World Cup Buzz Archives for January 2018

AS Roma go third as Inter sink again in Genoa

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Milan (AFP) – AS Roma confirmed their return to form with a 2-0 win at Udinese on Saturday to move third in Serie A as Inter Milan fell back into crisis with a 2-0 loss in Genoa.

Inter had looked to have put their poor run going back two months behind them with a 2-1 success against Bologna but the revival was short lived as they suffered a fifth consecutive defeat in Genoa.

VAR must be reliable, insists Mourinho despite Cup progress

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Huddersfield (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho believes Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology must be more reliable before being rolled out across English football after his Manchester United side saw a goal ruled out in Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup 5th round win at Huddersfield.

Juan Mata’s strike was eventually disallowed for the most marginal of offside calls just before half-time after a lengthy delay.

Lukaku double helps United knock out Huddersfield amid VAR row

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Huddersfield (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Manchester United beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 to advance into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday despite fresh controversy surrounding the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

United suffered a setback before kick-off at Huddersfield when France midfielder Paul Pogba withdrew on the day of the game due to illness.

Man Utd into Cup quarters despite VAR troubles, West Brom exit

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London (AFP) – Debate over the merits of video assistant refereeing was again raised as a Romelu Lukaku double eased Manchester United into the FA Cup quarter-finals in a 2-0 win at Huddersfield despite a controversial call going against Jose Mourinho’s men.

Juan Mata thought he had put United into a 2-0 lead just before half-time only for the Spaniard’s effort to be ruled out by the video referee after a lengthy delay, and without conclusive proof the officials on the field had made the wrong decision.

Big guns kept apart in FA Cup quarter-final draw

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London (AFP) – Four of the top Premier League’s top five were kept apart in Saturday’s draw for the FA Cup quarter-finals as Manchester United host Brighton, whilst Chelsea visit Leicester.

Tottenham Hotspur face a trip to Sheffield Wednesday or Swansea, who need a replay after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Hillsborough, should Mauricio Pochettino’s men overcome third-tier Rochdale on Sunday.

Lukaku eases Man Utd into Cup quarters despite VAR troubles

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London (AFP) – Debate over the merits of video assistant refereeing was again raised as a Romelu Lukaku double eased Manchester United into the FA Cup quarter-finals in a 2-0 win at Huddersfield despite a controversial call going against Jose Mourinho’s men.

Juan Mata thought he had put United into a 2-0 lead just before half-time only for the Spaniard’s effort to be ruled out by the video referee after a lengthy delay, and without conclusive proof the officials on the field had made the wrong decision.

Blurred lines as Man Utd’s VAR debut descends into confusion

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London (AFP) – The controversial introduction of video assistant refereeing (VAR) suffered another setback as confusion reigned in Manchester United’s debut using the system in Saturday’s fifth round FA Cup tie at Huddersfield.

Juan Mata thought he had put United into a 2-0 lead just before half-time following Romelu Lukaku’s early opener.

Cavani, Neymar key as PSG rebound from Madrid gloom

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Paris (AFP) – Edinson Cavani struck twice as Paris Saint-Germain beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday to relieve some of the pressure on the runaway Ligue 1 leaders following their Champions League defeat at Real Madrid.

Strasbourg struck early through Jean Eudes Aholou, but PSG hit back courtesy of a Julian Draxler effort before two goals in as many minutes from Neymar and Angel Di Maria put the home side in control.

Salah mania prompts ‘I’ll be Muslim too’ Liverpool chant

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London (AFP) – So good has been Liverpool’s Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah’s start to life at Anfield, fans are singing about converting to Islam in honour of their new idol.

Salah became the second fastest Liverpool player to reach 30 goals in a season with a balletic finish in just his 36th appearance for the club in Wednesday’s 5-0 Champions League rout of Porto.

Last-gasp Lewandowski penalty rescues Bayern at Wolfsburg

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Berlin (AFP) – Robert Lewandowski converted a 91st-minute penalty to rescue Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich with a 2-1 win at Wolfsburg on Saturday which took their winning streak to 13 and extended their advantage at the top of the table to 21 points.

With Bayern hosting Besiktas in the last 16, first-leg, of the Champions League on Tuesday, they rested several stars and were almost made to pay.

Barcelona grind out victory in Eibar before Chelsea trip

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Madrid (AFP) – Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba were on target as Barcelona saw off Eibar 2-0 on Saturday to continue their unbeaten record in La Liga and extend their lead at the top of the table.

Lionel Messi had a hand in both goals against an Eibar side who finished the match at Ipurua with 10 men after the second-half sending-off of Fabian Orellana.

‘Not a good time’ – Batshuayi reveals Chelsea frustrations

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Berlin (AFP) – Michy Batshuayi has opened up about his frustrating time at Chelsea, claiming he “did not have a good time” at the Premier League giants.

The 24-year-old has been on fire since joining Borussia Dortmund on loan in January, hitting five goals in just three games.

West Brom crisis rumbles on with Southampton Cup defeat

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London (AFP) – A week to forget for West Brom was rounded off with an FA Cup exit as fellow Premier League strugglers Southampton won 2-1 at the Hawthorns on Saturday to reach the quarter-finals.

West Brom boss Alan Pardew named Jonny Evans and Gareth Barry in his starting line-up despite the experienced duo forming half of a group of four players questioned by Spanish police this week over the theft of a taxi on the club’s warm weather training trip to Barcelona.

Under, Perotti on target as Roma move third

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Milan (AFP) – Cengiz Under and Diego Perotti scored second half goals as Roma moved into third position in Serie A with a 2-0 win at Udinese on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Under fired home his fourth goal in three games from a Daniele De Rossi cross to break the deadlock after 70 minutes, with Argentine Perotti tapping in a Radja Nainggolan cross in injury time.

Silva and Di Maria back for PSG after missing Madrid defeat

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Paris (AFP) – Thiago Silva and Angel Di Maria were recalled by Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday after coach Unai Emery faced criticism for dropping them for the Champions League tie against Real Madrid.

Emery dispensed with the pair for the 3-1 defeat to Madrid on Wednesday, a decision that baffled Brazilian veteran Silva’s wife who slammed the coach on social media, saying: “Tactics, tactics, what tactics?

Allegri warns against Champions League obsession

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri warned against an obsession with the Champions League as be unveiled a revamped side for Sunday’s Turin derby against city rivals Torino.

Juventus - losing finalists twice in the last three editions of Europe’s elite competition - were held 2-2 by Tottenham in the last 16 first round clash in Turin on Tuesday.

Sheffield Wednesday hold Swansea on Carvalhal’s return

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London (AFP) – Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City will meet again for the chance to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals after an insipid 5th round tie at Hillsborough ended goalless on Saturday.

On his return to the club that sacked him after two-and-a-half years on Christmas Eve, Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal showed his priorities lie elsewhere in keeping the Swans in the Premier League by making six changes.

Sevilla claim controversial win ahead of Man Utd clash

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Madrid (AFP) – Sevilla warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester United by winning 2-1 at Las Palmas in La Liga on Saturday, although they were aided by a controversial late offside call.

Real Madrid youth product Pablo Sarabia produced a great piece of skill to make space for a 35th-minute shot that was saved by Las Palmas goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola, and Wissam Ben Yedder netted the loose ball to put Sevilla ahead.

Demands of coaching Real Madrid are ‘exhausting’ – Zidane

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Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane has admitted that coaching Real Madrid is draining as he prepares his side for their return to La Liga action on the back of the Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain.

“It is exhausting, for sure, even more so at Real Madrid,” the Frenchman, who had been under considerable pressure prior to the rousing 3-1 win over PSG in the first leg of their last-16 tie, told reporters at the club’s Valdebebas training complex on Saturday.

Robben won’t retire if Bayern don’t extend stay

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Berlin (AFP) – Veteran winger Arjen Robben says he plans to extend his career by moving to a new club should Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich fail to offer him a contract extension.

Robben, who turned 34 in January, is out of contract at Bayern at the end of the season, along with fellow winger Franck Ribery, but has no immediate plans to retire.

Mourinho says new midfielder will replace Carrick, not Pogba

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has revealed his intention to sign another central midfielder in the next transfer window but as a replacement for Michael Carrick not Paul Pogba.

Mourinho spent the majority of his Friday press conference ahead of the club’s FA Cup fifth-round tie with Huddersfield Town angrily responding to questions over Pogba’s future at the club amid speculation of a rift between him and the player.

Conte happy to have selection headache for Barca clash

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London (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte welcomed his selection headache ahead of a vital few weeks for the English champions after a much-changed side thrashed Hull City 4-0 to reach the FA Cup quarter finals on Friday.

Willian was the star of the show with two fabulous strikes from outside the box, while Pedro Rodriguez and Olivier Giroud with his first for the club also struck as all four goals came in the first-half.

Illness rules Pogba out of United’s visit to Huddersfield

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London (AFP) – A frustrating few weeks for Manchester United’s Paul Pogba continued when he was ruled out of Saturday’s FA Cup fifth round trip to Huddersfield Town due to illness.

“U23s midfielder Ethan Hamilton has taken his place in the squad,” United posted on Twitter.

Chelsea readied for Barca test as Willian leads rout of Hull

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London (AFP) – Antonio Conte believes Chelsea are ready for a season-defining few weeks after Willian starred with two goals to blow away Hull City 4-0 to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals on Friday.

Just four days before facing Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, Conte named a much-changed side with Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard not even included in the Italian’s squad.

Monaco cruise to victory as 16-year-old Pellegri makes history

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Monaco (AFP) – Defending champions Monaco eased to a 4-0 home win over Dijon in French Ligue 1 on Friday as 16-year-old Pietro Pellegri carved out a little piece of history for himself.

Monaco were 1-0 up at the interval thanks to a Keita Balde goal after 13 minutes before Fabinho, with a 69th-minute penalty, Rony Lopes in the 87th minute and an injury-time strike from Polish international Kamil Glik sealing the team’s 17th win of the season.

Willian double leads Chelsea into FA Cup quarters

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London (AFP) – Willian starred with two goals as Chelsea warmed up for a season-defining few weeks by easing into the FA Cup quarter-finals by thrashing Hull City 4-0 at Stamford Bridge on Friday.

Just four days before facing Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte named a much-changed side with Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard not even included in the Italian’s squad.

West Brom four apologise for Spanish taxi theft

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London (AFP) – Four senior West Brom players apologised on Friday after being questioned by police in Spain over the theft of a taxi, an embarrassment which manager Alan Pardew described as “not ideal”.

Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill admitted they had broken a team curfew when they took a taxi from Barcelona city centre at 5.

Football: Venancio has nothing to prove in FA Cup clash against Carvalhal

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London (AFP) – Sheffield Wednesday defender Frederico Venancio has said he will no have extra motivation when he faces former manager Carlos Carvalhal in an FA Cup tie against Swansea on Saturday.

Portuguese boss Carvalhal is making his first return to Hillsborough since leaving second-tier Wednesday by mutual consent on Christmas Eve after two unsuccessful play-off campaigns with the Yorkshire club.

Bakambu acknowledges cash was crucial in China decision

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Paris (AFP) – In the end, the Chinese made Cedric Bakambu an offer that was too good to refuse.

The Congolese striker’s move to Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan has been the subject of intense scrutiny since Bakambu paid the 40-million-euro ($49.75 million) buyout clause in his contract with Spanish side Villarreal.

Guardiola expresses sympathy as Bennell victims launch suit

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola expressed sympathy Friday for the victims of child-abuser and former youth coach Barry Bennell after some of those directly affected launched legal action against the Premier League leaders.

Bennell was found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday of 43 counts of sexual abuse against 11 boys aged between eight and 15 in a case that has shamed English football.

Valverde hopeful Iniesta will stay at Barca amid China speculation

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Madrid (AFP) – Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is hopeful Andres Iniesta will stay at Barcelona following reports his captain has offers on the table to move to China at the end of the season.

“I can’t comment on every story in every newspaper. This has not happened, and we want Andres to stay, to keep scoring and creating goals for us,” Valverde said at a press conference on Friday ahead of the trip to Eibar in La Liga.

Coutinho and Van Dijk transfers push January window to record

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Paris (AFP) – Liverpool’s record sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona and acquisition of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton pushed January transfer window spending to new heights, a FIFA report published on Friday revealed.

La Liga giants Barca led the way with the 160 million euros ($192 million) signature of Brazilian attacking midfielder Coutinho as Spanish clubs spent more money than in the previous seven January windows put together - their $361.

Top 5 must-see soccer games on US TV this weekend

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After a long week with UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches as well as plenty of midweek games from around the world, we have five intriguing matches in store for us this weekend.

All kickoffs listed are Eastern United States time zone.

EIBAR VS. BARCELONA
Saturday, February 17, 10:15 a.

Countinho and Van Dijk transfers push January window to record

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Paris (AFP) – Liverpool’s record sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona and acquisition of Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton pushed January transfer window spending to new hights, a FIFA report published on Friday revealed.

La Liga giants Barca led the way with the 160 million euros ($192 million) signature of Brazilian attacking midfielder Coutinho as Spanish clubs spent more money than in the previous seven January windows put together - their $361.

PSG coach refuses ‘future’ talk after Real defeat

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Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery refused to “waste his energy” worrying about his job after the 3-1 first-leg last-16 defeat to Real Madrid when questioned on Friday.

One of the sub plots of the “clash of the round” was which manager, Emery or Madrid handler Zinedine Zidane, would lose his job if his side lost.

Manchester United boss Mourinho slams Pogba ‘lies’

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has angrily insisted that rumours his relationship with Paul Pogba has broken down are “lies”.

According to French sports newspaper L’Equipe, midfielder Pogba is unhappy with the more defensive position in which he has been used by Mourinho.

Real Madrid blow as Kroos suffers knee injury

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Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos faces a spell on the sidelines after his club confirmed on Friday that he had picked up a knee injury.

“Following tests carried out on Toni Kroos…he has been diagnosed with a sprain to the exterior lateral ligament in the left knee.

Sarri blasts Napoli’s ‘bad attitude’ as focus back on Serie A

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Milan (AFP) – Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri blasted his side’s “bad attitude” in a 3-1 Europa League defeat to RB Leipzig on Friday but stressed that his team’s focus this season was on the Serie A title.

“It was a bad defeat, we lacked enthusiasm, hunger and determination,” said Sarri after the last 32, first leg loss at a sparsely attended San Paolo Stadium in Naples.

Barcelona face tricky Eibar trip as Chelsea lie in wait

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Madrid (AFP) – Before their Champions League clash with Chelsea in London, Lionel Messi and Barcelona put their unbeaten record in La Liga on the line against Eibar in the rather less glamorous surrounds of Ipurua on Saturday.

The modest 7,000-seat ground in the Basque Country welcomes a Barca side who have laboured to draws against Espanyol and Getafe in their last two outings.

Five things to watch out for in the Bundesliga

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Berlin (AFP) – Midfield maestro Thiago Alcantara is expected to make his long-awaited return for Bayern Munich on Saturday, when the runaway Bundesliga leaders face Wolfsburg.

The Spaniard has been out for nearly three months after picking up a thigh injury against Anderlecht in November.

McLeish confirmed as new Scotland manager

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London (AFP) – Alex McLeish has been appointed as the new manager of Scotland, the Scottish Football Association said on Friday.

McLeish’s return for a second spell as Scotland boss ends the SFA’s four-month search for a successor to Gordon Strachan, his former Aberdeen and Scotland team-mate.

Mourinho protege Morais is new Barnsley boss

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London (AFP) – English second-tier strugglers Barnsley have appointed Jose Morais as their new head coach on an 18-month contract, the club announced Friday.

Morais worked under Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho while his fellow Portuguese was in charge of Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Fans stay away as Napoli slump to Leipzig in Europa League

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Naples (Italy) (AFP) – Timo Werner scored a brace as RB Leipzig took a big step towards the Europa League last-16 on Thursday with a 3-1 comeback win at Serie A leaders Napoli.

Algerian international Adam Ounas had put Napoli ahead after 52 minutes at a sparsely-attended San Paolo Stadium only for Ralph Hasenhuettl’s side to battle back with three late goals in the last 32, first leg tie.

Premier League nets $6 billion deal for UK TV rights: World Soccer Talk Podcat

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World Soccer Talk is the weekly soccer podcast on the topic of watching soccer on TV, online and apps.

In the NEW episode, number 61, Kartik Krishnaiyer and Christopher Harris cover a range of topics including:

• Our analysis of the Premier League selling the UK TV rights for six billion dollars,

• Our thoughts on FOX’s Champions League coverage,

• The impact that the Winter Olympics is having on Premier League viewing numbers in the US,

• The League Cup final moves to ESPN,

• And of course we have feedback and questions from you in the Listener Mailbag section.

McLeish to return for second spell as Scotland boss – reports

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London (AFP) – Alex McLeish will return for a second spell as Scotland manager according to widespread reports on Thursday, ending the Scottish Football Association’s (SFA) four-month search for a successor to Gordon Strachan.

The SFA have called a press conference for 11.30GMT on Friday when they will formally announce McLeish’s return on a two-year deal.

Arsenal ease to victory, Batshuayi grabs Dortmund comeback win

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Paris (AFP) – Mesut Ozil scored as Arsenal eased to a 3-0 victory at Swedish minnows Ostersunds in the first leg of their Europa League, last-32 tie on Thursday, while Michy Batshuayi snatched Borussia Dortmund a dramatic win over Atalanta.

Left-back Nacho Monreal put Arsenal into an early lead with his fifth goal of the season, tapping in after home goalkeeper Aly Keita inexplicably let the ball slip from his grasp.

Bakambu’s Beijing transfer official soon, says striker

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Paris (AFP) – Congolese striker Cedric Bakambu fully expects his transfer to Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan to be officialized once the club get home from a tour of Portugal, the former Villarreal striker told AFP on Thursday.

Bakambu’s move from Villarreal to China comes at a time when the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said clubs could be docked points depending on the value of a transfer and would be prevented from registering such players until all details are submitted to the league.

German football considers making clubs easier to take over

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Berlin (AFP) – A revolution is brewing in Germany, where the Football League (DFL) fears it is falling behind Spain and England and wants to make investing in clubs more attractive.

“The league board has decided to reconsider” the sacred “50+1” rule, DFL director general Christian Seifert told international journalists on Thursday.

Di Biagio to put Italy through paces in first training camp

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Milan (AFP) – New interim Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio has organised his first training camp ahead of friendlies against Argentina and England, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said Thursday.

The three-day training camp from Monday, February 26 to Wednesday, February 28 will take place at Italy’s Technical Centre at Coverciano in Florence.

Emery’s PSG under pressure after Madrid setback

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Paris (AFP) – Runaway Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain find themselves under pressure for the first time this season after Wednesday’s Champions League defeat at Real Madrid.

Unai Emery’s men have blown away all before them domestically this term, but with world-record signing Neymar failing to fire and captain Thiago Silva left to sulk on the Santiago Bernabeu bench, Cristiano Ronaldo led struggling Real to a 3-1, first-leg win.

