Barca look to secure top four spot with win away at Real Betis

Barca look to secure top four spot with win away at Real Betis
Real Betis' Spanish defender Victor Ruiz scissor-kicks the ball next to Getafe's Turkish forward Enes Unal during their Spanish League football match at the Col. Alfonso Perez stadium in Getafe on May 2, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 06 May 2022

Barca look to secure top four spot with win away at Real Betis

Barca look to secure top four spot with win away at Real Betis
  • A victory for Xavi’s side at the Benito Villamarin would also come as a boost to Atletico Madrid

MADRID: Barcelona can seal qualification for next season’s Champions League by beating Real Betis on Saturday as six of La Liga’s top seven go head-to-head in what could be a pivotal weekend in the race for the top four.

Barca, in second, are eight points clear of Betis, in fifth, and if they can extend that gap to 11 with three games left to play, their spot in the Champions League will be secure.

It would represent a significant achievement for the Catalans, despite a disappointing dip in recent weeks meaning the enthusiasm of a few weeks ago, when they thrashed Real Madrid 4-0, has fizzled out.

Xavi Hernandez took over with Barcelona sitting ninth in La Liga, with the very real threat of missing out on the top four hanging over the club, who have debts of more than a billion euros and desperately need the money from playing in Europe’s most lucrative club tournament.

“We have two objectives,” said Xavi last weekend.

“Qualify for the Champions League and then also to finish second.

“But the main thing is to qualify for the Champions League.”

A victory for Xavi’s side at the Benito Villamarin would also come as a boost to Atletico Madrid, who are only three points ahead of Betis, with the local derby at home to Real Madrid to come on Sunday.

Atletico have already said they will not give Real Madrid a guard of honor as champions, a subject that has dominated discussions in Spain in recent days but a gesture they consider to be “an attempt at mockery” that the club insisted has “the aim of humiliation.”

Atletico will hope Real Madrid’s sensational comeback against Manchester City on Wednesday in the Champions League, which required extra time and a heap of emotional and physical energy, might take its toll at the Wanda Metropolitano.

After already wrapping up the league title last weekend with four games to spare, the momentous victory over City means Carlo Ancelotti is expected to rotate against Atletico, with the likes of Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Vinicius Junior all due a rest.

Atletico should be primed to take advantage but Diego Simeone’s side are in the middle of another rocky patch, having won only one of their last six games, including a defeat by Athletic Bilbao last Saturday.

And Atletico can take little comfort from their run-in after this weekend, which will see them finish at home to Sevilla and away at Real Sociedad after a more winnable game away at Elche.

“I’m concerned as I’ve always said,” Simeone said after the loss to Athletic.

“You have to know how to handle difficult moments, which have been rare in these last few years.

“The responsibility is mine and it depends on me whether the players stay calm or not.”

If Betis had been more consistent in recent weeks they might already have Champions League qualification in their own hands but two draws against Real Sociedad and Getafe, either side of a loss at home to Elche, have allowed Atletico to hold their ground.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side may have had their focus diverted by the final of the Copa del Rey, which they won last month against Valencia, but the top four is still within reach, despite difficult remaining games against Barca, Valencia, Granada and then Real Madrid.

Sevilla, in third, are still not home and dry but their six-point lead over their city rivals should be enough, even if they have a tough game on Sunday away at Villarreal.

Unai Emery’s side might still be licking their wounds after their Champions League exit at the hands of Liverpool on Tuesday.

At the other end of the table, Mallorca host Granada on Saturday in what looks a crucial game in the battle to avoid relegation, with Mallorca and Cadiz just one point ahead of Granada as all three teams fight to escape the drop.

Fixtures (GMT)

Friday

Levante vs. Real Sociedad (1900)

Saturday

Mallorca vs. Granada (1200), Athletic Bilbao vs. Valencia (1415), Celta Vigo vs. Alaves (1630), Cadiz vs. Elche (1630), Real Betis vs. Barcelona (1900)

Sunday

Getafe vs. Rayo Vallecano (1200), Villarreal vs. Sevilla (1415), Espanyol vs. Osasuna (1630), Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid (1900)


‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg
Updated 13 August 2022

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg
  • The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus

BERLIN: Eighteen-year-old Englishman Jamie Bynoe-Gittens scored one and created another as Borussia Dortmund came back to defeat Freiburg 3-1 on Friday with all their goals coming in the last 13 minutes of the game.

With the game drifting toward defeat, Dortmund were again able to rely on their young brigade, with Bynoe-Gittens and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko scoring two quick goals to see the visitors pick up a valuable three points in their quest for a sixth Bundesliga title.

Dortmund manager Edin Terzic lauded his side’s depth and praised “game-changer” Bynoe-Gittens.

“With him, it’s pretty simple — he’s got the skills to decide games,” said Terzic.

