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Odermatt bets on downhill breakthrough for Kitzbuehel glory

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Odermatt bets on downhill breakthrough for Kitzbuehel glory

Swiss tyro Marco Odermatt has yet to win a World Cup downhill race, but the runaway leader in the overall standings believes he has “two good chances” to win in Kitzbuehel.

Olympic giant slalom gold medallist Odermatt s confidence is nothing short of brazen given the Streif piste in the Austrian resort is widely regarded as the most testing on the circuit.

“To win here is a dream, and to win a downhill in general is also a dream,” the 25-year-old acknowledged.

Odermatt touched down in Kitzbuehel after two impressive podiums on home snow in Wengen: a third place in the super-G and second in downhill.

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Seeking back-to-back World Cup overall crowns, Odermatt has won 11 times in the giant slalom and six in super-G, but a downhill title remains elusive despite eight podium finishes including second place in Kitzbuehel last season.

“I was very close to winning last year, then again at the start of this season (when he was edged into second in Beaver Creek). In Wengen last week I was further behind Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, but here I ll have two good chances.”

Odermatt added: “Wengen was tough for the head and legs. I was tired right through Monday but feel better now. I went home for just a day, barely enough time to pack some clean clothes in my suitcase.”

Norway s Kilde stands second in the overall standings, but has previous form in Kitzbuehel, winning a downhill last season, a fact he said made him optimistic.

“It s different having won here one time,” said the Norwegian, whose partner is American star Mikaela Shiffrin. “I can come knowing that I m capable of winning and that gives me confidence.

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“My form has never been as good. I m enjoying myself and that s the most important thing to keep up motivation every weekend.

“I feel different this year, less stressed at the startgate. I know I m skiing well at the moment. I m excited!”

Kilde came in second in Tuesday s first training run albeit missing a gate, while Wednesday s second training was cancelled amid heavy snow. A third training session is scheduled for Thursday.

The covering of white at least hid the brown and green terrain that was showing through on the Hahnenkamm mountain.

“Unfortunately we re starting to get used to it this winter,” he said of a lack of snow.

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“But the piste is exceptional, they ve done an amazing job, it s excellent to ski on.”

Odermatt agreed, saying: “The slope is steep in Kitzbuehel, faster than in Wengen.

“I like this downhill. This year it ll be easier to ski, it ll be less icy than usual!”

One skier who will be making his final appearance at Kitzbuehel will be Odermatt s teammate Beat Feuz, a three-time winner on the Streif and current Olympic downhill champion.

Feuz will hang up his skis at the end of the season after a storied career.

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“It s emotional,” Kilde said of Feuz s final outing down the Streif.

“He s brought so much to this sport, producing some of the best runs in history, like Matthias Mayer,” the now-retired Austrian who claimed wins in the super-G and downhill in Kitzbuehel.

“It ll really be different without Beat. We had a great battle for the globe last year.

“He s so smooth, his way of gliding over the snow, like some kind of cat, beautiful to watch.

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Attempted rape charge against Man Utd star Greenwood dropped

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Attempted rape charge against Man Utd star Greenwood dropped

Charges of attempted rape and assault against Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood have been dropped by prosecutors, British police said on Thursday.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material coming to light were factors in their decision to stop the case against the 21-year-old.

Greater Manchester Police said it was “only fair” that they announce that Greenwood, who was arrested in January last year, would no longer face criminal proceedings “given the significant media coverage of this case”.

The striker originally faced one count of attempted rape, one count of controlling and coercive behaviour and one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, all against the same complainant.

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“In this case a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction,” the CPS said in a statement.

“In these circumstances, we are under a duty to stop the case.”

Greenwood, who has played 129 times for United, scoring 35 goals, last played for United against West Ham in January last year.

“Given the significant media coverage of this case, it is only fair that we share the news that the 21-year-old man, who had been arrested and charged in connection with an investigation opened in January 2022, no longer faces criminal proceedings in relation to this,” said chief superintendent Michaela Kerr.

“The investigation team has remained in regular contact with the legal team, providing any updates of note, and so understand the rationale for the discontinuation of proceedings at this stage, and that this decision has not been taken lightly.

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“Despite the media and public’s interest in this case, we have decided not to comment on it in any further detail.

