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Al Hilal facing history as well as Urawa in Asian final

Seaidan maintains lead as Al-Rajhi wins second stage of AlUla–Neom Cross-Country Rally ALULA: Yasir Seaidan maintained his outright lead in the AlUla–Neom Cross-Country Rally, but saw his advantage trimmed to 2 minutes 52 seconds by fellow Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al-Rajhi on the second 212 kilometer loop stage through the deserts around Al-Ula on Thursday. Seaidan…

Al Hilal facing history as well as Urawa in Asian final

Seaidan maintains lead as Al-Rajhi wins second stage of AlUla–Neom Cross-Country Rally

ALULA: Yasir Seaidan maintained his outright lead in the AlUla–Neom Cross-Country Rally, but saw his advantage trimmed to 2 minutes 52 seconds by fellow Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al-Rajhi on the second 212 kilometer loop stage through the deserts around Al-Ula on Thursday.

Seaidan had guided his MINI All4 Racing to a lead of 5 minutes 45 seconds at the start of the second day of the third round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, but Al-Rajhi recorded the fastest time of 1:39:40 in his Toyota Hilux; Seaidan came third behind Abu Dhabi Racing’s Khalid Al-Qassimi.

“The stage today was the same as yesterday,” said Al-Rajhi. “I pushed hard and I am happy with my time. After 130 kilometers, I slowed down because of the dust from the car in front. I was in the dust for the last 70 kilometers. Hopefully I can continue like this with this pace on Friday.”

Despite finishing as the stage runner-up, Al-Qassimi slipped a place to third in the overall rankings in his Peugeot 2008, but closed the gap on the leader to 4 minutes, 42 seconds. The Emirati said: “Today was quite fast and tricky. We don’t really have as good a top speed as the other cars. It is a buggy at the end of the day. It is not easy and we took some risks to be on the pace with the other cars.”

The new Spanish pairing of Formula One star Fernando Alonso and Marc Coma continued their learning curve with fourth place for the second day in the second of the Toyota Hiluxes, with Alonso staying clear of trouble to post a time of 1:47:15 seconds that leaves him 11:46 off the lead.

He said: “It was the same as yesterday, but I pushed more and was a bit faster because I have more knowledge of the stage. I am happy with my stage, especially with the first part, where we were 8 seconds behind Yazeed. I got a puncture today but I had more confidence than yesterday. Friday’s stage will be new for everyone and this is the learning curve for me.”

Czech Miroslav Zapletal displaced Essa Al-Dossary and climbed to fifth overall in his Ford F-150 Evo after beating his Nissan rival by 83 seconds on the day’s special.

The best of the rest was Saudi Arabia’s Khalid Al-Feraihi at the helm of his Nissan Patrol and the Saudi climbed to seventh in the rankings with French navigator Stéphane Duplé. Ahmed Al-Shegawi lost over 40 minutes and plummeted from seventh to 21st overall after his car rolled near the finish and he needed outside assistance to complete the day’s selective section.

The Saudi trio of Mutair Al-Shammeri, Mohammed Al-Tijiwri and new TL2 category leader Salman Al-Shammeri rounded off the top 10 of the event, organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

Salman Al-Shammeri now leads the showroom TL2 category by 2:11 from Sallal Al-Dossari.

Saleh Al-Saif climbed a position to 14th in the overall standings and maintained his lead in the T3 section in a Can-Am. Race officials also ran an NUTV class for Can-Am, Yamaha and Polaris derivatives and Yousef Al-Dhaif teamed up with French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter to head the category by 25:48 after two stages.

Among the retirements were Mohammed Alabdulali from the NUTV section and Hummer driver Saleh Al-Abdulali, while Ibrahim Al-Muhanna did not start the stage in the T4 truck category.

KTM rider Mishal Alghuneim was the solitary survivor in the motorcycle class after Mohammed Al-Oraini and Abdullah Al-Helal both retired. Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi extended his lead in the quad section to 34:23 after an impressive fastest time that left closest rivals Riyadh Al-Orafan and Walid Al-Shegawi trailing in his wake.

Competitors will tackle a new stage of 231 kilometers from Al-Ula to Neom that will take them through the village of Abu Gazaz on Friday.

The event is running with the support of SAMF, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

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Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez. Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’…

Southgate to bring Sterling  back from England exile

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”

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Tsitsipas shocks six-time champion Federer to reach final

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez. Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’…

Tsitsipas shocks six-time champion Federer to reach final

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”

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It is better for injured Salah to miss a few games than jeopardize career

CAIRO: A date for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah’s return to action remains unclear with an ankle injury rumored to be more serious than at first thought. The 27-year-old Egyptian star has been ruled out of his country’s upcoming international games and is a doubt for the Reds next Premier League match against Crystal Palace on…

It is better for injured Salah to miss a few games than jeopardize career

CAIRO: A date for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah’s return to action remains unclear with an ankle injury rumored to be more serious than at first thought.

