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Champions League: Valverde revisits defeat to prepare for Juve clash

Barcelona's coach Ernesto Valverde from Spain attends a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football match Juventus Vs Barcelona on November 21, 2017 at the 'Juventus Stadium' in Turin

Juventus beat Barcelona in the last eight thanks to a three-goal hammering at the Allianz Stadium and a goalless draw at the Camp Nou on their way to the final in Cardiff.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde admitted on Tuesday that he watched last season's 3-0 defeat by Juventus "over and over" to prepare for their Champions League return to Turin on Wednesday.

Juventus beat Barcelona in the last eight thanks to a three-goal hammering at the Allianz Stadium and a goalless draw at the Camp Nou on their way to the final in Cardiff, where the Italians were beaten by Real Madrid.

"I watched that first leg over and over to prepare. That was a knockout round and the circumstances are different now, but we do know Juve start very strong and we must be ready for that initial assault," said Valverde, who replaced Luis Enrique last May.

This season Juventus fell 3-0 in Barcelona and Valverde expects the Italian side to come out firing on all cylinders after their Serie A title defence took a knock with a 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria.

"When such a big team loses a game, they want to immediately make up for it, so I expect a strong reaction from Juventus," said the Barcelona coach.

"Juve were in great shape last season and won, but it'll be a very different game tomorrow and they are certainly motivated to make up for their defeat at Camp Nou."

Valverde refused to be drawn on comparisons between Italy and Spain, with Juventus having lost two Champions League finals to Spanish clubs and Italy falling to Spain as they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

"They are not linked. They lost the two finals but they reached them and that was a success," he said.

"We respect Juventus, Roma and all of Italian football. I don't think you can say anyone is the favourite tomorrow, as these are two strong teams playing on level terms.

"The (failure to qualify for the) World Cup is more surprising because it has been many years since that happened.

"In these cases you always think of changing everything. Sometimes it's useful to change things but other times it just needs a little patience."

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri believes his team "does not have big problems" despite the Sampdoria defeat.

"Historically, we've had some hiccups at this stage of previous seasons too, but we've always done well over the course of the whole campaign," he said of the six-time reigning Serie A champions.

"Barcelona haven’t lost in 14 league games and four Champions League games. Right now they have a greater balance than us.

"It will be a difficult match against them and we need to qualify, but nothing has been decided yet.

"Of course, we have to be aware of (Lionel) Messi who is an exceptional player. Even if there are just 10 centimetres of space, he will take the ball into places no other players would even think of trying. He is a difficult player to stop."




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Champions League: Late Maribor goal hits Spartak knockout hopes

Spartak Moscow's forward Quincy Promes (L) and Maribor's midfielder Dino Hotic vie for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match November 21, 2017

The result kept Russian champions Spartak third in Group E ahead of their final match, one point behind second-placed Sevilla.

Spartak Moscow's hopes of earning a place in the Champions League last 16 suffered a damaging blow on Tuesday as they conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 home draw with Maribor.

The result kept Russian champions Spartak third in Group E ahead of their final match, one point behind second-placed Sevilla, who take on group leaders Liverpool later on Tuesday.

"For us the glass is half full," Spartak boss Massimo Carrera said. "Today we have done everything we could for the win.

"We created plenty of chances and scored a goal. We gave Maribor almost no chance throughout the match, but the loss of concentration at the very end enabled them to level. It was a goal that we shouldn't have conceded."

Hosts Spartak, spurred on by a capacity 44,000 crowd at Moscow's Otkrytie Arena, found themselves largely frustrated in the first half by resolute defending from their Slovenian opponents.

Maribor full-back Marko Suler missed a chance to put his side into the lead just after the restart when his attempt to convert a free-kick by Dare Vrsic bounced back off the post.

Spartak, desperate for three points to improve their chances of reaching the knockout phase, continued to apply pressure on Maribor, with Ze Luis sending a header narrowly wide on 77 minutes.

But the Cape Verde striker broke the deadlock with eight minutes to play as he tapped in from six yards, beyond helpless Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic.

The Moscow outfit failed to see out victory though as Maribor skipper Marcos Tavares found the unmarked Jasmin Mesanovic who snatched a dramatic equaliser two minutes into injury time.

Maribor manager Darko Milanic said he was pleased both with the result and his team's display.

"I'm very happy with our performance," he said. "True, we equalised in the dying seconds, but we had our chances before.

"We played at the highest level. All the players deserve to be applauded because they gave their all on the pitch."

Spartak will most likely need to beat Liverpool in their final Group E encounter at Anfield on December 6 if they are to prolong their Champions League adventure.




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SPORT: Sevilla fightback halts Liverpool's path to last 16

Sevilla's French forward Wissam Ben Yedder (R) controls the ball on November 21, 2017 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla during the UEFA Champions League group E football match between Sevilla FC and Liverpool FC.CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP


Sevilla produced a stunning fightback from a three-goal half-time deficit to earn a well-earned point with a thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool on Tuesday thanks to Guido Pizarro's stoppage-time equaliser.

Roberto Firmino scored twice as Jurgen Klopp's side looked set to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in nine years and seal top spot in Group E with a three-goal blitz in the first half-hour, with Sadio Mane also netting.

However, Wissam Ben Yedder pulled two goals back before Pizarro stabbed home from a corner to protect Sevilla's year-long unbeaten run at home.Both sides remain well-placed to reach the last 16 as Liverpool still lead the group on nine points from Sevilla on eight with Spartak Moscow in third on six points.

