N’golo Kante feels ‘at home’ with Chelsea

Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante says he feels “at home” at the club despite speculation linking him with a return to France.
Kante was instrumental to Leicester City’s league triumph in the 2015/16 season before he moved to London and helped Chelsea do the same the following year. “I am at home. It is my club, I am a Chelsea player,” Kante, who has been linked with a move to Paris St Germain, was quoted as saying by the Evening Standard.

“This is my second year at Chelsea. After what happened last season, it was a very good one for us because we got to celebrate winning the title. “In the second season, I have got to play in the Champions League … We will fight until the end to finish in the top four and to get in a Champions League position.”

Chelsea, who face Southampton in the FA Cup semi-finals next month, are fifth in the league, five points behind Tottenham Hotspur with eight matches left to play. “We also have the FA Cup to play for – it is a good competition. Last season we failed in the final,” added Kante.

“It is the only trophy we can win this season, so we have to give everything to get to the final and win it.” The 26-year-old has been named in the France squad for friendlies against Colombia on Friday and Russia on March 27.

 

Manchester United still flex most social media muscle: Report

Manchester United are trailing Manchester City this season on the pitch but are peerless when it comes to their social media muscle, according to a report published this week.

The Old Trafford giants, who topped Deloitte’s Money League in January for the world’s richest clubs, also came out top of the Social Network Rankings for the Premier League in 2017.

The report, produced by Newton Insight, ranked England’s 20 top-flight according to eight performance indicators across various social media platforms.

United beat Manchester City to first place with Chelsea third, Arsenal fourth, Liverpool fifth and Tottenham Hotspur in seventh place. Huddersfield Town were a surprising sixth with Stoke City bottom of the pile.

United had 73.7 million Facebook followers in 2017, 16.5 million Twitter fans and 20 million Instagram followers.

City had 29 million, 5.5 million and 5.9 million respectively for the same categories.

United also had most followers of the 20 Premier League clubs on Chinese social media platform Weibo — 9.2 million.

Fans of the Red Devils made up 30 percent of all Premier League followers and the club accounted for 40 percent of all Premier League fan engagement on social media in 2017.

“The best way to describe Manchester United’s approach to building its global fanbase is ‘relentless’,” the report said.

“The club is not sitting back defending its lead, it keeps pressing forward. They have more resources than most to support its ambitions but the club is also committed to producing creative content and driving fan engagement.”

The Social Network Rankings were calculated using indicators such as fan engagement, growth, total number of club posts and the amount of days it takes clubs to add 10,000 new followers on a given platform.

While newly-promoted Huddersfield’s 113,000 Facebook followers was dwarfed by the bigger clubs it represented an 80 percent rise in a year while their Instagram figures rose by 600 percent — proof of the appeal of the Premier League.

Huddersfield made huge efforts to increase the club’s profile on the back of promotion, racking up 18,000 social media posts in 2017, behind only Chelsea, United and City.

“Smaller teams may struggle to compete financially with the top teams, but Huddersfield’s digital performance should encourage other clubs looking to increase brand exposure,” the report said.

While the combined 250 million Facebook followers of the Premier League made it the most used format for fans, that figure represented only a five percent yearly rise compared to the 49 and 33 percent increases enjoyed by Twitter and Instagram.

“Facebook appears to have reached maturity,” the report said. “Twitter’s immediacy lends itself to the drama of live football. It feeds the endless appetite for gossip.”

China is regarded as a huge, and relatively untapped market, although still something of a puzzle, according to the report.

Arsenal and Liverpool were the first to set up social media sites on Weibo in 2011, since when Premier League clubs have amassed a combined fanbase of 30 million followers.

Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne, Toto Wolff warns Formula One

mexico city grand prix, mexico gp, Toto Wolff

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has warned that a breakaway series to rival Formula One is a “realistic” possibility if the championship’s stakeholders fail to placate Ferrari in their long-term vision for the sport. Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has threatened his team could quit if F1’s American owners Liberty Media follow through on plans for simpler engines and a redistribution of prizemoney after contracts expire in 2020.

Days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Wolff said he hoped the sport’s major players could build consensus on a way forward but cautioned that Ferrari should not be provoked. “The perspective of doing something else is a realistic one, and it could happen if we don’t achieve to align our vision,” the Austrian told British media.

