Sports Sports en Zlatan pushes for Man Utd starting spot against Brighton
The striker enjoyed an impressive first season at Old Trafford following his free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in July 2016, only for it to be cut short by cruciate knee ligament damage sustained in a Europa League quarter-final victory over Anderlecht in April.

Both Ibrahimovic and defender Marcos Rojo, who suffered a similar injury in the same match, have now fully recovered from their injuries and could play a key role as United host Brighton in the Premier League this weekend.

Former Sweden international Ibrahimovic, 36, has appeared as a substitute in each of United's past two matches, coming on as Newcastle were beaten 4-1 at Old Trafford last Saturday, and again on Wednesday in a 1-0 Champions League defeat by Basel in Switzerland.

Rojo made his comeback by featuring at centre-back against Basel and is likely to be asked to play there again on Saturday as Phil Jones has a thigh injury and fellow defender Eric Bailly is struggling to recover from a knock.

"I think Marcos could have been playing a couple of weeks ago," said United manager Mourinho. "We didn't need to rush him, push him into that situation, but he has been training with the team for quite a long time.

"We need him with no Jones. We need Marcos back to give us the stability."

Despite those defensive concerns, Mourinho is close to having a full-strength squad for the first time in months, with Paul Pogba feeling his way back to full fitness following a serious hamstring problem.

The France midfielder scored on his comeback against Newcastle after two months out of action, but faded after a good start against Basel.

With a glut of fixtures coming up, Mourinho made seven changes to his starting line-up in Switzerland, with only Pogba, Anthony Martial, Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku remaining from the team that started against Newcastle.

More changes are certain this weekend as the manager attempts to keep his players fresh.

Brighton manager Chris Hughton is expecting the United side to be rejigged and is not ruling out Mourinho's men for the title, even though they are eight points adrift of Manchester City.

"Without being detrimental to the other teams in the top six, most people see the two Manchester teams as the strongest," he said. "Both have recruited very well and have big star players.

"Ibrahimovic and certainly Pogba are a massive boost for them to have back at this stage of the season. They are both big teams and are showing that."

The Seagulls are unbeaten in five matches and Hughton wants his players to show self-belief.

"You can't go there with fear because if you do, it is inevitable what will happen," he said. "You have to go there with a belief and a confidence that you can get something." — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:26 +0000 theSundaily 506181 at
Pacquiao calls out McGregor for #realboxingmatch
McGregor lost a megabucks fight in August against the unbeaten Mayweather, who defeated Pacquiao in their disappointing 'Fight of the Century' in 2015.

"Happy Thanksgiving! Stay fit my friend. #realboxingmatch #2018 @thenotoriousmma," Pacquiao posted on Twitter and Instagram, using McGregor's social media handle.

There was no immediate reaction from McGregor on social media, and Pacquiao's media team told AFP Friday that there were "no negotiations yet" about a McGregor match.

Pacquiao, who turns 39 in three weeks, lost his World Boxing Organization welterweight title to Australian former teacher Jeff Horn in July, having come out of retirement in 2016 to take the belt from American Jessie Vargas.

McGregor has not fought in mixed martial arts or boxing since losing to Mayweather by 10th-round technical knockout in their much-hyped bout in Las Vegas in August.

Pacquiao's "#realboxingmatch" reference appears to be a swipe at Mayweather, who beat the Filipino by unanimous decision in 2015 in the richest fight in boxing history.

Pacquiao, who fought with a shoulder injury that later required surgery, has insisted he beat Mayweather, saying he "didn't do nothing. He was always moving outside".

Mayweather retired with a record of 50-0 after the McGregor bout. — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:27 +0000 theSundaily 506160 at
Liverpool face Chelsea crunch, City aim to stay hot
The weekend's most eye-catching match-up comes at Anfield, where fifth-placed Liverpool and third-placed Chelsea square off in a bid to hang onto City's coat-tails.

Defeat for either side could be fatal to their title hopes as Chelsea trail City by nine points and Liverpool are 12 adrift of Pep Guardiola's pace-setters, who bid to maintain their blistering form at Huddersfield on Sunday.

Liverpool's morale is at a low ebb after they blew a three-goal half-time lead in a 3-3 draw at Sevilla in the Champions League on Tuesday.

