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Sports Shorts: Di Maria expected back at Real for training

July 27, 2014 16:02 IST

Sports Shorts: Ancelott expects to see Di Maria back at Real training

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Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is expecting Angel Di Maria to begin pre-season training on August 5 and has no information about the Argentina winger leaving for Paris St Germain.

"There is nothing new in the market," Ancelotti said when asked about reports Di Maria was set to join the Ligue 1 side for a fee of around 70 million euros ($94 million).

"Di Maria finished the World Cup and he is resting," added the Italian.

"He will return on August 5 to start (training) together with his teammates."

Ancelotti was speaking at a news conference after Real were beaten on penalties by Inter Milan in a pre-season friendly in California on Saturday.

Asked about other possible summer signings following the arrival of Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez and Germany midfielder Toni Kroos, Ancelotti said Real were not looking for another centre forward.

Their France striker Karim Benzema was "very reliable" and another option would be to use attacking midfielder Isco as a roving centre forward, Ancelotti said.

"We are not going to look for another forward because we don't need one," he added.

Real begin their La Liga campaign on the weekend of Aug. 23/24 at home to promoted Cordoba and will be defending their Champions League and King's Cup crowns next term.

- NEXT: Raikkonen blames Ferrari for qualifying gaffe 


Image: Angel di Maria
Photographs: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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Raikkonen blames Ferrari for qualifying gaffe

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Kimi Raikkonen told Ferrari to get their act together after a qualifying gaffe by his Italian team left the Finn languishing down the starting grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Raikkonen has a great record at the Hungaroring, finishing second in the last two years with Lotus and winning with McLaren back in 2005.

His chances of getting back on the podium in Sunday's race took a huge hit however when he failed to get out of the first phase of qualifying after the team assured him he had done enough to do so. He will start 16th.

"The plan was to go out, but the team said 'no, you are fine, you do not need to go out'," the 2007 world champion told reporters.

"I questioned it a few times, but they said no need, and we can see the end result.

"A mistake has been made. It's already been a difficult year, so I don't see the point to shout. The mistake is done," he added.

Raikkonen, who returned to Ferrari this season in what was supposed to be a dream team of champions with Fernando Alonso, has had a miserable year.

He has so far failed to finish higher than seventh in 10 races, scoring a mere 19 points to his double world champion team mate's 97.

To make matters worse, he was out-qualified on Saturday by Marussia's Jules Bianchi - a Ferrari young driver academy graduate in a Ferrari-powered car with a steadily growing reputation.

Bianchi has been talked about in paddock gossip as a possible replacement for the Finn, even if Raikkonen has a contract for next season and is adamant that he is not going anywhere.

"People make mistakes, but there are things we have to change to improve," said Raikkonen.

"As a team in Formula One, as Ferrari, we should not be doing these kind of things. None of us are in our first year. These are not easy times.

"Obviously we have to improve, to do things differently. We can see there are weaknesses in the system. That's how it goes," he said.

Raikkonen said that despite the setback, he still had trust in the team and Ferrari technical head Pat Fry said he expected him to come out fighting on Sunday.

"Unfortunately, with Kimi we were caught out by the evolution of the track. It’s very disappointing not to have got through with him because he’s been going better this weekend," he said.

"Clearly tomorrow he will be on the attack."

- NEXT: Dominant Nibali set to be crowned Tour champ


Image: Kimi Raikkonen
Photographs: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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Dominant Nibali set to be crowned in Paris

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Having dominated on all terrains, Vincenzo Nibali is set to win the Tour de France after avoiding any late dramas on Saturday in the penultimate stage, a 54-km time trial from Bergerac won by Tony Martin.

Italian Nibali finished fourth in the stage, nearly two minutes slower than the dominant German - who clocked one hour six minutes 21 seconds - but will roll into Paris on Sunday with an overall lead of seven minutes 52 seconds.

Jean-Christophe Peraud climbed to second overall ahead of compatriot Thibaut Pinot and France are now poised to have two riders on the podium for the first time since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault finished first and second in 1984.

Nibali will become the sixth man to win all three grand tours barring a crash in Sunday's processional final stage that ends on the Champs Elysees, and the first Italian to win the Tour de France since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.

"It was not an easy time trial, it required a lot of power," said Astana rider Nibali who has won four stages and has worn the yellow jersey for most of the race since snatching it on the second day in Sheffield, England.

FDJ.fr rider Pinot, who will claim the white jersey for the best under-25 rider ahead of compatriot Romain Bardet, is 8:24 off the pace.

"Near the end I was empty, the last 5-km felt really long," said Pinot.

Peraud started the day third overall behind Pinot but was stronger against the clock than his young compatriot and managed to beat him despite suffering a puncture soon after the halfway point.

His AG2R-La Mondiale team mate Bardet also had a puncture 2-km from the line, losing fifth place overall to American Tejay van Garderen by two seconds.

Spain's Alejandro Valverde, fourth in the race standings, was tired and never threatened.

"The legs did not respond the way I expected," said Movistar rider Valverde, the Spanish time trial champion.

"During the stage I knew the time differences and therefore I knew the podium was lost."

Poland's Rafal Majka, who claimed two mountain stages, is to take the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification while Slovakian Peter Sagan will easily claim the green jersey for the points classification.

Alessandro De Marchi of Italy was voted the most aggressive rider of the event by a panel of journalists and race officials while AG2R-La Mondiale will win the team classification.

