Real Madrid will be without Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema for Saturday’s trip to Real Sociedad in La Liga but coach Zinedine Zidane is hopeful of having both back to face Manchester City next week.
Ronaldo has missed Madrid’s last two games, including the 0-0 draw away to City in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal on Tuesday, while Benzema came off in that match and his club later confirmed he was suffering from a thigh injury.
Zidane admitted it was not worth risking either player against Real Sociedad but indicated both could feature in the semifinal second leg against City at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.
“The most important thing for now is that they recover. We can’t take risks with Cristiano or Karim, or anybody. The idea is that they come back as soon as possible,” Zidane told a press conference on Friday ahead of Saturday’s game in San Sebastian.
“I can’t say how likely it is that they will play (against City). I hope both are back at 100 percent but I can’t say for certain.”
Ronaldo sat out last weekend’s 3-2 win at Rayo Vallecano with a thigh strain but Zidane said it was a different problem that kept him from playing at the Etihad Stadium.
Meanwhile, Zidane had said Benzema would be out for “seven or eight days”, leaving the Frenchman with a race against the clock to recover for the City showdown. Naijabet.com
A “difficult climate” at Emirates Stadium contributed to Arsenal’s poor home form this season and eventually led to the team missing out on a chance to win the Premier League title, manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday.
Among the top five teams, fourth-placed Arsenal have the worst home record and disgruntled supporters have voiced their frustrations over the club’s failure to finish atop the league for a 12th successive campaign.
Fans from the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, the Black Scarf Movement and Red Action intend to protest at Saturday’s clash against Norwich City under the banner of “Time for Change” in how the club is run.
“Some people question this team’s character but they have character and attitude and some people who question them have less character than this team has,” Wenger told reporters.
“They should not question this team. We have to stick together. We lost the championship at home against lower teams but we played at home in a very difficult climate. We are top of the league in the top teams; we want to add what is needed.” Naijabet
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich can become the first club to win a fourth consecutive Bundesliga title by beating Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday, amidst the distraction of their Champions League semifinal.
Bayern hold a seven-point lead and with three games left, a win over Gladbach at Munich’s Allianz Arena will confirm a fourth straight German league title, a feat no other team has achieved before.
But Bayern are still smarting from Wednesday’s 1-0 Champions League defeat at Atletico Madrid.
Guardiola has been criticised by the German media (“Has Pep mullered Bayern’s final chances?’, asked Bild”), plus ex-Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld (“the tactic didn’t work”), for his selection.
Thomas Mueller, Bayern’s top-scorer in Europe, and Franck Ribery both started on the bench leaving Bayern with it all to do in Tuesday’s return leg in Munich.
Guardiola scoffed when asked if he would rest some of his stars against Gladbach.
“We still need another win, we only have a few days to prepare and then we face Atletico three days later,” he said. “We have to win against Gladbach first.”
In the wake of the Atletico defeat, only their fifth of the season, Bayern are feeling the pressure in their bid for a repeat of the 2013 treble.
“We would make a mistake if we quarrel now, I want to go to Milan,” said chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as the Champions League final will be held in the Italian city on May 28. Naijabet.com
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli will not play again this season after he was given a three-game ban for violent conduct by the Football Association on Thursday.
The 20-year-old, elected England’s Young Player of the Year last weekend, was retrospectively punished after punching Claudio Yacob in the stomach during Spurs’ 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
He will therefore miss Spurs’ final three Premier League games against Chelsea, Southampton and Newcastle United, in which Mauricio Pochettino’s side will look to keep their flickering title hopes alive.
“Dele Alli will serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect after he committed an act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video,” the FA said in a statement.
“The player accepted the FA’s charge, but contested that the automatic penalty of a three-match suspension would be ‘clearly excessive’.
“This claim, however, was rejected following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today (Thursday).” Naija and Bet
Villarreal’s Adrian Lopez produced a stinging sucker punch in stoppage time to leave Liverpool reeling and move the Spaniards closer to a maiden European final after their Europa League last four first leg clash finished 1-0 on Thursday.
