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Football Team News

» Mikel Arteta reveals Declan Rice's "biggest quality" after lofty Arsenal prediction
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has highlighted what he thinks makes Declan Rice such a standout player as the England international's stock continues to rise at the Emirates
» Ben Chilwell reveals plan to stop Liverpool amid hope Mo Salah is fit for Carabao Cup final
Ben Chilwell will visualise how he plans to stop Liverpool attack before bed tonight and the Chelsea captain says he would rather Mo Salah is fit enough to start than face a weakened side
» Wayne Rooney's surprise when he noticed Rio Ferdinand "stunk of alcohol" during game
Wayne Rooney once told Rio Ferdinand he "stunk of alcohol" during a game after the Manchester United legend had spent the prior week celebrating a Premier League title win
» Forgotten Arsenal star had Premier League debut put on ice after football billionaire's tackle
Arsene Wenger informed 19-year-old Isaac Hayden that he would make his Premier League debut for Arsenal in 2014 and a six-year long wish was on the verge of being fulfilled - but it didn't work out
» Erik ten Hag set for reunion with ex-Man Utd star who deliberately avoided him
Manchester United face off with Fulham on Saturday and a blast from their past on the opposition as former midfielder Andreas Pereira lines up for the Cottagers
» Remembering when Jurgen Klopp accused Frank Lampard of breaking football's unwritten rule
Liverpool and Chelsea go head-to-head in the Carabao Cup final this weekend in the third meeting between the two sides this season, with the most recent coming on January 31
» Mauricio Pochettino makes pointed Carabao Cup final demand after Liverpool controversy
Mauricio Pochettino wants his Chelsea team to be treated fairly during Sunday's Carabao Cup final after they failed to get the rub of the green against Liverpool last month
» Erik ten Hag explains why Man Utd were right not to buy another striker in summer window
Erik ten Hag initially wanted to sign two strikers last summer but Manchester United only ended up buying a 20-year-old Rasmus Hojlund for a questionable £72million
» Liverpool's likely XI to face Chelsea in Carabao Cup final as injuries mount up
Liverpool stars Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai all face late fitness tests ahead of this Sunday's Carabao Cup final against Chelsea, with Jurgen Klopp short of options
» Steve Cotterill opens up on devastating Covid battle that left him in intensive care
He has coached and managed in all four divisions, but Steve Cotterill has never beaten a more daunting opponent than the plague which killed 230,000 Britons
» Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have given away Ballon d'Or trophies for different reasons
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the Ballon d'Or stakes throughout their careers, but neither man has kept a single one of their awards for differing reasons
» Danny Murphy's theory on why Trent Alexander-Arnold will never win the Ballon d'Or
Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold has shown his versatility, operating both at right-back and in the centre of midfield, but individual awards have eluded him
» Ben Chilwell makes shock Champions League claim before Chelsea's Liverpool "revenge" mission
Ben Chilwell, who will captain Chelsea against Liverpool tomorrow, says first men's trophy under new owners would be bigger than winning the Champions League in 2021
» Inside Arsenal vs Newcastle rivalry: The Premier League's brand new grudge match
Arsenal remain in the title hunt and Newcastle are clinging on to hopes of Europe but recent history between Mikel Arteta and Eddie Howe's teams point to Saturday's Premier League encounter being hot-headed
» Lincoln City follow Brentford's lead with innovative golden share ruling
Lincoln City have become just the third club in English football to offer a golden share to fans - and the ambitious League One outfit have other big plans in the pipeline
» Man Utd transfer target ruined chances of move after seeing red in chaotic clash
Aleksandar Mitrovic's future could have looked very different, but he's kept hold of his shooting boots in Saudi Arabia, notching a staggering 28 goals in 29 games for Al Hilal this season
» Man Utd decision that "really let down" Anthony Martial and impacted his form
A LOOK BACK: Manchester United stripped Anthony Martial of his favoured No. 9 shirt in 2016 and gave it to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the player's agent Philippe Lamboley and Patrice Evra revealing it knocked his confidence
» Wolves boss Gary O'Neil reveals surprise way he's been preparing for Sheffield United fixture
Gary O'Neil's Wolves claimed a 2-1 win at Tottenham last weekend to keep their European bid on track and now face relegation-threatened Sheffield United at Molineux on Sunday, with the Black Country side heavy favourites
» Liverpool news: Promising Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez update as nightmare scenario avoided
Liverpool face Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will hope he can call upon Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez for the Wembley clash
» David Moyes admits West Ham future unclear despite contract being ready to sign
David Moyes says he must make certain signing a new contract at West Ham is right for him, the club and his family as pressure from supporters ramps up following eight-game winless streak
» Man Utd news: Rasmus Hojlund injury absence as "next Cristiano Ronaldo" identified
Manchester United's preparations for their Premier League match at home to Fulham have been dealt a blow, with the club learning the extent of Rasmus Hojlund's injury
» Arsenal news: Mikel Arteta details private meeting after being accused of 'not trusting' players
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta saw his side slump to a disappointing defeat in Europe in midweek and will know that there is no margin for error in the Premier League title race
» Cristiano Ronaldo's mammoth Saudi Arabia salary and astonishing amount he banks each week
Cristiano Ronalo joined Al-Nassr in January 2023 after separating from Manchester United via mutal consent and has seen a very healthy income during his time in Saudi Arabia
» Super Bowl LVIII viewing figures in UK far surpass US interest in Premier League
Super Bowl LVIII was watched by an estimated 3.4 million people in the United Kingdom, while the most viewed Premier League game in the US has attracted 1.96 million

Football resources

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Other sport news:

» Pochettino warns Carabao Cup final officials over Klopp’s Liverpool exit bias
  • Chelsea manager fears officials could be caught up in emotion
  • Pochettino: ‘We need to be fair in every single decision’

Mauricio Pochettino has urged the officials in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final to be “fair” as he warned against them getting caught up in the emotion around Jürgen Klopp’s departure from Liverpool.

Chelsea’s head coach looked to ramp up the mind games as he called on Chris Kavanagh, who will referee the final, to treat both teams equally. Pochettino referenced Chelsea being denied two penalties when they lost 4-1 to Liverpool at Anfield last month and said he did not want his side’s task at Wembley made harder by forces out of their control.

