Posts Tagged andy murray

During the Week: Two Wins for D’Tigers, Secret Medical’s Better & More


While the country remains grappled in deadlocked dialogue between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government, sustained poor power supply, uncertainty over the status of Shekau’s heartbeat or lack of, a couple of errant pastors and what not, some of her sportsmen have provided a good bit of reprieve from those… at least for me.

At Cote D’ivoire, the African Basketball Championships (Afrobasket 2013) dunked/tipped off on Tuesday with the host nation easing to a 64-47 win over Algeria in Group A while Senegal came through a close encounter against Egypt 72-70 winners.

Nigeria’s campaign began on Wednesday with a 74-59 win over Mali in Group D while neighbours Cameroun fared even better, defeating Congo 74-43 in the group’s other match. Defending champions Tunisia meanwhile edged Morocco 56-54 in Group B and favourites Angola opened their account with a 75-50 win over Cape Verde in Group C.

Nigeria then recorded a convincing 93-75 win over Congo on Friday night to seal qualification from the group stage for D’Tigers. Cote D’Ivoire and Angolan are pretty much through following wins in their respective second matches on Thursday, with the Ivorians beating Senegal 74-46 while Angola got a 91-73 win over Mozambique.

Also on Thursday, back home, in football, Warri Wolves qualified for the final of the Federations Cup courtesy of a 2-1 win over Akwa United in a replayed semi-final encounter after the initial match on Wednesday was halted due to bad weather with scores level at 1-1.

Wolves will now face Enyimba of Aba that had earlier reached the final thanks to a lone goal win over Lobi Stars, making it the fifth time in eight seasons the Aba Elephants have reached the final of the competition.

Enyimba’s focus however returns to the league, where they travel to face fourth placed Kwara United in Ilorin in one of this weekend’s matches, as both sides hope to sustain their contention for the league title.

Two other teams in direct contention too; champions Kano Pillars and Bayelsa United, come up against Sharks of Port Harcourt and ABS of Ilorin respectively, aiming to take advantage of the result from Ilorin and consolidate their title charge.

Beaten Fed. Cup semifinalists Akwa United and Lobi Stars will also be home this weekend, with Akwa Utd taking on Shooting Stars while Naze Millionaires Heartland will be Lobi’s guests at Makurdi.

Other matches will have Dolphins at home to Rangers in Port Harcourt, Sunshine Stars visiting relegation threatened Wikki Tourists in Bauchi, Elkanemi Warriors hosting Warri Wolves in Maiduguri and Nembe City making the short trip to face Kaduna United.

In England, Manchester City got their season underway in emphatic fashion, handing Newcastle United a 4-0 thumping at the Etihad to go top of the league ahead of city rivals Man. United. And City will look to build on Monday’s thrashing when they pay Welsh newcomers Cardiff City a visit on Sunday.

Before then, Arsenal will get the weekend’s Premier League programme going when they visit Fulham in a London affair on Saturday. The Gunners go into that encounter with fragile confidence following a 3-0 win at Istanbul against Fenerbahçe in a Champions League playoff match.

While Laurent Koscielny’s early injury looked to be the start of another miserable evening, an inspired second half (especially from Aaron Ramsey) saw the Gunners virtually book their place in the group stage with the margin of victory, which came through goals from Kieran Gibbs, Ramsey and a Giroud penalty.

In other first leg UEFA Champions League playoff matches played in midweek, two spectacular, better-after-every-view goals gave Real Sociedad a commanding 2-0 win at the Gerland against Olympique Lyon, PSV Eindhoven and AC Milan played out a 1-1 draw as did Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki at Schalke 04.

Zenit eased to a 4-1 win at Pacos Ferreira of Portugal and Switzerland’s FC Basel won 4-2 at Ludogorets Razgrad but the biggest result came from Kazakhstan where Scottish champions Celtic got shocked in a 2-0 loss to Shakhter Karagandy… that had a sheep ‘sacrificed’ before kickoff.

Down in the Europa League, Marko Marin scored twice either side of a Kevin Gameiro goal for temporal club Sevilla, as the Spaniards came from a goal down to slaughter Slask Wroclaw 4-1 in one of several first leg qualifying matches played on Thursday.

Fomer Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez began competitive life as a Fiorentina striker in good form, scoring in la Viola’s 2-1 win at Grasshoppers while Wilfried Bony continued his in like manner as Swansea City recorded a 5-1 win at home to Petrolul Ploiesti of Romania.

