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Rediff.com  » Sports » Sports Shorts: Pique illness leaves Barca short-staffed

Sports Shorts: Pique illness leaves Barca short-staffed

May 13, 2017 20:39 IST

A summary of sports events and sports persons, who made news on Saturday

Gerard Pique

IMAGE: Barcelona's Gerrard Pique. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique will be forced to rejig his defence against Las Palmas on Sunday after centre back Gerard Pique was almost certainly ruled out of their penultimate league game in a gripping La Liga title race.

The coach said Pique had been feeling unwell during the week and was unlikely to make the long flight to the Canary Islands, leaving Barca short-staffed at the back with Sergi Roberto suspended and Jeremy Mathieu and Aleix Vidal injured.

Pique, known for his business interests outside of soccer, was in the Spanish capital this week attending the Madrid Open and trying to progress his plan to set up a new international tennis tournament to rival the Davis Cup.

Luis Enrique could return to the 3-4-3 formation he used during March but which has fallen out of favour in recent weeks.

The coach, however, kept his cards close to his chest when asked how he will cope with the sudden scarcity of defenders.

Even though Madrid are better placed in the title chase, Luis Enrique said his players still believe they can pip their rivals to the prize and are fully focused on their last two games, against Las Palmas and Eibar.

"The players' mentality is to exhaust our chances of winning all the trophies we can, and we're going to fight for the title until the end," he added.

"Anything can happen."

Zidane unsure when Bale will return from injury

Gareth Bale

IMAGE: Gareth Bale of Real Madrid reacts. Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Gareth Bale is set to miss the remainder of Real Madrid's league campaign after coach Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday he did not know when the Wales international will return from injury.

Bale has endured his longest spell on the sidelines in his fourth season with Real, which has been littered with injuries, and faces a race to get fit for the Champions League final against Juventus on June 3 in his home town of Cardiff.

The forward has been limited to 17 league starts this season due to a serious ankle injury and repeated muscle problems and was absent from training the day before Real's final home game of the season against Sevilla on Sunday.

He is still recovering from a calf tear sustained against Barcelona on April 23.

"He's still training indoors, with some discomfort," Zidane told a news conference.

"We have to take it day by day but for now he's not with us and I don't know when he will be, but I hope it's soon."

Madrid are locked on 84 points with Barcelona at the top of the La Liga standings, but are currently second due to an inferior head-to-head record.

They have a game in hand, however, which is against Celta Vigo on Wednesday and seven points from their final three matches will see them lift a first title since 2012.

Harika suffers loss in Tepe Sigeman & Co. Chess tournament

Indian Grand Master Harika Dronavalli dropped her first point in the TePe Sigrman & Co. Chess tournament after going down to Swedish GM Erik Blomqvist in the third round in Malmo.

The Guntur girl playing with white pieces started off well but succumbed to the persistent pressure applied by Erik to eventually lose the game.

"After good performances in the first two rounds of the tournament, I made a blunder in the third one which cost me precious points," Harika said after the match.

With two draws and one loss so far in the campaign, Harika is in the sixth place on the leaderboard.

She will now take on table topper, GM Baadur Jobava from Georgia in her next round game.

Harikrishna holds Hammer in opening round of Moscow FIDE GP

Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna began his Grand Prix Chess Series campaign with a hard fought draw against Jon Ludvig hammer of Norway in Moscow.

The World No. 16 Indian, playing with white pieces, started off aggressively against his lower rated opponent, but found himself on the backfoot with a miscalculated move.

The Indian seemed undeterred even after the initial mistake and fought hard to lead the 93-move game towards neutral territory.

Harikrishna, the sole representative from India, making his debut in the Grand Prix circuit, will surely have his sights set for the Candidates Tournament 2018.

This is the second leg of the Grand Prix series and will see 18 of the 24 invited players feature in the competition which offers an extravagant prize money of 130,000 euros.

The FIDE Grand Prix Moscow 2017 will be played at a time control of 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, and then 15 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1.

Harinder Pal Sandhu bags title

Former Indian national champion Harinder Pal Sandhu made short work of Henry Leung of Hong Kong 11-0, 11-6, 11-7 in the final of the Malaysian Tour Leg 9 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday.

It is Sandhu's first overseas PSA title and 6th overall, said a press release.

After the initial struggle in the tournament and then showing fixity of purpose, the young Indian, who was the second seed played to potential and needed just half hour to stop run of Leung, for whom this was the second successive PSA event final in the space of a month.

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