Mutual admiration from Klopp, Zidane as Real and Liverpool prepare for final

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Kiev (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp expressed his admiration for Zinedine Zidane a day before he leads Liverpool into the Champions League final hoping to stop the French legend’s Real Madrid side from winning the trophy for a third year in succession. Zidane has led Real to victory in each of the last two campaigns, and will enter the history books if he becomes the first coach to win Europe’s premier club competition three years in a row. Real beat Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich in the knockout rounds on the way to the final. Yet Zidane’s detractors consider him to be a supervisor of a supremely talented squad, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, rather than a tactical genius. “If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny,” Klopp Continue reading "Mutual admiration from Klopp, Zidane as Real and Liverpool prepare for final"

Liverpool bid to get stranded fans to Kiev fails

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London (AFP) – Liverpool’s mayor said his bid to get stranded football fans to Kiev for the Champions League final against Real Madrid failed on Friday after he was unable to find crew for back-up planes. “We regret to say that we have been unable to achieve a resolution that will satisfy everyone. We now must accept the fact that some fans who have tickets may not be able to make the game,” said Mayor Joe Anderson in a statement. “Our hearts go out to all those who will undoubtedly be left bitterly disappointed by this turn of events.” Hundreds of supporters are now expected to miss the showpiece match in Ukraine on Saturday after operator Worldchoice Sports cancelled three flights because it did not have sufficient landing slots at Boryspil Airport. Anderson initially said he was working with Kiev’s mayor, former world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, to find Continue reading "Liverpool bid to get stranded fans to Kiev fails"

Ronaldo lives for Champions League final stage – Zidane

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Kiev (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo is fit and ready to shine again in a Champions League final, believes Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane as the Spanish giants go for a third straight European Cup against Liverpool on Saturday. Ronaldo can join an elite group of just 10 other players to win five European Cups should Madrid win in Kiev. The Portuguese became just the second player after legendary Real forward Alfredo di Stefano to score in three different finals by netting twice in a 4-1 rout of Juventus last season to deliver Madrid’s 12th European crown. And he shrugged off fears over an ankle injury picked up in a thrilling 2-2 draw with Barcelona earlier this month by scoring on his return against Villarreal as Madrid wrapped up a disappointing domestic season in La Liga last weekend.  “He’s fine. If he is just 140 percent it’s no problem,” said Continue reading "Ronaldo lives for Champions League final stage – Zidane"

Ukraine a ‘special place’ for Real skipper Ramos

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Kiev (AFP) – Kiev has attracted a wave of negative publicity due to the problems faced by supporters wanting to get there for Saturday’s Champions League final, but Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos insists it will always have a place in his heart. Fans of Madrid and Liverpool have had their plans for attending the game thrown into turmoil, with some hotels cancelling previously-made bookings to put the same rooms up for sale at exorbitant rates. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin confirmed that 1,000 Real supporters had handed back their tickets because it had become too expensive to get to the Ukrainian capital. But Ramos is returning to the city, and to the same Olympic Stadium, where he won the Euro 2012 final with Spain against Italy. “The truth is that Ukraine is a special place for me and brings back great memories,” he told media on Friday ahead of the Continue reading "Ukraine a ‘special place’ for Real skipper Ramos"

‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player – Klopp

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Kiev (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp is in no doubt that Zinedine Zidane has shown himself to be as good a coach as he was during a wonderful playing career, as the two men prepare to lead their Liverpool and Real Madrid sides into Saturday’s Champions League final. “If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny,” Klopp told media at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on the eve of the game. Zidane finds himself in a position to win a third Champions League title despite only becoming Real coach in January 2016. If he does that, the 45-year-old would equal Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti as the only coaches to have won the European Cup three times. Despite that, Zidane’s detractors see him more as a supervisor of a supremely Continue reading "‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player – Klopp"