“Marchionne has a clear vision of what Formula One should represent for Ferrari, which is a purist sport that isn’t a shopping channel. I would strongly encourage all of the sport’s stakeholders not to try and provoke him. “I agree with most of the things Sergio says because Formula One has a certain DNA and it is a sport that needs to stick to its roots.

“So, don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne. Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.” Although fierce rivals on the track, Ferrari and champions Mercedes are closely aligned off it on financial matters and engines — supplying six of the 10 teams in the series. Red Bull boss Christian Horner said last month that Ferrari and Mercedes were “working as one team” to shape F1’s landscape in their favour.

“Sometimes it is difficult to tell which is which. For the last couple of years there has been a very tight relationship between Ferrari and Mercedes,” Horner told British media during pre-season testing.

American teen Amanda Anisimova stuns Wang Qiang in Miami

American teenager Amanda Anisimova, fresh off an impressive run at Indian Wells, beat China’s Wang Qiang 6-3 1-6 6-2 at the Miami Open on Tuesday to set up a second-round clash with Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza. The 16-year-old wildcard, who had never won a WTA main-draw match until this month’s BNP Paribas Open where she reached the fourth round, broke the world number 53 five times during a 98-minute match in which she committed six double faults.

Next up for Anisimova, ranked 130th in the world, is Wimbledon champion Muguruza, who will be eager to get back to competition after falling at the first hurdle in Indian Wells. Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia overcame some early pressure to defeat Briton Heather Watson 7-6(3) 6-2. Watson had a chance to serve for the opening set but squandered it and then allowed the Brazilian to run away with the match.

Haddad Maia will next face No. 31 seed Zhang Shuai. Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic looked headed for an early exit when she fell behind 4-0 in the deciding set against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko but the Croatian-born world number 90 reeled off seven of the next eight games to prevail 3-6 6-4 7-5. American wild card Bernarda Pera advanced when she stunned Spanish world number 68 Lara Arruabarrena 7-5 6-4 to set up a second-round match with Belgian 22nd seed Elise Mertens.

Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi was leading Christina McHale 3-1 but retired 31 minutes into the match, gifting the American passage into the second round where she will face Czech Barbora Strycova. Also advancing on the first day of the main draw in Miami were Belgians Kirsten Flipkens and Alison Van Uytvanck, Swede Johanna Larsson, Hungary’s Timea Babos, Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich and American wild card Claire Liu.

WWE Raw Results: Braun Strowman makes a mark before Elimination Chamber

Braun Strowman leaving a mark on The Miz on WWE Raw

On Monday Night Raw in Phoenix, Arizona, the focus remained firmly on Sunday’s Elimination Chamber match in Las Vegas. There were no gimmicks, no talks, out-and-out wrestling as competitors – men and women – looked to make their mark before the pay-per-view event. As advertised, the show kicked off with the gauntlet match where all the male WWE Superstars competing in the Elimination Chamber match went up against the other in consecutive matches. But in the end, it was Braun Strowman who triumphed and as he does – left a serious mark.

Prior to the first-ever seven-man Elimination Chamber match, all men lined up to highlight why they would win the match on Sunday and then go on to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. As the match stretched for over an hour, it appeared to be the longest one in WWE history. But as Strowman put the brakes on The Miz, leaving the Miztourage in tatters too, and added multiple powerslams just to appease the crowd.

Much before the Monster Among Men waltzed down the ring, it was Seth Rollins who caught the limelight with a Herculean effort that saw him compete for a staggering an hour and five minutes. Entering at No 2, he beat fellow Shield Brother Roman Reigns (No 1) and John Cena (No 3). Elias brought his run to an end with a Drift Away as Rollins spent his energy on high risk maneuvers. Finn Balor followed up and attacked Elias’ battered ribs and finished off the job with a Coup de Grace.

The Miztourage played a key role throughout and their presence allowed The Miz to steal the win over Balor with a Skull-Crushing Finale. However, The Miz’s facial expression changed as Strowman’s music played as the final entrant. The Gift of Destruction began by chasing down the Intercontinental Champion as he scrambled for cover. Soon enough, a Running Powerslam got the job done.

WWE RAW RESULTS

Braun Strowman def. Elias vs. Finn Balor vs. John Cena vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. the Miz (Gauntlet Match)

Titus Worldwide def. Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus

Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James def. Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose

Winter Olympics 2019: French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis doesn’t risk another wardrobe malfunction

gabriella papadakis

Gabriella Papadakis took no chances. Her ice dancing costume on Tuesday contained no hooks, nothing that could come undone as it did a day earlier in the Olympics’ most famous wardrobe malfunction.

