Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino given touchline ban by FA

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has been given a two-match touchline ban and fined £10,000 by the Football Association for angrily confronting referee Mike Dean after his side’s 2-1 defeat at Burnley.

Pochettino admitted he “crossed the line” with the official and later made a public apology to Dean.

The 46-year-old accepted an FA charge of improper conduct.

“It is not the way to behave,” he said following the incident.

Dean was later moved from his fourth official duties for Spurs’ game at Chelsea the following week.

Pochettino will serve his ban in the Premier League games against former club Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on 9 March and at Liverpool on 31 March.

The Argentine did not reveal what was he said to Dean at Turf Moor, or the reason for his strong reaction, although he had complained about a corner awarded in the build-up to Burnley’s opening goal.

Pochettino had said he was not anticipating a ban.

“A ban, why? I don’t believe that it’s going to happen. I don’t think that’s going to be fair,” he said.

“For what? It was a conversation, no? Maybe it was close but it was a conversation.

“I don’t believe it’s fair. But I’m going to accept if they ban me and I can’t be in the dugout against Southampton.”

It is fair to say Tottenham are pretty unhappy at the severity of this punishment.

Given Pochettino apologised at the time and has an unblemished record in six years as a Premier League manager, first at Southampton, and now Spurs, the feeling was a fine and a warning would be the likely outcome.

Yet, speaking after Tuesday’s Champions League victory in Dortmund, Pochettino hinted there was bad news on the way. So it has proved, meaning Tottenham’s manager will be absent from the dugout for both his return to Southampton and the key Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield.

The irony of Jurgen Klopp being on the opposition bench on 31 March has not been lost on Tottenham.

They have noted that Klopp has twice been fined this season – £8,000 in December for running onto the pitch after Divock Origi’s injury-time winner against Everton and £45,000 for comments about referee Kevin Friend following the 1-1 draw at West Ham last month.

Tottenham simply do not feel the punishment handed out to Pochettino is in line with these.



Sean Cronin left out of Ireland squad to face France in Six Nations

Sean Cronin has been left out of Ireland’s preliminary squad to face France in the Six Nations
Leinster hooker Sean Cronin has been omitted from the 37-man Ireland squad that will prepare to face France in the Six Nations on Sunday.
Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy haven’t recovered in time to play in Dublin, but CJ Stander, Garry Ringrose and Kieran Marmion are fit again.
Cronin, who has 68 caps, started a Six Nations game for the first time against Italy last weekend but was replaced by Niall Scannell after 54 minutes as the Irish lineout misfired.

Ireland back Robbie Henshaw has failed to recover from a dead leg in time to face France
Ulster’s Rob Herring has been drafted into the squad as a third hooker alongside Scannell and captain, Rory Best.
Henshaw has experienced a slower recovery than expected after he suffered a dead leg against England in Ireland’s tournament opener, while flanker Leavy remains out with an ankle problem.
Stander has recovered from the facial fractures he suffered against England to provide a boost to the Irish pack, while scrum-half Marmion has proven his fitness for Connacht in the Pro 14.

CJ Stander is back in the Irish squad having recovered from a facial fracture
Centre Ringrose also missed Ireland’s victories over Scotland and Italy, but has now recovered from a hamstring strain.
Ireland will confirm their 23-man matchday squad on Friday.

Forwards: Rory Best, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Ultan Dillane, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, James Ryan, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier.
Backs: Bundee Aki, Ross Byrne, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway, John Cooney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Tom Farrell, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Kieran Marmion, Conor Murray, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Jacob Stockdale.

Andy Murray: Former Wimbledon champion ‘pain free’ after hip injury

Andy Murray says he is “pain free” after hip surgery but that his chances of playing singles at Wimbledon this year are “less than 50%”.

Murray had hip resurfacing surgery in January, which he said meant it was possible he would not be able to play professionally again.

But the three-time Grand Slam champion said it was the only option if he wanted to return to competitive action.

“The rehab is slow but going well,” the 31-year-old Briton said.

“I want to continue playing, I said that in Australia. The issue is I don’t know whether it’s possible.”

In an interview with BBC sports editor Dan Roan at Queen’s Club, the former world number one added: “The operation went well. I’m feeling good and walking around pain free – which hasn’t been the case for pretty much 18 months, two years.

“The reason for having the surgery was to improve all the day-to-day things and my quality of life.

“I wasn’t enjoying tennis, I wasn’t enjoying going out for walks and doing basic things – it was painful tying my laces. I wanted to get rid of that.”

Murray added he was under “no pressure” to resume a career which has also seen him win two Olympic gold medals among 45 singles titles.

“I have to wait and see. I’m not allowed to start doing any high-impact movement for the first four months after the surgery and it is only then when I can see if I can compete at any level,” he said.

