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Arsenal will be facing French side Rennes in the last 16 of the Europa League, while Chelsea was paired with Dynamo Kiev in Friday’s draw.

 

Both Premier League clubs will be at home in the first leg on Thursday, March 7, with the return matches scheduled for March 14.

Among the other ties, former European Cup finalists Eintracht Frankfurt were drawn against Inter Milan.

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AFP

Manager Neil Warnock on Thursday, said he is confident that Cardiff will deal with the payment issue over late Argentine striker Emiliano Sala “in the right way”, admitting the matter could have been better handled.


A small aircraft carrying Cardiff’s record £15 million ($19 million) signing from his former club Nantes in France to Britain, disappeared from radar on January 21, two days after he signed for the Premier League club.

The player’s body was recovered on February 7 from the submerged wreck of his plane in the Channel and his funeral was held on Saturday in his home town of Progreso in Argentina.

The body of pilot David Ibbotson has not been found.


Cardiff has so far refused to pay the first installment of the fee, believed to be £5 million, as they await the results of a probe into the causes of the crash.

According to BBC Wales Sport, both Cardiff and Nantes on Wednesday agreed to a one-week extension to the deadline, meaning the Bluebirds have until February 27 to start paying the fee.


“I’ve known Mehmet Dalman since I’ve been here and I’m quite sure that the club will deal with it in the right way in the next few days because they’ve asked for an extension and I think Nantes have agreed to that,” Warnock told reporters on Thursday.

“I just think certain things were done probably in the reflection that shouldn’t have been done, that stirred everybody up.”

Warnock declined to go into details at his press conference before his side’s match against Watford on Friday but added: “It created stories that shouldn’t have been done. It should have been kept between the two clubs really.”

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday that Sala signed a potentially invalid contract with Cardiff.


“The Telegraph understands Sala’s Cardiff contract was deemed non-compliant with Premier League rules and was returned to them for him to sign an amended one,” the report said, adding that such discrepancies were not uncommon.

“Cardiff plan to use Sala’s Premier League registration status to argue he was not their player when he died a month ago,” it added.


Warnock declined to comment on the latest reports.

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- Andrew Robertson, the defender on Liverpool's team has insisted that his side can still get past Bayern Munich in the Champions League despite their disappointing Anfield stalemate.

- Jurgen Klopp’s team were forced to settle for a goalless draw at Anfield in the last 16 first leg on Tuesday after failing to break down Bayern’s massed defense.


Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson remains optimistic they can advance to the Champions League quarter-finals despite being held by Bayern Munich.

The Reds failed to capitalize on home advantage at Anfield in the first leg, forced to accept a goalless draw at the half-way point of the last 16 ties. 


Bayern Munich has a formidable home record in Europe, making them the favorites to advance in some pundits’ eyes.

But a score draw in Munich in the second leg on March 13 would be enough to send Liverpool through to the quarter-finals and Robertson is confident they can achieve that goal.


“Going over there is a new challenge but there’s probably a bit more pressure on them than us because they are at home and their fans will start demanding things,” he said.


“We can try to play our game, try to create the chances we need and try to get goals and if that happens then it puts us in the driving seat.”


Liverpool found it impossible to break down a well-marshaled Bayern team that came to Anfield aware they would have to soak up plenty of pressure from the hosts.


Klopp admitted it was frustrating that Liverpool couldn’t find the killer pass or the composed finish required to finish off the Bundesliga champions.


And Scotland left-back Robertson acknowledged it was a below-par effort from the Premier League title challengers.


“We were at home so of course we were disappointed. We came up against a very experienced team, a team that has been there and done it for six or seven years now,” he said.


“They knew how to frustrate us and how to frustrate the fans and they did it well but we had chances and if we had taken them on another day the result would be different.


“A clean sheet at home in the Champions League is so crucial because we know when we go over there and if we can grab one it means they have to score two.


“These are all things that come into play and if we can be a bit more clinical I think we can score over there.


“We back ourselves to win any game, whether it is home or away, which is why we are disappointed.”


With a huge league match at Manchester United on Sunday, Robertson said thoughts of the Bayern rematch would be put on the back-burner as Liverpool return to their bid for a first English title since 1990.


“It’s a long way away and it needs to be put to the back of the mind because we have some big Premier League games coming up so Bayern is forgotten about for now,” he added.


AFP

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The City Football Group just added another football club to their portfolio, which already included the likes of Melbourne City and New York City FC

Manchester City have made inroads into China with the City Football Group (CFG) acquisition of third-tier club Sichuan Jiuniu. 

Sichuan Jiuniu becomes the seventh club to join CFG’s global conglomerate.

Alongside Premier League champions City, CFG also controls Melbourne City, New York City and Club Atletico Torque of Uruguay, while it has invested in Girona and Yokohama F. Marinos.


CFG, which owns the Premier League champions, has bought the Chengdu-based side as part of a joint-purchase deal involving China Sports Capital and robotics firm UBTECH.

City chief executive Ferran Soriano said in a statement on Wednesday: “Today marks an exciting new chapter in the growth of City Football Group. China is an extremely important football market, which we have been focused on for some time.

