Xavi denies reports that Barcelona’s leadership is considering firing him

Xavi denies reports that Barcelona’s leadership is considering firing him
The media reports said Laporta is pondering a replacement for Xavi this summer. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 18 May 2024
Follow

Xavi denies reports that Barcelona’s leadership is considering firing him

Xavi denies reports that Barcelona’s leadership is considering firing him

BARCELONA: Xavi Hernández on Saturday denied a slew of reports in Spanish media outlets that Barcelona’s leadership is considering firing the coach for having said that the club’s poor finances will impede it from competing with Real Madrid.
“The club has transmitted to me that I should stay calm and continue working with the same motivation and commitment. Nothing has changed,” Xavi said at a pregame news conference.
Almost all the questions he faced were about the speculation in Spain’s sports press that club president Joan Laporta was upset with Xavi for having said earlier this week that “the situation is very difficult, above all on the economic level, for us to compete with our top rivals, whether it be Real Madrid or teams in Europe.”
The media reports said Laporta is pondering a replacement for Xavi this summer.
Xavi insisted Saturday that he had heard no such thing from the club.
“I don’t know and I don’t care where that information is coming from. I have the support of the president and Deco, our sports director,” the former Barcelona midfielder said.
Neither Laporta nor the club have made any public statements about the rumors. The club said it had no comment on them when asked by The Associated Press.
Even if it Barcelona keeps Xavi on, it is still an awkward situation for a coach who just three weeks prior had reversed a previous decision made in January to leave the club this summer. In April, Xavi said that he had changed his mind after his players showed him that they believed in the team’s potential and had improved their performances.
Laporta inherited a club mired in debts of more than 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion), and soccer’s most expensive payroll, when he returned to run the club for a second time in 2021.
A few months later he brought back fan favorite Xavi, who had been coaching in Qatar, to lead a team rebuild following the exit of superstar Lionel Messi.
But with no cash on hand and mounting debts, Laporta had to sell off future television revenues and other club assets, which Laporta dubbed financial “levers,” to sign Robert Lewandowski and other players two seasons ago.
With those reinforcements, Xavi guided Barcelona to the Spanish league title last campaign. But Barcelona has struggled this season and will finish it without any titles.
Xavi’s words earlier this week seemed aimed at curbing the expectations of fans used to the club making significant signings in the summer.
The club’s wages still exceed the salary cap established by the Spanish league and it is more likely to sell players this off-season than bring in new talent.
Barcelona plays Rayo Vallecano on Sunday seeking a win to lock up a second-placed finish in the domestic league and secure a spot in the Spanish Super Cup.


France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024
Updated 7 sec ago
Follow

France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024

France coach says team doing all to ensure Mbappé available for Netherlands match at Euro 2024
“He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday,″ Deschamps said

LEIPZIG, Germany: France coach Didier Deschamps says his team is doing all “to ensure” Kylian Mbappé is available for the Euro 2024 clash against the Netherlands on Friday.
“Everything is going well, after the shock we had. He was able to take part in some light exercises yesterday and that will be the same this evening″ Deschamps said Thursday. “We’ll do all we can to ensure that he’ll be available tomorrow.”
Mbappé broke his nose in France’s opening 1-0 win over Austria on Monday when his face collided with Austria defender Kevin Danso’s shoulder. Blood stained his white France jersey. If he plays, he’ll need to wear a mask. But it remains uncertain.
Mbappé returned to light training on Wednesday and was expected to continue preparations on Thursday.

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix
Updated 12 min 52 sec ago
Follow

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix

Mitch Evans targets big points at Portland E-Prix
  • Jaguar driver finished third in last season’s Formula E final standings
  • Mitch Evans: I need to have a good weekend if I want to have a really good shot at the drivers’ title

RIYADH: Jaguar driver Mitch Evans is under no illusions he needs to perform strongly at the upcoming Portland E-Prix races if he wants to become Formula E world champion this season.

The New Zealander goes into the double-header races in the US on June 29-30 on the back of his triumph at the Shanghai E-Prix opener, and sits 35 points adrift of team-mate and championship leader Pascal Wehrlein.

With four races to go, and with races in Portland next weekend and London at the end of July, Evans is acutely aware he needs to pick up points and build on his second victory of the campaign.

