Mauro Icardi: Former skipper ready for Inter return, insists agent Wanda Nara after Lazio omission

Luciano Spalletti indicated he will still not pick his former captain and left him out yet again for Sunday’s game against Lazio

Mauro Icardi is fit and ready to play for Inter again, according to the out-of-favour striker’s wife and agent Wanda Nara.

Icardi was again left out of the Inter squad by head coach Luciano Spalletti for Sunday’s 1-0 Serie A loss to Lazio at San Siro.

Spalletti stripped Icardi of the captaincy six weeks ago and the Argentina international has not featured since.

After Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s early goal proved decisive in Milan, Spalletti described the ongoing talks between Icardi and Inter over his return to the team as “humiliating”.

“It’s obvious for everyone to see what happened. It’s obvious,” he told Sky Sport Italia, amid reports of a training ground row this week. “The way he has behaved, he needs to stay away and others have to play.

“Negotiating with someone just to get him to pull on the Inter shirt. What, do I need to email 20 lawyers and ask them if I can call someone up?”




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Icardi and Nara were present to see Inter’s home defeat and the 26-year-old’s agent responded to Spalletti’s latest criticism.

“Mauro is ready and it’s all down to the coach’s decision,” she said on TV show Tiki Taka.

“If Mauro came back, would he make the same choices? It depends on what choices… I don’t know. It depends on how you see the situation.

“Mauro has not yet spoken: he only expects to play and is preparing for this.

“His [Spalletti’s] words are not a step back. Mauro is used to hearing so many things around him, but then focuses on what needs to be done to help Inter on the field.”

Nara added Icardi’s silence in the media should not be taken as any indication over his relationship with the club.

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“He had a television camera right in his face throughout the game,” the striker’s wife continued.

“He was willing the team on and obviously cares a lot for his team-mates, but he doesn’t need to say it out loud or on social networks.”

Icardi has made no public comment about the standoff with Inter since complaining of a lack of “love and respect” on Instagram on February 28.

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Inter news: Icardi behaviour behind continued absence – Spalletti

The captain was expected to make a return to the Inter team on Sunday against Lazio but he remains without a first-team appearance since February

Luciano Spalletti says Mauro Icardi’s behaviour is the reason he was left out of the Inter Milan team to play Lazio on Sunday.

The former captain hasn’t played since early February amid talks over a new contract, but the 26-year-old returned to first-team training with the San Siro club during the international break and was expected to start on Sunday.

It was believed that talks had taken place within the Inter hierarchy that would lead to Icardi once again being considered for selection.

He was stripped of the captaincy at the start of last month and has not been involved in any of Inter’s nine matches in all competitions.

Spalletti told Sky Italia: “How he behaved he must stay out. Events are there for all to see, I think he could have played also 45 minutes, but now it is right for others to play.

“There is credibility and being inside the locker room. Messi makes the difference, Cristiano Ronaldo makes the difference, and then at these levels there are few others.

“The discipline is the true strength of a professional.”

Though Icardi is braced to return to the Inter team at some stage before the end of the season, his future beyond the summer is likely to be elsewhere.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta told Sky Sport Italia: “The reintegration of Icardi is taking place gradually.

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“The coach has the right to choose who he works with and who is selected.

“The club always needs to hold a position of leadership and Spalletti has always worked in this way, thinking about the good of Inter.”

Serie A champions Juventus, 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid and Premier League giants Chelsea – despite their looming transfer ban – are among the clubs reported to be keen on taking advantage of the situation.

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Manchester City can’t think of the quadruple, says Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has told his players not to think about the prospect of completing a historic quadruple if they want to achieve their goal.

The English champions are in the thick of the Premier League title race and have an FA Cup semi-final and the Champions League quarter-finals to look forward to as they aim to add to their EFL Cup trophy this season, along with their Community Shield success from August.

Guardiola won the treble during his time at Barcelona and twice claimed a domestic double while in charge of Bayern Munich and the Spaniard told his players they must take it game by game for the remainder of the season.

“We are trying to achieve something that is very difficult to achieve,” he told reporters after Saturday’s 2-0 win over Fulham.

“At the beginning of April, we have won two titles this season, we are fighting for the other three.