Elsewhere, Udinese lost 3-1 at home Sloban Liberec, Spartak Moscow drew 1-1 at St. Gallen and Roberto Soldado made it three goals in two appearances for Tottenham Hotspur in the 5-0 win at Dinamo Tbilisi, scoring twice for the Londoners on the night.

That win should’ve been the cake on which Willian’s £30m arrival would be the icing. Spurs looked set to land the attacker, weeks after usurping Liverpool for him, until Roman Abramovich whistled by with an extra £2m to hijack that and ensure the Brazilian attacker would now join Chelsea instead, even after having his medical at Spurs; something Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho implied should have been kept secret in an amusing press conference.

Now everyone’s wondering why Chelsea would move for Willian when there’re Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Kevin de Bruyne, Andre Schürrle and dear Victor Moses already choking in that department… I already wrote about that here. Besides, the Brazilian made quite an impression on Chelsea while with Shakhtar Donetsk.

Willian’s imminent arrival at the Bridge, coupled with Mourinho saying the club could bid for Wayne Rooney again afterwards, fills Monday night’s league clash between the Blues and champions Manchester United at Old Trafford with even more expectation than already anticipated.

For Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas, the sentiment would be different, whatever the outcome of their home match against Swansea on Sunday is. With Gareth Bale set to join Real Madrid, Willian would have been an ideal replacement though the Lillywhites will now pursue a deal to bring in Erik Lamela from AS Roma.

The Italian side; that has already parted with Marquinhos and Pablo Osvaldo but brought in Gervinho and Kevin Strootman, begin their league campaign away at Livorno on Sunday while the Serie A season kicks off on Saturday at Verona where last season’s third placed side AC Milan are visitors of newly promoted Hellas Verona.

Champions Juventus, on a high after claiming the Super Cup in emphatic manner, then play at Sampdoria later on Saturday while Napoli host Bologna, Genoa visit Inter Milan and Lazio host Udinese in some of Sunday’s matches there.

In Spain, champions Barcelona visit Malaga on Sunday without Lionel Messi who went off injured in the 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Super Cup. Atletico host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday while city rivals Real visit Granada on Monday.

In France, Monaco went top of the league for the moment after being held to a goalless draw by Toulouse on Friday night, thus failing to equal a record of a newly promoted side winning the opening three Ligue 1 matches, a record held by Toulouse.

Lyon can now regain top spot with a win at home to Reims, while Olympique Marseille or St. Etienne could also go top if they win respective matches against Valenciennes and Lille and other results go their way. Elsewhere, PSG visit newly promoted Nantes in search of a first win this season following two draws so far.

Penultimately in Tennis, draws for the last grand slam of the year sees third seed Andy Murray begin his title defence against Michaël Llodra, well ahead of a potential semifinal against top seed Novak Djokovic; whom Murray beat to win last year’s title.

And unlike before when a Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer match would’ve been the potential second semifinal, both men could potentially face each other a round earlier in the quarterfinal instead; owing largely to Federer dropping to seventh in the lastest world rankings, his lowest rank since 2002.

The women’s draw sees too seed and defending champion Serena Williams starting off her US Open defence against veteran Francesca Schiavone. And barring any upsets, Serena would face second seed Victoria Azarenka in the final in a fortnight.

The US Open will serve off on Monday without world number three Maria Sharapova who withdrew from the slam due to an ‘inflamation’ in her shoulder. Probably what happens when you consider changing your name to ‘Sugarpova’ for the duration of the grand slam.

Finally on this day after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced he’ll retire next year, Thomas Edison patented the motion picture camera in 1891 while in 1981, Mark David Chapman is sentenced 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Beatles singer John Lennon.

And happy birthday to everyone celebrating their birthday today, including Nigerian football striker Joseph Akpala, Portuguese fullback Jose Bosingwa, American comedian Dave Chappelle, Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn and Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom. Deceased former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have been 84 today as well.

Now I’m off to sort my fantasy league team. Have yourself a great weekend then.

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Over the Weekend: Brazil on Fire, Pirelli’s Bad Tyres, Goodbye Oliha & More


The Brazilian national team have inadvertently granted their government massive reprieve by winning the Confederations Cup to appease a population discontent with the government; mostly triggered by a recent increase in bus fares and sustained by the amounts spent to ensure the South American nation successfully host next year’s World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016.