Liverpool host the Russians at Anfield in two weeks' time when Sevilla travel to Maribor for the final games in the group.

Both sides were gifted a huge boost before kick-off as Maribor's stoppage-time equaliser for a 1-1 draw in the Russian capital prevented Spartak from jumping into second place in the group.

Sevilla's joy didn't last long, though, as they were punished for awful defending from a corner less than two minutes in when Firmino was left completely unmarked at the far post to fire high past Sergio Rico.

The hosts had their chances to get back into the game when Loris Karius got a fingertip to Nolito's goalbound effort to turn the ball onto the post before Ben Yedder fired inches wide with just the German goalkeeper to beat.

Yet, the pace of Liverpool's 'fab four' attack of Firmino, Mane, Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho looked capable of opening up the Sevilla defence at will and only a fine save from Rico prevented Firmino from doubling his tally midway through the half.

That save only delayed a two-goal Liverpool lead by a matter of seconds as, from the resulting corner, Mane scored almost a carbon copy of the opener when he stooped to head home Firmino's flick-on.

Eight minutes later it was 3-0 as Mane sped away from a lumbering Sevilla backline and his initial effort was only parried by Rico into the path of the grateful Firmino to slot into an empty net.

It could have got even worse for Sevilla before they got into the shelter of the dressing room to regroup at half-time as Salah raced onto a lovely Coutinho through ball only to be denied by another smart Rico save.

Sevilla transformed

Sevilla came out a side transformed in the second half and were given a lifeline when Ben Yedder got across his marker to head Ever Banega's free-kick inside the far post.

Belief was coursing through the home side and fans moments later when Ben Yedder went down under a challenge from former Sevilla favourite Alberto Moreno and German referee Felix Brych awarded a penalty.Ben Yedder stepped up and slotted home from the spot twice after Brych ordered his first attempt be retaken.

Liverpool produced the most unbelievable fightback from 3-0 down to win the Champions League against AC Milan back in 2005 and Sevilla were inches away from their own Istanbul moment 25 minutes from time when Franco Vazquez's shot was turned onto the underside of the bar by Karius.

Klopp restored some order to the visitors with the introduction of Emre Can and James Milner for Coutinho and Moreno and Liverpool should have settled their nerves with a fourth goal as Salah, Mane and Can all passed up big chances.

And they were made to pay for their profligacy and poor defending when Pizarro stretched to turn home a loose ball after a corner wasn't properly cleared in injury time.




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SPORT: RB Leipzig destroy Monaco to aid last 16 hopes

Monaco's Brazilian defender Jemerson reacts after scoring a goal against his own team during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between Monaco and Leipzig at the Louis II stadium, in Monaco, on November 21, 2017.Bertrand LANGLOIS / AFP


Devastating RB Leipzig boosted their chances of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday by taking Monaco apart 4-1 with a four-goal first-half demolition that saw them draw level on points with second-place Porto in Group G.

Leipzig took full advantage of slack Monaco defending and Porto drawing 1-1 at Besiktas earlier on with a free-flowing attacking display that saw the Bundesliga side reignite their knockout hopes.

Ralph Hasenhuettl's team stay third due their head-to-head record, which has Porto on top, 5-4 over their two matches. Monaco are out of Europe after failing to win once and picking up just two points from their five matches.

Ligue 1 side Monaco needed a win to have any chance of qualifying but gifted Leipzig a sixth-minute lead when defender Jemerson sliced an innocuous Marcel Sabitzer cross past befuddled Monaco keeper Danijel Subasic.

After scoring the opener Jemerson turned provider for the opposition three minutes later, his weak pass out from the back easily intercepted by Kevin Kampl, who scampered forward before feeding Timo Werner with an easy chance that the German happily slotted home.

Monaco briefly rallied, and Radamel Falcao was unlucky to see his close range stab at goal, after confusion in the Leipzig defence, kicked away by RB stopper Peter Gulacsi, but the Colombian soon had an impact at the other end, clumsily bringing down Willi Orban in his own area and allowing Werner to double his tally from the penalty spot.

Falcao made up for his mistake two minutes before the break when he met Rony Lopes' free-kick before Gulacsi could connect with his fist to reduce the deficit to two.

But the striker's struggling teammates let him down only with seconds of the half to spare, with Naby Keita spinning Kamil Glik before charging towards goal and ending Monaco's European hopes with a neat finish.

Monaco, fresh from a domestic disappointment after a draw at Ligue 1 new boys Amiens at the weekend, failed to rally, and Leipzig cruised to a win that gives them a chance of qualifying from the group.They host leaders Besiktas on December 6 needing to do better than Porto do at home to rock-bottom Monaco.




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SPORT: Sterling strikes late to earn Man City top spot

Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Manchester City and Feyenoord at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 21, 2017. Paul ELLIS / AFP


Pep Guardiola's Manchester City secured top spot in Champions League Group F after Raheem Sterling's late strike snatched a 1-0 win over Feyenoord on Tuesday.

With City having already booked a place in the last 16, Guardiola shuffled his pack, making seven changes to his starting XI, and he had to wait until the 88th minute for his side to make the breakthrough.

Sterling's strike, after a one-two with Ilkay Gundogan, means City have now won their last 17 games in all competitions, including a victory on penalties over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup.

Shakhtar Donetsk's defeat at Napoli meant City would have topped the group regardless of the result at the Etihad Stadium, but Sterling's goal maintained their 100 percent record in the competition.

