Chelsea head to Israel amid new security fears

Chelsea head to Israel amid new security worries in the region as they try to seal a spot in the last 16 of the Champions League against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s team currently sit in second place in Group G and could advance with a victory against the already eliminated Israeli champions provided Dynamo Kiev do not win their game against Porto.

A draw would also suffice if Dynamo lose at the same time in Portugal.

But Chelsea travel to Israel where they will find a country racked by violence.

On Thursday, five people, including an American, died when Palestinian attacks targeted Israelis in a Tel Aviv stabbing and a West Bank gun and car-ramming assault.

In one of the attacks, a 36-year-old Palestinian stormed into an office building in commercial capital Tel Aviv with a knife, killing two Israelis and wounding one.

“I think you just have to rely on people who know a lot more than me about the whole situation to make sensible decisions,” said Chelsea defender Gary Cahill when asked to discuss the prospects of travelling to the country.

Chelsea enter Tuesday’s crucial clash in good spirits after ending their three-game winless streak in the Premier League by defeating Norwich City 1-0 on Saturday thanks to a Diego Costa goal.

Despite the victory, Chelsea have been struggling to regain last season’s majestic form in the Premier League which saw Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa form a dynamic attack that many clubs feared.

But captain John Terry was pleased with the win over Norwich and is focused on Tuesday night’s match, which will be played an hour up the coast from Tel Aviv in Haifa.

“We have three points on the board now in the Premier League and switch focus to the Champions League again. With that in mind and the importance of qualifying it’s all there for everyone to see,” said Terry.

Chelsea won 4-0 when the two clubs met earlier this season at Stamford Bridge in their opening Champions League game.

Terry, Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic and Costa were omitted from the starting XI due to their poor start in the Premier League but all should play a major role on Tuesday.

– ‘Nothing to lose’ –

Chelsea have only faced one Israeli side other than Maccabi in their history — during the 2001/02 season, Hapoel Tel Aviv stunned the Blues in the UEFA Cup, beating them 3-1 over two legs.

Maccabi, who have won three straight domestic titles, geared up for this clash by beating Hapoel Haifa 3-0 on Saturday to take over top spot in the Israeli top flight.

Striker Dejan Radonjic is doubtful with a nagging calf injury, while midfielder Tal Ben Haim II is expected to feature despite not fully recovering from a calf injury.

Former Chelsea defender Tal Ben Haim I is expected to return to the line-up after being rested on Saturday.

Despite Maccabi’s poor start in the Champions League, their leading goal scorer in Europe, Eran Zahavi, is staying optimistic.

“It’s realistic to hope for points against Chelsea. It’s our time to go all out, because we have nothing to lose in the Champions League,” he said.

Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic, a former Chelsea player who last season led Watford to promotion to the Premier League, expects a difficult match for his team who have lost all four of their group games, managing just one goal.

“The Champions League is the highest level of European football. Chelsea may not have played well this season but they are still Chelsea, we have to show our best and I expect that we will do this,” he said.

Radamel Falcao and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois are missing for Chelsea due to injury.

Photo Credits : AFP

English Premier League 2015-16 line-up

The teams competing in the English Premier League in the 2015-16 season (last season’s position in brackets):

Arsenal (3rd)

Aston Villa (17th)

Bournemouth (1st, Championship)

Chelsea (1st)

Crystal Palace (10th)

Everton (11th)

Leicester City (14th)

Liverpool (6th)

Manchester City (2nd)

Manchester United (4th)

Newcastle United (15th)

Norwich City (3rd, Championship; promoted via play-offs)

Southampton (7th)

Stoke City (9th)

Sunderland (16th)

Swansea City (8th)

Tottenham Hotspur (5th)

Watford (2nd, Championship)

West Bromwich Albion (13th)

West Ham United (12th)

Photo Credits : AFP

Adidas defend controversial Man Utd women’s shirt

Manchester United kit maker Adidas has been forced to defend its controversial new shirt designed specifically for female fans of the Premier League club.

Adidas unveiled the first United kit of its £750 million ($1.3 billion) deal with the Old Trafford team last week.

But the German sportswear giant was criticised for the design of the women’s shirt, which had a much lower neckline than the men’s version.

One United fan, @MUnitedGirl, posted on Twitter: “Seriously Adidas? Why is the V-neck so low compared with the men’s one? Some of us don’t like to show cleavage.

“I call that discrimination. Nike never did that.”

Responding to the criticism, Adidas said it took the thoughts of fans into account before producing the kit.

