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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.

Reaction to Premier League return on June 17

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Our partners in the UK, Sky Sports, have confirmed that the 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17 and the reaction to that news has been one of relief and delight across the globe.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Premier League is holding in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs on Thursday to determine the potential restart date, among many other matters, and June 17 has emerged as the date games will return.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining, and when the season restarts on June 17 it will have been 100 days without a game in England’s top-flight.

It is believed that the clubs want the Premier League season to be finished by August 1, so clubs can then focus on the FA Cup and European action in the Europa League and Champions League, while the 2020-21 season can then resume in early September.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, with contact training now allowed after a return to small-group training was a success. The third round of COVID-19 testing saw a slight rise in positive tests compared to the last, as a total of 2,752 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out on Premier League players and staff with a total of 12 positive results.

Here’s a look at the reaction from key figures across the soccer world to the news the Premier League season will restart in less than three weeks’ time.

You beauty.

Bundesliga schedule for Matchweek 29

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The return of German soccer has been hugely successful and the Bundesliga schedule for Matchweek 29 is locked and loaded and below are details on how you can watch the games in the USA.

Dust off your lederhosen, fill that stein to the brim and make sure you know which young American stars to keep an eye on. Live sports is back.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ] 

Bayern Munich are top of the table with a seven-point lead after their big win at Borussia Dortmund, while RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach have all dropped points as their title bids have faltered.

Given that Bayern look likely to secure an eighth-straight title, there is an epic scramble for European qualification. The top four in Germany qualify automatically for the UEFA Champions League group stage and that means one of the five teams mentioned above as title contenders will miss out, while Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin are surging and Schalke and Freiburg have struggled in the Europa League spot.

Below is the full Bundesliga schedule for this week, as the fourth round of games to restart the campaign is a beauty, while there are also details on how you can watch on TV in the USA.

Bundesliga schedule

  • TV Channels: FS1, FS2
  • Stream Live: Via Fox Soccer
  • USMNT players to watch: Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Alfredo Morales, Josh Sargent

Friday, May 29

2:30 p.m. ET: Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, May 30

9:30 a.m. ET: Hertha Berlin v. Augsburg
9:30 a.m. ET: Mainz v. Hoffenheim
9:30 a.m. ET: Schalke v. Werder Bremen
9:30 a.m. ET: Wolfsburg v. Eintracht Frankfurt
12:30 p.m. ET: Bayern Munich v. Fortuna Dusseldorf

Sunday, May 31

9:30 a.m. ET: Borussia Monchengladbach v. Union Berlin
12 p.m. ET: Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund

Monday, June 1

2:30 p.m. ET: Cologne v. RB Leipzig

Barcelona ready to sell six players this summer

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According to the latest news out of Barcelona, the Catalan giants are ready to rework their squad and want to sell up to six players to fuel their transfer plans.

Those players being sold are Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets… just kidding. Of course not.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

According to a report from the Daily Mirror, Barca have made Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Jean-Clair Todibo, Nelson Semedo, Junior Firpo and Moussa Wague available for permanent transfers. Wague is currently on loan at Nice, while Todibo is on loan at Schalke and Rafinha at Celta Vigo. Ousmane Dembele is another player who has been consistently linked with a move away from the Nou Camp too, as he continues to be hampered by injuries.

Why the huge exodus? It is believed Barcelona want to sign Lautaro Martinez from Inter Milan and Miralem Pjanic from Juventus to spruce up their squad under relatively new manager Quique Setien, who only arrived in mid-January.

It is believed Inter boss Antonio Conte is a big fan of Vidal, but any deal for the Chilean midfielder would reportedly be separate for a deal for Martinez. The Argentine striker has been sensational for the Italian giants so far this season and is said to have been in close contact with Messi about a move to Barcelona.

As for Pjanic’s potential arrival, what does that mean for Ivan Rakitic? He has just one year left on his current Barcelona contract and seems relaxed about his future but Pjanic plays in a very similar position to the Croatian playmaker.

One thing is for sure, Barcelona need to freshen up this squad and there is plenty of transfer news floating around when it comes to ins and outs. They are just ahead of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and Real have certainly had a huge overhaul over the last 12 months with Vinicius Jr., Eden Hazard, Brahim Diaz, Ferland Mendy, Rodrygo and Luka Jovic all arriving at different times.

Barcelona’s old guard remains intact with Messi, Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba as instrumental as ever but there’s no doubt Setien will want to strengthen his squad as they aim for Spanish and European glory next season and beyond.

With plenty of talk about Barcelona’s financial situation and the huge contracts that Messi, Suarez and Antoine Griezmann in particular have, offloading this many players suggests they have to cut their cloth accordingly in order to bring in top talent.

Setien will be hoping he can offload as many players as possible reshape this Barcelona squad which is still incredibly talented but has a few glaring needs.

Premier League to restart on June 17

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The 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17, Sky Sports confirmed on Thursday.

The Premier League is holding in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs and, among other matters, and June 17 has emerged as the date games will return. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining.

Other reports also indicate clubs and the league have agreed on that date, which is five days later than the original placeholder date suggested last month. It has been reported the two games in hand, Man City v. Arsenal and Aston Villa v. Sheffield United, could be played on June 17 so all teams are on 29 games played, then the rest of the games would kick off on June 19-21.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

It is believed that the clubs want the Premier League season to be finished by August 1, so clubs can then focus on the FA Cup and European action in the Europa League and Champions League, while the 2020-21 season can then resume in early September.

Other reports suggest that a sticking point remains neutral stadiums as police forces in the UK want certain high-profile games to be played at neutral stadiums over fears of fans congregating outside home stadiums. However, it is believed the majority of games could be played at home stadiums as normal.

More details will no doubt filter out in the coming hours, while the meeting is also set to discuss the plan for possible curtailment if playing the remaining games of the 2019-20 season is not possible. The schedule for how games will be played will also be discussed, with five games back-to-back on both Saturday and Sunday reported as a possibility.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, with contact training now allowed after a return to small-group training was a success.

The third round of COVID-19 testing saw a slight rise in positive tests compared to the last, as a total of 2,752 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out on Premier League players and staff with a total of 12 positive results.

All 20 Premier League clubs have agreed to return to contact training in stage two of the ‘Project Restart’ plan, as the main focus is to agree on a Premier League restart date that managers and players can now focus on.