Sports

Mar 242016
 
Leicester need 17 points from their final seven games to guarantee the title

Watching Leicester City’s bid for a stunning Premier League title is more nerve-wracking than taking a penalty at a World Cup, Gary Lineker says.

The Foxes are closing in on an unlikely triumph after going five points clear at the top with seven games to go.

But their meteoric rise has left former Leicester striker Lineker feeling “like a big jelly on a plate”.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: “This is actually quite agonising. It turns you into a big bag of nerves.”

Lineker, who scored 48 goals for England, added: “I’ve never suffered from nerves in my life.

“I’ve taken a penalty at the World Cup and never felt a thing.”

In Short: Everybody in Europe wants to see Leicester City win – Martin O’Neill

Lineker played for Leicester from 1978 to 1985 before joining Everton

A big fan of his hometown club, Lineker, 55, says he plans to stay away from Leicester games for the time being because he does not want to “spook” their title chase.

“Ever since I started to go and watch them play, which is never that often because I generally work Saturdays, I’ve never seen them win,” the Match of the Day presenter said.

“So, what do I do? You know what, I’m not going to. I’m just going to keep watching on TV because that’s been all right.

“I just don’t want to spook the whole thing up, so I’ll carry on.”

Lineker said he was planning to watch them play Manchester United at Old Trafford on 1 May but said that might change.

“I shall make a judgement nearer the time,” he said.

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Mar 242016
 
Wales boss Chris Coleman took charge in January 2012, two months after Michael O’Neill became Northern Ireland manager

BBC Coverage

How to follow:
Live on BBC Two Wales & BBC Two NI & BBC Sport website. Also live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Ulster, plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website.

Wales will be without several first-team players for their Euro 2016 warm-up match against Northern Ireland – but manager Chris Coleman still expects a full-blooded derby.

Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Hal Robson-Kanu are among eight players out injured for Wales.

Northern Ireland are without defender Chris Baird and midfielder Chris Brunt, who will miss Euro 2016.

But Coleman says: “It will be a bit feisty and that’s what we want.”

Gareth Bale is Wales’ is joint-fifth top scorer with 19 goals in 54 caps

He added: “When we play each other we don’t want to lose to a neighbouring country.

“I know Northern Ireland Michael O’Neill and I know the mentality of his team. They won’t be wanting to come here thinking it is just a little warm-up game before the tournament.”

However, O’Neill reckons that with this summer’s tournament so close the players will not take any unnecessary risks.

“At this stage of the season, both sets of players will have an eye on the summer so, while we’ll want the game to be competitive, I think an element of common sense will prevail,” said O’Neill.

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Wales clash crucial for NI – Davis

Wales’ talismanic forward Bale was left out of the squad in a joint decision between the Football Association of Wales and his club Real Madrid.

Ramsey, James Collins, Andy King and David Edwards are out through injury and illness, while Neil Taylor is rated as doubtful having missed Swansea City’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa because of a dead leg.

Their absences could create opportunities for the likes of Leicester forward Tom Lawrence, currently on loan at Cardiff City, and Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward, who is expected to make his debut against Northern Ireland.

“We’ve got a few missing but that gives us a chance with some of the other lads that have either had no experience before or very little,” said Coleman.

“When we picked this squad and we had quite a few pull-outs it wasn’t that disappointing because we get to see one or two new faces, and they’ll get their chance.”

Northern Ireland could hand debuts to two players, having named uncapped Peterborough defender Michael Smith, 27, and striker Conor Washington in their squad.

Queens Park Rangers striker Washington, 23, qualifies through the grandparent rule and used to play for Peterborough and Newport County.

Conor Washington worked as a postman before he signed for Newport from St Ives Town in 2012

Time to experiment?

The absence of so many familiar names could mean experimentation is a common theme for Wales and Northern Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium, with both teams preparing for this summer’s European Championships.

The competition in France will end two long waits for an appearance at a major tournament – 58 years for Wales and 30 for Northern Ireland.

For Wales, this will be another opportunity to adapt to life without Bale and Ramsey, as they did in November’s friendly defeat to the Netherlands – but their absence is a disappointment to O’Neill.

“It would have been great if Bale would have been able to play,” added NI boss O’Neill.

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Wales clash crucial for NI – Davis

“From our point of view, in preparation for the Euros, we know when we go to France we’re going to play against some very good teams and we’re going to play against some teams with exceptional individual players, which obviously Gareth Bale is.

“Aaron Ramsey comes into that category as well. It would have been good for our preparation to have to have to deal with that.

“I’m sure the players coming in will stake their claim for an opportunity in the summer.”

With uncapped striker Washington in their ranks, Northern Ireland will be hoping to improve a dismal recent scoring record in friendlies.

They have scored only one goal in their last 17 friendlies away from home, a run stretching back nine-and-a-half years.

Match facts

Head-to-head

  • In their 94 meetings, Wales have won 44, Northern Ireland have won 27 and there have been 23 draws.
  • This will be the first match contested between the two sides in Wales since a 2-2 draw in a World Cup qualifier in September 2004.
  • In that game, three players were sent off – Robbie Savage for Wales, plus Michael Hughes and David Healy for Northern Ireland.

Wales

  • Wales’ loss to the Netherlands in November is their only defeat in nine at home (W5 D3).
  • Gareth Bale, who will miss this game, scored seven of Wales’s 11 goals in qualifying for Euro 2016.
  • Wales are unbeaten in seven internationals against Northern Ireland (W4 D3).

Northern Ireland

  • Michael O’Neill has never won an away friendly during his time as Northern Ireland manager (D2 L5).
  • Stuart Dallas is the only Northern Ireland player to score a friendly goal away from home in the last nine-and-a-half years. That came in the victory over Qatar at Gresty Road in May 2015.
  • Northern Ireland’s last win over Wales was in May 1980.

MOST RECENT MEETING

Wales 2-0 Northern Ireland (27 May, 2011)

Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Robert Earnshaw earned Wales a comfortable win over Northern Ireland in a Nations Cup clash in Dublin.

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Sterling out for six to eight weeks

 Posted by at 11:04 PM
Mar 232016
 
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling suffered the groin injury in a challenge with Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata

Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling will miss about six to eight weeks with a groin injury, meaning he might not play again this season.

Sterling, 21, picked up the problem in City’s 1-0 Premier League defeat against Manchester United on Sunday.

Eight weeks would see him return after the final day of the Premier League – 15 May – but before the Champions League final on 28 May.

England will monitor the player’s situation in the lead up to Euro 2016.

The Three Lions squad for the tournament will be announced on 12 May and manager Roy Hodgson has until the end of that month to submit his final 23-man list.

City keeper Joe Hart should only be sidelined for about two weeks after picking up a calf injury in the United match.

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