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» Klopp seeks Carabao Cup win and says celebrations are ‘for us and nobody else’
  • Manager leads depleted Liverpool into final against Chelsea
  • ‘Sometimes things happen to me – it’s not that I plan it’

Jürgen Klopp has said there are more chapters to be written in his “wonderful” Liverpool story before it ends but victory in the Carabao Cup would be of greater importance to the club than his own legacy.

The Liverpool manager claimed Wednesday’s comeback against Luton represented one new chapter, with his depleted team going four points clear at the top of the Premier League on a rousing night at Anfield, and that he “couldn’t give a shit” what the outside world thought of his exuberant celebrations.

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» The story of FA Cup ‘miracle’ makers Maidstone – in their own words

Before fifth-round tie at Coventry we hear from people inside and close to the club, including about the 6am queue for tickets

George Elokobi’s Maidstone United side are about to make history but he is not a happy man. “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and, as a manager, I start with myself,” the usually mild-mannered Elokobi says after a costly 2-0 defeat at Aveley on Monday in National League South, English football’s sixth tier. “Did I pick the right team? Did I pick the right personnel? Have I been too loyal? I have to look at that.”

This Monday Maidstone will become the first team from outside the top five divisions since Blyth Spartans in 1978 to play in the FA Cup fifth round. They have never made it this far and a trip to Coventry, who have Championship playoff aspirations, awaits. At Aveley a healthy proportion of the 709 spectators were Maidstone fans but 5,000 of them will be at Coventry. For the club that went bankrupt in 1992 and was forced to start again in the fourth division of the Kent County League, the tie will be another proud moment in a long journey back from oblivion. In the words of some of those who made it possible, here is their remarkable story.

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» Alessia Russo and Mead at the double in Lionesses’ 7-2 mauling of Austria
  • Russo 3 61, Clinton 19, Mead 37 89, Carter 70, Daly 90+3; Kirchberger 30 88
  • Grace Clinton scores on her full England debut

England’s fresh start, as they prepare to get their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign under way in April, kicked off in style as Sarina Wiegman tried out a number of players who have sat on the fringes of a squad that has moved from tournament to tournament with little room for experimentation.

“Very happy with Grace [Clinton], she scored a goal which is very nice for her,” said Wiegman. “She plays like a natural. She picks up the things we talk about very quickly. She takes things on board and just goes out there and plays.”

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» Bamford seals stirring comeback win as Leeds cut Leicester’s lead to six points

Not so long ago Leeds were a receding speck in Leicester’s rear-view mirror but, suddenly, Daniel Farke’s second-placed team are tailgating the Championship leaders.

A once seemingly unassailable gap has been cut to six points. That is far too close for comfort for Enzo Maresca and his players who will doubtless have headed back down the M1 cursing their inability to see out a game they dominated until the substitute full-back Connor Roberts equalised for Leeds in the 80th minute.

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» Leverkusen extend Bundesliga lead and set 33-game unbeaten record

Bayer Leverkusen beat Mainz 2-1 on Friday to go 11 points clear at the top of the league and set a new record for a Bundesliga club with their 33rd straight game without defeat across all competitions.

The Bundesliga leaders went in front with Granit Xhaka’s stunning effort from 20 yards out in the third minute but it was short-lived with Dominik Kohr’s diving header just five minutes later levelling things for Mainz.

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» Mikel Arteta has no regrets over outburst after Arsenal loss to Newcastle
  • Gordon’s winner at St James’ Park enraged Arsenal manager
  • Arteta: ‘People expect to hear our answers in an honest way’

Mikel Arteta says he has no regrets over his explosive reaction to Arsenal’s defeat at Newcastle in November and will continue to wear his heart on his sleeve if he feels his team have suffered injustice.

Arsenal face Eddie Howe’s side at the Emirates on Saturday evening and hope for a markedly different outcome to the one that so enraged Arteta three and a half months ago. Back then he branded VAR’s decision not to chalk off Anthony Gordon’s goal, which proved to be the winner, an “absolute disgrace”. The following day Arsenal supported him with a statement criticising the standard of officiating and Arteta, although charged by the Football Association for his comments, was eventually cleared by an independent commission.

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» Erik ten Hag denies Højlund injury will derail Manchester United’s season
  • Striker could miss up to five matches over next three weeks
  • Ten Hag: ‘But [Højlund] the main man? I don’t see it that way’

Erik ten Hag has denied that Rasmus Højlund’s muscle injury will derail Manchester United’s season, with the manager claiming it is naive to believe two strikers could have been signed in the summer owing to financial fair play constrictions and Anthony Martial’s “high” wage.

Højlund will miss up to three weeks, meaning United may be without their top scorer for five matches: Saturday’s Premier League visit of Fulham, Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Nottingham Forest and three other league games – at Manchester City and at home to Everton and Sheffield United.

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» ‘I could have gone skiing’: Glasner not worried by Palace record of failures
  • Austrian is the fourth overseas manager at Selhurst Park
  • Previous three have all struggled to make an impact

Oliver Glasner has insisted he is not concerned by Crystal Palace’s poor track record of hiring managers from overseas but admitted that taking over from Roy Hodgson during the middle of the season had come as a surprise.

Glasner’s arrival was confirmed this week after Hodgson stepped aside, with the Austrian becoming the fourth foreign manager in Palace’s history after Attilio Lombardo, Frank de Boer and Patrick Vieira. Vieira lasted almost two years before being replaced by Hodgson last March, but Palace were relegated during Lombardo’s spell as caretaker player-manager in 1998 and De Boer was sacked and replaced by Hodgson in 2017 after losing his first four league games.

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» Julian Nagelsmann reveals father was German spy who took his own life
  • Germany manager opens up about death of his father, Erwin
  • ‘I don’t even know exactly what he did,’ says Nagelsmann

The Germany manager Julian Nagelsmann has spoken about the death of his father, who he revealed worked in the country’s equivalent of MI6 before ending his own life 16 years ago.

Nagelsmann, who will lead the host nation’s Euro 2024 campaign this summer, described being on a coaching course when he was told of father Erwin’s death. For much of his youth he had believed Erwin was a soldier before learning, during his teens, that he was an operative for Germany’s federal intelligence service.

