Barca looking to rediscover top form at Atletico

BARCELONA Title hopefuls Barcelona need to capitalise on a rare lapse by Real Madrid if they are to take full advantage of Valencia's midweek success against the leaders of La Liga.

The Catalan club must prevail at in-form Atletico Madrid on Sunday to step up the pressure on their rivals, whose 2-1 defeat at Valencia on Wednesday was only their second of the season.

Real, just one point clear of Barca and three ahead of Sevilla, play later on Sunday at Villarreal.

Hamburg ready to drop punchbag tag at Bayern

BERLIN Champions Bayern Munich have beaten Hamburg SV more times than any other Bundesliga team, firing a record 232 goals past them in more than half a century of league encounters.

But when the two sides meet on Saturday, the northern club, former European champions who have been battling relegation for the past few seasons, are determined to draw strength from their current three-match unbeaten run.

End is nigh but Tottenham's fortress still formidable

By Martyn Herman
| LONDON

LONDON A sizeable chunk of Tottenham Hotspur's stadium has been missing all season and the bulldozers are closing in, but in the club's final campaign at White Hart Lane they have turned their home since 1899 into a fortress.

Premier League leaders Chelsea fell there, so did Manchester City and eight other teams.

Only Liverpool and Leicester City have escaped with honour intact, holding Mauricio Pochettino's team to 1-1 draws.

Paceman Umesh takes four as India restrict Australia

By Sudipto Ganguly
| PUNE, India

PUNE, India Paceman Umesh Yadav claimed four wickets on a pitch that offered big turn to help India restrict Australia to 256 for nine after the touring side had made a solid start on the opening day of the four-match series on Thursday.

Paceman Mitchell Starc, who would be expected by Australia to play a role similar to that of Umesh with the ball, smashed an unbeaten 57 to frustrate the hosts and take his team past 250.

Huget drafted in for France as Noves makes three changes

PARIS France manager Guy Noves made three changes to his starting 15 to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, including drafting in Yoann Huget to replace Virimi Vakatawa on the wing.

Huget, who came on in the second half of France's previous Six Nations match, a 22-16 home win against Scotland, was the natural choice after Vakatawa skipped training with a thigh problem.

"Vakatawa is injured, it is logical for Yoann to start," said Noves when he announced the side on Thursday.

Barclay gets armband as Scotland change five for Wales

LONDON Flanker John Barclay will captain Scotland for the first time in seven years in their Six Nations clash with Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday, taking over from injured scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw.

Scotland coach Vern Cotter revealed five changes from the side who lost 22-16 in France on Feb. 12 in the team he announced on Thursday.

Ali Price will make a first international start as replacement at halfback for Laidlaw, who will miss the rest of the tournament with an ankle ligament injury.

Pochettino hire a stroke of genius, says Spurs great Mabbutt

By Martyn Herman
| LONDON

LONDON Mauricio Pochettino is the perfect manager to help Tottenham Hotspur balance paying for a new stadium with challenging for the Premier League title over the next few seasons, according to former club captain Gary Mabbutt.

The north London club, who continue their quest for a second successive top-four finish at home to Stoke City on Sunday, hope to move into their new 61,000-seater home in 2018-19.

Hamilton hails 'awesome' new Mercedes

By Alan Baldwin
| SILVERSTONE, England

SILVERSTONE, England Lewis Hamilton declared his new Mercedes "pretty awesome" on Thursday after lapping a blustery Silverstone circuit in the car he hopes will secure him a fourth Formula One world championship.

"It felt incredible," added the Briton, who finished runner-up last season behind now-retired team mate Nico Rosberg despite winning more of the 21 races.

"Yesterday was the first time seeing the car come together. It’s the most detailed piece of machinery I’ve seen so far in Formula One.

Budapest 2024 snub highlights need for Olympic changes, insiders say

By Karolos Grohmann

Budapest's withdrawal from bidding for the 2024 summer Olympics, a process already marred by a string of exits, highlights the need for changes to the Games model, insiders say.

The Olympic Games were once the most hotly contested sports commodity in the world, but in recent years the IOC have seen the bidding process turn into a carousel of early exits, with cities scared off by costs, size or local opposition.

Leicester's Vardy has no regrets over rejecting Arsenal

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy said he has no regrets over rejecting a move to Arsenal during the close season despite the Premier League champions' recent struggles.

Vardy, who scored 24 league goals during Leicester's title-winning campaign, had the release cause in his contract triggered by Arsenal but he opted to sign a four-year extension with the Foxes in June.

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