The German international is now officially a Chelsea player following his transfer from Bayern Leverkusen, although he cannot feature for the Blues until the 2020/21 campaign begins.
In the meantime, the focus is on fitness given he hasn’t played a competitive game since the end of the Bundesliga.
After touching down in London on Sunday evening, Timo Werner has been training at Cobham for the first time today, as our exclusive pictures show…
The 40-year-old was due to take charge of Al Sadd’s game with Al Khor on Saturday, but he will now self-isolate in line with #Covid-19 guidelinesContinue reading “Barcelona & Spain legend Xavi tests positive for coronavirus”
Real Madrid have been crowned La Liga champions for the 34th time with a game to spare.
- Brighton v Arsenal game on Saturday is postponed
- Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi also tests positive
- Premier League to hold emergency meeting on Friday
Premier League clubs are preparing for the football season to be suspended after the Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday night and their match on Saturday against Brighton was postponed.
Arsenal confirmed their first team squad and coaches would now self-isolate, and they would be unable to play some fixtures on the scheduled dates. In the early hours of Friday, Chelsea announced their players are self-isolating after Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive.
Meanwhile, having earlier declared that the weekend’s top-flight games would go ahead as planned, the Premier League has called an emergency meeting with its clubs on Friday regarding future fixtures this season.
One club executive told the Guardian they expected the season to be suspended for several weeks in the light of the Arteta news, and didn’t rule out the possibility of the whole season being voided.
On Thursday it was also reported that the Manchester City defender, Benjamin Mendy, is self-isolating after a member of his family fell ill, and three Leicester players have also undergone tests for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms.
As things stand, the Premier League is the only major top-flight league in Europe not to shut down or close its doors because of the coronavirus. The top divisions in Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland and the United States have all been suspended amid the outbreak, while the German Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1 are holding matches behind closed doors.
Fixtures in the Scottish Premiership also appear set to be postponed after this weekend’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic, following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned from Monday.
Earlier, English football had been told to carry on as normal after the government’s medical experts insisted that their remained a very low probability of someone with Covid-19 infecting a large number of people in a stadium. However, the Arteta news quickly made that advice appear complacent.
Earlier, English football had been told to carry on as normal after the government’s medical experts insisted that their remained a very low probability of someone with Covid-19 infecting a large number of people in a stadium. However, the Arteta news quickly made that advice appear complacent.Advertisement
The scale of the problem for global sport due to the rapid spread of the virus was once again illustrated in a fast-moving 24 hours as:
- European football’s governing body, Uefa, moved closer towards postponing the 2020 European Championships, the final of which is due to be held at Wembley, until 2021. Uefa officials will discuss the future of the tournament next week.
- Real Madrid’s Champions League match against Manchester City next Tuesday was delayed after a basketball player from the Madrid team, which shares the same training facility, tested positive for the virus.
- This weekend’s Formula One season-opening Australian GP in Melbournewas called off after a staff member from the McLaren team tested positive for Covid-19.
- President Trump called for the Tokyo Olympic Games in July to be postponed for a year.
- Men’s tennis was shut down for six weeks, with the prestigious Miami Open and Monte Carlo tournaments cancelled.
- The Pro-14 rugby tournament for clubs from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy and South Africa was suspended until further notice.
- Irish racing was told that it must be held behind closed doors until 27 March.
- In the US, major league basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer were all suspended, with the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournaments cancelled.
This summer’s European Championships were already expected to be the most complicated ever staged, because 12 stadiums in 12 different countries were being used, starting in Rome on 12 June and ending on 12 July with the final at Wembley. But the spread of the coronavirus has now put its future in doubt. Delaying Euro 2020 could free up space in the calendar for the European leagues to finish their seasons this summer.
The Euro 2021 women’s tournament in England is not due to start until 11 July, so one plan being discussed is for the men’s competition to take place beforehand. A final decision will come when Uefa meets with representatives from the clubs, leagues and the players’ union Fifpro on Tuesday.
Insiders have also told the Guardian that “everything will be on the table” at the meeting – including drastic plans to make the rest of this season’s Champions League and Europa League ties into one-legged games staged in neutral venues.Advertisement
Uefa confirmed the talks were “in the light of the ongoing developments in the spread of Covid-19 across Europe and the changing analysis of the World Health Organisation.”Play Video2:16 Coronavirus and football: how players, fans and managers have been reacting – video report
The International Olympic Committee has insisted that it is still full steam ahead for the Olympics in Japan in July despite calls from Trump for a postponement until 2021.
At a briefing at the White House, Trump said: “I like that better than I like having empty stadiums all over the place,” he said. “If you cancel it, do it a year later. That’s a better alternative rather than having it with no crowd.”
But the IOC said it remained “absolutely in line with our Japanese hosts” in its commitment to deliver a safe Olympic Games this year.
In the cricket, England’s tour of Sri Lanka was continuing. But a spokesperson for the ECB said “this is a highly evolving situation and circumstances are changing rapidly, sometimes several times a day”.
Bloomgist Sports rates the players as Jürgen Klopp loses his first European knockout tie as Liverpool manager.
By Richard Tanner AT ANFIELD
Has looked vulnerable in recent games and had hearts in mouths when he parried a shot by Felix but recovered to stop Correas scoring from loose ball. Poor clearance led to Atletico’s first goal. 5/10
Back to somewhere near his best after falling below his high standards in recent games. Pressed forward and delivered a series of dangerous crosses and set-pieces.7/10
Another player who needed a return to his best form and did so with an assured display alongside Van Dijk. 6/10
Virgil van Dijk
Early scare when Costa got through but otherwise a towering performance from the Dutchman. Some of his long passes were sublime. 7/10
Not quite as dangerous as Alexander-Arnold but still put in a decent shift and almost got the second when his header struck the bar from Salah’s deflected shot. 7/10
The captain returned as the midfield anchor man in place of Fabinho and underlined how much he has been missed by driving Liverpool on. 8/10
Reprised his heroics in last season’s great comeback against Barcelona by levelling the tie on aggregate with a well-taken header just before half-time. 7/10
Justified keeping his place with a display full of attacking verve. Supplied the cross for Wijnaldum’s goal and twice hasd shots saved by Oblak. 8/10
Hard-working display from the Egyptian who linked well with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexander-Arnold on Liverpool’s right flank. Had plenty of shots but couldn’t find the net, try as he did. 7/10
The Brazilian playmaker finally broke his home goal duck this season with the extra-time goal that put Liverpool ahead in the first period of extra-time. 6/10
Usual lively show by the Senegal international who kept Trippier on his toes all night. Denied a goal by a great save by Oblak early in the second half and went close with an overhead kick. 7/10
Atlético Madrid (4-4-2)
Had a busy night on his 50th Champions League appearance. Could do nothing about either of Liverpool’s goals but masde countless saves keep his side in it. 7/10
Former Tottenham man was back on English territory for the first time since last summer’s ,mpove and no doubt grateful that Correa double up to help him deal with Mane’s constant threat. 7/10
Difficult to believe he looked so unsure in his season at Manchester City because he has turned into an uncompromising rock at the heart of Atletico’s defence. 7/10
Glanced an early header just wide but had his work cut out alongside Savic to keep Liverpool at bay. Never afraid to hoof it clear. 7/10
Had his hands full trying to contain the impish Salah. Lost him a couple of times but got away with it. 6/10
Had to sacrifice his attacking instincts to drop back and help Trippier try to shackle Mane but denied a goal by Adrian in second half. 7/10
Used the ball well on the odd occasion he had it – but spent most of the game, like his fellow midfielders, on the back foot running and covering. 7/10
Scorer of the first leg but spent the second leg helping out his defence and trying to disrupt Liverpool’s rhythm. 7/10
Usual no-nonsense solid midfield display from the the Spaniard. Tackled hard, covered well and passed the ball with economy. 7/10
Not the sort of game for the Portuguese playmaker to flourish in. Only contribution was a shot saved by Adrian and a tendency to to go down easily and waste some time much to the annoyance of the Liverpool players. 5/10
The former Chelsea man was the usual villain of the piece. Shot into the side netting after just 15 seconds and subbed early int he second half – venting his frustration by kicking a water bottle. 5/10
It may be the last time Atlético fans see their team this season and they are hoping they do not get stage fright as Barça did.
No Madrileños will be at school on Wednesday but 2,800 of them will be at Anfield. Atlético Madrid were at the airport waiting for a plane bound for Liverpool when the latest report about coronavirus dropped. On Tuesday morning children in the Spanish capital went to class for the last time in two weeks, by order of the regional government; by the afternoon, as boarding began at Barajas airport, La Liga had announced that, in agreement with the health ministry, every first and second division game will be played behind closed doors for at least the next two match days.
This will be the last game Atlético’s fans go to for a long time. It may well be the last game any fans go to, in fact. Valencia v Atalanta was played behind closed doors. Sevilla v Roma will be played without fans, as will Getafe v Internazionale and so, it was confirmed, will Barcelona against Napoli. La Liga’s announcement was soon followed by the Spanish Football Federation closing games in the third and fourth tiers. Postponements may well be next – a demand made by the players’ union. Schools, gyms and children’s football clubs have closed, too.
All over European football measures were introduced and Pep Guardiola suggested it is inevitable that the Premier League will end up doing the same. In the meantime, though, UK grounds stay open, so just before four o’clock Atlético arrived at John Lennon airport with around 100 fans. The rest followed: there were four chartered flights as well as the usual commercial routes. Tickets had sold out swiftly. This is a trip no one wanted to miss, at the stadium Fernando Torres told Saúl Ñíguez all about. “I’ve never been; it will be lovely,” says the midfielder who scored the only goal in the first leg.
Seen coldly, it might have been beneficial for Atlético had the ban arrived in time to leave Anfield empty. Much of the discussion of the second leg has focused not just on the team who stand before them but on the terraces, too. Everyone in Spain witnessed Barcelona endure what Jorge Valdano called stage fright last season. “We saw Liverpool lose 3-0 at Barcelona last year and turn it around so we know this result means nothing,” Stefan Savic said after the first leg. “We still have Anfield and we know it’s very difficult.” Atlético’s first‑leg win was unexpected; their getting through would be less so now, although this weekend Koke said he “wished” he was at Liverpool’s level and insisted their recent results “won’t influence” this game.
None of Liverpool’s results since then would see Jürgen Klopp’s side through, while every result Atlético have had would allow them to progress, even if they have not always convinced: a 3-1 win against Villarreal, 1-1 at bottom-placed Espanyol and 2-2 with Sevilla. At the end of that game players gathered at the south end. “The Champions League is my obsession,” supporters sang. It has hurt them before but there is hope now.Advertisement
In theory, if there is any side built to hold a 1-0 lead, it is Atlético. This is the team that Kieran Trippier, fit again having missed the first leg, says he joined partly to learn how to defend – “the perfect club”. At the same stage last season they lost a 2-0 first‑leg win against Juventus, although Koke says: “Hopefully that will serve as a lesson.” In Madrid Liverpool did not manage a shot on target; asked what he expects this time, Klopp said “more shots on target”. And perhaps the lesson is that it is not enough to defend.
If Atlético do score, everything changes but they have fewer than half as many league goals as Barcelona. Álvaro Morata has scored only twice in 2020 – both penalties – and did not train on Monday. Diego Costa, who played 13 minutes in the first leg and is still not fully fit after an operation on vertebrae in his neck, has only two goals all season. João Félix, missing in the first leg, has returned. A €126m summer signing, he scored against Sevilla on Saturday and is their most creative talent although he is an uneasy fit in an Atlético team still seeking the identity that was momentarily recovered in the first leg, leaving them in a strong position for Anfield.
“Today is a reminder [of what we are] and a telling-off, too: we would like to be like this all the time, as committed as we were tonight, the same sacrifice, the same focus,” Saúl said. “I’m not talking about playing good football or bad football; it’s about communicating those values. When you’re playing the champions, in a game like this, there’s an extra motivation and we’d like to compete like this in every game and every competition. We scored early and you think ‘It’s a long time’, but we resisted because we all worked, were together, and made every effort. You have to win every ball and, if you don’t, you win the next one.”
Against Liverpool the old Atlético were revived; now they must resist. Diego Simeone has always talked about going partido a partido, treating every game as if it was their last. At Anfield they will try to prevent this being their final game in Europe this year but there is nothing they can do to stop it being the last they play in front of their fans for some time to come.
Players from both sides recall the dramatic events that ended with Didier Drogba’s winning penalty in the shootout.
When Chelsea take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16, first leg on Tuesday it will recall their meeting in the 2012 final, the most glorious night in their history.
It had not been an easy season for Chelsea, who had made Roberto Di Matteo caretaker manager after sacking André Villas-Boas in February, and few gave them a chance of winning their first European Cup, even after they beat Barcelona in a remarkable semi‑final. As they approached the game with Bayern the pain of losing the 2008 final to Manchester United on penalties weighed heavily.
