Mbwana Samatta: 'I Wanted to Play Like Drogba, Now I Watch Videos of Harry Kane'

 Mbwana Samatta was signed by Aston Villa for £8.5m from the Belgian club Genk in January. Photograph: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images
Mbwana Samatta was signed by Aston Villa for £8.5m from the Belgian club Genk in January. Photograph: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images
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Mbwana Samatta: 'I Wanted to Play Like Drogba, Now I Watch Videos of Harry Kane'

 Mbwana Samatta was signed by Aston Villa for £8.5m from the Belgian club Genk in January. Photograph: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images
Mbwana Samatta was signed by Aston Villa for £8.5m from the Belgian club Genk in January. Photograph: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Mbwana Samatta is the son of a policeman but pays little attention to the law of probability. Good thing, too, otherwise the player who grew up kicking rolled-up plastic bags around the streets of Dar es Salaam would not be preparing to lead the line for Aston Villa at Wembley. More than 10 family members will be watching from the stands in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final and millions of his fellow Tanzanians will be cheering him on from farther afield. From Birmingham to east Africa, fans have invested a lot of hope in this 27-year-old. And that is how he likes it.

Samatta says he always wanted to be someone on whom folks could rely. At first he thought he should become a soldier – “Just to be someone for the people, they could look and say: ‘Because of him, we are safe’” – but instead he achieved something far more improbable by becoming, following January’s £8.5m arrival from Genk, the first Tanzanian to play in the Premier League and the centre-forward whom Villa want to fire them to their first major trophy since 1996. Sure, Villa are underdogs but that does not matter to Samatta. Talent and strength of will have taken him a long way.

The second-youngest in a family of seven children, Samatta has played football for as long as he can remember but by the time he was 17 he knew that he, like his five older brothers, would probably have to give it up and get a proper job. He planned to enlist in the army, even though his footballing ability had attracted the chairman of the local club in Mbagala, the district of Dar es Salaam where he grew up. He joined Mbagala Market in the Tanzanian second division. The wages? None.

“I was playing football but not really thinking that football is going to take me somewhere,” he recalls. “I played something like two years in the second division and then a company called Mohamed Enterprises came and bought the club [and changed its name to African Lyon] because they were thinking the team could make it to the Premier League. When they bought the team, they started paying salaries. That was the time I started thinking: ‘This can be serious.’ It was just something like £40 or £50 per month but I was thinking: ‘If you get a salary, that means it’s a real job. So I can do this. Let’s see where it takes me.’”

Soon it took him to Tanzania’s biggest club, Simba SC, for whom he scored 13 goals in 25 matches, including one in an African Champions League tie against the Congolese giants Tout Puissant Mazembe. They swiftly made a move for him. He left his home town for the Lubumbashi base of TP Mazembe in 2011, where expectations were sky high. “Before they signed me they had played in the Club World Cup final against Inter Milan so everybody in their team was very known in Africa. I was just a boy from Tanzania. It was really a bit difficult. But I think my legs helped me. Just getting on the pitch and scoring goals. I scored in my first game.” Then Mazembe sold their main striker, Alain Kaluyituka, to a club in Qatar and Samatta stepped into the gap.

“It turned out that the players liked me, and the fans also liked me – they wanted to see me play. Because I’m fast and score goals.” With Samatta Mazembe won four successive domestic titles and lifted the 2015 Africa Champions League, with the striker scoring penalties in both legs of the final. “I knew the team looked at me and thought: ‘This is our main man, he will do something.’ So there was not very big pressure to score a penalty in the final. If you feel like you’re confident, you take it.” But the pressure was cranked up when he joined Genk in January 2016.

“When I was in Belgium, I realised that in Africa it was a little bit easy to play. It’s not aggressive. In Belgium it’s aggressive. The defenders they come at your legs kicking, pushing. In Africa, even if I was not 100%, I could just play. But [in Belgium] if you are not 100%, you are dead. You can’t do anything. I just said to myself: ‘I have to improve a lot. I want really to show it, I don’t want to fail here.’” He says it took him six months to adapt. But once he did so, he thrived.

His goals helped Genk win the Belgian title in 2019 and persuaded Villa that he could help rescue them in January when their previous striking import from the Belgian league, Wesley, got injured.

Samatta says he heard of Villa’s interest two days before the transfer was completed. “It was always my dream to play in the Premier League,” he says. “In Tanzania it is our favourite competition. I liked Manchester United because of David Beckham. Then came Cristiano Ronaldo but I switched sometimes to Thierry Henry because I liked how he played. And Didier Drogba, that was the guy I looked at most. I wanted to play like him and I tried to adapt and copy his running and stuff.”

