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How Liverpool left Man Utd trailing in their wake

Category : AFP

Liverpool (AFP) – England’s two most successful clubs Liverpool and Manchester United head into their first meeting of the season on Sunday at Anfield in very different form after wildly contrasting campaigns to date.
Premier League leaders Liverpool boast a 16-point lead over their historic rivals at the top of the table just 16 games into the season, with United languishing down in sixth and already eight points off the top four.
Much has changed since the sides last met in March, where a 2-1 victory for United took Jose Mourinho’s men five points ahead of Liverpool on their way to securing second-place to runaway winners Manchester City.
Liverpool finished 25 points behind City last season, but now lead the champions by a point thanks to their best ever start to a league season.
Here, AFP Sports looks at how United have been left behind by Liverpool on and off the pitch in recent months.
– Shrewd spending –
So often dwarfed by the wealth of City’s Abu Dhabi owners and United’s vast commercial revenue, Liverpool were this summer’s biggest spenders in the transfer market.
The arrivals of goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri added extra quality and depth to a squad that made the Champions League final last season and built on the £75 million ($94.5 million) January acquisition of Virgil van Dijk as the world’s most expensive defender.
By contrast, United didn’t get the central defender Mourinho wanted in the summer and the disparity in both sides’ defensive records so far this season speaks volumes.
Only Fulham, Cardiff, Burnley, Huddersfield and Southampton have conceded more than the 26 goals United have shipped, a massive 20 more than Liverpool’s water-tight defence.
“I don’t see another team getting close to that level of investment, a team that was a finalist in the Champions League, you have to say you are a big candidate. You have to win,” Mourinho said of Liverpool’s title credentials before the start of the season.
– Star players step up –
United have still spent significantly more than Liverpool in recent years, but the difference is Liverpool’s big investments are paying dividends, while many of United’s star signings are struggling to even make it into Mourinho’s team.
Alisson’s spectacular stoppage time save from Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik secured Liverpool’s place in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.
Mohamed Salah is back on form and joint top of the Premier League scoring charts, while Van Dijk is a rock at the heart of the defence.

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British Golden Globe sailor Goodall in Chile after rescue at sea

Category : AFP

Santiago (AFP) – British Golden Globe race sailor Susie Goodall — who was rescued from the Southern Ocean by a Hong Kong-flagged ship after her yacht lost its mast in a huge storm — arrived back on dry land in Chile on Friday.
Relatives were waiting for Goodall in Punta Arenas, her sponsor DHL announced.
“I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to all those involved in my rescue and to DHL for supporting me throughout my journey,” Goodall said in a statement.
“Although I wasn’t planning on ending up in Chile, it’s great to be here now.”
Goodall was brought back to Punta Arenas by the cargo ship Tian Fu, which plucked her from the stormy seas earlier this month.
The youngest competitor in the race and the only woman, the 29-year-old was briefly knocked unconscious when towering waves upended her yacht DHL Starlight in early December, tearing off its mast and trashing much of her equipment. 
At that time, she had spent 157 days at sea, sailing about 32,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) in the Golden Globe Race — a grueling solo circumnavigation of the world with no modern technology save communications equipment.
She had done about two thirds of the race when she ran into trouble trying to navigate the southern Pacific’s notorious Roaring Forties.
In text messages to race organizers, she said: “The boat is destroyed. I can’t make up a jury rig. The only thing left is the hull and deck which remain intact.
“Taking a hammering! Wondering what on Earth I’m doing out here.”
The race participants set off in July from Les Sables-d’Olonne on the west coast of France.
The route takes competitors south through the Atlantic and eastward — passing South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin and Chile’s Cape Horn — before heading back up through the Atlantic to France. 
The first boats are expected back in April next year.

