Barcelona Stays Unbeaten With Rout Of Villarreal, Sevilla Defeat Real Madrid

Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona thrashed Villarreal 5-1 in Wednesday’s La Liga clash at the Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho also scored for Barcelona, which has already won the title but are still trying to become the first team to go through the entire season unbeaten in the league’s current format.

With two matches left in the La Liga, Barcelona reached 90 points, 15 more than second-place Atletico.

Valverde’s side will play their final two La Liga games against Levante and Real Sociedad.

Meanwhile, a depleted Real Madrid, without their star player, Cristiano Ronaldo and many other regular first team starters, lost 3-2 at Sevilla to remain in third place in the La Liga table behind Atletico Madrid.

It was an eventful night for captain, Sergio Ramos, who missed a penalty, converted a penalty and scored an own-goal.

Wissam Ben Yedder and Miguel Layun put Sevilla ahead in the first half, and the hosts added to the lead with an own-goal by Ramos while he tried to block a cross.

Ramos, a former Sevilla player who is often jeered by the crowd when he plays in Seville, missed his first penalty attempt by sending the ball onto the crossbar early in the second half.

The defender converted from the spot in the final minute of stoppage time, not long after Borja Mayoral scored Madrid’s first goal in the 87th.

Agali Dumps Delta Force

Victor Agali has left  National League  club  Delta Force after two weeks into the new league season.

Former Nigeria striker  joined Delta Force before the start of this season.

The Asaba club lost their opening game of the season 4-2 away to UNICEM Rovers in Calabar before playing a goalless draw at home with Osun United.

Chairman of the club Moses Etu told our correspondent on the telephone  on Wednesday that Agali was not sacked by the club rather he left after the management agreed with him to leave.

“Agali is no more with Delta Force. But he was not sacked by the management. We had some irreconcilable differences, so we resorted to a mutual agreement between both parties to go our separate ways,” he said.

“We have one point from two matches and we know there is no room for excuses. He did his best and we wish him the best in the future.”

Etu said Agali has been replaced by former Iwuanyawu Nationale goalkeeper Wahab Haruna. He will lead the team in his first match against Group B 2 leaders Remo Stars in Sagamu.

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Tension At Sunshine As Govt Moves To Fire Coach, Players

The   Ondo State Football Agency has begun the process of overhauling  struggling Premier League club Sunshine Stars  ahead the second stanza of the 2018/2019 season, our correspondent has learnt.

Sunshine,  who managed to escape relegation at the end of last season, have been beset with financial crisis  since  last  season, with some of the players and ex-players allegedly  owed salaries and match allowances by the Akure club.

The Ondo State Government, who owns the outfit, fired Duke Udi, who  helped rescued the team from relegation, in March  and replaced him with former manager of the side Henry Abiodun on a caretaker basis.

Sunshine are currently 19th in the 20-team  Premier League, and the state government is said to be unhappy with the development, hence it has decided to act.

Our correspondent learnt  that ODSFA,  who is  in charge of the  club,  is planning a  massive overhaul of  the coaching and playing staff  in a bid to save the team from relegation.

It was learnt that  Abiodun  would be redeployed to the technical department of the club to pave the way for “a more experienced coach”.

Sources close to the club told our correspondent that  some of the players would be sent packing.

It was learnt that  the agency has been discussing with some coaches   as they move to save the club.

“There is a plan to hire a new coach and the current coach would be redeployed to the technical department while some new players have arrived to be signed,  but  the club have  to pay N10m to the LMC (League Management Company)  before the new players can be used,” a source told our correspondent on Wednesday.

The source added that the  club must pay  the LMC  the money  before Friday.

However, the Media Officer of the Sunshine  Chris Okunnuwa denied  Abiodun would be fired.

He  confirmed the move to sign new players, noting that the financial crisis in the club is  about to be resolved.

