Maurizio Sarri has downplayed Pep Guardiola’s suggestion that Chelsea are still in the Premier League title race as he prepares his team to face leaders Manchester City on Sunday.
The 60-year-old Italian said his side were “lucky” to beat City in December when they ended the champions’ 21-match unbeaten run with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
But Sarri said his fourth-placed team are not in the title picture, even though Guardiola said Tottenham, Chelsea or even fifth-placed Manchester United could not be ruled out.
City lead the table on goal difference from Liverpool, with both sides 12 points clear of Chelsea.
“I think we will be able to fight for the top four this season. No more, I think,” Sarri said at his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium.
“We can win something of course, but in the Premier League, there is a fight between Liverpool and Man City. At the moment Man City is the best team in Europe.”
Sarri was also asked again about Eden Hazard, saying he wanted Belgium forward to be “happy” wherever his future lies as speculation continues to swirl over a potential move.
Hazard this week admitted to having made a decision on his future, with his Chelsea contract expiring in June 2020 and amid repeated links with a move to Real Madrid.
“I speak every day with Eden, but I speak with Eden about his position on the pitch,” said Sarri. “I will be really very happy with him if he will want to stay because in my opinion he’s the best in Europe.
“But it’s up to him, I think. I want to see him happy. And so, he has to decide.”
Sarri has previously suggested he does not expect Hazard’s decision to be known until the end of the season.
The Chelsea boss and Guardiola share a mutual admiration for their similar playing styles, but Sarri said they tend to pick former AC Milan boss Arrigo Sacchi’s brains when they meet socially rather than sharing their own secrets.
“We have a good relationship. Very, very good,” Sarri said. “Usually during the summer, we have dinner together. I hope he speaks very well about me as a coach, as a friend.
“Usually we learn from Arrigo Sacchi. Because Arrigo is always with us. So it’s very interesting to speak to Arrigo.”
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona release strong squad against Valencia
Barcelona have released a strong squad to tackle Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday night in Spain.
Barcelona coach, Ernesto Valverde, on Friday released a list of 25 players through the club’s official Twitter page.
Barça head to the game after playing a 2-2 draw with Eibar in their last fixture in the La Liga.
Full list of Barcelona’s squad against Valencia:
Ter Stegen, Semedo, Pique, Rakitic, Sergio, Coutinho, Arthur, Suarez, Messi, Dembele, Rafinha, Cillessen, Malcom, Lenglet, Murillo, Jordi Alba, Prince, Roberto, Alena, Vida, Umtiti, Vermaelen, Abel Ruiz, Inaki Pena and Carles Perez.
The kick-off time for the match is 8pm.
Chelsea star Eden Hazard joins two legends in special club of players to ever achieve this milestone
Eden Hazard may not have scored a goal or even played all 90 minutes for Chelsea on Sunday but the Belgium international still managed to achieve a special milestone in the 2-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage. The attacking midfielder, whose future remains a big doubt, joined a select club of Blues players when he set up midfielder Jorginho for the decisive goal.
With that assist for Jorginho’s rare goal which came in the 30th minute, Hazard became only the third player in the club’s history to score and assist 50 Premier League goals. It means the Belgian – who has also found the back of the net on 81 occasions for the Blues – has had a hand in 131 goals in the Premier League since he joined from Vincent Enyeama’s former French side LOSC Lille in 2012. The 28-year-old has already reached double figures for goals in a single season for the fifth time at Chelsea, needing only four more to equal his personal best of 16 goals in the league, which he achieved in the 2016-17 campaign.
Sunday’s feat means that Hazard joins a select club in Blues history, with Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba the only other men to have managed such an achievement with the club. Hazard has enjoyed a highly successful career since making the move to Stamford Bridge, with five major honours to his name, including two Premier League titles. He has also picked up winners’ medals for the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup (then known as the Capital One Cup) and the Europa League.
A firm favourite on the terraces, he was named Chelsea’s Player of the Year in three of the seasons since his arrival, as well as picking up the FWA Footballer of the Year in 2014-15. Hazard also currently sits 10th on the all-time list of goalscorers at the club, with George Hilsdon’s tally of 108 well within his sites. Chelsea’s victory over Fulham will have helped to ease the pressure on Maurizio Sarri in the hotseat following a generally uninspired start to 2019 that saw them slip to heavy defeats against Bournemouth and Manchester City. They also lost the Carabao Cup final on penalties to Pep Guardiola’s side in a game overshadowed by a controversy featuring Blues keeper Kepa, with an FA Cup exit to Manchester United also eliminating any hopes of domestic silverware this season.
Nigeria Referees Association suspends 18 referees
The Nigeria Referees Association, NRA, has suspended 18 referees from officiating matches in the ongoing 2019 Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL.