His first match for Villa was the Carabao Cup semi-final triumph over Leicester but Samatta admits he found the going tough even before that. “Since I joined the team in training I had a feeling like: ‘If I had to be 100% in Belgium, here I have to be 200%.’ It’s not easy! In training they were running over me every time. I couldn’t get it. I was thinking: ‘Wow, this is tough. But I will make it.’”

In his next game he scored. His goal in a 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth was Villa’s first from a header all season, a particular pleasure for the striker who rates his aerial prowess as a key strength. But he was still not satisfied with his performance. He seldom is. “When the game is finished you go home and try to analyse it. What did I do? What do I have to improve?” His answer to the last question was: “A lot of stuff. But mostly my sprints. If I did 10, I have to get to 20. And where I position myself and how can I help my teammates to find me easily. Or how can I find space.”

Some particularly zealous Tanzanian admirers concluded that Samatta’s teammates needed to raise their game. The player felt embarrassed when he saw lots of his compatriots contacting other players on social media to order them to give their hero better service. “It’s like now the club and some players are receiving a lot of messages and I just asked them to leave the players alone. It’s me who comes from there [Tanzania], you don’t have to message everybody! Let them concentrate. It’s crazy! I don’t really like it.”

While Villa are counting – on Sunday and in their fight against relegation – on Samatta adapting rapidly to English football, City’s attack could be led by the most prolific foreign scorer in England in the modern era. Samatta acknowledges Sergio Agüero’s excellence but takes more inspiration from others.

“Before games I used to always watch videos of top strikers. Every time it used to be Didier Drogba. Then it was Harry Kane. I’ve watched him a lot; how he positions himself. And most of the time when he gets the ball he’s just thinking about shooting.”

Like Kane, Samatta is the captain of his country. He has found other ways of helping his people feel good. A few years ago he set up an annual charity match with one of Tanzania’s most popular singers, Ali Kiba, using the proceeds to fund education projects. “I was just thinking: ‘OK, I’m doing a job and getting paid but what can I do for society?’ We try to repair problems with schools and give it to people who don’t have anything.”

The Guardian Sport



Rybakina Beats Kostyuk to Win Porsche Grand Prix

21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa
21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa
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Rybakina Beats Kostyuk to Win Porsche Grand Prix

21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa
21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa

Elena Rybakina eased to her third title of the season on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in the final of the Porsche Grand Prix.
Rybakina, the world No. 4-ranked player who defeated top-ranked Iga Świątek in the semifinals, saved the three break points she faced and took four from six opportunities to win in 1 hour, 9 minutes, The Associated Press reported.
It’s Rybakina’s tour-leading 26th win of the year. The Stuttgart title comes after wins in Adelaide and Abu Dhabi this season. The Kazakh player’s previous clay-court wins were in Rome in 2023 and Bucharest in 2019.
The 27th-ranked Kostyuk was under pressure from the start as Rybakina broke her serve and sealed the first set in just 30 minutes.
Kostyuk had surprised herself with her run to the final, including three consecutive wins over top-10 players Zheng Qinwen, Coco Gauff and Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova. Kostyuk saved five match points against Zheng in the round of 16.
It was Kostyuk’s third final. She won her maiden title in Austin last year, and was runner-up in San Diego last month.


Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum

Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum
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Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum

Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum

Alexander Mutiso Munyao delivered another win for Kenya on a day the London Marathon remembered last year's champion Kelvin Kiptum, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
A race that started with a period of applause for Kiptum, who was killed in a car crash in Kenya in February, ended with his countryman and friend running alone down the final straight in front of Buckinhgam Palace to earn an impressive victory in his first major marathon.
Mutiso Munyao said he spoke to Kiptum after his win in London last year and that the world-record holder is always on his mind when he's competing.
“He’s in my thoughts every time, because he was my great friend,” Mutiso Munyao said. “It was a good day for me.”
It was a Kenyan double on the day, with Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir pulling away late to win the women’s race and cement her status as the favorite to defend her gold in Paris.

