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46 —SATURDAY Vanguard,

46 —SATURDAY Vanguard, FEBRUARY 4, 2017 Moses eyes redemption in Arsenal rematch If, as widely expected, Chelsea go on to lift the Premier League trophy, one game in their title-winning campaign will surely be remembered as the most significant for manager Antonio Conte. Forget the 4-0 rout of Manchester United in October when returning manager Jose Mourinho was humiliated. Or the 5-0 victory over Everton in November when everything went right and Eden Hazard briefly resembled Lionel Messi. Or even the comefrom-behind win at Manchester City the following month that firmly installed the team as title favorite. The defining 90 minutes of Chelsea’s season will likely be a loss that led to some serious soul-searching and, critically, a change in formation. A 3-0 loss at Arsenal on Sept. 24 bewildered Conte. He saw his team playing as individuals, with the wrong attitude, the wrong balance Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid are only two games away from equalling the club record of scoring in 41 consecutive matches. Only Celta Vigo in Balaidos on Sunday, and Osasuna at the Estadio El Sadar next Saturday, February 11, are the obstacles to overcome. If Los Blancos can score in both matches, the game in which they could set a new mark would be against Jose Callejon’s Napoli in the Champions League. Real are the only team in the top five European leagues that has managed to score in every game that they have played this season (a total of 34). The last match time that they failed to find the net was in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Manchester City. and with no identity. The only good thing to come out of that ill-fated trip to Emirates Stadium was a second-half switch to a 3-4-3 formation, which finally put Conte’s imprint on his new side and was there to stay. From a low ebb — eighth in the standings, to be precise — Chelsea haven’t looked back. Fifteen wins from 17 matches later, Chelsea host Arsenal for their return game today with a nine-point lead and with mostobservers saying t h e title h a s been wrapped up. “ I think,” Conte said, “this could be a good chance Madrid chase scoring record Tottenham are fully aware that they have a star in their ranks in Dele Alli and are not willing to let him leave the club unless an offer exceeding •100 million arrives for the 20- year-old. That price, however, might not be enough to repel the interest of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich - two teams said to be monitoring his progression. The Times say that the fee Up to three times t h e team have come close to shattering the record. Jose Mourinho’s side almost set the new mark during season 11/ 12, and in 87/88 and 88/89 Leo Beenhakker came within a whisker. The first time Real managed such a high number of consecutive scoring games came when Santiago Bernabeu was president, between the seasons of 51/52 and 52/53. Zidane’s team have already managed to beat the streak of games without losing, and now seem ready to continue making history. Tottenham slap •100m price tag on Alli that brought Gareth Bale to Real Madrid would have to be outdone in order to poach the player from Mauricio Pochettino’s side. They did not specify a price but Bale’s fee was in the region of •100 million. Alli signed a new fiveyear-deal with the club and also received a boost in his pay for his emergence as one of the best young players in Moses game. “Even though for us to s h o w that, now, we are a totally different team.” His view w a s reinforced by Victor Moses, who has s i n c e t h a t defeat to Arsenal, b e e n converted to a wing-back and is dreaming of a redemption i n today’s we are on top, we need to win the match and redeem ourselves from that defeat, which hurt us so much”, said the Nigerian winger. That’s already been proven. David Luiz looks like a different player with more freedom as a libero in a back three. Unheralded pair Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses have excelled as wingbacks, central midfielder N’Golo Kante is possibly the most influential player in the league, while forwards Hazard and Pedro Rodriguez have been outstanding without having so much defensive responsibility as part of a front three with topscorer Diego Costa. The team are more streetwise and organized, as shown in the 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Tuesday when Chelsea absorbed lots of early pressure from the home side before growing into the game and being a late penalty miss from Costa away from winning. Alli IGHALO: Exponent of Chinese football’s boom time Changchun Yatai made Odion Ighalo the sixthmost expensive player in the history of the Chinese