Inter Milan’s Luciano Spalletti not bothered by possible Lionel Messi return ahead of Barcelona battle

Barca's talisman Lionel Messi is in line to make an earlier-than-expected return from injury against Inter Milan on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Inter Milan’s Luciano Spalletti not bothered by possible Lionel Messi return ahead of Barcelona battle

LONDON: Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti said he was not worried about the possible return to the Barcelona side of Lionel Messi ahead of his side’s Champions League clash against the Catalan club today.
The Argentine could make an earlier-than-expected return from a broken arm against the Italians at the San Siro.
But while he described Messi as the icing on Barcelona’s cake, Spalletti said he would not make any special changes to cope with the talisman’s possible return.
“Messi is the icing on the cake. His is the shirt that children who dream of being footballers ask for,” said Spalletti.
“But Barcelona have shown that even without him, they still have the mentality to develop their game, which is what makes the difference.
“It’s a worry for anyone if Messi plays, but the attitude doesn’t change.
“We’re facing one of the strongest clubs in the world in any case. We need to be better in our reading of the game, but we’re going to mark space, not men.”
Barcelona are top of Group B with maximum points from three games, ahead of Inter Milan who lost 2-0 in Spain.
A draw against Inter would guarantee the Spaniards qualification to the last 16 while victory would secure top spot, with two games still to spare.
Inter need a win to all but book their passage to the last 16 in a group which also includes Tottenham and PSV Eindhoven.
“It’s the time to show what we’re worth,” said Spalletti. 



‘Kid was depressed’: Osaka in first clay quarter-final after ‘rough months’

Updated 25 April 2019
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‘Kid was depressed’: Osaka in first clay quarter-final after ‘rough months’

  • The Japanese star arrived in Stuttgart, where she last played as a qualifier in 2017, after suffering early exits in her last three tournaments
  • Osaka has admitted the difficulty of dealing with the trappings of fame and becoming the world’s top player in recent months

STUTTGART, Germany: World number one Naomi Osaka defeated Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 6-3 in Stuttgart on Thursday to reach her first career clay court quarter-final and admitted she had been left “depressed” after a “rough few months.”
US and Australian Open champion Osaka, who lost to Taiwanese veteran Hsieh in Miami last month, secured a place in the quarter-finals against Croatia’s Donna Vekic as she launched her preparations for Roland Garros.
The Japanese star arrived in Stuttgart, where she last played as a qualifier in 2017, after suffering early exits in her last three tournaments.
Osaka has admitted the difficulty of dealing with the trappings of fame and becoming the world’s top player in recent months, a period which saw her split with coach Sascha Bajin after the Australian Open.
“I am really grateful for everyone that has been really positive toward me. It was really rough the last couple of months. The kid was depressed out there.”
“If there is one positive thing that I can say about myself, it is that I learn quickly,” said Osaka, who reached the last eight of a tournament for the first time since her coaching split.
“Definitely I’ve put a lot on pressure on myself and found it hard to deal with in the first few tournaments.
“Now I start trying to have fun out there, which is what I did before I was number one.”
Osaka, 21, broke Hsieh three times in total to beat Hsieh for the second time in three attempts this year, having also defeated her on the way to lifting the title in Melbourne.
“I did feel like I am in control, but I also felt she is taking more risks than me,” said Osaka.
“She’s a really tricky opponent. You never really know what she’s going to do.”
Osaka needed 84 minutes to dispatch the unconventional Hsieh, ensuring she will hold on to top spot in the rankings for at least another week.
She is less than 200 points ahead of Simona Halep in the WTA rankings, although the Romanian pulled out of this week’s tournament with a hip injury.
Top seed Osaka fought off the only two break points she faced, in a lengthy service hold for 2-all in the opening set, before breaking Hsieh in the following game.
That was sufficient to wrap up the first set, and a Hsieh double-fault handed Osaka a break to start the second before she closed out victory with another service break in a performance that featured 22 winners and just 16 unforced errors.
Osaka will meet Vekic, a 6-1, 7-5 winner over Daria Kasatkina, for a spot in the last four, while Latvian seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova defeated 2017 champion Laura Siegemund 6-4, 6-3.
Sevastova will meet third-ranked Petra Kvitova next.
Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit eased past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-2, while Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens took down Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
German number one Angelique Kerber, who won here in 2015 and 2016, takes on compatriot Andrea Petkovic later.