Mikel John Obi, Chelsea midfielder: We didn’t want something like that to happen again and we even spoke about it the day before the game. For some of us it was the last opportunity. People like Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard.
Paulo Ferreira, Unused Chelsea substitute: Some of the players had gone close in semi-finals and finals. As you start getting old, you start thinking you will probably not have another opportunity.
The game was held at the Allianz Arena, Bayern’s ground, and they were strong favourites. Chelsea prepared for the mental challenge.
Mikel: We didn’t know Roberto Di Matteo and the club had gone to interview our brothers, sisters, parents, whoever it was that is very close to us. The videos were played in the meeting the night before the game. My younger brother was on my video. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. We knew that would help to give us more spirit in the game. Those messages from our families were ringing in everyone’s ears.
Ferreira: Playing in someone else’s stadium, you felt they had a little bit of an advantage. But they also had extra pressure. Sometimes playing at home is not an advantage. We had it when Greece beat Portugal in Lisbon in the Euro 2004 final. And Portugal won Euro 2016 against France in Paris. Sometimes it can be good. Sometimes not.
Mikel: The whole stadium was red and white. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Their fans were trying to intimidate us. We could see some of the Chelsea fans behind the goal but you couldn’t really hear them. All you could hear was the Bayern fans. But we’ve played under big pressure before. There was nothing to be afraid of.
Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich defender: Our whole home city could have had a huge celebration. Everything was ready for the party. I don’t remember there being any special pressure on us. We had a feeling of security.
Chelsea’s lineup contained a surprise: Ryan Bertrand on the left wing. The youngster had never played a European game. Di Matteo told him at the team’s base, the Mandarin Oriental hotel, on the day of the game.
Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea midfielder: It was on the rooftop of the hotel in the afternoon. He called me over and said: “You’re starting tonight. Are you ready?” I was like: “Yes, easy, no problem.” I didn’t want to give him any sense of: “Ohhh, he’s not.” I hadn’t seen any papers. The story was out there in the morning but I was not aware. Maybe they cleared the papers out of the hotel so I didn’t see anything. It wasn’t like today with news on Instagram.
Bertrand’s task was helping Ashley Cole to contain Arjen Robben, Bayern’s dangerous winger.
Ferreira: Ryan was ready. That’s why he had the trust from Roberto. He handled the pressure really well.
Bertrand I wasn’t nervous. I’d been on loan at Nottingham Forest and I had Billy Davies as my manager and he always used to scream: “Play the game and not the occasion.” That was in my head.
John Terry was suspended following his red card in Chelsea’s semi‑final win over Barcelona. Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic were also out.
Ferreira Gary Cahill and David Luiz had injuries and I was ready to play at centre-half in case either of them didn’t make it but they did. I even did the warm-up with the starting XI. But as David Luiz said, it’s about motivation, adrenaline. You go through any pain you might have. We knew Bayern would probably have more possession. But in these finals it is all about the details, about concentration.
Lampard captained the side and Terry sat behind the bench.
Ferreira Even I was quite active on the bench. I remember talking with José Bosingwa, trying to help him with his body position. He was up against Franck Ribéry. You are not just sitting on the bench to watch the game. You want to help.
Bayern bossed the game. They had 21 shots to Chelsea’s six but Mario Gómez’s finishing was poor. Cech was inspired in goal for Chelsea and Bayern had a goal disallowed for offside but Thomas Müller finally gave them the lead in the 83rd minute.
Lahm Thomas’s goal was a huge relief. I didn’t think we were going to let victory slip out of our hands. Then again we had lost a few matches during the season after we’d been leading and playing better.
Ferreira After they scored maybe they felt: “Chelsea will have to take some risks and we might get a second goal.” They had a chance to go 2-0 up.
Mikel John Terry was not on the pitch so Lamps was pushing everyone. Drogba, too. We were all pushing each other. Lamps came to me and said: “John boy, we have to keep going. We can’t lose here.” We still had that belief.
In the 88th minute Chelsea won their only corner. David Luiz ran up to contest it and as he passed Bastian Schweinsteiger he said: “And now goal.” Juan Mata swung it in and Drogba scored with a bullet header.
Lahm It was a perfect corner and a perfect header. You’d need about 50 attempts to swing a corner right in front of the goal like that and for the striker to head it that hard and with such precision. There’s nothing you can do to prevent amazing efforts like that.
Ferreira The header was unbelievable. On the bench we just exploded.
Mikel I thought: “That’s it, we’re definitely winning.”
It was 1-1 after normal time. Then, in the third minute of extra time Drogba fouled Ribéry to concede a penalty.
Ferreira You do everything to help the team, even if you’re a striker. But Drogba dropped so much he gave away a penalty against Barcelona in the semi-final and against Bayern he did it again. Fortunately for us they both missed.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi hit the bar while Robben was foiled by Cech – after some gamesmanship from Mikel.
Mikel I went straight to Robben and I said: “Watch, I’m telling you, you’re going to miss it.” He wasn’t looking at me. We know each other from our days at Chelsea together. And I said to him: “You’re going to miss it. Watch and see. You’re definitely going to miss it.” He didn’t say anything to me. He hit it and he missed. I was like: “Wow. I guessed right.”
Lahm I wouldn’t take that sort of intimidation. If a player says: “And now goal,” that’s something positive. But “You’re going to miss” is below the belt; it contradicts the values of fair play.
Ferreira: That’s psychological. But Petr knew Robben. When the player knows a goalkeeper, knows which your best side is, you never know. If they score at that time we probably wouldn’t make it.
Mikel In the week leading up to the game something was telling me: “We will win.” We’d had so many years where we’d had disappointment. The semi-final against Barcelona in 2009 where everyone thought we were robbed at home and 2008 as well when we lost on penalties to United.
Ferreira I have this story about my housekeeper. She is Portuguese and I remember just before we went to Germany, she said: “Paulo, I shouldn’t say this but you guys are going to win.” I was asking and asking why and finally she told me. And it was unbelievable. She said: “When did Paulo become a professional? 18, almost turning 19. What is Paulo’s shirt number? 19. When is the final? 19 May. I’m not saying anything else.” When Müller scored, I’m thinking: “She told me this and now we concede, come on …” But then when Didier scores I said: “Oh. Wait a minute …” Then Robben misses and I felt: “We will win this final.”
It went to penalties. Di Matteo had almost brought Ferreira on for Mata.
Ferreira There were five minutes left and Mata was completely dead. I was supposed to play in midfield. In five minutes anything can happen. But I just remember looking at Robbie and saying: “I’m not a penalty taker, Mata is.” We stopped and went back. We lost the semi-final to Liverpool in 2007 on penalties. We made a circle with José [Mourinho] and he was asking: “Who’s taking the first one?” Then he looked at me and said: “Paulo, you will be last – even Carlo Cudicini will be in front of you.” But in the end Mata missed and I wanted to kill him at the end of the game. I was saying: “I lost the chance to play a few minutes because I was thinking about you.”
Bayern were on top after Mata’s miss. But then Cech denied Ivica Olic and Schweinsteiger.
Ferreira Petr had that need of having a night where he could save penalties. We’d come to finals before and lost on penalties. He was fantastic.
Mikel The penalties were nerve-racking. When I saw one of my teammates going forward, some of them I watched and some I couldn’t because I was so nervous.
Drogba stepped up to take the decisive kick and sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way.
Mikel Drogba was not on the field to take his penalty in 2008 against United as he’d been sent off. Seeing Drogba go up to take the fifth penalty, I knew it was over.
Ferreira Everyone knew. He was not just a top player but he was very focused. You see how many steps he took. Short steps. He was so confident.
Mikel When Drogba scored that penalty, oh my God. I didn’t even know where to run. I was just lost, over the moon. Everyone had written us off. We were like: “Wow. How did we do that?”
Lahm What that match left behind was a pretty intense feeling. I just knew that we weren’t going to stay lying face down on the ground. Losing to Chelsea was bitter but it served a purpose: it made us into the team we became.
Bayern won the Champions League the following season but 2012 belonged to Chelsea. Their victory ensured Tottenham would play in the Europa League despite finishing fourth in the Premier League. There were cigars in the dressing room and wild celebrations back at the hotel.
Bertrand Cigars are associated with winning. So they were out in abundance. Did we know how to smoke them? Not at that stage. We were just choking on them.
Mikel The after-party was something else. No one could sleep. I had to come out of my room because I couldn’t sleep and there was the party going on, people throwing people into the pool. Roman Abramovich was there. There was a few drinks going on. Did anyone throw Roman in? No chance. Who is going to dare to do that?
Ferreira Didier went to the top floor where the swimming pool was. We threw Gary Cahill fully dressed in the pool.
Mikel A few players slept in their suits on the roof terrace. I don’t know who they were but I think Drogba was among them because I saw him with his suit on in the morning.
Terry gave mini replicas of the trophy to his teammates.
Mikel John, in his position as the captain, had made the replicas. Also, Drogba made some rings for the players, NBA-style ones. We’ve all got rings – 2012 Champions League winner. That’s something that you appreciate for ever. To be the first club in London to have won it, that was the biggest history ever.
- Ban starts next season and City also fined €30m (£25m)
- Club say they will appeal to CAS at ‘earliest opportunity’
Manchester City have been banned from the Champions League for the next two seasons by Uefa and fined €30m (£25m) after they were found to have seriously misled European football’s governing body and broken financial fair play rules.
The severity of the ban from both of Uefa’s elite club competitions and the scale of the fine reflect how seriously Uefa’s FFP compliance bodies consider the club to have breached the rules and code of conduct.#
City responded immediately with a characteristically forthright statement, alleging that the process was “prejudicial” and stating that they will immediately appeal to the court of arbitration for sport (Cas). If the appeal is still going on when next season’s Champions League starts, City will be able to compete and, if Cas upholds the ban, it will start in 2021-22.
City were found guilty by Uefa’s club financial control body (CFCB) of having falsely inflated their sponsorship revenues, when they made submissions for the FFP compliance process. The guilty finding follows an investigation sparked by the publication of “leaked” emails and documents by the German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018.
The “leaked” emails and documents appeared to show that City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, was mostly funding the huge, £67.5m annual sponsorship of the City shirt, stadium and academy by his country’s airline, Etihad. One of the leaked emails suggested that only £8m of that sponsorship in 2015-16 was funded directly by Etihad and the rest was coming from Mansour’s own company vehicle for the ownership of City, the Abu Dhabi United Group.
Manchester City alleged in their statement that the outcome had been prejudged from the beginning, and that the process was “flawed and consistently leaked”, saying the club was “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision. City said they will appeal against the ban and fine “at the earliest opportunity” at CAS. “The club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position,” the statement read.
“Simply put, this is a case initiated by Uefa, prosecuted by Uefa and judged by Uefa. With this prejudicial process now over, the club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity.” A City source confirmed that Mansour remains fully committed to the club.
Uefa said in its statement: “The Adjudicatory Chamber, having considered all the evidence, has found that Manchester City committed serious breaches of the Uefa Financial Fair Play Regulations by overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to Uefa between 2012 and 2016.
“The Adjudicatory Chamber has also found that in breach of the regulations the club failed to cooperate in the investigation of this case by the CFCB.”
FFP, introduced in 2011 with the aim of encouraging football clubs across Europe not to overspend on players’ wages, restricts the amount club owners can put in to cover losses. Sponsorships boost revenues and therefore the amount clubs have to spend under FFP, so the perception that Mansour himself was funding the Etihad deal led to the serious allegation that City had deceived Uefa’s CFCB, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with FFP.
City have denied wrongdoing throughout and denounced the Spiegel coverage as based on “hacked or stolen” materials taken out of context. Spiegel anonymised its source as “John”, who was quoted as saying he had not hacked computers to obtain the emails.
Shortly after their publication, he was identified as a Portuguese national, Rui Pinto, who has now been charged in Portugal with 147 criminal offences, including hacking and other cybercrimes, which he denies. The charges relate only to Portuguese football clubs and other organisations, not to the “leaks” of City’s or Uefa’s emails.
When City were charged last May, they said that they had been subjected to a “hostile” process which ignored “a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence”.
Olivier Giroud’s absence is a mystery, Hugo Lloris proves his worth and Manchester United’s defence continues to wobble.
