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Algeria’s Mahrez, Senegal’s Mane meet in Africa Cup of Nations final

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A fascinating matchup between two Premier League stars will take place Friday as the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations comes to a conclusion. Riyad Mahrez and Algeria meet Sadio Mane and Senegal for a second time in the competition, this one for all the glory.

Senegal may be the favorite given their superior FIFA ranking, but the 22nd ranked nation in the world hasn’t looked its best despite being one of the final two teams remaining in the competition. They finished second to Algeria in Group C play thanks more to its organized defense than its highly-touted attack which has taken too long to get going too often.

Algeria, meanwhile, is considered a worthy opponent despite their FIFA ranking of 68. Riyad Mahrez has been electric in the knockout stages, and while his finishing up front has left a little to be desired, his creativity is providing his nation with the chances it needs to secure upsets. Mahrez scored in the 3-0 win over fellow surprise Benin in the quarterfinals, and again found the back of the net in dramatic fashion to beat Nigeria late in the semis.

Not only is Algeria in better form coming in, but they have the rub of the grain as well. Star Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly will harshly miss the final due to a yellow card suspension, as the Africa Cup of Nations is one of the few tournaments that still does not wipe yellow card accumulation after the quarterfinal. His third yellow of the tournament came in the semifinal when a vicious shot struck his elbow, awarding Tunisia a penalty which they subsequently missed.

While the goals haven’t necessarily flowed for either side in this tournament, they both have significant attacking firepower when on. Behind Mahrez for Algeria is Napoli’s Adam Ounas who also has three goals in the competition, one off the lead, while Leicester City frontman Islam Slimani patrols in the middle. For Senegal, Manee is backed up by Stade Rennes youngster Ismaila Sarr who directly contributed to 15 goals last Ligue 1 season and had a goal and assist against Kenya in the group stage.

The matchup between two defensively stout attacking threats should prove to be a thriller, especially considering the semifinal nailbiters from which they advanced.

Why Christian Pulisic chose Chelsea over Man United

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Christian Pulisic had plenty of offers on the table when it was clear he was going to leave Borussia Dortmund last fall, but one of them was immediately crossed out for one reason and one reason only.

Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch

Pulisic’s former coach at Brackley Town, Robin Walker, spoke to The Telegraph about how the USMNT player came to sign for Chelsea over United and how his father didn’t want him to sign for Man United. Pulisic spent a year playing for Brackley Town when his parents moved to England as his mother was on a teaching exchange program.

“He wouldn’t go to Manchester United because of Jose Mourinho,” Walker said. “His father couldn’t stand Mourinho, because he didn’t promote young players. It was at that point I asked: ‘What about London? That’s where it’s at.’ I was trying to sell the city. His agent agreed, saying: ‘When you make these decisions, it’s all about investment and property.’ I was delighted that he did sign [for Chelsea].”

Walker is a Chelsea fan and was ecstatic that Pulisic, 20, signed for the Blues, and although many people believed heading to Chelsea wasn’t the best move for the USMNT star, it looks like it could be a shrewd decision.

Mourinho obviously left Man United last December, but by then the wheels were already in motion for Pulisic to sign for Chelsea and with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only a caretaker boss of the Red Devils at that point, he wasn’t going to get $73 million to spend on a January signing.

It is true that Mourinho has been known to stall the careers of several stars, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Romelu Lukaku to name a few, but it is also true that Chelsea has stockpiled that kind of talent and struggled to develop these mercurial talents.

Since Pulisic signed for Chelsea in January and was then loaned back to Dortmund for the rest of the 2018-19 season, Maurizio Sarri has departed and Frank Lampard arrived with a transfer ban also coming in. That means Pulisic will get more minutes due to new players not being bought and Lampard is also keen on promoting youngsters.

That said, there is one part of this story which may sit a little uneasy with USMNT fans. Pulisic’s agent reportedly saying that ‘when you make these decisions, it’s all about investment and property.’

Shouldn’t it be about being the best place for Pulisic to develop as a player?

The American winger has shown flashes of brilliance in his first few months as a Chelsea player and it will be intriguing to see how often he plays now that Willian is back fully fit, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi are also pushing their way back to full fitness.

Man United players slam “disgusting, pathetic” racist abuse of Pogba

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Manchester United star Paul Pogba was racially abused on social media after having his penalty kick saved in the 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

United have issued a statement slamming the racist abuse, as Harry Maguire called it “disgusting” and led calls for Twitter and Instagram to take strong stances against those making racist comments on social media.

“Everyone at Manchester United is disgusted by the racial abuse aimed at Paul Pogba last night and we utterly condemn it. The individuals who expressed these views do not represent the values of our great club and it is encouraging to see the vast majority of our fans condemn this on social media also.

“Manchester United has zero tolerance of any form of racism or discrimination and a long-standing commitment to campaigning against it through our #AllRedAllEqual initiative. We will work to identify the few involved in these incidents and take the strongest course of action available to us. We also encourage social media companies to take action in these cases.”

This racist abuse of Pogba follows Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham also being targeted after his penalty kick was saved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool last Wednesday, and comes after Chelsea banned one fan for life after the racist abuse of Man City’s Raheem Sterling during a game at Stamford Bridge last season.

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri diagnosed with pneumonia

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus says coach Maurizio Sarri has been diagnosed with pneumonia.

The 60-year-old Sarri was unable to take training with the Italian champion on Monday because he has been struggling with the flu for the past week.

The club said he underwent further tests which confirmed he has pneumonia, for which specific therapy was prescribed.

Sarri left Chelsea in the offseason to take charge of Juventus. His first Serie A game in charge is at Parma on Saturday.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

UEFA Champions League qualifying preview

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Six slots remain in the UEFA Champions League’s 2019-20 group stage, and the 12 teams hoping to fill them begin the final round of qualifying on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are a pair of Americans in the bunch of hopefuls, with Sergino Dest of Ajax and Ethan Horvath of Club Brugge in action on Tuesday.

The fortunes of those players have changed dramatically in recent months.

[ MORE: Julian Green flying high ]

Horvath, 24, was the starter for 34 matches across all competitions last season and the first two matches of this domestic season but has seen nothing but bench since Brugge scooped up Simon Mignolet from Liverpool.

Will Mignolet allowing three goals to Dynamo Kiev have changed anything for manager Philippe Clement? Seems unlikely, but we’ll still keep an eye on the lineup against Austrian side LASK. Ghanaian national teamer Samuel Tetteh is an intriguing player for the hosts, on loan from Red Bull Salzburg.

Dest is still 18 until November and has started Ajax’s last two games at right back. He made his debut at left back in a 2-0 defeat of PSV Eindhoven to start the season, and Ajax is 4-0 with him on the field this season.

While we’re talking Yanks in the UCL, the group stage already has Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Lille’s Timothy Weah, RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams, and Red Bull Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch.

Canadian winger Alphonso Davies is with Bayern Munich.

Full schedule

All matches at 3 p.m. ET

Tuesday
APOEL Nicosia v. Ajax
CFR Cluj v. Slavia Prague
LASK v. Club Brugge

Wednesday
Dinamo Zagreb v. Rosenborg
Olympiacos v. Krasnodar
Young Boys v. Red Star Belgrade