Wholesale Atletico Madrid FC Jerseys

“I hope the fans blow up the Wanda Metropolitano, that it explodes,” said Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone at the news conference following his side’s 1-1 Europa League semifinal first-leg draw at Arsenal last week.

“There must be positive energy to accompany these kids. I get goosebumps thinking of how next Thursday could be.”

Simeone was still pumping as he spoke — having watched from the stands as Atletico’s 10 men battled to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates following Sime Vrsaljko’s early red card, with the Argentine also sent off for abusing the referee soon afterwards.

“Hopefully our fans can help us to go through in the return,” Antoine Griezmann said. “We must do it now, we expect a euphoric atmosphere at the Wanda.”

It seemed, maybe, as if Simeone and Griezmann had momentarily forgotten their team had moved home last season. Atletico’s old, crumbling Vicente Calderon stadium was a place that exploded and grew euphoric — especially on big European nights when Barcelona [twice], Bayern Munich [twice], Juventus and Milan were among the teams who could not live with the pressure exerted.

This season at the Wanda, things have been quite different, with a defeat in their first Champions League group game to Chelsea and a loss in the Copa del Rey to Sevilla. Generally, Atletico fans are still waiting for their first big memorable occasion at the Wanda, says Emilio Abejon of fans group Senales de Humo (“Smoke Signals”).

“This year, apart from the win over Roma, we have not had an important result against a strong team like Arsenal,” Abejon says. “But Simeone has shown that this team can overcome the worst streaks, even with a squad low on numbers, and the fans will believe until the end that they can reach the final.”

Abejon’s group were critical of the move from the Calderon to the Wanda as it was pushed through and he says problems have continued at their new home.

“The majority of fans did not back the move, and have not settled properly yet,” Abejon says. “The atmosphere is different to the Calderon. There have even been protests about the club’s lack of respect for its traditions and change of badge. Fans have complained about chaos at the entrances, that there are no bars nearby to get ready for kick-off, or enjoy the postgame. The support from the Ultras section has also diminished.”

Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin argued the move to the 67,000-seater Wanda was necessary for financial reasons, and the club regularly trumpet the stadium’s new modern facilities.

But local pundit and Diego Costa biographer Fran Guillen is still more concerned with what has been lost.

“Atletico have won in terms of modernity, that is undoubtable, but they have lost soul,” Guillen said.

“And that for a team said to be the ‘most Argentine in Europe’, is a huge loss. The same as Boca Juniors would not be the same playing at home in a stadium like Wembley, away from their “boiler”, Atletico have become colder at the Metropolitano.”

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Simeone has maintained through the season it is not a stadium that makes an atmosphere, but the people inside it, and the Argentine is likely to be on his feet as usual early on Thursday to exert his team’s supporters to make more noise.

“It is not about being modern, more that it is much bigger and more open,” says Inako Diaz Guerra of El Mundo. “So you have to make much more noise to provoke the same sensation as the Calderon. And that is difficult, even more in a season as strange as this, where everything has been very tepid, a good years, but without peaks of emotion.”

Arsenal may be going through a down period historically, and entering into a period of transition with long-serving manager Arsene Wenger finally moving on, but they are still seen by Atletico fans as a bigger club. This is backed up by UEFA’s official financial rankings which have the Londoners seventh by revenue [€477m] compared to the Madrilenos’ 14th [€229m], while Arsenal’s wage bill of €263m is also almost double Atletico’s €137m.

Thursday, therefore, offers a perfect opportunity for Simeone and his team to write the first important chapter in their new home’s history by making a European final at the end of what has been a very challenging season for many reasons.

“Simeone has made a call, and normally, that is the word of God for the Atletico fans,” Guillen said.

“In the end the Metropolitano needs to start to write its own history, and accumulate historic nights which build its DNA. And Thursday has all the ingredients for one of them.”

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Barcelona broke a 38-year-old La Liga record on Saturday as they extended their unbeaten streak in Spain’s top flight to 39 games by beating Valencia 2-1 at the Camp Nou.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring with 15 minutes on the clock before Samuel Umtiti doubled the lead early in the second half as Barca bounced back from their Champions League exit at the hands of Roma.

