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    Willy Ta Bi dead at 21: Atalanta youngster dies after cancer battle as Man Utd’s Amad Diallo pays emotional tribute

    ATALANTA youngster Willy Ta Bi has tragically died aged 21 after a long battle with liver cancer.
    The Serie A side confirmed the devastating news of the Ivory Coast youth international’s passing on Tuesday.

    Atalanta ace Willy Ta Bi sadly passed away from cancerCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Manchester United’s January signing Amad Diallo paid tribute to his old team-mateCredit: Rex Features

    On social media, they wrote: “We mourn the premature passing of our player and Under-19 Champion of Italy Willi Braciano Ta Bi and share the grief of his family and beloved ones.
    “Rest in peace, Willy.”
    Manchester United’s £37million signing Amad Diallo played with the defensive midfielder in the Italian side’s academy and paid tribute to his friend.
    On Instagram, he wrote: “Rest in peace, Willy Braciano Ta Bi. Forever in our hearts.”

    And the 18-year-old winger shared a picture of the two together with the caption: “Now sleep in peace, friend.”
    Ta Bi joined Atalanta from Asec Mimosa in his homeland in 2019 and immediately tasted success by helping the team to the youth Primavera title.
    He captained his country at youth level and represented them at the Francophone Games in 2017.
    His last competitive match was on June 14, 2019 – shortly before his cancer diagnosis.

    La Côte d’Ivoire, le monde du football te pleurent, tu t’es battu contre cette fichue maladie comme tu te battais sur les terrains comme un vrai patron, un leader!!!!Reposes en Paix mon CAPITAINE 🧡🤍💚💔😭🙏🏾Mes condoléances à toute sa famille 🙏🏾 https://t.co/5FKWz8y3Ob
    — Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) February 23, 2021

    Chelsea legend and former Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba shared a public tribute on Twitter.
    Drogba wrote: “Ivory Coast, the football world are mourning you, you fought against this damn disease as you fought on the pitches like a real boss, a leader!!!!”
    Juventus midfielder Dejan Kulusevski was part of the trophy-winning Atalanta youth team alongside Ta Bi and said: “Rest in peace, brother.”
    In a statement, Atalanta added: “President Antonio Precassi and the whole Atalanta family are deeply saddened by the untimely death of Willy Braciano Ta Bi.
    “A cruel destiny interrupted a dream that began with the Nerazzurri shirt in January 2019 too soon.
    “He only needed a few months to earn a leading role in the Primavera and help bring the Scudetto back to Bergamo, but above all to leave a great memory.”
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

    Amad Diallo shows his skills in his first Man Utd training session More

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    How Arsenal could line up against Benfica with Thomas Partey making shock return while Rob Holding out with concussion

    ARSENAL welcome Benfica to the Emirates on Thursday night in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.
    With the tie poised at 1-1 Mikel Arteta will play a strong team and could welcome Thomas Partey back sooner than first expected.

    Mikel Arteta will play a strong team against Benfica at the Emirates

    The Ghanaian picked up a hamstring injury during the Gunners’ 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa in February.
    But having returned to training this week, Arteta revealed he could start against Benfica after a late fitness test.
    The Spaniard said: “Thomas is very close. He’s got a final test today in training.
    “If he’s feeling good, he will be available to play the match.”

    At the back, Arteta will be without Rob Holding after a concussion during Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.
    The Arsenal boss added: “Regarding Rob, he’s not available.
    “He had a concussion, we tested him and he’s completely fine but obviously now we need to follow the protocols and he won’t be able to travel.”
    Pablo Mari played alongside Holding at the weekend but Arteta could use Thursday’s match to give Gabriel and David Luiz some game time.