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» Premier League team news: predicted lineups for the weekend action

Manchester City visit the south coast to take on Bournemouth while Arsenal host Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium

Saturday 3pm Venue Villa Park

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» Spain reach Olympics with Women’s Nations League win over Netherlands
  • Jenni Hermoso on target in 3-0 semi-final win
  • France beat Germany 2-1 to reach Nations League final

Jenni Hermoso and Aitana Bonmatí helped Spain beat Netherlands 3-0 in the Women’s Nations League semi-final, a victory that secured the world champions a spot in the Paris Olympics and set up a final with France, who beat Germany 2-1 in the other semi on Friday.

Hermoso opened the scoring for Spain with a solo effort in the 41st minute, before Ballon d’Or holder Bonmatí doubled the lead in the 45th. Ona Battle added the third in Seville in the 77th to complete a dominant performance by the hosts.

Reaching Spain’s first Olympic Games is the first important success for the team since Montse Tomé took over in September following the scandal that erupted when former Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales kissed Hermoso without her consent at the World Cup final trophy presentation.

“I took charge in a difficult moment that nobody wanted and we took a step forward,” Tomé said. “We are proud of the work we have done. This team deserves to play an Olympic Games after all the prior generations who fought for it and came up short.”

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» Chelsea hope Carabao Cup success can be first form of vindication

Victory against Liverpool in the final at Wembley would prove to owners and fans that the plan is starting to take shape

When the ambition is to build a dynasty there is little point in reading too much into the outcome of one game. At Chelsea, where preparations for the first men’s final under Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital are almost over, they know that it is too soon to get carried away. Nobody, not even an ownership that has received so much criticism since arriving in English football, will fall into the trap of thinking that the job has been completed if Mauricio Pochettino’s side beat Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.

Equally there will be people within Stamford Bridge claiming some form of vindication if Chelsea see the first tangible return on Boehly’s and Clearlake’s investment in the squad during the past two years. The mockery has not gone unnoticed. Schadenfreude is the best way of describing the reaction to Chelsea sliding into mid-table obscurity under owners who have employed five managers and spent about £1bn on signings in three transfer windows.

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» ‘I want more’: Alexis Mac Allister insists World Cup is just the start

Claiming football’s greatest prize has not dulled the Liverpool midfielder’s thirst for glory before Sunday’s Carabao Cup final

A World Cup winner’s medal could symbolise an ending of sorts to some players, a mission completed, the pinnacle conquered. When Alexis Mac Allister looks at his, and he has done every day since 18 December 2022, he sees the beginning. Argentina’s triumph over France ignited a craving in the Liverpool midfielder that is some way from being satisfied.

The Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday is Mac Allister’s first opportunity to win a trophy with Jürgen Klopp’s team and the first cup final of his senior club career. There has been success on the international stage of course, from Argentina’s under-23s to the ultimate glory in Qatar, and a league title on loan at Boca Juniors. Mementoes from them all will eventually go in a museum that Mac Allister has planned for the family home. But there is space to fill.

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» Jaedyn Shaw at the double as USA put four past Argentina in W Gold Cup
  • USA top Argentina 4-0 behind Shaw (twice), Morgan, Horan
  • Americans reach knockout stage in inaugural competition

Jaedyn Shaw scored a pair of goals and the United States went up 3-0 within the first 20 minutes before going on to defeat Argentina 4-0 on Friday night in the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup.

Shaw, 19, scored in the 10th and 18th minute, while veteran Alex Morgan added a third goal off a header in the 19th. Lindsey Horan converted a penalty kick in the 77th.

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» QPR’s Ilias Chair sentenced to year in Belgian prison for breaking man’s skull
  • Morocco international expected to appeal against verdict
  • Chair found to have struck lorry driver’s head with a rock

The Queens Park Rangers player Ilias Chair has been sentenced to a year in prison after being found guilty in Belgium of assaulting a man and breaking his skull with a rock.

Chair, 26, who is a key player for the Championship side and a Belgium-born Morocco international, is expected to appeal against the verdict and his club understand he remains available for selection as the Belgian legal process continues.

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» Guardiola endorses Ratcliffe’s view that United must learn from Manchester City
  • United minority owner wants to knock City “off their perch”
  • “If they want to deny the reality that’s their problem”

Pep Guardiola says Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Manchester United are right to use Manchester City as a benchmark if they are to challenge them for trophies. The new minority owner at Old Trafford said the club had “a lot to learn” from their rivals after having his purchase of 27.7% of shares ratified this week.

City have won the Premier League title on six occasions since United last achieved the feat in 2013, and will be aiming to close the gap at the top to one point by defeating Bournemouth on Saturday.

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» Europa League last 16: Brighton land Roma as Liverpool get Sparta Prague
  • West Ham face Freiburg after beating them twice in group stage
  • Rangers to meet Benfica and Leverkusen drawn against Qarabag

Liverpool will face Sparta Prague in the last 16 of the Europa League, while Brighton face another glamour tie against Roma.

Jürgen Klopp’s side travel to the Czech capital for a first leg on 7 March, before a return at Anfield a week later in a competition they have won three times. Brighton’s first European campaign takes them to the Italian capital after they topped Group B containing Marseille, Ajax and AEK Athens.

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» ‘We won’t be remote-controlled’: how German football fans took on investors and won

Toy cars mounted with flares and other stunts have disrupted Bundesliga matches. Now fans’ dogged defiance appears to have paid off

They have hurled tennis balls and chocolate coins on to the pitch; they have disrupted play with remote-control cars and planes mounted with smoke bombs. In recent months German football fans have thrown almost everything they have into protests aimed at preventing foreign investors from increasing control of their much-loved clubs.

This week it appeared their dogged defiance, driven by deep-seated grassroots sentiment, had paid off, after the German football league (DFL), which runs the Bundesliga, dropped its plans to sell an estimated €1bn (£850m) stake in its media rights income to a private equity firm.

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» Dani Alves sentenced to four and a half years in jail over sexual assault

Court in Barcelona finds former Brazil player guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman at a nightclub in 2022

The former Barcelona and Brazil footballer Dani Alves has been sentenced to four years and six months for the rape of a 23-year-old woman in a Barcelona nightclub in December 2022.

A written statement from the Audiencia Nacional in Barcelona asserts that the victim did not to consent to sex with Alves and that evidence presented to the court, in addition to the victim’s statement, proved that she had been raped. Alves denied wrongdoing and his lawyer, Inés Guardiola, has said they will appeal.

