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Liverpool’s title chase won’t influence Everton, says Roberto Martinez

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The question is one that people on Merseyside and throughout the globe, including Joe Prince Wright and myself in the above video, have contemplated – will Everton be motivated to affect Liverpool’s title bid in this weekend’s match against Manchester City?

The scenario is straightforward: If Everton takes a point off of Manchester City on Sunday, the title is back in Brendan Rodgers’ hands. Fail to do so and Liverpool’s title hopes diminish greatly and shift to the hands of Aston Villa and West Ham, who City host in their final two matches. 

And although Liverpool faces the more dire circumstances, Everton is still battling to qualify for Europe. While Arsenal are heavy favorites to finish 4th, the Toffees are still motivated to catch the Gunners or, at the very least, secure a Europa League berth. Roberto Martinez’ men currently sit in one of the two Europa League spots in 5th place on 69 points. But just three points behind sits Tottenham and nine points behind is Manchester United, both of whom can mathematically overtake the Toffees before the season closes out. 

The idea that Everton could be willing to jeopardize the Europa League in order to put one over on their city rivals was contemplated by former Toffees striker Andy Gray earlier this week on TalkSport:

“Peter Reid and I were talking about it last night and we think maybe Evertonians for once in their life may not be too upset if they get beat this week,” said Gray.

“The players will try and do their job the best they can but I’ve got a funny feeling many thousand Evertonians, for one week only, will not mind if they lose the game.”

The topic has since caught fire in Liverpool prompting Martinez to share his thoughts on the matter.

“We’re looking for the next six points,” said Martinez on Thursday. “It’s a really important game, against a team fighting for the title, but we want to finish strong.

“I always felt the relationship between the two clubs in this city has had incredible chapters and this would be another fascinating one but there is no doubting our integrity towards the league and competition, we want to win every single game we go into.

“They are precious points for us and we cannot afford not to give everything we have. Helping other teams – that’s not the way we do our work. We are just focused on trying to win for ourselves.”

The comment is vintage Martinez, an answer one should only expect from the former Wigan manager who just last year put the Latic’s relegation status on the line to win the FA Cup. For many the Europa League has become a poisoned chalice but one gets the sense that for Martinez and his squad, it’s a tangible distinction they will feel proud to have earned.

As always is the case for Martinez, this weekend is all about Everton. Please the supporters with beautiful, inspired football and let the rest of the league play out as it will. “The fans want to come to Goodison, and be proud of the team. If that adds some spice in the twists and turns of the title race, then so be it, but it’s important we are as good as we can be.”

 

Former CONMEBOL president has petition to stop extradition rejected

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.

Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.

[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]

Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.

Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.

Cristiano Ronaldo back healthy for Real Madrid; will play vs. Man City

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid warms up during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Valdebebas training ground on May 3, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.

Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]

The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.

Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.

[ RELATED: Atletico Madrid eliminate Bayern Munich, advance to UCL final ]

Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.

Premier League chairman: Leicester City made mugs of all of us

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Leicester reacts to Leicester City's Premier League Title Success on May 03, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]

With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.

Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.

We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.

It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.

If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’

Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.

[ VOTE: What is the top moment from Leicester’s fairytale run? ]

Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’

Simeone on Atleti’s achievement: We showed the work of three years

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 02:  Head coach Diego Pablo Simeone of Atletico de Madrid gives instructions during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Betis Balompie at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Atletico Madrid are headed to their second Champions League final in three seasons.

Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to lead Atleti past Bayern Munich in the semis as they must now await their opponent in the final, either Manchester City or Real Madrid.

[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]

Atleti lost the 2014 final to Real Madrid, but they currently look the strongest side in Europe with a leader in Diego Simeone who has risen up the ranks of the game’s elite managers.

Speaking after Tuesday’s match, Simeone said the performance his side put in against Bayern Munich was thanks to the work they have put in over the past few seasons.

Very emotional. It was a very good first half by Bayern, they’re a great team. The missed penalty gave us life.

We had to change a bit from the first leg in terms of how we played and we showed our strengths as a team. The penalty miss by Torres hurt us but in the end it was like a movie, thrilling, with five minutes extra time.

I’m proud of what has happened to this club. We are beating the best teams in the world. Over the course of 180 minutes we showed the work of three years.

I hope that destiny will eventually help us in the final. It doesn’t matter who we play.

Barcelona and Bayern Munich entered the Champions League as favorites to lift the trophy in Milan, but both of those sides failed to get past Simeone’s Atletico.

[ REPORTS: Man City to trigger $60 million Aymeric Laporte release clause ]

Simeone’s name has been linked with the Premier League and other top clubs in Europe, but is there a reason for him to leave Madrid? Atleti’s two legs against Bayern truly did show the work of three years, as the manager has stuck to his guns and built the team around his values as a manager. They may not have been mentioned in the elite tier of clubs in the past, but Simeone has proven they should be now.