Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone called on his side’s supporters to create an explosive atmosphere to push his team into the Europa League final when they host Arsenal in Thursday’s semi-final second leg.Atletico left the first leg at the Emirates Stadium with a 1-1 draw having played most of the game with 10 men after Sime Vrsjalko was sent off, defending with their backs against the wall while Arsenal dominated but failed to capitalise.Atletico have reached three European finals under Simeone, winning the 2012 Europa League final against Athletic Bilbao and losing the Champions League showpieces in 2014 and 2016 to Real Madrid.Arsenal have made it to two European finals under Arsene Wenger, who is leaving the club at the end of the season after 22 years, losing the 2000 UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray and the 2006 Champions League final to Barcelona.“We need positive energy and the stadium to explode,” Simeone told a news conference. “We have a huge will to get to the final.”Simeone’s success with Atletico has been built on a rock-solid defence, intense pressing and making the most of their chances and the Argentine coach was under no illusions as to how his side will play against Arsenal, knowing that a goalless draw would be enough to send the Spaniards through.“We will try to be very well organised,” said Simeone, whose side have not conceded a goal in their last 11 games in all competitions at their home the Wanda Metropolitano, last letting in a goal against Girona on Jan. 20.“We will try to be very direct and blunt and live every second at the maximum intensity knowing how important each ball is.”Simeone was sent off along with Vrsaljko in the first leg and long-time assistant German ‘Mono Burgos will be on the sidelines in his place.Thursday will be Wenger’s 250th European game as a coach and getting past Atletico and beating either Olympique de Marseille or Salzburg in the final in Lyon is his last chance to sign out on his long Arsenal career on a high.The Frenchman won the Premier League three times and seven FA Cups since taking over at Arsenal in 1996 although his legacy has been tarnished by failing to compete for league titles in recent years or go beyond the last 16 of the Champions League since 2010.Arsenal have also failed to finish in the top four in the league in the last two seasons and winning the Europa League is their last chance to avoid missing out on Champions League qualification for a second year in a row.“The target is to get to 251 European games,” said Wenger.“The next game is always the most important in my life. It influences the future of my club. That’s why it’s a very, very big game for us. Will we qualify for the Champions League or not?”
Only the most preposterous turnaround can spare Swansea City from relegation on the final Sunday of the Premier League season but if any team can help fashion this mission improbable, it is Pep Guardiola’s dazzling Manchester City.While Liverpool and Chelsea contend for the one remaining Champions League spot, Swansea fans are steeling themselves for the most deflating of afternoons at the other end of the table.For only if the Welsh outfit can beat already-relegated Stoke City at the Liberty Stadium and champions City thrash Southampton at St Mary’s to effect a 10-goal swing will the Saints tumble out of the top flight instead of the Swans.It remains highly unlikely but because rampant City are seeking to underline their record-shredding campaign with a landmark century of points, few Southampton or Swansea fans can quite convince themselves it is over yet.“We have to be careful. If there is one team in this league who have the capability of scoring a lot of goals, it’s Man City,” warned Southampton manager Mark Hughes.Hughes should know. Managing Stoke earlier this season, he saw City rain in seven goals – one of 14 times Guardiola’s side have scored four or more in all competitions this term.Getting the three points on Sunday to finish with exactly 100 clearly means a good deal to the Spaniard, who noted after City’s 3-1 steamrollering of Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday that it would “finish this almost perfect season”.Guardiola talked again of “trying to write a new page” in English football to emulate the Liverpool side of the late 1970s and 1980s and Manchester United in the 1990s.“To be the best, to be alongside those teams, we have to win more,” he added. “But this season we’ve done better than the others, we cannot deny.”TRULY EXCEPTIONALIndeed, a win at Southampton would make City’s league season, statistically at least, the finest-ever in the English top-flight.Bob Paisley’s 1978-79 Liverpool side would have ended up with 98 if three points, rather than two, for a win had been employed then. Yet that season was over 42 games not 38 so, by any yardstick, City have been truly exceptional.Swansea’s manager Carlos Carvalhal can only hope the champions have one more exceptional 90 minutes in them.“Well, at this moment we’re not relegated,” he shrugged.“We can’t depend on ourselves and we don’t like that. We must win the game and hope for a miracle to happen.”The “miracle” would not be Man City running riot, it would be Swansea, without a league goal in over six and a quarter hours, actually rousing themselves to hammer Stoke.The good news for Carvalhal is that the Potters certainly look the most accommodating opposition after a week in which their owners Peter and John Coates admitted the club needed a major overhaul after losing some of its “core values”.In the battle to seal the final top-four spot alongside City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, it’s advantage Liverpool, who need just a point at home to Brighton to foil Chelsea.The only way the Londoners can nick the fourth spot is by winning at Newcastle United and hope Liverpool, perhaps distracted by the upcoming Champions League final, lose their first league game at Anfield all season.For the best final day party look no further than Huddersfield Town, where fans will be celebrating their great escape after back-to-back draws at Manchester City and Chelsea salvaged their top-flight place.Now safe, Dave Wagner’s men will be looking to send Arsene Wenger off into the Premier League sunset without the farewell win his 22 years at Arsenal surely demand.
