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 By Ben Gladwell

Italy coach Giampiero Ventura puzzled by Andrea Barzagli controversy

Gian Piero Ventura says it's a shame that the presence of flares in the stadium will overshadow Italy's match with Albania.

Italy coach Giampiero Ventura has said he cannot understand the controversy surrounding Andrea Barzagli's early release from international duty.

Juventus defender Barzagli was given permission to leave the Italy squad after their 2-0 win over Albania on Friday, and some Napoli fans alleged that Ventura was doing Juve a favour prior to the weekend's top-of-the-table clash between the sides.

A photo of Barzagli posing with a DJ on Saturday night also raised questions about why he had been released...

Liverpool to jet Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino back - source

Robbie Fowler believes the Reds have the edge on Everton ahead of this weekend's Merseyside derby.
Ian Rush has reflected on some of his favourite Merseyside derby memories ahead of Saturday's clash at Anfield.

Liverpool will again hire a private jet in order to bring Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino swiftly back from international duty, a source has told ESPN FC.

The Brazil internationals are set to feature in a World Cup qualifier against Paraguay in Sao Paulo, which kicks off at 1:45 a.m. BST, leaving them only two full days to prepare for Saturday's Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m.

If all goes to plan, Coutinho and Firmino will return to Liverpool on Wednesday...

 By Ben Gladwell

Andrea Barzagli photo was not from the early hours - DJ

Gian Piero Ventura says it's a shame that the presence of flares in the stadium will overshadow Italy's match with Albania.
Gian Piero Ventura says he wants to see signs Italy have progressed in the last six months when they face Albania.
Gab Marcotti reflects on Gianluigi Buffon's career and what comes next after reaching 1,000 career matches.

The DJ photographed with Andrea Barzagli at the weekend has clarified when the picture was taken in an attempt to put an end to suggestions that the Juventus defender spent Saturday night partying after leaving the Italy squad.

Barzagli, 35, was given permission to leave international duty with Italy following their 2-0 win over Albania on Friday with the Italian FA citing "personal reasons" for his release.

He has been given time off by his club Juventus too and was spotted out with his family...

CONCACAF chief Montagliani wants entry for all World Cup co-hosts

Gianni Infantino says the incredible comeback by Barca in the UCL shows that changes to the game shouldn't be made hastily.

GENEVA -- With the United States, Canada and Mexico widely expected to bid jointly for the 2026 World Cup, the region's FIFA vice president believes all three should automatically enter the tournament if chosen as co-hosts.

Victor Montagliani told The Associated Press in an interview at FIFA that it should be a decision for continental soccer bodies, like the CONCACAF he leads, how to allocate their quota of World Cup entries.

"I don't think we should be dictating how a confederation allocates their...

Podolski says winning end to Germany career like something from a film

Lukas Podolski went out in style in his final match for the national team, hitting a rocket of a goal to sink England 1-0.
With his international career coming to a close, the FC crew shower Lukas Podolski with praise for his stellar career.

DORTMUND, Germany -- Lukas Podolski said the end of his international career with Germany had been "like a film" after his stunning strike beat England 1-0 in an international friendly.

In the last international game of a 13-year career, Podolski led the side out as captain and smashed the ball into the top corner from 25 yards to win the match with just over 20 minutes remaining.

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England goalkeeper Joe Hart was given no chance, and Podolski had a look of incredulity as he wheeled away to celebrate.

"The...