Ukraine war should not hamper Iran deal revival, US analysts say

Amid criticism of Russia's involvement in nuclear talks, JCPOA supporters say US must move forward with diplomacy. (Author: Gardener)

USIran and world powers have held several rounds of talks in Vienna since April last year to revive the nuclear deal [EU delegation in Vienna/EAD/Handout via Reuters] States have warned President Joe Biden against rejoining the deal. They have now added Russia's involvement in talks to revive the multilateral pact to their long list of grievances as Russian forces continue their offensive in Ukraine. But supporters of the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), say the conflict in Ukraine should intensify, not blunt, efforts to restore it. Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian-American journalist and analyst, said there will always be critics of the JCPOA in Washington, but the Biden administration must be prepared to face opposition if it is to revive the deal. According to Mortazavi, the war in Ukraine actually gives Biden a more solid basis to restore the nuclear deal. International sales of Iranian oil, which is currently under heavy sanctions, could help ease the global energy crisis caused by the war, she said, and the deal would allow bureaucrats enforcing Iran sanctions to focus on action against Russia . "But I think the problem with the Biden administration is that they're trying too hard to keep everyone happy... That's just not possible with Iran." Biden and his top aides have stressed that they are consulted with US Congress leaders and Middle East allies, many of whom vehemently opposed the JCPOA, on the status of talks to revive the pact. Opponents of the JCPOA have said it is inadequate, arguing that it merely curtails Iran's nuclear program — without permanently disabling it — while failing to address Tehran's regional policy and ballistic missile program. The deal, under which Iran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions on its economy, met similar opposition when former President Barack Obama signed it in 2015. Three years later, former President Donald Trump broke the deal and launched a "maximum pressure" sanctions campaign against Iran. But Biden - who said preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is one of his top national security priorities - has said he intends to revive the deal through mutual compliance with the JCPOA. However, his administration has made it clear that increasing global oil production is not a factor in the indirect talks with Iran, which have been held in several rounds in the Austrian capital Vienna since April 2021. The US special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, said the criteria for revitalizing the deal rest solely on US national security concerns. The indirect negotiations between the US and Iran are conducted with and through other signatories to the 2015 accord, including the European Union, Germany and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain, France, China and Russia. But Russia's involvement in the discussions has come under the spotlight of the JCPOA's critics in Washington, particularly given the incursion of Russian troops into Ukraine. "Russia has been reduced to a pariah state, and rightly so," said Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres, a staunch supporter of Israel -- a leading critic of the Iran deal and efforts to revive it. “Then why are we negotiating with Russia as if it never invaded Ukraine? This resistance was exacerbated by reports that Russia was trying to secure exemptions from Western sanctions over Ukraine in its own dealings with Iran. And while Moscow has said its concerns have been allayed and has repeatedly denied reports that it is posing hurdles to restoring the deal, JCPOA critics in Washington have continued to invoke Russia's involvement in the talks to slam the deal. “This does not have to be done now and especially not when we have the problems that we have in Ukraine. Ryan Costello, political director of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a Washington, DC-based group working to restore the deal, dismissed concerns about Russian involvement in the Vienna talks as "stupid." Costello said the crisis in Ukraine could divert diplomatic attention from the Iran deal at a crucial moment in the negotiations, but that could result in new hurdles preventing negotiators from crossing the finish line. "I'm concerned that this drift is continuing and there isn't that high-level attention and focus from the Biden administration to resolve it and move on and get the deal and save it," Costello told Al Jazeera. The final hurdle in the talks appears to be an Iranian demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US list of "foreign terrorist organizations" -- something Washington doesn't rule out but is reluctant to rule out. Costello said the IRGC appointment is a symbolic issue that is nonetheless important for Iran -- and one that could trigger a major backlash for Biden in Washington, including from members of his own Democratic Party. He added that even if the designation were lifted, the IRGC would still face sanctions related to human rights abuses, ballistic missile activities and other issues. "It would be a real shame to come this far and put so much energy into restoring a very good deal only to have it fall apart because of that relatively symbolic designation," Costello said.


The Champions return to the top of the Premier League with a comfortable win at Turf Moor

Match report and highlights of Man City's return to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Burnley; Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan in the first half secured the points for Pep Guardiolas' side; Man City are a point clear of Liverpool while Burnley are four points from safety (Author: Gardener)

the Premier LeagueManchester City responded to Liverpool's win over Watford earlier in the day with a 2-0 win at Burnley that sent them back to the top of the Premier League table. Pep Guardiola's side went into the game at Turf Moor knowing they would go behind their title rivals by just three points in next weekend's showdown with Liverpool - live on Sky Sports. Man City are also facing a Champions League doubles fixture against Atletico Madrid in the coming weeks, but Guardiola warned ahead of the game that his side cannot afford to overlook Burnley's challenge. Luckily for the manager, his team appeared to heed his warning and Kevin De Bruyne put them ahead after just five minutes when he latched on to Raheem Sterling's muffled pass and pierced a first shot into the top corner of Nick Pope's net. City tend to have fun against Burnley - they have now won their last 10 games against the Clarets by a aggregate score of 34-1 - and they similarly doubled their lead 20 minutes later, with Sterling once again down the right flank found space for Ilkay Gundogan, whose shot easily deflected Kevin Long to hit Pope with the wrong foot. With so many important games on the horizon, it was perhaps understandable that City seemed to falter after the 2-0 lead, although they continued to create chances. Sterling volleyed high and wide, with Pope stranded after Phil Foden found him with a clipped ball, and Foden then saw his clever back-of-the-head volley from a Joao Cancelo cross repelled by the Burnley keeper. Introduced with just under half an hour of play, Gabriel Jesus appeared determined to end his fruitless run in the Premier League, with his last goal of the competition coming in September. But the Brazilian, lacking in confidence, missed a number of chances including a try coming off the post and a volley over the bar from another Sterling cross. The Clarets are now without a goal in their last four league games - their longest streak without a goal in the competition for almost seven years - and remain 19th in the Premier League, four points behind 17th-placed Everton, who tied it West Ham is recording live on Sky Sports on Sunday. Burnley's next game is against Everton on Wednesday, also live on Sky Sports. Guardiola praised his Man City side's ability to adapt to the conditions at Burnley, particularly the 'tall' grass that greeted the champions at Turf Moor. "In the second half we had two or three chances to end the game but unfortunately we didn't make it." Asked if he was comfortable his side taking all three points after their early goals, the Man City manager added: "A little bit but the game wasn't over and in the second half they did put a little bit more pressure on," admitted Sean Dyche De Bruyne's goal after just five minutes shattered his side's game plan, saying: "They're a top side, we know that. "We had a game plan to try and play in the Getting a foothold in the game and trying to control their good game, which they often have, but when you give away a goal in five minutes, it affects you quite a bit sometimes.I thought in the first half in particular, they expected the game a lot faster and the goal was like this: Burnley moved away from their typical 4-4-2 formation for the third time this season in the Premier League, with Dyche's plan to 'control' Man City saw Jack Cork in place of Maxwel Cornet, around the middle eld but the manager admitted his game plan was shattered within five minutes thanks to De Bruyne's early goal.In truth, the chances of a home win against the champions Dyche's tactics notwithstanding, the side were struggling given Pep's regular dominance Guardiola's side were thin at the Clarets, but starting with Wout Weghorst as a lone striker seemed particularly negative. The hulking Dutchman is undoubtedly a threat to opposition defences, but launches long balls in tow him without parrying anyone attacking second balls, was an odd tactic that saw Burnley register just three touches in the opposition box in the first half. Dyche seemed to acknowledge the problem in the second half, bringing on both Cornet and Jay Rodriguez and moving Josh Brownhill into a more advanced position, but it was little too late, especially against a Man City side who haven't lost a point from winning positions in the Premier League this season. Weghorst finished the game with zero shots, zero touches in the opponent's box and less than 50 percent of his aerial duels won, outlining the toothless nature of a Burnley attack relying on his aerial skills. With just 10 games remaining for Burnley to come from a four-point deficit over Everton - who have a game in hand - the responsibility lies with Dyche to get more of Weghorst's signing in January, who was signed to help the Avoid relegation but now has only one goal in 10 league games. * Man City have won 14 of their last 15 games against Burnley in all competitions (D1) and have won each of their last 10 against the Clarets by an aggregate score of 34-1. * Burnley have lost four consecutive Premier League games without a goal for the first time since May 2015. * Kevin De Bruyne has scored 10 league goals for Man City this season, only the second time he has scored in double figures in a single Premier League season (13 in 2019-20). * Ilkay Gundogan scored his 34th Premier League goal for Man City, overtaking Mesut Özil (33). * Man City's Aymeric Laporte played his 100th game in the Premier League today and claimed his 82nd win - most wins by a player in the first 100 games in the history of the competition. Sterling could have ended the game with a hat-trick of assists but had to settle for two after scoring clean passes from the right wing for De Bruyne and Gundogan. Manchester City play in the Champions League on Tuesday when they host Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their quarter-finals; 8 p.m. kick-off. Then on Sunday 10 April it's a potential title decider at the Etihad when City host Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off at 4.30 p.m. Burnley face two crucial games against relegation rivals, starting with Everton at home on Wednesday night live on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off at 7:30 p.m. The Clarets then host bottom Norwich live on Sky Sports Premier League on Sunday 10 April; Kick-off at 2 p.m.


