Real Madrid Beats Liverpool to Reach Champions League QF

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League last 16 second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid on March 15, 2023. (AFP)
Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League last 16 second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid on March 15, 2023. (AFP)
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Real Madrid Beats Liverpool to Reach Champions League QF

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League last 16 second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid on March 15, 2023. (AFP)
Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League last 16 second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid on March 15, 2023. (AFP)

There was no historic comeback for Liverpool. Real Madrid's title defense in the Champions League rolls into the quarterfinals.

Liverpool never really came close to overcoming its three-goal deficit from the first leg against the titleholders at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Wednesday, losing 1-0 to end its hopes of another run to the final.

Karim Benzema scored late and Madrid advanced to the last eight for the third straight season with a 6-2 aggregate score following a 5-2 win from the first leg in England, when it rallied from two goals down early in the first half.

Liverpool was trying to pull off something never done before in the Champions League — erase a three-goal loss as a visitor. Only five times the team that lost at home rallied in the second leg in Europe's top club competition.

“You needed a special performance and we didn’t show a special performance,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “In moments, it was a good performance, but Real Madrid was the team in control the whole game. Madrid was the better team and deserved to advance.”

The only time Madrid failed to advance in the Champions League after winning the first leg on the road was in 2019, when it was eliminated by Ajax in the round of 16. It had won six of its last seven matches against Liverpool in the tournament, drawing another.

“It was the type of match we wanted,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “It was difficult for them to press up front. The team played well, it was focused from the start.”

Napoli defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 in the other round-of-16 match on Wednesday to join Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Manchester City in the draw for the quarterfinals on Friday.

Benzema scored from close range after a pass by Vinícius Júnior in the 79th minute. The France striker, who had missed Madrid’s Spanish league win against Espanyol last weekend because of an injury, has scored 13 goals in his last eight Champions League knockout stage matches. He limped during the goal celebration but said afterward it was just a knock.

“It was a complicated match, against a good opponent,” Benzema said. “We showed from the start that we wanted to attack, so it was a good match for the fans and we are into the quarterfinals.”

Liverpool came out with an attack-minded lineup and showed its intentions early, with Darwin Núñez forcing Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make a tough save on a breakaway seven minutes into the match.

It was an open match at the Bernabéu and Madrid had its chances as well, with Eduardo Camavinga coming close to scoring in the 20th with a shot from outside the area that struck the crossbar after a deflection by Alisson Becker. The Liverpool goalkeeper also stopped a chance by Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior in the first half and another in the second in a one-on-one situation with midfielder Federico Valverde.

Klopp kept trying to push his team forward from the sideline, but as the minutes passed it became clear it wasn’t going to be enough for the English team.

Liverpool had managed a big comeback at home in the 2019 semifinals, rallying against another Spanish club, Barcelona. It won 4-0 after losing 3-0 at the Camp Nou to keep alive a run that eventually ended with the team winning the trophy.

Madrid, which had beaten Liverpool in last year's final, played in its 300th Champions League game.

The loudspeakers at the Bernabéu played Liverpool’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem at the end of the match as fans from both clubs applauded.

“We are two heavyweights who meet each other quite frequently in international football and quite clearly we respect each other a lot,” Klopp said. “It was a really nice gesture, absolutely.”



Medvedev Hoping for More Clay Success with Simon in His Corner 

Daniil Medvedev. (AFP)
Daniil Medvedev. (AFP)
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Medvedev Hoping for More Clay Success with Simon in His Corner 

Daniil Medvedev. (AFP)
Daniil Medvedev. (AFP)

Daniil Medvedev believes the addition of Gilles Simon to his coaching team can help him understand clay better as the world number four looks to build confidence on his least favorite surface ahead of the French Open starting next month.

Medvedev has won 19 of his 20 titles, including the 2021 US Open, on hardcourts, with a grasscourt crown that same year at the Mallorca Open. He won his lone claycourt trophy at the 2023 Rome Masters in the lead-up to Roland Garros.

Medvedev, who was runner-up at the Australian Open in January, did not have a great start to the claycourt season after losing early in Monte Carlo this month.

However, he said he could see improvements in his game under Simon, who won five tour-level trophies on clay.

