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La Liga: From one big match to another: El Gran Derbi awaits

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Madrid, April 26 (IANS) The Spanish La Liga awaits another big match this weekend as Sevilla host traditional rivals Real Betis in one of the most exciting games of the season — El Gran Derbi. Real Betis and Sevilla FC will lock horns in a hard-fought match as one team battles for a place in Europe and the other seeks to put any chance of getting drawn into the relegation dogfight to bed.

Real Betis come out on top on aerial duels and crosses, while Sevilla FC top the stats for passes in the attacking zone, in the first third and for overall passes completed.

While Sevilla and Real Betis will face off in El Gran Derbi, table toppers Real Madrid will hope to ride the winning momentum after the El Clasico win against Barcelona.

As Real Madrid won the match, Jude Bellingham proved he is always decisive in El Clasico.

As occurred in the reverse fixture, Bellingham won the game with a great goal in the dying minutes. Although given his position, fans were expecting a playmaker, his main task has been scoring goals, so much so that he is now the second-highest scorer in the league.

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However, he remains instrumental when it comes to creating goalscoring chances and is the La Liga player with the most passes in the final third. He also makes the podium on high-impact actions and is one of the eight players to take on opponents the most and do so most successfully. He is one of the standout players in the entire competition.

As they go into another week of action, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti practically has the league title in his pocket.

There has been little to criticise in Real Madrid’s play throughout these 32 matches. At this juncture in La Liga, Los Blancos have established themselves as the leading team in link-up play and passing.

They are the side who make the most passes in the final third and they make these passes most effectively, with a passing accuracy of 86%. If we focus on their total passes, we can also see that they are the most effective units overall. All of these figures, and many more, reflect a system which has allowed Real Madrid to score the most goals and virtually wrap up the La Liga title.

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Isco is still unstoppable

Not even injury has managed to dent the performance levels of a player who remains the cornerstone of his team and a leading player in La Liga.

Isco has created the most high-impact actions in the entire division – in other words, actions which create a goalscoring opportunity for his team. These can be passes, beating a player or carries which lead to a chance on goal. Since Isco has rediscovered himself at Real Betis, the balance has returned to the team. As illustrated by his spells on the sidelines, the team perform better when he is on the field of play.

Successful long passes

These comprise passes of over 30 metres with which the passer successfully reaches a receiving teammate. Teams who generate more long, vertical passes are capable of playing a more direct game. Sevilla FC are the team that plays the second-most long passes in La Liga.

–IANS

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PCB proposes Feb 19 start for Champions Trophy 2025, rejects hybrid model for India’s matches

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Lahore, June 12 (IANS) The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has proposed that the ICC Champions Trophy 2025 will start on February 19 and will be held in Pakistan, refusing to entertain a hybrid model for India’s matches, like in case of the Asia Cup 2023.

As per the PCB proposal, the ICC Champion’s Trophy 2025 will be scheduled from February 19 to March 9 2025 with all the matches to take place across three major cities — Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

As per sources in the PCB, International Cricket Council (ICC) officials, who visited Pakistan to inspect the arrangements for the event, have expressed satisfaction with the systems in place.

Interestingly, the PCB has refused to entertain a hybrid model, specifically for India’s matches, and has insisted that all matches should be played in Pakistan.

The move is expected to get a concentrated response from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which had proposed a hybrid model with India’s matches being played at neutral venues on foreign land.

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In the past, India’s matches were relocated to Sri Lanka during the Asia Cup 2023. However, this time, Pakistan is not ready to opt for a hybrid model and wants to have all matches including that of India be played in Pakistan.

“We have not opted for the hybrid model. However, we have given this leverage that India’s matches can be played in Lahore only. This way, the team will not be required to move around cities within Pakistan and its security can be well maintained in Lahore”, said a source in the PCB.

“India can be based in Lahore for the entire tournament. This would minimise logistical and security complications associated with their travel between cities”, the source added.

The mentioned special arrangement for the Indian team may also provide an easier and more convenient option to attend matches, as they would be held in one city.

“The proximity of Lahore to Wagah Border crossing is also going to be more suitable for the Indian fans. However, the question remains, if India would accept and participate in the event”, the PCB source said.

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As per the PCB’s proposed schedule for the Champions Trophy, at least three matches will be played in Karachi, which includes the opening match and a semifinal. Lahore will hold at least seven matches, including the final. Rawalpindi will host at least five matches, including a semifinal.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Indian cricket team has not played in Pakistan since the Asia Cup in 2008. The decision to travel to Pakistan for the Champion’s Trophy will rest with the Indian government, which has not favoured the cricket team travelling across the border because of Pakistan’s alleged support of terrorism in India.

The ICC Champions Trophy 2025 will be the first major international cricket tournament hosted solely by Pakistan. Previously, Pakistan had c-hosted the 1996 Cricket World Cup with India and Sri Lanka and before that co-hosted the Reliance Cup with India in 1987.