For the moment, the manner of the Samba Boys’ 3-0 humbling of Spain, achieved through a Fred brace early in each half either side of a Neymar striker, will be remembered for a long time in the same manner Bayern Munich’s masterclass over Barcelona in the semifinal of last season’s UEFA Champions League is remembered.

Worthy of being remembered as well is the third place match between Italy and Uruguay, a match of three well taken freekicks which the Italians eventually won 3-2 on penalties after scores was level at 2-2 after regular and extra time.

Victory for the Italians was ensured by Juventus stalwart Gianluigi Buffon who saved three penalties in the shootout and redeem (or more like reaffirm) his status as a legendary goalkeeper, which was brought to question in regular time by Edinson Cavani’s brace for the reigning South American champions.

Cavani’s goals, including a 78th minute peach of a freekick to get Uruguay on level terms again, would certainly tempt Napoli president De Laurentis to increase his €63m valuation of the striker who has been linked to Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s value could’ve increased as well if he wasn’t on the books of Championship side QPR… but not for long if reports that he is Arsenal bound are to be followed. Heading to north London with him is midfielder Paulinho, but to the White Hart Lane side of NL, whose fans would surely be highly expectant of his arrival following a good display at the Confederations Cup.

Already highly expectant are Barcelona fans of Neymar who put in another good display to further more debunk arguments that he may be a tad bit overrated. Imagine a front trio there with him and Pedro just behind Lionel Messi, ably supported by Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets or Fabregas… or Thiago Alcantara who basically snubbed Manchester United via Instagram on Saturday (damn, that’s just cold blooded!).

In danger of getting snubbed as well, unless they find a fix to the mess of rubber made in Formula 1 is Pirelli, whose tyres ensured the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was eventful to the extreme while costing championship leader Sebastien Vettel valuable points.

It all started in the practice sessions when Sergio Perez suffered a punctured tyre. Then Mark Webber damaged his front wing at the very start of race proper, debris from which may have caused home favourite Lewis Hamilton’s left rear tyre getting destroyed in the eighth lap to have him relinquish his lead, followed by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who suffered exactly same fate at same area on the track as Hamilton in the 11th lap… followed soon after by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne with the same puncture.

Vergne later became the first driver to retire on the day after 37 laps and was soon followed out by Vettel after the German driver lost his gearbox while in the lead. Then Perez’s terrible weekend came to an end as he had to retire from the race with a tyre failure in the 46th lap.

Hamilton recovered very well from last position to tussle for third spot and a podium finish with Fernando Alonso, but eventually settled for fourth. Massa did well too to come from well behind and finish in sixth, just behind a seemingly weary Kimi Raikkonen.

In the end, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg (friends with Lukas Podolski) won the dramatic race, holding off the late charge of Red Bull’s Webber by 0.7 seconds while Alonso finished third after he usurped Raikkonen.

As for the tyre drama, blame is in fact being pointed at the teams after it was revealed that three teams had voted against Pirelli bringing in new tyres made specifically for the Silverstone track, tyres which were secretly tested with the Mercedes team earlier in the season, around the time David Moyes was revealed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United.

The Scotsman officially begins work at Old Trafford today; as does Manuel Pellegrini down the road at the Etihad, with the transfer situation with Wayne Rooney his prime concern for the moment. The Red Devils also have had a £12m bid for Leighton Baines rejected by their manager’s former club Everton.

To ease the bit of headache for him on the transfer front and in the backroom where Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen have left is the appointment of Steve Round as his assistant along with a couple more entrants to OT from his backroom staff at Goodison Park.

Wrapping up, it is sad to hear of the death of former Super Eagles midfielder Thompson Oliha, aged 44. Until his death, Oliha was the head coach of the Kwara Football Academy (KFA) in Ilorin, Kwara State. May he soul rest in peace, amen.

On that note, it’s a wrap from me. Looking forward to Nigeria’s U20 national team take on their Uruguayan counterparts on Tuesday in a second round match at the ongoing World Youth Championship in Turkey. All the best to the Flying Eagles there, vengeance must be attained following the Super Eagles’ loss to Uruguay at the Confederations Cup last week.

Before then Wimbledon resumes today with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray scheduled to play against veterans Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny respectively.