“We believe strongly in the future of football in China. We are making a long-term, sustainable commitment to grow and develop Sichuan Jiuniu FC and to nurture Chinese footballing talent. These objectives are equally important.

“Our immediate focus will be strengthening our football performance, using all of our experience and know-how, forging a strong relationship with our fans and building a strong presence in the community.”


China Sports Capital has held shares in CFG since December 2015, while UBTECH has been one of City’s commercial partners since 2016.


On the pitch, City is preparing for their Champions League last-16 first-leg meeting with Schalke on Wednesday night.

Pep Guardiola’s side is considered one of the favorites to win the competition and will be confident of progression against the side who are currently 14th in the Bundesliga table.


The Premier League champions are still fighting to win four titles in the 2018-19 campaign, with City currently joint top of England’s top flight, while they face Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.

City is also through to the quarter-final of the FA Cup, where they will face Swansea City, having beaten Newport County 4-1 in the previous round.


Despite being in with a chance of winning a quadruple this season, Kevin De Bruyne is adamant that City are just focused on winning games, rather than worrying about how many trophies they might collect.


He told reporters: “I think the goal is not to win the four competitions; the goal is to win every game and, the further you progress, you want to win the next game. On Sunday we can win the competition but you cannot say at the beginning we are going to win four.


We are happy with where we are, we want to progress to the quarter-finals [in the Champions League] and be closer to winning it. But to win all four and set that standard is nearly impossible.”

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- Maurizio Sarri still insists that he isn’t worried about being sacked as Chelsea manager despite his troubled side’s lackluster FA Cup surrender against Manchester United.

- Sarri faces a fight to save his job after FA Cup holders Chelsea crashed to a 2-0 fifth round defeat at Stamford Bridge on Monday.


Ander Herrera headed United into the lead from Paul Pogba’s cross in the 31st minute. France star Pogba doubled United’s advantage on the stroke of half-time when he met Marcus Rashford’s cross with a diving header.


Sarri endured chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as furious Chelsea fans showed their frustration at the club’s fifth defeat in their last 10 games.


Chelsea’s stars, publicly criticized by their manager on several occasions this term, hardly looked to be battling to keep the Italian as they failed to muster a shot on target after the 11th minute.

Sarri’s fragile relationship with his players, combined with the mutinous atmosphere among supporters, increased the feeling that the former Napoli boss might not survive until the end of his first season with Chelsea.


Demanding Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has acted quickly in the past when managers have been perceived to have lost the support of the squad.


But Sarri is adamant he isn’t concerned about his perilous position and he claimed he is solely focused on salvaging his club’s turbulent season.

When asked if he was worried Abramovich might be ready to wield the axe, Sarri said: “It’s not my problem.


“I was only worried about my position when I was in League 2 in Italy, not now.

“I am worried about the results, not about the fans. Of course, I can understand the situation.

“I can understand our fans because the result wasn’t really good. We are out of the FA Cup.”


Following widespread reports that Sarri’s players are underwhelmed by his stubborn refusal to change his tactics, the 60-year-old did make the alarming admission that he wasn’t certain he still had their backing.

“Of course I’m not sure, but I think so. I think the situation with the players is very good in terms of our relationship but that’s not so important,” he said.

“What’s important is to play and get good results.”


Meanwhile, Chelsea supporters called for their club’s former legend Frank Lampard, now in charge at Derby, to be hired and directed foul-mouthed abuse at Sarri, who suffered chants of “F*** Sarri-ball” in a scathing reference to his failing tactics.


“Not really very well, but sometimes yes. For everything there is the first time,” he said when quizzed on if he heard the taunts from his own fans.


Sarri believes his situation will be improved significantly if Chelsea can string together a winning run, starting with Thursday’s Europa League last 32-second leg against Malmo and the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.


“It’s really very easy. If we are able to win three or four matches in a row, it will be easy. Of course, it’s difficult to win five matches in a row,” he said with a curious smirk that suggested he didn’t really believe his own outward optimism.


“We need of course more aggression, more determination in the situation inside our box and inside the opposing box.


“My job is to work with my players to try and improve in a few days because we conceded the second goal without determination or aggression.


“The difference was there. We played 78 balls in the opposing box and United only 16 balls our box. We are supposed to win.”


Having previously questioned whether his players understood his football philosophy, Sarri repeated that complaint.


“Not completely at the moment because, especially in a situation like the second half, we have to move the ball faster mentally and materially,” he said.


“We need more movements without the ball and less individual actions.”

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The British star boxer, Anthony Joshua will be defending his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles against Jarrell Miller when he makes his US debut at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1, his promoter announced on Wednesday.


After abandoning plans to fight again at Wembley on April 13, he will instead attempt to join the US market in which rivals Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have become increasingly influential.


The 29-year-old last fought in September at Wembley, stopping Russia’s Alexander Povetkin in seven rounds.


Miller is not recognized as one of the world’s leading heavyweights but has been in contention to fight Joshua for the past year.


“It has been an honor and a blessing to fight at some of the best venues in the world at home in the UK, not least Wembley Stadium, but the time has come to head across the Atlantic and defend my heavyweight titles in the USA,” said Joshua.


