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Danny Welbeck suffers serious injury as Arsenal qualify for knock-outs despite disappointing draw with Sporting

Danny Welbeck suffered a serious injury in the draw with Sporting Follow your club now for first access to all our news, views and analysis This was another step forward for Unai Emery’s Arsenal, but it certainly did not feel like that. On a night when they completed their primary target of qualifying for the…

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Danny Welbeck suffers serious injury as Arsenal qualify for knock-outs despite disappointing draw with Sporting


danny welbeck
Danny Welbeck suffered a serious injury in the draw with Sporting


This was another step forward for Unai Emery’s Arsenal, but it certainly did not feel like that. On a night when they completed their primary target of qualifying for the Europa League knockout stages, any feeling of triumph was nullified by a traumatic and severe injury to Danny Welbeck.

Arsenal had believed a win would be needed to guarantee their qualification from the group stage, but the defeat of Ukrainian side Vorskla Poltava by Qarabag meant that this solitary point, against a fiery Sporting CP, was enough to see them through. It is a combination of results that should have relieved the tension when it comes to European football for the rest of the year, but instead the loss of Welbeck – and a later injury to full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner – will leave Emery’s squad feeling the strain.

The injury to Welbeck, which left several Arsenal players visibly upset, changed the mood at the Emirates and the tone of the performance. It was only at the end, when Sporting were reduced to 10 men, that Arsenal really looked close to sealing a victory. Even then, they could produce nothing that took the mind away from Welbeck and his agony.

Welbeck’s injury was the defining moment of a first half which Arsenal dominated despite the best efforts of the Sporting fans, who were doing their best to make this feel like an away game for Emery’s side. The sheer demand for tickets in Lisbon had resulted in Arsenal allocating the away fans with a larger-than-usual number of seats here, and the atmosphere was far more boisterous than Arsenal have come to expect in their Europa League fixtures.

Danny Welbeck realised he was in trouble immediately after falling awkwardly

Credit:
GETTY IMAGES

Welbeck had looked lively in the opening stages, when he and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had combined well with 18-year-old Emile Smith Rowe in attack. Mkhitaryan almost picked out Welbeck with a low cross, before Smith Rowe curled over after a weaving run through midfield. 

Alex Iwobi also looked bright going forward, while central midfielder Matteo Guendouzi nearly forced an own goal out of Sporting defender Jeremy Mathieu. Only a goal-line clearance from Sebastian Coates saved Mathieu’s blushes, and it was so close to trickling into the net that Emery had already begun to celebrate on the touchline.

With Sporting only offering the most minimal threat on the counter, Welbeck looked the game’s most dangerous player. First he headed wide from a corner, and then another header was saved by Sporting goalkeeper Renan Ribeiro. It was in his efforts to score this second attempt that Welbeck landed horribly on his right ankle. His treatment on the pitch, which included an oxygen mask, was worryingly lengthy and clearly disturbing for his team-mates. The 19-year-old Guendouzi, in particular, was transfixed by the sight of Welbeck lying prone on the floor.

Guendouzi reacts to Welbeck

While the severity of these injuries is rarely made clear until the following day, at the earliest, there can be no doubt that this was a major problem for Welbeck, who was earlier named in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the upcoming matches against the United States and Croatia.

With Welbeck’s contract due to expire at the end of the season, any long-term injury will also cast doubt over the 27-year-old’s future as an Arsenal player. 

Emery would have been thankful that he had named Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench as a direct and high-class replacement for Welbeck. It was Aubameyang who went closest to opening the scoring in the first few minutes of the second half, when his near-post strike grazed the top of Ribeiro’s bar after another whipped Mkhitaryan cross.

Smith Rowe continued to cause problems with his direct running, but the nature of Welbeck’s departure appeared to have sapped some of the home side’s vigour. That said, they remained a class above Sporting, who had sacked manager Jose Peseiro in between this fixture and their meeting with Arsenal in Lisbon last month.

