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Premier League

Fate Pushed Kante To Premiership Instead Of Ligue 1

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France midfielder N’Golo Kante who is on course to be a back-to-back winner of Premiership League medal could have had his destiny truncated had he followed his initial plans of joining French Ligue 1 side, Marseille.

A switch of fate saw him moving to the Premiership where he was a member of the surprised 2015/16 winners, Leicester City. From Leicester he joined Chelsea this season and may again have a league championship medal this season. Kante, 25, told Canal +: “Among the clubs that most wanted to recruit me were Marseille and Leicester.
“I thought I had to go through a stage in France. I remember the generation of (Mamadou) Niang, (Franck) Ribery and (Samir) Nasri and it was a team that I liked, especially in the Champions League.”
A 14-time France international, Kante’s rise appears set to continue with the PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award.
But the humble Kante said he had several team-mates who were worthy of the prize.
“There are quite a few players in the Premier League who deserve this award,” he said.
“There is (Eden) Hazard, Diego Costa and David Luiz in my team.”
Chelsea are 10 points clear atop the Premier League, their next outing a clash against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

Liverpool fans say sad farewell to ‘one of us’ Klopp

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Premier League - Aston Villa v Liverpool - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 13, 2024 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp acknowledges the fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/File Photo REUTERS

Liverpool fans were bidding farewell to their charismatic manager Juergen Klopp on Sunday with songs, murals and other tributes to an eight-year reign that brought the glory days back to one of England’s greatest clubs.

The bespectacled 56-year-old German was to manage his beloved Reds for the 491st and final time at 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) against Wolverhampton Wanderers in front of a sellout crowd at Anfield.

With the Premier League game itself largely irrelevant now Liverpool cannot win the title, all focus was on Klopp, who had fought back tears as fans serenaded him at his final away game.

“We’ll never see his like again … He’s one of us,” waxed John Pearman, founder of Liverpool fan magazine “Red All Over The Land” which brought out a special Klopp edition.

After leading the team to seven trophies, including Europe’s Champions League in 2019 and a first English league title in three decades in 2020, Klopp is leaving of his own volition to recharge his batteries.

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KLOPP’S CITY

He has not said what he will do next, beyond ruling out managing another club in England, out of respect for the working class port city he came to love as his own.

“I could have grown up here,” he said in a club video.

“We gave Liverpool the best time of our life, and the other way round as well. I will never walk alone ever again in my life,” he added, alluding to the song by 1960s Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers that became the club anthem.

It was not only success that endeared Klopp to fans.

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They loved his passion and personality: fist-pumps at the end of games, bear hugs for players, time for charitable causes, indignant protests at dubious decisions, and insistence on a high-energy aggressive “gegenpress” style of football.

After decades of mediocrity, when arch-rivals Manchester United were the top dogs in England, Klopp restored Liverpool’s pride, his irrepressible zeal eclipsing other Premier League managers.

“Watching Klopp and so many of the incredible players he developed made me fall in love with football, making the fact he’s leaving hurt even more,” said 15-year-old fan Freddie Williams before the Wolves game.

“He’s given the fans what they’d been longing for the past 30 years, putting Liverpool back on top. The moments he’s created, the laughter he’s given us along with his immense success has made him irreplaceable at LFC.”

In pubs and back streets, supporters recalled their favourite Klopp moments: the four-goal comeback against Barcelona in a 2019 Champions League semi-final, a 7-0 drubbing of Manchester United in 2023, or his manic leaping charge across the pitch after a last-ditch winner against derby rivals Everton in 2018.

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Ever the gentleman, Klopp later apologised for disrespecting Everton.

‘I’M IN LOVE’

The fans’ song for Klopp is a delirious version of the Liverpool-born Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”.

“I’m so glad that Juergen is a Red, I’m so glad he delivered what he said!” they chant.

“Juergen said to me ‘you know, we’ll win the Premier League you know’, he said so! I’m in love with him and I feel fine!”

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Players, too, were emotional about the man who revived careers and made giants of the likes of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, while nurturing a plethora of new talent.

“He’s like a fatherly figure for everyone,” said 21-year-old midfielder Harvey Elliott. “An amazing person to be around. I’ve learned so much off him, I can’t be thankful enough.”

The German’s stay in Liverpool has also spawned a slew of new wall art. One of the latest murals shows a heroic-looking Klopp in black-and-white holding his hand to his chest against a backdrop of Liverpool’s red-and-white colours.

