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TODAY’S HOTTEST FOOTBALL STORIES: Zidane Warned On Replacing Mourinho at Man Utd, Messi Asks Barcelona To Sign Paul Pogba, Chelsea Could Lose Fabregas

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ZINEDINE ZIDANE has been sent a strong warning over potentially replacing Jose Mourinho as Manchester United manager.
Zidane revealed on Monday he is keen on returning to management.
The France legend left Real Madrid at the end of last season after winning the Champions League in each of his three years at the club.
“I am sure that I will coach again before long,” Zidane told Spanish outlet TVE. “This is what I like and what I have done all my life.”
Zidane is the favourite with the bookies to replace Mourinho at Manchester United. Jose Mourinho himself is the favourite to be the next manager to lose his job in the Premier League.
But ESPN FC pundit Craig Burley has warned Zidane over the size of the task at Old Trafford. Burley says Zidane’s toughest aim would be to catch up with rivals Manchester City and Liverpool, who both look set to challenge for the title this term.
“Clearly he’s going to be choosy,” the former Chelsea midfielder said of Zidane. “But I think he has to pick carefully here. A risk (if he went to United).
“It’s going to be, unless things drastically change with playing personnel, which isn’t going to happen, then we know how big a job it is to bridge that gap.
“Particularly to Manchester City, but potentially to Liverpool, who have spent. “I know United finished above them last year but Liverpool seem to have progressed. It is (a risk). (Express)

Chelsea could lose Cesc Fabregas on free transfer to Serie A giants

CESC FABREGAS looks set to be at the centre of a January tug of war between Inter Milan and AC Milan.
Both Milan clubs want the Chelsea midfielder and could be poised to land the 31-year-old, who will be free to talk to clubs after December with his contract running out in June, as a free agent.
Inter’s No1 midfield target this summer was Real Madrid’s Luka Modric but they failed in their bid to land the Croatian.
Inter then tried for Fabregas as a second option but Chelsea did not want to sell at the time and the player wanted to stay.
In the end, Luciano Spalletti looked across Italy and signed Radja Nainggolan from AS Roma in a £33m swap deal, as Davide Santon and Nicolo Zaniolo went the other way.
Nainggolan has proved a decent buy so far, scoring in his only game for the Italian giants against Bologna in a 3-0 win.
AC Milan are also thought to be keen on the former Arsenal and Barcelona player and, with the Serie A club having signed France midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko on a season-long loan from Chelsea in the summer and wanting to make the move permanent at the end of this campaign, they are hoping to use that as a bargaining chip for Fabregas.
Milan’s summer activity saw them spend big on Gonzalo Higuain, forking out £16.2m in a loan deal, while their biggest deal of the summer was the £31.5m acquisition of Mattia Caldara.
Caldara, a centre-back, joined from Juventus as Milan failed to land the central midfielder they were after, meaning they could well be tempted to go in for Fabregas in the January transfer window.
Fabregas has only just recovered from a knee injury which has dogged him since the start of the season and his only appearance so far for new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri came in the pre-season Community Shield Wembley defeat to Manchester City.
The Spaniard is yet to be called into a matchday squad by Sarri since then, with new signing Jorginho anchoring the Chelsea midfield in every game so far.
Even when he returns to full fitness, he is still facing a tough route back into the first-team. (Express)

Messi asks Barcelona to sign Pogba

Barcelona star Lionel Messi wants the club to sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who continues to flirt with a stunning move away from Old Trafford.
That’s according to OK Diario’s Eduardo Inda, who said: “Messi has asked for Pogba, but the problem of Barça is the Financial Fair Play.
“They have a chance to bring Pogba in winter on loan with a purchase option.” Barcelona would love to sign Pogba but whether or not United let him go in January, particularly if they do not sign a replacement, remains to be seen. (Express)

