Arsenal to face an almost impossible task against red-hot Barcelona on Wednesday

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his side face an almost impossible task when they travel to face a red-hot Barcelona on Wednesday looking to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in six years.

As so often in the second half of Wenger’s 20-year reign, Arsenal will travel to the Camp Nou with a sense of what might have been.

They had their chances to lead at the Emirates three weeks ago before Barca’s brilliant forward triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez cut through them with an unerring ease they have made routine.

Messi, Neymar and Suarez have scored a combined 103 goals this season while Arsenal’s entire squad a mere 71.

Top of the list of Wenger’s detractors has been his inability or unwillingness to splash out on the top-class striker needed to turn Arsenal from perennial pretenders into winners.

Yet, he tried to land Suarez whilst the Uruguayan was still at Liverpool in 2013.

In a tale of Arsenal’s penny-pinch culture under Wenger, they infuriated Liverpool by launching a bid one pound over Suarez’s reported £40 million buyout clause.

Even more damming for Arsenal was that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard managed to talk Suarez into staying for an extra season at Anfield by telling him he was “too good for Arsenal” and that his move to Barcelona would come,

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Antonio Conte Italy coach may be Chelsea next Manager

Antonio Conte will step down from his position as manager of Italy following Euro 2016.

Conte has been heavily linked with the managerial vacancy at Chelsea and this move increases the prospect of him taking over at Stamford Bridge.

The 46-year-old was appointed Italy manager in August 2014 shortly after resigning as coach of Juventus.

“He feels the need for the pitch, the everyday training,” said Italian FA president Carlo Tavecchio.

Conte led the Turin club to three successive Serie A titles prior to taking on the national job.

Chelsea sacked Jose Mourinho as their manager in December 2015 and appointed Guus Hiddink on an interim basis until the end of the season.

The Blues have improved from 16th to 10th in the league under Hiddink but have been knocked out of the Champions League and FA Cup.

They face missing out on next season’s Champions League unless they can make up an 11-point gap in nine games.

Conte is a former Italy midfielder who made over 500 appearances for Juventus, winning five league titles and a Champions League. Naija and bet

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Manchester City v Dynamo Kiev,Yaya Toure has recovered from injury and is fit to play

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has recovered from injury and is fit to play in Today’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Dynamo Kiev.

The Ivorian, 32, missed Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Norwich in the Premier League because of a heel injury.

“He has no problems,” said City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who will attempt to guide City into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

City, who enjoy a 3-1 first-leg lead, are favourites to progress.

But a cautious Pellegrini said his team must forget about the advantage they built in Ukraine.

“The most important thing is to know we have not yet qualified. We play against a team who know how to play this type of game,” said the Chilean.

“We’re not going to play with the score we got in Kiev, we’re just going to say it’s 0-0 and try to win the game.” Naijabet

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Diego Costa charged with improper conduct following his red card at Everton

Chelsea striker Diego Costa has been charged with improper conduct following his red card at Everton on Saturday.

The Spaniard was sent off after a clash with Everton midfielder Gareth Barry in the 84th minute of Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park.

Costa, 27, appeared to bite Barry in the incident, although both players have denied that happened.

However, the Football Association has now charged Costa for his behaviour after being shown a second yellow card.

“It is alleged his behaviour, after being shown a second yellow card in the game, amounted to improper conduct,” the FA said in a statement.

The player has until  on Thursday, 17 March to respond to the charge.

He has also been given until Wednesday to provide his observations to the FA over an alleged gesture made towards Everton supporters while leaving the pitch at half-time. Naijabet

Leicester extended their lead at the top of the Premier League

Shinji Okazaki’s spectacular overhead kick earned the Foxes a win which, with just eight games left, moved them closer to their first league title.

An improved Newcastle went close through Ayoze Perez and Moussa Sissoko.

But ultimately Leicester’s pressing foiled them and the defeat leaves the Magpies second from bottom.

Before the match, Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri refused to accept his team were favourites to win the title, insisting that qualifying for the Europa League was the target.

But as he gesticulated on the sidelines in the closing minutes, urging the home fans to increase the volume, his actions suggested that he and his team are chasing more than a chance to compete in Europe’s second-tier competition.

With every passing week, the prospect of the Foxes achieving what their former striker Gary Lineker describes as possibly the most “unlikely triumph in the history of team sport” becomes more likely.

