Mikel Oyarzabal on Sociedad revival, Luis Suarez’s Italian exam, Barca’s appeal among under-the-radar stories

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Another massive week in European soccer is winding down and we have seen Manchester City take a step toward the UEFA Champions League final with a 2-1 semifinal first leg win away at Paris Saint-Germain and some vibrant Europa League semi-final openers.

As always, plenty has been bubbling away behind the scenes and we are here with our weekly refresher of stories that you might have missed or are reading here for the first time as they initially passed under the radar.

Some of our picks.

Oyarzabal chats Sociedad’s rise

Real Sociedad vice-captain Mikel Oyarzabal sat down with CBS Sports to discuss the Basque outfit’s recent climb up La Liga’s table to fifth and contention for European qualification after a memorable 2019-20 Copa del Rey win over archrivals Athletic Club.

The 24-year-old scored the only goal of the game in Seville with a second half penalty and talked his role along with coach Imanol Alguacil and reserve boss Xabi Alonso in maintaining Los Txuri-Urdin’s strong regional identity.

“It is really important to have a coach who you really understand and who really believes in his players,” said Oyarzabal over a La Liga media call. “It is also really important for the players to believe in the coach. There is no doubt about that whatsoever.

“With Imanol, us players and Xabi, the club believes in us and we believe in them. It is important because we have this feeling of belonging to the club.”

Oyarzabal went on to explain that David Silva and Nacho Monreal’s arrivals from high-profile Premier League clubs have helped to garner added attention for Sociedad and that the club’s methods and vision have impressed the experienced pair.

“With Nacho and David, they have both come to the club and speak highly of it,” added Oyarzabal. “They see and feel that things are being done well and from the outside, people need to see us as an ideal place to come, develop and to fight for a place near the top. We should feel very proud of this.”

Sociedad have a chance to open up a six-point lead over European rivals Real Betis if they can beat Huesca this Saturday.

Suarez Italian exam scam

Video footage of Luis Suarez’s controversial Italian language test from failed move to Juventus has come to light and the Uruguay international is visibly seen making basic errors but being given an easy rider by Perugia University examiners in his bid to make a transfer possible.

Juve president Andrea Agnelli and sporting director Fabio Paratici’s communications had come in for scrutiny before the case was closed by Italian authorities.

Weinzierl back with Augsburg

Markus Weinzierl is back with Augsburg after Heiko Herrlich was dismissed with the club 13th in the table but only four points above the relegation battle after a 3-2 loss at home to Koln that has endangered their 10-year Bundesliga stay.

Angers and Paris FC transfer ban

Ligue 1 club Angers SCO and Paris FC of Ligue 2 are banned from making signings this summer after the pair were found guilty of “bridge transfers” in the case of Kevin Bemanga which represents the first time that FIFA have taken action against clubs for this since its 2020 introduction.

Barca to appeal Koeman’s red card ban

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman will serve a two-match ban after he saw red during a 2-1 defeat to Granada CF in La Liga on Thursday which will mean that the Dutchman will not be on the bench for the clashes with Valencia CF and title rivals Atletico Madrid. The club has appealed the ban.

Pirlo admits shortcomings

Earlier this week, Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo admitted (via Sky Sport Italia) he is “not happy considering the initial expectations and the club is not either” as speculation continues about his future in Turin past the end of the current season.

Targett extends with Villa

Aston Villa have extended Matt Targett’s contract until 2025 after an impressive season that has him on the verge of an England call-up: “It is a really exciting time to be part of this project. It is amazing and I cannot wait to carry on my journey here. I just need to keep performing consistently and I do not think I am too far off.”

American Volpe will not abandon HAC

American businessman Vincent Volpe has stated that he will not jump ship after reports surfaced earlier this week that he is looking to sell Ligue 2 outfit Havre Athletic Club for around $18 million: “My commitment is as strong today as it was in July 2015. I will not be President forever, but a captain does not step down in the midst of the storm.”

HAC are not the only club in difficult shape with Stade Rennais’ backer Francois Pinault calling on Bordeaux’s vineyards to pull together to save Les Girondins from likely bankruptcy this summer.

Gravina’s hard stance on Super League clubs

Italian Football Federation (FIGC) chief Gabriele Gravina announced earlier this week that measures have been taken to ensure that any Serie A clubs tempted to form part of a breakaway Super League in future will be excluded: “Whoever is considering joining a competition which is not authorized by UEFA, FIFA and FIGC will lose its membership.”

Lafont joins Nantes from Fiorentina

Alban Lafont has completed his permanent move to FC Nantes from Fiorentina after a period on loan with Les Canaris fighting to remain in Ligue 1 with the talented French goalkeeper likely to be moved on again if Antoine Kombouare’s men do eventually drop into the second tier.

Toulon Tournament postponed

Finally, the prestigious Toulon youth Tournament has been postponed until this autumn due to logistical problems posed by COVID-19 after the option of Austria was disregarded after it became clear that the 10 participants could not all guarantee their early summer availability.

Australia, Chile, Ivory Coast, Denmark, France, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, Qatar and Romania are the 10 countries in question.