Klopp dealt Lovren setback over mysterious injury

LIVERPOOL centre-back Dejan Lovren is expected to return to first-team training this month but the club do not believe he will be play again before late October, according to reports.
The Croatian has been sidelined for their perfect start to the Premier League campaign with a mysterious stomach muscle issue.
He returned from the World Cup claiming he couldn’t sit inside his car without intense pain and said: “I’d always grit my teeth and play for Croatia but now I am paying the price.”
Bizarrely, ahead of Liverpool’s final pre-season friendly against Torino, Lovren told the club’s official website just a day after his return to training that he could’ve played half-an-hour against the Italian side and that he was “ready and fit again”.
And the news of his lay-off came just days later ahead of Liverpool’s season opener against West Ham.
It was even speculated that the defender’s admission that the club were “not happy” that he had not told them until his return to Merseyside, meaning they could not look to potentially sign a new centre half in the transfer market.
The 29-year-old has seen a specialist doctor in the Netherlands during his prolonged absence from training with it hoped that he can join his team-mates for full training in the coming weeks.
That’s after beginning ball work and running outside at the Reds’ Melwood training ground recently.
But Liverpool don’t want to force Lovren back too soon and despite their packed schedule, have yet to establish an expected return date say the Liverpool Echo.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are preparing for a hectic next three weeks in which they begin their Champions League and Carabao Cup campaigns while also juggling their league commitments. (Express)

Arsenal’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil, 29, is a target for Turkish side Fenerbahce. (Fotomac)

Tottenham are monitoring Leicester City’s 21-year-old left-back Ben Chilwell, who has been handed his first England senior call-up, and are lining up a January offer for Ajax’s Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong, 21. (Telegraph)

Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen, 26, has vowed to transfer his international scoring form over to the Premier League for Tottenham(Daily Mirror)

Four-time Premier League winner Edwin van der Sar, 47, has ruled himself out of the running for the new technical role at Manchester United. (Sky Sports)

Former England and Newcastle midfielder Paul Gascoigne, 51, says England will “never get another me” after manager Gareth Southgate said the Three Lions lack creativity in midfield. (The Sun)

Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel, 31, says Leicester’s “hard sell” approach in the transfer window means the club will no longer be “bullied” in the market. (Daily Star)

Meanwhile, Leicester defender Jonny Evans, 30, has praised the young players coming through the ranks in the Northern Ireland squad. (Aberdeen Evening Express)

Chelsea overpaid by around £40m when they spent £71.6m for Athletic Bilbao’s 23-year-old Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in August, according to the CIES Football Observatory. (Football Italia)

Manchester United defender Luke Shaw, 23, is set to miss his club’s next two games after suffering concussion playing for England. United play at Watford on Saturday before travelling to Switzerland to face Young Boys in the Champions League next Wednesday. (Mirror)

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Messi Is Not God – Pope Francis Warns Fans On Calling Barcelona Talisman God

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Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church believes fellow Barcelona talisman and fellow Argentine Lionel Messi, “is not God”.

Many consider the mercurial South American to be a sporting deity, with his achievements raising the bar of individual excellence.

He is worshipped as a hero by millions around the world and has seen his record-breaking on-field efforts lead to him being showered with praise and major honours – both collective and individual.

A five-time Ballon d’Or winner may not seem human to some, but Pope Francis feels it is wrong to bestow labels of “God” onto those who are mere mortals.

Asked by Spanish television show Salvados on La Sexta whether such a billing for Messi could be considered sacrilegious, as it breaks the third commandment by using the Lord’s name in vain, Pope Francis said: “In theory, it’s a sacrilege.

“You can’t say it and I don’t believe it. I think people say ‘he is God’ just as they say ‘I adore you’. You have to adore only God. “It’s expressions that people use. This is a god with the ball on the pitch. It’s a popular way that people have of expressing themselves.

“Of course, it is a joy [to watch Messi play]. But he is not God.”

Pope Francis is known to be a football fan. He is a member at Argentinian side San Lorenzo, having been born and raised in Buenos Aires, and has mingled with stars of the sporting world in the past.

During the summer of 2013, Messi and the rest of the Albiceleste squad took in a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Barcelona’s superstar forward told reporters the event was “short but beautiful”.

