Coutinho, Van Dijk, Sanchez Need to Re-Find Feet after Being Stood up by Suitors

Liverpool's midfielder Philippe Coutinho runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match against Manchester City March 19, 2017. (AFP)
Liverpool's midfielder Philippe Coutinho runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match against Manchester City March 19, 2017. (AFP)
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Coutinho, Van Dijk, Sanchez Need to Re-Find Feet after Being Stood up by Suitors

Liverpool's midfielder Philippe Coutinho runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match against Manchester City March 19, 2017. (AFP)
Liverpool's midfielder Philippe Coutinho runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match against Manchester City March 19, 2017. (AFP)

A penny for someone’s thoughts seems a ludicrously old-fashioned saying in the era of the £1.4bn Premier League transfer window. But now the whole brouhaha is over it is hard not to wonder what is going on inside the heads of players whose hopes were dashed on deadline day. It is the football world’s equivalent of being stood up for a dream date. Wake up full of nervous expectancy, impossible to think about anything else all day, then the wretched waiting before the bleak realization that nothing special is going to happen.

So what now for Virgil van Dijk and Philippe Coutinho, whose transfer requests were utterly ignored by their clubs and they will be expected to represent Southampton and Liverpool respectively with full professionalism as quickly as possible? What now for Alexis Sánchez, who will return from international duty by opening the door to his London home and his beloved dogs knowing that he was close to an exit from Arsenal’s problems but it never came off?

Football’s weird moral compass means that possible hissy fits or friction tend not to be major factors once the games come and the athletes are sent out to play. Remember the case of Carlos Tevez, whose reluctance to come on as a Manchester City substitute in a Champions League game at Bayern Munich led to him being frozen out, fined and going on strike to the apparent point of no return?

That turned out to be the same Carlos Tevez who was showered with love when he came back a few months later to score the goals that helped City to win the title. Football emotions can overstretch and suddenly bounce back if it suits everyone.

If Van Dijk, Coutinho and Sánchez, whatever their personal sentiments, get back on the pitch for the Premier League clubs they have generally graced with distinction, if they can find some rhythm and put in the kind of performances that made them so coveted by other suitors, they will be welcomed back into the fold pretty quickly.

It is the less needed players who have the hardest time readjusting if a transfer window move does not materialize. On the fringes of teams around the country are the players who remain trapped in the system which keeps them at clubs with a limited prospect of playing time. A penny for the thoughts of Vincent Janssen as he saw photos of Fernando Llorente trying on a Spurs shirt while he stayed moveless?

The Dutchman could not find it in himself to commit to guaranteed football at Brighton but life at Tottenham will surely feel frustrating at times if he has another season on the edge of the first XI picture.

How do players manage the situation when the optimism of a new chapter turns humdrum? Janssen joined Tottenham a year ago on the back of success at AZ Alkmaar on a four-year deal. Staying confident and positive about the impact one can make on the pitch is not easy without matches. A high salary is not always enough to make a player feel better.

The parable of Winston Bogarde is an important one. Bogarde is widely regarded as a benchmark of sorts for players who pick up a fortune while barely dirtying their boots in earnest. He made almost £10m at Chelsea while playing for them 12 times in 2000–04. But the reality tells of a man who felt lonely, desperate and misunderstood. “My situation was not very good and we tried to solve it many ways,” he said. “Like to maybe go on loan or sell me, or whatever. But in the end it didn’t work out. For a player, for me, it’s terrible not to play. Yet I had to return for training. Mentally it was very hard. To keep the motivation is very difficult.”

It was poignant to see footage of Lucas Pérez, who returned to Deportivo La Coruña on deadline day, arriving back at his hometown airport after a year of frustration at Arsenal being barely used. With his arm round his son, the door to the arrivals hall opened and he was greeted by the warmth of fans singing his name. “Si, si, si. Lucas esta aqui” Yes, yes, yes. Lucas is here. It looked obvious that in that moment his football motivation was reignited after a period struggling for opportunities and mulling over self-doubt.

