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John Obi Mikel discovered father was abducted before Argentina match

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Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel discovered that his father, Pa Michael Obi, was abducted just four hours prior to the African side’s Group D finale against Argentina on June 26.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

The former Chelsea midfielder was notified by a family member of the kidnapping while the Super Eagles were en route to the stadium to face the Albiceleste, however, Mikel wasn’t able to discuss the matter with any of his teammates or members of the Nigeria federation due to strict demands from his father’s captors.

Mikel’s father has since been rescued, and is receiving hospital care after being held captive in his native Nigeria.

John Obi Mikel spoke of the experience with the Guardian:

“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” Mikel said. “I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened.

“I was emotionally distraught and I had to make the decision about whether I was mentally ready to play. I was confused. I did not know what to do but, in the end, I knew that I could not let 180 million Nigerians down. I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. I could not even inform the coaches or NFF staff and only a very tight circle of my friends knew.

“I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody. I also did not want to discuss it with the coach [Gernot Rohr] because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to him or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. As much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not.

“Thankfully, my father was safely released on Monday afternoon. I thank the police authorities for their rescue efforts and the support I’ve received from friends and family members. Unfortunately, my dad is now in hospital receiving emergency treatment as a result of the torture he received during his capture.”

Nigeria fell to the Albiceleste, 2-1, in their Group D finale, which left the African side a point short of reaching the knockout phase.

Watch Live: Manchester City v. Chelsea (Lineups and Discuss)

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Manchester City’s attack will be full-throttle against Chelsea on Monday knowing that three points will see them leapfrog Arsenal to the top of the Premier League table.

But they’ll need to take the chances they create because the staunch Chelsea defense will be sure to make life tough on the Citizens. Notorious for their ‘anti-football’ techniques when on the road against top competition, expect Chelsea to play adopt the mentality of trying to avoid a loss rather than grab a win.

Some interesting line-up changes from both sides today.

For Manchester City, Sergio Aguero’s hamstring injury means Alvaro Negredo will partner Edin Dzeko up top, Alexandar Kolarov comes in at left-back for Gael Clichy and a late injury to Fernandinho means Martin Demichelis will partner Yaya Toure in the center of the park while Matija Nastasic will play along side Vincent Kompany in the back.

For Chelsea, Jose Mourinho makes two changes to the side that drew 0-0 with West Ham as Nemanja Matic and David Luiz come in for Oscar and Jon Obi Mikel. With Oscar dropping to the bench, expect Willian to occupy the central attacking role, flanked by Eden Hazard to the left, Ramires to the right and Matic and Luiz in the holding roles.

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Should be a fantastic match all around so close the door to your office and fire up that stream or grab some buddies and head to the pub.

LINEUPS:

Manchester City (4-4-2) – Hart; Kolarov, Nastasic, Kompany, Zabaleta; Silva, Demichelis, Toure, Navas; Dzeko, Negredo
Bench – Pantilimon, Boyata, Clichy, Milner, Rodwell, Lopes, Jovetic

Chelsea (4-2-3-1) – Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Matic, Luiz; Hazard, Willian, Ramires; Eto’o
Bench – Schwarzer, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Oscar, Salah, Ba.

 

 

Referee Mike Dean’s record in Arsenal matches will continue to be scrutinized

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Referee Mike Dean did nothing to assuage the North London conspiracy theorists, who see way beyond mere coincidence in Arsenal’s bleak record when this particular veteran official mans the middle.

According to (admittedly unverified independently) reports, Arsenal’s record now stands at a rather inglorious 1-9-6 (W-L-T) since the 2009-10 season in contests with Dean in charge.

That wouldn’t be such a big, hairy, scary and telling number if we were speaking of Crystal Palace or Sunderland or some other bedraggled side from the relegation brigade. But this is Arsenal, a club that fights for top-four stuff each year.

The Daily Mail’s enlightening report on all this from a few months back made the comparison between Arsenal’s meager mark and the far better records for Manchester United and Chelsea with Dean in charge.

But it’s not just the raw data that is rubbing Gunners supporters so, well, “raw” tonight. All but one of the big refereeing decisions from Monday’s heavy-weather clash with Chelsea went the way of the Blues. (Stating the presumed obvious here, Dean was in charge of Monday’s derby.)

There was Jon Obi Mikel’s awful challenge on Mike Arteta, a real potential leg breaker there. It certainly looked red card-worthy, a sentiment agreed upon by members of NBC’s broadcast team. (Considering Mikel’s good work on Gunners playmaker Mesut Ozil, the dour match may have looked quite a bit different had Chelsea’s defensive midfielder been sent off 10 minutes prior to intermission.)

(MORE: Arsenal and Chelsea go scoreless on night of weather, refereeing talk)

Minutes later came the home team’s penalty appeal as Willian tripped Theo Walcott inside the 18. U.S. international goalkeeper Tim Howard – who no longer has that vaguely menacing beard to potentially distract his view – was guesting once again for NBCSN, and he said he would have pointed to the spot, no doubt.

Later a dangerously high challenge from Branislav Ivanovic on Ozil nearly put things into “full-on” donnybrook alert. That one drew no booking, either.

Premier League Top 5 Goals: Paulinho and Nasri compete for top spot

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Twenty-nine goals were scored during this weekend’s Premier League action, quite a return on a tasty slate of fixtures.

When dealing with that number sorting out the best of the best is never an easy feat but the league has given it their best crack, so here we go.