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» How fast breaks have slowed Newcastle’s Premier League progress

Eddie Howe’s risk-taking team last kept a clean sheet in the league in mid-December. Next up: high-flying Arsenal

Eddie Howe does not look, or behave, like a high-stakes gambler but appearances can deceive. In reality Newcastle’s otherwise rather conservative, invariably measured, manager has constructed such a risk-taking team that he readily agrees it is no coincidence his players have faced more fast breaks than any other Premier League side this season.

“There’s always a reason for these things and certainly our high press will be one of those reasons,” said Howe as he reflected on recent Opta statistics. “We’re always trying to limit the opposition threat; we’re going to have to be careful about it.”

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» ‘There’s a buzz’: how Hull got their brio back to push for Premier League

Liam Rosenior’s ‘expressive and brave’ playing style and hungry signings have club on the up under ownership of Acun Ilicali

Liam Rosenior knows how to make the most of what he’s got. At Hull’s training ground in the sleepy, leafy village of Cottingham, the 39-year-old is mulling over what makes his team one of the most feared in the Championship.

The complex is small and functional, so much so that before we sit down we have to find an ­available space. The impromptu tour takes us into an old dressing room, where we find Fábio Carvalho, Hull’s star January loan signing from Liverpool, cleaning his boots in a sink.

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» Premier League and Carabao Cup final: 10 things to look out for this weekend

The first major English trophy of the season is up for grabs, a new era begins at Palace and Everton are in a hole

Forest are in trouble, four points above the relegation zone and with their only win in their past five games coming against West Ham, the league’s current crisis-club. So a visit to Villa Park is the last thing they need because, after a dodgy few weeks, the home side righted themselves at Fulham last weekend, focused on converting a fine season into a Champions League place. Forest do, though, know how to play these kinds of matches, having won at Newcastle and given Arsenal and Manchester United scares. In Morgan Gibbs-White, they have a ball-carrier of pace and aggression, while Anthony Elanga and Callum Hudson-Odoi bring tricky directness and Taiwo Awoniyi converts his chances at a better rate than any striker in the division. All of this means Forest are well-placed to exploit Villa’s high line, but only if they can get enough of the ball to make it happen while staying solid at the back – both of which are far easier said than done. Daniel Harris

Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest, Saturday 3pm (all times GMT)

Brighton v Everton, Saturday 3pm

Crystal Palace v Burnley, Saturday 3pm

Manchester United v Fulham, Saturday 3pm

Bournemouth v Manchester City, Saturday 5.30pm

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» In troubled times, let’s make Euro 2024 a celebration of our best values | Philipp Lahm

As tournament director, I see the Euros’ potential to enhance the best of our way of life and to set aside ugly resentments

For weeks, millions have been demonstrating in Germany in favour of preserving democracy. The impetus comes from the centre of society. It still has a good sense of when it is time to take to the streets. That motivates me. As tournament director of Euro 2024 I want to organise a good event. Football brings a lot of people together and the whole thing is fun and enjoyable. That also strengthens our civil society. Sport can be a means to an end.

The European men’s handball championship in Germany in January has shown what sport can achieve. In Cologne 30,000 people demonstrated in the city centre and in the evening there were almost as many in the hall to cheer on their team. Protesting and celebrating are different actions, but they have something in common. They require physical presence and they express appreciation. In this case, for our free way of life.

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» Cup final composure key as Raheem Sterling seeks to change the narrative

Carabao Cup success with Chelsea would be a proud moment for a player who has spent his career having to prove himself

Raheem Sterling’s critics should know better than to write him off. Nobody should be surprised at the winger’s response to being booed off during Chelsea’s calamitous home defeat by Wolves this month. It was typical of Sterling to win back his place in Mauricio Pochettino’s starting XI and disrupt Manchester City’s title charge by scoring against his old team last weekend.

Adversity is nothing new to the 29-year-old. Sterling has been the victim of racial abuse. He has been a pioneering figure away from the pitch but there is still a sense that some people are waiting for him to fall. Even now, nine years on from his move from Liverpool to City, the idea persists that Sterling is driven less by a hunger to succeed on the pitch and more by the size of his bank balance.

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» Dani Alves seemed like one of the good guys – now we know he wasn’t | Jonathan Wilson

Messi called him the world’s greatest full-back but after rape verdict we can never watch clips of Brazilian in the same way

The first emotion has to be of sympathy for the victim, the young woman who was raped by Dani Alves in a nightclub bathroom in Barcelona in the early hours of 31 December 2022. The details of the case, the verdict rendered all the more chilling by the legal terminology in which it is couched, are horrifying: “There was violence to force the victim to have sexual relations.”

There is the horror the victim endured, the appalling nature of the attack and the difficulties she must have endured in the months that have followed and that she will continue to endure. But because of Alves’s fame, that strange – ultimately trivial – sense that we “know” celebrities, there is also feeling of shock, and of betrayal.

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» The 100 best male footballers in the world 2023

Erling Haaland has been voted the best player in the world for 2023 by our 218-strong panel, with Jude Bellingham finishing second

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» The 100 best female footballers in the world 2023

Aitana Bonmatí, Sam Kerr and Salma Paralluelo top the list of female footballers in the world in 2023 according to our judges

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» Erling Haaland voted the world’s best player – and he’s just getting started | Niall McVeigh

The Norwegian is only 23 but his devastating goal record has seen him voted as the No 1 player in the world by the Guardian’s expert panel

When Pep Guardiola tearfully claimed Manchester City could not replace the departing Sergio Agüero in May 2021, he didn’t just create a meme. Guardiola was soft-launching a global audition for his team’s new attacking talisman. An unsuccessful pursuit of Harry Kane in the summer of 2021 came between two title-winning seasons where Ilkay Gündogan (13) and Kevin De Bruyne (15) were the club’s top league goalscorers. Guardiola’s slick creative machine needed a new front man, and they found him in Erling Haaland.

Like Agüero before him – and in contrast to many of City’s most successful Pep-era signings – Haaland arrived as a bona fide superstar, a plug-and-play addition to an already stellar lineup. Whether he was a bargain is another question. The release clause paid was €60m (£51.2m), but some reports suggest Haaland’s five-year deal could cost the club in the region of £300m. And while there was an ominous logic to the move for City’s rivals, questions remained.