Fred scraps Kelechi Iheanacho opener as hosts lose points in Champions League race

Match report and free highlights as Fred strikes to deny Leicester victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford after Kelechi Iheanachos opener; James Maddison rescinded a late goal after a foul on Raphael Varane under construction (Author: Gardener)

Kelechi IheanachoManchester United's hopes of a return to the Champions League next season were shaken again with a 1-1 draw against Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday Night Football. Things could have been worse for Ralf Rangnick's side but James Maddison was denied a late winner for the visitors after referee Andre Marriner overruled his goal after VAR review after Kelechi Iheanacho fouled Raphael Varane (80'). Had set. Iheanacho had put the Foxes ahead when he deflected Maddison's cross past David de Gea (63'), but Fred restored the level just three minutes later with an instinctive finish. Jadon Sancho snatched a late chance after substitute Marcus Rashford was slow to respond to the first opportunity - summing up the England couple's recent troubles - but it would hardly have been deserved. United will continue their battle for a top-four spot but that looks unlikely on this evidence as the side are now three points behind Arsenal in that coveted spot after playing two more games. Leicester rose to ninth place above Aston Villa and still have the Europa Conference League as a possible source of silverware this season. "As long as it's (Top 4) mathematically possible, it's possible," said Rangnick afterwards. Leicester had won three of their last four Premier League games - and it gave the hosts an early warning as Maddison's free-kick was missed by Harvey Barnes within two minutes. After a week of mounting speculation over Erik ten Hag's link to the vacant role at Old Trafford, United lacked the edge in their game when Paul Pogba's tame header from Luke Shaw's cross midway in the opening period earned Kasper Schmeichel's first save. United had lost two of their last three games in all competitions but they should have broken the deadlock when Fred intercepted Wesley Fofana's clearance to slip through Bruno Fernandes. The last and only time the Foxes secured a top-flight double against Man Utd was in the 1973/74 season when United were eventually relegated but a good chance of putting them on the path to a repeat was lost, as Iheanacho replied by scruffy overglow. United had four central midfielders and two wingers in attack and still Rashford couldn't start. "You would have thought he would have made the team but it's surprising to see him sit on the bench between Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones. Leicester came close to punishing their opponents' indolence when Maddison failed to close on the right Barnes struck his cross again – ahead of the sluggish Diogo Dalot – but his volley shot wide of the post.It was that after a sluggish first half, and even that dissatisfied murmurs from the home fans welcoming Marriner's whistle were somewhat muted Jamie Redknapp said: "It was like a testimonial, everyone wants the ball at their feet, nobody wants to run without it." United needed a lift but they could be within May have been reduced to 10 men five minutes into the restart when McTominay scythed over the lively Maddison. Neville's verdict: "If it had been a red card I don't think it would have been picked up the other way around. Rashford continued to stare from the stands before becoming the lone man warming up - his omission, described by Neville as "a killer and a real low point for him" given the absence of Edinson Cavani and the ailing Cristiano Ronaldo from a "poor team without goal, intention and penetration". He was called out in the 55th minute and instantly roused the crowd from their daze, adding extra dimension to his side and winning a corner after latching on to Pogba's pass. But it was Barnes who continued to cause problems for Dalot as his drive run pulled a key block from Harry Maguire after the hour. Then came a counterattack by a former Manchester City striker. It came from a quick transition after Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall recovered the ball and quickly scooped the ball down the left flank at Maddison. Pogba expected him to jump onto his right foot, but instead shuffled it onto his left and impaled a pinpoint cross over Varane and onto Iheanacho's head. De Gea got a hand on his header but was only able to knock it into the side netting of his goal. It was only the second headed goal United had conceded all season after Kortney Heimat scored the winner here for Aston Villa in September. Leicester's lead lasted less than four minutes as Fred celebrated his 100th Premier League game with his fourth goal of the season. United felt a change of mood and gear but instead it was Leicester who should have restored their lead from Iheanacho as he ran onto Sancho's loose back pass only to flip the ball over when he only had De Gea left to beat. Rodgers' side sensed a weakness seeping back into the hosts and would have led again had De Gea not been so brilliant in clawing Wesley Fofana's header away from another teasing Maddison delivery. Fred's intervention failed to turn the tide as United were afterwards described by Neville as "terrible" with Maddison failing to win with 10 minutes remaining. Varane collapsed after his right foot was swept by Iheanacho, who continued to set up Maddison for a precise finish inside the near post. VAR Michael Oliver called referee Marriner to his monitor to spare United the unwelcome turn of events, but this was another unconvincing day in the office. United seems to be a team with few ideas and no ideology. Ralf Rangnick, Man Utd interim manager: “The second half was the better one, we struggled to find the rhythm in the first half possibly because of the international break. We gave away a goal in a transitional moment but the reaction after that was good and a goal was scored. In the end we're not satisfied with the result, but the second half was ok. We knew this morning Cristiano couldn't play and chose Paul Pogba. After 60 minutes we switched and had a central striker on the pitch "He looks good in training but it was a question between Paul and Marcus, we went with Paul. Harry Maguire showed an impeccable game defensively and offensively. He prefers to play on the left, but I decided he should play on the right." After seeing him for England it's easy to play as a right-footed player." Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers: "I thought we were very good in big parts of the game. We started well and could have been precise without a pass, but basically the positioning and movement was good, we scored some great goals in the second half, their keeper makes a great save and we're sorely disappointed that we didn't score.” Jonny Evans Wade cramped up international but I was very happy with the team and back to where we've been for the last few years. Playing good football and looking menacing." It was a good performance here away, disappointed not to win and that always is a good sign. The football was very good, but we did well a lot and got into some good areas. But for a decision we would have won the game." "There's no joy in the way Manchester United are playing. United have to go to the games and ask themselves 'what are we going to get today'. They looked lethargic and I wouldn't put it down to a lack of effort as I think lazy for me to say that."They lack ideas, lack confidence and good players who make elementary mistakes. They just aren't enjoying their football right now. They drift - the players and I think the coach too. "He thought he would certainly do better than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - but he isn't. It's a real struggle with the players he's got.” People were wondering if Cristiano Ronaldo was the problem, but he's not. They certainly could have dealt with him today. There are so many issues and things that need to be sorted out at United. It may not be the coach but the players who have to go. "The fans and the players lack the belief in what they want to achieve." * Manchester United have won just one of their last six games in all competitions (D3 L2), having previously won four (and three draws) of the seven games. * Leicester have lost just one of their last five Premier League games (W3 U1), having previously lost three of the five (U2). * Leicester are now unbeaten in four Premier League encounters with Manchester United (W2 D2), having previously lost seven of their eight ties (D1). * Leicester's Kelechi Iheanacho scored his 36th Premier League goal, with only four other Nigerian players scoring more (Yakubu 95, Kanu 54, Ekoku 52 and Ameobi 43). The way he went down I thought it was a twisting injury. As soon as the referee went to the monitor, I knew something was going to happen that would spoil my party. We could have gotten more out of the game. They scored so quickly after us which got Old Trafford back on their feet and pushed them as a home side. "I thought we were dominant in the first half. They obviously played with Bruno and Pogba without a recognized striker. They have tricky players in a lot of areas but I felt we were in control. We were actually the better ones Team." Maddison has been directly involved in 21 goals (13 goals, 8 assists) in all competitions this season, four more than any other Leicester player; Only in 2017/18 with Norwich was he involved in more goals in a single season (26-15 goals, 11 assists). Manchester United travel to Everton in the Premier League on Saturday 9 April; Kick-off 12:30 p.m. Leicester host PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of the Europa Conference League quarter-finals on Thursday 7 April; Kick-off 8 p.m.