"He tries to bring something to my game, which maybe I thought of, but didn't understand how I should bring it on the court," Medvedev told reporters at the Madrid Open.

"He explains how I can do it and for me then it's important because during the match you don't have time to think too much. It's more of a reaction. So I have to be smart to not overthink what he says. Overthink it in practice, maybe, but not during the match.

"I feel like in Monte Carlo, because we talked a lot about playing ... I maybe thought too much about 'OK, next shot, what do I do?' Where I actually had to play more.

"It's very interesting and for the moment it's working great. I'm looking forward to learning more things."

Medvedev begins his Madrid campaign against Christopher O'Connell or Matteo Arnaldi.


Pochettino Frustrated by Chelsea’s Inconsistency After Thrashing at Arsenal 

Football - Premier League - Arsenal v Chelsea - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - April 23, 2024 Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino looks dejected after the match. (Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Arsenal v Chelsea - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - April 23, 2024 Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino looks dejected after the match. (Reuters)
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Pochettino Frustrated by Chelsea’s Inconsistency After Thrashing at Arsenal 

Football - Premier League - Arsenal v Chelsea - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - April 23, 2024 Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino looks dejected after the match. (Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Arsenal v Chelsea - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - April 23, 2024 Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino looks dejected after the match. (Reuters)

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino was left frustrated by his team's inconsistency after their 5-0 thrashing at Arsenal in the Premier League on Tuesday, which came just days after they pushed Manchester City hard in a tight FA Cup semi-final loss.

Leandro Trossard opened the scoring at the Emirates before Ben White and former Chelsea player Kai Havertz both scored twice in the second half to seal the north London club's biggest-ever win in the fixture.

The defeat came after Chelsea had gone eight matches unbeaten in the league, and dealt a blow to their hopes of claiming a European place next season.

"When we have bad days, we are so bad. When we are good, we are capable of everything," Pochettino told reporters.

"We cannot blame the players, I'm not going to blame the players. We cannot blame young guys who came here and after suffering some circumstances, come here to fight against a team preparing to win the Premier League.

"It is true we are disappointed with our performance, but I am not going to say something which is unfair to describe our team, our players, our squad."

Chelsea next face a trip to fourth-placed Aston Villa on Saturday, before hosting fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on May 2.


Sinner Not Heaping Pressure on Himself with Top Ranking in Sight 

Italian tennis player Jannik Sinner attends press conference on his participation in the Madrid Open tennis tournament, in Madrid, Spain, 23 April 2024. (EPA)
Italian tennis player Jannik Sinner attends press conference on his participation in the Madrid Open tennis tournament, in Madrid, Spain, 23 April 2024. (EPA)
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Sinner Not Heaping Pressure on Himself with Top Ranking in Sight 

Italian tennis player Jannik Sinner attends press conference on his participation in the Madrid Open tennis tournament, in Madrid, Spain, 23 April 2024. (EPA)
Italian tennis player Jannik Sinner attends press conference on his participation in the Madrid Open tennis tournament, in Madrid, Spain, 23 April 2024. (EPA)

World number two Jannik Sinner can close in on Novak Djokovic at the top of the world rankings by lifting the Madrid Open title but the in-form Italian said he is not putting any extra pressure on himself after a superb start to the season.

With Djokovic skipping the Masters tournament to stay in top shape for the Grand Slams and the Olympic Games, Australian Open champion Sinner would pick up 1,000 points and move to within 330 of the Serb if he wins his fourth trophy of 2024.

"I don't want to put pressure on myself. I'm living a very positive moment, winning a lot of matches, I just try to keep going like this," Sinner, who has lost only two of his 27 matches this year, told reporters.

"In my mind, I know that I can and have to improve if I want to win more. I'm searching for new opportunities and I feel like that every tournament I play, there can be a good opportunity to show that my level has raised.

"Showing what I've improved ... that's for sure something I'd like to do here. This is a new opportunity, new tournament and we'll see how it goes."

Defending Madrid champion Carlos Alcaraz said Sinner was the man to beat ahead of the May 26-June 9 French Open Grand Slam.