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» Spain and Barcelona lead way in women’s football after year of success | Rich Laverty

Aitana Bonmatí the clear winner of the Guardian’s best 100 female footballers in the world with 15 Spaniards on the list

After Alexia Putellas reigned in 2021 and 2022, her Barcelona and Spain teammate Aitana Bonmatí has been crowned the top female footballer of 2023 by the Guardian’s panel of 112 experts. The World Cup winner triumphed by a clear margin, finishing more than 500 points ahead of second-placed Sam Kerr.

Injuries and a World Cup meant there was a definite changing of the guard feel to this year’s list, sadly emphasised by the fact last year’s top two – Putellas and Beth Mead – missed a large chunk of our 12-month voting period with ACL injuries.

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» Dani Alves sentenced to four and a half years in jail for sexual assault – video

The former Barcelona and Brazil footballer Dani Alves has been sentenced to four years and six months in prison for the rape of a 23-year-old woman in a Barcelona nightclub in December 2022. The 40-year-old was ordered to pay €9,000 (£7,700) for physical damage to the victim and offered to pay compensation of €150,000, which the court considered an attenuating circumstance when passing sentence. He will be under legal supervision for a further five years as well as having a restraining order banning him from contact with the victim for nine years and six months.

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» MLS referees protest outside headquarters after being locked out – video

Major League Soccer referees protested outside the league's headquarters after being locked out ahead of the beginning of the 2024 season. The lockout, a denial of employment by an employer during a labor dispute, was imposed on the referees after they overwhelmingly voted to reject a tentative new union contract agreement in a 95.8% vote, with 97.8% of the 260 union members voting. The union has also alleged unfair labor practices against the MLS and the Professional Referee Organization. The union cited members rejected the deal in part due to an attempt by the MLS and PRO to add a no strike and no lockout deal for the 2024 season and would have frozen wages, rolled back job security protections, and not addressed issues such as high workloads and travel for referees.

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» 'We lacked purpose': Arteta frustrated after Arsenal concede late goal in Porto – video

Mikel Arteta lamented Arsenal’s lack of purpose, aggression and threat as they slipped to a last-gasp 1-0 defeat at Porto in the first leg of their Champions League last‑16 tie. The Arsenal mana­ger was ­furious at the 94th‑minute con­cession – curled home superbly from long‑range by the Porto winger Galeno – saying his team had failed to manage the situation. “I am very disappointed with the way we gave the game away at the end,” Arteta said. “We dominated the game but we lacked purpose."

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» 'I felt like I was the man': Ryan Hall on his 2.31 second goal – video

Croydon FC's Ryan Hall scored a stunning goal from kick-off in their game against Cockfosters in the London Senior Trophy. The goal was timed at 2.31 seconds by the non-league side, who understood it 'to be the fastest goal in senior football in the world', but Guinness World Records could not confirm that it was an official record for the fastest goal scored from kick-off.

In a statement Guinness World Records said 'The quality of the goal makes it all the more unfortunate to confirm that sadly we don't monitor records outside of professional football'. The goal was not unplanned, as Hall said he had achieved the same thing in Sunday league and had decided to try his luck during his home debut at Croydon.

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» Andreas Brehme: 1990 World Cup hero for West Germany – video obituary

Andreas Brehme, the scorer of the goal that won West Germany the 1990 World Cup against Argentina in Rome, has died at the age of 63. During a distinguished career which earned him 86 international caps, he also lifted the Bundesliga, Serie A and the Uefa Cup among other trophies. After he retired from professional football he began coaching, returning for a spell at his prior club, Kaiserslautern.

Brehme established himself as a formidable defender at the national and club level, often scoring his trademark long-distance shots. His death comes less than two months after that of Franz Beckenbauer, who coached West Germany to that 1990 triumph.

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» 'I'm so sorry': Pep Guardiola apologises to Kalvin Phillips for 'overweight' comment – video

The Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, apologised to Kalvin Phillips for saying that the player was ‘overweight’ on returning from the World Cup in December 2022. The apology comes after Phillips gave an interview in which he admitted Guardiola’s comments had had 'a big knock on my confidence'. When asked if he regrets his comments, Guardiola said: 'I'm sorry, yeah, I'm sorry. Once in eight years is not bad, but I'm so sorry. I apologise to him'.

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» Europa League roundup: Roma edge out Feyenoord on penalties to reach last 16
  • Milan advance despite Bourigeaud’s treble for Rennes
  • Qarabag, Benfica, Freiburg and Sporting also qualify

Roma beat Feyenoord 4-2 on penalties to advance to the Europa League last 16 on Thursday following a 1-1 draw after extra-time in a repeat of the first leg result.

Roma goalkeeper Mile Svilar denied David Hancko and Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the shootout to send his side into the knockout stages. Nicola Zalewski scored the winning spot-kick.

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» German football league drops plan to sell Bundesliga stake after fan protests
  • Fans had gone to extreme lengths to draw attention to issue
  • ‘Continuation of the process no longer seems possible’

The German football league, which runs the Bundesliga, has abandoned plans to sell a stake in its media rights income to an outside investor after months of increasingly disruptive protests by fans. The league, known as the DFL, said its board had decided not to proceed with the deal.

The private equity investor CVC Capital Partners was the only remaining prospective buyer for a 20-year slice of broadcast and sponsorship revenue in return for an upfront payment.

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» Jesse Lingard lands in Korea with club and player in search of former glories

Former Manchester United midfielder has a chance to make an impact with FC Seoul in the physical K-League

Apart from rumours of the original Ronaldo’s agent offering his client to South Korean clubs towards the end of the Brazilian’s career, the K-League has not had a sniff of the high-profile players who have gone to China and Japan. Now, though, Jesse Lingard has joined FC Seoul to become the biggest name to head to the Land of the Morning Calm. This is no new Asian market muscling its way, Saudi-style, on to the global scene but the transfer is perhaps the most intriguing this year.

The former Manchester United forward was last seen playing for Nottingham Forest in April and arrived this month at Incheon International Airport, where he was handed a traditional wind instrument and an opportunity to breathe new life into a career that has stalled and a club that has been falling. Adding a new tune to Asia’s oldest professional league also wouldn’t go amiss.

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» What is behind North Korea’s rise as a women’s football power?

Eastern Azaleas are chasing qualification for Olympic Games with team a representation of isolationist state’s might

The fact that North Korea are ranked in the top 10 of the world’s best women’s football sides – higher than Brazil and Australia among others – may come as a surprise to some, but in the next week the team known as the Eastern Azaleas are attempting to cement their position as one of the best sides in the world by beating Japan in a two-legged Olympic qualification playoff to reach the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Since returning from a four-year period of inactivity brought on by the pandemic, North Korea, or the DPRK as they are also known, have had their respectable Fifa ranking of ninth restored and are showing signs that they can become a regional powerhouse once again.