1) Lloris quick to deliver emphatic reminder of his pedigree
The debutant Steven Bergwijn will rightfully claim the headlines for Spurs but the contribution of Tottenham’s current third-longest serving player against Manchester City should not be forgotten. Hugo Lloris made one of the saves of the season to deny Sergio Agüero in the first half, somehow getting a big toe to turn a deflected shot on to the post, before he also denied Ilkay Gündogan from the penalty spot (the fourth spot-kick City have missed in their past six). Lloris rode his luck – he was clearly off his line when palming Gündogan’s effort away and fortunate not to concede another penalty when challenging Raheem Sterling for the rebound – but his performance is a reminder that the World Cup-winning captain is a big-game player. His return to form in time for the Champions League knockouts bodes well for José Mourinho. Michael Butler
• Match report: Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City
2) Firmino helps Liverpool switch into cruise control
Liverpool hit a few more milestones on Saturday – including a 20th consecutive Premier League home win that opened up a 22-point gap at the summit, the biggest lead witnessed at the end of a day’s play in English top‑flight history – but Jürgen Klopp took greater satisfaction from several key players hitting their stride. Fabinho rediscovered his rhythm in the second half as he continued his recovery from injury, while Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino flourished as an awkward afternoon became a procession. And Firmino created three of the goals to overtake Salah, Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané on Liverpool’s assist list this season. “He is just exceptional,” Klopp said. “But even a player like Bobby needs an address where he can send the ball. How he uses the skills of his mates is special. I do not know a player like him.” Andy Hunter
• Match report: Liverpool 4-0 Southampton
3) What can Giroud do to force himself into Lampard’s plans?
Chelsea could have had a commanding lead in the first half at Leicester on Saturday but they were scruffy in the final third, which has been the case too often this season. If they slip out of fourth spot then critics – and possibly Frank Lampard – will point to their failure to sign a striker last month. But is Lampard making the best use of the ones available to him? Tammy Abraham, who hurt his ankle against Arsenal, did not look in top condition at Leicester and it is hard to believe Olivier Giroud would not have been sharper. But the Frenchman, having been denied a move to clubs who would have used him, was not in the squad. He must not be impressing Lampard in training, though Abraham relishes working with him. “He’s like a big brother to me,” the 22-year-old said. “His attitude has been great. In training we are always doing finishing and we have a competition after training as well. He has been encouraging many of the young lads.” Paul Doyle
• Match report: Leicester 2-2 Chelsea
4) Lindelöf clutching at straws after shaky display
Manchester United were again amateurish under the high ball as the Harry Maguire-Victor Lindelöf centre-back axis failed to deal with regulation crosses put in by Wolves’ João Moutinho. It is a curiosity given that Maguire’s forte is supposedly the basics of defending and Lindelöf’s technical prowess is meant to complement this. Even stranger, then, that the Swede should talk up a display in which he and Maguire might have allowed at least three goals from aerial deliveries. Lindelöf. “He’s a fantastic player – we train every day [together] and play a lot of games now so for every game that we play we get better and better. Hopefully we can keep improving. They didn’t create a lot of chances, and we kept another clean sheet.” Regarding the latter point: only just. And, given United’s difficulty in scoring, they really have to tighten at the back. Jamie Jackson
• Match report: Manchester United 0-0 Wolves
5) Is Lerma’s reputation preceeding him?
Jefferson Lerma has enough bookings to build a yellow brick road, 66 across the past four and a half years (22 in a Bournemouth shirt) and, as much as Eddie Howe would rather the Colombia midfielder was not suspended for the trip to Sheffield United on Sunday, he is equally loth for Lerma to lose his edge. Lerma was superb against Aston Villa until he received his first red card for Bournemouth after picking up the second of two cautions for fouls on Jack Grealish, retribution which his manager felt was a consequence of the player’s reputation. “I think some of the bookings this season have been very harsh,” Howe said. “I think other players wouldn’t have ended up with the same punishment that he has. Unfortunately for Jeff he has put himself in that position and it is very difficult I think to change people’s opinions. I think referees are looking out for him.” Ben Fisher
• Match report: Bournemouth 2-1 Aston Villa
6) Burnley have risen to a tough challenge
Burnley have never beaten Arsenal in the Premier League and, perhaps more remarkable still, this was Sean Dyche’s first point against them in 10 attempts. It probably felt more glass half‑full than half‑empty, all the more so because this fixture came at the end of a challenging sequence. Burnley could have found themselves among the relegation candidates had they failed to take anything from games against Leicester, Manchester United and Arsenal, yet they ended up with a more than respectable seven points. “That’s a really healthy return and the players can have a rest now before we start again,” Dyche said. “They deserve it. There’s some tough challenges in the Premier League and we’ve shown we can hold our own against some of the best teams around.” Paul Wilson
• Match report: Burnley 0-0 Arsenal
7) O’Connell the unsung hero in Blades backline
Dean Henderson’s form in goal for Sheffield United – the clean sheet at Selhurst Park was his ninth in the Premier League this season, the joint-most in the division – has brought him international recognition with England but Gareth Southgate might well be advised to keep his eye on another member of the Blades’ defensive unit. Though Henderson has excelled, clean sheets are not down to a goalkeeper alone and United are among the Premier League leaders in terms of shots against, allowing fewer than 12 per game on average. The Republic of Ireland international John Egan in the heart of defence has been key to that, but perhaps even more vital have been the contributions of Jack O’Connell on the left of the back three. The 25-year-old, excellent again in south London, surely can not be too far away from Southgate’s thoughts. John Ashdown
• Match report: Crystal Palace 0-1 Sheffield United
8) Bruce’s aversion to buying a striker looks no less puzzling
For prolonged periods it was hard to discern that Norwich were bottom and Newcastle en route to 10th but, as Steve Bruce acknowledged, the Premier League is all about “small margins”. A combination of an excellent goalkeeper in Martin Dubravka and the sensible decision to revert to Rafael Benítez’s five‑at‑the‑back system promises to keep Newcastle safe but Bruce’s side do not score enough goals to feel properly secure. Benítez’s successor believes a lack of midfield creativity – and possession – explains why the £40m Joelinton has scored only one league goal all season, and he has a point. Even so, Tynesiders remain puzzled as to why he prioritised reinforcing midfield above recruiting a striker last month. Bruce did not bid for Jarrod Bowen, who eventually left Hull for West Ham, claiming he was “no better” than forwards he already possessed. Newcastle fans wonder if he was right. Louise Taylor
• Match report: Newcastle 0-0 Norwich
9) Plenty more firefighting for Pearson to do
The relegation battle is increasingly intriguing and Watford are right in it. They are in 19th place, two points from safety, with a negative goal difference surpassed only by Norwich. After the Hornets’ start to the season, this should not be surprising – but such has been Nigel Pearson’s impact it’s sometimes easy to forget. Watford endured a second consecutive defeat on Saturday against Everton and, as against Aston Villa, it didn’t feel like the right result: 2-0 up and cruising, Watford should have gone on to win. But bad marking and, with the late winner, risky play from a high defensive line were punished ruthlessly by Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Such mistakes cannot be repeated and – with Manchester United, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Leicester in their next five games – Pearson’s relegation challenge has only just begun. Paul MacInnes
• Match report: Watford 2-3 Everton
10) Soucek could prove crucial for embattled Hammers
The manner of West Ham’s collapse here left them scratching for positives but there was a clear one in their midfield debutant, Tomas Soucek. The 24-year-old Czech looks cut out for better sides than this and was particularly instrumental in a first‑half performance that should have set them up for a comfortable win. Soucek is an imposing figure at 6ft 4in and won most of his aerial challenges in an enjoyable midfield battle; even more important was the energy he offered in an all-action display that could have brought a goal. His early header, well saved by Mathew Ryan, came from a free‑kick he had won with a dynamic burst into space. There is much more to come from Soucek but the worry is that, with a devilish set of fixtures ahead, he will have to wield an extraordinary influence if a traumatic end to the season is to be avoided. Nick Ames
• Match report: West Ham 3-3 Brighton
An unusual quandary for Manchester City, crunch games at Bournemouth and Newcastle, plus the rise of Wilfried Ndidi.
1) Ndidi to eclipse Kanté again?
Credit to Leicester. Or should that be shame on Chelsea? Wherever you choose to put the emphasis, the fact is that Wilfried Ndidi is now a more influential Premier League midfielder than N’Golo Kanté. The Frenchman has been good this season, of course, but Frank Lampard, like Maurizio Sarri, has not been getting the best out of him. Ndidi, meanwhile, has been outstanding and, if he dominates central midfield again on Saturday, then Leicester will probably put their Carabao Cup disappointment behind them, take a significant step closer to Champions League qualification, and make the jostling for fourth place very interesting. PD
- Leicester v Chelsea, Saturday 12.30pm (all times GMT)
2) Walker-Peters has work to do
Ralph Hasenhüttl deserves acclaim for the way that Southampton have tightened up since that historic mullering by Leicester in October. But they have still conceded more goals in their last two league matches than Liverpool have in their last 10. And their defence is likely to have a new look at Anfield on Saturday, with Kyle Walker-Peters set to step in on the right-hand side for the Arsenal-bound Cédric Soares. Japhet Tanganga did a fair job containing Liverpool’s wingers earlier this month but his solitary lapse was punished by a goal that gave the league leaders victory at Spurs. Southampton hope that the player who left White Hart Lane after being overtaken by Tanganga can do better against the champions-elect and reignite his career with help from Hassenhüttl. PD
• Liverpool v Southampton, Saturday 3pm
3) How do City prime themselves for Europe?
Manchester City are in an awkward position. With 14 games still to go, they’ve no chance of winning the league, no chance of finishing outside the top four, and next to no chance of not finishing second. So, though they’re still in both domestic cups, their focus is on winning the Champions League. The question is how they go about it: do they give everything in every game, or do they save themselves so that they’re fresh when they need to be? On the one hand, it’s hard to turn it on just like that, but on the other, it’s hard to turn it on when you’re knackered, and neither approach can compensate for the defensive deficiencies that have cost them in each of the last three seasons. Against Spurs, they should expect to have no choice, because their opponents need points, and José Mourinho needs to make one – not just because his genetic code dictates he can do no other. Since he succeeded Mauricio Pochettino, his team have produced few decent performances never mind any signature performances, playing joyless, guileless football in the process. They and he need something, and soon. DH
Tottenham v Manchester City, Sunday 4.30pm
4) Chase for Europe continues at Old Trafford
By any measure this is a massive game between two clubs hoping to secure European football next season – Wolves and Manchester United drew 1-1 at Molineux in August and there is still nothing to separate them, level-pegging as they are on 34 points, with the dream of fourth place or the relative nightmare of mid-table still possible. It might be key that Wolves have had 10 days to prepare, the benefit of losing to these opponents in the FA Cup third round, while United have had to negotiate two testing cup matches. Given their poor recent league results – their last two games ended in 2-0 defeats to Liverpool and Burnley – United and their manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, could not afford to take the visit to Tranmere lightly, while the Carabao Cup semi-final would have demanded full focus even if the opposition had not been Manchester City. But this game could turn out to be much more important than either of those. SB
• Manchester United v Wolves, Saturday 5.30pm
5) Coincidences abound at Vicarage Road
After three months out with injury Danny Welbeck is expected to return to the Watford squad for this game, against Everton, a side he was repeatedly linked with last season. Perhaps the greatest tactical problem Watford have faced this season is a complete inability to attack cohesively without Troy Deeney to knit the forward line together, but Welbeck has the technical quality to improve an unhealthy over-reliance on their captain – if he can stay fit. The game will also feature a winger who used to play for Everton and Barcelona but is now with Watford and one that used to play for Watford, now plays for Everton and is rumoured to be wanted by Barcelona. In geographical coincidence news, Everton’s last visit to London was when they drew with Crystal Palace on the first day of the season, since when they have not played, even in the cups, anywhere between Birmingham and the south coast. They play Watford, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in their next five away games. SB
Watford v Everton, Saturday 3pm
6) Howe has striking headaches against buoyant Villa
Bournemouth’s 3-1 win over Brighton last week merely confirmed that Graham Potter’s team are in a world of bother, not that Eddie Howe’s side are too good to survive this season. There is no reason to back them to win Saturday’s relegation showdown with Aston Villa – except, of course, that Villa have been prone to shooting themselves in the foot, including when these sides met at Villa Park in August. But Dean Smith’s team are getting things together and go into this game looking as strong as they have at any other point in the campaign, with a relatively new formation and plenty of confidence following consecutive last-gasp wins over Watford and Leicester. They are likely to create a lot of chances for their new striker, Mbwana Samatta, while Howe must decide whether to keep waiting for Dominic Solanke to locate the net or to give a first Premier League start to Sam Surridge instead. PD
• Bournemouth v Aston Villa, Saturday 3pm
7) Norwich need to roll back the months
When these sides met in August with the sun on their backs, Norwich romped to a 3-1 victory inspired by a Teemu Pukki hat-trick, and Newcastle looked much the likelier to figure in the relegation battle. Five months on, and it’s Norwich who face the survival battle, while Newcastle have moved into the middle tier and could be about to escape Mike Ashley’s frying pan for the ethical fire. On the field, things have begun to tick for Newcastle, which makes this another formidable assignment for Daniel Farke’s side, who haven’t been playing that badly – they were frankly robbed at Tottenham – but are carrying an air of loveable-but-doomed about them. So they need to take points, preferably three, from fixtures such as this. Unlike Newcastle, Norwich have had a quiet transfer window and with Spurs and Liverpool up after this, the Canaries need to tighten , buckle up and win here. TD
• Newcastle v Norwich, Saturday 3pm
8) Dyche seeks to stem the flow
There are seven clubs that Sean Dyche has faced as a manager without so much as drawing. Six of those – including Sheffield United, who will visit Turf Moor in April – he has only faced once, but the other is Arsenal, who he has come up against 10 times already in league and cup without success of any sort. He has come close on occasion – the Laurent Koscielny stoppage-time handball winner of 2016, say, or the two stoppage-time Alexis Sánchez penalty winners of 2017 – but always, somehow, the Gunners have prevailed. With Arsenal still inconsistent as Mikel Arteta beds in and suffering a string of defensive injuries – though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will return from suspension – and Burnley having beaten Leicester and Manchester United in their last two league games, perhaps this will be the time. “There’s been a lot of last-minute goals and it would be nice to get one against them,” said Jack Cork. “They are going through a transitional stage and it would be good to get them at a time where they’re a little bit vulnerable and try and get at them.” SB
- Burnley v Arsenal, Sunday 2pm
9) A fun clash of the frail?