A team which at the start of the season were among the bookies’ favourites to be relegated are on the home straight, unbeaten in four matches and closing in on history.

Ranieri’s men are 12 points clear of Manchester City and 11 ahead of Arsenal, leaving many to believe the title is a two-way fight between the leaders and second-placed Tottenham.

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Leicester City ‘on edge of sporting immortality’

Former Leicester City striker Gary Lineker says his old club “are on the edge of sporting immortality”.

The Foxes, fighting relegation last year, are top of the Premier League with nine games to go.

They can go five points clear if they win their game in hand against Newcastle on today.

“They are on the edge of sporting immortality,” he said. “I don’t think I have ever wanted something to happen more in sport in my entire life.”

Lineker admitted he was wrong to be sceptical about the appointment of Claudio Ranieri, who succeeded Nigel Pearson as Leicester boss in July last year.

The Match of the Day presenter said he thought the 64-year-old Italian was an “uninspired choice” when he arrived after a spell as Greece boss.

“Oh how wrong I was,” said former England captain Lineker. “How wonderfully, spectacularly, blissfully wrong.”

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Wright says Fans’ criticism of Arsene Wenger hurts

Arsenal legend Ian Wright says “it is tearing him apart” to see Arsene Wenger come under fire from Gunners fans.

Wenger faces increasing criticism from some supporters angry with the club’s poor form, with one banner urging him to end his 19-year reign as manager.

The London club have slipped to third in the Premier League table and exited the FA Cup at the weekend.

Wright says that he found it “very uncomfortable” to see Wenger being treated the way he is.

“It is tearing me apart because I played for him and have a lot of respect for him,” said Wright. “He gave me extra years on my career.”

Arsenal’s season looked very healthy just a few weeks ago.

They were top of the Premier League on 4 January and fighting for silverware in two cup competitions.

But they have won only two of their past nine league games and now lie third in the table, eight points behind leaders Leicester City and six behind north London rivals Tottenham.

They are also heading out of the Champions League.

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Keylor Navas sent warning to his team-mates following their scrappy win over Las Palmas

Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas has warned his team-mates that they must change their style of play if they want to be winning silverware anytime soon.

A late goal from Casemiro spared Madrid’s blushes on Sunday as they scraped to a 2-1 win away toLas Palmas.

The Spanish outfit advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday but sit in third in La Liga, 12 points behind leaders Barcelona with nine games left to play.

And Navas believes Madrid will not be lifting any trophies come season’s end if they do not start playing differently.

“In the second half [against Las Palmas] we did not have the best of games,” Navas

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Gareth Barry says Diego Costa did not bite him

Everton midfielder Gareth Barry says Chelsea striker Diego Costa did not bite him when they clashed during Saturday’s quarter-final.

Costa was shown a second yellow card for his part in the incident, in the 84th minute of Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park, but denied biting Barry.

The Toffees player, who was later sent off, has backed Costa’s claim.

The Football Association is awaiting referee Michael Oliver’s report before deciding if more action is necessary.

Costa responded to a tackle from Barry by confronting the England international, moving his head towards him and in the direction of his neck.

Blues manager Guus Hiddink said the 27-year-old striker had been “chased a bit in the game” and was provoked by Everton players.

Barry was sent off three minutes after Costa when he was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Cesc Fabregas.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez said the 35-year-old had not complained after the match about his clash with Costa.

Former referee Howard Webb : “I’ll be amazed if Costa is not punished for his reaction after the second yellow card. Naija and bet

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Is Arsenal’s season over?

Following defeats by Swansea and Barcelona, this was Arsenal’s third consecutive loss at the Emirates – their worst home run since moving from Highbury in 2006.

Defeat at home to Swansea in early March saw Arsenal’s Premier League aspirations take a serious blow, and with the gap to leaders Leicester having since moved out to eight points, winning the title looks very unlikely.

Then followed their 2-0 reverse at home to Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League. Not many Gunners fans will be betting against the Spanish side progressing at their expense in the second leg on Wednesday.

Victory in this year’s FA Cup was without a doubt the club’s best chance of silverware. And it would have been Wenger’s seventh triumph, making him the most successful manager in the history of the competition.

Watford stunned FA Cup holders Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium to book their place in the semi-finals at Wembley. Naija bet

Now, though, the pressure will be on the Frenchman like never before during his near 20-year reign in north London.