Across the Premier League plenty remain stuck. At Everton, in their post-splurge new world, the future is uncertain at best for Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Oumar Niasse, all of whom shook their heads at a potential deadline-day move knowing that they are not as wanted as others at Goodison Park. At Liverpool Lazar Markovic stayed put but will not expect to figure too much. Jack Colback is in a pickle at Newcastle. Diafra Sakho remains at West Ham after a particularly curious turn of events. He had taken it upon himself to travel to Rennes for a medical without a deal being struck between the clubs and ended up spending deadline day at Chelmsford Races with his agent hoping for a winning ticket. The move failed.

Life at the training ground goes on the morning after the window closes. Life on the edges goes on for the unwanted and disappointed wantaways.

The Guardian Sport



US, China Are Expected to Win the Most Medals at Paris Olympics

FILE PHOTO: Paris 2024 Olympics Medal Preview - Chaumet, Paris, France - February 1, 2024 A Paris 2024 Olympic Games gold medal is seen on display at Chaumet jewelry REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Paris 2024 Olympics Medal Preview - Chaumet, Paris, France - February 1, 2024 A Paris 2024 Olympic Games gold medal is seen on display at Chaumet jewelry REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo/File Photo
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US, China Are Expected to Win the Most Medals at Paris Olympics

FILE PHOTO: Paris 2024 Olympics Medal Preview - Chaumet, Paris, France - February 1, 2024 A Paris 2024 Olympic Games gold medal is seen on display at Chaumet jewelry REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Paris 2024 Olympics Medal Preview - Chaumet, Paris, France - February 1, 2024 A Paris 2024 Olympic Games gold medal is seen on display at Chaumet jewelry REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo/File Photo

The United States and China are expected to finish 1-2 in the gold and the overall medal counts at the Paris Olympics, which open in 100 days.
The United States is projected to win 123 medals overall, including 39 golds. China is projected to win 35 gold and 89 medals overall, The Associated Press reported. The two also finished 1-2 in both categories three years ago in the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics.
This forecast is done by Nielsen’s Gracenote Sports, which supplies statistical analysis for sports leagues around the world, AP said. It also tracks major competitions involving Olympic sports leading up to the Games.
Gracenote's rankings are based on overall medals won, although others focus the rankings on gold totals.
This would be the eighth straight time the United States has won the most overall medals in the Summer Games. In 1992 at Barcelona, the so-called Unified team topped the overall count. Those athletes were from the former Soviet Union, which had just broken up as a sovereign state.
The last time the United States did not top the gold-medal count in the Summer Games was in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where China invested heavily and saw dividends.
Next in line with overall and gold totals are: Britain (66-13), France (55-28), Australia (50-13), Japan (49-13), Italy (47-12), Netherlands (38-18), Germany (36-9), South Korea (24-9).
The next 10 are: Canada (22-6), Spain (20-5), Hungary (19-5), Brazil (18-9), Turkey (13-4), Ethiopia (13-3), Uzbekistan (13-3), Ukraine (13-3), Georgia (12-3) and Denmark (11-5).
Host nations always get a bump in medals, and France is expected to get a big one and increase its overall total from 33 in Tokyo. France is forecast to nearly triple its gold-medal output from Tokyo, where Japan picked up a record haul.
Performing at home is an advantage, partly because host nations invest more heavily in training athletes. Then, of course, there are adoring home crowds.
France is also competing in 25 different sports in Paris, far above its average in recent Olympics of between 15 and 19, according to Gracenote's analysis.
The unknown factor is the presence of Russian and — to a lesser extent — Belarussian athletes. They have been absent from most international competitions over the last two years because of the war in Ukraine. Their influence is difficult to factor into the forecast, Gracenote acknowledges.
“It appears that there will be limited participation of these athletes (Russian and Belarussian),” Gracenote said. It said it expects its predictions to be accurate “based on the data that we have.”
Russia and Belarus are barred from team sports at the Olympics because of the war in Ukraine and the International Olympic Committee has laid out a two-step vetting procedure for individual athletes from those countries to be granted neutral status.
Those athletes must first be approved by the governing body of their individual sport and then by an IOC-appointed review panel.