"He's dangerous. He's the best player in the world right now," world number three Alcaraz said.

"I think (some people) think his tennis doesn't suit well to the clay, but he's had results on clay as well.

"He can win every tournament he goes to, and obviously I'm fighting with him and Novak to be number one. I'm trying to stay there, but honestly it's going to be difficult."


Salt Lake City Poised for 2034 Olympics Award 

Fireworks fill the night sky 08 February 2002 during the opening ceremonies of the XIXth Winter Olympics at the Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AFP via Getty Images)
Fireworks fill the night sky 08 February 2002 during the opening ceremonies of the XIXth Winter Olympics at the Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AFP via Getty Images)
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Salt Lake City Poised for 2034 Olympics Award 

Fireworks fill the night sky 08 February 2002 during the opening ceremonies of the XIXth Winter Olympics at the Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AFP via Getty Images)
Fireworks fill the night sky 08 February 2002 during the opening ceremonies of the XIXth Winter Olympics at the Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AFP via Getty Images)

Salt Lake City is all but guaranteed to be awarded the 2034 Winter Olympics later this year and officials said its robust infrastructure and enthusiastic public support have paved the way.

Utah's capital city hosted the Games back in 2002 and International Olympic Committee representatives recently toured the city and heard plans for its "no-build" Games.

No other cities are in the running for the 2034 Games. Salt Lake City 2034 and France 2030 were picked as preferred hosts for the Winter Olympics in November.

"They got the opportunity to see our venues and how they are still thriving," Catherine Raney-Norman, chair of the Salt Lake City - Utah Committee for the Games, told Reuters in an interview.

"They left excited with what they had seen. It was extremely positive."

While other cities have soured on the idea of hosting an Olympics for fears of cost overruns that is not the case in Salt Lake City, where the legacy of the 2002 Games endures.

"Our polling has shown that we have over 80% public support," said Raney-Norman, a four-time Olympic speed skater.

"That's amazing. And we've had that consistently for the past 20 years."

Ensuring the public remains on board is one of the challenges that comes with having a 10-year leadup to the opening ceremony.

"Our challenge is making sure we maintain that enthusiasm and also making sure we have intentional impact on our community," she said.

"We don't have to build buildings so our headline in 2034 is going to be based on our impact in the community more so than standing up a new building."

The Winter Olympics have grown by about 40% since Salt Lake City hosted them last as more sports and disciplines have been added but the city can handle the additional action, Raney-Norman said.

"We know that within our venues and within our technical side that we can execute on those events," she said.

"We're embracing it, we're excited about it."

New events like big air could be held at a temporary downtown venue while the University of Utah will serve as the athlete village, she said.

Salt Lake City initially wanted to bid for the 2030 Games but dropped plans due to it being too close to the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The IOC is expected to formally name the city as host on July 24.

Hosting an Olympics within 10 years of LA28 is a "generational opportunity" for the United States and Raney-Norman said dialogue is already happening between the organizing committees.

"As we look to a future award and Salt Lake hopefully officially being named the host for 2034, we see opportunities and synergies as we continue to collaborate," she said.

"This is an opportunity to elevate the Olympic and Paralympic movement in the United States and that requires collaboration between the two groups."


Jeddah to Host Grand Smash 2024 World Table Tennis Championship

The event is organized by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, supervised by the Ministry of Sport, in cooperation with the World Table Tennis Organization (WTT).
The event is organized by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, supervised by the Ministry of Sport, in cooperation with the World Table Tennis Organization (WTT).
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Jeddah to Host Grand Smash 2024 World Table Tennis Championship

The event is organized by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, supervised by the Ministry of Sport, in cooperation with the World Table Tennis Organization (WTT).
The event is organized by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, supervised by the Ministry of Sport, in cooperation with the World Table Tennis Organization (WTT).

Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Governorate will host the Grand Smash 2024 World Table Tennis Championship for the first time under the theme "Saudi Smash" from May 1 to 11, with the participation of a group of elite international players in the game.

