Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri dodges Napoli in Europa League draw, but gets Arsenal

Press Association Sport 17:37 15/03/2019
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Maurizio Sarri

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri got his wish to avoid former club Napoli after the Italian side were drawn to face Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Chelsea will take on Slavia Prague in the last eight following the draw in Nyon, which also produced an all-Spanish clash between Villarreal and Valencia.

The remaining tie pits Benfica against Eintracht Frankfurt, with the winner facing Chelsea or Slavia Prague in the semi-finals.

Arsenal will face Villarreal or Valencia in the last four if they can get past Napoli, with the first leg switched to the Emirates to avoid two ties being played in London on the same night.

Arsenal were forced to make the switch due to having the “lower priority” as Chelsea won the FA Cup last season.

The draw keeps alive the possibility of an all-English final in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 29.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery has already lifted the trophy three times with former club Sevilla and saw his side overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit in the last-16 against Rennes on Thursday.

Chelsea cruised into the last eight with an 8-0 aggregate win over Dynamo Kiev, after which Sarri expressed his preference to avoid Napoli in Friday’s draw.

“I prefer to face them in the final. First of all, because it means we are in the final and I am happy with that,” Sarri said.

“And second, it means that Naples are in the final and I am happy. You know very well my relationship with the city, with the people. So, for me, it will be very difficult to play against them in Naples.”

The quarter-finals take place on April 11 and 18, with the semi-finals on May 2 and 9.

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Brendan Rodgers believes Jamie Vardy can join Premier League's 100 Club

Press Association Sport 10:59 15/03/2019
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Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has backed Jamie Vardy to become a Premier League centurion.

The striker took his Foxes goal tally to 101 in all competitions with a brace in last week’s 3-1 win over Fulham.

He is on 74 top-flight goals for the club having scored 12 this season and he netted 24 times when the Foxes won the title in 2016.

Rodgers, whose side travel to Burnley on Saturday, is confident the 32-year old can make it to a top-flight ton.

He said: “Yeah, I would say he would do that. Absolutely. It’s 26 goals he’s got to go and he’s as fit as a butcher’s dog. As long as he doesn’t get injuries he’ll have a great chance.

“I don’t want to trap the boy into pressure. For me it’s getting him to enjoy his football and when you have that energy and happiness you produce good football.

Jamie Vardy is 26 goals away from 100 in the Premier League.

Jamie Vardy is 26 goals away from 100 in the Premier League.

“He’s 32 and if he’s fit and looks after his life – he’s a natural goalscorer – he’s going to give himself a chance. He’s such a good player.

“He is tactically very good. He knows the game, he’s got a real in-built brain for football. You sense that with him. He watches and studies the game.

“It’s great to have that. When you have got guys who love football it helps.”

Vardy would be the second oldest player, behind Ian Wright, to reach 100 Premier League goals having only made his top flight debut in 2014.

His early career took him to non-league clubs Stocksbridge, Halifax and Fleetwood before a £1million switch to Leicester in 2012 but Rodgers is not surprised it has taken him longer to reach the top.

He said: “Not really….he had other interests. Sometimes maturation takes a bit of time. Some guys don’t come into their own until a little later. Some fall out of love with football.

“I remember Charlie Austin at Reading, he was in the academy from 8-15, his mother and father gave him everything but then he was falling out of love with it.

“He went away, worked on a building site for his dad’s company and the next thing I hear there’s a boy scoring down in Poole.

“He went to Swindon and all of a sudden he flew. He had too much football maybe, didn’t want it, but then realised, ‘there’s an easier life here’.”

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Diogo Jota hopes to prove family wrong as Wolves prepare for FA Cup visit of Man United

Press Association Sport 10:55 15/03/2019
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Jota (c) revealed even his family questioned his move from Atletico Madrid to Wolves.

Wolves’ Diogo Jota is ready to prove his family wrong as he prepares to dump Manchester United out of the FA Cup.

Ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final visit of United the forward admits his uncle and many others doubted his move to Wolves.

He joined from Atletico Madrid, initially on loan, last season before making a permanent switch for around £12million last year and helped Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to the Championship title.

But having swapped Madrid for Molineux the 22-year-old revealed even his own family questioned him.

He said: “Many people in Portugal criticised me – and Ruben (Neves). They were saying ‘you are going from a Champions League club to a lower division in another country, are you crazy?’

“I said, ‘No, I believe in the project and then, if everything goes well, like I expect, next season you have the reason’.

“Fortunately everything went well, and we are here now, and everyone understands now. Me and Ruben have improved as players and now no-one doubts our qualities.”

Asked where the scepticism came from, Jota added: “(The) public and newspapers, but I have family as well. Not criticising me, but asking, ‘Why are you doing that?’ I was explaining my thoughts at the time.

“Everything has gone well, so they are happy. My father always supported me, and the rest of my family, but my uncle tried to say ‘Why are you doing this?’ It is part of the game.”

Dad Joaquin and uncle Ricardo will be at Molineux on Saturday as Wolves aim to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1998.

Jota has scored six goals this season, all coming in his last 13 games, to help Wolves to seventh in the Premier League.

And he is ready to channel United favourite Cristiano Ronaldo to cause a shock, with the Juventus forward an inspiration.

He added: “Ronaldo is a reference not just for me but for all people because he’s a goal machine. We have to look at him to learn something. He’s Portuguese so he was already a reference.”

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