Riyadh Season Partners with World Boxing Council

Riyadh Season and the prestigious World Boxing Council (WBC) announced a partnership on Monday. (SPA)
Riyadh Season and the prestigious World Boxing Council (WBC) announced a partnership on Monday. (SPA)
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Riyadh Season Partners with World Boxing Council

Riyadh Season and the prestigious World Boxing Council (WBC) announced a partnership on Monday. (SPA)
Riyadh Season and the prestigious World Boxing Council (WBC) announced a partnership on Monday. (SPA)

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) Advisor Turki bin Abdulmohsen Alalshikh announced on Monday a partnership between Riyadh Season and the prestigious World Boxing Council (WBC).

He said: "This partnership represents a vital step forward for Riyadh Season's mission to elevate the Kingdom's entertainment sector", adding that WBC's standing as a leading and respected organization in the boxing world makes the alliance particularly impactful.

Alalshikh said Riyadh Season strives to unite audiences worldwide through a captivating and diverse range of entertainment experiences, and as such, "this collaboration with WBC presents a unique opportunity to attract a global audience".

WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said: "We are pleased to welcome the Riyadh Season as a new official partner of the World Boxing Council. The Riyadh Season is a huge event, considered as one of the largest entertainment events in the world, and the sport of boxing has recently been linked to it, as Riyadh has become internationally recognized as the capital of boxing sport, where three exciting fights were held during the previous Riyadh season."

Adding that the cooperation between the two entities will generate many "distinctive and unique opportunities", Sulaiman stressed that "we look forward to participating in this growing passion in Saudi Arabia."

"This partnership will create opportunities and memories that will extend into the lives of many boxing fans around the world through social responsibility programs that include 'WBC Cares' programs in hospitals, orphanages and schools, in addition to awareness programs with experts in the fields of addiction, bullying, domestic violence and mental health," Sulaiman said.


First Saudi Professional Golfer Ready for PIF Saudi Open

First Saudi Professional Golfer Ready for PIF Saudi Open
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First Saudi Professional Golfer Ready for PIF Saudi Open

First Saudi Professional Golfer Ready for PIF Saudi Open

First Saudi Professional Golfer Othman Almulla said he is ready to participate in the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which will be held from April 17 to 20 at the Riyadh Golf Club.
He also said that the Saudi Open is a “fantastic” event that will be accompanied by “an exciting array of fun activities each day to keep attendees entertained throughout the tournament”.
Saudi Open, he added, “is a gateway to encourage more Saudis to start playing the sport”.
According to SPA, Almulla, who turned professional in 2019, is one of 32 Saudi golfers set to compete in the Asian Tour event, including fellow professionals Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif.
The tournament will see the participation of elite LIV Golf players Henrik Stenson, David Puig, Peter Uihlein and Andy Ogletree, as well as 14 golfers from seven different countries in the Middle East and North Africa region that have been invited to compete thanks to the collaboration with the Arab Golf Federation.


Turki Al Al-Sheikh Announces Names of World Champions Participating in Global Boxing Match

28 October 2023, Saudi Arabia, Riyadh: Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority, Counselor Turki Al-Sheikh (L), presents the belt of the Riyadh season to the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury (2nd R), after defeating his competitor, heavyweight mixed martial arts champion Francis Ngannou in the Kingdom Arena, as part of the opening activities of the fourth edition of the Riyadh Season. (FILE/Saudi Press Agency)
28 October 2023, Saudi Arabia, Riyadh: Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority, Counselor Turki Al-Sheikh (L), presents the belt of the Riyadh season to the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury (2nd R), after defeating his competitor, heavyweight mixed martial arts champion Francis Ngannou in the Kingdom Arena, as part of the opening activities of the fourth edition of the Riyadh Season. (FILE/Saudi Press Agency)
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Turki Al Al-Sheikh Announces Names of World Champions Participating in Global Boxing Match

28 October 2023, Saudi Arabia, Riyadh: Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority, Counselor Turki Al-Sheikh (L), presents the belt of the Riyadh season to the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury (2nd R), after defeating his competitor, heavyweight mixed martial arts champion Francis Ngannou in the Kingdom Arena, as part of the opening activities of the fourth edition of the Riyadh Season. (FILE/Saudi Press Agency)
28 October 2023, Saudi Arabia, Riyadh: Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority, Counselor Turki Al-Sheikh (L), presents the belt of the Riyadh season to the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury (2nd R), after defeating his competitor, heavyweight mixed martial arts champion Francis Ngannou in the Kingdom Arena, as part of the opening activities of the fourth edition of the Riyadh Season. (FILE/Saudi Press Agency)

