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Barca coach Xavi hails influence of PSG boss Enrique

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Madrid, April 16 (IANS) FC Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez admitted that the man who will be in the Paris Saint-Germain dugout in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal had a huge influence on his career.

Xavi spent time with Luis Enrique as a player at Barcelona and played under him during his three years as coach at the Camp Nou. When asked about the influence he had on his career, as Enrique now returns to Barcelona as PSG coach, he said “Maybe with Pep Guardiola and Luis Aragones, they are the coaches who have had the greatest impact on me, and now I think as a coach, I remember more things and I think about them.”

“They have left a mark on me,” said Xavi in his press game press conference, as quoted by Xinhua.

Barca produced one of their best displays of the season to win the first leg 3-2 in Paris, and Xavi admitted that Tuesday was a “very big opportunity as a club.”

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“We are playing at home and we have that factor in our favor,” he said, asking for the fans in Barca’s temporary home in the former Olympic Stadium to get behind the team.

“Montjuic has to be like the magical nights of Camp Nou. Tomorrow, it needs to be a pressure cooker; we will have some difficult moments and [PSG] will make us suffer. Everyone, team and fans, has to be united,” said the Barca coach, who said he expected PSG to “press us and look to go forward.”

“We will have to find the spaces and show personality to progress to the semifinals. We are talking about one of the best teams and coaches in the world,” he insisted.

–IANS

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IPL 2024: Avesh Khan, Trent Boult pick three wickets each as Rajasthan restrict SRH to 175/9

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Chennai, May 24 (IANS) Trent Boult did the early damage by picking three wickets in Power-play, while Avesh Khan took a three-fer in the backend of the innings as Rajasthan Royals restricted a power-packed Sunrisers Hyderabad to 175/9 in Qualifier 2 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Friday.

On a fresh pitch, Avesh (3-27) and Boult (3-45) were spot-on with their execution to ensure SRH didn’t run way to amass a big total. RR’s seamers excelled by bowling cutters into the pitch, conceding only 25 runs in the last three overs, even as their spinners went wicketless in their combined eight overs.

For SRH, Rahul Tripathi’s 37 and Heinrich Klaasen’s fighting fifty took them to a decent total after being inserted into batting first by RR. Abhishek Sharma got going by pulling and driving Boult for exquisite boundaries before the pacer had the last laugh as the batter miscued a short ball to backward point. Tripathi was quick off the blocks by hitting seven boundaries, four of which came against Ravichandran Ashwin.

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But Tripathi fell for 15-ball 37 when his attempt to ramp a rising slower short ball from Boult was caught by short third man. In the same over, Boult struck again as Aiden Markram threw his hands at a wide ball and the edge flew to the short third man’s hands.

Travis Head overcame a slow start by hitting four boundaries collectively off Avesh and Sandeep Sharma but was caught at short third man in an attempt to ramp a slower bouncer off the latter. Klassen tried to keep SRH innings afloat with his gigantic sixes off Chahal but didn’t get support from the other end.

Nitish Kumar Reddy reverse-swept to short third man off Avesh, who also rattled Abdul Samad’s off-stump. Klaasen continued his rearguard act by smacking Boult for a six down the ground, before reaching his fifty in 33 balls.

But Klaasen missed the very next ball he faced, as a yorker from Sandeep uprooted his leg-stump. Avesh’s impressive time in the match concluded with him having Shahbaz Ahmed heaving to long-on and inflicting the run-out of Jaydev Unadkat on the last ball of the innings.

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Brief scores:

Sunrisers Hyderabad 175/9 in 20 overs (Heinrich Klaasen 50, Rahul Tripathi 37; Avesh Khan 3-27, Trent Boult 3-45) against Rajasthan Royals

–IANS

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Premier League: Leeds United, Southampton battle for promotion in ‘football’s richest match’

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London, May 24 (IANS) Leeds United and Southampton F.C. are set to battle it out for promotion in the upcoming English Football League (EFL) Championship final scheduled to be held at Wembley Stadium here on Sunday.

With the result dictating promotion into the prestigious Premier League, the matchup is positioned as “football’s richest match”, due to the commercial and media benefits that come with securing promotion. Independent reports say that the winning club is likely to be richer by almost $470m due to additional revenue streams, including TV deals and sponsorships.

Booking their place with a convincing 3-1 victory over West Brom, Southampton will be relying on striker Adam Armstrong to once again fire on all cylinders. With a late brace in the return fixture putting the Saints within touching distance of a return back to the Premier League, all eyes will be on the English talisman to once again deliver the goods on the big stage.

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Meanwhile, Leeds United will be aiming to replicate the success of Luton Town; Winners of last year’s dramatic playoff final.

No strangers to the EFL Championship Playoffs and the Premier League, Leeds will look towards the attacking prowess of their front four marksmen, who made light work of Norwich City in their 4-0 victory at Elland Road.

Both sides will also be eyeing immediate promotion to the Premier League. Leicester City and Ipswich Town have already secured promotion by finishing in the top two positions, respectively.

A winner-takes-all clash in every sense of the word, the nail-biting affair promises high-octane football action, dreams of Premier League participation, and a place to witness history in the making for football enthusiasts across the globe.

The EFL Championship final will kick off at 7:30 PM IST on Sunday and Football fans can watch all the action on FanCode’s mobile app (Android, iOS), TV app available on Android TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Jio STB, Samsung TV, and on partner platforms Airtel XStream, OTT Play, Jio TV, Jio TV+, Vodafone Idea, Prime Video Channels and www.fancode.com.