It was a shocking collapse and Reds midfielder Wijnaldum admits Jurgen Klopp's team will have to work hard to get the result out of their system before Chelsea arrive on Merseyside.

"I don't think it is a bad result to get a draw in Seville but the way we gave it up I don't think is a good sign," Wijnaldum said.

"It is painful when you look back at the game but we have to go again Saturday.

"We have to speak with each other, lift each other up, put this behind us and concentrate on Chelsea."

In contrast to Liverpool's collapse, Chelsea eased into the Champions League knockout stages with a 4-0 rout of Qarabag.

But even that success couldn't stop Blues boss Antonio Conte complaining about the fixture schedule that sends his team to Anfield just 48 hours after arriving back from their draining 5,000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan.

With Liverpool playing in Sevilla a day earlier than Chelsea's European fixture, Conte fears the champions could suffer a repeat of their damaging defeat against Manchester City earlier this season — a loss that came in a week when their rivals played a day earlier in the Champions League.

Showered with praise

"We had to work during the flight, to prepare the game against Liverpool," Conte said.

"To have only one day to rest and only one day to prepare this big game is not simple, is not easy. I think also it's not right.

"I don't want to make excuses, but this is the reality. Someone has to help us."

While Conte frets, the biggest problem for City — winners of their last 10 league games — appears to be a battle to guard against complacency.

City extended their unbeaten run to 19 matches in all competitions with a 1-0 Champions League win against Feyenoord on Tuesday.

Guardiola's side, who hold an eight-point lead over second-placed Manchester United, have been showered with praise for their sensational start to the season, but City midfielder Yaya Toure insists they won't get carried away.

"It is very important to keep the confidence going. But we have to be careful because in these circumstances we have to keep focused," he said.

"What I learned, when I was in Barcelona in 2009, was we don't listen to any newspaper because you could think you are one of the best and after that get a strong team who destroy you."

United host Brighton on Saturday with Daley Blind confident the return of his team's walking wounded will help them keep in touch with City.

Beaten 1-0 by Basel in the Champions League on Wednesday, Jose Mourinho's side could take heart from Marcos Rojo's first appearance since April, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's second substitute role since his knee injury and Paul Pogba's presence in midfield following his lay-off.

United defender Blind said: "I'm very happy for them. Everyone is ready and wants to play.

"It is good because there is a very busy period coming up so everybody needs to be sharp and ready. We will need everyone."

Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated):


West Ham v Leicester (2000 GMT)


Crystal Palace v Stoke, Manchester United v Brighton, Newcastle v Watford, Swansea v Bournemouth, Tottenham v West Brom, Liverpool v Chelsea (1730 GMT)


Southampton v Everton (1330 GMT), Burnley v Arsenal (1400 GMT), Huddersfield v Manchester City (1600 GMT)

— AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:26 +0000 theSundaily 506136 at
Tiger looking fit, healthy for comeback, says Rose
The pair will play together at the invitational Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas — Woods' first tournament since February, after undergoing back surgery.

"I saw him a couple of weeks ago, he looked good. A couple of my friends have been playing with him, and said that he's in good shape," said Rose at the Hong Kong Open on Friday.

"That's the most important thing.

"Obviously it's always difficult coming off a full year or whatever it's been without a scorecard in your hand.

"But he looks fit, healthy and I think from there he can play golf, right? He's obviously got all the talent in the world.

"And I think he's motivated too, which is great. If he puts his mind to something I'm sure he can achieve what his goals are."

Woods, a 14-time major champion, has not played since February, when he withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic.

He underwent surgery in April, his fourth operation on his troublesome back, and has been posting videos of himself in practice.

Woods' return from his latest injury is sure to draw intense scrutiny, but Rose said the Bahamas competition will provide the "perfect" opportunity for his return.

"It's obviously great to have Tiger back, it's the perfect event for him to come back to. It's obviously a very small field.

"It's pretty low-key — if there's ever a low-key tournament for him. Wherever he plays he draws a pretty big attention and crowds and media.

"It's just great to see him back feeling good within himself, and his golf can build from there."

Low expectations

Rose was speaking after his second round at the Hong Kong Open, where he carded a one-under-par 69 in a turbulent round to leave him three shots off the morning leaders.

