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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.”

Options

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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Babar Azam retains top spot in latest ODI batting rankings

Babar Azam retains top spot in latest ODI batting rankings

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Babar Azam retains top spot in latest ODI batting rankings

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam maintained a healthy lead at the top of the ODI batting rankings released by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Wednesday.

In the rankings, there are a group of South Africa players who have made good ground on the prolific right-hander. Heinrich Klaasen rises 13 spots to 30th after he hit a brilliant century in the Proteas’ impressive victory over the West Indies in the third and final match of the series in Potchefstroom, while Temba Bavuma improves 17 places to 33rd following his big knock in the second game in East London.

The second place retained by South Africa’s Rassie van der Dussen while Pakistani batter Imamul Haq jumped one place to secure third place. Quinton de Kock has been ranked fourth while Shubman Gill is at the fifth place.

India pacer Mohammed Siraj copped the brunt of the attack by Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head during the second match of his side’s ODI series with Australia and as a result has lost his place at the top of the rankings for ODI bowlers.

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Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood – who is absent from the ongoing series in India – re-claims pole position ahead of New Zealand left-armer Trent Boult, with Siraj dropping into a tie for third with in-form quick Mitchell Starc, ICC said in its press release.

West Indies pacer Alzarri Joseph jumps to a career-high rating and 11th place on the ODI bowling rankings following a strong series against South Africa, while teammate Akeal Hosein (up four spots to 20th) is another big mover.

The top place in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Batting Rankings is held by Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne. New Zealand’s batter Kane Williamson rose to the second place.

It means Steve Smith (third), Joe Root (fourth), Babar Azam (fifth) and Travis Head (sixth) all drop one place, while Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne (10th) takes the spot of India captain Rohit Sharma inside the top 10 after he scored three half-centuries in the series against New Zealand.

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Australia choose to bat in deciding 3rd ODI against India

Australia choose to bat in deciding 3rd ODI against India

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Australia choose to bat in deciding 3rd ODI against India

Australia’s stand-in-skipper Steve Smith won the toss and chose to bat first in their series decider against India for Wednesday’s third one-day international in Chennai.

The visitors made two changes to the side that routed their hosts in Sunday’s last match at Visakhapatnam.

Opener David Warner returns from his second Test elbow hairline fracture for all-rounder Cameron Green while spinner Ashton Agar replaces pacer Nathan Ellis.
Indian skipper Rohit Sharma fielded an unchanged team.

The two top-ranked 50-over teams are warming up for the ODI World Cup in India later this year.

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Teams

Australia: David Warner, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith (capt), Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar, Sean Abbott, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa

India: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj

Umpires: Jayaraman Madangopal (IND), Nitin Menon (IND)

TV umpire: KN Ananthapadmanabhan (IND)

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Match referee: Javagal Srinath (IND)

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African players in Europe: Kessie is El Clasico hero

African players in Europe: Kessie is El Clasico hero

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African players in Europe: Kessie is El Clasico hero

Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie came off the bench to score an added-time winner for Barcelona in a 2-1 El Clasico triumph over Real Madrid at the weekend.

The dramatic victory confirmed Barca as hot favourites to regain the Spanish title for the first time since 2019.

Kessie often celebrates his goals with a military-style salute — a tribute to his late father, who became a soldier after a professional football career.

Here, AFP Sport highlights African headline-makers in the major European leagues:
ENGLAND

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JEFFREY SCHLUPP (Crystal Palace)

Ghana international Schlupp scored a consolation goal for managerless Crystal Palace in their 4-1 defeat at league leaders Arsenal. The 30-year-old midfielder hammered home from close range following a corner in the 63rd minute to make it 3-1 but any faint hopes of an unlikely comeback were quashed when Bukayo Saka restored the home side’s three-goal margin.

EMMANUEL DENNIS (Nottingham Forest)

Nigeria forward Dennis opened the scoring for struggling Nottingham Forest against high-flying Newcastle. Dennis, who joined Forest from Watford this season, latched onto Sven Botman’s back-pass before dinking the ball over Nick Pope in the 26th minute but Alexander Isak struck twice to seal a 2-1 win for the Magpies.

ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE (Everton)

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Mali midfielder Doucoure found the net in Everton’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea, nodding over the line to cancel out Joao Felix’s opener. Chelsea restored their lead through a Kai Havertz penalty but Ellis Simms scored a late equaliser, set up by Doucoure.

SPAIN

FRANCK KESSIE (Barcelona)

A low cross from Alejandro Balde set up Kessie at the far post to sweep the ball into the corner of the net. The match-winner gave Barcelona a 12-point advantage with 12 matches remaining.

SAMUEL CHUKWUEZE (Villarreal)

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The Nigerian winger continued his fine recent form by opening the scoring in Villarreal’s 3-0 win at Osasuna. Drifting into the area unmarked, Chukwueze kept his cool to volley home Alfonso Pedraza’s pinpoint cross.

ITALY

VICTOR OSIMHEN (Napoli)

The Nigeria forward was once again one of the stars of the show as Napoli continued their march to the Serie A title. Towering headers in each half in a 4-0 win at Torino helped Napoli eventually stretch their massive league lead to 19 points and took Osimhen’s tally for the domestic campaign to 21 goals.

Victor Osimhen (L) scored two headers as Napoli continued their march towards the title

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KINGSLEY EHIZIBUE (Udinese)

Germany-born Ehizibue struck the goal which sealed Udinese’s 3-1 win over AC Milan and gave his team their first home win since September. Ehizibue, who represents Nigeria internationally, scored his second goal of the season in the 70th minute and helped Udinese up to eighth in Serie A.

GERMANY

SEBASTIEN HALLER (Borussia Dortmund)

Haller scored twice in Dortmund’s 6-1 demolition of Cologne. In the first half, he hammered home and was on the spot in the second half to tap in a rebound from a free-kick.

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OMAR MARMOUSH (Wolfsburg)

Egypt forward Marmoush scored his second goal in three games for Wolfsburg amid speculation he will join Eintracht Frankfurt at the end of the season. His long-range effort gave Wolfsburg a 1-0 win at Stuttgart.

FRANCE

BAMO MEITE (Lorient)

The 21-year-old defender from the Ivory Coast, who moved to Paris from Abidjan as a child, scored his first senior goal for Lorient in their 1-1 draw with Nice, a result which keeps alive their slim chances of qualifying for Europe. Meite only made his first-team debut for Lorient in January but has quickly become a regular starter.

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HABIB DIALLO (Strasbourg)

The Senegal international striker had an eventful game for Strasbourg in their relegation six-pointer against Auxerre. He won a first-half penalty only to then see his kick saved. Diallo atoned by scoring late on to seal a 2-0 win for his side. With 14 goals this is already his most prolific season at this level. 

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