Liverpool, who got a taste of their own medicine having scored deep in added time to knock Borussia Dortmund out in the quarterfinals, looked comfortable before Denis Suarez broke into the box and unselfishly squared for Lopez to sweep home.
In the other semifinal, holders Sevilla had their fingers briefly loosened from the trophy before grabbing a 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk that left them well-placed to progress.
Sevilla’s bid to become the first side to lift the trophy three years running got off to a great start when they opened the scoring through Vitolo after six minutes.
Shakhtar produced a spirited response, though, with goals from Marlos and Taras Stepanenko to lead at halftime before Kevin Gameiro’s 82nd-minute penalty left the Spaniards as favourites to progress with two away goals.
Five times European champions Liverpool had not lost in 12 Europa League games this season and were facing a Villarreal side out to banish a last-four curse and reach a European final for the first time at their fourth attempt. Naija and Bet
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo faces a race against time to be fit for the Champions League semifinal second leg with Manchester City on May 4.
Ronaldo was surprisingly omitted from the squad for Tuesday’s first leg in Manchester an hour before kick-off. Coach Zinedine Zidane explained after the goalless draw that Ronaldo felt a recurrence of a thigh strain a day earlier in training.
Ronaldo was photographed entering a private clinic in Madrid on Wednesday for tests and according to Spanish press reports he has not torn the muscle, but will be unavailable against Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Until injuring his thigh against Villarreal last Wednesday, Ronaldo had started every game in La Liga and the Champions League, but is now set to miss a third game in a row.
The former Manchester United forward is the top scorer in the Champions League with 16 goals in 10 games and has 31 goals in La Liga, three fewer than leading marksman Luis Suarez.
Ronaldo’s mother Dolores Aveiro said she was hopeful he would be fit for the semifinal second leg in Madrid.
“He’s doing well, he’s not 100 percent, he’s about 80 percent, I think he’ll make it next week,” she said at the launch of her autobiography in Madrid on Wednesday. Naijabet
Madrid striker Karim Benzema is also doubtful for the trip to Real Sociedad after being substituted before halftime with a hip problem. The Frenchman was forced off during Madrid’s 3-2 win at Rayo Vallecano last week with a hamstring injury.
French champions Paris Saint-Germain continue to tick off their remaining league fixtures as they welcome Rennes to the capital on Friday night, knowing that a win would equal their own Ligue 1 points record.
Laurent Blanc’s men made it three French League Cup triumphs in a row last weekend, despite being reduced to 10 men, thanks to Angel Di Maria’s winner against Lille.
Now they will turn their attention back to the league, where they are 27 points clear at the top of the table with just four matches to play.
PSG have just one game left this season of any real importance, the French Cup final against arch rivals Marseille at the Stade de France on May 21, although they need just four more points to break the Ligue 1 record of 89 that they set in 2013-14.
The only disappointment for the club this season was the Champions League quarterfinal exit at the hands of Manchester City, but Qatari chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi quashed speculation about coach Blanc’s future by saying that he would stay at the club next term.
Some of the PSG players, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier Pastore, were allowed to go on holiday to Las Vegas after the French League Cup win. Naijabet.com
Villarreal’s mighty home record in this season’s Uefa Europa League will be a major comfort as they come up against Liverpool in the semifinals, with visiting coach Jürgen Klopp yet to win a Uefa game in Spain
The sides are meeting for the first time in Uefa club competition, though they did play a pre-season friendly in 2008, drawing 0-0 at El Madrigal.
Villarreal’s record in 13 Uefa games against English sides is W3 D6 L4 (W2 D4 L1 at home – W1 D2 L3 in England). They are without a victory in their last ten meetings with Premier League opponents having won all the first three.
Liverpool’s 32 Uefa games against Spanish sides have ended W13 D10 L9 (W4 D6 L5 at Anfield – W7 D4 L4 in Spain). Those games include two final victories on neutral territory: 1-0 against Real Madrid CF in the 1981 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final and 5-4 (after extra time) against Deportivo Alavés in the 2001 Uefa Cup final.