Nibali, who won the 2010 Tour of Spain and last year's Giro d'Italia, has surrendered the yellow jersey for only one day since taking it in Sheffield.

Briton Chris Froome, the 2013 champion, crashed out on the fifth stage while Spain's Alberto Contador, the 2007 and 2009 winner who had looked in ominous form coming into the race, also pulled out after an accident on the 10th leg.

Before Nibali, only Frenchmen Hinault and Jacques Anquetil, Italy's Felice Gimondi, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Contador had won the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta.

- NEXT: Isner reaches fourth Atlanta final in five years


Image: Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and the Astana Pro Team takes the podium after defending the overall race leader's jersey with a fourth place finish in the individual time trial during the twentieth stage of the 2014 Tour de France, a 54km individual time trial stage between Bergerac and Perigueux on Sunday
Photographs: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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Isner reaches fourth Atlanta final in five years

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Top seed John Isner has continued his love affair with the Atlanta Open by powering his way into the final for the fourth time in five years on Saturday.

The American will meet Israeli Dudi Sela on the hardcourt in Atlanta on Sunday, after dominating on serve to beat compatriot Jack Sock 7-5, 6-4 in an afternoon semi-final.

The defending champion dropped only two points on first serve to wear down Sock, who became increasingly frustrated as the match progressed in searing heat, at one stage arguing with the umpire after a line call was reversed on replay.

"It was not easy conditions at all in the heat today," Isner said.

"I thought I played pretty well. Jack is a really good player. I wanted to win that match."

The world number 12 clearly feels at home in the state where he went to college at the University of Georgia.

But the first set almost slipped away when Sock had a break point at 5-5, only to hit the tape with a backhand down the line.

Buoyed by the reprieve, Isner finally broke serve to take the set in the next game, a 14-minute marathon as Wimbledon doubles champion Sock staved off two set points.

The first nine games of the second set went with serve before Sock frittered away a 30-0 lead in the 10th game.

He saved two match points, before double-faulting on the third to hand Isner victory.

The towering North Carolina native has won eight ATP titles, his most recent in Auckland in January.

He has a 2-0 career head-to-head record against world number 94 Sela, who beat German Benjamin Becker 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the night semi-final.

The Israeli has qualified for only his second ATP final, six years after his first in Beijing, and will bid for his maiden title at the age of 29.

-  NEXT: Italy soccer administrator caught up in racism row


Image: John Isner reacts after winning the first set against Jack Sock during the BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station on Saturday
Photographs: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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Italy soccer administrator caught up in racism row

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Carlo Tavecchio, the favourite to become the next Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president, has been caught up in a racism storm after referring to African players as "banana eaters".

The influx of foreign players has been a hot topic since the national team crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage and 71-year-old Tavecchio suggested Italy should replicate England's stringent requirements for non-EU players.

"In England, they identify the players coming in and, if they are professional, they are allowed to play," Tavecchio said at the summer assembly of Italy's amateur leagues (LND).

"Here instead we get 'Opti Pobà', who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first team player with Lazio.

"That's how it is here. In England, you need to demonstrate what you have on your CV and your pedigree."

Tavecchio, who is head of the LND, has faced serious criticism in Italy after the remarks, with the centre-left Democratic Party coming out strongest following a wave of negative reaction from fans on social media.

“Tavecchio would do well to remember that words, especially when said by people who have important roles in institutions, have both weight and consequences," said Cecile Kyenge, a Congo-born European MP and Italy's former Minister of Integration.

“It's sad, it seems as though he lost the sense of what he wanted to say, his ability to analyse what he was saying and the effect of what certain phrases can have on others," she added.

“Those in positions of power should remember their role of educator and pay attention to what they're saying.”

Kyenge has been the target of racist abuse herself. After her appointment as Minister of Integration she was targeted by far-right groups and in April last year vice-president of the Italian Senate Roberto Calderoli compared her to an orangutan.

Others from her party also weighed in on Tavecchio, with MP Davide Faraone saying that he couldn't guide the FIGC in light of the increasingly severe measures dished out to fans for racist abuse, which is still a problem in Italian stadia.

Last season several clubs had the areas where the hardcore “ultra” fans stand closed following racist chanting, with repeat offenders being forced to play matches behind closed doors.

“Tavecchio cannot be FIGC president,” said Faraone. “Curvas and entire stadiums have been closed for similar words. He wouldn't have any credibility.”

President of the Italian Footballers' Association (AIC) Damiano Tommasi also denounced Tavecchio, saying that he had received numerous complaints from incredulous players.

“I am disconcerted by Tavecchio’s comments on bananas and Opti Pobà. I don’t know whether to be even more shocked by the silence that surrounded them,” Tommasi said to the Ansa news agency.

“I have received a number of phone calls of protest from Italian and foreign players who are just astounded by this.”

Questioned by reporters about the comments afterwards, Tavecchio claimed that he could not remember what he had said in his own speech.

"I can't remember if I said the word "banana" but I was referring to the CV and professionalism required by English football for players who come from Africa or other countries." he said

"If anyone has interpreted my speech as offensive, I offer my apologies."

Tavecchio is expected to beat former AC Milan and Italy midfielder Demetrio Albertini to the top job in the August 11 vote. The pair are both currently vice-presidents of the FIGC.

The battle for control of Italian soccer's governing body comes after the resignation of former president Giancarlo Abete, who stepped down immediately after Italy's embarrassing early exit from the World Cup.


Image: Supporters of FC Inter Milan (Picture used for representational purposes)
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

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