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De Bruyne’s injury woe could be blessing in disguise, says Guardiola

Category : AFP

Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Kevin De Bruyne’s injury problems this season may turn out to be a blessing in disguise because they allowed him to recover from an exhausting 12 months, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
De Bruyne has suffered two separate knee injuries since helping Belgium finish third in Russia and has played barely any part in City’s defence of their Premier League title, which took a hit last week with a defeat at Chelsea that knocked them off the top of the table.
The attacking midfielder has started only two games this season, neither in the league and Guardiola is wary of rushing him back into action, even though he is understood to be fit enough to be selected for the squad to face Everton on Saturday.
“Sometimes people recover quite well, sometimes mentally it takes time. We don’t want to be injured, but maybe this injury helped us,” said Guardiola.
“Now he’s fresh in his mind, he is recovered and now he tries again to avoid the injuries and play regularly. Of course he is going to be important for us. He is a special player for us.”
De Bruyne was outstanding as City became the first team in English top-flight history to record 100 points in a season in May, winning the club’s player of the year prize and narrowly losing out to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for national awards voted for by players and journalists.
However, his season ended up lasting more than 11 months, as he played six of his country’s seven matches at the World Cup.
He suffered ligament damage to his right knee in August and although he returned in October, he then injured his left knee during his side’s League Cup win over Fulham on November 1.
“I think Kevin finished last season exhausted, it was so tough for him. He played a lot of minutes and it was an incredible season’s performance,” said Guardiola.
“After that he went to the World Cup and when he came back I had the feeling that he was a little bit tired still.”
– World Cup fatigue –
De Bruyne’s World Cup commitments meant that he only returned to training at City on August 6, the day after they defeated Chelsea at Wembley in the Community Shield.
“He has to recover his full condition, he has to compete with the players who have done incredibly well so far,” added Guardiola.

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Boca part ways with coach after Copa Libertadores loss

Category : AFP

Buenos Aires (AFP) – Boca Juniors announced Friday it was parting ways with coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the aftermath of the painful Copa Libertadores final defeat to fierce Buenos Aires rivals River Plate.
“Though the pain and sadness have not yet gone, we understand that the best thing for Boca is a change, to start the year with a new coach,” Boca president Daniel Angelici told reporters in the Argentine capital.
Alongside the Boca chief, Barros Schelotto said that “beyond the pain of not having won the cup, I’m going with peace of mind of having given everything”.
Barros Schelotto, a former Boca player, has managed the side for the past three seasons. 
It is not known who will replace the 45-year-old, although Angelici admitted that there were “many names” being mentioned as successor.
“I want to thank Guillermo and his coaching staff for fighting to the last in the Copa Libertadores,” said Angelici.
“Everything possible was done to achieve something that in this country is not valued, that is to reach a final.”
Under his guidance, Boca won the last two Argentine championships but losing to River in a violence-tainted final has plunged the club into gloom.
River won the two-legged final 5-3 on aggregate after the second leg was moved more than 6,000 miles (9656 kilometres) away to Madrid to avoid a repeat of the fan violence that forced the postponement of the first leg.
The delayed second leg was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium after the original game was postponed following an attack by River fans on the Boca team bus.  
Several Boca players needed hospital treatment for eye injuries caused by glass shards and others said they suffered from smoke inhalation outside River’s Monumental Stadium.
The first leg at Boca’s Bombonera stadium had finished 2-2. But despite losing home advantage for the second leg, River prevailed 3-1 after extra time in Madrid.

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Salah retains BBC African Footballer of the Year award

Category : AFP

London (AFP) – Liverpool and Egypt striker Mohamed Salah has capped a sparkling 2018 for club and country by winning the prestigious BBC African Footballer of the Year Award for the second time in a row.
“It’s a great feeling to win again. I’m happy and I would like to win it also next year!” said Salah.
The 26-year-old, who beat Medhi Benatia, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sadio Mane and Thomas Partey to the award, is just the second player after Jay-Jay Okocha to win it two years running.
Yaya Toure is the only other player to have twice won the award in its current form while Nwankwo Kanu won it twice when it was a broader African Sports Personality award.
Salah scored 44 goals in 52 games for Liverpool last season, his first on Merseyside after joining them from Roma, and helped them to reach the Champions League final.
His club form has continued this season with his winner against Napoli on Tuesday that saw the Reds into the Champions League last 16 taking his tally to 13.
“There have been many good moments in 2018,” he added. 
“I’m scoring goals and helping the team to get the points to be top of the league. That’s always a great feeling.”
Salah also scored twice for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia.
Earlier in 2018, Salah won the English double — the Players’ Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.  
Salah also won the 2017 CAF Player of the Year and is one of 10 nominees for the 2018 award which will be announced in January.