Super League late last month, as Watford received 23.5 million euros for the player who helped mastermind their return to the Premier League big time. His new club had previously been modest with their transfer dealings, but took the plunge to ensure that their profile and reputation within football received a welcome boost. Clubs such as Shanghai SIPG, Jiangsu Suning, Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua, Hebei China Fortune and newly-promoted Tianjin Quanjian have been the teams to make the most headlines during the last year due to their signings. They are backed by big business, except for Changchun Yatai, but Ighalo’s new club recently decided to steer themselves away from being financially prudent and take a big step forward in Aguero: I’m not thinking of leaving Sergio Aguero will not seek a move away from Manchester City at the end of this season and is willing to fight for a starting spot at the Etihad Stadium, according to the Argentina striker’s agent Aguero is in the familiar position of being City’s top scorer, with 18 goals in 25 appearances this term, but he has fresh competition for his place as the club’s attacking spearhead in the form of Gabriel Jesus. Jesus lined up flanked by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling as Aguero looked on from the bench at London Stadium on Wednesday, where the livewire trio proceeded to tear West Ham to ribbons in a 4-0 victory. City boss Pep Guardiola praised Jesus’ aggression and pressing after the match – cutting a contrast with his calls earlier in the campaign for Aguero to improve his allround contribution, around the time he left the 28-yearold on the bench against Barcelona at Camp Nou in Aguero Ighalo terms of being a sporting project. It must be remembered that their most expensive signing up until this point was Bolivian player Marcelo Moreno, who cost 2.5m euros two seasons ago. Ighalo’s arrival is a statement from Changchun, who will be featuring in this season’s Super League after completing a great escape last term. With four games left to play, they needed six points for survival, but Lee Jang-Soo masterminded the miracle turn-around and achieved safety on the final day Jang-Soo will be looking to get the same performance levels out of Ighalo as Quique Sanchez Flores did last season for Watford, when the Nigeria international was one of the revelations of the Premier League campaign a n d scored 14 goals in the first half of the season. October. Real Madrid have been linked with a move for the former Atletico Madrid man, but his representative Hernan Reguera assured the player is content with his current situation in Manchester. “Yes, he is very, very happy – he will be there next season,” he told The Guardian. Asked whether Aguero was willing to contest his favoured central attacking berth with Jesus, who can also be deployed on the left, Reguera replied: “No problem.”

Aboubakar SATURDAY Vanguard, FEBRUARY 4, 2017 — 47 Ronaldinho back at Barca It has been confirmed that Barcelona legend Ronaldinho will return to the club in an ambassadorial role. The Brazilian won two LaLiga titles and the Champions League during a distinguished five-year spell at the Camp Nou. Nine years after his departure from Catalonia as a player, the 36-year-old’s new position will see him perform such duties as representing the club at official events and functions and playing for the Barcelona Legends team in matches around the world. The deal will also see ‘soccer schools’ currently run by Ronaldinho brought into line with those run by Barca. “I have a lot of friends here,” the World Cup winner told Mundo Deportivo. “I have a history and a big part of my life here. “I am very happy to have the opportunity to come home.” Egypt, Cameroon set for AFCON final Egypt will attempt to win the fourth consecutive Africa Cup of Nations in which they have competed when they face Cameroon in tomorrow’s final. The Pharaohs, among the tournament favourites from the outset in Gabon, were victorious in 2006, 2008 and 2010 before failing to qualify for the next three editions in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Underdogs Cameroon have upset the odds to reach the final, beating much-fancied Ghana in the last four. The game is a repeat of the 2008 final. Cameroon’s squad includes two British-based players, Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum and Clinton N’Jie, although the latter is on loan at Marseille from Tottenham. Egypt have three players from England’s Premier League - defender Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull) and midfielders Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal) and Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke), as well as former Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah. Seven-time winners Egypt earned their place in a record-equalling ninth Afcon final b y Kane H a r r y Kane, Dele Alli and A l e x i s Sanchez are part of the quintet of nominees for the Premier League’s Player of the Month in January. Tottenham beating Burkina Sallah Faso 4- 3 on penalties following a 1-1 semifinal draw. The Pharaohs’ hero in the semifinal was 44-yearold goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, whose save in the shootout means he now has a chance to win a fifth Afcon title, having won his first in 1998. El Hadary has been in fine form in Gabon, the goal he conceded in the semi-final being the first he has let in during the tournament. The make-up of Cameroon’s squad has changed significantly since the appointment of Hugo Broos as manager in February 2016, but he is confident his youthful line-up can cause an upset. “In the 29 years I’ve been a coach I’ve never worked with a group like this,” said the Belgian, who is hoping to lead the Indomitable Lions to a first Afcon title since 2002 and fifth overall. Juve battle Inter on StarTimes Fans can enjoy all Serie A football games this weekend live and exclusively on StarTimes World football (channel 254 or 245), especially Juventus versus Inter Milan cracker. Games between tabletopping Juventus and Inter Milan are often explosive, Kane, Sanchez, Alli battle for award striker Kane has been in electric form over recent weeks, netting five goals in five league games including a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over West Brom at White Hart Lane. However his achievements have arguably been overshadowed by his Spurs team-mate Dele Alli. The England international has seven to his name this month, none more important than the brace that ended Chelsea’s 13 match winning run in the Premier League at White Hart Lane. Arsenal star Sanchez has also been weighing in with crucial goals this month, finding the net to inspire a revival from three goals down at Bournemouth and scoring an impudent ‘Panenka’ penalty in the 98th minute to secure a 2- 1 win for the ten men Gunners against Burnley. Fabregas vows to keep ‘taking risks’ Chelsea midfielder C e s c Fabregas has vowed to continue “taking risks” with his passing this season. “When you look at statistics, for example, you see a midfielder that plays in my position and you say he has 95 per cent accuracy, he didn’t lose the ball,” Fabregas told Chelsea TV. “[But] I will always lose more balls because I take a lot of risks. I like to play final balls, Ronaldinho I see the striker on the move and I take the chance. I could play a simple pass just five yards away from me and keep the ball and play it simple but that’s not who I am. I always like to feed the striker to create chances and to score goals,” he added. engaging, dramatic and intriguing Higuain and this Sunday’s encounter promises to be a cracker. With Juve, Inter face a pretty daunting task, as the Old Lady are not known to be losers in their home stadium in Turin, making the clash all the more worthwhile. StarTimes plans to also beam live on Sunday as AC Milan battle Sampdoria, Chievo host Udinese, Pescara confront Lazio while on Saturday, Napoli travel to face Bologna. Head of Public Relations and Communication, Israel Bolaji, said All Serie A football games in the European league fixture this weekend will be screen live on StarTimes sports channels, including ST World football, ST Sports Arena, ST Sports Focus, ST Sports Premium etc. He emphasized the pay TV company’s commitment to deliver a fine mix of pulsating live sporting matches to its customers and football lovers. Costa rubbishes Chinese move Diego Costa has responded to reports that he has agreed to a big money move to China by posting a messge on Instagram. The report suggested that he had agreed a deal to move to China in the summer with the rumour surfacing on Cadena SER. The 28-year-old fell out with Antonio Conte earlier this month when reports of a bid from a Chinese club arrived into Chelsea headquarters and Costa asked to be told the details of the deal. He had been struggling with an injury complaint that didn’t help the brief feud with his manager Conte and it caused a strain between the former Atletico striker and the medical staff at the club. It is not the first Instagram post Costa has posted recently. He took to the social media site after he was dropped by Conte for the Leicester City game following their spat with a similar message. Whether there is any meat to the rumours b u t is one thing Costa’s contribution t o Chelsea’s cause this season can Costa not be questioned with 15 goals in 24 games. According t o Costa, “they talk too m u c h rubbish”.