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    Arteta could use the competition to give some fringe players game time

    Emile Smith Rowe should also return to the starting XI after a rest against City.
    But Alexandre Lacazette is expected to be benched again with Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard in attacking midfield behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
    Nicolas Pepe, Cedric Soares and Mohamed Elneny could also start if Arteta decides to shake things up a little.
    But with the Gunners boss suggesting the Europa League is the only route to Champions League qualification for them this season, he is likely to pick a stronger XI.
    Arteta said: “I think while mathematically everything is possible, in football you have to try so hard.
    “We’re going to do that in the league for sure. It’s true that the Europa League gives you a completely different route and is a competition that we want to carry on playing, and try to win it.
    “Tomorrow is another opportunity to make a step forward.
    “The better we are in the Europa League, the better we’re going to be performing in the league and vice-versa. We need to be alive in both competitions.”
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

    Thomas Partey returns to full training at Arsenal More

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    Tottenham eye £30m Nick Pope transfer to replace Hugo Lloris in summer and interested in Man Utd’s Dean Henderson

    TOTTENHAM are preparing a £30million raid on Burnley for stopper Nick Pope, according to reports.
    Boss Jose Mourinho is eyeing a new No1 with Hugo Lloris coming in for increasing criticism for his performances.

    Nick Pope is being lined up to replace Hugo Lloris in goalCredit: Rex Features

    The 34-year-old is also being lined up with a reunion with Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain.
    Lloris will have just a year left on his contract in the summer and Spurs could be willing to cash in if they have a replacement in mind.
    According to the Daily Mail, Pope is at the top of the transfer shortlist if they can convince Burnley to let him go.
    The England international, 28, has proven to be one of the most reliable Premier League keepers in recent years.

    He still has a contract at Turf Moor until 2023 with the option for an extra year so Burnley won’t let him leave on the cheap.
    Pope joined Sean Dyche’s side from Charlton in 2016 and has made 97 Prem appearances.
    Dyche will almost be forced to sell the keeper if he fails to keep Burnley in the top flight.
    They currently sit six points above the drop zone but are undefeated in their last four games.

    Mourinho is also looking at the possibility of landing Manchester United’s Dean Henderson.
    The England stopper has played second fiddle to David De Gea this campaign after his two-season loan stint with Sheffield United.
    SunSport exclusively revealed last week that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is preparing to axe either Henderson or De Gea in the summer.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

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    FA Cup final could see at least 4,000 fans attend on May 15… two days BEFORE ban on supporters is lifted

    THERE could be up to 4,000 fans in attendance for the FA Cup Final – even though it is TWO DAYS before supporter restrictions are lifted.
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday as part of the roadmap out of lockdown that 10,000 spectators could be allowed back into stadiums for sporting events from May 17.

    There could be at least 4,000 fans in attendance for the FA Cup Final in MayCredit: Getty

    UK fans can start looking forward to a bumper summer of sport

    The Wembley showpiece takes place on May 15 – but football now has the green light to host expansive test events in April ahead of the planned reopening of grounds.
    Whitehall chiefs held talks yesterday regarding pilot events and hope to release a schedule in the coming weeks.
    Despite hopes of getting 10,000 in for the Cup Final, a figure the FA will apply for, the governing body feel that a figure between 2,000 and 4,000 is more likely.
    The FA are desperate for the showpiece to be played in front of fans.

    However, they are unable to switch the date of the spectacle because of the upcoming Euros.
    They are due to hand the Wembley keys over to Uefa shortly after the game ahead of the tournament, although the EFL play-offs are scheduled for the end of May.
    But the final will provide an opportunity to test the new facilities ahead of the Euros.
    A test event with 10,000 fans needs to take place to demonstrate the safety of the stadium following recent structural and landscaping changes around the famous stadium.

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    England’s first group game is against Croatia on June 13, which means it still falls under the 10k capacity limit on the roadmap timeline.
    That means that match could be used as the test event.
    Although FA chiefs would prefer to test out the facility prior to that.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

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    Frantic Chelsea star Timo Werner ‘frustrating to watch’, claims Rio Ferdinand as Joe Cole hails ‘brilliant’ Mason Mount

    TIMO WERNER is becoming a ‘frustrating’ player for Chelsea, Rio Ferdinand has stated.
    Having ended a long dry spell with a goal past Newcastle earlier this month, the German failed to find the net against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

    Timo Werner failed to score in another energetic performance for ChelseaCredit: EPA

    Rio Ferdinand was left wanting more from the German strikerCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Werner fired off three shots in Bucharest but left former defender Ferdinand wanting more.
    Talking of one particular chance, the 42-year-old told the BT Sport studio: “It’s frustrating watching him, because you’ve seen clips of what he can do.
    “It’s not an easy chance, but you’d like to see him get it on target.
    “He gets into these areas, makes the keeper make a save, fair enough, but there’s far too many times when he’s loose in possession when building up or in his decision making when he gets into these areas.