“Adidas provides an adult shirt which is a replica of what the players wear,” an Adidas spokesperson said on Monday.

“Based on research from fans, we also offer a women’s shirt as part of our lifestyle range of products.

“This range has a slightly different design and fit to give fans a choice.”

Nike did not produce a women’s version of the United shirt last season and Adidas also pointed out it has made women’s kits for the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich without complaints.

Photo Credits : AFP

The five best Premier League games of 2014-15

The Premier League season came to an end on Sunday after serving up nine months of thrills and spills that ended with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea top of the pile.

Here, AFP Sports selects the five most exciting matches from the campaign:

Everton 3 Chelsea 6, August 30

Sweeping forward with an almost reckless abandon, Jose Mourinho’s reshaped Chelsea struck twice in the first three minutes as they fired a warning to their title rivals at Goodison Park. Sparked by the astute signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea showed why they were already established as the pace-setters in a title race they would eventually win at a canter. Brazil-born Spain striker Costa netted in the first and last minutes at Goodison to provide a fitting coda to a result that foreshadowed Chelsea’s march to their first Premier League title since 2010.

Arsenal 2 Manchester City 2, September 13

Displaying an abundance of attacking talent and more significantly, the frailties that would eventually undermine their respective title challenges, two of the league’s most eye-catching teams served up a cracker at the Emirates Stadium. Sergio Aguero gave City the lead mid-way through the first half, but Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez — giving an early glimpse of what would prove a fine debut season — struck after the interval for the Gunners. That should have been enough to ensure a winning Arsenal debut for Danny Welbeck, fresh from his transfer from Manchester United, but City defender Martin Demichelis bagged an 83rd-minute equaliser for the defending champions.

Leicester City 5 Manchester United 3, September 21

Louis van Gaal’s startled expression spoke volumes after the new Manchester United manager’s first real experience of the chaotic nature of the Premier League. It had already been a rocky start for Van Gaal in his first season in charge, but even the well-travelled Dutchman could not have expected a meltdown of the magnitude that United experienced against promoted Leicester at the King Power Stadium. Leading 3-1 after a dominant opening, featuring a superb scooped strike from club-record signing Angel di Maria, United then capitulated, leaking four goals in 21 second-half minutes as they were run ragged by former non-league forward Jamie Vardy. Incredibly, it was the first time in 853 Premier League matches that United had let a two-goal lead turn into a defeat.

Queens Park Rangers 2 Liverpool 3, October 19

With three minutes left at Loftus Road, Liverpool looked on course for a fairly unmemorable 1-0 victory courtesy of a Richard Dunne own goal — then all hell broke loose. First, Chile forward Eduardo Vargas equalised with his first goal for QPR, then Philippe Coutinho restored Liverpool’s lead in the 90th minute. There was still just enough time left for a sensational twist in the tale when Vargas levelled deep into stoppage time, only for Steven Caulker’s own goal to hand Liverpool the points with virtually the last touch of a breathless finale.

Tottenham Hotspur 5 Chelsea 3, January 1

A brilliant demolition of Chelsea’s previously impregnable defence served as a spectacular coming-of-age party for Tottenham striker Harry Kane. Playing as though they were still suffering a hangover from the New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Blues could not cope with the power and lethal finishing of 21-year-old Kane in just their second defeat of a season with few other bum notes. Kane struck twice either side of a Danny Rose goal and an Andros Townsend penalty, giving rampant Tottenham a lead that even their occasionally porous back four could not squander. Nacer Chadli sealed victory for Spurs, with Costa, Eden Hazard and John Terry netting in vain for the visitors.

Photo Credits : AFP

The five best Premier League goals of 2014-15

The 2014-15 Premier League campaign reached its conclusion on Sunday, with Chelsea finishing the season as champions while Queens Park Rangers, Burnley and Hull City were relegated.

Here, AFP Sports selects the five most memorable goals from the season:

Andre Schuerrle for Chelsea v Burnley (a), August 18

Chelsea foretold their dominance of the top flight with a 3-1 victory at Burnley on the opening weekend, the highlight of which was a sublime 25-pass move finished off by German World Cup-winner Schuerrle. After a spell of Chelsea possession, Eden Hazard burrowed his way to the edge of the Burnley box before slipping a pass to Branislav Ivanovic on the right flank. Ivanovic clipped the ball inside to Cesc Fabregas, who played a gossamer-soft, half-volleyed pass into the area that Schuerrle — darting into the six-yard box from the right — stabbed past goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Matt Phillips for Queens Park Rangers v Crystal Palace (a), March 14

QPR slid deeper into the relegation zone following a 3-1 defeat at London rivals Crystal Palace, but the match was illuminated by a jaw-dropping long-range goal from visiting winger Phillips. With Palace 3-0 up in the game’s latter stages, Phillips brought down a high ball just inside the hosts’ half. He took one touch to move the ball forward, then another, and then another, before letting rip with an outrageous drive from just outside the centre circle that soared over startled goalkeeper Julian Speroni and into the top-left corner, kissing the crossbar on its way in.

