Liverpool star, Virgil van Dijk has insisted he is not daunted by the challenge of trying to stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.
Tonight will see Liverpool travel to Camp Nou for the opening leg of the blockbuster final-four clash against the LaLiga champions.
Messi helped deliver back-to-back LaLiga titles for Barca – his 10th league with the club – and the Spanish giants are now eyeing a treble.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored 46 goals this season, 10 of those coming in the Champions League, but Van Dijk does not fear Messi.
“I think he is the best player in the world,” Van Dijk, who was crowned PFA Players’ Player of the Year last week, said. “But you see how we play and how we defend.
“We don’t defend one versus one, we defend all together and we attack all together as well so we will see. We will be ready.
“The situation is that we are in the semi-final against Barcelona and we are going to face the best player in the world but it is not only him, the whole team has a lot of quality.
“We have prepared well and we have also a very good team so we can compete there. It is not like we are going there for a holiday.”
Last season’s European finalists Liverpool is also fighting Manchester City for the Premier League title – a race set to go down to the wire – and Van Dijk added: “I see what we have. I see the players we have, I see the management and the way we play football, so, it is not really a big surprise but you still have to do it and we have to do it tonight.
NDDC U-17 Peace Cup To Resume In Uyo
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.
FIBA World Cup: Kida Lauds D’Tigers’ Strong Qualifiers Start
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.
AWCON Qualifiers: Ebi Targets Revenge Against Ivory Coast
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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