Barcelona confirmed on Friday that Lionel Messi will not play the final game of the La Liga season against Eibar on Saturday. Messi did not attend the training session with the rest of his teammates on the eve of their final fixture.
Coach Ronald Koeman allowed Lionel Messi to miss the game and take an early holiday, meaning the Barcelona legend might have played his last game for the Catalan club amid uncertainty over his future, according to Reuters.
Lionel Messi’s contract expires at the end of the ongoing season and the Argentina superstar has remained tight-lipped about a possible extension. He requested to leave the club last year and was linked by British and Spanish media with a move to Manchester City or Paris St Germain, but ultimately stayed put for one more season.
Should Messi not sign a new contract then his final game for the club would be last weekend’s dismal 2-1 defeat at the Camp Nou to Celta Vigo.
Messi has netted 30 times in La Liga this season and is set to win Spain’s Golden Boot – the Pichichi Trophy.
However, Barcelona haven’t managed to be at their best in the ongoing season. After having been knocked out of Champions League in the last 16 round, their earliest exit from the elite European competition in 14 years. The Catalans have also lost out of the title race in the league and can, at best, finish third in the league behind rivals Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.
Barcelona, who have 76 points from 37 matches, take on Eibar on Saturday while Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will be playing their final league games in a bid to win the title in the last-day thriller in La Liga.
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HALEP, MUGURUZA EASE THROUGH; KVITOVA, FERNANDEZ SUFFER UPSETS
Former World No.1 Simona Halep got her 2022 Australian Open campaign off to a victorious start, as Romanian gritted past Magdalena Frech of Poland 6-4, 6-3 in their first-round battle.
In their sole prior meeting, Halep had defeated Frech with the loss of only two games on the clay courts of Prague in 2020. The two-time Grand Slam champion has now improved to 6-0 on the season thus far, having won her 23rd career WTA singles title at Melbourne Summer Set 1 two weeks ago.
Halep is seeking her first Australian Open title, which would go with her 2018 Roland Garros and 2019 Wimbledon crowns.
Another Romanian claimed a big win on Tuesday, as Sorana Cirstea bundled 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova out of the Australian Open for the second straight year. Cirstea notched a 6-2, 6-2 first-round victory over the former World No.2 at John Cain Arena.
Aussie hope Maddison Inglis also captured an upset win as she shocked 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez of Canada, 6-4, 6-2. Inglis took an hour and 23 minutes to stun the No.23 seed and claim her first main-draw victory at a Grand Slam event.
Elsewhere, Garbine Muguruza got off to a winning start on the Australian Open’s main court in 2022 with a 6-3, 6-4 win over France’s Clara Burel.
Playing her first-ever match on Rod Laver Arena, British qualifier Harriet Dart started brightly against No.7 seed Iga Swiatek by winning three of the first four games.
From 3-1 down, though, the Pole rolled. Swiatek won the last 11 games in a 6-3, 6-0 victory to win her opening match Down Under for the fourth year in a row.
ISL: FC GOA LOOK TO REBUILD AGAINST WINLESS SC EAST BENGAL
Unbeaten in their last three games, FC Goa will look to climb up the ladder when they are scheduled to take on winless SC East Bengal in the 2021-22 Indian Super League at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Wednesday.
FC Goa hasn’t really burst to life under Derrick Pereira but the veteran coach has managed to remain unbeaten in the last three outings, playing out a 1-1 draw against NorthEast United FC in their last game. Jorge Ortiz has looked extremely sharp for the Gaurs even though they had the likes of Edu Bedia and Ivan Gonzalez missing against NorthEast United.
A win on Wednesday will see Goa move up from the bottom half of the table and close the gap on the top four teams, and against SC East Bengal they will fancy their chances. “When I came in, I did not want to change too much. We kept the same formation, the 3-4-3 system but just adjusted the structure and the boys have responded well. There is always scope for improvement and we will look to do well in the coming days,” said Pereira. Speaking on the opponents, he added, “Defensively, in the last three matches they have fought well. Instead of focusing more on them, we will look at the details where we get the better of them and break their defence and at the same time see that we keep a good balance to counter their attacks. It is just another game, we have to go with a plan and get the best result.”
SC East Bengal showed defensive solidity under interim coach Renedy Singh and held the fort until the very end against Jamshedpur FC before conceding in the dying minutes of the second half. But the red and golds have had no attacking teeth whatsoever with striker Daniel Chima Chukwu also jumping ship to Jamshedpur. They have roped in Brazilian striker Marcelo Ribeiro dos Santos but he won’t be available for selection against FC Goa. In their 11 league games, SC East Bengal has failed to score in five games.
SC East Bengal has new coach Mario Rivera back at the helm though and the Spaniard will have his task cut out with the team rooted to the foot of the table having just 6 points from 11 engagements. Rivera guided East Bengal to a second-place finish in the I-League two seasons back. “It is going to be my first challenge in the ISL and my first job is to change the mood of the team when it is not going through a good time. The table does not reflect the quality of the side. Now, we have to get the best performances out of the player and hopeful of changing our position on the table,” said Rivera.
ECB TO PROBE AFTER ROOT, ANDERSON SEEN AMONG ‘INTOXICATED PEOPLE’ AT HOBART HOTEL
The England and Wales Cricket Board has launched an investigation after footage of “intoxicated” Australian and England cricketers being asked by police to go to bed came into the public domain.
In mobile-phone footage published by the Sydney Morning Herald, Joe Root and James Anderson could be seen alongside three Australia players—Nathan Lyon, Travis Head and Alex Carey—all still dressed in their whites following the conclusion of the fifth Test at Bellerive Oval.
