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    Real Madrid star Raphael Varane tests positive for coronavirus hours before Liverpool clash in Champions League

    RAPHAEL VARANE has tested positive for coronavirus hours before Real Madrid face Liverpool.The Los Blancos players were checked on Tuesday morning ahead of tonight’s clash.
    Raphael Varane will miss the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool with coronavirusCredit: Getty
    And the club confirmed in a statement the result for their Frenchman.
    Varane – a transfer target for Manchester United – was named in Real Madrid’s 21-man matchday squad for the match on Monday afternoon.
    But he will now be forced to sit out of the first-leg quarter-final clash at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
    It also puts his availability to face Barcelona in a crunch El Clasico on Saturday night into major doubt.
    Zinedine Zidane is without both of his first-choice centre-backs against the six-time champions.
    Sergio Ramos was ruled out after picking up a calf injury during the international break.
    That meant he could not continue his rivalry with the Reds and specifically Mo Salah following the 2018 Champions League final.
    Dani Carvajal is also out meaning it is expected to be a back four of Lucas Vazquez, Eder Militao, Nacho and Ferland Mendy.

    Jurgen Klopp has plenty of defensive woes of his own with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip long-term absentees.
    Ben Davies is yet to feature for the club with on-loan Ozan Kabak expected to partner Nat Phillips in defence – although Fabinho could be dropped deeper to fill in.
    Kick-off in Madrid is at 8pm – 9pm local time – with the game live on BT Sport 2.
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    Man Utd will be without Eric Bailly in coming weeks after Solskjaer confirms defender tested positive for coronavirus

    MANCHESTER UNITED defender Eric Bailly will be out of action after testing positive for coronavirus.The 26-year-old has not returned to the UK after contracting Covid while on international duty with Ivory Coast.
    Man Utd defender Eric Bailly will be out in the coming weeks after he contracted coronavirus while on international dutyCredit: Getty
    United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was speaking after seeing his side snatch a 2-1 victory against Brighton thanks to Mason Greenwood’s headed winner.
    The Norwegian gaffer said: “He won’t be with us for a little while.
    “He went away with the Ivory Coast and tested positive for Covid.
    “He’s not back in the country yet.”
    It is just the latest setback for Bailly after failing to nail down a regular starting spot at United.
    The defender joined United in 2016 from Villareal, but a combination of injury and poor form have seen him regularly on the sidelines.
    And losing Bailly isn’t the only bit of bad news for Solskjaer.
    The former Molde boss fears forward Anthony Martial could be out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
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    Solskjaer will be without Eric Bailly for a whileCredit: Getty

    The 25-year-old was forced off with the problem while playing in a World Cup qualifier for France against Kazakhstan last week.
    And while national team boss Didier Deschamps played down the severity of the injury, Solskjaer has now confirmed it is in fact much more serious than was first reported.
    The Man Utd boss told MUTV: “Unfortunately, he sprained his knee with France.
    “It’s always when they go away on internationals… you can keep your fingers crossed and hope they come back fit.
    “Paul has played in all three games, 30, 60, 90 minutes, so that was a boost for us.
    “Losing Anthony for what might be the rest of the season is very disappointing, especially when reports from there [France] was that it wasn’t anything serious but it looks a bad one.”
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
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    Real Madrid’s Marcelo under investigation and faces fine after appearing to break Covid rules on four-hour Valencia trip

    REAL MADRID star Marcelo is under investigation after appearing to breach Covid-19 travel restrictions by leaving the Spanish capital to travel to the beach with his family.The Brazilian left-back left himself facing a four-figure fine by publicising a photo showing him relaxing in the sun at Malvarrosa beach in Valencia, a four-hour drive from his home.
    Real Madrid star Marcelo shared a picture on his Instagram page showing him relaxing under the sun with his familyCredit: Instagram
    He was pictured relaxing with his actress wife Clarice Alves and their two children Enzo, 11, and Liam, five.
    The Real veteran, who signed for the Spanish giants from Fluminense in 2006, captioned the holiday snap: “Sunny Sunday in Valencia”, prompting an immediate like from team-mate Casemiro.
    One of the footballer’s 46 million followers reacted to the photo, which showed Marcelo and his family with no facemasks on and in apparent breach of restrictions preventing travel outside of Madrid without a justified cause: “It angers me that famous people like you rub our faces in it.
    “You can leave Madrid but poor people like us can’t.”
    Another added: “Rules and regulations are put in place for something, not so that people with money can do what the hell they want.”
    A third raged at Marcelo: “Do you think you’re better than the rest and lockdown shouldn’t apply to you?”

    Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos are Real Madrid’s top earners
    There was no immediate comment from the footballer to the criticism he received.
    Regional government health chiefs in Valencia confirmed they had initiated proceedings which could lead to fines for breaching Covid-19 travel restrictions.
    Local reports said the total fine could be up to €2,800 (£2,392) – consisting of four fines of €600 (£513) for any travel breach and four fines of €100 (£85) for going without facemasks.
    Marcelo, who reportedly earns over £20,000 a day, shouldn’t have too many problems paying up if he and his family are hit with a fine.
    The footballer was given time off during the international break and is expected back for training at the start of this week along with other players that haven’t been called up.
    The Covid-19 restrictions currently in place in Spain prevent travel outside of peoples’ home regions. The few exceptions include travel for work or humanitarian reasons.
    Facemasks are mandatory in public places. In the Valencian region, which covers the city of Valencia as well as towns and cities further south like Benidorm and Alicante, bars and restaurants have to close at 6pm.
    More than 75,000 people have died from coronavirus in Spain since the start of the pandemic. The total number of Covid-19 cases currently stands at more than 3.2 million.
    In the Madrid region nearly 15,000 people have died.
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    National League dishing out punishment to Dover Athletic shows more incompetence in football’s hall of power

    THE EFL and FA need to take a long, hard look at the credibility of the National League – and it is high time for the Government to start regulating football.Spare a thought for Dover Athletic, docked TWELVE points for next season and fined £40,000 by the bright sparks who run football’s top two tiers outside the EFL.
    Dover Athletic’s picturesque Crabble ground is located in the village of River – but the club will be docked 12 points at the start of next season
    What could their crime be? Running up huge debts they can ill afford and trading while insolvent, which is illegal under Company Law? No.
    This small, well-run club on the Kent coast had the sheer audacity to not do that. To not rip up their model of prudence.
    To not join other clubs in taking out a huge loan that they could be paying off for a decade.
    Faced with the real prospect of doing what football was supposed to be frowning upon after seeing what happened to clubs like Bury, Blackpool, Bolton and countless others, they instead joined thousands of other businesses in the real world by furloughing their staff.
    Gillingham and Watford legend Andy Hessenthaler and his players were put on furlough in February – almost two months after grant support to National League clubs from the Government ended – and they indicated to the powers-that-be that they could resume playing only once they had funds to afford it.The league however charged them with not having “just cause” to stop fulfilling their fixtures and after finding the club guilty expunged their results from this season’s records. The team had only contested 15 games when they ceased playing.
    What made the sanction stink was that clubs were given assurances by the National League that if fans were not allowed in beyond December, the grant support would continue. Goalposts were moved and suddenly it was no longer grants but loans.
    In Dover’s case, they would have needed to take out £450,000 – and, for a small club, that is a big deal.
    I happen to know Dover Athletic well as a proud Man of Kent.
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    Jim Parmenter is the Dover chairman who put his whole playing squad on furlough when government grants that were promised beyond December did not materialise
    Gillingham and Watford legend Andy Hessenthaler manages the Kent port team