Underdogs Nigeria eye World Cup knock-out rounds

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Uyo (Nigeria) (AFP) – Nigeria can surpass expectations at the World Cup finals by demonstrating the same fighting spirit and teamwork that got them to Russia, captain Mikel John Obi said on Friday. The Super Eagles are currently 47th in the FIFA world rankings — the lowest of their opponents in Group D, Argentina (5th), Croatia (18th) and Iceland (22nd). But former Chelsea star Obi said that could spur the Super Eagles on and beyond their previous tournament best of reaching the round of 16. “Being underdogs is good for us. It means we have to do more, we have to be humble,” the experienced midfielder, who is set to play in his second World Cup, told a news conference. “That means we can do better than what people expect us to do.” He added: “We have to do better than we have ever done. It will be tough Continue reading "Underdogs Nigeria eye World Cup knock-out rounds"

Brighton sign Romania striker Andone

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London (AFP) – Brighton completed the signing of Deportivo La Coruna striker Florin Andone for an undisclosed fee on Friday, the Premier League club announced. The Romania international will join the Seagulls on a five-year contract when the window for international transfers opens on June 8. The 25-year-old scored 19 goals in 69 appearances during his two seasons with Spanish side Deportivo, who were relegated at the end of the Spanish league season. Albion manager Chris Hughton said Andone, who reportedly signed for a fee of £5.25 million ($7 million, 6 million euros), had been a long-term target. “We are delighted that Florin has agreed to join us. He is a player that we have tracked for some time and he will add a new dimension to our attacking options,” Hughton told the club’s official website. “He is a very hard-working player, and has proven his quality at the Continue reading "Brighton sign Romania striker Andone"

Liverpool bid to get stranded fans to Kiev ‘not looking good’

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London (AFP) – Liverpool’s mayor says his bid to get stranded football fans to Kiev for the Champions League final against Real Madrid is “really not looking good” after he was unable to find a crew for a back-up plane. Hundreds of supporters face missing the showpiece match in Ukraine after operator Worldchoice Sports cancelled three flights because it did not have sufficient landing slots at Boryspil Airport. Mayor Joe Anderson said he was working with Kiev’s mayor, former world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, to find a solution for all those who face missing out. He posted several messages on Twitter on Thursday and Friday promising he was trying to find a solution to the fiasco by sourcing a carrier to provide flights from John Lennon airport. But he was later forced to admit that a plan he had hatched with Klitschko looked domed to failure. He said: “No final Continue reading "Liverpool bid to get stranded fans to Kiev ‘not looking good’"

Liverpool mayor ‘working hard’ to get stranded fans to Kiev

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London (AFP) – Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said Friday he was “working really hard” to help football fans who face missing the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Kiev due to a flights fiasco. Around 1,000 fans were left stranded when operator Worldchoice Sports cancelled three flights because it did not have sufficient landing slots at Boryspil Airport in Kiev. Anderson said he was working with Kiev’s mayor — former world heavyweight champion boxer Vitali Klitschko — to find a solution for all those who face missing out. In a video posted on Twitter on Friday, he said: “We’ve had more discussions this morning with Mayor Klitschko and also the director of the airport. “Now they’re trying to do a couple of things for us — they’re trying to look and see if we can use an airport nearby either to get an Airbus in there or some smaller Continue reading "Liverpool mayor ‘working hard’ to get stranded fans to Kiev"

European success in Liverpool’s DNA – Henderson

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Kiev (AFP) – Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson urged his team-mates to take “one more step” to write themselves into the club’s storied history in European competition by winning the Champions League for a sixth time on Saturday. To do so Liverpool must end Real Madrid’s reign as European champions as the Spanish giants go for a third straight title and 13th European crown in Kiev. Despite their tradition in the tournament, Liverpool are back in the final for the first time in 11 years. “We’ve done fantastically well to get to this point,” Henderson said on the eve of the game in the Ukrainian capital. “We want to go one step further and be remembered for the right reasons and that is winning the Champions League.” Liverpool’s return among the European elite is largely attributed to Jurgen Klopp’s impact as manager since taking over at Anfield in 2015. However,
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No Champions League hotel room? Ukraine minister can help

