Suarez set for Barca debut despite biting ban

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Barcelona bad boy: Luis Suarez is unfortunately renowned for the wrong reasons as a footballer.

Controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez is likely to play his first game for Barcelona in a friendly on Monday, coach Luis Enrique said on Sunday, despite the player's competitive ban for biting a World Cup opponent.

Suarez, who is banned from competitive matches until October 25 for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, trained with Barcelona on Sunday ahead of Monday's Joan Gamper Trophy, the traditional curtain-raiser to Barca's season, against Mexican side Leon.

"I would like him to be able to play for a few minutes tomorrow," Enrique told a news conference after Sunday's training.

"Not many, because he has not played for some time, but he has worked very well when training on his own."

Barcelona bought Suarez for a reported 95 million euros (DHS 467m) from Liverpool last month.

On Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport relaxed his ban, allowing him to train and play in unofficial matches, but upheld his four-month exclusion from competitive games and his nine-match international suspension.

Suarez will be available to play in competitive matches from Saturday, October 25, meaning his official debut could come in the first Clasico of the Spanish league campaign against Real Madrid.

Enrique, a former Barcelona player who replaced Gerard Martino after he stepped down at the end of last season following a trophyless campaign, insisted on Sunday Suarez's absence at the start of the season "does not harm us at all".

"The squad is solid and strong enough to face the first matches of the league."

Suarez bit Chiellini on June 24 in a 1-0 win over Italy. It was the third time in his career he had been found guilty of biting an opponent.

After his first training session with Barcelona on Friday, Suarez told the club website: "I'm paying for a mistake I made and one I have apologised for, but I have to forget about all this."

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Mourinho eyes strong start from improved Chelsea

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New look side: Mourinho feels his Chelsea side will be more resilient this season.

Jose Mourinho's belief that Chelsea are better equipped to challenge for the Premier League title faces an immediate test when his side travel to Burnley in their season opener on Monday.

Last season Blues boss Mourinho maintained Chelsea were not ready to launch a sustained title bid and he was proved right when his players faltered in the final stages and eventually finished third.

Key to Chelsea's failure was their inability to overcome teams from the bottom half of the table, with away defeats at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace proving particularly costly.

The visit to Burnley will present a similar challenge as Sean Dyche's fired-up side are determined to start the new campaign in a positive manner after unexpectedly securing automatic promotion from the Championship last season.

 Mourinho last year accused some of his players of lacking character when confronted by the kind of test Burnley will present.

But with his squad strengthened by arrival of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis and the return of Didier Drogba, the manager is confident Chelsea will prove more resilient this time around.

"My squad is very good, not perfect, but it's very good," Mourinho said.

"The squad has experience, it has characters and personalities, it has people with ambition. We covered many positions. I'm very happy with the squad."

Costa will make his competitive debut at the head of Chelsea's attack following his ?32 million arrival from Atletico Madrid, while former Arsenal midfielder Fabregas — back in England after a spell at Barcelona — will slot into the midfield and be expected to replace the attacking threat of the now departed Frank Lampard.

Drogba is back at Stamford Bridge two years after leaving following the club's 2012 Champions League final triumph and Mourinho expects the Ivory Coast forward to recover from an ankle problem in time to make the trip.

"I think he can play Monday, I cannot say yes for sure, but I think he will," Mourinho said.

Mourinho must decide whether to keep faith with Petr Cech, Chelsea's goalkeeper for the last 10 years, or start with Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium international who is back at the club after spending the last three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid, with Courtois favourite to get the nod.

Burnley have signed eight players during the close-season to supplement their squad, but they remain among the lowest spenders in the top-flight.

Striker Lukas Jutkiewicz is their most expensive signing at €1.5million (DHS 7m) from Middlesbrough – a stark contrast to the huge sum spent on Costa by Chelsea.

"There will be a vast gap in resources available, that's the reality of it," admitted Dyche.

"But look at what you've got, not what you've haven't. We haven't got that, so there's no point moaning about.

"We have to focus on what we've got and use it wisely."

Crucially, Burnley have managed to retain the services of forward Danny Ings, 22, whose 21 league goals last season were a key factor in their promotion.

He is set to partner Jutkiewicz in attack with Sam Vokes, who scored 20 times last season, a long-term injury absentee.

Dyche has added experience to his squad in the form of Matt Taylor from West Ham, Steven Reid from West Bromwich Albion and Stephen Ward from Wolves.

And the Clarets will hope they can repeat their shock win over Manchester United in their opening home game in the Premier League in 2009-10 — their last stay in the top division.

"Never say never and wasn't it Cardiff who got the three points off Man City early last season? I don't think many would have been expecting that," added Dyche.

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Yaya ‘very happy’ at Man City ahead of new PL campaign

Andy Hampson 17/08/2014
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Putting our problems in the past: Yaya Toure (left) is ready to star once again for Manchester City after a summer of disquiet.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pel­legrini believes Yaya Toure is “very happy” at the club and ready for the start of their Premier League season opener at Newcastle United today.

City’s player of the year in their title-winning 2013-14 campaign has had a difficult summer, during which his relationship with the club appeared strained.

First there were the infamous claims from his agent that he felt unappreciated and disrespected by the club after his birthday was not sufficiently acknowledged during a post-season trip to Abu Dhabi. In June, Toure’s younger brother Ibra­him died after a battle with cancer.

In the days that followed the re­marks, Toure claimed he had been denied permission by the club to spend time with Ibrahim as his health deteriorated. These mat­ters led to considerable speculation that the Ivory Coast international could leave City, with Paris Saint- German heavily linked, but last month he reiterated his commit­ment to the club.

Pellegrini said: “Really, I spoke with Yaya and he’s very happy.

“I don’t know what happened in the summer. Some people talked about his position, but really at this moment he doesn’t have any prob­lems. It has passed, it doesn’t mat­ter at this moment.”

It has been suggested that some of the comments from agent Dim­itri Seluk may have been in part a tactic to negotiate a new contract. Yet Toure, 31, is just over a year into a four-year deal worth a reported £45 million (Dh275.9m).

It is understood that no nego­tiations are currently taking place, even though new long-term deals this week for Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero led to suggestions Toure could be next.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero (groin) is expected to play against Newcastle but new signing Eliaquim Mangala will not feature. Defender Mangala only arrived at the club on Monday following his protracted £32m (Dh196.2m) move from Porto.

Other players who did not feature in the Community Shield loss to Arsenal last week, such as Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart, Fernandinho and Frank Lampard, are in conten­tion. Striker Alvaro Negredo (foot) is the only injury absentee.

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