Klopp questions lunchtime kick-off for Swansea clash

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has raised concerns over the Premier League’s decision to make their clash against Swansea City at Liberty Stadium on Sunday a rare early kick-off.

The Merseyside club travel to take on the Welsh side at noon on Sunday – less than 72 hours after their Europa League first leg semifinal loss to Spanish side Villarreal.

“It’s my first time (playing in the Premier League) at 12 p.m. It is really interesting to see who makes these decisions. But we can’t change it obviously, so we have to play then,” Klopp told reporters on Friday.

“We could have started at 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. We have to travel to Cardiff and drive to Swansea. If somebody wants to make our way a little bit harder – no problem, we are ready!” he said.

“If there is an opportunity for me to fight for something like this, then you can be sure I’ll do it. But now it’s too late. At (noon) I’m usually hungry. If my players are hungry tomorrow too then it’s good for the game. Hungry for success.” Naijabet

The Premier League has not said why it scheduled the unusual noontime kick-off for Liverpool and Swansea, currently in seventh and 15th place respectively.

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Silva to miss semi against Real

Manchester City will be without playmaker David Silva for two to three weeks, ensuring he will definitely miss Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg tie at Real Madrid, manager Manuel Pellegrini said on Friday.

Pellegrini expressed his hope that the Spanish international might be fit should City reach the final in Milan on May 28.

The bad news for City came as Pellegrini reiterated his annoyance that having to play a key Premier League match on Sunday against Southampton might affect their European final ambitions.

Silva limped out of the first leg tie at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, with Pellegrini revealing: “He has a small hamstring injury and he’ll need two or three weeks to recover.” Asked when he might be back, he added: “He’ll be able to play the final.”

Yaya Toure remains another injury concern for Pellegrini following a muscle injury. “Yaya started working today, we saw the way he improved during the weekend and we’ll see if he can be fit for Wednesday. At the moment we don’t know.”

Pellegrini said he could not understand why, amid such a crowded schedule and with City still pushing for the top four finish that would guarantee Champions League football next season, they had not been given the chance by the Premier League to play on Saturday.

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Agbonlahor quits as Villa captain

Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor stepped down as Aston Villa captain on Thursday and was handed a heavy fine by the relegated Premier League club following his recent behaviour.

The 29-year-old was suspended by Villa after allegedly going on an alcohol-fuelled laughing-gas binge on the day their relegation was confirmed two weeks ago.

“I do not deserve to carry out such a role anymore,” Agbonlahor said on Instagram.

“This role was a huge honour to me and it hurts to have lost it.”

Villa imposed a “substantial” fine on Agbonlahor and reminded him of his responsibilities to the club.

Agbonlahor was also photographed apparently smoking a shisha pipe while partying at a Dubai night club three weeks ago but Villa decided not to punish him for that incident.

Agbonlahor, who has been at the midlands club for over 20 years and has won three England caps, apologised for his behaviour.

“I am asking Aston Villa fans for forgiveness as I’m hurting as well despite reports and photos in the press making out otherwise,” he said. Naijabet

“I agree my performances this season have not been good enough but I will be working hard to make things right! Up The Villa, Villa Till I Die!”

Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp promises ‘to throw everything’ at Villarreal

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp wants his side to “throw the kitchen sink” at Villarreal as the Reds look to overturn a first-leg deficit in the Europa League semi-finals.

Adrian Lopez’s last-minute goal gave the Spanish side a 1-0 home win.

Klopp opted to leave striker Daniel Sturridge on the bench but promised to go all out for victory in next Thursday’s second leg at Anfield.

“If you go out in the semis, then do so kicking and screaming,” he said.

Liverpool had produced a disciplined display against Villarreal, frustrating a side that had won all six of their previous Europa League home games. Naijabet

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Saul stunner gives Atletico advantage against Bayern

A breathtaking individual goal from Saul Niguez put Atletico Madrid in the box seat in their Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich with a 1-0 victory in a tense first leg on Wednesday.

The midfielder magically weaved his way through the Bayern defence and produced a low finish that went in off the post to put the home side in front after 11 minutes.

Diego’s Simeone’s superbly-drilled outfit then snuffed out Bayern’s threat and even came close to doubling their lead late on when Fernando Torres’s shot struck the post.

“It was a great game, everyone believed in their work. We put in a huge effort,” said Simeone, whose Atletico side have frequently been a scourge of more-fancied opponents with their disciplined rearguard frustrating Barcelona in the last round.

While Bayern’s David Alaba also hit the woodwork with a thumping drive, the result left Pep Guardiola’s side facing a huge task in next week’s return leg in Munich to avoid a third successive semifinal exit.