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Portugal winger Guedes out for two months after surgery

Category : AFP

Madrid (AFP) – Valencia winger Goncalo Guedes is expected to be out of action for two months following surgery on Friday, the La Liga club announced.
The 22-year-old Portuguese international has been struggling with a pubalgia, commonly known as a sports hernia.
“The player will return to Valencia in the coming days to start the recovery work that, according to the initial forecast, is around two months,” said the Valencia statement.
Guedes, who joined Valencia from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer after a successful campaign on loan at the Mestalla last season, originally sustained the injury during a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in early October but has played in matches since, including the 2-0 defeat at Real Madrid at the start of the month.
Marcelino’s Valencia have been disappointing so far this season, having finished fourth in La Liga to qualify for the Champions League seven months ago.
They sit 15th in the Spanish top flight after winning just three of 15 matches, and dropped into the Europa League last 32 after finishing behind Juventus and Manchester United in their Champions League group.

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Salah in line to retain African Player of the Year award

Category : AFP

Johannesburg (AFP) – Title-holder Mohamed Salah of Egypt was among 10 African stars named Friday in a Premier League-dominated short-list for the 2018 CAF Player of the Year award.
The 26-year-old scored 44 goals for Liverpool in all competitions last season, his first at Anfield afer moving from Roma, and is set to be voted number one in Africa again.
After a slow start to his second season in England, Salah is joint leading Premier League scorer on 10 goals with Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal.
Salah and 2015 African Player of the Year Aubameyang are among five nominees from England’s top flight, with Manchester City winger Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez, who won the award in 2016 after helping Leicester City to a historic Premier League title, joining them.
Salah’s Senegalese Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane, and Nigerian Alex Iwobi of Arsenal are the other candidates from the most-watched football league in the world.
There are two goalkeepers vying to become the first to win the award since Badou Zaki of Morocco 32 years ago — Cameroonian Andre Onana of Ajax Amsterdam and Ugandan Denis Onyango from South African club Mamelodi Sundowns.
Moroccan defender Mehdi Benatia, Egyptian midfielder Walid Soliman and Tunisian striker Anis Badri complete the list.
French coach Herve Renard, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia and the Ivory Coast and is now in charge of Morocco, is among three Coach of the Year contenders.
His rivals are Aliou Cisse of Senegal and Moine Chaabani, who guided Tunisian side Esperance to the CAF Champions League title after being put in charge just one match before the final.
The award winners will be announced on January 8 at a ceremony in Dakar.
African awards short lists
Player of the Year
Alex Iwobi (Nigeria, Arsenal/ENG), Andre Onana (Cameroon, Ajax/NED), Anis Badri (Tunisia, Esperance), Denis Onyango (Uganda, Mamelodi Sundowns/RSA), Mehdi Benatia (Morocco, Juventus/ITA), Mohamed Salah (Egypt, Liverpool/ENG), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon,Arsenal/ENG), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria, Manchester City/ENG), Sadio Mane (Senegal, Liverpool/ENG), Walid Soliman (Egypt, Al Ahly)
Women’s Player of the Year
Abdulai Mukarama (Ghana), Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria), Bassira Toure (Mali), Chrestinah Kgatlana (South Africa), Elizabeth Addo (Ghana), Francisca Ordega (Nigeria), Gabrielle Onguene (Cameroon), Janine van Wyk (South Africa), Onome Ebi (Nigeria), Raissa Feudjio (Cameroon), Tabitha Chawinga (Malawi)
Youth Player of the Year
Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Franck Kessie (Ivory Coast), Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)
Coach of the Year
Aliou Cisse (Senegal), Herve Renard (Morocco), Moine Chaabani (Esperance/TUN)

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Premier League calls on fans to behave after incidents of abuse