“The way we start to play, they show me they want to try. It is so difficult, but they want to try. What’s next is Cardiff – go like a machine to win. I think they are ready.

“I take it before each game. I see how it is with the players, how they come back from injuries. We don’t go far away from what is next.

“That is the best way in my experience with other clubs when we fight for many titles, don’t think too much. They have to give the best performance that is possible.

“Maybe people do not play well in the process, maybe they are tired, injured, so we have to handle it day by day. There are no more secrets to it.”

City’s progress means they could play nine games in April but Guardiola does not want to overthink the situation.

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“People say, ‘Hey, you need a break’,” he continued.

“Maybe for the [FA] Cup semi-final and the Champions League it would be nice. But being in the position for the Premier League, you know if you don’t win you are going to lose the league, it is going to help us for our competition,” said Guardiola.

“When you have 10 points in front, you can be a little more selective. But we don’t have a choice. Every game in every week we have to win. It’s nice.”

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Zidane happy for Isco’s impact

The Spain playmaker has scored two goals in two La Liga games since the manager’s return

Zinedine Zidane urged Isco to maintain his fine form after the midfielder scored for the second time in two La Liga games since the Real Madrid coach’s return.

Isco equalised for Madrid in Sunday’s 3-2 victory at home to bottom side Huesca, with the five-goal thriller settled by a Karim Benzema strike in the 89th minute.

The Spain international did not start any La Liga matches under Zidane’s predecessor Santiago Solari but has been reintroduced into the fold by the Frenchman.

Solari questioned Isco’s commitment and attitude during his brief time in charge of Madrid and Zidane warned the midfielder to keep up his performance levels.

“We all know the player Isco is,” Zidane told a post-match news conference.

“I have started him twice, he has scored two goals, so I am happy for him.

“We know the importance Isco has in the squad. Now he must keep training well.”

Benzema’s 14th La Liga goal of the season ensured he has now found the net against all 34 teams he has ever faced in the competition.

Reports have indicated Madrid will invest heavily in Zidane’s squad ahead of the 2019-20 season, with players including Paris Saint-Germain‘s Kylian Mbappe linked, but the coach feels there will still be a place for his compatriot.

“This year is maybe Karim’s best year,” Zidane said of the former France forward.

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“I will count on him, there are nine games left, and that is the most important, to finish the season well.

“Then we will see what happens, but Karim is a player at this club. I don’t believe that will change.” 

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Real Madrid: ‘It’s hard to motivate the team’ – Zidane makes admission

The France legend concedes his side are struggling play to their potential with no silverware to play for

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane admits it is hard to motivate his side after they needed a last minute goal from Karim Benzema to beat bottom side Huesca.

Benzema’s spectacular 89th-minute strike made it two wins from two since Zidane returned to the club earlier this month.

However, Real were far from their best at the Santiago Bernabeu against a side seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table with just five league wins this season.

Juan Camilo Hernandez gave Huesca a shock early lead before Isco and Dani Ceballos put Los Blancos in front midway through the second half.

But Xabier Etxeita levelled for Huesca with 14 minutes left and they looked on course for a memorable point before Benzema’s late intervention.

Speaking to reporters after the game Zidane defended his team’s performance, conceding it is hard to get the maximum out of his players given they have little to play for this season.

Real are currently third in the table, 12 points behind leaders Barcelona who look all but certain to claim their 26th La Liga crown.

“Obviously, we can play much better than we did today. But I’m happy for the victory and the efforts. Huesca deserved more than a defeat,” said Zidane.

“The changes? I tried to build the best possible team to win, and today it was important to make changes after the international break.

“Anyway, it’s impossible to win a title nowadays with just 13 players in your squad. And to make it clear: I’m not trying to keep everybody happy.

“It’s hard to motivate the team when you know you are not going to win any title this season.”

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Zidane sprung a surprise before kick-off by selecting his son Luca, to make just his first appearance for the club since the final game of last season.

Zidane defended his selection after the game, revealing that Thibaut Courtois was injured and Keylor Navas was rested.

“I’m happy for Luca’s first victory with Real Madrid,” he added. “Courtois wasn’t fine, and I wanted to give some rest to Keylor. I think everything was all right”.

