By Tim Stannard
1) Zizou says sorry for seconds-thought to Dani Ceballos
While stories of Jose Mourinho leading Paul Pogba to his office door this week to point out the “manager” part of the name plaque, Coach Zizou at Real Madrid is showing a more emotionally intelligent side of his managerial stylings.
This is being used to deal with an apparently unhappy and huffy Dani Ceballos playing mere seconds of Wednesday’s league win against Leganes having been brought on as a substitute just moments before the final whistle went.
"I felt bad and I am very sorry," admitted Zidane at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s home encounter against a battling Alaves. "I told him and I do not like to put on a player for 30 seconds for nothing.”
However, the Real Madrid manager was less soothing in regards to another footballer benched for the midweek encounter, Gareth Bale, with stories that the club are planning to sell the unwanted Welshman over the summer. "He will always be important in the team and is in the process of getting himself right,” announced Zidane.
As to whether there was any need for Zidane to show off a fancy name plaque on his office door, there is no word. Real Madrid reportedly use Post-it notes to save cash, such is the turnover of managers at the Santiago Bernabeu. Boom and tish.
Tune into the XTRA at 7PM ET / 4PM PT for a full preview of the weekend’s matches.
2) Mourinho in praise of Pogba big-removing skills
Swinging back towards Manchester United and Jose Mourinho has been speaking on Friday morning about the thorny topic of Paul Pogba and how the Frenchman feels about being a substitute these days. But the Portuguese provoker was all with the praise for his increasingly defensive midfielder lauding Pogba’s ability to get undressed quickly, key for being a benchwarmer - “he took 10 seconds and showed the professionalism.”
The Manchester United manager was speaking ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Chelsea and one of the coach’s many nemeses, Antonio Conte. “I am not interested to speak about this topic," said the Stamford Bridge boss as journalists attempted to gain some kind of reaction ahead of the grudge match.
The boss on Paul Pogba: “He had a very positive game for us [against Sevilla]. He took just 10 seconds to be ready to come on the pitch, and play and help the team, which he did. He showed great professionalism.” #MUFC pic.twitter.com/UJMKZofYlj— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 23, 2018
3) Minnows Arsenal rewarded with glamor Europa League tie against Milan
Those plucky minnows of Arsenal have been rewarded for their endeavors for scraping past Swedish giants Ostersunds FC with a glamor clash against AC Milan in the Last 16 of the Europa League. However, Arsene Wenger will be hoping to avoid a repeat of Thursday’s performance which saw a home defeat with the French coaching admitting that his team had “no ideas with the ball.” However, Arsenal’s immediate challenge will be a League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid have been drawn against Lokomotiv Moscow, while Marseille takes on Athletic Bilbao. Ties take place on Thursday March 8th.
4) Zagitova bags gold in all-Russian figure skating battle
A figure skating battle of the Russians - but not technically Russians at the Winter Olympics - took place overnight with Alina Zagitova beating her Russian / non-Russian opponent Evgenia Medvedeva in the women’s free skating. "I need some time to understand that I won the Olympic Games," said the 15-year-old Zagitova understandably. Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond took bronze.
But there was potentially national shame brought upon the fine country of Canada with the men’s curlers failing to pick up a medal for the first time in the nation’s history after missing out on bronze with a defeat to Switzerland. Our resident Canadian has said that he will be "physically sick" if the men's hockey semifinal to Germany is lost. But hold that thought, as there was a Canada gold and silver in the women’s ski cross for Kelsey Serwa and Brittany Phelan who happen to be best friends too.
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