Wenger needs jittery Arsenal to see off Man City

By Neil Robinson
| LONDON

LONDON When this season's Premier League fixture list was released, Arsenal against Manchester City in April looked like a potential title decider.

In reality, neither team goes into Sunday's game with a realistic hope of catching leaders Chelsea, but instead are focusing on keeping their own faltering seasons on track.

For either side, failure to qualify for the Champions League would be unacceptable, but for third-placed City and the sixth-placed Gunners, this is a genuine possibility.

Soccer - Tottenham's Kane nearing return from injury: Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane is set to make a swift return from an ankle injury as manager Mauricio Pochettino expects the prolific striker to be available for selection before the end of the season.

Kane, the Premier League club's leading marksman with 24 goals, sustained the injury during Tottenham's FA Cup win over Millwall this month.

The north London side refused to put a time scale on the 23-year-old's return but media reports had suggested he was set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

FIFA reveals proposed slots for 48-team 2026 World Cup

By Brian Homewood
| ZURICH

ZURICH FIFA announced its proposed slot allocation for the expanded 48-team World Cup on Thursday, including an automatic place for Oceania, 16 places for Europe - up from 13 - and a six-team inter-zonal playoff tournament for two more spots.

The proposals will be submitted to the FIFA Council at its next full meeting in Bahrain in May for a final decision, FIFA said.

IOC disqualifies four Russians from London Olympics over doping

BERLIN The International Olympic Committee said on Thursday it had disqualified four Russian athletes from the 2012 London Olympics after re-tests of their samples came back positive for banned substances.

The IOC said all four - Victoria Valyukevich, a triple jumper who was eighth in the women's competition, hammer throwers Gulfiya Khanafeeva and Mariia Bespalova, and weightlifter Khadzhimurat Akkaev, who did not compete due to a back injury, had tested positive for anabolic steroid turinabol.

Soccer - Everton's Funes Mori may miss rest of season with knee injury

Everton's Ramiro Funes Mori could miss the rest of the campaign after the Merseyside club confirmed that the defender suffered an injury to his left knee while on international duty with Argentina.

Funes Mori, who has made 26 appearances for Everton this season, was carried off the field during Argentina's 2-0 World Cup qualifier loss to Bolivia on Tuesday.

Southampton's Puel hopeful Van Dijk will play again this season

Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk could play again before the season ends as he recovers from a long-term ankle injury, manager Claude Puel has said.

Van Dijk, who has made 34 appearances for Southampton this season, has not played since he sustained the injury in Southampton's victory over Leicester City in January.

The 25-year-old, who was expected to return within two to three months, has been strongly linked with moves to Manchester City and Chelsea by British media.

Self-taught sculptor defends grinning Ronaldo bust

Self-taught sculptor Emanuel Santos defended his grinning bust of Cristiano Ronaldo on Thursday, telling his thousands of online detractors he had followed the soccer star's instructions down to the last wrinkle.

Santos, a 40-year-old former airport cleaner, said the Real Madrid striker had asked him to make the portrait more jovial, and had praised his efforts.

"It's impossible to please the Greeks and the Trojans, and even Jesus couldn't please everyone ... It's a matter of taste and not as simple as it seems," Santos told Globo Esporte.

Rugby - Frenchman Maestri given heavy fine after criticising referee

PARIS France lock Yoann Maestri was handed a 30,000-euro ($32,000) fine for criticising referee Wayne Barnes after his team's dramatic late 20-18 win against Wales in the Six Nations.

Half of the fine had been suspended until the end of the 2017/18 season, the Six Nations said.

Maestri, 29, admitted that he "committed an act of misconduct and openly apologised for making the comments", the Six Nations said in a statement.

Soccer - Dortmund sign Gladbach talent Dahoud from next season

BERLIN Borussia Dortmund have signed talented midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud of Borussia Moenchengladbach on a four-year contract starting next season, the Bundesliga club said on Thursday.

The 21-year-old Germany youth international, who was a transfer target for several top European clubs, signed a deal at Dortmund to 2022.

"Mo Dahoud is a hugely talented and exciting player in the central midfield position whom we have been watching intensively for several years," said Dortmund sports director Michael Zorc.

"He has already proven he can play at top level."

Soccer - Schweinsteiger flummoxed by U.S. World Cup howler

CHICAGO For all the talk of how the United States has embraced soccer, it became clear there is still some way to go to complete the conversion after newly arrived Bastian Schweinsteiger was asked if he thought his club, Chicago Fire, could win the World Cup.

Chicago is a huge sports city, boasting fanatical followers of ice hockey, American football, basketball and baseball. Last year, 60,000 even turned out to watch Ireland shock New Zealand in a rugby union test. But not everybody has quite bought into the "other football".

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