The match also gave Guardiola an opportunity to hand a competitive debut to 17-year-old midfielder Phil Foden, star of England's recent triumph at the Under-17 World Cup, who came on as a late substitute.

Having failed to match Napoli's result, Dutch champions Feyenoord cannot now secure even the consolation of a Europa League berth.

Though City controlled possession in the first half, the runaway Premier League leaders had trouble grinding out clear chances.

Sergio Aguero sent a tame shot straight at Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones, who also produced an unconvincing parry to fend off a sighter from Sterling.

With Eliaquim Mangala deputising for the injured John Stones at the other end, City looked less secure at the back than in recent weeks and the visitors gave them a number of uncomfortable moments.

City goalkeeper Ederson atoned for a heavy touch with a last-ditch tackle on Jean-Paul Boethius and rushed out bravely to save from Tonny Vilhena, while Sam Larsson curled narrowly wide.

When City did get in behind Feyenoord, Sterling teeing up Bernardo Silva after a left-to-right dart along the edge of the box, the Portuguese could only prod a meek effort into Jones's gloves.

Kevin De Bruyne was booked on the hour for a clumsy trip on Steven Berghuis, ruling him out of City's trip to Donetsk on December 6.

The Belgium midfielder almost put City ahead with a daisy-cutter that skimmed past the left-hand post and both Yaya Toure and Aguero also went close as the second half wore on.

But City's failure to make their territorial dominance count left them vulnerable and Berghuis almost put Feyenoord ahead with a vicious shot that Ederson did well to tip over the bar.

Local youngster Foden, born in nearby Stockport, made his entrance in place of Toure with 15 minutes remaining and was roared onto the pitch.

It looked like he would have to wait for his first taste of victory in a City shirt, only for Sterling to play a quick wall pass with Gundogan before coolly dinking the ball over the onrushing Jones.




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Champions League: Besiktas qualify for last 16

Besiktas' midfielder Talisca (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G football match between Besiktas JK and FC Porto on November 21, 2017 at the Vodafone Park in Istanbul.

Porto silenced the vociferous home crowd with the opening goal through defender Felipe, but Besiktas midfielder Talisca equalised before half-time.

Turkish champions Besiktas reached the Champions League last 16 for the first time in 31 years on Tuesday, as a 1-1 draw with Porto in Istanbul wrapped up top spot in Group G.

Porto silenced the vociferous home crowd with the opening goal through defender Felipe, but Besiktas midfielder Talisca equalised before half-time to secure a place in the knockout stage.




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Odion Ighalo: Super Eagles striker unveils final plan for orphanage home

Odion Ighalo

Ighalo at the press conference also announced that the orphanage will be launched on Saturday, December 16.

Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo on Tuesday, November 21 unveiled his plans for an orphanage home which has built in Lagos.

Ighalo has completed the orphanage home called ‘Ighalo Orphanage Home' which is located at Kudeyindu Estate in Ijegun, Lagos.

 

At a press conference in Lagos, Ighalo spoke about his passion for giving back to the society and helping those who are really in need.

“I will get more fulfilment with the lives of people I have touched more than anything I will achieve in my career,” the former Watford striker told Pulse Sports at the press conference.

One of these people might become successful more than me tomorrow and help my children.”

 

Present at the press conference were Samson Siasia, Augustine Eguavoen and Peter Rufai.

The orphanage will be launched on Saturday, December 16.

 

Ighalo grew up in the squalor of Ajegunle suburb of Lagos where he started playing football at an early age.




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SPORT: Bayern have defensive woes at Anderlecht

Bayern Munich's players poses during the UEFA Champions League football match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich on September 27, 2017 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE

Bayern Munich have woes out wide as they gun for a Champions League victory at Anderlecht on Wednesday with left-backs David Alaba and Rafinha both injured.

Alaba has twisted his back and Rafinha has a knock to an ankle, sidelining them for a game which Bayern need to win to keep up the pressure on Group B leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

The defensive pair are also doubtful for Saturday's away match when Bundesliga leaders Bayern visit Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes will have to re-arrange his defence after resting Alaba and playing Brazilian international Rafinha at left-back in Saturday's 3-0 win at home to Augsburg.

Bayern are already missing long-term absentees, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and winger Franck Ribery, while Germany forward Thomas Mueller has only just recovered from a leg injury.

The Germans have already qualified for the last 16 in Europe while Anderlecht have lost all four games so far, but PSG went into their home match against Celtic on Tuesday three points ahead.

Having lost 3-0 to PSG in Paris in September, Bayern have only a slim chance of winning the group.

They are likely to go into the final group match needing to beat the French 4-0 in Munich unless PSG slip up against Celtic.

The Bavarians are on a roll, winning all eight games since 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes replaced Carlo Ancelotti in late September.

"We are on a run and you have to stay in this flow," said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"I do not think the positive tension in the team will drop -- Jupp will not allow that.

"Paris has cleaned up everything in the Champions League, and while I make no secret of the fact that we want to win at least on December 5, I'm not optimistic (the chances of) a 4-0 win," Rummenigge added.

The timetable for the return of Neuer is still unclear as he recovers from a fractured foot.

Rummenigge is unsure whether the Germany goalkeeper will return when the season resumes on January 14 after the winter break, which starts on December 20.

"I don't know if he will be available again when the league resumes, but it's along the lines of what the doctors prognosed," said Rummenigge.

Neuer is expected to soon be off crutches and there is "no cause for pessimism", added the Bayern chairman.




