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Bale set to return to Madrid s squad after injury layoff

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Gareth Bale is expected to make his return to Real Madrid's lineup in a Copa del Rey match this week after being sidelined for more than two months because of injuries. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Monday that the Wales forward has recovered from a left leg muscle injury and will play at least part of Tuesday's match against Fuenlabrada at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Madrid won the first leg 2-0 against the third-division club. Bale hasn't played since Madrid's 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Sept. 26. Plagued by injuries this season, his latest ailment came in practice while trying to recover from another muscle injury. "He will be with us tomorrow and will play," Zidane said. "But I still don't know for how long he will play. We will see how the match goes." The coach did not say whether the 28-year-old Bale will start or come off the bench. Bale has played only nine matches with Madrid this season, scoring three goals. He missed the final World Cup qualifiers with Wales, which was eventually left out of next year's tournament in Russia. Zidane said he is looking forward to seeing Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema playing together again, although that is not likely to happen on Tuesday. "We will take a look at some of the players from the youth team," Zidane said. "It's important to do that." Ronaldo and many other regular starters were left out of the first leg last month. Zidane said goalkeeper Keylor Navas is fully fit again and will be available for Tuesday's match, as will defensive midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who also had been nursing an injury. Defender Sergio Ramos, who broke his nose in the Spanish league match against Atletico Madrid nearly 10 days ago, has been practicing with a protective mask but will not play Tuesday. In other matches this week, Barcelona defends a 3-0 first-leg win against Murcia, while Atletico Madrid looks to overcome a 1-1 draw against Elche......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnNov 28th, 2017

Dominant at home, Europe where Bayern & City measure success

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Three of the teams in the Champions League quarterfinals are in a luxurious position, and running away with their domestic competitions allows them to concentrate on European glory. Manchester City and Bayern Munich could even secure trophies between the first and second legs in Europe over the next week or so. City, which travels to Liverpool in an all-northwest England quarterfinal on Wednesday, has a 16-point lead in the Premier League. Bayern, which is a point better off at the Bundesliga summit, visits on Tuesday a Sevilla side that is in the European Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 60 years. Barcelona has a nine-point lead at home as it prepares to host Roma on Wednesday, with defending champion Real Madrid trailing by 13 points in third place. Madrid, though, is a European force. Champions League winners in three of the last four seasons, Zinedine Zidane's side visits Serie A leader Juventus on Tuesday. A closer look at the quarterfinal match-ups: ___ JUVENTUS-REAL MADRID Has Gareth Bale done enough to retain his place in Madrid's starting lineup? Either side of the recent international break, Bale scored three goals in two matches. But he wasn't entrusted with a starting place in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain — reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the Wales forward's status in the squad. "I'm pleased with his performance," Madrid coach Zidane said after Bale scored twice in a 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Las Palmas on Saturday. "You'll have to wait and see if he plays on Tuesday." Lucas Vazquez could drop out if Zidane restores the "BBC" front-line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Bale. Bale, though, could miss out again if Madrid decide to add an extra midfielder for the first leg in Turin by including Marco Asensio or Francisco "Isco" Alarcon. Madrid and Juventus are meeting for the first time since last season's final when the Spanish capital club swept to a 12th European title. The only Champions League final Madrid has failed to reach in the last four seasons was in 2014-15 — when it lost to Juventus in the semifinals. Juventus must raise its game after struggling in Serie A recently. After a 0-0 draw at lowly Spal, the team was outplayed by AC Milan for much of Saturday's match before Juan Cuadrado came off the bench to turn things around. On his first appearance after more than three months out with a groin injury, Cuadrado grabbed the crucial second goal in a 3-1 win. "He's come back well and has astounded me," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said, "because often in the past he hasn't done well coming off the bench." Juventus is once again in the hunt for a treble, leading Serie A by four points and through to the Italian Cup final. ___ BARCELONA-ROMA Barcelona can count on Lionel Messi again but how fit is he? After missing recent Argentina games with a muscular problem, he made a scoring return from the bench on Saturday against Sevilla to preserve Barcelona's unbeaten La Liga record this season. Coach Ernesto Valverde, however, said Messi is still bothered by pain heading into the game against Roma. The Italian capital club is awaiting a prognosis on Radja Nainggolan's thigh injury. The Belgium international, who has started all of Roma's Champions League matches, limped off 16 minutes into Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bologna. Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco is doubtful Nainggolan will recover in time "He is the 'Ninja,'" Di Francesco said. "He told me to wait and tried to run it off, but if he had to give up and leave the pitch that means there's really something wrong and the problem is serious." With Roma prioritizing the game against Barcelona, the lack of depth was evident on Saturday when Edin Dzeko had to come off the bench to salvage a draw. __ LIVERPOOL-MAN CITY City makes a return trip to the only stadium where it has lost during an otherwise unbeaten Premier League campaign. With Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane boasting 75 goals between them this season, Liverpool has an impressive attacking armory to take on Pep Guardiola's side. "They are almost unstoppable," Guardiola said. "The way Liverpool play is so complicated for us. We know that. They are so quick, they are so good." The 4-3 loss at Anfield in January was a blip in City's progression to the Premier League title that can be sealed with a win against Manchester United on Saturday. With the European first leg on Wednesday and the return at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday, Guardiola's predicament will be whether to rest players for the Manchester derby and potentially miss out on winning the Premier League in perhaps the sweetest way. Guardiola is hoping to welcome Sergio Aguero back from a knee injury that has kept the striker out of action for a month. While Liverpool is England's most successful side with five European Cups, City has never won the competition. Guardiola, though, led Barcelona to two Champions League titles. ___ SEVILLA-BAYERN MUNICH Bayern's players must be dreading the sight of Sevilla: Spanish teams have eliminated them in the past four seasons. Before then, Bayern lifted the European Cup in the all-German 2013 final against Borussia Dortmund when Jupp Heynckes completed a treble before stepping down. The 72-year-old coach was brought out of retirement to return in October when Carlo Ancelotti was fired after losing to PSG. Heynckes has overseen a remarkable turnaround, with Bayern on course to repeat the 2013 treble. Sevilla, though, keeps on upsetting more illustrious sides. Not only was Jose Mourinho's Manchester United stunned in the round of 16 but Barcelona was held to a draw on Saturday. Sevilla, which won the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016, is contesting its first European Cup quarterfinal since 1958. ___ Tales Azzoni in Madrid, Daniella Matar in Milan and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 3rd, 2018

