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Rib injury forces Saudi rower out of Olympic qualifying contention

MADRID: Barcelona and Atletico Madrid knew victory could fire them towards the La Liga title but Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Camp Nou handed Real Madrid the chance to go top.Four wins from their last four games will now be enough for Zinedine Zidane’s side to retain their La Liga crown, with a crunch game at home…

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Rib injury forces Saudi rower out of Olympic qualifying contention

MADRID: Barcelona and Atletico Madrid knew victory could fire them towards the La Liga title but Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Camp Nou handed Real Madrid the chance to go top.Four wins from their last four games will now be enough for Zinedine Zidane’s side to retain their La Liga crown, with a crunch game at home to fourth-placed Sevilla up first on Sunday.The first part of a blockbuster weekend in the Spanish title race pitched first against third but neither could take a decisive step forward, despite the best attempts of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who faced each other for the first time since Suarez departed last summer.A point each leaves Atletico three points clear of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand and also the superior head-to-head over both Atleti and Barcelona.Barca remain two points off the top but their chances took the biggest hit, given they now need both Atletico and Real Madrid to slip up in the final stretch.Anything can still happen because of what we’ve seen so far,” said Gerard Pique. “If Madrid wins their four games they will be champions, but it is difficult for the big teams to be consistent. If we win all our three games, I think we’ll have a chance.”Atletico will be disappointed too, given they spurned a number of chances in during a dominant first half, before Ronald Koeman’s side recovered in the second.Jan Oblak had to deny Messi after a vintage run forward from the Argentine, who then had a well-placed free-kick in the last minute, only for Atletico to watch the ball spin inches wide.”We started better and they finished a little better,” Oblak said. “Real Madrid has four games left but for sure they are going to be tought games. We have to keep going.”Diego Simeone said on Friday Suarez had been “vindicated” since being forced to leave Barcelona, his 19 goals making him top scorer for the team.Koeman admitted it would be “strange” for everyone, including Messi, who sent a heartfelt open letter to his former team-mate, neighbour and best friend last year.The pair shared a few words in the centre circle before kick-off after the Camp Nou stadium announcer had already beamed that Suarez “will always be welcome”.But, in truth, the Uruguayan was not at his ruthless best as a handful of openings went unconverted in a contest full of chances but that lacked precision when it mattered most.Messi was repeatedly knocked over in the opening few minutes before Gerard Pique went through the back of Suarez, both teams scrapping for control.Atletico slowly took charge, helped by the departure of Sergio Busquets, who was replaced by Ilaix Moriba after a clash of heads that meant he had to be taken to hospital for tests.Without Busquets, Barcelona were rudderless for a while and the Atletico chances came thick and fast.Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to palm away Marcos Llorente’s shot and then stick out a foot to deny Suarez from the angle.Suarez then tried to nod in the rebound after a winding run from Yannick Carrasco before claiming a penalty after feeling a flick of Ter Stegen’s hand across his head.Barcelona were rattled, the usually steady Ter Stegen booting one ball straight into the stands, only for Messi to give Atletico a reality check, his driving run past six chasers opening the space for a shot, but Oblak tipped it wide.Felipe fired over from a well-worked Atleti short corner before half-time but Barca were better after the break, with both Ilaix and Pique going close shortly after the hour.Both coaches made changes, hoping to inspire a winner. Ousmane Dembele was one of them and he should have grabbed it with six minutes left but headed over from six yards in perhaps the best chance of the game.Messi could have won it at the end, standing over the ball with a free-kick placed centrally and 25 yards out. Atletico held their breath, the ball whistling just wide of Oblak’s post.

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Nuggets eliminate Trail Blazers in Game 6 of NBA playoff

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday. Kai Havertz’s first-half goal…

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Nuggets eliminate Trail Blazers in Game 6 of NBA playoff

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment

DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday.

Kai Havertz’s first-half goal meant the newly crowned English champions could not complete a historic treble, but Al-Mubarak said he was “very, very proud” of what the club achieved in a difficult season.

“When you reach the Champions League final, which is the pinnacle in football and sport, I think it’s an incredible achievement,” he said. “We’ve been working hard for so many years to get to this point. It’s about building blocks, it’s about growing and achieving our targets. And to achieve targets, you’re going to miss targets. It’s part of life, it’s part of football. You win, you lose in a final, that’s football.”

