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African Cup of Nations: A look at Group D

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) A look at the teams, key players and coaches in Group D at the African Cup of Nations:

GHANA

When will the pain end for Ghana? No team has had to deal with more near-misses in the recent history of the African Cup. Always among the favorites, the four-time champions haven’t tasted any success in 35 years and have lost three finals and four semifinals since its last title in 1982. Ghana has the players, it just needs to find the mental strength to break the losing run.

KEY PLAYERS: Asamoah Gyan, Jordan Ayew and Christian Atsu

Ghana’s attacking trio must re-produce the form that took the team to the 2015 final – and crucially deliver in the final this time – if Ghana is going to finally get its hands back on the African Cup.

COACH: Avram Grant

Grant led Ghana to the 2015 final barely a month after being appointed, but two years down the line his job may be under threat if Ghana doesn’t win in Gabon. Ghana is in danger of missing out on the 2018 World Cup, meaning the African Cup could be the saving grace for the former Chelsea manager. He faces a stern test to guide his team through a group that also contains Egypt and Mali.

BEST RESULT: Winner, 1963, 1965, 1978 and 1982.

MALI

The team that had the cruelest experience in 2015 when it was denied a place in the quarterfinals through the drawing of lots. Mali and Guinea finished with identical records in their group, leaving a Guinean official to pick the winning ball out of a bag and eliminate Mali from the tournament. That ended a run of two successive third-place finishes for Mali. Mali faces tough group opposition in Ghana and Egypt in 2017 and doesn’t have talismanic midfielder Seydou Keita anymore.

KEY PLAYER: Adama Traore

Without the retired Keita, the focus will be on Monaco’s Traore to run Mali from midfield, with help from Werder Bremen’s Sambou Yatabare.

COACH: Alain Giresse

Giresse is back for a second spell in charge of Mali, a team he took to the semifinals and ultimately third place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in 2012. Giresse also previously coached Gabon, so he’s likely to feel right at home at this tournament.

BEST RESULT: Runner-up, 1972.

EGYPT

The most successful team in Africa is back. Egypt has won seven titles, and claimed three straight from 2006-10, but after beating Ghana in the 2010 final, it failed to qualify for the next three tournaments. Politics contributed to that, with the slump coinciding with revolution and upheaval at home. Egypt has had a strong revival, though, and its squad for Gabon has a good balance of home-based and Europe-based players. Goalkeeper and captain Essam el-Hadary, who is 43, won with Egypt in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010.

KEY PLAYER: Mohamed Salah

The speedy Roma forward leads Egypt’s attacking threat with his ability to score goals and create opportunities for others. This is the 24-year-old Salah’s first opportunity to showcase his talent at an international tournament.

COACH: Hector Cuper

Egypt found the right man in Hector Cuper after Bob Bradley and Shawky Gharieb couldn’t get Egypt back into the African Cup. The Argentine is a former Inter Milan and Valencia coach and has created a tactically impressive Egypt team.

BEST RESULT: Winner, 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010.

UGANDA

Uganda had to wait much longer than Egypt to return to the African Cup: This is its first trip to the championship in 39 years. That means that apart from debutant Guinea-Bissau, Uganda is the most inexperienced team in Gabon. That won’t matter for the Ugandans, who have faced all sorts of challenges on their way to Gabon, most recently a severe lack of money to fund their trip. Politicians back home came to their aid, with every Ugandan lawmaker agreeing to take a pay cut of $138 this month so that the money can be sent to the team.

KEY PLAYER: Geofrey Massa

Goalkeeper Denis Onyango is often the hero for Uganda but the Ugandans will need more than that if they are to make an impact on their long-awaited return, meaning captain and striker Massa will be arguably more important.

COACH: Milutin Sredojevic

Serbian Sredojevic managed to negotiate Uganda through qualifying and to the African Cup despite a severe lack of financial resources. He’s also not afraid to talk his team up, taunting Ghana coach Avram Grant after Uganda’s 0-0 draw in Ghana in World Cup qualifying last year, and saying his team has got Ghana’s number. Uganda faces Ghana first in Gabon.

BEST RESULT: Runner-up, 1978.

AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

Wayne Rooney back to Everton? Koeman is keen

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Wayne Rooney of Everton and Manchester United runs on to the pitch as he replaces Tom Cleverley of Everton during the Duncan Ferguson Testimonial match between Everton and Villarreal at Goodison Park on August 2, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Wayne Rooney would be welcome back to Everton with open arms.

[ MORE: Who should stay at Liverpool?

That was the general message from Ronald Koeman and Director of Football Steve Walsh on Tuesday as the Sky Sports cameras went live from Everton’s Finch Farm training ground throughout the day.

Speaking to Koeman about the possibility of Rooney, 31, returning to Goodison Park at the end of this season, Everton’s Dutch manager hardly swatted away the questions.