I believe is Roma s slogan vs. Liverpool in CL semifinal

By The Associated Press Roma already erased a three-goal deficit once in this season's Champions League. The Giallorossi believe they can do it again against Liverpool on Wednesday. "We've already shown we're capable of coming back and we should have the belief that we can do it again," Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. Liverpool won the first leg 5-2, so Roma needs a repeat of its 3-0 second-leg victory over Barcelona in the quarterfinals to reach next month's final in Kiev. A 4-1 win — Roma's result against Chievo Verona on Saturday — would also suffice. "I believe. That's my slogan and that's what I want to transmit to my players," Di Francesco added. However, Roma will have to find a way to stop its former striker, Mohamed Salah, who scored the opening two goals of the first leg. Security will also be a concern following clashes at the first leg that left a Liverpool fan in critical condition. Italian state police said "special attention" will be paid to the arrival and movements of 5,000 Liverpool supporters in the capital. Wednesday's game is a rematch of the 1984 European Cup final that Liverpool won in a penalty shootout in Roma's stadium. In the other semifinal, Real Madrid will look to protect a 2-1 lead against Bayern Munich on Tuesday as it seeks a third consecutive title. REDS REUNITE Liverpool should have its devastating front three intact for the second leg, with coach Juergen Klopp saying Sadio Mane will be fit after a minor thigh injury. Mane, who missed the 0-0 draw with Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday, will link up again with Salah and Roberto Firmino — reuniting the players who scored all of Liverpool's goals in the first leg. They have scored 28 goals between them in this season's Champions League, more than any other team in the competition. Klopp does have issues in midfield, though, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out for the rest of the season after sustaining a serious knee problem in the first leg to join fellow midfielders Adam Lallana and Emre Can on the injury list. Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are Klopp's only fit senior midfielders. Liverpool, a five-time European champion, has proved to be the master of the counterattack domestically and in the Champions League this season, so is the last team that Roma will want to be gung-ho against. The Reds did, though, squander a three-goal cushion against Sevilla in the group stage to draw 3-3. MADRID OPTIONS Madrid may not be as depleted as expected for the return match against Bayern. Right back Dani Carvajal is still set to miss Tuesday's match because of a muscle problem, but Francisco "Isco" Alarcon appears to have recovered from the shoulder injury that everyone expected to keep him from playing at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Isco, a key piece in Zinedine Zidane's midfield, had to be replaced at halftime in the first leg in Germany because of a sprained left shoulder. He practiced with the rest of the squad for the first time since the injury on Sunday. If Isco can't play, Zidane will likely start with Marco Asensio, who came off the bench to score the winner on Wednesday. Another player who may be available for Zidane on Tuesday is defender Nacho Fernandez, who had been out for a while because of a muscle injury but also practiced with the squad on Sunday. Zidane rested Cristiano Ronaldo and most of the regular starters in the team's 2-1 win against Leganes in the Spanish league on Saturday. Casemiro was the only player who started in the first leg against Bayern and also on Saturday. "They'll come here with nothing to lose," Zidane said of Bayern. "We'll have to put in a huge performance." BAYERN'S BELIEF Bayern is taking heart from the number of chances it created in the first leg and from its 2-1 lead in Madrid last year before Zinedine Zidane's side ultimately won their quarterfinal in extra time. "I think they were floundering for every cross and for every long ball, so we know what we have to do," Bayern striker Sandro Wagner said. Thomas Mueller, one of a host of players including Franck Ribery, James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski left out of Bayern's 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, says the side is traveling with confidence to Madrid. "We all know that we need a top performance on Tuesday. We all know as well, however, that there's everything to play for," Mueller said. Arjen Robben, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez all missed the Frankfurt game through injury. Robben reportedly is still out and won't make the trip, while Bayern hopes David Alaba can make his comeback from a back injury. Bayern, which faces Frankfurt again in the German Cup final on May 19, needs to beat Madrid to keep alive its hopes of a treble after clinching the Bundesliga with five rounds to spare. "We swore that we'd throw everything into the return game," Wagner said. "I'm looking forward to it. I'd play it right now if I could.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

Madrid wins with Ronaldo rested for Champions League semis

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid rested Cristiano Ronaldo and other regulars for the Champions League and still got the win it needed to stay in contention for second place in the Spanish league. Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral scored first-half goals as Madrid defeated Leganes 2-1 on Saturday to move within a point of second-place Atletico Madrid, which plays at Alaves on Sunday. Ronaldo and captain Sergio Ramos weren't included for the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, while Marcelo, Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez stayed on the bench. Madrid defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 in Germany last week to take the edge going into Tuesday's second leg of the Champions League semifinals at the Bernabeu. Madrid is trying to return to the European final for the fourth time in five seasons. Bale and Karim Benzema, who didn't start in the first leg against Bayern, were in the lineup against Leganes. Casemiro was the only player to start in both matches. "I'm happy with the attitude of my players, it was exemplary," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "The first half was phenomenal." Darko Brasanac scored midway through the second half for Leganes, which earlier this season eliminated Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. The southern Madrid club dropped to 16th in the 20-team standings and is not fully clear of relegation with three matches left. Leganes midfielder Gabriel Pires was sent off in injury time. Barcelona needs a draw at relegation-threatened Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday to win its third La Liga in four seasons. "We can't be happy with how things unfolded in La Liga," Zidane said. "We lost too many points in the beginning." Madrid has a game in hand, at Sevilla. Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella was fired on Saturday because of poor results, and replaced by Joaquin Caparros, who coached the team in the early 2000s. VILLARREAL WINS Villarreal strengthened its grip on sixth place and a Europa League spot by defeating Celta Vigo 4-1 at home thanks to a first-half hat trick by Carlos Bacca. The win gave Villarreal a six-point gap to seventh-place Sevilla, which holds the final Europa berth. Villarreal is two points behind fifth-place Real Betis, which hosts last-place Malaga on Monday. Villarreal has a game in hand, at Barcelona. BASQUE DERBY Real Sociedad defeated Basque Country rival Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to keep alive its chances of earning a Europa League spot. The host took advantage of two own-goals by Athletic defender Mikel San Jose. Mikel Oyarzabal also scored for Sociedad, while Raul Garcia put Athletic on the board by converting a second-half penalty kick when his team already trailed by three goals. Sociedad midfielder Ruben Pardo was sent off near the end only a few minutes after being substituted in. Sociedad moved to 10th place, two points from Sevilla in the Europa League qualification zone. ESPANYOL DRAWS Espanyol was unable to secure its salvation after being held at home by already relegated Las Palmas 1-1. A victory would have been enough for Espanyol to stay in the first division, but it needs to hope Deportivo La Coruna loses points against leader Barcelona at home on Sunday to be able to guarantee its salvation this weekend. Espanyol is 12 points in front of Clarence Seedorf's Deportivo, the first team inside the relegation zone. There will be three rounds left after this weekend. Espanyol is winless in seven games and had lost four in a row entering the weekend......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

Madrid has depleted defense for 2nd leg against Juventus

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Scoring hasn't been a problem for Real Madrid recently, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo in top form. But the European champions could have issues in defense when they host Juventus in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday. Madrid will try to protect its three-goal advantage from the first leg with coach Zinedine Zidane unable to use his best players in central defense. Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is suspended and his immediate substitute, Nacho Fernandez, is out injured. Raphael Varane just returned from injury, and the other central defender in the squad, 21-year-old Jesus Vallejo, hasn't been fully fit and it remains unclear if he will be able to make it to the match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Madrid won the first leg 3-0 in Turin, with Ronaldo scoring with a spectacular bicycle kick for his second goal of the match. Madrid can reach the semifinals for the eighth straight year even if it loses Wednesday's game by two goals. Zidane probably would have liked not to force Varane's return in the Spanish league derby against Atletico Madrid this weekend, but he couldn't rest him because Vallejo was bothered by muscle discomfort in practice last week. Exams showed no major injury to Vallejo, but he trained separately from the squad on Monday before joining the rest of the team on Tuesday. "Jesus had a good practice session, he didn't feel anything," Zidane said. "Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will see who gets to play. We shouldn't have any problems. If we do, we will adapt." Vallejo is Zidane's last option to play in central defense, and the youngster didn't impress in the few times he got to play this season. He has made only eight appearances, mostly when Zidane chose to rest his regular starters. His last match was against Las Palmas following the international break last month. Vallejo's last Spanish league match before that was against Sevilla in December. "Jesus is a good player," Varane said. "He doesn't have experience in this competition (Champions League) but he has a lot of quality. From what we've seen in practice, he is fine. If he plays, all of us will be confident that he can get the job done." Madrid didn't concede against Las Palmas, but before that it conceded at least once in five straight matches, including three times against Girona in a league game at home. In the attack, Madrid has scored in seven straight matches, with Ronaldo continuing to impress. He has found the net 20 times in his last 10 games, including in the 1-1 derby against Atletico on Sunday. The match against Juventus will be Ronaldo's 150th in the Champions League. If Vallejo can't play, Zidane will have to improvise in central defense, likely using midfielder Casemiro to play alongside Varane. Mateo Kovacic would likely enter the lineup to replace Casemiro in the midfield, or Zidane could choose a more aggressive setup with an extra attacking midfielder such as Marco Asensio or Francisco "Isco" Alarcon. "Casemiro is used to playing in the midfield but he has practiced in the back many times," Varane said. "We know how he defends, how he plays." Madrid has won three Champions League titles in the last four seasons, including the last two in a row. The team defeated Juventus 4-1 in last year's final. No team has ever overturned a 3-0 home loss in the Champions League. "We'll need to play a complete game against a complete team if we are to get a positive result," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "Nobody expected us to concede after two minutes in Turin, so why can't we do the same tomorrow (Wednesday)." If Juventus can't come back, it could be the final Champions League match for veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. "Trying to achieve the impossible will help us achieve the possible," the 40-year-old Buffon said. "This is what we need to do. We need to play with this kind of spirit against an amazing side.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Atletico holds Real Madrid 1-1 in fight for 2nd place