“I’m not happy with how we played,” said Guardiola, who is leaving Bayern in the close-season to join Manchester City.

“We started badly. The goal was a consequence of our slow play. We didn’t win even one battle.”Naija and Bet

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Real Madrid frustrate Manchester City in UCL semifinal

Champions League top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo was a frustrated spectator as his Real Madrid side played out a slow-burning 0-0 draw at Manchester City in Tuesday’s semifinal first leg.

Injury prevented the Portuguese superstar from adding to his 16-goal tally and in his absence the visitors were unable to convert the handful of chances they created, with a sensational late Joe Hart save to deny Pepe the closest either side came to a goal at the Etihad Stadium.

As an occasion, City’s first semifinal appearance in the competition was a let-down, but by preventing Madrid from notching an away goal the tie’s underdogs safeguarded their hopes of reaching the final ahead of next week’s return leg at the Bernabeu.

“We played a very intense game and defended well,” said City manager Manuel Pellegrini.

“This season we have played very well away. Now we go to the Bernabeu with the same attitude as playing at home.

“Real Madrid must attack a little bit more. You cannot take too much from the first leg. We can see from the second leg who will go through.” Naijabet

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Riyad Mahrez became the first African to win English football’s Player of the Year

Leicester City’s Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez on Sunday became the first African player to be named English football’s Player of the Year, as voted for by his fellow professionals.

The 25-year-old French-born Algerian international, outstanding in Leicester’s incredible charge towards the Premier League title, received the trophy at a lavish awards ceremony in London.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli was named Young Player of the Year at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) awards.

Paying tribute to his teammates, Mahrez, who succeeds Chelsea’s Eden Hazard as the winner of the prize, told the ceremony: “All the credit is for them, seriously.

“And for my manager (Claudio Ranieri) and the staff. Without them I wouldn’t receive this award and I wouldn’t score. It’s the team spirit, and I want to dedicate it to them.

“I’m very grateful to receive this award, it’s a pleasure. It’s extra special because if the players vote for me it’s because they’ve seen I’ve been great this year so I’m happy.

“But it’s more team things. Without my teammates I wouldn’t get this award.” Naijabet.com

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Iheanacho pick up Barclays man-of-the-match award at City

Kelechi Iheanacho is riding on the crest of a wave at Manchester City.

The 19-year-old was the star performer for the Citizens in the 4-0 dismantling of Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

After deservedly picking up the Barclays man-of the-match award, Iheanacho explained that he will continue to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

“It was a great performance for everybody.

“It was a big match because we need to stay in the top-four and United are behind us so we needed three points.

“The manager trusted me in the game so I’m really pleased to play,” he told the club’s official website. Naijabet

Iheanacho who is understandably high on confidence has now trained his sights on tripping Real Madrid in the Uefa Champions League.

“This game was great preparation for us before we play Real Madrid.

“On Tuesday, we need to focus and work hard because they’re a good side. We are prepared to face them.

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Leicester closer to title with 4-0 victory over Swansea City

Leicester City need just five points to complete a fairytale Premier League title triumph after Leonardo Ulloa scored twice in a 4-0 home victory over Swansea City on Sunday.

With top scorer Jamie Vardy suspended, his stand-in Ulloa stepped up with a brace of goals at the King Power Stadium, either side of goals by Riyad Mahrez and substitute Marc Albrighton.

It lifted Claudio Ranieri’s side eight points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur, who host West Bromwich Albion on Monday, and means that they can claim the title by winning at Manchester United next Sunday if Spurs fail to beat West Brom.

Leicester’s victory had the added effect of ending the title bids of both third-place Manchester City and fourth-place Arsenal, who were held to a 0-0 draw at struggling Sunderland.

Vardy’s dismissal, after he was shown a second yellow card for diving, had been the chief talking point of Leicester’s 2-2 draw with West Ham United last weekend, which had raised the possibility of nerves getting the better of Ranieri’s miracle men.

But they made an ideal start against Francesco Guidolin’s Swansea as Ashley Williams’s careless clearance struck Mahrez, who calmly stroked his 17th goal of the season past visiting goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. Naija and Bet

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Ronaldo in race to get fit for Manchester City clash

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Cristiano Ronaldo faces a race against time to get fit for Real Madrid’s Champions League semifinal first leg at Manchester City on Tuesday after he picked up a thigh muscle injury.

“Ronaldo has been diagnosed with a muscle strain in his right thigh. His recovery will continue to be assessed,” Real said in a statement on Friday.

Spanish newspaper Marca reported that the prolific striker has been ruled out of Madrid’s La Liga game at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

The Portuguese, who is the top scorer in La Liga with 31 goals, was seen limping off clutching his thigh at the end of Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Villarreal on Wednesday. Naijabet.com