Okunnuwa said, “I am not aware of any coach  to be sacked or redeployed.  Coach Abiodun is still in charge of the team as I speak with you now.

“On the issue of the money, that is the only running issue we have because some of our former players and workers took us to the LMC over the issue of money we owe them.

“You know we have been battling with those issue since the beginning of the season and it has been affecting us seriously.  But now we are on top of it, it is no more a major issue again.”

Sources said the development has allegedly sparked panic in the club as  the coaches  and some of the players worry are about their futures.

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NPA Revives NIPOSA Games

The  2018  Nigerian Ports Sports Association Games have been scheduled  to begin at  the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar on Wednesday.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the competition   sponsored by the Nigerian Ports Authority  held last in 2001.

NIPOSA  Organising Committee chairman  Ugo Madubuike said in a statement by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications Abdullahi Goje on Tuesday awards would be given during the Games.

The awards include  Outstanding Patrons/Matrons, Active Heroes of Past NIPOSA Games,  Stakeholders of 2018 Games and Participatory Award of 2018 NIPOSA Games.

Among the awardees are the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Usman, and two former Managing Directors, Bello Gwandu and Omar Suleiman.

Others are the former Chairpersons of NIPOSA,  M.I.A. Dan-Princewill and  Kayode Ajayi, the General Manager, Human Resources.

The rest  are Yahaya Bukar, General Manager, Monitoring and Compliance, Ugo Madubuike and the Assistant General Manager, Training,  Patricia Abhow.

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I’m Surprised At Job Offers – Wenger

Arsene Wenger says he has been surprised at the number of job offers he has received since his departure from Arsenal was announced, urging the club to appoint his successor as soon as possible, AFP reports.

The Frenchman will step down as Gunners boss after Sunday’s Premier League trip to Huddersfield, with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri reportedly the first choice of the Arsenal board as his replacement.

Wenger will leave after almost 22 years at the helm and was handed an emotional tribute from the club following Sunday’s 5-0 defeat of Burnley, his final game in charge at the Emirates Stadium

The 68-year-old has said he will take a break from football before deciding on his next move but revealed on Tuesday he has not been short of suitors since last month’s surprise announcement.

Asked if he had received any offers, Wenger  said,  “Yes, more than I expected!

“At the moment I focus on doing my job well. I didn’t analyse anything or consider anything. I want to work well until the last day of my contract, and then after, I will rest a little bit and go from there.”

Allegri, who is set to deliver a fourth successive Serie A title with Juventus, is reportedly the frontrunner but Carlo Ancelotti and Luis Enrique, both currently out of work, have been linked with the job.

 

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Ronaldo Can Lead Portugal To World Cup Title – Mourinho

Jose Mourinho believes that Portugal have the capacity to win World Cup 2018 thanks to the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Goal reports.

The Real Madrid star played a large part in helping his country to Euro 2016 success in France, although he went off injured early in the final, which Eder won in extra-time with the only goal.

The Manchester United boss has backed the Ballon d’Or winner to replicate that influence in Russia.

“Portugal have  an interesting squad. Without Cristiano, it would be impossible. But with him nothing is impossible,” he told ESPN Brazil.

Mourinho, meanwhile, believes that Argentina are  contenders for a first crown since 1986 thanks to the individual talents of Lionel Messi.

“I believe that the Argentinian national team without Lionel Messi wouldn’t be a contender,” he said of Jorge Sampaoli’s side, who struggled to qualify for the competition, relying on a hat-trick from the Barcelona ace to see them past Ecuador 3-1 in their final qualifying match. “But with him, they’re one of the favourites.”

Looking at the favourites due to the strength of their squads, Mourinho picked out Brazil and Spain as two of his top picks for the competition.

“I like the basic structure of Brazil a great deal, their tactics and mentality,” he said. “There is a mixture between Brazilian natural talent, with a serious approach, physical, tactical.

“They are a team capable of defending well, allowing few goals, with a good support base. And then up front with Willian, Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus … All players with outstanding qualities.

