Five facts on Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer:
‘Big Three’ dominate
— With Djokovic and Federer in the final, the winner of Sunday’s match will extend the streak of Grand Slam titles won by the ‘Big Three’ of the pair plus Rafael Nadal to 11 straight major titles. Since Federer won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, just five Grand Slam finals have been contested by pairs of players outside the ‘Big Three’.
Golden oldie Federer
— At 37 years 340 days, Federer is bidding to become the oldest player in the Open era to win a Grand Slam men’s singles title.
Ken Rosewall is the only 37-year-old to have won a major singles title in that time – he won the 1972 Australian Open aged 37 years 62 days.
30-somethings still special
— The champion will extend the streak of Grand Slam titles won by players aged 30 or older. The last 12 Grand Slam titles – including at Wimbledon this year – will have been shared between players aged 30 or older.
Djokovic chases fifth Wimbledon title — Defending champion Djokovic is bidding to win his fifth Wimbledon title and equal Bjorn Borg and Laurie Doherty in fourth place on the all-time list. He is also chasing a 16th career major.
Federer to level Navratilova with nine?
— Federer is bidding to become the second player in history to win nine Wimbledon singles titles after Martina Navratilova who won nine women’s singles. Federer is also after 21st career Grand Slam title.
Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium may host the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between Argentine rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors postponed after fan violence at the weekend, Spanish media said Thursday.
“According to sources close to negotiations, the agreement is 90 percent closed and all parties hope to be able to announce it Thursday afternoon,” the daily El Pais said.
The newspaper added that Spain’s football federation (RFEF) and Real Madrid had given the green light to the event.
The original second-leg clash between the two Buenos Aires clubs at the weekend was postponed after Boca players were injured in an attack on their team bus by River fans with pepper spray, stones and sticks.
South American football administrators Conmebol subsequently said the match could not be played in Argentina, starting intense speculation over where it would be played.
The Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar, which will be used in the 2022 World Cup, has also been linked with the match.
Sports daily As said it could instead take place on December 9 at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium at 8.30 pm local time (1930 GMT).
Boca Junior and River Plate both have games scheduled that weekend in the Argentine league.
Neither the RFEF nor Real Madrid were available for comment when contacted by AFP.
The daily El Mundo also reported the final could take place at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, used to hosting the “clasico” clashes between arch-rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, which this time would turn into the River-Boca “superclasico.”
But El Mundo pointed out that this second leg final depends on a decision of Conmebol’s disciplinary commission.
The first leg ended 2-2. Boca Juniors have asked to be awarded victory without playing the second leg, while River Plate want to play.
The clash between the two Buenos Aires clubs was due to be the last Libertadores final played over two legs. Earlier this year, Conmebol decided to adopt a single-match format from next season when the final will be in Santiago, Chile.
Madrid is set to host another prestigious final this season — that of the Champions League in June, at Atletico’s Metropolitano stadium.
Nestor Pitana of Argentina will referee the World Cup final between France and Croatia, FIFA announced on Thursday.
Pitana, a former actor who has already refereed four games including the tournament opener between host nation Russia and Saudi Arabia and France’s quarter-final win over Uruguay, will take charge of Sunday’s showpiece at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
He will have two more Argentines, Hernan Maidana and Juan Pablo Belatti as assistant referees. Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers will be the fourth official backed up by another Dutchman, Erwin Zeinstra.
In addition to handling a French victory, Pitana was also in charge when Croatia beat Denmark in the last 16 on penalties.
The 43-year-old’s other game in Russia was Sweden’s 3-0 group-stage victory over Mexico.
In Brazil in 2014, Pitana refereed four matches. The last was France’s 1-0 loss to eventual champions Germany in the quarter-finals.
For the third-place playoff between Belgium and England in Saint Petersburg on Saturday, FIFA have selected Iranian referee Alireza Faghani.
France will unleash the attacking talents of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann against Eden Hazard’s gifted Belgium side in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday with a place in the World Cup final at stake.