If Arsenal’s two consecutive FA Cup trophies were supposed to demonstrate progress towards winning the league or the Champions League, what does this season’s disappointing exit herald?

What is next for Arsenal?

Borussia Dortmund moved within five points of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich

Reus scored from Gonzalo Castro’s fine pass on the half-hour and Kagawa added the second on 73 minutes.

Mainz goalkeeper Loris Karius made a string of impressive second-half saves to prevent more Dortmund goals.

Dortmund are unbeaten in 12 games, including nine in the league, since their defeat at Cologne in December.

But Bayern remain clear favourites for a fourth successive title after their 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Dortmund’s win was marred by the death of a supporter attending the match. Another fan had to be resuscitated following two separate incidents.

The club said the second supporter was in a stable condition in hospital.

The club statement read: “During the game there were two tragic incidents in the stadium in which two spectators had to be resuscitated.

“Unfortunately one person did not make it and has died. We are full of sadness and the families are in our thoughts.

“We have received the news from the hospital that the condition of the second person is apparently stable.”

Paris St-Germain were crowned French champions with their fourth-successive title

Laurent Blanc’s men clinched their fourth-successive title in style with the biggest away win in the history of the competition.

They did it with just one defeat in 30 games after they were beaten 2-1 by Lyon in February, and the latest win took their goal difference to +62, with just 15 league goals conceded.

They have won 24 of their 30 games and Ibrahimovic has scored 31 goals in 25 appearances to add to Cavani’s 16 in 27.

Defeat left Troyes, who had Lossemy Karaboue sent off in the 64th minute, eight points adrift of second-from-bottom Toulouse with a goal difference of -47.

Having confirmed their dominance of the domestic scene, PSG will now attempt to transfer their success onto the Champions League stage.

Blanc’s side beat Chelsea 4-2 on aggregate in the last 16 of this season’s competition and will find out their quarter-final opponents when the draw takes place in Nyon on Friday.

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Paris St-Germain may be Crowned Champions on Sunday

Paris St-Germain will be crowned champions of France for the fourth successive season if results go their way this weekend.

Should Monaco fail to defeat struggling Reims on Friday, Laurent Blanc’s side can wrap up the title with victory at bottom club Troyes on Sunday.

PSG are 23 points ahead of second-placed Monaco with nine games left.

If they do not win it this weekend, PSG could clinch the title by beating Monaco at home the following Sunday.

The record for the earliest title won from the five big European leagues – Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 – is held by Bayern Munich.

They were crowned champions of Germany on 25 March 2014 after 27 games in an 18-team league – France has 20.

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Newcastle United appoint Rafael Benitez to replace Steve McClaren’s

Rafael Benitez has been named as Newcastle’s new manager, following the sacking of Steve McClaren.

The former Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Valencia boss takes over with the Magpies a point from safety with 10 games left.

Spaniard Benitez, 55, has signed a three-year contract and brought in coaches Fabio Pecchia, Francisco de Miguel Moreno and Antonio Gomez Perez.

“C’mon Toon Army. The club and I need your total involvement,” he said.

Benitez was sacked in January after seven months as Real Madrid boss.

He spent six years as Liverpool manager, winning the Champions League in 2005. He also had an interim spell with Chelsea, guiding the Blues to Europa League success in 2013.

“I have the pleasure to confirm I have committed to a legendary English club, with the massive challenge of remaining part of the Premier League,” he said.

“It will be a challenge not just for me and my staff but for the players, the club and the fans.

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Karim Benzema will be allow to play for France at Euro 2016

Striker Karim Benzema will be eligible to play for France at Euro 2016 after some legal restrictions were lifted.

Benzema is being investigated for his part in an alleged plot to blackmail France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The Real Madrid player – who denies wrongdoing – was not allowed to contact Valbuena, meaning they could not be in the same squad, but an appeals court has partially lifted some restrictions.

However Benzema, who is injured, was suspended from France duty in December.

That ban was due to stand until the end of court proceedings.

An investigating judge last month lifted the order keeping Benzema and Lyon playmaker Valbuena apart, but the prosecutor appealed. That was dismissed on Friday. Naija and bet Continue reading “Karim Benzema will be allow to play for France at Euro 2016”

Newcastle United has sack head coach Steve McClaren

Newcastle United have sacked head coach Steve McClaren.

