Real Madrid travel to Chelsea with Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard and Marcelo ready to make the final

Zinedine Zidane has a reputation for occasionally leaving it very late to tell his players who is in and who is out.

He had two teams picked for the second Clasico of the season last month and opted for one over the other when Barcelona’s XI dropped first and he saw they were playing just two up front.

The side he picks to face Chelsea might be just as late a call as he waits to decide on the readiness of four players who would all definitely start were they 100 per cent but who all go in to the game in various stages of recuperation.

Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Fede Valverde were all on Tuesday morning’s delayed flight out of Madrid to London but no-one knows for certain if they start. And with the team selection up in the air Madrid supporters find themselves unsure of whether to believe the 13 times winners can win their first ever competitive European game at Stamford Bridge and make it to the Istanbul final.

Hazard impressed in the first half against Osasuna at the weekend before fading in the second period and being replaced on 72 minutes. He has had no reaction to the calf strain that had kept him out for the second half of March and almost all of April but as has been the case since he joined the club, not being injured is not necessarily tantamount to being fit. Zidane has decided to use him on Wednesday but the big dilemma remains as to whether it’s from the start or off the bench.

Madrid supporters are clinging to the hope that he will finally produce something like his old Chelsea form against his former club.

One Diario AS columnist on Tuesday even invoked the spirit of a 22-year-old Nicolas Anelka who flopped when he signed for £23m in 1999 from Arsenal but temporarily came alive for them scoring in both semi-final legs against Bayern Munich to put them in the 2000 final they won.

At times Hazard’s laid-back attitude has been interpreted as him not caring about his lack of game time at Madrid but in Zidane he has always had a kindred spirit and everything points to him giving the Belgian his start if he assures his manager he is ready for it.

Ramos’s starting berth will have to depend on a little more than him just insisting he’s ready. In the league and Champions League he has only played three games all year and has not appeared since March 16 against Atalanta in the last-16.

He’s had a knee injury, a coronavirus positive and a calf injury, and all against a backdrop of a contract stand-off that still leaves him at odds with the club and just weeks away from leaving on a free because they are only offering him a one-year deal instead of two.

All this might normally make him a definite non-starter but Zidane is without Raphael Varane and there are concerns about right-back Alvaro Odriozola who is third choice behind injured pair Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez.

If he settles on a back four, Zidane would be happier with Nacho shifted to right-back – that would mean Ramos would have to play next to the outstanding Eder Militao.

Zidane could also play a back five as he did in the first leg, protecting Ramos somewhat by playing him in a three with Nacho and Militao. Odriozola would then be less of a liability as a right wing-back, and Marcelo or Mendy would play at left wing-back.

Of the four doubts, Mendy looks the most likely to start having recovered from a calf strain. He has missed the last five games but even if Zidane sees some risk he is likely to take it rather than play with Marcelo who was at least spared his civic duty of manning one of the polling booths in Madrid on Tuesday and released to travel with the squad.

Madrid’s dynamic midfielder Valverde was also on the flight. He hasn’t played 90 minutes in the league since March but did come back from an ankle problem to play the full game against Liverpool.

He was immense at Anfield and he’s a player that Zidane trusts and someone whose natural level of fitness is usually such that he doesn’t need to build up his minutes gradually.

How his recent coronavirus positive has affected him will be the key. If Liverpool in the last round is a guide, and if quarantine has not taken too much out of him he should start.

It’s his biggest team selection of the season and the fact that Zidane has no shortage of options will not make it any easier.

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  • 59 минут назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Barcelona and Atletico Madrid cancelled each other at the Camp Nou and that meant a win-win for Real Madrid who now know they will be champions if they get maximum points from their last four games, starting Sunday at home to Sevilla.

    Barcelona’s best chance came five minutes from time when Ousmane Dembele had a free header on the edge of the six-yard box from Jordi Alba’s cross but got under it to send it sailing over Marc Andre ter Stegen’s bar.

    Messi won an 89th minute free-kick but sent it just high and just wide. Neither he nor his old pal Luis Suarez would get the win they so wanted.

    The embrace between the two came just seconds before kick-off. There was one for Sergio Busquets and Jorid Alba too. Barcelona had played some of Suarez greatest goals for them during the warm-up but with the title at stake the Uruguayan seemed oblivious to the tribute.

    Atletico started well. Thomas Lemar had a shot saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Suarez was fouled by Gerard Pique and took the free-kick himself which was saved by Ter Stegen.

