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Football News

» Davinson Sanchez's pain in missing out on Carabao Cup Final after Chelsea defeat
Spurs missed out on a place in the Wembley final after letting slip a 1-0 first-leg lead against the Blues last month
» Harry Kane reveals part Arsenal inadvertently played in his world-class career
The England captain was let go by the Gunners as a schoolboy but thinks that the disappointment was indispensable in helping shape his career
» BT Sport worker who saved Glenn Hoddle after heart attack 'heard his ribs break'
The former Tottenham and England manager suffered a cardiac arrest in October
» Maurizio Sarri admits he doesn't know what Sarri-ball is after Chelsea fans turns on him
The Blues boss is under intense pressure and faces Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday
» Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes astonishing Paul Pogba claim ahead of crunch Man Utd clash with Liverpool
World Cup winner Pogba has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround since Solskjaer came in as United's interim boss
» Jurgen Klopp makes Sir Alex Ferguson revelation ahead of Man Utd vs Liverpool
The Liverpool boss will lead his side into battle at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon
» Maurizio Sarri says Pep Guardiola is "lucky" to still be Manchester City manager
The under-fire Chelsea boss will lock horns with Guardiola at Wembley on Sunday in the Carabao Cup final
» Arsenal offer Monchi technical director role - and expect him to take it
The 50-year-old has a good relationship with Unai Emery, and could spearhead a transfer overhaul at the Emirates Stadium
» Trent Alexander-Arnold putting friendships on hold ahead of Man Utd vs Liverpool
The Reds right-back suffered at Old Trafford last season, but is ready to respond against two of his good friends
» Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool are in good shape ahead of "outstanding" period
The Liverpool manager is ready for a run that will define whether or not his side can lift their
» Unai Emery claims he knows the key thing his Arsenal side are lacking
The Spaniard has had an up-and-down first season in English football
» Davinson Sanchez insists Tottenham still have a big part to play in title race
EXCLUSIVE: The Colombian defender who once turned down Barcelona says his side will keep fighting this season
» Nemanja Vidic's controversial reason why he wouldn't take Virgil van Dijk at Man Utd
The former Red Devils centre-back has had his say on Liverpool's £75million man ahead of this weekend's derby
» Cardiff 1-5 Watford REPORT: Gerard Deulofeu hat-trick seals stunning Hornets win
The Spaniard hit three and Troy Deeney bagged two as Javi Gracia's side ran riot in the Welsh capital
» Reason why Man Utd have sprayed GARLIC on Old Trafford pitch ahead of Liverpool clash
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils play host to their bitter rivals Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday
» Dimitar Berbatov makes his Manchester United vs Liverpool prediction
The former Red Devils striker believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men will surprise Liverpool on Sunday
» Chelsea transfer ban: The inside story of FIFA rap - and the headline case
Chelsea face a ban on signing players for the next two transfer windows
» West Ham 3-1 Fulham REPORT: Michail Antonio secures win as Hammers come from behind
The Cottagers took an early lead at London Stadium but collapsed like a deck of cards as the game wore on
» Exclusive: 90 MINUTES trailer - first look at Rio Ferdinand's new comedy film
Exclusive: 90 MINUTES is Exec-produced by footballing legend Rio Ferdinand and is out in March
» Liverpool training: 5 things we spotted as the Reds prepare for Man Utd clash
The Reds go head to head with bitter rivals Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday
» ITV strike deal to show La Liga matches for free until end of this season
Barcelona and Real Madrid will be seen on free-to-air UK television until the end of the current campaign
» Aymeric Laporte signs new Manchester City deal until 2025
The Premier League champions have tied the French centre-back down for the next six years
» Glenn Hoddle shares positive update on his health after October heart attack
The Tottenham legend and former England manager told Robbie Savage all about the latest on his condition
» Rafa Benitez makes decision whether to give Miguel Almiron Newcastle home debut
Benitez reckons the £21m star is sharp enough, and Almiron says it will be "a beautiful occasion" to start
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Other sport news:

» Maurizio Sarri heads to Carabao Cup final as Chelsea’s dead man walking | Dominic Fifield
Wembley appearance will do little to kill the sense of inevitability over the Italian’s future at Stamford Bridge

Maurizio Sarri strides out at Wembley a dead man walking. He can cling to football’s capacity to shock, and even convince himself an appearance in the Carabao Cup final will shrug Chelsea out of their slump in form. Theirs should be the greater motivation, after all, given the wounds are raw from the six-goal pummelling inflicted by Manchester City only a fortnight ago. Yet, in truth, there is a sense of inevitability about where this is heading.

Passage was negotiated safely, in the end, beyond Malmö in the Europa League on Thursday, with Dynamo Kyiv to come in the last 16, yet the respite seems temporary. The home support, so vociferous in their dissent a few days previously as the team’s FA Cup defence petered out against Manchester United, had barely acknowledged their head coach, instead joyously latching on to Callum Hudson-Odoi’s rare start or the welcome distraction of the cameos delivered by Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu off the bench. It would be a surprise if any of that trio start on Sunday.