Villarreal are now unbeaten in 11 Uefa Europa League fixtures (W8 D3), and have won all six of their home games in this season’s competition, conceding only once in the process.
Liverpool are the only club to make it from the start of the group stage to matchday 12 unbeaten, with five victories and seven draws – more than any other side in the 2015/16 tournament. Their away record this season is W1 D5. Naija and Bet
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp called for bravery from his players if they are to overcome Villarreal to reach the Europa League final and maintain their hopes of Champions League football next season.
Klopp’s men produced a sensational second-half comeback from 3-1 down to beat his old side Borussia Dortmund 4-3 at Anfield to reach the last four.
However, the German warned against complacency as, despite their lack of European pedigree compared to the English giants, Villarreal are enjoying a great season.
They sit fourth in La Liga behind perennial powerhouses Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
“We have to play brave football,” Klopp told Uefa.com.
“We are now in the semifinals. We got there because we deserved it, and now we have to show we are strong enough to go through.
“They are having a wonderful season, they are a wonderful club in a small city.
“It is clear there are a lot of smart people behind their success.”
Klopp will be without a number of players crucial to Liverpool’s upturn in fortunes over recent weeks. Naijabet.com
Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola conceded his side had paid a heavy price for a slow start as Saul Niguez’s sensational 11th minute solo effort handed Atletico Madrid a slender 1-0 from their Champions League semifinal, first leg on Wednesday.
The German champions dominated possession, but struggled to create chances as Atletico held out for their 33rd clean sheet of the season to take a huge step towards their second final in three years.
“We had talked before the game about how Atletico tend to start well,” said Guardiola, who will leave Bayern to join Manchester City at the start of next season.
“It is not a great result for us. It is always unpleasant to have not scored an away goal, but we still have 90 minutes.”
Bayern also lost the first leg of their semi-final in Spain to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the previous two years of Guardiola’s tenure.
And despite being on the verge of a third German title in as many years in Munich, Guardiola’s men must turn the tide if he is to avoid the embarrassment of leaving for Manchester without having conquered Europe.
“In the Champions League you need to use the full 90 minutes, which we didn’t manage here and didn’t play well for the first 15 minutes.
“We have to play more intelligently in the return match, we need patience and we only need a goal to take the game to extra time.” Naijabet
Chinedu Udoji speaking this morning said that the Nigerian champions, Enyimba, are in good mood to face southeast rivals, Heartland, in Wednesday’s NPFL match at the Umuahia Township Stadium.
The Enyimba captain stated that he is unfazed by comments credited to Heartland skipper, Chinedu Efugh, ahead of the derby in which he promised that they will bring their “whole weight” to bear against the Peoples Elephant.
“If they are going to bring their whole weight on us, I can only say that we are ready to carry it all the way,” Udoji said.
The former FC Abuja man acknowledged that the derby is expected to keenly contested, but believes that the Aba club are good enough to claim the full points. Naijabet
“We are going into the match with the mindset to win,” Udoji said. “No player or team ever goes to a match with the plan to lose, so Enyimba are not thinking in that line.”
The derby is the 25th between the two sides since the premier league era in 2003. Enyimba have won 11 to Heartland’s six while the other fixtures have ended in draws.
Last season in this same fixture, Enyimba emerged two-nil winners with goals from Chinonso Okonkwo and Christian Obiozor.
Playmaker Riyad Mahrez and his Leicester City teammates are taking nothing for granted, despite the club being just one win away from winning a maiden Premier League title.
The Foxes have a seven-point advantage at the top of the standings over Tottenham Hotspur and will win the title with two games to spare if theY beat Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
“It is not done yet,” Mahrez said. “We have to keep going and focus on every game because it is difficult.
“We don’t need to be nervous. This is just a bonus for us. Nobody expected us to be where we are so this is a bonus. If we do it, we do it. If not, that’s life,” the Algerian international added.
“Like I said, we are not a big club. We don’t have to win the Premier League.”