The semi-final matchup of the European neighbours promises to be full of intrigue as France aim to reach the final for the first time since a Zinedine Zidane-led team did so in Germany in 2006.
Belgium will be seeking to break new ground by reaching the final for the first time in their history — they have only reached the semi-finals once before, in 1986.
The winner will face either Croatia or England, who play on Wednesday, in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.
With Eden Hazard pulling the strings and Romelu Lukaku providing the firepower, Belgium have what it takes to beat France.
But their secret weapon could be on the sidelines in the shape of one of France’s greatest players of all time, Thierry Henry, who is now assistant to head coach Roberto Martinez.
Former Arsenal and Barcelona forward Henry was part of the French squad that won the World Cup on home soil 20 years ago and played 123 times for his country, scoring 51 times.
Now it is his job to help halt the run of his home nation.
Martinez explained how Henry’s experience of pressure moments offered something other members of the former Everton manager’s staff could not.
“What we didn’t have was international experience, the know-how of winning a World Cup, the know-how of being a footballer, how you are expected to perform in front of the world and knowing how you feel in those moments,” the Spaniard said.
Belgium‘s Kevin De Bruyne said Henry had talked little about his feelings.
“Perhaps he will sing the Marseillaise (before the game), which I find normal,” De Bruyne said.
“It might be a bit difficult for him but he’s working for Belgium now, he wants us to win.”
Belgium‘s confidence will be high after they knocked out Brazil in the quarter-finals and they are the only team to have won all their matches in Russia, top-scoring with 14 goals.
Didier Deschamps’ France side failed to fire in their group matches but burst into life in the 4-3 demolition of Argentina as Mbappe overshadowed Lionel Messi and confirmed his arrival as a new superstar of the game.
The French then showed their steel in the 2-0 disposal of Uruguay in the quarter-finals.
France are favourites because of their mix of youth and experience allied to tournament nous after they reached the Euro 2016 final.
While World Cup fever builds at home, England are avoiding the hype as Gareth Southgate prepares his team in their tranquil base near Saint Petersburg for their first semi-final since 1990.
While many England fans are surprised by the unheralded team’s progress, midfielder Dele Alli says the squad always believed they could go far.
“We had to believe and we know how talented we are as a squad,” he said.
“We know we have some unbelievable players and a great manager and everyone is clear on what we want to do.”
Southgate has told his players they have the potential to be bigger heroes even than the team featuring Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton that won on home soil in 1966.
Captain Harry Kane is leading England’s charge with six goals so far, putting him top in the race for the Golden Boot. Lukaku is on four goals and Griezmann and Mbappe have three each.
Despite England being taken over by football fever, Wimbledon chiefs say the men’s final on Sunday will start at its traditional time even if it clashes with a possible appearance of the national team in the World Cup final.
However, they say they will have no objection if the Centre Court crowd want to take sneak peeks of the action from Moscow on their phones.
Croatia, who have matched the achievements of their 1998 team in reaching the last four, can count on Real Madrid’s midfield talisman Luka Modric but his teammate Andrej Kramaric says England’s lack of superstars is what makes them a cohesive unit.
“England was one of the favourites for me for the tournament because they have a young and hungry team with no big, international stars, so it won’t be easy for us,” he admitted.
Croatia could well be battling fatigue and injuries after a strength-sapping penalty shootout to edge out host nation Russia on Saturday.
Liverpool fans were dreaming of Champions League glory as they turned their city into a sea of red ahead of the hotly-anticipated showdown with Real Madrid in Kiev on Saturday.
After a week dominated by the frustration of Liverpool supporters who were unable to travel to Ukraine for the final of Europe’s elite club competition, the big day arrived with anticipation at a fever pitch among those who stayed on Merseyside.
Two travel companies axed flights, leaving diehard fans scrambling to find a way to travel to Kiev.
For those who couldn’t make it, the party was already underway in pubs and bars in the city center.