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» Alexander-Arnold: ‘I use last year’s loss at United as a learning point’
The Liverpool right-back returns to Old Trafford keen to atone for chastening defeat by Manchester United 11 months ago

“Don’t get complacent or big-headed” was the direct but well-meaning advice from Cafu to Trent Alexander-Arnold when the two-times World Cup winner attended an awards ceremony in Monaco this week. Listening to the Liverpool defender relive his uncomfortable afternoon at Manchester United last season underlines why his club and country do not – and Brazil’s most-capped player should not – worry about ego.

Old Trafford, where Jürgen Klopp’s team head in search of the Premier League leadership on Sunday, staged what Alexander-Arnold describes as the hardest moment of his career last March. The Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid would claim that low mark two months later but United’s 2-1 victory, and the lessons from it, are seared on the 20-year-old.

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» Javier Hernández on hand as West Ham recover from early blow to beat Fulham

Fulham have only themselves to blame for their season, confused decision-making and erratic management probably sending them straight back to the Championship. But on this one occasion they can feel genuinely aggrieved that their fate was unfairly decided by someone else.

They were ahead and playing well against West Ham, when Javier Hernández punched home a goal and changed the course of a game that ended in defeat for Claudio Ranieri’s side.

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» Watford in seventh heaven as Gerard Deulofeu hat-trick sinks Cardiff

Gerard Deulofeu, once one of European football’s brightest hopes, is finally fulfilling his potential to give Watford supporters hopes of their very own continental adventure.

The former Barcelona prodigy used the Cardiff City Stadium pitch as his playground as he scored a hat-trick in this striking win for Javi Gracia’s men.

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» Chelsea may turn to England coach Steve Holland if Maurizio Sarri is sacked
• Holland has worked at Chelsea and assists Gareth Southgate
• Holland the favoured option to take charge till summer

Chelsea would consider approaching their former coach and current England assistant manager Steve Holland to help steady the ship on an interim basis if they call time on Maurizio Sarri’s tenure at the club over the next week.

Sarri, who is seven months into a three-year contract, is clinging to his job despite the team’s progress to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday. Recent humiliating defeats by Manchester City and Bournemouth have eroded confidence in the Italian, who faces pivotal games against City in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final and Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday.

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» Manchester United result will not decide title, says Jürgen Klopp
• Klopp worried about ‘too much pressure’ on his players
• Liverpool manager backs Solskjær to land United job full-time

Jürgen Klopp has said Liverpool will be under “too much pressure” should they consider Sunday’s visit to Manchester United a defining moment in the title race rather than an opportunity to inflict a first Premier League defeat of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign.

The Liverpool manager is acutely aware of the perception that Old Trafford is the most difficult assignment remaining, on paper at least, in his team’s pursuit of a first league championship for 29 years. Liverpool will move three points clear of Manchester City with a first win at United since their last title challenge in 2014, but Klopp believes it would be self-defeating to consider the wider implications of Sunday’s outcome.

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» Manchester City fan in medically induced coma after alleged assault
• City supporter had been attending game against Schalke
• It was really tough news, says Pep Guardiola

The Manchester City fan seriously injured during the win at Schalke is in a medically induced coma and Pep Guardiola, the team’s manager, has sent the 32-year-old his best wishes for a successful recovery.

The supporter was at the Champions League game on Wednesday with his mother, father and sister when he suffered “massive trauma to his skull and brain” in an alleged assault just before the end of the last-16 opening leg. Police said there had been a violent confrontation on the walkway in front of the away fans’ stand and involving Schalke and City fans.

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» Mauricio Pochettino urges Spurs to turn screw on Manchester City and Liverpool
• ‘Burnley on Saturday will be like a final,’ says Spurs manager
• Tottenham striker Harry Kane back after ankle injury

Mauricio Pochettino has urged Tottenham’s players to take advantage of the timing that could make this a pivotal weekend in the Premier League title race. Spurs travel to Turf Moor on Saturday with the message from their manager that victory would heap pressure on to Manchester City, otherwise engaged at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, straight after Liverpool’s game at Old Trafford.

City are competing in the Carabao Cup final and Liverpool face a difficult challenge at Manchester United so Pochettino knows there is a chance that Spurs could be within two points of both by the end of the weekend. Spurs have still to play both clubs, moreover, which is why he describes his team’s fixture with Burnley as being like a final – fail to win and the upcoming fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal will lose some of their appeal.

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» Willie McKay is not an agent, so why was he working on Emiliano Sala deal?
A key question from the tragedy involving Cardiff’s £15m signing relates to the role of McKay, who is not a registered intermediary

The agent Willie McKay has been unusually public about the central role he played in the transfer of Emiliano Sala from Nantes to Cardiff City, given the player’s tragic death in the fallen private plane in the Channel on 21 January.

Mark McKay, Willie’s son, had a mandate from Nantes to sell Sala to a UK club for 10% of the eventual £15m fee, and Willie McKay told the Guardian that he worked feverishly to interest Cardiff, persuade Sala to sign and cement the deal. His work included arranging two private flights for Cardiff’s manager, Neil Warnock, to watch Sala play for Nantes.

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» I never feared sack at Manchester City like Sarri does at Chelsea, says Guardiola
• Catalan draws contrast with Chelsea’s short-term approach
• Sarri’s side will be keen to avenge 6-0 loss, warns Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has highlighted Chelsea’s short-term approach by stating he enjoyed Manchester City’s backing in a way Antonio Conte never did and suggested Maurizio Sarri may encounter the same lack of support.