“Whether that is competing in the top 10 in the world, that is probably unlikely, but could I get to top 50, top 100 level? That may be possible.

“I don’t feel any pressure to come back; I don’t feel pressure to play. If it allows me to play that’s brilliant.”

Murray broke down in tears at the Australian Open in January, saying in his pre-tournament news conference that he planned to retire after this year’s Wimbledon because of the pain in his hip.

However, he added that the first Grand Slam of 2019 could prove to be the last tournament of his career.

After a gutsy first-round five-set defeat by Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, Murray appeared to soften his stance by telling the Melbourne crowd he hoped to see them again next year.

I have no regrets about deciding to have the operation. Even if I was told I couldn’t hit a tennis ball again, I would have had the operation

In his post-match news conference he said he was considering the resurfacing operation primarily to improve his quality of life.

Murray had the operation – which keeps more of the damaged bone than a hip replacement, smoothing the ball down and covering it with a metal cap – in London on 28 January.

American doubles player Bob Bryan had the same surgery last year and was back playing again, alongside twin brother Mike, five months later.

No tennis player has competed in singles after having the operation.

“To play singles at Wimbledon I’d say it would be less than 50% chance, doubles maybe possibly,” Murray added.

“Bob Bryan had the same operation and was competing after five and a half months. But there is a vast difference between singles and doubles, in terms of the physicality and the loads you put through the body.

“I think it is possible to return to singles, but I don’t want to say it is highly likely because it hasn’t been done before. I can’t look at another tennis player and say that guy has done it.

“The surgeons said I can try but couldn’t give me any guarantees.

“The thing that gives me hope is that in Australia and in the past 18 months, my hip was in a really bad way and I was still able to compete and win matches against very good players.”

“If my hip is better now and with less pain there is a chance I could do it again.”


Formula 1: McLaren expect to enjoy ‘biggest difference in grid position’ in 2018

McLaren believe they will make the biggest step forward of all teams in Formula 1 this season.

The team have not won a race since the end of 2012 but are hopeful of a strong season after swapping their under-performing Honda engines for Renault.

McLaren executive director Zak Brown said: "We should be the team that has the biggest difference in grid position from last year to this year.

"Everyone, including ourselves, is eager to see what that looks like."

Brown said McLaren’s aim for 2018 was "being competitive – that is racing at the front, qualifying at the front, getting on the podium".

After three years of being Honda’s sole partner but suffering from the engine’s lack of performance, McLaren dropped the Japanese company and are now one of three teams with Renault engines.

But Brown said he was not nervous about being compared with Red Bull, who won three races last year, and the French manufacturer’s improving factory team.

"If we’re 0.9 seconds off Red Bull, that won’t look good, I agree," Brown said. "We don’t want to hide. It’s showtime.

"The beautiful thing about motor racing is hundreds of millions of people get to see how you do. That’s part of the adrenalin.

"We are looking forward to that. This team has won the second most amount of championships and they welcome and are excited about the pressure of having the spotlight on us. We will only want to hide if we are 0.9 seconds off Red Bull."

Competing with the top teams
McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team
McLaren-Honda won four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships from 1988-91. Their renewed partnership was not so successful
Engineering director Matt Morris said he was "excited" about the new season and testing themselves against Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

And chief technical officer (aerodynamics) Peter Prodromou, who joined McLaren from Red Bull in late 2014, said: "It has been difficult for us last three years not having someone to measure yourself up against.

"It is a very positive thing that we have two first-class teams to measure ourselves against and that is a very strong motivating factor for everyone in the workforce."

Prodromou acknowledged that Red Bull had a bigger budget than McLaren but said he hoped they could make up in efficiency what they lacked in resources.

"Perhaps we don’t have the luxury to look at as many concepts as they do but we are not feeling we have any excuses or disadvantage," he said. "Our aim is very much to compete with the two other Renault runners."

Renault was regarded as the third best engine in F1 last year behind those of world champions Mercedes and their main rivals Ferrari.

But Brown said he was optimistic about the French company’s performance in 2018 and not concerned about the reliability problems it had last season

"There’s no alarm bells," he said. "They seem to be very confident and happy with where they are at in terms of power and reliability and specifically the reliability they feel they are on top of.

"I know there is a big debate about what is the first, second and third best engine. I think in reality they are all pretty close. So we are excited and feel they really wanted to do business with McLaren and we feel we will have total parity (of engine specification) with Red Bull and the works team."

Alonso’s busy year
McLaren F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will be partnered by Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne during the 2018 season
McLaren’s drivers in 2018 are two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne.

Alonso is dovetailing his F1 commitments with an almost full programme racing for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, as part of his ambition to win the Le Mans 24 Hours and tick off another of motorsport’s ‘triple crown’ of victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.

Brown dismissed suggestions this meant the 36-year-old’s commitment to F1 was dropping.