Uruguay forward Suarez met Philippe Coutinho’s flicked ball behind the defence with a sharp finish for his 23rd league goal of the season. Coutinho was again the provider when his 51st-minute corner was headed home at the near post by Umtiti.

Daniel Parejo pulled a goal for the visitors from the penalty spot in the closing moments, but that couldn’t stop Barca sealing a win that stretches their lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of the table to 14 points.

As a result, Barca set a new league high for consecutive games without defeat, breaking a record which had been held by Real Sociedad since 1980.

La Real’s run, spread over two seasons, was ended by Sevilla on the penultimate day of the 1979-80 campaign and ultimately cost them the league title to Real Madrid.

Barca’s previous best unbeaten run in La Liga was 31 games, set when Pep Guardiola was the coach in the 2010-11 season.

Madrid’s longest-ever streak, meanwhile, was also 31 matches. Coached by Leo Beenhakker at the time, Los Blancos set their personal best in 1989.

Valverde will hope the record can go some way to healing the wounds picked up on Tuesday when Barca threw away a three-goal first leg lead as they crashed out of the Champions League to Roma.

The Catalan side are still on track to win a domestic double, though, as they sit top of La Liga and face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final next weekend.

Their current unbeaten run started last April when Luis Enrique’s side beat Real Sociedad 3-2 having lost the week before against Malaga.

Barca went on to end the season with seven straight wins, narrowly missing out on the title to Madrid before Valverde replaced Luis Enrique in the summer.

Under Valverde, Barca are yet to taste defeat in 32 league matches and are now just six games away from becoming the first ever La Liga side to go through a whole campaign unbeaten.

However, while a seventh league title in 10 years now looks a formality, they still have some work to do if they want to end the season unbeaten.

They travel to Celta Vigo on Tuesday, where they lost 4-3 and 4-1 in each of the last two seasons. Barca also still have to play Deportivo La Coruna, Villarreal, Levante and Real Sociedad.

Valverde’s side also still have to play Real Madrid again, too, with Zinedine Zidane’s team due at Camp Nou on May 6.

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Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has told Sport Bild he no longer holds a grudge against his successor Jose Mourinho, but criticised CEO Ed Woodward for not giving him more time in England.

Mourinho took over from Van Gaal in the summer of 2016 after the former Bayern Munich boss was dismissed despite winning the FA Cup in what proved his final match in charge.

“I’m not disappointed in Jose Mourinho,” Van Gaal told Sport Bild. “Every coach wants to manage Manchester United. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world.

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“Jose wanted that too and was given the opportunity to do so although he was sacked when he was 13th with a fantastic side like Chelsea. I am not accusing him of any wrongdoing but, on the other hand, my team had just come fourth.”

Van Gaal, however, was more critical of United’s Woodward, who fired him a few days after the FA Cup success at Wembley.

“I don’t think it’s correct when a CEO says we are totally happy with you and the media doesn’t believe him. Then you win the FA Cup and you are sacked anyway,” Van Gaal said.

Despite attempting to make his peace with Mourinho, Van Gaal singled out Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for special praise.

“Pep Guardiola is currently the Premier League’s best coach,” he said.

“Pep has made [Manchester] City a machine. He is playing the type of football that I wanted at Manchester United. However, he has better players for that. I needed more time for this process, which I unfortunately didn’t get.”

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Roma have completed the permanent signings of Patrik Schick and Gregoire Defrel after conditions in their initial loan deals were met, although their transfer fees do not contribute to a loss of €40.3 million for the six months up to Dec. 31, 2017.

As reported in the club’s half-year financial accounts, the two forwards are now Roma players “since the conditions foreseen for the loan deals to be obligatorily transformed into permanent contracts were met” after the half-year accounts were drawn up at the end of the year, but before Thursday’s statement was published.

