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New pro Othman Almulla predicts Saudi International is just the start for golf in the Kingdom

LONDON: The Saudi International sees a host of big names tee it up at the untested Royal Greens Golf and Country club. Here we run the rule over the main contenders to lift the trophy come Sunday afternoon. JUSTIN ROSE, one Major, world No.1 WHAT HE SAID “We’ve seen in the past players who play…

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New pro Othman Almulla predicts Saudi International is just the start for golf in the Kingdom

LONDON: The Saudi International sees a host of big names tee it up at the untested Royal Greens Golf and Country club. Here we run the rule over the main contenders to lift the trophy come Sunday afternoon.
JUSTIN ROSE, one Major, world No.1
WHAT HE SAID
“We’ve seen in the past players who play well in the Middle East early in the year going on to have very successful seasons. Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year, for example, or Danny Willett three years ago winning in Dubai and then at the Masters. The Saudi International is an opportunity for players to lay down a marker in a strong field.”
ARAB NEWS SAYS
Rose comes into the tournament on the back of a hugely impressive win at Torrey Pines. He will be looking for a good week against a strong field to lay down another marker that he is the man to beat this year.

 

BROOKS KOEPKA, three Majors, world No. 2
WHAT HE SAID
“I always want to play against the world’s best players as it helps to sharpen my game. I enjoy the intensity of coming down the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win and that is even better when you are playing against the likes of my good friend DJ or Justin or Henrik, the list goes on.”
ARAB NEWS SAYS
The big-hitting American lost his world No. 1 ranking to Rose and will be out to show that with his three Majors in the past 18 months he is the true best in the business.

 

DUSTIN JOHNSON, one Major, World No. 3
WHAT HE SAID
“There are so many great players, you’ve got to bring your game every single week. It’s very important to come prepared every wee, no matter where you’re playing, what the tournament is and compete. It’s definitely going to be a good year, and I am definitely looking to challenge Rosey for the top spot.”
ARAB NEWS SAYS
There is a sense that having continued to win titles at a greater pace than anyone else over the past few years DJ is impatient for more Majors and returning to top spot. A good showing here will set his stall for the season.

 

BRYSON DECHAMBEAU, Dubai Desert Classic champions, World No. 5
WHAT HE SAID
“I’ve kind of already checked one off the box, winning internationally and winning on The European Tour. The next one is going to be a major. I’ve got to get that done. I know I can. I know I’ve got the game for it. It’s just about making, again, the proper adjustments and taking control of the pressure when it comes.”
ARAB NEWS SAYS
DeChambeau is golf’s man of the moment. The idiosyncratic golfer won last week in Dubai and the feeling is that he is going to the very top of the game. For a host of reasons the American is one to watch.

 

SERGIO GARCIA, 2017 US Master champion, world No. 27
WHAT HE SAID
“Any win, any win is good. It doesn’t matter where, I’ve always said it, it doesn’t matter where or against who. Winning nowadays is tough anywhere in the world. But when you are playing against the quality of this field it means a bit more. It would be nice to win here and that’s what I am going to try to do.”
ARAB NEWS SAYS

The Spaniard ended last year with another win at Valderrama and is looking to start the year on a high has won in Dubai and likes desert style golf so will be expecting a good finish.

 

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Eddie Howe to make Newcastle managerial debut against Arsenal

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe is finally set to make his Newcastle United managerial debut at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday after testing negative for COVID-19. The head coach missed last week’s Premier League encounter with Brentford, which ended in a 3-3 draw, having tested positive the previous evening. His assistant Jason Tindall and coach Graeme Jones…

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Eddie Howe to make Newcastle managerial debut against Arsenal

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe is finally set to make his Newcastle United managerial debut at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday after testing negative for COVID-19.

The head coach missed last week’s Premier League encounter with Brentford, which ended in a 3-3 draw, having tested positive the previous evening. His assistant Jason Tindall and coach Graeme Jones took charge of that game.

However, the club have now confirmed on Twitter that ex-Bournemouth boss Howe is ready to take the helm for a competitive game.

“Newcastle United can confirm that Eddie Howe will be in the dugout for tomorrow’s game at the Emirates Stadium after returning a negative COVID test this morning,” the club announced on Friday.

It had been expected Howe would miss the trip in line with UK COVID-19 protocols, which state that anyone who returns a positive test must self-isolate for 10 days from the date of the test or from the date that symptoms first appeared.

Arab News understands that Howe and the club’s medical staff traced the symptoms back to midway through last week, around the time Howe was publicly unveiled as Newcastle’s new manager, and confirmed that he has satisfied all relevant rules for return to work with the relevant governing bodies this week.

Tindall, speaking about Howe at the club’s pre-match press conference, said: “We know COVID impacts people differently. And he is much better now than he was.