Premier League result, final standings and reaction after goals by Diogo Jota and Fabinho

Liverpool vs Watford LIVE: Premier League result, full time standings and reaction after goals from Diogo Jota and Fabinho – Liverpool 2-0 Watford: Diogo Jota and Fabinho scored as the Reds came to victory at Anfield (Author: Gardener)

Diogo JotaLiverpool vs Watford LIVE: Premier League result, full time and reaction after goals from Diogo Jota and Fabinho Liverpool lifted champions Manchester City to the top of the Premier League thanks to a first-half win with a 2-0 win over Watford at Anfield on Saturday -Table displaces Diogo Jota's header and a late Fabinho penalty. The hosts took the lead after goalkeeper Alisson Becker saved Watford's Juraj Kucka with a sharp save when Jota timed his run perfectly at the other end and nodded to a Joe Gomez cross in the 22nd minute. It was Portuguese striker Jota, 14th in La Liga and 20th in all competitions this season, and the 25-year-old could have improved his tally soon after had it not been for goalkeeper Ben Foster, who saved his shot from close range would have. Substitute Fabinho secured the three points in the 89th minute by shooting his penalty into the top corner after the video assistant referee spotted a foul by Kucka on Jota in the penalty area. The result meant Liverpool have 72 points from 30 games, two points more than City ahead of the two sides' blockbuster clash next weekend. Pep Guardiola's men can regain their lead and a point clear if they beat Burnley later on Saturday. Threatened with relegation, former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, Watford pressed for an equalizer in the second half but failed to prevent the home side from earning a 10th straight league win. Liverpool can go top of the table with a 17-23 win, Michael Jones James Maddison has scored 13 goals in all competitions and had a direct involvement in 20, both more than any other Leicester player this season. 17:20 , Michael Jones Only three teams have a worse record away from home in the Premier League this season than Leicester, who have accumulated just 12 points on their travels, having won three, drawn three and lost seven. Leicester have conceded just one goal at home in the Premier League this season. 17:17 , Michael Jones Manchester United have scored 10 goals league-wide via substitutes this season, with Marcus Rashford scoring four of those goals, which is a league-high this season for only the third time. 17:14 , Michael Jones Leicester City have won three of their last four Premier League games, as many as in the previous 14, but they have lost five of their last six Premier League away games and won the other. 17:11 , Michael Jones Manchester United have won just three of their last 10 games in all competitions. They are in danger of losing competitive games for the first time since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's last two games as manager. 17:08 , Michael Jones Bruno Fernandes has signed a contract extension with Manchester United and interim boss Ralf Rangnick congratulated the midfielder and said it was very good news for the club. "He's obviously one of our most important and one of our best players." "A new contract in a difficult situation like the one we're currently experiencing shows how attractive the club still is, and that's very good news for the fans, for the club, for everyone involved here at the club." I congratulated him on this new contract and his two goals in World Cup qualifying, which is good news and I hope that both the signing of the new contract and the two goals will give him a boost for tomorrow [ Saturday] and for the next games." 17:05 , Michael Jones explained to Ralf Rangnick the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad on matchday with the words: "Unfortunately, yesterday before training he had flu-like symptoms, he should have played, but he didn't feel well and couldn't train "The doctor checked him at his house today but unfortunately he's not better so he can't play." 17:00 , Michael Jones The Premier League games at 15:00 are drawing to a close and there are some very interesting results. Manchester City beat Burnley 2-0 away to return to the top of the table. The shock of the day, however, goes to Brentford, who beat Chelsea 4-1 at Stamford Bridge. What a victory for the Bees, especially as Chelsea took the lead through Antonio Rudiger! Wolves beat Aston Villa 2-1 at home, while Brighton drew against Norwich and Leeds against Southampton. 16:57 , Michael Jones Bruno Fernandes has signed a new contract to extend his stay at Manchester United until the summer of 2026 with an option for a further year. The midfielder made an immediate impact when he joined Old Trafford from Sporting in January 2020 and has scored 49 goals and contributed 39 assists in 117 games so far this summer. 16:53 , Michael Jones Manchester United have lost their last three meetings with Leicester in all competitions, with the Foxes aiming to win away games in the league against Manchester United for the first time in a row. 16:47 , Michael Jones Brendan Rodgers on Manchester United: "They have absolutely first-class players who can change the course of a game. Our record was good against them but it doesn't count.” You have to be really focused in the game and then hope your quality can take the lead at Old Trafford tonight. From what I've experienced with our amazing fans, with our Red Army, I'm pretty sure they'll support not just Harry but the whole team, like they did against Tottenham in the last two games and against Atlético .” said Rangnick. "He was an important player, Harry, both for England and for our club, so I'm pretty confident that's going to happen." Cristiano Ronaldo out Manchester United v Leicester 16:39 Michael Jones Cristiano Ronaldo out Manchester United's game against Leicester City. The Portuguese superstar showed his best form since returning to Old Trafford with a hat-trick against Tottenham in his last game but is unavailable tonight. The 36-year-old's absence will deal a serious blow to Ralf Rangnick as the Red Devils look to keep up with Arsenal in the hunt for a place in the top four. Man United's Cristiano Ronaldo v Leicester 16:36, Michael Jones Ralf Rangnick makes two changes from the Man Utd side who lost 1-0 to Atletico Madrid before the international break, with Luke Shaw being replaced to join Alex Telles replace, with Paul Pogba returning instead from Cristiano Ronaldo, who doesn't make the matchday squad. 4:30pm , Michael Jones Two big defensive returns at Old Trafford 📝 👀#MunLei - Leicester City (@LCFC) Apr 2 2022 4:26pm , Michael Jones Brendan Rodgers says he doesn't understand why Fans booed former Leicester defender Harry Maguire during England's 3-0 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday at Wembley Stadium. "Maybe it's just the modern world, patience is short now. 16:22 , Michael Jones Leicester City have reached the quarter-finals of the Europa Conference League and have a good chance of taking silver this season if they reach the final of the third European competition. In the Premier League, they have won three of their last four games, including a 2-1 win over Brentford before the international break, and hope to continue that momentum against Man Utd tonight. 16:19 , Michael Jones Manchester United have lost just two of their 11 Premier League games since the start of the year but they have ended four draws against sides they would have expected to beat. That's eight points lost in a close race for the top four, and manager Ralf Rangnick and some of the older players in the squad will be looking to end the season on a high note. Last time out in the league, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first hat-trick since returning to Old Trafford as the Red Devils saw a tough test from Tottenham at home. However, in their last game before the break, they lost 1-0 to Atletico Madrid and were eliminated from the Champions League, meaning a place in the top four is now their biggest goal of the season. 16:15 , Michael Jones Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers says there is "a lot of optimism" around his side after a string of good results before the international break brings the Foxes back into the top-10. "We won five of our seven games before the break." Rodgers said. This week we could train, detailing the remaining ones and bringing new people into training. 16:11 , Michael Jones Man Utd boss Ralf Rangnick says Edinson Cavani is in doubt after picking up a calf injury while playing for Uruguay and could be out for at least two weeks. 4:07pm, Michael Jones Manchester United take on Leicester in the late Premier League opener tonight. Ralf Rangnick's men need three points to keep the pressure on Arsenal and Tottenham in the race for the top spot, but even today's win won't be enough for them to catch the Gunners. They are currently four points away from places in the Champions League and need to win as many games as possible in their last nine games to play in Europe's top competition next season. Leicester, meanwhile, are hoping for a top-10 result of the season. They have struggled with injuries this season which have seen them falter in form but three wins from their last four league games have given them enough confidence to head to Old Trafford tonight and envision their chances. 15:00 , Michael Jones Jurgen Klopp has slammed the Football Association for travel difficulties in the FA Cup semi-final in Liverpool, calling it 'one of the most ridiculous stories I've ever heard'. The Reds are set to take on Manchester City at Wembley on April 16 Despite road works, there are no trains running on the West Coast Mainline over the Easter weekend. The FA offers free buses for up to 5,000 Liverpool and City fans, but getting to London will no doubt be a challenge for fans with tickets. Speaking of the Reds' Premier League clash with Watford on Saturday, Liverpool boss Klopp said: "That's one of the most ridiculous stories I've ever heard." 14:56, Michael Jones Liverpool move into turf ahead of Manchester City visit Moor to the top of the Premier League. Can they beat Sean Dyche's men and go far ahead of Liverpool? Diogo Jota and Fabinho score as Liverpool edge past Watford to go top of the Premier League by 14-42. Michael Jones Liverpool increased the pressure on Manchester City in the title race as they beat Watford for the first time since September with a 2-0 win. Diogo Jota's 20th goal of the season in the first half was followed by a late Fabinho penalty to make news to send it the short way up the road to Turf Moor, where City were about to kick off against Burnley. Trent Alexander -Arnold, watching from the bench, couldn't help but be impressed, not necessarily with the first goal - that has become fairly commonplace for Jota by now – but on the quality of the template. Liverpool go top of the Premier League with a 14-38 win over Watford, Michael Jones Liverpool have won 10 consecutive Premier League games, becoming the second team in the history of the competition after Man City (also) to win started such a run on five separate occasions 5). 14:30 , Michael Jones 7 - Diogo Jota has headed seven of his 23 @Premier League goals for Liverpool, with no player having headed goals in the competition since making his debut for the Reds in September 2020. /2xuOLEXk4d— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 2, 2022 2:28 pm , Michael Jones Liverpool win their 10th straight game to top the Premier League for the first time since December 4. They were 14 points behind Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in January and now have a two-point lead with eight games to go. 14:23 , Michael Jones 90+4 mins: Liverpool ticks down the clock and secures the crucial three points after a less-than-stellar performance in the first game after the international break. The Reds are two points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table and are putting pressure on Pep Guardiola's men for their 3pm game against Burnley. Watford (18th) remains in the bottom three after playing three more games than Everton (17th) and Burnley (19th). It looks like it will now be a real battle for Roy Hodgson's men to stay on top this season. 14:19, Michael Jones 90 minutes: Jürgen Klopp hits the air, he knows that's a big goal and the points are sealed for Liverpool. There will be four minutes of stoppage time. 14:17, Michael Jones 89 minutes: Fabinho converts from the point and sends his penalty into the top left corner. 14:16, Michael Jones 87 min: Penalty for Liverpool! Juraj Kucka collides with Diogo Jota as Jordan Henderson swings a corner into the box. 14:14 , Michael Jones 84 min: Roberto Firmino keeps the ball on the edge of the penalty area for too long before he finally fires a left-footed shot which Christian Kabasele blocks. The ball bounces up and hits Ismaila Sarr in the chest near the arm, a penalty from Firmino that is wasted. 14:12, Michael Jones 81 mins: Robertson's floating ball on the field is aimed at Sadio Mane, but the ball falls over his head and is nodded back to Be Foster by Samir. It wasn't his Liverpool team's best performance. 14:07, Michael Jones 78 mins: Emmanuel Dennis, Josh King and Tom Cleverley are all leveled for Roy Hodgson for a final nudge. Cucho Hernandez, Joao Pedro and Imran Louza are the substituted players. Gomez plays a nice ball over the top into the left side of the box, where Robertson volleys it with a pass into the six yard box. Firmino levitates for a tap-in but Foster drops low and smothers him before the ball reaches the Liverpool forward. 14:02 , Michael Jones 72 min: The closer this game comes to an end, Liverpool are still only one goal ahead, the more nervous the fans are getting. Watford were good today, they limited Liverpool's chances and defend well. 13:59, Michael Jones 69 minutes: Mo Salah is substituted by Jürgen Klopp with Sadio Mane for the last 20 minutes. 13:56 , Michael Jones 66 mins: Fabinho's introduction sees him win a free kick high up on the left wing. Watford defends it easily enough but Liverpool keep up the attack. This time another cross comes from the opposite side and Mo Salah leaps up to head over the bar! 13:51, Michael Jones 63 mins: Joe Gomez gives the ball to Jordan Henderson, who rolls a first shot into the box and almost selects Diogo Jota, but the ball falls right over his head. Fabinho replaces Curtis Jones for Liverpool. Ismaila Sarr comes in from behind Joel Matip and may be offside but the game continues and he sets up Joao Pedro in the center of the box, who closes a try just inches from Alisson's left post. Fabinho is being prepared to come for Liverpool. 