#5. Sone Aluko’s volley to beat Newcastle

If you’re still mastering the names of key players on this season’s three new Premier League clubs, Sone Aluko is one you definitely want to know. The 24-year-old Englishman is a forward/left winger who has bags of pace and is devastating with the ball at his feet, twisting and turning defenders inside-out.

Widely accepted as the best player in last year’s Championship until he succumbed to injury in December, Aluko’s left footed volley on Saturday displayed exquisite technique and handed Hull City an impressive 3-2 come from behind victory against Newcastle. For me, this golazo should be much higher on the list – but I don’t create these videos, I just provide the banter.

#4. Michu’s early strike against Crystal Palace

Hating Michu is like hating puppies, ice cream or Bob Marley – it’s kind of just weird. This week, the Spaniard wasted all of 1 minute and 20 seconds before registering the game winner, a one time finish off of a Jonjo Shelvey pass.

True to form, the loveable Michu celebrated the goal in stellar fashion – tongue out, hand to the ear, screaming his face off.

#3. Jon Obi Mikel elevates to volley home against Fulham

Jon Obi Mikel showed some acrobatic technique as his hop-and-slam from six yards out assured Chelsea the three points. While the goal itself was nowhere near the quality of Aluko’s volley it was nevertheless a landmark achievement for Mikel, who hadn’t scored in his 185 previous Premier League appearances.

Drought over.

#2. Paulinho’s cheeky heel wins it for Spurs

Oh Paulinho, you cheeky little man you.

Coming into the season we were well aware of the Brazilian’s penchant for getting forward and making noise but it wasn’t until this weekend when the devastation took place in the Prem. With the seconds ticking away in Cardiff City, Paulinho slipped into an inch of space and with a clever back-drag of the foot, guided home the game-winner. Don’t sweat the technique.

#1. Samir Nasri’s smash puts City up 4-0 on United

If Samir Nasri looks a different player this season that’s because he is. Freed of the chain that was Roberto Mancini, Nasri is not only staking his claim for the starting role at City but the French National Team as well.

Full of life, desire and skill, Nasri was  fabulous on Sunday, terrorizing Chris Smalling and the United defense. His swervy behind-the-back pass set Aleksandar Kolorov free to cross to Sergio Aguero for the opener, his pass to Alvaro Negredo set up Aguero’s second and his perfectly timed counter-attacking run is what allowed him to thump home the sensational volley to put City up 4-0 on their rivals.

Jose Mourinho admits he is “responsible for everything”

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Following Chelsea’s shock 2-1 loss at home to FC Basel, Jose Mourinho accepted responsibility for his side’s performance.

“I am the manager, I am responsible for everything,” he told Sky Sports.

“Especially after a bad result. In the good moments I want everyone to shine, in the bad moments I want everyone to keep calm,” Mourinho said.

“In the next match, we go to Bucharest (in the Champions League), we have to get the points to put us in the Champions League. We don’t want to play in the Europa League.”

MORE: Basel pull Champions League first upset

Playing in the Europa League, the tournament that the West London club won last season, is exactly where Chelsea may find themselves if things don’t tighten up on both sides of the pitch. It’s on Mourinho to make that happen.

Defensively, Chelsea were punished for two schoolboy errors.

The first came when the left side of Chelsea’s midfield left Mohamed Salah, widely known as Basel’s most dangerous player, in acres of space to finish with ease.

The second goal came on an equally regrettable decision, failing to put men on the post during a late corner kick with the score knotted at one apiece. Factor in that Marco Strellar is a 6’4″ beast of a man known for doing damage with his head, and this is inexcusable.

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In 90 minutes of play on Wednesday night, Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o was limited to a single shot.

Offensively, with the exception of Oscar, the Blues were anemic in front of goal.

Few will deny Oscar’s offensive quality. After beginning the match unhitched he quickly sorted himself out to become Chelsea’s most dangerous attacker.

His 45th minute goal was sensational. The lateral run across the top of the box split the Basel defense and his flash turn of the hip and a snap strike was pure class. In the second half it was more of the same when his pull back at the corner of box created the necessary space to launch a curling teaser that kissed the top of the bar.

But aside from the Brazilian playmaker, question marks surround the Chelsea attack, and as Mourinho admitted, he is responsible.

Eden Hazard had one of his worst displays ever in a Chelsea kit. If the rumors were true and the Belgian was carrying an achilles injury then he should have been rested. If he was healthy then it’s time Mourinho put the winger through some intense finishing work. With no goals in the first four Premier League matches and two golden opportunities sailed into the upper stand last night, Hazard’s finishing is becoming an issue.

Mourinho is also responsible for throwing Willian into the fire without blooding him first.

The Brazilian, who was an unused substitute against Everton, looked overwhelmed and was ineffective in his starting role against Basle. Same goes for Marco van Ginkle, who’s touch was poor throughout the match. Why Mourinho thought the two new boys hold would the midfield together better than the established likes of Juan Mata and Jon Obi Mikel is anyone’s guess.

Where Mourinho bears the most blame, however, is up top. Samuel Eto’o failed to register a single shot until injury time and looks a shadow of his former self. Perhaps that’s because at the age of 32, he is just that or, perhaps he too, needs more time to acclimate himself to a new squad.

Either way, having Eto’o lead the line after his numbing performance against Everton last weekend was a head scratcher – almost as much as the Portuguese manager’s decision to loan out Romelu Lukaku in favor of keeping Demba Ba and Fernando Torres.

But for now, in this “bad moment,” we’ll do as Mourinho suggests and stay calm.