Messi and his international team-mates also sent a signed shirt to Pope Francis on the back of their display at the 2014 World Cup which saw them finish as runners-up to Germany. They are back in the trophy hunt for 2019, with the next staging of the Copa America in Brazil fast approaching.

Messi will be excepted to lead the charge once again for his country in that competition, as he waits on a first senior title with Argentina, but he has recently admitted that the pressure placed on his shoulders and the reaction of those in his homeland to his performances can be difficult to handle at times.

Additional reporting from Goal.com

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Uganda Cranes To Bank On Onyango’s Brilliancy Against Tanzania

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AFCON 2019 Qualifier Group L:

Sunday, 24th March 2019

Tanzania Vs Uganda Cranes,6:00

CRANES SKIPPER Denis Onyango, currently alias Mr. Clean Sheets in the Africa Cup qualifiers will be determined to extend his record as they take on Tanzania in the last game.

Cranes qualified in November with Patrick Kaddu’s goal ate Namboole and Sebastien Desabre is expected to experiment with some few young players as he prepares for CHAN.

“We have already qualified and one of our tasks is to take a clean-sheet to Egypt but I give a lot of respect to Tanzania,” Onyango said.

Cranes had a week-long camp in Ismailia Egypt and Farouk Miya was the last professional player to arrive in camp from HK Gorica were he does his professional duties. The game will take place on Sunday.

They are 15 foreign-based players summoned by the French tactician Sebastien Desabre.

What Tanzania need;

Tanzania, the hosts only need to beat Uganda and hope Lesotho falter in Cape Verde to qualify.

Lesotho are second in Group L on five points, same as Tanzania but have a better head-to-head record. The two are a massive eight behind Uganda. All three – Lesotho, Tanzania and Cape Verde – can still qualify on the final day.

“All I am asking for is for Tanzanians to continue to supporting Taifa Stars with prayers for the team to down Uganda Cranes and sail through,” chairman of a special committee formed to ensure the Taifa Stars qualify for the finals Paul Mukonda said.

Head To Head:

Uganda      0-0 Tanzania                

Uganda      1-1 Tanzania                

Tanzania 0-3 Uganda           

Uganda      2-2 Tanzania                

Uganda      3-1 Tanzania                

Tanzania 0-1 Uganda           

Tanzania 0-3 Uganda

Players in camp: Defenders: Murushid Jjuuko (Simba, Tanzania), Timothy Awany (KCCA, Uganda), Halid Lwaliwa (Vipers, Uganda), Geofrey Walusimbi (Free Agent), Joseph Ochaya (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Kirizestom Ntambi (Ethiopian Coffee), Nico Wakiro Wadada (Azam, Tanzania)

Midfielders: Khalid Aucho (Churchhill brothers, India), Hassan Wasswa Mawanda (Free Agent), Tadeo Lwanga (Vipers, Uganda), Ibrahim Sadam Juma (KCCA, Uganda), Moses Waiswa (Vipers, Uganda), Moses Opondo (Vendsyssel FF, Denmark)

Forwards: Faruku Miya (Gorica, Croatia), Emmanuel Arnold Okwi (Simba, Tanzania), Allan Kyambadde (KCCA, Uganda), Allan Okello (KCCA,Uganda), Edrisa Lubega (SV Ried, Austria), Muhammad Shaban (Raja Casablanca, Morocco), Henry Patrick Kaddu (KCCA, Uganda), Milton Karisa (MC Oujda, Morocco).