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» Kylian Mbappé has outgrown PSG and Ligue 1. His departure was inevitable

Everyone in Paris – from PSG’s owners to France’s president – pandered to Mbappé. Now it’s time to build without him

By Luke Entwistle for Get French Football News

There has always been an inescapable feeling of transience about Kylian Mbappé’s time at Paris Saint-Germain – a stay that will be defined as much by his achievements on the pitch as the upheaval, pandering and politics that saw an 18-year-old teenager grow bigger than not just the club but the league.

The Mbappé farewell tour began in Nantes on Saturday in an event that provided a glimpse of what is in store for the rest of the season. Fans packed into the Beaujoire, some insisting they had travelled for more than 100km just to see Mbappé. The France captain was cheered by the home crowd as he came off the bench on the hour mark in what was yet another demonstration of fame that transcends PSG. He scored a late penalty in a 2-0 win for the visitors.

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» ‘Horror movie’: Bayern’s favourite tune becomes haunting note in Bochum | Andy Brassell

Thomas Tuchel remains in post, despite three losses in a week, because there is no alternative to help arrest slide

How could this week have got worse for Bayern Munich? After two meek losses on the road that continue to threaten a profound effect on their season, with barely a shot of substance fired in anger in that time, some would have suggested a bit of late weekend comfort eating to mask their troubles, away at Bochum. Mischievous fate, however, had one last prank to play on them before Monday came.

Visitors to the Allianz Arena in recent years have long since remarked on the goal music, a concept not to all tastes at the best of times. The indignation of inevitable concession at Bayern’s home is greeted by the jaunt of the can-can, played for just that little bit too long to rub it in that yes, your efforts are futile and that yes, you are now very much in the mud.

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» Bournemouth’s loss is Liga’s gain as Íñigo Pérez’s Rayo hold Real Madrid | Sid Lowe

A Home Office ruling, a Brexit benefit, meant Andoni Iraola’s assistant stayed at Rayo Vallecano to Real’s detriment

Íñigo Pérez had nothing to offer the Premier League, they said, so he returned to Spain and revived La Liga and a people instead. The man from Navarre with the gentle voice, privileged mind and impeccable manners should have spent this weekend sitting on the Bournemouth bench at St James’ Park, taking on Newcastle United – trophies since 1955: zero – but the Home Office and an FA panel declared him incapable of competing, a man who couldn’t contribute to English football, even as an assistant. So he spent it back in the barrio, the new head coach of Rayo Vallecano taking on Real Madrid – trophies since 1955: 85 – and matching them too, making this a better place for everyone.

“There is a league,” ran the front of one of the country’s sports dailies on Monday morning, an old favourite dusted off for the day. It might have been an exaggeration, it may prove just 24 little hours, and it was “only” a draw, but if there is, it’s thanks to Pérez’s Rayo team, who on Sunday afternoon, his first ever in the job, managed to do what only Atlético Madrid have done in 2024 – get something from Carlo Ancelotti’s side. In the other Madrid derby, out to the east of the city where worlds collide and the best seats in the house really are in the house, Raúl de Tomás equalised Joselu’s opener to leave Madrid just six points clear. With Girona playing on Monday, there’s a title race again, a week after there wasn’t, or so it goes.

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» ‘Take us to Europe’: Bologna buoyant as Thiago Motta inspires win at Lazio | Nicky Bandini

Another superb win for Bologna, away at Lazio, has left I Rossoblù on the verge of the Champions League places

Maurizio Sarri called it an “ambush” by Serie A officials, scheduling his Lazio team to face Bologna in the early 12.30pm kick-off on Sunday after a midweek Champions League appointment with Bayern Munich. “We’d like to thank the league for doing it again,” was his sarcastic remark. “Just like they did after our Coppa Italia derby against Roma.”

Maybe he had a point. Then again, just think what Bologna had to put up with. They played a big game of their own on Wednesday night, hosting Fiorentina, a direct rival in the fight for European qualification. Now they had to go away on a short rest to Lazio: conquerors of Bayern Munich.

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» Castellón’s Haralabos Voulgaris: ‘Our model gives us a 53% chance to win the league’

The professional gambler understands risk – and that’s why he swapped betting on the NBA for owning a Spanish third-tier club

“Floyd Mayweather was my beard,” says the sharpest mind in sport, somewhere in the middle of another chapter from his extraordinary story. The tale of Haralabos “Bob” Voulgaris is about a philosophy student, tree planter and baggage handler who bet everything on the LA Lakers, won $500,000 overnight and became arguably the world’s best gambler. How he “solved” basketball and was courted by its biggest franchises, a disrupter drafted in. And how an ice hockey fan from across the Atlantic ended up here, owner of a football team in Spain’s third tier intent on changing the game.

The way he tells it, Voulgaris would regularly lay $1m a day, beating the system, which is why bookmakers tried to lock him out and he needed “beards” to begin with, superstar names secretly betting on his behalf. A Greek-Canadian whose father took him to Vegas, he became a poker pro and director of quantitative research at the Dallas Mavericks. He travels by private jet, hangs with the famous and lives in Hollywood Hills. When he’s not on his boat, or in Mexico, Monaco or Castellón.

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» Show and tell: why Pep Guardiola taught Erling Haaland a lesson on body language

By pushing his star striker, the Manchester City manager revealed his understanding of human nature and performance

“Body language is everything in life … If you are not positive in your mind and you cannot accept that you can make mistakes, and how you react to that, and how you can help when your mate makes a mistake, this kind of thing is far beyond the tactics. That is everything in life.”

Pep Guardiola’s recent urging to Erling Haaland reveals the sophistication of his leadership skills and understanding of human nature. This is culture-building, investing in the long term all the time, even when trying to win the match in the short term. It’s where he still differs from most other leaders in sport and beyond. How what others may see as “the small stuff” is actually “the big stuff”. The Manchester City manager works skilfully with the most crucial human performance tools in our personal and professional lives: mindset and behaviours.