If you were to organise a conference for the latest round of football’s interminable Entertainment v Efficiency debate, the ideal venue would be Brighton. Graham Potter’s funky new side have played some lovely stuff but continually found ways not to win. And now look at them! They have fewer points than Chris Hughton’s bores had at this stage last season and find themselves going to West Ham feeling almost as vulnerable as their hosts. A clash between two teams who are far from clinical, often short on aggression and always liable to make a defensive blunder could be, in its own inefficient way, highly entertaining. PD
• West Ham v Brighton, Saturday 3pm
10) How will Wilder manage change?
It’s a long time since a promoted side has imposed itself on the Premier League as brilliantly as Sheffield United. Though Wolves’ patient possession game worked very well last season, Blades’ fast, aggressive approach is far more interesting to watch and has also been accomplished without the involvement of Jorge Mendes. Most particularly, what they are doing and what we are enjoying is a triumph for Chris Wilder, who understands football in all its aspects: his adult response to Oli McBurnie enjoying himself is every bit as important as all the cogitation and innovation. But this week he has set himself a new challenge: can he integrate an expensive outsider? Attracting a talent of Sander Berge’s calibre looks like being yet further testament to the work he has done, but disturbing the balance of something which already works is always a risk. We have no reason to think that Wilder will not find a way – beginning at Selhurst on Saturday. DH
• Crystal Palace v Sheffield United, Saturday 3pm
- Woodward understood not to be at home at the time
- ‘Anybody found guilty will be banned for life by the club’
The home of Ed Woodward was attacked on Tuesday night in a sickening escalation of the tensions between supporters and the Manchester United executive vice-chairman.
Fans, who are unhappy at the way in which the club is being run, have recently sung songs celebrating the death of the 48-year-old who has become a figure of hate among some sections of the United support. However, the situation took a sinister turn on Tuesday night when a group wearing balaclavas launched flares at Woodward’s Cheshire home. One video was then posted on social media with the caption: “Ed Woodward’s gonna die.”
It is understood neither Woodward nor his family were at home. He is married with two young daughters.
United quickly released a strongly worded statement condemning those involved and promising to hand out life bans to anyone found guilty of any criminal offence.
A spokesman said: “Manchester United Football Club have tonight been made aware of the incident outside the home of one of our employees.
“We know that the football world will unite behind us as we work with Greater Manchester Police to identify the perpetrators of this unwarranted attack.
“Anybody found guilty of a criminal offence, or found to be trespassing on this property, will be banned for life by the club and may face prosecution.
“Fans expressing opinion is one thing, criminal damage and intent to endanger life is another. There is simply no excuse for this.”
Defeats at Arsenal and at home to Burnley have increased the pressure on United, who are 33 points behind the Premier League leaders Liverpool.
Grealish, Saka and Chalobah shine in draws, while Newcastle are ready for reinforcements after a late win.
1) Saka’s swap could fill a gap for Arsenal
Arsenal’s injury problems at left‑back have led them to explore signing Layvin Kurzawa from Paris Saint-Germain. But what if the solution lies closer to home? Bukayo Saka is 18 and earlier this season was being rightly lauded for his rich promise as a flying winger. But he has filled in at full‑back four times in the past month, most recently against Sheffield United on Saturday, and looks the part. Saka is tenacious, diligent, has speed and energy to burn and a knack of picking out teammates with his deliveries. “I think he could,” Mikel Arteta said when asked if Saka could carve out a long-term future in the role. “He is someone that’s never played there before but he’s really trying to do it as well as possible. You can see that he’s got many strengths to play in that position.” Club and manager might have hit upon something far more exciting than they expected. Nick Ames
• Match report: Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United
2) Grealish’s positive attitude gives Villa confidence
England fans will have only Gareth Southgate to blame if Jack Grealish is not in their next squad. The player could hardly do more to prove he deserves a chance. His terrific goal at Brighton was the latest evidence of his exceptional ability. He has the skills and attitude to fit into a variety of positions and has shown at Aston Villa that he thrives on responsibility. “He’s turned into an all-round player,” said Dean Smith, Villa’s manager. “He keeps pushing us as coaches to make him better. When you’ve got that attitude, that application, then he’s going to be a top player. People will take notice of him, that’s for sure, and he’s doing what he can to get himself noticed for the England squad.” Grealish has scored seven league goals this season – his best haul. With him and Villa’s new striker, Mbwana Samatta, the club can be confident of climbing out of relegation trouble. Paul Doyle
• Match report: Brighton 1-1 Aston Villa
3) Rodgers detects Leicester’s lack of confidence
Brendan Rodgers was not being peevish when he said Leicester deserved to win this game. They created most of the chances and, but for an exceptional goalkeeping performance by Nick Pope, would probably have gone home with something. “Somehow we lost,” the Leicester manager said. Crucial saves from Pope were the most obvious reason, particularly when denying Jamie Vardy from the penalty spot in the second half, though Rodgers also thought he could detect a drop in desire and motivation. Leicester’s passing ability was superior but they were unable to make it count. While they remain a good bet for a top‑four finish it is possible they are finding it hard to keep up their earlier pace. “The character is strong but maybe the confidence isn’t as strong as it has been,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure we’ll get it back.” Paul Wilson
• Match report: Burnley 2-1 Leicester
4) De Gea’s meekness becoming a regular failing
Roberto Firmino’s disallowed goal could be argued over for eternity but there is no debating that it involved a desperately timid piece of goalkeeping from David de Gea. The Spaniard was impressive thereafter but he plays in an unforgiving position and what will stick in the mind is his meekness in coming to meet a high ball – strikingly similar to his costly mistake against Everton last month. Watford, Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona and Portugal have also benefited from De Gea blunders in recent memory and they are only the most glaring. The 29-year-old has been a rare jewel in the rubble of the post-Ferguson years but it is no exaggeration to say that he is in danger of becoming a liability. His club can, however, lay claim to a keeper with the joint‑most clean sheets in the division: Dean Henderson. Time for De Gea to worry? Alex Hess
• Match report: Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United
5) Hodgson decides not to throw at Stones
Roy Hodgson felt compelled to defend John Stones after the defender had another shaky outing that culminated in him allowing Wilfried Zaha to force Fernandinho’s late own-goal equaliser. Hodgson, who gave Stones his international debut when England manager, said: “John is a good player – young, too. He still has his best years ahead of him, he’s still learning the game, learning it in a fantastic environment with very good players around him. I still think that John Stones is every bit that we expected him to be. But he’s playing in a very important goldfish bowl at the moment. Every mistake or every good thing is magnified 10 times over. He’s very much a player that City and England will have good use from in the future. It’s for Pep to decide.” Guardiola voiced rare public criticism of the “mistake” that prompted Fernandinho’s blunder. Jamie Jackson
• Match report: Manchester City 2-2 Crystal Palace
6) Reinforcement can add to Newcastle’s happiness
Matt Ritchie celebrated Isaac Hayden’s last-gasp winner by kicking the corner flag into the crowd – where it hit a Newcastle fan in the groin, leaving him in agony. Frank Lampard and Chelsea probably felt much the same after monopolising possession and having 19 shots on target. What the bald statistics do not reveal is the visitors often passed sideways and created mainly half‑chances. While Reece James shone for Chelsea at right‑back the other contenders for man of the match were all Newcastle players. They should shortly be joined by the Austria winger Valentino Lazaro after a provisional loan agreement was reached with Internazionale. Lazaro can expect some expert “out of possession” training‑ground tutelage from Steve Bruce and his assistant Steve Agnew. The defensive masterclass here was not accidental. Louise Taylor
• Match report: Newcastle 1-0 Chelsea
7) Duda adds sparkle to Norwich’s fight against relegation
The January transfer window has offered little of note so far but one move that flew under the radar when it went through last week was Norwich’s signing of Ondrej Duda on loan from Hertha Berlin. On the face of it a slight, technical midfielder is hardly the sort of player required in a relegation dogfight – especially by a team who have conceded the most goals in the division and already possess Todd Cantwell and Emiliano Buendía. Yet Duda – who scored 11 times in the Bundesliga last season – slotted into the team alongside both and was his side’s standout performer, dictating the tempo with his crisp passing and denied a debut goal only by the illegal acrobatics of Steve Cook. If Norwich go down, they will go down playing sparkling football. But if Duda plays like that every week, they might just get the best of both worlds. Alex Hess
Match report: Norwich 1-0 Bournemouth
8) Nuno accepts Wolves have to invest in transfer window
After a stirring comeback victory it would have been easy for Nuno Espírito Santo to be cavalier but the Wolves head coach acknowledged such a result does not alter the need for reinforcements. The shirt numbers of his substitutes at St Mary’s read akin to lottery numbers and the average age was 22. As it happened, Nuno’s tactical switch changed the game – Adama Traoré caused havoc centrally – but Wolves had few options on a bench which featured two teenagers, including Ryan Giles who was recalled from Shrewsbury last week. Wolves rallied but Nuno recognised he needs to add to his supporting cast, with backup for the match-winner, Raúl Jiménez, in short supply after Patrick Cutrone joined Fiorentina on loan. “This window is not the best one to do things but we need to,” he said. “We already have a good team but we need to improve.” Ben Fisher
• Match report: Southampton 2-3 Wolves
9) Chalobah rules roost in midfield for Watford
Watford looked the equals of Tottenham during this largely drab draw. Their midfield three outfought their opponents but they had more to their game than just strength. Most intriguing of the trio was Nathaniel Chalobah. The 25‑year‑old’s fitness history is chequered but even when fit he has struggled to play under some of Watford’s frequently changing managers. Nigel Pearson trusts him, however. “He’s been fabulous again,” he said. “He’s a gifted player but he’s had to find a way of regaining his form. It’s been a difficult year or so for him [but] he’s the type of player that is very important for us.” From the base of Watford’s midfield Chalobah was effective in breaking up Spurs’ attacks but his distribution high up the field was also crucial. He has a broad range of attributes for an English defensive midfielder and another manager who trusts him is Gareth Southgate. Paul MacInnes
• Match report: Watford 0-0 Tottenham
10) Bench shows West Ham’s lack of options
The West Ham fans who protested against David Sullivan and David Gold before this draw with Everton will be paying close attention to whether the board reacts to a growing injury list by backing David Moyes in the transfer market. Missing Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio and Andriy Yarmolenko, West Ham lacked ideas in the second half and did not have many attacking options on a bench containing three centre‑backs, an untried youngster, a left-back and Albian Ajeti, a forward whose only contribution was jutting his head into Mason Holgate’s jaw after replacing Manuel Lanzini. Moyes admitted concern about the lack of support for the £45m striker Sébastien Haller. With a trip to Leicester on Wednesday, a double‑header with Liverpool, games at Arsenal and Tottenham and visits from Chelsea and Wolves, West Ham need reinforcements. Jacob Steinberg
• Match report: West Ham 1-1 Everton
PSG may have got it right at last, Frank Lampard returns to Munich – and it’s now or never for Cristiano Ronaldo and Juve.
Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain
Could this, finally, be Paris Saint-Germain’s year? Although their domestic form has been indifferent (they lead Ligue 1 by just seven points), the 3-0 evisceration of Real Madrid in their opening group match suggested the balance of the midfield – with Idrissa Gana Gueye joining Marquinhos and Marco Verratti – may at last be right. The big question is whether that cohesiveness can be maintained as Neymar returns. The PSG manager, Thomas Tuchel, has the advantage of knowing numerous Dortmund players from his time at the club. The form of Lucien Favre’s side, meanwhile, remains oddly patchy although the fact they ousted Inter in the group stage suggests they shouldn’t be underestimated.
Real Madrid v Manchester City
Real Madrid paid a heavy price for finishing as runners-up in their group, although the sense is that both sides may look rather different come February. Madrid have slowly improved after a difficult start to the season, following the familiar pattern of Zinedine Zidane sides, but the reconstruction of their midfield will be severely tested by a City side who, with Liverpool 14 points clear of them in the Premier League, will presumably devote their attentions fully to Europe. Their recent stutter has been rooted in two issues: problems at the back and a lack of attacking ruthlessness, but they may melt away when Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Agüero return. City, anyway, should be a far stiffer test than they were against Madrid in the 2016 semi-final.
