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La Liga: Koeman’s future on the line as Barca visit Atletico Madrid



Madrid, Oct 1: FC Barcelona face a crucial game on Saturday when they travel to play Atletico Madrid in the eighth round of matches in La Liga.

Barca coach Ronald Koeman must have thought last weekend’s 3-0 win at home to Levante had earned him some breathing space, but the feelgood factor lasted just three days and Barca’s 3-0 humiliation away to Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday night not only puts their qualification for the knockout stage of the competition at risk, but also leaves Koeman on the brink.

Barca president Joan Laporta was reportedly in meetings with other club directors until the early hours of Thursday morning, and if Koeman survives until Saturday, it will probably be because there is no time to bring anyone else in, but one thing is clear — a defeat in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium would certainly end the Dutchman’s time in charge.

Barca will still be without Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Aguero and Martin Braithwaite for the game, and it will be interesting to see if Koeman risks Ansu Fati in the starting 11 after just two substitute appearances following his 11-month layoff, XInhua reports.

Atletico Madrid have struggled to score goals in La Liga, but netted twice late to win away to 10-man AC Milan on September 28. It will have escaped nobody’s notice that those goals were scored by former Barca duo Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, with the Frenchman set to make his 400th league appearance against the club that allowed him to return to Atletico this summer.

The round of matches kicks off on Friday night when Athletic Bilbao striker Inaki Williams will set a new record of 203 consecutive league appearances when his club face Alaves in a Basque derby in San Mames.

There will only be a maximum 60 per cent capacity in San Mames as the Basque regional government has decided to maintain some restrictions in grounds in the region, but in the rest of Spain, apart from Catalonia, capacity will return to 100 per cent this weekend.

Saturday kicks off with a game between Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano, for whom Radamel Falcao has scored in his last three appearances to help the recently-promoted side to 13 points from the last 15.

Real Mallorca will fancy their chances of ending a four-game winless streak at home to Levante, who travel to the island looking for their first win of the season, while Cadiz look to bounce back from defeat to Rayo at home to a Valencia side without the suspended Maxi Gomez.

Consecutive wins have given a huge boost to Celta Vigo after their winless start to the campaign, and they visit a disciplined Elche led by former Celta boss Fran Escriba.

Real Madrid have had a difficult week after being held at home by Villarreal in La Liga before suffering a shock 2-1 Champions League defeat at home to Sheriff Tiraspol, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side will be clear favorites on their visit to Espanyol.

Espanyol have won just three of their last 32 meetings against Real Madrid, and even though Wu Lei has delayed his return to China to play in the game, anything but an away win would be a major surprise.

Second-placed Real Sociedad visit Getafe who have begun the season with seven consecutive losses, and defeat number eight would see Michel Gonzalez sacked as coach. Robert Moreno also faces the axe from Granada unless his side can beat third-placed Sevilla.

Finally, Villarreal entertain Real Betis in an entertaining-looking clash between two in-form sides, although Villarreal need to recover from their cruel last-minute defeat to Manchester United on Wednesday.

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You will see me in yellow but not sure as player, says Dhoni on playing for CSK in 2022



Dubai, Oct 7: Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni on Thursday said that fans will see him in ‘yellow in IPL 2022, but he doesn’t know if he will be part of the franchise as a player or in some other role.

Dhoni, who has been CSK’s captain since the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008, highlighted that there is a ‘lot of uncertainty’ because of the two new teams coming in and the mega auction, next year.

“Well, you can see me in yellow next year. But whether I will be playing for CSK? There are a lot of uncertainties around it for a simple reason that we have two new teams coming up. We don’t know the retention policy. We don’t know how many foreigners, Indian players we can retain, the money cap that every player will be cutting from the kitty,” said 40-year-old at the toss ahead of CSK’s match against Punjab Kings in Dubai.

“So there are a lot of uncertainties. Unless the rules are in place you can’t really decide that. So we will wait for it to happen and hopefully it will be good for everyone,” he added.

The former India captain also mentioned that it has been difficult to maintain fitness this season due to back to back matches in the UAE leg of the 2021 IPL.

“It’s tough to maintain fitness. Once the IPL was postponed, it meant there will be back-to-back games (whenever the tournament resumes). We had that sort of a stretch but, looks good, no concern with fitness,” said Dhoni.

Dhoni, who has led CSK to three IPL titles, earlier indicated that he will be playing his farewell game in Chennai.