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the 650th time in his career on Sunday but Antoine Griezmann responded with a goal of his own to leave Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid even in a city derby that allowed Barcelona to move closer to the Spanish league title. Atletico held Madrid 1-1 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to keep a four-point lead over its city rival in the fight for second place. Valencia later defeated Espanyol 1-0 to move past Madrid for third place, and within three points of Atletico. The draw at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium benefited league leader Barcelona, which defeated Leganes 3-1 on Saturday with a hat trick by Lionel Messi to stay 11 points in front of Atletico at the top with seven matches left. Atletico won La Liga in 2013-14 but has finished third behind either Barcelona or Madrid in all other years since 2012-13, which was the team's first full season under coach Diego Simeone. "I'm not happy because we wanted to win, we wanted the three points to try to stay close to Barcelona," Simeone said. "We needed more. Our goal is always to try to do the best we can against the powerhouses of Real Madrid and Barcelona. As an Atletico fan I would have been proud of how we have been competing against them." Madrid hasn't finished worse than second since 2014, when it trailed Atletico and Barcelona. Before then, the last time it failed to finish in the top two was in 2003-04, when it was fourth behind Valencia, Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna. Ronaldo opened the scoring with his 650th career goal — for clubs and country — early in the second half with a shot from near the far post after a long cross by Gareth Bale from the left flank. Griezmann equalized less than five minutes later with a strike from near the penalty spot after a move started by Vitolo inside the area. "We deserved more, it's a shame," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "But in the end we also could have lost the match. This is how it goes in football." Of Ronaldo's 650 goals, 446 came with Madrid, 118 with Manchester United, 81 with Portugal and five with Sporting Lisbon. Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in his last 10 matches in all competitions, including his acclaimed bicycle kick in the 3-0 first-leg win at Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinals midweek. Zidane rested some of his regular starters ahead of the return leg against Juventus on Wednesday at Bernabeu, including midfielders Luka Modric and Casemiro. Striker Karim Benzema also started from the bench, replacing Ronaldo in the 64th. Atletico hasn't lost at Bernabeu in five seasons now in the Spanish league. Madrid, which had won six in a row, had the most dangerous scoring chances throughout. But the hosts brought out a great performance by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who made one of his best saves on a last-minute free kick taken by Sergio Ramos. "Oblak is a great player, he has been showing it game after game," Zidane said. ___ VALENCIA MOVES UP Rodrigo scored with a close-range header in the seventh minute against Espanyol and Valencia held on for its fifth straight victory. It was the sixth goal in the last five matches for Rodrigo, the Brazilian-born striker who is among Spain's attacking options for the World Cup in Russia. Espanyol, winless in three matches, stayed 14th. ___ HUGE WIN FOR LEVANTE Levante took a big step toward avoiding demotion by defeating Las Palmas 2-1 with an injury-time winner by Jose Campana, opening an eight-point gap to the relegation zone with seven matches left. Las Palmas is in second-to-last place and two points behind Deportivo La Coruna, which on Friday earned its first win in nine matches under coach Clarence Seedorf by defeating last-place Malaga 3-2 at home. Levante opened the scoring at Ciutat de Valencia Stadium with a goal by Jorge "Koke" Andujar in the 35th, but David Garcia equalized in the 50th before Campana calmly found the far corner for the winner in a late breakaway for the hosts. Levante's winner came while the team played with 10 men as Koke was sent off for a hard foul in the 86th. Levante also had Ruben Rochina ejected in the fourth minute of injury time. ___ SOCIEDAD THRASHES GIRONA Mikel Oyarzabal scored twice as Real Sociedad routed Girona 5-0 at home for its first win in four matches. The result moved Sociedad to 12th place. Girona, winless in three matches, is eighth......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 9th, 2018

Best in history Ronaldo put to test by Messi in clasico

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo has made his claim. Now he has to live up to it. Ronaldo will face Lionel Messi on Saturday for the first time since the Portugal forward declared himself “the best player in the history” of soccer after equaling the Argentine’s five Ballon d’Or awards this month. Basking in the spotlight of a glitzy ceremony under the Eiffel Tower, Ronaldo felt confident enough to put himself at the pinnacle of the sport, ahead of Messi and other greats like Pele and Diego Maradona. “You will go and say that I have a big head, but when you’re at the top, it’s normal that you’re criticized,” he told France Football. “I am the best player in history, in both good and bad times.” Personalities aside, Ronaldo has a tough case to make. He and Messi both have four Champions League titles, but Messi’s eight Spanish league titles double Ronaldo’s tally for Madrid and Manchester United. Messi also has the edge in their head-to-head duels. Messi has outscored Ronaldo 19-17 since Ronaldo joined Madrid in 2009. Prior to that, Messi scored in a 2-0 win over Ronaldo’s Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final. The Barcelona-led Messi has also had a clear advantage over Ronaldo’s Madrid. Messi has helped Barcelona beat Ronaldo’s side 13 times, to eight wins for Madrid and seven draws. Overall, Messi holds the “clasico” record with 24 goals in 36 matches. Ronaldo is one goal shy of matching Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano’s 18 goals against Barcelona. The camera-shy Messi insisted again on Monday when he was recognized for leading the Spanish league in goals last campaign that he put more value on team titles than individual honors. “Titles are our goal,” Messi said. “If individual statistics are there also, that’s even better, but they are not the objective.” Ronaldo has no doubt closed the gap with Messi after he led Madrid to back-to-back Champions League titles in the last two seasons. But for Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres, this past decade is still set to bear Messi’s mark. “If it wasn’t for (Ronaldo), Messi would have won twice as much,” Torres said Wednesday. “What Ronaldo has done in the age of Messi says a lot about him.” Ronaldo will need to be at his best on Saturday because anything other than a victory will deal a huge blow to Madrid’s title defense before the season reaches its midway point. Madrid enters the match in fourth place and trailing Barcelona by 11 with a match in hand. Atletico Madrid and Valencia are in second and third. “Given the situation we are in we are obligated to win,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. Messi had one of his most memorable performances at Madrid last season when he scored his second of two brilliant goals in stoppage time to silence the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid got revenge with wins of 3-1 and 2-0 in the Spanish Super Cup in August, when Barcelona was reeling from the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, however, quickly rallied his team and the Catalan club has not lost since, a run of 24 matches. With Neymar gone, Valverde has succeeded in tightening up Barcelona’s defense. “It would be important to win for everything that would represent, since the match is so special, and we are playing at their ground,” Messi said. “There would still be a long way to go for the league title, but a victory would be a nice before the Christmas break.” Here are some other potential keys to the “clasico.” ___ SUAREZ Striker Luis Suarez has rediscovered his scoring touch at just the right time for Barcelona. After only scoring three times in the first 11 matches, Suarez has six goals in his last five league games. They will need him even more with backup forwards Paco Alcacer and Gerard Deulofeu injured. ___ BENZEMA Karim Benzema has only scored two goals in 11 league appearances for Madrid this season. The drop in production has contributed to Madrid’s stumbles, leading many fans to lament the exit of Alvaro Morata to Chelsea. ___ ALBA Jordi Alba has flourished going forward into the hole that Neymar used to occupy. The Spain left back is a favorite of Messi to weave together short-passing combinations that unlock packed defenses. His matchup against Madrid right back Dani Carvajal should be key. ___ BALE Gareth Bale is playing for his future. Recurrent injuries have cost the Wales winger his spot in Madrid’s starting lineup, with coach Zinedine Zidane preferring the playmaking — and sturdier legs — of Francisco “Isco” Alarcon. Bale returned after his latest injury layoff to help Madrid win the Club World Cup, but as a second-half substitute. He is likely to have that role against Barcelona and will need to make the most of the minutes he gets. ___ VERMAELEN Thomas Vermaelen was considered a lost cause. That was until defenders Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano got injured, giving the Belgian another chance to find his spot in Barcelona’s rotation. Vermaelen has played six consecutive matches, a personal record for him at Barcelona. Injuries limited him to 11 league appearances in two seasons before he was loaned out to Roma last year. Now that he is back, the former Arsenal player will be critical to Barcelona’s chances of stopping Ronaldo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