England defender Danny Rose has told his family not to attend the World Cup because he fears they may be racially abused in Russia.“I’ve told my family I don’t want them going out there because of racism and anything else that may happen,” the 27-year-old left back told London’s Evening Standard on Wednesday.“I don’t want to be worrying, when I’m trying to prepare for games, for my family’s safety. If anything happens to me, it wouldn’t affect me like it would if my family had been abused.”Rose, who suffered personal racial abuse when he played for England’s under-21s in Serbia in 2012, added: “I’m fine with whatever may or may not happen, and I like to think I’ll be able to deal with it in the right way.”Russia has pledged to crack down on racism at the tournament, which runs from June 14 to July 15, but cases of racist abuse have continued to be reported in the country in the run-up to the World Cup, and the country was fined last month after racist abuse was directed at French players during a friendly in March.FIFA fined Russia 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,400/22,650 pounds) for that incident in St Petersburg, which is one of the 11 host cities for the World Cup, and Rose said the sanction was nowhere near enough to have the desired impact.“A 22,000 pounds fine is disgusting,” he said. “What do (FIFA) expect? I don’t want to sound arrogant but if I’d been fined 22,000 pounds, without sounding big-headed, it wouldn’t make a difference. A country being fined 22,000 pounds is just laughable.”Rose, who will be appearing at his first World Cup, said his family were disappointed by his decision to ask them not to attend.“My dad’s really upset. He said he may never get a chance again to come and watch me in a World Cup,” he said. “It’s really sad. Somehow Russia got the World Cup and we have to get on with it.”Rose is the latest player to voice concerns about racism at the World Cup. His fellow fullback, Ashley Young, said last week that England’s players had talked about the potential for racist abuse from spectators.Rose told the Standard players had discussed walking off the pitch in such an event. “Until it actually happens, and under what circumstances, it’s hard to say what you’d actually do.”
Former Manchester City and Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure has rejoined Greek Super League side Olympiakos after rejecting offers from Europe, Asia and the United States, the 35-year-old said.Ivory Coast international Toure made his name at the Piraeus club in the 2005-2006 season before going on to win several major trophies in lengthier spells at Barcelona and City.“When I left in 2006 I said I would come back and I am delighted to keep my word,” Toure said on his official website https://www.officialyayatoure.com/general/yaya-returns-to-olympiacos.“I made my decision based on the special relationship I have with this incredible club. It is an honour to be back.”The Greek league leaders confirmed the move but did not give financial details. Local media said Toure would be paid around 2.5 million euros for one season.Toure was released by City after a limited role last season, bringing an end to eight seasons at the club where he won three Premier League titles, two League Cups and the FA Cup.Olympiakos were third last season, their lowest finish in 23 years after lifting 20 league titles in 22 years.