The 27-year-old Egyptian star has been ruled out of his country’s upcoming international games and is a doubt for the Reds next Premier League match against Crystal Palace on Nov. 23.

Salah originally suffered the injury in league leaders Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Leicester City on Oct. 5, hobbling off the pitch at Anfield after coming under a second-half challenge from Foxes midfielder Hamza Choudhury.

The injury seemingly got worse during his side’s 3-1 home win over rivals Manchester City following a tackle by Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho.

The player was consequently withdrawn from the African qualifiers against Kenya and Comoros and was seen wearing a protective boot on his left foot as he sat out a national team training session in Cairo.

There has been speculation that the No. 11 could be out for up to four weeks, which if true would mean Salah might be unavailable for Liverpool’s next six games, including the final two group fixtures in the Champions League.

That would not be good news for Liverpool who will be eager for him to play against Crystal Palace. In the bigger scheme of things, the club is hoping to ensure he stays fit enough to maintain his key role in Jurgen Klopp’s attack.

Being one of the world’s best players, Salah is an essential cog for club and country. The only Premier League game he has sat out for Liverpool this season, away to Manchester United, is the only match the Reds have failed to win.

On Thursday, when Egypt surprisingly drew 1-1 with Kenya at home, the Pharaohs seemed affected by the absence of the influential Salah, falling short against a team 108th in FIFA rankings, 60 places behind Egypt.

The obvious conclusion is that when Salah is playing and is fit, Liverpool and Egypt’s chances of winning games and championships are markedly increased. 

When he is not on the pitch, the odds of being triumphant noticeably decrease.

Football is a rough, physical contact sport. Sprains and strains are part of the game. 

But pain relief sprays do not always fix the problem. 

While Salah will be told to keep his ankle elevated and stay off it whenever possible, these instructions may not be the complete panacea.

Rest is usually the best medicine for injuries. However, in international cut-throat football, being out of action for long stretches is not an option.

Klopp and Liverpool fans desperately want to successfully defend their Champions League title. 

They would also relish a Premier League crown, especially after losing out by a one-point whisker to Manchester City last season.

The title is this season within Liverpool’s grasp with them currently topping the table on 34 points after 12 games, eight ahead of Leicester City and Chelsea, and with a nine-point gap on Manchester City. It is almost 30 years since Liverpool last won the league. 

If Salah does miss half-a-dozen games, it would indicate his injury is worse than originally thought. 

Apart from the infamous tackle with Spanish ace Sergio Ramos that left his shoulder with sprained ligaments when he hit the ground, and a collision with Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka that resulted in concussion, Salah is not a regular face in the injury room.

He has only sat out one match through injury during two-and-a-half years playing at Anfield and didn’t miss a game for the Reds in last season’s Premier League campaign, only being used as a substitute once.

It remains to be seen whether Salah will be fit for the trip to Selhurst Park. Klopp clearly has options to rotate if his Egyptian star is unavailable. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi have both filled roles in the attack this season, while Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri is expected back from injury after the international break.

But Salah is a hard act for anyone to follow. The forward has nine goals in 17 appearances in all competitions for the Reds this term. However, common sense dictates that if Salah is not completely fit and Klopp has alternatives, then it would be wise not to play him. Playing with an injury produces short-term gain but could lead to long-term pain.

At least Liverpool are not hiding Salah’s injury, as they apparently did with Andy Robertson, the full-back whose ankle injury kept him out of the Scotland squad amid a news blackout on his condition.

Salah’s injury is not a secret; however, it is the extent of the injury which is creating concerns. Injuries that do not heal properly can end careers.

It is understood Salah has been given the chance to train away from Liverpool’s Melwood training ground as he continues his rehabilitation, and the club will grant him an extended period of time off over the international break. 

The club is limiting his involvement in training and providing regular treatment.

Up to now Liverpool have been playing it safe and not risking their prized possession. 

But the temptation to rush Salah back before he is fully fit is surely strong. In that case, the club should ask itself how many players, footballers and otherwise, have had their time on fields and courts come to a premature end due to injury?

The Premier League — like life — is full of hard knocks. 

But there’s a difference between injuries that are treatable and those that are career threatening.

It is best for all concerned that Salah forfeits some football now rather than stop playing forever.

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