Mubarak conceded that Manchester City’s involvement in the proposed European Super League was a mistake that he regretted, one that the club has learned form.

“It was a decision based on a view, which was a mistaken view, that this will improve and strengthen our position as a club,” he said. “What it missed was an important aspect which is how the fans felt about it.

“We will learn from it, I have no doubt. Our fans appreciate the heart and spirit of everything we do.”

Despite the disappointment in Porto, the season still delivered the Premier League and Carabao Cup triumphs.

“It’s been a remarkable season by any description but it’s also the culmination of years of hard work to reach a level of consistency, a level of expectation, that this club has reached now, which is a club that will compete year in, year out,” Al-Mubarak said. “You can’t win every year, but year in, year out, we’re going to be there. For 10 years in a row, we’ve been in the Champions League, no other English team has done that. Five Premier League titles in the last 10 years.”

Ten years ago, Al-Mubarak had set a target of winning five league titles in the next decade, and he now says that it wasn’t just hyperbole.

“It’s easy to say that now, but you’ve seen it happen over the last 10 years and that conviction wasn’t based on a prayer, it was based on clarity and planning, knowledge and the people we have in this club, a clear strategy and confidence in everyone to execute on it,” he said. “And then the talent. You need all of that. In a league the best team normally wins, and I think we’ve had the best team most of the time.”

“I know Sheikh Mansoor is immensely proud. His vision, going back to 2008 and what he wanted and expected over the next 10 to 12 years, has been achieved,” Al-Mubarak added. “And as we look at the next 10 years, his vision of what he hopes to achieve, I believe we are well positioned to achieve that.”

Manchester City started the 2020-21 campaign without fans and in relatively poor form, and had lost the league title to Liverpool the previous season, which for Al-Mubarak made it far more challenging one than previous years.

“It was a hybrid of two seasons because we were in the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League in August, and we had no break,” he said. “There was a short period with almost no pre-season. You come back and start the news season, still in the midst of the Covid period. I remember very clearly, the Lyon loss gave us a big missing feeling. Losing the Premier League to Liverpool, in the way we lost it, then losing the Champions League, we needed to be mentally very strong to recover and come back.”

“Even at the lowest point I had no doubts that we would get it right.”

This summer club legend Sergio Aguero is leaving the Etihad for Barcelona and City’s chairman is already planning to strengthen the squad ahead of next season.

“We need to constantly bring in talent, refresh and particularly when you are at a high level, at the top,” Al-Mubarak said. “Having won the league it’s not the time to sit back and be content, that would be a big mistake. This is the time to send a message that you’re committed and bring in talent, not just for the squad but for the starting 11. We lose a legend in Sergio Aguero. Very big shoes to fill but I’m confident we will find the right player, and there are other areas of the team which need investment. Not too many, it’s not about numbers, it’s about quality.”

One thing City’s management has never wavered from is their full support for Guardiola, who has now been longer at the Etihad than at any of his other previous clubs.

“His record here, seeing his work ethic and his passion, you can’t not be confident,” said Al-Mubarak. “Another thing to note with Pep is the humanity that comes with him. He’s a very special human being. I knew he was in a tough spot, at a low point, probably back in November before he signed his contract, and I look back at our meeting when we sat together, had long discussions and really had a refresh, a realignment. I saw a man that was so disappointed, in his mind, for not delivering what he felt he needed to deliver for this club, a man who had so much hunger but felt he’d let us down.

“But he hadn’t, and that’s what I needed to make clear to him. I told Sheikh Mansoor I felt we would win the league, and I said I thought we would go far in the Champions League. I didn’t know if we were going to win it, but I thought we would go far.”

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Bahrain and UAE lead the way as Arab teams seal World Cup qualifying wins

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday. Kai Havertz’s first-half goal…

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Bahrain and UAE lead the way as Arab teams seal World Cup qualifying wins

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak proud of his team’s achievements despite Champions League disappointment

DUBAI: Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak has declared his pride in Pep Guardiola and his players after a season that brought two domestic trophies but ended in the 1-0 Champions League final defeat to Chelsea last Saturday.