13:45, Michael Jones 57 mins: Roberto Firmino picks out Mo Salah on the right side of the box, but his first touch allows Hassane Kamara to come back and twist the ball back for a corner. The corner is whipped in by Andy Robertson, who selects Virgil van Dijk. Van Dijk comes to the ball with a strong head and shoots it over the bar. 13:41, Michael Jones 54 minutes: Curtis Jones carries the ball through midfield and squares it to Diogo Jota. 13:40, Michael Jones 51 mins: Thiago leads a diagonal ball to Salah on the right wing and he tries to play Gomez backwards on an underlapping run. Cucho Hernandez is back to intercept the pass and clear the Watford lines. Liverpool worked the ball down the right flank and Joe Gomez whipped a cross down the middle. Aware of the danger, Christian Kabasele jumps in front of the left-back to head the ball over the goal. 13:34 , Michael Jones kicks off: Liverpool resume play. Can Liverpool improve their record or will Watford find a way back into the game? 13:30 , Michael Jones Liverpool looks set to move up to the top of the Premier League ahead of the 15:00 CET kick-off. Watford will remain 18th but could be caught by Burnley if the Clarets later defeat Manchester City. There are five games starting at 3pm: Later, Manchester United host Leicester in a game that must be won if the Red Devils are to keep their hopes of a top four finish alive. 13:26 , Michael Jones Diogo Jota has scored in each of his last three Premier League starts (four goals in total). It is his 14th Premier League goal this season and his 20th in all competitions for Liverpool this season. 13:18, Michael Jones 45+2 min.: The whistle sounds at the end of the first half. Liverpool go into the break after a Diogo Jota header from a Joe Gomez cross. Watford created a couple of good chances of their own but looks like a tough task coming into the second 45 minutes. 13:16, Michael Jones 45 mins: Two minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half. Joe Gomez stops a break from Joao Pedro with a tug on the shirt and receives a yellow card. 13:14, Michael Jones 43 minutes: Andy Robertson brings a bad cross into the box and hands the ball back to Watford. Liverpool may be recovering high up on the pitch but Jordan Henderson's through ball goes past Diogo Jota and rolls straight for the goal kick. 13:10, Michael Jones 40 min: Save! Liverpool sends the corner across the box, where Diogo Jota is free to run to the back post. 13:09, Michael Jones 37 minutes: Kiko Femenia sends a corner into the penalty area, but it is directed to Ismaila Sarr. Liverpool then breaks the counterattack, with Henderson firing the ball down the right flank to Salah. He jumps into the penalty area, but Hassane Kamara dives across and knocks the ball out to the corner. 13:03, Michael Jones 34 minutes: Roberto Firmino's cross into the penalty area is headed off by Imran Louza. The ball comes to Thiago, but he can't control it properly under pressure from Moussa Sissoko. The ball wobbles up and appears to hit the Watford captain's arm. 13:01, Michael Jones 31 mins: The corner kick comes into the Watford box and Cucho Hernandez takes a hit and stays down. 13:00, Michael Jones 28 minutes: Liverpool come to the left side of the field and play the ball inside to Thiago Alcantara. He executes a one-touch pass for Andy Robertson's overlapping run into the box but Moussa Sissoko slides in and spins the ball back for a Liverpool corner. 12:59 , Michael Jones 25 mins: It's been over a year since Liverpool last lost a Premier League game at Anfield and it doesn't look like they will today. They begin to control the ball better and keep Watford's counter-attacking play to a minimum. 12:53, Jack Rathborn 22 min: Liverpool leads! Just as Watford created his best scoring opportunity through Joao Pedro, Liverpool took the field and came alive. Jordan Henderson sends it wide to Joe Gomez on the right wing and he slides a nice curling cross into the six-yard box. Diogo Jota runs in from deep, slides between the two central defenders and hits the ball in the air. 12:53, Michael Jones 21 minutes: Imran Louza swings a corner for Watford into the penalty area. Liverpool wins the first ball and it goes towards Mo Salah. He tries to control the ball but Moussa Sissoko fouls him with a high foot. Liverpool squanders the free kick and loses possession. They pass the ball to Joao Pedro, who drives down the field and pockets Juraj Kucka, who forces Alisson to make a fine save. 12:50, Michael Jones 18 mins: Liverpool returns the ball to Alisson, who is pressed by Hernandez. Alisson lets go of the ball but is cut off by the Watford striker's late challenge. 12:47, Michael Jones 15 minutes: Liverpool intercept the ball after a mini counterattack by Watford. It is played up to Mo Salah on the right wing and he pulls it back to the edge of the box for Diogo Jota. Jota takes a first shot but misses completely and shoots his effort high over the goal. 12:43, Michael Jones 12 mins: Watford comes forward on the right wing and Moussa Sissoko wins a corner after his cross was blocked by Andy Robertson. Cucho Hernandez wedges in front of Robertson and flicks the ball into the six-yard box, but it's straight at Alisson, who is clutching the ball. 12:39 , Michael Jones 9 minutes: The ball is played into Thiago Alcantara, who plays a blind pass to Curtis Jones in a half-volley. It cuts through Watford's midfield and gives Jones space to play inside right. 12:37, Michael Jones 6 min: Chance! 12:37, Michael Jones 6 min: Chance! 12:37, Michael Jones 6 min: Chance! 12:37, Michael Jones 6 min: Chance! Watford passes the ball to Samir, who shoots a long ball across the field. It's a good pass, ricocheting off Virgil van Dijk and falling into Ismaila Sarr's run. He bounces it off a second time and then volleys on target with a volley that sends him just over the bar. 12:34, Michael Jones 3 mins: Watford started well enough, they don't sit back but get stuck in the midfield battle. Imran Louza grabs the ball and throws it up to Ismaila Sarr, who makes a nice run through the middle and drives into Liverpool's final third. He passes the ball to Cucho Hernandez on the left wing but he can't see Joao Pedro in the box and Alisson Becker grabs the ball. 12:31 , Michael Jones Watford starts the game at Anfield. They send back to Kiko Femenia but he is pressured by Diogo Jota. He wins the ball and tries from long range but his shot is deflected back for the first corner of the game. 12:28 , Michael Jones Here come the teams. A win for Liverpool will send them to the top of the Premier League table. 12:22 , Michael Jones Liverpool's 75-goal tally is just one of their highest after 29 games in a high-profile season that ended in 2013-14. 12:19 , Michael Jones Cucho Hernandez has scored three goals in his last three Premier League games. 12:16 , Michael Jones The Hornets are also battling for a straight away win in the top flight for the first time in a three-game streak in September 2017. Their last nine points have all come from away games as they are currently on an eight-game losing streak at Vicarage Road. 12:13pm, Michael Jones Jurgen Klopp says he doesn't look at Liverpool's league position despite challenging Manchester City for the Premier League title and prepares for every game like it's the toughest of the season. "If we looked at it [as an easy game] we wouldn't have that many points," said Klopp. The good thing is that my team never cares about their league position. I'm honest in meetings and never make a team sound stronger or weaker than it is. "We need to surprise Watford with intensity - it's not an easy weekend for City and us." 12:10 , Michael Jones Liverpool have their best home record this season in the top flight, being 14 at Anfield in their last 18 league games Unbeaten wins and four draws. The Reds are already up from last season's 69 points with nine games to play. 12:06 , Michael Jones Watford has eight points in nine games under Roy Hodgson, one more than in seven games with Xisco Munoz as boss and 13 with Claudio Ranieri as head coach. They won their last game away from Southampton and could go unbeaten in consecutive league games for the first time since September. 12:02 , Michael Jones Kiko Femenia is looking forward to ending the season with Watford and says the win over Southampton has given the Hornets confidence to go into the final round of games. "I think for the group, how we've been working for the past few weeks, we've had poor form and I think the Southampton game gave us more confidence when it came to our performances," Femenía said went into the break with that calm too, which is good after a year that was also quite a tough season. And now we're going into the home stretch with maximum confidence and certainty that we'll get the three points no matter who the opponent is because we need the points more than anything. “We still have a lot of points to gain and we're going to be there soon. In other words, it's more about gaining confidence in the game, feeling comfortable, feeling like we can beat any team and also our ambition. I think ambition is the key to winning games and if we aim to win we will win a lot of them.” 11:58 , Michael Jones Liverpool are on a streak of nine straight league wins. They have also won their last nine Premier League games at Anfield, scoring 27 goals and conceding just two. Why Liverpool's quadruple dream may have to wait 11:52 , Michael Jones One day a team will win all four trophies in the same season. This isn't this season.Liverpool are poised for an epic April in the hunt for the elusive Quadruple. They start at Anfield with a relatively weak Premier League game against Watford. After that, the stakes quickly increase: Benfica home and away in the Champions League; Manchester City in the league at Etihad and in the FA Cup at Wembley; Manchester United and Everton at Anfield as the title race nears its climax; Rounding out the month is a visit to Newcastle United, the next megamoney club. It will be exhausting, exciting and full of drama. Jurgen Klopp's team is full of confidence and ready for the challenge. Liverpool are already in a great position with the League Cup. City still have their sights set on a treble and Pep Guardiola's side face the same pressure and overload as their Merseyside rivals. These are two of the most dominant teams in Premier League history. Why Liverpool's quadruple dreams may have to wait Titles, Champions League and relegation: State of affairs as Europe's top divisions head into season opener 11:47 , Michael Jones With the final international break of the season over and done with, all systems run from here to the end of the season, with trophies and vital points to play for as teams desperately try to snag titles and places in Europe for 2022/23, or just stay in the same league. Here's the state of affairs across the continent as we head over the past two months or so. Title, Champions League and relegation battles before heading to Europe 11:42 , Michael Jones Liverpool have won 12 of their 13 league home games against Watford. The Reds have won the last six of those games by an aggregate score of 22-1. Watford's last win at Anfield was in August 1999. 11:36 , Michael Jones Jurgen Klopp makes four changes to the Liverpool side who defeated Arsenal in their last Premier League game before the international break. Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino replace Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz. Trent Alexander-Arnold is on the bench, Joe Gomez is favored at right-back and Curtis Jones comes on for Fabinho. Ismaila Sarr replaces Emmanuel Dennis at the helm. 11:31 , Michael Jones Sarr returns for the Hornets in our only change from last time in the @premierleague. #LIVWAT – Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) April 2, 2022 11:26 am , Michael Jones Liverpool come into play, sitting just a point behind leaders Manchester City. Both teams have played the same number of games, with Jurgen Klopp's men holding an advantage on goal difference that could come into play later in the season. Three points for the Reds would put them top of the table before City take on Burnley at 3pm. Watford is currently 18th and three points behind safety. They have played two more games than relegation rivals Everton and Burnley and need points. Last time out Southampton defeated 2-1 and are hoping to bolster that win with another at Anfield. Liverpool v Watford: Hodgson in contention for places 11:21 , Michael Jones Watford boss Roy Hodgson says competition for starting XI spots at Vicarage Road is healthy and that he is pleased with the performances of his key players. He says one of the keys to Watford's run-in will be keeping his players fit and playing at a level where they will fight to win, although that task is more difficult against top sides like Liverpool. I was happy with Cathcart, I was happy with Cleverley and Dennis, Sarr and King, but the other players that came in made me think. "It's good for the future. We have to keep these players fit, keep the competition going, but above all this club needs spirit. “Any time you play away against a side like Liverpool you know the odds are against you. We can only hope that we can put in a performance on the day that gets us a result.” Liverpool vs Watford: Klopp on five subs 11:16 , Michael Jones Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has long been a fan of substitutions per game , as it allows coaches to better manage player workloads. "We've all talked about the games not getting any less." With all the things we know we try to help the players as much as we can, but the games are always the most intense and all we could do , we should do." Liverpool vs Watford: Premier League votes for five substitutes 11:12 , Michael Jones The Premier League has voted to reinstate five substitutes per game in time for the start of next season. In a Premier League statement it reads: "Clubs have agreed to change the rules governing substitute players." From next season, clubs will be allowed to make five substitutions, which can be made three times during a match, with an additional opportunity at half-time." nine substitutes may be named on the team sheet."It has also been confirmed that the next transfer window will open on June 10th and end on September 1st at 23:00 BST g is decided, in line with other European leagues. 11:09 , Michael Jones Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold is back in training and could return from the hamstring injury that saw him miss England's last few games. Watford are bolstered by the return of winger Ismaila Sar, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, and defender Nicolas Nkoulou is available after recovering from a long-term hamstring problem. 11:06 , Michael Jones Welcome to The Independent's coverage of Liverpool v Watford when the Premier League returns from the international break this weekend. Jurgen Klopp's men are aiming for their 10th straight league win with the knowledge that three points will be enough to put them above title rivals Manchester City, at least until the Premier League champions take on Burnley later in the afternoon. They come into play three points from safety and have played two games more than 17th-placed Everton. A win at Anfield today wouldn't be enough to keep them out of the drop zone - on goal difference - but it would be a big step towards safety for Roy Hodgson's men.