Lukaku, Hazard on target as Belgium beats Egypt 3-0

By Mike Corder, Associated Press BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium showed flashes of its attacking prowess Wednesday, beating Egypt 3-0 in a World Cup warmup with the help of goals from Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard in a dominant first half. Substitute Marouane Fellaini swept home from close range in injury time to complete the scoring. Egypt, held goalless for the second time in three matches, showed how much it misses the injured Mohamed Salah. Driven forward by the speed and insight of Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium was up 2-0 at halftime before losing some fluency amid a flurry of substitutions after the break. "I don't think our performance was perfect, far from it," said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. "There are many aspects that we need to improve. But what I like is that when we make mistakes we've got the togetherness to try to overcome them and I don't think we had that before and that's very pleasing." Salah, Egypt's great scoring hope for the World Cup, is still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in the Champions League final as Liverpool lost 3-1 to Real Madrid. The Premier League's top scorer has been named in Egypt's squad for the tournament in Russia and coach Hector Cuper badly needs him. "Mo Salah is not just a good player, he's an outstanding footballer, he's a world class footballer after what he's done this season," Martinez said. "So any team is going to miss the goal scoring threat of Mo Salah. We all wish him a speedy recovery and we want to see him in the World Cup." Egypt should have taken the lead in the 23rd minute when Mohamed Abdelshafy swung in an enticing cross from the left, but Marwan Mohsen, unmarked in the middle, headed wide a chance Salah likely would have scored. The move didn't only highlight the Liverpool forward's absence for Egypt; the space Mohsen found also underscored how Belgium could miss center back Vincent Kompany if he is not fit to play in Russia. Kompany injured his groin on Saturday during Belgium's lackluster 0-0 draw with Portugal. Coach Roberto Martinez named Los Angeles FC defender Laurent Ciman as a replacement if Kompany is not fit to play in Russia. If Lukaku and Hazard are in top form in Russia, Belgium might not miss Kompany too badly. Hazard drove a low shot in the 27th minute that Egypt goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary couldn't hold and Lukaku pounced on the rebound to fire in from close range. Hazard added his name to the score sheet in the 38th minute, blasting a shot high and hard past el-Hadary after Yannick Carrasco had cut back the ball from the left. Martinez rested Lukaku and Hazard for the second half, giving Michy Batshuayi and Adnan Januzaj a chance to play themselves into favor. Batshuayi set up Fellaini's goal by beating an Egypt defender and cutting back the ball. The defeat was Egypt's final warmup before Russia, while Belgium plays Costa Rica on Monday. One positive for Egypt coach Cuper was that Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny returned from injury and lasted the full 90 minutes. Martinez said his team needs the final tune-up. "I don't think we are physically, tactically and mentally ready ... and that's why the Costa Rica game will be important," he said. Egypt opens its World Cup campaign in Russia against Uruguay on June 15, Belgium's first Group G match is against Panama on June 18......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 7th, 2018

Spain held by Switzerland ahead of World Cup

VILLARREAL, Spain (AP) — Spain couldn't manage more than a 1-1 draw against Switzerland in its final match before traveling to Russia for the World Cup. Spain was in control from the start but failed to capitalize on its chances and paid the prize after a second-half blunder by goalkeeper David de Gea. Alvaro Odriozola opened the scoring for the hosts with a neat volley from just outside the area in the 29th minute. Ricardo Rodriguez equalized for the Swiss in the 62nd after De Gea dropped the ball in front of goal while trying to hold on to a weak shot from inside the area. Spain coach Julen Lopetegui was satisfied with his team's performance despite the draw. "I liked that we were able to create many scoring opportunities against a difficult team like Switzerland," Lopetegui said. "We played at a high level. There were a lot of positives." The result kept Spain unbeaten in 19 matches since Lopetegui took over after the 2016 European Championship. "We played well," said Odriozola, who was making only his third appearance with the national team. "It was a good tune-up for the challenge that awaits us. We leave in good spirits." Spain, which will travel to Russia on Thursday, wasn't at full strength as defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets was dropped from the starting lineup after falling ill with gastroenteritis. Real Madrid players also weren't fully available after reporting late to the squad because of the Champions League final. Sergio Ramos, Francisco "Isco" Alarcon and Dani Carvajal didn't even travel for the match in Villarreal, although Nacho Fernandez, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez were second-half substitutes. Fernandez nearly scored Spain's winner with a shot that hit the post in second-half injury time. Lopetegui played with Diego Costa and Iago Aspas up front, while Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta and David Silva were in midfield. Cesar Azpilicueta and Gerard Pique started in central defense. Spain will head to Russia looking to rebound from early eliminations at the 2016 European Championship and the 2014 World Cup. La Roja won Euro 2012, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008. Spain's final warmup match will be against Tunisia on Saturday in Krasnodar, the team's base in Russia. Its first game at the World Cup is against European champion Portugal on June 15. Spain's next Group B matches will be against Iran on June 20 and Morocco on June 25. Switzerland will host Japan on Friday in its final warmup match before its World Cup opener against Brazil on June 17 in Group E. It then faces Serbia on June 22 and Costa Rica on June 27......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2018

Kompany exits early as Portugal holds Belgium to 0-0 draw

BRUSSELS (AP) — European champion Portugal held Belgium to a tame 0-0 draw Saturday, a result overshadowed by fears that defender Vincent Kompany may have sustained an injury early in the second half. Without waiting to be substituted, the injury-prone Kompany walked off shortly after the break after appearing to overstretch while making a defensive challenge. It was not immediately clear if he was injured or left the field as a precaution. The Manchester City defender's career has been blighted by injuries, but he appeared fit ahead of the pre-World Cup friendly at the King Baudouin stadium. Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said it was too early to say whether 32-year-old Kompany was seriously hurt. "Maybe he only has something small to deal with," De Bruyne said. Kompany's departure was the major talking point in a disappointing goalless draw which underscored that Belgium's star-studded squad still has work to do if it is to live up to its billing as one of the favorites to win the World Cup in Russia. Belgium fans jeered their team off the pitch at full time. Portugal was without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rested after winning the Champions League a week ago with Real Madrid. Without him, Portugal missed the handful of chances it managed to carve out. Portugal faces neighbor Spain, Iran and Morocco in Group B at the World Cup, while Belgium is in Group G alongside England, Panama and Tunisia. Belgium opened strongly, outplaying Portugal in the midfield, but could not turn its pressure into a goal. Portugal weathered the early storm and gradually took control. In the closing minutes of the first half, Bernardo Silva saw his powerful shot deflected just wide by City teammate Kompany and Gelson Martins shot across the face of the goal as Portugal came close to breaking the deadlock. Belgium's only serious effort of the opening half came when Yannick Carrasco shot just wide in the 31st minute. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez made four changes in the break, but the substitutes could not change the team's fortunes. Despite the Red Devils' wealth of midfield and attacking quality, it was left back Jan Vertonghen who came closest after the break. The Tottenham defender nearly marked his 100th appearance for Belgium with a goal, but saw Portugal goalkeeper Beto tip his effort over the bar just before the hour mark. "It wasn't bad, but we could do better," De Bruyne said. "We still have two or three weeks to get ready.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Zidane s successor faces high bar, doubts about stars