Mane steps out from Salah’s shadow for historic hat-trick

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London (AFP) – Often overshadowed by team-mate Mohamed Salah’s debut season, Sadio Mane burst back into the spotlight as the first Senegalese player to hit a Champions League hat-trick in Liverpool’s 5-0 demolition of Porto.

Salah and Roberto Firmino were also on target on Wednesday as Liverpool’s three lightning-quick forwards took their joint tally for the season to 63 goals.

Zidane expects Real to ‘suffer’ in Paris after first-leg win

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Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane warned his Real Madrid players that they can expect to suffer in the return leg of their Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain despite seeing Cristiano Ronaldo inspire a 3-1 comeback victory on Wednesday.

The reigning European champions stunned the PSG of Neymar in the last 16, first-leg showdown with two goals in the final seven minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu from Ronaldo and Marcelo.

‘Nothing is impossible’, says Neymar after PSG lose to Real

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Madrid (AFP) – Neymar insisted that Paris Saint-Germain can still qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals despite losing 3-1 to Real Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday.

He was in the Barcelona side that lost 4-0 away to PSG in the first leg of the last 16 last season, before a stunning 6-1 victory in the return.

Advantage Ronaldo but Neymar warns it’s not over yet

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Madrid (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain face a huge task to reach the Champions League quarter-finals after Cristiano Ronaldo defied predictions his powers are waning with two goals as Real Madrid won 3-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Billed as a contest between World Player of the Year Ronaldo and his Brazilian heir-in-waiting Neymar, the 33-year-old Portuguese came out emphatically on top as he became the first player to score 100 Champions League goals for the same club.

FIFA’s Infantino says Italy’s World Cup failure is a wake-up call

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Milan (AFP) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino revealed Thursday his dispair at Italy’s failure to reach the World Cup finals where he had hoped to hand the trophy to Azzurri captain Gianluigi Buffon.

“I’m sad, yes I’m sad for the World Cup. I almost cried,” Infantino, who holds both Swiss and Italian nationality, said in an interview with Italy’s Gazzetta Dello Sport five months ahead of the World Cup final match in Russia.

Man City didn’t show Leicester respect over Mahrez, says Puel

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London (AFP) – Leicester boss Claude Puel says Manchester City should have shown his club more respect in their late bid to sign star forward Riyad Mahrez in January.

The winger was back in the Foxes squad last weekend against City after a self-imposed 10-day absence from the club following the breakdown of a proposed move to the Etihad Stadium.

Klopp hails ‘perfect’ Liverpool Champions League display

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Porto (Portugal) (AFP) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praised hat-trick hero Sadio Mane and his side’s “perfect” performance after they all but booked their place in the Champions League last eight on Wednesday by thumping Porto.

The five-time champions romped to a 5-0 victory at the Portuguese league leaders, and when asked if Liverpool had put in a perfect performance, Klopp told BT Sport: “Yes.

Delight for Ronaldo after match-winning display against PSG

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Madrid (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo was delighted at the manner in which Real Madrid kept going to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 with two late goals in Wednesday’s Champions League showdown.

“It was a very important victory. We started the match well but then conceded the goal. But this is the Champions League and Real Madrid know from experience that games last 90 minutes and here at home we wanted a good result,” the Portuguese superstar told UEFA.

Real fully deserved victory against PSG – Zidane

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Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane felt his side were worthy winners after the title-holders came from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in their Champions League last 16, first leg on Wednesday.

“We can be happy with the way we played. We kept going to the end.

Mane hits hat-trick as Liverpool crush toothless Porto

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Porto (Portugal) (AFP) – Sadio Mane scored a brilliant treble as Liverpool romped to a 5-0 thrashing of Porto at the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday to put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Mane fired the away side ahead in the first leg of the last-16 clash, before Mohamed Salah’s audacious finish quickly made it two.

Ronaldo scores twice as Real Madrid take control against PSG

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Madrid (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid came from behind to stun Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in the first leg of their heavyweight Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Ronaldo scored his 100th Champions League goal for title-holders Real from the penalty spot late in the first half to cancel out Adrien Rabiot’s opener for the French side at the Santiago Bernabeu, set up by Neymar.

English Football Association signs agreements in Qatar

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Doha (AFP) – The English Football Association, once a vocal critic of the decision to let Qatar host the 2022 World Cup, on Wednesday signed a cooperation agreement with tournament organisers in Doha.

Chairman Greg Clarke was in the Gulf to sign “memorandum of understandings” with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the body responsible for the 2022 tournament, and the Qatar Football Association (QFA).

Quickfire Federer two wins from oldest No 1 spot

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Rotterdam (Netherlands) (AFP) – Roger Federer moved to within two victories of becoming the oldest world number one of all time on Wednesday when he eased past Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans 6-1, 6-2 at the Rotterdam ATP event.

The 36-year-old needed just over 45 minutes to clinch victory and next faces Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round on Thursday.

Mahrez back in better shape at Leicester – Puel

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London (AFP) – Leicester City boss Claude Puel believes Riyad Mahrez is in “better” shape than before his self-imposed Foxes exile.

The Algerian looks set to return to Puel’s starting line-up for Friday’s fifth-round FA Cup tie against Sheffield United after a three-game absence.

New soccer streaming service iGOL debuts in United States

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A new soccer streaming service named iGOL has launched in the United States. After speaking with the founder and taking the service for a test drive, the first impressions are very favorable. It’s cost effective (only $9.99 per month). Plus it integrates beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS en Español, beIN SPORTS Connect, GolTV in English and Spanish as well as a couple of other niche networks to form a robust soccer package that competes favorably against the offerings available from Sling TV, fuboTV and other streaming services.

Has Premier League TV bubble burst?

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London (AFP) – The Premier League could be set for a pay cut after eye-watering back-to-back domestic TV deals but experts say the boom times are far from over for English football.

Sky held on to its position as the main broadcaster of live matches, claiming four of the seven available packages for 2019-2022, with BT taking the other package sold so far at a total combined cost of £4.

Carlos Cordeiro’s tenure will be judged by how he handles Soccer United Marketing (SUM)

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After Carlos Cordeiro’s election win this past weekend as US Soccer Federation (USSF) President, the general sense is that Cordeiro’s management style will be different than his predecessor Sunil Gulati and that he will attempt to find a more consensus-based approach to issues. But in terms of general policies and positions, he doesn’t differ from Gulati very much except in one notable place - the role of Soccer United Marketing (SUM) as the media partner of US Soccer.

Neymar and PSG aim to depose mighty Real in Champions League

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Madrid (AFP) – Title-holders Real Madrid face Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain in a blockbuster Champions League clash on Wednesday with the French club needing to erase the painful memory of their collapse last time they came to Spain.

Propelled by the riches of their Qatari owners, PSG dream of following in Real’s footsteps and becoming kings of Europe, a year after their humiliating exit in the last 16 at the hands of Barcelona.

Where to find Real Madrid vs. PSG Champions League on US TV and streaming

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If you’re trying to find out how you can watch Real Madrid vs. PSG in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st leg, you’ve come to the right place.

Arguably the biggest club of the year kicks off today with both teams desperate to advance in this tournament. Will it be a cagey affair or can we expect a game played at a blistering pace?

Football: Buriram hold Evergrande to draw in Champions League

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Hong Kong (AFP) – Fabio Cannavaro’s return to Guangzhou Evergrande as head coach got off to a frustrating start on Wednesday when his team was held to a 1-1 draw by Thailand’s Buriram United in the opening round of the AFC Champions League.

The Italian 2006 World Cup-winning captain was selected to succeed Luiz Felipe Scolari as head coach of the two-time continental winner at the end of last season after being fired by the club in 2015.

Where to find Porto vs. Liverpool Champions League on US TV and streaming

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If you’re trying to find out how you can watch Porto vs. Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st leg, you’ve come to the right place.

With Porto in first place in the Portuguese Primeira Liga while Liverpool are flying high in third place in the Premier League, today’s clash should be a fascinating encounter between two attacking teams.

Gundogan puts ‘perfect’ City on verge of quarter-finals

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Basel (Switzerland) (AFP) – Ilkay Gundogan says there is still more to come from Manchester City after their “perfect” 4-0 rout of Basel left them on the verge of the Champions League quarter-finals.

The runaway Premier League leaders destroyed Basel’s morale with a three-goal burst after just 23 minutes of the first leg last-16 mismatch.

Allegri irritated by criticism as Juve fail to kill off Spurs

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted he would not be getting depressed despite criticism at failing to land the killer blow against Tottenham in their Champions League last 16, first leg clash in Turin.

“If anyone thought that Juventus would win 4-0 this evening he was way off track,” blasted Allegri, after his more experienced side threw away a dream start with two Gonzalo Higuain goals inside ten minutes to end with a 2-2 draw in front of their frustrated fans at the Allianz Stadium.

China’s troubled Wanda sells stake in Atletico Madrid

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Madrid (AFP) – Troubled Chinese conglomerate Wanda has decided to sell its 17 percent stake in Spain’s Atletico Madrid to Israeli group Quantum Pacific but will remain a sponsor, the football club announced Wednesday.

“The decision to divest is part of the global strategy of Dalian Wanda Group,” the top-flight club where French star Antoine Griezmann plays said in a statement, without giving the amount of the sale.

Referee ‘didn’t hear’ racist abuse of Balotelli

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Paris (AFP) – The referee who booked Mario Balotelli while the Nice striker was complaining of racist abuse has said he “didn’t hear insults or shouts from the stand” during Saturday’s match at Dijon.

“If I had heard ‘monkey chants’ as indicated in the query by Nice, I would at no point have given Mario Balotelli a yellow card,” Nicolas Rainville said in a statement from French referees’ union SAFE on Wednesday.

Eriksen grabs Spurs draw to spoil Higuain show in Turin

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen pulled Tottenham back from the brink to hold Juventus 2-2 in Turin, spoiling what had looked set to be a Gonzalo Higuain one-man show in the Champions League last 16, first leg in Turin on Tuesday.

Higuain had put Juventus - finalists twice in the past three seasons - two goals up within the first nine minutes at the Allianz Stadium.

NBC’s Man City-Leicester broadcast is most-watched game in more than 12 months

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Saturday’s live broadcast of the Manchester City against Leicester City game on the over-the-air NBC network averaged 1.24 million viewers this past Saturday, February 10.

The live Premier League match, which league leaders Manchester City won 5-1, delivered NBC’s largest Premier League audience in more than a year with an average of 1.

Eriksen grabs Spurs draw to spoil Higuain show

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen pulled Tottenham back from the brink to hold Juventus 2-2 in Turin, spoiling what had looked set to be a Gonzalo Higuain one-man show in the Champions League last 16, first leg in Turin on Tuesday.

Higuain had put Juventus - finalists twice in the past three seasons - two goals up within the first nine minutes at the Allianz Stadium.

Gundogan shines as Manchester City run riot at Basel

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Basel (Switzerland) (AFP) – Ilkay Gundogan dazzled with two goals in Manchester City’s 4-0 romp at FC Basel on Tuesday to leave the Premier League leaders on the verge of the Champions League quarter-finals.

Pep Guardiola’s side effectively settled the last 16 tie after just 23 minutes by racing into a 3-0 lead at Basel’s Sankt Jakob Park.

Liverpool’s Firmino wants to make Porto ‘suffer’

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Porto (Portugal) (AFP) – Forward Roberto Firmino has vowed that Liverpool’s deadly strikeforce will make Porto suffer when they meet in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were rampant on the way to winning their group, scoring 23 goals with Firmino scoring six and Mohamed Salah five.

Neymar not unsettled by Real speculation – Marquinhos

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Madrid (AFP) – Neymar has not been affected by the rumours linking him with a move to Real Madrid, his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Marquinhos insisted ahead of the sides’ Champions League showdown.

“I don’t see him as being destabilised. He knows very well how to control his emotions.

Cahill ‘devastated’ as Hull’s Mason forced to retire with head injury

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London (AFP) – Gary Cahill said he was “devastated” after Hull City and England midfielder Ryan Mason announced his retirement from football on Tuesday after failing to recover from a fractured skull caused by their accidental clash of heads.

The 26-year-old was involved in a sickening collision of with Chelsea defender Cahill at Stamford Bridge in January 2017 and has not played since.

Barcelona humiliation can help PSG in Real Madrid clash – Emery

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Madrid (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery believes his side can benefit from the memory of last year’s stinging defeat to Barcelona when they take on Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday.

“Perhaps our preparation began with that match. We have not talked about it a lot but we have spoken very clearly about what happened,” Emery said at a press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday ahead of the last 16, first leg.

Sky retains bulk of £4.46bn Premier League TV rights

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London (AFP) – The rights to show English Premier League matches domestically were sold Tuesday for £4.46 billion ($6.43 billion, 5.21 billion euros), with two live packages still to be sold.

Although the deal for 2019-2022 is down on the previous agreement, it still confirms the Premier League as the biggest moneyspinner in the European leagues in terms of TV receipts.

Higuain, Kane spearhead Juventus v Tottenham clash

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Gonzalo Higuain will lead Juventus’ attack in their Champions League last 16, first-leg clash against Harry Kane’s Tottenham Hotspur in Turin on Tuesday.

Massimiliano Allegri returned to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the absence of Blaise Matuidi with Douglas Costa between winger Federico Bernardeschi on the right and Mario Mandzukic on the left.

Winning starts for Tianjin, Shanghai in Champions League

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Seoul (AFP) – Big-name strikers such as Hulk and Alexandre Pato may have drawn a blank as the AFC Champions League last-32 group phase got underway but their Chinese Super League teams kicked off with vital victories on Tuesday.

Tianjin Quanjian, making a first appearance in the tournament in which 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four, defeated Kitchee of Hong Kong 3-0.

UK ex-football coach Bennell convicted of child sex abuse

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London (AFP) – Former youth football coach Barry Bennell was found guilty of multiple counts of child sexual abuse on Tuesday, triggering tears from those who accused him of assaulting them as youngsters.

Bennell, 64, who coached at Crewe Alexandra and scouted for Manchester City, was found guilty on 36 counts involving 10 child victims between 1979 and 1990.

Former UK football coach Bennell convicted of child abuse

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London (AFP) – Former youth coach Barry Bennell was found guilty of multiple counts of child sexual abuse on Tuesday in a case that rocked English football, triggering hundreds of revelations.

Bennell, 64, a former coach at Crewe Alexandra who was also associated with Manchester City, is being tried on 48 counts of abuse between 1979 and 1990.

Nacional de Montevideo fans banned for mocking Chapecoense plane crash

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Asuncion (AFP) – Nacional de Montevideo have received a three-match no-fan ban after some of their supporters mocked Chapecoense over the plane crash that wiped out most of the Brazilian club’s squad in 2016.

The South American football confederation (Conmebol) made the ruling Tuesday after Nacional fans sang songs and made gestures at Chapecoense’s stadium during a Copa Libertadores game on January 31.

ESPN to broadcast League Cup final between Man City and Arsenal on US TV

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The 2017/18 League Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester City has been moved to the ESPN flagship network in a big boost for soccer fans in the United States.

The match, will be shown live from Wembley Stadium in England, was originally scheduled to air only on ESPN Deportes. But now that ESPN has decided to elevate the game to its major network, it means that the League Cup final will be available on both ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

New deal for Borussia Dortmund CEO Watzke

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Berlin (AFP) – Hans-Joachim Watzke, who helped save Borussia Dortmund from bankruptcy in 2005 and put the Bundesliga club on the road to rude financial health, has extended his stay as chief executive until 2022, it was announced Tuesday.

Watzke, 58, has signed a four-year extension alongside Thomas Tress, Dortmund’s chief financial officer.

Real Madrid hoping to thrive on big occasion against Neymar’s PSG

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Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane is hoping the Champions League will again bring out the best in Real Madrid as the title-holders prepare to face the formidable Paris Saint-Germain of Neymar in Wednesday’s last 16, first leg.

Real are floundering in La Liga this season, sitting in fourth place, 17 points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

PSG leave Thiago Motta out of squad for Madrid trip

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Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain have omitted veteran midfielder Thiago Motta from their squad for the trip to face Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16, first leg on Wednesday.

The French giants opted to leave the 35-year-old Italy international behind in Paris, even though he apparently is no longer injured and trained normally on Tuesday morning.

Arsenal’s Lacazette out for up to 6 weeks after knee op

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London (AFP) – Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette will be out of action for up to six weeks after undergoing an operation on his left knee, the club said on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old had an arthroscopy in London and the procedure was described as a “success” by the Gunners.

“The minor procedure was a success and he will now undergo a period of rehabilitation,” said a statement on the club’s website.

New deal for Dortmund CEO Watzke

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Berlin (AFP) – Having helped save Borussia Dortmund from bankruptcy Hans-Joachim Watzke has now extended his stay as chief executive of the now successful Bundesliga club until 2022.

Watzke, 58, has signed a four-year extension alongside Thomas Tress, Dortmund’s chief financial officer.

Identifying Arsenal’s problems in defense and who they need to replace

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With Arsenal currently sitting sixth in the Premier League table, seven points behind rivals Tottenham, there is surely plenty of blame being passed around the Emirates as to why the club has struggled in the league. Some have turned to condemn Granit Xhaka, the player with the third-most completed passes in the British top tier (64% of these passes being forward).

Spain great Casillas confronting twilight at Porto

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Lisbon (AFP) – From a king of Europe in Madrid to the substitutes’ bench with Porto, it’s been a rocky transition for three-time Champions League winner Iker Casillas following his departure from boyhood club Real in 2015.

“San Iker”, the captain of Spain’s World Cup-winning side in 2010 and of back-to-back European Championship triumphs, now finds himself Porto’s back-up ahead of Wednesday’s last-16 clash against Liverpool.

Giroud eyes Chelsea chance after bruising full debut

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London (AFP) – Olivier Giroud is focused on nailing down a first-team place at Chelsea after a dramatic full debut against West Brom, during which he was forced to have five stitches for a head wound.

The France striker, who moved from Arsenal for £18 million ($25 million) last month, impressed during Monday’s 3-0 win against West Brom at Stamford Bridge, where he created the first of Eden Hazard’s two goals before being substituted in the second half.

Hull’s Mason forced to retire from football after head injury

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London (AFP) – Hull City and England midfielder Ryan Mason on Tuesday announced his retirement from football after failing to recover from a fractured skull.

The 26-year-old was involved in a sickening clash of heads with Chelsea defender Gary Cahill at Stamford Bridge in January 2017 and has not played since.

Zidane relaxed as Real Madrid get ready for PSG clash

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Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane insists he is not letting the pressure get to him as he prepares his Real Madrid side for Wednesday’s huge Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“I’m very happy. We all live for these moments. I don’t feel any particular pressure,” a relaxed Zidane said at a press conference at Real’s Valdebebas training complex on Tuesday.

Mourinho backs video officiating with ‘adjustments’

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London (AFP) – Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho backs the controversial video assistant referee system because it helps officials make “fair decisions” but says the system needs adjustments to preserve the flow of the game.

United will play in a match in which VAR is being trialled for the first time when play at Huddersfield in Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie.