    Messi linked up with Antoine Griezmann, who had no such affection shown him by former Atletico team-mates. But the Frenchman’s pass went long.

    After 12 minutes Saul Niguez replaced the hamstrung Thomas Lemar and Barcelona were soon forced into a change too.

    Busquets and Stefan Savic clashed heads and there was a drinks break in the 22 degrees heat while the midfielder received treatment.

    Griezmann had a shot saved by Oblak while Barcelona were down to ten men. Busquets came back on but was soon dizzy again sitting down in the centre-circle before being replaced by Ilaix Moriba.

    Suarez was always a threat in the first hal and he began to clash with former team-mates. He was caught in the face by Pique in one clash and when Ter Stegen got a hand to both the ball and Suarez’ head. The keeper shouted ‘no no no!’ when Suarez stayed down holding his head hoping for a penalty.

    Suarez had earlier seen his shot saved by Ter Stegen at his near post. The keeper also saved from Marcos Llorente as Atletico had the better of things.

    Saul was booked for a foul on Messi who lifted the tone considerably 10 minutes before the break weaving past four Atletico defenders. Oblak turned his shot away for a corner.

    When the half time whistle blew it was Atletico Madrid who could be happier with the performance, and Real Madrid supporters who could be happiest with the result as things stood.

    There were chances in the first minute of the second half with Clement Lenglet twisting to send a header over when half time substitute Ronald Araujo was better placed.

    At the other end Suarez pounced on a Lenglet error and won a corner with a saved shot. Barcelona were still surprisingly cautious with three centre-backs marking Suarez. Pique did get forward on the hour to get a glancing header to a floated Messi cross but Oblak saved.

    It was the cue for Atletico to prepare Joao Felix but he was still waiting to come on when Koke pulled Messi down on the edge of the area to earn a booking.

    Messi’s free-kick was creeping in at the far post when Oblak made the save of the game to push it out for a corner.

    Simeone’s next move was to bring on the Portuguese for Saul, the sub subbed and Carrasco to left wing-back.

    Both teams had the ball in the back of the net but Araujo was offside when he headed in and when Suarez scored from a rebound the whistle had already been blown for a foul from Carrasco on Pique.

    With 20 minutes left the touchline-banned Ronaldo Koeman sent word down to the technical area for Ousmane Dembele to come on.

    He won a free-kick but Messi wasted it giving it straight to an Atletico player. Fortunately for Barcelona that player was Joao Felix who took an age to launch the counter giving Messi time to get back and help snuff out the chance.

    He’s more dangerous closer to the penalty area and he found Suarez but the Uruguayan failed to find Carrasco. The Belgian then tried to find Suarez but overhit his cross and Atletico’s last decent chance was gone

    They are still top but if Real Madrid beat Sevilla they will be second – and Barcelona third – with three games to go. It’s in Real Madrid’s hands now.


  • 59 минут назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Rio Ferdinand questioned the attitude of Tottenham’s players after their 3-1 defeat to Leeds United as he slammed Erik Lamela for trying to pull off a rabona while his side chased the game.

    Son Heung-min cancelled out Stuart Dallas’ early goal to draw Spurs level in the first half but Leeds hit back with a goal from Patrick Bamford shortly before halftime.

    Rodrigo Moreno struck late to seal a defeat which saw Spurs’ slim hopes of sneaking into the Champions League places fade even further.

    Substitute Lamela was the target of Rio Ferdinand’s criticism on BT Sport although the pundit extended his disbelief to the whole Spurs team after not a single player had a go at the winger for his futile attempt at flair.

    ‘Lamela came on and at times he had impact. There was a moment where he tried a rabona. You’re 3-1 down in this moment,’ Ferdinand said.

    ‘The important thing was the reaction in Spurs shirts. I was looking for someone to get on to him.’

    The former Manchester United and England defender contrasted the Spurs’ players passive reaction to his playing days and also felt their attitude also gave a boost to Leeds in protecting their lead.

    Ferdinand added: ‘I couldn’t imagine being in a team where that player doesn’t get a rollicking. There’s got to be someone in there to say, “listen, we’re here to get results”.

    ‘If there were fans here, you would have been jeered off the pitch. There would have been a queue of people wanting to get at him.

    ‘What does that signal to the other team? “They’re not serious, they’re not serious about this”. You have to look right.’

    Leeds inflicted a first Premier League defeat on Spurs’ interim coach Ryan Mason since he succeeded Jose Mourinho last month and all but ended his side’s chance of gatecrashing the top four.

