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Barcelona boss Xavi blasts state of LaLiga pitches

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Xavi Hernandez called for better regulations of playing surfaces after he was criticised for complaining about the state of Getafe’s pitch last weekend.

Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, with Xavi moaning after the game about the dry, long grass not being helped by playing in the afternoon sun.

The Barca coach has regularly criticised pitches which are not conducive to a passing game and insists he will continue to do so regardless of how much others mock him.

“I am criticised for everything,” Xavi said in a news conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Atletico Madrid. “It does not annoy me at all. No matter how many memes they make about me, I won’t keep quiet.

“A dry pitch does not benefit us. It is a question for [Getafe coach Quique] Sanchez Flores: Why not water the pitch? Why have the grass longer than usual?

“I won’t stop until there is a rule in place for playing surfaces. There is in other sports. In golf, if the grass is long, they cut it. If Lebron [James] has a wet court, they dry it. If it rains in tennis, they stop.

“And [in football] we could make puddles, but who does that benefit? I won’t keep quiet. It’s no wonder younger fans don’t watch entire games. If we want to put on a show, we have to take care of the sport.”

Barca’s draw against Getafe was their second successive stalemate in LaLiga and their third winless game in a row in all competitions, but Xavi said the result was not important.

“We could have drawn [with a better pitch], it’s not about how the game ended, I also say it when we win,” he added.

Barca remain 11 points clear at the top of LaLiga with just nine games to play, but, after back-to-back draws, Xavi wants to see a reaction from his players against Atletico at Camp Nou on Sunday as they close in on a first league title since 2019.

“We have not won our last two league games so we are extra motivated for this one,” Xavi said. “LaLiga is at stake. We have to say: ‘We are here.’ We have to show our identity.

“We have not been at the level we want for a few matches, so the message is clear. We must be recognisable, return to our roots, lose fewer balls, generate more in attack and play with a high defensive line.”

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Iheanacho, Ndidi face promotion setback after Leicester defeat

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Iheanacho, Ndidi face promotion setback after Leicester defeat

With a 1-0 loss to Plymouth on Friday, Nigerian stars Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Ndidi’s Leicester team’s attempt to return automatically to the Premier League took another hit.

Mustapha Bundu’s fine finish earned Argyle their first home win since January to move five points clear of the relegation zone at the other end of the table.

Leicester seemed destined to bounce straight back from their shock relegation last season after winning 13 of their first 14 league games this season.

But the Foxes are unravelling at the business end of the campaign.

Enzo Maresca’s men also lost 1-0 to relegation-threatened Millwall in midweek and have won just two of their last six games.

Leicester remain on top of the table but are ahead of Ipswich only on goal difference and one point ahead of third-placed Leeds.

The 2016 Premier League winners could find themselves out of the automatic promotion places by Saturday should Leeds and Ipswich avoid defeat at home to Blackburn and Middlesbrough respectively.

By contrast, Plymouth are now unbeaten in three games under interim boss Neil Dewsnip to pull clear of the bottom three.

Victory hauls the Pilgrims up to 16th.

 

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Harry Kane’s 3 children involved in Munich car accident

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Three of Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane’s children were “lightly injured” in a car accident outside Munich, a fire brigade spokesman said

Three of Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane’s children were “lightly injured” in a car accident outside Munich, a fire brigade spokesman said on Friday, confirming German media reports.

The accident took place on Monday when the England captain was in London ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Arsenal.

The spokesman for Hohenschaeftlarn fire brigade would not provide the identities of those injured in the crash but confirmed a Bild daily report was accurate.

“No one was seriously injured,” the spokesman told AFP, explaining “the accident looked much worse than what it actually was.”

Bild had published images of an accident between three cars, including a van carrying three of Kane’s four children and the striker’s bodyguard.

Eight people were taken to hospital for routine checks, the spokesman said.

AFP

 

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NFF appoints Manu Garba as Golden Eaglets’ Head Coach

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NFF appoints Manu Garba as Golden Eaglets’ Head Coach

The Board of Nigeria Football Federation has appointed former U17 World Cup winner Manu Garba as Head Coach of the Nigeria U17 boys, Golden Eaglets.

 

Garba had, in the same role, led the Golden Eaglets to win the FIFA U17 World Cup for Nigeria in the United Arab Emirates in 2013 – Nigeria’s fourth triumph at that stage.

 

Garba’s world-conquering squad in 2013 included Kelechi Iheanacho, Taiwo Awoniyi, Isaac Success, Musa Mohammed, Chidiebere Nwakali and goalkeeper Dele Alampasu.

 

The squad, which finished as runners-up at the African U17 Championship in Morocco after a penalty shootout defeat by Cote d’Ivoire, defeated Mexico 6-1 in their opening game, drew 3-3 with Sweden and hammered Iraq 5-0. In the Round of 16, they ran Iran ragged 4-1, dispatched Uruguay 2-0 in the quarter-finals and trounced Sweden 3-0 in the semi-finals, before they dislodged Mexico by the same margin in the final to lift the trophy.

 

The former Nigeria international will now immediately resume the role and take charge of the team’s preparations for next month’s WAFU B U17 Championship, taking place in Ghana.

 

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ECL: Aston Villa 2-1 Lille: Emery’s side takes slim lead against Ligue 1 side

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Aston Villa will take a narrow 2-1 lead back to Lille following the first leg of their Europa Conference League quarter-final at Villa Park.

Aston Villa will take a narrow 2-1 lead back to Lille following the first leg of their Europa Conference League quarter-final at Villa Park.

Ollie Watkins headed Villa in front from John McGinn’s corner early on and McGinn’s deflected shot early in the second half doubled the advantage for Unai Emery’s side on the occasion of his 1000th game in management.

But Lille, who squandered a number of good opportunities in the first half and saw Gabriel Gudmundsson’s goal ruled out for offside following a VAR check in the second, finally had their reward late in the game through Bafode Diakite’s header.

It made for muted celebrations at the final whistle, an awareness that this tie is in the balance. There is work to do in France.

 

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Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 West Ham: Alonso’s subs seal late win in Europa League QF leg 1

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Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 West Ham: Alonso's subs seal late win in Europa League QF leg 1

Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface came off the bench to unlock West Ham and earn Bayer Leverkusen a late 2-0 victory in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.

Leverkusen extended their unbeaten run to 42 matches this season and will take a deserved lead to the London Stadium in a week, but they had to be patient to break down David Moyes’ stubborn Hammers.

West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski made several superb saves to keep the scores level, denying Patrik Schick with two wonderful stops in either half, while Mohammed Kudus wasted a big chance early on for the visitors.

Leverkusen dominated possession throughout yet could not find a way through until Xabi Alonso made changes. Hofmann struck first seven minutes from time, volleying home from inside the box before Boniface added a crucial second with an injury-time header to leave West Ham with a mountain to climb.

 

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Europa: Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield

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Europa: Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield

Atalanta stunned Anfield as Gianluca Scamacca scored twice in a 3-0 win on Thursday to leave Liverpool with a mountain to climb to reach the Europa League semi-finals.

Mario Pasalic added a third seven minutes from time to condemn Liverpool to a first home defeat in all competitions for 14 months.

 

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