Although the reasons for the suspension were not made available, it was gathered that it was not unconnected with unprofessional conducts in the discharge of their duties.
The NRA further reiterated its determination to enthrone professionalism and fair officiating in the NPFL while applying global/FIFA officiating rules at all times.
Part of the statement disclosing the suspension of the referees reads “the NRA while recalling that it has recommended for punishment referees found wanting in the course of discharging their duties as about 18 of them in the Premier League list have so far been relaxed for further appointments pending the final determination of their cases, in the NPFL that is in Week 9, the referees’ body strongly adopts a very serious zero tolerance to corruption and bribe taking in the system and can be proud to state that in the past four years, there has never been an established case of bribe taking raised against Nigeria referees both at home and international levels.
“The NRA wishes to state that it is deeply committed to the growth of Nigeria football as it has charged referees to operate within the confines of the LMC laws and regulations by adhering strictly to accommodation and feeding procedures allowed.
Referees shall neither be cowed nor distracted by certain unorthodox antics employed by the real enemies of Nigerian football to easily have their way in the system.”
Report over the week has alleged NPFL match officials returned N1 million bribe they collected to influence Yobe Desert’s match last week
Manchester United trashed 2-0 at Old Trafford by Paris St Germain
Manchester United behave suffered their first defeat since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over as manager in December. The defeat was suffered at the hands of Paris St Germain who ran wild against them at Old Trafford.
The game saw the sending off of midfielder Paul Pogba who booked a second yellow card.
Goals from Kimbempe and Mbappe which came from brilliant Angel Di Maria assists saw the visitors going home with the much needed advantage.
The goals would have been more than 2 save for some fine goalkeeping by David De Gea.
Manchester United are now left with a huge task to overcome when they travel to Paris for the second leg.
Hazard could renew his contract at the club
Borussia Monchenglabach director of Sport Max Eberl has revealed Thorgan Hazard could still renew his contract at the club despite speculations linking him away from the club. The midfielder joined the German club from Chelsea in July 2015, signing a five-year contract with a transfer fee that was reported to be €8 million (£5.9m).
Hazard has scored nine goals in 20 Bundesliga appearances for the club this season and has been a persistent source of transfer rumours throughout his stay. Still, Eberl says there is a chance they can keep hold of the 25-year-old star, although he admits it would be difficult. “He told us he wants to see where we play in the end,” Eberl said according to Transfermarkt.
“Yes, he is interesting for other clubs. Nevertheless, we have a chance to extend with him if we succeed on the field. But if Thorgan still says he wants to take the next step, then it must be next summer. “I can not do without this money. Of course we will have to be creative if we want to extend it with him. But there are situations right now, you have no chance.” Monchengladbach are no strangers to selling off players, having sold Jan Vestergaard to Southampton in 2018 to finance the sale of Anthony Plea.
Eberl called the signing of Plea “utopian” and the sale of Vestergaard a bit of good business for the club. “When Southampton got around to Vestergaard, it was an opportunity for us to make some money,” Eberl said. “When the money was in the box, it was clear that we wanted to attack our benchmark.”
The next sale, if not Hazard, may very well be Matthias Ginter, who has supposedly attracted interest from Arsenal and Tottenham. “Nice. That means that he plays a good season,” said Eberl. “First of all, I have to have an offer. For me, it only becomes interesting when a player comes to me. Then I have to deal with it. For Ginter, there was no request.”
Sam Allardyce arrives at Everton for Wayne Rooney’s Hammer-blow hat-trick
Sam Allardyce saw Wayne Rooney cap his first Premier League hat-trick in six years with a wonder strike as Everton beat fellow strugglers West Ham United 4-0 on Wednesday after the Merseysiders announced he was finalising terms to become their new manager.
Allardyce’s imminent appointment will end Everton’s long hunt for a successor to Dutch boss Ronald Koeman, who was sacked last month.
Veteran English manager Allardyce arrived at Goodison Park in the company of Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and the pair saw Rooney, in his second spell with his hometown club, score twice inside the opening half-hour.
But it was his 66th-minute effort that will be talked about for years to come.
From fully 60 yards out, Rooney struck the ball over the head of his former England team-mate Joe Hart after the Hammers goalkeeper had rushed out of his box to boot the ball into Everton’s half.
Victory moved Everton up into 13th place in the table and go left them five points clear of the relegation zone.
West Ham, managed by former Everton boss David Moyes, remained in the bottom three and two points shy of safety.
Everton went ahead in the 18th minute after Hart brought down Dominic Calvert-Lewin to concede a penalty.
Hart saved Rooney’s spot-kick only for the experienced forward to head home the rebound.
