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Bayern coach faces ex-team in strained friendly

Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola's former team meets his current employers in a friendly on Wednesday, as the European champions host Barcelona with relations strained between the Spaniard and his ex-club.

Bayern coach faces ex-team in strained friendly
Photo: DPA

On Tuesday, Barcelona named former Paraguay manager and Argentina midfielder Gerardo Martino as head coach to replace Tito Vilanova, who resigned Friday as he battles against cancer.

After Guardiola won 14 titles between 2008 and 2012 at Barcelona, the pre-season run-out has added spice given recent events which have strained relations between the two European powerhouses.

Guardiola took charge of Bayern last month amid great fanfare, after the Bavarians lured the 42-year-old to Munich following his year’s sabbatical in New York.

Guardiola has already poached Spain Under-21 captain Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona to bolster his star-studded midfield which includes Holland’s Arjen Robben and France winger Franck Ribery.

But Guardiola stirred up bad blood with his former bosses earlier this month when he accused the Barcelona board of trying to “damage” him.

Guardiola lashed out in a press conference, making allegations against the board, which were later refuted, that he had snubbed Vilanova while he was being treated for cancer in New York.

“I will never forget that they used Tito’s illness to cause me damage, because it’s a lie that I never saw him in New York,” he said.

With relations strained off the field, there is plenty of spice on it, although both teams are likely to name weakened teams.

Bayern’s Germany stars Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Götze are both recovering from injury, while neither team is expected to have their Confederations Cup stars in action.

Both Barcelona’s new Brazil star Neymar and Spain’s Carles Puyol, who is working his way back to fitness after knee surgery in March, are expected to sit it out.

Senior stars Javier Mascherano, Adriano Correia, Alex Song and Alexis Sanchez are likely to feature among a host of reserves, while Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi is set to play some part.

Barcelona have something to prove against Bayern having been humbled 7-0 on aggregate in last season’s Champions League finals when the Germans backed up a 4-0 win in Munich with a 3-0 rout at the Camp Nou.

Having already chalked up wins over Bundesliga opposition Hamburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach in a pre-season tournament over the weekend, the Barcelona friendly is a big test for Guardiola’s new-look Bayern.

He has introduced a 4-1-4-1 system, from the 4-2-3-1 formation which won last season’s treble, and switched Germany captain Philipp Lahm from right-back into midfield with France winger Franck Ribery up front.

The game’s kick-off time has been brought forward to 1830 local time (1630

GMT) to allow home-team fans to watch Germany’s women in the semi-final of the

2013 European Championships.

AFP/jlb

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SPORT

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible South African-born player during the qualifying stages and will be replaced by Romania, World Rugby announced on Thursday.

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

“Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain,” read the statement.

Portugal — who Spain beat to seal their place in the global showpiece in France next year — replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament taking place in November 2022.

“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee,” read the statement.

According to Spanish media in March, the player under investigation was South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018.

He played twice against the Netherlands, in 2020 and 2021, in qualifiers, but he may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were all sanctioned in 2018 for having fielded ineligible players, opening the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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