    ‘Today was a massive game for us, to lose it hurts,’ Mason told BT Sport.

    ‘It’s difficult to win in the Premier League but we’ve got to have our full attention on next week now.

    ‘We had moments but we weren’t clinical enough at times.

    ‘In the second half we were the better team. The moments we had, you have to take them in these games.’

  • 6 часов, 59 минут назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Andy Murray is set for a comeback to the tour just in time for the busiest period of the tennis season – and will hit the practice courts with Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

    The 33-year-old Scot has his sights set on Wimbledon, but first will fly out to Rome to practice on the clay ahead of a full comeback in the week starting May 17.

    Murray also plans to tackle the coming months with some help from former coach and now TV commentator Mark Petchey, who has been on the court with him in London in recent weeks.

    The double SW19 champion could be found on Friday hitting on the clay at Roehampton’s National Tennis Centre with British youngster Jack Draper, confounding thoughts that injury issues of the last two months might force him to abandon the clay season.

    Murray last played in Rotterdam at the beginning of March and a freak groin strain suffered while sleeping in Miami has kept him out since.

    He plans to enter either of the ATP events in Geneva or Lyon the week after next, the former being where Roger Federer is returning. He hopes for a wildcard into the main draw of the French Open at the end of this month, but if not will join the chorus line in the qualifying event at Roland Garros.

    ‘On Sunday I’ve got a court booked with Diego Schwartzmann and then Novak in the afternoon,’ said Murray, who was able to play full on yesterday against highly promising teenager Draper.

    A series of scans showed no serious issues after he returned from Florida, and he was given some local anaesthetic treatment. But the French authorities want to see evidence of his level before giving him a wildcard, which he is relaxed about.

    ‘They want to see me on the court competing, whether that means I need to win matches I don’t know. I don’t mind if they don’t want to give me a wildcard, that’s fine, they can give them to whoever they want to. It just makes it a bit tricky with planning.’

    Petchey, who coached him in his formative years on tour, has been added to his support team to work alongside existing coach Jamie Delgado.

    ‘Over the last few years my team and I have spent a lot of time together and there have been a lot of difficult moments because of what’s happened with the injuries and uncertainty,’ said Murray.

    ‘I felt it would be good to have fresh voice some weeks. I thought he was a very good coach and because of his TV work he is very current with his knowledge. A lot of the younger guys he knows them because he’s commentating on them all the time. We are looking at doing something longer term but nothing has been agreed yet.’

    Aside from what happened in Miami he was also forced out of the Australian Open after catching Covid in January, making it a difficult year.

    ‘It has been extremely frustrating – I never expected that things were going to be easy, when I had the operation on the hip I knew it was going to be unbelievably challenging, it just feels that there are a couple of things that have happened this year which have been very unfortunate that have been hard to take.

    ‘I’m trying to do something that has not been done before. So I knew there would be challenges but things have come up which have made it even more difficult. I’ve been in the NTC for 6 days a week. I’m a bit bored of doing that now, I want to get out there be around the top players and top tournaments.

    ‘I’m really looking forward to going away and having a good few months this summer, with Wimbledon and the Olympics. I feel good right now, the last five or six days there has been a definite improvement.’

    Murray’s coming schedule is fluid. He could play an additional clay court event in Parma, and if his business in Paris finished quickly he might play in Stuttgart in the grass court event there ahead of the Cinch Championships at Queen’s.

  • 6 часов, 59 минут назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Jurgen Klopp has thrown his weight behind out-of-form Liverpool ace Roberto Firmino in the midst of his disappointing campaign.

    The forward has scored just six goals from 43 appearances in all competitions this season and been unable to prevent the now-dethroned former Premier League champions from enduring a horror slump.

    But boss Klopp was quick to insist that Firmino retains his full support and has tipped the 29-year-old to return to form sooner rather than later.

    Speaking to journalists, Klopp attributed Firmino’s sharp decline in front of goal to Liverpool’s wider issues this season.

    ‘It is a mixture of the season, 100 per cent, but as well, when the boys up front don’t score as often as we’re used to then that doesn’t help,’ Klopp said.

    ‘But anyway, we are not in dreamland, so you can go through these periods. But, of course, it is temporary and not forever. There is no doubt about that.

    ‘Bobby is not old or tired or lost everything, not at all. We see everything in training, but we need to make sure we bring that more often on the pitch.

