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Barcelona shock

Barcelona have called an unexpected press conference for this evening amid speculation the departure of head coach Tito Vilanova will be announced.

The press conference has been called for 7.30pm BST by Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and sports director Andoni Zubizarreta.

The topic of that press conference is yet to be confirmed, but AS is reporting, among others, that Vilanova will resign his post.

Vilanova only replaced Pep Guardiola 12 months ago, and during his first season in charge after replacing the club’s most successful ever manager, oversaw the club regain the Primeira Liga title from Real Madrid.

In December last year, Barcelona announced that the Spaniard was suffering from parotid gland cancer for the second time. He had been diagnosed the first time 12 months before. Assistant Jordi Roura took over until he returned in March last year.

Maracana regains former glory

Brazilian authorities have backed down from a threat to ban flags, musical instruments and topless fans from matches at the newly refurbished Maracana.

However, the use of pyrotechnics and firecrackers will not be allowed, said a statement by Rio de Janeiro state government’s sports ministry (Suderj) following a meeting with the police and supporters’ groups.

Neighbours Fluminense and Vasco da Gama meet on Sunday in the Brazilian championship, the first domestic match to be staged since the renewal of the stadium.

“Fans will be able to take flags with masts up of up to 10 metres, take off their shirts and watch the game standing up,” Suderj said in a statement.

“Taking off your shirt and swinging it around above your head is a typical gesture of the fans of Rio de Janeiro teams,” Suderj president Andre Lazaroni added.

“I’m in favour of tradition, although we are still looking to bring families back to football matches.”

The Maracana, the spiritual home of Brazilian football, re-opened in June after a rebuilding programme plagued by delays and burgeoning costs.

Musical instruments and flags were banned from the stadium when it hosted matches at last month’s Confederations Cup, organised by killjoys FIFA.

Many Brazilians, including the government, are worried that the modernisation of Brazilian stadiums for next year’s World Cup could lead to ordinary fans being priced out of the new arena.

Worries that might have been alleviated somewhat by the announcement of prices for the finals.

Tickets will go on sale on 20 August for Brazilian residents. The cheapest tickets will be $15 (£10) for students, over-60s and those on welfare. The cheapest non-discounted ticket will be £20 for a group match up to £588 for a category one seat at the final. That is similar in price to South Africa in 2010, where match tickets ranged from £14 for local residents up to £630.

The cheapest tickets for overseas fans next summer will cost US$90 (£59), FIFA has announced. The cheapest ticket for overseas fans for the final is $440 (£288) and the most expensive $990 (£650).

In the hat

Fenerbahce have been drawn against Salzburg in the third round of Champions League qualifying – although their participation in the competition is dependent on a final ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Turkish club, along with fellow Super Lig outfit and Europa League qualifiers Besiktas, were initially handed a two-year suspension by UEFA in June for their involvement in domestic match-fixing.

That ruling was overturned on a temporary basis by CAS, who will make a final decision on Fenerbahce on August 28 and Besiktas on August 30.

Although Feber officials at the draw refused to discuss the case, Salzburg official Mark Lang admitted that the situation was confusing.

“Of course, we are a little bit confused about things that happened yesterday,” he told The Associated Press. “We don’t have any influence on these decisions.

“We are trying to beat them on the field. It’s a very interesting opponent, and we’re looking forward to the matches.”

If Fenerbahce win through to the group stage but loses the legal challenge at CAS, UEFA must decide which team would take its place in the 32-team draw in Monaco.

Bursaspor officials, attending the subsequent Europa League draw, admitted they had no idea if their club could yet be promoted to the Champions League.

Age shall not wither him

Former Argentina captain Juan Sebastian Veron has come out of retirement to play another season at Estudiantes with his salary going to the club’s juniors.

Veron, who is the club’s technical secretary and was sporting director last season, has signed a new player’s contract until next June and will play for them in the 2013-14 Argentine first division league season.

“I don’t think I’m in the form of that time (in 2009) when we won the Libertadores Cup, but I’m just as motivated because I love playing football,” the 38-year-old playmaker told Radio Del Plata earlier this week.