Kai Havertz’s first-half goal meant the newly crowned English champions could not complete a historic treble, but Al-Mubarak said he was “very, very proud” of what the club achieved in a difficult season.

“When you reach the Champions League final, which is the pinnacle in football and sport, I think it’s an incredible achievement,” he said. “We’ve been working hard for so many years to get to this point. It’s about building blocks, it’s about growing and achieving our targets. And to achieve targets, you’re going to miss targets. It’s part of life, it’s part of football. You win, you lose in a final, that’s football.”

Mubarak conceded that Manchester City’s involvement in the proposed European Super League was a mistake that he regretted, one that the club has learned form.

“It was a decision based on a view, which was a mistaken view, that this will improve and strengthen our position as a club,” he said. “What it missed was an important aspect which is how the fans felt about it.

“We will learn from it, I have no doubt. Our fans appreciate the heart and spirit of everything we do.”

Despite the disappointment in Porto, the season still delivered the Premier League and Carabao Cup triumphs.

“It’s been a remarkable season by any description but it’s also the culmination of years of hard work to reach a level of consistency, a level of expectation, that this club has reached now, which is a club that will compete year in, year out,” Al-Mubarak said. “You can’t win every year, but year in, year out, we’re going to be there. For 10 years in a row, we’ve been in the Champions League, no other English team has done that. Five Premier League titles in the last 10 years.”

Ten years ago, Al-Mubarak had set a target of winning five league titles in the next decade, and he now says that it wasn’t just hyperbole.

“It’s easy to say that now, but you’ve seen it happen over the last 10 years and that conviction wasn’t based on a prayer, it was based on clarity and planning, knowledge and the people we have in this club, a clear strategy and confidence in everyone to execute on it,” he said. “And then the talent. You need all of that. In a league the best team normally wins, and I think we’ve had the best team most of the time.”

“I know Sheikh Mansoor is immensely proud. His vision, going back to 2008 and what he wanted and expected over the next 10 to 12 years, has been achieved,” Al-Mubarak added. “And as we look at the next 10 years, his vision of what he hopes to achieve, I believe we are well positioned to achieve that.”

Manchester City started the 2020-21 campaign without fans and in relatively poor form, and had lost the league title to Liverpool the previous season, which for Al-Mubarak made it far more challenging one than previous years.

“It was a hybrid of two seasons because we were in the quarter-finals of last season’s Champions League in August, and we had no break,” he said. “There was a short period with almost no pre-season. You come back and start the news season, still in the midst of the Covid period. I remember very clearly, the Lyon loss gave us a big missing feeling. Losing the Premier League to Liverpool, in the way we lost it, then losing the Champions League, we needed to be mentally very strong to recover and come back.”

“Even at the lowest point I had no doubts that we would get it right.”

This summer club legend Sergio Aguero is leaving the Etihad for Barcelona and City’s chairman is already planning to strengthen the squad ahead of next season.

“We need to constantly bring in talent, refresh and particularly when you are at a high level, at the top,” Al-Mubarak said. “Having won the league it’s not the time to sit back and be content, that would be a big mistake. This is the time to send a message that you’re committed and bring in talent, not just for the squad but for the starting 11. We lose a legend in Sergio Aguero. Very big shoes to fill but I’m confident we will find the right player, and there are other areas of the team which need investment. Not too many, it’s not about numbers, it’s about quality.”

One thing City’s management has never wavered from is their full support for Guardiola, who has now been longer at the Etihad than at any of his other previous clubs.

“His record here, seeing his work ethic and his passion, you can’t not be confident,” said Al-Mubarak. “Another thing to note with Pep is the humanity that comes with him. He’s a very special human being. I knew he was in a tough spot, at a low point, probably back in November before he signed his contract, and I look back at our meeting when we sat together, had long discussions and really had a refresh, a realignment. I saw a man that was so disappointed, in his mind, for not delivering what he felt he needed to deliver for this club, a man who had so much hunger but felt he’d let us down.

“But he hadn’t, and that’s what I needed to make clear to him. I told Sheikh Mansoor I felt we would win the league, and I said I thought we would go far in the Champions League. I didn’t know if we were going to win it, but I thought we would go far.”