The event is organized by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, supervised by the Ministry of Sport, in cooperation with the World Table Tennis Organization (WTT).
The championship, hosted by the Kingdom for the first time, will consist of two phases. The first phase is the preparatory stage, scheduled from May 1 to 3. During this stage, 64 players, including Saudis, will compete to advance to the second stage, known as the finals, which begins on May 4. Only 8 players will progress to the finals. The eight players will then compete alongside 56 other world-class players in the elimination rounds to vie for titles in the five tournaments: men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles.
The event reflects the significant development of the sports sector in Saudi Arabia, aligning with the objectives of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 to make the sports sector a direct contributor to the progress, prosperity, and development of the Kingdom across all fields.


Paris Mayor Confident Water Quality Will Allow Olympic Swimming in River Seine

Competitors swim in the Seine River during the Paris Triathlon competition in Paris Sunday, July 10, 2011. (AP)
Competitors swim in the Seine River during the Paris Triathlon competition in Paris Sunday, July 10, 2011. (AP)
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Paris Mayor Confident Water Quality Will Allow Olympic Swimming in River Seine

Competitors swim in the Seine River during the Paris Triathlon competition in Paris Sunday, July 10, 2011. (AP)
Competitors swim in the Seine River during the Paris Triathlon competition in Paris Sunday, July 10, 2011. (AP)

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was confident water quality in the River Seine will be up to Olympic standards this summer — and that she’ll be able to prove it by swimming there, possibly alongside President Emmanuel Macron.

The Seine is the venue for marathon swimming at the Games and the swimming leg of the Olympic and Paralympic triathlons.

Asked Tuesday about whether she’ll meet her promise to swim in the Seine before the Games, Hidalgo said “for sure, because water quality will be good.”

For decades, the Seine was too toxic for most fish and for swimmers, useful mainly as a waterway to transport goods and people or as a watery grave for discarded bicycles and other trash. Swimming in the Seine has, with some exceptions, been illegal since 1923.

Hidalgo mentioned new facilities that have been specially built to clean up the river, whose water quality was recently denounced by an environmental group.

A water treatment plant in Champigny-sur-Marne, east of Paris, was inaugurated Tuesday.

Next week will see the official opening of a huge storage basin meant to reduce the need to spill bacteria-laden wastewater into the Seine untreated when it rains. The giant hole dug next to Paris’ Austerlitz train station will hold the equivalent of 20 Olympic swimming pools of dirty water that will now be treated rather than being spat raw through storm drains into the river.

Hildago said she had invited top officials to swim in the Seine at an event dubbed “the big dive” to be staged at the end of June or beginning of July. Macron, who himself promised to swim in the river, has been invited, she confirmed, as well as Paris Olympics organizers and IOC president Thomas Bach.

“We’re going to dive into the Seine, and many volunteers have already come forward to come and dive with me and all the athletes who will be there,” Hidalgo said. “We’ll all be safe to swim in the Seine.”

Marc Guillaume, the Paris regional prefect, earlier this month dismissed a recent NGO report about poor water quality, saying it was based on testing during the winter, when no one was swimming in the Seine.

Water quality must be good enough for swimming during the Games and, from 2025, in the summer, because the city plans to open some areas to the public. However, swimming out of season will remain illegal.

The estimated cost of the Seine cleanup efforts amount to 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion), paid by the state and local authorities.

Guillaume said routine water testing will start on June 1 when all the new treatment facilities are operational. During the Olympics, water will be tested at 3 a.m. each day and determine whether to hold events as planned, he detailed.

Olympics organizers said if pollution levels were too high, events could be rescheduled and in the worst-case scenario, the swimming section of the triathlon would be canceled.

In a recent report, the Surfrider Foundation called the Seine “a particularly polluted spot” after it monitored bacteria levels for over six months. The group concluded that athletes “will be swimming in polluted water and taking significant risks to their health.”

The Paris mayor's news conference on Tuesday was meant to unveil cultural and sports celebrations to be staged on 26 sites across Paris during the summer.

“We are working together to ensure that the party is beautiful,” Hidalgo said, adding that security is the authorities' top concern.

Around 30,000 police officers are expected to be deployed each day during the Games, with 45,000 working during the opening ceremony on the Seine.

“We work ... with a lot of professionalism and determination so that never, ever the issue of security finally comes to prevent our freedom to be able to live together,” Hidalgo said.