Guardiola struggled during his first season but never felt any sense he would be removed. He cited this when saying his experience was different to that of Sarri, who is under severe pressure during his opening campaign at Stamford Bridge.

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» Chelsea’s transfer ban forces club to make major decisions on recruitment | Dominic Fifield
Chelsea could reconsider contract policy or, at long last, lean more heavily on academy graduates and give youth its chance

Chelsea had been braced for Fifa sanction for some time and swiftly announced they would appeal against the two-window transfer embargo imposed by world football’s governing body. The case will go to the Fifa appeals committee and, if necessary, the court of arbitration for sport and could drag on for a considerable time, with the enforcement of Fifa’s ban almost certainly stayed pending the appeals process. That buys the club time.

They can then target how best to proceed in the market and, indeed, with a long-term squad-building policy. Chelsea have a number of players out of contract this summer – including David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Olivier Giroud, albeit they have the option to extend the Frenchman’s deal by 12 months – and, just as significantly, plenty more in 2020. Deals with Willian and Pedro, both in their 30s, are up next year, along with those for Callum Hudson-Odoi and, of course, Eden Hazard. The Belgian may be beyond persuasion to stay, with his heart apparently set on Real Madrid.

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» Manchester City’s Demi Stokes eyes glory in familiar Continental Cup final
Left-back is confident her side can exact revenge on Arsenal in repeat of last year’s League Cup showpiece

Demi Stokes sounds slightly surprised. “I didn’t actually know they’d won it that many times,” says the Manchester City and England left-back. “But you can’t think about the past – it won’t matter on Saturday.”

Stokes is talking about the Continental League Cup final at Bramall Lane where City, twice winners of the eight-year-old competition, face Arsenal, who have lifted the trophy five times.

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» Solskjær says beating Liverpool would be ‘worthy of United’s history’
• United have lost only one of caretaker’s 13 games in charge
• Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard could return on Sunday

Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes if Manchester United beat Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday it will be another step towards making his side one “worthy of club history”.

The interim-manager has won 11 of his 13 games in charge, losing just once, to Paris Saint-Germain in last week’s Champions League last-16 first leg. Three of those victories were at Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea, moreover.

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» EFL warns Coventry City they risk expulsion over home venue uncertainty
• Coventry given deadline of 5 March to provide an update
• Club say they ‘want to do a deal’ to stay at Ricoh Arena

One hundred years after joining the Football League, Coventry City have been warned they may face expulsion from it if they do not confirm where they plan to host matches next season.

The club’s tenancy at the Ricoh Arena runs out this summer and no end is in sight to their long-running dispute over rent and other issues with the stadium’s owners, the Premiership rugby club Wasps, and Coventry city council, the freeholder. The EFL says the uncertainty cannot be tolerated much longer.

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» Chelsea v Dynamo Kyiv, Arsenal v Rennes: Europa League draw – as it happened

Chelsea will face a trip to Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine in the last 16 of the Europa League, where Arsenal take on French club Rennes

Chelsea will face a trip to Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine in the last 16 of the Europa League, where Arsenal take on French club Rennes.

Friday’s draw in Nyon was not protected by any seeding but teams from Russia and Ukraine were kept apart. Dynamo Kyiv were first out against Chelsea.

Charles Antaki wanted a nice story, but alas, we cannot always have nice things: “Shame that Arsenal didn’t draw Villareal, to give fans a sight of the much-loved Santi Cazorla; even sadder that it looks like Villareal won’t even be in the top division net year…”

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» Retaining the Carabao Cup would be historic for City, says Bernardo Silva

• We should forget the recent 6-0 win over Chelsea, he adds
• Portuguese is also aiming for last eight of Champions League

Bernardo Silva believes if Manchester City beat Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final and retain a trophy for the first time their quest to be serial winners will be advanced.

City won the cup by beating Arsenal 3-0 in last season’s final. It was the club’s 15th major trophy and became part of a third double when Pep Guardiola’s side secured the Premier League title in April. The Portuguese midfielder acknowledged it is important to start winning the same competitions two years in a row, starting at Wembley on Sunday.

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» Shkodran Mustafi header helps Arsenal to progress at expense of Bate Borisov

One of the reasons for hiring Unai Emery was his record as a Europa League specialist. The man from the Basque country has won this competition three times in succession with Sevilla, and given Arsenal find themselves in this company at the moment (however desperate they are to get out of it) there is a certain logic in choosing a coach who knows how to get over this particular line.

So, having gone the distance before on a few occasions, are his current team strong enough to emulate that in the Europa League? Emery paused for a moment before forming his answer. “We can,” he mused, not entirely convincingly. “In the last 16, one is Arsenal, but it’s very difficult. A lot of teams want the same. We need to feel this competition with our supporters. This feeling can give us more possibilities. We need to feel stronger in this competition with everybody and create this atmosphere around us.”

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» Sarri: slow start against Malmö showed Jorghino’s importance to Chelsea

• ‘With him it’s easier. I hope our fans will understand’
• Manager warns performance will need to improve against City

Maurizio Sarri suggested Chelsea will court disaster in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City if they are gripped by a similar bout of nerves to the one that afflicted them against Malmö, and used his players’ jittery start as evidence of Jorginho’s importance to the team.

The Premier League club progressed into Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League, easing their passage beyond Swedish opponents still effectively in pre-season with three second-half goals, though the emphatic nature of the 5-1 aggregate scoreline betrayed the reality of the home side’s anxious start.