Shops and streets were decked out in red banners, scarves and posters, reflecting Liverpool fans’ belief that by full-time in Kiev they will be celebrating the club’s sixth European Cup and first since 2005.
“There’s this momentum around the city,” said Danny Byrne, 43, doing a roaring trade in flags and scarves outside the club’s Anfield stadium where fans were gathering to watch on a giant screen.
“There’s this real belief that we’re going to do it and it’s our destiny. All the stars are aligned.”
The showdown in the Ukrainian capital — 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometres) east of Liverpool — follows a momentous season which has seen the Reds plunder 46 goals in 14 games, making it back to the Champions League final for the first time in 11 years.
But to lift the famous trophy, they must stop holders Real winning the competition for a third successive year in a confrontation some fans see as a David and Goliath climax to a historic season.
“Underestimate the underdog and you get bitten,” warned 56-year-old fan Arthur Tutte, showing off his Liverpool FC tattoo outside Anfield.
In the morning, packed trains arrived at Lime Street station, spilling chanting fans who have made the pilgrimage to Liverpool onto platforms.
‘Hell of a big game’
The center of the city — already busy during the British bank holiday weekend — was a sea of red football strips, with Liverpool’s Egypt striker Mohamed Salah a clear favourite as his number 11 shirt was proudly worn by many fans.
Salah has scored 44 goals in all competitions to lead Liverpool back to the Champions League final thanks to memorable wins over Manchester City and Roma in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
Aboard a train from London filled with fans was James Beaney, 42, carrying a mask of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, but suffering from match day nerves.
“It’s a hell of a big game against another European giant,” he told AFP.
“You’ve got to give Real Madrid respect but I think we’ve got nothing to be afraid of,” he reasoned.
Anfield was a hive of activity, echoing with the club’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem hours before the 1845 GMT kick off.
Cars with flags lapped the stadium honking horns to cheers, with one female fan hanging out of the window, chanting “Allez, Allez, Allez” — the title of the season’s favourite fan chant that goes: “We’ve conquered all of Europe/ We’re never going to stop.”
Outside nearby pub The Sandon, maintenance man Alan Gedman climbed a ladder to untangle an “Allez, Allez, Allez” flag with great care as workers rolled kegs into the bar in preparation for the day’s trade.
Later on a huge screen on a double-decker bus parked outside will show the match to hundreds of fans.
“I’ve been here since six o’clock this morning!” Gedman said.
Liverpool return to the scene of two of their most famous European triumphs amid tight security ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final, second leg clash in Rome.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are on the brink of reaching the final of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 2007 as they look to defend a three-goal advantage against AS Roma in the Italian capital.
But off-pitch tensions are high as Liverpool supporter Sean Cox lies in a coma after being attacked before last week’s first leg in Anfield.
Two Roma supporters were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and club legend Francesco Totti has appealed for “fair play, hospitality and respect for our opponents”.
Former Roma striker Mohamed Salah scored two brilliant goals and set up two more as Liverpool went five up at Anfield before two late goals gave Roma hope of a potential fightback.
Klopp’s side are bidding for a sixth European title having won two, in 1977 and 1984, at the Stadio Olimpico — the latter on penalties against Roma.
Both teams are third in their domestic leagues and in the running for Champions League football next season.
But Liverpool have suffered serious disruption in the buildup after Klopp’s right-hand man, Zeljko Buvac, dubbed “the brain” by the German, stepped aside for personal reasons this week.
Buvac, who was on the bench with Klopp for Saturday’s goalless draw against Stoke, has been the German’s trusted right-hand man for the last 17 years.
Added to the distractions is star striker Salah’s image-rights dispute with the Egyptian football association.
The Roma game also comes days before Liverpool clash with Chelsea in the Premier League.
“Liverpool always has to take the slightly more difficult way and it’s again like this,” said Klopp.
“We created a basis and now we have to finish it.”
It’s a clash between two sides who have not won the domestic title in years.
Liverpool won the last of their 18 Premier League titles 28 years ago.