–IANS

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Australian Open: Shuttlers Prannoy, Aakashi, Malvika, Anupama reach second round

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Sydney, June 12 (IANS) Indian shuttlers had a mixed day at the Australian Open 2024 with the top male player and fifth seed H.S. Prannoy and women’s eighth seed Aakarshi Kashyap advancing into the second round in their respective categories on Wednesday.

Former Thomas Cup winner Prannoy, who is ranked 33rd in BWF World Rankings, is the highest-ranked Indian player in this event and defeated Coelho Ygor of Brazil in straight games in the event being played at Quaycentre in Sydney.

Prannoy defeated the Brazilian 21-10, 23-21 in 47 minutes to reach the men’s singles second round of the BWF World Tour Super 500 Series event with a prize fund of USD 420,000.

Sameer Verma and Kiran George also progressed to the second round while Mithun Manjunath, Ravi, Abhishek Yeligar, Raghu Mariswamy and S.Sankar Muthusamy Subramanian were eliminated in the first round of action.

Sameer Verma defeated Australia’s Ricky Tang 21-10, 21-10 while Kiran George got the better of Xiaodong Sheng 21-17, 21-10. Manjunath lost to Farhan Alvi of Indonesia 17-21, 17-21; Ravi Lost to Lin Chun-Yi of Chinese Taipei 6-21, 13-21, Yeligar succumbed to Misha Zilberman of Israel 9-21, 15-21; Raghu lost to sixth seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei 6-21, 8-21 while Shankar Muthusamy went down in three games against third seed Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia 16-21, 21-18, 10-21 in a hard-fought contest that lasted just over an hour.-

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In women’s singles, Aakarshi Kashyap defeated Ukraine’s Polina Buhrova 21-14, 21-11in just 36 minutes to advance to the second round. In other women’s singles matches, Anupama Upadhyaya defeated Ling Ching Wong of Malaysia 21-14, 23-31 while Malvika Bansod defeated compatriot Keyura Mopati 21-10.21-8.

Samiya Imad Farooqui of India went down to Yu Po Pai of Chinese Taipei 23-21, 13-21, 22-24 in a well-fought encounter in 63 minutes.

In mixed doubles, the Indian pair of B. Sumeeth Reddy and Sikki Reddy defeated Malaysia’s Oi Tein Wong and Chiew Sien Lim 21-17, 21-19 but Tarun Kona and Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli lost to Malaysia’s Pang Ron Hoo and Su Yin Cheng 6-21, 11-21.

In men’s doubles, Abhimanyu Rajain and Aman Nandal gave a walkover to Aneesh Nirmal and Stephen Sam Emmanuel of Australia in their first-round match.

–IANS

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Tennis: Nadal, Alcaraz to team up in doubles for Spain at Paris Olympics

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Madrid, June 12 (IANS) The Spaniards Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal are set to join forces as doubles partners at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, to be held on the storied clay courts of Roland Garros.

Carlos Alcaraz, the 21-year-old prodigy who recently captured his third Grand Slam title at the French Open, will be back at the site of his latest triumph with a burgeoning legacy and the confidence of a champion. On the other side, Rafael Nadal’s return, with clay court dominance and an unparalleled record of 14 French Open titles and 22 major wins overall, at the Roland Garros is always met with reverence.

Nadal’s participation was uncertain earlier this year due to a series of injuries, but his tenacity saw him return to the clay courts in April, determined to give one last memorable performance.

David Ferrer, Spain’s national team coach and a former top player himself, couldn’t contain his excitement as he confirmed the dream pairing. “One pair, which I think everyone knows and was hoping for, is Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal,” Ferrer announced. “Rafa and Carlos will be playing together in Paris.”

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Nadal won his first and only Olympic gold medal in singles at the Beijing Games in 2008, a crowning achievement in his illustrious career. Now, with the Paris Games potentially marking his swan song, the opportunity to mentor and compete alongside Alcaraz adds a layer of significance to his participation.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Monank Patel out with injury as unchanged India elect to bowl against USA

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New York, June 12 (IANS) India won the toss and elected to bowl first against the USA in a Group A match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday. The USA captain Monank Patel is out due to a left shoulder injury and the host will be led by Aaron Jones.

Shayan Jahangir replaces Patel while Shadley van Schalkwyk replaces Noshtush Kenjige as India remain unchanged.

Both the teams are coming after a win and the one which will win Wednesday’s game will qualify for the Super Eight stage from Group A.

India captain Rohit Sharma said, “We will bowl first. It has played better in the last two games, but you need to assess the conditions quickly and then let the game take over. It’s all about constantly getting better and keeping the momentum going. It’s important to do the right things. That was a great game to play, we didn’t have enough runs on the board, but the bowlers came to the party and won the game for us. We’re playing the same team.”

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USA captain Aaron Jones said, “We would have bowled first as well, there’s some help for the bowlers early. He’s (Monank Patel) having a niggle and should be back quickly. It should be a good game and we’re looking to play well. The camp is very positive, just looking to play some good cricket. Shayan Jahangir replaces Monank and Shadley is in for Nosthush.”

