John Mikel Obi: A Rolls-Royce Of A Midfielder

John Obi Mikel, who recently transferred to Middlesbrough, is already having an impact at club despite being there for less than a month.

The midfielder made a shock return to England in January when he signed for the Championship side, and even though he has only made few appearances the fans have already taken them to their hearts.

Yesterday, Mikel gave a stellar performance against Blackburn Rovers; a kind of performance that made the club through their twitter handle, @Boro to term Mikel as “a Rolls-Royce of a midfielder”.

While for Boro fans, Mikel was a “steal”, for a certain club in London, it is a source of regrets. Mikel was a skateboard for Chelsea Football club as he was relegated mostly to the bench; underrating a gifted and talented footballer whose prowess in the midfield is second to none in the Chelsea set up now.

Sarri whose new vision for Chelsea’s style of play would have regretted not to have such a talent in their midst. Mikel has left Chelsea now, his position is currently occupied by Jorginho. A player who Rio Ferdinand has described as “someone who sets the tempo of a game. You get the ball into him through the middle third of the pitch, he’s very good.

Why Manchester United Lost To PSG

Eric Bailly has noted Paris Saint-Germain’s opening goal as the cause of Manchester United’s defeat on Tuesday evening.

Both teams started the game at Old Trafford brightly with United’s only shot on target coming in the first 45 minutes from Marcus Rashford.

After a goalless first-half, Presnel Kimpembe converted Angel Di Maria’s corner kick to give the visitors the lead in the 53rd minute.

Seven minutes later, Di Maria played Kylian Mbappe through on goal to double the lead and the France star made no mistake in putting the ball past David De Gea, after beating Bailly and Lindelof with pace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side now face an uphill task to overturn the deficit in Paris in a fortnight and the Ivorian star who was on parade for the entire 90 minutes has described the result as a disappointment with their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals dealt a huge blow.

“It’s difficult, it’s a big disappointment. We were off to a good start,” Bailly said after the match.

“In the first half, we were fine. We conceded a goal from a set piece and took a blow to our morale. Then we conceded a second goal.

“Now we’re going to forget about this game. There are more matches to come and think about in the future.

United went into the game with an unblemished record of 10 wins and a draw since the appointment of their interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the 24-year-old claimed that they were not overconfident.

“No, we played on our strengths. We played on the counter-attack,” he added.

“The first half we were good, we defended well. On a mistake, we conceded the first goal.

“After that, the team tried to give its best. Unfortunately, the second goal came next, so it’s a shame.”

The Red Devils will aim to return to winning ways when they visit Stamford Bridge for their FA Cup fifth round fixture against Chelsea on Monday.

SORRYBALL: Where Does Sarri Goes From Here

The pressure will pile on Maurizio Sarri after Chelsea were thrashed 6-0 following a horrific defensive and tactical performance in Manchester

Not since 1991 have Chelsea conceded six or more goals in a top-flight league match, but a mauling in Manchester followed a beating in Bournemouth.

Sarriball has become Sorryball, as Maurizio Sarri strives to oversee a football revolution at Stamford Bridge, building a possession-based team out of a counter-attacking side.

Sarri champions high-pressing, slick, possession football but he is struggling to get his ideas across in West London right now.

In the 6-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the Blues did follow their manager’s footballing philosophy, but they were still humiliated as they made countless individual and team defensive errors.

Marcos Alonso has been a weak-link for most of the season, despite signing a big-money and long-term deal, and he was at fault for the opening goal as he failed to pass on marking duties on Bernardo Silva to either Eden Hazard or Ross Barkley.

Raheem Sterling duly made it 1-0, which was not the start the top four hopefuls could afford, and things would soon get much worse as Sergio Aguero curled home a wonder-goal to make it two.

Mistakes from Ross Barkley and Kepa Arrizabalaga led to further goals from Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan, as the Blues lost four goals in a half for the second time in three weeks.

Even the club’s leader, Cesar Azpilicueta, produced a moment of poor decision-making, bringing down Sterling to allow Aguero to grab yet another hat-trick. Sterling then made it 6-0 and the scoreline could have been even more severe by the end.