Marcus Rashford and Man Utd ghosting to the beach

Manchester United can't wait for the season to end and a new manager to arrive. None more so than the ghost of Marcus Rashford... (Author: Gardener)

Marcus RashfordManchester United can't wait for the season to end and a new manager to arrive. Individually and collectively, Manchester United's draw against Leicester confirmed everything we already knew about these Red Devils. While the interim manager would prefer we didn't attribute this rabble to him, Rangnick's men were once again painfully passive towards the Foxes, with some players scratching for confidence while others barely bothered to seek the motivation they needed so pitifully lacking. David De Gea made another world-class save to spare United further embarrassment and Fred was one of the few in red to show himself in a positive light. Aside from that pair and the intensity of Bruno Fernandes, even if it lacked finesse, there are very few other reasons to be positive after another draw could see them seventh on Monday night, six points behind Arsenal after he played one more game . Some players have more reason than most to make their way to the beach. The United striker has had a miserable season. Obviously he's in good company but Rashford has looked like a shell of the player we all know can be. With Cristiano Ronaldo absent with flu-like symptoms and Edinson Cavani apparently allergic to English turf, Rangnick decided playing without a striker was better than using Rashford through the middle. But Rashford watched again as Fernandes buzzed and Paul Pogba cleaned up while United tried to switch the game from side to side, too often finding a touch rather than a teammate. The false 9-system is meant to confuse centre-backs used to being touchless and pull them off their posts, but the only players confused by United's line-up were their own. Even at half-time, Rangnick refused to address the child eater. Belatedly, after 10 equally listless minutes of the second half, Rashford was called back from his lonely warm-up to end Scott McTominay's miserable evening. Roared onto the pitch by a United crowd counting down the days until the end of the season, the stage was set for Rashford to get his point across to Rangnick. But Rashford simply emphasized Rangnicks. In his opening half-hour, the striker managed a miserable four touches, two of which were in his own half and none in the Leicester box. For that, the blame goes beyond Rashford; it can be spread through his teammates and all the way down to the coaching staff. But Rashford carried the air of a young man just hoping to stay out of sight until the final whistle. Pushed into the box and springing into action when United offered something of intent in stoppage time, Rashford's two moments that could have marked a turning point summed up the rut for himself, though probably not his side , in which he and United are First, the ball went through him like the ghost some have recently described him as en route to Jadon Sancho, who at the end of a performance that took him back to the dark days before his recent resurgence back, made a terrible mistake. Then, in the final seconds, as Rashford carried the ball through Leicester's defense and waved the goal, he was kicked from behind by his own player from an offside position. That moment of disaster, and the final whistle that soon followed, was met with silence from a crowd at Old Trafford who were now too apathetic to boo. The sooner the season ends and United appoint their new manager, the better. For Rashford and for Rangnick.