Defending U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal and twice winner Novak Djokovic are one victory away from renewing their rivalry in the final with both expected to get through their semis on Friday.World number one Nadal faces big-serving Argentine third seed Juan Martin del Potro while sixth seed Novak Djokovic meets Japanese 21st seed Kei Nishikori bidding to secure a seventh trip to the showcase match at Flushing Meadows.Nadal, who survived a gruelling late-night battle with Austrian Dominic Thiem in punishing humidity to reach the last four, has a commanding 11-5 career record against Del Potro with his last loss coming in the semis at the 2016 Rio Olympics.The Spaniard, who beat Del Potro this year in the French Open semi-finals and Wimbledon quarter-finals, has looked nothing short of brilliant but is not about to get ahead of himself as the pair have split their 10 meetings on hard courts.“He (Del Potro) is a great player everywhere. But the challenge of playing him on hard (courts) of course is even higher for me personally than playing against him on clay,” said Nadal, who has three U.S. Opens among his 17 Grand Slam titles.“It will be a big challenge. It’s a match in which we know each other very well. I know he’s playing well. I know I’ll have to play at my highest level to keep having chances of success.”Del Potro will rely heavily on his service having won 83 percent of his first service points through five matches here, well above anyone else remaining in the men’s draw.In Friday’s other semi-final, Djokovic will try to extend the form that has seen him win 24 of his last 26 matches, an impressive run that includes titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open tune-up event in Cincinnati.He has a 14-2 record against Nishikori, whose last victory over the Serb came in the 2014 U.S. Open semi-finals before he lost in the showpiece match to Croatian Marin Cilic, who the Japanese overcame in five sets to reach this year’s last four.Djokovic, who beat Nishikori in the Wimbledon quarters, said he expected a tough match against an opponent with a lethal two-handed backhand who is one of the fastest players on tour.“I can’t really say he’s a great match-up for me,” said the Serb. “I have a very good head-to-head score against him. But because he plays so fast he makes me more alert from the first point because I know I have to be at my best in order to compete with him from the baseline.”No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro (23.00)No. 6 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 21 Kei Nishikori (01.00 Sat)
Naomi Osaka said Serena Williams’s row with the umpire during the U.S. Open final had not altered her feelings about winning a Grand Slam largely because she had no idea how she was supposed to react, the Japanese said on Thursday.Osaka’s breakthrough triumph in New York was overshadowed by an explosive row between her opponent Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos which resulted in the 23-times Grand Slam champion being docked a game and fined $17,000.At Flushing Meadows on Saturday, the 20-year-old was reduced to tears during the presentation ceremony but on her arrival back in Japan on Thursday, she said she had not been saddened by the incident.“For me, I don’t feel sad because I wouldn’t even know what I’m expected to feel,” she told a news conference in Yokohama ahead of the Pan Pacific tournament that begins on Monday.“Because it was my first final and my first Grand Slam victory, overall I felt really happy and I know that I accomplished a lot.“I don’t think I even thought about feeling sad because there’s no experience for me to draw on (from) any other Grand Slam final.”One of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of all time divided tennis and triggered a debate about sexism in the sport, fuelled by Williams’s assertion that Ramos would not have dealt with a male player in the same way.Much of the criticism of Williams has centred on how her actions had spoiled a precious moment for Osaka, who was even moved to apologise for beating the home favourite to a New York crowd angrily booing Ramos.In becoming her country’s first ever Grand Slam singles champion, Osaka, the daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, is also helping break new ground in Japan as her biracial identity challenges the country’s self-image as a racially homogenous society.Public attitudes are slowly changing as Japanese society becomes more integrated with the global economy, and the emergence of more ethnically mixed celebrities, especially in sport, is helping.For her part, Osaka is not thinking too much about how her identity is perceived.“For me, I’m just me,” said Osaka, when asked whether she represented a ‘new Japan’“I know the way that I was brought up, people tell me I act kind of Japanese so I guess there is that.“But if you were talking about my tennis, I think my tennis is not very Japanese.”Osaka, currently ranked seventh in the world, is aiming to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore at the end of the season.Furthermore, in embracing her new high profile, Osaka wants to serve as a role model for young Japanese children.“I have definitely been thinking about if little kids were watching and they wanted to play tennis too,” she said.“I’ve always thought that Kei (Nishikori) is a super good role model on the men’s side and I wish that there was one on the women’s side.“So hopefully I can be that role model.”
Wimbledon will introduce a final set tiebreak starting from next year’s Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), organisers said on Friday. After a period of consultation with players and officials, the AELTC ruled that the tiebreak will be played when the score reaches 12-12 in the final set of all matches at the tournament, singles and doubles.“The match winner(s) will be the first player(s) to win seven points with an advantage of two or more points. There will be no change to the current format of the Wheelchair and Quad Wheelchair events, which are the best of three tiebreak sets,” the AELTC said.The decision means there will be no repeat of the record-breaking marathon match in 2010 when American John Isner beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut after 11 hours and five minutes of play over three days. The final set took eight hours and 11 minutes and was won by Isner 70-68.“Our view was that the time had come to introduce a tiebreak method for matches that had not reached their natural conclusion at a reasonable point during the deciding set,” AELTC Chairman Philip Brook said.“While we know the instances of matches extending deep into the final set are rare, we feel that a tiebreak at 12-12 strikes an equitable balance between allowing players ample opportunity to complete the match to advantage, while also providing certainty that the match will reach a conclusion in an acceptable timeframe.”