Prediction: Manchester City
Atalanta v Valencia
These were the sides every other club probably wanted to face in the last 16 and, if there is any romance left in European football, it is represented by Atalanta. They squeaked through with an enormous amount of luck, with just seven points from their six group games. Nonetheless, the hard pressing practised by Gian Piero Gasperini’s side can unsettle any opponent, while Valencia have been far from convincing this season. They progressed largely because of slightly fortuitous 1-0 away wins against Chelsea and Ajax and while they have won four of their last six league games, and drawn with Real Madrid in that run, there is a reason they still lie seventh in the Spanish table.
Atlético Madrid v Liverpool
What was most impressive about Liverpool’s qualification was the way, having gone 2-0 up against Salzburg in their final group game, they were able to hold vibrant opponents at arm’s length. It’s a side of their game that hasn’t been much in evidence as they have surged clear at the top of the Premier League, but a useful attribute to have in two-legged ties. Atlético are in the middle of a major rebuild, the foremost result of which appears to have been a lack of fluency: they have drawn eight of their 17 league games so far this season. An inability to finish sides off, though, is less of a drawback in knockout football than in the league.
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Chelsea v Bayern Munich
In 2012, Chelsea went to Munich for the Champions League final and pulled off a major shock, beating Bayern on penalties. Frank Lampard may not enjoy this trip quite as much. Chelsea were extremely fortunate to draw against Ajax (4-4) and Valencia (2-2) in the group stage, two games in which their defensive limitations were badly exposed. And as Tottenham found, Bayern, only the seventh side ever to win all six group games, have in Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry two in-form forwards ideally suited to take advantage. That said, Bayern remain fifth in the Bundesliga and it’s far from clear whether the interim manager, Hansi Flick, will still be in charge come February.
Lyon v Juventus
Perhaps no side in the last 16 is under such pressure as Juventus. Their decision to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in summer 2018, based on the belief his goals were the final ingredient that would bring them a third European crown, represented a huge financial gamble. A quarter-final exit to Ajax last season represented a major disappointment. Ronaldo will be 35 by the time this year’s last-16 tie comes round. The clock is ticking. And Juve have not been at their best domestically since Maurizio Sarri replaced Max Allegri, currently standing level on points at the top of Serie A with Inter. They still, though, should have far too much for Lyon who are eighth in France and have, in Rudi Garcia, a coach who has not been accepted by the fanbase because of his previous association with Lyon’s great rivals Saint-Étienne.
Tottenham v RB Leipzig
ottenham represent a dangerous wild card this season. Five wins out of seven under José Mourinho suggest a corner has been turned since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, but the defence is still extremely vulnerable, as was seen in the way Bayern picked them apart. There must be doubts as well as to whether Mourinho’s happy-and-relaxed shtick will endure another two months and what impact a more familiar grumpy José may have on players who at the moment seem enthused by their new boss. Either way, this represents a great clash of approaches: Julian Nagelsmann is at the forefront of the modern breed of hard-pressing young managers and, while Tottenham were used to that style under Pochettino, Mourinho’s instincts are to a more reactive approach.
On Premier League
Napoli v Barcelona
Barcelona are top of the league in Spain and finished top of their Champions League group for a 13th time, yet the feeling around them is one of vague dissatisfaction. Lionel Messi – who, if not in the form of his life, is in the form of this minimalist phase of his career – papers over a lot of cracks, and they remain, as they have been for four or five years, vulnerable to sides who counterattack at pace. Napoli, though, now under the management of Gennaro Gattuso, are in a full-blown crisis of their own, with numerous players in open revolt against the president Aurelio De Laurentiis following his attempts to send them to a punitive training camp.
Pablo Fornals, Moise Kean, Wesley, Joelinton, Dani Ceballos and Che Adams are not living up to their price tags.
With the halfway point of the season fast approaching, some of the biggest signings of the summer are still struggling to adapt to their new surroundings. That’s nothing new but, given the money spent on transfer fees these days, clubs will be hoping these newcomers come good in the new year.
Moise Kean, Everton
Given the way Moise Kean ended last season, it was a shock that Juventus allowed him to leave. It was even more surprising that Everton were relatively unopposed in their pursuit of the Italy international – and that there was no buy-back clause in his contract. Even at a fee of £29m – which could rise to £37m – it was still an exciting signing for the club.
Kean is still just 19, but he did not impress Marco Silva and really needs a fresh start under a new coach. Given their modest options to lead the line, it looked as if Kean would be first choice at Everton, but he has started just two of his 11 league appearances and has only completed the full 90 minutes once – a 2-0 defeat at home to Sheffield United.
He is yet to score for his new club and has only set up one goal. He has averaged 3.3 shots and 2.7 completed dribbles for every 90 minutes he has been on the pitch, so there are some encouraging signs but Everton fans have seen far less of Kean – and far less from him – than they would have expected.
Che Adams, Southampton
If evidence were ever needed about the step up in quality from the Championship to the Premier League, Che Adams’ start to life on the south coast has provided it. Having scored 22 goals last season for Birmingham City in the second tier, Adams impressed in pre-season and looked ready to nail down a starting spot at Southampton after his £15m move in the summer.
The 23-year-old was given his chance at the beginning of the campaign but, after six matches without a goal, he was dropped. Adams hasn’t been back in the starting XI since. Since losing his place in the side, he has made five substitute appearances, mustering just two shots on target. Like Kean, he has made 11 appearances and scored no goals for his new club.
Adams may struggle to regain his place. Danny Ings has been picked for the last 10 games and has scored in eight of them. Adams will be rueing his missed chances. The step up to the Premier League can be unforgiving.
Pablo Fornals, West Ham
Signing Pablo Fornals seemed to be a real coup for West Ham in the summer, given that he had just won the U21 European Championship with Spain. The midfielder had a big reputation, but his form for Villarreal had been stuttering.
In his first season with Villarreal, in 2017-18, Fornals scored three goals and registered an outstanding 12 assists in La Liga. However, his form dipped last season, with just two goals and three assists.
The 23-year-old is capable of sublime moments of skill but it is telling that he has made more tackles (2.2 per 90 minutes) than he has attempted shots (1.6), created chances (1) or completed dribbles (0.7) for West Ham. He has only started eight of his 15 league games so far and is yet to score.
Dani Ceballos, Arsenal
Dani Ceballos was also in the Spain team that won the U21 Euros in the summer and he has also struggled in London this season. Injuries have played their part, but he has not made the biggest impression after his loan move from Real Madrid.
It all started so well too. He set up two goals in his first game at the Emirates as Arsenal beat Burnley 2-1 on a sunny afternoon in August. He looked a looked a class apart from most of the players on the pitch. But, in his nine appearance since then, he has not scored or set up a single goal. Ceballos has missed Arsenal’s last five league games due to injury but, even before his spell on the sidelines, he looked off the pace.
Newcastle forked out a club record fee of £40m for Joelinton and it is not obvious to see why. The Brazilian striker proved to be a strong outlet for Hoffenheim last season, using his physicality to bring others into play and defending admirably from the front, but his goal return was not much to write home about.
He scored seven goals and chipped in with a respectable five assists in the Bundesliga, but his finishing often left a lot to be desired. His conversion rate of 12.5% was modest to say the least and it has dropped further still at Newcastle. He has played 16 times for his new club and only scored one goal – back in August against Tottenham.
The 23-year-old has not scored in his last 13 games. Moreover, his averages of 1.8 shots, 1.1 key passes and 1.4 dribbles per 90 minutes are all some way down on the figures he posted in Germany. As a result, Andy Carroll – who was signed on a pay-as-you-play basis – is now very much in competition with the £40m signing for a starting spot.
Wesley, Aston Villa
Wesley is another young Brazilian striker who has found the move to English football troubling. He started the season well enough – scoring four goals in his first eight games – but he has really dropped off the pace since then. He has not scored in his last eight games and, truth be told, has rarely looked like finding the net in that time. He won his first cap for Brazil last month, which was a touch bemusing given that it came in the middle of a barren run in front of goal for Aston Villa. On current form, the 23-year-old will have to wait some time for his second cap.
He is clearly low on confidence and is really struggling to use his stature to hold up the ball for Aston Villa – all too often it’s coming right back as a result. Despite his 6ft 4in frame, he has won just 38% of his aerial duels. On top of that, he has lost possession due to an unsuccessful touch 42 times (the seventh worst in the Premier League). Given the lack of competition at Villa Park, there was a lot of pressure on Wesley to hit the ground running. At this stage, he needs to be taken out of the firing line and given a rest.
Unai Emery has been sacked as manager of Arsenal.
The Spaniard oversaw a disastrous run of form that saw his side go seven games without a win for the first time since 1992.
Touted to be the messiah the Gunners wanted, Emery, 48, was appointed in the summer of 2018 following the departure of Arsene Wenger.
He guided the Gunners to fifth in his debut campaign, one point adrift of Spurs, before losing 4-1 to Chelsea in the Europa League final.
His side also went 22 games unbeaten combined with a run of 11 straight defeats.
However, the past weeks have been disappointing and the final straw was the Europa League defeat at home to Frankfurt.
Arsenal on their website said Emery and his coaching team have been told to leave.
Speaking on behalf of the Arsenal board and owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Josh Kroenke said: “Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand. We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.”
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The club said the decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required.
Arsenal have asked Freddie Ljungberg to take responsibility for the first team as interim head coach adding that they have full confidence in Freddie to take the club forward.
Already a couple of names have been brandished to take over at the London club.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo remains favourite to take the role with Mikel Arteta also in the running.
Former Juventus boss Max Allegri remains on the shortlist while the club could make a stunning approach for ex-Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino.
From Manchester United to Shkodran Mustafi, some of those who may well wish to forget this past campaign
Welcome to the review of the 2018-19 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …
A purple patch following José Mourinho’s sacking aside, it has been a truly disastrous season for United. There are any number of overriding images from this latest sorry damp squib – Alexis Sánchez, whose £490,000-a-week wages translate to an hourly rate of around £2,900, skulking around nonplussed, Fred floundering in countless midfield duels, Paul Pogba strutting round and simultaneously causing Roy Keane to self-combust, an off-colour David de Gea making yet another uncharacteristic error or the grimace on the face of Phil Jones. Take your pick, it has been a torturous time. The final descent of Mourinho’s reign was spectacularly sullen but, six months on, things are not much better. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has declared this as the end of the road for some players – Sánchez’s limp down the tunnel at Huddersfield was symptomatic of an entire campaign – and, in truth, the chance to start over cannot come soon enough.The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.
Signed for £17m last summer, the winger is Brighton’s club-record signing but has badly struggled to live up to that fee. A quick glance at his numbers says it all: this time last season, Jahanbakhsh was heading into the World Cup with Iran off the back of a glittering campaign in which he scored 21 goals for AZ Alkmaar. Not only have the goals dried up, they have been non-existent, with Jahanbakhsh still to register a single goal or assist for Chris Hughton’s side. He has completed 90 minutes just three times in what has been a difficult season, punctuated by niggling injuries and compounded by conceding a soft penalty at Arsenal earlier this month. The 25-year-old studied to become an auto mechanic before turning professional in the Eredivisie and, despitestalling in his maiden season in Sussex, Hughton has expressed confidence Jahanbakhsh will fare better second time around.
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For an entourage of Everton officials, deadline day last August was spent in Spain. A lot of effort went into frenetically arranging meetings, medicals and signing off paperwork as they got a £28m deal for Mina and a season-long loan for André Gomes over the line. Everton are yet to fully reap the rewards of that labour. Mina formed a trio of headline arrivals from Catalonia, with Lucas Digne having already signed from Barcelona. Gomes and Digne have enjoyed excellent campaigns but the same cannot be said for the towering Colombia defender. Mina did not start a game for Marco Silva’s side until November because of a foot problem and has not featured since March following a hamstring injury picked up on international duty. Mina has not become useless overnight but his first season at Everton has been desperately disappointing.
That there is, a rather cruel, 10-minute montage of Mustafi’s mistakes doing the rounds speaks volumes. The Arsenal defender has too often proved a defensive liability, typified by his hopeless display in defeat against Crystal Palace, when he gifted away not one but three goals. On the face of it, signing Mustafi for £35m three seasons ago appeared a masterstroke, a player Arsène Wenger had been crying out for. Arsenal had snapped up a World Cup winner, someone with – stereotypically at least – all of the desired attributes synonymous with a German centre-back. He seemed a cure to their decade-long defensive woes. What Arsenal really acquired was a flimsy imitation of a top-quality defender. For Mustafi, along with Denis Suárez, who mustered up just four substitute appearances after being borrowed from Barcelona in January, it has been a poor campaign.
