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Briefs

Fri 14 Feb by Mark Gleeson

Briefs

A near R9-million carryover to tomorrow’s Soccer 13 pool adds loads of excitement to TAB’s soccer pools this weekend, when Liverpool are back from their brief winter break and set to continue their unbeaten, record-setting run in the English Premier League.Their away game tomorrow against Norwich City is one in which they are expected to take the points and continue their impressive march to the title.Few TAB soccer customers will give the struggling Canaries, even if they are at home at Carrow Road, any chance of being able to topple Liverpool off their winning perch.The finish line is getting closer for the Reds, who have had a good break and have everything perfectly aligned to finally take that elusive championship.Sometimes it looks too perfect and the threat of complacency and entitlement offer some hope if a super-motivated Norwich are swept to success by a rabid home crowd. Such a win would shock the entire world of football.When Manchester City were similarly imperious last season on their way to a record setting title, they lost just before Christmas to Crystal Palace at home in a result that hinted at their mortality.But it is also important to highlight that there have been several occasions this season already when Liverpool’s demise has been predicted.Fatigue, onerous travel and injuries have all been factors suggesting the end of Liverpool’s unbeaten EPL season. But Jurgen Klopp and his merry men have tossed aside each previous prediction of imminent doom with a flourish of competence that suggests we are really watching a season unlike anything seen before.Arsenal and Tottenham both have golden opportunities to get their campaigns turning more positive on Sunday. They are chasing a Champions League place and need to win their respective games.It should be easier for the Gunners at home to Newcastle, while Spurs have a good record away at Aston Villa.The highlight, however, comes on Monday night when Chelsea host Manchester United, who have had much success at Stamford Bridge of late.Two young managers will field two young teams. These are also a pair of clubs desperately needing points as they also look to ensure a money-spinning appearance in next season’s Champions League.

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CHIEFS APPEAL TRANSFER BAN

Kaizer Chiefs are to appeal the sanction handed down by FIFA regarding Madagascan forward Andriamirado “Dax” Andrianarimanana. The Premier Soccer League log-leaders have been banned from signing any new players in the next two transfer windows, while Dax has been suspended for four months and ordered to pay close to R640,000 in compensation. But Chiefs will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and believe they have a strong case after FIFA’s judicial process reportedly ignored some of their key evidence. The midfielder’s Malagasy club, Fosa Juniors, claim they had a signed contract with Dax prior to him joining Chiefs, which both the player and the PSL side claim is a forgery.

EMERY BLAMES BAD ATTITUDES

Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery has accused some of his players of not having "a good attitude" in a stout defence of his 18-month reign at the London club. The Spaniard was relieved of his duties last November after a run of seven games without a win and the Gunners eight points adrift of the English Premier League's top four. He departed amid claims that he had struggled to motivate the club's biggest names, although he has hit back at those suggestions and insisted he was turning things around.

CORONAVIRUS HALTS AFC CUP

The Asian Football Confederation has been forced to postpone all AFC Cup matches due to be played in East Asia until April because of concerns over the coronavirus. The two-month suspension comes after several countries imposed travel restrictions in reaction to the outbreak, which has killed more than 1,000 people in China with more than 40,000 cases diagnosed worldwide.

DEMBELE OUT FOR 6 MONTHS

Ousmane Dembélé will miss the European Championship after Barcelona announced that the France forward would be out for about six months after surgery on his right hamstring. The loss of Dembélé for the rest of this season is another blow for Barcelona, who lost former Liverpool striker Luis Suárez to a long-term knee injury last month. Dembélé, 22, has suffered a number of hamstring problems since joining from Borussia Dortmund in August 2017. His latest setback could prompt Barcelona, who trail La Liga leaders Real Madrid by three points, to buy a replacement striker if the Spanish Football Federation allows them to make an emergency signing outside of the transfer window.

TEMPORARY SUBSTITUTES

Proposals for a change to football’s laws to allow temporary replacements for players who may have suffered concussion are hanging by a thread. The International FA Board’s meeting on 29 February will hear proposals for temporary substitutes that would allow team doctors up to 10 minutes to diagnose concussion and then allow players to come back on if they pass the test. Players’ union Fifpro is advocating the proposal and has the FA’s support. Michel D’Hooghe, chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, said: “I’m not in favour of the temporary substitutes. It makes it difficult for the referee.” The English Premier League has suggested that an extra substitute is allowed in cases of a head injury but not to come on temporarily.

"I still have doubts about whether all this is real or not. I've been watching Messi for many years, and now I play with him. This is a dream. I have always dreamed of this moment. I have to thank my team-mates and the coach for giving me the opportunity."

African-born prodigy Ansu Fati, who’s just 16, after scoring his first brace for Barcelona in a 2-1 win over Levante.

“Look, it’s going to catch up with us there is no doubt about that. Our squad is the smallest in the league. We have got a squad of 22 players. Hopefully we don’t get caught too much. The daytime games also don’t help us because the tempo of the game is much slower. What we do have is a lot of know-how and that’s important in football. The know-how doesn’t always win you games, but I think that will help us.”

Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt on the tough programme that awaits his club, having fallen behind with domestic fixtures due to the African Confederation Cup.