The Hero World Challenge — an invitational event to benefit Woods' charity foundation — will take place from next Thursday in Albany, close to Rose's home in the Bahamas.

Asked what can be expected from Woods on his comeback, Rose said: "I think just playing 72 holes."

"If he performs like he did last time at the Hero that would be fantastic. I think he had 24 birdies. He led the field in birdies.

"He obviously had a bunch of mistakes which come from rustiness. But if we see that type of form that will be very encouraging."

Woods last won a major in 2008, and has battled personal demons. In May, he was arrested for driving under the influence after being found asleep in his Mercedes-Benz by a roadside.

Woods, who was found to have five drugs including the powerful opioid hydrocodone in his system, later revealed he underwent professional treatment to help him manage his medications.

Under a plea agreement reached in Palm Beach County, north of Miami, Woods will avoid jail time unless he commits major violations of his probation. — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:27 +0000 theSundaily 506140 at
Arsenal lose at Cologne, Milan make last 32
Frenchman Wenger made 11 changes to the team that beat Tottenham Hotspur in last weekend's north London derby, with starts handed to Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck.

But the Gunners succumbed to a 62nd-minute penalty from Sehrou Guirassy after the French striker tumbled to ground inside the area under a challenge from Mathieu Debuchy.

Cologne, winless through 12 Bundesliga matches this season, climbed to second with one match to play, as a 0-0 draw between BATE Borisov and Red Star Belgrade in Belarus confirmed Arsenal's status as group winners.

"We've lost a game in which Cologne had one shot on goal other than the penalty," said Wenger. "We were always missing that little something to get the goal. Cologne defended with spirit and for them it's turned out to be the perfect night."

Seven-time European champions Milan wrapped up first place in Group D with a 5-1 win over Austria Vienna at the San Siro.

Christoph Monschein put the visitors ahead in Italy, but Vincenzo Montella's team roared back with Andre Silva and Patrick Cutrone both netting twice along with a goal from Ricardo Rodriguez.

Atalanta sealed their spot in the knockout phase as Bryan Cristante and Andreas Cornelius notched two goals apiece to thump a listless Everton 5-1 at Goodison Park.

'Disappointing and upsetting'

Robin Gosens added another with a terrific dipping volley, with Sandro Ramirez scoring his first Everton goal as the Toffees crashed to a fourth defeat in five group outings.

"There was nothing riding on the game, but it's our pride. It's not nice to lose games. It's very disappointing and upsetting," Everton captain Wayne Rooney told BT Sport.

Nabil Fekir notched his 13th goal of the season for Lyon in a 4-0 rout of Cypriots Apollon Limassol as the French side joined Atalanta in advancing from Group E.

Mario Balotelli scored twice as Nice moved into the last 32 following a 3-1 victory over Zulte Waregem of Belgium, with Lazio dropping their first points in Group K after a 1-1 draw at home to Vitesse Arnhem.

Marseille snatched a 93rd-minute equaliser courtesy of an own goal from Wilfried Moke in a 1-1 draw at Konyaspor to stay ahead of their Turkish opponents in the race for second behind Salzburg, 3-0 winners over Vitoria Guimaraes, in Group I.

"Miracles don't happen by chance," said Marseille coach Rudi Garcia, whose side saw Jordan Amavi dismissed 10 minutes from time.

"Like in the last match, the team believed in itself until the end despite being a man down."

Villarreal progressed to the knockout stages as Democratic Republic of Congo striker Cedric Bakambu netted a brace to seal a 3-2 victory over Astana in Kazakhstan.

Surprise Swedish side Ostersund — coached by Englishman Graham Potter — extended their run in Europe into the New Year with a 2-0 home win over Ukrainians Zorya Luhansk.

Veteran Spain striker Aritz Aduriz scored two penalties in Athletic Bilbao's 3-2 win over Hertha Berlin to leave the Basque club with their fate in their own hands heading into the final round of fixtures. — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:26 +0000 theSundaily 506106 at
At least 10 years for national team to emerge as title contenders: Khairy
He said the time frame was deemed appropriate, as many potential players, ranging from ages seven to 17, were still under intensive and long-term exposure training through initiatives such as the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).

"Recently, a former national footballer said it would be better if our senior players are replaced with under-19 players who recently qualified for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) round, but that's not possible, because if they are exposed (to that level) too early, for those who are too young, maybe they don't have the endurance to achieve the desired performance.

