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Atletico Madrid, Bilbao In All Spainish Europa Cup Final

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Fernando Llorente will hold the key for Spanish side Athletic Bilbao when they meet Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

While much of the focus this season has been on Barcelona and Real Madrid’s utter dominance of La Liga, both Marcelo Bielsa’s Bilbao (10th in La Liga) and Diego Simeone’s Atletico (fifth) have the chance to savour their own taste of European glory at the National Arena in Bucharest.

Athletic, who only field players from the Basque region, have impressed under eccentric Argentine Bielsa this season with their fluid possession-based style likened to that of Barcelona’s.

Key to their set-up is Llorente, who has netted 17 goals in La Liga, 10 of which have come from headers, and he has a further seven in the Europa League.

That could be the key given Atletico have struggled to deal with set pieces at times this season, most recently against Valencia in their semi-final where two goals came from corners.

Simeone knows of Bilbao’s threat at breaking forward and said that would be an area of focus for his side.

“Bilbao are a team who like to go forward, who play very well and they have proved throughout the season they are a very competitive side,” Simeone said.

“Their strength lies in how quickly they look to move the ball once they have regained possession, and their focal point is Llorente.

“We will have to be very careful to deny them spaces.”

Simeone knows Bielsa well having played the latter stages of his international career with Argentina under him from 1998-2004.

“The sides are very evenly matched. I haven’t spoken to Bielsa but I have a great admiration for him,” Simeone admitted during the week.

Atletico’s Colombian striker Radamel Falcao will pose a similar threat as Llorente and has had no trouble adjusting to La Liga after his off-season switch from Porto, for whom he scored the winner in last year’s Europe League final.

After being bought for a club record 40 million euros to replace the departing Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, Falcao has not disappointed bagging 23 goals in La Liga to trail only Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo, as well 10 in the Europa League.

Simeone is likely to make one enforced change with Gabi set to replace the suspended Tiago, who was sent off in the second leg against Valencia, alongside Mario Suarez in central midfield.

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Aiteo Cup: Diri Hails Bayelsa Finalists

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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has lauded the feat of the state-owned football teams who reached the finals in the male and female categories of the 2021 Aiteo Cup.
Diri, while congratulating Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens for their outstanding performances, praised their indomitable spirit and resilience in surmounting the odds to qualify for the last stage of Nigeria’s oldest football competition.
Bayelsa United, who plays in the second tier Nigerian National League, on Friday defeated Premier League neighbours Rivers United 1-0 in the semi-finals, while Bayelsa Queens crushed perennial rivals Rivers Angels 5-0 to reach the women’s final.
The Governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, on Saturday, described Bayelsa United as “giant killers” for defeating Premier League sides Enugu Rangers, Lobi Stars and Rivers United on their way to the final.
“The excellent run of Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens in this year’s Aiteo Cup is very heartwarming. Both teams reaching the finals is no mean feat. I congratulate them for making the state proud and setting a record of teams from the state playing in the finals of the male and female categories of the same competition for the first time,” Diri stated.
“By their outstanding performance, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens have shown that the sporting revolution of our Prosperity Administration, which resulted in Bayelsa placing third in the last National Sports Festival in Edo State for the first time, is on course. I therefore urge them to complete their excellent run in the competition by bringing home the trophies.

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D’Tigress To Play Mozambique In Afrobasket

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Nigeria’s senior basketball team, D’Tigress, have been drawn to face Mozambique and a yet to qualify team in Group B of the 2021 Women’s Afrobasket, which holds from September 17 to 27 in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The draw was held in Yaounde last Saturday.
D’Tigress will be hoping to retain the title they won two years ago in Senegal, where they defeated the hosts in the final. A win in Cameroon will mean they have won the last three editions of the tournament.
The Nigerians will know their final group opponent when the FIBA Zone 6 qualifiers take place from August 16 to 22.
In Group A, hosts Cameroon will face Cape Verde and Kenya, while Senegal, the most successful team in the competition’s history with 11 first-place finishes, will slug it out with Egypt and Gabon in Group C.
Mali, Ivory Coast, and a team to be decided via wild card will fight for a slot in the next round in Group D.

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Ebonyi Football Fans Celebrate Nwankwo Kanu At 45

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Football fans in Ebonyi State yesterday, celebrated the birthday of formerNigerian international and Arsenal legend, Nwankwo Kanu.
The former Super Eagles skipper turned 45 yesterday.
Tidespoets source gathered  that the 1993 FIFA U-17 world cup winner, fondly called “Papillo’’ by his fans had 86 caps for Nigeria.
The former Iwuanyanwu Nationale Football Club of Owerri’s talisman scored 13 goals for Nigeria in an enviable career that spanned from 1994 to 2010.
Kanu is a recipient of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), an Olympic Games football gold medalist and had illustrious club careers with Ajax Amsterdam of Holland, Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion of England.
Defunct Ebonyi Angels FC of Abakaliki Defender, James Onele, said that Kanu thrilled soccer fans across the world with sublime skills and trademark passes.
“Kanu won two African Footballer of the Year awards, an AFCON silver medal, four AFCON bronze medals among other honours.
“He was the first Nigerian, alongside Finidi George to win the prestigious UEFA champions league trophy with Ajax in 1995,” said Onele.
An Arsenal FC supporter, Ejike Okoro, said the club’s fans were proud of Kanu’s achievements during his time with the English Premier League side.
“Kanu played 197 times for Arsenal, scoring 44 goals and was part of the club’s invincible team that did not lose any match in the 2003-04 EPL season.
“He was instrumental in endearing Arsenal to millions of Nigerian soccer fans, despite later dropping to lowly-rated clubs such as Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion,” Okoro said.
A banker and football enthusiast, Chief Barry Ogoh, told active footballers to emulate Papillo in investing adequately for the ‘rainy day’.
“Kanu, Augustine J.J. Okocha, among other ex-internationals are still financially stable as many ex-internationals have become bankrupt.

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