By DAN KARELL
The last time that Lionel Messi and Mario Balotelli were supposed to face each other in an August international friendly match between Argentina and Italy, both players had to pull out of the squad with muscle injuries.
This time, when AC Milan host Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, both Balotelli and Messi are expected to play after taking part their first-team’s training sessions this week, with Messi even a possibility to start after coming off the bench last Saturday in Barcelona’s scoreless draw at Osasuna.
Balotelli has been in fine form for both club and country when fit and eligible this season, having scored eight goals in the final nine games, while Messi hopes to be finally over his thigh muscle problems that have plagued him since last March.
The last time that Barcelona played in Milan, the Italian side managed a surprising 2-0 victory that buoyed the club for a couple of weeks, before Barcelona routed Milan, 4-0, in the return leg.
Here are some more stories to start your Tuesday:
INIESTA INKS EXTENSION WITH BARCELONA
Despite Barcelona and Andres Iniesta not having come to a contract extension agreement over the summer, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the two sides came together and found common ground.
On Tuesday morning, Barcelona vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu triumphantly announced that Iniesta and the club have agreed on principle a five-year contract, potentially keeping him in the Blaugrana shirt until 2018, when the Spain international will be 34-year-old by the end of the 2017/2018 season.
“Iniesta’s renewal is a fact,” Bartomeu told Spanish publication Marca. “Negotiations are underway and the two sides have the will to reach an agreement. (The) contract extension will be the maximum provided by the law: five years. And it will not be his last renewal with Barça.”
Since joining Barcelona’s first team in 2002, Iniesta has made more than 300 league appearances and won an amazing amount of silverware, including six La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League crowns, two European Cups with Spain, and a World Cup title in 2010, where he scored the game-winning-goal in the final.
AUSTRALIA CLOSING IN ON NEW MANAGER
The Australian Football Federation (FFA) are closing in on having Ange Postecoglou leading the Socceroos to the World Cup next summer in Brazil.
After firing Holger Osieck ten days ago following two consecutive 6-0 defeats in friendly matches, the FFA have been looking for a new coach for the team to lead the side in Brazil and at the 2015 Asian cup that Australia will host. All indications in the Australian press lead to Postecoglou, the current coach of A-League side Melbourne Victory.
A former Australia international, the Greek-born Postecoglou won two league titles with the Brisbane Roar in 2011 and 2012 and after moving to the Victory in April 2012, he lead them to a third-place finish in the A-League last season.
MARTINEZ RETURNS TO FIRST TEAM TRAINING
Bayern Munich were given a huge boost on Monday when Spanish midfielder Javi Martinez suited up for training.
The 25-year-old has been out with a groin injury that required surgery back in early September, and it’s taken him more than six weeks to return to full fitness. Combined with the news that Dante is out for two weeks at least with an ankle knock, Martinez’s return comes at the perfect time for Pep Guardiola’s side.
“I’m finally back on the pitch and now I’m hoping to be able to help the team as much as I can in the next few games,” Martinez told Bundesliga.com, “but I need to be patient, as well as train a lot.”
Martinez played 43 times for Bayern last season as they won the treble, featuring as both a holding midfielder and centerback during times of injury for the team and shining at both positions.
According to a report in France, winger Franck Ribery found himself in a shouting match with former France coach Gerard Houllier after France’s 6-0 victory against Australia. (REPORT)
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been charged with improper conduct by the FA after he was sent to the stands at Stamford Bridge last Saturday. (REPORT)
Following the positive start to the season, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is set to open new contract talks with the club. (REPORT)
Barcelona and Manchester City are battling to sign 14-year-old Malaga prodigy Brahim Abdelkader, with Manuel Pellegrini hoping that his Malaga connections can help him land the youngster. (REPORT)
Former AZ Alkmaar head coach Gertjan Verbeek has been appointed to the managerial role at FC Nurnberg. (REPORT)
Graeme Souness is being tipped by the English media to replace Tony Mowbray at Middlesbrough, after the latter was sacked following a poor start to the season. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Looking forward to seeing Balotelli and Messi on the field at the same time? Did you think there was any chance of Iniesta leaving Barcelona? How big of a boost is it for Bayern that Martinez is back in first team training?
Share your thoughts below.