Zidane fighting for future in PSG Champions League tie

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Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane inspired France to World Cup glory as a player, but his extraordinary career has to a large degree been defined by the Champions League.

His magnificent volleyed goal for Real Madrid in their 2002 win over Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park in Glasgow is one of the greatest to be scored in a European Cup final.

Conte relieved to have striker solutions in Giroud, Morata

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London (AFP) – Antonio Conte is relieved to have options again up front in Olivier Giroud and fit-again Alvaro Morata ahead of what the Italian says is a “massive” few weeks for Chelsea.

Giroud’s touch set up Eden Hazard for the opening goal as Chelsea rolled over rock-bottom West Bromwich Albion 3-0 on Monday.

Big-spending PSG still trailing in Real’s financial shadow

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Madrid (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain smashed the world-record transfer fee last year to sign Neymar from Barcelona, but despite the big spending driven by their Qatari owners, the French club still lag behind Real Madrid in terms of financial muscle.

Reigning European champions Real (647.

The master Ronaldo against the pretender Neymar

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Madrid (AFP) – With Cristiano Ronaldo on one side and Neymar on the other, Wednesday’s heavyweight Champions League showdown between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain sees two of the game’s biggest global superstars collide.

Ronaldo, the current world player of the year, has rediscovered something like his best form just at the right time for Real.

War amputee footballers tackle, shoot, score in rebel-held Syria

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Idlib (Syria) (AFP) – At the referee’s whistle, the young forward leans on his crutches and punts the football with his only leg, kicking off a match between war amputees in Syria’s battered northwest.

What follows is a different take on the beautiful game: men of all ages, some using crutches, deftly pass the ball back and forth as they sail across the field.

Where to find Juventus vs. Spurs Champions League on US TV and streaming

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If you’re trying to find out how you can watch Juventus vs. Spurs in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st leg, you’ve come to the right place.

After a break of over two months, the UEFA Champions League returns with what should be a fascinating encounter between Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur.

Chinese FA moves to plug transfer loophole after Bakambu affair

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Shanghai (AFP) – Chinese Super League teams who evade the country’s 100 percent levy on foreign player transfers face crippling point deductions under new measures aimed at plugging loopholes in the restrictions.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) said clubs could be docked up to 15 points in the league table depending on the value of a transfer and would be prevented from registering such players until all details of transfer contracts and proofs of payment are submitted to the league.

Chiellini says it will take all Juventus to stop Kane

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Centre-back Giorgio Chiellini said it will take the entire Juventus team to stop Tottenham striker Harry Kane in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg clash in Turin.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been in fine form in the Premier League recently, taking seven points from matches against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, with Kane scoring his 101st league goal in the north London derby last weekend.

Conte thanks Chelsea fans as Hazard double eases pressure

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London (AFP) – Antonio Conte thanked the Chelsea fans for their loyal support as Eden Hazard’s double eased the pressure on the Italian with a 3-0 win over rock bottom West Brom on Monday.

Three-goal thrashings at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford saw odds slashed on Conte becoming the latest Chelsea boss to be dismissed just nine months on from winning the Premier League.

Seedorf suffers losing start as Deportivo coach

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Madrid (AFP) – Clarence Seedorf’s reign as coach of Deportivo La Coruna began with a 1-0 defeat at home to Real Betis on Monday that left his new club firmly in the relegation zone in La Liga.

The former Dutch international midfielder, 41, was appointed by the Galician side on a deal until the end of the season with the aim of keeping them in Spain’s top flight after the sacking of Cristobal Parralo.

Hazard double eases pressure on Chelsea’s Conte

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London (AFP) – Eden Hazard’s double eased the mounting pressure on Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as the English champions bounced back to winning ways and moved into the Premier League top four with a 3-0 win over rock bottom West Brom on Monday.

Three-goal defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford saw odds slashed on Conte becoming the latest Chelsea boss to be dismissed just nine months on from winning the Premier League.

Time is now for City in Europe – Kompany

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Basel (Switzerland) (AFP) – Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany insisted on Monday that the “time is now” for his team to make a serious mark in Europe, but brushed off talk of winning a quadruple this season.

Runaway Premier League leaders City face Basel at St. Jakob-Park on Tuesday in their last 16, first-leg, Champions League tie with the return game on March 7 in Manchester.

Boudiaf double gives Al Duhail victory on Champions League debut

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Doha (AFP) – Midfielder Karim Boudiaf struck twice in two minutes to help Qatar’s Al Duhail beat Iran’s Zobahan 3-1 in their AFC Champions League debut on Monday.

Al Duhail, who were formed last year following the merger of top sides Lekhwiya and El Jaish, suffered an early shock when Brazilian Kiros Stanley fired the visitors ahead in the 12th minute after the ball rebounded off the post following a header by Morteza Tabrizi.

Manchester City squad most expensive in history: report

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Paris (AFP) – Premier League leaders Manchester City have the most expensive squad in history, according to a report published on Monday by the Swiss-based CIES Football Observatory.

The research values Pep Guardiola’s squad at 878 million euros ($1.08 billion), with Paris Saint-Germain second on 805 million euros, after a January transfer window in which City acquired centre-back Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao for 65 million euros.

Basel boss Wicky plots next Manchester shock

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Basel (Switzerland) (AFP) – Basel coach Raphael Wicky is planning another upset against Manchester City in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg, after shocking Manchester United in this season’s group stage.

Jose Mourinho’s United suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat at Basel’s Sankt Jakob Park in November but still finished as Group A winners with the Swiss side second.

‘We were poor’, admits United’s Jones after Newcastle loss

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London (AFP) – Phil Jones said Manchester United were “not good enough” in their 1-0 loss away to relegation-threatened Newcastle in the Premier League on Sunday.

Matt Ritchie’s goal proved the difference at St James’ Park, with Jose Mourinho’s visitors unable to match the commitment of Rafael Benitez’s men.

Aston Villa in Championship driving seat to boost chances of promotion to Premier League

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Aston Villa have struggled since their relegation to the Championship at the end of the 2015/16 campaign. The Villains endured a dismal season that year, accumulating a mere 17 points. Their fortunes didn’t change in the second tier the following season and despite aspiring for promotion, they had to settle for a disappointing 13th place finish.

Atletico stadium to host Copa del Rey final

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Madrid (AFP) – Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium will host this season’s Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Sevilla, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on Monday.

The 68,000-seat stadium, which was opened at the start of this season, will stage the game on Saturday, April 21.

French league investigates racist abuse of Balotelli

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Paris (AFP) – French football authorities told AFP on Monday they are looking into allegations by Nice forward Mario Balotelli that he “heard monkey chants directed at him” during a defeat at Dijon on Saturday.

The French League (LFP) told AFP “the case will be studied on Thursday by the disciplinary commission” but added that it doesn’t have any other evidence at this stage.

‘More Than 90 Minutes: Analyzing Success in European Club Soccer’ book review

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Author Alejandro Perez has long been an observer of the European club game. Currently he works for Telemundo, the Spanish language right-holders to the World Cup in the U.S., but he is also a long-time blogger and former ESPN employee. He sees the games millions of us watch every weekend and applies a keen strategic eye to what the men on the sideline are doing and why they are doing it.

Salah scores again and Ivorian teen makes dream debut

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Paris (AFP) – Prolific Egyptian Mohamed Salah scored again and Ivorian teenager Yann Karamoh made a dream first Serie A start in the major European leagues at the weekend.

Salah raised his season total for Liverpool to 29 in all competitions by notching the second goal in a 2-0 English Premier League win at Southampton.

PSG tie set to define Real Madrid season – Ronaldo

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Madrid (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that Real Madrid’s season is now effectively all about their looming Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain as the Spanish giants trail off the pace in La Liga.

“The tie…is one that could define the whole season,” the Portuguese forward told Real’s website after picking up a prize for best player in the world last season from the website Goal.

Mourinho refuses to slam Smalling over costly dive

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Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho has refused to criticise Chris Smalling for a dive which led to the decisive goal in Manchester United’s shock 1-0 defeat at Newcastle.

Mourinho was scathing about United’s defending as Matt Ritchie scored from the 65th minute free-kick awarded after Smalling threw himself to the ground before he was tackled by Jonjo Shelvey.

Klopp grateful for ‘fantastic’ Firmino, Salah

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Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp backed Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino’s cases for player of the year honours after they each bagged a goal and an assist to ensure an easy 2-0 win for Liverpool at Southampton.

Salah teed up Firmino to open the scoring with his 20th goal of the season after just six minutes, before the Brazilian returned the favour with a stunning backheeled pass for Salah to slot home just before half-time.

Laporte completes City’s quadruple bid overhaul

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London (AFP) – The club record £57 million ($80 million) capture of French centre-back Aymeric Laporte took Manchester City’s spending on defence in the past year beyond the budgets of many nations.

But the Frenchman could be the final piece of a more than £200 million defensive overhaul to provide the foundations in City’s quest for a historic quadruple.

Kane can prove European pedigree at Juventus

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London (AFP) – Harry Kane scored more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in 2017, but it is on the Champions League stage the prolific Tottenham striker must deliver to be truly measured against the five-time World Players of the Year.

Kane gets his chance when Europe’s premier club competition returns on Tuesday as he leads Spurs into the lion’s den of Juventus’ Allianz stadium in Turin, where the Italians have lost once in 27 Champions League games.

Spurs stand between Allegri and Champions League grail

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Massimiliano Allegri may be breaking records in Italy but the Juventus coach’s quest for the elusive Champions League grail continues on Tuesday against English side Tottenham Hotspur.

The 50-year-old marked his 200th game in the Juventus dugout with a 2-0 win in Florence on Friday, capping a record breaking three-and-a-half years in Turin.

Liverpool’s Salah is the idol of his Egyptian village

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Cairo (AFP) – Deep in Egypt’s Nile Delta region, the children of Nagrig village have a clear goal in life: they want to become football stars like Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s top scorer and Africa’s top player.

Salah, who hails from their village, has been one of the sensations of the Premier League since joining Liverpool - his goal in the victory against Southampton on Sunday was his 29th of the season.

Cannavaro, Oscar spearhead Chinese Champions League assault

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Hong Kong (AFP) – Guangzhou Evergrande coach Fabio Cannavaro and Shanghai SIPG’s record signing Oscar will spearhead a four-pronged Chinese assault when the 2018 AFC Champions League group phase begins this week.

Evergrande, Asian champions in 2013 and 2015, have Cannavaro back at the helm for the second time and open their campaign at home to Thailand’s Buriram United on Wednesday in Group G.

Alderweireld’s Spurs future unsure after Juventus axe – reports

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London (AFP) – Toby Alderweireld’s time at Tottenham Hotspur could be coming to an end following British media reports on Monday he had not travelled to Italy for the club’s Champions League tie away to Juventus.

The Belgian defender’s current contract with the Premier League side expires at the end of the season and he has not featured in manager Mauricio Pochettino’s team since appearing for the full 90 minutes in the FA Cup replay win over Newport County.

Five Serie A developments you may have missed

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Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Napoli stamped their authority on the Serie A title race with a 4-1 thumping of Lazio to maintain their one-point lead on champions Juventus who beat Fiorentina 2-0.

Inter Milan got their first win in two months, 2-1 over Bologna, to return to the podium, ahead of Roma who beat Benevento 5-2, with Lazio dropping to fifth.

Lyon slump to controversial defeat by Rennes

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Paris (AFP) – Lyon were incensed after being denied a second-half penalty as they slipped to a third straight loss in Ligue 1, with Rennes claiming a 2-0 win on Sunday.

Bruno Genesio’s hosts were looking for three points to close to within one of Marseille in the third and final Champions League place, but endured a frustrating night as they failed to bounce back from defeats by Bordeaux and Monaco.

Five talking points from Bundesliga weekend

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Berlin (AFP) – Robert Lewandowski equalled his manager’s Bundesliga record of scoring in 11 consecutive home games but Jupp Heynckes was not on Bayern Munich’s bench to witness the feat.

Bayern kept their 18-point lead in the table with a 2-1 victory over Schalke as Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller netted superb first-half goals with head coach Heynckes, 72, watching at home on Saturday.

Kainz brace boosts Bremen survival bid, Ginczek gives Stuttgart hope

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Berlin (AFP) – Florian Kainz netted two superb goals in Werder Bremen’s 3-1 Bundesliga win at home to Wolfsburg on Sunday, helping ease his side’s relegation worries.

Stuttgart also boosted their chances of Bundesliga survival with a 1-0 victory over Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Porto warm up for Liverpool by thrashing Chaves

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Lisbon (AFP) – Brazilian Tiquinho Soares scored twice as Porto warmed up for Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Liverpool with a 4-0 thumping of Chaves on Sunday to retake top spot in Portugal from Benfica.

Sergio Conceicao’s side had beaten Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of the Portuguese Cup semi-finals in midweek, when Soares scored the winner.

Firmino, Salah help Liverpool heap more misery on Southampton

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Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Virgil van Dijk celebrated his first Premier League win as the world’s most expensive defender on his return to Southampton as Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah ensured Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners at St Mary’s on Sunday.

Van Dijk was jeered by the home support following his £75 million ($104 million) move to Anfield last month, but got his revenge by shutting out a toothless Saints side who drop into the relegation zone.

Newcastle rock Manchester United, Liverpool sink Saints

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London (AFP) – Matt Ritchie condemned Manchester United to a shock 1-0 defeat at struggling Newcastle, while Liverpool cemented their top four place with a 2-0 win over Southampton on Sunday.

United’s second defeat in their last three Premier League games leaves them 16 points behind leaders Manchester City.

Teenager leads Inter to first win in two months

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Milan (AFP) – French teenager Yann Karamoh scored the winner as Inter Milan ended a two-month victory drought to move back third with a 2-1 win against nine-man Bologna on Sunday.

Eder opened the scoring after three minutes at the San Siro only for former Inter Milan star Rodrigo Palacio to pull Bologna level after 25 minutes.

Barcelona frustrated in goalless draw with Getafe

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Madrid (AFP) – A disallowed Luis Suarez goal summed up a frustrating afternoon for Barcelona as the La Liga leaders dropped points for the second week running after a 0-0 stalemate with Getafe on Sunday.

After needing a late equaliser to grab a point in the Catalan derby at Espanyol last weekend, Barca could not break down a well-organised Getafe side, who showed why they have the third-best defensive record in the league.

Teenager fires Inter up to third at nine-man Bologna

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Milan (AFP) – French teenager Yann Karamoh scored the deciding goal as Inter Milan ended a two-month victory drought with a 2-1 win against nine-man Bologna on Sunday.

Eder opened after three minutes at the San Siro only for former Inter Milan star Rodrigo Palacio to pull Bologna level in the first half.

Football: Ritchie strikes to stun lacklustre United

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Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho is still waiting to win a Premier League game at Newcastle after Matt Ritchie’s goal sentenced Manchester United to a shock 1-0 defeat on Sunday.

This was Mourinho’s seventh attempt to steer a team to victory on Tyneside and the United manager was destined for more misery at St James’ Park thanks Ritchie’s second-half goal.

We could have played for 10 hours and not scored, fumes Mourinho

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Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho admitted toothless Manchester United could have played for 10 hours without scoring in their surprise 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday.

Mourinho’s lacklustre side were beaten by Matt Ritchie’s 65th minute strike, but they rarely looked like taking all three points against the Premier League strugglers.

Stuttgart eke out first league win under Korkut

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Berlin (AFP) – Stuttgart got their first victory under new coach Tayfun Korkut to boost their Bundesliga survival chances as striker Daniel Ginczek netted in Sunday’s 1-0 home win against Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Korkut, 43, a German-born former Turkey international, was brought in as head coach a fortnight ago to stop Stuttgart’s slide down the table after predecessor Hannes Wolf was sacked having lost seven of eight league games.

Football: Newcastle rock United as Huddersfield win at last

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London (AFP) – Matt Ritchie condemned Manchester United to a shock 1-0 defeat at struggling Newcastle, while Huddersfield climbed out of the relegation zone after a 4-1 win against Bournemouth on Sunday.

United’s second defeat in their last three Premier League games leaves them 16 points behind leaders Manchester City.

Newcastle rock Man Utd as Huddersfield win at last

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London (AFP) – Matt Ritchie condemned Manchester United to a shock 1-0 defeat at struggling Newcastle, while Huddersfield climbed out of the relegation zone after a 4-1 win against Bournemouth on Sunday.

United’s second defeat in their last three Premier League games leaves them 16 points behind leaders Manchester City.

Wozniacki and Halep could collide again in Qatar Open

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Doha (AFP) – Little more than a fortnight since they met in a scintillating Australian Open final, Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep are on course to meet again, this time in the Qatar Open.

The two best ranked players in the world lead a high-quality field in Doha, where nine of the top 10 women players will compete.

Mounie brace lifts Huddersfield out of trouble

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London (AFP) – Huddersfield climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone after Steve Mounie’s double fired his side to a 4-1 win against Bournemouth on Sunday.

David Wagner’s team took a seventh-minute lead at the John Smith’s Stadium as Alex Pritchard took Mounie’s pass and drilled in his first Huddersfield goal since his January move from Norwich.

Balotelli ‘booked for racist abuse complaint’

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Paris (AFP) – Mario Balotelli was booked during Nice’s 3-2 loss at Dijon for complaining about racist abuse, his French Ligue 1 club and a local newspaper have claimed.

A tweet from Nice at half-time in Saturday’s match said Balotelli had “picked up a yellow card after… getting annoyed at fans’ racist abuse”.

Goalkeeper Rico stars in Sevilla victory

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Madrid (AFP) – Sergio Rico was the hero for Sevilla with a penalty save and several key interventions as his side boosted their European hopes with a 1-0 win over Girona in La Liga on Sunday.

The only goal of the game at a sunny Sanchez Pizjuan was scored just over 30 seconds into the second half, with Pablo Sarabia making sure the ball went in after a Joaquin Correa effort was stopped on the line.

Germany goalkeeping hopeful Ulreich extends Bayern deal

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Berlin (AFP) – Bayern Munich goalkeeper Sven Ulreich has signed a three-year contract extension, the Bundesliga leaders said Sunday, and has forced his way into contention for Germany with first-choice Manuel Neuer sidelined.

Ulreich was in goal on Saturday as Bayern stayed 18 points clear in the Bundesliga table after Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller netted first-half goals in a 2-1 home win against Schalke.

Swansea’s Ki impressed by Carvalhal impact

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London (AFP) – Ki Sung-Yueng says Carlos Carvalhal’s positive attitude is driving Swansea to win their fight for Premier League safety.

Carvalhal’s side extended their impressive run with a 1-0 win over Burnley at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

South Korea midfielder Ki was Swansea’s match winner, striking from long range in the 81st minute to notch his first goal since May 2016.

Four-goal hero Aguero salutes De Bruyne

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London (AFP) – Sergio Aguero was the four-goal hero of Manchester City’s 5-1 victory over Leicester, but the Argentina striker was quick to praise Kevin De Bruyne for his contribution to the rout.

Aguero demolished Leicester in the second half at Eastlands on Saturday as the Premier League leaders moved another step closer to the title.

