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Old Firm Derby Preview: Rangers V Celtic

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The Old Firm derby takes place on Saturday. Rangers and Celtic will be looking to end 2018 contesting for the bragging rights as they go head to head at Ibrox.

Celtic top the Scottish Premiership table with Rangers three points behind in second, although Brendan Rodgers’ side do have a game in hand.

Rangers have won just two of their last six league games but Steven Gerrard believes a victory that would see his side join their arch rivals on 42 points would put them back on track.

“We have to bring our A game,” Gerrard said. “We’re playing against a good team with good players. They will be well-drilled, I know that for sure.

“We know that we have to bring our best to get the result we want. I’m confident the players can do that. It’s the last fixture, there’s 90 minutes to give everything you’ve got. Let’s see where it takes us.

“I feel we’re a couple of results away from having the perfect six months, if you like. But this is an opportunity that if we can get the result that we want it puts us where we need to be.”

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers feels his side are playing Rangers at the right time. Rodgers is unbeaten in 12 games against Rangers since taking over in 2016, with 10 wins and two draws.

He said: “We just have to approach the game as we always do with our own way of working, respect Rangers are a good team, some very good results this year, and we will give them the respect that they deserve, as we do every team, and look to focus on our own game, look to play well and get a win.”

Team news
Steven Gerrard will leave it late before deciding whether to pitch any of Rangers’ walking wounded into battle with Celtic. Connor Goldson (knock), Ryan Kent, Scott Arfield (both hamstring) and Gareth McAuley (thigh) are all racing to be fit.

Borna Barisic definitely misses Gers’ final game of 2018 after injuring his hamstring against St Johnstone, while long-term absentees Graham Dorrans and Jamie Murphy (both knee) are also still unavailable.

Rodgers has revealed that left-back Kieran Tierney is still a doubt with a hip injury.

Stats
Rangers’ ongoing 10-match winless streak against Celtic in the Scottish Premiership is their longest ever run without a victory in the Old Firm derby in the competition (D2 L8).

Celtic have won each of their last four visits to Ibrox in the Scottish top-flight, scoring 12 goals in the process since a 3-2 loss in March 2012.

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Milan hierarchy keeps faith in Gennaro Gattuso

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AC Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso is believed to have met with the hierarchy of the club after the Spal game, and they reaffirmed their faith in him.

Gennaro Gattuso at his unveiling as Milan manager

The Rossoneri signed off for the winter break with a win, a result the Coach badly needed after four games in a row without even scoring.

According to Sky, Leonardo, Paolo Maldini and new CEO Ivan Gazidis held a meeting with Gattuso after the match.

The directors reiterated their faith in the Coach, with Maldini and Leonardo having done so publicly on Friday.

Despite rumours, there has never been any doubt about Gattuso and he’ll continue in his post this new year.

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14 football records being hunted in 2019

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215 goals is the Chilean Primera Division record Francisco Valdes has held since the early 1980s. Pedro Gonzalez (213) fell just short of eclipsing it before his 2006 retirement, but now 38-year-old Colo-Colo striker Esteban Paredes (210) is on its brink.

Abby Wambach

184 goals is the international football record, belonging to former USA striker Abby Wambach, Canada’s Christine Sinclair (177) is closing in on. The 34-year-old hit 11, 16, eight and ten goals respectively in each of the past four FIFA Women’s World Cup years. Sinclair could also become the first men’s or women’s footballer to score an international goal in 20 calendar years.

175 goals is the English top-flight record for a foreign player, held by Thierry Henry. Sergio Aguero began 2019 with 152 to his name.

122 goals in an Eredivisie season is the record Ajax, aided by 33 from Johan Cruyff, have held since 1966/67. Ajax aces Hakim Ziyech, Dusan Tadic and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and PSV stars Hirving Lozano, Gaston Pereiro, Steven Bergwijn and Luuk de Jong, have helped their clubs score 60 goals in the first 17 rounds of 2018/19.

72 years have passed since a country won three consecutive Copa Americas – a statistic Chile will strive to shift at Brazil 2019. Alfredo Di Stefano, Angel Labruna, Jose Manuel Moreno, Felix Loustau, Norberto Mendez and Adolfo Pedernera helped Argentina become the first and only nation to win three in a row between 1945 and ’47.