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), Advisor Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al Al-Sheikh, has announced the lineup for the "4 Crown Showdown" fight, featuring an electrifying clash for the undisputed world championship in the light heavyweight category (175 pounds) between Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol.
Al Al-Sheikh also unveiled the participants for the upcoming “5 vs 5 a Riyadh Season Original” event, a highlight of this year’s Riyadh Season. This event will bring together boxing rivals Queensberry and Match Room at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on June 1, SPA reported.
Al Al-Sheikh emphasized, “The ‘4 Crown Showdown’ and ‘5 vs 5 a Riyadh Season Original’ fights are among the standout events of this year’s Riyadh Season, showcasing champions selected by our partners at Queensberry and Match Room.” He stressed Riyadh Season's commitment to hosting top-tier fights, major events, and forging partnerships to deliver unparalleled entertainment to fans.
Dmitry Bivol, the current light heavyweight world champion at 33 years old, boasts an impressive record of 22 wins, including eleven knockout victories, and has successfully defended his title in 10 matches over the past six years. Meanwhile, Artur Beterbiev, aged 39, holds the WBC, IBF, and WBO world champion titles, having secured all 20 of his victories by knockout.
In the "5 vs 5 a Riyadh Season Original" matchups, announced during a press conference at Outernet in London, Queensberry selected heavyweight boxer Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KOs), known for his formidable skills in the ring. Dubois recently faced champion Jarrell Miller in Riyadh last December and is set to take on Filip Hrjovic (17-0, 14 KOs), the number one contender in the International Boxing Federation, representing Match Room.
Queensberry's second heavyweight contender is Chinese giant Zhang Zhili, also known as “Bang Bang” (26-2-1, 21 KOs), who will face former WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) from Match Room.
In the featherweight category, champion Nick Paul (19-0-1, 11 KOs) represents Queensberry and is expected to engage in a thrilling bout against American world champion Ray Ford of Match Room (15-0-1, 8 KOs) for the WBA World Featherweight Championship.
The middleweight division features WBC silver and Commonwealth champion Hamza Shiraz (19-0, 15 KOs) from Queensbury, facing off against Match Room nominee Austin Williams (16-0, 11 KOs), who claimed the IBF North American title in 2023.
The final matchup of this eagerly anticipated event pits Queensberry light heavyweight champion and former amateur world champion Willie Hutchinson (17-1, 13 KOs) against Match Room candidate Craig Richards (18-1-3, 11 KOs), the former British champion and WBA World Champion title challenger.


Equestrians Gear Up with First Training Session ahead of 2024 FEI World Cup Finals

Equestrians Gear Up with First Training Session ahead of 2024 FEI World Cup Finals
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Equestrians Gear Up with First Training Session ahead of 2024 FEI World Cup Finals

Equestrians Gear Up with First Training Session ahead of 2024 FEI World Cup Finals

In anticipation of the FEI Jumping and Dressage World Cup Finals 2024, riders from around the globe, including the top six show jumpers in the world rankings, commenced their training regimen on Monday.
This initial session lays the groundwork for the upcoming championship, scheduled to commence at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center (RICEC) in just two days' time, SPA reported.

The action will unfold on Wednesday and span over four days within an indoor arena, marking the first time for the Middle East to host the competition.
A total of 51 equestrians, comprising both male and female riders from 24 nations, are poised to showcase their skills in the championship.
On another front, the championship organizing committee has completed the comprehensive veterinary examination for all 60 participating horses at the competition venue. The examinations encompassed a variety of essential factors, including thorough physical and medical assessments, as well as evaluations aligned with the standards governing show jumping and dressage horses.
Utilizing devices to measure hoof sensitivity, the examinations also ensured that the horses received necessary vaccinations while verifying the validity of their passports. Following the examinations, riders were cleared to begin their warm-up routines, enabling them to acclimatize to the arena awaiting them.