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SPORT: Former Italian soccer president accused of harassment

Italian Football Federation (FIGC) President Carlo Tavecchio speaks during a press conference held after his official resignation during a crisis meeting of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) in Rome on November 20, 2017. Tavecchio has resigned after Italy's World Cup qualifying fiasco saw the four-time champions miss the finals for the first time in 60 years, an FIGC official confirmed on November 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI

Carlo Tavecchio, who quit as head of Italian football on Monday, was accused of sexual harassment by a former executive of the federation in an interview published on Tuesday.

The woman, given the pseudonym "Mary" by Milan daily Corriere della Sera described an encounter with Tavecchio in his office at the federation's headquarters in Rome.

"I went into his office to talk about football," she said. "He did not even give me time to ask 'president, how are you?' He looked at me and said: 'You look well, I can see you have an active sex life.' Then he said: 'Come here and let me touch your breasts.'

"I was embarrassed. I tried to tell him to stop. But his only answer was to close the curtains of the office."

The woman told Corriere that she was harassed over a period of time and quit the Italian football federation she said she had decided to come forward when she realised that Tavecchio's resignation did not signal that he intended to quit the sport.

On Monday, Tavecchio, who is 74, finally heeded calls to go following Italy's elimination in a World Cup playoff against Sweden a week earlier.

At a press conference to announce his decision, he said he regretted that he was the only person at the federation to have resigned.

Before becoming head of the federation, Tavecchio ran Italy's amateur football leagues.

"When I understood that Tavecchio's intention was to take another position of responsiblity, perhaps with the amateurs, I had no doubt that it was time for me to speak up," Mary said.




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SPORT: Maradona among World Cup winners to take part in draw

Diego Maradona PHOTO:AFP

Argentina football great Diego Maradona is among a host of former World Cup winners lined up for the World Cup draw in Moscow next week.

“Maradona, who captained Argentina to World Cup victory in 1986, joins fellow World Cup winners.

“Laurent Blanc of France, Gordon Banks of England, Cafu of Brazil, Fabio Cannavaro of Italy and Carles Puyol of Spain are assistants,’’ football world governing body FIFA said on Tuesday.

Uruguay’s Diego Forlan, who played in the 2014 edition, would also join the assistants along with 91-year-old Russian football great Nikita Simonyan, who played at the 1958 World Cup.

Miroslav Klose, a World Cup winner with Germany in 2014, and all-time leading World Cup scorer, had already been announced as trophy bearer, ensuring all eight World Cup-winning nations were represented at the show.

The assistants would join England striker Gary Lineker and Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya, who would host the Dec. 1, draw at the State Kremlin Palace.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said it was a great line-up, featuring “legends from all of the former World Cup winning countries.’’

“The 32-team World Cup opens June 14 and concludes July 15,’’ FIFA noted.




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SPORT: Zidane speaks on alleged ‘fight’ between Ronaldo, Ramos

Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, has reacted to a reported rift going on between the team captain, Sergio Ramos and star forward, Cristiano Ronaldo.


Zidane spoke ahead of the Champions League match between Real Madrid and Apoel Nicosia on Tuesday.

Reports have emerged that the veteran defender and his teammate Ronaldo are having a sort of dressing room burst up.

Responding to questions from the press on the matter, Zidane said, “You are wrong because Sergio Ramos is a very clever footballer.

“They came both [Ramos and Ronaldo} come out to say what they want. They are both clever people. I’m not too sure how long they’ve been together or how many years.

“And they have won many things together, many titles. Everyone once in a while can think one thing and anybody can think something completely different.

“That is not a problem. The most important thing is that we talk and sought things out. And if there’s anything that needs to be sorted out, we will. But there are definitely no problems between Sergio and Ronaldo.”



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SPORT: Dybala, Messi renew rivalry in Turin

Argentina's Lionel Messi and Argentina's Paulo Dybala during an international friendly football match between Russia and Argentina at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on November 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

Juventus star Paulo Dybala has rediscovered his scoring form just in time as he renews his rivalry with fellow Argentina Lionel Messi in Wednesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona.

The 30-year-old Messi scored two goals to help Barcelona to a comfortable 3-0 win over Juventus, last season's finalists, at the Nou Camp in September.

Messi then scored a hat-trick in Ecuador to carry Argentina through to the 2018 World Cup.

Dybala was on the substitute's bench in Quito but the 24-year-old will be on the field in Turin where a win will ensure Juventus reaches the knockout rounds.

Barcelona lead Group D by three points with two rounds to go, and Ernesto Valverde's side need only a draw to advance as group winners.

Dybala made a record-setting start to the Serie A season with 10 goals in six games before suffering a dip in form.

He got back on the scoresheet in the final seconds of Sunday's 3-2 loss at Sampdoria, to bring his tally to 12 goals in 13 games.

Since arriving in Turin from Palermo in 2015, the player dubbed "The Jewel" has scored 56 goals in 112 games. But he has yet to open his tally in Europe this term.

Messi has hit three in the Champions League this season to join Ronaldo in the exclusive club of players who have scored 100 goals in European competition.

- 'Messi like Maradona' -
Diminutive, dynamic and with a deadly left foot like his idol, Dybala names Messi as a source of inspiration, although he has also spoken about how difficult it is to play alongside the superstar in the Argentine national team.

Dybala said he had been misinterpreted, adding that Messi had laughed off the comments when he tried to explain.

"Leo is like Maradona for those of our generation," Dybala told France Football. "For me it's an honour to play with him in the national team."