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Kiev (AFP) – When Julie Pierson and her companion Jorge Ramirez had their apartment reservation for Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev cancelled, they did not expect to end up being hosted by a minister. But when the Real Madrid supporters from Luxembourg arrived for the big match with Liverpool, it was Information Minister Yuriy Stets and his wife Yana Konotop, a Ukrainian TV presenter, who laid out the welcoming mat. The Ukrainian capital has witnessed a mini accommodation crisis in the run up to the biggest match in club football, with some hotels charging nearly 100 times their normal rates. Some fans who thought they were playing it safe by making inexpensive reservations well in advance ended up having their bookings annulled by hotels looking for a quick profit. Grigoriy Surkis, vice president of the European football governing body UEFA and a Ukrainian national, told AFP he was “furious” Continue reading "No Champions League hotel room? Ukraine minister can help"

Liverpool aim to end Real reign in Champions League final

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Kiev (AFP) – Liverpool and Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian striker whose goals took his side to the Champions League final, hope their brand of attacking football can prevent Real Madrid from becoming kings of Europe for the third year in a row on Saturday. The Spanish giants have seen the Champions League as their competition ever since winning the first five European Cups in a row, and they are in the midst of another golden era, dreaming of making it a fourth Champions League in five years. Neither Atletico Madrid (twice) nor Juventus have been able to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from inflicting pain on them in recent finals. But Liverpool’s own attacking quality gives them reason to believe and suggests the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital could be the scene of an unforgettable encounter. In terms of history alone, this is a dream final. Real’s 12 European Cup wins Continue reading "Liverpool aim to end Real reign in Champions League final"

Unselfishness key to Liverpool’s free-scoring front three – Salah

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Kiev (AFP) – Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah admitted it would be “a dream” to cap a sensational debut season at Anfield by ending Real Madrid’s European reign  in Saturday’s Champions League final. However, Salah says he would be happy if Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane grabs the goal that takes the Reds to a sixth European crown. Salah has won a series of individual prizes as he has contributed 44 of the 90 goals Liverpool’s front three have scored this season. But the goals have been far more evenly spread in the Champions League. “It doesn’t matter who scores,” Salah told UEFA.com. “Winning games, getting points, that’s the most important thing for us because as you can see, I’ve scored ten goals in the Champions League, Sadio nine, Firmino ten, so all of us are the same. “None of us is selfish or only wants to score. We try to Continue reading "Unselfishness key to Liverpool’s free-scoring front three – Salah"

Klopp seeks turnaround to five forgettable finals

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Kiev (AFP) – “We’ve won it five times,” Liverpool supporters sing to celebrate their five European Cup final victories, but Jurgen Klopp, manager of the English giants, is attempting to end a very different run of results in Saturday’s Champions League final. Klopp has lost his last five finals, three with Borussia Dortmund before moving to Anfield in 2015, and two in his debut season with the Reds. “They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood (Liverpool’s training ground),” Klopp warned amid the euphoria of making it to Kiev this weekend after an enthralling 7-6 aggregate semi-final win over Roma. “There’s still a job to do but that’s how it is. Going to a final is really nice but winning is even nicer.” Those are words of a man who has been there and suffered before. Each of his five final defeats had their own context, but hurt all the same. “If Continue reading "Klopp seeks turnaround to five forgettable finals"

Iniesta coup puts J-League on the map, says Perryman

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Tokyo (AFP) – Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta’s decision to join Japan’s Vissel Kobe could make the J-League a serious option for the world’s top footballers, former Shimizu S-Pulse manager Steve Perryman said. The 34-year-old Spanish World Cup winner, who lifted 32 major trophies at Barca and made over 600 appearances for the Catalan giants, completed a big-money move to Japan on Thursday after bidding a tearful farewell to the Nou Camp last weekend. Iniesta’s Far East move will have been noted by players who might hitherto have considered China a more lucrative destination, Perryman told AFP in an interview. “As soon as a top player like Iniesta decides to go to Japan it becomes an option for other people,” said the former Tottenham Hotspur captain, who coached at J-League clubs S-Pulse and Kashiwa Reysol between 1996 to 2002. “It gives the J-League credibility but it’s about what Iniesta brings with Continue reading "Iniesta coup puts J-League on the map, says Perryman"

