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Page 47 stories Misfiring Barcelona seek response against Atletico Barcelona can redress their stuttering domestic form by sealing their passage to the Champions League semifinals…

Page 47 stories

Misfiring Barcelona seek response against Atletico

Barcelona can redress their stuttering domestic form by sealing their passage to the Champions League semifinals when they visit Atletico Madrid today.

Last season’s treble winners Barca are in their worst run of form in La Liga since coach Luis Enrique took charge in August 2014, losing their last two games to Real Madrid and Real Sociedad and drawing with Villarreal.

Although those results have seen their La Liga lead over second-placed Atletico cut to three points, Barca are still on track to become the first Spanish team to win the treble two years in a row, with the King’s Cup final against Sevilla coming up next month.

The visitors take a 2-1 lead from the first leg into the return match at the Vicente Calderon, Luis Suarez’s double having cancelled out Fernando Torres’ opener after the former Chelsea striker was sent off in the 35th minute.

“There’s no time for apologies or excuses, we need results. It’s not the time to sink low and think that we’re on a horrible run,” said Luis Enrique.

“There are reasons to be optimistic although the results have not been what we want.”

Thomas Vermaelen is out and Rafinha doubtful due to injury but Barca top scorer Suarez returns after the Uruguayan served a suspension.

Luis Enrique is also likely to recall Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic after starting them on the bench in the 1-0 defeat by Sociedad at the weekend.

The plan to rest those players ahead of the trip to Madrid backfired when 18-year-old Mikel Oiarzabal headed Sociedad in front in the fifth minute and Barca struggled to break down the opposition for the remainder of the game.

Despite having seven shots, Lionel Messi could not find a way through and the Argentine talisman has now gone 362 minutes without scoring, his longest drought with Barca since 2011.

Atletico are dreaming of a repeat of their 2014 quarterfinal second leg against Barca when an early goal by Koke delivered a 1-0 win and 2-1 aggregate victory.

Atletico defenders Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic are doubtful while Tiago Mendes is definitely out and Torres suspended following his dismissal at the Nou Camp.

Bryant’s final game ticket prices soar

Basketball fans are paying up to $27,500 (£19,315) to see Kobe Bryant’s final game for the LA Lakers.

Bryant, 37, the third-highest scorer in NBA history, will bring his 20-year career to an end when the Lakers face Utah Jazz in Los Angeles today.

At the same time, defending champions Golden State Warriors will be going for a record 73 wins when they host Memphis Grizzlies in Oakland, California.

Resale tickets for that game are going for up to $15,900 (£11,155).

The Warriors are looking to break a record set by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1995-96.

The game is a 19,595 capacity sell-out with tickets only available via the resale market. Tickets via official channels start at $336 (£236) and rise to £15,900 for courtside seats on resale websites such as Stubhub.

Only resale tickets can be bought for the Lakers’ game at the 18,118-capacity Staples Center too, with prices fetching between $700 (£491) and $27,500 for the chance to see 18-time all-star and five-time championship winner Bryant for a final time.

The Lakers have issued a fraud alert to fans warning them to only buy from their official ticket exchange, where fans can resell tickets securely. However, buyers using the official exchange can still expect to pay up to $10,000 (£7,000) to see the game.

Milan sack Mihajlovic, appoint Brocchi

After failing to win any of his last five games, Sinisa Mihajlovic has been sacked as AC Milan coach and replaced by Cristian Brocchi.

AC Milan have dismissed Sinisa Mihajlovic and promoted youth-team coach Cristian Brocchi as his replacement until the end of the season.

Mihajlovic left his role as Sampdoria coach and replaced Filippo Inzaghi at San Siro last June, but he leaves the club 10 months into his tenure, despite sitting sixth in Serie A and having navigated the team to the Coppa Italia final.

Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to league leaders Juventus proved the final straw, extending Milan’s winless run to five matches and leaving them 15 points adrift of third-placed Roma in the final Champions League qualifying berth.

A statement on the club’s official website read: “Sinisa Mihajlovic has been relieved of his role as AC Milan coach.

“The club would like to thank Mihajlovic for the dedication and hard work carried out this season.”

Mihajlovic’s replacement until the end of the campaign has been confirmed as Brocchi, who had two separate spells as a Rossoneri player from 1994-1998 and 2001-2008 and had been coaching the youth team since 2014.

Brocchi took over that position from Inzaghi, but will look to avoid his predecessor’s fate when in charge of the first team.

The 40-year-old becomes the fifth coach to take charge of Milan in the past three season

Lawal, Nworah downplay Olympics team chances

By Mansur Abubakar

Nigerian striker Qudus Lawal who plays for Wilmington Hammerheads in the United States League says he is not expecting a call up to the national U-23 team after coach Samson Siasia released a 30-man list to begin training for the Games today.

The former Seattle Sounders player who played alongside ex-Super Eagles star Obafemi Martins for two seasons before his move to the Chinese Super League, said it’ll be an honour to represent his fatherland but not desperate or in a rush for things to happen.

“I am doing very well at my new club and my agent has been getting numerous offers from some other top sides as well which is good for me and regarding Nigeria, I’m not desperate at all, it’ll happen when the time is right, Siasia knows what’s best for the team and what he needs so it’s up to him but like I’ve said several times, I’ll be honoured to represent Nigeria” Lawal told Daily Trust.

Meanwhile, another Nigerian player David Ifeanyi Nworah who has played for the Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles before now said his chances of making the Olympics team is limited due to the fact that Nigerian coaches don’t look at the Moroccan league as they should.

“In the interview I had with your newspaper last year, I told you how difficult it is for those of plying our trade here in Morocco to stick on the minds of our Nigerian coaches, they always look elsewhere which limits our chances” he said.

Siasia on Monday released a list of 30 players for camping in preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Stallions to camp in Morocco for Africa Cup 15s

The Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) plans to camp the country’s national rugby team, Black Stallions in Rabat, Morocco for 10 days ahead of the forthcoming Africa Cup 15s to be held in Morocco in July.

NRFF Technical Director, Fasimoye Olatunji, who disclosed this yesterday, said the federation already mapped out plans that that would enhance the successful participation of the Nigerian team to the Africa Cup 15s.

The camping, Olatunji said is aimed at allowing a proper blend of local and foreign-based invited players.

According to Olatunji, “Rugby Africa informed us last week about meeting in Morocco to finalize plans for the event. The program is not yet finalized but a final decision should be made at their next executive meeting later this month. However, the new proposed date for the Africa Cup Tournament is 9th July to 17th July”.

“We are waiting on Rugby Africa on the actual date so we can inform all concerned and intensify our plans for the tournament,” says Fasimoye.

The Black Stallions will face Morocco, Cameroon and Mauritius as they are looking to gain promotion into Africa Cup 1B in their bid to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

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