"He dragged us to the World Cup with the hat-trick in Ecuador. He is a born leader."

Dybala has said that he would like one day play alongside Messi's former Barcelona team-mate Neymar Jr. The pair have long been tipped as heirs to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have dominated world soccer's annual awards in recent years.

"I have to work to improve and win trophies. Once, in front of a bonfire with friends we all made a wish – my own was to win the Ballon d'Or."

As for his future at six-time defending Serie A champions, he added: "In football you never know, but I'm not thinking of going away."

Barca are in top form having won 11 and drawn one of 12 domestic matches this season to sit four points ahead of Valencia in La Liga.

Juventus, after their setback at Sampdoria, are third in Serie A.




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SPORT: Sharapova named in India luxury housing fraud probe

(FILES) In this photograph taken on November 11, 2012, Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova takes part in a press conference in the Indian capital New Delhi. Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova is under investigation by Indian police for cheating and criminal conspiracy after the collapse of a luxury housing project that she endorsed, a lawyer said November 21. / AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN

Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova is under investigation in India for cheating and criminal conspiracy after the collapse of a luxury housing project that she endorsed, police and a lawyer said Tuesday.

The firm behind the development is alleged to have taken millions of dollars from homebuyers before the project folded.

"We have registered a case of cheating on directions from the court," local police officer Arvind Sharma told AFP.

He said Sharapova and the firm behind the development, Homestead Infrastructure Development, were named in the case.

The 30-year-old tennis star travelled to India in 2012 to launch the luxury high-rise apartment complex -- later named Ballet by Sharapova -- which prospective buyers were told would house a tennis academy, a clubhouse and a helipad.

The website of the project quotes Sharapova as saying her goal was to "make the owners feel like they own something special and different".

"Any celebrity who endorses any product technically becomes an agent for that company. No one would have invested in the project if Sharapova's name was not there," said Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing the complainant.

The project in Gurgaon -- a satellite city of the capital New Delhi -- was supposed to be ready in 2016 but, Singh said, construction work was abandoned after builders collected millions from homebuyers.

Calls to the developers went unanswered. Sharapova has not yet commented on the case.

Sharapova, a former world number one, made almost $30 million in 2015, according to Forbes, with $23 million of that coming from endorsements.

She has had a stop-start season since her controversial return to the game in April, following a 15-month doping ban.




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SPORT: What's gone wrong at Atletico Madrid?

Atletico players pose before the Spanish league football match Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitan stadium in Madrid on November 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Twice Champions League finalists in the past four seasons, Atletico Madrid are staring an embarrassing and financially damaging Champions League exit in the face unless they beat an in-form Roma on Wednesday.

Even victory over the Group C leaders and away to Chelsea in two weeks may not be enough to save Atletico unless Azerbaijani Champions League debutants Qarabag can also do them a favour by taking points off one of Chelsea or Roma in their final two games.

In Diego Simeone's glorious reign as boss, only Real Madrid have previously been capable of eliminating Atletico from the Champions League. They have twice dumped out Barcelona and beat Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich en route to the 2016 final.

Here, AFP Sports looks at what has gone wrong for Simeone's troops this season:

Goal-shy Griezmann
Simeone remains steadfast in his words of support for star forward Antoine Griezmann more than in his actions after substituting the French international in each of Atletico's last two games.

Griezmann has angered some Atletico fans by publicly flirting with a move away before agreeing to stay and signing an improved contract when the club's appeal against a transfer ban was rejected in June.

However, a run of no goals in his last eight games and just three all season has meant there has been little reconciliation with a set of supporters that demand commitment above all else.

Simeone insisted he was with Griezmann "to the death" as long as he "remains in his family" after another blank in Saturday's 0-0 draw at home to bitter rivals Real.

Yet a divorce between player and club at the end of the season now seems inevitable, particularly with Atletico needing to balance the books should they crash out early in the Champions League.

Not so magic Wanda
Atletico's European success was built at the fortress Vicente Calderon where they won 18, drew four and lost only one of 23 Champions League games under Simeone.

They are yet to experience the winning feeling in the Champions League at their new 68,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano after two attempts: a late defeat to Chelsea and an even more damaging draw when Qarabag visited three weeks ago.

Indeed, after opening the 310 million-euro ($366 million) stadium with victories over Malaga and Sevilla, Atletico are winless in their last five at the Wanda Metropolitano as players and fans alike struggle to adapt to their remote new home, nearly 20 kilometres northeast of the Calderon.

Diego Costa cloud lingers
Griezmann's lack of form has been exacerbated by a dearth of other goalscoring options as Atletico have scored just 12 times in their last 15 games and failed to score more than once in a game for two months.

A club record fee was splashed out in September to bring Diego Costa back to Atletico from Chelsea, but he can't feature until January when the ban on registering new players is lifted.

In the meantime, Angel Correa, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres have failed to justify a continued run in the team as Griezmann's strike partner.

Lost their heads
So strong were Atletico in the air during their La Liga title-winning season in 2013/14 they were nicknamed "Atletico Aviation" in reference to a club that formed part of a merger to make what is now known as Atletico Madrid in the late 1930s.

This season, Atletico's own set-piece threat has dried up, while seven of the 10 goals they have conceded have come from headers.

Atletico's aerial defending has cost them points against Girona, Chelsea, Qarabag, Barcelona and Villarreal.

Draws don't work
Despite the doom and gloom, Atletico have only lost one game in 17 in all competitions this season. The problem is 10 of those matches have ended in draws.

