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La Liga: Xavi to remain as Barcelona coach, to continue till June 2025

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Madrid (Spain), April 25 (IANS) FC Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has reversed his decision to step down as first-team coach at the end of the current season and will now see out his contract until the end of June 2025. Barcelona vice-president Rafa Yuste confirmed the news late on Wednesday night outside the home of the club’s president Joan Laporta following a meeting with Xavi.

“Xavi will stay, he’s really happy and excited,” Yuste told waiting journalists, before insisting the club had “never opened talks with any other coach.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Xavi held face-to-face talks with Laporta and Barcelona’s sporting director Deco in which he indicated he had changed his mind about the decision he made in January, reports Xinhua.

Xavi stunned Barcelona when he commented after a 5-3 defeat at home to Villarreal that he would step down at the end of this season. He said one reason for his decision was to try and spark a reaction in his squad, while also talking about the pressures of the job at FC Barcelona.

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Xavi said the club needs a “change of direction,” and said he felt there was “a lack of respect, you feel that your work is not appreciated.”

The coach’s announcement saw a slight upturn in form, with the club moving into second place in La Liga and reaching the quarterfinals in the UEFA Champions League, before being knocked out by Paris Saint-Germain.

Although the 4-1 defeat in the second leg was a big disappointment, the team did fulfil the club’s budget requirements by reaching the last-eight stage.

Barcelona reportedly had several candidates to replace Xavi, including B-team coach Rafael Marquez, who has helped nurture young talents such as Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi.

–IANS

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Champions League: Dortmund enjoying underdog role ahead of final with Real

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Berlin (Germany), May 29 (IANS) Ahead of the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid this Saturday, an unprecedented rush made Borussia Dortmund’s media room burst at the seams.

Well, over 20 TV crews and an uncountable number of media representatives gathered in the container-like facilities for an international media day on the edge of the club’s training compound in the city’s northeastern suburb of Brackel to report on the final underdogs’ preparations.

“Wow, I have never seen it that packed here,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic with a smile. “That’s what we wanted. We desperately wanted that do-or-die game.”

The team and their coach seem to be enjoying their role as outsiders, having to face Europe’s record tournament winner, with 14 trophies, reports Xinhua.

“If there is one team that has proved everything is possible, it’s us,” Terzic stated, fringed by optimism after his outfit’s surprising journey through a so-called group of death containing Newcastle, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, followed by knockout stage victories over PSV Eindhoven, Atletico Madrid and PSG once again.

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“We can do it again,” the 41-year-old Dortmund coach said. “It’s our goal to win the trophy, and therefore we have to beat the undisputed Champions League champion.”

Since the Bundesliga season ended, Dortmund have been busy keeping daily routines alive. Regular training sessions, analyzing lessons, a friendly match against the under-23 youth team tactically mirroring Real Madrid and penalty training have dominated the past few days.

“The outside world might see Real as the favourite and the sure winner. But it is not easy to play us,” said Dortmund captain Emre Can.

While 25,000 ticket-holding Dortmund fans are happy to travel to London, the club and local authorities are busy setting up public viewing zones in Dortmund for up to 40,000 more.

“Everyone is eager to turn things for the better remembering the 2013 final, which we narrowly lost against Bayern,” sporting director Sebastian Kehl said, calling the 2-1 defeat in the “German final” 11 years ago a motivation booster for this season’s final.

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Kehl suggested approaching the final with easiness, cheekiness, and nonchalance while the newly promoted CEO Lars Ricken, who scored in the 1997 final against Juventus, said that the team can create unforgettable moments as “a title like that stays forever.”

“It feels good. After all, we have nothing to lose,” German international and defender Nico Schlotterbeck said, adding: “The pressure is resting on other shoulders.”

–IANS

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French Open: Sofia Kenin upsets Garica to reach third round

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Paris, May 29 (IANS) Former French Open runner-up Sofia Kenin continued her resurgence with a straight sets upset of No.21 seed Caroline Garcia to reach the third round in women’s singles for the fourth time.

The 56th-ranked American had a disastrous start to 2024, winning just one of her first 11 matches. But on Wednesday, Kenin, who found her groove in style in Rome, upsetting Ons Jabeur en route to the third round, romped to a 6-3, 6-3 victory in 1 hour and 25 minutes on a rain-interrupted day in the French capital.

On Court Philippe-Chatrier, Kenin delivered another cool-headed tactical performance to take out the French No.1, her third win in as many meetings with Garcia. Indeed, Kenin has yet to drop a set in their rivalry so far.

Garcia fell to her fourth consecutive second-round exit at Roland Garros, and the 11th time she has lost before the third round in 14 appearances to date. Only three home players remain in the draw: Varvara Gracheva, Diane Parry and Chloe Paquet.

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In the pivotal fifth game of the first set, Kenin chased down a full-blast Garcia smash to land a lob precisely in the corner of the home player’s court. Garcia ended that rally, and the next, with wild forehand errors to drop serve for the first time.