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» Burnley v Tottenham: match preview

Tottenham can cut the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool, at least until Jürgen Klopp’s side face Manchester United on Sunday, to two points if they beat Burnley. No easy task considering Sean Dyche’s side are back to their best and enjoying a seven-match unbeaten run – their best ever string of games in the Premier League. Harry Kane has returned to training and may feature but they may not need the striker’s prowess in front of goal as Son Heung-min has shone in his absence. The forward has four goals in his last four matches. Graham Searles

Saturday 12.30pm Sky Sports Premier League

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» Bournemouth v Wolves: match preview

Bournemouth will be glad to return to the comforts of the Vitality Stadium after successive defeats without scoring on the road. Stark contrast to the previous two games at home which they won with an aggregate score of 6-0. Callum Wilson and David Brooks are still missing, though. Wolves will arrive in good spirits after making the quarter-finals of the FA Cup but could miss Diogo Jota, who is struggling with a dead leg. Eddie Howe’s side can close the gap on Wolves to three points with a win. Graham Searles

Saturday 3pm

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» Leicester v Crystal Palace: match preview

Roy Hodgson will become the oldest manager in Premier League history when he takes charge of Crystal Palace against Leicester and he would no doubt love to celebrate with a win. To do so he will have to be wary of the threat posed by Leicester’s January loan signing Youri Tielemans. The Belgian was the best player on the pitch despite being on the losing side against Tottenham. Claude Puel will hope he reproduces the display and in his side’s bid to end their five-game winless run. He should probably start Jamie Vardy too. Graham Searles

Saturday 5.30pm BT Sport 1

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» Newcastle v Huddersfield: match preview

Given that Huddersfield are bottom and have collected only one point from their last 13 games, Rafael Benítez will be deeply disappointed should his Newcastle players – fresh from a warm-ish weather training break in southern Spain – stumble here. While Benítez ponders whether to offer his new £21m Paraguay playmaker, Miguel Almirón a full home debut, Jan Siewert craves his first win since succeeding David Wagner as Huddersfield manager. The German says he will “fight to the end” to stay up and really needs to overcome opponents still in real relegation peril themselves. Louise Taylor

Saturday 3pm

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» Leander Dendoncker: ‘There had to be a reason I wasn’t in Wolves’ team’

He had to wait until December for his big chance but there was no banging on the door by the midfielder from Passchendaele

Given it was hailed as a coup when Wolves signed Leander Dendoncker last summer, it was surprising to see him sitting on the bench during the first half of the season. Nuno Espírito Santo is known for rarely changing a winning team but there must have been times when Dendoncker wondered whether moving to Molineux was a mistake. There were even rumours the Belgian would ask to leave in January.

Yet it is not in Dendoncker’s nature to lose his cool. The 23‑year‑old grew up in Passchendaele, a small village known as a first world war battlefield, and he has never been the type to throw his weight around. He used his time on the bench to study how Nuno’s 3-4-3 system worked and made sure he stayed fit and focused. There was no question of him banging on the manager’s door.

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» Christian Atsu: ‘Sometimes what’s happened to me seems like a miracle’

Newcastle winger remains close to his roots in Ghana and takes inspiration from ‘father figure’ Rafael Benítez

It is a very long way from Ghana’s Ada Foah to Hillsong church on Newcastle’s Westgate Road – and not merely in miles. Christian Atsu has made that transformative journey, swapping an existence as one of 10 children whose late father eked out a living fishing and farming on the junction of the Volta River and the Atlantic Ocean, for a new life on Tyneside.

Almost everything has altered but one constant remains: the Newcastle winger’s Christian faith. Church was a central part of Atsu’s childhood and worship at Hillsong, a short walk from St James’ Park, binds the Ghana international to his new habitat.

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» The in-form young footballers in 2019

Kylian Mbappé is making 2019 his own, but teenagers Jadon Sancho, Ibrahima Konaté and Nicolo Zaniolo are also thriving

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored

Peter Bosz’s arrival as Bayer Leverkusen head coach just before Christmas has had a galvanising effect on a number of his players. Kai Havertz has certainly profited from the Dutchman’s possession-based approach. The teenager, now operating in a midfield three, has scored in three of his last four leagues games and boasts a pass accuracy of 87.4% in 2019. Rating: 7.42

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» VAR brings drama – it enhanced the Champions League at Schalke
Manchester City’s experience showed VAR is imperfect and will not end debates but also demonstrated its beauty

VAR: farce or fantastic fillip for football? Thirty-five minutes into Manchester City’s breathless 3-2 win at Schalke came an incident that was a gift for those who view the system as a farrago waiting to happen.

When Daniel Caligiuri’s shot hit Nicolás Otamendi’s right arm the technology kicked in. Except, not at first, as the pitch-side monitors failed to work. This caused a delay of three minutes before studio-based officials informed the referee, Carlos del Cerro Grande, a penalty should be awarded.

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» US World Cup winning coach Ellis was paid less than the men's U-20 coach. Why?

The women’s team brings huge revenues – and trophies – for US Soccer. But the federation knows its coach is unlikely to be tempted to go elsewhere

Jill Ellis, the manager of the US women’s national team, has been getting results. She led the USA to a spectacular Women’s World Cup victory in 2015 – which turned out to be very lucrative for her bosses at the US Soccer Federation – and just recently, the US women qualified with ease for this summer’s tournament in France.