“I am looking forward to taking on another challenge with a good boxer and a brilliant talker.”


AFP

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Ander Herrera has an undivided faith in Manchester United. He believes the team can still progress in the Champions League despite their chastening home loss to Paris Saint-Germain, saying it will not throw their season off track.


After winning 10 out of his first 11 matches in all competitions,  manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tasted defeat for the first time in the first leg of the round of 16 ties against the French champions on Tuesday.


Angel di Maria was the scourge of his former club as he provided assists for Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe in a 2-0 loss to PSG that could have been worse but for David de Gea’s performance in goal.


Paul Pogba’s sending-off compounded a bad night for United, but midfielder Herrera was not too downhearted after their unbeaten 11-game run came to an end.


“I think this result is not going to hurt us because of the way we lost,” the United midfielder said on a night that saw teammates Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial sustain first-half injuries.


“I think the game was tight until the first goal,” he added. “We couldn’t say we were the better team, but they were not better than us either.”


But the Spaniard said United could take heart from some good results away from home this season.


They won at Juventus in the group stage under Jose Mourinho before securing impressive victories at Tottenham and Arsenal with Solskjaer.


“We won away against Tottenham, we won against Arsenal,” he said. “They are teams that are as good as PSG, so we will go there to try and make it difficult for them.


“Right now, we have to think about the FA Cup against Chelsea and keep our place in the top four.”


AFP

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United had been handed a reality check after Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 2-0 win in the Champions League last-16 first leg.


Solskjaer was beaten for the first time in 12 matches as United’s interim manager as second-half goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe rocked Old Trafford.


United also had France star Paul Pogba sent off in the final moments, ruling him out of the second leg in Paris next month.


It was a dispiriting evening for Solskjaer, who had sparked such enthusiasm among United’s players and fans since replacing the sacked Jose Mourinho in December.


Solskjaer conceded United, who managed only one shot on target in a tame display, had fallen short of the quality required against top sides like the French champions.


“Today is a reality check for us on the level of top teams. They had the momentum after the first goal and controlled the game,” Solskjaer said.


“You could see that we hadn’t played at this level for a while and we will have to learn.


“It was an experience that can go either way, it’s not going to be a season-defining one, it’s one we have to learn from.”


Pogba’s dismissal was the culmination of a surprisingly subdued performance from the man who had been so influential in United’s revival under Solskjaer.


But Solskjaer claimed Pogba did not deserve to get a second booking for his challenge on Dani Alves.


“Paul is trying to get his body across and Dani Alves is clever enough to put his foot in there. Paul wants to shield the ball, he’s unlucky,” he said.


United’s cause was not helped by injuries to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial and Solskjaer admitted the loss of that duo’s pace was a blow.


“We had quality players to come on but Lingard and Martial give us something and let’s hope they are not too serious,” he said.


“They are muscle injuries, we have to wait a couple of days.”


United now face a huge task to reach the quarter-finals and Solskjaer called on his stars to produce a vastly improved display in the French capital.


“Mountains are there to be climbed, aren’t they? You can’t lay down and say this is over,” he said.


“We will go there, play our game and improve from today.”


AFP

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Jose Mourinho has found new love in the journalism profession as the former Manchester United boss is set to host a show on Russian TV channel RT. The 56-year-old will give analysis at the ongoing Champions League tournament in the fortnightly football program.

 "I'm going to talk about football on RT. What else did you think I was going to do?" The excited former Chelsea manager said in a promotional video.


The ex-Chelsea manager worked as a pundit for the Moscow-based RT network during the 2018 World Cup, last summer in Russia. He was relieved of his duties after almost two and half years in charge at Old Trafford. "After the previous stage of my career was over, everyone wondered what I was going to do next," Mourinho says in the video advertisement posted on YouTube. "I wanted a new challenge... I'm used to surprising people," he adds. 


The new show is titled On the Touchline with José Mourinho and it will be starting on Thursday, March 7. 

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Manchester United defender Phil Jones has signed a new contract that will last him till 2023, with the option of a further year.


The 26 years Jones has made 208 appearances for the Old Trafford club - including 16 this season - since arriving from Blackburn Rovers for £17m in 2011.

United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the new deal for the England centre-back is a sign the club is planning ahead.


"I have a vision of what this club will look like in two years," he said.


United have won nine games out of 10 since Solskjaer took over as caretaker manager on 19 December, following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho.

The Norwegian has been told he will be in charge for the rest of this campaign and no decision has yet been taken about whether he will get the job on a permanent basis.

Jones, whose contract was due to expire in the summer, has signed his deal a week after Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini left United to take up a lucrative contract in China.


"Phil has won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Europa League and is now one of the senior players," said Solskjaer.

"He is coming up to his 27th birthday and entering into his prime years as a center-half."


United, who travel to Fulham on Saturday (12:30 GMT kick-off), are challenging for a top-four place in the Premier League.

They also play Paris-St-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and face Chelsea in FA Cup fifth round during February.


"I am excited about the challenges that lie ahead of us as we prepare for a very busy period in the season," said Jones.

"I would like to thank Ole and the coaching staff for their continued support in my development."

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