Fred's equalizer keeps Leicester from a draw

Premier League Matchday MUFC vs LCFC: Enjoy highlights of the Manchester United vs Leicester City game at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester. (Author: Gardener)

FredWelcome to Sportstar's ilve blog of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City from the Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, England. Leicester City won that game 2-1 last season and now have a chance to win games in Trafford against Manchester United for the first time in a row. 9.15pm: Manchester United and Leicester City have met 31 times in the past, United have won 19 times, drawn eight times and lost four times. The two teams have played three times since then, with Leicester winning two and drawing one game. Manchester United host Leicester City on Saturday, Ralf Rangnick had to overcome a series of obstacles including comments from Paul Pogba and booing captain Harry Maguire in his England international against Ivory Coast. Paul Pogba must learn to be flexible Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba must learn to be flexible and play in the position the team asks of him, manager Ralf Rangnick said on Friday after the Frenchman complained he was unsure of his role at the Old Trafford club. Pogba said in an interview that he is not happy with his United career, explaining that it is difficult to find consistency when his position in the team is constantly changing compared to a clearly defined role with the France national team. "I heard he said he's played in different positions over the past few weeks," Rangnick said ahead of Saturday's home game against Leicester City in the Premier League. "Since the game against West Ham on January 22, we've lost three strikers - Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani, who's injured again and will be out for the next few weeks." With Bruno (Fernandes) and Scott McTominay missing, then of course, someone else has to play a different role. He (Pogba) is a flexible player and can play (as a number) six, eight and even ten. Rangnick also addressed defender Harry Maguire, who was struggling for form at United and was booed by English fans during a friendly over Ivory Coast at Wembley Stadium, describing it as "unusual" but something that would not be repeated at Old Trafford . "He knows my position towards him, he was a very valuable player for the team and the club, the captain," said Rangnick. "I didn't understand what happened at Wembley, it won't happen at our stadium with the Red Army behind the team and our captain. He's played well for Manchester United and England in recent years.” I didn't see the (England) game but I heard what happened after they announced the starting line-up. It's quite unusual for that to happen in an international game." Rangnick added that his players are being targeted because they're being compared to the club's greats. For example Fred, a very important player who plays regularly for the team and Brazil is playing. I watched his game and he did well," he added. "Maybe it has to do with the high expectations of this club and people tend to compare themselves to former players and legends. Fred, Scott and Harry are important players with the right attitude." Leicester's Ndidi out for the rest of the season with knee injury Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi will miss the rest of the season after picking up a knee injury in the Europa Conference League defeat by Stade Rennais before the international break, said Coach Brendan Rodgers on Thursday. Nigeria international Ndidi has had surgery and is expected to be back in action in June, Rodgers told a news conference. The 25-year-old missed Nigeria's World Cup playoff, which was lost to Ghana on away goals on Tuesday. "It's a shame for us but he will prepare for next season," Rodgers said. "He was a brilliant player for me in my time here. Ndidi joined Leicester in January 2017 from Belgian side Genk. He has made 31 appearances for the club in all competitions this season. Leicester, tenth in the Premier League, move up to sixth Place travel -placed Manchester United on Saturday Where to watch the game?


Cleveland Cavaliers owners join Ricketts and Griffin bid for Chelsea

The NBA team's owners, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have teamed up with the Ricketts and Griffin to buy Chelsea. (Author: Gardener)

ChelseaThe NBA team's owners, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have teamed up with one of the four remaining bidders for Chelsea as the auction of last season's Champions League winners enters the final stages. Sky News announced that Rock Entertainment Group (REG), which owns a number of US sports teams, has agreed to take a stake in the consortium formed by the Ricketts family, who own the Chicago Cubs, and hedge fund Tycoon Ken Griffin is guided. Sources said Saturday night that Rock Entertainment Group has agreed to invest a sizeable - although undisclosed - sum in the deal. The appearance of Dan Gilbert, one of America's richest people with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at nearly $31 billion, as a participant in the auction raises the stakes even more as a quartet of bidders seek to succeed Roman Abramovich as Chelsea owner vies. He acquired a majority stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005, since then the team has reached the NBA Finals five times and won the championship in 2016. Mr. Gilbert is said to have privately invested more than $400 million in the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the stadium that plays home to the Cavaliers and the Monsters. People close to him said he has also privately invested more than $25 million in the Cavaliers' practice facility. Chelsea 1-4 Brentford - Match Report and HighlightsPremier League Table | Fixtures | ResultsDownload Sky Sports AppRicetts-led bid faces challenges The Ricketts-led bid for Chelsea has faced challenges over the past two weeks amid backlash over historic comments from a family member not involved in the bid. After meeting supporter groups last month, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the bid team had "listened to all of your feedback - including from the Chelsea Supporters' Trust - and are grateful the door is still open for us to show our commitment." to demonstrate cooperation with the fans to protect the club's heritage. "It is now up to us to redouble our efforts and articulate a clear vision for our running of the club, with diversity and inclusion at its core." Supporters of their offer have pointed to that of the family The Cleveland Cavaliers have been successful owners of the Cubs after winning the World Series for the first time in a century and completing a $1 billion renovation of their home, Wrigley Field - one of the most historic sports arenas in the United States. The focus on diversity, equity and inclusion programs could help allay any lingering concerns from the Chelsea fan base about the consortium's suitability to own Chelsea. On Friday, Sky News revealed the Ricketts bid had had its offer of advice through the Addition of US investment bank Jefferies to his team. Jefferies' appointment alongside Lazard -- another advisor to the Ricketts-Griffin bid -- underscores how Wall Street banks are vying for roles in what may be the most lucrative sports franchise sale in history. People close to the consortium confirmed the deal would be an equity-only offering, with no new debt adding to Chelsea's balance sheet. Final Chelsea bids are due on April 11 and the Cubs owners will face three credible rivals as they vie to succeed Mr Abramovich at Stamford Bridge. Sky News announced this week that the fan-run group, co-founded by former Chelsea captain John Terry, has been in "positive" talks with two of the shortlisted bidders to acquire a 10 per cent stake. People close to the bidders believe the price could surge above £2.5bn as rivals prepare final bids. Collectively, the final bidders also control or own interests in US teams, including the Boston Celtics, the Cubs, the LA Dodgers, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Sacramento Kings. Alongside the syndicates led by the Ricketts, Todd Boehly and Sir Martin Broughton, the other contender to buy Chelsea is Stephen Pagliuca, an American private equity billionaire who owns a large stake in Atalanta in Italy's Serie A. The UK government's sanctioning of Mr Abramovich has added further complications to the deal as bidders have sought clarity on the legal implications of buying the club. Before the sanction, Mr Abramovich had said he intended to write off a £1.5billion loan to the club and give the net proceeds of the sale to a new charity he would set up to help victims of war in the Helping Ukraine The winners of the FIFA Club World Cup were reeling from Russia's war against Ukraine, with Mr Abramovich first proposing to place the club in the care of his foundation and then officially putting it up for sale. Mr Abramovich had initially put a £3billion price tag on the Stamford Bridge outfit, with the net proceeds being donated to a charitable foundation set up to help victims of the war in Ukraine. As well as government approval in the form of a special licence, Chelsea's new owners will also need Premier League approval as part of their suitability and ownership test. Chelsea sale: Ricketts family champions diversity amid fan protests The Ricketts family pledged to put "diversity and inclusion" at the heart of Chelsea as fans protested their bid to buy the club outside of Stamford Bridge on Saturday . Between 50 and 100 Chelsea supporters gathered ahead of Saturday's Premier League home game against Brentford to demonstrate against the Ricketts family's bid to buy Chelsea. The Chelsea Supporters' Trust said earlier Saturday that its membership "neither supports nor trusts" the prospective new owners and that 77 per cent of members surveyed did not support the Ricketts family's offer. The family has pledged to be diverse and inclusive in previous statements, and doubled down on that pledge in a statement on Saturday. It said: "Over the past fortnight our bid team have met with several support groups to explain our vision for Chelsea Football Club. At these meetings, and by letter to all groups, we shared a number of specific commitments that we will be going to fans if our bid is successful. "We believe these are far-reaching and certainly include an absolute commitment on the part of the Ricketts family and the bid team to put diversity and inclusion at the heart of the club.