50 appearances at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup is what Mao (46) could become the first player to reach at Paraguay 2019. The Brazil goalkeeper could, nevertheless, lose the distinction of being the tournament’s most-capped player to Portugal’s Alan.

20 assists in a La Liga season – set by Xavi in 2008/09 – is the record Lionel Messi’s extraordinary invention is threatening. ‘The Atomic Flea’ has ten to his name after 17 of 38 rounds.

14 consecutive top-tier titles is what Belarussians BATE Borisov could make it in 2018 to tie the European record shared by Latvians Skonto Riga (1991-2004) and Gibraltarians Lincoln Red Imps (2003-16). Vanuatu’s Tafea hold the world record: 15 in succession.

10 is the number of successive Women’s World Cup matches that Japan have scored in. The tournament record is the 15 games Norway netted in between 1991 and ’99.

9 German Bundesliga crowns is what Franck Ribery could become the first player to pocket. The 35-year-old Frenchman currently shares the record with Mehmet Scholl, Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm. Bayern Munich are, however, six points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund at the halfway stage.

8 consecutive top-flight titles in Europe’s big five leagues is what Gigi Buffon will become the first player to reach if he follows up seven straight Scudetti with Juventus by helping Paris Saint-Germain win Ligue 1. Gregory Coupet, Sidney Govou and Juninho Pernambucano won seven successive titles with Lyon from 2002 to ’08.

7 World Cups is what Formiga is in line to become the first player – male or female – to play in. The Brazil midfielder, who turns 41 in March, could also become the second player in their 40s to score in a men’s or women’s global finals.

6 straight UEFA Champions League trophies will have gone to Spain if Atletico Madrid, Barcelona or Real Madrid triumph in the Wanda Metropolitano decider. It would equal the European Cup/Champions League record held by England, thanks to Liverpool (thrice), Nottingham Forest (twice) and Aston Villa keeping the trophy between 1977 and ’82.

0 players have won the English, Italian and Spanish top flights, with Cristiano Ronaldo set to become the first if Juventus conquer Serie A. The 33-year-old is also bidding to become the second player to win the Champions League with three different clubs after Clarence Seedorf (Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan).

(c) fifa.com

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Asaba to host Nigeria/Egypt friendly

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The capital city of Delta State, Asaba has been confirmed by the Nigeria Football Federation as the venue for the friendly match between the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs of Egypt in March.

The Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, Delta State.

The two sides have already secured qualification to the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and will play a friendly on March 26, 2019 at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, Delta State after their last AFCON qualifying games in March.

It is understood that the decision to play the friendly in Asaba was taken after the NFF reached an understanding with the Delta State government who promised to underwrite a substantial chunk of the match costs.

The friendly will take place four days after the Eagles take on Seychelles in their final Group E AFCON Qualifier at the same venue where they were held to a goalless draw by the Cranes of Uganda in November 2018.

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America’s Christian Pulisic joins Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund for £58m

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Borussia Dortmund have agreed with Chelsea on the transfer of Christian Pulisic for a fee of £58 million.

Pulisic will remain at BVB on loan until the end of the season.

The 20-year-old, who moved to Germany as a teenager and has made more than 80 appearances for Dortmund, admitted in November that he hoped to play in the Premier League having refused to sign an extension to his existing contract.

“It was always Christian’s dream to play in the Premier League,” said BVB sporting director Michael Zorc. “That certainly has to do with his American background, and as a result we were unable to extend his contract. Against this background, we have decided to accept an extremely lucrative bid by Chelsea, given the low contract maturity.

“Christian Pulisic is a character perfect player. I am sure that in the coming months he will do everything in his power to bring his high quality to the team and to achieve his sporting goals with his team-mates at Borussia Dortmund.”

Speaking to Chelsea’s website, Pulisic admitted it was “a privilege to have signed for such a legendary club and I look forward to working hard towards being a contributor to their team of world class players.”

He becomes the most expensive American player in history, with Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia stating her delight to have signed “one of Europe’s most sought-after young players”.

“Christian has shown his quality during a fantastic spell in Germany and at just 20, we believe he has the potential to become an important Chelsea player for many years to come,” she said. “We look forward to welcoming him to Stamford Bridge in the summer and wish him and Dortmund every success for the remainder of the season.”

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