Chelsea slump not all my fault, insists under-pressure Conte

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London (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes blame should be shared for the dramatic slump that has the Italian fighting for his job as West Brom visit the English champions on Monday.

A 4-1 thrashing at Watford on Monday followed an embarrassing 3-0 loss to Bournemouth in Chelsea’s last home game to leave the blues in serious risk of failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Guardiola hails ‘legend’ Aguero after four-goal show

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola hailed Sergio Aguero as an “authentic legend” of Manchester City after his four second-half goals continued the club’s emphatic march towards the Premier League title with a 5-1 thrashing of Leicester.

Raheem Sterling had given City an early lead on Saturday but Leicester went into the break on level terms thanks to Jamie Vardy’s equaliser.

Wenger fears Arsenal’s top four chances are in peril

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London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger conceded Arsenal’s hopes of ending their Champions League exile are in severe danger after Harry Kane condemned them to a damaging 1-0 defeat against bitter rivals Tottenham.

Kane’s second half header at Wembley on Saturday left Wenger’s sixth placed side languishing six points adrift of the Premier League’s top four.

Zidane delight as big victory sets Real up for European crunch

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Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid’s comprehensive 5-2 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday boosted confidence in the Spanish capital with the feeling that they have set themselves up nicely for the looming Champions League showdown with Paris Saint-Germain.

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick for the first time this season after Lucas Vazquez had opened the scoring inside 49 seconds at the Santiago Bernabeu as the visitors were blown away.

Napoli crush Lazio to stay top ahead of Juventus

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Milan (AFP) – Napoli stamped their authority on the Serie A title race with a come-from-behind 4-1 thumping of Lazio on Saturday to reclaim top spot from champions Juventus.

Juventus’s 2-0 win in Fiorentina had put them top on Friday, but Maurizio Sarri’s side responded in style to maintain their one-point advantage over the six-time defending champions.

Ronaldo hat-trick as Madrid warm up for PSG with big win

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Madrid (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick as Real Madrid warmed up for their Champions League showdown with Paris Saint-Germain with a big 5-2 victory over Real Sociedad in La Liga on Saturday.

Zinedine Zidane’s side have not scaled their usual heights this season and this was still not perfect, but they do look to be finding some form just in time for a potentially season-defining tie with the French side.

‘Authentic legend’ Aguero hits four as City storm 16 points clear

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola hailed Sergio Aguero as an “authentic legend” of Manchester City after his four second-half goals continued their emphatic march towards the Premier League title with a 5-1 thrashing of Leicester.

Raheem Sterling had given City an early lead on Saturday but Leicester went into the break on level terms thanks to Jamie Vardy’s equaliser.

Aguero hits four for rampant City, Kane returns to haunt Arsenal

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London (AFP) – Sergio Aguero scored four second-half goals as Manchester City’s march towards the Premier League title continued unabated with a 5-1 thrashing of Leicester on Saturday to move 16 points clear of Manchester United.

Aguero now trails Harry Kane by just two goals in the race for the golden boot, but just one from Kane was enough to win the North London derby as the Tottenham striker’s seventh goal in as many games against Arsenal secured a 1-0 win.

Eleven heaven: Lewandowski equals Bundesliga home scoring record

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Berlin (AFP) – Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski scored in his 11th consecutive home league match in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Schalke to equal the Bundesliga record.

The Poland striker, who now has 26 in all competitions, has netted in all of Bayern’s league games this season at the Allianz Arena.

Aguero hits Leicester for four as City storm 16 points clear

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Sergio Aguero scored four second-half goals as Manchester City continued their emphatic march towards the Premier League title with a 5-1 win thrashing of Leicester to move 16 points clear at the top of the table.

Raheem Sterling had given City an early lead but Leicester went into the break on level terms thanks to Jamie Vardy’s equaliser.

Mahrez makes Leicester return at Manchester City

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Riyad Mahrez finally got his wish of an outing at Manchester City’s Etihad stadium, but only as a second-half substitute for Leicester a day after ending his standoff with the Foxes by returning to training.

Mahrez, 26, had missed Leicester’s last two Premier League matches after not reporting for training for nine days in protest at Leicester’s refusal to accept a bid from runaway leaders City before the January 31 transfer deadline.

US soccer elects vice-president Cordeiro as new chief

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Orlando (AFP) – United States Soccer Federation vice-president Carlos Cordeiro was elected chief of the governing body on Saturday, replacing outgoing president Sunil Gulati who stepped down after the country’s 2018 World Cup flop.

Cordeiro, a Harvard-educated former investment banker, came through a crowded field of eight contenders to win on a third ballot at the USSF’s annual meeting at the Seaworld resort in Orlando.

Neymar lifts PSG past Toulouse ahead of Real trip

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Paris (AFP) – Neymar scored the only goal as Paris Saint-Germain ground out a 1-0 victory at Toulouse on Saturday in their final tune-up for next week’s Champions League showdown against holders Real Madrid.

The runaway French league leaders stretched their advantage over Marseille to 13 points courtesy of Neymar’s 19th Ligue 1 goal of the season midway through the second half in Toulouse.

Early Griezmann goal enough for Atletico

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Madrid (AFP) – Antoine Griezmann scored after just 39 seconds as Atletico Madrid won 1-0 away at bottom side Malaga on Saturday to move to within six points of La Liga leaders Barcelona.

The French striker fired home his eighth league goal of the campaign from inside the box after a Saul Niguez shot was deflected into his path.

Bayern coach Heynckes misses Schalke clash with flu

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Berlin (AFP) – Bayern Munich head coach Jupp Heynckes missed the Bundesliga leaders’ home game against Schalke on Saturday after suffering with the flu.

With the 72-year-old ill, his place on the bench was taken by assistant coach Peter Hermann.

Under Heynckes, Bayern have won 20 of their last 21 games in all competitions and face Schalke looking to move 18 points clear at the Bundesliga summit.

Batshuayi nets third goal in two Dortmund games

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Berlin (AFP) – Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi, on loan from Chelsea, scored his third Bundesliga goal in two games for Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in their 2-0 home win against Hamburg.

Dortmund signed the 24-year-old for 1.5 million euros on loan for the rest of the season after selling top-scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal last month.

Kane returns to haunt Arsenal as Spurs soar to third

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London (AFP) – Harry Kane did the North London derby damage to Arsenal once more as the Tottenham Hotspur striker’s seventh goal in as many games against the Gunners secured a thoroughly deserved 1-0 win for Spurs on Saturday.

Kane towered above the Arsenal defence to head home his 32nd goal of the season four minutes into the second half, as only some wayward finishing and stunning goalkeeping from Petr Cech saved the visitors from further embarrassment in front of a Premier League record crowd of 83,222 at Wembley.

Cutrone scores double as Milan hit four past SPAL

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Milan (AFP) – Patrick Cutrone hit a double with Lucas Biglia and Fabio Borini also scoring as AC Milan crushed SPAL 4-0 on Saturday to boost their European ambitions.

The 20-year-old Cutrone took centre stage with Nikola Kalinic injured and Davide Calabria suspended, opening after two minutes in Ferrara off a rebound and doubling from close range on 65 minutes.

Dortmund, Germany star Reus back after 259 days out

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Berlin (AFP) – Injury-prone Germany winger Marco Reus returned for Borussia Dortmund on Saturday against Bundesliga strugglers Hamburg having been sidelined for the last 259 days by a torn cruciate knee ligament.

Reus, 28, has been out since suffering the injury in last May’s German Cup final, when Dortmund beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the Berlin showcase.

Hitman Kane is Tottenham’s future – Pochettino

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London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino labelled Harry Kane Tottenham’s “present and future” after the striker again proved the scourge of Arsenal with the goal that gave Spurs a 1-0 derby win on Saturday.

Kane soared above the Arsenal defence to head home his 32nd goal of the season four minutes into the second-half to move Pochettino’s men above Liverpool and Chelsea into third in the Premier League fight for Champions League places.

Tottenham’s lethal Kane kills off Arsenal again

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London (AFP) – Harry Kane tormented Arsenal again as the Tottenham striker’s clinical finish sealed a 1-0 win in the north London derby at Wembley on Saturday.

Kane’s header early in the second half gave Tottenham the victory their enterprising display deserved as Mauricio Pochettino’s side climbed to third in the Premier League.

Dembele set for latest Barcelona comeback

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Madrid (AFP) – Ousmane Dembele is in line to make his latest comeback for Barcelona when the leaders of La Liga take on Getafe at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

The young France forward has endured a campaign ravaged by injury since his 105 million-euro ($124 million) move from Borussia Dortmund in August, a fee that could eventually rise to as much as 145 million euros.

CAS cuts ex-FIFA VP Chung’s ban to 15 months

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Lausanne (AFP) – The Court of Arbitration for Sport has partially upheld former FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-Joon’s appeal over his five-year ban from football, reducing his suspension to 15 months.

South Korean billionaire Chung, a scion of the Hyundai family, was banned in 2015 by FIFA’s ethics committee for contravening lobbying rules during South Korea’s failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Zlatan nears return as Man Utd vow to keep fighting

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic is nearing a return to fitness as Manchester United seek to strengthen their grip on second place in the Premier League when they visit Newcastle on Sunday.

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker has struggled to get back to his best since suffering cruciate knee ligament damage during a Europa League victory over Anderlecht last April.

Football life in China: From caveman Gazza to thankful Pato

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Shanghai (AFP) – Paul Gascoigne described life in China in 2003 as “like being locked in a cave”, but foreign stars in the country today earn among the biggest wages in football and live more like kings than Neanderthals.

The most talented English midfielder of his generation, Gascoigne was one of the first big-name footballers to arrive in China when he made the shock decision to be a player-coach of second division Gansu Tianma.

Van Dijk accepts spotlight on Saints return

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Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Virgil Van Dijk insists criticism of his start to life as the world’s most expensive defender will not affect his preparations for a frosty reception on his return to Southampton with Liverpool on Sunday.

The Dutch international moved to Anfield for £75 million (85m euros, $104m) in January, but has been on the winning side in just one of his four outings for Liverpool since.

Helping Lyon’s football foreign legion to lay down roots

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Lyon (AFP) – On paper Isabelle Dias is Lyon’s official translator but over her 18-year tenure at the Ligue 1 outfit her role has spread way beyond her multi-lingual skills - she helps recruits from all over the world to settle in.

French administration can be bewildering even for highly-paid sportsmen, but Dias’ role consists of far more than helping them fill in paperwork - she even organises activities for players’ children and family outings.

Celtic, Man Utd lead tributes to former midfielder Miller

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London (AFP) – Celtic and Manchester United on Saturday led tributes to their former midfielder Liam Miller following the Irishman’s death at just 36 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

News of Miller’s condition emerged in November and he had been receiving treatment in the United States, where he ended his playing career with Wilmington Hammerheads in North Carolina.

Man City want retrospective action for rough treatment

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London (AFP) – Manchester City have written to the body in charge of professional referees to raise their concerns over a series of dangerous challenges suffered by their players, according to widespread reports on Saturday.

The BBC reported the Premier League leaders have cited nine challenges they feel have not been sufficiently punished by referees in recent months to Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).

Guardiola bites back at ‘prestigious’ Neville’s poor managerial record

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola dismissed former Manchester United captain Gary Neville’s fleeting coaching career and sarcastically labelled him a “prestigious pundit” in response to criticism from the Sky Sports analyst.

Neville labelled Guardiola’s decision to name only six substitutes for last weekend’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Burnley due to a spiralling injury crisis as “a joke”.

Keita on target as Leipzig beat Augsburg

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Berlin (AFP) – Liverpool-bound Naby Keita helped RB Leipzig beat Augsburg 2-0 in Friday’s Bundesliga clash when he scored a stinging second-half winner with a free-kick.

Runaway leaders Bayern Munich remain 15 points clear as they await Schalke 04 on Saturday whilst Bayer Leverkusen can climb level with Leipzig on 38 if they beat Hertha Berlin.

Marseille lose two points and ‘keeper in Saint Etienne blizzard

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Paris (AFP) – A last-minute finger-tip save deprived Florian Thauvin a double and Marseille the three points as Saint-Etienne fought for a 2-2 Ligue 1 draw on Friday with a goalkeeping gaff from the visitors the key moment in the match.

The result means Paris Saint Germain are ten points clear ahead of their trip to Toulouse Saturday and free to concentrate on a Champions League clash with Real Madrid in midweek.

Bernardeschi, Higuain put Juventus top amid VAR fiasco

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Florence (Italy) (AFP) – Federico Bernardeschi and Gonzalo Higuain scored as Juventus went top of Serie A on Friday in a 2-0 win at Fiorentina overshadowed by a video assistant referee (VAR) fiasco.

A decision to award a penalty to Fiorentina after 21 minutes when Juventus’s Giorgio Chiellini’s arm blocked a Marco Benassi cross was subsequently overturned after consultation with VAR.

Milan coach hails ‘complete’ Calhanoglu

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Milan (AFP) – AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso revealed his delight Friday at discovering how Turkish forward Hakan Calhanoglu has become “such a complete player” after a difficult start to life in Italy.

The 24-year-old Turkey international joined Milan from Bayer Leverkusen last summer for a reported 22 million euros but failed to flourish under previous coach Vincenzo Montella.

EPL commentator assignments on NBC Sports, Gameweek 27

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Here’s the schedule of soccer commentators for the weekend Premier League matches (all times Eastern):

Saturday, February 10

Spurs vs. Arsenal, 7:30am, CNBC, Universo, Sling Blue (with World News Extra), DIRECTV NOW and fubo Premier - Derek Rae and Lee Dixon

Stoke vs.

Mahrez rejects AWOL claims on return to Leicester training

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London (AFP) – Riyad Mahrez hit back at accusations he had gone AWOL since being denied a move to Manchester City after returning to training with Leicester, paving the way for a possible return for Saturday’s visit to City.

Mahrez, 26, has missed two Premier League matches and had not trained with the team since the move he desperately wanted to runaway leaders City fell through due to Leicester’s demands on January 31, transfer deadline day.

New Ghoulam injury blow for Napoli

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Naples (Italy) (AFP) – Algerian international defender Faouzi Ghoulam has suffered another injury setback ahead of his anticipated return for Serie A leaders Napoli, fracturing his kneecap in training on Friday, the Italian club said.

Napoli, who host Lazio in Serie A on Saturday, said in a statement that Ghoulam “injured his right knee during the team’s training session” on Friday, and a fractured patella was suspected.

Chelsea must take collective responsibility for slump: Conte

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London (AFP) – Antonio Conte said Friday that his Chelsea players must take their share of the blame for recent poor results but repeated his commitment to the reigning Premier League champions.

Conte’s team, currently fourth in the table, have endured a torrid spell, losing 3-0 at home to Bournemouth before being beaten 4-1 at Watford.

Klopp preparing Van Dijk for frosty Southampton return

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London (AFP) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expects a frosty reception for Virgil Van Dijk when the world’s most expensive defender returns to Southampton for the first time since his £75 million (85m euros, $104m) January move.

Despite Van Dijk scoring the winner in an FA Cup Merseyside derby on debut against Everton, the Dutchman hasn’t had an easy start to his Liverpool career with Klopp’s men failing to win in his last three appearances against Swansea, West Brom and Tottenham.

Mahrez’s Leicester return sets up chance to impress Man City

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London (AFP) – Riyad Mahrez ended his self-imposed exile from Leicester City on Friday, opening up the possibility of a dramatic return against Manchester City, whose pursuit of the Algerian provoked Mahrez’s stand-off with the Foxes.

Mahrez, 26, has missed two Premier League matches and had not trained with the team since the move he desperately wanted to runaway leaders City fell through due to Leicester’s demands on January 31, transfer deadline day.

Mourinho says no problem with Pogba after dropping midfield star

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho says his relationship with Paul Pogba remains rock solid despite having dropped his star midfielder, hitting back at pundits who questioned whether the Frenchman is being used in his best position.

Pogba, 24, has been under an intense spotlight since being substituted in Manchester United’s defeat at Tottenham and left out of the starting line-up for last weekend’s home win over Huddersfield.

Guardiola hoping Mahrez makes Leicester return at City

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola wants Riyad Mahrez to make his Leicester return against the Premier League leaders on Saturday despite continued speculation linking the Algerian to City.

Mahrez returned to training on Friday having spent nine days away from the Foxes without permission following Leicester’s refusal of City’s reported offer of £50 million plus a player.

Spurs finally feel at home at Wembley, says Pochettino

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London (AFP) – Following a difficult start at their temporary residence, Mauricio Pochettino says Wembley finally feels like home for Tottenham as they prepare to host Arsenal on Saturday.

Spurs have gone 12 matches unbeaten at the home of English football, where they are based this season while their new stadium is completed.

Isco Madrid exit rumours all ‘lies’ according to Zidane

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Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has branded a report saying he wants to sell Spain midfielder Isco as “lies”.

“I have full faith in my team. I am one of those people who, when I start something, I go with it to the death. I believe in what I do, and I want Isco to stay here his whole life,” Zidane said at a press conference on Friday ahead of this weekend’s home clash with Real Sociedad in La Liga.

O’Neill extends Northern Ireland deal to 2024

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London (AFP) – Michael O’Neill has been rewarded for leading Northern Ireland to a first major tournament in 30 years with a bumper contract extension till 2024, the Irish FA (IFA) announced on Friday.

O’Neill, 48, had been chased by the Scottish FA as they seek to find a successor to Gordon Strachan.

O’Neil extends Northern Ireland deal to 2024

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London (AFP) – Michael O’Neill has been rewarded for leading Northern Ireland to a first major tournament in 30 years with a bumper contract extension till 2024, the Irish FA (IFA) announced on Friday.

O’Neill, 48, had been chased by the Scottish FA as they seek to find a successor to Gordon Strachan.

Spurs aim to gun down new-look Arsenal, Mahrez AWOL

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London (AFP) – Tottenham host Arsenal at Wembley this weekend aiming to crush the optimism created by the Gunners’ new-look forward line while the absent Riyad Mahrez will be missed by both teams at the Etihad.

Elsewhere, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea welcome West Brom with the Italian manager’s job looking precarious following embarrassing back-to-back defeats to Bournemouth and Watford.

Top 5 must-see soccer games on US TV this weekend

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For those wanting a title race to enjoy in one of Europe’s top five divisions this season, Serie A is the last salvation.

There are two teams going toe-to-toe at the summit of the table, with both sides winning their last seven in succession; there’s just a point between them ahead of what should be a key weekend.

Missing Mahrez casts shadow over Foxes trip to Manchester City

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – The continued absence of star player Riyad Mahrez means Leicester City travel to Premier League leaders Manchester City on Saturday mired in a crisis created by their hosts.

Mahrez, 26, has not featured for the mid-table Foxes, in matches or training, since his dream move to City was blocked by Leicester’s demands ahead of the January 31 transfer deadline.