Not turning draws into wins has been particularly punishing in the Champions League as Atletico have dominated twice against Qarabag and away to Roma on matchday one for the reward of just three points.

Now they have no margin for error left, but Simeone is never comfortable in setting his side up to go gung ho.




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SPORT: Absence makes Man Utd grow fonder for Pogba

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba leaves the pitch substituted during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Newcastle at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on November 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF

He does not yet share team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic's cult status, but Paul Pogba's display on his comeback from injury showed his importance to Manchester United is second to none.

Having toiled in Pogba's absence, recently taking four points from a possible 12 in the Premier League, United rediscovered their swagger against Newcastle United on Saturday when the Frenchman made his return.

With a goal and an assist in a 4-1 comeback win, Pogba was the man of the match and his overall display helped United find a level they have struggled to reach during his two-month absence.

"He affects our football," summarised United manager Jose Mourinho.

"We all know, myself and the fellow players, that certain players influence the levels of the team. With him we have much more creation."

Though he has often dazzled with his long-legged technical artistry, the recognition of Pogba's influence on United's play has been slow in coming.

His then world-record £89.3 million ($118.2 million, 100.6 million euros) transfer from Juventus last year created huge expectations and although his first season was successful, there were few fireworks.

Pogba finished the season with nine goals in 51 appearances and winner's medals in both the League Cup and Europa League, his goal in the final of the latter setting United en route to victory over Ajax.

But he could not compete with Ibrahimovic, whose goal-scoring feats and larger-than-life persona immediately made him a favourite with the Old Trafford faithful.

United's fans had invented a song for Ibrahimovic -- their "Swedish hero" -- before he had even made his official debut.

Anthony Martial, too, is regularly serenaded, but Pogba is still waiting for an ode in his honour to take root.

With Ibrahimovic sidelined by an injury of his own, Pogba took centre-stage in the opening weeks of the current campaign as United made an impressive start to the season.

'Confidence and arrogance'
Yet it was only during the period of absence brought on by the hamstring injury Pogba sustained against Basel on September 12 that his importance began to be truly acknowledged.

"I think Pogba is a big miss because of his confidence and arrogance," said former United captain Gary Neville after Mourinho's men succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at Chelsea.

"He takes the ball into tight areas, holds the ball, beats a man."

Paul Scholes, meanwhile, said Pogba's unavailability explained why Romelu Lukaku had suddenly gone off the boil.

"He (Pogba) links the team together," said the former United midfielder.

"I don't think they have a good enough number 10 at the moment and that doesn't help Lukaku either. Lukaku is having to do a lot for himself, but Pogba will make the difference."

With Pogba in the team, United have scored 16 goals in five Premier League games this season, at an average of 3.2 per game.

When Pogba is not playing, the average goals figure halves.

The 24-year-old has been directly responsible for eight goals in his last six league appearances -- four goals, four assists -- and with him and Ibrahimovic back on the scene, confidence is flooding back.

Manchester City opened up an eight-point lead over United while Pogba was convalescing, but both he and Ibrahimovic spoke optimistically about reeling in Pep Guardiola's side after Saturday's game.

While United have lost ground in the league, they have not missed a beat in the Champions League and visit Basel on Wednesday needing just a point to reach the knockout phase as group winners.

Mourinho has indicated Pogba could be rested, but whether he plays or not, his return to fitness has given United a major lift.




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SPORT: Cavani explains why he left penalty duties to Neymar

Paris Saint-Germain striker, Edinson Cavani, has claimed that he has left penalty duties to Neymar at the club, because the Brazilian “knows how to face pressure”.


Cavani and Neymar were involved in a furious row in September, when PSG were awarded a spot-kick against Lyon in a Ligue 1 clash.

Cavani eventually stepped up and missed, leading to tensions between the two players and in the dressing room.

The Uruguay international on Monday said said: “Neymar will take the next penalty.”

He, however, made it clear that the forwards’ relationship is strictly business.

“Neymar is successful and knows how to face pressure.

“We don’t need to be friends.We will help each other on the pitch,” he added.

PSG host Celtic on Wednesday as they return to Champions League action.



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SPORT TRANSFER: Today's Gossip: Madrid To Hijack Sanchez Deal; Mkhi Fighting For Future

Today's Gossip: Madrid To Hijack Sanchez Deal; Mkhi Fighting For Future




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SPORT: Serbian FA to visit Nigeria over friendlies, camp site

Super Eagles’ Coach, Gernot Rohr (right) has picked his old ward, Victor Agali as one of his scouts for the Russia 2018 World Cup. PHOTO: AFP.

• Rohr picks Agali as scout

Officials of the Serbian Football Association are expected in Nigeria soon to discuss with their counterparts in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) possible areas of cooperation, including friendly matches before the Russia 2018 World Cup and camp sites for the Super Eagles.

Serbia, like Nigeria, qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

President of the Nigeria-Serbia Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Temi Gold, whose association is midwifing the project, said he has been in contact with relevant organs of the Serbia Football Federation as well as the Nigeria Football Federation and he foresees no stress in pulling through what he said will be a home and away friendly. “But we must be mindful of the FIFA calendar”, he said.

As part of the preparations for the games, he said the Serbia FA, to be led by its president, will soon visit Nigeria to tie the loose ends, adding that the Serbia FA was delaying its visit to Nigeria because a new Ambassador has just been appointed by the country’s government to Nigeria and “he needs to be properly welcomed this week and issues bothering on the economy and socials will then be discussed.”

