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Preview: League title battles for City, Arsenal

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LONDON, May 18 (Xinhua) — The Premier League title race goes to the wire in a dramatic last weekend in England, which will also see an emotional farewell at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium.

Although many questions have already been resolved before the final weekend in England, with Aston Villa claiming the fourth place in next season’s Champions League and Luton virtually confirmed as the third side to be relegated to the Championship due to their vastly inferior goal-difference to Nottingham Forest, the big question of who lifts the title is still in the balance.

Manchester City have a two-point lead over Arsenal and if they win at home to West Ham, they will lift the title for the fourth consecutive year, irrespective of Arsenal’s result at home to Everton.

However, if Pep Guardiola’s side lose or draw and Arsenal win, Arsenal would be Champions as they have a goal difference advantage.

Both sides have kept their nerve, traded blows and been unstoppable since they dew 0-0 in City’s Etihad Stadium in March, with eight consecutive wins each.

City’s 2-0 win away to Tottenham on Wednesday looks as if it could be the decisive moment, as they held on against a rival that had chances to take a point, but in the end, key saves from Stefan Ortega and the goals of Erling Haaland made the difference.

Ortega will be in goal on Sunday after it was confirmed that Ederson suffered a fractured eye socket making a save on Wednesday, and although West Ham coach David Moyes will no-doubt instruct his players to give everything in his last game at the club, anything other than a Man City win and another title would be a surprise.

Liverpool’s title challenge ran out of steam in the last weeks of the season and they will have to settle for third place in what will still be an emotional afternoon at Anfield as Jurgen Klopp steps down after nine seasons in charge.

Klopp brought the Champions League 2019 and the much-desired 2020 Premier League titles to Anfield and can expect an emotional 90 minutes at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The other main question to be resolved is who finishes sixth and has the chance to play in Europe next season. Chelsea’s run of four wins has given them a three-point lead over Newcastle United and Manchester United, and three points at home to Bournemouth would see Mauricio Pochettino’s side return to continental competition after a year on the sidelines.

A Bournemouth win at Stamford Bridge and a win for Newcastle away to Brentford would see Newcastle move into sixth place, however, Manchester United’s dreadful goal difference means they have no options even if they win away to Brighton.

Erik ten Hag’s side could still have the last laugh, however, if they beat Manchester City in next weekend’s FA Cup final, as that would give them the last Europa League spot.

Other games this weekend see Sheffield United end their difficult season at home to Tottenham, while Burnley also wave goodbye to the elite with a home game against Nottingham Forest.

Strictly speaking, Forest need a point to seal their survival, but they would need to lose 7-0 and Luton Town to beat Fulham 6-0 for Luton to swap places in the relegation zone.

The remaining game sees Crystal Palace at home to Aston Villa, with the home side aiming for their fifth win in six games as they end the season on a high.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Chile, Peru rue missed chances in Copa America stalemate

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WASHINGTON, June 21 (Xinhua) — Chile manager Ricardo Gareca said his team remains hopeful of reaching the Copa America knockout stage after a goalless draw with Peru in their tournament opener on Friday.

Chile controlled 65 percent of possession but had only one shot on target against a Peru side that forced four saves from Roja goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

“It was an evenly fought contest,” Gareca, who served as Peru’s manager from 2015 to 2022 before taking charge of Chile in January, told reporters after the duel.

“Beyond the fact that we wanted to win the game, the most important thing of all is to stay in contention. We are now where we started, with possibilities [of advancing].”

Gareca insisted he had felt no added pressure against his former team and said the result allowed Chile to “improve, see and analyze” for the rest of the tournament.

His Peru counterpart, Jorge Fossati, expressed satisfaction at the Blanquirroja’s performance.

“We had a great attitude and started well,” Fossati said. “But we became anxious and lacked confidence at key moments.”

Source(s): Xinhua

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Argentina outlast spirited Canada in Copa America opener

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ATLANTA, June 20 (Xinhua) — Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez scored second-half goals as defending champions Argentina began their Copa America defense with 2-0 victory over Canada here on Thursday.