Since then the Reds lifted the Champions league trophy in 2005, when they fought back to stun AC Milan on penalties after conceding three-first goals in Istanbul, and two years later when they lost to the Italians in Athens.
“Nothing is won so far,” warned Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino, looking towards the May 26 final against either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in Kiev.
“There is a possibility of winning the Champions League – but we have a semi-final to finish first.”
“It would be a rare thing to do, a unique moment in our lives, in mine. It’s my first Champions League season.”
Klopp will be without midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, out for the season with a knee injury, with Georginio Wijnaldum likely to be the only change from the first leg.
Emre Can (back) and Adam Lallana (hamstring) are also struggling with injuries.
Eusebio Di Francesco looks set to be without Kevin Strootman as Roma target just their second final — 34 years after that fateful defeat to Liverpool. The 28-year-old midfielder suffered a leg injury in the first leg and he still hasn’t been cleared to be fully fit. Di Francesco is likely to play a 4-3-3 formation, which will see Lorenzo Pellegrini replace the Dutch player.
Roma, who won the last of their three Serie A titles in 2001, warmed up for Liverpool with a 4-1 win over Chievo in which Edin Dzeko bagged a brace.
Having earned their place in the last four after overcoming a 3-0 first-leg deficit to Barcelona in the quarter-finals, Di Francesco believes he can mastermind what would be another spectacular comeback.
“We’ve done something extraordinary in the Champions League this season,” said Di Francesco.
“This team has had a great journey and we don’t want to stop now. We want to believe in this comeback.”
And Czech forward Patrik Schick warned they had spotted Liverpool’s weaknesses.
“We saw that they’re not as strong at the back as in attack, we have the chance to score three goals at home.
“In my opinion, we have to go on the pitch without fear, with great determination and great courage.”
Ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations AFCON 2015 final match that is to hold at the Bata Stadium on Sunday, the Ghanaian team are optimistic of the outcome.
Andre Ayew, the Ghanaian forward has vowed that the Ghanaian team will fight to win Sunday’s AFCON final match against Cote d’Ivore for the whole of Ghana.
The Ghanaian forward has shone in this competition, scoring three goals but he insisted it was the result of the confidence he has enjoyed both from his teammates and the coach.
“I have tried to raise my game because I have been given responsibilities both on and off the pitch. It is due to the group and the confidence from the coach,” he said.
He also blamed inexperience for the Black Stars loss at the 2010 AFCON final to Egypt saying that 14 players had been brought from the U20 World Cup and the team was in the final after three months of the tournament where they were attacking, but couldn’t score.
Ayew said, “I remember the red coat my father wore (sitting on the sidelines in the 1992 final). My father is a Ghanaian and so I want to win this cup for all Ghanaians.”
Ghana last won this competition in 1982 with Andre’s father, the legendary Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew, one of the top stars from that triumph in Libya.
Ten years later, Ayew senior could not play another Africa Cup final after he picked up a second yellow card against Nigeria in the semi-final and Cote d’Ivoire went ahead to beat the Black Stars 11-10 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes of action. “When you get to the final, you need to do everything to win the trophy,” he said.
Ghanaian Black Stars Captain, Asamoah Gyan, returned to training in Bata on Saturday ahead of the AFCON 2015 final against Ivory Coast.
Gyan did not join his colleagues during the team work out, but trained separately with physical trainer Jamie Lawrence due to his health status.
Gyan must pass a late fitness test to make Avram Grant’s starting line-up for the final against Ivory Coast.
The 29-year-old missed Ghana’s AFCON 2015 semi-final against Equatorial Guinea due to a hip injury he suffered against Guinea last Sunday.
Avram Grant, the black star coach also said that reaching the final of the AFCON tournament is as important to him as reaching the UEFA Champions league final.
“For me, I do not rate any final as the best; it’s a good achievement we have reached with these guys and all Ghanaian should get behind the team,” he said.
The former Chelsea boss took charge of the West African giants three weeks to CAF’s flagship competition, but has managed to reach the final of the competition.