Brentford storm to Chelsea's first league win in 83 years as Liverpool and Man City prepare for crucial title fights

Plus: Liverpool's win over Watford is a pivotal month for Jurgen Klopps' side; Man City pass Burnley test to stay on top; Wolves dream of Europe again after derby win; Brighton continues to stagnate; James Ward-Prowse closes on David Beckham's free-kick record (Author: Gardener)

Man CityThe greatest day in Brentford history? Best performance of the season? But however you categorize Brentford's shocking, stunning 4-1 win at Chelsea, there's no denying that Thomas Frank and his players deserve huge credit for achieving a result few would have believed possible. Before kick-off, it appeared that Brentford's survival in the Premier League would rest more on a clash with Watford in a couple of weeks. Instead, their first league win at west London rivals Chelsea in 83 years may have secured their top-flight status. If so, it's an accomplishment that owes it all to the core ingredients that define this Brentford team. First there is the manager, whose surprising change to a triple chain caught the world and European champion. His top-notch coaching has created a team capable of mixing high pressing and low blocking, and frustrating opponents with both. Praise also goes to these players: from the bravery in bringing the game to Chelsea early on, to the character in reacting to Antonio Rudiger's force and pushing for more. A first goal in the Premier League since 2019 was the reward for another class show in the middle of the park. He inspired the players around him. Capturing the enormity of Saturday's win isn't easy - but Brentford fans will cherish a day to remember. Thomas Tuchel was at a loss to explain Chelsea's 4-1 home loss to Brentford. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy exhausted from tremendous effort to help Senegal to World Cup? He ended up putting it down to "an odd 10 minutes," saying he wouldn't dwell on it for too long. Their players have continued to deliver admirably over the past month despite all the distractions off the pitch. But April is crucial for their season. Real Madrid are in town for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday. There's also an FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace and later in the month a potentially crucial midweek game against Arsenal, the side now breathing down the Premier League table. A similar loss to West Brom almost exactly a year ago turned out to be just a blip. Tuchel and Chelsea supporters are hoping this defeat by Brentford will ultimately act as a jolt to sharpen the side for the big challenges ahead. That's how long Liverpool's lead at the top of the Premier League has lasted, but three months ago the Reds would never have dreamed of being second at the top. On January 15, they were 14 points behind Manchester City. At 2:22 p.m. on Saturday, they were two points ahead of the champions. At 4.52pm, City quickly reclaimed first place with a comfortable win at Burnley, but for Liverpool it was all about starting a massive month with the right result that perfectly hits the potential title decider at City next Sunday, live on Sky Sports. Liverpool's win over Watford was a case of work done and it continued as Jurgen Klopp's side struggled to a 2-0 win over the relegation strugglers. It wasn't a performance worthy of Klopp's 250th Premier League game in charge and the German later admitted he was 'not interested' in the performance. "We didn't play the best football possible today, but it was enough," he said. "I didn't expect us to fly - it's unlikely to be the best game of the season after the international break." But he knows his side need to tune in and play their best in the coming weeks. On Tuesday they travel to Lisbon to face Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-finals, followed by the trip to the Etihad on Sunday. The second leg against Benfica at Anfield takes place on April 13, before another match against Pep Guardiola's side in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on April 16. On April 19th, league home games against Manchester United Everton will follow on April 24th - both live on Sky Sports. Throw in a potential Champions League semi-final first leg against Bayern Munich or Villarreal on April 26 or 27 and it really is a blockbuster month for the Reds. The win over Watford will be a minor footnote, but it's a win that sets Klopp's side up for a crucial couple of weeks. James Maddison looked on as Gareth Southgate decided to pick the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Conor Gallagher for England's international friendlies last month, but the Liecester midfielder provided the perfect answer at Old Trafford. The 25-year-old has had just one cap for his country, coming on as a substitute in the 7-0 win against Montenegro in November 2019, but he created twice as many chances as any other player in Saturday night's 1-1 draw. Speaking of his World Cup ambitions, Maddison said: "As an English player, the World Cup is the pinnacle." It's just about showing more consistency and having a bigger impact on games. I'm feeling really good, very confident and going into games with that confidence. His weaker foot for Kelechi Iheanacho was great and his confident finish achieved by VAR would have capped a personal triumph. Since Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford still are looking for a spark when they share the same playing field, Southgate might not be able to ignore the undoubted qualities and that certain something Maddison certainly possesses. Burnley strayed from their typical 4-4-2 formation for the third time in the Premier League this season, with Dyche's plan to 'control'. Man City looked to Jack Cork in place of Maxwel Cornet to bolster midfield but the manager admitted his game plan was shattered within five minutes thanks to De Bruyne's early goal. In truth, the Cha's were despite Dyche's tactics the prospects of a home win against the champions slim given Pep Guardiola's team's regular dominance at the Clarets, but starting with Wout Weghorst as a lone striker seemed particularly negative.The huge Dutchman is no doubt a threat to opposition defence, but long balls throwing at him with no one around to attack second balls was an odd tactic, with Burnley recording just three touches in the opposition's penalty area in the first half Dyche seemed to acknowledge the problem in the second half, bringing in both Cornet as well as Jay Rodriguez and put Josh Brownhill in a more advanced position, but it was too little too late to particularly against a Man City side who haven't lost a point from winning positions in the Premier League this season. Weghorst finished the game with zero shots, zero touches in the opponent's box and less than 50 percent of his aerial duels won, outlining the toothless nature of a Burnley attack relying on his aerial skills. With just 10 games remaining for Burnley to come from a four-point deficit over Everton - who have a game in hand - the responsibility lies with Dyche to get more of Weghorst's signing in January, who was signed to help the Avoid relegation but now has only one goal in 10 league games. Pep Guardiola said ahead of Manchester City's Burnley game that he and his players were aware they had been pushed out of first place by Liverpool's early-game win over Watford. But the manager and his players could not have asked for a friendlier game to return to the top of the table as Man City have won their last nine games against Burnley by a aggregate score of 32-1. The Clarets deployed in a 4-5-1 formation to frustrate their visitors but Man City were quick to undermine that strategy thanks to Raheem Sterling's right wing raids and clever finishes from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan. While Guardiola highlighted his side's inability to finish the game, he would probably privately admit his players lowered their intensity in the second half, with the three points all but certain and an impressive fixture list looming. The impressive De Bruyne and Phil Foden were withdrawn in the second half in what appeared to be an attempt to keep them fresh for Tuesday's visit to Atletico Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final first leg. Man City then face their biggest game of the season so far on April 10 when Liverpool travel to the Etihad - live on Sky Sports - before flying to Madrid for the second leg against Atletico. They then face Liverpool again, this time at Wembley Stadium, for a place in the FA Cup Final. With so many season-defining games taking place in the coming weeks, a trip to Turf Moor seemed like the perfect opportunity for Man City to improve - an opportunity the champions capitalized on vigorously. Wolves had lost four of their previous six Premier League games before their deserved 2-1 derby win over Aston Villa at Molineux. After a 2-0 lead against Leeds and a 3-2 defeat in the last game before the international break, it looked as if an impressive debut season under head coach Bruno Lage was about to end. But despite the absence of suspended Raul Jimenez and injured Ruben Neves, Saturday's win over the West Midlands rivals - as well as mixed results from the teams around them - means they are still firmly in the hunt for European football. Now over West Ham ahead of their clash with Everton on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, Wolves will qualify for next season's Europa Conference League if they can stay in seventh place - should Crystal Palace fail to win the FA Cup. With tough games still to come against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, games against Newcastle, Burnley, Brighton and Norwich will give Lage encouragement that his side can end the season strong. After reaching the quarter-finals of the 2019/20 Europa League under former coach Nuno Espirito Santo, Wolves can dream of playing in Europe again and if they can find some consistency in the run-in then they are well on their way to doing so. It's a question you would have answered with a resounding no a few months ago when Graham Potter's side were looking safe after a top 10 finish. However, no wins in their last seven games and just three wins in their last 24 league games have greatly derailed their season. It's perhaps a bit of a reality check for a club that doesn't spend the same money in the transfer market as the teams around them in the Premier League. One thing is for sure, and it has already been said, they need to find a forward they can rely on throughout the season. Neal Maupay has shown what he can do in bouts but that performance was another reminder of where Brighton need to invest in the summer. In addition to his missed penalty, there were two other very appealing chances that Maupay took. Brighton are now just a point better off than they were at the same point last season when they were 16th on 33 points. Chances and attractive football are created and served but this was another day where it was the same old story. Only Manchester City have managed to produce that many in one game this season and they won that game 7-0 against Leeds. Is there a better free-kick taker in world football right now than Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse? The England international added to his already packed repertoire of stunning free-kick goals to earn his side a point at Elland Road on Saturday. When referee Anthony Taylor awarded a free-kick to the visitors on the left side of the box, everyone on the ground knew what was to come, including Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier. However, it is one thing to know what is coming and quite another to stop it. The Frenchman found that out seconds later when he clawed the ball out of the net after Ward-Prowse's free-kick sailed over the wall and into the top left corner of the net. Incredibly, this is now the midfielder's 13th direct free-kick in the Premier League, leaving him just five behind David Beckham at the top of the list and with time on his side to catch the former England captain.


