Guardiola: I'd have played for Catalan team instead of Spain

The former Barcelona manager insists that he would have turned down the chance to play for La Roja had the opportunity arisen, and has no qualms about his public support

Pep Guardiola says that he would have chosen to play for the Catalan national team had it existed when he was playing.

The Bayern Munich boss won 47 caps for Spain during his playing career, winning Olympic gold with La Roja.

The Catalan side exists now, but as it is not recognised by Fifa, players are free to feature for it and Spain simultaneously.

The independence campaign is growing in Catalunya and Guardiola admits he would have foregone the chance to play for Spain if the state had its own team.

“If there’d been a Catalan state, I would have played for the Catalan national team because I’m from Santpedor,” he is quoted as saying by Marca.

Guardiola, though, insists that he was “very happy with Spain”, saying that he gave his all for the cause.

The issue of support for Catalonia has been in the news this week, with Gerard Pique – who has publicly supported independence – subjected to a number of jeers from the crowd during Spain’s 2-0 win over Slovakia.

Guardiola, though, says that he has no qualms about airing his views.

“If someone is bothered by my participation in the process, it is their problem,” he added.

Muller has a sixth sense – Low

In addition to praising the Germany forward, the coach expects the world champions will seal Euro 2016 qualification against Republic of Ireland

Joachim Low has lauded Thomas Muller for his “sixth sense” after he starred in Germany ‘s 3-2 Euro 2016 qualification victory over Scotland on Monday.

The Bayern Munich forward was the star for Germany at Hampden Park, setting up Ilkay Gundogan’s decisive strike having seen his first-half double cancelled out by a Mats Hummels own goal and James McArthur’s fine, lofted effort.

“Muller has a sixth sense,” Germany coach Low told reporters. “He only thinks of scoring, scoring and scoring. You can’t teach that.”

The world champions head to Republic of Ireland for a Group D clash on October 8 knowing victory will guarantee their spot in France next summer.

“Of course I expect us to qualify at the next opportunity,” Low responded when asked what result he is predicting in Dublin.

“I am very happy we won tonight, too. It was difficult for us but, at the end of the match, the reality is that we were the better team.

“We expected them to do everything because it was maybe their last chance to qualify.”

Germany are two points clear of second-placed Poland and four points clear of third-placed Ireland with two games to go in qualification.

'Manchester City see De Bruyne as the Messiah' – Boateng

The Germany international believes the €70 million forked out but the Premier League outfit puts too much pressure on the former Chelsea playmaker to perform miracles

Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng believes Kevin De Bruyne might struggle to live up to the high expectations at Manchester City following his big-money move, claiming the Premier League outfit see him as “the Messiah”.

The Premier League leaders reportedly paid in excess of €70 million to lure the 24-year-old away from Wolfsburg during the summer transfer window, but Boateng is not convinced De Bruyne will make an immediate impact at his new club.

“The transfer fee they paid for him brings enormous pressure with it,” Boateng was quoted as saying by Kicker .

“Manchester City have brought him in like he is the Messiah. They are expecting miracles from him.

“But life in the Premier League is nothing like in the Bundesliga. Referees don’t whistle for fouls as often and the game is a lot faster as a result.

“A lot of teams still play long balls, even if City themselves employ a different style.”

Boateng then went on to discuss the large amounts of money spent by Premier League clubs over the past few months and stressed that English clubs’ financial strength is not necessarily a bad thing for Bundesliga outfits.

“The transfer fees that are being paid are unbelievable, but that’s the way football has developed in recent years,” he explained. “I think only more money will be spent in the future.

“The good thing is that all the money from the Premier League finds its way to Germany, allowing clubs here to spend as well.”

Gotze has my trust even if he doesn't have Bayern's – Low

The World Cup winners’ coach has no intention of dropping the attacker and stressed how important Ilkay Gundogan is to their Euro 2016 hopes

Joachim Low has insisted Mario Gotze remains an important player in his Germany set-up, irrespective of his struggles at Bayern Munich.

Gotze has entered his third season at the Allianz Arena but is not considered a crucial cog in Pep Guardiola’s side – he has started from the bench in two of their three Bundesliga matches so far in 2015-16.

Low believes Gotze has earned his spot in the national team through his performances in last summer’s World Cup – including his matchwinning goal in the final – and backed the 23-year-old to make his mark on Bayern’s XI.

“I told Mario Gotze he should fight for his place at Bayern,” the Germany head coach told reporters on Sunday. “There will always be injuries, there will always be chances.

“In Bayern, there might even be more competition than in our team. As a club coach who has matches every three to four days, you have to look at how the players work together.

“I am sure that Mario will have a lot of games if you check it at the end of the season. I’ve seen a lot of young players who had a bad patch like Mario had after the World Cup.

“But Mario always gave everything for us. He lives and breathes football 24 hours a day. He is technically good and has a great sense of direction in confined space.

“And Mario scores against strong teams like Brazil or Argentina. That is why I trust him.”

Low, who has been in charge of the national team since 2006, also insinuated Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan can play a pivotal role in their efforts to win Euro 2016.

“Gundogan played very well against Poland,” he said, referencing Friday’s 3-1 win over their European Championship qualification rivals. “He gaves us time to breathe by attacking and gave us stability.

“He is almost back in the form he had two years ago and back then he was superb. Looking at the Euro 2016 he is an extremely important player. If he plays like this, it is hard to replace him.”

Germany have no fresh injury concerns for Monday’s visit to Scotland and Low suggested he will make only “one or two” tinkers to the XI from the Poland clash when they line up at Hampden Park.

With all six teams in Group D to play three more matches, the world champions are top with 16 points, Poland are second with 14, Republic of Ireland third with 12 and Scotland fourth with 11.

The top two automatically qualify for the finals in France next summer, with the third-placed team likely to go into the eight-team play-offs for the last four spots in the continental tournament.

Porto invite Champions League clubs to help raise millions for migrants

The 32 teams in the UEFA Champions League proper should donate part of their gate receipts to help migrants, according to Porto.

Porto have called on the clubs competing in this season’s Uefa Champions League group stage to donate €1 for every ticket sold for their first home game in the competition to boost the migrant relief effort in Europe. 

A number of European football’s biggest sides,  including Bayern Munich and Celtic, have this week announced initiatives aimed at helping the tens of thousands of desperate migrants making their way across the continent from the Middle East and Africa.    

In an open letter addressed to UEFA president Michel Platini, Porto counterpart Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa urged the “football family” to unite and do more. 

“It’s impossible to close our eyes to the drama of the migrants and refuges that are trying to enter in the European soil,” the letter, posted on the club’s official website, read.

“FC Porto, through UEFA, would like to invite the 31 clubs currently in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League to put their efforts together and donate €1 per ticket sold for the first two matchdays. 

“This will allow each club to have one home match to gather the donation. FC Porto will assume this initiative on the 29th September, against Chelsea FC. 

“UEFA has a prolific tradition in social responsibility. The situation with the migrants requires a strong movement of the society and, of course, football cannot be apart from it. 

“The forthcoming campaign of the UEFA Champions League can be even more successful if we put out efforts together. Let’s play for the migrants!”