Real Madrid face final rehearsal before PSG showdown

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Madrid (AFP) – Just days before Paris Saint-Germain touch down in the Spanish capital, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid have the chance to boost their fragile confidence when they face Real Sociedad in La Liga on Saturday.

The reigning European champions have been shipping a worrying number of goals in the build-up to their Champions League last-16 showdown with the likes of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe.

Wenger calls for cool heads as Arsenal face Spurs test

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London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger has warned his Arsenal stars to keep their cool when they face bitter rivals Tottenham as the heated north London derby returns to Wembley for the first time in 25 years.

Languishing in sixth place in the Premier League, Wenger’s side are however just four points behind fifth placed Tottenham.

Watford’s ‘Mr Fixit’ always on call

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London (United Kingdom) (AFP) – It should have been a welcome day off for Lorenzo Libutti and a chance to spend some time with his wife shortly before the birth of their second child.

But then English Premier League club Watford appointed Spaniard Javi Gracia as their new manager - their tenth since 2012 - and Libutti was back at the club’s Colney training ground, just north of London, to help the new boss and his backroom staff settle in.

In Turkey, ‘crazy’ welcome awaits foreign football stars

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Istanbul (AFP) – It’s a common sight that has become a ritual. A foreign player set to sign for a Turkish side steps bleary-eyed into the arrivals hall at Istanbul airport to be greeted by a raucous welcome from thousands of fans.

Slogans are chanted as if in a trance, flares let off and the player battles through the hordes of selfie-taking fans before being bundled into the sanctuary of a waiting car.

Premier League launches rights auction as tech giants wait

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London (AFP) – The Premier League launches its latest auction of domestic live broadcast rights on Friday but football finance experts say global tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook are not yet ready to enter the fray.

Bids for 200 games a season, between 2019 and 2022, must be in between 0800 GMT and 1000 GMT and if any are left unsold there will be further rounds of bidding next week, with a result expected on Tuesday.

Mahrez returns to Leicester training – reports

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London (AFP) – Riyad Mahrez ended his self-imposed exile from Leicester City on Friday with Sky Sports reporting the Algerian has returned to training ahead of Saturday’s trip to Manchester City.

Mahrez, 26, has not featured for in two matches or training, since the move he wanted to runaway Premier League leaders City fell through due to Leicester’s demands on January 31, transfer deadline day.

Watford FC’s ‘Mr Fixit’ always on call

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London (United Kingdom) (AFP) – It should have been a welcome day off for Lorenzo Libutti and a chance to spend some time with his wife shortly before the birth of their second child.

But then English Premier League club Watford appointed Spaniard Javi Gracia as their new manager - their tenth since 2012 - and Libutti was back at the club’s Colney training ground, just north of London, to help the new boss and his backroom staff settle in.

Rising Argentine star Lautaro Martinez set for Inter move – reports

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Milan (AFP) – Rising Argentine star Lautaro Martinez, touted as a potential newcomer in Jorge Sampaoli’s 2018 World Cup squad, is set to sign a deal worth over 25 million euros ($30 million) with Inter Milan, the Italian press reported Friday.

The 20-year-old striker, who plays for Racing Club and the Argentina under-20 side, has opted for Inter ahead of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia and will join the northern Italian outfit this summer, Gazzetta dello Sport reported.

Aubameyang arrival has Mkhitaryan dreaming big at Arsenal

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London (AFP) – Henrikh Mkhitaryan is living a dream at Arsenal after being reunited with close friend and “the best team-mate” he’s shared a dressing room with in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Mkhitaryan bagged three assists on his home debut - including the pass to tee up Aubameyang for his first Arsenal goal - as the Gunners thrashed Everton 5-1 last weekend to breath a fresh air of optimism into an often frustrated Emirates crowd.

‘Special moment’ as Coutinho opens Barcelona account in Cup win

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Madrid (AFP) – Philippe Coutinho came off the bench to score his first goal for Barcelona in a 2-0 win at Valencia on Thursday that saw his new club ease into another Copa del Rey final.

Coutinho broke the deadlock in the 49th minute of the semi-final, second leg at Mestalla, having only come on at the start of the second half.

Coutinho opens account as Barcelona reach Copa del Rey final

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Madrid (AFP) – Philippe Coutinho came off the bench to score his first goal for Barcelona in a 2-0 win at Valencia on Thursday that saw his new club ease into another Copa del Rey final.

Coutinho broke the deadlock in the 49th minute of the semi-final, second leg at Mestalla, having only come on at the start of the second half.

Coutinho opens Barcelona account in Valencia Cup tie

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Madrid (AFP) – Philippe Coutinho scored his first goal for Barcelona since moving from Liverpool in January during his new club’s Copa del Rey semi-final, second leg against Valencia on Thursday.

The 160 million-euro ($192 million) Brazilian midfielder was sent on for the start of the second half in the match at Mestalla for his fifth appearance for the club, and he netted within four minutes of his introduction.

PSG and Marseille paired in French Cup quarter-finals

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Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain, seeking a fourth straight French Cup, were drawn on Thursday against their bitter rivals and closest challengers in Ligue 1, Marseille, in this year’s quarter-finals.

This edition of the French “clasico” is also a repeat of the 2016 final which PSG won, 4-2.

Blazing Marseille attack draws attention from Paris stars

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Marseille (AFP) – Marseille open the Ligue 1 weekend by taking one of the hottest attacks in Europe to the fortress of one of their ancient rivals, Saint-Etienne.

Marseille’s motto is “Straight to goal” and they are living up to it in 2018 with 27 goals scored in all competitions since the start of the year as they have risen to second in the table.

West Brom’s Rodriguez charged by FA over alleged racist abuse

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London (AFP) – West Brom forward Jay Rodriguez was Thursday charged by the Football Association over an incident involving Brighton’s Gaetan Bong during which he was accused of using racist language.

Footage from the Premier League match on January 13 shows the pair arguing and bumping into each other, before Rodriguez holds his nose and waves his hand as if to gesture Bong smells.

RB Leipzig owe Red Bull 82 million euros

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Berlin (AFP) – The amount Bundesliga club RB Leipzig owe their backers Red Bull has leapt to 83.164 million euros ($101.9m), according to a government-backed magazine.

The Bundesanzeiger, published by Germany’s department of Justice, say the club added 30 million euros to the 52.

West Brom’s Rodriguez vows to clear name over alleged racist abuse

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London (AFP) – West Brom forward Jay Rodriguez said he would fight to clear his name after being charged by the Football Association on Thursday over an incident involving Brighton’s Gaetan Bong during which he was accused of using racist language.

The FA said Rodriguez has been charged with using “abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race”.

History will be made in US Soccer Presidential Election: World Soccer Talk Podcast

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World Soccer Talk is the weekly soccer podcast on the topic of watching soccer on TV, online and apps.

In the NEW episode, number 60, Kartik Krishnaiyer and Christopher Harris cover a range of topics including:

• History being made with the race for the USSF Presidency,

• VAR strikes again in Europe,

• ESPN announce a few more details about ESPN Plus,

• Univision and FOX announce new World Cup shows,

• The latest developments about the UK Premier League TV deal,

• And of course we have feedback and questions from you in the Listener Mailbag section.

West Brom’s Rodriguez charged by FA over racist abuse

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London (AFP) – West Brom forward Jay Rodriguez was Thursday charged by the Football Association with racially abusing Brighton’s Gaetan Bong and could face a lengthy ban if found guilty.

Footage from the Premier League match on January 13 shows the pair arguing and bumping into each other, before Rodriguez holds his nose and waves his hand as if to gesture Bong smells.

Ayew ‘proud’ of African roots following West Ham exit

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London (AFP) – Swansea’s Ghanaian forward Andre Ayew hit back at West Ham’s sacked director of recruitment Tony Henry for calling into question the attitude of African players.

Henry was dismissed by the London club on Friday following an investigation into a report by the Daily Mail newspaper that Henry said West Ham wanted to limit their number of African players because “they have a bad attitude” and “cause mayhem” when they are not in the team.

Six in running for Italy coaching job – Costacurta

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Milan (AFP) – Italian football federation sub-commissioner Alessandro Costacurta said Thursday there were “six or seven names” in the hat for the Italy coaching job.

Former AC Milan defender Costacurta has been given the task of finding a successor to Gian Piero Ventura who was sacked after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Iranian FA take plea to FIFA chief Infantino

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Berlin (AFP) – The president of the Iranian FA has reportedly flown to meet with FIFA president Gianni Infantino to urge him to intervene in a politically-charged Asian Champions League game.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have affected the forthcoming match between Tehran-based Esteghlal and Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.

Chelsea paying for Champions League gain – Hazard

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London (AFP) – Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard believes the English champions’ defence of their title was always going to be compromised by a return to Champions League football this season.

Despite the Belgian’s 13th goal of the season, Chelsea crumbled to a 4-1 defeat at Watford on Monday night to remain fourth in the Premier League, 19 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City.

Leicester boss Puel hopes absent Mahrez will ‘get his head right’

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London (AFP) – Leicester manager Claude Puel says he hopes Riyad Mahrez can “get his head right” and rejoin the team, confirming the Algeria international will not feature against Manchester City on Saturday.

The match at the Etihad will be the third consecutive league game the winger has missed since Pep Guardiola’s City failed to get their man on January 31, transfer deadline day.

Sanchez move outshone Neymar on social media: Man Utd chief

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London (AFP) – The social media frenzy surrounding Alexis Sanchez’s high-profile move to Manchester United dwarfed interest shown when Neymar moved from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said Thursday.

Sanchez joined United from Premier League rivals Arsenal last month in a deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan go the other way and has made an immediate impact on and off the pitch, scoring on his home debut and setting a new record for shirt sales.

German international Reus poised for Dortmund return

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Berlin (AFP) – Injury-prone German international winger Marco Reus could make his return after torn cruciate knee ligaments for Borussia Dortmund on Saturday against strugglers Hamburg, just four months out from the World Cup.

Reus, 28, has been sidelined since last May’s German Cup final, when Dortmund beat Eintracht Frankfurt in Berlin, and has been working his way back to fitness in recent weeks.

Man Utd post loss as Trump’s tax reform offsets broadcast boom

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London (AFP) – Manchester United blamed US President Donald Trump’s corporate tax reforms as the reason the Premier League giants posted a £29 million ($40.4 million) second quarter loss to the end of December 2017 despite a boom in broadcast income.

United said an exceptional “accounting write off of £48.

Kane is Europe’s best admits Wenger, despite derby tension

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London (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger put North London rivalries aside as he accepted Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane is the most in-form striker in Europe on Thursday.

Kane, 24, became the second fastest player to ever reach 100 Premier League goals by netting his 31st of the season in just 32 games to salvage a point for Spurs from a thrilling 2-2 draw at Liverpool last weekend.

Juventus ready to pounce as Napoli face stiff Lazio test

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Milan (AFP) – Serie A leaders Napoli face a tough test of their title hopes when they host bruised Lazio this weekend, while Juventus travel to Florence ready to pounce before they play Tottenham in the Champions League.

Lazio - 14 points behind Napoli in third place - arrive in Naples desperately in need of three points after back-to-back defeats to AC Milan and Genoa.

Wigan negotiating sale to Hong Kong company

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Hong Kong (AFP) – Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has agreed in principle to sell the English football club to a Hong Kong-listed company, highlighting the appeal of even lower-league clubs to wealthy foreign investors.

The International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), controlled by the family of the late Hong Kong property tycoon Cheng Yu-tung, said it had been given an exclusive two-week window until February 14 to negotiate the terms of the deal with footballer turned owner Whelan.

Strong line-up as CAF Champions League begins

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Johannesburg (AFP) – Record eight-time title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt are among 10 former winners who qualified for the 2018 CAF Champions League, which begins this weekend with preliminary round first legs.

Defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and five-time winners TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo are other powerful outfits in the 59-club field.

Football: FIFA chief sets VAR ruling for next month

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Hanoi (AFP) – FIFA President Gianni Infantino on Thursday said football’s governing body will decide next month whether to officially endorse the video assistant referee, a move that could see the controversial technology used at the World Cup.

VAR, so far trialled in nearly 1,000 matches, reviews key moments linked to goals, penalty decisions, straight red card decisions and cases of mistaken identity.

Lamela can return to top form after ending goal drought: Pochettino

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London (AFP) – Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says Erik Lamela can recover his best form after he scored his fist goal for the club in 16 months but warned that competition for starting places is getting tougher.

The Argentina international, who was sidelined for more than a year with a hip injury before returning to action in November, scored his first goal since September 2016 as Spurs beat Newport County 2-0 in Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay.

Robben, Ribery playing for new Bayern deals

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Berlin (AFP) – Veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are effectively playing for new contracts after Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted the club are in no rush to extend their deals.

Robben and Ribery, both 34, are out of contract at the end of the season and a primary round of extension negotiations has already begun.

City also guilty of ‘horrendous’ challenges: Cardiff’s Warnock

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London (AFP) – Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has hit back at Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s calls for greater player protection following the FA Cup clash between the sides that left City winger Leroy Sane sidelined for six weeks.

Guardiola was furious after his side’s 2-0 fourth-round win on January 28 when Sane suffered ankle ligament damage from a dreadful Joe Bennett tackle.

Sevilla halt Leganes run to reach Copa del Rey final

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Madrid (AFP) – Joaquin Correa and Franco Vazquez scored as Sevilla advanced to a second Copa del Rey final in three years on Wednesday following a 3-1 aggregate victory over Leganes.

After a 1-1 draw in last week’s first leg, Correa fired Sevilla ahead in the tie when he tucked home a cutback from Luis Muriel with 15 minutes gone at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

Spurs end Newport’s Cup run at the second attempt

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London (AFP) – Tottenham Hotspur finally ended lowly Newport County’s brave FA Cup run with a 2-0 win in a fourth-round replay at Wembley on Wednesday.

Spurs, the eight-times FA Cup winners, were just eight minutes away from a humiliating exit when England striker Harry Kane scored to salvage a 1-1 draw away to fourth-tier Newport last month.

Fekir sees Lyon into French Cup quarters

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Paris (AFP) – Nabil Fekir’s penalty helped Lyon beat Montpellier 2-1 on Wednesday to reach the French Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2012.

Maxwel Cornet caught home goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte by surprise to give the visitors an early lead, only for Jonathan Ikone to quickly lash in an equaliser.

Schalke, Frankfurt into German Cup last four

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Berlin (AFP) – A first half goal from Guido Burgstaller fired Schalke to a 1-0 victory over Wolfsburg and a place in the semi-finals of the German Cup on Wednesday.

Last year’s finalists Eintracht Frankfurt also progressed to the last four, as a comedy of defensive errors saw them beat local rivals Mainz 3-0.

Racism on the rise in English football, says watchdog

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London (AFP) – Incidents of racism and homophobia in English football are on the rise, according to pressure group Kick It Out.

According to its mid-season report, Kick It Out said it had received more than 300 reports relating to 282 cases of discriminatory abuse by the end of 2017, a 59 percent increase from last season, when there were 177 incidents.

Frankfurt sink sloppy Mainz to reach Cup semis

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Berlin (AFP) – A comedy of defensive errors, including an own goal from Alexander Hack, saw Eintracht Frankfurt progress to the German Cup semi-finals, as they beat local rivals Mainz 3-0 on Wednesday.

A mistake from Mainz goalkeeper Rene Adler gave Frankfurt the lead on 17 minutes.

No FA action over Deeney’s goal celebration

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London (AFP) – Watford striker Troy Deeney has escaped disciplinary action over his goal celebration in a shock 4-1 win over Chelsea on Monday after officials failed to agree on whether he had committed a red card offence.

Deeney opened the scoring from the penalty spot shortly before half-time and then appeared to make an offensive gesture towards a section of the Vicarage Road crowd.

Bayern won’t let up in Bundesliga – Heynckes

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Berlin (AFP) – Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has said his side “won’t let up” as they bid to break their own record for the least amount of games needed to win the Bundesliga title.

The Bavarian giants sit 18 points clear at the top of the table - the biggest ever lead after 21 games of the 34-match season.

Pique doubtful as Mina in line for Barca debut

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Barcelona (AFP) – Colombian international defender Yerry Mina is set to make his Barcelona debut in Thursday’s second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final at Valencia with Gerard Pique an injury doubt.

“(Mina) is selected in the group and that means he’s ready to play,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said on Wednesday, as his side look to cement a place in the final following a 1-0 win in last week’s first leg.

Injured Leverkusen captain Bender out three weeks

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Berlin (AFP) – Bayer Leverkusen suffered a blow on Wednesday as their captain Lars Bender is expected to be sidelined for the next three weeks with a groin injury.

The Germany defender limped out of Tuesday’s 4-2 German Cup win at home to Werder Bremen and a scan has revealed a torn groin.

World Soccer Talk endorses Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino for USSF President

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Over the last several months, the team of writers at World Soccer Talk have been interviewing many of the candidates to learn more about their ideas and policies of how to right the US soccer ship, which has been taking on water for several years due to inefficient leadership, conflicts of interests and a lack of transparency.

Evra, kicked out of Marseille, joins West Ham on free transfer

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London (AFP) – West Ham signed former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra on a free transfer on Wednesday, with the Frenchman set to link up again with former boss David Moyes.

Evra has won multiple league titles and the Champions League in an illustrious career but his spell at Marseille ended abruptly in November after he launched a kung-fu kick at a supporter.

Falcao injury blow for Monaco

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Monaco (AFP) – Monaco captain Radamel Falcao will miss the next three Ligue 1 games due to a thigh injury picked up during the weekend win over Lyon, the club said on Wednesday.

Following last summer’s sales, Monaco have been reliant on the 31-year-old this season and he has scored 17 goals in 20 league games, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain pair Edinson Cavani on 21 and Neymar on 18.

Football: Rani Khedira turns down Tunisian World Cup offer

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Berlin (AFP) – Rani Khedira - brother of Germany star Sami - has turned down the chance to play for Tunisia at the 2018 World Cup.

The Khedira brothers were born in Stuttgart to a Tunisian father.

Both Rani, who is 24, and Sami, 30, played for German junior teams while Juventus midfielder Sami went on to become a World Cup winner who has made 72 appearances for Germany.

Grading January signings for Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Spurs

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The January transfer window has ended, and after a ton of speculation for the past few months, all of the transfers in and out have been completed.

But which top Premier League clubs did better than others? I’ve rated Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Spurs below:

ARSENAL
Grade: A

Transfers in (former team listed in parenthesis)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United)
Konstantinos Mavropanos (PAS Giannina)

After plenty of speculation, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan have been reunited under Arsene Wenger.

Man Utd’s Sanchez accepts suspended Spanish sentence for tax fraud

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Madrid (AFP) – Manchester United striker Alexis Sanchez has struck a deal with Spanish authorities to accept a 16-month suspended jail sentence for tax fraud in return for avoiding a trial.

Sanchez, who joined United from Arsenal last month, faced being tried over a one-million-euro ($1.

Football: Absent Mahrez set to miss Man City match

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London (AFP) – Riyad Mahrez looks likely to miss this weekend’s match against Manchester City, with Leicester’s star player reportedly absent from training since he failed to force through a move to the Premier League leaders.