    “Sometimes fast players have to slow the game down a bit.”
    Fellow pundit Joe Cole agreed and likened the German to Theo Walcott, another forward blessed with great pace but questioned on their finishing.

    Chelsea took a 1-0 lead in the Champions League last-16 tie thanks to a breathtaking goal from Olivier Giroud.

    But former Blues star Cole hailed the performance of Mason Mount, who has become one of the leading lights of Thomas Tuchel’s early success in the dugout.
    The 39-year-old noted: “He’s still a young lad, you can’t rely on him all the time and he must be managed for the big games.
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    Mason Mount came in for big praise for his display against Atletico MadridCredit: Reuters

    Joe Cole is a big fan on the young England midfielderCredit: Getty – Contributor

    “But he’s so important for the club at the moment. Even when there was nothing in the game he was the one looking to probe.
    “The reason why footballers love him so much is because he does everything right, he’s in the right positions defensively and in attack.
    “He’s also got that little big of magic, and he was a threat. He looks like a leader and he was brilliant tonight again.”
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

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    Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola slams ‘bulls***’ claims he destabilised Man Utd with remarks about midfielder’s future

    PAUL POGBA’S agent slammed claims he destabilised Manchester United’s season as ‘bulls***’.
    Mino Raiola spoke to the media on the eve of the Red Devils’ crunch Champions League clash with RB Leipzig in December.

    Mino Raiola denied ‘bulls***’ claims his comments had an impact on Manchester United’s performancesCredit: Splash News

    The super-agent revealed ‘it’s over for Paul Pogba at Manchester United’ and his client will not sign a new contract at Old Trafford in a bombshell announcement.
    United lost their final group game 3-2 in Germany and ultimately crashed out of the Champions League.
    At the time they were one point ahead of Manchester City but now sit ten points adrift of their rivals who look on course to win the Premier League.
    That led to accusations Raiola had thrown the club’s campaign into chaos with the timing of the comments.

    But in an interview with BBC Sport, Raiola refuted such claims.
    He said: “I just expressed an opinion, I didn’t want to cause a problem.
    “The opinion was a very simple one, I don’t think it destabilised anybody because they had a fantastic run, they were first in the league for a period, so that’s all bulls***.
    “A player of 27, a big player like Pogba or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has won everything in his life, really get destabilised by what Mino Raiola says?

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    “Wow, if I had this power Fifa wouldn’t exist anymore, that’s for sure.
    “But I don’t talk about it anymore, it’s not the moment to talk about the market, it makes life a little bit boring but it is what it is.”
    The Dutch-Italian added: “Whenever I tell my opinion, everyone in England goes berserk, and I am the worst agent, or the best agent.
    “The clubs get so stressed from the public and journalists that I have learned not to talk much about it.”
    Pogba’s 12-month contract extension was triggered earlier this season to tie him down at Old Trafford until 2022.
    But after initially wanting in excess of £150m for the World Cup winner, United would now accept an offer of £89m for him – the same amount they paid Juventus to bring Pogba back in 2016.
    He continues to be linked with another spell at Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain in his homeland while he admitted it would be a ‘dream’ to play for Real Madrid, where he would link up with compatriot Zinedine Zidane.

    Paul Pogba’s future remains unclear with the midfielder unlikely to sign a new contract beyond 2022Credit: PA:Press Association

    Rio Ferdinand interviews Paul Pogba and asks if he will stay at Man Utd More

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    Jordan Henderson facing 12 weeks out with groin injury amid surgery fears putting Liverpool star’s Euro hopes in doubt

    JORDAN HENDERSON will discover today if he will need surgery on his groin.
    If so, it would end his Liverpool season and put his Euro hopes in jeopardy.