“I still think Wayne Rooney is playing at a high level and he made a good choice staying at Manchester United and in the Premier League,” Koeman said. “He still has two or three years in front of him to play at the highest level. What will happen at the end of the season, I do not know? In my opinion he’s one of the players who can make Everton stronger than they are now. It’s all about what the players likes, what Manchester United need to do and we are not involved in that project. Every player who we feel can make the team stronger is welcome at Everton.”

Walsh, who is in charge of recruitment at Everton after finding great success at Leicester City last season, echoed Koeman’s views as he stated they’d be stupid not to be interested in the services of Manchester United and England’s captain if he was to move away from Old Trafford this summer.

“Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest players that has ever played the game in England and for us not to be interested would be wrong,” Walsh said. “He started his career here and if the opportunity arose that he could come back and it sat well with everyone, it is something we would consider. He is a class apart, he sees things, and all the things that have been said about Wayne are true.

“He comes into that category of being one of England’s greatest ever players, so why wouldn’t we be interested? I think the whole thing would be euphoric.”I think we could sell a lot of shirts, that’s for sure. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Wayne is contracted to Manchester United and made a decision to continue to play for them. Let’s wait and see what happens in the future.”

So, it’s pretty obvious Rooney would be welcome back at Everton by not only the current staff but also the fans. He held his testimonial against Everton at Old Trafford last summer and also played in Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial in 2014 at Goodison Park. Some of the fans wished he would’ve stayed at Everton but even they would understand why he moved on.

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Rooney left Everton 13 years ago for $31.1 million and has become the all-time leading scorer at Manchester United and for England.

Most Everton fans will forgive him for going on to achieve great things with United and if he could return to the Toffees for the final years of his career and help them get into the top four and challenge for silverware, surely that’s a win for everyone? At United he has the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Juan Mata and Henrik Mkhitaryan to compete with.

If Rooney decided to join Everton he’d be a focal point of their attack and could easily make things tick in a No. 10 role. He’d be a starter. No doubt. The comments from Koeman and Walsh back that up.

After dismissing a move to the Chinese Super League last week, Rooney’s options in Major League Soccer could also be limited with a shift towards veteran DPs no longer arriving in the league after the departures of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba this offseason. His wages could be a stumbling block at Everton, but you’d think United wouldn’t ask for much of a transfer fee for a player who will only have one more year on his contract this summer. That would be a sort of good will gesture to smooth over Rooney’s potential move to Everton.

A born and bred Evertonian, Rooney seems to be comfortable living in the north west of England like he has his entire life. With his young family, surely he would rather head back to Everton for the final few years of his career rather than going to the U.S. or China? The money may well be better abroad but Rooney’s achievements in the game mean he won’t be short of endorsements, media opportunities and more after he retires.

Then again, he only seems to be focused on playing. If that’s the case, then he wouldn’t play regularly for any other of the PL’s current top six so signing for Everton and helping them in a playmaking role certainly seems to make sense.

The more you think about it, the more this deal makes sense for everyone concerned. Everton get a playmaker with incredible quality. Rooney gets to play regularly and play for the club he supports. United get to move on a star edging towards the end of his career and safe face doing so.

Manchester United sign Welsh wonderkid

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My word, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on this shoulders of this teenage talent…

Remember the name: Levent Gundogan.

[ MORE: United, Mourinho lucky in EFL Cup ]

Welsh side Connah’s Quay Nomads have announced that 14-year-old academy product Gundogan has left to join Manchester United.

Described as a “very gifted player, who is comfortable up front or in attacking midfield” his club have revealed exactly how another Gundogan (Sorry, Ilkay, you’ve got company now) has ended up at a Premier League side in Manchester after spending two years under the tutelage.

Over to you Connah’s Quay

Levent is a great example of the pathway for players within the FAW Academy system, and the opportunities that are available to move to a higher level.

Levent was selected for North Wales development squad this season, which leads into the Wales under 16 National team. After being selected from a Nomads Academy game Levent performed well with North Wales squad and was selected for a friendly game for the side away at Manchester United at the start of 2017.

He performed well in the game which saw him score four goals in a 4-4 friendly, away at Carrington. From this he was awarded a six week trial, for which he has been successful and signed a full time contract with Manchester United Academy last week.

Now, if he’s young, Welsh and a talented attacker, there will immediately be comparisons drawn between this youngster and United legend Ryan Giggs who played 963 times for the Red Devils, winning 24 major titles.

Of course, Giggs’ great success in a career which spanned over two decades at Old Trafford will probably never be replicated.

Still, a young Welsh attacker now has the chance to have a go at it.

Which Liverpool players are “playing for futures” with Klopp?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool talks with Loris Karius of Liverpool after the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on October 17, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Following Liverpool’s humbling defeat at Leicester City on Monday the post-game comments of manager Jurgen Klopp hit home.

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“It’s getting more serious now. We all play for our future, myself included. We get judged every day, especially on match days,” Klopp told Sky Sports after the 3-1 loss which saw Liverpool put in a truly woeful display.