“And then we have the traditional teams of Europe, but I believe Spain are once again a real team. They were able to get together players with the same game philosophy, adapted to that playing style.

“I would say that Spain are in better condition than any other European rivals. But let’s see…”

 

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Barcelona Vs Real Madrid: Team News, Injuries, Possible Lineups

Barcelona FC will tonight clash with Real Madrid at home in the El Clasico.

The Ernesto Valverde’s side has already been crowned La Liga champions for 2017/2018 season.

Valverde’s men head into this clash following their 4- 2 win over Deportivo La Coruna in the La Liga last Sunday.

Barcelona are on the verge of completing an unbeaten league campaign, but must overcome their biggest remaining obstacle at Camp Nou against the Los Blancos.

The Catalan club will be hoping to complete a league double over Zinedine Zidane’s men after celebrating the Christmas last year by producing a thumping 3-0 victory over Real Madrid in the La Liga, with Messi, Suarez and Aleix Vidal all bagging in an emphatic away win at the Bernabeu.

Sergi Samper is the only player in the squad sidelined due to injury, giving Valverde free chance to pick his strongest team.

Philippe Coutinho is expected to be a part of the hosts’ midfield, sitting alongside Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets.

Defender, Sergi Roberto will start at right-back ahead of Nelson Semedo.

Luis Suarez and Messi are expected to lead the attack line as usual.

Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid head into this clash after beating Bayern Munich on Tuesday night with a 4-3 aggregates to secure a place in the Champions League final slated for May 26 in Kiev.

Zidane will have to manage his resources because of the Champions League final against Liverpool and will now be hoping to prevent Barca going the entire La Liga season unbeaten.

The Los Blancos currently sit in third position on the La Liga league table with 71 points from 34 games.

Zidane will likely start Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the attack line, while Isco could play just behind the front two.

Defender, Dani Carvajal remains out with an injury picked up in the Champions League, meaning Lucas Vazquez may stand in again at right-back – if not, Achraf Hakimi may feature.

Defender, Raphael Varane might also sit out as he continues to manage a slight knock, while Nacho is set to feature in central defence alongside Sergio Ramos.

Barcelona potential starting XI: Ter Stegen, Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Coutinho, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Suarez, Messi.

Real Madrid potential starting XI: Navas, Vasquez, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo

The kick off time for the match is 7:45pm.

 

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Chelsea Vs Liverpool: Team News, Injuries, Possible Lineups

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea will Sunday evening clash with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.

Conte’s men will go into this clash after their 1- 0 win against Swansea in the Premier League last week Saturday.

The Blues are currently occupying the fifth position on the Premier League table with 66 points from 35 games.

Chelsea will see Marcos Alonso return after he was suspended for violent conduct by the Football Association (FA). The Spaniard has served his three match ban after he took retrospective action for his high challenge on Shane Long three weeks ago.

Defender, David Luiz has been ruled out from this clash with a knee injury, while Ethan Ampadu will not feature due to ankle injury.

Olivier Giroud has been picked ahead of Alvaro Morata in recent weeks and the duo will likely fight for their starting spots until the end of the season.

Nigerian international, Victor Moses will face his former club, while Danny Drinkwater has a calf strain.

Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool head into this encounter after beating Roma on Wednesday night with a 7-6 aggregates to secure a place in the Champions League final slated for May 26 in Kiev.

Klopp will have to manage his resources because of the Champions League final against Real Madrid. But with his injury list and the fear of missing out on the Premier League top four, he may feature a strong side against the Blues.

Klopp’s men can book their spot in next season’s Champions League by avoiding defeat at Stamford Bridge.

The Reds are currently occupying the third position on the Premier League table with 72 points from 36 games.

Emre Can, who is being strongly linked with Juventus, is out with a back injury.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out for the season for Liverpool after suffering a serious knee ligament injury.