Category : AFP

London (AFP) – The Premier League published a message to fans on Friday calling on them to support their teams in the right way following recent  incidents of abuse that have blighted the game.
Raheem Sterling was subjected to alleged racial abuse during Manchester City’s defeat at Chelsea last week.
The England forward later issued a statement accusing the British media of fuelling racism in the way it reports certain stories about black players.
Chelsea banned four supporters pending an investigation and were then forced to condemn anti-Semitic chanting during Thursday’s Europa League tie with Vidi in Budapest.
A Tottenham fan was also arrested during the recent north London derby at Arsenal after a banana skin was thrown onto the pitch in the direction of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he celebrated putting the Gunners ahead.
With a packed festive schedule to come, the Premier League has asked for any abuse to be reported.
“Some brilliant football has been played this Premier League season and the vast majority of fans have generated exciting and passionate atmospheres in stadiums,” the statement said.
“However, there have been incidents recently where a very small minority have behaved unacceptably.
“As we head into the festive season, with matches coming thick and fast, we ask all supporters to get behind their teams in passionate, positive and respectful ways. Support for a club should never include excessive aggression or discrimination towards the opposition.”
Chelsea earlier promised to take the “strongest possible action” against any supporters found to have sung an anti-Semitic chant in Budapest.
Minutes into the match with Vidi, which ended 2-2, a vocal minority of Chelsea fans were heard singing a derogatory chant about Tottenham supporters, featuring anti-Semitic language.
Chelsea in January launched a campaign to raise awareness and educate fans about anti-Semitism in football and the club, including owner Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, have expressed disgust at the latest incident.
“Anti-Semitism and any other kind of race-related or religious hatred is abhorrent to this club and the overwhelming majority of our fans,” said a Chelsea spokesman. “It has no place at Chelsea or in any of our communities.
Anti-discrimination leaders and Jewish groups condemned the chanting.

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Liverpool’s Klopp hails Man Utd quality ahead of Premier League clash

Category : AFP

London (AFP) – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says Manchester United have “unbelievable quality” despite their struggles this season, playing down his own team’s growing injury problems ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash.
Liverpool are top of the Premier League heading into the weekend fixtures, 16 points ahead of Jose Mourinho’s side, but the Klopp is taking nothing for granted.
“I was never interested in the points of Manchester United and I am not today,” he said on Friday.
“I am aware of the criticism and stuff but when we analyse them and switch off the sound there is a lot of quality.
“There is speed, technique, physical strength, pretty much everything. They still have (David) de Gea in goal, unbelievable. They have strikers they can switch between (Marcus) Rashford, (Romelu) Lukaku, (Jesse) Lingard, (Anthony) Martial, unbelievable quality.”
Mourinho has been wrestling with the problem of how to get the best out of midfielder Paul Pogba, who has not been in the starting line-up for the past two Premier League matches.
Klopp was asked whether he thought United were better with or without the World Cup winner but said he would not comment beyond calling him a “world-class player”.
He said he is unlikely to make a move during the January transfer window after insisting his mounting injury problems in defence are not a crisis.
Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold (foot) and Joel Matip (broken collarbone) this week joined Joe Gomez (broken leg) on the injury list.
Midfielder James Milner played at right-back recently and Nathaniel Clyne has returned to fitness but has barely featured since the beginning of last season.
Klopp admits he may have to get creative but that is unlikely to involve spending in January.
“A crisis is if you feel it is a crisis,” he said. “With Trent, it’s not as serious as with the other two boys, but of course it’s not top-class news, that’s clear.”
A back problem restricted Clyne to just five appearances in the final few weeks of last season and his injury issues have continued into the current campaign but his return to full training is timely.
“Clyne is a very experienced player,” said Klopp. “Is it perfect? No. But is he experienced enough to do it? Yes, 100 percent.
“We have other options so we will not push Clyney after not the longest spell of training.
“As long as we have options everything is fine. If we don’t have the obvious option any more then we need to be creative.”

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Struggling Fenerbahce turn to former coach Yanal

Category : AFP

Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish side Fenerbahce have turned to former coach Ersun Yanal to fill the hole left by the sacking six weeks ago of Dutch coach Phillip Cocu, the club announced on Friday.  
Yanal, who led Fenerbahce to the league title in 2014, has signed a contract for a year and half. 
“Welcome home,” read a post on the official club Twitter page showing Yanal on the field and walking through the players’ tunnel and changing room. 
The 57-year-old arrives with his old club in some trouble. 
Fenerbahce, 19 times champions of Turkey, have won just three matches in the league this season and lie one place off the bottom of the table in the relegation zone. 
The one consolation lies in the Europa League where they qualified on Thursday for the knockout stage.
Cocu was sacked six weeks ago since when another Dutchman Erwin Koeman has been holding the fort as caretaker coach.  
Yanal was in charge of the Turkey national team in 2004-2005 although his last management job with Trabzonspor ended 14 months ago.

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