The pressure was relentless, and it was only the injury to Lichtsteiner, who pulled up when chasing a through ball down the right wing, that threatened to disrupt the home side’s rhythm. Arsenal continued to push, but they consistently fell short with either the final pass or the crucial shot on goal. Iwobi blasted a cross behind the goal, while Aubameyang’s close range effort was well blocked.

Their hopes were boosted when Mathieu hacked the sprinting Aubameyang to the ground in the final moments, an offence for which he saw a straight red card. But Aubameyang sent the resulting free kick high into the stands, and that was to be that on a difficult night.

Alex Iwobi on the injury

“It’s very mentally challenging and unfortunately for Danny he’s had a few. We wish him all the best.”

Some Arsenal Opta facts for you

  • Arsenal failed to score for just the second time under manager Unai Emery, also drawing a blank against Man City in the Spaniards first game in charge (0-2).
  • Sporting CP failed to have a single shot on target in either of their meetings with Arsenal this season.
  • Excluding qualifiers, Arsenal have kept three consecutive clean sheets in European competition for the first time since the 2007-08 Champions League group stages.
  • Sporting kept their first away clean sheet in the Europa League since September 2011 (2-0 vs FC Zurich), ending a run of 18 games in which they’d conceded.
  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had twice as many shots as any other Arsenal player (4), but not a single one of these was on target.

Welbeck taken to hospital

According to Jake Humphrey on BT Sport, Welbeck has been taken to hospital for tests. Hope you’re alright, Danny! 

Petr Cech’s thoughts

It took us a while to open them up, this is the kind of game you need to score and we didn’t do so. We wanted to win. 

It looks like a serious injury and then Stephan after. We knew at half time we are doing good things, need to keep up the intensity. We take the draw and move on. 

Bad night for Gunners

This is the moment Lichsteiner pulled up with that injury. Could be set for a while on the sidelines if that is a hamstring. 

FULL TIME

What a game. I really hope BT Sport remembered to record it because I want to watch it again.

90 mins +5 – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

90 mins +2 – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

A roar about as loud as the one you get during a swimming race while at school carries around the Emirates as five minutes of added time are announced. I’m pretty sure that even if this game went on forever nobody would score.

90 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Aubameyang lines it up and whacks his shot over and wide. Uuuuuuuurgh.

 The Emirates crowd didn’t even really react when that red card was handed out. I’m not sure many people in this ground care that much.

88 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

RED CARD! What? I am confused. Mathieu has been sent off for sliding in and taking down Aubameyang on the edge of the area. 

He was through on goal, a goal-denying challenge… but there was another defender covering.

It’s a free-kick. Could this be it? 

86 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Arsenal slowly passing their way around the pitch. Nobody’s scoring here tonight. Sporting keep clearing, Arsenal keep trying to attack. 

83 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

More good play from Arsenal and most of the best of it is coming from Iwobi, who has come to life magically in the last 10 minutes. 

81 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

So close Mkhitaryan! Iwobi does really well to trick his way into the area and then passes low across the box. Mkhitaryan stabs at it… the goalkeeper saves.

78 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

There’s a chance now for Sporting. It’s two v two… Diaby moves inside to shoot and is blocked. Arsenal players get back and Acuna wins a corner with a cross from the left. 

Sporting are then caught offside from a set piece. 

75 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Luis is booked for a foul on Sokratis. Arsenal still ca’t create anything that looks like a real chance. Sporting are defending really deep and compact, making it difficult to find space in a sea of bodies.

73 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Lichsteiner’s tyres have burst. He pulls up off the ball with what is clearly a hamstring injury and sits down immediately. Guendouzi absolutely wipes out Nani with a comedy foul and is booked, deservedly. That’s bad news for Lichsteiner.

70 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Here’s a separate wee article on Welbeck’s injury. It has some more photos and bits like that. 