But the financial rewards for her success have been limited, at least compared to her male colleagues who have achieved far less. According to US Soccer’s newly filed public financial disclosure, Ellis was paid less than four different coaches who worked on the US men’s failed qualifying campaigns for the 2018 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, including two youth coaches.

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» Zenit fans give team fiery welcome before Europa League tie – video

Zenit fans gave a stirring welcome to their team as they approached the stadium on Thursday. Zenit were heading towards the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg for their Europa League tie with Fenerbahce. A must-win game for them after a 1-0 defeat away, and perhaps it made all the difference the home side going on to win 3-1 on the night

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» Klopp: Solskjær has made Manchester United a threat again – video

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp says Ole Gunnar Solskjær has brought 'all the things Sir Alex Ferguson stood for' back to Manchester United, ahead of their Premier League clash at Old Trafford on Sunday.

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» Solskjær wants to build team 'worthy of Manchester United's history' – video

Ole Gunnar Solskjær will be hoping his unbeaten start in the Premier League continues if his side can see off Liverpool on Sunday. Speaking prior to the game the Norwegian said that he wants to create a side 'worthy of Manchester United's history'.

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» 'I won five Champions Leagues and these guys zero': Ronaldo taunts Atlético despite defeat – video

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Madrid was an unhappy one with his Juventus side losing 2-0 to Atlético in the Champions League. Ronaldo received plenty of abuse from the home fans and reacted in the mixed zone after the match displaying five fingers to the media, one for each Champions League title he has won.

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» Pep Guardiola: 'Still we are not ready to fight for the Champions League' – video

A late Raheem Sterling strike was the difference as Manchester City came from behind to win 3-2 away at Schalke. The home side were awarded two penalties in the first half after Sergio Agüero opened the scoring. City went down to 10-men after Nicolás Otamendi was shown a second yellow, the first awarded after a controversial VAR decision

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» 'It's not the game we dreamed of': Jürgen Klopp disappointed by performance against Bayern – video

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp struck a philosophical tone after his side's 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Admitting that Bayern would be the happier side to emerge from their Anfield encounter without conceding, he insisted that the result was still a good one for Liverpool: "If we won tonight 1-0, what changes, really?"

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» Inquiry into Stajcic sacking ruled out as Milicic names first Matildas squad
  • New coach says he has his predecessor’s support
  • FFA keen to move on from turbulent past few weeks

The specifics of the controversial sacking of Alen Stajcic are still unknown – and are likely to remain so – after David Gallop insisted his and new coach Ante Milicic’s focus is steadfastly on the upcoming World Cup and not the turbulent past few weeks that have rocked the women’s game in Australia.

Gallop confirmed Football Federation Australia would not conduct an inquiry into the decision to dismiss Stajcic, despite the former coach’s calls for a review to be undertaken, as he and Milic faced the media in Brisbane for the first time since the former Socceroos assistant took the job.

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» Mauro Icardi, Internazionale and the return of unwelcome headlines | Paolo Bandini

Inter dug deep to see off Sampdoria, but without their forward after he was stripped of the captaincy

The first time the big screen cut to Mauro Icardi, it stayed with him for only a few seconds. He had arrived just before kick-off for Inter’s game against Sampdoria, taking a seat beside his wife, and agent, Wanda in the stands at San Siro. Neither seemed to notice when the cameras picked them out, provoking brief jeers from the home crowd.

But the camera lingered a little longer the second time around. Play had stopped, and the mood inside the stadium was restless, with the score still goalless after the interval. This time the whistles were ear-splitting. Wanda glanced up at the screen, and quickly cast her eyes back down.

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» Fear and loathing without Aspas as 'pathetic' Celta drift towards the rocks | Sid Lowe

Their talisman is injured and Celta Vigo are slumping badly at the wrong time, just as others are arresting their slides

Celta de Vigo’s fans saw hope disappear before their eyes. An hour had gone and José Luis Morales had just scored Levante’s third but it wasn’t only what was happening on the pitch that brought the fatalism flooding back at Balaídos, it was what was happening alongside it. There had been applause and anticipation when Iago Aspas, their captain and their everything, stepped into the sunlight and began warming up, tracksuit off ready to return after six weeks away; now there was silence as he ducked into the shadows and sat down again, worry and resignation written across his face and theirs.

Back on the bench, boots off, mission aborted, Aspas watched powerless as the fans clapped Morales and whistled everyone else. He watched team-mates argue over an irrelevant 88th-minute penalty to make it 1-3, the tiniest flicker of life immediately extinguished when Borja Mayoral scored Levante’s fourth seconds later. He listened to supporters call for the president to resign – which is exactly what Carlos Mouriño, pointedly ignoring the mayor up in the directors’ box, would do if he could find someone to pay him enough to buy the club. And he watched another defeat and more disillusion, the final whistle blown to emptying stands. While he watched, he occasionally reached down and rubbed his calf.

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» Thomas Hitzlsperger makes swift impact at struggling Stuttgart | Andy Brassell

Though there is no heavy-handedness about the new head of sport, he is already having an influence

There was, at last, a feeling of partial satisfaction and some optimism. A sixth defeat in seven games for lowly VfB Stuttgart is no reason for breaking out the party bunting but the manner, if not the result, felt like it might be a departure in the right direction.