On this day in 1903, the first Tour de France began and today, the 100th edition of cycling’s most prestigeous competition rode off. Also on this day in 1881, the world’s first international telephone call was made between St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada and Calais, Maine in the United States. Today however, my sister in the bedroom could call me; just right there in the living room, on my mobile when a simple yell of my name would suffice… if I’m bothered enough to answer.

Today also marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Abramovich era at Chelsea, the birthday of former American athlete Carl Lewis (52), American rapper Missy Elliott (42), former Dutch internationals Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooij (both 37)and actress Liv Tyler from the Lord of the Rings fame (36).

Late Princess Diana was born today in 1961 as was Carol Chomsky, deceased wife of foremost linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky. And today marks the ninth anniversary of the death of actor Marlon Brando.

Have a great week ahead wherever you are, mine began yesterday with my brother’s birthday. Many happy returns to him and to everyone else celebrating this week. Cheers!

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Over the Weekend: New Managers, New Ranking Order and More


Easter greetings to you as the long weekend snails to an end, with the unpleasantly pleasant day of April Fools’ being its last day. Will there be pranks in the following paragraphs? Having supported Arsenal for the better part of the last 15 years going on 16 and lived through Wenger’s press conferences all that time… “I don’t want to comment on speculation.”

The Arsenal manager had little need for evasive answers however, following the club’s 4-1 win over relegation threatened Reading on Saturday in Nigel Adkins first match as Reading manager, having lost 6-1 to Arsenal earlier this season while at Southampton.

The result took the Gunners within two points of fourth place on the Premier League table; a spot currently occupied by Chelsea that was beaten 2-1 at Southampton. Chelsea’s loss favoured all concerned at north London; a bit to every gooners’ dismay though, as Tottenham Hotspur went up to third place, two points ahead of Chelsea, with a 2-1 win at a Swansea City side that look like it can’t be bothered to having a go in matches ever since claiming the League Cup title.

Knew such could happen after Swans manager Michael Laudrup felt after that League Cup win that getting 10 points from their last 10 matches/30 points would be alright. Swansea’s seeming nonchalance has now ‘helped’ both north London clubs in the club’s last two league matches; very much to every Chelsea fan’s disappointment I imagine.

With the yet-to-be-relieved interim manager Rafael Benitez tinkering his team; most notably leaving out Juan Mata (who officially was ill), one may want to blame the loss at the coast on the Blues having an eye on tonight’s FA Cup quarterfinal replay at home to Manchester United.

However, the Red Devils, also with an eye on tonight’s tie, had manager Sir Alex Ferguson shuffling the team just a bit in the early kick-off at Sunderland and still coming away with a lone goal win that, for a few hours opened an 18 point gap at the top. Manchester City later restored that gap to 15 points with a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle United.

For Sunderland, the loss led to the sacking of Martin O’Neill who in no time was replaced Sunday night with the appointment of charismatic, former West Ham United player and more recently former Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio, handed the task of keeping Sunderland in the top flight with eight matches to play.

The Italian manager, who only has Swindon on his managerial CV though did lead them to League One by winning League Two last season, quit the lower league club earlier last month in quite dramatic circumstances and one would expect some more of that to come up now at Sunderland… drama trailed Di Canio in his playing days and spectacularly so (apparently) in his first managerial job.

While awaiting that, Sharks of Port-Harcourt caused a bit of a stir when it unveiled now former manager of Sunshine Stars, Gbenga Ogunbote, as its Technical Adviser during the halftime break of its goalless draw with city rivals Dolphins in a Nigeria Professional Football League match.

First, the unveiling couldn’t have been done before or after the match? Compared however to the fact that Ogunbote will only sign an agreement on Tuesday (rather than a proper contract, long story), the unusual halftime unveiling takes a slightly more trivial position in the whole charade reminiscent of former TA Austin Eguavoen’s arrival at the club.

One also must question the motivation behind Ogunbote leaving a Sunshine team he led to the last four of last season’s CAF Champions League (albeit with fortune’s favour), a team that hasn’t lost its opening four league matches and lies in fifth place with a game in hand, for a club that currently is second from bottom following a woeful start to the campaign.

At the other, brighter, top end of the table, champions Kano Pillars remain in top spot after a 3-2 win at ABS in Ilorin; its second away win this season. Pillars now have 12 points from five matches, a point ahead of Rangers that needed two goals in the closing 10 minutes to get a 3-1 win at home to Kwara United.