And 10 minutes later Everton were 2-0 up when Rooney, given his league debut by Moyes as a 16-year-old in 2002, shot home from 12 yards out following a cross from Tom Davies.
At 2-0 down the Hammers still had a chance to force their way back into the match, but Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved a penalty from Manuel Lanzini after Ashley Williams hacked down Diafra Sakho.
Then came Rooney’s extraordinary hat-trick goal before Williams headed in Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner 12 minutes from time.
If this was indeed David Unsworth’s last a match as Everton caretaker boss, it was a fine way for the club’s former Under-23s manager to bow out.
Unsworth had been in temporary charge since Koeman was sacked on October 23 and he had made clear his desire to take on the job permanently.
But Wednesday’s victory was just Everton’s second in eight matches under Unsworth, during which time they’ve lost five and conceded 20 goals.
An Everton statement released earlier Wednesday announced Allardyce’s upcoming appointment.
“Sam Allardyce will be at USM Finch Farm (Everton’s training ground) this afternoon to finalise terms on becoming the new manager of Everton Football Club,” it read.
The Daily Mail reported Allardyce had signed an 18-month deal and quoted Moshiri saying: “We need a strong leader. He gives us that.”
Allardyce, 63, had ruled himself out of the running earlier this month, saying he did not feel Everton were convinced he was the right man.
But after the Liverpool club’s pursuit of Watford head coach Marco Silva proved fruitless, Everton returned to Allardyce.
This will be the 10th English club managerial position taken up by Allardyce, who established his reputation at Bolton Wanderers and guided Crystal Palace to safety last season.
When he left Selhurst Park in May, Allardyce said he didn’t want another management job, but the chance to turn around Everton’s fortunes appears to have lured him back.
Everton invested heavily following last season’s impressive seventh-place finish, but results have fallen well below pre-season expectations.
Allardyce has previously led Palace and Sunderland to safety from precarious situations.
His achievements at the Stadium of Light earned him his dream job with England, but that turned sour after only one match, with Allardyce stepping down in September 2016 following a newspaper sting.
Minister of Sports endorses Governor Wike for Second Term
Minister of Sports , Hon. Solomon Dalung has endorsed the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike for a second term, declaring that the outstanding achievements of the governor have earned him the approval rating.
Solomon Dalung stated that the Rivers State Governor has lived up to the expectations of his people, hence the need to be rewarded with an additional term in office.
Dalung spoke at the Diete Spiff Civic Centre, Port Harcourt on Monday during the opening ceremony for the Governor Nyesom Wike National Wrestling Championship organised by the Nigerian Wrestling Federation .
He said that the 2019 General Elections would be a time for all political leaders to give an account of stewardship, pointing out that only performing leaders like Governor Wike would be successful at the polls.
He said: “I know you people will re-elect Governor Wike because of his good works in Rivers State.In 2019, anyone who believes in unnecessary talks should be checked with the question, the mandate we gave you, what did you do with it”.
Commenting on the Governor Nyesom Wike National Wrestling Championship, Dalung said that the Rivers State Governor has made history as the first governor to sponsor the National Wrestling Championship.
“This National Wrestling Championship is setting an agenda for Nigeria to compete in the continental championship”, he said.
Declaring the Governor Wike National Wrestling Championship open, Governor Wike assured the Wrestling community that the Rivers State Government will also sponsor the 2018 event.
He said that Rivers State is a destination of choice for events, sports and conferemces because his administration has invested in peace and security.
He said: “If Rivers State is not peaceful, people will not be trooping to the state everyday. The propaganda of the enemies of the state has failed”.
Governor Wike assured the athletes of their safety, saying that they will not regret coming to the state.
“We will continue to live up to the expectations of the people of Rivers State. We will never disappoint them”.
President of the Nigerian Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali stated that the championship is a milestone in the development of the game.
Highpoint of the opening ceremony was the unveiling of the Logo/Mascot for the 2018 African Wrestling Championship.
Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor, Electronic Media.
27th November, 2017.
CAF Awards: Gernot Rohr, Asisat Oshoala nominated for top awards
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr and Super Falcons star Asisat Oshoala have been nominated for the CAF Coach of the Year and Women’s Player of the Year, respectively.
Rohr, 64, guided Nigeria to a sixth World Cup after they went unbeaten in a tough qualifying group that had Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia.
He is up against the likes of Hector Cuper, who also qualified Egypt to next year’s World Cup after they were beaten in the AFCON 2017 final by Cameroon, and Hugo Broos, who led the Indomitable Lions to AFCON glory in Gabon.
China-based Oshoala has been nominated for a third CAF Women’s Player of the Year.
She won the Chinese Super League and emerged top scorer.
The Nigeria U20 women’s team, the Falconets, have also been nominated for the Women’s National Team of the Year.
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