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Soccer-Premier League talking points

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-Talking Points from the Premier League weekend:

HAVE CHELSEA GAINED A PSYCHOLOGICAL EDGE

Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City made sure City’s title celebrations remained on hold but perhaps more importantly sent out a message to Pep Guardiola’s side for the Champions League final and next season’s title race.

Surprisingly, Guardiola made wholesale changes to his side when victory would have sealed a third title in five seasons.

When Sergio Aguero fluffed a Panenka-style penalty to give City a 2-0 lead, it sparked a Chelsea revival where they dominated the second half.

It will be a very different City side that starts in the Champions League final. However, Chelsea will start that game knowing they have beaten City twice this season having also wrecked their quadruple bid in the FA Cup semi-final.

Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea will still be underdogs when the sides meet at the end of May, but those wins will fuel belief and could sow seeds of doubt into City’s players.

UNITED LEFT TO RUE DROPPED POINTS EARLIER IN SEASON

Manchester United put on hold City’s title celebrations with a comeback 3-1 win at Aston Villa but the result left many of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men wandering what might have been.

A series of draws and the odd defeat against unfancied opposition, none more so than a 2-1 home loss to relegated Sheffield United, had denied United a chance to mount a stronger title challenge in the run-in.

Snatching the title from City’s grasp is still theoretically possible but highly unlikely and left back Luke Shaw made it clear in no uncertain terms how much United rued their poor early-season form.

“We are just focusing on ourselves, even more so we look at the City result (2-1 defeat by Chelsea) and we are disappointed with the points we have let go this season,” Shaw said.

HIRING ALLARDYCE EARLIER MIGHT HAVE SAVED WEST BROM

Sam Allardyce’s proud record of never taking a Premier League down came to an end as his West Bromwich Albion side lost 3-1 at Arsenal on Sunday, condemning the Baggies to the drop.

Bizarrely it came in the same weekend that Allardyce was nominated for the manager of the month award after some stirring displays — notably a 5-2 hammering of Champions League finalists Chelsea in April.

Fans of the Midlands club might well ask whether the club should have acted earlier than December to replace Slaven Bilic with Allardyce, one of the game’s great survivors.

West Brom were 19th, with seven points from 13 games, when Allardyce took command and they have taken 19 points since, losing only three of their previous 11 games before the defeat by Arsenal confirmed the inevitable relegation.

LEICESTER LOOKING OVER THEIR SHOULDERS

There is a horrible sense of deja-vu closing in on Leicester. An ugly 4-2 home defeat by Newcastle United on Friday, when they trailed 4-0, has left their top-four place in peril and fans fearing that they will miss out as they did last season having looked odds-on to make the Champions League.

Last season in their 35th game they lost 4-1 to Bournemouth, after which they faced Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, two of the three sides they play in their run-in this time.

Jonny Evans was injured shortly before kickoff on Friday and Rodgers conceded afterwards he is the brains of their defence. Without him, Leicester looked wobbly at the back while their attack has lost its spark with Jamie Vardy struggling for goals and James Maddison not back to full speed after injury.

Brendan Rodgers said his side still have their destiny in their own hands, but defeat by Manchester United on Tuesday will set the alarm bells ringing loudly.

(Reporting by Zoran Milosaljevic, Martyn HermanEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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CFL to return in August

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The Canadian Football League (CFL), which saw its entire 2020 campaign wiped out by the COVID-19 outbreak, said on Monday its board of governors voted unanimously to kick off a shortened 14-game season in August.

The CFL, whose biggest source of revenue comes from ticket sales rather than TV deals like those enjoyed by larger U.S.-based leagues, also said fans will be able to return to the stands in line with provincial guidelines.

“This is an exciting day for Canadian football and for Canada itself,” CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a news release.

“I want to thank our fans, players, coaches, and partners for their incredible support and patience as we’ve worked together towards this day.”

The season will begin Aug. 5 while the Grey Cup championship game will be played Dec. 12 in Hamilton, Ontario.

The full schedule will be released on Tuesday along with each of the league’s nine team’s plan for distributing tickets to season ticket holders and, where government restrictions on stadium capacity allow, ticket sales to the general public.

After first delaying its 2020 season, the CFL decided to scrap it entirely following a last-ditch effort to secure financing from the Canadian government to stage a shortened campaign that would have been held entirely in Manitoba was turned down.

The CFL had previously said it would only move forward with a 2021 season if it could secure the government approvals for its plans to keep players and coaches safe and the green light to allow a “significant” number of fans to attend games.

“We are on track to receive all of the necessary health and safety approvals, thanks to our tireless medical advisers and staff, and the dedicated government officials who have been working with them,” said Ambrosie.

“And while the outlook for fans in the stands varies from province to province, we are confident that process is also on the right track.”

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA

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Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.

Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.

USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.

It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.

Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.

However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.

“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.

“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.

“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.

“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”

HEADLINE FIGHT

Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.

“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”

As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.

“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.

“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”

 

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships

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Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships, the International Skating Union (ISU) said on Wednesday, after the 2020 event Canada was to host was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.

“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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