Rafael Nadal has defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 to win a ninth Italian Open title and a record 34rd Masters crown on Sunday night.
World number one Djokovic, who won at the Madrid Open last week, produced an incredible performance in his 54th meeting with second-ranked Nadal.
With the victory, Nadal now overtakes Djokovic at the top of the list for Masters wins. The pair were level at 33 each before Sunday’s final in a timely boost ahead of his assault on a 12th French Open crown in a week’s time.
Chelsea have been accused of lacking leaders by John Obi Mikel, with the former Blues star considering Maurizio Sarri’s squad to be short of inspirational figures.
Back when the Nigeria international graced the books at Stamford Bridge, a number of talismanic figures lined up alongside him.
John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba were iconic performers who set the standard for those around them.
Others were, however, prepared to do their part, with Mikel among those willing to step up and make his voice heard.
He spent over 10 years in west London, winning two Premier League titles and the Champions League, and feels Chelsea have regressed in the two years since he departed.
Sarri’s side have secured another top-four finish, while reaching the finals of the Carabao Cup and Europa League, but questions have been asked of them throughout the 2018-19 campaign.
Mikel believes part of the problem is that not enough players are taking responsibility.
There may still be plenty of international stars in the Blues squad, but they lack the “edge” required to challenge for the grandest of prizes.
“When I watch them now, they’re fantastic players but I don’t see leaders,” Mikel told The Sun.
“During our time I could scream at Didier Drogba or Lampard.
“I was 24 or 25 years old but I could voice my opinion and it would be heard.
“Now when I watch them, there’s no one talking to each other, taking responsibility of being the leader.
“You need that edge and right now that’s what they’re lacking.”
Chelsea have the chance to prove that they have the stomach for a fight when taking on Arsenal in the Europa League final.
That contest, which has sparked plenty of controversy, is due to take place in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku on May 29.
Sarri’s side already have Champions League qualification secured through their Premier League standing, but will want to end the campaign with tangible reward for their efforts.
They may have to search for leaders within their existing squad as they face a transfer ban, imposed by UEFA, which they are appealing.
The race for Italy’s final two UEFA Champions places gets closer to its peak this weekend from Sunday 18 – Monday 20 May, as Inter Milan, Atalanta, AC Milan and Roma take to the pitch in matches that will be broadcast to GOtv subscribers. The matches involving the quartet, two of which will eventually experience a heartbreak, are scheduled for broadcast exclusively on GOtv Plus and GOtv Max packages.
Inter Milan are well placed to clinch third and final automatic ticket for Europe’s top club competition and will want to solidify their position when they travel to face Napoli. Last week, the Nerazzurri defeated Chievo Verona to maintain their position. Coach Luciano Spalleti will bank on Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic and other stars to deliver the goods.
But Napoli, who have confirmed Champions League qualification, having placed second to champions, Juventus will seek to finish strong in what has turned out to be a disappointing season. The match will be live on Sunday 19 May at 7:30pm on SuperSport Select 5.
Atalanta have a mountain to climb when they travel to Turin to face Serie A champions, Juventus. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men secured a nervy win in their last game against Genoa and must get maximum points to be in control of their destiny. The Bergamo-based club, just hanging onto the final UCL spot by three points, will hope that star striker, Duvan Zapata, the league’s second highest goal scorer this season with 22 goals, can exploit the sudden vulnerability of the Old Lady defence.
Despite overseeing a run of two draws and one defeat since clinching the title, manager Massimiliano Allegri, is expected to field a strong line up for the clash showing on Sunday, 19 May at 2pm on SuperSport Select 2 and 5.
AC Milan and Roma, both tied on 62 points in fifth and sixth places respectively, will hope to win their games while hoping a slip-up by Atalanta and possibly Inter Milan will enable them to move into Champions League places. Milan, led by their former star, Gennaro Gattuso, host already-relegated Frosinone, with the encounter showing on Sunday at 5pm on SuperSport Select 5. Roma face a tricky away encounter against 10th-placed Sassulo (showing on Saturday, 18 May at 7:30pm on SuperSport Select 5). A loss for any of these two teams will consign them to the UEFA Europa League next season.
Saturday’s other game involves relegation battlers, Udinese, who will seek to avoid the drop when they host SPAL (showing on at 2pm on SuperSport Select 2 and 5); and Genoa versus Cagliari (showing at 5pm on SuperSport Select 5). On Sunday 19 May, Chievo Verona face Sampdoria (showing at 11:30 pm on SuperSport Select 5). Week 37 matches will be rounded off Monday 20 May, when Lazio take on Bologna (showing at 7:30 pm on SuperSport Select 5).