Joel Matip and Adam Lallana are both expected to be out with thigh injuries.

Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno could come in as full backs.

Ragnar Klavan may replace Dejan Lovren too, though it would be wise to avoid wholesale changes to a backline.

Joe Gomez could return after missing the game with Roma due to an arm injury

Chelsea’s potential starting XI:

Courtois, Rudiger, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Kante, Moses, Alonso, Willain, Hazard, Giroud.

Liverpool’s potential starting XI:

Karius, VanDijk, Lovren, Clyne, Moreno, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane, Firmino, Salah.

The kick of time for the match is 4:30pm.

 

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Barca Don’t Deserve Madrid Guard Of Honour –Zidane

Zinedine Zidane says Barcelona do not deserve a guard of honour before the Clasico on Sunday because they refused to give Real Madrid one for winning the Club World Cup.

Barca host Real as La Liga and Copa del Rey champions but Zidane’s side will not perform a ‘pasillo’, the tradition of players applauding their opponents onto the pitch.

Deportivo La Coruna made the gesture ahead of their game against Barca last weekend while Barca gave Real a guard of honour at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2008, after Los Blancos had already won the league.

But Barcelona bucked the trend when the two teams met in December, opting against honouring Real’s success in the Club World Cup as Barca argued they had not taken part in the competition.

“I’m not the one who decides,” Zidane said on Saturday. “After the Club World Cup, it wasn´t important for them to give us a guard of honour.

“They said they weren’t in the competition, but that’s a lie, because you get into the Club World Cup through the Champions League.

“They didn’t give us one, so what’s most important is respecting what they have done. They´ve won the double and I respect that, and I congratulate them on that.

“But we’re not going to do something for them which they didn’t do for us.”

 

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Australia Set To Arrest Runaway Nigeria Athletes, Officials

The Commonwealth Games Federation has allegedly contacted the Nigeria Olympic Committee  to provide personal information about the  Nigeria athletes  and officials   who disappeared during and after the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Six Nigeria athletes, two coaches  and  one of the powerlifting helpers allegedly absconded in the Oceania country.

Top sports ministry allegedly left Australia seething after a  woman boxer pulled a fast one on them to disappear at the airport while the Nigerian contingent were  waiting for their flight back to Nigeria.

Sources claimed that the boxer breached  the strict security measures put in place by the ministry  to prevent more athletes and officials from running away after she asked to use the restroom.

“The ministry officials were convinced that the boxer would not run away when she asked to relieve herself because she left her bag with one of the officials,” a source said.

“As she did not appear, the officials decided to look for her in the restroom but she was nowhere to be found.”

Africa was thrust into the spotlight at  Gold Coast 2018 for all the wrong reasons  after some  Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda and Sierra Leone athletes were reported missing.

Eight Cameroon athletes  vanished  from the Games Village, some having failed to turn up to their scheduled events.

Rwanda weightlifting coach  Jean  Nsengiyumva disappeared after he asked to use the toilet.

The CGF and Australian authorities, who condemned the disappearing act, however said the missing athletes  and officials hadn’t broken any laws  since they  are still within their visa conditions. Their visas  expire at midnight on May 15.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned the runaway athletes  and officials to leave  Australia  before  the expiration of their visas, warning them that they would  be hunted down and deported.

“The compliance officers will be out there, I promise, tracking these people down and they’ll be deported as quickly as possible,” Dutton  had told  Macquarie Radio.

Our correspondent learnt that Australian police and immigration are preparing for action against the missing athletes and officials who will become illegal aliens in the country after  May 15.

It was learnt that the CGF  decided to contact the NOC for information about Nigeria athletes and officials  who have  yet to leave Australia  to aid their deportation if they breach their visas.

However, spokesman for the NOC Tony Ubani denied any knowledge about CGF’s contact.

“I’m not aware of any inquires from the Commonwealth Games Federation,” Ubani  told our correspondent on the telephone.

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