How Real Madrid won three Champions League finals in four years

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Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid will be targeting their fourth Champions League success in five years on Saturday as they go up against Liverpool in the final in Kiev. Here, we look at how Real held their nerve at the last stage to lift the cup in 2014, 2016 and 2017. 2013-14: Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid  Real had waited 12 years to win their 10th European crown, “La Decima”, a feat that had swelled with importance the longer the delay dragged on. Beating city rivals and La Liga champions Atletico, who themselves had reached their first final since 1974, added some extra spice but the match is perhaps best remembered for the arrival of Gareth Bale, in his first season at the club, both at the back post in extra-time to head Real in front and as a star at the club. It proved a knock-out blow for Atleti,
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Klopp seeks turnaround to five forgetable finals

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Kiev (AFP) – “We’ve won it five times,” Liverpool supporters sing to celebrate their five European Cup final victories, but Jurgen Klopp, manager of the English giants, is attempting to end a very different run of results in Saturday’s Champions League final. Klopp has lost his last five finals, three with Borussia Dortmund before moving to Anfield in 2015, and two in his debut season with the Reds. “They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood (Liverpool’s training ground),” Klopp warned amidst the euphoria of making it to Kiev this weekend after an enthralling 7-6 aggregate semi-final win over Roma. “There’s still a job to do but that’s how it is. Going to a final is really nice but winning is even nicer.” Those are words of a man who has been there and suffered before. Each of his five final defeats had their own context, but hurt all the same. “If Continue reading "Klopp seeks turnaround to five forgetable finals"

Liverpool out to end Real hegemony in Champions League final

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Kiev (AFP) – A thrilling run inspired by Mohamed Salah has taken Liverpool to Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev against Real Madrid, where now Jurgen Klopp’s side must stop the Spanish giants from winning the trophy for the third year running. Real have seen this as their competition ever since winning the first five European Cups in a row, and this is another golden era for them, in which they are dreaming of making it a fourth Champions League in five years. Neither Atletico Madrid (twice) nor Juventus have been able to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from inflicting pain on them in recent finals. But Liverpool’s own attacking quality gives them reason to believe and suggests the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital could be the scene of an unforgettable encounter. In terms of history alone, this is a dream final. Real’s 12 European Cup wins puts them way ahead Continue reading "Liverpool out to end Real hegemony in Champions League final"

Lyon blow Wolfsburg away in extra time to retain Champions League title

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Kiev (AFP) – A stunning burst of goals in extra time allowed Lyon to come from behind and beat Wolfsburg 4-1 as the French side made history by winning a third straight women’s Champions League title on Thursday. Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer and Ada Hegerberg all scored in a crazy first period of extra time to stun Wolfsburg, and substitute Camille Abily later made sure of the victory. The German champions had taken a 93rd-minute lead courtesy of their Danish star Pernille Harder, only for influential midfielder Alexandra Popp to be sent off almost immediately after. Lyon are the first side ever to lift the women’s trophy three years running, and also set a new record by winning the tournament for the fifth time overall. All of those titles have come since 2011, and the dominant side in the European game overtake Frankfurt’s record of four titles. It has Continue reading "Lyon blow Wolfsburg away in extra time to retain Champions League title"

Spain great Xavi signs on for two more years in Qatar

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Doha (AFP) – Xavi Hernandez could play on until the age of 40 after it was announced on Thursday he has signed a two-year extension to his contract with Qatari club Al Sadd. The legendary former Barcelona and Spain midfielder will stay with the Doha-based club until the end of the 2020 season, according to a statement released by Al Sadd on social media. “I am happy to keep on being a part of the Al Sadd family for two more years,” said Xavi. “I am delighted to be at the club and with its fans.  “Everyone here is one big family and I am satisfied and thrilled to continue.” Announcing the new deal on Twitter, Al Sadd said: “The maestro stays!” Xavi joined Al Sadd in 2015, originally on a two-year contract, after making more than 700 appearances for the Catalan giants. He extended the original Continue reading "Spain great Xavi signs on for two more years in Qatar"