Sarri will privately – perhaps publicly – point to the poor ‘mentality’ of the group, having complained last week that it is “extremely difficult to motivate his players” but there is little chance of him changing his philosophy.

All this, despite the fact it had been 22 years since Chelsea had lost by four goals in a match – with Sarri now suffering a setback equal or bigger than this twice in a matter of weeks.

Sarri has admitted that the Chelsea job is tougher than he imagined in what is his first foray outside of Italy, but he is now asking for blind faith from his employers.

Many have pointed to Guardiola’s similar struggles in his first season at Man City, but unlike his friend in the opposition dugout, Sarri can’t point to previous major trophy wins.

The manager’s job at Chelsea is looking more and more like a poisoned chalice, as the club’s short-termism when it comes to coaching appointments results in performances like this one in Manchester.

The club has their star player, Eden Hazard, running down his contract and the lack of implementation of academy players down the years has led to a situation where Callum Hudson-Odoi wants to leave for Bayern Munich.

There will be no tactical switches, and as talented as Gonzalo Higuain is, it is too much for him to fix all the problems alone. Manchester United have now moved into fourth place above Chelsea and seem more likely to get the final Champions League place at the end of the season.

Can Chelsea afford to fail to qualify for the Champions League for the third time in four years? Will such a failure come into Hazard’s thinking when he decides his future?

Chelsea’s current crisis raises questions throughout the club, and the club’s hierarchy certainly will be debating whether they think about the long term and back Sarri or revert to their old ways.

Sarri surely deserves more time, but Pep Guardiola’s men showed that the difference between Chelsea and Man City right now is as big as it ever has been.

Jorginho Must Be Blaming Himself For Joining Chelsea Instead Of Man City.

WHAT must Jorginho have been thinking as he boarded the team bus back to London?

Pep Guardiola spent almost the whole summer trying to sign the Italy midfielder for Manchester City.

He viewed the former Napoli man as the ideal addition to provide back up for Fernandinho — and eventually replace the peerless Brazilian.

Then at the last minute — much to the frustration of the Premier League champions — he opted to join Chelsea, linking up again with his old manager from the San Paolo, Maurizio Sarri.

Yesterday, Jorginho finally made it to the Etihad. And how he must have wished he could turn back the clock.

In 25 bewildering minutes after kick-off, the £57.4million signing seemed to have no idea what was going on around him.

Sure, City were at their irresistible best, scoring four times inside the first half hour — and only Sergio Aguero will know how it was not five.

But Chelsea were a complete mess, only really getting started once it was way too late.

Jorginho might as well have come off and watched from the sidelines for all the good he did in stopping the Sky Blue tide.

And to think, he could have been part of it if only he had not dragged his heels for almost the whole summer.

It’s hard to know exactly where he would have fitted into this Guardiola team — with Fernandinho showing no signs of slowing down and Ilkay Gundogan impressing.

Maybe, that is part of the reason why he snubbed the move to City — because he feared he would not play.

But as with Fred and Alexis Sanchez, it is safe to assume Guardiola will not be losing too much sleep over it now.

Instead, the 27-year-old chose to be part of a Chelsea team who look a long way off the leaders in every sense. A glance at the team-sheet had many observers predicting Sarri’s men had the firepower to cause problems for the champions, who had endured a tiring few weeks.

And they did — occasionally. Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard both had their moments.

But that is no good when your team is such a shambles defensively.

Sarri wheeled out three of the back-line who shipped four at Bournemouth in their last away fixture.

And, not surprisingly, t hey were no match for Guardiola’s free-scoring side.

Almost a year ago, Chelsea lost by just a single goal here — despite being second best by a country mile.

This time, there was no hiding place as City were absolutely ruthless.

Marcos Alonso, Hazard and Ross Barkley were all caught napping from the quickly taken free-kick that saw City take the lead.

Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta were both guilty of mistakes that led to City goals.