To an extent, it’s an indication of just how bad it’s been around the place in recent months. On the final day of last season, as they gleefully threw cake, jelly, and whipped the tablecloths off at Bayern Munich’s title party with a 4-1 win, Stuttgart had positioned themselves at the gates of Europe. But then a late summer flounder became a full-blown autumnal panic, coach Tayfun Korkut was replaced by Markus Weinzierl, and the former Schalke boss had been unable to bring any sense of calm in nearly four months.

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» Pro Piacenza beaten 20-0 after naming team of just seven teenagers
• Club would have been thrown out of league for forfeiting match
• All seven were teenagers; Hicham Kanis scored six for Cuneo

Serie C’s bottom club Pro Piacenza have endured a tough season, resulting in point deductions and forfeiting matches, but their latest setback was almost beyond belief as they were able to field only seven players in a 20-0 defeat at mid-table Cuneo.

Related: Sergio Ramos sent off as Real Madrid’s resurgence is ended by Girona

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» Monaco may regret sacking the man who revitalised the club

Vadim Vasilyev made Monaco the model of a sustainable, profitable club. But he has paid for their disastrous season

By Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football News

Until recently, mistakes were rare at Monaco. In just five years, the Russian duo of billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev and vice president Vadim Vasilyev led the club from the second tier to the Ligue 1 title. But the club collapsed this season and the owner has now acted, sacking Vasilyev. “Now it is time for change,” said Rybolovlev in a statement on Valentine’s Day. “I have made a personally very difficult decision to release Vadim Vasilyev from his post as vice president and CEO of the club.”

Initially appointed as an advisor in January 2013, Vasilyev was quickly promoted to CEO and vice president, becoming the club’s spokesperson and spearhead. His strategy centred on realism, revenue and hardball negotiating. He knew Monaco were working within certain restraints and that copying PSG’s model simply wasn’t sustainable. “You need more than money and ambition,” he explained. “You need to be in a big town, to have a population around you, play in a big league. There are several elements which just don’t exist [here].” With a population of just 40,000 and the smallest crowds in Ligue 1, Monaco would have to do things differently.

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» Is promotion and relegation any closer in US soccer?

America’s international teams go through ups and downs but the issue of promotion and relegation in domestic leagues refuses to die

A year after Carlos Cordeiro was elected US Soccer president in a free-for-all that threw everything in the sport up for debate, the federation convened for a much quieter annual meeting over the weekend. Hall of Fame player Cindy Cone was officially declared vice president, a foregone conclusion after she was the only candidate to secure a nomination.

In Cordeiro’s first year, the national teams and youth soccer have drawn plenty of attention. But the issue of promotion and relegation in America is still a matter of debate throughout the country’s soccer communities. Here’s how things stand at the moment.

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» FFA get the right coach for Matildas job, the wrong way | Richard Parkin

Amid the current febrile atmosphere, being an ‘outsider’ to the women’s game becomes a strength rather than a weakness

In recent times when an A-League club needed a new head coach two phone calls were placed. One was to Ange Postecoglou, the other was to FFA HQ. Who is the best coach out there? Who has shown promise coming through the national team ranks?

The logic behind poaching an Under-17s, Under-20s or Under-23s national team coach is clear – you’re getting a coach with access to the best resources, best facilities and best players in the country. In the microcosm that is Australian football, with few professional head coach roles going around, every time one pops up the same names emerge. Western Melbourne Group need a new coach? Ante Milicic. South West Sydney need a new coach? Ante Milicic. And the reason his name is always first on the list? Because he’s the best credentialed available coach in the Australian system.

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» Sergio Ramos sent off as Real Madrid’s resurgence is ended by Girona

Real Madrid’s resurgent La Liga run skidded to a halt as they fell to a shock 2-1 defeat at home to struggling Girona on Sunday in which Sergio Ramos was sent off in added time, leaving them nine points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Real looked on course for a sixth consecutive league win when Casemiro leapt highest to meet a Toni Kroos cross and head them in front midway through the first half.

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» Refereeing of women’s football needs work. Here is the plan to tackle it | Suzanne Wrack
Full-time officials for Women’s Super League and a fast-track pathway for female referees are among the ideas

Consider these three incidents: the Chelsea midfielder Drew Spence cynically scything down Arsenal’s Kim Little, breaking one of Little’s legs, but picking up only a yellow card; David McNamara’s rock, paper, scissors debacle; and Phil Neville questioning two penalty shouts and a disallowed goal against Australia.

This season the standard of refereeing in the women’s game has been under the microscope. Except now, with a fully professional top division and more televised coverage than ever, there are a lot more eyes peering through that microscope.

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» Leroy Sané emerges from chaos to rewrite City’s knockout nightmare | Nick Ames

Manchester City’s comeback was sealed exuberantly enough to postpone some awkward Champions League questions

Perhaps, if Pep Guardiola learned anything from a chaotic night in Germany’s industrial heartland, it was that you cannot keep a good narrative down. Leroy Sané had been left on the bench for his return to the Veltins Arena and, aside from any tactical considerations, it did not seem an unreasonable decision given the imperative that Manchester City went about their business quietly and clinically. Then he set off a rocket and, given the quandary his team had landed themselves in by that point, cool logic could wait for another day.

