Friday Kickoff: Messi eyes January return; Rodgers calls out referees; and more

Friday Kickoff: Messi eyes January return; Rodgers calls out referees; and more

South American Soccer

Friday Kickoff: Messi eyes January return; Rodgers calls out referees; and more

LionelMessitrainingArgentina1 (AP)

By DAN KARELL

Lionel Messi’s rehabilitation is continuing right on schedule, giving FC Barcelona’s staff hope that he’ll be fit and ready to take the field next month.

Specifically, Barcelona is reportedly eying Jan. 11 as the first match back for Messi, where Barcelona will be visiting Atletico Madrid in a top of the table clash. The star forward has missed the last six weeks with a thigh strain and has been recovering in his native Argentina for the last month. According to Marca, Messi is set to return to Spain on Jan. 2 and will work up his match fitness ahead of the Atletico match.

In addition, Paris Saint-Germain has been linked once more (by Le Parisien) to sign Messi in the future, with the report citing five reasons—from Messi’s problems with the Spanish tax authorities to being part of PSG’s plans to become one of the top-10 clubs in the world—why Messi would join the club. Of course, PSG would also be able to afford Messi’s salary and transfer fee as well.

Here are some more stories to start your Friday:

RODGERS UPSET WITH OFFICIAL’S PERFORMANCE

Liverpool isn’t very happy with their 2-1 Boxing Day defeat to Manchester City and manager Brendan Rodgers has made his feelings known.

Following Thursday afternoon’s game, Rodgers complained about the officiating during the match, going so far as to suggest that head referee Lee Mason is biased toward Manchester City because he’s from Bolton (about 10 miles outside of Manchester).

“I never go on about officials but I thought they were horrendous,” Rodgers told BBC Sport. “The linesman gave Raheem offside in the first half but they were not even on the same cut of grass. If you are working at this level, you have got to get those right. There was another incident in the second half when Luis should have had a free-kick on the edge of the box and arguably there was a penalty late on. Luis can’t jump because (Lescott’s) tugging at his shirt.”

Rodgers added, “I was surprised that we are playing in Manchester and we had a referee from Greater Manchester,” he added. “I was surprised when I saw it but that’s by the by.”

The Liverpool manager is set to be investigated by the FA for his comments.

RAMSEY SUFFERS THIGH INJURY

Arsenal’s star player of the first half of the season is likely to miss the rest of the holiday period with a thigh injury.

Aaron Ramsey suffered the injury 20 minutes into the second half, limping off in the 65th minute in place of Lukas Podolski, who eventually set up the second and scored Arsenal’s third in their 3-1 victory. Ramsey is set for a frustrating spell on the sidelines after a terrific start of the season that saw him score 13 goals in all competitions.

“It looks [serious]. It looks like a thigh strain. I don’t know how serious the thigh strain is but the Christmas period certainly is over for him,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters following the match. “It was his birthday today. I don’t know how long (he will be out for). We will see tomorrow morning.”

QUICK KICKS

Malky Mackay has been relieved of his duties as Cardiff City manager following a 3-0 defeat to Southampton. (REPORT)

Valencia is linked with Manchester City reserve forward Edin Dzeko. (REPORT)

Contrary to reports from Marca, two publications in Barcelona believe that FC Barcelona will sign Marc-Andre ter Stegen in June instead of Thibaut Courtois. (REPORT)

Manchester United center back Phil Jones will miss at least two weeks with a knee injury. (REPORT)

AS Roma has reportedly entered the race to sign Radja Nainggolan, bidding 7.5 million euros ($10.4 million) for the Cagliari midfielder’s services. (REPORT)

Bayern Munich has sent winger Jan Kirchhoff to Schalke 04 on an 18-month loan deal. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? Expect Messi to return to action on Jan. 11? Do you agree with Rodgers’ statements? Surprised to see Mackay sacked?

Share your thoughts below.

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