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Preview: Top-flight teams gear up for FA Cup at weekend

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LONDON, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) — This weekend sees the fourth round of the FA Cup in England, with no matches in either the Premier League or the second-tier Championship.

Bournemouth opened the 4th round of the cup with a 5-0 win at home to Swansea on Thursday night, ahead of four matches played on Friday.

The most attractive of those sees Tottenham, who could have James Maddison fit after three months out and who have reasons for optimism against Manchester City, who have lost and failed to score in their last five visits to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Chelsea booked a place in the Carabao Cup final in midweek, but Aston Villa will be a difficult obstacle as Mauricio Pochettino’s side looks to progress in the FA Cup.

Villa won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League and has just two defeats in their last 21 games in all competitions.

Bristol City knocked West Ham out of the last round and the Championship side could have a chance against Nottingham Forest, a rival focused on avoiding relegation from the Premier League and with the threat of a points deduction hanging over them for breaching financial fair play regulations.

Saturday sees some all-Premier League clashes, with Everton at home to Luton, while bottom side Sheffield United entertains Brighton and Fulham hosts Newcastle United.

Fulham lost their Carabao Cup semifinal to Liverpool on Wednesday and has little recovery time against a rival that will see the Cup as the hope of saving a season that has been hit badly by suspension and injury.

Saturday’s game between Championship high-fliers Ipswich Town and Maidstone will also attract a lot of attention as the side from the National League South looks to continue their incredible FA Cup adventure that began back in September in the second qualifying round.

Sunday starts with a Black Country derby that renews the traditional rivalry between West Brom and Wolves in the first competitive match between the two sides in 12 years.

Wolves is favorites after a six-game unbeaten run, but their Championship rivals have won their last four home games and the Hawthorns will be a hostile place for the visitors.

Liverpool should have few problems as they take on Championship rivals Norwich City, with the big question being how many changes coach Jurgen Klopp will make to his starting 11.

Fourth-tier Newport County entertains Manchester United looking for a giant-killing act. Erik Ten Hag’s side clearly has a lot more quality than Newport, but a hostile crowd and a tight, muddy ground will test their determination and defeat would be a huge blow to an already questioned coach.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Dortmund stuns Atletico in dramatic Champions League quarters

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BERLIN, April 16 (Xinhua) — Borussia Dortmund turned around a 2-1 first-leg defeat by clinching a hard-earned 4-2 victory over resilient Atletico Madrid in the second leg on home soil on Tuesday.

Dortmund advanced 5-4 on aggregate into the Champions League semifinals.

The BVB immediately went in search of the goal and came close with just three minutes gone when Marcel Sabitzer’s shot from inside the box was blocked by defender Cesar Azpilicueta in the last nick of time.

Two minutes later, Atletico had the golden chance to extend the aggregate lead, but Alvaro Morata pulled wide with only Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel to beat.

Dortmund controlled possession though and got rewarded for their efforts at the half-hour mark when Mats Hummel’s defence-splitting through the ball allowed Julian Brandt to fire past Madrid custodian Jan Oblak from a tight angle.

The hosts gained momentum and doubled the lead in the 39th minute as Sabizter teed up for Ian Maatsen, who slotted home from a sharp angle into the far post bottom corner.

After the restart, Los Colchoneros came out with their guns blazing and restored parity on aggregate with the great assistance of Dortmund veteran Mats Hummels, who accidentally cleared Mario Hermoso’s dangerous header into the wrong goal.

Things went from bad to worse for Dortmund as Atletico increased the pressure before retaking the aggregate lead with 69 minutes gone as Dortmund’s defense couldn’t clear the ball from the area, allowing Angel Correa to hammer the ball into the roof of the net, making it 2-2 on the scoreboards.

Dortmund was flabbergasted but bounced back with two goals in quick succession. First, Niclas Fullkrug made it 3-2 on the scoreboards in the 71st minute after heading home Sabitzer’s pinpoint cross before the Austrian international got his name on the scoreboards as well after unleashing a hammer past Oblak two minutes later.