Mahrez, who was named PFA Player of the Year on Sunday after chipping in with 17 goals and 11 assists to aid Leicester’s title charge, said he only began considering the possibility of Leicester winning the league in January. Naija and Bet
Mamadou Sakho will not contest the result of his positive drug test, according to the Press Association.
The Liverpool defender is understood to have returned a positive test for a fat-burning substance after last month’s Europa League game at Manchester United.
Sakho had until a UEFA deadline on Tuesday to request testing on a ‘B’ sample, but he did not take up the option and has instead accepted the initial result.
The France international is not currently suspended but was left out of Liverpool’s squad for Saturday’s draw with Newcastle and has not travelled to Spain for Thursday’s Villarreal game.
Liverpool will not comment on the case, but former Reds defender Jamie Carragher last weekend said Sakho had “let himself and the club down very badly.” Naijabet.com
“There are serious questions to be asked of him,” Carragher said. “It’s nightmare for the player because he was becoming really important for Liverpool.”
Sakho’s Liverpool team-mate Kolo Toure tested positive for a banned substance during his time at Manchester City and was banned for six months under Football Association rules.
Atlético Madrid and Bayern Munich have been regulars in the last four in recent years, although it is their meeting in the 1974 final that most sticks in the memory.
While Diego Simeone’s Atlético have reached the last four for the second time in three years, Bayern are appearing at this stage for the fifth season in a row.
This tie will prompt particularly fond memories for Bayern, who claimed the first of their five European Cups in 1974 with victory against Atlético after a replay – the only time that happened in a final.
The teams have played only twice before, in that 1974 European Cup final – both sides’ first. Atlético were seconds away from taking the trophy at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels before Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck’s 120th-minute equaliser gave Bayern a 1-1 draw.
Two days later, the teams returned to the Heysel Stadium for what would be the only final replay in European Cup history, and this time Bayern ran out 4-0 winners thanks to two goals each from Uli Hoeness (28 82) and Gerd Müller (56 69). It was the first of what would be three successive final triumphs for Bayern.
This is Atlético’s fifth European Cup semifinal; their record is W2 L2. Two years ago, they overcame Chelsea FC 3-1 on aggregate at this stage.
The Spanish side have not lost at home in a European Cup semifinal; their record over their four previous ties is W3 D1. Naijabet
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini vowed that his team would play with no fear in their Champions League semifinal second leg against Real Madrid following a 0-0 first-leg draw.
Missing the Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid created the better chances in Tuesday’s game, but substitute Jese saw a header hit the bar and City goalkeeper Joe Hart produced late saves to thwart Casemiro and Pepe.
City, appearing in their first semifinal, did not work visiting goalkeeper Keylor Navas until Kevin De Bruyne found the target with a stoppage-time free-kick, but Pellegrini said that his side would show a greater cutting edge in next week’s return leg in the Spanish capital.
“I don’t think they are favourites,” said the Chilean, who was sacked after only one season as Madrid head coach in 2010.
“We have the same option as Real Madrid. Of course they have the advantage to play the first game away, so they try to manage the tempo of the game.
“After that they finish at home. But this team play away very similar to how we play at the Etihad. We had good results playing away against Paris Saint-Germain, against Dynamo Kiev and against Sevilla.
“We are not afraid to go to the Bernabeu and we will see which team plays better in that game.” Naija and Bet
Manchester United are building a formidable team capitalizing on the emergence of several talented youngsters, midfielder Ander Herrera has said.
Louis van Gaal’s men have won 10 of their last 15 games in all competitions, clawing back into the race for a Champions League spot with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford showing plenty of promise.
“I think in the last two or three months we have had the feeling that we are cooking a fantastic team. Young players – a fantastic mix between them and the experienced players,” Herrera told British media.
“They have the pace. They have the imagination, not only Anthony and Marcus, but also Jesse (Lingard) and Memphis (Depay).
“They have the imagination to make a fantastic team but I don’t want to look so far ahead. Now we have a fantastic team, a fantastic chance to win a title and we have the chance to beat Leicester at home because we are in a good moment and we are fighting for the top four.” Naija and Bet
United, currently fifth in the league, host leaders Leicester City, who need a win to clinch their first English league title on Sunday.