But, perhaps, none were as disastrous as the woefully short back header from Barkley, which simply gift-wrapped Aguero’s second goal of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, David Luiz renewed hosilities with his fellow South American Aguero, who was sent off here two years ago for an ugly lunge on the Chelsea defender.

It’s fair to say the City legend got his own back here in some style, helping himself to yet another hat-trick.

If the Argentinian had got five — as he could have done — it would have been a fairer reflection of his dominance over his rival.

And to think that they have to do this all again in a couple of weeks’ time at Wembley for the final of the Carabao Cup.

The question must be: Can Sarri survive until then?

His side have conceded ten goals in their last two away games and are now out of the Premier League precious top-four places. French pair Zinedine Zidane and Laurent Blanc are watching the latest meltdown unfold from afar.

Phil Jones Extend Manchester United Contract.

Phil Jones has signed a new four-and-a-half year contract with Manchester United to allow him stay at Old Trafford until June 2023.

Jones was out of contract at the end of the season but United have now secured his long-term future. The new deal includes an option of an extension on the club’s side by a further 12 months.

Jones, 26, has been frustrated by injury troubles over recent years, which has interrupted his progress, but United believe still has much to offer, with caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggesting the defender was “entering into his prime years as a centre half.”

“Phil knows what it takes to be a Manchester United player, he has won the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League and is now one of the senior players within the team,” Solskjaer said.

“He is coming up to his 27th birthday and entering into his prime years as a centre-half. We are delighted Phil has committed his future to the club.”

Jones joined United from Blackburn Rovers for £16.5 million in 2011 and was determined to extend his stay.

“I am delighted to have signed a new contract,” he said. “Manchester United has been a big part of my life for eight years and I love everything about this club.

“I am excited about the challenges that lie ahead of us as we prepare for a very busy period in the season.

“I would like to thank Ole and the coaching staff for their continued support in my development.”

Cole’s England exile set to end against France

Dan Cole’s good attitude to a lengthy spell in the England wilderness is likely to end with a recall for Sunday’s Six Nations international against France at Twickenham.

Leicester tighthead prop Cole us in line to win his 83rd England cap and first for nearly a year after ousting Harry Williams from coach Eddie Jones’ preliminary squad.

If he makes an appearance on the pitch, the 31-year-old Cole will be winning his first cap since being dropped after last year’s Six Nations.

“Dan responded really well to being left out,” said Neal Hatley, the England scrum coach, on Thursday.

“He’s hit some of the best numbers we’ve seen from him in training. He’s really attacked the areas we’ve asked him to improve on. He’s applied himself hence his reintroduction into the squad.”

Hatley added: “I’ve stayed in touch with Dan Cole fairly regularly. He’s a guy with close on 90 caps and is a British and Irish Lions tourist so his experience is invaluable.”

England, who launched their Six Nations campaign with an impressive 32-20 win away to reigning champions Ireland in Dublin last weekend, have also brought in Ben Moon instead of Ellis Genge as the back-up loosehead to Mako Vunipola.

– ‘Strength in depth’ –
“It’s obviously a close call but with the form Dan and Ben have been in — they’ve gone really well — we think it’s a good opportunity to put pressure on Ellis, Harry, Kyle Sinkler and Mako,” said Hatley, with England looking to mak sure they have plenty of top-class options ahead of this year’s World Cup in Japan.

“We’re really trying to develop strength in depth in the squad because you never know what could happen around the corner. You need not just two deep but four or five deep.”

Jones will make at least one, injury-enforced, change to his starting XV when he announces his team on Friday with either Joe Launchbury or Courtney Lawes partnering George Kruis in the second row while Maro Itoje recovers from knee ligament damage.

The Australian, however, is set to stick with the same backline that impressed at the Aviva Stadium, although powerful Bath wing Joe Cokanasiga could come in for Chris Ashton on the replacements bench after recovering from a knee injury.

Manu Tuilagi is set to keep his place at inside centre after Ben Te’o was cut from the squad on Wednesday.

“Ben missed the Ireland game with a side strain, so he’s just getting over that,” Hatley said.