Betting Tips:

Saturday:

Senegal vs Madagascar-‘over’

Burundi vs Gabon-1/gg                 

Cameroon vs Comoros-1              

Niger vs Egypt-2

Zambia vs Namibia-2           

G.Bissau vs Mozambique-1 

Côte d’Ivoire vs Rwanda-1  

Ghana vs Kenya-1

Mali vs South Sudan-1

Sunday:

Zimbabwe vs Congo-GG                

Congo DR vs Liberia-GG                

Central Africa vs Guinea-X1

Benin vs Togo-‘over’/gg info

Tanzania vs Uganda-‘over’  

Cape Verde Islands vs Lesotho-GG                  

Libya vs South Africa-‘over’/gg

Betting Tips

Saturday:

Georgia vs Switzerland-‘over’       

Gibraltar vs Republic-2

Sweden vs Romaia-X1/GG

By Senior Reprter, Kussam Kalema

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AFCON QUALIFIERS: Who Occupies The Last 10 Slots?

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AFCON QUALIFIERS

Friday games:

Malawi vs Morocco, 4:00

Nigeria vs Seychelles,6:00

Burkina Faso vs Mauritania,8:00

Botswana vs Angola,8:00

Sudan vs E.Guinea,8:00

Tunisia vs Swaziland,9:15

Algeria vs Gambia,10:45

Saturday games:

Burundi vs Gabon,4:00

Cameroon vs Comoros,6:00

Niger vs Egypt,6:30

Guinea-Bissau vs Mozambique,7:30

Zambia vs Namibia,7:30

Ivroy Coast vs Rwanda,8:00

Ghana vs Kenya,9:00

Mali vs South Sudan,10:00

Sunday games:

Senegal vs Madagascar,5:00

DR Congo vs Liberia,4:00

Zimbabwe vs Congo,4:00

C.A.R VS Guinea,5:00

Cape Verde VS Lesotho,6:00

Tanzania VS Uganda,6:00

Benin VS Togo,6:00

Libya VS South Africa,8:00

AS the last Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers take place this weekend, the Grapevine breaks down all the games of the teams that are fighting for the last 10 slots.

Cameroon will look to secure a place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations when they host the Comoros for their final Group B qualifier. The match is set to be staged at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on Saturday.

Cameroon come into the match in second place in the standings with eight points from five matches, and they hold a three-point lead over the Comoros.

The Indomitable Lions, therefore, need only a draw to secure a place at the 2019 finals. Cameroon coach Clarence Seedorf says he is working hard at ensuring his team takes full advantage of their strengths and improve their attacking potency.

“Scoring goals comes and goes with time but the most important thing is that we continue creating chances. The entire team must work and we then we have to score goals,” Seedorf told reporters in Yaounde earlier this week.

“We have to improve on our free-kicks and corners. We have to take advantage of our great physical power and the height in the team. This is something we’ve analysed and are keen on improving.”

Comoros coach Amir Abdou has done credible work with his team, he was recently rewarded with a new contract. The very fact that the minnows still have a shot at qualifying heading into the final round of matches is a highly creditable achievement.

Can Aubameyang Save Gabon?

Burundi and Gabon will battle it out for a ticket to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations when they lock horns at the Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura on Saturday afternoon. Two points separate the two nations in Group C heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures, with first placed Mali having already booked their place at this year’s showpiece in Egypt.

Burundi head into Saturday’s fixture as clear favourites to confirm their place at a first ever Africa Cup of Nations tournament. The hosts sit two points clear with the Panthers in third and nine ahead of winless South Sudan – who have already been eliminated from qualification contention.

The Swallows will advance to this year’s continental showpiece with either a draw or win, while Gabon need nothing but victory if they are to pip their hosts and join Mali in Egypt.

Joint top-scorer in qualifying Fiston Abdul Razak scored four goals for Burundi in a 5-2 win over South Sudan last time out, to fire his nation onto the cusp of qualification.

Battle For Top Place As Ghana Hosts Kenya

Kenya and Ghana will battle for top spot in 2019 Africa Cup qualifiers slated to take place in Ghana Accra on Saturday.

Both nations have already qualified for the tournament in Egypt, following a qualifying campaign that included the disqualification of Sierra Leone.

The Harambee Stars currently top the group with seven points from three fixtures. Kenya beat Ghana 1-0 in Nairobi lasy year thanks to an own goal from Nicholas Poku in the first half.

By Kussam Kalema, Senior Reporter

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