It would be the third consecutive league game the Algeria winger has missed since Pep Guardiola’s City failed to get their man on January 31, transfer deadline day.

Conte won’t be sacked for now – reports

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London (AFP) – Antonio Conte won’t be sacked as Chelsea manager in the short term at least after being granted a stay of execution by Roman Abramovich, according to reports on Tuesday.

Conte’s future with the troubled Premier League champions was cast into doubt on Monday after a dismal 4-1 defeat against Watford.

Over-analysis ‘killing’ football says Pochettino

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London (AFP) – Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino fears English football’s obsession with over-analysis of decisions and a fixation with diving could kill the sport.

Pochettino’s side drew 2-2 at Liverpool on Sunday in a match marred by contentious penalty decisions by referee Jon Moss.

Swansea hit eight in FA Cup rout, Huddersfield advance

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London (AFP) – Swansea racked up the biggest FA Cup win in their history as Tammy Abraham and Nathan Dyer inspired an 8-1 thrashing of Notts County in Tuesday’s fourth round replay.

Despite fielding a much-changed side, Swansea settled any potential nerves with two goals in the space of as many first-half minutes at the Liberty Stadium.

2018 World Cup shirts on sale for all 32 teams

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The 2018 World Cup shirts for the countries participating in this summer’s biggest soccer tournament are slowly being unveiled. Many of the countries have released the jerseys they’ll be wearing with pride in Russia 2018, but there are still many more that will be announced soon.

No matter what country you’ll be cheering for this summer, the colors and designs of the official 2018 World Cup shirts are quite varied.

Di Maria fuels PSG as Marseille hit nine in French Cup

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Paris (AFP) – Angel Di Maria scored a hat-trick as holders Paris Saint-Germain defeated second-tier Sochaux 4-1 on Tuesday to reach the French Cup quarter-finals, while Marseille demolished Ligue 2 outfit Bourg-en-Bresse 9-0.

The Argentine winger headed PSG, who were playing without the rested Neymar, ahead inside the first minute at the Stade Bonal in eastern France, but twice former winners Sochaux levelled through Florian Martin before the quarter hour.

Chelsea to probe allegation of anti-Semitic chanting

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London (AFP) – Chelsea will probe an allegation of anti-Semitic chanting during the club’s Premier League defeat at Watford.

A report on jewishwebsite.com claims Chelsea supporter Jonathan Metliss heard the chants from fellow Blues fans at Vicarage Road on Monday.

According to the article, Metliss, who is the chairman of the Action Against Discrimination charity, took pictures of the alleged perpetrators and reported the incident to nearby stewards before being moved to the family enclosure “for his own safety”.

Chelsea to probe allegation of antisemitic chanting

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London (AFP) – Chelsea will probe an allegation of antisemitic chanting during the club’s Premier League defeat at Watford.

A report on jewishwebsite.com claims Chelsea supporter Jonathan Metliss heard the chants from fellow Blues fans at Vicarage Road on Monday.

According to the article, Metliss, who is the chairman of the Action Against Discrimination charity, took pictures of the alleged perpetrators and reported the incident to nearby stewards before being moved to the family enclosure “for his own safety”.

Red-hot Marseille score nine in Cup thrashing

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Paris (AFP) – In-form Marseille crushed second-tier Bourg-en-Bresse with a 9-0 thumping to reach the French Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, with Kostas Mitroglou and Lucas Ocampos both scoring hat-tricks.

Rudi Garcia’s side, who are second in Ligue 1 after thrashing Metz 6-3 last week, romped into a 4-0 lead inside 20 minutes at the struggling Ligue 2 side and showed no mercy against hapless opponents.

Robben nets twice as Bayern power into Cup semis

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Berlin (AFP) – Arjen Robben scored twice as Bayern Munich breezed into the last four of the German Cup with a 6-0 quarter-final romp at third-division Paderborn on Tuesday.

Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski, Joshua Kimmich and Corentin Tolisso all hit the target for Bayern before Robben added two late goals as the Bavarian giants continued their quest for a record 19th German Cup title.

West Ham put Moyes’ future on hold until end of season

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London (AFP) – West Ham say they won’t hold talks with under-fire manager David Moyes over his future with the Premier League strugglers until the end of the season.

Moyes agreed a contract lasting until June when he replaced Slaven Bilic in November, but it has been reported he won’t stay with the east London club beyond this term regardless of whether they avoid relegation.

Challenge tests Germany’s ’50+1′ club ownership rule

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Berlin (AFP) – There are calls in Germany to end the “50+1” rule, which prevents investors taking control of Bundesliga clubs, after it was challenged by Hanover chairman Martin Kind.

According to German Football League (DFL) rules each club in Germany’s top two tiers must retain a majority of voting shares which allows club members to veto decisions by outside investors.

Koeman takes on tough job as latest Dutch national coach

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Zeist (Netherlands) (AFP) – Dutch former star player Ronald Koeman was Tuesday anointed coach of the national team, given the Herculean task of restoring the country’s pride after a series of humiliating defeats.

The Royal Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) said in a statement that it had “reached an agreement with Ronald Koeman over his appointment as the Dutch national coach.

Manchester United mark 60 years since Munich crash

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United on Tuesday marked 60 years since the Munich air crash ripped the heart out of the “Busby Babes” team with a service at Old Trafford attended by survivors Bobby Charlton and Harry Gregg.

The stadium fell silent as the clock ticked to 1504 GMT, marking the time of the crash six decades ago and club captain Michael Carrick and manager Jose Mourinho then each laid a wreath as applause rang out.

International Champions Cup tickets on sale

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The 2018 International Champions Cup tickets will be going on sale soon with a lot of anticipation for the popular soccer tournament staged in the United States each summer.

With the US Men’s National Team crashing out of World Cup qualifying, it gives the International Champions Cup an opportunity to bring many of the biggest teams from around the world to the United States to entertain soccer fans who would have otherwise been heading to Russia to cheer on the US of A.

Koeman takes on tough job as lastest Dutch national coach

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The Hague (AFP) – Dutch former star player Ronald Koeman was Tuesday anointed coach of the national team, given the Herculean task of restoring the country’s pride after a series of humiliating defeats.

The Royal Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) said in a statement that it had “reached an agreement with Ronald Koeman over his appointment as the Dutch national coach.

Qatar stadium designed by Zaha Hadid built ‘by end of year’

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Doha (AFP) – The Qatar World Cup venue designed by celebrated Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid will be finished by the end of 2018, officials responsible for the project said Tuesday.

The 40,000 capacity, $575 million (465 million euros) Al-Wakrah Stadium is expected to be one of two further 2022 venues completed this year.

Neymar gets 3 mn euros a month and PSG pay 12 of highest Ligue 1 salaries

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Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain pays 12 of the 13 largest player salaries in the French league, led by Neymar, who makes 3.07 million euros ($3.8 million) gross a month, more than twice as much as the next highest earner, sports daily L’Equipe reported on Tuesday.

Behind Neymar, PSG players occupy the next seven places: Uruguayan Edinson Cavani makes 1.

New-look Arsenal just the tonic for Wenger

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London (AFP) – Just days after Arsenal were lurching towards another crisis, Arsene Wenger can suddenly look to a brighter future thanks to a revitalised attack spearheaded by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

An error-strewn 3-1 defeat at struggling Swansea last Tuesday was the latest low-point of a troubled season for Arsenal.

Munich air crash ‘ingrained’ in Manchester United story

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – The Munich air crash that cruelly cut down Manchester United’s “Busby Babes” in their prime has enormous significance for the club’s players and fans even 60 years on from that fateful day.

United are holding a commemorative service at Old Trafford on Tuesday, which will include readings and poems ahead of a minute’s silence at 1504 GMT, marking the time of the plane crash six decades ago.

Munich air crash haunts former Man Utd player McGuinness, 60 years on

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Not a day goes by when Wilf McGuinness doesn’t think of the friends and teammates he lost when the Munich air crash ripped the heart out of Manchester United’s “Busby Babes”.

The disaster, 60 years ago this week, killed eight of the young, vibrant side who had won successive league titles and left manager Matt Busby fighting for his life.

Neymar gets 3 mn euros a year and PSG pay 12 of highest Ligue 1 salaries

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Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain pays 12 of the 13 largest player salaries in the French league, led by Neymar, who makes 3.07 million euros ($3.8 million) gross a month, more than twice as much as the next highest earner, sports daily L’Equipe reported on Tuesday.

Behind Neymar, PSG players occupy the next seven places: Uruguayan Edinson Cavani makes 1.

Borussia Dortmund CEO threatens squad clean out

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Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has threatened to clean out the current squad at the end of the season - unless results improve.

“We need a squad adjustment in the summer, things will be clearer after the second half of the season,” Watzke told Frankfurt-based newspaper FAZ.

Unconcerned Conte puts ball in Chelsea’s court

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London (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said he will lose no sleep over the threat he could be sacked less than a year after winning the Premier League following a 4-1 thrashing at Watford on Monday.

The champions have now conceded seven goals in their last two outings after also going down 3-0 at home to Bournemouth last week to put their chances of Champions League qualification for next season in serious peril.

Laxalt stuns Lazio as Genoa ease drop fears

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Rome (AFP) – Uruguay international Diego Laxalt scored two minutes into injury time to give Genoa a crucial 2-1 victory at Lazio on Monday and ease their relegation fears.

Veteran Montenegro international Goran Pandev had given the visitors a second-half lead in Rome but Lazio struck back just four minutes later through Italy midfielder Marco Parolo.

Watford thrashing piles pressure on Chelsea boss Conte

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London (AFP) – The pressure on Chelsea manager Antonio Conte intensified as his 10 men suffered a second consecutive humiliating defeat on Monday, going down 4-1 at Watford.

Goals from Daryl Janmaat, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra in the final six minutes handed Watford a welcome first win in six games to move the Hornets six points clear of the relegation zone.

Matuidi a doubt for Spurs clash due to thigh strain

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Paris (AFP) – France international midfielder Blaise Matuidi could miss next week’s Champions League clash with Tottenham Hotspur due to a thigh strain, his club said on Monday.

The former Paris-Saint Germain player was injured during Sunday’s 7-0 thrashing of Sassuolo, leaving the field after just 26 minutes.

World Cup referees gather in Qatar

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Doha (AFP) – Referees from four countries boycotting Qatar attended a high-profile FIFA World Cup seminar in Doha on Monday, despite the ongoing Gulf political crisis.

Representatives from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt were at the opening of the referees’ seminar, an almost week-long event which will help football’s governing body decide on the final list of those who will officiate at this year’s World Cup in Russia.

Referee Moss admits Spurs penalty question mistake

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London (AFP) – Referee Jon Moss has admitted he was misguided to ask the fourth official if he had seen a crucial penalty decision in Sunday’s Premier League clash between Liverpool and Tottenham.

Moss gave Tottenham a late penalty at Anfield for a foul on Harry Kane by the home side’s goalkeeper Lorius Karius.

Clarence Seedorf named new Deportivo coach

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Madrid (AFP) – Former Dutch international midfielder Clarence Seedorf will coach Deportivo La Coruna until the end of the season, the La Liga club said on Monday.

The former Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan star replaces Spaniard Cristobal Parralo, who was sacked on Sunday following a 5-0 defeat to Real Sociedad that left the club in the relegation zone.

Football: Koeman set to be named Netherlands coach

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The Hague (AFP) – Former Everton manager Ronald Koeman is set to be presented as coach of the Netherlands, Dutch news reports said on Monday, as the football-mad country seeks to revive its flagging fortunes.

“Ronald Koeman is the new national coach of (the) Dutch Eleven. The KNVB will present him at a press conference on Tuesday,” Dutch national news agency ANP reported, citing insider sources.

NBC network now available in 70 percent of US households via fuboTV

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Fans of Premier League clubs in the United States who are cord cutters or considering getting rid of their cable or satellite service will be glad to know that the legal streaming fuboTV has significantly expanded its list of local over-the-air NBC networks.

fuboTV has added 23 NBC networks, which means that fuboTV’s live streams of NBC networks are available in 70% of US households.

MediaPro to pay 1.05bn euros a year for Serie A TV rights

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Rome (AFP) – The Italian league announced on Monday that the domestic television rights for Serie A games for the period 2018 to 2021 have been sold to Spanish group MediaPro for 1.05 billion euros ($13 billion) a year.

“The offer of 1,050,001,000 euros, is superior to the minimum requested in the invitation to tender,” Lega Serie A said in a statement, with MediaPro’s offer enough for them to beat traditional broadcast partners Sky and Mediaset.

Most-watched soccer games on US TV for January 26-28, 2018

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Tigres’ 3-2 victory over Pachuca on Saturday, January 27 was the only Liga MX to draw more than 1 million viewers last week with Club América’s victory over Atlas drawing the second highest viewership of the week with nearly 800,000 viewers.

The United States Men’s National Team played Bosnia to a 0-0 draw on Sunday, January 28.

Five things we learned from the Serie A weekend

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Milan (AFP) – Napoli stayed top of Serie A with a 2-0 win over Benevento on Sunday, after champions Juventus - just one point behind - piled on the pressure with a seven-goal demolition of Sassuolo.

Here are five things we learned from the 23rd round of Serie A matches:

Higuain finally gets Juventus hat-trick

“Sooner or later, a hat-trick had to come,” said Argentine Gonzalo Higuain after claiming the 11th treble of his career, but first for Juventus.

Kane rescues Spurs in Liverpool thriller, Newcastle held

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London (AFP) – Harry Kane scored a last-gasp penalty equaliser just minutes after missing another spot-kick in Tottenham’s breathtaking 2-2 draw at Liverpool, while Newcastle remain mired in the battle for survival after a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

After falling behind when Mohamed Salah punished a mistake from Eric Dier in the third minute at Anfield, Tottenham hit back to equalise through Kenya midfielder Victor Wanyama’s blistering 20-yard drive with 10 minutes left.

Pochettino hails ‘ballsy’ Kane for 100th Premier League goal

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Liverpool (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino’s hailed Harry Kane’s bravery after he shrugged off missing a penalty to net his 100th Premier League goal from a second spot-kick to salvage Tottenham Hotspur a point from a thrilling 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

Kane had seen his first penalty saved by Loris Karius five minutes from time with the score at 1-1.

Conte wants Chelsea vote of confidence

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London (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has called for public backing from the Stamford Bridge hierarchy to put an end to growing speculation about his future as manager.

The Italian won the Premier League title in 2016-17 in his first year in England but there have been persistent rumours about his job being under threat this season due to the Blues’ indifferent form.

Man Utd Munich air crash haunts McGuinness 60 years on

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Not a day goes by when Wilf McGuinness doesn’t think of the friends and teammates he lost when the Munich air crash ripped the heart out of Manchester United’s “Busby Babes”.

The disaster, 60 years ago this week, killed eight of the young, vibrant side who had won successive league titles and left manager Matt Busby fighting for his life.

De Bruyne says relentless season taking toll on City players

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London (AFP) – Kevin De Bruyne admits he is struggling physically as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City chase glory on four fronts, hampered by a series of injuries to big-name players.

The midfielder has missed only three of City’s 39 games in all competitions and says he was feeling tired during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Burnley.

Five things we learned from the Bundesliga weekend

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Berlin (AFP) – Michy Batshuayi made a blistering start to life at Borussia Dortmund on Friday, firing the team back into the top four with two goals on his debut.

The Belgian wasn’t the only debutant to make an impact, as 20-year-old English forward Ademola Lookman grabbed a late winner in his first game for RB Leipzig.

Neymar effect helps French league agree ‘major’ African tv deal

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Paris (AFP) – The French league (LFP) has reached a “major agreement” with two networks to broadcast Ligue 1 games in Sub-Saharan Africa, it announced Monday, a clear sign of the impact made by the arrival of Neymar.

The deal means French-language network Canal+ and Kwese, in English and Portuguese, will show games in Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and the French League Cup for six seasons from 2018-19 to 2023-24.

Salah the star African performer in Europe

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Paris (AFP) – Mohamed Salah was the star African performer in Europe at the weekend, netting twice to close within one goal of Harry Kane in the English Premier League leading scorer race.

The Egypt sharpshooter and 2017 African Footballer of the Year twice gave Liverpool the lead in a dramatic 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, whose second equaliser came from Kane.

Stars turn out to celebrate Neymar’s birthday

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Paris (AFP) – Former Brazil great Ronaldo turned up alongside a host of Paris Saint-Germain stars and international team-mates to celebrate Neymar’s birthday at a glitzy reception in central Paris on Sunday.

Edinson Cavani and PSG coach Unai Emery were notably among the reported 150 guests in attendance, while Marseille midfielder Luiz Gustavo and Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus also attended the event.

Napoli stay top as Higuain hits hat-trick in seven-goal Juventus rout

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Milan (AFP) – Napoli clung to top spot in Serie A with a 2-0 win over tailenders Benevento on Sunday, after Gonzalo Higuain hit a rapid hat-trick and Sami Khedira two in three minutes as champions Juventus piled on the pressure in the title chase with a 7-0 win over Sassuolo.

Juventus were 4-0 up by half-time after Alex Sandro opened the scoring on nine minutes in Turin with a quick-fire Khedira brace and a Miralem Pjanic goal burying an overwhelmed Sassuolo who are rooted in 15th position.

Lopes caps rousing Monaco comeback win over Lyon

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Paris (AFP) – Rony Lopes struck a dramatic late winner as Monaco recovered from two goals down and overcame the first-half dismissal of Keita Balde to stun Lyon 3-2 in Ligue 1 on Sunday.

Mariano Diaz scored a 12th-minute opener for Lyon at the Stade Louis II as his deflected shot from distance deceived Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, who hobbled off injured after tangling with the net.

Pique keeps Barca unbeaten, Atletico cut gap

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Madrid (AFP) – Gerard Pique salvaged a 1-1 draw for La Liga leaders Barcelona at city rivals Espanyol on Sunday, keeping their bid for an unbeaten campaign on track, while Atletico Madrid edged out Valencia to cut the gap at the top to nine points.

Ernesto Valverde’s men were in danger of falling to their first league defeat of the season when Gerard Moreno nodded the hosts ahead midway through the second half, but centre-back Pique met a Lionel Messi corner in the 82nd minute to snatch a point.

El Kaabi hits ninth goal as Morocco whip Nigeria

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Casablanca (Morocco) (AFP) – Ayoub el Kaabi scored his ninth goal of the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) as Morocco became the first hosts to triumph by thrashing 10-man Nigeria 4-0 Sunday in a Casablanca downpour.

With Nigeria in disarray and the match long over as a contest, the previously little known striker completed his record-extending goal haul by firing into the net from close range.

Five things we learned from the Premier League

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London (AFP) – Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane had a thrilling shoot-out in Liverpool’s dramatic draw with Tottenham.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola made a curious selection decision, while Arsene Wenger got a boost from Arsenal’s new boys.

Here are five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:

Salah edges Kane shootout

Kane had the last word as his 100th Premier League goal from a controversial stoppage-time penalty handed Spurs a share of the spoils at Anfield, but Liverpool’s Salah moved to within just one goal of the England striker in the battle to win the golden boot.