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane had barely finished announcing that he was leaving Real Madrid when speculation began about who would succeed him. Twenty-four hours later, both Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Germany coach Joachim Loew — two of the top names rumored to be on Madrid's list of candidates — have said they are staying put. Pochettino said Friday that his "commitment is total" to Tottenham. He signed a five-year contract extension last week. Loew, who is preparing Germany to defend its World Cup title in Russia, said "it's not an issue for me. I'm at the World Cup now. I can completely rule it out now." Other coaches that Madrid president Florentino Perez supposedly is considering include Chelsea's Antonio Conte, exiting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and former Madrid player Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez. While the Madrid job is one of soccer's most coveted posts, its next coach will have some hurdles to tackle. STARS IN DOUBT The biggest worry for any coach coming to the Spanish capital will be the uncertain future of the team's top stars. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale appear to be mulling an exit, at least according to statements they made just moments after Madrid beat Liverpool in last weekend's Champions League final. Ronaldo put a huge damper on Madrid's celebrations by appearing to speak of his time at Madrid as having reached its end. "In the next few days I'll give the fans an answer because they are the ones who have always been by my side," Ronaldo said. "It was very beautiful to be with Madrid." Ronaldo said he would clear up his future once he joins the Portuguese national team next week as it prepares for the World Cup. Bale, who scored twice as a substitute to beat Liverpool 3-1, was more explicit in stating his desire to get more playing time after a season during which he lost his spot in the starting 11. Midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon has also complained about not enjoying the same untoucbable status as Ronaldo, defender Sergio Ramos or midfielder Luka Modric. COMMITMENT Zidane could hardly have set the bar any higher with three straight European Cups. Still, the Frenchman leaves a Madrid team that woefully underperformed in both the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey this season. It is likely that only his status as fan favorite from his playing days at Madrid and his titles from the previous two seasons kept Zidane in his job through the first six months of last season, until the team finally found its form in the Champions League. Madrid finished in third place in the league, a whopping 17 points adrift champion Barcelona. In the Copa del Rey, the team was eliminated at home by a modest Leganes in the quarterfinals, a moment which Zidane said was the worst of his coaching stint with the club. Whoever inherits the team will have to improve its work ethic to face the weekly grind of games in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey if it hopes to dethrone Barcelona from both domestic competitions. BENZEMA Zidane has been the biggest public defender of Karim Benzema, fending off calls from fans and the local sports media to bench the struggling striker. Benzema scored only five times in 32 league appearances this season, his lowest mark since arriving at Madrid in 2009. If the club doesn't sign a replacement for Benzema this offseason, then its next coach will have to help him recover his best form. YOUNG PLAYERS Madrid tried to rejuvenate its squad last year by bringing in a group of young Spanish players, including defenders Theo Hernandez and Jesus Vallejo, midfielders Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente, and forward Borja Mayoral. But none earned a spot in Zidane's starting lineup or his group of preferred backups. Madrid's in-coming coach will have to bring those players into the fold so their careers don't stagnate any further......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 2nd, 2018

Madrid draws at Villarreal 2-2 before Champions League final

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid showed Liverpool its strengths and weaknesses a week before their Champions League final. Madrid squandered first-half goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in drawing at Villarreal 2-2 on Saturday in its last match before attempting to win Europe's most coveted trophy for a third year in a row. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane aligned what could be his starting 11 for the final against Liverpool, except for giving 20-year-old son Luca Zidane his competitive debut in goal. Zidane left striker Karim Benzema on his bench in favor of starting Ronaldo and Bale alone up front and playing Francisco "Isco" Alarcon along with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos as playmakers in front of holding midfielder Casemiro. Madrid showed the same dominant form that has taken it to another Champions League final in the first half at Villarreal. But after Ronaldo and Modric were replaced by Benzema and Lucas Vazquez with half an hour remaining, Zidane's bunch displayed the same complacency and faulty defending that scuttled its Liga title defense months ago. The draw in the final round meant Madrid finished the Spanish league in third place behind Atletico Madrid and champion Barcelona. Bale opened the scoring with a solo effort in the 11th minute, and Ronaldo headed in a superb cross by Marcelo just after the half-hour mark. Fifth-place Villarreal outplayed the visitors in the second half and leveled through goals by substitutes Roger Martinez in the 70th and Samuel Castillejo in the 85th. "We played a very, very good first half, with determination, scoring goals, but the second half was the exact opposite," Zidane said. "The important thing is that we didn't have any injuries and can now rest well for next weekend. We are only thinking about winning the final." Bale, who struggled for most of the season to make Zidane's first-choice 11, has finished the season strong and appears to have earned a spot in the Champions League final. His opener against Villarreal, created when he let Modric's pass run through as he spun around his marker, was his 14th goal in the last 10 rounds. "Gareth has never given up," Zidane said. "He has trained well. Nothing has changed. The only difference is that now he is scoring." Ronaldo's goal was his 26th in the league. Barcelona's Lionel Messi leads the competition with 34. Castillejo snatched the draw after he raced behind Marcelo to receive a lobbed pass from Rodrigo Hernandez. Luca Zidane, who normally plays for Madrid's reserve team in the third divison, stopped his initial chipped shot but Castillejo slotted the rebound into the open net. Saudi Arabia midfielder Salem Al Dawsari made his Liga debut as a second-half substitute for Villarreal. ASPAS MAKES HIS CASE Iago Aspas made the most of his last chance to show Spain coach Julen Lopetegui that he deserves a spot on his World Cup squad. The striker scored twice to lead Celta Vigo's 4-2 win over Levante, taking his season tally for the league to 22, the most by a Spanish player. Aspas was regularly chosen by Lopetegui during World Cup qualifying. Celta announced after the match that coach Juan Carlos Unzue will leave the club and break his contract by mutual agreement. OTHER RESULTS Uruguay striker Christian Stuani scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season to lead Girona's 2-1 win at Las Palmas. Leganes fought back while playing with 10 men for over an hour to beat Real Betis 3-2 in a farewell of coach Asier Garitano, who won't stay on after a good season for the modest Madrid club. Wissam Ben Yedder gave Sevilla a 1-0 win over Alaves, and Loic Remy converted a penalty for Getafe to beat Malaga 1-0......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2018

Payet limps off injured during Europa League final

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press LYON, France (AP) — Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet could be doubtful for the World Cup after limping off injured in the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Payet appeared to aggravate a recent thigh injury and was replaced after 31 minutes. France coach Didier Deschamps names his World Cup squad on Thursday, and Payet had a strong case to be called up after impressing in recent weeks for Marseille. He is the French league's top playmaker this season with 13 assists and had three goals and seven assists in the Europa League, starring for Marseille in the quarterfinal and semifinal. Payet was in tears as he left the field at Stade de Lyon and was consoled by teammates. He sat slumped on the bench as he looked on......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 17th, 2018

Recovering Neymar confirmed in Brazil s World Cup squad

By Mauricio Saverese, Associated Press SAO PAULO (AP) — A recovering Neymar was confirmed and injured leader Dani Alves was replaced by Danilo and Fagner in a Brazil World Cup squad of few surprises on Monday. The only surprises were among the likely reserves for the tournament in Russia, with the inclusion of Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred and winger Taison. Neymar has been recovering from right foot surgery in March, and Brazil Football Confederation doctors believe he will be fit to train next week in Teresopolis, where preparations will begin, and play on June 3 in a friendly against Croatia in Liverpool. Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro he examined Neymar on the weekend and the results were positive. "This is the final stage of his recovery, he will be able to go to training sessions soon, and will play the friendlies," Lasmar said. Coach Tite said Neymar was one of the top three players in the world, but insisted his team didn't depend on him alone. "We will be much stronger with Neymar doing well, but for him to do well the rest of the team has to be well, too," he said. All but one of Tite's starting lineup in World Cup qualifiers was confirmed in the squad: Alisson; Miranda, Marquinhos and Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Renato Augusto and Philippe Coutinho; Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. Defender Alves, a veteran of two World Cups, sprained his right ACL last week in the French Cup final and was replaced in the 23-man Brazil squad by Manchester City's Danilo and Corinthians' Fagner. Tite decided not to inform who are the players that could replace one of those until June 4 in case of injury. Tite also summoned goalkeepers Ederson (Manchester City) and Cassio (Corinthians); defenders Thiago Silva, (Paris Saint-Germain) Pedro Geromel (Gremio) and Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid); midfielders Fernandinho (Man City) and Willian (Chelsea); and strikers Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) and Douglas Costa (Juventus). The coach said several positions in his starting lineup were open, including up front. "At first, Gabriel Jesus is our starter. But Roberto Firmino will fight for that position in top form," Tite said. "The challenge is open on the right back, but Danilo has some advantage now because he has performed well recently." Tite also hinted in his hour-long news conference he could change one of his central defenders for Thiago Silva. The inclusion of Taison, the coach admitted, suggested Coutinho could be taking a role in central midfield and leaving his spot for Willian. Tite said he needs "a pacemaker" in the team, which he has not received from Beijing Guoan's Renato Augusto. "Coutinho can play in the middle and in the flanks, he is versatile," Tite said. "Sometimes preparation gives you elements that you didn't have, and force you to change your mind." Tite said Brazil was one of the favorites for the title, but refused to name other candidates. The coach's final list includes 15 out of the 23 players he called for his first game with Brazil, against Ecuador in World Cup qualifiers in September 2016. There are only four survivors from the 7-1 hammering by Gerrmany four years ago at the home World Cup: Marcelo, Fernandinho, Paulinho and Willian. Thiago Silva and Neymar did not play that semifinal, one due to suspension and the other because of injury. Marcelo, Casemiro and Firmino will join Brazil for preparations in London only after Real Madrid and Liverpool play the Champions League final on May 26. Brazil starts its World Cup campaign against Switzerland on June 17, followed by Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Since 2014 highs, a struggle for Colombia, James