Thomas Tuchel struggles to explain 'strange 10 minutes' it took Chelsea against Brentford

Antonio Rudiger put Chelsea ahead with a stunning goal but a brace from Vitaly Janelt and goals from Christian Eriksen and Yoane Wissa sealed an incredible 4-1 comeback win for Brentford (Author: Gardener)

BrentfordThomas Tuchel struggled to put his finger on exactly what went wrong for Chelsea in the 4-1 defeat at home to Brentford, but insisted his side remain unaffected by the prospect of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final game against Real Madrid was distracted. Antonio Rudiger had given Chelsea the lead early in the second half with a stunning long-range shot but a brace from Vitaly Janelt on either side of Christian Eriksen's first Premier League goal since his comeback from cardiac arrest last summer put the game in 10 minutes to swing. It was a similar result to West Brom's surprise 5-2 win at Stamford Bridge almost exactly a year ago. That game, like this one, was the first after the international break and Tuchel accepted that his side might have been mentally exhausted to play around the world. However, he said that this does not fully explain the result of the competition. "It was strange because we worked hard towards the first goal and we know how difficult it is to create chances against Brentford," he said. “They either defend very high and man-marked or very low in a 10-man block around the box. You have to be patient, have a fluid rhythm and be intelligent and clinical to take little risk to score that first goal and break that block "Once we had [the first set] we stopped defending and gave up in 10 Minutes three goals away."I don't know why we missed a big chance right after the goal and then the next one and from then on didn't defend it mature enough. They used these 10 minutes, which maybe isn't normal either," believes Tuchel That in addition to international efforts - which included the mental toll of a penalty shoot-out win to get to the World Cup for Senegalese goalkeeper Edouard Mendy - his team was also hampered by less preparation time, heated opponents and even a change in the weather: "It was a tough start for us, we felt a bit long-legged which is normal after the international break, but after 20-25 minutes we got there controlled the game, we controlled the rhythm, we became more and more fluid, created half-chances," he said. this is usually exactly what we want to open up new spaces. "My expectations weren't too high. It's difficult to play after the international break. It's a challenge to play as a favorite on top of that. To dictate the game and break a well-organized and strong team. We scored a nice goal. I don't know exactly why we lost control in the next 10 minutes." "Were we distracted by the Real Madrid game? Not 1 percent on Real Madrid." Maybe if we put it 0-1, 0: 2, 3-0 and started too late, but that wasn't the case. We started slow at the beginning but that was more tired, not physically tired but mentally tired, not fresh enough.” We were also well prepared, but we prepared for it in one and a half training sessions. While the exact cause of Saturday's performance isn't entirely clear, Tuchel is convinced it will be just a blip for his side, who have won their last five in the league. "After so many wins and so many good results, I refuse to make a drama out of it because why should we," he said. “Brentford made a lot of the 10 minutes we gave them. Brentford manager Thomas Frank, meanwhile, was understandably pleased with his side's performance and praised Eriksen's influence. “Christian is a top player, an incredible character and he brings quality and calm to the team. You can give it to Christian and he always finds a solution," he said before discussing the player's return to the top tier. He didn't have an injury like an ACL and when he made the decision to play in the World Cup that determination, 'I want to get back into football' [was there] and his physical condition was pretty good. Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson expects Chelsea to spend little time on Saturday's shock result with a Champions League game against European giants Real Madrid just around the corner. "4-1 Wow, I didn't think I would ever be on this show and call out this result," he said in an interview with Jeff Stelling on football Saturday. "Chelsea have a big game next week - Real Madrid on Wednesday, they need to pick themselves up. "I just think Chelsea aren't the same team unless they play with a back three. I don't think Chelsea are that good [playing a back four]. Brentford has done her homework; They were very good. That's football. Real Madrid will probably come to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and be beaten, that's football. It's a big week for Chelsea. Massive week. "I expect they can still finish in the top four. But if they continue to produce like that and get beaten at home by Brentford, it won't be long before the others close the gap." Chelsea play in the Champions League on Tuesday when they host Real Madrid in the first leg of their quarter-finals; 8 p.m. kick-off. Then, on Saturday 9 April, the Blues head to Southampton in the Premier League; Kick-off 3 p.m.


Chelsea's season on and off the field is in doubt as Brentford claim a historic win

"I don't know why," said manager Thomas Tuchel of Chelsea's first defeat by Brentford since 1939, a 4-1 loss on Saturday. (Author: Gardener)

BrentfordLONDON, England -- Within 10 minutes, Chelsea went from a familiar position of goal to a good home game and wondered if their season was about to end. Antonio Rüdiger's miracle goal early in the second half brought relief at Stamford Bridge but it was only temporary respite from the off-field ownership battle and now uncertainty on the field engulfed the club. What followed was a brutal exposure of the hosts' fragile state as Christian Eriksen, Mads Roerslev and Bryan Mbuemo orchestrated a historic 4-1 win for Brentford. Three times Brentford Chelsea scored on the break from the 50th to the 60th minute with Vitaly Janelt scoring twice on either side of Eriksen's first Premier League goal for the Bees. Yoane Wissa clinched a fourth place finish in the dying embers of the game to lead them to their first win over their London neighbors since 1939 - just 5.5 miles between Stamford Bridge and Brentford's bottom. In their first season in the Premier League, it was Brentford's biggest win of the season and one of the most impressive in club history. It was orchestrated by rushing, high pressing and brilliant harassment for Chelsea. Instead, Thomas Frank's side nailed their tactics as Chelsea struggled to break through the high pressing and Brentford were ready to counter-attack if Chelsea's desperation left them open in defence. Mbuemo was the only out ball for Brentford but it all went through that midfield maestro Eriksen. They've won three in his four starts for the club - no wonder Frank is desperate to keep the Denmark midfielder past the end of this season. "Christian is a top player," said Frank on Saturday. He's calm on the ball, he finds a solution and he delivers goals and assists. "The win for Brentford puts them 11 points above the relegation zone and while they can start planning for next season, Chelsea's immediate and distant future remains uncertain. April left four bids left."We gave away three goals in 10 minutes, which is atypical. I don't know why we did it," said Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel afterwards. "We didn't defend mature enough and it was very strange for us. It's a summary of strange events. Normally the goal is exactly what we wanted, to open up new spaces, but the opposite has happened and I don't know why The Chelsea Supporters' Trust explained earlier on Saturday that its membership was "the Ricketts family's offer for the Club does not endorse or trust it.” In a CST poll, they said 77% of its members did not. This was in response to comments made by patriarch Joe Ricketts in a leaked email exchange a few years ago that “Muslims, of course are our enemies.” It has been three years since Joe Ricketts apologized after online media outlet Splinter News published emails in which he made anti-Islamic comments, such as saying Islam is “a cult and no religion". Judging by th The 100 or so fans outside the stadium protesting their bid (several banners reading 'No to Ricketts') and the CST statement are far from convincing Stamford Bridge's faithful that they are the right ones Being the club's keeper, Tuchel asked before the game so fans can make their feelings clear off the field, and not during the game so as not to 'distract' the team. He said the squad was "unaffected" by the protests ahead of the game, but it was still a little spooky outside the stadium as the huge merchandise store was closed and the souvenir trolleys were empty. Although the protests stayed outside the stadium, Chelsea looked shaken early on - Brentford could have had two in the opening 10 minutes, with Ivan Toney causing all sorts of problems - and although Chelsea rallied to pepper David Raya's goal with some well-scored efforts , it took Rüdiger's lightning strike (conservative estimates assume). at about 35 yards) to break the impasse. Fewer teams would have caved from behind, but Brentford used it as a kick to change gear and Janelt equalized just two minutes later. Mbuemo then selected Eriksen to score his second from close range and Janelt scored a third against Mendy – who struggled with a knee injury throughout the game – to make it 3-1. “We've got the perfect timing chosen to score the four goals in front of our fans," said Frank. To beat the European champions here at Stamford Bridge was almost a complete achievement. What I like is that we were brave and pushed up – it was a big moment for the club." As quiet as the Chelsea fans were, the Brentford supporters left it in their corner of the stadium. They gave their best repertoire of songs, and the third brought the first rendition of " We're just a bus stop in Hounslow" - a self-deprecating song referring to previous hits from Queens Park Rangers fans. Then Brentford added the wonderfully struck fourth in the 87th minute by the change-over elten Wissa They are on the card now but keeping Eriksen is key to this team's development. Chelsea, meanwhile, are riddled with uncertainty. Off the field ownership should become clearer by the end of the month but that could be too late for her keeping our defensive backbone together and keeping the season on track. With Andreas Christensen reportedly close to joining Barcelona, ​​Rudiger is also out of contract and Cesar Azpilicueta's future uncertain, although with the club triggering a renewal clause in his contract t there are far too many distractions for Tuchel to be comfortable to feel as they plan another big game on Wednesday. I would refuse to make a drama out of it," Tuchel said on Saturday. Brentford made a lot of the 10 minutes we gave them. We'll refocus on Monday. "If Real Madrid are in the quarter-finals of the Champions this week League comes to town and Crystal Palace are in the FA Cup semi-finals on April 17, Tuchel needs to get that team back on track. Chelsea looked sluggish with one failed pass after another. By the time Wissa scored Brentford's fourth goal, Chelsea's supporters were already flocking to the exits. With blue seats around Stamford Bridge and Brentford fans singing "We want five" in the Chelsea players' ears, Tuchel shook Frank's hand and went straight down the tunnel on the full-time whistle. He'll hope this result was just a blip and didn't fall apart the start of the season.