Above it are the words: “We believed”.

Reuters

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History favours Man City as title race goes to wire

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Man City Seek Confidence-boosting Win Over Arsenal -

Arsenal have at least taken the Premier League title race to the final day of the season but the omens are not good for Mikel Arteta’s team if they are to stop Manchester City making history.

City’s nervy 2-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday, their eighth league victory in a row, means they arrive at the final day of the campaign with a two-point lead over Arsenal.

Victory over West Ham United would seal a fourth successive title for Pep Guardiola’s side — an unprecedented feat in English football.

Arsenal, who have barely put a foot wrong since the turn of the year, host Everton needing a win and a huge favour from West Ham if they are to claim their first title for 20 years.

It is a far cry from last season when Arsenal collapsed under City’s relentless charge in the closing weeks and they won the title by five points having wrapped it up well before the finale.

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Arsenal will live in hope, but City are in familiar territory and are masters at closing the deal.

Nine times has the Premier League title race gone to the final day with City involved in the last four, each time being crowned champions. No team starting the final day below first place has won the title.

City beat West Ham 2-0 at home in 2014 to seal the title under Manuel Pellegrini but it has not always been that straightforward. In 2012, they needed Sergio Aguero’s stoppage time goal to claim a 3-2 win over Queen’s Park Rangers and deny Manchester United — a moment etched in English soccer folklore.

Then in 2022 they trailed Aston Villa 2-0 at home on the final day but hit back with three goals in six minutes to make Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers academic.

“By no stretch of the imagination is this won,” Kyle Walker, who was made captain this season after Kevin de Bruyne’s injury problems, told the club’s website.

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“Could there be another twist or turn in? Who knows? Until the final whistle has gone against West Ham, that’s when I will visualise hopefully walking up to get the trophy.

“I’m excited. Obviously, there are nerves, but nerves are good when it comes to these pressure moments.”

DE BRUYNE DOUBT

City will hope De Bruyne recovers from the ankle problem he sustained at Tottenham while goalkeeper Ederson is a doubt after suffering a head injury.

Arsenal will hold out a little more hope as their goal difference is better than City’s, meaning should they beat Everton and City draw, the London side would take the title.

There are other issues to be sorted out on Sunday.

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Aston Villa, who are at Crystal Palace, have sewn up fourth place and qualification for the Champions League but fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur need a point at relegated Sheffield United to be certain of fifth and Europa League football.

Defeat for Tottenham could see fast-finishing Chelsea come fifth if they beat Bournemouth at home.

Sixth-placed Chelsea are three points above Newcastle United who end travel to Brentford and with sixth place potentially good enough for the Europa League, should Manchester City win the FA Cup, there is still plenty to play for in terms of European spots.

Eighth-placed Manchester United could grab a European place via the league if they win at Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle drop points at Brentford.

At the bottom, the relegation places are virtually decided with 18th-placed Luton needing to beat Fulham, hope Nottingham Forest lose to relegated Burnley and overturn a 12-goal deficit in goal difference to retain their place in the top flight.

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-Reuters

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Premier League clubs may vote against use of VAR

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 Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - May 15, 2024 General view of the big screen during a VAR review before a penalty is overturned Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Premier League clubs will vote on whether to drop video assistant referees (VAR) from next season after Wolverhampton Wanderers submitted a resolution on Wednesday, citing the “negative consequences that damage the relationship between fans and football”.

VAR was introduced in 2019 to assist on-field officials with key match decisions, but the technology has been at the centre of controversy with complaints ranging from its extensive analysis to delays that can take several minutes.

“After five seasons of VAR in the Premier League, it is time for a constructive and critical debate about its future,” the Wolverhampton statement said.

“Our position is that the price we are paying for a small increase in accuracy is contrary to the spirit of our game and should therefore be removed from the 2024/25 season onwards.”

A Premier League spokesperson confirmed they will facilitate a discussion on VAR with clubs at next month’s annual general meeting.

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However, he added that while clubs are entitled to put forward proposals, the league fully supports the use of VAR and remains committed, alongside the referees’ body PGMOL, to continuing to improve the system for the benefit of the game and its fans.

“The void left, having removed VAR, would potentially place even greater criticism on on-field decisions made by match officials and increase frustration by supporters. This would also have a significant impact on the Premier League’s reputation,” he said.

Last month, Sweden’s top leagues said they would not consider introducing the VAR system after clubs voiced their opposition to the technology.

-Reuters

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