Manchester United fans respond to Mourinho criticism

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London (AFP) – Manchester United fans have responded to Jose Mourinho’s criticism about the subdued atmosphere at Old Trafford.

Mourinho said United’s supporters were “quiet” during Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Huddersfield in the Premier League.

The United manager went on to cite Portsmouth’s Fratton Park as an example of a good atmosphere.

Augsburg deny Frankfurt chance to go second

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Berlin (AFP) – Marco Richter scored his first Bundesliga goal as Augsburg beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 on Sunday, while a late Filip Kostic goal rescued a point for Hamburg in a 1-1 draw with Hanover.

The win saw Augsburg move up to seventh, while Frankfurt missed an opportunity to go second in the Bundesliga and remain sixth, one point adrift of fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund in the race for Champions League qualification.

Conte out of running for Italy job, Di Biagio an option

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Milan (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has ruled himself out as Italy coach but interim boss Luigi Di Biagio could be an option, Italian football federation (FIGC) assistant commissioner Alessandro Costacurta said Sunday.

Former AC Milan star Costacurta has been given the task of finding a replacement for Gian Piero Ventura who was sacked after Italy’s embarrassing World Cup exit.

Football: Kane rescues Spurs in Liverpool thriller, Newcastle held

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London (AFP) – Harry Kane scored a last-gasp penalty equaliser just minutes after missing another spot-kick in Tottenham’s breath-taking 2-2 draw at Liverpool, while Newcastle remain mired in the battle for survival after a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

After falling behind when Mohamed Salah punished a mistake from Eric Dier in the third minute at Anfield, Tottenham hit back to equalise through Kenya midfielder Victor Wanyama’s blistering 20-yard drive with 10 minutes left.

Pique strikes late to keep Barcelona unbeaten

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Madrid (AFP) – Gerard Pique scored a late header to salvage a 1-1 draw for runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona at city rivals Espanyol on Sunday, keeping their bid for an unbeaten campaign on track.

Ernesto Valverde’s men were in danger of falling to their first league defeat of the season when Gerard Moreno nodded the hosts ahead midway through the second half, but centre-back Pique met a Lionel Messi corner in the 82nd minute to snatch a point.

Higuain hits second-half hat-trick as Juventus score seven

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Milan (AFP) – Gonzalo Higuain hit a rapid hat-trick and Sami Khedira two in three minutes as champions Juventus piled the pressure on Napoli in the Serie A title chase with a 7-0 win over Sassuolo on Sunday.

Juventus were 4-0 up by half-time after Alex Sandro opened the scoring on nine minutes in Turin with a quick-fire Khedira brace and a Miralem Pjanic goal burying an overwhelmed Sassuolo.

Palace fight back to save a point and keep Newcastle in trouble

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London (AFP) – Newcastle remain mired in the battle for Premier League survival after Crystal Palace salvaged a 1-1 draw in Sunday’s clash at Selhurst Park.

Rafael Benitez’s side took a first half lead through Mohamed Diame, but a Luka Milivojevic penalty soon after the interval forced Newcastle to settle for a point.

Cengiz gets 10-man Roma back winning

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Milan (AFP) – Turkish winger Cengiz Under scored a first minute goal for Roma, who held on to beat Verona 1-0 and keep track in the race for Europe despite having Lorenzo Pellegrini sent off on Sunday

Roma had not won since December 16 but 20-year-old Under got them off the mark early taking the hosts by surprise to slot in his first Serie A goal.

Deschamps World Cup warning sparked Giroud switch

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Paris (AFP) – Olivier Giroud revealed on Sunday his move from Arsenal to Chelsea was motivated by a World Cup warning from France coach Didier Deschamps.

Having dropped down the pecking order with Arsene Wenger’s Gunners, Giroud knew he would need to be playing more regularly if he is to convince Deschamps to take him to Russia in June.

Friends reunited as Wenger salutes Arsenal new boys

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London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger says the instinctive understanding between old friends Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan can transform Arsenal’s turbulent season.

Aubameyang marked his Arsenal debut with a goal in Saturday’s 5-1 demolition of Everton, while Mkhitaryan provided three assists in his first start for the Gunners.

Moroccan Feddal suffers injury, could miss World Cup

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Madrid (AFP) – Moroccan defender Zouhair Feddal looks set to miss the World Cup after rupturing his achilles tendon in Real Betis’ 2-1 win over Villarreal on Saturday.

Feddal, who only joined Betis from Alaves in the close season, had to be stretchered off in the 52nd minute.

“We will live six months without you but we’re confident that you’ll come back stronger,” Betis wrote on Twitter.

Guardiola defends sub snub amid City injury crisis

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Burnley (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola defended his decision to name only six substitutes for Manchester City’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Burnley, claiming that he did not have enough players to fill his bench despite boasting the Premier League’s most expensive squad.

The City manager visited Turf Moor without seven injured players on Saturday and has recently complained that referees are not offering his players enough protection.

Conte committed to Chelsea despite Italy interest

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London (AFP) – Antonio Conte insists speculation over his job will not derail his attempt to get his struggling Chelsea side back on track in the fight for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The English champions need to bounce back from a humiliating 3-0 home thrashing by Bournemouth on Wednesday, which put further strain on Conte’s relationship with the Chelsea hierarchy, after the Italian described his preparations for the match a ‘disaster’ due to a busy few days of transfer business before the January window closed.

Inter jeered at San Siro after Crotone draw

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Milan (AFP) – Inter Milan were jeered off the pitch at the San Siro after extending their winless run to eight games with a 1-1 draw against minnows Crotone on Saturday.

Brazilian Eder headed in for the hosts after 23 minutes only for Andrea Barberis to level 15 minutes into the second half to leave Inter without a win in two months.

Pazzini late show sees Real Madrid held at Levante

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Madrid (AFP) – Former Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini scored a dramatic late equaliser as Levante held Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw on Saturday, leaving Zinedine Zidane’s men 18 points adrift of La Liga leaders Barcelona.

Sergio Ramos headed the visitors into an 11th-minute lead with his 50th La Liga goal for the club, but Levante equalised before half-time through Emmanuel Boateng.

CHAN surprise side Sudan finish third again

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Marrakech (Morocco) (AFP) – Sudan came third for the second time in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) Saturday by defeating Libya 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 play-off draw in Marrakech.

But while the bronze medals the Sudanese won in 2011 as hosts were expected, those they collected in the central Moroccan city came as a surprise.

Afriyie Acquah scores, sees red as Torino hold Sampdoria

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Milan (AFP) – Ghanaian Afriyie Acquah scored the equaliser only to be sent off as Torino settled for a 1-1 Serie A draw against European rivals Sampdoria on Saturday.

Lucas Torreira put the hosts ahead after 11 minutes in Genoa, but Acquah equalised quarter of an hour later before being sent off for a second bookable offence in the second half.

Q&A with highly-rated Arsenal prospect Emile Smith-Rowe

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a history of giving opportunities to his academy players, and this year has been no different. In fact, the Frenchman has handed first team debuts to seven youngsters so far during the 2017/18 campaign. Teenage sensations such as Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, and Ben Sheaf were all a part of this so called ‘Magnificent Seven.

Aubameyang, Sanchez make themselves at home as Man Utd cut gap on City

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London (AFP) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on his Arsenal debut but was overshadowed by Aaron Ramsey’s hat-trick in a 5-1 Premier League thrashing of Everton, while former Gunner Alexis Sanchez netted his first Manchester United goal on Saturday.

Club record signing Aubameyang immediately rekindled his relationship with former Borussia Dortmund teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, also making his home bow, as Arsenal’s new-look front line shone, but it was Ramsey who provided much of the end product with his first career hat-trick.

Football: Moroccan Feddal suffers injury, could miss World Cup

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Madrid (AFP) – Moroccan defender Zouhair Feddal looks set to miss the World Cup after rupturing his achilles tendon in Real Betis’ 2-1 win over Villarreal on Saturday.

Feddal, who only joined Betis from Alaves in the close season, had to be stretchered off in the 52nd minute.

“We will live six months without you but we’re confident that you’ll come back stronger,” Betis wrote on Twitter.

Aubameyang, Sanchez makes themselves at home as Man Utd cut gap on City

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London (AFP) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on his Arsenal debut but was overshadowed by Aaron Ramsey’s hat-trick in a 5-1 Premier League thrashing of Everton, while former Gunner Alexis Sanchez netted his first Manchester United goal on Saturday.

Club record signing Aubameyang immediately rekindled his relationship with former Borussia Dortmund teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, also making his home bow, as Arsenal’s new-look front line shone, but it was Ramsey who provided much of the end product with his first career hat-trick.

Aubameyang bags debut goal, Ramsey treble as Arsenal crush Everton

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London (AFP) – Arsenal’s record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on his debut and Aaron Ramsey hit a hat-trick in a swaggering 5-1 rout of woeful Everton on Saturday.

Aubameyang vowed to emulate Arsenal legend Thierry Henry after arriving from Borussia Dortmund for £56 million ($79 million, 63 million euros) this week.

Neymar, PSG begin vital month in style

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Paris (AFP) – A superb Neymar free-kick helped Paris Saint-Germain to a 3-0 win at troubled Lille on Saturday as the Ligue 1 leaders began a decisive month as they mean to go on.

The world’s most expensive player netted the second goal at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy after Yuri Berchiche had opened the scoring just prior to half-time.

Mourinho praises goalscorer Sanchez but ticks off quiet fans

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho praised Alexis Sanchez after the former Arsenal man scored his first goal for his new club in a 2-0 win against Huddersfield Town at a “quiet” Old Trafford on Saturday.

Entertainment was in short supply at Old Trafford despite the victory but Mourinho chided the home fans for not supporting his players loudly enough.

Sanchez breaks duck as Man Utd cut gap on City to 13 points

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London (AFP) – Alexis Sanchez scored his first goal for Manchester United as Jose Mourinho’s men took advantage of a rare slip-up from Manchester City to close to within 13 points of the league leaders with a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town.

City were made to pay for an extraordinary miss by Raheem Sterling as they dropped points for just the fourth time in the Premier League this season in a 1-1 draw at Burnley as Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s equaliser eight minutes from time cancelled out Danilo’s spectacular opener for City.

Sanchez opens account as United battle past Huddersfield

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez were on the scoresheet as Manchester United scrapped their way to a 2-0 victory against Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford on Saturday.

After a tough-tackling first half, Lukaku sent United on their way in the 55th minute before Sanchez scored his maiden United goal on his home debut to finish off the determined visitors.

Football: Aubameyang shrugs off bug to make Arsenal bow

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London (AFP) – Arsenal’s club record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was thrown straight into Arsene Wenger’s starting line-up for the visit of Everton on Saturday for his debut after sealing a £56 million ($79 million, 63 million euros) move from Borussia Dortmund.

Aubameyang’s involvement had been thrown into doubt after he missed training on Friday due to illness, but is named alongside former Dortmund teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil in a new-look Arsenal front line.

Sanchez opens Man Utd goalscoring account

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Alexis Sanchez scored his first goal for new side Manchester United on Saturday on his first appearance at Old Trafford, netting the second against Huddersfield.

The Chile international saw his penalty saved in the 68th minute but he scored when the ball came back off goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.

Ribery among scorers as Bayern march on in Bundesliga

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Berlin (AFP) – Franck Ribery netted a rare Bundesliga goal as Bayern Munich eased to an eighth consecutive league victory with a 2-0 win over Mainz on Saturday.

After a sluggish first half-hour, the veteran Frenchman put Bayern ahead on 33 minutes. Picking up a poorly cleared corner at the edge of the box, he released a fizzing half-volley to score only his second league goal of the season.

“We’re not Brad Pitt,” Gattuso warns his Milan team

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Milan (AFP) – Gennaro Gattuso warned AC Milan not to get carried away by recent wins as they prepare to play Udinese coached his former Italy and Milan teammate Massimo Oddo.

“We’re not Brad Pitt now, we’ve got to continue being as ugly as me and my beard, with bags under the eyes,” said Gattuso ahead of Sunday’s Serie A game.

City made to pay for Sterling sitter by Burnley

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Burnley (United Kingdom) (AFP) – An extraordinary miss by Raheem Sterling proved the turning point as Burnley recovered to snatch a draw against runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City 1-1 at Turf Moor on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s team, leading from Danilo’s first half goal, looked well in control but Sterling’s blunder 20 minutes from time offered a lifeline and renewed belief to the home side.

Man United pay respects to Munich victims 60 years on

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United paid hommage to the victims of the 1958 Munich disaster that killed eight of the great United Busby Babes side with a silence before Saturday’s home match against Huddersfield Town.

Before the home game that fell closest to the 60th anniversary of the crash, there was a minute’s pause before kick-off and fans at the game received a commemorative pack containing a limited-edition book telling the story of the disaster.

Football: Scottish Premiership result

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Glasgow (AFP) – Scottish Premiership result on Saturday:

Kilmarnock 1 (Mulumbu 70) Celtic 0

Playing later (1500 GMT)

Aberdeen v Hamilton

Dundee v Ross County

Hearts v St Johnstone

Motherwell v Partick Thistle

Rangers v Hibernian

Pogba dropped as Mourinho reacts to Spurs defeat

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho reacted to a damaging 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur by dropping star midfielder Paul Pogba to the bench for Saturday’s visit of Huddersfield.

Pogba was hauled off by Mourinho after an hour at Wembley in midweek with his place being handed to 21-year-old Scott McTominay.

Valverde cautious as Dembele resumes Barcelona training

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Madrid (AFP) – Ousmane Dembele, who is recovering from injury, has resumed light training with the Barcelona squad, coach Ernesto Valverde said on Saturday adding that he would be “prudent” with the winger.

Dembele has been hampered by injuries since his transfer from Dortmund last summer for 105 million euro ($124 million), plus add-ons.

Football: Sagna targets France return with underdogs Benevento

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Milan (AFP) – France right-back Bacary Sagna said Saturday he was hoping to revive his international career and play in the World Cup as he signed for Serie A underdogs Benevento.

The former Arsenal and Manchester City defender signed a six-month deal with the option for another year with Benevento who sit bottom of the Serie A table in their first ever top-flight campaign.

Where to find Man United vs. Huddersfield on US TV and streaming

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If you’re trying to find out how you can watch Man United vs. Huddersfield in the Premier League, you’ve come to the right place.

After Manchester United’s disappointing performance against Spurs midweek as well as Huddersfield’s poor match against Liverpool, both clubs will want to bounce back this weekend with an improved performance and more points on the board.

Where to find Porto vs. Sporting Braga on US TV and streaming

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If you’re trying to find out how you can watch Porto vs. Sporting Braga, you’ve come to the right place.

With Porto in second place in the Primeira Liga, just one point behind Sporting CP, Porto will be focused on getting all three points against Braga who currently sit in fourth place.

Latin American football seen as rife with violence against women

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Buenos Aires (AFP) – The world of Latin American football is often criticized as one in which violence against women is tolerated, and now there is a new case to further soil its reputation.

Two top players - Colombians Edwin Cardona and Wilmar Barrios - who play for one of Argentina’s storied teams, Boca Juniors, are accused of assaulting and threatening two women.

Football: CAS rejects Sion president’s call to suspend TV pundit attack ban

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Geneva (AFP) – The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Saturday it had rejected a request from Swiss club Sion’s president to suspend his nine-month ban for hitting a television pundit, setting a new hearing in the case.

“CAS rejects the suspension request,” the international sports court said in a statement.

A new ‘Batman’ immediately answers Dortmund’s call for a scorer

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Berlin (AFP) – With Borussia Dortmund having sold their self-styled “Batman” Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang, his replacement Michy Batshuayi, another aspiring “Caped Crusader”, answered their call for goals on his debut.

“I heard the Batman job was vacant at Borussia Dortmund so I decided to take over,” Batshuayi, who already liked to call himself “Batsman”, wrote on Instagram after signing a loan deal until the end of the season from Chelsea on Wednesday.

Morocco’s El Kaabi wants to crown goal rush with CHAN title

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Casablanca (Morocco) (AFP) – Ayoub el Kaabi hopes to complete a meteoric rise from lower league to international football by helping hosts Morocco defeat Nigeria Sunday in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) final.

Few outside the north African kingdom had heard of the 24-year-old striker before the mid January kick-off of the biennial tournament restricted to footballers playing in their country of birth.

Telemundo leverages Super Bowl to promote its World Cup TV coverage

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Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo Deportes will leverage the Super Bowl on Sunday to promote its coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be shown live and exclusively via Telemundo Deportes and Universo in the United States in Spanish.

A 30-second version of the commercial is slated to run during NBC’s Super Bowl LII Pre-Game Show and Universo’s Spanish-language telecast of the Game.

Sterling warns stars are being ‘butchered’

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling has hit out at the quality of officials in England, claiming players could miss the World Cup because they’re being “butchered” by bad challenges.

City star Leroy Sane was sidelined for up to seven weeks after a bad tackle by Cardiff’s Joe Bennett in their 2-0 win in the FA Cup last weekend.

‘Could’ve scored more,’ says Batshuayi after two-goal Dortmund bow

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Berlin (AFP) – Michy Batshuayi scored twice on his Borussia Dortmund debut in Friday’s 3-2 Bundesliga win at bottom side Cologne - just two days after signing on loan from Chelsea.

Head coach Peter Stoeger, who was sacked by Cologne in December, threw the Belgian striker in at the deep end to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Mourinho following Ferguson’s lead to leapfrog Manchester City

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho is using illustrious predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson as inspiration to turn the balance in power from Premier League champions-elect Manchester City to his Manchester United side next season.

For the first time on Friday, Mourinho all but conceded this season’s title to Pep Guardiola’s side after United’s loss at Tottenham in midweek allowed City to open up a 15-point gap at the top.

Mourinho following Ferguson’s lead to leapfrog Manchester City

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho is using illustrious predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson as inspiration to turn the balance in power from Premier League champions-elect Manchester City to his Manchester United side next season.

For the first time on Friday, Mourinho all but conceded this season’s title to Pep Guardiola’s side after United’s loss at Tottenham in midweek allowed City to open up a 15-point gap at the top.

Thauvin hat-trick leads Marseille six-goal romp

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Marseille (AFP) – Florian Thauvin took his season’s league goal tally to 13 with a hat-trick as Marseille enjoyed a 6-3 rout of rock-bottom Metz in French Ligue 1 on Friday.

The win moved Marseille into second place in the table, eight points behind bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain who have a game in hand and face struggling Lille on Saturday.

Batshuayi nets twice on Dortmund debut

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Berlin (AFP) – Michy Batshuayi scored twice on his Borussia Dortmund debut in Friday’s 3-2 Bundesliga win at bottom side Cologne - just two days after signing on loan from Chelsea.

Head coach Peter Stoeger, who was sacked by Cologne in December, threw the Belgian striker in at the deep end to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

West Ham sack director accused of racism

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London (AFP) – West Ham United on Friday sacked their director of player recruitment Tony Henry after investigating allegations that he made racist comments about African players.