68 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Arsenal win a corner and Sporting players are so annoyed about it that the referee books one of them. The corner is pretty poor and then Iwobi kicks the ball into the crowd. 

66 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Iwobi tries to dribble past two players and loses the ball. This game sucks. Delete the game. Bring back the Cup Winners Cup. Make this the Uefa Cup and have knock-out games.

63 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Carl Jenkinson goes back into a box under the stairs until next November as Sead Kolasinac comes on to replace him. 

Acuna whips in a ball from wide left but it’s cleared by Holding, who is having another great game. Guendouzi is on the right wing now trying to cross in, the goalie punches away.

This match feels like a pre-season friendly. Nobody on the pitch really seems to care that much.

60 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

AUBAMEYAAAAAANG hits the side-netting. I might do the rest of this in the voice of the ISS64 commentator. He’s taken it with his… RIGHT FOOT! 

In all seriousness, Aubameyang has found a chance to shoot on the angle inside the box and launched a thunderbolt that smashed the side-netting, prompting many in the ground to think it was a goal. It was not a goal. There are no goals.

57 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Ramsey’s everywhere tonight. He’s been great, chasing the ball down, pinging passes all over the place. Just a great wee player.

54 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Ramsey’s playing a very disciplined holding midfield role today. It must be killing him inside that he’s not allowed to run up the pitch whenever he wants (all the time).

Holding does really well to read a through-ball, moves towards it, drops back, then knicks the ball away. 

Smith-Rowe is on the ball on the left now after a lovely bit of play and beautiful sliced pass from Ramsey to stretch the pitch. Smith-Rowe loses his balance while shooting.

51 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Better from Sporting! Jenkinson stands up and blocks a volleyed effort at goal inside the area from Diaby. Iwobi carries the ball up the left, wins a corner, nothing comes of it.

48 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Mkhitaryan attacks the space as Lichsteiner heads the ball on and Aubameyang meets the cross! He’s hit the side netting! So close at the start of the second half. The tempo’s gone up here, which is a good thing.

The ball drops from the sky and sits up perfectly for Jenkinson to hit a power volley rocket shot! He lines it up… this could be a worldy! Jenkinson completely misses the ball.

KICK OFF 2

If the scores stay the same, Arsenal are through to the next round already. Will the players have their heads switched on for this half? 

More on Welbeck

There are some really not nice images of Welbeck for this. He jumps for the header, lands and as he falls the studs on the very front of his boot get caught in the turf and his leg naturally twists. He falls down with the weight of Gaspar on top of him and… well you can probably imagine what happens next. It was clear immediately he was in trouble.

Joe Cole’s reaction

“It’s difficult. It’s your friend, to see him in a lot of pain when it’s as graphic as this. It takes the game about 20/30 minutes to settle down and that’s what happened. It went to a nothingness because the players had it on their mind.”

Mesut Ozil reacts to Welbeck

HALF TIME

Well the game’s not great to watch but clearly it’s been overshadowed by that horrible injury to Danny Welbeck. 

45 mins +2 – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Arsenal have a free-kick wide right of the box.

It’s swung in and behind for a goal kick. Mkhitaryan has been absolutely useless in the recent games I’ve seen of him. 

44 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

I‘ve just seen a photo of that Welbeck injury and I can confirm that you should definitely not do that. I’m away to burn my eyes and drink to forget. To summarise briefly: his right foot looks to have dislocated and it’s horrible. 

🙁

41 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Sporting sort of claim for a penalty as the ball bounces near Holding’s arm in the Arsenal area but in the end, justice is done and nothing happens. Nothing at all.

39 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Arsenal win a corner thanks to the work of Smith-Rowe. It’s taken short, Lichsteiner is teed up 25 yards out and shoots wide of the top corner. 

36 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Nothing much to report here. Arsenal enjoying the possession but any intensity that was in the game before has mostly gone. Lots of passing between defenders going on.