UEFA Picks Two Video Review Referees at Center of Controversy for Euro 2024 Duty

Premier League - West Ham United v Fulham - London Stadium, London, Britain - April 14, 2024 Referee Stuart Attwell talks to his assistant as West Ham United's Lucas Paqueta looks on. (Reuters)
Premier League - West Ham United v Fulham - London Stadium, London, Britain - April 14, 2024 Referee Stuart Attwell talks to his assistant as West Ham United's Lucas Paqueta looks on. (Reuters)
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UEFA Picks Two Video Review Referees at Center of Controversy for Euro 2024 Duty

Premier League - West Ham United v Fulham - London Stadium, London, Britain - April 14, 2024 Referee Stuart Attwell talks to his assistant as West Ham United's Lucas Paqueta looks on. (Reuters)
Premier League - West Ham United v Fulham - London Stadium, London, Britain - April 14, 2024 Referee Stuart Attwell talks to his assistant as West Ham United's Lucas Paqueta looks on. (Reuters)

The match official accused of bias by English Premier League club Nottingham Forest got UEFA support on Tuesday by being selected for the European Championship as a video review expert in an overall list which included no women.

Forest’s inflammatory social media post on Sunday targeting Stuart Attwell has been widely criticized across English soccer and was even mocked by another club.

Forest said Attwell is a fan of relegation rival Luton and claimed that this was a factor in not being awarded up to three penalty kicks on video review in a 2-0 loss at Everton on Sunday.

Attwell is among 20 video assistant referee (VAR) specialists chosen by UEFA to work at the 51-game Euro 2024 in Germany that starts June 14.

“All chosen referees have performed consistently to the highest standards in UEFA’s top competitions, and also in their domestic competitions,” UEFA head of refereeing Roberto Rosetti said in a statement.

Also on the VAR list is Tomasz Kwiatkowski of Poland, who UEFA removed from a Champions League game in November one day after he advised 2022 World Cup final referee Szymon Marciniak to award Paris Saint-Germain a stoppage-time penalty for handball against Newcastle. Kylian Mbappé scored to deny Newcastle victory in a 1-1 draw.

Marciniak is among the 18 European referees picked for Euro 2024, plus Facundo Tello of Argentina who joins them as part of the close working ties between UEFA and South American soccer body CONMEBOL.

UEFA did not include any women among the referees, assistants, video review specialists and fourth officials in their Euro 2024 team that will be based in Frankfurt. At Euro 2020, Stéphanie Frappart of France was included as a fourth official. She made history at the men’s World Cup in 2022 when she handled the Germany-Costa Rica game in the group stage.

England has two referees selected, including Anthony Taylor who worked with Attwell in the Everton-Forest game on Sunday.

One of the two German referees picked, Felix Zwayer, was the subject of comments about integrity by Jude Bellingham when the England star played for Borussia Dortmund in 2021.


Inter's Future Bright under Inzaghi but Off-field Uncertainty Reigns

Inter Milan are riding high after winning their 20th league title. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Inter Milan are riding high after winning their 20th league title. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
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Inter's Future Bright under Inzaghi but Off-field Uncertainty Reigns

