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Football Briefs: Zlatan close to Man United comeback

Last updated on: March 15, 2018 20:05 IST

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic

IMAGE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring a goal for Manchester United. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is finally over the serious knee injury that has kept him out of action for almost a year and a comeback for Manchester United is on the cards soon, the striker told Reuters.


The 36-year-old was speaking following the announcement of a new partnership with technology company Samsung under which Sweden's record goalscorer will test and showcase new products for the South Korean firm.

Having sustained a bad knee injury in United's Europa League quarter-final against Belgian side Anderlecht in April, 2017, Ibrahimovic last appeared for the Premier League club on Dec. 26 against Burnley.

He was replaced in that game at halftime and has since been confined to the sidelines, but asked when he would be pulling on the famous red shirt again, Ibrahimovic was clear.

"When I'm ready to perform. It's all about that," he said.

Widely regarded as Sweden's greatest player, Ibrahimovic won league titles with Dutch side Ajax, Juventus, Inter and AC Milan in Italy, Spain's Barcelona and French giants Paris St Germain before arriving at Old Trafford in 2016.

He has added a Europa League crown with United, watching the final in Stockholm from the stands on crutches, but with league leaders Manchester City 16 points ahead of second-placed United, it is very unlikely he will be crowned champion of England.

The Red Devils were also knocked out of the Champions League this week by Spanish side Sevilla and have only the FA Cup left to play for in terms of trophies, but Ibrahimovic is raring to go.

"I want to get to the point where I can perform as I haven't been able to take part so much during the season," he said before hinting at an international comeback for Sweden in this year's World Cup in Russia.

"The thoughts are there the whole time, but if I want to, I'll be there," said Ibrahimovic, who quit the national team after Euro 2016 having scored 62 goals, many of them spectacular, in 116 games.

Tottenham can cope without in-form Kane, says Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur can cope with the loss of Harry Kane to injury and the absence of their prolific striker will not be used as an excuse if the team suffers a dip in form, manager Mauricio Pochettino said.

Spurs visit Swansea City in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Saturday and Pochettino said the competition had become a top priority as it represented the team's only hope of winning a trophy this season.

Kane, who jointly leads the league scoring charts with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, injured ankle ligaments during last Sunday's 4-1 victory over Bournemouth but Pochettino is confident the forward will return before the end of the season.

"We are talking about one of the best strikers in the world," the Argentine told reporters on Thursday.

"Of course we are going to miss Harry because it's obvious he is one of the best, but we are calm and relaxed because we have enough quality to play and win games.

"It is no excuse now that Harry is out for a few weeks that we are not going to have the same mentality and try and win the games."

Tottenham were knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus last week, and Pochettino said their exit from Europe's elite club competition had left Spurs with two remaining targets - a top-four finish and winning the FA Cup.

Juve win 12th in a row to go four points clear in Serie A

Juventus’ Blaise Matuidi celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal against Atalanta during their Serie A match in Turin on Wednesday

IMAGE: Juventus’ Blaise Matuidi celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal against Atalanta during their Serie A match in Turin on Wednesday. Photograph: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Juventus claimed their 12th league win in a row when they beat Atalanta 2-0 on Wednesday in a match originally postponed by snow to go four points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A.

Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi scored in each half of a typically efficient performance which left the Turin side as favourites to win a seventh successive title.

Juventus also kept a clean sheet for the eighth Serie A match in a row and have yet to concede a goal in the league this year.

Atalanta finished with 10 men after Gianluca Mancini was booked twice in as many minutes and sent off.

Juve's opening goal was almost entirely down to Douglas Costa, the Brazilian winger winning the ball in his own half and then running 50 metres before releasing Higuain, who advanced and placed his shot past Etrit Berisha.

It was the feisty Argentine forward's 15th league goal of the season.

Mancini was sent off in the 79th minute after successive bookable fouls on Higuain and Giorgio Chiellini and Juve immediately added a second.

Paulo Dybala sent a low cross into the area to Higuain and he found an unmarked Matuidi who swept the ball home for the second.

Juventus have 74 points from 28 games -- 24 wins, two draws and two defeats -- while Napoli are on 70. The Turin side visit SPAL on Saturday where they have a chance to open up a seven-point lead before Napoli host Genoa on Sunday.

Motta sees red as PSG beat Angers to extend lead

Thiago Motta lost his temper but Kylian Mbappe’s double earned Paris St Germain a 2-1 home win over Angers on Wednesday as the capital side extended their Ligue 1 lead to 17 points.

Midfielder Motta was shown a straight red card after 16 minutes for stepping on Romain Thomas’s chest but Mbappe had already opened the scoring and the France striker doubled his tally in the first half to put PSG on 80 points from 30 matches.

Angers, who pulled a goal back in the second half through Karl Toko Ekambi, are 14th on 32 points.

Although they are still without Neymar who is recovering from ankle surgery, Unai Emery’s side were a cut above and went ahead after 12 minutes when Mbappe fired home with a low shot after collecting a perfect through ball from Julian Draxler.

Four minutes later Motta was sent off, only for Mbappe to make it 2-0 in the 26th minute from close range after a back pass by Layvin Kurzawa. Angers eventually made their numerical advantage count when Toko Ekambi found the back of the net after a one-two with Flavien Tait in the 76th minute.

PSG wasted an opportunity to put the result beyond doubt when Mbappe’s fierce strike crashed on to Ludovic Butelle’s crossbar, but it did not stop the runaway leaders recording another victory.

Barca midfielder Busquets out for three weeks with toe injury

Barcelona could be without vital midfielder Sergio Busquets for their Champions League quarter-final first leg after the club said the Spain international would miss three weeks having injured his toe against Chelsea.

"Tests have confirmed that Sergio Busquets has a hairline fracture on the fifth toe of his right foot. He will be out for approximately three weeks," said a club statement on Thursday.

Busquets was taken off for Andre Gomes in the 61st minute of Barca's last-16 second leg against Chelsea, which the Catalans won 3-0 to go through to the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition for an 11th consecutive year.

He will miss Barca's Liga games at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and away to Sevilla on March 31, as well as Spain's international friendlies against Germany and Argentina.

Busquets, 29, has played in all of Barca's Champions League games this season and only missed three of their league games.

Barca will learn their Champions League quarter-final opponents when the draw takes place on Friday. The first leg games are on April 3 and 4, with the return games on April 10 and 11.

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