Elsewhere, Shooting Stars raced to a three goal lead but in the end held on for a 3-2 win over Wikki Tourists and rise to third place on nine points, with Akwa United now fourth also on nine points courtesy of a 3-0 win over Bayelsa United.

Other results saw Warri Wolves claim a point in a goalless draw at Enyimba despite playing a better part of the last half hour there with 10 men, Heartland thrashed Gombe United 4-0 to rise into the top half of the league, as did Nembe City now in 10th place after a 2-1 win over bottom side El-Kanemi Warriors while the match between Sunshine Stars and Lobi Stars was postponed due to the latter’s continental engagement this week.

Going further north on the continent, the young Pharaohs of Egypt won the Africa Youth Championship in Algeria 5-4 on penalties, as the final match against Ghana on Saturday ended 1-1 after regular and extra time. Nigeria last Friday had finished third with a 2-1 win over Mali in the third place play-off.

Expectedly, the AYC’s Best 11 is dominated by Egypt that had five of their players named, including Saleh Gomaa who was also named Player of the Tournament. Abduljaleel Ajagun was the only Nigerian player on the list, strangely, as golden boot winner Aminu Umar; who finished with seven goals, was left out.

The Flying Eagles meanwhile will face Portugal, South Korea and Cuba in Group B of the World Youth Championship. Egypt find themselves in Group E with England, Chile and Iraq while Mali will face Mexico, Greece and Paraguay in Group D. Ghana on their part will come up against France, Spain and the United States in what potentially is the group of death at the WYC holding later this year in Turkey from June.

Well before then, Turkish giants Galatasaray visit Spanish giants Real Madrid in a first leg quarterfinal UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday night, with Madrid heading into that encounter on a bit of a low after only managing a 1-1 draw at Real Zaragoza in a Primera Liga match.

That result meant Jose Mourinho’s side remain 13 points off the pace in La Liga having failed to take advantage of Barcelona being held to a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo, a match that saw Lionel Messi score his 43rd league goal and create a record of scoring in 19 consecutive league matches, as well as joining Cristiano Ronaldo as a player to have scored against every other team in that league. Those two are a pleasant scare with their footballing prowess.

Elsewhere in the major European leagues, Bayern Munich is now a match from claiming the Bundesliga title after spelling out the opponent’s name, with two to spare, in a scary and scarring 9-2 rout of S.V. Hamburg (okay, the nine letters are now accounted for).

Scarier was the fact that it was third choice striker Claudio Pizarro that led the massacre with four goals. And the message will surely have been crystal to Italian champions Juventus that visit the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night in another Champions League quarterfinal encounter.

Juve prepared for that with a 2-1 Derby d’Italia win at Inter Milan to remain nine points clear of second placed Napoli that won 5-3 in a thrilling match at Torino, and a further two points ahead of AC Milan that claimed a lone goal win at Chievo Verona.

As if that wasn’t an exciting enough match-up to look forward to, Ligue Un leaders Paris Saint Germain; with an extra day’s rest and home advantage, welcome Barcelona to the Parc Des Princes in Tuesday night’s other quarterfinal match-up.

Finally in Tennis, Andy Murray continued his ascendency by replacing Roger Federer as the world number two player after capturing the Sony Open title with a 2-6 6-4 7-6 win over David Ferrer. Ferrer himself rose to fourth on the rankings to replace Spanish compatriot Rafael Nadal who now occupies fifth place.

The new rankings suggest the coming French and Wimbledon Open will be one of the most competitive grand slams held in recent times, barring injuries, with the top five players heading to them in good form along with the likes of Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych. In the female section, Serena Williams claimed a sixth Miami title win courtesy of a straight sets defeat of Maria Sharapova.

With that, it’s a wrap here. There’s the FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge tonight as well as a chance for QPR to come within five points of safety in the Premier League match at Fulham to look forward to.

Then Champions League quarterfinal matches on Tuesday and Wednesday followed quarterfinal matches in the Europa League on Thursday mean it’s an eventful start to the month of April and indeed the second quarter of 2013.

Have a great week ahead and hey, don’t get fooled out there.

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During the Week: Eguavoen Out, Heats Doused and More


For the first time since the Nigeria Professional Football League began on March 9, no away win was recorded yet Matchday Four witnessed the most number of teams pick up a point on the road.