Nadal Still the Ultimate Test on Clay, Says Tsitsipas 

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal takes part during a training session ahead of the ATO Barcelona Open tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 10 April 2024. (EPA)
Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal takes part during a training session ahead of the ATO Barcelona Open tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 10 April 2024. (EPA)
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Nadal Still the Ultimate Test on Clay, Says Tsitsipas 

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal takes part during a training session ahead of the ATO Barcelona Open tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 10 April 2024. (EPA)
Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal takes part during a training session ahead of the ATO Barcelona Open tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 10 April 2024. (EPA)

Rafa Nadal could return to action this week in Barcelona and play just his second event of an injury-hit season and while the Spaniard lacks match practice Stefanos Tsitsipas said it would be no surprise to see him battling for the title in the final.

Nadal, who has said he expects to retire after the 2024 season, returned to the tour in Brisbane in January after nearly a year out with a hip flexor injury and the 37-year-old has not played an ATP tournament since due to a muscle issue.

The 22-times Grand Slam champion looked set to make another comeback at the Monte Carlo Masters this month but withdrew days before the start of the claycourt tournament, saying his body would not allow him to play.

Nadal has won the Barcelona title 12 times and is drawn to play Flavio Cobolli on Tuesday, and while there has been no word on his status Tsitsipas said the Spaniard would have no trouble finding form on his favorite surface.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Rafa in the final of Barcelona, because that's something he has done over and over again for years and years," Tsitsipas, who won the Monte Carlo title for a third time on Sunday, told reporters.

"What he does have is this competitiveness and this fierce tennis when he gets into the momentum that sometimes feels like on the outside perspective unstoppable ... I think he's the ultimate challenge on clay.

"Whether he's playing now at, let's say, later stages of his career or the ones before, what he has now that he didn't before is experience, and he for sure knows ways to win points and to prevail more in economy mode than before."

World number seven Tsitsipas, a three-times runner-up in Barcelona, will aim to carry his good form from Monaco to Spain after winning his first title of the season with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Casper Ruud.

"I did need a week like this a lot, especially (after) the rough months I've been through the latter half of 2023 until now," Tsitsipas said.

"It hasn't been the best of times in terms of where I wanted to be, so getting back here and winning the title is something I was definitely not aiming for and it came naturally."


Mallorca Investigating Alleged Racist Gesture Towards Real’s Tchouameni 

Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni celebrates winning the Spanish LaLiga soccer match between RCD Mallorca and Real Madrid, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 13 April 2024. (EPA)
Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni celebrates winning the Spanish LaLiga soccer match between RCD Mallorca and Real Madrid, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 13 April 2024. (EPA)
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Mallorca Investigating Alleged Racist Gesture Towards Real’s Tchouameni 

Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni celebrates winning the Spanish LaLiga soccer match between RCD Mallorca and Real Madrid, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 13 April 2024. (EPA)
Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni celebrates winning the Spanish LaLiga soccer match between RCD Mallorca and Real Madrid, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 13 April 2024. (EPA)

Mallorca are working with the police to investigate an alleged racist gesture made during a 1-0 home defeat by Real Madrid on Saturday, the LaLiga club said.

Videos on social media appeared to show a fan at the Son Moix Stadium making a racist gesture towards Real midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, who scored the only goal of the match.

In the same fixture last year, Mallorca fans were filmed racially abusing Real's Brazilian forward Vinicius Jr., with Mallorca revoking a fan's membership card for three years.

"In yesterday's match between RCD Mallorca and Real Madrid, images have been identified in which a person made racist gestures," Mallorca said in a statement on Sunday.

"The club has activated the protocol against violence in football and is collaborating with the National Police in the identification of this person."


Liverpool Must Be Perfect in Run-In, Robertson Says 

Liverpool's Scottish defender #26 Andrew Robertson runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
Liverpool's Scottish defender #26 Andrew Robertson runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
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Liverpool Must Be Perfect in Run-In, Robertson Says 

Liverpool's Scottish defender #26 Andrew Robertson runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
Liverpool's Scottish defender #26 Andrew Robertson runs with the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 14, 2024. (AFP)

Liverpool cannot afford any more slip-ups if they are to keep their title hopes alive, defender Andy Robertson said after Sunday's 1-0 Premier League home defeat by Crystal Palace.