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A-League news: Warren Joyce fumes after being asked about possible Manchester United return

After seeing his side loss 3-0 to Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday, Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce was in no mood to entertain the possibility of returning to Manchester United.

A former youth coach at the Red Devils, Joyce has been linked to a potential return with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently appointed as the permanent manager at Old Trafford.

With Joyce’s contract at City expiring at season’s end and pressure from fans mounting, a move back to Manchester doesn’t seem too far fetched but the man himself was furious when asked about it on Saturday as he stormed off from an interview.

“If you want me to talk on camera…that’s rubbish. I’m going,” Joyce told Fox Sports before walking away.

Despite being firmly entrenched in the top six, City have won just one of their last eight games with questions once again being asked about Joyce’s future at the club.

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Former Socceroo Mark Bosnich was highly critical of Joyce’s tenure to date, claiming there’s been no progress at the club since his arrival.

“After basically two seasons under Warren Joyce I haven’t seen any progress whatsoever and he’s got to take the responsibility for it,” Bosnich said on Fox Sports. 

“I don’t really know what they want to do, what team they want to be and to come up with this result four games out of the finals series – for me, it’s something you have to have a look and say what is actually going on there.”

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Ange N’Guessan ends Tenerife goal drought against Sporting de Huelva

The Ivorian’s strike during Tenerife’s victory at Estadio La Palmera ended a nine-game run without a goal

Ange N’Guessan’s Tenerife goal drought is over after Cote d’Ivoire forward found the target in a 3-1 victory over Sporting de Huelva.

The 28-year-old last scored in her side’s 2-1 win at Valencia on January 6 and went without a goal in nine consecutive league games.

N’Guessan replaced Cameroon‘s Raissa Feudjio in the 46th minute and inspired her side’s comeback as she cancelled out Anita’s first-half opener in the 70th minute.

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Ana and Martin-Prieto struck late efforts to complete the come-from-behind win.

N’Guessan has now scored three goals in 26 outings, having only started seven times for Tenerife, while Morocco‘s Meryem Hajri was an unused substitute for Huelva.

The win at Estadio La Palmera takes Pier’s side to the fifth place in the log with 42 points from 26 games.

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Toulouse v PSG Match Report, 31/03/2019, Ligue 1

Toulouse 0 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Mbappe scoring streak continues

Kylian Mbappe scored twice for France in the international break and continued his purple patch for Paris Saint-Germain against Toulouse.

Kylian Mbappe scored for the seventh consecutive Ligue 1 game as a below-par Paris Saint-Germain beat Toulouse 1-0 at Stadium Municipal and extended their winning streak to eight league matches.

The World Cup winner controlled Thilo Kehrer’s cross before firing home in the 74th minute of a game that offered few memorable moments and underlined the importance of the injured Neymar and Edinson Cavani to Thomas Tuchel’s side.

PSG striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will struggle to shake the image of his first-half effort soaring over the top of an open net from his mind after he endured a difficult evening.

But Mbappe’s strike ensured the champions restored their 20-point lead at the top of the table, although Tuchel will have been disappointed with the flat nature of his side’s performance.

Choupo-Moting missed an absolute sitter after 17 minutes, spooning the rebound from Mbappe’s saved shot over the crossbar from point-blank range with an empty net to aim at.

A blunder by Toulouse goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet allowed Marquinhos to bundle the ball over the line but a VAR consultation saw the goal ruled out, with the Brazilian defender judged to be offside when Presnel Kimpembe headed the ball through Reynet’s hands.

At the other end, Alphonse Areola showed superb reactions to get an arm to Christopher Jullien’s close-range header and keep the scoreline level at half-time.

Areola made another excellent save to keep out Yaya Sanogo’s low shot after some intricate approach play by the lively Max Gradel, and at the other end Colin Dagba’s volleyed cross narrowly evaded the on-rushing Mbappe as PSG probed for a winner.

The goal arrived when Kehrer picked out Mbappe with a cross that the 20-year-old deftly touched down before rattling the ball into the bottom-right corner of the net to clinch the victory.

What does it mean? Toulouse back in trouble

A point against the league leaders would have moved Toulouse one step closer to safety from relegation but defeat leaves them still nine points above the drop zone with eight games left to play.

Tireless Gradel shines

Toulouse captain Gradel led by example, driving his side forward time and again with plenty of success to instill them with the belief they could compete with the country’s best team.