After being touted for a move to Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, when the £25m midfielder rocked up at Aldershot Town last summer for a Fulham pre-season friendly, his arrival was greeted with considerable fanfare. Seri’s signing was supposed to be a major coup but, barring the odd glimpse of class, Fulham must feel short-changed. Before a ball had been kicked, Fulham fans were giddy at the prospect of Seri, and the raft of new faces, catapulting them into the upper echelons of the Premier League. Therein lies the problem. Seri has little appetite to play in England’s second tier, and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, another who endured a miserable debut season, led to the break-up of a trusty three-man midfield that had Fulham purring in the Championship: Tom Cairney, Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen. They could do worse than leaning on that trio again next season. For Seri, signed from Nice, a return to Ligue 1 surely beckons.
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola refused to blame his players after the runaway Premier league leaders, reduced to 10 men at half-time, were knocked out of the FA Cup by third tier Wigan Athletic.
Monday’s 1-0 fifth round defeat at the DW Stadium, a repeat of the 2012-13 final won by Wigan when the Latics were in the top tier, ended City’s hopes of an unprecedented league and cup quadruple this season.
“Congratulations for Wigan for the qualification,” Guardiola told BBC radio. “We did absolutely everything, we made a mistake and this kind of game is like a final. OK, we accept the defeat,” added the Spaniard.
“Wigan won, congratulations to them and now we rest to prepare for the League Cup final.” City play Arsenal in the final of that competition at Wembley next Sunday.
The overwhelming favourites against opponents fighting for promotion from League One, City were always wary of Wigan’s proud reputation as a ‘bogey team’ in the world’s oldest and most romantic domestic cup competition.
Apart from beating them the 2013 final, Wigan had also dumped them out at the quarter-final stage of the competition at the Etihad Stadium a season later just as City were heading for the league title under Manuel Pellegrini.
City started with their Argentine top scorer Sergio Aguero, and had Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne waiting on the bench but neither were able to make the most of their side’s dominant possession.
In the end, the match turned on the sending off of Fabian Delph on the stroke of half-time with the City midfielder shown a controversial red card for a sliding tackle as team mates crowded around the referee in protest.
Wigan’s prolific goalscorer Will Grigg then fired in a 79th minute winner.
Despite his obvious anger at the time, Guardiola steered clear of criticism of the official after the final whistle. “Red card. It was the decision,” he said. “They had one shot on target, I don’t have regrets with the way we played, the performance, the heart,” continued the manager. “I judge my players on intentions and not results and the intentions were good.”
By David Kwalimwa
Who will be crowned the 2017 SportPesa Premier League Most Valuable Player when the league holds its awards gala Friday night in Nairobi?
Five nominees are in the running for the prestigious accolade that comes with cash prize of Sh1 million.
They are John Oyiemba (Kariobangi Sharks), Patrick Matasi (Posta Rangers), Michael Madoya (Zoo Kericho) and Lawrence Juma (Nzoia Sugar) and Meddie Kagere (Gor Mahia).
In the running for Coach of the Year award are, William Mluhya (Kariobangi Sharks), Bernard Mwalala (Nzoia Sugar), Sam Ssimbwa (Sofapaka), Sammy Omollo (Posta Rangers) and Mike Muruli (Kakamega Homeboyz).
The league will also name Midfielder of the Year, Defender of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year amongst other awards
Former Harambee Stars coach James Nandwa expects either Kagere or Matasi to walk home with the MVP award.
SOURCE: Daily Nation, Kenya
Former Arsenal and France international striker Thierry Henry who is in Lagos for the Guinness Made of Black programme has been crowned the, Igwe of football’ in Nigeria.
Henry who is in Lagos to meet the ‘Be a Front Row Fan’ winners; a consumer promotion of the company also watched the West Brom v Manchester United EPL game at Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Aside receiving the ‘igwe of football’ title, Henry also participated in the cooking of Jollof rice.
The 40-year-old Frenchman retired from football in 2014.
SOURCE: Vanguard, Nigeria.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and the Super Eagles of Nigeria are back for a testy clash in the 2018 World Cup qualifying series.
The Super Eagles were the better team when both sides clashed last Friday in Uyo, winning 4-0 at the Nest of Champions.
While World Cup qualification is seemingly out of reach for Cameroon, it is expected that the wounded Lions will battle for pride in Monday’s tie fixed for 6.pm at the Stade Omnisports Ahmadou Ahidjo in the heart of Yaoundé.
The Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, has said he would largely keep his winning team and only make few changes for the injured players.
One of those injured and a major doubt for Monday’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon is Odion Ighalo.
Rohr has hinted that either Kelechi Iheanacho or newbie, Anthony Nwakaeme will step in as a direct replacement for the injured former Watford star.
While the Lions have been largely invincible at their home ground in recent times, it is not impossible for the Eagles to shock the reigning African champions one more time, especially when the Eagles know that Nigeria could become the first African team to earn a slot in Russia as early as Tuesday.
If Nigeria defeat the Cameroonians on Monday in Yaounde and Zambia fail to beat Algeria at the Stade Mustapha Tchaker in Blida on Tuesday, the Super Eagles will seal their World Cup ticket with two games to spare.
As we expect another feisty encounter, stay with The Bloomgist for Live Updates from 6.pm.
7:52: Full time: Cameroon manages to hold a draw against the Eagles.
7:28PM: SUB: Mikel off Agu on. Nigeria trying to inject more energy into the middle
6:48: HT – Cameroon fans are seen leaving the stadium as the game comes to a half time with the Super Eagles still on the lead
Simon Moses put Nigeria on the lead with a super strike. It’s Cameroon 0 – 1Nigeria
4:23 PM: The Super Eagles coach Genort Rohr has reeled out his starting XI for the game against Cameroon and he has opted to stick with his winning team.
The 11 players that started in Uyo are also starting in Yaounde as the Eagles will again play the 4-2-3-1 formation with skipper Mikel Obi handed a free role.
Kick-off is 6pm.
Eagles starting XI: Ezenwa – Elderson, Shehu, Ekong, Balogun – Ndidi, Onazi – Mikel, Victor Moses, Simon – Ighalo
Romelu Lukaku was always going to leave a big hole to fill at Everton but few would have predicted a combination of, say, Wayne Rooney and Olivier Giroud, perhaps to take over in the likely event of the Belgian striker’s departure.
Reported overtures to Arsenal’s Giroud make perfect sense; he is a reliable goalscorer, proven in the Premier League, at 30 he will have a few good years left in him and he was no longer a regular starter under Arsène Wenger. Those imagining Everton would seek a like-for-like replacement for Lukaku, as if similarly built striking powerhouses were in plentiful supply, might have to think again. Giroud, should he move to Merseyside, could be just the cutting edge required for the quick-passing side Ronald Koeman is looking to put together.
Rooney is an entirely different story. Once upon a time, as Everton remember only too well, he brought a cutting edge like no other. He has also been spending too much time in the shadows at his present club and it is entirely understandable he should wish to seek more game minutes with his boyhood team, though there is a reason why Rooney dropped off the radar at Manchester United.
Whether used as a striker or a No10 in recent seasons, José Mourinho and before him Louis van Gaal found it difficult to incorporate the club captain into a system that worked. Mourinho actually began by saying he had complete faith in Rooney’s striking abilities and would resist the temptation to drop him back to midfield, though as the season wore on it became plain – not that the manager ever admitted it or said anything over-critical – that the solution he had come up with was to drop the player altogether.
At 31 Rooney is only a year older than Giroud – not to mention four years younger than Zlatan Ibrahimovic – though perhaps because he started out so young, his playing career seems to have caught up with him. Ibrahimovic stole all the goalscoring headlines at United last season, with Rooney barely getting a look-in, and whereas Giroud was also relegated to a substitute’s role at Arsenal he frequently came off the bench and made a scoring impact. Rooney’s impact in his last few seasons at United has been muted, to put it as kindly as possible, and for that reason it is tempting to wonder not only why Koeman wants him, when there will be money in the kitty after Lukaku’s departure, but also where he plans on playing him.
As a No10 seems most likely, if only as the most effective way of making it plain to Ross Barkley other options are available. At this rate the latest homegrown Everton wunderkind is going to be making way for the previous one, 13 years after the latter left Merseyside for Manchester. Though he has lost much of his pace, Rooney retains an eye for a pass and an ability to deliver from set pieces – witness his free-kick at Stoke last season to score his 250th Manchester United goal and break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record – yet Mourinho was also interested in speeding up the tempo of attacks and in the end he preferred Ander Herrera or Juan Mata.
It is highly debatable whether Rooney is a better bet as a creative playmaker than Barkley, even if there are problems with the younger player’s contract. Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea is another player Koeman admires for the same position, and were Everton to be in a position to land the Iceland international it is hard to know what role Rooney may be asked to fulfil.
On the other hand, Everton stand to acquire a lot of leadership, experience and club tradition on a free transfer, even if the wage bill is likely to make Bill Kenwright’s eyes water. It should also be remembered Everton are in Europe this season, and are quite likely to opt for a significantly different lineup in cup competitions than the one they use for Premier League games. There is no problem about animosity from present Everton supporters towards a player who turned his back on the club in search of fame, fortune and trophies. Everton fans know better than most how the world works, and the famous (infamous?) “Once a blue always a blue” slogan is already being revisited approvingly rather than sarcastically.
Lots of United players have ended up at Everton in recent seasons, from Phil Neville and Tim Howard to Tom Cleverley and Morgan Schneiderlin, and looked at in such a way it is perhaps natural a player should wish to extend his career in the North-west without joining rivals such as Manchester City or Liverpool.
Yet City and Liverpool would not have been interested in signing Rooney anyway, and Neville, Howard, Schneiderlin et al still had plenty of career years left to contribute. Not everyone can keep up the peak performances United demand for the whole of their careers, and Everton have proved a useful alternative without dropping down the league too far. In one sense Rooney fits into that category and in another he does not.
Rooney has already spent all his peak years at United, that is precisely the point. To the naked eye he appears to have none left, but maybe Koeman knows better. Let us all hope so, for a homecoming hero is always a tale worth telling and it will be good to see Rooney in blue again rather than in China or on the front pages through some sort of boredom-related bother. Only a killjoy or a spoilsport would add a word of warning to such a feelgood story, but it is only a year since Mourinho had complete faith in Rooney’s undimmed ability and so did Roy Hodgson. Neither found a happy ending.
We are just about 180 minutes away from confirming the finalists of this season’s UEFA Champions League. But barring any monumental collapses, we are almost sure the two teams that would qualify. Real Madrid threw down the gauntlet at Atletico Madrid as Juventus exploited the naivety of Monaco. These are six things we saw from those two matches:
Higuain is a ‘fat’ goal scorer
Often derided on social media as being fat and lugging a big ass, Gonzalo Higuain answered in the most appropriate way on Wednesday by scoring the two goals away at Monaco to give the Italian champions a very comfortable first leg lead. The brace made it 31 goals for the season in all competitions. The Argentine can argue all he wants that he is not physically fat but he is definitely goals-fat.
Ronaldo is six steps away from the Ballon d’Or
If – and these are valid assumptions; Cristiano Ronaldo leads Real Madrid to a successful defence of the Champions League [getting through the second leg and the final] – something that has not been done since the tournament metamorphosed in 1992. If he can also help Zinedine Zidane and Madrid to hold their nerves in their last four La Liga matches. Six successful matches and you are almost sure that next January, Ronaldo would win his fifth Ballon d’Or – equalling Lionel Messi’s record.
80% sure it would be a Real Madrid versus Juventus final
Can Diego Simeone inspire a comeback from 3-0? Yeah, possible, because anything is possible in football and this season we have already witnessed the minor miracle of Barcelona coming back from the dead against PSG. Would it happen is another question and you have to back Real to score at the Vicente Calderon if Atletico go all out in search of the needed goals. For Juventus, it should be assumed that it is done and dusted. Gianluigi Buffon has not conceded three goals in one match this season – Monaco indeed have to score three goals without conceding. Nah, almost impossible!
No refereeing controversies
Referees Martin Atkinson and Antonio Mateu showed good judgments throughout the first legs of the semi-final. In the 3-0 Real Madrid win over Atletico, Cristiano Ronaldo was supposedly in an offside position when the first cross was delivered by Sergio Ramos but he was not also interfering with play but when the second cross came in – he was onside.
Defensive base would always be a good foundation
The two semis witnessed shutouts from Real Madrid and Juventus – the basis of champions. Whilst many managers are throwing caution to the wind as they try to play beautiful football – the art of defending has supposedly been cast aside. But the two semifinal first leg winners showed that clean sheets would always be the foundation for comfortable victories.
The Confederation of African Football has completed the draw for the group stages of the Champions League.
It is the first time that there will be four groups of four teams as up to now there have been just two groups of four teams.
One of the surprises this year is the presence of Zimbabwe’s Caps United. They went into the draw after defeating the much-fancied TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
BBC Africa’s Nick Cavell says they have a tough group with three difficult games in North Africa to manage.
