FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution played their entire preseason schedule without captain and playmaker Carles Gil, who has been out for about a month with a foot injury. Gil is expected to return to training this week, but the Revolution will start their 25th season without him when they visit the Montreal Impact Saturday.
“He’s had a foot injury, what it was caused by, I don’t know,” Revolution coach Bruce Arena said Wednesday. “He trained today at our indoor facility and we expect him out on the field this week. I don’t expect him to play in the first game.”
Gil’s injury was related to a change in footwear, according to multiple sources.
Gil participated in Revolution workouts in the bubble behind Gillette Stadium in January but has not practiced with the team since. That left the setup role to Gustavo Bou, who not only choreographed the attack but also led the Revolution with four goals as they compiled a 2-2-1 preseason record.
“He’s an outstanding player, we can’t wait to have him back out there,” Arena said of Gil. “Gustavo Bou can play in a lot of positions on the field quite well. He’ll pick up the slack until Carles is ready.”
The Revolution started recent seasons without former team captain Lee Nguyen, who engaged in contract disputes in 2015 and ’18. Now, though, the Revolution seem to have resolved salary problems, and have signed the maximum three Designated Players — Bou, Gil, and Polish striker Adam Buksa.
Arena spent the offseason reinforcing the defense. Matt Turner returns at goalkeeper after joining the US national team for two training camps, backed up by Brad Knighton and newcomer Jeff Caldwell. Andrew Farrell and rookie Henry Kessler have been the starting center backs, as Antonio Delamea (hamstring) and Michael Mancienne (illness) recovered. At outside back, Brandon Bye started on the right and newcomers Alex Buttner and Seth Sinovic shared time with DeJuan Jones on the left.
In midfield, Diego Fagundez took on a playmaking role, with Wilfried Zahibo in support. Cristian Penilla (right) and Teal Bunbury (left) played on the wings. Bou has performed in a free role, dropping into midfield and moving up front to combine with Buksa.
The Revolution have developed depth, as well. Tajon Buchanan, Luis Caicedo, Scott Caldwell, Justin Rennicks, and Kelyn Rowe will challenge for starting spots. Isaac Angking, Nico Firmino, Simon Lekressner, and Tico Rivera, at 17 the team’s youngest player, performed well in the preseason.
Arena is known for instilling a winning mentality. He has won five MLS Cups, more than any coach, and last year rallied the Revolution to a playoff berth after the team’s 2-8-2 start under Brad Friedel. The Revolution finished the season with an 11-11-12 record (45 points), then lost to Atlanta United in their first postseason appearance since 2014.
And Arena is keeping expectations reasonable, so far.
“I think we’ve had a good preseason, I could care less about the record,” Arena said. “It could be 0-5 and I’m OK with it, or 5-0. It doesn’t matter. What matters starts on Saturday.
“I wasn’t around for a lot of games last year. But I can tell you, midway in the season, you don’t want to have the worst record in the league. We want to get off to a much better start this year.”
Last February, Real Madrid lost three home matches in a week, a disastrous showing that cost coach Santiago Solari his position. Zinedine Zidane is facing a potentially similar situation as the Merengues drew with Celta and lost at Levante, dropping out of first place in La Liga, then dropping a 2-1 decision to Manchester City Wednesday.
Real Madrid is preparing to host Barcelona Sunday. Barcelona (17-4-4, 55 points) can maintain its La Liga lead over Real Madrid (15-2-8, 53 points) with at least a tie. But “always playing to win” is Barcelona’s ethos, according to managing director Guillermo Amor, and the club might not be satisfied if the teams play to another draw (it was 0-0 at Barcelona Dec. 18).
Indeed, Barça’s squad is simply not constructed to lock things up defensively. But Barcelona has struggled away from home this season — it has a 5-4-3 road mark. A draw with Real Madrid could leave the Blaugrana with a clear path to a fifth La Liga title in six years. And that would give Barcelona a chance to concentrate on Champions League. Barça won the 2015 Champions League, then was eliminated in the quarterfinals three successive times before squandering a 3-0 first-leg win over Liverpool in the semifinals last year.
The Blaugrana played to a 1-1 draw at Napoli Tuesday but will be missing Arturo Vidal (suspended) for the return leg. Lionel Messi was cautioned and Vidal was red-carded by German referee Felix Brych, who appeared to make the right decisions in disciplining the Barcelona stars.
Liverpool looks premier
Liverpool FC has captured plenty of England First Division titles — 18 since making its debut during the 1894-95 season.
But the Reds have not won the championship since 1990, meaning they are lacking a victory in the Premier League, rebranded for the 1992-93 season.
Now, though, Liverpool appears certain to win the Premier League. With a 26-0-1 (79 points) record, Liverpool’s magic number to clinch is 12 points, with 11 matches remaining in the season. The question is not whether Liverpool, which visits Watford Saturday, will take the title, but by how many points.
But Liverpool has not been invincible outside the Premier League. Both Napoli and Atletico Madrid have defeated Liverpool in the Champions League, and LFC will have to overcome a 1-0 first-leg loss to Atletico in the return match March 11.Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/frankdellapa