Atletico opened up and pressed frenetically for a goal, but Dortmund’s defense stood firm to claim the team’s first semi-final since 2013. The BVB will encounter Paris Saint-Germain in the next round.

“I am really happy and proud of the boys. We were the better and more active team today. That is why we deserved to advance into the next round,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.

“We had the chance to draw the game and go ahead in the tie but, when you don’t take advantage of your chances, this happens, even more so in the Champions League,” commented Atletico captain Koke.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Macron says Plan B, Plan C possible for Paris Olympics opening ceremony

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French President Macron revealed contingency plans for the Paris Olympic Games opening ceremony on the River Seine due to potential security risks, including the possibility of relocating to the Stade de France.

PARIS, April 15 (Xinhua) — The organizers have prepared alternatives to staging the highly-anticipated Paris Olympic Games opening ceremony on the River Seine if there are excessive security risks, French president Emmanuel Macron admitted on Monday.

As the countdown to the Olympics reaches the critical 100-day mark, Macron spoke to French broadcasters RMC and BFM TV inside the Grand Palais. While he reiterated his confidence in successfully hosting the ceremony on the Seine, he also acknowledged that alternative plans were under consideration due to potential security challenges.

“If we think there are security risks we’ll have Plan Bs, and even Plan Cs,” he said. “We are preparing them in parallel. We will do an analysis in real time. We have a ceremony which would be limited to the Trocadero and which would therefore not cover the entire Seine.”

Macron also mentioned the possibility of relocating the ceremony to the Stade de France.

“This is what is traditionally done,” he added.

Hosting the opening ceremony in the open urban space was a highly imaginative move by the Paris organizing committee and the local government.

According to the current plan, about 10,500 athletes are expected to travel approximately six kilometers from east to west along the Seine, disembarking near the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero Square for the celebration. An estimated 300,000 spectators are anticipated to watch the event live from both sides of the river.

However, security has been a significant concern from the outset of planning. The increasing risk of potential terrorist attacks is a critical consideration for both the organizing committee and the French government.

The Olympic flame for the Paris Games will be lit on April 16 in ancient Olympia, Greece. April 17 will mark the 100-day countdown to the opening of the Paris Olympics.

The Paris Olympics will take place between July 26 and August 11, followed by the Paris Paralympics from August 28 to September 8.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Xavi’s magic substitutions lead Barcelona to victory in thrilling encounter with PSG

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PARIS, April 10 (Xinhua) — Barcelona’s manager, Xavi Hernandez, showcased his tactical genius by making two substitutions that led directly to goals, propelling his team to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.

The game was an emotional rollercoaster, with Barcelona initially taking the lead, only to fall behind, and then executing a stunning comeback.

Brazilian forward Raphinha scored twice, including the opener in the first half, taking advantage of a mistake by PSG’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to net his first Champions League goal at the 37-minute mark.

PSG quickly turned the tables after halftime, with Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha scoring to give the Parisians a 2-1 advantage.

It was at this juncture that Xavi made a tactical masterstroke. In the 61st minute, he brought on Rodri and Joao Felix for Lamine Yamal and Sergi Roberto, a change that quickly paid off.

Pedri, just two minutes after coming on, lofted a perfect pass to Raphinha, who calmly finished past Donnarumma, drawing the teams level.

In the 76th minute, Xavi’s strategic acumen was on display again when he substituted Andreas Christensen and Ferran Torres for Frenkie de Jong and the key player Raphinha. Christensen scored with a header from a corner just a minute later, sealing a dramatic comeback for Barcelona.

“Pedri came on and helped us a lot. I’m very proud of the team. Christensen also came on and helped,” Xavi said. “Tactically we did really well.”

Since Xavi announced his departure from the team at the end of the season following a January defeat to Villarreal, Barcelona has been unbeaten in 12 matches across all competitions, a stark contrast to PSG’s previous unbeaten streak of 27 matches, which ended with this loss.

“We made things a bit difficult for ourselves. We managed to turn things around in the second half and could have had a third (goal),” PSG coach Luis Enrique said. “Everything’s still open for us and we will go there with ambition.”

The return leg is set for April 16th at Barcelona’s home ground.

Source(s): Xinhua

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