Manchester United will not sit back when Paris St Germain visit Old Trafford for the first leg of their last 16 Champions League meeting on Tuesday, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said.United are unbeaten in all competitions since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December and their improvement is down to the Norwegian’s insistence on an attacking style of play, as opposed to the defensive fare served up by his predecessor Jose Mourinho.“We’ve got to rediscover the Manchester United way of playing, and I don’t think many teams enjoy their nights at Old Trafford when we’re on song,” Solskjaer, who has ten wins and a draw so far, said.“It’s about taking the game to the opposition, always believing in yourself. If you asked other managers who played against Sir Alex (Ferguson)’s teams, the pace and the tempo going forward was key.“I have three good forwards myself. As well as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku, we have Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard. They can challenge PSG’s defence.”Solskjaer’s managerial record in domestic competitions with United speaks for itself, but Tuesday’s match will be his first test against elite European competition.Progress for United in the Champions League would reinforce the case for Solskjaer to be named United’s permanent manager and the 45-year-old has fond memories of the tournament.“The biggest nights of my career have been Champions League nights,” said Solskjaer, who scored the winner for United in the 1999 final which helped the club complete a treble, including the Premier League and FA Cup titles.“When you get to this stage of the tournament, with the floodlights on, these are the games that you really look forward to.”Speaking to journalists at his pre-game press conference on Monday afternoon. Solskjaer added: “We are confident. We have found what team we have, we are looking like a team, and we are agreeing on how we should approach games.“If ever there was a time for us to play big games – it’s now. Both the supporters and the players have been looking forward to a night like this because they have always been special.“Of course we’re playing against some top teams in the next few games but we are just focused on the next one. We don’t look too far ahead because then you lose your focus. I want my players to embrace the occasion.”As for PSG, Edinson Cavani has been ruled out of Tuesday’s clash, French sports daily L’Equipe reported.PSG said that Uruguay striker Cavani had sustained a hip muscle injury in Saturday’s 1-0 Ligue 1 victory over Bordeaux adding to the side’s injury woes.PSG are already without the world’s most expensive player Neymar, who was ruled out with a foot injury, leaving the French side with only Kylian Mbappe as a world-class striking option. However, the club did not say that Cavani would definitely miss Tuesday’s match.“The treatment and the length of his absence will depend on the evolution of the injury,” PSG said in a statement, adding that full-back Thomas Meunier would need to rest until next week after suffering a concussion.Cavani picked up the injury at the end of the first half and he limped off the pitch shortly after scoring the only goal with a penalty.
Four minutes of first-half brilliance led an otherwise unconvincing New Zealand to a 23-13 victory over South Africa in a clash between two World Cup favourites on Saturday that never quite lived up to its billing.Having wrestled the Rugby Championship from their rivals last month, South Africa pinned a scrappy New Zealand back for 20 minutes but with only three points to show for it, the Springboks were left stunned by two scintillating team tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett.A Pieter Steph du Toit try, moments after a stunning Cheslin Kolbe break, got South Africa right back in the match after halftime. Handre Pollard cut the deficit to four points with a drop goal but penalties from Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett consigned South Africa to their first defeat of 2019.The All Blacks, who have an 11-day break before their next game against Canada, should easily go on to top Pool B and hope for an easier quarter-final as a result. South Africa next face Namibia in Toyota City.
Duncan Ferguson will remain as caretaker manager of Everton for Sunday’s Premier League match away to Manchester United.Ferguson guided the Toffees to a 3-1 win over Chelsea last weekend after replacing Marco Silva, who was sacked following their 5-2 loss to rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.Former Everton manager David Moyes has been linked with a return to Goodison Park while Carlo Ancelotti is also reportedly a target after leaving Napoli on Tuesday, but it appears an appointment is not imminent with Ferguson told he will be in charge at Old Trafford.“Duncan Ferguson will remain as Everton caretaker manager for Sunday’s Premier League visit to Manchester United,” a club statement said.“Former striker Ferguson was in charge as the Blues secured a 3-1 victory over Chelsea at Goodison on Saturday.“Ferguson will again be assisted by coaches John Ebbrell and Francis Jeffers and goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly.”Ferguson spent 10 years at Everton as a player over two spells and subsequently moved into coaching at the club’s academy under Moyes, becoming part of the first-team coaching setup in 2014.He was credited with galvanising the squad in the wake of Silva’s sacking, reflected in their much-improved showing in the win over Chelsea.Silva’s 18-month reign came to an end on December 5 after defeat in the Merseyside derby saw Everton slump to 18th place.Besides Moyes and Ancelotti, the club have been linked with ex-Arsenal boss Unai Emery, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe and Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta, a former Everton midfielder.Shanghai SIPG coach Vitor Pereira had also been considered by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri but said on Monday that he would not be making the switch.“It’s an honour and I’m grateful to be considered by a club I have so much respect for but I am still coach of SIPG and SIPG is a club close to my heart,” Pereira told Sky Sports News.