The former England boss won just six of 28 Premier League games in charge of the Magpies, who are just one place off the foot of the table.

McClaren and his team were booed off following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Bournemouth at St James’ Park – their third successive league defeat.

Former Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss Rafael Benitez has been tipped to take over.

McClaren’s future has been a source of almost constant speculation since the defeat to the Cherries.

“Newcastle have finally put Steve McClaren out of his misery.

“The running of that great football club is beyond shambolic.”

Ian Dennis, said Benitez had been identified as a replacement for McClaren at a board meeting on Monday.

McClaren, 54, signed a three-year contract with the Magpies in June after the club avoided relegation on the final day of last season.

Newcastle’s next game is at leaders Leicester City on Monday.

Club statement

“After the defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday, the club has spent some time considering its position and has today concluded that Steve McClaren’s employment with the club will end with immediate effect.

“We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise.

“However, we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart.

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Ronaldo Reveals 3 Things Real Madrid Need To be Crown Champions

Cristiano Ronaldo has said Real Madrid need to add “continuity, luck, ambition” to their game following their 2-0 win over AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday and praised Gareth Bale for his performance on his successful return to action following injury.

 “We know the quarter and semi-finals are going to be much more difficult. We’re still lacking a lot. We’re lacking continuity, luck, ambition… but if we continue like this, I think we’re on the right path.”

 he said of the Welshman: “Bale played really well considering he had been out of action for so long. I thought Lucas Vazquez was great too. He’s a great asset for the team, playing well and fighting when he gets a chance.”

Ronaldo recently generated controversy by criticising his team-mates following Real’s 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, saying: “If we were all at my level maybe we would be leaders,” per BBC Sport.

However, despite assertion that his latest comments signal he “has done it again,” this time it appears he has simply made a frank and honest assessment of the team’s shortcomings. 

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I want to return to Argentina in 2018 ,Sergio Aguero

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has said he will leave the Premier League club when his contract expires.

The Argentina international’s five-year deal at Etihad Stadium takes him to the end of the 2018-19 season.

He has scored 128 goals for City since signing from Atletico Madrid for £38m in 2011, winning two league titles.

Aguero, 27, “it’s clear” I am going to return to my first club Independiente “and retire there”.

“Here (at City) they know what I want to do, they know I want to return to Argentina,” he added.

“My family know that I am going to go there when my contract with Manchester City finishes in 2018.”

It is unclear why Aguero referred to his deal ending in 2018, as the club have confirmed he is contracted until 2019. Naijabet

Togo coach hopes for Emmanuel Adebayor return

Togo coach Tom Saintfiet is hopeful he may yet be able to convince Emmanuel Adebayor to return to the national team, after the striker rejected a call-up for their forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tunisia.

Adebayor, who last played for his country in June 2015, said he wanted to focus on his new club Crystal Palace which he joined in January after 10 months away from professional football.

But Saintfiet said the 32-year-old was still key to his plans.

“As national team coach, I want Adebayor to return to the national team, I want him to be there, I want him to play and I want him to score goals for our country,

Adebayor has had a difficult relationship with Saintfiet in the past.

The former Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal player had not been picked since failing to turn up for a Nations Cup qualifier against Djibouti in September following a row over losing the captaincy. Naijabet new

But Saintfiet says he has been monitoring Adebayor’s progress at Crystal Palace and is hopeful the striker may change his mind about returning to the national set-up before the Tunisia match on 25 March.

“I got the information that Adebayor gave a message that he is is not ready to come back, but let’s see what happens in the next coming weeks,” he said.

“We have still a few weeks before the match, so I hope we can still convince him to return to the national team.”

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Europa League : Borussia Dortmund defeat Tottenham 3-0 in last-16 tie

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has “no regrets” about making seven changes to his side, despite a 3-0 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.

Pochettino, whose side are also trying to win the Premier League title, named striker Harry Kane as a substitute.

“I am very disappointed with the result. It was a bad day in the office but we need to accept that,” he said.

“We picked the starting XI to try and win the game.”Naijabet

A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang header and two Marco Reus goals left Spurs on the brink of elimination before the return leg at White Hart Lane on 17 March.

Tottenham have not won for three matches, their loss in Germany following a 1-0 defeat at West Ham and a 2-2 draw with Arsenal.