The draw has also thrown up a Sudanese derby with the country’s two top teams – Hilal and Merrikh – drawn in the same group.
The cash-strapped Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has received a financial boost from an energy company worth around US$9.2 million over the next five years.
The deal with the Aiteo Group will commence on 1 May.
“This will make it easier for us to plan adequately for our national teams,” NFF boss Amaju Pinnick said.
“It is important to note that this will also take care of the national team coaches’ salaries.”
Pinnick hopes that this means no repeats of problems paying national team coaches that has troubled the NFF in the past.
“There will be no owing of coaches for the next five years,” he added.
“This lucrative deal with Aiteo will cover all the national teams and has an option of a one-year extension,”
“We are happy to have a sponsor come in at this crucial time and this is a big boost for our football.”
Former Nigeria coaches Christian Chukwu, Shaibu Amodu, Samson Siasia,Austin Eguavoen, Sunday Oliseh and the late Stephen Keshi have all previously complained about outstanding salaries in recent years.
Chelsea restored their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points with a convincing win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte’s side had seen their advantage cut by Tottenham after the Blues’ loss at Manchester United – but this was an emphatic response to follow on from Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final win against their London rivals.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were both back in the starting line-up after Wembley and were key figures, the Belgian putting Chelsea ahead with a low shot after five minutes.
Former Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu bundled in an equaliser for Saints before Gary Cahill headed the title pace-setters back in front right on half-time, a moment that effectively decided the destination of the points.
Costa confirmed Chelsea’s supremacy with a header early in the second half before scoring his second with a low shot late on.
Ryan Bertrand, another former Chelsea man, was on target in the dying seconds – but the victory was secured for Conte’s men and now Spurs must respond at in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday (20:00 BST kick-off).
Conte gets Hazard and Costa calls spot on
Conte manoeuvred his resources to perfection in the victory against Spurs at Wembley – and did it again here as Hazard and Costa made decisive contributions to a vital Chelsea win.
Conte raised eyebrows when he left his two most dangerous attackers out of his starting line-up on Saturday but used them as game-changers to great effect, deploying them as substitutes after an hour and Hazard then scoring the goal that swung the match in favour of his side.
Hazard and Costa were back from the start against Southampton and illustrated why they have been such integral components of Chelsea’s rise to the top of the table this season.
The pair combined in the fifth minute for Hazard to score and Spain striker Costa was simply too strong for Bertrand when he arrived on the end of Cesc Fabregas’ cross to score the third goal early in the second half.
And they were at it again soon afterwards – a neat exchange with Pedro leading to Costa getting his second and Chelsea’s fourth with a powerful low drive in the closing moments.
Conte has put the Blues right back on track after their loss at Manchester United with wins in the FA Cup semi-final and here at Stamford Bridge – and his shrewd use of two of his most vital assets has helped him achieve it with a superb piece of management.
Chelsea survive test of nerve
Southampton – and of course Tottenham – would have been hoping anxiety and pressure might just have played a part in a shock result at Stamford Bridge.
And for a spell those factors came into play as the Saints recovered from Chelsea’s perfect start to equalise through Romeu and then exert a measure of control.
However, the hosts kept their nerve to run out comfortable winners and avoid the sort of slip-up that would have played into the hands of Spurs.
Stamford Bridge ended the game in celebratory mood and the feeling that Chelsea’s equilibrium had been restored after those recent slips at home to Crystal Palace and away to Manchester United.
Can Tottenham respond?
“We’ve put pressure on Spurs,” said goalscorer Hazard.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side will have felt the door had opened when Chelsea lost at Old Trafford and the gap at the top of the table was reduced to only four points. Suddenly the pressure was on Conte and his players.
The tables have now been turned and it will be Spurs and their manager who will be feeling the heat and the need to win when they travel to in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Spurs have reeled off seven straight league wins – their best sequence since 1967 – but all the self-belief built up during that run will be required to face Sam Allardyce’s rejuvenated side, who have beaten Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks.
They will not only have to respond to the Blues’ win that restored their seven-point lead, but also to the disappointment of losing the FA Cup semi-final to their London rivals at Wembley on Saturday.
These are defining moments in the Premier League season – with a huge weekend ahead as Chelsea travel to Everton and Spurs face Arsenal in the north London derby on Sunday.
Hull City forward Oumar Niasse has had a three-match ban overturned after his red card against Watford was rescinded.
The 27-year-old Senegal international was shown a straight red card for a tackle on M’Baye Niang during Hull’s 2-0 win over the Hornets on Saturday.
However, Hull, who are two points above the relegation zone with four games to play, made a successful appeal to the Football Association.
It means Niasse will be available for Hull’s trip to Southampton on Saturday.
Alexis Sanchez’s scrambled extra-time winner secured Arsenal an FA Cup final date with Chelsea – and ensured Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will end a season without a trophy for the first time in his coaching career.
Sanchez settled a contentious semi-final 11 minutes into the extra period after Manchester City failed to clear Mesut Ozil’s free-kick.
Arsenal showed great resilience to come from behind – and eased the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger – after Sergio Aguero raced clear of Nacho Monreal to put City ahead in the 62nd minute.
Monreal made amends with the equaliser 11 minutes later as he drilled in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross at the far post – but City were left nursing a serious sense of injustice after this disappointing defeat.
They had a goal wrongly ruled out in the first half when Leroy Sane’s cross was adjudged to have gone out before Aguero and Raheem Sterling combined to turn it into the net, while Yaya Toure and Fernandinho hit the woodwork after the break.
It left Arsenal victorious and Wenger aiming for a record seventh FA Cup triumph.
Wenger gets his statement of intent
Wenger’s future – and the lack of clarity surrounding it – has only been brought into sharper focus by Arsenal’s recent fall outside the Champions League places.
The manager needed a statement, as did his team, to ease the growing disquiet among Arsenal fans at the prospect that he will extend his stay as manager.
Arsenal’s Wembley win against Manchester City will not ease the concerns in the minds of the doubters but he can point to the victory, and the manner in which it was achieved, as evidence that he could yet be the man to take the club forward.
Victory in the final on 27 May would strengthen his and Arsenal’s case for continuity, but for now there was much for the Frenchman and his players to treasure about this triumph.
Wenger persisted with an unfamiliar three-man defensive system comprising youngster Rob Holding, Gabriel and Laurent Koscielny and set up his team to deliver an uncharacteristically stubborn performance.
Arsenal rode their luck at times – but Wenger will take that all day.
Wenger’s players have been accused of not playing for him in recent months. No such accusation could be levelled here as they dug deep for victory.
The Gunners’ embattled manager pumped his fists towards the skies at the final whistle and beamed with delight – he may yet achieve glory amid the worst discontent of his reign.
Were Manchester City robbed?
Manchester City will argue long and hard that their chances of reaching the final were sabotaged by a first-half decision that saw a good goal ruled out.
Referee’s assistant Steve Child judged that Sane’s cross had gone behind before Aguero turned it back at the far post and then Sterling made sure. Replays suggested the ball had not gone out and City were the victims of an injustice.
City will also feel Lady Luck deserted them as they lost playmaker David Silva to injury early on and saw those efforts from Toure and Fernandinho hit the woodwork.
In the final reckoning, they must also accept the brutal truth that once more they enjoyed superiority in possession and territory but could not find the ruthless touch.
Guardiola faces a big challenge
Guardiola, arguably football’s most celebrated coach, was brought to Manchester City to lift them to another level – and on that basis his first season without a trophy in a glittering managerial career will be regarded by many as a failure.
He has found it more difficult than he may have imagined after the seamless successes of his years in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
|Stick or twist?|
|Manchester City named an unchanged line-up under Pep Guardiola for the first time, in what was his 50th game in charge.|
|The three players who have started the most often are David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne – 38 times each.|
|Another three players have started just once for Guardiola – Joe Hart, Tosin Adarabioyo and Angelino.|
He must now address the problems that have undermined City this season, particularly uncertainty over the goalkeeper position, where his decision to replace Joe Hart with Claudio Bravo has been unsuccessful, and also sort out an uncertain and ageing defence.
Guardiola’s main priority now is securing a top-four place and getting into the Champions League, starting with Thursday’s derby against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium.
Failure to achieve that objective is unthinkable.
Man of the match – Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Perfect 20 for Arsenal – the key match stats
- Arsenal have reached their 20th FA Cup final, a competition record.
- This was Manchester City’s first FA Cup semi-final defeat since 1932, also against Arsenal – the Citizens had won eight consecutively before this defeat.
- Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s top scorer in games at Wembley, with four goals – he overtook Marc Overmars and Ian Wright on three.
- Sanchez has now been involved in more goals than any other Premier League player in all competitions this season (38, 24 goals and 14 assists).
- Sergio Aguero has scored 12 goals in his past 12 matches for Manchester City in all competitions.
- It was Aguero’s second goal at Wembley, having netted for City against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final in April 2013.
- Nacho Monreal’s last two goals for Arsenal have come in the FA Cup, both against Manchester clubs (having scored against Manchester United in March 2015).
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has six assists in his past 10 FA Cup starts for Arsenal. In all competitions this season, only Mesut Ozil (10) and Alexis Sanchez (14) have more assists than Oxlade-Chamberlain (nine).
Manchester City return to Premier League action with a home derby against neighbours United on Thursday. Arsenal are at home to Leicester in the league on Wednesday.
Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho says he is ready to fight for his place in the team, amidst competition from Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero.
The Nigeria international, 20, has scored seven goals this season but has found first-team chances harder to come by than during his debut campaign.
Despite only five Premier League starts this season, Iheanacho welcomes the extra competition and insists he is improving by playing alongside great players.
“I cannot pretend that I don’t hear what people back home [in Nigeria] say about my lack of regular football but I will continue to fight,” Iheanacho told BBC Sport.
“I don’t worry about those comments. All I need to do is to keep working, keep doing well and keep improving every day.
“Sergio Aguero and Gabriel [Jesus] are really really great players that we need in our team.
“As a young player, I’m happy playing alongside these fantastic players because I learn and get better every day.
“It’s a big thing for my career to compete with these players. I’m okay with the way things are going and I wish Gabriel a quick recovery to return and help the team.”
Iheanacho scored 14 times and produced seven assists last season even though 25 of his 36 appearances were as a substitute.
That feat saw him finish as City’s third-highest scorer in all competitions, behind Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne.
At international level, Iheanacho has scored five goals in eight appearances for Nigeria since making his senior debut against Swaziland in November 2015.
He starred as Nigeria won the 2013 Fifa U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates for a record fourth-time.
He emerged as the tournament’s outstanding player, being voted the Most Valuable Player.
Iheanacho scored six goals to secure the Silver Boot as the competition’s second-highest goal-scorer.
Former England footballer Ugo Ehiogu has died at the age of 44.
Ehiogu, who worked as under-23 coach for Tottenham Hotspur, had been taken to hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest at the club’s training ground on Thursday.
On Friday morning, Tottenham wrote on Twitter: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of Ugo Ehiogu, our Under-23 coach.”
The former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender collapsed and was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
His wife Gemma and young son had rushed to the hospital to be with him.
However, the 44-year-old passed away in the early hours of Friday morning.
John McDermott, Tottenham’s head of coaching and player development, described Ehiogu as “irreplaceable”.
Tottenham midfielder Joshua Onomah wrote: “Way more than just a coach, a father figure as well! Done so much for all of us boys. RIP Ugo. See you soon.”
Ehiogu had been at Spurs since 2014, but began his career as a trainee at West Bromwich Albion before moving to Aston Villa in 1991.
He went on to feature in more than 300 matches for Villa over a nine-year spell, winning the League Cup in 1996.
After joining Middlesbrough for a then club-record £8m fee, he won the same trophy with the northeast club in 2004.
Capped four times by England, he also played for Leeds, Rangers and Sheffield United before retiring in 2009.
Aston Villa wrote on Twitter: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of our former defender Ugo Ehiogu. Our thoughts are with his family at this terribly sad time.”
They will hold a minute’s applause before their derby with Birmingham City on Sunday and both sets of players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect.
Aston Villa’s manager, Steve Bruce, paid tribute to the footballer in a press conference, saying: “I played against him. Big Ron bought him for £45,000 – what a bargain. He was a great player.”
Former striker Stan Collymore, who played with Ehiogu at Aston Villa, posted a photo of the pair on Twitter, writing “One of the good guys. Truly broken.”
Former England player Rio Ferdinand wrote: “Can’t believe the news that Ugo Ehiogu has passed away. Calm & warming vibe when in his company. My heart goes out to his family! #RIPUgo.”
Sky Sports journalist Adam Lindsay wrote on Twitter: “Humans do not come much better than Ugo Ehiogu. RIP.”
Ehiogu wrote his last message on his Twitter page three weeks ago, when he shared an impulsive good deed with his fans.
“Gave a homeless girl £10 last night in Dalston. She didn’t ask or beg. Random impulsive act from me. Not gona lie. Felt good. #dosomethingkind”.