Alvarez sent an angled finish into the far corner before Martinez put the result beyond doubt by slotting home after Lionel Messi’s pass.

The final scoreline barely did justice to a spirited Canada outfit, who troubled the reigning World Cup winners for long periods of the first half and early in the second.

“It was a tough game against a team that is physically very strong,” Albiceleste captain Messi said after the match at Mercedes-Benz stadium.

“They gave us very little space, particularly in the first half. But we moved the ball more quickly after halftime and knew that if we were patient and took control of the game we would get over the line.”

Canada unsettled Argentina early with a high defensive line that often made it difficult for Messi and company to advance beyond the halfway line.

Les Rouges also looked dangerous in attack and Jonathan David should have done better as he scuffed a shot wide after Alphonso Davies’ overlapping run and cross.

Argentina almost broke the deadlock through Alexis Mac Allister but the Liverpool midfielder could only manage a tame header straight at goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau following Rodrigo de Paul’s lofted pass.

Canada’s best chance of the first half came when Cyle Larin delivered a sumptuous cross into the path of Stephen Eustaquio, whose header was kept out by Emiliano Martinez. The rebound fell to Davies, who had time and space but only succeeded in blasting his first-time effort over the bar.

Argentina emerged from the interval with renewed verve and they took the lead in the 49th minute in a move that started with Messi.

The Inter Miami forward’s perfectly weighted through ball found Mac Allister, whose deft touch in traffic released Alvarez. The Manchester City forward showed his scoring instinct by pouncing and lashing a first-time effort into the far corner.

Canada continued to press and Davies had a chance to equalize minutes later with a header that sailed over.

By now Argentina were also attacking with intent but were wasteful in the final third as Messi and Martinez both missed chances when they had only the goalkeeper to beat.

Martinez, who was a 76th minute substitute for Alvarez, made amends two minutes from time by running onto Messi’s pass and threading a shot between the legs of Crepeau.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Denmark draws with England, Spain edges Italy in Euro 2024

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BERLIN, June 20 (Xinhua) — Harry Kane’s goal wasn’t enough for the Three Lions as Morten Hjulmand’s hammer secured Denmark a 1-1 draw while Spain won in Group B after beating Italy on the own goal from Riccardo Calafiori in the second round of the Euro 2024 group stage on Thursday.

England dictated the pace and pressed Denmark onto the back foot from the kick-off at a sold out Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt.

The Three Lions created their first half chance when Kyle Walker teed up Phil Foden, who pulled wide from central position with 13 minutes gone.

Walker kept Denmark’s defence busy and assisted Harry Kane with the opener after providing a deflected cross into the box, five minutes later.

Denmark remained unimpressed and pushed forward whereas England put all their men behind the ball.

The Danes got rewarded for their efforts at the half hour mark when Morten Hjulmand drilled the equalizer from 25 meters past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

After the restart England came out with their guns blazing as Foden rattled the woodwork with a low drive in the 56th minute before Denmark goalie Kasper Schmeichel denied Ollie Watkins a goal following a one-on-one in the 71st minute.

Denmark almost clinched a late win, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s curl missed the target narrowly wide in the closings stages.

“We struggled to have control in the game, and it led to an anxious performance. That must be better if we want to go further in the tournament,” said England head coach Gareth Southgate.

In the other Group C clash, Serbia snatched an injury time leveller through Luka Jovic, who cancelled out Benjamin Sesko’s opener for Slovenia, to maintain their chances to advance into the next round.

With the results, England (4 points) stays atop the standings followed by Denmark, Slovenia (both 2 points) and Serbia (1 point).

In Group B, Spain booked their berth for the last 16 after securing the second straight win.

Spain dominated the one-sided affair but needed help by Calafiori to break the deadlock in the second half. Italy lacked in ideas to threaten Spain’s defence and goalkeeper Gianlugi Donnarumma made several saves to prevent a higher loss.

“It wasn’t easy, but we know Italy is always a tough opponent. The happier we are to have secured all three points as we want to win the title,” said player of the match Nico Williams.

Spain tops the group with six points while Italy remains on the second with three points followed by Albania and Croatia, both with one point.

Source(s): Xinhua

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