For all Mauricio Pochettino’s fighting talk about remaining in the Premier League title chase, it was hard not to glimpse a white flag over White Hart Lane after Tottenham Hotspurs’ lacklustre draw with West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
Instead of piling pressure on leaders Leicester City, who are now seven points ahead with three games remaining, Spurs have now given their rivals firm sight of a title which would be secured by victory at Manchester United on Sunday.
This is how many experts predicted the title race would play out. For weeks the focus has been on whether Claudio Ranieri’s side would blink in the spotlight. But while they dazzled with a compelling 4-0 win over Swansea on Sunday, one day later Spurs appeared blinded by the expectation of those who assumed they would win their remaining games with their customary panache.
Amid the hype over Leicester’s first title in their 132-year history, it is easy to forget that Spurs last finished on top in 1961. And when they did so, the team was founded on the steely focus of Danny Blanchflower and uncompromising strength of Dave Mackay.
The Tottenham side who took the field on Monday was much less experienced, with players like Dele Alli and Eric Dier in their first full season. Alli, particularly, looked like the occasion got to him on Monday and appeared to punch Claudio Yacob in a first-half incident that was captured by TV cameras.
Although referee Mike Jones missed the incident, Alli could still face retrospective action in the form of a misconduct charge and a three-match ban that would rule him out of Spurs’ final games. Naijabet
The contrast in European Cup semifinal experience could scarcely be more extreme as Manchester City host Real Madrid in the first leg of their Uefa Champions League last-four tie.
While this is a first semi-final in the competition for City, Madrid are in the last four for a record 27th time – they have won 13 and lost 13 of their previous semi-finals.
Indeed, this is only City’s third European semi-final across Uefa’s club competitions, and their first since 1971. They beat FC Schalke 04 5-2 on aggregate in the 1969/70 European Cup Winners’ Cup semifinals and lost 2-0 to Chelsea over two legs at the same stage of the same competition the following season.
Madrid, meanwhile, are in their 32nd European semi-final; their record is W17 L14. Although they are in a sixth successive Champions League semifinal, they have won only once in that sequence – against Bayern Munich in 2013/14, when they went on to win a tenth title.
The clubs’ only competitive fixtures came in the 2012/13 group stage, when Madrid twice came from behind to win 3-2 in Spain on matchday one. City led twice courtesy of Edin Džeko (68) and Aleksandar Kolarov (85) but Madrid responded through Marcelo (76) and Karim Benzema (87) before Cristiano Ronaldo snatched a 90th-minute victory.
It was 1-1 in Manchester, Sergio Agüero’s penalty cancelling out Benzema’s tenth-minute strike. Madrid ended with ten men as Álvaro Arbeloa collected a second yellow card in fouling Agüero to concede that spot kick.
Those four points helped José Mourinho’s Madrid finish second in Group D, behind Borussia Dortmund; City, then managed by Roberto Mancini, ended bottom with three points having not won a game. Naijabet
Bayern Munich destroyed Atletico Madrid’s dreams of winning the European Cup in 1974 and are out to wreck their hopes of reaching a second Champions League final in three years when they visit the Spanish capital for the semifinal first leg.
In the final in Heysel 42 years ago, an equaliser from defender Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck in the final minute of extra time cancelled out Luis Aragones’ opening goal and forced a replay, in which Bayern ran out 4-0 winners.
That outcome led to contrasting fortunes for both clubs – Bayern went on to win three consecutive European Cups and are now bidding for their sixth triumph in manager Pep Guardiola’s last season in charge before taking over at Manchester City. Naija and Bet
Atletico are still haunted by the memory of Schwarzenbeck’s goal, which prompted the nickname “el pupas” (the cursed ones).
History repeated itself 40 years later when Atletico led Real Madrid 1-0 in the Champions League final and Sergio Ramos headed in a 93rd-minute equaliser to force extra time before going on to thrash the Rojiblancos 4-1.
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy will miss the Premier League leaders’ visit to Manchester United on Sunday after being banned for an additional game for improper conduct.