"But with new developments, with the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) under a new leadership assisted by the NFDP, operated by the National Sports Council which currently has 21,000 players aged 7 to 17, I expect it to take 10 years before we can see the revival of the national team," he said, when winding up debate at the committee-level for the 2018 Supplies Bill for his ministry at the Dewan Rakyat, today. – Bernama]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 00:06:11 +0000 theSundaily 505968 at
Brazil striker Robinho handed nine-year term for rape
The alleged incident occurred in January 2013, when Robinho was playing for Milan in Serie A. He was found guilty in absentia by an Italian court for sexually assaulting a 22-year-old Albanian woman.

Five other people were also accused of the same crime, but their sentences are not yet known.

According to Milan daily Corriere della Sera, Robinho and five friends made the young woman drink "to the point of making her unconscious and unable to resist". They were then said to have engaged in "sexual intercourse multiple times in a row" with her.

Robinho has denied the charges and can appeal the decision.

After hearing the news, he posted brief messages on his official Instagram and Facebook profiles protesting his innocence.

It is not the first time the player has faced allegations of sexual misconduct. He was briefly detained in 2009 after a young woman accused him of assault at a nightclub in Leeds, northern England.

He was eventually let go without charge.

The 33-year-old is currently playing for Atletico Mineiro in Brazil. He has 100 international caps for his country. — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:25 +0000 theSundaily 506083 at
Bayern star Robben drops retirement hint
The Dutchman called time on his international career last month after the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but the 33-year-old remains a key player for Bayern.

"My future is open. I could stop at the end of the season or... I could play for three more years at Bayern," Robben was quoted as saying by Kicker magazine.

"Anything is possible for me," he said. "I'm only looking ahead to the next match, no further. I want to try and enjoy it and play at a high level for as long as possible."

Robben has been blighted by injury throughout his career and suffered a small muscle tear in his left thigh during Wednesday's 2-1 victory at Anderlecht in the Champions League.

He will miss Saturday's Bundesliga match against Borussia Moenchengladbach as a result.

Former Chelsea star Robben has won six German titles as well as the 2013 Champions League since joining Bayern from Real Madrid in 2009. — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:25 +0000 theSundaily 506076 at
Hierro named Spanish FA sporting director
The Real Madrid great, who ended his playing career with Bolton Wanderers, played his part in Spain's most successful ever era as sporting director between 2007 and 2011 as La Roja won Euro 2008 and their only World Cup in 2010.

"After a board meeting held today, Hierro has been named sporting director of the RFEF," the Spanish federation said in a statement.

After leaving the federation in 2011, Hierro had brief spells as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at Real and in charge of second division Real Oviedo.

However, his return seven months ahead of next year's World Cup in Russia is seen as an important step in easing tensions between key players in the national team and those at the head of the federation following the arrest of long-standing president Angel Maria Villar in July on corruption charges.

Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets were among those reported to be furious at the sacking of Maria Jose Claramunt as Spain's team director last month. — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:25 +0000 theSundaily 506061 at
Hodgson hopes Niasse diving ban a deterrent
The Senegalese striker became the first Premier League player to be punished under new Football Association rules that allow retrospective action for diving.

The controversial penalty won by Niasse in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Palace led to a charge and Everton's appeal against it was rejected. Niasse scored Everton's second equaliser to rub salt into Palace's wounds.

"We thought it wasn't a penalty because he had dived and I suppose I'm grateful to have been shown that my judgement isn't as bad as all that when it comes to these matters," said Hodgson, whose side are rock bottom of the Premier League.

"I respect the decision (the FA) have made but it doesn't help us a great deal because it would have been nicer if the penalty hadn't been given."

Hodgson, whose side host fellow strugglers Stoke City on Saturday, hopes Niasse's punishment will act as a deterrent to other players.

"All of these things make players think about diving," he said. "When you have matches where it's discussed afterwards and experts on the TV state their case, of course, it has an effect but you have to be very careful with diving.

"There are situations where the dive is less pronounced than others. There are ones where players lose their balance and it isn't a penalty. You have to be very careful, it's very nuanced." — AFP]]>
Sports Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:12:25 +0000 theSundaily 506056 at