    As a kid, I used to climb over the fence behind the River End stand at their Crabble ground with a couple of school friends when our pocket money didn’t cover the turnstile fee.
    Aged 19, as a fresh-faced sports reporter for the East Kent Mercury, I covered their matches home and away.
    It’s a great little club that relies on its community and volunteers, like so many in the lower leagues.
    Chairman Jim Parmenter, who I’ve known for the best part of 25 years, is a local businessman who has a decent amount of money to support the club but cannot just bankroll it without any funds coming through the gates.And his own business – a fruit and vegetable importing company – has been hit hard by the pandemic too.
    When he took over a debt-ridden club 16 years ago, they were hours from being liquidated.
    He promised that they would never be put into that position again while he was running the show.
    And without paying out what they cannot afford, they have climbed three divisions, built a new clubhouse, a new, environmentally sustainable stand and opened an academy.
    Dover also won their status as an FA Chartered club.
    The National League’s disciplinary panel that heard this case was supposed to be independent.
    But former FA head of football administration Graham Noakes and FA judicial panel members Peter Barnes and Alan Hardy have all been closely involved with football.
    SunSport’s Justin Allen (right) with Dover chairman Jim Parmenter, director Steve Parmenter and veteran club secretary and local legend Frank Clarke (left) enjoy a pint together
    Parmenter and Ian Wright pose for the camera when Dover and their directors were taken to meet the Crystal Palace legend by SunSport ahead of their 2015 FA Cup third-round tie
    Back in the days when fans came through the turnstiles but without them Dover were expected by the National League to take out a £450,000 loan to finish their season
    And, while there is no suggestion they have done anything wrong, they do not sound very independent to me. Shouldn’t it have been composed of business experts and lawyers?
    Their justification of the sanction is also crazy. Dover submitted compelling evidence, backed by lawyers and insolvency practitioners (people who actually know what they are talking about) that carrying on their season was not viable.
    But the panel, although saying they had regard to the financial information provided and respecting the responsibility of the club’s directors under Company Law, could not have one of its clubs doing things correctly.
    No, because 22 other clubs decided to run up debts, Dover were expected to, as well. Even though, it’s against the league’s own rules.
    The other finding was that the club had received a basic award payment of £70,000 for the season and “were significantly benefiting from not completing the season compared to the other clubs that continued”.
    Again, the club are simply being punished for not joining the rest.
    The National League also says Dover’s actions went against the “integrity” of the competition.
    What tosh. Some clubs have furloughed high-earning players and replaced them with cheaper ones, which is against the government’s furlough rules and some are fielding significantly weaker teams than what started the season.This whole mess, as I wrote in recent weeks, could have been avoided by postponing the season until spring and finishing it when fans are likely to be back.
    As for the Government, why could they simply not have allowed grants for struggling clubs like Dover to continue until the summer? They are having to pay out on the furlough scheme anyway.
    This whole sorry episode – along with those of the other 15 clubs in the sixth tier charged with non-fulfilment of fixtures – is another example of gross incompetence in football.
    Even during a global pandemic, not an ounce of common sense has been shown with those in football’s corridors of power far removed from the real world.
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    Premier League in talks to allow 1,000 away fans in for last two rounds of fixtures before return to full capacity

    PREMIER LEAGUE clubs will urge the Government to allow up to 1,000 away fans among the crowds for the last two sets of matches this season.Top-flight club bosses have agreed to switch the planned penultimate set of matches into the final midweek of the campaign, after the May 17 date set by PM Boris Johnson for crowds to return.
    Premier League clubs have asked the Government to allow 1,000 away fans in for the final 20 matches of the seasonCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
    The fixture swap means each Premier League club will have one home game in front of supporters, with the number capped at the lower figure of 10,000 fans or a quarter of the ground’s full capacity.
    But it was envisaged that only home supporters – in virtually all cases season ticket holders who have been locked out, apart from a handful of lucky supporters, since last March – would be allowed through the turnstiles.
    And at yesterday’s meeting of the 20 ‘shareholder’ clubs, it was agreed to ask the Government for a change of policy that would allow visiting fans to attend.
    The final set of fixtures includes a potential relegation decider between Fulham and Newcastle, with the capacity set at 4,000 supporters while Craven Cottage is still a partial construction site.
    Other matches in the penultimate set of games include a possible top-four clincher between Chelsea and Leicester.
    Meanwhile, the set of midweek games originally scheduled for May 11 and 12, including Chelsea versus Arsenal and Leicester at Manchester United, will be shunted back to the following weekend.
    Whether the Government will green light supporters travelling the length of the country to watch games is less clear.
    But the top-flight clubs feel it is worth making their case to help generate a ‘real’ atmosphere when crowds return.

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    Elsewhere, the clubs agreed next season will begin on the weekend of August 14, allowing the EFL kick-off to take centre stage – alongside the Community Shield – the previous weekend.
    But the decision to end the season on May 22 means the 2022 FA Cup Final will share top billing with the penultimate round of Premier League matches, rather than having a standalone date at the end of the campaign.
    Clubs are keen to create a better atmosphere with a section of travelling supporters inside groundsCredit: PA

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    British Grand Prix close to sell out with 500,000 over four days heading to watch Hamilton in huge post-lockdown party