He revealed that Serbian firms and their Nigerian counterparts are ready to hook into the friendly once both federations agree on the modalities.

Meanwhile, Super Eagles’ Coach, Gernot Rohr has appointed former international striker, Victor Agali as one of his scouts ahead of their campaign at the World Cup in Russia next year.

Rohr confirmed Agali’s appointment in an interview with a French based radio station while discussing his plans for the World Cup with Nigeria after their 4-2 win over Argentina.

The coach didn’t mention the specific area Agali will help him in scouting, but it for now looks like he will lead the search for a top striker as back up to present first choice forward, Odion Ighalo.

Agali and Rohr have known each other since his days in Germany when he played for Hansa Rostock and also Schalke 04 before moving to France to join Nice.

It was at French Ligue 1 side Nice that Agali worked under the tutelage of Rohr and since then they have maintained their relationship.

Rohr watched Agali’s team, AS Racine, in a Nigeria National League game last season.




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SPORT: Obaseki hails Falconets’ 5-1 victory over Morocco

PHOTO: TWITTER/THE NFF

 • South Africa plots Nigeria’s fall

The Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has hailed Nigeria’s under-20 female football team, the Falconets on their 5-1 victory over Morocco on Saturday at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, the Edo State capital .

The match is the second leg of the France 2018 U-20 Women World Cup qualifier, and came after the Falconets recorded a 1-1 draw with the Moroccans on their home turf.

Residents of Benin City and environs trooped to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to cheer the girls to victory, defying the Saturday heavy downpour in the city, after the state government announced that no gate fee would be required to watch the match.

Reacting to the game, Governor Obaseki said the girls lived up to the expectations of Edo people and Nigerians, as they reinforced the belief that Edo State is a victory ground for national football teams.

According to him, “The Falconets have shown, once again, that we are doing the right thing in throwing our weight behind them. They won their game against Tanzania on this turf and have repeated the feat, albeit resoundingly this time.”

He praised Rasheedat Ajibade and Reuben Charity, who grabbed two goals each with their exemplary skills, noting that the goal by Gift Monday helped to seal the game.

The governor said that the girls demonstrated an enviable style of play, which often dazzled their opponents, adding that their panache on the field as well as their determination, were impressive and should be emulated by every Nigerian whenever they are tasked to represent their country.

“I am impressed by how well the girls perform while representing the country. The Edo State Government provided them with the necessary support to win, but it was still dependent on the team to prove their mettle. They have made us proud with the win and we hope the trend continues,” Obaseki said.

Meanwhile, South Africans believe the final round of qualifiers will give them the chance to beat Nigeria in a competitive game.

The South Africans see Nigeria as an old enemy that has tormented all their national teams, which now stands between their women’s Under-20 team and a place in the Under-20 World Cup in France next year.

But Basetsana coach, Maude Khumalo told a local website that she is confident the stranglehold Nigeria has over South African teams will not hold them back in their quest to become only the country’s second women’s side to take part in the World Cup, after the Under-17 generation of 2010 competed in the global showpiece in Trinidad and Tobago.

Basetsana will go into the final round confident after they made light work of Burundi at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday, thumping them 5-0 to reverse the 2-0 loss they suffered in Bujumbura earlier this month. Before that they had humbled Namibia 9-0 on aggregate.

“What I will tell you is that when you go out of the country, you don’t know what to expect,” Khumalo said.




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SPORT: Man City, Feyenoord clash in UEFA Champions League

Manchester City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero (2nd R) celebrates with Manchester City's German midfielder Leroy Sane (R) after scoring their second goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 5, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF

• Borussia Dortmund tackle Spurs

Pep Guardiola says Manchester City are still not among the favourites to win the Champions League despite their eye-catching form in domestic and European competition.

The Premier League leaders face Feyenoord today unbeaten in 18 games in all competitions this season and with an increasing number of observers tipping them to challenge for Europe’s biggest prize, which they have never won.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri and Leicester’s well-travelled boss Claude Puel are the latest respected judges to name City as the best team in Europe but Guardiola is continuing to play down expectations around his side, who have already qualified for the Champions League’s last 16.

“I say thank you very much to both of them,” said Guardiola of the praise from his fellow managers. “For Manchester City, a team that still needs a history in Europe, it is a big win.

“That doesn’t mean we are favourites to win the Champions League but it’s nice. It means we are doing some things very well.

“But obviously people usually say the favourite teams are FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and others. But that people put us there, is a big honour. That does not mean we have done anything because we haven’t.”

Guardiola has lost England defender John Stones for up to six weeks with captain Vincent Kompany, another centre-back, still edging his way back from injury.

With 13 games to play from Tuesday until their trip to Watford on January 2, Guardiola believes the coming period will be his squad’s biggest test of the season.

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund have lifted the suspension on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with their star striker set to face Tottenham Hotspur in today’s Champions League clash.

Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc confirmed Aubameyang is back in the squad after his suspension for being late for training and an unauthorised video shoot at the club’s training ground.

The Gabon international was left out of Friday’s 2-1 defeat at Stuttgart which saw the early season pacesetters drop to fifth in the Bundesliga table.

Aubameyang, the Bundesliga’s top scorer last season, is in a goal drought.




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SPORT: Barcelona interested in signing Everton star, Henry Onyekuru

Henry Onyekuru

Spanish La Liga giants, Barcelona are keeping a close eye on Everton forward, Henry Onyekuru, who is currently on loan to Belgian top flight club Anderlecht, reports on local websites have indicated.