    Jordan Henderson could be out for 12 weeks in another huge injury blow to Jurgen KloppCredit: Eddie Keogh Telegraph Media Group

    Reds captain Henderson had scans on Monday on the injury suffered in the derby defeat to Everton.
    There are genuine concerns that when the results come back today, an operation may be the only option.
    And that could sideline him for 12 weeks.
    That would be a hammer blow to injury-hit Liverpool.

    It would also be a major worry for England boss Gareth Southgate.
    It would mean Henderson, 30, will likely be unable to train fully until late May at the earliest.
    The Three Lions play two friendlies at the start of June, against Austria and Romania.
    They kick off their European Championship challenge against Croatia on June 13.

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    Even if surgery is not needed, Hendo is likely to miss at least six Prem games plus the second leg of their Champions League tie against RB Leipzig.
    This is the latest body blow to Kop boss Jurgen Klopp in what is turning into a miserable campaign.
    First-choice centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have missed almost the entire season through injury.
    James Milner and Naby Keita have struggled with their fitness while summer signing Diogo Jota has also been sidelined since December 9.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds

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    Chelsea fans mocked Atletico Madrid as ‘Spanish Burnley’ trends on Twitter after Simeone’s boring defensive display

    CHELSEA fans took aim at the below-par Atletico Madrid last night – with ‘Spanish Burnley’ trending on Twitter.
    The Blues claimed a 1-0 win over Diego Simeone’s Atleti on Tuesday with comparisons made between the LaLiga side and the Clarets.

    Diego Simeone was forced to defend Atletico Madrid’s approach against ChelseaCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    Sean Dyche’s Burnley are notorious for their tough-to-beat style, while not being afraid of sitting deep and playing long balls forward.
    Many fans and pundits accused Atletico of a lack of ambition against Chelsea, failing to fire off a shot on target while controlling just 37 per cent of possession.
    Los Rojiblancos’ pass success rate of 75 per cent was a tick above Burnley’s average this season (71.4 per cent) but some way off their opponents in the Champions League last-16 first leg (86.6 per cent).
    The defensive stance taken by Simeone’s side, along with images of the Atleti defence sitting very deep, led to fan taunts online.

    One Chelsea fan on Twitter claimed: “The LaLiga title challengers?? More like the Spanish Burnley.”
    Another added: “Atletico Madrid are the Spanish Burnley…. Ffs 6 defenders.”
    A Blues supporter remarked: “You people actually thought this Spanish Burnley side can score against Chelsea.”
    While one fan account tweeted: “Realise we’re actually playing against the Spanish Burnley today.”

    One snapshot of Atletico’s deep defence caught fans’ eyes

    A spectacular Olivier Giroud goal won the first leg in BucharestCredit: EPA

    And one Clarets fan joked: “Spanish Burnley is trending. We have triggered so many fanbases and I absolutely love it.”
    Atletico sit top of LaLiga by three points, having scored the second-highest number of goals and conceded the lowest number.
    Rio Ferdinand told the BT Sport studio that Spanish football was in a sorry state if that was the sort of performance put in by its best team, who knocked out Liverpool at this stage of last year’s competition.
    The ex-defender stated: “This is a big reflection how poor LaLiga is at the moment, Atletico didn’t really threaten.
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    We need to have more of the ball and position ourselves better in attack. We’ll work on it.
    Diego Simeone

    “Chelsea seemed to coast, it was a fantastic finish, and they didn’t get tested after that. Not being at the stadium helps as well. They feed off that and probably lost that edge as well.”
    Atletico have won only one of their last five in all competitions and fell on Tuesday night to an Olivier Giroud overhead kick.
    The return leg takes place on March 17 at Stamford Bridge, and coach Simeone vowed to improve his side before then.
    The Argentine told reporters: “We’ll be playing against an opponent with speed and will need to be able to stop it, to deal with forwards like Giroud and other powerful players.

    “We need to have more of the ball and position ourselves better in attack. We’ll work on it, but we also have an important game against Villarreal.
    “Work, work, work. I trust the team we have.
    “If we were in the month of September and they told me we would have lost [to Chelsea] but we’re still leading [LaLiga], I’d sign for it.”
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