The French athlete and partner Guillaume Cizeron completed a lovely, lyrical free skate to win a silver medal behind the Canadian team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, but it was hard not to see in their faces the belief that the faulty costume had cost them gold.

NBC analyst Tanith White said she was “sitting here grabbing my chest feeling my heart pound” after their performance. White, however, punted when the time came to give her opinion on the deserving winner. “It’s making me sweat, just the idea of having to choose between the Canadian and the French, but most important, they were both exceptional,” she said. True, it was tough. But that’s her job.

WARDROBE MALFUNCTION, PART TWO:

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada perform. (Source: Reuters)

After two wardrobe malfunctions on the ice, it was hard to watch Canadian Kaitlyn Weaver’s ice dancing routine without focusing on a loose red strap that kept falling down her arm. Apparently it was part of the costume.

Avoiding wardrobe malfunction a priority for Turkish pair

Alisa Agafonova and Alper Ucar of Turkey perform during the ice dance. (Source: AP)

A pair of Turkish ice dancers on Tuesday said they take care to ensure their relatively conservative costumes are firmly in place when they compete but maintained it was not due to any pressure from their government.

“The most important part for Alisa when she designs it is keeping it safe,” Alper Ucar told Reuters following his free dance routine with partner Alisa Agafonova at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Tuesday.

Ukrainian-born Agafonova, who represented the Eastern European nation until 2010, said: “I am doing what I like and what you see is what I decided that I like.”

Wearing costumes that evoked ancient Egypt, they are among the most covered-up of any of the performers but the duo said it was their own choice.

Ucar said the Turkish Olympic committee did not give them any specific directions on their costumes.

“Turkey is a country where one side is Europe and the other side is the Middle East,” he said.

“We are a multicultural country and our traditional designs for our costumes are generally very liked by the crowd. We are a democratic country, so there is no pressure. They are always supporting us and that’s why we are here.”

Winter Olympics 2018: Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir win second ice dance gold with world record

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir claimed their second Olympic gold medal with a brilliant free dance on Tuesday, edging to the top of the podium by less than a point and breaking the world record into the bargain.

Skating last to “Moulin Rouge,” the pair embraced and grinned on the ice after their dynamic performance that had the audience roaring.

They won with a total score of 206.07, eclipsing the world record that had been set just moments before by French pair Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who finished on 205.28.

“We don’t know what the future holds quite yet but it definitely feels like we’re getting close to the end of our career,” Moir told OBS, the official Olympics broadcaster.

The pair had previously said this would be their last Olympics and hinted that retirement from competition – this time for good – might be on the cards soon.

“We’re just proud of our accomplishments at these Games. The goal was to win two golds but it’s a really intense competition,” Moir added.

“We have such respect especially for Gabriella and Guillaume. We’re pretty happy with how things turned out, that’s for sure.”

The Canadian pair, who won gold in Vancouver eight years ago, have dominated the event since they returned to competition after retiring following a silver at the Sochi Games four years ago. They also have a team silver from Sochi and gold at Pyeongchang, won last week.

They made a comeback late in 2016 and powered to a number of world records with only one defeat along the way.

That loss – in the Grand Prix Final in Japan last December – was to Papadakis and Cizeron, and prompted the fiercely-competitive Canadians to return home and tweak their programme in response.

Papadakis and Cizeron struggled in their short programme on Monday after the top of Papadakis’s costume came loose, and were 1.74 points behind the Canadians entering Tuesday’s free dance.

The pair’s ethereal free dance had the audience at the Gangneung Ice Arena clapping and set a new world record for both the free skate — they scored 123.35 and topped the Canadians — and the total score.

WORLD RECORD

Virtue and Moir broke that record fewer than 15 minutes later, when they scored 122.40 in the free programme.

“We are really proud of what we did today,” Cizeron said. “We did the best we could on the ice and it was a very emotional moment and we’re really proud of that silver medal.”

Papadakis said Tuesday’s performance had made their Olympic debut special.

“Today we did something we never thought we could do. We’ve never skated that way before,” she told a news conference.

“To do that in our first Olympics is really something that we’re proud of.”