33 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Danny Welbeck down and clearly in a lot of pain. He’s receiving oxygen. Hard to tell what happened – looked at first like a head injury – but seems to be a problem with his leg (knee?). Guendouzi looking really, really troubled. Can’t take his eyes off it…

— Sam Dean (@SamJDean) November 8, 2018

31 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Aubameyang comes on to replace Welbeck. Arsenal attack straight away, trying to avenge Welbeck’s broken leg (I dunno if that’s the problem btw) immediately. A cross into the six yard box is just slightly too far away from any Arsenal forward.

28 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

This sucks. Welbeck’s being given oxygen now as well, it’s clearly a bad injury. Arsenal players look distraught. Guendouzi is particularly concerned. 

The poor boy. I think he might have come down on his ankle but with all his  weight on it. Like when you roll your ankle x 8million. It’s such a shame, he was starting to find form and playing really well.

26 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Welbeck arrives at the back post to connect with a decent cross from Lichsteiner but he’s landed awkwardly and is in a bit of pain.

Hmm he’s really not happy actually, the physio’s put him on his side and he’s rolling around. And they want a stretcher. He might have goosed his ankle here.

25 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

It’s taken about one minute 30 for Arsenal to take a throw-in, win another, then take that. High octane stuff here at the Emirates.

22 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Welbeck wins a header over Coates but the shot is wide. Coates used to play for Liverpool don’t cha know. 

Nani is dancing between defenders and Lichsteiner’s had enough, diving in from behind and catching his Achilles. Naughty Lichtsteiner.

19 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Great turn from Smith-Rowe! He does a little Cruyff turn on the move to get behind the defence on the right but Sporting recover. Mkhitaryan and Guendouzi link on the right, the ball is crosses in and WELBECK IS THERE! The goalkeeper blocks! I’m not sure Welbeck even connects with the cross there.

 Sporting enjoy possession for a bit but then Gudejl punts a shot over into the North Bank.

16 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Sporting trying to play their way out of danger but it keeps breaking down at halfway. Ramsey carries the ball a bit and then gestures to teammates to ask where they are – no passes on.

Smith-Rowe tries a shot from the D but blasts it over.

13 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Mkhitaryan crosses into the box but it’s poor and nothing happens. It’s definitely not a Champions League game here. Lots of empty seats, quiet crowd, slow football.

10 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Smith-Rowe is being asked to chase a lot of passes into space on the right channel but can’t quite get close to them yet. 

8 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

It’s a fairly low-tempo game so far, Arsenal looking to dominate the ball early on. This is a decent attack now though. Mkhitaryan into Smith-Rowe… but he’s shut down in the box. Sporting break, Nani finds Montero but Guendouzi cleans up the danger.

5 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Mistake by Holding at halfway and Sporting chip the ball over the top for Montero to chase but it’s a little too much for him.

Smith-Rowe is really advanced, almost as a second striker.

3 mins – Arsenal 0 Sporting 0

Arsenal are patient on the ball from the start and pass it around the back, just getting a feel for the game. Sporting seem happy to sit back and let Arsenal play. Nani has already gone to ground.

KICK OFF

Here we go! Sporting get the game started.

Here come the teams

It’s time for Arsenal’s theme tune, which seems to be ‘Right Here Right Now’ by Fatboy Slim. Very modern.

15 in a row?

A look at Arsenal’s recent form might have you think things aren’t going so well – two draws and a narrow win over Blackpool in their last three games is pretty dour stuff after an 11-match winning run.

But the bigger picture explains they are now 14 games unbeaten, and did really well to avoid defeat against Liverpool last week. 

Will they make it 15 tonight? They certainly should do.

Team news!