Brown said: "He races or drives every weekend, half the time under a different name when he’s karting. He just wants to be in race cars.

"I think it keeps him fresh and focused, it is what he wants to do.

"Fernando is very well prepared, knows what it takes to be successful and he wouldn’t have taken on the commitment if he didn’t think he could do both at the highest level. It is no other agenda than he wants to race and he wants to win."


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Fernando Alonso: World Endurance Championship race moved so F1 star can compete

Fernando Alonso will take part in all rounds of the World Endurance Championship this year after a race was moved to accommodate him.

The two-time F1 world champion is dove-tailing his F1 commitments for McLaren with racing for Toyota in the WEC.

The Japanese race clashed with the US Grand Prix but in a sign of Alonso’s pulling power it has been moved a week earlier than the F1 race in Texas.

The race at Fuji Speedway will now take place on 14 October.

The move was officially requested by Fuji but the track is owned by Toyota, so it effectively comes from Alonso’s team.

It is believed to be the first time an FIA world championship event has been moved solely to ensure one driver can take part in it, and as such demonstrates the remarkable appeal Alonso has as one of the biggest stars in motorsport

From Alonso’s point of view, it means the 36-year-old Spaniard can now target winning the WEC title as well as Le Mans, as he will be taking part in all races. He called it “awesome news” on Twitter.

Toyota said: “Fantastic for our Japanese fans that Alonso can also race in Fuji due to WEC date changes.”

The move means Alonso will be competing in 21 grands prix and six WEC races in 2018.

He is also committed to doing the three WEC races in 2019 which also count to the new ‘super-season’ championship, a long as they do not clash with a grand prix if he is still racing in F1 next year.

McLaren executive director Zak Brown said he had no concerns about Alonso’s workload.

“Fernando is very well prepared, knows what it takes to be successful and he wouldn’t have taken on the additional commitment if he didn’t think he could do both at the highest level,” Brown said.

“It is no other agenda than he wants to race and he wants to win Le Mans.

“What would he be doing those weekends otherwise? He wouldn’t be testing an F1 car or on the simulator.

“We have everything we need out of him on the F1 front so these are weekends he’d either be in a go-kart or golfing or whatever he wants to do. He’ll just be in a WEC car. He wants to spend his spare time in race cars.”

But Brown emphasised that F1 remains Alonso’s main priority.

“While he is going to go there and try to win the championship, because that’s what he does, when you think of Fernando you think of him as a McLaren Formula 1 driver first and foremost.”

WEC boss Gerard Neveu said: “How could we have someone like Fernando Alonso in our paddock, racing for Toyota, and say we are going to Japan without him in their car?

“Alonso is racing for a World Championship and to win that he can’t miss a race.”

The date change means the Fuji race now clashes with a sports car race in the IMSA series in the USA, in which some of the drivers in the WEC are racing.

Neveu said IMSA “fully understood” the situation and Alonso hoped it would be able to move the date of that race.


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Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne needs trophies to win Ballon d’Or – Guardiola

Kevin de Bruyne needs to win “lots of titles, especially the Champions League” to win the Ballon d’Or, says his Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

However, when asked if the midfielder was playing at a level that made him a contender to be named the world’s best, Guardiola said: “I have no doubt.”

“To be a contender, you have to win [the Champions League], and be there in the latter stages,” added Guardiola.

“But how he played against Leicester it is hard to find better in Europe.”

De Bruyne made three assists in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Leicester to take his total in the league this season to 14, four more than the next best player.

Guardiola continued: “It is not just one game, it is all season and every three days that he is playing that way.”

Most Premier League assists this season
14: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) 8: David Silva (Manchester City)
10: Leroy Sane (Manchester City) 7: Dele Alli (Tottenham)
9: Paul Pogba (Manchester United) 7: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)
8: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal) 7: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

De Bruyne, 26, said: “I do everything to win titles with the team. What happens after is an extra.

“I am very pleased with the way everything is going for me. The way the team is playing makes it easier for me and for them. At the end, if you get an individual honour it is beautiful.”

Speaking on Match of the Day on Saturday, BBC pundit Danny Murphy said De Bruyne was “probably the best passer of the ball I have seen in the Premier League”.

De Bruyne was 14th in the Ballon d’Or rankings in 2017, when Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo won the award for a fifth time.

Ronaldo and Barcelona star Lionel Messi, also a five-time winner, have been the only players to take the honour since Kaka won it in 2007.

In eight of the past 11 seasons, the winner has been part of the Champions League-winning side.

City, who are chasing an unprecedented quadruple (they play in the League Cup final against Arsenal on 25 February and visit Wigan in the fifth round of the FA Cup on 19 February), resume their Champions League campaign on Tuesday with the first leg of their last-16 tie against FC Basel in Switzerland.