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» Andreas Brehme was a giant for Inter in an era when Serie A ruled the world | Richard Hall

The German won Italia 90 in Rome. He had already won plenty of hearts further north in Milan

By Richard Hall for The Gentleman Ultra

For Giuseppe Bergomi it was just too much. As the Italian paid tribute to his friend and former Inter teammate, Andi Brehme, the emotion got the better of him. His usual unflappable confidence and calmness disappeared, he hid his chiselled jawline behind his hands and sobbed. “I can only say that he was a true friend and teammate, a great person both on and off the pitch,” said Bergomi. “We had a special friendship. I was very close to him. We will miss him a lot.”

Brehme’s death at the age of 63 came as a shock and led to tributes from across the world. This was the footballer who scored the goal that gave West Germany victory over Argentina in the World Cup final in 1990. Everybody knew him for that penalty in Rome and, of course, as one of the “Three Germans” at Inter in an era that is now long gone but so well remembered. He enjoyed great success at Kaiserslautern and Bayern Munich, winning league titles with both German clubs, but Inter fans will find his passing especially hard to bear. He encapsulated a golden era in Italy, where Inter stood tall in a league of superstars.

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» From stony faces to the full Ketsbaia: what is acceptable to the celebration police? | Max Rushden

Not every big moment needs an elaborate frenzied celebration but it’s up to you whether you want to get annoyed about it

In my wild – drug-free and apocalyptically conformist – youth I used to play a drinking game called “finger’s on”. A group of us would each put an index finger on an empty glass and take it in turns to guess how many would remain, with participants deciding to leave their finger in place or remove it from the glass. “I think there’ll be … five” – cue frantic counting and success or failure.

If correct you were out of the game and poured a little bit of your pint into the glass – the last person remaining was required to drink the concoction in front of them. But the kicker was that you were not allowed to celebrate until you had high-fived each previously successful player in order of when they went out of the game. No glimpse of a smile, not even the slightest raise of one corner of your mouth; if your eyes even so much as glinted with happiness – that was it. BACK IN.

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» Football Daily | Manchester United, Jim Ratcliffe and the return of talk about perches

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A multi-billionaire, Brexit patriot whose love of the UK stops just short of him deigning to reside or pay tax in it, Jim Ratcliffe was officially confirmed as a minority stakeholder in Manchester United earlier this week. The 71-year-old owner of the petrochemicals company Ineos has invested around £1.3bn in a 27% share, which we’re told entitles him and his crack team of trusted lieutenants to take charge of day-to-day running of the club. Following two decades of almost total silence from the Glazers, Ratcliffe’s briefing to journalists came as music to the ears of United supporters, not least because he was careful to tell them exactly what they haven’t heard for 19 years. In short, they’re the real owners because he’s just a custodian who hopes to knock both Manchester City and Liverpool off their perches, re-establishing a team of serial trophy-winners who play swashbuckling football that is pleasant on the eye.

Knocking Manchester City and Liverpool off their perch (a la Alex Ferguson in 2002) will be far from plain sailing for Jim Ratcliffe, the new noisy neighbour, simply because Erik ten Hag is clearly no Fergie. Perhaps Ratcliffe should stick to metaphors about seagulls and sardines” – Adrian Irving.

Re: yesterday’s Football Daily letters. Spurs should buy the Harry Kane statue and park it in the opposition half to stimulate our no-scoring forwards” – John Catton.

I heard a rumour that Chelsea have offered £100m for the Kane statue, provided it agrees a 100-year contract” – Martyn Shapter.

This is an extract from our daily football email … Football Daily. To get the full version, just visit this page and follow the instructions.

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» The Knowledge | Uncapped wonders: snubbed players with multiple European Cup medals

Plus: more players putting the extra ‘and’ into ‘club and country’, games with all-headed goals and more

“I read today of Horst Blankenburg, who won the European Cup three times with Ajax, but never played for his country, West Germany. Have any other uncapped players won as many (or more) European Cup/Champions League medals?” asks Robbie Paterson.

Horst Blankenburg had the misfortune to play in a position as specific as sweeper at a time when Franz Beckenbauer was the boss of world football. We only know of one team that has played with two sweepers, and that was Steve Coppell’s Crystal Palace away at Nottingham Forest in 1990-91. Blankenburg played with Beckenbauer only once: in the Common Market Match of 1973, a celebration of the UK’s entry into the European Economic Community.

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» Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action

The WSL title race got a shot in the arm but a big win for Everton was overshadowed by a serious injury

Manchester City’s midfield dominance and defensive consistency proved crucial once more in a statement 1-0 win over Chelsea on Friday night. Much has been rightly made of their forward players but Gareth Taylor’s side demonstrated how mature and resilient they have become. Whether it was Yui Hasegawa’s calm presence in front of the back four, Laura Coombs’ consistency, the strength of the ever-developing centre-back partnership between Alex Greenwood and Laia Aleixandri or the emergence of Jess Park, it was a display that emphasised their position as title contenders. It wasn’t always pretty and they had to dig deep as Chelsea dominated the ball and pushed them back in the second half, but confidence is a powerful tool and once they had their noses in front – perhaps inevitably through a Khadija Shaw goal – they did not wilt under the pressure. The victory was their 11th straight in all competitions, an impressive run that stretches back to November. Sophie Downey

Match report: Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City

Match report: Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United

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» Football’s biggest points gaps between one position and the next | The Knowledge

Plus: muted international goal celebrations, more short multi-divisional stadium-hopping and Greece taking an 1896 beating

“Without points deductions, what is the biggest points gap between two positions in a high-ish level European top flight?” tweets Daniel Storey. “I ask because this is second to third in Turkey, as it stands.”

Galatasaray are now top of the Super Lig, though Besiktas remain 24 points behind the team in second, now Fenerbahce with 64 points. As Eoghan Kelly points out, there was an even bigger gap between second and third in the Premier League in 2018-19, when Liverpool were runners-up to Manchester City, with 97 points. The best of the rest were Chelsea, who finished 25 points behind Liverpool.

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» Manchester City enjoy Copenhagen cruise and Mansfield hit nine – Football Weekly

Max Rushden is joined by Barry Glendenning, Lars Sivertsen and Mark Langdon as the Champions League knockout stages begin

Rate, review, share on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud, Acast and Stitcher, and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and email.

On the podcast today; Manchester City completely dominate in Copenhagen, cementing their status as favourites to win the Champions League again.

