Javier Mascherano is sure China move won't impact his World Cup 2018 prospects for Argentina

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Javier Mascherano at his unveiling by Hebei China Fortune.

Legendary defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano is confident his switch to the Chinese Super League will not impact hopes of representing Argentina at World Cup 2018.

Mascherano, 33, bid farewell to Barcelona this January after 334 appearances and 17 major trophies and joined Hebei China Fortune.

This decision to exit European football has led to suggestions he may fall out of favour for head coach Jorge Sampaoli’s Los Albiceleste. But the 141-times-capped star revealed he’s received assurances that this will not be the case.

“I hadn’t spoken to Jorge Sampaoli when I decided to come to China but I did meet him later,” said Mascherano. “I told him I wanted to play in the midfield position which was more familiar with me.


“If I play good enough in China I will be able to play for the national team.”








Mascherano could make his competitive debut for Hebei on Saturday at Tianjin TEDA in the 2018 CSL’s opening round.



Video provided by SNTV/AP



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After Neymar injury, PSG now sweating on Kylian Mbappe fitness for Real Madrid tie

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Mbappe suffered an ankle injury in PSG's cup win over Marseille.

As if losing Neymar wasn’t bad enough, Paris Saint-Germain‘s hopes of overturning their 3-1 Champions League deficit to Real Madrid took another blow on Wednesday when striker Kylian Mbappe picked up an ankle injury in the 3-0 Coupe de France quarter-final win over Marseille.

“Kylian Mbappe injured his ankle. He asked not to play the second half. I hope that it’s not too serious,” said PSG coach Unai Emery, whose team host Real in Paris on Tuesday in the second leg of their last-16 tie.

Earlier Wednesday, it was revealed that Brazilian superstar Neymar will undergo surgery on his fractured foot in Brazil at the end of this week, ruling the world’s most expensive footballer out of the do-or-die duel with Real.

The 26-year-old suffered a hairline fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot as well as a twisted ankle late in PSG’s 3-0 win over Marseille in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Keylor Navas statistically the best penalty stopper from Europe's five top leagues

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Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas repels a penalty from Deportivo la Coruna attacker Florin Andone.

Villarreal’s Sergio Asenjo pulled off a goalkeeping miracle this weekend when he saved a pair of penalties from Getafe in his side’s fortunate 1-0 victory.

The 28-year-old’s heroics inspired us to find out who are the safest hands from 12 yards currently employed in Europe’s top-five divisions – La Liga, Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

Using information on www.transfermarkt.co.uk, we tallied up the totals of failed penalties – both missed and saved – from the beginning of 2015/16 in these competitions. Here are our findings:

LA LIGA

Both Real Sociedad’s Argentine shot-stopper Geronimo Rulli and Real Madrid’s Costa Rica No1 Keylor Navas lead the way with six stops each.

They might not be separated by their totals, but a little deeper analysis clearly shows who La Liga’s attackers should fear the most.

Rulli’s misses come from a combined 18 penalties, giving him a ratio of 33.3 per cent. In contrast, Madrid keeper Navas has seen an incredible two thirds of the spot-kicks fail to find the back of the net – six have missed from nine efforts.

Navas’ achievements have contributed to points earned in this January’s 2-2 at Celta Vigo and November 2016’s 2-1 victory against Sporting Gijon, plus he psyched out France superstar Antoine Griezmann in October 2015’s pulsating 1-1 draw with city rivals Atletico Madrid.

Geronimo Rulli

Club: Real Sociedad

Penalties faced: 18

Penalties missed against him: 6

Miss percentage: 33.3

Keylor Navas

Club: Real Madrid

Penalties faced: 9

Penalties missed against him: 6

Miss percentage: 66.7

Geronimo Rulli (l) of Real Sociedad tries to put off Antoine Griezmann.

Geronimo Rulli (l) of Real Sociedad tries to put off Antoine Griezmann.

PREMIER LEAGUE

One man leads the way in the English top-flight and that is Watford’s long-limbed Brazilian, Heurelho Gomes.

The 37-year-old has seen off competition from the likes of Southampton’s Fraser Forster and Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet to witness five wayward efforts from 16 faced.

His numbers are boosted by a memorable 1-0 win for the Hornets against West Brom on April 16, 2016. In a second half to forget for then Baggies bad boy Saido Berahino, the goal-shy striker saw Gomes guess correctly both times to repel his attempts.

Heurelho Gomes

Club: Watford

Penalties faced: 16

Penalties missed against him: 5

Miss percentage: 31.3

Heurelho Gomes of Watford saves a penalty from Christian Benteke.

Heurelho Gomes of Watford saves a penalty from Christian Benteke.

BUNDESLIGA

Forget Germany and Bayern Munich No1 Manuel Neuer, there is only one king when it comes to stopping penalties in Germany’s elite division.

Schalke’s Ralf Fahrmann has been forced to face down an intimidating 18 spot-kicks, a respectful seven of these not going in under his watch.

He was kept especially busy during 2016/17 when Schalke finished in mid-table before the energising arrival of the youthful Domenico Tedesco. The penalty count moved into double digits, four of the 10 failing to beat the imposing ex-Germany youth international.

Ralf Fahrmann

Club: Schalke

Penalties faced: 18

Penalties missed against him: 7

Miss percentage: 38.9

Schalke fans don't need to panic with Ralf Fahrmann in their goal.

Schalke fans don’t need to panic with Ralf Fahrmann in their goal.

SERIE A

In a competitive field, Lazio’s Federico Marchetti is slightly ahead of the pack.

Edging strong competition from AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and Sampdoria’s Emiliano Vivano, the Lazio keeper stands tallest with seven failed attempts from 11 faced.

Marchetti has not faced the challenge of stopping a penalty throughout third-placed Lazio’s 2017/18. This is in contrast to last term when the 11-times-capped Italy international saw four wayward attempts out of five against him for a season’s ratio of 80 per cent.

In the prior campaign, the unfortunate Jerry Mbakogu erred twice from 12 yards in the first half as nine-man Lazio won 3-1 against Carpi – who would go on to be relegated.

Federico Marchetti

Club: Lazio

Penalties faced: 11

Penalties missed against him: 7

Miss percentage: 63.6

Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti saves the penalty of Fiorentina's Josip Ilicic.

Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti saves the penalty of Fiorentina’s Josip Ilicic.

LIGUE 1

Benoit Costil’s consistency – at two different clubs – has given him the edge in Ligue 1.

Bastia’s Jean-Louis Leca, Lyon’s Anthony Lopes and Guingamp’s Karl-Johan Johnsson are among those to record big numbers in one season. This is not something Costil can boast – yet his steady scores see him beat all his contemporaries.

Among those to fall victim during this spell is current France and Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette.

Costil got the faintest of touches to deflect his low, sixth-minute attempt onto the post during Lyon’s 1-1 draw at Rennes last season. This was one of two errant penalties from Lacazette, who scored 10 more during his last campaign in Ligue 1.

Benoit Costil

Clubs: Rennes and Bordeaux

Penalties faced: 11

Penalties missed: 6

Miss percentage: 54.5

Benoit Costil - then of Rennes - celebrates after saving Alexandre Lacazette's attempt for Lyon.

Benoit Costil – then of Rennes – celebrates after saving Alexandre Lacazette’s attempt for Lyon.

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