He said: “Portland is going to be a big weekend for a lot of things. Regardless of what happens to Nick or Pascal, I need to have a good weekend if I want to have a really good shot at the drivers’ title.

“With the teams, we have a healthy margin but there’s still a lot of opportunities for both teams to score well especially in Portland. Last year, the Porsche Powertrain really worked well there, and genuine pace-wise we were a little off so hopefully we have made some progress since then. London will be a good track for us so we just got to keep on doing what we have been doing.”

Meanwhile, Porsche’s Antonio Felix Da Costa, who won the second race in China, admits it will be difficult to mount a title bid but is determined to deliver strong results to help the team secure the constructors’ title.

He said: “With six races to go, there are still a lot of points up for grabs. We are a little far away from the leaders — it’s not totally impossible but it will be difficult. Pascal is up there and that is where the focus will likely be and also in the constructors — and important for both cars to score big points.”


Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win

Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win
Updated 26 min 18 sec ago
Follow

Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win

Late leveler by Serbia denies Slovenia first Euros win
  • Žan Karničnik’s 69th-minute goal put Slovenia on the brink of a historic win until substitute Luka Jović levelled deep in stoppage time
  • The goal sent the Serbia fans into raucous joy but also saw them throw flares and other objects onto the field

MUNICH: A late strike denied Slovenia a first ever win in a European Championship as Serbia snatched a 1-1 draw on Thursday.
Žan Karničnik’s 69th-minute goal put Slovenia on the brink of a historic win until substitute Luka Jović levelled deep in stoppage time.
The goal sent the Serbia fans into raucous joy but also saw them throw flares and other objects onto the field.
The equalizer was virtually the last action as the referee blew fulltime immediately after the players restarted. The Slovenia players collapsed to the ground in disappointment.
It also would have been their first win in a major tournament since victory over Algeria in the 2010 World Cup.
Slovenia play England in their final group match on Tuesday, when Serbia face Denmark. Serbia lost to England in their opener.
With both teams needing a win to boost their chances of progressing, the match started at a fast pace and Serbia goalkeeper Predrag Rajković had to make two early saves.
Those two shots on target in the first eight minutes were as many as Slovenia had in total in their draw with Denmark.
Serbia withstood the waves of Slovenia attacks and had their first chance in the 27th minute but Dušan Vlahović’s header was straight at goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Serbia went even closer moments later when Dušan Tadić whipped in a fabulous corner to the far post but Aleksandar Mitrović — who scored in his previous two matches against Slovenia — couldn’t get a proper touch.
The best chance of the half fell to Slovenia in somewhat fortunate circumstances. Timi Elšnik tried to pass to a teammate, but the ball came off a Serbia defender and fell kindly back to him for a thunderous effort which crashed off the right post. Benjamin Šeško fired the rebound woefully over.
Serbia started the second half with three great chances to break the deadlock inside the first five minutes, including Slovenia defender Jake Bijol almost scoring an own goal.
This tournament has seen plenty of stunning long-range goals and there was almost another in the 58th but Rajković did well to push Šeško’s strike over the bar.
Slovenia eventually broke the deadlock with a move started and finished by Žan Karničnik. The defender won the ball deep inside his own half and ran some 40 yards before picking out Elšnik on the left and racing into the box to collect the cross and tap home at the back post.
Serbia almost levelled immediately but Elšnik hit the crossbar.
Serbia threw everything at Slovenia in the final stages. Even Rajković came up for the final corner but it was Jović who leapt highest to head it past Oblak in the fifth minute of added time.


Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants

Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants
Updated 20 June 2024
Follow

Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants

Serbia FA threatens to quit Euros if UEFA does not punish Croats and Albanians over chants
  • “We will ask UEFA for sanctions, even at the cost of not continuing the competition,” Serbia Football Association general secretary Jovan Surbatovic said
  • The Serbia FA condemned the “shameful racist behavior” of the Albanian and Croatian fans and said the match should have been suspended