Catch all these matches and other European league games by upgrading to GOtv Max with just N3,200 while new subscribers to GOtv can pay N6,900 to get the GOtv decoder, antenna and one month on GOtv Max.
Idowu, Utin, 4 others on standby
Coach Gernot Rohr on Tuesday listed midfield enforcer Mikel John Obi, pacy winger Ahmed Musa and defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Abdullahi Shehu in a 25-man squad to prepare for the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt this summer. Six other players are on standby.
Mikel Obi, who captained the team at the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia last year summer, has not been with the group since Nigeria’s elimination from the finals after a 1-2 defeat by Argentina in Saint Petersburg. However, a recent meeting with Coach Rohr in the United Kingdom sealed his return to the three –time African champions, with the possibility of adding to his 85 international caps.
Rohr has largely kept faith with the Trojans who earned a ticket to the AFCON finals with a match to spare, with goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, defenders Leon Balogun and William Ekong, midfielders Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi and forwards Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon also on the roll-call.
He has put on standby six players, among them defenders Ikouwem Utin and Valentine Ozornwafor who have also been named in Nigeria’s final 21 for the FIFA U20 World Cup starting in Poland next week. The Franco-German tactician explained to thenff.com that he has included the two players knowing the FIFA U20 World Cup will end on 15th June, six days before the first match will be played at the AFCON.
2018 FIFA World Cup defender Bryan Idowu is also on standby, alongside Portugal –based Mikel Agu and Egypt –based Junior Ajayi, and home –based goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai.
All invited players and officials are to report at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Asaba on Sunday, 2nd June, ahead of the friendly with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on Saturday, 8th June.
The team will depart for Egypt on Sunday, 9th June aboard a chartered aircraft, set up a final training camp in the city of Ismailia and tackle Africa’s number one –ranked team, Senegal in their final pre-AFCON friendly on Sunday, 16th June.
Nigeria confront Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar in that order in Group B of the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations taking place in four Egyptian cities 21st June – 19th July.
25 EAGLES FOR AFCON 2019 CAMP
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina United); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa)
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England)
Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Middlesbrough FC, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City FC, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nassar FC, Saudi Arabia); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey); Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua, China); Alexander Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); Paul Onuachu (FC Midtjyland, Denmark); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain)
Six On Standby: Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC); Bryan Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba FC); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Setubal, Portugal); Junior Ajayi (Al Ahly, Egypt); Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba FC).
Liverpool forward Salah went into the final afternoon leading the way but was pegged back after his team-mate Mane scored twice in their 2-0 win over Wolves that proved not enough to win the title.
Aubameyang scored twice in Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Burnley to take his place at the top of the leaderboard.
It is the first time three African players have shared the award.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero scored in their title-clinching 4-1 win at Brighton but will have to settle for second spot in the Golden Boot race with 21 goals.
Though Salah finished the season with more assists than his two rivals, this isn’t taken into account so all three will share the honour.
Indeed, a beaming Aubameyang was presented with his accolade after being presented with it at Turf Moor.
It is the third time this has happened in Premier League history – Chris Sutton, Michael Owen and Dion Dublin shared it in the 1997-98 season and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Michael Owen and Dwight Yorke were tied in 1998-99.
Aubameyang’s is arguably the most impressive total as his 22 goals came in just 2,731 minutes of Premier League football this season at a rate of one goal every 124 minutes.
Mane played 3,085 minutes of league action with his goals coming every 140 minutes, while Salah played 3,256 minutes and scored every 148 minutes on average.
City secured the Premier League title for the second consecutive season with a 4-1 win at Brighton.
Salah also received his Golden Boot following Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Wolves at Anfield
Salah and Sadio Mane are presented with the Golden Boot on the field at Anfield
They fell behind to a Glenn Murray header in the first-half at the same time Liverpool were leading Wolves 1-0 thanks to Mane’s first goal.
But Pep Guardiola’s team stormed back to score four times – through Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan – to wreck Liverpool’s hopes of a first title win since 1990.
|Player||Club||Goals||Assists||Minutes played||Minutes per goal|
|Sergio Aguero||Manchester City||21||8||2479||118|
|Raheem Sterling||Manchester City||17||10||2776||163|
|Paul Pogba||Manchester United||13||9||3009||231|
Manchester City has been crowned champions of the 2018/19 English Premier League season, clinching a back-to-back titles.
Pep Guardiola’s men clinched the EPL title with a 4-1 victory over Brighton at the Amex stadium on Sunday in an unprecedented title race.
Man City now becomes the first team to retain the title back-to-back since Manchester United a decade ago.
Glenn Murray’s header in the 27th minute gave Brighton a shocking lead.
But City restored parity at the top of the table, thanks to goals by Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte in the 28th and 38th minutes respectively.