Greenwood, a product of United’s academy, and once considered one of English football’s brightest prospects, made his senior debut for the Red Devils in a Champions League victory at Paris Saint-Germain in March 2019.

He signed a new contract at United in February 2021 that runs until at least 2025.

The forward made his England debut against Iceland in September 2020, but he and Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden were sent home after breaching the team’s coronavirus guidelines.

Nike suspended and later terminated its sponsorship deal with the player, while Electronic Arts confirmed his removal from active squads on its FIFA 22 game following his arrest. 

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Potter’s free-spending Chelsea can ‘attack’ end of the season

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Potter's free-spending Chelsea can 'attack' end of the season

Chelsea manager Graham Potter says he is excited by the challenge of getting the best out of a bloated squad after the Blues smashed spending records during the January transfer window.

World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez could make his debut against Fulham on Friday after joining for a British-record 121 million euros ($132 million, £107 million) from Benfica.

Ukraine’s Mykhailo Mudryk could also make his Stamford Bridge bow after joining from Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee that could rise to 100 million euros.

Chelsea signed eight players in total in January, taking their total spend in the first season under new ownership to more than £500 million.

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Despite the investment, Chelsea sit 10th in the Premier League table and were dumped out of both domestic cups by Manchester City.

Potter’s men have a 10-point deficit to make up if they are to catch the top four.

And the former Brighton boss faces a tricky task ahead, unable to register all the new arrivals for the latter stages of this season’s Champions League.

“It’s exciting,” said Potter, who only arrived at the club in September.

“It’s a test for me of course and for the staff and everybody but it’s an exciting one. We’ve got a lot of really good players.

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“We have to create an environment where there’s healthy competition and they can push each other and at the same time understand that there’s going to be frustration at times because only 11 can play.

“But we’ve got a lot of important games and we need to improve our results so it’s about playing, supporting the team and being ready to play.”

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Potter suddenly has a wealth of options at his disposal, with Chelsea’s long injury list beginning to clear.

Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Raheem Sterling and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are available again for selection.

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“There is a youthful dynamic and you can see the type of player we’ve tried to sign. We are trying to build something for now and the future,” Potter said, referring to Chelsea’s much-criticised transfer policy.

“We’ve had a pretty unprecedented injury situation, lots of things have happened. We’ve learnt a lot and we can attack the second half of the season.”

Argentina’s Fernandez was signed with minutes to spare as protracted negotiations with Benfica went down to the wire on Tuesday’s deadline day.

But not all of Chelsea’s business was completed — a move to send Hakim Ziyech to Paris Saint-Germain on loan collapsed after the paperwork was not finished in time.

“I’m the head coach so I don’t get too involved in the nitty gritty of deadline day,” said Potter.

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“I’ve been involved too long to know that there are some things you can’t control and I couldn’t do anything at that point to change things. I found out that we had signed Enzo when it was all done and I’m very pleased, because he is a fantastic player.” 

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France defender Varane announces international retirement at 29

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France defender Varane announces international retirement at 29

a decade has been one of the greatest honours of my life. Each time I wore this special blue shirt I felt immense pride,” said Varane.

Varane’s decision to call time on his France career leaves Kylian Mbappe as the frontrunner for the captaincy, with Didier Deschamps’ side set to begin Euro 2024 qualifying at the end of March with a double-header against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.

The former Real Madrid star played every minute of his country’s triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign as France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the final.

He was one of five French players who also started the 2022 final defeat by Argentina on penalties, recovering from a leg injury that ruled him out of the start of the tournament.

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“I’ll definitely miss these moments with you, but the time has come for the new generation to take over,” he said, thanking Deschamps and his coaching staff as well as the supporters.

“We have a group of talented young players who are ready to step up and who deserve their chance.”

Deschamps paid tribute to Varane and praised him for the leadership qualities he had brought to the team throughout his time with France.

“I cannot turn this page without some emotion, given the bonds we have formed,” said Deschamps, who gave Varane his international debut in a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Georgia.

“I respect his decision even if it may seem a bit unfortunate given everything he was able to do with the national team through to the World Cup, during which he behaved like the leader we know he is from start to finish.” 

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