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Obi Mikel To Lead Super Eagles At Africa Cup Of Nations

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John Obi Mikel has confirmed he is available to return to the Super Eagles for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, according to a team official.

The former Chelsea star last played for Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and was not involved in the qualifying for this year’s Nations Cup.

“Mikel has met with coach (Gernot) Rohr in England and he has confirmed he will feature at the Nations Cup in Egypt,” said a top team official.

The 32-year-old Obi, now with English Championship side Middlesborough, has won 85 caps and scored six goals since his full international debut in 2005 against Libya.

Experts said his experience and leadership would be invaluable to a squad that includes many players making their debut in this competition after Nigeria missed out on the last two editions.

The tournament in Egypt is widely seen as the last hurrah for the player in international football.

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Naomi Osaka withdraws from Italian Open quarter-finals with hand injury

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World number one Naomi Osaka pulled out of the Italian Open quarter-finals on Friday with a right thumb injury, casting doubts over her participation in this month’s French Open.

The 21-year-old Japanese was scheduled to face sixth seed Kiki Bertens after coming through two matches on Thursday in the rain-affected tournament.

But she said she was forced to withdraw due to pain and swelling at the base of her thumb.

“I woke up this morning and couldn’t really move my thumb,” Osaka told reporters.

“I tried to practise and grip my racket but I couldn’t, and I kept feeling this pain when I tried to move my hand in different directions.

“Right now I’m… in between sad and disappointed because I really wanted to play my match today. For me, it was sort of a test to play against Kiki because she’s playing really well and I wanted to see how well I could do today.

“I didn’t feel anything yesterday. That’s why I’m kind of confused right now because I literally woke up in the morning and couldn’t move my thumb. So, I was like, maybe I slept on it and maybe it will go away, but it didn’t.”

An abdominal injury had forced Osaka to pull out ahead of her semi-final clash in Stuttgart last month before she was beaten by Belinda Bencic in the Madrid Open quarter-finals.

“I would describe (my clay season) as rocky,” Osaka added.

“But I can’t necessarily say it’s been ups and downs because if I think about it, it’s definitely been going up. Every match I’ve played I’ve learned a lot. I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned into the next match and I think I’ve done that well.”

Following her U.S. Open and Australian triumphs, Osaka is chasing a third straight Grand Slam trophy at the French Open which begins on May 26.

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Brighton fire manager Chris Hughton after 4-1 home defeat to Manchester City

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Premiership club, Brighton and Hove Albion have sacked manager Chris Hughton after the club suffered a 4-1 home defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.

The defeat, which left them in 17th-place finish in the Premier League also gave Manchester City their second Premier League titles in a row.

Brighton chairman Tony Bloom said in a statement on the club website:’Chris has done an excellent job over the past four and a half years.

‘Undoubtedly, this has been one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make as chairman of Brighton, but ultimately one I have made due to how we struggled in the second half of the season.

‘Our run of 3 wins from 23 Premier League matches put our status at significant risk. It is with that in mind, and the performances during that period, that I now feel it’s the right time for a change. 

‘Chris will always be very fondly remembered by Albion staff and fans as one of our club’s finest and most-respected managers.

‘I would like to wish Chris, Paul and Paul – who have all worked extremely hard throughout their time here – every success for the future, and thank them on behalf of everyone at the club.

‘They will always be welcome at the Amex, and will be remembered here with great affection.’

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Raheem Sterling Prepares For ‘Biggest Game Of My Life’

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Raheem Sterling says he is preparing for the biggest game of his life after receiving the Football Writers’ Association player of the year award.

A stunning season with Manchester City and England has been backed up by impressive work off the pitch in the fight against racism.

Sterling’s form has earned him the Professional Footballers’ Association young player of the year award and the writers’ trophy, which he collected in London on Thursday.

Manchester City head to their final game of the season at Brighton on Sunday a point clear of Liverpool, who host Wolves, at the top of the Premier League.

In his acceptance speech at the FWA dinner he said: “Right now, being here and getting voted the writers’ player of the year is amazing and on Sunday I have the biggest game of my life to go and win. It’s very special.”

He added: “My mum is the biggest inspiration on my life, whenever something is going wrong I always think of my mum. She is always fighting, I have seen her fighting through the hardest things. If I see what she is capable of, that’s where I get my fight from.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wrote to congratulate Sterling in the evening’s programme and praised him for his stance against racism.

He wrote: “He has faced so much adversity and instead of hiding from it, he has taken control and become a role model for young people everywhere.”

Nikita Parris thanked Manchester City for their support after winning the FWA women’s footballer of the year award.

The England forward said: “It’s massively improved me as a player, I wouldn’t be here without the support of Manchester City.

“The support they give the women and men is unbelievable. We continue to push on to win trophies, it’s great Raheem and I are here but we keep wanting to win awards with the team.”

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