Inter Milan are riding high after winning their 20th league title. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Inter Milan are riding high after winning their 20th league title. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Inter Milan are flying high after sealing the Serie A title by winning the Milan derby but off-field uncertainty is still the order of the day for the new Italian champions.
Last season's run to the Champions League final looked like a one-off for Inter, one of Europe's grand clubs who like much of the continent's football royalty have to deal with a huge resource gap to the Premier League and state-backed clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, AFP said.
And their situation off the field is yet to fully stabilize even as they receive a second star on their jersey for their 20th league crown.
Hanging over Inter for the past three years has been an emergency loan taken out with investment fund Oaktree, which must be paid in full next month and after interest reportedly amounts to between 375-380 million euros.
That loan -- whose exact figure Inter would not confirm to AFP -- had been taken out in 2021 as Inter and other Italian clubs were hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Oaktree can, much like Elliott did with Milan in 2018, take control of Inter should that loan either be not repayed or refinanced by Inter's Chinese owners Suning.
Inter president Steven Zhang appeared bullish at Sunday's Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, strongly hinting that come the summer he will still be president.
"Every day there are rumors (about Suning selling)... What I can say is that we will continue to fight, continue to win," said Zhang to Sky Sport on the paddock at the Shanghai International Circuit.
"None of the rumors are true. As long as I'm the president, as long as I'm the owner we're going to continue to win."
New deal
Zhang was not in Milan for -- Champions League final aside -- the biggest game of Suning's near eight-year reign as owners, and in fact hasn't been there for months.
Zhang, who lost a court case with China Construction Bank over personal debts of 320 million euros, is negotiating a reported 400-million-euro loan with another US fund, this time with Pimco, which Inter will use to pay off Oaktree and keep the club with Suning.
Contacted by AFP, Pimco said that they "couldn't discuss ongoing negotiations".
While effectively kicking the can down the road with another reported three-year loan with even higher interest than the 12 percent negotiated with Oaktree, strong performances on the pitch and in the transfer market should boost accounts which have taken a beating since the pandemic.
Inter's posted losses of 85 million euros in 2022/23, following even heavier losses of 140 million euros and 245.6 million euros in the previous two seasons as stadiums were partially or fully closed due to the pandemic.
Zhang also basically confirmed a contract extension for Simone Inzaghi, who has done a superb job in difficult circumstances since replacing Antonio Conte three years ago and is expected to sign an extension until 2027.
Stadium uncertainty
New deals for captain Lautaro Martinez and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella are also in the offing, while this summer is set to be the first in some time where a star player won't need to be sold to balance the books.
"I've said many times that it's a gift for me as president to work with a coach like Inzaghi," added Zhang.
"He gives me confidence and keeps the environment calm and stable. We're going to continue together."
Inter also remain in limbo with regards to getting their own stadium after plans to build a new ground on the San Siro site with AC Milan petered out last year.
Inter have pushed ahead with a new stadium project in the town of Rozzano, just south of Milan, which corporate CEO Alessandro Antonello has said is the club's priority despite talks with AC Milan and Milan city council over potentially taking possession of a renovated version of the current San Siro.
Italian construction group WeBuild is working on a feasibility study for a renovation to be finished in June which the city of Milan hopes can convince its two world famous football clubs to stay within its borders.
Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala has repeatedly expressed worry about what will happen to the San Siro if both teams leave, with AC Milan having bought land in suburb San Donato Milanese for their own stadium project.


Kewell Tells Yokohama to Summon Spirit of Istanbul to Reach Final

Harry Kewell won the 2005 Champions League with Liverpool and now coaches Japanese side Yokohama F-Marinos. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Harry Kewell won the 2005 Champions League with Liverpool and now coaches Japanese side Yokohama F-Marinos. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
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Kewell Tells Yokohama to Summon Spirit of Istanbul to Reach Final

Harry Kewell won the 2005 Champions League with Liverpool and now coaches Japanese side Yokohama F-Marinos. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Harry Kewell won the 2005 Champions League with Liverpool and now coaches Japanese side Yokohama F-Marinos. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

