Carles Gil spent much of last season acting as a moving target for opposing defenders, who tried to defuse the Revolution offense by taking him out. But Gil survived tough tackling tactics to become the first Revolution member of the MLS Best XI team since Lee Nguyen in 2014.
In his first MLS season, Gil captained the Revolution and was the only player on the roster to play all 34 games, sitting out a total of five minutes. But Gil has yet to perform in the preseason, and has not practiced at full speed since before Feb. 3.
Gil’s injury “in the foot area” is considered minor, according to a Revolution spokesperson. But there are questions as to whether he will recover for the season opener against the Montreal Impact Feb. 29.
Gustavo Bou has taken on Gil’s roles as captain, playmaker, and set-piece taker as the Revolution compiled a 1-2-1 record going into their preseason finale against the Portland Timbers Saturday.
Coach Bruce Arena’s adjustments had been producing plenty of scoring chances before a 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in Portland, Ore., Wednesday night.
Striker Adam Buksa, the team’s third Designated Player after Gil and Bou, scored his first goal in a 2-2 tie with Minnesota last Sunday. Cristian Penilla has been a force on the right wing. Wilfried Zahibo has solidified the midfield.
And the Revolution have compensated for the loss of two other potential starters: left back Alex Buttner and central defender Antonio Delamea, both out with undisclosed injuries.
But if Gil remains missing, the Revolution shouldn’t be expected to improve on last season’s performance, when they qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Diego Simeone’s reign as manager at Atletico Madrid seemed threatened in recent weeks, as the Colchoneros struggled to a 1-3-3 record in all competitions, including a loss to third-division club Leonesa in the Copa del Rey.
But Atleti recovered for a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League Tuesday, thanks to the defensive style known as “Cholismo” (Simeone is nicknamed “Cholo”), combined with a counterattacking threat Simeone adapted from Serie A.
Saul Niguez converted off a fourth-minute corner kick, and Atletico Madrid held on at Wanda Metropolitano, the site of Liverpool’s win over Tottenham in last year’s final. Atletico’s one-on-one defending disconcerted Liverpool, which has been able to perform under par yet continue to win in the Premier League.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp replaced strikers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in the second half, but the changes failed to pay off. Liverpool went into the match with a 29-1-4 record in 34 games since Sept. 17 – the only loss a 5-0 defeat against Aston Villa, sustained while the first team competed in the Confederations Cup in December.
Klopp believes Liverpool remains in a position of strength. He said Mane was removed to preserve his status for the March 11 return leg, because he had been issued a caution and might have been “provoked” by opponents. But this performance revealed vulnerabilities, as Liverpool takes a 42-game Premier League unbeaten streak into a match against West Ham United Monday.
Marseille on a roll
Olympique Marseille has mostly struggled since being taken over by Boston native Frank McCourt in 2016. OM finished fifth, fourth, and fifth in France’s Ligue 1 — out of Champions League running — but now stands in second place and could return to the Champions League for the first time since 2014.
Marseille (15-3-7, 52 points), trailing Paris Saint-Germain by 10 points, takes a 14-game unbeaten streak (11-0-3) into a home match against Nantes Saturday. Coach Andre Villas-Boas has solidified the defense, which had a 501-minute shutout streak snapped in a 2-1 away win over Lille last week.
Villas-Boas, 42, a Jose Mourinho disciple, has been aided by first-year assistant coach Ricardo Carvalho, who spent most of his playing career as a defender under Mourinho’s guidance. They built the back line around veteran goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and center back Boubacar Kamara, 20. Former West Ham United winger Dimitri Payet and former Boca Juniors/Club America forward Dario Benedetto lead the attack.
Les Olympians have mostly lost connection with the 1993 Champions Cup-winning squad, but Basile Boli, who scored in a 1-0 victory over Milan in the final, remains as the team’s sporting director. Marseille has not lost in Ligue 1 since a 4-0 defeat at PSG Oct. 27, and has a chance to measure its progress when the teams are rematched March 22.
Legal hot water
Manchester City plans to appeal a two-year Champions League suspension and $32.5 million fine to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Citizens were charged with “serious breaches” of UEFA’s regulations regarding Financial Fair Play, and also failing to cooperate with the investigation.
Club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, a Tufts graduate, said Manchester City would sue UEFA. President Ferran Soriano said the accusations were false. And Pep Guardiola said he would remain as coach, no matter where the club stood, in interviews before Wednesday’s game against West Ham United.
Though Manchester City could have the sentenced reduced, it is difficult to believe the club will be exonerated. UEFA would not have pursued the case without strong evidence of irregularities, mostly regarding a $640 million sponsorship from Etihad Airlines that might have actually been guaranteed by the Abu Dhabi government.