By Jairo Anchique, Associated Press BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia has a lot to live up to in Russia after providing one of the standout moments of the last World Cup. James Rodriguez was catapulted to football stardom when he took the ball on his chest and swiveled before smashing a volley in off the underside of the bar in the Maracana against Uruguay. It helped to secure Colombia's spot in the quarterfinals in 2014 — and ultimately a move to Real Madrid. But James has struggled to live up to the highs of Brazil, where he scored a tournament-leading six goals. He struggled to make an impact in Spain and has been trying to regain form ahead of this World Cup at Bayern Munich. It was a struggle, too, for Colombia to even qualify for a second straight World Cup with a spot only sealed in the last match. It enables Radamel Falcao to finally appear at football's biggest event after missing the trip to Brazil with a left knee injury. Here's a closer look at the Colombia team: COACH Jose Pekerman has spent six years in charge of Colombia, following successes with his native Argentina. He guided Argentina to under-20 world titles in 1995, 1997 and 2001 and then guided the senior squad to the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals, where it lost to host Germany in a penalty shootout. Pekerman has long had close ties to Colombia: He played with Independiente Medellin in the 1970s and Vanessa, his eldest daughter, was born in the capital in 1975. GOALKEEPERS David Ospina is the undisputed choice to top the team sheet, despite being restricted to playing in cup competitions for Arsenal while Petr Cech starts English Premier League matches. Camilo Vargas, who plays for Deportivo Cali in Colombia, is Ospina's understudy, just like at the 2014 World Cup. Jose Fernando Cuadrado, who also plays at home for Once Caldas, is also set to make the cut. DEFENDERS Pekerman has been forced to reshape the defense due to the retirement of Mario Alberto Yepes and the trio of Pablo Armero, Camilo Zuniga and Carlos Valdes losing form and fitness. But quality center backs have broken through: Yerry Mina of Barcelona, Oscar Murillo of Mexican side Pachuca and Davinson Sanchez of Tottenham. Cristian Zapata is set for a second World Cup, along with right back Santiago Arias. Frank Fabra has taken the place of Armero on the left. MIDFIELD James, Juan Cuadrado of Juventus and Carlos Sanchez of Fiorentina are set for a second World Cup. Edwin Cardona, Mateus Uribe, Wilmar Barrios, Giovanni Moreno and Juan Fernando Quintero are other options. The goals of the flyers were vital when the attackers spent about a year without converting. FOWARDS Falcao is the only striker who looks certain of a starting spot while Duvan Zapata, Luis Fernando Muriel, Carlos Bacca, Miguel Angel Borja, Duvan Zapata and Yimmi Chara are competing for the remaining places. Pekerman tends to go for a lone strike either in 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 formations. GROUP GAMES Colombia opens Group H on June 19 against Japan, plays the second game near its Kazan base against Poland on June 24, and concludes against Senegal on June 28......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Germany gets reality check before defense

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Germany coasted through World Cup qualifying with 10 wins out of 10 and a European record 43 goals before getting a reality check. The World Cup holders haven't won any matches since qualifying for Russia. After drawing friendlies against England, France and Spain, Joachim Loew's team lost 1-0 to Brazil to end a 22-game unbeaten run. Becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend their World Cup title now looks even trickier for the Germans. "We're not as good as we're made out to be, or as some think we are," midfielder Toni Kroos said. "There's huge room for improvement." The recent slump in friendly matches could be a blessing in disguise if it eradicates any complacency going into the World Cup. "I'm not worried. In 2014 and 2010 we also lost in March," Loew said. "You can be sure that we'll improve." The first task for Loew's side will be to top Group F to avoid a likely second-round clash against Brazil. Here's a closer look at the Germany team: COACH Loew was assistant coach to Juergen Klinsmann during Germany's "summer fairytale" hosting of the 2006 World Cup and was promoted to the top job after its third-place finish. Loew favors a fast-paced possession-based game, pressing opponents to recover the ball and switching quickly from defense to attack. He has overseen steady progress since taking over, reaching the final of the 2008 European Championship, claiming third place at the 2010 World Cup and reaching the semifinals at Euro 2012 before finally winning a title in convincing fashion at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A disappointing semifinal exit to France at Euro 2016 followed, but Loew laid the groundwork for a successful World Cup title defense by winning the Confederations Cup with a young team of promising talent last year in Russia. Loew hasn't been afraid to test young talent, and Germany's strength in depth means one of his hardest tasks is leaving players out of the 23-man squad. Loew also has the unfortunate tendency to find himself in the headlines for other reasons. The 58-year-old has previously apologized after being caught on camera picking his nose or in other compromising positions during games. GOALKEEPERS The biggest concern is captain Manuel Neuer's fitness. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper sustained a repeat of the hairline metatarsal fracture in his left foot while training last September and hasn't played since. Marc-Andre ter Stegen could well establish himself as the No. 1 with doubts over Neuer's fitness. The Barcelona goalkeeper has overcome a shaky start to his international career and helped Germany win the Confederations Cup. Bernd Leno of Bayer Leverkusen and Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain are also options, while Sven Ulreich has been filling in impressively for Neuer at Bayern. DEFENDERS Bayern defender Jerome Boateng faces a race to be fit with a thigh injury sustained in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid in April. Bayern teammate Niklas Suele would be an able replacement to partner Mats Hummels in the center. Another Bayern player, Joshua Kimmich, has emerged to soften the blow of Philipp Lahm's retirement at right back. The modest Jonas Hector will likely keep his place on the left despite Cologne's relegation. MIDFIELDERS Toni Kroos will be among the first names on Loew's team sheet. The Real Madrid midfielder is the driving force behind the side. He will likely be partnered by Juventus' Sami Khedira, who provides more of a defensive presence, with Mesut Ozil in front, flanked on either side by Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus — if the latter proves his fitness. Reus has been unlucky with injuries and has only recently returned to shine again for Dortmund. But Germany has a wealth of options in midfield, with Ilkay Gundogan, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt all providing ample backup options. FORWARDS Timo Werner seems sure of his place after another good season for Leipzig, albeit with most of his goals in the first half of the campaign. The 22-year-old Werner has seven goals in 12 international appearances, but it's his runs into space and the problems he causes defenders that benefit the team. Loew will likely bring one of Mario Gomez or Sandro Wagner as a more experienced option for Werner, while Mario Goetze is another option to play up front if he gets recalled following a disappointing season for Dortmund. Goetze scored the winning goal for Germany to beat Argentina in the 2014 final. GROUP GAMES Germany kicks off its title defense near its tournament base in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium against Mexico on June 17. The side then faces a long trip south to Sochi for its second game against Sweden on June 23, before wrapping up Group F against South Korea in Kazan four days later......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

