Hertha out for Union revenge in Berlin derby

Schalke’s Daniel Caligiuri has his free kick blocked by Borussia Dortmund players during their Bundesliga match last Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Hertha out for Union revenge in Berlin derby

  • The return match would in normal times have been a 74,000 sellout

BERLIN: Hertha Berlin will look to build on their winning return to Bundesliga action last weekend following the coronavirus suspension and avenge November’s derby defeat by city rivals Union when the pair meet on Friday in the German capital.

Union, the side from the east of Berlin, pulled off a famous 1-0 win over their west Berlin rivals when the teams met for the first time in the top division this season. The return match at Hertha’s Olympic Stadium home would in normal times have been a 74,000 sellout.

“We all remember the match at the Alten Foersterei. It was a black, black, day. Now we’ve got the chance to put it behind us just a bit,” said Hertha’s general manager Michael Preetz. “The conditions are very different, therefore it’s a different sort of derby,” added Hertha coach Bruno Labbadia, who started with a win in his first match last Saturday.

The Bundesliga became the first major European league to resume last weekend following the two-month shutdown, with draconian hygiene measures enforced at all matches across the country.

Players are undergoing regular virus tests while games are being played behind closed doors as part of strict guidelines approved by the government.

Germany’s top two tiers will pay tribute to the victims of the virus outbreak over the course of the next two rounds of matches. More than 8,000 people have died in the country, which has reported over 175,000 cases of COVID-19.

“The spread of the coronavirus has already taken many lives throughout the world. German professional football would like to express its condolences on the next two matchdays,” said German league chief executive Christian Seifert.

Players will also wear black armbands and observe a moment of reflection before the start of each match.

Union coach Urs Fischer missed the 2-0 loss at home to Bayern Munich last weekend after breaking the team quarantine following a family bereavement.

Borussia Dortmund will try to keep pace with leaders Bayern Munich away to Wolfsburg ahead of Tuesday’s crucial top-two showdown at Signal Iduna Park, although they could be without captain Marco Reus for the remainder of the season due to a thigh injury.

Bayern, four points clear at the top, host Eintracht Frankfurt, who won 5-1 in the reverse fixture — inflicting the heaviest league defeat on Bayern since 2009 and putting an end to Niko Kovac’s turbulent spell in charge.

Champions League quarterfinalists RB Leipzig go to Mainz on Sunday, having have fallen behind in the title chase after three successive draws. Julian Nagelsmann’s side set a club record with an 8-0 win when the teams met in November.

Bayer Leverkusen picked up where they left off before the league’s suspension with a 4-1 rout of Werder Bremen, Kai Havertz further enhancing his reputation by scoring twice as the club made it 10 wins in their last 11 games in all competitions.

The 20-year-old Havertz, who saw Florian Wirtz (17 years and 15 days) break his record on Monday as Leverkusen’s youngest Bundesliga debutant, has emerged as one of the best young forwards in Europe and is attracting interest from several of the continent’s top clubs.

With nine goals and seven assists since the turn of the year, Leverkusen will hope for more from Havertz when they take on third-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach.

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Fixtures (1330 GMT unless stated)

Friday: Hertha Berlin vs. Union Berlin (1830)

Saturday: Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund, Freiburg vs. Werder Bremen, Paderborn vs. Hoffenheim, Bayern Munich vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (1630)

Sunday: Schalke vs. Augsburg (1130), Mainz vs. RB Leipzig (1330), Cologne vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf (1600)


Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

Updated 18 September 2020

Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

  • The 25-year-old became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994
  • The MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals

LOS ANGELES: Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said Friday he’ll treasure his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player award and redouble his efforts to capture a league crown.
The 25-year-old from Greece became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.
“Michael Jordan, one of the best players who’s ever done it, if not the best,” Antetokounmpo said, speaking from a rooftop in Athens during the televised announcement of the award. “Hakeem, a guy that I look up to, he came from where I’m from, Nigeria, where I have roots.
“Just being in the same sentence with them, that means a lot to me.”
The player dubbed the “Greek Freak” became the 12th player to win back-to-back MVPs, joining Jordan, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
But, once again, the MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Last year, Antetokounmpo won the MVP only for eventual champion Toronto to oust the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously I would love to be still in the bubble playing games, fighting,” Antetokounmpo said. “But at the end of the day I won the award. I’m extremely blessed.
“It’s been a long journey,” Antetokounmpo added. “The people that know me, the people that know my story, you can never take these moments for granted.”
Antetokounmpo won in a landslide, receiving 85 first-place votes from a global panel of sports reporters and broadcasters, the league announced on Friday.
Los Angeles Lakers star James received 16 first-place votes and the third finalist, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, did not receive any first-place votes.
The voting was based on performance from the start of the season through March 11, when play was shut down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
It did not included the “seeding games” played when teams in contention for playoff spots once play resumed in Orlando.
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in leading the Bucks to the best regular-season record in the pandemic-disrupted season.
But he had to watch from the sidelines as the Heat won game five of their semifinal series, nursing a sprained ankle suffered in game three and aggravated in game four.
“Obviously, I am disappointed to not be able to help our team go to the third round,” he said. “That feeling cannot take away from this award.
“I’m happy for this award, but I want more,” he said. “I want to be a champion.”
As a veteran entering his eighth season, Antetokounmpo will be eligible to receive a supermax contract extension from the Bucks.
The Bucks reportedly plan to extend that offer as soon as they can — after the 2019-20 season officially ends.
There has been widespread speculation as to whether a player of Antetokounmpo’s stature will be happy to remain in the small market of Milwaukee.
He met with Bucks owners including Marc Lasry before heading to Greece and has indicated he’d be open to staying.
Providing he’s convinced the team is determined to invest the resources to pursue a title, Antetokounmpo said Friday, “I don’t see why not to be in Milwaukee for the next 15 years.”