Vardy, the league’s second-highest scorer this season with 22 goals, angrily confronted referee Jon Moss after being picking up a second yellow card for diving during Leicester’s 2-2 draw against West Ham on April 17.
After missing Sunday’s 4-0 win over Swansea, Vardy will now also be suspended for Sunday’s match at Old Trafford, where Leicester could wrap up their first ever Premier League title with victory. Naijabet.com
The 29-year-old, who was also fined £10 000 , will be available for the final two matches of the season against Everton and Chelsea.
Real Madrid stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were both included in coach Zinedine Zidane’s squad for their Champions League semi-final, first leg at Manchester City on Tuesday despite fitness doubts.
Three-time World Player of the Year Ronaldo missed Saturday’s 3-2 win at Rayo Vallecano with a minor thigh injury, but is expected to start on his return to Manchester, where he spent six years with Manchester United between 2003 and 2009.
Benzema is a bigger doubt after limping off with a knee injury before half-time at Rayo. Predict on naijabet.com
Right-back Dani Carvajal also returns after two games out as Zidane has called-up all 23 available players for the trip to the Etihad.
Gareth Bale was Real’s hero as he scored twice to turn around a 2-0 deficit at Rayo.
And the Welshman — who returns to England for the first time since leaving Tottenham Hotspur three years ago — believes home advantage in the second leg gives Madrid the edge to reach a 14th European Cup final.
“I think that the most important thing is to score away from home,” he told the club’s website.
“At the Santiago Bernabeu we are very strong and obviously we’ll have a lot of chances.
“Playing the second leg at home is important psychologically. If we get a good result in the Etihad Stadium, back at the Bernabeu our fans are always going to help us.
“A win is always a good result, but as long as we don’t lose there, we’ll be very confident at the Bernabeu.”
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney hopes to emulate the successful transition of former club team mate Paul Scholes from an attack-oriented player to a creative midfielder.
With younger and faster talents coming through, including the likes of strike duo Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, Rooney has acknowledged he may have to drop deeper into midfield from his preferred centre forward position.
Manager Louis van Gaal deployed the 30-year-old England captain in a midfield role to good affect in the FA Cup semifinal victory over Everton on Saturday and Rooney was confident he had the ability to cope with the change.
“I’ve known for a few years. I have played there a few times throughout my career and I can play that position. I have played and watched Paul Scholes play that role for years,” Rooney said after their 2-1 win.
“I always knew that one day that is where I would play, so I have tried to learn and watch what he did. It is still early days, but hopefully, if I keep playing there, I can develop and get better,” he added.
“We have got a lot of pace in the team now and I think I can read the game quite well… whether to go forward or stay deeper and leave the space for the other lads.” Naija and Bet
Champions League-berth chasing United, who are fifth in the standings and five points off the final qualifying spot, host leaders Leicester City at Old Trafford on Sunday.
West Ham United’s first game in their new London Olympic Stadium home will be a friendly against Italian club Juventus on August 7, the Premier League club said on Monday.
The club leaves the Boleyn Ground, their home since 1904, at the end of the season after agreeing a 99-year lease with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to rent the London 2012 centrepiece for a reported 2.5 million pounds per season.
“We are delighted to be marking such a monumental day in West Ham United’s history by welcoming one of the world’s biggest clubs to our fantastic new home,” joint-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold said in a statement.
“It was always our intention to open the new 60 000-capacity Stadium on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with a fixture fitting of the occasion, and the visit of the reigning Italian champions Juventus is most certainly that.”
Premier League club West Ham’s move to the stadium, built at a cost of around 500 million pounds, has drawn criticism after details of their rental agreement were revealed recently.
West Ham paid 15 million pounds towards a 270-million-pound re-fit of the stadium, which will also host next year’s IAAF world athletics championships. But they will not be responsible for running costs such as maintaining the pitch, goalposts, floodlights or even pest control and turnstiles. Naijabet
West Ham will make performance-related payments to the LLDC, rising to 100 000 pounds should they win the league and a further 100 000 pounds if they win the FA Cup