“During the early hours of Monday morning, members of the England and Australia men’s teams shared a drink in the team areas of the hotel in Hobart,” the ECB’s statement read. “The hotel management received a noise complaint by a hotel guest, and as is commonplace in Australia, the local police attended the scene. When asked to leave by hotel management and the Tasmanian police, the players and management in question left and returned to their respective hotel rooms. The England party have apologised for any inconvenience caused.”
“The ECB will investigate further. Until such times, we will make no further comment,” ECB statement added.
The gathering was taking place in a public area in Hobart’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, and had extended to 6am when the police were brought in following a noise complaint from fellow guests. The players all left the area immediately.
“Tasmania Police attended the Crowne Plaza Hobart on Monday morning after reports were made of intoxicated people in a function area,” a police statement read, as per espncricinfo. “The guests were spoken to by police, just after 6:00am, and left the area when asked. No further action will be taken by police.”
In the home summer of cricket so far, Australia won the 2021-22 men’s Ashes 4-0 in what continues to be one of the greatest global sporting rivalries.
SA vs Ind: Quinton de Kock will have point to prove in ODI series, says Bavuma
South Africa limited-overs skipper Temba Bavuma on Tuesday said that his side would look to take the momentum from the Test series onto the upcoming ODI series against India.
India and South Africa will lock horns in a three-match ODI series, with the first match set to be played on Wednesday in Paarl. Earlier, the Proteas had defeated India 2-1 in the Test series.
“Yeah, momentum is a real thing, you would have seen after the first Test, how we managed to get some momentum in the Johannesburg Test and how we carried through. Momentum is a real thing, obviously, it is a different format and there is a different kind of pressure. Confidence is well within the team and we will be leading onto that to inspire the new guys,” said Bavuma during a virtual press conference.
“I would like to have as many options as possible considering the balance of the team. I am not aware of any physical or mental issues with Quinton de Kock. He had his commitments with his family, he is here with the team now and he is training with the team. As far as I know, Quinton is fit and fine,” he added.
Talking about Quinton de Kock, Bavuma said: “It is good to see him again. We obviously missed him in the Test team but he has made his decision to retire from the longest format. We respect his decision, having him back has been good. Quinton will have a point to prove and I am sure he is also as excited as we are to see him in the team.”
“Marco Jansen has been drafted into the ODI squad, the world has been what cricketing abilities he has. It was a no-brainer to get him into the ODI squad. Indian outfit is a strong white-ball squad, we will be giving them the respect we do to any other team. We do not expect this series to be easier, we know it will be tough. We will be preparing as well as we can,” he added.
South Africa ODI squad: Temba Bavuma (captain), Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock, Zubayr Hamza, Marco Jansen, Junkman Malan, Sisanda Magala, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne.
SETALVAD TAKES TOP SPOT IN 3RD ROUND OF EQUESTRIAN TRIALS FOR 2022 ASIAN GAMES
The third round of 19th Asian Games equestrian (show jumping) trials for the team and the individual event concluded at Amateur Riders’ Club, Mahalaxmi Race Course in Maharashtra
The continental games will take place in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China from September 10 to 25. There were two rounds of show jumping which were held for the team and individual qualification. On January 13, the show jumping of 1.40 m was organised for the team qualification and on January 16, the show jumping of 1.50 m was organised for individual qualification.
In 1.40m show jumping category event, Zahan Setalvad secured first position while riding on Caprice with one penalty committed by him. Zahan finished his rounds in 68.30 seconds. Sehaj Singh Virk and Kirat Singh Nagra rode on their horses Laila Lardanos and Little Joe positioned 2nd and 3rd respectively, as they finished their rounds in 70.59 and 71.28 seconds.
1.50 m show jumping category event again witnessed Zahan Setalvad securing top position riding on his horse El Capitan. Zahan committed 4 penalties in his part of rounds and finished them in 76.94seconds. The 2nd and 3rd rank were awarded to Kaevaan Setalvad and Kirat Singh Nagra who rode on their horses Alasdair and Little Joe by finishing their set of rounds in 76.77 and 80.22 seconds respectively.
Huge responsibility if I am made Test captain: K.L. Rahul
India stand-in ODI skipper KL Rahul on Tuesday said that it would be a huge responsibility for him if he is made the Test captain.
India and South Africa will lock horns in a three-match ODI series, with the first match set to be played on Wednesday in Paarl.
Earlier, the Proteas had defeated India 2-1 in the Test series.
Rahul had replaced Rohit Sharma as skipper for the upcoming ODI series after the Hitman was ruled out due to a hamstring injury. Pacer Jasprit Bumrah will serve as Rahul’s deputy in the series.
“I had not given it a thought till the names came out, till the articles or news have been doing the rounds. Obviously, I had the opportunity to lead the Test side in Johannesburg and it was really special. The result did not go our way but it was a great learning experience for me and it would be something I will always be proud of,” Rahul said during a virtual press conference.
“Leading the country is always special for anyone and I am no different. Yes, it would be a huge responsibility if given to me (being the Test captain). It is something that is exciting, I am not really looking to anything forward, I am just focusing on the present,” he added.
Rahul’s comments come days after Kohli announced his decision to stand down as India’s Test captain.
Kohli holds the record for most Test appearances as India Test captain (68) and he also holds the record for most Test wins by an Indian captain (40).
Only Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting, and Steve Waugh have won more matches than Kohli as captain in Test cricket.
Last year, Kohli had stepped down as the T20I captain and then he was removed as the ODI skipper after the selectors wanted to have just one captain for the white-ball formats.
India squad: KL Rahul (Captain), Jasprit Bumrah (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Yuzvendra Chahal, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Jayant Yadav, Navdeep Saini.
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