Schick initially cost €5m when he joined on loan from Sampdoria, but a further €9m is now payable after the move was made permanent. Furthermore, Roma must pay them an additional €20m on Feb. 1, 2020 — making him the club’s most expensive signing — should he still be on their books.

If he is sold before then, Roma must pay Sampdoria a minimum of €20m or 50 percent of any future sale, whichever is highest. Schick signed a five-year contract with Roma in August.

Defrel was also signed for an initial €5m when he joined from Sassuolo in July. A further €15m is now owed, and bonuses of up to €3 million could still be paid over the course of his five-year contract with Roma.

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The sale of Mario Rui to Napoli was confirmed in Thursday’s statement, with Seydou Doumbia and Juan Iturbe also no longer Roma players as their initial loan moves to Sporting Lisbon and Club Tijuana, respectively, were also made permanent after conditions were met at the turn of the year.

The announced loss of €40.3m is a reduction on the €53.4m lost in the corresponding period of 2016, while the club also announced that they have approved a capital increase to €115m.

The January sales of Emerson Palmieri to Chelsea, for an initial €20m and a possible further €9m in bonuses, and Hector Moreno to Real Sociedad for €6m will help offset the signings of Schick and Defrel. And, reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League is an objective that would boost the accounts for the first six months of 2018.

Roma trail Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 after the first leg of their round-of-16 tie and will welcome them to the Stadio Olimpico for the second leg on March 13.

Reaching the Champions League again next season is also an important objective with Roma currently lying outside the qualifying positions in fifth, but just a point behind fourth-placed Inter Milan with 12 games remaining.

Roma travel to Serie A leaders Napoli on Saturday evening.

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Arsenal goalkeepers Petr Cech and David Ospina

Arsene Wenger has confirmed David Ospina will start in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final over number one Petr Cech, and has paved the way for the Colombian to feature throughout their Europa League campaign.

Ospina captained the Gunners to a comfortable 3-0 win over Ostersund last week and will retain his place when the Swedish outfit visit the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

Cech – the Gunners’ most decorated player with four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League – suggested earlier this week that he will sit out Sunday’s final as Ospina lines up against Manchester City.

Ospina has played in all but one round to get Arsenal to the final, with Matt Macey deputising in the narrow extra-time victory over Norwich.

Wenger set clearly defined roles for his keepers this season and, when asked if Ospina would play on Thursday, he replied “yes” before going on to confirm he would then remain in goal for the cup final.

“It’s always a difficult decision but I think they are clear about that,” he said about his goalkeeping selection.

“Since the start of the season, it’s clear. He (Ospina) played in the whole competition. I have two world-class goalkeepers and I decided from the start to have clarity in the games they play. I maintain that.”

Meanwhile, Henrikh Mkhitaryan will start on Thursday as he is ineligible for the cup final, having played for Manchester United earlier in the competition.

Surprisingly, Mesut Ozil played the whole 90 minutes of the opening leg against Ostersund in sub-zero conditions.

He will be absent this time around due to illness, although Wenger believes he will be fine to feature in the final.

“Mesut was sick,” he added.

“Today was his first training session. He was in bed on Monday and Tuesday with sickness. I would certainly have played him but he was sick.

“He will have to work hard and he will not be involved tomorrow. He should be OK for Sunday.”

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With four wins in their last five matches, things are slowly beginning to turn round for AC Milan under head coach Gennaro Gattuso.

After a mediocre start to the season, the Rossoneri are steadily gaining ground on the teams at the top, with a 2-1 victory over third-placed Lazio on Sunday leaving them just three points off a Europa League spot.

Gattuso seems to have instilled some of his famously dogged mentality into his team, though his methods are what you might call “unorthodox”.

Indeed, the 40-year-old gathered his players in a huddle after the Lazio game and invited them to take out any and all of their frustrations on him.

“I just want to make my squad happy,” Gattuso said afterwards.

“Especially the players who are angry with me because are on the bench, so now they have chance to slap me.”

It’s a strange (not to mention painful) way of going about fostering team spirit, but you simply can’t argue with the results.