 That trio of Iwobi, Ramsey and Welbeck do indeed start, along with 18-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe. Meanwhile, test your Portuguese out with Sporting’s lineup announcement:

Remember, though: it’s not “Sporting Lisbon”

A Sporting chance

While the likes of Vorskla Poltava and Qarabag may not be the usual types Arsenal mix with on the European stage, they have at least ensured a safe passage towards the knockout stages of the Europa League. Arsenal’s win in Lisbon a fortnight ago, against their only credible Group E challengers, means that a similar result in the return fixture tonight will confirm qualification.

Unai Emery’s second-tier European pedigree is such that Arsenal ought to be taking the latter stages seriously, especially given the prize on offer at the end of it these days.

Emery negotiated Sevilla’s way through the relative backwaters of Continental football to lifting the trophy three times in as many seasons between 2014 and 2016 – to add a fourth to his CV this season would be warmly welcomed by an Arsenal fanbase who have grown weary of glancing enviously at the trophy cabinets of Manchester City and Chelsea.

It might well be a night for back-up players – Alex Iwobi, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck are all expected to start at the Emirates – but Sporting are, in name at least, illustrious visitors.

Team news on the way soon, and JJ Bull will be here shortly before kick-off to guide you through it…

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Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 11: Wide Receivers

Published: Nov. 14, 2018 at 12:26 a.m. Updated: Nov. 14, 2018 at 12:32 a.m. Senior fantasy analyst Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em is the ultimate weekly look at NFL matchups and how they’ll affect your fantasy football team. Fantasy superstars such as Todd Gurley and Antonio Brown will not be featured. All player matchups are…

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Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 11: Wide Receivers

Published:

Nov. 14, 2018 at 12:26 a.m.

Updated:

Nov. 14, 2018 at 12:32 a.m.


Senior fantasy analyst

Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em is the ultimate weekly look at NFL matchups and how they’ll affect your fantasy football team. Fantasy superstars such as Todd Gurley and Antonio Brown will not be featured. All player matchups are based on PPR scoring system. NFL researchers Matt Frederick and Michael Florio have contributed to the column. For your final starting lineup decisions, check our weekly fantasy football lineup rankings.

Byes: Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers

Start ‘Em

Start of the Week – Robert Woods vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Woods has posted 70 or more yards in every game since Week 1, so he has a very safe floor in the world of fantasy football. He should be on the No. 1 wide receiver radar this week against the Chiefs in what should be a very high-scoring game in Los Angeles. The USC product should also see more targets with Cooper Kupp out.

Alshon Jeffery vs. New Orleans Saints

Jeffery has failed to score double-digit fantasy points in each of his last two games, but an upcoming tilt in New Orleans makes him a virtual must start. The Saints have surrendered the most receiving yards (247.5 YPG), seven touchdowns, and the second-most PPR points (50.3 PPG) to opposing wide receivers on their home field.

Larry Fitzgerald vs. Oakland Raiders

Fitzgerald was a bit of a disappointment last week, but he’s still an attractive fantasy option as the Raiders come to town up next. Their defense has surrendered seven touchdowns to slot receivers, which is where Fitz runs 77 percent of his routes. Oakland has coughed up the ninth-most fantasy points to home wideouts overall.

Sterling Shepard vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shepard had just nine receiving yards a week ago, but he did find the end zone in a win over the Niners. I like him to put up a much bigger line against the Buccaneers, who have allowed the most yards and touchdowns to slot receivers. Quarterbacks also have a massive 137.1 passer rating when targeting slot men against the Bucs.

Amari Cooper vs. Atlanta Falcons

Cooper has seen his target, catch, yardage and fantasy point totals all rise in two games since joining the Cowboys, and an upcoming matchup in Atlanta makes him a solid starter. The Falcons have surrendered almost 31 points per game at home, and enemy wideouts have scored nine times and put up the most fantasy points against them.