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Sixers, Hawks advance in NBA playoffs

Leonardo Jardim looks to recreate Monaco-style success after taking over at Al-Hilal  LONDON: Al-Hilal fans have had a bewildering few months. The Riyadh giants celebrated Saudi Pro League title number 17 just last week and on Tuesday appointed their fourth coach in less than four months. In February Razvan Lucescu was dismissed after 18 months…

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Sixers, Hawks advance in NBA playoffs

Leonardo Jardim looks to recreate Monaco-style success after taking over at Al-Hilal 

LONDON: Al-Hilal fans have had a bewildering few months.

The Riyadh giants celebrated Saudi Pro League title number 17 just last week and on Tuesday appointed their fourth coach in less than four months.

In February Razvan Lucescu was dismissed after 18 months in the job and the Romanian was replaced by Rogerio Micale.

The Brazilian led the Riyadh giants through the group stage of the AFC Champions League – just – but was replaced by Jose Morais at the start of May.

A month later and there is a new man, also Portuguese, at the helm.

Leonardo Jardim has the most impressive CV out of all of them.

He will need all of his experience as he prepares to occupy one of the hottest seats in the world of football, but if he can get comfortable then this could be an interesting appointment. 

The 46-year-old, who has been handed a one-year contract with the option of an extension for a further 12 months, had been linked with a number of jobs in Europe since leaving Monaco in December 2019.

The reasons are clear as his first spell in charge of the French club was seriously impressive.

After stints in charge of Braga, Olympiacos and Sporting Lisbon, he was appointed to take over at Monaco in the summer of 2014 with the club a shadow of the one that had won the French league in 2000 and reached the final of the UEFA Champions League four years later.

Despite selling influential players such as Rademal Falcao and James Rodriguez, Jardim steered Monaco to third and the quarter-finals of the Champions League in his first season.

And he won the Ligue 1 title in 2017, the first in 17 years, playing exciting football with a new group of exciting players such as Kylian Mbappe.

No doubt that this has been noted by the powers that be in Riyadh.

Here is a coach who has won major trophies in Europe and competed at the top table – but it is not just about results.

Jardim’s record in the transfer market was impressive and that bodes well as the team looks to build ahead for next season as well as the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League that are scheduled to start in September. 

Some of Hilal’s foreign contingent such as Peruvian winger Andre Carrillo, Luciano Vietto of Argentina, Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco, Gustavo Cuellar of Colombia and French goal machine Bafetimbi Gomis will leave.

With Jardim’s contacts and past deal-making abilities, he has a lot to contribute in this area. 

It is not just about buying and selling players, however.

In Monaco, the coach demonstrated that he could get the most out of the players he had.

If he is afforded time, Jardim should be able to improve the existing squad and help take the players, especially the local stars, to the next level.

That would also be a major benefit for the national team and would surely be appreciated by Saudi Arabia boss Herve Renard.

Jardim played a big part in the development of Mbappe, giving the forward a debut at the age of 16, though the boss always knew he was going to lose the young star for big money to a mega club sooner rather than later.

Other talents such as Thomas Lemar of Atletico Madrid and Manchester City duo Bernando Silva and Benjamin Mendy thrived under the Venezuelan-born boss. 

At Monaco he was able to adapt his style to the players.

At the start of his first tenure, some of the football was functional and reactive but over time, as new talent such as Mbappe came in, Jardim was able to switch and Monaco became a thrilling team to watch.

In that 2016-17 title-winning season, no team in any of Europe’s big five leagues outscored the French champions. 

As it tends to do, unlikely and spectacular success attracts attention from richer clubs and after Monaco lost a number of their stars to bigger clubs, the results suffered.

Jardim may have been fired and out of work but if he had continued with such success then he would be now coaching at the top of La Liga or the English Premier League.

All in all, Jardim is a promising appointment: he is a coach who has helped develop some of the best players in the world, knows the transfer market, is tactically flexible and can also build a team if given time.

The Ligue 1 manager of the year in 2017 is coming into a club that has just won a second successive championship, and while the pressure and expectations are at a high level, so is the talent and the resources,

The most precious resource is time however.

Al-Hilal are going through a period of success but if the club and Jardim can work well together then they may be able to move to the next — and exciting — level.

 

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