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Sky News/Daily Mail
A man who survived the tragic incident that led to the electrocution of over 30 people at a football viewing centre in Calabar, capital of Cross River state, has his stars to thank.
A high tension cable reportedly fell on the football fans as they were watching a UEFA Europa league quarter-final match between Manchester United and Anderlecht.
Manchester United won the match 3-2 aggregate, with Marcus Rashford netting the winner in the 107th minute.
Speaking with Punch after the encounter, the survivor said a transformer near the viewing centre located in the Iyang-Esu area of Calabar municipal local government area, exploded during the match.
He reportedly said this caused a high-tension cable to drop on the viewing centre.
“It happened during the match between Manchester United and Anderlecht. I heard a deafening bang. I rushed out to see what was happening,” he was quoted as saying.
“When I turned back to go inside the viewing centre, I saw a cable coming down on the centre and this electrocuted the viewers in the hall.
“It was a horrible sight to behold. I wish I didn’t come out to watch the match. Come to think of it, I have DStv at home but I enjoy watching matches at viewing centres. I could have been dead. I can’t believe that the people I was chatting and joking with a few minutes ago are all gone in a most anguishing way. This world is vain.”
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Punch/The Cable
Leicester’s superb debut Champions League campaign came to an end as Atletico Madrid sealed their progress to the last four with a draw at the King Power Stadium.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg in Spain, Atletico took control through Saul Niguez’s first-half header.
City took the game to Atletico after the break and gave themselves hope via Jamie Vardy’s close-range finish.
But the visitors held on to reach their third semi-final in four seasons.
The African Confederation Cup holders, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, booked their place in the group phase of this year’s tournament with a 0-0 draw away to JS Kabylie in Algeria on Sunday.
Mazembe – who won the home leg of their play-off 2-0 last weekend – held off Kabylie’s challenge to continue the defence of their crown.
There was a big shock in Abidjan as former African Champions League winners, Asec Mimosas, were knocked out by CF Mounana of Gabon.
Mimosas went into their home leg needing to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, but despite fielding a side including the likes of Burkina Faso star Aristide Bancé, the match ended 0-0 with Mounana going through 2-1 on aggregate.
Also on Sunday, Platinum Stars of South Africa squeezed past another Ivorian side AS Tanda to progress 5-4 on penalties after their tie had ended 2-2 on aggregate.
The South Africans went into their home leg in Rustenburg trailing 2-0 overall, but fought back to take the tie to spot-kicks and book their place in the group phase.
It was much more straightforward for another South African side, SuperSport United, who overwhelmed Liberia’s Barrack Young Controllers 5-0 in Pretoria.
A hat-trick from Jeremy Brockie helped SuperSport United take the tie 6-1 on aggregate.
Sudan’s Al Hilal Obeid defeated Ports Authority of the Gambia 3-0 at home to progress 4-1 on aggregate.
Confederation Cup fixtures:
- Rivers Utd (Nigeria) 2-0 Rayon Sports (Rwanda) (Delayed due to commemoration of the Rwanda genocide)
- CS Sfaxien (Tunisia) 2-0 Rail Kadiogo (Burkina Faso) (CS Sfaxien win 4-1 on aggregate)
- Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland) 4-2 AC Leopards (Congo) (Mbabane Swallows win 4-3 on aggregate)
- Zesco Utd (Zambia) 3-0 Enugu Rangers (Nigeria) (Zesco United win 5-2 on aggregate)
- Recreativo Libolo (Angola) 0-0 CNaPS Sport (Madagascar) (1-1 on aggregate. Recreativo Libolo win on away goals)
- Club Africain (Tunisia) 4-2 AS Port Louis (Mauritius) (Club Africain win 6-3 on aggregate)
- MAS Fes (Morocco) 1-1 FUS Rabat (Morocco) (FUS Rabat win 3-2 on aggregate)
- Smouha (Egypt) 1-0 Wits (South Africa) (Smouha win 1-0 on aggregate)
- Mouloudia Alger (Algeria) 4-0 Young Africans (Tanzania) (Mouloudia Alger win 4-1 on aggregate)
- Al Masry (Egypt) v KCCA (Uganda) (1-1 on aggregate. KCCA win 5-4 on penalties)
- Ittihad Tanger (Morocco) 3-2 Horoya (Guniea) (Horoya win 4-3 on aggregate)
- Platinum Stars (South Africa) 2-0 AS Tanda (Ivory Coast) (2-2 on aggregate. Platinum Stars win 5-4 on penalties)
- Asec Mimosas (Ivory Coast) 0-0 CF Mounana (Gabon) (CF Mounana win 2-1 on aggregate)
- SuperSport Utd (South Africa) 5-0 Barrack Young Controllers (Liberia) (SuperSport United win 6-1 on aggregate)
- JS Kabylie (Algeria) 0-0 TP Mazembe (DR Congo) (TP Mazembe win 2-0 on aggregate)
- Al Hilal Obeid (Sudan) 3-0 Ports Authority (The Gambia) (Al Hilal Obeid win 4-1 on aggregate)
Also on Sunday, Nigerian side Rivers United secured a 2-0 home win over Rwanda’s Rayon Sports in the only remaining first leg of the play-offs.
The match had been delayed due to the commemoration of the Rwanda genocide.
On Saturday, nine teams booked their place in the newly expanded group phase of the Confederation Cup, including Mbabane Swallows, whose 4-3 aggregate win over Congolese side AC Leopards made them the first club from Swaziland to reach the group stage.
CS Sfaxien of Tunisia became the first side to reach this year’s Confederation Cup group phase with a victory over Rail Kadiogo on Friday.
The draw for the group phase will be held on 26 April 2017 in Cairo.
The love of football and the loyalty fans have for their clubs almost lead to the death of hundreds of football lovers in Delta State.
Fans escaped death while many others sustained various degrees of injury at Ojobo community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State when a football viewing center they had converged to watch the European Premier League, EPL match collapsed on them.
Located at Oyateigha II quarters of the community, the viewing center which was built by the shore wall protection of the riverine community by an indigene of the community, was said to have collapse owing to the huge weight of the football fans that had trooped in to watch the Manchester United versus Chelsea match.
Giving details of the incident, a resident of the community, Boumoepre Youkere said the building which is mostly built with wood and zinc materials, came down at about 4:30p.m amidst screams from the fans.
“The building was overcrowded when it came down. At the end of the carnage, a lot of persons sustained various degrees of bone injuries as personal effects were also missing during the incident,” he added.
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/NND/Osun Defender/
The Bloomgist – This weekend on our Weekend Sports Roundup, we are talking about Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba who recently joined United Soccer League side Phoenix Rising as a player and co-owner.
Drogba, 39, has not played since leaving Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact in November.
He will start out as a player but has also joined Phoenix’s “MLS expansion franchise ownership group”.
“To own a team and be a player at the same time is unusual but it’s going to be very exciting,” Drogba said.
“It’s a good transition because I want to carry on playing but I’m almost 40 and it’s important for me to prepare for my later career.”
Phoenix have just started their fourth season in the Western Conference of USL, which forms part of the second tier of the American league system.
The Arizona club hope to become one of four planned expansion teams in MLS over the next three years.
“I had offers from China, from England – in both the Premier League and even the Championship – but they were only as a player,” Drogba told The Premier League Show.
“This was the right offer because it was important for me to think about playing, because I enjoy it, but also to get to the next stage of my career.”
Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances during his first spell at Chelsea from 2004 to 2012, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League.
Following moves to Shanghai Shenhua in China and Turkish side Galatasaray, Drogba returned to the Blues for the 2014-15 season, scoring seven goals in 40 appearances, helping Jose Mourinho’s side to the title, before 18 months with Montreal.
He joins former Chelsea team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips at Phoenix, who have one win and two defeats from three games this season.
“I’m still a player but it’s important to respect the decision of the manager,” added Drogba, who is Ivory Coast’s record goalscorer.
“When we’re on the pitch, he’s going to be the one who decides and when we go to board meetings, it’s a different thing.”
Lucas Alcaraz appointed new Algeria coach
Algeria have appointed Lucas Alcaraz as their fourth full-time coach in the last 13 months.
The Spaniard was sacked on Monday as the coach of Granada, who are currently bottom of the Spanish La Liga.
The 50-year-old replaces Belgian Georges Leekens who quit after Algeria were eliminated from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations at the group stage.
Christian Gourcuff left as coach in April 2016 to be replaced by Milovan Rajevac who quit after just two games.
The move came as a surprise to many in Algeria as another Spaniard Joaquin Caparros had been expected to be given the job.
Former Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka had also been linked to the position.
Alcaraz’s first competitive match in charge will be against visiting Togo as Algeria begin their qualifying campaign for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Benin and The Gambia are the other two teams in Group D with only the pool winners guaranteed a place at the finals in Cameroon.
Algeria are aiming to reach a third straight World Cup but are bottom of their qualifying group with a single point from two matches so far.
They are five points behind leaders Nigeria and their next games are home and away against Zambia, who are also on one point.
Only the winners of Group B will play the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC/Sky Sports/Phoenix Today
FIFA has agreed on the proposed slot allocation recommended on January 10 to expand the World Cup to a 48-team competition.
The FIFA President Gianni Infantino and presidents of each of the six confederations agreed at a meeting in Zurich on Thursday, the world football governing body said in a statement.
“The recommendation will now be submitted for the ratification of the FIFA Council, whose next meeting is scheduled for May 9 in Manama, Bahrain, two days prior to the 67th FIFA Congress,” FIFA added.
If ratified, Africa (CAF) will get four more slots added to the current five of the 32-team competition and will take effect at the 2026 edition of the FIFA World Cup.
The recommendation will now be submitted for the ratification of the FIFA Council, whose next meeting is scheduled for May 9 in Manama, Bahrain, two days prior to the 67th FIFA Congress.
The new 48-team competition has 46 direct slots. The two other slots will be decided after a play-off tournament between six teams with each one from a confederation except UEFA, and one additional team from the confederation of the host country.
Also, the host country will automatically qualify for the World Cup, and its slot would be taken from the quota of its confederation.
In the event of co-hosting, the number of host countries to qualify automatically would be decided by the FIFA Council.
Below are the slots per confederation.
- Confederation of African Football (CAF) – 9 direct slots
- Asian Football Confederation (AFC) – 8 direct slots
- North, Central American and Caribbean Football Confederation (CONCACAF) – 6 direct slots
- South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) – 6 direct slots
- Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) – 1 direct slot
- Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) – 16 direct slots
Liverpool have been given a pre-Merseyside derby boost with Daniel Sturridge’s return to training, but the chances of captain Jordan Henderson making the visit of Everton on Saturday are unlikely.
Sturridge has not featured since Feb. 4 because of a virus, which forced him to be sent home from a training camp in Spain last month, and then a hip injury, which meant he missed the club’s trip to Tenerife last week.
However, the England international was pictured taking part in an outdoor session at the club’s Melwood training ground on Thursday to raise hopes of him making the squad for the 228th Merseyside derby.
Henderson’s prospects are less encouraging, though. The Liverpool captain has not played since the Feb. 11 victory over Tottenham because of a foot problem.
Although he did travel to Tenerife with the squad, his involvement was limited and Press Association Sport reports he is highly unlikely to be ready to face Liverpool’s neighbours in the lunchtime kickoff.
Brazil internationals Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino returned home reporting no problems after the club chartered a private jet to bring back the pair immediately after the World Cup qualifying win over Paraguay.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has yet to be on the losing side in seven Merseyside derbies and says he enjoys the hostility of the occasion.
The Belgium international has conceded just one goal in the last three home games against Everton, whose last win in the fixture came at Goodison Park in October 2010.
“It’s always a bit hostile, but like in any other derby game that’s something you relish — two groups of fans who are cheering their team on,” he told Liverpool’s official website.
“It’s a bit special, of course, in Liverpool because in some families you have got both Everton and Liverpool supporters. Although it’s a derby I don’t think there is so much hatred between the two clubs.
“In the time I’ve been here, we’ve always had great results against Everton at home. It’s always a big fixture to look forward to. On the day itself, it’s nice to be part of it. It is pretty special.”
Liverpool plan to honour the memory of Ronnie Moran at the weekend. The former captain, coach and caretaker manager died aged 83 last week and among the tributes will be a mural on the Kop at Anfield.
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Today
Manchester City have been fined £35,000 for the misconduct of players during their recent Premier League clash against Liverpool, the Football Association announced on Monday.
City last week pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium on March 19.
City players protested after Liverpool were awarded a controversial penalty early in the second half.
They continued complaining after James Milner had struck from the spot to give the visitors the lead, delaying the restart of the game.
A statement from the FA read: “Following an independent regulatory commission hearing, Manchester City have been fined £35,000 after the club admitted an FA misconduct charge.
“City breached FA Rule E20(a) in that in or around the 50th minute of the game against Liverpool on 19 March 2017, the club failed to ensure that its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion.”
SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Today
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