“He’s a game-changer and (I told him when he came on) I wanted to see that from him.

“We fought back, scored three goals through three substitutes and showed how good the squad is.”

The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus.

Reus teed up Modeste to run into the left side of the penalty box in the 20th minute, forcing Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken into a save.

Modeste also had a chance right in front in the 32nd minute after superb one touch football from Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro, but the Portuguese’s cross was inches too high.

As if stunned into action, Freiburg then flipped a switch, building pressure on a suddenly shaky Dortmund defense.

Roland Sallai won a free kick on the edge of the box with 33 minutes played.

Dead-ball specialist Vincenzo Grifo stepped up to force a fingertip save from Gregor Kobel in goal.

Freiburg took the lead minutes later, when former Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter found Michael Gregoritsch who deftly drifted a header over Kobel and into the top right corner of the goal.

Terzic turned to youth halfway through the second half, bringing on Bynoe-Gittens and Moukoko to introduce some potency to Dortmund’s attack.

Known more for his dribbling and assists, the Englishman equalized with a stunning strike from outside the box.

While his shot was helped by a poor attempted save from Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken, the goal spurred Bynoe-Gittens and Dortmund into action

The former Manchester City academy player had a chance to put his side in front after 82 minutes, but was unable to control a sharp Marius Wolf pass with the goal begging.

He then set up Dortmund’s second just a minute later when he slalomed past several Freiburg defenders on the edge of the area before delivering a no-look pass to Julian Brandt.

Brandt, who had also been brought on by Terzic in the second half, found Moukoko in the box, with the teenager whipping in from close range.

Wolf, another who was subbed on in the second half, then put the result beyond doubt in the 88th minute, striking powerfully across goalkeeper Flekken and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The game was manager Terzic’s ninth win in a row in charge of Dortmund, breaking a record set by former mentor Juergen Klopp a decade ago.

The loss continues a poor run of home form for Freiburg recently, with the Breisgauer now conceding 16 goals in their last six games at Europa Park Stadium.

Despite the loss, Freiburg manager Christian Streich said he was impressed by his side’s “unlucky” performance.

“We played a good game, I’m satisfied,” he said.

“Ultimately we lost, it’s a shame... but it doesn’t achieve anything to think we were unlucky to lose the game.”


Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees

Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees
Updated 13 August 2022

Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees

Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees
  • Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Erling Haaland and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo were all included, as were Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min

PARIS: Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi was omitted from the 30-man list of nominees for the prestigious award on Friday for the first time since 2005.

The Argentina great edged out Poland striker Robert Lewandowski for the Ballon d’Or last year but wasn’t nominated this time after an underwhelming first season at Paris Saint-Germain.

The 35-year-old forward also won the prize in 2019 — it was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Neymar also missed the cut this time.

Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Erling Haaland and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo were all included, as were Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

Alexia Putellas, Ada Hegerberg, Sam Kerr and Vivianne Miedema were on the list of 20 female nominees. US players Alex Morgan, Catarina Macario and Trinity Rodman were also named.

The men’s list features six Manchester City players: Phil Foden, Joao Cancelo, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, and new signing Haaland (formerly Borussia Dortmund).

Liverpool also has six nominees: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luis Diaz, Fabinho, Darwin Nunez, Salah and Virgil van Dijk.

Mane, who helped Senegal win their first African Cup before leaving Liverpool for Bayern Munich, is included, as is Bayern teammate Joshua Kimmich.

Benzema leads a group of six Real Madrid players. The others are Casemiro, Thibaut Courtois, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and new signing Antonio Rudiger.

The other nominated players are Sebastien Haller (Ajax), Rafael Leao and Mike Maignan (both of AC Milan), Christopher Nkunku (Leipzig), and Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus).

The award will be presented on Oct. 17.

Among changes announced in March, the award is now being awarded based on performances over the course of a regular European season, rather than a calendar year. A reduction in the number of voters was among other changes, with the goal of streamlining the process. Voters also will no longer consider a player’s career accomplishments.

France Football magazine has given out the award to men every year since 1956 and to women each year since 2018 — when Hegerberg became the first female winner — though both were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Putellas became the third winner of the women’s award last year. Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Aitana Bonmati was also nominated.

Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze and Beth Mead — who helped England win the European Championship — were included.

France has four players on the list: Selma Bacha, Kadidiatou Diani, Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Wendie Renard.

The other nominated women are Christiane Endler, Lena Oberdorf, Asizat Oshoala, Alexandra Popp and Fridolina Rolfo.


Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff

Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff
Updated 12 August 2022

Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff

Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff
  • The former number one made hard work of her triumph over the rising American teenager
  • Halep needed a second-set tiebreaker to advance into the semi-finals in just under two hours

TORONTO, Canada: Simona Halep served twice for her match against Coco Gauff without success on Friday before finally securing a 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) quarter-final victory at the WTA Toronto Masters.
The former number one, a two-time winner in Canada, made hard work of her triumph over the rising American teenager who just missed a chance at cracking the world ranking top-10 for the first time.
Halep needed a second-set tiebreaker to advance into the semifinals in just under two hours.
Double Grand Slam champion Halep earned her leading 183rd match win at the Masters 1000 level. She now owns 36 victories in 2022.
Gauff fired a backhand into the net on Halep’s first match point to end the encounter and lose her eighth straight set against the 30-year-old Romanian.
On Saturday, Halep will play her 29th Masters semifinal against the winner of a later match between US seventh seed Jessica Pegula or Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.


Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats

Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats
Updated 12 August 2022

Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats

Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats
  • "Willian asked us for his (contract) termination," said club president Duilio Monteiro Alves
  • "Whenever Corinthians lost and I didn't play well, my family received threats and insults on social media," Willian told the Globo Esporte website

SAO PAULO: Former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Willian quit Corinthians on Friday following the Brazilians’ Copa Libertadores elimination against domestic rivals Flamengo, after claiming he and his family received death threats on social media.
“Willian asked us for his (contract) termination. We are sad not to have him anymore and also because it didn’t go the way we expected. But we have to keep those here that are happy,” said club president Duilio Monteiro Alves.
It was only a year ago that the 34-year-old only rejoined the club where he made his professional debut in 2006. Local media have linked him with a move to promoted English Premier League side Fulham.
The return to Corinthians in Sao Paulo quickly turned sour for Willian both on the pitch where he scored one goal in 45 matches, and off it.
“Whenever Corinthians lost and I didn’t play well, my family received threats and insults on social media. My wife, my children, recently they also started attacking my father, my sister,” Willian told the Globo Esporte website.
“I didn’t play as well as I expected but I was never a player who scored 20 or 30 goals a season,” he told ESPN Brasil on Wednesday.
Willian, who also played for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine and Russians Anzhi Makhachkala, leaves the club three days after they were eliminated from the Copa Libertadores quarter-finals by Flamengo, 3-0 on aggregate.


Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header
Updated 12 August 2022

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header
  • Season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will climax in South Korea with rounds 15 and 16 this weekend
  • Four drivers still in contention for the title as Formula E makes its South Korean debut on specially designed track

SEOUL: Season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will climax in South Korea this weekend with the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix, where the champion driver and team will be crowned and the world’s first all-electric motorsport series will mark 100 races.
Eleven teams and 22 drivers have competed in Formula E’s biggest racing season to date with rounds 15 and 16 to come this Saturday and Sunday, and four drivers still in contention for the title at the top of the standings.
It will be the first time Formula E has raced in South Korea with the E-Prix taking place on a unique track constructed around and even looping through the Jamsil Olympic Stadium, the first world championship sporting event held at the venue since the Olympic Games in 1988.
Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way for Mercedes-EQ in a bid to make it back-to-back wins following their Drivers’ and Teams’ World Championship success last year in season seven.
The Belgian extended his lead to 36 points over nearest rival Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) during the SABIC London E-Prix two weeks ago that saw his closest competitors falter.
While Vandoorne has achieved only one win this season compared with three each for Evans and Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) in third place, Vandoorne has the most podium finishes and has scored on 13 occasions, taking the honor from Daniel Abt as the most consistent points finisher in a campaign.
Vandoorne’s last four rounds have all yielded top-four finishes and a pair of podiums: The gauntlet has been thrown by the Mercedes-EQ driver.
Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had worked his way into closest contention of top spot, but a technical problem in London put a huge dent in his chances. The Kiwi was on track to pin Vandoorne back to a 22-point lead, but an inverter problem at the end of round 14 forced him to retire.
In third and fourth, respectively, Edoardo Mortara and DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne have it all to do.
Mortara topped the standings at the halfway stage of the season after a run of two wins and two more podiums in Berlin and Jakarta. Since then, the Swiss has managed only two low-scoring points finishes in New York City and a pair of non-scores in London, but he remains just five points back from Evans.
Similarly, Vergne has hit his worst-ever run in Formula E, with four consecutive blanks for the first time in the championship. While it is an uncharacteristic return from the Frenchman, JEV is the only driver in the top four to have won the world championship — twice — and experience could still earn a place on the podium.
In the team championship race, Mercedes-EQ stretched its lead in London, with silverware for both de Vries and Vandoorne.
Back-to-back titles look to be on with a 36-point margin on ROKiT Venturi Racing in second, with DS Techeetah behind the Monegasque outfit by 11 points.
On Sunday, the second race of the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix double-header will be Formula E’s 100th E-Prix, also marking the end of the Gen2 era, the second version of Formula E race car.
The centenary E-Prix will mark three major generational leaps in EV technology and industry-leading sustainability achievements ahead of the debut in season nine of the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car built yet, the Gen3.