Kenin will next face either No.9 seed and 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko or Clara Tauson as she bids to make the second week of a major for the first time since Roland Garros 2021.

–IANS

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Champions League: Lunin flu makes Courtois clear favourite to play in final

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Madrid (Spain), May 29 (IANS) Thibaut Courtois’ chances of playing in goal for Real Madrid in Saturday’s Champions League 2023-24 final against Borussia Dortmund look to be increasing with the news that Andriy Lunin missed Wednesday’s training session with flu.

Lunin has now missed two days without being able to train with the rest of the squad and he didn’t play a minute in the last La Liga match of the season against Real Betis on Saturday, while Courtois played over an hour.

Although the Spanish press report that Lunin is recovering well, the club preferred for him to miss Wednesday’s session to avoid the risk of infecting any of his companions, reports Xinhua.

Lunin was the first choice for Real Madrid for the majority of the season after Courtois tore his cruciate knee ligament in a pre-season training session, and his performances had led many to believe that he would get the nod from Carlo Ancelotti in the Champions League final.

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However, Courtois’ performances in the four appearances he has made since completing his recovery show that he has quickly returned to his best form, and the Belgian is now the favourite to play in the final with Lunin on the substitutes’ bench.

–IANS

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Boxing World Qualifiers: Ankushita, Nishant Dev seal quarters spots; Arundhati also advances

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Indian boxers continued to excel in the 2nd Boxing World Qualifiers for the Paris Olympics with former world youth champion Ankushita Boro (60kg) and Nishant Dev (71kg) registering comfortable victories in their respective weight categories reaching the quarterfinals in Bangkok, Thailand on Wednesday.

National champion Arundhati Choudhary also advanced to the Round of 16 of the 66kg weight category as she won her bout easily.

Boro was up against Asian champion Rimma Volossenko of Kazakhstan. But the Indian wasn’t bothered by the stature of her opponent as she went for her punches from Round 1 and never really looked in trouble throughout the bout to earn a 4-1 verdict.

In the day’s final bout involving an Indian boxer, world championships bronze medallist Nishant Dev was clinical in his 5:0 demolition of Thailand’s Peerapat Yeasungnoen to reach the last eight stage.

Earlier in the day, Choudhary began her 66 kg campaign with a clinical Round 1 against Stephanie Pieneiro of Puerto Rico. She was slightly conservative in Round 2 as she consolidated her position before dominating the next round again to get a unanimous 5:0 verdict in her favour.

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However, it was curtains for Narender Berwal in the +92kg category despite the Indian putting up a strong fight against Ecuador’s Gerlon Gilmar Congo Chala.

The 2022 Asian Games bronze medallist started slow in Round 1 and was then forced to catch up. He did well to impress three of the five judges with his punches in Round 2 and 3 of the Round of 32 bout. However, his efforts were not enough to overturn the overall deficit.

On Thursday, Sachin Siwach (57kg) will look to seal his quarterfinal berth against Batuhan Ciftci of Turkey while 2022 Commonwealth gold medallist Amit Panghal (51kg), Sanjeet (92kg) and Jaismine (women’s 57kg) will start their campaign after having received a bye in the opening round of their respective weight categories.

–IANS

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French Open: Jabeur struggles through to third round with win over Osorio

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Paris, May 29 (IANS) Ninth seed Ons Jabeur survived a scare at the French Open on Wednesday as he came through a bruising three-set encounter against Colombia’s Camila Osorio to book a place in the women’s singles third round at the French Open here. The Tunisian star advanced on Parisian clay with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 victory as she improved to 3-0 over Osorio in their head-to-head series.

While rain had stopped play on the outside courts, Jabeur bolted out of the blocks under the roof on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to take a 3-0 lead in just seven minutes. The 77th-ranked Osorio stopped the rot as she strung together three straight games. But the Tunisian soon took control of the proceedings though the going was not as soon as Jabeur would have hoped as she struggled with her serve.

Jabeur failed to register an ace and landed just 54 per cent of first serves, from which she claimed just 60 per cent of points. The eighth seed faced break points in 13 games, of which she dropped serve six times. Fortunately, she was equally effective at breaking her opponent (six from nine converted) and had few difficulties serving out the contest after an hour and 45 minutes.

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Bidding to make her first third round at a Grand Slam this year, Jabeur’s control and accuracy dipped in the second set to let the battling Colombian back in the mix. After striking 12 winners to 9 unforced errors in the first set, Jabeur hit 11 winners to 15 unforced errors in the second. Osorio seized her opportunity, taking control with more aggressive hitting to win her first set in five tries against Jabeur.

Jabeur steadied herself in the deciding set, playing more contained and disciplined tennis to diffuse Osorio’s threat. She finished the 1-hour and 45-minute match with nearly double the winners compared to Osorio, striking 31 to 16.

She next awaits the winner of match between Wang Xiyu and Leylah Fernandez. She is now 15-4 in the second round at Slams, including 5-0 in Paris, where she was a junior champion in 2011.

–IANS

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