At Maiduguri Bayelsa United was two goals up and looking full value for a win that would’ve taken the Yenagoa club top of the league, only for El-Kanemi to score two goals in the closing half hour and claim a share of the spoils.

Sunshine Stars also conceded late on to settle for a 1-1 draw at Dolphins while Enugu Rangers and Enyimba were also held to 1-1 draws at Kaduna United and Nembe City respectively, with Nasarawa United coming away from Warri with a point in a goalless draw against Wolves.

The drawn matches played out by Sunshine, Rangers, Enyimba and Bayelsa allowed champions Kano Pillars return to the top of the league courtesy of a 2-0 win at home to Shooting Stars. Pillars now have nine points from four matches, ahead of Sunshine Stars and Rangers by point. Kwara United lies fourth on the standings, also a point behind Pillars, after beating Heartland by a lone goal in Ilorin.

In other matches, Wikki Tourists climbed five places from the foot of the table with a 2-0 win over Akwa United while Sharks of Port-Harcourt dropped to the bottom of the league with a 2-0 loss at Gombe United.

Apart from putting Sharks at the foot of the table, it also got the club’s management to begin a search for a new manager after Austin Eguavoen; a former Super Eagles and Flying Eagles manager, resigned from his post with the club.

And already, manager of last season’s CAF Champions League semi-finalists Sunshine Stars, Gbenga Ogunbote has reportedly been approached to take over the reins at Port-Harcourt.

Away from the home league, the Flying Eagles failed in their attempt to defend the Africa Youth Championship crown after losing 2-0 to the young Pharaohs of Egypt in a semi-final earlier in the week. The Egyptians will now face Ghana for the AYC crown later today in Algiers, after the Black Starlets beat Mali on penalties; with Ghana’s goalkeeper saving three spot kicks.

Mali’s young Eagles faced Nigeria in the third place play-off last night, with Nigeria getting revenge for the opening day defeat to the Malians with a 2-1 win courtesy of second half goals from Aminu Umar.

On the international front, world and European champions Spain returned to the top of their World Cup Qualifying group with a hard-fought 1-0 win at France, while Germany, Belgium, Croatia and the Netherlands remained on course to seal qualification from their respective groups with respective wins.

Spain’s win came courtesy of Pedro’s goal, but the pacy forward will be unavailable this weekend for Barcelona’s match against Celta Vigo. The Catalan giants will also be without Carles Puyol, full backs Adriano and Jordi Alba through injury as well as first choice keeper Victor Valdes who continues to serve a suspension.

However, manager Tito Vilanova will be back at the club but likely won’t be in the dug-out just yet against Celta, after completing another round of treatment for his throat cancer in New York.

In Chicago meanwhile, the star-studded Miami Heats side saw a remarkable run of 27 successive matches won come to an end on Wednesday night in a thrilling 101-97 loss against the Chicago Bulls. The loss left the Heats six wins short of the all-time record of 33 straight matches won set by the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 1970s.

At a point though it seemed the Lebron James led Heats would make it 28 wins on the bounce after the visitors had overturned a double-figure deficit; as it had done in two previous matches this month, and taken the lead in the third quarter. But the Bulls refused to succumb and in the end claimed a historic win.

Away from the basketball, it was reported/rumoured that US intelligence agency, the FBI had arrested Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in “God’s own country”. The Russian’s spokesman, and later himself, would soon after debunk those reports but, why they emanated in the first place leaves one curious.

Someone else who did get arrested was father of Gary and Phil Neville, Neville Neville (had to check the name multiple times) on suspicion of sexually assaulting a woman in her 40s. The 63 year old Neville was later released on bail till May while an enquiry over the incident ensues.

In the mean time, action returns to the major European leagues this weekend with Juventus’ visit of Inter Milan in the Serie A the match to watch, along with Bayern Munich’s match at home to Hamburg in the Bundesliga. A win for both sides would edge them closer to their respective domestic league title.

In France, PSG went even closer to the Ligue Un title with a lone goal win over reigning champions Montpellier last night, thanks to a late Kevin Gameiro goal. The win opened an eight-point gap for PSG over Olympique Lyon that hosts Sochaux on Sunday while third placed Marseille, a further two points behind, visit Nice.

In England, Manchester United visit Sunderland in a much healthier position than the last time both teams met at the Stadium of Light. Then, United had won by a lone goal but lost the league title on goal difference to city rivals Man. City. Today, the Red Devils head into the early kick-off 15 points clear of City, that hosts Newcastle United later on today.

