Friday Kickoff: Puyol back in Barcelona squad; Löw agrees extension; and more

Friday Kickoff: Puyol back in Barcelona squad; Löw agrees extension; and more

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Friday Kickoff: Puyol back in Barcelona squad; Löw agrees extension; and more

SOCCER: JAN 16 Spanish Copa del Rey Quarter-finals - Malaga at Barcelona

By DAN KARELL

Barcelona fans across the globe can breathe easy. Their captain is back.

Centerback Carles Puyol has been named in Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino’s squad for the club’s match at Osasuna on Saturday after a 220 day injury layoff. During his time on the training table Puyol underwent knee surgery and had a Baker’s Cyst removed in a separate surgery.

The 35-year-old Spain international has missed Barcelona’s last 27 official matches due to the injuries with his last match played coming in the epic 4-0 defeat of AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League last March.

Also back in the squad for Saturday’s match are the recently injured Argentine pair Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano, who seem to be fit from their thigh and hamstring problems, respectively.

Here are some more stories to start your Friday:

LÖW SIGNS TWO-YEAR EXTENSION

Germany won’t have to worry about finding a new coach until 2016 at the earliest.

With safe passage to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil secured last September, the German Football Federation (DFB) made the unanimous decision to give head coach Joachim Löw a two-year extension, tying him to the national team through Euro 2016. In addition, assistant coach Hansi Flick will take over as DFB sporting director on a five-year deal.

“Working with the team and the support staff gives me immense pleasure,” Löw said in a statement on the DFB’s website. “I sense a great motivation to continue the team’s development. We’ve not yet reached the end of our journey, as we still have ambitious targets which we want to achieve together. The DFB offers us and the national team the ideal environment. We are just as grateful for that as we are for the faith placed in us by the DFB and president Wolfgang Niersbach.”

Since taking over the reins of the German National Team in 2006 from Jurgen Klinsmann, Löw has lead the German squad to top-finishes at the World Cup and both European Cups, all while playing an attractive brand of soccer.

BALE RETURNS TO REAL MADRID SQUAD

Having taken part in a mini-preseason during the international break, Gareth Bale is set to play a part in Real Madrid’s next match.

During a press conference ahead of their match against Malaga, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti confirmed the fitness of Bale and said that he would be available to play on Saturday.

“The problem with Bale is that he didn’t play during the pre-season,” Ancelotti said as quoted by RealMadrid.com. “I have three disc protrusions and they never gave me problems during my career. Tomorrow I want to give him some minutes because he needs to play, and do it with the team. Bale has nothing, just muscle strain.

“He is available for (Saturday).”

Since signing at the end of August for a world record fee of $132 million, Bale has played just three times for Los Blancos in all competitions, with one start, due to a number of muscle injuries.

QUICK KICKS

Mesut Özil has been declared fit for action for Arsenal’s next game against Norwich City after suffering knee bruising in Sweden on international duty. (REPORT)

In addition to their friendly match against Germany, England have confirmed that they will face Chile in the first of the two November friendlies at Wembley Stadium. (REPORT)

Celtic will appeal the UEFA Champions League three-match ban that was handed down to captain Scott Brown after he was sent off against Barcelona. (REPORT)

Manchester United are considering the return of standing areas to Old Trafford to improve the game-day atmosphere. (REPORT)

Real Madrid have agreed a friendly match against Paris Saint-Germain in Dubai at the New Year during both team’s winter breaks. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? Do you see Puyol starting against Osasuna? Happy to see Löw receive an extension? Do you believe that Bale is fit now?

Share your thoughts below.

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