In the second half, Riyad Mahrez netted the third goal for City in the 64th minute.
Ilkay Gundogan curled an emphatic free-kick into the top corner for City’s fourth goal in the 72nd minute.
They are now one game away from becoming the first English team ever to do the domestic treble as they face Watford in the FA Cup final on May 18.
The last team to be top, going into the final day of an English top-flight season, and not winning the title were Liverpool in 1988-89.
The Reds’ long drought continues as they have never won the title in the Premier League era.
City won their last 13 Premier League matches to clinch back-to-back titles with victory at Brighton.
Six teams have won the Premier League since its inception in 1992.
Manchester United have won it the most – 13 times under Sir Alex Ferguson.
The other winners are Blackburn Rovers (one title), Arsenal (three), Chelsea (four), Manchester City (three) and Leicester City (one).
GOtv subscribers are in for a football treat as the final games of the 2018/2019 Premier League season will be broadcast live on Sunday, 12 May at 3pm. The games include title deciders involving the Premier League’s top two teams, Manchester City and Liverpool. The final day matches will be broadcast exclusively on GOtv Max and GOtvPlus
City, who recovered a seven-point deficit to climb above Liverpool on the table, will face 17th placed Brighton away at the Amex Stadium. The match will air live on SuperSport Select 2 at 3pm. Pep Guardiola’s team have been in imperious form, but still need a win to reach 98 points to ensure they win the title for the second successive season. An unlikely victory for Brighton, who are already safe from relegation, will see them move up one place, which should provide some motivation and joy to second-placed Liverpool, who are seeking their first league title in 29 years.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, who host impressive Wolves at Anfield(showing live on SuperSport Select 3 at 3pm), will hope that Brighton sabotage City by putting up the kind of performance that earned them a 1-1 draw away to Arsenal in their last game.
Even in the event of City dropping points away at Brighton, Liverpool still need a victory over Wolves to beat the defending Premier League champions to the title. Wolves are not expected to roll over. Nuno Espirito Santos’ side record against the Premier League big six give them on hope on the trip to Anfield. They defeated Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 away from home, held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates, got the same result away to Manchester United, drew with Manchester City at home and defeated Arsenal 3-1 at Molineux. A Liverpool win may still not be enough if City do not drop points, a situation that will make Jurgen Klopp’s side the first in Premier League history to reach 97 points and still not win the title.
Other games to be broadcast include Arsenal vs Burnley(showing live on SuperSport Select 4 at 3pm), Leicester vs Chelsea (showing live at 3pm on SuperSport Select 5) and Manchester United vs Cardiff City (showing live on SuperSport Select Go at 3pm). Arsenal retain a faint hope of ending the season in fourth place, which will earn them the final UEFA Champions League slot. That hope is only realizable if they defeat Burnley by eight goals and Tottenham lose at Everton.
Former Manchester City and Barcelona midfielder Yaya Touré has officially retired from football.
According to his agent, the 35-year-old is now set to embark on a career in coaching.
Touré left City and became a free agent when his contract expired at the end of the 2017/18 season.
After a short period without a club, the Ivorian joined Olympiacos in September 2018 for the second time in his career.
However, the former midfielder lasted just over three months at the Greek Superleague club before leaving by mutual agreement in December, and he has not played a professional game since.
“I say this for the first time: Yaya decided to end his career as a champion,” Touré’s agent Dimitry Seluk told Russian outlet Sport 24 on Friday.
“The farewell match given to him by Manchester City, in principle, was the real end of his playing career. Not only in this team, but in general.
“Yaya is one of the best players in Africa and he had one of the brightest careers in the history of African football.
“Therefore, he should also leave football beautifully, at his peak.
“But we came to the conclusion that he, the football player who played for Barcelona and Manchester City, could not lower the bar with his hands.
“We see many players who continue their careers at a sufficiently mature age, and this is commendable.
“But Yaya and I chose a different path: to leave as a champion and start a new stage in life – a career as a coach, in which, I am sure, Yaya will reach even greater heights than those he achieved as a football player.
“There are no African coaches in the English Premier League. I think.”
Seluk goes on to say that when Touré joined Olympiacos, he did so on the agreement that he would be a player/coach but he decided to leave the club when that promise was not kept.
The Champions League and Premier League winner has apparently begun studying for his Uefa Pro License and, his agent says, has already received coaching offers from clubs in Russia and Ukraine.
“Yaya recently held a master class in Dynamo Kyiv, where everyone was very pleased with him,” added Seluk.
Jose Mourinho slammed former Manchester United star Daley Bind and Matthijs de Ligt after Tottenham Hotspurs dramatic comeback win against Ajax on Wednesday night.