Mutiso Munyao denied 41-year-old Kenenisa Bekele a first London Marathon victory by pulling away from the Ethiopian great with about 3 kilometers to go Sunday for his biggest career win.
Mutiso Munyao and Bekele were in a two-way fight for the win until the Kenyan made his move as they ran along the River Thames, quickly building a six-second gap that only grew as he ran toward the finish.
“At 40 kilometers, when my friend Bekele was left (behind), I had confidence that I can win this race,” the 27-year-old Mutiso Munyao said.
He finished in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 1 second, with Bekele finishing 14 seconds behind. Emile Cairess of Britain was third, 2:45 back.
Bekele, the Ethiopian former Olympic 10,000 and 5,000-meter champion, was also the runner-up in London in 2017 but has never won the race.
Mutiso Munyao is relatively unknown in marathon circles and said he wasn't sure whether this win would be enough to make Kenya's Olympic team for Paris.
“I hope for the best,” he said. “If they select me I will go and work for it.”


Another Race, Another Victory for Verstappen at Chinese GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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Another Race, Another Victory for Verstappen at Chinese GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Another Formula 1 race. Yet another victory for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The three-time defending champion won the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday starting from pole, his fourth victory in five races this season and his 23rd in the last 27 extending through last season, The Associated Press reported.
Only a brake failure last month at the Australian GP in Melbourne probably kept him from sweeping all five.
Verstappen trailed for only a few laps following a pit stop. Lando Norris of McLaren was about 14 seconds behind Verstappen in second — the eighth time he has been No. 2 in his career as he still seeks his first victory. Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was third.
“It felt amazing,” Verstappen said. “All weekend we were incredibly quick and it was just enjoyable to drive. The car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted to with it. Those kind of weekends are amazing to feel.”
The safety car came out twice in the middle of the race. Once after Sauber's Valtteri Bottas stalled at the edge of the track with a blown engine, and again with two nearly simultaneous incidents.
In one, Kevin Magnuessen clipped Yuki Tsunoda, and in the other, Lance Stroll ran into the back of Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen's rule in F1 also extended to Saturday when he took the inaugural sprint race of the season.
This was the first F1 in China since 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out four races. Shanghai-born Zhou Guanyu finished 14th for Sauber, perhaps his last chance to race at home as teams next season will shuffle their driver lineups.
The real competition in F1 for the rest of the season appears to be for the half-dozen places behind Verstappen and Perez. Mercedes' George Russell called it “a fight” for places No. 3 through No. 8.
“Small differences can have a major impact,” Russell said.

The next GP is Miami on May 5 where it's often a celebrity show.


Olympic Champion Jepchirchir Wins Women's Race at London Marathon

Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
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Olympic Champion Jepchirchir Wins Women's Race at London Marathon

Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya pulled away late to win the London Marathon women’s race on Sunday and cement her status as the favorite to defend her gold in Paris.

Jepchirchir had by far the strongest finish as she easily left world-record holder Tigst Assefa and two other rivals behind to sprint alone down the final stretch in front of Buckingham Palace. She finished in 2 hours, 16 minutes, 16 seconds, with Assefa in second and Joyciline Jepkosgei in third.

That was more than 4 minutes slower than Assefa's world record set in Berlin last year, but it was the fastest time ever in a women-only marathon, beating the mark of 2:17:01 set by Mary Keitany in London in 2017. The elite women’s field in London starts about 30 minutes ahead of the elite men.


Sweden’s Eckermann Crowned as Champion of 2024 Show Jumping and Dressage World Cup in Riyadh

The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA
The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA
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Sweden’s Eckermann Crowned as Champion of 2024 Show Jumping and Dressage World Cup in Riyadh

The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA
The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA

The Vice President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Prince Fahad bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz, in the presence of the President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Ingmar de Vos, crowned Swedish rider Henrik von Eckermann with the Showjumping World Cup title at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Center in the capital, Riyadh, on the final day of the Show Jumping and Dressage World Cup.

The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row and won the race of 1.60 meters' height without error throughout the tournament during 67.33 seconds, amidst high attendance of audience.

French rider Julien Epaillard won second place in the championship with a time of 66.52 seconds, with 4 faults, while Swedish rider Peder Fredricson came third with a time of 66.39 seconds, with 6 faults.
The championship was launched last Wednesday in Riyadh for the first time in the Middle East, with the participation of 51 male and female riders and 60 horses representing 24 countries, with financial prizes amounting to 2.6 million euros (SAR 10.4 million), which is considered the most expensive in the history of the Showjumping World Cups.