Earlier, when asked if she had taken special steps to avoid any more costume problems, she laughed and told reporters, “Yeah, we made sure.”

American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, known as the “Shib Sibs”, won bronze after entering the free dance in fourth. They finished on 192.59.

“I am so proud of what we accomplished,” Maia told reporters.

“To have four skates on Olympic ice that we can be extremely proud of and to come away with two Olympic medals for Team USA and ourselves and everyone that has supported us, it’s almost indescribable.”

Alex said the experience fulfilled their dreams.

“It was amazing to finally have that Olympic moment because four years ago in Sochi we left with a lot of experience, but still yearning to have that really special moment on Olympic ice that we’ve grown up watching.”

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard dismisses comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard has played down comparisons with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, saying he is a completely different player.

The Belgium international, who has scored 15 goals in 35 appearances across all competitions for Chelsea this season, has been among the most consistent performers in the Premier League and across Europe since moving to Stamford Bridge in 2012.

His impressive performances have led some to suggest that the 27-year-old has the potential to be as impactful as the five-time Ballon d’Or winners.

“First it is good to be compared with the greatest ever, but I am completely different,” Hazard told reporters. “We play in different leagues. I try and do my job, I try to reach that level, their level, because they are the best in the world. Every season I try and do my best.”

Hazard also played down persistent media reports linking him with a move to join Ronaldo at Real Madrid, saying he was happy at Chelsea.

The Premier League champions host Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie later on Tuesday, with their last win against the Spanish side coming in 2012.

“If you want to be one of the best, you have to play well in the big games. This is a big game. Let’s go for it and try and give everything,” Hazard added.

“You want to shine when you play the best in the world. If I want to reach that level, I need to do a great game.”

Crystal Palace sign midfielder Erdal Rakip on loan from Benfica

Crystal Palace brought in Sweden under-21 midfielder Erdal Rakip on loan from Portuguese side Benfica until the end of the season on Monday, making him Roy Hodgson’s first signing since he became manager of the club in September. Rakip, who moved to Benfica from Malmo earlier this month after making 30 appearances for the Swedish champions last season, has 11 caps for his country’s under-21 team.

“I believe this is a league that suits me and my way of playing,” the 21-year-old told Palace’s website (www.cpfc.co.uk). “It’s fast-paced and physically intense, and I’m a… box-to-box player who runs up and down the field.”

Former England manager Hodgson managed at Malmo in the 1980s, leading the club to five consecutive league championships.

“It will be an honour playing for Roy. He is a legend in Malmo and everyone knows who he is,” Erdal said. “It feels amazing arriving to the best league in the world and to be part of a great team.” Hodgson replaced the beleaguered Frank de Boer at Palace early in the season, taking over with the club at the bottom of the table and without a point after four straight defeats.

The 70-year-old has since steered the side out of the relegation zone and up to 13th in the standings ahead of their trip to 11th-placed West Ham United on Jan. 30.

Alexis Sanchez joins Manchester United, Arsenal get Henrikh Mkhitaryan in swap deal

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Manchester United and Arsenal completed a rare swap of players when Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan replaced each other at the clubs. United signed Sanchez for a four-and-a-half year deal from Arsenal while Mkhitaryan joined Arsenal. The announcement was made on the official Twitter handles of Manchester United and Arsenal.

Sanchez had entered the final six months of his contract with Arsenal but Mkhitaryan was only 18 months into his four-year deal with United. According to Arsenal website, he has signed a long-term deal with the club. Sanchez said: “I am thrilled to be joining the biggest club in the world.”

 

On his move, Henrikh said: “I’m very happy that we could finish this deal and I’m very happy to be here. It’s a dream come true because I’ve always dreamed of playing for Arsenal. Now that I’m here, I’ll do my best for this club to create history.”

Arsène Wenger added: “Henrikh is a very complete player. He creates chances, he defends well, he can absorb distances and he’s very committed as well. I must say he’s a player who has all the attributes.”

 

Sanchez will wear the no. 7 jersey that was made famous by the likes of Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. At the same time, the most recent owners of the jersey, Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay, could never live up to those standards.

Sanchez scored 80 goals in 166 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal since joining them from Barcelona for £35m in July 2014. The Chile international, whose contract Arsenal was due to expire in the summer, had looked set to join Manchester City last August but the Pep Guardiola’s side withdrew their interest in pursuing the 29-year old.