    ‘That is not only for Bobby either, but you asked about him. That is a general thing for us.’

    The Anfield giants are currently embroiled in a fierce battle to qualify for the Champions League – but they are languishing in seventh, seven points off fourth.

    Liverpool have been haunted by key injures, a failure to take good chances and sloppy mistakes, all of which brought an early end to their title defence and pushed them out of the top four.

    Reflecting back, Klopp rued the absentees in defence, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both ruled out long-term, and insisted that the chaos stemming from the issue has taken its toll on the whole of his team.

    ‘The season is not one where we got into a proper flow and things were clicking game after game,’ Klopp added. ‘We had to work incredibly hard and when you have to work incredibly hard you think about different things.

    ‘So let me say it like this, when we lost our defence and stability a bit because of injuries, everybody had to play differently to protect the defence.

    ‘That means you play a yard further back, or two, or five, or 10. That keeps your focus away from an offensive situation because you would think already that when you lose the ball you have to get it back.

    ‘So there are a lot of complex things that have happened this year and so far it was why this is the season we saw. There are absolutely no excuses, and I hope that is clear, but it is a description.

    ‘Bobby is a good example of that but he is in a good moment, he trains really well and that is good.’

  • 6 часов, 59 минут назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Neymar has been branded as one of the most irritating players to play against by former Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran.

    Juanfran battled often with Neymar during the Brazilian’s spell at Barcelona for four years, before the latter’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £198million in 2017.

    Having left Atletico for Sao Paulo in 2019, the 36-year-old labelled Neymar as ‘unbearable’ when asked by El Larguero at which opponent was his most irksome on the pitch.

    Juanfran said: ‘Neymar. Off the pitch they tell me he’s a good kid, but on the pitch, unbearable. He’d provoke you with or without the ball – but I wasn’t a saint either.’

    While Neymar is undoubtedly one of the world’s standout players on the ball, his gamesmanship, including a perceived overreaction to being fouled, can often infuriate opponents and fans.

    This was never enough to overshadow his talent though, with 105 goals in just 186 games sealing a move to PSG, where despite injuries he has also bagged 85 goals in just 112 games.

    Although his contract at the Parc des Princes is due to expire next summer, he could now sign a new deal in the French capital in the next few days worth around £26million a season.

    Neymar’s new contract would come as excellent news for manager Mauricio Pochettino who is also hoping to tie down fellow forward Kylian Mbappe to a new deal.

    It also reflects well on Pochettino that despite PSG’s Champions League semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Manchester City midweek, his star players are willing to stay in Paris under his tenure.

  • 6 часов, 59 минут назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Michael Page scored his fifth-straight Bellator victory on Friday night after the Briton stopped Derek Anderson after breaking his rival’s nose with a brutal leg kick in the first round.

    The silky smooth Hackney-born mixed martial artist met Anderson at Bellator 258 in Uncasville, Connecticut at a catchweight of 175 pounds and all but ended the bout in the opening round after landing a perfect leg kick right on the button.

    Anderson, 31, made it until the end of the round before a ringside physician stepped in to insist that the American was in no shape to continue, such was the damage done to the nose.


    Page’s victory moves ‘Venom’ a step closer to a rematch with Bellator’s welterweight champion Douglas Lima, the only man to inflict defeat on the Briton in his 20-fight career.

    The 34-year-old is also the first person to defeat Anderson via TKO/KO and his victory on Friday saw him break the record for most knockout wins in Bellator.

    ‘It is a good one to come back on,’ Page said after his win. ‘Now Bellator have got going again it is a great one to start on to get me going as well and hopefully I am just active.

    ‘I feel great right now, as soon as I can get back in the cage I am going to be back.’

    MMA fans have likened Page’s fighting style to that seen in video games, and the Briton says that he is in his ‘element’ when he is in the Octagon.

    ‘Fighting genuinely is my home,’ he said. ‘I genuinely feel at peace. I don’t feel stressed, I am in my absolute element when I am fighting.

    ‘I enjoy combat, it is more of a game for me. I don’t see the brutality in it. You can see by the way I demonstrate my martial arts that that’s what it is for me. I’m just at home.’

    Fans took to Twitter to react to Page’s sensational kick, with one social media user comparing the damage sustained by Anderson to that of a crinkled can of Coke.

    ‘Michael Venom is scary’ one user wrote, while another fan labelled the 34-year-old ‘an absolute savage’.

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Sport Real Madrid travel to Chelsea with Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard and Marcelo ready to make the final