Soccer - Tension mounts as Higuain braces for Napoli return

MILAN Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain will return to Napoli on Sunday for the first time since his acrimonious departure in July, adding further fuel to the often bitter rivalry between the clubs.

The Serie A match also represents third-placed Napoli's last, faint hope of catching the championship leaders and, if that were not enough, bad feeling is still simmering after a controversial Italian Cup match between them four weeks ago.

The second leg of that semi-final tie will be played at the same San Paolo stadium the following Wednesday.

Arsenal's Iwobi wants manager Wenger to stay

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been receiving unjust criticism and should extend his 20-year reign at the club, midfielder Alex Iwobi has said.

Wenger, whose contract expires at the end of the season, is under increasing pressure to step down due to the club's poor form of six losses in their last nine games, and a 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Iwobi, who has scored four goals in 35 appearances this season, defended Wenger, saying the manager's achievements at the club should not be dwarfed by Arsenal's current struggles.

ICC mulling bid for Olympic inclusion in 2024

By Alan Baldwin
| LONDON

LONDON The time is right for cricket to return to the Olympics and a decision on applying for inclusion in 2024 will have to be made within months, the head of the sport's governing body said on Thursday.

The founder of the modern Olympics, Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, was enthusiastic about cricket, a sport dominated by Britain and former British colonies such as Australia and India, but it has only once featured in a Games - in Paris in 1900.

FIFA grants 2018 World Cup broadcasting rights in Sub-Saharan Africa

ZURICH Football governing body FIFA on Thursday said it had awarded media right to five broadcasting groups in Sub-Saharan Africa for the 2018 World Cup and other football events taking place in 2017 and 2018.

Zurich-based FIFA said it had granted World Cup rights to the following groups:

Econet Media, Supersport, SABC and StarTimes were granted further media rights for other 2017-2018 events.

West Ham's Noble set for Hull return but Antonio misses out

West Ham United captain Mark Noble is expected to play in Saturday's game against relegation-threatened Hull City but midfielder Michail Antonio is yet to recover from a hamstring injury, manager Slaven Bilic said on Thursday.

Noble, who has missed only six of the club's 37 fixtures this season, sustained a leg injury against Chelsea that was aggravated during the following game against Bournemouth. The injury kept him out of this month's 3-2 loss to Leicester City.

Ozil, Sanchez want to stay at Arsenal, says Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes midfielder Mesut Ozil and striker Alexis Sanchez are keen on extending their contracts beyond the end of next season with the Premier League club.

Ozil and Sanchez are holding out for a huge increase in their salary, according to British media reports, while Wenger has previously said that contract talks are on hold until the end of the season.

Sanchez, who has indicated he would like to see out his contract, is the club's top scorer with 22 goals this season.

Loftus-Cheek open to positional change at Chelsea

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is open to playing in different positions in order to force his way into contention for a starting spot with the Premier League leaders.

The England under-21 international has made just eight appearances for Chelsea this season, compared to 17 last year, as manager Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 system and the club's lack of European fixtures have reduced his playing opportunities.

"I'm always learning and I'm open to playing different positions," the 21-year-old told The Times. "That can only be good for my development."

Exclusive - Chinese women golfers may shun LPGA event amid China-South Korea tensions

By Peter Rutherford
| SEOUL

SEOUL Chinese golfers on the U.S. women's tour may decide not to play in a tournament next month in Hawaii sponsored by South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group, a sign that fallout from a diplomatic row between Beijing and Seoul over a missile defence system is increasingly spilling into the sports world.

Cycling - Retired champion Rowsell Shand 'never experienced sexism'

Double Olympic champion Joanna Rowsell Shand, who retired from international cycling earlier this month, has defended embattled British Cycling, saying that she never experienced sexism during her stellar 10-year career.

Funding body UK Sport is investigating British Cycling after technical director Shane Sutton quit last year over allegations of sexual discrimination against track cyclist Jess Varnish and an ingrained "culture of fear".

Rugby - England's Johnson worried about doping at elite level

Use of illegal performance-enchancing drugs are a major concern for the Rugby Union and the switch from the amateur to professional era has played a major part in the issue, former England captain and coach Martin Johnson has said.

With 14 out of 42 athletes banned in the past two years by UK Anti-Doping coming from Rugby Union in England and Wales, Johnson believes he has a reason to be worried about the increasing use of banned substances.

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