    THE British Grand Prix is close to selling out as F1 fans snap up tickets for Hamilton Mania.Ticket sales are through the roof with punters eager to see the Brit as he makes his bid for a record eighth world title.
    Fans may be witnessing Lewis Hamilton’s last Silverstone race in JulyCredit: PA
    Lewis Hamilton has only signed a 10-month deal with his Mercedes team in what could be his final home GP.
    Circuit chiefs are staying optimistic that the race will get the go ahead from the Government as part of their Covid-19 roadmap, on July 18.
    And that could mean around 500,000 people over the four-day event, making it one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
    Stuart Pringle, Managing Director of Silverstone, said: “We are on route to sell out of the general admission tickets by April and many of the grandstands are already 80 percent full.
    “If it is allowed to go ahead, the 2021 British Grand Prix could be one of the biggest crowds ever.
    “If you want to see him and win big at home, it could be the last year to see Lewis race at Silverstone.
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    “We all want something to look forward to. Summer holidays overseas look compromised, so come and have a celebration at Silverstone.
    “We always have a good atmosphere but I just think if we can have it, it could be the party to end all parties!”
    The British GP is subject to the Covid restrictions being lifted like the rest of the UK, but track bosses say they will refund ticket holders or roll them over to 2022, should the race be behind closed doors.
    Pringle added: “The buying behaviour is backed by a Covid guarantee so if they are prevented from coming due to Covid, we will offer them a full refund or will roll the booking over to another year.
    “We are very conscious that the fans have been very supportive of us, from last year to this year, and it has made a huge difference to our business.
    “It would have been very difficult to refund everyone their ticket money so it has kept us alive during a very difficult period for all sporting venues.
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    “They want to come and we want them to come. We hear the Prime Minister’s optimism and we also totally note his caution. That is understood.
    “It is clear that the Government have the intention to try and unlock the country by the time of the GP.
    “It is selling fast, it is going to be massive but we are also cautiously optimistic.”

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    Inside Manny Pacquiao’s £7m Manila mansion where boxing star had to isolate after partying with a coronavirus victim

    BOXING legend Manny Pacquiao’s £7million mansion oozes luxury and features a huge dining table and swimming pool.The Filipino fighter is plotting his return to the ring and could probably afford to add another wing to his house if he can down Terence Crawford.
    The impressive Manila pad was purchased in 2012
    Pacquiao shares the home with his wife Jinkee (left) and five children
    Mikey Garcia is also an option for a contest in May as the 42-year-old sets up a comeback contest.
    A match-up with Conor McGregor was also touted last year, when Pacquiao found himself in a spot of pandemic bother.
    Koko Pimentel, a Filipino senator and leading figure in the country’s ruling party, was seen at the residence in the Manila borough of Makati last spring, shortly before testing positive for coronavirus.
    Pacquiao, now also a senator in the Philippines, was sent a letter that instructed him and his family to self-isolate.
    Pacquiao’s property on the outskirts of the capital city has been his home since 2012, when he bought it for £7m.
    The amazing mansion, which features a tennis court, pool and large dining room, is also home to his wife Jinkee and their five children.
    The property features a large swimming pool
    Pacquiao is arguably the Philippines’ most famous son
    Many rooms overlook the pool

    Errol Spence Jr has also been floated as a possible opponent for the ring king, although Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning trainer, Justin Fortune, believes such a fight would be one sided.
    He told SunSport: “Spence is a great fighter and a good champion, but he’s not the same guy that he was before, not at all.
    “We saw that when he fought Danny Garcia. Everyone raves about how hard Spence punches, well Danny Garcia came through 12 rounds.
    “Danny Garcia also never pulled the trigger that night, or else Danny would probably have beaten him, I think. You put Spence in there with someone like Pacquiao now, Pacquiao obliterates him, even at 42-years-old.
    There is plenty of space to get ready in the Pacquiao residency
    Neighbours told the boxer to isolate with his family in the home last spring
    The problems arose after a party guest and fellow politician fell ill
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    EFL announce first EVER clear round of coronavirus testing out of 5,524 with just two in Prem for seventh week running

    EFL chiefs have recorded their first Covid-free testing round.A total of 5,524 players and staff from across all 72 EFL clubs gave samples last week.
    There were zero Covid-19 cases in the Football League this weekCredit: PA
    None of those tests came back positive, in a landmark week for the EFL.
    League chief executive Trevor Birch said: “These results are a testament to the hard work and efforts of all EFL clubs during what has been a particularly challenging period.
    “For 12 months we, like the rest of the society, have been dictated to by this virus.
    “However, the stringent protocols implemented across the board have ensured that we are now able to turn our attention to returning to a certain level of normality.
    “Our focus must be on maintaining this low transmission rate and then ensure supporters can return in full as quickly as is safe to do so.
    “Football remains one of the most heavily regulated areas of crowd management, with EFL clubs already demonstrating they can stage matches safely during a successful pilot programme earlier in the season.”
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    Premier League clubs have recorded two positive samples in each of the last seven weeks, with the last clear round of top-flight testing coming in the final week of last season.
    Leeds’ Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich has tested positive for the virus and will miss his country’s three World Cup qualifiers including next week’s match with England at Wembley.
    A solitary positive was recorded from the first round of 1,576 tests between Monday and Thursday last week, with a another positive result from the second round of 1,196 tests between Thursday and Sunday.
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