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Arsenal, Barca Set To Serve Champagne Football

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Arsenal host Barcelona tonight  fuelled by the belief that they can eliminate the European champions over the course of two legs that promise great entertainment and incredible drama.

The Gunners remain in the race to claim the Premier League crown, though their hopes of dethroning Manchester United and usurping Chelsea took a shot at the weekend as a bad Manuel Almunia error gifted Birmingham City a point on Saturday.

“Barcelona is a different competition and we have a few days to recover and prepare. But it felt like a defeat on Saturday,” manager Arsene Wenger told the club’s official website, having previously blamed the state of the St. Andrews pitch for his side’s failure to register three points.

“It is always hard to pick the players up when you get a result like that. We are on a run that is very difficult, where we know there is no room for error at all, so Saturday was a big disappointment for us.”

When Arsenal have been faced with crisis points in this campaign, they have generally responded well. Against the very best – Manchester United and Chelsea – they have failed to acquire a single league point, yet the Gunners remain a very real threat in the title race, while an embarrassing 2-1 defeat at Porto in the Champions League was brilliantly rescued with a terrific 5-0 response at the Emirates.

Having failed to defeat an elite side this season, questions will be raised over the ability of Wenger’s side to defeat la Blaugrana, who have become known as the best of the best over the last 18 months.

Compared to the all-conquering Barcelona side of last term, this season’s Barca have received a remarkable amount of criticism. With the increased competition from Real Madrid, Pep Guardiola’s side have been placed in the spotlight, and though they have consistently responded, they have rarely convinced.

Recent results have not seen the Blaugrana sweep away opposition in the manner they achieved last season, while their football has not always been as fluid and eye-catching. Their results, in La Primera Division at least, have been just as strong, while progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League has been achieved, albeit with a few scares along the way.

Stuttgart certainly gave Guardiola’s men a fright in the last 16. The Bundesliga outfit grabbed the lead in the first leg, though they were ultimately unable to match the power of the Catalans when forced to travel to Catalunya. Lionel Messi, as has been the case so often of late, was Barca’s inspiration behind a 4-0 second leg victory, and the little Argentine marvel will be the player Arsenal most closely need to police over the two legs.

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes has indicated that the Camp Nou outfit are feeling confident going into this fixture. “We are not going to play conservatively at the Emirates. Barcelona are capable of winning anywhere,” he asserted.

Only the second team to take anything from Mallorca’s ONO Estadi this season, having recorded a 1-0 victory thanks to a predatory Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike on Saturday, Barca can approach this fixture with optimism, despite their naysayers

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NDDC U-17 Peace Cup To Resume In Uyo

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The long awaited finale of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) U-17 Peace Cup would expectedly resume next week as two qualified teams from the nine states converge in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital.
Technical Director of the tournament  Etim Esin in a statement on behalf  of the Local Organising Committee Chairman John Ekpeyong and Secretary Ada Gwegwe yesterday said the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, will declare the tournament open.
It added that the Special Assistant to the President Muhammad Buhari, on Sports Development, Coach Daniel Amokachi, NFF Technical Director Coach Augustine Eguavoen along with football legend Taribo West and other notable Niger Delta-based and foreign scouts will be on ground.
The LOC appreciated the Sole Administrator of the NDDC, Effiong Akwa, for his support towards the conclusion of the tournament, adding that it is better late than never, as the competition will still be among his numerous legacies.
According to the statement, the arrival date for participating teams is 11th of December, while screening of teams and official kick off, will take place the following day.
The statement further called on the Coordinators of the states not to forget the rules of engagement, especially on the age bracket of the players, as the screening will be strict, for the aim of the competition to be achieved.

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FIBA World Cup: Kida Lauds D’Tigers’ Strong Qualifiers Start

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Top basketball administrator and immediate past Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) president, Engr Musa Kida, has congratulated the D’Tigers for starting their 2022 FIBA World Cup on a strong note after picking two victories in three matches.
With five points from a possible six and a superior point difference, the team sits comfortably atop group A ahead of the next round of games coming up by the 27th of June, 2022.
Kida described the team’s performance as inspiring despite peculiar circumstances surrounding the federation’s election as well as FIBA’s stance over Nigeria’s participation at the qualifiers.
“It is really nice to start such important qualifiers on a winning note which is very good for our chances of qualifying for the World Cup. We had to put our administrative differences aside for the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
“We feel elated and justified that our decision to give FIBA the go ahead to register the team which enabled them participate paid off in the long run as we join hands with all stakeholders to continue growing the game in Nigeria”.
16 teams are vying for the available five spots at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup with Nigeria grouped alongside Mali, Cape Verde and Uganda.
“The top three teams from each group will advance to the Second Round of the African Qualifiers and will join three other teams to create two six-team groups with results from the preliminary rounds carried over,” Musa added.

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AWCON Qualifiers: Ebi Targets Revenge Against Ivory Coast

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Super Falcons defender, Onome Ebi, says the team will go all out for revenge when they clash against Ivory Coast in their final 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations qualifiers next year.
The qualifying game which will be played on a home and away basis is scheduled for February 13 and 17 with the winners qualifying for the AWCON in Morocco.
The Falcons who will be hoping to defend the title they won at the 2018 in Ghana are eyeing their 10th trophy Morocco but to qualify for the event, they’ll have to go past the Ivorians who knocked them out of contention for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Ebi, who is Nigeria’s current longest-serving player says her aim is to avenge the loss that saw them miss out on the 2020 Olympics at the hands of the Ivorians.
“I can tell you that we still nurse the pain of missing out of the Tokyo Olympics as a result of the loss to Cote d’Ivoire in the qualifying series,” Ebi said.
“This time, we will repay them in their own coins. Personally, I want to play in the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup, and I know it is the same for my teammates.”
The Falcons are the most successful African women’s team in the world and have won the AWCON a record nine times and will be hoping to get their 10th next year after the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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