“Manu has done well so there has been some thought into keeping that partnership (with Henry Slade). But we want to make sure Ben is pushing Manu and Manu is pushing Ben.”

War of words as Flying Eagles battle Niger for World Cup ticket

The drumbeats of war are raging as the Flying Eagles confront hosts Niger Republic in a final group A match of the 15th Total U-20 Africa Cup of Nations, with a semi final ticket and World Cup qualification the reward for the victorious team.

Nigeria top the group with four points, two more than Niger and a draw will take their points tally to five, which will be enough to see them cross the tape and qualify for Poland 2019 but despite their rich history in the competition, their manager, Paul Osahon Aigbogun is not counting his chicks yet until they hatch.

Speaking during the pre-match conference yesterday, the former Enyimba and Warri Wolves coach, rated the Nigerien side high, warning his charges not to take their feet off the gas until the job of qualification is achieved.

Aigbogun described today’s deciding encounter as ‘’a normal game that we could not avoid. One thing we know is that Niger are a good team. It was very difficult against South Africa despite playing well but we will work hard and fight to win against Niger’’.

Countering back, Niger coach, Ismaïla Tiémoko, said it was not impossible to defeat the highly-rated Nigerian side.

‘’We will be entitled to a fair game and very open as it is the third match that is synonymous with qualification or elimination. We will make every effort to beat Nigeria to snatch the qualification’’, said Tiémoko.

The Flying Eagles have an extra motivation to put on their best today, as officials confirmed that Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr would arrive in Niamey in time to watch the clash with Niger. Rohr promised to include one or two of the Flying Eagles in the senior team’s squad for the 2019 AFCON qualifier against Seychelles and the prestige friendly against Egypt, both coming up next month.

As it is, all four of Africa’s flagbearers at this summer’s FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland would be known today. Senegal, who play Burkina Faso in Maradi on Saturday, have already picked a ticket while the Burkina are eliminated after two losses in as many matches.

Nigeria square up against Niger Republic at the same time as South Africa would be battling Burundi in Maradi. The Nigeria/Niger Republic encounter would give way to the Group B clash between Ghana and Mali. Both have three points each. These three matches will produce the remaining three tickets to Poland.

PSG Don’t Want To Sell Us Neymar : Barcelona President

The Brazilian star has been linked with a return to Barca, but the Catalan club’s president says that it’s not currently an option they’re considering

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu had played down the prospect of Neymar returning to the club in the summer transfer window.

The Brazil international quit Barca in 2017 as he decided to make the move to France in a world-record deal worth €222 million (£195m/$260m).

As reported by Goal, Barca would be interested in re-signing Neymar, with the player having been unhappy at Parc des Princes and looking for a way out.

Indeed, his former team-mate Lionel Messi went as far as saying he would “love” to welcome the former Santos star back at Camp Nou but that a transfer would be complicated.

And Bartomeu has echoed those statements, suggesting that PSG would not be interested in a sale and that the player or his representatives have not yet made any contact with Barca over a potential return.

“I have never spoken to them, nor have the father or player called me to return to Barca. They have not called,” Bartomeu told El Partidazo de COPE.

“We are preparing for next season and the name of Neymar is not on the table.

“We are talking about a PSG player and I do not think that PSG want to get rid of a player like him.”

Neymar has scored 20 goals in 23 games for the Parisians this season but had his season interrupted by a metatarsal injury suffered in the Coupe de France win over Strasbourg on January 24.

He is expected to be absent for at least 10 weeks and will miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United.

The forward celebrated his 27th birthday in Paris on Monday, with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Dani Alves in attendance, and said in his speech that he wishes for a “new metatarsal” as the ideal present.

Next up for Barca is the Clasico clash with Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Wednesday, while PSG are also in cup action as they face Villefranche.

The Ligue 1 leaders have played two matches since Neymar’s injury, beating Rennes 4-1 before suffering their first defeat of the league season to Lyon a week later.