BELGRADE: Serbia soccer officials threatened to quit the European Championship after they were offended by fan chants reportedly heard during the Albania-Croatia match.
The game on Wednesday ended 2-2 in Hamburg.
Serbia started their second group match against Slovenia on Thursday afternoon in Munich.
“What happened is scandalous and we will ask UEFA for sanctions, even at the cost of not continuing the competition,” Serbia Football Association general secretary Jovan Surbatovic said.
“We will request UEFA to punish the federations of both teams. We don’t want to participate in that, but if UEFA doesn’t punish them, we will think about how to proceed.”
In a separate statement on Thursday, the Serbia FA condemned the “shameful racist behavior” of the Albanian and Croatian fans and said the match should have been suspended as soon as the chants started.
“Such insulting of a nation with cries that they should be killed has not been seen at sports events for a long time,” the statement added.
UEFA was yet to react.
The animosity between Croatian and Albanian fans toward the Serbs, and vice versa, dates to the 1990s wars in the Balkans.
Serbian fans are notorious for their chants against the Croats and Albanians as well as racist shouts and vocal support of convicted war criminals responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
UEFA fined the Albanian and Serbian federations 10,000 euros ($10,700) each after their first group matches for fans displaying banners with nationalist maps.
Each federation is responsible for the conduct of its fans, and UEFA charged Serbia and Albania with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event.”
Albania fans displayed a banner with a map of their country extending its borders into the territory of neighboring countries. It was shown on Saturday during the 2-1 loss against Italy in Dortmund.
A Serbia fans banner included the territory of Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008, and a slogan, “No Surrender,” in the 1-0 loss against England in Gelsenkirchen.
UEFA has also launched an investigation into claims of monkey chants aimed at England players during the clash.


Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup

Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup
Updated 20 June 2024
Follow

Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup

Dravid wary as India face Afghanistan in T20 World Cup
  • Afghanistan inflicted 84-run hammering upon New Zealand earlier this month
  • India under skipper Rohit Sharma remain unbeaten in ongoing T20 World Cup 

Bridgetown, Barbados: India coach Rahul Dravid warned his side will “not take Afghanistan lightly” in their second-round opener of the T20 World Cup in Barbados on Thursday.

India were unbeaten in the initial pool phase as they advanced into Super Eights featuring two groups of four.

Afghanistan, however, have also justified their billing as potential semifinalists.

They had already qualified for the Super Eights before an emphatic 104-run defeat by a rampant West Indies in St. Lucia on Monday in a clash of previously unbeaten teams, with Nicholas Pooran smashing 98 for the tournament co-hosts.

But Afghanistan did inflict an 84-run hammering upon New Zealand earlier in the competition.

And with India having needed two Super Overs to see off Afghanistan in a T20 match in Bengaluru in January, Dravid is well aware of the challenge awaiting his players at the Kensington Oval.

“We know Afghanistan is a very dangerous team in this format of the game,” former India batsman Dravid, 51 told a pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “They have shown that by their performances in this World Cup.

“They might not have a lot of international experience in the other formats of the game, but a lot of their players do play in a lot of T20 leagues, more than in fact some of our players do.

“So, certainly in this format they are not a team to be taken lightly. They are deservedly in the Super Eights.”

Much of Afghanistan’s success has been built on superb spin bowling, with Rashid Khan — who took four wickets for 17 runs against New Zealand in Guyana — leading the way.

But that same match also saw left-arm quick Fazalhaq Farooqi take 4-17, with New Zealand dismissed for just 75.

“They have a good bowling attack all round,” said Dravid. “Even their two pacers are quite experienced. Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq have both played a lot of cricket, they both swing the ball as well.

“I think their bowlers are some of the most sought-after bowlers in this format across the world.
“We understand that is going to pose a challenge to us and we are going to have to play well to counter that.”

Meanwhile Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott insisted Pooran’s furious assault could yet benefit his side against India.

“Pooran played a great knock,” said the former England batsman. “But other sides are going to have players of that calibre, who on their day can win matches like Pooran did. So, I think it’s a good thing that it’s happened.

“We’ve learned lessons and we’re going to put that right starting tomorrow (Thursday).”

Trott added the advent of T20 franchise cricket, spearheaded by the Indian Premier League, had led to improved relations between players that were “obviously very different from when I played.”

But the 43-year-old said the knowledge gained “works both ways.”

“We had nine, 10 players at the IPL. They will be able to share their knowledge of Indian players, and they’ll be able to do the same with our players,” explained Trott. “That’s the current state of world cricket.

“I think it’s in a good position, and it’s very healthy. And we’re in the middle of a World Cup and we’re in Barbados, so the world’s pretty good.”