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–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Babar Azam to lead as Pakistan name 15-member squad

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Lahore, May 24 (IANS) The runners-up in the previous edition of the tournament, Pakistan have named their squad for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 with Babar Azam leading a strong side after he was reinstated as their white-ball captain earlier this year. In a boost for Pakistan, pacer Haris Rauf was included in the squad after he recovered from an injury, having last featured for the side in January.

“This is an extremely talented and balanced side that has a mixture of youth and experience,” the PCB said in its statement on Friday. “These players have been playing together for some time and look well-prepared and settled for next month’s event.

“This is an extremely talented and balanced side that has a mixture of youth and experience. These players have been playing together for some time and look well-prepared and settled for next month’s event.

“Haris Rauf is fully fit and bowling well in the nets. It would have been nice if he had gotten an outing at Headingley, but we remain confident that he will continue to maintain an upward trajectory in the upcoming matches, as he will have an important role to play along with other strike bowlers in the T20 World Cup.”

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Pakistan are currently playing a bilateral series against England in preparation for the mega event, with most of the players from the squad for the bilateral series set to travel to the Caribbean and the USA for the T20 World Cup.

Pakistan are placed in Group A with India, Ireland, Canada, and co-hosts USA. They play their first game against the USA on 6 June in Dallas.

Pakistan are currently getting ready to play a T20I series against England in England.

Pakistan squad for T20 World Cup:

Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan

–IANS

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World Cup Qualifiers: Stimac expects Salt Lake Stadium to be packed for Chhetri's farewell match against Kuwait

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Bhubaneswar, May 24 (IANS) Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac expects the cheerful home supporters to turn up in large numbers for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers match against Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata as it will be the final game for legendary striker Sunil Chhetri.

India will face Kuwait in a must-win encounter to progress to third-round and Chhetri’s retirement makes it more exciting for the home supporters.

“Having in mind the importance of the game — with us being perhaps only a win away from qualifying for the third round for the first time, and it being Sunil Chhetri’s farewell game — we expect the Salt Lake Stadium to be packed. I am sure that our supporters will reach Kolkata from all parts of India to help our boys win the game and say thanks and goodbye to Sunil. I am very confident it’s going to be emotional and hopefully, we will find a way to celebrate together after the final whistle,” AIFF’s official website quoted Stimac as saying.

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India’s training camp has been in full swing in Bhubaneswar for almost two weeks now. It was here exactly 12 months ago that the Blue Tigers held a lengthy camp before triumphing at the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship, and Stimac and his boys are hoping to reach similar heights.

The opening week or so of training was predominantly focused on gaining fitness levels as the players entered the backend of a busy season. It involved several physical tests and aerobic sessions.

“The boys are doing well. It has been proven more than once that a long camp always helps us. We are working on various aspects of the game, both offensive and defensive. Our fitness levels are getting better each day, and now we enter the phase of working on our tactics. From Monday onwards, we are going to work on positioning, set pieces, and transitions,” the head coach said.

On Friday, Stimac trimmed his squad strength from 32 to 27 for the match against Kuwait. Phurba Lachenpa, Jithin MS, Imran Khan, Parthib Gogoi, and Muhammad Hammad were released from the camp.

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While the latter two had sustained minor injuries during the camp, regarding the release of the first three, Stimac said, “It’s always hard for coaches to release players after their hard work and commitment during the training camp but that’s part of the job. I discussed everything with our boys and they know in which areas they need to work on. At the moment, I would rather say that they have very strong competition in their positions.”

The Blue Tigers were originally supposed to depart for Kolkata on June 2, but have advanced their travel to the West Bengal capital on May 29 to get a full week of stay in the city and adjust to the conditions better. There isn’t much difference between the weather in Bhubaneswar and Kolkata, two cities less than 500 kilometres apart.

“⁠It’s obviously hot and humid here, but we enjoy every training session. The facilities and hospitality are amazing here. But still, we have decided to leave for Kolkata a few days earlier than planned so we can adjust to the humidity better and prepare for the crucial game,” said Stimac.

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–IANS

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Golf: Indian legends Atwal, Jeev start strongly at Seniors PGA Championship, lie tied 19th

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Benton Harbor (USA), May 24 (IANS) India’s legendary golfers Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh were off to a strong start with identical 2-under 69 each in the first round of the Senior PGA Championship. They were tied 19th in what is one of the Majors for the Seniors (Over 50) on the Champions Tour.

Australia’s Richard Green and Englishman Richard Bland shot 7-under 64 each at Harbor Shores and were leading at the $3.5 million event. Defending champion Steve Stricker opened with a 5-under 66 and was among five players with 66.

Jeev started on the first tee and had his first birdie on the fourth and followed that with a hat-trick of birdies from seventh to ninth to turn in 4-under. On the back nine. he had a double bogey on Par-4 12th and missed some birdie chances to finish with 69.

Atwal began on the 10th with a birdie and one more on the 12th. He bogeyed three holes in a row from 16th to 18th and turned in 1-over. On the back nine, he birdied the first, third, and ninth and bogeyed Par-4 sixth to finish in 69.

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Presidents Cup International Team Captain Mike Weir mixed six birdies with one bogey to open in 5-under 66 and was T-4. He played alongside Darren Clarke (67) and Ernie Els (70).

–IANS

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