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Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 at Anfield

Liverpool produced a sensational performance to take a 2-0 lead in its UEFA Europa League series with Manchester United on a night to remember at Anfield. A Daniel Sturridge penalty kick in the first half and Roberto Firmino’s latest goal in the closing stages were the key moments in a display that would have brought even more were it not for David de Gea in the opposition goal. The key points: Sturridge’s penalty kick put the Reds ahead after 20 minutes.

Scholes, who made 718 appearances for United, told BT Sport that the Old Trafford club “have certain standards and they have fallen well short”.

He added: “Liverpool had a way of playing. United didn’t have a clue.”

“Manchester United should be competing to win the Premier League and Champions League every season,” said Scholes.

“They have spent £300m and they are sixth in the league. They have ended up in the Europa League after failing in a poor Champions League group. They should be competing with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

“I hope none of the players comes out saying sorry on Twitter. Stop talking on social media and start playing. Naijabet

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Arsenal should make a brilliant move by signing Ibramimovic : Rio Ferdinand

Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be the perfect signing for Arsenal in the summer as he would bring a winning mentality to the club that is currently lacking, according to Rio Ferdinand.

The former Manchester United centre-back said after Ibrahimovic masterminded Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 UEFA Champions League victory over Chelsea on Wednesday, that English clubs should be looking to snap him up when his contract with the French club expires in the summer.

He showed  that even at 34, as a free transfer English clubs should be looking at this guy to come over here and be the catalyst to winning things because that’s what he does—he wins things.

This game was decided by clinical top-level play and he was at the centre of that both times, one with an assist and one with a goal which basically ended the tie.

What he’d bring to Arsenal is a mentality, what they’re lacking to win. To get over the line and win titles. He’s done that more than anyone.

Ibrahimovic remains one of the best players in Europe and has netted 23 goals and provided 10 assists in Ligue 1 this season as PSG have opened up a 23-point gap at the top of the table. Naija play and win 

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Leicester City : Our Dream May Be Real

“The title is not ours,” said Leicester City Manager Claudio Ranieri. “Something special can happen, but we have to fight a lot, slowly, slowly.”

Those cautious words, said on television after Leicester’s latest win at Watford , contained for the first time an acknowledgement from this wily old coach that the seemingly impossible could happen.

Ranieri has been in denial throughout this remarkable season. His mantra has been that the Foxes are a small club running just to survive and that he has been expecting them to be chased down by the pack, led by Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City.

He is right, to the extent that it is still an implausible dream that a club the size of Leicester ever could win the Premiership. Yet with nine games remaining after this weekend, and with the Foxes five points ahead of their closest rival, the chasers are beginning to run out of games to reel Leicester in.

“A lot can happen,” insisted Leicester’s goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel. “In nine games last season, we saved ourselves in this league.” Naijabet

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Muller says Barcelona are not Stronger than Bayern

Thomas Muller says he does not know in what aspect Barcelona could be superior to Bayern Munich.

Muller, 26, scored the opening goal of the game in Bayern’s 2-2 draw at Juventus in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie as the Bundesliga champions aim to win a second European crown in four years.

Bayern were knocked out of last year’s tournament in the semi-finals by Barcelona – who went on to win the treble – but Muller believes the clubs are more even than most people think. Naijabet 

“Barcelona are in a good moment and they come from winning the treble last season,” the Germany international told Sport1. “But I see Bayern as one of the strongest in Europe, naturally alongside Barcelona.

“Bayern are first in the [Bundesliga], are one game away from a cup final, and got a good result away in the first leg of the round of 16.

“I don’t know where they are better than us.”

The forward added: “You can see every week how good they are, but also you can see our games and say ‘Yes, they are also very strong’.

“If we find ourselves up against Barcelona again, we will be prepared.”

Benfica reached the Champions League quarter-finals with win against Zenit St Petersburg.

Two-time European champions Benfica reached the Champions League quarter-finals with a 3-1 aggregate win against Zenit St Petersburg.

 Benfican won the European Cup in 1961 and 1962.

The Portuguese side won the first leg 1-0 but Zenit levelled the tie in Russia on Wednesday when Hulk scored a second-half header.

However, Nicolas Gaitan nodded in after the hosts’ keeper Yuri Lodygin had pushed a shot onto the bar.

Talisca then sealed a 2-1 win on the night with a late drive.

Zenit, managed by former Chelsea and Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas, had been looking to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.

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