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» Moving the Goalposts | Clash of the titans: Chelsea meet Manchester City with WSL title on line

With three points separating the top two, it’s all to play for at Kingsmeadow – here’s where the game could be won and lost

There are few weekends in a Women’s Super League campaign that feel as pivotal as the one ahead. The course of this season’s title race could be decided as the top two go head-to-head. Under the lights at Kingsmeadow, Chelsea will host Manchester City knowing victory will give them a six-point lead at the summit and one hand on the trophy with eight games remaining. Conversely, a win for the visitors would pull them level on points with the reigning champions, setting up a mouthwatering race to the finish line.

Form: Both sides are in a strong vein of form. Chelsea are unbeaten in all competitions since their 4-1 defeat away to Arsenal in early December. They have turned Kingsmeadow and Stamford Bridge into fortresses, winning their past 22 league matches at home – a WSL record. City are on an equally eye-catching run and are undefeated since a surprise home loss to Brighton in November. While Chelsea have a slightly higher goals per game average (3.15 to 2.69), City boast the tightest defence in the league, having conceded only eight. Part of this is down to the stability of their starting XI with Alex Greenwood and Laia Aleixandri almost ever-present in the backline while Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Khadija Shaw are invariably the front three.

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» Where now for Arsenal’s season after FA Cup exit? – Women’s Football Weekly

Faye Carruthers, Suzanne Wrack, Sophie Downey and Tanya Oxtoby round up the FA Cup fifth-round action, including a big win for Manchester City

On today’s pod: there was no sprinkling of FA Cup magic for the lower-league teams as the WSL sides prevailed in the fifth round.

Manchester City made a bad week for Arsenal worse – they’re into the quarter-finals after a controversial game at Meadow Park.

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» David Squires on … a day in the life of Chris Wilder, the other Earl of Sandwich

Our cartoonist on why officials might want to keep their lunch hidden when talking to the Sheffield United manager

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» ‘Bit overwhelming’: Ryan Hall on his 2.31-second goal and the viral reaction

Former Crystal Palace player’s strike from kick-off for Croydon is being looked at by Guinness World Records assessors

Timed at 2.31 seconds, Ryan Hall’s goal for Croydon against Cockfosters in the semi-finals of the London Senior Trophy on Saturday could be a contender for the fastest in senior football. But had it not been for the quick thinking of the cameraman Chris Brown, AKA @big_gkam, it would never have gone viral.

“Luckily I started my camera just in time,” says Brown, who regularly films the Croydon goalkeeper George Kamurasi for his Instagram channel and was the only person to capture Hall’s wonderstrike. “The reaction since then has been incredible.”

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» Gaël Clichy: ‘Pep Guardiola is all about the details. It was amazing to witness’

Clichy, who is Thierry Henry’s assistant with the France U21s, reflects on the managers who shaped his career

By The Coaches’ Voice for the Guardian Sport Network

I joined Arsenal as an 18-year-old in 2003. By the time I signed for Manchester City in 2011, football had changed. There was more focus on detail. We were starting to see that a player could make a difference with the ball, but make things difficult for his team without the ball. Out of possession, they may not cover enough ground or be placed in the right position.

I was always the type of player who wanted to find out how the team could be better. At City, I learned to enjoy defending. We knew that if we were leading 1-0 with 20 minutes to go, we weren’t going to concede. We had Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards, Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov. The manager, Roberto Mancini, prepared his defenders by making us work against six or seven players.

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» ‘Freddy Adu was just like Messi’: what happened to America’s Pelé?

At 14, the wonderkid became the highest paid player in MLS and youngest-ever USMNT player. His career was ultimately defined by hype and disappointment

In the summer of 2007, Freddy Adu had reached a crossroads. He was on his way back from the 2007 Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Canada, at which he had played the best football of his career – a career now almost four years old, despite the fact he had turned 18 only a month earlier, and one comprised first of immeasurable hype and latterly of disappointment.

The US had reached the quarter-finals, where they were beaten by Austria. It was a modest run for a talented squad. But Adu had shone brightly throughout, captaining the side as he scored a hat-trick against Poland and dazzled with his trickery and creativity in upset victories over Brazil and Uruguay.

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» ‘Bradley changed me’: Defoe opens up on life and love in new documentary

Former striker on ‘magical’ friendship with Sunderland mascot, making peace with the past and his managerial ambitions

Jermain Defoe had held hands with hundreds of mascots as he walked countless small boys and girls down tunnels and out on to pitches before high profile matches. The England striker was invariably attentive and kind but, once kick-off arrived and the infant mascots raced towards their families waiting proudly on the touchline, that was pretty much that.

Everything changed in September 2016 when a frail six-year-old boy entered Sunderland’s dressing room at the Stadium of Light before a game against Everton and spotted his hero. “Bradley ran over to me and sat on my lap and we started talking about my boots,” says Defoe. “We had an instant connection. It’s hard to explain but it was different, it was magical.”

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» Next Generation 2023: 60 of the best young talents in world football

From Warren Zaïre-Emery to Endrick, we select some of the best players born in 2006. Check the progress of our classes of 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018

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» Next Generation 2023: 20 of the best talents at Premier League clubs

We pick the best youngsters at each club born between 1 September 2006 and 31 August 2007, an age band known as first-year scholars. Check the progress of our classes of 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 and look at the editions from further back

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» From Saka to Ackermann: what happened to Next Generation 2018?

Five years ago we picked 80 of the most talented players in the world to follow their progress in a cut-throat business

It is the time of year when we check in on the Next Generation players we picked in 2018 to follow for five years, to assess their progress amid success, setbacks, injuries, trophies won and transfers made.

Next Generation started in 2014 with the aim of showing the difficulties that even the best prospects in the Premier League (we pick one from each club at first-year scholar age) and the rest of the world (we choose 60 born in a specific calendar year) face on their way towards the top.

A defensively minded midfielder who is incredibly strong (he used to be a wrestler) but with an excellent touch to go with his physicality. Made his debut in the Swedish top flight as a 16-year-old last year and captained Sweden as they reached the quarter-finals of the Euro Under-17 tournament in England this summer. Has taken an unusual path to the top. He left the top-flight side IFK Göteborg for sixth division Angered MBIK as a 14-year-old as he felt that he was not getting the right support for his football education. Another Gothenburg club, Häcken, snapped him up in 2017 and he made his senior debut that season. Has signed a new contract with the club from Hisingen until 2021 despite interest from Real Madrid and Benfica and trials at both Manchester clubs.

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