The 40-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman in an event celebrating 75 years of India Cements, earlier had said that he hopes to play his last IPL match in Chennai.

“When it comes to farewell, you can still come and see me play for CSK and that can be my farewell game. So, you will still get that opportunity to bid me farewell. Hopefully, we will come to Chennai and play my last game over there and we can meet the fans there,” Dhoni said while interacting with fans during the virtual event on Tuesday.

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Du Plessis’ fifty takes CSK to 134/6 against Punjab Kings



Dubai, Oct 7: A hard-earned fifty by Faf du Plessis (76 off 55) took Chennai Super Kings to 134/6 against Punjab Kings in the 53rd match of the IPL 2021 at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, here on Thursday.

Put in to bat first, CSK were off to a poor start as they lost the wickets of Ruturaj Gaikwad (12) and Moeen Ali (0) inside the powerplay.

Arshdeep Singh provided Punjab Kings the first breakthrough as he dismissed Gaikwad. The in-form opener tried to take on the short-pitch delivery bowled by Arshdeep but got a top edge and Shahrukh Khan completed the catch. Faf du Plessis was then joined by Moeen Ali, who didn’t trouble scorers and was dismissed for a duck.

Du Plessis looked in fine touch and hit back-to-back boundaries. But, he didn’t get the required support from the other end as Robin Uthappa (2), Ambati Rayudu (4) got out cheaply. Both Uthappa and Rayudu were dismissed by Chris Jordan, who is playing this game in place of Nicholas Pooran.

MS Dhoni, who came to bat next, hit a few boundaries before getting playing-on to his stumps a googly bowled by Ravi Bishnoi, leaving CSK struggling at 61-5 after 11.6 overs. From there on, Du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja batted sensibly and rebuilt the CSK innings.

The Proteas cricketer took calculated risks and completed his fifth fifty of IPL 2021 in 46 balls and kept Chennai Super Kings alive in the match. Jadeja, on the other hand, gave him the much-needed support by rotating the strike regularly.

In the final overs, Du Plessis batted freely and hit a few lusty boundaries to give impetus to CSK innings. His fine innings came to an end for 76 in the last over of the innings and he added 67 runs for the sixth wicket with Jadeja.

In the last few balls, Dwayne Bravo hit a four and helped CSK post a total of 134-6 in 20 overs.

Brief scores:
Chennai Super Kings Innings – 134-6 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis (76 off 55, Chris Jordan 2/20, Arshdeep Singh 2/35) against Punjab Kings

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Sports gears of Olympians in highest demand in auctioning



New Delhi: Sports gears of Olympians have received the highest bids with just one day left for the e-auction of the Prime Minister’s mementos to end, historical items and religious artefacts seem to have drawn more interest. The javelin used by Neeraj Chopra, which brought him the gold medal, received the highest bid of Rs 10 crore on the opening day, it was later cancelled on the suspicion that it could be a fake bid.

The auction opened on September 17 and since then all eyes are focusing on the sporting gear of Olympians and Paralympians. Weeks later, a javelin used by a Paralympic gold medallist remains at the top with a bid of Rs 1,00,50,000. However, till now it has received only two bids, according to the latest bid details on the PM”s memento’s site

In comparison, a metal mace whose base price was Rs 2,500 has received 54 bids, with the highest at Rs 5 lakh. The javelin used by Paralympic gold medallist Sumit Antil, with a base price of Rs 1 crore, received a bid of Rs 1,00,05,000 from one bidder, while a wooden model of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya saw 24 bids come in. The mandir’s base value was Rs 2,50,000.

A badminton racquet autographed by Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games gold medallist Krishna Nagar received a highest bid of Rs 80.15 lakh but there were only three bidders who showed interest in it. On the other hand, a small metallic figurine showing Lord Rama, Hanuman, Laxman and Goddess Sita, titled Bhagwan Ram Parivar, received 44 bids,

With the highest being Rs 1.35 lakh. Its base price was only Rs 10,000. Apart from religious items, a large-scale three-dimensional replica model of a DRDO tank placed inside a glass box has received 23 bids, with the highest being Rs 5 lakh. Its base price was Rs 75,000.

Another item, a memento of the Pune metro line with a sculpture of Chattrapati Shivajji on a horse and the metro line within the cityscape, received 24 bids, with the highest being Rs 43,000, while its base price was only Rs 3,000.

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