Start ‘Em: John Brown vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Tyler Lockett vs. Green Bay Packers (Thursday)

Sleepers: Dede Westbrook vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Tre’Quan Smith vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sit ‘Em

Sit of the Week – Allen Robinson vs. Minnesota Vikings

Robinson is coming off his best stat line of the season, posting 31.3 fantasy points in a win over the Lions. While that performance might make it tough to sit him, keep in mind that the veteran will now have to face CB Xavier Rhodes and a Vikings defense that’s allowed the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers since Week 7.

Devin Funchess vs. Detroit Lions

Funchess has been held under 50 yards in two straight games, during which time he’s scored a combined 14.1 fantasy points. He’s also failed to clear five targets in each of the last three weeks, so Funchess is now trending in the wrong direction. The return of Lions CB Darius Slay would make Funchess even less attractive in fantasy.

Calvin Ridley vs. Dallas Cowboys

Ridley’s stats have been uneven in recent weeks, and this week’s matchup against the Cowboys makes him a risk-reward flex starter. While this could turn into a high-scoring affair, Dallas’ defense has surrendered just three touchdowns and the seventh-fewest fantasy points to enemy receivers who are split out wide in 2018.

Demaryius Thomas vs. Washington Redskins

Thomas is coming off a bye week and should have a slightly better grasp of the Texans playbook, but I still see him as no more than a risk-reward flex starter against the Redskins. The veteran hasn’t cleared 10 fantasy points in three straight games, and this contest is not projected to be a very high-scoring affair.

Michael Crabtree vs. Cincinnati Bengals

This week’s matchup against the Bengals looks good on paper, but Crabtree’s lack of production puts him on the sit ’em list nonetheless. He’s failed to post more than 66 yards in all but one game, and the former red-zone star has scored just one touchdown in his last eight games. Baltimore figures to go run-heavy with Lamar Jackson under center since Joe Flacco (hip) is not healthy.

Sit ‘Em: Courtland Sutton at Los Angles Chargers, John Ross at Baltimore Ravens

Busts: DeSean Jackson at New York Giants, Doug Baldwin vs. Green Bay Packers (Thursday)


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for all of the latest fantasy football news, notes and in-depth analysis!

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After Draymond Green-Kevin Durant spat, Steve Kerr’s demeanor speaks volumes about state of Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. — There were no Rubik’s Cubes. No coy smiles. No sarcastic jokes — well, one sarcastic joke. But for the most part Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, normally gregarious and infinitely patient with the media, was in no mood for nonsense before Tuesday’s game against the Hawks.Kerr was bombarded with question after…

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After Draymond Green-Kevin Durant spat, Steve Kerr’s demeanor speaks volumes about state of Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. — There were no Rubik’s Cubes. No coy smiles. No sarcastic jokes — well, one sarcastic joke. But for the most part Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, normally gregarious and infinitely patient with the media, was in no mood for nonsense before Tuesday’s game against the Hawks.

Kerr was bombarded with question after question about the news that made the media presence much larger than it normally would be for a matchup with a team tied for the worst record in the NBADraymond Green was suspended for the game following a shouting match with Kevin Durant which reportedly carried over into the locker room over the final possession of regulation during Monday’s 121-116 overtime road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Normally tolerant of even the most trying of questions, Kerr was short and direct with the media, showing no interest in his usual expansive, flowery answers.

He said from the beginning that he wasn’t going to go into any detail about the incident that led to Green’s suspension, saying that it will remain within the team — the expected party line answer from an organization that has, for the most part, kept its issues internal over its past four seasons of unparalleled success.

Did you speak with Draymond?

“I have talked to him, and that’s private.”

How would you describe Durant and Green’s relationship, even before the incident?

“They have won championships together, they have been teammates now for three seasons and they were teammates on the Olympic team. You can draw your own conclusions.”

Even when asked a basketball-related question about Tuesday night’s starting lineup, Kerr refused to reveal the starting power forward — as he usually does — but added, “I’m not in a very good mood tonight.” The only time Kerr smiled during the entire press conference was when he was asked about the now-famous incident in which Michael Jordan wound up punching him during practice.

