PSG and Madrid wait on Mbappé and Kroos for decisive 2nd leg

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, left, attends a training session with his teammates at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 08 March 2022

PSG and Madrid wait on Mbappé and Kroos for decisive 2nd leg

  • Kylian Mbappé is doubtful for PSG because of a left-foot injury, while Madrid is likely to be without Toni Kroos because of a muscle problem

MADRID: With some star power likely missing, Carlo Ancelotti and Mauricio Pochettino will have tinkering to do for the decisive encounter between their Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain sides in the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday.

Kylian Mbappé is doubtful for PSG because of a left-foot injury, while Madrid is likely to be without Toni Kroos because of a muscle problem.

Madrid, which lost the first leg 1-0 thanks to Mbappé’s stoppage-time winner in Paris, is certain to be without Casemiro because of a suspension and may not also count on a fully fit Federico Valverde after a bout with the flu.

Setting up the midfield will be no easy task for Ancelotti, as Casemiro plays a key role in keeping the Spanish team balanced. The absence of Kroos would hurt the team more offensively than defensively, as the German veteran helps the team transition into attack. Kroos returned to training but a decision on whether he will play likely won’t be made until Wednesday.

“A player who is not at 100 percent can’t play in this type of game,” Ancelotti said on Tuesday. “If I think Kroos will be at 100 percent, he will play. If I think he will be at 95 percent, he won’t play.”

Young Frenchman Eduardo Camavinga will likely go into the midfield alongside Luka Modric and possibly Valverde, who missed the Liga game against Real Sociedad last weekend. The 19-year-old Camavinga played well in that match, scoring a superb opening goal in the 4-1 victory that increased Madrid’s lead in the league. He had Casemiro by his side, though, which will not be the case against PSG.

“Casemiro’s absence is certainly important for us,” Modric said. “We will have to give even more of ourselves to make up for his absence, especially defensively. But we have players who can replace him well, like Fede or Edu, and hopefully Toni will make it to the match as well.”

Madrid’s midfield issues will likely make it easier for Lionel Messi, who gets another good chance to finally come through with a big performance for PSG and live up to his status after joining from Barcelona. He will take over most of the spotlight if Mbappé can’t play after getting hurt in Monday’s training session.

Initial medical exams showed the injury wasn’t serious, but PSG said he was undergoing treatment and his fitness would be reassessed closer to the match.

Mbappé, who has been linked with a move to Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the season, has been in stellar form with 24 goals and 17 assists in all competitions.

He was suspended at the weekend when PSG lost at Nice 1-0 in the French league. Pochettino used former Madrid forward Ángel Di María along with Neymar in attack, and Di María is likely to play again if Mbappé can’t make it. The Argentine played under Ancelotti in the coach’s first stint with Madrid.

“We will prepare for the match as if Mbappé will play,” Ancelotti said. “But our preparation is not only to face Mbappé, it’s to face Neymar, Messi and all the other good PSG players.”

Pochettino is set to be without former Madrid defender Sergio Ramos and Spaniard Ander Herrera because of injuries, and Achraf Hakimi, another former Madrid player, was listed as doubtful. Ramos will make the trip to the Spanish capital despite not being available.

Ancelotti can’t count on suspended left back Ferland Mendy, with veteran Marcelo likely taking over for him.

Madrid eliminated PSG at this stage in 2018 en route to winning the title for the third year in a row, although the French club came out on top in the two previous knockout encounters between the teams.

Madrid is the record 13-time European champion, while PSG is seeking its first Champions League trophy.

A crowd of 60,000 — the biggest since the coronavirus pandemic started — is expected at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, which remains below its full capacity because of renovation work.


Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

Updated 11 August 2022

Morocco fire coach Halilhodzic ahead of World Cup

  • The fall-out appears to have come over Halilhodzic's handling of two of his star players
  • He sidelined Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax for disciplinary reasons

RABAT: World Cup qualifiers Morocco have split with coach Vahid Halilhodzic three months ahead of the finals in Qatar.
The fall-out appears to have come over Halilhodzic’s handling of two of his star players.
He sidelined Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax for disciplinary reasons and qualified for the World Cup without them, but it seems the federation wanted them back.
“We came to an amiable agreement to part ways due to divergences on preparations for the World Cup,” the Moroccan federation said.
Neither Ziyech and Mazraoui were part of the squad that reached the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon in January and Halilhodzic omitted both from the World Cup qualifying play-off matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo in March.
The World Cup starts November 20 in Qatar where Morocco take on Croatia, Belgium and Canada in Group F.
Halilhodzi has previously qualified for the World Cup finals with Ivory Coast and Japan.