Veron retired a year ago after which the team suffered a slump in form, finishing 14th in the clausura.

The Argentine was the subject of one of Sir Alex Ferguon’s more memorable meltdown.

After an underwhelming first season with Manchester United, Veron’s form was questioned at a press conference. Ferguson vented against critics of Veron, before ordering the assembled journalists to “get out” of the training ground.

“He [Veron] is a fucking great player,” were his parting words. “And you’re all fucking idiots.”

We’ll miss those outbursts. Possibly.

Messi business

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has warned Barcelona he will meet Lionel Messi’s release clause if the Spanish champions continues to pursue Thiago Silva.

Barcelona have been linked with a move for the Brazil international throughout, but with PSG under no compulsion to sell, have repeatedly stated that the defender is not for sale.

Reports in France suggest that Al-Khelaifi is ready to go up against Tito Vilanova’s side in a bid to dissuade it from lodging an offer for the Brazil international, by threatening to make a counter-bid for four-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi.

“If Barca pay the buy-out clause of Thiago Silva then I will meet Messi’s buy-out clause,” he told ActuSports.fr.

Goal of the day

Stunning long range effort from Young Lee for Ulsan Hyundai against Jeju United.

Quote of the day

We are opposed to the concept of a winter World Cup for very obvious practical reasons that would impact on all of European domestic football.”

The Premier League delivers its verdict on the proposed winter World Cup.

Men behaving badly

Tempers flared in the closing seconds of the Chilean Cup tie between Unión Española and Universidad Catolica with players and coaches from both sides involved in a free-for-all. Remarkably, only two players were sent off; even more amazingly the fighting continued after the referee had brandished the red cards – by which point one can only assume that the match officials had seen enough and decided to let them get on with it.

Warning: it goes on a while.

Free bus pass

Stoke City are offering supporters free coach travel to every one of their Premier League away games this season.

This ties in with their longstanding policy of having to pay people to watch their home matches.

Showing a refreshing attitude to the people who actually make the effort of attending the game, the club are using the increase in TV revenue to fund the initiative.

“We’re conscious that following football can be an expensive business,”chief executive Tony Scholes said.

“We work hard to try and provide our supporters with value for money, which is why we have not increased our ticket prices since being promoted to the Premier League in 2008.

“However, we realise how expensive following the club away from home can be for supporters and we’re delighted to be able to offer free coach travel and hope it encourages more of them to give us their fantastic backing away from home.”

Let’s hope so.

Finally…

Bert Trautmann, the goalkeeper who won the FA Cup with Manchester City having suffered a broken neck, has died at the age of 89, the German Football Association has announced.

Trautmann, who played more than 500 times for City between 1949-64, having first arrived in England as a prisoner of war, was bestowed with an honorary OBE for his work in promoting Anglo-German post-war relations.

Trautmann was an FA Cup winner with City in 1956, playing the final 17 minutes of that game with a broken neck.

With City leading 3-1 Trautmann dived at the feet of onrushing forward Peter Murphy. The Birmingham player’s knee collided with the City goalkeeper’s neck, and Trautmann was knocked out.

At the time, no substitutions were allowed, and Trautmann returned to his place between the posts, where he produced two more outstanding saves and then collided with his own defender, Dave Ewing, and had to be revived again.

It was only days later that an X-ray revealed a broken neck.

After his playing days, he moved into management with Stockport before returning to his native Germany in 1967 to coach Preussen Munster.

He passed away at his home near Valencia in Spain.

German FA (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach said: “Bert Trautmann was an amazing sportsman and a true gentleman.

“He went to England as a soldier, and thus a war enemy, and he became a celebrated hero there. He was a legend.

“His extraordinary career will remain forever in the history books.

“We were in very close contact since 1996, when he was part of our official delegation when we won the European Championships in England.

“The DFB had invited him to Nuremberg in October, but he turned down the invitation because it was the same time he wanted to celebrate his 90th birthday.

“That makes this news even more surprising.”

Here are highlights of the 1956 final.

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