“By the way,” Kerr said, “I kicked MJ’s ass.”

So it was telling that the one question Kerr went in-depth on — the one where he got most animated — was regarding Durant’s impending free agency. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Green brought up KD’s contract situation as the argument carried into the locker room after Monday’s game, but Kerr went to great lengths to deny it ever happened, saying that nobody on the team has ever brought up the possibility of their two-time NBA Finals MVP fleeing the Bay Area after this season.

“Not the slightest bit,” Kerr said when asked if Durant’s potential free agency has affected the locker room. “Nobody ever talks about Kevin’s free agency. It doesn’t bother any of us. This is the NBA. There are guys that are either under contract or are upcoming free agents. It’s the business. We are focused on this year. I didn’t think anybody in our locker room or anyone on our coaching staff thinks twice about Kevin’s free agency this summer. That’s next summer. We are coaching this year and we are playing this year.”

It was a calculated point of emphasis from Kerr, flying directly in the face of a sourced report, and it did have an air of Kerr protesting a bit too much. Durant’s choice to sign another one-year contract with a one-year option is the darkest shadow hanging over the Warriors’ pursuit of history — a fourth title in five straight Finals appearances, maybe more.

And that’s why an incident like this stands out so vividly. Durant and Green have had arguments in the past, but it’s always been chalked up to the heat of the moment — two ultimate competitors clashing in pursuit of greatness. They hug it out and move on.

“I think they have a lot in common,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said of Durant and Green before the game. “They both want to win. They both love to play. I think they would play basketball for free. It’s a relationship that wants to do great things together, and they will, and they have. So I think they’ve got a sound relationship. But, you know, in this game, in this sport, one of the best things about sports is it’s emotional. Sometimes, you know, it becomes too emotional.”

The Warriors knew suspending Green would put a giant spotlight not only on his relationship with Durant, but also on the ripple effect it would have on whether or not Durant will break up potentially one of the best dynasties in NBA history.

They knew all this, and still made the decision to suspend Green.

We’d love to know what was said, and how personal Green got — Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reports that Green repeatedly called Durant “bitch” — but whatever insults were hurled were enough for Kerr and Myers to deprive Green of a game check and a night of doing what he loves. It sent a message that Green had crossed the line on which he has so precariously teetered over the past several seasons.

Whereas Kerr eschewed his normal demeanor for a more stoic one, the Warriors locker room seemed, well, normal. Durant laced up his sneakers in silence as he prepared for pregame shooting drills. Stephen Curry, who didn’t play in Tuesday’s game, laughed to himself about how many media members were present. Andre Iguodala cracked a joke and laughed loudly as he walked away. 

As Kerr and Myers both continually reiterated, adversity like this arises every season. “We’ll get past it and move on,” they kept saying. And they might be right.

But no dynasty lasts forever, and a combination of conflicting star personalities has been a factor in derailing great teams of the past. Sure, the Warriors could immediately rattle off 20 straight wins and cruise to another championship. But if they don’t — if there are any cracks in their seemingly impenetrable armor as the season goes on, and a playoff loss precedes Durant changing teams — we’ll look back at this incident as more than just a heated argument between teammates.

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NFL must learn from Rams vs. Chiefs blunder in Mexico City for future international games

Considering all the logistical challenges, the NFL’s International Series has gone off pretty well since its inception in 2007.Until this week, at least.The NFL had to move Monday’s Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams game from Mexico City back to Los Angeles due to substandard turf issues at Estadio Azteca. An October Shakira concert, a slew…

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Considering all the logistical challenges, the NFL’s International Series has gone off pretty well since its inception in 2007.

Until this week, at least.