Choupo-Moting comes up short

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A simple tap-in should have ensured Choupo-Moting broke the deadlock when presented with an open goal in the first half, but his ballooned effort only drew attention to Cavani and Neymar’s absence.

What’s next?

PSG must prepare for Wednesday’s Coupe de France semi-final against Nantes, who then travel to Toulouse on Sunday.

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Christian Eriksen equalled a David Beckham PL record vs Liverpool

Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen this evening equalled a long-standing Premier League record, during his side’s defeat at Liverpool.

Liverpool vs Tottenham

Spurs travelled to Anfield earlier today, for their first outing following the international break.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men headed into proceedings having picked up just a solitary point from their last 4 Premier League fixtures, a run which had seen the North Londoners fall off the blistering pace being set by Liverpool and Manchester City atop the English top-flight.

In fact, Tottenham’s dismal recent form had seen them dragged into a tightly-contested battle to maintain their spot in the top-4.

Liverpool snatch all 3 points

And, when all was said and done on Merseyside this evening, the struggles of the capital giants very much continued, as Liverpool emerged with a 2-1 win.

The Reds opened the game’s scoring with a quarter of an hour on the clock, when Andy Robertson’s pinpoint delivery from the left was nodded home by Roberto Firmino.

After an opening 45 minutes during which Liverpool largely dominated, Spurs came out the stronger following the interval, though, before pulling level through Lucas Moura 20 minutes from time.

But, just when it appeared as though the visitors were set to emerge with a point, a 90th-minute mistake from Hugo Lloris saw the unfortunate Toby Alderweireld put through his own net, handing all 3 points to Liverpool.

Eriksen matches Beckham

On the back of a heartbreaking result for Spurs, though, an impressive statistic surrounding the production of star midfielder Christien Eriksen has emerged online.

As showcased below, in setting up Lucas Moura for his side’s solitary goal at Anfield, the Danish international joined David Beckham as the only player to register 10 or more assists across 4 straight Premier League seasons:

Injury update on Virgil van Dijk after Liverpool 2-Tottenham 1

Tottenham name their price for Real Madrid target Christian Eriksen

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Liverpool injury news: Virgil van Dijk brushes off concerns after vital triumph over Tottenham

The Netherlands international took a heavy blow to his right ankle towards the end of the Reds’ victory over Spurs

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has dismissed concerns over his fitness after finishing Sunday’s crucial Premier League win over Tottenham in discomfort. 

Van Dijk completed the 90 minutes for his team as a last-gasp 2-1 win lifted the Reds back to the top of the Premier League ahead of Manchester City. 

Late in the game, however, with the scoreline poised at 1-1, he took a hit to the right ankle from Moussa Sissoko as the Spurs midfielder steered a golden chance wide of the mark. 

The centre-back had ice strapped around the joint after the final whistle, but assured that there was nothing to worry about for the Liverpool faithful. 

“I’m fine,” Van Dijk said to the BBC after the game when asked about his ankle. 

Jurgen Klopp’s side will consider themselves fortunate to have come away from Anfield with all three points as they left it late to claim victory. 

It was not until injury time that a terrible Hugo Lloris error caused Toby Alderweireld to put through his own net, after Lucas Moura had earlier cancelled out Roberto Firmino’s opener. 

Van Dijk admitted that his side were made to work for the points, but underlined their intention to keep winning until the bitter end. 

“Tottenham are a very good side with great players who like to have the ball,” he added.

“We tried to put them under pressure which we did in the first half but in the second half they changed it up a bit. It was a bit difficult for us but in the end we got the three points and that’s all that matters.

“When these moments come we never give up. We are going to try and win every game. It’s going to be tough but let’s enjoy it and keep going.”

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Liverpool now lead City by two points at the Premier League summit, having picked up their 24th win in 32 league outings so far. 

City, though, have a game in hand over their rivals, meaning that their title defence mathematically remains in their own hands. 

Pep Guardiola’s charges will complete that pending fixture on April 24 at Old Trafford against neighbours United, while both City and Liverpool burden the extra strain of Champions League football alongside the domestic run-in as they prepare for quarter-final clashes against Tottenham and Porto respectively.

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