Norwegian woman climber on track to break 'super peaks' record

Updated 11 August 2022

Norwegian woman climber on track to break 'super peaks' record

  • Kristin Harila successfully summit Pakistan's Gasherbrum I on Thursday  
  • Pakistan has enjoyed a record-breaking climbing season this year

ISLAMABAD: Norwegian climber Kristin Harila has just three mountains left in her bid to climb the world's 14 "super peaks" in record time after successfully summiting Pakistan's Gasherbrum I, officials said Thursday.
Nepali Nirmal Purja holds the record for climbing the world's 8,000 meter-plus (26,000 feet) mountains -- six months and six days -- but Harila now has until early November to complete her quest and beat his time.
Harila's latest successful summit was reported on her official social media pages and confirmed by Karrar Hadri, secretary of Pakistan's Alpine Club.
"The second phase in Pakistan was very challenging and dangerous: ever-changing weather conditions, being hit by a rock, illness and a very tight schedule," read a message on Harila's Instagram page.
"But here we are with only three peaks left."
Five of the 14 super peaks are in Pakistan -- including K2, the world's second highest mountain -- and the country has enjoyed a record-breaking climbing season this year.
Sajid Hussain, head of the tourism department in Gilgit Baltistan, told AFP they had issued about 1,780 permits for the top peaks.
"It has boosted our tourism and has increased our foreign exchange," he said.
Only around 40 people in history have summited all 14 of the super peaks, but none have come close to Purja's 2019 expedition.
He demolished the previous record for accomplishing the feat with supplemental oxygen, set by Poland's Jerzy Kukuczka in the 1980s at seven years, 11 months and 14 days.
In an interview with AFP earlier this year, 36-year-old Harila said she was inspired to show women were as capable as men of achieving great mountaineering feats.
"In history and until now, it has been the strong macho men going out climbing mountains," she said.
"When I talk to people that are not in this sport, they believe that men are more capable than women... If we are going to change, we need to get attention and show that women are just as capable."
The three remaining mountains for Harila are Cho Oyu (sixth highest, in Nepal/China), Manaslu (eighth, Nepal) and Shishapangma (14th, China). 


Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

Updated 11 August 2022

Real Madrid beats Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 for UEFA Super Cup

HELSINKI: This time, there were only two goals.
David Alaba and Karim Benzema scored in each half for Real Madrid to win the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
Alaba prodded the opener home from close range in the 37th minute when Casemiro cushioned Benzema’s header back after a corner. The French star then sealed Madrid’s record-equaling fifth Super Cup title in the 65th thanks to an assist from the lively Vinícius Júnior.
It was Benzema’s 324th goal for Madrid, overtaking club legend Raúl. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has more after scoring 450 goals for the club between 2009-18.
But the game between the Champions League winners, Madrid, and Europa League champions, Frankfurt, failed to match the spectacle of their previous meeting.
Their only other competitive game was the 1960 European Cup final, when Alfredo Di Stéfano scored three goals and Ferenc Puskás chipped in with four to give Madrid a 7-3 win and fifth consecutive European crown.
Frankfurt goal-scorer Erwin Stein and teammate Dieter Stinka were in Helsinki for the rematch 62 years later, but it was the 93-year-old José Santamaria — the only remaining Madrid player from that final in Glasgow — who celebrated another win. The three veterans embraced warmly when they met before kickoff.


Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

Updated 10 August 2022

Cricket federation to establish four regional associations across Saudi Arabia

  • New centers will be in Jouf, Hail, Al-Hudud Ash Shamaliyah and Al-Baha

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation is set to establish four new regional associations to help promote the sport across the Kingdom.

The federation told Arab News on Wednesday that is has 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions, but aims to establish new associations in the remaining four regions “to make sure that we have future cricket activities all around the Kingdom.”

The long-term aim is for Saudi Arabian cricket teams to compete professionally at regional and international competitions, with the national teams taking on world’s best.

In recent years, the SACF has introduced several competitions and programs to encourage the country’s youth to take up one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports.

In October 2021, it signed an agreement with sports management company JSW Sports to develop cricket in Saudi Arabia, focusing on high-performance academies.

The SACF was established in 2020 and lined up a series of major initiatives the following year, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social program in several cities.

The initiatives are part of a mission to promote healthy and active lifestyles under the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life scheme, with the SACF — supported by the Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — mandated to increase physical activity levels by 40 percent over the next decade.

In November, the SACF partnered with Saudi’s Sports For All Federation to launch the Kingdom’s first cricket talent-spotting program.

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Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

Updated 10 August 2022

Zamalek president jailed for insulting rival

  • Al-Ahly and Zamalek are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches
  • Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly

CAIRO: An Egyptian appeals court has sentenced the president of Zamalek football club to a month in prison for insulting the president of bitter rivals Al-Ahly, a judicial source told AFP on Wednesday.
Al-Ahly and Zamalek, the country’s two biggest clubs and among the continent’s most successful, are historic rivals whose fans regularly clash after matches.
The 70-year-old Zamalek boss, Mortada Mansour, was initially sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Mahmoud Al-Khatib, president of Al-Ahly and a former star player, and his family in a video posted on social networks and on Zamalek’s club channel.
On Wednesday, Mansour’s sentence was reduced to one month in prison and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (500 euros).
A former magistrate and member of parliament, Mansour is regularly in the news. He has had a long-running battle with Al-Ahly and has physically attack his counterparts.
His parliamentary immunity had for a while enabled him to avoid legal proceedings after complaints of insults and defamation.
In 2007, he was sentenced to three years in jail by a criminal court in Cairo for “insulting” court officials and levelling accusations of corruption against them.

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