NFL had to move Monday’s Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams game from Mexico City back to Los Angeles due to substandard turf issues at Estadio Azteca. An October Shakira concert, a slew of soccer games and the general problems associated with new grass that was installed last spring did the game in. The playing surface just wasn’t safe to play on.” data-reactid=”18″ type=”text”>The NFL had to move Monday’s Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams game from Mexico City back to Los Angeles due to substandard turf issues at Estadio Azteca. An October Shakira concert, a slew of soccer games and the general problems associated with new grass that was installed last spring did the game in. The playing surface just wasn’t safe to play on.

It’s certainly an embarrassment for the league. More importantly though, it should serve as a warning shot, or at least a reminder, that as much as the NFL wants to market its game around the globe, it needs to be diligent to assure conditions elsewhere match those here in the States.

“Until very recently, we had no major concerns,” Mark Waller, NFL executive vice president of International, said in a statement. “But, the combination of a difficult rainy season and a heavy multi-event calendar of events at the stadium, have resulted in significant damage to the field that presents unnecessary risks to player safety and makes it unsuitable to host an NFL game.”

It can happen and there was no other choice. The field wasn’t up to NFL standards. The players were balking. And so, with that, a dozen years into this the International Series, there was disappointment (certainly for the 90,000 fans in Mexico City who bought tickets).

Of course in Los Angeles, Rams fans get a bonus game. So, it’s not all bad for the NFL.

“Moving the game is the right decision,” Waller said. “And one that we needed to announce now in order to allow our teams and fans to make alternate arrangements.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell and his league have a chance to learn from the Rams-Chiefs Mexico City embarrassment. (Getty)

The NFL has not had a problem in London, where 24 games have been staged, 21 of them at Wembley Stadium. Locker rooms are cramped and can spill out into walkways, but the games have been fine. In an effort to deal with that, the soon-to-be-finished Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was designed to include locker rooms that can accommodate large NFL rosters and dedicated areas for medical treatment. The league has two games scheduled there annually starting next year.

The NFL could only wish Estadio Azteca, originally constructed for the 1968 Olympics (although renovated four times since, including 2016) could be as plush.

The NFL wants to play games in the Mexican capital. (There’s another scheduled for 2019.) Mexico City has a metropolitan population of 22.2 million. Unlike London, there are no time zone constraints, which means the city is rich with fans of all NFL teams. The game isn’t a curiosity there, the way it especially was when the NFL first went to London.

As such, the league was pleased with the chance to give Mexican fans not just a regular-season game, but one of the marquee matchups of the season – the 9-1 Rams v. 9-1 Chiefs, in what could be a Super Bowl preview.

“It definitely adds to the excitement,” Waller told Yahoo Sports last month of exporting such a big game. “It shows fans how committed we are to the agenda. Teams are willing to give home dates for games of that caliber. Fans know that it matters.”

The NFL wants to play games in lots of places. There was a proposed 2018 season opener between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers in China. That was cancelled before the season, with an eye toward having it played in 2019 as part of the league’s 100-year anniversary celebration. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been bullish on China.

Meanwhile, the league has discussed putting a game in Berlin as a way to gain a foothold in mainland Europe. It’s a matter of either expanding the International Series or taking a date out of London. Ireland, Scotland and Wales have also been cited as potential game locations. So too has a second date in Mexico or even a game in Brazil, where the NFL enjoys considerable popularity.

And then there are the London games, four of them scheduled for next year alone.

It all sounds great in a boardroom. New markets. New fans. Huge cities. Huge potential.

Not everything works though. The NFL is blessed (mostly due to U.S. taxpayers) to play its games in plush facilities. With the exception of Oakland, the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers, each of the league’s stadiums was built primarily for the NFL. And all three teams will play in new, state-of-the-art stadiums by 2020.

That can’t be assured internationally. What in America can stand up to Shakira and soccer might not elsewhere.

That’s always been the potential pratfall of taking the show on the road. It finally blew up on the league.

Tough break for Mexico City, a late boon for L.A. And for the NFL, a lesson to be learned once the humiliation wears off.

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