Scouts from the Spanish club were present to witness Onyekuru find the back of the net for the seventh time this season during Anderlecht’s visit to Royal Excel Mouscron.

The 20-year-old was signed by Everton last summer from Eupen but was immediately sent out on a season-long loan to Anderlecht, where his performances are attracting plenty of European attention.

Onyekuru has also starred in the UEFA Champions League group stages this season with reports that Premier League club Manchester United want to secure his signature.

The Merseyside club has a real talent on their hands and Onyekuru could easily break into the starting side at Goodison Park following his return from his loan spell.

However, the temptation of playing for Barcelona could turn out to be a difficult one to turn down.

The Nigerian youngster made his official debut for his country in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture against Algeria on November 10 in Constantine and will be confident of securing a place in the squad for the tournament in Russia.

Onyekuru’s goal against Royal Excel Mouscron in the last round of matches in the Belgian First Division A was eye-catching enough to be a contender for the Goal of the Week award.

Top Belgian newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad has picked Onyekuru’s second half effort and strikes from Kaveh Rezaei (Charleroi) and Ruud Vormer (Club Brugge) as the best goals of the week in the Belgian top division.

As at the time of this report, Onyekuru was third in the poll with 13 percent, behind Vormer (68 percent) and Rezaei (19 percent).

With the game tied at 1-1, the Nigeria international combined with Algerian Sofiane Hanni to get free in the penalty area, before firing past goalkeeper Logan Bailly in the 80th minute.

The Everton loanee now has seven goals in 14 appearances for Anderlecht in the regular season.




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SPORT: Amodu, Keshi Sports Festival still on course, says NAESS

• Organisers want corporate Nigeria’s support

The National Association of Edo State Students (NAESS) has revealed that it has not jettisoned the idea of hosting a games in honour of two of Nigeria’s coaching icons, Shuaibu Amodu and ‘Big Boss’ Stephen Keshi, saying they have been contacting potential sponsors and participants.

NAESS disclosed that it has contacted many corporate organisations to tap into the goodwill of the duo, while it has also approached the Edo and Delta States’ to buy into the festival.

It said a tentative date of December 3 has been set for the games at the University of Benin Sports Centre, where several universities from across the nation are expected to vie for honours.

NAESS Sports Director, Comrade Adeoye Raphael last Thursday held a meeting with the UNIBEN Director of Sports, Dr. (Mrs.) Igbase, where issues relating to the games were discussed and assurances given.

Raphael explained that the games that will be played at the festival include football, swimming, basketball and athletics, adding, “a lecture is also scheduled to be delivered by a major stakeholder during the games.”

He added: “Dr. Igbase in her speech said that people don’t understand the benefit of sports in the society in uniting and developing the economy financially, morally and mentally. She said that almost all things in life are found in sports ranging from culture, medical, education among other things.

“All relevant organs of the University including security, power generation and other logistics have been put on alert for the festival at the UNIBEN Sports Complex.”




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SPORT: Rashford wants Man Utd winning machine

Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) talks with Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford (L) as they leave the pitch at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on April 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF /

Marcus Rashford says Manchester United are on the path to becoming relentless winners under manager Jose Mourinho and wants Old Trafford to become an unbreachable fortress once again.

Mourinho oversaw a disappointing sixth-place finish in his first season at Old Trafford but followed Louis van Gaal’s FA Cup triumph with Europa League, League Cup and Community Shield glory.

Rashford, 20, is hungry for more, counting every trophy while trying to enjoy a whirlwind rise that started less than 21 months ago.

“There’s so many different incidents that can easily pass you by and you forget about,” the 20-year-old told Britain’s Press Association.

“As an example, as soon as you win a trophy, in my mind straightaway you’re thinking about winning the next trophy. That’s when you can miss the moment of enjoying winning that trophy. It’s difficult.

“We went through that second year and won three trophies in the year, so we were winning things and winning things and it became normal for us.

“That’s what United has always been about, so it is important for us to try and get that feeling back to Old Trafford of winning.”




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SPORT: Sacked Tony Pulis proud of his three years at West Brom

West Bromwich Albion's Welsh head coach Tony Pulis looks on ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at The London Stadium, in east London on February 11, 2017.<br />Ian KINGTON / AFP

Sacked Tony Pulis is proud of his achievements at the Baggies and has faith the squad he’s built will return to the ‘upper reaches’ of the Premier League, reports expressandstar.com.

The 59-year-old, who was removed from his post by chairman John Williams yesterday, has issued a statement via the League Managers’ Association.

He said he had hit the targets he was presented with and praised both his players and backroom staff.

“Over the last three seasons we have achieved a great deal and I am proud to have managed West Bromwich Albion,” said Pulis’s statement.

“I would like to thank the two owners, Jeremy Peace and Mr. Lai, the board and fans for their support during my time at West Brom.

“Jeremy Peace and Mr. Lai have played an important role in the off-field success and given the team a platform to build from.

“My remit was to develop the squad and ensure we delivered results which would in turn improve the club’s financial position.

“We have achieved this year on year and I am pleased to have played a part in the club’s growth.

“Our final league position in the last three seasons has represented the accomplishment of our targets as a club; sustaining our status in the Premier League and delivering stability, throughout the club’s transition of ownership.

“We enjoyed a fantastic season last year, finishing 10th in the Premier League for only the third occasion in Albion’s history and finished as the top midlands team for only the second time since 1967-68.

“I strongly believe that this group of players can return to this level of performance and finish in the upper reaches of the Premier League.




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