They were knocked out by Monaco at this stage last season in Guardiola’s first season in charge, after reaching the semi-finals under Manuel Pellegrini in 2016.

What is the Ballon d’Or?

The Ballon d’Or has been awarded 62 times and is voted for by 173 journalists from around the world.

It has been awarded by France Football every year since 1956, but for six years it became the Fifa Ballon d’Or in association with world football’s governing body and was awarded to the world’s best player.

However, Fifa ended its association with the award in September 2016.


Antonio Conte: I am ‘a bit of a disaster’ in convincing Chelsea to sign players

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte admits that he is "a bit of a disaster" when it comes to convincing the club’s board to sign new players.

The Premier League champions failed to make any big signings in the January transfer window.

And the 48-year-old Italian says he needs to be more persuasive.

"I have to speak more with the managers who are very, very good at persuading their clubs to spend money to buy top players," he said.

"I think I’m a bit of a disaster to convince the club to buy players. I think in this aspect I can improve a lot.

"I have to learn a lot from the other coaches, the other managers, in that aspect."

Conte said in January that he was "happy" at Chelsea, playing down reports that his relationship with owner Roman Abramovich had become strained.

Abramovich was reportedly angry that the Italian had said he did not choose the club’s signings this season.

Chelsea are facing a fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League after winning one of their past five Premier League matches.

They go into Monday’s game against West Brom in fifth place, two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and 22 adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Striker Alexis Sanchez and defender Virgin van Dijk were both linked with the club recently before going to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.

But Conte said he can still get the best out of his squad.

"My task is to try and improve every single player, in every aspect – in terms of their mentality also. For this, I’m very good," he said.


Super League: Catalans Dragons 12-21 St Helens

St Helens survived the dismissal of back-rower Morgan Knowles to beat Catalans Dragons in Perpignan and make it two wins from two in Super League.

Saints established a first-half lead with tries by Jonny Lomax and Regan Grace, as Catalans went in scoreless.

David Mead’s score reduced the deficit before Knowles was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Thibaud Margalet.

Adam Swift added a third Saints try and Danny Richardson took his points tally to nine before Alrix Da Costa’s reply.

Having dismantled last season’s stand-out performers Castleford Tigers last week, Saints came through another tough examination of their championship aspirations with this victory on a traditionally difficult trip – which appeared even more tricky after Knowles’ exit.

It took them less than a minute for playmakers Ben Barba and Lomax to combine for the opener, setting a tone for the rest of the game as the duo and Richardson caused no end of problems.

Catalans showed character in defeat, keeping pace with the Saints for large periods but this loss means Steve McNamara’s side remain winless from their first two fixtures.


New Zealand v England: Eoin Morgan remains a doubt for tourists

England captain Eoin Morgan is a doubt for Tuesday’s Twenty20 tri-series match against New Zealand in Wellington because of a groin injury.

It kept him out of Saturday’s defeat by Australia, and with the series now switching to New Zealand, Morgan did not bat in the nets before the game.

Jos Buttler is again set to stand in as skipper, with batsman James Vince keeping his place in the XI.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has a back injury and could also be absent.

The Kiwis could field two debutants after wicketkeeper Tim Seifert and ex-Hong Kong batsman Mark Chapman were added to the squad in place of Tom Blundell, Tom Bruce and Seth Rance.

With three games left in the tri-series, co-hosts Australia are already into the final having beaten England twice and New Zealand once.

England have made 155 and 137 in their first two matches, and opener Jason Roy knows the side need to do better.

"We’ve under-performed as a team and because of that we’ve got a bee in our bonnet," said the Surrey right-hander.

"We want to make sure the next game is a strong performance.

"It’s not just about being aggressive and hitting the ball out of the park, it’s recognising we have got the firepower and being smarter with it.

"Playing aggressive cricket, an aggressive brand and all that, that’s not just what we’re about. In the past we’ve played a lot smarter cricket.

"It’s been hugely frustrating because of the line-up we’ve got."


Sauber to make Honda engine switch for 2018 Formula 1 season

Sauber will switch to Honda engines in 2018, ending an eight-year relationship with Ferrari.

The struggling Swiss team will be the second outfit using Honda power units next season, joining the Japanese company’s works partner McLaren.

McLaren welcomed the deal, saying it was “a chance to double the opportunity for research and development in 2018”.

Sauber are the slowest of the 10 teams in F1 this year and Honda have the least powerful engine.

The Japanese company admits it has failed to make the progress it expected with a new engine design this year but is hopeful it can improve as this season develops.

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn described the new engine deal as a “strategic and technical realignment”.

Katsuhide Moriyama, Honda’s chief officer for brand and communication operations, said it was “a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities” and the company would “strengthen the systems and capabilities” of its research and development base in Sakura, Japan, and its F1 satellite base in Milton Keynes.


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