“From how Eddie was Sunday, Monday, Tuesday in comparison to how he is feeling now, and the tone of his voice in the latter part of this week, there’s been a big difference. He’s followed all the protocols. It’s down to Eddie and the medical professionals. Everyone that knows Ed wants to be in the dugout (at Arsenal). Even if he was 20 percent, he’d want to be there, that’s for sure. We’re certainly looking forward to having him back.”

Logistically the week has been a challenge for Tindall, also a former manager of Bournemouth, with Howe holed up in his Gateshead Quayside hotel room.

Daily training videos have been sent from the club’s Benton training ground to the hotel and the phone lines have been hot with chatter between Howe and his numerous coaches.

“In terms of dialogue, we have been in constant contact with the manager,” Tindall said. “Maybe four, five, six times a day — before training, after, then in the evening preparing training for the next day.

“The lads have been working extremely hard on the training ground,” he added.

Of his close friend Howe’s struggles this week, Tindall said: “It has been difficult having the virus, having to isolate in a hotel room. We have missed him as a group of staff and I am sure the players will have missed him out on the grass. You want your leader with you and the fans want the manager on the touchline. Eddie is a very ‘hands-on’ coach, and he has played a huge part in the preparation for Arsenal.”

Howe has a near-full squad to choose from for the game, with only Dwight Gayle and Paul Dummett doubts.

“Dwight Gayle was feeling his hamstring slightly so that’s one that will be assessed,” said Tindall. “Other than that there’s been no new injury concerns for us with a training session still to do today.”

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Tottenham beaten by Slovenia’s Mura, West Ham advances

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe is finally set to make his Newcastle United managerial debut at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday after testing negative for COVID-19. The head coach missed last week’s Premier League encounter with Brentford, which ended in a 3-3 draw, having tested positive the previous evening. His assistant Jason Tindall and coach Graeme Jones…

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Tottenham beaten by Slovenia’s Mura, West Ham advances

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe is finally set to make his Newcastle United managerial debut at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday after testing negative for COVID-19.

The head coach missed last week’s Premier League encounter with Brentford, which ended in a 3-3 draw, having tested positive the previous evening. His assistant Jason Tindall and coach Graeme Jones took charge of that game.

However, the club have now confirmed on Twitter that ex-Bournemouth boss Howe is ready to take the helm for a competitive game.

“Newcastle United can confirm that Eddie Howe will be in the dugout for tomorrow’s game at the Emirates Stadium after returning a negative COVID test this morning,” the club announced on Friday.

It had been expected Howe would miss the trip in line with UK COVID-19 protocols, which state that anyone who returns a positive test must self-isolate for 10 days from the date of the test or from the date that symptoms first appeared.

Arab News understands that Howe and the club’s medical staff traced the symptoms back to midway through last week, around the time Howe was publicly unveiled as Newcastle’s new manager, and confirmed that he has satisfied all relevant rules for return to work with the relevant governing bodies this week.

Tindall, speaking about Howe at the club’s pre-match press conference, said: “We know COVID impacts people differently. And he is much better now than he was.

“From how Eddie was Sunday, Monday, Tuesday in comparison to how he is feeling now, and the tone of his voice in the latter part of this week, there’s been a big difference. He’s followed all the protocols. It’s down to Eddie and the medical professionals. Everyone that knows Ed wants to be in the dugout (at Arsenal). Even if he was 20 percent, he’d want to be there, that’s for sure. We’re certainly looking forward to having him back.”

Logistically the week has been a challenge for Tindall, also a former manager of Bournemouth, with Howe holed up in his Gateshead Quayside hotel room.

Daily training videos have been sent from the club’s Benton training ground to the hotel and the phone lines have been hot with chatter between Howe and his numerous coaches.

“In terms of dialogue, we have been in constant contact with the manager,” Tindall said. “Maybe four, five, six times a day — before training, after, then in the evening preparing training for the next day.

“The lads have been working extremely hard on the training ground,” he added.

Of his close friend Howe’s struggles this week, Tindall said: “It has been difficult having the virus, having to isolate in a hotel room. We have missed him as a group of staff and I am sure the players will have missed him out on the grass. You want your leader with you and the fans want the manager on the touchline. Eddie is a very ‘hands-on’ coach, and he has played a huge part in the preparation for Arsenal.”

Howe has a near-full squad to choose from for the game, with only Dwight Gayle and Paul Dummett doubts.

“Dwight Gayle was feeling his hamstring slightly so that’s one that will be assessed,” said Tindall. “Other than that there’s been no new injury concerns for us with a training session still to do today.”

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Manchester City Champions League masterclass shows all not well for unsettled Mauricio Pochettino at PSG

LONDON: For all the will, and ambition, of a manager, sometimes the fit of a club is not quite right. No matter how much Mauricio Pochettino insists he is happy at Paris Saint-Germain, the speculation of a move to Manchester United will not go away. Not now – even with the surprise appointment on Thursday…

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Manchester City Champions League masterclass shows all not well for unsettled Mauricio Pochettino at PSG

LONDON: For all the will, and ambition, of a manager, sometimes the fit of a club is not quite right.