Man City Beats Chelsea with Late Silva Goal to Make FA Cup Final

Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024.  EPA/NEIL HALL
Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024. EPA/NEIL HALL
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Man City Beats Chelsea with Late Silva Goal to Make FA Cup Final

Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024.  EPA/NEIL HALL
Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024. EPA/NEIL HALL

Manchester City’s European rule is over — its domestic dominance is not.
Even on a day when Arsenal rose to the summit of the English Premier League with a 2-0 win against Wolves, City kept its pursuit of back-to-back domestic doubles alive by booking its place in the FA Cup final.
Bernardo Silva’s late goal secured a 1-0 win against Chelsea in their semifinal on Saturday, just days after City’s Champions League defense was ended by Real Madrid.
Pep Guardiola’s team had to dig deep at Wembley, with Chelsea creating the best of the chances before Bernardo struck an 84th-minute winner.
A sweet moment for the Portuguese playmaker was even more special given he missed a penalty in the shootout loss to Madrid on Wednesday.
“(I’m) very happy after a very frustrating week for all of us, for me personally,” Bernardo said. “The good thing is in football at Man City, you play every three days. Every three days you have the chance to put things right and now we have a chance to win another trophy.”
City hoped to become the first team to win back-to-back trebles after winning the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup last season. Without the injured Erling Haaland, it had to show character to bounce back after the disappointment of defeat to Madrid.
Chelsea had chances to take the lead, but Nicolas Jackson wasted three golden opportunities before Bernardo’s decisive moment — converting Kevin De Bruyne’s cross from the left via a deflection from Marc Cucurella.
“We conceded in a moment you should not concede,” Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino said.
“We were not capable of being clinical in front of goal, we had many chances but we did not score. In the game we were a little bit better and deserved more, but it is not about deserving it, it is about being clinical and we were not.”
City is aiming to win the Cup for an eighth time, while Guardiola can extend his trophy haul to 16 since joining the club if his team completes the double.
He may look back on this game as being pivotal if City goes on to win the league and Cup, given the physical and mental strain the week has had on his players after being taken to extra time and penalties by Madrid.
Defeat to Chelsea would have raised questions over City’s resolve in the final weeks of a campaign when Arsenal and Liverpool are threatening to take the title race all the way.
While he celebrated joyously, fist pumping to the crowd and embracing each of his players, he voiced his anger over the decision to make his team play on Saturday. He said the semifinal should have been moved back 24 hours due to City’s Champions League commitments.
“I don’t understand how we survived today. It’s unacceptable to play today. Today is one of the greatest things I have seen from my players,” Guardiola said. “I just want to protect my players. It’s unacceptable, it’s common sense. I’m not asking for something special or privilege.”
Manchester United meets Coventry in the other semifinal on Sunday. The final is on May 25.
ARSENAL LEADS
Arsenal also had to show its resolve after a punishing week of its own.
Defeat to Aston Villa last weekend left Mikel Arteta’s team trailing City by two points at the top of the standings and that was followed by Champions League elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich.
After last season’s late title collapse, it looked like history was repeating itself.
But a 2-0 win at Wolves has gone some way to answering doubts about Arsenal’s credentials. Leandro Trossard and Martin Odegaard scored late in each half.
“It was a tough week for us. A few tough results and (it was) hard emotionally but we had to keep going,” Odegaard said.
Arsenal took over first place, a point clear of City, which has a game in hand.
Third-placed Liverpool can go level on points with Arsenal if it beats Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
RELEGATION BATTLE
Burnley’s hopes of survival were boosted by routing last-placed Sheffield United 4-1.
Vincent Kompany's team is putting together a late-season bid to avoid the drop with only one loss in seven in the league. Burnley is within three points of safety.
The win at Bramall Lane pushed Sheffield United closer to relegation, 10 points from safety with five games to go.
A good day for Burnley was made even better as relegation rival Luton was hammered at home by Brentford 5-1.
Luton, in 18th, had the chance to move out of the bottom three with a win, but is just two points ahead of Burnley in 19th.
Yoane Wissa struck twice for Brentford, which moved 10 points clear of the drop zone.


Ruud Advances to Barcelona Open Final, His Fourth Title Match of the Year

Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)
Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)
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Ruud Advances to Barcelona Open Final, His Fourth Title Match of the Year

Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)
Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)

Casper Ruud advanced to his fourth final of the year after beating Tomas Martin Etcheverry in straight sets at the Barcelona Open on Saturday.

The sixth-ranked Norwegian won the semifinal 7-6 (6), 6-4 on the outdoor clay court. He will face either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Dusan Lajovic for the title on Sunday.

Ruud has won 10 career titles but lost all three previous finals he played in 2024, including last weekend when he fell to Tsitsipas in the Monte Carlo title match.

Ruud needed to save a set point in the first set against Martin Etcheverry to record his season-leading 28th win.

Top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz withdrew from the tournament before it started because of an injury, while second-seeded Andrey Rublev lost in the second round.

Rafael Nadal, a 12-time champion in Barcelona, made his return to the courts for the first time since January on Tuesday, only to lose the next day.