Related: Raheem Sterling gives Manchester City crucial advantage over Schalke

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» Where is Gordon Taylor’s PFA review? No doubt he’s beavering away | Marina Hyde
The world’s highest-paid union official promised a review in November but it appears to be moving at a glacial pace

I don’t know the Latin for “look busy and it’ll die down” – but whatever it is, it could do with being carved above the lintel of the Professional Footballers’ Association’s office in Manchester.

This is the stronghold of the organisation’s chief executive Gordon Taylor, who has been in charge for just the 40 years so far. That is slightly shy of someone like Cameroonian dictator Paul Biya, who has notched up 43 years of tireless service to his subjects. But as far as comparisons with other bosses in the humanitarian sector are concerned, there’s really no one to remotely touch him in terms of longevity. Certainly not since Mother Teresa left us.

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» The Fiver | Sentencing Chelsea to a short period of mild inconvenience

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“The protection of minors,” Fifa wrote in a statement issued today regarding Chelsea’s apparently repeated and flagrant flaunting of regulations concerning the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18, “is a key element in Fifa’s regulatory framework relating to the transfer of players and effective enforcement of these rules is paramount.”

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» Football transfer rumours: Marcus Rashford wanted by Barcelona?

Today’s fluff is broadly fine

Marcus Rashford is good at football! To the surprise of no one apart from José Mourinho, the Manchester United ace is capable of doing lots of goals and assists! All he needs is an arm round the shoulder, a few words of encouragement and a regular run of games up front! Then watch him fly. Watch him go. Watch him go all the way to Barcelona!

That’s right: Barcelona have decided to make the United forward their top summer target. With Luis Suárez showing signs of decline, the Spanish champions have identified Rashford as a replacement for the Uruguayan forward and are willing to pay top dollar to get him. They’ll have to be fast, though, because United are on the verge of handing the England international a new long-term deal.

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» The Fiver | It was nice to see Diego Simeone bucking that trend

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The punditry career of Robbie Savage. The reboot of Magnum PI. The Independent Group extemporising philosophically on roundtable debate shows. There’s enough unnecessary, inexplicable, depressing nonsense on television to be dealing with these days without getting worked up about VAR. So hats off to Pep Guardiola for shrugging his shoulders last night and declaring himself “a big fan” of the much-maligned, pernickety officiating system which has only tarnished three Big Cup knockout matches and one World Cup final so far. “I trust VAR!” he trilled with the magnanimity one can only afford when your team has dodged a bullet and it might be best to keep your powder dry so you can properly kick off when the video ref awards Real Madrid a preposterous last-minute penalty in the next round.

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» David Squires on … Tottenham's grand designs for their new stadium

Our cartoonist looks at Spurs and their protracted renovations to move back into their ground

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» What is the longest gap between two meetings of the same football teams? | The Knowledge

Plus: sent off after scoring a hat-trick, outscoring your age in a season and putting a corner flag to different use. Mail us or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU

“When Newport played Manchester City in the FA Cup, it was the first time that the fixture had been played for more than 56 years,” writes Mark Meadowcroft. “The last match, on 24 October 1962 (2-1 to City at Maine Road in the League Cup) was at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the week after Love Me Do first charted. Is there a longer gap between two meetings of the same opponents?”

Yes there is, Mark. Our first suggestion comes from Simon Cook: “Arsenal played Brentford on 26 September 2018 in the League Cup, 71 years after their last meeting on 26 May 1947.”

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» The Dozen: the best FA Cup fifth round pictures

Images from around the grounds as teams vie for a place in the quarter-finals

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» Golden Goal: Steve McManaman for Liverpool v Celtic (1997)

The midfielder was the Merseyside club’s most consistent attacking threat for a decade and dazzled in Glasgow

If there is a phrase that sums up Steve McManaman’s time at Real Madrid, a four-year spell in which the Spanish club won La Liga and the Champions League twice apiece, it was perhaps the one delivered by an unlikely source. “El socio del todos” – “a partner to everyone on the pitch”– is how Johan Cruyff described the Merseyside-born Madridista, and he meant it neither sarcastically nor begrudgingly.

Cruyff’s assessment was instead genuine and warm-hearted, underlining the understated yet important role the midfielder played in Madrid’s success at the start of the millennium, linking defence to Galácticos attack. This was the era of Raúl, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and the original Ronaldo, and McManaman’s role was to give them the ball as often as possible.

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» Sports quiz of the week: managers, money, metal medals and monikers

Who defied his age? Who scored quickly? Who made a packet?

Matt Kuchar earned $1.3m in prize money for his victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. How much did the golfer pay his caddie?

$5,000

$130,000

$300,000

$1.3m

Why does Anthony Joshua’s next opponent, Jarrell Miller, go by the nickname “Big Baby”?

He takes a cuddly toy with him wherever he goes

He weighed 10 pounds at birth

His first opponent called him that before the opening bell – and was quickly knocked out

He lost a bet

Joshua is fighting Miller on 1 June. Which other sporting event is taking place that night?

The last game of the Six Nations

The Cricket World Cup final

The men’s singles final at Wimbledon

The Champions League final

Who scored a hat-trick in 30 minutes this week?

