s why he isnt respected much.
    At the same time is doesn’t really have to defend very often so its not really a problem most of the time.

    • RK says:

      Bingo. I’ve seen him cost goals because he plays so wildly out of position.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Yabbut what usually happens is that 10th or 11th guy who doesn’t want to play team defense kills you in a key game where you need all hands on deck. Valderrama for years was the centerpiece of decent and even good MLS sides, but never won the whole thing? Why? My theory on players like this is they aren’t exploited by bad teams, but rather when you play the big boys and 10 v. 11 defense doesn’t hack it anymore.

  2. beto says:

    Did transfer window close last week… Did mario’s deal get signed back then and just now happening?

    Looking forward to him back the EPL – someday would love to see him in MLS!

    • Paul6 says:

      The transfer window is still open for another 9 days.

    • Neal says:

      Thought the Euro window was open until 8/31, regardless of when a country’s club season begins/began.
      Someone feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
      (Although, I know many would even without permission…)

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      You’re confusing the close of the MLS window with the European window, which I believe runs through the end of the month. But a lot of teams have already done their deals because the season is underway. You will now have the second flurry as the deadline approaches.

  3. Sly says:

    D mid and backup goal keeper still needed at liverpool but i think Can is capable of that job in a pinch. The window might be closed for Liverpool.

    If arsenal snag khedira and/or Cavani and United buy a boss Midfielder like Vidal top 4 would be wide open after chelsea and city.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Balotelli will help them score more goals but big picture their issue was they allowed more goals than City or Chelsea. They did spot them some games during Chompers’ suspension, but it’s still an iffy team like Fergie’s last season without a better defense. They could win still but it will be harder unless they upgrade the backline.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        They’ve brought in 3 new defenders in the window already, and they will all likely start. Lovren, Manquillo, and Moreno. Lovren and Manquillo started on Sunday already and both performed well… and Moreno should easily push Johnson out of the side, who has looked TERRIBLE since early last year.

        Liverpool have addressed pretty much all their needs except for backup GK. They’ve got enough depth in midfield (assuming they don’t sell Lucas) already to handle the season. Especially since they don’t play with a true DM … and Rodgers rarely rests Gerrard.

      • Bean says:

        Lovren, Moreno, Manquillo, Skrtel, and Sakho, with Gerrard, and Can giving cover should be significantly better than last season’s mess where Toure, and Cissokho had significant minutes.

        Using Balotelli with Sturridge, and Sterling may produce very good results as well on the forward side of things.