Europe Discards Arsenal and Liverpool Shift Focus to EPL Title Race

 Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
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Europe Discards Arsenal and Liverpool Shift Focus to EPL Title Race

 Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)

What will it take to win the English Premier League with six games remaining? That’s easy — perfection.

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool — all eliminated from their European competitions this week — are locked in a tight battle for the title.

Defending champion City leads both rivals by two points but with Pep Guardiola’s team playing an FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea on Saturday, Arsenal and Liverpool can gain ground.

“If you want to be champion in the Premier League, you have to be close to perfection,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said on Friday ahead of a visit to Fulham on Sunday.

“Anything other than perfect, you have to deal with the setbacks in the best possible way. That’s what we are now doing. We had a setback week,” he said. “Now we have to start turning it around.”

Arsenal, too.

Mikel Arteta’s team gets first crack at retaking the league lead when it visits Wolverhampton on Saturday.

Arsenal lost at home to Aston Villa 2-0 last Sunday and was eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

“We don’t have to talk too much, it’s about showing against Wolves what we are made of to turn this situation around and it can look really positive,” Arteta said on Friday.

The second-place Gunners lead Liverpool on goal difference.

Like Arsenal, Klopp’s team lost ground to City last Sunday by losing at home to Crystal Palace 1-0. That was days after a surprise 3-0 loss to Atalanta at Anfield in the Europa League quarterfinals. The Reds won the second leg 1-0 in Bergamo but were still knocked out.

“The boys know that I don’t tell them things which I don’t believe in, and I’m 100% sure we can really win all the football games we have from now on,” Klopp said.

“If we would win all of our games, yeah, there’s a good chance that we will be champion. If not, then there’s a good chance somebody else is there. Maybe we only have to win five or whatever. Nobody knows. Who would have thought that Arsenal lose against Aston Villa? It just happens.”

City, bounced from the Champions League by Real Madrid on Wednesday, doesn’t play a Premier League game again until Thursday at Brighton.


Roma Unhappy with Rescheduling of Interrupted Udinese Match

AS Roma's supporters cheer during the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, 2nd leg soccer match between AS Roma and AC Milan in Rome, Italy, 18 April 2024. (EPA)
AS Roma's supporters cheer during the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, 2nd leg soccer match between AS Roma and AC Milan in Rome, Italy, 18 April 2024. (EPA)
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Roma Unhappy with Rescheduling of Interrupted Udinese Match

AS Roma's supporters cheer during the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, 2nd leg soccer match between AS Roma and AC Milan in Rome, Italy, 18 April 2024. (EPA)
AS Roma's supporters cheer during the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, 2nd leg soccer match between AS Roma and AC Milan in Rome, Italy, 18 April 2024. (EPA)

AS Roma said Serie A's decision to schedule the remaining 18 minutes of their suspended fixture against Udinese for April 25 is unfair as it puts the club at a disadvantage in their Europa League semi-final against Bayer Leverkusen.

The April 14 match at Udinese was suspended in the second half after Roma defender Evan Ndicka collapsed on the pitch and Serie A said the remainder would be played on Thursday.

Roma are also scheduled to play Bologna and Napoli this week before hosting Bayer Leverkusen on May 2 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final.

"AS Roma with its results and four consecutive European semi-finals contributed to UEFA ranking and thus five slots for Italian teams in the next edition of the Champions League," the club said on Friday.

"Despite that, (Serie A) President (Lorenzo) Casini took today an unfair decision, as it holds, against AS Roma forcing us to face Bayer 04 Leverkusen at disadvantage," it added.

"This is a clear backwards step for the whole of Italian football."


Saudi National Handball Team in UAE to Participate in First GCC Youth Games

The delegation of the Saudi handball team arrived in the United Arab Emirates to take part in the first edition of the GCC Youth Games.
The delegation of the Saudi handball team arrived in the United Arab Emirates to take part in the first edition of the GCC Youth Games.
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Saudi National Handball Team in UAE to Participate in First GCC Youth Games

The delegation of the Saudi handball team arrived in the United Arab Emirates to take part in the first edition of the GCC Youth Games.
The delegation of the Saudi handball team arrived in the United Arab Emirates to take part in the first edition of the GCC Youth Games.

The delegation of the Saudi handball team arrived on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates to take part in the first edition of the GCC Youth Games, said the Saudi Press Agency.
The games will be held from 20 to 26 April 2024, at the Bataeh Club hall in the Emirate of Sharjah.
The list of the national team participating in the tournament included 18 players.
Six teams will participate in the tournament: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.