Bobby Zamora for Queens Park Rangers v West Bromwich Albion (a), April 4

Two-cap England striker Zamora displayed a remarkably deft touch to score a delightful goal in QPR’s 4-1 win at West Brom. With the visitors 2-0 up, Matt Phillips steered a pass down the inside-right channel for Zamora to run onto. Zamora had West Brom centre-back Joleon Lescott in close attendance, but as the ball crossed the right-hand apex of the penalty area, he used the outside of his left foot to lift an exquisite lob over goalkeeper Boaz Myhill and into the net.

Charlie Adam for Stoke City v Chelsea (a), April 4

The season’s most extraordinary goal was scored at Stamford Bridge, but not by the champions. After Chelsea, who were leading 1-0, lost possession high up the pitch, Stephen Ireland ferried the ball forward to Jonathan Walters, who laid it off to Adam. Mid-way inside his own half, the Scotland midfielder took a couple of touches, looked up, and then proceeded to loft the ball over Chelsea’s 6’6″ (1.99m) goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with his left foot from fully 60 yards.

Jermain Defoe for Sunderland v Newcastle United (h), April 5

Defoe capped a weekend of sensational strikes with a superb volley to earn Sunderland victory over Newcastle United in the Tyne-Wear derby. After a punt from Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon was helped on by Steven Fletcher, Defoe unleashed a stunning, dipping left-foot volley from 25 yards that sang its way into the top-right corner. The former Tottenham Hotspur striker was so moved by the experience that he had to wipe away tears as he left the pitch at half-time.

Photo Credits : AFP

Maina Kageni Hangs Out with Manchester United Fans in Eldoret

Sunday was game night for Manchester United and the diehard fans came out ready to show support to their respective teams including Classic 105s breakfast presenter Maina Kageni.

Maina Kageni was in Eldoret this past weekend and he couldn’t resist taking photos with some of United’s fans and giving them some Chevrolet merchandise before the match in which his beloved team lost 3-0 to Everton.

This was Manchester United’s second straight Premier League Defeat after losing 1-0 to Chelsea a fortnight ago that saw Maina Kageni lose sh10,000 to Kiss100 presenter and die hard Chelsea fan Shaffie Weru.

You can bet Maina Kageni will stay off betting for a while. Check out the photo below



Arsenal handed potential United showdown in FA Cup

FA Cup holders Arsenal were handed a potential showdown with Manchester United in Monday’s draw for the quarter-finals.

The draw took place shortly before kick-off in United’s fifth round tie at Preston, with the Gunners selected to travel to either Old Trafford or Deepdale for their last eight clash.

Arsenal defeated Hull in last season’s FA Cup final to end their nine-year trophy drought — a barren run which had dated back to their victory over United in the 2005 FA Cup final.

Elsewhere in a draw conducted by England manager Roy Hodgson and Brian Finney, son of the legendary Preston winger Tom Finney, giant-killers Bradford were handed a home tie against second tier team Reading as they look to make the semi-finals to cap a remarkable Cup run that has included a stunning 4-2 win at Premier League leaders Chelsea in the fourth round and a 2-0 success against top-flight side Sunderland in the fifth round on Sunday.

That pairing ensures at least one Football League side will make it to the final four of the competition.

Liverpool’s hopes of giving Steven Gerrard an emotional Wembley send-off on his 35th birthday were boosted as they were drawn to face Championship side Blackburn at Anfield.

Reds captain Gerrard has agreed a deal to leave Liverpool for Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the season, making the FA Cup final potentially his final match for the club he has served with great distinction since 1998.

The remaining quarter-final pitted Aston Villa, who appointed Tim Sherwood as their new manager this week against local rivals West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park.

Draw for the FA Cup quarter-finals made on Monday:

Liverpool v Blackburn

Bradford v Reading

Preston/Manchester United v Arsenal

Aston Villa v West Brom

Ties to be played on the weekend of March 7/8

Photo Credits : AFP