No matter how much Mauricio Pochettino insists he is happy at Paris Saint-Germain, the speculation of a move to Manchester United will not go away.

Not now – even with the surprise appointment on Thursday of Ralf Rangnick as the Old Trafford club’s interim manager until the end of the season – and not until someone is eventually chosen as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s permanent replacement.

Pochettino remains a leading candidate for that role.

And despite his belief that his PSG players won’t be distracted by what happens over the next six months, footballing history has often shown that commitment and quality don’t always come to the fore when there are rumours about a manager’s position, whether positive or negative.

Midfielder Ander Herrera, who ironically joined PSG from United on a free transfer in 2019 after five years at Old Trafford, said: “We are convinced…we know he is focused on the season and our club and to try to get the best from the team. 

“We are not distracted at all [by the situation]. Since the first day I came here, everyone loves to talk about that, everyone loves to make rumours about that. That doesn’t affect us at all.”

That is up for debate given their insipid and disjointed display in the 2-1 loss at Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.

It was a result that saw Pep Guardiola’s side top the group and the French side finish runners-up and facing a potential tougher last-16 opponent.

City had the balletic attacking brilliance and cultured ball players that Lionel Messi and Neymar once had alongside them during their heyday at Barcelona. 

Now they were merely passengers, observers to a Guardiola masterclass that deserved a greater margin of victory for the English Premier League champions.

Based on his success during five years at Tottenham Hotspur, Pochettino forged a reputation of building sides with a strong work and team ethic. That is not visible in a PSG outfit that seems unbalanced, unconvincing and needs to earn their victories.

In the first half they had just three touches in the opposition’s box, compared to City’s 23.

Blessed with enviable individual talent, and despite taking a fortunate lead through Kylian Mbappe, they were often unravelled by a City team missing the injured Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and £100 million signing Jack Grealish.

In Bernardo Silva, the hosts had a player described by Gabriel Jesus – who scored the winning goal after a Raheem Sterling equaliser – as “one of the best players in the world right now”. The Brazil striker also said “nobody is selfish” in the City team.

The hashtag #PochOUT! was soon trending on Twitter after the defeat, with Pochettino criticised for being too defensive, lacking creative ideas and unable to get more out of a frontline of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe that was laboured rather than lethal.

Pochettino felt PSG “suffered” against City, while Herrera said Guardiola’s side had the quality to “kill you”.

But captain Marquinhos offered an insight into his own side’s failings as he added: “The Champions League, it’s that you’ve got to know how to play against the big teams.”

Right now, PSG are unable to do that.

With the Champions League coveted by their Qatari owners, this does not bode well for the rest of the campaign, nor Pochettino’s future.

Just two seasons ago Thomas Tuchel led them to the Champions League final, where they were edged 1-0 by Bayern Munich. Four months later he was dismissed with the best win percentage in Ligue 1 history.

PSG should be ready to challenge for the trophy now, but look a level below their European rivals.

Pochettino has to address that. Results will determine whether he remains in Paris or that, when United make their decision at the end of the season, the Argentine is their first and best choice.

While PSG have decided not to let Pochettino leave mid-season, he will also be aware that Zinedine Zidane had been discussed as a replacement – and would prove popular with fans and the owners.

A decade ago, when Qatar was bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, they brought on board a raft of stellar names to raise their profile and enhance their chances.

Guardiola and Saudi Arabia’s superstar Sami Al-Jaber were among them. But it was the signing of Zidane that was seen as the pivotal moment in helping them succeed against all odds.

The Frenchman is often named the footballing hero for many of those at the forefront of sporting change in the Middle East.

As a gifted player for clubs such as Juventus and Real Madrid and his national team, Zidane was iconic and inspirational, a legend.

But he was admired in the Gulf too because of his Arab roots – a Muslim of Algerian Kabyle descent.

Zidane would be the prestige signing for the Qataris a la Messi – or Guardiola in coaching terms when he took over at City and transformed them with style and success.

With 11 trophies in his first managerial job at Real Madrid – across two spells and five years – he would also be the biggest winner since Carlo Ancelotti had a 16-month spell in 2012.

In lifting three successive Champions League titles, Zidane managed to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to show he could handle big names, and the challenge and expectation of managing a big club.

By adopting a more aggressive and attacking approach, imagine what he could do with Messi, Neymar and Mbappe if he was persuaded to stay?

While Madrid still seem favourites to lure French striker Mbappe when his contract runs out next summer, perhaps having Zidane in charge could sway him to remain for just a little longer.

As he admitted previously: “If you’re a boy and you’re French, your idol is Zidane.”

Mbappe, 22, will also have seen how Benzema flourished under Zidane’s tutelage to become one of the world’s best strikers again at 33.

Revered and respected by his peers with tough demands, Zidane could revitalise PSG – and allow Pochettino the opportunity to rebuild a United side that is under-achieving, but still has so much potential. Eventually, this would appear a perfect fit – and a fait accompli.

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