Eberechi Eze scored the only goal of the game in the 14th minute to leave Juergen Klopp's side third on 71 points, level with second-placed Arsenal, who were stunned 2-0 at home by Aston Villa.

Manchester City lead on 73 points with six games left.

Liverpool, who were held 2-2 by Manchester United in their previous league game, also face an uphill task in the Europa League after losing the first leg of their quarter-final against Atalanta 3-0 at home.

"We need to be perfect from here on in, for sure," Robertson told reporters. "We can't drop any more points and let's see what the other two teams (Manchester City and Arsenal) do. We have to stay positive. We don't stop fighting.

"We have to pick everyone up in the changing room because there's a lot of people who are down, whether they missed a chance, gave the ball away or whatever it is. We pick up, we go again on Thursday and we give everything we've got."

Liverpool next travel to face Atalanta on Thursday before returning to league action against Fulham.


Man City Players Enjoy the Pressure, Says Guardiola 

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Luton Town - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 13, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne with manager Pep Guardiola after being substituted. (Reuters)
Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Luton Town - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 13, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne with manager Pep Guardiola after being substituted. (Reuters)
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Man City Players Enjoy the Pressure, Says Guardiola 

Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Luton Town - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 13, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne with manager Pep Guardiola after being substituted. (Reuters)
Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Luton Town - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 13, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne with manager Pep Guardiola after being substituted. (Reuters)

Manchester City thrive on the pressure of playing when everything is on the line, manager Pep Guardiola said, as last season's treble winners continue their pursuit of another three titles.

City lead the Premier League by two points with six games left, host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday and play Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals three days later.

Asked about his side's chances of lifting more silverware this season, Guardiola said after their 5-1 win over Luton on Saturday: "They like to play with the pressure. They like to know - dead or alive.

"I am pretty sure we will be there till the end. Because I know them. I see the faces before the games in the meetings. How they prepare.

"That means win Premier League, Champions League? No. I am not saying that. But that we will compete? That's for sure. We have to be prepared but at the same time impose our game and try to put pressure through our game onto the opponent."


France Has Plan B to River Seine Olympics Opening if Security Requires 

This photograph taken on April 9, 2024 shows the sun going down above the Eiffel Tower and the Seine river in Paris. (AFP)
This photograph taken on April 9, 2024 shows the sun going down above the Eiffel Tower and the Seine river in Paris. (AFP)
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France Has Plan B to River Seine Olympics Opening if Security Requires 

This photograph taken on April 9, 2024 shows the sun going down above the Eiffel Tower and the Seine river in Paris. (AFP)
This photograph taken on April 9, 2024 shows the sun going down above the Eiffel Tower and the Seine river in Paris. (AFP)

France has prepared alternatives to holding the July 26 Olympics opening ceremony on the river Seine should security reasons require, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.

Conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine as well as a threat of terrorist attacks have led the French government to raise its security alert to its highest level.

Macron said he was confident the planned Games ceremony with huge crowds around the Seine, where some 160 boats would set off for a 6 km journey, would be a huge success.

But France, he added, is not naive.

"If we think there are security risks we'll have plan Bs, and even plan Cs," he said.

One option, he said, would be to restrict the ceremony to the central Paris Trocadero square facing the Eiffel Tower. Another would be to move the event indoors to the Stade de France stadium.

Macron then tried - and failed - to convince a mother, worried about security risks, to let her son go to the river Seine ceremony.

"If there is one place where your son will be safe it will be there," Macron told the mother, who asked her question during a BFM TV and RMC radio interview.

"Let him go, it's once every 100 years, the Olympics."

The unconvinced mother responded that she hoped her son would work that day and be unable to attend.

Macron, who gave his interview from Paris' Grand Palais museum, which has just been refurbished to host the fencing and taekwondo competitions, said he had not changed his mind about swimming in the Seine.

Paris has been working on cleaning up the Seine so that people can swim in it again, as was the case during the 1900 Paris Olympics. But a sewer problem last summer led to the cancellation of a pre-Olympics swimming event.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is also promising to swim in the Seine - more than three decades after her predecessor Jacques Chirac famously promised to do it but never did.