Liverpool currently still sit in fifth place, four points off second place, but a team which led the Premier League earlier in the season have won just one of their seven PL games so far in 2017 as they’re now battling for their lives just to finish in the top four.

Klopp was handed a new six-year contract in the summer, so he will stick around, but there are some big concerns for him to address if Liverpool are to become anything more than just a top four contender.

It begs this question: how many of these current Liverpool players will be around next season?


Let’s take a look at the best starting lineup for Klopp this season…

—– Mignolet —-

— Clyne — Matip — Lovren — Milner —

—- Henderson —- Wijnaldum —-

—- Lallana —- Coutinho —- Mane 

—– Firmino —–

Heading into next season, here are the areas he needs to address…

—– ? —-

— Clyne — ? — Lovren — ? —

—- Henderson —- ? —-

—- Lallana —- Coutinho —- Mane 

—– ? —–


Defensively is where the biggest improvements are needed.

In goal both Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have made high-profile mistakes, so surely someone like Joe Hart would be a good pickup and help turnaround Liverpool’s woeful defense? Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne will stick around but the jury is out on Joel Matip and although James Milner puts in a great shift at left back that just isn’t his natural position. Liverpool need at least one quality center back and a new left back.

Those defensive issues just haven’t been addressed over the past few seasons. They’ve conceded an average of 1.3 goals per game in each of the past four PL campaigns, and they are well on track to do that again. In simpler terms, Liverpool concede 50 goals every season and expect something to change. It won’t.

In midfield they’re pretty set although you can question Jordan Henderson‘s role as a true holding player at times. He is much better playing alongside a destructive force and with Lucas set to leave and Emre Can hot and cold, he hasn’t got that. Georginio Wijnaldum has impressed at times this season but his attacking instincts often leave Henderson outnumbered. Klopp has yet to find the correct balance in midfield, especially defensively.

We all know how good they are going forward and the only change you could argue is either playing Daniel Sturridge up top or bringing in a prolific goalscorer as Roberto Firmino is far from a poacher in front of goal. Sadio Mane is Liverpool’s top scorer this season with 11 goals.

Premier League announces schedule changes

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United (L) and Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City (R) battle for possession during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on September 10, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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The Premier League have released new dates and times for games throughout April, as domestic broadcasters in the UK line up their schedules for the business end of the 2016-17 season.

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Plenty of derbies, top four battles and relegation scraps will take center stage in April as a busy month of action will be pivotal in deciding the fate of teams across the league.

Remember, you can watch every single Premier League game live online via NBCSports.com.

Just click on the link above to keep up to date on when and where you can watch each game.

Below is the new schedule for games in April, and on on May 1, with all times listed as Eastern Standard Time.


Saturday 1 April
7:30am Liverpool v Everton
12:30pm Southampton v AFC Bournemouth

Sunday 2 April
8:30am Swansea City v Middlesbrough
11am Arsenal v Manchester City

Tuesday 4 April
3pm Manchester United v Everton

Wednesday 5 April
2:45pm Arsenal v West Ham United*
*Consequent to Arsenal v Manchester City moving to Sunday 2 April
2:45pm Hull City v Middlesbrough*
*Consequent to Swansea City v Middlesbrough moving to Sunday 2 April
2:45pm Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur*
*Consequent to Swansea City v Middlesbrough moving to Sunday 2 April
3pm Chelsea v Manchester City

Saturday 8 April
7:30pm Tottenham Hotspur v Watford*
*Subject to movement to Sunday 9 April should Arsenal or Leicester City play in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday 11 April.
12:30pm AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea

Sunday 9 April
8:30am Sunderland v Manchester United
11am Everton v Leicester City*
*Subject to Leicester City’s possible participation in the Champions League on Tuesday 11 April.

Monday 10 April
3pm Crystal Palace v Arsenal*
*Subject to Arsenal’s possible participation in the Champions League quarter-finals

Saturday 15 April
7:30pm Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth
12:30pm Southampton v Manchester City

Sunday 16 April
8:30am West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool
11am Manchester United v Chelsea

Monday 17 April
3pm Middlesbrough v Arsenal*
*Subject to Arsenal’s possible participation in the Champions League quarter-finals

Saturday 22 April
7:30am Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion*
*Subject to Manchester City’s possible participation in the FA Cup semi-finals

Sunday 23 April
7am Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur*
*Subject to Tottenham Hotspur’s possible participation in the FA Cup semi-finals
9:15am Burnley v Manchester United*
*Subject to Manchester United’s possible participation in the FA Cup semi-finals
9:15am Chelsea v Southampton*
*Subject to Chelsea’s possible participation in the FA Cup semi-finals
11:30am Liverpool v Crystal Palace

Saturday 29 April
12:30pm Crystal Palace v Burnley

Sunday 30 April
7am Manchester United v Swansea City
9:05am Everton v Chelsea
11:30am Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
*Subject to Arsenal’s possible participation in the Champions League semi-finals

Monday 1 May
3pm Watford v Liverpool