Sergio Agüero

Eden Hazard

Roberto Firmino

Jonny May

Paul Scholes made his managerial debut this week. Which footballer announced his retirement on the day Scholes made his playing debut way back in 1994?

Bryan Robson

Gary Lineker

Diego Maradona

Glenn Hoddle

Gordon Banks, who died this week aged 81, is most famous for winning the World Cup with England in 1966. In which country did he play his last game as a professional footballer in 1977?

Republic of Ireland

Egypt

Canada

Uruguay

Declan Rice says he wants to play for the England football team. Why has his decision gone down badly with some Irish supporters?

He grew up in Northern Ireland and played for their Under-21 team

He was born in the Republic of Ireland

He has already played three matches for the Republic of Ireland

He was in the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2016 but didn't play

The organisers of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo say the medals will be made from…

Metals mined from below the stadium in Tokyo

Old phones and computers

Shipwrecks found off the Japanese coast

Metal found in the Acropolis in Athens

Where is the best team in the southern hemisphere meeting the best team in the northern hemisphere this weekend?

Wellington

Wichita

Wigan

Winnipeg

Matthijs de Ligt captained Ajax against Real Madrid this week in the Champions League. What is remarkable about that?

He only made his debut in August

He has already signed to play for Real Madrid next season

He is still a teenager

His brother captained the team in their previous match

1 and above.

Nine wrong answers in a multiple-choice format. Impressive

2 and above.

Eight wrong answers in a multiple-choice format. Impressive

3 and above.

Chin up. There's always next week

4 and above.

Chin up. There's always next week

5 and above.

That's a fine score. Well played

6 and above.

That's a fine score. Well played

7 and above.

That's a fine score. Well played.

8 and above.

That's a super score. Well played

9 and above.

You star. Have a great weekend

0 and above.

Ten wrong answers in a multiple-choice format. Impressive

10 and above.

You legend. Have a great weekend

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» Everything’s a little too cosy in football’s game of family fortunes | Daniel Taylor

Why do managers keep signing their sons and using them as agents? And just what persuaded Cardiff to give contracts to Willie McKay’s twins?

By now, I expect you might have seen that old video clip of the time Harry Redknapp was hosting a question-and‑answer session at West Ham and taking a bit of heat from someone in the audience who seemed to suspect they might have taken their reputation as a family club a little too far.

The irate fan didn’t seem to care when Redknapp said the 18‑year‑old sitting to his right was destined for the “very, very top”. That player was a young Frank Lampard. “Not good enough,” complained the punter. Why, he wanted to know, was Lampard getting a game? Why had the manager’s nephew been fast-tracked into the team when a better player by the name of Scott Canham had been let go for peanuts?

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» Ryan Giggs: ‘It didn’t work for United but Van Gaal was brilliant for me’

The Wales manager discusses the loneliness of his job, what Manchester United should do next and why he turned to a psychologist

“I think every manager feels that loneliness,” Ryan Giggs says as he identifies the usually unspoken difficulty at the core of his work. The manager of Wales since January 2018, Giggs has had nine games to get used to the isolation.

“I’m lucky to have great staff around me and, during the week, you’re constantly in meetings and on the training ground. But it’s that hour before the game, when the coaches take the lads out to warm up, that you feel it. You’re alone in the dressing room and you’ve done everything you can. That’s a lonely time. There’s nothing left to do. You’re on your own.”

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» PSG and Dortmund sing it with pride as home crowds wallow in age of rage | Barney Ronay

Noisy away ends at Old Trafford and Wembley offered something of a throwback to several decades ago when fans revelled in their own identity rather than disdain for others’

There was an exciting announcement this week about a new style of shoe “inspired by 1980s terrace culture”. The idea behind the new shoe, an Adidas press release explained, is to capture the sights and sounds of English football 30 years ago. And who knows, it could work out well. Perhaps the new Adidas Widespread Racism will go on to become a huge hit.

This is of course a joke. The new shoe isn’t called the Adidas Widespread Racism. That would be ridiculous. Not to mention an insult to the hard-working team of marketeers and product developers behind the Adidas Piss Stink and its companion shoe, the Adidas Dart In The Eye.

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» Sportswashing and the tangled web of Europe's biggest clubs

Governments wield power over many Champions League clubs and the ties that bind owners, sponsors and Uefa are striking

The game is about glory, a wise man once said. For many years it has been about money, too. Right now an updated version of Danny Blanchflower’s famous quote would point out something else: that the game is also about politics and placement, about soft power, about presenting a face to the world.

As the Champions League knockout stage kicks in, this element of Big Football is primed once again to take the main stage, the executive arm of a sport that has never looked so tangled.

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» West Ham 3-1 Fulham: Premier League – as it happened

Javier Hernandez’s handball equaliser helped West Ham recover from a disastrous start to inflict yet another defeat on a fragile Fulham

And with that, I’m gone. It’s been a blast. Bye!

Here’s Claudio Ranieri:

It’s unbelievable. We started very well with great chances. They were very dangerous on the corners, it’s normal with the tall players. The referee didn’t see the first goal was handball, and after West Ham moved the ball very quickly. I don’t know if we were very scared. Second half was much better, we were in control of the ball but without doing something good.

Look, we are always speaking about to cover well to be concentrated and with determination. But also we need some luck. It’s unbelievable, what happened this year. But we never give up, never. It’s important to recover soon – physically, but also psychologically.

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