NBA.ph blogtable 1) Which first-round series in the West is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: For sure it’s Portland-New Orleans. I love Damian Lillard’s game, but the Pels are a really tough bunch with a lot of weapons, even sans Boogie Cousins. Jusuf Nurkic will have a really tough time containing AD; that’s one reason this has a high potential for an upset! Migs Bustos: The Jazz and Thunder matchup. It's a tale of upward momentum versus inconsistency. The Jazz have won seven out of their last 10 games, and OKC are 5-5 in their last 10. With how the Jazz are playing great team basketball, led by super rookie, Donovan Mitchell, they have a great chance of upsetting the erratic OKC Thunder. If maganda ang gising ng Utah for four games, may tulog ang OKC sa kanila. Marco Benitez: I think the Thunder-Jazz series is the one where most likely we will see an upset. The Thunder experiment of Westbrook-George-Anthony has been up and down all season, while the Jazz are a well-coached team anchored on a great defensive presence in Gobert. The Thunder win if Westbrook dominates the game and Adams is able to neutralize Gobert. But if OKC becomes stagnant on offense and their usual selves defensively, then the Jazz can wreck havoc on this matchup. Favian Pua: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: In order for the Pelicans to stun the Blazers, Anthony Davis must cement his status as the best player on both ends of the floor throughout the series. A Playoff Rondo sighting paired with the feisty defense of Jrue Holiday should stymie the backcourt attack of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Adrian Dy: If it turns out Kawhi Leonard was just saving himself for a postseason run, then the Spurs would absolutely wreck the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors. Barring such a comeback though, I'm riding high on the Pelicans. The Blazers don't have the bigs to even slow down Davis, and the Jrue Holiday + Playoffs Rajon Rondo combo could make things really tough for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum 2) Which first-round series in the East is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: Don’t look past the veteran-laden Miami Heat. Philadelphia is by far the deeper team, sure, but if Embiid is hampered by his injury and both D-Wade and Goran Dragic have their way, Miami can push the Sixers to the distance and an upset may not be that surprising. Also, coach Spo shines in 7-game series! Migs Bustos: In the East, it's a bit more challenging. We all know about the success of the Sixers this season; no matter what seed Lebron's team is, it will be hard to upset them; the Raptors have been long consistent at the number 1 spot all season. So, the best bet would be the Bucks overthrowing home court advantage. And this is because Kyrie is out of the season. It's just up to Giannis and Co. to take advantage of that disadvantage by the Celtics to pull through. Marco Benitez: The plague of injuries to the Boston Celtics really hurt their chances of contending in the East, much less win a championship this season. Without Kyrie, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are vulnerable against the Greek Freak-led Bucks, who are long and talented. With that being said, Boston is still an extremely well-coached, albeit young team, and Giannis will have to be the best player on the floor for most of the series for the inconsistent Bucks to pull off the upset. Favian Pua: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Though the Sixers are rolling into the playoffs, only J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli can boast of a legitimate postseason resume. Led by All-Star Goran Dragic, the Heat are an unrelenting unit of two-way veterans who can both muck it up inside and bait opponents into a long-range shootout. Joel Embiid’s uncertain status will force Sixers head coach Brett Brown to find a counter for Hassan Whiteside. Adrian Dy: Though I have the 76ers advancing, it wouldn't surprise me if the Heat shut down Ben Simmons and shut up Joel Embiid. Erik Spoelstra has a knack for getting the best out of his squads, Dwyane Wade could have some clutch moments, and if the aforementioned Embiid doesn't return as soon as expected, South Beach could be singing after round one. 3) Which team that missed the playoffs has the best shot at making it next season? Enzo Flojo: I’d love to say Denver, but their being in the West really makes their window tight. That’s why I’m picking the Detroit Pistons, who have enough talent to make quite a big impact in the East, especially if their big names (e.g. Drummond, Griffin, Jackson) all stay put and stay healthy! Migs Bustos: To be honest, there are not much compelling story lines on teams that barely missed the playoffs this year. There's nothing like one of the most recent examples -- the Heat's 2016-2017 season where they made a late season run but just missed it at .500 (41-41), or how about Phoenix having a winning record at 48-34 in the 2013-2014 season missing out? The 16 teams were more or less 'predicted' to make the postseason this year so there wasn't a big surprise. Marco Benitez: I think a healthy Memphis Grizzlies team, with Conley, Gasol, Parsons and Tyreke Evans (assuming all are still with the Grizzlies next season) will be a lock to make the playoffs after a disappointing 22-60 win-loss record this season that saw a season-ending surgery for Conley happen in late January. Favian Pua: The Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and his ragtag bunch of scorers were an overtime loss away against the Minnesota Timberwolves from getting their first taste of the postseason. To do so, the Nuggets will need to handle their business and take care of bottom-feeders, as it was backbreaking losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in March that prevented them from securing an outright playoff berth. Adrian Dy: The Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki will likely want to go out with a bang, Rick Carlisle is still a really good coach, Dennis Smith Jr. is a fantastic attacking guard, and if the lotto balls bounce the right way, they could return to the upper echelon of the West. 4) Which team that made these playoffs has the biggest chance of missing it next season? Enzo Flojo: It may sound crazy, but the Spurs are at great risk for next season. Kawhi continues to be a huge question mark and their veterans will get even older in 2018-2019. They nearly didn’t make it this year, and next year could be the tipping point! Migs Bustos: I'd have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. No doubt all of the other teams are on the up-swing, and they all boast of youth. If Kahwi does not play for the Spurs next season, expect younger teams with great potential like the Nuggets and Lakers to overtake SAS. Marco Benitez: Depending on what happens in terms of offseason trades, and assuming that the rest of the Western Conference regains full strength next season, the two teams I feel have the biggest chance of missing the playoffs next season are Miami and New Orleans. For Miami, DWade is not getting any younger, and Hassan Whiteside has not been at a consistent All-Star level all season. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond getting a full year under their belt in Detroit and Kristaps Porzingis back at full strength in New York, I see Miami as the most likely team to get bumped off in the East next season. For New Orleans, the Davis-Cousins experiment did not necessarily turn them into a legitimate playoff contender in the West, and when Cousins fell to injury, they've had to rely on AD to carry them almost entirely on his shoulders. With the ultra competitive West getting healthier next season, unless the Pels are able to get better on the wings -- assuming of course Cousins doesn't bolt in the offseason -- they may find themselves out of the playoffs. Favian Pua: Cleveland Cavaliers. Hinging on the premise that LeBron James bolts for the Sixers or Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this offseason, the Cavaliers are headed for a massive nosedive towards the number one pick in the 2019 draft. No other team has more to lose than the Cavaliers this postseason, and it is highly probable that winning the title is the only way The King stays in The Land. Adrian Dy: If we get another round of LeBron James free agency sweepstakes, and he winds up getting the Banana Boat Gang together in Houston, it's hard to see the Cleveland Cavaliers being competitive, let alone back in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Should that happen, I'd expect them to trade guys like Kevin Love, and hope that lotto luck favors them anew. 5) Which team is your early favorite to win it all? Enzo Flojo: Despite all the injuries and all their inconsistencies, the Warriors are still my odds-on fave to win it all. They have four big time playoff performers, and they know this is where their real season begins. Migs Bustos: Don't count out the Warriors. Even though they have been plagued with injuries towards the end of the season, the Dubs will hope that they will be healthy in time and turn 'on' the button with their championship experience Marco Benitez: Still the Warriors. Although they'll be without Steph in the first round, I foresee the same dominant Dubs starting the second round all the way to the Finals. The regular season has been a bit of a drag for them this season, and I believe that's why we haven't seen the same Warriors squad as that of past years. But come playoffs, there's no reason why the defending champs don't get locked in; and when they do, frankly, there's still no better team in the league than Golden State. Favian Pua: The Houston Rockets. The playoffs is all about trimming the fat in the roster and letting star power take over in the biggest moments. In James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets will always have at least one elite shot creator and facilitator on the court for all 48 minutes. Flanked by capable three-point shooters and wing defenders acquired specifically to neutralize the Golden State Warriors’ juggernaut, Clutch City is on track for its first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1995. Adrian Dy: Yes the defending champions are banged-up and looked uninterested as the regular season wound down, but now that it's winning time, I expect the Warriors to do their thing, although there's no way it'll be as smooth as their 16-1 romp last season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Sevilla hopes big-match experience counts vs Bayern in CL