Elsewhere, Chelsea face a potential banana skin match at Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur will hope to end a run of three straight losses in all competitions at Swansea while Arsenal host relegation threatened Reading as the Gunners keep chase of Chelsea and Spurs in the race for a top four finish.

In Nigeria, third placed Rangers will host fourth placed Kwara United in this weekend’s top bill match of the NPFL. Sharks will be at ‘home’ to Dolphins in the Port-Harcourt derby while Sunshine Stars will host Lobi Stars at Akure and league leaders Kano Pillars will be guests of ABS in Ilorin.

That’s about it with the round-up. Will be rooting for Kwara United in their tough trip to Enugu, as well as Lazio at home to Catania… and Andy Murray in the Sony Open in Miami as he looks to become Tennis’ number two player should he defeat David Ferrer in the final there.

Have a great Easter weekend! Jesus is Lord!

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Lose the British Murray


If you’re in need of a publicist, employ the services of a Briton. One preferably working in the Press, and watch yourself be a hovering thought in the consciousness of millions. Whether in a good way or bad, don’t complain, the publicist has nonetheless put you in their consciousness.

The British Press’ use of adjectives, puns, personifications and whatever other literary devices is legendary with Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Linford Christie, the Premier League, their national teams, the female tennis player… a ton of them; deservedly or (mostly) otherwise.

For a long time, Andy Murray has been the subject of their hype machine much so that many would think he’s English when he actually is Scottish. Being labelled “British” makes you that after a while.

After Pete Sampras retired, along with the likes of Andre Agassi, Pat Rafter, Cédric Pioline, Marat Safin and Mark Philippoussis (sadly due to injuries), Jonas Björkman, Richard Krajicek, Lleyton Hewitt, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanišević, Greg Rusedski and of course Tim Henman as time went, Roger Federer became the monopoly.

And it was an annoying monopoly. No one can be that good and be winning the Slams, defending them and defending them again at will but the Swiss did just that.

Then Rafael Nadal started coming of age and steadily became Fedex’s nuisance. The sport became a two-man monopoly; annoying still but oh well, Federer had to work a bit then.

Then came Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Finally… some competition, and one happened to be a Scotsman. A few “upsets” and he became the new Tim Henman. Long live the Queen.

Murray however has always cracked when it comes to winning a Grand Slam and just when you thought he’d win one at the Australian Open last year when he came up against his friend Djokovic… the Serb swept the Brit aside.

By that time, the DjokerNole was no more the new, upcoming nuisance to Roger and Rafa that he was along with Murray… he was the man who would go an entire year with just a handful of defeats; winning 41 consecutive matches in 2011 before Federer reminded us of Djokovic being mortal and ending the year with a 70-6 record.

Djokovic had tailored his game such that he wasn’t playing differently from the times of being an underdog, but had made his temperament a weapon rather than a hindrance.

You see how Roger got into the fourth round when two points away from being massively upset out of SW19 by Benneteau? He was composed. He is always composed.

You see how Nadal wins the French Open as if it was Barcelona in la Liga without Real Madrid? With a rage funneled to the bat rather than the veins and muscles.

Djokovic found his release when he learnt to let go of the clown when on the court. It’s why he’s 8 out of 10 times capable of winning matches from two sets down, he’s become focused.

Murray’s problem, which he can turn to a strength, is the distraction of being British. Years ago I always felt if Tim Henman was anything but British, Sampras and Agassi would’ve had an even tougher time (I consider their time to be tennis’ most competitive) being the top players.

So Murray can either put aside the “first Brit in Wimbledon final in 74 years” distraction aside and try to be a Rafter or live up to being another Henman; who never won a Slam.

I hope Murray wins on Sunday. He’s been through quite a tournament with wins over proven players Nikolai Davydenko, Ivo Karlovic, Marcos Baghdatis, Marin Cilic, David Ferrer and the hard hitting hulk Jo-Wilfred Tsonga on his way to facing Federer who, in my opinion, is the one out of the top three he most likely can defeat.

And the stats back him, for Murray is the only player apart from Nadal to be leading the Maestro on head-to-head record with the score currently 8-7.

And if he does win… you will hate the British press for a fortnight at least! Then we’ll have the Oympics and Premier League to our rescue.

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