“West Ham United have today terminated the contract of Director of Player Recruitment, Tony Henry, with immediate effect following his unacceptable comments that were widely reported in the press,” West Ham said in a written statement.

EPL commentator assignments on NBC Sports, Gameweek 26

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Live Premier League coverage this weekend begins Saturday, February 3, at 7 a.m. ET with Premier League Live on NBCSN, followed by Burnley v. first-place Manchester City on NBCSN and Universo. Saturday at 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN and Universo present coverage of Manchester United v. Huddersfield Town.

Manchester City announce US summer tour as part of International Champions Cup

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Manchester City has announced that the club will be participating in the 2018 International Champions Cup throughout the United States this summer, which will include a high-profile game in New York City.

City, who are currently chasing a first-ever quadruple (Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League), will be competing in the tournament for the second year in a row.

Forget Mourinho’s mind games, Guardiola warns City

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola rubbished Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s concession of the Premier League title to his Manchester City side as too soon and warned against complacency ahead of Saturday’s trip to Burnley.

Mourinho, whose rivalry with Guardiola stretches back to a stormy relationship as bosses of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, told a news conference on Friday that United are now playing for second place after falling 15 points behind City with defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

Dortmund opt for Batshuayi over Akanji in Europe

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Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund have opted to register new striker Michy Batshuayi, but not Swiss centre-back Manuel Akanji, for their Europa League squad, according to the list released on Friday by UEFA.

Both Akanji and Batshuayi could make their Bundesliga debuts on Friday at bottom side Cologne.

Italy interim job offered to Luigi Di Biagio

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Rome (AFP) – Italy’s under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio has been asked to take temporary charge of the senior team until a full-time replacement is found, the Italian federation said on Friday.

Without a coach since their shock World Cup qualifying elimination in November, Italy take on both England and Argentina in friendlies in March.

2018 World Cup tickets on sale

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2018 World Cup tickets tickets are going fast for the tournament this summer that features many of the heavyweights from around the world including Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Colombia and England competing in the month-long tournament from June 14 to July 15.

And of course, there are a ton of other countries participating.

Football: Bayern charm offensive irritates Heynckes

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Berlin (AFP) – Jupp Heynckes said Friday that the charm offensive to persuade him to stay as Bayern Munich coach will be “in vain” as he insists on leaving when the season finishes.

The 72-year-old has turned Bayern’s fortunes around, from trailing in the Bundesliga by five points when he took over in October, to their current 16-point lead.

No diet needed for Van Dijk, insists Klopp

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London (AFP) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp laughed off suggestions from former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher that club-record signing Virgil van Dijk needs to slim down to recover his top form.

Carragher told Sky Sports’ “The Debate” programme that the world’s most expensive defender “needs to lose a bit of weight”.

Bayern charm offensive irritates Heynckes

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Berlin (AFP) – Jupp Heynckes said Friday that the charm offensive to persuade him to stay as Bayern Munich coach will be “in vain” as he insists on leaving when the season finishes.

The 72-year-old has turned Bayern’s fortunes around, from trailing in the Bundesliga by five points when he took over in October, to their current 16-point lead.

‘Militia coordinator’ elected to African football’s executive board

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Casablanca (Morocco) (AFP) – A controversial former minister who coordinates armed groups in conflict-hit Central African Republic was on Friday elected to the governing board of Africa’s top footballing body.

Patrice Edouard Ngaissona, who is Central Africa’s football chief, was elected following a vote in Casablanca among delegates at the Confederation of African Football’s general assembly.

Munich air crash left mark on Mourinho

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – The Munich air disaster that destroyed the famed “Busby Babes” still resonates for present Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho 60 years after the tragedy, he said Friday.

The crash killed eight of the United team and three backroom staff - 23 people in all died - who had won successive league titles and left manager Matt Busby so badly injured he was given the last rites twice.

Rebellious Mahrez to miss Swansea clash

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London (AFP) – Riyad Mahrez will not be included in Leicester City boss Claude Puel’s squad for the visit of Swansea City as the Algerian’s standoff with the Foxes for their refusal to entertain a deadline day bid from Manchester City rumbles on.

Mahrez has not trained since City withdrew their interest on Wednesday’s due to Leicester’s demands.

Football: Rebellious Mahrez to miss Swansea clash

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London (AFP) – Riyad Mahrez will not be included in Leicester City boss Claude Puel’s squad for the visit of Swansea City as the Algerian’s standoff with the Foxes for their refusal to entertain a deadline day bid from Manchester City rumbles on.

Mahrez has not trained since City’s withdrew their interest on Wednesday’s due to Leicester’s demands.

Football: Man Utd fighting to be second best – Mourinho

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho effectively conceded the Premier League title to Manchester City on Friday, admitting that his Manchester United side are competing to be “first of the last” in the table.

United lost in midweek at Tottenham, allowing their local rivals to open up a commanding 15-point lead, with just 13 games remaining.

Blatter says ‘new facts’ encourage him to fight ban

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Paris (AFP) – Sepp Blatter indicated Thursday that he plans to take on FIFA, the global football body he used to run but which has now banned him.

“As new facts have appeared it’s time to question the decision of the Fifa Ethics-Committee – my suspension of 6 years!” Blatter tweeted, adding hashtags for FIFA, for the Court of Arbitration in Sport, for the World Cup and for his successor as FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.

Icardi doubt as Inter play Serie A catch up

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Milan (AFP) – Captain Mauro Icardi is in doubt as Inter Milan look to get their faltering Serie A challenge back on track Saturday at home against Crotone.

Inter’s top scorer Icardi - with 18 goals in 22 Serie A games - suffered a strain to the adductor muscles in his right thigh.

Manchester United seek a reaction on Sanchez’s home bow

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Alexis Sanchez is poised to make his home debut as Manchester United aim to bounce back from a damaging defeat at Tottenham Hotspur when struggling Huddersfield Town visit Old Trafford on Saturday.

United fell 15 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City with a 2-0 defeat at Spurs on Wednesday that also saw the gap between United in second and Tottenham in fifth cut to just five points in the race for Champions League qualification.

Aubameyang can cure Arsenal’s need for speed

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London (AFP) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has set his sights on emulating Thierry Henry as Arsenal’s club record signing prepares to make his debut against Everton on Saturday.

Aubameyang joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in a £56 million ($79 million, 63 million euros) switch on Wednesday and is in line for his first appearance at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.

Real Madrid begin crunch month after passing on January transfers

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Madrid (AFP) – Zinedine Zidane, whose Real Madrid side go to Levante this weekend, will soon find out if he was right to refuse to add to his squad in the January transfer window.

There were no new arrivals at the Santiago Bernabeu, with a move for the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga the most notable transfer that didn’t happen in La Liga.

‘Just the beginning’ for Neymar as PSG hit key run

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Paris (AFP) – Neymar insists his Paris Saint-Germain career is just getting started as the runaway French league leaders prepare for a crucial stretch of matches that will likely define their season.

PSG go to struggling Lille on Saturday, exactly six months on from Neymar’s world-record transfer from Barcelona, with the Brazilian superstar bidding to add to his overall haul of 26 goals from 24 matches.

Lewandowski eyes more accolades with Aubameyang gone

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Berlin (AFP) – With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now at Arsenal, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski is poised to earn more goal-scoring accolades in Germany.

Aubameyang was the Bundesliga’s top-scorer last season with 31 goals - one more than Lewandowski - but Arsenal paid Borussia Dortmund a club-record £56 million ($79.

Bernardo Silva ready to step into injured Sane’s boots

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Bernardo Silva is hoping to kickstart his Manchester City career by capitalising on the creative void left by Leroy Sane’s absence over the next couple of months.

Germany international Sane faces up to seven weeks on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage picked up in City’s FA Cup victory over Cardiff last weekend.

Some Miami residents call foul over Beckham football venture

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Miami (AFP) – David Beckham has finally achieved his goal of bringing Major League Soccer to Miami, but the prospect of a stadium without parking that drives up housing costs in a low-income neighborhood is no hit with residents.

The former England captain and glitzy star of storied Champions League teams was formally awarded an MLS franchise on Monday, but key details remain up in the air, such as its name and logo and when it will debut.

Family and football the driving forces for Pochettino

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London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino tries to switch off from football and read a book or watch a film but the Tottenham Hotspur manager has confessed it is a losing battle as the ‘Beautiful Game’ is his life.

The 45-year-old Argentinian - whose much-praised stewardship of Spurs with his policy of blooding young players and their free-flowing football has attracted apparent interest from Real Madrid - told the BBC it is just as well that his family are also enamoured by football.

Football: Ill Aubameyang a doubt for Arsenal debut

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London (AFP) – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may be forced to wait to hand club record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his debut after the Gabon striker missed training on Friday due to illness.

Aubameyang joined the Gunners from Borussia Dortmund in a £56 million ($79 million, 63 million euros) switch on Wednesday, but may be forced to sit out Saturday’s visit of Everton.

Podolski named captain for Japan’s Vissel Kobe

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Tokyo (AFP) – German World Cup winner Lukas Podolski has been named captain of Japan’s Vissel Kobe football club for the coming season, the team announced Friday.

The 32-year-old joined the J-League club in Kobe last year after playing for Turkey’s Galatasaray since 2015.

“It’s a heavy responsibility to be appointed captain by any team, in any country,” Podolski said in German, according to a club spokesman.

Football: Rodgers backs ‘top-class’ Brown after Levein jibe

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London (AFP) – Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has hit back at claims from Hearts boss Craig Levein that players need more protection from Hoops captain Scott Brown.

Levein expressed his annoyance about a collarbone injury suffered by 16-year-old midfielder Harry Cochrane following an aerial challenge with Brown during Hearts’ 3-1 defeat by Celtic on Tuesday.

Arsenal squad has improved with transfer dealings

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Arsenal entered the summer of 2017 with plenty of question marks. Could they entice top players without the Champions League? Will they start to overhaul the roster? Will their two superstar players sign new contracts? Coming off of finishing outside of the top four for the first time since manager Arsene Wenger arrived in north London, the Gunners were in desperate need of some major moves heading into the 2017/18 season.

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Silva frustrated over rough treatment

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva have revealed the frustration in the squad at being targeted by overly aggressive tackles in recent matches.

City’s players are nursing their bumps and bruises ahead of Saturday’s trip to Burnley after suffering from the gruelling physical approach of opposition sides.

Top 5 must-see soccer games on US TV this weekend

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The race for second place in a number of European leagues is currently more exciting than the battle for the top. So it’s no surprise this week’s feature includes a number of tussles involving those sides.

Indeed, in Germany, Spain, France and England there are four matches involving eight sides who will be hopeful of being the best of the rest.

French referee who kicked player banned for three months

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Paris (AFP) – The French referee who kicked out at a player during a Ligue 1 game was Thursday handed a three-month ban by disciplinary chiefs with a further three months suspended.

Tony Chapron, 45, kicked Diego Carlos of Nantes towards the end of the match against Paris Saint-Germain on January 14 after being knocked over when the pair collided.

Suarez gives Barcelona edge in Copa del Rey semi-finals

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Madrid (AFP) – Luis Suarez headed in the only goal as defending champions Barcelona edged Valencia 1-0 in their Copa del Rey semi-final first leg at a half-full Camp Nou on Thursday.

Barcelona, the record 29-time winners of the tournament, are attempting to become the first team to lift the cup four years in a row since Athletic Bilbao in the 1930s.

Conte eager to return to Italy – FIGC commissioner

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Rome (AFP) – Chelesa manager Antonio Conte is eager to return to Italy and could fill the vacant position as national coach, newly-appointed Italian FA commissioner Roberto Fabbricini said Thursday.

Conte left the job for Chelsea after Euro 2016, but replacement Gian Piero Ventura was sacked after Italy lost to Sweden in the World Cup play-off last November.

Italian Olympic committee steps in to run crisis-ridden FA

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Rome (AFP) – Italy’s Olympic Committee (CONI) on Thursday stepped in to appoint a team including former AC Milan star Alessandro “Billy” Costacurta to oversee the crisis-ridden Italian football federation (FIGC).

CONI secretary general Roberto Fabbricini was appointed commissioner and will be assisted by deputies ex-Italy defender Costacurta and legal expert Angelo Clarizia.

MLS Miami Hype Machine: World Soccer Talk Podcast

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World Soccer Talk is the weekly soccer podcast on the topic of watching soccer on TV, online and apps.

In the NEW episode, number 59, Kartik Krishnaiyer and Christopher Harris cover a range of topics including:

• A discussion about why the Miami MLS expansion team will have big implications for the future of the league,

• Which MLS club has signed a deal with YouTube TV,

• More details about the new ESPN Plus streaming service,

• Our thoughts about the trials and tribulations of VAR from the last week,

• And of course we have feedback and questions from you in the Listener Mailbag section.

For the US Men’s National Team, the path to success starts in Europe

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For those who watched the World Cup qualifiers, the American players often looked tentative, with long stretches of idleness and indecision. Maybe the idea of pulling on the USMNT jersey was too much for some.

That the USMNT lost a critical game to Trinidad & Tobago, a country the size of Dallas, exposed the enormous cracks in the United States soccer foundation.

Ozil commits to three-year Arsenal deal

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London (AFP) – German playmaker Mesut Ozil ended speculation over his future at Arsenal by agreeing a new three-year deal with the Premier League giants on Thursday.

“3 more years with @Arsenal! It’s been one of the most important decisions of my footballing career and that’s why I had to think hard and talk with everyone who’s important to me,” Ozil, 29, posted on his Instagram account.

Scottish FA chief executive Regan quits

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London (AFP) – Scottish Football Association (SFA) chief executive Stewart Regan stepped down on Thursday following criticism over the delay in finding a new Scotland manager.

Last week Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill turned down an offer to take charge, instead agreeing a new deal to remain in his current role until 2024.

Italy hits five-year low in January football transfer market

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Milan (AFP) – Italy’s Serie A hit a five-year low for spending during a frugal January transfer window which closed Wednesday night with ten-times less cash splashed than in the English Premier League.

Muted big-name transfers such as Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore to Inter Milan from Paris Saint-Germain never materialised with Italian clubs spending an estimated 50 million euros ($62 million)– less than the English second tier.

Italian Olympic committee step in to run oversee crisis-ridden FA

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Rome (AFP) – Italy’s Olympic Committee (CONI) on Thursday appointed Roberto Fabbricini as commissioner to oversee the crisis-ridden Italian football federation (FIGC).

CONI secretary general Fabbricini will be assisted by former AC Milan star Alessandro “Billy” Costacurta and legal expert Angelo Clarizia.

Senegal’s Babacar joins Sassuolo to chase World Cup dream

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Milan (AFP) – Senegalese striker Khouma Babacar said on Thursday that he had taken the painful decision to leave Fiorentina after 11 years to pursue his dream of playing for Senegal in the World Cup.

Babacar completed a loan move from Fiorentina, a team he joined as a 13-year-old in 2008, to Serie A rivals Sassuolo with an obligation to buy at the end of the season.

West Ham suspend head of recruitment over racism allegations

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London (AFP) – West Ham on Thursday suspended director of recruitment Tony Henry while the Premier League club investigates allegations that he made racist remarks about African players.

According to the Daily Mail newspaper, Henry said the Hammers wanted to limit the number of African players because “they have a bad attitude” and “cause mayhem” when they are not in the team.

Dortmund boss relieved Aubmeyang saga is over

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Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Stoeger says now that the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang transfer saga is finally over his side can refocus on their football as they prepare to face resurgent Cologne on Friday.

“It became a topic behind which no one could hide,” Stoeger explained.

Giroud relishing Champions League challenge at Chelsea

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London (AFP) – Olivier Giroud pinpointed a return to Champions League football as a key factor in his decision to join Chelsea from Arsenal on the final day of the January transfer window.

Giroud was a helpless spectator as Chelsea crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth on Wednesday to harm their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Premier League smashes January transfer window record

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London (AFP) – Premier League clubs spent a record £430 million in the January transfer window as top sides scrambled to boost their squads in the race to secure lucrative Champions League spots, according to analysis by Deloitte.

The sum spent was nearly double the previous record of £225 million, with deadline day alone, January 31, seeing clubs complete deals totalling £150 million ($214 million, 172 million euros), also a new record for the winter window.

Football: Cahill takes tough route to World Cup

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Sydney (AFP) – Veteran Tim Cahill says he left Australia to rejoin Millwall to ensure he gets to a fourth World Cup, and is excited by the appointment of Bert van Marwijk to lead the national team.

The 38-year-old quit Melbourne City in December after rarely featuring in the starting line-up since joining the A-League side in 2016, despite playing a key role in helping Australia qualify for Russia 2018.

Conte under pressure as Bournemouth shock Chelsea

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London (AFP) – Antonio Conte had no doubt the pressure on his position would intensify after his Chelsea side’s stunning 3-0 defeat by Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The Blues head coach insists his Chelsea team, the reigning Premier League champions, are over-achieving this season –- but claims he is “relaxed” if members of the club’s hierarchy view things differently.

Puel vows to make Mahrez smile after Man City move collapses

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London (AFP) – Leicester manager Claude Puel intends to do all he can to ensure that Riyad Mahrez comes back “with a smile” after the Algeria playmaker saw a potential move to runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City fall through on Wednesday’s transfer deadline day.

With the Foxes desperate not to lose one of the stars of their shock 2015/16 Premier League title success, there were reports in the British press that Manchester City baulked at Leicester’s £96 million ($136 million, 110 million euro) valuation of Mahrez and walked away without submitting a bid.

EPL splashes cash as Arsenal sign Aubameyang and Giroud makes Chelsea switch

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London (AFP) – England’s Premier League clubs have spent more money than ever in a January transfer window, with initial estimates suggesting they had reached the £450 million ($639 million, 514 million euros) mark come deadline day.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund for a club-record fee of around £56 million on Wednesday’s concluding day of business, with Olivier Giroud moving to Chelsea as part of a complicated transfer jigsaw.

Mourinho slams his flops as quick-fire Spurs rock United

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London (AFP) – Jose Mourinho accused his Manchester United stars of failing to follow instructions after Christian Eriksen scored just 11 seconds into Tottenham’s 2-0 win at Wembley.

United boss Mourinho was furious with his side’s sloppy defending as they made a host of mistakes that allowed Eriksen to blast Tottenham ahead with the joint second fastest goal in Premier League history.

Guardiola repeats call for player protection as City forge ahead

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Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola urged officials to better protect his star players after a 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday.

The result left his side with a commanding 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League but Guardiola was unhappy with a series of challenges, the worst of which saw Matt Phillips booked for a high-flying lunge at young City substitute Brahim Diaz.

New Socceroos coach van Marwijk aims for World Cup second round

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Sydney (AFP) – New Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk said on Thursday he has set his sights on taking Australia beyond the group stages of the World Cup, but warned it “will not be easy”.

The Dutchman was appointed last week after the sudden departure of Ange Postecoglou in November, with Football Federation Australia (FFA) citing his prior experience, including taking the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, as a key deciding factor.