Harry Kewell says his Yokohama F-Marinos side can emulate his 2005 Istanbul success with Liverpool and "do something magical" in Wednesday's Asian Champions League semi-final second leg.
Kewell won European club football's biggest prize almost 20 years ago as Liverpool roared back from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties, although the Australian lasted just 23 minutes before going off injured in the final.
The former Leeds and Liverpool winger took over as Yokohama coach at the start of this year and has taken the Japanese club to their first Asian Champions League semi-final.
They lost the first leg to Ulsan Hyundai 1-0 in South Korea but Kewell believes his team can channel the same spirit that saw Liverpool upset the odds in Istanbul.
"I was part of a special team that night that was able to come back from a scenario where a lot of people thought it was dead and buried," he said on Tuesday.
"It just goes to show that a game is never finished, especially when you've got a hunger and a desire in a team.
"And I see that hunger and desire in this team to go out there and do something magical."
Kewell is one of Australia's greatest players but he has never reached the same heights as a manager in lower-league English football.
He was sacked by fifth-tier Barnet in 2021 after failing to win in his first seven matches as manager.
Youth movement
Kewell has made a solid start in Japan and is taking inspiration from former Liverpool team-mate Xabi Alonso, who has clinched the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen.
"He's gone out there and taken a team to be virtually unstoppable, not only in the Bundesliga but also in Europe as well at this present time," said Kewell.
"I think it's fantastic to see young coaches now coming in with a different mindset, a different attitude and a different way of playing."
Kewell was preceded at Yokohama by fellow Australians Kevin Muscat and Ange Postecoglou.
Postecoglou left to join Celtic and hired Kewell as a coach, before moving on to Tottenham in the Premier League.
Kewell said he has been trying to put his own stamp on Yokohama rather than asking Spurs boss Postecoglou for advice.
"We're both very busy concentrating on our own teams," he said.
"I did speak to him briefly at the start to get a bit of information but generally wherever I go, I make my own mind up on what I see and how I approach things."
Ulsan qualified for next year's expanded 32-team Club World Cup in the United States by beating Yokohama in the first leg.
They are aiming to win the Champions League for a third time.
"We won the first leg but we have to forget about the result," said coach Hong Myung-bo.
"We will try to play with stability but this is an away game and there will difficult times."
The winner of the tie will face Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates or Saudi side Al-Hilal in a two-legged final.
They play later Tuesday in the other semi-final in Riyadh with Al-Ain leading 4-2 from the first leg.


Alcaraz, Nadal Continue Recovery from Injuries at Madrid Open While Djokovic Skips Tournament

Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Australia's Alex De Minaur during the ATP Barcelona Open "Conde de Godo" tennis tournament singles match at the Real Club de Tenis in Barcelona, on April 17, 2024. (AFP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Australia's Alex De Minaur during the ATP Barcelona Open "Conde de Godo" tennis tournament singles match at the Real Club de Tenis in Barcelona, on April 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Alcaraz, Nadal Continue Recovery from Injuries at Madrid Open While Djokovic Skips Tournament

Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Australia's Alex De Minaur during the ATP Barcelona Open "Conde de Godo" tennis tournament singles match at the Real Club de Tenis in Barcelona, on April 17, 2024. (AFP)
Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Australia's Alex De Minaur during the ATP Barcelona Open "Conde de Godo" tennis tournament singles match at the Real Club de Tenis in Barcelona, on April 17, 2024. (AFP)

Carlos Alcaraz is back from injury to try to win a third consecutive Madrid Open this week, with Rafael Nadal also in Monday's draw but top-ranked Novak Djokovic missing.

Alcaraz will be competing in his first European clay-court event of the season after skipping Monte Carlo and Barcelona because of a right arm injury. The 20-year-old Spaniard begins his title defense against Alexander Shevchenko or Arthur Rinderknech.

Nadal, a record five-time champion in Madrid, continues his comeback from injury by facing American wild-card Darwin Blanch in the first round. The 22-time Grand Slam champion will then meet 10th-seed Alex de Minaur if he advances.

Nadal lost to De Minaur in the second round at the Barcelona Open last week in his first tournament for more than three months.

The 37-year-old Nadal last won the Madrid title in 2017, when he beat Dominic Thiem in the final.

Three-time champion Djokovic will not play for a second consecutive year in Madrid, reducing his clay-court preparations for his French Open title defense.

The 24-time Grand Slam winner is still likely to have the Italian Open in Rome to hone his clay game in mid-May before the event at Roland Garros starts on May 26.

Djokovic is yet to win a title this season after losing in the semifinals of Monte Carlo. He also skipped the Miami tournament in March.

Top-seeded Jannik Sinner, who beat Djokovic in the Australian Open final, will open his Madrid campaign against Lorenzo Sonego or a qualifier.

Casper Ruud, who won the Barcelona title, faces Zhizhen Zhang or Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka lead the women's field, with Swiatek looking to win her first title at the clay-court tournament. She will also be out to capture a third consecutive French Open title.

After a first-round bye, Swiatek meets Wang Xiyu or Ana Bogdan. Sabalenka plays Elisabetta Cocciaretto or Magda Linette in the second round.