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Faring well against some of Europe's top teams has given Sevilla confidence of matching Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals. Sevilla eliminated Manchester United in the last 16 and was a few minutes away from defeating Barcelona in the Spanish league last weekend. The Spanish club hosts five-time European champion Bayern on Tuesday in the first leg at Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. "We are getting used to playing these high-profile matches every three days," Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella said on Monday. "It helps us become better and maximize the talent that we have." Sevilla got past United 2-1 on aggregate, drawing at home and winning in Manchester. On Saturday, it was comfortably defeating Spanish league leader Barcelona 2-0 until the 88th minute, when Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi scored to salvage a 2-2 draw. "They are different matches, but Bayern and Barcelona have the same game philosophy," Sevilla midfielder Pablo Sarabia said. "We will need to play with intensity and be very efficient. We will rely on our own weapons and in the end we will see if that's enough to eliminate Bayern and advance." Bayern, in the quarterfinals for the ninth time in 10 seasons and coming off a 6-0 rout of Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, was not taking Sevilla lightly despite being considered the clear favorite. "The best example to back up what I think of the danger Sevilla can pose to us is its performance against Barcelona on Saturday," Bayern defender Javi Martinez said. "Sevilla's rise in recent seasons has been meteoric. Sevilla is one of the most dangerous rivals we could have been drawn against." Sevilla is trying to establish itself as a major player in the Champions League after winning the Europa League three times in the last four seasons. It is in the last eight for the first time in nearly 60 years. Last year, it was eliminated in the last 16 by Leicester. "We can learn a lot from what happened last season," Sarabia said. "We played a great match against Leicester in our stadium but we didn't capitalize on the many chances we created. We ended paying for that in the return match in England." Montella won't be able to count on suspended midfielder Ever Banega on Tuesday, while Heynckes will likely have midfielder Arturo Vidal available following an unspecified muscle injury......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 3rd, 2018

Spain experimenting with its forwards ahead of World Cup

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Spain enters the final stage of its World Cup preparations with coach Julen Lopetegui experimenting up front. Lopetegui has called up several different forwards since taking over the national squad and has plenty of options to choose from before announcing the final list for Russia in a few months. It won't be an easy decision because Spain has thrived in attack with a deep stock of strikers. The team has outscored opponents 52-10 in the 16 matches played under Lopetegui. The coach will get a chance to have a final look at some of his forwards in the high-profile friendlies against Germany on Friday in Dusseldorf and Argentina on Tuesday in Madrid. Still unbeaten since Lopetegui arrived after the 2016 European Championship, Spain will go to Russia trying to rebound from disappointments in the last two major soccer tournaments — it was eliminated in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and in the last 16 at Euro 2016. Here's a closer look at the key issues three months before the World Cup: ___ ATTACK Lopetegui has called up more than 10 strikers since his arrival, with the most-recent list including Diego Costa, Iago Aspas, Rodrigo and Lucas Vazquez. Alvaro Morata, Jose Callejon and Victor "Vitolo" Machin had been regulars in previous lists but were left out of the important pre-World Cup friendlies. Costa hadn't been called up in more than nine months because he couldn't play with Atletico Madrid until the team's transfer ban from FIFA ended in January, while Vazquez hadn't made Lopetegui's list since last year. Aspas has been a regular name in Lopetegui's teams even though he hasn't played much as a starter. Morata was left out of the current list because of physical problems but Lopetegui said the Chelsea player still has a good chance of making it to Russia. "Strikers are always under pressure," Costa said Wednesday. "We need to score goals, otherwise there will be pressure." ___ MORE ATTACK Among the other forwards tested by Lopetegui are Manuel "Nolito" Agudo, Paco Alcacer, Pedro Rodriguez, Aritz Aduriz, Gerard Deulofeu and even 36-year-old veteran David Villa. They had few opportunities recently, though, and are considered a longshot to make it to Russia even though Lopetegui said he hasn't closed the door on anybody. "Some players were not included in this (last) list but they still remain with their chances intact," Lopetegui said. "All players still have chances." ___ MIDFIELD A few attacking midfielders seem to have their spots secured after several call-ups under Lopetegui, including Isco, Marco Asensio, Saul Niguez and David Silva. Silva is among the players with the most minutes in Lopetegui's team, along with Sergio Busquets and goalkeeper David De Gea. Silva also has the most goals scored under Lopetegui with 11, followed by Morata with seven. ___ DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion and Andres Iniesta are practically assured of a spot at the World Cup, which will likely be the last for Iniesta. The 33-year-old Barcelona player has been struggling with his physical condition in recent months and hasn't played regularly with the Catalan club. Busquets will miss the friendlies against Germany and Argentina because of a fractured finger in his foot but is expected to recover in time for the tournament in Russia. ___ DEFENSE It will also probably be the last World Cup for Gerard Pique, who has said he plans to retire from the national team after playing in Russia. Sergio Ramos will most likely be his teammate in central defense at the World Cup, with Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal playing alongside them on the flanks. Left back Marcos Alonso got his first call-up for the upcoming friendlies and will be fighting to be in Lopetegui's final list. "I'm getting a chance to show my worth," the Chelsea player said. ___ GOALKEEPERS Calls for the return of Iker Casillas are long gone as De Gea continues to play in top form and is more than secured as the team's starter in Russia. Kepa Arrizabalaga and Pepe Reina have been included in Lopetegui's most-recent lists and are expected to be the reserve goalkeepers......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018

F2 Logistics drops Sta. Lucia in four sets

Games Thursday: (FilOil Flying V Centre) 4:15 p.m. – F2 Logistics vs Cignal 7:00 p.m. – Petron vs Cocolife   IMUS CITY --- Defending champion F2 Logistics shook off a bad start and recovered just in time to repel Sta. Lucia Realty, 18-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-21 Tuesday in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix at the Imus Sports Center here. The Cargo Movers improved to 3-1 win-loss record and welcomed the return of former De La Salle University star Ara Galang, who sat out last conference because of a knee injury. The Lady Realtors dropped to 2-3 card tied with Foton. Meanwhile, Generika-Ayala threaded the eye of a needle before eking out a thrilling 25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 22-25, 15-11 victory over Smart. Darlene Ramdin came through with some crucial hits before watching the Giga Hitters crumble under pressure to tow the Lifesavers to their first win. A returning import from Trinidad and Tobago, Ramdin erupted for 23 kills and three blocks for 26 points while American Symone Hayden chipped in 21 points for the Lifesavers, who needed two hours and nine minutes to overcome the tough Smart squad that was spearheaded by the prolific Gyselle Silva. Silva, the hard-hitting former Cuban national player, was again in her deadly self as she knocked down 30 kills and three aces for a conference-high 35 points while Trivunovic added 22 hits for the upset-conscious Giga Hitters. But her effort went for naught as she failed to generate enough support from the locals, especially in the crucial deciding set where Ramdin and the Lifesavers went for the kill. “I just told them not to get pressured. Just follow the instruction and treat this match as if this is just a practice game,” said Generika-Ayala coach Sherwin Meneses shortly after posting his first victory in this league. “We’re not actually concerned with the game, we’re more concerned with our improvement as a team. I’m glad that we had some improvements and we managed to apply everything we learned in practice.” But the grueling match appeared more than just a practice game. With the Giga Hitters breathing down their neck in the fifth set, 10-11, Ramdin connected a booming kill from the right before Angeli Araneta delivered a quick hit to make it 13-11. Ramdin, then, unleashed another attack for the match point while the Giga Hitters committed a reception error in the ensuing play to surrender the victory......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 13th, 2018

Iniesta’s return key for Barcelona against Chelsea

MADRID --- Andres Iniesta has a knack for great performances against Chelsea. His injury-time goal in the semifinals of the 2009 Champions League remains one of the most important of his career. And he also scored against the English club in the 2012 semifinals, even though Barcelona was eliminated that time. In the first leg of this year's encounter between the two teams, it was Iniesta who set up Lionel Messi's important away goal in a 1-1 result that gave the Spanish club an edge going into Wednesday's return match at Camp Nou Stadium. It's unclear, though, if Iniesta will get a chance to thrive against Chelsea again on Wednesday. The midfielder is nursing a hamstring ...Keep on reading: Iniesta’s return key for Barcelona against Chelsea.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 13th, 2018