The Dutch outfit appeared on course to reach first Champions League final in thirtheen years as they scored twice in the first half in Johan Cruyff Arena to lead 3-0 on aggregate.
But Brazil international Lucas Moura netted three times in the second half which was completed in the sixth minute of injury time and book Spurs’ place June 1 final in Madrid.
But Mourinho was not happy with Ajax’s approach after they gained such a comfortable advantage and accused them of treating the second half ‘like they were playing Vitesse in the Eredivisie League’. The former Manchester United coach also believes Blind and De Ligt were at fault for the lack of defensive organisation shown by Ajax. Asked if Ajax needed to change their philosophy when they were leading 3-0 on aggregate, Mourinho told beIN Sports: “For me, yes.
“For me, the philosophy is what makes a team grow up in a direction.
“Every team grows up, you need that base, you need that philosophy, you need that style of play adapted to the quality of the players.
“Ajax deserve all the credit for that and all the admiration of people like us who love football, and we give them the credit they deserve.
“And to win matches, especially special matches, for special matches you need sometimes not to be tied to your philosophy.
“Sometimes you even need to go against your philosophy to win a football match ‘And I think if Ajax, in the second half, hide their weaknesses better, but everybody knows their weaknesses, they have to cope with that.
“We saw many examples in their attacking situations, we had other situations where Blind and De Ligt were outside.
“The basic thing you do when you have an advantage is keeping your balance all the time – never unbalanced.
“The balance starts exactly with the defensive line in position then after that a certain number of players always behind the ball line.
“But they stuck with their philosophy, they played the game in the second half like they were playing Vitesse in the Dutch league.
“They played like it was a group phase game, or one more game in their own league. “And I think in this moment they don’t believe what happened to them.
“Tottenham changed, they used very, very well direct football, they were lucky, they had the gods of football with them, but they chased that luck.”
Liverpool produced one of the greatest comebacks in UEFA Champions League history to defeat FC Barcelona 4-0 on Tuesday, overturning a three-goal first leg deficit.
The win helped them to advance to their second successive final match with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Two goals each from stand-in forward Divock Origi and halftime substitute Georginio Wijnaldum left Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona utterly shell-shocked by a Liverpool performance full of passion, belief and determination.
Juergen Klopp’s side will play the winner of Wednesday’s other semi-final pairing between Ajax Amsterdam and Tottenham Hotspur, with the Dutch side leading 1-0 from the first leg in London.
“Unbelievable. I don’t think many people gave us a chance,” said Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.
“Before the game we knew that it would be difficult but it was still possible of course. It’s amazing. We knew that at Anfield we could do something special.”
Liverpool become only the third team in the history of the European Cup or Champions League to come from three goals down after the first leg of a semi-final and progress.
Only Panathinaikos in 1970/1971 and FC Barcelona themselves in 1985/1986 have ever done it.
For Barca, who went out on away goals to AS Roma in the quarter-finals last year after winning the first-leg 4-1, it was a bitter night.
It was a night that will raise many questions for coach Ernesto Valverde.
Messi, whose two goals in the first leg had given his team a seemingly comfortable advantage, was unable to make his influence on the game count.
They needed an away goal that would have been decisive.
Liverpool, without two thirds of their strike force with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino injured, took a seventh minute lead.
That was when a poor headed clearance from Jordi Alba fell at the feet of Jordan Henderson, who burst goalwards.
His low shot was parried out by Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen but it went straight to Origi who slotted home.
Barca had openings in the first half, but when Messi twice got space around the box he fired wide of the target.
Also, when Jordi Alba burst goalwards just before halftime, Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker was out quickly to nullify the danger.
Yet the game took a remarkable turn following the introduction of Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum for the injured left-back Andy Robertson at the break.
The Dutchman drove home a low cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold, which Barca goalkeeper Ter Stegen should have saved, to make it 2-0 in the 54th minute.
Two minutes later Wijnaldum rose to meet a Xherdan Shaqiri cross with a powerful header to make it 3-3 on aggregate.
Liverpool then grabbed an extraordinary fourth goal with a quickly-taken corner kick from Alexander-Arnold.
He caught the Barca defence asleep with a low ball that was turned in at the near post by Origi.
That sent Anfield wild.
But then, Klopp’s side suddenly found themselves needing to switch mindset and defend a lead as Barca slipped, belatedly, into their trademark possession game.
Yet, with Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip outstanding in the centre of defence and Brazilian Fabinho making some crucial interventions in midfield, Liverpool held on.
Klopp’s side, who lost to Real Madrid in last year’s final match in Kiev, remain in with a chance of a double triumph.
They head into Sunday’s final round of English Premier League (EPL) games trailing leaders Manchester City by just a point.