De Jong Intends To Be Like Messi And ‘Never Leave’ Barcelona As He Prepares For €75m Move

The Ajax midfielder has a deal in place which will see him head to Camp Nou over the summer, with the Dutch star excited to be living the dream

Frenkie de Jong is yet to link up with Barcelona, but the Dutch midfielder is already looking to emulate Lionel Messi and ensure that he will “never leave” Camp Nou.

 

The 21-year-old, who has starred for Ajax since stepping out of a famed academy system in Amsterdam, is readying himself for a high-profile switch.

A €75 million (£66m/$85m) transfer has been put in place and will be pushed through in the summer window.De Jong is excited to be fulfilling a childhood dream of representing the Blaugrana and is hoping to follow in some illustrious footsteps once he arrives in Catalunya.

 

He told Het Kontakt of a long-running saga which saw his future called into question on a regular basis before Barca finally got their man: “Initially the interest went through my agent, who talked to the clubs, but when it became more serious, I came in.

“Paris Saint-Germain was a good option, but Barcelona has always been a dream, and I’m happy with my five-year contract.

“If I succeed, then the chances are that I will never leave, just like Messi.”De Jong is excited to be fulfilling a childhood dream of representing the Blaugrana and is hoping to follow in some illustrious footsteps once he arrives in Catalunya.

 

He told Het Kontakt of a long-running saga which saw his future called into question on a regular basis before Barca finally got their man: “Initially the interest went through my agent, who talked to the clubs, but when it became more serious, I came in.

 

“Paris Saint-Germain was a good option, but Barcelona has always been a dream, and I’m happy with my five-year contract.

 

“If I succeed, then the chances are that I will never leave, just like Messi.”

Frenkie De Jong Barcelona

De Jong will officially become a Barcelona player on July 1.

Once the formalities of a move are finalised, he can then prepare himself for a new challenge in La Liga.“The selection for the new season is not yet known so I’ll have to wait and see.

 

“There is an idea to play with Frenkie on the back of the shirt. Nike prefers that from the point of view of merchandising. I’m not sure if I want to.”

 

Whatever he goes with, big things are expected of De Jong, with Barcelona looking for a man they acquired amid considerable interest from the likes of PSG and Manchester City to hit the ground running in new surroundings and further unlock his undoubted potential.

He already has the shirt number in mind that he would like to fill at Camp Nou, but no decision has been taken as yet regarding the name which will appear on his jersey.

“In July I sign my official contract in Barcelona and I am also being presented to the fans and the press,” added De Jong.

“Playing with 21 would be nice, because that is kind of my number.

FIFA Rankings: Nigeria Retains 4th Position In Africa

 

FIFA Rankings: Nigeria Retains 4th Position In Africa


FIFA Nigeria has retained her fourth position in Africa
but dropped two places from her previous 44th
position in FIFA Coca Cola World Rankings released on Thursday.

Nigeria also retained her 1,427 points from the
previous list in December.

The first ranking of the year also saw Asian champions, Qatar, climb to 55th in the world, gaining 38 places and reaching their best
position since 1993.

According to FIFA statement, the Asian Cup has
been responsible for the notable changes in the rankings, with the scarcity of games in other
confederations leaving the top 20 unchanged, and Belgium still in pole position.

Further down the table, Qatar is not the only team to have ascended in spectacular style.

Fellow finalists, Japan (27th, up 23) have also soared up the order, while Korea Republic (38th, up 15), United Arab Emirates (67th, up 12) and Jordan (97th, up 12), all registered double-digit gains.

There were also significant upward moves by the likes of Iraq (80th, up 8), Iran (22nd, up 7) and Uzbekistan (89th, up 6).

Another consequence of these changes is that Asia has boosted its numbers in the Ranking’s
top 50.

The Asian Football Confederation is now represented by four teams up, one on the last edition, and now stands level with Africa, whose numbers have been depleted by Congo DR (51st,
down 2), dropping out.

Meanwhile, Senegal retains her top spot among CAF teams with 1,505 points and 24th in the
world with Tunisia following closely with 1,493 points on 28th place.

Behind is Morrocco who garnered 1,440 points after descending three places, from 40th placed in the previous list to 43rd.

The next rankings will be published on April 4.