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EPL Sunday cracker: Liverpool, Man U face selection dilemma

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The fitness of Joel Matip and Naby Keita could have a key impact on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool line-up, while Victor Lindelof and Paul Pogba may give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a conundrum for Man Utd as the two sides clash today for the battle of the EPL table topper, Sunday January 17 at 4.30pm.

Which players are set to start on Sunday, when Liverpool host Manchester United in their huge Premier League clash at Anfield?

Sky Sports News reporters Vinny O’Connor and James Cooper joined Peter Smith on the Pitch to Post Preview Podcast to bring the latest team news and injury concerns ahead of the crunch clash between the league’s current top two.

They also shared their views on which selections the respective managers may lean towards for the big showdown.

Liverpool – Matip fitness holds the key

Sky Sports News reporter, Vinny O’Connor, says, “Liverpool have taken advantage of a nine-day break before this game. Jurgen Klopp made it clear ahead of the Aston Villa FA Cup game the lads were going to get a few days off and that’s how it has panned out. They were back in on Wednesday for training and their preparations for the game are building up.

“But on top of that, they’ve been doing everything they can to get Joel Matip fit. Before the Aston Villa game, Klopp said he wasn’t sure he would be recovered from his groin injury in time for Man Utd or whether it would be a few days after that.

“Centre-back is the key area and it affects the whole team because when you look at the XI Klopp put out against Southampton, Jordan Henderson dropped back to centre half alongside Fabinho, and with them playing at centre half you’re missing two massively influential figures in that engine room.

“If Matip is fit then it’s relatively straightforward: he would partner Fabinho at the centre of defence, you’d have Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back and Andy Robertson at left-back, which would enable Henderson to fill the holding role in midfield and then you’ve got the selection of probably Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago Alcantara.

“If Matip isn’t fit – does he drop Henderson back again or does he leave one of the youngsters to fill that role?

“Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams have done OK when they’ve been asked to in the Premier League – but against Man Utd, and their attacking threat, maybe it’s another step up and another challenge they’d have to rise to.

“Obviously the front three picks itself, with Diogo Jota still injured, and we’ll wait and see whether Naby Keita can offer another option in midfield.

“But the key issue is Joel Matip – because it affects the balance elsewhere of the entire team.”

Man Utd – Decision at centre-back and Pogba’s position

Sky Sports News reporter, James Cooper, says, “When Anthony Martial was taken off against Burnley, it looked precautionary to me. It looked as though he’d got a little pull and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thought, ‘this one might be in the bag and we need him at the weekend against Liverpool’.

“The other issue and problem for him is at centre back and whether Victor Lindelof is fit enough with that back injury.

“Eric Bailly’s form has been good, although Man Utd fans will tell you, in the big games – and you remember PSG last season – he has a ricket in him. It’s something he’s eliminated from his game so far this season, but most Man Utd fans are just maybe a little worried, going into a big game like this, that Bailly and Maguire are the two centre-backs.

“Although, Bailly does give you a bit more pace than perhaps Lindelof does.

“I think he’ll go with legs in midfield with Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield. They seem to be his go-to for the big games.

“Then, if you’re going to play that formation with the three attackers and then the one striker, Martial, if he’s fit, becomes the one down the middle, with Marcus Rashford probably on the right – although he doesn’t like being on the right – Bruno Fernandes in the middle and Paul Pogba on the left.

“I don’t think he will [try to play Edinson Cavani, Rashford and Martial] because he’ll want to accommodate Pogba. Most United fans would say they’ve seen the best from Pogba playing on the left at the moment.

“That’s probably what he’s weighing up – whether Pogba plays, or whether it is Cavani through the middle and Martial on the left, or perhaps even Mason Greenwood.

“But Ole has rotated and rested really, really well so they’re fresh for a game like this.”

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Tokyo2020: Okagbare, Nwokocha Qualify For 100m Semi Final

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For the very first time in nine years, two Nigerian athletes will be running in the semifinals of the women’s 100m after Blessing Okagbare and Nzubechi Grace Nwokocha qualified from their respective heats Friday in Tokyo, Japan, Newspremises reports.

 

Nwokocha had to run a new personal best of 11.00 seconds to secure her qualification to the semifinals in her debut at the Games.

 

The 20 year old has also moved into fifth in the Nigeria all-time list behind Okagbare (10.79), Glory Alozie (10.90) Mary Onyali (10.97) and Damola Osayomi (10.99).

 

The home-based athlete who ran 11.09 seconds to secure her qualification for the Olympics in March at the MOC Grand Prix in Lagos will however need to make further history by breaking the 11 seconds barrier as the fifth Nigerian woman to do so to stand a chance of joining Onyali and Okagbare as debutants who ran all the way to the final of the event.

 

She has been drawn to run from lane nine in the third semifinal heat with the fastest woman alive, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Daryl Neita of Great Britain, Teahna Daniels of the USA and fellow African, Muriel Ahoure of Ivory Coast.

 

While Nwokocha qualified for her first semifinal, Okagbare will be running in her third since she made her debut in the event at the 2012 Olympics in London. The 32 year old ran 11.05 seconds to win her first round heat.

 

She has been drawn in the first semifinal heat alongside two heavyweights of the event, defending champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica who ran 10.82 seconds to win her first round heat and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, the 200m world champion two years ago in Doha, Qatar who ran 11.07 seconds to come second in her first round heat.

 

The 2008 Beijing Olympics Long Jump silver medallist will be in action at exactly 11.15 am Nigerian time on Saturday.

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No Golden Slam: Djokovic In Shock Olympics Semifinal Defeat, As Zverev Wins

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The highest-ranked tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic has been eliminated in the semi-final of the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

 

Djokovic who lost to Alexander Zverev of Germany 1-6, 3-6, 6-1, was attempting to be the first man to achieve the Golden Slam by winning all four major Grand Slams and Olympics Gold in the same year.

 

The unplayable Serb had earlier won the Australian Open, Rolland Garros and recently the Wimbledon, with only the Olympics Gold and US Open titles to spare.

 

Only the legendary Steffi Graf has achieved the Golden Slam, having won all four major Grand Slams as well as the Olympics Gold in Seoul ’88.

 

Djokovic will play for bronze against Carreno Busta, who was defeated 6-3 6-3 by Karen Khachanov (Zverev’s opponent in the final).

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10 Nigerian athletes banned from Tokyo Olympics

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Ten athletes from Nigeria among 18 athletes banned from participating in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.
While the names of the affected athletes were not released, a statement from the Athletics Integrity Unit indicated that a total of 18 athletes had been declared ineligible, with Nigeria being the most affected.
According to the AIU, the 10 athletes from Nigeria failed the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15.
It stated, “Under the framework of Rule 15 governing National Federation Anti-Doping Obligations, which came into force in January 2019, National Federations are accountable for ensuring appropriate anti-doping measures are in place in their respective jurisdictions.
“Among other things, the Rule sets out minimum requirements for testing on the national teams of ‘Category A’ federations deemed to have the highest doping risk and considered as a threat to the overall integrity of the sport.
“The key requirement in Rule 15 is that an athlete from a ‘Category A’ country must undergo at least three no-notice out-of competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than 3 weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event. Only then do they become eligible to represent their national team at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games.
“For the year 2021, the seven identified ‘Category A’ National Federations are: Belarus, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Ukraine.

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