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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Africa Cup of Nations: Morocco will not host finals over Ebola fears

Morocco will not host the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations because of its fears over the Ebola outbreak elsewhere on the continent, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) has confirmed.
Caf expelled Morocco,  who would have qualified as hosts, from the finals.
It did not announce a new venue for the tournament, due to take place from 17 January to 8 February.
But BBC Sport understands three nations have expressed an interest and the new host will be confirmed on Wednesday.
Morocco had been given until Saturday to make a final decision on whether or not it would host the tournament.
It had asked to postpone the competition until 2016.
Egypt has stated it will not host the tournament for "economic and political reasons", while 2013 and 2008 hosts South Africa and Ghana have also ruled themselves out of contention.
Qualification matches for the tournament will continue as planned on 14 and 15 November to decide which 15 teams will join the new host country for the finals.
Up to 4 November, at least 4,960 people had been reported as having died from Ebola, mainly in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Morocco had expressed fears an influx of foreign fans could help spread the epidemic.
The North African country is scheduled to host Fifa's Club World Cup next month, featuring Champions League winners Real Madrid.
It said it was willing to continue with its hosting duties for that tournament because it did not expect many supporters to travel from Ebola-affected regions.
The two African teams playing in the Club World Cup are from Morocco and Algeria.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli recalled to Italy squad for Euro qualifier

The Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has been named in an Italy squad for the first time since the World Cup finals.
The 24-year-old, who left Milan for Anfield in the weeks that followed Italy’s early return from Brazil, played no part in the first four games of Antonio Conte’s reign as the Italy manager.
Balotelli returns to contention for a Euro 2016 qualifier against Croatia and the friendly with Albania while the Atlético Madrid winger Alessio Cerci is also recalled.
The Italian Football Federation’s website revealed a first call-up for the Torino defender Emiliano Moretti. The uncapped midfielders Andrea Bertolacci of Genoa and Roberto Soriano of Sampdoria will also hope to feature alongside the young Empoli defender Daniele Rugani.
The Southampton striker Graziano Pellè retains his place after scoring on his debut against Malta.
Italy meet Croatia at San Siro on 16 November before tackling Albania in Genoa two days later.

Cesar Azpilicueta says Chelsea have a new mental strength

Cesar Azpilicueta says Chelsea’s mental strength has been as important as their new signings this season.
Diego Costa's 10 goals in 11 Premier League games and Cesc Fabregas’ midfield creativity have given the Blues a playing advantage that has seen them make an unbeaten start to their season.
But as well as the high-profile summer arrivals there has also been an increase, Azpilicueta feels, in terms of the squad’s character.
"I think we are stronger mentally now,” he said after Saturday's 2-1 victory at Liverpool. “The players who came have given us another dimension as well.

"I think you saw that. When the team was losing we were still really strong mentally.
"The whole squad know we have to fight together. Some players have more talent, some score goals, and sometimes we have to defend for them - but the main thing is we do it all as a team.
"We got it back to 1-1 pretty soon and after that did very well. Obviously we'd prefer not to go behind but that is going to happen at times.
"Over the last few games maybe we haven't played our best football and the scores have been tight but over the whole season you know that everyone can't keep playing very well and winning easy.
"We knew it would be tough here (at Anfield) but we fought so hard until the end - the aim was just to get those three points and we did.
"Last year we were so close to winning the title and this year we know it will be tough but that's what we want.
"We will see in May. We're on top of the table but that's a long way off, but we want as few problems as possible up to then."
The impact of Costa, who Mourinho believes is now over his injury problems, cannot be underestimated so far this season and he gives his team-mates the confidence they will always score.
"We're lucky to have three really good strikers. We showed it when he was out, when Didier (Drogba) and Loic (Remy) came in and were scoring," added the Spain international.
"Now he's back and scoring. He plays with high passion, he's always fighting for team, and is even after goals in training - he's a great finisher.
"If we analyse him he scores but helps so much in the team. Even in last five or 10 minutes he was pressing high and doing his job. That's great for the whole team.

Arsene Wenger: Nobody can catch league leaders Chelsea

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes no team will be able to catch Premier League leaders Chelsea this season.
The Gunners lost 2-1 at Swansea on Sunday to slip 12 points behind Jose Mourinho's unbeaten side.
Chelsea have won nine of their 11 games this term and have 29 points - four more than second-place Southampton.
"If they keep that up nobody will touch them," Wenger said. "It doesn't look like anybody is capable of challenging them at the moment."
The Blues fought back from a goal down to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday and Wenger believes they are team full of confidence.
"Look at the season and Chelsea are on course for 105 points. Look at the number of points they have today and if they keep that up nobody will touch them, that's for sure.
"They have had a good start and as long as you don't lose you don't question yourself," the Frenchman said. "Maybe a little bit more extra spirit in the team helps them when it gets tight."
Wenger added that he was disappointed to see his own side ease up after taking the lead at the Liberty Stadium and throw away victory.
The Gunners went ahead through Alexis Sanchez before Gylfi Sigurdsson and substitute Bafetimbi Gomis turned the game around for the Swans.
The defeat caps a poor week for Wenger after a Champions League collapse to draw 3-3 with Anderlecht on Tuesday.
"It's disappointing to throw a game away like we did," said Wenger.
"We were 1-0 up and had to be tight defensively and wait for that second chance. But you have to credit Swansea who didn't give up.
"We eased off at 1-0 and let them back into the game."
Arsenal, who drop to sixth in the table, have lost more points from a winning position than any other Premier League team this season.