Playing XIs:

United States: Steven Taylor, Shayan Jahangir, Andries Gous (wk), Aaron Jones (c), Nitish Kumar, Corey Anderson, Harmeet Singh, Shadley van Schalkwyk, Jasdeep Singh, Saurabh Netravalkar, Ali Khan.

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Shivam Dube, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj

— IANS

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Have to be at our best to beat a world-class Indian team, says South Africa skipper Wolvaardt

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Bengaluru, June 12 (IANS) South Africa skipper Laura Wolvaardt insisted her team will have to be at their best if they are to beat a ‘world-class’ Indian team in the upcoming multi-format series, ahead of their warm-up match against Board’s President XI on Thursday. South Africa will begin their tour of India with three ODIs at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on June 16, 19 and 23, followed by a one-off Test and three T20Is at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. The last time South Africa toured India; they won the five-match ODI series 4-1 in March 2021.

“We’ve had a couple of good tours before this where we sort of tried different combinations. In the T20Is against Sri Lanka, we definitely gave a bunch of youngsters some opportunity to try and put up their hand. If everyone is healthy and fit, we’ll be looking to play our best 11. We won’t be experimenting too much or taking this Indian side too lightly.”

“They’re a world-class side and we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them. So, trying to get everyone settled into their roles before the T20 World Cup is pretty important as well, with it being some of our last cricket that we’re going to be playing before then,” said Laura in a pre-series press conference.

The tour to India is South Africa’s last international assignment before the Women’s T20 World Cup happens in Bangladesh from October 3-20. The three ODIs hold huge importance as they carry ICC Women’s Championship points, where South Africa are placed in the third spot and are in line for automatic qualification for the 2025 Women’s ODI World Cup in India.

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“There’s a lot that we’re focusing on at the moment, obviously, with the ODIs having points up for grabs, the T20Is being in prep for the World Cup and then the Test match being pretty special too. We’ve tried to sort of cover everything and there isn’t really one that’s massively more important than the other. So, we’d like to do well all around and there isn’t any format that we’re taking lightly,” added Laura.

Asked what South Africa are aiming to achieve from the lone warm-up game, Laura remarked, “Warm-up games are always a tricky one. You don’t want to do too well and get overconfident. But you always don’t want to do too bad and start on the back foot. But I think tomorrow is mainly about conditions for us.”

“We’re lucky to be playing on the ground where our games will be as well. That doesn’t happen too often for a warm-up game. So conditions will be crucial to see how much it turns and bounces. It’ll be more about that and making sure that the whole squad sort of gets a chance on the conditions and has a look of it.”

India are coming off after winning the T20I series in Bangladesh 5-0 and played in WPL 2024 in March, where Laura and her Proteas team-mates like Marizanne Kapp, and Nadine de Klerk featured in the five-team competition. Laura thinks the experience of playing in Bengaluru via WPL will come in handy in the ODI leg of the tour.

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“The WPL was absolutely amazing and the amount of cricket that the Indian girls get to play over here is really cool. Luckily a few of us were able to play in the tournament as well. With myself being able to get a few games, I got used to the conditions and playing over here, which was nice.”

“They obviously have world-class players. So we’ve done a lot of sort of homework and discussion on that. So, hopefully, we have our plans sorted out by the first game. When I was here, it was a very nice wicket to bat on. So I’m not sure if it’ll be similar at this time of year.”

Last year in November, Laura was confirmed as South Africa’s full-time captain after taking the job on a temporary basis. Quizzed about the impact of leading South Africa as a batter and human being, Laura admitted there has been a lot to learn for her.

“Firstly, there’s been obviously on-field stuff – being just a batter before and having to learn a lot about bowlers and bowling plans has been quite a big eye-opener for me cricket-wise. It’s helped me as a batter as well, as I’m starting to see the game more from a bowler’s perspective and that sort of helps me when I’m out there in the middle.”

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“Then in general life as well, I think it’s helped me by forcing me to come out of my comfort zone a little bit. Usually, I’m quite a quiet reserved person and would sort of stick to myself. But you can’t really do that when you’re captain. So I have to sort of mingle and check in with people and be a bit more sociable than I used to be. So it’s helped me grow as a person and as a cricketer as well, and it’s been good so far.”

Importantly, the trip to India is South Africa’s first series post the departure of long-serving coach Hilton Moreeng, who left after more than 11 years in charge. For now, Dillon du Preez is the interim coach.

“It’s obviously been a bit different for us. Hilton was on every single tour for the past 11 years. So to not have him here is a bit weird. But luckily Dillon was in the setup and the environment for about four or five years. So nothing has really changed too much from sort of an operational point of view.”

“We still try to keep things as much the same as before, just so that it’s not completely new and fresh. But then at the same time, the new additions that we have in the group have brought a lot of outside energy and some outside knowledge as well. So it’s been good and I’ve really enjoyed the new, fresh people,” concluded Laura.

–IANS

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